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  1. Thank de lord.

    Attention: OT (On topic, as in climate science, feel free to ignore)

    1) DOI: 10.1002/grl.50456 McGrath et al.

    All of Greenland gets wet by 2025

    “Extrapolation of this observed trend now suggests, with 95 % confidence, that the dry snow facies of the Greenland Ice Sheet will inevitably transition to percolation facies. There is a 50 % probability of this transition occurring by 2025.”

    “There is a 50 % probability of the mean annual dry snow line migrating above Summit by 2025, at which time Summit will experience routine melt on an annual basis. The surface mass balance observations similarly indicate that the ELA has migrated upwards at a rate of 44 m/a over the 1997–2011 period in West Greenland, resulting in a more than doubling of the ablation zone width during this period…”

    Looking at a glacier, we got saturated snow low down where all of it melts every yr (saturated facies), partially wet snow (some melts every year, percolation facies) and dry snow hi up, never melts. They think that Summit will melt pretty much evry year

    0 C isotherm and ELA (equilibrium line altitude, above which glacier is in mass gain, and in mass waste below) rising by 35m/yr, 44m/yr. I think I have mentioned b4 that ELA went above the saddle at 67 N last year.

    They note that only half the runoff makes it outta there, rest refreezes, efficiently moving heat at 80 cal/g into the snowpack.

    Summit, apparently is warming faster than most other places on earth:

    “The observed 0.09 °C/a trend at Summit, six times the global average trend, ranks in the 99th percentile of all globally observed temperature trends over the climatology period (Figure 2 inset). We note, however, that the polar regions, where recent warming has been greatest, are overrepresented in the 9 % of the Earth’s surface for which observed temperature trends are not available. Thus, the observed global mean temperature trend, and the percentile rank of Summit, are likely biased towards lower and higher values, respectively.”

    2)Prof. Box updates Greenland albedo at meltfactor.org, notes lack of snowpack paving the way for more melt

    3) Park et al (doi:10.1002/grl.50379) point out that the lo end for Pine Island Glacier melt is too conservative, seeing that PIG hinge line retreats apace, tho the bedrock shoals and surface slope steepens. Apparently, the ocean eateth it from below faster than was thought.

    “Even though the Pine Island Glacier hinge-line has now migrated into the bedrock trough within which the main trunk of the glacier is seated, where basal slopes shoal and impede retreat, it is now retreating at a faster mean rate (1.8 ± 0.9 km yr-1) than at any time since it was first located … Our observations of accelerated thinning and ongoing rapid hinge-line retreat, coupled with the observed strengthening of ocean melting within the sub-ice-shelf cavity [Jacobs et al., 2011], suggest that the lower limit may be founded on a conservative forcing scenario…”

    Jacobs is a nice paper, showing how hot water worms under PIG.

    Any new news from Thwaites ? that one scares me more than PIG

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 4 May 2013 @ 12:18 AM

  2. I have a question regarding the mechanism behind the Hadley cell and thought I’d ask a real climate scientist.

    On the web Hadley cell air flow is explained as follows: “This flow of air occurs because the Sun heats air at the Earth’s surface near the equator. The warm air rises”. However, when I look at the average monthly surface temperatures for March, when the Hadley cell is directly above the equator, I see very little temperature difference between 30° and 0°. Therefore temperature difference can’t explain the effect. I can think of two alternative explanations:

    1: Surface temperatures may be almost the same, but higher up the tropical air is much warmer than the subtropical air. It is the average temperature of the entire troposphere air column that drives the Hadley cell.

    2: Tropical air is much more humid than subtropical air. Water vapor is much lighter than nitrogen (atomic mass of 18 vs 28), so it is this difference in density which drives the Hadley cell.

    Are these explanations correct?

    Comment by Bouke — 4 May 2013 @ 2:55 AM

  3. I posted this link earlier and didn’t get a response so I’ll try it again on this open thread. So the question is…. if we make it to 450ppm CO2 in a couple of decades what then? I realize it’s an open ended question with no real answers but at what level of CO2 does the scientific community say, THAT’S IT! It seems to me that there’s no end in sight. What if we hit 500ppm? It looks to me like we’ll make it to that point without any trouble. What are you guys thinking about all of this? I would really love to hear Gavin’s opinion on what happens if we get to this point? I don’t know. I’m looking for an educated opinion. My daughter wants to know.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/apr/29/global-carbon-dioxide-levels

    Here are a few paragraphs from the article:

    “I wish it weren’t true but it looks like the world is going to blow through the 400ppm level without losing a beat. At this pace we’ll hit 450ppm within a few decades,” said Ralph Keeling, a geologist with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography which operates the Hawaiian observatory.

    The last time CO2 levels were so high was probably in the Pliocene epoch, between 3.2m and 5m years ago, when Earth’s climate was much warmer than today.

    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 4 May 2013 @ 2:57 AM

  4. Get a sneak preview of the new ClimateState website, http://climatestate.com Focus is on embedded video streaming, users can submit content. Possibly the biggest climate science video platform to date.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 4 May 2013 @ 6:50 AM

  5. Three items:
    Is your future wet or dry?
    Will the boiling cauldron bubble?
    Serendipitous musical interlude.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 4 May 2013 @ 6:59 AM

  6. Gavin, sorry to extend the OT, but to correct some of Simon’s misimpressions, I thought I’d try one last time. Feel free to Simon, you evidently didn’t read what I wrote. I don’t think the evolution of life is a particularly rare phenomenon–the criteria you impose arbitrarily are just that–arbitrary.

    The thing is that distances (along with the theory of relativity) and radiation preclude interstellar travel, and it is unlikely that we will be able to pick up the ET version of Gilligan’s Island due to the weakness of the signal. As to a concerted effort to contact ET (or them to contact us), 1)it would still require a huge investment of energy that would be impractical for any civilization no matter how advanced, and 2)it might not be wise, given the possibility of intergalactic predatory species?

    The Universe could be teeming with life, but the distances preclude contact, especially out here on the exurbs of the galaxy.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 May 2013 @ 7:20 AM

  7. Chuck Hughes,
    Saying “That’s it,” simply represents a failure of both imagination and determination to do the math. No matter how badly we screw things up, we will still have the ability to screw things up further–or to ameliorate them.

    A lot depends on climate sensitivity–on a variety of timescales. Arbitrary limits are arbitrary. All we can do is keep pushing in the right direction. You need to push so that your daughter still has the hope of making things better. She must push to preserve hope for her progeny. How is this different than the human condition we have always faced?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 May 2013 @ 7:27 AM

  8. Chuck Hughes says @ 3

    The anthropogenic component of atmospheric CO2 has been doubling in around 30 years. If that rate continues, which is a function of human behavior, we will hit 520 around 2043.

    400 – 280 = 120
    120 x 2 = 240
    240 + 280 = 520

    According to ExxonMobil, growing world demand can be met through 2040, at which time they report that only 1/2 of the world’s liquid fuels will have been burned. If energy companies can meet growing world demand, the 30-year doubling period shrinks.

    Comment by JCH — 4 May 2013 @ 7:40 AM

  9. Ray(7): I strongly agree, but I find this is a non-trivial challenge in climate communication, namely getting newcomers to understand that the current situation is quite urgent (current and locked-in emissions, long CO2 atmospheric lifetime, feedbacks, etc.) but that there’s still a huge range of possible future outcomes. I’ve run into this many times in my presentations: Show people the REALLY inconvenient truths, and then you have to pull them back from the edge and tell them, “No, that doesn’t mean we can just throw in the towel. It’s a rallying point, not an excuse for inaction.”

    I think of it in terms of the wedges mitigation analysis we all know, but in terms of impacts. Going into the future the range of impacts fans out until it becomes quite large, and the sooner we get serious about limiting our emissions, the better the outcomes we can still preserve.

    Comment by Lou Grinzo — 4 May 2013 @ 8:39 AM

  10. With the arrival of May, a new crop of science censors has sprung up at WUWT.

    [Response: Thanks for the link Russell. Tweeted (@MichaelEMann) :-) -mike]

    Comment by Russell — 4 May 2013 @ 9:00 AM

  11. Lou, The thing is that there are a broad range of outcomes that are predicated not just on the science, but also on our actions in light of that science. I think that the figure in the SPM showing impacts as a function of sensitivity and CO2 concentration (lots of pretty orange and red) is a good intro. Basically the outcomes could range from mild inconvenience to catastrophic collapse of human civilization and mass extinction. I think those are distinguishable in terms of preference.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 May 2013 @ 9:31 AM

  12. Michael and Russell,
    Why do we care what the idiots think?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 May 2013 @ 9:32 AM

  13. 1 Sidd: Thank you for the terrible news.

    3 Chuck Hughes: Read “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas and “Under a Green Sky” by Professor Peter D Ward.

    8 Lou Grinzo: Communication? When is it pitchforks and torches time? WE are very serious. The problem is that the psychopaths in charge don’t care about anything at all. The psychopaths in charge are and have been a real threat to the community/civilization/human race for several decades already.

    “Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame” by Christopher Boehm
    “One of the biggest risks of group living is the possibility of being punished for our misdeeds by those around us. Bullies, thieves, free-riders, and especially psychopaths are the most likely to suffer this fate. Getting by requires getting along, and this social type of selection, Boehm shows, singles out altruists for survival.” Hunter-gatherer tribes use the death penalty in the case of really bad actors.

    6 Ray Ladbury: IF we can protect ourselves from radiation while living in space: “Radiation and Reason, The impact of Science on a culture of fear” by Wade Allison.
    http://www.radiationandreason.com/
    Professor Allison says we can take up to 10 rems per month, a little more than 1000 times the present “legal” limit.
    If we manage to live in the Oort Cloud, we can move to the Centauri Cluster by moving a short distance in the year 35000 because Proxima Centauri will be inside of our Oort cloud at that time. We should be able to populate our whole galaxy within 64 million years by this method.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 4 May 2013 @ 9:58 AM

  14. 12

    Their antics are as edifying to observe today as when the Warden of Bedlam charged sixpence for the privilege.

    Comment by Russell — 4 May 2013 @ 11:12 AM

  15. 6 @Ray
    “Why do we care what the idiots think?”

    genognosticide – peeing in the global knowledge pool to influence more idiots (voters) and hasten the destruction of civilization… not reason enough? :-)

    Comment by Andy Lee Robinson — 4 May 2013 @ 11:24 AM

  16. correction, @12 !

    Comment by Andy Lee Robinson — 4 May 2013 @ 11:26 AM

  17. #6 Ray Ladbury (ref #146 previous thread)

    Here I am. Sincere apologies for the unwitting possible misrepresentation. (A regrettable misuse due to a lacuna in my knowledge now remedied).

    You say “The Universe could be teeming with life”. But equally it might not be. There is no cast-iron evidence either way. Your argument is no more than an optimistic appeal to the mediocrity principle.

    In biological terms I am certain that intelligence is nothing more than a successful but random evolutionary survival trait, in principle no different from the spider’s ability to spin webs or the zebra’s cunning stripes.

    So as well as searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, a relevant academic exercise might also be to look for extraterrestrial giraffes or similar long-necked creatures, would it not? Well why not? Because you wouldn’t really expect to find any, would you? (But what fun if elephants were discovered on planet Zog).

    Ray please do not misunderstand me. If incontrovertible evidence for intelligent technological extraterrestrial life were found, that would be the most exciting thing that had ever happened in my life: but I’m not holding my breath.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 4 May 2013 @ 11:38 AM

  18. Chuck Hughes wrote: “… at what level of CO2 does the scientific community say, THAT’S IT!”

    That’s what?

    At any given level of CO2 there is a range of scenarios of what might happen, with varying probabilities, all depending on assumptions, unknowns and unknowables.

    What matters is that it is self-evident that the warming that has already occurred due to the current anthropogenic excess of CO2 is already having destructive, costly, and worsening impacts, and there is certain to be additional warming from that level of CO2, and adding more CO2 year is only going to make things much, much worse.

    What is needed is to phase out ALL anthropogenic CO2 emissions as rapidly as possible, with the steepest reductions occurring up front. There is plenty of low-hanging fruit — for example, eliminating the outright waste of more than half the USA’s primary energy production; using energy much more efficiently; and de-carbonizing electricity generation by replacing coal and gas with wind and solar. Other solutions, like electrifying most ground transport, and drastically reducing the GHG footprint of agriculture, will take longer, but that’s all the more reason to get started on them NOW.

    We also need to draw down the already dangerous anthropogenic excess of CO2, which can be done by sequestering carbon in soil and biomass with organic agriculture, reforestation, etc.

    We already know how to do this stuff (and we are learning more all the time). We already have the necessary tools and technologies at hand to make very large emission reductions very quickly.

    There are plenty of opportunities for individual action, and plenty more opportunities for engaging with political processes, and pressuring both governments and corporations, to bring about the policy changes needed to implement these solutions.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 May 2013 @ 12:46 PM

  19. Ray Ladbury wrote: “… distances (along with the theory of relativity) and radiation preclude interstellar travel … As to a concerted effort to contact ET (or them to contact us) … it might not be wise, given the possibility of intergalactic predatory species …”

    Um, if “interstellar travel” is “precluded”, then how can there be any possibility of “intergalactic predatory species”?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 May 2013 @ 12:55 PM

  20. @17 Simon, it is still far too early to tell if intelligence is a successful survival trait.

    It may have helped to get where we are in a relatively limitless environment rich in resources and low in competition – but it’s collectively hopeless at avoiding what’s coming.

    As for other life in the universe, I can’t see how it isn’t evitable that it is teeming or has teemed with the stuff.

    Unfortunately we may never know. The chances of catching a glimpse are orders of magnitude more improbable than two spectators at a football match accidentally photographing each other’s camera flash from opposite sides of the arena, given that they only have enough juice for one flash each.

    Comment by Andy Lee Robinson — 4 May 2013 @ 1:19 PM

  21. > intergalactic predatory

    Interstellar, maybe; it’s possible to imagine targeting a relativistic rock at any detected signal that pops up within a few light years’ distance, as a paranoid way of keeping one’s stellar neighborhood quiet.

    Intergalactic, well, if them’s out thar, we’d probably see big signs and wonders in the heavens …

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 May 2013 @ 1:29 PM

  22. #20 Andy Lee Robinson “it is still far too early to tell if intelligence is a successful survival trait”

    Quite so. I meant “so far successful in homo sapiens”. I expect the natural world to continue flourishing long after we’re gone.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 4 May 2013 @ 2:13 PM

  23. Hank Roberts wrote: “if them’s out thar, we’d probably see big signs and wonders in the heavens”

    In Carl Sagan’s novel Contact, an ET from a multi-billion-year-old civilization tells SETI researcher Ellie Arroway that the Crab Nebula is the remnants of a failed engineering project.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 May 2013 @ 2:13 PM

  24. #2 Bouke

    Actually, it can be shown pretty easily that an overturning circulation will develop given Earth’s radiative equilibrium temperature gradient (as a function of latitude). The Hadley cell is precisely what is so effective at homogenizing horizontal temperature gradients in the free troposphere. You can google “Weak Temperature Gradient approximation” for some literature on this.

    I don’t agree that water vapor is required to drive this cell. Latent heat release is certainly a critical part of tropical dynamics, but Hadley cell dynamics have been studied in the context of Mars, Venus, Snowball Earth, etc, which largely operate in the dry dynamical limit.

    The horizontal extent of the Hadley cell is determined to a large extent by planetary rotation rates. If the Earth rotated much slower, the Hadley cell would extend to the poles and free tropospheric temperature gradients would be much harder to sustain everywhere. As it is, a Hadley cell that conserves angular momentum develops large wind shears and the flow becomes baroclinically unstable (it can be shown through the so-called thermal wind equation that the vertical gradient of the horizontal wind velocity is proportional to the horizontal temperature gradient). On Earth this happens close to 30 degrees latitude, and poleward of this the heat transport is dominated by mid-latitude eddies rather than being under the wings of a giant overturning circulation (you can still find references to a mid-latitude “Ferrell cell” in textbooks, but this is not a good description of what happens).

    Comment by Chris Colose — 4 May 2013 @ 2:14 PM

  25. #20 Andy Lee Robinson

    “I can’t see how it isn’t [?in]evitable that it is teeming or has teemed with the stuff”.

    Come on Andy, look closer to home. Not much evidence yet of teeming going on in Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune or poor old Pluto.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 4 May 2013 @ 2:24 PM

  26. Re extraterrestrial life, it seems likely that bacterial slime is ubiquitous, anywhere there’s liquid water and rock.

    Complex multicellular life may be much more rare. I asked Peter Ward if the various Earth-like exoplanets we’re discovering will be predominantly “purple Earths” (anoxic, microbial) or “blue Earths” (oxic, multicellular), and he said we’ll find mostly purple Earths.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 4 May 2013 @ 2:59 PM

  27. We know that Homo sapiens will eventually go extinct in great misery. It won’t be due to AGW and it doesn’t particularly matter what it will be due to instead.

    And it doesn’t really matter whether it happens in 4K, 4M or to some poor schmuck and his family 4B years from now.

    The way I see it, this is a terrific once-in-an-Earthtime experiment and we should burn fossil fuels as fast, furious and completely as we can. Just to see what happens.

    We’re pretty much going to do just that anyway.

    At least some of us will get to say, “I told you so,” and enjoy the schadenfreude of hearing Watts admit he was not only wrong but stupid.

    In the end, it all turns out the same.

    Comment by Shelama — 4 May 2013 @ 4:16 PM

  28. I just waded through Hansen et al.’s latest (unreleased) Climate Sensitivity, Sea Level, and Atmospheric CO2, and it seems clear enough but I just want to be sure I’m not missing something. My takeaway: Fast feedback sensitivity is at least 3ºC per 2 x CO2 and likely closer to 4º. And, current ice sheet models exhibit implausible hysteresis (they’re too lethargic), i.e. SLR is likely to happen much sooner than expected. Ouch. Guess I should update my RCP temperature graphs for 4º; will do so in a future post.

    “we conclude that this relatively clean empirical assessment yields a fast feedback climate sensitivity in the upper part of the range suggested by the LGM Holocene climate change, i.e., a sensitivity 3 – 4°C for 2×CO2″ (p. 23)

    “Altogether, the empirical data support a high sensitivity of sea level to global temperature change, and they provide strong evidence against the seeming lethargy and large hysteresis effects that occur in at least some ice sheet models.” (p. 22)

    Comment by Chris Korda — 4 May 2013 @ 4:17 PM

  29. Two videos which caught my attention recently…

    Jennifer Francis: Wacky Weather and disappearing Arctic Sea Ice are they connected? http://galaxymachine.de/2013/05/04/jennifer-francis-wacky-weather-and-disappearing-arctic-sea-ice-are-they-connected/

    Kevin Trenberth: How To Relate Climate Extremes to Climate Change http://galaxymachine.de/2013/05/04/kevin-trenberth-how-to-relate-climate-extremes-to-climate-change/

    Comment by prokaryotes — 4 May 2013 @ 4:51 PM

  30. Jeeze Simon, teeming is relative in this business. One planet out of eight is pretty good, and there lots of planets, moons and comets in the solar system that either have hardly been explored or won’t be warm enough until later when the sun starts expanding into red giant-hood.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 4 May 2013 @ 5:49 PM

  31. The way I see it, this is a terrific once-in-an-Earthtime experiment and we should burn fossil fuels as fast, furious and completely as we can. Just to see what happens.

    An experiment usually implies that the result is unknown, or at least sufficiently in doubt to be worth verifying. In this case it’s not much of an experiment since the outcome has already been determined in excruciating detail for anyone who cares to read. Also your claim that human extinction “won’t be due to AGW” seems to require justification. In fact evidence for the opposite conclusion is abundant; see e.g. the Hansen et al. paper referenced above @28, or in more casual language, Hansen’s recent missive in which he states: “But it is not an exaggeration to suggest, based on best available scientific evidence, that burning all fossil fuels could result in the planet being not only ice-free but human-free.” (p. 6)

    Comment by Chris Korda — 4 May 2013 @ 6:03 PM

  32. @13.6 Welcome to the science fiction convention. This lip-stick-on-the-radiation effort is all too similar to the recent one on CO2. I’ll take the consensus numbers or lower and the retired prof you cite will not say what I can take. Sufficient unto the day is the radiation thereof (sorry).

    Comment by Patrick — 4 May 2013 @ 6:28 PM

  33. @9 Thank you for your service in the communication of climate science.

    Comment by Patrick — 4 May 2013 @ 7:09 PM

  34. Jim @26 Re bactirial slim.

    This stuff is mind bogglingly complex. Did a very quick search and came up with following:
    http://www.microbeworld.org/types-of-microbes/protista/slime-molds

    I’m sure knowledgable souls could elaborate. Not the sort of stuff of spontaneous generation me thinks and would make multicellular stuff a breeze in comparison.

    Comment by Titus — 4 May 2013 @ 7:16 PM

  35. tTitus says: Not the sort of stuff of spontaneous generation me thinks and would make multicellular stuff a breeze in comparison.

    I don’t want to trivialize the problem of abiogenesis, but it’s my suspicion that because matter self-organizes in the presence of energy, the phase of matter we call “life” will appear everywhere it’s possible, not as a singular event, but continuously across the galaxies. One might see it as the “continuous creation” hypothesis versus the “Big Bang”.

    I’m eagerly waiting for the first spectra from some of the newly discovered exoplanets, so maybe we can infer biochemical signatures and test theories of abiogenesis.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 4 May 2013 @ 7:58 PM

  36. SA,
    It is probably the galactic cosmic rays that preclude interstellar travel for our own species. High atomic number (Z), high energy (E)–so-called HZE ions can take out large amounts of genetic information, zapping both strands of our redundant code. In part, that could be the result of our having evolved in a fairly low radiation environment. Other life forms evolving in higher-radiation environments might be expected to have greater and more robust redundancy, and so would be more suited to interstellar travel.

    Simon, I agree that there is no evidence either way, but I would contend that is precisely what would be expected–there’s no paradox to the Fermi Paradox.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 May 2013 @ 8:34 PM

  37. Nice useful shorter (16 minutes) Jennifer Francis, very clear and accessible, fwiw:

    “Does Arctic Amplification Fuel Extreme Weather in Mid-Latitudes?”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4spEuh8vswE

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 4 May 2013 @ 9:34 PM

  38. “In the end, it all turns out the same.”

    Sure. That’s why the middle is so much more interesting, and why we should strive to conserve it.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 4 May 2013 @ 10:09 PM

  39. 32 Patrick & 36 Ray Ladbury: Look up “Natural Background Radiation.” After that see:

    http://www.beyondnuclear.org/home/2012/2/4/japanese-authorities-recognize-573-deaths-related-to-fukushi.html
    The background where you are sitting is higher than the background + the reactor leak in Fukushima if you are in most places.

    http://phys.org/news/2013-04-climate-nuclear-power-approximately-million.html

    And check out how much uranium and arsenic there is in coal:
    http://www.ornl.gov/info/ornlreview/rev26-34/text/colmain.html
    or
    http://clearnuclear.blogspot.com

    Remember that this planet was made from the debris of a supernova and billions of years ago, the background was much higher than it is now. Check out Ramsar, Iran.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 4 May 2013 @ 10:16 PM

  40. 23, 32

    Thank you for reminding us that Carl recycled more science fiction than many realize.

    Comment by Russell — 5 May 2013 @ 12:51 AM

  41. Watching a farming show on Australian TV it seemed to me that words were getting new meanings, something George Orwell warned us about. Specifically
    drought = not La Nina
    Grain growers on the edge of areas flooded in recent years did OK. Now they want that every year too bad about the floods. In other words rainfall in normal years is now below expectations.

    Comment by Johnno — 5 May 2013 @ 1:08 AM

  42. Re: Prokaryotes 4 May, 4:51 PM, reference to “wacky weather” talk;

    I once attempted to explain the potential, that decades into the future it might not be possible to reliably predict regional implications of gross climate alteration, by drawing the analogy to the difficulty of comprehending the precise path of a smoke particle, as a plume broke from laminar to turbulent flow. I am uncertain of the propriety of reference to non-reviewed articles here, but perhaps an exception could be made for Randal Simpson’s rare, knee bone connected to the thigh bone assault upon the mechanical causality of sudden stratospheric warmings, and associated teleconnections. Such as the snow on my deck here in south Colorado, yesterday. As pure who done it entertainment, his post is a hoot.

    nevin1.typepad.com/blog/2013/04/sudden-stratospheric-warmings-causes-effects.html#more

    Comment by Dave Peters — 5 May 2013 @ 3:41 AM

  43. How many civilization are out there which caused a warm climate shift or runaway state? From the amount of advanced species, many might initiate a climate shift. Maybe the reason why we have made no contact with ET yet is because they see what is going on with our climate. “A failed planet…”

    Comment by prokaryotes — 5 May 2013 @ 6:24 AM

  44. “Why do we care what the idiots think?”

    Perhaps we don’t, so much, but we are forced to some degree to care what they say–perceptions of idiocy (or its reverse) being somewhat variable among independent ‘raters.’

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 5 May 2013 @ 7:34 AM

  45. “…it is still far too early to tell if intelligence is a successful survival trait.

    “It may have helped to get where we are in a relatively limitless environment rich in resources and low in competition – but it’s collectively hopeless at avoiding what’s coming.”

    Prejudging the outcome a bit, aren’t we?

    Anyway, many more parameters determine human behavior than the undefined (and almost certainly not unitary) quality termed ‘intelligence’. Notionally, we are no more intelligent than, say, the ancient Sumerians, yet our behavior is quite different in many ways. Maybe not enough to pass the test we are collectively facing, but it’s far too early to quit trying.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 5 May 2013 @ 7:44 AM

  46. #36

    Ray, the Fermi Paradox really doesn’t require that organisms travel in interstellar space. Advanced civilizations could send machines.

    A better explanation would be that intelligent life is only now appearing in the universe so there hasn’t been enough time for it to reach us.

    http://broadspeculations.com/2013/04/07/fermi-paradox/

    http://broadspeculations.com/2013/04/21/life-predates-earth/

    Comment by James Cross — 5 May 2013 @ 7:53 AM

  47. Re : Fermi Paradox, most modern thinkers now think in terms of ‘directed panspermia’. You don’t even have to send a machine, that comes later, all you have to do is send a seed for the oceans. In that case they are already here and they is us. Regardless, once they show up they’re just going to clone us and then they will be us as well, just more advanced versions of us.

    Believe it or not there is evidence to support this hypothesis as well as ‘directed abiogenesis’, because presumably the laws of our local physics evolved into being as well, and apparently does not prohibit non-local physics either.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 5 May 2013 @ 10:39 AM

  48. There just isn’t any real “paradox” in the Fermi Paradox.

    If you assume that civilizations at least as technologically advanced as our own are abundant in the galaxy, and then start making a list of the pretty obvious reasons why we might not be able to detect their existence by any of the means presently available to SETI research, it very quickly becomes a long list. No paradox. And certainly no “moral of the story” that implies any particular fate for the human species.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 May 2013 @ 1:11 PM

  49. Also regarding the Fermi “Paradox”, consider that “technologically advanced” doesn’t necessarily mean what most people assume it means.

    I recall a story by Heinlein (I think) in which human explorers arrived on Venus to discover a VERY technologically advanced civilization whose existence had been unsuspected from Earth.

    It turned out that the Venusians were highly advanced in bioscience (as one of the explorers put it, “they have forgotten more about organic chemistry and genetics than we’ll ever know”) and had biotechnology “indistinguishable from magic” — all of their “technology” consisted of living organisms, or materials produced by living organisms. But they had never developed metallurgy, or the use of electromagnetic radiation, so their civilization was “silent” since it emitted no signals into space.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 May 2013 @ 1:25 PM

  50. James,
    The interstellar galactic cosmic radiation environment is roughly 3 times worse than that within the solar system. Travel times to the nearest star that might harbor life would likely be measured in millennia, and it is difficult to envision a technology that would be sufficiently lightweight, capable and reliable to survive such a mission. And again, if you were to send a robot, would you send it toward the exurbs of the galaxy or toward the center, where stellar densities are much higher. The paradox in the Fermi paradox is why anyone would expect such an insignificant, isolated planetary to have been high on the list for contact.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 May 2013 @ 2:28 PM

  51. 46 James C said, ” Advanced civilizations could send machines.”

    As we have already done in a rudimentary way.

    ” In about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will drift within 1.6 light years (9.3 trillion miles) of AC+79 3888, a star in the constellation of Camelopardalis. In some 296,000 years, Voyager 2 will pass 4.3 light years (25 trillion miles) from Sirius, the brightest star in the sky .”

    http://voyager.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/interstellar.html

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 5 May 2013 @ 2:35 PM

  52. re Titus @34,

    Yes those organisms are incredibly complex. Some slime molds have genomes that are 10-100 times larger than our own genomes. The simplest of single celled archaea like the oxygen-producing halobacteria that likely produced the great surge of oxygen that resulted in a snowball earth more than 2 billion years ago, were already capable of photosynthesis. They had a genome, ribosomes, membranes and complex membrane proteins that converted solar photon energy to pump protons, and other complex membrane protons that utilized the proton gradient to produce ATP; i.e. stuffed full of the sort of biomolecular machines we find in extant organisms.

    I totally agree with you that it is the production of this extraordinary complexity in the most simple of organisms that is the mystery. In contrast to that the evolution of complex multicellular organisms is more straightforward. One can’t look at slime moulds and consider that stuff would be easy to produce!

    On the other hand 2 or 3 billion years preceded the time for which the earliest evidence for life on Earth exists, and we may as well take the point of view that that period of time is sufficient for complexity to evolve since it clearly did! But we really don’t have a clue how we got from chemicals, water, heat and solar energy to self-sustaining life. All abiogenesis ideas are simply hypotheses, even if there’s no point in considering the origin of life on Earth outside of an abiogenesis framework. But the evidence for abiogenesis in any specific form is very weak – “just-so” stories really so far.

    Does life exist elsewhere in the Universe? We don’t know, but it’s certainly unscientific to state that it doesn’t on the basis that we don’t have direct evidence for this. After all we’ve only been in a position to address this question for around half a century. If I were to bet I’d say it’s very likely intelligent life does exist elsewhere simply because the Universe is so vast and because there is good evidence for some potential “Earth-ish like” planets even within the tiny bit of the Universe we’ve been able to survey….

    (P.S. last para isn’t addressed specifically to you!)

    Comment by chris — 5 May 2013 @ 2:36 PM

  53. Regarding confirmation of life elsewhere in the Universe. Given the rapid advancements being made in actually finding and observing planets around other stars in our own galaxy, with the analysis of the atmosphere’s of those extra-solar planets getting more and more precise and sophisticated, it seems likely that this area of research will produce the first evidence of life (and possibly even intelligent life, elsewhere in the universe. The other potential candidates for the discovery of extraterrestrial life would be the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, where rather unique combinations of factors (including the all important presence of water) could produce the factors necessary for life. Finally of course, there remains the possibility that current or past evidence for life on Mars may yet be found given the increasing evidence that water was once far more abundant on the surface.

    All three of these exciting areas create an increasing likelihood that sooner, rather than later, some form of extraterrestrial life will be found. Of course, intelligent ET life would be the most profound discovery in human history, though the popularization and acceptance of this topic makes the impact of it lessen somewhat with each passing year. (i.e your grandmother would be more shocked than your children by such a discovery).

    Comment by R. Gates — 5 May 2013 @ 3:22 PM

  54. @42,

    Dave, glad you found my post on SSW’s a “hoot”. As a stated non-professional in the field, my goal was to elicit reaction and conversation on the topic of SSW’s, and certainly it being a “hoot” is as good a reaction as any. My connection of SSW’s to the topography of the Tibetan and Himalayan region might seem too simple to some, yet, topographically forced planetary waves are integral to the differences we see between the southern and northern hemispheres. True, the connection specifically between the Taklamakin desert and upwardly directed Rossby waves was a rather simplistic stretch on my part, I have no doubt the the topographic uniqueness of the general region of that desert in association with the rapid rise to Tibetan plateau is one of the topographic factors that plays into the generation of planetary waves from this region. My simplistic “knee bone connected to the thigh bone” approach, was a perfect departure for me to further my understanding of planetary waves, Brewer-Dobson circulation, and their relationship to both the unique topology of the NH versus the SH, and related impacts on the severity of NH SSW’s versus SH.

    Comment by R. Gates — 5 May 2013 @ 4:06 PM

  55. Okay, let me word the question differently…. If we make it to 450ppm of CO2 or 500ppm or any other number greater than where we are now, will global average temperature follow CO2 levels exactly and start to rise MORE quickly than they are today? For example: If we’re at 450ppm by 2040 how soon would the temperature reflect that level? Would it take several more decades for the temperature to catch up or will temperature and CO2 levels stay pretty much together?

    I’m just trying to get some sort of idea as to how accurately temperature follows CO2 levels and how much inertia is involved between the two. Looking at past data it’s hard to get a real sense of how these things work since we’re upping CO2 levels so quickly. Thanks.

    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 5 May 2013 @ 4:14 PM

  56. Barry Brooks and I and others had a long discussion on Fermi Paradox, which started with possibility that climatechange coudl be a reason. See this comment on relationship to fossil fuels or several later ones on civilization classes and energy requirements. To see communication from another civilization, it has to be relatively close, contemporaneous and willing to spend energy over a long time either narrowcasting at nearby stars in hopes someone will answer, or try to broadcast, thus having to deal with the inverse square law.
    New Horizons gets 38Kbits/second from near Jupiter, 1Kbits from near Pluto. (But it has a delightful choice of microprocessors, rad-hard MIPS R3000s. :-))
    They get 38Kb/s near Jupiter, will get 1kb near Pluto, which is currently not far from Neptune’s orbit. That’s about 30AU, compared to Jupiter’s 5AU, i.e., 6X further, so 6^2 = 36, about right.
    Proxima Centauri is roughly 9,000X further, which means about 80M X more power needed if one were broadcasting. Of course, a planet has a lot more power, and antennas can be much bigger. Our galaxy is ~100,000 light-years.
    Inverse-square laws are tough.

    Comment by John Mashey — 5 May 2013 @ 4:21 PM

  57. A reminder — internal combustion engines (and other high-temperature fossil fuel combustion using atmospheric air) are hot enough to burn nitrogen, producing nitrogen oxides (NOx) as well as carbon dioxide.

    It’s a problem: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50234/abstract

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 May 2013 @ 4:49 PM

  58. World’s changing glaciers http://galaxymachine.de/2013/05/05/worlds-changing-glaciers/

    Comment by prokaryotes — 5 May 2013 @ 4:58 PM

  59. On the other hand 2 or 3 billion years preceded the time for which the earliest evidence for life on Earth exists

    That is not true, sorry, at least for Earth. Look it up. I apologize if this is a duplicate correction as I am not following this thread very closely.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 5 May 2013 @ 4:58 PM

  60. #50

    Ray, a von Neumman Probe?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Von_Neumann_probe#Von_Neumann_probes

    For that matter, I would venture to say our civilization will figure out a solution to your galactic cosmic rays problem within a hundred years.

    Comment by James Cross — 5 May 2013 @ 5:10 PM

  61. Hmm, with http://www.nas.nasa.gov/SC11/demos/demo17.html suggesting that 5.4% of stars might a planet in the habitable zone, you are certainly opening up the possibility for a lot of life in the galaxy. Simon, which no. on the Drake equation do you think is most limiting? Ie do you think the probability of a suitable planets is very low; or that probability that life would form on them is very low.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 5 May 2013 @ 6:06 PM

  62. re @59 whoops, yes, you’re right Thomas, I didn’t state that so well! I was referring to the long period before the evidence for photosynthetic O2 producing bacteria.

    There is some evidence for life traces in 3.4-3.8 billion year old rocks, though the complexity of these putative organisms isn’t known. The fact is that the photosynthesising O2-producing organisms whose complexity we know something about had over 2 billion years to evolve, and even the microrganisms of unknown provenance at 3.4-3.8 BY had nearly 1 billion years to evolve. They presumably had similar molecular machinery (DNA/RNA/ribosomes/membranes/proteins) as better characterized archaea (‘though perhaps not!).

    The fact is that even the apparently mundane species (slime moulds/simple bacteria) are incredibly complex, structurally and mechanistically, and we have little idea of how this complexity arose from the chemicals, water, heat and sunlight on the early earth.

    Comment by chris — 5 May 2013 @ 6:09 PM

  63. Regarding OT extraterrestrial speculations: why not focus all of this creative energy on keeping Earth habitable? It’s the only planet that’s going to be relevant to your or your immediate descendents’ survival. There’s no shortage of actual problems and time is short.

    Comment by Chris Korda — 5 May 2013 @ 7:16 PM

  64. and we have little idea of how this complexity arose from the chemicals, water, heat and sunlight on the early earth.

    That also is simply not true. When you are digging a hole, quit digging and at least try to educate yourself on some of the fundamentals. Follow the energy. A lot of this is self assembling, built into the chemistry and physics. Nucleosynthesis built our atoms up from strong and weak forces, We inherited some electromagnetic complexity of the electronic shells from that process. Before that, the laws of physics themselves evolved from some Planck scale processes that we have yet to decipher. Life is clearly inevitable in the environment rich in hierarchical complexity we inhabit.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 5 May 2013 @ 7:18 PM

  65. Japan is doing their first “production” attempt to mine methane hydrates. Estimate 10 years for the relative cost to come down to make it feasible/profitable on scale.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/05/what-if-we-never-run-out-of-oil/309294/

    Comment by Tom Adams — 5 May 2013 @ 7:18 PM

  66. James,
    A Von Neumann probe does not address the fundamental problem–it takes thousands of years to get anywhere one might find life. Out of what will the probe build its successors when it is in interstellar space–the majority of its trip? And I would love to see how you achieve any sort of reliability on a mission lasting thousands of years.

    Methinks you are engaging in the time-honored tradition of waving away problems you don’t understand.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 May 2013 @ 7:54 PM

  67. Re. Chris @ 52&62.

    Thanks for providing a concise and informative description of a ‘simple’ organism. It’s even more complex than I thought!!

    In my career I worked with many scientist R&D folks mainly in product development. It’s refreshing to read you describing the process of cell development as a ‘mystery’ (as to me it clearly is). I knew in their hearts they would have liked to have said that about much of their research but needed to show confidence for the continuation of their work. I understand that some things just have to be taken as a given to move to the next level. IMHO it’s the remembering that we based our science on the acceptance of a ‘mystery’ that will humble us to admit that we just have knowneldge built from our concepts rather than actual understanding. My apology, I appear to have dropped into lecture mode on my hobbyhorse. Time to call a halt…….

    Thanks again.

    Comment by Titus — 5 May 2013 @ 7:54 PM

  68. Brighter Clouds, Cooler Climate? Organic Vapors Affect Clouds, Leading to Previously Unidentified Climate Cooling
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130505145839.htm

    Today is absolutely cloudless here. (This is rare.) Nevertheless I can certainly see the aerosols imported from East Asia.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 May 2013 @ 8:02 PM

  69. John Mashey, thanks for the link to the great SETI thread. For my money it’s “carbocide”, although I think focusing on the enormous excursion in the global carbon budget is only part of it. Similar disturbances in the other biogeochemical cycles (sulfur, nitrogen, phosphorus), on the scale of hundreds of megatons per year, are occurring simultaneously. There is no comparable event in Earth’s history; the End Permian extinction is the closest, but it’s still vastly less significant than what humans have done. It’s hard to imagine how anything survives this kind of crisis. It took some millions of years for biodiversity to recover from the Permian-Triassic mass extinction; certainly it will take Earth millions of years to recover from the human efflorescence. It may be that the surest sign of extinct intelligence on other worlds will be wrecked, poisoned, low-complexity biospheres.

    Comment by Jim Galasyb — 5 May 2013 @ 8:34 PM

  70. Slime molds are not bacteria. They eat them.

    The earliest pretty good traces of life on earth go back about 3.5 billion years. These “traces” are stromatolites. Little sedimentary rock remains from 3.5 – 4 billion years ago and most of that is too highly modified to have much trace of life. We are lucky to have some sturdy stromatolites from very long ago along with a few contemporary ones for comparison. They indicate photosynthesis, probable multi-species ecology, and niche construction.

    IOW not the first life, which is thought to probably have been chemautotrophs (eat chemicals, not light) and likely to have started in an environment like a deep sea seep or vent, rich in chemical energy. We do not know how life started. Following up on last week’s discussion this paper may be interesting:

    Evolution before genes
    by Vera Vasas Chrisantha Fernando, Mauro Santos, Stuart Kauffman and Eörs Szathmáry
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1745-6150-7-1.pdf
    Reviewers: This article was reviewed by William Martin and Eugene Koonin.

    Once life got started though it could not help evolving.

    Space is big. There may easily be several advanced civilizations within our galaxy yet not within detection range. Over all galaxies in the observable universe their may be a trillion.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 5 May 2013 @ 9:09 PM

  71. Re #60, James Cross “For that matter, I would venture to say our civilization will figure out a solution to your galactic cosmic rays problem within a hundred years.”

    Maybe we manage to put some microbes into space before our civilization fails and goes down in global chaos. The last remains of our existence, “cyanobacteria”?

    The biological aspects of directed panspermia may be improved by genetic engineering to produce hardy polyextremophile microorganisms and multicellular organisms, suitable to diverse planetary environments. Hardy polyextremophile anaerobic multicellular eukaryots with high radiation resistance, that can form a self-sustaining ecosystem with cyanobacteria, would combine ideally the features needed for survival and higher evolution. For advanced missions, solar sails can use beam-powered propulsion accelerated by Earth-based lasers or ion thrusters propulsion to achieve speeds up to 0.01 c (3 x 106 m/s), or by ion drives. Robots may provide in-course navigation, may control the reviving of the frozen microbes periodically during transit to repair radiation damage, and may also choose suitable targets. These propulsion methods and robotics are under development. Safeguards are needed against robot takeover, to assure that control remain in human control with a vested interest to continue our organic gene/protein life-form.
    Microbial payloads may be also planted on hyperbolic comets bound for interstellar space. This strategy follows the mechanisms of natural panspermia by comets, as suggested by Hoyle and Wikramasinghe. The microorganisms would be frozen in the comets at interstellar temperatures of a few degrees Kelvin and protected from radiation for eons. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Directed_panspermia

    Captcha: nceferro culture

    Comment by prokaryotes — 5 May 2013 @ 9:56 PM

  72. Re Chris @52&62 in addition to my post @67

    After reading your post on the building blocs of microbes I remembered a post I read a little while ago on microbes cleaning up the spilled oil in the Gulf. Found it here: http://news.discovery.com/earth/oil-microbes-bacteria-plume.htm

    Well, I then got to thinking that hydrocarbon chemicals have been found in abundance in our own solar system on Titan. From your understanding would it be an option for these microbes to form in this type of environment? They seem more simple and less demanding than slime.

    I read some web sites that talk about this possibility (eg. http://news.discovery.com/earth/oil-microbes-bacteria-plume.htm ). Asking if you had a view?

    Thanks

    Comment by Titus — 5 May 2013 @ 11:06 PM

  73. 69 Jim:
    To summarize all my various posts over there:
    Fermi Paradox just wasn’t evidence regarding the prevalence of carbocide in the galaxy, one way or another.

    The science and the arguments on Earth are easily strong enough not without invoking speculation when we simply have no data and physics implies we can’t get it.
    The energy requirements are simply too high for civilizations at our level to see each other, especially if expecting to intercept radio or TV. I recall reading sci-fi stories where aliens light-years away have been trying to learn about us from old TV comedies. I don’t think so, see SETI FAQ, which works the numbers.
    “Even a 3000 meter diameter radio telescope could not detect the “I Love Lucy” TV show (re-runs) at a distance of 0.01 Light-Years!” One needs narrowband:
    “It appears from the table that effective amateur SETI explorations can be conducted out beyond approximately 30 light years provided the processing bandwidth is near the minimum (approximately 0.1 Hz), the system temperature is minimal (20 to 50 Degrees Kelvin), and the EIRP the source (transmitter) is greater than approximately 25 terawatts.” Of course, 25TW is somewhat more than current total power used by humans.

    Planets like our get hit by asteroids now and then, and if a big-enough one comes, the then-extent
    civilization better have enough space capability to detect and deflect it. I.e., this is what I called “7d” in one of the later posts. The time until the next one is totally unpredictable, but the likelihood of another hit sometime is high. Of course, if the conjoined climate+energy problem doesn’t get solved over the next century or two, I’d guess it is very unlikely to be able to maintain a 7d civilization.

    But, I guess the real meta-point is that one has to look at the numbers.

    Comment by John Mashey — 6 May 2013 @ 12:43 AM

  74. This one has me a little puzzled. I agree for economic growth, but I think it is nonsense for climate science. Any comments?:

    “D. Ryan BrumbergNew York, NY

    Theories that can be easily tested should have a high degree of consensus among researchers. Those involving chaotic and less testable questions – climate change or economic growth, physiology or financial markets – ought to have a greater level of scientific disagreement. Yet this is hardly the case for climate science. I’ve just published a paper, The Paradox of Consensus, which illustrates that the greater the level of consensus for certain classes of hypotheses (those that are difficult to test) the less truth we should assign to them. This implies there is far less truth to claims of carbon dioxide caused warming that mainstream scientists suggest.”

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/03/on-unburnable-carbon-and-the-specter-of-a-carbon-bubble/

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 6 May 2013 @ 1:19 AM

  75. “Germany sets weekend record for solar power.” Just in case anyone doesn’t know what’s going on with electricity production in Germany, this article puts no gloss–and no schtick–on solar or on anything else:

    http://phys.org/news/2012-05-germany-weekend-solar-power.html#inlRlv

    This, in spite of the darkest winter there in 43 years.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/germany-weathers-darkest-winter-in-43-years-a-885608.html

    “Less than an average of 100 hours of sunshine have been recorded December through February… The winter average is an already measly 160 hours of sun.”

    The U.S. has a far greater solar resource than Germany does, but it is largely being wasted. The sun doesn’t always shine–but almost, where the resource is really good. Then again: the nuke doesn’t always work; and it has massive costs when it fails–compared to more flexible solutions.

    Electricity rates where I am have been raised to cover the costs of a continuing unplanned nuclear plant outage.

    Meanwhile the sun shines just fine where the resource is best.

    Financing renewables, and building them out as needed, provides flexibility and the opportunity to incorporate tech improvements as time goes on.

    Comment by Patrick — 6 May 2013 @ 2:31 AM

  76. @64 really Thomas? I’m surprised you haven’t got your Nobel yet!

    In fact, “A lot of this is self assembling, built into the chemistry and physics” is no explanation.

    DNA doesn’t self assemble. It requires the action of specific enzymes on nucleotide triphosphates which themselves have to be produced by the action of other enzymes. Proteins don’t self-assemble. The constituents must first be linked onto extremely complex transfer RNA molecules with high fidelity, and then brought to a ribosome with numerous specific sites for regulated assembly, with peptide bonds formed by the action of specifc enzymes and so on and on …

    We’re pretty sure this extraordinary level of complexity encoded in genomes was present in the earliest “simple” organisms for which we have evidence (certainly those O2-producing photosynthetic bacteria of 2-odd billion years ago, and likely the trace evidence for bacteria in sediments dated to 3-odd billion years ago).

    We really don’t understand how this level of complexity arose out of early chemicals on Earth. If you really do know the answer that’s incredible! I suspect however that the first billion years of evolution on Earth is a closed book that we can only hypothesize about. Of course, it’s possible that in time we might be able to reproduce some meaningful elements of this in the lab and then we’ll be able to say that this or that were possible steps towards the generation of biochemical complexity…

    Comment by chris — 6 May 2013 @ 2:52 AM

  77. The San Onofre nuclear plant had a new, supposedly improved steam generator installed about two years ago. It was improved a little too much, resulting in a small, within permissible limits, leakage of steam that had been in the core into the system, also sealed, in which water is boiled and condensed in a Rankine cycle. This is being seized upon as an excuse to shut down the plant forever. You can vote in a not-very-significant poll here.

    Comment by G.R.L. Cowan — 6 May 2013 @ 3:32 AM

  78. Here’s a mental snack to chew on:
    We are the result of a virtually infinite number of 3D nanoprinters driven by photons and ratchets instead of typewriters and monkeys.

    Now we take it to the next level – the anthropocene will be the shortest epoch ever, as we can direct our own evolution, and if we survive that as a viable species, and manage to retain volatile information and skills, then the next epoch will come soon – the cybercene, or cybocene.
    If an organism can metabolise pure energy in a 100% closed loop system, instead of deriving energy from converting high energy food to lower energy waste and then having to convert that waste back into food again, then that organism would not be constrained to having to live on a planet – it could survive billions of years in the centre of an asteroid for example feeding off nuclear decay.

    Nature did what it could here with what there was here, tracing a precarious path through the varying circumstances and environments there were, until now.

    Now we could do better – and that’s rather disquieting!

    If only there was a way to save and load consciousness.
    I want to know what will happen over the next few million years…

    Comment by Andy Lee Robinson — 6 May 2013 @ 3:49 AM

  79. #66

    Ray,

    An advanced civilization sends out two probes to two nearest star systems. When each probe arrives, it builds two more probes to the nearest star systems. When they arrive, etc. etc. The galaxy is 90,000 light years across. If the probes can go even a a small fraction of light speed, in a couple hundred million years, they are all over the galaxy.

    The replicated probes are built from materials at the destination, not during the flight.

    You seem to have startlingly little imagination about the capabilities of civilizations more advanced than ourselves.

    There are only a few good arguments for why they are not here. Life or at least intelligent life is rare. Few intelligent creatures are interested in exploring the universe and we are an exception. Life is only recently becoming intelligent in the galaxy. “Life finds a way.”

    Comment by James Cross — 6 May 2013 @ 5:20 AM

  80. Andy @78,

    Ask yourself this (and disregard the temptation to bring a deity into it): How much was the existence of intelligent life “coded” in as an inevitability into the very first nanoseconds of this particular universe’s existence? Indeed, the hundreds of billions of galaxies, as these little islands where gravity forces the nuclear fires of fusion to ignite, become inevitable seedbeds for life.

    Comment by R. Gates — 6 May 2013 @ 7:06 AM

  81. #71 prokaryotes

    You ought to look at my own post and the links on the theory about timeline for origin of life. The argument is that life originated about 9.5 billion years ago and it took about 5 billion years to get the level of the complexity of the most primitive organisms on Earth. Hence, life didn’t arise on Earth.

    http://broadspeculations.com/2013/04/21/life-predates-earth/

    Just to get the timeline right:

    Earth 4.5 billions years ago
    First life 3.5 billion years ago – your namesake prokaryotes

    The problem is that prokaryotes are already fairly sophisticated and a billion years, when you factor in the cooling time, isn’t a lot of time to self-assemble one of them. So the problem of how this occurred isn’t trivial or can’t be dismissed with the statement it is built into chemistry and physics as some have implied on this thread.

    From there it takes about 3 billion years to evolve bilateria. The first one most likely a worm.

    Comment by James Cross — 6 May 2013 @ 7:13 AM

  82. really Thomas? I’m surprised you haven’t got your Nobel yet!

    I’m not surprised that you haven’t even bothered to do even a superficial amount of research on subjects that you so easily hand wave away. Your lack of knowledge of rudimentary chemical and biochemical evolution is obvious.

    There are a large variety of energy and biochemical pathways that can lead to self assembling macromolecules. Take your pick. Nature has already chosen.

    The lipid bilayer membranes themselves are more or less self assembling.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 6 May 2013 @ 7:37 AM

  83. re @72 Titus

    Yes it’s possible and I’m more than happy with that hypothesis. However those particular oil-eating bacteria also have very high biochemical complexity! They have a full set of standard biochemical machinery required for life: genomes, ribosomes, a large number of enzymes, extremely complex membrane associated electron transfer chains for “capturing” the “energy” contained in the electron rich hydrocarbons in manageable bits. Those particular bacteria require oxygen (as terminal electron acceptors to power the oxidative catabolism that taps the energy contained in the hydrocarbons), just like we do. Seems like they’re a great boon for helping to clean up oil spills!

    There are several theories/hypotheses for the environments in which life may have started. The early organisms on Earth didn’t consume oxygen since there wasn’t much around, and more likely used sulphur, or maybe CO2, as the electron acceptor in electron transport chains or were methanogens that lived on CO2 and hydrogen. There are living examples of all of these types of organisms today. They all have complex biochemical machinery. It’s quite likely that the earliest organisms used simpler inorganic molecules as primary electron donors (e.g. carbon monoxide or hydrogen, ammonia, sulphide) rather than hydrocarbons which themselves require quite a bit of energy to “synthesise”.

    So yes maybe those particularly environments (deep sea vents; warm mud pools) were optimal environments for the origin of life on earth and quite possibly other planets in the Universe. But we really don’t have much of a clue how the complex biochemical machinery in these organisms that we see in their modern counterparts came to be. I think it’s worth being quite clear about that since it’s always a good idea to be clear about the nature of the problem when considering a line of scientific enquiry (like abiogenesis!).

    Comment by chris — 6 May 2013 @ 7:56 AM

  84. James,
    Maybe my “lack of imagination” stems from the fact that my day job is building satellites. Technology is not magic. It has limitations, and some of them are inherent. As a colleague says, “Failure is not an option. It’s a standard feature.” Let’s look at the facts. It took Voyager >40 years to leave the Solar System. New Horizons was optimized to make a very fast trip to Pluto–10 years. It will take it at least 20 years to leave the Solar System. On its way out of the solar system it won’t pass closer than a few 10s of thousands of miles to any object other than its target–that doesn’t give it much material to construct progeny even in the Solar System. Once outside the solar system, we’re talking at least hundreds of years in transit to the nearest stellar system…which has no planets. During that time, it will be exposed to a continual flux of HZE radiation that will degrade its materials and electronics. It will have to survive carrying its own very limited energy, which will be largely depleted by the time it reaches its destination. It will have no way of replenishing its energy. If it had photovoltaics to use stellar light, they would be degraded to the point of uselessness by radiation when it reached any star.

    Here’s a hint–assuming technology will come up with a miraculous solution isn’t a viable design strategy.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 May 2013 @ 8:00 AM

  85. Ed @ 74

    Not finding the source. Seems to be making some denialist assumptions about how climate science works.

    Anyhoo,you might enjoy this:
    Environmental Ignorance Is Bliss
    http://steadystate.org/environmental-ignorance-is-economic-bliss/

    Comment by Radge Havers — 6 May 2013 @ 8:19 AM

  86. @8 James Cross,

    Of course you may very well be right James. However it’s not a very satisfactory argument to my mind, since it simply shoves the problem to some other time and place. Who’s to say that the complexity of the simplest self-replicating organism (say some sort of archaea or bacterium) couldn’t have evolved on Earth in 500 or 800 million years?! We simply don’t know – one of the very many imponderables about the origins of life!

    Incidentally, although we’re pretty clear about the complexity of the O2-producing photosynthetic cyano-type bacteria living 2-2.5 billion years ago (they likely had a compleement of photosynthetic “machinery” of the sort we would recognise today), we really don’t know the nature of those organisms whose traces are dated to around 3.5 billion years ago. They might have been rather simpler. After all some extant microrganisms can generate a proton gradient directly from sunlight and use this to power ATP synthesis in the absence of an electron transport chain. So we know that there were very likely much simpler organisms than bacteria back then just by analogy with extant microorganisms. It may well be the case that these could evolve in 1 billion years or less – but we don’t know!

    Comment by chris — 6 May 2013 @ 9:13 AM

  87. Re #81, James Cross

    Yes, i think that during impact events – an environment forms which is favorable to produce the desired outcome, when the right recipe (such as the right temperature/habitability and simplest forms of life are present).
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia

    Comment by prokaryotes — 6 May 2013 @ 9:38 AM

  88. James Cross,
    The Sharov and Gordon paper is [edit -moderator]. Their definition of “complexity” is arbitrary. See this:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/04/18/graaarh-physicists-biologists/

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 May 2013 @ 9:50 AM

  89. @82 Thomas, you’re absolutely right that membrane can self-assemble. Of course membrane forming lipids that we find in all organisms are complex molecules with energy requirement in their biosynthesis. Very simple amphiphiles (e.g. soapy/detergent like molecules) can self associate but these generally don’t form membranes – they form micelles or monolayers. But since one of the seemingly essential factors of living organisms is that they compartmentalize themselves from the environment with which they interact it seems a reasonable hypothesis that the early formation of some kind of membrane was important for evolution of life. Couldn’t agree more.

    The point is that all of the properties of molecules that you refer to (e.g. a degree of self-organization resulting from the hydrophobic effect, hydrogen bonds, electrostatic interactions and so on) simply describe the fundamental properties that nature has at hand. It’s not an explanation for how life came to be. After all mixing together amino acids in solution doesn’t generate proteins; nor does mixing together nucleotide phosphates generate RNA. These things don’t self-assemble! Perhaps some degree of association can be achieved by interactions on clays or mica in a dehydrated state; maybe transient chemical reactions that can link amino acids together result in insoluble di-amino acids that precipitate from solution and so protected from hydrolysis to the thermodynamically-favourable monomers. There are lots of guesses and hypotheses relating to some of the problematic factors considered important for abiogenesis. Of course once you’ve built these very complex molecules (poly nucleotide phosphates or poly amino acids) they will tend to adopt conformations defined by those molecular forces.

    Anyway, I would say that it is you that is hand-waving in your suggestion that we know how life began and biochemical and biomolecular complexity arose on an early earth! I don’t think we do, ‘though I’m very happy for you to inform us.

    Comment by chris — 6 May 2013 @ 9:53 AM

  90. #86

    If you actually read my post linked above, you will see I make much the same points as you do. Nevertheless, I think the study I link to and post about makes some very provocative arguments.

    Comment by James Cross — 6 May 2013 @ 10:20 AM

  91. Get ready for most fossil fuels.

    Japan is doing their first production-level test of their methane hydrates mining system. Economic feasibility is estimated to be a decade out.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/05/what-if-we-never-run-out-of-oil/309294/

    Comment by Tom Adams — 6 May 2013 @ 10:37 AM

  92. James Cross mentions the Sharov and Gordon claim that life originated 9.7 billion years ago. Be cautious with this; these kinds of extrapolations annoy evolutionary biologists, e.g., PZ Myers (Graaarh, physicists BIOLOGISTS).

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 6 May 2013 @ 10:38 AM

  93. #92

    I have skepticism about the theory too.

    From my own reply on my post:

    “To me a bigger issue is how do evolutionary forces come into play before we have the viable organisms. Best estimates are that the simplest organisms would need at least several hundred genes. So evolution would need to be working on combinations of nucleotides and proteins that might not have been totally viable organisms for billions of years to arrive at the complexity of what we see today as the most primitive organisms. It is hard to imagine how that could happen in nature since it would seem that would require some very unique, protected, and stable environment for that entire time.

    On the other hand explaining how several hundred genes could assemble themselves might be even more difficult.”

    Comment by James Cross — 6 May 2013 @ 11:41 AM

  94. @90 James,

    O.K. yes I’ve just had a look at your blog post and the paper you refer to. It’s a silly paper isn’t it? You can see some howlers with a quick perusal. For example:

    i) During evolution organisms (including very simple ones) have evolved “proof-reading” and DNA repair mechanisms. These will almost certainly have been relatively late players in the genotypic and phenotypic armoury. It seems quite reasonable to me that the early evolutionary process (e.g within the first 0.5 – 1 billion years) would have been accompanied by a very large degree of mutations, gene duplication and other processes that power genetic diversity with less developed proofreading and repair mechanisms. So a steep part of the early genome complexity curve seems entirely reasonable to me. There is zero basis for a linear extrapolation to zero. That’s almost as silly as extrapolating 3 oC climate sensitivity back to zero [CO2] to predict the temperature of a CO2-free earth.

    2. The authors use extant organisms to assess genomic complexity. However we don’t know what the genome complexity of “prokaryotes” was 3.5 BYA, even if we can assess the prokaryotic genome complexity of contemporary species. One might expect it was considerably lower 3.5 BYA. Since the slope of the authors curve is heavily dependent on the “Prokaryote” point we could quite easily get a “Time of Origin” of say, 7 BYA, simply by adjusting the log10 genome size down from 5 point something to log10 4 point something.

    Maybe life did arrive from earth from elsewhere – I wouldn’t say that Sharov and Gordon provide any evidence one way or another…

    I like your blog post. On one of your points I would say that there is quite a bit of evidence for loss of genomic complexity in some bacterial species in the natural world. The sort of study that I believe Craig Venter is doing, i.e. deleting bacterial genes to establish what is the smallest genomic complement compatible with a functional bacterium, addresses that point very nicely…

    Comment by chris — 6 May 2013 @ 11:50 AM

  95. THe origin of life is very difficult to formulate but I would suggest that it is supramolecular and hence arose at the mesoscopic level which is apparently diffuclt to visualise and only recently has it come under the scrunity of earnest scientific study. Don know if th origin of life is to be found here but self organising principles apply at this level and far from equilibrium thermodynaics can supply the mix an energy for complex chemicals to form and evolve.

    insights to come and there is a scientist who has done a lot of work in this field and his video is somewhat intruiging

    Comment by pete best — 6 May 2013 @ 12:07 PM

  96. DNA doesn’t self assemble

    The point is chris, is that you are making incredibly stupid and naive statements on a science forum where people can see easily see through the nonsense you are presenting. The fact that DNA exists in this universe is demonstration enough that it can self assemble, even invoking panspermia, short of invoking divine intervention, which I suspect you are proposing.

    Your posts are essentially content free. The origin of life is something that you can easily research to get your self up to speed on the state of thinking in this domain. What you are suggesting is that we are ignorant about how this phenomenon (life) might arise in the universe as we currently understand it, which is complete nonsense. Get a grip.

    There is a wiki page on this subject, with references. Please pursue them.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 6 May 2013 @ 12:37 PM

  97. Ray’s comments illustrate fact that those who actually work on advanced technology tend not to believe in magic.
    As one tiny hint, the satellite I mentioned use MIPS R3000s (I’m one of the original designers) in a rad-hard version, running at all of 12Mhz, not GHz.
    It’s nice to talk of vonNeuman probes, but the things we do to shrink transistors and make chips run faster do not necessarily play well in space.
    Maybe Ray will favor us with a few words on component lifetimes and radiation in space.

    Comment by John Mashey — 6 May 2013 @ 12:38 PM

  98. Why aren’t the amazing space probes here? 0) their extreme impracticallity. 1) if you brush 0 aside, they probably passed through here a billion years ago. 2) [correlated with 0] probe makers are rare. 3) advanced life forms are rare 4) the probes are not here because you made them up.

    Self assembly of life? Some of us have some knowledge of what forms and what does not in the time frame of our experiments (usually just a few days). Life does not, not even close.

    Billions of years/trillions of monkeys? Where is the evidence that such is called for? It’s hard to have a feel for just long a million years really is but it is very long for chemistry. I ask the billion or even hundred million year faction this. How long would the right environment (whatever it is) remain stable on young earth?

    Titus
    I’m not sure what you are thinking but you seem to be thinking. Forget slime molds. They’re protists and way out of anybody’s league around here. (Some, not Eli to be sure, might say “So are bacteria” but never mind). You are on the right track in thinking of an easy source of chemical energy. However, today’s environment is full of raw oxygen, which is just too reactive. Indeed, for life’s beginning a reducing environment is better.

    You might like to learn of Miller’s last experiment. After the original Miller-Urey experiment, research indicated that the early atmosphere was probably close to redox-neutral rather than reducing. Miller-Urey type experiments with various neutral atmospheres yielded much amino acid quantity and variety. In what must have been a face-palm moment, it was noticed that the spark discharge experiment was producing nitrites and nitrates, which would oxidize amino acids. So: correct for this and …

    “A Reassessment of Prebiotic Organic Synthesis in Neutral Planetary Atmospheres”

    “We also found that the addition of oxidation inhibitors prior to hydrolysis resulted in the recovery of several hundred times more amino acids than reported previously, suggesting that primitive ocean chemistry may also have been an extremely significant aspect of endogenous organic synthesis.”
    http://www.bio.miami.edu/dana/dox/Cleaves2008.pdf

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 6 May 2013 @ 1:07 PM

  99. http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/wa/16886947/professor-joins-fight-to-save-arctic/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 May 2013 @ 1:17 PM

  100. The researchers found that the most ancient aerobic process was the production of pyridoxal, or the active form of vitamin B6, they report today in Structure. This reaction appeared about 2.9 billion years ago, along with an oxygen-producing enzyme called manganese catalase. This enzyme detoxifies hydrogen peroxide by breaking it down into water and oxygen. Caetano-Anollés hypothesizes that early organisms got the oxygen they needed to produce vitamin B6 from this breakup of hydrogen peroxide. The authors argue that these ancient organisms would have encountered massive amounts of hydrogen peroxide in their environment due to the bombardment of glacial ice by ultraviolet radiation, which can generate the compound.

    “It’s a great paper in terms of the evolution of protein [domains],” says Paul Falkowski, an evolutionary biogeochemist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, who wasn’t involved in the study. But Timothy Lyons, a biogeochemist at the University of California, Riverside, is skeptical that high levels of hydrogen peroxide were produced by glaciers. “There is little direct evidence for a hydrogen peroxide spike at this time,” he says. Still, he says the study is a compelling effort at pinpointing the evolutionary origin of aerobic metabolism. http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2012/01/the-first-oxygen-users.html

    Comment by prokaryotes — 6 May 2013 @ 2:15 PM

  101. Thomas Lee Elifritz wrote: “The fact that DNA exists in this universe is demonstration enough that it can self assemble …”

    That depends on how you define “self” … doesn’t it?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 6 May 2013 @ 2:34 PM

  102. Some of you dicussing the evolution of life, may find this article and research interesting- Did the Universe evolve simply to create black holes?

    http://phys.org/news/2013-05-universe-evolve-black-holes.html

    Comment by R. Gates — 6 May 2013 @ 2:51 PM

  103. re @96 Oh dear, that’s entirely wrong Thomas. DNA doesn’t “self-assemble”. That’s obvious and beyond any dispute whatsoever. In all organisms that we know of DNA is synthesised via a complex series of enzyme catalysed reactions. The deoxyribonucleotides themselves are synthesised by their own set of enzyme-catalyzed reactions. DNA replication requires template strands, DNA polymerases, gyrase, DNA helicases, DNA ligase and so on. Every single organisms we care to look at has a similar biomolecular machinery, somewhat simpler in prokaryotes, somewhat more complex in eukaryotes. Your insistence that this doesn’t happen and that DNA simply “self-assembles” is just silly.

    Obviously this complex situation didn’t magic itself into being. These incredibly complex systems presumably evolved (in my opinion, most likely during the several 100′s of millions of years in the existence of the early earth). How did we get from simple chemicals in salty hot springs to the level of complexity we see in extant simple organisms and, those we presume existed several billion years ago? We don’t know. You seem to think you do know but are reluctant to tell us.

    Your idea that a straightforward and uncontroversial account of what is widely recognized to be a major gap in our understanding of life’s origins constitutes “invoking divine intervention” is astonishing!

    Comment by chris — 6 May 2013 @ 3:12 PM

  104. Chris, Thomas, Ray et al

    One last comment and I will let you get back to climate science.

    My blog is called Broad Speculations (BS :))for a reason. It does not pretend to be science but I do try to extrapolate and interpolate from science. I don’t mind things that aren’t well-proven scientifically as long as they are not unproven.

    If you actually read my post on Sharov and Gordon and my replies, you will see I disagree with it on a number of points. I found it interesting, however, and not silly. First, it raises the question about whether the complexity of the most complex organism at any point in time generally increases over time and whether there might be rule of thumb (like Moore’s Law) to measure it. Secondly, it brought to attention for me the problem of explaining the origin of life on Earth. The first organisms that we have evidence of appear relatively quickly in Earth’s history yet are already very complex. There doesn’t seem to be enough time for evolution to play a a major role in the development of the first organisms. So either the first organisms came from somewhere else or something other (and I am not implying supernatural )than evolution was at work.

    For those interested more in origins, you might also check out:

    http://broadspeculations.com/2012/12/22/the-algorithmic-origins-of-life/

    Comment by James Cross — 6 May 2013 @ 4:40 PM

  105. Why aren’t the amazing space probes here?

    Who says they aren’t? You?

    There are two bottom up approaches to this problem that I can think of off hand, one I already mentioned, you seed using directed panspermia and the when you finally do arrive, you clone the local inhabitants and set them up locally in isolation to observe, and where or whenever appropriate, intervene. Alternatively, if you are interested in what is going on in an alternative universe, you tunnel in somehow and literally create the eyes on the ground the hard way, by evolution. That gives you the big picture.

    More on topic though, carbocide wouldn’t necessarily be bad for the biosphere of a planet like Earth, were it not for the anticipated hungry and nutty seven to nine billion semi-intelligent paranoid half apes here.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 6 May 2013 @ 4:45 PM

  106. Oh, oh, this result (if it holds up) can’t be good news:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130505145935.htm

    “New Berkeley Lab research offers a way to envision a warmer future… The approach foresees big changes for one of the planet’s great carbon sponges. Boreal forests will likely shift north at a steady clip this century. Along the way, the vegetation will relinquish more trapped carbon than most current climate models predict.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 6 May 2013 @ 6:54 PM

  107. #105 Thomas observes: Carbocide wouldn’t necessarily be bad for the biosphere of a planet like Earth, were it not for the anticipated hungry and nutty seven to nine billion semi-intelligent paranoid half apes here.

    “The future is bright for dinoflagellates.” — Jeremy Jackson

    Comment by Jim Galasyb — 6 May 2013 @ 7:19 PM

  108. The first organisms that we have evidence of appear relatively quickly in Earth’s history yet are already very complex. There doesn’t seem to be enough time for evolution to play a a major role in the development of the first organisms.

    I don’t think you are adopting a broad enough definition of ‘evolution’ as it pertains to all things physical and chemical. If you accept that most of this was built in before it was ever mixed up in the soup of primordial earth then it shouldn’t take long at all since a variety of energy gradients are in place and the stellar burning and nucleosynthesis have already done most of the work. For instance, electron by themselves aren’t all that interesting and are relatively simple and straightforward, but electrons and atoms give us … life. Two hundred million years is a very long time from the perspective of electrons and atoms in aqueous solution.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 6 May 2013 @ 7:24 PM

  109. How did we get from simple chemicals in salty hot springs to the level of complexity we see in extant simple organisms and, those we presume existed several billion years ago? We don’t know.

    I’m almost positive it involves the collision and reaction of ions, atoms and molecules in aqueous solution under a gravitational gradient driven by a large variety of readily available long term energy conversion pathways. These particles themselves have a long and rich history before they even get into this long term energy rich aqueous chemical reaction environment with an active air sea land fresh water ice interface and an active cloud and hydrogeological cycle typical of a rotating terrestrial planet in the habatible zone of its common yellow parent star. This is an area I believe we are making great advances in, and is something I happen to know a little bit about. It would be great if you could discuss it at the level befitting the topic of ‘the origin and evolution of life’, as apparently we have reached a point called the present where our understanding indicates some changes need to be made.

    I don’t exactly know what you are trying to say, but ordinary chemistry appears to be quite sufficient to generate living organisms under the conditions we believed have occurred here in this particular universe. Unless you think chemistry itself has some kind of ‘ulterior motive’ in this whole affair. I myself would go with something much much earlier if I were to invoke cosmological conspiracy theories.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 6 May 2013 @ 7:42 PM

  110. Since some errors in the timeline appeared in earlier comments, one might care to review
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archean
    or more briefly
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_evolutionary_history_of_life#Archean_Eon

    As I understand it, the evidence for the oldest fossils, at 3.8 bya, has been called into doubt as possibly solely chemical in origin. The later stromatolites are unquestioned.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 6 May 2013 @ 8:05 PM

  111. JCH @ #8 said;

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/05/unforced-variations-may-2013/comment-page-1/#comment-336664
    __________________________________________________________________________
    The anthropogenic component of atmospheric CO2 has been doubling in around 30 years. If that rate continues, which is a function of human behavior, we will hit 520 around 2043.

    400 – 280 = 120
    120 x 2 = 240
    240 + 280 = 520

    According to ExxonMobil, growing world demand can be met through 2040, at which time they report that only 1/2 of the world’s liquid fuels will have been burned. If energy companies can meet growing world demand, the 30-year doubling period shrinks.
    __________________________________________________________________________

    Where do your “made up” numbers come from? Links please?

    We will NOT hit 520 ppmv of atmospheric CO2 by the year 2043 (or even sooner as you state with your closing word).

    Not going to happen, not even close to that number.

    Show me some kind, heck any kind, of reasoned scientifically based growth path that gets us to, or above, 520 ppmv atmospheric CO2 by 2043 (or sooner). Seriously.

    Not under any scenario by anyone who even pretends to have a hint of a clue on population growth, per capita fossil fuel growth, total fossil fuel emissions or the global carbon budget.

    We are currently at a rate of growth of ~2 ppmv/yr of atmospheric CO2, so to add 120 ppmv in just 30 years (or 4 ppmv/yr on average over the next 30 years), suggests for even a linearly increasing model (and if you use any non-linearly increasing growth model the end year growth rate would have to be higher) and end year growth rate of 6 ppmv/yr.

    So here’s a suggestion JCH, read the literature, look at the historic CO2 data, look at historic fossil fuel emissions growth, look at projected population growth and the energy growth estimates from the likes of the IEA, EIA, BP, Shell, ExxonMobile and BGR (which all go out to 2030 or 2035 or 2040).

    As to the recent literature see (for instance);

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v488/n7409/full/nature11299.html

    http://people.fas.harvard.edu/~eebutler//Homepage/Plants_and_Climate_files/Ballantyne%202012%20Nature.pdf

    And if anyone tells you that they know all the components of the global carbon budget, with certainty and over time (past/present/future), to two or three or four or five significant digits, then you should know that that someone is outright lying.

    Here’s a clue, we all know less than we think we know. Some more so than others.

    Comment by EFS_Junior — 6 May 2013 @ 8:31 PM

  112. By two hundred million years I mean after gas giant migration driven heavy bombardment ceased. Roughly, give or take. A hundred million here, ten million there. The bombardment distribution probably had a tail as well, and very likely contributed to the final result from what I’m reading lately.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 6 May 2013 @ 9:51 PM

  113. Here we show that the anthropogenic component (atmospheric value reduced by the pre-industrial value of 280 ppm) of atmospheric carbon dioxide has been increasing exponentially with a doubling time of about 30 years since the beginning of the industrial revolution (∼1800)

    400 – 280 = 120
    120/2 = 60
    280 + 60 = 340

    ACO2 was 340 in 1981.

    2013 – 1981 = 32 years. 60 ppm, the anthropogenic component, doubled.

    For “business as usual” global CO2 would be expected to double (2 x pre-industrial levels or 560 ppm) in about the year 2050. – David Hofmann

    NOAA Earth System Research Laboratory, 325 Broadway, Boulder, Colorado, 80305
    CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado, 80309

    Comment by JCH — 6 May 2013 @ 11:28 PM

  114. Proof that the space probe speculation is getting out of hand: Thomas writes

    > nutty seven to nine billion semi-intelligent paranoid half apes here

    Half apes? We are 100% ape unless there has been some hybridization I don’t know about. ;)

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 6 May 2013 @ 11:37 PM

  115. I have a question that I hope someone knowledgeable about climate and meteorology can answer for me.

    The UK, Ireland and nearby areas in northwest Europe have been experiencing pretty cold winters over the past couple of years. Colder in normal there, from what I understand. This, of course, is being touted by the UK denialist crowd that global warming is a myth. Now let me be clear that not among those denialists. I fully appreciate that it can be colder in one place while the rest of the world is experiencing above-normal temperatures. I’m just trying to get a handle on what is causing the unusually cold weather in the UK. Looking to google for answers, I see references to the jet stream having moved further south, and talk (but nothing scientific) about the Gulf Stream also being further south. I don’t know if either is true, or why it would be happening. I’m also curious to know if this is expected to be a long-term trend due to climate change, or merely a temporary condition (that is to say, simply “weather” not climate).

    I am aware of what is called the North Atlantic Oscillation, and that could provide an explanation, but not sure if that is what we’re seeing here, or if it is another phenomena.

    I hope that someone who actually has good knowledge (and not mere speculation) can shed some light on this.

    Thank you in advance,
    Paraquat

    Comment by Paraquat — 6 May 2013 @ 11:52 PM

  116. Revisiting the “Why do we care what the idiots think” meme, we care because there are a wide range of possible outcomes from this point and keeping the “idiots” and their mentors in check is important. I read the latest incarnation of J Curry’s reckless, fake hand wringing this weekend.
    * There is deep uncertainty. The phenomena are only poorly understood.
    * We must delay to reduce uncertainty
    * We must invoke the precautionary principle
    * It’s difficult to untangle the roles of AGM vs. natural variability

    Just a sample of 15 pages of nonsense. The “idiots” are busy digesting and redeploying all of it. If we don’t care, they win.

    http://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/curry-testimony-2013-il.pdf

    Comment by Eric Rowland — 7 May 2013 @ 12:04 AM

  117. Comment/question on David Benson @ 110

    > …the evidence for the oldest fossils, at 3.8 bya, has been called into doubt as possibly solely chemical in origin.

    so far so good. Then:

    > The later stromatolites [presumably from 3.5 Bya] are unquestioned.

    OK, but complex ecosystems don’t pop up over night like mushrooms. When do you suppose life started on earth?

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 7 May 2013 @ 12:09 AM

  118. Why aren’t the amazing space probes here?
    Who says they aren’t? You?

    It seems RealClimate’s open thread has been colonized. I’m disappointed, because it used to be a terrific climate science resource. With luck the flames will eventually be extinguished by moderation and/or a shortage of tinfoil. I’ll check back in a few months.

    Comment by Chris Korda — 7 May 2013 @ 2:22 AM

  119. So called “Fermi Paradox”
    “At any practical pace of interstellar travel, the galaxy can be completely colonized in a few tens of millions of years” (by a civilization like ours, after much much longer development …)
    Does anybody actually think our civilization could carry on with our development model for millions of years?:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22425219
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22408341

    Comment by Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid — 7 May 2013 @ 2:38 AM

  120. Rasmus is engaging at ClimateDialogue in a discussion with Koutsoyiannis and Bunde about long term persistence (LTP) and its relevance for detection of global warming above and beyond what would be expected from internal variability.

    http://www.climatedialogue.org/long-term-persistence-and-trend-significance/

    All three invited participants agree that climate forcings can also contribute to LTP and that forcings are omnipresent in the data. It follows that the presence of LTP by itself does not indicate a dominance of internal variability, despite the (implicit or explicit) claim often made that it does.

    There’s also a (moderated) public discussion. Feel free to chime in.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 7 May 2013 @ 4:18 AM

  121. From JCH’s source paper (#113): “…anthropogenic atmospheric carbon dioxide and world population have followed a power law relation with an exponent of about 1.35. This is not expected to continue in the future as population is expected to peak at about 9 billion in about 2050 and carbon dioxide emissions are expected to stop increasing.”

    So, BAU gives us 560 ppm or thereabouts at population peak–except, of course, that we don’t really understand the Earth system carbon cycle feedbacks well enough to know what ‘natural’ (or should I say, ‘second-order anthropogenic’) carbon increases may be at that point. It’ll be pretty amazing if there’s much summer ice in the Arctic by then, and a lot of permafrost will be history, too. So one would expect a much heavier methane burden–and that keeps degrading to CO2. So maybe CO2 concentration growth rates will slow after 2050, but surely concentrations will not stabilize?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 7 May 2013 @ 8:15 AM

  122. Galactic colonization is rather tricky if you first need to survive on your own planet. This would require to shut down the growth, which reduce the need for a galactic colonization. This is a paper that I have written that demonstrated just that.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/0711.1777

    Comment by Yvan Dutil — 7 May 2013 @ 9:39 AM

  123. For paraquat: look up blocking

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 May 2013 @ 9:48 AM

  124. I’ll check back in a few months.

    Thin skin doesn’t work when cutting edge science reveals extremely dire astrophysical, geological and environmental problems that suddenly require our immediate close attention. I have no sympathy for you, sorry.

    If you feel that you can stomach participation in these extraordinary investigations that could possibly enlighten us to possible solutions, your help in these matters would be much appreciated, because the problems of biospheres, astrophysics, widespread surface chemistry, humans, pollutants, overpopulation and close mindedness aren’t just going to suddenly disappear without these kinds of engagements. If you want to just stay focused on your own little world then I guess that’s ok as well.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 7 May 2013 @ 9:50 AM

  125. Does anybody actually think our civilization could carry on with our development model for millions of years?

    Civilization could, easily. Solar irradiance and solar system resource exploration and exploitation models using reusable chemical (methane and hydrogen) launch vehicles have already been roughly sketched out at the engineering level. That should keep us busy, The question is can our civilization do it, given the damage we have already caused to the biosphere.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 7 May 2013 @ 9:55 AM

  126. Paraquat @ 115 That changes in the Arctic are bound to affect northern hemispheric weather, and are doing so is agreed in reality oriented circles. That ocean warming keeps right on going, even speeding up a bit, is the subject of the previous topic here at RC. 2012 was the warmest La Niña year yet, and warmer than any El Niño before the very big one in 1998. You can always check arguments at http://skepticalscience.com/

    But I think your best source right now may be
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/maps/
    You can make monthly maps, just for winter months if you like, or each individual month all year for a couple years. Rather than the alleged cold winters, you will find surprising regional changes from month to month. Going through the most recent Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, March you will see a big change right about when the Arctic vortex split into two vortices, allowing more than the usual amount of polar air to spill out. Try it!

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 7 May 2013 @ 10:07 AM

  127. David B. Benson wrote: “As I understand it, the evidence for the oldest fossils, at 3.8 bya, has been called into doubt as possibly solely chemical in origin.”

    As I understand it, life is “solely chemical” … isn’t it?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 7 May 2013 @ 12:00 PM

  128. #125
    “The question is can our civilization do it, given the damage we have already caused to the biosphere”
    Haven´t you seen that´s my point too? (#119) That´s why I included:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22425219
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22408341
    What is happening in the Artic is a very grave sign of our irresponsability, to say the least.

    Comment by Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid — 7 May 2013 @ 12:26 PM

  129. Pete Dunkelberg said:

    “Going through the most recent Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, March you will see a big change right about when the Arctic vortex split into two vortices, allowing more than the usual amount of polar air to spill out. Try it!”

    ___

    You are of course referring to the SSW event that took place early in January, altering the entire weather pattern of the NH. These events, especially when large like we had this year, tend to dominate the winter’s weather once they happen, and northern Europe’s weather really changed after that SSW split the vortex.

    Comment by R. Gates — 7 May 2013 @ 1:27 PM

  130. Pete Dunkelberg @98. You comment:

    “I’m not sure what you are thinking but you seem to be thinking”

    Haha – That makes two of us!! If you find out let me know:)

    I’m an average Joe when it comes to scientific matters with a pretty broad reach but not too deep level of knowledge. The input from contributors on this blog has been a great mix of views which have been intelligent and informative and challenge me. That’s been great and I give my thanks.

    My motivation in joining in part is to try and discover if science has diffinitive answer to the old old questions of the origin of life, consciousness etc. To be honest my thoughts right now are that we still are no wiser than the ancient philosophers. I thought the comment by ‘Chris’ who used the word ‘mystery’ is most apt.

    For those familiar with Hitch Hiker Guide and the super computer, Deep Thought, who processed the question of the mearning of life and everything. After millions of years it came up with the answer of 42. I’ll stick with that for now!!!

    Comment by Titus — 7 May 2013 @ 2:29 PM

  131. Rafael Molina Navas @119 A quick back of the envelop calculation assuming an economic growth rate of 1% per annum. This requires the economy (~consumption of materials and energy) to double every seventy years. Over 10 million years this would be ~140000 doublings or about 10^42000 times the size of the current economy.
    ‘ we’re gonna need a bigger universe !’

    Comment by Alan Harvey — 7 May 2013 @ 3:00 PM

  132. @ 125 Hear, hear. But is anybody sketching a new aerosols satellite?
    Thank you very much.

    Comment by Patrick — 7 May 2013 @ 4:33 PM

  133. Pete Dunkelberg @117 — My understanding is that the stromatolites are dated at 3.4 bya but I won’t quibble over a mere 100 million years. :-)

    Presumably those fossils are the remains of proto-cyanobacteria (based solely on modern stromatolites); the modern ones are rather complex, but have experienced an additional 3.4 billion years of evolution. So all the evidence I know about indicates that abiogenesis occurred more than 3.4 bya. Without more knowledge than I have of
    http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/precambrian/archean_hadean.php
    eon conditions, I’ll not venture a guess.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 May 2013 @ 5:07 PM

  134. Moving the discussion of extraterrestrial life back into the realm of science:

    Kepler is already set to put several thousand objects into the exoplanet catalog after just a couple years of being in operation, so we know the availability of planets is not a problem. In fact, there’s planets almost everywhere being looked at within Kepler’s field of view, and the diversity (e.g, orbital period, eccentricities, albedos, planetary size ranges, etc) is incredible…far more than what one could intuit from the small sample size in our own solar system. The next step technologically will be to get spectra of Earth to Neptune sized bodies, something already being done for exoplanetary gas giants. Indications of biomarkers in these atmospheres (e.g., oxygen and ozone signatures) is going to be the way life gets discovered, if we are lucky enough for that to happen anytime soon.

    From a purely climate standpoint, there’s no reason Earth should be exceptionally unique regarding the ability to support life. We have an incredibly small sample size in our own solar system– only a few dozen objects (between planets and moons), and only a handful of rocky objects with a distinct surface. So the argument of lack-of-life elsewhere in our own solar system isn’t very compelling.

    What’s more, I’d argue that observers in other galaxies that were looking at our solar system would be able to reasonably infer that Earth was the best potentially habitable body in our solar system…based only on knowledge of orbital distance from our own Sun, and the conventional ideas that are already developed about how to support liquid water on a planet’s surface. In that sense, the lack of non-Earth life in our own solar system is expected rather than being evidence of uniqueness at the cosmological scale.

    The current models of orbital distances that are compatible with liquid water (which is a function of star type) are pretty wide. Earth is closer to the inner edge of that orbital range, Venus is empirically too close, and actually the outer limit probably extends beyond Mars. The problem with Mars is that it’s too small to have much atmosphere to compensate for the lack of solar heating, but that’s not an issue that should be general to all planets at a Mars-like orbit. If we can find good greenhouse gases that don’t condense easily, the outer edge gets extended even further (this has been thought about for H2, and even having larger atmospheric pressures of N2, etc would help).

    There’s a lot of other issues worth discussing, such a whether tide-locking is a big problem, etc. But right now there’s nothing going on in the exoplanet community that points toward Earth being some sort of 7-card Royal Flush in the universe…maybe a 4-of-a-kind, but that’s still good enough given the number of stars out there.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 7 May 2013 @ 9:25 PM

  135. #113, JCH said;

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2013/05/unforced-variations-may-2013/comment-page-3/#comment-336859
    __________________________________________________________________________

    Links to some person’s paper (who has now gone to the great beyond, RIP) that “curve fits” an exponential to ~50 years of CO2 observational data using a baseline of 280 ppmv (which is valid for all time from the Big Bang to Infinity and Beyond or so JCH would appear to assume).
    __________________________________________________________________________

    Fitting an exponential has got to be the oldest curve fitting trick in the book. But it is not science, it is curve fitting, just as plain and simple as that.

    So, for example, that paper’s equation, gives for 2013, a rate of 2.5 ppmv/yr, but dog gone it, that damn observational CO2 global data is today, in 2013, still bouncing around at 2.0 ppmv/yr, NOT 2.5 ppmv/yr.

    I will go on record as stating that ACO2 in 2043 will be …

    477.5 ppmv (one sigma ~7.5 ppmv)

    I mean, we are, after all, talking about curve fitting, now aren’t we?

    So, 520 ppmv (at least that value in 2043) – 477.5 ppmv = 32.5 ppmv
    32.4 ppmv / 7.5 ppmv ~ 4.5 sigma

    Oh, and here’s a link for you, from a crank even (and it’s NOT behind a paywall, just like the last paper I provided), some, you know, food for thought;

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1352231010001561
    http://88.167.97.19/albums/files/TMTisFree/Documents/Climate/The_estimation_of_historical_CO2_trajectories_is_indeterminate_Comment_on_A_new_look_at_atmospheric_carbon_dioxide_Loehle_2010_AE-1.pdf

    Who will be closer? See you all in 2043, same bat time, same bat channel.

    Comment by EFS_Junior — 7 May 2013 @ 9:55 PM

  136. SecularAnimist @127 — I should have stated solely geochemical.

    Chris Colose @134 — I suggest taking Ward & Brownlee’s “Rare Earth” arguments more seriously than they do themselves. While there certainly have been some lucky events (lucky for the evolution of Homo sapiens) in Terra’s history, the luckiest of all appears to be abiogenesis. Until the conditions for the creation of life is better understood we can only speculate about planets in similar orbits around other stars.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 May 2013 @ 11:20 PM

  137. Chris Colose #134:

    So the argument of lack-of-life elsewhere in our own solar system isn’t very compelling.

    Actually Titius-Bode’s law already tells us not to expect more than one life-bearing planet per star. Otherwise, bodies of liquid water are found in two places (the other one being Europa, under the surface) and existed earlier in four (also Mars, and Venus apparently had a world ocean), complex carbon chemistry in two places (Titan)…

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 7 May 2013 @ 11:52 PM

  138. Hey all: Here is my latest climate change article over at Huffington Post. Please give it a look! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidgoldstein/burn-baby-burn-a-climate-_b_3224411.html?utm_hp_ref=climate-change

    Comment by David Goldstein — 8 May 2013 @ 1:49 AM

  139. @128 Rafael Molinas Navas. After reading this in the article you cite:

    “Scientists at one time believed their shrinking numbers were caused by an infection, but they couldn’t find the underlying cause.”

    –let me cite this, especially the abstract:

    http://phys.org/news/2013-04-high-fructose-corn-syrup-tied-worldwide.html#jCp

    The fault is not in our stars but in ourselves, as we may see.

    Comment by Patrick — 8 May 2013 @ 1:57 AM

  140. James @104,

    Sharov and Gordon is silly because they use a non-scientific reductio ad absurdum argument (extrapolating molecular genetics in extant organisms back to a single nucleotide as an estimate of the time of life’s origin). Having presented that dull trick they engage in page after page of irrelevant (and rather nasty in my opinion) pub talk.

    Anyway the last two sentences of your post are very relevant to this fascinating problem:

    “There doesn’t seem to be enough time for evolution to play a a major role in the development of the first organisms.”

    Very interesting comment since it suggests we might have some idea or gut-feeling about how long the development of the first living organism should take. I don’t think we do. A million years is a mind-boggling period of time and who’s to say that the development of the first simplest self-replicating simplest organism didn’t take 100 million years or less. What basis do we have for assuming otherwise? After all Stanley Miller who stimulated much of the field of modern abiogenesis considered that the evolution of the first cyanobacteria might have taken 20 million years. [1]

    “So either the first organisms came from somewhere else or something other (and I am not implying supernatural )than evolution was at work.”

    Yes something other than evolution was at work. It’s called chemistry. A major fallacy of Sharov and Gordon is not to recognize that in extrapolating extant molecular genetics back in time, we expect to meet the slope of chemistry going forward. The slope of the chemistry time line from prebiotic soup (!) to first self-replicator might be quite steep indeed as Miller suggested. But since we don’t know what chemistry was involved we are largely guessing. I’m more than comfortable with our lack of knowledge of life’s origins.

    Incidentally Leslie Orgel (like Stanley Miller no slouch on the science of life’s origins) put it rather well [2]:

    “We do not understand how a self replicating system originated on the primitive earth, so it is impossible, on the basis of chemical arguments, to set upper or lower limits on the time that would be required. Hopefully, further research will clarify the nature of the chemical steps involved. Then we might be able to offer some meaningful estimates about the time needed for the transition from an abiotic to a biotic world.”

    [1] A. Lazcano and S. L. Miller. How Long Did It Take for Life to Begin and Evolve to Cyanobacteria? J. Mol. Evol. 39, 546-554 (1994).

    [2] L.E. Orgel. The origin of life: How long did it take? Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere 28: 91–96, 1998

    Comment by chris — 8 May 2013 @ 2:36 AM

  141. @ #134.

    I’ve found it somewhat humorous that there are people out there that are labeling our future climate as unlivable, or the oft-used “as we know it” being applied to the end of working human civilization…

    …and yet the range for ‘acceptable habitation’ of a Kepler discovered planet is MUCH more forgiving. Even what our future climate has for us via GCMs would be labeled as within the ‘sweet spot’ for a newly discovered distant planet.

    Comment by Salamano — 8 May 2013 @ 3:50 AM

  142. Doesn’t the foolishness of releasing self-replicating artificial organisms (“probes”) into the galaxy occur to anyone? Before long they would be competing for resources, developing increasingly lethal defense and attack systems, and be about as interested in the fate of organisms – such as those that produced them – as we would be in slime molds. Unleashing them would be about as daft as a species playing dangerous games with the composition of the atmosphere of its own planet. Hmmm, hang on a minute …

    Comment by Simon C — 8 May 2013 @ 6:22 AM

  143. General question: one of the debates in climate is the role of DMS in cloud formation. Has any work been done on possible biologic sulphur fractionation and its use in differentiating SO4 production from volcanic sulphur?

    Caveat: it’s come out of OU study, but it’s not in response to any assignment or exam.

    Comment by john mann — 8 May 2013 @ 6:28 AM

  144. #131 Alan Harvey: Millions of years of “development” is part of the Fermy paradox hypothesis …
    I wouldnt´ dare to extrapolate curren “growth” …
    I just wanted to express what shown in #128 … Absurd paradox? If our minds also developed … who knows? But in spite of the unbelievable technology development, our minds haven´t improved in millenia …

    Comment by Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid — 8 May 2013 @ 7:16 AM

  145. #141–”Even what our future climate has for us via GCMs would be labeled as within the ‘sweet spot’ for a newly discovered distant planet.”

    Sure. But I’m rather attached to the civilization and culture into which I was born, so the probability that humans will survive the worst that we can do to our own nest does little to console (much less ‘amuse.’) Mozart deserves to remain ‘immortal’, which would be difficult, to say the least, under 8 C warming by 2100.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 May 2013 @ 7:35 AM

  146. @141
    Personally, I find it equally if not more humorous that you cannot see the difference between building up the resources of a civilization over time starting from scratch (centuries in our own case) in a way adapted to a stable environment on whatever planet versus having to scrap a large portion of the centuries-old investment and start over anew from scratch due to a changed environment.

    You’ll be giggling in your grave over the taxes necessary to accomplish this, but I doubt any of your putative children will be.

    Comment by jgnfld — 8 May 2013 @ 8:12 AM

  147. Salamano #134, you cannot quite compare the scope of life’s adaptation over a stellar lifetime with that of humanity’s adaptation over a century. “Orders of magnitude difference” doesn’t begin to capture it. Planets don’t have to appear hospitable to us to be perfectly comfortable to the natives.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 8 May 2013 @ 8:36 AM

  148. Salamano,
    I’m sure that whatever evolves to take our place will share a giggle with you.

    Meanwhile we’ll just laugh at you silliness.

    You fail at physics. You fail at biology. You fail at astrobiology. You fail at logic. You fail at reading comprehension. Get the drift?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 May 2013 @ 8:50 AM

  149. Chris Colose wrote: “… the argument of lack-of-life elsewhere in our own solar system isn’t very compelling”.

    Especially given that there may very well be life elsewhere in our own solar system.

    Chris Colose wrote: “… the conventional ideas that are already developed about how to support liquid water on a planet’s surface …”

    There are, of course, other places where liquid water can exist besides a planet’s surface.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 8 May 2013 @ 9:45 AM

  150. The number of stars in the universe has been estimated on the low side of 10^24 which approximates to 2^80. If our own example of intelligent life has had to survive more than 80 potentially negative bifurcations in its Earthly evolution since abiogenesis over maybe 4 billion years ago (that’s an average of just 1 every 50 million years) then it’s unlikely there can be anything comparable elsewhere in the universe, regardless of the availability of suitable planets.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 8 May 2013 @ 10:05 AM

  151. who’s to say that the development of the first simplest self-replicating simplest organism didn’t take 100 million years or less. What basis do we have for assuming otherwise? After all Stanley Miller who stimulated much of the field of modern abiogenesis considered that the evolution of the first cyanobacteria might have taken 20 million years.

    I also think you need to loosen up your definition of ‘organism’ as well. Early forms were likely to have been transient chemical automata that only very loosely qualify as organisms. Cyanobacteria are fantastically complex and only arose after much early evolutionary selection occurred. Automata aren’t that hard to construct, I myself have a sequential 8 kilobyte 16 bit FORTH nucleus that can self recompile itself almost instantly, and with an additional 8 kilobytes of code turns into an operating system complete with editor, compiler, assembler and external interfaces. This is something I did very early on in order to simulate the biological process.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 8 May 2013 @ 10:35 AM

  152. Simon Abingdon,
    And yet, we exist. Funny, that.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 May 2013 @ 11:36 AM

  153. https://bioenergyigert.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/update-to-ipcc-systematically-low-balling-climate-estimates/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 May 2013 @ 12:03 PM

  154. Imagine drawing the tree of life since abiogenesis (or biogenesis according to taste). Trace the incredibly, astonishingly lengthy path towards the emergence of homo sapiens (our only competitor in the intelligent ET race). Won’t the relentless succession of favourable branches in such an improbably successful evolution quite easily dwarf the number of stars within whose spheres other such lengthy (and possibly ET) evolutions might optimistically be taking place? And doesn’t the unexpectedness of homochirality compel a conviction of the uniqueness (at least here) of the original biogenetic event?

    Comment by simon abingdon — 8 May 2013 @ 1:40 PM

  155. Claims that abiogenesis could not have occurred on the early Earth in the time before complex life appeared are, as was said in the previous thread, arguments from incredulity. It’s been pointed out that, without knowing the mechanisms of the individual steps, their likelihood can’t be estimated. That’s clear from a couple of articles in the current Nature Chemistry focus on prebiotic chemistry (h/t Pete Dunkelberg), demonstrating that a previous theoretical constraint on RNA auto-catalysis was too strict. In general, for a lower bound on likelihood, it’s not necessary to show that a step did occur by a particular mechanism, only that plausible mechanisms exist.

    “Evolution” is often said not to have begun until abiogenesis was complete, but what should we call the processes that created the environment in which abiogenesis took place? Between the Big Bang and the present, the primordial atoms of hydrogen and helium (plus a little lithium) were fused into new elements, which reacted in giant clouds to form molecules, which were gathered into planets, where they went on to form minerals and organic monomers. At every step, less stable configurations competed for constituents with more stable ones. I have no problem saying the Universe has evolved.

    For a highly-readable account of chemical, mineral and geologic evolution on the early Earth, whereby the stage was set for abiogenesis, I enthusiastically recommend The Story of Earth, by the geochemist Robert Hazen. Great stuff!

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 8 May 2013 @ 3:19 PM

  156. #154–

    “Won’t the relentless succession of favourable branches in such an improbably successful evolution quite easily dwarf the number of stars within whose spheres other such lengthy (and possibly ET) evolutions might optimistically be taking place?”

    No, since unfavorable ‘branches’ also existed, and were selected against.

    “And doesn’t the unexpectedness of homochirality compel a conviction of the uniqueness (at least here) of the original biogenetic event?”

    No, since we don’t understand its emergence, even to whether or not it is related directly to ‘the original biogenetic event.’

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 May 2013 @ 3:20 PM

  157. Nuke the origins talk, I say …

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 May 2013 @ 3:29 PM

  158. Simon,
    You are making assumptions with no data to inhibit your creativity–this is sometimes referred to pulling it out of your tuckus. You are assuming all the branch points are uncorrelated, even that left-handedness poses no evolutionary advantage (which it might have in some environments).

    Indeed, even your assumption of uniqueness in the origin of life is unwarranted–what we see is what survived and outcompeted everything else–that doesn’t mean it’s all there ever was.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 May 2013 @ 3:37 PM

  159. Impacts of declining spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130507134421.htm

    “As is true for ecosystem changes anywhere, a decaying subnivium [sub-snow environment] would have far-reaching consequences. Reptiles and amphibians, which can survive being frozen solid, are put at risk when temperatures fluctuate, bringing them prematurely out of their winter torpor only to be lashed by late spring storms or big drops in temperature. Insects also undergo phases of freeze tolerance and the migrating birds that depend on invertebrates as a food staple may find the cupboard bare when the protective snow cover goes missing.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 May 2013 @ 4:17 PM

  160. Mernild et al. in Cryosphere discuss

    http://www.the-cryosphere-discuss.net/7/1987/2013/tcd-7-1987-2013.html

    with a nice calculation of future mass waste in glaciers and icecaps (does not include Greenland or Antarctica). The calculation is based on ratios of the area in accumulation to the total area of the glacier, regressed against mass balance to give the equilibrium (for a particular climate), which is then used in projecting future mass waste.

    “These losses imply global mean sea-level rise of 163 ± 73 mm, assuming total glacier volume of 430 mm sea-level equivalent.”

    In the body, they mention decade to century time scales.

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 8 May 2013 @ 5:33 PM

  161. simon abingdon @150 — Well done.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 May 2013 @ 6:23 PM

  162. Mr. McKinney: Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

    Purely for anecdotal value, these coincide with my own observations.

    1)less snow in March-April. Check
    2)”spring melt has accelerated by almost two weeks” Check
    3)”plants exposed directly to cold temperatures and more frequent freeze-thaw cycles can suffer tissue damage both below and above ground, resulting in higher plant mortality, delayed flowering and reduced biomass” Check
    4)Fewer voles and shrews. Check
    5)”The effects will be especially profound along the trailing edge of the cryosphere in regions that experience significant, but seasonal snow cover”
    That last would be me.

    Comment by sidd — 8 May 2013 @ 7:38 PM

  163. What do you think of http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperDownload.aspx?paperID=3217
    Vol.2, No.11, 1211-1224 (2010) Natural Science doi:10.4236/ns.2010.211149
    “On the recovery from the Little Ice Age” by Syun-Ichi Akasofu
    International Arctic Research Center, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, USA; sakasofu@iarc.uaf.edu ?

    [Response: It's meaningless, like most (all?) papers that claim there is a "recovery" from the Little Ice Age. What is the mechanism proposed? Nothing but speculation plus a steadfast refusal to consider known forcings (i.e. greenhouse gases). --eric]

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 8 May 2013 @ 9:10 PM

  164. Akasofu(2010) does not convince me with (postulated) linear recovery from a (non global) LIA with a 60 yr oscillation, an obligatory nod to Scafeta misanalysis of solar influence, and a regular round trip of all the denialist references.

    Gone emeritus.

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 8 May 2013 @ 9:44 PM

  165. Simon Abingdon #150

    more than 80 potentially negative bifurcations

    With that logic, you couldn’t even travel from London to Paris — imagine all the potentially negative bifurcations along the way!

    Come to think of it, don’t get out of bed in the morning ;-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 9 May 2013 @ 12:22 AM

  166. re: 163
    Perhaps Dr. Akasofu is back in the news by virtue of being cited in The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism,” of which the Amazon reviews may prove instructive. Heartland sent this (supposedly) to 100,00 people, who included many university faculty.

    For my review of the chapter “History Shows Global Warming Not Abnormal” in which the Akasofu citation is found, see this.

    Comment by John MAshey — 9 May 2013 @ 2:03 AM

  167. #163 – Aparte from Erics´response, please note mean global temperatures are now even higher than in the Medieval Warm Period, a maximum previous to LIA minima …

    Comment by Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid — 9 May 2013 @ 2:06 AM

  168. #158 Ray Ladbury “Simon, You are making assumptions with no data …”

    But at #36 you said “I agree that there is no evidence either way”.

    And at #152 “And yet, we exist. Funny, that”. Funny-peculiar indeed it is.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 9 May 2013 @ 5:46 AM

  169. #163 et seq.–Sounds like vintage Akasofu. I’ve encountered him before when cited by denialist commenters. Gavin’s question “What is the mechanism proposed?” cuts to the chase, from what I’ve seen previously–”recovery” is treated as if it were a mechanism.

    But climate isn’t a spring to be stretched (pun semi-intentional.)

    #162–Sidd, you are welcome. I used to live in such a zone myself.

    I was especially struck by that story, having earlier read Tamino’s analysis of the declining snow cover. The trends are very, very marked indeed, especially for spring and (though not so material to the present study) summer. It sounds as though there could be pretty serious disruption of ecosystems as transitions happen.

    (Though for the Meadow Vole–one of the more widely-distributed mammals of North America–I’m guessing the challenge is probably basically transitory. Certainly there is no shortage of them where I live now, in the American Southeast.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 May 2013 @ 6:11 AM

  170. #165 Martin Vermeer “80 potentially negative bifurcations.. With that logic, you couldn’t even travel from London to Paris”.

    To get your train from London to Paris you’d need all 80 sets of points to be set correctly. If each was set randomly and independently Paris wouldn’t be your hoped-for destination unless you’d survived (correctly followed) each of 80 successive sets of points (bifurcations). I make the odds in favour of that to be 1 in 2^80. You have a problem with that logic?

    Comment by simon abingdon — 9 May 2013 @ 7:09 AM

  171. #150, #154 and 161,

    Well done … NOT. First of all there were many aborted attempts to produce a hominid well before Homo sapiens sapiens came along. If it wouldn’t have been us it would have just been someone else. Secondly, as I have pointed out nucleosynthesis (yes, that is evolution too) did most of the heavy lifting well before the atoms met the proverbial primordial soup. One could even call the solar nebula the ‘primordial soup’. Quark soup anyone? What is only remarkable is the long term stability of the soups which produced the slimes. Yes, life is fortuitous, but this is a fortuitous universe, one in which life is demonstrated to exist at many many levels. Our lives just take more time then the other lives, but this is a universe where time, space and atoms are abundant, so the burden of demonstration is upon you, not on those who suggest life is abundant in this universe, because that has already pretty much been well established.

    Comment by Guest — 9 May 2013 @ 7:33 AM

  172. @169
    _But climate isn’t a spring to be stretched (pun semi-intentional.)_

    Quite. But weather is pretty much by definition such a spring as heat, moisture, etc. are pushed and pulled about. Hence the mechanism that allows the denialist FUD

    As for the negative effects on shrews and voles, I live in Newfoundland which has always had a very long freeze-thaw spring season which is very hard on many non-native plants and animals. For example, the bark on my tea roses is routinely lifted right off the stem by said cycle requiring extensive pruning as I do not otherwise protect them.

    But that said, there are plenty of shrews (introduced) and voles (native)…and VERY many insects for the shrews to feed upon (though not a great diversity of them ) which have successfully adapted. So at least some subspecies appear to be able to handle this sort of weather treatment.

    Expect diversity decreases, but there are plants and animals adapted to such conditions.

    Comment by jgnfld — 9 May 2013 @ 7:38 AM

  173. And, in a more-or-less related development, 12 Canadian scientists “call out” Environment Minister Joe Oliver:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/05/08/pol-climate-scientist-letter-joe-oliver.html

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 May 2013 @ 7:44 AM

  174. Eric, sorry to misattribute your response to Gavin! (Inline, in response to Ed Greisch.)

    I need to work on care in reading, evidently.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 May 2013 @ 7:46 AM

  175. #165–Exactly.

    I recall writing a computer program to generate non-tonal ‘chorales’ for ear-training purposes, back in the ’70s–non-tonal chorales not being exactly thick on the ground in the real musical world. Apart from a user spec routine, the process started with the random number generator and then proceeded through a whole bunch of ‘negative bifurcations.’

    And yet, a suitable chorale emerged as output *every single time.*

    “[Negative] bifurcations”–AKA, the magic of selection.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 9 May 2013 @ 7:57 AM

  176. > expect diversity decreases

    We’re not just losing a few individual species with lots left over.

    Less diversity, more damage to crops.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ele.12096/full

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 May 2013 @ 10:32 AM

  177. DOI: 10.1111/ele.12096
    The loss of indirect interactions leads to cascading extinctions of carnivores
    Ecology Letters
    Volume 16, Issue 5, pages 664–669, May 2013

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 May 2013 @ 10:35 AM

  178. John Mashey, 166, notes the Amazon reviews of Dr Akasofu’s book.

    The ever-helpful Amazon list of “Customers who bought this item also bought” books is also amusing. You’ve heard of books that come wrapped in brown paper (obsolete now I suppose). The books on this list come wrapped in tinfoil, which can be reused for hats.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 9 May 2013 @ 11:43 AM

  179. My personal view is that life is very common in the universe, with complex life much less so, and advanced life even less, possibly less than one per galaxy.

    Given we only have a sample size of one, life seems fairly easy to start on a planet – pre-life complex molecules are reasonably abundant, and over a few million years would end up saturating any primeval ocean – no bacteria or oxygen to speed breakdown. And remember, those first billion or so years of Earth’s history are pretty violent, with asteroid impacts and probably much greater volcanic activity. How many times did primitive life get completely wiped out and have to start over from scratch?

    Complex life took much longer to evolve, so it’s natural to assume it is difficult. I also think the moon-creating event is critical to our current existence, because without it we probably would have a very thick crust like Venus, which would lead to hundreds of millions of years of no volcanic activity and then a near-complete overturning of the crust. My guess is this would lead to a large water-covered worlds due to erosion grinding them flat, with a smaller percentage of worlds with highly active volcanoes creating short-lived islands. This would force many resets in the evolution of life. Also, lunar tides were likely key in the colonization of land by forcing shore-living plants and animals to evolve to tolerate times out of the water. I am unsure of the effects of the lunar impact on atmosphere and climate, but I suspect it had a significant one, perhaps stopping a Venus timeline for Earth.

    Advanced life, say at our level, requires many coincidences to occur that limit it happening or time it exists. Where would humanity be without fossil fuels, for example? Could we have advanced past the iron age without coal or oil? What if a planet did not even have anything resembling woody plants – it would be hard to advance past a stone age in that case. If they have fossil fuels, how many discover nuclear power and manage to survive its discovery? Or survive the side effects of their own industrialization?

    Comment by Richard Hendricks — 9 May 2013 @ 12:45 PM

  180. #165 Martin Vermeer

    Martin, thank you for taking the trouble to comment on my #150. I’m glad my infelicitous phrase “negative bifurcation” was able to afford you some amusement but I’m sure you knew that I intended it to mean something like “a crucial point selecting for lack of survival fitness” or some such.

    So, while my original response to you languishes in moderation, may I offer a slightly more colourful scenario which perhaps more vividly demonstrates the point I was trying to make?

    Suppose your railway route from London to Paris encounters 80 sets of points along the way and suppose also that there is a sudden totally unanticipated fault in the system (a voltage spike perhaps) which causes each of the point settings en route independently to unlock then lock again in an unspecified direction, the controlling signal boxes meanwhile being unaware of the unfolding of these events.

    What do you think the chances of your train getting all the way to Paris in such circumstances might be? (Hint: it would be like tossing 80 heads in a row).

    Comment by simon abingdon — 9 May 2013 @ 1:10 PM

  181. Links to some person’s paper (who has now gone to the great beyond, RIP) that “curve fits” an exponential to ~50 years of CO2 observational data using a baseline of 280 ppmv (which is valid for all time from the Big Bang to Infinity and Beyond or so JCH would appear to assume).

    I said depending on human behavior, which is a far cry from Big Bang to Infinity and Beyond. Each year the earth’s population has to get very busy to hit 2.67 ppm. It’s a huge effort, and they seem intent on building upon it each year for as long as they can.

    Why you feel the need to trash David Hofmann is interesting. The paper was co-authored by two notable scientists. One, Pieter Tans, is a co-author on the paper to which you linked. I think he’s fairly well versed on carbon dioxide.

    Comment by JCH — 9 May 2013 @ 1:13 PM

  182. > The ever-helpful Amazon list of “Customers who bought this item
    > also bought” books is also amusing.

    Wow. That’s a list that just goes on, and on, and on.

    “Casey’s research into the Sun’s activity, which began four years ago, resulted in discovery of a solar cycle that is now reversing from its global warming phase to that of dangerous global cooling for the next thirty years or more ….” — see http://issuepedia.org/Space_and_Science_Research_Center

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 May 2013 @ 2:34 PM

  183. Advanced life, say at our level, requires many coincidences to occur that limit it happening or time it exists.

    Universes may require many coincidences as well to exist, whether they contain life capable of recognizing the breadths and depths their environment, or not. The question remains, do universes without life exist if they are not observed?

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 9 May 2013 @ 2:58 PM

  184. In my last comment I’ve purposely avoided the topic of abiogenesis because I think it’s off-topic here, even for an open forum, but also because the conversation hasn’t been going anywhere substantive.

    Regardless, it’s quite clear that life got going on Earth within a billion years or so, and probably didn’t require anything absurdly unique to happen in order to do so. What’s more, most stars (e.g., smaller M-type stars) have even longer on the main-sequence than our sun, since the lifetime of hydrogen burning in the core is inversely related to the mass of the star. That gives planets orbiting those stars substantially longer to get things going.

    I’m far from up-to-date on the current literature regarding abiogenesis controversies and hypotheses, but I don’t gather that there’s any serious concern in the astrobiology community that getting life going is a once-in-a-universe event that poses a fundamental limitation for even discussing the issue. I tend to trust that if the problem were so hopeless, the current community would be more aware of this. All that said, I don’t have much problem accepting at face value that very simple life can originate fairly easily.

    A last word about “life” — astrobiologists are interested in any form of life, not just complex or intelligent life. For exoplanetary systems, the implicit assumption is usually that such life will interact sufficiently with the atmosphere in order to be detectable spectrally. In our own solar system, we might get to the point of finding subsurface life eventually, if it’s there. Finally, evolution does not proceed toward “homo-based species” or even toward “intelligence.” Humans are not some final step in the tree of life, as much as some people would like to think so. This really makes comments such as simon’s #154 irrelevant. No one is expecting to find something like “humans” elsewhere. The particular path that evolution took, and the eventual branch that led “us” is indeed unique, given that it’s an integrated function of environmental history and competition amongst species. That is not relevant for finding life elsewhere.

    The current paradigm of habitable limitations in the literature generally starts with the need for liquid water. This is primarily a climate question. Life exists on Earth basically everywhere that liquid water is present, even in some of the most extreme environments. Some people have speculated that even this liquid water criteria is unnecessary, potentially broadening the scope of what we consider to be habitable, but I think it’s a good starting point. There might be other issues, like the development of plate tectonics on “super Earth” sized planets.

    These criteria and most of the other things people are talking about are rather broad. The current models of the liquid water habitable zone are sufficiently wide. Thus, I think the real issue from here is technological rather than scientific.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 9 May 2013 @ 3:15 PM

  185. Richard Hendricks wrote: “Could we have advanced past the iron age without coal or oil?”

    Steel manufacturing far precedes the use of fossil fuels.

    A high-grade form of carbon steel called “Wootz steel” was manufactured in India and Sri Lanka as early as 300 BCE. And high-carbon steel was manufactured in Sri Lanka using wind power as early as the 7th century CE.

    Ancient Smelter Used Wind To Make High-Grade Steel
    By John Noble Wilford
    The New York Times
    February 06, 1996

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 9 May 2013 @ 4:04 PM

  186. Simon, You are assuming that viable genetic codes constitute disjoint points in the phase space of all possible combinations. It doesn’t work that way.

    Biology–yer doing it worng.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 9 May 2013 @ 4:25 PM

  187. Dust in the Clouds: Cirrus Clouds Form Around Mineral Dust and Metallic Particles
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130509142104.htm
    No micro-organisms, no black carbon.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 9 May 2013 @ 6:39 PM

  188. Moon and Earth Have Common Water Source
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130509142054.htm
    which is not comets, it seems. Raises many question of Terra/Luna formation anew.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 9 May 2013 @ 6:45 PM

  189. simon – if you mean to imply the chance of something exactly like humans evolving elsewhere in the universe, then I agree the chance is vanishingly low. However, who says that life has to be like on earth, or that intelligence can only be like human? Evolution on earth has seen an increase in intelligence on many different lines of development. It seems a reasonable to expect that if humans vanished tomorrow, then eventually higher intelligence will appear from some other line. Maybe higher intelligence would happened much earlier if we didnt have KT extinction event.
    Personally, I find it more reasonable to expect that once life gets started, then higher intelligence becomes probable, given enough time.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 9 May 2013 @ 6:47 PM

  190. Do alternating Arctic and Antarctic melts (opposite seasons in northern and southern hemisphere) cause semi-annual tidal peaks in equatorial regions? Would this be helpful in modeling sea level rise?

    Comment by Jim Callahan — 9 May 2013 @ 6:53 PM

  191. In case anyone wondered how it’s done these days:
    http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2013/05/guest-post-guy-hasson-says-keep-it-stupid-simpleton/#more-75965

    —-snippet follows—–

    “… I got the sense I was going to experience something new. As an SF author, I couldn’t pass that up.

    “How can you help?” I said, sounding interested in whatever product she was shelling.

    “My name is Mary Belle, from Digital Kingmakers.”

    That’s a blunt company name. Do they really think people will fall for that promise?

    “…We’ll optimize the way you talk to your readers in various blogs. We know your audience. We can make you go viral.”

    My brain was going ding-ding-ding. One year ago, this was science fiction. Some people who’ve never heard of this may think it still is.

    She’d walked me through her company: three teams clicking away at social websites I’ve never heard of, two graphic teams hammering at creating marketing material for Digital Kingmakers, and one team of analysts and data miners.

    We sat in the conference room and she began her PowerPoint presentation. Its subject: GPO – Guest Post Optimization.
    —- end snippet—–

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 May 2013 @ 7:27 PM

  192. @163, Note also that publication in a SCIRP journal is not a good sign.

    Comment by D. Brookman — 9 May 2013 @ 7:47 PM

  193. Comment on paper released online May 9 in Science by Brigham-Grette et al on core analysis from Lake El’gygytgyn ?

    At approx 400ppm CO2, 8C warmer in summer about 3.6 – 3.4 million years ago.

    Comment by AIC — 9 May 2013 @ 9:42 PM

  194. If tossing 80 heads in a row is more likely than the evolution of thinking then there are not enough stars for it to happen. The weak anthropic principle explains our overwhelmingly improbable existence.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 10 May 2013 @ 12:15 AM

  195. “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” So ends Field Notes from a Catastrophe, the terrific 2006 book by Elizabeth Kolbert, one of the country’s most thoughtful climate journalists.”

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/05/05/1940521/into-the-valley-of-death-rode-the-600-into-the-valley-of-400-ppm-road-the-7-billion/

    So I must ask…. is this hyperbole or accurate? I keep hearing these dire assessments and have to wonder, not being a scientist, IS this hyperbole?

    The article goes on to say:

    “Certainly as we hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human existence, with not even a plan to avoid 600 ppm, 800 ppm, and then 1000 — not even a national discussion or an outcry by the so-called intelligentsia – it is worth asking, why? Is there something inherent in homo “sapiens” that makes us oblivious to the obvious?” ~ Joe Romm

    Thoughts? Observations? Perspective? Anyone?

    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 10 May 2013 @ 4:11 AM

  196. #185–Yes, from what I’ve read, charcoal was a very common fuel in early steel-making. As I recall, Diamond’s “Collapse” discusses this in the Norse context. Of course, it gets problematic if you want to make steel on an industrial scale, as the “Collapse” context also suggests–deforestation can easily result, and then you are once again degrading your local climate and ecology.

    In fact, IIRC, Diamond suggests that that dynamic may well have played out in Greenland–there are strong archaeological indications of both wood- and steel-poverty in the later Norse Greenlandic settlements.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 May 2013 @ 7:30 AM

  197. @~194

    “…oblivious to the obvious?”

    Well there are structural issues, but underlying those it always seems to come back to a mixture of tribalism and buggy wetware.

    It’s hard to come to terms with, but history is in some respects the story of collapsing societies. Now we’re global. If we go down, that’s the whole magilla.

    So here it is, on the one hand, climate scientists have raised warnings, in various styles, and can more or less back them up with the best reason we can muster. On the other hand, you have the claims of deniers, which a little skilled and honest diligence reveals to be largely irrelevant.

    So after a little thought, it can be seen to come down to a matter of degree. How bad is it going to get? Well that depends on what we do or don’t do. It’s pretty clear that we have the capacity to create hell on earth. Should we be concerned about that? It’s only a question because, as your queries demonstrate, this is a hard thing for humans to wrap their heads around.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 10 May 2013 @ 9:32 AM

  198. Thomas Lee Elifritz wrote: “The question remains, do universes without life exist if they are not observed?”

    That is of course not a scientific question, since it cannot in principle be answered by empirical observation.

    “No phenomenon is a real phenomenon until it is an observed phenomenon.” — Niels Bohr.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 10 May 2013 @ 10:06 AM

  199. Phil Scadden wrote: “However, who says that … intelligence can only be like human?”

    A suprising number of people, including some scientists, seem to have a problem recognizing the intelligence of non-human animals right here on Earth.

    Indeed, there is a sort of “denialism” about the sentience and cognitive capabilities of non-human animals that’s similar in some respects to global warming denialism.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 10 May 2013 @ 10:10 AM

  200. #194–Chuck, in my opinion it is not hyperbole at all. We can’t limit the range of risks well, which means that there is, as far as we can tell, a real risk of social collapse at various spacial scales as a result of climate change. There may even be a real risk of species extinction, though most here would probably assess that as relatively unlikely. (A very sizable global population crash might be another story, though.)

    As to the question, ‘is this a tendency in H. Sap?’ many here have referenced Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse” (as I did in my comment @ #195), which does such a good job of dissecting past societal collapses and their relation to ecological degradation. Clearly, it’s often the case that we humans often struggle to create sustainable ways of life–though Diamond also identifies success stories, such as (IIRC) the intensive agriculture practiced over very long timescales in the Papua New Guinea highlands.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 May 2013 @ 10:23 AM

  201. #194

    Hyperbole.

    There are a lot of ways we could destroy ourselves but even 8 or 10 degrees of warming isn’t going to do it, although it could cause plenty of havoc.

    I think a technological singularity, nuclear war, or biological warfare or accident are more likely choices for self-destruction.

    Comment by James Cross — 10 May 2013 @ 10:25 AM

  202. Re- Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 May 2013 @ 7:27 PM

    More science fiction- What you describe fits into a category named “artificial inanity” by Neal Stephenson in his novel, Anathem. This is described as systems designed for polluting information on the web.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 10 May 2013 @ 10:27 AM

  203. 2 recent studies…

    Video: 3.5 mil years ago, summer temps were ~8°C warmer than today, CO2 was ~400 ppm http://galaxymachine.de/2013/05/10/3-6-3-4-mil-years-ago-summer-temps-were-8c-warmer-than-today-co2-was-400-ppm/

    Comment by prokaryotes — 10 May 2013 @ 11:00 AM

  204. For Chuck Hughes, it’s quite believable that a technologically advanced society could choose to destroy itself. Read the links and papers behind Romm’s pieces.
    Read the footnotes

    “virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization (“Climate Change,” 2010).
    That bold statement may seem like hyperbole, but there is now a very clear pattern in the scientific evidence ….”

    Note this doesn’t mean you personally; if you’re alive today odds are you’re going to miss the worst of it, which will come later.

    “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” — J. Mitchell

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 May 2013 @ 11:18 AM

  205. Chuck @194 – I’m inclined to agree with Joe.

    I mean, who would drive a car at breakneck speed in fog with a 10-year delay on the steering wheel and a 100 year delay on brakes that the deniers have wedged bricks under?

    The Arctic canary (or Norwegian Blue) has fallen off its perch already:
    Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Volumes 1979-2012
    We can only watch and hope to try to avoid making it even worse.

    Comment by Andy Lee Robinson — 10 May 2013 @ 11:41 AM

  206. Edward Greisch, Akasofu’s choice of journal is an indicator of the quality of the paper, if the reasoning were sound, it would be a very high impact paper and would be publishable in a very presitgeous journal. Looking into the publisher of the journal in question does not inspire confidence:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_Research_Publishing

    Apparently one of its other titles accepted a paper for publication that was produced by a random text generator!

    It seems to me to be a fundamental problem of the author-pays-open-access publication model is that it removes all direct pressure on the journal to be worth reading, and there will always be enough researchers that are willing to pay for their paper to be published *somewhere*.

    Comment by Dikran Marsupial — 10 May 2013 @ 12:21 PM

  207. Talking about CO2:

    Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have broken through a symbolic mark.
    Daily measurements of CO2 at the authoritative “Keeling lab” on Hawaii have topped 400 parts per million for the first time.
    …The last time CO2 was regularly above 400ppm was about 3-5 million years ago – before modern humans existed.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22486153

    Comment by Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid — 10 May 2013 @ 12:29 PM

  208. https://www.facebook.com/AskAClimateScientist

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 May 2013 @ 1:50 PM

  209. Re- Comment by simon abingdon — 8 May 2013 @ 10:05 AM, 9 May 2013 @ 7:09 AM, @ 1:10 PM, and others.

    Regarding your statements about probability, abiogenesis, and evolution, you might enjoy the calculations in this video by potholer54- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SxxolSyWd6Y&list=UUljE1ODdSF7LS9xx9eWq0GQ
    It is the one entitled “Golden Crocoduck nominees ponder improbability.”

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 10 May 2013 @ 1:52 PM

  210. Chuck Hughes, it is hyper-hyperbole. Btw, over at Watts they’re having a 400ppm party..

    Comment by Carl — 10 May 2013 @ 2:02 PM

  211. #186 Ray

    “Simon, You are assuming that viable genetic codes constitute disjoint points in the phase space of all possible combinations. It doesn’t work that way.

    Biology–yer doing it worng”

    Ray, I don’t think I am (doing it worng). While competing species may have many characteristics in common subsequent generations may incorporate new characteristics not possessed by their competitors nor (and this is important) by any other species.

    That is because:

    “Evolution branches. Never combines”.

    Is this ever wrong?

    If not it means that any particular biological characteristic (intelligence for example) will be unique to its originator and its progeny.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 10 May 2013 @ 2:03 PM

  212. Chuck Hughes @194 — The potential to cause another
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anoxic_event
    is certainly present.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 10 May 2013 @ 3:47 PM

  213. 209
    ‘over at Watts’, they’re having a 400 ppm party’

    One of the party favors is The Jewel Of Denial

    Comment by Russell — 10 May 2013 @ 3:55 PM

  214. What if CO2 is good for us? Wall Street Journal and my commentary: http://ThornHeart.com (RE: 400ppm in post 209 and earlier)

    Comment by David Housholder — 10 May 2013 @ 3:55 PM

  215. That is of course not a scientific question, since it cannot in principle be answered by empirical observation.

    Sure it can, we just need better instruments. Theory indicates things that have not yet been detected must indeed exist. Science is the matter of finding them. This has recently been demonstrated by exoplanets, and soon exomoons. Alternative universes shouldn’t be far behind, given what I am reading at the theoretical level. Perhaps the qualifer ‘yet’ would help.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 10 May 2013 @ 4:03 PM

  216. Chris, you are just referring to ‘biological life’. Already humans are the nuclie of complex mechanical ‘cells’. In the future it will become even more apparent that life will utilize whatever is handy to construct over more eloborate and highly specialized mechanisms of adaptation, growth and propagation, that may or may not involve only biochemistry and the molecular and cellular level. Already we have the written word and digital information in the form of images and videos. Expect to be amazed if civilization lasts.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 10 May 2013 @ 4:08 PM

  217. David Housholder,

    Since “CO2 is good for us” is a genus of popular denier memes that’s been repeatedly debunked (e.g. CO2 is plant food), it appears you may be employing motivated reasoning. Possible motivations for your reasoning are evident on your blog, from the prominence of the words “liberty” and “spirituality”.

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 10 May 2013 @ 5:04 PM

  218. Nick et al. in Nature: doi:10.1038/nature12068 look at Jacobshawn, Peterman, Kangerdlugssuaq, and Helheim which together drain about 22% of Greenland, argue that current acceleration is temporary and episodic, calculate a cumulative SLR of around 10 cm by 2100 from these.

    I have issues. Their estimate for surface mass balance(SMB) contribution is only 20%, but I think we are already seeing larger ? Also they point out that their models do not include the Grigoire feedback :

    “… the SMB does not include the secondary contributions from enhanced ablation due to surface lowering …”

    I also worry about NEGIS and that saddle at 67N, which the article does not address.

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 10 May 2013 @ 5:55 PM

  219. > What if CO2 is good for us?

    You link to your blog citing “your grade-school science textbook”
    and a “landmark study” published as a WSJ opinion column
    by astronaut Schmidt and physicist Happer.

    What if it’s not as simple as they tell you?
    What if that’s not actually a landmark study?
    How would you tell if it’s real science, given where you read it?

    “You seen one Earth, you’ve seen them all.” — Harrison Schmidt

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 May 2013 @ 6:30 PM

  220. This may help: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_ylo=2013&q=co2+climate+change+warming+plant+agriculture&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 May 2013 @ 6:45 PM

  221. @194 Quite accurate. 400 ppm at Mauna Loa is an event that echos the charge of the the light brigade all over again.

    There’s nothing suicidal about Jeremy Grantham (cited per the link you post) and not much hyperbole in him. I like him because no one can say he doesn’t know his capital markets.

    Here’s an extended interview, in which he throws out of the box any number of things that are commonly taught and recited daily like holy writ.

    In this interview he explains, too, why he funded InsideClimate (among others)–though he does not mention it by name. So bone-up, capitalists:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/apr/15/jeremy-grantham-population-china-climate?CMP=twt_fd

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/apr/16/jeremy-grantham-food-oil-capitalism

    What I think is that while markers like 400 ppm at Mauna Loa keep piling up, we need to give more recognition to real and true innovations on the solutions side, feeble though they are by comparison.

    I’m thinking of some right now.

    Comment by Patrick — 10 May 2013 @ 7:14 PM

  222. #17 Simon Abingdon

    Thanks for the comment.

    That has always been my argument regarding SETI. Expecting “intelligence” (specifically beings who build radio transmitters) on other worlds would be just like expecting to find replicas of, say, whitetail deer – seasonal antlers and all – on another world. Would we expect such a thing? Maybe something close in one world out of trillions – or perhaps a couple planets per galaxy at any point in time. Therefore, intelligence is impossibly too thinly spread-out to ever detect. I thought I was the only person think about it this way.

    Comment by Paul D. — 10 May 2013 @ 9:19 PM

  223. EFS_Jr at #135 wrote: “observational CO2 global data is today, in 2013, still bouncing around at 2.0 ppmv/yr, NOT 2.5 ppmv/yr.”

    But the official increase for 2012 was 2.67ppm (It’s too early for an official 2013 estimated increase, but seeing that we’ve just blown past 400ppm for daily averages, we are likely in that range of increase again):

    See the new article out on the ESRL official global CO2 reading:

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/03/06/noaa-2012-saw-second-largest-rise-in-climate-emissions-on-record/

    Also see:

    2012 Rise In CO2 Levels Second-Highest In 54 Years
    By SETH BORENSTEIN 03/05/13 03:45 PM ET EST

    WASHINGTON — The amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air jumped dramatically in 2012, making it very unlikely that global warming can be limited to another 2 degrees as many global leaders have hoped, new federal figures show.

    Scientists say the rise in CO2 reflects the world’s economy revving up and burning more fossil fuels, especially in China.

    Carbon dioxide levels jumped by 2.67 parts per million since 2011 to total just under 395 parts per million, says Pieter Tans, who leads the greenhouse gas measurement team for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/05/2012-rise-in-co2-levels_n_2812708.html?utm_hp_ref=green

    (Thanks to A4R at neven’s forum for the links.)

    Comment by wili — 11 May 2013 @ 12:29 AM

  224. I would commend to the thread a discussion on C-SPAN, on Saturday (recorded the prior Tuesday), May 11, on near future development of pilotless drone technology, which may offer the potential for order of magnitude reductions in cost of intense data acquisition. Perhaps in a mere few years, seemingly intractable mysteries of cloud radiation, and aerosol intrusions into natural physics of a variety of air mass behaviors, may yield to ARGO-like unmasking.

    Comment by Dave Peters — 11 May 2013 @ 1:28 AM

  225. Paul D @ 220

    Not a good analogy I fear, Paul. Whitetail deer as such, don’t have any particular universal quality and so it would be silly to expect these in other worlds outside Star Trek episodes.

    On the other hand, electromagnetic radiation is a fundamental ever-present property of the Universe. If we were to discover beings on another world we wouldn’t be surprised to find they had evolved means of capturing light (or maybe IR) frequencies/photons (and eyes seem rather “easy” to evolve in a multitude of forms). Any technologically advanced world will likely make use of the properties of different forms of EM radiation. It’s not unrealistic to consider that transmission and detection of radiofrequencies might be a generic technology of advanced worlds. White tail deer, and Simon’s giraffes and elephants – nope – those can be safely packaged under “argument from incredulity”!

    Captcha: “life etsdch” (presumably the “et” stands for extra-terrestrial!)

    Comment by chris — 11 May 2013 @ 3:01 AM

  226. #220 “I thought I was the only person think about it this way”.

    So Paul, you’re not of the herd-mentality persuasion then? Asbergers perhaps (like so many of us)?

    Comment by simon abingdon — 11 May 2013 @ 3:50 AM

  227. Simon @154 re

    “And doesn’t the unexpectedness of homochirality compel a conviction of the uniqueness (at least here) of the original biogenetic event?”

    Homochirality isn’t “unexpected”. Since carbon-based complex molecules have a high likelihood of being chiral the macromolecular structures these produce are asymmetric. If homochirality didn’t exist we couldn’t have alpha-helices or double stranded DNA or transcriptional control. Life as we know it couldn’t exist (perhaps it could exist in other forms).

    The fact of the specific homochilarity we see (L-amino acids; right-handed alpha helices and so on) turns out not to be necessarily so surprising. Amino acids on the Murchison meterorite seemingly have an L-enantiomeric excess apparently as a result of interaction with circularly polarized radiation in space. Very small enantiomeric excesses can catalyze large enantiomeric excesses even if in cases of molecules that don’t specifically participate chemically in a reaction. For example, seeding racemic mixtures of chemicals with amino acids having a small enantiomeric excess results in the synthesis of RNA precursors with high enantiomeric enrichment [1]. If the pool of chemical precursors exisitng on early earth were enantiomerically enriched in this manner then all attempts at evolution of self-replicating species would result in the particular form of homochirality we see today.

    Arguments from incredulity are rather like the Maginot line. The constructor sits and admires their attempt at blocking advance, while those interested in finding stuff out simply bypass them…

    [1] J. E. Hein et al. (2011) A route to enantiopure RNA precursors from nearly racemic starting materials. Nature Chemistry 3, 704-706.

    Comment by chris — 11 May 2013 @ 3:55 AM

  228. May 10 Comment:
    NOAA has reported 400.03 for May 9, 2013, while Scripps has reported 399.73. The difference partly reflects different reporting periods. NOAA uses UTC, whereas Scripps uses local time in Hawaii to define the 24-hr reporting period. If Scripps were to use same reporting period as NOAA, we would report 400.08 for May 9.

    http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/special-note-on-may-9-2013-reading/

    http://keelingcurve.ucsd.edu/

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

    News coverage in Washington, DC
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/wp/2013/05/10/atmospheric-carbon-dioxide-concentration-400-parts-per-million/

    Comment by Jim Callahan — 11 May 2013 @ 4:52 AM

  229. Hang on a moment regarding 400 ppmv of CO2 – it may have been detected at some places at some time but it not the yearly average is it ? I mean it was 390-293 in 2012 so it can have jumped to 400 ppmv in 1 year so I am presuming that averages are taken and we will see at the end of 2013 it will be around 394 ppmv?

    its only 400 ppmv in some places at some point in time and not the actual annual average rise.

    Comment by pete best — 11 May 2013 @ 5:13 AM

  230. anyone interested in the origin of life might enjoy watching this from Professor David Deamer who appears to have spent his entire professional career (most of it) in this field

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsEAwA_3238

    http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520274457 (book)

    Comment by pete best — 11 May 2013 @ 5:17 AM

  231. 121: Kevin Mackinney. In reference to Keeling’s son saying yes we have surpassed the milestone 400ppm level but as to how high it will eventually reach is ultimately up to us is beginning to sound more and more hollow to me. As you and I can see and foresee irreversible amplifying feedbacks awakening out of their 2 million+ year slumber. Such as the boreal forests etc. These as you said are the secondary anthropogenic feedbacks… tundra thawing, methane hydrates, ice albedo. It’s all very well if we do miraculously curb CO2 emissions in 30-40 years, these sleeping giants will be all wide awake by then and working as a synchronised cohesive team to rapidly force climate like never before. Us humans in greed and ignorance started the ball rolling but gravity(natural forces) and lack of friction(our years passed lack of willingness to do anything about climate change) will very soon be completing the task of pushing our habitable biosphere off the edge of the precipice.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 11 May 2013 @ 7:41 AM

  232. @212 How did something this stupid not get tossed into the borehole?

    David Housholder, Isn’t it funny that you have to turn to non-experts to find opinions that support your own? In science we have a technical term for this–it’s called “wrong”.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 11 May 2013 @ 7:50 AM

  233. #232 Ray Ladbury “@212 How did something this stupid not get tossed into the borehole?”

    Ray, you probably meant my #211 in which I suggested that ““Evolution branches. Never combines.” and ask “Is this ever wrong?”.

    Now I’m aware that HGT (Horizontal Gene Transfer) may be a complicating factor in the early stages of species evolution, but I don’t have a feel for how that might affect my basic working assumption that where organisms of complexity are concerned evolution can still usefully (and without serious consequent error) be visualised as a branching tree.

    Things that get tossed into the borehole cannot (normally) be commented on nor corrected, so I’m hoping that you’ll be able provide me with a helpful layman’s explanation of HGT if this post manages to avoid disappearing down that one-way street into the graveyard.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 11 May 2013 @ 11:52 AM

  234. simon abingdon says:

    “Evolution branches. Never combines”.

    Is this ever wrong?

    I think it is sometimes. The red wolf, for example, is thought by many to be a cross between a grey wolf and a coyote. On a much larger scale the mitochondria joined with other cells to make eukaryotes. These are exceptions, though.

    Comment by Ambulator — 11 May 2013 @ 1:22 PM

  235. I commend NASA GISS for compiling the April 2013 global temperature anomaly in a timely manner. NASA’s decision not to use furloughs in response to the sequester probably played a role there, though obviously other things will suffer. I notice that NOAA has not yet compiled the number for the contiguous US yet. NOAA has used furloughs and perhaps there is a connection. Turns out that some triumphalist statements by deniers on the web regrading the NOAA preliminary numbers were a mere mix-up of Fahrenheit and Celsius. http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/09/fresh-analysis-of-the-pace-of-warming-and-sea-level-rise/?comments#permid=15

    Comment by Chris Dudley — 11 May 2013 @ 1:55 PM

  236. “Evolution branches. Never combines”.

    Is this ever wrong?

    Yes, often. Horizontal transfer of genetic material — transfer *across branches* , typically bacterial and viral genes ending up in eukaryotes — falsifies that claim. Consider also symbiogenesis (adoption wholesale of one organism by another — which is almost surely the way mitochondria and chloroplasts came to exist in eukaryotic cells) and the ubiquity of transposable elements: both could be considered just more types of horizontal transfer.

    Comment by Steven Sullivan — 11 May 2013 @ 2:02 PM

  237. Yes, often. Horizontal transfer of genetic material *across branches* of phylogenetic trees — is common, typically with bacteria or viruses being the source. It’s so common that it makes reconstructing an accurate historical ‘tree of life’ almost impossible. Symbiogeneiss — wholesale merging of one organism with another — has also occurred at least twice , to generate mitochondria and chloroplasts in eukaryotic cells.

    Comment by Steven Sullivan — 11 May 2013 @ 2:07 PM

  238. Thomas Lee Elifritz wrote: The question remains, do universes without life exist if they are not observed?”

    I replied: “That is of course not a scientific question, since it cannot in principle be answered by empirical observation.”

    Thomas Lee Elifritz replied: “Sure it can, we just need better instruments.”

    But then you have introduced observers, and life, into your “universe without life that is not observed”, and it becomes a “universe WITH life that IS observed”.

    And in fact, it is no longer “a universe” — it is just another part of THIS universe, which self-evidently does have life and is observed.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 11 May 2013 @ 2:56 PM

  239. Nope Simon, it was Dave Housholder–now at #214.

    What you are ignoring is that we could have had multiple origins of life, but that the observed chirality may have conferred an advantage that allowed possessors to outcompete critters with the opposite chirality. Chris’s allusion to radiation resistance might be pertinent–particularly if the origin came before the geomagnetic field really got churning.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 11 May 2013 @ 4:41 PM

  240. Generally when one is perusing arxiv papers on quantum cosmology one differentiates between this universe with its finite light cone, this universe beyond our observable light cone, and other universes not accessible via our lightcone but possibly similar in nature to the processes which created this particular instability which we are now enjoying. I’m referring to quantum tunneling between vastly different physical realms. The cosmos, if you will. You are furthermore not parsing my question properly. It still parses even without the addition of the term ‘yet’. Try it again.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 11 May 2013 @ 5:28 PM

  241. I am unconvinced that our (decreasing US pollution due to market forces) is going to wreck the planet. So convince me. But listen to my comments first: http://wp.me/p2KckS-Is

    Comment by David Housholder — 11 May 2013 @ 6:05 PM

  242. 195 Chuck Hughes says: “It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.” So ends Field Notes from a Catastrophe, the terrific 2006 book by Elizabeth Kolbert, one of the country’s most thoughtful climate journalists.”

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/05/05/1940521/into-the-valley-of-death-rode-the-600-into-the-valley-of-400-ppm-road-the-7-billion/

    So I must ask…. is this hyperbole or accurate? I keep hearing these dire assessments and have to wonder, not being a scientist, IS this hyperbole?

    The article goes on to say:

    “Certainly as we hit 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in human existence, with not even a plan to avoid 600 ppm, 800 ppm, and then 1000 — not even a national discussion or an outcry by the so-called intelligentsia – it is worth asking, why? Is there something inherent in homo “sapiens” that makes us oblivious to the obvious?” ~ Joe Romm

    Thoughts? Observations? Perspective? Anyone?

    200 Kevin McKinney says: #194–Chuck, in my opinion it is not hyperbole at all. We can’t limit the range of risks well, which means that there is, as far as we can tell, a real risk of social collapse at various spacial scales as a result of climate change. There may even be a real risk of species extinction, though most here would probably assess that as relatively unlikely. (A very sizable global population crash might be another story, though.)

    As to the question, ‘is this a tendency in H. Sap?’ many here have referenced Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse” (as I did in my comment @ #195), which does such a good job of dissecting past societal collapses and their relation to ecological degradation. Clearly, it’s often the case that we humans often struggle to create sustainable ways of life–though Diamond also identifies success stories, such as (IIRC) the intensive agriculture practiced over very long timescales in the Papua New

    201 James Cross says: #194 Hyperbole.

    There are a lot of ways we could destroy ourselves

    210 Carl says: Chuck Hughes, it is hyper-hyperbole.

    That was not the statement nor the question. You are answering about extinction, the article and the question were about *society* destroying itself, not extinction of a species.

    In fact, societies have destroyed themselves repeatedly though history. As Tainter and Diamond – far too little read and understood by far too many who suppose to study the issues of climate change, energy and resource decent and the future – make very strong arguments either that 1. societies do reach levels of too great complexity and then generally collapse completely or to a simpler level (Tainter), or 2. fail to choose to adapt to changing conditions and collapse, or realize the problem, or at least respond in situ, and simplify. Both acknowledge climate issues as major impacts in many, if not all, society collapses.

    My take is if you combine the perspectives of Tainter and Diamond, you get the correct process: Society increases in scope and complexity until diminishing returns, resource scarcity and climate changes (all connected causally) reach a point where adaptation must occur via simplification, and societies either keep building bigger moai, or they simplify.

    WRT causality, e.g., the Mayans denuded their landscapes which exacerbated the the drought conditions by removing rain-absorbing and rain-creating forests. Oops.

    204 Hank Roberts says: For Chuck Hughes, it’s quite believable that a technologically advanced society could choose to destroy itself. Read the links and papers behind Romm’s pieces.

    Read the footnotes

    “virtually all of us are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization (“Climate Change,” 2010).

    That bold statement may seem like hyperbole, but there is now a very clear pattern in the scientific evidence ….”

    Note this doesn’t mean you personally; if you’re alive today odds are you’re going to miss the worst of it, which will come later.

    This is a rather dangerous assumption. As I have argued for the last six years, things are moving far faster than people, even many or most scientists, realize. When Maslowski published about Arctic Sea Ice, it fit the observations. It was obvious he was correct and everyone else overly optimistic. (Lots of reasons for this.) Here we are now wondering each year if this is the last year for Arctic Sea Ice, or basically a level so low it’s academic whether it is all literally gone or not.

    Since Maslowski we have learned thermokarst lakes and permafrost melt are proceeding rapidly, that the sub-sea clathrates and not only expressing, but doing so on kilometer-wide scales over very large areas of ocean. We’ve learned the lack of sea ice is creating a feedback with mixing of water, that there are areas where the seabed water is up to 5C, that Greenland Melt might be doubling every ten years, or less… and so much more.

    A sanguine view of climate change speed does not reflect the facts, does not reflect observations, does not reflect proper weighting of the catastrophic in risk assessments.

    And the most important aspect of the new Russian lake core is not the temps or the correlation with today so much as the finding that climate sensitivity (the article isn’t clear whether meaning GHG or Earth System) is potentially much higher than expected because the changes, despite a similar level of CO2, are far beyond what we see today. The quite significant melt of the ice sheets to get to 40M above today means Hansen, et al.’s finding that Greenland can melt out at as low as 400ppm has some validity.

    I said, based on observations vs. academic findings, that sensitivity was higher than thought way back in 2007. Of course, I have always been told I’m wrong. But I’m not. Hansen has consistently also said it’s likely at the high end. I unsurprisingly agree. I put it at the very high end wrt to both GHG and Earth System sensitivity, and it’s beyond clear the latter is a definite.

    It’s simple: systemic assessment beats assumptions based on specific research in any given germane area by a mile, every time. The totality is clear: we will be very lucky to not be facing massive social disorder this century, and that is optimistic. It’s already started and, given BAU, we’ll be lucky to make it more than a decade more without very serious levels of social disruption.

    It’s the food supply, S****d. And, really, I realize new people come to the table all the time so some repetition is needed, but why do I feel that rate of change is still not fully appreciated by some of the regulars around here?

    220 Hank Roberts says: This may help: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?as_ylo=2013&q=co2+climate+change+warming+plant+agriculture&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5

    Yup, food supply.

    229 pete best says: Hang on a moment regarding 400 ppmv of CO2 – it may have been detected at some places at some time but it not the yearly average is it?

    231 Lawrence Coleman says: 121: Kevin Mackinney. In reference to Keeling’s son saying yes we have surpassed the milestone 400ppm level but as to how high it will eventually reach is ultimately up to us is beginning to sound more and more hollow to me. As you and I can see and foresee irreversible amplifying feedbacks awakening out of their 2 million+ year slumber. Such as the boreal forests etc. These as you said are the secondary anthropogenic feedbacks… tundra thawing, methane hydrates, ice albedo. It’s all very well if we do miraculously curb CO2 emissions in 30-40 years

    There is only one short-term hope, and it is achievable on a scale of ten years for practices and initial reversal in atmospheric CO2: Natural mitigation measures. Each tree carries 40% carbon, dry weight, but forests take decades to reach full maturity (20 years to near-full is close enough for gov’t work) and will be acting as a carbon sink until then with a total possible CO2 pull down of 50 – 100 ppm. Regenerative farming, quickly becoming known and more quickly than I would have imagined becoming a real paradigm shift, will sequester as much as 40% of emissions a year.

    At the very least, this can cause either a pause in growth of atmosph. GHG, or even reverse for at least a while. If we use that time to move into regenerative societal behaviors and structures such that we reduce GHG emissions to 10 – 20% of current, plus the sequestrations methods mentioned, we can go backwards with concentrations all the way back to sub-300.

    If we have done this well, society, globally will be intact and able to then manage the economy to keep at 300 or lower indefinitely. All of which should result in a stabilization of ice caps and clathrates, eventually. Hopefully, regrowth of ice caps.

    Comment by Killian — 11 May 2013 @ 6:12 PM

  243. The very institution of a market degrades morality. And moral decay continues, the longer the market is in place.

    Mice, Markets, Morality

    Falk and Szech doi:10.1126/science.1231566

    I am glad to say that 25% of those tested would not kill. The authors quote one of my favourite ethicist

    “Apparently, markets did not erode values of all subjects. We speculate that subjects who refused to exchange money for mouse life at all may have followed a rule-based, e.g., Kantian, ethic: “… everything has either price or dignity. Whatever has price can be replaced by something else which is equivalent; whatever, on the other hand, is above all price, and therefore admits of no equivalent, has a dignity.”

    I have a reproduction of two figures with some brief comments here

    http://membrane.com/sidd/mousemorals/Falk.html

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 11 May 2013 @ 6:21 PM

  244. 241 David Housholder says: I am unconvinced that our (decreasing US pollution due to market forces) is going to wreck the planet. So convince me. But listen to my comments first: http://wp.me/p2KckS-Is

    With all due respect, are we to convince you the Easter Bunny is real, the Tooth Fairy really did take your teeth and leave you quarters, and that CO2 is fairy dust, too? You are asking to be disabused of the notion every baby is equally physically beautiful to every eye, that perhaps a god does/does not exist, or that evolution is a fantasy.

    You catching my drift? The article and research you allude to were already addressed and found to not be worth anyone’s time. Why are you asking for it to be analyzed and stated again?

    Your essential problem is in using a lens of ideology to address issues of physics. Me? I try to avoid bringing a knife to a nuclear war.

    YMMV

    Comment by Killian — 11 May 2013 @ 6:23 PM

  245. 241
    IDavid, there is little on your link that I did not address six years ago

    Comment by Russell — 11 May 2013 @ 6:24 PM

  246. Simon, what I wanted to say about your evolution-branches-never-combines idea is never say never. Horizontal gene transfer early-on, or anytime, is not the sole question.

    Cladistics has thrown a lot of light on what has been called independent evolution of similar traits or character states. Several types are recognized:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homoplasy

    See the common example (not at all exotic) of homoplasy given here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cladistics

    I think the key is to be found in the “co” in co-evolution, at least as much as in any rules derived about the genetics side of it. If it’s not the key to diversity, it’s at least half of it.

    But this is not the point. There are larger issues in your observation.

    Diversity is the rule for co-evolution, no doubt about it, so branching is the thing. One might say that all classical evolution is co-evolution.

    But I think classical evolution is ending–not all at once, but along with the dawning of what is called by some the Anthropocene (era, epoch, you-name-it). ‘Reproductive isolation’ is more and more a thing of the past.The invasive species phenomenon is paramount. The pace of these changes is anthropogenetic.

    Certain changes that even some biologists (!) call a ‘speeding up of evolution’ are more like pathologies than instances of classical evolution.

    The distractedness of the human race in this regard is not unlike its distractedness about climate change. A dawning grasp of either process may facilitate some grasp of the other.

    The era presents new depths for human malfeasance and sef-deception, adds new dimensions to human responsibility for the future and for all life now–and adds uncomfortable new weight to the ‘station’ of humans.

    Unique, indeed. (In the pudding.)

    Comment by Patrick — 11 May 2013 @ 6:46 PM

  247. @Russell, so why aren’t you published in WSJ?

    Comment by David Housholder — 11 May 2013 @ 7:04 PM

  248. Patrick @ 246,

    “The era presents new depths for human malfeasance and sef-deception, adds new dimensions to human responsibility for the future and for all life now–and adds uncomfortable new weight to the ‘station’ of humans.”

    Yeah, 450 ppm or Bust! We should have a celebration when we get there. /sarc

    Comment by Fred Magyar — 11 May 2013 @ 7:53 PM

  249. What on earth your basis for thinking the evolution of intelligence is less likely than 80 heads in a row? Why then is intelligence developed on so many evolutionary branches? Not likely to be probability of 1, given that we have clades without any sign of intelligence developing, but I’d say much higher than 1/100 once life gets started. If we are looking for no. of planets in goldilocks zone that have persisted longer than 6B years, then you get a reasonable no. just inside this galaxy alone, never mind the universe

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 11 May 2013 @ 9:00 PM

  250. @241 How many times are you going to link to yourself and your (same) stuff? You are full of rights–but empty of responsibilities. This is typical of too many ‘radio hosts.’

    You comment on CO2, but it’s merely a pretext for your homilies.

    Soon enough one hears “…we are regulated by a higher power that we don’t fully understand,” and “…underpopulation is a serious issue.”

    Plus: there’s a lot more in Ike against your rhymeless-and-reasonless-ness than for it. The statement by Ike you cite values “the nation’s scholars” and “intellectual curiosity.” Ike (and speechwriters) did not warn, ever, about basic research–nor about the National Academy of Sciences and the like.

    Your arguments are merely semantic. Don’t make me cite scripture now about that. It’s not pretty.

    And, guess what, there’s no tax exemption when I cite scripture (nor any chance to get one).

    One hears, too, what you remember from grade-school science. And surf gets mention in your self-description.

    Enjoy the surf.

    No more clicks and no more buzz for you. You’ve already exploited climate science, Ike, and me–if not grade school and higher powers.

    Comment by Patrick — 11 May 2013 @ 11:33 PM

  251. David Housholder @241,

    I notice on your webpage that you made a hackneyed cherrypick of Eisenhower’s “leaving office” speech which was an insightful call for moderation and balance in addressing the position of the US in a complex and fractious world. These sentences of his speech are germane to the subject of this thread:

    “Another factor in maintaining balance involves the element of time. As we peer into society’s future, we – you and I, and our government – must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering for, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mo..tgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage. We want democracy to survive for all generations to come, not to become the insolvent phantom of tomorrow.”

    D. W. Eisenhower, January 17 1961

    Comment by chris — 12 May 2013 @ 4:18 AM

  252. #241–David, it gives me grave concern when you describe a WSJ op ed as a “study.” That’s normally a term reserved for an actual piece of peer-reviewed research published in the professional literature.

    The Schmitt/Happer piece is nothing more than propaganda, tossing around some basics of plant physiology as though they were newly-minted discoveries–and suggesting, indirectly, that they are far more significant than is actually the case. For a real “study” on these topics, a fairly cursory Google search turns up:

    http://jxb.oxfordjournals.org/content/55/407/2365.short

    “Drought is one of the greatest limitations to crop expansion outside the present-day agricultural areas. It will become increasingly important in regions of the globe where, in the past, the problem was negligible, due to the recognized changes in global climate. Today the concern is with improving cultural practices and crop genotypes for drought-prone areas; therefore, understanding the mechanisms behind drought resistance and the efficient use of water by the plants is fundamental for the achievement of those goals. In this paper, the major constraints to carbon assimilation and the metabolic regulations that play a role in plant responses to water deficits, acting in isolation or in conjunction with other stresses, is reviewed.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 May 2013 @ 6:28 AM

  253. Re- Evolution and probability

    Whitman, et al. 1998, estimated that there are 5 X 10^30 prokaryotes (bacteria) on earth. Following this fact and the average mutation rate for bacteria, a whole new gene that can produce a different protein will arise every few minutes. Because bacteria can exchange genetic material in a form of sex without reproduction, called horizontal genetic transfer (HGT) via plasmids and some other vectors, the worldwide buildup of new genetic material can be pretty fast. This is why disease can quickly become resistant to new antibiotics and why the indiscriminant use of antibiotics for both humans and in agriculture can create a big problem. This mechanism was responsible for the large library of genetic information that was required for eukaryotes and we multicellular organisms to evolve.

    In sexual species, transfer of genetic material is via sex (with reproduction) and genes are spread horizontally within a species in this way. Unlike older wisdom, most mutations are not negative, instead most are neutral and because they are not weeded out, they build up within a species genome. All of this new genetic material and its duplication and horizontal transfer results in a buildup of raw data for the creation of novel proteins when a further point mutations create something useful. Horizontal transfer of genes and neutral mutation are mechanisms that greatly increase the productivity of the evolutionary process. How can the probability of this process be calculated?

    Actually, trying to calculate the probability of a current outcome from this complicated process is not only wrong, it is lying with statistics. After the fact, the probability is 100%. For example, considering all of the states of muscle fibers, bones, neurons, and their molecular components, an estimate of the probability of my walking across the room to pour a cup of coffee is astronomical. How did I just do that?

    Whitman et al. – http://www.pnas.org/content/95/12/6578.full
    Plasmids – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasmid

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 12 May 2013 @ 10:03 AM

  254. @241 Sorry. Excuse me for not being clear. If you want to make a theological homily about fundamental freedom, or be a pop libertarian radio personality (lots of rights–like speech–but without responsibility),or teach bible–then leave out the climate science, planetary physics, and plant biology. It’s irresponsible to spin it the way you do. Potshots at science, and distortions of it, in no way aid the theological case.

    Comment by Patrick — 12 May 2013 @ 11:26 AM

  255. Simon,
    > “…it’s unlikely there can be anything comparable [to us geniuses] elsewhere in the universe, regardless of the availability of suitable planets.”
    > (Hint: it would be like tossing 80 heads in a row).

    This type of thinking is sometimes described as painting the bullseye around the arrow. First you shoot an arrow at the side of a barn, then you paint the target around the arrow.

    There are several million plant and animal species on earth. Every one of them is the descendent of a long line of winners. Indeed, so is each individual beetle. How could it be otherwise?

    The exact arrangement of molecules in a thimble of air is astronomically improbable. It hardly follows that there is nothing else comparable. And from the fact that each species and individual must have descended from a long line of winners, it hardly follows that there are not numerous paths to intelligence.

    > “Evolution branches. Never combines”.

    Actually, hybridization is a common enough route to speciation. But that’s neither here not there for your argument. Once you “get it” about painting the bullseye around the arrow, you’ll have taken a good step toward clear thinking.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 12 May 2013 @ 1:35 PM

  256. #249 Phil Scadden

    The phrase I used was “evolution of thinking”. Did you think I meant “intelligence”? Did you notice the “if”?

    Comment by simon abingdon — 12 May 2013 @ 1:36 PM

  257. #255 Pete Dunkelberg

    At #150 I wrote “The number of stars in the universe has been estimated on the low side of 10^24 which approximates to 2^80. If our own example of intelligent life has had to survive more than 80 potentially negative bifurcations in its Earthly evolution since abiogenesis over maybe 4 billion years ago (that’s an average of just 1 every 50 million years) then it’s unlikely there can be anything comparable elsewhere in the universe, regardless of the availability of suitable planets”.

    At #194 I wrote “If tossing 80 heads in a row is more likely than the evolution of thinking then there are not enough stars for it to happen”.

    In both these anodyne posts my conjectures are conditional. The sense of neither is changed if “our own example of intelligent life” and “thinking” are each replaced by “any specific trait”. Your parenthetic “[to us geniuses]” is superfluous and unwarranted.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 12 May 2013 @ 5:21 PM

  258. @253 Brilliant. Thanks for the links. I’m reading it all. I note: “We are grateful to our colleagues, whose understanding, generosity, and sense of humor made this project possible.” Scientists!

    Comment by Patrick — 12 May 2013 @ 5:48 PM

  259. “Thinking” means what? There is evidence grey parrots can do logical reasoning – is that thinking? I did notice “if” but I thought you implied that this was reasonable. Furthermore, your probability estimate didnt seem to be taking account of time. Suppose humans got wiped – suppose primates got wiped. Do you think it unlikely that say another bullion years of evolution wouldnt throw up a different sentient being? Quite a lot raw material still around.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 12 May 2013 @ 5:52 PM

  260. Re Steve, interesting in regards to climate change and prokaryotic content

    “Environmental change during the PETM drives formation of gigantic biogenic magnetite

    The development of a thick suboxic zone with high iron bioavailability – a product of dramatic changes in weathering and sedimentation patterns driven by severe global warming – may have resulted in diversification of magnetite-forming organisms, likely including eukaryotes.” http://www.landesmuseum.at/pdf_frei_remote/BerichteGeolBundesanstalt_78_0040-0041.pdf

    And

    “Faivre & Schüler (2008) estimated that, in some locations on Earth, up to 10% of the iron contained within sediment may be contributed by magnetotactic bacteria. Recently, Haltia-Hovi and colleagues suggested that fossil magnetosome concentrations could be used as a climate indicator (Haltia-Hovi et al. 2010). Magnetosome production was influenced by changes in the bacteria’s natural habitat (e.g., organic matter), which is directly controlled by climate.

    As we begin to understand Earth’s magnetotactic bacteria and the mechanism by which these organisms synthesize iron oxides and sulfides, we may also be able to answer whether the magnetite observed in the Martian meteorite ALH84001 (or others) may be biotic in origin as well. Such insight might help us understand the origin of life on Earth and elsewhere in the universe.” http://www.nature.com/scitable/knowledge/library/bacteria-that-synthesize-nano-sized-compasses-to-15669190

    It appears to me that “The large population size and rapid growth of prokaryotes provides an enormous capacity for genetic diversity.” you mentioned above, will go up considerably with what we can observe with more aquatic dead zones, as water temperature rises, less oxygen dissolves.

    “Water temperature is one of the most important characteristics of an aquatic system, affecting:

    Dissolved oxygen levels. The solubility of oxygen decreases as water temperature increases.
    Chemical processes. Temperature affects the solubility and reaction rates of chemicals. In general, the rate of chemical reactions increases with increasing water temperature.
    Biological processes. Temperature affects metabolism, growth, and reproduction.
    Species composition of the aquatic ecosystem. Many aquatic species can survive only within a limited temperature range.
    Water density and stratification. Water is most dense at 4ºC. Differences in water temperature and density between layers of water in a lake leads to stratification and seasonal turnover.
    Environmental cues for life-history stages. Changes in water temperature may act as a signal for aquatic insects to emerge or for fish to spawn.” http://www.ramp-alberta.org/river/water+sediment+quality/chemical/temperature+and+dissolved+oxygen.aspx

    Comment by prokaryotes — 12 May 2013 @ 7:38 PM

  261. Simon, your comment about evolution only branching and never combining is just silly.

    Hint: when one species branches out, it sometimes comes home to roost. Polar bears are supposed to have mated with land bears many years ago when lack of ice forced them onto land.

    But, really, just look in a mirror. Neanderthals and H Sapiens split apart long ago, but when competing for food and territory in modern day Europe they interbred. Today we all carry some Neanderthal genes.

    I’m not a biologist, particularly not an evolutionary biologist, but I don’t doubt I could find you many more such examples without looking very hard.

    Comment by David Miller — 12 May 2013 @ 8:42 PM

  262. Pete Best #229,

    My layman’s understanding is that there is an annual cycle of about 6ppm between early May (the peak) and September/October (the trough), due to carbon take-up by plants. Since the Northern hemisphere has more vegetation than the Southern hemisphere, it dominates this cycle (the peak occurs during the Northern spring and the trough occurs at the very start of the Southern spring).

    The recent breach of 400ppm has occurred right at the 2013 peak, so we can expect the level to drop back to about 394 or so later in the year. NEXT year, however, we will cross 400ppm for a couple of months, and at current rates of increase 2016 onwards (and just conceivably 2015) will see 400ppm at Mauna Loa for the entire year.

    Comment by ozajh — 13 May 2013 @ 12:48 AM

  263. #246 Patrick

    Thank you for your interesting post and particularly to the link to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cladistics

    (I quote)

    Cladistics, either generally or in specific applications, has been criticized from its beginnings.

    Decisions as to whether particular character states are homologous have been challenged as involving circular reasoning and subjective judgements.

    Being homologous (“the same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function”) is evaluated strictly in an evolutionary context. That is, organs in two species are homologous only if the same was present in their last common ancestor. Organs as disparate as a bat’s wing, a seal’s flipper, a cat’s limb and a human arm have a common underlying anatomy which was present in their last common ancestor and so therefore are homologous as forelimbs.

    (endquote)

    Patrick you say “Cladistics has thrown a lot of light on what has been called independent evolution of similar traits or character states”.

    The keyword here is “similar”. Similar does not mean identical (homologous). While homoplasy may be a (loosely-defined) trait shared because of convergence, it cannot be “the same organ in different animals under every variety of form and function”.

    It seems to me to be a mistake to think otherwise.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 13 May 2013 @ 5:08 AM

  264. “Doubt is their product” is a phrase used by Oreskes concerning contrarian propaganda. At its most honest, this involves highlighting every conceivable uncertainty in the science.

    There is also an alternative contrarian tactic exemplified by the WSJ article and that is to step into a complicated subject, where the experts are a bit unsure of the future. An essay is produced full of fake optimism and presented with such confidence that it sounds attractive to the layman because all the complications and uncertainties have been removed and it is easy to read and remember.

    Where can the reader go to get reliable advice about the effects of
    CO2, warming and water stress on food production?

    The first answer is the AR4 working group 2.

    There is also the suggestion given by Kevin McKinney in #252

    For a real “study” on these topics, a fairly cursory Google search turns up..:

    I’m wondering whether RC can be persuaded to invite one or more experts to write some up to date summaries of this large subject?

    Comment by deconvoluter — 13 May 2013 @ 6:26 AM

  265. Here is another threat outlined, from Nitrous oxide uptake and a connection to these

    Magnetotactic Bacteria

    Prokaryotes that exhibit magnetotaxis, collectively known as the magnetotactic bacteria, are those whose direction of motility is influenced by the Earth’s geomagnetic and externally applied magnetic fields. These ubiquitous, aquatic microorganisms represent a morphologically, phylogenetically, and physiologically diverse group that biomineralize unique organelles called magnetosomes that are responsible for the cells’ magnetotactic behavior.

    Almost all cultured species exhibit nitrogenase activity and thus fix atmospheric nitrogen and many denitrify. Magnetotactic bacteria thus show a great potential for iron, nitrogen, sulfur, and carbon cycling in natural environments.

    Genetic determinants for magnetosome synthesis, the mam and mms genes, are organized as clusters in the genomes of all magnetotactic bacteria examined. These clusters are in close proximity to each other within the genomes and are surrounded by genomic features that suggest that magnetosome genes are organized as a magnetosome gene island that might be transmitted to many different bacteria through horizontal gene transfer. Through the development of genetic systems in some magnetotactic bacteria, the functions of several magnetosome membrane proteins in the biomineralization of the magnetite magnetosome chain have been demonstrated although the roles of most remain unknown.
    Bacterial magnetosomes have novel physical and magnetic properties and also geological significance and have been used in a large number of commercial and medical applications. http://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-3-642-30141-4_74

    Nitrous oxide molecules stay in the atmosphere for an average of 120 years before being removed by a sink or destroyed through chemical reactions. The impact of 1 pound of N2O on warming the atmosphere is over 300 times that of 1 pound of carbon dioxide. Globally, about 40% of total N2O emissions come from human activities. Nitrous oxide is emitted from agriculture, transportation, and industry activities http://epa.gov/climatechange/ghgemissions/gases/n2o.html

    Nitrous Oxide Emitting Aquatic ‘Dead Zones’ Contributing To Climate Change

    The increased frequency and intensity of oxygen-deprived “dead zones” along the world’s coasts can negatively impact environmental conditions in far more than just local waters. In the March 12 edition of the journal Science, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science oceanographer Dr. Lou Codispoti explains that the increased amount of nitrous oxide (N2O) produced in low-oxygen (hypoxic) waters can elevate concentrations in the atmosphere, further exacerbating the impacts of global warming and contributing to ozone “holes” that cause an increase in our exposure to harmful UV radiation.

    When suboxic waters (oxygen essentially absent) occur at depths of less than 300 feet, the combination of high respiration rates, and the peculiarities of a process called denitrification can cause N2O production rates to be 10,000 times higher than the average for the open ocean. The future of marine N2O production depends critically on what will happen to the roughly ten percent of the ocean volume that is hypoxic and suboxic. http://www.underwatertimes.com/news.php?article_id=85403791012

    This means that there is another source of Greenhouse Gases, contributing to feedback cycles, which has not yet been discussed.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 13 May 2013 @ 9:08 AM

  266. A while back, Phil Scadden wrote: “However, who says that … intelligence can only be like human?”

    I replied (#199): “A suprising number of people, including some scientists, seem to have a problem recognizing the intelligence of non-human animals right here on Earth.”

    Just recently Phil Scadden wrote: ” ‘Thinking’ means what? There is evidence grey parrots can do logical reasoning – is that thinking?”

    How can “logical reasoning” not be “thinking”? Just because it’s a non-human animal doing it?

    In at least one case (Dr. Irene Pepperberg’s work with the parrot Alex, an African Grey Parrot learned to communicate intelligently and interactively in spoken English, including the ability to understand and communicate abstract concepts like size, shape, color, same and different.

    Numerous other studies have demonstrated that a variety of non-human animals (mostly but not exclusively mammals and birds) have advanced, sophisticated cognitive and communicative capabilities — including the ability to count, the ability to anticipate the consequences of their actions, and to anticipate the actions of others, to solve problems, and to plan.

    Yet there remains a stubborn resistance among some people to accepting that non-human animals can “think” or “reason”.

    As for intelligent extraterrestrial life, I wonder whether humans will even recognize it if we see it.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 13 May 2013 @ 10:10 AM

  267. #257 simon abingdon postscript to:
    #255 Pete Dunkelberg “once you ‘get it’ about painting the bullseye around the arrow, you’ll have taken a good step toward clear thinking”

    I have pondered your metaphor of the random arrow’s destination and the retrospectively painted target but I have failed so far to “get it” so the fulfilment of your prediction has for me yet to be realised.

    I am assuming that your arrow represents the random undirected unfolding of an evolutionary pathway and your retrospectively painted target the post hoc inevitability of its culmination. But the position I am inviting you to consider is that the appearance of Homo sapiens remains an event of extreme unlikelihood. I do not portray it as an outcome inevitable from the outset. You are the one painting the target, or so it seems to me. I’m surely missing something.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 13 May 2013 @ 11:12 AM

  268. @257 simon,

    “In both these anodyne posts my conjectures are conditional. The sense of neither is changed if “our own example of intelligent life” and “thinking” are each replaced by “any specific trait”.”

    Nope. You’re still using a semantic argument. It depends what you mean by “specific”. A more logical and meaningful way of addressing this is to recognize the distinction between “specific” and “generic”.

    We resolved this earlier in the thread of course. Your “elephants” and “giraffes” and Paul D’s “white deer”, are specific entities, which we wouldn’t expect to find elsewhere. The human eye is a specific entity that we’d be very surprised to find in beings on other planets. However we know that eyes as a generic organ have evolved independently in many forms on Earth, and we wouldn’t be surprised if beings elsewhere (should these exist) had evolved organs that respond to particular forms of electromagnetic radiation, an entity which by the way is “specific” but also has a “generic” quality in that it is a pervasive property of the entire Universe. Intelligence is likely a generic property.

    Comment by chris — 13 May 2013 @ 11:38 AM

  269. you are missing something simon (or pretending to). The evolution of Homo sapiens is unlikely; the evolution of some complex intelligent being not necessarily so.

    After all the appearance of a “simon abingdon” is astonishingly unlikely, being the product of conjoining of this particular sperm with that particular egg in the current generation, the unlikelihood similarly multiplied back through thousands and millions of generations. It’s less “80 heads in a row” and more “winning the lottery 100,000 times in a row” (there are some philosophical arguments for reducing this stupefying degree of unlikelihood).

    Clearly the specific entity of a “simon abingdon” is astonishingly unlikely. However the “generic” entity (“some bloke”) isn’t, since “blokes” pop into existence all the time. It’s only when you specifify the outcome from the outset that you generate astonishing unlikelihoods as in your sneaky statement: “I do not portray it as an outcome inevitable from the outset.” After all I doubt you’d be astonished if I dealt 52 cards from a shuffled deck. On the other hand you might perk up if I dealt a sequence that you had specified “from the outset”.

    I suspect you know all that – I doubt even hardcore creationists consider that they can still make much traction with your jaded second-hand arguments from incredulity.

    Comment by chris — 13 May 2013 @ 11:59 AM

  270. > March 12 edition of the journal Science,
    > University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
    > oceanographer Dr. Lou Codispoti

    Which year?

    I found this one from March 12, 2010 — is there a newer article?

    Science 12 March 2010: Vol. 327 no. 5971 pp. 1339-1340
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1184945
    Perspective
    Interesting Times for Marine N2O
    Louis A. Codispoti
    https://www.sciencemag.org/content/327/5971/1339.summary?sid=d74af249-1556-4b96-8e6c-95053658170b

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 May 2013 @ 12:39 PM

  271. simon abingdon wrote: “… the appearance of Homo sapiens remains an event of extreme unlikelihood …”

    So far so good.

    But where you go too far is equating “the appearance of Homo sapiens” with “the appearance of intelligent life”.

    I find myself picturing this science fiction scene:

    A huge flying sauncer lands on the National Mall in DC, just like in “The Day The Earth Stood Still”. At last, intelligent extraterrestrial life has contacted us!

    The door opens. But instead of the humanoid Klaatu, what emerges is … a swarm of ants.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 13 May 2013 @ 12:39 PM

  272. Simon,
    Your thinking reminds me of a cruel trick we once played on a female friend who we thought was being too particular in her criteria for a boyfriend and then lamenting the lack thereof. We asked her to list all her criteria and assigned a probability to each corresponding to the number of males who might fulfill those criteria. Of course, we came up with a vanishingly small probability that said man had ever existed in the entire history of humankind. And of course our exercise was fallacious. First, the probabilities are not all independent, but rather in most cases conditional. And of course, my friend’s criteria turned out to be a lot more flexible when “the right guy” came along.

    You are assuming that any intelligent life would have to be pretty much just like humans. I’m hoping for their sake that is not the case. It is as if we are having a game of darts. Of course the probability of hitting any one point on the wall opposite us is vanishingly small. However, unless you are as bad as I am at darts, you must hit some point on that wall. The probability space for intelligent life is likely much larger than you imagine. Of course, I’ve yet to be convinced that humans represent intelligent life.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 13 May 2013 @ 1:50 PM

  273. #268 #269 Chris

    “the distinction between “specific” and “generic”

    The ability to think (at the level of Homo sapiens) is “generic” not necessarily “specific”. Shortening the odds by replacing “specific” by “generic” in this case does not do damage to my thesis. Many organisms are able to see, to fly, and so on. Here only one has learnt to predict eclipses or understand how to split the atom.

    “The evolution of Homo sapiens is unlikely; the evolution of some complex intelligent being not necessarily so”

    Here we have only ever seen one example of complex intelligence. We have many examples of eyesight and other survival traits. Complex intelligence looks special, unusual.

    “It’s only when you specify the outcome from the outset that you generate astonishing unlikelihoods”

    Not if the outcome is expressed in general (generic) terms like the ability to control fire or possessing more than an elementary language.

    If you think parrots and dolphins, admirable as they are, exhibit intelligence in the sense of being ever able to understand Pythagoras then I disagree with you.

    But as ever it’s only opinion; we have zero evidence.

    I have said before that if incontrovertible evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence were to be found it would be the most exciting day of my life.

    Let me know when you’ve got some.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 13 May 2013 @ 2:10 PM

  274. #271 SecularAnimist

    “But where you go too far is equating “the appearance of Homo sapiens” with “the appearance of intelligent life””

    Sorry, I’m not aware of having done so.

    Instead I refer to abilities that intelligence connotes like thinking and introspection and complex communication through an elaborate language.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 13 May 2013 @ 2:23 PM

  275. > a swarm of ants

    Black ants, here to colonize this under-used planet before their great competitors, the red ants, find it. First, clear out these pesky mammals, which never develop any real intelligence …

    I’m sure I’ve read that science fiction story somewhere.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 May 2013 @ 2:36 PM

  276. #272 Ray Ladbury

    Good point Ray.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 13 May 2013 @ 3:25 PM

  277. Nice article in the NYT today. I think it is good science writing, headline writing aside.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/14/science/what-will-a-doubling-of-carbon-dioxide-mean-for-climate.html?hp

    Comment by Jason — 13 May 2013 @ 3:49 PM

  278. #269 Chris

    Disregard:

    “It’s only when you specify the outcome from the outset that you generate astonishing unlikelihoods”

    Not if the outcome is expressed in general (generic) terms like the ability to control fire or possessing more than an elementary language.

    Replace with:

    “It’s only when you specify the outcome from the outset that you generate astonishing unlikelihoods as in your sneaky statement: “I do not portray it as an outcome inevitable from the outset”.

    Read that again:

    “I do not portray it as an outcome inevitable from the outset”. And that’s why the outcome is unlikely.

    It’s the guy who paints the target retrospectively who portrays it as an outcome inevitable from the outset” Not me.

    In any case why are you responding instead of Pete Dunkelberg. It was he who introduced the red herring of painting the target round the arrow and which he hasn’t yet explained.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 13 May 2013 @ 4:15 PM

  279. Regarding Intelligence

    You might want to take a look at this:

    http://www.alexwg.org/publications/PhysRevLett_110-168702.pdf

    Or, the layman’s version:

    http://phys.org/news/2013-04-emergence-complex-behaviors-causal-entropic.html

    The above paper attempts to derive a general theory of intelligence from basic physical processes and “describes intelligent behavior as a way to maximize the capture of possible future histories of a particular system.”

    If this is the case, then intelligence might be seen as a property built into life. DNA might be itself be the foundation capturing information and “maximizing future histories” on long time scales and what we generally think of as intelligence (planning, rational behavior, etc) as “maximizing” on a real time scales. Culture and collective knowledge extend the real time intelligence over generations.

    This would tend to lead one to believe that evolution given a reasonable stable environment for a long enough time would lead to intelligence and this intelligence might be very similar to ours at some point in its evolution.

    Of course, the intelligent outcome of evolution would probably seldom look anything like human. But it is interesting to speculate how much it might look like something we might not be surprised to find on Earth. Every organism that we know of that have higher intellectual capacities are descendants from some original member(s) of the bilateria – probably a worm. A worm is basically a digestive tract with a nerve curve running along it, a mouth with a concentration of nerve fibers at one end (a rudimentary brain), and you know what at the other end. In other words, a eating machine. All of the animals with really exceptional intelligence are highly social creatures with at least rudiments of culture.

    Comment by James Cross — 13 May 2013 @ 5:16 PM

  280. Re Hank Roberts #270 “… is there a newer article?” about “Nitrous Oxide Emitting Aquatic ‘Dead Zones’ Contributing To Climate Change”

    Well i found a bit more via Wikipedia (quote below) and a TED talk from Peter Ward, which context was new to me.

    Anoxic event

    Oceanic anoxic events or anoxic events occur when the Earth’s oceans become completely depleted of oxygen (O2) below the surface levels. Although anoxic events have not happened for millions of years, the geological record shows that they happened many times in the past. Anoxic events may have caused mass extinctions. These mass extinctions were so characteristic, they include some that geobiologists use as time markers in biostratigraphic dating. It is believed oceanic anoxic events are strongly linked to lapses in key oceanic current circulations, to climate warming and greenhouse gases.

    The second hypothesis suggests that oceanic anoxic events record a major change in the fertility of the oceans that resulted in an increase in organic-walled plankton (including bacteria) at the expense of calcareous plankton such as coccoliths and foraminifera.

    Such an accelerated flux of organic matter would have expanded and intensified the oxygen minimum zone, further enhancing the amount of organic carbon entering the sedimentary record. Essentially this mechanism assumes a major increase in the availability of dissolved nutrients such as nitrate, phosphate and possibly iron to the phytoplankton population living in the illuminated layers of the oceans.

    For such an increase to occur would have required an accelerated influx of land-derived nutrients coupled with vigorous upwelling, requiring major climate change on a global scale. Geochemical data from oxygen-isotope ratios in carbonate sediments and fossils, and magnesium/calcium ratios in fossils, indicate that all major oceanic anoxic events were associated with thermal maxima, making it likely that global weathering rates, and nutrient flux to the oceans, were increased during these intervals. Indeed, the reduced solubility of oxygen would lead to phosphate release, further nourishing the ocean and fuelling high productivity, hence a high oxygen demand – sustaining the event through a positive feedback.

    Here is another way of looking at oceanic anoxic events. Assume that the earth releases a huge volume of carbon dioxide during an interval of excessive volcanism; global temperatures rise due to the greenhouse effect; global weathering rates and fluvial nutrient flux increase; organic productivity in the oceans increases; organic-carbon burial in the oceans increases (OAE begins); carbon dioxide is drawn down (inverse greenhouse effect); global temperatures fall, and the ocean–atmosphere system returns to equilibrium (OAE ends).

    In this way, an oceanic anoxic event can be viewed as the Earth’s response to the injection of excess carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and hydrosphere. One test of this notion is to look at the age of large igneous provinces (LIPs), the extrusion of which would presumably have been accompanied by rapid effusion of vast quantities of volcanogenic gases such as carbon dioxide. Intriguingly, the age of three LIPs (Karoo-Ferrar flood basalt, Caribbean large igneous province, Ontong Java Plateau) correlates uncannily well with that of the major Jurassic (early Toarcian) and Cretaceous (early Aptian and Cenomanian–Turonian) oceanic anoxic events, indicating that a causal link is feasible.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anoxic_event

    Related video with Peter Ward
    http://climatestate.com/2013/05/13/peter-ward-earths-mass-extinction/

    Diazotrophic cyanobacteria as the major photoautotrophs during mid-Cretaceous oceanic anoxic events: Nitrogen and carbon isotopic evidence from sedimentary porphyrin http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0146638007002628

    Comment by prokaryotes — 13 May 2013 @ 6:37 PM

  281. Complete mastery of biochemistry is a characteristic of bacteria that even we as intelligent beings are not yet capable of, Simon. Again, you are unnecessarily restricting your definition of intelligence to a nervous system when many levels of technical sophistication precede that development.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 13 May 2013 @ 7:46 PM

  282. Peter Ward’s work has come up in discussion at RC since way back; 2005, maybe earlier. Worth re-reading; use the site search.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 May 2013 @ 9:10 PM

  283. I don’t mean to wade into an off-topic thread…but I think there’s a lack of molecular biologists commenting on the probabilities.

    First of all, all the really hard work is at the beginning to get viable living cells. Really.

    But that hard work was greatly simplified because there weren’t “bifurcations”. Way back when, the notion of an individual conserved species wasn’t applicable. Cell-like structures exchanged material at a rapid rate. Imagine picking up butterfly chromosomes because one flew by shedding as it went. Only latter, after a lot of basic system were worked out did protecting the cell from outside genetic information become useful and event today it is observed that plasmid exchange is a mechanism for transferring immunity to antibiotics from one species of bacteria to another. One really ancient example is that mitochondria have their own DNA… but they are part of modern cells…they are simply cells that formed a commensal relationship with another type of cell and that combination was so successful it proliferated to be the core of nearly all of modern biota.

    Now all this stuff was learned after I got out of graduate school…back when kerry Mullis was still riding his surf board. But it’s very different thinking about the development of life than what Simon is proposing, and has very different odds of success. If you want to get a taste for this Smith College has a summer lab course on Molecular biology that’s a lot of fun. Took it back in 2003.

    Comment by Dave123 — 13 May 2013 @ 9:46 PM

  284. I was lectured on here a few months ago by Ray Ladbury that a question I was asking really wasn’t climate related, but he seems to have no problem engaging in a debate about whether there is life beyond earth, on a climate blog… I wouldn’t call you out Ray, except that I’ve noticed you can be a real jerk to a lot of people. Let’s all be a little bit nicer huh? How’s that sound?

    Comment by doug — 13 May 2013 @ 11:34 PM

  285. Re: 280 and eutrophication.

    A point I have made regarding concurrent degradation of the whole system (human activity simultaneously degrading all ecosystems) vs. cascading degradation (i.e. Minakovitch > warming > Co2) fits here.

    While the past ELE’s seem to have been the latter type, we have already begun the simultaneous degradation of the ocean system with runoff of FF-based chem fertilizers, top soil and other pollutants.

    This can seemingly only lead to an even faster cascading failures.

    Lot’s of bad news in the climate news this past week or two.

    Gotta love that climate sensitivity is as bad, or worse, than even I thought.

    :/

    Comment by Killian — 14 May 2013 @ 5:15 AM

  286. OMG, are we still on about this undefined quasi-probabilistic hooha?

    Simon wrote quote and commented:

    “It’s the guy who paints the target retrospectively who portrays it as an outcome inevitable from the outset” Not me.

    Simon, you are ‘painting the target’ when you claim that the evolution of intelligence/abiogenesis/whatever is tremendously improbable: “Look, the arrow (or in Ray’s iteration, dart) hit that *one exact spot.* How unlikely!” Seems to me that your argument here is sign-reversed.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 14 May 2013 @ 6:16 AM

  287. #283

    Dave,do you have some references for that? I am not doubting it, but I am not 100% sure about it either. I would just like to read a little more about it.

    What I don’t understand is why we cannot do something like that experimentally to create a viable organism to prove it is possible.

    The problem is I see is in the notion of “cell-like structures”. That implies a membrane but you need an organism to create a membrane unless you are hypothesizing some natural, non-living membrane such as clay or lipids.

    Comment by James Cross — 14 May 2013 @ 7:24 AM

  288. #286 Kevin McKinney

    “Simon, you are ‘painting the target’ when you claim that the evolution of intelligence/abiogenesis/whatever is tremendously improbable”.

    Come on Kevin. My arrows (hopeful candidates for emerging extraterrestrial intelligence) all fail to reach the barn door: I’ve got no possible places to paint a retrospective target. Neither apparently has Ray as he admits at #272 (“unless you are as bad as I am at darts, you must hit some point on that wall”). Ray’s hopeful darts likewise fail and he too has nothing to paint.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 14 May 2013 @ 8:04 AM

  289. Re- Comment by James Cross — 14 May 2013 @ 7:24 AM

    If you want to know why membranes are not the main problem in biogenesis watch the David Deamer video suggested by pete best (11 May 2013 @ 5:17 AM) above.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 14 May 2013 @ 10:27 AM

  290. simon @ 278

    Fair enough, if all you’re saying is that evolution of Homo sapiens is unlikely in the same sense that the appearance of a “simon abingdon” (as opposed to some other generic bloke) is unlikely then it’s not obvious what your point is. And one then wonders why you attempt to equate the likelihood of technologically-developed life elsewhere in the Universe with the likelihood of finding giraffes and elephants…or make a play about the apparent unlikelihood of extant homochilarity, when in fact the probability of homochirality in a carbon-based life form is high (maybe approaching 1), and we can understand a plausible mechanism for generation of the specific extant homochirality in earth life. Those seem like efforts to exaggerate unlikelihoods…

    Comment by chris — 14 May 2013 @ 10:27 AM

  291. > James Cross
    > … I would just like to read a little more
    > … what I don’t understand

    Your own blog linked behind your name discusses this extensively.
    Please, people, opine about this further at length somewhere else?

    Please. This isn’t climate science. It’s microbiology, standard coursework, basic material you can read up on. You don’t need opinion blogged here on it.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 May 2013 @ 10:30 AM

  292. Doug,
    Fair enough. However, my interest here is not so much in the biology, but rather in the fallacious way Simon is using statistics. I would contend that this is relevant, because we see the same sorts of fallacious arguments from denialists seizing on every cold snap to proclaim the end of the global warming threat.

    I think that part of the problem here is that we are actually dealing with subjective probabilities. The ACTUAL probability of intelligent life in the Universe (depending whether or not we accept humans as intelligent life) is either zero or one. The actual probability distribution for Charney climate sensitivity at any given time is a delta function. It is our imperfect knowledge that smears it out to a (roughly) lognormal.

    However, subjective probability is not arbitrary probability. There are rules for how to interpret evidence and how to incorporate new evidence. Unless we follow those rules we are at risk of sloppy thinking and self-deception.

    My goal in coming to science-related sites is to avoid such sloppy thinking. It has not been my experience that “nice” really helps much with that.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 May 2013 @ 10:42 AM

  293. PS — the origins of life folks are a large group glad to have attention.
    Follow the links to their own blogs that they keep posting and mentioning.
    Note the links they like, as presented on their blogrolls.
    The doubt-is-in-the-gaps notion covers both evolution and climate.
    Eschew.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 May 2013 @ 10:54 AM

  294. “What I don’t understand is why we cannot do something like that experimentally to create a viable organism to prove it is possible.”

    I think the answer is we don’t know where to start. There are lots of potential entries into bits of the puzzle. It’s easy to understand how the huge number of small molecule precursors of biomolecules arise since these can be produced in supposed prebiotic environments or found on comets. It’s easy to understand the origin of homochirality. Almost all (but not all) of the steps of the most basic biochemical cycles (the citric acid cycle which is a funamental energy producing metabolic cycle in most living systems) can be made to proceed without using enzymes. Amphiphilic molecules can associate to form crude membrane-like structures and so on. But those are just snippets of possibilities.

    You could approach this by doing a hardcore chemical synthesis of all of the components of the simplest unicellular organism. DNA is easy to synthesise, and RNA, proteins, membrane lipids etc. can all be chemically -synthesized. If one were able to combine these together to recreate the simple organism (there are good reasons why this wouldn’t actually work) you wouldn’t have learned anything about the origins of life, but merely confirmed that living beings are comprised of chemicals and their macromolecules.

    Dave123 is completely right when he says “First of all, all the really hard work is at the beginning to get viable living cells”. It’s verey difficult to know how that happened. After that evolution of complexity is conceptually

    Comment by chris — 14 May 2013 @ 11:10 AM

  295. Simon says #170:

    You have a problem with that logic?

    Yes. And find it amazing that you don’t. Did you really drink the creationist kool-aid that evolution is ‘random’?

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 14 May 2013 @ 12:26 PM

  296. #291 Ray Ladbury

    “The ACTUAL probability of intelligent life in the Universe (depending whether or not we accept humans as intelligent life) is either zero or one”.

    So, if we “accept humans as intelligent life” the probability is one. (We knew that).

    On the other hand if we do not “accept humans as intelligent life” the probability is zero. (Non-human intelligent life does not exist).

    Comment by simon abingdon — 14 May 2013 @ 3:17 PM

  297. @James Cross- I’m afraid that I don’t collect abiogensis papers…but I’ve been well aware of primordial soup experiments that produce encapsultated cell like structures. The evolutionary drivers work well here- thermodynamics causes non-polar materials to move away from water, they float to the top. Random chemistry that makes detergent like materials with polar and non polar species is also favored, if only be oxidation of lipid chain to provide partial water solubility. Since lipids float at the top near all that lovely ionizing radiation, you’ll get enough of that going on that there will be a “survival” advantage to materials that mix better with water and slip down a bit into it. There will be common species, and those species will by the same thermodynamics that promote crystal formation make certain combinations of small detergent like microcapsules more stable than others, more persistent. All of this is at huge rates per second. Microcapsules bump into each other, exchange material when thermodynamically favored. Non-polar materials will tend to accumulate in the interior of these little globules as well as less stable materials that benefit from the shelter at a molecular level. Bit by bit you can accumulate chemistry in these environments- for example to replace oxidation at the surface, a primative iron complete that promotes alkane oxidation to provide more membrane materials. Or a means of making true lipids coupling sugars with alkanes. From a chemist’s point of view the rates of reaction sustained over millions of years, the promiscuity leading to exchange and proliferation of survival factors removes a lot of the odds against abiogenisis. But where the transition occured? I don’t know. Cell membrane evolution from primordial soup, RNA/DNA origins, Amino acid origins, everything at the molecular level that goes into making life has been observed in the lab.

    Again, this is just my memories from reading Science and Journal of the Americal Chemical Society for decades…and I really should be doing something else right now.

    Comment by Dave123 — 14 May 2013 @ 4:27 PM

  298. It is diagnostic of the intellectual poverty of disbelief in spontaneous complexity giving rise to a large variety of organic componds that inorganic chemistry gives rise to some 4000 minerals on Earth alone.

    Comment by Russell — 14 May 2013 @ 7:10 PM

  299. @#150 “The number of stars in the universe has been estimated on the low side of 10^24 which approximates to 2^80. If our own example of intelligent life has had to survive more than 80 potentially negative bifurcations in its Earthly evolution since abiogenesis over maybe 4 billion years ago (that’s an average of just 1 every 50 million years) then it’s unlikely there can be anything comparable elsewhere in the universe, regardless of the availability of suitable planets”.

    Maybe. But you ought to consider the possibility that life could travel between planets, known as the theory of “panspermia.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panspermia

    I admit that the theory has yet to be proved, and such proof will not be easy to obtain. But it’s a possibility to consider. At the minimum, we’ve got to get to Mars and dig around in the soil looking for evidence of current or past life. And Mars is just one small dot in the universe. The chance of sending even unmanned probes to other stars to look for life is slim indeed. So we may never have an answer.

    Comment by Paraquat — 14 May 2013 @ 9:31 PM

  300. Can anyone point to the origins of this Reuters article and comment on its veracity? The Reuters article is saying that sea level rise will be contained to 69cm this century and ostensibly quoting Ice2Sea as its source.

    It’s being offered up by fake skeptics as their alternative “it’s warming but it won’t be that bad” meme, presumably for people who can’t quite swallow their “we’re heading for an ice age” meme.

    I’ve looked at the Ice2Sea website and all I found was a press release about this new paper in Nature, which doesn’t exactly match up.

    Comment by Sou — 14 May 2013 @ 10:10 PM

  301. Re Sou #300, maybe the BBC article is helpful?

    “They concluded there was a one in 20 chance that the melting ice would drive up sea levels by more than 84 centimetres, essentially saying there’s a 95% chance it wouldn’t go above this figure.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22527273

    Comment by prokaryotes — 14 May 2013 @ 10:58 PM

  302. Given that the existence of of creatures that dream up bayesian priors is a posterior in the known set of Earth-like planets , the probabilty of this being the case over a similar interval for similar solar systems is on the order of 1.

    Comment by Russell — 14 May 2013 @ 11:47 PM

  303. There’s nothing good about a sea-level rise of up to 69 cm by 2100–and nothing happy in a 95% chance that it won’t go above 84 cm by then. The sea-level rise by itself is not the point. The point is the coupling of higher sea-level with higher average temperatures and severe weather. This is what has to be estimated before anyone gets happy. It’s a topic in the mayoral campaign in New York right now.

    Why Reuters wanted to say, “‘This is good news’ for those who have feared sharper rises…” is inscrutable without the full text or audio of their interview. Too many cooks.

    The full report is linked at the end of the press release:

    http://www.ice2sea.eu/news/from-ice-to-high-seas-synthesis-of-ice2sea/

    –at the News tab on the Ice2sea home page: http://www.ice2sea.eu/

    Along with science on climate and ice the report shows things like the London Thames barrier.

    The release is about “the final meeting of Ice2sea” 15 May in London. On 16 May there’s talk on impacts of sea-level rise on London.

    From the release I note: “However, sea-level rise needs to be taken together with known patterns of vertical land movement, and projected changes in ocean circulation and storminess. These indicate that 50-year extreme storm-surge events could approach 1 metre higher than at present on some European coasts.”

    You can see and hear David Vaughn (who was interviewed by phone by Reuters) at the Ice2sea homepage: http://www.ice2sea.eu/

    He is with the British Antarctic Survey: http://www.antarctica.ac.uk/index.php

    Lots of good stuff, even on wildlife. Webcams.

    If you are a news organization you can call up the number at the bottom of the release page and interview David Vaughn yourself. Let us know what he said, especially about that good news.

    (It’s only four years of work, so you’ll want to characterize it correctly.)

    Comment by Patrick — 15 May 2013 @ 5:03 AM

  304. @277 Thank you for the link. James Hansen observed that Justin Gillis is a good journalist.

    Gillis hasn’t confused anyone yet, that I know. He’s so good it seems the editors have the good sense to leave him alone. Pretty much. Which makes a clear result all the more probable.

    Maybe the “Economist” and Reuters could just start reading the NYT.

    Comment by Patrick — 15 May 2013 @ 5:24 AM

  305. RealClimate’s own Dr. Gavin Schmidt takes on a prominent skeptic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V96k4BO2sBw&feature=player_embedded

    Comment by Jack Maloney — 15 May 2013 @ 7:19 AM

  306. Thanks, prokaryotes #301. Looks to be from the same source as the Reuters article. The BBC doesn’t refer to the paper either except in passing. Maybe it’s not out yet.

    Odd that there’s no related press release on the Ice2Sea website.

    Comment by Sou — 15 May 2013 @ 7:24 AM

  307. @306 The press release is here:

    http://www.ice2sea.eu/news/from-ice-to-high-seas-synthesis-of-ice2sea/

    There’s a link to the report,”From Ice to High Seas,” at the bottom of the page.

    Comment by Patrick — 15 May 2013 @ 9:24 AM

  308. Re Fox distortion

    I would rather insist on explaining particular topics and focus on “a single” argument and then point out the flaws and outlier claims of the denier and especially his ties to fossil fuel money.

    He gets dirty oil money (btw the richest companies on the planet) to say that oil products are good.

    On the bottom line i think this denier strategy does no longer work and “trolls” should be ignored.

    You could even direct the debate to topics like “compensation claims” because oil products are so destructive to the environment, health and the climate state we had the past 10.000 years.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 15 May 2013 @ 9:53 AM

  309. Thanks Patrick #303. Oddly the report was in Reuters and on the BBC before it appeared on the Ice2Sea website. There was only one press release for May on the Ice2Sea website when I looked there this morning (Australian time).

    The report looks pretty :) I’ll give it a read.

    Comment by Sou — 15 May 2013 @ 12:05 PM

  310. Now I *like* this. British Columbia, one of two Canadian provinces with a carbon tax, now has a legislator from the Green party–and he’s been a lead author on several IPCC assessment reports.

    Yep–Dr. Andrew Weaver will now, we must presume, be speaking climatic truth to power from one of the the really good seats (to thoroughly mix up my figures of speech.)

    https://www.facebook.com/AndrewWeaverBC

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 15 May 2013 @ 4:50 PM

  311. Whoah, they buried the lede at the BBC:

    “However, the scientists stressed that …. if global emissions of carbon dioxide are not curtailed then the actual level of the sea by 2100 could be significantly higher than the Ice2Sea estimates.”

    Shorter: Our numbers assume intelligent behavior begins promptly.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 May 2013 @ 4:59 PM

  312. In the introductory video on the Ice2sea homepage David Vaughn says:”By the end of the century we expect sea levels to be at least 30 cm higher than they were in the year 2000. But with climate change that figure may be even larger, perhaps closer to a meter. The future security and prosperity of our growing coastal cities, and the survival of many unique coastal environments, requires that scientists produce reliable predictions of global sea level rise. Without those predictions our coastal defense planners are simply planning in the dark.” Sounds just like the talk in NYC and Newport News.

    Comment by Patrick — 15 May 2013 @ 6:50 PM

  313. Prof. Steig has a paper out in Journal of Climate
    “Temperature change on the Antarctic Peninsula linked to the tropical Pacific”
    Ding and Steig

    http:// journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00729.1

    Some discussion at

    http://phys.org/news/2013-05-tropical-air-circulation-fall-antarctic.html

    And a charming paper on the increasing temperature of the ocean changing the composition of catch from fisheries

    Cheung et al., Nature, “Signature of ocean warming in global fisheries catch”

    http://: dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature12156

    and discussion

    http://phys.org/news/2013-05-fish-thermometer-reveals-long-standing-global.html

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 15 May 2013 @ 7:32 PM

  314. (#305)

    Wow. FOX news is a riot. Thanks Gavin for volunteering to go on there. It’s a shame you had to be the victim of such a hostile host and environment. Not only wasn’t it a good discussion, wasn’t even “good TV.”

    Comment by Chris Colose — 15 May 2013 @ 8:24 PM

  315. Andrew Weaver has switched from Climatology at the University of Victoria, BC to Green Party politician, taking a massive cut in pay.

    Comment by flxible — 15 May 2013 @ 9:18 PM

  316. Well, hats off to Gavin for being brave enough to go into the House of all Things Faux. But really, you’d have a better chance convincing a family of chimpanzees that anthropogenic climate change was something to be concerned about.

    Comment by R. Gates — 15 May 2013 @ 10:17 PM

  317. > FOX news is a riot. Thanks Gavin

    Second that.

    Climate scientist meets drama merchant. The guy with the fake hair and bulging eyes is a Fox employee and professional ‘ibertarian both, eh?

    Sad to see Spencer doing the “peace in our time” dance step — sounds like the antibiotic overuse promoters did a few decades back, saying they “help people now” (and profit). We’re just starting to get the real cost for those decades of antibiotic misuse now; next generation pays for climate change.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 May 2013 @ 11:48 PM

  318. Okay, I have to say that Gavin Schmidt walking away from debating Roy Spencer was a bad idea. If you indeed have the facts and proof on your side you should never shy away from a guy who is trying to disprove the Theory of Evolution.

    Sorry Gavin but you chickened out on this one. You have the facts, you have the proof and your have the science on your side. If you would bother to do any research on Roy Spencer you could have easily discredited him in a matter of seconds and moved on to the bigger issue of Climate Change. You CAN NOT BACK AWAY FROM A CHALLENGE!

    E-V-E-R. Especially on FOX News. It only makes you appear weak and hurts the cause. As much as I respect you as a scientist you should have stood your ground.

    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 16 May 2013 @ 12:17 AM

  319. @314
    Good Lord! That announcer reminded me of something out of any number of dystopian sci fi movies (e.g., Hunger Games). That cannot be unconscious and it so patently obviously all an act that it, er, well, isn’t even funny.

    Comment by jgnfld — 16 May 2013 @ 7:54 AM

  320. That was quite a Gish gallop Stossel was throwing at Gavin on that Fox piece.

    Comment by Steven Sullivan — 16 May 2013 @ 10:26 AM

  321. Ah, here‘s Stossel’s problem.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 May 2013 @ 11:31 AM

  322. Stossel has been a professional spewer for decades:
    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=John_Stossel

    The problem with hubris:
    http://laughingsquid.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Skywriting.jpg

    Comment by Radge Havers — 16 May 2013 @ 12:25 PM

  323. My take on hitting “400″ last week. It may actually be a fresh POV:

    http://doc-snow.hubpages.com/hub/400-Now-A-Climate-Change-Milestone

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 16 May 2013 @ 1:58 PM

  324. Today Alexander Bojanowski explained in SPEIGEL (tinyurl.com akbgkku), that there is no permafrost feedback – the headline reads “No release: Tundra secures dangerous greenhouse gas”, based on this study:

    Long-term warming restructures Arctic tundra without changing net soil carbon storage http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12129.html

    Because i have no access to the study i can not make final conclusion on the claims made. But i wonder how representative this study is actually (see Co2/plant greenhouse gas test has been shown to be lacking with real world obs). And how applicable are these findings for the different kinds of permafrost states and potential for thermokarst feedbacks.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 16 May 2013 @ 2:14 PM

  325. Breaking! 30 meters unlikely
    http://phys.org/news/2013-05-world-biggest-ice-sheets-stable.html

    A new study suggests that the previous connections scientists made between ancient shoreline height and ice volumes are erroneous and that perhaps our ice sheets were more stable in the past than we originally thought. The study found that the Earth’s hot mantle pushed up segments of ancient shorelines over millions of years, making them appear higher now than they originally were millions of years ago.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 16 May 2013 @ 2:45 PM

  326. Wow, Faux sure has gotten more fair. They only gave Spencer two slots to Gavin’s one, and only piled on one more loon at the end. That’s a mere 3-1 (with the one getting the worst spot, of course) on a subject where a mere 90+% of experts agree with the one. Can anybody remember a more fair and balanced Faux story ever?

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 16 May 2013 @ 4:26 PM

  327. It isn’t new news that the insurance companies are concerned about climate change. All the same this is a new article.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/15/business/insurers-stray-from-the-conservative-line-on-climate-change.html?src=recg&_r=0

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 16 May 2013 @ 4:57 PM

  328. Slightly older news:The east coast of the USA is not the only evidence of high level sea stand …

    Comment by sidd — 16 May 2013 @ 5:57 PM

  329. In other news: Greenland 2013 melt has begun, i think.

    http://nsidc.org/greenland-today/

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 16 May 2013 @ 6:02 PM

  330. @317 Hank, “just starting to get the real cost of those decades of misuse of antibiotics” and “next generation pays for climate change” is an excellent comparison of process.

    Comment by Patrick — 16 May 2013 @ 6:14 PM

  331. Ladies and gentlemen, for your amazement, the great Ivan will now spin two or three plates of the same stuff in a number of different directions at once.

    Gavin Schmidt, you did a remarkable thing. You disarmed total-spin with complete transparency.

    It’s probably a communications first. If someone adequately names it, it will be ready to submit to the Book of Records.

    Comment by Patrick — 16 May 2013 @ 6:30 PM

  332. > misuse of antibiotics
    Yep. “This strategy has saved countless lives”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 May 2013 @ 10:04 PM

  333. And: In a 1945 interview with the New York Times, Alexander Fleming called for stopping the overuse of penicillin in order to slow the development of resistance. Nearly 65 years later, in 2009, more than 3 million kg of antibiotics were administered to human patients in the United States alone; in 2010, a staggering 13 million kg were administered to animals. The majority of the animal antibiotic use was meant to promote the growth of livestock. We cannot confront resistance unless we stop exposing the environment to massive quantities of antibiotics and their resulting selective pressure.

    Stupidity and profit seem to go so well together.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 May 2013 @ 10:06 PM

  334. Oh, and how much of CO2 production comes from the industrial production of meat, much involving misusing antibiotics? Maybe 20 percent?

    This stuff is connected.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 May 2013 @ 10:08 PM

  335. Will NASA’s new quantumesque computer be used for climate science? It’s great for traveling salesman-type queries, where there are many possible answers, but only one is optimal.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-22554494

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 16 May 2013 @ 10:34 PM

  336. Worth a look: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/326721047/the-cartoon-introduction-to-climate-change?ref=thanks

    “… : A rough draft of Part One is now available, comments are welcome!

    By:

    “… Yoram Bauman, an environmental economics Ph.D. and “the world’s first and only stand-up economist” …. co-author … of the two-volume Cartoon Introduction to Economics…. invited by the good folks at Island Press to create a Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change ….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 May 2013 @ 11:41 PM

  337. Gavin I mean your tv appearance disarmed serial spin with basic transparency. You made it work. I hope you will be asked for more answers and comments in the same or similar format.

    Comment by Patrick — 17 May 2013 @ 2:02 AM

  338. #329

    Yes Greenland melt has begun but it is running slightly below the 1981-2010 average. May be something to do with the re-calibration.

    The adjusted algorithm shows greatly reduced melt extent for early 2013.

    The adjustment to the algorithm resulted in fewer melt days than previously indicated. The revised image at right shows new surface melting in 2013 in a few small areas along the central southeastern Greenland coast, within the region of earlier spurious melt signals but greatly reduced.

    Comment by James Cross — 17 May 2013 @ 5:15 AM

  339. So let me see. In the last few days we have determined permafrost doesn’t really melt and sea level doesn’t rise? Is that about it?

    I thought or two.

    First, the way the sea level paper was described I got a niggling sense of confirmation bias. Can’t put my finger on it, but am wondering how all the sea level rise measurements could only be a result of crustal dynamics. That seems pretty unlikely. It would basically mean that Greenland and the WAIS simply never change much.

    Of course, maybe this only applies to the one period mentioned, in which case, why would this one warm period be so different from all the others?

    I can’t help thinking of the old saying that when one result is different from all others the most likely result is that the outlier is an outlier.

    Should be interesting.

    Regarding the permafrost study, I’m not sure I’d suggest that summer warming in Alaska is equal to global temp rise over centuries and longer. Of course, that thought is problematic when juxtaposed vs. recent years of rather dramatic changes.

    M’thinks we got us a couple of outliers and/or interpretations needing some work.

    Would be great news to find out that even though climate seems to be changing quickly, the ice sheets might be resilient. New Orleans and NY will be pleased.

    Hard to rationalize the current rate of SLR that has us headed for 1M+ rise this century vs. the SLR study, though.

    Or, maybe my basic premise that this time really is different. With all systems concurrently degraded rather than in a cascade of changes, there really is no corollary. Maybe the good news just doesn’t apply?

    reCAPTCHA seems to think I’m just squawking: each educaws.

    Comment by Killian — 17 May 2013 @ 7:11 AM

  340. Sez here the Australian carbon tax is lowering emissions. We’ll see how long it lasts, though; Tony Abbott, the apparent winner-in-waiting of the coming election has said he’ll scrap it, and is very actively campaigning against it.

    http://www.news.com.au/national-news/carbon-tax-and-tight-consumers-help-lower-emissions-new-report-says/story-fncynjr2-1226631177867

    Better hope the shift away from coal and toward renewables so glowingly described in the report is, indeed, “fundamental.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 17 May 2013 @ 7:23 AM

  341. Chuck Hughes says: Okay, I have to say that Gavin Schmidt walking away from debating Roy Spencer was a bad idea. If you indeed have the facts and proof on your side you should never shy away from a guy who is trying to disprove the Theory of Evolution.

    Your reasoning is flawed. Studies have shown repetition is the key. Literally repeat the lie often enough and the audience is left remembering the core lie and not the actual logic of the argument. Every time you engage False Equivalence you are aiding and abetting it.

    You don’t argue whether Santa exists or the Easter Bunny is real. Add to this the theories on change and population % thresholds needed to make it happen, we have far higher numbers than we should need to change the world. That is, we simply do not need to engage the deniers anymore. We are past the point where that is an effective strategy. I say that as someone who has been kicked off forums for kicking them in the teeth, aka calling them out without reservation. I thought then and think now we needed to do that. Not any more. Besides we don’t have time. WE probably don’t have time to transition let alone fight a rear guard action and build a new paradigm.

    Kudos, Gavin.

    Comment by Killian — 17 May 2013 @ 7:31 AM

  342. New analogy for climate denial. What do you think?

    Arguments such as Lindzen’s, where one possible area of uncertainty out of many lines of evidence is held up as basically counterbalancing all the other lines of evidence is the equivalent of a 1000-piece puzzle of an apple on a table with one or two pieces missing down near the corner.

    The missing pieces might be more table top, or a bug, or a crumb, or penny or what have you. Whatever they are, they don’t change the fact it’s a picture of an apple sitting on a table.

    Deniers are basically claiming the missing piece or two prove the picture is not of an apple, or that it is significantly likely not to be, so we shouldn’t call it a picture of an apple on a table.

    It might be a watermelon.

    And that’s why deniers aren’t good guests at puzzle parties. Or interviews and discussions on climate.

    Comment by Killian — 17 May 2013 @ 7:46 AM

  343. > disarmed serial spin with basic transparency
    Agree strongly. In very few words saying what’s not causing the warming — starting with ‘it’s not the sun’; catching Stossel saying he likes burning fossil fuel, pointing out that nobody liked the smog. And leaving the set.

    Chuck Hughes above is plain wrong; debating purveyors of nonsense suggests they have credibility.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 May 2013 @ 9:27 AM

  344. Re: my #264 and #305 and #314.

    “CO2 will raise food production”. ??

    That meme has now been raised twice in one thread. First by reference to the WSJ article, and then again by Matt Ridley (MR)* after Gavin’s contribution. We now have an extra reason for a proper discussion of it here.
    ————
    *In case American readers don’t realise it MR is not only a scientiic journalist. He was in charge of the Northern Rock bank which was the first one to go bust as far as I know. Although in an ideal world this would not be relevant it is worth noting that he is a staunch follower of the right wing economist Friedrich Hayek.

    Comment by deconvoluter — 17 May 2013 @ 9:33 AM

  345. #340–Funny, isn’t it, how these clowns insist that water (vapor) controls climate much more than CO2, but CO2 controls food production much more than water?

    Sure, in neither case are they really independent variables, but that’s already too nuanced for them.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 17 May 2013 @ 9:52 AM

  346. Tangential to CO2 as plant food, it is particularly good for poison ivy, kudzu, and the like. Like some jellyfish, a lot of insects, and microorganisms, certain kinds of flora and fauna will be winners, and the rest of us losers with the loss of biodiversity at every scale (less interesting and useful creatures). Here are some pictures for those with an appetite for magnified monsters:

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2207828/This-bug–The-indestructible-micro-animals-survive-vacuum-space–blood.html

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 17 May 2013 @ 9:54 AM

  347. @318 I see what you mean. But Gavin did not *back away* or *chicken out.* Just the opposite. He set (adjusted, negotiated) the rules. He said he was not there to debate, and not there to debate to make good [sticky] tv.He said he was there to tell about the science, and would be happy to come back for the same purpose again. And that’s exactly what he did, and didn’t.

    [Response: It's worth pointing out that the 'Roy sandwich' format was sprung at the last minute and it is not one I would have agreed to ahead of time. I only agreed to a one-on-one interview with Stossel - the musical chairs stuff was all them. - gavin]

    Comment by Patrick — 17 May 2013 @ 10:09 AM

  348. It is unfortunate that the way Dr. Schmidt approached that interview was the only possible way he could get the facts out. It was clear from the atmospherics that there was an effort to prevent him from saying even what he did say (which came out at speed and was highly accurate – quite a performance), along with a lot of play exploiting the appearance created by the difference in manner towards the welcome and unwelcome guests. imho this is why real scientists have learned to be careful about accepting improper debate offers.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 17 May 2013 @ 10:18 AM

  349. just a side note: Obama bumped John Cook’s new effort to count:

    Obama gives Aussie researcher 31,541,507 reasons to celebrate

    Peter Hannam, The Sydney Morning Herald, May 17, 2013

    It’s the social media equivalent of hitting the jackpot: having your study retweeted by US President Barack Obama.

    Australian researcher John Cook, an expert in climate change communication, was inundated with requests for interviews by US media outlets after Obama took to twitter to endorse his project’s final report.

    Barack Obama @BarackObama
    Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous. Read more: OFA.BO/gJsdFp [about 10 hours ago]

    h/t Tenney Naumer

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 17 May 2013 @ 10:23 AM

  350. Moot. Spencer didn’t want to debate either.

    I think Gavin did about as well as is possible under the circumstances and at least got a toehold in the Fox camp. But as you well know, while much of their propaganda schtick may seem obvious and ham handed to everyone here, they know exactly how to give their audience the emotional kicks it craves.

    Even if you try to adjust the rules, in their house, the deck will always be stacked in one way or another to suit them. And they’ll throw every trick in the book at you. Notice how they ended, by countering Gavin’s intimidating English accent with another English accent set against a London backdrop.

    That said it was a sound and courageous showing by Gavin, even if one worries that it might have been a little like showing up at a major sewer line rupture next to an industrial hog farm and waving some potpourri around for a couple of minutes.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 17 May 2013 @ 12:08 PM

  351. the musical chairs stuff was all them

    But it was so predictable. Why should we believe you can predict anything if not this?

    ;-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 17 May 2013 @ 12:13 PM

  352. The Sistla paper studied a mossy acidic tussock system in Alaska and demonstrated stable net carbon storage in this ecosystem over twenty years, which is good news, but also warned that the equilibrium might be transitory, since:

    “Although increased decomposer activity did not offset increased car-
    bon inputs in the mineral soil, incubation studies suggest that labile
    carbon limits tundra mineral-soil-decomposer activity19. Thus,
    although greater carbon availability at depth may initially increase
    carbon storage, it remains uncertain whether the ecosystem response
    observed after 20 years of warming reflects a continued trajectory of
    increased net carbon storage or a transient state in which an activated decomposer system will ultimately outpace carbon inputs”

    Slightly more worrying, they see a simplification of the soil food web.

    In contrast, Vonk et al.

    http://www.thepolarisproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Vonk_2013.pdf

    study DIC export from yedoma around the Kolyma river and show that dissolved organic carbon exported after permafrost thaw is a)old (21Ky, dating to before present deglaciation) and b) highly biolabile, samples losing upto 40% DIC in 4 weeks of incubation. This is more evidence for instability of yedoma in our warming times, and is likely to amplify permafrost carbon feedback. They warn that their measurements of biolability might be an underestimate:

    “… measurements at river mouths may not be representative for the actual mobilization and turnover of permafrost C, as extensive processing of permafrost derived-C within the watershed may be masking the river mouth signal.”

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 17 May 2013 @ 1:00 PM

  353. Chuck Hughes @318

    Eveolutionists NEVER publicly debate Creationists because

    - It gives the crackpots a respectability they do not deserve
    - Why subject yourself to Gish gallops?
    - No matter what the outcome, even if the Creationist is dished, devastated and done, they always spin it as a major victory, not matter what the outcome. Deniers and disparagers of climate science would be no different, especially when talented spinners like Marc Morano get to work on you.
    - Going in with expectations of a pushover win, especially when the moderator is plainly biased, is a recipe for disaster. Public debating is all about courtroom rhetoric and conning the audience – OJ should have been found guily, remember?

    I have seen good, smart scientist beaten in debate by non-scientists who had denialism 101 at their fingertips, were full of apparent wow!-type “facts” and able to court their audience with personal anecdotes. A scientist trying to focus on the facts of the matter is liable to seem dry, boring and over the heads of the audience. Public debating is entertainment.

    I appreciate Gavin’s problem in the Roy Spencer has a superficial respectability. He did the best he could. But scientists are not rhetoricians.

    Comment by Toby — 17 May 2013 @ 1:09 PM

  354. A new estimate of glacier (not ice sheet) mass waste from 2003-2009:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/340/6134/852

    Using GRACE and ICESat they come up with an estimate of 259 +/- 28 GT/yr (0.71 +/- .08 mm/yr sea level rise) for the period. This is about the total mass waste from glaciers and ice sheets combined.

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 17 May 2013 @ 1:12 PM

  355. The U-Tube of the Fox News interview (linked @305) does give the impression of being a peek inside the lunatic asylum. A debate with Spencer with a crazy man doing the questioning? It may be good comedy but, as the musical chairs demonstrated, that crazy man couldn’t give a damn about his interviewees and was running his own agenda. Insisting on a one-on-one interview made good sense.

    And the follow-on talk with Matt Ridley reinforces such argument. Okay. Ridley is one of the Gentlemen Who Prefer Fantasy (I think that’s what GWPF stands for) so he can be expected never to hold back on reasons for CO2 being good for the planet, how ever unreasonable those reasons prove to be. And he tests how much unreason he can get away with at the end his wittering by his assertion that getting rid of the evils of slavery happened only because we had and continue to have cheap fossil fuels.
    Insisting on a one-to-one interview made very good sense!!

    Comment by MARodger — 17 May 2013 @ 1:43 PM

  356. It’s great that Obama retweeted John Cook’s study.

    Now if he would only do something about it.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 17 May 2013 @ 1:59 PM

  357. > Deniers are basically claiming the missing piece or two

    Yep, it’s an old tactic: claiming the gray are, the “gaps” or “missing data” must be where their preferred proof or answer is hiding.

    Your “jigsaw puzzle piece” analogy fails because the denial includes asserting that nobody can know in advance anything about what’s missing, certainly not the exact size and shape of the hole — let alone what part of the picture is on their supposed missing piece. They’ll tell you the missing piece might be bigger, or more powerful, than anything you know about.

    That’s where you have to remind them that their missing great and powerful force has to exactly counterbalance the known forcings -plus- make up for the amount of the known forcings, to fit observed reality.

    Then they’ll tell you you haven’t observed all of reality, because there are these gaps ….

    And this is why scientists don’t productively debate deniers, and probably why Stossel tried his last minute switch.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 May 2013 @ 2:54 PM

  358. I’ve noticed that recently some deniers are pushing the meme that the main cause of climate change is… everyone else. Of course they call it “population growth”. So I looked at Google trends, searching “climate change population growth” and ” global warming population growth”. http://www.google.com/trends/explore#q=climate%20change%20population%20growth%2C%20global%20warming%20population%20growth%2C%20&cmpt=q
    I was surprised to find minimal activity before a huge spike in December 2006 and practically no activity outside the USA. Anyone got any idea why this should be?

    Comment by Turboblocke — 17 May 2013 @ 3:12 PM

  359. metaclimate.org/2013/04/22/duh/

    “… based on the content of the study, we can presume this will be denied as well.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 May 2013 @ 3:29 PM

  360. Prof. Box remains busy. Over on meltfactor.org, _three_ papers on Greenland on closing the mass budget. The third describes a theory relating marine ice discharge to melt runoff. The mechanisms are

    1)”… reduced ice viscosity due to cryo-hydrologic warming driven by enhanced meltwater availability …” This sentence is expanded later:
    “Once in the englacial or subglacial hydrologic systems, meltwater warms surrounding background ice; primarily by acting as a latent heat source during refreezing (Phillips et al., 2010), and secondarily by acting as a frictional heat source during flow (Nye, 1976). As the background ice warms, its effective viscosity decreases, ultimately increasing deformational ice flow velocities (van der Veen et al., 2011, Phillips et al., submitted),and hence calving rates at tidewater glaciers.”

    I believe Mr. Aaron Lewis had some strong words on this subject.

    2) “Surface meltwater also contributes to enhanced basal sliding through local lubrication and pressurization of the subglacial water drainage network”

    3)”Meltwater exits the subglacial environment into the sea, driving the entrainment of sea water, which produces underwater melt rates on the order of meters per day”

    4)”Surface melting delivers water to fill supraglacial depressions, including crevasses … Crevassed areas absorb more solar radiation, and consequently undergo more ablation, than comparable flat ice areas … these observations suggest that runoff can influence glacier calving rate through increased hydrofracture and crevasse extent, resulting in enhanced meltwater delivery to the bed, and ultimately enhanced basal sliding. Enhanced crevassing also decreases the structural integrity of the ice delivered to the glacier front, enhancing iceberg calving. Under conditions of sufficient runoff, a positive feedback is conceivable between increasing runoff (due to crevasse-enhanced ablation), increasing crevasse hydrofracture (due to enhanced runoff) and tidewater glacier acceleration (resulting in increased crevasse area).”

    I note that he does not mention here the recent summer albedo feedback which is well documented at meltfactor.org and in doi:10.5194/tc-6-821-2012

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 17 May 2013 @ 3:58 PM

  361. > google trends
    Which words you include — the “quoted string” meaning the exact words inside the quotation marks — makes the difference.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 May 2013 @ 12:28 AM

  362. Sidd #354,

    Using GRACE and ICESat they come up with an estimate of 259 +/- 28 GT/yr (0.71 +/- .08 mm/yr sea level rise) for the period. This is about the total mass waste from glaciers and ice sheets combined.

    I think what you are trying to say (and the abstract says) is that the two big ice sheets add another, similar amount. The value reported is 29% of observed sea-level rise; adding another 29% for the two big ice sheets leaves 42% for thermosteric sea-water expansion (unmentioned the substantial uncertainties, and noting this is specifically for 2003-2009, so likely to be noisy).

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 18 May 2013 @ 2:59 AM

  363. Okay, I stand corrected on my above comment. Let me retract portions of my previous statement about “backing away from a challenge or being chickening out.”

    I forget just how rigged the situation is at FAUX then I think of how they responded to Jim Carrey when he made fun of Charleston Heston and the NRA. The beating went on for days but I must say that Jim Carrey hit back several times calling FOX News out for being a phony news source but Jim Carrey also had the facts on his side which helped him to withstand the criticism and weather the shit storm coming from the idiots on FOX and Friends. He also proved that you should never engage in a war of words with a professional comedian who has made a career out of dealing with hecklers. Jim Carrey may be able to act like a buffoon on screen but it’s just an act. He knows who the real buffoons are and he made them look foolish. This is exactly how you deal with people like Roy Spencer and others. You have to meet them on their own turf and show them for the fools that they are.

    Soooo… when you have a “moron” like Roy Spencer who claims to be a scientist and he’s trying to disprove the Theory of Evolution I would think one could start off by quoting some of the more absurd things he’s said about that and THEN take him on with some basic physics about CO2. For instance… Bill Nye has a really nice short video explaining the process here:

    http://www.milkandcookies.com/link/390568/detail/

    You’re not going to educate the willfully ignorant no matter what you do but there would be some “intelligent” younger folks whose parents or spouse force them to watch FOX that would probably get it and be happy to hear a REAL scientist explain how Climate Change works.

    As a teacher in a public school I sometimes present information on this topic based on the physics of Acoustics when I explain how a feedback loop works. Using an acoustic guitar and amp in close proximity and gradually turning up the volume. I see the jet stream working the same way a guitar string works in that if you slow down the vibrations by lowering the pitch the string becomes wobbly. It’s easily demonstrated that way. Decrease the contrast between hot and cold and you get the same result with any ocean or air current, the way I understand it.

    I totally agree that a working scientist doesn’t have time to debate a moron like Roy Spencer but he’s NOT the guy you’re trying to reach. It’s the victims of the misinformation you are trying to get to. So good ol Roy says a bunch of nonsense… cut to a clip of James Balog footage of an ice sheet the size of Manhattan calving off and have Roy explain where all the ice is going and why it’s going so fast. When you have literally mountains of proof on your side you have to use whatever forum you’re handed and make the best of it.

    FOX is probably the worst possible format for presenting such a thing but look at the sponsors backing away from Rush Limbaugh and Clear Channel now that they’ve finally been exposed for what they are. If our biggest enemy is the campaign of disinformation coming from the deniers, then I would think you have to meet them head on with the facts and keep hitting them with the facts. There’s no other choice. Eventually the facts will win out because that’s the reality of the situation and the clock is ticking. My sincere apologies to Gavin. PLEASE KEEP SPEAKING OUT!!! We need you on the front lines of this battle, even if it means having to wade into a sewer like FAUX.

    As much as some may hate it, scientists are going to have to become familiar public figures to the American population or we run a serious risk of losing this fight.

    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 18 May 2013 @ 3:43 AM

  364. Hank Roberts said, Deniers are basically claiming the missing piece or two

    Yep, it’s an old tactic: claiming the gray are, the “gaps” or “missing data” must be where their preferred proof or answer is hiding.

    Your “jigsaw puzzle piece” analogy fails because the denial **includes**

    It’s an analogy, not a theory of everything.

    asserting that nobody can know in advance anything about what’s missing

    Yup, one thing that might be the missing pieces.

    certainly not the exact size and shape of the hole

    Again, an analogy, so this point doesn’t break the analogy.

    They’ll tell you the missing piece might be bigger, or more powerful, than anything you know about.

    Which is a point made with the analogy both explicitly and implicitly.

    That’s where you have to remind them that their missing great and powerful force has to exactly counterbalance the known forcings -plus- make up for the amount of the known forcings, to fit observed reality.

    Yup, also covered.

    Then they’ll tell you you haven’t observed all of reality, because there are these gaps

    Also implied.

    And this is why scientists don’t productively debate deniers, and probably why Stossel tried his last minute switch.

    Yup. Any time the person gets petty, moves the goal posts, etc., you know *they* know they are full of it. This is why I am not reticent to call prevarication wrt the mutterings of denialists. That, may be unfair to some of the Joe Average Denier folk, who are sometimes more accurately seen as victims of the denial propaganda. (Hard to tell, though.)

    Thanks for the feedback. I think you can consider the pieces missing to be an issue or all of denial since all of denial amounts to pretty much nothing. But perhaps it needs to be shorter and simpler to be soundbite digestible, or more pieces missing. That said, analogies aren’t meant to make a detailed argument, just get to the gist of a thing… Still, revised due to your response:

    Climate denialists arguments, where one or a few minor possible areas of uncertainty are claimed to essentially bring into doubt a rather large number of other lines of established evidence, is the equivalent of a 1000-piece puzzle of an apple on a table with pieces missing here and there.

    The missing pieces might be more table top, a bit of apple, something on the table or what have you. Whatever they are, they don’t change the fact it’s a picture of an apple sitting on a table.

    Deniers are basically claiming a few missing pieces prove the picture is not of an apple, or that it is significantly likely not to be, so we shouldn’t call it a picture of an apple on a table.

    It might be a watermelon – even though you can see 95% of the apple.

    And that’s why deniers aren’t good guests at puzzle parties, or interviews and discussions on climate, or when setting public policy on climate issues: They will try to convince you apples are watermelons.

    reCAPTCHA seems to have gotten a whiff of denial: odor ndnine

    Comment by Killian — 18 May 2013 @ 6:10 AM

  365. > Chuck Hughes
    > “moron”

    I wonder if Dr. Spencer too was misinformed by Stossel about the arrangements Stossel had made. Stossel was willing to lie to set up the theatrics he uses to get viewers’ attention, we know that. Are you falling for the “let’s you and him fight” game? Be careful.

    “Just because you’re on their side doesn’t mean they’re on your side.”

    Coming to a science blog to call people names? Not particularly useful.
    Dissing any religious belief that you don’t 100 percent approve?
    This, historically, hasn’t worked out well. People differ and disagree on matters of faith and belief while living in the same world day to day. That allows progress to be made.

    The real evil tactic is to polarize — push people to extremes, fund and encourage the extremes. Hollow out the middle ground where people can find _some_ agreement while they disagree on much else.

    Polarizing to delay action is an old tactic recently well documented; look at how effectively it’s been done. Don’t fall into that. Don’t be suckered by it.

    Dr. Spencer — with whom I would disagree on many points — does persist in a sincere effort to educate many of the readers who flock to his blog and spend much time promoting their misunderstandings and fantasies about physics. He can and does reach and sometimes educate people badly in need of such attention, or at least warn off new readers soberly and regularly from the promoters of stuff that’s nonsense physics.

    Appeal to intelligence and reason where you find it; none of us has it all.
    Find the progress we can agree makes sense.

    Do you remember what Adlai Stevenson said about winning elections?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 May 2013 @ 10:52 AM

  366. CH @ ~ 363

    If you go to a fireball show and hear old flatties speaking ciazarn and calling you Clem, you’d damn well better know what you’re doing. Otherwise get out. The characters at Fox are weapons grade carnies.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 18 May 2013 @ 11:24 AM

  367. Mr. Vermeer, you are of course correct. The missing word was ‘half,’ the sentence should read

    “This is about half the total mass waste from glaciers and ice sheets combined.”

    thanx for the correction.

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 18 May 2013 @ 2:38 PM

  368. ps, of course I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m part of the audience/peanut gallery here. Did anyone who knows — Dr. Spencer or whatsisname at fox– hint whether Spencer cooperated in trying to trap Gavin with surprise “debate” seating, or was equally set up?

    Equally. I joke.

    “… our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.” — MLKing Jr.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 May 2013 @ 2:46 PM

  369. I remember back in 2007 when Gavin wrote about the Arctic Sea Ice “not getting the memo” with respect to it not behaving like the models project. Now I write a memo from the Arctic revealing a new method to study sea ice. It offers the most accurate results instantly, I strongly recommend all in the field to take a look..

    http://eh2r.blogspot.ca/

    Comment by wayne davidson — 18 May 2013 @ 3:28 PM

  370. The “This American Life” radio segment, from today, on climate change:

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/495/hot-in-my-backyard

    Does what radio does best: a sense of immediacy about what’s going on. It’s all good. Some things you might not expect. I note, from a linked text: “E&EI [Energy and Enterprise Initiative] maintains that the accountability of a ‘true cost’ comparison between competing fuels will drive innovation and economic growth.”

    Comment by Patrick — 18 May 2013 @ 4:10 PM

  371. In regard to the 259GT/yr estimate for the period 200-2009 from glaciers being about the same as the loss from ice sheets over that period: In 2012 the loss from the Greenland ice sheet _alone_ was 574 GT

    Reality, it seems, outstrips reports.

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 18 May 2013 @ 5:21 PM

  372. Just to be clear on the attribution in Killian’s post at 18 May 2013 at 6:10 AM — the boldface that somehow replaced an angle bracket flips the apparent attribution of the first bit. So, tiresomly, for the exercise:

    Killian originally wrote the line that appears misattributed to me, which should appear with a right angle bracket as the first character:

    >Deniers are basically claiming the missing piece or two

    And following that, I was the one who wrote:

    “Yep, it’s an old tactic: claiming the gray are, the “gaps” or “missing data” must be where their preferred proof or answer is hiding.”

    From there on, the boldface correctly got itself applied to the quoted text. Go figure. Just another thing to be wary of about the blog software.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 May 2013 @ 6:18 PM

  373. Re: previous comment:

    “In regard to the 259GT/yr estimate for the period 200-2009″
    should read “2003-2009″

    No correction will be left uncorrected …

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 18 May 2013 @ 7:34 PM

  374. Chuck Hughes says:
    19 May 2013 at 3:40 AM
    Okay, let me try and get out of this by saying in essence that…. prominent scientists like Gavin Schmidt, (maybe not Gavin personally) but SOMEBODY should be engaging “the public” in whatever forum is available in hopes of educating those who will listen.

    Legislation must be passed for progress to occur.Sandra Fluke took on Rush Limbaugh and Clear Channel and is winning. She faced withering criticism from the Right but Rush has very few sponsors left now. It is a winnable fight. Maybe FOX News is beyond hope but CNN isn’t. Joe Scarborough and his show “Morning Joe” isn’t.

    If people like Roy Spencer can get away with promoting Intelligent Design as a legitimate idea how can anyone expect the average person to wrap their heads around the concept of Climate Change? We need more people like Bill Nye out there. Brian Green, Peter Ward, Michio Kaku etc. There are several prominamt Conservatives like Andrew Sullivan who would give voice to some Climate Scientists as well.

    The point I’m trying to make is that we need a PR section in the scientific community engaging the public on a regular basis who have the ability to explain the mechanics of Climate science in a way the average person can understand. Whether it’s FOX News or the National Enquirer or the New York Times shouldn’t matter. You’re going to be wading into a political firestorm no matter what you do, even if you’re just talking amongst yourselves. The Climatic Research Unit email controversy proved that already.

    Incidentally, I wouldn’t walk up to Roy and call him a moron. I would never suggest name calling as a winning strategy for anything. Jim Carrey’s technique of utilizing humor and satire DID work. Most people don’t think of scientists as having a sense of humor but sometimes it goes a long way toward winning people over. Next time you debate Roy whip out a picture of Jesus riding a dinosaur and see if it doesn’t get a few laughs. I call it the Rubber Chicken of Intelligent Design.

    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 19 May 2013 @ 5:11 AM

  375. Chuck Hughes,

    I don’t doubt that you mean well, but let’s be clear: outreach to the public is a professional job, especially in the presence of powerful enemies. You’re not such a professional and neither am I, but at least Gavin has years of amateur experience behind his teeth.

    About ‘explaining the mechanics of climate science’ in a way that not only the average person can understand, but which is not wrong, takes years of study. I walked that road; not even to the end, and I am not an average person.

    …and about a picture of Jesus riding a dinosaur presented on prime-time US television, really? In the context of winning people over? Wow.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 19 May 2013 @ 9:12 AM

  376. > I wouldn’t walk up to Roy and call him a moron.

    You’re doing this backward. Notice how easy it is to be offensive, hiding behind a computer? Because you feel hidden and safe. But your computer message _does_ walk right up to other people and goes on doing it, forever.

    Were your offensive name-calling face-to-face and personal, it would be transient and ephemeral — done and gone when you stop — and you’d also know exactly what consequences ensued, and to whom.

    Whatever competence you have to discuss his climatology publications would be equally visible to whatever audience at whatever meeting.

    By contrast — imagine you’d popped into the pre-warmed chair between Stossel and Spencer and started your notion of appropriate public education.

    That audience would know what you think — plus however far your ideas got propagated — just as what you’ve typed online may get propagated.

    I hope you think hard about your approach to public education. You’re a school teacher, eh?

    Do you recall Adlai Stevenson’s take on winning elections?
    Do ya?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 May 2013 @ 10:53 AM

  377. Another fine opportunity has come to rejigger some models for sea level change:

    http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2013/05/atlantic-coast-warping-like-a-ma.html

    It’s starting to seem like science needs an infrastruture that takes all the archived papers and code and models, and when a new discovery like this would change the underlying base numbers — reruns the paper automagically and flags any likely change in the conclusions based on the new numbers.

    You can’t expect a group of scientists to reassemble to re-do everything — science grows like kudzu, greening up wherever it hits an unexploited area of stuff to dig into, not always going back to some original basis.

    But when the studies that led people off in interesting directions get reconsidered — that may change the assumptions used for a lot of followup work. Or, often, may not change them enough to change the conclusions.

    But new info about old work needs to ripple through an extended web of later work.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 May 2013 @ 1:52 PM

  378. Do you recall Adlai Stevenson’s take on winning elections?

    I’m not sure. This one?
    “I’m not an old, experienced hand at politics. But I am now seasoned enough to have learned that the hardest thing about any political campaign is how to win without proving that you are unworthy of winning.”

    Comment by Ambulator — 19 May 2013 @ 2:05 PM

  379. Sorry I butted in to the conversation. Obviously I have no business entering into this discussion. I do learn a lot by reading and I appreciate the uphill battle involved. Just trying to understand the situation as best I can. I never claimed to be a professional scientist or any type of authority on the subject. I am concerned as anyone would be and like anyone else I have my opinions about things. I wish you all the best in your endeavors here and abroad. I have nothing else to add and I’m not trying to hide behind a computer. I’m too old for that. Thanks for your input. Again my apologies.

    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 19 May 2013 @ 2:34 PM

  380. What we need is a week-long series on TV headlined by the President using the “Bully Pulpit” on all public channels with the assistance of the best thinkers in the world on the basic issues of the day, broadly defined as sustainability: Growth and exponents > the non-rational nature of classical and neoclassical economics > resource depletion and resource limits > degradation of the ecosphere > climate change > mitigation and adaptation > sustainable solutions with current knowledge and technology > what the world must look like in a 2C+ world > what the world would look like in a post-2C+ world returned to <300ppm.

    This would not countenance nor include a single moment of false equivalence.

    That is what we need, but will never get. So, while it would be great to get the attention of the president and for all scientists to realize that this time really is different and that it really would be great idea for pretty much all of them to become citizen scientists/activists, what we actually have is a vast majority of all politicians *and* scientists *and* economists *and* business people all promoting everything except sustainably designed communities except in name.

    Even here, technological, unsustainable solutions get far more airplay than truly sustainable solutions.

    Comment by Killian — 19 May 2013 @ 3:04 PM

  381. #374 Chuck Hughes (I wouldn’t walk up to Roy and call him a moron) survives the normal humiliation/condemnation of the Bore Hole. (Because his views are otherwise acceptable perhaps?)

    Comment by simon abingdon — 19 May 2013 @ 3:14 PM

  382. Hardly a surprise: more systemic approach equals more accurate results in better agreement with other data.

    3 part study reconstructs Greenland ice sheet mass budget since 1840 and presents a theory connecting surface meltwater with ice deformational flow

    “Paper III puts forth a theory* linking surface melting with ice flow dynamics. The two are by now too often examined in isolation. Our not so old science of glaciology, beginning in earnest in the late 1950s, can now begin unifying surface and ice dynamics processes at the ice sheet scale. In stark contrast to the messaging that the recent Nick et al modeling study produced, we may expect plenty more sea level contribution from Greenland than current models predict. The misreporting of otherwise good science refers to ice flow to the sea as “melt”. Ice deformational flow is a distinct process from melt. Yet, melt and ice deformational flow are in fact intertwined processes. Self-reinforcing amplifying feedbacks outnumbering damping feedbacks by a large margin (Cuffey and Patterson, 2010, chapter 14) ensure that given a climate warming perturbation, a.k.a. the Hockey Stick, we’ll see a stronger reponse of ice to climate than is currently encoded by models. More on that later.”

    Comment by Killian — 19 May 2013 @ 3:56 PM

  383. Latest issue of The Nation has an article on climate change.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 19 May 2013 @ 6:05 PM

  384. > Ice deformational flow is a distinct process from melt.
    > Yet, melt and ice deformational flow … amplifying feedbacks outnumber[]
    > damping feedbacks by a large margin

    Where do they calculate? How big is the change from previous models in what regards?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 May 2013 @ 6:42 PM

  385. I think there would be a lot less friction with regards to denialists questioning the legitimacy of climate science if the scientific community were to collectively present a viable economic response to the emission problem. Raising the cost of energy seems to be the central point of contention. We could use a new industrial revolution anyway, so why not tout molten salt reactors as the path forward? There is no question whether they will work on the scale of tens of terawatts, they can produce high quality process heat, and they’ll revolutionize the nuclear industry due to their inherent safety features and high efficiency.

    We could accomplish far more in less time with MSRs and $billions than we’ll ever accomplish with renewables and $trillions. It is a far better business plan with greatly reduced risk, and it’ll give people hope for the future. Why not push this so that we can overcome the political barriers that continue to impede its development?

    Consequently, the Thorium Energy Alliance is having their 5th annual conference in Chicago at the end of this month, so tune in to see the latest developments!

    Comment by Corey Barcus — 19 May 2013 @ 7:42 PM

  386. > viable economic

    Hard to think what you might or might not already know.

    What have you looked at so far?
    Have you read the public health journals?
    Searched Google Scholar, or asked your local librarian?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 May 2013 @ 9:04 PM

  387. Mr. Hank Roberts asks on the 19th of May 2013, at 6:42 PM:

    “Where do they calculate ?”

    I believe the reference is to Prof. Box’s three papers at meltfactor.org

    I have some quotes from the third earlier in this thread on the 17th of May, 2013 at 3:58 PM

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 19 May 2013 @ 9:21 PM

  388. Ambulator #378,

    I think Hank Roberts may be referring to Adlai Stevenson’s responding “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!” when a woman called out to him “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” during one of his presidential campaigns.

    I believe this exchange was never actually confirmed.

    Comment by ozajh — 19 May 2013 @ 10:53 PM

  389. Hank R said, “science grows like kudzu, greening up wherever it hits an unexploited area of stuff to dig into,”

    It’s said that kudzu is best fertilized with motor oil to reduce friction as it grows. My only quibble is that it doesn’t much matter if the space is already exploited or not. Kudzu eats trees.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 19 May 2013 @ 11:05 PM

  390. Simon #381,

    Chuck Hughes, unlike some, does not remotely deserve the borehole. He doesn’t troll, he doesn’t put his ego before the conversation, he’s just trying to learn, the hard way. That’s what Real Climate is for.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 19 May 2013 @ 11:37 PM

  391. > why not tout molten salt

    Took about 5 minutes to find some of the uncertainties, from replacement due to fast neutron damage, to the separate chemical plant they have to build next door to filter the liquid metal coolant. Don’t go there yet, it isn’t there yet.

    > why not tout
    They pay professional PR companies to do that.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 May 2013 @ 11:52 PM

  392. It was stunning to find William Happer doing an article tour May 17:

    http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000169287&play=1

    I think this is babel in the biblical sense. It shows how much de-confusing is left to do.

    From DeSmogBlog 2012-3-20: http://www.desmogblog.com/gwpf-hockey-stick-curve

    I got this link: (GWPF) Briefing Paper No3 “The Truth About Greenhouse Gases”

    Happer says:

    “Both the United States Navy (for submariners) and NASA (for astronauts) have performed extensive studies of human tolerance to CO2. As a result of these studies, the Navy recommends an upper limit of about 8000 ppm for cruises of ninety days, and NASA recommends an upper limit of 5000 ppm for missions of one thousand days, both assuming a total pressure of one atmosphere. Higher levels are acceptable for missions of only a few days. We conclude that atmospheric CO2 levels should be above about 150ppm to avoid harming green plants and below about 5000 ppm to avoid harming people. That is a big range, and our atmosphere is much closer to the lower end than the upper end. We were not that far from CO2 anorexia when massive burning of fossil fuels began. At the current rate of burning fossil fuels, we are adding about 2 ppm of CO2 per year to the atmosphere, so getting from our current level to 1000 ppm would take about 300 years—and 1000 ppm is still less than what most plants would prefer, and much less than either the NASA or the Navy limit. …

    “In our efforts to conserve the beautiful planet that is our home, we should not fixate on CO2. …And it is high time that we assess great expanses of windmills and solar-panels in the previously unspoiled open spaces of the world with the same objectiveness that we apply to other human perturbations of nature.”

    I would say, in reply, that it is high time we assess the damage and costs of unseen human perturbations of nature with the same objectiveness that we apply to the obvious. Big and high-profile least-harmful energy generation is alright with me. It’s a result of rationality and purpose, and a reminder of same. It’s a start on something new in more ways than one.

    The first excerpt above shows the kind of thinking that underlies the big CO2 numbers that Happer quips are harmless.

    What stunned me most was that I had been slogging through a little raypierre Part I (A Saturated Gassy Argument 26 June ’07) to get an idea of the aptness, and not, of the greenhouse (“single pane of glass”) image to the actual physics of heat energy and atmospheric CO2–when I came upon William Happer (video above) seeming to suggest literal glass greenhouses with added CO2 as the template for a one-way experiment with the whole “beautiful planet” (his words, above).

    This was stunning, from a physicist. He seems to be (by my nose) the frontispiece for a gross effort to belittle, discredit and dismantle state-of-the art climate science, practicing climate scientists, the IPCC, and the leadership of a number of scientific societies.

    He states a “moral” cause. It seems that because he is so convinced of the rightness of his cause, he bathes continually in the first fallacy of ethics: namely, that the end justifies the means.

    Comment by Patrick — 20 May 2013 @ 2:01 AM

  393. “E&EI [Energy and Enterprise Initiative] maintains that the accountability of a ‘true cost’ comparison between competing fuels will drive innovation and economic growth.”

    I mentioned this @ 370, but I didn’t link it. Here’s the link:

    http://energyandenterprise.com/our-leaders/

    I’m linking it because: if some nominally conservative markets-oriented network or other wants to interview a leader who doesn’t need to disparage climate science–now they have no excuse.

    Comment by Patrick — 20 May 2013 @ 2:58 AM

  394. Okay, this is more like what I was hoping for and apparently it’s already happening. I thought this might be worth sharing:

    “A Troubling Trend
    In recent years, however, understanding of science and respect for its role in decision making have declined. An excessively partisan political climate and an increasingly noisy media landscape have combined to produce an environment in which science is easily drowned out by misinformation or manipulated for the benefit of private interests.

    And this couldn’t be happening at a worse time. Our leaders are grappling with some of the most complex and daunting problems in our history: stemming the tide of global warming, finding sustainable ways to feed, power and transport ourselves, reducing the threat of catastrophic war. We cannot hope to solve these problems without the aid of rigorous, independent science.”

    “Restoring Science’s Role
    In response to these challenges, the Union of Concerned Scientists has launched a new intiative: the Center for Science and Democracy. The Center is dedicated to strengthening the essential role of science, evidence-based knowledge, and constructive debate in the U.S. policymaking process, using three core strategies:

    Restoring public confidence in, and support for, the use of independent science in public policy making;
    Helping decision makers, citizens and journalists distinguish evidence-based information from propaganda.

    Working with scientists to help them become more effective communicators and policy contributors.”

    http://www.ucsusa.org/center-for-science-and-democracy/why-a-center-for-science-and-democracy.html

    Comment by Chuck Hughes — 20 May 2013 @ 3:47 AM

  395. @Chuck 379

    You have nothing to apologize for – we all share your frustration, but the PR battle has little to do with facts, and almost everything to do with money, presentation and the psychology of belief, faith and denial. These are hard, and waving facts has little effect – brains set like concrete and won’t adapt unless their beliefs result in obvious and severe personal consequences and pain, and even then they can invent fantastic conspiracies to rationalize anything.

    Would Inhofe change his belief if a tornado dropped his house in Kansas? – I don’t think so. The Tea Party and him have too much invested in their ‘hoax’ faith, and have dug a hole so deep that they can only keep digging until the sides collapse. They made a grave mistake 10 years ago when they adopted this position of denial instead of embracing and adapting. They are approaching a schism in their Matrix, and it may implode this or next year when reality exposes their denial beyond their ability to spin. There are signs of this happening in the party as the rate of climate change starts to overtake generational ‘churn’.

    Best way is to reach new humans and educate them before motivated ideology sets in, and let the dinosaurs die out, but there isn’t much time left for this organic solution. Policies have to change within this decade.

    Sometimes I just wish Greenland would just hurry up and slide into the sea and end the stupidity, but that’s not going to happen. After 400ppm, the next myriennial event will be the disappearance of summer Arctic sea ice – this may wake some up, but the evidence seems to be that it’ll just cause a ‘coldrush’ – the vultures are already gathering.

    So all we have is grass-roots social media, blogs, word of mouth, schools and universities and a few enlightened media organizations against massively powerful special interests. Let’s hope education, communication and democracy will triumph.

    Comment by Andy Lee Robinson — 20 May 2013 @ 7:19 AM

  396. Took about 5 minutes to find some of the uncertainties, from replacement due to fast neutron damage, to the separate chemical plant they have to build next door to filter the liquid metal coolant.

    Molten salt is the coolant in a molten salt reactor. There is no liquid metal that I can think of. Maybe you should spend more than five minutes learning about this.

    Comment by Greg Simpson — 20 May 2013 @ 10:03 AM

  397. Chuck, speaking as another old guy, don’t leave, organize.

    You likely have heard scientists in person (in the halls at meetings, at home in conversation) — often they are just as blunt as you want to be. I’m not arguing against what you think, I’m arguing for choosing the tactic: finding whatever in common we can find with people who we in some ways disagree with. Low-hanging fruit. Choices that make sense: less waste, less damage, recovering from our mistakes instead of making them worse.

    Carrying a picture that might make people laugh and then think instead of get offended and then angry. This: https://lh3.ggpht.com/-MDjYFA0GVxI/UXYFaou7tiI/AAAAAAAAGU4/1YOm2NPS8B8/s1600/earthday.jpg

    Or this one: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/03/18/2115988/joel-pett-the-cartoon-seen-round.html

    That “first appeared in USA Today in December of 2009, on the Monday before the Copenhagen climate change conference.”

    You can show that to anybody (except maybe the coal company owners) and have them nod and say, well, yeah ….

    UCSUSA does a good job, glad you found that.

    See also: http://www.climaterapidresponse.org/
    “… a service to provide accurate information on climate science in response to media and government queries, by matching members of the media and government with questions, to the working climate scientists best able to answer.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 May 2013 @ 10:03 AM

  398. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/may/19/daniel-dennett-intuition-pumps-thinking-extract

    Brief excerpt follows; but take the link, it’s worth reading in full

    —————-excerpt————–

    “… Just how charitable are you supposed to be when criticising the views of an opponent? …. uncharitable interpretation … gives you an easy target to attack.

    But such easy targets are typically irrelevant to the real issues at stake and simply waste everybody’s time and patience, even if they give amusement to your supporters. The best antidote I know for this tendency to caricature one’s opponent is a list of rules promulgated many years ago by social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport.

    How to compose a successful critical commentary:

    1. Attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your target says: “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

    2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

    3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.

    4. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

    One immediate effect of following these rules is that your targets will be a receptive audience for your criticism: you have already shown that you understand their positions as well as they do, and have demonstrated good judgment (you agree with them on some important matters and have even been persuaded by something they said). Following Rapoport’s rules is always, for me, something of a struggle …. ”

    ———end excerpt————–

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 May 2013 @ 10:51 AM

  399. > UCSUSA does a good job, glad you found that.

    Don’t forget the NCSE. They are into climate too nowadays, and they’re good. One would do wise to consider their advice on debates, but which would actually apply to participation in any forum where there is no fair and effective moderation.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 20 May 2013 @ 2:05 PM

  400. An interesting contrast — particularly for those who want to wait until “scientists” are ready to recommend policy:

    Consider the research scientists’ public health perspective on antibiotic use (which does not fit in any way the business approach to making and selling antibiotics for wholesale use as fruit tree sprays, hog and cattle feed, and widespread distribution in ton lots).

    It took about 60 years for the scientists to reach the point of making these recommendations.

    Can you say “too late?”

    Can you say it again?

    http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1215093

    “The collapse of the antibiotic research-and-development pipeline is the result of both economic and regulatory barriers. The solution is better alignment of economic and regulatory approaches to antibiotic development….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 May 2013 @ 4:21 PM

  401. 385 Corey Barcus said: I think there would be a lot less friction with regards to denialists questioning the legitimacy of climate science if the scientific community were to collectively present a viable economic response to the emission problem.

    Asking scientists to be more active about climate science is one thing, asking them to be economists is absurd (not that some couldn’t or wouldn’t, but expecting them to makes no sense.)

    We could use a new industrial revolution anyway

    We need the exact opposite of an industrial revolution. Sustainable systems are the result of creating processes that do not use up resources rather than simplistically labeling increased nominal efficiency as a solution.

    so why not tout molten salt reactors as the path forward?

    Because they are no more sustainable than any other kind of reactor, more more to the point here at RealClimate, discussion of nuclear energy is considered off-topic and is not allowed.

    This old essay answers all your questions. Massively distributed vs. Utility-Scale electricity

    Comment by Killian — 20 May 2013 @ 4:58 PM

  402. I had previously commented on Sistla et al. study of carbon store in moist acidic tussock ecosystem in Alaska, showing stablity, for now

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/nature12129.html

    and the Vonk et al. study showing high lability of dissolved inorganic carbon leached from yedoma in the Kolyma peninsula in Siberia:

    http://www.thepolarisproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Vonk_2013.pdf

    I see now another study from the Amazon, showing that a almost all the lignin and lignin phenols sequestered and transported by the Amazon river is degraded in two to three weeks.

    DOI: 10.1038/NGEO1817

    “We estimate that approximately 80 Tg C of lignin is fixed in the Amazonian terrestrial biosphere annually … we estimate that roughly 40% of this lignin is degraded into smaller components in soils, 55% is degraded into smaller components within the river continuum, and the remaining 5% of intact macromolecules are either stored within the river continuum or delivered to the ocean (Fig. 3). We propose that the breakdown of terrestrially derived macromolecules (including lignin, celluloses and hemicelluloses) fuels the small rapidly cycling organic matter pool described as the primary driver for evasive CO2 gas fluxes in the Amazon. The collective results from this study present strong evidence of the biodegradability of terrestrially derived macromolecules in the aquatic setting …”

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 20 May 2013 @ 7:21 PM

  403. And how could I miss Byrd Institute denizen Leonid Polyak in Quaternary Science Reviews:

    “Quaternary history of sea ice in the western Arctic Ocean based on foraminifera”

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.quascirev.2012.12.018

    (quasisci ?!)

    which is a fascinating (if you like stratigraphy) looking at the transition to 100Kyr glaciation cycle from the point of view of forams.

    A climate takeaway is

    “The latest of these events signified a complete turnover of foraminiferal fauna as well as lithological proxies at the Early-Middle Pleistocene boundary, ca 0.8 Ma, indicating the establishment of mostly perennial sea ice. This change happened at the background of a major climatic shift involving the growth of Northern Hemisphere ice sheets paced at 100-ka cycles …”

    “The subsequent evolution of foraminiferal assemblages (AZ1) indicates further increase in sea-ice coverage …Overall, AZ1 indicates that perennial sea ice was a norm during the “Glacial” Pleistocene with some degree of ice retreat occurring during major interglacial intervals. This paleoclimatic setting highlights the anomalous pattern of the current shrinkage of Arctic sea-ice cover, especially pronounced in the western Arctic (e.g., Stroeve et al., 2011) … The Early Pleistocene environments, such as explored by this study, potentially provide a better paleoclimatic analog for evaluating the modern Arctic change.”

    Very nice.

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 20 May 2013 @ 10:47 PM

  404. #397–”…social psychologist and game theorist Anatol Rapoport…”

    If I may be permitted an OT digression, this understates the breadth and depth of his intellect. See:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatol_Rapoport

    But I remember him as a really lovely person. I was a friend his son, a composer, and had the pleasure of visiting the Wychwood Park house a couple of time. Music and chess were family passions.

    The advice Hank quotes seems at once characteristic in its simplicity, generosity of spirit, and likely effectiveness–and perhaps not so easy for many of us to implement, though well worth the effort of trying.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 20 May 2013 @ 11:07 PM

  405. I thought I’d never live to see the day: a United States Senator told the truth about climate science denial, right there on the senate floor. This speech should be front page news. I’m going to send a copy of it to my representatives. Time to wake up indeed.

    Comment by Chris Korda — 21 May 2013 @ 1:31 AM

  406. Just a heads up. Ira Glass will be covering Climate Change on This American Life this week: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/495/hot-in-my-backyard It could be an interesting program.

    Comment by tokodave — 21 May 2013 @ 7:56 AM

  407. I see a lot about a warming climate reducing wind shear and therefore tornado probabilities (possibly). I have seen nothing on Rossby waves which would (qualitatively) seem to increase the probabilities as they can increase the cold dry polar air coming south and at the same time direct the jet stream in the E/NE direction that increases wind shear.

    scholar.google.com and the IPCC consequences report are no help. Any theory/data out there on this point?

    Comment by jgnfld — 21 May 2013 @ 7:57 AM

  408. re: 391, Patrick
    RE Happer (or others you may encounter in the press):
    DeSmogBlog keeps a convenient database, see the Happer entry</a. You mgi8ht alkso want to read about him in the Daily Princetonian. One paragraph is a good start.

    From 2006 onward, Happer has been the Chairman of the George Marshall Institute (GMI), the focus of Merchants of Doubt.

    GMI was (with Competitive Enterprise Institute plus Fred Singer/SEPP) the organizing force behind the attack on the hockey stick. There is much evidence that the May 11 2005 talk for GMI+CEI (transcript later annotated) effectively was the “blueprint” for the 2006 Wegman Report, given to Wegman by Joe Barton(R-TX) staffer Peter Spencer in September 2005.

    As it happens, the “pro bono” Wegman Report wasn’t: Wegman and Said claimed credit for it as work for Federal grants. See FOIA Facts 1 and FOIA Facts 2.

    So, when Happer iwrites about climate, there is no connection with his research in atomic physics at Princeton (which physicists I know say is good), but entirely with his role as Chairman of GMI, although oddly the WSJ doesn’t mention that fact.

    Comment by John Mashey — 21 May 2013 @ 11:00 AM

  409. #404–Senator Whitehouse has a considerable history of speaking truth to the senate on this issue; I believe you can find some video of past addresses.

    Clearly, most of ‘em aren’t listening to him. :-(

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 May 2013 @ 12:36 PM

  410. Joe Romm reviews the science on “tornadoes, extreme weather and climate change” here:

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/05/21/2040221/tornadoes-extreme-weather-and-climate-change-revisited

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 May 2013 @ 1:24 PM

  411. Killian wrote: “We need the exact opposite of an industrial revolution. Sustainable systems are the result of creating processes that do not use up resources rather than simplistically labeling increased nominal efficiency as a solution.”

    Um, how is developing, building and deploying the technologies needed to implement those sustainable systems (e.g. “massively distributed” electricity generation) NOT a new industrial revolution?

    The “old essay” you linked to talks about creating a “localized, household-based renewable infrastructure” and building out “the new backbone” for this infrastructure, as well as “all the windmills, heat pumps, solar panels, retrofitting materials for homes/apartments/businesses, etc” that will be needed.

    That sure sounds like a new industrial revolution to me.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 May 2013 @ 1:35 PM

  412. Has anyone any comments on the letter Energy budget constraints on climate response in Nature Geoscience by Otto et. al.? They say

    The energy budget of the most recent decade does, however, indicate a lower range of values for the more policy-relevant transient climate response (the temperature increase at the point of doubling of the atmospheric CO2 concentration following a linear ramp of increasing greenhouse gas forcing) than the range obtained by either analysing the energy budget of earlier decades or current climate model simulations.

    How does this fit with Foster and Ramsdorf’s Global temperature evolution 1979–2010?

    Otto et.al. seem to maintain that there has been a slowing of global temperature rise. Foster and Ramsdorf seem to tell a different story.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 21 May 2013 @ 2:15 PM

  413. jgnfid, would “Rossby wave … air coming south” in your terms show on a picture as the jet stream going deeper south? If so NOAA had something quite recently on tornado frequency/size/ and year to year variability mentioning that.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 May 2013 @ 4:46 PM

  414. Humid air and the Jet Stream help to fuel more intense thunderstorms/tornadoes http://climatestate.com/2013/05/21/humid-air-and-the-jet-stream-help-to-fuel-more-intense-thunderstormstornadoes/

    A quick collection of some findings …

    Comment by prokaryotes — 21 May 2013 @ 6:26 PM

  415. Geoff Beacon @411 — Stick with Foster and Ramsdorf. Grant Foster is a most highly capable statistician.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 21 May 2013 @ 7:48 PM

  416. Geoff Bacon #411: the Foster & Rahmstorf question is a good one.

    You may want to read this (h/t SkS/Dana N).

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 21 May 2013 @ 11:21 PM

  417. I think I may have asked this before: Do any of the long range West Antarctic Ice Sheet/ice shelf (WAIS) models include the effect of sea level rise(SLR) from Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) and other sources ? For example:

    Last year Greenland shed about a millimeter and a half of SLR. If it does that for a hundred years 15cm(6″). If it goes twice as fast, that’s a foot. Has anyone calculated what a foot increase in sea level stand will do to WAIS all by itself ? Especially since Mitrovica shows that SLR from GRIS will exhibit especially around Antarctica. Beyond the rather trivial observation that stable grounding lines will move inland by 1.1 foot/tan(phi) where phi is the slope of the bed, (and much further if the bed slope is retrograde, as Weertman showed long ago) is there more to be considered, perhaps a more sophisticated treatment exists ?

    Hellmer(2012) doi:10.1038/nature11064

    does not seem to do so, but given the some other limitations of their calculations, I do not find that surprising.

    “Owing to our assumption of fixed ice-shelf thicknesses, we cannot accurately predict basal mass losses for long periods of high melting. However, if we assume that grounding lines retreat into deeper basins, our melt rates have to be considered as lower bounds.”

    I see a notice of CLIVAR workshop that supposedly occurred in February and might be relevant, but, alas, no trace of the presentations.

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 21 May 2013 @ 11:56 PM

  418. Here are two different data images of the 300 mb Jet Stream at noon on the 20th of May about three hours before the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma:

    http://virga.sfsu.edu/pub/jetstream/jetstream/big/1305/13052012_jetstream_anal.gif

    http://virga.sfsu.edu/pub/jetstream/jetsat/www/1305/13052012_jetsat_www.gif

    You couldn’t get a more definitive dip from an ice-cream scoop.

    These are archived as “Jet Stream Analyses” and “Composite Analyses (with IR Satellite Images)” here:

    http://squall.sfsu.edu/crws/archive/jetstream_archive.html

    You can view them built into animated loops here:

    http://squall.sfsu.edu/scripts/namjetstream_model.html

    http://squall.sfsu.edu/scripts/namjetsat_model.html

    Loops for dates more than a week prior are in the archive.

    Comment by Patrick — 22 May 2013 @ 1:11 AM

  419. I just realize that the formula i gave comes from the formula for coastline migration inland for liquid water scaled by 1.1, which cannot be correct. The amount of migration inland of grounding line of marine terminating ice must also depend on the ice surface slope in addition to the ice bed slope, so a better formula might be 1.1 foot/(0.1*tan(phi)+tan(theta)) for (positive) ice surface slope theta and (positive) bed slope phi and a 1 foot rise in sea level. Negative slopes lead to instabilities a la Weertman. And a bunch of other things come into play like circumpolar deep water, which others have dealt with, such as Jacobs and Sergienko. I realize I ought consult Schoof and refinements, but my question remains: Is there a good, treatment of SLR effect on WAIS ? Is there nothing more to it than static stability criterion governing the grounding line ?

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 22 May 2013 @ 1:31 AM

  420. Vehicle emissions (internal combustion engine/diesel) trigger change of high-density lipoprotein (HDL/”good”) cholesterol to low-density lipoprotein (LDL/”bad”) cholesterol and activate other factors of oxidation and inflammation, leading to hardening of the arteries.

    http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/turning-jekyll-into-hyde-breathing-246026.aspx

    “This is the first study showing that air pollutants promote the development of dysfunctional, pro-oxidative HDL cholesterol and the activation of an internal oxidation pathway, which may be one of the mechanisms in how air pollution can exacerbate clogged arteries that lead to heart disease and stroke…”

    For abstract, see link to online edition in article.

    The study builds on a previous one: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/ucla-study-reports-how-air-pollution-42993.aspx

    For about the last 100 comments on this thread I have been thinking about Sir Bob Watson’s remark at the 2012 AGU Fall Meeting: Every challenge we face is multidisciplinary.

    Comment by Patrick — 22 May 2013 @ 2:06 AM

  421. 410 SecularAnimist says: Killian wrote: “We need the exact opposite of an industrial revolution. Sustainable systems are the result of creating processes that do not use up resources rather than simplistically labeling increased nominal efficiency as a solution.”

    Um, how is developing, building and deploying the technologies needed to implement those sustainable systems (e.g. “massively distributed” electricity generation) NOT a new industrial revolution?… technologies

    You didn’t read quite carefully enough. First, we need no new technologies to achieve a sustainable global system. If you had gone through Tainter’s work, which I have repeatedly mentioned and linked to, you would understand the error of depending on continually developing more technology to solve problems created by new technology. (I use technology here literally and as a proxy for complexity.)

    Second, you appear to have completely missed what resource base I suggested for this distributed system of community-scale and home micro-scale energy deployment. It does not involve new resources. I leave it to you to go find.

    Third, the key to limiting consumption of resource lies in simply not using them. To that end, reducing consumption would make getting to an all-”renewables” a very easy thing to do. It means living much more simply, though no less comfortably. If we only need to meet 1/10th of current demand, that is really quite easy and would allow us to transition in a very short period of time.

    The problem is people want to maintain current, massively unsustainable consumption of resources but paint it green with renewables. That is a recipe for slightly slower collapse, and is a massive societal FAIL if we continue to choose it. The resources simply are not there.

    The “old essay” you linked to

    Why quotes? Is it not an old essay? Are you trying to make a pejorative point? If so, just make it.

    talks about creating a “localized, household-based renewable infrastructure” and building out “the new backbone” for this infrastructure, as well as “all the windmills, heat pumps, solar panels, retrofitting materials for homes/apartments/businesses, etc” that will be needed.

    That sure sounds like a new industrial revolution to me.

    No. It would require far less resources than we use now because the energy requirements overall would be much smaller than current use. It’s a diminishing use of resources over a transition period, not a ramping up or maintenance of consumption levels. And, it is all existing technology. No new R&D, no increase in resource use, no increase in energy use. A sort of anti-industrial revolution. Very much a DIY process.

    Importantly, the most interesting aspect of that plan would be revolutionary: localization of energy supplies and localization of the building and maintenance of them, helping to ramp up localization efforts while offering a direct stimulus into every local economy in the nation – the exact opposite of the supposed TARP and stimulus programs of the past five years. Add int he community-building involved in communities building out and/or co-operatively owning and running their own local utilities… this is a powerful plan of action that would move us significantly toward sustainable energy systems and sustainable community design.

    Comment by Killian — 22 May 2013 @ 3:28 AM

  422. I have reformatted the temperature series on my web site in a much more readable format. Sorry for the earlier version. I used Excel’s automated conversion to HTML, which is for the birds. Then I ran into a couple of months where I couldn’t ftp to my web site thanks to Yahoo going through corporate changes, or some damn thing. The URL is: http://bartonpaullevenson.com/Mean%20Annual%20Global%20Temperature%20Anomalies.html

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 22 May 2013 @ 9:34 AM

  423. Does anybody know what happened to Tamino? His site is silent for over a month now, with comments disabled.
    Thanks,

    Comment by toxymoron — 22 May 2013 @ 10:13 AM

  424. Sidd #416, 418

    The “tipping point” papers by Kriegler et al 2009 & Levermann et al 2011 show a positive feedback between SLR from Greenland and WAIS. No references though.

    Alley et al (2007) “Effect of Sedimentation on Ice-Sheet Grounding-Line Stability”, Science 315 finds that “Sedimentation filling space beneath ice shelves helps to stabilize ice sheets against grounding-line retreat in response to a rise in relative sea level of at least several meters.”

    Related is the recent paper by Gomez et al (2012) that simulates ice sheet mass loss and finds that “the sea level fall at the grounding line associated with a retreating ice sheet acts to slow the retreat”. Of course, that is due to SLR from the very same ice sheet.

    Comment by perwis — 22 May 2013 @ 10:16 AM

  425. > you appear to have completely missed …
    > I leave it to you to go find.

    I love the smell of blog science in the morning.
    The self-esteem, it almost glows, there’s so much of it.

    Science — where they cite sources, publish their work, and get it appropriately battered and beaten up in the journals — is so uncertain by comparison.

    Killian may be entirely correct about everything.
    But how could you tell?

    Publish. Build a reputation. Do science with it.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 May 2013 @ 10:36 AM

  426. Killian wrote: “To that end, reducing consumption would make getting to an all-’renewables’ a very easy thing to do … If we only need to meet 1/10th of current demand, that is really quite easy and would allow us to transition in a very short period of time.”

    I’m not sure who you are arguing with.

    I have repeatedly pointed out that, according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, “more than half (58%) of the total energy produced in the US is wasted due to inefficiencies, such as waste heat from power plants, vehicles, and light bulbs.”

    So nearly 60 percent of the USA’s primary energy consumption actually delivers NO VALUE WHATSOEVER to end-users. It is just outright WASTED. Simply eliminating that pointless, useless waste of energy could reduce “energy consumption” without requiring ANY reduction in the amount of energy that consumers actually put to use.

    Just for one example, I have read an estimate that simply capturing the waste heat that is uselessly vented from industrial smokestacks and using it for onsite co-generation could produce more electricity than all the nuclear power plants in the country — from energy that is currently wasted.

    Certainly there is plenty of “low-hanging fruit” when it comes to eliminating outright waste and drastically increasing the efficiency with which we use the energy that we really do use.

    And in many cases, what is needed to achieve those results is new technology — replacing the wasteful “power plants, vehicles and light bulbs” that the LLNL mentions with new and better technology that delivers the same actual utility to consumers, but with a tiny fraction of the resource consumption.

    Killian wrote: “The problem is people want to maintain current, massively unsustainable consumption of resources but paint it green with renewables.”

    Again, I’m not sure which “people” you are referring to, but that is certainly not something that I “want” nor have I advocated any such thing.

    Moreover, “renewables” are, in fact, “greener” than fossil fuels, and they drastically reduce the amount of “resources” that must be “consumed” to provide any given amount of energy to end-users.

    As the LLNL notes, the overwhelming majority of the USA’s energy today comes from fossil fuels — “petroleum (37%), natural gas (25%), and coal (21%).” I don’t see how it can be argued that replacing those fossil fuels with technologies that completely eliminate ALL need to extract, refine, distribute and burn fuel and instead harvest free energy from the sun and wind is a bad thing.

    And again, consumers don’t “want” to “consume resources”. They want the goods and services that “resources” provide. And those goods and services can and must be provided with a fraction of the “resource consumption” that currently goes into them.

    I wrote: “That sure sounds like a new industrial revolution to me.”

    Killian replied: “No. It would require far less resources than we use now …”

    And how is that NOT a “new industrial revolution”?

    That’s the WHOLE POINT of what I am calling a “new industrial revolution” — replacing the essentially 19th century energy technology that is dominant today, with new technology that uses VASTLY less resources to provide the energy (and goods and services) that we actually consume, that is based on harvesting endless supplies of free energy rather than burning a dwindling, limited supply of fuel, that enables us to use that energy with VASTLY greater efficiency, and emits ZERO POLLUTION while doing so.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 22 May 2013 @ 10:46 AM

  427. The proposal of the Energy and Enterprise Initiative (at minute 36:15 of the audio posted @405 by tokodave) is not too terribly different from the proposal of James Hansen, stated by him in his acceptance of the Ridenhour Courage Prize, which is at minute 2:30 of this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gt3D1aE4Sug

    (with transcript) http://www.ridenhour.org/prizes_courage_2013.html

    The Energy and Enterprise Initiative is trying to create a conservative coalition for climate change action.
    The two proposals are fundamentally similar, to my mind. Yes there are obvious differences in the suggested
    ‘offsets’ phases of the proposals.

    Comment by Patrick — 22 May 2013 @ 12:14 PM

  428. Mr. Perwis: Thanks for the references. Alley(2007) had completely slipped my mind, but on rereading, it clears up the questions I had.

    “Penck’s hypothesis that Northern Hemisphere ice-sheet melting drove Antarctic ice-sheet retreat at the end of the ice age (4) may be accurate [also see (30)], with the delay in Antarctic retreat after the onset of sea-level rise being linked to sedimentary dynamics. Although our results indicate that sea-level changes of a few meters are unlikely to substantially affect ice-sheet behavior, 100-m changes should have considerable effects.However, sea level may exert the primary control on the ice sheet only if there is multimillennial stability in the other variables that affect icesheets more quickly, such as water temperature under ice shelves. Because oceanic temperature probably changed with the deglaciation, perhaps linked to the return of North Atlantic Deep Water to the Southern Ocean (31), we consider it possible that ice-shelf changes contributed to or even dominated grounding-line retreat in some sectors of the ice sheet. Regardless, our results show that synchronous behavior of ice sheets with active sedimentary systems on millennial time scales is unlikely to indicate ice-sheet teleconnections via sea level and instead probably indicates common climatic forcing, which demonstrably can have very large and rapid effects on ice sheets.”

    from Alley et al. (2007)
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1138396

    Comment by sidd — 22 May 2013 @ 3:11 PM

  429. The theory of positive feedback for SLR is intriguing. Not being an expert, this is my understanding of the situation:

    An old theory (Peck 1928) of the deglaciation is that sea level rise from the melting of the northern hemisphere ice sheets in turn cause retreat of the Antarctic ice sheets.

    This theory seemed to be vindicated by data showing that the timing between the northern-driven SLR were not simultaneously (cf. Alley et al 2007).

    However, newer data (Weber et al 2011 in Science vol. 334) indicated that actually there was a simultaneous timing of ice sheet retreat from Northern hemisphere and Antarctica!

    Weber et al (2011) argues that their data “support teleconnections involving sea-level forcing from Northern Hemisphere ice sheets”.

    Finally, Michael E. Weber has presented a new study of ocean cores (e.g., at EGU but not yet published), that shows a very nice correlation between early deglaciation meltwater pulses and Antarctic ice-bergs.

    I don’t know the implications of this, but it could also perhaps indicate an influence of a SLR feedback? This would be very important for ice sheet models and projections of future sea level rise.

    Comment by perwis — 22 May 2013 @ 4:06 PM

  430. #422–Yes, I’ve been wondering about that, too. Hope everything’s OK–or better, that there’s a fabulous project that has been taking up his time.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 22 May 2013 @ 4:17 PM

  431. 422 and 429. Add me to the list. Tamino’s site has always been one of my go to sites!

    Comment by Tokodave — 22 May 2013 @ 5:38 PM

  432. Could someone explain to me the current media meme “Global warming decreases wind shear”, in regards to tornado genesis.

    I can read a “may”, 2011 from CP:
    Dr. Kevin Trenberth in an email today, but you need “a wind shear environment that promotes rotation.” Global warming may decrease the wind shear and that may counterbalance the impact on tornado generation from the increase in thunderstorm intensity. http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/05/21/2040221/tornadoes-extreme-weather-and-climate-change-revisited/

    But the media today
    “Climate change increases the available energy, but reduces the wind shear..” http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/05/22/the-real-climate-change-lesson-from-the-oklahoma-tornado.html

    Harold Brooks, National Severe Storms Laboratory:
    “Trapp et al. suggest that the number of days during which meteorological conditions are favorable for severe storms may increase during latter decades of the 21st century, primarily due to increased instability, though they indicate that the projected decreases in vertical wind shear may oppose thermodynamic destabilization.

    NOAA is doing some new work on this, but Brian Soden indicated to me that ~2/3 of the CMIP runs showed an increase in CAPE and a decrease in shear over the US.v”

    Yet, only now people start to account for the Jet Stream modulation

    James B. Elsner, an atmospheric scientist at Florida State University:
    Climate change increases the available energy for tornadoes through a warmer and moister atmosphere. Wind shear decreases in the global mean, but this might be irrelevant locally when the jet stream dives southward like it did last weekend across the Plains.

    I believe there is evidence that the strongest tornadoes are getting stronger. They are certainly getting longer and wider.” http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/22/seeking-clarity-on-terrible-tornadoes-in-a-changing-climate/

    Comment by prokaryotes — 22 May 2013 @ 6:36 PM

  433. Hank Roberts: I love the smell of blog science in the morning. The self-esteem, it almost glows, there’s so much of it.

    The ad hominem is the province of a weak and beaten mind, as is sarcasm when used to deflect. Sarcasm can be quite clever, but is not here. It’s insipid.

    Science — where they cite sources, publish their work, and get it appropriately battered and beaten up in the journals — is so uncertain by comparison.

    First, sources are cited. Second, you need a scientific study to tell you reducing consumption is necessary? That community-based energy generation is not only possible, but a proven approach? (See Germany, e.g.) That DIY using recycled materials is more efficient and more sustainable than building out new utility-scale and utility-owned power generation? You need a scientific study to explain how a DIY 1kW wind generator works? Or how a bio-digester works? Or a ground/water/air source heat pump works? Or how passive solar design works? You need a scientific study showing the economic benefit of direct stimunlation of $500,000,000 into the economies of all communities rather than given to banks to shut up in the vault or utility companies that will keep the investment and then ask us to pay for it, too, at an annual rate of cost increases of over 6%? Etc.?

    Killian may be entirely correct about everything. But how could you tell?

    By reading without bias so you understand what you have read and responding to the salient points raised instead of engaging in ad hominem attacks.

    Publish. Build a reputation. Do science with it.

    As if all change occurs because of a science journal. Illogical. Also illogical in that what I wrote in that essay falls into the category of policy, not scientific inquiry. Why would anybody need to see it published in a science journal? Public policy isn’t done in science journals.

    It’s unfortunate RealClimate allows you and others to very consistently engage in ad hominem attacks. They belong in the Bore Hole.

    “The first step in his strategy is to isolate and marginalize the radicals. They’re the ones who see the inherent structural problems that need remedying if indeed a particular change is to occur. To isolate them, PR firms will try to create a perception in the public mind that people advocating fundamental solutions are terrorists, extremists, fearmongers, outsiders, communists, or whatever.”–John Stauber

    “A truth’s initial commotion is directly proportional to how deeply the lie was believed. When a well-packaged web of lies has been sold gradually to the masses over generations, the truth will seem utterly preposterous and its speaker, a raving lunatic. –Dresden James

    “The name-calling technique links a person, or idea, to a negative symbol. The propagandist who uses this technique hopes that the audience will reject the person or the idea on the basis of the negative symbol, instead of looking at the available evidence.” http://carmen.artsci.washington.edu/propaganda/name.htm

    Comment by Killian — 22 May 2013 @ 7:38 PM

  434. 425 SecularAnimist says: Killian wrote: “To that end, reducing consumption would make getting to an all-’renewables’ a very easy thing to do … If we only need to meet 1/10th of current demand, that is really quite easy and would allow us to transition in a very short period of time.”

    I’m not sure who you are arguing with.

    Nobody. I believe it’s called a discussion.

    I have repeatedly pointed out that, according to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, “more than half (58%) of the total energy produced in the US is wasted due to inefficiencies… I have read an estimate that simply capturing the waste heat that is uselessly vented from industrial smokestacks and using it for onsite co-generation…

    Certainly there is plenty of “low-hanging fruit”…

    And in many cases, what is needed to achieve those results is new technology…

    Sure, but there is more to this than numbers. If you reduce the *need* for consumption by changing the behavior of people to sustainable behaviors, you are eliminating both the need for the technology as is and the need for new technology to fix the problem. Far more efficient to simply stop using the inefficient generators than to retrofit them.

    Killian wrote: “The problem is people want to maintain current, massively unsustainable consumption of resources but paint it green with renewables.”

    Again, I’m not sure which “people” you are referring to, but that is certainly not something that I “want” nor have I advocated any such thing.

    Good thing I didn’t say “you.”

    Moreover, “renewables” are, in fact, “greener” than fossil fuels, and they drastically reduce the amount of “resources” that must be “consumed” to provide any given amount of energy to end-users.

    Did I say they weren’t? I believe I said build more, but reduce consumption so we don’t have to build too many. Not sure why you are raising this point.

    As the LLNL notes, the overwhelming majority of the USA’s energy today comes from fossil fuels — “petroleum (37%), natural gas (25%), and coal (21%).” I don’t see how it can be argued that replacing those fossil fuels with technologies that completely eliminate ALL need to extract, refine, distribute and burn fuel and instead harvest free energy from the sun and wind is a bad thing.

    I didn’t make that point in my response to you, but it’s a good thing you raise it because unsustainable is unsustainable. You are talking about greater efficiency, not sustainability. Thus, it would be a very big mistake to think wind and sun as currently being built out is sustainable and that we’re done once we do that, problem solved! That would be a huge error.

    We can make wind generators out of mostly renewable products, but not at utility scales. At home scales, yes. Caveat: I’ve never looked into the renewability of wires, and other small components. Taht needs to be done. But otherwise, wood and an old auto generator/alternator with some wiring and there you go.

    I wrote: “That sure sounds like a new industrial revolution to me.”

    Killian replied: “No. It would require far less resources than we use now …”

    And how is that NOT a “new industrial revolution”?

    “new industrial revolution” — replacing the essentially 19th century energy technology that is dominant today, with new technology that uses VASTLY less resources to provide the energy (and goods and services) that we actually consume,

    Ah, there it is. To continue to provide what we want and use now. That’s a critical flaw. We can’t keep doing that. The resource problem is not limited fossil fuels.

    that is based on harvesting endless supplies of free energy rather than burning a dwindling, limited supply of fuel

    But his is false. You are merely burning them less quickly. Solar and wind both rely on fossil fuels.

    and emits ZERO POLLUTION while doing so.

    Nope. Pollution has to be counted as full life cycle. Less pollution, certainly. No pollution? Incorrect.

    Comment by Killian — 22 May 2013 @ 8:05 PM

  435. Weber et al. in
    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2013EGUGA..15.3424W

    at EGU seem to ascribe more importance to hot CDW (circumpolar deep water) in meltwater pulse 1A (MWP1A)

    But the West Antarctic ice sheet was bigger in those times

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 22 May 2013 @ 9:55 PM

  436. sidd #435,

    yes, they highlight the importance of CDW in the abstract (based on model simulations). I don’t know if they also find a sea level forcing.

    Also, I found this other paper showing a partial sea level forcing for the deglaciation: Golledge et al (2012) : “Dynamics of the last glacial maximum Antarctic ice-sheet and its response to ocean forcing” in PNAS. (other ocean forcings are also involved)

    You are right to point out that the Antarctic ice sheets were bigger during the deglaciation (extending all the way to the continental shelf-edge at the last glacial maximum), so direct analogues are not possible.

    Comment by perwis — 23 May 2013 @ 1:04 AM

  437. 432 prokaryotes sad: Could someone explain to me the current media meme “Global warming decreases wind shear”, in regards to tornado genesis.

    Looks like you uncovered contradictory info. Specifically WRT wind shear, it is the movement west to east of winds at higher altitudes basically beheading storms – or creating them, apparently? – that is the issue. (I know discussions of hurricane, a cyclonic structure, speak of wind shear weakening hurricanes, so seems it might do the same to tornadoes? Maybe wind shear of the vertical type gets spin going and shearing across the top kills them? Masters covers it at weatherunderground: Wind Shear

    Regardless, with few storms moving in a relatively straight line across the continent and taking a more serpentine path due to the wacky new Jet Stream, makes sense there might be less over all wind shear.

    Comment by Killian — 23 May 2013 @ 1:06 AM

  438. Now to tornadoes:

    I also wonder about the influence of the behaviour of jet stream on tornadoes. Arctic sea ice loss seems to cause slower moving jet streams that gets a more southward path and gets “stuck” (A very nice video presentation by Prof. Francis can be found here: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/08/22/727501/arctic-death-spiral-how-it-favors-extreme-prolonged-weather-events-such-as-drought-flooding-cold-spells-and-heat-waves/)

    Prokaryotes’ quote above (from a dotearth interview w James B. Elsner, an atmospheric scientist at Florida State University) indicates a link between the anamoulous behaviour of the jet stream and tornadoes.

    “Wind shear decreases in the global mean, but this might be irrelevant locally when the jet stream dives southward like it did last weekend across the Plains.”

    Have anyone seen anything more on this issue?

    Comment by perwis — 23 May 2013 @ 1:17 AM

  439. Killian, I agree with essentially everything you’re saying.

    But when you said, “Ah, there it is. To continue to provide what we want and use now. That’s a critical flaw. We can’t keep doing that.”,

    I think you misunderstood “want and use now”. It refers to services, so a new 8 watt DC bath fan (about $160US) would provide better service (Super quiet) and save ~90% of the energy. I encourage those in a position to to swap out for a DC fan.

    I believe you and Secular are talking different ends of the same solution. A doubling or even (like the new bath fans) order of magnitude increase in load efficiency have always been Standard Procedure for renewable systems, especially the stereotypical off the grid ones.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 23 May 2013 @ 1:35 AM

  440. Retrospective look at the Hockey Stick controversy
    http://climatestate.com/2013/05/23/retrospective-look-at-the-hockey-stick-controversy/

    You can start at 34:30 for the meat….

    Comment by prokaryotes — 23 May 2013 @ 4:39 AM

  441. re Tamino:

    I asked a mutual acquaintance who said:

    working on fighting the proposed East West Corridor project that is supposed to bisect the town with a highway and utility/pipeline corridor that would destroy the town and most of central Maine from Calais to Coburn Gore. A bunch of us have been tasked by the town selectmen to come up with a moratorium proposal as well as strategies to educate the public on the implications of the the project.

    This is a horrible piece of the many-tentacled tar sands transportation effort, maps here:
    http://oilsandstruth.org/maps/updated

    (Their claim that tar sands releases three times the CO2 in their opening paragraph is said to be wrong (increase said to be 30%; my gut feeling is it might be more depending on how you account for all the moving parts)):
    http://planet3.org/2013/04/16/keystone-math/

    I also intuit that it might be about Tamino’s dismay at the Boston bombings, but that’s not even hearsay.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 23 May 2013 @ 6:02 AM

  442. re tornadoes, Andrew Freedman is as usual informative and accessible. Two opposing effects have changed, more or less canceling each other out (!).

    http://www.climatecentral.org/news/making-sense-of-the-moore-tornado-in-a-climate-context-16021

    While a warmer climate is likely to feature more opportunities for thunderstorms to form, studies also show a lessening of atmospheric wind shear, which would suggest a decrease in the potential for tornadoes to form. How these two trends play out — one increasing the odds of tornadoes, the other reducing them — is a subject of active scientific research.

    A fact sheet from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on tornadoes and climate change describes the counteracting trends of decreasing shear and increasing instability in a warming world as a “tug of war.”

    There also appears to be insufficient historical data.
    (DotEarth has been doing the usual – lots of good references there, along with the usual dilution of “balance” Emanuel does a good job of elucidation, and Hoerling does not seem to have a good reason to claim not, imo.)

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 23 May 2013 @ 6:10 AM

  443. What’s this then?
    ———–
    http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/29mar_sage3/

    “… SAGE III will get a global picture of tropospheric ozone,” says Zawodny. “I suspect there will be a few surprises in those measurements.”
    …. in the lower stratosphere over the tropics. “The recovery of ozone there is tied to changes in greenhouse gases like CO2. Given what we know about recent increases in greenhouse emissions, it is possible that ozone in the tropics will never return to 1980s levels.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 May 2013 @ 6:36 AM

  444. Killian wrote: “it would be a very big mistake to think wind and sun as currently being built out is sustainable”

    You have said that many times in your posts here, but as far as I remember, you have never said specifically and exactly what is not “sustainable” about wind turbines and solar panels “as currently being built out”.

    Keep in mind that “as currently being built out” is a VERY rapidly changing state of the art. The technology of both wind turbines and photovoltaics (as well as solar thermal and various energy storage technologies) continues to improve quickly, so that they use less material inputs, require less energy to manufacture, and generate more energy more efficiently over a longer lifetime.

    And that’s just the ongoing improvements in the mainstream technologies that are being widely deployed today. There are new technologies, proven in the lab and approaching commercialization, that will enable far more powerful and efficient wind and solar electricity generation using far less material and energy inputs to manufacture and deploy.

    With regard to sustainability, it’s a relative term. In the long run nothing is “sustainable” — after all, the sun will one day burn out. And there are plenty of human activities that may not be “sustainable” over centuries or millennia.

    However, what we are faced with right now is a very urgent, short-term, specific problem: greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels, mainly for electricity generation and vehicle fuel.

    As I understand what climate science is telling us, if we are to have ANY hope of avoiding a horrific planetary catastrophe, anthropogenic GHG emissions must peak and then begin a VERY steep decline within five years, leading to near-zero emissions within at most a couple of decades, with the largest reductions occurring up front.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see how it is possible to achieve that through the deep and far-reaching economic, social, political, cultural and even spiritual transformation that may well be ultimately needed if human civilization is to achieve long-term sustainability on the Earth, in the already short and rapidly dwindling time frame within which we must eliminate GHG emissions.

    Fortunately, we do have at hand, NOW, mature and powerful wind and solar technologies that can EASILY accomplish that urgent, short-term goal — for example, eliminating ALL carbon emissions from electricity generation within a decade — IF we choose to do so. And if we can do that, then perhaps we can buy the time needed for more profound changes.

    If you wish to say that I’m proposing a short-term technical fix that doesn’t address our fundamental long-term problems, that may well be true. But that’s what we need right now. Otherwise there will soon be no organized human society capable of addressing any problems.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 May 2013 @ 11:15 AM

  445. Re- Killian, several posts

    1. Claiming Hank’s statement is ad hominem? This suggestion is a bit silly because you don’t apparently know what “ad hominem” means.

    2. Your quote from your nonfunctional link to the carmen.artsci site is an excellent example of some of your past behavior (e.g. your misuse of the concept of “addiction”).

    3. You cannot justify your claim that utility scale wind and solar electricity are unsustainable, but if they are, then so is a little “wood and an old auto generator/alternator with some wiring,” except this will not even run an efficient refrigerator.

    4. The manner in which you reference Joseph A. Tainter indicates that you don’t understand him. You conflate his concepts of societal complexity and sustainability. Although I value Tainter’s viewpoint, he is a historian-cum-philosopher and how his concepts apply to the whole world today is just opinion.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 23 May 2013 @ 11:49 AM

  446. #443–Cool science–though the bit about ozone recovery sounds a little worrying, and does beg expansion.

    But I’m also reminded about Langley’s work with atmospheric transits of moonlight; the data was critical to Arrhenius’s CO2 modeling effort back in 1896. I wrote about this in a long-form piece here:

    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/05/22/2047111/china-carbon-cap/

    Apologies to regulars who may have seen this already; it’s not new. But newer readers may be interested.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 May 2013 @ 12:17 PM

  447. Kevin McKinney @~446:

    Don’t think that’s the link you meant (recent on China carbon cap by somebody else)? I promise to read it if you find it.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 23 May 2013 @ 1:21 PM

  448. http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/files/2013/05/scivspseudosci3-600×453.jpeg

    That’s a hat tip to Ethan Siegel for taking down a rebunked pseudoscience claim at: http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2013/05/21/the-e-cat-is-back-and-people-are-still-falling-for-it/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 May 2013 @ 2:34 PM

  449. Skeptical Science has a handy primer on the jet stream:
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/jetstream-guide.html

    This is what it says re jet streams and severe weather:

    “What this means on the ground is that if your area is near to a developing low pressure system or a convectively-unstable airmass and an upper trough is approaching, with a jetstreak heading towards the base of the trough with its Left Exit region heading straight for where you are, you have the ingredients for explosive severe weather development. The low can deepen intensively to bring a storm system with tightly-packed surface isobars giving severe gales and flooding rains. Alternatively, convection may lead to the development of severe thunderstorms, because that critical combination of mass-ascent and high shear is in place.”

    Comment by perwis — 23 May 2013 @ 3:23 PM

  450. Secular Animist #444:

    Unfortunately, I don’t see how it is possible to achieve [zero GHG emissions] through the deep and far-reaching economic, social, political, cultural and even spiritual transformation that may well be ultimately needed if human civilization is to achieve long-term sustainability on the Earth, in the already short and rapidly dwindling time frame within which we must eliminate GHG emissions.

    If you wish to say that I’m proposing a short-term technical fix that doesn’t address our fundamental long-term problems, that may well be true. But that’s what we need right now…

    That’s the stark truth. A short-term technical fix is what we who are alive now need if we are to live out our lives in any kind of peace and comfort. The alternative is that climate chaos will engulf us, up close and personal. Given that, I’m willing to let posterity (of which I have none) confront the long-term sustainability problem.

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 23 May 2013 @ 4:45 PM

  451. #447–So right, Susan. Sorry about that.

    The correct link for Langley/Arrhenius is this:

    http://doc-snow.hubpages.com/hub/Global-Warming-Science-And-The-Dawn-Of-Flight

    (Proof-read this time.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 May 2013 @ 10:28 PM

  452. 446
    i think Kevin may have linked the wrong Climateprogress piece- nothing about Langley there.

    Comment by Russell — 23 May 2013 @ 10:52 PM

  453. 441 SusanA said, “(Their claim that tar sands releases three times the CO2 in their opening paragraph is said to be wrong (increase said to be 30%; my gut feeling is it might be more depending on how you account for all the moving parts)):”

    Yes, it is two different measures. Using their numbers: Burning tar sand oil releases from wellhead to tailpipe 30% more CO2 than regular oil. The CO2 released from wellhead to gas tank is triple. In other words, it takes three times the effort to get tar sands oil into your gas tank, but since most of the CO2 is released during driving, there’s only a 30% increase in total CO2 emissions.

    SecularA said, “You cannot justify your claim that utility scale wind and solar electricity are unsustainable, but if they are, then so is a little “wood and an old auto generator/alternator with some wiring,” except this will not even run an efficient refrigerator.”

    It does bring to mind a Mad Max kind of world.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 23 May 2013 @ 11:13 PM

  454. “You’re living through a transformative time, probably more transformative than the Industrial Revolution was.”

    That’s at minute 2:35 of this video:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU1vstn99mc

    –which is posted on the jobs (solar engineer) page of a utility-scale solar array engineering start-up in San Francisco.

    But this video gives the best overall idea of what’s going on there:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eYisNex9A3Q

    Comment by Patrick — 24 May 2013 @ 12:26 AM

  455. Technical question: why are extreme minimum temperatures in winter occurring earlier and extreme maximum temperatures occurring later?

    (Daily station data modeled for low-mid elevations along the coasts of British Columbia and Alaska from 1920 to 2000.)

    Comment by Tom Maertens — 24 May 2013 @ 2:34 AM

  456. > A short-term technical fix is what we who are alive now need
    > if we are to live out our lives in any kind of peace and comfort.

    A short-term “fix” might mean.

    – defer costs til a later generation, better now, worse later.
    – stop adding fossil fuel CO2, as best and as soon as we can.
    – do only whatever you can do sustainably forever, nothing else.

    Or something else.

    Peace and comfort — I dunno, that sounds like “Peace in our time.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 May 2013 @ 7:16 AM

  457. I’m starting to notice the term “bow wave” for costs pushed into the future; is that a familiar term from some field?

    e.g. http://governmentrelations.wsu.edu/state-relations/Budgets/C3-Creating%20Clean%20Jobs%20and%20Industries.pdf

    “… the cost of this program in future biennia will actually decline substantially (negative bow wave.)…”

    (A bow wave is the big wave pushed ahead of a ship — the wave dolphins like to surf in. For the dolphins, it’s free energy … but the smaller the bow wave the more efficient the vessel, the less energy wasted pushing water ahead of it, I think. http://www.cjoscoe.org/docs/BowWave2012_small.pdf )

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 May 2013 @ 7:22 AM

  458. Kevin @ 451 Nice link. Thanks. That’s a nice geologic backdrop to the Svante Arrhenius story I’ve used in several presentations.
    Susan @ 422 (and others) on tornadoes: A couple points: a severe weather event doesn’t need to spawn tornadoes or have a name to be an extremely damaging event, witness last year’s $ 2 Billion dollar hailstorm in Dallas. The wind shear issue might effectively be a “tug of war” in the collective sense, but it seems like it would play out on a local/thunderstorm scale, and when the tug of war winner is a supercell, it has more energy available and any tornadoes that form might be correspondingly more damaging? Jeff Masters site http://www.wunderground.com/blog/JeffMasters/show.html will be a good one to pay attention to on this.

    Comment by tokodave — 24 May 2013 @ 7:57 AM

  459. Thanks Jim Larsen, for putting some flesh on the bones I was talking about. I also found yesterday the figure for tar sands direct emissions increase is 11-23% more. But you make clear that the trouble-tripling is justifiable because of all the other stuff.

    Patrick: Thanks for the links, especially the second one.

    Kevin (and Russell, please note): thanks for the updated link (reading).

    I’m way too science-illiterate on these, so I’m going to bow out for now.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 24 May 2013 @ 11:06 AM

  460. Hank Roberts wrote: “A short-term ‘fix’ might mean.”

    What I mean by it is that we now have only years, not decades or generations, within which to “fix” the specific problem of greenhouse gas emissions if we are to have any hope of avoiding a global ecological catastrophe and buying the time to address long-term “sustainability” issues.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 24 May 2013 @ 12:17 PM

  461. Hank @~457

    A bow echo is part of the mechanism of derechos. Not sure if it’s relevant to “bow wave”, but worth knowing about. I’m told the physics is interesting too; if I understood my informant, kind of a big tornado on its side with forward motion (corrections welcome):
    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/misc/AbtDerechos/bowechoprot.htm
    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/misc/AbtDerechos/derechofacts.htm#bowecho
    http://www.spc.noaa.gov/misc/AbtDerechos/derechofacts.htm
    (in reverse order from particular to general)

    tokodave @~458: Speaking of which the big derecho that put the DC area out of power for days is another example of your costly storms.

    Comment by Susan Anderson — 24 May 2013 @ 12:22 PM

  462. Possibly uncomfortable question: To the best of my understanding the environmental impact of extracting California heavy oil quite comparable and maybe even worse compared to the environmental impact of Alberta bitumen? Why don’t we go after our own rather than another country?

    Very relevant multilingual captcha “own heyceci”

    Comment by jgnfld — 24 May 2013 @ 12:30 PM

  463. Hank 24 May 2013 at 7:16 AM:

    Dang, I haven’t learned to write an unambiguous blog comment yet. I wrote “short-term technical fix” in agreement with SA, but to me that means “stop adding fossil fuel CO2, as best and as soon as we can.” Of course it will probably entail both technical and non-technical efforts. If it’s accomplished, I wouldn’t expect it to be short-term, because there’s no reason why we’d resume wantonly discharging GHGs again. It may stave off climate catastrophe, but it won’t ensure long-term sustainability of civilization by itself.

    Does “peace and comfort” sound like “Peace in our time”? Well, “Peace in our time” turned out to mean defeating rather than appeasing Hitler. Post-war Britain may not have had complete peace, but I have no doubt the average Briton of the time would say it was better than living under Nazism. Now, if GHGs continue their current rate of increase, I anticipate a marked decline in the level of peace and/or comfort I presently enjoy. There’s no appeasing AGW, unfortunately, so I can only hope it will be defeated in my time.

    Is there anything else I can clear up for you ;^)?

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 24 May 2013 @ 1:06 PM

  464. > “Peace in our time” … defeating rather than appeasing …
    > … no appeasing AGW …

    Sure enough.

    Hm.
    “Stop Appeasing Coal Companies” is an awkward slogan.
    But saying outright they need to be defeated may rile them a bit.

    I heard someone recently describe how their town -almost- had signed a fifty-year coal contract to keep their ancient inefficient coal power plant going. They got smart and didn’t. But someone out there has a map of every little college and business and town coal contract and plant and is trying to sign up more of those long-term contracts.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 May 2013 @ 4:17 PM

  465. Mr. Hank Roberts writes on the 24th of May, 2013 at 4:17 PM:

    “But saying outright they need to be defeated may rile them a bit.”

    Things, even in coal drawings, are not so black and white. If you drive on Interstate 80, 81, 76 thru PA, you will see many windmill farms on the ridges. Of those, a surprising number are from old coal robber baron families that stripmined the land for decades but have seen the light more recently. Or at least, the greenbacks.

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 24 May 2013 @ 10:21 PM

  466. http://www.thenation.com/article/172266/rebel-towns#
    —-excerpt—–
    …. Last year, Martland and McPhaul campaigned for a local ordinance that would ban corporations from acquiring land or building structures to support any “unsustainable energy system.” The ordinance stripped those corporations of their free-speech and due-process rights under the Constitution, as well as protections afforded by the Constitution’s commerce and contract clauses. Judicial rulings that recognized corporations as legal “persons” would not be recognized in Sugar Hill. Any state or federal law that tried to interfere with the town’s authority would be invalidated. “Natural communities and ecosystems”—wetlands, streams, rivers, aquifers—would acquire “inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish,” and any resident could enforce the law on their behalf. “All power is inherent in the people,” the measure stated.

    … McPhaul, a Republican and a charity volunteer …. After a two-month public-awareness campaign, Sugar Hill’s residents took up the ordinance at their 2012 town meeting. It passed by a unanimous voice vote.

    Thus, Sugar Hill became one of dozens of communities nationwide—mostly villages but also the city of Pittsburgh—that have reacted to environmental threats by directly challenging the Constitution and established case law….
    ——–end excerpt——-
    Well, good.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 May 2013 @ 12:19 AM

  467. Severinghaus at Byrd Polar Research Center:

    West Antarctica Ice Divide core, annually resolved to 62Kyr. Bipolar seesaw. Bolling Allerod transition, Dryas. Halogen volcano, probably Erebus at 18Kyr. Comparison with beautiful Chinese speleotherms. One hour fourteen minute, take the time.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKme569E9Bw

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 25 May 2013 @ 1:17 AM

  468. 444 SecularAnimist wrote Killian wrote: “it would be a very big mistake to think wind and sun as currently being built out is sustainable”

    You have said that many times in your posts here, but as far as I remember, you have never said specifically and exactly what is not “sustainable” about wind turbines and solar panels “as currently being built out”.

    Yes, I have. The easier question is, what *is* sustainable about them? Answer: Nothing. Thus, they are not sustainable. C’mon, SA, not everything needs a scientific study. Some facts are a priori/prima facie. Let’s look at this: Do you know of any copper wire making that claims sustainability? Do you know of any metal smelting process that claims sustainability? Do you know of any bolt makers or concrete makers or wind turbine blade makers that claim sustainability? Let me help you: No.

    I do not understand the rather irrational and angry reaction to stating obvious facts here at RealClimate. The fact is the conversations regarding sustainability, not just here, but almost universally, are conflating efficiency and sustainability. The primary reason is obvious (which means I do understand the reactions here): If what we are doing is unsustainable, and if virtually everything we in “western” or “developed” societies are doing is unsustainable, that means for some rather profound changes to come. That is a very uncomfortable thing to ponder! (We are asking ourselves and the general public to consider an true existential threat to society, if not humanity. A 95% die off seems likely, let alone possible, does sit not?) Yet, we must. But I tire of people asking for unnecessary proofs of prima facie realities.

    If you want to risk the future of civilization on a factually incorrect claim these things are, well, I think you need to reevaluate your risk assessment process. Both wind and solar are more efficient than FFs, but neither is sustainable. Yet. I actually have some faith they can be, but not in the time frames we need to act in, so better to use them as bridge technologies while simplifying into a sustainable system with currently sustainable practices while keeping a significant R&D process in place to find pathways to sustainable tech that will help us to achieve even greater regenerative abundance… in the future. But we have to accept that the transition to sustainability and the first phase of sustainability will include significantly less reliance on technology than the current time.

    There is no way around this less some truly miraculous events occurring. I prefer not to do my risk assessment based on miracles.

    Keep in mind that “as currently being built out” is a VERY rapidly changing state of the art.

    But also irrelevant. You also are of the mind, as I am, that the system is degrading rapidly, yes? The key to potential collapse scenarios lies in the Arctic. As, IIRC, Mark Serreze has stated, and Maslowski appears to have accurately modeled, the Arctic is the Canary in the Coal Mine. This has been obvious since I first became aware of the IPCC process and the IPCC IV report, and I agree with Mark. As goes the Arctic, so goes the planet. Every system has a pivot point or key limit. The planetary fulcrum is the Arctic, and it is likely to be essentially ice-free as soon as this year and it’s looking fairly certain to be within the next three years. (Have you looked at just how small the bits of floes are compared to past years? Even though this has been a thankfully cool spring, the ice itself is cottage cheese. If the AO flips to warm (currently roughly neutral after being quite cool all winter and up till this last week or so) over a significant portion of the summer, and particularly in June and July, we are going to see yet another set of record minimums in extent and area, and definitely in volume.

    The technology of both wind turbines and photovoltaics (as well as solar thermal and various energy storage technologies) continues to improve quickly, so that they use less material inputs, require less energy to manufacture, and generate more energy more efficiently over a longer lifetime.

    And that’s just the ongoing improvements in the mainstream technologies that are being widely deployed today. There are new technologies, proven in the lab and approaching commercialization, that will enable far more powerful and efficient wind and solar electricity generation using far less material and energy inputs to manufacture and deploy.

    Are you willing to bet billions of lives, and up to 95% of all biota on non-existent technology when we can achieve sustainability without those non-existent technologies? How does that work as a risk assessment? It does not for me. But, a a designer of sustainable systems fairly well versed in resource limits, the EROEI of energy systems, and witha clear understanding of actual sustainability vs. greenwashed sustainability, I know we can achieve sustainability simply and quickly wit hcurrent tech, which gives us a shot at reversing Clamate Change. And, despite the rather odd statement by someone else that Joseph Tainter’s work is just opinion (isn’t every technically unproven hypothesis?), his work fits perfectly with historical observations of societies. It’s a rather immature (poorly developed vs. childish) perspective, I think, to dismiss his work. It really is simple, when you have begun to exceed the carrying capacity of your environment and attempt to fix the problems created by growth and complexity with greater complexity, you typically fail. This really is nothing more than relatively simple math.

    Anywho… simplification is the key to surviving overshoot and diminishing returns on complexity. Increasing complexity in overshoot has literally never worked that I am aware of.

    With regard to sustainability, it’s a relative term. In the long run nothing is “sustainable” — after all, the sun will one day burn out. And there are plenty of human activities that may not be “sustainable” over centuries or millennia.

    C’mon, SA. Make a useful observation here. This is not relevant to the context.

    However, what we are faced with right now is a very urgent, short-term, specific problem: greenhouse gas emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels, mainly for electricity generation and vehicle fuel.

    As I understand what climate science is telling us, if we are to have ANY hope of avoiding a horrific planetary catastrophe, anthropogenic GHG emissions must peak and then begin a VERY steep decline within five years, leading to near-zero emissions within at most a couple of decades, with the largest reductions occurring up front.

    I encourage you to read or review the Hirsch Report for a sense of time frames for cycling significant technological shifts through society. Add to that what Tainter and Diamond say, and the constant harping on technological solutions is washed away by simple realities: We don’t have time, the technologies don’t exist, resource limits limit the technologies anyway, and natural solutions exist that will get the job done faster, more safely and sustainably.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see how it is possible to achieve that through the deep and far-reaching economic, social, political, cultural and even spiritual transformation that may well be ultimately needed if human civilization is to achieve long-term sustainability on the Earth

    Now there is a problem because if we don’t, we haven’t a chance. The good news is, part of my message is to eliminate all those abstractions and get down to one essential societal process: solving problems. Remove ideology, belief, morality, etc., from the equation and things get much simpler. We currently ask, essentially, who deserves to eat or who can afford to eat? A problem-solving question might be how do we feed everybody? Rather than asking how do we give everyone a job or who deserve a job or who deserves what level of pay we might ask more simply what work needs to be done and how can we get it done?

    These probably seem like trivial questions, but they will determine our survival.

    Fortunately, we do have at hand, NOW, mature and powerful wind and solar technologies that can EASILY accomplish that urgent, short-term goal — for example, eliminating ALL carbon emissions from electricity generation within a decade — IF we choose to do so. And if we can do that, then perhaps we can buy the time needed for more profound changes.

    Problem is, we need atmospheric conentrations falling at 2- 5 ppm/yr, not just holding emissions steady at a level of neutrality. You cannot do with merely with efficiency, particularly since none of the technologies you mention are sustainable, thus result in GHG emissions. As I have said before, build them out to 10 – 20% of current emissions, but stop there and reduce consumption to match that level of emissions over time. Using natural CO2 sequestration buys us the time for this transition – if the Arctic will play along.

    If you wish to say that I’m proposing a short-term technical fix that doesn’t address our fundamental long-term problems, that may well be true. But that’s what we need right now.

    Asked and answered.

    reCAPTCHA rather charmingly chimes in, “may Ecovent.”

    Comment by Killian — 25 May 2013 @ 2:21 AM

  469. 450 Mal Adapted says: Secular Animist #444: Unfortunately, I don’t see how it is possible to achieve [zero GHG emissions] through the deep and far-reaching economic, social, political, cultural and even spiritual transformation…

    If you wish to say that I’m proposing a short-term technical fix that doesn’t address our fundamental long-term problems, that may well be true. But that’s what we need right now…

    That’s the stark truth. A short-term technical fix is what we who are alive now need if we are to live out our lives in any kind of peace and comfort.

    While I completely understand this point of view, daily intensive study of the systems under discussion since 2006 and training and teaching in design processes since 2009/10 lead me to a different conclusion:

    Tech can’t solve this, but sustainable design, primarily through simplification and natural GHG sequestration, can.

    Unfortunately, GHG sequestration via natural means receives no federal, state or local funding despite the proven effectiveness. We have become too dependent as a society, and particularly as an intellectual class (refer to P. Kennedy’s four cycles in “Rise and Fall…”), on technology, as societies of the past have, also (Romans to a degree, the Anasazi, Angkor Wat, the Maya, etc.,), that simpler, more effective solutions look to the technologically dependent like reverse voodoo no matter how much evidence is provided.

    The assumption that moving forward means increasing complexity and technological brilliance is deeply embedded because it has basically been true since around 1200 AD in “Western” society. Yet, Rome lasted around 600 years as a growing and/or dominant society. And other empires have lasted longer. But all fell and all had climate and diminishing returns on increasing complexity components. Still, centuries of growth backed by deeply flawed economic paradigm make it hard to shale off the primacy of the flawed complexity/technological solutions mantra.

    Simple, basic math easily shows this to be a flawed response, yet it persists. How did the Anasazi survive? They became the Pueblo. How did the Mayans survive? They became small villages that have largely forgotten their Mayan technology. How did the Vikings in Greenland survive? They didn’t because they did not adapt to conditions and simplify. How did the First Nations people of viking era Greenland survive? By living as they had before the Vikings arrived: simply, technologically “deficiently” in harmony with the ecological services of their bio-region.

    We face the same choice and the issue is survival of society at best and an ELE at worst. History is there to be learned from in the past and Nature there to be learned from in the present.

    Up to you.

    Comment by Killian — 25 May 2013 @ 3:55 AM

  470. This week, C-Span showed a House committee hearing on “weather” featuring the testimony of two private weather operations (AccuWeather and another). The tone struck me as ‘we need to de-emphasize/forget about this climate stuff and focus on (private/pork) weather research instead.’ Which in turn reminded me of editing the fairy tale to have the three pigs saying ‘Forget about the wolf. What are we having for dinner next Sunday?” Meanwhile, this week’s NOAA annual hurricane preview takes an evidence-based approach with climate change as the backdrop. Strange but true.

    Comment by ghost — 25 May 2013 @ 9:00 AM

  471. “… 600 ppm of CO2 looks a lot more worrisome than 400 ppm of CO2, and 800 ppm of CO2 looks a lot more worrisome than 600 ppm of CO2. The significance of just having blown past 400 ppm is that we seem to be on a business-as-usual growth trajectory that brings us to 800 ppm (or maybe even more) within a century from now.” http://www.pbs.org/newshour/businessdesk/2013/05/the-odds-of-disaster-an-econom-1.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 May 2013 @ 11:20 AM

  472. Re- Comment by Killian — 25 May 2013 @ 2:21 AM and 3:55 AM

    Regarding sustainability of solar and wind energy, you say- “Some facts are a priori/prima facie.” In this instance they are not! But if you think your claim is so obvious it should be very simple for you to provide an analysis and the numbers that support your contention. I don’t understand your “rather irrational and angry reaction” to requests that you provide justification for your assertions.

    In contrast to your claims about alternative energy you have offered up the Rodale 30 year study of ways to make agriculture sustainable, and this is the sort of solution many here have advocated in the past. However, this farming system requires fossil fuels, tractors, GMO crops, information technology, and their supporting industries, all of which you have claimed to be not sustainable. Perhaps you should inform them of their error.

    You say – “And, despite the rather odd statement by someone else that Joseph Tainter’s work is just opinion…” – In contrast, I think that Tainter’s study of past societies is excellent, it’s just that your application of his work to current problems is just (bad) opinion, and that your understanding of his work is very confused. You don’t think so? What about the following:

    Citing Tainter – “What are we going to do about energy? We need alternatives to fossil fuels and we need to scale up on a massive scale and very quickly.” – This sounds like a call for a rapid buildup of renewables and if not, what does it mean? To quote Tainter further – “There are people who advocate what’s called a steady state economy. I am not one of them. I don’t advocate a steady state economy. But the results of the innovation research made me wonder if in fact that might be what we’re heading for. And a steady state economy, I think, would have repercussions in employment levels, in wellbeing, in popular discontent that would not be desirable.” – How do these statements fit into your thinking?

    I don’t think you understand Tainter’s important analysis. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 25 May 2013 @ 1:28 PM

  473. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwyQKqlXpNY

    If this third-generation engineer is not a Buckminster Fuller of the 21st century, he has at least one necessary qualification: the willingness to make global calculations, especially for energy. Then, too, he’s got a secondary qualification: the willingness to make an experiment of his own life.

    Comment by Patrick — 25 May 2013 @ 3:41 PM

  474. Fish, here you get it backwards, “Regarding sustainability of solar and wind energy, you say- “Some facts are a priori/prima facie.” In this instance they are not! But if you think your claim is so obvious it should be very simple for you to provide an analysis and the numbers that support your contention.”

    I made the point clearly: not one manufacturer of any component of solar panels or wind turbines has ever claimed they are sustainable manufacturers. There is a reason for this: they aren’t. So, rather than my having to prove a claim that has never been made that would be a prima facia false claim if it were, you need to prove they are.

    Let me be really clear: Nobody has claimed actual, 100% sustainability of wind or solar and they use “renewable energy” non-literally. AKA greenwashing. Thus I do not need to prove a claim that has never been made is false. If you are going to make the claim, you have to prove it true.

    Virtually nothing we do in the “advanced” world is sustainable. That’s not even a point worthy of debating. Virtually every “sustainable” label is one that does not include a full life cycle assessment, and those life cycle assessments that are done are more aptly called efficiency audits because they play the game of comparing energy inputs as if all energy inputs were equally fungible, which is nonsense, and avoiding asking the very simple question, “How long will this resource exist if we keep using it?”

    To be more clear for you, all the inputs are converted to measures of energy rather than being literally treated as resources that each have unique qualities that are not found in other resources. You see this same tactic on a large scale with energy.

    FF anlyses always compare the physical volume of FFs, and at best the energy content of oil, coal and gas, e.g. This is an incomplete analysis. Not only does a barrel of oil have more literal energy in it than a barrel of NG or a load of coal, they can’t all be used for all the same purposes. And those purposes that can be done by all of them require different amounts of processing, and thus energy cost. You do see the use of energy equivalent, but that still does not account for either fungibility nor embedded energy. A barrel of oil is simply not equivalent to any other FF energy content or usefulness.

    This question of true sustainability is avoided because the answer is unpleasant: Not as long as we need it to if we want to keep doing this. Here’s an exercise for you: What resources do we currently use that are *not* depleting? Even if some resources are truly endlessly sustainable (at least besides the planet being swallowed by the sun), the rate of use is too high. (See water, fish, trees, soil, etc.) The reason there is no “research” available on these issues is everyone is afraid of asking that simple question I asked above, and part of the rationalization for that is the idea that “something” will save us, some unknown heroic technology. And to survive that little self-delusion, the next delusion is used, “But Tainter doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” or “Limits to Growth” was alarmist! Etc. Dismiss the message because it doesn’t fit. Common, but maladaptive.

    The fact is, use of any limited resource is unsustainable at any rate of use given a long enough time line, and most resources are not just limited, but severely limited based on current rates of use. Ipso facto, an economy based on them is unsustainable. This isn’t alarmism or hyperbole, this is blatantly obvious physics and/or thermodynamics.

    And if you want good discussions on what is possible read, “Without Hot Air” and go through the archives of The Oil Drum.

    Now, to answer your questions about Tainter, the short answer is the questions you asked are not germane to the points I made, which is obvious, but you insist on harping on the obvious, so here we go. You said, “Citing Tainter – “What are we going to do about energy? We need alternatives to fossil fuels and we need to scale up on a massive scale and very quickly.” – This sounds like a call for a rapid buildup of renewables and if not, what does it mean?”

    Ask yourself, did I *ever* talk about Tainter wrt sustainability or resources? No, I did not. Rhetorical question: Why not? I’ll answer for you: His answers are based on the same limited understanding that you have. He assumes that tech will overcome even if society overall must simplify. He is very much a mainstream thinker in this regard despite his insight into the obvious long-term consequences. I have always thought his statements about these issues were flawed and initially didn’t listen to him because of it. But his insight about diminishing returns applying to complexity are brilliant even if his comments on “renewables” are mundane.

    Here’s what you need to know about Tainter: He doesn’t think we’re pulling out of this tail spin. I asked him point blank what he thought of our chances of stabilizing society and he said flatly that he had become quite pessimistic.

    You said (and finally ask a useful question!), “But the results of the innovation research made me wonder if in fact that might be what we’re heading for. And a steady state economy, I think, would have repercussions in employment levels, in wellbeing, in popular discontent that would not be desirable.” – How do these statements fit into your thinking?

    Question: Is Tainter a designer of sustainable systems? No? Then steady-state will not make sense to him. As I pointed out above regarding renewables, Tainter is as embedded in classical/neoclassical economics as anyone, so he analyzes from that perspective. The steady-state isn’t even possible under that paradigm, so if you subscribe to growth, jobs, interest, usury, etc., as the way things are and must be, then you can’t get your head around the idea of the steady-state economy. That he was able to offer such a keen insight into the failings of the current paradigm without figuring out the paradigm cannot be the solution to itself is rather remarkable, but helps illustrate how deeply embedded in that paradigm he and most other people are.

    However, those of us that are educated about how nested systems work and how natural and human systems manage to exist for millennia on end pretty much instantly get steady-state economics. Steady-state economics is essentially what sustainable societies already do. If you want to understand why Tainter doesn’t get sustainable economics all you have to do is ponder the use of “employment levels” in what you quoted. It also should have allowed you to answer the question yourself without asking me. I have repeatedly linked to an essay that addresses this.

    I suggest you ponder why the issue of employment levels is not germane to a discussion of sustainable societies.

    Something else I have shared here before is the work of Steve Keen. You might be interested to know he has built a functional model of a steady-state economy. The flaw is that it is a monetary model, but that is what Tainter and 99.9% of the rest of the people on the planet want to hear: we can keep doing things this way for the most part! It’s an extremely cool model and very impressive work, but still flawed from the standpoint of truly sustainable systems since it doesn’t really account for resources. But it is a simple model of necessity. It will help you and Tainter understand how a steady-state economy is possible.

    However, this farming system requires fossil fuels, tractors, GMO crops, information technology, and their supporting industries, all of which you have claimed to be not sustainable. Perhaps you should inform them of their error.

    I never said anyone should follow what Rodale says to a T. I have said the study shows regenerative farming can build soil and in doing so sequester carbon and maintain and/or increase production compared to FF-based farming. And why would you indulge in the logical fallacy that because I point to the Rodale study as evidence we can draw down GHGs naturally that I am also suggesting every farmer grow food exactly as Rodale studied it?

    Carrying on, since you seem to recall what I have written, you already know enough to know what I would suggest doing differently from Rodale, so I won’t bother explaining it to you yet again.

    Finally, the Rodale study is a STUDY. Any scientific study has to control the number of variables. The implications of this should be obvious to you. How does one legitimately show the value of specific techniques of soil-building in farming without keeping the primary conditions intact? The Rodale study was of large-scale farming, not small holdings. Industrial scale farming cannot use many of the techniques of sustainable farming, which is evidence true regenerative farming would be even more effective at sequestration and abundance than Rodale found. But large-scale farming is going to use tractors and such. They must. And Rodale had to do a *comparative* study, not an apples and oranges study, in order to show that the current food system could be converted to regenerative farming.

    Comment by Killian — 25 May 2013 @ 4:34 PM

  475. James Hansen explains Climate Change and Free Market Solution
    http://climatestate.com/2013/05/23/james-hansen-explains-climate-change-and-solution/
    Though among a carbon fee he elaborates how Global Warming includes episodes especially in the northern hemisphere when “it gets colder, because of the ice melt”.

    This phenomenon is estimated to kick in with 0.5-1 meter SLR – implications are grave because of the changed temperature gradient, which basically means more intense storms. Hansen done the studies on this actually before he wrote his famous book “Storms of my Grandchildren”.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 25 May 2013 @ 7:24 PM

  476. Killian, your ENTIRE argument can be summed up by “how much new crust is formed VS how much is lost via recycling”. To answer the question, it is patently STUPID to pretend that advances won’t happen as resources get scarcer. We can get copper, gold, silver, uranium, and everything else in infinite quantities from seawater and lava and garbage dumps – at a cost. You’d do much better figuring out that cost than just waving your arms saying we all need to go back to hunter-gatherer existence. I can think of no other existence that doesn’t rely on copper wire.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 25 May 2013 @ 8:50 PM

  477. 476 Larsen, it is patently STUPID to to massively oversimplify resources issues for society to multi-million to billion-year processes and, actually worse, to claim I have ever said no technological advances will ever occur again – since I quite clearly have addressed that point over and over and stated quite clearly they can and do and stated quite clearly they will, but stated quite clearly ASSuming they will in time is a very poor way to do risk assessment and that rates of use can overcome even (actually)renewable resources.

    Thank you, Jim, for being another one of those who constantly responds STUPIDLY to pretty much anything I post. Your knee-JERK reactions are not useful. Now, can we leave the capitalized STUPIDs out of future posts, along with insults in general, and even more so nonsensical and pointless responses?

    Comment by Killian — 25 May 2013 @ 10:10 PM

  478. > What resources do we currently use that are *not* depleting?

    A question you want to ask as of as of when the resource was attractive and cheap, as of, say, 1900, or 1800, or 1700. Heck, as of maybe 1600 if we’d known we’d want the ocean iron level maintained naturally — but no, we screwed that loop before we had a clue.

    Shifting baselines …

    Getting back to the capacity Earth had a few centuries ago comes first.
    Then, see if enough over to harvest sustainably will be happening, under whatever conditions we recover -to-. We won’t get our old planet back. It might stay livable and interesting.

    “being sustainable” — per se — isn’t sustainable at this point, as we’re missing too many pieces to even be sure what’s going to be left to work with.

    In a damaged and simpler biosphere, your comfortable niche is going to be less sustainable wherever you happen to be.

    We tinkered and scattered parts of this planet around and ate, burned, or lost a good many of them, and it’s in need of better management, it needs to be — whatever — lets it recover.

    “This thumbnail sketch of land as an energy circuit conveys three basic ideas:
    That land is not merely soil.
    That the native plants and animals kept the energy circuit open; others may or may not,
    That man-made changes are of a different order than evolutionary changes, and have effects more comprehensive than is intended or foreseen
    … Can the land adjust itself to the new order? Can the desired alterations be accomplished with less violence?…
    “… A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

    –Aldo Leopold

    Do you kids feel lucky? I sure hope so.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 May 2013 @ 10:34 PM

  479. A more politic response to Far Side.

    Jim Larsen attempted: Killian, your ENTIRE argument can be summed up by “how much new crust is formed VS how much is lost via recycling”.

    Only if we weren’t talking about human time scales.

    To answer the question, it is patently STUPID to pretend that advances won’t happen as resources get scarcer.

    It’s actually more patently not very intelligent to mislead readers to think I have ever, in my life, suggested this. I have my doubts about the degree to which those advances will be sustainable, in which case they wouldn’t be meaningful.

    We can get copper, gold, silver, uranium, and everything else in infinite quantities from seawater and lava and garbage dumps – at a cost.

    Infinite? Surely you mean more like “essentially infinite?”

    You’d do much better figuring out that cost

    Why? You have no idea what the cost would be far enough in the future for the answer to be relevant, and, if those processes aren’t sustainable, they wouldn’t ultimately mean much.

    than just waving your arms saying we all need to go back to hunter-gatherer existence.

    Jim, your frequent trips to the Far Side are not entertaining. Prevarication is really a bit much, isn’t it? Please show us all where I have advocated, suggested or implied anything even remotely like a hunter-gatherer lifestyle for a sustainable world.

    Hunter-gatherers require a huge amount of space to live that way. I’ve not done the math but did read something recently that estimated the area needed and it was huge. I doubt we have the space for it on the planet at 9 billion people. We certainly do not have the intact natural systems for it at this time, and it would take a rather large amount of reskilling to make it remotely possible, not to mention returning much of the planet to conditions similar to at least the pre-European Americans – though societies weren’t necessarily hunter-gatherer at that time, either. Silly way forward, if you ask me.

    I can think of no other existence that doesn’t rely on copper wire.

    I think perhaps you mean, “I can think of no other existence **I am willing to accept** that doesn’t rely on copper wire.” Given humans have been making copper from various ores for thousands of years and copper loses no quality with recycling, I think your copper future is looking pretty doable. However, the process is most definitely not sustainable with modern techniques. I don’t know enough about ancient techniques to comment. Recycling seems to mostly be a process of melting metals down if relatively pure, so sounds like we can get there. About 50% of current U.S. production is via recycling.

    Given demand would be far lower in a sustainable society, recycling would have a fair chance of meeting all our needs.

    Now take your bow and arrows and get us dinner, dang it!

    Comment by Killian — 26 May 2013 @ 3:01 AM

  480. I think the most pertinent graph re: arctic melt is the PIOMAS arctic ice thickness one. Could someone tell me what caused between 2009 and 2010 both at July/August an almost 400mm reduction in ice thickness. The yearly traces since 2010 have all been in that lowest band with each year steadily declining. The 2013 trace thus far is no exception as it’s tracking below every other year. But from 2009-2010 there was for some reason a huge fall. I was just wondering why?

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 26 May 2013 @ 3:34 AM

  481. Just read The Odds of Disaster: An Economist’s Warning on Global Warming by Martin Weitzman and I’ve got to say it’s one of the most balanced and professional articles I’ve ever read. He lays down the logic and the uncertainty behind the science meticulously and leaves it to the reader to decide the magnitude of the situation should we decide to do nothing about CC mitigation. The way he says so much and leaves such little uncovered in such a relatively concise article is amazing.
    One question, was the sea level 50Mya many thousands of feet higher than today? To me that sounded way too high?
    That article should be mandatory reading for every secondary school student.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 26 May 2013 @ 6:26 AM

  482. Has anyone read/used the National Science Teachers Association recommendations?

    I came across this recommendation for a climate book while reading links on whale poop:

    http://www.nsta.org/recommends/ViewProduct.aspx?ProductID=20168

    Climate
    by Hilary Maybaum
    48 pp.
    Benchmark Education
    Pelham, NY 2010
    ISBN: 9781935472919
    Grade Level: 6-12

    “… Climate offers a clear and well-illustrated discussion of the factors that determine regional climates and climate change. I especially enjoyed the two-page “graphic novel” format, which introduces issues that students will enjoy discussing. In this edition, the characters discuss a luxury resort and then speculate on the power bills to maintain it. This format makes the issues accessible to even the least confident reader; I expect teachers will be surprised at the strong opinions students will have on these issues.”


    That book is one of a series.

    As described in that review, applying to the whole series:

    “The Prime Science series offers the most thorough integration of middle/secondary content and language arts strategies I’ve seen in classroom science materials. This series will be invaluable to teachers who want to infuse communication skills into their science curricula—especially those who earned their degrees before course work in these methods was required.

    “Two versions of each book (the standard and a “Bridge” edition) offer subtle differentiation without any labeling. The covers are virtually identical, and the contents on each page is comparable. But look more carefully and you will find not only a lower reading level but more conceptual support and appropriate challenges in the Bridge edition. Co-teaching teams and support teachers for special needs and ELL students will love the Bridge option.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 May 2013 @ 8:33 AM

  483. Is it just me or did today’s Face the Nation have a respectable segment on climate and severe weather?

    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50147675n

    Comment by Radge Havers — 26 May 2013 @ 11:25 AM

  484. Re- Comment by Killian — 25 May 2013 @ 4:34 PM and other posts

    In response to my request for evidence for your assertion that photovoltaic (PV) solar and wind machines are not sustainable, you said – “I made the point clearly: not one manufacturer of any component of solar panels or wind turbines has ever claimed they are sustainable manufacturers. There is a reason for this: they aren’t. So, rather than my having to prove a claim that has never been made that would be a prima facia false claim if it were, you need to prove they are.”

    Do you think that you are the captain of the junior high school debating team? You said- “Some facts are a priori/prima facie,” and as I disagree that your claim is apparent and self-evident, I asked you to provide evidence. Further, I have never observed any manufacturer make a claim of sustainability other than as a stupid advertising gimmick and in any case whether they have, or not, is irrelevant. Your response is beyond silly. You wonder why people make unkind (not ad hominem) comments to you. I have been sucked in again by your hobby, stupid me! It is worth repeating what Hank Roberts said- “Killian may be entirely correct about everything. But how could you tell?”

    Because I enjoy slamming my hand in a car door and then getting a root canal, here is a little more about Tainter. You said to SecularAnamist in your typically condescending tone – “You didn’t read quite carefully enough. First, we need no new technologies to achieve a sustainable global system. If you had gone through Tainter’s work, which I have repeatedly mentioned and linked to, you would understand the error of depending on continually developing more technology to solve problems created by new technology. (I use technology here literally and as a proxy for complexity.)”

    I agree with this, at face value, with the exception that I think that conflating Tainter’s societal complexity with technology (or sustainability) is a big mistake. What is useful about Tainter is his description of Rome, for example, in which societal complexity after incremental decisions to solve immediate problems greatly increased beyond available energy supply and led to unsustainability of the state and collapse. The direct application to the U.S. today is development of tar sands, pipelines, developing difficult or environmentally sensitive oil drilling sites, fracking, relaxation of regulations for fossil fuel companies, direct supplements and reduced taxation to fossil fuel companies, increased military expenditures for maintaining access to oil, governmental support for fossil fuel shipping facilities, and the resulting bureaucratic cost and taxation overload from all of this. In contrast to this a switch to PV and wind machines are not new technology and would provide a major simplification and, thereby, increased stability.

    I find it amusing that Tainter referred to energy for pre-industrial societies as solar (agrarian) based because now with PV, for example, any citizen can farm the sun for energy. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 26 May 2013 @ 5:09 PM

  485. Lawrence Coleman @461 — No, the global average sea level was around 60–70 meters higher. However, the Himalayas was just beginning to form around 50 Mya, producing some exposed geological formations which might confuse some.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 26 May 2013 @ 6:36 PM

  486. Killian,

    Huh? You brought up copper as unsustainable. Now it is? The problem is that your definition of sustainable is all over the map. You do understand that humans in an advanced society have less than 2 children per woman? We get everything up and running, and sustainability takes care of itself through recycling.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 26 May 2013 @ 10:08 PM

  487. Fish bubbled: In response to my request for evidence for your assertion that photovoltaic (PV) solar and wind machines are not sustainable

    Asked and answered repeatedly. If you think they *are* you have serious deficits in your thinking or knowledge. If you think they are when they are obviously – so obviously asking the question is ridiculous on its face, particularly doing so repeatedly – not, disprove the following:

    Fossil Fuels are not sustainable. (If you fail to understand why answering that question answers your ridiculous repeated request for “proof”, you have serious deficits in either your basic knowledge or ability to reason.)

    Good luck with that.

    Comment by Killian — 27 May 2013 @ 1:36 AM

  488. Fish, your comments on Tainter are just wrong. Congrats on at least looking up decontextualized quotes, but that’s pretty desperate, isn’t it? “Societal complexity?” Really? Only societal?

    LOL… And why try to lie that I have equated tech and complexity? I very clearly said it was not a 1:1 relationship, but that it serves as a proxy in the context of this conversation. Lying is bad. Don’t lie.

    Do you work for a tech firm or FF interest? You seem very committed to making FFs and/or tech based on them look sustainable.

    Comment by Killian — 27 May 2013 @ 1:45 AM

  489. @479 Killian, not too long from now, human timescales probably will become geologic timescales, at least for a select few.

    Add to that directed evolution and neural interfaces and it looks like the anthropocene will become a microepoch.

    At least raw materials should only need to be dug up once.

    Comment by Andy Lee Robinson — 27 May 2013 @ 5:54 AM

  490. Re- Comment by Killian — 27 May 2013 @ 1:36 AM and 1:45 AM

    So you say.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 27 May 2013 @ 9:14 AM

  491. Jim Larsen, do you not understand we are all in the same boat and working on solutions is the only paddle? Please begin acting like it.

    I did not say copper was unsustainable. I question your ethics in saying otherwise. I wondered if it was and stated outright I *had not* checked. A couple days ago, I did check. I *still* don’t know if it is sustainable because what I read on it did not detail the old methods. The new methods? Definitely not sustainable. Too many energy inputs, too many hi-tech gizmos needed. The old methods, perhaps with some modern knowledge added? Say, wood for heat, or Fresnel lenses, or solar-powered electric (though that is currently unsustainable)? Should make smelting sustainable or nearly so. But that’s just a WAG.

    Please do not pretend I am a Luddite. I have never said I do not like or appreciate technology. I have stated the opposite. My views are based on principles of natural design, and the key one here is that you do not start from a wish list of how you WANT to live, you start with what the environment can provide. You do not simplify because it sounds like fun, you do it because it is what the Earth’s limits require.

    If you’ve a serious, useful, germane point or question, then make it or ask it. Otherwise, do not expect any further responses. You will know if you’ve asked a useless question by the lack of response.

    489 Andy Lee Robinson said: not too long from now, human timescales probably will become geologic timescales

    But not our current context. Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.

    At least raw materials should only need to be dug up once.

    As long as you are digging them, you are still headed for an unsustainable future so long as the resources in question are finite or the rate of use is too high. We have to learn to not live beyond our knowledge, which we have been doing for a very long time. I was all of 12 years old when I realized the real problem with technology was very simple: we were always applying it in real time before we understood all the ramifications. I had not idea who Rachel Carson was at the time, so the insight did not come from her.

    Even if we were nowhere near the limits of the planet we would still be best served to slow the heck down. Long way of repeating: let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.

    Comment by Killian — 27 May 2013 @ 10:57 AM

  492. 489 Andy Lee R said, “At least raw materials should only need to be dug up once.”

    That’s true of most (all?) metals. Phosphorus is different. Wiki says we’re 50-100 years away from total depletion. That’s going to wreak havoc on Industrial Agriculture.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 27 May 2013 @ 11:15 AM

  493. The MET has just been forced to agree that global rises in temp since late 1800s are well within what could be attributed to natural variability. Comments?

    [Response: Well, it's good to have a laugh on a holiday morning. More seriously, the Met Office have admitted nothing of the sort. This is all about people fitting statistical models to the temperature record. This can be done to any precision required (using sufficiently complex models) and tells us nothing about the 'significance' of the recent trends with respect to natural variability. Significance does of course have two meanings here: The colloquial meaning of something that is 'worthy of note', and a statistical meaning - something whose probablity is less than 5% under the assumption of a particular null hypothesis. With the colloquial meaning, there is no doubt that recent trends are significant, and nothing the Met Office said about null hypotheses has anything to add since this 'significance' comes from the best estimates we have of natural variability (control runs of climate models, estimates of naturally forced responses and analyses of paleo-climate data, etc.). Turning to the other (technical) definition, it is straightforward to fit statistical models to data and then look at the signficance of the recent changes. However, this is far less meaningful than one might think since the model is being fit to the data you are wanting to test. This is one kind of data-snooping and it is easy to show that you can always find a statistical model that fits any particular data-series as well as you want it to. This has nothing to do with actual attribution. For that you need a statistical model of internal variability + response to natural forcings that does not use the recent trends as input. Then a calculation of how significant the recent observations are would be of interest. An example of this (done with GCMs) shows that current temperatures are around 4 to 5 sigma away from what would be expected with natural variability along. Sounds pretty signficant to me. - gavin]

    Comment by Chris — 27 May 2013 @ 11:47 AM

  494. This denialist jabber picked up @493 appears to be more soap opera than anything else.

    Denialist Montford guest-posts denialist Keanan (again) on the subject of a further deeply technical question from some old washed-out member of the House of Lords, another question that concerns methods of statistical analysis of global temperature records. (This particular question asks for a “numerical assessment of the probability in relation to global temperatures of a linear trend with first-order autoregressive noise, as used by the Met Office, compared with a driftless third-order autoregressive integrated model and ensure that that numerical assessment is published in the Official Report; and if not, why not.”)
    The said Keanan feels the answer provided amounts to a revelation of more significance than Climategate (less significance being difficult), significant despite Keanan refusing to meet with the one man named by the Lord as able to answer the question, despite Keanan having already been provided an adequate answer by that one named man.
    We of course should be aware that the said Keanan, may have swallowed whole a whole statistics book, yet he is still of the belief that a 1 in 1024 chance is less likely than overt fraud. And to demonstrate his abilities of original thought, the example he uses to illustrate his belief in ubiquitous skulduggery was previously used in the last post which Tamino mentioned the said Keanan in which the said Keanan is considered as being worthy of harsh criticism. Unlike Tamino, the said Keanan uses the highly complicated and far-too-technical-to-be-explained statistical method called the Intuitive Method to reach his revelationary conclusion.

    [Response: A nice example of why Keenan's fit is irrelevant http://quantpalaeo.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/red-herrings-cats-and-pigeons-at-wuwt/ - gavin]

    Comment by MARodger — 27 May 2013 @ 6:47 PM

  495. “When a student or researcher, regardless of age, demographic of identity seeks the library, they are performing a ritual dedicated to seeking access to ideas and information that they cannot find by themselves…. which is vital and essential to sustaining both life and liberty.

    “… a guide! A person trained, educated and dedicated to connect you with the right information at the right time, regardless of where and how that information can [sic] and is found. That’s why you need a librarian….”

    “http://www.paleolibrarian.info/2013/05/the-library-as-ultimate-house-of-worship.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 May 2013 @ 6:49 PM

  496. Hank @6:49pm provide a quote of unknown origin (to me)

    “When a student or researcher, regardless of age, demographic of identity seeks the library, they are performing a ritual dedicated to seeking access to ideas and information that they cannot find by themselves…. which is vital and essential to sustaining both life and liberty.”

    This is a variation on a theme that I always thought was well expressed on the masthead of the Canadian Aviation Safety Letter (sent to all licensed Canadian pilots):

    “Learn from the mistakes of others; you won’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

    Comment by Bob Loblaw — 27 May 2013 @ 9:32 PM

  497. Prof. Box updates 0-500m albedo for greenland at meltfactor.org

    I look forward to 0-3200m update at

    http://www.meltfactor.org/files/2013/05/0-3200m_Greenland_Ice_Sheet_Reflectivity_Byrd_Polar_Research_Center.png

    surface melt continues

    http://nsidc.org/greenland-today/

    sidd

    Comment by sidd — 28 May 2013 @ 12:11 AM

  498. Bob, you added a close quote in the middle of a 2-paragraph quote. The cite is the link following the second quoted paragraph.

    I know, I’m a fossil … hey, it took typesetters five hundred years to get good at setting ideas in print without confusing the readers. Then the Web threw all that learning away.

    Take the first paragraph of the two I quoted, make it an indented block, add a close quotation mark to the end of it — and lo, the citation is lost with the second paragraph I quoted, for those who don’t look back and check the source.

    Typesetters’ irony at work. Weblogs don’t make it easy to do this right.

    I concur completely on learning from the mistakes of others.
    And of course I provide ample learning material _for_ others ….

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 May 2013 @ 1:09 AM

  499. Hollywood’s latest excercise in Alternative Meteorology give a whole new meaning to the expression jumping the shark.

    Comment by Russell — 28 May 2013 @ 1:40 AM

  500. CO2 at MLO is still stuck very close to 400ppm(v). Both Scripps Inst & ESRL are showing latest provisional figure as ‘highest to date’ & if you tot them up, the ESRL are showing (provisionally) a +400ppm five-day period.
    May 26 – 400.59 May 25 – 399.97 May 24 – 399.84 May 23 – 399.67 May 22 – 399.97

    Comment by MARodger — 28 May 2013 @ 5:41 AM

  501. @499 The website you front for and turn clicks for is very impressed with itself. It thinks it’s satire. But it doesn’t rise that high: it is merely an exercise in narcissism. It has nothing to say and wastes my time. That’s as good as it can do, or else that’s exactly what it seeks to do: by saying nothing, to distract.

    Comment by patrick — 28 May 2013 @ 6:50 AM

  502. 500 MARodger says CO2 at MLO is still stuck very close to 400ppm(v)… ESRL are showing (provisionally) a +400ppm five-day period. May 26 – 400.59 May 25 – 399.97 May 24 – 399.84 May 23 – 399.67 May 22 – 399.97

    Mauna Loa five-day avg. through May 27: 400.05

    Week ending May 19, 2013: 399.91 ppm
    Weekly value from 1 year ago: 396.30 ppm

    That’s +3.61 in one year. Good lord… I’ve thought that the rise in CH4 starting around 2007 was primarily or significantly due to Arctic emissions for quite a while. There is nothing about the world economy that would suggest we should see that large an increase. Economic growth simply is not that robust. Could CH4 emissions and degradation be boosting the CO2 count? Makes sense to me, particularly since we had 400 ppm reading in the Arctic a year earlier than at Mauna Loa.

    Weekly value from 10 years ago: 379.36 ppm

    Twenty ppm. In ten years. That steady rate would put us at 500ppm by 2060 or so. At least in May and a full doubling over pre-industrial around the end of the century.

    I am become the destroyer of worlds.

    Comment by Killian — 28 May 2013 @ 9:06 AM

  503. Killian @502.

    The rise of the weekly value over the last year may be unrepresentative. The monthly value for May 2012 was 396.78ppm so a rise in the monthly value over the year will probably be less than 3.2ppm. This, of course, is still quite a rise outside an El Nino event (although there was such an annual rise to this February).
    Then again, the averaged annual rises in CO2 has been somewhat flat since 2006. Perhaps 2013 is seeing the resumption of increasing CO2 rises.
    A graph of change in CO2 is linked here (but may need 2 clicks to ‘download your attachment’).

    Comment by MARodger — 28 May 2013 @ 11:49 AM

  504. > MARodger … annual growth rate
    Another way of looking at the annual growth rate:
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/#mlo_growth

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 May 2013 @ 4:09 PM

  505. Killian demanded, ” Please show us all where I have advocated, suggested or implied anything even remotely like a hunter-gatherer lifestyle for a sustainable world.”

    When one intelligent person is arguing against five or a dozen intelligent and open-minded people, then either the one has a blind spot or he’s being clear as mud.

    I reverse the question: Please show us all where you have advocated ANY lifestyle besides hunter-gatherer as sustainable.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 28 May 2013 @ 5:42 PM

  506. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2013/05/28/the-morning-plum-democrats-prepare-for-nuclear-war/

    quoting that other paper, writes:
    the New York Times reports:
    ———-begin excerpt———-

    “President Obama will soon … [be] nominating three judges to an important federal court ….

    “… the 11-member United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit … will … be front and center in … plan to curb carbon emissions on existing power plants, which will lead to a legal battle in … that arena.

    “… Republicans … are ‘pushing a proposal to eliminate the three empty slots from the court by shifting them to circuits in other parts of the country,’ which would leave the court with a ‘strongly conservative flavor.’ This all but ensures that Republicans will filibuster Obama’s nominations.”
    ——–end excerpt———–

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 May 2013 @ 6:57 PM

  507. 505 Hank, the only way to respond to a filibuster is to ride it out, all the while making emergency declarations to the country.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 28 May 2013 @ 8:14 PM

  508. Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 28 May 2013 @ 5:42 PM

    Killian said “It doesn’t matter if a part of a system is sustainable, only that the entire system is sustainable.”

    Followed shortly by- “The only sustainable systems on the planet are aboriginal.”

    And, regarding one of your questions – I resent that Jim will have electricity for music available. And/or, I just don’t want him to have it. Nor anybody else. Yup. That’s exactly what I said.”

    There is a lot more of this crap. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 28 May 2013 @ 9:55 PM

  509. > the only way to respond is to ride it out

    Read the linked article. Delaying the carbon emission plan is exactly what they want, you know.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 May 2013 @ 12:44 AM

  510. 503 MARodger said: The rise of the weekly value over the last year may be unrepresentative.

    Assumed, thus the prominent use of modal verbs.

    Re: 505 Larsen:

    Far Side, my friend, sad. Asking the accused to prove the accusation is not just illogical, it’s stupid. Bias is bad. Don’t be biased. Do better, or find yourself ignored like any other good little denialist. Not a threat, for you will claim you don’t care. Then, of course, you will continue to nip at my heels like a hell-bound chihuahua.

    I am merely prepping the crowd for the spectacle.

    Do you and yours a favor and crawl out of your bias-filled ivory tower and get some education in designing sustainable, holistic and wholistic systems before you and yours find yourselves with no paddle, no boat and no clue.

    Since you have such a hard-off for permaculture, take a gander at Holistic Management. Very much regimented and with almost no actual design element. Perfect for you, in all seriousness.

    Perhaps that will help you develop a more serious attitude toward solutions.

    Inspiration for you (no permie influence for John Liu when he started, so as objective about regenerative design as you could ask for): Regional restorative agriculture in China

    More non-permie work (that is a great example of permie design): Creating a Community and Rebuilding an Ecosystem

    Cheers

    P.S. I am willing to close doors, but rarely lock them. Solutions are urgently needed and cannibalistic behaviors among people generally going in the same direction make little sense.

    Up to you.

    Comment by Killian — 29 May 2013 @ 1:33 AM

  511. That Guy said: Killian said “It doesn’t matter if a part of a system is sustainable, only that the entire system is sustainable.”

    Followed shortly by- “The only sustainable systems on the planet are aboriginal.”

    What That Guy is missing is that those two comments are not logically locked together to describe an entire system. I forgive That Guy for this because he has not chosen to educate himself WRT the work I do and so does not appreciate the importance of “pattern fluency.” In short, pattern fluency is the ability to recognize patterns, and more so, apply patterns from seemingly disparate contexts to help solve problems in virtually any context.

    Simply put, the recognition of useful patterns in aboriginal societies and/or cultures does not equate to advocacy of living as aboriginals, but rather gives us a pattern or set of patterns to explore with which we may well find a template upon which to build a sustainable system that fundamentally meets the limits of sustainability while looking much like the modern world.

    Sadly, That Guy is more interested in points scored than futures created. As I am bored with the sophomoric responses of That Guy in the face of ever more difficult global circumstances, as I can only guess the rest of you are, also, enough is enough. No more stooping to a denialist-styled, meaningless “debate.”

    However, I do appreciate the opportunity to encourage you all to look into the deeper human and physical (meta design, not monumental architecture) structures that allow and have allowed aboriginal societies to occupy the same space for millennia. And, for that matter, the fact Asians have occupied ecological niches for millennia all the while at high levels of relative technological sophistication.

    Hint: Soils.

    Comment by Killian — 29 May 2013 @ 2:27 AM

  512. Killian @510.
    The use of modal verbs makes a statement less “assumed” rather than more.
    I will here, however, assert unambiguously that the evidence points to the latest week’s annual rise being indeed unrepresentative.
    The annual rise for the last 8 weeks are as follows:-
    2.79, 1.08, 2.26, 2.35, 2.68, 2.37, 2.68, 3.59. (You may spot a small discrepancy between the numbers as the 2012 weeks are shifted a calendar day later.)

    The reason for the unrepresentative increase in the latest figure is partly because in 2012 CO2 had peaked two weeks earlier but mainly because a year ago there began a little 3-week dip in value.

    Comment by MARodger — 29 May 2013 @ 8:54 AM

  513. Killian says: …
    29 May 2013 at 1:33 AM
    > Re: 505 Larsen: …
    > Far Side, my friend, sad.

    Alluding to the cartoonist with the same surname — mockery is bait.
    Eschew.

    “It’s not the trolling, it’s the biting.” — Marion Delgado

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 May 2013 @ 10:40 AM

  514. Killian,

    You claim to have developed a truly sustainable system. You also dissed mining as unsustainable. That eventually means no metals. You further said that we should build out renewables to 10% of current electrical production. Guess what? Renewables already supply 10.5%. Now, if you were excluding hydro, then you’re talking a bit over doubling of wind and solar. You’re going to run cars and everything on 10%?

    And the USA isn’t the only country. It’s a big planet and there’s lots of people who won’t stand for 10% of the few, if any watthours they currently get per day, along with 0% of the gas.

    You also said, (thanks Steve Fish) “The only sustainable systems on the planet are aboriginal.”

    I made no claims, so I have nothing to prove. The question rightfully is square in your court: describe the system/lifestyle of which you go on at infinite length while avoiding describing it. So far I’ve got “permaculture”.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 29 May 2013 @ 11:07 AM

  515. MARodger says: …
    … last week’s annual rise … unrepresentative

    This is silly to even argue about.
    Week to week variation is bait for argument.
    Using that kind of bait is recreational fishing.
    Look at the trend, use the data.

    “… concentration has increased every year since scientists started making measurements on the slopes of the Mauna Loa volcano more than five decades ago. The rate of increase has accelerated since the measurements started, from about 0.7 ppm per year in the late 1950s to 2.1 ppm per year during the last 10 years.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 May 2013 @ 12:19 PM

  516. Does anyone know how I can contact John Cook from skepticalscience ? I run busy websites in my day job and would be happy to help.

    Please contact me offline – first inital and last name at metheus.org

    Thanks

    Comment by David Miller — 29 May 2013 @ 2:14 PM

  517. Arctic Current Flowed Under Deep Freeze of Last Ice Age, Study Says
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130529133456.htm
    Quite the clever proxy.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 29 May 2013 @ 6:24 PM

  518. MARodger, I taught EFL for years. Reinterpret my comment with that in mind.

    :)

    Comment by Killian — 29 May 2013 @ 6:38 PM

  519. The seasonal oscillations in the Mauna Loa CO2 data set are likely caused by changes in the highest temperature SST. So if we take the SST data for latitudes -6 ±15 degrees (which straddles the Indo-Pacific warm pool) from the Nomad server, and compensate the CO2 data, you get this chart:
    Temperature-compensated CO2 increase
    The seasonally modulated SST provides an outgassing gain of 3PPM/degree C and it leads the CO2 signal by one month.

    I did this analysis because I find that many of the deniers still claim that the long-term increasing CO2 is caused by steadily rising temperatures. This is a straight Henry’s Law and Clausius-Clayperon interpretation that I figure has to shut them up. There is no filtering, just a differential dCO2(time+1 month) = – K * dSST(time) compensation term that is applied to simulate the seasonal outgassing of CO2 from the warmest surface waters near the equator.

    Comment by WebHubTelescope — 29 May 2013 @ 8:57 PM

  520. David Miller – use the “contact us” on the bottom bar of the sks front page.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 30 May 2013 @ 12:11 AM

  521. 509 Hank, one long defeated filibuster wastes less time than 34 successful ones. “We don’t back down from terrorists who hold democracy hostage” would make for good political theater, if nothing else.

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 30 May 2013 @ 12:15 AM

  522. “Here, we use stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes to study the foraging history of a generalist, oceanic predator, the Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis), which ranges broadly in the Pacific from the equator to near the Aleutian Islands. Our isotope records from modern and ancient, radiocarbon-dated bones provide evidence of over 3,000 y of dietary stasis followed by a decline of ca. 1.8‰ in δ15N over the past 100 y. … a foraging shift in wide-ranging Hawaiian petrel populations suggests a relatively rapid change in the composition of oceanic food webs in the Northeast Pacific….”
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/05/09/1300213110.short

    Published online before print May 13, 2013,
    doi: 10.1073/pnas.1300213110
    PNAS May 13, 2013

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 May 2013 @ 12:45 AM

  523. mockery is bait. Eschew.

    I figure I have three choices: engage my personal troller, ignore my personal troller and/or mock my personal troller. Tried 1, didn’t work. Now using 3 as prelude to 2.

    Hank, you aren’t teaching anyone anything. Your comments are better directed at the the one trolling.

    Comment by Killian — 30 May 2013 @ 12:59 AM

  524. And, in related (Canadian) news:

    Weather losses rise in Canada:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/05/29/calgary-alberta-insurance-claims-w.html

    US study of reduced snowpack ‘is consistent with’ Canadian trends:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2013/05/29/calgary-us-geological-survey-water-runoff-w.html

    The latter story is commenting upon this GRL study, Regional patterns and proximal causes of the recent snowpack decline in the Rocky Mountains, U.S.:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50424/abstract

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 30 May 2013 @ 9:55 AM

  525. James Hansen’s bipartisan stock has just risen in response to his wonderfully ornery remarks on recieving the Ridenhour prize!

    Comment by Russell — 30 May 2013 @ 11:38 AM

  526. Is anyone else as disturbed by Principia Scientific International as I am? It looks like the deniers are going so far as to create their own scientific society, in their efforts to confuse the public about the “debate”. Maybe honest scientists should all join too, just to dilute the deniers.

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 30 May 2013 @ 12:07 PM

  527. Mal Adapted, the PSI bunch used to be the Sky Dragon Slayers until they realized noone took them seriously and mistakenly concluded it was because of the silly name, not because of the crackpot pseudo-science. So they switched to Principia Scientific to emphasize they didn’t know Latin, either. There’s no ‘there’ there; don’t go.

    Comment by CM — 30 May 2013 @ 4:43 PM

  528. Mal Adapted – PSI is the “sky dragon slayers” – full-blown tin-hat crowd with as much grasp of reality as they have of physics. Banned from WUWT, Climate Audit, The Blackboard, and Roy Spencer so not much traction with deniers either. Their denial of basic physics is regarded as damaging for the denier cause.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 30 May 2013 @ 4:52 PM

  529. It’s looking as if we will soon have our first official weekly average above 400.

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/weekly.html

    http://bluemoon.ucsd.edu/co2_400/mlo_one_month.png

    Comment by wili — 30 May 2013 @ 5:38 PM

  530. To the guys arguing about “sustainable”: I’m just scared. Reference: “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan and “Collapse” by Jared Diamond. Then along comes “A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization; and how to save it” by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, who says collapses happen over centuries of simplifications. I skipped a chapter or 2 on cloak & dagger stuff and haven’t finished the book yet.

    I see a population crash ahead that I see no sure way to survive. We are between the devil and the deep blue sea. Clearly The System has to be changed radically from the outside. The System cannot change itself. Note how dictators always choose to die with their regimes rather than abdicate to live as a wealthy commoner elsewhere. We have several recent examples. “Rational” appears to be very far from a human trait.

    So please give us more pages of comments on this subject. Comments on how human evolution will be driven by climate change would also be read avidly. James Hansen is forming a new political party to deal with The System. I wish him luck and I am available as a party hack. Can it be done?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 31 May 2013 @ 3:51 AM

  531. Mal Adapted @524.

    To me, the PSI aka Sky Dragon Slayers are a worrying bunch but for the following reason. They have adopted such a ridiculous mantra yet are outwardly otherwise sensible people. They perhaps demonstrate the true innate strength of contrarianism when the internet allows a critical mass of it to coalesce.

    Their founding fathers are listed as ☻ British legal analyst and science writer, John O’Sullivan. ☻ Retired Dutch Analytical Chemist, Hans Schreuder. ☻ Texan engineer and science writer, Joseph A. Olson. ☻ Canada’s most popular climatologist, Dr. Tim Ball. ☻ Biologist, Professor Nasif Nahle. ☻ Astrophysicist, Joe Postma.

    Yet these otherwise normal professional folk are convinced that there can be no greenhouse effect and the reason is because the upper atmosphere is colder than the planet surface. Thus, if you totally mis-interpret the laws of thermodynamics, energy cannot ever flow from any cold body to a hotter one. The direction of net flow dictated by thermodynamics becomes in Sky Dragon Slayer-speak ‘not one photon from cold to hot.’

    Quite how, say, the moon would know not to emit IR towards the sun or to fire off a photon at a pirouetting CO2 molecule in the Earth’s atmosphere that’s about to be heated by a passing jetliner, I know not. Perhaps if I don a tin foil hat it all makes sense.
    Their mis-interpretation of thermodynamics would presumably still allow distant snowy peaks to be seen as the light is reflected. But woe betide if your infrared detector is warmed above the temperature of the object it is looking at – it will surely then stop working.

    Comment by MARodger — 31 May 2013 @ 6:30 AM

  532. A major cyclone is now churning up the sea ice over the Arctic. Does not bode well for ice extent this year.

    http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2013/05/if-this-is-real.html#comments

    Comment by wili — 31 May 2013 @ 8:04 AM

  533. 530 willi: Last year it was drought. This year a daily flood. I see many fields in Illinois that have not been plowed yet and this is the end of May. The fields are too wet for a tractor to traverse. Streets in Davenport, Iowa have been flooded it seems like every other day.

    I looked at http://neven1.typepad.com/blog/2013/05/if-this-is-real.html#comments
    What do you think about the jet stream at 300 mb?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 31 May 2013 @ 11:28 AM

  534. Jim Larsen said Killian, You claim to have developed a truly sustainable system.

    No, I didn’t. I said I do sustainable design. Not quite the same thing. I have said it is relatively simple, which is true. Don’t confuse simple with easy, however. Humans are involved, after all.

    You also dissed mining as unsustainable.

    Did I? You sure I wasn’t focused on the resources being extracted?

    That eventually means no metals.

    Unless they are 100% recyclable with zero losses in the process, true. The time frames are important to how you allocate, of course.

    You further said that we should build out renewables to 10% of current electrical production. Guess what? Renewables already supply 10.5%.

    I was being lazy. I usually say 10 – 20%, but I’d be willing to bet it’ll need to be closer to ten. That is based on a comment from J. Hansen that one coal-fired plant is enough to impact atmospheric GHGs, and also that the impact of humans on climate has been discerned as long as 10k yrs. ago. If the planet really is that sensitive, we might be well and truly screwed.

    Now, if you were excluding hydro, then you’re talking a bit over doubling of wind and solar. You’re going to run cars

    What? Are you nuts? Cars are utterly unsustainable!!!

    and everything on 10%?

    Yup. The implications hurt your brain, eh? Localization, simplification, regenerative design. None of this is a wish, you see. Everything I say on these issues comes from a purely problem-solving point of view. Whereas your question implies you and/or others want to start with preserving what we have, I start with what the planet can provide at level x climate change at year n and backcast from there.

    And the USA isn’t the only country. It’s a big planet and there’s lots of people who won’t stand for 10% of the few, if any watthours they currently get per day, along with 0% of the gas.

    “Suicide is painless, it brings on many changes, but you can take or leave it if you please.” – Theme from M.A.S.H. I agree with Diamond: collapse is choice and we will make it or we won’t. The idea that it is better to die than to simplify is equal to “Better dead than red,” except that the better option now is definitely with simplification. Such a life would be quite comfy. Well, for me. I’m available for future consultation should you decide suicide is not painless and is best avoided. ;-) Don’t wait too many years – I’m technically middle-aged.

    You also said, (thanks Steve Fish) “The only sustainable systems on the planet are aboriginal.”

    Don’t know of any others. The Amish, perhaps, but I’ve not looked into them and they’ve not been around for millennia yet, so…

    I made no claims, so I have nothing to prove.

    Of course you do. If you are going to challenge my contentions, you have to provide an alternative. If not, stay quiet as argumentation is not interesting to me. At all.

    describe the system/lifestyle of which you go on at infinite length

    Hyperbole. Shame.

    while avoiding describing it.

    Avoiding? Really? So I’ve posted no info, no videos, never said “Hobbiton with a high tech backbone”, never talked about what likely won’t/can’t be part of a sustainable future? Really? Never talked about steady-state economics? Never posted about Steve Keen? Never posted examples of natural regeneration of forest and deserts? Never said word one about natural building, managing population, never mentioned any of the design principles? REALLY? Never mentioned Time Banks, co-ops, etc.? You sure about all this?

    So far I’ve got “permaculture”.

    And that is all you need. Well, you also need knowledge and skill, but the process for designing sustainable futures is right there. I’ve made statements here, numerous times, that would answer this challenge if you took a minute to think on them.

    1. Sustainability is ultimately local. (What are the implications for designing systems?)
    2. Design is site-specific. (What are the implications for designing systems?)
    3. Design requires extensive observation. (What are the implications for designing systems?)
    4. Design requires resource analyses (what is available), needs analysis (what is required to live) and sector analysis (what external factors affect the site?). (What are the implications for designing systems?)

    Other than the above answers/questions, I’m choosing to ignore the absurdity of you asking for a global sustainable design on a message board.

    Comment by Killian — 31 May 2013 @ 11:53 AM

  535. The 1st issue of ClimateState is now online
    http://climatestate.com/2013/05/30/welcometo-the-1st-issue-of-climatestate/

    Featuring 1 RealClimate post (i wrote you but got no answer about republishing), feedback and suggestions for upcoming issue’s are welcome, Chris.

    Comment by prokaryotes — 31 May 2013 @ 12:48 PM

  536. Re- Comment by MARodger — 31 May 2013 @ 6:30 AM

    You said- “Yet these otherwise normal professional folk are…”

    It might help you to know that having Tim Ball as a founding father is pretty much equivalent to including Christopher Monckton, i.e not normal unless very ethically challenged entertainer is a profession.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 31 May 2013 @ 12:55 PM

  537. MARodger

    But woe betide if your infrared detector is warmed above the temperature of the object it is looking at

    The good news is that then you are ready to go for big-bang denial as well as obviously Penzias and Wilson never really saw the cosmic background — all those Nobel folks are in on the plot I tell ya

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 31 May 2013 @ 1:32 PM

  538. For those of you who believe technology can overcome growth (it can’t due to real physical limits and diminishing returns – and we aren’t hard up against the physical limits yet.. well, we are, it just doesn’t look like it… you know, half empty as the last doubling begins):

    Population growth erodes sustainable energy gains – UN report

    Comment by Killian — 31 May 2013 @ 2:38 PM

  539. can anyone here tell me the “direction” of all the major climate forcings right now? i’m talking about things like ENSO, the PDO, the AMO, solar radiation, and any other forcings you can think of?

    i’m trying to figure out if this recent slowing-down of warming could be because all the forcings are negative (except, obviously co2). is it possible or likely that this slowing-down of warming would be an actual cooling period if not for co2?

    Comment by walter crain — 31 May 2013 @ 2:54 PM

  540. It would be valuable for RealClimate to take apart the Lu study in Modern Physics B, claiming CFCs are entirely responsible for warming since 1970. It’s getting a lot of press. Fatal flaws are obvious even to me, but my opinion doesn’t count; time to call in the professionals.

    Comment by Tom Dayton — 31 May 2013 @ 3:02 PM

  541. Thanks to commenters at Skeptical Science, I now know that RealClimate already covered Lu’s previous claims about CFCs and GCRs. SkepticalScience also covered them before. I suppose I should read Lu’s new paper to see if he has any new claims on top of his obviously recycled ones….

    Comment by Tom Dayton — 31 May 2013 @ 4:04 PM

  542. Killian,

    I’ve built several eco-houses, designed but didn’t build an ~100mpg mid-size car, and have generally studied the issues since I was a child. Others here have similar backgrounds. Your tendency to talk down to people who probably know more about the issues than you is off-putting.

    It seems our disagreement is about what we need to give up. I think we’ll need to give up very little, though some things will be expensive or otherwise limited. Air travel comes to mind. Other than that, efficiency can make renewables work. Your 10-20% is probably a bit low; I’d say more like 30%. I see no reason we can’t drop our homes’ and cars’ energy use by 75%. The USA is at 31% non-carbon electricity, so we’ve already got nearly all the electricity we’ll need, even if substantial numbers of cars go electric (as opposed to bio-diesel or ethanol).

    http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=427&t=3

    And then there’s our Phosphorus Problem. Wiki says Peak Phosphorus is expected to happen in 2030. Won’t farming be fun?

    Comment by Jim Larsen — 31 May 2013 @ 4:36 PM

  543. Santa Monica, just above sea level, has an annual average of about 12″ of rain per year; Pasadena at 864′ receives about 20″ of rain (well, it snowed some in 1949) as an average but highly variable. Up the mountain, Mt. Wilson at over 5000′ receives an average of 33″ per year while further east Mt. Baldy at over 10,000′ receives but 31″ per year. So I suppose the moisture is fairly completely rung out lower down.

    Indeed, further north Mt. Whitney at over 14,000′ receives but 9.5″ per year. Looking at the Google satellite images, the Himalayas are mush wetter further down than higher up.

    Is there some convenient approximate formula for determining what proportion of available moisture precipitates at different altitudes with downwind rising terrain? A rather crude approximation suffices but I’ve never seen one.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 31 May 2013 @ 5:38 PM

  544. Jim Larsen@542…I admit to not having read the wiki on phosphorous, but perhaps here is at least a partial solution? http://richearthinstitute.org/

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 31 May 2013 @ 7:26 PM

  545. Re- Comment by Killian — 31 May 2013 @ 2:38 PM

    I don’t believe that there is anyone here who claims that technology can compensate for the effects of continued population growth if this is what you mean by “overcome.” Also, permaculture, localization, food forests, and a widespread near aboriginal lifestyle can’t “overcome” population growth.

    The only humane way to reduce population growth is to insure that all women achieve reproductive rights and men feel that they will be able to support their families. This is not a sexist comment when applied to the societies that contribute to population growth. There are off the shelf technological solutions to this problem if there is a will.

    Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 31 May 2013 @ 7:52 PM

  546. Tornadoe down again in Moore,
    http://kfor.com/on-air/live-streaming/

    That is the Jet today (similar to last time) http://squall.sfsu.edu/gif/jetstream_init_00.gif

    Comment by prokaryotes — 31 May 2013 @ 7:59 PM

  547. 544 Walter Pearce says: Jim Larsen@542…I admit to not having read the wiki on phosphorous, but perhaps here is at least a partial solution? http://richearthinstitute.org/

    Yup. Humanure. Zero waste. Closed loops. Regenerative design.

    Simple.

    Comment by Killian — 1 Jun 2013 @ 2:13 AM

  548. @546 Very similar to last time in the imaged area. In that #1 issue of Climate State (which you linked in your comment @535) there’s a good video about the Jet, arctic sea ice loss, and extreme weather:

    http://climatestate.com/2013/05/30/video-jet-stream-dark-snow/

    The video, “This Is Not Cool,” is from the Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media.

    “One of the changes we’ve seen is that the average humidity of our planet has increased by four percent.” –Katherine Hayhoe (from the video)

    What do you think?

    Here’s the Associated Press on the tornadoes 5/31, with photo. The funnel has that same wide profile:

    http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2021098336_tornadoapxml.html?syndication=rss

    France 24 (AFP) quotes KFOR saying the funnel was “nearly a mile wide.”

    http://www.france24.com/en/20130601-battered-oklahoma-hit-more-tornadoes

    Update: http://www.france24.com/en/20130601-tornadoes-oklahoma-city-usa

    Comment by patrick — 1 Jun 2013 @ 2:29 AM

  549. Walter Crain @539.

    A useful but still short answer to your first question is that over the last decade positive anthropogenic forcings have been increasing at a rate pretty much as in preceding decades. And solar forcings have been negative over the last half decade, which (running at c.-0.2w/m^-2 compared with an otherwise constant 11 year solar cycle) is about half a decade’s-worth of the positive human forcings. There is no significant volcanic forcing within the decade. Natural wobbles (which aren’t usually considered a result of forcing) being conventionally attributed to ENSO (although BEST has tried pointing the finger at AMO wobbles), have been small in amplitude, being mainly warming over the early half-decade and cooling over the later half-decade, the from-warming-to-cooling being roughly about -0.1ºC. Negative anthropogenic forcings over the decade are not well known.

    I should add given you mention AMO & PDO that if you have reasons for including longer-term (multi-decadal) natural fluctuations in you assessment, if so I would advise you to check your reasons more thoroughly. I would also point out that, as OHC has continued to rise pretty constantly through the decade, it is difficult to attribute any slow-down in the rise of surface temperatures directly to forcings acting on the total climate system. And it would be wrong not to mention that the increasing polar ice-loss over the decade represents a significant energy flux.

    The answer to your second actual question would be “cooler but not noticeably so.” The amount temperatures would be depressed by a hypothetical zero-increase in atmospheric CO2 would obviously depend on the period involved. After a period of a decade, for instance, the vast majority of the accumulative effective-change-in-forcing would still be acting and temperature would thus be little affected by such a change in just 10 years. A back-of-fag-packet calculation yields me -0.04ºC after such a period.

    Comment by MARodger — 1 Jun 2013 @ 2:41 AM

  550. Regarding QB Lu’s new paper, it may be recycling of some old work, but it is still worthwhile to see what he has got. If Lu is correct then our work to reduce halocarbon emission has probably been worth it, yet we don’t know whether his conjecture is right. The following is my attempt at duplicating his work.

    Lu doesn’t actually show the halocarbon plot on his arxiv paper
    “Cosmic Rays, CFCs, Ozone Hole and Global Climate Change: Understandings from a Physicist”

    I got the Northern Hemisphere halocarbon data from here.

    I totaled up the rows since 1940 (it started at 0 in 1940). The offsets don’t matter as Lu is doing a linear regression fit between Halocarbon concentration and Temperature anomaly. I used the HadCrut3 global, with a 3 year smooth and ½ year interval to match the halocarbon interval.

    my graph of Lu’s results

    The important point is that Lu has a lag on halocarbon concentration so that today’s temperature is correlated with the halocarbon concentration from 9 years ago. If you don’t do this the regression is really bad, which is the top figure in the image link. As he states:

    ”In Fig. 10F (and Fig. 10C), a 9-year delay in halocarbon concentrations in the stratosphere from surface-based measurements must be applied, otherwise, global surface temperature would show a sharp rise with high total halocarbon concentrations above 1100 ppt (1.1 ppb).”

    The middle and bottom show the correlation when I add the 9 year correction. As is, without all the solar corrections, I get the same R value of between 0.96 and 0.97 he got (sneaky that he doesn’t use R^2).

    If global average temperature starts going up, his argument that all of global warming is caused by halocarbons will go in the dumpster. However that does not mean that a portion of the global warming is not caused by this GHG. According to the consensus model, 1/3 of the 3 degree per doubling is caused by other GHGs and albedo that is associated with increasing CO2. We probably did knock some of the GHG effect off with reductions in halocarbons.

    Comment by WebHubTelescope — 1 Jun 2013 @ 8:35 AM

  551. David Benson:

    Is there some convenient approximate formula for determining what proportion of available moisture precipitates at different altitudes with downwind rising terrain? A rather crude approximation suffices but I’ve never seen one.

    The PRISM group at Oregon State U. developed a model to do that, although you may not find it very convenient. I don’t believe the project suffered much from the involvement of George Taylor.

    Comment by Mal Adapted — 1 Jun 2013 @ 9:10 AM

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