There could be another category: “Big actions” which would require a multibillion dollar investment in renewable energy production. One good way to do this is to take the ~30 billion in government subsidies that go to oil, gas and coal and transfer them to solar, wind and biofuel industries. This is called the “Apollo Initiative” ( http://www.apolloalliance.org/ ) and while it appears drastic, so does global warming. This approach could result in an entirely new energy infrastructure within perhaps two decades.
There is also the need to make sure that the climate data collection goes on – and part of this means getting NASA to reorder it’s budget and priorities towards looking at the Earth more then just outwards. It does seem that the denialists simply don’t want to see the data collected, which, needless to say, is a terrible and dangerous policy.
I would only add the “it’s only models” form of denialism, probably a subcategory of rhetorical skepticism. IMO, it’s a counterpoint to the “it’s serious” advocates although they will argue a complete range of paleo and current observations support that position. My problem with models is they don’t model the weather very accurately, particularly small to medium scale convection. I’m also not convinced they model the large scale weather features well enough to forecast them. I believe that might also be due to lack of horizontal resolution. I would also like to see more complete models with better topography, soil moisture, vegetation, more vertical resolution. It’s also possible that a few more forcings need to be modeled (e.g. cosmic rays).
I think in each country, the stage of the debate will mostly be defined by what the main parties are saying. If all the main parties are seriously saying that AGW is a serious issue, then the debate in general would be rather different, compared say to the US at present. However, I’d say that the US is probably close to a tipping point – maybe in 2008, both main candidates will be trying to out-do each other in how seriously they take AGW. (I’m not the first to suggest it).
Meanwhile, here in the UK, things are certainly getting interesting. The new leader of the Conservative Party decided to make a big push on “green” issues, to help de-toxify the party’s image. Apparantly the front-runner for their new party logo is an oak tree (a very English symbol). Things have definitely changed: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,176-2300743,00.html
Oops, here’s a little additional to my previous post. For some context, the Conservative Party is (in theory) the main right-wing party (equivalent to the Republicans in the US). They’re also currently leading in the polls. I say “in theory” since “political cross-dressing” is rampant lately.
Chris, do you really think that the new Tory leader will do anything about global warming once he is elected? Do you really think that the US oil industry will let Al Gore be the next US president? All that is needed is a new al-Qaeda plot and the Republican candidate, the oily queen, will romp home.
Gavin may be right, that we are not at the tipping point yet. But I can’t see anthing that is going to stop us reaching it, especially when the current breed of scientists need to have their papers reviewed by their conservative peers, rather than being able to state the truth.
That is what Lovelock found at the Hadley Centre. Each scientist knew that the tipping point for his speciality was just round the corner: Arctic sea ice, Greenland ice sheet, Alaskan glaciers, the Alpine glaciers, drought in Australia, the Amazon and the USA, fires in southern Europe, Australia, Calafornia and Alaska, desertification in India and China, acidification and coral bleaching in the oceans. Need I go on? But no one would believe them. Lovelock did, but that has only meant he is now called an extremist. So much for the idea that scientists don’t use ad hominem arguments :-(
I think changes to basic infrastructure, following the S-curve, generally require closer to 50 years than 20. It took about 40 years to get electricity to US households, for example. It has taken over 25 years to gain significant productivity improvements with micro-processor based equipment. Electricity had significant appeal and advantages to the existing alternatives. Replacing electricity generation with alternative sources will have much less appeal simply because the present system work so good. “… an entirely new energy infrastructure …” in 20 years is highly unlikely.
Additionally, solar and wind, not being reliably available will always, and always is the correct word, require backup systems and may even require base-loaded systems to handle the basic power generation. Biofuels will require the destruction of land and use of energy and other resources in order to produce sufficient fuel.
Can someone provide a source citation for the ~$30 billion subsidies to hydrocarbon-based fuels.
I have a question and perhaps this is an appropriate comment thread on which to ask it.
What is the scientifically legitimate worst-case scenario for global warming?
In other words, ruling out fantastic nonsense like the movie The Day After Tomorrow, if we humans continue to burn more and more fossil fuels and increase GHG emissions in accord with the mainstream energy projections of the IEA, and the effects of this across the board all turn out to be at the worst-case end of the scale, and all the possible positive feedbacks kick in, what is the worst result that could happen — even if it is not presently considered the most likely result — that is supported by actual science?
Doug Percival — I suppose your question is intended to exclude supereruptions of Yellostone or Mt. Toba. Then the worst thing I can think of just now is methane releases from all the hydrates in the oceans together with the melting of permafrosts, burning up all forests, and the like. Somebody else will have to estimate just how much warming this would amount to.
The idea is that fossil fuel burning leads to all these positive feedbacks. Result?
Comment by David B. Benson — 10 Aug 2006 @ 4:54 PM
Agree with #1 that “Big Actions” repertoire is missing from the classification. Raising federal fuel taxes substantially at the pump, for example, would be a big action that could result in many individual actions that, when all added all up, become fairly significant actions in terms of reducing greenhouse gases.
I proposed a more positive approach to reducing fuel burning in transportation and energy use in the home back a few years ago. Under my proposal, the Government would offer annual rebates to encourage less driving, flying and energy use in the home. The less people drove, fly or used energy in their home during the year, the higher amount of the rebate they would get at the end of the year.
This proposal was ignored when I first proposed it, except by the road building industry which saw the proposal as a threat to their future road building funding (which it would have been, naturally). Anyway, I’m considering reintroducing the proposal again, since global warming has clearly not gone away since I first made the proposal in 2000.
Unfortunately, this kind of proposal needs more than one, two or a handful of people advocating for it, and none of the politicians I sent it to would touch it, not even with a ten-foot pole. It didn’t stand a chance then. Maybe now?
Re Alastair’s comments (#5) about (the denialists) needing a new al-Qaeda plot, & above post on categories — I’m thinking there could be a “conspiracy” category also from the environmentalist side, that is, if someone would care to bring such up in the media (or the independent media) — sort of a FAHRENHEIT 411 type of thing, but focused on AGW.
Let me start something: I think it’s very “””coincidental””” that the evening in 1991 they were to show the rerun of HOT ENOUGH FOR YOU? on TV (a fine GW docu that got me started addressing the issue & about which I had written to all my gov reps to be sure & watch – including the now House Speaker), that Bush Sr. decided to launch Desert Storm. ‘Course HOT ENOUGH got permanently bumped, and the whole GW issue fizzled out of the public imaginaire. Coincident….I wonder ;)
‘Course there may be such a deep rooted conspiracy that nothing would show up in the media. We’ll never know, if all the Deep Throats have been slit.
OTOH, who needs a conspiracy to squelch GW science/info? It’s in the short-term interests of nearly everyone to do so.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 10 Aug 2006 @ 5:05 PM
I think a difference between the Conservative Party in the UK and the Republicans is that the Conservatives include a significant proportion of hereditary landowners. I can’t say I approve of inherited wealth but it seems to have resulted in people who take the attitude that they are merely looking after the land for the following generations and who therefore take a long-term view of environmental matters.
It may not be todays front page news but the crop harvest in the heartland of the US and beef cattle going to market will make not only news but hardships for both farmers and consumers.
A few more years of drought such as being experienced in the US grain states will further draw down global grain inventory which is currently at a 25 year low.
Food shortages will not have to wait until a tipping point, or 2X CO2 or the 2 degree C increase. Famine and food shortages happen repeatedly around the world when price is the limiting factor for food. Drought worsening food availability now is, in my opinion, a consequence of global warming and we do not need scientists to verify that. Farmers measure the rainfall, survey the fields and call the bank.
Gavin, an excellent thread and deserving high quality comments.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 10 Aug 2006 @ 5:50 PM
re: 2. One essential point: We are talking about *climate* modeling here, not *weather*. There is a fundamental difference. Comparing the two is like comparing apples and oranges especially when it comes to modeling. The difference is an absolutely basic “Meteorology 101” lesson. Completely different time scales, spatial scales, model inputs and obviously model outputs.
BTW, in the US, weather forecast accuracy is documented at approximately 85 percent per NOAA’s Meteorological Development Lab.
As a non-scientist, but regular reader, I wonder often whether there are any political scientists out there who are attempting to address the likelihood, or lack thereof, of the United States government actually taking global climate change seriously enough to put some far reaching policies into place. Without such govermental action, it’s very difficult to avoid being genuinely morose. Does anyone know of any political scientists making a contribution. The ultimate issue in this particular post is a political one.
I have long advocated consideration of worst-case possibilities to drive policy, so I appreciate Doug Percival’s question.
Unfortunately, the question of what the worst case might be is not as clear-cut as it might at first appear. In order to identify a worst case, one requires some sort of metric of goodness or badness of outcome. Economists have one ready at hand; it involves discounting future costs the further into the future they lie. This effect is subsumed into an annula percentage rate, called the discount rate. That rate is set by the marketplace, and it reflects the probable value of investments. The idea is, basically, that a cost of, say, a thousand dollars a few decades is the equivalent of only, say a hundred dollars now, since we could “invest” a hundred dollars and gain a “return” of a thousand, to compensate for our losses.
There are many things wrong with this line of reasoning as applied to global change issues. In particular, the collapse of the major ice sheets a couple of centuries hence is essentially discounted to pretty much a trivial cost, even though our moral responsibility to our distant descendants is not really discountable in that way. In addition, some costs (ecosystem decline, aesthetic decline, impacts of environmental decline on geopolitics, etc.) are not easy to reduce to dollars.
Continued economic growth is essentially an assumption of the discount rate. This part disturbs me the most. While we may hope that economies continue to prosper, there really is no fundamental principle that guarantees it. Economists find immutable laws where in fact there are merely tendencies. If the worst case pans out, the entire growth assumption that is built into the discount rate becomes suspect to say the least.
Unfortunately, there are no widely accepted alternative methods for measuring costs over the time periods we are discussing. So it’s not clear what the worst case might be in any formal sense.
All that said, and leaving aside the way economists manage to sweep longer time scales under the rug, the purely environmental science question is also difficult, because it depends crucially on confidence intervals of a number of complex interacting phenomena. Most research focusses on the most likely outcomes rather than on constraining the most dangerous ones.
Recent results appear to be constraining the temperature sensitivity of the system to greenhouse forcing to within a factor of less than two, but that leaves many open questions. Some of the largest involve feedbacks within the natural carbon cycle as conditions (especially temperature but also precipitation, storminess, and variability) change. Others involve unknowns about how quickly natural and artificial systems can adapt to unprecedented rates of change; how badly or well we fare depends to some extent on how well we and our surroundings can adapt.
So, while I can’t answer the question I’d like to emphasize its importance. The expected cost of climate change is much larger than the cost of the expected climate change. This may be a rather subtle statistical point for politicians, businessmen and the general public to understand, but it seems to me rather crucial. The best way to explain it is by analogy to personal insurance policies. The probability that your home will be struck by, say, a tornado within your lifetime is small, but if you live in tornado-prone country you are likely to buy insurance against severe storms anyway. That is because the expected cost of tornados (say, to simplify, 98% chance of zero damage and 2% chance of total destruction) is 2 % of the value of your house. The expected cost is dominated by the unlikely event, not by the most likely outcome.
Most public discussion not only accepts the rather inappropriate economic discounting framework, it also proceeds from an estimate of the costs of the most likely change, not a risk-weighted cost estimate. Both of these errors tend to understate the appropriate level of policy concern. This in turn exacerbates the potency of all the more obvious forces that result in our grossly inadequate climate change policies.
RE # 13
Does anyone know of scientific references to the likely redistribution of agricultural commodity production (eg major agricultural products) worldwide that will occur as a result of climate change. I am aware that a US agency has done some work for the USA but find I did not bookmark it.
Thanks in advance.
Chris, do you really think that the new Tory leader will do anything about global warming once he is elected?
I dunno if you read that link in my last post, but there’s certainly some who’d like to put the “conserve” back into the Conservative Party. Exactly how serious and determined David Cameron is is hard to say. He hasn’t yet gone into much detail on what sort of polices he might persue either. However, he is doing a passable job on “lead by example” so far. And he’s certainly forced the Labour party and Liberal Democrates to play catch-up. Still, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if “Dave” does a better job on CO2 emissions than “Tony”, if he gets elected – and suddenly, after being in power for nearly 10 years, Tony Blair’s likely successor (for leader of the Labour party) has suddenly been talking about green issues.
I’m not too worried about “oil money” in UK politics. Though Tony Blair seems a bit too friendly with nuclear power… (better than fossil fuels at least)
Do you really think that the US oil industry will let Al Gore be the next US president? All that is needed is a new al-Qaeda plot and the Republican candidate, the oily queen, will romp home.
Well, last I heard, Al Gore is not accepting campain contributions and told possible doners to donate elsewhere. I don’t think US politicians as a whole are bound to Big Oil – else certain projects in Alaska would have been passed long ago.
If you want to think about things from a different angle, though oil companies are benefiting nicely from high oil prices, in all other respects they lose. Certainly their image is going down and down (and recent pipe problems won’t have helped) as consumers find it more and more expensive to drive. Higher energy costs are making consumers and companies more interested in better energy efficiency automatically. Certainly some are trying to use high prices to push for more drilling, but don’t think that appears to be too popular with the public.
In an event marking the start of the Eocene, the planet heated up in one of the most rapid and extreme global warming events recorded in geologic history, currently being identified as the ‘Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum’ or the ‘Initial Eocene Thermal Maximum’ (PETM or IETM). Sea surface temperatures rose between 5 and 8Â°C over a period of a few thousand years, but in the high Arctic, sea surface temperatures rose to a sub-tropical ~23Â°C/73Â°F. In 1990, marine scientists James Kennett and Lowell Stott, both then at the University of California, Santa Barbara, reported analysis of marine sediments showing that, not only had the surface of the Antarctic ocean heated up about 10 degrees at the beginning of the Eocene, but that the entire depth of the ocean had warmed, and its chemistry changed disastrously. There was severely reduced oxygen in deep sea waters, and 30 to 40% of deep sea foraminifera suddenly went extinct. Geologist Jim Zachos of the University of California, Santa Cruz has connected the Eocene heat wave to drastic changes in ocean chemistry that caused the massive worldwide die-off. More recently a synchronous drop in carbon isotope ratios has been identified in many terrestrial environments.
What unleashed the PETM is unclear. Most evidence points to volcanic eruptions that disgorged gigatonnes of carbon dioxide, or coastal reservoirs of methane gas, sealed by icy soil, that were breached by warmer temperatures or receding seas.
At the start of the Eocene, the Earth remained warm for about 80,000 to 200,000 years. On land, there was a massive turnover of mammals, as most of the primitive mammals that had developed since the end of the Cretaceous were suddenly replaced by the ancestors of most of the surviving modern mammal groups, all of them in small versions, adapted to Eocene heat. Plant life was characterised by the boreotropical flora, with extensive high-latitude forests composed of large, fast-growing trees such as Dawn Redwood as far north as 80Â°N. In 2005, the Arctic Coring Expedition found fossilized algae characteristic of subtropical waters averaging about 20C (the current average: -1.5C) in sediment cores taken on the Lomonosov Ridge between Siberia and Greenland. Atmospheric carbon levels then are thought to have been about 2-3,000 parts per million (ppm), compared with almost 380 ppm today.
I have read in various places that in order to do anything significant and meaningful to stop or at least avoid disastrous consequences from global warming that we need to cut emissions by at least 70%. This is rarely stated in most mainstream articles on the subject, but if true or highly probably true, needs to be said to give people an idea of the real scope of the problem.
Clearly, once you have defined the problem or solution in this way, you cannot end the story by suggesting that all will be fine if we buy Priuses or install CFLs.
While it is true that alarmist articles on this subjject due create a sense of hopelessness, there is some truth to these articles and it is a fact that the glaciers are disappearing and that massive amounts of sea ice is disappearing. It is also a fact that various species, both animal and plant, are beginning to be negatively impacted by warming.
Putting aside some of the most extreme examples of alarmism, assuming they are actually that extreme, the cold, calm facts themselves give me cause for alarm. The situation, regardless of how described, does seem in fact hopeless given the fact that our government and people have done virtually nothing to address the problem. Kyoto, even if fully implemented, is a joke, and will be swamped by those non signatories like China and the United States.
While the writers on this site often make me feel just a little bit more comfortable about what is going on, it does not change the fact that my grandaughter will inhabit a planet far different and more unpleasant one than the one I have experienced in my life time.
Terry, spend some time, on your own, looking up global ag production information and share it with us. Individually, we can evaluate sources to determine how comfortable we are with your data. But, send some data to us.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 10 Aug 2006 @ 8:23 PM
“As an aside, the role for scientists doesn’t end once a problem has been identified – their contributions are required in order to assess the effectiveness of proposed policies – such as geo-engineering ideas.”
Geoengineering, surely, must be engineering, not science. Yes, one cannot have good engineering without good science, but the disciplines are not interchangeable. The trouble is that climate scientists, like the rest of the community, may assume they know best how to do the engineering. Therein, I suspect, lies a route to endless argument and inaction, and ultimately to a poor outcome.
Science is about finding out how stuff is, and figuring how and why. Usually the process is progressive, and endless, because the knowledge is never quite perfect. Engineering is about doing stuff, now, always based on imperfect knowledge. The key lies in understanding how imperfect and allowing for that, so that the outcome is affordable and acceptable. The business of managing risk.
A major problem with AGW science to date is that climate scientists are not giving us the answers we need to formulate adequate risk estimates, let alone suitable responses. Risk, in engineering, is a product of likelihood and consequence. What is the risk of +10C at 2xCO2? That may be a fundamentally critical geoengineering question. The likelihood of +10C at 2xCO2, apparently, is very low, but the consequence may be catastrophic, so what is the product of the two?
You left out one other category. The “It’s terrible but don’t worry, the aliens will fix it when they get here” group. More common than you might suppose, these people are often seen driving around everywhere in old cars and Combis with “Greenpeace” and “Hug the Whales” bumperstickers with enormous quantities of blue exhaust smoke pouring out of their tailpipes.
Thank you for running a marvelous site although it is somewhat dismaying to see every topic winding up with the old “It’s happening./No it’s not. We’re causing it./No we’re not.” arguments.
To me, all this is irrelevant to the issue. Surely, common sense dictates that mankind merely need ensure that we are NOT causing GW. It behooves all of us – rich or poor, industrialist or socialist, human or beetle – to have a cleaner, greener Earth.
As an Australian journalism student who has taken an interest in the work of the IPCC, I find myself with a strange dilemna. Lecturers tell us we need to give equal consideration to ‘both sides’ of the ‘climate change debate’ as though both sides are equally credible, which I personally fidn to be a complete and total distortion of the realities.
Mainstream Australian media is pretty much only going to print set categories of global warming stories: 1)Boltian denialist rants (including such gems as ‘There can’t be a warming effect, Antarctic is seeing record amounts of snowfall’. 2)Nutcase scenarios – similar to Y2K type stories – ‘This scientist thinks there will be cyclones in Hobart by 2020 due to increased climactic instability’ also known as the ‘Day After Tomorrow’ style story.
Cogent stories which explain the realities of climate change, even stories which simply announce the latest IPCC publication, may be written but are seldom published- the general view seems to be that the public doesn’t find it that interesting. The Age/Herald Sun/Australian are rarely going to give priority to a story that says something like:
“The overall global temperature looks set to rise by around 3 degrees by the end of the century, according to a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chane.” News editors, generally get bored at things which seem too sciency or not controversial enough, and will go “So?” at this, not realising the actual importance of the story itself.
This is where thinktanks win the PR war, because they apparently don’t need a scientific basis to retain credibility- hence the steady stream of articles telling us that the economists are all certain global warming isn’t going to happen, so no one needs to make any lifestyle changes.
Referendums in Australia seem to indicate that people won’t accept changes that they don’t understand, or don’t see a pressing need for. The science of climate change seems to indicate, as I understand it, that human activity has caused/is causing an aggregate average temperature increase. I know scientists don’t like to talk policy, but realistically, if we are going to ask people to make real changes to their energy usage and habits, they need to understand the science better than they do. They need to understand why economists aren’t qualified to speak on weather patterns. They need to know things like that sometimes, it can be too cold for snow to form.
I am not sure how this can be solved, actually. I thought about creating a website, and patiently refuting claims of the mainstream press (particularily those of Andrew Bolt), explaining the science but trying to make it much clearer so that people who don’t have a grasp on the basics of physics and climate can still understand. It is difficult to know where to start, though one thing is certain- this paradigm, in which credible, substantiable scientific consensus gets considerably less press attention than the odd anomalous publication – needs to be shifted in some way.
(I hope this comment is acceptable to this forum, despite my lack of a science degree. :) )
This is fascinating as a writer trained in journalism and a working scientist. One has to be careful not to alienate those who can be rescued. Or swayed to the truth. And I perhaps don’t have the temperment for that sort of mission, but many perfectly intelligent people because of politics have a tin ear when it comes to even the basic scientific reasoning required to grasp this problem. Given the choice, and I give them one, they head straight for the ideological fallacy of choice. It’s dismal, but if the leadership can be convinced we’ll get on with the task at hand: inventing the new energy paradigm. Time’s a wastin.
Comment #1 is very important. The Apollo Alliance is one of the best programs to implement. We need to give it more press. Also, comment #7, the answer, plain and simple is that a runaway greenhouse effect is quite possible. Melting permafrost, underground coal fires, release of methane from the ocean will all drive this effect once thermohaline current shuts down due to loss of Greenland ice cap. This runaway effect is not even “way out there” as a possible effect. It is a forseeable effect due to simple reinforcement and feedback mechanisms.The Apollo Alliance is the best plan I’ve seen. Please, everyone, support AB 32 here in California.Best wishes to our planet. Venus?
When you talk about a 50 year cycle for replacing infrastructure you are talking about the natural cycle – what it would take if you left it to the “free market” (scare quotes because there is no such thing), possibly encouraged by carbon taxes and such.
But a really strong public works policy, combined with regulation and green taxes could make the change much sooner. That is why I see the Apollo Alliance proposal only as a good start. Rather than spending 30 billion a year I think the right amount would be more around 300 billion a year. With that kind of expenditure we could replace energy consuming infrastructure as it wears out with more efficient infrastructure, and also phase in renewable sources.
Re #27: I think your use of the term “runaway” is a bit loose. Runaway greenhouse is typically meant to be runaway greenhouse – not just “really effing bad”. Runaway means the temperatures keep rising until the oceans boil away into space, eg Venus. If your gonna be alarmist, please be an accurate alarmist. You’ll get more folks to listen that way. Which is what you want, right?
>This lack of serious discussion about solutions may however be changing if these recent MIT Technology Review or Energy Journal (subscription) special issues are anything to go by, and as more people and institutions start to think about the problem. This was always going to be the hard part though.
OK -obviously when you talk about solutions this is engineering and economics and agriculture and politics and business skills and hundreds of other fields. RMI (though I have my disagreement with some of their approaches) has spent decades on this issue and come up with brilliant stuff.
I will add that when it comes to solutions if you simply add up all the efficiency and renewable technology we have now you will find that we can replace not just some, but all of our fossil fuel use by renewables and efficiency. If you do it over the course of 30 years, the overall market cost will be no more than we pay for fossil fuels now – even coal.
The hard part is the politics. This stuff will NOT be provided by the “free market”. (One of my beefs with RMI who have been trying to bring change with business cases for decades.) So somehow we have to get a popular movement that pressures governments instituting serious programs – massive public works, strong regulations, and in the long run some form of green taxes with rebates.
Ref 30: “This stuff will NOT be provided by the “free market”.”
So true… I completely agree. This is also shown in the Enery Journal special issue. There is some hope, though, as international bodies such as the International energy agency says that our current energy system is not sustainable (even if i may not agree with their definition of sustainability). They have recently published a good “Energy technology perspectives 2006, scenarios and strategies to 2050” (not free). See http://www.iea.org.
The worst case scenario is that we wipe mankind from the surface of the planet along with most of the other life. We know that we can do this using nuclear weapons, and that has prevented it from happening. But, we all “know” that this is not going to happen through from global warming. “Hey, it is only Chicken Littles who think that.”
That is the reason that it is not just possible, it is inevitable. By the time people accept that we are destroying mankind it will be too late to stop.
Just look what is happening as a result of Hurricane Katrina – nothing. We all know that it is a sign of things to come, but we are still waiting until we are sure. When will that be? Presumably when ten category five hurricanes hit the US every summer. By then it will be too late to stop it. And how do we cool the planet down any way?
Just look at what is happening in the Amazon. Two years of drought, and if we get another two it will die. What is the plan? Wait and see if we do get two more years of drought. It seems to me that the Amazon jungle is doomed, because we won’t believe it can happen until it has!
It is just the same with the planet. We are not willing to believe that a tipping point exist. We will only be convinced of that when it has occurred. That will be too late!
Of course this is not science, it is just common sense :-(
Dan #14, there’s only two ways to get accurate climate models, (1) model the weather accurately or (2) use accurate parameters for weather. The problem with the second choice which you seem to favor is that the weather parameter substitutions will change as the climate changes, particularly water vapor. The reason that climate models do not have the resolution of weather models is they can’t, not they don’t need to. That problem will be fixed in the next decade or two. The extra computing power, better science, and better real world measurements will fix the other deficiencies like soil moisture, topography and vegetation.
As for the weather models accuracy, they are notorious for missing convection or convective feedback. Yesterday in the mid-Atlantic we had both including a substantial MCS in the morning missed by all the models. I had 0.75 inches of rain which kept highs lower than 80. Today that moisture will cause diurnal cumulus and likely some tomorrow as well. All climate affecting, all missed by the models.
re 32. No. I don’t know how to make this any simpler: The time scales, inputs and spatial resolutions of weather models are completely different than climate models. They serve completely different purposes. This is freshman year meteorology/climatology stuff. You are mixing up the fundamentals.
As for accuracy of convection or convection feedback, you are not looking at the right models. There are models that handle convection quite well. Some are regional and some are fine scale. Broad scale models do not simply due to resolution issues. Again, you are missing the fundamental difference between climate and weather. Simply repeating what you think does not make it so. There are many sources of information you can seek on this basic information.
Dan, there is obviously no need for energy or ocean circulation calculations in weather models, perhaps that is what you are assuming. But as weather patterns change in response to warming from CO2 and other GH gasses, there simply cannot be an adequate parameterization of quantities like “albedo” to feed into energy and broad circulation models. They must be modeled accurately and they will, the climate model resolution will continue to increase whether you want it to or or think it is necessary or not. Along with the weather the climate models will incorporate better science for soil moisture, vegetation, etc. They will also benefit from more comprehensive and accurate initial conditions that will be measured in the real world.
I like this peice, I am assuming that the alarmism side of climate science comes from conference held in the UK at Exeter in 2005 that seems to be showing that climate change will occur on time scales much less than the IPCC models currently suggest. One such issue is glaciers whereby current models suggest 10,000 years for the Greenland one to melt but recent evidence of Type II (abrupt non linear, stochastic changes) climate change suggests otherwise, ie 100 years before we see large scale change.
Recent books like Fred Pearces “the last generation” deal with the outcome of this conference and seems to indicate many climate scientists now believe or fear that Type II climate change is more normal than first thought and could lead to much quicker and disruptive change than previously thought possible including much quicker and stronger warming and hence melting than first thought.
Another facet to this enormous problem is that diminished sources of water, decreased agricultural output that is bound to be a consequence of global warming is going to create more wars such as we now see in the arid mideast and Africa. Need for food and water are so often the basic causes of wars. Global warming is going to bring out the worst in hamanity’s primal needs.
Comment by Beverley Bonner — 11 Aug 2006 @ 6:55 AM
re: 34. Yes. But that is a different subject than your earlier claim about models i.e., “…they don’t model the weather very accurately…I’m also not convinced they model the large scale weather features well enough to forecast them.” Climate model resolution will certainly increase. Just as weather models have. But that does not mean that climate (long-term) models will be used to forecast weather (short-term). Never have, never will.
Dan, they do already, see ESMF. I also underestimated the degree to which models are integrating, such as adding space weather to the climate/weather models. But I agree that I should not have said “don’t model weather very accurately” implying that I was confusing the two (currently mostly separate) types of models. But then you have essentially proven my point in #2, which is that exists other skeptics who consider current climate models inadequate and reject their conclusions. Those objections are being addressed and in another decade or two will be invalidated by science and technology.
Not quite. I think you have taken some important information about EMSF out of context. Per the EMSF web page, “The Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF) collaboration is building high-performance, flexible software infrastructure to increase ease of use, performance portability, interoperability, and reuse in climate, numerical weather prediction, data assimilation, and other Earth science applications.”
Building “software infrastructure” is not the use of climate models for weather forecasts.
As for my “proving” your point in #2, I reject that out of hand. First of all, “proof” is a mathematical concept. Second, the fact that there are skeptics who consider current models inadequate and reject their conclusions is not consequential with respect to the peer-reviewed published results which show otherwise.
Dan, what the unified modeling provides is fine-grained, quantitative replacement for the parameters that are coarsely and sometimes qualitatively added to climate models like albedo. There are many instances where qualitative hypotheses are made about certain feedbacks such as the extent and albedo of snow and ice. Then various quantitative inputs are used to adjust a single albedo or a set of very coarse albedos in the climate models to see what happens. With an integrated model like ESMF, the snow and ice and its albedo will be modeled on a fine grained basis along with albedo from weather feedbacks. These results will be far more accurate considering the often dramatic changes in weather (and thus snow and ice) due to CO2 and other GH warming and other forcings. Albedo is just one example, there are others, particularly the horizontal and vertical distribution of water vapor which can be modeled on a fine grained basis as it is affected by weather.
Eric, re: “far more accurate”. That is the key phrase. The facts are the climate models are quite “accurate” now. They have be shown to predict past climate variations well and within reason. The theory behind them is sound. Certainly the additional detailed, better-resolved parameters such as albedo and water vapor will improve models. But that is not to say they are not accurate now, per the numerous peer-reviewed literature, the IPCC reports, and this web site’s overseers.
Dan, as you probably expect, I disagree. The problem comes from the changes in weather patterns due to climate forcings. The forcings themselves are shown to be quite small (a degree or so C), most of the rest is water vapor feedback. But the water vapor distribution is very nonlinear due to weather. From my link in #2, there are many problems with models with both current weather patterns and more so as weather patterns change. One example is overestimation of convection such as in 3088067. Another example is 9983516. There are others, and they basically show that GCM models are not accurate now.
Eric(skeptic) suggested that in order to get accurate weather
predictions, two things are needed: (1) accurate weather models (2)
relevant up-to-date model parameters for operational weather modeling.
In an earlier post to realclimate I suggested that in order to get accurate hydrologic predictions, two things are needed: (1) accurate hydrologic models (2) relevant up-to-date model parameters for operational hydrologic modeling.
The need to address climate change in operational hydrologic models and prediction was expressed in documentation (feedback) which I sent to the National Academies on March 21, 2004 (see email*).
Documentation included the Excerpt below:
Earlier this year, my supervisor Dan Luna, Hydrologist in Charge
(HIC), regarding climate change, said: “That subject is not part of the NCRFC/NWS mission.” I have shown that hydrologic climate change has already been occurring in the NCRFC area and therefore must be part of the NCRFC mission, in my view.
In 2002 and 2003 I researched NWS cooperative climate data and flow data from the US Geological Survey. I used the results of my research in preparing my presentation for the CPC / DRI workshop.
In 2000 and 2001, HIC Dean Braatz stated: “global warming was beyond the time window of our hydrologic forecast mission”. The statement was supported by NWS directors in giving final approval to suspensions I received that were directly related to my efforts in hydrologic climate change and model needs. I provided Mr. Braatz and others with data showing trends for earlier snowmelt runoff in the Red River basin, which indicated that climate warming was in the time window for the NCRFC mission, in fact already occurring.
Please reply at your convenience concerning this request for your suggestions on if / how I might be able to continue work on hydrologic climate change in the Midwest and Northern Great Plains, at the NCRFC.
As an Australian journalism student who has taken an interest in the work of the IPCC, I find myself with a strange dilemna. Lecturers tell us we need to give equal consideration to ‘both sides’ of the ‘climate change debate’ as though both sides are equally credible, which I personally fidn to be a complete and total distortion of the realities.
This sort of thing is unfortunate. They’re literally saying that you MUST show both sides of the “debate”? Have you argued with them about this?
Certainly, in many aspects of journalism, there may be “two sides”, one of which will turn out to be right in an event that hasn’t happened yet. Eg, two sports teams before a match, a case in court before a verdict has been reached, etc. Once the event has happened, then you have a fact that you can report without qualification (though fact-checking is important of course).
But say you’re reporting on an election, before the results are in. If the opinion polls show it’s “too close to call”, then that’s one thing. But say opinion polls on election day are showing one candidate is getting 90%, the others are getting 5%, and the remaining 5% say don’t know. Is it still then reasonable to give equal weight to the candidates in all reporting?
I’m no journalist, but the above is how I’d think about it, currently. (Obviously comparing scientific discussion with politial discussion is apples to oranges though…)
Eric, from 3088067, “The model is found to capture the relationship between water vapor concentration and total convective area reasonably,
but it fails to reproduce the respective contributions from highly and less frequent convections. The deficiency lies in the fact that convection frequency is broadly overestimated in the model. The area coverages of different convective regimes are not simulated correctly.”
No where in that abstract does it say or imply that the various climate model prediction are inaccurate within reason per the peer-reviewed literature. At face value, the author examined the NCAR model, identified a “deficiency” in convection frequency such that apparently the coverages of convective “regimes” are not “simulated correctly”. This small piece in the climate puzzle does not have weight to disregard or altogether throw out the various climate models outputs. Particular in light of their ability to reproduce climate changes.
Pat, I find the hydrologic models to be quite good at river level prediction in my area (Shenandoah in VA). Where they falter a bit is soil moisture modeling and measurement particularly at varying depths. Where they failed fairly dramatically in June was in the weather modeling particularly timing the end of convection in PA. As the trailing edge moved through my area they were still predicting 12 more hours of rain there when it was obvious that it would be 3-4.
I think your comments deal with daily short term river forecasting not the AHPS probabilistic products which are issued for the next 90 day period in the Midwest. The problems in forecasting the big floods in the NCRFC area (Red R. 1997, Mississippi R. 1993, Central Michigan 1986, Red R. 1979, Souris R. 1976) were in determining the runoff and routing factors with subsequent rainfall a small source of the errors. River forecast problems in quality and timeliness for the NCRFC area as a result of climate change have already been encountered in witnessing the changes in the timing and rates of snowmelt and evaporation/transpiration throughout the year. Ignoring the climate/hydrologic changes is not a good approach to take in serving the public well in hydrologic prediction. Leaving that for someone else to do, is a poor excuse for NWS managers, directors and NOAA administers to take, in my view.
Estimated monthly changes in the mass of Greenland’s ice sheet suggest it is melting at a rate of about 239 cubic kilometres (57.3 cubic miles) per year.
The most recent estimate I could find for ice rate loss was 220 cubic km per year.
The San Francisco Chronicle also has an article about this new report, which says:
According to the scientists’ data, Greenland’s ice is melting at a rate three times faster than it was only five years ago […] the global sea level, due to melting of the ice in Greenland and Antarctica combined, is already rising 10 times faster than the IPPC’s tentative estimates, the two analyses indicate.
Perhaps another category or “repertoire” of global warming reportage would be stories about how global warming driven changes are proceeding X times faster than previous estimates. Unfortunately, most of the ongoing empirical observations seem to fall into that category.
How to rank risks in a world full of problems�
It’s more than just the news of a foiled terrorist plot that’s got me wondering where to rank global warming as a global threat. Media coverage of global warming seems to shift from one extreme to another. A recent BBC…
Re: #10. When I got up this morning and saw the news about the airlines (and Cheney’s remarks from earlier in the week) I figured that this revelation was carefully timed by the powers that be. After all, the general threat has been known about for over 10 years and this particular threat has been known about for weeks, so why didn’t TSA act sooner? A number of progressive issues – including AGW – have been coming to the fore of late and they needed a nuclear option to take control of the debate again. And here we are.
RE #42, that was the Aug 03 2006 issue, vol442 #7102 p485.
The discussion on modelling weather vs. climate is just plain silly – a weather model can’t predict rainfall two weeks from now, but we can be sure that average N. Hemisphere temperatures will be higher in July then in January. I think there are quite a few posts on this site covering that topic.
Journalists could use a little more science education when it comes to all sides of an issue, but that means being familiar with the notion of ‘multiple working hypothesis’ – and the idea that climate is insensitive to atmospheric composition just isn’t a viable hypothesis; that’s a conclusion based on basic physical principles that have been developed over the past 200+ years. Why not ask journalists to always include in stories on genetics, “There are some people who say that DNA has nothing to do with heredity”? Clearly, journalists who want to write stories about scientific issues need some basic level of scientific training.
On a more hopeful note, using modern technology you can build a ‘breeder’ solar factory – a factory that first manufactures enough solar panels to provide energy for all of its operations, and then only needs raw materials to continue production. You’d want to site such a factory in lower or tropical lattitudes. The cost might be $100-$200 million in initial invertment; for $100 billion you’d have a thousand such factories, all producing solar panels with a life expectancy of ~30 years. This is just one example, but the point is that we already have the technological know-how to build a renewable energy-based society.
One storyline that I haven’t heard in way too long is the “No regrets” strategy. In other words, at least take all the actions to reduce fossil fuel consumption that make economic and security sense. And the very first step would be ending subsidies for fossil fuels. In fact, every free-mark advocate, and every hawk, should be demanding (and in some cases are demanding) an end to subsidies. Good energy policy requires many allies.
The subsidy issue alone is the immediate response to anyone who suggests that slowing fossil consumption would be expensive. But remember, libertarian economists like Milton Friedman have long warned that ending subsidies is extremely difficult. For good energy policy, we’ll need all the help we can get.
I have to say I am a fan of Kyoto. I see it a few ways.
Like the earths climate systems, the economic systems we have developed have a lot of inertia built in. Growth follows a trend, driven by either more energy consumption or less, resulting by more or less CO2 emissions.
Much criticism is directed towards kyoto as it only requires a reduction of 5% below 1990 levels, when what we need is much more drastic, however if you take inertia into account, like turning an oil tanker, or getting through the latent heat of water, that 5% is critical. First it disrupts the trend, decoupling CO2 from growth, and then it turns it negative.
How Kyoto aims to do that is through a couple of mechanisms. First establish carbon as a constrained commodity which will become more and more constrained with time. Give those limits to business, and let them work with it. Weight cost competitiveness for companies according to their carbon emissions. As the concept and the markets mature, they expand to cover a wider range of economic activity. Countries, regions, society in general accept ultimate responsibility. In other words someone pays.
Then there’s the CDM. Some countries that have made capital investments locking in pollution in the short to medium term can opt towards investing in clean technology projects in the developing world. Critics claim that this is a licence to continue polluting, but is it? If a company chooses to follow the CDM path, and its direct competitor chooses to invest in more efficient facilities for production, who comes out better. In short, CDM is a stop gap measure, a vital one for the developing world, but one that doesn’t prevent a loss of competitiveness from occuring.
Besides the redistributive and clean growth potential of CDM, there is then the added advantage of creating a developmental market on a large scale for clean technologies.
Ultimately what it serves to do is provide that burst to get over the latent inertia of the economy, and direct it on a trend where economic growth is not just decoupled from C emissions, but is actually dependent on reducing C emissions. Personally I think its ingenious.
After he lost the 2000 presidential election, Gore spent a year as a visiting journalism professor at Columbia. He specifically tried to teach his students NOT to mindlessly insert faux “he said, she said” balance in their stories. He failed. By the time he got them, the students had been so indoctrinated in that idea that they refused to take Gore seriously, openly arguing with him that he was wrong.
It is disappointing to hear that Australian journalism is taught the same way
#46 and 52…. I must say its not quite surprising to hear these reports, Dr Chen is right about the last couple of years, indirectly confirming a warming in the upper atmosphere, as measured by other means. A warmer ice sheet after abnormaly warm winter temperatures is susceptible to melt so much faster.
Now, how to report this correctly? I think you can’t do much better than the BBC and SF Chronicle cited articles, its not alarmism to report a massive melt, the problem is to translate this in lay terms, which is where the audience is.
The discussion on modelling weather vs. climate seems just plain silly to me too, but how do we factor climate change into the development of our hydrologic models for flood and low water predictions (day-to-day and 1-3 month probabilistic)?
I agree with many of the posters that we need to start focusing on solutions, even if it is on only a small local level. It’s a hell of lot better than doing nothing and bemoaning the inaction of world governements. Take action! I recently started a blog to form a methodology for closed-loop sustainable design of communities at http://peakoildesign.blogspot.com
We could really use the help from all of you scientists on realclimate.org when it comes to planning for local effects on rainfall, temperatures, farming, etc. Most people with technical experience in the Peak Oil community are either engineers or geologists, and we lack much of the climate science domain expertise that you possess. We’re all coming at this from different angles, but our goals are the same: reduce consumption and protect the environment. Please stop by if you think you can lend a hand.
re: 57. Definitely agree. I find it disturbing that so many skeptics apparently have such little background in the fundamentals differences between climate and meteorology yet feel more than qualified on the subjects. What a strange way of analytical thinking.
>On a more hopeful note, using modern technology you can build a ‘breeder’ solar factory – a factory that first manufactures enough solar panels to provide energy for all of its operations, and then only needs raw materials to continue production. You’d want to site such a factory in lower or tropical lattitudes. The cost might be $100-$200 million in initial invertment; for $100 billion you’d have a thousand such factories, all producing solar panels with a life expectancy of ~30 years. This is just one example, but the point is that we already have the technological know-how to build a renewable energy-based society.
For under a billion you could build a really big solar cell factory and a second factory to provide it a dedicated source of silicon – both initially using conventional energy sources. This would take advantage of economies of scale in a way solar cell manufacturers serving the current market cannot – and provide solar cells that could be installed for around one dollar per peak watt. This would get around the classic chicken egg problem you have with solar cells; because the market is small manufacturers can’t take advantage of full economies of scale. Because manufacturers can’t take advantage of full economies of scale prices are high and thus the market remains small. Suprisingly this help thin film manufacturers as well. It is likely that $1 per watt installed cells would create a market larger than a single factory could fill. So they could take advantage of the additional demand.
Re: #30- “So somehow we have to get a popular movement that pressures governments instituting serious programs – massive public works, strong regulations, and in the long run some form of green taxes with rebates.”
It’s the ‘somehow’ that’s the stumbling block. We have specialists for everything in this debate except specialists in how to work massive social change. In this, one ignoramus is as good as the next.
The inertia of a socio-economic system as massive as that of the US is literally beyond calculation, because you have to take psychological and anthropological factors into account as well as social and economic interests. I recall anthropologist Marvin Campbell’s quip: If you want to see a sacred cow, walk out to the curb and look at your car.
The most you can hope for is to shove the mass into what you expect is the right direction and stand back. And who’s going to do it?
I’ve also observed the awesome consequences of massive structural breakdown – in Moscow during 1991. The stoic patience of the average Russian is spectacular, or there would have been much worse than the events of August of that year.
Sahgash who says that? Gore? The grad students? I have a Journo degree and “he said she said” is the supposed neutral view, but it isn’t taught per se. Non point of view is. Known at Wikipedia as NPOV and boy what a fight it can be with those who don’t know the difference. Revkin’s NYT pieces are examples of what J-schools including mine, CSUN, teach.
What ever happened to the Yale F&ES report “Americans and Climate Change: Closing the gap between science and action.” It was even more comprehensive than this one (it seems, though it explicitly focused on America) and was seemingly backed up by a committment to follow through by the educational institution that sponsored the forum, not to mention all the participants who came up with the conclusions (it wasn’t done in an attempt to create consensus, more of a brainstorming session–naturally the business , science, and environmental communities had somewhat different ideas of what needed to be done). And specific, realistic ones they were too. Yet I still recieve mail from the sierra club and other groups trying to get me to give them money for their special initiative! Carl Pope and whoever runs NRDC were both there, presumably, calling for a more unified environmentalist front.
So I’m somewhat mystified, but not too much, and hoping that maybe someone more connected than I has some insights.
Ike, Pat and Dan, it’s not silly at all. The weather models do quite well predicting warmer weather in June because the input it from climate records. They can also input it from a climate model. OTOH, climate models can start start with inputs such as an albedo map accurately derived from satellite measurements. But those measurements are a result of current weather conditions which must ultimately be modeled to get future measurements. The weather model data can be treated as an input or integrated in which is preferred and inevitable with increased computing power.
The resolution of the climate model can be adjusted higher over land and even higher over complex terrain in an attempt to model their consistent weather anomalies that affect climate. Ultimately though, as the papers point out, the entire globe including oceans will have to be modeled at fine enough resolution to accurately model convection. Granted, the weather does not have to be temporily accurate. It absolutely doesn’t matter what the weather is two weeks from now to get an accurate picture of the climate.
But the model must have climate fidelity, so the changes in low level and soil moisture, snow pack, ground temperature, etc can adequately be reflected in the climate results. These measurements are also reflected somewhat in the weather results although current weather models don’t include them (they are often added as temperature, cloud and precipitation deltas after the model run). Most importantly however, is the modeling of the distribution of water vapor, the primary climate feedback, as it is affected by weather.
The true test of an integrated model is the ability to predict the effect of simple (and relatively cheap) forcings like adding vegetation or putting particles in the atmosphere. The integrated model will show both the global benefit and the local effects (which may be temporarily negative).
Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 11 Aug 2006 @ 10:20 PM
Go back and read what Ike originally said. He was making a distinction between weather and climate, and his point was that while a weather model may not be reliable more than a few days in the future, a climate model can reliably replicate seasonal behavior. That is because weather models start with current conditions and ‘integrate’ forward in time. There are known theoretical limitations to have far in the future such a method will work. Climate models, although they share some features with weather models, work very differently. They concern themselves with average weather, which is not subject in the same way to such limitations.
Eric, I think you’re asking the impossible of modeling — that’s one of the ways of postponing making choices. ‘Delay is the deadliest form of denial’ — the time/cost goes up vastly for each increment in resolution — first, for data collection! and later for doing computation on it — in space and time.
A difficulty with media treatment of global warming is what exactly to do about it. Gavin’s initiating piece noted this. Gavin, however, contributes to this sense that an immediate plan of action to abate climate change emissions is hard to arrive at. He wrote: “reducing emissions is a difficult problem with myriad causes and there won’t be a simple straighforward fix.”
Obviously carbon emitting energy sources are deeply embedded throughout the global economy. Nevertheless, it would be a grave mistake to suggest that there are not immediate and decisive solutions to global warming emissions. The most patent one is to roll back urban sprawl. This is especially key for the U.S., since its cities are by far the most sprawled on the planet. As a result, the U.S. is the highest absolute and per capita emitter of CO2. Tackling the environmentally irrational layout of U.S. cities would place the planet on an environmentally sustainable path. Moreover, redesigning U.S. urban zones is technologically feasible. Urban sprawl is an issue that can serve to focus the global warming debate — on its causes and reliable solutions.
Comment by George A. Gonzalez — 12 Aug 2006 @ 12:48 PM
Re Gar #63 and others –
Solar for $1 per watt installed? That’s terrific! I have always considered $1 per watt the big turning point. It’s where solar takes over. Installation costs of all new power plants are in that $1 per watt range (or mega-dollar per megawatt, giga-dollar per gigawatt) and that is before considering operating cost, transmission cost, or pollution.
Now let’s integrate solar in three dimensions:
1) Architecturally – build PV directly into roofs and windows instead of adding it on;
2) Electrically – create a DC standard so all electronic devices can use PV (and fuel cell) power directly rather than converting wastefully to AC and back to DC;
3) Economically – real time pricing for electricity, which matches peak PV supply to peak electrical demand, namely sunny summer daytimes.
Re #72 Removing urban sprawl is not a solution, it is a problem. Urban sprawl, which is not unique the USA, is caused by cheap personal transport. To cure the sprawl you need to increase the price of fuel. But that will means that people will not be able to afford to travel to work or the shops.
The alternative is to build homes inside industrial estates, (on the parking lots.) But you will still have to move the shops there as well, and that means an end to the hypermarkets, since no-one will be able to afford to drive to them.
Getting rid of the urban sprawl caused by cheap fossil fuels will almost certainly be unacceptable in any democratic society – hence we are all doomed!
From my experience in river forecasting there are already big problems in river flow modeling and prediction due to climate change. The hydrologic model parameters, which are tweaked in calibration by hydrologists to get a best-fit relationship between modeled flow and observed historical flow, become obsolete for operational forecasting as the climate changes. The relationship between model input (precipitation, temperature, evaporation) from the calibration period (historical) and the current/future model input is changing (trends are apparent). NWS models do not allow the forecasters to account for climate change in their operational flood and low water predictions. I think the reason that your hydrologic model seemed to be quite good at river level prediction in your area (Shenandoah in VA) may have been due to adjustments of model states (MODS) by hydrologists. In the NWS North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC) area, the river basins respond more slowly to precipitation, which increases the importance of having a sound hydrologic model for flood prediction. With the slower responding streams, NCRFC staff need to keep their hydrologic model states properly tuned for longer periods of time during the long duration flood episodes, but doing so is not possible using model parameters which have been fitted to the obsolete calibration period (obsolete due to climate change).
Your last point is contradicted by the fact that in Western and Central Europe, as well as in Japan, transport fuel taxes are very high (when compared to the U.S.), and these countries’ urban zones are much more compact than those of the U.S. Urban sprawl in the U.S. is not borne of public demand, per se, but from political and economic elite desires to gain profit and political stability from increasing utility for lands on the urban periphery and for automobiles and other consumer durables (used to fill large suburban homes).
Comment by George A. Gonzalez — 12 Aug 2006 @ 2:17 PM
32: “The worst case scenario is that we wipe mankind from the surface of the planet along with most of the other life. We know that we can do this using nuclear weapons, and that has prevented it from happening. But, we all “know” that this is not going to happen through from global warming. “Hey, it is only Chicken Littles who think that.”
That is the reason that it is not just possible, it is inevitable. By the time people accept that we are destroying mankind it will be too late to stop.”
Oh please. That is catastophist nonsense, and that will certainly not win you any respect, especially not in the more skeptic circles. AGW may do more damage to our civilization if we do not prepare ourselves for changes, but to say that out doom is inevitable… forget it.
Hank, I understand your point about delay, but I think the models will improve far faster than the climate will deteriorate. The simpler a model the I see, the more skeptical I am, although I realize that a lot of complexity such as shown here http://www.hpcwire.com/hpc/732506.html is not going to cause any significant short term climate changes (e.g. land vegetation). My problem with oversimplification is when I see statements like Greenland’s ice is getting dirty with little real world measurement to back it up and almost no modeling to predict the consequences. Same with methane deposits, forests, and numerous other items. OTOH, there are some great experts on those things here and elsewhere. What they need is a comprehensive model to tie their knowledge into. As far as the cost, I believe Moore’s law is still in effect.
Leonard, when I see “average” weather I think of a partly cloudy day with normal temperatures. That’s obviously not sufficient for climate modeling. When I see people using a single parameter for cloud or ice albedo or for radiation reflected from clouds, I am very skeptical. The only way to get an accurate answer is to simulate weather in adequate resolution. I’m not sure what is adequate and I would be interested if someone proposed specific goalposts.
Sadly, as it stands right now, we more likely to destroy humankind with global warming, than save us from it.
Comment by George A. Gonzalez — 12 Aug 2006 @ 4:16 PM
re: 78. Eric, your obsession with resolution is not reflected in reality and seems to be tunnelvision. Worse yet is that it appears to strengthen your skepticsm without foundation. Look at the model results. They speak for themselves. Models of all types (not just climate) do not inevitably improve with continually greater resolution. In fact, it has been shown that there are limits to the benefits of higher resolution. Weather and air quality models clearly show that there is a benefit limit. Air quality model’s performance does not necessarily improve and can degrade significantly when finer resolution is applied. Futhermore, it has been shown in certain applications that a single parameter can more than adequately represent long term trends or patterns depending on the significance. Climate is long term; weather is short term. It is pretty basic.
Lets take a deep breath, park the urban sprawl SUV for a moment and refer back to Gavin’s initial post:
[When it comes to advocating solutions that match the degree of the problem, all of the repertoires are found lacking. That’s because reducing emissions is a difficult problem with myriad causes and there won’t be a simple straightforward fix.]
Now, imagine a Republican governor of the most populated US state that boasts the 7th largest GDP in the world, is the 12th largest CO2 contributor, has one-tenth of the nationâ??s registered autos that burn 18 billion gallons of gasoline per year and relies upon hydro for 12 percent of its electricity. Then, imagine California’s governor committing his voters to a GHG reduction plan to bring emissions in 2050 down to 80 percent below the 1990 level.
By far the most dramatic initiative, at any national or state level, was the signing June 1, 2005 by Governor Schwarzenegger of an executive order setting forth a three phase plan to reduce greenhouse emissions.
It commits California by 2010 to reduce its greenhouse emissions to levels that existed in 2000.
By 2020 greenhouse emissions are slated to fall to 1990 levels.
By 2050 Schwarzenegger has established a target of an 80% reduction below 1990 levels. . That will cap Californiaâ??s GHG emissions at about 80,000 tons by 2050!
This is more ambitious even than the target Tony Blair has set for the UK by 2050, particularly as California’s population will likely have grown greatly from 1990 to 2050. Under his plan per capita greenhouse emissions in California would need to shrink by more than 90% from 1990 to 2050.
If that sounds unrealistic to you, the California legislature is wrapping up debate and enactment of AB 32 which establishes an interagency task force to coordinate investments of state money and state programs that reduce GHG emissions equivalent to the emission levels of 1990 and that will be achieved by 2020.
Folks, this is real world and may actually be achieved if the legislature and voters commit to the massive changes the public and private sectors will have to accept.
Instead of our flailing about with talk of end times and seeking solutions, we might invite the Governorâ??s office to step into our discussion and describe the content of his plan and enlist our support to sort out a workable means to achieve his worthy goals.
I am not a republican but the Governor deserves our respect and support for his contribution to solving this colossal problem of global warming.
Governor, you have the stage.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 12 Aug 2006 @ 5:27 PM
Re #81 Tony Blair did have more ambitious plans than he is now implementing, but the truck drivers blockaded the oil terminals and he was forced to climb down. He has not forgotten that. He lost control of the country he had been elected to rule.
Arnie will probably be hit by the same fate, if truckers from ouside California pay less for their gas and take Californian jobs. It does not just need national laws to fix this problem, it needs international agreements, just as Tony found when Dutch, Belgian, French and Spanish truckers wrecked his good intentions.
Will the US ever agree to that? Can we really save the world?
Alastair, I once found your contributions informative and enlightening. What has happened to you?
Or, are you sinking into a state of complaining and ignoring what others are trying to accomplish. The Governor is not alone in his prouncements and the State legislature enacts bills that become State law if the Governor signs them.
The State enacted a clean air law in the late 1960s that caused hardship and cleaner air. It led the US Congress to enact a federal law.
I am not saying the battle is won. Rather, I would appreciate your using some of your obvious intelligence to look (on the web)objectively at the efforts of the Governor and the Democrat-controlled State legislatlure and stiffle your emotional dismissal.
Remember, China and India are waiting for the US to make the first move. California appears to be making a move in that direction.
Also, any chance you can update us on your reading of the late summer Arctic ice extent?
Comment by John L. McCormick — 12 Aug 2006 @ 6:39 PM
Eric, Dan says it clearer than I can. I’d add the obvious — the change has already happened. The consequences are just starting.
Half the anthropogenic CO2 was produced by fuel burned up til the 1970s; the second half since then. Big fast run-up. Yes, we can make it worse, or — Hansen’s Alternative — we can, this decade, change so as to delay the hottest years, and make them somewhat less hot. Got grandchildren?
===What we do this decade makes almost no difference in our lifetimes.===
===What we do this decade makes a huge difference in the next two centuries.===
The consequences accrue over several centuries, and we won’t live to see them. We will, however, be remembered (if at all) as those alive when the great change in the world was made, that they’re living with.
What is required of climate modeling is technologically impossible today, partially because of computing power, and partially because we don’t know how to model it yet. We need models accurate to at least a globally averaged 0.1W/m^2. How else are we to attrubute to forcings the energy imbalances on the order of 0.85W/m^2? Not only must we achieve the energy balance to this level of accuracy, we must do it in a climatologically realistic way, and we have must have the observations available to validate the models to this level of accuracy.
The model Hansen et al, used in their 2005 work, the GISS-ER was shown by Roesch (2006) to have globally averages surface albedo errors that are the equivilent of 1.2 to 1.7 W/m^2. Systematic positive albedo biases against solar forcing were shown to be present in all (yes, ALL) the AR4 models in this IPCC diagnostic subproject. The Hansen et al, work takes the albedo bias “hit” twice, because it uses “effective forcings”, which reduces solar forcing by the 0.92 “efficacy” amount also derived from the models. Note: taking the hit “twice” is different from doubling the error, the total error may be less than that. The Hansen, et al, work shows you can apparently “balance” the energy budget and “match” the 20th century surface temperature record, with energetically inaccurate models. Of course, quantitative projections of future climate, are even more suspect than attribution of past climate from such models. See:
The basic point of ‘climate p___’, according to gavin, was to present a textual analysis of the kinds of language (‘repertoires’) used in the media when discussing climate and to associate the different repertoire with the advocacy position of the users and the likely effectiveness of that language in swaying opinion.
‘The missing repertoire’ is ‘It’s serious (and interesting) but don’t panic’.
From what I remember in my first reading the IPCC 2001 The Scientific Basis it said – ‘It’s serious (and interesting) but don’t panic’.
There was important material in the IPPC 2001 report which the public needed to know about then. I thought to myself in 2001, too bad for the world that 9-11 and US alarmism/patriotism were used to dampen out the thunder on climate change and global warming in 2001.
>Solar for $1 per watt installed? That’s terrific! I have always considered $1 per watt the big turning point. It’s where solar takes over. Installation costs of all new power plants are in that $1 per watt range (or mega-dollar per megawatt, giga-dollar per gigawatt) and that is before considering operating cost, transmission cost, or pollution
Well – unlike the list of solutions here now, It is not here yet. But solar advocates have been saying since 1976 that it is a chicken egg problem. No factories large enough to take advantage of full economies of scale because the market is too small. The market is too small because the price is too high. The prices is too high because no factories that can take advantage of full economies of scale. Many, Many people who know what they are doing think some intervention to break this could solve the problem – whether government financing of a real large scale factory, or a really large (multi-billion) dollar order, conditional on the price per watt being low enough.
But it is not something you can be absolutely sure of – which is why I have compiled a long list of other technologies that we have now. But you are absolutely right. PV, if we can bring the price down (and we probably can) would be optimal.
Dan, I can appreciate that finer resolution is not the end-all. I am interested in a goalpost for resolution, is it already passed? I see some discussion (in my link in #2 and here: http://www.iarc.uaf.edu/research/projects/strategies_high_res_arctic.php?dlink=Program_Plan_Year_1 ) that tropical convection modeling needs more resolution. Initiation of convection is a weak point even for higher resolution weather models. Besides the resolution I am wondering what other physical processes make a significant difference positively or negatively. Would also like to see the same analysis for space weather such as ionizing radiation.
Yes, time scale is generally different, but weather is the shortest time scale climate feedback and the most important feedback and so must be modeled, and it is although generally parameterized. But it appears to need more resolution, especially for the tropics. Time resolution has to be increased too, perhaps into the minutes, but maybe only for some times of the day and locations.
Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 12 Aug 2006 @ 10:53 PM
I think Eric who is from North Carolina, a sceptic paradise of sorts from way back, is prone to counting the angels on the head of a pin. This strategy is obvious and Suess-like in its ad infinitum possibilities. Nero, fire, and Rome and all that.
The California government’s seeming commitment to reducing climate change gasses can be interpreted as a symbolic response to the public’s environmental concerns. There is a precedence for this. The California Air Resources Board (CARB), for example, promulgated a plan in 1990 that mandated that 2 percent of automobiles offered for sale in 1998 be Zero Emission Vehicles (ZEVs), 5 percent by 2001, and 10 percent by 2003. Currently, only electrically powered vehicles have zero emissions. Similarly, California in 1989 adopted the Air Quality Management Plan (AQMP). The state’s AQMP also relied heavily on the long-term development of technology to achieve improvements in air quality. Significantly, neither of these plans put forward subsidies to facilitate the development of hoped-for technologies, nor did they mandate sanctions for industrial sectors that failed to develop the necessary technologies. Commenting on the state’s AQMP shortly after it was promulgated, Sheldon Kamieniecki and Michael Farrell astutely observe that “for mainly political reasons, the more difficult decisions [of the AQMP] have been postponed for a number of years, with the hope that new technologies will allow policymakers to meet federal clean-air standards with minimum disruption to . . . economic growth” (1991, 154). Notably, the targets for the manufacture and sale of ZEVs have been postponed and reduced significantly by CARB. On the issue of climate change, a 2002 California law mandating the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles does not go into effect until 2009.
Comment by George A. Gonzalez — 12 Aug 2006 @ 11:59 PM
You have done a lot better than the nuclear power industry did. We all have a big job ahead of us re-educating the public on nuclear power so that we can take the next easy step in stopping global warming. I call it easy because we already have the technology, it is just that the public doesn’t understand it. The easy step in stopping global warming is to convert all coal-fired power plants to nuclear. Nuclear power is the safest kind. Wind power towers are a hazard to aviation and to birds. You could fall off of your roof while installing solar collectors.
See the December 2005 issue of Scientific American article on a new type of nuclear reactor that consumes the nuclear “waste” as fuel. See: http://www.ornl.gov/ORNLReview/rev26-34/text/coalmain.html
for the other bad things burning coal does.
“Releases in 1982 from worldwide combustion of 2800 million tons of coal totaled 3640 tons of uranium (containing 51,700 pounds of uranium-235) and 8960 tons of thorium.” Burning COAL puts more uranium into the air than nuclear power plants keep in their cores. Coal burning also puts ARSENIC, lead, mercury, Thorium and other elements into the air.
Most people have never heard of Background Radiation. It is important that people understand that Background Radiation is 1000 times what they get from nuclear power plants.
A good easy article on Background Radiation is in Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation
“Background radiation is the ionizing radiation from several natural radiation sources: sources in the Earth and from those sources that are incorporated in our food and water, which are incorporated in our body, and in building materials and other products that incorporate those radioactive sources; radiation sources from space (in the form of cosmic rays); and sources in the atmosphere which primarily come from both the radon gas that is released from the earth’s surface and subsequently decays to radioactive atoms that become attached to airborne dust and particulates, and the production of radioactive atoms from the bombardment of atoms in the upper atmosphere by high-energy cosmic rays.”
All rocks are naturally radioactive. Cosmic rays make the radioactive carbon that we use to date ancient mummies, etc.
Re #76 Although gas is cheaper in the US and Australia, petrol in the UK, Europe is still cheap from a economic point of view. This means transport costs are low and so it pays to have a large central hypermarket to which everyone can drive, rather than a lot of small local shops to which the customers walk. If we are going to abandon an oil based economy, then these hypermarkets will die, and the small shops supplied by local producers will have to be rebuilt. This will have a large cost – the complete retail system will have to be reconstructed. Moreover, the giant international corporations such as WaMart are unlikely to allow it to happen without a fight. Their economic power along side that of the oil industry is likely to prevent any action being taken in the near future, especially in the US where it is most needed.
Re #83 I am not saying that I don’t welcome the moves being made in California to combat global warming, but we should not allow them to lull us nto a false sense of security. One swallow does not make a summer, and one US state seeing the light does not mean that the end is in sight.
Arnie has promised to reduce oil consumption, but can he deliver? He won all his battles on the screen, but now we are talking about real life. From my experience with Tony Blair’s failed attempts, I fear Arnie’s will suffer the same fate.
IMHO, there is something strange happening in the Arctic at present. If you look at these maps from the US Navy, then there are some black patches on the concentration map which appear grey on the ice age map. (In other words ignore the central black patch which is due to lack of data.) I beleve that they are caused by huge melt ponds, which are not draining as they usually do because the ice is so thin. It seems possible that both the North West and North East Passages will be clear by September, which will be a first ever. In other words the Arctic ice is continuing to melt, and at an accelerating rate.
The Artcic ice is still on schedule to disappear completly long before Arnie’s CO2 reductions are implemented.
Perhaps the efforts of the Governor and the State legislature are merely symbolic. And, in the LA climate with its nearly grid locked road network baking in a heat-inversion, an electric powered vehicle would need a utility trailer loaded with backup batteries to keep the AC running full blast. No chance there.
I was trying to throw in something more than fretting about sprawl and misery. At the end of the day we all have to realize some problems are beyond us and we are, after all, ancestors of monkeys.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 13 Aug 2006 @ 7:03 AM
Re 82 and 92:
I do not believe that the UK government’s failure to reduce emissions has anything to do with popular opposition to such a programme.
True, the fuel protest had popular support at the time, but government never defended the fuel tax escalator in terms of climate change, and surveys at the time showed that a lot of people did not realise that there was any significant link between car emissions and climate change. Also, there is evidence that the fuel protests were very much industry-led, not a popular campaign (with certain oil companies reportedly supporting the truckers who blockaded them). This just shows that people need to be informed why policies are pursued if they are to back them. Media coverage of climate change has been far better in the UK since then, and an attempt to repeat the fuel protests more recently failed to gather any popular support at all.
During the past year the political debate in the UK has moved on a lot (away from ‘should we do anything about climate change’ to ‘how to get those emissions down’), and I think it is largely due to NGOs representing large sectors (not just environmental groups, but church groups, women’s groups, development organisations) now working together as a Stop Climate Chaos coalition. I am sure future emissions will depend on popular debate and political will rather than technology.
I can’t understand the ‘it’s just impossible to do anything’ argument: There are a lot of significant emission cuts which could be implemented very quickly, with existing technologies and without adverse economic effects: ban inefficient light bulbs, get high mandatory fuel efficiency standards, both for cars and electricity-consuming items, making highly efficient condensing boilers mandatory, promote combined heat and power and microrenewables, ban illegal timber imports, etc. And once all those obvious things have been done, emissions would be down and society could plan for what needs to be done next. The only obstacles seem to be lobby-groups, ideology, and political priorities – and the kind of defeatism expressed by a few commentators here.
Comment by Almuth Ernsting — 13 Aug 2006 @ 8:30 AM
This is not ‘California Dreamin’. It might be the real deal.
Sacramento Bee offers this analysis of the political effort to get the Golden State going green:
August 13, 2006
By Judy Lin; SACRAMENTO BEE
[Bill would put limit on businesses’ emissions
Democratic leader Nunez says he expects greenhouse-gas measure to pass before Aug. 31 close of legislative session.
Negotiations are intensifying between the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger over an ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions in California.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez said he expects to introduce amendments this week on Assembly Bill 32 — which would make California the first state to impose pollution caps on industries to combat global warming.
The Democratic leader said in an interview that he intends to address the governance and enforcement concerns of environmentalists, business groups and the Schwarzenegger administration to pass the bill by the Aug. 31 close of the legislative session.
“This bill is going to be on the governor’s desk,” Nunez said.
Assembly Bill 32 aims to reduce California’s global-warming emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — a 25 percent reduction on carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases. Last year, California was the world’s 12th-largest producer of greenhouse gases.
The bill has been opposed by an industry coalition. But other business groups, environmentalists and political leaders have rallied behind the bill, raising the likelihood the Republican governor will sign it.
“I’m optimistic, and I think it’s a great sign that all the leadership is engaged,” said Ann Notthoff, California advocacy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The bill, which is part of a package of green legislation moving through the Legislature, would phase in reductions to meet goals set by the governor last year.
Schwarzenegger, who is running for re-election, recently signed a state-nation global warming agreement with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to share information on solutions for reducing pollutants blamed for climate change.
“AB 32 could be an important tool in meeting Gov. Schwarzenegger’s aggressive greenhouse-gas targets,” EPA Secretary Linda Adams said. “I’m confident we can develop legislation that will support California’s progressive approach to address climate change, economic growth and technological innovation.”
Legislative staff members said they are close to working out a governance structure that’s acceptable to all parties. Some of the changes likely will include emergency provisions that allow industries to lift caps only in case of extreme circumstances, such as a major supply disruption or natural disaster.
Right now, the bill directs the state Air Resources Board, which has a strong reputation for enforcement, to promulgate regulations for the mandatory reporting of greenhouse-gas emissions from several major industries, such as cement, landfills and utilities.
It requires state agencies to coordinate programs and encourage emissions-reduction technologies.
But the state EPA, acting on behalf of the governor, would rather see an umbrella board made up of agency heads.
Catherine Witherspoon, executive director of the Air Resources Board, said it doesn’t make sense for her board to duplicate the job of other existing state agencies.
Witherspoon said the air board, for example, isn’t the best agency to identify energy-saving and pollution-reducing remedies for the utility industry. She said that would be better left to the Public Utilities Commission.
Negotiators said the bill likely will be amended to include a mix of agency heads appointed by the governor as well as experts appointed by the Legislature.]
And, it would be refreshing to hear from RC contributors about this hopeful sign that the world’s 12th largest GHG emitter is laying it on the line.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 13 Aug 2006 @ 9:53 AM
Eric, you are making resolution to be so critical when it simply is not in the spatial and time scales of climate. End of story. The fact that it makes you a skeptic is troubling because you are looking at a very narrow view. Any difficulties in weather (not climate for once and for all!) modeling due to convection issues is a separate issue compared to climate modeling. You are obsessed with linking the two. That is incorrect. I am beginning to beleive what Mark said in post 90 is true re: counting angels on a pinhead. Now there’s a real resolution issue. ;-)
I’m with you on this one. I think what is critical is that there is legislation that puts a cost on carbon. As I’ve noted before, and has been further noted by other posters in both this and subsequent threads, there is an inertia in the economy that requires considerable energy, (in industrial terms investment) to be overcome.
Its like boiling water, the greatest energy requirement is get past the point of latent heat. Once it does it quickly evaporates away into steam. Or a more appropriate analogy considering this website is the tipping points in the climate system. The system seems more or less to be working within a range until the tipping point is reached and then the change rapidly ensues.
I think that many of these figures for change quoting 30 or 50 years are even conservative. Ever since the industrial revolution there has been radical shifting change that was unforeseen as the mindset of the average person was focused on the inertia of the current system. Amazing as it seems, the mechanical loom radically altered the structure of society at the start of the industrial revolution. At the start of the last century there was the rubber boom that drove the rapid proliferation of bicycles, and then when synthetic rubber was created, the rapid deployment of vehicles. And what all these moments in history demonstrate is that once the technology hits a point of critical mass, any business/household to not own/use it falls so far behind that they fall out of existence.
Imagine if you will, you reach a point where in california 20% of all households/businesses are gaining their electricity from solar panels. The state seeing the viability of this setup says, ok, this technology has been demonstrated well and is reliable, so in 3 years we are going to turn off the switch at this power plant and that power plant. All those affected would have to go green or have no electricity. But at that stage you would have a hell of a market, cheap panels, and so on. It might just require reaching that point.
If you think that that would not happen, look what happened with the introduction of the car, planners simply built roads to suburbs, anyone without a car could not live in them.
Maybe all that’s required is that one invention. The car could not take off without synthetic rubber. I read in the newscientist sometime back that a Danish/Dutch company has come up with a plastic sheet that photosynthesises at 2% of a photovoltaic. You could stick it on your shoulder bag and charge your mobile phone as you walk. I haven’t heard anything more about that, but that would be a revolutionary technology. We know how to make photovoltaic windows. There has been experiments funded since the last oil crisis towards using photosynthesising bacteria to produce energy. There is a whole raft of technologies that exist already, and a whole raft in the development phase. The critical thing is getting to the economic tipping point. Once that is reached everything rapidly changes. And I believe we are getting close.
California, applause to Schwarzeneeger, along with all other pioneering initiatives, deserve credit for they bring us closer to that tipping point.
I guess i would fit into Techno-optimism at the moment, but you know i think that it’s our only way forward. What’s done is done, now we need to learn how to change, and fast, and i think we can. What’s required is political will and direction for business. Europe, Japan, Canada et al have all opted for that, and now Schwareneeger is leading the charge in the US. Anyone for Arnie in 2008?
And, in the LA climate with its nearly grid locked road network baking in a heat-inversion, an electric powered vehicle would need a utility trailer loaded with backup batteries to keep the AC running full blast. No chance there.
On what do you base that, I wonder? Driving the air-con is peanuts compared to driving a whole car via electric motor.
The Tesla Roadster guys even suggest that if you wanted to, when parking the car in a hot location, you could leave the AC on the whole time until you come back. So that you don’t have to suffer driving in a hot car until the AC gets things down. A normal car couldn’t do that because the battery is massively massively less powerful.
Because our climate is changing so rapidly, the NWS has problems forecasting weather by their not taking climate change into account (especially winters in the Upper Midwest). Outlooks issued by NOAA in Oct of 2005 called for Dec 2005 – Feb 2006 to be near the 1971-2000 averages for the Upper Midwest. At a station called Leech Lake Federal Dam in northern Minnesota, the 1971-2000 average is 11.1 Deg F. In viewing the figure for Leech Lake Fed. Dam (link below) an increasing trend line is obvious for Dec-Feb temperature averages (1900 to recent). The Dec 2005 to Feb 2006 average temperature at Leech Lake Fed Dam came in at 16.1 Deg F (5.0 Deg F above the 1971-2000 average). The trend line is so obvious for northern Minnesota that I can predict right now that next winter (Dec 2006 to Feb 2007) in northern Minnesota will once again be above 1971-2000 temperature averages at NOAA NWS climate stations.
“A closed mind about an open world”
By James Boyle
Published: August 7 2006 20:24
“Over the past 15 years, a group of scholars has finally persuaded economists to believe something non-economists find obvious: â��behavioural economicsâ�� shows that people do not act as economic theory predicts.
“However, this is not a vindication of folk wisdom over the pointy-heads. The deviations from â��rational behaviourâ�� were not the wonderful cornucopia of humanist motivations you might imagine. There were patterns. We were risk-averse when it came to losses â�� likely to overestimate chances of loss and underestimate chances of gain, for example. We rely on heuristics to frame problems but cling to them even when they are contradicted by the facts. Some of these patterns are endearing; the supposedly â��irrationalâ�� concerns for equality that persist in all but Republicans and the economically trained, for example. But most were simply the mapping of cognitive bias. We can take advantage of those biases, as those who sell us expensive and irrational warranties on consumer goods do. Or we can correct for them, like a pilot who is trained to rely on his instruments rather than his faulty perceptions when flying in heavy cloud….”
With regards to urban sprawl, brought up earlier in this thread, I have a couple of ideas about that.
In general, I see such things as a result of conflicts between short-term and long-term issues, and who pays for them. If you are a property developer, and have a project to build some brand new buildings on an area of unused land, then most will build just one type of building – ie either all houses, or all offices. It’s simpler to do, since you don’t need to manage two types of clients, two types of buildings and so on. It’s probably easier to get planning permissions as well. And, I suspect many smaller/medium sized building companies specialise in either residential or commercial, not both.
But is it easier on the users/owners? Where I am, a lot of my daily shopping needs can be met by shops within a few minutes walk. But if you’re in the middle of a large residential estate and the nearest place to shop is a few miles away then you’re practically forced to own a car, and use it for basic shopping.
Also, the more you separate residential areas from the commercial/office areas, the further people have to commute.
The problems with congestion etc is not just too many people trying to get to work, but the average distance they need to travel. If you think about it, the further you need to travel, the longer you are on the roads (or public transport). This is just a guess, but I think 10m people needing to travel 10 miles a day to/from work would give similar road usage as 20m people doing 5 miles.
So, if the average commute distance was halved, even if everything else is the same (like average mpg for the vehicles used), then that would make a big difference in energy usage. I’d also expect an 80-90% reduction in congestion – which on top of the reduced travel distance, would significantly reduce time taken to travel to/from work. It would also reduce the travel costs for all those people.
Pollution would also be reduced. So would traffic accidents. A lot of people would now be close enough to walk as well. People would get to spend more time with their familes, and be happier and more productive.
Of course, there’s no quick and easy way to achieve a 50% reduction in average commute distance. It would be something that’d take decades. But, if the transitional costs to individuals and businesses is small, it should be attractive to voters.
So, how to do it? In the short term, one simple thing would be on hiring new workers – the company and new employee gets a benefit if they live particularly close, and a cost if they live particularly far apart – though the scheme would be revenue neutral from a government point of view. It would have to take into account people moving as they get the job. Such a scheme could then be extended to all existing employees on a yearly basis – so that employees get a benefit for working locally, and companies get a benefit for employing local people. That would probably lead to employers helping employees to move more closely (since it would benefit them). A fair system would also have to take into account people who regularly work from home. You could even give house sellers a bonus if they’re helping someone move closer to where they work.
For the longer term, getting areas to be more of a mix of residential and commercial would be best.
None of this even requires new technology. If combined with incentives to use small, efficient cars for the daily commute, it would lead to much lower energy costs for the daily commute.
Some companies are even doing things along these lines now. For example, Sun Microsystems is using its own technology to make it much easier for employees to work from home, and also set up local “drop in” offices, and reduce the dependance on assigned desks in office space. Overall, they’re saving themselves a lot of money, and apparantly most employees are happier too (and employee turnover has reduced for those regularly working from home).
As a general side note. Here in the UK, one side-effect on planning laws making it harder to build large new shops is that the main food retailers are buying small local stores. There’s two small Tesco shops near me – one of which took over my regular local store, and seems 2-3x busier than before. I haven’t noticed prices in the small local shops of Tescos being higher either.
RE# 102 Chris, I will yield on my comment regarding need for a utility trailer of backup batteries but there is obvious and known range limitations using AC in stop and go traffic in extreme heat.
I also relied on some earlier DOE test results that, given technology improvements with battery-types and materials may, I admit, seem out of date.
And the Tesla Roadster is a beauty of a car. Pricey? Yes. But, it would look great in my driveway.
Comment by John L. McCormick — 13 Aug 2006 @ 4:45 PM
Thank you for you thoughtful post. The difficulty is that urban sprawl in the U.S., in particular, is not the result of poorly conceived public policies. The sprawling of urban zones has been the explicit goal of U.S. policymakers beginning in the 1930s. This includes U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, where the U.S. has sought to ensure that sufficient oil flows onto the world market to allow U.S. urban sprawl to persist and expand.
I would respectfully refer you to the below articles to see a thorough treatment of this argument. (My apologies to those who have seen me refer to these articles before).
2006 August. “An Eco-Marxist Analysis of Oil Depletion via Urban Sprawl.” _Environmental Politics_ 15, no. 4: 515-31.
2005 June. “Urban Sprawl, Global Warming, and the Limits of Ecological Modernization.” _Environmental Politics_ 14, no. 3: 344-62.
Comment by George A. Gonzalez — 13 Aug 2006 @ 5:11 PM
The difficulty is that urban sprawl in the U.S., in particular, is not the result of poorly conceived public policies. The sprawling of urban zones has been the explicit goal of U.S. policymakers beginning in the 1930s.
Er, aren’t those two things the same George? (ie the “explicit goal” is a “poorly conceived public policy”)
Anyway… for the US, I don’t expect this to change unless a president gets elected with a big mandate for pushing energy efficiency (among other policies) to help combat AGW. This sort of thing just needs to be “sold” right I feel – everyone wins (consumers, companies, employees, the country’s international competitiveness), except the oil companies and wealthy land-owners. To date, it’s barely being dicussed though – I thought of the suggestion in #105 all by myself before I found others mentioning it too. It helps solve some many difficult problems at once – I wish I knew of better ways to promote the idea.
In Europe, I think the problem is more of unwillingness to change in general and that the parties driving change to AGW are mostly on the left, and economics and market forces are not being used *properly*. I should point out however that every European country is different – labour laws in Holland are very different to France, for example.
So, in short, the master plan is:
1. Build sports car
2. Use that money to build an affordable car
3. Use that money to build an even more affordable car
4. While doing above, also provide zero emission electric power generation options
Donâ��t tell anyone.
Basically, all profits from the 1st car are going into expanding their market reach (ie full US coverage, then other countries too), and developing 2nd and 3rd generation higher volume cars. They certainly don’t intend to stay small.
I am a journalist and I was just introduced to this site today and after reading this whole thread, I want to make two comments and one suggestion from my point of view as part of the medium between experts, leaders, and the public.
Leading journalism schools typically recieve corporate sponsorhips for chairs, which means this organism is as infected with the blight of economic interests as all others. The feigned objectivism (the so-called “he said-she-said” and “balanced” reporting mentioned above) is a form of creeping libertarianism favoured by corporate sponsors because no leadership is the best leadership when it comes to improving short term investor profits.
Coupled with that process (that undermines all authorities, including yours here), is the fragmenting of both the audience and the producers. The journalism I specialize in is “shitty things assholes are doing,” and global warming produced by oil and car companies is one tenth of the environment problem, which is one-tenth of the buffet of catastrophic risks facing the planet, which is one-tenth of the shitty things file, and yet this web-site is one of about 1,000 on a subject that comprises one-tenth of one percent of what I specialize in, which itself is about one percent of what journalism in general covers. What am I at here? I think I am up to saying this web site addresses about 0.000001 percent of the issues that matter to the public. And, keep in mind that maybe one in ten members of the public bother with issues that matter to them, the other nine expending their time figuring out the implications of Brad’s baby with Jolie on Jen’s fragile psychie.
So even if you found a way to get your point up front and centre with the public through all those brambles, that only sets you up for the swarm of journalism-school trained knats who will undermine your hard won authority no matter what you say, just because you are now an authority.
But (and that concludes my comments, and this brings me to my suggestion), obviously sometimes things are succussfully carried out, some people are sometimes able to get their agenda through to the top and planted firmly enough to withstand the onslaught of attacks. But on the level we’re talking about here, there are very few examples: Apollo is one, but I think the Y2K scare is a better one. The whole world got involved in it and spent tens of billions of dollars on it. The fact it was all a sham should not detract, I think, from the example it set for broad international, intergovernmental, and business cooperation focused on a single problem.
If anyone can figure out what were the key elements of that whole episode that turned that line of thought into a major globally focused effort, they would have a model for how to get emissions up to the same level.
I would like the discussion to return to original issue- Gavin Schmidt’s very interesting comments on the IPPR report on messaging climate change.
Here are some of my own observations on the report:
The IPPR advocates a change in communications: targeting groups in terms of their own values, especially recognizing that many people are esteem driven; using the language of â??ordinary heroesâ??; and using metaphor to enable emotional engagement.
I am less sure that a change in language will solve anything much. Whilst I do not doubt the power of language to frame a debate, I believe that people adopt arguments and language according to their existing world view. Nihilistic or evasive language is therefore a reflection of wider currents of despair, denial, or optimism.
The real issue is the profound disconnection between what we know and what we do. Nihilism and the refutation of the science seek to resolve the disconection by reducing the scale of the problem. The â??advocacy of small changesâ?? seeks to resolve it by reducing the scale of the solutions. Alarmist strategies fail because they actually increase the dissonance by increasing our perception of the problem.
What we need is personal and collective action that is in proportion to the scale of the problem. When looking for solutions, the danger with reframing the language we use is that we are still reinforcing the intellectual side of the balance â?? the â??what we knowâ??. As motivational research shows time and again, it is often more effective to get people doing the right thing before giving them the language to describe why they should do it.
Despite this, we continue to look to language as the best means to energise and motivate change- hoping that it we try hard enough can find a formulation that works. The UK Department for Environment has recently awarded Â£2 million to community organisations to communicate climate change. It was adamant that funding as only available for â??attitudinal changeâ?? not â??behavioural changeâ??- in other words, awardees could use language to persuade people of the scale of the problem but were forbidden to lead them into any substantive personal action (other than to talk about it some more).
We do not need elaborately crafted rhetoric to get people making the necessary changes- we can start to create change through an effective combination of sticks and carrots. If the vast cost of the Iraq War (Â£6 billion in the UK to date) had been put into domestic energy efficiency and microgeneration there would building activity on every street, and every household could feel that they are part of huge and sweeping changes. They would then be far better prepared to hear about the problem.
We are depending on language because there is no real political will on this issue and we therefore need to persuade everyone to make their own contribution- and letâ??s face it, how far would any war get if it had to be funded by public subscription?
[These Comments are excepted from a posting on a blog, http://www.climatedenial.org, which examines the causes and evidence of our denial of climate change]
RE# 110 “The whole world got involved in it [Y2K scare] and spent tens of billions of dollars on it. The fact it was all a sham should not detract, I think, from the example it set for broad international, intergovernmental, and business cooperation focused on a single problem.”
I don’t know what the social scientists say about that whole affair, but one could argue that Y2K was not the disaster it was predicted to be precisely because people were worried and took the necessary precautions to avoid the problems. Maybe there is a lesson here regarding public concern, or apathy, about global warming?
The United States’s urban zones are the most sprawled in the world. During the 1930s, urban sprawl was seized upon by political and economic elites to revive U.S. capitalism from the Great Depression. Urban sprawl has the economic benefits of increasing demand for automobiles, and other consumer durables (to fill large homes on the urban periphery). By the 1920s the U.S. industrial base was particularly geared toward the production of automobiles, as well as other consumer durables (e.g., home appliances). (Consumer durables are items expected to last at least 3 years.) Today, U.S. consumption of consumer durables, and by implication urban sprawl, play key roles in maintaining global economic stability. The federal government could pursue its pro-urban sprawl policies because throughout the first half of the 20th century the U.S. was the world’s leading producer of petroleum. By the early 1970s it became evident that the center of global oil production shifted to the Persian Gulf region â?? especially Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait. Since this time U.S. foreign policy has been geared to ensure that sufficient amounts of petroleum enter the global market to allow U.S. urban sprawl to persist and expand.
Comment by George A. Gonzalez — 14 Aug 2006 @ 8:07 PM
Re #95 and “we are, after all, ancestors of monkeys.”
Well, no. We’re descendants of monkeys. Not quite the same thing.
You all might also note that in the same edition of the journal, 30% of UK students believe in Creationism – whatever that might mean.
Just thought I would cheer you all up before you start the day. Sorry.
Forecast puts Earth’s future under a cloud
Â· 3C increase would bring fires, floods and famine
Â· Climate prediction most comprehensive so far
Alok Jha, science correspondent
Tuesday August 15, 2006
More than half of the world’s major forests will be lost if global temperatures rise by an average of 3C or more by the end of the century, it was claimed yesterday. The prediction comes from the most comprehensive analysis yet of the potential effects of human-made global warming.
Extreme floods, forest fires and droughts will also become more common over the next 200 years as global temperatures rise owing to climate change, according to Marko Scholze of Bristol University. Dr Scholze took 52 simulations of the world’s climate over the next century, based on 16 different climate models, grouping the results according to varying amounts of global warming they predicted by 2100: less than 2C on average, 2C-3C and more than 3C. He then used the simulations to work out how the world’s plants would be affected over the next few hundred years. The results were published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Alan O’Neill, science director for the National Centre for Earth Observation, said: “Some work in this area has been done before looking at the meteorological forecasts for climate change and feeding those into vegetation models … this is a much more comprehensive study.”
He added that Dr Scholze’s results would give climate scientists the most accurate scientific projection yet of the future effects of global warming.
Dr Scholze said the effects of a 2C category were inevitable. This is the temperature rise that will happen, on average, even if the world immediately stopped emitting greenhouse gases. This scenario predicts that Europe, Asia, Canada, central America and Amazonia could lose up to 30% of its forests.
A rise of 2C-3C will mean less fresh water available in parts of west Africa, central America, southern Europe and the eastern US, raising the probability of drought in these areas. In contrast, the tropical parts of Africa and South America will be at greater risk of flooding as trees are lost. Dr Scholze says a global temperature rise of more than 3C will mean even less fresh water. Loss of forest in Amazonia and Europe, Asia, Canada and central America could reach 60%.
A 3C warming could also present a yet more dangerous scenario where the temperatures induce plants to become net producers of carbon dioxide. “As temperatures go up, plants like it better and they start to grow more vigorously and start to take up more carbon dioxide from the air,” Dr O’Neill said. “But there comes a point where the take-up is saturated for a given vegetation cover, then the ecosystem starts to respire more than it’s taking up.”
Dr Scholze’s work shows that this so-called “tipping point” could arrive by the middle of this century. His scenarios echo research from the UK’s Hadley Centre, a world leader in climate change modelling. In a report published last year called Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, scientists at the centre predicted that a 3C rise in average temperatures would cause a worldwide drop in cereal crops of between 20m and 400m tonnes, put 400 million more people at risk of hunger, and put up to 3 billion people at risk of flooding and without access to fresh water supplies.
In May, David King, the government’s chief scientific adviser, warned that the world’s temperature would rise by 3C, causing catastrophic damage around the world, unless governments took urgent action to reduce carbon emissions.
Dr Scholze said his work could help to define the concept of dangerous climate change for policymakers. “Dangerous is very objective. We tried to define a dangerous level and see what the risks are,” he said. In his definition, climate change becomes dangerous when an event – such as extreme flooding or heatwaves – that only happened once every 100 years becomes one that happens every 10 years.
He added that a rise of 3C was not inevitable. “We can’t just do what we do at the moment, what we call business as usual. We have a few decades – we have to do something before 2040.”
At the rate we are burning fossil fuels, global temperatures could easily increase by more than the 3C rise that Marko Scholze’s research warns could increase flooding, forest fires and droughts. A 2001 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said an increase of between 1.4 and 5.8C by 2100 would be caused if current carbon emissions continue.
Global sea levels would rise by between 0.09 and 0.88 metres as a result. Scientists at the UK Climate Impacts Programme predict that a 3C rise or above would reduce rain on the south coast to half of current levels, by more than 40% across the rest of England and 30% in Scotland.
Sea levels could be 70cm higher in the south and there would be a 17-fold increase in flooding on the east coast. London could face a Â£25bn clean-up bill after a storm surge that would overwhelm the Thames barrier.
quoting the Guardian artical posted by Eachran: “and put up to 3 billion people at risk of flooding and without access to fresh water supplies” quoting from the middle…. Shouldn’t this be the screaming headline, ie:
3 Billion Will Lack Fresh Water because of Climate Change, Scientists Predict.
We laymen need to have the bottom line clear and simple to understand, ie: half of us will die.
OAKLAND, California, Aug 16 (IPS) – If you’re a teacher, student, journalist or just a plain concerned citizen interested in finding well-researched documentation about climate change, you can no longer depend on the Canadian government to supply that information.
With climate change rapidly affecting northern forests and wetlands, mercury reserves once protected in cold, wet soils are being exposed to burning, likely triggering large releases of mercury to the atmosphere. … Estimates of circumboreal mercury emissions from this study are 15-fold greater than estimates that do not account for mercury stored in peat soils. Ongoing and projected increases in boreal wildfire activity due to climate change will increase atmospheric mercury emissions, contributing to the anthropogenic alteration of the global mercury cycle and exacerbating mercury toxicities for northern food chains.
…. published 19 August 2006