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  1. I think this NYT article is another example of trying to add a little drama to the story. Use of Roger Pielke Jr’s provocative but tongue-in-cheek term “non-skeptical heretic” was a way to draw attention to the story.

    My take on it is the point of the story was to say that the public discourse is dominated by political advocates on both sides that want to build up or tear down the science/policies of AGW, but the calmer voices are getting more attention in the public discourse.

    Andy Revkin has replied to David Roberts on gristmill linked in the post.

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 3 Jan 2007 @ 6:39 PM

  2. When I read the article, I was struck by the fact that the author made no mention of what type of mitigating steps could be taken to prevent the outer envelope of climate predictions from becoming a reality. Instead, there is the above quote:

    “I believe climate change is real, must be faced and action taken. But the discourse of catastrophe is in danger of tipping society onto a negative, depressive and reactionary trajectory.”

    Well, there’s no reason to take that approach. Instead, there are many positive and proactive steps that can be taken – for example, a thorough review of coastal areas along the southern Atlantic and investment in infrastructure aimed at preventing disastrous flooding – if the levees in New Orleans in 2005 had been built as well as the Dutch build their levees, the damage would have been far, far less. The rationale thing do do would be to plan for more Katrina-strength hurricanes, not to completely ignore the issue. Tidal wetlands can also absorb a lot of hurricane energy – building on them is not a good idea for numerous reasons.

    I was also disappointed in that the article didn’t discuss the need for comprehensive observations from space and in the oceans, which would remove much of the uncertainties from many different areas of climate science.

    Similarly, the article never discussed carbon-neutral energy technologies, their current state of development, and never mentioned photovoltaic or wind energy as replacements for fossil fuels. This really is the heart of the problem – there is no way we can put all the accessible fossil fuel in the ground into the atmosphere over the next century and expect anything other then a continuing trend of rapidly increasing temperatures.

    What’s needed is a Marshall Plan-scale renewable energy program designed to meet US energy demand, and it will have to include energy efficiency as a major part of the plan. This will mean switching taxpayer subsidies away from fossil fuels and industrial agriculture and towards renewable energy companies and research programs. This isn’t a job for climate science, but for energy physicists, engineers and chemists – but they can’t do the work without funding. The existing technology is actually pretty good, but there’s a big difference between a 10% efficient solar panel and a 30% efficient one.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 3 Jan 2007 @ 6:44 PM

  3. The public debate of global warming and media account of same are evolving into substantive opinions and news accounts that it is a looming problem, coming at us faster than earlier imagined and likely will affect the poor nations the hardest. Progress there, if slow.

    That is miles apart from the message of hired, fringe denialists who, at one extreme, equate carbon dioxide with life and to a lesser extreme that global warming will probably have to be confronted (though not by stringent governemtn regulations). That latter perspective is one elected officials want to believe while they fear the public will demand action without understanding the real costs of mitigation options.

    When corporate interests wake up to the reality of their assets being on the line as feedbacks come into play, action will be driven by investor demands that long-term equity investments be protected; e.g., petrochemical, transportation infrastructure, real estate and agriculture/timber. Those are the middle ground voices legislators will hear more clearly.

    Andrew Revkin is on point when he said, “Many in this group also see a need to portray clearly that the response would require far more than switching to fluourescent light bulbs and to hybrid cars.”

    Corporate leaders, among them, CEOs of major electric power generating companies have accepted the inevitable control of climate-forcing gases. They need prime time because they will make news that motivates political action.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 3 Jan 2007 @ 6:50 PM

  4. Well. Since the media have made a big deal out of the so-called “disagreements” in the scientific community about AGW, which disagreements by and large do not actually exist in the field, they can’t exactly come back and say “most scientists hold mainstream views about the science involved.” That would come off as some kind of deus ex machina resolution to all that “disagreement” that was gumming up progress on treaties, legislation and regulations. Gumming that the media were too afraid to report, and now their collusion is about to be revealed. Time to act!

    First you march out the heretics, with whom you grudingly find some common ground. Then you march out the reformed denialists, who admit that the heretics (though still insane) have a point if you squint just right. Then you run an editorial about how great is the need for leadership to bring us all together over this important issue. Then you march out some sainted senior statesman (too bad Ford just died, I guess they’ll recruit Carter) to spread his hands in all encompassing embrace and say that the reformed denialists have it right, and we should just Get On With It(tm). Then you win.

    It’s not about reforming the heretics, who remain useful as a foil. It’s about reforming their message into something the senior statesman in question can embrace without looking like a heretic himself.

    catblack

    Comment by cat black — 3 Jan 2007 @ 7:00 PM

  5. It seems to me that the ‘heretical’ position is the one that is not the caricature of climate change science made by the climate change deniers. That is, in order to make their denials seem more reasonable, the climate change deniers have manipulated the debate so that the radical position appears to be ‘orthodox’.

    It’s a trap the media falls into far too often.

    Comment by D.F. — 3 Jan 2007 @ 7:04 PM

  6. Very pleased to see Revkin’s piece as a topic here (and other spaces) in more lucid examination.

    Regarding the oxidation of fossil fuels, after considering the greatest possible downside to humanity, and taking a critical broad view at comprehensive evidence amassed over the years, and in turn, exploring more specific means of mitigation, such as delineated by Pacala and Socolow, one is left to wonder why the game of “Russian roulette” continues at breakneck speed; in sum, the conundrum engendering business as usual is founded on the quicksand of ignorance.

    Those who deny anthropogenic climate change have accused those who warn of future events as a new form of religious zealousness. Again, one can suggest wishful thinking on the part of denialist, and I again point to ignorance, since a most likely projected conclusion is that at some point of carbon emission, we will have altered the atmosphere beyond repair. This enterprise rests entirely on the projection of causal chains and abstract reasoning. One could only hold it to be ‘religious’ if the notion of belief was the sole glue holding climate modeling together and serves to point out an inability for someone to understand the step by step construction of opponent process relationships found in climate

    Stepping outside of positivist evidence, and moving to realms of intuition, my most strong and fervent suspicion is that there are surprises of biogeochemical cycles that await us – of apocalyptic magnitude–forcing a rethinking of the entire process of living a meaningful human life. These potentials include disruption of the photosynthetic plankton driven carbon cycles and food chains, fostered by an already weakened net of established ecological nutrient energy exchanges.

    The scientific literatures abounds with similar conjecture, and of course, proof will only be found in letting the Global human climate experiment run course – which is not a sane option. I have heard it said that “it’s not what we know about the climate, it what we don’t know that really scares us”. Heated agreement on that point.

    Thus, Carl Wunsch’s sentiments, of rational risk management, are how I would (do) build a framework for consensus; yet in private spirit, hold hope that the next few decadal years will not realize the emergence of new equilibrium points of the Earth’s hydrologic cycle, leading to social unrest and the end of the more noble aspects of civilization as we know it.

    We can engage the principals of economic forces to fiscally manage our behavior, and engender a much more prudent (and ostensibly, conservative) approach. The folks at the Apollo Climate project seem to hold the most pragmatic approach. Now we just need access leadership and vote them into office implement an approach based on the realities – as presented by the physical universe–as we understand it today and tomorrow.

    Comment by Jim Redden — 3 Jan 2007 @ 7:34 PM

  7. This seems to be an article where the writer felt he had to come up with some “angle” or “theme” or “storyline” on which to hang the article, so he invented one. That it doesn’t make much sense and doesn’t have much to do with reality isn’t that important to him, obviously. He could just as easily have written the same substantive article around the theme, “OK, what is the consensus opinion of the scientific community about the potential seriousness of climate change and the urgency of taking action?” but that would not have been as dramatic as the “new heresy emerges!” theme.

    Having said that, I disagree with the comment from Mike Hulme that the “discourse of catastrophe” is counterproductive. The potential for a global ecological catastrophe far beyond anything that the human species has experienced since long before the dawn of civilization is real, and is growing.

    Every new report of the observed effects of global warming indicates that the changes are more extreme, and more rapid, than had been previously thought possible. An article published last week in The Independent outlined the various self-reinforcing global warming feedbacks, which have only relatively recently begun to be understood, and which are not accounted for in earlier predictions about the probable rapidity and extent of warming and resultant climate change.

    And meanwhile, anthropogenic CO2 emissions continue not only to increase every year, but are accelerating, and the human species remains far from reversing that trend. Realistically, would anyone care to make a prediction about what will be the first year in which global CO2 emissions are lower than the year before? Do you think that will happen soon enough, and emissions thereafter continue to be reduced rapidly enough, to avoid the worst extremes of climate change in the current predictions — or the much worse consequences that predictions which take into account the full effect of all the feedbacks will give us?

    I understand, appreciate, and am very grateful for the role of scientists such as those who run RealClimate.org in being objective, careful, and cautious in what they say about this. But the dangers are huge, and entirely real, and there is no basis for disdaining “campaigners” who emphasize the very huge and very real dangers of not taking very large steps, very soon, to reduce GHG emissions.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 3 Jan 2007 @ 7:39 PM

  8. excellent! thanks. I am one of those who have frozen like a deer in the headlights, staring into this issue. your measured and balanced words are a blessing. be well.

    Comment by David Wilson — 3 Jan 2007 @ 7:48 PM

  9. The middle ground is ground that is not as extreme as that occupied by “Secular Animist” and some others (but not all) who post here. Also, I would add that, although by and large the actual operators of this site are not in that sort of territory, some scientists whose papers have been posted or referenced here are in that arena.

    As one moves toward (but does not reach) the other extreme, and I can speak from experience here since I frequent certain circles among the so called “right wingers,” I think you will find that there is not the extent of out and out so called “denialism” that many who frequent this site believe there is. There is a vast continuum ranging from views similar to those of Pielke Jr, clear on over to views that are utterly doctrinaire in their assertion that no perceived or real environmental downside would ever justify any regulation or other controls asserted upon purely short term economic considerations. To hear it told by some at the “Secular Animist” extreme, everyone who is the slightest bit skeptical is at the opposite extreme – nothing could be further from the truth.

    As for myself, I am what is known as a “crunchy con” – I have serious environmentalist tendencies, yet do not follow the “Green” orthodoxy either. I am completely open to the possibility that AGW is a serious issue, but want to drive better practices around modelling, measurement and analysis of data. As I see it, it is a quality issue. Better quality will help all involved. It will silence the truely extreme anti-environmentalists, and will provide better answers to the remaining legitimate questions and better characterize error terms, biases and causals that are not at this time 100% understood.

    Ultimately I would expect there to emerge a less GHG-full mode of existence, but also, far less political distortion influencing how we choose to deal with climate related policies and issues. Somewhere between a 19th century rape-the-Earth robber barron paradigm, and, a radicalized quasi Marxist hard core global income redistribution “Ecotopia” paradigm, lies a road that avoids many evils. Take it. I urge you all. Take it.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 3 Jan 2007 @ 8:07 PM

  10. It seems the one thing all parties in this big debate can agree on is that those guys — those extremists, those … campaigners — deserve all the contempt Revkin or anybody else can throw at them.

    Of course, pretty much everyone, including the so-called “heretics,” agrees that global warming is an unprecedented danger that will wreak great human and economic damage in our children’s lifetimes. But the people who go out and try to get the public worked up over it, the ones out putting their asses on the line trying to break through the apathy and get real change started, those people … they’re so shrill.

    The most important thing, when unprecedented global danger approaches, is that nobody raise their voice. It’s unseemly.

    Comment by David Roberts — 3 Jan 2007 @ 8:27 PM

  11. Nice post.

    When I first presented the idea of a third “tribe” in the climate debate, partly tongue-in-cheek, I did so to recognize a another political position on climate change. Not science. That political position is characterized by people who accept the IPCC (hence, non-skeptic, i.e., “skeptic” as a noun, as often used in derogatory fashion on this site) but reject the targets and timetables approach that is codified in the Framework Convention. This includes a variety of different, even mutually inconsistent approaches proposed by people as diverse as Steve Rayner, Bjorn Lomborg, Dan Sarewitz, and Gregg Easterbrook. (And inn some quarters — maybe here — simply mentioning the name Lomborg is enough to be labeled a heretic, ;-) )

    Now, as far as I know you guys have no views on the Framework Convention one way or the other, or at least that is what you say. So this political debate has nothing to do with what you present here, and this third way should not be relevant, right? The reality is that if climate policy is going to move forward, it has to break out of (a) positioning everything in terms of science, and (b) framing everything in terms of alarmists and skeptics/contrarians. And like it or not, RealClimate is a big player in keeping this Manichean view alive, such as with your recent “year in review” and incessant skeptic obsession.

    I don’t care if this third way on climate policy is called the middle, top, bottom, left, or right. And I have no affinity for the NSH tag. What I do care about is that people engage in serious discussions of actual policy options in manner that is far more diverse that has existed to date. If that is something that RC wants to venture into, we’d all benefit.

    Happy 2007!

    [Response: Roger, Thanks for your comment. I think however that Andy's text belies your words. The article barely mentioned policy options and the Framework Convention not at all and since we don't discuss policy much here, the issue we were addressing was the the middle ground on science issues. You have frequently railed against the misrepresentation of science in political debates and have stated that it is clearly incumbent on scientists to call out those who misrepresent their work - you have done it yourself on the hurricane damage issue multiple times. When asked why you don't correct the mis-representations of the contrarians, you stated that you didn't have the necessary expertise - well we do, and in line with your own actions on the damages issue, we try and point out when our science is misused - by all parties, regardless of any policy being advocated. Bad arguments are bad arguments whatever they are used for.

    I'm not sure why you charaterise RC as perpetuating the alarmist/skeptic dichotomy when we go out of our way to provide nuance and context when relevant science issues come up (see previous discussions on climate sensitivty, ocean circulation, aerosols or mid-latitude storms etc.). But we are not shy in calling out rubbish when it comes along - and I can assure you that is not evenly balanced on 'both sides'.

    You ask that RC becomes part of the climate policy discussion. We have said many many times that our expertise is on science, not policy - we are not qualified to assess the economic effectiveness of cap and trade versus carbon taxes versus subsidies or the Clean Development mechanism. All we can do is tell you what the climate consquences might be given changes in emssions. Expecting anything else is foolish.

    Finally, I would point out that the 'year in review' was supposed to be lighthearted, and frankly, the sceptics provide more fodder for amusement than discussions about policy. I make no apology for that, but I'm slightly concerned for your sense of humour. Furthermore, expecting a comment put in at 10:30pm EST to a moderated forum to immediately appear is probably a little hopeful - we have lives outside the blog too you know. Thanks! - gavin]

    Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 3 Jan 2007 @ 9:14 PM

  12. Glad to spark such constructive back-and-forthing.

    Too many notions to respond to, but I’ll say a couple things.

    Inspired by an earlier exchange with Dave Roberts on Huffingtonpost and Gristmill over the story, I got our Web folk today to subtly change the headline online from “Middle Stance Emerging in Debate Over Climate” (writer’s bane remains headlines written by copy desks) to “A NEW Middle Stance Emerges in Debate over Climate.”

    You can see the updated story and our whole long, ongoing list of energy-environment pieces here: http://www.nytimes.com/energychallenge.

    The change is subtle but significant, and hopefully helpful. It better implies (particulary for the majority of readers who are not nearly as attuned to this discourse as you all are) that the ‘middle’ has shifted toward the “hotter,” more dangerous side, that almost everyone of substance sees the need for prompt action.

    But there is a very significant difference between the more popular, mediagenic stance out there right now (not just in the movie) and the stance of the folks in my story — and most of the realclimate gang, too.

    The orthodoxy described on TV, in movie theaters, enviro campaigns etc is that AGW is a realtime crisis that is momentous and huge and terrifying, but can be solved with existing technologies. Anyone disagree with that being the general public image of the climate ‘problem’ right now?

    That is not the orthodoxy Gavin et al described above. They’re talking about IPCC, which is barely mentioned these days (altho that’ll change in 3 weeks of course) in favor of Stern Report, UK report on avoiding dangerous climate change, and the like, and some speculations about thermohaline and Greenland instabilities that many (dare I say most) people actually studying those phenomena up close don’t see as very plausible.

    AGW is still mainly portrayed (outside of your rarefied circles) as a problem to be fixed (a raging fire to put out), not a risk to be cut. That is your quiet, almost-private orthodoxy, perhaps, but not the one being sold to the public.

    That’s why I had to write about this new middle — Hulme on BBC, the pushback from hurricane experts on ‘hotter’ interpretations of the state of that science, and the like. I didn’t invent the cutesy “heretic” line, but it does help insure that no one can interpret this new middle as having anything to do with the old contrarians.

    And, sure, we journalists always have to frame our stories in a form our editors can identify as “news.” Believe me, that’s hard enough with ANY climate story (AGW still is the antithesis of news as we know it), but was even harder with this one.

    Best wishes for 2007, and a stable climate to all in 2107.

    Andy

    [Response:Andy, you wrote: "AGW is still mainly portrayed (outside of your rarefied circles) as a problem to be fixed (a raging fire to put out), not a risk to be cut. "I think this is accurate, and you've said it very well. But in your article you tend to conflate what scientists say with what the mass media says that climate scientists say. The implication is that scientists are now finding the "third way". This just isn't accurate. I'd be delighted if the media is finding the third way though -- changing the way it talks about this issue! That'll put them right where the scientists have been for a long time. [This is not to deny that some scientists have gone overboard in what they say, but individuals are individuals. They don't speak for the community as a whole.] — Eric Steig ]

    [Response: Hi Andy, good to get your further thoughts here. It appears to me that you are mainly making a point that John Schellnhuber and I made in our book published last year: namely that it is time that the media stop spending so much space on pseudo-issues like whether global warming is caused by humans, which scientifically has long been settled. Instead they should properly cover what the real discourse is now: namely what to do about it. E.g., whether the emissions trading scheme in operation in Europe is adequate and functioning well. I'm glad to see that this is now happening. Over the past weeks, German media have been full of the discussion over the amount of CO2 emission quota that is allocated to German industry for the next years: whether the reductions are enough, and whether part of the quota should be auctioned off by the government rather than given to industry for free. Last time round, a couple of years ago, this was a topic for a small note in the back of the paper, now it is discussed on front pages. Of course, these are topics of debate where we as natural scientists are not the experts.
    Nevertheless, I want to ask you what you mean exactly when you state that the climate crisis cannot be solved with existing technologies. It is certainly true that we need major investments in further technological innovations to decarbonise our energy system. Yet, I am convinced (by what energy engineers etc. tell me) that major emission reductions over the next couple of decades are possible by widespread application of existing technology. E.g., studies show that Europe could be supplied to 100% with electricity from renewable sources using existing technology (mainly wind power) and at current electricity prices. To achieve this, we need to build the infrastructure (including the pan-European supergrid currently discussed by the European Commission), but we do not need to wait for some magic new technology being developed. Likewise, we all know that cars can run at half the fuel consumption compared to what the average car is using today, and houses can cut their energy needs by at least 70% by good insulation, all with existing technology. The problem with, say, low-energy refrigerators is not that they don't exist or that they cost too much (computed over their life span including energy costs, they actually are cheaper than regular ones, at least at German electricity prices) - the problem is that they only have a few percent market share. That is a problem for politicians to tackle by proper incentive schemes, not one for the engineers. -stefan]

    Comment by Andy Revkin — 3 Jan 2007 @ 9:14 PM

  13. Regarding the author’s comments:
    “There is “no firm evidence of a heat-triggered strengthening in storms in recent years” (our emphasis). Well, what the WMO statement to which this assertion is attributed actually said was (first bullet point): “Though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point.” We agree with that statement – this particular subject is definitely in a state of flux.”

    Monsoons may be poor relatives of tropical weather events, but an increase in frequency and intensity is identified here.
    From AAAS Science Roundup:

    “More Indian Monsoons?

    “Extreme rainfall events like monsoons can have devastating consequences including landslides, flash floods, and crop destruction. Even more alarming, most climate models have predicted that extreme rainfall events will become more common as global surface temperature increases, though observational evidence of this trend has been scarce. In a Report in the 1 Dec 2006 Science, Goswami et al. ( http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/314/5804/1442 ) analyzed a daily rainfall data set for central India and showed that there has been an increase in the frequency and intensity of heavy rain events (greater than or equal to 100 mm/day of rain), and a decrease in the frequency of light to moderate rain events (greater than or equal to 5 mm/day, but less than100 mm/day) during the monsoon seasons from 1951 to 2000. Interestingly, the seasonal mean monsoon rainfall in India has been relatively stable for the past half century. But the researchers point out that this is because the increasing contribution of heavy rain events is offset by the decreasing contribution of lighter rain events. The findings suggest that severe rain events over central India may become more common if global warming continues as expected.”

    Comment by Tim Jones — 3 Jan 2007 @ 10:10 PM

  14. I also blogged on this here. Comments welcome.

    Comment by Andrew Dessler — 3 Jan 2007 @ 10:29 PM

  15. I saw the David Roberts piece before Revkin’s actual article – and found myself agreeing more with Revkin than Roberts. Yes Andy’s article seemed a bit obvious in a way, but it also seemed helpful in presenting a strong group that is convinced of the problem and seems realistic in its appraisal. The “middle” of the headline I figured was not Revkin’s own text anyway, and the rest seemed reasonable enough.

    The problem seems to be really that the science (and the upcoming IPCC fourth report) is alarming enough in the long term, but not quite so alarming in the nearer term. Can we just muddle along a couple more decades without worries? Well, not exactly, because the challenge of going CO2-free is perhaps the largest problem human civilization has ever faced – trillions of dollars of energy infrastructure have to be completely replaced. Does it help to start sooner, or to wait a bit for better technology and a clearer assessment of the risks? What does the actual scope of the risks justify, in terms of expenses now and in future? That’s what the Stern report was trying to address, and there are some US Climate Change Science program analyses going on right now trying to get better estimates. But there is still so much unknown about the best mitigation strategies.

    Revkin is right that we don’t yet fully have the technologies we’ll need to solve the problem. Perhaps the most important question is how do we ensure those technologies are available and affordable when we really need them, because those large-scale replacements are key, no matter what little Kyoto-sized steps we take now.

    Comment by Arthur Smith — 4 Jan 2007 @ 12:47 AM

  16. >a problem to be fixed …, not a risk to be cut.

    Doesn’t saying the public is fooled into thinking there’s already a problem ignore both the already committed warming and the solubility change already committed of calcite and aragonite in seawater?

    Are the marine chemists and biologists the new alarmists?

    Why isn’t this changing the urgency? It’s faster and it’s definite.

    “… Ocean pH has already fallen and will continue to do so with certainty as the oceans take up more anthropogenic CO2. Acidification … has the potential to affect a wide range of marine biogeochemical and ecological processes. Based on theory and an emerging body of research, many of these effects may be non-linear and some potentially complex….”

    “… The mean pH of seawater has probably changed by less than 0.1 units over the last several million years [6, Figure 8.2]. Since the start of the Industrial Revolution (circa 1800), the release of anthropogenic CO2 to the atmosphere and subsequent flux into the surface oceans has already led to a decrease in the pH of oceanic surface waters of 0.1 unit [10, 5]. The same calculations show that the current rate of increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration (15ppm/decade) will cause a decrease in pH of 0.015 units/decade [11].”

    “… the current surface ocean pH range is nearly distinct from that assumed for the inter-glacial period and the predicted pH for 2050 is nearly distinct from that of the pre-industrial period (Figure 8. 2). In some sense therefore the marine system is accelerating its entry into uncharted territory. … the current rates of environmental change are far more rapid than previously experienced. We do not know if marine organisms and ecosystems will be able to adapt at these timescales.”

    From: Defra-08.qxd 02/11/2005 21:26 Page 65
    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/FC3/81/ExeterpaperProofsTurelyetal.pdf

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Jan 2007 @ 12:59 AM

  17. I am amazed, truly amazed about a discussion on semantics when maximum temperature records are broken everywhere on the planet at what appears to be a breath taking pace. Some journalists, along with all contrarian skeptics stay inside too much, see great value in individual expert statements which denies what is going on beyond their window pane, are they not as impressed as I am when the outside thermometer reads +10 to +15 C above normal consistently? Isn’t human experience, what drives us to consider what to do about something, especially when it happens? The heresy belongs to contrarians in this case, who attack and deny their own sense of temperature.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:20 AM

  18. Re: #13 (Tim Jones)

    The word “storm” in the text you quoted from the original posting does not mean just events of heavy rainfall, but some kinds of organized structures in the atmosphere. In the present context it means a tropical cyclone (hurricanes etc.) about whose trends we are uncertain. In other contexts it may also mean a mid-latitude (extra-tropical) cyclone which was mentioned in the previous posting by Rasmus. It is likely that storms accompany heavy rain events, but heavy rain events can also occur with individual cumulonimbus clouds which are not called “storms” in the contexts like the present one.

    It is plausible that the frequency of heavy rain events will increase in warmer climate in many (though probably not all) regions of the world. (In this context, I do not think “frequency and intensity” two separate things. The frequency of rain events with intensity exceeding a certain threshold will increase.) My crude understanding why this is plausible is shown at http://web.sfc.keio.ac.jp/~masudako/memo_en/precip_evap_warming.html . This logic does not care whether rainfall is organized into storms or not. Also, there are many empirical studies like Goswami et al. that the increase of frequency of heavy rain events has already discernible in various (though not yet “many”) regions.

    Thus I effectively agree with the quotation from “AAAS Science Roundup”, but I am obliged to point out that the usage of the term “monsoon” in the title and the first sentence of the quotation is inappropriate. “Monsoon” is neither an extreme event nor a storm. It may mean wind or rainfall, but anyway it is a seasonal feature that appears every year. Thus, “More Indian Monsoons” is odd. It may possibly be interpreted as “more rainfall in the Monsoon season over India”, but this interpretation does not match the message of Goswami et al. saying that the seasonal average rainfall amount does not exhibit a significant trend until now.

    Comment by Kooiti Masuda — 4 Jan 2007 @ 2:47 AM

  19. RE#11, Roger, the science of global warming, not the politics, is what matters. Too many people have made the claim that people who are concerned about global warming have some ulterior political agenda, and that’s simply not the case. As far as a ‘third way’, the basic predictions and concerns over greenhouse gas emissions haven’t changed mych since, what, the 1980′s? There wasn’t much data accumulated back then, but military submarines traversing the Arctic were recording thinning sea ice all through the 90′s (data that was kept secret). Back then, people claimed that temperature measurements showing increases were due to the ‘urban heat island’; they claimed that the atmosphere would engage in some dynamic behavior that would transport heat to space; they claimed that the satellites showed no temperature increase – all claims that have been debunked.

    My question for all the self-styled skeptics is this: when do you think that the record-setting temperatures will stop setting records? Eight of the 10 warmest years since 1860 have occurred within the last decade. When do you expect this trend to end, if anthropogenic global warming isn’t a reality? Also, what’s your explanation for the vanishing high-altitude glaciers and snowfields?

    While it is certain that hurricanes are not of much use for tracking global warming, the link between sea surface temperatures, ocean heat content and anthropogenic greenhouse gases is well established. Katrina would never have amplified if it hadn’t encountered a warm tounge of water as it passed over the Gulf of Mexico, and all indications are that the oceans are warming. All the hand waving in the world doesn’t change such basic physical facts.

    What I’m really tired of seeing is self-styled skeptics funded by the fossil fuel lobby who delberately misrepresent the state of the science for no other reason then to protect the fossil fuel markets from government regulations. Note that this is going on at the same time that NASA has cut funding for satellites aimed at answering some of these questions – and I haven’t heard a single member of the small group of climate scientists who claim that AGW isn’t a serious problem ever call for restoring that funding.

    Quite frankly, I think it is you and your cohort who are engaging in politics, not science. For example, in your paper with Landsea et al on hurricanes, the final statement is this: “There are much, much better ways to deal with the threat of hurricanes than with energy policies (e.g., Pielke and Pielke 1997). There are also much, much better ways to justify climate mitigation policies than with hurricanes (e.g., Rayner 2004).” Well, that’s not the issue at all. The practical issue is whether hurricane seasons like the 2005 one should be viewed as a hundred-year oddity, or as the new norm. If 2005 is now a ‘normal year’, then nothing we do now will change that for decades – and coastal cities should plan accordingly. I mean, who is it that is playing politics here?

    The science has been clear for over a decade – which is why some of us decided to go into renewable energy research (that, and it’s a fascinating topic, especially if you look at attempts to mimic photosynthesis using nanotechnology, for example), only to find that the funding and support is essentially nonexistent for such research in this country. Andy Revkin posted this link: BUDGETS FALLING IN RACE TO FIGHT GLOBAL WARMING which is a story describing what’s happened to such research (and most people don’t view nuclear as renewable, due to limited supplies of uranium as well as high nuclear life-cycle carbon emissions, and clean coal is nothing but a public relations effort on the part of the fossil fuel industry).

    Comment by Ike Solem — 4 Jan 2007 @ 3:40 AM

  20. An interesting contribution to the debate by the excellent Andy Revkin, but I can’t help thinking that the apparent emergence of a third way is largely an artefact of the way in which the media report controversies, seeking ‘journalistic balance’ by giving coverage to ‘both sides’. The media does seem to find it a huge challenge to represent debates that involve more than two viewpoints. In some parts of the (right-wing) media in the UK, for instance, climate change has been covered simply as a campaign waged by environmental groups, with scientists characterised merely in terms of whether or not they are on the side of environmentalists.

    Unfortunately, the job of journalists has been made even more difficult on climate change by the actions of the various players in the debate, who have often not distinguished between scientific advice and advocacy of particular policy options, and have not always been upfront about biases in their views due to particular interests.

    Another key factor is that it is relatively easy, with practice, to convey one’s views to the media in a convincing way. Many lobby groups are skilled at getting their views covered, even when they have precious little evidence to support them. Research scientists, on the other hand, can appear completely unconvincing even when they have a great weight of evidence behind them.

    The result is that many journalists have struggled to accurately convey where the weight of scientific evidence lies on climate change (as shown, for instance, through published peer-reviewed papers). This has meant that some lobbyists who are driven by an ideology or commercial interests to oppose any kind of environmental regulation (such as greenhouse gas limits) have enjoyed an extraordinary tactical success in getting coverage for their views despite the fact that they are not really based on scientific evidence. They have also successfully commandeered the term ‘climate sceptic’ to try to convey some intellectual credibility to a position that is more accurately decribed as ‘denial’. As scepticism is a fundamental skill required by all scientists in testing theories, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly useful way of distinguishing between the viewpoints of researchers.

    One final point, to address an issue frequently raised by Roger Pielke Jr, is the desirability of scientists engaging in policy debate and advocating particular policy options. It is undoubtedly true that there is a danger of deliberate or unintentional bias in the way scientific evidence is interpreted and presented when researchers become wedded to particular policy options. However, I think there is also a huge danger in researchers being excluded from the policy debate. They should have no special voice in such a debate, but they can at least help to describe the evidence and to distinguish between facts and fictions about the physical world.

    Comment by Bob Ward — 4 Jan 2007 @ 5:14 AM

  21. I am very concerned about the criticism levelled by Mike Hulme at climate change campaigners, particularly at Stop Climate Chaos, and the apparent endorsement of this by Revkin and RealClimate. (If it’s the name Hulme dislikes, I wonder what better short name he would propose).

    If Tony Blair’s statement “We have a window of only 10-15 years to take the steps we need to avoid crossing a catastrophic tipping point.” is alarmist or counterproductive (as Hulme implies), then where does that leave scientists like James Hansen?

    Going back to Stop Climate Chaos: They are the largest British NGO coalition for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Amongst climate change activists, they are probably as moderate as can be. They have so far been focussing on advising people how to cut emissions by turning appliances off standby, buying energy-efficient items, reducing transport emissions, etc. The message of their mass event in December was one saying to the government ‘we’re doing our bit to cut emissions – now do your bit’. Now, there are certain things about Stop Climate Chaos and their manifesto which I would criticise, but I would challenge anybody do show how what they say is alarmist (see http://www.stopclimatechaos.org).

    In fact, much of what they say if probably far less alarming than some recent posts by David Archer and others here.

    If even this kind of public mobilisation is seen as hysterical then how can we possibly hope to stop the inexorable rise of emissions, with one coal fire plant after another being built (and without capturing any carbon)?

    Comment by Almuth Ernsting — 4 Jan 2007 @ 5:43 AM

  22. Well you passed 9 out of the 10 tests to qualify as nonskeptical heretics. If you don’t like the name perhaps you should change it to nonskeptical deniers, or why not Polyanars. The whole basis of your views seems to be the Pollyannaish attitude that things are not that bad. You seem to be willing to wait until there have been ten Katrinas before you declare that hurricanes are a threat, until the Arctic Sea ice disappears before you call for action to save polar bears, and a Greenland ice sheet collapse before you claim that is a danger.

    By the time you are sure that an increase in hurricanes is caused by global warming do you really think that we will be able to prevent them getting even worse? Do you think that by the ime we are sure that the Arctic ice melt is accelerating we will then be able to stop it disappearing completely? Do you think that when we are sure the Greenland ice is melting rapidly, we will still have time to build flood defences around every port and coastal plain in the world?

    In December 2005, James Hansen delivered a tribute to Charles David Keeling entitled “Is There Still Time to Avoid â��Dangerous Anthropogenic Interferenceâ�� with Global Climate? http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/keeling_talk_and_slides.pdf

    He said then that we had a decade in which to stop the rise in greenhouse gases. That was over a year ago. Now we only have nine years in which to act. How long do you believe we have to act?

    One is tempted to ask when do you think we should panic? But then the answer is obvious “Real scientist never panic. It is not rational.” No doubt you will still be saying the same in nine years time when a force 6 hurricane Katrina III is smashing into New York :-(

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 4 Jan 2007 @ 6:42 AM

  23. This is a very relevant topic and in the light of available technologies and timelines available to humanity to combat the possible 3 degrees C of additional human induced warming it is indeed upto politicians to make the decisions in order to change climate history.

    Politicians are not talking about toning down economic growth at all because that is how the world seems to be working especially with India and China coming on board and the current world fever of free market economics.

    One other thing that concerns me from reading about all of this is the nature of climate science itself and its philisophical underpinnings. Most science works in the context of reductionism, the linear and the isloated. Hence climate science in this context maybe incomplete as it involves the interactions of a lot of parts and no single model covers it all and hence there is a lot of unknowables in the context of how the Earth is going to respond to atmospheric warming. One example seems to be the existing fact that the real world is warming (changing) faster than current climate models predict, whether this is true or not is not known to me but it seems to be what is being reported in the popular scientific press (ie, new scientist and scientific american) and hence you read, you believe.

    Is it not true as per the GAIA hypothesis of James Lovelock who seems to be a holistic/complexity scientist that the interactions between seemingly disparate part of the Earth systems are inherently far from equilibrium and non linear and hence very unpredictable once perturbed. Now when we look at the science of complexity and systemics we see that in general there is not current definition of complexity scientifically and hence climate scientists cannnot know it all about the Earth and how it will truely react to atmospheric warming.

    We hear it all the time, to monsoon or not to monsoon, how will the amazon react to warming, will all the siberian lakes melt and release methane en masse etc etc etc. Do we know and do we have all of the facts ?

    There will always be uncertainties in climate science because we have no science of the non linear like we do the linear.

    Having said all that I believe that RC have it right and chances are that atmohpheric warming will not release in apocolyptic oblivion for humanity, well not unless the earth suddenly becomes extremely non linear far from equilibrium and lovelock is proved right.

    Comment by pete best — 4 Jan 2007 @ 6:57 AM

  24. Re #21

    the stop climate chaos coalition are a political group and hence talk up climate change. Study the science as it stands and even James hansen does not speak to much of impending doom, just a fair bit of warming.

    Speak to James Lovelock however and you get a different answer, however Mr Lovelock is not of the consensus but more of a scientific heretic / loner who due to his systemic rationale is not part of the mainstream climate science viewpoint.

    Comment by pete best — 4 Jan 2007 @ 8:29 AM

  25. This isnt a left or right wing topic.
    It effects every single beeing and when you follow the process you will find politics from both parties all over the globe who take action. With every anomaly event happening people minds change and the tipping point to actual do something emerges. But as the problem lags (There is enough potential in the pipeline waiting to increase Co2 ppm greatly already).
    Politics who do not tackle the catastrophe will be not elected.
    We faceing the biggest threat to mankind and we need to act yesterday!

    Oil companys should stop the game on playing on time for the chriest shareholder value.

    What should they do now?
    - Start their own Manhatten Project to tackle the problem.
    - Start to build an infrastructure for alternative energy flows.
    - Start to build sustainable energy generators(Wind farms, Solar panel gardens, bio fuels powerplants and on).
    - Stop growing in the classic energy market as the peak oil is reached or soon will be anyway.

    Stop providing limited energy resources and invest in renewable. This will rise profit greatly in mid and long terms.

    - Change product source.
    - The mitigating cost will be not much in compare what awaits us if we dont change our energy – our anthropogentic influence on the global climate. (See Sir N. Stern Review)
    - Im positive that tax breaks will happen when investing in renewable energy ressources.
    - Im positive the politic will help, follow and agree to the change.
    - Instead of using just image campaigns – to play on time they can actually do something.

    Everything else means riding a dead polutted horse, and dont forget the biggest empires in history ALL failed because of to conservative fews and not adobting to new circumstances.

    What will people do with their money if there is nothing they can spent it for?
    If oil companys do not change the energy source to renewable and emission less/zero, they will be suied one day (As happend to the tabbacco ind. and still happens).

    They can CHANGE and do something for the rescue of our planet – for our children – for the future of our species.

    Lets start today and take action – call your manager and tell him to hire real sintist and engeneers to work out plans to change the company 180 degree.

    Be the new Rockefeller, whatever you prefer, but act or you and all other will feel the angry beast.

    Comment by sunlight — 4 Jan 2007 @ 8:36 AM

  26. It isn’t only Hansen who uses the term catastrophe. Holdren, president of AAAS, uses the term in the article and frequently in talks.

    I find it a useful concept — I asked someone in water here in California what would happen if we saw the kind of sea level increase that some are saying will be in the fourth IPCC report, and was told that it wouldn’t make sense to rebuild the levees in the Delta to accommodate, the levees that help get drinking water to more than 20 million Californians, and agriculture water to the majority of the state.

    Revkin’s explanation that many people believe that we can fix climate change would have been clearer in a different article. We can limit the damage, but not prevent all damage; Holdren says that both the coral reefs and polar bear could be at risk with a 1.5 C increase, and some say we have already seen dangerous change.

    To agree with another point Revkin makes, I hear policy people say that we do have technology that will make a difference today, but we must invest heavily in technology R&D to reduce GHG emissions 60 – 80%, even as population increases 50%. Rather than finding Gore too shrill, Gore may be too optimistic, as An Inconvenient Truth puts forth a goal of reaching 1970s levels of GHG emissions by 2050. There is much talk that this would be inadequate, and both Harte and Fung from Berkeley, for example, talk about positive feedbacks exacerbating the situation. Just one example, from Harte’s experiment in Colorado, as the Earth warms, lighter color plants are replaced by darker plants.

    Stefan mentions that we can achieve a lot at German energy prices — lots. Of course, getting Americans and Chinese and Indians to pay German energy prices, something like 18 cent/kWh, and gasoline ($?/gallon). Even so, Germany is building more coal plants, so it takes more than reasonable prices, it takes sensible politicians to stop subsidizing fossil fuels, and to mandate sensible solutions.

    Comment by Karen Street — 4 Jan 2007 @ 9:10 AM

  27. There has been a huge political turnaround here in Australia during 2006, even politicians are starting to talk some sense. It is not the media so much that has conviced people but rather the reality of recent events. As for other extremes of weather in the last few months, we have had snow on bushfires, record heatwaves, unseasonal frost killing late spring fruit crops, half a meter of “tennis ball” sized hails stones was dumped on a town near the “sunshine coast”, ect. If your quick you can watch a bit for yourself, the sattelite loops for the last few days (1-4 Jan 2007) show a large mass of Antartic air colliding with the equally large tropical cyclone Isobel over W. Australia. The BOM are also predicting a 60-70% chance the drought will ease over the next quarter but it depends how the fickle El-Nino is feeling.

    Our national science body, CSIRO, has said for years we have the technology to be 100% renewable at a “reasonable” cost but now the immediate problem of moving our “average rainfall” back from the N & W of the country to where the farms and citys are in the S & E is portrayed as an engineering task. To be honest engineering is the only option we have with the current lack of water (we are already on permenent and increasingly harsher “rations”). However, since all that bare topsoil and most of the catchments are in the “wrong place”, renewables will be pushed down the budget list again because the squeaky wheel will get oiled first. How many squeaky wheels can we manage at once before our modern civilization collapses in a rusty heap?

    And if we do somehow halt AGW and adapt to changed conditions, is it possible that weather patterns will continue to shift and basically bounce around like a ping pong ball for centuries to come? Maybe I sound “Alarmists” to many people but AGW’s effacts on Agriculture and the oceans food chain are just a small part of the total screw up that is sometimes called the first Industrial Revolution. We are also starting to feel the impact of the “sixth great extinction” and “peak oil”. A dramatic “population correction” is imminent in a historical sense, and to borrow a term from economists, we should plan for a “soft landing” but I fear my great-grandkids are doomed to fight Eienstien’s postulated 4th world war. Hopefully we can come up with a second “enlightened” Industrial Revolution that overcomes the tradegdy of the commons.

    I don’t live in Britain but I would also like to say that no matter what you think of Tony Blair, he has done more than any other current “world leader” to promote a scientifically based global effort to tackle these problems in a manner that benifits everyone. I also belive he had a hand in getting Bush, Murdoch and Howard to all admit AGW is a “serious” problem in 2006. I also belive the attempt by the US to sticth up the nuclear fuel cycle is more about future economics than current security. ( I also belive I’m ranting and posting under the influence, but isn’t that what blogs are for? :) )

    Comment by Alan — 4 Jan 2007 @ 9:13 AM

  28. Re 24:
    1) “The stop climate chaos coalition are a political group and hence talk up climate change.” Where do they do that? You haven’t quoted a simple example. Are you just presuming that because they are ‘political’ (whatever that means) they must somehow be talking up climate change? Their website suggests otherwise.

    “Even James hansen does not speak to much of impending doom, just a fair bit of warming.” James Hansen has repeatedly warned that, with business as usual, half or most forms of life on this planet are likely to become extinct and that sea levels could rise far faster than at present. He uses the term ‘dangerous climate change’ rather than ‘catastrophic, presumably because it has a legal meaning within the UN Climate Change Convention. But most people would surely regard the chance of losing over half of all species and flooding coastal communities around the world as being ‘catastrophic’.

    Comment by Almuth Ernsting — 4 Jan 2007 @ 9:54 AM

  29. “and I can speak from experience here since I frequent certain circles among the so called “right wingers,” I think you will find that there is not the extent of out and out so called “denialism” that many who frequent this site believe there is.”

    So do I and I assure you they practice out-and-out denialism. The false debate funded by ExxonMobil.

    http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/energy/2007-01-03-global-warming_x.htm?csp=24

    Until this goes away for good and we can move on to the solutions the country and the world will remain in a fog.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 4 Jan 2007 @ 9:59 AM

  30. I’d like to echo the concern registered here about Mick Hulme’s proposed division between mainstream climate scientists and activists trying to effect government and business policy.

    Hulme refers to activists as “climate alarmists”. What does the term alarmist even mean except as an insult implying a permanent psychological state of hysteria? Acitivists are not “alarmist” in the sesne that it is a matter of philiosophical disposition, they are alarmed by the facts as they are presented to us by climate scientists.

    Hulme criticises Stop Climate Change not for any stated difference over the science but for “militancy” (meaning what? They hold big demonstrations and request government action?). He criticises the Independent – the only British newspaper to feature climate science prominently on its front pages for “megaphone journalism”. Is that a call for them to stick the melting of the Arctic back on to page 34?

    He even criticises the very occasional piece of rhetoric on the subject from Tony Blair, a Prime Minister who has presided over rising carbon emissions and turned his back on the Kyoto Protocol.

    He also hints that his own colleagues, climate scientists, are using dramatic rhetoric for financial reasons: “the discourse of catastrophe allows some space for the retrenchment of science budgets”. Will he giving back his centre’s own funding to the Treasury then?

    He asks rhetorical questions without trying to answer them and as though no one else has:

    “Is any amount of climate change catastrophic? Catastrophic for whom, for where, and by when? What index is being used to measure the catastrophe?”

    My suggestion is that people in Tuvalu, Kiribati and Bangladesh could help provide an operating definition of catastrophe.

    And what is this meant to mean?

    “The language of catastrophe is not the language of science.”

    Really? Do events that everyone recognises as catastrophic – earthqaukes, volcanic eruptions, flu epidemics, AIDS, flooding etc. exist somewhere outside the realm of science? As metaphysical constructs? Spiritual beings? Metaphor?

    Is the statement that global warming could, for instance, cause the rainforests to become drier, more susceptible to unusually large forest fires and liable to die off, non-scientific? Were the fires in the forests and swamps of Borneo in 1998, for instance, that released a staggering amount of CO2 into the atmosphere, not catastrophic?

    Perhaps my favourite is his comparison of anxiety over climate change to unfounded claims about Iraqi weapons programmes:

    “The careless (or conspiratorial?) translation of concern about Saddam Hussein’s putative military threat into the case for WMD has had major geopolitical repercussions.”

    I’m sure he is able to spot that fact that those who were least impressed by the case for invading Iraq and those who are most alarmed about global warming are, for the most part, the same people.

    Hulme offers no scientific reason for not being alarmed by what he describes as: “The IPCC scenarios of future climate change – warming somewhere between 1.4 and 5.8 Celsius by 2100″. If there is a scientific basis for not being overly alarmed by this, please let’s hear it, as I would welcome the reassurance.

    On the whole, this strikes me as an ill-directed and weakly substantiated attack on the very people who have defended climate science against its critics for many years. I’m embarassed myself by how little I have done to help those activists – time to get started.

    I also find myself bemused by the pre-occupation on this thread with terms like “radical”, “moderate”, “extremist”, “middle of the way” etc. On a scientific website, I’d have hoped that people would appreciate the supreme indifference of the natural world to societal norms of moderation, pragmatism, radicalism or whatever.

    By all means let us talk about what is feasible, or about uncertainties and cautions, but let’s avoid discussing the polticial response to climate change as though the atmosphere gave a damn about what any of us think is a middle-of-the-road approach.

    The thing about the Earth’s climate systems is that they can be very shrill indeed. Strident and militant even.

    Comment by Alex Higgins — 4 Jan 2007 @ 10:34 AM

  31. This may not be exactly on the same subject as what is above on today’s article, but I have some questions to ask.
    I’m just a former farmer, now retired, never attended high school a day in my life, so may be a bit behind the curve.
    With all the talk of Global Warming in the news, does anyone know just how much warming has occured, in particular, how much during the last 65 or 70 years? Seems to me, from a logical point of view, that unless we know how much warming has occured during some reasonable amount of time, then it will be difficult to predict just how much/how fast the warming is going to be in the future. I’m retired for a number of years now, so it isn’t likely to affect me, but naturally I have some concern for my children and grandchildren, etc.
    Does someone, anyone, know and can it be proven, just how much our climate has warmed. Real facts, not somebody’s assumption?
    If someone can answer these questions, I would like an answer at my e-mail address of: cwbyerly@sbcglobal.net If the answer is just listed along with the long list of responders above, then I am now likely to find it. Thanks. Wayne Byerly

    Comment by Wayne Byerly — 4 Jan 2007 @ 10:35 AM

  32. The same sort of debate has been ongoing regarding whether or not Louisiana is going to sink into the sea sometime soon. A host of researchers published some interesting new data that highlighted the implications of Louisiana’s coastal plain subsidence, the media picked the story up, a particular researcher got involved in some silly grandstanding to argue a point, two (mostly non-existent in the real world) sharply differing views were presented by the media, the scientists patched things up via further research and clarification to the media, the media has now declared the existence of a middle ground. Meanwhile, some really important new findings were lost in the shuffle and now no one is listening. The reporters got bored of it all. Science needs to find a better way of interacting with the purveyors of information. I think the professional societies need to play a bigger role here.

    Comment by Andrew Sipocz — 4 Jan 2007 @ 10:38 AM

  33. Re #28, Here in the UK, talksport radio had a phone in on climate change hosted by George Galloway (of all people) and he had an expert from the stop climate change coalition on the show as his expert. When I queried the term dramatic/abrupt/sudden climate change and quoted realclimate and GISS he then replied by telling everyone that the bush administration had censored their work. To me this one political point scoring and although true in part was not the whole story as realclimate has not been censored as far as I can tell. In fact some scientists may have been censored by the bush administration but that still does not the climate consensus is being.

    just another political untruth.

    Comment by pete best — 4 Jan 2007 @ 10:40 AM

  34. If I may summarize: There is both a policy and a science issue here. They both have middles, their middles are miles apart, but, media being media, a middle is a muddle. This serves many policy and economic interests well.

    My point has always been to discuss how distorted representations of the science are being used to achieve the muddle (doing nothing serves many well) and make clear to those who are doing the science that THEY have to defend their science in the public sphere.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 4 Jan 2007 @ 10:47 AM

  35. Interesting discussion. Congratulations RC, and welcome to the ranks of the Non-Skeptical Heretics. It would be nice if Hansen might join our side however. His appearance on recent over-dramatic television programs like the History Channel’s “End of Days” Apocolypse programs does not help our cause however. By appearing in popular media situations like this, he allows himself to be cast as a “fruitcake” or “prophet of doom” and risks having all credible scientists lumped in with this type cast. Such mis-perception may be a contributing cause why hundreds of thousands of people in New Orleans choose not to evacuate from an oncoming CAT 5 hurricane (they think: We’ve heard it all before and these weather people are always crying wolf). The Non-Skeptical Heretic realizes that most of the end-member trajectories (shut down of THC, Greenland collapse, 20 foot SL rise) are not likely (most probable) to occur, and when they fail to materialize, the real risk is that the public discredits the scientific method in general (even though they never understood what it was to begin with). This would be bad news for all who advocate better environmental and energy policies, and the scientific method overall.

    [Response: You have it completely backwards. There is nothing heretical in anything you attribute to the NSH-ers and we've made those same points over and again. -gavin]

    Comment by Bryan Sralla — 4 Jan 2007 @ 10:55 AM

  36. Steve Sadlov wrote in #9: “Ultimately I would expect there to emerge a less GHG-full mode of existence…”

    Regarding a “less GHG-full mode of existence”, I would like to reiterate the question that was embedded in my original comment:

    Realistically, would anyone care to make a prediction about what will be the first year in which global CO2 emissions are lower than the year before?

    At present global GHG emissions are increasing every year, and not only that, but are increasing more each year than they did the year before. As I understand it, the “new old middle ground consensus heresy position” or whatever one wishes to call it, as expressed by James Hansen, Al Gore, Tony Blair and others, is that we have somewhere around 10-15 years in which to reverse this trend and begin making substantial reductions in global GHG emissions (and of course some think we have much less time than that, and some think it is already too late due to feedbacks already in progress), if we are going to avert a genuine planetary catastrophe.

    So, when do you realistically think that the reductions will begin? Does anyone think that within the next 10 years, we will reach the year in which the trend is reversed and global GHG emissions begin declining each year?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 Jan 2007 @ 11:38 AM

  37. Gavin-

    Thanks. A few short replies.

    1. You write “I think however that Andy’s text belies your words.” It was Andy’s story and I was quoted in it. Andy shared his views on the story and I shared mine on what was behind my thinking in the phrase he chose to quote, which happens to be the focus of your post. I do not see “consensus as the new heresy” as you suggest here. Suggesting that the FCCC is deeply flawed and unworkable is in many circles heretical (just ask SR;-).

    2. You write, “You have frequently railed against the misrepresentation of science in political debates . . .” No. I have railed against bad policy arguments in political debates. As we have discussed before I do not believe that it is possible to cleave off the science from political debates and focus only on science in ignorance of the political context. Once you enter a political debate, if only to correct “misrepresentations,” you are making arguments about policy, whether you admit to or not. My focus on hurricane policy is exactly along these lines.

    [Response: You have often complained about hurricane related statements that were completely divorced from policy arguments so I don't see any consistency here. I fundamentally disagree with your statement that any correction of misrepresentations is an argument about policy. Which policy I am supporting (or advocating against) when I correct the Guardian reporting on the RAPID climate change conference AND Pat Michaels distortions of Hansen's modelling? If your answer is that this is some subtle policy that isn't anything to do with emisison policies then you should be clear, because everyone else reads your words and thinks you are talking about climate policy - nothing else. And just like us, you too are responsible for how your words are read and understood. -gavin]

    3. You write, “But we are not shy in calling out rubbish when it comes along – and I can assure you that is not evenly balanced on ‘both sides’.” Your invocation here of “both sides” makes my point, and indeed that in Revkin’s article.

    [Response: You should check you irony meter in for servicing.]

    4. You write, “We have said many many times that our expertise is on science, not policy – we are not qualified to assess the economic effectiveness of cap and trade versus carbon taxes versus subsidies or the Clean Development mechanism.” Well that is your choice isn’t it? There are no shortage of relevant experts who you might invite to share thoughts on these perspectives. In any case, you guys are always talking about policy anyway, and not just in stealth fashion — Stefan has a long response to Revkin on policy on this thread stating, “Yet, I am convinced (by what energy engineers etc. tell me) that major emission reductions over the next couple of decades are possible by widespread application of existing technology.” Is this assertion true? Maybe you could host Marty Hoffert (and a counter voice) for his views on this subject, rather than opining in the comments on subjects for which you are admittedly inexpert. You guys are are trying to have things both ways.

    [Response:Stefan is expressing his personal opinion which he is entitled to do -it is clearly labelled as such and he doesn't use his climate science credientials to elevate that opinion to a 'scientific' consensus. That's pretty much ideal behaviour in my book. You talk about what you know about, we talk about what we know about. ]

    5. You write, “Furthermore, expecting a comment put in at 10:30pm EST to a moderated forum to immediately appear is probably a little hopeful.” Who said anything about immediately? You guys lost my trust at some point in the past when deciding not to post some of my comments made here. I am more concerned about “at all” than “immediately.” ;-)

    Thanks for the exchange!

    Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 4 Jan 2007 @ 11:38 AM

  38. RPJr, you are not one to complain about [You guys lost my trust at some point in the past when deciding not to post some of my comments made here.].

    Your COMMENT sensorship policy is very restrictive IMHO and my reasonable comments are always blocked even after I submit them to your web master. Am I on your un-washed list? Or, do I have to join your fan club?

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 4 Jan 2007 @ 12:01 PM

  39. #17, wayne: the reason why you can’t get worked up about the temperature outside on a given day is because it’s just a local fluctuation, which would happen from time to time even if there were no acw. Besides, I assume you’re writing from a North American location, and right now the N. American climate is being affected by a surging el Nino. That’s why it’s important to focus on the science.

    #30: no one is suggesting that reasonable language will have an effect on the science. What people are suggesting is that reasonable language will have a favorable effect on the _politics_. It might seem like shrill language is what’s called for, but what’s being suggested is that this is counterproductive in the light of what the future will realistically bring. Probably there will be no immediate flooding of Florida. Probably civilization will continue to struggle along. Etc. Telling people that the world is coming to an end is less likely to gain their support than simply explaining what the _probable_ effects are, and then explain the different _alternatives_ for responding to those effects. What people don’t want to hear is “The world is coming to an end and Al Gore and the UN scientists must take over and tell everyone what to do about it.” Because believe me, that’s what they’re hearing.

    Catastrophic events are scientific events, sure. But the language of catastrophe–that is, words like “catastrophe”–do not. That’s the point. We can’t control scientific events, but we can control our reaction to them. It is not yet clear whether a global warming of 3C (not to mention a warming of 1.5C) would indeed be a catastrophe or not, rather than simply a very expensive mistake.

    What might put RC more firmly on the “moderate” team is if they spent more time taking the more dubious and extreme claims of global warming theory to task. There is often an attitude of “circle the wagons” here, and I think that’s what contributes (on both sides, I might add) to the sense of polarization.

    Comment by mzed — 4 Jan 2007 @ 12:05 PM

  40. re: 32. Numerous international Academy of Sciences and professional societies agree that recent warming is outside the likely bounds of natural variation and that climate change is likely due to CO2 from fossil-fuel burning. See http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/02/there-is-no-consensus.html.

    Comment by Dan — 4 Jan 2007 @ 12:06 PM

  41. Link correction for 38:
    http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/02/there-is-no-consensus.html

    Comment by Dan — 4 Jan 2007 @ 12:23 PM

  42. Some phylosophic aspects about our situation.

    The bottom line what we witnessing now is in fact a fundamental barrier for evolving species inside a planets cosmos.

    I refer it as a big IQ test for an evolved species.
    Now what happens is, that the planet, i refer to it as gaia is trying to get rid of us. Similar to why we try to kill cancer cells which do not work in harmony with our organism, we need a balance a harmony with gaia. With our cosmos the enviroment, each single eco system – starting in the macro cosmos – all working together like foot chains.

    Specie growth – evolutionary, exponential growth by consumption of limited resources which emissions manipulate the natural cycles of a global climate are limited till the ressources run out or the triggered factors of runaway events stop it.

    We can see this for example when observing bacterias or viruses, this is why so often humans are refered as a virus to the planet we resident on at the moment.

    Also why is it that the most discussed topic on the planet is the weather?

    Because it is our origin our mothership and every one has his few about her, rightnow gaia is like the garden of eden.

    And why so many science fiction literature and releated visual media has the extinction of the species as topic?

    Because deep inside we know it we sense if weather patterns are not “normal”, when things are strange and anomalys occur. Even the religions are based on it.
    The bible says if we do bad armargeddon will come, the koran says the prophet will come and some doomsday withit.

    We are a part of our planet but our civilization has made his own rules by endless growth and the media is absolutly virtual, which generates an artifical simualtion of life. Which is not always comparable to the real world and the real problems.
    This is used widley as an instrument but as every force has its power we need to use it wisley.

    To downplay future dangerous problems will help nobody. People are afraid of facing the truth, they will be sceptic or optimistic till each one face problems on their own.

    I think the meaning of life is to life in harmony and guard the earth and rightnow we are in the process to become aware of it on a bright scale. Because we dominate the planet that gives us this burdan.

    How rare is life in space?
    How many life forms triggered a climate catastrophe before they reqognized it and it was to late?

    I belive we still can fix it, but we can only make this happen if we act as 1 human species not devided into warmongering forces who will fight over the last ressources.
    Come on guys we are not that stupid, are we?
    And as Stephen Hawking warned, we need to spread out into space, for the surveival of our species, because AGW isnt the only risc we face in short-mid and long terms.

    Peace

    Comment by sunlight — 4 Jan 2007 @ 12:25 PM

  43. Thanks Gavin- Indeed, my irony meter is pegged, perhaps off scale, that is for sure;-) Two quick responses:

    1. Your defense of Stefan opining on climate policy is hard to square with RealClimate’s own stated goal: “we will not get involved in political or economic issues that arise when discussing climate change.” Right.

    2. You want people to accept the consensus perspective in your own discipline but your feel that it is OK to ignore (or worse completely dismiss) the consensus findings of other disciplines. Harvard’s Sheila Jasanoff represents such a consensus:

    “The notion that scientific advisors can or do limit themselves to addressing purely scientific issues, in particular, seems fundamentally misconceived … the advisory process seems increasingly important as a locus for negotiating scientific differences that have political weight.”

    We’ve covered this ground before, so no need to rehash here:
    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/science_policy_general/000403sts_contrarianism.html

    To suggest that RC as a whole, and its individual contributors, have no slant, agenda, perspectives, values, opinions on policy, political leanings is just plain old silly. We all do, lets not pretend otherwise!

    Thanks!

    [Response: It's a big jump from saying that we have opinions to claiming that we only comment on science to advocate for a policy and the conflation of the two issues doesn't clarify our disagreement, rather it obscures it. We all do have opinions (though they aren't uniform), but we do agree on scientific issues which have nothing to do with our individual policy perspectives. There are plenty of places where people debate policy options, there are very few that discuss science - we choose to do the latter because we can. We are not 'science advisors' in Jasanoff's sense, we are simply scientists. -gavin]

    Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 4 Jan 2007 @ 12:42 PM

  44. John L. McCormick (#38)- If you register with TypeKey on our site your comments go though automatically. Send me an email pielke@colorado.edu if you have trouble posting and we’ll get them up ASAP. Thanks!

    Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 4 Jan 2007 @ 12:44 PM

  45. RE#37, you say that
    “Stefan has a long response to Revkin on policy on this thread stating,”Yet, I am convinced (by what energy engineers etc. tell me) that major emission reductions over the next couple of decades are possible by widespread application of existing technology.” Is this assertion true?”

    Yes, it is absolutely true, but why are you asking a climate scientist to comment on energy policy? Does your school have a renewable energy department? I checked your school’s website under electrical engineering and found this list of industry sponsors: http://www.engr.colostate.edu/ece/ind_relations/IAB.shtml

    Not a single renewable energy company in the group, though there are quite a few military defense contractors listed. I looked through the chemical engineering department as well – nothing on renewable energy whatsoever. This is the case for most schools in the US – and one of the reasons for this situation is that any school that did set up a renewable energy engineering department would find that no funding was available. Compare this to the number of petroleum engineering departments in the US.

    Why aren’t there more solar cell manufacturing facilities in the US? The initial outlay is about $100 million for such a facility; Honda just built one in Japan. The New York Times just ran a story on solar; see Plugging Into the Sun Why isn’t there a research program focused on bringing down the cost of high-efficiency solar cells (the kind used on satellites) in the US?

    Solar is only one option – wind turbines, especially the very large variety, can produce power in regions such as the Midwest or the Atlantic coast. There are a host of other small scale technologies, but solar and wind are the most promising. Biofuel production is also an area where research programs can increase efficiencies and bring down costs. For example, see the testimony of Dr. Mark Zappi, one of the leading biofuel researchers, in this senate hearing a few years back: http://agriculture.senate.gov/Hearings/hearings.cfm?hearingid=1161&witnessId=3318 . By the way, he also says that he could never have accomplished anything without the support of the state legislature and the governor of Mississippi (a state entirely dependent of agriculture) – the federal funding for this kind of thing is zip, as I know from personal experience.

    Here’s his final statement:

    “In closing, I deeply appreciate the opportunity to present this testimony. I am encouraged by the leadership that the members of this committee have exhibited over the past years. This is a period in world history where government leadership and technologists must work in unison to solve a pressing societal crisis literally on our horizon via the development of a fully renewable industrial economy. A reasonable investment in technology development will provide significant payback to this country in terms of an industrial infrastructure based on self-sustainable feedstocks with greatly reduced environmental threats. The strategic and economic implications of this level of independence from foreign feedstocks cannot be overstated in my opinion. The potential of bio-based fuels and products is exciting and represents an opportunity for man and the biosphere itself to finally ‘partner’ with the provision of industrial chemicals for mankind without dramatic adverse environmental impacts.”

    Notice that this would have the fairly disruptive effect of cutting into fossil fuel markets, however… which may explain this other story that the New York Times ran today: Exxon Accused of Trying to Mislead Public

    If you are going to raise the issue of politics in climate science, how about the issue of opportunistic ‘scientists’ such as Pat Michaels who manage to make a living by saying whatever it is they think the fossil fuel industry would like to hear? By the way, when do you think the ongoing trend of new record temperatures is going to end?

    Comment by Ike Solem — 4 Jan 2007 @ 12:57 PM

  46. I am reminded, in this discussion, of the progression of the Y2K movement a few decades ago. In the 1980s software experts were aware of the problem but couldn’t get senior management to get serious about it. It wasn’t until 1997 or so that large scale actions started being taken, and even then they usually were insufficient to deal with the issue.

    By 1999, however, the problem got the attention of the mainstream media and it took on a life of its own. Suddenly CEOs were willing to fork over huge sums to address perceived problems, possibly because they realized they could be personally liable given all the media attention. The result was that by December 31, 1999, the risk of severe problem was almost infinitesmal, and the few issues that did come up could have been addressed in real time by normal support/maintenance staffs. Yet, by that point the problem had received so much media attention that corporations were wasting millions on useless items such as overpriced backup power generators “just in case”.

    The moral of the story? Well, unfortunately, maybe the potential crisis has to be exaggerated in order to get attention of humans — and that humans will invariably overreact. But, the good news is the crisis gets addressed.

    By the way, Y2K was an example used by Michael Crichton of a failed prediction of disaster. What Crichton and others missed was that were it not for all the overblown media coverage of Y2K it *would* have been a disaster.

    Comment by Craig Gaydos — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:05 PM

  47. Gavin: you wrote: “Stefan is expressing his personal opinion which he is entitled to do -it is clearly labelled as such and he doesn’t use his climate science credientials to elevate that opinion to a ‘scientific’ consensus.”
    When the comments are from the moderator and are marked in green, they by default are clearly labeled, and indeed carry the RC stamp of approval (intended or not). RP2 is correct that the line between science and policy is often blurred here. You’re suggestion that RC is only about the science is thinnly-vailed hyperbole, and easily pierced by evidence to the contrary. It would be better to take RP2′s suggestion, and just come out and admit that there are policy and economic preferences favored by RC.
    P.S. I happen to largely agree with Stefan’s comments about technology and energy conservation

    Comment by Bryan Sralla — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:12 PM

  48. comment to Stefan’s answer to #12:
    “studies show that Europe could be supplied to 100% with electricity from renewable sources using existing technology (mainly wind power)…”
    I remain very skeptic on this. The German blind eye on nuclear energy is saddening: wind energy might be better manageable when a supergrid exists, but there is none for the moment, and the last large European black-out seemed (at least partially) caused by heavy, unmanageable German wind-power fluctuation. I would like to point to an article by 3 French Nobelists (Charpak, De Gennes and Lehn) in the Figaro, 26thDec. 2007, where they write it will be important to “limiter les combustibles fossiles (et non sortir des combustibles fossiles)” [transl: limit useage of fossil fuels, but bot step out of fossil fuels] and “engager une politique…d’economie d’energie, de developpement de l’energie nucleaire et des energies renouvelables” [transl: make a political decision to save energy, develop nuclear energy and renewable energies]. The French are surely those with the best experience in long-term nuclear energy useage: why do German scientists still stick to the (childish?) “Atomenergie, Nein Danke!” and make future carbon-poor energy politics hellishly difficult?

    [Response: I asked a leading German electricity grid specialist on this: the power outage you refer to had nothing to do with wind power. What is interesting, though, is how immediately this rumour was spread when the outage happened. -stefan]

    Comment by Francis Massen — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:12 PM

  49. If the so-called slant is toward the best scientific conclusion, and it indeed is governed only by that criterion, I fail to see how this is just another slanted opinion. All opinions are not equal in value and substance. I don’t see a specific policy advocated here at RC only an evaluation of the science and what is true or false.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:16 PM

  50. Having read Pielke’s blog for some time, it seems that he is often guilty of rather childish attacks on leading scientist to gather attention to himself and pique the interests of the media. Makes one think of a clever grad student who can’t do create anything important, yet struts around with a false confidence borne from poking holes in the ideas of others.

    At the same time, he quite obviously ignores the obvious distortions of climate change denialists and other contrarians, which gains him subtle approval from Fox News and an apparent invitation to write for Cato’s Regulation Magazine.

    If this makes Pielke a “third way” guy, then we need to think about a fourth. There’s just not much in the way of substance other than a biased attempt to define oneself as a “centrist” and continuous self-promotion to journalists who should know better.

    Comment by Thom — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:21 PM

  51. Ike- Your WWW search got you close (50 miles up the road;-):

    http://ei.colorado.edu/

    Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr. — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:24 PM

  52. Dr. Pielke, presuming you’re asking the RC Contributors to address “dubious and extreme claims” in the science about “global warming theory” — Google Scholar finds only about 213 papers total mentioning it. You probably know most of the authors. Can you be more specific about which papers you believe make dubious and extreme claims about ‘global warming theory’?

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?sourceid=Mozilla-search&q=%22global+warming+theory%22

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:25 PM

  53. Re #45: Ike, FYI, University of Colorado is in Boulder, not Fort Collins. It seems the e-mail adress from RP2 is emminating from CU, that powerhouse institution of right-leaning views. Please check your facts before “RAMMING” someone you don’t agree with, or we might all end up “BUFFALOED”.

    Comment by Bryan Sralla — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:29 PM

  54. P.S. — when you read the 213 references, you’ll see many of them are in management and politics journals. I won’t try to do an Orestes/Peiser tally, but the phrase “global warming theory” may be one used by people outside the field. Looking at the list, very few climate scientists seem to think there _is_ any single “global warming theory” yet.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:34 PM

  55. I hesistate to do this, but a serious comment on the matter under discussion exists on my blog. As the instigator rather than the originator, I plead not especially guilty.

    However, the serious point of all this is that there is a major benefit to be gained by one side or the other in defining the middle. Indeed, if you look at what the Exxonite public relations push is all about in the US, it is to define their position as the accepted one. (Accepted by whom you ask)

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:48 PM

  56. RE: #45 – RE: “Why aren’t there more solar cell manufacturing facilities in the US?”

    This is a subset of the question, why aren’t there more wafer fabrication plants in the US? Certainly, a good deal of new investment in wafer fabs of all types has been getting directed to so called “low cost geographies.” Only the devices which command the greatest profit margins tend to have their wafers fabbed in the US these days.

    Also, the current domestic photovoltaic device manufacturing capacity in the US is essentially in response to current demand. That having been said, demand is rising rather sharply. Given energy costs and electrical grid infrastructure issues, more and more outdoor equipment deployments are going the self powered photovoltaic route. Furthermore, residential and business consumers of electricity have been incented to do their own installations – it is cheaper for most electricity providers to do rebate programs to homes and businesses than it is for them to pay for new generating plants and grid. One final observation – T.J. Rodgers (CEO, Cyprus Semiconductor) has been sinking funds into developing both new photovoltaic devices as well as US based fabs to build them. Rodgers is not, no offense, a Green. If he is putting his money into it, that would indicate a steeply rising photovoltaic market.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 4 Jan 2007 @ 1:49 PM

  57. Interesting post, thank you. I agree with you that the “new middle-stance heresy” that Andy discusses is largely the consensus view rather than some emerging and somehow more reasoned and prudent or cautionary view.

    Isn’t this really part of a larger continuum of views on climate change? I could not find the earlier post on RealClimate that I think talked about various levels of skepticism – perhaps that should be revised and updated. One could say that these positions range from
    1. Deny global warming
    2. Accept global warming, attribute to natural causes
    3. Accept global warming, accept a significant attribution to anthropogenic GHG emissions BUT:
    - stress uncertainties in human contributions to warming,
    - stress uncertainties in actual “dangerous” impacts
    4. Accept global warming, accept a significant attribution to GHGs, accept likelihood of dangerous impacts: BUT
    - stress lack of existing technological fixes
    - stress dire economic impacts of precipitous decreases in fossil fuel consumption
    - stress “unfairness” of reducing fossil fuel consumption if China, India, and the developing world are not willing to cooperate
    5. Accept, Accept . . . Assert that we need to be prudent in our response to this challenge and work on an array of “stabilization wedges” that target some level of “acceptable warming”. Assert that economic impacts must be an important criterion in assessing fossil fuel reducing policies.
    6. Accept, Accept . . . Assert that the problem is more immediate and requires decisive action in the near term to avoid catastrophy.
    7. Imminent gulf stream reversal, imminent meters of sea level rise, imminent crop failures . . . .

    I don’t think a new middle stance is emerging. I think the main stream scientific community is mostly at stage 5. To progress to stage 6 would require “emerging catastrophes” and/or millions of climate refugees.

    [Response: Well put. -mike]

    Comment by Tom Huntington — 4 Jan 2007 @ 2:45 PM

  58. IMHO, Andy Revkin didn’t get it quite right. Consensus as the New Heresy became a heresy not because the consensus view has changed in any significant way. It is because the new zealotes, the ultra-alarmists took the center stage in the media. Perhaps this is what Revkin meant but he wasn’t expicit enough.

    Comment by Sashka — 4 Jan 2007 @ 3:21 PM

  59. Tom Huntington wrote in #57:

    To progress to stage 6 [Assert that the problem is more immediate and requires decisive action in the near term to avoid catastrophy] would require “emerging catastrophes” and/or millions of climate refugees.

    Depending on what you mean by “emerging”, it can be argued that we are witnessing “emerging catastrophes” right now.

    The problem is that if by “emerging catastrophes and/or millions of climate refugees” you mean that the scientific community will progress to “stage 6″ when millions of people are starving due to widespread multi-year crop failures and the collapse of oceanic fisheries, when millions are without fresh water due to the disappearance of glacial water supplies, when arctic ice has irreversibly disappeared, when massive amounts of methane are being released from thawing permafrost causing atmospheric GHG concentrations to skyrocket, and so on, by the time catastrophes of that scale are upon us — by the time we know with absolute scientific certainty that we are facing a worst-case global warming scenario — it will certainly be too late to do anything about it.

    Fortunately, my impression is that the consensus of the scientific community is closer to what you describe as “stage 6″ than to “stage 5″ in the sense of recognizing that we face at least a potentially catastrophic situation, and urging both corporations and governments to take urgent action to significantly reduce GHG emissions sooner rather than later.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 Jan 2007 @ 4:40 PM

  60. Re: 45, 55 and alike.

    I’m not sure whether this tendency to look for a guilty party elsewhere is more amusing or annoying. It’s us (the public) who buy the oversized houses and spend a so much power on heating and cooling because we “need” more elbow room. It’s us who choose to buy the inefficient cars and trucks because we “need” more space and power. Etcetera – you can continue the list. So we choose to pay the oil companies for all the fossil fuels that we burn. How is it their fault that they supply us with the fuels? As if big oil can be expected to leave us in the cold with gas stations empty. Will it ever dawn on the left that the oil companies simply serve the economic need that we create? They are not the problem. We are.

    Comment by Sashka — 4 Jan 2007 @ 4:58 PM

  61. It seems to me that the ‘new heresy’ trope is a bit of cheap rhetorical cover, presenting mainstream views in the press under cover of imaginary concessions to the ‘denial’ camp. It’s hard to tell whether it’s aimed at shifting the public’s view (OK, the new moderates are not as scary as we thought climate change believers were, maybe it’s time to take climate change seriously), or aimed at protecting the reputation of the press, which have generally served the deniers very effectively by presenting ‘both sides’ rather than accurately reflecting the strength of the scientific consensus (now the press can say, there really was a worthy debate that we were reporting on, and now the new moderates have emerged reflecting the lessons of that debate). There is a shift (which I think makes the heresey label misleading) from debating what the science says to the practical questions of just how big the economic/environmental threat is and what sort of response is called for. If the debate had always been about this, rather than about trashing the science that put the issue of climate change on the table, the article wouldn’t be misleading. As it is, I find the spin on the Times article distasteful.

    Comment by Bryson Brown — 4 Jan 2007 @ 4:59 PM

  62. One has to start with the observation that even the most sophisticated media is simplistic and reduces all issues to a single dimension. Frames that so simplify complex situations necessarily favor one side or the other. What you are witnessing here is the struggle for a key reporter’s mind on a key newspaper. Moreover, where that reporter locates the “middle” is going to determine where the most input to the stories will be. Bluntly put, is he going to go to Roger Pielke, Jr. or Gavin Schmidt? (sorry guys you just happen to be convenient place holders for different sides in this). This provides a certain “excitement” level in the exchanges. Do not be surprised if Mr. Revkin has a follow up article on the discussions that have broken out.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 4 Jan 2007 @ 5:33 PM

  63. Re:60
    The blame lies in the lobbying power of large corporations and their tendency to provide large donations to further their own interests, and also in their public relations campaigns. The motor vehicle industry lobbies against public transport, for example. We, the people, have to take responsibility for finding out what we are buying and what we are buying into. We are not very good at this, apparently.

    Comment by Sally — 4 Jan 2007 @ 5:50 PM

  64. Sashka wrote in #60: It’s us who choose to buy the inefficient cars and trucks because we “need” more space and power [...] So we choose to pay the oil companies for all the fossil fuels that we burn. How is it their fault that they supply us with the fuels?

    It’s not “us” who spent two million dollars a year for the last eight years to fund a network of advocacy groups who deliberately and systematically deceived the public about the scientific reality of anthropogenic global warming to ensure that the public — let alone the government — would not become sufficiently concerned about it to take measures to reduce fossil fuel consumption. It’s Exxon-Mobil who did that.

    For the record, I drive a 1991 Ford Festiva that I’ve owned for 14 years, which gets over 35 MPG in local driving, and over 45 MPG on the highway. This is comparable to today’s expensive hybrid cars and it was accomplished with technology available 16 years ago. I also pay somewhat higher electric bills to purchase 100% wind-generated electricity.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 Jan 2007 @ 7:04 PM

  65. (#45) There is serious solar photovoltic research underway in this country. Much of the research is involving nanotechnology. For example, Nanosys is building a new facility in CA to deliver solar cells in the near future. They are shooting for 10% efficiency at $1/watt if I remember correctly. Boeing announced recently that they are hitting at near 40% efficiency in the lab with their solar cells.

    I recently had a solar hot water system installed and the owner of the company that installed it told me that he has been in contact with one company that said they were approaching 50% efficient solar cells and expecting to start manufacturing these cells within the year.

    Jim

    Comment by Jim Crabtree — 4 Jan 2007 @ 8:01 PM

  66. Re: 64

    Wow! Two million dollars a year! You’ll have to admit that the bad guys are incredibly efficient if this is what it takes to counteract tens of millions of dollars spent (mostly by the government) on the mainstream research. Get real, eh?

    Comment by Sashka — 4 Jan 2007 @ 8:08 PM

  67. Blame the “consumers” instead of the marketers and businesses? Maybe, but …. I heard this story reported on the radio recently:

    “[2006] … The richest 2% of adults in the world own more than half of global household wealth ….
    “… the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets in the year 2000, … the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total….
    “… In this respect, wealth represents the ownership of capital. … widely believed to have a disproportionate impact on … economic development and growth.”

    http://www.wider.unu.edu/research/2006-2007/2006-2007-1/wider-wdhw-launch-5-12-2006/wider-wdhw-press-release-5-12-2006.htm

    And then a voice on the radio said:

    “They bought it, they broke it — they own it, let THEM fix it.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Jan 2007 @ 8:27 PM

  68. Jim, I hope your hot water system’s ok; the guy you quote got his story wrong though. Drag “approaching 50% efficient solar cells” into Google.

    “… The most efficient multijunction solar cell yet made — 30 percent, out of a theoretically possible 50 percent efficiency …”
    http://www.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/MSD-perfect-solar-cell.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Jan 2007 @ 9:04 PM

  69. RE; #6 – “Stepping outside of positivist evidence, and moving to realms of intuition, my most strong and fervent suspicion is that there are surprises of biogeochemical cycles that await us – of apocalyptic magnitude–forcing a rethinking of the entire process of living a meaningful human life. These potentials include disruption of the photosynthetic plankton driven carbon cycles and food chains, fostered by an already weakened net of established ecological nutrient energy exchanges.”

    Presumably all of us here are members of the human species, and we know how capable we are collectively and individually of foresight, sacrifice and planning. Not much past a five year time frame. What was adaptive ten thousand years ago doesn’t cut it now. If we don’t or can’t change we’ll take our punishment, and only then will we painfully adjust while licking our wounds. That’s how we are.

    Comment by Pavel Chichikov — 4 Jan 2007 @ 9:21 PM

  70. By the way, here’s a useful suggestion for seekers and searchers, quote copied from this page:
    http://www.desmogblog.com/more-pr-insight-from-an-early-tassc-master

    “University of California at San Francisco cardiologist and professor of medicine Stanton Glantz… recommended that any time you hear about a scientist denying climate change (or any other significant public health or environmental threat) that you plug their names into the tobacco papers website that he maintains at UC San Francisco:

    http://www.legacy.library.ucsf.edu.

    Try it yourself. Interesting.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Jan 2007 @ 9:24 PM

  71. It’s great to be able to read the geophysicists and geochemists et. al. in this forum. What about the biologists, including field biologists? They’re at a finer resolution end of the problem.

    Comment by Pavel Chichikov — 4 Jan 2007 @ 9:57 PM

  72. Seemingly continuing OT, but not really…

    RE 66 (Roberts):

    Your list – don’t forget the ~$200B spent on advertising to consumers to create demand.

    Best,

    D

    Comment by Dano — 4 Jan 2007 @ 10:32 PM

  73. Backing up a bit to point #10:

    Of course, pretty much everyone, including the so-called “heretics,” agrees that global warming is an unprecedented danger that will wreak great human and economic damage in our children’s lifetimes.

    Actually Stern estimates that AGW will knock about one tenth of a percentage point off economic growth – that is, reduce the average rate from 2.3% to 2.2% over the next century. He further claims that we could eliminate most of this loss if we spend a bit on GHG control, although as you know plenty of people have found things to complain about in his sums. But in any case, I’m surprised to hear you of all people supporting maximum economic growth as a fundamental principle as to how we should manage our affairs.

    Comment by James Annan — 4 Jan 2007 @ 10:54 PM

  74. Human population has increased tangentially since around 1870, the rate of population can go no higher than what it is now. It only makes sense that any change in the climate, whether human or not, will affect this rate negatively. While this is probably a good thing, it stands to reason that humans population rates will drop dramatically with a rapid climate change. With all due respect for the folly of predicting what will happen, I do believe the human population will drop by 50 per cent by 2100. It only makes sense.

    Comment by Paul M — 4 Jan 2007 @ 11:15 PM

  75. #39, Mzed, it was a weak, to now , a moderate El-Nino, it doesn’t justify the present warming trends over the last 5 years. More in line would be to explain that the sea and atmosphere as a whole are basically warmer, GW term fits like a glove. The moderate point of view is that there is Global Warming, a true description of what is going on needs no hyperbola or exagerrations. Every other description is indefensible considering the realities of greater GW for especially coastal people we will never meet.

    Comment by wayne Davidson — 4 Jan 2007 @ 11:20 PM

  76. Re#51 and #53

    Whoops. Still, my comments about renewable energy funding are still valid. I see that the central funding organization for the ‘energy initiative’ that Roger links to is through the Department of Energy and their Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which is closing it’s six regional offices and opening two. See http://www.eere.energy.gov/regions/pdfs/ro_consolidation_letter.pdf – generally speaking, when six offices become two it doesn’t mean that the program is being expanded, do you think? The other funding opportunity (a ‘seed grant’) has a max of $50,000 – enough to pay one salary with overhaead for one year. Hmmmm… that’ll accomplish a lot…maybe. Sorry I got the school wrong, but everything else I said is valid – and what do your local renewable energy experts have to say about the potential of renewables to meet energy needs? If you haven’t asked them, then why are you attacking people who write for RC for making similar claims?

    Could you please just answer the question – when do you expect the current trend of record-setting temperatures to end? It seems to me that that won’t happen until anthropogenic atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are stabilized (assuming we don’t hit some trigger like releasing methane clathrates from ocean sediments as warming progresses). It’s a valid question, isn’t it?

    Comment by Ike Solem — 4 Jan 2007 @ 11:59 PM

  77. RE#53,
    Thanks, I stand corrected. By the way, does this mean that you are willing to admit that you were wrong regarding your statements about the role of anoxic depositional environements and the genesis of fossil fuels? Let’s see.. you said something like this:

    “”Ike, I am glad you are finally talking about hydrocarbons. FYI, the Middle East hydrocarbon source rocks were deposited in the Tethys Sea. This was a shallow inland sea, that generated restricted anoxic marine source rocks. The massive carbonate reservoirs of the Middle East oilfields are mainly shallow water karsted and fractured dolomites. You are so far off base on this, that it is really hard to even begin to take what you said seriously. Wrong tectonic setting, wrong source rock environment, wrong reservoirs, wrong structural setting. Try again! Global ocean stratification forming oilfields? I have never heard of this in my career as a petroleum geologist. There is way too much junk science on this website.”

    (at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/08/ocean-heat-content-latest-numbers/ )

    The relevant quote regarding this discussion was this: “Anoxic sediments have been widespread in the past and are of great economic importance as source rocks for hydrocarbon deposits. Expansion and intensification of the oceanic oxygen minimum zone, probably during times of reduced thermohaline circulation, is one mechanism that seems to account for many sapropels. Deep basins connected only by shallow connections, which resulted in restricted bottom circulation, were especially common during early stages of continental rifting that formed the Atlantic basin.”

    Still waiting… is it so hard to admit your rather vitriolic attack was completely off base?

    Comment by Ike Solem — 5 Jan 2007 @ 12:12 AM

  78. RE#70, There has been a lot of work done on that issue. For example, see:
    Nature 416, 389-395 (28 March 2002) (limited access)
    “Ecological responses to recent climate change”
    Gian-Reto Walther, Eric Post, Peter Convey, Annette Menzel, Camille Parmesan, Trevor J. C. Beebee, Jean-Marc Fromentin, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and Franz Bairlein
    Abstract: “There is now ample evidence of the ecological impacts of recent climate change, from polar terrestrial to tropical marine environments. The responses of both flora and fauna span an array of ecosystems and organizational hierarchies, from the species to the community levels. Despite continued uncertainty as to community and ecosystem trajectories under global change, our review exposes a coherent pattern of ecological change across systems. Although we are only at an early stage in the projected trends of global warming, ecological responses to recent climate change are already clearly visible.”

    Regarding the issue of oxygen levels in the deep ocean and why it isn’t just an academic argument, see:
    Nature 429, 749-754 (17 June 2004) (full access to pdf)
    “Upwelling-driven nearshore hypoxia signals ecosystem and oceanographic changes in the northeast Pacific”
    Brian A. Grantham, Francis Chan, Karina J. Nielsen, David S. Fox, John A. Barth, Adriana Huyer, Jane Lubchenco and Bruce A. Menge

    The exact cause of the recurrent episodes of hypoxia off of the Oregon coast remains uncertain, but it has something to do with ocean circulation (not nutrient loading, which causes dead zones at the Mississippi outflow). What is known is this: “In 2006, the low-oxygen waters off Oregon stretched further north along the coast, reached closer to shore, and were thicker than any event previously detected. The event was four times larger than any previous episode and lasted four times as long. More important, the oxygen levels were by far the lowest ever recorded on the near shore of Oregon, approaching “anoxic” (“no oxygen”) conditions in some places.” – http://www.piscoweb.org/research/oceanography/hypoxia

    This is not an encouraging sign. The notion that a ‘shutdown of the meridional conveyor belt will lead to a new ice age’, i.e. the theme of the very poor movie “The Day After Tomorrow” has been pretty well discarded, but the actual result of reduced deep water formation may be more anoxic bottom waters in the oceans – something rather like stratification. For more on this, see:
    Nature 434, 628-633 (31 March 2005) (full access)
    “Decline of the marine ecosystem caused by a reduction in the Atlantic overturning circulation”, Andreas Schmittner

    Plankton distributions in the North Atlantic are definitely changing – reference: http://www.cefas.co.uk/news/2006/news2006-11-29.htm

    Comment by Ike Solem — 5 Jan 2007 @ 2:34 AM

  79. Re to the reply of #12, Here in the UK we have recently announced a large scale (largest in the world currently) off shore wind farm consisting of some 460 turbines providing some 1.5 GW of energy which amounts to 1 % of the UK total energy needs. In order to get to 20% of projected UK energy needs for electricity we will require some 9000 turbines and as the UK only releases 2% of all global greenhouse emissions you can see that wind is not going to be the answer alone not without major energy conservation and efficiency programmes such as insulation of houses and efficiency gains and the like.

    Personally I feel the task is daunting not least because of the time required to define these programmes and securing the finance to pay for them. Here in the UK for instance we are going to commit to Nuclear by the looks of it in order to offset out climate CO2 emissions. however Nuclear has a large scale CO2 footprint over its lifetime, it is no answer. Therefore projected replacements of fossil fuels along the scales required to offset CO2 emissions to reduce climate change by humanity is going to be difficult because most of the technologies needed to replace fossil fuels are manufactured by fossil fuels and require very large scale investments that governments will not fund centrally and hence will rely on the free market which is not really the best eay to go about delaing with climate change.

    And I still come back to the question of climate change viewed in isolation. Climate scientists in the main model the atmosphere and not the earth per se do they not ? That means that the full implications of climate science are not known, issues such as the amount of species that will potentially dissapear, what will happen to land ice, greenland, antartica, glaciers and hence rivers and natural sources of frsh water, what that will mean for animals and us alike. Basically the list goes on and on. 1 degree C of warming is known to happen, 0.6 now and 0.4 latent in the oceans with more to come because CO2 hangs around for a 100 years.

    No one can predict the full consequences of climate change because we at present do not have the earth model to do so. James Lovelock calls it GAIA and believes that we are in trouble with regard to its systemic nature, most people so far have disagreed with him analysis stating it as alarmist but he could be right simply because science is mainly reductionist in nature and not systemic. This could be our downfall.

    Comment by pete best — 5 Jan 2007 @ 4:55 AM

  80. Sashka said:

    Will it ever dawn on the left that the oil companies simply serve the economic need that we create? They are not the problem. We are.

    I’ve been car-free most of my adult life. This was perhaps most interesting when I was in college. On odd days people ranted to me about how evil it was of ‘the Left’ to expect poor helpless businesses to take responsibility for the actions they were forced into by consumers. On even days I listened to the same people rant about what a ‘kook’ I was for choosing to minimize (note: not eliminate) my use of fossil fuels. Needless to say, I never saw any of these people boycott businesses they were angry with.

    Perhaps more importantly, whenever American auto-makers have been faced with consumer-shifts toward more fuel-efficient vehicles, they have lobbied the US govt for multi-billion dollar bailouts, and mounted multi-billion dollar propaganda campaigns promoting large, inefficient vehicles, and attacking small efficient vehicles.

    Comment by llewelly — 5 Jan 2007 @ 5:07 AM

  81. Can I ask a general question about climate science to the writers of RealClimate.org?

    Prior to human actions, could the global climate system have been regarded as a huge reversible reaction in a state of equilibrium over time-spans of say 5 years? If so, Le Chatelier’s principle suggests that, overall, there is overall negative feedback to increases in global temperature (presumably through increasing radiation heat loss to space)

    Possibly the fears of catastrophe are, in non-specialists, sometimes driven by the belief that there might be overall positive feedback (so world getting hotter –> world getting still hotter (through degassing of permafrost or whatever) –> world getting hotter again – exactly what Le Chatelier’s principle states is not the case, otherwise one would not start in equilibrium).

    I understand that when climate scientist talk about positive feedbacks, this means usually amplification of effects of one change by another consequent change, rather than the overall feedback that causes system to shoot off wildly.

    Is my understanding correct? Is this an area where greater public understanding of the basic science would help? (It would certaintly help me!)

    Regards
    Peter Cunningham

    Comment by Peter Cunningham — 5 Jan 2007 @ 6:01 AM

  82. Hank:

    I am very pleased with my solar hot water system. On a good sunny day in late December, it was still pumping glycol at 120 degrees (some tall trees in the front yard cast a bit of shade on the unit for about two hours during midday with the sun low on the horizon). This helps to really preheat deep well water (temperature around 55). The system was installed during the first week of October and during most of the month, it kept my water at 120+ degrees without the use of electricity except on cloudy days. I am looking at a payback period of about 5 – 6 years. My October electric bill was the lowest I have gotten since I have been here for 13 years (and that was with a recent rate increase).

    Here is a site you need to check out on quantum dots:

    http://www.nrel.gov/news/press/2005/350.html

    “We have shown that solar cells based on quantum dots theoretically could convert more than 65 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity, approximately doubling the efficiency of solar cells,” Nozik said. The best cells today convert about 33 percent of the sun’s energy into electricity.”

    Research in thin films and nanotechnology are making big breakthroughs in solar cell technology.

    I read yesterday where Walmart has put out a RFP for installing 100 megawatts of solar power in their stores over the next 5 years. With some big name companies installing solar power, others will follow behind and the demand for solar cells will result in more manufacturing facilities in the near future.

    Jim

    Comment by Jim Crabtree — 5 Jan 2007 @ 6:57 AM

  83. RE: 70

    Here in eastern Australia it’s bleeding obvious to any biologist or field naturalist with eyes in their head that ecosystems and ecosystem remnants are in serious decline – for all sorts of reasons, not just climate related. And the same kind of denial and political skulduggery goes on of course. But my perception is that while companies, developers and other profiteers will be successful at pooh-poohing the idea that we need to go easy on the environment for some time to come; when it comes to climate change, denial and the argument that we should sit on our hands until the last few contrarians finally agree is rapidly becoming a preposterous position.

    RE: The obsession on this website with the nutty end of climate denialism.

    I really don’t think that that point of view is going to last or matter for long.

    The current drought event in Australia and its effects on our waterways and landscapes are so severe that the media here seems for the most part to have completely given up on contrarian points of view (with a few somewhat comic and rather desperate exceptions). The fact is that if we get another few years like those of the last decade we are in serious trouble. Towns have begun to run out of water, some cities are in tight spots, and we have months of dry weather to come. Politicians of all the southern states are haggling and hand-wringing over what can be done and every paper runs articles virtually every day about aspects of the crisis, its relationship to climate change, current storage levels, what is to be done, water theft, collapse in the rural sector, which river will dry up next, etc.

    Given all this, and that the prediction is for next year to be the hottest ever globally (and that Oz seems to be heating up faster than the global average), I suspect that the scientific middle ground has become somewhat irrelevant to the average Australian. The reality is that even this much warming is already scary. People are aware that there is some quibbling about the unlikely possibility that it might all just be a statistical hiccup. But now they are more concerned with that fact that that might not be (probably isn’t) the case. And even if we do return to wetter times for a while (fingers crossed) they will remember what it is like to have cities on extreme water restrictions and to watch the parks, gardens and rural trees die, and to see farming communities devastated (I’m not making alarmist predictions, I’m describing the daily news).

    So my conclusion is this: We westerners are soft. We like our luxury. If any part of Middle America starts to experience anything like what Australia is now experiencing, then the demand to do something real about the problem will be politically undeniable.

    Scientists can forget about what extreme denialists are saying. What they need to concentrate on is determining by what amount emissions need to be reduced in order to reliably achieve reasonable outcomes for people, the environment and the economy. Once the risk is perceived as being real, this is what will be demanded of them. People understand the concept of risk. They don’t like it. And they want to avoid it.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 5 Jan 2007 @ 7:42 AM

  84. Roger Pielke, Jr’s defensive indictment of RealClimate’s “incessant skeptic obsession” strikes me as a bit odd. Before Realclimate came along, the public had few resources to research the claims of the skeptics. Anyone who paid any attention to the public discourse about global warming before Realclimate was bound to think that there is no warming, the satellites show cooling, the surface temps are contaminated by the urban heat island, and those scientists who cry “warming” can’t be trusted because they predicted a global cooling just a few short years ago. Realclimate’s “obsession” with the skeptics is a valuable service to the public, since they have corrected many misapprehensions actively promoted by the skeptics. It’s the skeptic’s obsession with spreading uncertainty by misrepresenting peer-reviewed scientific studies and emphasizing only self-serving facts that deserves contempt.

    [Response: Thanks. - gavin]

    [Response: Goes double for me. - mike]

    Comment by Michael Seward — 5 Jan 2007 @ 7:53 AM

  85. RE: 80

    With all possible sympathy to your individual attitude towards fossil fuel consumption, you are unfortunately in the vast minority.

    Your claim about bailouts cannot be substantiated. Bailouts never happened. The most that ever happened was a loan guarantee which didn’t in the end cost the taxpayers a penny.

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Jan 2007 @ 9:05 AM

  86. While golfing I had time to question the effects humans have had on the world and if humans are to blame for climate change. My questions were answered when a person in the nearby affluent neighborhood went out walking her dog. As the dog did its constitutional, she scooped it up in a plastic bag, tied it up, and promptly tossed it behing a concrete marker on the golf course. Out of sight, out of mind. This, in a nutshell, is what humans do to the planet, whether we are mountain folk or suburbanites. We have made our bed, now we have to sleep in it. Soon there will be a lot of hungry, thirsty, or ill humans.

    Comment by Paul M — 5 Jan 2007 @ 9:21 AM

  87. Andy Revkin quotes Jim Hansen:

    “If we want to avoid producing a different planet, we need to start acting now,” and not with paltry steps, he said in a recent e-mail exchange with a reporter and other scientists. “It seems almost to be a secret that we cannot put all of the fossil-fuel CO2 into the air without producing a different planet, and yes, dangerous change. There are people who don’t know that!”

    This is exactly right. Which is why all these emission reduction measures, particularly Kyoto, are like a bandaid on the infected wound. These measures don’t affect the final outcome – only delay it. The danger is that the public is getting an impression that something important is being achieved while the opposite is true. It is actually a good thing thing that USA didn’t sign Kyoto: at least it keeps some do-gooders angry.

    The only real solution is to find new sources of energy (not based on fossils). With the existing (and foreseeable) population and economic growth, all emission reduction efforts will not affect the final outcome: complete exhaustion of fossil reserves and death of the civilization.

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Jan 2007 @ 9:23 AM

  88. I don’t know, this Australian isn’t convinced.

    http://www.jennifermarohasy.com/blog/

    Comment by Mark A. York — 5 Jan 2007 @ 10:12 AM

  89. There are national differences on GW speech. Dr. Hulme (who says shrill voices are not effective) is British. I recently did a brief study of the media coverage on GW (per pop) & found the UK way ahead of the US, and I have the distinct impression “shrill voices” is more a UK thing.

    In the US I have not heard one single shrill voice on GW (except my own). I’ve tried the gentle method, the shrill method, leading-by-example method (showing the $$hundreds/yr savings by mitigating GW), prayer. Nothing seems to work, except maybe prayer. Neither the wind nor the sun will get the man to off his coat. It’s just not a U.S. issue, because we are just not a future-oriented or caring people, and we’re really averse to being blamed as the per capita highest GHG emitter.

    I found the media coverage in Canada to be middling between the US & UK.

    What was surprising was that the media coverage in Australia was really high, much higher than the UK. And my main explanation is that Australia is severely suffering from effects that look a lot like the effects we might expect from GW (whether or not these can at present be attributed to GW within the 95% confidence interval).

    And BTW, I do think we need a name for the non-venusian situation on earth where some initial warming triggers nature to emit more GHGs in a net positive feedback situation, causing more warming, causing more emissions (and less albedo), and so on, until we stabilize at a higher temp & many species go extinct (as has happened several times in the past), then eventually (after 100,000 to 200,000 years) get back to our present climate. And I nominate “THE VENUS EFFECT.” (It’s a metaphor, guys, like “greenhouse effect.”) Only problem is it doesn’t sound bad enough, more like some goddess of love thing. And if people don’t know much about Earth or GW, they know even less about Venus. Is that the planet where little green people with feelers hop around? The planet where Bush & Co plan to move when Earth becomes inhospitable, if not totally uninhabitable? And why the gov is really more into the space program than the earth program?

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Jan 2007 @ 10:24 AM

  90. RE # 87

    Sashka, I have, on another thread, been critical of your seeming ambivalent comments on AGW. However, your contributions to this thread leave me applauding your views.

    I am in full agreement with your statement [It is actually a good thing thing that USA didn't sign Kyoto: at least it keeps some do-gooders angry.]

    However, Kyoto does serve to channel the developed world focus on AGW even if our President Bush ignores both the treaty and the problem.

    You are expressing a realistic perspective of how heavy the weight our generation must lift off the backs of our children.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 5 Jan 2007 @ 10:44 AM

  91. RE#81,
    Peter, the ‘stable equilibrium’ notion of climate was once championed by people like Richard Lindzen, but it doesn’t have much credence. See this climate issue of Science 24 Mar 2006, and the lead editiorial by Kennedy and Hanson:

    “Nothing in the record suggests that an “equilibrium” climate model is the right standard of comparison. We are in the midst of a highly kinetic system, and in the past, dramatic climate changes have taken place in only a few decades. Our comfort in the Holocene may have heightened our sense of security, but the expectation that change is unlikely is not a reasonable position…”

    The question is then, can we rule out natural variability as the cause for the observed changes in climate – and the answer to that is a scientific yes (as opposed to a religious yes, meaning that science deals with probabilities).

    To respond to Sashka’s statement, “Will it ever dawn on the left that the oil companies simply serve the economic need that we create? They are not the problem. We are.”

    Well, people will be affected by AGW regardless of their political views, and that’s the exact public relations campaign that the tobacco industry used – “lung cancer isn’t the tobacco companies fault, they simply serve the economic demand”.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 5 Jan 2007 @ 10:49 AM

  92. Ike, I doubt a cigarette company would use [lung cancer isn't the tobacco companies fault] in a public relations camapign.

    However, it was probably used to excess in tort litigation brought by lung cancer victims.

    The view of Shashka stands unchallenged especially when I walk through the shopping mall parking lot.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 5 Jan 2007 @ 11:17 AM

  93. reading most of the posts it seems that people still appear to be denying that a 100 ppm increase in CO2 in the last 150 years (more than coincidence I suspect) has either not been put there by humans burning fossil fuels (some natural means I suspect is responsible) or it has been put there by humans but it is not responsible for the current warming, that is also natural by some means.

    Physics shows us that fossil fuels contain a lot of CO2 and that CO2 absorbs infra red radiation released from the earths surface by a known amount. Hence humans burning fossil fuels which is releasing CO2 is absorbing heat (infra red) from the earths surface and hence causing the atmosphere to increase in temperature.

    Whay is this when the physics is well understood for some reason not universally accepted, is it because it can impact us the human race and potantially curb our progress, without progress we seem to feel that our current existance will become worthless for some reason. Since the end of the second world war free market economics and world trade and technological progress have gone hand in hand and any talk of having to cut back seems to me to be the real issue, the real HERESY !

    Comment by pete best — 5 Jan 2007 @ 11:30 AM

  94. Craig Allen wrote in #83: “Scientists can forget about what extreme denialists are saying. What they need to concentrate on is determining by what amount emissions need to be reduced in order to reliably achieve reasonable outcomes for people, the environment and the economy.”

    I don’t think it is important to determine “by what amount emissions need to be reduced.” It is important to start reducing emissions.

    Global CO2 emissions continue to grow. The rate at which global CO2 emissions are growing is increasing — i.e. emissions are not only growing they are accelerating. The International Energy Agency in its 2005 World Energy Outlook projects that world energy demand will increase by more than 50 percent by 2030, raising energy-related CO2 emissions 52 percent above today’s levels.

    Given this reality, what is important — what is urgent — is to slow down and then reverse that growth. That is going to be extraordinarily challenging. It is not particularly important at present to theorize about what might be a long-term sustainable level of anthropogenic GHG emissions.

    I will repeat my earlier question: in what year do you realistically think that global GHG emissions will be less than the previous year’s emissions?

    According to the IEA’s projections, it will not be until sometime after 2030, some 23 years from now — during which 23 years emissions will continue to increase every year. Compare this to the statements by James Hansen and others that we have perhaps 10 or 15 years in which to make significant reductions in GHG emissions to avert global climate catastrophe.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 Jan 2007 @ 11:49 AM

  95. Why doubt when you can Google?

    “… smokers are free to purchase and use a product they know to be harmful, but, if they do so, they and not the tobacco companies are accountable for the consequences.”

    https://cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=1134&print=Y&full=1

    Same argument being made now about the coal companies’ products here.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Jan 2007 @ 11:52 AM

  96. On the Brokaw television piece last summer,
    Hansen spoke of half of all living species
    going extinct due to AGW.

    This kind of irresponsible statement is
    not supported by science but becomes part
    of ‘consensus’.

    [Response:I don't believe that would be considered a 'consensus' statement. David]

    Comment by Steve — 5 Jan 2007 @ 11:52 AM

  97. Re #79

    We often move into policy issues, so will comment on Pete Best’s policy take.

    If you’re interested in lifecycle GHG emissions of various sources of energy, you can get information here.

    If you’re interested in some of the problems Germany is encountering in expanding its use of wind power, you might check out what the Germans say. Canada is cutting back on plans for expanding wind power for similar reasons.

    Comment by Karen Street — 5 Jan 2007 @ 12:35 PM

  98. Here in sunny Davis, California (our low yesterday was a balmy 54 degrees F, 15 degrees above average), scientists at the University of California have added some more information on past warming and CO2 in a paper published today in Science. Here are some quotes from a Los Angeles Times article on their research:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-sci-climate5jan05,1,4828203.story?coll=la-news-a_section

    Foreshadowing potential climate chaos to come, early global warming caused unexpectedly severe and erratic temperature swings as rising levels of greenhouse gases helped transform Earth, a team led by researchers at UC Davis said Thursday…

    Instead of a relatively gradual transition from a cold world to a warm one, as many scientists had believed occurred, [Isabel] Montanez and her colleagues found fever spikes of climate change correlated with fluctuating levels of carbon dioxide, like a seismometer graph of the myriad tremors before and after a major earthquake.

    “CO2 goes up and temperature goes up. It drops and temperature drops,” Montanez said.

    “It suggests,” she said, “that the normal behavior in major climate transitions is instability, erratic temperature behavior and carbon dioxide changes.”

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 5 Jan 2007 @ 12:49 PM

  99. Steve wrote in #96: “On the Brokaw television piece last summer, Hansen spoke of half of all living species going extinct due to AGW. This kind of irresponsible statement is not supported by science but becomes part of ‘consensus’.”

    Hansen’s statement was not “irresponsible” and it most certainly is “supported by science”.

    Diversity of Species Faces ‘Catastrophe’ from Climate Change
    by Steve Connor
    April 11, 2006
    The Independent / UK

    Tens of thousands of animals and plants could become extinct within the coming decades as a direct result of global warming.

    This is the main conclusion of a study into how climate change will affect the diversity of species in the most precious wildlife havens of the world.

    Scientists believe that if atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide double from pre-industrial times – which is expected by the end of the century – then biodiversity will be devastated.

    [...]

    The scientists, led by Lee Malcolm of the University of Toronto, investigated how rising temperatures could affect the species richness of 25 “biodiversity hotspots” – areas of the world that are rich in species found nowhere else. The 25 hotspots included in the study cover just 1 per cent of the global landmass yet they account for some 44 per cent of the plants and 35 per cent of the world’s vertebrate animals.

    “Climate change is one of the most serious threats to the planet’s biodiversity. We now have strong scientific evidence that global warming will result in catastrophic species loss across the planet,” Dr Malcolm said.

    [...]

    The study, published yesterday in the journal Conservation Biology, predicts that many unique habitats will be lost as climate change brings about rapid changes to the environment.

    “We project the eventual loss of thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of hotspot endemic plant and vertebrate species under a climate associated with a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations,” the study says.

    [...]

    The computer modelling used by the scientists found that in some instances the mass extinctions caused by climate change were greater than those caused by deforestation, which many environmentalists had assumed was the single most destructive human activity. In the worst-case assessment, a doubling of carbon dioxide concentrations led to the extinction of 40 per cent of species in some of the hotspots – a potential loss of some 56,000 endemic plants and 3,700 endemic vertebrate species.

    Other similar studies have projected widespread mass extinctions of as many as half of all existing species.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 Jan 2007 @ 12:52 PM

  100. Karen Street in #97 wrote: “If you’re interested in lifecycle GHG emissions of various sources of energy, you can get information here.”

    I notice that the site that Karen linked to says “Several analyses exist, you can go here to see others” — and the “here” that is referenced is the Nuclear Energy Institute, an organization that exists to advocate nuclear electricity generation.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 Jan 2007 @ 1:01 PM

  101. #94 (reducing emissions) SA, in fairness RC has tried to stay OUT of policy questions and instead provide a forum for the discussion and evaluation of climate science. The latter is still an extremely important mission, and I’ll propose that this is a mission that would be dilluted, not strengthened, by a great deal of policy-mongering.

    I too get frustrated. Sometimes, terrified; I have small children, and wonder what sort of world they will inherit. But I am also a scientist, and protecting the purity of the data, climate models and resulting theories that emerge from field work is *my* professional responsibility. As a *voter* I can help shape policy, by electing people who get it and placing them in office (or accepting that task myself!)

    Yes, we have no time left to waste. But we have a job right here that needs doing and I’m proud to be doing it to the limited degree that I can. In the coming years I think we’ll look back and appreciate how vital was this exercise, though now it may seem like Ivory Tower nonsense.

    catblack

    Comment by cat black — 5 Jan 2007 @ 1:08 PM

  102. #57–very nice. I think the problem is that while some skeptics are still at 1, but most have moved to 2 or 3–and yet they are still treated as though they are at 1 by their opponents. Likewise, very few are at 7, and most scientists and policymakers are at 5 or 6, but are treated like they’re at 7 by their opponents.

    A more interesting question is, if you’re at 4, are you a skeptic or an alarmist? I think it’s inaccurate and unfair to treat someone at 4 like a skeptic–but they often are, and that definitely contributes to the polarization of the debate.

    [Response:Whatever you call it, #4 is where the Bush administration is on a good day. David]

    #75, wayne: Yes, but what I’m saying is stepping outside and noticing its warm today is *not* evidence of global warming. That’s why the science is important. Also, as you yourself say, “a true description of what is going on needs no hyperbola or exagerrations”. So, scientists shouldn’t resort to hyperbole and exaggeration when describing global warming (and actually mostly they don’t). I’m suggesting, however, that nobody else should, either. Global warming will be a problem. How big a problem? That’s actually not very well determined yet.

    I also think language like Hansen’s doesn’t help. What the heck does “different planet” mean?? Some coastlines could be different, some weather will be different, some crop distributions will be different…but how does that add up to a “different planet”? The phrase is inaccurate and practically meaningless. Besides, what if there were not acw? Guess what–we’d end up with a “different planet” eventually anyway, since, as any climate scientist can tell you, climate fluctuates naturally. It’s language like Hansen’s that confuses people and allows the polemics to continue. Yes, some very odd things _could_ happen, but to talk about them as though they _will_ happen is wrong.

    Comment by mzed — 5 Jan 2007 @ 1:20 PM

  103. Just to clarify about Hansen’s comments: he is actually rather careful about what he says, but my point is just that there are lots of _possible_ scenarios, but few that we can predict with even relative certainty (let’s say >50%). Not that this means they should be ignored, but the public needs to be given the facts with excruciating accuracy. Snappy sound bytes just won’t do the trick. (I am speaking more to politicians than I am to scientists like Hansen.)

    Comment by mzed — 5 Jan 2007 @ 1:27 PM

  104. Dr. Pielke, you asked the RC Contributors to address “dubious and extreme claims” in the science about “global warming theory” –Google Scholar finds only about 213 papers mentioning that. Which are problems, in your opinion?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Jan 2007 @ 1:45 PM

  105. Re #46, Craig Gaydos writes of the Y2K effort:

    “The moral of the story? Well, unfortunately, maybe the potential crisis has to be exaggerated in order to get attention of humans — and that humans will invariably overreact. But, the good news is the crisis gets addressed.

    By the way, Y2K was an example used by Michael Crichton of a failed prediction of disaster. What Crichton and others missed was that were it not for all the overblown media coverage of Y2K it *would* have been a disaster.”

    Y2K is an interesting example of historical revisionism and myth-making that, as close as I can tell, is being propagated by both the right and the left.

    In the run up to Y2K, I worked on a DOE project that was reviewing the scope and effectiveness of Y2K efforts at commercial and research nuclear reactors in the US and around the world. It is true that lots of money was being spent in a comprehensive review of software and associated hardware. It is also the case that numerous problems were identified and fixed prior to Y2K.

    A couple of programs I used frequently died on January 1, 2000. Absent the massive Y2K effort around the world, we would have seen significant societal disruption around the world because of software failures.

    MC’s take on Y2K is one more example of how he has morphed into a very tall buffoon.

    Best regards.

    Jim Dukelow

    Comment by Jim Dukelow — 5 Jan 2007 @ 1:57 PM

  106. mzed wrote in #102: “I also think language like Hansen’s doesn’t help. What the heck does ‘different planet’ mean?? Some coastlines could be different, some weather will be different, some crop distributions will be different…but how does that add up to a ‘different planet’? The phrase is inaccurate and practically meaningless.”

    A “different planet” would be an Earth without any arctic ice, an Earth on which ancient mountain glaciers which provide the only fresh water supplies for hundreds of millions of people have vanished, an Earth on which vast tropical rainforests have been replaced by savannah, an Earth on which the most productive agricultural regions of the world have become deserts, an Earth on which “coastline changes” have rendered many of the largest cities in the world uninhabitable, an Earth on which there has been a large-scale die-off of the phytoplankton that are the basis of oceanic food webs, and yes, an Earth on which a substantial portion of all existing species have become extinct. These are all mainstream projections of the consequences of continued anthropogenic GHG emissions at the levels forecast by the International Energy Agency.

    mzed: “Besides, what if there were not acw? Guess what–we’d end up with a ‘different planet’ eventually anyway”

    Perhaps on time scales of many thousands of years, or millions of years. Not on time scales of decades, or at most centuries.

    mzed: “Yes, some very odd things _could_ happen, but to talk about them as though they _will_ happen is wrong.”

    Some “very odd things” are already happening. If we continue business as usual, and if as the IEA projects, GHG emissions continue to increase every year and by 2030 are 52 percent greater than they are today, then some very much “odder” things will happen.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 Jan 2007 @ 2:09 PM

  107. RE: #76 – I think you may be in the UK or Europe. Things here in the US are a bit different than Europe in terms of our R&D system. Government industrial R&D tends to be focussed on defense. For other areas, R&D generally is a consortium of private business and academia. The US government, other than during the early space exploration era, has never been a leader in photovoltaic R&D. The private / university sector has consistently led in this regard. Government funding (or lack of it) will have almost zero impact on photovoltaic research, because the true skill and knowledge regarding it is outside governement orgs.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 5 Jan 2007 @ 2:18 PM

  108. Readers might be interested to know that Roger Pielke Jr. did respond to my request for his view on when the current trend of record-setting temperatures will come to an end, (over at his Prometheus blog), and to quote:

    “We don’t do temperature predictions here. Try IPCC or the British Met Office!”

    Now, how can you pretend to be an ‘expert’ on climate change and refuse to discuss temperature trends? Discussing the general direction of a trend is a bit different from making a definitive prediction about future temperatures, something that the IPCC itself doesn’t do, in contrast to Roger’s insinuation – they just work on the basis of different scenarios.

    So let me rephrase the question for Roger: with respect to the fact that the warmest years since accurate records began have all been in the last decade, does this represent an anomalous spike in the natural climate variability, or are we looking at a generally increasing temperature trend that is due to the increased concentration of atmospheric CO2 brought on by buring fossil fuels? (A generally increasing temperature trend would be expected to set new temperature records on a continual basis, wouldn’t it?)

    Even if humans do stop emitting CO2 from fossil fuels (a difficult proposition by any measure, but certainly desirable), there is the possibility of causing reserves of carbon stored in methane clathrates and permafrost to be converted to atmospheric CO2… and modelling the natural carbon cycle is more difficult then the geophysical land-ocean-ice sheet approach based on given concentrations of atmospheric CO2, because you have to include the biological activity, as well as things like the influence of the nitrogen cycle. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth studying!

    I did get a response from one Jim Clarke, who said this: “We will likely see global cooling set in around 2015, although it will probably take another 5 to 10 years for the trend to become undeniable. This will take place regardless of what humans do about CO2 emissions.”

    This was based on an unnamed ‘computer model’ that also correctly predicted the fall of the Soviet Union back in 1976. Well…that’s one I hadn’t heard before. Denial of basic physics… amazing.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 5 Jan 2007 @ 2:36 PM

  109. re: 103. I think that is an excellent point about the “snappy sound bytes”. The fact is that, with rare exceptions, comments presented in the media are short sound (or even print) bytes. Often they are out of context such that they sound more extreme than the speaker intended. I speak with the print and TV media frequently and I often find a sentence or two is all that is presented, with important qualifying statements edited out. Yes, it may be simpler for the reader/viewer to comprehend the edited version but accuracy and perspective is often lost.

    In Hansen’s case, it would have be interesting to hear what he said to Brokaw that was not included on the final, edited video.

    Comment by Dan — 5 Jan 2007 @ 2:42 PM

  110. >anomalous spike

    Spikes may be normal during rapid warming; an increase in the extremes or amount of variability over short terms has long been among the predictions for the next few centuries, assuming warming continues.

    And there’s new research — looking for short term variations, they’re found.

    See the link in Jim Eaton’s post above — the clickability of his link to the latimes appears broken at the comma in my browser, but dragging or copying the whole string works.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Jan 2007 @ 3:06 PM

  111. Re: 99

    I wonder what is the limit of human gullibility? I can sort of understand why people believe climate models but to believe biological models?! How do they model the mobility and adaptability? They cannot even explain exactly how we evolved from monkeys. The known examples of speciation are but a few. And these people dare to predict the future?! Unbelievable. Do they have any record of accurately predicting anything? Why would anyone take these results seriously?

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Jan 2007 @ 3:13 PM

  112. when the current trend of record-setting temperatures will come to an end

    Perhaps another question, contrary to consensus, is when the last five
    years’ trend of falling temperatures will come to an end:

    Surface and MSU

    Comment by Steve — 5 Jan 2007 @ 3:16 PM

  113. RE: “Now, how can you pretend to be an ‘expert’ on climate change and refuse to discuss temperature trends? ”

    Given the error terms involved in past reconstructions and the historical surface record, let alone, in the GCMs, I would not be comfortable either making any specific climate predictions of the sort you had asked him to make. At this point, the sort of statement I’d make would be something like:

    There is significant current momentum from both the macro cycle of the current interglacial as well as the micro cycle of the exit from the LIA. On top of that, GHG concentrations, as well as anthropogenic energy flux in the first 300 metres above local surfaces, as well as direct land modifications, are possibly resulting in additional additive terms to the aforementioned warming. Based on current knowledge, it would be possible that warming may continue, may level off, or, may be reversed. The most used GCMs indicate warming will continue, but there are concerns about what that output really means.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 5 Jan 2007 @ 3:22 PM

  114. Sashka wrote: “Why would anyone take these results seriously?”

    Why don’t you read the original paper in Conservation Biology by Lee Malcolm et al, analyze their methods, identify the flaws, and then explain to us why their conclusions should not be taken seriously, and why complacency about the likely effects of continuing, accelerating anthropogenic global warming on biodiversity is a more appropriate attitude than deep concern?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 Jan 2007 @ 3:24 PM

  115. Re: 90,92

    Thanks, John.

    You see, unlike Pielke I am a true heretic. It’s very rare that anyone finds my views agreeable.

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Jan 2007 @ 3:32 PM

  116. RE: 114

    I’ll tell you why. Because I don’t have enough time to read all nonsense that is being produced under the name of science. In fact, I often don’t have enough time to read what could be a good and relevant science. So, it’s just a matter of keeping priorities straight.

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Jan 2007 @ 3:37 PM

  117. RE: #98 – Why did make an erroneous statment about the weather conditions in Davis yesterday? How could your low have been 54 deg F? You are further inland than me and more subject to the norther which came in as the cold front came through. I believe your low yesterday had to be, max, in the upper 30s. My low (near the coast) was 40 F (boringly normal) just prior to midnight. Was your “low” reading based on a thermometer mounted to your house or something? Or did you forget that the low may actually be at the end of the day?

    [Response: The Weather Channel's hourly temperatures for Davis supports Jim's numbers (low of 53F at 7:45 AM), assuming we're talking about the previous night's low. Last night's low appears to have been lower, about 44F, though still warmer than your "30s" figure. - mike]

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 5 Jan 2007 @ 3:46 PM

  118. RE: #98 (again) – Here is the best I could find from the NWS, unfortunately, this station is impacted by UHI (UCD campus buildings, nearby strip development along I-80, etc). At this rather poor measurement location the low yesterday was 46 Deg F, as I suspected just before midnight:

    http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?wfo=sto&sid=CQ007&num=48

    You will have a hard freeze tonight unless the wind picks back up. There is a current freeze warning SSE of you, in the San Joaquin Valley. You may not break 50 F today at your own location.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 5 Jan 2007 @ 3:58 PM

  119. Final comment, RE: Davis. If you look at the actual time series of measurements in the table toward the bottom of the NWS web page linked in #118, you will see the big picture. On the 3rd of Jan, a typical day starting out in the 30s. Then, a cold front started to approach from the NNW. Of course, the winds shifted to Southerly to Southwesterly, and as has been the case for every cold front I’ve observed in my 40 plus years, (and can be reasonably assumed to be the case for every cold front during the Holocene) there was a day or so of “above normal” temperature (50s). By mid day yesterday, the front’s passage, the norther, and back into the 40s. Tonight, the cold pool settles, and into the 30s is the NWS’ projection. Absolutely nothing abnormal in any of this, utterly typical January conditions for Davis, CA, USA.

    [Response: The 'big picture' reveals a fairly warm winter so far for the U.S. on the whole. December numbers not in from NOAA yet, but here's what November anomalies looked like. - mike]

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 5 Jan 2007 @ 4:58 PM

  120. Don’t want to get too off topic, but if you really are interested in the warm low we had two nights ago, check out NOAA’s current temperatures (this is automatically updated, so Wednesday’s temperatures will disappear in 24 hours or so):

    http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/getobext.php?sid=SMTC1&table=1&banner=off

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 5 Jan 2007 @ 5:04 PM

  121. mike replied to #119: The ‘big picture’ reveals a fairly warm winter so far for the U.S. on the whole.

    In the “small picture”, the famous Cherry Blossom trees in Washington DC are blooming. In January. The NOAA forecast for tomorrow (Saturday 1/6) is 72 degrees.

    [Response: Here in State College PA our bulbs are coming up, some trees are budding, and the grass is quite green . The unfolding El Nino event is almost certainly playing some role in the anomalous warmth. - mike]

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 Jan 2007 @ 5:19 PM

  122. But it’s not all about Cali …… oh, never mind. Nice weather we’re having today, huh?

    Wait, a real point about checking beliefs —

    >They cannot even explain exactly how we evolved from monkeys.

    Sashka, the scientists can explain that we did not evolve from monkeys.

    You’ve read a creationist argument. Why do you believe it?

    You can check this easily.

    The scientists don’t say we evolved from monkeys.

    The creationists make two bogus statements. Check them, don’t believe this stuff.

    ” the scientists say that we evolved from monkeys” (this part is wrong)
    and
    ” the scientists can’t prove we evolved from monkeys” (this part is not even wrong).

    We and the monkeys are both modern, living species.

    The scientists can show evidence about the last common ancestor — a long time ago — and how its descendants became either us or monkeys, or any of our other near relations.

    Size, brain size, jawbones, age, habitat — you can look at the differences and dates.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Jan 2007 @ 5:20 PM

  123. re: 121. Apparently the cherry blossoms blooming in DC are not the famous ones along the Tidal Basin. They are a variety that bloom in the winter/spring during warm outbreaks: http://www.usatoday.com/weather/news/2007-01-04-dc-warmth_x.htm?csp=34

    Comment by Dan — 5 Jan 2007 @ 5:54 PM

  124. RE#112,
    Steve, go ahead and tell me if I’m wrong, but that graph you link to is a graph of anomalies, not temperatures. For some reason NOAA is using the averaged time period 1971-2000 as the basis for calculating temperature anomalies – which seems just ridiculous, but if someone can justify it I’d be happy to hear about it. The graph gives one the impression that the period 1980-1995 was ‘anomalously cool’. Regardless, according to that graph, the anomaly is positive and temperatures continue to increase. It’s a rather deceptive graph, and it’s no surprise that a quick glance would be misleading – you’d think a government science agency would do better – email them at ncdc.info@noaa.gov and ask what they’re thinking?

    [Response: This does seem somewhat odd, given that the industry standard (e.g. the UK Met Office) is still to use a 1961-1990 base period. Use of a 1971-2000 base period does have the impact of sharply decreasing the positiveness of the anomalies, since much of the large-scale warming has occured since the late 1970s. - mike]

    RE#113,
    Do you see a logical contradiction in first claiming that Roger shouldn’t answer my question about temperature trends and new records because of “the error terms involved in past reconstructions and the historical surface record”, and then going on to talk about “significant current momentum from both the macro cycle of the current interglacial as well as the micro cycle of the exit from the Little Ice Age”? The microcycle of the exit from the LIA? Cycles of hand-waving, perhaps…

    Someone who is quoted in the New York Times as a climate expert should at least be able to address the question of steadily increasing temperature trends, and offer their expert opinion on the matter. Claiming that the issue can’t be addressed – that’s just bizarre.

    RE#111
    While looking for the current state-of-the-art in climate modelling, I came across this page: http://www.physorg.com/news5312.html – I’d imagine Gavin knows far more about this:

    “Researchers from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and several other government and academic institutions have created four new supercomputer simulations that for the first time combine their mathematical computer models of the atmosphere, ocean, land surface and sea ice. These simulations are the first field tests of the new Earth System Modeling Framework (ESMF), an innovative software system that promises to improve and accelerate U.S. predictive capability ranging from short-term weather forecasts to century-long climate change projections.”

    So, let’s say these models predict the expansion of deserts or continued warming trends in the American Midwest. If there is a patch of green between two deserts, and the deserts expand, you can guess that the species that aren’t adapted to the desert will die out. See also the relic ice age plants of Effigy Mounds National Monument.

    Similarly, if ocean productivity is diminished due to reduced thermohaline circulation, you can expect that the species at the top of the food web will be vastly reduced in abundance. Too few breeding members and a species goes extinct. Of course, life has adapted to all sorts of climate regimes in the past – but often massive extinction and millions of years of new radiative evolution were the result. When you add in things like habitat loss and the removal of migratory corridors for wildlife, then ecological catastrophe doesn’t sound like an overstatement of the problem.

    By the way, the “CO2: We call it life” campaign and predictions of a “CO2 fertilization effect” are nonsense. Terrestrial plant growth is far more dependent on water, temperature and nitrogen then on CO2. In the ocean, nitrogen and sometimes iron are limiting – and changes in ocean circulation may very well play havoc with planktonic communities that for the base of the food web. This is why more monitoring programs should be put in place – field data collection – something I don’t see you calling for.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 5 Jan 2007 @ 6:26 PM

  125. re: 121. I live in Canandaigua, NY in the Finger Lakes region. This morning, the temperature on my porch was 50 degrees F. Our normal low temp is about 18 degrees for this time of year.
    Our cumulative heating degree days for this winter is about 600 lower than the thirty year average. The most extreme deficit in this measure that I can remember was about 600 for the entire heating season.
    My wood pile is also diminishing far more slowly than usual.
    I agree that the El Nino is keeping the area warmer than it would be otherwise, but even in the extreme El Nino at the end of the 80′s, we had snow on the ground in January, and I certainly was not able to sit out in my yard wearing sandals, shorts, and a t-shirt while reading the paper. I did that today.
    For now, this is delightful, but where does it re-stabilize?

    [Response: Indeed. Its the fact that this latest El Nino sits on top of the longer-term anthropogenic warming trend that lead the Univ. of East Anglia folks to predict '07 to be the warmest year on record for the globe. - mike]

    Comment by Randy Ross — 5 Jan 2007 @ 6:53 PM

  126. What Hank Roberts said. I say that as a biologist, after having the evolutionary pathways hammered into my head for years in the classroom and field. Right now it’s polar bears that are on point, taking the heat if you will. Even that is a denialist’s aqua-dream.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 5 Jan 2007 @ 7:38 PM

  127. Eli had an interesting discussion with the local cynic today. He pointed out that the current strategy of the fossil fuel companies is to dominate any replacement technologies and thus maintain their stranglehold on energy. This accounts for their recent more friendly attitude towards the existence of anthropic driven climate change.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 5 Jan 2007 @ 7:48 PM

  128. Speak of the proverbial Devil.

    http://www.usatoday.com/weather/climate/2007-01-05-warm_x.htm?csp=24

    Did n’t Lubos have a formula I looked at recently that said 6th coldest? Up really is down in some camps.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 5 Jan 2007 @ 7:49 PM

  129. Re: Response to #125

    Its the fact that this latest El Nino sits on top of the longer-term anthropogenic warming trend that lead the Univ. of East Anglia folks to predict ’07 to be the warmest year on record for the globe. – mike

    I saw another news story on the “prediction” from HadCRU, which is not actually a prediction at all. P.D. Jones stated that 2007 “should” be warmer than 2006, and “may” even be warmer than 1998, while the news story reported it as a sure-fire bet. Likewise, the story you link to quotes HadCRU as estimating “60% probability” that 2007 will set a new record.

    My impression is, that it depends on whether the developing el Nino turns into the full-blown article.

    Comment by Grant — 5 Jan 2007 @ 8:05 PM

  130. Re #111
    Sashka said: They cannot even explain exactly how we evolved from monkeys. The known examples of speciation are but a few.

    I’ve no desire to hijack this thread and send it off into a discussion of evolution and biological modelling’s perceived inadequacies, but perpetuation of myth should be avoided in science and challenged/corrected.

    Humans did not evolve from monkeys. We are but one member of a family of about 300 extant primates and untold numbers of extinct primates. And all primates have common ancestors that were not human and not monkey. Speciation of those common ancestors led to the various prosimians, monkeys, lesser apes and great apes.

    So, one would hope that a biological model does not spit out the answer that humans evolved from monkeys! Of course, if such a model did spit out such an answer then we’d be left with the choice of whether the model was telling us something important about our understanding of evolution theory or whether the coders had screwed up somewhere. That is the case with all models. Some tell us something important, some don’t and some are plain wrong. Then one tries to use one’s evolved brain to help decide which is the case at hand and how things can be improved. Again, that is the case with all models.

    Comment by P. Lewis — 5 Jan 2007 @ 8:37 PM

  131. RE: 121

    A question to Mike due to his comment. Correct me if I’m wrong but first EOF of El-Nino is very weak in N-E of USA. So why are you making this attribution?

    Even in the regions where El-Nino effects are pronounced the amplitude of temperature perturbation is probably on the order of 2-3 degrees. Here we have an anomaly an order of magnitude greater. How can you possibly relate it to El-Nino?

    [Response: Not sure what you mean by "first EOF of El Nino". El Nino has a prominent influence on the pattern of the Northern Hemisphere winter jet stream over North America (which in turn exerts a profound influence on regional winter surface temperature and precipitation patterns over the U.S). Its certainly not the only influence however. So no one El Nino winter looks quite the same as any other in terms of e.g. the pattern of winter surface temperature anomalies over the U.S. That having been said, winter (DJF) warming in the Northeastern U.S. is actually one of the most robust responses. Note that it is present in each of the El Nino winters shown in this plot from NOAA. One other thing that stands out in this plot, incidentally, is that the winter warmth over the U.S. becomes increasingly prominent with each subsequent El Nino event during the late 20th century. So there is a 'climate change signal' present as well. It is therefore incorrect to argue (as some already have, e.g. one NOAA official on NBC Nightly News this evening) that ENSO is the only factor that might contribute to anomalous winter warmth over large parts of the U.S. this winter. - mike]

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Jan 2007 @ 8:56 PM

  132. RE: 118,119 (Sadlov):

    I lived in Davis, did my undergrad there and collected much data around there. Look at the CIMIS station in Davis for 7-day temps and archives, which will reflect pre-frontal ridging’s effect on min temps. You’ll see it’s obviously not affected by UHI. Nor is Davis in the GHCN.

    One of the official reporting HCN stations is way out in the rice fields, unaffected by UHI.

    BTW, your common use of anecdotal wx evidence is cute, but the rest of us will look at the official data for our trends.

    HTH,

    D

    Comment by Dano — 5 Jan 2007 @ 9:49 PM

  133. You ignored the last part of my question: the current anomaly has a wrong order of magnitude.

    [Response: You seem to be confused on the timescales in question. What do you mean by 'current anomaly'? Obviously, the discussion here refers to a seasonal (e.g. DJF) mean anomaly that might be expected this winter. That anomaly will be comprised of an average of many synoptic scale events, some which will be of the same sign but much larger than the mean expected anomaly (e.g. as in the last few weeks), others that may even be of opposite sign. -mike]

    Also, the plots that you show are for the El-Nino years which we are technically not in yet, right? I thought it was for the year after New Year to which the nino refers, no?

    [Response: Again, you seem to be confused. What is shown in the plot is the temperature anomaly pattern associated with an El Nino winter, that is, the winter that coincides with peak ENSO conditions (as measured by e.g. the DFJ Nino3 tropical Pacific SST anomaly). This is when the extratropical planetary wave perturbations influencing North American winter climate conditions are greatest. We are in such a winter right now. -mike]

    I know you do a lot of statistics so you’ll probably agree that it’s dangerous to draw conclusions based on the sample of seven.

    [Response: Huh? The signal is present in every single event in that composite. Indeed, if you look at a composite of all 25 El Nino events recorded in the instrumental record (since 1877), though with greater uncertainties in the past, rather than just the large recent events which is what the previous graphic showed, the winter warming over the Northern U.S. and southern Canada is seen to be a remarkably robust signal. It is well known to scientists in this field that this warming signal associated with El Nino events is a robust one, and its tied to a well understood perturbation in the extratropical planetary wave structure which we understand quite well, and can reproduce in atmospheric models with specified tropical Pacific SST anomalies. mike]

    Alas, later events are missing.

    [Response:Actually, including the most recent events only strengthens the picture. Try this NOAA DJF composite of all recent events up to present. -mike]

    I’d even disagree with your observation on substance.

    [Response:These are not my observations, they are NOAA's. If you don't like them, why don't you write NOAA a letter. -mike]

    To me, the warmth of 86-87 is weaker than that of 82-83 so the progression is not monotonic.

    [Response: Who was talking about a monotonic progression? Why don't you re-read what I've written. - mike]

    If you ignore the 91-92 event, it would be hard to conclude that there’s much of a signal in N-E.

    [Response: Huh? I think you may need new glasses. The signal is present in every single event in that composite, and in the other composites linked above . -mike]

    By “first EOF of El Nino” I meant a study of variability of global atmosphere forced by an El-Nino event.

    [Response: These are not (remotely) the same thing. As this discussion has gotten quite off topic now, I think we'll have to leave it here. If you are interested in learning more about the ENSO phenomenon and its impacts, I suggest you turn to NOAA's El Nino page. - mike]

    Comment by Sashka — 5 Jan 2007 @ 9:54 PM

  134. Greetings Dr Mann There is also the current state of the atmosphere, its total heat content, which is at a higher level, by the combination of many warm recent years slowly but surely having a cumulative effect, given that there has not been bitterly cold pan continental winters resuming a balance so to speak. El Nino is over rated in comparison, the real heat giant is already in place, it is just not found in one place, measuring atmospheric total heat content would be revealing.

    Comment by wayne Davidson — 5 Jan 2007 @ 9:56 PM

  135. Followup to 119, 120:

    RAWS stations also display 7 days worth of data.

    Best,

    D

    Comment by Dano — 5 Jan 2007 @ 10:05 PM

  136. RE: 124 NOAA (NCDC) and the UK Met Office update the 30-year normals every 10 years on the decade. In the US, as the new normals are produced, products are shifted to use the new data. As far as I know, this has been a practice for around 30 years at least. I am not sure why the UK Met Office has produced, but does not use, the updated normals for its routine products (I suspect it is WMO related).

    http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/normals/usnormals.html

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/averages/index.html

    Regardless of AGW…climate is dynamic. In doing research on climate change it makes perfect sense to use a static set of normals (the 1961-1990 period) as a baseline to determine change. However…for most folks who use weather/climate data routinely in industry (commodities, agriculture, etc), it would be illogical to use “outdated” data. The reason the 30 year normal was created was to give a period of “average” conditions to which a user can establish a baseline reference to the current climate. A 30 year period was deemed long enough to create a long trend but keep it “in phase” with the current climate.

    To put in context of a user- â��I donâ��t want to know how much above the average the temperature was last month compared to 50-60 years agoâ�¦I want to know how much above average the temperature was compared to the current climateâ��. For those of us with backgrounds in climate services (my case…a RCC and a SCO), this was/is an almost everyday question.

    IMHO, I think when we talk about �normals� as operational and research scientists, it needs to be put in context. When discussing overall change, it should be related and explained that the change is related to the baseline period (1961-1990). When we talk about how warm last month was in a specific place, it should be related to the current 30 year normals.

    Hope this helps!

    Cheers!

    Comment by Royce Fontenot — 5 Jan 2007 @ 10:38 PM

  137. #106: Well, alright, these would indeed be drastic changes, but would they really make it a “different planet”? For example, as I understand it the complete dry-out (as opposed to a partial dry-out) of the Amazon is a worst-case scenario, that also relies on continued deforestation for plausibility. I guess it’s just your point of view, so alright, we can call it a different planet…and I’m not trying to downplay the real dangers at stake here. What I’m trying to say is, climate change just happens. With or without humans. Sometimes abruptly. And humans have also changed their environment, sometimes radically, even without ghg emissions. (Deforestation is a notable example.) We can certainly try to manage our contribution to climate change…but climate change is not a man-made phenomenon. It is a natural phenomenon, which we have the capability to contribute to. (Having said that, it does seem the past few millennia have been rather stable in terms of climate. AGW would be a significant change to that.)

    Comment by mzed — 5 Jan 2007 @ 10:58 PM

  138. RE: “It has often been remarked upon that scientists and academics make their reputations by breaking down orthodoxies and by challenging previously widespread assumptions (but it will only work out well if they’re right of course!). Nobody makes much of a name for themselves by agreeing with all previous thinking. Indeed, to be thought of as a radical new thinker, one must assume the role of the heretic, challenging the stale orthodoxies of the past.”

    Questioning to understand the orthodoxies, particularly based on new data is an essential part of the scientific process. It is suggested that polite, well reasoned questioning should be supported.

    GCR Cloud Hypothesis
    There have been a number of papers published in the last 7 years to provide support for the hypothesis that past climate changes could in part be due to changes in low level cloud cover. Increases in low level cloud cover in most locations (except the Antarctic) results in cooling. It is known that changes to the earth’s magnetic field and the solar cycle (long and short solar cycle changes) modulate the magnitude of galactic cosmic ray flux that strikes the earth’s atmosphere. It has been shown that an increase in the GCR flux results in an increase in clouds and visa versa.

    Earths’ Magnetic Field
    Recent data indicates that the geodynamo process may not stable. It appears based on the new data and associated analysis that the geomagnetic field can drop in magnitude by as much as 1/5 to 1/10 of its current level, before gradually recovering back to current levels. This finding is important as a sudden reduction in the earth’s magnetic field could result in cooling if the GCR cloud hypothesis is correct.

    The following is an excerpt from Zang and Gubbins’s paper “Is the geodynamo process intrinsically unstable”. (see attached for details):

    “Recent studies suggest that the Earth’s magnetic field has fallen dramatically in magnitude and changed direction repeatedly since the last 700,000 years ago (Langereis et al. 1997; Lund et al. 1998). These important results paint a rather different picture of the long term behavior of the field from the conventional one of a steady dipole reversing at random intervals; instead the field appears to spend up to 20% of its time in a weak non-dipole state (Lund et al. 1998).”

    http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/archive/00000416/01/gubbinsd4.pdf

    I thought past interglacial periods ended abruptly and there is evidence of other significant rapid climate changes in the paleoclimatic proxy data.

    Comment by William Astley — 6 Jan 2007 @ 2:02 AM

  139. RE#135,

    For the general reader, the notion of ‘anomaly’ can be misleading. It does depend on what you want to see – for example, to calculate a baseline for El Nino events, you might subtract all the El Nino years from the dataset and use that for the baseline curve. Looking at long-term climate changes…why not use a 100-year baseline? It would probably look something like the 1951-1980 baseline.

    If you look at the chart posted in #112, you’ll see that years prior to the mid-90′s are all assigned negative anomalies. The early 90′s are around -0.1 C (here’s the link)

    Compare that to this 1999 graph of temperature anomaly trends stretching back to 1890: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Study/GlobalWarm1999/Images/1999_fig1.gif

    Here, the early 90′s are given a +0.4 C anomaly – and what you also see see is a series of new maximum temperature records, beginning in 1972 and stretching right up to the end of the century; note that 2005 was also a new temperature record. This graph uses the 1951-1980 period as the baseline.

    So, for the purposes of long term climate and temperature trends, the 30-year baseline has increased by about 0.5C from 1980 to 2000. The new baseline period (1981-2010) will be higher then the previous ones. When will this long term trend come to an end?

    The model predictions are that this won’t happen until atmospheric CO2 is stabilized, and there will be about a hundred-year lag time – see the output using the 1961-1990 period as the baseline at http://www.usgcrp.gov/usgcrp/nacc/background/scenarios/gcm/tmppt.html Note that the lower lines on those graphs represent scenarios where atmospheric CO2 is stabilized at 550 ppm, while the others represent a 1% growth per year in atmospheric CO2 content. Currently, CO2 is at ~380 ppm. Ice age glacial/interglacial concentrations were around 260-290 ppm.

    Current growth rates in CO2 emissions have increased to 2.5% per year, according to several reports; see the story at this link. This article shows the Keeling curve next to the human emissions curve – very nice, since it shows how atmospheric CO2 is tracking human emissions using several different graphs.

    Quote: “…from 2000 to 2005 the growth rate of carbon dioxide emissions was more than 2.5% per year, whereas in the 1990s it was less than 1% per year.” The jump in emissions from 2002 to 2003 was 4.5%.

    There’s nothing ‘alarmist’ about being extremely concerned – that would be the rational response. Ignoring the issue – that could be called the nihilistic response.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 6 Jan 2007 @ 3:15 AM

  140. dear RC

    Is consenus in science particular to climate science or is this consensus stance used to put down the unbelievers by telling them that they vast majority of climate scientists beleve that the current warming is human made via fossil fuel burning. Its seems that a lot of the non believers are using individuals (the USA likes the role of the individual it would seem above that of the group) to beat down the group which can never be right can it ?

    I would suggest to US politicians and member of congress and the senate etc that Science has always been by consensus and only in the early days did individuals really take the scientific floor and show the rest of them how to do it. Copernicus, Gallileo, Einstein, Newton etc aside there have been thousands of scientists in service to humankind over the last 400 years and only a few individuals really progressed science, the rest was done by consensus it would seem to me.

    [Response:About 100 years ago, there was a debate about whether atoms existed or not. Now, there is a scientific consensus on that topic (i.e. atoms are real). There is also a scientific on the theory of general relativity (and the possibility of extracting energy by splitting atoms). Now there is a conscensus (at least outside the US) on the adaption through evolution (Darwin), too. And there is a concensus on the idea that the Earth orbits the Sun. There is a scientific conscensus on the notion that the Earth is spherical (more or less). There is a conscensus on that it is important to wash you hands before carrying out a medical operation (Bacterias and infections). So, I guess, scientific concensus is not uncommon within the scientific circles. A different way of putting it is to call it the 'established truth'. -rasmus]

    Comment by pete best — 6 Jan 2007 @ 7:04 AM

  141. On the contrary, much of the current escalation of change is indeed spurred by man-made activities. That’s the point in all of this. A different planet is one where birds don’t migrate south to escape natural seasonal cold, and plants expand their home ranges north. Pests go with that, like the pine bark bettle, which has devastated coniferous forests all over North America. That is different, and one could argue not beneficial. And it’s happening now.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 6 Jan 2007 @ 8:27 AM

  142. I don’t have a clue as to how people come up with a 60% chance of El-Nino, but i do understand a bit about the consequenses and one of those consequences is increased rainfall in Eastern Australia. Here in SE Australia we are “betting the farm” on those odds and everyone is commenting on the bizzare weather extremes that have occured over the last 6 months or so, such as heatwaves followed by crop crippling frost and unseasonal snow falling on the extreme bushfires that have arrived 2 months too early early.

    2007 has started with an Antartic blast of cold air colliding with TC Isobel over Western Australia causing what the media has termed “a perfect storm” over the town of Esperence on the south coast, the remaining moisture is being dumped onto Tasmania as I type. The irony of this increasingly lobsided continent is that over Australia as a whole we have had pretty much spot on average rainfall.

    Australia’s BOM drought statement and maps for Aug to Dec 2006.

    Archived statements, notice the liberal use of the term “rainfall deficiencies”. The first statement from 2000 also metions a smaller portion of the SE has been experiencing these conditions since 1996.

    Comment by Alan — 6 Jan 2007 @ 9:32 AM

  143. There has always been a spectrum of opinions about both the science of global warming and about what that means for policy. There is no easy way to separate the two completely because your estimate of the risk of unfavorable outcomes will certainly color your feeling of urgency to act. But today the basic science seems essentially settled, although there is certainly a lot more to be learned. When I first read Revkin’s article in the Times, I was puzzled by just what this “middle ground” was saying. The best I could glean from it was the suggestion that action could be delayed for some unspecified period of time or that quite modest measures alone will suffice, at least for the present. I don’t think the potential risks of waiting or proceding slowly justify such a position. Even if there were universal agreement about what should be done, actually doing it will be difficult in any event. There is no danger we are going to move too quicly.

    I’ve always been convinced by the no-regrets argument. We should certainly have started by doing the obvious things which make sense anyway. The problem is that someone will always have regrets about any proposed policy and if they have sufficient influence on policy, such measures won’t be adopted. For example, the US has long needed to reduce its dependence on imported oil, and we should have instituted measures to do that. Thomas Friedman, in the Times, pointed out that fuel economy standards were first introduced under Gerald Ford and that he also imposed an import duty on foriegn oil, which was later dropped. Since then such measures have lagged largely due to the influence of oil companies and auto manufacturers allied with free market ideologues who have never met a limitation on private activity they can live with. The result is that we are now in a position where such relatively modest methods will sffuice. It seems clear to me that the longer we wait, the more intrusive, on the lives of ordinary people, will be the measures necessary to deal with the consequences.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 6 Jan 2007 @ 9:53 AM

  144. Re 136 mzed: Global warming itself is a worst case scenario.
    And every mentioning of a diffrent planet is a negative, because species cant adopt fast enough this means everything will colapse.
    And your deforstation example is just wrong,as your complete reasoning is total off the road. If you post here your own noobish guessing please provide a source aswell, doc.
    And you obviously dont follow the context or havening problems at last. Its the speed of Co2 emission which NEVER HAPPEN BEFORE and is accelerating.

    Comment by baal — 6 Jan 2007 @ 10:08 AM

  145. Offtopic, but today I read the 2004 Damon and Laut paper (http://www.realclimate.org/damon&laut_2004.pdf) and on searching for followup papers and references to it I came across co2science.org’s summary of it: co2science.org’s summary of the Damon&Laut 2004

    Read them both and find out just how misleading co2science.org are willing to be.

    Comment by cthulhu — 6 Jan 2007 @ 10:37 AM

  146. Re “Realistically, would anyone care to make a prediction about what will be the first year in which global CO2 emissions are lower than the year before?”

    2051, because there’s a massive economic collapse starting in 2050 (in my SF and horror novels). :)

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Jan 2007 @ 11:33 AM

  147. Re “Having read Pielke’s blog for some time, it seems that he is often guilty of rather childish attacks on leading scientist to gather attention to himself and pique the interests of the media. Makes one think of a clever grad student who can’t do create anything important, yet struts around with a false confidence borne from poking holes in the ideas of others.
    At the same time, he quite obviously ignores the obvious distortions of climate change denialists and other contrarians, which gains him subtle approval from Fox News and an apparent invitation to write for Cato’s Regulation Magazine.
    If this makes Pielke a “third way” guy, then we need to think about a fourth. There’s just not much in the way of substance other than a biased attempt to define oneself as a “centrist” and continuous self-promotion to journalists who should know better.”

    Whether he’s a third way guy or not, this kind of ad hominem really doesn’t belong here. I’m surprised the moderators even allowed this to be posted. If Pielke makes bad arguments, attack those. That’s legitimate. But attacking his character is a logical fallacy.

    [Response: Fair point. Keep to the argument, not the man. Thanks. -gavin]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Jan 2007 @ 11:40 AM

  148. #143 But today the basic science seems essentially settled

    Which science?

    CO2->Forcing->Climate Change->Impacts->Alternatives->Policy

    CO2 – the chemistry and radiative properties are settled.
    However, the balance models of CO2 don’t indicate
    where the “soaked up” CO2 is going – this science isn’t settled.

    Forcing – that CO2 is emissive in the longwave is settled.
    However, forcing is dependent on temperature profiles.
    Processes which reduce temperature inversions also reduce
    the effectiveness of surface radiative warming. That is
    why the radiative forcing estimates are modeled
    rather than measured.
    While this problem may be bounded, the science is not settled.

    Climate Change – The IPCC range of projections, 1.5C to 4.5C
    is large. It is larger than the last thirty years
    observed century warming rate of just under 1.5C.
    If this is settled, the settling should indicate a warming
    around the observed.

    Further, the last thirty years observations do validate
    some important aspects of the GISS models –
    cooling stratosphere, warming maxima in the Arctic.
    However, observations invalidate the tropical tropospheric
    warming maxima modeled by GISS. Also, when one examines
    the stratospheric temperatures for the last thirty five
    years, the decade before El Chichon indicates a warming
    stratosphere, the period after El Chichon’s impact but
    before Pinatubo indicates a warming stratosphere,and
    the period since the impacts of Pinatubo indicates a
    stable if not slightly warming stratosphere.

    This science is not settled.

    Impacts – this science is entirely dependent on the
    science of climate change and so any uncertainty in
    the preceeding estimates are multiplied here.
    Impacts include beneficial and detrimental impacts.
    There is an absence of real analysis of beneficial impacts.
    This science is not settled.

    Alternatives – this science hasn’t really even been
    considered yet. There was the one paper, you recall,
    from the Princeton fellow who modeled that there would
    be significant climate change if the US got even
    ten percent of its electricity from wind turbines due to
    turbulent forcing. What would happen if we got all our
    motor fuel from Ethanol? Or all our electricity
    from solar? These things do have climate and ecosystem
    impacts. Ultimately, it may be that this issue
    is about population more than anything else.
    The science here is not settled.

    Policy – this is entirely out of the realm of science,
    but has the factorial of the cascade of uncertainties
    above.

    Comment by Steve — 6 Jan 2007 @ 11:45 AM

  149. Actually this idea of “consensus” being a heresy (or in the minority) is perhaps how it should be & should have been all along. Maybe this is a positive sign.

    I take “consensus” in the broad sense here to mean climate science in general. And that’s because non-scientists (those living in the world & concerned about it) should be on the “lower standard of proof re some great harm” side of science. They should be more concerned about avoiding false negatives (claiming there’s no problem when in fact there is) than false positives (you’d think). And these false-negative-avoiders should be in the vast majority yelling with shrill voices, with the scientists as a much smaller coterie of moderate voices crying in wilderness, “We’re not yet 95% certain that runaway warming or other extreme climate catastrophes will actually happen; we’re working on it night and day, but we’re just not 95% sure yet.”

    Unfortunately, the debate has been largely between the scientists versus the industry-government complex saying, “We need 99% or 101% certainty to accept it (and even if we get that we’re not going to do anything about it).”

    Now the media (at least here in the U.S.), aside from its tactic of keeping fairly silent over the past 16 years (“the silent treatment”), when it has spoken, has mainly used the “balanced coverage” format, but not between the public v. scientists, but between the industry people and the scientists (afterall many media are funded by oil, just as Republican and Democrat politicians are). Environmentalists and people living in the world have been squeezed out of the debate entirely — at least here in the U.S. Environmentalism even became a dirty word, something to be ashamed of and keep secret. Now at last the people are waking up, and many are becoming more aware of global warming (a person I know actually thought GW had been disproven when I spoke to her about it 2 years ago, because she had heard nothing about it in the media).

    The media’s real job is to be a bridge between the scientists and the false-negative avoiding public (rather than between industry and science). I think they are finally coming around to this, and they’re hearing our shrill voices. I credit Andy Revkin with being one of the very few media persons to keep GW an issue, and thanks also to the NYT. For many years he was out on the limb writing about GW, when hardly anyone else in the U.S. did (I don’t think the rest of the world really understands how meager the coverage on GW has been here in the U.S., and still is). And now at last the common people, the false-negative-avoiders are beginning to speak up, putting Andy himself in a more middling position. Perhaps he’s being assailed by these false-negative-avoiders. And that’s perhaps as it should be.

    At last the false-negative-avoiders are coming out of the woodwork and being heard here in the U.S., pushing the scientists, industrial denialists, and the non-skeptical heretics about which Andy refers into a more minority position. And you’d think that’s how it should have always been. (No offense against the scientists; we understand why you have to be false-positive-avoiders and are fine with that.)

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 6 Jan 2007 @ 11:55 AM

  150. Re “Human population has increased tangentially since around 1870, the rate of population can go no higher than what it is now. It only makes sense that any change in the climate, whether human or not, will affect this rate negatively. While this is probably a good thing, it stands to reason that humans population rates will drop dramatically with a rapid climate change. With all due respect for the folly of predicting what will happen, I do believe the human population will drop by 50 per cent by 2100. It only makes sense.”

    Are you or your descendants going to be in the 50% that survives?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Jan 2007 @ 12:03 PM

  151. >lower emissions
    It can happen — emissions went flat for a few years when the USSR collapsed.

    Data:
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/carbonemiss/chapter1.html (“collapse of the Soviet Union and the other communist governments in the late 1980s and early 1990s severely disrupted economies in the EE&FSU. For the region as a whole, economic growth did not return until the mid-to late-1990s.”)

    Bumper Sticker:
    http://www.fourmilab.ch/evilempire/ (“anticipating the obsolescence of railroad era continental-scale empires in the information age”).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Jan 2007 @ 12:12 PM

  152. Re “Physics shows us that fossil fuels contain a lot of CO2 and that CO2 absorbs infra red radiation released from the earths surface by a known amount.”

    This is almost right. The hydrocarbon fuels contain carbon, and when it burns it mixes with oxygen in the air to form CO2.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Jan 2007 @ 12:12 PM

  153. Re “Steve wrote in #96: “On the Brokaw television piece last summer, Hansen spoke of half of all living species going extinct due to AGW. This kind of irresponsible statement is not supported by science but becomes part of ‘consensus’.”
    Hansen’s statement was not “irresponsible” and it most certainly is “supported by science”.
    Diversity of Species Faces ‘Catastrophe’ from Climate Change
    by Steve Connor
    April 11, 2006
    The Independent / UK
    Tens of thousands of animals and plants could become extinct within the coming decades as a direct result of global warming.”

    There actually is a bit of a discrepancy here. The number of species of living organisms on the planet is estimated to be in the range 3-30 million. Most of those are probably insects, protozoans and bacteria. If Hansen meant 50% of ALL species he’s probably wrong, but he might have meant some subset.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Jan 2007 @ 12:20 PM

  154. About the extent of AGW I take a middle position , believing that both the Sceptics and the alarmists are wrong. One must remember that an issue like AGW can bring all kinds of cranks, alarmists and end of the worlders to the fore. It is important scientists keep their heads and publicise properly considered coverage of all the issues.
    On another issue it is often assumed that Co2 emissions will continue to the end of the century. Where will the fossil fuels come from? Oil will soon peak( and may have already done so). natural gas will follow soon after. Coal is more plentiful but if we use it for everything it will not last more than a few decades. Regardless of warming fears we will soon need another source of power anyway.

    Comment by David Price — 6 Jan 2007 @ 12:27 PM

  155. Re “The scientists can show evidence about the last common ancestor — a long time ago — and how its descendants became either us or monkeys, or any of our other near relations.

    Size, brain size, jawbones, age, habitat — you can look at the differences and dates.”

    Hank has it right. The evolution of humans is actually one of the better documented ones in the fossil record, with thousands of whole or partial specimens described. There have been between 5 and 15 species of humans, all but one of which have become extinct. (Five if you’re a lumper and 15 if you’re a splitter.)

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Jan 2007 @ 12:28 PM

  156. Feedback:
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2007/2006GL027977.shtml
    Abstract

    The Arctic shelf is currently undergoing dramatic thermal changes caused by the continued warming associated with Holocene sea level rise. During this transgression, comparatively warm waters have flooded over cold permafrost areas of the Arctic Shelf. A thermal pulse of more than 10°C is still propagating down into the submerged sediment and may be decomposing gas hydrate as well as permafrost. A search for gas venting on the Arctic seafloor focused on pingo-like-features (PLFs) on the Beaufort Sea Shelf because they may be a direct consequence of gas hydrate decomposition at depth. Vibracores collected from eight PLFs had systematically elevated methane concentrations. ROV observations revealed streams of methane-rich gas bubbles coming from the crests of PLFs. We offer a scenario of how PLFs may be growing offshore as a result of gas pressure associated with gas hydrate decomposition.

    Received 23 August 2006; accepted 20 November 2006; published 5 January 2007.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Jan 2007 @ 12:45 PM

  157. Re #148
    “The IPCC range of projections, 1.5C to 4.5C
    is large. It is larger than the last thirty years
    observed century warming rate of just under 1.5C.
    If this is settled, the settling should indicate a warming around the observed.”

    -The warming in the last 30 years is a lot less than 1.5C
    -The 1.5-4.5C range of warming is for a doubling of co2 and so far co2 has only risen 35% since the industrial revolution.
    -The range is for the maximum eventual temperature rise. There is a lag time before that is reached. Ie even if you set co2 levels to 560ppm today, it would take time for temperatures to rise to the maximum.

    Taking all this into account there is no contradiction between the warming observed in the past 30 years and the (old) IPCC climate sensitivity range.

    Comment by cthulhu — 6 Jan 2007 @ 1:32 PM

  158. #141: “On the contrary, much of the current escalation of change is indeed spurred by man-made activities. That’s the point in all of this.”

    I am certainly not disputing this. I’m just saying that people are likely to misinterpret AGW claims, so it’s helpful to use very careful language when explaining it. Catastrophic language is attention-grabbing, but I just feel it often digs the trenches deeper. I’ve conceded that if you want to an AGW-affected earth a “different planet”, fine, but I still argue the phrase is not very helpful. On the other hand, describing the changing migratory patters of birds _is_ helpful.

    #144 “Global warming itself is a worst case scenario.”

    I don’t understand what you mean by this. As I understand it, some level of AGW is inevitable. The question is how much. Unless you are denying this.

    “And every mentioning of a diffrent planet is a negative, because species cant adopt fast enough this means everything will colapse.”

    This is what I’m talking about. “Everything will col[l]apse”–what on earth does that mean? I doubt, for example, that global warming would turn the planet into a lifeless rock (and in fact nobody is saying it will). It could severely change our climate, our biosphere, our way of living, yes, and _possibly_ harm civilization itself. People just need to hear the realistic chances.

    “And your deforstation example is just wrong,as your complete reasoning is total off the road.”

    The ancient Greeks managed to deforest Greece without any industrial technology. The Romans probably did the same thing to Italy.

    “If you post here your own noobish guessing please provide a source aswell, doc.”

    Alright, if you insist: J. Donald Hughes has done the famous work on this subject. I’m not incredibly familiar with it, but I’m also not aware that he’s been refuted. However, I’d be happy to read any links you’d like to provide.

    “And you obviously dont follow the context or havening problems at last. Its the speed of Co2 emission which NEVER HAPPEN BEFORE and is accelerating.”

    Huh? I don’t deny that CO2 is being released very quickly and is speeding up. I agree that this is changing the climate, and might change it severely. All I’m saying is, popular language about AGW (usually found in the press and in politics) tends to ignore the real role that natural causes (like solar output, which _has_ played a role in 20th century warmth) _also_ play in changing climate. It’s important to make this clear, because otherwise skeptics can more easily use these facts against the claims of AGW. I’m just saying that alarmist language all by itself won’t be enough to change people’s minds. What they need are all the facts, stated clearly. (This is maybe not something our political system is well-built for.)

    Comment by mzed — 6 Jan 2007 @ 2:20 PM

  159. Re #119: Mike, you replied to Steve Sadlov “[Response: The 'big picture' reveals a fairly warm winter so far for the U.S. on the whole. December numbers not in from NOAA yet, but here's what November anomalies looked like. - mike]”

    Well, here’s what the year 2006 looked like for Fairbanks, Alaska http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/News/Review06.html

    Note: January 2006 was the coldest since 1971, with low temps bottoming out at -51F. November 2006 was 10F below average. Entire year was 1F below normal, with much below normal precip. Take a look at the current numbers in Alaska on January 6th http://www.rap.ucar.edu/weather/surface/displaySfc.php?region=pak&endDate=20070106&endTime=-1&duration=0
    Temps in the interior now hovering around -40F (20 F below normal). I guess we may all take comfort that it is still winter, even in our globally warmed world, and in places it will still get very cold. Give it about 7-10 days, and this cold air will plunge south into the lower 48. Most in the northeast US will be longing for these balmy temps to come back.

    [Response: Here over the entire lower 48 (sorry, NOAA's plots don't include Alaska) , temperatures for the past month have been above normal everywhere with the exception of a couple isolated patches along the Mexican border. Here in central PA where I live, the monthly mean temperature was about 8F above normal, with daily mean temperatures averaging just under 40F, rather than the typical 32F. For what its worth, The Weather Channel sees this anomalous warmth persisting for the forseeable future, with the daily max temperatures exceeding the long-term climatological mean January maximum of 32F on each of the next 10 days (take 10 day forecasts, needless to say, with a grain of salt!). Today, incidentally, max daily temperature records are falling in a large number of cities across the eastern U.S. This segment on the Weather Channel provides a reasonable perspective regarding the potential roles of both El Nino and global warming on this year's winter, though in my view it probably overplays the role of purely deterministic factors, particularly for this single latest warm spell. But it is worth listening too. Now, lets all try to return to the main topic of the post. Thanks. -Mike]

    Comment by Bryan Sralla — 6 Jan 2007 @ 2:40 PM

  160. The physics of CO2 heat absorbtion is understood and I see no one questioning it not where the additional 100 ppm has come from, us burning fossil fuels. However some may argue about the implications for the Earth system and how we model it on computers and the like due to the nature of how science is carried out. Science is generally reductionist and abstracted (to simplify matters) so that real coherent data can be gathered. The science of equilibium thermodynamics is well understood I believe (Sadi Carnot and others worked it out many moons ago) but less is known of far from equilibrium thermodynamics, perturbation of such systems (of which the earth could be one) too much could result in some very unpredictable and unforseen effects for the Earth system as a whole. The very nature of complex systems is there strong feedbacks and intereacting parts especially is they interact strongly which can upset things when perturbed to much.

    I personally would suggest that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts when it comes to stufying Earth and that could defy proper truely predictable analysis and hence this is what the new climate alarmists are counting on to get there message across James Lovelock style.

    I believe that most climate alarmists are part of this GAIA non linear far from equilibrium thermodynamics group.

    Comment by Pete Best — 6 Jan 2007 @ 3:11 PM

  161. First of @mzed, i mainly replyed to you because of this statement in 137:

    I guess it’s just your point of view, so alright, we can call it a different planet…and I’m not trying to downplay the real dangers at stake here. What I’m trying to say is, climate change just happens. With or without humans.

    You downlplay this, here and your rhetoric cant hide this. The scientific consensus is that global warming is happening and that humans contribute to this.

    Catastrophic language is attention-grabbing

    Not when the forecast is catastrophic, as it is!
    Also re read comment 30, quote

    The language of catastrophe is not the language of science.

    Really? Do events that everyone recognises as catastrophic – earthqaukes, volcanic eruptions, flu epidemics, AIDS, flooding etc. exist somewhere outside the realm of science? As metaphysical constructs? Spiritual beings? Metaphor?

    AGW-affected earth a “different planet”, fine, but I still argue the phrase is not very helpful. On the other hand, describing the changing migratory patters of birds _is_ helpful.

    This goes hand in hand, because most birds will go extinct over this – the extinction again triggering other food webs and such which lead to even more extinction.

    To read more on this we need to look back into time see this link posted in comment 98, (copy past complete URL) http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/asection/la-sci-climate5jan05,1,4828203.story?coll=la-news-a_section

    I don’t understand what you mean by this. As I understand it, some level of AGW is inevitable. The question is how much. Unless you are denying this.

    Again look back in time, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_Gun_Hypothesis and this is the biggest threat to the planet life forms, triggered by humans.

    1.) definition of a diffrent planet:
    This will depend on how we react now, how fast we lower emission in the next 10 years, and depending on this, there are diffrent stages of a diffrent planet from AGW.
    A worst case scenario here would look like(to me this is still optimistic):

    Within the next decade or two, Lovelock forecasts, Gaia will hike her thermostat by at least 10 degrees. Earth, he predicts, will be hotter than at any time since the Eocene Age 55 million years ago, when crocodiles swam in the Arctic Ocean.
    “There’s no realisation of how quickly and irreversibly the planet is changing,” Lovelock says. “Maybe 200 million people will migrate close to the Arctic and survive this. Even if we took extraordinary steps, it would take the world 1,000 years to recover.”

    http://www.peopleandplanet.net/doc.php?id=2900

    2.) You can allready read about problems of species all over the planet, due to the mild winter and the increasing speed of climate zones shifts to the poles.Examples from todays news: *Related to this there are allready like 20 other news from current media coverage: polar bears, fish et cetera.

    Climate change kills hedgehogs

    Climate change is being blamed as hundreds of young hedgehogs in Scotland face an agonising death this winter because they have been born out of season.

    http://www.theherald.co.uk/news/77885.html

    Italy: Climate change brings back malaria
    http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/008200701061550.htm

    Comment by baal — 6 Jan 2007 @ 3:18 PM

  162. re: 159. “Give it about 7-10 days, and this cold air will plunge south into the lower 48. Most in the northeast US will be longing for these balmy temps to come back.”

    No. The pattern has been quite consistent all winter. The Bermuda High has continually re-established itself over the SE after very brief cold intrusions. And the latest model runs (ECMWF, Canadian, GFS) show that ridge will strengthen again after a reasonably short-lived cold snap. That cold air will not plunge south into the lower 48 for very long and certainly not establish itself over New England. A return to seasonable temperatures is certainly likely but that is not a “plunge”.

    Comment by Dan — 6 Jan 2007 @ 4:45 PM

  163. Tom Huntington’s post #57 was indeed well put. May I suggest we put them on a scale between 1.5 and 4.5 with 3.0 being the ‘middle’?

    Comment by Geoff — 6 Jan 2007 @ 7:48 PM

  164. “You downlplay this, here and your rhetoric cant hide this. The scientific consensus is that global warming is happening and that humans contribute to this.”

    Again, this is an example of what I’m talking about. I state a scientific _fact_, that climate change in general does indeed happen naturally from time to time. That is a blatant fact, backed up by myriad scientific studies. *Nothing* in what I said suggests that I don’t think that global warming is happening and that we are contributing to it. Nothing. In fact I _certainly do agree_ that global warming is happening, and that we are contributing to it. But instead I’m accused of using “rhetoric” to “hide” my true beliefs.

    “Not when the forecast is catastrophic, as it is!”

    Sorry for the confusion–I didn’t mean it’s attention-grabbing in a bad way.

    “Really? Do events that everyone recognises as catastrophic – earthqaukes, volcanic eruptions, flu epidemics, AIDS, flooding etc. exist somewhere outside the realm of science? As metaphysical constructs? Spiritual beings? Metaphor?”

    Again, I am not saying we can’t call global warming a potential catastrophe. I’m just saying that, as in a scientific journal, when the _evidence_ is being presented, it should be presented as calmly as possible.

    “This goes hand in hand, because most birds will go extinct over this – the extinction again triggering other food webs and such which lead to even more extinction.”

    I am not going to argue about this any more. As you can see, phrases like “different planet” can mean different things to different people. You are free to use it however you want.

    “To read more on this we need to look back into time see this link posted in comment 98″

    Sure–that’s a good example of what I’m talking about.

    “Again look back in time, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clathrate_Gun_Hypothesis and this is the biggest threat to the planet life forms, triggered by humans.”

    Sure, I agree. But no one really knows how likely this is, and in generally it’s considered an extreme scenario (and most warming models don’t suggest a warming of 5C). Of course it’s a danger, but if you don’t explain how likely or unlikely it is, people will not take you seriously.

    “Within the next decade or two, Lovelock forecasts, Gaia will hike her thermostat by at least 10 degrees. Earth, he predicts, will be hotter than at any time since the Eocene Age 55 million years ago, when crocodiles swam in the Arctic Ocean.”

    Ahem. From the same article:

    “Lovelock’s radical view of global warming doesn’t sit well with David Archer, a scientist at the University of Chicago and a frequent contributor to the Web site RealClimate, which accepts the reality of global warning.

    ‘No one, not Lovelock or anyone else, has proposed a specific quantitative scenario for a climate-driven, blow the doors off, civilization ending catastrophe,’ writes Archer.”

    I would never want to say it couldn’t happen, but I do think that scientists need to distance themselves from comments like Lovelock’s.

    Comment by mzed — 6 Jan 2007 @ 10:32 PM

  165. > no one … has proposed a specific quantitative scenario for a climate-driven, blow the doors off, civilization ending catastrophe …

    This is rather highly qualified to be very reassuring, however.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jan 2007 @ 12:22 AM

  166. Re: mzed

    Perhaps the reception to your comments well illustrates the difficulties in communication. Indeed you never denied that global warming is real and man-made, but several readers took your posts to represent such a denial.

    I think the reason is that we’ve so often heard such phrases as, “… climate change just happens. With or without humans,” but invariably they’ve come from denialists who are attempting to minimize or deny human contribution. So, while your bare words were correct, the language you’ve used is reminiscent of denialist propoganda. Clearly this triggered the ire or some readers!

    I’m not sure I agree with your thesis. Discussing the problem in public in “pure, rational scientific terms” may not be the most effective was to motivate action. Determining the future progress of climate change is a purely scientific endeavor, but motivating populations and politicians to action is a social and psychological undertaking; we can’t expect the purely scientific approach to be the most effective technique. Consider, e.g., the rise of the Nazi regime; if Churchill had discussed the threat of Nazism in the most cool-headed scientific terms rather than spoken of a “gathering storm,” might it have sabotaged his ability to motivate public opinion?

    Comment by Grant — 7 Jan 2007 @ 12:36 AM

  167. Well i don’t know why you refering to natural climate cycles in current debate. To me at least this is missleading. And this is widley used by oiled deniers.
    The last couple thousand years we had a balanced climate state on earth. And besides natural climate cycles we face now the consequences of our greenhouse gas emission and contributing factors.

    We talk about efffects of climate change i.e. _birds_ who become effected of i.e. born in wrong season.

    And than we talk about _predictions_ based on the data of ice cores and sediments.

    Now, i agree the science always should be calm and presented in a serious way. But it needs to address the full scale of possibilities.

    I do not agree to just present a part of the scale of consequences. And i do not understand why you or other want to distance themself from a special worst case scenario forecast, specially when everything is at risc!

    As you can see, phrases like “different planet” can mean different things to different people. You are free to use it however you want.

    This is just not right, you are not free to use it however you want!

    To quote James Hansen on this topic:

    Role of Scientists
    A. Painting a Picture: �A Different Planet�
    A few words about the role of scientists in the global warming discussion
    (Chart 9: Threat to the Planet).
    As scientists, I believe that we have ethical responsibilities, just as medical doctors have
    to their patients

    Climate Sensitivity: �Slow Feedbacks Happening Fast�
    (Chart 2: The �Little� Climate Whip-Saw)
    First, climate sensitivity. The long-standing �Charney� problem has been solved. If
    continents are fixed as at present, ice sheets are fixed, vegetation distributions are fixed � global
    climate sensitivity for doubled CO2 is about 3°C. This Charney sensitivity includes fast
    feedback processes � water vapor, sea ice, clouds. Models have inherent uncertainties, but
    comprehensive empirical data for the last ice age implies a sensitivity of about three degrees.
    The size of ice sheets for the past 400,000 years is known from sea level data, and
    greenhouse gas amounts are known for the same period. Taking these as boundary conditions, or
    forcings, shows that the same Charney fast feedback sensitivity fits the entire period. However ,
    the ice sheets and greenhouse gases are feedbacks on these time scales, driven by small forcings
    due to slow changes in the Earth�s orbit. In response to these small forcings the Earth is whip-
    sawed through dramatic climate changes. Positive feedbacks reign supreme.
    Yet these climate changes, however staggering they seem to humans, with 400 foot
    changes of sea level, and New York, Minneapolis and Seattle under ice sheets thicker than our
    tallest sky-scraper, are just the �little whip saw�. Consider the changes that have occurred on
    longer time scales, for example, global warming events such as that at the Paleocene-Eocene
    boundary, driven at least in part by methane hydrate release.
    Go back further to the greatest whip-saw of all, �snowball Earth� events in the
    Proterozoic, and the most recent one, which ushered in the Cambrian period. The Earth froze all
    the way to the equator, and after greenhouse gases accumulated and some melting began, the
    planet was whipsawed to hellish hothouse conditions.
    We live on a planet whose climate is dominated by positive feedbacks, which are capable
    of taking us to dramatically different conditions. The problem that we face now is that many
    feedbacks that came into play slowly in the past, driven by slowly changing forcings, will come
    into play rapidly now, at the pace of our human-made forcings, tempered a few decades by the
    oceans thermal response time.


    Climate Range: �The Garden of Eden�
    (Chart 3: Warm Pool Temperature for Past Million Years)
    Civilization developed during the past several thousand years in the tranquil Holocene,
    temperature hardly changing, shorelines practically fixed. Our infrastructure has been built for
    that planet. Some previous interglacials were warmer than the Holocene, but, with the warming
    of the past few decades, we are now within about 1°C of the warmest interglacial. If we follow
    business-as-usual greenhouse gas emissions, the warming this century due to just the fast
    feedback processes will approach 3°C. But surely additional feedbacks would start to come into
    play, with dark evergreen forests moving poleward, tundra melting and possibly releasing
    methane hydrates, ice sheets beginning to shrink. It would be a different planet, with no sea ice
    in the Arctic, with many species of life driven to extinction, with ice sheet disintegration and
    rising sea level out of our control, more intense hot dry conditions in spreading subtropical areas
    such as the western U.S., the Mediterranean, Middle East and parts of Africa. The semi-arid part
    of the United States, stretching from West Texas through Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the
    Dakotas is likely to have more extensive droughts and be less suited for agriculture. As
    isotherms move poleward, so too will pests and diseases normally associated with low latitudes.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/agu_communicating.pdf

    Tell me why you want to distance science from Lovelock?

    A scientist either should present work, which shows how Lovelock is wrong, or should be quiet. Everything else is downplaying potential risc of climate forceing and has nothing todo with science.
    Yes we can argue the way how he trys to sensible the public about our “hellish” future.

    Comment by baal — 7 Jan 2007 @ 1:32 AM

  168. RE#164,

    Everything happens ‘naturally’ – but what you are talking about is a problem in academic science departments. Natural systems don’t make any distinction between physics, chemistry and biology – those divisions are products of the development of human scientific inquiry over the last few millenia. The atmosphere isn’t distinguishing between what photosynthetic algae, redwood trees, elephants or human beings do. A molecule of CO2 in the atmosphere is just that – CO2 molecules may have a variable isotopic composition, but they absorb infrared in a very similar manner.

    We are part of these natural systems, like it or not. We breathe in oxygen, eat photosynthetically generated food, and breathe out carbon dioxide, just like beetles, lizards, tigers and blue whales do. Unlike other animals, however, we’ve dug up buried reservoirs of organic hydrocarbons and burned them for energy (heat & work), and this has changed the atmospheric content of CO2 – which traps infrared radiation from the planet’s surface, thereby warming the planet.

    Now, if we had done this very slowly, it might have taken climate about a thousand years to change drastically – which was Arrhenius’ prediction c.1900, However, due to rapid population growth and increased use of fossil fuels for energy, we’ve increased atmospheric CO2 far more rapidly – and everything from basic physics to detailed computer models to actual real-time observations is telling us that the planet is warming very rapidly, with no end in sight uncer business-as-usual scenarios.

    If the planet had had a slightly different geological history, we might have ended up with only 1/2 of the fossil fuels that actually exist – and we’d already be running everything on solar power. However, if we take the remaining fossil fuel reserves and inject them into the atmosphere, the Lovelockian scenario is highly likely. If we stop burning fossil fuels and replace them as soon as possible with renewables, the effects will be severe but hopefully not totally catastrophic.

    I do think Lovelock’s notion of “Gaia’s Revenge” is a little silly and it also promotes the notion that humans are not part of the natural system. In fact, I think that “Gaia Theory” should be renamed. “Pele Theory” (after the notoriously unpredictable Hawaiian volcano goddess) is probably closer to the truth.. though “Earth Systems Science” is really what we are talking about, which is itself just a subset of “Planetary Systems Science”. Scientists don’t need to ‘distance themselves’ from Lovelock, however – any more then they need to distance themselves from Richard Dawkins (put Dawkins and Lovelock in one room, and you have a Punch & Judy show). Actually, anyone can be a scientist – all you have to do is pay attention to what’s going on around you – and access to a scientific education (math, physics, chem, bio, etc.) does help.

    Scientists need to focus on collecting accurate data and comparing that to theoretical (mathematical) predictions. The result of this scientific inquiry into climate over the past century has been this: we are heading into a rapidly warming climate due to human influences on the atmosphere. Scientists who work on converting solar energy (including wind and biofuels) into useful forms of energy will also be following the basic scientific approach of experimental and observational data / theory comparisons.

    What the general public needs is clear scientific explanation of this issue so that societies can mobilize the necessary resources to take the world off of fossil fuels as an energy source, and to replace energy needs using renewables and conservation. However, vested interests in the fossil fuel industry have been doing all they can to prevent this from happening because they are afraid of change, which will undoubtedly be difficult and costly. This nihilistic approach (eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die) is completely irrational – and thanks to sites like RC, and the work of many other people, the information is percolating out to the general public – and the sooner the better.

    If you want more technical details, read all the posts on realclimate, and the references & books cited here. Take a look at all the graphs I linked to in #139 on this thread, for example.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 7 Jan 2007 @ 2:26 AM

  169. Just a quick comment on the language of the NYT article. It’s clear to me that the changes that the world is facing, in terms of GW, ocean level rising, increased storm strength, et. al., are potentially catastrophic and will be debilitating (sp) to the world’s social, economic, geo-political, and natural systems. What I wanted to remark on was the use of religious terminology in the article. We haven’t seen the use of “heresy” since the Middle Ages, as if climate change, and all things related, are the New Religion.

    I know there are much greater points to discuss, and I’m an avid follower, but as an English Teacher, I can’t help but notice the words. I wonder what a Climate-Minded place of worship would look like? A scientist’s laboratory? A flooded street in New Orleans?

    I’m currently living in an area of England (West Norfolk) that has been reclaimed from the sea for the last eight centuries or so, known as the Fens. My house sits a precarious few meters above sea level, and the whole area is monitored for flooding, with warning systems in place to alert people to move to higher ground (which, in some cases, is quite a few miles away).

    I have to wonder if I should have started building my ark already…

    Comment by Thomas Palmer — 7 Jan 2007 @ 5:19 AM

  170. The other issue that the alarmists come back to is the rate of CO2 release which is unprecedented apparantly in earths history. This rate of CO2 release is high and hence we could experience alarming consequences due to unprecedented stress being placed on earths subsystems in which they cannot cope with this rate of warming.

    I am sure that potentially the alarmists could have many valid points regarding sudden warming (by earth climate standards anyways) but at the present time the science does not appear to bear this out. Only James Lovelock seems to embrace the doom of climate change.

    Comment by pete best — 7 Jan 2007 @ 5:38 AM

  171. > no one … has proposed a specific quantitative scenario for a climate-driven, blow the doors off, civilization ending catastrophe …

    What about Wally Broecker and his angry beast? He has pointed out that if we get an abrupt climate change with a world populationof 6.5 billion we will be in big trouble. See http://faculty.washington.edu/wcalvin/teaching/Broecker99.html

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 7 Jan 2007 @ 9:10 AM

  172. Re: #170

    I am sure that potentially the alarmists could have many valid points regarding sudden warming (by earth climate standards anyways) but at the present time the science does not appear to bear this out. Only James Lovelock seems to embrace the doom of climate change.

    I disagree. The most objective scientific evidence on the effect of sudden climate change is the distant past. The science indicates that in the distant past, sudden climate change may well have been the root cause of mass extinctions.

    This is no way establishes it as a fact! But clearly the science supports Lovelock’s gloomy outlook as a distinct (rather than remote) possibility.

    Comment by Grant — 7 Jan 2007 @ 11:15 AM

  173. With mounting evidence of dynamic climate cycles what real effect can humankind have on interdicting Earth’s natural process? See: http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/20070004210624data_trunc_sys.shtml

    Comment by Craig Moore — 7 Jan 2007 @ 11:55 AM

  174. Try this assumption: methane hydrates are currently in equilibrium — the amount in solid form is held there by current conditions, rather than having been somehow produced and locked down so it is stable and won’t convert to gas incrememtally as temperature increases.

    Add this assumption: methane hydrate will convert to gas locally, not globally.

    Add this assumption: warming is producing local extremes and spikes, not smooth change.

    I think we’ll soon be hearing reassurances to the effect that, while perhaps it’s true that local areas of gas hydrates are indeed starting to bubble out of the ocean, stirring the sea floor and exposing the remaining solid in the area to further warming, we aren’t at risk of catastrophe because it’s only small local instances where brief moments of extreme warm temperature have occurred due to temporary changes in conditions, and there is no imminent hazard because the overall average temperature isn’t that much higher.

    No, it’s not quantified.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jan 2007 @ 12:07 PM

  175. Apart from the dramtic climate consequences bit this article says it all to me.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10507-carbon-emissions-rising-faster-than-ever.html

    450 seems to be inevitable whilst 550 ppm is likely if we keep to business as usual energy burning scenarios. CO2 use must be reduced some how and that with a 50% only fossil fuel allotment, the rest coming from renewables and nuclear I would imagine.

    Comment by pete best — 7 Jan 2007 @ 12:52 PM

  176. Re: #173

    With mounting evidence of dynamic climate cycles what real effect can humankind have on interdicting Earth’s natural process?

    Here’s one: humankind has raised CO2 concentration to levels not seen for, oh, about 23 million years or so.

    Your claim of “mounting evidence of dynamic climate cycles” is laughable; we’ve known that there are dynamic climate cycles for over a century. It seems to me that your statement is a thinly veiled attempt to insinuate that modern climate science is woefully ignorant of the magnitude and significance of natural phenomena. Couldn’t be more wrong.

    Comment by Grant — 7 Jan 2007 @ 1:58 PM

  177. 0.000450 atmospheric CO2 mole fraction is not inevitable because it takes much less energy to pull a mole of CO2 from that sort of diluteness than is yielded when fossil fuel containing a mole of carbon is burned. Very little of the Earth’s land surface will be needed to zero or make negative our net rate of CO2 emission; to illustrate this I like to say that while a tropical biodiesel farm 100 miles across could support a couple million diesel Hummer clones, the same area dedicated only to CO2 capture and sequestration would not need to be tropical and could make carbon-neutral all the Hummer clones and coal-to-gasoline plants the far east is ever likely to want.

    Nuclear energy has, and will for many centuries continue to have, exceedingly low carbon dioxide emissions, so low that nuclear-powered production of hydrocarbons could readily make them net zero. Assertions to the contrary do not appear to be meant to deceive anyone, merely, like the frequently revisited idiocies of AGW contrarians, to waste time in dispute. If successful they have a similar effect of protecting governments’ fossil fuel tax income.

    As such they usually depend on one or a handful of studies that have not passed peer review, ignoring the work of genuine scholars on the same question. Despite the unwritten mandate to find against nuclear energy that is implied by a UK government charter* the UK’s “Sustainable Development Commission” did dig up those genuine inquiries, and in section 4.4 of their Paper 2: Reducing CO2 emissions – nuclear and the alternatives they say,

    The average amount of CO2 emitted by nuclear power in Western Europe is estimated at 16tCO2/MWh for a Pressurised Light Water Reactor (PWR)… several sources have made estimates around this figure… By contrast, coal emits around 891tCO2/MWh while gas is around 356tCO2/MWh…

    In section 4.7,

    … in a low carbon economy, the indirect emissions from nuclear power, along with other low carbon technologies, would be substantially reduced.

    Section 7.2 gives references, many of them web-accessible.

    * A government that takes very large fossil fuel profits from its subjects in the form of fuel consumption taxes.

    Comment by Burn boron in pure O2 for car power — 7 Jan 2007 @ 2:43 PM

  178. Re #159: Mike, thanks for the weather discussion. I wouldn’t bet on the Weather Channel’s model forecast for above normal in the northeast for the foreseeable future. Take a look at this http://www.cdc.noaa.gov/map/images/ens/t850anom_nhsm_animation.html . Usually the model predictions of cold arctic air are way underdone since a thin layer of cold air oozes out underneath 850 MB. If I were in the NE, I would get ready for a return to winter soon. Promise, no more weather talk.

    Comment by Bryan Sralla — 7 Jan 2007 @ 3:01 PM

  179. Cthulhu- your comparison is incredbile. CO2 “science” have avoided the point of the Damon and Laut paper, which is to show that increased solar activity is not responsible for the warming of the past 30 years.

    Comment by guthrie — 7 Jan 2007 @ 3:04 PM

  180. Re#179 and #145,

    See http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=24 for a little background on the “Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Climate Change” – they are a public relations group funded by ExxonMobile.

    There are many other such front groups; for example the Competive Enterprise Institute recieves 9% of its funding from Exxon, and runs misleading ads as well:

    http://www.factcheck.org/article395.html
    “The business-backed Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) released two ads last week (May 2006) to “counter global warming alarmism.”

    One of the ads says research shows “The Antarctic ice sheet is getting thicker, not thinner. . . Why are they trying to scare us?” Actually, scientists say increased snowfall in Antarctica’s interior is evidence that global warming is taking place. Scientists also say that the ice sheet is melting at the ocean’s edge and a recent report says it is shrinking overall.

    The ads drew a protest from a University of Missouri professor who says they are “a deliberate effort to confuse and mislead the public about the global warming debate.” He said one of them misuses a study he published in Science magazine last year on the Antarctic ice sheet. An editor of Science also said the ads misrepresent the findings of that study as well as a second study on Greenland’s glaciers.

    The second CEI ad notes that carbon dioxide (CO2) is “essential to life,” and says, “they call it pollution. We call it life.” That ad fails to mention that too much CO2 can cause global temperatures to rise or that there is more of it in the atmosphere than any time during the last 420,000 years.”

    Note that the best records only go back 420,000 years (Vostok Ice Core) and a more probable statement is that these are the highest atmospheric CO2 levels seen in over 3 million years.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 7 Jan 2007 @ 4:42 PM

  181. Re 172 Lovelock’s predictions are science fiction. They presume warming far in excess of those predicted by the models. Also Sterns report for the government. The media in Britain treat both as gospel. That is why scientists must publicise the proper data to prevent such things gaining ground.

    Comment by David Price — 7 Jan 2007 @ 6:30 PM

  182. In my self-published memoir about the travels of a seasonal fish biologist wandering through clear-cuts looking for fish, I called for more political involvement by scientists, in order to influence the decision-makers who seem to be divorced from the facts of any matter. Recommend this course? Okay, now we’ll just do the opposite to spite you. Thanks for participating.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 7 Jan 2007 @ 8:31 PM

  183. #166:

    “Perhaps the reception to your comments well illustrates the difficulties in communication. Indeed you never denied that global warming is real and man-made, but several readers took your posts to represent such a denial.”

    Exactly. I can understand _why_ this triggered the reaction, but that doesn’t mean it was justified. Just because I state the same _facts_ as agw deniers doesn’t mean I’m one of them. That goes for anyone else, too. That is one of the points I’m trying to drive home.

    “Discussing the problem in public in “pure, rational scientific terms” may not be the most effective was to motivate action…motivating populations and politicians to action is a social and psychological undertaking”

    Yes, there is nothing wrong with doing both science and policy. But that doesn’t mean they are the same thing. _Science does not imply policy._ People imply policy. I realize it is difficult to keep them separate; I’m just saying we should try.

    “if Churchill had discussed the threat of Nazism in the most cool-headed scientific terms rather than spoken of a “gathering storm,” might it have sabotaged his ability to motivate public opinion? ”

    Yes, but: Naziism was a political problem, not a scientific one!

    #167:

    “The last couple thousand years we had a balanced climate state on earth. And besides natural climate cycles we face now the consequences of our greenhouse gas emission and contributing factors…Now, i agree the science always should be calm and presented in a serious way. But it needs to address the full scale of possibilities.”

    All of this is true, and I agree.

    “I do not agree to just present a part of the scale of consequences. And i do not understand why you or other want to distance themself from a special worst case scenario forecast, specially when everything is at risc!”

    You are right, all possibilities should be presented–but you shouldn’t present a worst-case scenario as though it were inevitable. Otherwise people won’t take you seriously.

    “This is just not right, you are not free to use it however you want!”

    I meant *you personally* can use it as you see fit. Whatever you think is best. I am not arguing about it any more.

    “Tell me why you want to distance science from Lovelock?”

    Lovelock’s reasoning may be correct, but he is talking about events that would require a 5C+ rise in temperatures. Not even the worst-case IPCC scenario calls for that any more. Again, I’m not saying it *couldn’t* happen, but there is little reason to expect it.

    Re-read what I wrote: an editor of RealClimate himself distances himself from Lovelock’s comments. Ask RealClimate themselves if you want an answer, I guess.

    Do you agree with Lovelock that “We desperately need a Moses to take us to the Arctic and preserve civilization”?

    Comment by mzed — 7 Jan 2007 @ 9:42 PM

  184. “We are part of these natural systems, like it or not.”

    Sure, I agree.

    “Now, if we had done this very slowly, it might have taken climate about a thousand years to change drastically”

    Sure, maybe–or not. I’m just saying people need to know the likelihood in order to take it seriously.

    “However, if we take the remaining fossil fuel reserves and inject them into the atmosphere, the Lovelockian scenario is highly likely.”

    Well, that depends on how many reserves there actually are. Not that I would want to try and find out. Again, there is some uncertainty here. And of course the climate could evolve in some unexpected way. Again, not that I would want to try and find out. I’m just trying to say that we should be honest about what we _don’t_ know.

    “Scientists don’t need to ‘distance themselves’ from Lovelock, however – any more then they need to distance themselves from Richard Dawkins”

    Do *you* think we need a Moses to lead all of civilization closer to the arctic circle?

    “(put Dawkins and Lovelock in one room, and you have a Punch & Judy show).”

    Haha

    “Actually, anyone can be a scientist – all you have to do is pay attention to what’s going on around you – and access to a scientific education (math, physics, chem, bio, etc.) does help.”

    Sure, but I’m talking about professional scientists.

    Comment by mzed — 7 Jan 2007 @ 10:07 PM

  185. In my opinion, the two basic ingredients for a dangerous warming in 2100 are
    a- high emission scenario
    b- hight climate sensitivity

    Do we have any certainty in 2007 for a and b ? I don’t think so, even without mitigating actions for a). The point a) depends on the actual oil and gas reserves, and there is no consensus on it (see Witze’s new feature in Nature this week for a recent example). It also depends more broadly on the relative cost of fossil energies compared to renewable ones. The point b) depends on climate models computation, and there is still no consensus on it. The IPCC FAR estimate of 2-4,5°C (and 3°C best guest) seems to come from PDFs of intermodel comparison, but far larger ranges have been published in 2001-2007 litterature (from 1 to 10°C). And anyway, a PDF do not tell us if the convective-radiative / circulation physics of current models is OK for analyzing lapse rate, water vapour and nebulosity feedbacks.

    So, I think it’s not “heresy” but just good sense to be cautious on these two points. From these uncertainties, adopting or not a precautionary principle inspired energy policy is no more a scientific debate. Just a political one. Why not, but is it the role of RC ? I think we should focus more strictly on climate topics.

    Happy new year.

    Comment by Charles Muller — 7 Jan 2007 @ 10:24 PM

  186. Ike, the EPICA Dome C core is I think now 620K years back. They issued a challenge to modelers to predict what would be shown as they were doing the analysis, and you can see how well the modelers did by following the link (and links from the link).

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 7 Jan 2007 @ 11:11 PM

  187. Re: 183.

    For “anyone” to be a scientist they’d need to have at least one advanced degree in science or engineering. They’d probably also need some peer reviewed articles to be accepted as part of the team and taken seriously. It’s not what you know so much as who you know, and what you did to get where you are.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 7 Jan 2007 @ 11:28 PM

  188. It’s time for a 2.0 consensus, working out diffrent scenarios depending on Co2 emission ppm.

    Comment by sunling — 7 Jan 2007 @ 11:38 PM

  189. Professionals …

    A lifelong inventor, Lovelock has created and developed many scientific instruments, some of which have been adopted by NASA in its program of planetary exploration. It was while working for NASA that Lovelock developed the Gaia Hypothesis.

    In early 1961, Lovelock was engaged by NASA to develop sensitive instruments for the analysis of extraterrestrial atmospheres and planetary surfaces. The Viking program that visited Mars in the late 1970s was motivated in part to determining whether Mars supported life, and many of the sensors and experiments that were ultimately deployed aimed to resolve this issue.

    During work towards this program, Lovelock became interested in the composition of the Martian atmosphere, reasoning that any life forms on Mars would be obliged to make use of it (and, thus, alter it). However, the atmosphere was found to be in a stable condition close to its chemical equilibrium, with very little oxygen, methane or hydrogen, but with an overwhelming abundance of carbon dioxide.

    To Lovelock, the stark contrast between the Martian atmosphere and chemically-dynamic mixture of that of our Earth’s biosphere was strongly indicative of the absence of life on the planet. However, when they were finally launched to Mars, the Viking probes still searched for life there. To date no evidence for either extant or extinct life has been found (though interest has recently revived with the discovery of unexpected methane in the atmosphere).

    Lovelock invented the Electron Capture Detector, which ultimately assisted in discoveries about the persistence of CFCs and their role in stratospheric ozone depletion.

    Lovelock is currently president of the Marine Biological Association (MBA), was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1974, and in 1990 was awarded the first Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for the Environment by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. An independent scientist, inventor, and author, Lovelock works out of a barn-turned-laboratory in Cornwall. In 2003 he was appointed a Companion of Honour (CH) by Queen Elizabeth II.

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

    Radio interview with James Lovelock, KQED San Francisco, Sep 13, 2006
    http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R609130900

    Comment by sunling — 7 Jan 2007 @ 11:50 PM

  190. James Lovelock at the Science Media Centre 28/11/06
    Gaia Theory Development
    How did the theory come about? Why was Lovelock ostracised by his peers?
    Rightclick and save as…
    http://www.theecologistdownloads.org.uk/James_Lovelock_28_11_06_Gaia_Theory_Development.mp3
    More, but bad quality
    http://www.theecologist.co.uk/podcasts.asp

    Comment by sunling — 8 Jan 2007 @ 1:38 AM

  191. Stefan,

    Regarding your earlier assertion that Europe could potentially meet 100 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources, you may be a tad overoptimistic. Renewable energy (specifically wind and solar) tends to be problematic at dealing with peak-load demand, given unpredictable fluctuations in energy output (e.g. clouds, calm, storms, etc.). Spacial distribution of energy production is also a huge issue, as renewables tend to require more land per unit of energy output than fossil fuel sources. They are well-suited as primary energy sources (backed up by gas turbines, of course) for rural areas, but cannot effectively supply the majority of the energy needs for densely populated urban areas barring the development of a superconducting massive electrical grid, as you pointed out. However, such a grid would likely be prohibitively expensive.

    In general, most energy models examining GHG mitigation require the utilization of a significant amount of carbon sequestration (a backstop technology) to meet stabilization targets under 550 ppm CO2e. While renewables will certainly play an increasingly important role, existing technologies alone are not enough to yield the 60% to 80% reductions in emissions over the next 50 years that are necessary to avoid a 50% or greater probability of 3 degrees warming.

    For some good general background on energy system changes necessary to meet different GHG stabilization targets, see section three of the Stern Review and the IPCC special report on carbon sequestration. Also, working group III in the upcoming AR4 should have some good information on mitigation potentials for existing technologies and projected future technological development (e.g. learning curves for renewables, sequestration, etc.)

    [Response: The European supergrid currently under discussion is not superconducting, but a conventional grid with around 10 GW capacity. The costs for this are already factored into the study I referred to, which concluded the price of the renewable electricity would be similar to current electricity prices. This study is also based on observed hourly winds, so your concern about fluctuations in wind is fully taken care of. The backup is not by gas turbines but hydro, mostly the huge Norwegian hydro capacity - again, only possible to use that if we have the high-capacity grid! -stefan]

    Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 8 Jan 2007 @ 3:07 AM

  192. My personal 5C event

    “How scientific are numbers only?”

    Year Tmax Tm
    1960 28,8
    1961 19,1
    1962 28,4
    1963 24,3
    1964 25,8
    1965 18,9
    1966 17,4
    1967 23,6
    1968 23,6
    1969 19,1 22,9
    1970 19,9 22,01
    1971 21,0 22,2
    1972 21,8 21,54
    1973 27,9 21,9
    1974 24,8 21,8
    1975 18,9 21,8
    1976 28,0 22,86
    1977 21,1 22,61
    1978 26,2 22,87
    1979 18,8 22,84
    1980 17,6 22,61
    1981 19,4 22,45
    1982 20,9 22,36
    1983 24,0 21,97
    1984 23,6 21,85
    1985 28,9 22,85
    1986 16,4 21,69
    1987 24,3 22,01
    1988 21,8 21,57
    1989 29,0 22,59
    1990 32,7 24,1
    1991 28,8 25,04
    1992 23,0 25,25
    1993 18,8 24,73
    1994 24,7 24,84
    1995 23,6 24,31
    1996 25,7 25,24
    1997 34,8 26,29
    1998 21,1 26,22
    1999 25,3 25,85
    2000 28,2 25,4
    2001 32,3 25,75
    2002 27,5 26,2
    2003 29,3 27,25
    2004 22,7 27,05
    2005 26,3 27,32
    2006 23,2 27,07

    Tmax is maximum temperature on 24th of August in each year
    Tm is gliding mean over the last 10 Tmax
    measurement took place in Karlsruhe, Germany

    Comment by Andreas Mueller — 8 Jan 2007 @ 4:06 AM

  193. Re #172, It is quite plausable that currently little known positive feedbacks can accelerate global warming beyond that of current estimates, however the IPCC have considered these and hence I believe that between 1 and 6 degrees C of warming is the uncertainty in the exiting models.

    The reason why lovelocks science is seen as alarmist (essentially incorrect) is because in the main lovelock is assuming a lot more positive feedback that most scienists will acknowledge at the present time. Feedbacks like the siberian tundra melting and releasing more methane by far than current projections are allowing for which in turn cause more warming.

    Comment by pete best — 8 Jan 2007 @ 5:03 AM

  194. Re 172:
    Lovelock’s predictions of 8 degree C average global warming by 2100 and of strong carbon cycle feedbacks is within the range of projections suggested by Hadley Centre carbon cycle feedback models (http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/hadleycentre/models/carbon_cycle/results_trans.html) – they speak of 3 degree C extra warming over and above the 2001 IPCC projections being possible by 2100. So there certainly is a scientific basis for those claims (unfortunately he doesn’t reference his book properly, and readers have to go looking for themselves).

    Those Hadley Centre models can’t have been rejected by the IPCC in 2001 – they hadn’t even been published at the time.

    Comment by Almuth Ernsting — 8 Jan 2007 @ 8:15 AM

  195. Re comment 183

    Yes, but: Naziism was a political problem, not a scientific one!

    And science was able to stop it.

    Do you agree with Lovelock that “We desperately need a Moses to take us to the Arctic and preserve civilization”?

    See bottom link, in which Lovelock discribes exactly this, it’s a methaphor as the gaia hypothesis.

    I understand your reasoning, but your way of dealing with the issue is downplaying it. And you will always find people to disagree specialy on the most important topics. The surveival of the species. And you cant track this down on just Lovelock. One of the biggest Scientist warn about this! Hawking, Hansen, Broecker, Lovelock…
    The problem is its not rational for most of us – to face the extinction of our species in our lifetime(It is indeed a crazy, in compare to every aspect of our lifes).

    Study the above link to find out that the construct of Gaia itself is a mehaphor.
    The thing is, the weather patterns will generate temperature spikes. And when those happen during a heatwave – than will die thousands, hundred of thousand of people. We had such events to give us a taste of future anomalys. Or compare this january temperatures to summer. 7x degree in january (+30C above average), will be happen during summer too (115++). And this is just the start.

    We need to prepare, but in order todo we need the worst case examples.

    What happens if we stay on course just pumping more GHG into the air.
    What will happen if we change x% of energy to renewable.

    And actually eveerything we discuss is answered by Lovelock himself in this file:
    Radio interview with James Lovelock, KQED San Francisco, Sep 13, 2006
    http://www.kqed.org/epArchive/R609130900

    Comment by sunling — 8 Jan 2007 @ 8:40 AM

  196. A charitable reading of Revkin’s article is that he is muddling his way to a new framing of the debate in the post-Inhofe world: shifting from “denialists vs. believers” to “pragmatic moderates vs. alarmists”.

    But in doing so he would appear to be moving the debate one step forward and then at least one step back, by privileging the minimalist end of the response spectrum.

    He does this by, first, positioning his newly minted “heretic” minimalist response position (actually a fixture of the debate since at least the late 1980s) on the centrist high ground, rather than one end of a spectrum.

    Second, he sets them up as a reasonable and moderate alternative to the “alarmists” who give short thrift to caveats and nuance and actually make statements that might have a chance of stirring their audience out of its complacence, and support calls for urgent action to mitigate climate change.

    Anyone who tries to generate the public concern (a.k.a.: “shrill voices crying doom”) necessary to bring about significant policy shifts (and even, God forbid, emissions caps) is branded an alarmist.

    So we’ve got a situation where people like Roger Pielke and Bjorn Lomborg are presented as sensible middle-of-the-road moderates, just because they don’t deny the problem, while Al Gore and environmental groups are presented as panic-mongering and peddlers of climate p o r n.

    With the deck stacked like this, we might wish we still had Inhofe to kick around.

    Comment by Mark Lutes — 8 Jan 2007 @ 8:52 AM

  197. Given the inordinate attention given on this page to the unusually warm winter in the NE USA, I wonder if anybody will take the same interest in the unusually cold weather in India:

    http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/002200701070313.htm

    No, I’m not saying that it’s a signal of global cooling. No more than cherry trees blossoming in DC signal the warming.

    Comment by Sashka — 8 Jan 2007 @ 10:05 AM

  198. If you want something big and almost completely unknown that might give us Lovelock’s 5 degrees C warming — try Google Scholar for +pingo +methane and look at the 2003-2006 articles.

    Nobody seems to have a clear answer when methane hydrates formed or how — was it at the coldest ice age period? Was it at the deepest ocean period when the pressure was highest at any particular location?

    Nobody seems to have a clear idea when the methane comes back out of the ice either.

    Pingo?

    Nobody has had an answer for what these big conical structures and and pits are on- and off-shore in cold regions. I can’t find any geological record of them though presumably they were created along with the end of each glaciation at the warmest point, as it appears they’re characteristic of places methane ice has outgassed.

    If they only happened around the peak warm millenia after each glaciation then settled down again as the planet slowly cooled off after that peak, there wouldn’t be a whole lot of them to find in the stratigraphic work — anyone know if ‘fossil pingo’ structures are reported anywhere, like the way people find fossil creekbeds and other buried structures from prior epochs?

    If these pointy little bumps out of which methane is bubbling are indications of where and how we get methane hydrate converting to gas, that could explain why they’ve been a mystery to geologists up through the past few years. For a long time they were supposed to be something like ice heaves or hoarfrost, but apparently no.

    If in the glacial cycles of the past they were something that only happened briefly at the peak warming, then we may start finding them breaking out to a surprising extent as the planet goes into its warm excursion.

    Like an episode of heat rash.

    If this happened in past cycles only briefly, as glacial conditions resumed (because keeping methane hydrates solid is a function of both pressure and temperature —- a warm planet with deep oceans would have the high pressure of deep water at any given spot; as the planet cooled toward glaciation the depth of the water would decrease, reducing pressure and favoring release of the methane, but at the same time the temperature would also decrease, favoring keeping it a solid) — then there wouldn’t likely be a lot of pingos formed all the time.

    Just a scattering at the warmest millenia, perhaps?

    If so what’s happening now should be the tail end of a natural few millenia of leaking methane forming pingos.

    But if the last few centuries are warmer, maybe we’re getting a, um, rash of them?
    That would seem predictable as a result of the current spike in temperature, and would give us the extra jump in heat Lovelock anticipates —- because we’re getting the warmth much faster than we’re getting the increased ocean depth, so the methane hydrates should be experiencing conditions outside the normal range and more methane coming out than after any natural glacial cycle peaks. Except maybe the PETM?

    Someone competent in this field, please comment? I’m just digging around in the Google Scholar hits trying to put together some understanding of how much we know about this particular process, using weak tools like logic in the absence of any real scientific competence to understand this stuff. But it’s …. fascinating to watch happen.

    Another example from recent Google Scholar hits:
    Eos Trans. AGU, 85(47), Fall Meet. Suppl., C23A-0989
    TI: Sedimentology and Permafrost Characteristics of Pingo-Like Features (PLFs) from the Beaufort Sea shelf, NWT, Canada

    “Pingo-like features (PLFs) are rounded positive relief features commonly found on Beaufort Sea shelf, NWT. PLFs occur in water depths from 20 to 200m, are typically a few hundred meters in diameter and rise 10 to 35m above the seafloor. In the fall of 2003, an MBARI-USGS-GSC-DFO coring and geophysical study was undertaken of a number of PLFs. The crests, flanks and moats of 8 PLFs, as well as background shelf sites, were vibra-cored. Upon recovery, core temperatures of moat sediments ranged from 2.0 to -0.5 deg C and no ice bonding was observed. Sediments consisted of dark-olive-grey to black muds with shells. Sedimentary structures were rare with some finely laminated to finely-color-banded beds. Intense bioturbation, in situ marine shells and a lack of terriginous macrofossils suggest moat sediments were deposited in a shallow coastal environment. In some instances, a down core grain size coarsening was observed with higher organic content suggesting a gradational environment towards more lagoonal conditions. Core temperatures from the 8 PLFs were 0 to -1.7 deg C, significantly colder than the moat sediments. Ice-bonded permafrost was encountered within 1m of the seabed with visible ice content up to 40% by volume. Several ice-bonded intervals were preserved frozen for detailed investigation in the lab. The observed ground ice in the cores was quite unique when compared with visible ice forms commonly seen in regional terrestrial sections. The ice gave the core a vuggy texture with individual ice-filled vugs 10 to 200 mm3. Vugs were typically flattened to ovoid. When thawed, the ice produced excess water resulting in a very soft texture. In many cases the vuggy texture was maintained with sediment voids forming where the ice was. PLF crest sediments were massive silty clays with clayey silts and muddy fine sand interbeds. They generally lack sedimentary structures, although this may have been due to sediment structure loss upon thawing. The background seafloor sediments consisted of unfrozen, massive silty sands and sandy silts and were distinct from the crest and moat sediments. … Research continues to determine the origin of the PLFs and quantify the role of permafrost and ice formation. “

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Jan 2007 @ 10:45 AM

  199. re: 197

    I’ve always figured that it was axiomatic that before the temperature increases of GW became large enough to be there with us always that the chief meteorological feature of GW would be an increase in weather extremes: hotter hots, colder colds, wetter wets, and drier dries. The extra energy in the atmosphere would show up first in knocking the old patterns into a cocked hat. More energy means greater variety and a greater degree of discernible detail: big rains, crippling droughts, killing heat, frosts in June. That kind of thing.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 8 Jan 2007 @ 10:55 AM

  200. Re #181, I think the models cannot tell us what the actual carbon input will be; that partly depends on what we people do and how nature responds, and is NOT some preset figure or limit. Scientists have figured a sensitivity range for 2X carbon input into the atmosphere, but the actual input could be greater than 2X, both from human emissions and nature’s emissions as the world warms & permafrost and ocean clathrates melt. Reduced albedo from melting snow/ice and land-use adding to the warming also need to be considered, re how much carbon nature emits as a response to that warming.

    So we really need to look at how much hotter it could possibly get according to past warming episodes (and even past warmings could conceivably be exceeded), which someone earlier on this site suggested was 6 degrees C. That much warming may not be highly likely by 2100, but it could be for 2200 or later, and we could reach a tipping point any time now (or may have already done so), beyond which even drastic reductions in human emissions will not stop this positive feedback, runaway (from human control) situation of increased GHG emissions from nature & the consequent increased warming (warming–>nature’s emissions/reduced albedo–>more warming–>nature’s greater emissions/greater albedo reduction–>and so on).

    6 degrees may not sound like much, but that’s the increase that made 95% of life on earth go extinct during the end-Permian 251 mya. Mark Lynas’s book SIX DEGREES will be out in March this year, and he takes us step-by-step re what each degree increase will mean in terms of harm to earth. From what I understand, even a 2 degree increase will be really horrible, so 6 degrees would be hell-on-earth.

    Once the glaciers melt 40% of India and China (& many other peoples around the world) will be at risk of starvation. The glacier melt-water is needed to feed irrigation canals, but once glaciers are melted, there will be destruction from flooding in winter, and drought with no rivers/canals during the growing season. And this is only one of hundreds of types of harms we face.

    It’s even conceivable that Lovelock may be wrong about one million people surviving; maybe humans will go extinct, esp when you consider how people tend to turn against each other when things get bad. At this point everything is on the table, including human viability. Such cataclysm (if it were to happen) might not happen this century, but it might within several centuries or millennia, with the tipping point in this century, maybe the next. Scientists can’t really say this WON’T happen with 99% certainty, and no one knows when the tipping point will be (though after-the-fact I’m sure science (if it’s still around) will be able to tell us).

    It behooves us to reduce our GHG emissions now–certainly in all ways that save money & make economic sense, but even in ways that use our “loose change.” While earlier generations unknowingly contributed to this problem, we are the generation responsible for averting it. By the next generation, it will probably be too late if we do not step up to the plate immediately and stop this. We are the “RESPONSIBLE GENERATION.”

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Jan 2007 @ 12:29 PM

  201. Re: 197.

    Not only has it been unusually warm winter in the NE USA but also it’s been an unusually warm in the Midwest and the northern Great Plains. Climate models have been successfully predicting that higher latitudes regions would warm more rapidly than lower latitude regions under a greenhouse warming world – which is exactly what’s been happening for several decades already. No more time to waste – we must cut our greenhouse gas emissions immediately!

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 8 Jan 2007 @ 12:54 PM

  202. Re: 201

    Climate models have been successfully predicting that higher latitudes regions would warm more rapidly than lower latitude regions under a greenhouse warming world

    True but irrelevant. Models do not predict amplified warming below latitude 50. Nor do they predict cooling in India.

    Comment by Sashka — 8 Jan 2007 @ 1:55 PM

  203. And (re #200) here’s an article (“Peat Moss – A Ticking Time Bomb”) that backs up what I just wrote, and it indicates 1 degree C rise may be enough to start runaway (from human control) warming: http://www.climateark.org/shared/reader/welcome.aspx?linkid=66265

    RE #197 – yes, India. Recent studies show that the severe flooding there (causing much more economic damage than the great tsunami) is caused by global warming. And drought continues along with flooding; the actual yearly amount of precip is stable, but it comes all at once — it rained more than 40 days and 40 nights Nov-Dec 2005 in our area of Tamil Nadu. My relatives build their home on high land and they got 2.5 ft of flood waters in their home. No elderly person there remembers it ever flooding that much!

    So, I guess in years that India does not experience GW-induced record-breaking heat, it gets these GW-induced floods. Either way, bad news!

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Jan 2007 @ 2:02 PM

  204. Re: 202, 199

    it rained more than 40 days and 40 nights

    Wow! This reminds me of the Biblical Flood. Since the latter occured (if it did) quite a while ago, is it not fair to assume that such extreme events could happen for the reasons unrelated to GW?

    Why is everyone is so trigger-happy to blame GW as soon as the next weather extreme is reported? Remember: floods, droughts, hurricanes, extreme highs and lows have been occuring all the time throughout the history.

    The “axiom” stated in 199 is in-fact non-existent. It’s an unproven hypothesis.

    Comment by Sashka — 8 Jan 2007 @ 2:41 PM

  205. Re #204. There can be many causes for the same effect, including global warming, flooding, etc.

    Take human death. It can be from disease and from murder by other humans. In the case of recent flooding in India, studies have found it likely due to GW, and expect increased flooding from GW in the future. I.e., we are the “murderers.”

    Now, if you want to flood your own house, go ahead, but please, I implore you to stop flooding my house. At least admit you’re doing it, you’re sorry, and you’ll try to stop. I’m putting forth effort to reduce my harm to others, so I really can’t see why others can’t at least lift their baby finger to do the same.

    see: http://oheraldo.in/node/21057

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Jan 2007 @ 7:20 PM

  206. Gavin:
    Could you please ask Revkin to have a word with the Editor at the Times? It has just run an editorial that speaks of the atmosphere being “saturated with greenhouse gases ” a usage which might precipitate even wierder popular views than those prevailing.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 8 Jan 2007 @ 7:26 PM

  207. Re: 205

    There can be many causes for the same effect, including global warming, flooding, etc.

    Exactly.

    In the case of recent flooding in India, studies have found it likely due to GW, and expect increased flooding from GW in the future.

    I don’t believe studies of this nature, and, if I will be allowed to say it, nobody else should either. Whatever success the models have in explaining global temperature averages, the same works a lot works worse in application to regional climate. No model can seriously claim a skill in prediction of anomalous precipitation.

    Comment by Sashka — 8 Jan 2007 @ 7:49 PM

  208. I don’t have much more to say, other than to note that current IPCC high-end estimates (that is, forthcoming estimates in the next report) will be about 4.5C. I’ll just say that I don’t deny a Lovelockian scenario any less than the IPCC itself does. Of course I think that all possibilities should be taken into account, and I have no problem with a healthy debate. I’m just saying that it is apparently a fact that that is the current high-end IPCC estimate.

    Also, the moderate “minimalist” response might be an old position, but it has certainly been lost in the press over the past years. So IMO I think giving it more attention is a good thing. It is at least “moderate” from a political standpoint, so again it’s probably a good thing. Speaking for myself, I’m less interested in labeling people as “alarmists” and “denyers” as I am in getting the issues explained clearly. If you want the debate to change for the better, maybe see this as a positive first step.

    Comment by mzed — 8 Jan 2007 @ 7:50 PM

  209. Why is everyone is so trigger-happy to blame GW as soon as the next weather extreme is reported? Remember: floods, droughts, hurricanes, extreme highs and lows have been occuring all the time throughout the history.

    The “axiom” stated in 199 is in-fact non-existent. It’s an unproven hypothesis.

    Energy leads to variety. Entropy produces gray uniformity — the ultimate in unusable energy. That’s the broad axiom I referred to. Not anything limited to climate.

    And I nowhere claimed that GW was the cause for any single event, just that more energy in the atmosphere would lead to more distinguishable events.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 9 Jan 2007 @ 10:37 AM

  210. Re: 210

    In turn, I didn’t say your thinking was unreasonable. But you are confusing a (poorly formulated) theorem with axiom. For illustration, consider a boiling pot of water. You can input a lot of energy but you won’t see a lot of variety.

    Comment by Sashka — 9 Jan 2007 @ 11:41 AM

  211. Sashka wrote in #207: “I don’t believe studies of this nature, and, if I will be allowed to say it, nobody else should either.”

    With all due respect, it seems that much of the content of your comments consists of asserting, without any substantive reason, that you “don’t believe” studies that tell you what you don’t want to hear.

    I don’t say this as any sort of personal attack. I think it exemplifies a common attitude towards global warming and climate change — a deep-seated feeling that “such things simply cannot happen” and then an a priori rejection of, or “disbelief in”, scientific studies which indicate that they can happen, and likely will happen, and in fact are happening.

    Some self-described AGW “skeptics” have objected to the words “denier” or “denialist” as inflammatory, because of the perceived parallels with Holocaust “denial”.

    But there is another import to “denial” — the denial that some people experience when informed that they are dying. I think that some “climate change deniers” are experiencing, and expressing, this sort of “denial”, rather than the “denial” of those who claim the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 9 Jan 2007 @ 11:54 AM

  212. Exxon�s New Position On Global Warming, Same As Its Old Position On Global Warming
    The Guardian is reporting that ExxonMobil chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson recently promised investors that it plans to �soften� its public image on global warming. But as one person at the meeting noted, Exxon doesn�t actually plan to change its positions:

    Chairman and chief executive Rex Tillerson made clear to a select group of top Wall Street fund managers and equity analysts that it would not be changing its basic position on global warming – just explain it better. â�¦

    A note put out after the meeting by Fadel Gheit, oil analyst at the Oppenheimer brokerage in New York, says the company �has clearly taken a much less adversial and more reconciliatory position on key environmental issues.�

    But the note adds: �Although the tone has changed, the substance remains the same.�

    The company told the Guardian that its official position on climate change is that greenhouse gas emissions �are one of the factors that contribute to climate change� and despite the �scientific uncertainties, the risk (of global warming) is so great that it justifies taking action.�

    Exxon can attempt to soften its language as much as it wants, but its record remains clear. According to a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists, Exxon has �funneled nearly $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to a network of 43 advocacy organizations that seek to confuse the public on global warming science.� The big-oil front group the Competitive Enterprise Institute has received $1.6 million from Exxon since 1998, using the funding to distort global warming research and attack any meaningful action to regulate carbon dioxide emissions.
    http://thinkprogress.org/2007/01/09/exxon-global-warming/

    Comment by S. O'Connor — 9 Jan 2007 @ 2:56 PM

  213. RE #207, I’m not sure what the study re monsoon flooding in India was based on, but it did mention they were able to rule out natural fluctuations.

    I also know that monsoons (over land, needed for agriculture) are extremely sensitive in India to the difference between land & ocean temperature. If the oceans get warmer vis-a-vis the land, the monsoons precipitate over the ocean, causing drought in India. So, GW seems to mean less rain when they need it during the growing season, and heavy rains during winter.

    Even if you are unsure of the science, should we be taking such a risk with such a huge population…not to mention the glacier melt that will impact Northern India & put up to 40% of India’s population at risk of starvation. Surely you would agree that global warming may very likely (eventually) lead to glacier melt.

    It’s just not right to gamble with other people’s lives….even if it’s only 1-to-6 odds (as in Russian Roulette) that GW will happen and have these negative effects.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 9 Jan 2007 @ 3:07 PM

  214. In India I read that there is at present a big cloud of aerosol pollution over India caused by cars, rural stoves etc. This is cooling India enough to cancel out the effects AGW there most of the time. In summer the monsoon washes it away. Though models say AGW should increace the intensity of the monsoon the cloud is causing it to weaken. This is the real disaster facing India.

    Comment by David Price — 9 Jan 2007 @ 4:46 PM

  215. Re: 210, “I didn’t say your thinking was unreasonable. But you are confusing a (poorly formulated) theorem with axiom. For illustration, consider a boiling pot of water. You can input a lot of energy but you won’t see a lot of variety.”

    Not if you are looking at clear water… until it boils and then you will see movement and vapour. However, try using another of your senses and put your hand in. Then you’ll notice some variety.

    Comment by Sally — 9 Jan 2007 @ 7:04 PM

  216. Re ” Models do not predict amplified warming below latitude 50. Nor do they predict cooling in India.”

    They don’t predict who will win the World Series in 2007, either, but they have gotten an awful lot right in the past few decades. I’ll bet on the models.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 9 Jan 2007 @ 7:41 PM

  217. > consider a boiling pot of water. You can input
    > a lot of energy but you won’t see a lot of variety.
    —Comment by Sashka

    Try it yourself, for real, and watch. Shining a light through a Pyrex bowl while it’s heating up will help you see the variety of fluid motion, starting from cold, as you add heat energy.

    Or try putting a block of ice in the middle as you warm it up, to see even more. Adding a bit of pepper or other fine particles, and maybe a single grain of a non-sudsing dishwasher detergent to break the surface tension, will help.

    You’ll be recreating one of the basic teaching moments in climate study.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Jan 2007 @ 8:10 PM

  218. Climate models have been successfully predicting that higher latitudes regions would warm more rapidly than lower latitude regions under a greenhouse warming world.

    My earlier comment (above)

    -

    True but irrelevant. Models do not predict amplified warming below latitude 50. Nor do they predict cooling in India.

    Earlier comment by Sashka (above)

    -

    In my earlier comment, I meant to say Climate modelers say…, rather than climate models say. Regardless, it is very relevant to India and other regions below a latitude of 50. Greater warming in higher latitudes regions will mean faster and higher increases in sea level.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 9 Jan 2007 @ 9:31 PM

  219. Sashka, your faith is strong and you say what you believe, but you don’t tell us why you believe it, or who you’re trusting. What models are you talking about?

    Have you looked at any of these?
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=234
    http://www.realclimate.org/bitz_Fig2.gif

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Jan 2007 @ 11:49 PM

  220. Re: 217

    Once the boiling point is reached, the statistics of velocities and temperature will be pretty uniform away from the boundaries, assuming that stable convective cells are not formed.

    Comment by Sashka — 10 Jan 2007 @ 10:52 AM

  221. Re: 219

    More often I say what I don’t believe. Such is the nature of this blog.

    I don’t have much faith in any long-term quantitative model predictions. I do have some faith in qualitative results that are physically intuitive and can be explained in simple models (not GCM). Polar amplification is indeed one of the more trustworthy results obtained by the climate science.

    The fact that so far it is only observed in the North doesn’t completely invalidate the result but doesn’t inspire additional confidence either. I saw Gavin’s paper where he’s explaining what’s going on but to me it only means that (as far as predictions are concerned) the proverbial grain of salt just grew bigger.

    Comment by Sashka — 10 Jan 2007 @ 11:07 AM

  222. >Stop Climate Chaos

    I like that as a term. If you are looking for variety, I like Amory Lovins’ “Global Weirding”.

    >Realistically, would anyone care to make a prediction about what will be the first year in which global CO2 emissions are lower than the year before?

    No, because it is not an external force – it is a choice. Once we decide to seriously try to reduce emissions, to spend the money we have to spend and piss off the people we will have to piss off, then it we can the first emissions drop (though perhaps a small one) take place fairly quickly.

    Not a prediction, but a guess. If we took this as seriously as the world took,say WWII, we could get policy passed in six months. If the policy chosen motivated reductions, we could see an early emissions drop within a year to a year and a half. So again noting that this is a SWAG, not prediction, I would say between eighteen months and two years after a decision was made to act seriously on the problem.

    Comment by Gar Lipow — 10 Jan 2007 @ 10:34 PM

  223. RE 181

    David,

    lovelocks fears are certainly not regarded as gospel by the british media, where did you get that idea?

    I’m not saying that i believe that lovelocks ‘worst case scenario’ is likely, but it should be remembered that he could not identify all of Gaia’s mechanisms, when he first proposed that theory. Also, our esteemed moderators have admitted that they are worried about currently unknown positive forcings, which may come into play, in the future.

    I first read his book in spring of 2006, and found it extreme, but not totally implausible. A good, useful cautionary tale, if you like.

    Unfortunately, in the 9 months since the science has (arguably!) been edging towards lovelock, and certainly not moving away from him.

    I’m not saying he is right, just that we ought to respect his contribution. i wonder how i/we will feel about it in another years time?

    Hopefully, not like the people who laughed at Gaia theory!

    Comment by mark s — 11 Jan 2007 @ 1:56 PM

  224. All I know is its happening. Instead of bickering, why dont we focus our efforts on trying to stop it?

    Comment by Reden — 12 Jan 2007 @ 4:19 AM

  225. Re223
    It easy to get paranoid. In the media doom and sensationalism sells a lot better than abtruse and painstaking expositions from professionals. I read a review of his book in Daily Telegraph ( the sister paper to the one which published Monckton). The tone was simpering. It’s exterme doom message was bought hook, line and sinker.
    I also worry about where Lovelock is coming from. His averion to heat is such he seems to regard ice ages as a good thing.(gia trying to keep cool). If you think global warming is bad for us try another ice age. As a catastrophie it would dwarf the worst warming senario.
    After all when the world was last very hot in the cretacious life florished. The credence given to Lovelock and his dubious assumptions is frightening

    Comment by David Price — 12 Jan 2007 @ 1:40 PM

  226. I find it refreshng to read the commentaries by those people who are engaged in the research about our climate. As a lay person with little scientific knowledge of the details being discussed I cannot help but notice that my environment has been rather erratic. I live in Alberta in Western Canada, and the winters have become much less predictable in the 40 years that I have lived here since moving from England. 30 years ago the snows were more consistent than they are today. We have had a few brown christmases and this year there is more snow than I can remember at this time of the year. In vancouver there have been violent windstorms that have devastated Stanley park destroying a great amount of the very large trees. My own observations lead me to think that changes in the climate will continue. I have a difficult time understanding our reluctance to see that changing our dependance on fuels that by most acounts are damaging the planet that supports us. Just how long can you live in the garage with the car running and the door closed? A microcosm of the macro.

    regards Michael Mott

    Comment by Michael Mott — 13 Jan 2007 @ 2:22 PM

  227. Eli, thanks for the link but it isn’t working. According to this Sept 4 2006 BBC story, the core is back to 800,000 years. It has this wake up and smell the coffee quote from Dr Wolff:

    “The “scary thing”, he added, was the rate of change now occurring in CO2 concentrations. In the core, the fastest increase seen was of the order of 30 parts per million (ppm) by volume over a period of roughly 1,000 years.

    “The last 30 ppm of increase has occurred in just 17 years. We really are in the situation where we don’t have an analogue in our records,” he said.”

    RE#225, “the credence given to Lovelock and his dubious assumptions is frightening”, well… it depends on what scenario you are looking at. The following numbers are a bit out of date, (Jeremey Leggett, The Carbon War, 2000 – explains the political manipulations behind Kyoto, etc.) but here they are:

    580 billion tons of carbon: pre-industrial atmospheric content�
    750 billion tons of carbon: year 2000 atmospheric content.�
    10000 billion tons of carbon: the remaining fossil fuel reserves (200 oil, 1000 gas, the rest coal)
    �6 billion tons of carbon: amount we are adding to the atmosphere each year.

    Assuming that global energy demand continues to rise, and that coal will be the main energy source, then Lovelock’s predictions are not unrealistic in the long run. However, if sane heads prevail and a massive transition to renewables is initiated (see Gar Lipow’s post) then Lovelock’s predicitons seem unlikely.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 14 Jan 2007 @ 8:37 PM

  228. RE 225 and 181,

    I agree David, it is easy to get paranoid, which is why RC has been such a great resource for me, as i’m sure it has to many others. In fact i followed the lovelock thread on RC, with great interest, especially our moderators views.

    I don’t generally read the Telegraph, but i am an active consumer of the UK media, especially on AGW issues.

    Certainly the Stern report was given a lot of time and respect, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the depth and breadth of its detailed economic analysis, and the fact that it was funded by the UK govnt.

    But Lovelock’s book has certainly not been treated as ‘mainstream’ or ‘gospel’. IMHO, he tends to be characterised as a rather scary, but distinguished ‘cassandra’ figure. Most reviews have criticised the book for its pessimism. It sounds like a poor, uncritical review, and really the Telegraph ought to know better. But then, if they are giving airtime to Monckton…

    Also, I don’t think that Lovelock regards ice ages as a ‘good thing’, but more (as you suggest) as a necessary part of Gaia’s attempt to keep the earth cool enough for life. And i really don’t think anyone is expecting an ice age, any time soon, because we are having such a big impact on CO2 levels.

    I don’t think suggesting that warming might be faster than the models predictions, is that wild either.

    Again, I refer you to the widely expressed concerns, that we may not have all the positive forcings nailed down, and that we are not finding many negative forcings.

    I’m far from Lovelocks biggest fan, but he has a holistic approach, which has served him well in the past. We should be insuring ourselves against such ‘outliers’, not ignoring them.

    Comment by mark s — 15 Jan 2007 @ 2:04 AM

  229. Re 64.

    I buy 100% electricity via wind power.

    I have a lot of fun listening to folks who think that the power they get is different than the power for everyone connected to the SAME grid is getting. Fact is wind power , coal power etc.etc is all delivered to the grid as one supply which is then balanced to the load on that grid. No one individual’s power can be delivered from a specific source. (That would involve building a grid just to deliver wind power which is absurd.) So what you are paying for is the ability to think that you have wind power when in fact you don’t. You have only a fraction of your power generated by wind and all the rest is generated by fossil fuels. What you are proving is you are a sucker and are probably the same sucker who only buys “organic” foods. (BTW the asphalt outside is organic does it look tasty?)

    Jim

    Comment by Jim — 17 Jan 2007 @ 11:29 AM

  230. Re #229: That’s quite a remarkable misinterpretation of how the electric grid works, though it’s correct in a sense: when you turn on your PC, there’s no way to tell for sure what generating plant the particular electrons you’re using came from. (And even that’s an over-simplification, as in an AC grid the electrons just wiggle back and forth some miniscule distance.)

    We’re really dealing with economics. There are ways by which energy from particular plants is constrained to flow along certain paths in the grid. Your electric utility has a system control center, where people (aided by computer programs) make decisions about which particular power sources will be used at any time. There might for instance be a choice between getting cheap hydro power from the Columbia, more expensive coal-fired power, using still more expensive nearby natural gas turbines, etc. The constraints include not only price but system powerflow & stability: can I actually import those MWh without overloading the intertie to the Pacific Northwest? If the line goes down, do I still have enough spinning reserve to keep my local grid up until things can be re-configured? And on and on…

    The key point is that there’s also a whole system of accounting going on: your local utility delivers some KWh to your meter every month, and expects to you to pay for them. It in turn got those KWhs from somewhere, and the people who produced them expect to get paid too. What those green power purchase agreements do is to add in another economic factor to the decisions made in system control. They’re basically a subsidy: you’re to pay more for “green” power, so your local utility will keep importing power from the green producer even when it would be cheaper to get it from another source.

    Comment by James — 17 Jan 2007 @ 1:53 PM

  231. I did over simplify as the grid is a very complex beast as you know. However you missed they point. When someone says they get 100% green electricity from a eletric power company, they simply don’t know what they are talking about. They may be paying, but that is not what they are getting. Load and power generation capacity are dynamic and change based upon daily and hourly decisions of the electric power company in order to keep the grid stable and balanced to load (Which changes every minute) for the least dollars.
    My point was that it is not possible for a power company to give any one customer 100% of their power from a particular power source such as wind from a common power distribution grid. Not everyone understands electricity so please excuse me diluting it somewhat.

    Comment by Jim — 17 Jan 2007 @ 3:26 PM

  232. That depends on your point of view. From an economic POV, the Treehugger family uses some number of KWh each month, and pays the Green Power company to generate that many KWh and put them on the grid. Seems to me the underlying electrical details don’t really matter, except to the system operators and such.

    Comment by James — 18 Jan 2007 @ 3:29 AM

  233. It is not merely a detail, it is a hard fact that not many understand. It just struck a negative chord in me for someone to say something that was merely wishful thinking, and in such a condescdending tone so I called him on it. It is also kind of sad and funny at the same time that someone pays more for one of the cheapest forms of energy conversion.

    Comment by Jim — 18 Jan 2007 @ 11:39 PM

  234. But this is how the market system works, even where the ‘product’ is electricity and mixed in transmission — people who decide they prefer to be responsible for the externalized costs of energy production will support the wind and solar energy producers so their money isn’t supporting, say, coal burning plants — and their preferred producers benefit and can expand their share of the market.

    People who’ve invested in less pollution-intensive energy producers may pay more now to own a generating company stock that’s solar or hydro or wind-based, and perhaps find they own a better deal later, if the externalized costs are brought back into the market by, say, a carbon tax/trade system.

    People aren’t necessarily being foolish to put their money into what they believe should get bigger and try to keep their money away from what they don’t want to encourage. In fact, they may be making good economic decisions — for some notions of what the economy is.

    As someone didn’t quite say, the capitalist will indeed sell you the rope you will use to try to hang him, but if you buy the cheapest available rope, don’t be surprised if it breaks when you try. If you want the market to produce better quality products, don’t always buy the lowest priced stuff without considering the other costs involved overall.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Jan 2007 @ 12:30 AM

  235. The relevant question is, does paying the ‘green power’ bill, as opposed to the ‘whatever power’ bill, cause the company to change its power production to generate less CO2?
    If it does not, then we must forget consumer responsibility on this issue, and place the responsibility soley on the power companies.

    Comment by llewelly — 19 Jan 2007 @ 1:33 AM

  236. RE # 229 to 235

    A great discussion on a matter as important to AGW solutions as is the understanding of the condition of my circulatory system to my cardiologist.

    This tells me RC really can accommodate a discussion of this nature (electrons) without boring readers (at least I was not bored) or running afoul of the subject matter the RC developers wanted to cultivate. The electricity grid is high science.

    RE # 235,

    I would amend your comment to say: encourage, in every possible way, consumer responsibility but accept the grounded truth that any serious mitigation plan must start with the upstream approach. Factor environmental externalities into the cost of the fuel and the generated power. That will result in higher costs that affect wasteful consumers the hardest.

    I seem to recall President Clinton and VP Gore proposed a Btu tax which environmental organizations backed away from because they assumed it would not pass in the Republican Congress.

    The green machine did not want to take on an issue it could not win. But, they did not try!

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 19 Jan 2007 @ 9:23 AM

  237. John McCormick – I agree with you amendment.
    As far as I know, paying the ‘green power bill’ does change power company behavior. My if clause was intended to refer to a hypothetical situation.

    Comment by llewelly — 19 Jan 2007 @ 10:08 AM

  238. Re #233: It’s a fact, but it’s an irrelevant one. Maybe it would help if you thought of the electric grid as analogous to the banking system. Say you go to the bank, take a few bills from your wallet, and deposit them in your account. Next week you decide to take some out: do you care – or even stop to think – that the bills you’re getting are almost certainly not the ones you deposited?

    Of course you don’t. As long as the system keeps proper track of how much money you have, the actual currency is irrelevant. You may even get your salary deposited as electrons, and if you happen to be visiting Europe, use your ATM card to withdraw Euros, Swiss Francs, or British pounds. (Which is pretty in amazing itself, when you stop to think about it :-))

    It’s the same with the power grid. What matters is that the system keeps proper track of who makes deposits and withdrawals, and moves the money accordingly.

    And re #236: Seems to me the simple way to bring about CO2 reduction is to tax it. Replace sales taxes (or VAT in Europe), with a tax on whatever produces CO2 – gasoline, coal & gas-fired electricity, etc. Set the inital rate so the governments take the same amount of money, then (on average) no one would be worse off because of the change, so political resistance would be minimal. Indeed, those who think they can easily reduce their CO2 should support it; while it gives everyone much more opportunity and incentive to engage in tax avoidance… err, I mean CO2 reducion :-)

    Comment by James — 19 Jan 2007 @ 1:10 PM

  239. Re #239
    Thanks for the heads up Charles! And here was me thinking all this blather about climate change was just so much hot air! :(

    Sure, as a species we are running into interesting times, but some individuals will no doubt survive, someplace somewhere for a bit.

    You’ve obviously thought about this and have a useful contribution to make. Apart from the bend over and kiss yourself goodbye option, do you have any thoughts on the optimum course of action a small community of like-minded souls could pursue to prepare for the long summer?

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 21 Jan 2007 @ 2:33 AM

  240. Re “The end of humankind’s time on Earth is coming to an end, and I welcome it.”

    1. Global warming will disrupt our agriculture and our economy badly, but it will not destroy humanity, or even human civilization.

    2. Being a human being myself, I tend to approve of Locke’s premise — “that mankind ought to be preserved.” What kind of viewpoint approves of the destruction of humanity? All I can think of are A) the viewpoint in Hell, and B) the viewpoint of extraterrestrials who want to colonize the planet after we’re gone. Which are you writing from?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 Jan 2007 @ 7:22 AM

  241. Re: 239 Precis “Climate change has already made it impossible to tackle global warming.”

    Hmmmm. Does anyone else have a problem with this sentence?

    Comment by Sally — 21 Jan 2007 @ 1:31 PM

  242. “Do nothing” is the Exxon/Western Fuels strategy.

    This may help:
    http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1332674

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Jan 2007 @ 3:53 PM

  243. Perhaps the biggest issue of science policy over the past year or so in the USA in the view of this reader, has been the expanding efforts of the current Federal administration to bully the science administrators and scientists into accepting censorship of their scientific work. This was not a matter of dredging up threadbare denialist argument, but of “editing” what the scientists had to say. In no case can there be any point in training people in the sciences, developing the whole institution of peer review and the general Popperian standard of research, paying out billions for extensive studies, then crudely painting out their words. In one case that came to be the classic, a veteran oil company publicist employed at the White House for a short period, simply smudged out and replaced a few words in the write up of a Federal study. The result was that where the scientists had intended to advise government that the climate was undoubtedly growing warmer due to human action, what emerged was the timid suggestion that it might be doing so. In much the same way one could change an urgent telephone message that the bank was being robbed into the mildly expressed opinion that it might be. In this way what the scientists sought to advise government was corrupted into the message that Exxon (among others) had financially encouraged for decades, the fostering of the idea among the public that all was “uncertainty” in climate science.
    It could be no surprize that this crude attempt at socially destructive censorship ran right into a fire storm of protest, and the most recent item in that story that I have seen was the news that some 10000 plus scientists including a large number of highly respected ones had endorsed a petition in protest, organized through the UCS. The protest was aimed at this censorship and literally hundreds of others, detailed with precision. Many others including eco activists, established authors, environmental scientists active in providing understanding to the public,journalists and most recently government figures joined in the expressions of concern.

    This was a time when there was a real need for a group in the field of science policy to step up and focus that protest. Yet the blog that claims to be concerned with science policy took the part of the US Federal administration and its thuggish treament of science and the scientists. Indeed it is really unpleasant to view the threadbare arguements and obvious rhetoric with which R. Pielke attacks the scientists and defends the oil company publicist (employed by the government at the time) and even tries to make equivalent the courageous and principled whistle blower, who resigned his position in order to alert the public, with the unprincipled publicist who resigned his government position after he was discovered.

    This reader concluded that Pielke was with the enemies of science, when push came to shove.

    Comment by garhaneg — 22 Jan 2007 @ 11:35 PM

  244. Steve,
    Do you have any evidence at all that people who take global warming seriously actually are doing it because they want communism? I hear the right endlessly compare environmentalism to marxism, but always without any actual evidence. In reality, communist regimes have always been strongly against protecting the environment (at one point China was against it because it was a “capitalist excess”). What exactly is the “green orthodoxy” you think climate scientists support?

    The fact is it isn’t really much of a continuum, you either believe the vast majority of scientists and agree we need immediate action on climate change, or you don’t. Of course there are different positions but the effect is the same. Someone who doesn’t believe it’s a problem now after looking at the evidence, probably never will.

    Global warming supporters are deried as “alarmists” and “campaigners” but if the future of the planet is at stake, what should the response be? It appears among lots of people if you don’t take environmental issues seriously you’re though of as calm and rational, and if you are worried it necessarily means you’re some kind of loony (as if being worried necessarily means being wrong). The people on the Titanic who were worried about icebergs and the crew’s attitude that the ship was unsinkable were thought of as “alarmists” too and we all know how that turned out.

    Comment by mark — 23 Jan 2007 @ 11:09 PM

  245. Determining the Ideal Average Temperature.

    Until I can see anyone on earth determine what the most ideal average temperature on earth is or should be, I will remain sceptical about all the worry about global climate change.

    The basic assumption seems to be that our temperature now or perhaps what it was before the industrial revolution was that precious ideal temperature.

    Yes, you can point out that if you have more water in some areas then there will be more flooding. Then one could point out that if you have less water there will be more famines. But neither local flooding nor local famines convince me that the result of a higher and or lower temperature is bad for the environment.

    We look at the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Those days were substantially warmer than today. The CO2 rates were substantially higher in those days. The diversity of life was higher then too. To be able to feed and sustain such large animals the food supply must have been larger then too.

    So here we are today, thinking like the days in times past that we are the center of our solar system and our current average tempurature must surely be the ideal temperature and must be maintained at all costs.

    So, again, I ask, what is the scientific consensus on what the ideal average earth temperature is that we should set as our target.

    30 years ago the current scare was global cooling. Today the current scare is global warming. I assume that in both cases it was change that was feared the most. We must avoid change because it means somebody will have to adjust to the change. It cant get colder because that means people used to warmer weather will have to adjust to it being colder. And it cant get hotter because then people used to cooler temperatures will have to adjust to it being hotter.

    Comment by Kevin — 25 Jan 2007 @ 4:05 PM

  246. re: 246. “30 years ago the current scare was global cooling.”

    No. That is a very old myth that has been perpetuated by contrarians and denialists. Just conduct a simple search on this web site for the specifics instead of just reciting/repeating what denialists have told you. Specifically see http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=94. And also see http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/02/they-predicted-cooling-in-1970s.html

    As for the other often brought-up canards such as CO2 levels and warm temperatures during the era when dinosaurs roamed, you will find how they are debunked again either by a simple search on this web site or at the many excellent links provided at http://illconsidered.blogspot.com/2006/03/guides-by-category.html.

    We are talking about *recent* (half-century) warming that can not be explained by simple natural variations. Only when forcings from anthropogenic CO2 are included can recent warming be explained.

    Comment by Dan — 25 Jan 2007 @ 6:19 PM

  247. re: 246

    Kevin, the issue is not whether the temperature change is to the higher or to the lower. The issue is how fast this change occurs.

    If it happens at human timescales instead of at geological timescales, the likelihood is that many species will not be able to cope, and will die out, without having the chance to leave descendants that are better adapted to the new environment(s). This means we will lose a tremendous amount of biodiversity. Biodiversity itself is an element of robustness against unforseen and unforseeable problems in the future.

    Over time, this reduction in biodiversity will be overcome; but there will be the intervening period (many thousands of years) during which our world will be experiencing a “bottle-neck” of biodiversity.

    A less abstract aspect of this cost: reduction in the source material from which we hope to derive the medicines of the future, as we have from this derived the pharmacopia of the present.

    A very concrete version of this: The sheer “entertainment value” that we obtain from the variety of flora & fauna today: coral reefs, aquariums, zoos, safaries. Think a minute: Imagine a world in which there were no animals other than humans and their domestic animals. If then anything else were to be discovered, it would be a source of great excitement and wonder. Now imagine going from the world we have now to that impoverished world. How much are these experiences worth to us?

    Comment by Neal J. King — 25 Jan 2007 @ 6:44 PM

  248. Re: 246: Kevin, in fact, we do want to avoid large changes in either direction in our climate exactly because it will require a lot of costly investment. We have a lot of human, physical, and ecological capital invested in our current climatic conditions. In the absence of that invested capital… I don’t know that there is good reason to think one temperature is better than another (within a reasonable range, ignoring Snowball Earths and Venusian runaways). But that capital _is_ invested: people own waterfront property and live on low-lying islands, farmers are invested in currently fertile areas, ski resorts depend on temperatures below freezing, houses and railroads are built on permafrost, people depend on melt from snowpacks in the Himalayas for drinking water… not to mention the ecosystems which don’t have the adaptation potential of humans, the tundra that will disappear, the coral reefs that will die, etc. etc. Sure, new ecosystems will take their place, new coral reefs will grow… but over a time span of thousands of years. I would kind of like it for my (hypothetical) grandkids to be able to swim in coral reefs and see glaciers and know that polar bears are still around.

    After all, once upon a time dinosaurs roamed the earth, as you said. Is the world better or worse now than it was then on an absolute scale? I don’t know. But I do know that as far as the dinosaurs are concerned, the change from then until now absolutely sucked.

    It is also unfortunate that those people and animals who will likely suffer the most from climate change are not the ones who are benefiting from our spree of fossil fuel burning. Which is why in an ideal world, greenhouse gas emissions would be taxed and the proceeds would go to compensate those who suffer from the end result of emissions, as well as to protect and aid ecosystems that would be damaged, where possible. But determining a fair and just way to do so would be… difficult, to say the least.

    Comment by Marcus — 25 Jan 2007 @ 6:49 PM

  249. >determining a fair and just way

    At least that’s not unthinkable — some people whose work I respect are coming out with serious papers discussing how we might do that. For instance:

    http://www.ecoequity.org/docs/InconvenientTruth2.pdf

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Jan 2007 @ 7:38 PM

  250. I do not understand why some people always say that temperature will always be bad. For some folks change is always terrible and humans and the planet are done for etc.etc. Whether or not I believe warming is happening. (Yes it is getting warmer.) I do not know the affects of warming but I know this, we as a species and the species diversity will not be doomed. We have survived changes such as this before (last glacial maximum was around 18,000 years ago and humans were here then else we would not be here today.) and to say that we can no longer do so is pure stupdity.

    Regarding number 238. It is not irrelevant. You say follow the money. I say what is really happening? Which one in the scheme of things means the most? It seems you seem to think that just because something appears to be a certain way is more important than what it really is. I hope you don’t look for women the way you think. One other little thing, hydro is not green power so don’t count it. Nobody know how good wind is either. Just becuase something doesn’t emit GHG doesnt mean it does not do harm. That there are no known observable affects today for wind does not mean that it is a good thing. Remeber we did not think oil was bad at first either and now look where we are! Think of this small amounts of C02 are supposed to make major changes to the earth right. Now start extracting that much energy that we used to get from oil from wind. Would that not have an affect? What happens when energy needs double, triple. You gonna put up a windmill every 5 feet? We have to find something more, something viable to replace oil. Wind is nothing more than a bandaid on a sawed off leg.

    Comment by Jim — 25 Jan 2007 @ 11:30 PM

  251. Re 249.

    “people own waterfront property”

    Yes they do and they loose it all of the time due to erosion or to lakes drying up due to a sinkhole. Things happen all of the time and they are not due to global warming. What happen’s if a quake levels LA tomorrow. Was that becuase global warming as well?

    Change is inevitable and the earth has shown great range of change without our influence. I agree with Kevin, again we think we are th center of the solar system. (Where is our modern Copernicus?)

    Face the facts warming or cooling will happen. Change happens. The earth is a dynamic system. (If it wasn’t we would not be alive.)

    BTW the artic is shrinking that is true, but the antartic ice sheet is still growing and that is where most of the earth’s ice is.

    Comment by Jim — 25 Jan 2007 @ 11:40 PM

  252. [[I do not understand why some people always say that temperature will always be bad. For some folks change is always terrible and humans and the planet are done for etc.etc. Whether or not I believe warming is happening. (Yes it is getting warmer.) I do not know the affects of warming but I know this, we as a species and the species diversity will not be doomed. We have survived changes such as this before (last glacial maximum was around 18,000 years ago and humans were here then else we would not be here today.) and to say that we can no longer do so is pure stupdity. ]]

    Of course we can survive it. But it would still be nice to avoid trillions of dollars worth of economic damage and millions of deaths.

    [[One other little thing, hydro is not green power so don't count it.]]

    It doesn’t pollute the air, unless you count the CO2 from the cement drying.

    [[ Nobody know how good wind is either. Just becuase something doesn't emit GHG doesnt mean it does not do harm. That there are no known observable affects today for wind does not mean that it is a good thing. Remeber we did not think oil was bad at first either and now look where we are! Think of this small amounts of C02 are supposed to make major changes to the earth right. Now start extracting that much energy that we used to get from oil from wind. Would that not have an affect? What happens when energy needs double, triple. You gonna put up a windmill every 5 feet? We have to find something more, something viable to replace oil. Wind is nothing more than a bandaid on a sawed off leg. ]]

    The potential for wind energy is so vast that A) it can be a major source of energy, and B) we are unlikely to extract enough to make a noticeable difference.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 26 Jan 2007 @ 11:54 AM

  253. [[i am not saying DO NOTHING. i am saying IT IS TOO LATE. and i am saying start THINKING ABOUT 1000 years from now, when this life experiement of humankind will end. that;s all i am saying. start planning for how Generation 3000 will die......]]

    There’s no particular reason to think you’re right about this.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 26 Jan 2007 @ 11:55 AM

  254. RE # 253

    danny bee, I am asking you to change your message or stop repeating this one.

    There are, I hope, many young persons and likely many students regularly visiting RC. Your message is most inappropriate and even self-defeating for that audience.

    Yes, one can not argue that we (the gownups) screwed up. But, it is not for we- the grownups- to tell the youth that the game is up. All is lost. Go home. Be happy.

    Come on, dude. In my darkest moment, I will never say those things to my son and daughter.

    Read this as a protest against your message.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 26 Jan 2007 @ 12:02 PM

  255. Re. 254

    C02 is not the only GHG. Hyrdro releses alot of methane due to the endless rotting of plants on the resevoir shore. (Damn resevoirs never have much of a stable shore, flood more than normal and dry up more than normal) Just becuase something isn’t burning doesn’t mean there is no affect.

    Also prove that wind power has no affect on the atmosphere. You can’t because no one knows.

    Comment by Jim — 26 Jan 2007 @ 12:47 PM

  256. Re “Also prove that wind power has no affect on the atmosphere. You can’t because no one knows.”

    You mean YOU don’t know. The amount of energy tied up in the Earth’s atmospheric motion has been calculated several times, I believe, and regional studies have been done as well. The power involved is going to be a certain fraction of the Solar power the planet absorbs, and an atmospheric energy balance could be a good place to start if you want to explore this further. Kiehl and Trenberth (1997) have a nice one, and I believe it’s available on the web.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 26 Jan 2007 @ 4:03 PM

  257. http://www.sociologia.org/olddir/text/auden1.htm

    … Existentialist declare
    that they are in complete despair
    yet go on writing.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Jan 2007 @ 11:54 AM

  258. but hank, i am not in complete despair, there is still hope for polar cities in the future. but we must start thinking of building them now.

    Comment by danny bee — 29 Jan 2007 @ 11:04 PM

  259. comment no.243
    I don’t think buying in to Lovelock is very sensable. At worst the planet will be like the Cretacous period. When the dinosaurs ruled the earth the planet was much hotter, but supported an abudance of life. If humans had been around then they may have survived, the climate if not the dinosaurs.
    Remember fossil fuels are starting to run out, so doublings or treblings of atmospheric Co2 concentrations are fantasy anyway. Regard Lovelock as bad science fiction.

    Comment by David Price — 30 Jan 2007 @ 6:43 PM

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