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  1. Can this be plotted to the total net greenhouse gas uptake? Is it correct that all these scenarios do not account for methane uptake?

    Comment by prokaryote — 14 Jun 2010 @ 8:05 AM

  2. I am a scientist but not a climate scientist. My field is medicine. I’ve been reading blogs and books on the topic of global warming and I think I understand at least one of the issues.
    There is one area where there seems to be some uncertainty.
    Low clouds provide negative feedback to the effect of CO2 and high clouds provide positive feedback.More worming means more water vapor and means more clouds.
    I think Phil Jones said that the greatest area of uncertainty in this debate was the effect of clouds.
    If clouds in fact provide a negative feedback to the effects of CO2 of (say) 1% what effect would this have on the computer models? Have the modelers looked at this?
    Wanting to learn.
    Jim

    [Response: This is recent presentation on the subject. But can we please make an effort to stay on topic in this comment thread? Thanks. - gavin]

    Comment by Jim Petrie — 14 Jun 2010 @ 8:09 AM

  3. Very useful post. It points up the severe problem of communicating the IPCC’s findings in general. How many times have we heard that the IPCC predicts a 3-degree C warming when in fact it predicts a range up to twice that? Or, closer to this matter, that temperature rise / ice loss / etc. exceed the projections, where (like CO2) they actually only exceed the bulk of the projections?

    Given that journalists have limited space, and that TV journalists in particular must count each extra word as a severe cost, how do we convey the actual situation? I suggest that in any paper with significant results like the one discussed here, it’s crucial to include an illustration along the lines of your figure, showing the range of IPCC projections against the current result. Even better perhaps would be a shaded graph of projected rise where dark=likeliest or average, shading off to lighter toward the outside values, and with the current paper’s findings (observation and/or projection) superimposed. That would both inform reporters and stand a chance of being picked up by TV and other media.

    Comment by Spencer — 14 Jun 2010 @ 8:13 AM

  4. How is CO2 in the atmosphere measured and how accurate is the measurement?

    Comment by Barry North — 14 Jun 2010 @ 8:35 AM

  5. Jim, it would probably be a good rule-of-thumb to assume that modellers HAVE included (or considered and rejected as ineffective) something in as a feedback if someone without climate science background can think of it.

    You can find out more in the WG1 section of the IPCC reports (http:/www.ipcc.ch) and under both the Start Here section at the top of this page, but as a good rule of thumb, assume it has been included.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 14 Jun 2010 @ 8:43 AM

  6. This article is very interesting, unfortunately not much effort undertaken by some countries to stop or at least reduce the global warming process today.

    My country is also one of the country that does not seem to care about global warming.

    Thank you, your articles very interesting and inspiring.

    My Blog http://loggingstory.blogspot.com

    Comment by Nank — 14 Jun 2010 @ 8:52 AM

  7. Surely you need to see at least a whole business cycle to see if the actual emissions exceed the scenario assumptions. Otherwise, we’re not much wiser.

    As we saw, the rate of economic growth to 2008 was unsustainable, and the global economy accordingly went off a cliff in 2009. The bar chart including estimated 2009 emissions referred to in the footnote to the main figure gives a somewhat different impression to the actual figure, showing, as it does, that the actual 2009 emissions were less than the A1B and A1F1 scenario averages.

    Comment by Tim Joslin — 14 Jun 2010 @ 10:03 AM

  8. @ #4
    Barry North “How is CO2 in the atmosphere measured and how accurate is the measurement?”

    See:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-measurements-uncertainty.htm

    Comment by Adam R. — 14 Jun 2010 @ 10:35 AM

  9. What’s unfortunate in all of this is that, as usual, the real science gets lost. People debate whether current emissions are above or below estimates for certain scenarios among dozens. Of course, the lower CO2 output for the last several years will rebound as soon as the economy does, as we all know.

    But what’s really being missed here?

    Today’s emissions will influence the climate of 10 to 20 years from now. The warming we are experiencing today is merely the final stage in a process which began decades ago. When man made the conscious decision to ignore the increase in atmospheric CO2, and when he decided to exceed the normal high end of that number by a large margin, he committed himself to a warmer planet.

    Which is here.

    Last year’s emissions aren’t affecting this year’s weather. There is no benefit, none at all, to slight annual reductions in emissions. It doesn’t matter whether or not today’s emissions are above or below several of the dozens of scenarios.

    It matters that we are now 50% above nature’s chosen upper limit for atmospheric CO2.

    Fifty percent.

    It matters that the persistence of CO2 (due to the limits of the exchange rate with the oceans) will render it, in terms of this discussion, permanent.

    Three degrees, Fahrenheit, is the short term expected increase in global temperature. Since this warming will induce long term feedbacks, the global temperature will certainly continue to rise.

    If we stopped emitting CO2 today. If we took it to zero, this would still be true.

    The inertia which has already been built into the system will result in an ice free planet.

    That’s what is being lost in this discussion.

    And, in my opinion, plays right into the deniers game of making people believe bad science.

    Or at least misleading use of science.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 14 Jun 2010 @ 11:05 AM

  10. Re: Above:

    Three degrees Celsius, 4 to 5 degree Fahrenheit, is the expected short term increase.

    Mea culpa.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 14 Jun 2010 @ 11:13 AM

  11. “Surely you need to see at least a whole business cycle to see if the actual emissions exceed the scenario assumptions.”

    No, we don’t.

    Besides which, a business cycle is 3 months. Plenty of three-month periods done passed by.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 14 Jun 2010 @ 11:17 AM

  12. Is it not concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere that is important for climate change, rather than emissions? Have not concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere risen less quickly than would have been expected by the rise in emissions? Taken out of context, this article runs the risk of being “true but misleading”. An uninformed reader might draw the incorrect conclusion that “emissions higher than values used in IPCC’s projections = higher warming than in IPCC projections”. That is not necessarily the case, given that the biosphere is sequestering more CO2 from the atmosphere than had been anticipated, as I understand it.

    [Response: Concentrations are a very smoothed function of the emissions, and have been rising pretty much exactly as anticipated by the IPCC scenarios. Emissions growth however has implications for longer term changes in concentrations. - gavin]

    Comment by Stephen — 14 Jun 2010 @ 11:34 AM

  13. “How is CO2 in the atmosphere measured and how accurate is the measurement?”

    Also check out the really interesting website linked in the caption to the figure in the article: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center. A good place to start digging for answers.

    Comment by Sean A — 14 Jun 2010 @ 11:49 AM

  14. “How is CO2 in the atmosphere measured and how accurate is the measurement?”

    Let the master explain himself?
    http://www.scivee.tv/node/5044

    Comment by Harmen — 14 Jun 2010 @ 12:02 PM

  15. Thanks for posting this. When will they ever learn?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 14 Jun 2010 @ 1:29 PM

  16. Prof. Kjell Aleklett has claimed that all scenarios are more or less impossible due to peak oil and coal restriktions in the media…

    http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http://uppsalainitiativet.blogspot.com/2010/03/brist-pa-olja-och-kol-raddar-inte.html&sl=sv&tl=en

    However here you have a more balanced article from his group:
    http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/IPCC_article.pdf

    Any comments from RC on this?

    Comment by Magnus Westerstrand — 14 Jun 2010 @ 1:29 PM

  17. Magnus, seeing as the scenarios go all the way from “no CO2″ to “lots of Fossil Fuel burning”, how can all the scenarios be more or less impossible?

    Unless he’s thinking

    a) It’s physically impossible to get coal/oil out faster
    b) Media pundits will take the ad money and refuse to allow politicians to move away from oil/coal

    thereby making all scenarios blocked either by mechanics or politicking (as opposed to politics).

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 14 Jun 2010 @ 2:33 PM

  18. #17

    He is thinking that it is not possible to get coal/oil out fast enough… (however his comments in media are even worse some times claiming that there is not enough coal and oil in the ground…)

    Comment by Magnus Westerstrand — 14 Jun 2010 @ 2:47 PM

  19. Gavin,

    thank you for your in-line comment to my post #12. I note that you agree with my point. Emissions seem to be rising faster than IPPC projections, but concentrations seem to be in line with IPPC projections. Therefore, people must be careful not to draw an overly simplistic conclusion from this article such as equating higher than projected emissions to higher than projected temperatures, because concentrations are not increasing as quickly.

    [Response: Yes, but my point is that concentrations are a lagging indicator. - gavin]

    Comment by Stephen — 14 Jun 2010 @ 3:40 PM

  20. This is a good chart from Jim Hansen that shows the current emissions with respect to the IPCC scenarios.

    http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/Emissions/

    Comment by bibasir — 14 Jun 2010 @ 3:57 PM

  21. #19 “are” a lagging indicator or “might be” a lagging indicator? Was not the gap between emissions and concentrations somewhat unexpected? Are people not reasearching the “missing sinks” at this time?

    [Response: Huh? The emissions are roughly 9 GtC/yr, into an atmosphere that hold roughly 800 GtC. How can the concentration changes not lag the emission changes? This would not be the case for aerosols for instance, which because of the very short residence time (weeks) have their concentrations effectively set directly by whatever the emissions are. This has nothing whatsoever to do with missing sinks. - gavin]

    Comment by Stephen — 14 Jun 2010 @ 4:05 PM

  22. “Missing sink” is clumsy layman speak on my part. I have in mind the oddity of the airborne faction remaining at 43% (Knorr (2009)), whilst the expectation had been that the biosphere’s capacity to scrub anthropogenic emissions would decline as temperatures and emissions increased.

    [Response: Note that a change in the airborne fraction is not the same as a carbon cycle feedback, rather the roughly constant fraction is a result of exponentially increasing emissions combined with a linear response in the sinks. There will be more papers in due time exploring these connections, but I fail to see how this is relevant to the emissions/concentrations question you raised. - gavin]

    [ I think all that Stephen is saying here is "wasn't there an expectation that the sinks would be non-linear." I think the answer to that is that we don't have enough data to distinguish linear from non-linear responses. It's in the long term, not the short term, that such things will (or not) become clear. I'm not aware of any particular surprises in the data thus far.--eric]

    Comment by Stephen — 14 Jun 2010 @ 5:26 PM

  23. It’s great to have these clarifications but meanwhile time is ticking by. The attack on climate science is largely political, and it’s hard to see how anything but a political response can counter this: not too late, I hope.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 14 Jun 2010 @ 7:32 PM

  24. To get CO2 emissions down, we are going to have to be smart about politics. Please read
    http://www.congress.org/news/2010/06/14/how_a_minority_passed_prohibition

    Is that something we can do?

    My comment 15 should have read “when will the denialists ever learn?” Probably not until it is too late. Note that we have another object lesson in GW today: 10 inches of rain in Oklahoma. Ok, so it is only weather. But it is a “500 year” flood, and if they have another one in 5 years, it won’t be a 500 year flood any more.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 14 Jun 2010 @ 8:16 PM

  25. Magnus Westerstrand says:
    14 June 2010 at 1:29 PM

    Prof. Kjell Aleklett has claimed that all scenarios are more or less impossible due to peak oil and coal restriktions in the media…

    http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http://uppsalainitiativet.blogspot.com/2010/03/brist-pa-olja-och-kol-raddar-inte.html&sl=sv&tl=en

    However here you have a more balanced article from his group:
    http://www.tsl.uu.se/uhdsg/Publications/IPCC_article.pdf

    Any comments from RC on this?

    Kjell is way out of his element on Climate and it shows in his logic, which shows his bias in favor of a PO doomsday scenario instead of a climate change doomsday scenario. Weird that anyone could possibly think there is any value in one or the other being the “right” scenario, but that’s what happens when one marries oneself to a cause, rather than to problem solving in general.

    To be specific, Kjell adheres to the following:

    1. PO is now, climate change is FAR in the future.

    I suggest he observe more of what’s happening in the Arctic Circle.

    2. If it’s not in the IPCC, it’s not legitimate science.

    It’s been explained to him – ad nauseum – that the IPCC reports simply survey and analyze the research available, and doesn’t actually *do* any science, thus, whatever the current science is is what the current science is. He can’t seem to accept this very simple logic.

    3. He has accepted the findings, starting with Rutledge, perhaps, that there simply aren’t enough fossil fuels to do what we all fear via AGW.

    First, Rutledge’s work is flawed in its climate assumptions. Second, Kjell’s assumptions about climate are flawed. E.g.:

    450, 550, 650 ppm or more are OK levels.

    Feedbacks are irrelevant; only FFs matter (at least until the IPCC reports on their lit review, at which time the science apparently gets transmogrified into *real* science).

    These things are strange to me in both the utterly fallacies involved and complete void in logic.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 14 Jun 2010 @ 10:25 PM

  26. 25 : As you understood, I’m basically on line with Kjell Aleklett , for the following reasons
    “1. PO is now, climate change is FAR in the future.

    I suggest he observe more of what’s happening in the Arctic Circle.”

    For most of the consequences that are supposed to hit hard the mankind (crops, economic crashes, wars), consequences of the PO will happen much sooner and will impact more directly the life of billions of people. I share the idea that PO has played a key role in the current economic doom

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6542

    whereas I haven’t yet seen any proposal that it could be caused by the melting of northern sea ice (because only northern would matter, but not southern, of course).

    ” 22. If it’s not in the IPCC, it’s not legitimate science.

    It’s been explained to him – ad nauseum – that the IPCC reports simply survey and analyze the research available, and doesn’t actually *do* any science, thus, whatever the current science is is what the current science is”

    There are plenty of doubts and uncertainties expressed all along IPCC report. The assessment of “likelihoods” that GW would be caused by that or that is not intrinsically a scientific assessment since nobody has ever demonstrated that there is a reliable method to compute this kind a “likelihood’ – that is just the result of political discussions. So there are enough uncertainties factors to estimate that the science hasn’t proved anything convincingly about the real magnitude of the consequences of a GW.

    “3. He has accepted the findings, starting with Rutledge, perhaps, that there simply aren’t enough fossil fuels to do what we all fear via AGW.

    First, Rutledge’s work is flawed in its climate assumptions. Second, Kjell’s assumptions about climate are flawed. E.g.:

    450, 550, 650 ppm or more are OK levels.”

    IPCC scenarios are flawed by the assumption of continuous economic growth, as if the depletion of resources (not only oil, but almost all commodities in the XXIth century) wouldn’t have any impact on it – that a very strange idea that the only thing that threatens the society is the average temperature of the globe !!

    What does the IPCC say about the “OK” levels of CO2 concentration ?

    What would be the economic consequences of trying to keep below 450 ppm , compared with the consequences to exceed it ? who has a scientific estimate of the marginal cost of each attitude ?

    Comment by Gilles — 15 Jun 2010 @ 1:01 AM

  27. re 18, then the A1T scenario is not impossible.

    It’s one of the scenarios.

    It’s sounding to me like this is him trying to get attention.

    But in any case, not all the scenarios are impossible.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 15 Jun 2010 @ 2:19 AM

  28. #25 CCPO

    It would be interesting to read publications or stories about where and how Rutledge are wrong?

    (Aleklett never mentions any body ells… always takes all the credit for peak oil and stating that the IPCC got it all wrong… etc.)

    Comment by Magnus Westerstrand — 15 Jun 2010 @ 3:14 AM

  29. “High-yield agriculture slows pace of global warming, say researchers
    Yesterday at 5:00pm
    Advances in high-yield agriculture achieved during the so-called Green Revolution have not only helped feed the planet, but also have helped slow the pace of global warming by cutting the amount of biomass burned — and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions — when forests or grasslands are cleared for farming. Stanford researchers estimate those emissions have been trimmed by over half a trillion tons of carbon dioxide.”

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Molecular-Biology/83645260842

    Comment by Jacob Mack — 15 Jun 2010 @ 3:36 AM

  30. ccpo and Magnus,
    I looked at this a few months ago, and if you add all likely CO2 emissions from oil, coal, natural gas, tar sands and oil shale, you come up with a likely upper limit of ~1000 ppmv, assuming the portion going into the atmosphere remains constant. This does not include release from peat bogs, permafrost, clathrates or possible saturation of the oceans.

    You can argue about whether it is realistic to assume 100% consumption. Fine. It doesn’t change the fact that we have sufficient carbon to drastically alter Earth’s climate–not surprising if you think about it. Earth’s climate has been dramatically different in the past, in part due to higher CO2.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Jun 2010 @ 4:08 AM

  31. Edward Greisch,
    I think that it is important to remember that prohibition was also overturned–the only amendment ever to be excised from the constitution. We can rely on parliamentary maneuvers or undemocratic tricks, but our opponents are even more adept with these tactics. The one weapon their arsenal lacks is truth, and that has to be our mainstay. For truth to triumph, humans have to become a helluva lot smarter.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Jun 2010 @ 4:16 AM

  32. Barry North 4: How is CO2 in the atmosphere measured and how accurate is the measurement?

    BPL: Flask sampling in isolated areas compared around the world, and it is very accurate. Five significant digits are commonly listed.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 15 Jun 2010 @ 4:50 AM

  33. CompletelyFedUp #11 quoting my #7: As was your response to a post of mine on another thread, that’s a misleading comment. If you don’t have any idea what the business cycle is perhaps you shouldn’t be posting on the subject.

    The business cycle is from recession to recession or peak of growth to peak of growth, which has been about 10 years over the last few decades (though not necessarily synchronised globally). Maybe actual emissions should be tested against model predictions over such a period, as identified from economic indicators (even though this might not be methodologically straightforward).

    There was a period of unusually fast global economic growth in the 2000s, so over the long term the IPCC scenarios do not necessarily underestimate carbon emission trajectories.

    Comment by Tim Joslin — 15 Jun 2010 @ 5:08 AM

  34. RL#30 :”ccpo and Magnus,
    I looked at this a few months ago, and if you add all likely CO2 emissions from oil, coal, natural gas, tar sands and oil shale, you come up with a likely upper limit of ~1000 ppmv”

    Could you please give more precisely the “likely” value for oil only entering your addition, and convert it in a “likely” value for the date of the peak (with a “likely” shape), together with a uncertainty interval for both ?

    If you can’t , what is your meaning of “likely” ?

    Comment by Gilles — 15 Jun 2010 @ 5:45 AM

  35. Ray,

    I did look quite deep in to the question ( http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&u=http://uppsalainitiativet.blogspot.com/2010/03/brist-pa-olja-och-kol-raddar-inte.html&sl=sv&tl=en ) and we definitely have enough fossil fuels to put us well over ipcc levels.

    I think it is fair to say that there could be big problems with peak oil, gas and coal… however we can not say that for the next 100 years we will not see any brake through techniques in the fossil fuel are that makes it easier to get up from the ground, we do not know if politicians will put the infrastructure needed for increase in output out in time… we don’t know if they will move national parks and therefore cant rule that out. (same thing here, short time fluctuations don’t mean the long trend must be wrong, and it is always easy to point out wrongs in short periods with complex things like scenarios something which I think IPCC acknowledges).

    However it would be interesting to see scenarios where these considerations are taken to see how that would affect the economic consequences… for handling CO2 emissions. E.g. high cost on fossil fuels probably would make a fast transition to alternatives cheaper.

    Comment by Magnus Westerstrand — 15 Jun 2010 @ 6:04 AM

  36. Re #35, Dont be fooled by what politicians might be deciding for the process is very complex and the procedure takes a long time to decide anything. Here in the UK for example we are already heading for a energy deficit as we mothball our nuclear and aging coal fired power stations. However replacements are a concern. Is it Nuclear, Wind, etc or more coal and gas but lead times are long and if left to energy companies fossil fuels would win out.

    If we tax Co2 then renewables win, if not then nuclear might or we all might lose for if climate change does not then peak energy will.

    Comment by pete best — 15 Jun 2010 @ 6:24 AM

  37. “The business cycle is from recession to recession or peak of growth to peak of growth, which has been about 10 years over the last few decades ”

    We’ve had plenty of 10-year business cycles.

    (that would be the length of time for a new CEO to stuff up the company and move on under a golden parachute, yes?)

    And each 10 year average has been warmer than the previous 10 year average.

    So too has the ice area reduced for each 10 year average.

    Your position is untenable under ANY proposition. You still state “oh, this could mean that we get return to normal ice” when you’ve supplied NO mechanism to do so.

    [edit]

    [Response: This thread is about emissions, not ice. Please stay on topic. - gavin]

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 15 Jun 2010 @ 7:07 AM

  38. #34–THIS is the sound of goalposts moving. The question was total, not trajectory.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 15 Jun 2010 @ 7:09 AM

  39. #38 Kevin
    I don’t see the goalpost moving. Ray said “and if you add all likely CO2 emissions from oil, coal, natural gas, tar sands and oil shale”, and I just asked for the specific contribution of oil in the addition (or more exactly liquid) in the total.
    Now for a given total, I would be pleased to know the kind of realistic curve Ray or you are expecting, within for instance the IPCC scenarios that are supposed to encompass all possible scenarios.

    Comment by Gilles — 15 Jun 2010 @ 7:25 AM

  40. # 37

    Regarding long time for decisions… this publication is interesting and a way that tries to give a clearer picture for politicians to act on
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2010/01/08/0903797106.full.pdf+html

    “In a scenario with high demand for energy and land, being below 2 °C with 50% likelihood requires a 50% reduction in emissions below 2000 levels by 2050, which is only barely feasible with known technologies in that scenario”

    Comment by Magnus Westerstrand — 15 Jun 2010 @ 7:46 AM

  41. Adam R. Thank you for the link, which I’ve read and largely understood. Now I need to go away, think about it for a couple of weeks, and then come back with another dumb question :)

    Comment by Barry North — 15 Jun 2010 @ 8:33 AM

  42. Gilles,
    No, it is a fair question. I believe that petroleum alone cannot get us above 500 ppmv. Add methane, and I think you can get to ~600-650. Oil shale and tar sands to about 700-750, and coal is the rest. That’s from memory and it was a few months ago. So, coal is about half.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Jun 2010 @ 8:55 AM

  43. Ray : thanks ; I would be interested in converting the value in ppm CO2 into a value of total amount of GtC, and try to fit this total value with a realistic curve, for each FF and especially the “all liquids” curve (oil/tar sand/oil shales).

    Which growth rate do we expect for the next decades, and which maximal production rate and peak date do you consider as “likely” ? given the 1-sigma error bar you evaluate, how likely is a close peak of all liquids ? (could you for instance compute an approximate likelihood of a maximal peak < 90 Mbl/d before 2015, with these values?)

    Comment by Gilles — 15 Jun 2010 @ 9:36 AM

  44. Ray Ladbury

    No, if we burn all the known reserves of fossil carbon (1500 GtC since preindustrial era), CO2 will increase between 550 and 600 vpm.
    And the temperature will increase at 2/2.5°C max.
    OK it’s a personal computation (http://www.climat-evolution.com/article-depasse-t-on-2-c-si-on-brule-toutes-les-reserves-de-carbone-fossile-45331893.html)

    The problem is the fossil carbon resources.(>1500GtC)
    And in this domain this is, as we say in french, the “flou artistique”.
    I think that IPCC could give us some realistic scenarios based on the actual knowledge of the resources.

    Comment by meteor — 15 Jun 2010 @ 10:01 AM

  45. CompletelyFedUp #37: You’re totally muddled. Not only does your comment address my comments on two separate threads, you’re once again misrepresenting my position (on the other thread).

    Here, you seem to imply I’m some kind of denialist. I’m not. I did not “state” “oh, this could mean that we get return to normal ice”. This is neither a quote nor does it correctly represent my position. And I’ve gone to a great deal of trouble on the other thread to explain the processes that could cause cyclic Arctic sea-ice and related climate behaviour around an underlying warming trend.

    [Response: This thread is not about ice. To both commenters, further dispute on off-topic issues on this thread will be deleted. - gavin]

    Comment by Tim Joslin — 15 Jun 2010 @ 10:25 AM

  46. Meanwhile, the NOAA State of the Climate Global Analysis for May 2010 is out today:
    http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/?report=global&year=2010&month=5&submitted=Get+Report

    quote/
    The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for May 2010 was 0.69°C (1.24°F) above the 20th century average of 14.8°C (58.6°F). This is the warmest such value on record since 1880.

    For March–May 2010, the combined global land and ocean surface temperature was 14.4°C (58.0°F) — the warmest March-May on record. This value is 0.73°C (1.31°F) above the 20th century average.

    The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for January–May 2010 was the warmest on record. The year-to-date period was 0.68°C (1.22°F) warmer than the 20th century average.

    The worldwide ocean surface temperature for May 2010 was the second warmest May on record, behind 1998, 0.55°C (0.99°F) above the 20th century average of 16.3°C (61.3°F).

    The seasonal (March–May 2010) worldwide ocean surface temperature was the second warmest such period on record, 0.55°C (0.99°F) above the 20th century average of 16.1°C (61.0°F).

    The global land surface temperatures for May and the March–May period were the warmest on record, at 1.04°C (1.87°F) and 1.22°C (2.20°F) above the 20th century average, respectively.

    In the Northern Hemisphere, both the May 2010 average temperature for land areas, and the hemisphere as a whole (land and ocean surface combined), represented the warmest May on record. The Northern Hemisphere ocean temperature was the second warmest May on record. The average combined land and ocean surface temperature for the Northern Hemisphere was also record warmest for the March–May period.
    /quote

    Comment by Jim Eager — 15 Jun 2010 @ 11:44 AM

  47. Meteor, are you sure. There’s ~1 teratonne of remaining coal alone–which puts us over 560 ppmv. Proven oil reserves take us above 600 ppmv. Also, there could be a lot more oil out there–the Orinoco Basin may have more oil than the Middle East. Oil shale and natural gas (proven) take us up over 750-800 ppmv. Other unconventional ois reserves could take us above 900 ppmv. If we assume that other sources of CO2 continue in about the same proportion (e.g. cement production, etc.), we’re easily above 1000 ppmv.

    Those who claim Peak Oil will cancel the climate crisis ingore the fact that humans are extremely ingenious when it comes to screwing up the environment–and the fact that because unconventional fossil fuels require greater processing, they may actually accelerate CO2 production.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:21 PM

  48. To ccpo @ 14 June 2010 at 10:25 PM (#25) and others thinking along similar lines:

    When I read Magnus W’s comment @ 14 June 2010 at 1:29 PM (#16), I skipped the link to what sounded like the more extreme rhetoric and just read the “more balanced article”. I suggest we spend our time on the possibilities that are more central and more likely, as shown by more evidence and common sense. I saw little connection between your criticisms and the article I read.

    One crucial point still inadequately acknowledged by most, including many commenters here, concerns the profound feedbacks from peak fossil fuel production, led by peak oil production. We are already seeing the leading edge of those effects. The higher-emissions SRES scenarios are dubious at best.

    None of this changes the central thrust of climate science. It does challenge a lot of conventional economics that is looking increasingly mythical. It is perfectly reasonable to accept mainstream climate science and still point to peak oil as the more immediate threat to prosaic activities over the next decade, such as, say, my job and the jobs my young-adult children are looking for. No one can seriously and reasonably extrapolate the climate changes of the last 3 to 10 decades over one or two more decades and identify anything that would kill my job within that time. Arctic ice melt, movement of the North American breadbasket agriculture northward, and rising seas are not likely to have a greater effect over the next 10-20 years than they have over the past 100. (To everyone planning an intemperate reply concerning decades after 2020, just squelch the impulse please. For the umpteenth time, I have no reason to doubt mainstream climate science, being on the contrary an intense supporter of it, and advocate of public policies accordingly.)

    The mini-argument brewing between “peak oilers” and “climate campaigners” is especially silly because both phenomena are manifestations of limits to human activities in an effectively finite system, and the sensible reactions to both overlap to a huge degree.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 15 Jun 2010 @ 12:49 PM

  49. Ric Merritt: “No one can seriously and reasonably extrapolate the climate changes of the last 3 to 10 decades over one or two more decades and identify anything that would kill my job within that time. Arctic ice melt, movement of the North American breadbasket agriculture northward, and rising seas are not likely to have a greater effect over the next 10-20 years than they have over the past 100.”

    You seem to be assuming a gradual, steady rate of change as opposed to abrupt, extreme changes. I would suggest that given what we can see happening right now, that is not a safe assumption.

    E.g. rather than a gradual “movement of the North American breadbasket agriculture northward” over 10-20 years, we might experience an escalating torrent of extreme weather events, including intense, prolonged and extreme drought leading to widespread crop failures next year.

    We are already seeing an upsurge in AGW-driven extreme weather events that are already an “immediate threat to prosaic activities”. Just ask the folks in Nashville.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 15 Jun 2010 @ 1:39 PM

  50. Ray

    my source for the reserves is the BP 2009 report.

    natural gas :127 GtC

    oil and Canada bituminous sands:164 GTC
    coal: 826 GTC

    sum: 1117 GtC

    we already emit about 460 GtC since preindustrial (with land use and cement: source CDIAC)

    My scenario was hence 1500 GTC emission since preindustrial with a peak at 12 GtC/y in 2030-2040 and a decreasing after.
    1500GtC because I supposed a rest in the reserves and land use emissions as in SRES scenarios.
    I precise that the model gives me 385 ppm with the 460 GtC already released.

    With the Bern 2.5 C model (simplified equation) the maximal concentration, with 1500GtC emissions, is 550 ppm obtained in 2090/2100.
    Maybe there is an little underestimate but not very high (20-30 ppm)
    I precise that the model is good for the A1B scenario.

    I am not a peakoilist or a sceptical man, but my problem is the realism of scenarios which imply the use of unproven or estimated resources.
    I think that the IPCC must work on this theme for its next report to gain credibility.
    I don’t know an new evaluation of resources since Rogner 97 (An assesment of world hydrocarbon resources).

    And you?

    Comment by meteor — 15 Jun 2010 @ 1:58 PM

  51. Meteor, I checked several sources for coal–which makes up about half the rise. Petroleum, I relied on an average of several estimates, including the BP estimate. Natural gas is commensurate with petroleum. I also assumed about half the CO2 produced would wind up in the atmosphere.

    Perhaps the main source of disagreement is the unconventional fossil fuels. I tried to hit the mid-range here. However, if the Orinoco reserves are realized, we’re easily over 1000 ppmv.

    The thing is that we have no good alternative to fossil fuels. I see no strong action coming any time soon, so I see nothing that takes us off of the fossil fuel track. And since fossil fuels are currently indispensible (not I said currently, Gilles) not just for energy but also to feed the 7 billion people on Earth, I would contend that people will find a way to use the nonconventional reserves rather than simply allow civiliaation to collapse. What is more, since the extraction will be more energy intensive, we’ll be emitting more CO2 per dollar of production. Hell, even if we run out of fossil fuels, I don’t see us stopping until we burn the last tree. Humans are as voracious as locusts–and collectively about as intelligent. They’ll consume ’til everything’s gone, all the while telling themselves that everything will be alright.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Jun 2010 @ 2:26 PM

  52. Ric Merritt, about that breadbasket moving north. Big problem: The topsoil from up there emigrated from Canada with the last glaciers. In some places it was 6-9 feet deep until we let it all blow and wash away. So farmers trying to plant in Canada will find the Canadian shield a rather poor farming belt. Now, I agree, this won’t be a disaster by 2020, but by 2050, winter wheat could be a thing of the past on most of the US side of the border.

    That is the problem we have–we can’t reliably bound risk, and probabilistic risk assessment says when you can’t bound it, you gotta avoid it.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Jun 2010 @ 2:33 PM

  53. # 49 and 50

    well the problem is that his stamens in media is not backed up by publications…

    You could find publications that talks about Oil peaks later then the IPCC you can find publications that talks about lots of unconventional oil… and what about methane… added to that and the same goes for coal… This in it self does not prove that it will be economically good to mine it… or that it is the best projection of what will happen links in my post above. and see #35

    then of cause you will have the people saying that we only use a small % of the GDP on energy and that a bit more will not be a catastrophe and that humans have worked wonders before when under pressure to solve problems…

    Comment by Magnus Westerstrand — 15 Jun 2010 @ 2:34 PM

  54. AnonC: “rather than a gradual “movement of the North American breadbasket agriculture northward” over 10-20 years, we might experience an escalating torrent of extreme weather events”

    Right at the moment the northern part of the breadbasket is under water, Saskatchewan wheat growers are facing the wettest planting period in 100 years, there will likely be little if any wheat from an area that normally exports tons around the world. Ric might not lose his particular job over it, but he’ll be paying more for grain based foods by this time next year.

    Comment by flxible — 15 Jun 2010 @ 4:48 PM

  55. Re: #24: There was a ’500 year hurricane’ in UK in 1988. Any bets on when the next one will be?

    Comment by john — 15 Jun 2010 @ 7:17 PM

  56. I read somewhere that Craig Venter thinks he can pump genetically engineered bacteria into coal seams and turn coal into methane. The idea being that we’d then burn the methane instead of coal and that methane produces something like 1/10th the CO2 that coal does for the same number of kWh. I don’t know if that idea is still alive but I am curious as to how a stop-gap measure like that would play out. It doesn’t strike me as entirely distinct from Freeman Dyson’s idea of growing soil to keep CO2 from going too high. Dyson claims that if we grew our top soil by 1/100 inch per year that that could absorb all the CO2 that we are currently emitting. I’ve seen it written here on RC that Dyson is a “denialist” but he isn’t. He is way way too smart to join the idiot forces of Motl WUWT, etc.. From my reading of Dyson he isn’t a denialist but a cornucopiast. Lately RC has been bumming me out, not so much because of the usual gang of denialist idiots but because of the total lack of imagination regarding solutions.

    [Response: It may be fair to take us to task if we have called Dyson a denialist, though I'm not sure we have. But he's said some pretty foolish and inaccurate things about the science, and his ideas about solutions are more Star Trek than science. As for *our* alleged lack of creativity re solutions, this isn't what we are particularly experts in, and we probably will all disagree with one another. What you may be referring to is that we tend to be dismissive of poorly thought out quicky technical fixes, usally coming from people -- whether they be left-leaning physicists or right-leaning economists -- that seem not to have the foggiest notion of the complexity of the climate system, nor any concern for other aspects like ocean acidity. When those same people defend their ideas on the basis that we don't like geoengineering because it doesn't fit our alleged leftist anti-SUV agenda, well, we're doubly unimpressed. Sorry for ranting but ... really!.--eric]

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 15 Jun 2010 @ 7:46 PM

  57. To ALL:

    1. Peak Oil
    A. We’re already seeing the melt and such that we weren’t supposed to see for a looong time. Thus, 450, 550, 650…? Irrelevant. The bleeping methane is coming out of the ice, folks. The tipping point done tipped, if you ask me. A little Occam’s Razor is in order.

    B. We’ve already peaked. And? Tell me, if we see a worsened economic crash due to additional effects of Peak Oil, and people can’t buy what they need to cook/heat/what have you, just what do you think is going to be burnt for those purposes? Or, if things continue on as they are, or anything like they are, and we get to 450 ppm, which we know can be correlated with Greenland being (nearly?) ice free, what in tarnation are you expecting to see happen?

    Etc.

    Ice: Already affected enough to be in a feedback loop, and the warming associated is correlated to melt a thousand miles (km?) inland, giving yet another feedback loop.

    Essentially, the argument over how much we can burn is irrelevant, and this is where Kjell, et al., are fubar in their thinking. MAGICal even: Feedbacks don’t matter because IPCC V hasn’t been written yet, and (contrary to reality) the changes expected are far off.

    Goodness…

    It simply doesn’t matter whether we hit the “worst” cases of the scenarios, because our models obviously can’t calculate the true planetary sensitivity/reaction to what we are doing to it. We have already pushed the system too hard too fast. The question now is, will 450 ppm, which seems to be virtually assured given current and future emissions and the methane feedbacks already underway, goose the system in any substantive way?

    To answer the question on Rutledge, see above. Also, search threads for his name on The Oil Drum.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 15 Jun 2010 @ 9:20 PM

  58. Re: #57:

    Thank you.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 15 Jun 2010 @ 11:06 PM

  59. 31 & 51 Ray Ladbury: “For truth to triumph, humans have to become a helluva lot smarter.”
    Roger that.
    “I would contend that people will find a way to use the nonconventional reserves rather than simply allow civilization to collapse.”
    Except that doing so is exactly what will cause more CO2 which will cause more GW which will collapse agriculture.
    “Humans are as voracious as locusts–and collectively about as intelligent.”
    Roger that.

    54 flxible: “Right at the moment the northern part of the breadbasket is under water”
    Roger that.

    Which brings us back to the horns of the dilemma: We have got to find a way to STOP the production of so much CO2! The trend in CO2 production is in the wrong direction. We are a very small minority and we don’t have a lot of money or political savvy. The only thing I can think of to capitalize on is weather events such as that which flxible mentioned and we can do that only if the weather event extends in time long enough to become quasi-climatic. That puts us on the ragged edge of sticking to Science. So we have to mention weather events in a way that makes them add up to a shift in the climate and show that agriculture is suffering because of the climate shift. Then we have to imply that prices at the grocery store will be impacted in a really serious way. [Guidance please?]
    And newspaper editors often don’t to publish our letters or comments.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 15 Jun 2010 @ 11:11 PM

  60. #51 “Meteor, I checked several sources for coal–which makes up about half the rise. Petroleum, I relied on an average of several estimates, including the BP estimate. Natural gas is commensurate with petroleum. I also assumed about half the CO2 produced would wind up in the atmosphere.

    Perhaps the main source of disagreement is the unconventional fossil fuels. I tried to hit the mid-range here. However, if the Orinoco reserves are realized, we’re easily over 1000 ppmv.

    Ray, it is not only a question of summing reserves, it is also a question of pace, and how long the civilization will be able to extract them. Most of these reserves are unconventional and needs sophisticated techniques to be extracted – you can currently see what drilling a hole under 5000 ft of water really means.

    I repeat my question, that remained unanswered : taking your “likely” estimate of global liquids production, if you try to fit it with a reasonable production curve, which peak production do you predict and at which date, and how does it compare to current production curve ?

    I am merely asking to apply the methodology presented for CO2 emissions in the introduction post, but restricted to liquids only. It should be rather simple to take a subset of data , shouldn’t it ?


    The thing is that we have no good alternative to fossil fuels. I see no strong action coming any time soon, so I see nothing that takes us off of the fossil fuel track. And since fossil fuels are currently indispensible (not I said currently, Gilles)”

    Yes, and which consequences of GW aren’t estimated with “current ” knowledge, basically extrapolating them without any fundamental change ? are you able to predict the evolution of mankind concerning the use of new energy sources, but not concerning its adaption to temperature ?

    Comment by Gilles — 16 Jun 2010 @ 2:23 AM

  61. This is all very disheartening, the increase in CO2 emissions. If only people would have started reducing back in 1990, they would have saved money, lots of money, without lowering productivity or living standards, perhaps avoiding the severity of the current economic crunch, and we would have mitigated many other environmental and nonenvironmental problems in addition to AGW.

    I know where the higher emissions are coming from — people are taking their money and burning out on their front lawns like so many autumn leaves. That’s what I tell denialists they are doing by failing to become energy/resources efficient/conservative and go on alt energy.

    Like a Carrier AC commercial, where the family comes running out of their house crying, “We’ve been robbed” (bec their AC was so inefficient).

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 16 Jun 2010 @ 3:12 AM

  62. #50 Meteor:

    Assuming you are in fact using “reserves” from the BP report–lay people tend to use “reserves” and “resources” interchangeably, which is a source of error–you need to bear these things in mind:

    1. “Reserves” is an economic term. It describes what can be produced using current technology at prevailing prices. If prices go up, reserves go up. If technological development lowers costs, reserves go up.

    2. Miners and oil producers do just enough exploration to be able to plan development and production over the next 20 to 30 years. More expense than that is needless. “Reserves” is not a measure of what is in the ground.

    3. Excluded from reserves is a lot of already-known coal that is in too-thin seams, or in unstable rock, or too deep, or that has other difficulties that stops it being included in reserves. Technology improvements that are in train will bring many of these deposits into reserves in due course. This would double reserves without need for further exploration.

    Thus, although total resources are unknown, they are known to be large, and potentially orders of magnitude above reserves. There is no reason to think A1FI and/or 1100 ppm are impossible, or even unlikely. Quite the reverse.

    Comment by Greg — 16 Jun 2010 @ 3:48 AM

  63. John Pearson,
    Freeman Dyson is undeniably a smart guy. However, he has his eyes so firmly fixed on “the future” that he doesn’t see the brick wall that lies in our path toward that future. In that sense, he reminds me of the joke about the engineer, physicist and mathematician who decide to share a room to save money at a conference. So, in the middle of the night, as they are nestled all snug in their beds, a fire breaks out in a trashcan. The engineer wakes up, sees the flames and runs and grabs the fire extinguisher. He sprays the extinguisher all over the place, makes a big mess, but gets the fire out. Or so he thought… The fire starts again from a tiny ember left in the trash can. This time the physicist wakes up. He runs to his desk, writes down a couple of equations, runs over and grabs the extinguisher, sprays three short blasts at the base of the fire and it goes out. Or so he thought… Again the fire reignites. This time the mathematician wakes up and sees it. He looks over and sees the fire extinguisher and says, “Oh, a solution exists.” He then rolls over and goes back to sleep. You can guess which one most closely resembles Dyson. We don’t know how to grow the topsoil at .01 inches a year on a global scale. We don’t know how to make genetically engineered carbon-gobbling trees. We don’t know how to geo-engineer a solution with sulfate aerosols or what the side effects of that solution would be. We don’t know how to bound risks of climate change. We do know how to proceed in the face of such uncertainty: Risk avoidance while we reduce uncertainty and come up with effective mitigation. It ain’t sexy, but it is standard risk mitigation procedure.

    [Response: Ray, well said.--eric]

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Jun 2010 @ 5:17 AM

  64. Gilles, your question is ambiguous. The fossil fuels in the tar sands and in the Orinoco are “liquid”, but not free liquid. If all had to worry about was natural gas and petroleum, we’d probably stay below 550 ppmv. However, even this number is not firmly set, but technology dependent. Even 15 years ago, the idea that we’d be sucking oil our of 15000 foot wells under a mile of ocean through a soda straw would have seemed far fetched. Fracking has increased US gas reserves by several fold in less than 10 years–as well as demonstrating that we are willing to put up with just about any level of environmental degradation to obtain it. I see no good excuse to assume technology will remain static.

    Also, you are assuming that CO2 emissions will go down as fossil fuels get harder to extract. In fact, the opposite may occur. Coal is much dirtier than natural gas or petroleum. Oil shale and tar sands even moreso.

    In my experience the effects of crises rarely cancel each other out–the interference is much more likely to be constructive.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Jun 2010 @ 7:44 AM

  65. Eric:

    What you may be referring to is that we tend to be dismissive of poorly thought out quicky technical fixes, usally coming from people — whether they be left-leaning physicists or right-leaning economists — that seem not to have the foggiest notion of the complexity of the climate system, nor any concern for other aspects like ocean acidity. When those same people defend their ideas on the basis that we don’t like geoengineering because it doesn’t fit our alleged leftist anti-SUV agenda, well, we’re doubly unimpressed.

    This reminds me nothing more than of the stream of “solutions to the BP gulf gusher” being put forward by people who are often quite smart and skilled in their field (lots of engineers) but absolutely clueless as to what’s involved in trying to stop a well 5,000 feet under water, pressure at the bottom of the well of 12,000 psi, and 18,000 feet of well capped with a fragile, damaged device that has to be babied so it doesn’t blow out entirely and become uncontainable and unkillable via the relief wells.

    Sometimes smart people have to recognize that outside their knowledge domain, maybe they’re really not smarter than the experts.

    Comment by dhogaza — 16 Jun 2010 @ 8:49 AM

  66. Ray : #64 : thank you for your interesting digressions, but I am not asking for a detailed philosophical and/or economic dissertation. “Liquid” is a relatively well defined notion, even if you can discuss if pressurized butane is liquid or gas, this doesn’t matter very much. I’m just asking for NUMBERS. You made a statement about a “likely” integral amount of oil (actually you made a statement about a CO2 concentration increase, but I assume you know how to convert it, since the basic quantity is more the volume of hydrocarbons than the CO2 concentration).

    So again i’m not “assuming” anything : again, I’m just asking for very simple numbers, not philosophy ! : for this “likely” amount of liquids, and a likely shape of the overall curve, can you estimate an approximate interval of a “likely” peak volume and date ? this shouldn’t be very hard to compute (much less complicated than global climate modeling of course).

    Comment by Gilles — 16 Jun 2010 @ 9:21 AM

  67. In #56 John Pearson says I read somewhere that Craig Venter thinks he can pump genetically engineered bacteria into coal seams and turn coal into methane. The idea being that we’d then burn the methane instead of coal and that methane produces something like 1/10th the CO2 that coal does for the same number of kWh.

    I’d like to see the original research on that idea because it doesn’t pass the straight-face test as a means of reducing carbon emissions.

    The basic problem is that bacteria don’t magically take the energy encapsulated in in carbon and turn it into energy encapsulated in hydrogen without significant losses along the way.

    Yeast makes about 60% of the energy available in starches and sugars available as ethanol; the rest goes into CO2 and yeast biomass. If the coal-eating bacteria was nearly as efficient (round to 50%) then half the energy in the coal would be available in the methane. To break even the natural gas generation would have to be twice as efficient as the coal generation would have been. I believe modern coal plants are in the 35-40% range, so the natural gas plant would need to be in the 70-80% range.

    The basic problem from an emissions perspective is that a lot of CO2 would be produced in order to make the CH4.

    There are lots of other considerations to make about the economics and feasibility and peak vs baseload, but those aren’t relevant to the emissions discussion here.

    Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix.

    Comment by David Miller — 16 Jun 2010 @ 11:30 AM

  68. “Freeman Dyson is undeniably a smart guy”

    To put things into perspective, I would say Ray Ladbury is undeniably a smart guy, whereas Dyson is a brilliant guy. Neither is a speci alist in this field, so arguably neither is worth listening to, but it’s hardly unreasonable to ponder what Dyson has to say.

    Comment by Walter Manny — 16 Jun 2010 @ 2:38 PM

  69. “but it’s hardly unreasonable to ponder what Dyson has to say.”

    It’s hardly unreasonable to decide, after such ponderings, that Dyson has got it completely wrong.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 16 Jun 2010 @ 3:44 PM

  70. Neither is a speci alist in this field, so arguably neither is worth listening to…

    One apparently lacks the important virtue of humility. If you don’t subscribe to omniscience, choose carefully.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 16 Jun 2010 @ 3:56 PM

  71. 67: David I think I can find the reference when I get back home in a few days. I’m pretty sure i read the Venter thing in Stewart Brand’s book … Eco-pragmatist yada yada. I didn’t do any analysis at all and wondered if it passed the simple tests, but usually I’ve found that few simple tests are that simple in practice.

    Hold the press:

    googling for “Venter methane coal” turns up this:

    http://www.microbeworld.org/index.php?option=com_jlibrary&view=article&id=761

    in which someone claims that it’s already being done.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 16 Jun 2010 @ 4:45 PM

  72. I have no idea if Dyson is wrong or right on growing soil at a rate of 0.01 inches per year. What I think is that it can’t hurt to try it. I don’t agree with the notion that all we have to do is adopt SSX (single strategy X) and that we probably ought to be willing to try everything we can. I dislike geoengineering in principle but I can imagine cases in which we might be forced to it, say if the methane clathrates started melting and belching up really really enormous quantities of methane (which i guess they might be doing now?) Is there no case in which geoengineering makes sense as an emergency measure? (Here by geoengineering I’m thinking specifically about spraying sulphur dioxide not growing dirt, or windmills, etc, which all could qualify depending on how you want to define terms.)

    Didn’t get to read more than 2 posts up and saw that at least people are talking about this stuff which i think is a good thing.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 16 Jun 2010 @ 4:59 PM

  73. John (#72),
    Developing and evaluating methods to “grow” soil (with measurements of changes in carbon content, nutrient content and so forth) could have agricultural applications as well. People have long worked on this but it definitely seems like something worth funding more extensively. But, for the purpose of long-term geoengineering, it’s a bit dicey because, if it were actually workable to store huge amounts of carbon in living soil, climate change could lead to uncontrollable releases of that carbon down the road. There are more stable ways to sequestrate carbon. But that of course doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing as some kind of complementary measure.
    And you’re of course right about geoengineering. Given the forseeable trend in CO2 emissions and the uncertainties regarding the ultimately recoverable fossil fuel resource as well as regarding the slow climate feedbacks, it would be prudent to fund R&D. And, though it’s not politically correct, I think convective uplift should at least be considered as a method to deliver stuff to very high altitutes.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 16 Jun 2010 @ 5:58 PM

  74. By the way, speaking of physicists wandering off their reservations, check out the neatly hermetic The temperature rise has caused the CO2 increase, not the other way around item now being messily disassembled not only at Skeptical Science but even at WUWT. Internal party dissonance between Eschenbach and Hocker is causing rusty mental gears to turn: is Hocker the roader or is it Eschenbach? The former says C02 is created by mathematical phlogiston, the latter says humans done it, meanwhile the the regulars don’t like it when family members disagree, shoulder-to-shoulder solidarity is more comforting. Somebody’s going to have relearn the peasant virtues or maybe volunteer for samokritika.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 16 Jun 2010 @ 6:12 PM

  75. Gilles, surely you are not so naive that you think one can estimate a “peak date” or emissions curve without assuming a scenario, are you?

    If you make the unreasonable assumption that we will simply burn all the oil and natural gas until it is gone and then wait for civilization and the human population of 9 billion to collapse, you get peak emissions sometime around 2050 and probably a peak CO2 content around 550 ppmv around 2100, by which time, human population ought to have more or less stabilized to about 50-100 million gloabally. That assumes a scenario.

    A more reasonable scenario assumes we’ll burn whatever we can lay our hands on to keep civilization going and postpone collapse, further damaging global carrying capacity and probably stabilizing below the above population estimate.

    Me, I’d like to assume that somehow we reach sustainability, gradually reduce population and that we continue to try and resolve the Fermi Paradox by analysis rather than experiment. But that, too, is probably unrealistic.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Jun 2010 @ 8:00 PM

  76. John E. Pearson says, “I have no idea if Dyson is wrong or right on growing soil at a rate of 0.01 inches per year. What I think is that it can’t hurt to try it.”

    OK, John, gonna play devils advocate here. Let’s say we start growing topsoil at 10 mils a year using some genetically engineered microbe. How do we stop it? How do we keep it from growing much faster than 10 mils a year? How do we stop CO2 from dropping below 200 ppmv?

    Not saying it’s a bad idea. Just that even if we come up with a viable mechanism, we have to 1)validate it, 2)failsafe it, 3)know how to stop it if unintended consequences are unacceptable. Mitigations usually work best when they use the mechanisms in the system that we know best. That’s CO2. We know how it gets into the atmosphere. We know what it does. We know how the system responds if we start to remove it. The problem I have with most geoengineering strategies is that they use the forcings and mechanisms that we understand least–e.g. the aerosols, the biosphere…

    Arthur Clarke said that technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic. What I worry about is people proposing magic solutions and us mistaking them for technology.

    Walter Manny, I can cite many, many examples of utterly brilliant men and women (ok more men than women) who were nonetheless utterly batshit crazy on some matters where they pontificated without studying the matter in sufficient depth.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Jun 2010 @ 8:12 PM

  77. Ric at 48–

    The Arctic may seem a long way from you, but an ice free Arctic Sea, as far as I understand it, will probably alter the climate of the entire northern hemisphere. No one knows when this will happen, but since ice thickness has collapsed in the last few years, random weather events and wind patterns any year now could probably get us pretty close.

    And of course, there is the possibility (probability?) that we could face a major discontinuity, even this year, if, as some claim, there are ten thousand gigatons of free methane under a very thin and already-melting layer of clathrates at the bottom of the very shallow waters north of Siberia.

    Watching from west to east the Barrents, Kara, Laptev, and eventually East Siberian Seas melt in sequence on Cryosphere Today and other sites feels a bit like watching the fuse burn toward the bomb.

    Comment by wili — 16 Jun 2010 @ 8:53 PM

  78. To 72 John E. Pearson

    It would be great to increase soils. I think Ray was meaning that Dyson hasn’t got an effective plan for doing that on a global scale (I don’t know if he has or not). If you want to learn more about growing soil resources, investigate permaculture. Some academics who have published on building carbon in soils are Pete Smith of Aberdeen University and Rattan Lal of Ohio State Uni.

    There are some assessments of geoengineering out there. Depending on what you can access over the net, there is

    The Royal Society (2009) Geoengineering the Climate: Science, Governance and Uncertainty

    or alternatively

    Lenton TM & Vaughan NE (2009) The radiative forcing potential of different climate geoengineering options. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions 9, 2559–2608.

    I have been joining in Tim Lenton’s GeoEngineering Assessment and Research (GEAR) group as I am doing a life cycle analysis of biochar (from UEA’s new biomass CHP plant). Briefly, geoengineering consists of SRM (solar radiation management) and CDR (Carbon Dioxide Removal) techniques. My very brief take on these techniques is that the SRM ones especially are prone to requiring ongoing maintenance over the centuries to avoid reversion to full climate impacts. For sulphur aerosols in the atmosphere, a few weeks would be enough for them to wash out. Also, SRM techniques tend to offer no help with ocean acidification. So I personally would mainly consider these in a national security context, of invading other countries to STOP them implementing these methods. CDR, on the other hand, includes some more sensible options eg incorporating biochar in soil, expanding forested areas (massive co-benefits unlike launching endless rockets full of mirrors or sulphates into space/the atmosphere) or more untried but still fairly safe and predictable options such as dumping biomass on the ocean bed or air capture/carbonate weathering approaches.

    Re previous posts about looking for evidence of the economic cycle in global carbon emissions. I wonder if people are expecting to see a replica of the US economic cycle – that is unlikely because most growth in economic output, fossil-intensive energy production and emissions are from developing countries. At the moment, governments are suffering from too much debt, but they don’t all suffer simultaneously like synchronised swimmers – the trouble reverberates around and is phased between different countries/regions.

    Comment by Ed — 16 Jun 2010 @ 9:15 PM

  79. Ray :”Gilles, surely you are not so naive that you think one can estimate a “peak date” or emissions curve without assuming a scenario, are you?”

    If you let the total amount as a free parameter, yes. But for a given total amount, the curve is much better constrained. Different scenarios differ vastly from each other by their total amount of each fossil type. But you told of a likely amount, so I ask again : once you have fixed what you consider as a ” likely ” value, (only for liquids I remind you), which peak volume and peak date are associated with this value ? I cannot imagine that you didn’t ask yourself this question !

    unless you consider that there is absolutely no relationship between the integral value and the shape of the curve, but then what is the relevance of the study presented in the introducing post ???

    Comment by Gilles — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:53 AM

  80. Gilles 60: we have no good alternative to fossil fuels.

    BPL: No matter how many times you say this, it still won’t be true.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 17 Jun 2010 @ 4:42 AM

  81. I have seen that if we exclude the feedback mechanisms doubling CO2 from pre-industrial levels would approximate to a 1.2C rise in temp? Can anyone comment on if this is correct?

    Many Thanks

    [Response: Yes. But excluding feedback mechanisms is not anything to do with the real world where we have a lot of evidence for the fact that the feedbacks are amplifying. It's like discussing the impact of a bus hitting you assuming that it isn't made of steel. Possibly interesting, but hardly relevant. - gavin]

    Comment by Neil — 17 Jun 2010 @ 10:50 AM

  82. Or, in other words, how do we stop the water vapour rising when we warm the planet?

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 17 Jun 2010 @ 11:03 AM

  83. “Or, in other words, how do we stop the water vapour rising when we warm the planet?”
    it would be enough to assume that the effects of clouds could overcome that of water vapour. I don’t know if it’s true, but i don’t see how it can be easily dismissed. Remember BTW that “warming” concerns primarily high latitude zones, mainly in winter, that contribute very few to the global evaporation of water. I don’t think the zeroth order theory of GHG is wrong – i am much more cautious with the “feedbacks”.

    Comment by Gilles — 17 Jun 2010 @ 11:33 AM

  84. Ah, now how do clouds form?

    Dropping below dew point.

    How does dew point drop change when you increase temperature and let humidity rise to the same %?

    It gets bigger.

    So how do clouds form without increasing vapour content again?

    It’s sad seeing someone who claims science fail so hard at it.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 17 Jun 2010 @ 11:43 AM

  85. In #71 John points us to http://www.microbeworld.org/index.php?option=com_jlibrary&view=article&id=761

    Interesting, but they basically say “we found a microbe that can eat coal and release methane”.

    My fear is that this is just a biological implementation of in-situ processing. If it reduced the carbon emissions relative to just burning the coal I might think it a good thing. What it feels a lot like, at this point, is a way to mine coal that might otherwise be uneconomical to extract.

    We really need to leave the carbon in the ground, not find other ways to extract it without mining.

    Comment by David Miller — 17 Jun 2010 @ 11:50 AM

  86. wili @ 16 June 2010 at 8:53 PM (#77):

    Well sure, it’s pretty easy to imagine sudden but immense change, within a period of say a decade or less. Just acknowledge that you are talking about events not seen in recent centuries, including the known warming period, and don’t get too far beyond the professional literature or you’ll be in Hollywood.

    It’s hard to propose a solid bet on these things, because definitions and attributions are messy, but I would be happy betting that most folks in flyover America, not to mention most people anywhere, will see a greater impact on their daily lives by 2020 or 2030 from peaking fossil fuels than from climate change. And that’s from a perspective accepting mainstream climate science.

    Comment by Ric Merritt — 17 Jun 2010 @ 11:58 AM

  87. Gilles wrote: “it would be enough to assume that the effects of clouds could overcome that of water vapour. I don’t know if it’s true, but i don’t see how it can be easily dismissed.”

    You might start with the fact that the negative forcing of clouds did not prevent Earth from experiencing much higher temperature levels and much higher CO2 levels for most of its history.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:49 PM

  88. “i am much more cautious with the “feedbacks”.”

    Uhm, cloud increases are feedbacks. No caution there. Thrown to the winds.

    You’re extremely INcautious about feedbacks.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 17 Jun 2010 @ 12:51 PM

  89. Gilles, Surely you realize that fixing a single value for a resource is unrealistic. It depends on pricing and demand. It depends on technology. It even depends on climate! I can give an answer–the question is whether the answer means anything. And whether it means anything depends on whether the assumed model is reasonable. The thing is that you are assuming a model–you just seem not to realize it.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Jun 2010 @ 2:09 PM

  90. I would posit that, if there really were no alternatives to fossil fuels, that we would suck every last bit of accessible fossil fuels out of the ground. The increasing cost of extraction will be outweighed by the increased price due to scarcity.

    [Response: Hmmm. Wasn't there a movie series about this? -mike]

    Comment by MartinJB — 17 Jun 2010 @ 5:47 PM

  91. Mike, I never thought of the Road Warrior as a cautionary tale about resource overconsumption. I LIKE it! So, let that be a lesson to us all… if we don’t mainstream alternatives to fossil fuels, we’ll end up speaking in an Aussie accent.

    More seriously, as fossil fuels become more expensive, alternatives will start becoming more and more attractive and start eating into demand for fossil fuels. I would rather we start accurately pricing the cost of fossil fuels (i.e. a price on carbon), so the transition will not be driven entirely by the ruinous impacts of scarcity. Since energy infrastructure takes a long time to replace, one can easily imagine a scenario in which market and political failure leaves us ill-prepared for the transition, causing massive disruption. That scenario is also the worst-case climate scenario, since it likely means we’ll have extracted a maximum of fossil fuels. So, doubly worst case.

    Makes the choice pretty obvious.

    Cheers!

    Comment by MartinJB — 17 Jun 2010 @ 7:50 PM

  92. Martin (#90),
    This is a common misconception. I don’t recall whether Mad Max is sufficently didactic about this point so let me spell it out: the extraction of fossil fuels consumes, directly and indirectly, a certain amount of fossil fuels. Therefore, as the price of fossil fuels rise, so do the costs of extraction. If you were to hold the technological and social factors steady, extraction from some deposits would consume more fuels than others. Every last bit of accessible fuel will therefore not be extracted, irrespective of price. Mad Max is, I think, particularly didactic about the indirect fossil fuel consumption involved in fossil fuel extraction. In the Mad Max world, deposits which would economically recoverable in the Star Trek world can’t be exploited for lack of an adequate social and technological infrastructure. The amount of fossil fuels needed to maintain the current infrastructure is very, very high so more efficiency improvements, renewables, nukes and so on will be needed to sustain fossil fuel production.
    These and other complications make it very hard to reliably project BAU emissions trends over more than a few decades. Knowing the size of the phyiscal deposits doesn’t tell you how much can be economically extracted. Nor does divining the amount which will be economically extractible in the future give you the peak of the production curve (pace Hubbert).

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 17 Jun 2010 @ 8:10 PM

  93. Umm, AC, I did stipulate that this was in the absence of alternatives. That rather changes the economics of the situation. And I think any reasonable definition of “accessible” supply would presume only supplies that produced more energy than it cost to extract using available technology.

    Heck, we’re already exploiting oil-sands, deep-water drilling (far deeper and through less friendly substrate than that in the Gulf of Mexico), oil shale and the goop that maintains Donald Trump’s hair-do. Even with available alternatives then, we’re going pretty deep into our fossil fuel reserves.

    Comment by MartinJB — 17 Jun 2010 @ 9:07 PM

  94. Martin (#93),
    You were apparently referring to a discussion about there being “no good alternative” (in the aggregate) which isn’t the same thing as there being “no alternatives” (in particular cases).
    You seem to be thinking in terms of energy returned on energy invested but I’m not talking about EROEI, which is irrelevant if you have different energy sources with different characteristics. EROEI also doesn’t take all indirect energy costs into account.
    What you don’t seem to be taking into account is that alternatives affect both the supply and the demand picture. Deposits which weren’t “accessible” by your definition become would become recoverable with cheaper (relatively to fossil fuels) nukes, renewables and so on. The exploitation of oil-sands would be a good application for nukes for instance and could be economically profitable even if the operation consumed more energy than burning its products would produce. And if one considers the indirect energy costs, there’s a lot more potential to displace fossil fuels and therefore to increase ultimate total emissions with alternatives (in a BAU scenario).

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 17 Jun 2010 @ 9:53 PM

  95. “How does dew point drop change when you increase temperature and let humidity rise to the same %?

    It gets bigger.

    So how do clouds form without increasing vapour content again?

    It’s sad seeing someone who claims science fail so hard at it.”

    What a strong scientific argument , I’m impressed !

    tell me CFU, if more water evaporates, it also means that more water condensates and falls on the ground, since this is a closed cycle. How can you do that without more clouds ?

    Comment by Gilles — 18 Jun 2010 @ 1:53 AM

  96. “You might start with the fact that the negative forcing of clouds did not prevent Earth from experiencing much higher temperature levels and much higher CO2 levels for most of its history.”
    This is absolutely not contradictory with negative, or simply weak feedbacks … For instance, the feedback from water vapour could only increase by 10-20 % the forcing, and the rest could be explained by other complex phenomena linked to a modification of ocean circulation, albedo, that could be dependent on astronomical parameters and not constant throughout the history of the Earth (and so not relevant on the decadal scale). I don’t see simple arguments to dismiss these possibilities.

    Comment by Gilles — 18 Jun 2010 @ 1:58 AM

  97. RL “Gilles, Surely you realize that fixing a single value for a resource is unrealistic”

    Ray, it’s strange that you persistently refuse to answer such a simple question. YOU told about a “likely” value of 1000 ppm, and I only asked you how much liquids contributed to these 1000 ppm , and what is the likely maximum of the liquid production curve corresponding to YOUR value. I did’nt “fix” anything, I’m just asking for the value corresponding to YOUR 1000 ppm. If you change your value, you will change of course also the peak value.

    The only point was about the word “likely”. If you consider the 1000 ppm value as “likely”, whatever your criteria are,my question is : which corresponding “likely” value of the peak liquids (max production and date) do you estimate accordingly ?

    It is just a matter of consistency …

    Comment by Gilles — 18 Jun 2010 @ 2:05 AM

  98. Gavin Reference reply to #81

    Many Thanks – not trying to make any point here just wanted get some “baselines” for my own understanding. Are the main feedback mechanisms as follows (in no particular order) or are there additional onee?
    - Ice Cover
    - Water Vapour / Clouds
    - Out gasing of CO2 from the oceans
    - Weathering of Rocks

    Many Thanks

    Comment by Neil — 18 Jun 2010 @ 4:43 AM

  99. Gilles, I’ve said repeatedly that if you assume only known reserved + petroleum, you keep CO2 below 550 ppmv. I don’t know how to state it more clearly. I have also stated that this is not realistic. Coal puts us between 800 and 850. Nonconventional fossil fuels do the rest. Perhaps you could suggest why you are having trouble reading what I think is expressed quite clearly.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Jun 2010 @ 7:55 AM

  100. “Are the main feedback mechanisms as follows (in no particular order) or are there additional onee?”

    Neil, can you think about that question.

    It doesn’t make much sense.

    If they are main ones, then you’re saying there ARE others, just not considered main. But where’s the definition of main? How were these mechanisms measured against that standard?

    The query makes no sense because no answer can work without failure.

    Better would be: Are these the major mechanisms: $LIST? Even that has nothing. If answered “yes”, what have you learned? If answered “no”, is there any answer that isn’t a dissertation that will complete the education?

    Questions need a GOAL.

    When asking “are there additional ones?” what is the GOAL of an answer? What do you want from the answer that will then close that inquiry to your satisfaction?

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 18 Jun 2010 @ 8:26 AM

  101. “tell me CFU, if more water evaporates, it also means that more water condensates and falls on the ground, since this is a closed cycle.”

    But if this sums to zero, then there is no increase in relative humidity.

    You’re managing what an 11-year-old is told to avoid when being told of the third law of motion:

    Action and reaction are opposite and equal.

    BEWARE: This doesn’t mean you can’t move things because pushing a block forward doesn’t cause a push back that makes it retreat just as fast as you’re trying to move it forward.

    Did you pass 1st-grade physics?

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 18 Jun 2010 @ 8:29 AM

  102. AC, what exactly is your point? Sounds like you’re saying that in a BAU scenario we’ll be extracting and burning a hell of a lot of fossil fuels. It all goes to suggest that those saying that even without a price on carbon we won’t be burning enough fossil fuels to bring about the worst impacts of global warming are off-base.

    Comment by MartinJB — 18 Jun 2010 @ 8:30 AM

  103. “For instance, the feedback from water vapour could only increase by 10-20 % the forcing…”

    With that Gilles has let slip that he lives in a fantasy world.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 18 Jun 2010 @ 8:34 AM

  104. 56: eric said “What you may be referring to is that we tend to be dismissive of poorly thought out quicky technical fixes,”

    I do too and I object to Dyson’s “Party on dudes” “what me worry?” attitude, but still the notion that there are many things we can do is worth keeping in mind. I keep reading stuff in which people imply that a particular strategy is a slam dunk and I don’t believe there are any slam dunks and it behooves us not to be slamming doors shut. We’re moving into unknown territory no matter what we do.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 18 Jun 2010 @ 9:11 AM

  105. “99
    Ray Ladbury says:
    18 June 2010 at 7:55 AM

    Gilles, I’ve said repeatedly that if you assume only known reserved + petroleum, you keep CO2 below 550 ppmv. I don’t know how to state it more clearly.”

    I think the only clear answer Gullible wants to hear is “You’re right and there’s no problem with global warming and we have to burn fossil fuels”.

    Any answer that doesn’t manage that is unclear to Gullible.

    He’s like the naughty boy who doesn’t hear “Don’t touch that apple pie” but hears “Feel free to eat that apple pie”.

    Comment by Completely Fed Up — 18 Jun 2010 @ 9:20 AM

  106. a comment on the scenarios : already in 2000 , the scenarios differed vastly from each other. For the liquids only , the “predictions” ranged from 120 (B1 minicam) to 177 EJ/year (A1 ASF) .Almost 50 % difference ! Following EIA, the actual consumption was 77 Mbl/d, that is, adopting 6.2 GJ/bl, around the upper limit 175 EJ/yr. So most scenarios were already wrong in 2000.

    It’s interesting to remark that scenarios that were disproved more than 10 years ago still continue to be used. This illustrates what a “scenario ” is : nothing like a prediction, nothing to be compared with reality. In any field of science, such a large discrepancy would have led to the conclusion that the models were unrealistic and should be given up. People having elaborated these scenarios hadn’t simply the tools necessary to make predictions. It’s only “oh it could be like that, or like that, or like that”.

    The interesting point is that the gap between reality and unrealistic models seems to be used as a piece of useful information .. something like “oh, if there is a discrepancy, it proves somehow that the discrepancy will become higher and higher”. So actually, reality is compared with “models” or call it as you like (let’s them call “things”) , that have never been validated by anything, that were already wrong just after their publication, as if it was meaningful. For instance , I can predict with my fancy astrological predictions, that the planet Pluto will get closer and closer to the Earth and eventually collide with it in 50 years, but that the relative velocity is currently very small. And then, comparing with observations , I could observe that the actual velocity is in fact much larger than what my model predicted, and that the situation is much worse than what I thought initially ! of course it would be risible.

    So what’s the real significance of comparing data with virtual “things” that we know for sure that they have been wrong for more than ten years, and that they haven’t been the subject of any validation (since they claim themselves NOT being predictive ) ? apart from “they were wrong” ?

    [Response: Scenarios are not models, so the variations in one have very little to do with the correctness of the other. As far as inputs to the GCMs (basically the concentrations of various gases and aerosols), the scenarios have bounded the real world - some have faster growth, some slower. Thus they continue to be used. Hardly a surprise. To the extent that the concentrations have been reasonable in comparison to the observations, the projections made with those scenarios can still be usefully compared to the climate measurements. Until the GCM inputs from the scenarios significantly diverge from reality this will continue to be the case. - gavin]

    Comment by Gilles — 18 Jun 2010 @ 9:28 AM

  107. #56 John E. Pearson

    re. Eric’s response

    Heck Eric, I thought you would get behind the giant umbrella in space idea. It can’t be that hard to make an umbrella. We just need to employ lots of cheap labor in third world countries (may be China, they makes lots of umbrellas already, so they have the experience), and then build a giant elevator into space that uses the centrifugal force of the rotation of earth to hold it in place.

    Star Trek indeed ;)


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    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 18 Jun 2010 @ 10:37 AM

  108. To all commenters: There has been a tendency for all of our comment threads to dissolve into pointless, finickity and repetitive arguments by the same few commenters who seem to enjoy arguing for its own sake. However much fun this might be for these individuals, the net effect is to drive away other commenters and to never actually resolve anything (even what it is that is being argued about). This is tedious to read and tedious to moderate.

    So, I’m going to impose a moratorium on a number of people (you know who you are) and ask that you restrict your comments to one a day in the hope that we can get away from endless tit-for-tat contradictions. Please respect this and try and move your comments to be more substantive, and less dominating of the conversation. If you can’t do that, I will just not allow any of your comments at all.

    Sorry to have to step in, but I (and others) really appreciate the comment threads where people can respectfully engage and discuss real things. That is not happening enough, and this is an attempt to correct that.

    Comment by gavin — 18 Jun 2010 @ 12:33 PM

  109. 9, Walt Bennett: Of course, the lower CO2 output for the last several years will rebound as soon as the economy does, as we all know.

    Maybe not. The non-fossil-fuel-based energy industry is growing faster than GDP generally, so the point depends heavily on the relative growths of GDP and alternative energy industries over the next few years. For this reason, I think that increased subsidies to alternative energies will reduce long-term growth of CO2 even absent “cap and trade”, carbon taxes, and such.

    I hope that the US Congress will pass new support for alternative energies without waiting for agreement on “cap and trade”, “cap and dividend”, Carbon tax, or other CO2-based policy.

    An interesting precedent has been set in the BP/Gulf of Mexico oil spill: BP has agreed to forego shareholder dividends and put $20 Billion into an insurance/indemnity fund. If adopted (voluntarily or by law) by other fossil fuel companies (BP will now energetically support such adoption by its competitors), this will go a long way toward internalizing the fossil fuel external costs, a desired outcome for many reasons. This will increase the cost of fossil fuels without a “tax” increase, and speed up investment in alternatives to fossil fuel. It is a step in the right direction.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 18 Jun 2010 @ 12:55 PM

  110. Swerving back to emissions trends, Andy Revkin at DotEarth today posts a sobering look at where coal is going to fit into emissions scenarios (short summary: it will not fit, as in it’s already too big, it’s growing and we’re not going to make a serious effort to shrink it). Read it and weep:

    The Coal Age Continues

    The title is understated. If the economic portents alluded to in Revkin’s piece are accounted for in the upcoming regenerated synthesis, I’ve a horrible feeling the -next- IPCC projections will look entirely worse. I read the Peabody investor plug and accompanying commentary by Richard Morse in Revkin and can only shake my head.

    Our geopolitical skills are decades behind where they need to be; we’re being defaulted into the “adaptation” aka “we screwed up” scenario because our organizational capacity is woefully inadequate and so we can’t install accounting systems for C02 emissions.

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 18 Jun 2010 @ 2:05 PM

  111. Doug Bostrom (110) — Yup.

    Back to the Miocene?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 18 Jun 2010 @ 4:48 PM

  112. “…if more water evaporates, it also means that more water condensates and falls on the ground, since this is a closed cycle. How can you do that without more clouds ?” Gilles — 18 June 2010 @ 1:53 AM

    Higher rates of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation, with the amount of cloud held constant, will transport more water through the system. This will have the side effect of producing more flooding.
    http://english.aljazeera.net/news/asia-pacific/2010/06/2010612135023885917.html “…water levels in some areas have reached their highest in more than a decade.” “…water levels in lakes along the Yangtze river are higher than in 1998, when flooding killed about 4,000 people.”
    http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/06/european_flooding.html “Over the past month, heavy rainfall from different storms across parts of Europe has caused massive amounts of flooding…” in Poland, France, and Spain.
    plus locales in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Nebraska in the US, just from a google search for “flooding” in the last month – 41 million hits

    If clouds grow by deepening rather than spreading, it will have considerably less effect on albedo. A 20% increase of the volume of a cloud that grows equally in all directions results in only a 6% increase in the area of incoming solar radiation scattering.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 18 Jun 2010 @ 5:49 PM

  113. We don’t know how to grow the topsoil at .01 inches a year on a global scale.

    While I agree about Dyson and cornucopians/techocopians, the above is flat wrong. I just built minimum of half an inch of humus in my yard in the space of a few days (well, that was the work period, the conversion will take a year or two) and perhaps more. (I’m assuming a lot of eventual compression.)

    Those who speak of soil in terms of Big Ag practices are speaking of coal extraction in terms of picks and shovels or oil extraction in terms of hand tools. It is EASY to build a LOT of topsoil in a short period of time. I don’t know that I have permission to take this tangent here, so won’t unless asked to do so. Otherwise, contact me for an off-thread discussion. I will say this: building top soil *is* one of the most effective ways to reduce carbon in the atmosphere. Building soil also helps take care of the water problems we have: soil with 1% organic content holds multiple times less water than soil with 5% organic material. This can be accomplished in a few years’ time with simple practices.

    Forward to the past, folks.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 18 Jun 2010 @ 6:58 PM

  114. Gilles said, “1. PO is now, climate change is FAR in the future.

    For most of the consequences that are supposed to hit hard the mankind (crops, economic crashes, wars), consequences of the PO will happen much sooner and will impact more directly the life of billions of people. I share the idea that PO has played a key role in the current economic doom

    http://www.theoildrum.com/node/6542

    whereas I haven’t yet seen any proposal that it could be caused by the melting of northern sea ice (because only northern would matter, but not southern, of course).

    You appear to have zero grasp of how dynamic, complex systems act. Because your bias is to interpret in favor of the constructs you frame your world view through, you ignore reality. It’s OK, we know the research tells us this is to be expected. However, you can’t just make things up.

    AGW is already affecting crops, and far more than PO is. We have had severe droughts and floods affecting food production already. PO has only affected *prices* thus far.

    Economic crash: The costs of climate change are already in the billions of dollars. You have to keep in mind the changes have been coming for over a hundred years. There are many affects people are afraid of attributing because people like you call them names for doing so. Well, the effects of PO can no more be said to be definitely reflected in current problems than AGW’s can. Most economists completely dismiss the role of PO in the economic crash.

    Darfur? Climate. Can’t pick and choose your wars, either.

    You can’t pick and choose your disasters because of your agenda and expect to be taken seriously. Anyone that thinks they can pick and choose between PO and climate change is in for a very rude awakening.

    There are plenty of doubts and uncertainties expressed all along IPCC report.

    No, there aren’t. None that matter at the political level. None. If you’re going to lie about the state of things, I’m going to slap you upside the head for doing so. Don’t lie. Won’t be tolerated.

    The assessment of “likelihoods” that GW would be caused by that or that is not intrinsically a scientific assessment since nobody has ever demonstrated that there is a reliable method to compute this kind a “likelihood… ’ – that is just the result of political discussions.

    See above. The truth is, it is your position that is nothing but politics. There is zero scientific support for your stance. Thus, you are either not being honest or have no idea what you are talking about. I’m not interested in discussing whether 2 + 2 = 4 or not. It does.

    “3. He has accepted the findings, starting with Rutledge, perhaps, that there simply aren’t enough fossil fuels to do what we all fear via AGW.

    First, Rutledge’s work is flawed in its climate assumptions. Second, Kjell’s assumptions about climate are flawed. E.g.:

    450, 550, 650 ppm or more are OK levels.”

    IPCC scenarios are flawed by the assumption of continuous economic growth, as if the depletion of resources (not only oil, but almost all commodities in the XXIth century) wouldn’t have any impact on it – that a very strange idea that the only thing that threatens the society is the average temperature of the globe !!

    he IPCC does not offer one scenario, it offers a wide range of scenarios, so your criticism is bull poo. Pretending there is not a very wide range of outcomes is silly. Second, IPCC IV was based on pre-2005 science. To keep screaming “IPCC said..! IPCC said…. !!!!” while knowing how far our knowledge has advanced, how many more effects have been verified since then, etc., is dishonest.

    What would be the economic consequences of trying to keep below 450 ppm , compared with the consequences to exceed it ? who has a scientific estimate of the marginal cost of each attitude ?

    Wow. Do you know nothing of risk assessment? Is life defined by economics, particularly since economics isn’t even a legitimate science in its present form? The risk of climate change is possible extinction. The risk of PO is reversion to, oh, an 1850′s life style, at worst – and only if we completely mess up the transition.

    Gilles, you have a very weak understanding of the issues, or are not honestly addressing them. Tighten that up if you expect to be taken seriously.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 18 Jun 2010 @ 7:30 PM

  115. Soil building: http://www.rodaleinstitute.org/files/Rodale_Research_Paper-07_30_08.pdf

    Read just the first two pages, and that will be enough. .01/year? Try 1% increase in organic matter *per year.*

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 18 Jun 2010 @ 7:49 PM

  116. CCPO @ 112:

    While I agree about Dyson and cornucopians/techocopians, the above is flat wrong. I just built minimum of half an inch of humus in my yard in the space of a few days (well, that was the work period, the conversion will take a year or two) and perhaps more. (I’m assuming a lot of eventual compression.)

    There’s a major difference between building topsoil in ones own domain, and building it on a =global= basis.

    That said, we need to make it a matter of policy that carbon that’s been extracted from the atmosphere by vegetation doesn’t get a second chance at getting back into the atmosphere. If that means massive biochar programs, then that’s what we need to do. But looking at the annual fluctuation in CO2 levels, our only hope for reversing — not just slowing — the growth in CO2 concentrations is harvesting plants and sequestering their carbon.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 18 Jun 2010 @ 8:35 PM

  117. ccpo – While as a Master Composter I really agree with your ideas, I have to point out it’s not quite as simple as you make it out to be to change soil organic content over a wide area, especially the carbon fraction, and I suspect rather than actual humus you mean you added a half inch of organic material, either “fresh” or partially decomposed, as in new compost. I do know that the US in particular wastes a huge amount of readily compostable material in the form of food waste and bio-solids which could be helping to build healthy soil.

    Comment by flxible — 18 Jun 2010 @ 8:53 PM

  118. ccpo: ” I just built minimum of half an inch of humus in my yard in the space of a few days (well, that was the work period, the conversion will take a year or two) and perhaps more.”

    Great! Now try it in the Sahara.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Jun 2010 @ 8:59 PM

  119. There’s a major difference between building topsoil in ones own domain, and building it on a =global= basis.

    How? I see absolutely no difference. You are assuming we need gov’t programs to do this. If so, we’re already dead. We can, and perhaps should, all be gardeners. We have no choice but to localize, so let’s do it already.

    It is not, I repeat, not, rocket science. Plant some food. Do it organically and sustainably. Problem reduced by 40%. Wih no other changes to life style.

    Excuses not accepted. As Larry Santoya has been quoted to say, “It is time to do epic [poo-poo.]“

    Comment by ccpo — 19 Jun 2010 @ 3:38 AM

  120. ccpo @ 114:

    AGW is already affecting crops, and far more than PO is. We have had severe droughts and floods affecting food production already. PO has only affected *prices* thus far.

    That’s false. The run-up in oil prices in 2007 that was the precursor to the mortg-age crisis happened, in large part, because of Peak Oil. Likewise, food shortages related to food-to-fuel programs (corn-to-ethanol, etc) are related to Peak Oil.

    I realize there is a desire to defend “Climate Change” as a cause of problems so it can receive the attention it deserves, but ignoring Peak Oil isn’t the way to do it. The solution to “Peak Oil” is “switch to renewables”, just as the solution to “Climate Change”.

    In a way, Peak Oil presents a second, unrelated argument for the same course of action. Air quality is another — even if “Peak Oil” were false, and even if “Climate Change” were false, one only look back to the Beijing Olympics to see what too much fossil fuel consumption can do to the atmosphere.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 19 Jun 2010 @ 8:11 AM

  121. ccpo, First, I 100% agree that individual acts are important and help buy time. However, let us imagine that we are extremely successful and persuade 100 million people over the face of the globe to participate in our topsoil regeneration project. To generate the equivalent of 0.01 inches over the land surface of the globe would require each person to generate 378 cubic meters of topsoil. Even if everybody on the globe participates, that’s 5.4 cubic meters per person. In effect, you are asking every man, woman and child on Earth to generate about 100 times their weight in new topsoil every year. As someone who composts quite religiously, I realize that is not a trivial task. Now maybe if we could figure out how to use the thistles I pull out of my damned garden…

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Jun 2010 @ 12:05 PM

  122. “As someone who composts quite religiously, I realize that is not a trivial task.”
    Particularly considering that 5.4 cu m out of the compost pile requires at least 3 times that much in.

    Ray, if you pull the thistles, cows will eat them, from the bottom up, some goats do to.

    2CeePO – While “no till” is an excellent organic technique, permaculture is a difficult gig in urban environs, or even in many suburban situations, especially with the propensity of developments in the US to have “homeowner associations” that frown on anything other than manicured lawns. City dwellers are in for a rough ride, especially the poorer ones.

    Comment by flxible — 19 Jun 2010 @ 12:48 PM

  123. Scary ocean report:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100618103558.htm

    Comment by David B. Benson — 19 Jun 2010 @ 6:09 PM

  124. ccpo :”Gilles, you have a very weak understanding of the issues, or are not honestly addressing them. Tighten that up if you expect to be taken seriously.”

    So I’ll try to do my best to tighten up seriously these issues. Your claim is that “The costs of climate change are already in the billions of dollars.” The global GDP is around 60000 billions of dollars per year. I don’t know if your estimate holds for a cost per year or an integrated cost (over 30 years?) since I don’t even know where it comes from. But in the worst case (per year), it is something like 0.01 % of GDP for an increase of 100 ppm (30 times less if the cost is integrated so we could start using “ppm GDP”).

    Now your other claim is that “First, Rutledge’s work is flawed in its climate assumptions. Second, Kjell’s assumptions about climate are flawed. E.g.:

    450, 550, 650 ppm or more are OK levels.”
    …The risk of PO is reversion to, oh, an 1850’s life style, at worst – and only if we completely mess up the transition.”

    Putting all this together, am i right in understanding that even at 450 ppm, the consequences of GW could be much worse than a return to 1850 life style? But 1850 life style must be something like 90 % decrease of GDP, whereas the famous IPCC scenarios invariably predict a 2% growth. So until the end of the century, you’re saying that even 450 ppm could make the world pass from an increase of a factor 10 to a decrease of a factor 10 , so a factor around 100 , and that for a mere increase of 70 ppm. Well, the order of magnitude is now that a 100 ppm increase imply a decrease of a factor 100, instead of 0.01 %, so .. a factor of one million (10^6) in sensitivity. There must be then a extremely extremely sharp threshold increasing the sensitivity of GDP to temperature by a factor 10^6 somewhere between 400 and 450 ppm …. Whoow. I’m really impressed. It must be explained somewhere in the IPCC report, where ?

    Comment by Gilles — 20 Jun 2010 @ 3:16 AM

  125. Carbon sequestration appears to me to be the only geo-engineering solution that treats the disease and not the symptoms and therefore treats all of the symptoms. And by sequestration I mean biochar not the Clean Coal Scam (CCS).
    ccpo’s approach requires ongoing maintenance because the carbon remains in the biosphere, all that has been created is a buffer, let that fall into neglect and the carbon will leach out the same way we expect from melting permafrost soils. Biochar removes the carbon from the biosphere and doesn’t need further maintenance.

    However, doesn’t it strike anybody as inherently crazy to go to the effort, time and expense, of setting aside land, growing, harvesting, pyrolysising and then burying carbon rich compounds, just so we can continue to dig up carbon rich compounds?

    Comment by Richard C — 20 Jun 2010 @ 9:46 AM

  126. ccpo – While as a Master Composter I really agree with your ideas, I have to point out it’s not quite as simple as you make it out to be to change soil organic content over a wide area, especially the carbon fraction, and I suspect rather than actual humus you mean you added a half inch of organic material, either “fresh” or partially decomposed, as in new compost.

    Actually, about 6 inches, maybe more allowing for compression during the process. That is going to be a fair amount of humus > soil. And that’s just one part of one season.

    There is an issue of “wider” area, but we do not need to reclaim the deserts to do this, for example. Better not to: Deserts have a higher albedo than vegetation.

    I do know that the US in particular wastes a huge amount of readily compostable material in the form of food waste and bio-solids which could be helping to build healthy soil.

    Absolutely. More and more municipalities are figuring this out. A few other metrics: every home and/or neighborhood should be composting all of their organics, including humanures. The problem there, as you well know, is the fear factor.

    Keep me honest and accurate. Appreciated. Also, would love to have an off-thread conversation with you, possibly invite you to participate in some of what we do.

    Ray Ladbury: Don’t be cheeky, ’cause you know I like a good head slap!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk

    http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC14/Fukuoka.htm

    :)

    FurryCatHerder, you seem to think I am in denial of PO, which is silly if you’ve read my posts over time, which you may no have. The problem with most folks, as I see it, is that they see one or the other as dominant, which is also silly. Too many POilers think there is no immediacy to AGW, and that is dangerously naive. That is the point I was making. And, I stand by what I said: PO has had an affect on prices/distribution. but has had much less affect on production. AGW, by contrast, is having a greater affect on production.

    In other words, we agree.

    Ray, you said, “To generate the equivalent of 0.01 inches over the land surface of the globe,” to which I say, why in heck would you do that? We need a pretty small portion of the globe involved, and certainly where people are, their homes, neighborhoods, towns and cities and immediately surrounding areas rather than every inch of the planet. We can grow as much as 6,000 lbs of food on an 8th to a 10th of an acre with good soil and season extension! If memory serves, the average American eats something like 160 lbs. of veggies a year.

    You’re creating a crazy, unnecessarily high barrier. Did you read the Rodale report I posted? And remember, we are not talking, necessarily, of personal production, though we could if we used compost toilets. (Nothing goes to waste; everything should have two or more functions.) Then we have all the yard clippings, etc. Imagine if literally no organic wastes or water left your property…

    flxible, there’s a reason we are teaching permaculture in the city. Forget the HOA’s and city ordinances. This is a time to do epic [poo-poo.] And there has never been a better time for small-scale and large scale civil disobedience aimed at educating our “leaders.” You have two choices: begin teaching people what needs to be known, or bend over and kiss your rear end goodbye.

    David B., indeed. But did we really need to know more than 95% drops in major fish stocks to know how serious the problem is? Time to do epic…. stuff.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 20 Jun 2010 @ 10:41 AM

  127. Gilles chooses to ignore the fact that hydoelectric, geothermal, nuclear, solar voltaic, solar thermal, wave, tidal and wind turbine generation of electrical energy did not exist in 1850.

    He also chooses to ignore the fact that the Antarctic ice sheet began to form when atmospheric CO2 dropped to 450 ppmv, which means the Greenland ice sheet also did not yet exist.

    In other words, he chooses to ignore physical reality as he babbles on and on about GDP.

    And the reason anyone engages him is?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 20 Jun 2010 @ 10:54 AM

  128. ccpo :”Gilles, you have a very weak understanding of the issues, or are not honestly addressing them. Tighten that up if you expect to be taken seriously.”

    So I’ll try to do my best to tighten up seriously these issues.

    Hallelujah!

    Your claim is that “The costs of climate change are already in the billions of dollars.”

    The global GDP is around 60000 billions of dollars per year.

    Lower, actually, if memory serves. (It sometimes does not.)

    I don’t know if your estimate holds for a cost per year or an integrated cost (over 30 years?)

    How about 10k years, since the signal has been detected that far back, eh?

    since I don’t even know where it comes from.

    My rear end. I’m rounding, and being quite conservative. Look at the damage to the planet in pursuit of fossil fuels, the wars, extinctions, etc. Wake up, G.

    But in the worst case (per year), it is something like 0.01 % of GDP for an increase of 100 ppm

    In your dreams, G. First of all, economics as currently practiced is voodoo with lots of math. Read up on the history of this “science.” Real GDP would be measured by accounting for all TRUE costs, personal, environmental, etc., etc. Ecological economics is a step in the right direction.

    Now your other claim is that “First, Rutledge’s work is flawed in its climate assumptions. Second, Kjell’s assumptions about climate are flawed. E.g.:

    450, 550, 650 ppm or more are OK levels.”
    …The risk of PO is reversion to, oh, an 1850’s life style, at worst – and only if we completely mess up the transition.”

    Putting all this together, am i right in understanding that even at 450 ppm, the consequences of GW could be much worse than a return to 1850 life style?

    Yup. Likely will be for some, maybe most, possibly all. In fact, the consequences of AGW could be extinction or near-extinction.

    But 1850 life style must be something like 90 % decrease of GDP, whereas the famous IPCC scenarios invariably predict a 2% growth.

    Incorrect. An 1850′s lifestyle coupled with the technology of today, but fully integrated so that they are mutually supportive as opposed to the current paradigm of the latter being massively destructive to the other, would actually be an increase of GDP by a wide margin once GDP is usefully defined.

    So until the end of the century, you’re saying that even 450 ppm could make the world pass from an increase of a factor 10 to a decrease of a factor 10 , so a factor around 100 , and that for a mere increase of 70 ppm. Well, the order of magnitude is now that a 100 ppm increase imply a decrease of a factor 100, instead of 0.01 %, so .. a factor of one million (10^6) in sensitivity. There must be then a extremely extremely sharp threshold increasing the sensitivity of GDP to temperature by a factor 10^6 somewhere between 400 and 450 ppm …. Whoow. I’m really impressed.

    You should be! Glad I could help! But, really, you’ve got it all wrong, and, it would seem, intentionally so. (Why do they allow you to propagandize here?) Not only is the above so much gobbledygook, you know that, like Kjell should, you cannot count only directly human-caused emissions. You also cannot ignore what has been learned since 2005. To review: GDP is a joke metric. AGW has been happening for thousands of years, not 150. You cannot ignore natural emissions that are forced by human actions. True GDP has a value far, far greater than the highest number you’ve ever imagined for GDP. What value a human life? Oil is about $75 a barrel. A human life is, what? a hundred times that? A thousand? A million? What of whole species? A trillion each?

    [edit]

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 20 Jun 2010 @ 11:17 AM

  129. ccpo’s approach requires ongoing maintenance because the carbon remains in the biosphere, all that has been created is a buffer, let that fall into neglect and the carbon will leach out the same way we expect from melting permafrost soils.

    Are you planning to stop eating sometime soon? Principle: everything has more than one function. Principle: Every function has multiple inputs. Principle: least change for max effect.

    No need to fight over farming vs. biochar. Use each where it fits best, particularly if that means together.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 20 Jun 2010 @ 11:21 AM

  130. Jim, may I make you notice that it’s ccpo, not me, who said “The risk of PO is reversion to, oh, an 1850’s life style, at worst – and only if we completely mess up the transition.


    so I just elaborated from this estimate on – if you have another one, we could examine it. (Although I’m precisely living in a place where hydropower is supposed to have been used to power paper factories for the first time in the world, in the 1870′s – so I think that if it were so easy to power the whole grid only with that, even in France, we should have done it for a long time).

    Then I think that my “babbles” about GDP are just an tentative measurement of the “risk assessment” that ccpo talked about – if you can propose another way to quantify the risk, we could also examine it together.

    And finally, what is the point about 450 ppm and Antarctic cap ? in the case of a retroaction loop between A and B, you cannot compare directly the ratio of A to B if the primary driver is A , or if it is B. Again if you aren’t convinced, we can examine that together .

    But if you also believe that a critical threshold that should plunge the civilization into chaos should exist between 400 and 450 ppm, as , following ccpo, there is “no [uncertainty] that matters at the political level.” in the IPCC report, then I can’t imagine that such an important fact is not described in detail inside it. But I think I missed it – do you know where it is explained ?

    Comment by Gilles — 20 Jun 2010 @ 12:08 PM

  131. ccpo: “(…) there has never been a better time for small-scale and large scale civil disobedience aimed at educating our “leaders.” ”

    Actually I’ve been involved in educating my local “leaders” for decades – here we refer to it as guerrilla gardening. As a result of the pocket of aware individuals that’s collected here over time, this community has long been big on organic ag and on the leading edge of recycling of all materials, and has had a bio-solids composting facility long enough to have an accepted program of sale of the finished product to the public [a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In-vessel_composting">pics in this article mine from our plant]. General yard waste collection is established in conjunction, and currently a food waste collection program is being implemented, to include everything from apartment building kitchens to restaurants. Local wood waste [yard, land development, construction, etc] is chipped to use as bulking in the composting.

    While all that will go some ways to helping the planet, the percentage of the population even here that actually puts some effort into it likely isn’t large, and ultimately what was needed was the local govt mandating it all and implementing it with public money and infrastructure. Our master composter/sustainable garden education group put some effort into setting up neighborhood composting sites – doesn’t work, at least without paid supervisors.

    Also, your spreading 6″ of organic material on the ground can easily generate more CO2 than it sequesters – uncontrolled composting [particularly with anaerobic areas] generates a lot of CO2 in the process of sequestering the primary nutrients and leaches much N. Neither waste organic material nor Compost are Humus, which in turn isn’t “soil”.

    You might track down an email for me from the composting pages I’ve got up for our local education. ;)

    Comment by flxible — 20 Jun 2010 @ 4:56 PM

  132. ccpo, actually I’m completely confused with your discussion about GDP. I have no idea which “metrics” you’re using – of course GDP is ONLY measuring the amount of goods and services we produce, and not a “value” of universe, life, and so on. And I totally agree that PO is ONLY a problem for the “conventional” GDP. If you choose other metrics, adapted for instance for the life of lapoons or indians of Amazonia, PO is probably not a problem.

    But you said that everything that was useful for policymakers was inside the IPCC reports, and that there wasn’t any uncertainty about that. So if the question of real metrics is that important for you, I assume there is no uncertainty in IPCC reports about the “metrics” they used? I shall have missed it, can you explain me better which “metrics” is used by IPCC and where it is exposed ? (including for SRES scenarios?)

    Comment by Gilles — 21 Jun 2010 @ 12:33 AM

  133. Richard (#125),
    You comment would have been appropriate 20 years ago. Considering current emissions trends, that temperatures would likely keep rising or even rise faster if emissions were cut down drastically by 2020 and the uncertainties about feedbacks such as methane which might offset emissions cuts further down the road, geoengineering is no longer an alternative to emissions cuts but a prudent measure on top of emissions cuts. Because of the feedbacks, rising temperatures are not only a symptom but also the cause of further disruption. Ideological misgivings notwithstanding, we can not say today which measures to keep them in check will be justified in the future.
    And note that, while coal will never be clean, even inefficient CCS would be carbon negative if used when burning biomass or biogas. Ideological attacks on technical solutions are unwarranted.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 21 Jun 2010 @ 2:07 AM

  134. here we refer to it as guerrilla gardening.

    Among other things.

    As a result of the pocket of aware individuals that’s collected here over time, this community has… big on organic ag… recycling… bio-solids composting facility… yard waste collection… …ultimately what was needed was the local govt mandating it all and implementing it with public money and infrastructure.

    Looks like grass roots to me.

    Our master composter/sustainable garden education group put some effort into setting up neighborhood composting sites – doesn’t work, at least without paid supervisors.

    So pay them.

    Also, your spreading 6″ of organic material on the ground can easily generate more CO2 than it sequesters – uncontrolled composting [particularly with anaerobic areas] generates a lot of CO2 in the process of sequestering the primary nutrients and leaches much N.

    We are talking net gains, no?

    Neither waste organic material nor Compost are Humus, which in turn isn’t “soil”.

    Can’t quite understand what your beef with building soil is. You obviously know how it’s done, but keep posting as if I’ve written something that makes no sense. Those amendments are sequestering carbon, are building soil. I have not mentioned time lines.

    Unless you are claiming that amendments do not become part of the soil over time, I fail to see the point of your posts. Again, read the Rodale report. As opposed to giving the readers here the impression composting does not do what it absolutely does do: build soil and sequester carbon. You can’t be building organic matter in your soil without increasing carbon sequestered.

    You might track down an email for me from the composting pages I’ve got up for ourlocal education. ;)

    Or not. Seriously, we need solutions, not a bunch of comments about how we can’t do what we hope we can do. There are many ways to compost, build lasagna beds, etc., that do, in fact, keep organic material, thus carbon, in the soil. Period. If you disagree, explain why. Failing that, please be more clear for the non-gardeners out there that we can sequester a lot of carbon by building soil.

    And nobody said it would happen tomorrow. While this thread is somewhat out of context, the fuller context is significant changes in lifestyle, paradigms, etc. But that’s a given, no?

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 21 Jun 2010 @ 3:24 AM

  135. Gilles and ccpo,
    I think both of you are failing to consider that we have built up human population far past sustainable levels by, in effect, learning to convert petroleum into soy beans and corn. This is not sustainable even if supplies of petroleum were unlimited, because of the damage to soils and aquifers caused by intensive agriculture. At the same time, there is no way we can maintain a population anything like our current population with sustainable agriculture. It would be difficult to sustain a population of 10 billion people even making the most optimistic of assumptions. With climate change making weather more unpredictable and less suited to productive agriculture, I don’t see how we avoid a collapse of population, and I don’t expect it to occur in an orderly fashion.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 21 Jun 2010 @ 8:31 AM

  136. ccpo –
    “Actually, about 6 inches, maybe more allowing for compression during the process. That is going to be a fair amount of humus > soil.”
    Repeat: Humus is not soil. Compression of decaying organic material creates anaerobic conditions resulting in undesireable chemistry and biology, unless that organic material is entirely or primarily carbon to begin with. Lasagna gardening is useful, not iconic. The creation of humic material requires complex, poorly understood, processes and large timescales.

    Soil science is immensely more complicated then spreading unspecified organic material on the surface to “create” humus, thereby sequestering carbon. The pole plant here is doing that by grinding the bark off the trees destined to string wires around your cities and piling it up to leach into the water table.
    Soil, and it’s organic fraction, is a very complex and varied thing, with biologic and chemical constituents, especially native mycorrhiza [not imported] with respect to fertility, and cation exchange capacities are most relevent to productivity.

    I grew up with Howard and Rodale, I’ve long been aware of the superiority of organic agriculture from every standpoint – I also know what works in the eastern US with 30 years of effort, won’t work everywhere, especially in the time available before past practices become non-viable due to changing climatic conditions.

    “Keep me honest and accurate. Appreciated. Also, would love to have an off-thread conversation with you, possibly invite you to participate in some of what we do.”
    You might track down an email for me (…)
    “Or not.”
    :shrug:

    “We can grow as much as 6,000 lbs of food on an 8th to a 10th of an acre with good soil and season extension!
    Surely. Just as surely, that intensity is not likely to happen on many acres most places where there is a population large enough to dedicate themselves to producing it and using it. Certainly the grass roots need to get with the program, but considering the amount of scum on the pond, legislation is the needed stick – again like our local communities legislating against the sale/use of cosmetic chemicals on lawns [which themselves should be outlawed]. And that was instigated by a local doctors group, not exactly grass roots.

    For the “non-gardeners out there”, yes, composting done well and “best” organic practices can sequester carbon, and more importantly, improve the health of the soil by feeding the micro-herd, but it’s not a solution to CO2 problem or more importantly, the single critical problem facing the planet: overpopulation. The “fuller context is significant changes in lifestyle, paradigms, etc”. As Ray sez, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

    Comment by flxible — 21 Jun 2010 @ 10:11 AM

  137. [edit - one a day for the time being, thanks]

    Comment by Gilles — 21 Jun 2010 @ 11:58 AM

  138. Some food for thought and actual dollar numbers concerning public policy response, fears about the costs of mitigation may be found here:

    The Price to You for Modest Climate Action

    The article briefly describes the results of EPA’s best effort to put a price on mitigation efforts resulting in significant changes to risk probabilities arising from increased C02 in the atmosphere.

    The nut of the article:

    In the absence of new policies, the EPA estimates that we have a 1 percent chance of keeping global warming below the 2 degrees Celsius goal set by the international community, by the year 2100. The probability that temperatures would rise by then above pre-industrial levels by as much as 4 degrees Celsius is 32 percent.

    With the passage of the American Power Act — in conjunction with assumed policies adopted by other G8 countries — the probability of staying below the 2-degree threshold increases to 75 percent.

    In exchange for this, the EPA predicts a “relatively modest impact on U.S. consumers.” The $79 to $146 figure, the annual average across the lifetime of a phased-in energy program through 2050, is modeled on a number of factors: the increased cost of energy with a price on carbon; the increased efficiency of items that consume energy; the behavioral decisions people will make as a result of both of these factors; as well as the impacts on wages and the revenue from emissions allowances that will be returned to households.

    For purposes of comparison, for privately purchased insurance of various forms we currently spend a little over $550 USD annually for every person on the planet.

    The EPA report may be viewed here:

    EPA Analysis of the American Power Act in the 111th Congress (pdf)

    Comment by Doug Bostrom — 21 Jun 2010 @ 2:16 PM

  139. I think both of you are failing to consider that we have built up human population far past sustainable levels by, in effect, learning to convert petroleum into soy beans and corn. This is not sustainable even if supplies of petroleum were unlimited, because of the damage to soils and aquifers caused by intensive agriculture. At the same time, there is no way we can maintain a population anything like our current population with sustainable agriculture.

    Ray, I realize you probably don’t read all my posts, and certainly not what I post elsewhere on the internet, but rest assured I understand (as well as I can, and so far as the evidence of past prognostications shows, perhaps better than some) PO, AGW, collapse scenarios, etc.

    What you are missing is, while solutions will be difficult, even unlikely, as of now there still appears to be an opportunity to correct imbalances enough to avoid full collapse, and perhaps any true collapse. By that last, I mean to say an orderly slow down vs. a crash is possible.

    We can quite definitely feed 10 billion, though I hope we don’t try to. 6k lbs. per 1/8 or 1/10 acre? With greening even deserts possible? Not only do we have enough land now, we can actually expand land under cultivation.

    The two simplest things we can do – particularly Americans – is to reduce consumption greatly and become, as Sharon Astyk, et al., say, “A Nation of Farmers.”

    Systemic, regenerative design is the key.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 21 Jun 2010 @ 6:56 PM

  140. flxible, my frustration with you is that you have given up. Despite being in my mid-forties, I don’t have that luxury: I have a 2 year-old.

    ccpo –
    “Actually, about 6 inches, maybe more allowing for compression during the process. That is going to be a fair amount of humus > soil.”
    Repeat: Humus is not soil.

    Didn’t say it was. Note the arrow.

    Compression of decaying organic material creates anaerobic conditions resulting in undesireable chemistry…

    Poor choice of word. “Settling” would be more accurate. But, really, doesn’t make much sense I’d be all about organic, sustainable agriculture then walk on my beds, eh?

    and biology, unless that organic material is entirely or primarily carbon to begin with. Lasagna gardening is useful, not iconic.

    How does mentioning one possible technique imply it to be iconic?

    The creation of humic material requires complex, poorly understood, processes and large timescales.
    If you mean scientifically poorly understood, then perhaps. Otherwise, on a practical level it’s understood more than sufficiently to effectively farm while also reducing carbon in the atmosphere.

    Soil science is immensely more complicated then spreading unspecified organic material on the surface to “create” humus, thereby sequestering carbon.

    No, it isn’t. Lots of ways to do so. We don’t need to understand the exact biochemistry involved to know a technique works. You are demonstrating Ivory Tower reasoning where Farmer Joe reasoning is sufficient.

    Soil, and it’s organic fraction, is a very complex and varied thing, with biologic and chemical constituents, especially native mycorrhiza [not imported] with respect to fertility, and cation exchange capacities are most relevent to productivity.

    Then why are you doing such a magnificent job of discouraging some of the things virtually every human being can do if you understand so much? Is this a Trojan Horse play, or have you become that cynical?

    I grew up with Howard and Rodale, I’ve long been aware of the superiority of organic agriculture from every standpoint – I also know what works in the eastern US with 30 years of effort, won’t work everywhere

    Why would that matter? I’d assumed you knew something of permaculture ethics and principles. Apparently, that is not the case. We are, however, in full agreement: I would never encourage anyone to apply dryland methods in humid areas – except where appropriate, but the overall strategies will be somewhat different.

    especially in the time available before past practices become non-viable due to changing climatic conditions.

    Agree time is an issue, but if we move, as Cuba did, into massively distributed small scale agriculture, we can actually begin leveling off then reducing carbon emissions. A good Food Forest can be gotten going in 5 years. There’s time, not to avoid some chaos, but to have a chance at avoiding the worst of it.

    “Keep me honest and accurate. Appreciated. Also, would love to have an off-thread conversation with you, possibly invite you to participate in some of what we do.”
    You might track down an email for me (…)
    “Or not.”
    :shrug:

    You’re more than a tad jaded, based on these exchanges. I’ve got enough downers around, including myself. If you’d like to discuss solutions, well….

    “We can grow as much as 6,000 lbs of food on an 8th to a 10th of an acre with good soil and season extension!“
    Surely. Just as surely, that intensity is not likely to happen on many acres most places where there is a population large enough to dedicate themselves to producing it and using it.

    We all know what is likely. I am addressing the possible.

    For the “non-gardeners out there”, yes, composting done well and “best” organic practices can sequester carbon, and more importantly, improve the health of the soil by feeding the micro-herd, but it’s not a solution to CO2 problem

    Yes, it is. If it sequesters carbon – and please read the link I provided – then it is “a” solution. There is no “the” solution, more of a quiver of solutions. First is reduced consumption, the second is farming and growing forests to sequester carbon. There are many more arrows in the quiver.

    or more importantly, the single critical problem facing the planet: overpopulation.

    Agreed. That is the deal-breaker. That is why I work for a different paradigm, generally regenerative, non-growth.

    The “fuller context is significant changes in lifestyle, paradigms, etc”. As Ray sez, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

    Comment by flxible — 21 June 2010 @ 10:11 AM

    Just as well. We need a good slap upside the head.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 21 Jun 2010 @ 7:24 PM

  141. ccpo – Just a little further – 1st, I’m 20 years ahead of you, and betting by the time yer tot is 25 you’ll understand where I’m at, not jaded but maybe ‘cynical’ in the original Greek sense. Being beyond ready for retirement, I accept that a majority of the population is not just uneducated, but ineducable with respect to the natural world, and I’ve come to the sad conclusion that the unsustainable human population is in an end stage prime for some succession, but I still personally live the philosophy. I have read the Rodale work, [and various Permaculture works, and The One-Straw Revolution, and Gardening Without Work, and etc etc etc], and have found what works for me in this locale, as well as passing on lots of information on a range of sustainable ag techniques to a lot of locals. Just this morning someone questioned how my greenhouse did so well on a packed gravel base and I gave her an hour explaning comnpost and soil fertility and helping her see the possibilities in her own situation. Any Trojan activities from me have always been aimed at the “conventional” sphere.

    The poor understanding of humic substances and soil nutrient cycles is actually the major problem with the idea that it’s simple for Farmer Joe and the urban/suburban hordes to sequester carbon – poor SOM management and composting can very easily produce more CO2 than it captures, not to mention methane, as well as reducing soil fertility. I’d much rather see dedicated facilities processing waste organics properly and passing on the finished product. That happens pretty well in my community, but down the road in the BC capital, they’ve been fighting for years to get even secondary sewage treatment in place and stop dumping it in the ocean. Meanwhile they brag about the electricity they produce from the landfill they bury the solids in.

    Permaculture may be a great way to initiate a sustainable ecological community, but it has little to comfort the very large populations crammed into apartments and slums in our major cities – Cuba is simply an example of what it takes to force a population to get a grip on supporting itself, and it barely does so, maybe the survivors of climate change induced chaos will have learned those lessons. I’m sure there’s room for some permaculture in derelict Detroit [where I was born, by the way], and it could certainly improve the lives of some there, but as a carbon sequestering solution, it’s an untipped arrow in your quiver. Massive population reduction is the slap upside the head that’s needed.

    Comment by flxible — 21 Jun 2010 @ 10:18 PM

  142. “[edit - one a day for the time being, thanks]”

    I’m sorry, it’s not easy to know when a new day starts for you, because of the time lag. BTW, can I tell you that your attitude against me is rather strange ? I don’t think I’m posting an excessive number of contributions compared to other people. I don’t think the average scientific quality is much below them, and that they’re less argumented; if they’re wrong, I’ll post them anyway a day after and they will be answered anyway (and it is very instructive for the general audience to respond correctly to wrong statements, isn’t it ?). And if they’re right, why censor them ?

    Ray #139 : I don’t see why you think I overlooked the problem you’re mentioning – did you really understand my posts ? I basically agree that most of the population increase is a consequence of abundant and cheap energy – actually mankind didn’t react very differently from yeast put in a glucose solution – it just multiplied by “eating” the source of free enthalpy brought by an abundant organic material. Thermodynamically, the essentials are here. Although I don’t think that fossil depletion will provoke a quick crash of population. The example of poor countries shows that even a very modest amount of FF is enough to insure a demographic growth. This is quite understandable since the availability of FF has multiplied our consumption per capita per several dozens, whereas a mere multiplication only by two or three would have already raise our standard of living above the most productive periods of the Middle age !! So we are so high that we can afford a large decrease of standard of living without dying in mass.

    So let me be clear : for me the ONLY impact of PO is on the very high standard of living , not on the existence of mankind. What is threatened is only the economic growth and the welfare of billions of people, mostly not their existence. I simply think that these consequences will be much more prominent and visible than that of global warming, because the exhaustion of resources will happen soon enough to keep consequences of GW within a minor range compared to those of this exhaustion. But I’m not a taliban of any theory. These are the present conclusions I have , when I summarize all the knowledge I have gathered on the subject. As anyone, I may be wrong, or right. But I’d like to know something, if anyone thinks I’m wrong : for me, being wrong should be expressed by something like : “I definitely think that a fact you would predict with your theory won’t happen and I’m ready to take a bet against you that it won’t happen”. (Actually taking or not the bet is not the problem : this is just an interesting way of casting a discussion into a scientific problem by defining exactly what is the point of divergence) .

    On my side, I can formulate a number of issues in this way : I can express my doubts into a definite set of predictions that I don’t think they will occur , here are some examples :

    * I don’t think that the oil production will ever exceed 95 Mbl/d, (contrary to ALL SRES scenarios)
    * I don’t think that the economic growth will be 2% /yr during the XXIth century (also contrary to ALL SRES scenarios)
    * I don’t think that the world population will crash, but I do think that the world economy will crash by a number of crisis like the current one (also contrary to ALL SRES scenarios)
    * I don’t think that the FF production will exceed 7 to 800 GtC before 2100 (we won’t exhaust everything so there will be some hundreds of GtC left for the next century), that the CO2 level will exceed 550 ppm, and that the consequences will be sensitive compared to that of depletion.

    etc…

    As I said, the question here is not if I’m right or wrong (well this IS an issue of course but it is not the point I’m raising). The point I’m raising is the following : can you cast your own belief in such a way that you are ready to bet on something that you think I don’t believe, but that YOU think will happen ?

    Comment by Gilles — 22 Jun 2010 @ 2:29 AM

  143. ccpo, About 8 years ago, my wife and I moved onto a 3 acre lot–part of an old farm that was subdivided. The soil was in terrible shape. We’ve slowly been building it up, planting trees and restoring some of it to meadow. We have a huge garden and manage to grow a good portion of our vegetables for the year on our land. Of the 8 houses in our little neighborhood, we’re the only one using native plants for landscaping–although we have managed to get some of our neighbors to plant a garden. And that’s pretty much the problem–probably 90% of people have zero awareness of the natural world. To them: Food comes from a store. Nature is an inconvenience to be avoided. And soil is what they wash off of their shoes. Worse yet, they like it that way. They are content with their Wonderbread and circuses. So, those of us who do care better be generating 50 cubic meters of soil to make up for the 9 in 10 who don’t even know what soil is and don’t care.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Jun 2010 @ 5:15 AM

  144. Ray and flxible,

    Neither of you has anything on me in the cynic dept. and we all three seem to be trying to do our part. The only difference I see is that I am actively involved in educating others about systemic, sustainable human action. I would likely be in a cabin somewhere stockpiling food and raw materials and developing my little doomstead did I not have a 2 year-old. But I do, so I’m not.

    Our little doomstead, then, is in Detroit in the form a lawn-turned garden and trying to build awareness.

    As for composting, while I suppose you can release more methane by composting than not, I have a hard time seeing that as the more likely result, so I think I’ll keep doing it.

    My URL is available and provides a way to contact me, flxible, that doesn’t require searching about for it. I’d be happy to hear from you.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 23 Jun 2010 @ 5:29 PM

  145. ccpo,
    My wife and I leave fortune no hostages. My interest in human survival is simply because I think Earth is potentially a more interesting place with us than without. My wife and I tried to engage several years ago by joining a conservation organization that caters to “outdoorsmen”. That just about convinced me that the species was hopeless. Humans are an interesting species with many weaknesses. For awhile I had some hope that because we had developed antidotes to all those weaknesses, we might be worth saving. That was before seeing how hard people fight to preserve their right to stay stupid, greedy and mean.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Jun 2010 @ 7:46 PM

  146. “That was before seeing how hard people fight to preserve their right to stay stupid, greedy and mean.” Ray Ladbury 23 June 2010 at 7:46 PM

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.”
    “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”
    John Kenneth Galbraith

    Large environmental stresses drive evolution and speciation – for every extinction, there is (eventually) a new species or two that evolve to occupy the modified niche. The PETM was bad for benthic foraminifera, but good for small mammal diversity. And I wouldn’t be surprised if some unknown unknown bit civilization in the buttocks – the known unknown of Arctic sea ice/East Siberian Shelf clathrate interaction raises the specter of a PETM like event, but a Younger Dryas like event wouldn’t be fun for most of us dependent on modern civilization (and that’s most of us) either.
    Our social & political institutions have developed in a period of remarkable climate stability, and I think are likely to amplify bad environmental stressors, especially as they become perceived threats.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 23 Jun 2010 @ 10:43 PM

  147. … as long as mitigation has come up, quick question:

    how long do inverters last?

    Perusing the web, it seems at least a few have a warranty of ten years. But solar PV modules’ warranties (20+ years, less for some) are only a fraction of the actual expected useful lifetime (60 or more).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Jun 2010 @ 10:58 PM

  148. Patrick – PV panels might have a long useful life, but not necessarily at full original efficiency. For inverters see here – inverter life depends on quality and operating conditions, treat a good one well and it may outlast you, but also may not last as long as PV panels.

    Comment by flxible — 24 Jun 2010 @ 7:16 PM

  149. “PV panels might have a long useful life, but not necessarily at full original efficiency”

    Yes, I’ve read of a 0.5 % degradation rate for mature technology. By itself that would imply 200 years at rated capacity – of course, at some point, the power supply wouldn’t be enough to justify the area and panel-proportional balance-of-system components devoted to it, so replacement would put a lower lifetime energy output. Also, some panels would probably suffer storm/etc. damage. Grid-wide, does a 1 %/year replacement rate of PV modules sound like a reasonable expectation?

    Thank you for that link!

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 25 Jun 2010 @ 12:01 AM

  150. #143 Ray.

    I am curious. Do you talk much to those other 8 in your neighbourhood, and if so why did they buy into such large lots of land. Even gardens of old fashioned trees, flowers and lawn need good soil care etc. Do they pay someone else to care for it or are their lots overgrown with weeds or act as used car lots? Why pay for land one is not going to use?

    Cheers

    Andrew

    Comment by Andrew Hobbs — 25 Jun 2010 @ 1:58 AM

  151. ccpo: My URL is available and provides a way to contact me, flxible, that doesn’t require searching about for it.

    Mailer-Daemon: “A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. No such user here.”

    Comment by flxible — 25 Jun 2010 @ 8:24 AM

  152. Patrick – Furry might in the loop for PV life cycle questions, I’m just a user.

    Comment by flxible — 25 Jun 2010 @ 8:33 AM

  153. It might indeed be pretty easy to generate a few tenths of an topsoil in your backyard of 1/4 acre. However, tell me how you are going to create the will and organization to do this over the whole earth (10′s of millions of square miles) including in places like the Sahara where there is no topsoil at all. More likely, deforestation and increased droughts are going to further diminish the world’s topsoil.

    Comment by Jerry — 25 Jun 2010 @ 3:34 PM

  154. Mailer-Daemon: “A message that you sent could not be delivered to one or more of its recipients. This is a permanent error. No such user here.”

    Comment by flxible — 25 June 2010 @ 8:24 AM

    In all this time I never noticed our IT guy messed that up. I wonder how many other e-mails never got delivered? You’re needing a dash twixt the i and the d.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 27 Jun 2010 @ 2:40 AM

  155. It might indeed be pretty easy to generate a few tenths of an topsoil in your backyard of 1/4 acre. However, tell me how you are going to create the will and organization to do this over the whole earth (10’s of millions of square miles) including in places like the Sahara where there is no topsoil at all. More likely, deforestation and increased droughts are going to further diminish the world’s topsoil.

    Comment by Jerry — 25 June 2010 @ 3:34 PM

    OK: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sohI6vnWZmk

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 27 Jun 2010 @ 2:43 AM

  156. gilles (Comment # 26), you wrote, in part, “. . . whereas I haven’t yet seen any proposal that it could be caused by the melting of northern sea ice (because only northern would matter, but not southern, of course).”

    It’s the parenthetical statement that caught my eye, since it clearly implies an event in the northern seas affect the situation only in northern climes, and, by logical extension, that any melting of southern sea ice affects only the southern seas.

    I don’t see how that’s possible. In a light (as opposed to sarcastic) way, let me point out there’s no “Great Wall of the Equator” that would prevent northern and southern waters from mutually affecting each other. After all, if we take a pan that’s a meter by a meter and place it astride the equator, with half in the northern hemisphere and the other half in the southern hemisphere, then place a block of ice in one end, assuming the air temperature is above freezing, the ice will melt sooner or later — and the resulting water will be uniformly distributed across the entire bottom of the pan, not confined to the end in which the ice block was originally placed.

    I keep thinking I must be misreading your comment, but if so, I can’t figure out where.

    Anyway, I left somewhat confused.

    Comment by Kurt T. Francis — 7 Jul 2010 @ 2:18 AM

  157. Kurt, I never meant that there was a Great Wall all around the equator that would prevent southern hemisphere from communicating with northern one. if there is a wall, it’s only in front of the eyes of mass media who tend to look only at Arctic ocean or sometimes antarctic peninsula…. the whole sea ice extent is almost perfectly steady on average. But actually I don’t think most people’s life is influenced by that.

    Comment by Gilles — 8 Jul 2010 @ 10:34 AM

  158. An interesting article in recent AIG News [newsletter of the Australian Institute of Geoscientists] re submarine volcanic contribution to total CO2 and difficulty involved in distinguishing anthropogenic CO2 from CO2 from other sources.

    see..http://aig.org.au/assets/368/2010-03_AIG_News_100.pdf

    pp8-16

    Be interested in comments.

    [Response: Mostly nonsense I'm afraid. Volcanic CO2 is distinguishable from fossil fuel CO2 by virtue of the d13C isotopic ratio (fossil fuel or biospheric carbon is more depleted in 13C), and the reduction in O2 indicates that the extra CO2 is being oxidised in the atmosphere, not in the mantle. I would class this article at the Plimerian level. - gavin]

    Comment by greg keeley — 13 Jul 2010 @ 2:30 AM

  159. @Gavin (and Greg Keeley):
    You may have noted that Plimer and Wishart are quoted, which doesn’t do much good to its credibility. But who cares if volcanoes in reality do emit more CO2? The human emissions are *still* the main cause of atmospheric rise in CO2. And that’s simple accounting: the net increase is smaller than our human input, meaning that everything non-anthropogenic combined is a net sink.

    And there’s another accounting issue: if certain non-anthropogenic emissions are the main cause of atmospheric rise, this would mean there is a non-anthropogenic net sink that takes up more than 80% of anthropogenic emissions. Almost by necessity, that sink should also take up 80% of those net non-anthropogenic emitters. Combined this means there should be a sink somewhere that takes up something like 10 Gt/C a year (rough guestimate, may be more). Well, can anyone please point out that sink? The biosphere? I think we would have noticed if the biosphere increased by that much just about every year. The oceans? We should be able to measure changes in carbonate content with such huge numbers.

    Comment by Marco — 13 Jul 2010 @ 2:51 PM

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