This is why we have realclimate because it is manned (er womaned) by experts in the field of modelling climate and knowing about climate work by others and the research literature that paints a very accurate picture of what is going on in this field. Physics World on the other hand it not necessarily in that position and seeks experts to fill their pages with material that is of interest to their readers even if it is not necessarily correct.
This also brings up the question of science and the knowledge required to be called an expert. Climate is complex and earth science even more so so that even if the climate modelling guys get it right no one truely knows all of the implications of a warming atmosphere and oceans on earths other systems such as flora and fauna, forests, desert, glaciers and the ice worlds of the arctic and antartic for instance.
I’m unclear about references to “global warming” and “climate change”. This article, like many, refers to the prediction that “the Earth will warm” and that this is stated as a range of possibilities of temperature increase by 2100 etc. The consequence will be climate change and models give predictions as to what the impact will be.
But what is meant by “the Earth will warm” and the predicted increase in temperatures? Surely it is not suggested that the whole body of the Earth itself will on average increase in temperature by this much. So do these increases refer to surface air temperature or to an amalgamation of air, ocean and land temperatures?
Is one of the reasons for the anticipated increase in storms related to the Geosphere warming more quickly than the Ocean? Do models take into account the impact on the Geosphere of increased desertification and deforestation for example?
I appreciate that we become accustomed to using shorthand to make points succinctly but sometimes it is worth testing if the shorthand is not causing lack of understanding.
“Lindzen maintains that climate models do not replicate the feedback mechanisms in the climate system…”
Seems to me this cuts both ways. The models may be underrepresenting the positive feedbacks (which it seems to me are even more difficult to quantify — bec many are BIG unknowns).
Also, I’ve figured out that as the evidence for AGW piles up, the contrarians may actually amplify their denial.
I’m thinking of psychological anthropologist A.F.C. Wallace’s “mazeway disintegration” idea. Mazeway is like culture at the individual level, the individual’s world view, values, knowledge, map of the world (of the maze & how to get to the goals & rewards). Wallace says this mazeway is loved, whereas the rewards are merely enjoyed; people do not want to give up their precious, beloved mazeway…not easily, at least.
Now if, say, a disaster happens–like a flood, hurricane, war, or social disorder due to extreme environmental changes–and the maze is destroyed or greatly damaged (in our GW case, harmed somewhat now, but greatly threatened), people may go through “mazeway disintegration,” and just spiral down, refusing to let go of the old mazeway. But many will go through a “mazeway resynthesis,” and develop a new mazeway more fitting the new conditions, take charge, and make something good of it. This is a rather sudden change, like a conversion experience or a light-bulb flashing insight into something better – more simple/eloquent. A gestalt-changing moment. This is at the heart of revitalization movements, in which people make a better culture and society for themselves. At least one person has this mazeway resynthesis, & others get it, and follow.
But there are those on the side who never recover, but are stuck in mazeway disintegration.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 23 Feb 2007 @ 9:42 AM
The entire climate and weather science fields depend largely on accuracy of data, and also a reasonable understanding of it, simply to be capable of telling past and future events. Lindzen would do himself good only if he can predict something accurately, that would certainly help his credibility, instead, he derides his colleagues, way more than casting doubt, but rather mocking the science he presides over at a prestigious institute. Its my understanding that he probably said several years ago, that it will be colder this year, now he says it will be colder in 5 years, and so the antagonist waits for cold air to vindicate his aspersions. It is hardly an academic stance. I rather like the idea that many like Lindzen can formulate theories, but only a few actually work, it is rather the right attitude to take, to mine the field of theories, and apply those who are successful, those capable of success are not enough publicized, while Lindzen types wrecking havoc and confusion get way too much attention.
That fits right in with a comment I got this morning, and since he cited climate scientists purporting, ala Crichton, that they don’t really know anything, I’m posting it here for comment.
“By the way, there are extremely few scientists whose knowledge is sufficiently broad so as to encompass all the fields that are involved in this debate.”
1 No one can predict the future. If people say they can, be very skeptical.
2 If the computer models being used to predict global warming are correct, they should be correct for the next ten years, not just the next one hundred years. All the predictions of the last ten years have been wrong.
3 Global Warming is now a political phenomenon. Documents like the most recent UN report are being published with little or no connection to scientific data. The latest UN report came out prior to the publication of scientific research that is supposed to underpin the policy report’s conclusions. The UN said they would change the scientific report to match the conclusions of the policy document if there were any inconsistencies!
4 Conclusions emanating from the scientific community include largely subjective assumptions that essentially make many assertions nothing more than informed opinion, not science. Further, due to intimidation and other factors, the actual scientific process is being corrupted and breaking down.
5 If you actually press most scientists doing global warming research, they will eventually tell you that they don’t know what is causing global warming. Before we spend $55 Trillion, we better find someone who has some solid evidence of man’s impact on the environment, particularly in the face of more pressing needs, like disease and hunger (ed – he indirectly mentioned this, which, because it isn’t designed to benefit internationalist organizations, has received very little attention).
6 Al Gore is a catastrophist. One example is his contention that sea levels will rise 20 -40 feet in the next one hundred years. This assertion can be compared the UN report which measures changes in ocean levels in centimeters.
7 Global warming is an hysteria that is not about science anymore. Rather, it is a belief system. Crichton wonders whether the world is moving beyond a period where science has driven human development and back to a period where religion and faith are the key drivers in decision making.”
[Response:I can predict that it will be warmer in 6 months (it’s February now) than now in Oslo – I’m making a prediction about the future – Crichton, be sceptical! It’s like saying that if my predictions are correct, I should be able to predict the Oslo temperature in 15 days. There is something called the chaos effect, which inhibits the success of predicting 15 days ahead (This very fundamental principle, by the way, was uncovered by computer models ;-). ). The year-to-year and decade-to-decade variations are affected by chaotic fluctuations (e.g. El Ninos, Pacific Decadal Oscillation,..), as well as volcanic erruptions. But the level about which the fluctuations center is affected systematically by external forcings (e.g. the seasonal cycle). Global warming is primarily a scientific issue, and the claims cannot documented because they are false. #5 is also as far as I know a false statement, and is itself a prediction of the future. I’m sceptical;-) (I have greater faith in my prediction 6 months ahead than his prediction sometime far in the future…). The notion of global warming is based on exactly science – but it’s easy for non-scientists to make counter-claims when they are not required to document their claims. -rasmus]
“No one can predict the future,” but it’s really great how far science has advanced from the days of astrology.
I sincerely hope this is the catastrophe (probably one of the greatest humans have ever faced) that we avert (at least the worst of it), bec of the good information and knowledge science is now providing us. All preceding generations were at the mercy of their ignorance.
I also have an intuitive grasp of how it’s easier to predict long term than short-term, so the fact that we don’t get next year right, or even next week’s weather right, doesn’t make a good argument for me against longer term climate science predictions. And I’m not even a scientist, it just sounds right. Like the coin-flips I was talking about last night on our probability chapter…..in the long run over hundreds of flips you’d expect to get 50% heads & 50% tails (assuming the coin isn’t loaded), though short-run (6 flips) it may not be 50/50.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 23 Feb 2007 @ 2:03 PM
1. No one can predict the future? Not with 100% accuracy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t know something. Ever make plans based on weather forecasts? And while I don’t know with 100% certainty, I’m fairly confident that the sun will rise tomorrow. We can and do make intelligent decisions about the future near- and long-term based on predictions about the future.
2. The models do a good job even over the last 10 years. The year-to-year variability is not somehting they can do, but they variability and trends – which is what we’re really concerned – are very reasonable.
3. The report is based on published scientific research. To say otherwise is simply wrong. The document is FOR policymakers, not BY policymakers. While policymakers played a role in the summary, so did scientists. And it was all science in the actual full report. The full report was approved. Any changes made to it in the future will be minor.
4. There is no basis for this statement – the conclusion are based on the evidence, they are not subjective.
5. Have you actually pressed scientists doing climate research? I’ve not heard any say that they don’t know what is causing global warming. Scientist are very confident about what is causing warming.
6. I’d have to watch the movie again, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t say 20-40 feet SLR in the next 100 years, rather that unless we reduce GHG emissions in the next 100 years we’ll be committed to at least that SLR eventually (due to the warming that will be inevitable with the high CO2 levels that will remain in the atmosphere). This is a reasonable statement and supported by the evidence.
7. When you rely on Crichton, you really are getting desperate.
How long do we have to wait before the planet is squandered to CO2?
Whilst the politicians play their games and posture our children die in in a slow infero of CO2 polluted skies. Here in England the daffodils are all ready out and the other day I saw a butterfly, presuambly overheating in nature’s cocoon trying a last desperate gasp to escape the effects of overheating brought on by our love of 4x4s. Last year we had drought brought on by AGW and this year floods as a demostration by of nature’s anger at our squalid ways. Our children will never forgive us for letting our beautiful blue planet slowly bake in its foul atmoshphere and evaporate the oceans turning us into the hell of an overheated planet consumed by greed where the lead on our coffins melts and trickles over our long dead bones.
Former Vice President Al Gore
New York University School of Law
September 18, 2006
“… the previous twelve months saw 32 glacial earthquakes on Greenland between 4.6 and 5.1 on the Richter scale – a disturbing sign that a massive destabilization may now be underway deep within the second largest accumulation of ice on the planet, enough ice to raise sea level 20 feet worldwide if it broke up and slipped into the sea.”
Re #8: “1 No one can predict the future. If people say they can, be very skeptical.”
Now that depends on what you’re predicting, and what degree of accuracy you want. If I throw a rock into the air, I can do a pretty damned good prediction that it will come down :-) I could (with a little study) likewise make really accurate predictions of say solar & lunar eclipses for the next few thousand years. And if I look out the window, I can make a pretty accurate weather forecast for the next few hours.
“2 If the computer models being used to predict global warming are correct, they should be correct for the next ten years, not just the next one hundred years. All the predictions of the last ten years have been wrong.”
Putting aside the fact that AFAIK those predictions have in fact been pretty good, there’s a certain element of randomness in the system. It’s like gambling: play for an hour, there’s a reasonable chance that you might wind up ahead. Play for a week, and your chance is close to zero, while the chance that the house will lose money overall is as near zero as makes no difference.
The same sort of thing applies to climate models: for any particular date & time, they may or may not be right. But what we’re interested is the average over the whole earth for a number of years, and they seem pretty good at that.
“All the predictions of the last ten years have been wrong.”
Sez who? Seriously, where do you find support for that claim?
Sure, it’s literally true, but do you understand that, or are you asking for a mathematical “proof”?
If you’re talking models, ‘close counts’ — horseshoes, hand grenades, climatology.
Essentially, all models are wrong, but some are useful. Box, George E. P.;
RE #11, “1. No one can predict the future? Not with 100% accuracy, but that doesn’t mean we can’t know something. Ever make plans based on weather forecasts?”
Yes, and even if it says 50% chance of rain I take an umbrella. So why should we NOT go ahead and save money while reducing our GHGs? That makes even better sense than taking an umbrella (which is extra weight and clumbsy) with a 50% chance of rain? Esp since the climate forecast is extremely bad (much worse than a bit of rain), and the certainty level is higher than 50%.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 23 Feb 2007 @ 4:07 PM
The response to #8:
Whoa, whoa, whoa – the “chaos effect” was not uncovered BY computer models, it was found to be a characteristic OF the computer models used by Lorenz to simulate weather and its discovery by Lorenz pointed up the difficulty of simulating such phenomena and the inadequacy of models for it.
Rather than support your position, this undermines it.
Re: 17, Uh, no, the chaotic behavior is in the phenomena, so the models must reflect that behavior precisely to be adequate. There is nothing particularly novel, chaos is found in many dynamic systems and we model them all the time. To contend that somehow the fact that the models exhibit chaotic behavior is an indictment of them is either ignorant or disingenuous.
The way you handle chaos is to conduct a range of simulations over the phase space of parameters and report on robust trends and possibly the extremes. Or do you refuse to fly in an airplane as well?
One aspect of Lindzen’s Iris Hypothesis that has always struck me as odd is this: If there is really a strong negative feedback in the climate system due to clouds, how could there have been those large temperature swings we know happened during the Ice Ages? Wouldn’t the negative feedback also have worked to keep the Earth relatively warm, instead of allowing those massive ice sheets to grow (and decay), as seen in the paleo record? Does anyone out there know whether Lindzen has produced a mechanism which included his Adaptive Iris feedback that would include the changes which are known to have occured during Ice Ages?
thankyou fatboy for comment 12…
while politicians posture and scientists squabble, every human being who still loves nature (and therefore observes it – which is basic science is it not?) every one who loves nature knows that something, if not everything, is badly wrong, with the weather, with the seasons, with the health & well-being of native eco-systems. Every farmer, every gardener can tell you.
We don’t need precise measurments to quantify these changes, we don’t need alarmist media to inform us of what we know… We know that climate change is happening – it is not a political or scientific conspiracy.
As to the causes… down here among the grass-roots, local observation shows me a cause that I can see with my own eyes – common sense tells me that relentlessly stripping the land of it’s native vegetation & soil (which keeps the land cool) and replacing it with the black-roof black-tarmac solar storage radiators of galloping “development”, whilst simultaneously rapidly increasing technological devices & activities which generate heat in themselves (microwaves, infra-sound, actual heat), as well as insulating greenhouse gases… well it is just intuitively obvious why we are heating up…
It is also intuitively obvious what we must do to mitigate it. Stop “development” Start re-vegetating. Stop consuming mindlessly. No-one is talking about back to the Stone Age.
Just stop MINDLESS consumption.
Like, I for one example, can live happily without Christmas Crackers. For 47 years I have consumed crackers at Christmass. A mindless, unquestioned traditional habit… Giving up Christmas crackers isn’t a huge trauma, so I shall never buy them again.
I suspect that all of our lives are full of similar mindless, unquestioned, traditional consumer habits…
All of us, politicians, scientists, people… we must take serious stock of our lives & change them ourselves. Cutting out the trivial, the useless, the vain, the pointless, the self-indulgent, etc. etc.
We have to give up the idea that we can all have everything we want as our whims dictate… If a little sobriety entered in to our deliberations, we can free up a lot of time, energy and money – which we can then use towards making further changes in our lives. We ARE an intelligent species. Fairly soon I believe we will begin to behave like one…
A responsible jounalist would never publish investment advice from an analyst being paid by a company that figures in the advice. So why do journalist publish advice about AGW from people like Pat Michaels and Richard Lindzen without at least disclosing their financial interests? Because it stirs the pot, sells papers or magazines and, unlike in the investment world, is only unethical, not illegal.
Comment by Zeke Hausfather — 23 Feb 2007 @ 5:56 PM
Richard Lindzen, Dennis Hartmann (U. of Wash.) and Ben Santer (LLNL) participated in a global warming forum at the University of Minnesota in 2002. I attended the forum with the manager for the National Weather Service (NWS) North Central River Forecast Center (NCRFC).
It was clear to me that Ben Santer and Dennis Hartmann had serious concerns about global warming. Hartmann talked about global warming feed-backs while Santer showed that the height of the tropopause had increased with global warming. There was no question in my mind that Dennis Hartmann and Ben Santer were being honest in their presentations.
There was little or no question in my mind that Lindzen was not being honest about global warming. Richard Lindzen didn’t seem concerned at all about global warming. He used most of his time making fun using slides of cartoons on global warming.
I thought Hartmann and Santer were convincing in there presentations in showing the audience that everyone should take global warming very seriously. The manager of NWS NCRFC informed me later that he thought otherwise.
I’m curious to know how good we can expect the models to become. As the models improve and the amount and quality of ambient climate data increases, will it become possible to predict regional climates a year ahead, or will this alway remain a pipe-dream due to chaos in the system?
If farmers can predict in advance whether or not it is worth the expense of putting in a crop, then it will make a huge difference to their capacity to adapt to climate change. Similarly, water authorities and other planners will be able to be much better at planning ahead (for example by more precisely targeting water restrictions).
If the models can become useful in this way to people planning their lives in the shorter term, I think that much less credence will be given to those arguing that they are useless and not to be trusted.
I’m not sure your example of “inconsistent” viewpoints is a good one, even if to you, his two points “say opposite things”. In fact, there’s no inconsistency at all: it’s quite easy to imagine a situation where the models match historical temperature trends quite well but are too sensitive to one input factor for future predictions.
A simple example would be if CO2 concentration was historically correlated with another forcing. In that situation, there would be a wide range of sensitivities to those two forcings that together would match history, but the moment the forcings diverge you could find that you have vastly overestimated the climate’s sensitivity to one of them.
As I recall Ben Santer was also slimed by the PR folks, publicly and persistently enough to make clear to any other scientist what she or he might go through for speaking up.
I think Feynman was right for his time about doubt and skepticism, but as of a decade ago, near as I can tell, the real frontier for figuring out new things is (gasp) data mining. Yes, _that_ stuff.
While all climatology data put togther might not compare to anything the NSA, or WalMart, or the credit bureaus have compiled, I do wonder. I keep recalling Dr. Wegman, dragged out before that Republican committee, saying carefully several times that he had only given a narrow opinion on one part of one question he was asked to address, and then at the end saying what he really worried about was the oceans.
And I thought, hmmm. Star Wars. Navy. Likely knows a few things others don’t.
I looked at his website and found he has a rather dry sense of humor, and isn’t unwilling to poke fun at himself.
And I read this paper I quote from below from that site, and wondered — and still wonder — if the issues he describes have been wrung out by others already, around the modeling of climate. Because if not, he might well be asked now that things have simmered down, what expertise he could apply. Because apparently nobody did ask, before.
And you know, he was right — the big surprise this year is the oceans, in several ways. Hmmmm.
From one of his articles on his site:
“… Because the data may not conform to the assumptions of the confirmatory analysis, inferences made with invalid model assumptions are subject to (potentially gross) errors.
“The idea then is to explore the data to verify that the model assumptions actually hold for the data in hand. It is a very short leap of logic to use exploratory techniques to discover unanticipated structure in the data. With the rise of powerful personal computing, this more aggressive form of EDA has come into vogue. EDA is no longer used to simply verify underlying model assumptions, but also to uncover unanticipated structure in the data.
“Within the last decade, computer scientists operating in the framework of databases and information systems have similarly come to the conclusion that a more powerful form of data analysis could be used to exploit data residing in databases. That work has been formulated as knowledge discovery in databases (KDD) and data mining. A landmark book in this area is (Fayyad et al., 1996). The convergence of EDA from the statistical community and KDD from the computer science community has given rise to a rich if somewhat tense collaboration widely recognized as data mining.
“There are many definitions of data mining. The one we prefer was given in (Wegman, 2003). Data mining is an extension of exploratory data analysis and has basically the same goals, the discovery of unknown and unanticipated structure in the data. The chief distinction lies in the size and dimensionality of the data sets involved. Data mining, in general, deals with much more massive data sets for which highly interactive analysis is not fully feasible.”
— end snippet —
Why did I think of it? Read today that US citizens are now routinely being denied entry to Canada based on 30-year-old misdemeanors that simply weren’t found before on routine checks — data mining. And along with that the warning that many other countries are about to start using the same US data, to refuse entry to any US citizen on our government’s records for any minor, and I do mean minor, offense.
Well, maybe there’s something to this approach for finding patterns. It’d be interesting to apply the methods to public datasets like climate and see.
“To contend that somehow the fact that the models exhibit chaotic behavior is an indictment of them is either ignorant or disingenuous.”
Uh, neither – the point is that since the models exhibit chaotic behavior, they possess “extreme sensitivity to initial conditions” and care should be taken with them.
“The way you handle chaos is to conduct a range of simulations over the phase space of parameters and report on robust trends and possibly the extremes.”
Such Monte Carlo-type simulations come with their own uncertainties…and this assumes the model accurately describes the phenomenon being studied, a debatable point. Otherwise, the conclusions pertain to the model and not the phenomenon of interest.
Here’s the coup: “the chaotic behavior is in the phenomena, so the models must reflect that behavior precisely to be adequate”
Exactly! And if the models don’t reflect the behavior precisely (which they assuredly do not), what then?
So, since the models used to predict the chaotic system are themselves chaotic, even if they perfectly describe the phenomenon being studied (they don’t)…shouldn’t we issue our predictions a little less assuredly?
“Or do you refuse to fly in an airplane as well?”
Gratuitous and insulting – not the way to make a scientific point. Unfortunately, we see this too often.
Re #24: Excellent point. I believe Prof. Lindzen has made the point many times that the inadequate climate models have been “overfit” so that they match historical trends, but at the expense of predicting present and future ones.
Re #19: There are also little question such as why it wouldn’t have operated to keep the climate from getting warmer at various points in the past prior to the Pleistocene, in particular the PETM. One could hand-wave about e.g. tectonic changes, but since the iris effect is basically supposed to be an inherent feature of the ITCZ (which is in turn a basic feature of atmospheric circulation), that seems a little tough. One could also argue that the iris effect can be overcome by external forcings, but in that case it would seem to be a fundamental problem that Milankovitch forcing is weak.
What kept the iris effect alive in the climate science community for so long is that it was (and I think may still be) not implausible as a minor effect. That Lindzen kept speaking of it as a major effect was (and is) irresponsible. This is a little bit like the GCR business in that nobody denies the plausibiity of the physical effect (which is actually rather more tangible in the case of GCRs), but Svensmark and others get far ahead of the science when they assume that the effect on climate must be substantial.
Heres the monthly temperature profile of the South Pole from 1957 to 2006.
Why is there not any slowing of the rate of cooling during the Antartic night, nor any accelerated increase in heating in the spring/summer?
Given the fact that there is very little water vapor present, increases in CO2 should have a greater %GHG effect here, compared with the rest of the Earth.
In the 1950’s, when CO2 was lower than now, the majority of IR reflected from the atmosphere whould have come from CO2, so why is there no effect of increased CO2 on the South poles cooling and warming?
IS this not the most obvious site to measure CO2 sensitivity?
Nature actually is quite fine. However, there is this freakish unnatural presence encroaching in on it. This anomaly of nature is taking what is gentle and dynamic at the same time and perversly moving in on it and morphing it into the freakish as well. Science will save us in all this as we have harnessed the energy of the universe and packaged it quite nicely ready to use on a moments notice. The cricket and butterfly on the blooming daisies will nary notice the commotion around them, just another tick in natures cycle. Nature will do quite nicely without us.
RE #22: That New York Review of Books AR4 Review makes good use of the term ‘Procrastination Penalty’ which they identify as being coined on RC (see #219 here).
We need succinct ways of representing the urgency of the situation that the general public can understand and appreciate. A measure of the Procrastination Penalty would fit that need very well I think. The Melbourne Age recently announced that it would include a graphic depicting Australia’s weekly greenhouse gas output. They seem to have dropped it, possibly because the numbers are too dodgy, but more likely because they are relatively meaningless to the reader. By contrast a small graphic showing the current Melbourne Dam capacity as a percentage is permanently on the front page (34.6% today). It’s meaningful, is of immediate concern to every one, and people use it to great goad each other about water wastage.
May I suggest that one of you climate model wizards use one of the models to come up with a measure of the procrastination penalty (PP). RC could then post it at the top of the website from where newspapers and the like could access it. It might work something like this:
> Calculate the predicted global mean temperature for 2100 under the following scenarios:
1) If greenhouse gases had remained at pre-industrial revolution levels.
2A) If since the signing of Kyoto we had not allowed our emissions to increase.
2B) If we were to halt the rise in emission rates now.
3A) If at the signing of Kyoto we had halved our emissions within (say) twenty years.
3B) If we were to halve them within twenty years of now.
* The current value of the PP is then the difference between 2A and 2B or between 3A and 3B, depending
on how ambitious we want to be. 1 is a reference point.
This could be depicted as a simple graphic. And the numbers would change day by day, so it would act as a ticking clock (the model would have to be run enough times to be able to plot a regression line from which the daily PPs would be taken). As the models improve, the series would be able to be re-calculated more accurately. So now and again there would be a hiccup in the numbers, but that would then be an opportunity to present the public with the latest update on advances in climate modeling.
Eventually, when the climate models are sophisticated enough, regional rainfall PPs could be calculated. That would really get people thinking.
It is invariably the politically energized who effuse certitude and bury evidence that they might be wrong–even if what they are certain of is only that the other side is wrong… or overconfident in their claims.
This poses a problem for those who practice real science, who systematically test their claims, whose methodology dictates that plausible alternative theories be dealt with seriously. The political vultures exploit anything that might look like doubt to the general public, turning it to rhetorical advantage, and when real scientists mount a defense, that too is turned against them–evidence of their hubris, their over confidence, their refusal to consider the alternatives.
Was it Bertrand Russell who said that you cannot refute with reason ideas that were not themselves the product of reason? The problem here, is that you can’t effectively use science to refute attacks that are driven by extra-scientific motives, and meant to serve extra-scientific ends. On the one hand, in reading exchanges like this, is is transparent which comments come from shills, and which from those with a genuine commitment to science–on the other hand, describing and defining the difference in a way that would be convincing to irresponsible journalists or the casual public, is maddeningly difficult.
There is something almost automatic in the thought processes employed by the propagandists (and that’s what they are, whatever their conscious intent), that lets them shift their argument and evidence at will, and keeps them always just out of reach of decisive exposure.
Blogs like Realclimate, Cosmicvariance, to name only my personal favorites, give me hope in the long, long battle against entrenched ignorance.
Keep up the good work!
There are many out here, not scientists… who can indeed, tell the difference.
One issue that Lindzen brings up is that temperature excursions can happen naturally due to ‘internal variability’ (from the profile): “Indeed, he believes that the claimed anthropogenic heating “signal” is obscured by the “noise” of the uncertainty in the temperature measurements and, more importantly, the internal variation of the climate.”
However, Lindzen’s most recent hypothesis was titled â��Does the Earth Have an Adaptive Infrared Iris?â��. This idea is that the Earth had a natural feedback system that acts to stabilize the climate, which operates in the Indo-Pacific tropics. This idea was very speculative and hasn’t found any supporting data. Nevertheless, it is used as an unquestioned talking point by sites such National Policy Analysis (Google #336 Lindzen – also try #334 Idso, #328 Kyoto, etc.)
Summing these ideas up, Lindzen seems to believe that the Earth’s climate behaves like a marble rolling around at the bottom of a bowl – it may oscillate about due to external forcings and internal variability, but it will never jump out of the bowl. He is apparently so enamored of this concept that he can’t accept any contrary evidence, no matter how robust – the term is “idee fixe”. What he seems to be ignoring are changes in ocean circulation and in ice sheet dynamics.
The more rational interpretation is that the climate is sensitive to a wide variety of forcings, and can indeed adopt different ‘states’ (the equivalent of the marble hopping out of one bowl and into another) – and changes in ocean circulation due to anthropogenic global warming may very well result in an entirely new climate regime. See for example http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/newsarch/2006/Aug06/dieoff.html
Richard Lindzen is a atmospheric physicist and professor of meterology at MIT and contributed to chapter 4 of the 2nd IPCC report and hence that probably makes him well qualified to comment on matters of climate science.
He also believes that the warming is real it is just that it is not necessarily down to greenhouse gases as to the reason. In addition to this he also seems to be playing devils advocate in the main by attempting to pick holes in the scientific consensus, which may have been ideal back in 1995 or even 2000 but not now surely. The debate is over and unfortunately for the human race greenhouse gases have won and are to blame.
Could it now be RC that because of the vitriol surrounding AGW that climate scientists have actually downplayed the danger it poses and in fact the earth is in fact warming faster than predicted and CO2 emissions are rising faster than predicted?
Could it be that warming is going to be worse than first thought, after all science is a conservative discipline and you cannnot make bold claims and get away with it?
While I certainly do think that global warming is a dangerous reality, I do not see any contradiction between the two assertions you mention. In fact, I see them as complementary statements.
1. “Curve fitting”: Making the model fit the facts. It may well be that the correspondence between the historic record and the model are indeed forcedâ??and would not be predictable of the future.
2. “Too sensitive”: I.e., that the forced correspondence is a result of relying too heavily on green house gases, resulting in “curve fitting.” By “sensitive” I think he means “relying too heavily,” but I may be wrong.
These are not contradictory statements. The real problem for Lindzen is to show that the correspondence is forced. His saying so does not make it so. In short, he is obliged to give a detailed analysis of the models used. That analysis must probe the inner workings of each model.
What the editors of Science should have done was to include a real critique of the lead article, not some half-baked, summary of Lindzen. Let Lindzen counter the article on modeling in detail. Let’s see if he has a case. I doubt it.
One fallacy often displayed by supposed skeptics is that when they criticize the models or claim that there might be unknown factors they always (So far as I’ve seen.) claim that these mistakes or unknowns would go towards mitigating warming. If they were honest skeptics of the models wouldn’t they concede that it’s just as likely that the models could be conservative? That in fact things could turn out worse than the predictions? Look at the seismic disturbances in Greenland as the ice melts. As more ice melts couldn’t these disturbances grow worse and then help the ice break up and flow into the ocean more rapidly, thus raising ocean levels more than predicted and faster than we think will happen? But the people who claim to skeptical of the modeling never look at it in that direction.
#26, this data mining thing sort of reminds me of (is it called?) data mining the Bible, where they look for hidden messages & predictions by reading all the letters of words, and such every whichway possible….until they find that the Bible predicted 9/11 to the tee. Only with the aid of computers is this possible. So now all the contrarians have to do is feed in their desired end-result and have the computer jump through its myriad of hoops and spit out proof against AGW. And there’s nothing like fancy numbers and computers to impress the public.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 24 Feb 2007 @ 10:20 AM
Re: #36: …
Could it be that warming is going to be worse than first thought, after all science is a conservative discipline and you cannnot make bold claims and get away with it?
There’s been One US government scientist has been successful in presenting bold claims and predictions outside the US:
Hansen said that as the surfaces of ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica disintegrate, positive feedbacks loops such as internal water flows underneath icecaps can result leading to a massive amount of fresh water entering world oceans.
“A 3 degree Celsius global average warming would lead to a sea level rise of 80 feet,” said Hansen. That temperature rise could occur by 2100 with a lesser rise of 2 degrees Celsius by 2050 he calculated.
Re #33, #3 “that such warming’s costs outweigh its benefits (longer growing seasons”
Okay, so we might have longer growing seasons,* but what if the heat mid-summer kills the crops, then such a longer growing season is not a benefit. There is a fallacy of quantitative “goods” v. qualitative requirements, similar to how all is reduced to money in economics, while what we need to sustain our lives is a balanced diet and many other things that are qualitatively distinct, but may not be around later, due to GW. What good is money, then, to dead persons?
* Even longer growing seasons may be doubtful in some areas in a GW-world, bec of wild temp swings that may result in later spring or earlier fall frosts, even with warming coming earlier & staying later in the year.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 24 Feb 2007 @ 10:41 AM
Re 36. Sorry, Lindzen does not merit the name skeptic or even devil’s advocate. He is merely a scientist of medium talent who has found that he can remain in the media spotlight by voicing contrarian views and capitalizing on the tendency of ignorant reportert to look for “balance”.
The thing is that what he is doing is unethical. He is distorting the evidence and presenting purely speculative hypotheses with no identified mechanisms as if they were valid theories to an audience incapable of separating the wheat from the chaff. I’m sorry, to simply say that “It’s all natural” is no more informative than a fundamentalist saying “GODDIDIT”. I find it hard to believe that Lindzen is unintelligent enough not to understand all this. I would propose the label “media whore” for Lindzen.
[Response: In fairness to Lindzen, I don’t think its fair to characterize him as a scientist of “medium talent”. He has made fundamental contributions to atmospheric science and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, an achievement that should not be taken lightly. It is fair, on the other hand, to criticize Lindzen for the remarkably poor track record of the various negative feedback hypotheses he has proposed (e.g. those involving upper tropospheric water vapor, and the so-called “Iris hypothesis”) which have not stood up to scrutiny. It is also appropriate to criticize Lindzen for the numerous misleading and/or simply incorrect public statements he has made about climate science and climate scientists, a number of which are discussed elsewhere on this site. -mike]
[Response: I second Mike’s take on this. It’s not a matter of lack of talent. It’s rather that talent is no guarantee of being right. In fact, if somebody comes to a subject with a preconception of what the answer should be, a prodigious talent like Lindzen’s can be deployed to make it easier to fool oneself, rather than in an effort to dig out the truth. Why Lindzen has been driven for so long by the belief that CO2 can’t change climate is a matter for speculation. I doubt he could answer that himself. -raypierre]
Having heard and read Hansen numerous times on this issue, the article has probably misquoted him (“could” vs. “would”) and/or Hansen was referring to a long term consequence (subsequent centuries) following the 3-deg temperature rise by 2100. The sea level rise won’t stop at year 2100. Hansen has at other times indicated the potential for massive and rapid ice sheet disintegration to occur over centuries (plural) vs. millenniums.
>40, 26 Lynn, I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss that new field of statistics because it reminds you of some bogus Bible study method. Right now it seems much of the work done using data mining is proprietary corporate work — I’d bet it’s being applied to petroleum searches, or the Higgs Boson search, for example, they have huge databases.
Making public use of that sort of tool — on climate, or epidemiology, or nutrition — will happen where scientists can fund the cost of computation, and access to databases. Opportunities will keep going up as old data is brought online.
If some Bible school wants to put the whole of the Bible, or of stratigraphy on a computer and look for Braille or Morse Code in the intervals between the pixels — what the heck.
The homeland security use (digging up decades-old adolescent misdemeanors no one remembered, and making that searchable so US citizens get put on other countries’ do-not-admit lists) is Orwellian stuff. Wanta know if governments are doing _that_ even-handedly? Heck, I bet they’d let Bill Gates into Canada, eh?) We’d need the tool, to find out how it’s being used.
I think there’s a real danger of having the modelers and the data miners _not_ all working with all the known information, using all the angles possible. I’m just curious to know how data mining methods can be applied, given the information in the databases the modelers are using. Maybe it’s done routinely.
(Maybe someone’s already writing “How to Lie with Data Mining” — has it already been a Dilbert cartoon?)
Dr. Lindzen doesn’t seem to be an industry tool; he’s still speaking in public about his hypotheses that others have tested and not found supported. But — scientists do that; life’s short, careers are long, and what’s known changes faster than those of us who think we know something can keep up.
If there’s any possible ‘Maxwell’s daemon’ for departing longwave infrared photons, someone should invent it if it we can’t find it operating naturally, eh? Lindzen did the same thing Lovelock did — imagined a form of feedback; Lovelock imagined plankton creating clouds and, lo, found the mechanism. Lindzen hasn’t. So it goes.
@30. It was predicted by the IPCC in the 2001 report that the Antarctic would warm the slowest, due to the buffer effect of the Southern Ocean. It is also predicted to catch up eventually.”
I never asked about the absolute temperature, I asked abouts RATES.
Now can someone answer this question;
Why as the rate of cooling/heating of the South Pole shown no change dispite the elevation of CO2 since the mid-1950’s?
According to the models, CO2 absorbes IR and this is then horizontally to water molecules, allowing the same CO2 molecule to rapidly recapture another photon. This leads to a positive feedback cycle where increased CO2 increases the temperature, leading to a higher water vapor concentration, increasing the IR absorbtion of both water and CO2.
The Antarctic should be an idea place to measure the changes in CO2 induced warming. If the hypothesis that CO2 is a major greehouse gas is correct, then the increase in the CO2 levels should have by now made the rate that the nightime temperature falls decline, and the rate at which they increase, rise. As it is there is no such trend in the temperature record.
re #44. My interpretation of what Hansen said (#41) is that an 80 ft rise in sea level will lead to (occur sometime after) a 3 Deg C global temperature increase is first reached (in year 2100). The length of time for ‘sometime after’ is not indicated. I don’t think it would take centuries beyond 2100 for that to happen and I’m unsure what Hansen’s thinks on that.
My point in #41 was there is at least one US government scientist who has presented his bold claims but he had to do so outside of the US.
re#41, #44, #47
Hansen’s comments also relate to the RC article on Ocean heat content, Aug 2006. The oceans have the largest heat capacity of any climate system component and thus their response to greenhouse gas forcing and to ice sheet melting will have fundamental effects on the climate.
The thermohaline circulation is a function of the current arrangement of continental landmasses (imagine how different the climate would be if all the land was in the equatorial tropics, with open oceans at both poles), but is also dependent on a cold polar climate. Wikipedia has two articles on the topic: the THC and shutdown of the THC. This issue was also discussed at RC: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=159
Lindzen, by the way, spent most of his recent Larry King appearance attacking Bill Nye for claiming that the Gulf Stream would weaken due to global warming. The Gulf stream is a western boundary current, driven more by Coriolis and pressure gradient effects… so Lindzen was right about something. However, Lindzen has been wrong about many other things, and the real problems are that he doesn’t acknowledge these errors (the Iris effect, claiming that there was too much horizontal transport in climate models, etc.), and that he has been given a media megaphone for no good reason.
Regardless, the idea that a shutdown of the THC would lead to cooling of Britain and Europe now seems discardable (though it was the main theme of that unfortunate movie, Day After Tomorrow). What seems to be happening is rather a slowdown of deep water formation – which occurs when sea ice and evaporation increasine the salitinity of cold oxygen-rich surface water, causing it to sink in the North Atlantic and flow down the bottom of the Atlantic, where it meets up with colder and denser Antarctic Bottom Water, formed off ice shelf regions such as Weddell and Ross seas. A slowdown of deep water formation, in other words, doesn’t necessarily lead to reduced rates of heat transport to Northern Europe, since radiative forcing continues to increase.
What long-term effects will a weakened THC have on the ocean basin?. Will we see reduced ventilation of the oceans? Will low-oxygen conditions become far more widespread in the future? Will changes in wind patterns lead to changes in upwelling regimes, at the other end of the ocean circulation system? There is little monitoring of the deep ocean basins with respect to temperature and oxygen content. There are two issues at play; once is human input of fertilizers and waste to the ocean (agricultural runoff, pig farms, etc.) and the other is global-warming induced changes in ocean circulation. A good collection of links to THC issues is at http://www.bigelow.org/COSEE-OS/thermohaline.htm
Re #45: As a scientist who has had to tease out a small signal from a particle physics database (albeit a tiny one by today’s standards), I have to echo the caveats about datamining. The statistical problems associated with too much data are very different and in some ways harder to resolve than those associated with a paucity of data. Questions of how errors are distributed, of systematic errors and other traps can lead to seemingly reasonable but very wrong conclusions–as some efforts by DHS with airline passengers have shown. The only thing worse than an Orwellian datamining effort is an unreliable Orwellian datamining effort.
Re my previous comment (#43), my intent was not to denigrate Lindzen’s scientific talent or contributions, and I apologize if it came across that way. My intent was to point out that Lindzen’s many contributions did not bring him even a fraction of the media coverage–and adulation in some sectors–he’s received for being a contrarian. My beef with Lindzen is that he insists on doing science by press–and an ignorant press at that. That is contrary to the scientific method.
The contrarians are very loud and get alot of attention in the media. One of the things they regularly complain about is that the scientific community is censoring them.
I wonder if the editors of Physics World were uncritical of Richard Lindzen’s claims because they did not want to appear to be repressing an unpopular opinion of climate science. Maybe they did not want to add fuel to the claims of censorship. Although these claims of censorship are false, they are not always seen as false by the general public.
Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 24 Feb 2007 @ 7:20 PM
I downloaded Hansen’s slides (35) presentation.
Slide 15 shows:
Summary: Ice Sheets
1. Human Forcing Dwarfs Paleo Forcing and Is Changing Much Faster
2. Ice Sheet Disintegration Starts Slowly but Multiple Positive Feedbacks Can Lead to Rapid Non-Linear Collapse
3. Equilibrium Sea Level Rise for ~3 C Warming (25+- 10 m = 80 feet) Implies the Potential for Us to Lose Control
I think that in order for equilibrium to occur in sea level additional thaw and ocean water heat expansion would be needed beyond 2100. However if average global temperature increases to 3 Deg C by year 2100 it seems likely that the average global temperature will continue to increase for centuries and thousands of years beyond 2100 which will increase sea level rise as the warming continues, indefinitely.
One of the reasons sea level rise will continue for so long is that it takes a long time (a thousand years or so) for increased temperature to propagate to deep ocean waters. So, the thermal expansion of sea water will continue long after 2100, even if temperature stabilizes at that time. The IPCC TAR has some interesting graphs in that regard.
re #25 A simple example would be if CO2 concentration was historically correlated with another forcing. In that situation, there would be a wide range of sensitivities to those two forcings that together would match history, but the moment the forcings diverge you could find that you have vastly overestimated the climate’s sensitivity to one of them.
I made this point regarding CH4 & CO2. What is the possibility that we’ve way overestimated Earth’s climate sensitivity to CO2, but way underestimated it for CH4? I bet that we will only find out when humans manage to reduce CH4 concentrations while CO2 keeps going up.
[Response: The possibility is so close to zero as to make little difference. For the most part, radiative forcing is radiative forcing, and the fact that CO2 blocks different parts of the infrared than CH4 has almost no consequence for the climate. The vertical profile of the radiative cooling is slightly different, but since the tropospheric convection mixes around the heat anyway, it makes little difference. –raypierre]
Re: response to #53For the most part, radiative forcing is radiative forcing
And climate sensitivity is climate sensitivity, I suppose. From a cynical perspective, this looks a little too convenient. Most of the uncertainty from a climatological perspective is “loaded” in the climate sensitivity, making all the radiative forcing calculations only accountable to the models, while only the climate sensitivity is accountable to actual measured temperatures. It seems to be an unwritten assumption that the climate sensitivity is unknown but the same for all calculated forcings. Conversely it is another assumption that the calculated properties of a substance override other things that happen in the real world that we don’t know about, that would affect its forcing.
Over the past year Lindzen has claimed many times (on radio, in talks and in writing) that global warming has stopped in 1998. This is because 1998 was a warm outlier due to a strong El Nino event in that year – and Lindzen shows a diagram of global temperature starting in 1998 to support his claim. This argument is obviously ludicrous – if he started his graph in 1999 (a year that was cooler than the long-term trend line), he might just as well claim that warming has accelerated since 1999. As a physicist I would have thought that the people at Physics World, even if they don’t know much about climate, should be able to recognise this as a dishonest and desperate argument. A look at the longer time series rather than a cherry-picked short snippet of it would suffice (shown e.g. in our recent Science paper). To me, anyone who uses this kind of argument has said his farewell to serious discussion.
There are some aspects of the original Lindzen et al. Bulletin of the AMS (BAMS) adaptive iris paper that were technically or logically/ethically problematic to a naive engineer/mathematician, not-a-climate-scientist.
A technical puzzle that I have never seen properly treated in the original BAMS paper or the subsequent Lindzen et al. papers or their rebuttals of other papers: Lindzen et al. discarded from their analysis a substantial chunk of Indian Ocean data that was included in the Japanese satellite data they used.
A more serious technical problem: Once the Australian land mass was masked out and the Indian Ocean data was discarded, the balance of their data was not symmetric with respect to the equator and was analyzed using the full 17 month time period of the Japanese data. This raises the question of whether there is seasonality in the data. Several months after the BAMS paper, I was able to get the raw data for the Lindzen et al. magical mystery function A(T) from the nice people at the UDub (Univ. of Washington, for you outlanders) Atmospheric Sciences department, who were in the middle of slicing and dicing the BAMS paper. A naive approach to assessing the seasonality question is to look at 12 month windows into the data. When I did that, somewhere between 25% to 45% (depending on which 12 month window) of the purported “negative feedback effect” disappeared.
1) The BAMS paper was filled with language that properly reflected the speculative nature of the proposed negative feedback mechanism (this language was perhaps required by the peer reviewers). Subsequent comments by Lindzen and the denialist amplification machine have lacked those linguistic qualifiers.
2) Lindzen purports to believe that the observed warming is primarily a reflection of internal dynamics of the climate system and the BAMS paper claims that their asserted “negative feedback effect” might be applicable to all of the tropics and that climate codes will need to be modified to account for it. Lindzen bases these assertions on a 17 month data set from which he and his co-authors have discarded, without explanation, a substantial chunk of the open ocean data and which appears to be significantly impacted by seasonality. To make such extravagent scientific claims using what is really a 12-month data set is a bit like claiming that the 1998 El Nin~o is all we need to know about climate history.
Re 54 and preceding argument. Marco, a hypothesis by itself does not constitute science, and you have zero evidence–and indeed, zero physics–upon which to base your hypothesis. On the other hand, the models show CO2 works very well in explaining the observed trends. So, on the one hand we have a well validated scientific theory with verified mechanisms that reproduces the trends and on the other hand…
Re 55. The thing is that Lindzen is too intelligent NOT to realize that this is a swindle, which makes him worse than a contrarian, and even worse than a anti-science hysteric (e.g. Crichton). It is hard to characterize this as anything short of scientific fraud served up to an uneducated public. As far as Physics World goes, I’m afraid that they, too, have succumbed to economics and the “Fair and Balanced” model of Journalism. I would bet that the decision to emphasize the “Controversy” was made by managers who have no science background. I’m just disappointed that the scientists went along with it.
Re #55: “A look at the longer time series rather than a cherry-picked short snippet of it would suffice …”
What principles should guide a climatologist in deciding what time-frame to look at? Is a decision to look at the last 9 years or 30 years or 100 years an arbitrary decision, or should it depend on principles on which all reasonable and informed individuals can agree?
I am a layman. I have only begun looking into the global warming hypothesis. I am trying to sort out the nomenclature — all new to me — and the reasons climatologists make the decisions they make. Maybe someday I can get to the point where I can understand — and evaluate — the decisions of climatologists. Your answer to my question above may help.
Comment by Burgess Laughlin — 25 Feb 2007 @ 8:36 AM
Ironically, if you look at the HADCRU data, even starting with 1998 the trend determined by linear regression is still positive, not negative. Of course the trend is not statistically significant — but it puts the lie to the claim that there has been global cooling since 1998.
The most applicable principle in deciding what data to study is: use it all. Analyses of global and hemispheric average surface temperature generally begin in the late 1800s because that’s all we’ve got.
If (and only if) you then find that there are moments in time at which the behavior changed, then it’s valid to isolate different time frames. For example, around 1975 global average temperature started increasing dramatically, and has been doing so since; I refer to that time period as the “modern global warming era.” But I don’t choose that turning point because it makes my case look good, but because study of the entire data set clearly indicates that it’s a turning point in the actual behavior of the system.
It’s also valid to study arbitrary time slices (say, every 30-year period or every 10-year period), so long as the slices are chosen without regard to any desired result, and the strictest statistical tests are applied to evaluate the significance of the results.
RE #53 “find out when humans manage to reduce CH4 concentrations while CO2 keeps going up.”
What makes you think CH4 concentrations will go down if humans manage to reduce their CH4 emissions (which is a no-brainer — just convert it into energy + CO2, & don’t eat spoiled food, and cut out meat)? Haven’t you been reading about how CH4 from permafrost & ocean clathrates are posed to be released if the world continues warming? Aside from the fact that CH4 is now only a small part of the GHGs (admittedly with a much bigger bang), and that it has not been increasing, does not guarantee it won’t increase in the future, based on the principles that when exposed to enough heat ice melts, and melting ice that contains methane releases it.
I wasn’t able to get onto the ColdCase entry to respond to a contribution, so here it is: I was able to get the Scheffer, Brovkin, Cox article ( http://www.agu.org/sci_soc/prrl/prrl0617.html ). They say positive feedbacks have NOT been adequately factored into the models, and actual warming due to human emissions may be 15 to 78% higher than previous estimates. AND they are only talking about CO2 positive feedback (not based on models, but on data from ice cores of the “Little Ice Age”). They are NOT EVEN ACCOUNTING FOR METHANE!!!! I guess that may add another whopping chunk on the higher estimate side.
So this uncertainty cuts both ways, and my guts tell me (which is as good an indicator as any other used by those of us yapping around the fringes of science) that GW is much more likely to be worse than scientists are telling us, than better.
RE #54 “Most of the uncertainty from a climatological perspective is “loaded” in the climate sensitivity”
My stat prof used to tell us, “We live in a stochastic world.”
Or, “Some call uncertainty #@*#%, but others call it life.”
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 25 Feb 2007 @ 9:44 AM
Re#58, my understanding is that they look at all the available data, but that temperature taking has only been around for the whole world for only ?100 years or so (and some of this has to be adjusted, bec it was taken at diff times of day or in sunlight, etc).
They also rely on “proxies,” which I just taught about in my Crim Justice Methods/Stats course — if you don’t have the data for some locations or timeframes, you find something else that very well fits or correlates with the data that you do have in other locations or timeframes, then use this proxy in areas or timeframes where the actual data is unavailable.
I’m not a climate scientist, but that’s how I understand it — they use whatever data they can, and do a pretty amazing job with it.
Then with all the actual data that they have, & knowing basic atmospheric and molecular physics properties, they create models to explain the actual data. Once these models are able to replicate the actual data and proxies, they shoot them forward into the future, using both low & high end climate “sensitivities” to give a range of possibilities they are fairly certain about (I think 95% certain is the usual standard).
“Cherry-picking” or “selection bias” is used by people who want to get a particular result, so they choose only the data that fits their hypothesis; this is the opposite of the honest scientific process.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 25 Feb 2007 @ 10:09 AM
Re #58: The stronger the signal (how fast the warming is occurring) and the weaker the noise (the year to year variations), then the shorter the time span should be.
In the case of global warming, I would pick about a 30 year time frame, though the exact length is indeed arbitrary. A longer time frame will be more accurate, but it will also be less timely.
In addition, a best fit linear approximation is better then just using the start and end values, since you’re actually using all the data instead of just two values and it’s much less prone to cherry picking.
The AGU release says the Sheffer paper won’t be published ’til May. Looks intriguing:
“… the authors focused especially on relatively recent climatic anomaly known as the ‘Little Ice Age.’ …. the atmospheric carbon level dropped during the Little Ice Age. The authors used this information to estimate how sensitive the carbon dioxide concentration is to temperature, which allowed them to calculate how much the climate-carbon dioxide feedbacks will affect future global warming.
“As Marten Scheffer explains, ‘Although there are still significant uncertainties, our simple data-based approach is consistent with the latest climate-carbon cycle models, …. estimates of future warming that ignore these effects may have to be raised by about 50 percent. We have, in fact, been conservative on several points. For instance, we do not account for the greenhouse effect of methane, which is also known to increase in warm periods.'”
[Response: This sort of thing has been done before. Experiments using coupled climate-carbon cycle models such as Gerber et al (2003) [Gerber, S., Joos, F., Bruegger, P.P., Stocker, T.F., Mann, M.E., Sitch, S., Constraining Temperature Variations over the last Millennium by Comparing Simulated and Observed Atmospheric CO2, Climate Dynamics, 20, 281-299, 2003] suggest that the hemispheric-mean cooling of the LIA indicated by the reconstructions featured in the IPCC TAR are consistent with pre-industrial CO2 variations, and that significant greater hemispheric-mean temperature variations would actually be inconsistent the CO2 record of the past millennium. –mike]
The radiative forcing for CO2 can be calculated from the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The climate sensitivity calculation is an attempt to figure out how the calculated energy will impact temperatures and other climate phenomena. Like rainfall.
Without a way to discount the calculated energy (like Lindzen’s “iris effect”), there’s no reason to unlink the two. The energy added to the budget won’t simply go away as we look at other vectors. It has to be accounted for.
Watch out for fundamentalist reasoning. “either the models give a good description of the historic evolution or they don’t”, reminds me of conversations with religious fundamentalists, “either the Bible is the word of God, or it isn’t”.
One can consider the models valuable tools without considering matching the 20th century climate a thorough validation. In fact, we know from numerous diagnostic studies, that the match the models achieve with the 20th century climate is “achieved” INCORRECTLY. If the models are either correct or they are not, we know what the answer is. The errors found in the models individually and as ensembles are larger than the net energy imbalance of less than 0.8W/m^2 we are trying to measure. So lets stay away from the fundamentalist thinking.
Given that CO2 trends correlate so well with the 20th century temperature increase, it was natural for Lindzen to suspect that the “match” with the 20th century was achieved, despite the models errors, by means of an increased sensitivity to CO2. With so much of the climate models parameterized, the “corrections” to match global energy balance and albedo, are likely to be at different altitudes and lattitudes, than the model errors they are correcting. In the complex, non-linear climate system, the burden is on the climate modelers to show that these documented errors are not significant. We are not talking a butterfly effect here, the documented model errors are as much as two to four orders of magnitude larger than the accuracy needed to attribute the origin of the global energy imbalance for individual models, and more than two orders of magnitude for the AR4 meta-ensemble as a whole.
In addition to overcoming the documented errors, to substantiate claims that the models are good enough for projection and attribution, the modelers also have to do more than handwave about the limited resolution of the models. The low resolution necessarily leaves out potentially significant climatic responses such as a change in frequency and intensity of hurricanes, which while perhaps a consequence of global warming (some evidence for intensity if not frequency), may also be a negative feedback mechanism.
Are the models better than Lindzen’s thinking? I think a more important question is are the models better than their currently documented errors? For the models to resolve the relative attribution of the recent warming among internal climate modes, solar forcing and various anthropogenic forcings, they would have to be better than their current errors, perhaps to withing 0.1W/m^2 globally and annually averaged. The modelers have yet to produce scientific evidence that they are, yet there is a “scientific” consensus expressing confidence in their projections. Is that science or some kind of religious fundamentalism?
#19, That is exactly what Lindzen stands for , a theory that does not work, and the point aply raised, iris effect preventing ice ages???, is why this theory is nonsense. So is there anything else we should be not impressed with Lindzen? Aside from his mixing of climate and weather siences to confuse the lay, unlike Hansen and others who make credible predictions on solid theories, contrarians don’t have to brag on something they may be right about, they just have to cast doubt without really understanding the theories that work. They are just fooling themselves, in the process of using the press, a whole lot of others who adhere to the persons title rather than the idea.
Physics World’s interview with Lindzen might have benefitted from more feedback from MIT- Kerry Emanuel is uniquely placed when it comes to commenting on the strengths and weaknesses of Richard’s point of view, and no stranger to the hazards of
Armed Cant In The Climate Wars :
I think it’s noble enough to argue that politics won’t work until both sides agree on the same physics.
When I try I get reminded I’m naive.
I don’t think our politics has matured to the point that the science is even considered by most politicians.
Look at what happened with the attempt to control ozone-depleting chemicals: it’s been gamed badly.
Gaming the rules is an old trick — like a business checking grain or fruit and making sure that just below the allowable limit of crap is always there, and adding some in or speeding up the production line if the product is cleaner than it has to be, or like setting up electric deregulation for fast profits rather than for actual physical coordination of the electric network.
These are people who have no respect for the public health and physics:
” … Michael Wara of Stanford Law Schoolâ��s Programme for Energy and Sustainable Development calculates, HCFC-22 producers in China, India and Brazil are making up to twice as much money from burning HFC-23 than from selling the refrigerant. The CDM is thus giving them an incentive to produce even more HCFC-22 â�� if only for the sake of disposing of the useless by-product. Accordingly, the price of HCFC-22 is falling. The CDM is thus, in effect, subsidising the air-conditioner industry as well. Moreover, the CDM provides an incentive to make the refrigerant in a wasteful manner. After all, the revenue from emissions certificates depends on how much waste is burnt.
“…. Wara has calculated that the average for refrigerant producers involved in CDM schemes is 2.99 percent. Obviously, producers are meticulously aiming for the maximum waste amount allowed. In this context, Wara finds it maddening that the value of the emissions certificates generated in HFC-23 incinerators today exceeds the costs of avoiding HFC-23 several times….” http://www.inwent.org/E+Z/content/archive-eng/02-2007/tribune_art2.html
No one’s found a way to write an agreement or law to include respect for physics and chemistry. If they had added such a requirement, this kind of profit from “perverse incentives” wouldn’t be routine.
“As Asia Keeps Cool, Scientists Worry About the Ozone Layer
“…. air-conditioners â�� along with most window units currently sold in the United States â�� use a refrigerant called HCFC-22, which damages the ozone.
“The emissions of things like HCFC-22: we had thought they were sufficiently in control, that we didnâ��t have to worry about them,â�� said Joe Farman, the British geophysicist who discovered the ozone hole.
” … The fastest-growing offending gas that scientists say can be better managed is HCFC-22. ”
I expect you’ll find “liberals” as used above would include anyone who wanted to tell the market to ban CFCs to protect the ozone.
That’d include people who were, how would you say, “prematurely anti-HCFC-22” — those people who long ago argued for an earlier and more effective phaseout of the chlorofluorocarbons that was won by those who made the economic case for slower response.
Result now? stratospheric ozone depletion persisted long enough that it’s now at risk of becoming much worse, as the stratosphere cools — as predicted — due to fossil carbon burning. The stratosphere drops below that once rare temperature where high clouds form a substrate for catalysis, and ozone loss speeds up. Well, duh. I know that was a concern when the first ozone science was raised.
And at the time, the argument amounted to: ‘there’s so little risk the stratosphere could become colder, we needn’t hurry to phase out CFCs’ and ‘surely by 2005 everyone will be smarter and richer so it’ll be cheaper to handle the problem later than fix it now’ — a familiar stance.
Re: 66 and other comments on iris effect in interglacial-glacial transitions:
That’s a good point, that obviously the Earth’s climate cannot be so stable as to prevent ice ages. However – I’m not trying to put life back into the iris effect, but just generally speaking – the feedbacks themselves can be temperature dependent – ie I would imagine that the response to a doubling of CO2 would be reduced if one starts with no ice – and at the surface, I’m thinking warming per unit forcing would decrease with increasing temperature, as evaporative cooling becomes more powerful (of course that goes to warm some part of the troposphere by condensation).
Re: 27 – I think what 18 meant was that the overall pattern of chaotic behavior should be simulated by a good model – this is climate – it is distinctly different from weather. One way of thinking of it is – that butterfly which can completely change the specific weather beyond two-weeks’ time – it is never noticed because while the specific weather is altered, the weather patterns still seem familiar. Most extratropical storms still move from west to east, the wind changes in a typical way after the passage of a front, every seventh wave is still larger than the others, etc. There will be deviations from the average, but these may fit into a pattern on a short time scale. Deviations from that pattern may still fit into another pattern (ie going from the ‘cycle’ of passages of pressure systems, fronts, and waves, development, movement, and decay of transient atmospheric eddies, to the jet stream index cycle, QBO, oceanic eddies (I’m not sure where to put them in this list, actually), ENSO, PDO, AO, NAO, AMO… is there a master list of _O’s I could look at?)
Re: response to 53
As I understand it, in a one-dimensional radiative-convective equilibrium model, the tropospheric temperatures, down to the surface, are essentially determined by tropopause radiative forcing (in this sense radiative forcing includes the effects of feedbacks). But the rate of convection to any level must then be controlled by the radiative heating profile.
I’m curious about how dynamics respond to changes in radiative heating profiles in three dimensions, so –
What do the radiative heating profiles look like in different environments (different temperature profiles, cloud and humidity profiles, over different surface albedos, different sun angles), such as those of typical environments, for example, at various points around an extratropical cyclone at various stages of development, at various parts of the Hadley circulation, at the poles, etc.) – and how would they respond to changes in CO2 or other greenhouse gasses. see radiative heating profiles would help in understanding how three dimensional convection would change, and on that note, are there any good books or websites to explore such radiative – dynamic connections?(I was thinking of this when trying to explain how radiative transfer works over at http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=liveblog_james_hansen_can_we_still_avoid&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1
– my relevant comments start on Nov 25 and go up to Jan 19; I tried to make use of Collins et al.: http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/reference/bibliography/2006/wdc0602.pdf ; I was going to go from radiative heating profiles to dynamics and then realized I couldn’t do very much – anyway I’d be curious to know what an expert thinks of my attempt to explain atmospheric radiation.)
I only had access to the abstract. I’m not quite sure what to conclude – ie what are the SW and LW forcing errors from the cloud errors, and would the cloud errors remain proportional among different CO2 level model outputs – etc. – ie there’s error, but what does it mean in terms of climate sensitivity to greenhouse gas forcing?
I’ve read that the next ice age, without AGW, may start 50,000 years from now, or later by some tens(?) of thousands of years with AGW.
I’m curious – how much certainty, or what range of error, is currently considered appropriate for this prediction.
Also, what defines the beginning of an ice age in such a prediction – is it the occurence of any significant permanent snow/ice cover outside of Greenland, Antarctica, and mountain glaciers?
What is the current best guess for how rapidly Greenland, West Antarctic, and if it ever comes to it, East Antarctic ice sheets would melt in any given emissions scenario?
So if it is true (is it?) that diurnal temperature ranges around the rim of Antarctica (because this would be the equivalent of seasonal near the center) have not shrunk, – aside from short term variability and regional variations in response to climate change, could it be due to loss of stratospheric ozone?
RE#70, that’s an interesting paper, but even more interesting is how it is interpreted by Sherwood Idso’s CO2science.org : ” Based upon biogenic silica data plotted by the authors in their Figures 4 and 5 (Figure 5 reproduced below), from which relative temperature can be inferred, it is clear that the current warm period has not attained the warmth of Medieval times.”
The notion that CO2science.org is trying to promote is that since there was a warm period in Europe in ‘medieval times’, fluctuations in climate are common and what we are experiencing now is just the result of ‘internal variability’ – the same notion that Richard Lindzen trumpets in the PhysicsWorld profile. This argument has been around for decades now. However, the general view seems to be that these were largely regional events. It’s also worth noting that the authors only make claims about local climate, while CO2science immediately tries to tie it to the global situation. (The paper is a description of a single core from a single lake, as well).
This paper is and its ‘analysis’ is featured on this weeks issue of CO2science.org, which is probably why it showed up here as well. As http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/orgfactsheet.php?id=24 shows, CO2science is an Exxon-funded public relations operation masquerading as an independent scientific institution. Their position is that “there is no compelling reason to believe there will necessarily be any global warming as a result of the activities of man, especially those activities that result in CO2 emissions to the atmosphere” and they endlessly push the “benefits of increasing CO2 to the biosphere”.
“Regional” events such as the albedos of early or late northern snow melts can have impacts on the global energy budget larger than the net energy imbalance responsible for the recent warming. Regional events also help put anecdotal reports into perspective, and are evidence of internal climate variability on scales models do not yet do a good job reproducing.
[[A simple example would be if CO2 concentration was historically correlated with another forcing. ]]
Radiative forcing from atmospheric CO2 is not based on empirical correlations; it is based on radiation calculations. We’ve been studying CO2 absorption of infrared light since Tyndall first demonstrated it in 1859, and now have reliable data on tens of thousands of spectral lines. Aside from some minor questions about how CO2 is distributed with altitude, we can be fairly sure what the radiative forcing is and has been historically.
[[ I believe Prof. Lindzen has made the point many times that the inadequate climate models have been “overfit” so that they match historical trends, but at the expense of predicting present and future ones. ]]
Prof. Lindzen is wrong. The models have been doing steadily better in predicting present and future climate observations.
Why as the rate of cooling/heating of the South Pole shown no change dispite the elevation of CO2 since the mid-1950’s?]]
Well, let’s think about that. I mentioned earlier (see above) the semi-isolation of Antarctica from world climate trends due to atmospheric events, and someone else pointed out that the southern ocean is probably a bigger factor. But let’s assume those didn’t exist. Antarctica is covered with what?
What would the first effect of heat on that substance be?
What happens to the temperature of a melting substance during a phase change? Where does the heat go?
[[However if average global temperature increases to 3 Deg C by year 2100 it seems likely that the average global temperature will continue to increase for centuries and thousands of years beyond 2100 ]]
I think by then the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will likely be decreasing, and the rise in heat won’t continue forever.
[[which will increase sea level rise as the warming continues, indefinitely. ]]
Eventually you run out of ice. There’s an upper limit to how high sea level can go.
[[Re #55: “A look at the longer time series rather than a cherry-picked short snippet of it would suffice …”
What principles should guide a climatologist in deciding what time-frame to look at? Is a decision to look at the last 9 years or 30 years or 100 years an arbitrary decision, or should it depend on principles on which all reasonable and informed individuals can agree?]]
You use as many data points as you can possibly gather. The larger your set, assuming no collection bias, the more reliable your answer. Lindzen is using a sample size of N = 8 (1998-2005). We have highly reliable temperature data available at least back to 1880 (N = 127).
Eventually you run out of ice. There’s an upper limit to how high sea level can go.
Ice melt isn’t the only factor which increases sea level, there’s also the thermal expansion of water. That’s why sea level is projected to continue to rise, long after temperature has stabilized. See the IPCC TAR for graphs of projected sea level rise.
RE #68 (re 67) “Who are the liberals whose armed cant is so pernicious in the climate wars? And what are they saying?”
I think he means people like me who keep yapping about how we can save money by mitigating GW, which doesn’t sit well with those spendthrift conservatives. It seems the debate is becoming more and more between conservatives and environmentalists (like me), rather than conservatives and liberals, both of whom simply like to point scolding fingers at each other, and would not like to address global warming, because the finger points at ooneself. And that’s not fun! Unfortunately while there are a lot of liberals, there are very few environmentalists.
RE #78 and ice melting. On another blog an engineer wrote about the enormous amount of energy needed to melt ice: take a glass of water with ice cubes. It will stay fairly close to its original cool temp until all the ice is melted, since the energy is going into the mechanics of melting, rather than into heating. However, after the ice is all melted, the water will warm relatively quickly to room temp.
So there are 2 types of energy, heat and mechanical. Hurricanes (according to the engineer) turn heat energy into mechanical energy & do help to cool down the locale (Gaia has a temperature & goes into a writhing sweat, which helps cool her??). So in that respect Lindzen is perhaps correct, but the underlying disease of us emitting GHGs is not cured by this, so the warming continues, but every now and then Gaia has a hurricane or storm to try and cool herself, ever more violent (& I think science will find, ever more frequent) storms. But that doesn’t cause us to emit less GHGs, so the disease continues.
I still think it’s very weird that we got a downpouring of hailstones in Brownsville, Texas, during Hurricane Emily in the summer of 2005 (which our weatherman said he had never heard of before).
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 26 Feb 2007 @ 9:50 AM
Re #82: “It seems the debate is becoming more and more between conservatives and environmentalists (like me), rather than conservatives and liberals…”
I think it’s incorrect to try to tie environmentalism (in any of its forms) to any part of the political spectrum. There are in fact a fair number of conservative environmentalists out there, and a lot more whose politics, like mine, fit in neither the liberal nor conservative pigeonholes.
It’s also a tactical mistake, because if you get AGW tied to any political viewpoint (as in fact some of the denialist camp tries to do), you generate a lot of political opposition that has nothing to do with fact. Consider for instance how much of the opposition to “An Inconvenient Truth” centers on Al Gore & his politics. Suppose the same movie had been made by someone like John McCain – you’d have the “AGW is just another liberal statist plot” replaced with “AGW is a conservative pro-business plot”. In either case, you have a political bloc who are going to see it as part of their hated opponents’ agenda, and so ignore any and all facts, and that’s a recipe for doing nothing.
Re #72: Pat — There have been several comments, one with a useful link, regarding the onset of the next ice age. These are, as I recall it, on the What causes ice ages? thread, down a few…
Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Feb 2007 @ 1:33 PM
RE #83, I think that’s what I was trying to say #82), only it came out wrong.
Plus my experiences with liberals who are not aware of or not interested in GW (which goes against the “GW is a liberal issue” myth), and prolife social conservatives, who you’d think would be interested in reducing killing people through GW effects. Both camps tend to see GW as a distraction from their important issues & projects of pointing fingers at the evil-doers.
When the culprits are us & requires us to change, that just isn’t fun anymore. So for both sides, it’s off across the country to the finger-pointing rallies in their SUVs, forgetting to turn off unnecessary lights or set the thermostat to reduce energy waste while away from home. And switching to GreenMountain’s 100% wind-generated electricity? Can’t be bothered, according to a very liberal/anti-abortion person I know (who’s into the “more important” liberal AND conservative issues).
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 26 Feb 2007 @ 1:41 PM
Re #82 and #83. One of my concerns is that some conservatives seem to be insistent on making opposition to doing anything about climate change a litmus test–thereby setting themselves in oppostion to science, just as they have done with the whole creation vs. evolution nonissue. There are loons on both sides. So-called “liberals” who insist on draconian measures against CO2 that would cripple the economy while simultaneously opposing nuclear power are just as much denialists and just as irresponsible as those who deny anthropogenic causation. It is never a good strategy to include anti-science in your political platform.
[[Eventually you run out of ice. There’s an upper limit to how high sea level can go.
Ice melt isn’t the only factor which increases sea level, there’s also the thermal expansion of water. That’s why sea level is projected to continue to rise, long after temperature has stabilized. See the IPCC TAR for graphs of projected sea level rise. ]]
True. Nonetheless, there’s an upper limit to how high sea level can realistically go. The oceans will never cover the continents, Waterworld to the contrary.
RE#75: Martin, you refer to “the net energy imbalance responsible for the recent warming.” That’s meaningless. Warming of the Earth is by definition a net energy imbalance; the Earth is absorbing more energy than it is emitting, and the cause of this is that we’ve changed the composition of the atmosphere via the use of fossil fuels and deforestation. If we stop burning fossil fuels and stabilize the atmospheric gases, then we’ll reach a new surface-atmospheric steady state – though the oceans will continue to warm and expand for centuries after that, since they take longer to reach steady-state equilibrium.
“As with the “Little Ice Age”, the posited “Medieval Warm Period” appears to have been less distinct, more moderate in amplitude, and somewhat different in timing at the hemispheric scale than is typically inferred for the conventionally-defined European epoch. The Northern Hemisphere mean temperature estimates of Jones et al. (1998), Mann et al. (1999), and Crowley and Lowery (2000) show temperatures from the 11th to 14th centuries to be about 0.2Â°C warmer than those from the 15th to 19th centuries, but rather below mid-20th century temperatures. The long-term hemispheric trend is best described as a modest and irregular cooling from AD 1000 to around 1850 to 1900, followed by an abrupt 20th century warming. Regional evidence is, however, quite variable. Crowley and Lowery (2000) show that western Greenland exhibited anomalous warmth locally only around AD 1000 (and to a lesser extent, around AD 1400), with quite cold conditions during the latter part of the 11th century, while Scandinavian summer temperatures appeared relatively warm only during the 11th and early 12th centuries. Crowley and Lowery (2000) find no evidence for warmth in the tropics. Regional evidence for medieval warmth elsewhere in the Northern Hemisphere is so variable that eastern, yet not western, China appears to have been warm by 20th century standards from the 9th to 13th centuries. The 12th and 14th centuries appear to have been mainly cold in China (Wang et al., 1998a,b; Wang and Gong, 2000). The restricted evidence from the Southern Hemisphere, e.g., the Tasmanian tree-ring temperature reconstruction of Cook et al. (1999), shows no evidence for a distinct Medieval Warm Period.”
Thus, CO2science’s ‘analysis’ of this issue (i.e. their “Medieval Warm Period Record of the Week”) is just nonsense, and worse, distorts what the author of the paper actually said. It is nothing but deliberately deceptive manipulation of science.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “So-called ‘liberals’ who insist on draconian measures against CO2 that would cripple the economy while simultaneously opposing nuclear power …”
What exactly are these so-called “draconian measures” that would “cripple the economy”, exactly how would these unspecified measures “cripple the economy”, and who are the unidentified “so-called liberals” who allegedly “insist” on these unidentified “draconian measures”?
The only argument that I have ever heard to back up the claim that a buildup of nuclear electricty generation is necessary for reducing GHG emissions is the dogmatic pronouncement that it is so.
Thank you for that, Pat. Has anyone got any opinions on Hansens slideshow?
The January 2007 surface temperature anomaly…
The December 2006 chart shows a mild month over virtually all of the earths landmasses, except for Australia and Antartica (which are cool), with the NH showing particularly mild conditions.
January sees a similiar overall picture, although some areas have cooled somewhat (Western US, most of Africa, Saudi Arabia).
The bit i don’t like, in the January chart, is the Southern Polar region. Wasn’t Antartica supposed to be remaining cool. How frequently are we getting that kind of month, in an average year?
I appreciate it is just one month (maybe a month is a long time in climate science, these days :-)), but i thought the circumpolar currents were keeping the Antartic isolated. International Polar Year couldn’t come a moment too soon, really.
Its lookin like a good start for the hottest year on record, anyway. No ‘surprise’ there then!
Re #89. Developing solutions to climate change will require a healthy, growing economy–not just in the US and Europe, but globally. A healthy economy requires lots of energy, and there simply is not combination of renewables, etc. that can meet those needs. Even with fossil fuels, the demands of 9 billion people will be challenging. Nuclear power is quite simply the cleanest and cheapest way to produce the energy required for a future economy. All the renewables have a role, but they simply aren’t practical to meet the energy demands of 9 billion people.
You are confusing surface temperature changes with an energy imbalance.
You can have a positive energy imbalance without an increase in temperature, such as the energy going into the melting of ice or the storage of heat into the ocean and subsequent sea level rise after the ocean surface and atmosphere have achieved most of their temperature accommodation.
“Global warming” does not mean universal regional warming. Some regions can even be cooler. A significant regional warming absent demonstrated cooling elsewhere, is a net global warming given the way we calculate warming, although, given the uncertainties of paleo data, we should probably should look for confirmation by glacial ice melt and/or sea level rise.
But lets not get side tracked from the main issue, despite the improvements of the AR4 models over those of the TAR, the models are still nowhere near where we need them to be for useful attribution of the current less than 0.8W/m^2 energy imbalance. Until we have the accuracy needed for the relative apportionment of quantities this small, we can’t know if they are correct enough for quantitative projection of future scenerios.
Martin, you can have regional temperature changes while the Earth as a whole is in net energy balance in terms of solar radiation input and earth infrared output, but those must be compensated for within the system – that’s why ‘internal oscillations’ such as the NAO or El Nino can’t be used to explain the net global warming that the planet is currently experiencing. The argument that ‘since there was a warm period in Medieval times, this current warm period is nothing special’ ignores this basic fact.
As far as ‘internal variability’, that’s not some function of ‘the climate system’ but of whatever model you happen to be using at the time. A weather model (one-week timespan) has a different set of internal and external factors than a climate model (century-scale timespan) does, and a very long-term model (a glacial cycle model, perhaps one million year time span) will also have a different set of internal variables (CO2 would be an internal variable in a glacial cycle model, but an external forcing in a climate model, and isn’t a factor in a weather model – similarly, sea surface temperature is an internal variable in a climate model, but an external forcing in a weather model).
The key thing is to compare the model results to comprehensive data from the oceans, land masses, ice sheets and atmosphere – and they’ve been doing a good job so far. If anything, they may be underestimating future changes because of future positive feedbacks, i.e. carbon cycle responses.
Why do you say that “the models are still nowhere near where we need them to be for useful attribution of the current less than 0.8W/m^2”? That number you reference is actually partially based on model results itself – and isn’t the value estimated to be 0.85W/m^2?
Also, keep in mind that (quote from above) “The focus of the debate on CO2 is not wholly predicated on its attribution to past forcing (since concern about CO2 emissions was raised long before human-caused climate change had been clearly detected, let alone attributed), but on its potential for causing large future growth in forcings. CO2 trends are forecast to dominate trends in other components (due in part to the long timescales needed to draw the excess CO2 down into the deep ocean). Indeed, for the last decade, by far the major growth in forcings has come from CO2, and that is unlikely to change in decades to come.”
Also, if the Deep Space Climate Observatory had been built and put at Lagrange 1, there might actually be ‘hard data’ on the energy imbalance issue. It’s a far more important project than putting rovers on Mars, but was cancelled due to conflicting priorities:
The better experiment when it comes to global warming was to be the climate observatory, situated in space at the neutral-gravity point between the Sun and Earth. Called Lagrange 1, or L1, this point is about 1 million miles from Earth. At L1, with a view of the full disk of the Sun in one direction, and a full sunlit Earth in the opposite, the observatory could continuously monitor Earth’s energy balance. It was given a poetic name, Triana, after Rodrigo de Triana, the sailor aboard Christopher Columbus’ ship who first sighted the New World. Development began in November 1998 and it was ready for launching three years later. The cost was only about $100 million. For comparison, that is only one-thousandth the cost of the International Space Station, which serves no useful purpose. What a travesty.
Re 68 & 82
If you want examples,please read the article my piece refers to-it is linked on the blog page side bar.
Among the more egregious icons of Armed Cant _a gauche_ are the fast forwarding of sea level rise in _The Day After Tomorrow_ and _An Inconvenient Truth_. The Extinction of Species graph in Al’s 1992 book, _The Earth in The Balance_ has been conveniently dropped from the Revised Standard Version- it showed the rate of species loss going dead vertical to infinity in the year 2000, but the report of our extinction has proved somewhat exaggerated.
[Response: “The Day After Tomorrow” is a work of fiction that doesn’t pretend to be otherwise. It’s different from Crichton’s book, which masquerades as fact. I don’t see the relevance of the aforementioned film in this discussion. A careful reading of the “fast-forwarding” of sea level rise in “An Inconvenient Truth” shows that it isn’t doing any more than raising the issues that Hansen raised about the long-term consequences of warming for melting of Greenland. It does it in the compact way that is necessary in film, and while it certainly invites and requires further discussion, I don’t think it is fair to call this “armed cant.” I don’t remember the extinction curve in the 1992 edition,, but it’s also true that one has to distinguish between exaggerations that turn a catastrophe into an ultra-catastrophe, and those that create a catastrophe out of whole cloth. There is really no doubt about the pressure human impacts are putting on biodiversity. You could say Al was ringing the alarm bell too loudly, but at least he was ringing the right alarm bell. The “Armed Cant” on the other side is more like people saying the building isn’t on fire, so just sit still and wait it out — when of course the building really is on fire and everybody is going to burn to a cinder while waiting for the fire trucks to arrive. –raypierre]
On the space station, some science spending really serves a political purpose, in this case, subsidizing the peaceful employment of Russian dual use personel. Yes, it is a travesty that this is necessary.
When you say the models have been doing a “good” job compared to the data, I agree. But the question is whether they do a good “enough” job to attribute under 1W/m^2 of warming. The Roesch paper I repeatedly cite, showed that all of the AR4 models have a positive surface albedo bias. The average of that bias is 2.8 to 3.8W/m^2. Gavin has stated that I have inflated the importance of the result, but he hasn’t questioned the figures. Undoubtedly there are far larger errors in the individual models documented in other IPCC diagnostic studies. The question is not whether this result is significant in some absolute sense, but just whether it is significant ENOUGH to call into question the skill of the models in attributing the much smaller energy imbalance.
It is not enough for experts to claim “good” agreement for their models. They even claim good agreement between the models when they vary by over a factor of two in climate sensitivity, while achieving “good” agreement with each other and the 20th century climate data. The hypothesis that the AR4 models have projective and attributive skill, is in doubt. Given the non-linear climate system with the differences in coupling of the various forcings, and the highly parameterized nature of the climate models, with their documented differences with each other and the data. A case can be made that the models agreement with each other and the data is “poor”. But whether the agreement is good or poor, there is evidence that the models have errors several times larger than the issue at hand. The burden of proof is on those supporting taking action upon the AGW hypothesis based model projections.
Absent any credibility for those projections, the measured warming so far is not alarming. We need better models.
[Response: But, as Gavin says, you have indeed inflated the importance of the results, The uncertainties in the model are why we have a spread in forecasts of global warming. I will repeat what Posner says; Uncertainty doesn’t work to the favor of people who say, “Do Nothing.” Given the basic physics of the greenhouse effect and water vapor feedback, one needs an extraordinarily strong argument to say warming isn’t going to happen. The models are uncertain about how much warming, but until we know better, the high end of the forecast is a real risk. No scientifically credible scenario eliminates the warming, though by stretching it there is a chance that the warming from doubling just might be within manageable bounds. Are you betting the world on that? What is your scientific justification for ruling out the high end of model sensitivity? These are scientifically defensible as well. If we had better models maybe we could rule those out, but we don;t we can’t. Are you willing to bet your grandchildren’s lives on your hunch that the high end is wrong? Are you comfortable making that decision for other peoples’ grandchildren as well? –raypierre]
As a biologist who has worked on endangered species since 1986, I concur with Ray P. whole heartedly. Every year there was less to find for very concrete reasons, the foremost being habitat loss. In fact, the biggest crticism of Gore would be banging too loud a gong, but it’s only a matter of degrees. In this case, as we’ve seen already, 1 is meaningful. I should think anyone could comprehend the fast forward of a slide show film “cut to” scene clearly labeled.
I hope every person posting on this forum has roughly the same desire I do, referring to temperature preference that is. That being that the claimers of Earth cooling are correct a very little bit ( I’d love to be able to count on snow every couple years here in Pcola,FL ), and that the claimers of the Earth warming are wrong a lot.
Beyond that, it is good to see many people studying this issue. Personally, no matter what occurs with the climate, I’d like to say my recent delve into climate science has me feeling quite a number of persons of both pro and anti warming opinions are more wanting to be right than caring about what really happens. And though by no stretch of the imagination could I be considered to be anything but a novice on this science, what I do think I am qualified to say and offer is I see the same old two party USA system of government developing on this issue, quite often characterized by eyes and ears shut while the mouth is wide open. The power will eventually go to the side who appears to be most right and who promises the Utopia, but as for my opinion, let me say, being the fence sitter my dad says I am, though it rather likely be against the majority opinion of this group, I truly think there is a decently even boxing match going on right now as to who is right. I keep my eyes and ears open though… keep up the study!!
RE#96, you seem to be justifying cutting the budget for the Deep Space Climate Observatory due to the need to employ Russian dual-use personnel? That’s bizarre – why not put them to work on the Climate Observatory? If that had been done, the hard data would be at hand, and it would probably support the current estimates – or do you think that it wouldn’t? It is very clear that certain elements simply don’t want to see the data collected. Ignorance is bliss?
As far as the Roesche paper ( http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2006/2005JD006473.shtml ), that is yet another example of misuse of a publication. The quote is “Simulated global mean annual surface albedos are slightly above the remote-sensed surface albedo estimates.” I haven’t looked at the full paper, but your interpretation seems highly skewed.
Quote: Firstly, as surface temperatures and the ocean heat content are rising together, it almost certainly rules out intrinsic variability of the climate system as a major cause for the recent warming (since internal climate changes (ENSO, thermohaline variability, etc.) are related to transfers of heat around the system, atmospheric warming would only occur with energy from somewhere else (i.e. the ocean) which would then need to be cooling).
Secondly, since the ocean warming is shown to be consistent with the land surface changes, this helps validate the surface temperature record, which is then unlikely to be purely an artifact of urban biases etc. Thirdly, since the current unrealized warming “in the pipeline” is related to the net imbalance, 0.85+/-0.15 W/m2 implies an further warming of around 0.5-0.7 C, regardless of future emission increases.
Now, you can cite Lyman et al, Recent Cooling of the Upper Ocean, GRL 2006 as evidence that the ocean heat issues aren’t well understood, but that shouldn’t be reassuring. Since sea levels haven’t dropped, the most likely explanation is an increase in freshwater input to the oceans – and there are other uncertainties, like lack of Arctic coverage and the use of new data collections systems (Argo floats) in the recent data. For a discussion of the freshwater issue, see http://www.climate.unibe.ch/~stocker/papers/stocker05natnv.pdf (Stoker and Raible Nature 2005 “water cycle shifts gear”)
The spread in the IPCC forecasts is not due to the model uncertainties but to the future CO2 scenerios. Because the Roesch paper demonstrated a positive surface albedo bias in all the AR4 models, the models may not even bracket the correct answer. For Ike’s benefit (again), the globally/annually averaged model albedos that are “slightly” above the data are albedo errors of 0.016 and 0.019. These are the numbers that look slight. But, when you apply the net solar flux from
of 198 W/m^2, you get 3.2 to 3.8W/m^2 respectively (I hadn’t updated the lower figure previously from when I was using 168W/m^2). What response would you make to the WSJ editors if they raised this issue? Hopefully you could do better than the importance of this paper has been “inflated”. The paper itself has not been disputed, and the demonstrated errors in the whole meta-ensemble from this one diagnostic subproject, are more significant than the global energy imbalance figure the models must attribute.
So, in thinking of my children, I see no reason to give even the middle of the model range credibility. It is more likely the estimates will have to be extended to the lower end, when this anti-solar bias is eliminated and when solar activity is better understood. I’ve read the papers that claim to provide an “independent” estimate of climate sensitivity, such as Annan’s, and even they aren’t independent of the models, and make the assumption that the different forcings are equivilent, when they are quite differently coupled to the climate. Even the worst scenerios don’t rise to the importance of fighting disease or tracking near earth objects. Yes, uncertainty doesn’t justify inaction, but focusing on economic growth while doing research and taking the measures that are economic (such as , telecommuting, passive solar, compact flourescents, etc) is not inaction. The current evidence does not justify making uneconomic decisions.
There are scientifically credible scenerios that might eliminate the warming. According to Solanki, there is only an 8% chance that the currently level of solar activity will continue until 2050. Solar activity is itself poorly understood, so the strong correlations of climate with solar activity might be better explained when we have more than just a couple cycles of high quality data. Current models of solar activity only explain 80% of the variation in irradiance over the last two cycles, and probably will explain even less when applied to more extreme varations. A return to more normal levels of solar activity and a couple of volcanic eruptions may be all it takes to make any near term economic sacrifice an obvious waste.
There is such a potential for wealth and technology creation in the burgeoning productivity of the Indian and Chinese populations, that I am extremely hopeful that any mitigation decisions that may ultimately be needed, will be both more informed and affordable in the future.
Roesch A. (2006), Evaluation of surface albedo and snow cover in AR4 coupled climate models, J. Geophys. Res., 111,D15111, doi:10.1029/2005JD006473. The albedo errors I reported above are 0.140-0.124 and 0.140-0.121 respectively.
[Response: You are incorrect about the source of the spread in the IPCC forecasts. The IPCC separately keeps track of two different sources of uncertainty: that due to variations in model scnsitivity, and that due to uncertainties abot which scenario best dexcribes the future. The results presented in the SPM lay this out very clearly. YOu are still overselling the meaning of the Roesch paper. A small difference in the estimated albedo would lead to a small difference in the basc climate, but an even smaller difference in the amount of warming predicted. To get a reduction in predicted warmng, you’d have to have a reason to believe that model shortcomings in albedo are missing a major stabilizing influence in which albedo increases with temperature. If you want to argue that models have some uncertainty in the way they handle albedo, you also have to say why you think that correcting those shortcomings would decrease rather than increase model sensitivity. You are making another one of the old standard arguments — if the model has any shortcoming, the whole thing is junk. That doesn’t cut it. You have to think hard about the way the uncertainty contribute to climate sensitivity. You aren’t doing that. If you want to pray that the Sun is going to dim and save us from the warming effects of CO2, that’s fine with me. Every little bit helps, though I wouldn’t want to bank on that as a solution. Putting your faith in Solanki’s prediction isn’t much better. –raypierre]
[[Re #89. Developing solutions to climate change will require a healthy, growing economy–not just in the US and Europe, but globally. A healthy economy requires lots of energy, and there simply is not combination of renewables, etc. that can meet those needs. Even with fossil fuels, the demands of 9 billion people will be challenging. Nuclear power is quite simply the cleanest and cheapest way to produce the energy required for a future economy. All the renewables have a role, but they simply aren’t practical to meet the energy demands of 9 billion people. ]]
Why aren’t they? The amount of Solar power falling on the Earth dwarfs anything we use in the world economy. We can do it all with renewables, and we don’t even need nuclear.
Re “Armed Cant” is scarcely new–before King Kong could be cited by The League of Nations Environmental Program as establishing the fifty foot gorilla as an endangered species , or that Art Deco Hollywood Ecoterrorist, Ming the Merciless could zap the ozone layer with his Niton Ray , The New York Times took aim at the popular imagination with this timely shocker :
“The Earth is steadily growing warmer. As all the ice at the two poles melts a stupendous volume of water will be released.
Fish will swim in Buckingham Palace… New York will be marked by the…taller skyscrapers as they jut out of the water…the climate..as when dinosaurs roamed the earth and dense jungles…grew in…Canada.
Palms and alligators would flourish at the poles …man’s food supply will not …it is a question if he will survive ” — The New York Times..May 15, 1932.
RE #99, Steve, you don’t have to be a fence-sitting due to the uncertainty you have. I’m not a climate scientist either, but I figured it this way: If GW is happening & we do nothing, we’re in really bad trouble. If GW is NOT happening, but we act as if it is and reduce our GHGs, we will be saving money, and this can be done without lowering living standards….even up to a 1/3, 1/2, or even 2/3 reduction. So, all you need to do is get off the fence (I, too, was a “passive” environmentalist until 1990, when I started reducing GHGs & saving money), investigate how you can reduce without giving up your favorate lifestyle, and get to it. It’s actually fun & you feel a sense of accomplishment.
RE #86 & nuclear. Here’s an idea, first we reduce our GHGs all we can without going nuclear, then we figure how many nukes we need. Those plants are very expensive to build & take a long time to go thru the reg process, so best reduce, reuse, recycle to the hilt, and incorporate other alt energy (like wind & solar)….then see how many nuke plants we need.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 27 Feb 2007 @ 10:28 AM
Speaking of “potential for wealth and technology creation in the burgeoning productivity of the Indian and Chinese populations” — have a look at the numbers on this page, http://www.sse.com.cn/sseportal/en_us/ps/home.shtml
then, at the graphic presented at the bottom below the numbers
Cute trick, literally distorting the picture of what’s happening in that market, eh?
(It’s not a rising chart line, it’s a ‘three dimensional perspective view from above’ of a falling chart line.)
This sort of thing points out how science education can change how people see business and politics.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “Nuclear power is quite simply the cleanest and cheapest way to produce the energy required for a future economy. All the renewables have a role, but they simply aren’t practical to meet the energy demands of 9 billion people.”
Again, this is just argument by assertion.
Quite simply, nuclear power is neither the cleanest nor the cheapest way to produce electricity — and of course electricity generation is only one source of GHG emissions.
According to the American Solar Energy Society, full implementation of existing energy efficiency technologies and clean renewable energy technologies (wind, solar, biofuels, biomass and geothermal) — without any expansion of nuclear electricity generation — can reduce total US carbon emissions from all sources by 60 to 80 percent by 2030 while the economy continues to grow, which is in line with what most scientists believe is necessary to keep atmospheric GHG concentrations below levels which are liable to cause the worst climate outcomes.
And nuclear power is not even a remotely feasible way to provide electricity for the large and growing populations of the developing world. Most of these countries don’t have the resources to build or safely operate nuclear power plants, nor do they have the grid infrastructure to effectively distribute electricity from large centralized power plants. That’s why distributed photovoltaics and small wind turbines are experiencing rapid growth in the developing world in particular — they are the cheapest and fastest route to rural electrification in the absence of an existing power grid.
And are you really comfortable with the prospect of hundreds or thousands of nuclear power plants being built and operated in developing countries all over the world, even if that were feasible? Including those countries with governments that are unstable and/or interested in acquiring nuclear weapons?
Comment by SecularAnimist — 27 Feb 2007 @ 11:56 AM
Re #104: Seems you missed an important point in your reading of that 1932 NYT article. It’s reporting on what might happen when the ice melts – in 30,000 to 40,000 years. (We can, I think, pass over the descriptions of drowned skyscrapers and fish swimming through Buckingham Palace as journalistic license.)
It’s a matter of timescale: with AGW so far, climate change that naturally happens on a 10K year timescale is being compressed into a century. That doesn’t allow time for the system to adapt: as with many another natural phenomenon, increasing the rate of change doesn’t just fast-forward the action, it induces fundamental changes in system behavior: you move (and often quite abruptly) from a system that bends to one that shatters.
Second point is that (in geologically-modern times, say the last few million years) we have a system that naturally cycles through warm and cold phases with a period of about 100K years, and likewise, cycles atmospheric CO2 levels between about 150-300 ppm. Now humans have jolted the system with an additional 70-80 ppm, with a bunch more in the pipeline. Do you seriously think that isn’t going to have a significant effect?
Re #109. Here is not the place to debate the relative merits of solar vs. nuclear energy. My point was that blind, fear-based opposition to nuclear energy is one reason why we are now so dependent on fossil fuels. France provides an example of the role nuclear power can play. ALL energy sources have their costs and benefits. (Ever look into the environmental costs of making photovoltaics?) If we are to keep the global economy growing at a rate sufficient to develop solutions to climate change AND bring developing nations out of povert, we will not be able to pick and choose our energy solutions. Don’t believe me? Go through the exercise of trying to meet China’s energy needs with solar energy even assuming they consume only 50% as much energy per capita as the US.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “My point was that blind, fear-based opposition to nuclear energy is one reason why we are now so dependent on fossil fuels.”
Nuclear proponents commonly demonize all opposition to nuclear power as “blind” and “fear-based” so they don’t have to address the substantive reasons for the opposition.
The reason that nuclear power is not more widely used in the USA has nothing to do with such opposition in any case. It is because nuclear power is a complete economic failure, and the free market won’t touch it. That’s why the current campaign by the nuclear industry is entirely focused on getting massive subsidies from the federal government, as well as getting the federal government (i.e. the taxpayers) to absorb all the risks.
Ray Ladbury: “Ever look into the environmental costs of making photovoltaics?”
Yes, I have. The US Department of Energy has web pages devoted to that subject. The environmental costs of making photovoltaics are miniscule and insignficant compared to the environmental costs of nuclear power.
Ray Ladbury: “If we are to keep the global economy growing at a rate sufficient to develop solutions to climate change AND bring developing nations out of povert, we will not be able to pick and choose our energy solutions.”
On the contrary, given limited resources, it is of the utmost importance to “pick and choose our energy solutions” so that we don’t squander huge amounts of resources on technologies like nuclear power, which aside from being highly toxic and extremely dangerous, are the least cost-effective way of reducing GHG emissions, and which even in the nuclear industry’s dream scenario of a huge, taxpayer-funded buildup of nuclear power plants, can’t even begin to contribute to reducing the growth in emissions — let alone actually reducing emissions from current levels — for decades.
We — both developed and developing nations — can do it better, faster, cheaper, safer with efficiency and clean renewable energy technologies (wind, solar, biofuels and geothermal). Nuclear is not needed, and money invested in nuclear is money that would be more effectively invested elsewhere.
First of all, nuclear is not a renewable technology – it is a generally carbon-neutral transition technology. The reason it’s not renewable is the same that fossil fuels aren’t renewable – there’s a limited supply of the raw material (uranium) in the ground. Spent fuel reprocessing to recover plutonium has been an environmental disaster of the highest order – even the nuclear industry agrees it is uneconomical and dangerous. This isn’t to say that all nuclear should be shut down, but rather that the main efforts should go into maintaining and refurbishing existing nuclear plants.
With regards to solar, wind and biofuels, the renewable resource is gigantic and largely untapped. Solar PV and computer technology arise from the same discovery – the semiconductor p-n junction – but computer technology has been massively invested in, while solar PV has seen little investment. This is slowly starting to change, but the support is still miniscule – and the reasons are largely political (solar is a disruptive technology to existing energy markets, in other words). What’s also unfortunate is the limited scientific base for renewable research and development due to decades of funding cuts (compare spending on pharmaceutical research to spending on renewable research, for example).
Re #109: “According to the American Solar Energy Society, full implementation of existing energy efficiency technologies and clean renewable energy technologies (wind, solar, biofuels, biomass and geothermal) — without any expansion of nuclear electricity generation — can reduce total US carbon emissions from all sources by 60 to 80 percent…”,
Let’s assume that estimate is accurate (though I can’t quite see why solar industry groups shouldn’t be tempted to the same sort of over-selling as for instance the oil industry). It still falls 20 to 40 percent short of cutting total CO2 emissions to zero, which is what must be done.
[[ Go through the exercise of trying to meet China’s energy needs with solar energy even assuming they consume only 50% as much energy per capita as the US. ]]
Multiply 240 Watts per square meter by the total area of China to find out what they’ve got to work with. Obviously, they can only harness a small fraction of that, but it would be a small fraction of a huge amount of power. I don’t see any conceivable reason why solar couldn’t do it.
[[Re #109: “According to the American Solar Energy Society, full implementation of existing energy efficiency technologies and clean renewable energy technologies (wind, solar, biofuels, biomass and geothermal) — without any expansion of nuclear electricity generation — can reduce total US carbon emissions from all sources by 60 to 80 percent…”,
Let’s assume that estimate is accurate (though I can’t quite see why solar industry groups shouldn’t be tempted to the same sort of over-selling as for instance the oil industry). It still falls 20 to 40 percent short of cutting total CO2 emissions to zero, which is what must be done. ]]
I think he was talking about a particular time frame; specifically, by 2030. In the long run we can make it 100%. By 2100 I don’t see why anyone would need to burn coal, oil or natural gas anywhere in the world.
Ike Solem wrote: “In any case, the issue isn’t solar vs. nuclear, it’s nuclear and renewables and efficient technology vs. coal and oil and energy waste.”
I would point out that it is always the proponents of nuclear power who frame the discussion as “expansion of nuclear power is the only answer to global warming, and anyone who is opposed to expanding nuclear electricity generation is not serious about reducing GHG emissions” and as “renewables can’t make much of a contribution, nuclear is the only solution” while at the same time, as I mentioned above, consistently demonizing all opposition to nuclear power as “blind” and “irrational”.
To which I reply that nuclear is certainly not the “only” solution to reducing GHG emissions, and it is far from the most effective solution even aside from its dangers; renewables can make an enormous contribution, and indeed the synergistic combination of efficiency and renewables can come close to solving the problem entirely; and there are plenty of entirely rational reasons to oppose an expansion of nuclear power.
Just to clarify, expansion of nuclear power is not the same as maintaining existing nuclear power plants, which currently account for some 600,000 GW of electricity generation in the US (compared to 2,000,000 GW of coal electricty generation, some 250,000GW of hydroelectric, and only ~20,000 GW of wind and 500 GW of solar). The real question is how to replace that 2m GW of coal with solar and wind – truly a massive undertaking, but one that should have begun decades ago. The expansion of coal over the past decade is equal to the entire hydroelectric capacity of the US – that’s the center of the problem as far as global warming and climate change are concerned. Climate science and energy technology science, however, are separate topics. Unfortunately, there is no online site dedicated to renewable energy discussions that approaches the quality of RC… maybe there will be soon.
Lindzen would do himself good only if he can predict something accurately, that would certainly help his credibility
A good point. It so happens that Lindzen did predict something accurately. Most famously, he predicted quasi-biennial oscillation. And I’m sure there’s a lot more. Which is why his credibility among atmospheric scientists (as opposed to climate change community) is enormous. Make no mistake: very few people become full professors at MIT and it’s usually for a very good reason.
I wonder why don’t you ask climate modelers to predict something accurately? Is this a double-standard or what?
[Response: Actually he didn’t “predict” the QBO. It was more a matter of coming up with a theory that could give an oscillation of the right sort. He had a lot of help from Holton, but while it must be admitted that people are still arguing about whether the theory is right, you’ll get no argument from me about the QBO theory being first-rate science. I also give Lindzen credit for his co-discovery with Matsuno of the role of gravity wave drag in the mesospheric circulation I give him a lot of credit for his very early work on upper atmospheric tides. Begin to see a pattern forming? All the really good science he has done is above the troposphere. Almost everything he has touched with regard to the tropospheric climate has turned out to be wrong — often wrong in a creative and interesting way, but wrong nonetheless. One possible exception is the Lindzen/Nigam paper on tropical precipitation, which isn’t completely right but has a lot of the right picture in it. The point to keep in mind about Dick isn’t that he’s wrong about everything. The point is that he’s clearly not infalliblle, and when it comes to tropospheric climate in general and global warming in particular he’s perhaps more fallible than most. –raypierre]
Why Lindzen has been driven for so long by the belief that CO2 can’t change climate is a matter for speculation. I doubt he could answer that himself. -raypierre
I’m sure the answer is very simple: Lindzen is extremely stubborn. Which is compounded by his utmost lack of respect to just about anybody in the field.
[Response:Stubborn, certainly, but lots of people in science have been stubborn without getting trapped in an idée fixe. I disagree about the “lack of respect” comment. With the exception of occasional insensitivity about smoking, Dick is basically a rather gentlemanly and respectful guy, and quite easy to air ideas with as long as you stay clear of global warming. To some extent ideas stand or fall on their own. Lindzen’s track record (or record of being wrong) is mainly relevant for people who don’t have the background to evaluate the ideas themselves, and need to judge whether to take, say, Gavin’s assessment vs. Lindzen’s assessment on the Iris mechanism–raypierre]
I’m gasping for air :-) Either you feel obliged to defend Lindzen on this count (not likely, I guess) or perhaps you are one of a handful of people whom he actually respects (more likely). I’m not saying that he’s outright and in-your-face disrespectful with colleagues. But his generall attitude is well-known. As one of his former students told me, loosely quoting, “He thought nothing of me as a scientist but I didn’t take it personally: he treated everyone the same way.” Heard it many times from various sources.
[Response: What can I say? Dick has always been very nice to me, dating right back to when I was a graduate student. That’s one of the things that makes it so painful to watch the turn his work on climate has taken. It’s a real pity that Jule Charney (one of the truly towering figures) died so early; in fact not long after the first National Academy report on global warming, on which he was a key author. He would have provided a nice counterpoint to Dick. By the way — I thought of another Lindzen paper that, while not entirely right is well worth thinking about. That’s the Hou and Lindzen work on the effect of off-equator heating on Hadley circulations. –raypierre]
Right on the mark-but perhaps being a trifle engagee’- you miss the point- here is a smart guy with first-rate physical intuition who just refuses to buy into making bayseian models the basis of hard policy- that’s the dilemma we all face .
“Why do most scientists lack conviction, where many laymen are full of passionate intensity? To answer, we might begin by way of reviewing a most important aspect of the greenhouse effect-the extent of our ignorance.” Russell Seitz 1990
Well professor Seitz, I did read it, as per your email, but it’s quite clear that most scientists now have conviction, so I’m a bit preplexed by your refusal to update your thesis, shall we say. Sometimes the odd man out is just out. That’s the case with Lindzen, and I don’t think your media hype thesis warrants that kind of steadfast stand. KIlimanjaro is a poster mountain with multiple factors going on, global warming being but one. It’s not either/or as I understand it, but maybe Ray will offer support for what I just said, as I don’t understand your “ice up to the troposphere” quip.
why is Al playing fast and loose with the un-seaonablerunaround viewsa
of Kilimanjaro in his fick ? ice halfway up to the tropopause in the
ITC seems a very peculiar metric upon which tohan [sic] a case for the
[Response: Russell Seitz seems to have been hornswoggled by Crichton on Kilimanjaro. That’s not in character for him. In fact, there’s a good case to be made that Kilimanjaro is indeed melting because of global warming, if one looks at the whole picture. To be sure, Kili is one of the more complicated cases, but if you take it as representative of the whole mass of tropical glaciers whos melt is uncontrovertibly tied to global warming, one can’t fault Gore all that much for using it to highlight the phenomenon. For details, see our article on Tropical Glacier Retreat, linked in the sidebar. –raypierre]
Re 117 and precedent. I believe a discussion of the relative merits of various energy sources is a bit too far off topic, but I need to counter some of you misinformation. I have no desire to debate a true believer. First, the estimates that show solar and conservation meeting US energy needs are fantasy. Energy demand will continue to increase unless we have a serious recession.
Second, the assertion that nuclear has failed because it is uneconomical is absurd–it is made uneconomical by fear mongers clogging the courts with lawsuits that made it virtually impossible to build new plants. Nuclear power has done quite well in France and elsewhere. Third, nuclear power can provide a vast amount of cheap energy–safely. You and others speak as if U-235 were the only fissionable isotope. The Th232–U-233 cycle complements the U235/U238/Pu239 cycle–and it’s more immune to proliferation. Reprocessing and active management of waste can make that problem manageable.
Finally, nuclear power is safe. More people die due to respiratory illnesses from the burning of fossil fuels than have died as a result of nuclear accidents. Every nuclear accident that has occurred to date is attributable to some moron doing something VERY stupid (Chernobyl required disabling or bypassing of 6 failsafes–and that was an inferior, obsolete design.). Indeed, more people would die installing solar panels to meet even a fraction of energy demand than have died due to nuclear accidents.
In the end, your fear doesn’t matter. We simply cannot meet the energy needs of 9 billion people without nuclear power. I have yet to see any realistic study that says we can. Even James Lovelock–hardly a lightweight when it comes to environmental credentials–has said we need to turn to nuclear power. Fear or no fear, it’s going to happen if we get serious about reducing greenhouse gases.
“… Lindzen … differentiated ‘industry stooges’ as a separate category, people who were interested in obfuscating the issue towards supporting their own agenda, as opposed to people that are interested in the scientific truth. This is an important distinction, separating the Marshall Institute type reports (many of which are of the stooge nature), vs the more credible scientific scepticism. The challenge is for a bona fide skeptic to steer clear of being associated with stoogedom. …”
#119, What is coming through now is what counts, despite academic triumphs, I am sure well deserved. Lindzen says or writes nothing remotely convincing about AGW theory being bogus. For him Natural temperature variability is now becoming Natural Warming, which rings extremely hollow because there is no explanation causing the warming. Hardly again the stuff of Universities, but rather a thinly vailed PR ploy designed to confuse the lay from one of the biggest Ivory towers of learning. Just once would like to hear a prediction from Lindzen which is not a publicity stunt. Something with substance, not like “we can’t predict anything” from a meteorology-physics professor who is precisely into the science of forecasting.
Thanks Ray. That is indeed my take on it, and the exact way I portrayed the issue in my novel Warm Front, answering Crichton. Given the preponderance of the tropical glacier retreat, this one isn’t exactly science fiction.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “Nuclear power is quite simply the cleanest and cheapest way to produce the energy required for a future economy. All the renewables have a role, but they simply aren’t practical to meet the energy demands of 9 billion people.”
So it follows that we should be encouraging Iran (and like-minded countries) to go nuclear? This will be a most interesting world, indeed, when resources become scarcer and numerous countries have the ability to produce nuclear bombs (or just very dirty ones).
[[First, the estimates that show solar and conservation meeting US energy needs are fantasy.]]
Says who? You?
[[Second, the assertion that nuclear has failed because it is uneconomical is absurd–it is made uneconomical by fear mongers clogging the courts with lawsuits that made it virtually impossible to build new plants. ]]
True, if you prevent people from protesting it, it’s much cheaper to install.
[[Third, nuclear power can provide a vast amount of cheap energy–safely.]]
You know those statements you hear about nuclear plants producing less radiation than coal? That depends on the nuclear plants operating under “normal conditions.” Turns out, if you check, that there isn’t even one that always operates under “normal conditions.” They all have “unplanned releases” at least once a year.
[[Finally, nuclear power is safe. More people die due to respiratory illnesses from the burning of fossil fuels than have died as a result of nuclear accidents. ]]
So far, yes.
[[Every nuclear accident that has occurred to date is attributable to some moron doing something VERY stupid (Chernobyl required disabling or bypassing of 6 failsafes–and that was an inferior, obsolete design.). ]]
But you see, that’s an important point. People DO do things that are “very stupid.” If safe nuclear power depends on plant operators always being rational and attentive to what they’re doing, then nuclear power is unsafe. Period.
[[In the end, your fear doesn’t matter.]]
It does if it guides how I vote.
[[ We simply cannot meet the energy needs of 9 billion people without nuclear power.]]
There’s no reason to think you’re correct about that. You have never given a reason for it, just made the flat statement over and over.
Something with substance, not like “we can’t predict anything” from a meteorology-physics professor who is precisely into the science of forecasting.
This is wrong again: his science, I mean the best part of it, is not about forecasting at all. It’s about understanding of physics of atmosphere.
Without disagreeing with Ray’s assessment of Lindzen’s work on GW I must point out that at the time when he was putting his theories forward it wasn’t obvious at all that he was wrong. In other words, irrespective of what drove him, it was a legitimate science. It could have proven right but it didn’t. Well, that’s how science works: not every piece of peer-reviewed research proves correct, whoever it is coming from. Not a reason to kick him. Nobody’s infallible, as Ray says.
That said, it doesnt’ follow that every doubt that Linzen has about GW is wrong and/or unfounded. His lack of faith in GCMs is very much understandable. It’s a legitimate scientific debate that needs tobe resolved on merits. Prior history of Lindzens’ errors is not irrelevant (because it does show his bias) but insufficient to justify ignoring him.
Again, I have to ask you the same question that you keep ignoring: why the double standard? Why don’t you require GCM modelers to predict something accurately?
RE #122, “[Lindzen] refuses to buy into making bayesian models the basis of hard policy- that’s the dilemma we all face.”
I’m okay with hypothesis testing based, just as long at the null hypothesis is “GW is happening,” and we need to reject that at the .05 level or less (maybe .01) before we stop mitigating it. And that isn’t weird, since GW has happened before, sometimes at extreme levels (55 & 251 mya), so that’s just the way the world is. Someone would have to prove to me that that’s not the way the world is, before I’d change my mind.
OTOH we’d be pretty unwise to stop mitigating GW through cost-effective measures, even if we were to reject this null hypothesis, since you’d think we’d want to save money.
And then there are all the other problems (environmental, nonrenewable resource depletion, health, military) that get solved by mitigating GW. We should have actually been mitigating it since at least the 70s, well before most of us even heard about it.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 28 Feb 2007 @ 9:57 AM
Irony is wasted on people who reiterate their errors and ignore new information Gavin.
More important, irony in answers, and repetition of mistaken assumptions, gets counted as fact by Google’s searches.
It’s the same basic tactic as comment spam and search engine rank spoofing — get what you want found into as many web pages as you can as fast as you can, so it’ll show up as a frequently found search result.
Sashka, are you just being a search engine parrot? That’s the effect when you continue to repeat the same questions based on false assumptions — your name and the errors show up high on hit lists in query.
Try correcting your mistakes and asking new questions, show some learning here eh?
[Response: I know – but sometimes you need to vary the routine otherwise you get bored. I’ll try and be more straightforward in future! – gavin]
Re #131: “[[ We simply cannot meet the energy needs of 9 billion people without nuclear power.]]
There’s no reason to think you’re correct about that. You have never given a reason for it, just made the flat statement over and over.”
In fact reasons have been given, in #109 for instance, which l’ll quote again (though the link seems to be broken):
“According to the American Solar Energy Society, full implementation of existing energy efficiency technologies and clean renewable energy technologies (wind, solar, biofuels, biomass and geothermal) — without any expansion of nuclear electricity generation — can reduce total US carbon emissions from all sources by 60 to 80 percent by 2030…”
Now this is a group advocating solar & other renewable energy, so one would naturally expect them to present the best possible case for their technology, wouldn’t you? And that best possible case still gives a 20-40% shortfall.
I can think of only two possible ways to deal with that shortfall: either keep burning fossil fuels (which at best just hands the burden of climate change down a generation), or build enough nuclear to cover it. If there are other options, I for one would appeciate it if you’d go public with them :-)
I think the thing with nukes is you can easily calculate how many would have to be built, how long it will take, and have a great degree of certitude that they can produce power 24 and 7.
Having grown up watering cows with a windmill, I know there are days where there ain’t much wind. The cows don’t get as thirsty if those days are also overcast. Ever have your steers walk over a solar-powered electric fence. A few days with no sun will do that to you.
I’m no futurist, but could human beings and other beasts of burden making electrical power be a part of the future? After all, unemployed NASCAR drivers and airline pilots will need to eat, and my oxen haven’t had a job in over a 100 years.
#132, Haa yes… If you understand meteorology very well you can predict it likewise! Many have done so, models are wonderful giving exact temperature forecasts, some people show their prowess in climatology and meteorology by being right about their projections and forecasts regularly. No one can seriously (at a peer level) criticize them unless they have done the same or better.
Pinatubo effect (global mean) could have been (and actually was) calculated without help of GCMs, as I’m sure you know. It’s good that GCMs are able to capture the effect of major eruption but it hardly proves anything except that to first order the effect of aerosoles is modeled correctly. I don’t believe that anybody, including Lindzen, ever disputed stratospheric cooling or growth of ocean heat content. The question is how fast. (Recall that Mr. Davidson requested an accurate prediction.) Not sure what you meant re decadal trend. The linked paper is published in 2006. Whatever it says about the future has not yet been verified.
[Response: Sashka, This is tiresome. If you don’t bother to read linked papers, then there is no point in conversing with you (if you do, you will see that the 2006 paper examines projections made in 1988). The issue is not whether Lindzen disagrees or not, the point is that predictions were made and verified (though since Lindzen at the time (1997) did not accept that the planet had warmed, nor that the warming was radiatively forced, he would have had no logical reason to expect an increase in ocean heat content). Given that the default prediction would have been no change, then GCMs are more skillful than just guessing. ‘Accuracy’ of a prediction depends upon a number of issues – the inherent predictibility (i.e. the size of the forced component compared to the intrinsic variability) as well as uncertainties in climate sensitivity and forecasts of forcing functions. Since the unforced component is always non-zero, all predictions will be ‘inaccurate’, but can still be skillful. You can carry on playing games, but if you want to continue serious dialog, step up to the plate or forget it. -gavin]
Re #135. Energy needs are different from energy wants. The ASES, to judge from your quote, is specifically not considering possible advances in energy efficiency and renewables in making their estimate, and even more important, doesn’t look at demand reduction – e.g., not travelling so much or so fast (and specifically, not travelling by air except in emergency), and switching to a diet with much less meat (particularly beef) and dairy – concerning which, it’s worth noting that neither nuclear power nor renewables can do much to alleviate transport-related CO2 up to 2030, and won’t stop cattle farting. You may say the rich (us) are too selfish to abandon our destructive habits and the poor just want to join in, and you may be right – but let’s be clear that this is far more the issue than global population growth. If it comes to a choice between a degree of fairly-shared austerity and a lot more nuclear power, do note that the latter is almost certain to mean nuclear weapons for any state that wants them, and greatly increased opportunities for non-state groups to get hold of dangerous nuclear materials.
#136, I’ve read about how a wind-generator company could have operations in various locales around a state, which would increase the prob of it being windy in at least some places. They can also build them on farms, without taking up too much space, and the farmers can farm right up to their bases AND get rent from the power co.
RE human power, I remember Real Goods (it’s been bought by Gaiam – http://www.gaiam.com/realgoods ) had a contraption years ago that you put your bicycle on and generate energy. They used to advertise it by saying, “have your kids generate their own energy to watch their favorite TV programs.”
But it would mainly be good for off-grid homes, or states where you can feed energy into the grid & turn back your electric meter (not mine, currently, but I am on 100% wind from GreenMountain). So, “Reduce your electric bill, while improving your health and saving the earth.”
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 28 Feb 2007 @ 2:27 PM
[[“According to the American Solar Energy Society, full implementation of existing energy efficiency technologies and clean renewable energy technologies (wind, solar, biofuels, biomass and geothermal) — without any expansion of nuclear electricity generation — can reduce total US carbon emissions from all sources by 60 to 80 percent by 2030…”
Now this is a group advocating solar & other renewable energy, so one would naturally expect them to present the best possible case for their technology, wouldn’t you? And that best possible case still gives a 20-40% shortfall. ]]
I have answered this before. Their estimate has the time horizon “by 2030.” It can easily be 100% by 2100 or so. Again, your assertion that renewables can’t do it all is just wrong.
[[Having grown up watering cows with a windmill, I know there are days where there ain’t much wind. The cows don’t get as thirsty if those days are also overcast. Ever have your steers walk over a solar-powered electric fence. A few days with no sun will do that to you.
I’m no futurist, but could human beings and other beasts of burden making electrical power be a part of the future? After all, unemployed NASCAR drivers and airline pilots will need to eat, and my oxen haven’t had a job in over a 100 years. ]]
With a national grid, or even a large regional grid, there will always be wind somewhere. And solar thermal plants of recent design store heat in molten salts so the plants can continue to run at night or during rain.
Your assertion that you have owned cattle for over 100 years is an interesting one. I take it you’re about 121 years old or so?
Re #141: “Their estimate has the time horizon “by 2030.” It can easily be 100% by 2100 or so.”
Sure, and by 2100 or so we may have dilithium engines capable of producing all the power we want, and pushing space ships to warp factor 5 to boot :-) The problem is that we don’t have the luxury of waiting until 2100 or so to take action. We need to do what we can do now, with the technology we have. (Well, we really need to start about 1975, but unless you’ve got a time machine too, that’s not one of the available options.)
We know that nuclear power works, without significant real dangers, and it seems a pretty fair bet that it plus renewables plus conservation plus everything else we can think of will – if we’re lucky – be barely enough to do what needs to be done.
“Again, your assertion that renewables can’t do it all is just wrong.”
And your assertation about my assertation is too :-) How about showing us some real numbers from somewhere? I think those ASES numbers are about the best you are going to find, but I’m willing to look at different ones, as long as they don’t require the development of some sort of magical new technology.
I’m sorry that I haven’t read far enough (I did now). It’s not entirely my fault, though. First Rasmus was trying to get away with the old and tired 6 months prediction joke. Than you used several irrelevant “predictions” mixing in just one real among them. But I am sorry.
Back to substance, I don’t know why you call Hansen’s (1988) forecast successful. It was sort of OK till 1998, I agree. But then the observed temps went sideways while prediction in scenario B calls for further growth, in more or less linear fashion. Do you call this forecast accurate? Based on what criterion if I may ask?
Scenarios are not ‘predictions’ — they are based on assumptions; over time, compare to reality to adjust your expectations. We aren’t living in Scenario A, or B, or C; we’re living in reality, and had best try to understand it.
(Bok: “All models are false; some models are useful.”
How’s your history? Check the assumptions, adjust your expectations. How’s it look?
“… the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991. … Between 1992 and 2001, Russia’s energy consumption declined 19%…. In 1992, Russian carbon dioxide emissions stood at 573.5 million metric tons, but by 1997, the country’s emissions had fallen to 394.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide – a 31% decline …. In 2001, Russia’s energy-related CO2 emissions totaled 440.3 million metric tons ….”
Re 107 Mr Davis: Closer afield in time is Al Gore’s remark , delivered at the beginning of the 1989 NAS forum on “Global Change and our Common Future” , which Al could not find the time to actually attend:
“My purpose is to sound an alarm, loudly and clearly, of imminent and grave danger, and to describe a strategy for confronting this crisis…the horrendous prospect of an ecological collapse. ”
It thus appears that he truly believed in the Mother of All Hockey Sticks extinction graph decorating his 1992 bestseller ‘The Earth In The Balance’- the conveniently deleted from the new edition.
Quoting Hansen adding emphasis : Real-world GHG climate forcing (17 so far has followed a course closest to scenario B. … Because of this chaotic variability, a 17-year period is too brief for precise assessment of model predictions, but distinction among scenarios and comparison with the real world will become clearer within a decade. Close agreement of observed temperature change with simulations for the most realistic climate forcing (scenario B) is accidental, given the large unforced variability in both model and real world.
“… Nevertheless, it is apparent that the first transient climate simulations (12) proved to be quite accurate, certainly not “wrong by 300%” (14). The assertion of 300% error may have been based on an earlier arbitrary comparison of 1988-1997 observed temperature change with only scenario A (18). Observed warming was slight in that 9-year period, which is too brief for meaningful comparison.”
C’mon, man, read things through, read the footnotes.
You’re just tweaking bits. Bye.
Re 141. I find it interesting that the ASES study assumes that conservation effectively results in NEGATIVE growth in energy demand. Yet despite this convenient fantasy, they still fail to meet energy demand without resorting to carbon. And this is for the US. How likely do you think China, India and Brazil will be to meet their needs without either fossil fuels or nuclear power.
Nuclear power is a proven, safe zero-carbon technology. Nuclear waste and proliferation concerns can be addressed (note, the problem with Iran is their insistence on enrichment AND independence of the IAEA–not nuclear power as such), and with breeder technology (using either the U or Th cycles) it has vast potential. Most important, it can be deployed NOW. Perhaps if you educate yourself about nuclear power, you might be less afraid of it.
Re 123 et Al
Sorry for the typos – it was posted in an airport .and should read :
“So why is Al playing fast and loose with the un-seasonable runaround views
of Kilimanjaro in his flick ?
Ice halfway up to the tropopause in the
Intertropical Convergence Zone seems a very peculiar metric upon which to hang a case for the Apocalypse.”
1. Hank is mistaken to equate a 1990 overview of the debate with what I or anyone else thinks after 4 rounds of the IPCC . I provided the 1990 article as a benchmark of what you could get published ( barely) in a conservative policy quarterly ( _The National Interest_ , as in _The End Of History _) 1989.In case you haven’t looked, the current piece that refers to it commends Emanuel’s view over Lindzen’s- the trouble is getting conservatives to read the scientific papers of either, as opposed to lionizing an increasingly bemused Mike Crichton.
2, As Mike McElroy can testify ,I’ve been arguing for get-um-while-they- last retreival of tropical glacier cores ever since returning from Melanesia in 1975. I suspect raypierre must wince with the rest of us as the AIT film editors –I can’t blame Al for production values– cut angles from season to season, and box the compass to make their Kili photomontage as scary as possible- whatever is driving their visual rhetoric , it isn’t science.
3. The extinction curve in The Earth In The Nalace was silly enough to do credit to Limbaugh- it spans not geological time but recent history and goes froma ~ 45% slope in 1960 to dead vertical in 2000. Color it innumerate.
I wonder about an allusion mentioned early in the comments section, regarding earth core. This site examines climate, and warming; I wonder if some of the AGU thinkers on the geologic side have modeled repercussions, given the global warming, of effects upon deep earth with a warmer atmosphere, warmer mantle, than nowadays. I started a hypothesis about the alteration of magnetism of a cooling mass; maybe an astrophysical component to the model would depict deep planetary effects of a GW during the post-tipping-point epoch. I wonder if the planet could preserve its orbit, even though its mass would be constant.
Re #151 I don’t have the knowledge to say whether China, India, Brazil etc. could meet their energy requirements without either fossil fuels or nuclear power, but let’s suppose this is so. The options are then nuclear power or fossil fuel use with carbon capture and storage. If at all possible, the latter is preferable, because despite your assertions, it is quite unfeasible to solve the safety, waste and proliferation problems, given what we know about human behaviour: corners will be cut, idiotic mistakes will be made, nuclear materials will go missing, lies will be told to cover error and corruption. This is not guesswork – it is clear from the nuclear industry’s record in places as different as the UK, USA, USSR and Pakistan.
Proliferation is perhaps the biggest problem. You say “note, the problem with Iran is their insistence on enrichment AND independence of the IAEA–not nuclear power as such”. The current nuclear weapons states all avoid IAEA control of part or all of their nuclear industries. Why shouldn’t Iran do the same? Or any other state? It is inconsistent, and in the long run will not be accepted, that an elite group of states are allowed to have independent nuclear industries while the rest must remain dependent. A state can withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty at three months’ notice if “extraordinary events, related to the subject matter of this Treaty, have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country”. So any state will be able to build up the material, technical and human resources to build nuclear weapons within the NNPT, ready to leave the treaty if its leaders decide its “supreme interests” are under threat. You simply cannot separate nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
Returning to India and China, both are currently building coal-fired power-stations at a rapid rate (China is said to be opening one per week), even though both also have nuclear power and weapons. They are extremely unlikely to close these stations during their planned lifetime, or to stop building more in the near future, so the problems of carbon capture and storage – and of retrofitting facilities for this to existing power stations – require urgent consideration irrespective of decisions about nuclear power. Given this, and the proliferation and other drawbacks of nuclear power, the rational course of action for rich countries is to invest heavily now in the development of carbon capture and storage, along with renewables, and make these technologies, not nuclear power, the rational choice for poorer countries.
Re 155. The temperature changes in the atmosphere will have negligible effect on the solid Earth (other than possible rebound of the crust as ice melts). A few Kelvins on top of the hundreds to thousands of degree temperatures is a negligible effect, and the timescale of a warming event (thousands of years at most) is negligible on a geologic timescale.
“Isn’t this a ‘hockey stick’ sort of argument about the shape of the line?”
No Hank, it is not–no one can accuse Mann of photoshopping the Apocalypse because Nature’s editors responded to the statistical quibbling about the medieval kink in the ‘hockey stick’s proxy data handle by publishing a minor correction – science worked.
[Response: You have fallen victim to Hockey Stick Myth #4. Actually, there was no change whatsoever in the reconstruction. The corrigendum you refer to simply corrected some details in the descriptions of what data were used. Wahl and Ammann independently reproduced the MBH results. -mike]
In contrast Gore has stonewalled, and The Earth In The Balanace’s ersatz extinction graph has simply dissapeared , leaving behind as many disinformed bestsellers as a Crichton novel .
Ray Ladbury wrote: “We simply cannot meet the energy needs of 9 billion people without nuclear power.”
Barton Paul Levenson: “There’s no reason to think you’re correct about that. You have never given a reason for it, just made the flat statement over and over.”
As I said in my first commment replying to Mr. Ladbury, this is just argument by assertion, and it is unfortunately typical of nuclear proponents.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “Nuclear power is a proven, safe zero-carbon technology.”
Nuclear power is not a “zero-carbon” technology. The actual operation of nuclear power plants is a very low (I’ll even grant you “no”) carbon technology, but the mining, refining and transport of uranium requires massive fossil fuel inputs and releases large amounts of carbon. And that’s not even counting the fossil fuels consumed by, and carbon emissions from, construction of the power plants (and you appear to advocating a program of constructing hundreds if not thousands of such plants world wide over the next several decades), or their eventual decommissioning.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “Nuclear waste and proliferation concerns can be addressed …”
There is no evidence to date that either problem can be effectively addressed, even with the much smaller number of nuclear power plants in operation today than what you appear to be proposing. Contrary to nuclear proponents’ argument by assertion, there is NO proven means of permanently sequestering the large amounts of high-level radioactive waste generated by nuclear power plants. It is estimated that by the time the Yucca Mountain storage facility can begin operation, the amount of radioactive waste in the US alone that will need to be stored will be twice the amount that Yucca Mountain can hold, and an entire second storage facility of equal capacity will be needed.
And speaking of “fantasies”, I suggest that the idea that nuclear proliferation can be “addressed” while — as you suggest — countries all over the world are building hundreds and hundreds of nuclear power plants, and nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste are being transported all around the world, is a fantasy.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “the assertion that nuclear has failed because it is uneconomical is absurd — it is made uneconomical by fear mongers clogging the courts with lawsuits that made it virtually impossible to build new plants.”
That is simply factually incorrect. Nuclear power is uneconomical because of its inherent costs. Every nuclear power plant ever built has experienced huge cost overruns and long delays, and contrary to nuclear industry propaganda, these are not due to frivolous lawsuits but the inherent problems of the technology. So-called “commercial” nuclear power only exists in the USA because the federal government has subsidized it with over $100 billion dollars over the last 50 years, and has insured the plants against the risk of accidents (the Price-Anderson Act). And today, the entire agenda of the nuclear industry revolves around their desire for new, massive government subsidies, and government (i.e. taxpayer) absorbption of all the risks. Private investment won’t touch nuclear power — not unless the government guarantees a return and covers all the risks. The opposite is true of solar and wind, where private investors are pouring money into the development and deployment of the technologies, with little if any government support.
And where there have been lawsuits, they have been entirely justified. Of course, nuclear proponents always advocate that the public be completely shut out of the process of siting and approving nuclear power plants, because that makes it easier to avoid the expensive steps needed to build and operate the plants with anything approaching safety.
Re 157. One very important difference between nuclear power and carbon capture: Nuclear power exists and is feasible and economical NOW, not at some unspecified time in the future.
The problems of proliferation and nuclear power ARE divorced. Libya didn’t have much of a nuclear power program and they did have a bomb program. The thorium cycle is much less susceptible to porliferation concerns than the U-235/Pu cycle. And both can be managed with a combination of oversight and deterrence. Finally, you seem to have a misunderstanding of strategic weapons–they are useless on the battle field. Indeed they are useless if they have to be used at all. In every case that I know of, the production of nuclear weapons by a state has resulted in the sovereignty and belligerence of that state DECREASING. Look at India and Pakistan–now in talks because they know they can’t afford a nuclear war. No, I don’t fear the nuclear weapon that comes with a return address. The real proliferation threat comes from non-state actors getting ahold of the technology, and for their purposes chemical or biological weapons will serve much better and more easily.
Proliferation and waste processing and storage are much easier problems to solve technically than is carbon capture.
Re 146: “Like the magical new technology that will make nuclear reactors safe?”
Don’t need magical new technology for that – they’re safe now :-)
Humor aside, I hope you do realize that by insisting that nuclear reactors (or anything else) be “safe”, you’re just indulging in rather obvious linguistic gamesmanship. Safety is not absolute, since nothing in this world is without some element of danger, but relative. You can’t say that X is safe and Y not, only that X is safer than Y.
So if you look at actual numbers, you find that measured in deaths per MWh generated, nuclear power is about 10 times safer than natural gas, and more than 100 times safer than hydro. If you’re not willing to look at them… well, how is that any better than refusing to look at the facts on climate change, because it might affect your lifestyle?
Here is some information from WorldWatch Institute that provides a frame of reference for the discussion about solar and wind on the one hand, and nuclear power on the other, for electricity generation:
In 2005, global production of photovoltaic (PV) cells -which generate electricity directly from sunlight — increased 45 percent to nearly 1,730 megawatts, six times the level in 2000. Cumulative production, at just over 6,090 megawatts by the end of 2005, has increased on average 33 percent a year since 2000, making solar power the worldâ’s fastest growing energy source.
Global wind power capacity jumped 24 percent in 2005, reaching nearly 60,000 megawatts at the end of the year. Wind energy generation has more than tripled since 2000, making it the world’s second fastest growing energy source after solar power. The estimated 11,770 megawatts of wind capacity added in 2005 was 41 percent above the previous record annual addition set in 2003.
Between 2004 and 2005, total installed nuclear generation capacity increased by slightly less than 1 percent, from 366,000 megawatts to more than 369,000 megawatts. (See Figure 1.) The increase in 2005 came as four new reactors and one previously mothballed reactor were connected to the grid. Despite achieving an all-time high in terms of capacity, nuclear power’s future is very uncertain. The International Energy Agency predicts that “nuclear production [will] peak around 2015 and then decline gradually.” Indeed, one study estimates that 80 new nuclear power plants must be ordered and built within the next 10 years in order to keep the number of operating plants constant.
The reality is that “the market” has spoken. Solar and wind are growing incredibly rapidly. As the technology improves — and revolutionary improvements in photovoltaics like Nanosolar’s thin-film PV technology are ready for production, thanks to private investment, not government support — wind and solar will grow even more rapidly.
In contrast, nuclear power has peaked and will soon begin to decline. The massive government intervention that the nuclear industry is demanding, in order to override the market and change this situation, will not save it. Wind and solar are the future. Nuclear is a dinosaur.
Re #163. Carbon capture and storage projects are already underway in the UK and USA and as I say, we need it regardless of nuclear power – a point you do not address. The “thorium cycle” is currently further from realisation than full-scale CCS, and relies on producing U233, which is bomb material. Libya got its expertise from Pakistan – exactly the sort of proliferation I’m worried about. Your view of the unusability of nuclear weapons has not been shared by any US government – all have refused to promise no first use and the current government is actively seeking ways to make nuclear weapons usable on the battlefield. Your faith in the rationality of political leaders is touching but unjustified, as the accounts of participants in the Cuban missile crisis indicate: we were lucky in Kennedy and Khruschev, but some of the lesser participants were far more gung-ho, and both sides made serious miscalculations that could have led to nuclear war. The logical consequence of what you say about nuclear weapons decreasing belligerence is that we should press nuclear weapons on all states, particularly those that are currently likely to go to war – is that your view? Nor need a nuclear weapon have a return address – any mad dictator worthy of the name would be able to work out that you can put one in a shipping container, deliver it to your enemy’s port and set it off remotely while disguising its origin. The only long-term way for the world to avoid full-scale nuclear war is to abolish nuclear weapons, and that cannot be done while nuclear power is retained.
The coin flip example illustrates very nicely the difficulties with predictive modelling. Almost certainly, the ratio of heads to tails will converge to one as the number of trials increases. BUT the difference between the heads and tails will not converge.
With climate modelling, it is almost certain that the future temperature will not differ from the current temperature by more than a few percent. But one percent of 300 is 3 degrees. Three degrees greater or less? That is pretty hard to predict with much certainty.
Of course the coin flip example is a gross simplification, but just illustrates one of the difficulties (nevermind all the others such as chaos, sensitivity, feedback, uncertainty, noisy measurements, multiple time scales etc). It is a mighty tough problem.
If you are not convinced, try this MATLAB script:
% nh, nt number of heads and tails respectively
n=10000 % number of coin flips
a=rand; % flip coin
if a>0.5 % is it heads?
else % or tails?
nhead(i)=nh;ntail(i)=nt;% record running totals
%plot running totals
figure(1);plot([1:n],nhead./ntail)% ratio of heads to tails
title(‘ratio of heads to tails : will converge to unity’)
title(‘difference between heads and tails: will not converge’)
On nuclear war — to my knowledge we nearly had three of them:
1. 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis. Everyone knows about this one.
2. 1971. The Russians approached us privately asking if we would have any problems with their launching a first strike on China. We decided to reply that we would take it as an attack on the US. That is apparently what moved the Chinese to allow us in in 1972.
3. 1983. A false signal in the Russian early warning system resulted in the go order being given to a launch officer. Unlike us, there was only one launch officer to a site. The guy assumed it was a false signal and decided not to launch.
All very precarious, in my view. I like the idea of building the damn things down, and controlling proliferation. They are not benign instruments and sooner or later somebody is going to try to use one again.
James wrote: “Don’t need magical new technology for that – they’re safe now”
More argument by assertion. Here is what David Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote last September about the safety of US nuclear power plants, based on a UCS study of long-term plant shutdowns. Lochbaum has a degree in nuclear engineering from the University of Tennessee and worked for 20 years in the commercial nuclear power industry (emphasis added):
A new report on these long-term shutdowns [of nuclear power plants] shows nuclear power in the United States is more dangerous and more costly than necessary. Since the first commercial plant opened 40 years ago, reactor shutdowns of a year or longer have occurred a staggering 51 times at 41 different plants. Most of these were due to widespread safety problems in that eventually could not be ignored. While these reactors shut down before they experienced a major accident, we cannot assume our luck will hold.
Most of the shutdowns happened because safety margins at the plants were allowed to deteriorate to such an extent that reactor operations could not continue. Inadequate attention to safety by plant owners and operators, combined with poor oversight by the NRC, caused 36 of the 51 year-plus outages. There are 104 nuclear power reactors in the United States. Forty-one have experienced year-long outages. A 1-in-3 chance of incurring a year-plus outage was not part of the bargain when these plants were built and licensed.
Since 1973, long-term safety-related shutdowns have occurred, on average, once per year. Despite the continued need for these shutdowns, the NRC has not adequately improved its oversight of nuclear safety. The NRC should detect falling safety margins and intervene before it takes longer than a year to restore safety to acceptable levels.
There are things the NRC can and should be doing. Systems for ensuring safety at nuclear plants clearly arenâ��t working as well as they should, and the NRC must step up its oversight efforts. When longstanding problems are identified, the NRC must require the owner to determine why its tests and inspections failed to find the problems earlier. The NRC must develop a central repository of information about plant safety levels so people can identify a plant headed for trouble. And to make sure the NRC is doing its job, Congress should expand the monthly reporting it requires to verify that it is taking these steps.
Nuclear power is clearly not safe enough when so many reactors have to shut down for so long to restore safety to acceptable levels.
Note that Lochbaum’s recommendations in the second-to-last paragraph quoted above, for increased oversight and more public transparency, which he regards as essential to the safe operation of nuclear power plants, are exactly what the nuclear industry has resisted for decades, and have often been the basis of what Ray Ladbury characterizes as “fear-based” lawsuits.
Lochbaum also remarks: “Some proponents of nuclear power have dismissed such safety concerns by arguing that no United States nuclear plant has experienced a meltdown since Three Mile Islandâ��s partial one in 1979. That’s as fallacious as arguing that the levees protecting New Orleans were fully adequate prior to Hurricane Katrina because there were no similar disasters between 1980 and 2004.”
Imaginative as your rhetorical questions may be, the illustration in Al’s bestseller speaks for itself.
As a matter of mathematical convention , x and y axes point to infinity , and the slopes of curves drawn within them define the rate of change. Since Al’s rate of extinction curve joins the quite perfectly vertical ordinate on the right, its slope became infinite, taking the integral of the rate of extinction past the number of extant and nondescript species some seconds after midnight on 1 January 2000.
Since Al’s curve went hyperbolic seven years ago ,many have remarked that the report of our extinction seems somewaht exaggerated , so the charge of hyperbole stands. As I recall,the calculus was not a prerequisite for Roger Revelle’s course,and that it evidently did not figure in Al’s divinty school curriculum still shows. One suspects Carol Brown has done Al good service by yanking the feckless curve from the current remake of his last campaign.
“… We’re now seeing an intensification of the rate of extinctions as wilderness areas are obliterated throughout the planet. Nobody knows what the extinction rate is: since most species haven’t even been catalogued yet, all we have are lower bounds. These are only close to being accurate for the biggest and most charismatic species (e.g. mammals, birds and trees), but these represent a tiny fraction of all the species that are out there. So, any reasonable guess of the extinction rate requires extrapolation. If we keep track only of recorded extinctions, the story looks like this:” http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/extinction/recent_rate.jpg
Re 162. See, that’s the kind of misinformation I’m talking about–counting transport costs for Uranium. Should we also count transport and refining costs for sand and other chemicals in the carbon budget for solar arrays? And we already have sufficient fissile material left over from dismantled warheads from the former Soviet Union to run for generations. As to safety problems–gee, are you saying that Americans are not as competent as the French–who make their nuclear industry run very well, thank you?
Ultimately, by rejecting a proven ZERO CARBON technology that can make an impact NOW, all you do is lend support the accusations of right-wing loons that the climate change issue is about advancing a political/environmental agenda, rather than the real crisis that it is. I fully support increasing conservation and renewables as much as we can, but I also realize that we cannot reject a proven technology that can make an impact NOW just because some people have an irrational fear of it. No technology is without cost. No technology is without risk. However, when it is allowed to compete free of irrational and unscientific constraints, nuclear power has been demonstrated safe.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “I also realize that we cannot reject a proven technology that can make an impact NOW just because some people have an irrational fear of it.”
This is nothing but continued argument by assertion, and continued baseless demonization of nuclear critics as “irrational”.
There are plenty of rational reasons to be concerned about the safety of nuclear power. As to its “proven” record, the factual comments of David Lochbaum — a nuclear engineer with 20 years experience in the commercial nuclear power industry — about nuclear power’s proven record of serious safety problems that require costly year-long shutdowns of power plants on average once per year, speaks to that.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “No technology is without risk.”
Perhaps, but the risks of nuclear power are many orders of magnitude greater than any imaginable risks from wind and solar.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “However, when it is allowed to compete free of irrational and unscientific constraints, nuclear power has been demonstrated safe.”
Nuclear power has not been “demonstrated safe” as the study discussed by nuclear engineer David Lochbaum indicates. On the contrary, it has been demonstrated to be plagued by costly and disruptive safety problems that often have been neglected until they require year-long power plant shutdowns to correct. That these problems have not yet caused a major accident leading to thousands of fatalities is fortunate, but as Lochbaum warns, with such safety problems occurring so frequently “we cannot assume our luck will hold.”
As to nuclear power being “allowed to compete free of irrational and unscientific constraints”, the fact is that nuclear power has never been able to compete in the free market on its own merits, and has everywhere and always been completely dependent on massive government subsidies, and government absorbption of all risks, for its existence. If nuclear power were “allowed to compete” it would vanish from the face of the earth quickly, because it is not competitive.
And there is not one single case in the US where a nuclear power plant has been shut down or prevented from starting up because of “irrational and unscientific constraints”. That is pure fiction that has never, ever occurred. Indeed, on the contrary, nuclear power plants have been started up and allowed to continue operating in spite of entirely legitimate and very serious concerns about their safety — and not only allowed to continue operating in spite of such concerns, but propped up with huge government subsidies, and of course, government insurance (through the Price-Anderson Act) against the consequences of accidents.
I suggest that we repeal the Price-Anderson Act, and “allow” nuclear power to “compete” in the energy market without the taxpayers insuring it against catastrophic accidents, and without the hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies, guarantees and other government handouts that the nuclear industry is demanding before it will undertake to construct a single new nuclear power plant. If we “allow” nuclear power to “compete” that way, this “proven safe” technology will not be able to obtain insurance from any private insurer, will not be able to obtain any private investment money, will not be able to compete against either fossil fuels or wind & solar, and it will go out of business in a short time.
[[we cannot reject a proven technology that can make an impact NOW just because some people have an irrational fear of it. ]]
It’s a highly rational fear, based on the industry’s record around the world. The problem might be expressed by saying that this technology has much worse consequences when human stupidity and carelessness inevitably cause problems. People being stupid and careless at a coal plant, or a solar plant, just won’t have the environmental and health consequences that people being stupid and careless at a nuclear plant can have.
Re 180. Secular, all you’ve done is appeal to a couple of very questionable studies from groups with a vested interest in the question. Neither ASES nor UCS are credible on these matters. I pointed out the risible assumption in the ASES study that conservation alone could hold energy demands below present levels for the next 25 years–no response from you. I pointed out that nuclear power has succeeded very well in France–again a point you ignore. You clearly have your mind made up. Yet I wonder about your assessments of the relative risks of using nuclear power to decrease carbon emissions NOW or waiting until some unspecified point in the future when renewables can make a significant impact.
Dr. Seitz, you’re making the same mistake the Republican’s witness Dr. Wegman made at Joe Barton’s hearings on the ‘hockey stick’ — he looked at, among other things, a picture — a hand-drawn sketch — illustrating what was understood about change in temperature vs. time, in the 1990 IPCC report.
As you do here, he attributed precision to it that the document made clear didn’t exist at the time. He assumed, despite the explanatory text, that there must be numbers behind the sketch. He actually digitized it and tried to assign exact numbers, then tried to critique the claimed “data” they had made up to show that the science wasn’t reliable. He assumed there must be “data” — see his testimony. He wrote: “… this spurious decentering effect is not limited to just hockey sticks we created an additional illustration based on the IPCC 1990 temperature curve.” And there’s a picture of the 1990 IPCC chart and his digitized reconstruction, at the back of his testimony.
That was just a picture. So is the picture illustrating what was known about the increase in extinction rates
You’re stuck on using it to attack—something. Is it the biology you want to attack, or the author of the book it’s in?
If you care about the biology, you can find a better picture — still a picture — see mathematician John Baez’s page, cited above.
Re #172: “More argument by assertion. Here is what David Lochbaum, director of the nuclear safety project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, wrote last September about the safety of US nuclear power plants…”
Well, sheesh – and that _isn’t_ more argument by assertation? An opinion from a spokesperson for an anti-nuclear lobby group? Isn’t that on a par with citing Exxon/Mobil on climate issues? And complaining that nuclear plants are shut down, sometimes for long periods, to address safety-related issues? Don’t know about you, but I think I’d be more upset if they weren’t :-)
Be that as it may, on the one hand we have such opinions; on the other hard numbers, generated by decades of real world experience, showing that nuclear power has been far safer than any other large-scale power source. Do you perhaps understand why some of us think that opposition to nuclear power is not based on any rational ground?
And #180: “I suggest that we repeal the Price-Anderson Act, and “allow” nuclear power to “compete” in the energy market…”
Which is fine by me, as long as all the other forms of energy sources are also put on an equal footing. How would fossil fuels compete if they had to remove all CO2 and other emissions from powerplant exhaust, restore coal mines, etc. How would solar & wind do without tax credits & green power requirements?
Re 181. Barton, please enlighten me as to the apalling safety record of nuclear power around the world. There’s Chernobyl, an astounding example of creative stupidity on the part of the operators that could not happen in a plant outside the FSU, or indeed in a modern Russian plant. The lesson I draw from this is that you don’t let Homer Simpson run your plant. I keep reading these assertions of all these dangerous safety lapses–yet they seem to be belied by the FACT that aside from Chernobyl, there have been very, very few fatalities traceable to nuclear power. So do enlighten me–where are all the bodies buried?
Here’s Dr. Wegman explaining how he took a hand-drawn curve illustrating a general sense of what was known in 1990 by the IPCC about temperature, digitized it, and considered their numbers proof of a mathematical error in evaluating the data behind the curve. Fabulous as in ‘a fable’ — a wondrous tale.
“Could we go to figure 5? To further illustrate this, we
digitized the temperature profile published in the IPCC 1990 report
and we did apply both the CFR and the CPS methods to them. The data
used here are 69 unstructured noise pseudo-proxy series with only
one copy of the 1990 profile. The upper left panel illustrates the
PC1 with proper centering. In other words, no structure is shown.
The other three panels indicate what happens when using principal
components with an increasing amount of decentering. Again, the
single series begins to overwhelm the 69 other pure noise series.
Cleary, this decentering has a big effect….”
I don’t blame Dr. Wegman for that, he said he was told the data wasn’t available (doesn’t say who gave him that misleading, albeit literally correct, information). I think he was misled into thinking the picture he was given stood for data beyond what the text claimed for it — and so he made up the data and analyzed that. Hoist on his own petard, as was Barton for setting this up.
That’s misinformation leading to sincere error == something I’m concerned about — wherever it appears. ‘Nuf said?
[this is getting way off topic. We’ll admit this one, but no more of this on this particular thread please!]
Er, you all arguing about the safety of fission plants — do some searches in Physics World, if you want to relate at all to this topic about climate modeling there. They do offer you a model; maybe if you both used it a bit, offline, you might compare how well you did and whether you could cause a meltdown in this model:
It may show that your assumptions are coloring what you actually see. Just sayin’, it happens.
Note the time scale is likely quite compressed (grin) and you’d probably have more minutes in real life to make decisions, and don’t mistake a compressed timescale for a hypergolic, er hyperbole, er hyperbolic, er exponential …. don’t go off on a tangent, is what I’m trying to say.
[[I don’t understand what you mean by “unplanned releases”. I think they’ve tried to take into account all accidents. ]]
Releases of radiation to the environment are very low as long as the plant is undergoing “normal operation.” But every plant I’ve ever tracked had “unplanned releases” every 1-6 months. Radiation dose in a population can be cumulative; a little extra to the background will add to the mortality and morbidity rates, but it may not be easy to attribute a particular death or illness to a particular release. It can be done statistically. Do your plant safety reports account for this problem, or even acknowledge that it exists?
[[Re 181. Barton, please enlighten me as to the apalling safety record of nuclear power around the world. There’s Chernobyl, an astounding example of creative stupidity on the part of the operators that could not happen in a plant outside the FSU, or indeed in a modern Russian plant. The lesson I draw from this is that you don’t let Homer Simpson run your plant. I keep reading these assertions of all these dangerous safety lapses–yet they seem to be belied by the FACT that aside from Chernobyl, there have been very, very few fatalities traceable to nuclear power. So do enlighten me–where are all the bodies buried? ]]
I seem to recall 7 deaths at Windscale in 1957, 3 at the SL-1 reactor in 1961, 2 in Virginia in 1975, 2 in Czechoslovakia in 1976, 31 at Chernobyl plus an unknown demographic effect which probably numbers in the thousands, and non-fatal but rather alarming incidents such as the near meltdown of the Enrico Fermi plant near Detroit in 1966 (origin of the famous “We almost lost Detroit” quote), and at Three-Mile Island in 1979. Then there are the deaths, only traceable statistically, due to the constant “unplanned releases” of radioactivity to the environment at every existing plant. So far we haven’t had a really bad, catastrophic accident, aside from Chernobyl. But the industry has only been around 50 years or so, and there aren’t that many plants compared to fossil fuel plants or even hydro dams. You apparently want to greatly increase the number of plants. I think that’s a bad idea.
We haven’t had a terrorist set off a nuclear bomb in a city yet. One way to bring that day closer is to greatly expand the nuclear industry. Deaths from nuclear terrorism so far: zero. Does that mean it’s not a problem?
James wrote: “An opinion from a spokesperson for an anti-nuclear lobby group?”
David Lochbaum is a nuclear engineer with 20 years experience in the commercial nuclear power industry. He is currently with the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is absolutely NOT an “anti-nuclear lobby group”. UCS is a nuclear industry watchdog group, which monitors safety issues in the nuclear industry, whose work has contributed to making the operation of nuclear power plants safer than it would otherwise be.
James wrote: “Do you perhaps understand why some of us think that opposition to nuclear power is not based on any rational ground?”
The only reason why anyone would think that is ignorance of the very real and entirely rational reasons for being concerned about the safety of nuclear power.
James wrote: “Which is fine by me, as long as all the other forms of energy sources are also put on an equal footing.”
That’s a rather ironic proposal, considering that nuclear power has received over one hundred billion dollars in federal subsidies during the last few decades, while wind, photovoltaics and other clean renewable energy sources have received only a few billion at most over the same time period. The tax credits, renewable energy portfolio requirements and other government incentives for wind and solar electricity are miniscule compared to the incentives and subsidies and guarantees provided to nuclear. And there is nothing like the Price-Anderson Act for wind and solar, since there is no need for the federal government to provide insurance against catastrophic mega-billion dollar disasters resulting from either, since such a thing is inherently impossible.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “all you’ve done is appeal to a couple of very questionable studies from groups with a vested interest in the question. Neither ASES nor UCS are credible on these matters.”
More argument by assertion. You give NO reason why either study should be regarded as “questionable” and no reason why either ASES or UCS lack credibility on these matters. You simply assert it.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “I pointed out the risible assumption in the ASES study that conservation alone could hold energy demands below present levels for the next 25 years–no response from you.”
You didn’t “point out” anything. You simply asserted that the conclusion of the ASES report was “risible”. You gave no substantive reason why this should be so. Thus, there was nothing to respond to — except more of the same argument by assertion.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “I wonder about your assessments of the relative risks of using nuclear power to decrease carbon emissions NOW or waiting until some unspecified point in the future when renewables can make a significant impact.”
Renewables can make a significant impact now, and as the ASES study indicates, have the potential to yield dramatic reductions in GHG emissions within a couple of decades. On the other hand there is no possiblity that an expansion of nuclear power can yield significant GHG reductions “now”. As the WorldWatch Institute reports (as I cited above), as many as 80 new nuclear power plants would have to be built and brought online within the next 10 years, merely to keep the number of operating plants constant — let alone provide additional generating capacity. And to my knowledge, construction of nuclear power plants is only being proposed as an alternative to construction of new coal-fired plants, where it might make a contribution to reducing the growth in carbon emissions from electricity production. As far as I know, no one anywhere in the world has proposed building a nuclear power plant to replace an operating coal-fired plant, which is what would have to happen — on a large scale, ie. hundreds of new nuclear power plants being built all over the world — for nuclear to contribute to reducing emissions below current levels. And given the years required to build a new nuclear power plant and bring it online, it would be a decade or more before they would be doing anything to reduce current carbon emissions. In contrast, wind and solar can be deployed much more quickly.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “I pointed out that nuclear power has succeeded very well in France–again a point you ignore.”
The French experience indicates the sort of problems that the USA will have if it were to unwisely follow the same nuclear path. For example, in 2002, France stored 978,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. By 2020, the annual amount is expected to be 1.9 million cubic meters. As in the US, France has no proven technology for the permanent, safe sequestration of nuclear waste. France is also lagging behind other European countries in the implementation of wind and solar energy — although since France passed an energy tariff law in 2001 (similar to the production tax credits for wind power in the USA) its wind power capacity has more than doubled. And a 2001 Brookings Institute report states that “France’s nuclear power stations will reach the end of their design life in 2010 […] France will soon have to decide whether to renovate its 58 nuclear reactors or to dismantle its nuclear energy program. The complete renovation of France’s nuclear power stations would cost approximately $1 trillion […] many question whether such an investment in nuclear energy would make sense.”
“[[ Perhaps if you educate yourself about nuclear power, you might be less afraid of it. ]]
I have educated myself about nuclear power. That’s why I’m afraid of it.”
Levenson hasn’t educated himself about nuclear power, he has merely chosen to propagate the false and exaggerated assertions of anti-nuclear activists, probably without realizing that they are false or exagerated.
The interested RC reader can refer to my postings 178, 214, and 244 in the The Human Hand in Climate Change thread and posting 251 in the Sachs WSJ Challenge thread, in which I corrected false assertions and provided context for exaggerated assertions.
Many prominent environmentalists — James Lovelock, David Brower, former senator from Colorado Timothy Wirth, and the Whole Earth Catalog’s Stewart Brand among them — have come around to the view that, in the context of CO2 driven climate change, there is a role for nuclear power in responding to the crisis. For other environmentalists, the faith is apparently too strong.
Re: 189-192. So you do not see any humor in a study actually assuming that conservation alone can yield NEGATIVE growth in energy demand over the next 25 years. That is a pity. When has energy demand ever decreased?
Gosh, all of 45 fatalities due to nuclear accidents (caused by operator stupiditity, and from which we’ve learned and against which there are now safeguards) in >60 years. Hell we lost nearly that many coal miners just last year.
And isn’t it amazing that with all these unplanned releases of radioactivity, that radiation levels at nuclear power plants remain at background levels. Barton, you get more dose flying in an airplane than you’ll get living next door to a nuclear power plant your entire life. Look, if you want to try to go to zero carbon with renewables, hey, come up with a plan. Knock yourself out. If you succeed, I’ll be the first to congratulate you. But don’t go assuming negative growth in energy demand. Don’t go assuming double-digit growth in wind and solar in perpetuity. Don’t go assuming that the problems of energy storage (for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind isn’t blowing) are easy to solve. And for God’s sake, don’t go ignoring transmission losses. And if you can’t do it, well, I certainly won’t hold it against you. But ultimately, we already have a proven, zero carbon energy resource that can make a big impact NOW. And we can’t really afford to wait on carbon reduction.
Finally, you really ought to do some research on your terrorist dirty-bomb scenarios–nuclear waste would make a lousy dirty bomb. Medically useful isotopes, etc. would work much better. Or do you want to ban nuclear medicine, too?
“… among the traces of activity measured in the environment … only Tritium is due to the operations of NPP and the others are due to “fall-out” of nuclear weapon testing, which is detected elsewhere also…. this is only a fraction of the dose limit for the member of public as prescribed by ICRP and AERB.
“The external dose component is due to the release of Argon 41, an activation product formed by neutron activation of Argon 40 present in nature, in air, in calandria vault and in air cooled thermal shield of the reactors. These systems need purging, leading to discharge of Argon 41 activity to the environment. Major design change have been incorporate in the reactors after the Narora Atomic Power Plant. Calandria vault air is replace by water and the thermal shield is eliminated. Hence from NAPS onwards, Argon-41 releases problem is resolved leading to still lower annual dose to the public. …” http://www.npcil.nic.in/nupower_vol12_4/erl_at_npp1n.htm
Jim Dukelow wrote: “Many prominent environmentalists […] have come around to the view that, in the context of CO2 driven climate change, there is a role for nuclear power in responding to the crisis. For other environmentalists, the faith is apparently too strong.”
No — completely apart from the very real and very rational reasons for concern about the dangers of nuclear power, other environmentalists remain skeptical that a large-scale expansion of nuclear power is an effective course of action to respond to CO2-driven climate change.
According to the industry lobbying group the Nuclear Energy Institute, “As of January 2007, 30 countries worldwide were operating 435 nuclear plants for electricity generation. Thirty new nuclear plants were under construction in 12 countries […] Nuclear power plants provided some 16 percent of the world’s electricity production in 2005.”
According to the WorldWatch Institute report that I referenced above, because many nuclear power plants are approaching the end of their lifecycles and will require decomissioning, “one study estimates that 80 new nuclear power plants must be ordered and built within the next 10 years in order to keep the number of operating plants constant.”
So, 30 of those 80 new power plants are being built — 50 more new power plants must be built just to keep the number of operating plants from declining.
According to the Earth Policy Institute, “Some 40 percent of energy-related [carbon] emissions come from the burning of fossil fuels, such as oil, coal, and natural gas, to generate electrical power.”
To double nuclear power’s share of electricity generation from 16 percent to 32 percent would require approximately doubling the number of power plants — in addition to the 80 or more new plants that must be built to replace older ones, we would need to build 400 to 500 new plants worldwide — as many as have been built in the entire 50 year history of nuclear power.
And if — and it’s a big if — those nuclear power plants actually replace existing coal plants, they will have some marginal impact in reducing the 40 percent of energy-related carbon emissions that are attributable to electricity generation (and electricity is a smaller percentage of total GHG emissions, since there are significant emissions from outside the energy sector, eg. methane from animal agriculture).
The “role” of nuclear power in addressing CO2-driven global warming is, at most, small.
Even the massive buildup of nuclear power generation that is promoted by the industry and its advocates and fans would have a small impact on total GHG emissions, at high cost, and would take much longer to have that small impact that would wind and solar, which can be — and already are being — brought online much faster.
Gentlemen, a short primer on radiation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Background_radiation
Note in particular this passage
Older coal-fired power plants without effective fly ash capture are one of the largest sources of human-caused background radiation exposure. When coal is burned, uranium, thorium and all the uranium daughters accumulated by disintegration – radium, radon, polonium – are released. The release of nuclear components from coal combustion far exceeds the entire U.S. consumption of nuclear fuels in nuclear generating plants. According to a 1978 article in Science magazine, “coal-fired power plants throughout the world are the major sources of radioactive materials released to the environment”. Radioactive materials previoiusly buried underground in coal deposits are released as flyash or, if flyash is captured, may be incorporated into concrete manufactured with flyash. Radioactive materials are also released in gaseous emissions. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation estimates that per gigawattyear (GWe-yr) of electrical energy produced by coal, using the current mix of technology throughout the world, the population impact is approximately 0.8 lethal cancers per plant-year distributed over the affected population. With 400 GWe of coal-fired power plants in the world, this amounts to some 320 deaths per year.
Look, I’m not against renewables. I just have zero faith that they can meet the energy needs of a global economy with 9 billion people AND a need to invest in technologies to mitigate climate change. It is not just about reducing carbon emissions–that alone will not be sufficient to stop climate change. We have to reduce carbon emissions while fostering development in Asia, Africa and S. America, AND keeping the global economy healthy. Hey, if someone could prove me wrong, I’d be ecstatic, but to date the only assertions that renewables can do it on their own have come from people who didn’t do the math.
BPL’s repetitive mention of “unplanned releases”, like his repeated assertion that the fire in the Windscale bomb production reactor killed seven people rather than, as is in accord with all appearances, zero, seems to be an appeal to ignorance, and a public disservice. Let me try to make it right. Regulators typically routinely monitor releases at the boundaries of nuclear power stations, and do not distinguish between planned and unplanned releases; any exposure to a fence-leaner on the scale of what a radium-dialled watch might give would cause a quick shutdown. (I think it would be especially quick when the regulators are in a high-fossil-fuel-tax country and so are independent of nuclear energy but not independent of its competitor.)
One’s internal 40-K, IIRC, causes one to self-irradiate at a rate of 0.4 millisievert per year. The measured ~0.004 mSv per year at the Pickering fence is in line with the dose one would get from the radiopotassium of some other nearby animal, a cat on one’s lap or on the floor near one’s chair, for instance.
I seem to recall foresightful regulators in the USA in the 60s or thereabouts established baseline natural-radiation surveys at sites where nuclear power stations would eventually be built, effectively forestalling the deceptive tactic of waiting for the plant to be built and then going there with a Geiger counter and showing that it clicks, insinuating that this is a result of the plant’s operation. Can anyone point to a good site substantiating this?
“Many prominent environmentalists — James Lovelock, David Brower, former senator from Colorado Timothy Wirth, and the Whole Earth Catalog’s Stewart Brand among them — have come around to the view that, in the context of CO2 driven climate change, there is a role for nuclear power in responding to the crisis.”
Since David Brower died more than six years ago, I doubt he has come around to supporting nuclear power. While he was alive, however, he was a prominent opponent of nuclear power.
Jim Eaton wrote: “Since David Brower died more than six years ago, I doubt he has come around to supporting nuclear power. While he was alive, however, he was a prominent opponent of nuclear power.”
I was wrong and Jim Eaton is right about David Brower’s position — to the end of his life — on nuclear power. I was mis-remembering the reasons that he was removed from his position as Executive Director of the Sierra Club in 1969 and resigned from its Board in 2000. I was probably also confusing him in memory with his friend Ansel Adams, who did change his view on nuclear power late in life.
I apologize to family and friends of David Brower for mis-representing his position.
Ray Ladbury wrote: “I’m not against renewables. I just have zero faith that they can meet the energy needs of a global economy with 9 billion people […] if someone could prove me wrong, I’d be ecstatic, but to date the only assertions that renewables can do it on their own have come from people who didn’t do the math.”
Yet you rejected out of hand the American Solar Energy Society study which found that in the USA, full implementation of currently available efficiency and renewable energy technologies could reduce carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent within a couple of decades. You simply asserted that it was “risible” but you gave no reason for this, except your “faith” that it could not be true, and you certainly did not demonstrate that the authors of the report “didn’t do the math.” In fact you had no substantive criticism of that report to offer at all.
Of all the nations in the world, the USA stands to make the fastest progress in reducing carbon emissions through conservation and efficiency alone — simply because we now are the world’s most profligate wasters of energy.
As the WorldWatch Institute report that I referenced above says, the fastest growing energy sources in the world are photovoltaics and wind power. In 2005 PV grew by 45 percent, and has been growing by 33 percent a year since 2000. Wind power capacity grew by 24 percent in 2005, 41 percent more than the previous annual increase for this energy source. These technologies are far more suitable — and affordable — for electrifying the neediest parts of the world, e.g. rural Africa, than is nuclear power. In general the parts of the world that are most urgently in need of electricity to aid the economic development of their populations are the least capable of implementing nuclear power.
Distributed photovoltaics and small-scale wind turbines are the technologies that are going to provide rural electrification and support economic growth in the developing world, not nuclear power.
Jim Dukelow wrote: “I was probably also confusing him in memory with his friend Ansel Adams, who did change his view on nuclear power late in life.”
That reminds me of a story from the Reagan era. Ansel Adams was a vociferously outspoken critic of Ronald Reagan. One day Reagan asked his aides to arrange a meeting with the famous photographer, saying that he wanted to know why Adams disliked him so much. The meeting was arranged, Adams visited Reagan at the White House, and during their conversation, Adams told Reagan that the US government should redirect its military spending into researching fusion power. Reagan was reportedly quite startled by this; apparently it was not the sort of thing he had expected to hear from a wilderness landscape photographer.
Re 203-204. Now hold on a wee minute, Secular. What I found risible was the assertion (devoid of support) that conservation alone could hold energy demand constant or even make it decrease. Energy demand will continue to rise in the US. And it will rise even faster in the rest of the world. Even in the ’70s, energy demand rose, albeit slowly, and that was a time of very slow growth in the US. As to the assertion that the US can easily conserve its way out of this mess, that just isn’t so. Aside from the transportation sector, where our love of SUVs has kept average mpg at the same level for 20 years, the US has one of the most energy efficient economies in the world. By all means we should try to do better, but the low-hanging fruit was picked in the ’70s and ’80s.
China and India have a lot more gains possible on this front just by adopting technology already used in the US. Unfortunately, between them, they also have about a billion and a half people who would like to start consuming energy at Western levels. Same in Africa and S. America, Indonesia, Malaysia… Now China’s economy has to grow at 8% per year just to produce jobs for the new workers coming of age. To pay for climate change mitigation, conservation technology, etc, it will have to grow at 9-10%. Do you think they can meet that requirement with only renewables? In the near term (e.g. next 10-20 years)? If I have a choice between China firing up a coal plant–that will release more radioactive fly ash than a nuclear plant will produce nuclear waste–or going nuclear, I say go nuclear. And what is more, I see plenty of scope for US businesses to profit in helping China make its nuclear industry as green as possible.
Finally, a word about fusion. Remember that old saw: Fusion is the energy source of the future–and it always will be. We’re still a long way from breakeven, and further still from commercial viability. And if you think fusion will be clean, you might want to remember all those 14 MeV neutrons.
We cannot avoid risk, but we can manage it.
SecularAnimist is really impressed with the acceleration of small numbers (re 165). Solar generation may be growing fast but it’s still about 0.01% of the total, less than accounting errors for nuclear, let alone fossil fuel generation. And if wind keeps up it’s fantastic growth (yawn) it will soon catch garbage as a generation source. (Though to be fair it probably will catch garbage in 2-3 years…)
Don’t get me wrong — I’m fully supportive of the development of solar and wind power; I just don’t think it helps to go ga-ga because your 6-month old baby got its 2nd tooth — a 100% increase!! — in just 5 weeks! Though I do wonder how the transmission tower haters will take to fields strewn with gigantic windmills and covered with photovoltic cells where soybeans and stuff use to grow…
Regarding energy use, a substantial amount of it is due to various “feel good” factors.
As is seen in car industry promotions, need to “feel good” (and powerful) during driving easily halves the mileage of a car. Meeting with colleagues at the fountain gives that “good feeling” of being competent and part of the team, and this is paid for by so many miles and hours of daily driving. Tourism thrives on the stimulation it provides, on the sounds and smells, and particularly on challenges overcome that are the source of good feelings.
These good feelings can be generated by less energy intensive means, i.e. efficient applications of the emerging telepresence technologies. Can the values and fashions change?
Re #189: [Radiation dose in a population can be cumulative; a little extra to the background will add to the mortality and morbidity rates, but it may not be easy to attribute a particular death or illness to a particular release.]
That is the theory, or perhaps I should say unproven hypothesis, since AFAIK no one has actually demonstrated that this linear dose response actually exists. In the real world, many toxins don’t work like that: only when the dose approaches the body’s self-repair threshold do adverse effects start to appear. Indeed, there are many examples (vitamin A is a classic) in which low doses are necessary for health, but higher doses cause poisoning.
In any case, my understanding is that more radiation (per MWh) is released into the atmosphere from the trace elements present in coal, than from nuclear power plants, so that switching from coal to nuclear would actually reduce environmental radiation.
Re #191: The reason a Chernobyl-type accident couldn’t happen outside the former Soviet bloc is that, in addition to building a plant without any sort of containment, in the Russian RBMK reactor design a loss of coolant causes the reactor to produce more power. See Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chernobyl_disaster#Causes
Chernobyl also provides us with an object lesson in the actual environmental effects of such nuclear accidents. In fact, the so-called “Dead Zone” around the plant is now a wildlife refuge, and by most reports one of the more environmentally-healthy places in eastern Europe.
Re #192: [That’s a rather ironic proposal, considering that nuclear power has received over one hundred billion dollars in federal subsidies during the last few decades, while wind, photovoltaics and other clean renewable energy sources have received only a few billion…]
Try to understand, though, that I (and I think most people advocating nuclear power) see it as replacing coal, not competing with solar. Thus we’re arguing at cross-purposes: the real issue is not nuclear subsidies vs solar, but the huge competitive advantage that fossil fuels have over all other technologies, because they haven’t had to pay for dealing with their waste. Tax CO2 enough to cover this, and both nuclear and renewables become far more competitive.
As to why more is necessary, can I refer you once again to the ASES study which you quote? If renewables plus conservation can cover only 60-80% of US energy needs, simple arithmetic means that 20-40% has to come from somewhere else. Nuclear is the only other carbon-free source available.
And #203: [Distributed photovoltaics and small-scale wind turbines are the technologies that are going to provide rural electrification and support economic growth in the developing world, not nuclear power.]
Which is probably true, but a different issue. Solar &c can do just fine at rural electrification: what it can’t do is provide the concentrated power to run the industries that among other things produce the solar panels, wind turbines, and so on to make that rural electrification possible.
[[Look, I’m not against renewables. I just have zero faith that they can meet the energy needs of a global economy with 9 billion people AND a need to invest in technologies to mitigate climate change.]]
We don’t share your lack of faith. I think we can be getting all our energy from renewables by 2100, possibly earlier if there’s a concerted effort.
[[BPL’s repetitive mention of “unplanned releases”, like his repeated assertion that the fire in the Windscale bomb production reactor killed seven people rather than, as is in accord with all appearances, zero, seems to be an appeal to ignorance, and a public disservice. Let me try to make it right. Regulators typically routinely monitor releases at the boundaries of nuclear power stations, and do not distinguish between planned and unplanned releases; any exposure to a fence-leaner on the scale of what a radium-dialled watch might give would cause a quick shutdown.]]
So, Burn Boron, I take it you’d have no objection if I listed a series of “unplanned releases” as described in the media, historical sources and news reports?
“We don’t share your lack of faith. I think we can be getting all our energy from renewables by 2100, possibly earlier if there’s a concerted effort”
Levenson’s reliance on “faith” is precisely the point I was making with my comment that “For other environmentalists, the faith is apparently too strong” in Posting #193.
Actually, I consider it possible that the world energy economy will be based on renewable resources by 2100. However, 2100 is a long ways away and, if we don’t manage the transition to a sustainable world well, we will have gone to climate Hell in a handbasket before then (this phrase being a product of my “faith” and quite a bit of scientific evidence). I and many others consider non-carbon-based nuclear power to be an essential component in managing that transition. Note that this doesn’t amount to believing nuclear power to be “absolutely safe”, but rather “managably safe”. Indeed, on the basis of actual experience of the last 60 years (including Chernobyl and Mayak), rather than concerns about hypothetical accidents and hypothetical consequences of storage of nuclear wastes, nuclear power is the safest major source of energy in the world.
Further, I expect that Levenson’s upcoming list of “unplanned releases” will be devoid of evidence (again, with the exception of Chernobyl and Mayak) that the releases had any public health consequences.
Don’t forget the pure-oxygen part. All I’ve read, and experiments I’ve done, indicate B is effectively incombustible in air. Perhaps air at high enough pressure can make it go, but then relatively low-energy-yielding nitride formation would compete wastefully with the desired oxide formation.
I take it you’d have no objection if I listed a series of “unplanned releases” as described in the media, historical sources and news reports?
Sure. Space-wise it might be better to post a link than a copy, but such lists as I’ve seen have little power to deceive. Typically they are padded with releases that have nothing to do with nuclear power, or irradiated no-one as much as having a cat on one’s lap for an hour would, or never happened, or some combination of two or more of those. That paddedness, and the alternativeness to this continuously updated list and this one, are persuasive.
Here’s long list with a great many misadministrations of radiatin from 60-Co or similar sources that were intended for therapy or radiography. That doesn’t, of course, amount to padding unless the list is billed as one of accidents that could be avoided by using solar power stations instead of nuclear, because those gamma sources seldom or never are made at nuclear power stations per se; they are made at isotope production reactors, which do not compete with fossil fuel energy and don’t excite the same opposition.
Re: 210. Barton, I’m happy you are confident in our ability to meet our energy needs by 2100 using only renewables. I’d personally say that’s optimistic, but not outside the pale. So between now and 2100, we could raise the CO2 content of the atmosphere to well over 500 ppm, especially as energy demand accelerates in China and the rest of the developing world and is met by burning their plentiful coal reserves. Once we are at 500 ppm, anthropogenic carbon emissions may well be dwarfed for centuries by emissions from natural sources (e.g permafrost, possibly clathrates, etc.). The thing is, we need to slow things down NOW, or it won’t matter much. We know from past warming epochs, there are plenty of natural sources of ghg once things get warm enough.
As to you list of “unplanned releases”, please be sure to include the amount of radiation released and how much above background levels it raised the counts outside the fence of the facility.
Question, do you avoid flying in an airplane because of the dose you’d receive? How about getting an x ray or CAT scan? Would you eat food that had been preserved by irradiation with gamma rays? Did you ever smoke (cigarettes give you a pretty good hit of radiation from the inside)? Just curious about your perception of risk.
A comment on recent posts and population. The planrt will have 9 billion people for one generation but 2100 the population is set to drop back to 6 billion again mainly due to reduced birth rates all over the world.
Renewables and biofuels in particular that can offset peak oil are needed very soon. I would suggest that second generation biofuels will be required asap in order to for mixing with petrol/gas to occur.
Pete, the estimates that population will drop from 9 to 6 billion make assumptions about increasing education levels (especially among women), urbanization, etc. A global recession would affect these trends and probably keep population high for longer. Of course, there may be other pressures that reduce population that we’d rather not think about. Also, keep in mind that reducing population brings with its own problems as the demographics of the largest generations shift toward old age.
Biofuels are a fraught proposition. To date the only ones who’ve made them work are the Brazilians–and that due to the very cheap labor in their Northeast. I presume by 2nd generation, you mean fabricated from cellulost–definitely the way to go, but we’ve got a long way before we’re there.
[[In any case, my understanding is that more radiation (per MWh) is released into the atmosphere from the trace elements present in coal, than from nuclear power plants, so that switching from coal to nuclear would actually reduce environmental radiation. ]]
As I’ve said, over and over again, that’s true ONLY if you don’t count the regular “unplanned releases” at each and every commercial nuclear plant. The figure is for “normal operation.” But in fact, no actual plant seems to maintain “normal operation.”
[[Solar &c can do just fine at rural electrification: what it can’t do is provide the concentrated power to run the industries that among other things produce the solar panels, wind turbines, and so on to make that rural electrification possible. ]]
[[Question, do you avoid flying in an airplane because of the dose you’d receive? How about getting an x ray or CAT scan? Would you eat food that had been preserved by irradiation with gamma rays? Did you ever smoke (cigarettes give you a pretty good hit of radiation from the inside)? Just curious about your perception of risk. ]]
Your constant attempts to paint me as some kind of scientific illiterate are as annoying as they are offensive. I find it fascinating that when I talk about the issue, you and your pals talk about what’s wrong with me. Classic ad hominem distraction.
[Response: Ok. That’s enough. Either talk seriously on this thread (and that goes for all parties) or go elsewhere. – gavin]
Ray Ladbury wrote: “What I found risible was the assertion (devoid of support) that conservation alone could hold energy demand constant or even make it decrease.”
Much of the content of the ASES report that I cited consists of detailed, factual support for the proposition that conservation and efficiency improvements alone can hold carbon emissions constant while the economy continues to grow, and that efficiency combined with full implementation of clean renewables can reduce carbon emissions 60 to 80 percent by 2030 while the economy continues to grow.
If you wish to offer a rebuttal to the case that the ASES report makes, fine. But to suggest that it doesn’t make any case at all — that it consists only of a “risible” assertion “devoid of support” — is simply false.
What I would really like to see is a fair comparison among solar (various kinds of PV (c-Si, c-Si with diffuse back reflection for use of total internal reflection, a-Si, transition metal oxides, III-V, more complex inorganic compounds, organic, dye-sensitized, nanostructured, multijunction, combinations thereof, luminescent concentrators, etc), PV + water heater, just water heater, stirling engines, skylights, … subdivided among components and including optical components, tracking, inverters, etc.), nuclear, coal (conventional and cogeneration), and the rest… with total lifecycle analysis per unit energy output (keeping electrical and thermal outputs distinct) of CO2 emissions, other emissions, mining land use and mining byproducts, good or bad, etc… electrical energy input, total energy input, labor hours input, and the implied energy there (energy use per person should be factored into labor – although it’s complicated because there are different forms of energy – ie electricity, etc.); also keeping in mind that coal input now might be replaced by a renewable carbon in the future (maybe?), and other potential future rearrangements (ie electric cars, energy efficiency (that would reduce the energy in labor costs and generally could do so for other energy inputs), potential for reusing and recycling devices, etc.). I think that would be very interesting.
Actually, Barton, I had no intent of painting you as anything other than councerned about radiation. I’m sorry if it came across that way. Because, you will get a much higher dose flying in a plane than living near a nuclear power plant. You will get a much higher dose living someplace where the bedrock is granite rather than sedimentary. You will get a much higher dose through many medical procedures. And you will get a much higher dose if you smoke.
You have made many assertions about unplanned releases. Until I see independent measurements of counts above background, am I to take it on faith? Many activities raise one’s risk of radiation exposure, but living near a nuclear facility is way down the list.
RE 221: I’m sorry Secular, I must have missed the part where they gave realistic estimates of what conservation could achieve. They were sure higher than Art Rosenfeld’s estimates in Physics Today a few years ago.
I just want to add to/expand on the inline response:
If nearly the same albedo error occurs both in the present and future, then the resulting error in radiative forcing change over time would be much smaller.
The error in albedo must be multiplied by the change in direct solar forcing (incoming top of atmosphere) (as opposed to cosmic ray solar forcing) to find the error in the change in direct solar forcing – a very small value.
Poor understanding of the origin of a forcing change (such as solar physics) does not by itself imply poor understanding of the climatic response to that forcing.
At the top of the atmosphere, global average insolation is about 342 W/m2. A difference in global effective albedo should be multiplied by that value to find the change in radiative forcing. (Note that global effective albedo is the average of albedo over area and time, weighted by local top-of-atmosphere solar insolation.)
Just from qualitive reasoning I can see that some of the features make sense – for example, the additional greenhouse forcing of the well mixed greenhouse gasses is highest in the subtropics (fewer clouds, in particular high cloud tops, low humidity, and I’m guessing a moderate to high tropospheric lapse rate, high temperature (so higher LW fluxes)) and lowest in the polar regions, especially Antarctica (colder -> lower LW fluxes, also lower lapse rates, often with inversion in the lower troposphere). It makes sense that there would be a reduced effect near the ITCZ relative to the dryer subtropics as there would be more high cloud tops, reducing the effect of additional greenhouse gasses within the troposphere.
However, I would have thought that the tropical minimum would be stronger over the Amazon rainforest, central Africa, and Indonesia, than at other longitudes, reflecting high cloud top distribution associated with the Walker Circulation.
Anyway, looking at only the tropopause LW forcing, It looks like the horizontal temperature gradient which organizes the Hadley circulation might be reduced. However, I know that much of the additional heat goes into latent energy, which would not raise the temperature and cause radiative cooling, but is drawn into the ITCZ where it is converted to sensible heat, which could strengthen the Hadley cell circulation. Will the net effect cause a stronger Hadley cell circulation? And would the same reasoning apply to the Walker circulation and low latitude monsoons and possibly tropical cyclones?
Oh, then there is an increase in the height of the tropopause – if the cloud tops of the ITCZ rise, that would increase the tropopause LW forcing. Then again, the reduction in lapse rate in moist updrafts at higher temperatures would reduce the effect of any LW radiation absorption; but then again, if the overall effect is just a lifting of the tropospheric temperature profile, then the increasing height of the tropopause should outweigh the lower level decrease in lapse rate. So…
On the other hand, before the temperature profile adjusts, some of the radiative forcing goes into decreased radiative cooling within the troposphere. As an instantaneous effect, this might slow down diabatic (radiational) cooling, and therefore slow down the subsidence over the subtropics. If that slows down the entirety of the Hadley cell, the vertical lapse rate should increase, and increasing condensational diabatic heating in the ITCZ should speed it up again – warmth transported to the subsiding regions would increase radiational cooling. Or, a reduced subsidence velocity could be compensated by an areal expansion of the subsidence. Am I on the right track, here?
It’s my understanding that the Hadley cell’s width is limited by the higher meridional temperature gradient in midlatitudes that is conducive to baroclinic eddies. With the lower tropospheric polar amplification, I can see why the Hadley cell, with the dry subtropics, would expand poleward, and why baroclinic eddies would also tend to shift poleward and possibly weaken. Except, in the mid to upper troposphere, the meridional temperature gradient actually increases because of the greater condensational heating in the ITCZ (and I’m guessing other low latitude thermally direct circulations). Given that, what is to be expected in the midlatitudes? Also, if the tropical easterlies gain in strength and/or areal extent, then the conservation of angular momentum suggests a strengthenning in surface westerlies – which is especially necessary if the surface westerlies are pushed poleward, as then they lose some of their leverage about the Earth’s axis. — Unless the arrangements of mountains, etc, allow the torques to balance without such strengthenning. But given the lower tropospheric polar amplification, the vertical wind shear of the westerlies should be reduced in the lower troposphere. This suggests to me that downward momemtum transport must become more efficient in the lower troposphere. Am I on the right track so far?
Would the ITCZ widen in proportion to the Hadley Cell? If not, would the average albedo of low latitudes decrease?
The last one says it’s the second of three parts. I’d like to see the third part, but I can’t find it.
Maybe I missed some other things in past postings that go into this kind of description.
One other thing – in the distant past when the Earth spun faster – would that have shrunk the Hadley cell?
Would it be possible to use actual weather data to model subgrid scale phenomena? For example, if the grid scale variables = x,y,z…, then maybe a computer could search for similar conditions occuring in weather data, and find the closest matches on all sides, then interpolate to calculate the subgrid scale variables. Or the same could be done with a search through the results of a model of the subgrid scale phenomena – the idea being that as the subgrid model’s results for varying grid scale conditions are saved to a database, eventually that database will be used in place of the model, to reduce necessary computing power.
What if climate models used subroutines for various identifiable phenomena – for example, extratropical cyclones? As conditions suggest, the subroutine would be instructed to create an extratropical cyclone. It would interact with other subroutines, etc… (an object-oriented weather/climate model)
What if climate could be modelled directly – ie the input and output of each time step would be weather statistics – which may cover weeks or whole seasons. There might be nested timesteps – like a four-dimensional object-oriented approach – there might be an ENSO subroutine and a NAO subroutine, etc, …
Maybe the climate could be modelled like an ecosystem with population dynamics and variances. A given variety of extratropical cyclones have some metabolism, a spawning habitat, a life cycle… And the same might apply to the larger scale – planetary waves, ENSO variations (populations of El Nino’s and La Nina’s and +/- phases of whatever else). There are predator-parasite / prey-host , competition, symbiosis, etc. Climate change is ecological succession and evolution of ‘species’ (but only via phenotypic plasticity – genotype is just physics – or is it?), and low-frequency variability is ecological succession in loops…
Secular and Barton,
I clearly will not persuade you that nuclear power is safe, and you will not persuade me that it will not be necessary, so let me outline why I feel this way. First, I believe that climate change is a grave threat. I do not believe that we can at this point avoid seeing significant change over the next 100 years of so, and for this reason, I believe the proper course is to slow the change as much as possible by minimizing release of more ghg. On this I think we can agree. I believe that the best way to do this is with conservation first and renewables as much as possible. I also think that it is particularly critical that we hold anthropogenic ghg to levels where we do not start to see significant release of ghg from natural sources. That is one challenge we face in the near term. The other is development. There are going to be about 1.5 times as many people on the planet by the end of the century. About a third of them will be going from an economy where their major source of energy is wood, charcoal or dung to being consumers of modern energy. China alone has to grow at 8%, just for employment to keep pace with population. The situation will be similar in India, Africa and much of S. America. In addition, dealing with climate change, developing mitigations, etc. will all take more energy. I have not seen any convincing evidence that conservation and renewables can keep up with this accelerating demand. Now don’t think I haven’t looked into this, and I’m not saying that you havent. However, I have found the scenarios that claim we can get by with renewables alone to be way too optimistic. I think the choice is between coal and nuclear power to fill the gap, and the choice is a clear one for me, given the zero carbon nature of nuclear power. As a physicist who works with radiation all the time and who has studied nuclear power (no I’m not in the industry), I am convinced that we can implement nuclear power safely and cost effectively. The problems that remain are technical problems that we can manage.
So that is why I support use of nuclear power to fill the gap until we can reach a healthy near-zero carbon economy with renewables. If you succeed in creating such an economy by 2030–globally–I will be the first to congratulate you.
1) If nuclear power is so safe, why won’t commercial insurers cover it for accidents over a certain size? These are the people whose business is risk assessment.
2) Lovelock is a long-standing proponent of nuclear power – at least back to the 1980s, and given that he’s an octogenerian scientist, I’d be surprised if he was ever an opponent – he’d have imbibed all the “too cheap to meter” guff in the ’50s. His record as a green/environmentalist is also less glowing (no pun intended) than one might imagine. I would not vouch for everything on the following website, but it’s worth a look: http://www.nuclearspin.org/index.php/James_Lovelock.
3) I’ve seen no response to my #166 reply to Ray’s #163 on proliferation – which I consider by far the biggest problem with nuclear power. The overlap in necessary materials, technologies and skills between nuclear power and nuclear weapons is so large that any marked increase in the former will raise risks of proliferation.
More broadly, in some ways the nuclear/renewables debate is a side-issue:
A) Because of the rate at which China and India are commissioning coal-fired stations, we need CCS (and what’s more, retrofittable CCS) anyway.
B) Neither nuclear power nor renewables will do anything much, at least before 2030, to reduce sources of GHG emissions other than electricity generation – which account for more than half the total, including many of the fastest growing such as transport costs.
C) Nor is energy efficiency a good bet, at least without accompanying increases in energy prices: if you increase the energy efficiency of an industrial or consumption process, in the absence of price increases you cut its cost, and may through increased demand end up using more energy than you did initially (that you will do so is the “Khazoom-Brookes postulate”).
D) Therefore, alongside retrofittable CCS and nuclear/renewables, demand reduction by a globally equitable system of GHG emission rationing is essential if we are to get anywhere near the kind of emission cuts we need – and that’s going to mean real sacrifices, particularly on the part of the rich. I see no indication on this site that even among those of the rich most aware of the GHG problem, many are yet prepared to face up to this. Hell, I’m not even sure I am, despite all the schadenfreude accruing to a long-time leftie seeing it conclusively demonstrated that capitalism is indeed doomed by its own internal contradictions ;-). See http://www.gci.org.uk/contconv/cc.html for the best-developed scheme for moving toward equitable rationing.
Re 126: Nick, given the golden rule–he who has the gold makes the rules, how likely do you think it is that you will see significant willingness to sacrifice on the part of the rich? It has been my experience that the poor have a much better chance of faring well in a growing economy than in one that is shrinking. When I hear people start talking about things like “a globally equitable system of GHG emission rationing” my first reaction is to reach back and check for my wallet, and then to lapse into despair. Kyoto was globally equitable, but ultimately meaningless in terms of really addressing the problem. And even then, you couldn’t get the rich (i.e. the US) to sign on.
The other thing you fail to anticipate is the fact that we have to keep the global economy growing if we expect to be able to pay for the technological fixes needed to adapt to climate change, achieve international development and stabilize global population.
The hope–and at this point it is just a hope–is that if we have a good supply of cheap energy, we can develop solutions for the transport sector, etc, that may not be as efficient, but that are carbon-free.
As to proliferation, I acknowledge the concerns, but the real threat as far as proliferation arises because it is profitable for some countries or individuals to help others flout the ban. However, as I said, a nuke with a return address on it is unlikely to be used except as an insurance policy. Nuclear capability has in almost every case decreased the possessor’s scope of sovereignty. It is my opinion that the reason we’ve seen many pariah states trying to acquire nukes of late is because they are the only ones for whom the insurance value outweighs the resulting loss of sovereignty.
The prospect of a nuke in the hands of a nonstate actor is of considerably more concern. However, they are unlikely to obtain said device without state help, and the beligerent state would ultimately be identified; and a chemical or biological weapon would be easier and really better as a weapon of terror.
Ultimately, I favor market solutions not because of any ideological preference, but because 1)they tend to work; and 2) people tend to sign up for them more readily than they do to regulation. Markets do, however, require regulation to ensure that the reward good and punish bad behavior. Even the best regulation scheme is probably going to fail for the simple reason that people hate being regulated and will do anything to game the system out of revenge.
Re #118: [As I’ve said, over and over again, that’s true ONLY if you don’t count the regular “unplanned releases” at each and every commercial nuclear plant.]
You do keep saying that, but not offering any supporting evidence. So why not go and look for some? Show that the total released, including all your unplanned releases, is less than fossil fuel byproducts. If it is, show that the amount’s enough to pose a health risk, and if there’s a risk, show that it’s greater than the total risk posed by fossil fuel byproducts.
You might do the first. I’d be very surprised if you could do the second, and I’d put the third at about the same level as – oh, say actually proving that climate is controlled by cosmic rays.
Re #121: [Much of the content of the ASES report that I cited consists of detailed, factual support for the proposition that conservation and efficiency improvements alone can hold carbon emissions constant while the economy continues to grow, and that efficiency combined with full implementation of clean renewables can reduce carbon emissions 60 to 80 percent by 2030 while the economy continues to grow.]
I think we’re talking past each other again. Is anyone here actually disagreeing with that report? Not just saying that it might be a bit overoptimistic, but that it’s just plain wrong? If so, I missed it. What I see is a lot of people concerned about dealing with that 20-40% that the report says can’t be covered by renewables + conservation.
[If you wish to offer a rebuttal to the case that the ASES report makes, fine. But to suggest that it doesn’t make any case at all…]
Rebuttal? When it’s exhibit A in support of the case for nuclear?
Please, can somebody take a look at my resolution, it is for the Europian Youth Parliament. We have to go there the 7th of March, so could somebody read it,and maybe ask some questions about it, we want to be prepared.
A. Fully alarmed by recent grave changes concerning the climate, due to the greenhouse effect,
B. Deeply concerned that consequences of the greenhouse effect, referring to the melt down of ice caps in the Polar Regions and Greenland, which will effect, and is already effecting, a rising of the sea level and diminishing of the Gulf Stream, will have a strong negative influence on the environment and climate,
C. Considering that a large amount of the world population lives in areas that risk to be flooded,
D. Emphasizing that mankind itself is very likely, meaning with a certainty of more than 90 %, responsible for the greenhouse effect by producing an enormous amount of greenhouse gases,
E. Fully aware that actions against superabundant and eminently detrimental emission of greenhouse gases must be taken for the well-being of the present and future generations,
F. Realizing that reducing the emission of greenhouse gases is a big European and worldwide challenge,
G. Keeping in mind that as the intensity of climate changes, resulting in storms, forest-fires, dryness, heat, etcâ�¦, will considerably rise, famine and water deficiency will become even a greater problem, especially in the African continent, which could result in an overwhelming migration flow to Europe,
H. Establishing the worrying fact that certain countries, which are known to be amongst the greatest polluting states concerning emission of greenhouse gases, refuse to cooperate in international treaties to diminish the greenhouse effect,
I. Supporting the Kyoto protocol, which is an amendment to the international treaty on climate change, and the hereupon following conferences in Den Haag (2000), Bonn (2001), Marrakech (2001), New Delhi (2002), Milan (2003), Buenos Aires (2004) and Montreal (2005),
J. In favour of the proposal of the European Commission to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases with 20 % compared with the emission in 1990, which could be eventually raised till 30 % in the event of a new international treaty acting upon the Kyoto protocol,
1. Calls upon the EU to fund campaigns to make people of the EU member states aware of the possible dangers and consequences of the greenhouse effect, first of all via schools and media,
2. Urges the EU to encourage the people of all member states to decrease their energy consumption and to use more renewable energy, such as solar energy, wind power, hydraulic energy, etc.,
3. Requests for a greenhouse-tax in all EU member states, to finance further actions concerning the diminishing of the greenhouse effect and aforementioned projects aiming to accomplish awareness about this subject with people in all EU member states,
4. Reminds the EU to engage other nations, worldwide, into diminishing the emission of greenhouse gases and mobilize them to get involved in other projects, for example the Kyoto-protocol or other treaties,
5. Recommends severe measures against countries that forsake to observe the treaties composed by the European parliament, meaning fines in order to the degree of contravention,
6. Further requests the admission for EU countries to keep their nuclear power plants running for a specific period, providing that the concerned countries commit to invest in a search for an equivalent and less polluting energy source.
Please it is very important to me and my collegues.
Re #226: [1) If nuclear power is so safe, why won’t commercial insurers cover it for accidents over a certain size?]
First, who says commercial insurers won’t? But if in fact that’s true, it might have something to do with being able to cover the loss if in fact it happens. It’s not good business (and might even be illegal) to write a policy for $100 billion when your company’s only worth half that. You might consider the problems that some insurance companies have had with paying off claims from recent hurricanes, for instance.
[3) I’ve seen no response to my #166 reply to Ray’s #163 on proliferation…]
Because that’s inherently a political issue, and discussion of politics not directly related to GW issues isn’t welcomed here. (A position I agree with, BTW.) Otherwise we’d get sidetracked into discussing questions such as how proliferation risks could be minimized, from there segue into tangential questions population control, and civil discourse on science would go out the window :-(
But look at it in terms of risk: on one side of the scale weigh the increase in the risk of some terrorist group getting & using nuclear weapons; on the other side place the risk to the whole planet from continuing fossil fuel use. Sure, the one’s a dramatic single incident, while the other is an ongoing process which familarity has led us to discount, but I’d argue that the real & lasting damage from the second far outweighs the first.
James, you reminded me of one other reason why I think it is unwise to dismiss nuclear power as a partial solution–it sends the wrong message to the denialists that we perceive the risks of nuclear power to be greater than those due to climate change. That certainly is not the case. Climate change poses greater risks than even the worst nightmares of the antinuclear activists.
[[Re #226: [1) If nuclear power is so safe, why won’t commercial insurers cover it for accidents over a certain size?]
First, who says commercial insurers won’t? But if in fact that’s true, it might have something to do with being able to cover the loss if in fact it happens. It’s not good business (and might even be illegal) to write a policy for $100 billion when your company’s only worth half that. You might consider the problems that some insurance companies have had with paying off claims from recent hurricanes, for instance.]]
So you’re in favor of the Price-Anderson Act? It’s okay to subsidize nuclear (but not renewables) because the damage from a nuclear accident could be so great that private insurers couldn’t cover it?
Please can somebody comment my resolution, it’s very important, and we need your questions, it takes a little of your time I know. We leave wednesday, so I need all your questions tomorrow. Please help us.
re: 227 “Ultimately, I favor market solutions not because of any ideological preference, but because 1)they tend to work; and 2) people tend to sign up for them more readily than they do to regulation. Markets do, however, require regulation to ensure that the reward good and punish bad behavior. Even the best regulation scheme is probably going to fail for the simple reason that people hate being regulated and will do anything to game the system out of revenge.”
Ah, but US Clean Air Act history has shown that has not been the case. Such regulations have overwhelming improved air quality, reducing sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide emissions and other pollutants substantially over the past several decades. And without the massive economic disruption that fossil-fuel fired industries said would occur. In fact, the cost estimates from industries affected by the regulations were no where near the mark as opposed to the government estimates. That is generally the case with regulations. And of course the industries never considered the economic health benefits. However, market solutions incorporated into regulations have indeed worked quite well. Just look at the sulfur dioxide emission reductions in the US that have been achieved since 1990. But the regulations were needed first; the market was not going to appear on its own. And the results have been beneficial to all parties.
Look back at how earlier problems were handled — now that we’ve seen how the industries handled carbon dioxide, which led people to look back at the same methods being used by the tobacco industries. I wonder what’s been documented about CFCs and lead, for two earlier similar concerns.
Tangentially, from Wikipedia:
Thomas Midgley, Jr. (May 18, 1889 â�� November 2, 1944), was an American mechanical engineer turned chemist. He developed both the tetra-ethyl lead (TEL) additive to gasoline and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)… One historian remarked that Midgley “had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in earth history.”
Re #234: [So you’re in favor of the Price-Anderson Act? It’s okay to subsidize nuclear (but not renewables) because the damage from a nuclear accident could be so great that private insurers couldn’t cover it?]
I don’t quite follow the logic there. I admit this is an area where I have no particular expertise, so I want to ask a few questions. Are insurers willing to write policies of that size for any risk? Is that much coverage really necessary, or is it just another anti-nuclear regulatory hurdle? Why don’t I hear similar objections to other Federal disaster aid, such as (just for instance) those resulting from building a major city below sea level on a hurricane-prone coast?
Then let’s go back to the idea of having a level playing field for all power technologies. Fossil fuel plants aren’t required to be insured against the damage they cause, are they? If they were, I’d bet that the insurers would have gone bankrupt meeting claims for respiratory illnesses, acid rain damage, and such, long before the question of paying for climate change had ever arisen.
Once again, we’re talking past each other: the real issue isn’t nuclear vs renewables; it’s nuclear and renewables vs fossil.
Re #230: I would remove point (I), since that treaty’s defects contributed a good bit to the problems mentioned in (H). Also (in line with the discussion here) I’d strengthen point 6, and call for renewed investment in nuclear power, and increased public education & awareness of its actual risk level compared to other technologies.
increased public education & awareness of its actual risk level compared to other technologies.
Because oil and natural gas are more heavily taxed than other big-dollar commodities, it seems to me, people on public payrolls, knowing that their government income is subsidized by fossil fuel consumers, and that this means they, each of them personally, makes a certain amount of coin per nuke-preventable accident, show two psychological coping mechanisms. One, they say government subsidizes fossil fuels, implicitly asserting that fossil fuel accidents cost them rather than profit them. Two, they say the public fears nuclear energy, implicitly saying it’s the public’s own fault they keep getting killed like that.
So it’s important to acknowledge signs that the public does, in fact, understand that nuclear is safer. Recent polls, for instance.
You might consider rewording #3 – diminishing the greenhouse effect to between the present and preindustrial level by itself may be desirable but it’s probably off the table for the near future – trying to slow, level off, and start drawing down net emissions, to keep the greenhouse effect from growing ‘too much’ (however that be defined – http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/11/how-much-co2-emission-is-too-much/ ) – or maybe you meant ‘diminishing’ relative to a business as usual – as in a reduction of the future greenhouse effect.
You might want to consider ways to go beyond the Kyoto Protocol. While there are incentives for first world countries to help third world countries develope in a less-emitting manner, I think eventually a more comprehensive framework will be necessary. I would consider the ideal solution to be a global CO2 and CO2-equivalent net emissions tax/credit (credit for negative net emissions); but this may be unworkable – a similar approach (basically a cap and trade) would be to assess a baseline global allowance of CO2 emissions, and allot per country in proportion to it’s GDP (or some other measure of value produced), which can then be purchased and sold (countries which sell emissions intensive products to other countries would presumably add the cost of purchased emissions to the price of those products). The idea is to reduce emissions by encouraging more efficient and sustainable production (and conservation?) of value (conventionally economic and otherwise). I suggest this because the basic framework of Kyoto is setting a target per country relative to a reference year’s emissions, which may not make sense to apply to a variety of countries with different growth rates and different starting points in terms of emissions efficiency. But I’m not an expert on Kyoto or on the current workings of the cap-and-trade markets – I could have missed something.
Re #243, I find the entire “What to do about climate change” arguments are just not put together in any systemic fashion. Everyone is doing their bit I hear but that bit is all relative and not coherent or all that well meaning. For instance although Al Gore is certainly the new high preist of political climate change it was reported that he spends 15,000 per annum on heating his home reported here: http://news.com.com/2061-11199_3-6162631.html
However, does it matter, is it important in the grand scheme. What is alarmism and what is climate reality ? Well this is how I see it:
I am skeptical that anything world wide will be enforced that will actually do anything to actually offset climate change in any meaningful way until we have reached a significant warming, probably in the region of 2 degrees C. This is because the worlds energy requirement are growing significantly due to increased globalisation and prosperity and progress are what western politicians sell to us and in the main 80% of the population are sold on it. The other reasons are to do with technology, New scientist ran an article on Green Sky Thinking which basically stated that all new aircraft will at some point be some 50% more energy efficient but although the technology and science are developed or known it takes time to design and build new aircraft and even when this technology does reach the consumer domain increased air flights and cheaper overall fuel costs due to efficiency gains means more flights so knowing how much this technology will offset climate change is unknown. We have no Carbon free fuels and for flying there seems to be no chance of developing any at the present time but maybe within 20 to 30 years it might come.
The media reports on technologies and science that might be able to offset climat change but practical steps such as increased use in sustainable technologies is small change at the moment although I am sure it will increasee quickly. However the big problems come when we reach saturation point on these technologies, once they have reached their projected estimates of 10 to 20 percent utilisation and we are a long way from that.
We could all use flourescent light bulbs but although individuals can get them and use them are they? Are businesses doing the same? Are all computers being turned off? Are parents walking their kids to school? and on we go. I see no coherent government policy on any of these easy wins because it involves state intervention and that is bad news in these freedomn loving days. Only once the situation gets bad (2 C rise) will state intervention take place like in the days of the war in Europe.
I just cannot get my head around the notion of what can be done and what is being done. Its pretty lame at the moment as their is no global consensus to actually mitigate climate change in any meaningful way. Everyone is more concerned with getting the Oil out of Iraq.
Re #232 “Climate change poses greater risks than even the worst nightmares of the antinuclear activists.” Doubtful: the worst nuclear nightmare is a full-scale nuclear war, which increased use of nuclear power, via proliferation, makes more likely.
Re #234 I can’t find any country where commercial insurance covers unlimited amounts for nuclear accidents – if anyone knows to the contrary, please post. There is a whole layer of huge reinsurance companies to allow insurance of particularly large risks, and the fact that even with this, nuclear power cannot get commercial insurance, shows where the problem lies: although the probability of a disastrous accident may be low, the potential scale of damage is vast.
“given the golden rule–he who has the gold makes the rules, how likely do you think it is that you will see significant willingness to sacrifice on the part of the rich?”
What optimism I have is based on:
1) The belief that even the fattest capitalist doesn’t want to fry in his own lard.
2) The second world war. In times of sufficient emergency, the golden rule is considerably modified – everyone’s efforts are needed, so a measure of perceived fairness is seen as essential even by the rich and powerful. I don’t know about the US, but in Britain there was a huge shift in the direction of equality, and of accepting regulations perceived as fair. In effect capitalism was suspended for the duration – I don’t mean market mechanisms ceased altogether, but market forces no longer decided what was to be produced, or wage and price levels. Of course the situations are different – for one thing, it would be much easier if we could blame the atmospheric changes on evil aliens – but human behavior and values are much more adaptable than you suggest.
“The other thing you fail to anticipate is the fact that we have to keep the global economy growing if we expect to be able to pay for the technological fixes needed to adapt to climate change, achieve international development and stabilize global population.”
So far as climate change is concerned, this is like an alcoholic pleading that he needs to keep drinking in order to muster the strength to give up: the faster the economy grows, the faster GHGs accumulate in the atmosphere. Technological fixes, without fundamental socio-political change, just won’t cut it. As for “international development”, that’s just a cant phrase disguising the fact that the rulers of rich and powerful countries have absolutely no intention of allowing poor ones to do more than act as subcontractors, if they can help it. The slowdown in global population growth is probably powered primarily by urbanisation, which appears unstoppable.
“The hope–and at this point it is just a hope–is that if we have a good supply of cheap energy, we can develop solutions for the transport sector, etc, that may not be as efficient, but that are carbon-free.”
Pie in the sky. Even if technically possible, the infrastructure would take decades to put in place, without fundamental socio-political change.
“As to proliferation, I acknowledge the concerns, but the real threat as far as proliferation arises because it is profitable for some countries or individuals to help others flout the ban. However, as I said, a nuke with a return address on it is unlikely to be used except as an insurance policy.”
As I pointed out, the US government doesn’t agree with you. And a nuke doesn’t have to have a return address.
“Nuclear capability has in almost every case decreased the possessor’s scope of sovereignty.”
You’ve said that before, but it’s completely implausible. The state with by far the greatest scope of sovereignty is the USA. Among those nearest it (though very far behind) are Russia, France, China, India and Israel (not UK, because its “independent” nukes are actually owned by the USA). Even Pakistan and North Korea have been able to get away with far more than they would have without nukes. If your claim were valid, we would expect at least UK and France – under no significant threat of attack from anyone – to have abandoned their expensive nukes by now. Only if all nuclear-armed states were prepared to surrender their weapons to international control could a sustainable anti-proliferation regime be built – and until that happens, more nuclear power increases proliferation opportunities, and proliferation increases the risk of a nuclear war.
On a broader point, once we move from debating whether ACW is happening to what to do about it, the “no politics” rule just isn’t sustainable: connections with all kinds of other issues relating to national and international politics are unavoidable.
I actually think it’s the other way around. The fewer nukes on the face of the earth, the more likely their use because of fewer consequences. Conventional war is more likely in a nuke-free world. Send me a telegram when nukes have caught up with the machine gun.
When there were only a handful, two got used. Once there were thousands, none got used. If there had been somebody out there saying to the United States in WW2 “you use those two and we’ll use 1,000 on you” those two nukes would have remained in their holsters.
In general, nobody messes much with countries that have nukes. That’s why Iran and NK have moved so aggressively in acquiring them. They were obviously next up for preemptive war. That can’t happen if they
Re #245: [I can’t find any country where commercial insurance covers unlimited amounts for nuclear accidents…]
That still doesn’t answer the questions I was asking. First, you might think a bit about the basic logic of the insurance business, which is to combine lots of relatively low-value risks in order to produce loss rates that are statistically predictable. Writing just a few large policies defeats that, and turns insurance into nothing more than gambling. US commercial nuclear plant insurance covers something like $300 million, IIRC. Does that amount stem from the fact that it’s a nuclear plant being insured, or a business decision by insurers not to write policies larger than that for anything?
Second, why aren’t other technologies likewise required to carry levels of insurance that correspond to the damage a worst-case accident would cause? Take hydroelectric power: on the record to date, dam failures have caused far more death and destruction per GWh than nuclear accidents, yet how much insurance is the average power dam required to carry? Consider that (just for example) a catastrophic failure of Bonneville Dam would wipe out Portland. Yet these dams were built – a lot of them by the federal government – without AFAIK anyone complaining that the government would be liable for accidents.
Re #246. Since the end of the Cold War there has been a large decline in the number of nukes in the world. There has also been a large decline in armed conflict (see for example http://www.humansecuritycentre.org/images/stories/HSBrief2006/contents/finalversion.pdf).
Of course, correlation isn’t causation, but this does suggest the idea that nukes keep the peace is dubious at best. My reason for thinking more nuclear-armed states increase the risk of nuclear war is simple: more people to make miscalculations – of the kind we know nearly caused global catastrophe during the Cold War. And while I’d agree that nuclear-armed states are less likely to be attacked, to judge by the records of the USA, USSR, China, France, UK and Israel they may be more likely to attack others – directly or through the use of proxy forces.
Re #247. The only question you asked was “First, who says commercial insurers won’t?” [insure for nuclear accidents over a certain size]. I answered it. And we agree they won’t do so because of the vast potential scale of the damage. I also agree that large-scale hydro has similar disaster potential and for this and other reasons, I oppose it.
Re 245 and 247. Insurance deals with risk–loss multiplied by the probability of the loss being realized. With Nuclear power, they don’t have any way of calculating the probability of such a loss, since an extreme event has not yet happened. Chernobyl was as close as we’ve had, but as I’ve pointed out, that one was pathological. Extreme value theory requires large amounts of data, and no insurer would be willing to go out on a limb without determining at the very least whether the distribution were fat-tailed or not. Similar exemptions exist for commercial aviation, acts of terrorism, extreme weather, and on and on. The events are sufficiently improbable that it is difficult to get enough data to predict how often they will occur and what their consequences would be if they did. No insurer will touch that.
Estimates of the likelihood of nuclear reactor accidents have come out of several studies out of the past few decades (e.g. the old WASH-1400). They predict a very low likelihood of a big accident. They are the source of industry propaganda lines like “you are more likely to die hit by a meteory than in a nuclear reactor accident.” But these studies also predict low likelihood at the bottom of the damage scale, and there they are consistently off by a couple of orders of magnitude, as the many small accidents involving fatalites show (I’ve got a couple of dozen on my list already, and, interestingly, one case of sabotage that claimed three lives, and at least two plants that have had successive accidents despite being find and blamed over the first accidents.
Re 250: Insurance companies avoid “studies” if they can help it. They prefer to use data, and that makes it difficult to insure rare events. Different insurance companies take different approaches. The run of the mill, will not even touch anything they can’t analyze with high confidence, and even then, they won’t take if one of the reinsurers (e.g. General Reinsurance, etc) won’t sell them a Supercat policy. This is exactly the same as what we saw after 9/11–insurers ran screaming, despite that fact that big terrorist attacks remain very unlikely events and damages were not uncapped. Can’t comment on the rest of your statement as you do not make the data available.
The article on climate modeling claims that the IPCC TAR concludes, “The most likely value for the global temperature increase by 2100 is in the range 1.4â��5.8 Â°C, which could have catastrophic consequences.”
But the IPCC TAR does not have any quantitative or qualitative estimate of the likelihood that the warming will be within the range of 1.4 to 5.8 deg C. There could be a 99+% chance of warming of less than 1.4 deg C, or a 99+% chance of warming more than 5.8 deg C.
Mark Bahner, you write on your website that the IPCC “has no incentive to tell the truth in its projections. But they do have an incentive to lie…to exaggerate the amount of warming thatâ��s likely to occur. So thatâ��s what they do…they lie.”
Then you claim to tell us what the IPCC’s terms mean.
A few points about energy technologies are in order. First of all, investment in solar PV manufacturing will pay off far more just about anything else – the price tag on a new nuclear reactor is on the order of several billion dollars, while a solar PV manufacturing facility is on the order of $100 million for about 30 MegaWatts of PV produced per year; and all a nuclear facility does is produce power. You can even build ‘breeder’ solar PV manufacturing facilities that are capable of meeting all their energy needs with solar. It’s a far better use of resources to invest in new solar than in new nuclear.
While it’s important to maintain existing nuclear power plants, what really matters is shutting down the coal-fired power plants and replacing them with true renewables, namely solar and wind. The solar resource is gigantic and largely untapped.
RE#253, the IPCC is actually under a great deal of political pressure to keep its estimates on the conservative side, which is one reason why they don’t explicitly address issues like ice sheet dynamics and carbon cycle feedback effects – they use only the most robust science (meaning over three years old, apparently) and are certainly not ‘lying’, as you claim at your blog. You’re also missing the basic issue of how probabilistic estimates work in science; we’re already seeing significant warming at the poles, for example, and there’s no physical explanation as to why this warming won’t continue, particularly as CO2 emissions continue to rise year after year. It’s likely that the greatest uncertainty in temperature predictions over the next century will be dependent on human behavior, not on physics.
Re #249 “Extreme value theory requires large amounts of data, and no insurer would be willing to go out on a limb without determining at the very least whether the distribution were fat-tailed or not… The events are sufficiently improbable that it is difficult to get enough data to predict how often they will occur and what their consequences would be if they did. No insurer will touch that.”
Quite. But you keep telling us we as individuals should be prepared to take these unquantifiable risks, when insurers won’t – even though we’re being asked to risk our lives, and our descendants’ lives and health, while they – qua insurers – are only risking money.
Nick, Secular, Ike, et al. Let me state for the record that:
1)I am not against solar energy. I’m all for it. I work with PVs as power sources for satellites on a regular basis, so I’m well aware of the amazing advances that have been made. I was also in Africa when a certain organization tried to introduce PVs as a way of providing electricity to rural villages. It was an ill thought out strategy, as they didn’t have any energy storage mechanism and the cover glasses became so scratched from the dust of Harmattan winds that efficiency degraded rapidly. Somehow we need to address the energy storage so we can make energy when the sun shines and use it at night. Also, manufacturing semiconductors is not a “green” industry–there will be environmental consequences. Beyond those two caveats, I say go for it.
2)Likewise wind, hydroelectric geothermal, tidal. Go for it, but be aware of the environmental costs, storage issues, etc.
3)The energy demand that cannot be made up with renewables (and I’ve outlined my reasons for thinking it will not be insubstantial) will be met with a)coal or nuclear energy. Pick one. I did based on my understanding of the relative risks. Given that a coal-fired power plant without fly-ash scrubbing will emit more radiation than a nuclear accident or a dirty bomb attack, the choice was easy.
Proliferation concerns are real. However nuclear weapons are only one possible threat, and a more remote one than chemical or biological attack. We shouldn’t treat this risk any differently than we treat the others. A nuclear weapon with a return address is not a particular threat as long as the possessor of said weapon is not backed into a corner where it has nothing to lose.
[[The energy demand that cannot be made up with renewables (and I’ve outlined my reasons for thinking it will not be insubstantial) will be met with a)coal or nuclear energy. Pick one.]]
Fallacy of bifurcation. Plus, you’re assuming a certain curve of increasing demand, and one of the things on the table is decreasing the slope of that curve, which would mean less would be needed. Either way, I don’t believe in the “it has to be either coal or nuclear!” dichotomy.
Re 256: [But you keep telling us we as individuals should be prepared to take these unquantifiable risks, when insurers won’t – even though we’re being asked to risk our lives, and our descendants’ lives and health, while they – qua insurers – are only risking money.]
You’re still not seeing nuclear power plant insurance (henceforth NPPI, ok?) from the perspective of an insurance company making a business decision. I suggest you read up on the basics of insurance, here for instance:
It’s not that the risks involved are unquantifiable, or even particularly great; it’s that there’s an upper limit to how much insurance a company can handle. Suppose for instance your insurance company has a total capital of $1 billion, and you’re asked to write a policy for $1.5 billion – on whatever you like, not necessarily NPPI. Should you do it? Of course not, since you can’t cover the loss if it does occur, and you’ll find your company bankrupt and yourself probably facing criminal charges.
You might even turn your argument on its head: insurance companies do offer quite large ($300 million, IIRC) NPPI coverage. I suspect that they’ve studied the risks, found them small, and so expect to make a good profit :-)
This also applies to your claim that nuclear power risks your own & descendants’ lives and health. As far as I can tell from a quick search, insurance companies don’t seem to offer $300 million coverage on fossil fuel plants, on hydroelectric dams, or on anything else. Why are they willing to cover nuclear at all, if it’s so risky?
To bring up a topic related to weather and climate instead of nuclear power, consider the weather risk management industry. (RE#250, #251, etc.) This is a very confusing issue, but it is a apparently an important motivator of government policy. What matters is that the foundation that this industry (in the US, at least) is based on is NOAA U.S. Climate Normals, 1971-2000: An Updated Baseline for Risk Management .
This is a convoluted topic, but the industry revolves around hedging risk due to ‘abnormal weather events’, which calls into question what is meant by ‘normal’. For some time now, I’ve been trying to ascertain why NOAA changed from the 1961-1990 baseline to the 1971-2000 baseline. The difference in anomaly calculations is fairly striking: see the current anomaly relative to 1961-1990 vs. the one produced at NOAA relative to 1971-2000; the warm northern anomalies are much clearer when the earlier baseline is used, particularly around Greenland’s tip jet regions.
Despite several requests for an explanation of the reasons behind the baseline switch to NOAA’s media relations office, I’ve yet to get a formal response to why the change was made. However, there are a whole host of companies now involved in the weather risk insurance business, and once central feature is their reliance on NOAA’s definition of ‘normal’. Now, there is an emerging market in “hurricane futures” set to open: Myra Saefong’s Commodities Corner: Hurricane futures: a new key to gauging energy risks, Mar 2 2007. The very notion of buying and selling ‘hurricane futures’ itself seems odd.
This is the kind of thing that makes one wonder about NOAA’s priorities. A scientific basis for analyzing climate change seems like it should include an acceptance of a standardized baseline, just for comparison purposes (at the very least, the baseline used should always be clearly stated!) – but what effect has changing that baseline had on the weather risk insurance industry?
To address the earlier posts, there’s no question that any risk associated with solar PV manufacture is far, far lower than the risks associated with nucler power generation and nuclear fuel issues.
Hank, et al., I appreciate the link to the physics page at ucr regarding graphing geologic time periods’ extinction rates for the various biota. Often what I wish most for here are the scientist links. Having met and worked with a few nuclear physicists, I would expect some of their own websites to favor a more rational view than the heated polemics evolving recently about the headlong rush to substitute radionuclide based power for fossilfuels. Sometimes it is easiest to begin with realclimate for bearings before launching the websearch. You do an excellent job of asking, and answering, the most provocative questions, as well as providing repartee to consumerist argumentation. Recently I was ploughing through some of the webpages at the new Fermilab, sifting for the latest grad student projects to enlighten the already visible contention about cutting to the chase, substituting radioactivity for mere carbon dioxide and other GHGs. I will report back if I find material suitably interrelated to the discussion in this thread.
Re 258: Barton, I am open to suggestions as to what choices, other than coal or nuclear power, we will have to fill the gap that renewables and conservation do not fill. I had no intent to argue via a fallacy. I simply see no viable alternative to those two choices to make up the gap. Do you, or do you simply have faith that there will be no gap.
More here, just a tidbit to say why it’s worth reading:
“… Recurring electricity shortages and rolling blackouts were widely forecasted for summer 2001 in California. Despite these predictions, blackouts were never ordered â�� in large part, due to the dramatic reductions in electricity use throughout the state. Compared to summer 2000, Californians reduced electricity usage by 6% and average monthly peak demand by 8%. Our analysis suggests that these reductions were not caused by either the weather or the downturn in the stateâ��s economy; rather, they were the result of extraordinary efforts by Californians to reduce electricity consumption. Based on the California Independent System Operatorâ��s (CAISO) available operating reserve margin during summer 2001, we estimate that the peak load reductions, which ranged between 3,200 and 5,600 MW in the four summer months, potentially avoided between 50 and 160 hours of rolling blackouts. …
“… energy efficiency and onsite generation projects that were initiated in 2001 will account for about 1,100 MW of customer load reductions, once all projects are installed. These savings represent about 25-30% of the observed load reductions and are likely to persist for many years. The persistence of the remaining savings, which were due to changes that customers made in their conservation behavior and energy management operations, will be heavily influenced by customersâ�� perception …
re: 261. The NOAA/NWS “30-year normals” follow the World Meteorological Organization’s (a part of the UN) definition. From the National Climatic Data Center:
“WMO Normals: World Meteorological Organization Standard Normals
Every 30 years the international meteorological community comes together to produce a document that summarizes the “normal” climate for all of the nations of the world. The effort was originated by the International Meteorological Committee in 1872 as an effort to assure comparability between data collected at various stations. International agreements eventually determined that the appropriate interval for computing a normal would be 30 years (Guttman, 1989). The World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which succeeded the International Meteorological Committee, defines normals as “period averages computed for a uniform and relatively long period comprising at least three consecutive 10-year periods” (WMO, 1984). The WMO defines climatological standard normals as “averages of climatological data computed for the following consecutive periods of 30 years: January 1, 1901 to December 31, 1930, January 1, 1931 to December 31, 1960, etc.” (WMO, 1984). Normals are computed every decade by individual countries to keep up with any climatic changes that may take place, but a coordinated international effort to compile global standard normals is undertaken only once every 30 years (Guttman, 1989).”
[Plus, you’re assuming a certain curve of increasing demand, and one of the things on the table is decreasing the slope of that curve, which would mean less would be needed.]
Comment by John L. McCormick — 7 Mar 2007 @ 9:16 PM
Re #266: [Petroleum and natural gas are third and fourth options; expensive ones.]
Last I checked, petroleum & natural gas were both CO2-producing fossil fuels, which makes it kinda difficult to use them to generate zero-CO2 energy.
[Another nonrenewable is lifting or asteroidal material down to earth, or for a really big downhoist, down to the Sun.]
Sure, and just how are you going to generate power from that, and get it back to Earth? By hoisting it down a beanstalk that we don’t have materials strong enough to build? Aiming it (very carefully!) into a long linear electromagnetic generator carried by stratospheric balloons? What happens if you miss?
Assuming that it’s even possible to develop a workable method of doing this, what’re the chances of doing the basic research, going to working technology, getting the immense capital investment needed to do the construction, and then completing the construction of not just a demonstration model, but enough capacity to replace a significant fraction of current generating capacity – all in less than 25 years?
So, the ‘normal periods’ were every 30 years? 1901-1930, 1931-1960, 1961-1990, and then the next one would be 1991-2020, correct? Where does 1971-2000 come in?
It just makes no sense from a scientific point of view. Furthermore, it does skew the anomalies, which other NOAA reports then base their conclusions on (for example, the 2006 NOAA report on the “State of the Arctic” uses the 1971-2000 baseline – the ACIA report from 2004 is at http://www.acia.uaf.edu/ ).
What you are saying is silly given the current population size and rate of increase, not to mention said popluations demand and right for greater standards of living that you enjoy. How would we burn less power again? Run on treadmills to generate it?
Hank your information is out of date with current russia’s recent construction and oil booms since Putin took power. I am not the man’s biggest fans but the Russians are certainly doing a lot better than they were. (Admittedly the bar is low though.)
The difference in anomaly calculations is fairly striking: see the current anomaly relative to 1961-1990 vs. the one produced at NOAA relative to 1971-2000; the warm northern anomalies are much clearer when the earlier baseline is used, particularly around Greenland’s tip jet regions.
Your second link appears to come from here . If so, please see the methodology page , which says: ‘This climatology is based on nighttime observations from 1984-1993, with SST observations from the years 1991 and 1992 omitted due to aerosol contamination from the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. ‘ .
The nearest SST noaa graph with a 1971-2000 climatology that I can find appears to be here .
Interestingly, the perhaps-sabotage with three deaths he mentions, obviously the Army prototype SL-1 accident in 1960, led to the one-stuck-rod rule design rule. I personally heard the explosions, indeed they shook my house, from a fuel tanker that another truck rear-ended in 2007; the driver of the impactor died. Do you suppose that will lead to any design rules? Other than the one I propose — use incombustible fuel — but I was doing that already.
[[What you are saying is silly given the current population size and rate of increase, not to mention said popluations demand and right for greater standards of living that you enjoy. How would we burn less power again? Run on treadmills to generate it? ]]
You appear to have responded to my comment without actually reading what I wrote. I didn’t say we would consume less power, I said the rate of increase could be slower. What’s more, the third world catching up to the first world can be done on renewables; it’s certainly not necessary to build third-world nuclear plants.
Thanks for the correction. I suppose the main concern is how these climatologies are used and what the rationale behind using different climatological baselines is. The satellite only climatology might be preferable for monitoring ENSO development, coastal upwelling and hurricane wake cooling, as the methodology explains. Thus, there are valid scientific reasons for using different baselines.
However, when we hear about NOAA scientists being pressured to keep silent about climate issues, as well as federal fish and wildlife scientists being told to stick to ‘the administration’s position on sea ice and polar bears’ ( http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/08/washington/08polar.html ) , as well as the continued lack of support for important climate data collection programs and the cancellation of climate satellites, one has to wonder if there is political interference with data collection and reporting, in addition to the pressures on government scientists to keep quiet.
Re #271: […said popluations demand and right for greater standards of living that you enjoy. How would we burn less power again?]
Well, not that long ago I had a PC tower with IIRC 5 cooling fans (like sitting next to a vacuum cleaner), and a 20 inch CRT display. Now I have a laptop that only rarely kicks on its tiny cooling fan, hooked to a 20 inch external LCD display. I have a faster machine, better quality display, & lower noise level, all of which IMHO improves my standard of living, and use lots less power to boot.
I could come up with dozens of similar examples. CFLs, for instance, give better quality light than the incandescents they replace. Insulation added to my house makes it more comfortable while cutting heating costs dramatically. The Honda Insight I drive gets 70 mpg, and is lots more fun than a boring old SUV. Biking instead of driving keeps me in shape, telecommuting saves time and energy, hanging out the laundry makes it smell better…
There are a myriad ways in which western society could increase living standards while using less power. The problem is one of attitudes, not technology.
The satellite only climatology might be preferable for monitoring ENSO development, coastal upwelling and hurricane wake cooling, as the methodology explains.
Curiously, if you read the official NOAA ENSO Cycle: Recent Evolution, Current Status and Predictions report , and look on page 21, you can see that the NOAA operational definitions of El Nino and La Nina are based on the ONI, which, as explained on pg 28, is calculated with respect to a 1971-2000 base period, akin to what you were originally talking about. (I had thought the other anomalies presented in that status report were also with respect to a 1971-2000 base period, but I can’t find verification of that right now.) (I think this is the correct description of ERSST.v2 referred to in the ENSO status report.)
Re 269 – this would not be practical, I’m quite sure, but energy from asteroids could be gained from blueshift – ie a laser is beamed to a mirror and reflected back – if the mirror is approaching, the photons are blueshifted and so slightly more energy is returned by the laser beam then was originally put into it. (Problem – needs near 100 % efficient photovoltaic cells and lasers)
Or maybe a beam of C60 buckyballs could be bounced off of an approaching asteroid, coming back with greater momentum. (Pipe dreams, I know)
Re 270 – I can imagine that for some purposes a shifting baseline may be appropriate, while for others it would not. Obviously, as the climate is changing, it would be best for long-term insurance and investment to use future climate rather than past.
Re 277 – I’m no fan of Bush et al, but I’m not certain the story is quite as bad as it first sounds – I haven’t had time to look at the article you cited, but here’s what I saw: http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa003&articleID=E4BAA6E2182735B091D8EBE8534BB6CF (I don’t like the sound of it, but rather than it being a case of censorship, it may just be the administration’s positions which I do not like. I’m not saying that I don’t believe censorship has occured, but if it has, I’m not sure this is it…)
Re 278 – Yes, it’s good to point out that human wellbeing is not necessarily proportional to energy input (efficiency of energy convesion and use, efficiency of economy, efficiency of wellbeing per dollar, etc.)
I would add thermally insulated skylights (daylighting – in summer, windows and skylights should reflect UV and IR, and refective interior surfaces help – in winter, this could also be used for heating), heat exchangers, heat pumps (can be more efficient than a furnace, especially in regions with mild winters – at the very least, it could do high COP preheating, and then solar heating, before going to the furnace if necessessary. Heat exchanges can do preheating/precooling between fresh air, stale air, cold water, wastewater, dryer exhaust?, etc.), heat storage… And someone already mentioned electric cars, but it deserves to mentioned again.
For solar PV lifecycle analysis, I’ve found – although have not yet read all of – these:
Also, the more energy efficient people are, the less is the portion of energy cost of products that come from labor.
And don’t forget carbon capture and storage. CO2 leaks may be a problem, but what if some pulverized Ca,Mg-silicates were pumped down with the CO2 – basically accelerating the chemical weathering process (would it be energically favorable?). Also, even coal can have some H; I think a typical value may be 0.8 atoms H per atom C – if only the H could be stripped from the C…
I think the reaction CH4 + CO2 -> 2C + 2H2O is thermodynamically favorable.
[[Re 269 – this would not be practical, I’m quite sure, but energy from asteroids could be gained from blueshift – ie a laser is beamed to a mirror and reflected back – if the mirror is approaching, the photons are blueshifted and so slightly more energy is returned by the laser beam then was originally put into it. (Problem – needs near 100 % efficient photovoltaic cells and lasers)]]
Also, there’s the problem that illumination falls off as the inverse square of distance.
Re #282: [Also, there’s the problem that illumination falls off as the inverse square of distance.]
Only for a non-coherent source. The inverse square law is simply a consequence of geometry: the change in area of a sphere as the radius changes. So if you have a perfectly coherent (or do I mean collimated?) laser beam, it’s not going to spread much. Remember the Apollo missions that planted corner reflectors to use as laser rangefinding targets?
So yes, IF you could do a very high efficiency conversion of energy to laser beam, then mount a space mission to plant a perfect reflector on an asteroid (and those concerned about nuclear proliferation might reflect a bit (pun intended) on what a lovely targetable weapon that makes :-)), convert the incoming photons back to electricity with high efficiency… well, then all you’d have to worry about are the effects (& losses) of the high-energy beam on the atmosphere.
I think I’ll wait for cold fusion to be perfected, myself :-)
From reading a great deal of the comments on this site, it is apparent that there are a great number of viewpoints on this subject.
I am confused. I would like to know prior to us spending huge sums of money and changing our lifestyles, whether the science indicating global warming really stands up to unbiased scientific methodology.
Where is the independant scientific audit that can give people untrained in these areas the confidence to make informed decisions. I am sure that politics, pressure groups and to be candid, money and self interest sway the arguments and in general muddy the waters.
[Response: I guess you need to learn about science for your self. It’s quite exciting. Imagine the universe that we live in, hand you only have one chance to live in it. Wouldn’t it be nice to have some idea how it works? Anyway, there is much to say for the scientific consensus, or to use a better word: the established scientific view and knowhow. It is this consensus, in general terms, which has got us where we are, worts and everything. It is, as I see it, much thanks to science that you can read this over the Internet and that humanity has advanced since the middle ages. And it is normal in science that old views are challenged, and then counter challenged. Sometimes new ideas prove to be more correct one (and get noted in the history books), but many fail to stand the test (the ones you never hear about). -rasmus]
Funny thing that you mention computers. You don’t have any idea how much time and energy went into producing your little wonders did you. Yes the individual devices consume less power but the electronics industry is not green by any means. How many man years of design and production effort went in to fabricating your stuff. Quite a lot. Take it from someone who builds chips for a living, there is not many things more expensive than chips in time, effort and energy. (Not counting the boards or other components which add to it but not near as much.) Prices are low becuase volume is so high. (Only for X86 hardware, try to fab your own someday.) Not to mention the fact that they are obselete the moment you bought it. Where did all of your old junk go again?
As for power consumption to decrease. The population must get smaller, power consumtion should correlate roughly to population count. Haven’t seen a slowdown in population gowth yet and electricity has reached everyone yet either so the growth rate will remain high. Even if it slows down it will take a long long time for this to have any affect if any in power consumption and power consumption growth.
If you raise Gibraltar on pillars and shine a laser on the bottom, this does not hoist it into the asteroid belt; similarly, no matter how large and perfect your mirrors and lasers, using them to bounce a beam off an asteroid there does not harvest the energy that would be harvested by bringing it from there to here.
That energy might be harvested by pulverizing it and turning into a dust stream that would strike a chosen patch of the Earth’s upper atmosphere, causing rammed air to shine brightly as we’ve all seen it do when struck by formerly extraterrestrial grains of sand, and so providing 8,766-hour-per-year illumination for PV cells on the ground a few tens of miles below.
Also, it would be tricky if the asteroid is spinning. And the buckyballs would likely scatter.
Re 283: I don’t know off hand what the theoretical limitations are in lasers or in PV cells designed for concentrated monochromatic light. Also, my asteroid comments were made with humor in mind.
Aside from that, I’m not sure which physical laws I’ve suggested breaking. Of course, many ideas may upon inspection turn out not to be solutions – the more complex arrangements of heat exchangers, pulverized Ca,Mg-silicates, and some of the rest may require too much energy or other resources (or produce too much pollution) to result in a net benifit – but nonetheless I thought they’d be worth suggesting.
Another idea is using a window or skylight as a luminescent concentrator – UV and solar IR (in different layers) might be absorbed by fluorescent dye, with much of that energy reradiated at somewhat longer wavelengths (violet and slightly longer IR), much of that trapped by total internal reflection, and so ending up absorbed by PV cells on the edges of the window – meanwhile, incident visible light largely passes through.
Re 281 – if I copied this from my chemistry textbook correctly,
kJ/mol at 298.15 K (and I presume at p = 1 atmosphere):
Enthalpy H and Gibb’s free energy G of formation:
With these values, I’ve calculated that, for methane, ethane, and propane (C3H8), hydrocarbon + CO2 -> C + H2O is product favored (G < 0) and exothermic (H < 0), with C as graphite or diamond, H2O as gas or liquid. The G and H values are small, and I'm not suggesting this as an energy source, but an illustration of a possible C sequestration using fossil fuels themselves (methane hydrates would be an ideal source, if only the risk of releasing methane into the atmosphere could be minimized).
Examples (note values are per mol C, not per mol reaction):
CH4 + CO2 -> 2C + 2H2O
(diamond ,H2O gas) : H,G (kJ/mol C) = -5.76 , -3.13
(graphite, H2O liquid): H,G (kJ/mol C) = -51.67 , -14.59
Now, it may turn out that no economical catalyst or apparatus can be devised to make this work (one problem being that one of the products is a solid – unless C itself can be a catalyst).
Also of interest are the reactions where a hydrocarbon is partly oxidized to C + H2O. In comparison to full oxidation (CO2 + H2O), for the cases of methane, ethane, and propane, I calculated H,G between
55.8%,51.8% (methane,graphite,H2O liquid) and 42.0%,42.5% (propane,diamond,H2O gas). Considering that fuel cells may be ~ twice as efficient as conversion to electricity via combustion driving a mechanical heat engine, this approach seems promissing. Of course, partial oxidation to produce CO and H2 (passing steam over coal – or does that make CO + CH4? – I don’t remember), with both going to fuel cells, is another possibility.
The world population growth rate is now about 1.3% a year. When I was born (1960), it was more like 2.0% a year. Birth control campaigns in third-world countries have had a huge effect. I would still like to see the net growth rate go to zero, but we’re getting there.
Thank you I did not know it had dropped so sharply. You still have the issue of the penatration of electric power to everyone on the planet (poorest, most remote) though, which true will slow down but not for a long time as more and more people wish to have electricity.
Considering that fuel cells may be ~ twice as efficient as conversion to electricity via combustion driving a mechanical heat engine,
There’s no evidence of that. Air-breathing hydrogen fuel cells that are much too heavy per unit power output to propel a car have 41 percent efficiency, based on the delta ‘G’ of hydrogen oxidation. Lighter ones can and do propel prototype cars, but not as far as hydrogen internal combustion car prototypes were going in 1970s. Look up the BMW 520h.
Suppose fuel cells had somehow become the standard prime movers for cars in 1900, and had, since then, been continuously improved in many respects, including an increase in tank-to-driveshaft energy conversion efficiency to 40 percent, like that of present-day automotive diesels. Someone who wanted to promote research into heat engines as their replacement could quite truthfully point out that the Carnot limit on an heat engine powered by the expansion of a hydrocarbon-air flame whose maximum temperature exceeds 2,000 K is very high, over 75 percent.
Correction: the paragraph immediately after listing the H and G of formation of the individual substances:
[With these values, I’ve calculated that, for methane, ethane, and propane (C3H8), hydrocarbon + CO2 -> C + H2O is product favored (G 2C + 2H2O
(diamond ,H2O gas) : H,G (kJ/mol C) = -5.76 , -3.13
(graphite, H2O liquid): H,G (kJ/mol C) = -51.67 , -14.59 ]
should have been:
With these values, I’ve calculated that, for methane, ethane, and propane (C3H8), hydrocarbon + CO2 -> C + H2O is product favored (G<0), and exothermic (H<0).
The values are not very large and I’m not proposing this as a significant energy source, but it does suggest a way to reduce (net) CO2 emissions. (It would be ideal if methane hydrates could be utilized for this purpose, if only that resource could be tapped without risk of methane emissions.)
For example (note H,G given per mol C, not per mol reaction):
CH4 + CO2 -> 2C + 2H2O
(diamond ,H2O gas) : H,G (kJ/mol C) = -5.76 , -3.13
(graphite, H2O liquid): H,G (kJ/mol C) = -51.67 , -14.59
Although I was thinking of taking the H from coal (assuming 0.8 atoms H per atom C), I don’t have information on the H(enthalpy),G of formation of coal, but there is a trend in the methane,ethane,propane hydrocarbons, which, if continued, suggests that the H(enthalpy),G per atom of C or H declines with increasing molecular weight. Using kJ/mol C in propane and kJ/mol = 0 as limiting values for coal, and assuming 0.8 atoms H per atom C,
I found H(enthalpy),G for the full oxidation of coal, producing water vapor, with H,G per mol C value of propane to be 92.9 % , 98.4 % of the H,G of oxidizing an equivalent amount of graphite and H2 gas (which is -38.25,-37.9 kJ/g).
As a percentage of full oxidation of C(graphite) + 0.4 H2 to CO2 and 0.4 H2O vapor, I found H(enthalpy),G values:
for production of graphite and water vapor from the elements:
19.7 , 18.8
for the full oxidation to CO2 and water vapor from CO and H2:
77.5 , 71.8
I also calculated some other comparisons but I won’t go into that here.
I have heard that H fuel cells can get up to 80 % efficiency, though it’s been awhile and I don’t remember where I found that, so maybe it’s not the case.
But I was actually thinking of using fuel cells in grid-connected electrical generation. Maybe fuel cells would be too expensive for that (and then we inverters, too) – I don’t know.
Does anything that Freeman Dyson says about climate models ring true with this subject. He mentions that because climate models cannnot demonstrate the el nino effect it is of limited value in prediction but good for understanding climate.
Criticism of global warming studies
Dyson has questioned the predictive value of current computational models of climate change, urging instead more extensive use of local observations. He considers this view to be “heretical”, along with his views on the PhD system.
The good news is that we are at last putting serious effort and money into local observations. Local observations are laborious and slow, but they are essential if we are ever to have an accurate picture of climate. The bad news is that the climate models on which so much effort is expended are unreliable because they still use fudge-factors rather than physics to represent important things like evaporation and convection, clouds and rainfall. Besides the general prevalence of fudge-factors, the latest and biggest climate models have other defects that make them unreliable. With one exception, they do not predict the existence of El NiÃ±o. Since El NiÃ±o is a major feature of the observed climate, any model that fails to predict it is clearly deficient. The bad news does not mean that climate models are worthless. They are, as Manabe said thirty years ago, essential tools for understanding climate. They are not yet adequate tools for predicting climate.
While he acknowledges climate change may be in part due to anthropogenic causes, such as the burning of fossil fuels, he regards the term “global warming” as a misnomer:
As a result of the burning of coal and oil, the driving of cars, and other human activities, the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is increasing at a rate of about half a percent per year. â�¦ The physical effects of carbon dioxide are seen in changes of rainfall, cloudiness, wind strength, and temperature, which are customarily lumped together in the misleading phrase “global warming.” This phrase is misleading because the warming caused by the greenhouse effect of increased carbon dioxide is not evenly distributed. In humid air, the effect of carbon dioxide on the transport of heat by radiation is less important, because it is outweighed by the much larger greenhouse effect of water vapor. The effect of carbon dioxide is more important where the air is dry, and air is usually dry only where it is cold. The warming mainly occurs where air is cold and dry, mainly in the arctic rather than in the tropics, mainly in winter rather than in summer, and mainly at night rather than in daytime. The warming is real, but it is mostly making cold places warmer rather than making hot places hotter. To represent this local warming by a global average is misleading, because the global average is only a fraction of a degree while the local warming at high latitudes is much larger.
[[The warming is real, but it is mostly making cold places warmer rather than making hot places hotter. To represent this local warming by a global average is misleading, because the global average is only a fraction of a degree while the local warming at high latitudes is much larger. ]]
It’s not misleading at all, it’s the simplest index for capturing the heat content of the atmosphere and hydrosphere. And we’ve known about “polar amplification” for a long time. In fact, the models Dyson is criticizing predicted it.
One important result of all this â��climate science maniaâ�� could be that we all realize that SCIENCE is only science. It brings us disasters, and then replaces them with other versions, all the while smugly implying superior human goals.
As A.E. once said, ‘Perfection of means, and confusion of aims is characteristic of our age’. Did he mean that as we develop more control over things, we automatically use them for the highest purpose? I donâ��t think he did. Does the concept of â��Scientific Humanismâ�� seem like a great gift to your children?
Sensitive dependence on initial conditions not only results in unintended consequences, it also results in unknowable consequences. I guess that is why many like the words ‘accident’ and ‘random’. Things happen and we are shocked, surprised and blown away, some times literally. Our ‘chain of causality’ models are simple, and the universe is not.
I would suggest that basic science education require the reading of Charles MacKay (1814 to 1889) on mass mania events in history. I quickly ran up a list of about 16 major events starting in the 1300’s, and did not include the current concept of â��Scientificâ�� control of a whole planet or solar system in it.
As Charles MacKay once said; “Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.”