Would it be possible to get an realclimate overview of carbon offsetting? I saw several research groups at AGU who advertised on their posters about how the carbon emissions from their travel to the conference was offset by a payment to various carbon offset companies. How legit and/or useful is this?
Re #1 and #2: A variation on carbon offsetting I recently saw seems to have a lot of merit. The company offering the offsets is using it to purchase carbon credits from wind and solar electricity producers by paying them the difference between their production cost and the price of coal fired electricity in the same market. This makes the no or low CO2 alternatives competitive – thereby encouraging the building of more capacity. And at the same time, it allows consumers to support non-C02 energy even if their own electricity grid does not yet include such providers.
Inevitably some of these schemes will be snake-oil, especially at this stage of the game when policy and compliance monitoring may not yet be keeping up with developments. But this is one scheme that seems to be making a direct positive difference to the way the energy market is developing.
RE#4, such a ‘market-based’ approach is not going to have any real effect on the current energy situation. What is obvious is that the world will have to voluntarily stop burning coal, and that means shutting down the coal-fired power plants that do exist and replacing them with solar and wind energy. This will be a gigantic task; coal-fired electricity generation is at something like 2,000,000 GW of power, while wind is around 20,000 GW and solar is near 500 GW – and that’s just in the US. There is no way a ‘market-based approach’ is going to change that situation.
Re #6: I agree that it is not feasible for off-setting alone to solve the CO2 problem. However, if it can enable low CO2 energy generation companies to push ahead with their projects in advance of legislative support, I think that it can make a real difference. There are a number of innovative technologies being worked on that may get a significant boost from carbon offset funding. For example, hot dry rock geothermal and solar tower electricity generation. Such ventures will be more attractive to investors if funds from off-setting (in advance of the implementation of carbon taxation) can ensure that they are cost competitive with coal.
I thought that offsetting your CO2 travel emissions by planting trees was not internationally recognized as offsetting because you can never guarantee that those trees won’t be cut and burned in the future. (releasing the CO2 again)
But THE most popular offsetting site over here (the Netherlands) is http://www.klimaatneutraal.nl (climateneutral), which has 5 tree planting projects and only 1 energy saving project.
The last project is also a bit dubious. They’re trying to introduce low energy light bulbs in the Jamaican tourist industry.
I’d rather have some of the innovative offsetting that #7 talks about.
Btw, I won’t mind translating some posts to Dutch, but it’s only a very small percentage of the world population that will be able to read them ;).
It’s scarey that global warming is already impacting on health issues.
On a cheerier note congrats to Dame Helen Mirren but Leonardo Di Caprio gets a green Oscar for his website. I heard somewhere he’s got an eco-vehicle of some sort. Now if only they could get the unit price down.
A British speaker at the AAAS conference said they will be drafting a report on what to look for in voluntary offset organizations; the final report will be ready sometime later this year. The British pay offsets when sending people to conferences, and double the rate for flying. I don’t know whether British calculators are more accurate than American ones, would love to see that in the report as well.
I went to 3 calculators, none of which count mass transit, and got results that differed by more than a factor of 2.
it is my pleasure to do the translations of good articles ;-) but unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation about the global warming topic (also) in Slovakia (though I think people are much better informed than in US). A lot of people tend to look at climate science as a “political science with pre-determined results”. And that scientists are looking at “only CO2 and not other factors…”
And also some people think, that it brings You more money, when You are doing research in this field. I really don’t know, how these people came ti this conclusions…
well, but there is a lot of people recognizing the difference between the climate science and “alarmism” a’la James Lovelock.
Recently, George Kukla wrote a very strange article about that we should prepare for a coming ice age and that increasing temperatures bring more snow to polar regions and thus starting the global cooling and offseting the sea level rise…
he also notes, that at the moment, tropical regions are warming more, than polar regions, which is also a strange statment.
Meanwhile, H. Svensmark new theory emerging is here ;-)
well, for many people there is no consensus in the statment, that humans are significantly affecting the climate. Unforunately, this blog is still needed, not only bringing good science, but also for a better future. That is at least my opinion,
Continue doing a good job ;-)
“… information about some of America’s agents of ‘agnotology,’ the production of ignorance and doubt. The textbook example is the decades-long effort by the tobacco industry to preserve its business by denying that smoking causes lung cancer and other diseases. A similar effort on behalf of that spectacular technical failure, the Strategic Defense Initiative and its successor missile-defense programs, was mounted by the Marshall Institute starting in 1984; after the fall of the USSR the institute broadened its portfolio to include climate-change science. Today’s anti-global warming effort includes veterans of both campaigns and most of the same techniques. ….”
Here’s the comment I made at MarkLynas.org re carbon offsets:
I don’t feel quite right about them, either. I havenâ??t used any of them, but Iâ??ve thought we should reduce our GHGs as much as possible, and it would also be good to help others do so.
For this we can have “CARBON REDUCTION GIVING.” That is, we help others (esp those in need) reduce, e.g., by giving them CF bulbs, etc. We offset our usual charity donations with energy/resource efficiency donations.
My husband actually came up with the idea. We went to a retreat at a Benedictine monastery. Last year I made comments about their showerheads wasting water. This year I was amazed to find the showers all had the low-flow heads with off-on soap-up switches. But it was my husband who told them this year about their lights, and they said they had never heard of CF bulbs…
So now weâ??re planning to go back with a load of CF bulbs.
Weâ??ve been sending them monetary donations, but these bulbs will be the gift that keeps on giving…for their savings & for the earth.
Maybe we could call them EARTH GIFTS.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 28 Feb 2007 @ 12:45 PM
Another tidbit if the Contributors allow — following up on earlier posts about disappearing honeybees, there was some speculation it was climate-related. Not so.
The recent NYT stories had only hints that “certain pesticides” might be involved. It looks like good epidemiology is focusing on that cause:
According to that source, the problem seems to follow national borders. No one has publicly named the systemic pesticides that were banned in the nations where bees are still healthy,as far as I can find. Here’s what I found:
“… honey bees have also been disappearing in huge numbers in Spain and Poland. Adding to the European mystery is that Spain has very large commercial beekeeper operations with at least 3 million colonies of honey bees, similar to the United States. But Poland’s 400,000 hives are largely raised on individual farms where smaller bee colonies are separated from each other. If the answer were disease, you would not expect Poland’s separated hives to be plagued by large numbers of honey bee disappearances as in Spain and the United States.
“The two European countries with the largest honey bee populations are France and Italy. It might be significant that those two countries banned certain pesticides in recent years because beekeepers there became convinced that systemic pesticides were killing off honey bees. And so far, neither France nor Italy has yet reported the collapse of honey bee hives.
“Dave Hackenberg suspects that the culprit in this unprecedented honey bee disappearance is systemic pesticides – poisons designed to stay inside plants and kill off insects that damage crops. Systemic pesticides are not supposed to kill off honey bees, but David Hackenberg explains why he thinks that’s the problem.
“David Hackenberg, Owner, Hackenberg Apiaries, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: ‘We move bees up and down the East Coast. We moved the last of our bees in October 2006. And a month later, in early November, … 400 hives of bees … had just disappeared. Empty boxes. No dead bees on the ground. No dead bees anywhere.’…
“‘The bees have died – I mean they’ve died some place, but nobody knows where they are – whether they flew off a mile or two miles or what to die. I mean, we just don’t know how far out they are going.’
“‘… (normally) other bees will come in and rob out the honey that’s left and there are a few predators. Here in the south, we have a hive beetle that moves in and we have a wax moth that moves in and starts eating up comb and stuff. The interesting thing about this whole thing is that none of these (normal) things happen. The bees do not bother these (deserted) combs. They (honey combs) literally sit there for weeks and they (other bees and insects) don’t come to take the honey out of the boxes; the beetles don’t bother them; the wax moths don’t bother them. So, it’s just like there is something in there that’s repelling everything else.’
“‘…we’re hearing from Europe now that Poland and Spain – they have lost astronomically large numbers of bees this past fall.'”
We’re having a brisk discussion on global warming at ShaveMyFace.com, and I am valiantly defending the reality of global warming and humankind’s role in it, with some assists. But recently someone lobbed this quotation at me:
“Appearing before the Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development last year, Carleton University paleoclimatologist Professor Tim Patterson testified, “There is no meaningful correlation between CO2 levels and Earth’s temperature over this [geologic] time frame. In fact, when CO2 levels were over ten times higher than they are now, about 450 million years ago, the planet was in the depths of the absolute coldest period in the last half billion years.” Patterson asked the committee, “On the basis of this evidence, how could anyone still believe that the recent relatively small increase in CO2 levels would be the major cause of the past century’s modest warming?”
Can you provide a pithy response? Is this guy just an outlier from a group judgment? Anyone want to join in the discussion?
Many thanks for whatever you can offer. Michael
[Response: Your answer is in this paper by Royer et al., also featured in the upcoming IPCC report. It doesn’t look like PAtterson is right. -stefan]
He’s not a paleoclimatologist, he’s a geologist, a rather obscure one at that.
The following climate experts signed the letter: R. Tim Patterson, PhD, Professor of Geology at Carleton University; Tim Ball, PhD, Retired – Professor of Climatology at University of Winnipeg; Anthony Lupo, PhD, Professor of Atmospheric Science at University of Missouri – Columbia; David Legates, PhD, Associate Professor in Climatology at University of Delaware; Pat Michaels, PhD, Professor of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia; George Taylor, M.S. Meteorology; Gary D. Sharp, PhD Scientific Director, Center for Climate/Ocean Resources Study; Roy W. Spencer, PhD Principal Research Scientists, The University of Alabama in Huntsville; Jon Reisman, Associate Professor of Economics and Public Policy; University of Maine at Machias/ Maine Public Policy Institute Scholar, Willie Soon, PhD, Science Director, Tech Central Station and Sallie Baliunas, PhD, Enviro- Science Editor, Tech Central Station.
I just posted an article on by blog about a skeptical climatologist who was interviewed on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show. I’d appreciate it if anyone could help me with his arguments on the show. I’ve heard most of the skeptical nonsense before, but he mentioned something about weather cooling us down, and canceling the warming effect, that I hadn’t heard before. Thanks.
I was disappointed to find that the special reports and blogs contained within the Weather Channel’s website do not accurately reflect the prevailing scientific view of global warming. In trying to give scientists and their skeptic colleagues equal weighting, they leave the reader with the false impression that global warming may be due to natural variability. How can I reassure my students that there is a scientific consensus about global warming when so many websites deliberately mislead them? The kicker is that the report referenced below is at odds with the Weather Channel’s official position on global warming.
There are numerous reasons why Tim Patterson’s statement is irrelevant, the first among them being that no geologist in his/her right mind would expect a 1:1 correlation between pCO2 and temperature for the entire Phanerozoic. That’s just absurd. CO2 is not the only agent of climate change.
Second of all, pCO2 reconstructions for rocks that are several hundreds of millions of years should be taken with a grain of salt. I don’t doubt that CO2 levels were much higher during the end-Ordovician (~450 Ma)… but that isn’t really relevant either.
Why? Because 450 million years ago, Earth was NOTHING like it is today. If it were practically identical, but with substantially higher pCO2, then Patterson’s analogy would be meaningful. However, common sense does not work in Tim Patterson’s favor (to the point that I suspect that even Patterson knows he has made a shoddy analogy). Here are a few ways in which the Late Ordovician Earth differs substantially from today:
– The sun was about 5% less luminous
– Land flora were vastly different (dominated by nonvascular, mosslike plants). The land was probably considerably more barren back then.
– The configuration, size and shape of the continents was vastly different
– For that matter, the exposed surface area of the continents was different.
– The length of a day was shorter by nearly 3 hours
– Compared to the other two Phanerozoic icehouses (the modern and the late Paleozoic) the Ordovician icehouse was relatively brief and violent — 0.5 – 1.5 millions of years as opposed to tens of millions of years. In fact, recent work by Saltzman et al (2005) indicates that the icehouse may have occured BEFORE the “10x-14x” pCO2 event that Patterson is so fond of… in which case, CO2 could have brought the planet out of that icehouse.
I could go on and on, but you requested a pithy response… and I’m afraid that I have already gone past that. Suffice to say that Patterson’s statement has no bearing on recent climate change and sounds ridiculous to many geologists such as myself.
A bit of light-hearted diversion and a science-free post, since we are talking translations – “A few tidbits from around that may be of interest:” translates into UK/Australian english as “A few titbits from around that may be of interest:”.
Several sources suggest that an outbreak of prudishness in American language led to this delicate modification of the language. When I look at modern/popular American influence, and typical western norms, I find this an amusing throwback. Now back to more serious things…
First off is the sun and cloud formation by cosmic rays of which at the present time there is no real proof either way, however that means to a skeptic that it is true that cosmic rays cause clouds to form.
Second is sunspots and the LIA and the MWP, although not global climate events they are proof of climate change being natural, yes we agree but not in the conext of modern climate change being largely human made.
and so it goes on.
Tiring aint it now but at least we can see that it is truely a reluctance by even moderate right wingers and other vested interests to keep the debate going and to delay action on reducing CO2 emissions by all accounts which simply means higher emissions for some additional profit no doubt to keep wall street working and all of us in work.
[[Can you provide a pithy response? Is this guy just an outlier from a group judgment? Anyone want to join in the discussion?]]
Certainly. He’s indulging a fallacy often seen in laymen with no knowledge of climatology: that AGW proponents are saying CO2 is the only possible cause of climate change. It isn’t, and no one said it is. The temperature of the Earth is also affected by its orbit, its albedo, by Solar activity, by volcanoes, by giant impacts, and by the placement of continents and oceans. In any case, the case for CO2 causing the present warming isn’t based solely, or even at all, on historical correlations. It’s based on radiation physics. Other things being equal increased CO2 in the atmosphere will yield a hotter surface, simply because CO2 is a greenhouse gas and that’s how greenhouse gases work.
Re 25: It sounds as if Spencer is buying into Lindzen’s BS of self-regulation–do these guys know anything about the dynamics of chaotic systems? Can you say metastability and strange attractors?
The argument that climate defines the greenhouse effect is basically saying that everything but water vapor is negligible–demonstrably false, as CO2 accounts for about 8-12 degrees of warming. The thing is, while Christy seems to be making a good faith effort at science, Spencer seems to be moving ever more into the obstructionist camp.
If you want to compensate your CO2 emissions you can also do that via thecompensators, who retire them from the EU emissions trading scheme. If you want this with a piece of jewellery that has the serial number of your emission permit stamped on it, go to (caution, advertisement) rahmstorf.eu.
Early in the discussion Ike Solem wrote: “… coal-fired electricity generation is at something like 2,000,000 GW of power, while wind is around 20,000 GW and solar is near 500 GW – and that’s just in the US. There is no way a ‘market-based approach’ is going to change that situation.”
I don’t disagree that we need something more than “markets” to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to wind and solar for electricity generation — namely, government policies at all levels that encourage and facilitate the transition.
Having said that, it is actually heartening that “the market” is really in love with wind and solar. According to WorldWatch Institute:
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 world’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.
Private investment is pouring into both technologies — for example, Silicon Valley investors including the founders of Google have been investing many millions of dollars in setting up large-scale production of Nanosolar’s new thin-film photovoltaic materials, which promise to revolutionize electricity production with ultra-low cost, easily deployable PV surfaces. And with demand for both wind and solar soaring around the world, meeting the demand is becoming a challenge. A big expansion of production capacity is already needed, just to meet the existing demand.
#20, thanks, Elizabeth. I just ordered some LED lights. I do have a couple, but from years back (they last forever & give lots of light per .1 Watt), so I’m hoping the tech has improved even more…the prices are coming down.
#26, “global warming may be due to natural variability.” Actually that’s probably a correct statement. I think there’s something like a 5 to 10% probability that GW is due to natural variability and not our GHG emissions (scientists can jump in and correct me here).
So the big question is, if common-sense persons were presented with a bottle of poison (with a skull & cross-bones), and it said there was a 5 to 10% probability that they’d live (a 90 to 95% probability that they’d die) if they drink it, would they drink it? Especially when carrot juice, coke, and beer are available to drink?
So knowing that one saves money without lower living standards by reducing GHGs, and knowing that there’s a high probability that AGW is happening and will kill off a lot of the world’s biota, including us, would the common-sense person persist in wastefully emitting GHGs?
Next big question, what proportion of the people in the world have common sense?
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 1 Mar 2007 @ 1:33 PM
I’m trying to read the IPCC SPM and got all the way to page 5 before getting stuck. Table SPM-0 is a list of sources of sea level rise (thermal expansion, glaciers and ice caps, Greenland, and Antartica, with numerical values for each). The next line is “sum of the individual climate contributions to sea level rise”. I was expecting that to be the “sum” of the four listed components, but it’s certainly not.
I’m sure you have noticed and explained this already – please just point me to where…thanks
Re 32: Thanks, Ray. If he’s taking Lindzen’s theory, he sure did make sound as if it was his own. I think at one point he said he didn’t think anyone else was working on it.
[Response: I had a look at the link myself, and it’s a little hard to say just exactly what Spencer had in mind. I agree with the second part of Ray Ladbury’s comment, but I don’t think you need to go into notions of chaos and metastability to address the the question of self-regulation. Even a plain vanilla system with one stable fixed point depending on a parameter (say T = f(CO2)) can have different slopes dT/dCO2. Lindzen has inner faith that the slope is small (most recently because of the debunked IRIS idea), whereas verified models give a much higher slope. I wouldn’t describe self-regulation as “Lindzen’s theory,” so much as “Lindzen’s Faith,” since there is no evidence for self-regulation of a sort that would moderate anthropogenic global warming significantly, and there have been various different self-regulation mechanisms proposed by Lindzen and others (all wrong, so far). What Spencer seems to be implying is that the Earth’s temperature is fixed a priori, and that the greenhouse effect just adjusts itself to yield energy balance at this mystically fixed temperature. He implies the adjustment occurs through changing water vapor content of the atmosphere. This picture is not supported by physics of radiation balance, by thermodynamics of water vapor, by water vapor dynamics, or by water vapor observations. On a time scale of millions of years, there is a regulator involving feedback between temperature and silicate weathering, but it’s evidently not a very tight thermostat, since we can still fall into a snowball or a cretaceous hothouse. The short answer is that if Spencer were right, we couldn’t have ice ages or Cretaceous hothouses. Heck, we probably couldn’t even have Summer and Winter. –raypierre]
Extinction rates if species go extinct and we don’t know about their existence are they really extinct? I think yes, but some would have us believe this is evidence of less effect akin to downgrading tropical storms, thus there will have been less intensity all along. Right.
Re #26: Those pages are at least six years old and (AFAICT) have had their internal links removed such that they can only be found via a search. Most coming to the site looking for information on global warming will tend to end up on the (newish) special climate pages, where a qualified climatologist (Heidi Cullen) is up front.
See The IPCC Fourth Assessment SPM and follow the SPM link and download the version with the corrections as of 5 Feb. Table SPM-0 is now Table SPM-1. These errors were noted and talked about in #11 and #43 (et seq.?) in the above RC linked article and they appear to have been corrected in that new SPM version.
Re #41: P. Lewis, thank you very much. Funny, I could have sworn I read the entire discussion. My excuse is that I’m new here, and am having a hard time remembering which sections of which discussions I have already read and which are new. (Now the hot set ups are those discussion boards that keep track for you. So when you log back in to the site, each discussion heading will say “12 new comments”, or “0 new comments”, or whatever. Ok, now back to a differnet topic, where my notes tell me I’m up to #107 !!).
Can someone comment on the differences between the recent UN Foundation report on reducing climate change and adapting to current impacts and what IPCC Working Groups II and III do? There seems to be some overlap. I know the UN Foundation isn’t part of the U.N. but the U.N. did request this report.
I know a lot of languages but English is my main one, do you need people the other way? I actually can no longer read Japanese, really, although I still speak it, but I read Russian, Danish, German, French, and Spanish with reasonable fluency. I used to work doing scientific translations from Russian and German.
Re #34. Secular Alarmist, I agree with your assessment regarding the potential of wind and solar, how long does it take a wind turbine and PV/Solar to offset its CO2 production costs and how does using sustainables manage to offset energy growth. Can it keep up and replace fossil fuels in time to stave off 2 to 3 degrees of warming?
Another area that requires much closer inspection is energy efficiency in tune with sustainable power. Governments should be looking very seriously at saving the use of 40% of electricity by subsidising alternatives such as 1/5th energy lightbulbs and higher mpg cars etc.
Still it is going to take a long time to even offset a small amount of the world 850 million vehicles due to their cost and the time lag.
From a quick Google I think that this has already been picked up on by The Guardian. Channel 4 in the UK are giving a fresh airing to the usual defunct set of contrary arguments this Thursday night in a ‘documentary’ (more like fantasy).
The above link to Channel 4 “Science” (make that pseudo-science) gives a run down. There’s enough to know what’s coming and rebute just about everything in it. I’ll be watching the programme in case of any surprises. Then revising my rebuttal/formal complaint, which is already largely written. This get’s really really boring.
http://cr0.izmiran.rssi.ru/clmx/main.htm The main page of the climax neutron monitor site. If you select the start year to the earliest possible, 1953, and leave the end period, which should be 1997. You can click on “Plot” and you will see a level graph with no overall trend.
No trend in TSI since ’76, no trend in GCRs since the ’50s. No wonder the contraries tend to overlook the warming since the ’70s.
Channel 4 even try to sell on this old nugget of iron pyrites.
“In fact, the experts in the film argue that increased CO2 levels are actually a result of temperature rises, not their cause, and that this alternate view is rarely heard.”
Yes, it’s rarely heard because it’s so inept as to be toe-curling.
> 45, David Wilson, re CEJ
Chuckle. I thought the environmental journalism blog a good start, but I admit I found your own website a lot more fun, a lot more passionate, and with a lot more links to pursue. Worth visiting.
Maybe the cold, dry, rarefied air of Colorado takes something away rather than being the ideal environment the CEJ people claim; I suspect they set it among the people they’re trying to reach, who are pretty conservative.
Hey, a question for the contributors — who’s watching the biology change?
I recall a decade or more ago, long before the statisticians were confident about saying they could tease any actual physical change out of natural variation, the biologists were well able to document the changes happening — ranges and distributions moving, populations shifting.
Nature works with a much bigger ‘n’ than any experimental program can round up.
Studies like this one, for example, from seven years ago, ought to be getting more attention here, I submit, or can you point us to any other forum dealing with the most responsive organisms likely to show climate change effects, the small ones?
And tangentially, here’s a sighting of “harbinger” long before the pundits tried to paint the term as a political word:
“…. Symbiont-bearing benthic foraminifera also appear to be sensitive to increasing intensities of biologically-damaging ultraviolet radiation, exhibiting damage to symbionts, calcification and reproduction, as well as increased susceptibility to infestation and predation. On the other hand, the larger rotaliid and globigerinid taxa, which secrete low-Mg calcite shells, may fare well as atmospheric CO2 concentrations increase, at least relative to the high-Mg calcite miliolid foraminifera and aragonitic corals, as falling pH of surface waters increases energetic expenditures for calcification.”
If you do some simple arithmetic from the table at that link, they get about 35 lumems per watt, a bit more than half what you get from low end CFLs, and even worse compared to the most efficient T8s. LED lighting is a great technology – but still has some maturing to do, before it can replace CFL lightbulbs.
“Next big question, what proportion of the people in the world have common sense?”
Obviously not that many as you don’t practice what you are preaching. Forgive me if I noticed that you complained about shower heads while you burned how much energy to go on that trip, next you are going to bring them light bulbs? That’s a concernced citizen right there. I have a big problem with other people telling me what they think is good for me and not for them. Also think of all the power you burn while you type on this blog. Remember we all created this problem that means you too.
I’d like to comment on some features of the UN Foundation Report referred to in the original posting and in comments 14 and 44, and point out what I believe is an important error in its risk estimates.
This report of the “Scientific Expert Group” (hereafter “SEG”) is a familiar type of expert assessment. I don’t know much about Sigma Xi, the “Scientific Research Society,” but it seems to be an international body not entirely unlike the US National Academy of Sciences, and this report is like a National Research Council report, but international, prepared for the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs. It is presumed to be independent and to draw its authority from the credibility of the authors in the scientific community, and on the credibility of the scientific community as a whole.
The SEG report is in fact very much like a condensed version of the entire IPCC, covering the topics addressed in all three working groups. But, and this is where the matters get tricky, it has a normative, rather than merely scientific, charge, or at least has interpreted its charge that way. Specifically, it has endorsed objectives for maximum temperature change and stabilization of net radiative forcing that the authors suggest are consistent with the objectives of the UNFCCC, and with the promotion of “sustainable development” more generally. These are types of conclusions that the IPCC has deliberately stayed away from, seeing it as plainly beyond their remit.
The relationship between the SEG’s conclusions and their charge is subject for a longer discussion. But I want simply to point out here that there appears to be a fundamental error in their argument.
They conclude, after a lengthy discussion of potential climate impacts, that “the goal of society’s mitigation efforts should be to hold the increase to 2°C if possible and in no event more than 2.5°C.” Yet they endorse a stabilization target of 450 ppm CO2-equivalent (net, counting all positive and negative forcings). The report states specifically that:
“In order to have a high probability of holding the expected equilibrium temperature increase above the 1750 value to the 2°C figure embraced by the European Union, the sum of the warming and cooling human influences would need to be stabilized at a level equivalent to about 450 parts per million by volume (ppmv) of CO2 (expressed as CO2-equivalent).” (p. 44).
By my calculations, this is simply wrong. 450 ppm CO2-e (about 2.6 Wm-2, or 70% of a doubling) implies an increase of 2ºC or greater if the climate sensitivity is 2.9ºC or greater, and an increase of 2.8ºC or greater if the climate sensitivity is 4.0ºC or greater. Given the current range of reasonable climate sensitivity PDFs, the likelihood that the climate sensitivity is 2.9ºC or greater is roughly 50%, and that it is greater than 4ºC, roughly 10%. (Note that these are subjective probabilities, and not in any way precise, but I would argue extremely reasonable.) And a roughly even chance of exceeding 2ºC can’t in any circumstances be called “a high probability.”
It seems to me that this is a fact of major ethical and political significance. I am surprised that the report’s expert authors and reviewers allowed this in, and I don’t think it should go unchallenged.
“Anthropogenic CO2 results of the new technique are compared with results from the original technique as well as with results of the technique of Gruber et al. The new technique is furthermore applied to three time-separated data sets in the subpolar North Atlantic and shows consistent results with regard to available data quality and anthropogenic CO2 quantities.
“The difference between the new thermodynamic approach and the anthropogenic CO2 definition of Gruber et al., which is termed mechanistic, is discussed. Here likely changes in the CO2 solubility pump are a thermodynamic property of this definition, whereas it is a separate phenomenon in the mechanistic definition. The thermodynamic approach is not without caveats, but points to improvements by the synergistic use of model results and those from observations. Future improvements are considered for the initial saturation state of oxygen and CO2, at the instant the surface water loses contact with the atmosphere and for variations in the Redfield ratio.”
* Toste Tanhua, Arne Biastoch, Arne KÃ¶rtzinger, Heike LÃ¼ger, Claus BÃ¶ning, Douglas W. R. Wallace. (2006) Changes of anthropogenic CO and CFCs in the North Atlantic between 1981 and 2004. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 20:4, GB4017
“… In his briefing to leaders of the press corps, entitled ‘Global Warming: Connecting the Dots from Causes to Solutions’, Hansen said that evidence in the international scientific community shows global warming is occurring at a much faster pace than earlier forecasts predicted and that the burning of coal is a leading cause of elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which traps heat via the so-called greenhouse effect.
“According to the U.S. Department of Energy, coal-fueled power plants produce about half of the electricity consumed in America. Plans currently call for the construction of some 160 new coal-based facilities to meet future energy needs over the next decade.
“Speaking as a private citizen, without authority from the U.S. space agency, Hansen said the U.S. Congress should pass legislation to scale back the construction of these plants, but if it does not, ‘citizens must accomplish this.’ The controversial scientist, who has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s energy policy in the past, said that the offset in electric power could be compensated by increased efforts in producing energy more efficiently.
“A spokesperson for the National Mining Association, which represents the interests of U.S. coal producers, told the Associated Press that Hansen’s comments ‘ought to be vetted by those who have an understanding of the energy demands placed on the U.S. economy.’ Luke Popovich said, ‘When seen in light of those demands, then statements like that will appear unreasonable, to put it charitably.’ … “
RE #52, I hope I didn’t imply we should just stay at home and never go anywhere. I wouldn’t want people telling me what to do, but I’d hope people would use common sense and at least reduce in cost-effective ways. But that’s just my hope. I don’t really have any power to make anyone do anything, and I wouldn’t want it.
And I would never force the sister to take those CF bulbs, but it’s okay to offer them.
BTW, it’s about a 45 minute drive from my place, and I would have preferred having the retreat at the place 2 miles from my home, but the rest of the group wanted to go to the monastery….and it was a beautiful experience. I don’t regret it.
Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Mar 2007 @ 9:55 PM
Just a heads up to those U.S. government scientists contemplating overseas speaking engagements. The Bush Administration has now published guidelines on what topics are appropriate for discussion in mixed company. Religion and politics always a mine field, but you can now add mixing polar bears and weather to the no no list. And please note that I post this comment as a private citizen exercising my right to free speech under the Constitution. Uh, wait a minute, I don’t work for the government. Given that tax season is approaching, better safe than sorry.
Here is the NYT’s take on the polar bear guidelines, complete with the text of the highly important travel directive. Since NASA had or still has some form of such guidelines, and I understand EPA and DOE do as well, I would think it a good idea if the Administration would compile the complete set of such requirements for all government agencies and that any future requests from journalists or government workers go through the Ministry of Information so that there is no misinterpretation of their meaning. I also believe in the Easter Bunny.
NEW YORK TIMES
March 8, 2007
Memos Tell Officials How to Discuss Climate
By ANDREW C. REVKIN
Internal memorandums circulated in the Alaskan division of the
Federal Fish and Wildlife Service appear to require government
biologists or other employees traveling in countries around the
Arctic not to discuss climate change, polar bears or sea ice if they
are not designated to do so.
In December, the Bush administration, facing a deadline under a suit
by environmental groups, proposed listing polar bears throughout
their range as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because
the warming climate is causing a summertime retreat of sea ice that
the bears use for seal hunting.
Environmentalists are trying to use such a listing to force the
United States to restrict heat-trapping gases that scientists have
linked to global warming as a way of limiting risks to the 22,000 or
so bears in the far north.
It remains unclear whether such a listing will be issued. The Fish
and Wildlife Service this week held the first of several hearings in
Alaska and Washington on the question.
Over the past week, biologists and wildlife officials received a
cover note and two sample memorandums to be used as a guide in
preparing travel requests. Under the heading “Foreign Travel – New
Requirement – Please Review and Comply, Importance: High,” the cover
“Please be advised that all foreign travel requests (SF 1175
requests) and any future travel requests involving or potentially
involving climate change, sea ice and/or polar bears will also
require a memorandum from the regional director to the director
indicating who’ll be the official spokesman on the trip and the one
responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears.”
The sample memorandums, described as to be used in writing travel
requests, indicate that the employee seeking permission to travel
“understands the administration’s position on climate change, polar
bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these
Electronic copies of the memorandums and cover note were forwarded to
The New York Times by Deborah Williams, an environmental campaigner
in Alaska and a former Interior Department official in the Clinton
“This sure sounds like a Soviet-style directive to me,” Ms. Williams said.
A spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska, Bruce Woods,
confirmed the authenticity of the notes, but interpreted them
“The cover memo makes it clear nobody is being told they can’t talk
about these issues,” Mr. Woods said. “What the administration wants
to know is who is going to be spokesperson and do they understand
administration policy? It’s not saying you won’t talk about it.”
Limits on government scientists’ freedom to speak freely about
climate change became a heated issue last year after news reports
showed that political appointees at NASA had canceled journalists’
interview requests with climate scientists and discouraged news
releases on global warming.
And you are so much better. You don’t know me and yet you judge me. I went with what was said on this thread. You put those two posts together (18 and 35) and what would you come up with? Probably the same attitude you just directed at me. Looking over this board more, your attitude seems quite consistent in attacking anyone who has even a hint of an opposing view.
You know what they say about people who make assumptions, right? Apparently it fits and my comment was spot on. Thanks!
Try reading and comprehending the science and do not let others tell you what to think or say about global warming. The scientific method works and the science behind global warming is unquivocable. To deny that is to reflect the thoughts from the Middle Ages. Science is not a “fair and balanced” opinion.
“We are Earth scientists. We are not part of a vast conspiracy to perpetrate a hoax, nor are we crowd-following herd animals. We are concerned about the world we are leaving to our children. (…) As scientists we have a duty to speak out when our findings strongly suggest that a dangerous and harmful development is underway – just like someone who sees smoke billowing out of a house has a duty to call the fire brigade.” http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/04/the-heat-is-rising-at-the-washington-post/
The cores are still on a ship bound for Florida, where Andrill researchers from around the globe will meet in May to negotiate the distribution of the samples. Half of the ice cores will be archived in freezers, while the other half will be cut into pieces and distributed among scientists around the world, who will then publish their individual findings in professional journals. “We can expect at least a minor sensation,” says polar researcher Niessen.
His colleagues at German universities in Jena and GÃ¶ttingen hope to be able to take along as many pieces of the core as possible. “We want to examine the composition of the particles in the sediment,” Viereck-GÃ¶tte told SPIEGEL ONLINE. This, he said, would enable him to precisely determine how much ice from the eastern and western Antarctic ice shelves melted into the Ross Sea.
Melting ice from Antarctica’s inland ice cap also affects global sea levels, but not in the same way as floating ice shelves. “The shelf ice supports the inland ice masses,” says Niessen. If it disappears, the inland glaciers will move and melt at a faster rate.
“The message of the drill core”
According to Niessen, the preliminary findings from the new drill core provide “clear indications.” It is “certain without a doubt,” says Niessen, that an ice-free Ross bay existed 5 million years ago. …”
[the comma breaks the html link, cut and paste the whole line to get to the source]
begin snippet ——
“… concentrations of nitrogen dioxide are especially high. The picture from 1996 shows the area between Beijing and Shanghai as a loose group of reddish spots, but one from 2005 completely covers that part of China in bright red….
“These kinds of clouds float above Europe for most of the year and they’ve traveled far to get there. By analyzing the makeup of particles in the cloud, European scientists were able to identify its origin. “There was a whole bunch from China in there,” says Andreas Stohl, …from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research.
… the air from Asia that reaches the West Coast of the United States over the Pacific Ocean ….. — soot particles have colored the device’s filter “blacker than we’ve ever seen it,” he says.
Back in a lab at the University of California at Davis, Cliff and his colleagues analyze the origins of the air pollution with the help of x-rays. According to their “chemical signature,” most have come from coal-fired Chinese power plants, Chinese smelters and chemical factories, as well as from the tailpipes of countless Chinese diesel-powered cars and trucks….
SEPA official Li Xinmin claims it remains unproven that pollution from Chinese power plants reaches other countries. “That’s a false, irresponsible argument,” says Li.
Climate expert Liu Deshun from Beijing’s Tsinghua University seemingly has a reassuring statistic or sensible Communist Party decree for almost any pressing environmental problem.
“March 15, 2007
“Push to Fix Ozone Layer and Slow Global Warming
“By KEITH BRADSHER
“HONG KONG, March 14 : An unusual coalition of industrial and developing countries began pushing Wednesday for stringent limits on the world’s most popular refrigerant for air-conditioners, as evidence mounts that the refrigerant harms the earth’s ozone layer and contributes to global warming.
“The coalition is pitted against China, which has become the world’s leading manufacturer of air-conditioners that use the refrigerant, HCFC-22. Most window air-conditioners and air-conditioning systems in the United States use this refrigerant, as well.
“International pressure has grown rapidly this winter for quick action. ‘We scientifically have proof: if we accelerate the phaseout of HCFC, we are going to make a great contribution to climate change,’ said Romina Picolotti, the chief of Argentina’s environmental secretariat.
“An accelerated phaseout of the refrigerant could speed up by five years the healing of the ozone layer of the atmosphere. It could also cut emissions of global-warming gases by the equivalent of at least one-sixth of the reductions called for under the Kyoto Protocol.
“The United States joined Argentina, Brazil, Iceland, Mauritania and Norway on Wednesday in notifying the Ozone Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Program that they want to negotiate an accelerated phaseout of hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, at an international conference in Montreal in September.
“The conference is tied to the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol, which has reduced emissions of most ozone-depleting gases but left a loophole for HCFC-22 production by developing countries. China has repeatedly said it will honor all current rules of the Montreal Protocol but does not want to add new ones. ….”
One more thought — from several different angles, I see indications that the ocean’s plankton organisms are likely to change about as fast as the CO2 level changes — selection works quickly, generations are short, reproductive fitness with huge quantities of offspring can change populations within a year or less:
“… biological responses may occur in phase with the present rise in atmospheric CO2….” (cite below)
Some research is being done pumping CO2 through seawater to watch the organisms and see how selection changes them, confirming this happens.
The variability in the ocean is utterly astonishingly huge — look up ‘metagenomics’ for the methods. There’s far more living in the water than anyone imagined.
It’s become possible to slurp up organisms, break them down into messes, pull out chunks of DNA, probe for new genes, map what’s found, figure out what went with what, then go look for the very rare organisms in the ocean that possessed some particularly interesting new gene.
In fact, it’s possible to, to borrow Willey Ley’s remark about how not to understand a locomitive, “melt it down and analyze the mess” to learn what’s there.
This could mean the primary producers, the biggest part of the biosphere, _is_ going to change quite fast as CO2 increases, even in tempo with the rate at which we’re adding fossil fuel.
The gamble comes down to whether our species is somehow beloved of nature and will be favored by such change — or whether we’re going to be easy and widely available meat; if there are changes as fast as seems possible, though, there may be reasons for the currently living generation to think twice about personal consequences.
“… organismal level, a moderate increase in CO2 facilitates photosynthetic carbon fixation of some phytoplankton groups. It also enhances the release of dissolved carbohydrates, most notably during the decline of nutrient-limited phytoplankton blooms. A decrease in the carbonate saturation state represses biogenic calcification of the predominant marine calcifying organisms, foraminifera and coccolithophorids. On the ecosystem level these responses influence phytoplankton species composition and succession, favouring algal species which predominantly rely on CO2 utilization. Increased phytoplankton exudation promotes particle aggregation and marine snow formation, enhancing the vertical flux of biogenic material. A decrease in calcification may affect the competitive advantage of calcifying organisms, with possible impacts on their distribution and abundance. On the biogeochemical level, biological responses to CO2 enrichment and the related changes in carbonate chemistry can strongly alter the cycling of carbon and other bio-active elements in the ocean. Both decreasing calcification and enhanced carbon overproduction due to release of extracellular carbohydrates have the potential to increase the CO2 storage capacity of the ocean. Although the significance of such biological responses to CO2 enrichment becomes increasingly evident, our ability to make reliable predictions of their future developments and to quantify their potential ecological and biogeochemical impacts is still in its infancy……”
Recent work indicates that changes in seawater carbonate chemistry caused by
rising atmospheric CO2 (Fig. 2) can decrease biologically-mediated calcification
(Gattuso et al. 1998; Wolf-Gladrow et al. 1999; Riebesell et al. 2000a; Zondervan
et al. 2001). Changes in seawater CO2 concentration and/or CO2-related changes of the carbonate system are also likely to modify phytoplankton species composition (Tortell et al. 2002), and may even alter the relative abundance of calcifying versus non-calcifying phytoplankton (Rost et al. 2003). Since changes in atmospheric pCO2 give rise to corresponding changes in the carbonate system of surface seawater with a time lag of less than one year (Zeebe and Wolf-Gladrow 2001), biological responses may occur in phase with the present rise in atmospheric CO2….