RealClimate

Comments

RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Does this apparent saturation mean ocean pH levels will not decrease further ?

    [Response: No, I woudn't think so. I don't think the oceans are completely stopped taking up CO2, just maybe slowing. David]

    Comment by Doug Watts — 1 Nov 2007 @ 3:45 PM

  2. Does this mean that 380 PPM is the new 450 PPM?

    [Response: I think I understand your question now. My feeling is that all is not lost. What we are seeing is reduced carbon uptake by the natural world, not an actual CO2 release from the natural world yet. David]

    Comment by Shannon — 1 Nov 2007 @ 4:16 PM

  3. Hi,
    thank you for the post, very clear.

    i was wondering, when reading Canadell et al, about the strong interannual variability of the terrestrial carbon sink: as it is the remainder of the “emissions – airbourne fraction” term and the calculated ocean uptake, it reflects more or less the variability of the airbourne fraction.

    Now do global vegetation models simulate this strong variability, when forced with observed climate (i would think this would be a good test, both for models and for the way carbon sinks are calculated) ?

    is this variability somehow related to Nino events, volcanic events, or anything like that ?

    Thanks -

    [Response: Don't take this as an authoritative answer, but my hunch is there's a lot of noise in the terrestrial sink, which is all done by difference. I suspect there may be variability in ocean carbon fluxes that models don't simulate. The land gets blamed for everything we don't understand. I could be wrong about this. David]

    Comment by ICE — 1 Nov 2007 @ 4:40 PM

  4. It seems forests may be in the same boat, (pun intended).
    http://environment.independent.co.uk/climate_change/article3115537.ece

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 1 Nov 2007 @ 4:42 PM

  5. Forward the RealClimate email to your senators. We may not have 200 years.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 1 Nov 2007 @ 4:58 PM

  6. Do we distinguish between

    — CO2 dissolving into the ocean as ions (raising pH) that ought to go on til it’s in equilibrium with the atmosphere, wherever that level ends up, right?
    —- actual removal from dissolved CO2 — being ‘sunk’ out of the oceans (as by calcite and aragonite shells from plankton sinking into sediment, long term removal from cycling back to the atmosphere)?

    I know in some deep water where CO2 levels are higher, the calcite and aragonite do end up dissolving back into the ocean water even now. There’s a depth below which that always happens, and that can change as levels in the ocean of dissolved CO2 increase and pH increases.

    [Response: Wow, finally you ask a question, Hank, that I'm competent to answer! CO2 dissolves in the ocean mostly be reacting with dissolved carbonate ion, CO3(2-), to form bicarbonate, HCO3-. This will continue happening, but the concentration of carbonate ion decreases as CO2 rises, so seawater loses its buffer strength. The response of CaCO3 is to dissolve, replenishing the carbonate ion. Fossil fuel CO2 can't deposit as CaCO3 without a source of base, from weathering igneous rocks, which takes hundreds of thousands of years. Or deliberate chemical treatment is possible, speeding up the process. David]

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Nov 2007 @ 5:17 PM

  7. I read this site regularly, although I have no science background. So I’m pretty hesitant to comment. But this especially sounds so dire. How much do you, as scientists steeped in this research, feel that human life on this planet has a fragile future at best? (I realize this is a broad question, so if it’s not applicable, please delete it.)

    [Response: Don't despair. If nothing else, it's unproductive. The technology exists to cut CO2 emissions to safe levels at reasonable cost. David]

    Comment by sarah — 1 Nov 2007 @ 5:24 PM

  8. this is a very helpful essay -let for the non atmospheric scientist.
    I hope for more of these, on the subject of the ocean atmosphere interface and for more extended comments by those better read than myself

    thank you

    Comment by edward lanwermeyer — 1 Nov 2007 @ 5:33 PM

  9. Do we know offhand if there’s been a change to the level of calcium carbonate? I ran across a paper a few days ago (forgot to save a link) explaining how reduced CaCO3 tends to increase the partial pressure of CO2. Could erosion control during the last century have reduced the amount of calcium (and magnesium) oxides and carbonates entering the ocean? Could this be part of the reason?

    [Response: CO2 reacts with dissolved CO3(2-) in the water, and that in turn provokes CaCO3 to dissolve. I don't know if an extra dissolution signal has been detected yet, however. David]

    Comment by AK — 1 Nov 2007 @ 5:35 PM

  10. Please:

    “The Southern Ocean is an important avenue of carbon invasion into the ocean, because the deep ocean outcrops here. ”

    what does outcrop mean ?

    [Response: It means reach the surface. Other parts of the world, the cold deep water is covered by a warmer layer of water near the surface. David]

    Comment by sidd — 1 Nov 2007 @ 5:45 PM

  11. How do photosynthesizing organisms such as phytoplankton fit into the picture?

    Also, to explicate Shannon’s question: Much has been made of 450 ppm as a threshold beyond which Very Bad Things will probably happen. Shannon is asking (more or less) “Are we already there?”

    [Response: Ocean biology, if it were to continue unaffected by the changing circulation, temperature, or pH, would have no effect on fossil fuel CO2 because it was sending carbon to the deep sea, and it would continue. But if the biology changes in some way, it would affect ocean uptake. One possibility is reduced formation of CaCO3 by surface ocean algae and corals. This would accelerate the absorbtion of CO2 a little bit. David]

    Comment by S. Molnar — 1 Nov 2007 @ 5:49 PM

  12. I think Shannon means, are we seeing a carbon sink saturation/slowdown much earlier than anticipated, i.e. not by 2050 at 450 ppm CO2e as some predictions have it, but 2007 at 380 ppm CO2e. Perhaps yet further evidence that feedbacks are kicking in more rapidly than anticipated just a few years ago.

    [Response: Everyone seems to have understood Shannon's question except for me. I still don't know the answer, though. Forecasting the carbon cycle seems to be a tricky business. David]

    Comment by Barry — 1 Nov 2007 @ 5:52 PM

  13. Good post.

    Canadell et al is available online here:
    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/0702737104v1

    You can find Schuster and Watson (in proof) here:
    http://lgmacweb.env.uea.ac.uk/ajw/Reprints/Schuster_Watson_JGR_in_press.pdf

    And you can even find Le Quere et al (!) here:
    http://lgmacweb.env.uea.ac.uk/lequere/publi/Le_Quere_et_al_Science_reprint_2007.pdf

    I think Canadell is a very important piece, in part because it quantifies the recarbonization of the energy system and in part because it shows that emissions are rising faster than the IPCC’s fastest-growing computer model scenario–even the one that was not included in the latest report because scientists thought it was unrealistically high. I blogged on it here:

    http://climateprogress.org/2007/10/26/soaring-carbon-dioxide-concentrations-sinks-saturating/

    and former Time magazine reporter Eric Roston blogged on it here:
    http://climateprogress.org/2007/10/23/carbon-emissions-race-past-all-predictions/

    BBC reported on Schuster and Watson are here:
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/7053903.stm

    My comments on Schuster and Watson and the BBC coverage of it are here:
    http://climateprogress.org/2007/10/22/big-news-the-ocean-carbon-sink-is-saturating/

    Comment by Joseph Romm (ClimateProgress) — 1 Nov 2007 @ 5:59 PM

  14. I read several weeks ago that the waters off the N. American NW Pacific coast from Oregon to Alaska have become too acidic. This includes not only dissolved CO2, but nitric and sulfuric acids from the atmosphere & water pollution.
    As a paleontologist(retired), I can add that the geological record contains strong evidence of several events coupled w/GW of oceans reaching their CO2 retention capacity, in which increased acidification along continental selves & near-shore environments led to widespread invertebrate extinctions. Many benthic organisms in particular are affected because they can no longer produce calcium carbonate.
    Increased acidification & the inevitable dramatic decrease in dissolved oxygen no doubt put all marine organisms at risk of extinction. The overall effect being extensive eutrification creating anoxic comditions extending to the continental shelves. Such events have accompanied many mass extinction events.
    Thus, the present increased acidity in conjunction w/increasingly common & enlarging Dead Zones along continental shelves from polluted stream water are putting the oceans in extreme peril. If the oceans, being the global food chain base, ‘die’, this will inevitably lead to terrestrial extinctions.
    These feedback effects on the marine biosphere, rapidly spreading drought, groundwater depletion, salt water intrusion & stream pollution are *The Most Serious consequences of GW*. These problems are already in motion & must be addressed immediately. Not to minimize the disasterous consequences of sea level rise-especially for Eurasia, but sea levels rise gradually. This gives many coastal communities time to adjust by infrastructure reconstruction & rezoning, compared to the consequences of losing water & food from the former. It’s ALL About Ocean Health & Water.
    As Kelvin Rudolfo of U of I, Chicago (the finest lecturer & field instructor I’ve ever known & with whom it was an honor to have been a grad assistant) once concluded in a dramatic, moving undergad lecture on GW in the 70s: “What does all this mean?….Learn to Farm!”.

    Comment by David Hickey — 1 Nov 2007 @ 6:01 PM

  15. Sidd, “what does outcrop mean?” — here it means deep ocean water rising up to the surface — and “deep ocean” means water that sank to the depths long ago, at least a century, perhaps up to a thousand years ago. How long it takes for the ocean to circulate is still being figured out.

    “…. a deep-sea outcrop at the surface…. the outcropping deep water is essentially virgin as to fossil CO2 ….”
    http://www.osti.gov/energycitations/product.biblio.jsp?osti_id=5765731

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Nov 2007 @ 6:32 PM

  16. Re: #9

    The paper I mentioned was actually a chapter of Greenhouse Gas Sinks Edited by D Reay, University of Edinburgh, UK; N Hewitt, University of Lancaster, UK; J Grace, University of Edinburgh, UK; K A Smith.

    6 Geological Carbon Sinks

    The part I was referring to was Box 6.1. Carbonate chemistry ‘101’.

    Comment by AK — 1 Nov 2007 @ 6:42 PM

  17. Re: #7

    Sarah,

    I too am a layman, and they take my comments just fine, so don’t worry.

    What it means to me is: somebody is going to figure out how to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, because it is too late for any other solution.

    Also, in the meantime, mankind (and all of nature) will be doing a lot of adapting.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 1 Nov 2007 @ 6:46 PM

  18. Oceans are not the only sinking sink. A paper in Nature a couple of years ago showed a steady release of carbon from soils in the UK (independent of land use):

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v437/n7056/abs/nature04038.html

    Comment by SCM — 1 Nov 2007 @ 7:05 PM

  19. It’s not quite Henry’s law since pCO2 from the ocean also varies with [H(+)]^2 and that mean small changes in pH can set off decarbonization of the upper ocean. Local changes in pH could have a significant effect.

    [Response: Henry's law applies to the dissolved CO2 species, and also, in this case, to the hydrated form of CO2, carbonic acid, H2CO3. These two species are lumped together into what is called H2CO3* as an operational thing because it is difficult to measure the proportions of the hydrated and unhydrated forms. The expression for Henry's law is that pCO2 / H2CO3* = a constant KH. The constant is very sensitive to temperature, somewhat to salinity. The relative concentrations of the other forms of carbon, bicarbonate (HCO3-) and carbonate ion (CO32-) are controlled as you say by the acidity of the seawater solution and the dissociation constants for carbonic acid K1 and K2. All these K's are equilibrium constants, they just have different names by convention. Semantically, the pH behavior is not called Henry's law, but you are absolutely correct that changing the pH has a huge effect on the amount of CO2 that wants to come out into the gas phase. Acidify seawater completely and it would foam like beer. David]

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 1 Nov 2007 @ 7:44 PM

  20. I did not know that papers were still sold by the bushel. But, this post is worth a bushel and peck of that peer reviewed stuff.

    How about the recent popular press reports of methane bubbling out of Arctic lakes? Is that new, or just folks taking notice of something that has always happened?

    [Response: Apologies for the non-SI unit. What was I thinking? Should have used m3 or kg. David]

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 1 Nov 2007 @ 7:48 PM

  21. Nice clear post, many thanks.

    you say that ‘….The climate changes triggered a strong positive carbon cycle feedback which is, yes, still poorly understood.’

    As this is one of the $64,000 questions in terms of how this will all pan out, I wonder, if you have the time, if you could give a few references of your selelection the better published articles on this question, however limitted the conclusions.

    [Response: My own latest thoughts on the topic are here. No single mechanism can do the entire CO2 drawdown by itself, we resorted to a "stew" of ideas. An earlier review paper of the conundrum is here. David]

    Comment by Mike Fischer — 1 Nov 2007 @ 8:04 PM

  22. Good post.

    The comment above is worth repeating:
    Increased acidification & the inevitable dramatic decrease in dissolved oxygen no doubt put all marine organisms at risk of extinction. The overall effect being extensive eutrification creating anoxic comditions extending to the continental shelves. Such events have accompanied many mass extinction events.

    The offshore low oxygen zone in the Eastern North Pacific off of Oregon is one example. This has been going on for six consecutive years and may very well become a permanent feature.

    By the way, this is yet another argument against ocean iron fertilization as a means of generating carbon offsets for the cap-and-trade carbon market. Assisting in the eutrophication of the oceans is a very bad idea!

    Regarding the methane from lakes in Siberia, here’s the Nature paper:
    Letter

    Methane bubbling from Siberian thaw lakes as a positive feedback to climate warming
    K. M. Walter, S. A. Zimov, J. P. Chanton, D. Verbyla and F. S. Chapin, III
    Nature 443, 71-75 (7 September 2006)

    They radiocarbon-dated the methane and found that the last time those carbon atoms were in the atmosphere was around 30-40,000 years ago. The conclusions of their paper are as follows:

    “In conclusion, we have shown that North Siberian lakes are a significantly larger source of atmospheric CH4 than previously recognized. Emissions are dominated by ebullition, a mode of emission that we have quantified using the new technique of mapping bubbling point sources. This CH4 source is largely fuelled by thermokarst, and we have linked the expansion of thaw lakes during recent decades with a 58% increase in lake CH4 emissions, demonstrating a new feedback to climate warming. Though the recent increase in flux due to lake expansion is modest relative to anthropogenic emissions, the 500 Gt of labile Pleistocene-aged C in ice-rich yedoma permafrost could greatly intensify the positive feedback to high-latitude warming by releasing tens of thousands of teragrams of CH4 through ebullition from thermokarst lakes if northeast Siberia continues to warm in the future, as projected.”

    If, say, half of that 500 GT of carbon in the permafrost ends up in the atmosphere, that would be the equivalent of about 80 years of anthropogenic CO2 emissions at today’s rates. How fast would that happen? No idea. How long will it take to melt the Greenland ice sheet at current forcings? Melt it will, but how fast? 100 years? 1000 years?

    The sane response to such uncertainties is to eliminate the use of fossil fuels asap and replace them with renewable energy sources.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 1 Nov 2007 @ 8:28 PM

  23. To actually do something about this visit soon http://www.stepitup2007.org.

    Comment by Bird Thompson — 1 Nov 2007 @ 8:31 PM

  24. Rephrase: Are we seeing some of the predicted effects at 380 PPM that we expected to see at 450 PPM?

    [Response: I'm not real up on the details of what the carbon cycle models, in particular the terrestrial biosphere carbon cycle models, predicted about when they'd start releasing co2 rather than taking it up. I don' think those models are very well grounded in observations, just my opinion. I guess the turnaround though is happening faster than they predicted. David]

    Comment by Shannon — 1 Nov 2007 @ 8:39 PM

  25. Changes in ocean circulation are not only going to kill a lot of sea life, but there is positive feedback again on greenhouse gas and warming acceleration … and the ‘closing of the door’ on for ever on the solution of using sea ecosystems to sink the carbon back where it came from, living bionmass in thriving oceans [as distinct from our largely dead and dying ones]

    … but as if that currently almost half-complete death of the base of sea life [corals and phytoplankton] , there is something people do not seem even be aware of let alone to have modelled, the methane hydrate distribution on continental shelves is controlled by ocean temperature LOCALLY … just changing the ocean circulation at almost any coastline can trigger massive methane release without any increase in average earth temperature!

    … the amount of methane is potentially so massive that it could even swamp the breakdown of methane in the atmosphere with sudden massive acceleration in warming due to methane persisting far longer

    … in any case we shall never be able to recover from this input because it triggers warming and then the rest of the methane will be released as well and its likely all over … thermal run-away

    life is demonstrably not coping with the current rate of change, measurements suggest it is four times the maximum rate at which many species are changing their location and habits in failing attempts to adapt… we have not the time to sit around just talking any longer, we need things back under control in all-out emergency action , it is simply irrational to find out what we overlooked after it commits us all to slow death …

    The pictures painted to decision makers are of a sort of trade-off between cost and inconvenience of change as against temperature rise and some damage to nature [some say 50% by 2050, some say sooner] … no-one seems to be pointing out that one cannot damage nature 50% and it stop there, by that stage we have committed ourselves to almost complete death of the planetary life system and ourselves with it…

    The ‘fiddling whilst Rome burns’ analogy comes to mind… we know the atmosphere is disturbed, we know we are disturbing the sea circulation…. it really is time that all these things were reducing, not accelerating in positive feedback already ,out of control ,as the figures indicate they are …

    it is not time for another five years research before acting , it is time to mobilise everyone on the planet to change our way of life [one of the biggest 'inertias' in the system is humanity's reluctance to change and learning time of new ways] …

    It is seriously time to stop playing brinkmanship with existence of life on earth …and that is the thing we are gambling with against what is currently, but briefly a fairly small expense in best prudent insurance now [compared to massively increasing cost as time goes on, until no amount of money can save the ecosystems and us at a time which may easily be not far ahead , some say it is here already ... there is absolutely no justification for risking all life on this planet for even massive expense, but we may well have a tiny window for doing it cheaply whilst the seas are somewhat alive ... their death is not linear in time either ...

    We simply cannot have time for the mistake some dozen groups are playing with of just creating algal blooms which must then die , depriving the ocean of oxygen and with no great sequestration of CO2 to deep deposits or even guarantee that more co2 will not be released long term...

    It is a crude sledgehammer approach where a hundredth of the amount of iron used could be chelated and fed in slow-release to the oceans to let the ecosystems expand, saving the seas and sinking truly massive amounts of CO2 into living biomass as the seas exponentially grow back to life UNDER OUR CONTROL and monitoring...

    We even get vastly more food out of the process to offset the cost , enough to feed all people at last and at low cost , and off-setting the crippling loss of fertility of the land from modern farming methods...

    If we all plant trees on our land , we can do much the same on the land too...

    A serious look at the motor car shows that we would actually live vastly healthier lives without it and its pollution even without the massive contribution stopping using petrol and diesel cars would be to bringing things under control... this really is a win-win situation , a no-brainer ... helping the earth and improving our quality of life at the same time...

    Why are people not doing this? Do they not know yet? It seems even politicians mostly do not know that we are accelerating down the slippery slopes already , nor appreciate the extent of the damage , so how can the people ?

    I just do not understand either how when we know that we don't know all that could go wrong ,that we don't play prudent and safe, extra-cautious until we do know , when we are playing for stakes of almost all life on earth, our own existence...

    We are not then even considering the worst case scenarios and then maximising the chance of avoiding them, but why not? Since we all die in those cases, surely they are to ones to consider and ensure we maximise chances of avoiding them ...

    What we have at present i think is that even the best policy on the table is of somewhat less than 50% chance of keeping below 2C ... but 2C is the point where some believe thermal run-away sets in... that makes no sense then at all as a policy, we want a close to zero chance of getting to that 2C point, not for it being more likely than not!

    Again, methane release in the sea is being reported off South America, let us hope that it is only very local vulcanism or sea-bed shift , because if it is not we likely are too late to stop the 'clathrate gun' being triggered by ocean current changes kicking it off by merely LOCAL temperature rise over massive methane hydrate deposits ... caused by just any ocean current shift with no average temperature rise of the earth needed to make it kick in...

    I just do not get the confidence that men imagine that we can control this whenever we like , we really do not know that!

    and the cost of doing so when we finally do so is exponentiating as we speak , what point is there at all in not doing all that can be done now, immediately ???

    Equally we cannot just sit around and let the seas die, if we let 50% of species die off on the planet currently predicted , then it doesn't stop there! ... take any key organ out of our body and the whole dies, lose any key species and the ecosystem dies , almost all of it , and then we ourselves cannot survive that... the ecosystem that feed us will be committed to death long before v50% of species are extinct ... putting it as percentage is misleading, this is NOT a linear process at all,not even close ...

    How can mankind not be working flat out to absolute first priority to minimise the chance of that, by every single method we know ...I just don't understand our complacency at all ... we pride ourselves on intelligence , but this matter makes people dumb as rabbits caught in the headlights , standing inactive in the path of an approaching truck...

    There is so much we can get going on immediately to get things moving back toward control, out of positive feedback and it just isn't even beginning to happen... instead we are not even aiming to give ourselves half a chance to avoid pushing nature to the edge where there is no return...

    It is less than imprudent, it is irrational in extreme ... Changes in ocean circulation are not only going to kill a lot of sea life, but there is positive feedback again on greenhouse gas and warming acceleration ... and the 'closing of the door' on for ever on the solution of using sea ecosystems to sink the carbon back where it came from, living bionmass in thriving oceans [as distinct from our largely dead and dying ones]

    … but as if that currently almost half-complete death of the base of sea life [corals and phytoplankton] , there is something people do not seem even be aware of let alone to have modelled, the methane hydrate distribution on continental shelves is controlled by ocean temperature LOCALLY … just changing the ocean circulation at almost any coastline can trigger massive methane release without any increase in average earth temperature!

    … the amount of methane is potentially so massive that it could even swamp the breakdown of methane in the atmosphere with sudden massive acceleration in warming due to methane persisting far longer

    … in any case we shall never be able to recover from this input because it triggers warming and then the rest of the methane will be released as well and its likely all over … thermal run-away

    life is demonstrably not coping with the current rate of change, measurements suggest it is four times the maximum rate at which many species are changing their location and habits in failing attempts to adapt… we have not the time to sit around just talking any longer, we need things back under control in all-out emergency action , it is simply irrational to find out what we overlooked after it commits us all to slow death …

    The pictures painted to decision makers are of a sort of trade-off between cost and inconvenience of change as against temperature rise and some damage to nature [some say 50% by 2050, some say sooner] … no-one seems to be pointing out that one cannot damage nature 50% and it stop there, by that stage we have committed ourselves to almost complete death of the planetary life system and ourselves with it…

    The ‘fiddling whilst Rome burns’ analogy comes to mind… we know the atmosphere is disturbed, we know we are disturbing the sea circulation…. it really is time that all these things were reducing, not accelerating in positive feedback already ,out of control ,as the figures indicate they are …

    it is not time for another five years research before acting , it is time to mobilise everyone on the planet to change our way of life [one of the biggest 'inertias' in the system is humanity's reluctance to change and learning time of new ways] …

    It is seriously time to stop playing brinkmanship with existence of life on earth …and that is the thing we are gambling with against what is currently, but briefly a fairly small expense in best prudent insurance now [compared to massively increasing cost as time goes on, until no amount of money can save the ecosystems and us at a time which may easily be not far ahead , some say it is here already … there is absolutely no justification for risking all life on this planet for even massive expense, but we may well have a tiny window for doing it cheaply whilst the seas are somewhat alive … their death is not linear in time either …

    We simply cannot have time for the mistake some dozen groups are playing with of just creating algal blooms which must then die , depriving the ocean of oxygen and with no great sequestration of CO2 to deep deposits or even guarantee that more co2 will not be released long term…

    It is a crude sledgehammer approach where a hundredth of the amount of iron used could be chelated and fed in slow-release to the oceans to let the ecosystems expand, saving the seas and sinking truly massive amounts of CO2 into living biomass as the seas exponentially grow back to life UNDER OUR CONTROL and monitoring…

    We even get vastly more food out of the process to offset the cost , enough to feed all people at last and at low cost , and off-setting the crippling loss of fertility of the land from modern farming methods…

    If we all plant trees on our land , we can do much the same on the land too…

    A serious look at the motor car shows that we would actually live vastly healthier lives without it and its pollution even without the massive contribution stopping using petrol and diesel cars would be to bringing things under control… this really is a win-win situation , a no-brainer … helping the earth and improving our quality of life at the same time…

    Why are people not doing this? Do they not know yet? It seems even politicians mostly do not know that we are accelerating down the slippery slopes already , nor appreciate the extent of the damage , so how can the people ?

    I just do not understand either how when we know that we don’t know all that could go wrong ,that we don’t play prudent and safe, extra-cautious until we do know , when we are playing for stakes of almost all life on earth, our own existence…

    We are not then even considering the worst case scenarios and then maximising the chance of avoiding them, but why not? Since we all die in those cases, surely they are to ones to consider and ensure we maximise chances of avoiding them …

    What we have at present i think is that even the best policy on the table is of somewhat less than 50% chance of keeping below 2C … but 2C is the point where some believe thermal run-away sets in… that makes no sense then at all as a policy, we want a close to zero chance of getting to that 2C point, not for it being more likely than not!

    Again, methane release in the sea is being reported off South America, let us hope that it is only very local vulcanism or sea-bed shift , because if it is not we likely are too late to stop the ‘clathrate gun’ being triggered by ocean current changes kicking it off by merely LOCAL temperature rise over massive methane hydrate deposits … caused by just any ocean current shift with no average temperature rise of the earth needed to make it kick in…

    I just do not get the confidence that men imagine that we can control this whenever we like , we really do not know that!

    and the cost of doing so when we finally do so is exponentiating as we speak , what point is there at all in not doing all that can be done now, immediately ???

    Equally we cannot just sit around and let the seas die, if we let 50% of species die off on the planet currently predicted , then it doesn’t stop there! … take any key organ out of our body and the whole dies, lose any key species and the ecosystem dies , almost all of it , and then we ourselves cannot survive that… the ecosystem that feed us will be committed to death long before v50% of species are extinct … putting it as percentage is misleading, this is NOT a linear process at all,not even close …

    How can mankind not be working flat out to absolute first priority to minimise the chance of that, by every single method we know …I just don’t understand our complacency at all … we pride ourselves on intelligence , but this matter makes people dumb as rabbits caught in the headlights , standing inactive in the path of an approaching truck…

    There is so much we can get going on immediately to get things moving back toward control, out of positive feedback and it just isn’t even beginning to happen… instead we are not even aiming to give ourselves half a chance to avoid pushing nature to the edge where there is no return…

    It is seriously less than imprudent, it is irrational in extreme to play brinkmanship with an unknown edge of certain heat-death of our world … and we do know that we are currently accelerating toward it …

    Comment by Roger Willaim Chamberlin — 1 Nov 2007 @ 9:14 PM

  26. The oceans are understaturated with regards to CO2, always have been, always will be. Check back in geologic time, you will find that even CO2 atmospheric contents of 6000 ppm and more have been efficiently and quickly (geologically speaking) removed via the bicarbonate ion and massive CaCO3 precipitation when the balance is needed. There are hundreds of thousands of feet of naturally sequestered CO2 in limestone around the world. That is still happening and will continue, that is part of the natural cycle and thus the current short term, miniscule variances are nothing to get worried about. You people do need to get some earth science education.

    Comment by Dr. J — 1 Nov 2007 @ 9:52 PM

  27. One question I’ve been confused about. In temperate regions, like where I live, a deforested area is quickly grown over with a profusion of herbaceous species, and the forests tend to naturally reseed. What is the net effect on atmospheric CO2 in these areas?

    [Response: Carbon is released as a forest is cut, perhaps slowly as the wood decays or quickly if it is burned. Then when it grows back, carbon is taken back up. Eventually as the forest reaches climax you are back where you started. David]

    Comment by weather tis better... — 1 Nov 2007 @ 9:59 PM

  28. Aybody want to comment on this?

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119387567378878423.html

    My Nobel Moment
    By JOHN R. CHRISTY
    November 1, 2007; Page A19

    I’ve had a lot of fun recently with my tiny (and unofficial) slice of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But, though I was one of thousands of IPCC participants, I don’t think I will add “0.0001 Nobel Laureate” to my resume.

    The other half of the prize was awarded to former Vice President Al Gore, whose carbon footprint would stomp my neighborhood flat. But that’s another story.

    Large icebergs in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica. Winter sea ice around the continent set a record maximum last month.
    Both halves of the award honor promoting the message that Earth’s temperature is rising due to human-based emissions of greenhouse gases. The Nobel committee praises Mr. Gore and the IPCC for alerting us to a potential catastrophe and for spurring us to a carbonless economy.

    I’m sure the majority (but not all) of my IPCC colleagues cringe when I say this, but I see neither the developing catastrophe nor the smoking gun proving that human activity is to blame for most of the warming we see. Rather, I see a reliance on climate models (useful but never “proof”) and the coincidence that changes in carbon dioxide and global temperatures have loose similarity over time.

    There are some of us who remain so humbled by the task of measuring and understanding the extraordinarily complex climate system that we are skeptical of our ability to know what it is doing and why. As we build climate data sets from scratch and look into the guts of the climate system, however, we don’t find the alarmist theory matching observations. (The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellite data we analyze at the University of Alabama in Huntsville does show modest warming — around 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit per century, if current warming trends of 0.25 degrees per decade continue.)

    It is my turn to cringe when I hear overstated-confidence from those who describe the projected evolution of global weather patterns over the next 100 years, especially when I consider how difficult it is to accurately predict that system’s behavior over the next five days.

    Mother Nature simply operates at a level of complexity that is, at this point, beyond the mastery of mere mortals (such as scientists) and the tools available to us. As my high-school physics teacher admonished us in those we-shall-conquer-the-world-with-a-slide-rule days, “Begin all of your scientific pronouncements with ‘At our present level of ignorance, we think we know . . .’”

    I haven’t seen that type of climate humility lately. Rather I see jump-to-conclusions advocates and, unfortunately, some scientists who see in every weather anomaly the specter of a global-warming apocalypse. Explaining each successive phenomenon as a result of human action gives them comfort and an easy answer.

    Others of us scratch our heads and try to understand the real causes behind what we see. We discount the possibility that everything is caused by human actions, because everything we’ve seen the climate do has happened before. Sea levels rise and fall continually. The Arctic ice cap has shrunk before. One millennium there are hippos swimming in the Thames, and a geological blink later there is an ice bridge linking Asia and North America.

    One of the challenges in studying global climate is keeping a global perspective, especially when much of the research focuses on data gathered from spots around the globe. Often observations from one region get more attention than equally valid data from another.

    The recent CNN report “Planet in Peril,” for instance, spent considerable time discussing shrinking Arctic sea ice cover. CNN did not note that winter sea ice around Antarctica last month set a record maximum (yes, maximum) for coverage since aerial measurements started.

    Then there is the challenge of translating global trends to local climate. For instance, hasn’t global warming led to the five-year drought and fires in the U.S. Southwest?

    Not necessarily.

    There has been a drought, but it would be a stretch to link this drought to carbon dioxide. If you look at the 1,000-year climate record for the western U.S. you will see not five-year but 50-year-long droughts. The 12th and 13th centuries were particularly dry. The inconvenient truth is that the last century has been fairly benign in the American West. A return to the region’s long-term “normal” climate would present huge challenges for urban planners.

    Without a doubt, atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing due primarily to carbon-based energy production (with its undisputed benefits to humanity) and many people ardently believe we must “do something” about its alleged consequence, global warming. This might seem like a legitimate concern given the potential disasters that are announced almost daily, so I’ve looked at a couple of ways in which humans might reduce CO2 emissions and their impact on temperatures.

    California and some Northeastern states have decided to force their residents to buy cars that average 43 miles-per-gallon within the next decade. Even if you applied this law to the entire world, the net effect would reduce projected warming by about 0.05 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100, an amount so minuscule as to be undetectable. Global temperatures vary more than that from day to day.

    Suppose you are very serious about making a dent in carbon emissions and could replace about 10% of the world’s energy sources with non-CO2-emitting nuclear power by 2020 — roughly equivalent to halving U.S. emissions. Based on IPCC-like projections, the required 1,000 new nuclear power plants would slow the warming by about 0.2 ?176 degrees Fahrenheit per century. It’s a dent.

    But what is the economic and human price, and what is it worth given the scientific uncertainty?

    My experience as a missionary teacher in Africa opened my eyes to this simple fact: Without access to energy, life is brutal and short. The uncertain impacts of global warming far in the future must be weighed against disasters at our doorsteps today. Bjorn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus 2004, a cost-benefit analysis of health issues by leading economists (including three Nobelists), calculated that spending on health issues such as micronutrients for children, HIV/AIDS and water purification has benefits 50 to 200 times those of attempting to marginally limit “global warming.”

    Given the scientific uncertainty and our relative impotence regarding climate change, the moral imperative here seems clear to me.

    Mr. Christy is director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a participant in the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, co-recipient of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.

    [Response: Mr. Christy is the guy who made a sign error in his analysis of satellite temperature records, with the result that satellites didn't show the warming measured on the ground. This was a big argument in the denialist quiver until Mears cleaned up the mess. David]

    Comment by Ron — 1 Nov 2007 @ 10:32 PM

  29. re 17

    “Also, in the meantime, mankind (and all of nature) will be doing a lot of adapting.”

    ================

    That’s inevitable at this point, IMHO.

    But I think there is a more important question. While we can adapt, when do we reach a point, particularly given the accelerated pace of change predicted where adatation will not compensate?

    I think that is the real question for everyone to consider moving forward as people try to map out a future for humankind in a GHG-rich environment.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 1 Nov 2007 @ 10:33 PM

  30. I’m not sure whether it will help or hinder. As the oceans rise the new coast of the entire world will be in a constant state of active erosion as the new surf zone and the hills adjoining the sea seek to find stability at the soil’s angle of repose measured from the local bedrock at the then-current sea level. Thus until the sea rise is done – all ice melt and thermal expansion complete – the ocean in coastal waters will be carrying huge volumes of suspended and re-suspended earth.

    This will certainly be bad for all coastal-breeding fish, but on the other hand it may add some useful minerals to the mix. Probably not much calcium (so it’s bye-bye shell fish for those of us who gather it in the shallow coastal waters), but it could provide a huge chemically active surface area (like adding activated carbon or bentonite) in the mixing zone that will eventually settle just off shore.

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 1 Nov 2007 @ 11:28 PM

  31. I would also like to ask about the biological impacts. Most of this discussion is about physics/chemistry. However we do know the biological cycle is important too. Has it been quantified at all? Is the increasing acidity causing a slowdown in formation of carbonate shells? Is the balance between photosynthesis and respiration being affected at all? Is there any data on this, or even a way to determine how to measure these effects – perhaps by isotopic measurements?

    [Response: The picture is kind of murky, but start here. David]

    Comment by Alex Tolley — 1 Nov 2007 @ 11:38 PM

  32. #25 [net effect] While herbs appear to grow faster than trees do, a standing crop of mature trees will hold vastly more carbon in biomass than will grasses and herbs over the same area. Trees can sequester carbon for over a hundred years, if allow to stand, while herbs and grasses will release any carbon they do take up in something like a single year (annuals) and a few years or a decade for larger, more woody herbs. Needless to say, it takes several decades for today’s seedling to uptake the same amount of carbon that was release when an earlier mature tree was cut out and removed (assuming it burned or was allowed to rot.) So that leaves us having to deal with that much carbon release into the atmosphere at a time when we can least afford it.

    BTW, a tree removed from a forest and sawn into lumber for construction is (aside from the sawdust and leaves) still sequestered carbon. Our wood framed houses, if fated to stand for a hundred years, will keep that carbon out of the atmosphere AND allow more trees to grow where the former ones stood. While I am not a fan of lumber mills, this logic is hard to escape and in the run-up to a global catastrophe we need to look in all fruitful directions. Thus we should be making more structures out of wood and fewer out of metal, plastic and cement (the latter of which is a famous source of CO2) though this might have the net effect of spreading us out more because very tall buildings are less feasible. I can further imagine wooden cars, coaches and the like, wood-plank sidewalks instead of asphalt or cement, homes made entirely of wood including the foundation (as treated piers) and etc and so forth. Essentially, a forest under foot. In fact in a highly sustainable future the creative utilization of naturally occurring materials, many being carbon-based, will be the rule rather than fanciful speculation.

    [Response: On the other hand, grasslands tend to sequester more carbon in soils, so the overall difference in carbon storage between forests and praries is smaller than you'd think. David]

    Comment by Cat Black — 2 Nov 2007 @ 1:34 AM

  33. I too would like an answer to Shannon’s question #2 (and rephrased #24). As another layman, it seems as if real world data is far ahead of even the most pessimistic forecasts.

    Much has been made of the supposedly unreliability of climate models by climate-change-deniers. On current evidence I am beginning to agree with them, but for totally opposite reasons.

    If the data quoted in this article is supported by other papers (and I understand this important qualification), will we have to wait another 5 years before the IPCC can publically acknowledge this? If so the words “fiddling” “Rome” and “burn” all come to mind…

    [Response: Models of past climate changes, such as Dansgaard-Oeschger events or sea level increases, tend to underpredict somewhat the severity or the extent of the events. My opinion is that the IPCC forecast is a best-case scenario, in that there are no surprises. David]

    Comment by Guy — 2 Nov 2007 @ 4:51 AM

  34. Sounds like we have to await more results in the future. It also looks like this issue is very complex and due to this the jury is out at the moment.

    What I would like to know is if this issue is complex when would we know if sinks become sources with regard to the Ocean? I presume that land sinks to sources are easier to measure?

    Comment by pete best — 2 Nov 2007 @ 5:28 AM

  35. So am I correct that the most recent 2007 IPPC report does not take into account this development? If not shouldn’t they redo their calculations lickedy split before everyone’s lured into a relatively false sense of security? As for me Ive heard enough, im stocking up on processed foods.

    [Response: There's a pretty wide range of atmospheric CO2 trajectories covered in the various scenarios. A weakening of natural carbon sinks would tend to leave us on the high side of the projected atmospheric concentration given some rate of emissions. And of course the emissions are higher than were projected also. So I guess this puts us at a high end of the projections, but I don't think it's a totally new ball game. David]

    Comment by Will — 2 Nov 2007 @ 5:55 AM

  36. I suspect that the acid buildup is going faster than lime addition, plus warming. Oldtimers who fish at about Latitude 45 South don’t report windier weather but they do report more warm water fish species. Some believe it has been more cloudy than usual. A couple of speed yachting attempts (q.v. Bullimore) following the Roaring Forties were cancelled due to lack of wind. This alleged wind increase must be closer to the Antarctic.

    I guess a slight change per square metre in ocean flux is more important than terrestial because of the larger areas.

    Comment by Johnno — 2 Nov 2007 @ 6:16 AM

  37. The UNEP Report GEO4, just published, quotes in Figure 2.19 levels for (2-way) anthropogenic CO2 fluxes between ocean and atmosphere which seem remarkably high compared to the natural background fluxes and also almost 3 times the level of fossil fuel/cement emissions. Is this authoritative data? If so, why does this effect happen and might it change our view of oceanic sink reliability?

    [Response: I don't have the report in front of me, but carbon exchange fluxes with the land and with the ocean are much larger than the net fluxes from CO2 release or invasion. It makes it harder to measure and understand the net fluxes, but exchange is otherwise not so relevant to our situation. David]

    Comment by David Bright — 2 Nov 2007 @ 6:22 AM

  38. Walt Bennett – “What it means to me is: somebody is going to figure out how to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, because it is too late for any other solution.”

    If I were king, I’d put every available person (non-violent prisoners, the unemployed, anyone else that wants to help) to work planting trees, mixed forests of a draught resistant species, everywhere lacking forests presently. Billions of trees will take up some of the excess carbon and create habitat for some wildlife. These trees will prove the old cliche “rain makes trees, trees make rain.” It might not work… does someone have a better idea?

    Uncontrolled technology has gotten our civilization to this unsustainable place. Only nature and the passage of time can fix things, either for we humans or for whatever life remains after the mass extinction that’s sure to come amazingly soon.

    But I’m not king at all, more like a fly in boxcar on a train with no engineer or brakes screaming down from the mountains to cross a river where the bridge has washed out, while others on the train insist we’re parked at a station.

    Comment by catman306 — 2 Nov 2007 @ 6:40 AM

  39. I think it’s safe to say that it’s freaking hard to determine the kinetics of reactions in situ and especially when living organisms are involved. There are several good links above, especially abut the pure equilibrium chemistry, I’ll just ad some about the “biological pump” and such below for the interested.

    Is the
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biological_pump

    Slower then expected?
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/06/070627224849.htm

    http://dissertations.ub.rug.nl/faculties/science/2005/y.bozec/

    http://www.ipsl.jussieu.fr/~jomce/acidification/paper/Orr_OnlineNature04095.pdf

    Comment by Magnus W — 2 Nov 2007 @ 6:51 AM

  40. Unnerving stuff.

    Really a question arising from the response to #6: will limestone and chalk coastlines start to dissolve noticeably faster as the ocean acidifies and, if so, will that have a noticeable feedback on the amount of CO2 in the ocean and atmosphere?

    [Response: I don't think the excess CaCO3 dissolution would be noticable like the fizz of an alka-seltzer, but if a large fraction of the fossil fuel is burned, there will be a worldwide hiatus in the deposition of CaCO3 on the sea floor. This time interval would be marked in sediment cores of the future by a layer of clay, like in the Paleocene Eocene thermal maximum event 55 myr ago. David]

    Comment by David — 2 Nov 2007 @ 8:04 AM

  41. A very small notation rant to go with the SI one in this thread. pCO2 is awful, precisely because you see it in expressions with pH and pKa so the first thing you think of is -log[CO2]. How about changing over to Pco2 or some such. The old lit has bushels and pecks but that is no reason to continue using them, and this is from a kcal guy.

    [Response: Yeah, if we had it to do over again, I'd stay away from Gtons also, as a mass unit, rather than dealing with moles like proper chemists. Oh well. David]

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 2 Nov 2007 @ 8:10 AM

  42. re: #7

    David said, “The technology exists to cut CO2 emissions to safe levels at reasonable cost.”

    This simple statement begs several questions. (1) What are the technologies. (2) Where have they been implemented. (3) Where are the data that validate the reduction in emissions. (4) What are safe levels for emissions. (5) What were the costs for implementing the proven technologies. (6) What are reasonable costs. (7) Where are the data that validate that the emission levels from the implemented technologies are safe.

    While this comment will very likely be considered off-topic note that the original poster made the statement. And more importantly, why are such statements given a pass relative to the level of validation required for statements about the science?

    [Response: It's all in the Working Group III report of the IPCC, you can download all 1350 pages and read about it if you like. David]

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 2 Nov 2007 @ 8:30 AM

  43. RE Ike Solem #22 – yedoma, methane.

    We have seen methane levels remain flat recently. However, the amount of anthropogenic methane emissions have actually increased within the past few years as the result of the ramping-up of China’s economy. The difference has been the drying out of the lower latitude wetlands. The formation of methane is an anaerobic process which requires wet conditions.

    Likewise, we have seen more methane being produced as the result of thawing permafrost, but only during the wetter years. However, we are supposed to see increased precipitation in the subpolar regions, and temperatures are supposed to rise there more than at the lower latitudes. The further up the warming takes the above freezing-temperatures for more months out of the year, the denser the pockets of permafrost. Which as usual means the further we take this, the further it will go – with compounded interest.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 2 Nov 2007 @ 8:47 AM

  44. RE #26 Dr J “There are hundreds of thousands of feet of naturally sequestered CO2 in limestone around the world.”

    100,000 feet is nearly 20 miles. Could you point me to the 40-mile deep limestone deposits?

    Incidentally, it’s “minuscule”, not “miniscule”.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 2 Nov 2007 @ 9:14 AM

  45. In Sweden we actually have the biggest mining company trying to fertilize the forest and optimize other parameters so that we would increase growth. Then they want to count that in as a carbon sink to draw from their CO2 output. It’s actually at research stage (academic and all) but I’m sceptic… one part not so well studied is how the sewage sludge used to fertilize the forest interact with the other parts of the forest. Another if enough sludge exists close enough to make it profitable…

    Comment by Magnus W — 2 Nov 2007 @ 9:17 AM

  46. The following is a quote by Watson that appeared in an article in Reuters on Oct. 20:

    “The speed and size of the change show that we cannot take for granted the ocean sink for the carbon dioxide,” said Watson.

    “Perhaps this is partly a natural oscillation or perhaps it is a response to the recent rapid climate warming. In either case we now know that the sink can change quickly and we need to continue to monitor the ocean uptake.”
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idUKL2034748520071020?pageNumber=2&sp=true

    The change being the ocean’s diminished ability to absorb CO2.This whole topic sounds a lot like a surprise element, perhaps like the North Atlantic Oscillation undergoing change in the near future, or a sizable chunk of real estate from Antarctica falling into the sea, ahead of schedule. It points to the need to take early,effective and perhaps draconian measures to mitigate AGW.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 2 Nov 2007 @ 9:51 AM

  47. Re 28. It is sad to see John Christy let himself be used as a mouthpiece by the apologists of complacency such as the Wall Street Journal, Lomborg et al. Christy would have us believe that because we have much to discover we know nothing, and this is a fallacy that verges on mendacity. Worse, to allege that there are many scientists attributing every event of severe weather to climate change is simply a baldfaced lie. To allege that it is more difficult to predict climate than to predict weather is indicative of either extreme ignorance or mendacity. And finally to allege that those who advocate addressing climate change are condemning the third world to poverty is the biggest lie of all. I have said many times that mitigating climate change and facilitating development are two sides of the same problem–that of developing an economy that is both ecologically and economically sustainable.
    I have to say that I am disappointed with Dr. Christy’s elastic attitude toward the truth. Perhaps he should look at what the scriptures of his holy book have to say about mendacity.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 Nov 2007 @ 9:53 AM

  48. Walt Bennett wrote:

    “What it means to me is: somebody is going to figure out how to extract CO2 from the atmosphere, because it is too late for any other solution.”

    This can be accomplished through reforestation and organic agriculture, both of which have numerous other benefits.

    Dan Hughes wrote:

    “This simple statement ['The technology exists to cut CO2 emissions to safe levels at reasonable cost'] begs several questions. (1) What are the technologies. (2) Where have they been implemented. (3) Where are the data that validate the reduction in emissions. (4) What are safe levels for emissions. (5) What were the costs for implementing the proven technologies. (6) What are reasonable costs. (7) Where are the data that validate that the emission levels from the implemented technologies are safe.”

    Those are good questions.

    In January 2007, the American Solar Energy Society published a report entitled “Tackling Climate Change in the US: Potential Carbon Emissions Reductions from Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy by 2030″.

    The ASES report concluded that full application of existing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies (wind power, biofuels, biomass, photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, and geothermal power) could reduce US carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent by mid-century, which is in line with what mainstream climate science indicates will be needed to keep CO2 levels below 450 ppm, which is generally considered to be the level below which we can prevent “dangerous” climate change.

    The report concluded that full application of existing energy efficiency technologies alone would “prevent our carbon emissions from growing over the next 23 years, even as our economy grows”; 57 percent of total reductions would come from energy efficiency improvements and 43 percent from expanded use of the six renewable technologies examined.

    I suggest that you download the free PDF version of the report for more detailed answers to your questions.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 2 Nov 2007 @ 10:23 AM

  49. Re #42: [This simple statement begs several questions. (1) What are the technologies. (2) Where have they been implemented...]

    That’s a question that’d require at least a book to answer in full. I’ll agree that “reasonable cost” is subjective, and AFAIK there’s no solid answer for “safe levels” except zero. But to make a start on the laundry list of CO2-reducing technology:

    Nuclear power. Implemented in France & Japan, apparently at competitive cost to fossil fuel generation.

    Electric trains & buses for medium & short distance transportation. Implemented in Switzerland. I don’t know about capital costs, but to the user it’s cheaper than flying or driving the same distance.

    Fuel-efficient cars, available at your local Honda or Toyota dealer (or used car lot). Cheaper to buy than your guzzler.

    Bicycle for short-distance transport, available nearly everywhere.

    Turn out unused & unneeded lights, especially decorative landscape lighting. Your McMansion is ugly enough in the daytime – we don’t need to see it lit up at 4 AM :-)

    Comment by James — 2 Nov 2007 @ 10:26 AM

  50. Magnus, thanks for the warning about that notion. Sewage sludge is not a particularly good material to use for fertilizer. Heavy metals, antibiotics, and hormone mimics — sewage systems worked before modern technological pollution got bad, but they don’t remove the new bad stuff at all. And even clean sewage is loaded with viruses. Talk about stuff that ought to be going into deep geological sequestration!

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Nov 2007 @ 10:51 AM

  51. #28
    [Response: Mr. Christy is the guy who made a sign error in his analysis of satellite temperature records, with the result that satellites didn’t show the warming measured on the ground. This was a big argument in the denialist quiver until Mears cleaned up the mess. David]

    And I bet you Christy never admitted the mistake and let it fester in the web. A classic symptom of sceptic-cemia!

    Comment by Mike Donald — 2 Nov 2007 @ 11:53 AM

  52. Re #48. Potentially energy savings via efficiency gains only have a limited worth because people use the money saved to expend energy some other way. This has just been reported on in the UK during some CO2 savings exercises.

    At present cars use gasoline, biofuel is no replacement for it but a supplement to it only. Replacements are a fair way off but yes hydrogen looks promising as some cars are about to be released that use it. However you have to produce and store hydrogen and I for one doubt that as serious undertaking as this is will be implemented in time due to cost reasons even if we can produce the stuff sustainably.

    If peak Oil is correct then come 2018 world growth is going to be threatened, maybe before then. The situation is more pressing politicially then anyone thinks is peak oil is real and almost here.

    Maybe sustainables can remedey our elctricity and heating needs but what comes after natural gas for heating homes. Some kind of electric house heating system that means we are going to need to produce a lot of electricty via sustainable means, generate our hydrogen, increased population and industry needs.

    I doubt that any single body has though it through enough.

    Comment by pete best — 2 Nov 2007 @ 12:02 PM

  53. David,

    Why do you differentiate between Fossil Fuel CO2 and I suppose natural CO2 being “taken” up.

    Thanks,

    Steve

    [Response: Natural CO2 cycles between the land, the ocean, and the atmosphere very quickly. But before we started adding fossil fuel carbon to the mix, the fluxes of CO2 balanced pretty much. Nothing was changing with time. So fossil fuel carbon versus carbon that was already in play is one way to divide things, another is net (one way) versus exchange (two way) fluxes. David]

    Comment by Natural GW Steve — 2 Nov 2007 @ 1:45 PM

  54. Re: #52 pete best

    However you have to produce and store hydrogen and I for one doubt that as serious undertaking as this is will be implemented in time due to cost reasons even if we can produce the stuff sustainably.

    I tend to agree, which is why I’ve been pushing sodium fuel cells, though without any success. (Of course I have just an amateur’s understanding of the technology.)

    Although it would take some development, there’s been at least one sodium fuel cell bus running since the mid ’90′s (see next to bottom paragraph here).

    I won’t describe all of what I’ve worked out of the design advantages (and downsides) here, but I started a thread elsewhere.

    What I will mention is that it can work like a battery, needing only electricity to recharge (which we already have a distribution system for), but at potentially much higher recharge rates.

    The longer term issue is where to get power in the first place. IMO nuclear is the only feasible answer, preferably from the big reactor in the sky. I prefer solar power satellites, as they would have a smaller eco-footprint (you could put a rectenna over a peat bog or prairie), but I admit that earth-based solar panel installations will probably come first. (Does anybody here know whether you need fluorine processes in building power photovoltaic cells?)

    Comment by AK — 2 Nov 2007 @ 2:29 PM

  55. Mike McDonald wrote:
    > And I bet you Christy never admitted the mistake ….

    Mike, you lost your bet.

    Before posting your belief, use the “Search” box at top of the page:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/11/more-satellite-stuff/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Nov 2007 @ 2:43 PM

  56. re 42

    David said, “The technology exists to cut CO2 emissions to safe levels at reasonable cost.”

    This simple statement begs several questions. (1) What are the technologies. (2) Where have they been implemented. (3) Where are the data that validate the reduction in emissions. (4) What are safe levels for emissions. (5) What were the costs for implementing the proven technologies. (6) What are reasonable costs. (7) Where are the data that validate that the emission levels from the implemented technologies are safe.

    =========================

    I also think maybe statement might have been more accurate if David had couched it in terms of proposals and what we have already. Blanket statements always leave something to be desired but, to be fair, this is a subject that comes up frequently here, so I think your complaint is somewhat unfair. If you’re interested, there are the digital equivalent of reams of info on this site in many of the discussions on other threads that preceded this between people who seem to have a great deal of knowledge in the area, and maybe someone who was involved could point you in that direction.

    But regarding answers, while I’m not a scientist, engineer or (shudder) statistician…

    1) Let’s see…Solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, nuclear all come readily to mind. Agro-fuels are another, but I want to see more in that area, not just in terms of potential, but how well it will hold up in a warming world where agriculture might not be as abundant as it is currently, and where hungry mouths are on the increase.

    2) Not to be smart, but I think a simple Google search would likely give you a general idea, which is why I don’t think it needs to be answered here Wind, for example, has been around for decades and is on the increase.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power

    Likewise, solar power…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_power

    …both photovoltaic…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaic

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photovoltaic_cell

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_solar_cells

    …and the concentrated focusing of reflected sunlight…

    http://www.solarpaces.org/CSP_Technology/docs/solar_tower.pdf

    …are pretty easy to find. And let’s not forget passive solar:

    http://www.esru.strath.ac.uk/EandE/Web_sites/01-02/RE_info/passive_solar.htm

    http://www.nrel.gov/learning/re_passive_solar.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_solar

    Obviously they are far from perfect, but I think you could make a reasonable argument that if we really applied ourselves to the problem of increasing efficiency, anything is possible. And the more we apply ourselves, the more we will inevitably innovate and find even better ways of doing things. One need only look at what was spun off from the space program, or from the development of the transistor, to understand this.

    3, 4 & 7) Can’t answer that for you, though, again, though I’d bet a google search might help you. Maybe someone else here with actual expertise in this area can also illuminate things for you. But, aside from production emissions in the factory where the equipment is manufactured, what emissions do YOU think will be emitted by solar or wind generators? Or by geothermal power generators?

    And define “safe” while you are at it. IPCC safe? Or toxic emission safe, something fossil fuels most definitely are not. Again, re AGW, I believe this is information that is readily available, in this case in the IPCC report, in terms of what is projected as needed to acquire some sort of climate equilibrium. Extrapolate from there.

    5) Costs. I would like to propose an additional question you might wish to ask in concert with this question: What would be the cost, given the increasingly obvious and detrimental effects of GHG-forcing, of continuing on as we are (business as usual)?

    The short answer to 5: Who knows? Historically the introduction of new technologies has always been expensive. Look at the development of nuclear energy, of the U.S. Space Program. (Though I do recall a speech given to Congress in the late 70s, maybe the early 80s, by Robert A. Heinlein, later published under the title “Spinoff”, that suggested that the spin-offs from that program ended up paying for a large part of it, at least, up until the Space Shuttle.) The simple truth is new tech is ALWAYS expensive. (And if anyone wants to start drawing comparisons between Heinlein and Crichton, you’re just being silly. There is no comparison; the former actually had integrity.)

    And in terms of costs are you looking in terms of short-term, or long-term? Short-term I would venture it would be prohibitively expensive. But given the nature of the emergency (and I use the word deliberately) I believe this is really a long-term question. In that case, if I was a betting man, I would say the answer is business as usual would be more expensive. Not just because of the GHG issue, either, particularly when you consider the effects of oil-based pollution on the biosphere.

    Like it or not, we are reaching or have surpassed peak oil, as the demand continues to rise with more countries moving forward technologically and production increases being at best minimal. Look at it this way: sooner or later we will reach a juncture where it will cost a dollar’s worth of energy to extract a dollar’s worth of energy. That day is not here yet. But it is safe to predict that is we haven’t reached the point of dwindling returns on investment, we will soon. So we’re going to have to replace this form of energy with something else.

    Nuclear fission is not a long-term solution, imho, from what I’ve picked up over time – if all the reactors anyone would desire to build were built globally, odds are the supply of fuel won’t last the century. Even if it did, with each new reactor you raise the odds of something bad happening, something with long-term ramifications on a continental basis. (Look into the history of the effects of Chernobyl for details or, even better, the events at Palo Verde in Arizona today, for an idea of the ongoing potential for problems these plants present.). And, of course, there is long-term storage of wastes. Fusion has been “just around the corner” since it was first proposed; so I wonder if we’ll ever pull it off – right now it remains less “sure” than a number of the alternatives being considered. Not that I would know with any sense of expertise…I’m not a physicist, after all, just an interested observer.

    But it seems that ideally we want a technology that was cheap and relatively dependable. So solar and wind are obvious candidates. I think the real problem in this area are storage batteries and their impact. Maybe someone could address that?

    6). Define “reasonable cost”. What would you consider a reasonable cost: perhaps something that involved not changing the manner in which you conducted your day-to-day life? Or how about keeping our technological edge? Perhaps something that didn’t force us to change the way we live at its most fundamental level?

    Consider: we’ve always known that sooner or later we were going to have to change the way we did business. Only a fool could believe at this point in our history that we have an unending supply of fossil fuels to power our civilization. Yet we’re carrying on as if we believe just that and now it would appear the bill is coming due, global warming notwithstanding. Whatever the alternate technology or technologies may be, it is obvious that some countries are already researching and developing them (wind is very big in Europe, as I understand it), and it could be argued that, as with stem cell research, the U.S. is surrendering a technological edge to other counties by dragging its feet in the mud while it pursues policies that can best be described as counterintuitive to reality regarding what we’re faced. Ask yourself: as the century progresses, which country or group of countries do you think will be better positioned to maintaining their ability to survive and thrive: a country selling the technology, or one forced to buy it because it wasn’t willing to invest when it was obviously time to do so?

    I think whatever happens, we’re going to have to learn to give up a lot of things we take for granted, change our way of doing business and commuting, nationally and globally. I think there are hard years ahead, many hard years, and the sooner we resign ourselves to the understanding this, the sooner we might be able to address this with a hope of coming out intact on the other end. Perhaps in the end only real question is whether we want to willingly accept these inevitable changes, or to have them forced on us by our own lack of foresight.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 2 Nov 2007 @ 2:47 PM

  57. Re #s 28/47/51: To all appearances Christy bought himself a Bob Carter mask for Halloween and forgot to take it off.

    The Mears correction was so very, very public that Christy couldn’t avoid accepting it, but he and Spencer continue to err on the low side. There should be a comprehensive reanalysis out from RSS (Mears) in the pretty near future, and in a sane world that would put this debate to bed permanently. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to live in a sane world.

    Folks may recall the CCSP report a couple of years ago on resolving discrepancies in the various temperature data sets. Christy and Spencer were brought into that process and signed off on its conclusions (which because of the perceived need to get them on board was much softer on S+C’s past work than would have been the case had they remained outside the process). Just a few months later C+S popped up at the Marshall Institute with a presentation of their new analysis that repudiated what they had just agreed to in the CCSP report, noting that of course had only their new stuff been ready in time they would not have agreed to the report’s conclusions. I sincerely hope their CCSP co-authors learned their lesson on this one.

    AGU members will have noticed that Christy’s recent major foray outside the satellite temp data analysis field (a paper purporting to show that increased temps in the California central valley are an artifact of irrigation) was comprehensively refuted a couple of weeks ago on the front page of Eos. I cannot help but think that the prominence of that refutation (which occupied the entire front page even though the more typical practice is to put part of such articles on an inside page so that something else can be featured as well) was intended as a message to Christy.

    Spencer, in the meantime, has branched out into an attempted revival of Lindzen’s “iris” hypothesis. While some skeptic/denialist commenters in another RC thread waxed hopeful about its implications, my impression is that the field doesn’t take it seriously (although since it did get published perhaps it will get a formal refutation at some point).

    For some reason S+C seem engaged in doing what they can to destroy what were at one point a couple of pretty good scientific reputations.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 2 Nov 2007 @ 2:57 PM

  58. David, you wrote: “the pCO2 of the water rose twice as fast as the atmosphere did, by about 30 microatmospheres. The air-sea difference in pCO2 collapsed to zero in the high latitudes”

    Wouldn’t it be reasonable to conclude that changes in water pCO2 were caused by some mechanism that is internal to ocean waters, and not by the relatively small external rise in CO2 concentrations attributed to humans? It certainly looks like the effect (water pCO2) should not be bigger that the cause (air pCO2)…

    Comment by Al Tekhasski — 2 Nov 2007 @ 3:16 PM

  59. For some reason S+C seem engaged in doing what they can to destroy what were at one point a couple of pretty good scientific reputations.

    Spencer has also endorsed Intelligent Design Creationism. I’m not trying to reopen that subject, but this should make it clear that views that are a bit unusual for scientists to hold.

    Comment by dhogaza — 2 Nov 2007 @ 4:16 PM

  60. RE#13

    Joseph Romm, nice piece in Slate with the duel with Landsberg. Good work!

    Comment by Mark A. York — 2 Nov 2007 @ 4:39 PM

  61. Re. #57, Steve Bloom:

    For some reason S+C seem engaged in doing what they can to destroy what were at one point a couple of pretty good scientific reputations.

    The reason is clearly idealogical. Both are libertarians, and both work for several of the libertarian lobby groups that have been spreading a great deal of disinformation about science in order to further their anti-regulation agenda. Christy is a member of the Independent Institute‘s Panel on Global Warming, while Spencer actively supports the Tech Central Science Foundation, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, the Heartland Institute and the infamous George C. Marshall Institute.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 2 Nov 2007 @ 4:53 PM

  62. Go and check out the James Lovelock lecture on the royal society website. 3 or 4 down on the right hand menu :

    http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/

    I was there and it was quite shocking to be in the middle of some of the worlds finest minds and not one of them was inclined to question his frankly apocalyptic take on AGW.

    Keep up the good work Real Climate.

    Comment by Matt — 2 Nov 2007 @ 4:59 PM

  63. Thanks for an excellent site. I’m an engineer by training & have been following the climate change issue for some years.

    This may be considered a little off topic, but please bear with me, as you may well find this interesting, I hope.

    One thing I have suspected from day one is that climate change & it’s effects would not be a ‘linear’ event, but characterised by feedbacks forcing sharply one way or the other – at some point. Forgive my simplicity here, but in light of the plethora of positive feedbacks & sq-root-of-very-little in the negative feedback corner, this screams out for a precautionary approach.

    Forgive me again for my simplicity, but when the effects begin to lose linearity & show signs of heading round the ‘knee’ of the curve, as they have this last few years, we should be putting that precautionary approach on an urgent, emergency action basis.

    Which, of course, is not happening….

    In fact, when one takes account of likely substantial ‘export’ of emissions to China etc. (see New Economics Foundation ‘Chinadependence’ report), ‘business as usual’ best describes the results of the recent years’ political rhetoric, diplomacy & ‘greenwash’.

    I have no doubt that we already have enough technological & scientific know-how to readily change course from these tipping points to anhilation.

    So why aren’t we ?

    I’ve been pondering this question for some time, and if you’re still with me, I’d like to share with you some thoughts & conclusions on this, and hopefully you might consider my post a little less ‘off-topic’.

    We have a massive ‘system’ problem in collective decision making mechanisms we describe as ‘politics’ or ‘democracy’. They are neither fit-for-purpose nor democratic.
    Importantly, they contain virtually no feedback loops for our vital ecosphere and none at all that have a horizon much beyond the next ‘election’. The ‘Economics’ (money) subsystem is equally flawed & short term in outlook. The main ‘Information’ (Media)subsystem is clearly not fit-for-purpose either.

    These outdated systems, born & little changed from pre-industrial fuedal societies ensured wealth & privilege for the few, misery & premature death for the many.

    Economic growth of the Industrial age disguised or hid the worst realties of these systems of ‘governance’.

    Unfortunately, we have reached the planets limits to our continued growth.

    Under ‘feudal’ control, the inevitable large contraction of the ‘majority’ population on global scale will likely be very nasty indeed. The destruction of life on Earth (for a few hundred thousand years at least) is also possible.

    However, help is at hand.

    Capitalism 3.0 by Peter Barnes, proposes the best, workable, system ‘overhaul’ I’ve yet seen – by far, and, in true ‘commons’ spirit, it’s available for free pdf download.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/353333/Capitalism-3-0-Peter-Barnes

    Do read it.

    All we have to lose is our super-rich elites & their selfish agenda.

    Thank you for indulging my oblique ? / off ?topic post – I’ll not make a habit of it.

    Comment by Mike Hall — 2 Nov 2007 @ 5:04 PM

  64. When you dissolve CO2 in water, it enters the carbonate equilibration system in the ocean:

    CO2 + H2O = H2CO3 -> [HCO32-] – [CO32-] -> CaCO3

    As the ocean’s acidity increases (especially in the surface waters), this will reduce the ability of marine organisms to form calcium carbonate shells, because the carbonate equilibrium will be pulled to the left.

    This is why, originally, it was thought there’d be no problems with CO2 emissions:

    Arrhenius did not see that as a problem. He figured that if industry continued to burn fuel at the current (1896) rate, it would take perhaps three thousand years for the CO2 level to rise so high. Högbom doubted it would ever rise that much. One thing holding back the rise was the oceans. According to a simple calculation, sea water would absorb 5/6ths of any additional gas. (That is roughly true over a long run of many thousand years, but Högbom and Arrhenius did not realize that if the gas were emitted more rapidly than they expected, the ocean absorption could lag behind.)

    However, the mixing time of the oceans is around 1,000 years under today’s ocean circulation conditions. This means that the past century of fossil fuel CO2 emissions hasn’t had time to equilibrate with the oceans. Furthermore, if we look at geological history, it turns out that huge surges of CO2 into the atmosphere can linger for a very long time. The event 55 million years ago resulted in changes in ocean carbonate chemistry that persisted for 100,000 years.

    We can guess why that might have happened – extinction of marine animals that produce calcium carbonate shells is one reason, and a thermal stratification of the oceans that reduced mixing rates is another.

    Notions that “the natural system will respond as needed to restore the balance” (i.e. Dr J. above) are teleological nonsense. It is true that, eventually, the land and oceans will absorb the fossil carbon that we’ve transferred from fossil fuel reserves into the atmosphere, but 100,000 years is a long time to wait for that to happen, isn’t it?

    Comment by Ike Solem — 2 Nov 2007 @ 5:09 PM

  65. Re: #56, #49 and #42 and the original #7

    Some readers might be interested to hear that the Institution of Engineering and Technology launched a new journal in September 2007—IET Renewable Power Generation—that may provide more details. There are plenty of tools available to us *now* to reduce emissions and increase energy-efficiencies, as well as schemes to capture carbon dioxide—though its storage is less well-advanced, but extraction, injection and storage projects like the one involving the Utsira aquifer over Statoil’s Sleipner West gas production field in the Norwegian North Sea do show promise.

    In any case, engineers are addressing this issue of emissions reductions from as many angles as possible, so many more solutions are in the short-, medium- and long-term pipelines! It does not help, though, if technologies exist and remain underdeployed, nor for engineers to design products that remain on store shelves, or are bought and not used. So, my message to Sarah is this ~ please do not despair, but do keep asking questions that move this whole game forward (like “How can I switch to renewables *now*?” etc.)

    The following link should work for non-members of the IET, and you should be able to access these papers until 31 December 2007 (after that, contact me). The description that goes with the Call for Papers is as follows:

    IET Renewable Power Generation

    All research published in IET Renewable Power Generation is free to download via the IET Digital Library during 2007.

    Scope

    This new journal from the IET brings together the topics of renewable energy technology, power generation and systems integration. Other technologies having a direct role in sustainable power generation such as fuel cells and energy storage will also be covered, as will system control approaches such as demand side management, that facilitate the integration of renewable sources into power systems, both large and small. Specific technology areas covered by the journal include:

    wind power technology and systems
    photovoltaics
    solar thermal power generation
    geothermal energy
    fuel cells
    wave power
    marine current energy
    biomass conversion

    The journal provides a forum for the presentation of new research, development and applications of renewable power generation. Demonstrations and experimentally based research are particularly welcome. Research that explores issues where the characteristics of the renewable energy source impact on the power conversion and where the wider system control or operation are central to the challenge of integration are particularly encouraged.

    The journal is technology focused covering design, demonstration, modelling and analysis, but papers covering techno-economic issues are also welcome.

    In addition, there are many opportunities for engineers to share best-practices, such as this seminar next week:

    Emissions Reduction in the Oil, Gas and Chemical Industries – Technical Advances in Emissions Reduction

    and most of these events are completely invisible to the public. Engineers typically get minimal attention from the media, until a product is unveiled (or a disaster happens) …

    Finally, there are two articles that appeared in Power Engineer Magazine on carbon capture and storage (CCS). (I just posted them on my blog for general interest.) They share a title—both are Dead and Buried!

    Comment by inel — 2 Nov 2007 @ 6:14 PM

  66. Re 56
    From what I have read the best hope for a replacing fossil fuels in the long term is geothermal. In the next few years advances in drilling technology should enable us to access hot rocks from practically anywhere on the Earths surface.
    The snag is that it might take up to 10 years, time we may not have.

    Comment by David Price — 2 Nov 2007 @ 6:21 PM

  67. Re #52: [...but what comes after natural gas for heating homes. Some kind of electric house heating system...]

    Not to get too far off into technical details, but most houses can get most of their heating needs from solar. Even retrofitting decent insulation can slash the amount of energy used for heating and cooling.

    After that, sewage plants generate a lot of methane, and what’s that but natural gas?

    Comment by James — 2 Nov 2007 @ 10:27 PM

  68. The whole situation looks dire to me, too. All the climate models I’ve heard about have been too mild (things are getting worse faster than any of them predicted).

    Many have asked why, with available affordable technologies to reduce CO2 use, why isn’t anything being done about it? The answer is simply lack of political will. People simply don’t care, and they’re stupid (we’re obviously not an intelligent species; if we were, we would have not gotten ourselves into this mess in the first place). I don’t see anything meaningful being done about it. People like their cars and Americans don’t (and won’t) give them up. In spite of the obesity epidemic, people still want to drive everywhere, and live in suburbia, even if it means 1-2 hour commutes (long commuters are one of the fastest growing segments of our society, and I read somewhere there is enough of them now to stop any meaningful action on global warming).

    So nothing will be done about it.

    Comment by Diane Wills — 2 Nov 2007 @ 11:47 PM

  69. Well Honda has a natural gas car. It has 0 emissions. Methane as a rule doesn’t burn. It just emits.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 2 Nov 2007 @ 11:54 PM

  70. 6). Define “reasonable cost”. What would you consider a reasonable cost: perhaps something that involved not changing the manner in which you conducted your day-to-day life? Or how about keeping our technological edge? Perhaps something that didn’t force us to change the way we live at its most fundamental level?

    I dunno. These days I like to turn the grid off to my house just to make sure I can run without it. I also like to walk outside and watch the meter spin backwards.

    Okay, changing my lifestyle. When I switched from incandescents to CFLs my house stayed so much cooler that I was forced to open the windows to get some air exchange. My net lifestyle change was smaller electric bills (click the link under my name for a graphic) and more fresh air. Oh, and immunity from short term grid loss, and survivability in the event of a longer term loss. It’s a hard life. Someone has to live it, I guess.

    There are entire subdivisions being built where I live that have 3KW solar arrays on the roof. I have 2100 watts — but room for more ;)

    There’s an entire subculture out there that’s already cutting carbon emissions to the bone and they don’t have anything near Gore’s wealth. Which he uses to spew carbon into the atmosphere at a frightening rate.

    One of my ex’s refuses to use CFLs for outdoor lights. Why? Because they won’t turn on and off with photocell switches. Except that they are cheaper to run 24/7 than incandescents are to run 12/7 on average, year round.

    The problems of saving energy aren’t real — most are imagined, just as the “savings” that comes from running incandescents with 4 times the power consumption, and a fraction of the life expectancy are imagined. Oil has been trading over $90/bbl lately. The people who are going to experience lifestyle changes are the ones who don’t start making the change to energy saving and renewable energy technologies.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 2 Nov 2007 @ 11:56 PM

  71. House heating, cooling, hot water: one or more, depending on circumstances:

    0) design the house sanely in first place; reflective blinds; seal airgaps; check out house with infrared thermometer, improve insulation, check windows. If you build with thick walls in first place, they tend to soak up heat during day, give it off at night, which works well in Southwest.

    1) geothermal heat pumps heat or cool
    2) solar thermal for heat and/or hot water
    3) solar -> electricity [PV or CSP] -> electric heat, on-demand hot-water
    4) wind -> electricity ->electric heat, on-demand hot-water
    (people are starting to build a variety of devices that may be mor practical at home)

    Of course, the issue of batteries remains, but there is interesting work going on.

    5) solar thermal for pool, turn gas heater off.

    There are people around here building regular suburban detached houses, but off the grid, zero external energy, designs.

    Comment by John Mashey — 3 Nov 2007 @ 1:03 AM

  72. Reading Canadell 2007, I observe that tere’s still a lot of uncertainty in measurments of carbon cycle. For exemple, uncertainty in annual fossil fuel + land use emissions is 0,5+0,4=0,9PgC/y. That’s nearly 41% of ocean sink (2,2PgC/y). And the airbone fraction graph (2A Atmospere) exhibits a strong variability, with most recent value not so high (higher values in the 1980′s, a 5yr smoothing for the trend would be interesting). A point I misunderstand in this graph for 2C is why the year 1998 does not show a net decrease in ocean fraction (with warmer oceans due to El Nino)

    The trends observed by Le Quere et al. are eve smaller, as they concern just the Southern Ocean (0,08PgC/y/dec). And, if I carefully read their paper, the attribution-detection of the cause of this trend is not clear (a modification of winds, itself bound to SAM, ozone depletion or surface temp. gradients due to GW).

    Mots of carbon cycle models announce a positive feedback for the century, bt I’m not convinced that these recent works are enough to infer a strong feedback.

    [Response: The uncertainty in the land use change carbon emission, and therefore also in the "missing sink" terrestrial uptake, is particularly bad. 2 Gtons is more mass than the entire mass of humanity, going to ground every year, but we can't find it. There are other uncertainties too, in every part of the story. But the fact that all indications, uncertain as they may be, point in the same direction seems to me significant. David]

    Comment by Charles Muller — 3 Nov 2007 @ 2:18 AM

  73. #57. All Christy and acolyttes offer is the same old song. They are the enlightened amongst a field of inferiors. Free lancing nothing but half baked theory rhymes in line with their frank assetion of incompetence with respect to understanding climate. They have credentials of substance but offer no substance to absorb as reason. Aside from exclaiming the variability of climate, without clear causations, it just varies that is all they know for sure. This key premise is shattered everytime it gets warmer at multiple locations around the world simultaneously. Probably allergic to weather maps, they haven’t noticed the sheer strength in this warming. Rather, they rely on their foes as fodder to criticize, a venting target no matter how right they were. Bottom line, they serve no purpose, like a bunch of guys at a bar blabbering the same old nonsense. What science they offer, flawed MSU trends, and Iris which remained shut when all this polar ice as melted, past climate which has no semblance with todays environment, it is a good thing that the climate varies! Yet it got warmer every single year since they refuted global warming. A vast majority of people on Earth already knew more than they claimed, about to be humiliated they changed their tune, global warming exists because its all around us. But at the end they failed the test of their greatest peer, which was once their future, it didn’t get cooler, but steadily warmer, from this lesson, they learned to fear most the future, having based their science on stature giving them the right to dispute anything at will, instead of practicing physics and chemistry leading them to the inevitable repeatable conclusions. The lot of them remain silent about what will come next, because they simply don’t have a clue. Spending vast energies in finding a cunning contrarian prose must be taxing, leaving very little time to do science.

    Comment by Wayne Davidson — 3 Nov 2007 @ 2:20 AM

  74. Great posts.
    When I started out reading this blog, I would have categorized myself as somewhere between a climate skeptic and a climate denialist. I think this has changed and I am grateful for the helpful information found in this discussion, particularly. It has been an absolutely eye opening experience. I think I have a much clearer understanding of what climate scientists have to say about our world and I certainly believe that the danger is real. There can be absolutely no denial. Not for me, anyway. The danger is incredibly real and we are not safe.

    Comment by petefontana — 3 Nov 2007 @ 3:45 AM

  75. Re #58, solar would be useless in the UK winter for heating a current home. In the summer then yes it works but we only need hot water then. Thats the real issue, its cold and winter becuase there is not Sun.

    I believe that other solutions may be applicable such as trans continental grids that use wind and solar from disparate sources to produce hydrogen etc and provide some electricity. I am sure it can bge solved but market forces are being quite slow to react.

    Comment by pete best — 3 Nov 2007 @ 5:13 AM

  76. On the ability of humans to resolve AGW in time I would say this. It seems that the argument has moved on from if it is happenning to what to do about it which is good. However reticence is all around and the first world is loathe to give up any of its current lifestyle it would seem in the numbers necessary to make a difference and hence new technology must be key to resolving the issue.

    So the first issue is population growth and longevity. 6.5 billion now to 9 billion by 2050, after that the global population is set to fall but 9 billion people is a lot to feed, clothe, house and give purposeful modern lives to.

    Increased economic growth is fuelled by increase fuel usage and by 2030 the world will need 50% more energy then it consumes now. The vast majority of this is presently scheduled to come from fossil fuels because at this present moment in time with current economic and politicial thinking this is what works!! What is needed is new thinking in this area and new politics and economics with regard to promoting alternative energy strategies. Will it happen in time, maybe but it not looking good presently.

    Oil is not going to be replaced by anything soon. Yes it may be mitigated by biofuels (first generation) but world food prices are rising to so this is not going to work to reduce oil use by any significant amount.

    Efficiency gains are nearly always wiped out by people spending the money on other fuel consuming activities. This is awkward and will require a lot of thought to resolve. Oh I know tax is probably the only way here.

    Sustainables and all that probably can work some kind of AGW miracle, hydrogen to maybe if we can produce enough of it, make enough cars and store it across the world in lot of small tanks called gasoline stations. But this troubles me because of time. I doubt that 40 years in long enough to replace the oil infrastructure of the world if we has the technology now. Heating buildings and home and new types of energy efficient buildings etc can help but it is not the whole picture and what about the energy used in making things and the role of plastics in society. Peak oil could make people think about energy security a lot sooner that AGW and hence much AGW strategy could go out of the window when freezing winters start nipping at our heels.

    Coal is unlikey to get sequestered for a least a decade, just to get it going initially. To say that humankind would ramp up rollout in another decade is wishful thinking to my mind.

    its not looking good.

    Comment by pete best — 3 Nov 2007 @ 5:58 AM

  77. Toward the end of your comments, you say “The infamously hot summer of 2003 in Europe for example cut the rate of photosynthesis by 50%, dumping as much carbon into the air as had been taken up by that same area for the four previous years”. Please, could you be so kind as to explain why the rate of photosynthesis was cut. Also, do you mean, when you say that the result was to “dump carbon into the air”, that carbon was actually released by plants into the air or rather, that it was not taken up by photosynthesis?

    [Response: Ciais et al conclude that it was a deficit of rainfall in eastern Europe, and heat in western Europe, that drove the response. The carbon storage of the landscape is determined by the balance of photosynthesis and respiration, so there's less photosynthesis, the carbon stock could decrease. David]

    Comment by P K — 3 Nov 2007 @ 6:55 AM

  78. Thanks for this post. These kinds of positive feedbacks need to be presented. I don’t think the general public or our leaders have any idea about them….they’re just thinking linearly.

    RE cost effective technology, there’s an engineer/architect in Naperville who specializes in passive solar for the Chicagoland area. He has a home that uses about the same amount of energy for heating/cooling as a gas streetlight. And he doesn’t even have PV solar panels or wind generators — just passive solar, good design, excellent insulation, and a highly efficient combination water heater/home heater. But his roof is oriented to be perfect for addition of PV panels.

    The house costs about 5% more than a conventional house, but pays for that difference within 10 or 20 years (I can’t remember), then goes on to save money. And it doesn’t look weird or stand out. You’d never know it was a passive solar home. And it’s very very comfortable.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 3 Nov 2007 @ 8:56 AM

  79. Let me take a shot at #31 from Alex Tolley. Go to scholar.google.com which is a search engine for scientific literature and type in “climate change”. What you get will surprise you, it is almost all about biological effects and how to deal with them. The literature has moved on. This is something I noticed during the latest attempt to falsify Oreskes’ survey.

    Fergus Brown did the same thing with”global climate change” and got the same sort of result. I’ll quote his conclusions:

    “Firstly, that there is a vast body of evidence through all disciplines that global climate change is a matter of importance which is seriously addressed by each of these disciplines.

    Secondly, that the vast majority of this research points towards impacts of global climate change which are negative, destructive, undesirable or, under certain circumstances, even alarming in their implications.

    Thirdly, that the global warming which is consistently established as a causal agent in these impacts is potentially dangerous, either to specific or general objects, and that this inference is made time and time again on the basis of existing observation and due diligence in methodology.”

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 3 Nov 2007 @ 9:46 AM

  80. The issue of religious belief has crept in here wrt Christy and Spencer. First, what I am about to say is as neutral as I can make it, and also reflects my opinion. I have known many professional engineers and scientists and many more science and engineering students. People are very good at compartmenting. The percentage of religious believers is very high in the US among S&E folk. Of that many are literalists. The numbers may not be as high as in the general population, but they are high.

    In so far as they can compartment their religious beliefs from their professional life there is no issue, they simply separate them. A Civil Engineer who builds roads has no conflict with any religious beliefs. Same goes for a condensed matter physicist or a physical chemist. THE SAME IS TRUE FOR NON-BELIEVERS. Of course the rubber hits the road for biology and medicine.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 3 Nov 2007 @ 10:04 AM

  81. “The lot of them remain silent about what will come next, because they simply don’t have a clue.”

    I see the climate skeptics changing their tune that it is better to adapt than to reduce carbon use (it is not in their nature to remain silent, they tend to be windbags). Their claim now is it is much cheaper to adapt, that reducing carbon use would damage the economy way too much.

    Regarding the use of passive solar, how does that work when things really heat up and you don’t get the cold winters? Doesn’t your house end up getting way too hot? These architectural solutions for energy use don’t seem to make sense to me given a changing climate, since the house is being built for a particular climate that is changing rapidly now. It seems that the best architectural solutions would be building a house to reduce cooling costs (I think it is a waste of money to build a house to reduce heating costs since winters are getting warmer fast).

    On another note, since there are real climate scientists on this list, I’ve heard on some of the TV historical shows, that the relatively stable climate of the last 10,000 years, that has allowed human civilizations to thrive, is actually an anomaly. I’ve seen this on a History Channel show about the 5-billion year history of the earth and elsewhere as well. Are these shows just saying this because they’re sponsored by SUV ads by car companies (so we won’t feel so bad about climate change) or is there any real truth to this? I haven’t read up much on paleoclimatology, but would like to learn more about it. The show I’m thinking about said that naturally occurring climate changes have been quite common, and the climate of the last 10,000 years has been unusually stable. This would imply that even in the current era of the Earth, that past ice age cycles had unstable climates. But, given the companies that support these shows, I tend to take it with a grain of salt and want to know what real paleoclimatologists think.

    Another question I have is, in past eras (such as when the dinosaours roamed the Earth), the show said that the carbon in the atmosphere was really high, I believe much in excess of 450 PPM (I don’t remember what the exact number was). Back then, it was tropical even at the poles. I’d like to hear from a paleoclimatologist what the Earth’s temperature was really like during those times, and how much of it was desert, what the estimated CO2 amount in the atmosphere was, and if the Equator was unlivable (200 degrees or more). I’ve really been wondering this lately. If the Earth was warm enough for the poles to have temperate climates, what was the climate at the Equator (too hot to support any life at all)? I’d like to know, just to get an idea of what we’ve got to look forward to. How hot will the Equator get? Personally I believe that all the worst-case scenarios will be exceeded, and we’re just going to have to learn to live with the results of run-away global warming. Presumably all the fossil fuels we’re burning have carbon that was, at one time, in the atmosphere, and over millions of years went into plants that died and later got buried and turned into coal and oil. When all the coal and oil is used up, all that carbon will be in the atmosphere again, all at once. Will the CO2 level in the atmosphere, at that point, be higher than it ever was in the entire history of land-based plant life on the planet? Just really curious. Or, once all our coal and oil is used up (which I firmly believe it will be, at which point man will have to cut way back on energy use and get what energy he can out of alternative sources) will the CO2 level in the atmosphere still be less than or equal to what it was at some previous era that included land-based plant life?

    It is hard for me to believe that in the dinosaour era (what you hear a lot about) there were so many tropical areas and so much water (the fossil fuels were formed from plants dying in swamps and not decomposing) when the planet was so much warmer. It seems like today’s global warming is turning everything into a desert, through excessive heat, dryness, and wildfires, that occur too frequently for plants to grow back. Here in the Pacific Northwest, in Western Oregon, we’re still getting near-normal rain (although longer dry periods than before) and it is still green with lots of trees, but I can’t help but feel that we’re next for massive wildfires like Southern California got (like in the next 10 years, at the accelerating rate of changes). And if fires like that hit here, it will be really bad due to the large trees.

    On the issue of the world’s forests buring, shouldn’t we be encouraging logging of ALL our forests at this point, especially the rainforests, and using the logs for building lumber (not paper production) as opposed to either letting people burn the forests (as in tropical rainforests) or letting nature burn them (as in the U.S. and Canada)? I don’t think I support trying to save the rainforest any more. I think burning the rainforest should be strictly prohibited (with the death penalth) but the owners of the rainforest should be encouraged to log it and sell the lumber (the wood is top-notch and it is a shame to see it all being burned, when you can’t get wood like that for building any more in this country). That would keep the carbon sequestered for some time to come. And the people would make money selling the logs, then get to do what they want with them (grow beef, soy, or palm oil for biofuels) once they’ve sold the logs. That would be an economic incentive to those currently burning the rainforest. And I think we should encourage it and just write off the rainforests as gone. Since they’re going to be burned anyways, why not just stop the burning and encouraging the logging of them and the use of the wood for building? And that includes U.S. forests as well (even the old growth ones). And logging the northern forests has the added side effect of cooling the planet since the dark green traps heat. Indonesia, which is now the 3rd highest producer of greenhouse gasses due the burning of its rainforests, would probably drop to the bottom of the list if, instead of burning its rainforests, would chop them down and sell the wood for home building (or woodworking or any durable product use). I think the environmentalist’s attachment to trying to save the rainforest is a lost cause, and is causing countries with the rainforest to prohibit loggin, thus the people burn them so they can get land for raising whatever they’re raising. Does anyone agree here? At this point, we’re in damage control, and we’re going to lose a lot of species anyways, so let’s not make this change any more painful than it needs to be.

    Comment by Diane Wills — 3 Nov 2007 @ 10:25 AM

  82. The post implied that we don’t know for certain what caused the pCO2 of the North Atlantic to rise twice the rise of atmospheric pCO2 in the 94-05 decade. Is this accurate? Is there a current best guess for the cause?

    [Response: I don't think the cause of the change is known well enough to answer the important questions (1) has there been an increase in uptake someplace else, and (2) is this a trend or an fluctuation. David]

    Comment by Rod B — 3 Nov 2007 @ 11:12 AM

  83. So how much does increased exposure of Arctic Ocean waters to the atmosphere mitigate for either the North Atlantic’s stopped uptake, or for albedo changes?

    [Response: Don't know what the effect of the exposed Arctic has on ocean carbon uptake; good question. David]

    Comment by Brian Schmidt — 3 Nov 2007 @ 11:16 AM

  84. Re #70: [One of my ex’s refuses to use CFLs for outdoor lights. Why? Because they won’t turn on and off with photocell switches. Except that they are cheaper to run 24/7 than incandescents...]

    Which of course begs the question: why have outdoor lights at all? Why waste energy & money lighting up the outdoors when you’re not outside? (Or even then: I often read outside on summer nights, using a small LED light that uses 2 rechargable AAA cells.) I think this is a prime example of where the only new technology needed is an attitude change, and one that would be helped considerably by an increase in the price of electricity.

    Comment by James — 3 Nov 2007 @ 11:18 AM

  85. I’m more concerned about te intellectual climate.

    Comment by Dr. Francis T. Manns — 3 Nov 2007 @ 11:25 AM

  86. The co2 uptake is closely linked to the temperature:
    http://virakkraft.com/tempco2corr.mht
    It seems to be pretty much unaffected both by emissions and concentration in air. If temp anomaly were to drop down to -0.6 oC all our emissions would be absorbed.
    The north-atlantic uptake slows down simply because the temp is increasing so much there.

    Comment by lgl — 3 Nov 2007 @ 11:39 AM

  87. That virakkraft.com page is a mess of code, nothing renderable at least by my browser.

    But your description doesn’t make sense, unless you’re assuming that emission and concentration aren’t correlated with temperature, for temperature to be the only thing related to uptake. Whatever you’re doing there isn’t physical chemistry.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Nov 2007 @ 11:48 AM

  88. This may be a good place to re-ask a question. Some sources describe the largest carbon sink by far as terrestrial carbonaceous rock fed in large part by atmospheric CO2 absorbed by rain. How come I never hear of this? Is it valid? Or is there a time reason why it has no geologically short term effect? Couldn’t this be a mitigating or negative forcing effect, as in more CO2 means higher temps means more evaporation means more condensation means less CO2?

    [Response: Chemical weathering does take up CO2, maybe 0.1 Gton C per year. This dominates the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere on geological time scales (myr), but is kinda small on anthropogenic time scales. David]

    Comment by Rod B — 3 Nov 2007 @ 12:06 PM

  89. 47> Ray Ladbury: And finally to allege that those who advocate addressing climate change are condemning the third world to poverty is the biggest lie of all.

    Ray, do you really think it helps your cause to call those who sincerely disagree with you liars? This is a controversial issue with considerable evidence on Christy’s and Lomborg’s (and my) side of the issue. We could be wrong, but for myself at least, it is a sincerely held position.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 3 Nov 2007 @ 12:08 PM

  90. Re. #66, David Price

    From what I have read the best hope for a replacing fossil fuels in the long term is geothermal … The snag is that it might take up to 10 years, time we may not have.

    A much bigger snag is that the US (which has probably the biggest potential of any country in the world to reduce its GHG emissions by utilising geothermal) recently cut the geothermal research budget to zero.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 3 Nov 2007 @ 12:35 PM

  91. Rod, this has been asked before and the answer hasn’t changed.
    Your “some sources” ought to be identified by now, what are they?

    If we can look at where you get these ideas we can help with them.

    > terrestrial carbonaceous rock

    Limestone, probably?

    > fed

    You can’t feed rock.

    > in large part by atmospheric CO2 absorbed by rain

    What?

    Probably they’re trying to talk about how acid rain increases the rate at which limestone dissolves.

    Somewhere you’ve gotten word salad. It’s not helpful. What’s the source?

    Biogeochemical cycling. Rate of change.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Nov 2007 @ 12:38 PM

  92. #87
    Sorry about that, it’s a mhtml file from a powerpoint slide.

    I’m not doing physical chemistry, I’m just refering to historical records showing that in colder years nearly all emissions are absorbed while in warmer years almost nothing is absorbed.

    Comment by lgl — 3 Nov 2007 @ 12:44 PM

  93. Re. 89, Steve Reynold’s, it may be sincere in your case, but if as you claim it is sincere in Christy’s and Lomborg’s case, why do they completely ignore all the evidence (summed up in the IPCC reports) that it is the poorest countries which stand to suffer by far the most as a result of global warming, despite having made a negligible contribution to the problem? And how does this tally with the fact that the US Administration rejected Kyoto primarily because the poorest countries were not being asked to reduce their emissions in the current agreement?

    Comment by Dave Rado — 3 Nov 2007 @ 1:34 PM

  94. Re: various posts about forests.

    #27 weather tis better… question about deforestation and forest re-growth and David’s inline response to the effect that, in the long run, it all balances out. David’s correct, of course, but the answer seems incomplete in the context of AGW, where I think it’s essential to consider the time value of carbon, i.e., carbon stored (or emissions avoided) today are worth more than carbon stored/emissions avoided in the future. After clearcut logging, even if promptly re-planted, a forest site will be continue to be a net carbon source for a decade or more due to decaying residue. Given how crucial it is to avoid emissions and maintain sinks now and over the next couple of decades, we should take no solace in the fact that forests regrow; a tiny pool of regrowth is no substitute for the large pool of a mature forest. Even though the rate of sequestration slows as trees mature, mature and old-growth forests tend to continue to act as net carbon sinks.

    32 Cat Black and 81 Diane Wills and the presumed benefits of converting forests to wood products. As intuitively appealing as this may sound (and despite much promotion along these lines by the timber industry), it doesn’t really pencil out, especially if you again consider the time value of carbon. Logging a mature or old growth forest and processing trees into wood products release large amounts of carbon to the atmosphere. In the Pacific Northwest, with our exceptionally large trees, the best current estimate is that 50 percent of the harvested carbon (the biomass is about 50 percent carbon) is emitted to the atmosphere in the first year; and only about 25 percent is turned into long-lived wood products (the other 25 percent is left on the ground to decay). Elsewhere, the portion emitted is higher. This doesn’t count fossil fuels used in logging, transportation of logs, etc. Following Diane’s suggestion to avoid short-lived products like paper would improve storage somewhat, but not significantly. Even in the timber industry’s rosy scenario where wood is substituted for concrete, intensive forest management, wood products and substitution would take several decades to store more carbon than simply letting forests grown. It’s beside the point that there’s no real basis for the assumption that wood will substitute for concrete. The possibility that forests will burn sometime in the future doesn’t seem an adequate justification for logging them now with the guaranteed associated emissions.

    David’s inline response to Cat Black #32 about carbon in soils of prairies and forests. It may not be definitive, but the one reference that falls to hand for me on this shows forest soils consistently storing about twice as much carbon as grassland soils for nine subregions of the U.S. (Birdsey, R. 1996. Carbon storage for major forest types and regions in the conterminous U.S. Pages 1-26 in N. Sampson, and D. O. Hall, editors. Forests and global change, volume 2: Forest management opportunities for mitigating carbon emissions. American Forests, Washington DC.) (Apologies that this reference is not readily available, but it seems to be the standard for the forest and wood products, etc. figures.)

    There’s more that could be said about all this, but this is too long already. Hope it helps.

    Comment by Rick Brown — 3 Nov 2007 @ 2:07 PM

  95. Ray Ladbury wrote: “… to allege that those who advocate addressing climate change are condemning the third world to poverty is the biggest lie of all.”

    Steve Reynolds replied: “… for myself at least, it is a sincerely held position.”

    With all due respect, it would seem that the only way that someone could “sincerely” believe that addressing global warming will “condemn the third world to poverty” is for the person to be profoundly ignorant. Essentially every national and international organization that is working to address poverty in the developing world recognizes that (1) the developing world is already experiencing severe impacts from global warming which are aggravating poverty, that (2) the rapidly worsening effects of global warming will hit the developing world especially hard, and the developing world will be much less able to deal with such effects than the rich world, and that (3) global warming threatens to thwart and wipe out whatever reductions in poverty might be achieved by aid from the rich world to the developing world (eg. the Millennium Development Goals).

    The idea that addressing global warming will perpetuate or exacerbate poverty in the developing world is not only wrong, and baseless, it is in fact the exact opposite of the truth.

    So why do you “sincerely” believe it?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 3 Nov 2007 @ 2:31 PM

  96. Not the time or place to respond to Steve Reynolds (#89 right now), perhaps, but I’d just like to point out that suggesting an attempt to rein in CO2 emissions is argued against on one hand as being cover for a left wing conspiracy to shift wealth to poor countries and on the other hand for condemning the third world to poverty. This has nothing to do with the science, but surely this is fascinating enough to warrant some discussion at another location (perhaps Steve R has a suggestion for an appropriate forum).

    Comment by Steve L — 3 Nov 2007 @ 2:58 PM

  97. Ray:
    I have said many times that mitigating climate change and facilitating development are two sides of the same problem–that of developing an economy that is both ecologically and economically sustainable.

    Sounds great, and if this was the consensus opinion from the economics world we’d have a lot more agreement on how to proceed with mitigation efforts.

    Unfortunately many economic analyses suggest that mitigation costs are so great they’ll hurt development in the poor countries far more than they’ll help them with benefits from less pollution and less AGW. The Stern report suggested otherwise, but does some of the math in an unusual way. Lomborg’s approach is a more standard economics treatment.

    It is interesting how the economics debate, like the hockey stick stats controversy, boils down to some pretty nuanced stats that are very hard for many to follow (including me).

    Steve:
    This is a controversial issue with considerable evidence on Christy’s and Lomborg’s (and my) side of the issue. We could be wrong, but for myself at least, it is a sincerely held position.

    Wow, that was very nicely put.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 3 Nov 2007 @ 3:20 PM

  98. Re: 89 “do you really think it helps your cause to call those who sincerely disagree with you liars?”

    On the question Ray Ladbury raises, viz. whether “those who advocate addressing climate change are condemning the third world to poverty,” I’m moved to chime in that I also find this line of argument (which Ray denounces) particularly disingenuous and disgusting.

    There have been numerous climate-trend studies which show the most severe effects of climate-change occurring in the poorest regions of the world. Around Bangladesh, water problems incessantly escalate on both sides: the demise of Himalayan glaciers and the rise of the Indian ocean. Meanwhile, Africa’s Sahel region grows more hellish every year. No previous “crime against humanity” approaches the scale of the genocide we now commit against poor nations with our pollution. There is a very serious global-justice issue here which is seldom if ever addressed.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 3 Nov 2007 @ 3:42 PM

  99. Daniel C. Godwin (93) — Yes. Which is one reason for liking Biopact’s approach.

    http://biopact.com/

    Comment by David B. Benson — 3 Nov 2007 @ 3:58 PM

  100. No previous “crime against humanity” approaches the scale of the genocide we now commit against poor nations with our pollution.

    Daniel this is the key point of contention, and if there was a good reason to believe this I’d be happy to donate to mitigation efforts rather than malaria nets. I’d encourage you to read up on this – there is a crime in our lack of funding for simple health remedies which could save some ten thousand people. Every day. Sure, I will vote to pull that from the military budget but as we prioritize research and spending to improve standards of living we should recognize where the money will do the most good. Also important to note that Sahel conditions appear to be more a product of regional climate change rather than global AGW.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 3 Nov 2007 @ 3:59 PM

  101. Rod B (88) Carbonaceous rocks were at one time a huge carbon sink (when they were laid down). Now as they decompose they once again release their carbon. Mankind is facilitating this decomposition by mining, grinding and spreading limestone on our fields to neutralize the PH of the soil. This is one of the reasons agriculture is considered to be so “carbon intensive”.

    Comment by Dan W — 3 Nov 2007 @ 4:00 PM

  102. Basically I am way way way late in deciding to post here once again.

    But here is the conversational part: and then we get to the main course below.

    Yes. After the last ice age and everyone of them, we saw an increase in atmospheric CO2. We do not know exactly where it ALL came from, but a warming ocean must account for a very very large part of it. That is, that within the boundless deep turns again home. That was the 800+/- year lag to the CO2 rise when the ice went off. It brought CO2 hanging around in the cold air at 180-190 ppmv (or less) to nearly 300 ppmv for some interglacial eras. Roughly as much as we have now pumped into the air, that is: 384 minus 300 equals 84 ppmv. So right now, with 384 ppmv in the air, can we expect additional ocean release in less than 800 years (200-400) that is now still entrained in the ocean? I believe (like an act of faith) that when the ocean reaches a punctuated equilibrium with the CO2 heated air, we will have experienced vast amounts of ocean embedded and buffered CO2 released to the air. But none of us will be around to validate that conjecture I posit on faith alone.

    Main Course:

    But. Initially when I read Sarah’s query and David’s response, I was concerned. David’s post is great and has the scientific conservative tone of an active player in the field.

    Then Sarah . . .

    #7 sarah Says:
    1 November 2007 at 5:24 PM

    I read this site regularly, although I have no science background. So I’m pretty hesitant to comment. But this especially sounds so dire. How much do you, as scientists steeped in this research, feel that human life on this planet has a fragile future at best? (I realize this is a broad question, so if it’s not applicable, please delete it.)

    [Response: Don’t despair. If nothing else, it’s unproductive. The technology exists to cut CO2 emissions to safe levels at reasonable cost. David]

    OK. Don’t despair (yet.) I agree. But the next statement which alludes to affordable technology and emissions at safe levels — disturbs me as it should many — and I see it did.

    What on earth is the safe level of CO2 emission? USDA published a figure once saying the average human exhales 900mg of CO2 — and annually if you captured that CO2, extracted the C from it and used some vapor deposition form of layering it in diamond form you would end up with almost a cubic foot of diamond for every person. In other words, and I did a post on it, you exhale enough CO2 to make a cubic foot of diamond.

    http://www.xomba.com/a_diamond_made_from_air

    But the only safe emission level has got to be what is capable of sustaining a relative balance of C to maintain the temperature range for life on the planet. Right now, with the excess — it looks like the biological geological limit is the rough depth of the sawtooth in say the record from Mauna Loa.

    That is why REALCLIMATESOLUTIONS.ORG needs to get into the act and explain how we get back to whatever stable level we need to arrive at for life species to be at a sustainable level — not the IPCC 450, 550, 700 or more levels “pleasant” to business interests.

    This stuff IS going to be in the air for millenia unless real efforts are made to remove it, let alone stabilize it. Yeah, I’d like to see the real effort in removal and sequestration. Coupled to a bio-neutral level of emission.

    If you ever read Larry Niven, the difficulty of civilization is getting rid of the heat. Here the CO2 is part of that heat problem

    Obviously the interplay between ocean and earth is climate. Tectonics is slow to push chips here and there, so for long periods of time the fluctuating interplay between land and sea reaches an equilibrium — until something like us can interfere with it.

    Life has had a good run, and could have as much as a billion years and maybe a hundred million years on top of that before the oceans begin to be lofted fully into the air and evaporate and rise to the warming Sun, H2 to Space, O2 to CO2. . .and Venus gets a sister. (not sure how long Venus’ H2SO4 clouds will last. They may be gone with a warming Sun by then. (Some students think it will take as much as 2 billion years to get rid of Earth’s climate moderating water.) I do not think we can push the runaway greenhouse now with anything monkeys can do. But we could make life difficult for a few millions of years, by carelessly pushing this, then that, species to the point of extinction. Many sapiens will die too. The MIT meeting on tinkering with the climate is not in anyway realistic unless huge means of rapidly removing and sequestering the atmospheric CO2 are initiated. We need to do nothing to increase the CO2.

    For the record. The ocean sink is something likely to be filled and reversed if the ocean surface gets too, too warm — reaching the new equilibrium. Think of Realclimatesolutions.org as a credible mechanism. You guys ought to talk it up.

    Comment by Les Porter — 3 Nov 2007 @ 4:01 PM

  103. Re 89. Steve Reynolds, perhaps you can think of a motivation other than mendacity for a scientist repeating arguments he knows to be false (e.g. we can’t predict weather, so we can’t predict climate), for smearing the entire scientific community with the epithet “alarmist” while providing not one single example of a climate scientist attributing a particular weather event to climate change, and worst of all, painting those advocating mitigation of climate change as favoring continued poverty for the third world. I find this last particularly galling, having myself pointed out that development and climate mitigation are just two facets of the same problem–developing an economy that is both economically and ecologically sustainable.
    So if you can think of a lesser charge than mendacity for Christy to plead to that encompasses his rejection of evidence-based science, I’ll be happy to listen.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Nov 2007 @ 4:35 PM

  104. Re: 94 liking Biopact

    Some people like the idea of gobbling up the third world’s few remaining arable acres for the cultivation of biofuel crops. Not me. Look up the word “exacerbate” – it is not a synonym of “solve”.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 3 Nov 2007 @ 4:39 PM

  105. Daniel C. Goodwin (96) — The acres either are not arable or else are not required. Biopact’s total approach is actually most thoughtful.

    In any case, those growing and processing biofuel crops now have a cash income, something they (often) had not had before. Largely it is a win-win situation, although there are some troubles with this concept, principally in Southeast Asia.

    You really ought to read what Biopact has to say about themselves before just simply posting based on your mistaken assumptions.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 3 Nov 2007 @ 5:05 PM

  106. RE 91: I understand the interest in raindrops as a mechanism of removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

    The raindrops have a large air/water surface area, so some of the atmospheric CO2 surely is absorbed and transported to the oceans, in addition to the direct air/sea interaction.

    Anyway, the 100 million year old carbon we burn does not disappear; it circulates and does its tricks.

    Comment by Pekka J. Kostamo — 3 Nov 2007 @ 5:16 PM

  107. About adaptation to climate climate change. It is frequently proposed that people with the probable problem of rising sea levels must just move somewhere else to live.

    Adaptation is easier if decisions are taken in good time. So let us right now make moving a bit easier for them. Let us terminate all visa and passport requirements and frontier formalities.

    This is not politically difficult. More real freedom for everyone, less big and unproductive government for the taxpayers to support. Who could possibly vote against it?

    That exists now in the USA, and that is the stated goal of the European Union.

    Comment by Pekka J. Kostamo — 3 Nov 2007 @ 5:27 PM

  108. #28 on re Dr Christy,

    Very, very disappointing…

    He states:
    “The recent CNN report “Planet in Peril,” for instance, spent considerable time discussing shrinking Arctic sea ice cover. CNN did not note that winter sea ice around Antarctica last month set a record maximum (yes, maximum) for coverage since aerial measurements started.”

    NSIDC note that “The area covered by antarctic sea ice has shown a small (not statistically significant) increasing trend.” Whereas they say about the Arctic: ” This trend is a major sign of climate change in the polar regions and may be an indicator of the effects of global warming.” http://nsidc.org/seaice/characteristics/difference.html

    That’s only up to last year. More up to date data increasingly paints a different picture from that which Christy seeks to portray:
    Antarctic anomaly: http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.anom.south.jpg
    Arctic anomaly: http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.anom.jpg
    Comparing the 2 makes Christy’s statement look disingenuous to me. And that’s without labouring the perennial ice issue.

    Yes climate’s always changing, so what is the alternate theory that explains at least the warming of the last 30 years? At the same time as we have global warming, we have an agent which, under the best available theory, we expect to cause global warming. Without an alternate theory he’s just asking us to accept that the warming is a coincidence in favour of a handwaving “natural causes”.

    Anyway, here’s my nomination for Quote of the Week…
    “We discount the possibility that everything is caused by human actions, because everything we’ve seen the climate do has happened before.”John R Christy.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 3 Nov 2007 @ 6:01 PM

  109. Dr. Francis T. Manns (85) says:
    “I’m more concerned about te intellectual climate.”

    We worry about that too

    Comment by Dan W — 3 Nov 2007 @ 7:21 PM

  110. Let me blind you with this science…..Next summer, there is going to be a lot of poor people in semi-arid places who will be suffering from the heat…..excruciating heat, with no recourse except to suffer. No air conditioners, little water, and lots and lots of heat. The summer after that will get worse. More science…in Bangledesh, water will cover the city in our lifetime, with the lack of bulldozers expediting that fact. Eventually, the land masses on this planet will become red hot all over, perhaps in your grandchildrens lifetime, for you young ones. human suffering will become commonplace, like Mexico and Haiti, but all over in bulk…..next year.

    Comment by PaulM — 3 Nov 2007 @ 7:22 PM

  111. > this planet will become red hot all over, perhaps in
    > your grandchildrens lifetime

    If you’re right, the grandchildren will live til the sun becomes a red giant and expands to reach Earth. That would be good.

    I suspect you’re wrong.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Nov 2007 @ 7:36 PM

  112. Dr. Francis T. Manns (#85) said this at gristmill:

    “The effect of implimenting Kyoto would be disaster for you and yours. This is a case of needing to treat symptoms of global warming as they occur, if they are serious enough, without invoking Big Brother government to attack complex causes. The extremist model is not the only hypothesis. There are serious scientific questions. The spectal line of CO2 that is active in absorption is saturated. Additional CO2 cannot cause more warming.

    Francis T. Manns, Ph.D., P.Geo. (Ontario)”

    That notion was shown to be wrong well over 50 years ago. See The Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Effect, Spencer Weart, aip.org:

    The early experiments that sent radiation through gases in a tube, measuring bands of the spectrum at sea-level pressure and temperature, had been misleading. The bands seen at sea level were actually made up of overlapping spectral lines, which in the primitive early instruments had been smeared out into broad bands. Improved physics theory and precise laboratory measurements in the 1940s and after encouraged a new way of looking at the absorption. Scientists were especially struck to find that at low pressure and temperature, each band resolved into a cluster of sharply defined lines, like a picket fence, with gaps between the lines where radiation would get through.(24) The most important CO2 absorption lines did not lie exactly on top of water vapor lines. Instead of two overlapping bands, there were two sets of narrow lines with spaces for radiation to slip through. So even if water vapor in the lower layers of the atmosphere did entirely block any radiation that could have been absorbed by CO2, that would not keep the gas from making a difference in the rarified and frigid upper layers. Those layers held very little water vapor anyway. And scientists were coming to see that you couldn’t just calculate absorption for radiation passing through the atmosphere as a whole, you had to understand what happened in each layer — which was far harder to calculate.

    Manns also claims that cosmic rays and sunspots are the real reasons behind the observed temperature trends. This has all been reviewed on RC, in 2004 and 2006 and 2007. Still, the same arguments keep rolling out, over and over, even after being debunked again and again.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 3 Nov 2007 @ 7:53 PM

  113. 93 Daniel C. Goodwin> On the question Ray Ladbury raises, viz. whether “those who advocate addressing climate change are condemning the third world to poverty,” I’m moved to chime in that I also find this line of argument (which Ray denounces) particularly disingenuous and disgusting.

    Why is it disingenuous?

    While ‘the most severe effects of climate-change occurring in the poorest regions of the world’, the most severe economic effects of any likely effective mitigation will also be born by the people of developing nations.

    For people who believe the economic effects of mitigation will be worse than the original problem (at least in short to medium term), aggressive mitigation is not in the interest of the poor.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 3 Nov 2007 @ 9:33 PM

  114. Re 89. This is another one of those statements that begs for more information. First of all, what is the evidence that you are citing? I keep hearing the argument, but those making it never seem to get around to explaining what supports it. In what ways will mitigation efforts make life worse in developing countries? Please be specific. Beyond that, I’m another person who finds the argument disgusting and disingenuous, given that those making it have not, to the best of my knowledge, previously demonstrated much concern with the problems of the developing world nor put any energy into solving those problems. They are using the argument solely in support of an ideological position. If no effort were being made toward climate mitigation, what actions would they propose and support right now to deal with the long-standing issues they have heretofore ignored?

    Comment by Mary C — 4 Nov 2007 @ 12:07 AM

  115. Re # 68 Diana Wills:

    You really scare me with the last paragraph of your comment! Burning forest might add CO2, but subsequently, new growth takes it back up again. Lumber will take some carbon out of the cycle, but what is the average life time of furniture or wooden construction? Most will end up in the atmosphere within 100 years. Without forests, tropical soils deplete within years, and drying out creates irreversible changes, if the soils are not completely eroded away first.
    Although the geographical distribution of the continents was different, life was doing great in the tropics during the Jurassic and Cretaceous. One of the reasons must have been the moderating influence of forests, providing evaporation (which cools directly, and indirectly through cloud formation). A great site to learn some basics of paleo climate is scotese.com.

    Comment by Bob Schmitz — 4 Nov 2007 @ 2:01 AM

  116. Re # 81 (sorry, not # 68), Diana Wills: about the paleo tropics:

    Herrera et al. (2005), ‘Warm (Not Hot) Tropics During the Late Paleocene: First Continental Evidence, American Geophysical Union, Fall Meeting 2005.

    (http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2005AGUFMPP51C0608H)

    Comment by Bob Schmitz — 4 Nov 2007 @ 2:46 AM

  117. Re #56: I read all too little about ocean thermal energy conversion. There is a near-unlimited supply of it, and it already works, providing many tropical island communities with power, cooling and sweet water.

    One nice thing about this technique is that it is preferentially available to countries near the equator, where most of the future growth in energy generating capacity is going to take place, both due to population growth and industrialization.

    Unfortunately that also seems to be the reason that little research money is going into it. What is happening is mostly small and private.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 4 Nov 2007 @ 5:45 AM

  118. #113, Steve Reynolds, are you really trying to convince us that you sincerely believe that if US citizens and businesses start to waste less energy and use more renewable energy, that will be cause subsistence farmers in Zambia and Bangladesh to suffer, and to suffer so much that the increases in droughts and floods that they are experiencing as a result of AGW pale in comparison? And please could you explain, in that case, why the US administration gave as its main reason for rejecting Kyoto the fact that countries such as Bangladesh and Zambia were not being asked to reduce their emissions under Kyoto?

    Comment by Dave Rado — 4 Nov 2007 @ 7:44 AM

  119. RE #81 & “Regarding the use of passive solar, how does that work when things really heat up and you don’t get the cold winters? Doesn’t your house end up getting way too hot?”

    Ken’s house (#78) stays pretty cool in the summer. Summers do get very hot in Chicago’s far suburbs. And the sun is more overhead then, so it doesn’t go through his southern facing solar absorbing windows. Plus he has removable awnings, and deciduous trees that are bare in the winter, allowing sun in, and shady in the summer. His northern side has high, small windows, and is bermed almost up to them (but you can hardly tell, because of the beautiful shrubbery on the berms); this not only helps keep it warm when it’s cold, but cool when it’s hot outside.

    Finally his air-tight design & great insulation helps to keep cool, as well as warm, air in. (He also has a 4-stage filter system to bring outside, super-purified air in — 5 min every hour — so it is an extremely healthy environment.)

    My only thinking on this is after the 70s energy crunch, why haven’t ALL homes been built this way????!!!!

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 4 Nov 2007 @ 8:54 AM

  120. Steve Reynolds,
    While Christy at least has his missionary background as support for his concern for the developing world, Lomborg and his fellow yuppie-scum seem to reserve their concern for when it can justify inaction on climate change. However, I see no evidence that Christy’s concern with the plight of the poor extended beyond his quest for their souls. In any case, anyone who has examined the problem in any detail has concluded that we cannot just look at current CO2 emissions, but must look at where they are growing most rapidly and where their growth is expected to pick up (first and second derivatives, if you will). This was the failure of Kyoto–it did not look at China and India, where economic growth was moribund when the treaty was initiated.
    Economic aid to develop green energy and transport infrastructures in developing countries will pay significant dividends both for their development and for stabilizing climate. Development is a part of the equation for sustainability, not a competitor.
    The entire argument that states that we must allow development, so we must do nothing about climate is false on technical grounds, false on economic grounds, false on humanitarian grounds and false on historical grounds.
    You state that the consequences of climate change will be less than the consequences of addressing it in the near term. However, climate consequences extend into the distant future and it is unwise to suppose that these threats can be met by simple technological fixes–particularly if we don’t allow time for those fixes to be developed. I can only presume that Christy posits a fiath-based solution.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Nov 2007 @ 9:13 AM

  121. Re #113 Steve Reynolds “While ‘the most severe effects of climate-change occurring in the poorest regions of the world’, the most severe economic effects of any likely effective mitigation will also be born by the people of developing nations.”

    I think we need argument rather than mere assertion here. Since poor countries (“developing nations” is for many of them a pusillanimous euphemism) produce much less greenhouse gas emission per capita than rich ones, any international agreement on reducing emissions (and without such an agreement, there’s no way they will be reduced) is bound to require greater reductions of rich countries. The latter are also far more dependent on high-energy and other high-emission practices. So why will the people of poor countries be more affected?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 4 Nov 2007 @ 10:07 AM

  122. OFF TOPIC (slightly) – The dilemma of reporting climate change in the media.

    Two articles reported in the Telegraph (a co called right wing intelligensia newspaper in the UK) reports two climate articles.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/11/04/eamussels204.xml

    and

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/main.jhtml?xml=/earth/2007/11/04/eaclimate104.xml

    One story deals with the reality of climate change with a BAU and the other denies it is happenning completely.

    The battle of hearts and minds still goes on let alone implementing the solutions.

    Comment by pete best — 4 Nov 2007 @ 10:13 AM

  123. Steve L> This has nothing to do with the science, but surely this is fascinating enough to warrant some discussion at another location (perhaps Steve R has a suggestion for an appropriate forum).

    I agree; RC is not the place for this discussion.

    I suggest:
    http://fergusbrown.wordpress.com/

    Fergus is certainly not on my side of the issue, but I think he welcomes discussion of economics and philosophy.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 4 Nov 2007 @ 10:44 AM

  124. Re # 41 Eli Rabett “pCO2 is awful… How about changing over to Pco2 or some such.”

    Physiologists have long denoted CO2 partial pressure as PCO2 (with subscript 2). It is the chemists and chemical oceanographers who for some reason adopted pCO2. They also give their pCO2 values in units of microatmospheres, which I find annoying. But, then, I’m stuck in the world of torr (or mm Hg) and kcal, having never quite made the transition to S.I. units.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 4 Nov 2007 @ 11:15 AM

  125. Joe Duck wrote: “Unfortunately many economic analyses suggest that mitigation costs are so great they’ll hurt development in the poor countries far more than they’ll help them with benefits from less pollution and less AGW.”

    With all due respeect, that is false. It is simply not true that “many economic analyses” suggest that. Nearly every economic analysis of the question strongly suggests the opposite. The overwhelming consensus of national and international organizations that work to overcome poverty in the developing world is that their efforts will be undermined and defeated by the effects of anthropogenic global warming, and that dealing with global warming is an absolutely essential requirement for improving human well-being in the developing world. The support that you claim for your opinion (“many economic analyses”) does not exist.

    Steve Reynolds wrote: ” … the most severe economic effects of any likely effective mitigation will also be born by the people of developing nations.”

    You offer no evidence to support the assertion that “the most severe economic effects” of mitigation will be to “developing nations”. In fact there is no such evidence and there is no reason to believe that this will be true. On the contrary, there is plenty of evidence and plenty of reason to believe that (1) the economic harms of global warming will hit developing countries and the poor especially hard, undermining and defeating all efforts to overcome global poverty, and indeed this is already happening; (2) developing countries and the poor lack the resources to deal with or adapt to the effects of global warming which will multiply the harm and the human suffering it will cause; (3) developing countries and the poor stand to economically benefit from a global effort to mitigate and reverse global warming through the development and application of energy efficiency, clean renewable energy and organic agriculture technologies.

    Moreover, since the harmful effects of anthropogenic global warming that we are experiencing now and will experience in the next several decades are overwhelmingly the result of fossil fuel use by the rich, industrialized world — in particular the USA — the rich nations of the world have a responsibility to help the developing world with any harmful economic impacts that mitigation may bring, as well as to fund technology transfer to the developing world so that the poor countries can bypass unsustainable and destructive fossil-fuel based development, have access to the technologies and tools to provide clean renewable energy needed for sustainable economic development.

    Steve Reynolds wrote: “For people who believe the economic effects of mitigation will be worse than the original problem (at least in short to medium term), aggressive mitigation is not in the interest of the poor.”

    There is no valid reason for anyone to believe that “the economic effects of mitigation will be worse than the original problem” for the developing world, or the poor, or the vast majority of human beings on this planet. The only reason I can think of that someone would “sincerely” believe this is that someone has heard it repeated over and over again by various propaganda outlets and has uncritically accepted it as fact and neglected to investigate the facts which show there is no basis for this belief.

    There is one group of human beings on this planet for whom the “the economic effects of mitigation will be worse than the original problem” and that is people who profit from the use of fossil fuels. A “business as usual” approach — with fossil fuel consumption increasing and accelerating until it eventually peaks and declines due to depletion of supplies — stands to bring trillions of dollars of profits to this group of human beings. They do not want that flow of profits to be “prematurely” ended because the world embarks on a program to rapidly phase out the use of fossil fuels and migrate to clean renewable energy sources, which is at the heart of any global warming mitigation agenda.

    Of course, most people are not going to shed tears over the prospect of Exxon-Mobil losing some of its multi-billion-dollar annual profits as income and wealth shift to manufacturers of wind turbines, photovoltaics, biofuel systems, etc, so rather than bring their case honestly to the public, the fossil fuel profiteers promote bogus talking points about how “the poor” will suffer from addressing global warming.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 Nov 2007 @ 12:23 PM

  126. re 119

    Short, cynical answer: Because they consume less energy, and thus cut back on profits. If you question this, remember what Enron did to California at the very beginning of this century.

    This may sound extreme (but then, so is the long term outlook for the effects of climate change on the biosphere we depend upon for sustenance) but I’ve felt for a long time that regulations should have been put in place long ago that maintained all new single-family homes and rental properties should be constructed with an eye on passive energy-saving architectural principles, and that they should be mandated to have a “plug-‘n’-play” set-up for hooking up energy alternatives like solar and wind, leaving the owner with the option to install panels or windmills.

    The irony is readily apparent – if we had these things put in place even a decade ago, we’d be much further along with a response to AGW, and have the beginnings of an infrastructure in place to expand upon rapidly.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 4 Nov 2007 @ 12:40 PM

  127. Carbonate rock refers to limestones (CaCO3) and dolomites (MgCO3); carbonaceous means mostly made of organic carbon, like coal or black shales.

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 4 Nov 2007 @ 12:44 PM

  128. Lawrence Brown.

    A short note of thanks for your recommendation made elsewhere of the Nov/Dec issue of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Very good read, expanding on something I read in Field Notes From a Catastrophe.

    There are several pieces in the mag re Climate Change worth reading; interesting, sobering reads that address some of the discussion brought up here. And the discussion with Bruce Smith regarding the viability of nuclear power as a response to climate change is very clear in showing why this is probably not a very good idea.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 4 Nov 2007 @ 12:47 PM

  129. > carbonate, carbonaceous

    Yeah, without knowing Rod’s “some sources” it’s hard to figure out where the confusion is arising.

    Rod, in 88 you

    > re-ask a question. Some sources describe …

    What source?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Nov 2007 @ 1:24 PM

  130. Thank you for that clarification Figen Mekik.

    Comment by DanW — 4 Nov 2007 @ 2:08 PM

  131. Re 81. Diane, take a deep breath. There are a number of good books out there on passive solar for heating; you might find it worthwhile to take a look. At http://www.asespubs.org/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=41 you’ll find an interesting blurb about one of those books; the write-up gives a brief background on solar heating and passive cooling.

    You’re right that use of passive solar for heating in cold weather can be responsible for overheating in hot, but there are well-known and understood design principles that allow passive solar to work both efficiently and comfortably during cold seasons while preventing overheating in hot seasons. For example, I have a sun porch on my house that has windows on the east, west, and south. In spite of the fact that the porch is poorly insulated and distressingly leaky (yeah, I know, mea culpa), it stays fairly warm in all except the bitterest cold weather. When we bought the house, the porch would get hot, hot, hot and uncomfortable in the summer. A little effort with various means of shading has mostly solved that problem and I believe we can do more. You can see a very basic illustration of the difference in the way the sun strikes a house between winter and summer and what it means for passive solar at http://www.nesea.org/buildings/passive.html.

    There are some great resources out there for using the sun for our energy needs: passive solar for heating through building design, solar collectors, solar hot water heating, and photovoltaics for electricity. If you can find an energy fair in your area, you can learn a lot about how all these things work and what is available right now. Some of the products are still prohibitively expensive in the short term, but I believe that situation is changing and will continue to do so. Of course, the question is whether it will happen as fast as we need it to or not, especially given the current lack of leadership and the committed efforts of vested intersts.

    As for temperatures getting warmer and doing away with cold winters–I don’t know that anyone is predicting tropical climates in the north in the near future. (Are they?) Where I live, at a little over 40 degrees latitude north, average monthly temperature from December through March ranges from a high of 39.4 degrees to a low of 26.1. Even if the atmosphere warmed up by 20 degrees in the next few years, I’d still need heat to keep my house livable during those months, although not as much as currently, of course. Still whatever amount of heat I need has to come from somewhere–better that it come from passive solar to the greatest extent possible than from continued use of fossil fuel. Better insulation and other conservation measures and better use of sustainable energy sources could make a big difference in how much CO2 we release into the atmosphere. No one effort is going to solve the problem, but, seriously, every little bit helps.

    Comment by Mary C — 4 Nov 2007 @ 2:17 PM

  132. Re: #119 (Lynn) and earlier comments re low energy housing…

    Try Googling “passivhaus”: a German design system for housing that uses no energy for heating or cooling. Passivhaus UK might be a good place to start…

    Comment by Gareth — 4 Nov 2007 @ 3:44 PM

  133. Here is a slightly different take on the main topic of this thread:

    http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2007/11/carbon-cycle-misfortunes.html

    which illustrates the necessity of immediate action with excellent graphics.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 Nov 2007 @ 5:52 PM

  134. Re: solar houses and such
    http://www.solardecathlon.org now shows the results of the 2007 university competition to build good-looking & efficient solar-powered homes.

    The top 4 of 20, from around the world were:
    #1 Technische Universitat Darmstadt
    #2 U of Maryland
    #3 Santa Clara University
    #4 Penn State

    7 of the 20 teams got 100% on Energy Balance.
    This was a pretty serious evaluation.

    Comment by John Mashey — 4 Nov 2007 @ 6:50 PM

  135. Re:#128, J.S.’s comments. I also found the articles in the latest issue of the “Bulletin” timely and important. Chris Mooney does a thorough job of exposing the foot dragging by the current administration, and the interview of Dr. Smith points up the enormous risks associated of using nuclear fission as an alternative energy source.http://www.thebulletin.org/

    James comment #84, shows that common sense has to go along with the use of improved technologies.What’s the point indeed of lighting up the sky at night? It gives cause to wonder whether, if we develop practical and affordable cars that get 80 miles per gallon, will drivers quadruple their mileage? This is why conservation is an important element, that ought to go hand in hand with improved efficiency.

    BTW David gaves a good primer on the factors that effect the PH of the oceans, on RC, a few years ago that’s pertinent to his introductory post.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=169

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 4 Nov 2007 @ 8:16 PM

  136. 125 SecularAnimist> You offer no evidence to support the assertion that “the most severe economic effects” of mitigation will be to “developing nations”. In fact there is no such evidence and there is no reason to believe that this will be true.

    I have tried to point to such evidence (supported by 4 Nobel Prize winning economists), but apparently RC does not want you to see it; they censored my post.

    SecularAnimist> There is no valid reason for anyone to believe that “the economic effects of mitigation will be worse than the original problem” for the developing world, or the poor, or the vast majority of human beings on this planet. The only reason I can think of that someone would “sincerely” believe this is that someone has heard it repeated over and over again by various propaganda outlets and has uncritically accepted it as fact and neglected to investigate the facts which show there is no basis for this belief.

    The only reason that you can think of is incorrect. Please ask your question at the Fergus Brown site so I can answer without being censored.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 4 Nov 2007 @ 9:02 PM

  137. Hank, one of my sources of carbonaceous rocks:

    http://www.colorado.edu/GeolSci/courses/GEOL1070/chap04/chapter4.html

    Comment by Rod B — 4 Nov 2007 @ 9:47 PM

  138. Mary C and SecularAnimist re: Mitigation Costs:

    My suggestion of a consensus among economists is based on my understanding of the work of Yale Economist Robert Mendohlson, a leader in this field who has extensively reviewed and published on this topic. I’ve emailed him for some clarification, but I think Steve Reynolds has this right.

    Secular a challenge in the way you address this above is that we all use fuels, and we could all cut that amount down. Almost everybody agrees that we should cut CO2 and GHG emissions, and everybody agrees we should not completely ban all energy use tomorrow.

    The question is this: What is the optimal balance with respect to mitigation? Almost all scenarios show that GDP will initially take a hit from massive mitigation – this is the large “cost” to the economy. The benefits depend a lot on how seriously climate change will hurt economies and also on assumptions about discount rates and such. Thanks to econ analyses we now know the folly of a pure Kyoto style approach (high cost, low benefits) and indicates why we need to look at the economics as we take steps to mitigate GHGs.

    Also – the risk to developing countries argument I (and Steve) make above is based partly on the inevitable GDP hit they’ll likely take during crucial development stages and also assumes that if we suboptimally allocate resources to AGW mitigation we will have less to devote to helping poor countries in other respects. This latter point is weaker than the GDP argument but it is better than begging the question about prioritizing taxes and funding for important things. Many would suggest that expensive mitigation has a lower ROI than poverty assistance.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 4 Nov 2007 @ 10:08 PM

  139. Re #131: You should also note that solar heating doesn’t have to be passive. Passive solar generally needs to be designed in, as it’s an expensive remodel. Active solar collectors can be much less expensive, and can be retrofitted to most houses. Do a search on something like “solar space heating”.

    Comment by James — 4 Nov 2007 @ 10:57 PM

  140. I have tried to point to such evidence (supported by 4 Nobel Prize winning economists)

    Economists have a notoriously low track record in their ability to predict the costs of environmental regulations.

    I prefer science to ummm whatever economics is. Whatever it is, it is clearly not science.

    Comment by dhogaza — 4 Nov 2007 @ 11:24 PM

  141. OK, Rod, the source you gave includes the same answer Dave gave:
    “Carbonate – Silicate Cycle
    … Time scale for this cycle is millions to hundreds of millions of years, so not a major concern of humans… ”

    Accelerating that — mixing CO2-rich exhaust gas with ocean water and crushed limestone — has been proposed as a way of sequestering carbon in the ocean — giving the ocean a dose of calcium bicarbonate:

    http://www.geol.ucsb.edu/Graduate/GS266.imgs/Caldeira_Rau_GRL_2000.pdf
    Caldeira And Rau: Accelerating Carbonate Dissolution To Sequester Carbon Dioxide — Geophysical Research Letters, Vol. 27, NO. 2, Pages 225–228, January 15, 2000

    That was 7 years ago, I didn’t search for subsequent papers citing it to see what’s become of the idea; followups probably belong in the Geoengineering thread.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Nov 2007 @ 12:53 AM

  142. 140# dhogaza – yes, it is not clear that any of the so-called schools of economic theory (neoclassical, institutional, etc) address the matter of economic phase transition, which is the sort of thing that is being approached now. the challenge for economists is to present a framework that describes the mix of both first-order phase transitions and continuous phase transitions as the unsustainable emissions ‘bubble’ that is the current world economy and that has developed since the industrial revolution goes pop. it is difficult enough to describe and analyse phase transitions for physical systems; much harder therefore for a system whose signalling systems are ungrounded and whose structures have deliberately cut off so many of the earth’s feedback signals to it.

    Comment by mg — 5 Nov 2007 @ 1:15 AM

  143. #55 Hank Roberts Says:
    2 November 2007 at 2:43 PM
    Mike McDonald wrote:
    > And I bet you Christy never admitted the mistake ….
    Mike, you lost your bet.
    Before posting your belief, use the “Search” box at top of the page:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/11/more-satellite-stuff/

    Hank – thanks for the realclimate link which states that Christy+Spencer first introduced their error in 1998. Then Christy gave testimony, based on the erronous data, to the Senate in 2001. Then apparently the error was sorted out in the latter part of 2005. Are we saying that this uncorrected work was hanging about the web for – how many years? Seems like my bet was pretty safe for a certain amount of time.

    Has Christy gone back to the Senate and said “You know that stuff I said back in 2001…?” The realclimate link did say “it will be interesting to see if this is now corrected.”

    Comment by Mike Donald — 5 Nov 2007 @ 4:09 AM

  144. Re the John R Christy debate (#28), is this the same guy that has just co-authored a paper claiming that cirrus cloud cover decreases during tropical warming cycles? http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071102152636.htm

    The science seemed interesting but I found the comment by one of the other authors rather suspect “Until we understand how precipitation systems change with warming, I don’t believe we can know how much of our current warming is manmade. Without that knowledge, we can’t predict future climate change with any degree of certainty.”

    And he also had a pop at climate modelling “Let’s see if climate models can get this part right before we rely on their long term projections.”

    Is this just more ‘cuckoo science’ or an interesting discovery?

    Comment by Roly Gross — 5 Nov 2007 @ 4:45 AM

  145. Re #138,
    On a somewhat lighter note: http://anz.theoildrum.com/node/3160#more

    Two economists find themselves locked in a basement. They’re not sure what time it is, because it’s dark and they can’t read their watches. They think it’s nearly dinner time, cause they’re starting to feel hungry. But they’re not worried; they are not starting to panic – because they know that their demand will create sandwiches for them!

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 5 Nov 2007 @ 6:39 AM

  146. #55
    Hank.
    It looks like the bet’s still on.

    I took your advice and did a bit of researching about Christy. He has his own little page on exxonsecrets and in the Guardian from this year (2007) I found:-

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2032361,00.html

    QUOTE
    “The film (TGGWS) also maintains that manmade global warming is disproved by conflicting temperature data. Professor John Christy speaks about the discrepancy he discovered between temperatures at the Earth’s surface and temperatures in the troposphere (or lower atmosphere). But the programme fails to mention that in 2005 his data were proved wrong, by three papers in Science magazine.”
    UNQUOTE

    It looks like Christy forgot to mention that too. I missed his condemnation of TGGWS as well. Or corrections to what he said in the film.

    I found the transcript of TGGWS at:-
    http://connected.uwc.ac.za/blog/index.php?/article/bcb724-tggws-the-transcript/

    QUOTE
    [[ Professor John Christy ] What we’ve found consistently, is that in a great part of the Planet, that the bulk of the atmosphere is not warming as much as we see at the surface, in this region. And that’s a real head-scratcher for us, because the theory is pretty straight forward. And the theory says that if the surface warms, the upper atmosphere should warm rapidly. The rise in temperature of that part of the atmosphere is not very dramatic at all, and really does not match the theory that climate models are expressing at this point.]
    UNQUOTE

    Comment by Mike Donald — 5 Nov 2007 @ 7:14 AM

  147. Steve Reynolds @136: I doubt very much that RC censored your post. They have been having intermittent problems with their software over recent months; comments often go missing without a trace. This happens to me about one comment in three.
    If they wanted to censor you, why would they allow you to post at all?

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 5 Nov 2007 @ 8:04 AM

  148. Re #144: For Roy W. Spencer, see this:

    http://www.exxonsecrets.org/html/personfactsheet.php?id=19

    For the paper, it is in Geophysical Research Letters, i.e., legit. Let’s see how it holds up. It would be good to see a RC review of this.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 5 Nov 2007 @ 8:41 AM

  149. RE mitigation costs, here’s a method that might help:

    1. First enact all purely money-saving measures, such as conservation (turning off lights not in use, cutting motor in drive-thrus, buying next house close to work, reusables, reduce); buying GreenMountain 100% wind-powered electricity, which saves a couple of bucks a month over conventional, dirty-powered electricty. And other such measures that purely save, with absolutely no up-front costs at all.

    2. Then once one has saved some $$ from that, plow that into low-cost, money-saving measures — CF bulbs, low-flow showerheads (which cost $6, but save $100 or more per year on water & energy to heat it), etc.

    3. Then once one has saved $$ on 1 & 2, then plow that into more expensive money-saving measures….maybe a SunFrost refrigerater, which really costs big, but also saves big.

    4. Then once one has saved big $$ on 1, 2, & 3, start plowing that saved money into things that pay for themselves, but do not go on to save more $$, AND into things that cost, but do not pay for themselves over time — like plug-in hybrid cars (which should be available by then).

    That way a person without a dime to spare (probably because of his/her energy/resource waste/inefficiency) can do it, which means everyone can do it. The rich can do it faster by investing their surplus, but even the poor can do it this way.

    Net loss: zero
    Net gain: life on earth

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Nov 2007 @ 9:19 AM

  150. RE censorship on RC (#136), I’ve been censored in the past, but what I’ve found is if I tone down the rhetoric, make it polite and appealing to logic and reason, and make it more on-topic, it get accepted.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Nov 2007 @ 9:21 AM

  151. Nick Barnes> I doubt very much that RC censored your post. They have been having intermittent problems with their software over recent months; comments often go missing without a trace. This happens to me about one comment in three.
    If they wanted to censor you, why would they allow you to post at all?

    OK, let’s test your hypothesis. I will post it again immediately after this post.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 5 Nov 2007 @ 9:31 AM

  152. Here is the repost:

    Steve Reynolds Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    4 November 2007 at 10:40 AM
    To 95, 114, 118 who all seem to think there is no support for the idea that putting resources into AGW mitigation could be bad for the poor, please look into the Copenhagen Consensus:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_Consensus
    http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/Default.aspx?ID=788

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 5 Nov 2007 @ 9:32 AM

  153. Thank you for the response to my comments at 37, but your remarks do little to advance my understanding of the quoted carbon exchanges. The reply also leaves me wondering if the data given by UNESCO is suspect and if the real sensitivities could be dangerously misunderstood.

    Let me quote you the main figures from the diagram (Gt/y to atmosphere +, from atmosphere):

    1.Fossil fuel/cement +7.2
    2.Anthropogenic land use change +1.5, land sink -2.4
    3.Respiration/fires +55.5, net primary production -57.0
    4.Background ocean/atmosphere +70.6, reverse -70.0
    5.Anthropogenic ocean/atmosphere +20.0, reverse -22.2

    Why are exchanges at (5) quoted as already a large fraction of those at (4) and currently no less than 3 times those at (1)!?

    Sorry, but I cannot see how the picture given in the chart, if accurate, can be entirely irrelevant to atmospheric concentrations. The figure quotes the ocean sink as 38,000 Gt, slightly increased (by 135) through anthropogenic influences to date. However, it also quotes the atmospheric sink as originally 590 Gt, but now increased by 204, much more significant, of course. If the net exchanges at (4) and (5) were to become seriously positive for a variety of reasons, this would have a dramatic effect on the rate of atmospheric CO2 increase.

    Comment by David Bright — 5 Nov 2007 @ 10:02 AM

  154. Re “I’ve been censored!”

    I had a big post Sunday. It didn’t go through. I am pretty sure that the software simply swallowed it. Two weeks ago three posts. Might have liked the post from yesterday to go through. Even more wish that I had saved it. I probably should always backup the big ones. Oh well. Might not even be the code, really, just the traffic. Sometimes I can’t get through, either.

    Anyway, unless someone is completely off-topic, I really doubt they will be “censored” although the impolite stuff might get edited. (That has happened to me a couple times.) But a contributor or two might actually refuse to post something if they think it is impolite through-and-through and getting personal (that’s happened in one case in the time that I have been here) or they have given someone several warnings about simply repeating the same arguments after several days after those arguments have been addressed. (I have seen the latter happen once as well.) But in either case you will know. You won’t have to guess.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 5 Nov 2007 @ 10:07 AM

  155. Why wouldn’t increased CO2 in the air lead to increased CO2 solubility in seawater due to Henry’s Law? The Henry’s Law effect is much stronger than temperature.

    Based on crude calculations I’ve made since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, we have increased the CO2 content of surface waters by something on the order of 5% or more. Such a change corresponds to a large amount of atmospheric CO2–on the order of 50, 100 ppm or more, depending on how thick surface waters are assumed to be. As CO2 levels rise why wouldn’t solubility follow and absorption continue?

    What am I missing?

    Comment by Mike Alexander — 5 Nov 2007 @ 11:11 AM

  156. Re 152 “Copenhagen Consensus”

    Speaking of disingenuous, the name Bjorn Lomborg seems familiar to me from somewhere…

    If only there were a rule that proven liars have to shut up for some decent interval. As it is, my feeble mind is overtaxed in remembering many names I’d prefer to forget.

    Comment by Daniel C. Goodwin — 5 Nov 2007 @ 11:43 AM

  157. Steve Reynolds,

    Frankly, there are many economic analyses of climate change out there, and the ones put forward by the Copenhagen Consensus, (which, coincidentally or not, fit nicely with Bjorn Lomborg’s preordained world’s view), are not impressive. More pertinently to this thread, they do not as is substantiate your claim about mitigation costs to the poor. Let me explain: there is no doubt mitigation will negatively impact economic growth rates in the short term. Given the high sensitivity that poor nations and individuals have to these, there would be an argument to be made. However, the overall effect on these is directly accounted for in any CBA, and the sensitivity holds throughout, so if a CBA passes, this is not a valid argument (only if a CBA didn’t pass, and people argued from an aesthetic point of view that we should go forward with mitigation to protect the environment, the argument would be valid).

    Outside of that- indeed, quite separate from it- is the degree to which mitigation spending creates greater welfare than development or malaria spending. It is manipulative and a red herring to suggest that somehow climate change needs to be pitted solely against charitable giving in the third world as the only two options for funds they artificially cap at $50 billion. Manipulative because charity spending, (as embodied by 3rd world development aid- note the last word), should have a higher threshold in a CBA than spending for one’s own benefits, (which very much describes mitigation), a distinction Lomborg is very much in the business of obscuring. A red herring because, if development spending passes a CBA given that higher threshold, bring it on. However, even if it were the case that such spending passed an appropriate CBA, and did so at a much higher utility than climate mitigation, that would not at all demonstrate that we shouldn’t spend on mitigation. It would rather mean that we should not spend the marginal wealth on the lowest welfare impact public good, and the Copenhagen Coalition does not have analysis to support that this is global warming mitigation (but yet they come to that conclusion anyway. Hmmm….).

    As an aside, all that takes their conclusions at face value- quite charitable given that neither the Copenhagen Consensus nor any other one has demonstrated the first part, let alone the second (that mitigation is last), with any analysis more substantial than a block of swiss cheese. Indeed, there is very little in the Copenhagen Group analysis which is analytically compelling- its solution is an artifact of its formulation, (see Jeffery Sachs criticism of the highly engineered $50 billion figure alluded to in the Wikipedia article, not to mention my point and the much larger issues with the type of CBA at the heart of the analysis).

    If you are interested in an economic review that is illuminating of its subject matter, you should look for one that recognizes the basic reality that we are not talking about charity with AGW mitigation, but investment in our own well being. One cognizant of the fact that there are more than two or three or five public goods for consideration in spending, and one that does not discard inputs simply because they are difficult to quantify- (Have we explicitly modeled uncertainty about climate sensitivity? About discount rates? How do we model damages in the distant dark reaches of a thick right tail? What is the statistical value of human life? And for center of the distribution modelers, what types of wars and terrorism is fought for or financed with petrocurrency? Can we expect there to be no geopolitical conflict as a result of climate change? How expensive are the agency issues associated with mitigation?). In short, you should look for an analysis that does not wear its science like a straight jacket. It turns out the difficult things to model are where the action is. When we arbitrarily discard them as the Coalition does, should we really expect the analysis to be valid?

    A true welfare analysis takes into account all costs and benefits, (mitigated damages but also mitigated risk and uncertainty), uncertainty about climate sensitivity, about stochastic discount rates, etc. To date, there has not been very compelling work in this area, but that is changing. You will realize when you read that that ‘skeptics’ criticism of the Stern Review is minor compared to the error any CBA that ignores uncertainty makes. And I’ll just keep posting that until someone picks up on it and realizes its pivotal significance.

    doghzaa, et al, you may not like economics, but it’s the only decision tool we have. Simple science is insufficient for policy decisions, and it’s highly unlikely dead reckoning leads to any better conclusions (and is clearly more at risk of manipulation). What we need are economists who don’t simplify their analysis to fit within their comfort level and tool set, something we’ve had far too much of to date, (but as noted, is changing).

    Comment by Majorajam — 5 Nov 2007 @ 11:47 AM

  158. #125 SecularAnimistOf course, most people are not going to shed tears over the prospect of Exxon-Mobil losing some of its multi-billion-dollar annual profits as income and wealth shift to manufacturers of wind turbines, photovoltaics, biofuel systems,

    Here’s a fun question: What % of XOM’s annual $400B in sales will be shifted to solar cell and other alt fuel manufacturers in the next 50 years? If you assume 50%, and if you believe that there will be a handful of leaders in the new space (typical in all segments of import), then that means that some solar cell company with a reasonable IPR position (take SPWR as an example) sitting at around $200M in sales today will be posting 20% YoY growth for the next 50 years to fill that void. It’d be unprecendented. But it also highlights how significant of an investment opportunity might exist.

    Of course, if it looks inevitable, then it’d be easy for XOM to simply buy a few of these alt energy companies. SPWR is only $10B right now. Even with a few years of solid growth they would still be easily purchased by an oil company.

    XOM won’t go away. They might morph into something else. But they won’t go away.

    I wonder, too, if oil turns into the cheap fuel for emerging nations in 50 years. If EU + US do indeed bite the bullet and push to do the right thing and get off of oil, then world demand drops and the price would fall to unprecendented levels, making it much more attractive for nations that are seeing their population adjust to standards similar to what the west is enjoying today (1.8 cars per family, 3 TVs per house, etc).

    If we opt to get world CO2 output to 1975 levels (arbitrary date, but presumably safe), and if we assume everyone in the world gets to produce CO2 equally (fair assumption for 2100 as India, China rise to current western standard of living), then per capita CO2 production in the US needs to drop by 96.3%. EU per capita CO2 production needs to drop by 92.5%.

    Simple conservation doesn’t get us there unfortunately.

    Comment by Matt — 5 Nov 2007 @ 12:06 PM

  159. Steve Reynolds, So, do tell. When did the Copenhagen Business School take such a deep and abiding interest in the plight of the poor? Certainly, I find nothing among the “experts” to suggest any experience dealing with development issues–and squat when it comes to expertise in disaster mitigation, super-cat insurance or anything else associated with mitigation of risk.
    The Copenhagen Consensus may well have been a consensus, but it certainly was not a consensus of experts in any field relevant to climate change mitigation or international development.
    I take only two things away from what I’ve read of the Copenhagen Consensus:
    1)Mere agreement does not make consensus (which must be based on evidence and the opinions of experts in the relevant fields)
    2)Of course we need to take care that in our urgency to mitigate climate change, we do not embrace the false economy of sacrificing economic health and continued development.

    The climate mitigation vs. development dichotomy is a false one. They are both aspects of sustainability.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Nov 2007 @ 12:45 PM

  160. Re #138 Joe Duck “My suggestion of a consensus among economists is based on my understanding of the work of Yale Economist Robert Mendohlson, a leader in this field who has extensively reviewed and published on this topic.”

    Joe, can you give a more specific reference to Mendohlson’s views on the comparison of mitigation and impact costs? I can’t find anything he’s written specifically on that. He does say (Mendohlson, Dinar and Williams Environment and Development Economics 11: 159–178
    “The distributional impact of climate change on rich and poor countries”):

    “This paper has shown that climate impacts have large distributional
    consequences. The bulk of the damages from climate change are likely
    to fall on the poor countries of the world.”

    In the same paper he advocates a carbon tax on all countries, the proceeds to be used to help poor countries develop. He does say:

    “Rather than focusing strictly on mitigation, the carbon program would modernize developing countries, making them more capable of taking care of themselves.”

    However, since the carbon tax would itself be a mitigation measure, he’s clearly not opposed to mitigation. I would oppose the authors’ suggestion that the World Bank (which is of course run by rich countries in their own interest) should administer this fund, but the idea of a global carbon tax hypothecated to helping poor countries grow economically is certainly worth considering – provided we add, as they do not, that this should also be oriented toward minimising any resultant increase in emissions from those countries.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 5 Nov 2007 @ 12:47 PM

  161. Re # 155 Mike Alexander: “Why wouldn’t increased CO2 in the air lead to increased CO2 solubility in seawater due to Henry’s Law? The Henry’s Law effect is much stronger than temperature.”

    Henry’s law states that the concentration of a dissolved gas (Cx) is equal to the partial pressure of that gas (Px) times the solubility coefficient for that gas in a particular solvent (alphax; note that various symbols are use for the solubility coefficient):
    Cx = Px x alphax

    The solubility coefficient is determined by the temperature and chemical composition (e.g., salinity in the case of seawater) of the solvent. So, in the technical sense, solubility (i.e., solubility coefficient) is independent of the partial pressure. Some people use the term “solubility” when they really mean concentration – is that how you are using the term, Mike?

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 5 Nov 2007 @ 1:01 PM

  162. Nick re: Mendohlson on Mitigation. I have a great email response from him about this – asking for permission to post it here. The gist is that the optimal approach starts with inexpensive mitigations and scales these up over time as technologies and effectiveness increase.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 5 Nov 2007 @ 3:07 PM

  163. Re Steve cites Lomborg in 152:

    Citing Lomborg is hazardous to your argument. I’ve had live, face-to-face discussion with him. I can assure you, he doesn’t know the first thing about ecosystems, feedback systems, or climate science.
    When I asked him about “fishing down the food web,” he said that this is simply removing the oldest fish from the population. My jaw literally dropped at his ignorance.

    To my knowledge, he has never published in a peer-reviewed journal. Sincere nor not, if you follow him, you will be led astray.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 5 Nov 2007 @ 3:45 PM

  164. Re Jim’s concerns: have you read the Copenhagen Consensus material regarding how to prioritize spending? Any specific complaints about how they order global priorities?

    Comment by Joe Duck — 5 Nov 2007 @ 4:37 PM

  165. Joe Duck,

    Make sure and ask him if his “optimal approach” is optimal under explicit recognition of uncertainty in the climate sensitivity scale parameter and discount factor (indeed, what method of discounting he is employing, or details and assumptions of his “optimal” strategy full stop). It is also worth noting that Mendelsohn is on the record as claiming that North America and northern Europe will benefit from global warming, to say nothing of this beauty:

    “If you look at what’s going to happen to the world as a whole, there’s going to be huge sections of the world which will benefit greatly and other sections of the world which will get damaged,” he said. “When you add the two together what you find is that for the world as a whole, the benefits are offsetting the damages.”

    …which makes it rather difficult to justify spending on emissions.

    I wonder if the scientist visitors to this blog thread might have a go at that floating grapefruit for our friend Joe.

    Comment by Majorajam — 5 Nov 2007 @ 4:38 PM

  166. And Joe/Steve, if you like Mendelsohn, you should see his interactive map of which countries/demographic is getting hammered, by global warming. Indeed, Northern Europe and North America are doing splendidly, (assuming of course those ice sheets hold and you don’t live by the coast if they don’t!- and of course that heat stress doesn’t effect water supply- and that Cardio Vascular disease is still a leading killer, i.e. stasis in medical technology and infectious disease agents, of course etc. etc. etc.), while Africa is looking at massive economic contraction. Good thing most of the world’s poor live in the middle to high latitudes… err…

    Comment by Majorajam — 5 Nov 2007 @ 5:03 PM

  167. Re Joe’s comment at 164, Lomborg and I locked horns during his Copenhagen Consensus presentation at Microsoft Research a couple of years ago.

    My biggest complaint was that he completely neglects feedbacks among his various solutions; what good will it do us to save millions of people from malaria and AIDS, only to see them die a few years later from climate disaster? And what if climate change also causes the spread of diseases? He called that a “tertiary effect” and dismissed it.

    But mostly I was there to challenge him on his Skeptical Environmentalist claim that “species extinction is a problem, not a catastrophe.” He stood by it — to him, a board-foot of wood is a board-foot of wood, whether it comes from the Amazon Rainforest or a cheap pine-monoculture tree farm. I tried to talk to him about loss of ocean biomass to factory trawlers, longlines, shark finning, etc., and that’s when he made his amazingly ignorant assertion about fishing down the food web.

    Since he doesn’t have the first clue about ecosystems, why should we believe he has a better grasp of economics?

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 5 Nov 2007 @ 5:13 PM

  168. > he doesn’t have the first clue about ecosystems,
    > why should we believe he has a better grasp of economics?

    Is any coursework in ecology required for a degree in economics these days?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Nov 2007 @ 5:25 PM

  169. “Floating grapefruit” — How apt a remainder of the perilous state of the oceans. Which, amoung other problems, are becoming less basic, more acidic. Which does bad things to the base of our food chain.

    The food chain for all the people and other living creatures on the face of the earth.

    Disclaimer: While I am a visiting (retired) scientist here, none of this remotely relates to my specialty. However, this is eighth grade general science, nothing deep or difficult.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Nov 2007 @ 5:42 PM

  170. Re Hank’s question: “Is any coursework in ecology required for a degree in economics these days?”

    An important question. To my mind, both disciplines would benefit from greater integration.

    But as far as Lomborg is concerned, he has neither an environmental nor an economics background; he’s a statistician, and afaik, he remains unpublished in any peer-reviewed journals.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 5 Nov 2007 @ 6:05 PM

  171. Note to the moderators: I’d recommend you consider a “whitelist” for commenters who have posted nothing abusive – hopefully that is most of the folks participating here? People think they are getting censored when I think they are just delayed somewhat irratically via the moderation queue and the quirks of wordpress blogs.

    Everybody should note that moderated comments may appear earlier in the comment sequence.

    Majorajam: Disagree with most of your note above – Mendohlson’s economic qualifications in this area are almost unmatched. However you are correct to note that the discount rate is a key factor and unfortunately this single factor changes one’s conclusion about how to proceed. Stern in UK, for example, used different assumptions about discount rates and concluded early and massive mitigation is called for. He noted it would have a large initial cost in lost GDP but felt this was justified in terms of preventing giant economic losses in future. However, Mendohlson’s treatments appear to be more in line with mainstream economics though I don’t claim much expertise in this field. My B.S. is Botany, MS Social Sciences.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 5 Nov 2007 @ 6:20 PM

  172. dhogaza (140), did I get this right? Are you asserting that climatologists are better at figuring out economic things than economists are? I also think the average economist’s forecasts are pretty poor. But are scientists, or proponents like on RC that predict sanguine economies all around, better?

    Comment by Rod B — 5 Nov 2007 @ 6:37 PM

  173. RE the poor and their needs, I think it really behooves us to cut our GHGs, if not to save the earth and reduce GW harms to the poor (& to us & future generations), then at the very least so as to save money, so we can donate it to the poor. People ought to put their GHG cuts (and the money they reap from them) where their mouth is.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Nov 2007 @ 6:52 PM

  174. Hank,

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you’re any kind of environmentalist, even a skeptical one, it’s considered a good idea to be less than monumentally ignorant of ecology. Saying that, I don’t think that was your man’s point. That rather seems to be why should we make the effort to evaluate the work of someone given to making patently false statements outside or inside their field of expertise in any context. I have no reason to doubt Jim’s testimony, however we certainly don’t need to take it on faith. There are literally dozens of instances where Lomborg is on the record taking liberties with the evidence, and his example is not in the least bit out of character with the remainder of them.

    Joe,

    As with the Copenhagen Coalition, Mendolson’s assumptions account for his results, and their validity is what I was getting at with my post to you. I was hoping you’d get a response on the board from Mendohlson to my queries. You could ask it differently too- at what cumulative probability do large scale damages from ice sheet melt enter into your estimate of mitigation benefits? How valid would results be given a climate sensitivity of 7 degrees centigrade? Things like this. From the Weitzman paper people seem intent on ignoring, “What we do know about climate science and extreme tail probabilities is that planet Earth hovers in an unstable climate equilibrium, chaotic dynamics cannot be ruled out, and all eighteen current studies of climate sensitivity cited by IPCC4 taken together are estimating on average that P[S>6ºC] = 5% [i.e. the probability that climate sensitivity is greater than 6ºC is roughly 5%].” You could quote him that and ask him whether his analysis suffers from ignoring what mainstream climate science is telling us about possibilities.

    You might also want to ask yourself if the idea that a changing climate would have a net zero effect on aggregate welfare seems reasonable to you prima facie, and whether someone who starts out by arguing such a thing with confidence truly has ‘unrivaled credentials’ or whatever you’re trying to make stick here. There is plenty of evidence of some rather dire ramifications of global warming, but more to the point, presumably we’re all most well adapted to our current climates, meaning changes imply at least the cost of realigning that adaptation, no? This highly basic observation implies net costs. You should also familiarize yourself with the strength of the assumptions needed to make any of these CBA’s go, and hold your nose when you do as they’re not pretty. In the case of an assured climate sensitivity of 3ºC that matters greatly (and more so the interest rate, about which you shouldn’t be too quick to dismiss Stern, especially considering your endorsement of the Cope Coalition). At thick tailed probabilities of very large climate sensitivities, these assumptions disappear underneath “fear of ruin”. That matters too.

    As far as what I’ve said that you’ve disagreed with, and the only thing that comes to mind is the effect of mitigation on the unwashed poor, I suggest you see Mendohlson about that as well. You can’t just use him selectively for confirmation of your prejudices- he’s either a legend in his field beyond the skepticism of mere mortals, or not.

    Comment by Majorajam — 5 Nov 2007 @ 7:16 PM

  175. Joe Duck, the problem with Robert Mendelsohn’s argument is that the mitigation must be sufficient to avoid the majority of the adverse consequences, and the climate has positive feedbacks that will kick in at some uncertain level of CO2. If we exceed this level, all the mitigation will have been in vain. Risk mitigation requires that we pursue mitigations in order of maximum net benefit (net, because we have to consider cost). But above all else, we must pursue sufficient mitigation to be effective.
    Mendelsohn et al. do not have a good understanding of climate consequences. No one does. However, an unknown risk is not a risk you can ignore, as Mendelsohn does. His recommendations are tantamount to an economist in the midst of hyper-inflation suggesting that the government cannot tighten the money supply, because it would be bad for the economy.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 5 Nov 2007 @ 7:35 PM

  176. dhogaza (140), did I get this right? Are you asserting that climatologists are better at figuring out economic things than economists are?

    No, but economists have a discouraging tendency to assume that environmental factors have zero value (in economic terms), which leads to a huge bias against spending any money whatsoever to minimize environmental harm.

    Comment by dhogaza — 5 Nov 2007 @ 7:38 PM

  177. The Weyerhaeuser chair in a management school is a mainstream economist?

    Comment by J.C.H. — 5 Nov 2007 @ 7:42 PM

  178. “Is any coursework in ecology required for a degree in economics these days?” (Re:168).

    I don’t know, Hank, but two semesters of economics were required for a bachelors degree in engineering way back when. We used a book by Paul Samuelson to give an idea of how far “when”. It’s kind of like chicken soup. It can’t hurt. Since it’s used as a significant factor in many areas of civil engineering from economical design of structures to equitable distribution of water resources, it helps to be on speaking terms with their vocabulary,as well as some basic principles.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 5 Nov 2007 @ 7:57 PM

  179. “Is any coursework in ecology required for a degree in economics these days?” (Re:168).
    Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at The University of Vermont might be a good place to start.
    http://www.uvm.edu/giee/?Page=default.html

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 5 Nov 2007 @ 8:48 PM

  180. #163 Jim Galasyn: To my knowledge, he has never published in a peer-reviewed journal. Sincere nor not, if you follow him, you will be led astray.

    And yet when peer reviewed stuff comes out that folks don’t like, they pooh-pooh that too :) Witness Roe and Baker. And of course, when stuff comes out that isn’t peer reviewed that people like, even when they get some stuff wrong, the wagons circle again. “Well, he’s mostly right! And he’s not even a scientist! Sure there’s a bit of alarmism in there, but there HAS to be. THE MAN IS AWESOME!!!”

    But mention Lomborg and people’s eyes cross in rage. No slack for him!

    The guy has published 500+ pages of very technical stuff, with plenty of pointers to the actual studies. He’s readily accessible, interviews often, and is happy to discuss in any forum (can’t say that for Gore). He’s not a scientist, but I think he’s done a really fair job of researching the distilling the info. Mistakes? Of course. Show me a 500 page book with nearly 3000 footnotes that doesn’t make mistakes.

    He was particularly effective last go round, and came across as a lone voice of reason amidst widespread hysterics in the NY Times interview (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/11/science/earth/11tiern.html). And again, I think that is what rub folks the wrong way.

    Lots of folks like to talk about accelerated famines, plagues, etc, but the largest body of consensus on this just doesn’t really support that. The IPCC isn’t even really all that scary on water level rises.

    Now, back to extinction that you brought up with him. Read Lomborg’s section on biodiversity in SE to get some context. Incredibly, it’s full of scary predictions from the last 40 years. In 1979, we were told we were losing 40,000 species a year. Gore still cites that number. Harvard biologist O. Wilson claims 27,000 and 100,000 per year. Ehrlich, coming off his several other spectacular predictions, claimed in 1981 we lose 250,000 species per year. And in case you weren’t scared by that, Ehrlich claimed in 1981 that all species would be gone between 2010 and 2025. And then Lomborg cites studies showing there are 1,600,000 known species (estimates are between 2M and 80M species total), adn 1033 known extinctions since 1600.

    He explains that if a species lasts 1-10M years, with 1.6M species we’d expect to see 2.5 natural extinctions per year, and takes things from there. Very sane reasoning. Overall, I thought a very strong chapter. What specifics did you take issue with?

    Comment by Matt — 5 Nov 2007 @ 10:06 PM

  181. He’s boring.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 12:00 AM

  182. And yet when peer reviewed stuff comes out that folks don’t like, they pooh-pooh that too :) Witness Roe and Baker. And of course, when stuff comes out that isn’t peer reviewed that people like, even when they get some stuff wrong, the wagons circle again. “Well, he’s mostly right! And he’s not even a scientist! Sure there’s a bit of alarmism in there, but there HAS to be. THE MAN IS AWESOME!!!”

    Well, yes, when a non-scientist presents the consensus position in science, we may say “he’s awesome!”

    And why not?

    And when a maverick gets a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal, which contradicts the commonly-accepted consensus position, we may say “we think he’s wrong”.

    Why do you have a problem with that?

    But mention Lomborg and people’s eyes cross in rage. No slack for him!

    Is there something special about his name that makes you think this is wrong? People publish rational defenses of astrology and the like all the time, which have no basis in the real world.

    Are we supposed to cut them slack, too, even if they’re scientifically ignorant?

    The guy has published 500+ pages of very technical stuff

    So have many Astrologists. Does this mean they’re right?

    And if they publish 1000+ pages of “very technical stuff”, does this mean that astrology is twice as right as Lomborg’s anti-science crusade?

    And yes, you’re boring, as pointed out above.

    Comment by dhogaza — 6 Nov 2007 @ 12:17 AM

  183. Having waded through most of the posts this evening, my question is, who of the decision makers are reading any of this? by that I mean local municipal politicians. These are the folk who affect real change in what happens in most of our communities. I see a real disconnect between what you the scientist are discussing and what the local politicians are concerned about.

    The canary in the coal mine just doesnt cut it any more! how can you get your message to the people that make the day to day decisions about policy that determine what goes on on a local level count? It is all very well to discuss esoteric nuances of AWG and of CO2 problems, meanwhile we have armies of lunatics lining up at Tim Hortons drive throughs with their gas guzzling SUVs waiting to buy a cup of coffee!!!! Drive throughs shoud be illegal anywhere! these are areas that local politicians have some clout. I live in a place where they think that coal bed methane is a good thing for the economy and that coal liqudation and gasification is going to save the planet! We have a long way to go folks!

    Iam working on a passive solar home and am building it myself. I hope I am not too late!

    Michael

    Comment by Michael Mott — 6 Nov 2007 @ 1:33 AM

  184. #181, #182 Hank and dhogaza: You’re boring

    And yet you bite every time :)

    The key point, dhogaza, is that Lomborg is a slightly more technical Al Gore. Both rely on scientists to do their analysis. Both do a very good job of acting as a public face on each of the arguments. Because they aren’t scientists, I’m not sure it’s fair to hold one to a higher standard than the other as most here do. I do think Lomborg brings some very unique viewpoints that are worth thinking about to the table. It’s rather refreshing, because few are offering solutions. The scientists are all very good at saying “look how screwed we are”, the engineers are all good at saying “just tell us what to bet big on and we’ll make it cheap and safe”, the finance guys are ready to back anything that will make money, the environmentalist wackos are all using this to push their same tired agendas that have indirectly caused us to remain stuck on coal, and the public policy folks are all very good at…at…well…who knows. Fanning the flames I guess.

    So let’s recap:

    1) Lomborg’s media impressions are indeed damaging to the cause
    2) Lomborg is deemed credible by the mainstream media (WSJ, NYT)
    3) Leading scientists won’t debate Lomborg
    4) Untold websites and hours are spent attempting to refute Lomborg

    Hmmmm. I don’t think the 4 assertions above slightly re-phrased are true for astrology. Perhaps you need to re-think your argument or concede that he’s quite effective, and probably more accurate with the science than many here would like to admit. Certainly more accurate with the science than Al Gore was in AIT.

    And if they publish 1000+ pages of “very technical stuff”, does this mean that astrology is twice as right as Lomborg’s anti-science crusade?

    Let’s not forget the number of math errors that have slipped through 12 page peer reviewed articles, OK? The point stands that Lomborg’s book was well researched and covered a lot of ground. Expect there to be errors.

    Comment by Matt — 6 Nov 2007 @ 2:04 AM

  185. What specifics did you take issue with?
    Matt that is an excellent question. These are complex issues and thus it’s best to identify a specific “falsehood”.

    what good will it do us to save millions of people from malaria and AIDS, only to see them die a few years later from climate disaster?

    Jim this answer seems to suggest that “millions will die” in a few years from climate change? This is not a reasonable assertion. Millions die every year right now, but climate change has only a modest impact on the number of human deaths per year. The type of climate impacts that would be required to kill millions are very unlikely, which is why many feel we should carefully weigh the costs and benefits of mitigation vis a vis other resource allocations.

    Ray – No, I don’t think most economic analyses ignore uncertainties. They would tend to assign a probability range to various scenarios to predict outcomes. I see it as fundamentally important to determine the likelihood of catastrophic climate change because this will help us determine optimal resource allocation. Many here at RC seem to think catastrophic change is looming, but reading IPCC I come to a different conclusion – climate change will be modest over the next 100 years, and very modest during the next 10. Hansen and some others suggest more problems than IPCC, but he does not seem to reflect the consensus in the climate field.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 6 Nov 2007 @ 4:43 AM

  186. Re: Jim Glaswyn on Lomborg. I’m no fan of Lomborg’s, but he does have at least one refereed publication, unless there’s another B. Lomborg out there:

    Lomborg, B. 1996 “Nucleus and Shield: The Evolution of Social Structure in the Iterated Prisoner’s Dilemma” American Sociological Review 61, 278-307.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 5:31 AM

  187. Re: 180 (Matt): “And then Lomborg cites studies showing there are 1,600,000 known species (estimates are between 2M and 80M species total), adn 1033 known extinctions since 1600.”

    Lomborg’s stress on “known extinctions” alone shows he is either ignorant or mendacious (or indeed both). We know about the extinction of conspicuous terrestrial organisms – mostly birds and mammals – and often make considerable efforts to prevent extinctions in these groups. Most species live in tropical forests. Most are small (a large proportion are beetles), many appear to have very restricted ranges. The actual number of extinctions since 1600 is very hard to calculate, but will inevitably be far more than the number of known extinctions.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 5:44 AM

  188. James Lovelock has published more than just one paper. Once all his qualifications have been listed by the chairman, then I think you will find what he has to say is far from boring. See the Realtime webcast at: http://www.royalsoc.ac.uk/event.asp?id=7142

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 6 Nov 2007 @ 6:10 AM

  189. ¿What would be the consequences of Pinatubo eruption in oceanic CO2 sink?

    ¿What would the consequences of a high recurrence of El Niño events in Oceanic CO2 sink, and what’s more if they are the strongest in last half century?

    Comment by J.A.L. — 6 Nov 2007 @ 7:18 AM

  190. Matt, Actually, the 4 points you raise about Lomborg apply to as well to astrology:
    1) Lomborg’s media impressions are indeed damaging to the cause–pseudoscience is always damaging to science
    2) Lomborg is deemed credible by the mainstream media (WSJ, NYT)–looked in your local paper lately? Bet you find horoscopes
    3) Leading scientists won’t debate Lomborg–they won’t debate astrologers and other pseudoscientists either
    4) Untold websites and hours are spent attempting to refute Lomborg–ever hear of James Randi?

    Lomborg is a pseudointellectual blinkered ideologue whose biases against the left (which may be justified to some extent in Denmark) cause him to embrace uncritically all the positions of the right. Your assertion that he has a better grasp of the science than Gore is risible. Gore got most of the science right. Lomborg got almost none of it right–and what is more, he’s proud of that. I rate his intellect and argument style only slightly higher than Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter (or Al Franken, for that matter).

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Nov 2007 @ 9:08 AM

  191. Why does Lomborg scare me? Because he IS so effective – a soft smile, gently carressing everyone on the cheek, while in a calm voice murmuring, “There, there, everything is going to be okay,” as he hands us his refreshing glass of Koolaid. Oh, it is so nice to be gently awakened from a nightmare! Unless when you really wake up, you realize it was not a nightmare at all, but reality.

    Comment by Ron Taylor — 6 Nov 2007 @ 9:29 AM

  192. RE “the probability that climate sensitivity is greater than 6ºC is roughly 5%” (#174). Sometimes how we present the stats is important, so one-in-20 chance seems a bit more startling than 5% (I’ve bet on 1-in-20 longshots before).

    So, you’re working in your garage and it’s cold, so you debate whether to turn on your car engine & heater, or your electric heater (which is powered by 100% wind-generated electricity and costs less to run than the car), AND there’s a 1-in-20 chance you will die from the carbon monoxide from the car. Which would you choose? And, oh yeh, the money you save from using the electric heater over the car heater you can send to the poor to help prevent malaria and death!

    RE #176 & economics, I think that Adam Smith classical and neoclassical economics is inappropriate and grossly deficient for a globally warming world. I’ve written much here over the years on this topic, so I won’t get into it, except to say that, yes, one’s diamonds and gold won’t be harmed much by GW, only cheap stuff, like food, will be greatly harmed. So the economy should do just fine. Question is, will there be people around to enjoy that fine economy.

    And then there is the booming business in the health and rebuilding sector that should really do quite well.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 6 Nov 2007 @ 9:40 AM

  193. Joe Duck asserts that “The type of climate impacts that would be required to kill millions are very unlikely.”

    What about widespread, rapid desertification would make you think that? One season of global crop failure should do the trick. The UN reports that global grain storage has been declining for years; it’s estimated we have a 57-day supply.

    The Holocene is an unusually stable climate regime, and it is this stability that makes agricultural civilization possible. I’ll take the opposite of your position: The type of climate impacts that would be required to kill millions become increasingly likely as we drive the planet away from the Holocene climate optimum.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 6 Nov 2007 @ 10:14 AM

  194. Matt concurs with Lomborg: “species extinction is a problem, not a catastrophe.”

    Do you also agree with Lomborg’s assertion that “fishing down the food web just means removing the oldest fish from the population?”

    Biologist Kåre Fog takes Lomborg’s Chapter 23 to task:
    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/chapter23.htm

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 6 Nov 2007 @ 10:34 AM

  195. And to be clear, it’s Lomborg I find boring, not you Matt.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 10:39 AM

  196. What about widespread, rapid desertification would make you think that? One season of global crop failure should do the trick. The UN reports that global grain storage has been declining for years; it’s estimated we have a 57-day supply.
    ================

    It wouldn’t even need to be a global failure…just the failure of a region, and very quickly market forces could – and most likely would – act in such a way as to limit the delivery of key grain supplies to a number of countries that depend upon them.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 6 Nov 2007 @ 10:46 AM

  197. #187 Nick Gotts: Lomborg’s stress on “known extinctions” alone shows he is either ignorant or mendacious (or indeed both).

    He’s neither. He’s simply citing studies 5 studies (Baillie+Groombridge 1997, Walter +Gillet 1998, May 1995, Reid 1992) showing what others have studied to date. In the chapter he’s on a path working up to show just how unfounded the “we lose 40,000 species per year” claim from Gore is, along with the “we lose 250,000 species per year” claim from Ehrlich.

    Incredibly, he traces the 40,000 figure to Myers “hazarding a guess” at a conference in 1974. From there it took a life of its own. And of course, Ehrlich was never one to be outdoomed. Of course, the point of the chapter is that for a long time now certain scientists have been telling us we’re on edge of losing nearly everything as we wipe out species at an alarming rate. And computer models have been built to say it is so.

    Again, a very rational and sane treatment.

    I will note that in the chapter Lomborg failed to show a scientific source of the 40,000 and 250,000 figures. If you know of one, then perhaps Lomborg ignored it and I’d be interested in knowing that. If you don’t know of one, and if you haven’t read the chapter, then there’s not much here to debate.

    Comment by Matt — 6 Nov 2007 @ 10:58 AM

  198. re 184:

    So let’s recap:

    1) Lomborg’s media impressions are indeed damaging to the cause
    2) Lomborg is deemed credible by the mainstream media (WSJ, NYT)
    3) Leading scientists won’t debate Lomborg
    4) Untold websites and hours are spent attempting to refute Lomborg

    ===================

    Just to echo and reinforce Ray in 190:

    Substitute the Discovery Institute or Intelligent Design Supporters or Creationists for “Lomborg” and you have a description of what has been going on in the Evolution/Creationism wars for years now.

    This type of argument is empty rhetoric, a question beg that assumes that if someone doesn’t do something to address Lomborg’s arguments in particular forums or that Lomborg is being excluded from consideration or forums he somehow has scientific legitimacy.

    This is a bogus proposition. Lomborg’s SCIENTIFIC legitimacy rests upon the work he produces, and the manner in which he provides it for examination, not on how he is perceived in the media. And as been discussed ad nauseum, Lomborg’s scientific legitimacy appears, at best, questionable to an extreme.

    One other point – here again you have an instance of a single individual that opponents of a view flock to as having the “last word”, as being the one with the true answer, when the overwhelming majority of people with actual knowledge in the subjects that this individual holds forth on (knowledge, btw, attained from years of study and field work) somehow have less credibility in their conclusions.

    If you claim you wanted to discuss things from a reasonable, rational perspective, this understand might give you some pause.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:03 AM

  199. re 183:

    Having waded through most of the posts this evening, my question is, who of the decision makers are reading any of this? by that I mean local municipal politicians. These are the folk who affect real change in what happens in most of our communities. I see a real disconnect between what you the scientist are discussing and what the local politicians are concerned about.

    ===================

    Check out Burlington, Vermont.

    In Chapter 9 of “Field Notes from a Catastrophe”, Elizabeth Kolbert discusses their efforts to reduce consumption. While there were initial successes, the consumption continues to climb.

    The upshot? While municipal efforts are helpful, it is unlikely nothing short of nationally coordinated efforts are going to have a long-term effect on AGW.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:13 AM

  200. Re 183. What’s amazing, really, is exactly how much climate mitigation action is already taking place not only in the absence of leadership and commitment from the federal government but also in the face of media-supported efforts at denial and obstruction promulgated by vested interests. Much of the local and state activity seems, unfortunately, to be under the radar, with little attention and coverage so that most people, including many posting here apparently, are quite unaware of even a fraction of what is happening. Take a look at:

    “Regional commitment to reducing emissions – Local policy in the United States goes some way towards countering anthropogenic climate change” – http://www.uvm.edu/giee/publications/Nature2005.pdf

    “What’s Being Done…In the States” – http://www.pewclimate.org/what_s_being_done/in_the_states/

    “Local, State and Regional Action to Address Global Warming” – http://www.net.org/policy/global_warming/pdf/gw_regional_action.pdf

    “State & Regional Programs to Address Global Warming” – http://www.nwf.org/globalwarming/pdfs/StateActionsClimateChange.pdf

    State and Regional Climate Actions Table – http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/wycd/stateandlocalgov/state_actionslist.html

    U.S. Green Building Council: Government Resources – http://www.usgbc.org/DisplayPage.aspx?CMSPageID=1779

    Democratic Energy: Communities and Government Working on our Energy Future – http://www.newrules.org/electricity/climate.html

    Post Carbon Cities: Preparing local governments for energy and climate uncertainty – http://postcarboncities.net/node/1454

    Conservation Law Foundation: Advocacy for New England’s Environment – http://www.clf.org/programs/index.asp?id=62

    The U.S. Conference of Mayors: Mayors Climate Protection Center – http://usmayors.org/climateprotection/
    Note that a “Mayors Climate Protection Summit” took place in Seattle last Thursday and Friday. An article on a speech by Bill Clinton can be found at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/337769_climate02.html

    State /Energy Alternatives: Renewable resources, technologies, and policies for states and communities – http://www.eere.energy.gov/states/alternatives/

    Mayors for Climate Protection – http://www.coolmayors.org/common/11061/?clientID=11061

    The Top 10 Green Cities in the U.S.: 2006 – http://www.thegreenguide.com/doc/113/top10cities

    The SustainLane 2006 US City Rankings – http://www.sustainlane.com/us-city-rankings/

    (There are a few other city rankings that can be found.)

    Not a governmental organization, Green Energy Ohio is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting environmentally and economically sustainable energy policies and practices in Ohio. Their home page at http://www.greenenergyohio.org/page.cfm?pageId=3 has a list of “Top News for Clean Energy in Ohio,” which includes information on local and state governmental actions.

    This one is not from any governmental organization, but from the socially active Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. It’s also kind of interesting in regards to the opinions of people who don’t just talk about helping poor people, but who practice what they preach (unlike some who have been cited here). See “Threat of Global Warming/Climate Change: 2006 Statement of Conscience” – http://www.uua.org/socialjustice/socialjustice/statements/8061.shtml

    Comment by Mary C — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:15 AM

  201. Re 180 Matt: “The IPCC isn’t even really all that scary on water level rises.”

    Despite it being pointed out to you repeatedly that the IPCC explicitly assumed no change in the rate of Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheet melting in its projection of sea level rise, you still cling to the conservative IPCC projections as comforting and more reliable than what has actually been observed and measured since the release of the last report. That simply is not rational.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:36 AM

  202. #190 Ray Ladbury: Gore got most of the science right. Lomborg got almost none of it right–and what is more, he’s proud of that.

    A 20 foot sea rise without a time scale given? You think that is fair? You are aware that Harry Smith asserted to Michael Bloomberg on Monday that “Manhattan will be underwater by 2050″. Where did Harry Smith get that?

    [edit - keep the rhetoric in check please, and who is Harry Smith?]

    what do you consider Lomborg’s biggest error?

    BTW, you are underestimating Lomborg. Michael Crichton was extremely effective in the debate against pro-AGW scientists earlier this year–turning the crowd from believers to skeptics while pro-AGW scientists stood by and watched, mouths agape. And he’s merely a wordsmith. Lomborg is quite a bit more effective than Crichton. And if the leading pro-AGW voices won’t debate him, and if he can turn a NYT writer into a mass of admiring jelly, the problem (or solution, depending on viewpoint) is only going to get worse.

    You claim that Lomborg “embraces uncritically all the positions of the right”. You are aware that he used to be a member of Greenpeace, and actually grew tired of dealing with all the made-up numbers Greenpeace was using to forward their cause. Hardly uncritical.

    Comment by Matt — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:38 AM

  203. #194 Jim Eager: Despite it being pointed out to you repeatedly that the IPCC explicitly assumed no change in the rate of Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheet melting in its projection of sea level rise, you still cling to the conservative IPCC projections as comforting and more reliable than what has actually been observed and measured since the release of the last report. That simply is not rational.

    Let’s see. So if I reject the IPCC documents outright, then I’m castigated for rejecting “the largest body of scientific consensus ever assembled.” But if I embrace the IPCC, then I’m castigated for ignoring the fact that they “assumed no change in the rate of ice sheet melt”

    So, which is it? Are all the scientists wrong? Why did the IPCC assume there was no change in the rate of melting if in fact a year after publication all the ice sheets are melting? Or is there a small group of scientists that think this is a big problem, but a larger group aren’t as worried? Presumably if most IPCC scientists were worried about this, it would have been in the IPCC.

    [Response: It is in the IPCC. And if you are castigated, it's probably because you aren't actually reading the IPCC report. Quote (from SPM): "Dynamical processes related to ice flow not included in current models but suggested by recent observations could increase the vulnerability of the ice sheets to warming, increasing future sea level rise. Understanding of these processes is limited and there is no consensus on their magnitude." (see also http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/the-ipcc-sea-level-numbers/ ). I'm pretty sure everyone will agree that IPCC could have been clearer about what their numbers meant and how important this uncertainty is, but your characterisation of the IPCC statements are simply erroneous. - gavin]

    Comment by Matt — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:47 AM

  204. RE #193, my impression is that maybe millions have already died from GW, its effects, and its repercussions.

    I understand the WHO estimates that 160,000 die each year from disease spread (like malaria…someone tell that to Lomborg) due to GW. They attribute half the heat deaths in the 2003 European heat wave to GW, so I imagine a portion of heat deaths around the world might be attributed to GW; it’s not only the daytime heat, but the nighttime increases in temp(largely due to GW) not allowing people to recouperate from that day’s heat, that contributes heavily to the death toll.

    Then there is the reduced agri output you mention; and I would add in farmer suicides as at least in part caused by GW and GW-induced droughts, floods, fires, and other crop-harming events. Even if one were to claim that GW’s contribution to these is minor, it could in many cases be seen as the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

    RE wildfires enhanced by GW, we would also have to add in deaths or shortened lives due to the smoke pollution, such as deaths due to asthma, on top of deaths directly from the fire (or that portion…the top portion…of the fire intensity and spread due to GW).

    The list goes on.

    I think a way to think about it is how many deaths there would have been from these types of causes (whose increasing effects can be linked to GW) in a non-AGW world, subtracted from deaths from these causes today (then, of course, subtact out from that difference the lives saved due to GW….like not slipping on that ice that is no longer there bec of GW). [It is interesting that someone has actually calculated the deaths due to going from daylight savings time to regular time, so these types of calcs can be done to some extent.]

    However, just as with our inability to know the exact number of species that have gone extinct in recent times, we would never be able to get an exact figure on how many have died or are projected to die from AGW, its effects, and its repercussions. But I’m thinking it will be quite large. When you consider that even one person’s life is invaluable to a moral person (a person who detests killing innocent people), this is a very urgent, high-priority issue that requires all moral persons to deal with, and mitigate GW.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 6 Nov 2007 @ 12:13 PM

  205. Joe Duck wrote: “The type of climate impacts that would be required to kill millions are very unlikely”

    You are just plain wrong. The type of climate impacts that would be required to kill millions are in fact very likely, if not already inevitable, and are indeed already underway — principally, the complete loss of glacier-fed fresh water supplies for hundreds of millions of people in south Asia, and prolonged severe drought afflicting the world’s most productive agricultural regions.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 6 Nov 2007 @ 12:42 PM

  206. Re Matt in 197, can you explain why habitat loss due to land development and biomass loss due to ocean overexploitation would not cause widespread species extinctions far in excess of the background rate?

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 6 Nov 2007 @ 12:46 PM

  207. Re #202 (Matt) “You are aware that he used to be a member of Greenpeace, and actually grew tired of dealing with all the made-up numbers Greenpeace was using to forward their cause.”

    From Wikepedia article on Lomborg:
    “He has claimed to have been a supporter of Greenpeace. When challenged that Greenpeace had no record of his ever being a member or supporter, he stated that he had given money to Greenpeace collectors.”

    From Sourcewatch on Lomborg “When challenged on this point on ABC Radio National’s Earthbeat Lomborg said “I’m a suburban kind of Greenpeace member, your stereotypical person who contributes and nothing else.”

    In other words, his claim is dubious at best, an outright lie at worst, like so many others he has made.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 12:49 PM

  208. Matt wrote: “[Lomborg] used to be a member of Greenpeace”

    As far as I know, Lomborg has never been able to provide any evidence to support his claim that he was a “member” of Greenpeace, and Greenpeace has stated that they have no record of Lomborg having any active role in the organization. Of course many nonprofit organizations refer to any donor, even of five or ten dollars, as a “member”, so if Greenpeace uses this terminology, and if Lomborg sent them a few bucks once, then he can legitimately claim to have been a “member” of Greenpeace. But I fail to see how that gives him any credibility, especially given his well-documented, monumental dishonesty, inaccuracies and nonsensical rationalizations when it comes to the substance of his “arguments”. Lomborg is a darling of the corporate-funded so-called “right wing” because he tells them what they want to hear.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 6 Nov 2007 @ 12:49 PM

  209. And if you are castigated, it’s probably because you aren’t actually reading the IPCC report

    Gavin – Matt’s comments seem compatible with *your take* on the likelihood of various sea level rise scenarios. In a different comment you estimated extra rise from Greenland would add something like 25cm over the next century. [pls correct if I missed your point before] This departure from IPCC’s range of 18-59cm seems reasonable to me, but would change the range from 33-84cm over the next 100 years. This seems a far cry from the catastrophic implications of many comments throughout RC. How can we rationally consider the subject if we do not assign any probabilities to sea level rises?

    Jim: You seem to imply it’s irrational to take IPCC, published months ago, at face value because new studies (like Hansen’s?) indicate the possibility of much greater sea level rises. Rational analysis of mathematical phenomenon *require* that we use numbers, not hyperbole. So what numbers do you suggest Matt use if not IPCC and not Gavin’s adjusted IPCC ranges? Uncertainties should lead to assignment of value ranges that are within very high probability. IPCC does a standup job with this, RC comments fall very short in this regard. Rational people accept IPCC as a good measure of what to expect in our climate future.

    [Response: I don't recall ever making a quantitative prediction - what would I base it on? The only point I make is that the upper bound is unconstrained, and paleo evidence for SLR greater than meters/century exists, and we know that the last time the planet was as warm for a substantial period as we project for 2100, SL was 20ft higher. Probabilities would be great, but they don't exist and I can't make them up. Clinging to the thermal expansion numbers (the bulk of the oft-quoted 'IPCC' range) in the hope that this means there is nothing to worry about is foolish. More research is definitely required, but I wouldn't bet the beach house on it showing there's no risk. - gavin]

    Comment by Joe Duck — 6 Nov 2007 @ 12:54 PM

  210. Re: 203 Matt: “Why did the IPCC assume there was no change in the rate of melting if in fact a year after publication all the ice sheets are melting?”

    The key words being “a year after publication.”

    New observational data on the state of the Greenland ice sheet have become available AFTER the report was debated, written and published.

    The unprecedented Arctic sea ice melt took place AFTER the report was debated, written and published.

    Are you simply temporally challenged or are you being deliberately obtuse?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 6 Nov 2007 @ 1:02 PM

  211. Joe,

    I guess we’re off Mendelsohn now- or at least the part where his analysis depicts the least developed countries getting pummeled by global warming damages- sucks to be from Mozambique. We’re moved onto ‘most economic analysis’…

    No, I don’t think most economic analyses ignore uncertainties.

    i.e. Mendelsohn’s work. I thought of a solution though. You’ve got his email at the ready, why don’t you just ask him to confirm your assertion? Ask him what probability of the scenario with large scale damages from ice sheet melt gets assigned? (What’s that? Ice sheet melt doesn’t occur in any scenario? Well, I guess it can’t happen then. Whew! That was a worry.) Ask him to confirm that his analysis is ignoring climate sensitivities that mainstream science is telling us are possible.

    And speaking of possibilities Joe, you should consider the distinct possibility that you’re not familiar with the state of the literature on the economics of climate change, nor informed enough to be the first to claim a consensus and certainly not one that disavows Kyoto, (nor would it appear that you or Lomborg are truly interested in determining any optimal capital allocation that finds room for mitigation).

    Comment by Majorajam — 6 Nov 2007 @ 1:02 PM

  212. “Dass ich schon beim Schreiben des Buches die Schlussfolgerung kannte, mag manche der Dinge beeinflusst haben, die ich schrieb” [The fact that I knew the conclusion already when I started to write the book may have influenced many of the things that I wrote]. – Bjørn Lomborg, Interview in NZZFolio, monthly magazine of Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Januar 2006, p. 42

    He neglected to give wanton opportunism and a complete absence of expertise and integrity their proper due. Perhaps that bit was off the record. In any case, RC has attracted itself some committed trolls now. I’m beginning to consider the virtue of not feeding them.

    Comment by Majorajam — 6 Nov 2007 @ 1:24 PM

  213. #203 – And How many lives have been saved by AGW?

    How much INCREASEs in crop yield are attributable to AGW?

    How likely is it that LACK of tropical cyclones in the Pacific contributed to the condition that led to the fires in Calif.?

    Are we to assume that the optimal earth temperature existed somehere around 1980 and that every increase above that leads to dysfunction?

    Comment by tom — 6 Nov 2007 @ 1:26 PM

  214. Please, could we have a new post? Comments here are beginning to resemble the classic Monty Python “Argument” skit, only not funny.

    Comment by George — 6 Nov 2007 @ 1:29 PM

  215. You are aware that he used to be a member of Greenpeace…

    This is a classic science-denialist rhetorical trick.

    “I USED to believe in evolution until I studied the science myself”

    “I USED to believe in AGW until I studied the science myself”

    “I USED to believe HIV causes AIDS until I studied the evidence myself”

    “I USED to belong to Greenpeace until …”

    Lomborg also follows the denialist handbook by cherry-picking data or ignoring science, for instance insisting that the documented number of species extinctions is an accurate indicator of how many species have actually gone extinct despite the scientific consensus that takes the opposite view.

    He also employs the standard denialist trick of insisting that he, despite having no training in the relevant scientific fields, knows more about science than scientists themselves.

    He knows more about population ecology than population ecologists, just as Bill Dembski knows more about evolutionary biology than evolutionary biologists, or Steve McIntyre knows more about climate science than climate scientist, or Stephen Milloy knows more about the effects of tobacco smoke on the human body than medical experts.

    His approach is inherently dishonest. Matt needs a better bullshit-detector. If I were wealthy I’d buy him one :)

    Comment by dhogaza — 6 Nov 2007 @ 1:30 PM

  216. Joe Duck writes:

    [[This departure from IPCC’s range of 18-59cm seems reasonable to me, but would change the range from 33-84cm over the next 100 years. This seems a far cry from the catastrophic implications of many comments throughout RC.]]

    33-84 cm of sea level rise is catastrophic. You don’t have to drown a coastal city to make it uninhabitable, all you have to do is flood it enough for seawater to seep into the aquifers and back up sewers. Miami and cities like it will be uninhabitable long before they are under water. Note, also, that the figure under discussion is a global average — the figure will be higher in some places and lower in others, since sea level is not uniform around the world.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Nov 2007 @ 1:38 PM

  217. Joe, you should consider the distinct possibility that you’re not familiar with the state of the literature on the economics of climate change, nor informed enough to be the first to claim a consensus and certainly not one that disavows Kyoto

    I will, and try to consider my deficiencies on an hourly basis.

    Majorajam aside from your Nobel prize for annoying, what are your qualifications in this area?

    Surely you do not see Kyoto as a high quality, viable approach to mitigation?

    I’m still waiting for permission to post Mendelshon’s succinct reply but his ideas are online. You should like him – he’s critical of Copenhagen’s treatment of his climate mitigation proposal.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 6 Nov 2007 @ 1:46 PM

  218. Re the claim that Lomborg was a “Greenpeace member,” here’s what he told journalist Alanna Mitchell:

    Lomborg wasn’t an environmentalist, at all, as it turned out. He told me as much when I interviewed him in Toronto that year, confessing that the extent of his involvement had been to carry around a Greenpeace card for a while many years earlier when it had been the vogue for Europeans of a certain age.

    Ah, the folly of youth.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 6 Nov 2007 @ 1:56 PM

  219. tom looks for the silver lining of climate change: “Are we to assume that the optimal earth temperature existed somehere around 1980 and that every increase above that leads to dysfunction?”

    I think it’s fair to assume that the relatively stable climate we’ve enjoyed for the past 10k years or so is optimal for the purposes of agricultural civilization. We have no evidence that agricultural civilization can survive in other climate regimes.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 6 Nov 2007 @ 2:02 PM

  220. Here’s some real bad news. The Washington Post’s head environmental writer, in an article for Outside Magazine, believes Richard Lindzen’s goop.

    http://outside.away.com/outside/culture/200710/richard-lindzen-1.html

    Lindzen’s new line is this: So what if the world is heating up to levels not seen in millions of years, it’s done it before, it’s natural and what’s the big deal?

    Increasingly I’ve been reading this “plot theme” in news stories: “Okay, global warming is real, so what?”. Well, we need to do a better job of explaining how devastating a warmer world can be.

    I keep thinking back to Jared’s Diamond’s description of Easter Island’s surviving population, descended from the ruling class, who felt their obvious decent into resource poverty and hardship, and the loss of most the island’s population, was no big deal (I’m obviously paraphrasing here, but read his book, Collapse, for his descriptions). People can suffer a lot before admitting their current societal direction is heading the wrong way, especially if they are in the ruling class and are buffered from early catastrophes. I guess to the wealthy, mobile, “elite”, such as Outside’s target audience, the changes predicted to occur because of a warming world are no big deal. I suppose they’ll turn to indoor ice walls once all the glaciers melt, etc. At any rate, if the call to reduce CO2 here in the U.S. is going to be effective we’ll have to reach over the head of these folks and somehow appeal to the middle class.

    Comment by Andrew Sipocz — 6 Nov 2007 @ 2:25 PM

  221. Matt said, “BTW, you are underestimating Lomborg. Michael Crichton was extremely effective in the debate against pro-AGW scientists earlier this year–turning the crowd from believers to skeptics while pro-AGW scientists stood by and watched, mouths agape. And he’s merely a wordsmith. Lomborg is quite a bit more effective than Crichton. And if the leading pro-AGW voices won’t debate him, and if he can turn a NYT writer into a mass of admiring jelly, the problem (or solution, depending on viewpoint) is only going to get worse.”

    That is precisely why scientific consensus isn’t determined by debating skill or by charisms, but by the weight of evidence. Lomborg has none. A glib liar may be able to convince an audience in a 2 hour debate. Sorry, Matt, but science moves more slowly. It involves checking the facts–and lo and behold, the reason we’re seeing warming on Neptune is because it’s summer there.

    People like Crichton and Lomborg…and you…are frightened by the scientific method because it subverts their ability to bullshit your way through life. Crichton writes science fiction, but didn’t even know enough about evolution to realize that the depiction of evolution in The Andromeda strain is a joke. Lomborg glibly spins a story about being a former Greenpeace member until his conversion on the road to Damascus–and then lo and behold, somebody looks it up. He is at least as glib with his use of scientific factoids. Like it or not, Matt, there is an objective reality, and it has consequences. It behooves us to try to understand those consequences, and the way to do that is science.

    Now, I’m going to tell you something about scientific consensus: The product of scientific consensus is almost always conservative rather than alarmist. The reason why the IPCC numbers underestimate sea level rise is because that is what the scientists could agree upon. Some, probably most, would have been happier with higher estimates, particularly given recent developments. However, the IPCC represented the consensus–what the experts could all agree upon–at the time. And that is why, the consequences considered so far have concentrated on sea level rise. It is a virtual certainty. Other consequences–widespread drought, increased storm intensity, increased incidence of impulsive rainfall, increased disease, crop failures, etc.–do not have the level of consensus needed to come out with a strong statement. Their consequences may dwarf those of sea-level rise, but they are not certain.
    Now I’m going to tell you something about risk management. An uncertain, unbounded risk is a greater concern than a high risk. You may want to study it to quantify it better, but if your study will be completed too late to complete mitigation, you had better either start mitigation in parallel with your study or try to buy time (e.g. slow down carbon emissions). You cannot ignore an unbounded risk.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Nov 2007 @ 2:29 PM

  222. Gavin – I apologize for suggesting you had assigned some specific extra CMs to the IPCC – I just looked back and I think I had misread the gist of your March post about IPCC Sea Level rises. I would be very interested in how people feel we should do risk and cost benefit analysis without assigning a range of probabilities to the various scenarios. As you get to “highly unlikely” events it’s very important to assign a very low probability – otherwise you wind up spending a trillion on asteroid defense shields which would in fact lower the chance of planetary destruction, but would be an unwise use of money given the probability of an asteroid collision.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 6 Nov 2007 @ 2:31 PM

  223. Re 209 HJoe Duck: “Jim: You seem to imply it’s irrational to take IPCC, published months ago, at face value because new studies (like Hansen’s?) indicate the possibility of much greater sea level rises.”

    No, I implied, and hereby explicitly state, that it is irrational to continue to take comfort in the IPPC’s projected numbers in the face of new data and observation of what is happening real time in the real world.

    The IPCC knew their projected numbers were subject to change, which is exactly why they explicitly included a caveat about those numbers in their report. The wisdom of this has been justified by the extent of this summer’s Arctic sea ice melt and observed changes in Greenland since the report was released. Basically, all projected numbers quantifying how much and how fast the cryosphere will change are now suspect. To pretend otherwise is foolish.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 6 Nov 2007 @ 2:32 PM

  224. Vanishing Point
    On Bjorn Lomborg and extinction
    By E. O. Wilson

    http://www.grist.org/advice/books/2001/12/12/point/

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 6 Nov 2007 @ 2:43 PM

  225. Re the citation on Lomborg’s Greenpeace cred, I completely munged the URL. Here’s the corrected link:

    The Pollyanna of global warming
    http://honolulu.craigslist.org/kau/pol/435448272.html

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 6 Nov 2007 @ 2:45 PM

  226. re 213.

    Tom, can you provide supported answers for any of those questions?

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 6 Nov 2007 @ 2:46 PM

  227. I preferred 1950 myself. :-)

    There are now several studies regarding the high likelihood of climate wars over diminishing resources. Risky business changing the climate.

    Matt might care to read Jared Diamond’s Collapse with regard to known effects of climate change on civilizations.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 6 Nov 2007 @ 2:54 PM

  228. Taking George’s comment to heart, let me ask an on-topic question:

    Can we estimate the degree to which the large-scale destruction of ocean ecosystems affects the ocean CO2 sink? A lot of carbon gets sequestered in living creatures, but we’re rapidly strip-mining the oceans of all but the most ancient organisms.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 6 Nov 2007 @ 3:07 PM

  229. re: optimal climate
    Humans can certainly survive a range of climate conditions, and one has somje hope of adapting some crops, maybe.

    On the other hand, not only is agriculture adapted to a specific climate, but a huge amount of expensive coastal infrastructure has been built in the last 150 years, with relatively stable sea levels. Back to economics:

    I’d claim that one needs to seriously consider the possibility, not of just of a low discount rate, but of a negative one. The planet had a one-time pot of really cheap energy called fossil fuels. We either hit Peak Oil (50% used) in the next decade, or we already did in 2006 (if you believe T. Boone Pickens).

    Put that together with the strong positive influence of exergy (energy used x effiency) on wealth: see Ayres & Warr:
    http://www.iea.org/Textbase/work/2004/eewp/Ayres-paper1.pdf
    Especially, read the conclusion.

    Now, consider the belief that the population will rise to 9B over the next 50 years, with less oil (and peak natural gas about 20 years after oil. We’d have to improve efficiency by 50% just to stay even in exergy/person, ASSUMING we can replace the oil&gas with solar/wind/geothermal/biofuel/(nuclear) even-up, which seems unlikely in the short-term, for all that we’re trying hard.

    US East Coast (and some Gulf Coast) cities have infrastructure accumulated over 300 years, most of which was built with *REALLY CHEAP ENERGY*. Under BusinessAsUsual, especially with terrific pressure to burn coal, it’s hard for me to see how sea-level isn’t up at least 20 feet 300 years from now, which seems a reasonable planning horizon. [I don't know why 2100 is magic: the world doesn't stop then, I hope.]

    These days, people build dikes with bulldozers, steel & concrete, and rebuilding a city somewhere else will take a lot of the latter two.

    Here’s a “fun” exercise: you’re mayor of New York City, and it’s time to rebuild somewhere else. How much will that cost? and by the way, there is no cheap petroleum…. well, I guess the Egyptians built the pyramids without.

    Comment by John Mashey — 6 Nov 2007 @ 3:16 PM

  230. > ocean CO2 sink

    Yep.
    Just posted a link and excerpts at Tamino’s site, here:
    http://tamino.wordpress.com/2007/10/29/new-policy/#comment-8316

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 3:23 PM

  231. My qualifications? I’ve got a degree in social science from the Copenhagen business school… Joe, if you find me annoying I can only point out that the feeling is mutual, if not personal- it is more that I’m not partial to people who make patently erroneous statements with high-handed confidence, and more so when the person in question dutifully ignores the argued and sourced disagreement. Speaking of which, my statement that you should consider your own qualifications was intended to highlight that you’ve pulled this consensus from thin air and tried to assert its meaningful existence on numerous occasions (which I’d be happy to cite if thou protesteth… at all). If you have a source for this claim, do tell. If not, please avail us of the expertise of yours that qualifies you to make such a statement. And if you’re unclear what I mean still, you don’t have to go far up the thread to find a quintessential case in point:

    Surely you do not see Kyoto as a high quality, viable approach to mitigation?

    There in one line and, what, fifteen words, have you expressed a sentiment that you are unable to remotely back-up- that the mainstream rejects Kyoto and that it is not serious to advocate it or something similar. And you would be unable to support such innuendo because it is simply not the case. This is true both on the basis of ‘purely economic’ evaluation and more so for any more comprehensive review that examines the relevant agency issues. On the latter point, as people have been at pains to point out to you on this subject in the past, Kyoto is a framework- it is a way of establishing the ground rules and infrastructure to make mitigation workable in the future. Conceiving of the best academic scenario for an emissions treaty is pointless if it ignores the political realities, i.e. where the Kyoto protocol actually lives. Any criticism of Kyoto that doesn’t take those into account and is not properly qualified is therefore deeply flawed.

    So, in light of those realities, do I think the Kyoto protocol is a good treaty? If I take your question to mean, should all nations have signed on, that to me is an unequivocal yes (well, as a global citizen, yes- it changes a bit as an economic actor amongst asymmetries, but I digress). This doesn’t make it perfect (e.g. a global carbon tax is preferable to emissions targets but it’s not clear that can be helped. some of the carbon sink fudges are clearly side payments, but those are to be expected, etc.). The point is that dismissing (or supporting) the treaty by slight of hand is lazy, disingenuous and/or ignorant, and that apply the ‘mainstream’ sticker to your side of the argument for the same purpose is worse.

    P.S. While I acknowledge Mendelshon as an expert who knows a lot more about building integrated assessment models (amongst other things) than I do, I find his methodology lacking (not accounting for uncertainty in the economics of climate change is like not accounting for the point spread when betting on a game) and his claims dubious (middle of the distribution warming to have a net zero effect on welfare… ??). More generally I have huge issues with economists who have the temerity to push their extremely flawed models on the public as the best means of making policy decisions, (and huge respect for those who highlight the reasonable and unreasonable inferences that can be made from economic analysis, e.g. Weitzman). There are many of these, including one prominent one who assured me that heat stress has no effect on drinking water, in about so many words. Meanwhile, I can get no such pat answer from any climate scientist, so the only place we can be assured that such conditions exist is in this academic’s model.
    P.P.S. Speaking of the utility of integrated assessment models, a case can be made that climate change had a role in the Darfur crisis. It’s not open and shut, but it isn’t totally baseless. Something in me doubts such a scenario is conceivable in an integrated assessment model.

    Comment by Majorajam — 6 Nov 2007 @ 3:25 PM

  232. RE 219;
    The warmth and sea level of 1980 may not have been “optimum,” but it is what our infrastructure was engineered for; and our crops were bred to expect. Any other climate and sea level will require significant capital investment.

    Change is not the problem, it is the rapidity of the change that is the real problem. Moreover, it is not so much rapid change per se that is the problem, it is unpredictable change that is the problem. If we are sure of a 0.10 meter of sea level change between 1/1/ 2031 and 1/1/2041, then we can plan for it and we can survive it at a minimum cost. However, if we are not certain, then some people will not prepare, and then even a few cm of sea level rise in that decade will cause damage, resulting in costs that will propagate through the global economy affecting all. If we all plan for a 0.10 m sea level rise, and we get a 0.20 m sea level rise, again there are damages and costs that propagate through the economy. As we plan for the changing environment, we need to incorporate safety factors.

    Unpredictable change makes resource allocation decisions more difficult. Decisions are delayed until we are “sure,” and the delay results in wasted resources.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 6 Nov 2007 @ 4:10 PM

  233. Majorajam – thank for that thoughtful reply to my note above. Mitigation economics is the key point of contention in the AGW debate and I’m hoping to learn more. So far, for me, Mendelsohn’s thinking has the most intuitive appeal. I simply do not understand discounting well enough to know if he’s reasonable in this matter or not, so I’m letting his credentials speak for him in that matter. I’m still trying to understand why Stern (and many here) have such pessimism about the future.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 6 Nov 2007 @ 5:15 PM

  234. Re: #220 I should have read the story twice through before commenting on its author’s intent. Sorry about that. It’s a well written article that gets to the heart of Lindzen’s and Lomborg’s popularity.

    Comment by Andrew Sipocz — 6 Nov 2007 @ 5:46 PM

  235. I have a general question regarding the primary contributors to this site and don’t know where to post it. If there is a more appropriate place please direct me accordingly. I believe that the answer to my question is self-evident but the point has been called into question.

    Is it fair to say that all of the primary contributors on this site agree with the consensus that the current global warming trend is predominantly anthropogenic in origin?

    Worded in a slightly different way, could any of the primary contributors to this site be legitimately characterized as an AGW contrarian or a skeptic, and if so would they admit to being such?

    [Response: We're all practicing, publishing climate scientists, and I think we all buy the argument that the warming of the past decades was caused rising CO2 concentrations, and expect that if more CO2 is released, the temperature will rise further. We're skeptical about new results all the time, as witness perhaps the post before this one. Contrarian means to me disregarding evidence that doesn't support one's desired conclusion, not a good strategy for a scientist. David]

    Comment by GoRight — 6 Nov 2007 @ 5:47 PM

  236. Joe, imagine someone able, in 1776, to show Jefferson and Washington that within 200 years all the great North American forests would have been cut and not regrown, the buffalo herds gone, the passenger pigeons gone, the salmon and codfish and whales all but gone, the chestnut trees gone, most of the elms gone, the small towns and farms and farmers gone, and fifteen feet of topsoil washed off of the middle of the continent down the Mississippi. They would have been as pessimistic about their country’s future as Stern is now about his.

    Most of that damage could have been avoided at low cost — but nobody was able to foresee it when it was happening.

    We can see what’s at risk now, and the debate is whether it’s worth even the “no regrets” effort with provable payback, compared to the current-quarter bottom-line profit margin costs.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 5:47 PM

  237. Joe Duck (233) — Did you follow the link in comment #133? Did you follow the link in comment #230? Have you read Jared Diamond’s Collapse? Do you understand the import for the future of the main post on this thread?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 6 Nov 2007 @ 5:53 PM

  238. Integrated assessment models assume that everything can be priced in dollars. While it may be possible to price one human life, is the value of the human species, no more than the population times the value of one life?

    Assume that human extinction will not occur for a few years, use discounting and the current cost of an act that will result in the extinction of the human species is ~$0.00. With this view, there is no responsibility for one’s actions because you can show that no action has any cost associated with it.

    Of course, I have made a “Slicing the Salami “argument which is absurd. But, it is no more absurd than a too high discount rate for goods and services provided by Mother Nature, or a too long a discount period for the onset of costs associated with climate change.

    AGW will have real costs, and they will be unpleasant. They cannot be “discounted” away. There will be real suffering. By acting now, we can reduce that suffering. By acting, we can minimize the intensity of the global warming, and by acting now, the effects of the global warming that does occur can be reduced.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 6 Nov 2007 @ 6:05 PM

  239. Here is a small bit of slightly encouraging news regarding cirrus clouds, should it be verified:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071102152636.htm

    Comment by David B. Benson — 6 Nov 2007 @ 6:13 PM

  240. dhogaza (176), I can accept that. The rules of accounting do say that you can only count things that are countable. While this leads to occasional goofy accounting results, neither should economists be held to General Accounting Standards.

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Nov 2007 @ 6:18 PM

  241. Is that Sciencedaily release a reference to some new Spencer-Christie paper? Can’t tell from the story; link’s just to their school PR office. Sounds to me like it’s this one:
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2007/2007GL029698.shtml
    Full text here (secondary source, looks like a photocopy)
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?num=100&hl=en&lr=&newwindow=1&safe=off&scoring=r&q=Spencer+Christy+Lindzen+iris&as_ylo=2007&btnG=Search

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 6:55 PM

  242. Hank Roberts (241) — The Science Daily article states the paper is in the GPL on-line edition, co-authored by John R. Christy, W. Danny Braswell and Justin Hnilo, but since Roy Spencer is extensively quoted, I believe it refers to the paper in GSL that you provided a link to, with exactly those four co-authors.

    Why do you ask?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 6 Nov 2007 @ 7:35 PM

  243. Joe Duck, the knock on Kyoto is that it was too little to be effective. Likewise, the knock on Mendelsohn’s approach is that we don’t know whether “low-cost” measures will have sufficient effect to keep us out of the positive feedback regime. Kyoto had more symbolic value than real value. Likewise, Mendelsohn’s approach if viewed as a “starting point” has some merit, just as Kyoto did.

    People do not realize just how conservative the IPCC consensus analyses are. Things could get much worse, but they are unlikely to be better.
    My own view is that the low hanging fruit–conservation, energy resource diversification away from carbon-intensive sources, etc.–is the obvious place to start. Aid for energy and transport infrastructures of developing countries is another area that will pay serious dividends well into the future. Is that enough? We don’t know. A lot depends on the pace of development for technical solutions. The most important thing is to buy time so those solutions have a chance of being realized.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 6 Nov 2007 @ 7:37 PM

  244. > Why do you ask?
    Just odd to see a Sciencedirect article dated this week, long after the article it appears to be based on came out. I recall it got a lot of discussion at the time it was published — it’s more tentative than the current flurry of mentions on the denial sites make it seem though. That’s where you’ll find current discussion.

    Ah, but Christy was just in the WSJ recently, perhaps his school sent out a fresh press release without the cite.

    Spencer discussed the paper a while back at Prometheus:

    “… In our resulting August 9 GRL paper … the tropospheric temperature variations were very large.

    In something of a “fishing expedition” we examined a variety of satellite observations that could be related to the tropical tropospheric heat budget. For the 15 largest intraseasonal oscillations between 2000 and 2005, we averaged TRMM TMI rainfall and SST, Terra MODIS cloud fractions, CERES reflected SW and emitted LW fields, and AMSU-A tropospheric temperature data to daily time scales, over tropical average space scales. The result was clear evidence in support of Lindzen’s “Infrared Iris” hypothesis, at least on the intraseasonal time scales we examined. (Unpublished was an analysis of the 15 next-largest ISOs, which revealed very similar signatures.)…”

    I haven’t found cites to it, but it’s early yet I guess.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 8:36 PM

  245. Oops, the Prometheus cite for my recent quote from Spencer is:
    http://climatesci.colorado.edu/2007/08/23/part-2-feedbacks-the-infrared-iris-and-the-role-of-precipitation-processes-by-roy-spencer/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 8:37 PM

  246. Oh! Hank, your 236 hyperbole and histronics make good literature (it is well written) but not very helpful…

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Nov 2007 @ 8:51 PM

  247. #206 Jim Galasyn: Re Matt in 197, can you explain why habitat loss due to land development and biomass loss due to ocean overexploitation would not cause widespread species extinctions far in excess of the background rate?

    Eastern US has seen forests fall to 2% of what it was 200 years ago. How many extinctions did we see?

    Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest has been 88% cleared since the 1800′s. How many extinctions did we see?

    According to Lomborg, 1 and 0.

    According to EO Wilson’s model, the number of species would have been halved.

    Now Lomborg only addresses animals for the US forests, and animals and plants for the Brazilian rainforest. So I guess a lot of insects could have been lost and Wilson would have been right.

    It’d be interesting to hear if what Lomborg wrote is true. If it is true, can you explain the reason why EO Wilson’s predictions failed to materialize?

    Comment by Matt — 6 Nov 2007 @ 8:55 PM

  248. #207 Nick Gotts: From Wikepedia article on Lomborg:
    “He has claimed to have been a supporter of Greenpeace. When challenged that Greenpeace had no record of his ever being a member or supporter, he stated that he had given money to Greenpeace collectors.”

    That’s funny. I just checked Wikipedia and he said he was the regional director and shows a picture of him and Jacques Cousteau smiling together. Oh, wait, it just reverted. Never mind.

    Seriously, if you won’t even believe a statement he makes about something in his own life, then there’s not much hope for anything else he does. Speaks volumes about your mindset though…

    Comment by Matt — 6 Nov 2007 @ 9:02 PM

  249. #208 SecularAnimist: But I fail to see how that gives him any credibility, especially given his well-documented, monumental dishonesty, inaccuracies and nonsensical rationalizations when it comes to the substance of his “arguments”.

    Ray passed on the chance to point out Lomborg’s biggest mistake, so I’ll pass the torch to you. I hold the guy in pretty high regard, and would seriously like to know where he’s screwed up. I looked at a anti-Bjorn websites and found everything pretty petty.

    Perhaps if you produced something you had studied in detail, I could study it too and come to some common understanding?

    Comment by Matt — 6 Nov 2007 @ 9:05 PM

  250. Re #214: No, they’re not.

    Comment by S. Molnar — 6 Nov 2007 @ 9:22 PM

  251. #203 Gavin’s inline: I’m pretty sure everyone will agree that IPCC could have been clearer about what their numbers meant and how important this uncertainty is, but your characterisation of the IPCC statements are simply erroneous.

    Considering you had a special post on the topic, I trust I’m not alone in failing to recognize the full threat.

    Here’s my naive take on this.

    1) Oceans have been rising around 1.8mm/year based on long term tidal measurements.
    2) Let’s assume warming, melting sheets, and other bad things bump that to 8mm/year. In 2100, that’d be 72 cm, which is at the high end of everything. Likely not worst case, but hopefully pretty bad.
    3) 634M people live withing 30 feet of sea level, according to April 2007 Environment and Urbanization. No idea if this is valid.
    4) Big jump: 44e6 people live within 0.7m (simple ratio off 634 * 0.7/10)
    5) 60% of Netherlands population (15.8M) are under sea level.
    6) Massive engineer projects take 15 years from start to finish, assuming minimal red tape.

    OK, round numbers…in 88 years we are dealing with roughly 44M people’s place of residence being under water. That’s about 3X the number of people that are currently facing the same issue in the Netherlands.

    88 years is almost 6 massive engineering cycles. Dubai’s Palm Island built land where there was none in 4 years.

    And assume for a moment that we weren’t warming at all due to man. We’d have to deal with this problem anyway in 450 years rather than 88 years. From a planning perspective, what is the difference? Nobody plans 88 years ahead. But if we must, depreciate that which will flood over the next 88 years, give owners time to mitigate, sell, let cities decide how to address. The market will sort this out.

    Poor nations can create enormous wealth in the next 50 years if they have low-cost energy available to them. Look at what Taiwan, Korea and China have accomplished in 50 years. And shame on all of us if a sizable portion of the world is still seeking fresh water and food in 10 years.

    This is an engineering problem, readily solvable. It doesn’t scare me at all. If the water portion scares you, then I must ask why it doesn’t scare you that it’ll happen naturally anyway in 450 years?

    Comment by Matt — 6 Nov 2007 @ 9:34 PM

  252. re:147
    “They have been having intermittent problems with their software over recent months; comments often go missing without a trace. This happens to me about one comment in three.”

    It would be nice to get a reject message when moderated out. I sent an offtopic post which was only to do a heads up to RC on Bob Carter youtube videos. I am not surprised that it was apparently moderated out as contributed nothing to discussion but it would nice to know that it wasnt missing because of bug in web software.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 6 Nov 2007 @ 9:55 PM

  253. > Eastern US has seen forests fall to 2% of what it was 200 years ago. > How many extinctions did we see?

    Me personally, a handful. Did you see any?
    You know where to look this up, if you want to know what you missed.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:24 PM

  254. Far off track for ocean carbon levels, but a useful pointer for anyone in N. America who’s curious what birds are thriving and threatened local to you. I’ll point to the glossary, without which the rest won’t make sense. You know what to do.
    http://www.rmbo.org/pif/glossary.html

    “Database dictionary and key to data sources … Partners in Flight Species Assessment Databases (http://www.rmbo.org/pif/pifdb.html) and provides brief definitions for some terms. The databases, and this glossary of terms, should be used in consultation with the Partner in Flight Handbook on Species Assessment (http://www.rmbo.org/pubs/downloads/Handbook2005.pdf), which provides more complete information on the terms listed below. The databases should be used in consultation with this Handbook, which defines the terms listed….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:35 PM

  255. #234, Climate science is not a popularity contest, this article is nothing but fluff, fast food for the on the go science amateur. Never goes near the crux of the subject, which is about a relatively sudden unprecedented in 650,000 years injection of CO2 to the atmosphere (and ocean). Lindzen’s sympathetic reporters have always done the same thing, avoid the subject and infomercial the sweatheart contrarian.

    Comment by Wayne Davidson — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:47 PM

  256. re 248

    “Seriously, if you won’t even believe a statement he makes about something in his own life, then there’s not much hope for anything else he does. Speaks volumes about your mindset though…”

    Matt, it’s not a question of believing something he said, as it was shown the statement was at best facile, at worst a lie. Lomborg wrapping himself in an environmentalist flag because he gave money to Greenpeace is much like saying because I contribute money to breast cancer I’m a member of the medical establishment.

    But you are right, if for the worng reasons. There’s not much hope for anything he says, not because he says it, but because, as demonstrated multiple times in this thread and elsewhere, what he does say turns out to be wrong.

    This is an important distinction.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:50 PM

  257. Phil Scadden,

    While I agree with your sentiment about getting a reject message for moderated comments, unless the software is able to generate that automatically it would be quite a lot to ask of the moderators. As you probably well know, this website receives a LOT of comments. :)

    Comment by Figen Mekik — 6 Nov 2007 @ 11:59 PM

  258. Majorajam> A true welfare analysis takes into account all costs and benefits, (mitigated damages but also mitigated risk and uncertainty), uncertainty about climate sensitivity, about stochastic discount rates, etc.

    There is an interesting discussion of (and not much agreement with) Weitzman by climate scientist James Annan here:
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2007/10/weitzmans-dismal-theorem.html

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 7 Nov 2007 @ 12:11 AM

  259. Ray, nicely put: The most important thing is to buy time so those solutions have a chance of being realized.
    I’d add that finding the most effective way to do will become one of the great challenges of this generation, though I’d prefer to see our innovation used first on the easy problems and do massive mitigations later (when we know which technologies work best and cheapest).

    David Benson: Yes checked links, no have not read “Collapse”. Unless I am mistaken the new carbon sink studies do *not* suggest that we need to fundamentally shift IPCC projections of temp and sea level rises – rather don’t they suggest, somewhat speculatively, that we need minor modification to IPCC?

    Hank: Your examples are a good example of how things have changed but not had catastrophic consequences. Total forest cover is down but we’ve got massive replanting and boards are not all that expensive. I’d bet a halfpenny that the founders would have loved the climate debate but would not have invoked all the alarmist catastrophe talk so prevalent in the media’s failed attempts to articulate the gradual changes that reflect how things are likely to shake out.

    Simply noting (correctly) that there is a potential for climate catastrophe is not all that helpful to anybody. We need some form of quantified risk assessment or we’ll keep doing what humans do so well – budget the big money politically and emotionally rather than rationally and in a cost effective way.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 7 Nov 2007 @ 1:02 AM

  260. Matt, you say Lomborg somewhere wrote that only one species became extinct in the Eastern US forests in the past 200 years. Where did he say this? Which species did he name?

    Carolina parakeet? Passenger pigeon? Labrador duck? Ivory-billed woodpecker? Bachman’s warbler? That’s considering only birds, and only narrowly defined Eastern forest birds.

    Think about the fact that you got fooled again, and came here believing what Lomborg wrote, even though it’s easy to debunk.

    Don’t let people put stuff in your head without checking it, eh?

    http://www.biology-online.org/articles/forest_losses_predict_bird/predicting_species_losses_forest.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Nov 2007 @ 1:45 AM

  261. How many decades did it take to cut 98% of the eastern forest? Do you think maybe that makes a slight difference?

    If 98% of the eastern forest were to be cut in something like 10 years, survival would be an entirely different problem for its inhabitants. The eastern forest is still being cut in a process that started centuries ago. I, little old me, helped cut several old-growth red spruce trees out of the Appalachians during the 1990s. My swings of the axe perhaps took it from 97.8888 percent cut to 97.8889. In the 1600s some guy cutting masts for sailing ships probably took it from .8888 to .8889.

    98% of the eastern forest has never been lying on the ground at one time, or a percentage even remotely close to 98%. Cut 98% of it down in one year and you’ll be able to watch a lot of species population numbers go into severe retreat.

    I would like get into brazilian rosewood from the coastal ranges of Brazil, but I hear Lomborg thinks a board foot is a board foot. So first I would love to buy some mature brazilian rosewood from him at yellow pine prices.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 7 Nov 2007 @ 2:45 AM

  262. #247, Maybe I misunderstood but can you provide some supporting evidence that eastern US forest coverage is 2% of what it was 200 years ago? US Geological Survey has eastern US at 54% forest coverage and USDA Forest Service has forest cover at 70% of 400 years ago. 2%

    Comment by Pete — 7 Nov 2007 @ 2:48 AM

  263. re: #251 matt
    “Poor nations can create enormous wealth in the next 50 years if they have low-cost energy available to them.”

    Did you read #229? Can you explain to me where poor countries are going to get lots of low-cost energy? I’m eager to know, because it won’t be petroleum.

    re: massive engineering projects take 15 years…
    Zero credibility, “not even wrong”.

    The Netherlands Delta project “was launched in 1958 and largely completed in 2002″. (Wikipedia). And that’s by a rich, smart country that has centuries of practice at this, and it wasn’t for dealing with SLR, it was for storms, and there’s a big difference. In the first, you engineer for a given level of risk. In the other, well, it’s hard to know how to plan, especially if you don’t really know how far up the water is coming.

    And this is *tiny* compared to protecting just the Gulf Coast.

    The distance from one end of the Netherlands to the other, near the coast, is ~500km. which is approximately the width of Louisiana, i.e., distance from Port Arthur, TX to Slidell, along I10 and I12.

    (None of this implies that SLR is the worst problem, either.)

    Comment by John Mashey — 7 Nov 2007 @ 3:02 AM

  264. RE #248 Matt “That’s funny. I just checked Wikipedia and he said he was the regional director and shows a picture of him and Jacques Cousteau smiling together. Oh, wait, it just reverted. Never mind.

    Seriously, if you won’t even believe a statement he makes about something in his own life, then there’s not much hope for anything else he does. Speaks volumes about your mindset though…”

    Matt: Lomborg claims he was a Greenpeace member. Greenpeace says they have no record of him. When challenged on this point, he backs down. If Lomborg lied about this, as I believe he did, his only obvious motivation is because it makes a good propaganda point – as you’ve proved by using it here. I’d say that speaks volumes about his mindset, not mine. Let me ask you: do you believe him on this point? If so, presumably, you believe Greenpeace is lying when it says he was never registered as a member or supporter. Do you?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 7 Nov 2007 @ 5:06 AM

  265. Matt @247: Now Lomborg only addresses animals for the US forests, and animals and plants for the Brazilian rainforest. So I guess a lot of insects could have been lost and Wilson would have been right.
    The last time I checked, insects were animals. Please can you be a bit clearer? What exactly is Lomborg’s claim?

    Matt @251: In 2100, that’d be 72 cm, which is at the high end of everything. It is? IPCC high end is 59cm (steric) plus an unknown number for melting (eustatic). A fairly conservative number for eustatic would be 50cm by 2100 (Greenland will eventually deliver ~7 metres, over a millenium or so). Hansen et al’s recent paper says several metres. Some people here are speculating about 10+m, which seems like a leap to me, based on pessimal ice sheet dynamics. But it’s not completely impossible.
    Matt @251: I think your “big jump” step is unwarranted.

    I am a firm believer in humanity’s ability to achieve amazing things, particularly in science and engineering spheres, particularly if they are highly motivated (by money, patriotism, desperation, or a survival instinct). So I’m not necessarily disagreeing with the thrust of Matt@251. But John Mashey @229 is quite right to bring up the subject of peak oil. Big engineering is going to get harder.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 7 Nov 2007 @ 8:10 AM

  266. Matt,
    First on Lomborg’s “Greenpeace membership”. This is at least as old as St. Augustine’s Confessions. Claim that you used to believe as your opponents did, but that you learned better. The role of this ploy is to imply superior wisdom based on hard experience. That’s why you have so many “Christians” claiming they used to be “hippies”, Neocons claiming to have been liberals, neoliberals claiming to have been conservatives, etc. An effective debating strategy that usually turns out to be an exercise in creative writing.
    Now, as to Lomborg’s “greatest mistake”. In short, it is pointless to point out the mistakes of a liar and self promoter. Lomborg simply is not serious or credible anywhere outside of those circles who buy into his ideology.
    As an example, to state that no species were lost in the clearcutting of Brazilian Atlantic forests is simply absurd. Lomborg is taking advantage of the lack of a proper census of species in this region prior to the unfolding of the ecological catastrophe that is Brazil.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Nov 2007 @ 9:23 AM

  267. (Greenland will eventually deliver ~7 metres, over a millenium or so). Hansen et al’s recent paper says several metres. Some people here are speculating about 10+m, which seems like a leap to me, based on pessimal ice sheet dynamics.

    Hansen’s recent paper pretty much ruled out millenial time scales and refused to discount decadal ones.

    “… we find no evidence of millennial lags between forcing and ice sheet response in palaeoclimate data. An ice sheet response time of centuries seems probable, and we cannot rule out large changes on decadal time-scales once wide-scale surface melt is underway.”

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 7 Nov 2007 @ 10:00 AM

  268. So back on topic, just for the hell of it, over at Tamino there’s this: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2007/10/27/uncertain-sensitivity/#comment-8342

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Nov 2007 @ 10:13 AM

  269. Matt said:

    “Poor nations can create enormous wealth in the next 50 years if they have low-cost energy available to them. Look at what Taiwan, Korea and China have accomplished in 50 years.”

    Here’s a little factoid- the 1970′s with their huge forced mitigation due to the oil embargos experienced significantly higher global GDP growth than the 80′s or 90′s which had extremely cheap energy by comparison. Is that consistent with the assumptions you’ve just made? This decade’s global GDP growth has been faster than the last, with much more expensive energy. How’s your theory holding up?

    “give owners time to mitigate, sell, let cities decide how to address. The market will sort this out. ”

    Give owners time to mitigate? What, costal property owners will single handedly reduce CO2 concentrations to such a point as to impact global climate? Or what, sell? Sell to…? I know, the guy who wants to live under water. Are these fair descriptions of your theory? The critical bit though is Bible faith that ‘market will sort this out’- just like the market sorted out airline security before 9/11, or chemical facility security since, or how it sorted out California’s electricity market in 2001, or the stock market in the 1920s, or how it sorted out clean air and water for Chinese. Just like that. Indeed, the market lets me rest easy at night.

    “This is an engineering problem, readily solvable.”

    I find it intriguing that you believe that erecting massive sea walls around tens of thousands of miles of coastline (together with concomitant environmental damage) will be cheaper than CO2 mitigation. Is that a back of the envelope calculation perhaps? And what happens when the loss of snow and glacier melt devastates the Colorado River system or any of the major river systems that are fed by Himalayan glaciers (or many others for that matter)? I guess we just take on some more engineering projects diverting water however many thousands of miles will be needed to sustain the populations that depended on that melt water? I’m sure you’re not scared, even as you’re keenly aware of the staggering amount of energy required to move water. And no doubt we’ve yet to approach the cost of mitigation, but the good news is we’re not done with the need for engineering projects. Because drought and desertification will require huge irrigation projects if we are to sustain agriculture in afflicted areas. And we’ll have plenty of engineering work to deal with the increased intensity of tropical cyclones, increased flooding, and other extreme weather events. How are we going? Let’s have a look at that envelope.

    “It doesn’t scare me at all.”

    It can truly be said that ignorance is bliss.

    Comment by Majorajam — 7 Nov 2007 @ 10:18 AM

  270. Re Matt’s claim that Lomborg p0wns Wilson, see Wilson’s rebuttal:

    Vanishing Point: On Bjorn Lomborg and extinction

    For Lomborg errors on deforestation, see:

    Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees: On Bjorn Lomborg and deforestation

    Note that this discussion would have happened in regular old scientific discourse if Lomborg had published his results in a refereed journal. Instead, it has to happen in a piecemeal and ad hoc way, with ludicrous claims like “scientists won’t debate him.”

    It might be fun to debate Lomborg’s biggest error/distortion, but that would be a very long conversation. For a comprehensive list of Lomborg’s cluelessness and/or mendacity, I again point you to:

    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 7 Nov 2007 @ 10:55 AM

  271. Interesting coverage of some scietific research on enhancing ocean uptake of CO2 by accelerating the weathering of volcanic rock and making oceans more alkaline. Harvard and Penn State team.
    http://www.physorg.com/news113637002.html

    Comment by RoySV — 7 Nov 2007 @ 11:06 AM

  272. I would like to strongly, and indeed urgently, commend to everyone’s attention this article by Richard Heinberg:

    Big Melt Meets Big Empty: Rethinking the Implications of Climate Change and Peak Oil
    By Richard Heinberg
    Global Public Media
    Sunday 04 November 2007

    I think the article does an excellent job of laying out the difficult technical, economic and political challenges that face the world in responding to the related problems of anthropogenic global warming and fossil fuel depletion, and offers some valuable suggestions for dealing with them.

    I think that most of you will find reading it a more rewarding use of your time than revisiting the well-documented frauds of Bjorn Lomborg that the climate change deniers enjoy wasting everyone’s time with.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 7 Nov 2007 @ 12:26 PM

  273. BTW, thanks to Hank for the links to interesting discussion on ocean ecosystems and CO2.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 7 Nov 2007 @ 1:08 PM

  274. Re # 247, 262 forest cover

    You have to distinguish between original, primary, forest cover, most of which was cut down, and secondary forest cover which replaced some, though not all, of the primary forest. From McCarthy, B.C. (1995) The Ohio Woodland Journal 2:8-10:

    “Historical records and descriptions of the pre-settlement eastern landscape paint a dramatically different picture from that of the present. Colonists of the 1600s were presented with vast stands of large trees and continuous cover. Most historians agree that this country was settled largely because of its enormous timber resource. The needs of a colonist were simple: a roof over one’s head, food on the table, and warmth in the cold months. As a result, forests were cleared for settlement, sawtimber, agriculture, and fuelwood. In later years, the surviving forests were exploited for a variety of additional wood products including charcoal, pulp, and turpentine. While the exact dates are arguable, essentially all eastern old-growth was eradicated by the turn of the 20th century.

    Today, virtually all old-growth forest that remains in the eastern U.S. consists of small tracts of land (10 to 100 acres) that resulted from surveying errors or private family preservation for the purposes of aesthetics, hunting, or timbering. While these tracts pale in comparison to western old-growth forests, they remain a vitally important resource.”

    (Department of Environmental and Plant Biology at Ohio University, http://www.plantbio.ohiou.edu/epb/instruct/ecology/ogarticie/mccarthy.htm)

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 7 Nov 2007 @ 1:11 PM

  275. re 158

    Matt wrote: “I wonder, too, if oil turns into the cheap fuel for emerging nations in 50 years. If EU + US do indeed bite the bullet and push to do the right thing and get off of oil, then world demand drops and the price would fall to unprecendented levels…”

    =================

    I write this on a day when oil may pass, or at least flirt with, the $100.00-a-barrel benchmark.

    That argument seems anti-intuitive. Your scenario is based on the presumption that the cost of oil production will drop in relation to the rise in cheap alternatives to where it could compete.

    As alternative, renewable energy production grows, the cost would invariably drop. Say you get 30 years out of a solar panel system, and innovation makes the process cheaper (and the odds are very high innovation and increased demand will reduce costs) then the return on that system would make competition from oil a non-sequitur.

    But the price of producing, refining and delivering oil will not change in any appreciative fashion.

    With the alternative energy system, unless I am missing something, you have a one-time manufacture and delivery/setup cost (plus inevitable maintenance costs), whereas with oil you have to keep bringing it in. And as I said, the cost for solar go down, not up. But the costs of oil-production are more or less fixed in terms of a lower-limit, a limit that will likely increase because it takes a large infrastructure to maintain production. And as I mentioned earlier, it is a finite resource in terms of ease of extraction and availability, suggesting that sooner or later (more likely sooner), even with deflated prices, it will eventually cost a dollar’s worth of energy to extract a dollar’s worth of energy. And then production stops.

    Further, it isn’t just the cost of oil you have to consider. More and more, countries are realizing their renewable resources, such as water, arable land, and flora and fauna biodiversity are increasingly valuable to a country’s bottom-line, (something both China and India are becoming increasingly aware of). Oil-based (and coal-based) pollution occurs easily and frequently, can be extremely toxic, long-lasting and difficult to eradicate, so you need to factor in ecological costs. And as time progresses and oil-based damage to the environment deepens, the expense of countering such damage will increase accordingly.

    Oil (and coal) is also a health issue, in the sense its use has been demonstrated to have a negative effect on public health, short and long-term, so you need to factor in this effect on public health and the cost to productivity, the cost of maintaining a health care infrastructure and how an economy is impacted by those costs.

    And then there is the cost of ongoing AGW fed by the continued use of a carbon-based model of energy production.

    I’m sure I’m missing many other factors regarding the expense of using oil. It isn’t just about paying for the energy; it’s about paying for the effect of the energy. Any way you look at it, alternative renewable energy offers better long-term benefits in terms of ecological and societal costs than oil does.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 7 Nov 2007 @ 1:48 PM

  276. Jim RE: #270 Lomborg Errors website:
    I’d also encourage people to visit that site and read about Lomborg but for a different reason. Here the attacks against him seem to be mostly personal. The errors website is pitiful – is is another Danish professor’s attempt to discredit somebody he personally despises. In fact I understand he is often the force behind the many attempts to publicly discredit Lomborg.
    *
    RC moderator dudes:
    How about a Lomborg thread here? And/or a mitigation thread? Those topics seem to almost obsess people here at RC and are generally off topic for the posts on science. Alternatively I’d be happy to set up a blog for the purpose of discussing these hot button topics in the context of the climate science.
    *
    I’d challenge folks to read the back and forth of Scientific American’s critique of Lomborg’s “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and come to anything but the obvious conclusion: Distinguished scientists felt their complex work was getting oversimplified by a non-scientist and felt their ethics were under attack by Lomborg. Rather than address his mostly obvious points they just attacked back. In fact almost all of the “anti Lomborg” rhetoric concedes most of his facts (but says they are cherry picked) and most of his broad points (Environmental awareness is important, AGW is clearly happenging, IPCC data is high quality, etc, etc.
    *
    Few people here appear to have read many of his arguments which in many ways line up with the science presented here. For reasons that still confuse me Lomborg simply pisses off physical scientists even as he agrees with them. Nobody likes to be called alarmist, especially by somebody who is not an expert in the field.
    *
    For example Lomborg has *consistently* strongly supported AGW hypothesis and consistently supported mitigation efforts. What seems to bother people is that Lomborg has spoken against Kyoto and massive mitgation efforts, he has oversimplified some complex issues, and unfortunately he accused many scientists and others in the environmental debate of alarmism and having a vested interest in outcomes. The personal Lomborg debates tend to trump his important and very reasoned point: How do we prioritize global solutions? Although it had flaws, the Copenhagen Consensus was an admirable attempt to create a nexus between science and policy and spending.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 7 Nov 2007 @ 1:52 PM

  277. re 276

    I’d challenge folks to read the back and forth of Scientific American’s critique of Lomborg’s “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and come to anything but the obvious conclusion: Distinguished scientists felt their complex work was getting oversimplified by a non-scientist and felt their ethics were under attack by Lomborg.
    ===================

    Gosh, Joe, I did read that exchange.

    Never got that impression at all. If anything, quite the opposite; Lomborg behaved as if everyone wasn’t treating him fairly ie: “You’re not making an exception for me, and you should.”

    Here is a link that will allow people to actually see the “debate” in toto:

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00000B96-9517-1CDA-B4A8809EC588EEDF

    Note he also got spanked in Skeptic Magazine and American Scientist right around the same time. Skeptic went so far as to give him 20+ pages to present his argument.

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/06-05-18.html

    http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/17791?&print=yes

    In every case, the critiques pretty much underscored much of what has been discussed here.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 7 Nov 2007 @ 2:47 PM

  278. Regarding fossil fuel substitutes, consider what Harvard professor Ricardo Hausmann has written:

    http://biopact.com/2007/11/harvard-center-for-international.html

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Nov 2007 @ 2:49 PM

  279. Distinguished scientists felt their complex work was getting oversimplified by a non-scientist and felt their ethics were under attack by Lomborg.

    Not simplified, MISREPRESENTED.

    Comment by dhogaza — 7 Nov 2007 @ 3:42 PM

  280. Re #276 Joe Duck “Although it had flaws, the Copenhagen Consensus was an admirable attempt to create a nexus between science and policy and spending.”

    It was nothing of the kind. It involved no natural scientists, nor any social scientists apart from a group of economists hand-picked to give a predetermined answer – which was overdetermined by his insistence on a short time-horizon. Lomborg riles people because he is a fraud, and not even an interesting or original one. He uses all the stale tricks familiar to most of us from the creationist attacks on evolutionary theory: cherry-picking data, false dichotomies, unsupported and implausible accusations of vested interests, challenges to debates, etc.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 7 Nov 2007 @ 3:57 PM

  281. To Joe in 276:

    I read the SciAm exchange back in the day (2001) and wasn’t impressed with Lomborg. The Grist rebuttals are also worth a read. But these discussions are no substitute for publication in refereed journals.

    To be clear: You are proposing that Lomborg understands population biology and climate science better than the published professionals in these fields. You’re telling me to believe Lomborg over E.O. Wilson, and Lomborg over Hansen, correct? Because the scientists are “emotional” and “partisan,” and the dilettante is “rational” and “neutral,” I suppose.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 7 Nov 2007 @ 3:58 PM

  282. re 276.

    Further the “What’s everyone so mad about?” complaint, something from John Holdren in response to Lomborg’s “rebuttal” to his critique.

    “Now, it is apparent from reading even the first few pages of The Skeptical Environmentalist that Lomborg proposes to make the case that not just environmentalists, but a considerable part of the heretofore respectable environmental-science community, have been misunderstanding the relevant concepts, misrepresenting the relevant facts, understating the uncertainties, selecting data, and failing to acknowledge errors after these have been pointed out – in other words, that the scientist contributors to what he calls “the environmental litany” (namely, that environmental problems are serious and becoming, in many instances more so) have been guilty of massively violating the scientists’ code of conduct. This would be interesting news indeed, if Lomborg could prove it. But reading further reveals that his attempt to do so is itself a richly populated pastiche of these very infractions. Every class of mistake of which he accuses environmentalists and environmental scientists who have contributed to the “litany” is in fact committed prolifically and indiscriminately in The Skeptical Environmentalist (except, of course, for refusing to acknowledge error – for this, one has to read his rebuttals).

    “That the responses of environmental scientists have conveyed anger as well as substantive content, then, ought to be understandable. Lomborg’s performance careens far across the line that divides respectable (even if controversial science) from thoroughgoing and unrepentant incompetence. He has failed thoroughly to master his subject. He has committed, with appalling frequency and brazen abandon, exactly the kinds of mistakes and misrepresentations of which he accuses his adversaries. He has needlessly muddled public understanding and wasted immense amounts of the time of capable people who have had to take on the task of rebutting him. And he has done so at the particular intersection of science with public policy – environment and the human condition – where public and policy-maker confusion about the realities is more dangerous for the future of society than on any other science-and-policy question excepting, possibly, the dangers from weapons of mass destruction. It is a lot to answer for.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000DC658-9373-1CDA-B4A8809EC588EEDF&pageNumber=6&catID=9

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 7 Nov 2007 @ 4:32 PM

  283. http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/

    “Thus, it is also expected that the oil price will once again decline from $27 to the low $20s until 2020.” – Lomborg

    Quoting him is a personal attack?

    Please show us some examples of what you consider personal attacks on that website.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 7 Nov 2007 @ 5:46 PM

  284. re 283

    “Quoting him is a personal attack? ”

    Maybe Lomborg would feel it was a personal attack…

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 7 Nov 2007 @ 5:58 PM

  285. Joe Duck wrote: “Distinguished scientists felt their complex work was getting oversimplified by a non-scientist and felt their ethics were under attack by Lomborg.”

    No, distinguished scientists felt that the realities of their fields of study, from climate to forestry to ecology and more, were being systematically misrepresented by Lomborg. And their responses substantiate, in detail, that this was in fact so.

    Joe Duck wrote: “The personal Lomborg debates tend to trump his important and very reasoned point: How do we prioritize global solutions?”

    That’s not a “point”. It’s a question. It is entirely legitimate for Lomborg or anyone else to ask that question. It is not legitimate to “reason” about answers to that question based on falsehoods, which is what Lomborg has consistently done, in order to reach his predetermined conclusions.

    I think the reason that some people get upset with Lomborq on a “personal” level is that they perceive him to be either arrogantly and recklessly irresponsible in his willful ignorance at best, or a deliberate fraud at worst.

    J.S. McIntyre quoted John Holdren: “… what [Lomborg] calls ‘the environmental litany’ (namely, that environmental problems are serious and becoming, in many instances more so) …”

    It is worth noting that not only did Lomborg misrepresent scientific reality, but he also misrepresented environmentalism. His so-called “environmental litany” is a strawman. No one can reasonably argue against the proposition that “environmental problems are serious and becoming, in many instances more so” — so Lomborg argued against a distorted caricature of the central concerns and aims of the environmental movement.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 7 Nov 2007 @ 6:12 PM

  286. TYNT today has a special section entitled Business of Green with several informative articles.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Nov 2007 @ 6:27 PM

  287. An awful lot of time and attention, in this thread, is being paid to one individual, the Danish Professor and his principles and personality and we’re getting away from the broad overall picture. Matt and perhaps Joe and some others consider him their guru. Do any of you think you’re going to convince them otherwise?

    Naomi Oreskes did a study which I know many of you are aware of and she found the following:
    [A 2004 article by geologist and historian of science Naomi Oreskes summarized a study of the scientific literature on climate change.[29] The essay concluded that there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. The author analyzed 928 abstracts of papers from refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, listed with the keywords “global climate change”. Oreskes divided the abstracts into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. 75% of the abstracts were placed in the first three categories, thus either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, thus taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change; none of the abstracts disagreed with the consensus position, which the author found to be “remarkable”. According to the report, “authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.”]
    Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

    In other words, the unanimous consensus of the more than 900 articles published in refereed journals from 1993 through 2003 was that global warming is under way. This should put into perspective the position of those few scientists who remain skeptical or on the fence.
    I remember seeing the late Stephen Jay Gould being interviewed on the skepticism of scientists on another controversial topic, Darwinism, and he pointed out that were more than a million scientists in the world and there would always be a few who refused to accept the prevalent theory.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 7 Nov 2007 @ 6:43 PM

  288. Matt (249) and Joe (276) – What is about Lomborg that you two find so admirable and credible? I really, really don’t get it.

    I read the New York Times article, ‘Feel Good’ vs. ‘Do Good’ on Climate (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/11/science/earth/11tiern.html), about Lomborg. It made me cringe, and we’re not even talking scientific issues in that article.

    First, he claims he agrees that, yes, “global warming is real” and that “it will do more harm than good”. Then he makes a suggestion for dealing with it: “… a carbon tax and a treaty forcing nations to budget hefty increases for research into low-carbon energy technologies.” Not bad suggestions, possibly, but given that he puts a lot of his time and energy into dissing the idea of any urgency around the issue of global warming, it’s hard to take his suggestion seriously. And how does one even create a treaty “forcing” nations to do something?

    Then, of course, he moves right on to his real solution: “…make the rest of the world as rich as New York, so that people elsewhere can afford to do things like shore up their coastlines and buy air conditioners.” To which I can only say, “Huh?”

    Now, I have no problem with making the rest of the world richer, although I do have a problem with the idea that a world where everyone uses energy and resources at the rate that we here in the U.S. do currently is in any way sustainable and not only in terms of AGW. Beyond that, exactly how does one do this?

    How do we create the political will to support development in the poorer countries? How do we even determine exactly what assistance can best support development? How do we deal with the selfishness of the rich countries and the corruption and ineffectualness of many developing countries’ governments in order to effectively provide assistance? How do we suddenly successfully do something that we have singularly failed to do so far in history–something that requires not a technological solution (for which we have a pretty good track record) but that requires dealing with complex social, political, and historical issues.

    Moreover, where do the energy resources come from, quickly and right now, so that this development can happen fast enough to deal with climate change issues over the upcoming century–the modest ones that Lomborg agrees are “real”? China is plunging ahead with cheap energy from coal and creating huge, huge local environmental problems in the process. The Chinese are not unaware of the problems but have yet to come to grips with what to do about it. So, what’s available for the rest of the developing world? Where do they get their energy resources? A few countries have oil of their own, but the industrialized and already-industrializing countries are doing their damnedest to get their hands on it for themselves. Lomborg mentions neither the threat of peak oil nor the environmental disaster and other dangers (mine disasters and disease) of coal use nor the major expense for construction and unresolved problems of nuclear energy. He just advocates more energy to make everyone richer. It’s like he wants everyone to join in a chorus of “don’t worry, be happy.” (Which, of course, begs the question of who, really, is the “feel good” person here?)

    He then misrepresents the Kyoto treaty. It was designed as an initial step, for pete’s sake, which is one of the most salient points that all the nay-sayers from G. W. Bush on down never seem to want to acknowledge, and it was totally undercut as a beginning effort by the U.S. unwillingness to get on board and the efforts of people like Lomborg to make sure it was not acceptable.

    Where is the real evidence for Lomborg’s assertion that “We could spend all that money to cut emissions and end up with more land flooded next century because people would be poorer?” I get so sick and tired of hearing about how Kyoto will make people poorer, but the economists I’ve read do not present very convincing arguments–and Lomborg here doesn’t even present any evidence for his claim. We’re just supposed to take it on faith, I guess.

    Limit coastal development, he says. Good idea. But what about all the coastal development that already exists, both in the industrialized and developing world? How does one relocate poor villages, gated communities, and industries that are already situated in coastal areas? I have family in Florida, and the situation down there is getting downright scary. They are getting poorer by the minute as their homes lose value. How much of that is due to transient climate issues (hurricanes, drought, etc.) and how much of it is due to AGW? I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone else does either at this point, but it sure gives an indication of exactly how hard it is going to be to contend with any climate changes that come into existence due to AGW. And that “shore up their coastline” bit he advocated earlier? Is he even aware that Florida has over 8,000 miles of coastline? Exactly how does one “shore up” 8,000 miles of coastline? It is nowhere near as simple as Lomborg pretends it is as he plays the happy, happy “skeptical environmentalist”.

    I also don’t get how Matt can claim that the websites responding to Lomborg’s distortions are “petty” or Joe can assert that the attacks are “personal” when they cite chapter and verse of where he is wrong or has cherry-picked or misrepresented information. Sorry, guys, that just doesn’t fly.

    On a final note, I admit that I haven’t read The Skeptical Environmentalist myself so I don’t know that this is really, really true, but I see that Lomborg is quoted as claiming (on page 122 of the book) that “Thus, it is also expected that the oil price will once again decline from $27 to the low $20s until 2020.” Now, what was the price of oil again today in 2007? And this is the guy that you think is so prescient?

    Comment by Mary C — 7 Nov 2007 @ 6:55 PM

  289. Steve Reynolds,

    I have seen it yes. I think Annan is missing the point of Weitzman’s work and that is largely a product of his lack of familiarity with economics. Why should it be beyond the pale to include the implication on utility of events with a non-zero probability given what is possible to infer of such? A better question would be, on what basis can we ignore it if the science and statistics indicates it isn’t impossible? I don’t think you’re going to get many economists to present their results with the disclaimer, “we’ve looked at all feedbacks and ramifications except those that blow up our model”. That would be silly and, of course, this is Weitzman’s point. If you’re going to quantify things, quantify them, if you want to pull some levers and switches and proclaim objectivity, you shouldn’t have to add, “disregard the man behind the curtain”.

    Annan’s biggest beef is with Weitzman’s treatment of climate sensitivity as, in the limit of observations, a pdf of known width. He says though that it would be different if we were trying to apply something known more abstractly (as from another planet) about climate sensitivity to earth’s environment. Now here I’m well out of my expertise, which probably means I’m typing, but I have to wonder if that is a valid point. If it is the case that particularities of other planets can drive randomness in this, frankly, artificial parameter, isn’t it also the case then that the changing particulars of our own planet- its eccentricity, land mass makeup and distribution, volcanic activity, anthropogenic activity (GHG & aerosol emissions, perhaps impact on land use), current state of disequilibrium, i.e. momentum in the system, etc.- could do the same? Some of those will matter in high resolution data, others will matter on geological time scales, but ultimately shouldn’t they all conspire to yield randomness, even as described by a very well behaved distribution (as Weitzman models)? Is not a belief in a single point estimate for climate sensitivity simply clutching at some artificial aggregate of chaotic forces because it has an analytically convenient functional form? Holy moly, did I just go on topic? If not, that was close. In any case, input from the brains of this operation (which excludes only about 75% of commenters inclusive) would be much appreciated.

    As I see it and irrespective of the relative merits of my wild a*sed amateurism above, Weitzman has opened a door that cannot be closed by what Annan has done, and must be explored by economists in dire need of self-examination. Annan states in his thread something to the effect of, ‘what Weitzman’s done is apply something intended for one thing in a context it shouldn’t be and that’s silly’. This is patently wrong. He appears to be unaware that the real silliness is the inference afforded to integrated assessment models that come unglued when basic acknowledgement of uncertainty is conceded. Furthermore, it is the case that utility theory does not remotely gel with the empirical data where it exists, i.e. asset returns, and Weitzman’s approach shed’s light on that as well. So I think it is a bit rich to sell it short just yet.

    P.S. It also should be stated that Annan has published papers that claim we can disregard high estimates of climate sensitivity. So far as I can tell, this is not the mainstream view, however, it has obvious and large implications on what Weitzman has done, so it’s less of a surprise that Annan has picked up on it and come to the conclusion he has. If anyone of knowledge is picking up on this post, I would appreciate being enlightened on this point as well. Thanks in advance…

    Comment by Majorajam — 7 Nov 2007 @ 7:45 PM

  290. Joe Duck, #276, wrote:

    In fact almost all of the “anti Lomborg” rhetoric concedes most of his facts (but says they are cherry picked)

    That’s priceless. So if I wish to “prove” that most human beings have blonde hair, and if I go out in the street and find eight blondes and take their names, and then to make up the numbers, find one brunette and one person with black hair, (which is a classic illustration of what “cherry picking” means) and if I publish my “survey” demonstrating that 8 out of 10 humans worldwide are blondes, then I take it you would have to concede that I was factually correct (while saying my facts were cherry picked)?

    Cherry picking data breaks one of the cardinal rules of science, is anti-science, and amounts to lying.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 7 Nov 2007 @ 7:58 PM

  291. J.S. McIntyre (275), I think this was a cogent analysis, but I have one disagreement. The cost of producing oil is no way the driving force behind $100/bbl pricing, and there is major leeway between the $100/bbl and the cost of production, transport, refining and delivery (the latter two a near zero factor in the $100 figure) — all from what the folks at OPEC, e.g., simply think they can charge. Neither will the cost of production see large continuous increases in the future. It will see occasional quantum jumps: a little from finding more of it, and a bunch when there has to be a shift from primary to secondary and tertiary drilling techniques. But overall there is considerable wiggle room. I would not be surprised if the producers, if so inclined, could drop the spot/futures price to $50 overnight and feel nary a twinge.

    Comment by Rod B — 7 Nov 2007 @ 8:35 PM

  292. #270 Jim Galasyn: For Lomborg errors on deforestation, see…

    Read it this morning before the sun came up. Thanks

    Note that this discussion would have happened in regular old scientific discourse if Lomborg had published his results in a refereed journal. Instead, it has to happen in a piecemeal and ad hoc way, with ludicrous claims like “scientists won’t debate him.”

    As I noted above, Lomborg isn’t a scientist. He’s on par with Al Gore. They are both “faces” on the movements. Their job is to try and make you think the scientists behind them are correct.

    Now, I went into this thinking Lomborg was laying all the cards out on the table. Reading the link above, I’ll concede that it appears Lomborg hasn’t. To me, this puts him on par with Al Gore and Michael Crichton, who I don’t feel put all the cards out on the table either. Nor do I expect them to, because as I said, they aren’t scientists, they are moutpieces.

    So, now that I have acknowledged Lomborg distorts by selectively sharing information with readers, how many here will acknowledge the same about Gore? I recall the kid-gloves treatment Gore received here recently for his “mostly accurate” AIT. Ray? Gavin? Do you feel Al Gore has left out critical pieces of information that cause the viewer to jump to the wrong conclusion? Is it different than Lomborg?

    Comment by Matt — 7 Nov 2007 @ 9:04 PM

  293. Mary C (288): I was enjoying your post (even though I disagreed with some of it), and then you went and let your visceral get out with “…naysayers [on Kyoto] like George W. Bush….” As your mind knows better than your gut, I’m sure, Clinton and Gore and the Senate of ’97 canned the Kyoto treaty; Bush just carried on the sentiment. A minor point to be sure within the context of the total post, but it does splash on a pile of incredibility, unfortunately.

    Comment by Rod B — 7 Nov 2007 @ 9:08 PM

  294. One problem that I think many people have with climate change is grasping the timescales. They see a problem where the worst of the consequences will not occur for a century or more and think that it is of no consequence. Surely, they say, we can come up with technical fixes by then. How, they wonder, do I know that things won’t change dramatically in that time and mitigate the problem without our efforts? The problem with this thinking is that while consequences may be a ways off on a human timescale, our ability to counter these issues before they become inevitable actually has a very short horizon. A scientist looks at a system where positive feedbacks may dwarf our own contributions and is naturally concerned. Anyone with even a little experience of dynamical systems–or even an understanding of exponential functions–is bound to see that such a system is highly unstable. If we do not buy time by reducing carbon emissions, we will push the climate into this regime, and likely nothing we can do will have much effect. That is what scientists are trying to warn people about. That is what people like Lomborg in their sanguine ignorance do not understand.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 7 Nov 2007 @ 9:27 PM

  295. #275 J.S. McIntyre: But the price of producing, refining and delivering oil will not change in any appreciative fashion.

    50% of gas is oil costs according to (1). US, EU are 44% of world oil consumption. If US and EU manage to get substantially off oil (say, 90% reduction) over 50 years, do Saudi Arabia et al simply live with half as much revenue? Do they double the price and accelerate emerging nations shift to non-oil use, or do they halve the price and make it easy for emerging nations to use all the old technology (IC engines), that the rest of the world quit using a while back?

    In other words, if EU and US weren’t buying any oil, what would the price per barrel be? I think it would be quite a bit less.

    1. http://www.atg.wa.gov/uploadedFiles/Another/Safeguarding_Consumers/Antitrust/Unfair_Trade_Practices/Gas_Prices/2007%20Gas%20Price%20Study%20-%20phase%20I.pdf

    Comment by Matt — 7 Nov 2007 @ 9:29 PM

  296. #263 John Mashey: Did you read #229? Can you explain to me where poor countries are going to get lots of low-cost energy? I’m eager to know, because it won’t be petroleum.

    Agree on petroleum. Let’s look at some numbers. Solar cell costs today are around $0.25/kwh. In 50 years, is it reasonable to expect those costs to fall two orders of magnitude? Semiconductor industry would achieve almost 3 orders of magnitude improvement in that time frame (if current trends continue–probably not likely), so perhaps 100X improvement to cost is practical for cells. In any case, in round numbers, if you have sun, you will have super cheap energy. 100X reduction to 0.25, of course, is 0.0025, which is about 1/10 the cost of today’s cheaper options for electricity. Can they afford them? Well if per-capita income growth in India can outpace inflation by 5%, then in 50 years they are getting sorta close to Arkansas’s average income.

    The Netherlands Delta project “was launched in 1958 and largely completed in 2002″. (Wikipedia). And that’s by a rich, smart country that has centuries of practice at this, and it wasn’t for dealing with SLR, it was for storms, and there’s a big difference. In the first, you engineer for a given level of risk. In the other, well, it’s hard to know how to plan, especially if you don’t really know how far up the water is coming.

    This isn’t one big project. It’s a series of smaller projects, that, as I note, complete on shorter time schedules. As you write above, you make it sounds like the project was delivering zero protection until it was finished in 2002. In fact, it has been deliver stages of protection continuously since the 1970s.

    And of course, they are will to contract out their smarts and know how. Dubai didn’t figure out Palm Islands all by themselves.

    The distance from one end of the Netherlands to the other, near the coast, is ~500km. which is approximately the width of Louisiana, i.e., distance from Port Arthur, TX to Slidell, along I10 and I12

    Wiki says there are 10,000 miles of dykes protecting the Dutch. TEN THOUSAND MILES OF DYKES. Holy cow.

    Comment by Matt — 7 Nov 2007 @ 9:43 PM

  297. Poor countries will do well for low cost energy provided they have biomass to spare. Read the link provided in comment #278 for relationships between biofuel and fossil fuel prices.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 7 Nov 2007 @ 9:57 PM

  298. ray ladbury> Anyone with even a little experience of dynamical systems–or even an understanding of exponential functions–is bound to see that such a system is highly unstable.

    As someone with experience with dynamical systems, it seems to me the system becomes more stable as ice is eliminated.

    When there is no more ice, there is no more ice albedo positive feedback. Other factors being equal (methane hydrate speculation aside), the system gain is lower, and the system is more stable.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 7 Nov 2007 @ 10:54 PM

  299. Off topic — sorry! I’ve had a difficult time finding this website, which Google no longer seems to list, even as I ask for http://www.realclimate.org. Can anyone tell me what’s happening? I normally connect almost daily.

    Comment by Dan G — 7 Nov 2007 @ 11:26 PM

  300. Re #294: [Wiki says there are 10,000 miles of dykes protecting the Dutch. TEN THOUSAND MILES OF DYKES. Holy cow.]

    Humm… Standing, or laid end-to-end?

    Re #288: [(Quoting Lomborg) “…make the rest of the world as rich as New York, so that people elsewhere can afford to do things like shore up their coastlines and buy air conditioners.” To which I can only say, “Huh?”]

    Which I can only echo, but for a different reason. That’s maybe the most fundamental difference between the Lomborg types and the rest of us. It might be possible to create such a world, but I have great difficulty in understanding how anyone could see having to spend all one’s time indoors as a desirable goal. Surely we can think a bit beyond mere survival, and consider how the world might actually be made liveable as well?

    Comment by James — 7 Nov 2007 @ 11:39 PM

  301. #269 Majorajam: Here’s a little factoid- the 1970’s with their huge forced mitigation due to the oil embargos experienced significantly higher global GDP growth than the 80’s or 90’s which had extremely cheap energy by comparison. Is that consistent with the assumptions you’ve just made? This decade’s global GDP growth has been faster than the last, with much more expensive energy. How’s your theory holding up

    Let’s look at it this way: How have emerging markets made a name for themselves in the last 50 years? By doing something cheaper than an established market. Usually, to date has been focused nearly 100% labor cost, with contributions from governments at times to lure businesses. Consider that energy costs are 20% of an airlines expenses. Consider energy costs are under 1% of a SW company’s expenses. But there are a host of products, such as LCD TVs, in which energy costs related to production are non-trivial–in some cases 4-5%.

    If a country with near zero infrastructure today opts to avoid legacy constraints that the US or EU might have (as related to power generation), and finds a way to trim that 4-5% energy cost to 1-2% ON TOP OF offering a labor pool that will do the same job for 10% less than the next highest bidder, then the world will beat a path to their door.

    We watched the world movemanufacturing to Japan, then back to US, then to Mexico, then Taiwan, then China, Malaysia, Vietnam, and then ??? all over reduced labor costs.

    Give owners time to mitigate? What, costal property owners will single handedly reduce CO2 concentrations to such a point as to impact global climate? Or what, sell? Sell to…? I know, the guy who wants to live under water.

    Assume I have ocean front property today worth $1M today for the land, and $500K for the house. Houses get moved all the time. The land today is worth $1M. The land in 40 years is worth about half that. When the water rises in 80 years, it’s obviously worth zero. Things get depreciated all the time. Without AGW it’ll be worth 0 in 400 years. What’s 320 years? One might also note that those living this close to the water are already costing society a disproportionate chunk of change.

    I find it intriguing that you believe that erecting massive sea walls around tens of thousands of miles of coastline (together with concomitant environmental damage) will be cheaper than CO2 mitigation. Is that a back of the envelope calculation perhaps?

    Again, it’s not needed everywhere. Put a stick in the sand, tell folks this will probably be under water in 80 years what do you want to do? If you want us to protect it, here’s the cost. If you want to sell it, now is the time.

    Again, it would have happened in 320 years anyway if man wasn’t even on the planet. It’s nature.

    I’m sure you’re not scared, even as you’re keenly aware of the staggering amount of energy required to move water.

    100 years ago do you know how daunting the task must have seemed to produce the 3.6T KWH the US needs today each and every year? And yet we did it. See my other post. It’s entirely reasonable energy could cost 1/10 in 50 years of what it costs today. Outside of minor blips and burps, the cost for energy falls so quickly folks really fail to grasp it. A paper in SCIENCE in 1981 predicted that it would require more than a barrel of oil’s worth of energy to extract a barrel of oil. Spectacularly wrong.

    Moving water is a problem if energy is expensive. Fresh water is a problem if energy is expensive. Both are managable if energy is cheap.

    Comment by Matt — 7 Nov 2007 @ 11:44 PM

  302. re 291

    J.S. McIntyre (275), I think this was a cogent analysis, but I have one disagreement. The cost of producing oil is no way the driving force behind $100/bbl pricing, and there is major leeway between the $100/bbl and the cost of production, transport, refining and delivery (the latter two a near zero factor in the $100 figure) — all from what the folks at OPEC, e.g., simply think they can charge.
    =============

    Nor did I say it was, specifically, only using the figure to underscore a point – that this is a commodity that will invariably continue to rise in cost. The estimated true cost of oil right now is closer to $70.00 a barrel, not $100.00. Adjusting for inflation, I believe at $70.00 a barrel it is cheaper than during the oil crisis of the 70s. That price is being pushed by nervous traders looking for something, anything, to keep an ailing market moving. It may decline, it may not…there are many factors at play.

    And it is not the “folks from OPEC”, though they contribute. There are a multitude of factors, such as 1) the ill-advised invasion of Iraq coupled with the mismanagement, corruption and painful incompetence that has marked our presence there, 2) the continued saber-rattling over Iran, 3) the ongoing problems with refineries being taken off-line for repair and maintenance, 4) the loss of production from Mexico 5) the growth of energy consuming economies that more and more are helping to drive the cost of oil up and so forth. And let’s not forget Big Oil, who have a stake in keeping the money flowing.

    “Neither will the cost of production see large continuous increases in the future.”

    I disagree. “Easy” oil production is becoming more a thing of the past – witness the scramble of the East Asian countries and India to compete with the U.S. and Western Europe to lock up oil from a variety of countries. The newer fields are in harsh climes, in deeper water, or increasingly unstable regions of the world, politically and militarily. Getting oil out of these places will be increasingly expensive, both in terms of inflation and real cost. Consider Iraq: even if we hold on to a presence there and somehow get production flowing, we already thrown multiple billions of dollars at the problem for no return. And once the oil is produced, there is no guarantee it is “ours” – it gets turned over to companies that refine and ship it to the highest bidder. What are we going to do – levy a tax on the oil before they can have it? If so, that will only raise the cost of production.

    “I would not be surprised if the producers, if so inclined, could drop the spot/futures price to $50 overnight and feel nary a twinge.”

    Unlikely to an extreme, and even if it did, it would likely be little more than the last gasp of a bygone era. The world has changed, Rod. There are more consumers than consumables. In such a world, it’s a seller’s market.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 7 Nov 2007 @ 11:56 PM

  303. re 293

    #275 J.S. McIntyre: But the price of producing, refining and delivering oil will not change in any appreciative fashion.

    50% of gas is oil costs according to (1). US, EU are 44% of world oil consumption. If US and EU manage to get substantially off oil (say, 90% reduction) over 50 years, do Saudi Arabia et al simply live with half as much revenue? Do they double the price and accelerate emerging nations shift to non-oil use, or do they halve the price and make it easy for emerging nations to use all the old technology (IC engines), that the rest of the world quit using a while back?”

    Oil is a finite resource. The U.S. hit peak oil decades ago. The Middle East hit or will hit peak oil soon. There are not enough new fields coming on line to substantially change production levels – what is there is there, and in many places production is in decline. Given the increased demand, even short term, by the time Western (and hopefully Eastern) economies wean themselves off fossil fuels, it is unlikely there will be a dramatic lowering in price. Why? Factor in the understanding that as countries develop and seek to exploit renewables the produce they are going to undermine any attempt by oil producing countries to take advantage of your fairy-tale scenario by underselling. It’s smart business, both for the seller and the buyer.

    Again, the more renewables grow, the cheaper they will become to produce. Add to that the understanding that beyond one-time costs of production and installation and invariable maintenence(which you are not addressing) the cost advantage of alternatives outweigh the constant maintenece of an oil-based economy.

    And, of course, you fail to address the ecological and health advantages…but then, you really can’t, now can you?

    Here’s the real bottom line … we’re going to be forced off of oil-based economies sooner or later. The real question is whether we do it now, or are forced to do it when, as discussed here quite a bit, it will probably be too late. But once alternative energy solutions come on line in large quantities, become cheaper, and lifestyles change – and they will – the odds are there will be a major shift in how the world consumes energy.

    Those small, impovershed nations you like to talk about will probably adapt well, if allowed. It’s countries like the U.S., consuming 25% of the world’s energy, that is going to have a rough go of it.

    Put another way, this is going to be one heck of a diet.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:15 AM

  304. DanG — don’t include the period after the ‘org’ in the link you ask for, as you did in your posting. Anything with ‘www’ or http:// in front of it will be hilighted and clickable (it will “look alive), but the rest of the URL has to be right for it to connect.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Nov 2007 @ 1:08 AM

  305. Marjorajam,

    Well I would guess I am in a small minority, being a climate scientist who actually does have a formal qualification in economics – not that I am going to cross swords with Weitzman on that score :-)

    Weitzman’s result is essentially due to how he handles the infinitesimal probability of an infinitely large catastrophe. Even if one accepts his probabilistic paradigm (which I do not) it is important to realise that he is not just saying that (eg) 2xCO2 is a catastrophe with unbounded cost, his analysis shows that +1ppm of CO2 is equally a catastrophe with unbounded cost, and I bet his method would also say that the risk of a future flu epidemic is a catastrophe with unbounded cost (consider the number of people killed as an uncertain multiplicative parameter just like climate sensitivity). So it seems that at best he has shown that this sort of analysis cannot provide usable results – how are we supposed to allocate resources to such things as CO2 mitigation and disease control if we face an infinite future cost for all possible choices?

    Comment by James Annan — 8 Nov 2007 @ 1:16 AM

  306. > Wiki says there are 10,000 miles of dykes protecting the Dutch. TEN
    > THOUSAND MILES OF DYKES. Holy cow.

    Matt, not all dykes are created equal. Most of those are “internal”
    dykes, part of a hierarchical system aimed at removing excess water in
    steps. Others are river dykes, which have recently been under threat
    also as the Rhine has been flooding more abundantly due to environmental
    changes upstream (which may be partly climate related too).

    The dykes (and dunes!) protecting the Netherlands from sea level
    extremes are no more than a few hundred kms long. It includes the
    ‘afsluitdijk’ behind which the Zuyderzee polders are located (each with
    its own dykes), and the Zealand storm surge barrier. Both these were
    specifically aimed at shortening the coastline exposed to the sea.

    In the North there is the Waddenzee, a tidal plain serving as a
    stop-over for many (most?) migrating birds of W Europe. That’s going to
    disappear too, no way to save that with dykes. Same for the salt water
    ecosystem behind the storm surge barrier, which was designed (at great
    cost) to preserve it.

    The Dutch are spending as much money on their sea defences as most
    nations on their military. It would (will?) increase drastically with
    sea level rise as projected. Mitigation costs are (would be?) modest by
    comparison, cf. the IPCC report of WG3.

    I am from the Netherlands originally, the part protected by these works.
    If all your arguments are as facts based as this one, I am not
    impressed.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 8 Nov 2007 @ 1:40 AM

  307. BTW the learning process of the Dutch was very similar to what we can
    observe as ongoing now for climate change: first disaster strikes, and
    then you learn — and spend. In 1953, my cradle stood behind one of
    those lowly “internal dykes”, mere kilometres from the flooded area.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 8 Nov 2007 @ 1:59 AM

  308. Dan G (#295) wrote:

    Off topic — sorry! I’ve had a difficult time finding this website, which Google no longer seems to list, even as I ask for http://www.realclimate.org. Can anyone tell me what’s happening? I normally connect almost daily.

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=site%3Awww.realclimate.org&btnG=Search

    Zero pages returned. As far as the Google index is concerned, not a single web page at Real Climate exists.

    Someone apparently found a trick to flush it from Google. Something similar was done to Panda’s Thumb a while back by creationists. Science under attack — again.

    The good news is that there are plenty of sites that link here, but all of the posts and comments should be generating their own traffic, showing up as results in the Google searches. A large part of what makes it a real resource.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 8 Nov 2007 @ 2:54 AM

  309. re 294: “there are 10,000 miles of dykes protecting the Dutch”.
    Yes indeed, however most of them are old inland dikes. The main coastline is around 50% dikes, 50% natural dunes (personal guess). But we (I live there, my house stands 2 meters below see level.) have dikes along rivers, and the most of that 10.000 km are dikes remaining from the time we made polders, reclaimed the land from sea, bit by bit. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polder.
    For SLR we need to enforce the 500 km coastline, but also have to take care of the river water, coming from Germany and Belgium. With a few meters SLR it will not flow, and we will have to pump and enforce the dikes along that rivers. And to keep my personal feet dry we now have to pump up the water 2 meters, and that will be a bit more in the future (or much more.) It is not only water from rain that has to be removed, ground water is coming up and this water is becoming saltier. Some farmers near the coast already have problems…
    In our local news today and yesterday: plans to make new islands in front of the coast (Dubai didn’t figure out Palm Islands all by themselves. We have a proposal of a tulip.) Main purpose: we need (??) space (including new airport?) and nature for recreation… No stupid decision taken yet, but I do not understand it at all. Why make more land that we will have to protect this coming age?? And how long will we try, before we retreat? 1 meter SLR? No problem, we will build dikes and new (energy consuming) pumps. 5 meters? Some time this or coming century we will loose this expensive battle.

    Comment by Hans Kiesewetter — 8 Nov 2007 @ 3:32 AM

  310. Thanks to all for the spirited opinions above.

    You are proposing that Lomborg understands population biology and climate science better than the published professionals in these fields. You’re telling me to believe Lomborg over E.O. Wilson, and Lomborg over Hansen, correct?

    No, of course not. I think he has many reasonable ideas for how to prioritize global problems and correctly suggests that we avoid alarmism or risk spending money and allocating time ineffectively.
    Lomborg actually agrees with mainstream scientific assessments on almost every issue of substance. Can you give an example where he does not do that? No. He pisses people off because he regularly and assertively suggests – reasonably in my view – that there is a lot of hype and alarmism about AGW and other environmental issues that misuses the science. Here at RC that notion is very objectionable because people seem to feel strongly that there is not much alarmism in the media (e.g. An Inconvenient Truth was objective science rather than subjective hype). Alarmism is a subjective opinion and thus can’t be labelled “true or false” so I doubt we’ll make much progress debating “alarmism”.

    Above some correctly noted I should NOT have used the term “simplified”, which is what I think Lomborg usually does, to characterize scientists feeling and saying he *misrepresented* their science, which is what many scientists suggest he does.

    I saw few references to actual Lomborg points that people disagree with. Some above even seem to think he is an AGW skeptic when Lomborg has consistently used IPCC data even years ago when he first started writing.

    I did NOT say Lomborg cherry picked, rather I was noting he was accused of that in The Skeptical Environmentalist. Of course cherry picking is not scientific and is misleading. He may be guilty of a small amount of that (I have only seen a handful of trivial examples from the SciAm articles). Nothing that would discredit any of his main points about allocating resources more effectively and recognizing that catastrophe is unlikely to be looming.

    The price of oil quote as a sign he’s not credible or a “liar” is so ridiculous I don’t know how to respond. Lomborg is made an oil price prediction that did not come true. Wrong predictions are not lies though you’d be right to question his credibility if he made a lot of predictions that did not come true. He has not done that. Nobody can predict oil prices accurately except perhaps OPEC because they can set them.

    Mary – several times you note that you *agree* with specific things he said, then go on to elaborate on topics where you don’t know what he thinks. I’m not saying that is all you did, but could you find something substantial and specific Lomborg says that you think is a lie or inaccurate? Not opinions because I agree you should not be a Lomborg fan. It’s clear that compared to me you assume there is a higher chance of climate change that will create catastrophic conditions. Several people here seem to think catastrophic sea level rises this century are – let’s say for sake of reasoned debate – more than 10% likely, probably as a result of the type of feedbacks Hansen is concerned about that could cause much faster Greenland melting than had been previously considered likely. If you believe Greenland has a reasonably liklihood of melting soon you are completely right to feel Lomborg is a sort of pied piper, luring us into a false sense of security.

    If, on the other hand, you assume catastrophic conditions are extremely unlikely (on the order of less than 1%), as I do, you see Lomborg as offering reasonable approaches to mitigation and other global problems – placing more urgency on immediate benefits.

    In my opinion discussing these issues as if Lomborg was the issue detracts from the very important questions of the day – how much mitigation, how we do it, how do we minimize the cost and maximize the impact. Attack the problems, not the people.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 8 Nov 2007 @ 5:10 AM

  311. #294 Wiki says there are 10,000 miles of dykes protecting the Dutch. TEN THOUSAND MILES OF DYKES. Holy cow.

    Maybe that shows just how difficult it would be to protect all the vulnerable coastline on the planet.

    Comment by Roly Gross — 8 Nov 2007 @ 5:27 AM

  312. Can anybody tell me what the latest level of atmospheric CO2 is, seasonally adjusted if possible?

    Every figure I see is about 2 years old. All I see of recent readings is comment on percentage growth in emissions, and not the result of the increase on actual levels.

    Comment by Goffers — 8 Nov 2007 @ 5:39 AM

  313. Extensive analysis of Lomborg criticisms:
    http://www.stichting-han.nl/lomborg.htm

    Comment by Joe Duck — 8 Nov 2007 @ 5:40 AM

  314. Regarding OIL production. OPEC countries produce 42% of world demand but have 60% of proven reserves. Russia for instance produces a lot of Oil but does not have much left hence I guess their recent activities in the Arctic. However Oil in the Arctic is probably 4 miles down and drilling for Oil has never taken place at such depths before. The UK recently put in some requests for Antartic space most likely for Oil reasons and Canada and the USA through Alaska will probably become interested in the Arctic to.

    Lets get this straight, consumption of oil is increasing but the world currently due to drilling issues and lack of new investment cannot pump it even if it is there to pump. There have been 1 trillion barrels of Oil used since 1850 and one trillion is known about left to drill. However these proven reserves figues have remained unchanged since the 1980′s and OPEC countries do not disclose their reserves willingly or accurately. Another trillion barrels of heavy oil might exist in the Antartic and Arctic and places such as venezuela (orinicho belt etc) and tar sands and shale but these oils are not limited by cost but by technology and the availability of natural resources.

    A new movie/dvd called A Crude Awakening explains this situation and examines in consequences.

    Peak Oil appears to be real and worrying as china and India seek more of it. It just serves to keep the price high. It may well be that for a short time prices will come down as more oil can be pumped but by the IEAs own admission long term oil production is a worry simply because of the cost of new exploration and limited returns.

    We defo need to find something else within 20 years and its either second generation ethanol or hydrogen. Time is against us thats for sure.

    Comment by pete best — 8 Nov 2007 @ 6:07 AM

  315. There are 10,000 kilometers of dikes (much of it river and canal dikes) that protect the Dutch from the SLR of the past, not the future.

    I guess they’ll call it the Lomborg Sea.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 8 Nov 2007 @ 6:09 AM

  316. Matt 294
    “Wiki says there are 10,000 miles of dykes protecting the Dutch. TEN THOUSAND MILES OF DYKES. Holy cow.”

    You need to brush up your Geography and History. Most of those dykes are actually inland to control the flow of rivers, they are not coastal defenses, plus they have been built ever since Midle Age.
    The biggest coastal defense in Holland as mentioned somewhere above is actually a storm defense, a direct result of the great storm of 1958 (which also caused devastation in the coast of East Anglia, thats England), it defends the mouth of a gulf which is exposed to the North Sea and it took decades to finnally be completed and declared fit to counter a storm equivalent to 1958.

    Comment by Lowlander — 8 Nov 2007 @ 6:24 AM

  317. #298 Majorajam,

    I’m just an amateur reader of the science, but for what it’s worth:

    I agree with James Annan with regards climate sensitivity being of the order of 3degC – I get the impression his stance on this is within the consensus, and the long tail lobby are not. And I agree with him in that I think we can largely dismiss claims of long tail high sensitivity.

    But saying we can expect 3degC committed global average temperature increase for a doubling of CO2 levels above pre-industrial does NOT amount to “no need to worry”.

    To read someone as noteworthy as David Archer stating “taken as a whole, [the studies] provide convincing evidence that the hypothesized carbon cycle positive feedback has begun.” That was chilling, partly because I was hoping he’d say the opposite. The point being that CO2 feedbacks, even with a 3degC Climate Sensitivity can still produce the sort of overall impacts one might have associated with a higher Climate Sensitivity.

    Take an emissions profile (the SRES data used by IPCC) and with a Climate Sensitivity of 3deg C you may expect a certain evolution of global average temperature. BUT if the carbon cycle acts to “amplify” emissions more than expected (as it seems to be), the actual atmospheric CO2 build-up associated with that SRES scenario can still proceed ahead of projections. The end result (very simplistically speaking) could be a warming progression similar to a projection with a higher Climate Sensitivity than 3degC.

    So whilst I agree with Annan’s dismissal of a long tail to Climate Sensitivity. I don’t think that this can be carried through to the actual warming associated with a given emissions path – that pdf tail is not so certain and cannot be bounded as Annan/Hargreaves have done.

    (It has been very interesting to compare the Roe/Baker paper’s discussion alongside this posting by David Archer.)

    Comment by Cobblyworlds — 8 Nov 2007 @ 7:31 AM

  318. Mary C wrote: “I get so sick and tired of hearing about how Kyoto will make people poorer ..”

    The rapid phase-out of fossil fuels that is necessary to avert the worst consequences of anthropogenic global warming will make Exxon-Mobil “poorer”, which is to say it will transfer some of the trillions of dollars in profits that they would otherwise receive over the next 10 to 20 years to other sectors of the economy.

    To the already unimaginably rich fossil fuel corporations, that’s an unacceptable “cost” of global warming mitigation, and it is the real impetus behind all the fraudulent Lomborgian propaganda about how global warming mitigation will “hurt the poor”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 8 Nov 2007 @ 7:58 AM

  319. Re: #312 (Goffers)

    As of September 2007 the monthly average CO2 concentration from Mauna Loa is 380.58 ppmv. Seasonally adjusted, it’s 383.57.

    Comment by tamino — 8 Nov 2007 @ 9:43 AM

  320. #317 & David’s statement “taken as a whole, they provide convincing evidence that the hypothesized carbon cycle positive feedback has begun.”

    Does this mean we just might have already reached that tipping point I’m most concerned about (that no matter how much we reduce our GHGs now, nature will take over and keep on increasing the warming, in the most part by its own GHG emissions)?

    I’ve read Mark Lynas’s SIX DEGREES, and based on his best assessment of the scientific studies a couple of years ago when it was sent for publication, he suggested that a 3C degree increase in warming would push us past that point of no return tipping point (at least for many 1000s of years), that 3C would ensure we get to 4C, which would ensure we get to 5C, that would ensure 6C (at least that’s how I read it). And BTW his vision of a 3C increase scenario is pretty horrible in my books, even if he is wrong about it being the tipping point.

    A few years earlier, I think the idea was if we reach 6C warming (the high projection for 2100), that would be the tipping point.

    My gut sense is that we really don’t know. 3C makes it more sure than 1C, and 6C is pretty high certainty, but we really don’t know.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Nov 2007 @ 9:56 AM

  321. Joe Duck, Re 313. Let’s look at some of the other sites your HAN_NL site links to:

    globalwarming.org, Hudson Institute, Johndaly.com, OISM, and Fred Singer’s SEPP. And that’s just a start. Hmm, thanks, Joe. I’ve seen enough. With friends like this, Lomborg is damned just by the company he keeps. The fact of the matter is that Lomborg’s opinions are based on ideology, and a misunderstanding of the science informed by that ideology.
    Joe, why is it hard for you to understand why scientists are outraged by someone who distorts the science and then calls the scientists “alarmists” based on that distortion? Scientists have been trying to get people to pay attention to this for over 20 years. They have been rewarded by being called “chicken littles”, alarmists, frauds and worse by ignorant, greedy food tubes who don’t understand the science. Do you wonder that their skin on that issue might have worn a little thin?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Nov 2007 @ 10:07 AM

  322. re 310

    “I saw few references to actual Lomborg points that people disagree with.”

    ======================

    With all due respect, reviewing the contents of the post referenced, you are either ignoring what has been provided/not paying attention or, as I pointed out on another thread, you are wasting everyone’s time.

    I tend to continue to support the latter position.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Nov 2007 @ 10:21 AM

  323. Re: Joe Duck

    I disagree with you, but thanks for a rational and civil statement of your position.

    Here’s an analogy: global warming is like lung cancer. Right now it’s just a tiny little dark spot on your chest x-ray. It doesn’t affect your life dramatically — yet — you only have a little cough from time to time and a wee bit of shortness of breath. Your uncle Lomborg comes along and says, “If you spend all that money to treat lung cancer, it’ll take away from your budget for food and rent. Even your “extra” money would be better spent elsewhere — like sending some cash to our poor cousin living in poverty in Bangladesh. Besides, chemo and radiation therapy are likely to have only a minor effect on the progress of your cancer.”

    Your *doctor* (let’s call him Dr. Hansen) says that without an aggressive treatment plan things are going to get a lot worse. He also tells you right up front that things will get worse even *with* that agressive treatment plan. Most of all, he emphasizes that every minute of delay in treatment makes the problem worse. A lot worse. He further says that you must quit smoking, and beside, it’ll save you money.

    Meanwhile your wife tells you, “For the love of God, quit smoking!!!” She also says your uncle Lomborg is a detestable worm.

    Comment by tamino — 8 Nov 2007 @ 10:37 AM

  324. #303 J.S. McIntyre Here’s the real bottom line … we’re going to be forced off of oil-based economies sooner or later. The real question is whether we do it now, or are forced to do it when, as discussed here quite a bit, it will probably be too late. But once alternative energy solutions come on line in large quantities, become cheaper, and lifestyles change – and they will – the odds are there will be a major shift in how the world consumes energy.

    I think we are at total agreement here. As I’ve said previously, Bush should have said to the country on September 12 2001 that we were going to speed our migration off of oil like nobody has seen before.

    My guess is where we do diverge is that I’m keen on nuclear, and you aren’t (true?). That’s really a separate discussion that I think was collectively mined out in another thread a while back.

    BTW, it’s the refusal to speed the migration to nuclear that will ultimately cause us to remain stuck on oil. Everything else in the near term just doesn’t deliver the scale we need to make a quick transition, and in those times the status quo always wins.

    Comment by Matt — 8 Nov 2007 @ 10:39 AM

  325. Goffers: http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Nov 2007 @ 10:42 AM

  326. Joe agrees that Lomborg does not understand population biology and climate science better than published researchers, which is cool, but then Joe asks, “Lomborg actually agrees with mainstream scientific assessments on almost every issue of substance. Can you give an example where he does not do that? No.”

    Yes. Lomborg told me, in person, that “biodiversity loss is not a catastrophe.” I don’t know what would rise to the level of catastrophe for him, but I call wiping out entire ecosystems catastrophic.

    For example, great sharks, the top of the food web in many ocean ecosystems, have been fished nearly to extinction. If you remove the apex predators from an ecosystem, the system unravels in a trophic cascade. See recent research on the destruction of the N. Carolina scallop industry:

    Cascading effects of the loss of apex predatory sharks from a coastal ocean

    Here’s another example: Most of the N. Atlantic fisheries have collapsed due to overexplotation. This grim development is part of a global crisis in ocean biomass. For published work, see UBC Fisheries research.

    In both of these cases, “environmentalist” Lomborg denies there’s an issue; as long as we have some aquaculture to farm fish for human consumption, all is well. And in both cases, Lomborg’s opinion flies completely in the face of mountains of peer-reviewed research.

    Furthermore, when I pressed him on this very issue, he tried to switch the conversation to forestry, but I didn’t let him. I said, “We’re not deploying factory trawlers and longliners into the forests.” My point was that we don’t allow hunters to place 30-mile trap lines in Yellowstone; imagine the outcry, as bears, cougars, deer, raccoons, squirrels, and all manner of furry creatures would be very visibly caught to die slow, agonizing deaths. But that’s what we do in the oceans, and the result is to remove entire trophic levels from the ocean ecosystems. To Lomborg, that’s just “removing the oldest fish from the population” (his exact quote to me). I doubt that Lomborg knows what a “trophic level” is.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:05 AM

  327. re 288

    “Matt (249) and Joe (276) – What is about Lomborg that you two find so admirable and credible? I really, really don’t get it.”

    I often ask myself this same question about one-issue voters, the kind of people who will support any candidate as long as they claim to be against abortion or homosexuality or favor prayer-in-schools.

    It strikes me there will always be a segment of society that will want the world to be a certain way and to hell with the consequences, or the evidence.

    This sort of behavior reminds me of a quote from David Brin:
    ===============

    What are the most common traits of nearly all forms of Mental Illness?

    Nearly all sufferers lack…

    …flexibility – to be able to change your opinion or course of action, if shown clear evidence you are wrong

    …satiability – the ability to feel satisfaction if you actually get what you wanted, and to transfer your strivings to other goals.

    …extrapolation – the ability to realistically access the possible consequences of your actions and to empathize, or guess how another person might think or feel.

    David Brin.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:06 AM

  328. Re #312 & #319

    The latest Mauna Loa trends can be found at http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/

    HTH, Alastair.

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:15 AM

  329. #324 Surely the world is going is going to decommission nuclear reactors as quickly as possible because of SLR. A good majority of them are sitting at current sea level at the coastline and would be engulfed by the sea if it rises much more than the IPCC SLR estimates. The disintegrating ice sheets and the nuclear reactors need to be viewed as a single, coupled system. Perhaps if the IPCC is correct, it is just a question of storm surges. But if the IPCC has a shread a doubt in its collective mind about its few-centimetre SLR estimates for BAU SLR then it ought to get back and start discussing SLR properly … and pronto.

    Comment by mg — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:19 AM

  330. re 324

    “My guess is where we do diverge is that I’m keen on nuclear, and you aren’t (true?).”

    No, I’m not. Having worked with nukes, and spent a fair amount of time studying the problems associated with the use of nuclear energy as a solution to energy problems, I have a very strong aversion to most things nuclear.

    I would suggest you read the interview with Dr. Brice Smith in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (Nov/Dec) and then get back to me.

    http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/06276q2j38877333/fulltext.pdf

    (Note: It might load a little slow, but it will load)

    As he discusses, nuclear is a short-term solution, a band-aide that treats the symptom, not the disease, to use a medical metaphor.

    He points out there are three classic risks:

    1) the association between the fuel cycle and weapons production;
    2) reactor accidents; and
    3) disposal.

    He also points out that while the risk of accidents – low probabilities mixed with very high consequences.

    There are also two very good discussions of Climate Change to be found in this issue, found here:

    http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/u51191350533/?p=3d88486ade784dff9a5d4f7604f058c2&pi=0

    I would also recommend Alan Weisman’s “The World Without Us”. His discussion of what we know about disposal issues is nothing short of nightmarish.

    “…it’s the refusal to speed the migration to nuclear that will ultimately cause us to remain stuck on oil.”

    There is no real data to support this opinion.

    But seeing as you brought up the pie-in-the-sky solution, let me offer another: “Mining the Sky” by John S. Lewis, a book that offers some long-term and potentially sustainable non-nuclear solutions to our energy problems, and to my thinking, a wiser solution than the nuclear option.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=k9hwi3ktye8C&dq=mining+the+sky&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=ph8ZfRQrTk&sig=W5XEj2iKuRLVzOamkFqsSiexwWM

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:25 AM

  331. #306 Margin Vermeer:If all your arguments are as facts based as this one, I am not
    impressed.

    I’m just merely pointing out that it floods in 320 years naturally anyway. Because of man, it might flood in 80 years. From a planning perspective, both are long term projects. Here in Seattle we can’t even get consensus on whether or not to build new bridges that are supposed to fall down in the next big earthquake. If we can’t agree on that 20 year event, what is the difference between an 80 year SLR with 10% certainty and a 320 year SLR with 100% certainty?

    Comment by Matt — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:31 AM

  332. re 324

    “it’s the refusal to speed the migration to nuclear that will ultimately cause us to remain stuck on oil.”

    I wrote there was no data I was aware of to support this.

    I should have elaborated. There is nothing to suggest this is limited to an either/or situation, as your statement suggests.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:35 AM

  333. #318 SecularAnimist: To the already unimaginably rich fossil fuel corporations, that’s an unacceptable “cost” of global warming mitigation,

    XOM has GM of 43.5%, op margin of 42%, 41.4% tax rate, 10.5% net on sales.

    AAPL has GM of 29%, op margin of 43%, 29.4% tax rate, 10.3% net on sales.

    MSFT has GM of 79.1%, op margin of 45%, 30.0% tax rate, 27.5% net on sales.

    GOOG has GM of 60.2%, op margin of 55.6%, 23.3% tax rate, 29% net on sales.

    I’m not sure what “unimaginably rich fossil fuel corporations” you are using, but XOM isn’t a great looking business from teh numbers. They are about the same as Apple, with a 12% higher tax burden. MSFT and GOOG do, in fact, meet the measure of “unimaginably rich corporations”.

    Labels need to mean something to actually stick.

    Comment by Matt — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:44 AM

  334. Matt @ 324: One difference between J.S.McIntyre and yourself is plain in this post. When McIntyre says “we’re going to be forced off of oil-based economies sooner or later”, he doesn’t just mean the US. He also means the rest of us. There are of course national security reasons to reduce US dependence on imported oil. But even if the US had a gazillion barrels of home-grown oil, it should still be reducing fossil fuel dependence, because (a) the atmospheric CO2 will do for you just as surely as it does for the rest of the world, and also (b) latecomers to the energy-efficiency game will buy their solutions from the early adopters.

    [In fact, the US does have a gazillion barrels of oil underground, in the form of coal, which can be converted to gasoline etc at a price equivalence of about $50/barrel, once the conversion plant is constructed].

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:50 AM

  335. Re:324

    Matt, if you think nuclear is a solution you need to read

    http://nsl.caltech.edu/energy.html

    Sorry if this is off topic!

    Comment by Konstantin — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:02 PM

  336. Zero pages returned. As far as the Google index is concerned, not a single web page at Real Climate exists.

    Someone apparently found a trick to flush it from Google. Something similar was done to Panda’s Thumb a while back by creationists. Science under attack — again.

    Timothy Chase wrotte (308)

    “The good news is that there are plenty of sites that link here, but all of the posts and comments should be generating their own traffic, showing up as results in the Google searches. A large part of what makes it a real resource.”

    I imagined something like that, so it’s on my favourites list now.
    It reminds me of Reasic blog which as well one day simply disapeared from the web. It is impossible to access it and technocrati without much surprise reports that visits from one day to the next dropped from a few hundred a day to nil.
    Natural variation some would say… nothing to worry about.

    [Response: Actually, this is not what you think. We are talking to google and hope to have normal service restored soon. - gavin]

    Comment by Lowlander — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:02 PM

  337. #322 J.S. McIntyre: With all due respect, reviewing the contents of the post referenced, you are either ignoring what has been provided/not paying attention or, as I pointed out on another thread, you are wasting everyone’s time.

    It remains a fair question. I’ll note that while Lomborg was suitably taken to task on extinction, nobody here really faulted the other that were MUCH MORE WRONG about extinction rates. Gore, Wilson, Ehrlich, Lovejoy all claimed extinction rates much much much higher than anyone is seeing. And, for all the grief he took, at the end of the section in SE, Lomborg’s position is 0.7% species lost over 50 years (if 30M species, that’s 4,200 species/year). The UN predicts 0.1 to 1% over 50 years. So for all the arm waving, Lomborg was in line with UN estimates.

    Lomborg? ~4000 species per year. Within UN range.

    Gore? 40,000 species per year. ~10X higher than UN.

    Lovejoy? 15-20% of all species dead by 2000. ~100X higher than UN.

    Ehrlich? Everything dead by 2020.

    So, in the end, who was bending the truth a bit?

    Of all the players, I think Lomborg was being most truthful with the readers. Could he have been more clear? Sure. But if you want to fault Lomborg, then you also need to hold the other names above in a similarly dimmed light.

    [Response: Everyone's actual statements are fair game - but the problem with much of this analysis is that you are quoting biased paraphrases of what was actually said. http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/chapter23.htm (p249 comment). If you want to get to the bottom of anything and make the appropriate comment - check your sources! - gavin]

    Comment by Matt — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:04 PM

  338. Re #305 Where James Annan wrote:
    Well I would guess I am in a small minority, being a climate scientist who actually does have a formal qualification in economics – not that I am going to cross swords with Weitzman on that score :-)

    James,

    James this thread is not about economics, nor is it about a climate sensitivity, or even Bayesian statistics. It is about the oceans saturating with CO2, which if global warming continues will result in their emitting rather than absorbing CO2. This will result in a positive feedback which could end up in a runaway situation!

    If, as you have done, you go over past trends and average them out, then you can come up with a climate sensitivity which is smooth 3K change. But that is because you have smoothed it out by taking an average! The recent (last 100,000 years) climate record for the northern hemisphere shows that the climate changed abruptly, not smoothly. During the last major change, at the end of the Younger Dryas, the UK average temperature rose by 5 K in perhaps only three years. See Richard Alley’s “Two Mile Time Machine.”

    The Russian scientists now estimate that the Arctic ice will disappear withing three years. After it has gone perhaps global temperatures will only have risen by 3 K. But how will that affect the forests in California, Greece, Turkey, and Australia. How will that affect the droughts in the Southern sttes of the US, or the flooding in the northern tropics of Africa and south America?

    Recently we have seen that the Earth can behave catastrophically, both with the Boxing Day Tsunami, and with the Katrina in New Orleans. How big a disaster will it take before you realise that you cannot predict the behaviour of the Earth system using a spread sheet.

    The Earth system is not a mathematical model. It is a real system which if pushed too hard will explode!

    Comment by Alastair McDonald — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:19 PM

  339. Annan above: Very insightful. I’m unfamiliar with that particular issue but I find it extremely helpful when climate issues are discussed in terms of probabilities. Without this, policy decisions are poisoned from the outset by emotion and politics. The concept of “unbounded risk” seems to be invoked here at RealClimate often and I think lies at the heart of many of the points of contention.
    *
    Tamino – thanks, I appreciate that.
    *
    Concernd that Lomborg, rather than his ideas, are held up as the climate issue though I suppose it’s in line with how skeptics have treated Gore for his policy suggestions. IMO both Gore and Lomborg are sincere advocates for very different points of view.
    *
    Ray I agree that it makes sense that many scientists are angry at Lomborg for what often seems to be an arrogant disregard for complexities. Also those scientists feel he has misrepresented and mischaracterized many issues as “not problems” or “small problems” when those scientists see the complexities as creating “big problems”. However, when I actually go read Lomborg I find little to disagree with. You (Ray) criticized the Danish website referenced above based on links to sites you say are just confusing the debate. Not sure how to counter that point, since it devolves into a discussion of things that, to me, are unrelated to whether Lomborg has been treated fairly by critics.
    *
    J.S. – reviewing the contents of the post referenced, you are either ignoring what has been provided/not paying attention
    Hard to address your concern J.S. I’ve reviewed this post and spent a lot of time earlier at the AIT discussion. Most of the discussion seems to simply lash out at Lomborg as not credible rather than quote him and then provide an alternative interpretation (this is because Lomborg usually is in agreement with mainstream science assessments – he disagrees with how policy and resource allocation should flow from the science). Here is a quote made a couple of times above attributed to Lomborg. But this would be general opinion and, ummm, it’s not even a Lomborg quote at all!

    “…make the rest of the world as rich as New York, so
    that people elsewhere can afford to do things like shore up their coastlines and buy air conditioners.”
    *
    Here is a real Lomborg quote about a point of substance where he’s making the point that alarmism is focusing attention on heat deaths and simply ignoring deaths from cold:

    For Europe as a whole, about 200,000 people die from excess heat each year. However, about 1.5 million Europeans die annually from excess cold.

    Does this suggest warming is not a problem? No. Does it suggest we are failing to view climate-related death in a rational manner? To me, it does.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:21 PM

  340. Lomborg actually agrees with mainstream scientific assessments on almost every issue of substance. Can you give an example where he does not do that?

    Yes. Today’s rate of species extinction, and the number of past extinctions, attributable to human activity.

    Comment by dhogaza — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:33 PM

  341. re 325
    Very Good! (As Usual)
    Better! :http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/aggi/
    and scroll down

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:34 PM

  342. Re #197 (Matt) Since I wasn’t defending either Erlich’s or Myers’ numbers, your response is entirely beside the point, which is that “known extinctions” and “extinctions” are entirely different things. Any discussion of extinction that does not acknowledge this is, as I said, either ignorant, mendacious, or both.

    Re #331 (Matt) “I’m just merely pointing out that it floods in 320 years naturally anyway. Because of man, it might flood in 80 years. From a planning perspective, both are long term projects.”

    First, I’m truly gobsmacked you can’t see it might be easier to deal with a given SLR over 320 years than over 80. Second, what’s your source for the 320 year natural flooding claim?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:39 PM

  343. Re #339 (Joe Duck) Joe, despite the number of times you’ve repeated it, it simply is not true that Lomborg is usually in agreement with mainstream science assessments. On p.277 of TSE, he says (this is from Kare Fog – I don’t have a copy of TSE handy): “This theory [the sunspot theory] also has the tremendous advantage, compared to the greenhouse theory, that it can explain the temperature changes from 1860 to 1950, which the rest of the climate scientists with a shrug of the shoulders have accredited to `natural variation´”. This is a gross mischaracterisation of the mainstream view, and also a fine example of Lomborg’s use of false dichotomies, suggesting that solar and anthropogenic causes for temperature change are mutually exclusive possibilities. On extinction, you’ve already been referred to E.O. Wilson’s response to Lomborg. Here’s a quote from Wilson: “His estimate, “0.7 percent over the next 50 years” — or 0.014 percent per year — is an order of magnitude smaller than the most conservative species extinction rates by authorities in the field.”

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:53 PM

  344. re 339

    “I’ve reviewed this post and spent a lot of time earlier at the AIT discussion. ”

    Obviously we – and the record of your responses in relation to what has been said – disagree.

    I’ll leave it at that.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Nov 2007 @ 12:55 PM

  345. Re flooding in 320 years, doesn’t this turn the usual denialist claim on its head? I thought AGW was good, because it’s forestalling the next ice age and the concomitant falling sea level.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 8 Nov 2007 @ 1:09 PM

  346. #320 Lynn Vincentnathan,

    All I am saying is that whilst I am with Annan on the lower end climate sensitivity I don’t find this too comforting in light of results such as David Archer outlines. From my (limited) understanding, if we accept the Permian/Triassic Extinction as the best analogy for what could happen, it’s when we get to the >5degC range that there is a risk of clathrate outgassing which will then produce a substantial outgassing. I think this is where the ~6degC you refer to is sourced from.

    I certainly don’t think we’re anywhere near being committed to catastrophic warming based on the physics and earth-system side of things.

    [Human evolved behaviours + 5000Gtons of extractable carbon equivalent fossil fuels] is a totally different equation. IMHO we’re committed to re-running the Permian/Triassic unless the intermediate process acts as a negative feedback on our activities.

    Comment by Cobblyworlds — 8 Nov 2007 @ 1:09 PM

  347. James Annan,

    Thanks for your response. You say, “Weitzman’s result is essentially due to how he handles the infinitesimal probability of an infinitely large catastrophe.”

    As I understand and possibly misunderstand it, Weitzman’s result is due to the fact that the probability of catastrophe is not infinitesimally small, (or, more to the point, does not decay faster than utility burgeons), or cannot be inferred to be such as a result of uncertainty in the scale parameter. If on the other hand that parameter is drawn from a known pdf, you do get infinitesimally small probabilities of catastrophe and therefore DT does not apply- the tails of the posterior pdf in that case decay exponentially. As I understood the manuscript, only when damages from a catastrophe are unbounded, (which they’re not in DT, given that have only one life to give for our CBA), and S must be inferred by inductive reasoning from empirical data, (i.e. has power-law tails), do you get the result that the utility of an extra sure unit of consumption is infinite.

    “Even if one accepts his probabilistic paradigm (which I do not) it is important to realise that he is not just saying that (eg) 2xCO2 is a catastrophe with unbounded cost, his analysis shows that +1ppm of CO2 is equally a catastrophe with unbounded cost”.

    This is a misreading. His result does not say that +1ppm has catastrophe- it says that the utility of mitigation in a two stage model (present and future) is infinite if and only if deep uncertainty exists and the expected loss from a catastrophe assuming it occurs is unbounded. Again, that is not the model presented, as Weitzman introduces the value of statistical life as the lower bound on catastrophic damages in the outermost regions of f(y). In any case, the result is marginal- so it holds for 1ppm most closely, while a doubling is not explicitly demonstrated. I would presume it will hold for extra sure units of consumption until the tradeoff between bad tail behavior in f(y) and the utility of current consumption come into balance, presumably when mitigation spending is large. I have to ask though, would it make sense for the utility of significant savings/mitigation to be infinite but small scale savings/mitigation not to be? It wouldn’t to me.

    A better way to illustrate absurdity is not to scale the mitigation down but up (as Weitzman does when he asks rhetorically whether it was optimal to undergo the industrial revolution). It is not the case that Weitzman doesn’t perceive the strength of this result- as illustrated- it is that that alone does not invalidate the poignancy of what he’s pointed out: that in situations where DT applies, the degree of uncertainty in the scale parameter and upper bound on damages in tail events can dominate assumptions of discounting and of middle of the distribution costs and benefits. Clearly a strong implication worthy of further inquiry.

    “I bet his method would also say that the risk of a future flu epidemic is a catastrophe with unbounded cost (consider the number of people killed as an uncertain multiplicative parameter just like climate sensitivity).”

    Weitzman points to a number of potential other circumstances where DT may apply, though I don’t see that it would here (a death is a damage, not a scaling parameter. A closer analogy would be something encapsulating the virulence and communicability of the mutated virus, but the uncertainty here extends in both directions not to mention to the virus generating process, the meaning of an extra sure unit of consumption in such a context is not obvious, and, clearly, the scope of potential catastrophic damage is far smaller than a temperature change of 10ºC). Either way, the applicability of DT to other circumstances is not prima facie meaningful. It is after all a mathematical finding.

    “So it seems that at best he has shown that this sort of analysis cannot provide usable results – how are we supposed to allocate resources to such things as CO2 mitigation and disease control if we face an infinite future cost for all possible choices?”

    Even if all his paper showed was that this sort of analysis cannot provide usable results, (which I don’t accept), this would be well worth a manuscript. And that of course is a major thrust of his piece- that conventional cost benefit models of climate change should be affixed with a caveat: oh by the way, we’re assuming things that the science and statistic do not support, so while the simplified parallel world that our model describes should do X, it says nothing about what we should do. This is a rather big deal, wouldn’t you agree? What room that leaves for economics to add to the discussion is frankly, at best, a secondary concern. Relying on an informationless compass to lead you out of the desert because it’s all you’ve got won’t get the job done.

    In my view though, this is actually quite a constructive step as all works that point to critical flaws in existing scientific practices are. It is a point of departure for a field where there are smart people to make its tool set more relevant, (and hopefully to better fit empirical data where before their performance has been dismal to put it mildly). Weitzman suggests ways we can reduce the pertinence of DT by learning more about geo-engineering steps that may truncate the catastrophic tail. That is a constructive result. Others may look to better articulate sensitivity analysis or Monte Carlo simulation, etc. that add to the knowledge. I don’t see how these developments could be construed as anything other than constructive.

    PS I won’t ask you about the climate sensitivity debate despite your expertise because having published on it you are a stakeholder. I would however like to know more about what I read on your blog- namely that if climate sensitivity was inferred from observations on other planets and then ported to Earth that it could be seen as arising from a distribution. This point is irritating me because the basic physics of radiative transfer will be the same in either case as it will have always been on Earth- but other major things will not be in both cases, while with Earth-only observations there are more factors that have to be kept constant, (e.g. rough distance from the sun, diameter, basic magnetic properties, etc.). Are you saying that you can attribute the fact that variation in sensitivity cannot be expected of climate sensitivity because of these factors but cannot be for those that time vary on Earth? This is only a somewhat pointed question in that I enter into it in full appreciation of my ignorance of the subject.

    Comment by Majorajam — 8 Nov 2007 @ 1:09 PM

  348. Joe Duck, your quote by Lomborg suggesting a warmer world will decrease death rate is precisely the sort of deceptive simplification that typifies his lines of argument. Look at a single limited facet that illustrates your point rather than looking at the totality of deaths and economic impact from climate change. Do a google search on Lomborg, hotter climate, deaths and look at the crap that floats to the top. Lomborg is an apologist for complacency. However, his worst sin is to present global environmental and economic challenges in terms of competition, when there exist common solutions–or at least remediations–to many of them. Presenting challenges to sustainability as a “multichotomy” and forcing people to choose which concerns are addressed is simply a recipe for fracturing consensus to deal with any of them. It is a strategy of divide et impera in a pseudo-democratic guise.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Nov 2007 @ 1:22 PM

  349. Nick – thanks for those specific examples, I want to review those points and will respond here tomorrow, though I think a separate “Lomborg” thread is called for here to keep the rabblerousers on topic. Better would be a mitigation thread to discuss a highly relevant topic of great concern to all of us.
    *
    Moderators – if the RC pages don’t reappear in Google I can help get them back – suggest you review and/or email me with any changes you recently made to robots.txt or server 301 redirection or use of “NOFOLLOW” tags here at the site – those are the most likely culprits. A reinclusion request is probably needed at Google and I may be able to expedite that process.
    *
    J.S. What are the most common traits of nearly all forms of Mental Illness?
    I think you forgot to add “regular participation in this comment thread”. Maybe we can agree about that one.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 8 Nov 2007 @ 1:34 PM

  350. Gavin wrote in response to RealClimate getting dropped by Google:

    Response: Actually, this is not what you think. We are talking to google and hope to have normal service restored soon. – gavin

    Lovely.

    I wish I had checked back again prior to making some calls. Fortunately I was put on hold and checked back just prior to being transfered somewhere else. It took PandasThumb quite a while to get back — and I didn’t want the same thing happening to you guys.

    Anyway, keeping busy with interviews. But reading.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 8 Nov 2007 @ 1:48 PM

  351. Lynn Vincentnathan (#320) wrote:

    I’ve read Mark Lynas’s SIX DEGREES, and based on his best assessment of the scientific studies a couple of years ago when it was sent for publication, he suggested that a 3C degree increase in warming would push us past that point of no return tipping point (at least for many 1000s of years), that 3C would ensure we get to 4C, which would ensure we get to 5C, that would ensure 6C (at least that’s how I read it). And BTW his vision of a 3C increase scenario is pretty horrible in my books, even if he is wrong about it being the tipping point.

    That isn’t quite the way that Jim Hansen reads the paleoclimate record. According to him, the fast-feedback climate sensitivity is 3 C/CO2-doubling. The slow-feedback climate sensitivity is 6 C/CO2-doubling. However, even once we get to 3 C, some of the feedback will have been slow-feedback. So a 2 C fast-feedback rise in temperature would more or less mean that you’ll get 4 C slow-feedback rise in temperature but not 5 C.

    As for the feedbacks we are seeing at this point from the carbon cycle, they are still simply a weakening of the carbon sinks, not the transformation of sinks into emitters. So at this point, while we are getting feedback, it is still the kind of feedback where nature has given us a pillow and we are hitting ourselves over the head, only its a shrinking pillow. Nature hasn’t started swinging its own bat, and even when it does, it will take some more doing on our part to turn it into a real sledgehammer.

    Lynn Vincentnathan (#320) wrote:

    And BTW his vision of a 3C increase scenario is pretty horrible in my books, even if he is wrong about it being the tipping point.

    Each additional degree is a great deal worse that the degree before it. I think Lynas plays with the analogy of the Richter scale (which would certainly make sense) although I’m not sure. I haven’t found the book yet. However, we always have plenty of incentive for pulling back.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 8 Nov 2007 @ 2:15 PM

  352. James,

    Having a look back over the paper, I should modify my comments (and type slower and think more beforehand). First off it is not useful to discuss the implications of infinite forgone consumption because it can only exist in the presence of infinite downside (which is equally incompatible with the real world as the former). Secondly, as regards implications for differing levels of mitigation, what you’re getting out is really an indifference price between current and future consumption under the circumstances (which will, irrespective of lower bounds, be higher than subsistence level consumption, which was where I was originally going). The price is the price and it will include the first marginal unit (the first consumption equivalent of +1ppm) and all the consumption equivalent +ppms up until indifference. In any case, my understanding is that your concern relates to conflating damage cost with this price and the finding of infinite discomfort with future uncertainty, which is being read into too much in the first place.

    Comment by Majorajam — 8 Nov 2007 @ 2:18 PM

  353. Matt (301,330) — Baring anthropogenic influences, the global climate ought to be slowly cooling towards the next attempt at a stade (massive ice sheets) 20,000 years from now. Given this, I am unwilling to credit a claim of ‘natural’ sea stand rise in 320 years. I am willing to credit a claim of sea stand rise for centuries due to anthropogenically induced global warming. Which needs to be reversed. Badly.

    And by the way, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere appears now to be increasing at about 2 ppm, faster than previously.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Nov 2007 @ 2:28 PM

  354. Re 293. Rod – Your retelling is not quite accurate. Clinton supported Kyoto and it was during his administration that the U.S. signed it. He did not, however, send the treaty to the Senate for ratification in the face of a “sense of the Senate” 95-0 vote in July 1997 stating that “the Senate would not ratify the Protocol unless rapidly developing countries such as China were included in its requirements to reduce greenhouse gases.” Certainly it was disappointing that the Clinton-Gore administration did not go all out in support of the treaty but with absolutely no support whatsoever in the Senate it was probably always unrealistic to expect them to do so. Nevertheless, according to Wikipedia, the Clinton administration continued to show at least some support for the treaty, and in July 1998, “released an economic analysis …, prepared by the Council of Economic Advisors, which concluded that with emissions trading among the Annex B/Annex I countries, and participation of key developing countries in the ‘Clean Development Mechanism’ — which grants the latter business-as-usual emissions rates through 2012 — the costs of implementing the Kyoto Protocol could be reduced as much as 60% from many estimates.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_Protocol)

    Bush, on the other hand, publicly opposed the treaty. On March 29, 2001, just two months after his inauguration, an article at cnn.com reported that “……White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Wednesday: ‘The president has been unequivocal. He does not support the Kyoto treaty. It is not in the United States’ economic best interest.’”
    (http://edition.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/europe/italy/03/29/environment.kyoto/)

    Since I was speaking specifically of “nay-sayers” in my post 288, I think my point stands with no damage to my credibility.

    Comment by Mary C — 8 Nov 2007 @ 2:29 PM

  355. > real Lomborg quote

    Real cite
    http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_information/dissemination/unexpected/unexpected_8_en.htm#2

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Nov 2007 @ 2:41 PM

  356. Matt,

    A charitable interpretation of your riposte to my factoid about global growth rates is that it was unclear. More generally, your hand waving has long since broken the sound barrier, and I’m not going to indulge it any longer. Your thesis that no potential circumstance is a problem because there ways to address them is absurd on its face. Just fyi: that problems can be dealt with will not come as a surprise. I can pick up the glass and replace the window when Jimmy throws a ball through it, but it’d be cheaper to walk to the front yard beforehand and tell him to take his game to the park. Global warming wouldn’t be a problem if we collectively decided to cease all emissions- it can be done, it isn’t cost effective though. Solar panels with 30% efficiency can be made, but not at a cost that doesn’t make it much cheaper to simply make more of the current variety. Etc. Etc. You have not even attempted to demonstrate that any of these adaptation routines are efficient, nor suggested any line of reasoning on why they might be intuitively appealing (to most here, I believe them not to be). How does one respond to, “well you could build a sea wall, or you could evacuate”, except to say, no kidding- look me up when you have anything remotely interesting to claim. Speaking of which, I think that’s where this discussion ends.

    Comment by Majorajam — 8 Nov 2007 @ 2:45 PM

  357. RE #346, & “if we accept the Permian/Triassic Extinction as the best analogy for what could happen, it’s when we get to the greater than 5degC range that there is a risk of clathrate outgassing which will then produce a substantial outgassing.”

    That is probably the most probable boundary figure for hysteresis (greater than 5degC range), but I’m not sure that scientists actually know whether or not 3C might be enough to EVENTUALLY over a long time play out to much greater increasts via nature’s contributions. Perhaps 6C warming ensures massive outgassing, but a 3C warming might lead to a bit of outgassing, leading to a bit more warmnig, and so on up to a 6C warming.

    I’m not familiar with the science, but I would be looking for proof that a 3C warming in the past did NOT result in such an effect (eventually). and maybe the scientists have this proof, but I just am unaware of it.

    BTW, SIX DEGREES (Mark Lynas) is for sale in the UK, and will be over here in January 2008. I used http://www.amazon.co.uk to get my copy. It is based an a lot of scientific studies.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 8 Nov 2007 @ 2:50 PM

  358. Martin Vermeer answered to Matt on the Dutch dikes:
    “If all your arguments are as facts based as this one, I am not
    impressed.”

    Typically, that is the way with denialists’ arguments. When checked, they evaporate. That do not hinder them to sprout such garbage a dozen times in a post.

    It makes me wonder, why an earth such behaviour is tolerated?

    Comment by Petro — 8 Nov 2007 @ 3:01 PM

  359. A correction to earlier comment. The great storm in the North Sea was in 1953 and not 1958.
    About 170 people died in East Anglia as a result of it and over a 1000 in Holland.
    By the way, as I writte just now a severe weather warning is being issued due to similar conditions to 1953 happening this very night. Rotterdam port will is currently closed and homes are being evacuated in East Anglia.
    This set of conditions: high tides and stormy weather are not related with AGW however, in a scenario of higher average level of Oceans will obviously influence the impact of these occurrences increasing therefore the risk.

    Comment by Lowlander — 8 Nov 2007 @ 3:02 PM

  360. Cobblyworlds,

    It’s funny that you say that because I was attempted to post yesterday, as I veered dangerously close to on-topic, that there should be a discussion of climate sensitivity to CO2 emissions rather than simply CO2 concentrations. I didn’t post that because it occurred to me that sink saturation isn’t necessarily an appropriate criticism of the economic modeling (in other words, I would imagine- and hope- that the consensus on the relationship between future emissions and their direct effect on GHG concentrations in the upper atmosphere is taken into account in the models, although it is less than clear that the uncertainty of said is). What hadn’t occurred to me is the potential relevance of the separate issue of melting permafrost or any other feedbacks that could result in significant (or very significant) emissions of GHGs- i.e. the relationship between future emissions and their indirect effect on GHG concentrations- which won’t be incorporated in the models unless it is taken into account in the climate sensitivity scale parameter.

    Anyone care to comment? I’ve heard it said that climate sensitivity is an equilibrium concept. Does that imply that it includes long term feedbacks especially those that are highly unpredictable and unstable/non-linear like the thawing of permafrost? Are those (rumored-to-be) highly positive feedbacks part of the 3ºC sensitivity even as they are one-off? The more I think about climate sensitivity, the more the mind boggles.

    Comment by Majorajam — 8 Nov 2007 @ 3:13 PM

  361. Lynn Vincentnathan (357) — I opine that a better analogy is PETM, the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. The Wikipedia page on this appears to have updated recently:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleocene-Eocene_Thermal_Maximum

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Nov 2007 @ 3:18 PM

  362. Joe Duck, I agree that we should be discussing issues, rather than Lomborg’s style or positions. In fact, I would contend that like most ideologically driven “advocates,” (be they from right or left) Lomborg has made himself irrelevant.
    So, I ask you, if you had never read Lomborg and his soothing words, how you would prioritize resources given that
    1)climate change has at least the potential to damage civilization beyond repair
    2)the probability of 1) cannot be reliably bounded at present
    3)we do not know where the tipping points for irreversible change are
    4)we have many other crises and needs, which climate change will exacerbate, and which must be solved simultaneously if we are to reach the ultimate goal of economic and ecological sustainability.

    Lomborg and Gore are lightning rods. Let us lay them aside until the sparks die down. Do you disagree with the above points? If so, which? If not how would YOU prioritize efforts.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Nov 2007 @ 3:24 PM

  363. For Europe as a whole, about 200,000 people die from excess heat each year. However, about 1.5 million Europeans die annually from excess cold.

    Does this suggest warming is not a problem? No. Does it suggest we are failing to view climate-related death in a rational manner? To me, it does.

    It’s a strawman. Direct deaths due to excess heat is not claimed by anyone credible to be high on the list of problems that will be caused by accelerated warming.

    Setting up a strawman, knocking it down – surely you realize that this is a dishonest tactic?

    It’s crap like this that cause us to call him a liar.

    Comment by dhogaza — 8 Nov 2007 @ 3:59 PM

  364. The annual death rate and life expectancy in Minnesota are little different than they are in Florida. The grim reaper is not that easily fooled.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 8 Nov 2007 @ 4:17 PM

  365. Re. 363, it’s not only a straw man, it’s also a good illustration of (apparently) intentionally misleading the public with statistics; because what counts isn’t the total numbers of deaths occurring presently, but the number of additional heat-related deaths that are expected to occur as a result of increased temperatures, vs. the number of cold-related deaths that are expected to be avoided as a result of increased temperatures. On that measure the net number of deaths is expected to rise substantially as temperatures rise (see here for instance, and/or see the IPCC WGII reports).

    Comment by Dave Rado — 8 Nov 2007 @ 4:21 PM

  366. Regarding alternative fuels and CO2, an interesting piece from the NYT:

    The Carbon Calculus

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/07/business/businessspecial3/07carbon.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper&oref=slogin

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 8 Nov 2007 @ 4:28 PM

  367. Also, re. 363, it’s also a very good example of cherry picking. Why quote statistics for Europe rather than give the worldwide statistics (which would show a far higher proportion of heat-related deaths)? When it comes to the expected impacts of global warming, he almost always focusses on Europe and/or the US, and ignores the expected (far more serious impact) on tropical countries – most of which are the same developing countries that he claims to be so concerned about. It’s a classic example of mendacious cherry picking.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 8 Nov 2007 @ 4:35 PM

  368. Re, Joe Duck, 310:

    I did NOT say Lomborg cherry picked, rather I was noting he was accused of that in The Skeptical Environmentalist. Of course cherry picking is not scientific and is misleading.

    Joe you’re dissembling. What you actually wrote was:

    In fact almost all of the “anti Lomborg” rhetoric concedes most of his facts (but says they are cherry picked)

    When someone accuses someone else of cherry picking, for you to say that they are thereby “conceding the facts” that are being cherry-picked (as if that made the charge of cherry picking somehow less serious) is an outrageous attempt to defend the practice of cherry picking, and you know it.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 8 Nov 2007 @ 4:46 PM

  369. RE #363:
    “For Europe as a whole, about 200,000 people die from excess heat each year. However, about 1.5 million Europeans die annually from excess cold”

    Sorry I can not reel back to the originator of this nonsense.

    BS and nothing else. Where is his/her reference? Where is his/her common sense?

    We do cope quite well with the usual winter weather, thank you.

    Comment by Pekka J. Kostamo — 8 Nov 2007 @ 4:58 PM

  370. I pointed earlier to a link with actual numbers on excess wintertime deaths — which is not the same as deaths “from excess cold” at all.
    The actual number reported is a tenth the number you’re attributing to Lomborg. Where do you find that in what Lomborg published?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Nov 2007 @ 5:02 PM

  371. Closer to on-topic, here is a most disturbing recent report by the IEA regarding increases in global warming gases:

    http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/world/view_article.php?article_id=99485

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Nov 2007 @ 5:08 PM

  372. Matt wrote:

    I’m not sure what “unimaginably rich fossil fuel corporations” you are using, but XOM isn’t a great looking business from teh numbers. They are about the same as Apple, with a 12% higher tax burden. MSFT and GOOG do, in fact, meet the measure of “unimaginably rich corporations”.

    According to CNNMoney.com, Exxon-Mobil is the world’s largest publicly traded company, and in February 2007 reported the largest annual profit of any corporation in US history for 2006: $39.5 billion, an increase over its previous record-seting $36.1 billion profit in 2005.

    I would say that setting records two years in a row for the largest profit of any corporation in US history qualifies as “unimaginably rich.”

    Microsoft’s annual profits are less than half of Exxon-Mobil’s and Google’s profits are less than one tenth. Fortune 500 lists Exxon-Mobil as the most profitable US corporation for 2007; Microsoft doesn’t even make the top 10, and Google doesn’t make the top 20.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 8 Nov 2007 @ 5:15 PM

  373. RE: Lomborg quote about deaths was from “Cool It” and pulled from Lomborg.org. Not sure of his source as I don’t have the book where it’ll be noted. I agree these numbers are not a reason to be complacent in face of global warming, but disagree that he’s suggesting they are. He’s correctly using this as a good example of the media’s tendency to ignore this significant aspect of climate related deaths. It’s interesting that some above call this a strawman while others say it’s cherry picking and others say irrelevant altogether and others say the numbers are bogus. It CANNOT be all those things, folks.

    Dave:
    When someone accuses someone else of cherry picking, for you to say that they are thereby “conceding the facts”
    This is an odd interpretation of what I wrote, but usually cherry picking accusations do concede the veracity of the limited set of facts in an analysis, but suggest they are presented in a misleading way.
    *
    With both Gore and Lomborg critiques I think you need to be careful to look separately at the *facts*, which both Lomborg and Gore tend to have right and the selection and interpretation of those facts, which they both do to some extent selectively (aka cherry pick). Because cherry picking varies in degree it’s hard to address exactly how defective a cherry picked analysis turns out to be.
    *
    Dave you do make a good point about Europe vs Global – what are the numbers? This would be a legitimate “cherry picking” point against Lomborg though it would not invalidate his main point – let’s look broadly at the issue.
    Ray wrote:
    Presenting challenges to sustainability as a “multichotomy” and forcing people to choose which concerns are addressed is simply a recipe for fracturing consensus to deal with any of them.

    I think this is the most powerful criticism of what could happen from the Lomborg / Copenhagen Concensus approach. But it’s up to us to prioritize on the basis of reason rather than on the basis of emotion. On that point most people can agree even if reasonable people disagree about the probabilities, which brings up your other question to me:

    how you would prioritize resources given that
    1)climate change has at least the potential to damage civilization beyond repair
    2)the probability of 1) cannot be reliably bounded at present
    3)we do not know where the tipping points for irreversible change are
    4)we have many other crises and needs, which climate change will exacerbate, and which must be solved simultaneously if we are to reach the ultimate goal of economic and ecological sustainability.

    Complex but great question Ray. I’m starting to study the idea of “unbounded risk” that keeps cropping up here. I think the concept is questionably applied in teh RC discussions, often treated here as if unbounded risk should be assigned a super high value because it is unbounded. I’m assuming (I don’t understand this yet) that for a risk analysis you’ll need to assign some probabilities to the risks, unbounded or not. For example a major asteroid collision or huge solar flare would be more problematic for us than any climate scenario, yet we all (correctly) don’t want to spend much time worrying about those possibilities or spending money or innovation devising mitigations. However, a short and generic short answer is that I’d follow Mendelsohn’s advice and do moderate mitigation.

    Ray also noted this:
    Lomborg and Gore are lightning rods. Let us lay them aside until the sparks die down

    Great idea!

    Comment by Joe Duck — 8 Nov 2007 @ 6:17 PM

  374. Ray – I’d vote for this approach to mitigation. This is the very thoughtful reply I had from Dr. Mendelsohn at Yale. I just got his permission to post this:

    Robert Mendelsohn:
    The economics community involved in climate change generally agrees that it is time to start controlling greenhouse gases. The prevailing wisdom in this community is that we should start with a relatively modest program that gets more stringent over time (although there are a few dissenters to this conclusion). A policy that begins with massive immediate mitigation will tend to be wasteful on a number of criteria. First, the costs will far exceed the benefits. The present value of damages from current emissions are relatively low, so that any immediate program that has very high costs per ton will be wasteful. The benefits of controlling carbon dioxide this decade are less than $10/ton of carbon dioxide. The abatement costs will exceed the benefits for any effort that costs more than this amount. Second, the optimal response to a stock pollutant like greenhouse gases is a dynamic policy that tightens over time. This optimal response delays expenditures on abatement until later. The optimal response postpones massive costs until the second half of the century. This reduces the overall cost of abatement, regardless of the long term cumulative target, by a factor of three. Third, we want to take advantage of technical change. If we invest in abatement too soon, we will invest in poorly designed programs and technology. The current corn ethanol program in the United States is a good example. It costs a lot of money and has the same carbon footprint as gasoline. That is, it is completely ineffective at controlling greenhouse gases. Let technical change proceed and then invest heavily in effective alternatives. Finally, the optimal program is a universal program that applies to every emitter in the world. It is wasteful to spend $10 per ton to remove a ton of emissions in one place while failing to spend $1 per ton removing a ton in another. The more stringent the policy becomes, the more critical that it be applied
    universally. R. Mendelsohn

    Comment by Joe Duck — 8 Nov 2007 @ 7:05 PM

  375. ” The Harvard study found that low-income, white rural populations in the North, including Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska, have life expectancies of 76.2 years for men and 81.8 years for women. That’s substantially more than 98% of the average white population. Many counties in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” fared well in life expectancy, but Nicollet County was the top at 81.1 years. …”

    Go north of those states, and life expectancy goes up even higher.

    Warming Minnesota is not going to materially lengthen life expectancy for its citizens.

    “The most extensive study on Excess winter mortality in Europe: a cross country analysis identifying key risk factors was published in 2002. The results show a positive link between premature winter deaths, mean winter environmental temperature and mean winter precipitation. In other words, the premature death toll is higher in countries with a warmer winter climate. …”

    Comment by J.C.H. — 8 Nov 2007 @ 7:25 PM

  376. He’s correctly using this as a good example of the media’s tendency to ignore this significant aspect of climate related deaths.

    It’s not significant.

    Why do you imagine that it is?

    Because Lomborg says it is. Got it.

    It’s interesting that some above call this a strawman

    Yes, it is.

    while others say it’s cherry picking

    Strawmen are often built of statements containing cherry-picked data used to refute an argument the other side never makes.

    and others say irrelevant altogether

    Because knocking down a strawmen IS irrelevant.

    and others say the numbers are bogus.

    They may well be. Building a strawman by making shit up is a lot easier than searching for data to cherry-pick. Knocking down a strawman argument is a form of lying, so why would one be terribly surprised if the facts being quoted are also a lie?

    It CANNOT be all those things, folks.

    Sure it can, and indeed appears to be.

    Comment by dhogaza — 8 Nov 2007 @ 8:00 PM

  377. The benefits of controlling carbon dioxide this decade are less than $10/ton of carbon dioxide.

    I’d love to see the analysis that allows him to make this statement in such an authoritative manner.

    Comment by dhogaza — 8 Nov 2007 @ 8:12 PM

  378. In #373 above, Joe Duck states (regarding Lomborg’s claim that GCC will save lives overall from the reduction in deaths from cold in witner):

    “It’s interesting that some above call this a strawman while others say it’s cherry picking and others say irrelevant altogether and others say the numbers are bogus. It CANNOT be all those things, folks.”

    I would invite you to reconsider that statement, since clearly a claim *CAN* be all those things (whether or not Lomborg’s is being a separate question.

    A strawman is a false representation of an opposing position, manufactured to be easily knocked down. The easiest way to fabircate such a false representation is by cherry-picking the data. Cherry-picked data is, on the account of the “bogus” selection criteria, irrelevant. The issue is largely a matter of which aspect of the irrelevant cherry-picked bogus strawman misrepresentation of the facts one chooses to emphasize.

    Comment by Gary L. Herstein — 8 Nov 2007 @ 8:24 PM

  379. Joe, did you ask professor Mendelsohn why it made sense to pay for mitigation when the, “costs of global warming roughly equal the benefits” as he stated just a few short years ago? One might say that given this remarkable turnaround in such a short period that skepticism might be in order when this good doctor makes a claim. Btw, there was nothing in that ‘thoughtful’ response but a serious of unsubstantiated conclusions stamped with the, “my view is the mainstream view” seal of approval. Though the good professor is in a position to know that, I do find myself seriously doubting that he posseses even a modicum of objectivity. In any case, I would be willing to bet that amongst the smelling sweetly as Linberger cheese assumptions required to get to his result you would find:

    A fixed climate sensitivity parameter
    A net positive effect on disese mortality from global warming
    No effect of global warming on drinking/fresh water availability
    No scenarios that introduce damages from ice sheet melt
    A fixed horizon of 100 years (pre-selecting a strategy that emphasizes late mitigation)
    A slightly negative net effect on agricultural yields but positive in the early to middle part of the horizon
    Mitigation costs that do not account for what mere lay persons might see as the positive geopolitical ramifications of less dependence on fossil fuels from unstable nations and despots. Neither will the positive effect on persistent and destabalizing trade imbalances factor here.
    The discount rate applied will assume a perfect correlation between benefits from mitigation and per capita growth while risk aversion and the pure rate of time preference are likewise fixed parameters

    Etc. etc. etc. I don’t know any of this for certain as I haven’t look through his work, but it describes my strong suspicions, and a critical mass of these would certainly account for his ‘reasoned’ stance. I would actually think it a good idea to put these assumptions to the good doctor and see if he objects. Do you mind shooting him an email Joe?

    Assuming that these assumptions hold in the main, this is precisely what I mean by economists with the temerity to push their grossly crude models on the public as if they represent wisdom. Small. Joke.

    Comment by Majorajam — 8 Nov 2007 @ 8:47 PM

  380. Joe, first some definitions–any adverse outcome has a cost that would be incurred if it happened and a probability of occurence. Multiply these together and you have risk. For a risk to be unbounded, it must have a very high cost–incalculable or inestimable–and there is also a difficulty in calculating its probability of occurrence. A good example of such a risk was that of terrorist attack just after 9/11/2001–insurance companies wouldn’t touch it, and when the insurance companies turn their back, you know you’ve got an unbounded risk.
    Climate change fits this definition quite nicely. There are many threats arising from climate change that have extremely severe consequences–e.g. Lovelock’s hypothesis of near complete loss of ocean productivity. Now Lovelock has taken some hits for some ideas that sounded a bit too new agey in the past, but he is a sharp guy. His concern is deemed credible by several experts. The problem is that we don’t know enough to calculate the probability. Another: loss of agricultural productivity at a time when human population is growing to 9-12 billion. Extreme weather events, and so on.
    When you have unbounded risk, one thing you have to do is more research to better define the probability. However, often the study will take so long that mitigation would not be possible once it was completed. In this case, you have to begin mitigation concurrently with further study. In the case of climate, it is the positive feedbacks in the system–saturation and eventual outgassing of the oceans (hey, I’m on topic!!!) and permafrost, water vapor, loss of forests and their resulting decay. We don’t know where that point is, but there is some evidence we are close.

    So here’s the problem I have with Mendelsohn’s analysis. The $10/ton cost of carbon is considered by Mendelsohn as a one-time cost, but it is a gift that keeps on giving. Every ton of carbon we emit now, puts us closer to the point of no return. It means that much less time we have to 1)adapt, 2)mitigate or 3)invent ourselves out of this mess. In a very real sense, it may be now or never.
    So, I am all for carrying out inexpensive mitigations first. However, the actions we carry out have to be enough to be effective. They have to really buy us time. A tepid approach will not result in a tepid climate, but rather a hot climate maybe a little more slowly.

    Comment by ray ladbury — 8 Nov 2007 @ 8:47 PM

  381. Re. Joe Duck, 374:

    It’s interesting that some above call this a strawman while others say it’s cherry picking and others say irrelevant altogether and others say the numbers are bogus. It CANNOT be all those things, folks.

    Why not?

    1) dhogaza pointed out that it’s a straw man, which it clearly is, in the sense that no-one is claiming that the major and extremely serious negative impacts that are expected as a result of climate change will be due to mainly deaths caused directly by temperature. So pretending that the figures for deaths directly caused by temperature could be a reason not to be worried is a straw man. The deaths, mass migrations, famines, wars, water shortages and general reduction of quality of life, will be due to indirect effects, such as greatly increased levels of droughts, flooding, extreme weather events, incidence of many diseases such as cholera, and so on.

    2) I pointed out that in addition to this, it’s a statistical sleight of hand designed to mislead the public, because given that we’re talking about climate change, the statistic that matters is not how many people are dying today as a result of overheating vs. as a result of cold, but the net increases that are expected in these figure as the climate changes; and far more additional deaths are expected to occur due to heat than due to cold, for the reasons given in the article I linked to. This point does not in any way contradict point 1).

    3) I also pointed out that it was a cherry pick, because he pretended you can extrapolate Europe to the rest of the world (which he frequently does), despite the fact that in the tropics it’s obvious that far more people would be likely to die from heat than from cold, relative to in Europe. (As for your request for the exact worldwide figures, you can google as easily as I can – the point is not what the exact figures are, but that the tropics are incontrovertibly less prone to cold than Europe is, so it’s a clear cherry pick.)

    4) Pekka J. Kostamo asked you where the figures you quoted came from (in terms of a primary peer reviewed source), which is a very reasonable request.

    5) JCH quoted from a study which found that, counter-intuitively, the premature winter death toll in Europe is higher in countries with a warmer winter climate. It also states:

    “Housing standards are a potential factor behind this paradox. Houses in countries with comparatively warm climates all year round tend to lose heat easily, so people find it hard to heat their homes when winter arrives. This is especially true in Portugal, Spain, and Ireland, where winter temperatures are comparatively mild and excess mortality rates in winter very high. Conversely, houses in countries with severe climates – such as Scandinavia – have to be thermally efficient to retain warmth.”

    So again, Lomborg cherry-picked a statistic that suited his purposes (total number of deaths in Europe directly from heat vs. directly from cold), while ignoring statistics that do not suit his purposes (the premature winter death toll in European countries with a warmer vs. a cooler winter climate.)

    None of these points contradict each other. I see no logical inconsistency between the above points.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 8 Nov 2007 @ 8:47 PM

  382. Joe Duck, #374, in Mendelsohn’s analysis I see no mention of the fact that the longer governments wait before taking serious action to cut emissions, the greater the eventual cut will have to be; and that for example, there is general agreement that a 20-year delay means that we must reduce emissions at an annual rate that is 5 to 11 times greater than with immediate action.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 8 Nov 2007 @ 8:52 PM

  383. re 291 (J.S. McIntyre )

    I’ll get to agreeing with the post, but first a couple of checks:

    I’m not sure of the (your) definition of “true” cost. Depending how it is defined and what’s loaded onto it, your $70/bbl might be right-on or off by miles.

    Other than Mexico production maybe having a nudge (but noticeable) effect, the others, except one of the five, are pretty much insignificant. Two are just political rants that snuck out of their box when nobody was watching. Taking refineries off line affects the price of gasoline, not crude. But your last point, sans the little oil company dig (you know Exxon-Mobil has less than 4% of world production — chances zero to none of manipulating oil prices.) is right on — see below.

    “…“Easy” oil production is becoming more a thing of the past …”

    Yes and no. I think increased production will not be materially more costly in the future (to a point). True, much (but not all) is being found in more remote/extreme places, but the technology of finding and drilling keeps improving. Eventually, though, I agree — production costs will start to experience large quantum increases as drilling goes secondary and tertiary, let alone sand and shale. The billions spent in Iraq is a diversion has no bearing other than a twit by some green eye shade CPA doing cost accounting,

    “…There are more consumers than consumables. In such a world, it’s a seller’s market…”

    This seems to be your main point, and I entirely agree. (Maybe the above are just flies in the ointment…) Actually, it was also my original point, though I wrote it poorly. It’s not the embedded cost of production that presently determines the price of crude, it’s the demand. Like the production cost of Pepsi doesn’t determine its price (more than refined gasoline, as you know) either.

    Comment by Rod B — 8 Nov 2007 @ 10:32 PM

  384. Re Lomborg: [For Europe as a whole, about 200,000 people die from excess heat each year. However, about 1.5 million Europeans die annually from excess cold.]

    Does anyone else see a really basic problem with this? Wikipedia says the population of the EU is ~500 million. Given an average life expectancy of a bit over 70 years, that’d mean about 7 million deaths per year. So if my math is correct, Lomborg’s statement implies that something over 1 of every 5 European deaths is due to cold.

    It seems that either I’ve made a math error so obvious that I can’t see it, or Lomborg is having us on.

    Comment by James — 8 Nov 2007 @ 10:35 PM

  385. re 354 (Mary C)

    Good accurate recitation of the history. None-the-less, singling out Bush for skewering over the Kyoto treaty is one hellacious stretch.

    Comment by Rod B — 8 Nov 2007 @ 10:48 PM

  386. #337 Gavin’s Inline: Everyone’s actual statements are fair game – but the problem with much of this analysis is that you are quoting biased paraphrases of what was actually said

    OK, then let’s look at the actual quotes of the first three. We can go deeper if you want. We are almost to the essence of what really bugs everyone, so let’s push through in spite of everyone detesting the topic. We are in search of truth, right?

    Lomborg: SE, page 249: [commenting on how much 'punch' the much larger figures have in describing extinction] “Punch which the more realistic figure of 0.7% over the next 50 years would not achieve to the same degree.”…p255”An extinction rate of 0.7% over the next 50 years is not trivial. It is a rate about 1500 times higher than the natural background extinction”

    Gore: EITB p 28: “Along with millions of others, I had been delighted to see them go free, but . . it occurred to me that if we are causing 100 extinctions each day – and many scientists believe we are – approximately 2,000 living species had disappeared from the earth during the whales´ ordeal.” Note that 100 * 365 = 36500 per year. Note this wasn’t species condemned to die. He clearly said they had died and left the earth.

    Lovejoy: “What then is a reasonable estimate of global extinctions by 2000? In the low deforestation case, approximately l5 percent of the planet’s species can be expected to be lost. In the high deforestation case, perhaps as much as 20 percent will be lost. This means that of the 3-l0 million species now present on the earth, at least 500,000-600,000 will be extinguished during the next two decades. (The Global 2000 Report to the President, Vol. II, (Washington: GPO, 1980)., p. 33l).” Hmmm. Again, pretty clear that they were leaving the earth.

    Let’s review the numbers once again:

    UN Global Biodiversity Assessment, 1995, p244: “the rate of extinction today is hundreds, if not thousands, of times higher than the natural background rate.”

    Lomborg: 0.7% per 50 years. Above he claims this is 1500X higher than the background rate, which is at the high side of UN estimates. There are lots of ways to calculate the background rate, and he walks through several sources. Quick and dirty: If a species lasts 1-10M years, then over 50 years, there’s a 50/5e6 chance a species expires in that 50 years. This is 0.001% per 50 years. 1000 times this is 1% per 50 years

    Gore: 36500 per year, or 12% per 50 years assuming 15M total species.

    Lovejoy: 27500 per year, or 9.1% per 50 years assuming 15M total species.

    And there you have it. The exact quotes. The numbers in a readily comparable fashion.

    I think Lomborg did a very reasonable job.

    [Response: Gore's statement is factually true - some scientists clearly believe that current extinction rates are that fast. Given the nature of the problem - unknown actual number of extant species, and very limited monitoring of extinction rates of those - all estimates must be taken with huge error bars. For instance, instead of 15 Million species, there might be 30 (or 5) - literature estimates of the current extinction rate go from 100 to 11,000 times background (2 orders of magnitude) (IUCN), which itself is uncertain. The resulting error bars encompass all the estimates (including Lomborg's). But all this is to miss the point. Lomborg consistently prefers the lowest of all possible estimates (sea level rise, temperature change, extinction rate) and he always contrasts that with the high estimates as if there was a rule that uncertainties always get resolved in the most conservative fashion. It's a 'schtick' that he uses effectively, but it's devoid of actual scientific content - that's why he gets criticised. - gavin]

    Comment by Matt — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:36 PM

  387. Hank Roberts #304, thanks, but that period was part of my sentence. I still cannot raise RealClimate through Google with what ever address I try. I find this disconnect very strange. Lots of folk, I’m sure, will try reach RealClimate through Google. Why is this happening — anyone?

    Comment by Dan G — 8 Nov 2007 @ 11:50 PM

  388. Joe Duck, you’re the person who wrote ‘Here is a real Lomborg quote’ — with no cite — then threw that incredible cold weather death number in.

    Bogus? Get fooled by someone you can point to? Got a source?

    This is why discussions of Lomborg get so boring so fast — extreme claims, second hand, no idea who’s fooled or trying to fool who.

    Where’d you get what you believe? Why do you trust your source?
    Do you believe the number you gave us is credible?

    If you can’t cite that to Lomborg, just say whether you have any source for it, or admit you were wrong and we can move on, please.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Nov 2007 @ 12:46 AM

  389. #372 SecularAnimist: I would say that setting records two years in a row for the largest profit of any corporation in US history qualifies as “unimaginably rich.”

    Why? The net profit ($39.5B) is the shareholders. Not Exxons. Yes, it’s a big number, but they have a lot more shareholders than MSFT. And honestly, over the last two years GOOG made shareholders a heck of a lot more money than XOM. And over the next 5 years GOOG is projected to make around 25% more for shareholders per year. It’s night and day.

    I think you already know, but just to make sure: The CEO and other staff get paid out of the SG&A bucket. They don’t get to keep the net.

    Unimaginably rich was the days when MSFT kept $68B in cash on hand.

    XOM has $29B in cash, and $9B in debt. Yawn. Adjusted to Exxon’s size, that would mean that MSFT was keeping the equivalent of $130B on hand. Exxon is a small fraction of that. You really can’t even compare the two.

    And it’s still an unexciting business for all the reasons I previously mentioned above.

    Comment by Matt — 9 Nov 2007 @ 1:06 AM

  390. #327 J.S. McIntyre:Matt (249) and Joe (276) – What is about Lomborg that you two find so admirable and credible? I really, really don’t get it.”

    I really admire his ability to present technical material is a disarming way. It’s a skill most of us work our entire life on, and seldom succeed.

    Think about this: Crichton stood on stage next to real climate scientists, and was able to sway a crowd his direction with a small fraction of the knowledge the scientists had. That is mental and verbal judo that you just don’t see very often. That same skill put into a technical persons box of tools is lighting in a bottle. You might not like Lomborg and Crichton, but you have to pause whenever these guys go into motion. They are very, very good at what they do.

    It strikes me there will always be a segment of society that will want the world to be a certain way and to hell with the consequences, or the evidence.

    The day someone wants to show me the math on how we get off of oil, skip nuclear, and head into the sunset running on alternate fuels, I’m all ears. I study this stuff for hours per week. Not necessarily to make the world better, but because I sincerely believe there are incredible investment opportunities here.

    What equally amazes me are those that don’t want oil, don’t want nukes, and try to make be believe that a technology that requires filling 3/4 the state of california with a certain technology to get 3.6T KWH (our annual consumption) of electricty is viable. Or even better are those that sincerely believe detroit and japanese engineers can make more efficient cars, they are just opting not too.

    Comment by Matt — 9 Nov 2007 @ 1:27 AM

  391. #330 J.S. McIntyre: There is no real data to support this opinion.

    Of course there is. Take a hard problem. Give a reasonable path out. Block that path due to something “scary”. Watch the stalemate result in the status quo.

    Problem: Need for clean, cheap power.
    Solution: Nuclear.
    Scary Thing: Meltdowns and leaks.
    Hope: Move to alt fuels.
    Result: Stay on coal.

    Lather, rinse, repeat.

    Social security reform. Health care. And on and on.

    Blocking the most obvious path (nuclear) will again cause us to stay with conventional energy sources.

    Here’s an interesting figure: Since 1980, US coal plants have dumped 53.9 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. What if we had gone nuclear in the early 70′s? Could we have reduced a chunk of that? France sure did.

    Comment by Matt — 9 Nov 2007 @ 1:37 AM

  392. Wow, participating here is a part time job! But I guess the pay is OK relative to the infinite benefit. The comments have inspired me to learn a lot and I do appreciate the energy people bring to a critical debate.

    Ray (380): Very informative comment, thank you.
    Risk: unbounded. On topic: Priceless.

    Pekka: OK, I’ll try to buy the darn book tomorrow and see what his source is. But remember, it was you who made me help Lomborg turn a buck on “Cool It”.
    *
    Majorajam: Sorry but have no answers and won’t have time to follow up on the Mendelsohn numbers he sent me. As I do with the climate numbers I assume expertise from those in the relevant fields rather than working to prove it.
    *
    Everybody RE: cherry picked bogus data straw man irrelevancies. I will concede this is a possible condition for an argument to take. However it would be a very unusual argument because cherry picking by design tends to use facts that are very hard to refute since bad facts destroy an argument completely. Obviously that condition does not apply here – people (wrongly) seem to suggest his point was about AGW rather than alarmism. I think it took enough hot air to contort that tiny quote to conform to the descriptions above to appreciably raise the carbon footprint of this comment thread.
    That quotes point is obviously that the media in particular chooses to focus attention on warming events in ways that suggest impending catastrophe is likely.
    *
    Many people who believe GW is virtually certain, and believe that AGW is a highly likely explanation, also believe media treatments have become alarmist rather than helping explain the science and the economics that lie at the heart of climate controversy. Note that AIT’s website http://climatecrisis.net quantifies increased “deaths from global warming” at 300k in 25 years and thus 150k this year. Is that a net number? I don’t know. A tangential point is that we currently lose more than 300,000 people each *month* from easily preventable health problems like worms, malaria and dehydration.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 9 Nov 2007 @ 1:47 AM

  393. Cobblyworlds @ 346, Lynn Vincentnathan @ 357: we need to be concerned about clathrates, and when they start sublimating there is a powerful feedback effect, but it’s very much a long-term thing. Thermal signals take decades to centuries to propagate down to the deep sediments on continental shelves where the clathrates are. And the clathrates occupy a wide zone, both physically – in terms of sediment depth – and thermally, so (barring unknown mechanisms) they won’t all go together.
    In other words, it’ll take quite a while for the clathrates to start, and the time constant on their feedback is also long. The clathrate sublimation at the PETM (assuming that that’s where the light carbon came from) seems to have taken tens of millennia. The blink of an eye in geological time, but longer than all of human history.
    So I think we should bear the clathrates in mind but not have them as our primary short-term concern. If we can mitigate fossil-fuel CO2 and stabilise atmospheric concentrations below (say) 500ppm, then maybe future generations will stand a chance of doing something about the clathrates. If we can’t control fossil-fuel CO2, they won’t get that chance.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 9 Nov 2007 @ 5:53 AM

  394. [[I’m just merely pointing out that it floods in 320 years naturally anyway. ]]

    Who says? Where did you get this figure, and what makes you think it’s accurate?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 9 Nov 2007 @ 6:49 AM

  395. Joe Duck quoted Robert Mendelsohn: “The economics community involved in climate change generally agrees that it is time to start controlling greenhouse gases. The prevailing wisdom in this community is that we should start with a relatively modest program that gets more stringent over time (although there are a few dissenters to this conclusion).”

    Whether that is in fact the “prevailing wisdom” in the “economics community” or not, it does not represent the “prevailing wisdom” in the climate science community and it ignores the established scientific facts about GHG emissions and climate change. As with Lomborg, economic cost-benefit analysis based on faulty information will yield faulty conclusions.

    Rich Nations Must Cut GHGs Fast, Deep – UN Experts
    by Imelda Abano
    November 5, 2007
    Inter Press Service

    NEW DELHI – The world’s richest countries must drastically reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to mitigate climate change impacts, says the lead author of a United Nations report, due for release later this month, that focuses on impacts of global warming on the developing world. To have a realistic chance of avoiding dangerous climate change, rich countries need to make cuts of at least 80 percent by 2050, said Kevin Watkins, an author of the UN’s Human Development Report 2007, during a climate change workshop for Asian journalists in the Indian capital, last week.

    The report, entitled “Fighting climate change: Human solidarity in a divided world,” will be released a week before the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali, Indonesia from Dec. 3 – 14.

    [...]

    Rich countries need to demonstrate leadership by making deep, early cuts. They need to put in place a framework for finance and technology transfer, providing developing countries with the resources they need to make a low carbon transition,” Watkins said.

    He, however, warned that even the deepest cuts in emissions today will not prevent temperatures rising for at least another three decades. While the rich world has the capabilities to protect citizens from the consequences, vulnerable populations in the developing world have to cope with their own meager resources.

    The window of opportunity for avoiding dangerous climate change is closing fast. It is a serious issue that must be tackled with a sense of urgency. Because it is a global problem with global causes and effects, it demands a global response with countries acting on the basis of their historic responsibility and capabilities,” he said, adding that India and China should also undertake hard targets to take deep cuts.

    “World leaders need to get real about the consequences of climate change. We urgently need stringent mitigation. If you delay action, the human cost will be enormous,” Watkins said.

    Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [...] supported the UN HRD report saying that the world’s richest countries must do more to help the poorest nations curb GHG emissions. [...] Pachauri said the cost to global economy in 2030 will be less than three percent if concentration of GHG is to be stabilised at a level that would limit increase in temperature to 2 – 2.4 degrees centigrade [...] “The wealthiest countries should make the biggest efforts to cut GHGs gases as rapidly as possible, Pachauri said adding that China and India likewise have to find a new development path for GHG emission limits. “If we emulate the path that has been established by developed countries, it will be at our peril. We need leaders who can change the current development model.”

    Contrary to Mendelsohn, the consensus in the climate science community is that early, deep cuts in emissions are crucial to avoiding catastrophic climate change. If we wait, while continuing to emit GHGs at current (or even increased) levels, atmospheric concentrations of GHGs will rise to levels where emissions cuts — even very large cuts — will be too late.

    With all due respect to everyone here, this thread is coming to resemble one of those interminable discussions in which so-called “trolls” repeatedly post bogus talking points, and when those talking points are soundly refuted, the “trolls” just repeat them, with no other apparent purpose but to waste people’s time.

    We’d be better off discussing the views of Richard Heinberg than those of Bjorn Lomborg.

    Meanwhile, if you want to read something depressing …

    Global-Warming Gases Set to Rise by 57 Percent by 2030 – IEA
    Agence France-Presse
    Wednesday 07 November 2007

    Paris – Emissions of greenhouse gases will rise by 57 percent by 2030 compared to current levels, leading to a rise in Earth’s surface temperature of at least three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit), the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Wednesday.

    In its annual report on global energy needs, the Paris-based agency projected greenhouse-gas pollution would rise by 1.8 percent annually by 2030 on the basis of projected energy use and current efforts to mitigate emissions.

    The IEA saw scant chance of bringing this pollution down to a stable, safer level any time soon.

    It poured cold water on a scenario sketched earlier this year by the Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN’s paramount authority on global warming and its effects.

    The IPCC said that to limit the average increase in global temperatures to 2.4 C (4.3 F) – the most optimistic of any of its scenarios – the concentration of greenhouse gases would have to stabilize at 450 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

    The IPCC warned that, to achieve this goal, CO2 emissions would have to peak by 2015 at the latest and then fall between 50 and 85 percent by 2050.

    But the 2007 edition of the IEA’s World Energy Outlook saw no peak in emissions before 2020.

    To achieve the 450ppm target would mean that CO2 from energy sources would have to peak by 2012, and this would require a massive drive in energy efficiency and switch to non-fossil fuels, the report said.

    “Emissions savings (would have to) come from improved efficiency in fossil-fuel use in industry, buildings and transport, switching to nuclear power and renewables, and the widespread deployment of CO2 capture and storage in power generation and industry,” the IEA said.

    I ask this question occasionally: in what year do you think GHG emissions will peak and begin to decline? Does anyone believe this will happen by 2012? That’s only five years. That’s not much time for “a massive drive in energy efficiency and switch to non-fossil fuels.”

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 9 Nov 2007 @ 8:02 AM

  396. Matt wrote: “Blocking the most obvious path (nuclear) will again cause us to stay with conventional energy sources.”

    Nuclear power is the most expensive, most dangerous and least effective path to addressing global warming. Even a massive world-wide expansion of nuclear power — well beyond the wildest dreams of the nuclear industry — would have only a very modest effect on reducing GHG emissions.

    The nuclear “path” is “blocked” in the USA by the complete refusal of private industry to pursue it — unless all the costs and all the risks are paid for by the taxpayers. The only way to build more nuclear power plants in the USA is for the Federal government to ignore the verdict of free-market capitalism that nuclear power is an economic failure, and force the market to turn to nuclear power through massive, multi-multi-billion dollar subsidies at taxpayer expense. All of which money would be much more effectively spent elsewhere.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 9 Nov 2007 @ 8:11 AM

  397. Hi, I would be grateful to understand what the long term consequences would be were we to stablize CO2 in the atmosphere at present levels. Would global temps stablize, and if so at what level? Or would they simply continue to increase indefnitely? In short, do we need to get back to 280ppm to have a stable climate?

    [Response: This is termed the 'current commitment' and is discussed in the IPCC report. The most likely outcome is that temperatures would stabilise at about 0.5ºC warmer than now after a few decades, but sea level rise would continue for centuries. - gavin]

    Comment by anon — 9 Nov 2007 @ 8:25 AM

  398. Joe Duck Says:
    9 November 2007 at 1:47 AM

    “Obviously that condition does not apply here – people (wrongly) seem to suggest his point was about AGW rather than alarmism. I think it took enough hot air to contort that tiny quote to conform to the descriptions above to appreciably raise the carbon footprint of this comment thread. That quotes point is obviously that the media in particular chooses to focus attention on warming events in ways that suggest impending catastrophe is likely. …”

    Alarmism? I think you would see AGW alarmism in a puppy’s wagging tail.

    “It is remarkable that a single heat-death episode of 35,000 from many countries can get everyone up in arms, whereas cold deaths of 25,000 to 50,000 a year in just a single country pass almost unnoticed. …” – Lomborg

    Who the heck picked up guns over heat deaths? Answer: nobody. No hyperbole to get his point across there, huh?

    Unnoticed? The European press and medical/scientific communities have spent ample efforts on studying and publicizing the problem of winter deaths. Raising awareness is probably why they counted winter deaths incorrectly. Lomborg distorts yet again.

    And you are wrong. With an array of specious numbers, Lomborg is directly sending a signal to his storm troopers that global warming has yet another benefit for western countries. Why? he’s doing it to sooth the west with plenty of stories about how they win in AGW (Mendelsohn pulls the same stunt). It’s intended to to tell people to keep eating their popcorn despite the fact that there is smoke in the theater. He’s screaming “there is no fire” at the top of his lungs. He’s a dedicated, card carrying non-alarmist.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 9 Nov 2007 @ 9:48 AM

  399. Matt, Good Lord, now let me get this straight re your comments in 390:
    You say: “I really admire his ability to present technical material is a disarming way. It’s a skill most of us work our entire life on, and seldom succeed.”

    Yes, few of us ever really get very good at lying and dissembling. Personally, it’s never been a skill I aspired to. You’re saying that you actually admire the way Lomborg and Crichton bullshit convincingly? Look, Matt, we don’t need to be lulled to sleep by comforting voices. We face a very real threat here. We have a physical system with known positive feedbacks of uncertain magnitude and time dependence. If that does not concern you, you need to go back to engineering school. For two decades, we’ve had ignorant food tubes telling us “It’s not happening.” Now they’re telling us, “It won’t be that bad.” And in the mean interim, our time to fully understand and then solve the problem is dwindling. We have a much better chance of solving the problem and of avoiding stupid measures taken in a panic if we start NOW.
    And speaking of measures, I think you are entirely too optimistic about nuclear power–not because I’m anti-nuke. On the contrary, I believe it is part of the solution. However, nuclear power plants are very time consuming and capital intensive to build. The waste problem is still unsolved and is far from trivial (I know, as I have friends and family who worked on Yucky Mtn.). And you cannot ignore public opposition. And if you think nuclear power will replace petroleum, I think you may be ignoring a step or two in the energy storage process for transport.
    Renewables face similar barriers–solar panel fabs are expensive and hardly green; hydropower has well known issues (ask the Yangtze dolphins); wind, geothermal, etc. They all pose issues.

    Always remember what H. L. Mencken said: “…for there is always an easy solution to every problem — neat, plausible and wrong.”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 9 Nov 2007 @ 9:50 AM

  400. For Matt in 386,
    once again, I point you and Joe to E. O. Wilson’s comment:

    Vanishing Point: On Bjorn Lomborg and extinction
    http://www.grist.org/advice/books/2001/12/12/point

    Wilson, for some reason, didn’t make it into your comparison list. I’ve seen both him and Lomborg speak, and I’ll take the biologist’s opinions on population biology over the dilettante’s any day of the week.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 9 Nov 2007 @ 10:16 AM

  401. Re 391

    #330 J.S. McIntyre: There is no real data to support this opinion.

    “Of course there is. “
    ===============

    Really? Am I the only one that noticed you offered none, only rhetoric (and you missed my clarification a couple of posts down, as well)
    ————
    1. re 324
    “it’s the refusal to speed the migration to nuclear that will ultimately cause us to remain stuck on oil.”

    I wrote there was no data I was aware of to support this.

    I should have elaborated. There is nothing to suggest this is limited to an either/or situation, as your statement suggests.
    ==============

    You wrote: “Take a hard problem. Give a reasonable path out. Block that path due to something “scary”. Watch the stalemate result in the status quo.
    Problem: Need for clean, cheap power.
    Solution: Nuclear.
    Scary Thing: Meltdowns and leaks.
    Hope: Move to alt fuels.
    Result: Stay on coal.
    Lather, rinse, repeat.
    Social security reform. Health care. And on and on.”

    Again, empty rhetoric, of the very kind you would attempt to paint the critics of nuclear power with, sans any data whatsoever to suggest you really have an argument.

    “Blocking the most obvious path (nuclear) will again cause us to stay with conventional energy sources.”

    As I said, you’ve set a precondition sans anything to suggest it has any merit. Obvious to WHO, matt? Proponents of nuclear power?

    There is nothing “obvious” to it, no one or the other solution. Again, I direct you to Dr, Brice Smith’s interview which actually addressed your facile criticism of both the reasons alternatives (and efficiencies) outweigh a worldwide move to nuclear.

    http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/06276q2j38877333/fulltext.pdf

    The problems revolving around nuclear power are far-ranging and growing. While – as I understand it – reactor design is much improved over those last built in the U.S., there remain problems, deep, long-term problems that have yet to be adequately resolved. We still do not have an adequate storage facility for the spent fuel we do have, and it has already been seen that even in the case of secondary contaminated equipment that has been stored in New Mexico with the guarantee that they are adequately sealed that the opposite is true – there are consistent and worrisome leaks. Again, I direct you to Alan Weisman’s discussion of nuclear storage in “The World Without Us”. The data is rather compelling.

    “Here’s an interesting figure: Since 1980, US coal plants have dumped 53.9 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. What if we had gone nuclear in the early 70’s? Could we have reduced a chunk of that? France sure did.”

    Question begging. More empty rhetoric. What’s your SOURCE, Matt? (And I believe the amount of CO2 from coal burning is MUCH higher). If we (the U.S.) had gone nuclear in the early 70s, odds are the amount of pollution would have been lessened, but we’d still have the problem of dealing with the waste.

    Speaking of which, note that the French has been sending its waste to Russia and Germany; they have only temporary waste facilities in their own country. The cost of dealing with that waste is climbing.

    http://energypriorities.com/entries/2005/03/france_nuke_was.php

    Now try to imagine a world where all the nuclear plants people want built are constructed. Where does all the waste go?

    Nuclear energy may sound like a good idea on the surface, but like anything, it’s the hidden costs that are the real cause for concern. Of course, if you are selfish, short-sighted and don’t give a damn about the world your kids and their kids inherit, I’m sure these things aren’t important.

    There is no such thing as a quick or easy fix.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:05 AM

  402. re 392

    “Wow, participating here is a part time job! ”

    Yeah.

    I’ve been wondering just how much they’ve been paying you.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:07 AM

  403. #394 BPL: Who says? Where did you get this figure, and what makes you think it’s accurate?

    IPCC TAR gives a figure of 1.8mm/year based upon tidal measurements from 1900. Looking at (1) it has been pretty consistent since about 1910. Recent data from 1990 indicates it has been speeding up.

    Looking at the top graph of (1), if the 1910-1960 data can be assumed to be natural rise, then that’s about 12 cm over 50 years or 2.4mm/year.

    So, using IPCC TAR of 1.8mm/year, in 389 years the water has risen 0.7m.

    Using 8 mm/year, we reach that 0.7m level in 88 years. Note this is very much towards the high end of the IPCC (IOW, as written they expect less). However, many here argue this figure isn’t high enough.

    Presumably, even if we completely solve AGW tomorrow, we STILL have to mitigate in 389 years anyway.

    My central point is that from a city planning perspective, whether you have to do something in 80 years, or 390 years is almost the same. Cities can’t even plan for 10 years away as it’s outside of election cycles.

    (1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_level_rise

    Comment by Matt — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:13 AM

  404. re 390

    “I really admire his ability to present technical material is a disarming way. It’s a skill most of us work our entire life on, and seldom succeed.”

    ==========

    You left out “disengenuous”.

    “The day someone wants to show me the math on how we get off of oil, skip nuclear, and head into the sunset running on alternate fuels, I’m all ears.”

    There we go! The old “you have to give me all the facts now, dot your i’s, cross your t’s and say “Mother, may I?” three times before I can possible consider this” rhetorical garbage.

    I’m sure this was what was said to Fermi and Oppenheimer, to the managers of the Space Program, to researchers everywhere.

    Not.

    Matt, it is going to cost a lot, both in terms of capital, and in terms of giving up things.

    And if you live long enough, you are going to help pay for it, either in trying to prepare, or trying to catch up

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:17 AM

  405. Joe Duck quoting Lomborg: “For Europe as a whole, about 200,000 people die from excess heat each year. However, about 1.5 million Europeans die annually from excess cold.”

    If this utter clap trap is a typical example of Lomborg’s analysis then I wouldn’t trust a word the man has to say.

    Two hundred thousand Europeans die each year from heat stress and dehydration?
    Or do they die from respiratory diseases exacerbated by poor air quality amplified by elevated temperatures and inversions?

    One and a half million Europeans die each winter from hypothermia and exposure?
    Or do they die from influenza and other diseases that are easily transmitted among populations in close proximity in enclosed spaces with poor air filtering?

    This isn’t cherry picking, this is misrepresentation, pure and simple, if not deliberate disinformation.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:27 AM

  406. Re #390: [...those that sincerely believe detroit and japanese engineers can make more efficient cars, they are just opting not too.]

    I don’t have to believe this: I’ve got one of those more-efficient cars (Honda Insight, 70.7 mpg average over the four years I’ve owned it) parked in my driveway, so they obviously can be made. Toyota likewise seems to be selling all the Priuses it cares to build. If other automakers not only don’t build such efficient cars, but spend billions of dollars on advertising to persuade consumers to buy the markedly less efficient models they do make, it’s evidently not because they can’t, but because they choose not to.

    Comment by James — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:39 AM

  407. Re 385 Rod B: “Good accurate recitation of the history. None-the-less, singling out Bush for skewering over the Kyoto treaty is one hellacious stretch.”

    How so, since Bush is the current, as opposed to past, resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, and the buck for his policies of denial and obfuscation stops in his office, not his predecessor’s?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:44 AM

  408. Re $396: [The nuclear “path” is “blocked” in the USA by the complete refusal of private industry to pursue it...]

    This is not the case. If you look at the period in which the last US nuclear plants were built, you’ll find that many of them were in fact blocked by legal & political actions, which when they didn’t arbitrarily prevent construction entirely, inflated the price far beyond competitiveness. See for instance perhaps the most notorious case, Shoreham: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoreham_Nuclear_Power_Plant

    Now it may be that if those legal & political obstacles were removed, private industry still might not pursue nuclear power, but those obstacles guarantee that they won’t.

    Comment by James — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:49 AM

  409. Re 390 Matt: “I really admire [Lomborg's] ability to present technical material is a disarming way. It’s a skill most of us work our entire life on, and seldom succeed.

    Think about this: Crichton stood on stage next to real climate scientists, and was able to sway a crowd his direction with a small fraction of the knowledge the scientists had. That is mental and verbal judo that you just don’t see very often.”

    It’s called rhetoric. Salesmanship. Huckseterism. The fact that you find it admirable that they can so easily dupe people tells us much about your value system.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:56 AM

  410. Matt opines

    You might not like Lomborg and Crichton, but you have to pause whenever these guys go into motion. They are very, very good at what they do.

    Yes, I do pause. Then I loudly start swearing … “liar!”.

    Why do you admire liars? I was raised to believe that lying is despicable.

    You’re right that many scientists aren’t terribly good debaters. Most scientists, when asked to talk about science, are going to be honest, and when confronted with an opponent who is willing to lie through their teeth, are immediately at a disadvantage.

    So tell me. Does the fact that creationists who lie through their teeth are often claimed to beat scientists in debate convince you that the earth is 6,000 years old?

    If not, why do you find lying anti-science (and non-scientist) people like Crichton and Lomborg convincing?

    Comment by dhogaza — 9 Nov 2007 @ 12:12 PM

  411. [[Blocking the most obvious path (nuclear) will again cause us to stay with conventional energy sources.]]

    Fallacy of bifurcation.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 9 Nov 2007 @ 12:17 PM

  412. Re # (Matt) “Looking at the top graph of (1), if the 1910-1960 data can be assumed to be natural rise, then that’s about 12 cm over 50 years or 2.4mm/year.”

    It can’t be assumed to be natural. If you look a little further down in the Wikipedia page you referenced, you’ll find:
    “The estimated rate of sea-level rise from anthropogenic climate change from 1910 to 1990 (from modeling studies of thermal expansion, glaciers and ice sheets) ranges from 0.3 to 0.8 mm/yr.”

    “My central point is that from a city planning perspective, whether you have to do something in 80 years, or 390 years is almost the same.”

    This is so ludicrous I still can’t believe you’re saying it. In either case, the sea-level rise is a continuous process – it doesn’t stay the same for 80, or 390 years, then jump: the rate of rise matters over much shorter periods than that. It is certainly the case that even the natural rise will be difficult to deal with, given the number of people living near sea-level and/or dependent upon agriculture near sea-level. Speeding this rise up will mean you have to do more every year than you would if you didn’t speed it up. Is that really so hard to grasp?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 9 Nov 2007 @ 1:39 PM

  413. Matt @403: past sea-level rise is largely steric: the expansion of sea water due to rising temperatures. If we stopped global warming, this steric rise would eventually come to a halt.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 9 Nov 2007 @ 1:40 PM

  414. Matt again opines:

    Cities can’t even plan for 10 years away as it’s outside of election cycles.

    Wrong. The Portland, Oregon metropolitan area put together a 50 year plan starting back in the early 90s.

    And we’re following it.

    Comment by dhogaza — 9 Nov 2007 @ 2:21 PM

  415. re: debates
    Debates are like Letters To Editor or even worse.

    Given a constrained space, it is far easier and quicker to create confusion and doubt in most audiences than it is to create clarity, especially when one has words, not graphs. The obfuscatory side need only spray all sorts of ideas against the wall, and dispelling each tends to take more time, and all they have to do is to get many audience members to find one or two plausible to create doubt.

    Debating tricks work there, where they don’t very well in normal scientific discourse. I’m sure that’s why Viscount Monckton (a debater from his undergrad days at Cambridge) runs ads challenging Al Gore to debates, and it’s fortunate that Gore knows better.

    Comment by John Mashey — 9 Nov 2007 @ 3:19 PM

  416. Several comments above suggest that acting now has about same costs as acting later. In general acting now is much more expensive, which is why most economists suggest that moderate mitigation is called for as we refine the optimal mitigation regimes.

    It was suggested we should trust climate scientists more than economists to provide mitigation advice. Totally disagree. I trust Climate science to tell me about climate change scenarios and trust economics to tell me about how the climate scenarios will impact the economy. Armed with that, I want to make my own informed decisions on allocating my taxes and my time.

    Also, as Matt notes correctly, nuclear has become an obvious excellent alternative to fossil fuels. Europe’s success with nuclear is an excellent guidepost for moving ahead much more agressively with nuclear power in USA and China.

    J.S.: Just to be crystal clear, since the obvious may have eluded you: Of course I am not paid for writing here, and I have no association with the two controversial Oregon “skeptic” groups Junkscience and OISM.

    [Response: I disagree. Most environmental problems cost far more to clean up than the preventative measures imposed ahead of time would have cost. Diamond's 'Collapse' is full of such examples. This has been true for sulphate emissions, gold mine tailings, PCB in the Hudson, all the way on down. 'A stitch in time saves nine' remember? - gavin]

    Comment by Joe Duck — 9 Nov 2007 @ 3:23 PM

  417. Re 385. Rod – You are really good at picking nits in order to mitigate any criticism of Bush. Or is it that you are simply good at misrepresentation in the same attempt? Either it is one of those two problems or your basic reading level is unable to deal with words like “all” and phrases such as “on down”. Would it have helped your comprehension if I had listed every politician and every pundit and every economist, etc., etc., etc., who has ever made a public statement against the Kyoto treaty?

    Re 310. Joe – Nowhere in my comment about Lomborg and the price of oil did I call him a liar (with or without quotes). But, yes, I did question his credibility as someone who presents himself as an expert in analyzing and predicting future events and who does that, moreover, while implicitly claiming that he understands what is going to happen better than scientists or others with actual expertise in a field. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t fault anyone for a bad prediction—it happens. But here we have a prediction for what is going to happen 19 years later and in less than one-third of the time span, he is wrong by almost a factor of five. I should think that kind of abysmal showing would at least lead to some caution in how one regards his ability to predict future events, but I see no sign of that in your continual use of his statements and points of view to challenge other opinions held by scientists or informed laymen on this site. Matt has already told us he holds him “in high regard”.

    Can you tell me where I said I agreed with Lomborg, except on a few commonsense points that I doubt anyone disagrees with (limiting coastal development, for example), because, wow, even on re-reading my post I can’t find them.

    Insofar as opinions are concerned, what I was questioning was what evidence Lomborg was using to back up his opinion with regards to his statement that “We could spend all that money to cut emissions and end up with more land flooded next century because people would be poorer.” In the case of the article, perhaps we can ascribe the lack to the author or his editor rather than Lomborg, but it certainly fits with the general thrust of Lomborg’s position while the whys remain invisible. Beyond that, my disagreements with Lomborg didn’t really depend on either his or my belief in the degree of catastrophe that might result from global warming but rather on the fact that I found most of his suggestions for dealing with any potential harm, including at the level he himself acknowledges, to be impractical, absurd, illogical, or otherwise far short of a usable solution. Now, given that Lomborg isn’t here and you are, perhaps you can answer the questions I asked.

    In my opinion, stating that “In my opinion discussing these issues as if Lomborg was the issue detracts from the very important questions of the day…” is, coming from you, a real jaw-dropper. You are one of the people that keeps bringing up Lomborg’s opinions, analyses, forecasts, and solutions as worthy of discussion. If someone responds and discusses the science, the disagreements are, in your opinion, “petty” and/or more about Lomborg than the evidence–no matter what is said, even if the person disagreeing cites specific scientific evidence that contradicts Lomborg or demonstrates exactly what he left out of his arguments. If someone responds and disagrees with Lomborg’s opinions, solutions, or some other aspect of his position, you misrepresent what the disagreement is and, once again, claim that it is Lomborg, rather than the opinion, etc., that is being attacked.

    Aside from the fact that you are usually the person who inserts Lomborg into a discussion, the fact is that “…Lomborg [is] the issue….” Or, more correctly, he is one of the issues impacting discussion of “…the very important questions of the day – how much mitigation, how we do it, how do we minimize the cost and maximize the impact.” For some people, his very public views on climate change, its consequences, and what needs to be done are extremely influential. He makes suggestions and proposals that you and others think are correct. Given that, he is an issue—as you and Matt so ably demonstrate with all your praise and attention to his positions. If you don’t believe that his ideas should be discussed, then don’t introduce them into a discussion.

    Comment by Mary C — 9 Nov 2007 @ 3:40 PM

  418. On another note…. I spent a good part of yesterday in a hospital waiting room where the television was tuned to Fox News. At one point the announcer began trumpeting that the originator of The Weather Channel, John Coleman, had come out with a statement that climate warming was a scam and that in ten or twenty years everyone would know just how much of a scam it was. He read a good part (all?) of the statment and went on about it for several minutes. Coleman is a meteorologist. Is this another Bill Gray situation or …? For those who are interested, the statement can be read at http://icecap.us/index.php/go/joes-blog/comments_about_global_warming/. Everyone who wasn’t already listening when this story began, BTW, looked up and paid attention.

    Comment by Mary C — 9 Nov 2007 @ 4:05 PM

  419. Re 383

    Thank you for your reply, Rod.

    “I’ll get to agreeing with the post, but first a couple of checks:
    I’m not sure of the (your) definition of “true” cost. Depending how it is defined and what’s loaded onto it, your $70/bbl might be right-on or off by miles.”

    The figure “True” cost of $70.00 comes from my spouse, whose works for a large financial house. Nothing “official/true” about it beyond an informed observation by someone of knowledge I trust. Take it with however many grains you wish, but the bottom line is prices are more likely to go up than down, short and long-term.

    Note: walked by a station in San Francisco yesterday AM selling at $3.99.9. Take from it what you will, but I am reminded the U.S. has been exceedingly fortunate in the years since the first Oil Crisis in that it’s been paying for cheap gas all this time while other countries end up paying more. If anything, this adjustment, if that is what it is, has been long overdue.

    =================
    “Other than Mexico production maybe having a nudge (but noticeable) effect, the others, except one of the five, are pretty much insignificant. Two are just political rants that snuck out of their box when nobody was watching. Taking refineries off line affects the price of gasoline, not crude. But your last point, sans the little oil company dig (you know Exxon-Mobil has less than 4% of world production — chances zero to none of manipulating oil prices.) is right on — see below.”

    I disagree.

    - Refineries are not limited to refining gasoline, and the effect of cost and supply of product from refineries is as broad-spectrum as the varied products produced, so any discussion of crude price is germane, particularly given it is the cost of crude going into the refineries that affects the cost of product coming out..

    - I’m sorry, but dismissing the political effect on oil production as insignificant is a hand-wave. We are addicted to/dependant upon that region’s oil, an intolerable situation from any reasonable tactical sense, economically and militarily. It’s gotten so bad for us there that we’re powerless to do anything about the recent repression by our greatest tactical ally in the region, that staunch defender of Democracy, Pakistan.
    The U.S. involvement in the region from the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Iran by the CIA in the early 50s on through to the current mess has a unifying theme: to insure the flow of oil remains uninterrupted to the U.S. and, to a lesser degree, to our allies in the West. Iraq and Iran contribute greatly to the run-up in the cost of oil; much of the nervousness about continued supply running up the price of oil stems from concerns over the uninterrupted supply of it. And do not kid yourself; if the Persian Gulf destabilizes due to escalating conflict, the U.S. is going to find out just how tenuous its economic well-being really is.

    -The competition for energy point is valid and becoming worrisome, not just in terms of supply, but what it suggests for the ongoing strategic ramifications for a world where demand continues to outstrip supple. Energy independence is going to be one of the top issues of this century, if not the top, whether you want to believe in AGW or not. The writing has been on the wall for years in this regard. Recall on the day after 9/11, Tom Friedman and other voices called on the President to engage the country in an alternative energy Manhatten Project to free us from our dependence on that region for energy and by so doing prepare us for the inevitable, post-oil world. Sadly, the wrong man was sitting in the Oval Office. (And this is not to mean I thought Gore would be a good president. I only suggest he would have saved us from great folly on this particular issue. And many others, for that matter.) It has been our bad luck to have potentially the absolute worst possible person in charge at this time.

    -re Exxon Mobile et al…ever notice how when the price of Crude oil goes up, the price at the pump goes up immediately, even though the more expensive oil is around six weeks out, yet when the price goes down, it takes several weeks before the price goes down. Maybe this is unfair, maybe not, but after Enron, no energy company gets a free pass, particularly not the one with the highest corporate profits of any U.S. company, as noted above. Again, we’ve been getting over at the pump for decades all the same, but that doesn’t mean they get that free pass.

    =====================
    “…“Easy” oil production is becoming more a thing of the past …”
    “Yes and no. I think increased production will not be materially more costly in the future (to a point). True, much (but not all) is being found in more remote/extreme places, but the technology of finding and drilling keeps improving. “

    Consider: the oil in the Middle East is ideal for consumption: light, sweet crude. Much of the oil being found now is of increasingly higher sulfer-content, requiring more expensive refining. And the improved technology to get at more difficult to reach fields does not mean the price will go down or remain stable; oil production is passing the point where economy of scale will help bring prices down. Note also that as we see in San Francisco Bay this week, even a small spill (58,000 lbs of bunker oil) can have an increasingly negative effect on local ecology. As extraction grows more difficult, the likelihood of accidents increase, and with them the cost of clean-up.

    Increasingly, it looks like some of the largest suppliers are starting to hedge their bets or look at alternative economic models. Like or dislike Hugo Chavez, if he stays in power, the efforts he is making to change the way South American do business with each other may bear some fruit, and part of that model is an increasing reluctance to engage in business-as-usual in terms of oil exports. The Saudis have been quietly retooling their economy to prepare for the day when their own supplies diminish, which should be seen as one of the biggest red flags for concerns re Peak Oil you can come up with.

    ==================
    “Eventually, though, I agree — production costs will start to experience large quantum increases as drilling goes secondary and tertiary, let alone sand and shale. “

    Elizabeth Kolbert has a piece in the current New Yorker on the subject of Shale. Haven’t read it, but the title suggests things are not working out in that department as some hoped.

    ==================
    “The billions spent in Iraq is a diversion has no bearing other than a twit by some green eye shade CPA doing cost accounting,”

    Oh, no, it has everything to do with the situation. Those billions are borrowed billions, money being spent on what is essentially a poor bet on our future, money that could have been better invested in a whole range of projects to benefit our future…if borrowed at all. We are deep in hock to a number of nations, particularly China, and it strikes me that sooner or later the bill will come due and when it does, we’re not going to be in a great position to make good on it.

    Meanwhile, even though we maintain a technological edge, that edge is narrowing as graduating college students from other countries are electing to return home instead of trying to stay and get work here. If you look at the history of tech innovation in this country, a large part of it – some say a majority of it – was attributable to immigrants.

    What this means for us is anyone’s guess; the forces of history, while instructive, do not do well in predicting the future. Look at the 1938 World’s Fair … there were all kinds of predictions – primarily economic ramifications of hoped-for scientific development that never came true. Forecasts of what humans will do in years to come is always fraught with uncertainty, though I am reminded of the Afterward in David Brin’s predictive novel, Earth, wherein he tried his own hand at projecting the next 50 years (he wrote it in 1989). The future he envisioned was bleak, with mankind pretty much at the edge in terms of maintaining its civilization. The thing was, he felt at the time it was the best future he could imagine for us and that, all things considered, it probably wouldn’t be so bright.

    Re 416.

    Gosh, Joe, so sensitive! Odd how you feel compelled to “make a funny” here-and-there in response to remarks but seem incapable of recognizing when someone is doing the same to you…

    …put another way, whatever you say, Joe.

    Me, I would have just ignored the comment, particularly if it didn’t have any relevance…

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 9 Nov 2007 @ 4:20 PM

  420. re 416:

    ” Europe’s success with nuclear is an excellent guidepost for moving ahead much more agressively with nuclear power in USA and China. ”

    What success? Generation or waste storage? Distinctions matter…

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 9 Nov 2007 @ 4:22 PM

  421. Joe Duck,

    Wouldn’t you agree that picking up on a particular experts take and adopting it without even a modicum of due diligence is at odds with being on this website in the first place? If all you’ve decided to take aboard are the conlusions of hand picked experts, then surely it’s not necessary to read any of the nitty gritty that goes on this blog or gets discussed in its comments. You know what you needed to know in something like one sentence without ever needing to click around here: there is this global warming, it’s caused by human emissions of GHGs, we should cut back GHG emissions very slightly and maybe more so in a generation or two and we will have approached this thing optimally. Done, end of story, what’s for lunch. So, please the court, what gives?

    As you diffidently alluded to, I take a different approach. I concede there are a lot of experts out there with a lot more qualifications, a lot more smarts, and still more degrees than I have, but yet I have the temerity to believe in my own ability to make judgments, including one that says I should probably go deeper than which university affiliation I want my experts to have. Speaking of which, I gave you some reasons to question what lies at the heart of the economic study you have embraced without a trace of qualification, to say nothing of its author and his very public very curious very 180 degree reversal, and you’ve shrugged it off in so many words. Is it beyond your capacity for critical judgment, as you understand it, to evaluate even that public reversal and ensure that you are comfortable rejecting it as a a cause for concern? Is it beyond your capacity to note the potential relevance of the assumptions that some anonymous and irritatingly opinionated person is insisting on? Or is it really just as simple as ‘this guy is an expert, end of story’? Only a thought really- it’s your consciousness. Don’t mind me.

    Comment by Majorajam — 9 Nov 2007 @ 5:15 PM

  422. Slighty more related to the topic of this thread, today’s TNYT has a piece entitled Fuel Without the Fossil about some of the second generation biofuel approachess in the United States. This and earlier articles in The Energy Challenge series are to be found at

    http://nytimes.com/energychallenge

    Comment by David B. Benson — 9 Nov 2007 @ 5:28 PM

  423. Fyi, I just heard that the US Senate and House leadership is taking federal tax credits for solar energy out of the energy bill headed for President Bush in order to assure his support, (a cost that probably also includes ‘incentives’ for domestic fossil fuel production), though plenty of perks will remain for corn ethanol which according to one Yale professor has about the carbon footprint of gasoline, is eye-wateringly inefficient and is driving up grain prices which impacts most heavily on the cost of living/quality of life of the poor. What a wonder, it’s a Friday afternoon. Always the big news day.

    PS A question of the brains again- if the generally accepted 3ºC climate sensitivity does not include loss of polar albedo or melting permafrost or any other of the highly uncertain very long term feedbacks, as I understand it does not, why not? If climate sensitivity is an equilibrium concept, shouldn’t it be measured in terms of equilibrium in the neighborhood of temperatures we can expect in the next century? If it were, wouldn’t that also include these feedbacks or at least partially include them (again, timescale independent), and hence mean we should be talking about a higher sensitivity? Relatedly, could the implication of these feedbacks be significant? Could it not be? Is the science in any position to estimate what can be expected of the when and the contingencies around these feedbacks or is it totally speculative at this point outside of what can be understood from the paleoclimate record? These are all very relevant to cobbling together an appreciation for how the economics community is doing by the science community. I fear, not well.

    [Response: Sensitivity includes changes of sea ice and snow (which affect polar albedo), but not changes in ice sheet extent (i.e. Greenland, Antarctica or small mountain glaciers). The way it is classically defined is a useful diagnostic of both models and the paleo-record, but it isn't really the number that is important for the future - that number may well be larger due to the missing feedbacks in the normal definition. - gavin]

    Comment by Majorajam — 9 Nov 2007 @ 5:39 PM

  424. Matt (391) says: “…Since 1980, US coal plants have dumped 53.9 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. What if we had gone nuclear in the early 70’s? Could we have reduced a chunk of that?”

    Not to mention that released atmospheric radioactivity might, possibly, also have been reduced…

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Nov 2007 @ 6:26 PM

  425. Rod B (424) — Probably. Also mercury, cadmium, sulfur dioxide, NOx, etc. ad nauseum.

    Coal is really dirty stuff. Biocoal is rather better.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 9 Nov 2007 @ 6:46 PM

  426. Robert Mendelsohn: “The economics community involved in climate change generally agrees that it is time to start controlling greenhouse gases. The prevailing wisdom in this community is that we should start with a relatively modest program that gets more stringent over time (although there are a few dissenters to this conclusion).”

    SecularAnimist> Whether that is in fact the “prevailing wisdom” in the “economics community” or not, it does not represent the “prevailing wisdom” in the climate science community…

    If skeptics that do not accept the “prevailing wisdom” in the climate science community are called [climate science] denialists, is it fair to call people that do not accept the “prevailing wisdom” in the economic community ‘economic denialists’?

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 9 Nov 2007 @ 6:49 PM

  427. re 424

    “Not to mention that released atmospheric radioactivity might, possibly, also have been reduced…”

    Again, the question must be asked…short term vs. long term?

    We already know there is no sufficient storage system in place for the constantly increasing stockpile of spent fuel and radioactive waste.

    We know that the systems we do have, even those claimed to be sealed, are leaking radioactivity into the atmosphere. We also know (see the Brice Smith interview I linked earlier) that this stuff will actually become more deadly, not less, over time before it finally begins to lose its lethality.

    Add to this understanding the fact this is something that will be around 100′s of thousands of years … and there is no structure made by man that has remained intact for a fraction of man’s history since the advent of agriculture.

    And while the odds of an accident are low, the effect of an accident can be catastrophic and long-term, doing more damage that is hostile to human life to a widespread area in days what would take decades using fossil fuels.

    And with an increase of nuclear plants comes a commeasuraete increase of such risk.

    Let’s not be Pollyannas, kiddies…

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 9 Nov 2007 @ 6:58 PM

  428. If skeptics that do not accept the “prevailing wisdom” in the climate science community are called [climate science] denialists, is it fair to call people that do not accept the “prevailing wisdom” in the economic community ‘economic denialists’?

    There’s a much better reason to be an “economics skeptic” than a hard-science skeptic…

    Comment by dhogaza — 9 Nov 2007 @ 8:21 PM

  429. Steve Reynolds, Given that economists have managed to predict 10 of the last 4 recessions, I might suggest that economics is more worthy of skepticism than the physical sciences. Second, having looked at some of these analyses and seen what they leave out–crop failures, increased extreme weather, etc., I would suggest that the economists are not working with a full picture. In part this is because we just don’t know entirely what will happen as the temperature rises. Finally, there is the fact that there is nowhere near the degree of consensus on mitigation that there is on anthropogenic causation. Still, this is at least moving the debate in the proper direction–from “It’s not happening” to “What do we do to minimize the adverse consequences.”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 9 Nov 2007 @ 8:42 PM

  430. Re. James, #406:

    Re #390: […those that sincerely believe detroit and japanese engineers can make more efficient cars, they are just opting not too.]

    I don’t have to believe this: I’ve got one of those more-efficient cars (Honda Insight, 70.7 mpg average over the four years I’ve owned it) parked in my driveway, so they obviously can be made. Toyota likewise seems to be selling all the Priuses it cares to build. If other automakers not only don’t build such efficient cars, but spend billions of dollars on advertising to persuade consumers to buy the markedly less efficient models they do make, it’s evidently not because they can’t, but because they choose not to.

    Worse still, they spend tens of millions of dollars lobbying against the introduction of regulations to improve fuel efficiency, which I find despicable.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 9 Nov 2007 @ 8:43 PM

  431. Mary C, so your random nay-sayer selector just happened by chance on Bush, eh? O.K. by me.

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Nov 2007 @ 10:16 PM

  432. Re #427 &c: [We already know there is no sufficient storage system in place for the constantly increasing stockpile of spent fuel and radioactive waste.]

    I don’t want to raise the ire of the moderators by getting into long discussions about nuclear power again, so I will limit myself to quoting Mark Twain: “It ain’t what we don’t know that hurts us, it’s what we do know that isn’t so.”

    Comment by James — 9 Nov 2007 @ 10:39 PM

  433. re J.S. McIntyre (419, et al)

    [edit - no generic political discussions - there are plenty of other places for that]

    But I digress. I liked this post, too. I disagreed with some and fully agreed with much. But at this broad level, judgment and subjectivity play a large roll, and I just don’t want to grapple with it now. But — to repeat — good thoughtful post.

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:33 PM

  434. Majorajam (421), why do you accuse Joe D. of not doing what you (generically) expect us sceptics to do?

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:42 PM

  435. re 427

    “….“Not to mention that released atmospheric radioactivity might, possibly, also have been reduced…”
    Again, the question must be asked…short term vs. long term?…”

    Good point, J. S. I was referring only to the operational emissions from coal vs. nuclear. Though those numbers are real; the long-term leakage numbers are fluffy and subjective — ‘will it leak or won’t it?’, though could be large.

    Comment by Rod B — 9 Nov 2007 @ 11:54 PM

  436. Re 423. For more information about the 2007 Energy Bill and about actions you can take in an effort to support the development of solar and wind energy, check out the American Solar Energy Society site at http://www.ases.org/.

    Comment by Mary C — 10 Nov 2007 @ 12:42 AM

  437. Gavin: Most environmental problems cost far more to clean up than the preventative measures imposed ahead of time would have cost
    Yes, I also assume this is true but I would not choose to analyze it after the fact like that because that analysis won’t include the cost of doing things that had no effect – ie things that society thought would help but did not help or hurt or did not address the later problems. I’m not nitpicking here – the key mitigation point of contention is that massively reducing GHGs is very expensive and/or costly in terms of lost GDP. There will almost certainly be benefits, but will they exceed the costs? Again, most economist think that massive mitigation (as opposed to moderate mitigation as suggested by Mendelsohn) costs more than it delivers. Also I think I’d want to include benefits from projects that created unintended but positive consequences – e.g. many suggest massive mitigation will spin off a lot of great alternative energy projects. This would make an excellent and valuable study.

    Majorajam: Not ignoring you. In general I like to assume the consensus science views are right and move from there. Thus I accept GW as virtually certain, AGW as extremely likely, and the optimal mitigation regimes as “moderate”. I feel that many physical scientists say things that imply they have a better sense of optimal resource allocation than the economists, and I challenge that. Ultimately however politics and advocacy will determine how we allocate resources, which is why I’m worried about how superficial and misguided the debate about climate and economics seems to be, and also why I’m compelled to participate in the debates over all this.
    *
    Mary C. First, sorry for pissing you off. I’m going to take Ray L’s excellent advice noting that Lomborg riles people up and thus may detract from important conversations. (hmm – and conservations?) I won’t be saying anything more about, ummmm, you know who…. in this thread which means I’m backing out on earlier promise to post “Cool it” source and posting more about extinction quotes though I will review that stuff eventually.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 10 Nov 2007 @ 3:24 AM

  438. David wrote,
    “The ocean has a tendency to take up more carbon as the CO2 concentration in the air rises, because of Henry’s Law, which states that in equilibrium, more in the air means more dissolved in the water. Stratification of the waters in the ocean, due to warming at the surface for example, tends to oppose CO2 invasion, by slowing the rate of replenishing surface waters by deep waters which haven’t taken up fossil fuel CO2 yet.”

    Wikipedia states,
    “It should also be noted the Henry’s Law is a limiting law that only applies for dilute enough solutions. The range of concentrations in which it applies becomes narrower the more the system diverges from non-ideal behavior. Roughly speaking, that is the more chemically different the solute is from the solvent.

    It also only applies for solutions where the solvent does not react chemically with the gas being dissolved. A common example of a gas that does react with the solvent is carbon dioxide, which rapidly forms hydrated carbon dioxide and then carbonic acid (H2CO3) with water.”

    Seems to me Henry’s Law can not be used to describe the process you described.

    Also, as a side note, I appreciate that it is difficult to write about science without being dry and boring, and I believe, as far as this point goes, that RC does a very good job at making your articles readable and enjoyable. However, the use of terms like, “…because of the Henry’s Law thing.” and,”But that ain’t it, as it turns out.”, make you sound less like a scientist of note and more like an uneducated rube, IMHO.

    [Response: Henry's law assumes thermodynamic ideality, and the real world is non-ideal, but only slightly so for CO2 in equilibrium with the atmosphere. If you want to sound like an educated rube, instead of an uneducated one, you can refer to the fugacity of CO2 rather than the partial pressure, but the number is the same in either case, 380.E-6. Henry's law works well enough for the purpose to which I put it. David]

    Comment by Ellis — 10 Nov 2007 @ 10:20 AM

  439. Joe Duck, please do not back out on your earlier promise to cite what you posted in 339.

    This is classic stuff, and you’ve been delaying, but you claim you actually bought the book to find the source. Please do.

    You wrote:

    > “Here is a real Lomborg quote about a point of substance
    > where he’s making the point that alarmism is focusing attention
    > on heat deaths and simply ignoring deaths from cold:
    >
    > For Europe as a whole, about 200,000 people die from excess
    > heat each year. However, about 1.5 million Europeans die
    > annually from excess cold.

    And if it is a real Lomborg quote, that’s one thing.
    If it’s from the website where you say you found it, a pointer to that would do.

    If it’s just your memory, you can say you were wrong and move on.

    Don’t just drift away from it please. Clarify.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Nov 2007 @ 10:39 AM

  440. #401 J.S. McIntyre:Nuclear energy may sound like a good idea on the surface, but like anything, it’s the hidden costs that are the real cause for concern. Of course, if you are selfish, short-sighted and don’t give a damn about the world your kids and their kids inherit, I’m sure these things aren’t important.

    I doubt I will convince you that we could ever store this safely. Sounds like once you have made up your mind on something, there’s no changing it.

    So, JS, how about you explain what technology you would use to to deliver 800B watts across 8 hours, which was the US peak demand last year. Remember, you can’t have it available if only if the sun is shining brightly. You can’t have it available only if the wind is blowing. It has to be there with 99% certainty. Additionally, the annual need is 3.6T KWH over a year.

    Germany will get to 25% alt energy, but that must always be backstopped with something that is omnipresent. What is that in your mind? Germany will use natural gas, some biomass. I don’t think others have that luxury.

    I eagerly await your numbers.

    Comment by Matt — 10 Nov 2007 @ 11:10 AM

  441. 396 SecularAnimist: Nuclear power is the most expensive, most dangerous and least effective path to addressing global warming. Even a massive world-wide expansion of nuclear power — well beyond the wildest dreams of the nuclear industry — would have only a very modest effect on reducing GHG emissions.

    Well, we could take your word for it, or we could look what folks that actually have to bet billions are doing.

    And incredibly, the French looked at all the economics and bet nuclear in the 70′s and beyond. Other parts of Europe bet nuclear in the 80′s. Japan bet nuclear in the 90′s. China has brought 6 reactors on line since 2002, and might have as many as 26 by 2020. These are new Westinghouse reactors.

    I’ll help you with your answer a bit more.

    Nuclear power install costs is a function of how much regulatory red tape is present. If there is a modest amount (France), then it’s quite reasonable. In fact, China is targeting an install cost of $1000/KW after the first few, which is on par (and potentially 10% cheaper) with what it costs to build a simple turbine farm.

    Note that US plants in the 70′s cost $5000/KW to build. There have been amazing improvements enjoyed by countries that aren’t awash in red tape.

    And the delivered cost of nuclear? Extremely competitive.

    But again, don’t take my word for it. Just assume those that have the $5B or so to bet have actually done their homework. Now, this isn’t to say there have been massive investments in wind and solar. There have. But it won’t be an either/or in the end. To argue that nuclear is too expensive is just wrong.

    And I’ll ask you same question I asked JS: What mix of technology do you envision to deliver the 800B watts of peak, and 3.6T KWH the US requires?

    Comment by Matt — 10 Nov 2007 @ 11:27 AM

  442. Joe Duck wrote: “In general acting now is much more expensive, which is why most economists suggest that moderate mitigation is called for as we refine the optimal mitigation regimes.”

    Wrong. Delaying action will be much more expensive than acting now.

    Joe Duck wrote: “It was suggested we should trust climate scientists more than economists to provide mitigation advice. Totally disagree. I trust Climate science to tell me about climate change scenarios and trust economics to tell me about how the climate scenarios will impact the economy.”

    Economics based on incorrect information about climate change will necessarily be incorrect. Lomborg’s economic analysis is based on incorrect information about climate change.

    It is essential to make deep cuts in GHG emissions as soon as possible to avert the worst outcomes of climate change. As long as we delay large emissions cuts, we continue to emit GHGs which will persist in the atmosphere for decades, causing irreversible long-term warming that later cuts can do nothing to mitigate.

    That’s why mainstream climate scientists say that “CO2 emissions would have to peak by 2015 at the latest and then fall between 50 and 85 percent by 2050.” Emissions are currently not only increasing every year, but accelerating. To reverse that trend within 7 or 8 years, and then reduce global emissions by as much as 85 percent (which will mean reductions of 90 percent in the industrial world’s emissions) by 2050, will require an enormous committment to phase out fossil fuels and move to a global economy based on clean, renewable energy sources.

    We need to begin that transition, urgently, immediately. The science tells us that we cannot afford to wait. Economic analysis that tells us, based on incorrect or dishonest science, that we cannot afford to start, is wrong, irresponsible, and harmful. And that’s what Lomborg and his ilk dispense.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 10 Nov 2007 @ 11:32 AM

  443. J.S. McIntyre (419, 433, et al): They removed my political words, which is fine, but also removed my statement that you made a good point. I was originally considering just the radiation from operations of coal vs. nuclear, not storage and stuff.

    Comment by Rod B — 10 Nov 2007 @ 11:37 AM

  444. ps to my 441, and now 435: I’m evidently confused and have no idea what I said when. Never mind.

    Comment by Rod B — 10 Nov 2007 @ 11:42 AM

  445. #386 Gavin’s Inline: Response: Gore’s statement is factually true – some scientists clearly believe that current extinction rates are that fast. Given the nature of the problem – unknown actual number of extant species, and very limited monitoring of extinction rates of those – all estimates must be taken with huge error bars. For instance, instead of 15 Million species, there might be 30 (or 5) – literature estimates of the current extinction rate go from 100 to 11,000 times background (2 orders of magnitude) (IUCN), which itself is uncertain. The resulting error bars encompass all the estimates (including Lomborg’s). But all this is to miss the point. Lomborg consistently prefers the lowest of all possible estimates (sea level rise, temperature change, extinction rate) and he always contrasts that with the high estimates as if there was a rule that uncertainties always get resolved in the most conservative fashion. It’s a ’schtick’ that he uses effectively, but it’s devoid of actual scientific content – that’s why he gets criticised. – gavin]

    Gore’s statement is factual? Do I have Gavin at NASA on record that as long as a public figure can find two crazy scientists SOMEWHERE in the world, that it’s OK for that public figure to repeatedly claim some absurdity? Are you really sure you want to concede that is OK?

    Lomborg has NOT picked a low number here. He has picked a number that is 1500X higher than background, and you yourself claim the literature ranges from 100 to 11,000 times background.

    Now I ask the question again…Who was most truthful with the layperson on this subject? Error bars are fine for discussing here, but that ignores the original question. I asserted Lomborg was being very honest with the known science here, and that it was others that were being alarmist. Most here said “No, Lomborg is a liar”. Now we are staring at the statements and the numbers. It looks like Lomborg is very squarely in the middle.

    Let’s by very kind to Gore and assume there are 30M species total. This means we KNOW 1.5/30 = 5% of all species. And this means that Gore believes there are 0.05 * 36500 = 1800 KNOWN species going extinct each year.

    This means Lovejoy believes there are 0.05 * 27500 = 1375 known species going extinct each year.

    Of course, if there are only 10M species, then their figures become even more absurd.

    Gavin, do you believe Gore or Lovejoy’s numbers of known species going extinct are close to truth?

    Gavin, do you believe Lomborg’s figure of 0.7% over 50 years is within range of broad scientific consensus?

    [Response: Get a grip. Al Gore is not a scientist and he doesn't conduct scientific research. Instead, he quotes estimates and results from the literature. I have no particular insight into species extinction rates, and so I will defer to the people who study it, as should Lomborg. Nowhere in Gore's statement is a statement of his belief and since I am not psychic I will not presume to know either what he believed in 1992 when he wrote that book, nor what he believes now with the benefit of a further 15 years of research. I have a lot more confidence that E.O. Wilson's estimate about the consensus than Lomborg's. - gavin]

    Comment by Matt — 10 Nov 2007 @ 11:48 AM

  446. re 438

    “…However, the use of terms like, “…because of the Henry’s Law thing.” and,”But that ain’t it, as it turns out.”, make you sound less like a scientist of note and more like an uneducated rube, IMHO….”

    True, but it also makes you sound less like a pedantic snob and more able to relate things in simple understandable vernacular. Can’t win either way, I guess.

    Comment by Rod B — 10 Nov 2007 @ 11:56 AM

  447. J.S. McIntyre wrote: “Nuclear energy may sound like a good idea on the surface, but like anything, it’s the hidden costs that are the real cause for concern.”

    An earlier and lengthy comment that I attempted to post about public financing and governance issues of nuclear power has not appeared, perhaps because it was considered too long and/or off-topic. So I will try to be brief here:

    In the context of climate change, my real “causes for concern” about nuclear power are:

    1. It has limited value in reducing CO2 emissions to mitigate anthropogenic global warming; even a very large worldwide expansion of nuclear power would only modestly reduce CO2 emissions from electricity generation, which is only one of the major sources of emissions.

    2. Whatever modest CO2 emissions might be achieved by even a large expansion of nuclear power would come at enormous cost in money and resources that could be more effectively applied to other GHG mitigation efforts, including efficiency and clean renewable energy;

    3. An expansion of nuclear power is not needed to reduce carbon emissions; emissions can be sufficiently reduced by applying energy efficiency and clean renewable energy technologies, without an expansion of nuclear power.

    If nuclear power were actually able to achieve large emissions reductions that cannot be achieved any other way, then it might make sense to move on to debating its well known dangers and risks; but it makes little sense to accept those risks if nuclear power’s capacity to reduce emissions is relatively small, and the same or much greater reductions can be achieved without it.

    As I noted in a previous comment (#48), a recent report from the American Solar Energy Society found that full application of existing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies (wind power, biofuels, biomass, photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, and geothermal power) could reduce US carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent by mid-century, which is in line with what mainstream climate science indicates will be needed to keep CO2 levels below 450 ppm, which is generally considered to be the level below which we can prevent “dangerous” climate change. Those who are “skeptical” of the potential of energy efficiency and clean renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions while providing sufficient energy for economic well-being would do well to read this report.

    On the other hand, I have never seen an analysis from nuclear advocates setting forth a plausible agenda for an expansion of nuclear power that would attain the carbon reductions that the ASES says can be achieved through efficiency and renewables. How many nuclear power plants would have to be built in the USA (not forgetting the electrification of personal and public transportation if nuclear is to have any impact on reducing petroleum use for transport fuels) to achieve the carbon emissions that the ASES says can be achieved with efficiency and renewables? Where’s the plan?

    Not only is nuclear power not “THE obvious answer” to reducing carbon emissions — since there are clearly other obvious answers, primarily efficiency improvements — but it is not at all “obvious” that it is even “AN” answer.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 10 Nov 2007 @ 12:05 PM

  448. re 440

    “I doubt I will convince you that we could ever store this safely.”

    All you need to do is provide me with the answers that suggest it can. So far, history, geology, what we’re seeing with the ongoing costs associated with Yucca mountain, the fact that since the idea of “mine storage” was proposed 50 years ago, there has apparently been no workable solution provided. From the Brice Smith interview you seem to be ignoring:

    “The notion of mine repositories goes back to 1957—yet no one’s been able to implement this idea in the real world.”

    http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/06276q2j38877333/fulltext.pdf

    “So, JS, how about you explain what technology you would use to to deliver 800B watts across 8 hours, which was the US peak demand last year. ”

    Straw man. This argument is only valid if you were limited to keeping the energy production at that level, which you don’t. Here’s a consideration: energy production is based on central power providers (generating plants) involves pushing huge amounts of power through transmission lines. Do you know how much of that power is used up just pushing the power you use to your electric outlets? Quite a bit – I don’t know the exact figure (maybe someone who knows a bit more about electrical transmission can offer up the numbers) but I’ve heard as high as 50%. So let’s say 25%, conservatively, can be save simply by decentralizing power, having generation originate at home, not inj some power plants miles away. There’s a huge savings right there.

    If you actually take the time to go back through what I’ve written here so far, much of it in response to you, you already know what I’m proposing: efficiency improvements, solar (passive, photovoltaic, thermal), wind chief amongst them. And amongst those proposals is the understanding that whatever we do, we – the U.S. – are going to have to give up a lot, change the way we do business.

    This, in particular, is a real problem, particularly given the understanding so many of us think our consumptive ways are our birthright. Interestingly enough, the same issue of BOTAS addresses this particular issue:

    “Thinking Past Ourselves”

    http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/pv23n772p0g05160/fulltext.pdf

    “It has to be there with 99% certainty.”

    *grin*

    Says who? Did you pick that number out of the air? What factors inform this insistence? If your doctor told you you had a 75% probability of developing diabetes if you didn’t stop over consuming sugar, would that be enough to curtail your use.

    Here’s the faux problem you propose: that this is an either/or proposition, that whatever we do, we have to maintain the exact same conditions whatever we decide upon. This is, as I said, a straw man, woefully unimaginative, most kindly described as an inability to thing outside the box.

    “I eagerly await your numbers.”

    *smile*

    Matt, you are trying to play “got’cha!” This doesn’t work to well, particularly given you have a history of ignoring anything inconvenient regarding numbers or anything else for that matter that doesn’t suit what you want to see.

    Again, you offer up a rhetorical fallacy, another straw man, the understanding being that there is a long way to go in development (something I have been very clear and consistent about), but in the way you are trying to frame this, if it isn’t here, now, then we must dismiss it in favor of your idea. The irony of this proposition is the very thing you are suggesting we use – nuclear power – has been definitely shown to have negative drawbacks that, in the long-term, argue strongly against its implementation.

    To elaborate, you ask for “my numbers” while at the same time making no effort of your own to suggest the negatives and the overall concerns regarding nuclear power I have brought up are not valid, or that there are fixes. Instead of addressing points raised (as almost everyone responding to you have done) all you (and Joe, for that matter) offer are fresh, faux arguments that do nothing to suggest you can offer a counterpoint of value. This act is reminiscent of the child in the playground yelling “Is not!” and “Prove it!” as if that were the level of sophistication necessary to carry on this conversation.

    It is not.

    Argument/debate is give and take, and works best if all parties concerned make an honest effort to BE honest in the manner in which they comport themselves. In my opinion, that is what the majority of people on this forum try to do. True, we all have our biases, but in the end, we also can acknowledge them, and acknowledge where they get us into trouble and, when shown we are wrong, we tend to own up to them. In my opinion, you have consistently not behaved in this fashion, and generally most discussions with you (and Joe, again) are reminiscent of Alice’s encounters at the tea party, though perhaps less meaningful and benignly malicious.

    Understanding that, there really isn’t much point in this exercise, now is there?

    Other than muddy the waters, of course.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 10 Nov 2007 @ 12:11 PM

  449. Re #440: [I doubt I will convince you that we could ever store this safely.]

    (Sigh) Maybe not, but let’s try. Oklo ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_nuclear_fission_reactor ) is an example of a natural nuclear reactor that operated about 1.5 billion years ago. The wastes have been safely in place ever since. They don’t seem to have made the Earth uninhabitable, or indeed to have affected life in any perceptible way.

    We can compare that with paleontological examples of large increases in atmospheric CO2 (PETM, etc), which seem to be associated with extinction events. This certainly seems to suggest that the dangers of familiar CO2 emissions are in actuality much greater than those associated with nuclear wastes. It’s just the old frog boiling cliche in reverse. Nuclear seems dangerous because it’s unfamiliar.

    Comment by James — 10 Nov 2007 @ 12:26 PM

  450. re 435

    “Good point, J. S. I was referring only to the operational emissions from coal vs. nuclear. Though those numbers are real; the long-term leakage numbers are fluffy and subjective — ‘will it leak or won’t it?’, though could be large.”

    Rod, I recommend the Brice Smith interview to you, as well, as a good summation of the problems from someone of knowledge:

    =========
    BAS: Describe the risks that accompany nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain.

    SMITH: They’re dependant on our ability to understand how the waste will migrate through the geology. And we are relying very heavily on human-engineered systems rather than natural geology. But even if you completely understood the geology, after you carve a big hole to make your repository, how will that engineered damage zone change the way things will migrate? The big uncertainty is time. The Energy Department’s projections for Yucca Mountain predict peak radiation doses will occur hundreds of thousands of years in the future. But trying to forecast what human population distributions will be like, what human behaviors and exposure pathways will be like, and predicting how radionuclides will actually move over timescales that are truly evolutionary in scale, introduced very significant uncertainties in these calculations. From a strictly technical point of view, it’s very hard to have a great deal of confidence in some of these assessments because of these uncertainties.

    http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/06276q2j38877333/fulltext.pdf

    ========

    The Weisman book “The World Without Us” is also very good, not just in discussing the complex problems of nuclear waste, but the larger scale of the human footprint on the biosphere. The title is somewhat misleading, as while the book does focus on the world without us, in doing so it does a bang-up job of describing our effect upon it. In my opinion, this is important for anyone who really wants to get a handle on the incredible challenges that will be facing us in the years to come as we are forced to address these effects.

    Beyond that, thank you for your kind words earlier.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 10 Nov 2007 @ 12:29 PM

  451. For new maps of sea level rise along the US coast, beginning with just one meter, see: http://www.architecture2030.org/current_situation/coastal_impact.html

    Comment by Edward Mazria — 10 Nov 2007 @ 12:42 PM

  452. Matt (440) — The idea of wind power backed up by biofuels sounds quite appealing. Locally, the power professors are quite concerned regarding grid stability and reliability when significant amounts of ‘negative load’, i.e., wind power, are introduced into the grid. Since the reliability requirement is much higher than 99% availability, this is certainly an issue. However, using biofuels to produce power when the wind isn’t blowing means that there are no significant power grid issues, provided the wind generators and the biofuel generators are approximately co-located (although I’d have to ask how close together that is).

    I know of one demonstartion project going forth in The Netherlands in which the biomass reactor and generator is physically adjacent to the wind towers.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 10 Nov 2007 @ 12:58 PM

  453. Re Joe reading Cool It!: While you’re at it, Joe, why don’t you check out the claim that a not insignificant amount of Cool It! is plagiarized:

    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/Goodall.htm

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 10 Nov 2007 @ 1:15 PM

  454. Correlation is not necessarily causation. “Catching cold” is common(and quite obsolete)terminology.

    In reality you catch a virus of some sort, mostly in the cold season. However, getting one should not be over-simplified as a function of temperature. Also humidity plays a complex role, so does a number of social habits. “Catching cold” is an occupational hazard i.e. for school teachers, they do get all of them during the (cold) school year.

    True, in Northern Europe houses are well insulated and heated, which reduces the risk of “catching cold”. It is also true that people there tend to be reticent and prefer a typical 2 meter distance from each other on most social occasions, making life for an active virus a bit more difficult.

    In fact, I noticed recently a poster in a doctors office: “PLEASE, NO HANDSHAKES” -a clear departure from the previous protocol. Maybe a good idea to limit risks of a “common cold” – and a sick leave for the staff.

    Comment by Pekka J. Kostamo — 10 Nov 2007 @ 1:29 PM

  455. Also re the claim about deaths due to “excess cold”, I don’t think there’s any question that Lomborg makes this claim:

    Page 18 top: “It is reasonable to estimate that each year about 1.5 million people die from excess cold in Europe.”

    Fog’s rejoinder:

    No, it is not reasonable. When one talks of dying from “excess cold”, one would usually think of deaths due to unusually cold weather, deaths that would otherwise not have occurred. But most of Lomborg´s 1.5 million deaths are simply deaths of old people that would die soon in any case; they die most often during the relatively cold months. Lomborg mixes up normal seasonal variations in mortality (which will always occur, irrespectively of climate change) with excess deaths due to extreme weather events (which may be affected by climate change). Thereby he obfuscates the whole issue.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 10 Nov 2007 @ 2:03 PM

  456. Re 440 Matt: “how about you explain what technology you would use to to deliver 800B watts across 8 hours, which was the US peak demand last year. Remember, you can’t have it available if only if the sun is shining brightly. You can’t have it available only if the wind is blowing. It has to be there with 99% certainty. Additionally, the annual need is 3.6T KWH over a year.”

    On the use of nuclear power as a baseload backup to the intermittent nature of many alternative sources I have to agree with Matt for once, and I say this reluctantly coming from a long time anti-nuke stance. We simply can not afford to not use all of the tools available.

    That said, Matt, you make no mention of the fact that we have to seriously reduce that very 800B watts/8hr, 3.6KW/yr consumption level, and that there is truly huge potential for reducing consumption and cost in doing so. You need to shed this unsustainable notion that our society and economy must make no sacrifices in current consumption levels for fear of any shrinking of gdp. The fact of the matter is that it is our current profligate gdp that is unsustainable, both in terms of resources consumed and waste produced.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 10 Nov 2007 @ 3:07 PM

  457. Re energy production for the 21st century, there’s an interesting new post at TheOilDrum describing the likely energy mix that will pertain into 2050:

    World Energy to 2050: A Half Century of Decline

    The upshot is that coal is likely to be king for a long time.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 10 Nov 2007 @ 3:10 PM

  458. All of which answers nothing of what I asked you Joe. Perhaps that is down to reading comprehension or perhaps that is your way of arguing. In any case, please don’t take this to mean I care, except to point out two things:

    First, the climate consensus is not that AGW is very likely, but virtually certain (as per the IPCC at least). Careful now, that hand may not be moving as much more quickly than the eye as you might think.

    Second, you are not defending economics- at least not from me- but one individual economist, and without actually defending him I might add, but rather by suggesting that his single paragraph email closes the debate. Please be aware that obscuring the difference between the two is fraudulent. If such fraudulence is what you mean by ‘participation in debate’, then I know more than I did before your last answer, which is more than I expected to know.

    Related to the second, a physical scientist cannot argue for optimal resource allocation- that’s a strawman, and a rather weak-kneed one at that. The question is whether an economist can do so, if so what the community are saying, which broad camps of economists have the most compelling arguments/glaring deficiencies and of course, if there is a consensus, what precisely that is. Just fyi, despite the professor’s playing fast and loose with his wording, (yet another red flag), there is not remotely a consensus on the appropriate policy or analytical framework in the community, or surely this would’ve precluded the commissioning of the Stern report for starters, to say nothing of Weitzman’s very poignant paper (which, fyi, has been endorsed by some of the members of Mendy’s ‘consensus’).

    Comment by Majorajam — 10 Nov 2007 @ 3:50 PM

  459. Ellis (#438) wrote:

    Wikipedia states,
    “It should also be noted the Henry’s Law is a limiting law that only applies for dilute enough solutions. The range of concentrations in which it applies becomes narrower the more the system diverges from non-ideal behavior. Roughly speaking, that is the more chemically different the solute is from the solvent.

    It also only applies for solutions where the solvent does not react chemically with the gas being dissolved. A common example of a gas that does react with the solvent is carbon dioxide, which rapidly forms hydrated carbon dioxide and then carbonic acid (H2CO3) with water.”

    Seems to me Henry’s Law can not be used to describe the process you described.

    I would recommend checking out the following:

    Dissolved Carbon Dioxide (from Chemistry 3650 “Environmental Chemistry”)
    http://www.chem.usu.edu/~sbialkow/Classes/3650/CO2%20Solubility/DissolvedCO2.html

    It shows the manner in which Henry’s Law applies to dissolved carbon dioxide and how the law is used to calculate the levels of different carbonate species. It also explains why a lower ph-level at the surface of the ocean (due to the absorption of CO2) reduces the rate at which the ocean can absorb CO2.

    Looks like the Wikipedia entry will need to be updated. In any case, chill – more CO2 gets absorbed that way.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 10 Nov 2007 @ 3:58 PM

  460. Matt, the storage issue is not one that can be dismissed so lightly. It has not been resolved anywhere in a manner that is really safe, although I think the Swedes come closest. Yucky Mtn is a sham. The strategy of “bury it and forget it” is not adequate, and until we do solve this problem, nuclear opponents will have valid objections. Now, I am one who feels that Nuclear power will have to form part of the mix. I’m also one who is a serious skeptic of nuclear fusion (the energy source of the future…and it always will be).
    For now, there is plenty of low-hanging fruit to be harvested from increased conservation, implementing renewables where we can and subsidizing and improving public transport among other things. What is important now is to establish the necessity of addressing the current threat.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 10 Nov 2007 @ 9:09 PM

  461. Re:

    330

    J.S. McIntyre Says:
    8 November 2007 at 11:25 AM

    But seeing as you brought up the pie-in-the-sky solution, let me offer another: “Mining the Sky” by John S. Lewis, a book that offers some long-term and potentially sustainable non-nuclear solutions to our energy problems, and to my thinking, a wiser solution than the nuclear option.

    390

    Matt Says:
    9 November 2007 at 1:27 AM

    The day someone wants to show me the math on how we get off of oil, skip nuclear, and head into the sunset running on alternate fuels, I’m all ears. I study this stuff for hours per week. Not necessarily to make the world better, but because I sincerely believe there are incredible investment opportunities here.

    What equally amazes me are those that don’t want oil, don’t want nukes, and try to make be believe that a technology that requires filling 3/4 the state of california with a certain technology to get 3.6T KWH (our annual consumption) of electricty is viable. Or even better are those that sincerely believe detroit and japanese engineers can make more efficient cars, they are just opting not too.

    440

    Matt Says:
    10 November 2007 at 11:10 AM

    So, JS, how about you explain what technology you would use to to deliver 800B watts across 8 hours, which was the US peak demand last year. Remember, you can’t have it available if only if the sun is shining brightly. You can’t have it available only if the wind is blowing. It has to be there with 99% certainty. Additionally, the annual need is 3.6T KWH over a year.

    The answer has been waiting in the wings since 1975 and is still being pursued. Solar Power Satellites. There are a number of options being discussed, and hard numbers are hardly available yet, but in general it has been agreed since 1975 that it was feasible (given expected technical development) but too expensive.

    But, in addition to solving long-running problems, it would also provide great technological spin-off, and have the potential to mitigate population problems as well as climate.

    Comment by AK — 10 Nov 2007 @ 9:39 PM

  462. Re # 438 Ellis “Seems to me Henry’s Law can not be used to describe the process you described.”

    To follow up on David’s inline comment, Henry’s law does predict that the concentration of dissolved CO2 gas will be proportional to the CO2 partial pressure, with the proportionality factor represented by the CO2 solubility coefficient at a particular temperature and salinity. The Wikipedia passage you quoted means that Henry’s Law doesn’t predict the total CO2 in solution, as some of that (or most, depending on the pH) is in the form of bicarbonate ion and possibly carbonate ion. The details of this can be found in any textbook of physiology, limnology, chemical oceanography, and related subjects.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 10 Nov 2007 @ 10:02 PM

  463. [Response: Henry’s law assumes thermodynamic ideality, and the real world is non-ideal, but only slightly so for CO2 in equilibrium with the atmosphere. If you want to sound like an educated rube, instead of an uneducated one, you can refer to the fugacity of CO2 rather than the partial pressure, but the number is the same in either case, 380.E-6. Henry’s law works well enough for the purpose to which I put it. David]

    Thank you for your measured response.

    In an ideal world the syllogism,
    Henry’s law assumes thermodynamic ideality
    and the real world is non-ideal
    would be followed by,
    therefore you cannot use Henry’s Law in the real world.

    But, as you say the world is not ideal, perhaps you could explain further the relationship between atmospheric CO2 equilibrium and the chemical reaction of CO2 and H2O, as they relate to Henry’s law.
    As for an educated rube stating, “you can refer to the fugacity of CO2 rather than the partial pressure, but the number is the same in either case, 380.E-6.”, at least you and I would know that person is only trying to obfuscate the facts with technical jargon. Since, we would know that fugacity is assumed to be partial pressure, the fact that the number is the same would not surprise us. Of course we might wonder where exactly 380.e-6 came from. And don’t worry I’m hip, as long as the results are good, the research can be well enough.

    [Response: CO2 joins with H2O to make H2CO3. In practice it is difficult to distinguish these two species, so they are lumped together operationally into a species known as H2CO3*. In the ideal world, the concentration of H2CO3* would be exactly proportional to the partial pressure of CO2 in the gas phase. In our world, there are non-ideal effects but the at the pCO2 of the atmosphere the corrections are miniscule. On Venus it would be more of an issue. Then the CO2 reacts with the carbonate buffer chemistry in seawater, the same chemistry as in our blood, according to the reaction H2CO3 + CO3(2-) -> 2 HCO3(-). The impact of the buffer chemistry on the amount of CO2 that the water can hold is not small at all, actually natural seawater can hold maybe 10 times as much CO2 as it would if there were no CO3(2-) to react with. If this is what the Wikipedia article is referring to, I stand much corrected. Of course the buffer chemistry is crucial to getting the uptake right. I think of the two as separate steps; Henry's law gives us the H2CO3* concentration, and the impact of the rest of the chemistry comes on top of that. David]

    Comment by Ellis — 10 Nov 2007 @ 11:05 PM

  464. Hank – fair enough but don’t have book yet. I am looking online now for the source of the 1,500,000 dead by cold stat. Somebody above suggested it was unfair to use European cold death stats but I now think this was because those are 1) in the context of the “european heat wave” sensationalism and 2)global stats are harder to verify.

    Cold vs Heat death quote is at following URL – FYI I directed people to the quote before: http://lomborg.com/cool_it/sample/

    Nick I can’t let your statement go unchallenged regarding the Copenhagen Consensus:
    …a group of economists hand-picked to give a predetermined answer
    Of the *four* Nobel Prize winning economists who participated in Copenhagen Consensus, who would you say was a bad choice? I agree that the time scale may have been flawed (which tended to lower the priority of the CO2 mitigation proposal authored by Dr. Mendelsohn), but the process in general is a superb approach to resource allocation, which is why the UN and other policy makers pay attention to the Copenhagen Consensus approach as a good policy help. Which of the top Copenhagen Consensus projects would you replace with some other project?

    Comment by Joe Duck — 11 Nov 2007 @ 12:21 AM

  465. Amazing. Discover Magazine, August, he actually told them “Just in the past decade, Europe has lost about 15 million people to the cold …” and they just printed it without comment.

    That’s 10x the reported number of ‘excess deaths’ in winter months for Europe — and the reports attribute much of that to influenza, heart attacks and so on, statistically more frequent in winter, and worst in Spain and Portugal where houses aren’t well insulated, not in northern European countries.

    Well, it’ll be very interesting to see if his book cites a source.

    Fifteen million dead from the cold in a decade, and nobody but Lomborg’s noticed it and it’s not in the public health reports.

    Just amazing.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 11 Nov 2007 @ 12:56 AM

  466. Matt posts:

    [[So, JS, how about you explain what technology you would use to to deliver 800B watts across 8 hours, which was the US peak demand last year. Remember, you can’t have it available if only if the sun is shining brightly. You can’t have it available only if the wind is blowing. It has to be there with 99% certainty. Additionally, the annual need is 3.6T KWH over a year.]]

    1. A national or regional grid would nearly always have substantial power input despite local conditions.

    2. I know it gets dark at night; so do those working on solar power. Solar thermal electric plants store excess heat during daytime peak hours in molten salts, which can then be used to generate electricity at night or in cloudy weather. Some STEC plants come close to operating 24 hours. And yes, we’d need backstops. I believe, though, that if we make an effort to make it happen, we can be at perhaps 80% renewables and 20% fossil fuels in no more than 30 years.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 11 Nov 2007 @ 8:39 AM

  467. Re #464 “the process in general is a superb approach to resource allocation, which is why the UN and other policy makers pay attention to the Copenhagen Consensus approach as a good policy help.”

    Eminent economists including Jeffrey Sachs and John Quiggin do not agree it is a superb approach. What is your evidence concerning the UN and other policy makers.

    “Which of the top Copenhagen Consensus projects would you replace with some other project?”

    The entire process was in my view ludicrous, as the amount of money was absurdly small, the discount rate absurdly large, and the very idea that the “projects” constituted a set of independent items that could usefully be ranked using cost-benefit analysis misconceived. I am not going to be drawn into it in this way.

    With regard to the selection, here’s what Quiggin, who does see some value in some of the papers in the publication resulting from the process, says (http://johnquiggin.com/index.php/archives/2005/01/21/copenhagen-review/):

    “Criticism began with the composition of the panel. With four Nobel prize winners, it was certainly an eminent body. But the members weren’t notable for a focus on the problems of Third World economic development. They included experimentalist Vernon Smith, econometrician James Heckman (who later withdrew), and economic historians Robert Fogel and Douglass North.

    Fogel has done important research on population and nutrition, but the other Nobel prizewinners, and most other members of the panel, were not experts in the main fields under discussion. As Jeffrey Sachs (who headed of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health) observed, the timeline was far too short for the panel to gain requisite expertise, lasting only a few months in total; the background papers circulated for a few weeks, and in the final discussions, the panel had 5 days to review 32 proposals.

    The point can be sharpened by looking at some of the Nobel prizewinners who would have seemed like obvious choices for such a panel, including Kenneth Arrow, Joseph Stiglitz, Robert Solow and Amartya Sen, all of whom have made extensive contributions to the debate on economic growth and development.

    Comparing the two lists, the omissions are, broadly speaking, towards the left of the economics profession and those who have commented on climate change have supported policy initiatives such as Kyoto. Conversely, the members of the Copenhagen panel were generally towards the right and, to the extent that they had stated views, to be opponents of Kyoto. Indeed, Lomborg’s argument that spending to mitigate climate change would be better directed to aid projects was first put forward by Thomas Schelling, one of the Copenhagen panellists.

    The same lack of balance was evident in the selection of ‘opponents’. For Robert Cline’s paper on climate change, Lomborg picked vigorous opponents of Kyoto, Robert Mendelsohn and Alan Manne, and the result was an acrimonious debate. But for most of the other issues under consideration, the differences between the parties to the discussion were matters of emphasis and nuance, to the extent that the ‘opponents‘ were eventually redescribed as providing ‘alternative perspectives’.

    It is clear from reading the papers and the discussion reports that the panellists approached the task in a serious and fairminded way. But, inevitably, the narrowness of the selection meant that many important issues were prejudged or not discussed. Undoubtedly the likemindedness of the panel members assisted in the stated objective of achieving consensus. It is not clear, however, that a consensus confined to a narrow ideological subset of the economics profession is going to be of much help in achieving broad agreement on solutions to global problems.”

    and later:
    “In summary, the Copenhagen Consensus project was created as a political stunt. It was designed, in every detail, to produce a predetermined outcome. Having got the desired outcome, the organiser has shown little or no interest in pursuing any of the other issues raised by the project.”

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 11 Nov 2007 @ 9:59 AM

  468. David B. Benson wrote: “Locally, the power professors are quite concerned regarding grid stability and reliability when significant amounts of ‘negative load’, i.e., wind power, are introduced into the grid. Since the reliability requirement is much higher than 99% availability, this is certainly an issue. However, using biofuels to produce power when the wind isn’t blowing means that there are no significant power grid issues, provided the wind generators and the biofuel generators are approximately co-located …”

    I would point out that the USA already has “significant power grid issues” as demonstrated by the large scale blackouts of recent years. The issue of upgrading the electrical grid already needs urgent attention.

    And all the more so, if the grid is going to successfully integrate diverse, distributed, intermittent electrical generation from rooftop photovoltaics and small-to-large scale wind turbines along with new storage technologies (eg. flywheels) and universal net metering, as solar/wind advocates such as myself want.

    And all the more so yet, if we are going to put a large number of new nuclear power plants on the grid, as nuclear advocates want.

    And all the more so yet, if we are going to largely electrify both public and private transport, as both solar/wind and nuclear advocates must want, if any of those technologies are to reduce GHG emissions from oil used in the transport sector.

    We need a new, “smart” electrical grid — a power-grid Internet, what Al Gore calls the “Electranet” — that can integrate diverse, distributed, intermittent electricity producers and consumers, along with both distributed and centralized storage, at any scale from individual homes to large power plants and factories.

    Jim Eager wrote: “Matt, you make no mention of the fact that we have to seriously reduce that very 800B watts/8hr, 3.6KW/yr consumption level, and that there is truly huge potential for reducing consumption and cost in doing so.”

    The potential is indeed huge. I saw a report on cable TV last night about generating electricity from the waste heat of industrial processes. The example they gave is a company that manufactures generators that sit on top of a smokestack, where they capture the waste heat, use it to heat water and drive a turbine generator. A factory that installed one of their generators was generating enough electricity for 70 homes from heat that would otherwise have been wasted, actually producing a surplus of electricity and selling the excess to the utility. The report estimated that full implementation of this technology could produce half of all the electricity used in the USA.

    Between obvious efficiency improvements, reduction of profligate waste, the full implementation of solar and wind (both large scale centralized and small scale distributed generation), full implementation of existing storage technologies, and the next-generation electrical grid that we need to build anyway, there are plenty of solutions for dramatically reducing carbon emissions from electricity generation without an expansion of nuclear, and indeed while completely phasing out nuclear power as well as fossil fuel generation.

    There is no need to accept the very real problems, dangers, risks and costs of nuclear power. I would guess that given the nuclear industry’s influence with the government, they will most likely succeed in obtaining the multibillion dollar taxpayer subsidies, guarantees and insurance that they are demanding before they will build any new plants, and some new nuclear plants will probably be built in the US. They will be enormously expensive, and take a long time to build, and suck up resources that would more effectively be used elsewhere, and expose many people to serious dangers, and any contribution they might make to reducing GHG emissions will be too little, too late.

    Hopefully, by the time the first of the new nuclear power plants goes online, in 10 years or so, the real solutions — efficiency, clean renewable energy, and the next-generation grid — will meanwhile have been actively implemented and GHG emissions will be headed down to “safe” levels.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 11 Nov 2007 @ 10:23 AM

  469. re 461

    The answer has been waiting in the wings since 1975 and is still being pursued. Solar Power Satellites. There are a number of options being discussed, and hard numbers are hardly available yet, but in general it has been agreed since 1975 that it was feasible (given expected technical development) but too expensive.

    Ak, while I’ve long been an advocate for moving off planet to seek out the resources we need to keep our civilization functioning, the power satellite solution is a long-term solution, as are many of the proposals made by John S. Lewis in his book. I think (my opinion, nothing more) it is a valid assumption we need to have a long-term, permanent and self-sufficient presence in orbit, before power satellites become feasable as a long-term solution to power needs. But it should definitely be on the table, along with Lewis’ long-term proposal re harvesting energy from the gas giants.

    As the late Robert Heinlein once said (I believe this is the right attribution), “It’s raining soup out there.”

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 11 Nov 2007 @ 10:43 AM

  470. So Matt, even with the low-end estimate of 1500X the background rate of extinction, do you agree with Lomborg that “biodiversity loss is not a catastrophe”?

    Because I think it requires a certain kind of madness to believe that the accelerating destruction of the natural world is not a catastrophe, and that the situation is somehow actually improving.

    This self-styled “environmentalist” is selling complacency in the face of the sixth mass extinction, and it seems that as long as some people are making money, he’s fine with it.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 11 Nov 2007 @ 11:10 AM

  471. Re Lomborg’s absurd estimate of deaths from cold, it seems to me that his error is confusing “deaths from excess cold” with “excess deaths from cold.”

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 11 Nov 2007 @ 11:20 AM

  472. Re #468: [I saw a report on cable TV last night about generating electricity from the waste heat of industrial processes. The example they gave is a company that manufactures generators that sit on top of a smokestack, where they capture the waste heat, use it to heat water and drive a turbine generator.]

    You do see the problem with this as a means of eliminating CO2 emissions, don’t you? The heat is presumably produced by burning fossil fuels: that fuel still is burnt with the cogeneration system on-line. You’ve just made it a little more efficient, that’s all.

    [There is no need to accept the very real problems, dangers, risks and costs of nuclear power.]

    But there is a need to differentiate between the real problems &c, and the unreal ones that have been ingrained in the public consciousness by decades of anti-nuclear activism.

    Comment by James — 11 Nov 2007 @ 11:56 AM

  473. SecularAnimist (468) — I assure you that the newer, smarter electric grid is underway, being researched here and elsewhere. The primary obstacle to grid stability appears to be the inability to build more transmission lines. The obstacles are largely due to NIMBY, not technical issues.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Nov 2007 @ 1:40 PM

  474. Re. #467, Nick Gotts, my favourite quote in Quiggin’s article is the following:

    [Lomborg's] criticism of the environment lobby led the right-wing Danish government of Anders Rasmussen to establish the Environmental Assessment Institute and instal Lomborg as its director. Ironically, the same government made repeated cuts in Denmark’s foreign aid program.

    This sums up the hypocrisy of the argument. Those who claim to buy into it are mostly not those with any track record in aiding developing countries. Similarly, it is notable that during the period that Denmark was cutting Denmark’s foreign aid programme, the UK and Germany, both Kyoto signatories, were strongly increasing theirs, thereby conclusively disproving Lomborg’s “opportunity cost” hypothesis.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 11 Nov 2007 @ 2:27 PM

  475. Joe Duck, #464, see here.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 11 Nov 2007 @ 2:37 PM

  476. James (472) — Energy efficiency reduces the need for other sources for the energy, possibly from burning additional carbon.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Nov 2007 @ 3:08 PM

  477. An person who has a cancer that was likely caused by tobacco use will often say they would give everything they own to go back in time and never start using tobacco.

    What discount rate are they employing?

    Comment by J.C.H. — 11 Nov 2007 @ 3:30 PM

  478. I’m all in favor of developing renewable energy sources, and quickly (for a number of reasons). But I think it not helpful to present a Pollyanna case and, to pick a phrase normally tossed the other way, cherry pick the trade-offs. Nuclear energy may not be the ultimate solution, but it doesn’t come close to the extreme negative case offered by SecularAnimist. J.S. is amazingly cavalier with the benefits of renewables and the elimination of things like electric reliability and availability. (For the record 25% transmission loss is not anywhere close, other than with exceptionally long high-voltage AC lines, like maybe (I’m assuming here) Glen Canyon Dam to LA, or from wind power farms to anywhere (though they might switch to DC to save some transmission losses at the cost of conversion losses.)) Discarding the 99% availability standard (actually higher than that) out of hand sounds like the true goal is simply to get us back to nature and near pioneering days (sans all the wood burning, of course!) with a couple of bulbs and a transistor radio during the day and nada during the night — unless you’re one of the elite that can install a 30 meter propeller in the back yard to go with their 30 square meters of silicon. I wonder what condominiums will do, let alone my favorite bake shop that runs big ovens all night. I guess burn the trees that Charlie had to cut down to make way for his propeller.

    If this sounds derisive, I apologize. I was shooting only for cynical, which I thought was deserving.

    Comment by Rod B — 11 Nov 2007 @ 4:22 PM

  479. Re: 469

    J.S. McIntyre Says:
    11 November 2007 at 10:43 AM

    I think (my opinion, nothing more) it is a valid assumption we need to have a long-term, permanent and self-sufficient presence in orbit, before power satellites become feasable as a long-term solution to power needs.

    If we’re going to use lunar materials, we need to have long-term semi-self-sufficient presence on/under the Lunar surface (IMO). However, given existing technology, I doubt we need more than we already have in orbit. Activity could be remote-controlled from earth, as long as sub-second human responses aren’t required. Note that with many parallel instances of a process in orbit, and no human lives in play, the downside cost of a low but non-zero level of accident would be substantially reduced. This would not only reduce the costs by at least an order of magnitude, IMO, but speed the learning curve and allow further generations of cost reduction and efficiency improvement.

    The same applies to operations on the moon. There would be critical issues regarding habitat and safety, but the vast majority of industrial processes could be remote controlled from locations safely out of the risk zone, so the some accident level could be allowable, again reducing the cost.

    Remember, all the proposed plans depend on a near exponential early growth curve (especially considering the very high learning factor early on), so the earlier the whole thing starts the earlier production power will come on line.

    Not to mention, of course, the front-end political efforts needed to get the whole thing underway. An early general perception that space-based solar power is a critical mid/long-term component of any climate mitigation/remediation process will be a prerequisite to proper timing.

    In that regard, I’ll offer a link in this thread to today’s scoop:

    Giving Climate Change a Kick

    CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS–Top climate scientists have cautiously endorsed the need to study schemes to reverse global warming that involve directly tinkering with Earth’s climate. Their position on geoengineering, which will likely be controversial, was staked out at an invitation-only meeting that ended here today. It’s based on a growing concern about the rapid pace of global change and continued anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases.

    via Chris C. Mooney.

    Comment by AK — 11 Nov 2007 @ 4:22 PM

  480. re “…The answer has been waiting in the wings since 1975 and is still being pursued. Solar Power Satellites…”

    Interesting, clever, and a little cute, But, PULEEEEEZZE!

    Comment by Rod B — 11 Nov 2007 @ 4:44 PM

  481. Rod B (478) — You are right in saying “25% transmission line loss is not anywhere close”. You are wrong in implying it is higher. You might have just looked it up first:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission#Losses

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Nov 2007 @ 4:54 PM

  482. What will space-based power systems do the earth’s energy balance? Even if the collectors shade the earth and then send all the energy captured down a ‘pipe’ then that energy will add to the energy beneath the upper atmosphere, and hence add to warming, as in the normal course of events some of that energy will have been reflected.

    If the collectors don’t shade the earth, then its a total add to the energy balance. It might get rid of a bit of CO2 (if we don’t count the manufacture, launch and maintenance mission’s emissions – and that’s a sum I’d like to see), but it is forcing more external energy into the climate system. Seems a bit dumb, to me.

    Seems we need a ‘Sheriff of Space’ to vet such ideas before we launch, much like the International Maritime Organisation is doing with bio-engineering of the oceans. http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/11/a-new-sheriff-f.html

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 11 Nov 2007 @ 5:10 PM

  483. re “…We need a new, “smart” electrical grid that can integrate diverse, distributed, intermittent electricity producers and consumers, along with both distributed and centralized storage, at any scale from individual homes to large power plants and factories….”

    You forgot walk the dog, put out the cat, and stir the soup. [;-)

    Though I agree, as 473 assumes (a bunch too optimistically), that it ought to be pursued. Same goes for the Power Satellite thing/process. As J.S implies (469), no idea is so far fetched that it shouldn’t be studied by some enterprising scientist. Just not part of the problem/solution situation at hand.

    Comment by Rod B — 11 Nov 2007 @ 5:13 PM

  484. Rod B (483) — Sorry, it is nowhere near “a bunch too optimistically”. In comment #473 I indicated one problem and earlier the problem of so-called negative load, together with one solution. The limitations on grid stability are fairly well understood and the approapriate communications infrastructure is being successfully researched. The main limitation is being able to rapidly compute new operating points which are safe. Without faster computers (not expected for electric power generation computations) there is a limit on negative load. So some producers will sometimes be shut out by the communications and control structure. It is up to regualtors and legislators to determine which algorithms are considered to be ‘fair’ in the light of this necessity.

    If there were urgent need, the entire western grid could be up and going this way within three years at most. So far, the reliability councils and DoE are content to do further research before settling on a design. So perhaps seven-twelve years from now…

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Nov 2007 @ 5:38 PM

  485. Besides, the only sort of power ‘distribution’ system that will be extant in a century or so will be ‘deeply distributed’. If you haven’t got your electricity generation system on your roof or in your back yard, you will be literally ‘powerless’. Energy storage (like water storage) becomes an individual responsibility and you won’t get much help from your friends if your lights go out.

    But we will need the existing fossil-fuel-based economy to produce all those miles of copper wire, those silicon panels and those ICs for the voltage regulators. So we need to decide what items are on the critical path for our survival very soon, and get the toy factories of Asia producing domestic and commercial-size passive energy supply kits as fast as their production lines can move. With the enormous production capacity the world has it will not be hard to do – all it takes is the will and financial structures to hold it all up while to do it.

    And we better be quick, as loss of the glaciers will see the Asian work force running out of water, and sea level rise will swamp some of the great industrial areas and quite a bit of electricity generation fairly soon in the process. We need the output of alternative solutions in the warehouses high on a hill ASAP.

    It’s a Battlestar Galactica scenario, where we are having to manufacture right now all the things we need for a multi-generational journey into the unknown. If in doing that we exacerbate global warming for a bit by cranking up production to a war-time footing for the production of essential supplies for the journey then that too is the price we must pay. We’ve got the ticket; we now have to take the ride.

    Comment by Nigel Williams — 11 Nov 2007 @ 6:24 PM

  486. Re: 482

    Nigel Williams Says:
    11 November 2007 at 5:10 PM

    What will space-based power systems do the earth’s energy balance? Even if the collectors shade the earth and then send all the energy captured down a ‘pipe’ then that energy will add to the energy beneath the upper atmosphere, and hence add to warming, as in the normal course of events some of that energy will have been reflected.

    If the collectors don’t shade the earth, then its a total add to the energy balance. It might get rid of a bit of CO2 (if we don’t count the manufacture, launch and maintenance mission’s emissions – and that’s a sum I’d like to see), but it is forcing more external energy into the climate system. Seems a bit dumb, to me.

    The estimated effect of doubling atmospheric CO2 is about 4 watts/meter2. At ~1.2×1014 meters2 that’s an added heat retention of ~5×1014 watts. A figure I’ve heard thrown around for total human energy requirements is 20 terrawatts = 2×1013 watts. Thus, if total energy requirements were met by space-based solar power, it would add up to 4%, that is 1/25th of the amount caused by CO2.

    Except to preliminary start-up, the vast majority of the material would be acquired and launched from the Moon, in most of the scenarios described. Assuming some power was on-line early on in the process, no CO2 would be involved in manufacture or launch of on-going personnel and key materials from earth. Launch vehicles would presumably use LOX/LH2, which produces no CO2. There would be some addition of water to the stratosphere (and higher), but current aviation already adds a lot of that.

    It isn’t dumb, just visionary. Of course, at some point long in the future thermal pollution may become an issue, but if necessary orbiting mirrors could be deployed to counteract the energy added to the earth’s surface by space-based power. Meanwhile, once power generation and mass collection are deployed, it would become feasible to move a good deal of industry into space, freeing the surface of both the energy requirements and other by-products.

    Seems we need a ‘Sheriff of Space’ to vet such ideas before we launch, much like the International Maritime Organisation is doing with bio-engineering of the oceans. http://blog.wired.com/wiredscience/2007/11/a-new-sheriff-f.html

    There are much more important reasons to set up a “Sheriff of Space“, such as the risk of uncoordinated orbits causing collisions, and power beams accidentally getting shadowed by large structures. OTOH, I doubt a project of this order will be set up without the cooperation of many governments.

    Comment by AK — 11 Nov 2007 @ 7:26 PM

  487. #470 Jim Galasyn: So Matt, even with the low-end estimate of 1500X the background rate of extinction, do you agree with Lomborg that “biodiversity loss is not a catastrophe”?

    Does it pain me what a leopard is hunted to extinction? Of course it does. Does it pain me if I never see another mosquito? Nope, unless someone tells me they have a very important role in this world.

    Because I think it requires a certain kind of madness to believe that the accelerating destruction of the natural world is not a catastrophe, and that the situation is somehow actually improving.

    Is your worry about killing the last one of anything, or is it about killing anything? Certainly you live in an area that used to be forest, drive on roads that used to be fields. Work at a company that used to be wooded. So everything you have done in life so far seems to indicate you don’t mind killing things as long as you think there are plenty more. I don’t think we differ in that viewpoint. I suspect Lomborg agrees with you there.

    Just curious, but how do you feel about genetically modifying plants to make them more resistant to blight and thus making a species artificially stronger?

    Comment by Matt — 11 Nov 2007 @ 8:16 PM

  488. #466 Barton Paul Levenson: 1. A national or regional grid would nearly always have substantial power input despite local conditions.

    Let’s say you havea wind farm that will generate 1M Watts 60% of the time, but you don’t have any idea when it will actually be generating that 1M watts. How many similar wind farms do you need to be 99.9% certain you will have at least 1M watts? 9 worst case. Now in practice it’s not an all or nothing, so perhaps you get very close at 5 or so.

    But these are real problems to be solved as wind (and solar) become a larger part of the grid. Anything that increases the peak:average ratio (supply or demand) is a headache for engineers. Believe it or not, a homeowner that puts in just enough solar cells to cover his bill in may is bad, because he hasn’t put enough in to substantially reduce his peak demand from the electric company, but he’s put in enough to reduce his average, thus his peak:average has gone up and he’s caused the power company to have to deal with a larger peak:average.

    2. I know it gets dark at night; so do those working on solar power. Solar thermal electric plants store excess heat during daytime peak hours in molten salts, which can then be used to generate electricity at night or in cloudy weather. Some STEC plants come close to operating 24 hours. And yes, we’d need backstops. I believe, though, that if we make an effort to make it happen, we can be at perhaps 80% renewables and 20% fossil fuels in no more than 30 years.

    China just built a massive hydro project for storing energy, and it came in at $42/kwh of storage. It was 16M m3 of water with a 600m height. It cost $1.1B. Presumably they looked at alternatives before spending $1B, and decided this was most cost effective.

    At those prices, to store 24 hours of energy the US needs (9.9B KWH), it would take $990B if the Chinese built it. To acquire that land and placate the environmentalists and pay the higher work and materials wage woudl probably be 10X that. So I’d guess we could store 24 hours (average) of the US electricty needs for $9T. And I’m being kind with that figure. The $42 figure is simple potential energy of water, and includes nothing about conversion losses.

    Storing electricity costs a lot. But it’s a very important piece of a strategy that relies heavily on solar and wind. Unfortunately, it’s neglected in all the analysis I’ve ever seen from pro-alt energy folks. Reason, of course, is that while there’s a solid fossil fuel back bone, the alt energy can skate by and contribute when it can. But when (if) it becomes critical to rely on heavily on alt energy, then storage and reliability become very important, and cause the economic case to implode.

    Comment by Matt — 11 Nov 2007 @ 8:56 PM

  489. re 484: “…the entire western grid could be up and going this way within three years at most…..perhaps seven-twelve years from now……”

    Well, maybe. Sometimes the prognostication of the enthusiastic happens; sometimes not. It just seems that, in the ultimate, coordinating and syncing 50 million sources/sinks combos is neither easy nor done. Though maybe some of the 49 million + very small power nodes have an insignificant effect — I don’t know.

    Comment by Rod B — 11 Nov 2007 @ 10:18 PM

  490. #456 Jim Eager: You need to shed this unsustainable notion that our society and economy must make no sacrifices in current consumption levels for fear of any shrinking of gdp.

    Just being practical. Bite off too much and engineering projects often times don’t survive. Everyone here should have very well known examples, if even just a story they saw on TV.

    Annual energy consumption grows 2.5 to 3% and has averaged at least that since Edison lit the first bulb. We can get some efficiency gains, of course, but even if we find an additional 10% efficiency improvement in everything, it takes just 5 years to erase that. And then what? You are back at the 2.5 to 3% figure.

    Some like to point to what Japan has acheived with conservation (and they are leading) and clever electronics, but population decline plays a role there and they are still seeing YoY gains of 0.7%

    Comment by Matt — 11 Nov 2007 @ 11:41 PM

  491. re 481

    “Rod B (478) — You are right in saying “25% transmission line loss is not anywhere close”. You are wrong in implying it is higher. You might have just looked it up first:”

    David, it was not Rod who mistakenly put the figure higher; it was I.

    I was wrong. I should have taken the time to check it, as you did, instaed of running off of something related to me in conversation a long time ago.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 11 Nov 2007 @ 11:47 PM

  492. #468 SecularAnimist: I would point out that the USA already has “significant power grid issues” as demonstrated by the large scale blackouts of recent years. The issue of upgrading the electrical grid already needs urgent attention.

    And you think sporadic generation options such as solar and wind help this issue?

    Primary reason for increased outages is that we used to average 25-30% margin (difference between max supply and peak demand), while we now has less than 15% margin.

    Biggest reason for this is that as more utilities became invester-owned, profit took precedence over reliability. Build in the margin, the reliability will return.

    Comment by Matt — 11 Nov 2007 @ 11:57 PM

  493. OK, back-of-the-envelope time for solar power satellites.

    These birds need to be in geosynchronous orbit if we want to have a steady supply of power from them.

    In a brief search of the web, the cheapest price I could find for putting mass on geosynchronous orbit was $4700/kg. The best power density of PV was more than 6 g/w. Rounding (this is boe, after all) this comes out to 6 g/w times 5 $/g = 30$/watt. Just for putting the PV material on orbit. Supporting structure, power conversion and transmission extra, orbit keeping mechanics extra. Engineering the bird and building the ground station(s) extra.

    I don’t think this economically viable. Not for a long time.

    Tim

    Comment by Tim McDermott — 12 Nov 2007 @ 12:32 AM

  494. #460 Ray Ladbury: Matt, the storage issue is not one that can be dismissed so lightly. It has not been resolved anywhere in a manner that is really safe, although I think the Swedes come closest. Yucky Mtn is a sham. The strategy of “bury it and forget it” is not adequate, and until we do solve this problem, nuclear opponents will have valid objections. Now, I am one who feels that Nuclear power will have to form part of the mix. I’m also one who is a serious skeptic of nuclear fusion (the energy source of the future…and it always will be).

    Nobody is talking about burying and forgetting anything. But this is definitely one of those issues that few will ever be convinced to change their position on. I worked USGS as an intern in the late 80s, and the the scientists there were pretty positive about YM at the time.

    Of course, Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace changed his mind about nuclear. But as you already proved with Lomborg, I suspect Moore only started Greenpeace and spent 30 years with the organization so that some time down the road he could support nuclear with even more credibility. Very, very sneaky!

    Comment by Matt — 12 Nov 2007 @ 12:39 AM

  495. #452 David B. Benson:The idea of wind power backed up by biofuels sounds quite appealing.

    Agree, but I still don’t understand how biofuels can fill the huge gap that will exist on the windiest days and the calmest days. Assume a 100 MW wind farm. It’s not uncommon to 10:1 span between windiest months (Dec Jan) and calmest months (Jul Aug).

    Take a 100MW wind farm. With 25% efficiency, we get 219M kwh/yr. More in Dec and Jan, but lots less–perhaps 4.4M kwh/yr in Jul Aug. That means biomass has to make up 214M KWH in July, and again in August, some in sept, etc.

    I think the wind farm needs to have about 450 acres of biomass for every acre of windfarm to offset the less windy summer months. Of course, some wind farms will do better, some will do worse. But the key numbers here are 750 kwh/m2/year for wind farms, 55M BTU/acre/year for corn, 10:1 ratio of windiest:calmest months, around 2.5:1 ratio for peak:avg and avg:min.

    Comment by Matt — 12 Nov 2007 @ 4:26 AM

  496. #445 Gavin’s Inline: Response: Get a grip. Al Gore is not a scientist and he doesn’t conduct scientific research. Instead, he quotes estimates and results from the literature. I have no particular insight into species extinction rates, and so I will defer to the people who study it, as should Lomborg. Nowhere in Gore’s statement is a statement of his belief and since I am not psychic I will not presume to know either what he believed in 1992 when he wrote that book, nor what he believes now with the benefit of a further 15 years of research. I have a lot more confidence that E.O. Wilson’s estimate about the consensus than Lomborg’s. – gavin]

    I believe I have a firm grip!

    Lomborg isn’t a scientest either as I’ve noted several times and I think as everyone understands from reading his bio. Lomborg has quoted numbers within range–I’d argue more in range with consensus–than Gore and Lovejoy quoted.

    EO Wilson from (1): ” It means that each year 0.25% or more of the forest species are being doomed to immediate or early extinction. How much is that in absolute numbers, as opposed to rate? If there are 10 million species in the still mostly unexplored forests, which some scientists think possible, the annual loss is in the tens of thousands.”

    He’s being very mealy-mouthed with words here when he says “doomed to immediate or early extinction.” Early extinction? Either we made them extinct or we didn’t. Species have rebounded. Species have been found again after we thought they were extinct. What is his timeline for the ultimate extinction to take place?

    Of course, after that caveat, he concludes with the “annual loss is in the 10,000s”

    To use his 10M figure of total species, if we know 15% of those 10,000 then that means there are 1500 known species that are part of this “annual loss”.

    I suspect you will give him a pass for the “condemned” part of this, since without a bound on time the statement is correct. But of course, without a bound on time, all species are doomed to extinction is also correct.

    In any case, I’ve learned a lot about how you interpret things as we’ve marched through the various quotes. Thanks for the exchange. I leave you with the last word, and I remain mostly convinced that Lomborg was exceedingly fair in his analysis, and that Lomborg was very much within the range of estimates, and that Wilson, Lovejoy and Gore were at the very, very high end of estimates (and that’s being kind).

    (1) http://www.southbaymobilization.org/newsroom/earth/articles/02.0117.OnlyHumansCanHaltWaveOfExtinctions.htm

    Comment by Matt — 12 Nov 2007 @ 4:58 AM

  497. What will space-based power systems do the earth’s energy balance? Even if the collectors shade the earth and then send all the energy captured down a ‘pipe’ then that energy will add to the energy beneath the upper atmosphere, and hence add to warming, as in the normal course of events some of that energy will have been reflected.

    This is an often heard misconception. Yes, the energy gets added to the biosphere, and has to be radiated out again. But let’s compute the amount. Say, we have a global population of 10 billion, consuming 1 kW per capita (current value is 250W). This makes 1013 W total.

    The total amount of energy coming in from the Sun is by comparison 340W/m2 of surface area, totalling over the whole Earth (510 million km2): 173×1015 W. With an albedo of 0.39, only 106×1015 W actually gets absorbed and has to be re-emitted as thermal infrared.

    Do you see the ratio between the two? More than 1:10000! The temperature increase needed to take care of this extra heat would be less than 0.01K. And it remains constant (if we stick to the same population size and consumption level). The CO2 forcing is cumulative…

    I believe space energy systems could be a technically valid solution, if the various challenges can be solved (e.g., the interference of the microwave transport beam with radio traffic and radio astronomy) and the price brought down enough. Also, what to think of a ring of huge geostationary satellites as a permanent fixture of our night skies?

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 12 Nov 2007 @ 6:57 AM

  498. Re 490 Matt: “Annual energy consumption grows 2.5 to 3% and has averaged at least that since Edison lit the first bulb. We can get some efficiency gains, of course, but even if we find an additional 10% efficiency improvement in everything, it takes just 5 years to erase that. And then what? You are back at the 2.5 to 3% figure.”

    I’m not talking about finding “efficiencies,” or even about reducing the rate of growth in demand for energy, I’m talking about actually shrinkiing the demand for energy. It is exactly this perpetual growth in demand that is unsustainable. The cancerous ideology of growth for growth’s sake is hitting the wall of finite resources and finite carrying capacity of the biosphere. We need to come to grips with that fact.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 12 Nov 2007 @ 10:07 AM

  499. Re #494 (Matt) “Of course, Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace changed his mind about nuclear. But as you already proved with Lomborg, I suspect Moore only started Greenpeace and spent 30 years with the organization”

    Matt, even when making a sarcastic aside, it’s worth bothering to get simple facts right. Moore was in Greenpeace 1971-1986. I make that 15 years.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 12 Nov 2007 @ 10:20 AM

  500. Re 488 Matt: “China just built a massive hydro project for storing energy, and it came in at $42/kwh of storage. It was 16M m3 of water with a 600m height. It cost $1.1B. Presumably they looked at alternatives before spending $1B, and decided this was most cost effective.”

    First, Three Gorges was not built to store energy as with a pump-storage-generation facility, but to harness the existing energy of water that was already falling the distance of the dam’s height, which is 187m, or 607 feet, not 600m. Second, it was not built for hydro electric generation alone, but also for flood control and as a reservoir against drought, so you’d have to apportion your cost figures among those purposes. As for comparing the costs of alternatives, you’d have to look at what alternative energy technologies were available in 1980s and early 1990s when the decision was made to proceed with the project, not with what technologies are available today at today’s costs. You’d also have to compare with alternative flood control measures. As usual, reality is no where near as simple as people like to portray it.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 12 Nov 2007 @ 10:32 AM

  501. Rod B wrote: “Nuclear energy may not be the ultimate solution, but it doesn’t come close to the extreme negative case offered by SecularAnimist.”

    As I mentioned previously, I have never seen the case actually laid out by nuclear advocates that even a large expansion of nuclear power can make a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

    If there’s a positive case, let’s see it — and sweeping pronouncements that nuclear power is “THE answer” don’t make a case.

    How many new nuclear power plants? Built where? Built by when? How much carbon emissions will they eliminate? Will they reduce current emissions by replacing existing coal generation, or just reduce expected growth by “replacing” coal generation plants not yet built, or just maintain the status quo by replacing existing aging nuclear power plants that must be decommissioned in the next several decades? How long will any such benefits last, once the easily and inexpensively extractable uranium supplies are exhausted? (And by the way, once you start talking about “solving” the uranium depletion problem by deploying breeder reactors all over the world, you are no longer talking about a “proven” nuclear technology but one that is not up and running on a large scale anywhere, for good reason.)

    Where’s the plan? The American Solar Energy Society report I cited above offers a case for reducing US carbon emissions by 60-80 percent by 2050, through full application of existing efficiency and clean renewable energy technology. Certainly that case should be critically evaluated and not accepted at face value. But where is any such case from the nuclear industry or nuclear advocates? Where’s the plan?

    Nuclear power may offer some benefits in reducing carbon emissions — at enormous cost, after decades of building new plants, for a limited time until fuel supplies are depleted, at enormous risk from accidents & terrorism & weapons proliferation, while introducing other environmental problems from the highly toxic nuclear fuel cycle (from mining and refining, to transport, to sequestering waste). A cost benefit analysis of nuclear power with regard to carbon emissions requires a realistic assessment of nuclear power’s potential for reducing emissions, and a realistic assessment of the costs and risks — rather than pretending that all the costs and risks are “made up” by anti-nuclear zealots, pretending that the waste sequestration issue has been “solved”, that breeder reactors will “solve” the uranium depletion problem, etc.

    Matt wrote: “Of course, Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace changed his mind about nuclear.”

    Patrick Moore is, in fact, a paid consultant to the nuclear industry. Moore was briefly associated with Greenpeace, and ever since has been a propagandist for mining, timber and other environmentally destructive industries. Like Lomborg, Moore’s lies have been well documented; unlike Lomborg, Moore’s lies can be directly traced to the environmentally destructive corporations who pay him to lie on their behalf.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Nov 2007 @ 10:40 AM

  502. Matt asks for clarification: “Is your worry about killing the last one of anything, or is it about killing anything?”

    My question was about mass extinction of species and the destruction of entire ecosystems, aka “biodiversity loss”: Do you consider even the low-balled estimate of 1500X the background rate, among the highest in the planet’s history, acceptable?

    Lomborg has been very clear on his feelings: Biodiversity loss is not a catastrophe, and the environmental situation is (somehow) actually improving. I gather from your reply that you agree with this position. From speaking with Lomborg personally, it’s clear that he couldn’t care less if leopard species are hunted to extinction, as long as people are making money.

    I tried to impress on him the astounding rate of ocean biomass loss, but it didn’t bother him a bit. Great sharks are functionally extinct now, leading to the destruction of whole ecosystems and leaving watery deserts in their wake — but to Lomborg that’s really nothing to worry about. You see, I’m the “alarmist,” and he’s the “environmentalist.”

    I don’t know how your question about GM organisms is at all relevant: are you proposing we make GMO sharks that are resistant to longline hooks?

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 12 Nov 2007 @ 10:50 AM

  503. #493

    Tim McDermott Says:
    12 November 2007 at 12:32 AM

    OK, back-of-the-envelope time for solar power satellites.

    These birds need to be in geosynchronous orbit if we want to have a steady supply of power from them.

    In a brief search of the web, the cheapest price I could find for putting mass on geosynchronous orbit was $4700/kg. The best power density of PV was more than 6 g/w. Rounding (this is boe, after all) this comes out to 6 g/w times 5 $/g = 30$/watt. Just for putting the PV material on orbit. Supporting structure, power conversion and transmission extra, orbit keeping mechanics extra. Engineering the bird and building the ground station(s) extra.

    I don’t think this economically viable. Not for a long time.

    Tim

    On the remote chance that you’re being serious, I will just point out that the plan as described both here and in my links, involves getting most of the mass from the moon, after creating an industrial base on the moon (not a “moonbase” but an entire industrial base).

    Costwise, there are several things to consider. First, economies of scale will lower the price of launch to orbit by several orders of magnitude. Second, the entire launch and setup cost doesn’t create a system of power satellites, it creates a system of factories to make power satellites, using power and mass already away from earth. Once that factory system is built, the actual mass of power satellites will be many orders of magnitude greater than what was launched into orbit.

    Comment by AK — 12 Nov 2007 @ 11:01 AM

  504. Re 478

    Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner; been a busy weekend.

    “I’m all in favor of developing renewable energy sources, and quickly (for a number of reasons). But I think it not helpful to present a Pollyanna case and, to pick a phrase normally tossed the other way, cherry pick the trade-offs.”

    I really don’t think anyone is offering a Pollyanish vision of what we’re facing, Rod. If anything, it strikes me that every solution being offered up re renewable, sustainable sources carries with it the understanding that there is going to be nothing that one could describe as “easy” to this. There are still bugs to be worked out, trade-offs to be understood. From a societal perspective, it will be a difficult sale, particularly to anyone who wants things to “stay as they always were”.

    “Nuclear energy may not be the ultimate solution, but it doesn’t come close to the extreme negative case offered by SecularAnimist.”

    Of course, I disagree. And as I do so, I also understand that we will likely see an upswing in nuclear power generation. But it remains trading one bad solution (fossil fuels) for another. As Smith pointed out, nuclear power generation offers a zero/infinity problem in terms of risk. On one hand you have dependable power source that is “clean” in terms of emissions. On the other hand, while the odds seem low for a mishap, such a mishap would be catastrophic.

    Consider the response to Katrina or the Southern California wildfires. Regardless of what happened, people can go back and rebuild (though in New Orleans’ case, as beautiful and historic a place as it may be, it was a mistake to go back with the idea that things will resume as normal – the geology of the place, existing as it does on a river delta, insists its days are numbered). Now consider what would happen to the same area of Southern California if there were a large nuclear accident, containment was breached, and the winds directed the fallout over, say, the L.A. basin.

    And storage IS a serious, yet-to-be adequately solved issue. Consider: they are now construction a THIRD sarcophagus for Chernobyl. Even in the case of intact reactors, their days are numbered. Sooner or later they need to be retired. So where do you put all that radioactivity? It’s an important consideration.

    “J.S. is amazingly cavalier with the benefits of renewables and the elimination of things like electric reliability and availability.”

    Again, I don’t see how I’m being “cavalier”, my mistaken comment re power consumption notwithstanding. (And I consider the characterization somewhat as odd given you had earlier told me I was being “thoughtful”. Make up your mind. *smile*). As I noted above and elsewhere, any change is going to be accompanied by the understanding that we are going to have to give things up. Sacrifice for the future, so to speak. This is not necessarily a bad thing, either.

    “Discarding the 99% availability standard (actually higher than that) out of hand sounds like the true goal is simply to get us back to nature and near pioneering days (sans all the wood burning, of course!) with a couple of bulbs and a transistor radio during the day and nada during the night — unless you’re one of the elite that can install a 30 meter propeller in the back yard to go with their 30 square meters of silicon.”

    Now that is an interesting spin. Can you tell me who wants that, specifically? (Yeah, I know, you’re being cynical.) I certainly would like to see this technological civilization move on and outside the earth’s gravity well into the greater solar system. Can’t do that with a couple of bulbs and a transistor radio.

    If anything, it may be that the only way we can attain this goal is to be a little more realistic about what our civilization is doing to the biosphere we live in, and make the changes we’ll need to in order to continue. Remember, right now this world that sustains us is the only one we have and I, for one, would like our descendents to be able to survive in it and live happy, healthy lives. Maybe that makes me odd; I sometimes think so, given how little consideration people seem to have for the future and their descendents. (An odd, ironic thing, given how much value we seem to place in the health and safety of our children when they are young.) If we continue as we are, I really don’t see our civilization’s (and in the long term, our species’) survival as a high probability outcome. And frankly, even if we engage in a high-priority effort to change the way we live my hopes for our future are bleak.

    First and foremost I’m a humanist, Rod. I am constantly amazed by what we have done as a species, the things we have built, the art and music we’ve created, the depth of thought that informs our global literature. We have a heck of a positive legacy, in spite of our faults (which are often legion). We have a capacity to excel beyond ourselves, to see ourselves and the world we live in with constantly evolving perspectives full of meaning and purpose.

    We are the only intelligent life form we know of. I’d like to think there are others, but I see no evidence of this and doubt such evidence will present itself in my lifetime. We have a capacity to excel beyond ourselves, to see ourselves and the world we live in with constantly evolving perspectives. This is such an amazing gift. I would love to see all these things that are good survive and with them intelligent, thoughtful people with the ability to understand and appreciate what they offer.

    Beyond the obvious technical and ecological/AGW issues that surround them, that’s what informs my “enthusiasm” for the potential inherent in renewable/sustainable energy solutions.

    If that seems cavalier to you, so be it.

    Have yourself a better day.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 12 Nov 2007 @ 11:15 AM

  505. To the Moderator – I would like to post the following in this section and also on the home page as a Challenge to the scientific community.

    I am an architect and would like to make some comments regarding electrical energy generation and consumption, as well as issue a challenge to the scientific community, the same challenge I recently issued in a keynote talk at Science 2007 at the University of Pittsburgh.

    First, some statistics. Seventy-six percent of all electrical energy produced in this country goes just to operate buildings. The EIA calculates 71%, but they do not include industrial building operations (HVAC), which when added, brings the total to 76%. The average residence in the US consumes approximately 45 kBtu/sf-yr of delivered energy and the average commercial building (non-government) about 85 kBtu/sf-yr.

    Between 384 kBtu/sf-yr (Seattle) and 680 kBtu/sf-yr (Las Vegas) of solar radiation is delivered free to every square foot of roof in the US. Between 364 kBtu/sf-yr (Seattle) and 539 kBtu/sf-yr (Las Vegas) of energy is delivered free to every un-shaded south wall (south facing surface) in the US. Or, to put it another way, between 748 kBtu/sf-yr and 1,219 kBtu/sf-yr of energy is delivered free to two surfaces of every building in the US. With delivered solar energy there are no losses for mining, processing, transporting, transmission, construction and operations of plants and infrastructure, water consumption, mountain top removal and reclamation, habitat loss, black lung disease, mercury contamination, radioactive material transportation, storage, security and proliferation issues, plant decommissioning, demolition and disposal, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and associated health and other issues.

    Next, an observation. Global oil production has peaked or is about to peak. Natural gas is not far behind. After the peak, the price of these resources will continue to climb and less and less will be produced and consumed. The one fossil fuel positioned to push the planet past 450ppm CO2 in the atmosphere is coal. Coal is primarily used to produce electricity for the operation of buildings.

    Finally, the Challenge.

    If the following problem can be solved, we stand a good chance of averting the catastrophic effects of global warming and climate change:

    Opportunity: Between 748 kBtu/sf-yr and 1,219 kBtu/sf-yr of solar energy is delivered free to two surfaces of every building in the US. Average building energy consumption in the US can be reduced 30% by designing to the latest building code standards.

    Challenge: Design an elegant and simple solution (cost effective) to convert and store 32 kBtu/sf-yr (2% to 4%) of this free delivered energy for intermittent use in residences and 60 kBtu/sf-yr (5% to 8%) for intermittent use in commercial buildings.

    Approximately 72% of the converted and stored energy will be used in residences (43% in commercial buildings) for heating, cooling, ventilation and hot water, (low temperature applications – 60 degF to 120 degF) and the remainder for electricity.

    The statistics are in your favor. Over the next 30 years, three quarters of the built environment in the US will be either new or renovated. Most structures in the US are either one or two stories in height (i.e. no solar shading).

    Comment by Edward Mazria — 12 Nov 2007 @ 11:37 AM

  506. I would add to the Challenge “the solution should be adaptable globally.”

    Comment by Edward Mazria — 12 Nov 2007 @ 12:01 PM

  507. 500 Jim Eager: First, Three Gorges was not built to store energy as with a pump-storage-generation facility…

    I didn’t say anything about Three Gorges. I was referring to the Tianhuangping pumped storage facility. That might explain why your numbers are all wrong.

    And the first link in google (1) shows 16m3 of storage, and 590m heigh difference. But in fact, in checking my math, instead a of $42/kwh of storage the real cost is $84 as you need one storage reservoir above and one below to catch it (duh).

    So storing energy is even worse than I said it would be.

    1. http://www.power-technology.com/projects/tianhuangping/

    Comment by Matt — 12 Nov 2007 @ 12:27 PM

  508. Matt (495) — For electrical power generation, any form of biomass can be used in one or another of a variety of reactors. So it is most economic to grow fast growing perennials as well as use agricultural, forestry and municiple biowastes. For example, Dayton, Ohio, uses the biogas for the anerobic digestion of sewage to power two medium-sized electric generators.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Nov 2007 @ 1:22 PM

  509. Re. Matt, #494:

    Of course, Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace

    He was not a co-founder of Greenpeace (although he falsely claims to be). However, he did go on the first Greenpeace voyage (see here).

    As for the reasons for his sudden “epiphany”, no-one knows the real reason for it, as he hardly speaks like a rational person about it.

    In The Great Global Warming Swindle he said: “When I left Greenpeace it was in the midst of them adopting a campaign to ban chlorine worldwide. Like I said, ‘you guys, this is one of the elements in the periodic table, you know; I mean, I’m not sure if it’s in our jurisdiction to be banning a whole element.’”

    In fact Greenpeace was not campaigning to “ban chlorine”, but to ban the use of CFCs, which in fact, despite Moore’s claim that it was impossible to do, was banned under the Montreal Protocol – and not because of Greenpeace’s campaign (it is hardly credible for a rational person to claim that governments are so easily swayed), but because of the overwhelming scientific evidence that CFCs were damaging the ozone hole, which convinced every major government in the world that this action was necessary.

    Even if it had been the use of an element, rather that of a complex compound that does not occur naturally, that was being banned, Patrick Moore’s claim would still be irrational. We have banned the use of the element lead in gasoline and in paint; and we have laws against the dumping of the element mercury into our lakes and rivers; and we have banned the use of the element radium to illuminate watch and clock hands. Moore does not campaign to have any of those bans rescinded.

    He is currently a paid lobbyist for and consultant to, not only the the nuclear energy, but also the mining, biotechnology and logging industries (and has been since the early 1990s). Moore has dismissed concerns about the impacts of logging, mining and forest clearance for agriculture on the Amazonian rainforests, which is hardly a rational position to take.

    He regularly describes all environmentalists as being “anti-human”.

    All in all he is not someone that any rational person could take seriously or have respect for, nor does he appear to have any integrity.

    Of course, this does rather beg the question of how such an person could have become a leading figure within Greenpeace for several years, and perhaps that does reflect badly on Greenpeace , but without knowing the true details of how he came to fall out with them, and what he was like before he fell out with them, it’s hard to judge.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 12 Nov 2007 @ 1:30 PM

  510. J.S. McIntyre wrote: “We are the only intelligent life form we know of.”

    That’s not true. There are plenty of other intelligent life forms with whom we share the Earth — for example, non-human primates, birds and dolphins. All of them have been shown to have language, reasoning ability, and culture. At least some of them have basic mathematical skills. Non-human primates and birds make and use simple tools, and teach their young to do so. Some non-human primates and some birds have learned to communicate intelligently using human languages (sign language in the case of primates, and spoken English in the case of birds).

    Intelligence is pervasive in nature, and other “intelligent life forms” are all around us. What they lack is the particular, synergistic evolutionary developments that have enabled the human species to develop advanced technologies to exploit and manipulate our “environment” — the very technologies that now threaten our existence, as well as the existence of many of the other “life forms” on this planet.

    It would be correct to say that the human species is the only advanced technological species we know of. Whether our technological prowess will ultimately prove to be a successful evolutionary development, or one that leads to our extinction after a mere 100 to 250 thousand years of existence on this planet, remains to be seen.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Nov 2007 @ 1:35 PM

  511. Re #501: [As I mentioned previously, I have never seen the case actually laid out by nuclear advocates that even a large expansion of nuclear power can make a significant reduction in carbon emissions.]

    Certainly you have, in past threads, unless you’re insisting on detailed engineering. But at the risk of tediousness, here are the simple answers:

    [How many new nuclear power plants?] Figuring that the existing ~100 nuclear plants in the US produce 20% of the electricity, it would take about 300 to replace coal-fired generation, fewer if we also put intensive efforts into other alternative generation & energy efficiency.

    [Built where?] Wherever there’s a large coal-fired plant that needs to be replaced. That minimizes investment in new transmission lines & other infrastructure.

    [Built by when?] ASAP. Ask the French how long it takes them to construct a plant, using their standard designs.

    [How much carbon emissions will they eliminate?] However much is generated by the coal-fired plants they replace.

    [Will they reduce current emissions by replacing existing coal generation, or just reduce expected growth by “replacing” coal generation plants not yet built...]

    Depends on how many are built, of course. If I was dictator, bringing a new nuclear plant on-line would require shutting down at least half that much fossil-fuel generation.

    [...replacing existing aging nuclear power plants that must be decommissioned in the next several decades?]

    Why must existing plants be decomissioned? They might need refurbishing to bring them up to current standards, but there’s a lot of structure that would be wasted by just shutting down.

    [How long will any such benefits last, once the easily and inexpensively extractable uranium supplies are exhausted?]

    Long enough to develop other technologies, with luck. Maybe in 50 years or so, we’ll be able to build fusion plants or solar power satellites – or maybe current political trends will result in a nuclear war that makes it all moot. The point is that we know that bad things will happen if the world keeps on with increasing CO2.

    Comment by James — 12 Nov 2007 @ 1:55 PM

  512. Re the viability of powersats, interesting discussion here:

    Reinventing the Solar Power Satellite

    Japanese scientists make breakthrough in space-based laser power

    Solar power satellite

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 12 Nov 2007 @ 2:17 PM

  513. Re animal intelligence and cognitive ethology, see Frans de Waal’s Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 12 Nov 2007 @ 2:23 PM

  514. James (511) — The United States current mines (and burns) about one billion tons of coal per year. Assuming that the average carbon fraction is 60%, that’s 600 million tons of carbon added yearly to the active carbon cycle.

    Not to mention the mercury, asenic, selenium, etc. emitted.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Nov 2007 @ 2:28 PM

  515. re 510

    “It would be correct to say that the human species is the only advanced technological species we know of.”

    *grin*

    I stand corrected for the imprecision of my statement, for that was the inherent meaning of what I was getting at, as the rest of what I was saying more or less implied.

    Thank you.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 12 Nov 2007 @ 2:39 PM

  516. He’s being very mealy-mouthed with words here when he says “doomed to immediate or early extinction.” Early extinction? Either we made them extinct or we didn’t.

    Not sure why I’m bothering to answer you, since I assume your ignorance is obvious to nearly everyone here but …

    No, he’s not being mealy-mouthed. Extinction is typically a gradual event, and we don’t usually know exactly when a particular species goes extinct even for species we’ve named.

    Species have rebounded.

    Name one that was in trouble due to habitat loss that has rebounded without intense (and very costly) human intervention to restore habitat?

    Actually, just for fun, name noe that has rebounded WITH intense (and very costly) human intervention to restore habitat?

    What is his timeline for the ultimate extinction to take place?

    It will differ for every species at risk, which is why it is incredibly stupid for you to expect a precise answer in a general statement about global extinction.

    Comment by dhogaza — 12 Nov 2007 @ 3:32 PM

  517. Re: 513 Jim Galasyn…

    For those preferring more formal reports: Space‐Based Solar Power As an Opportunity for Strategic Security (PDF)

    FINDING: The SBSP Study Group found that to the extent the United States decides it wishes to limit its carbon emissions, SBSP offers a potential path for long‐term carbon mitigation.

    This study does not take a position on anthropogenic climate change, which at this time still provoked significant debate among participants, but there is undeniable interest in options that limit carbon emission. Studies by Asakura et al in 2000 suggest that SBSP lifetime carbon emissions (chiefly in construction) are even more attractive than nuclear power, and that for the same amount of carbon emission, one could install 60 times the generating capacity, or alternately, one could replace existing generating capacity with 1/60th the lifetime carbon emission of a coal‐fired plant without CO2 sequestration.

    BTW, thanks for those links.

    AK

    Comment by AK — 12 Nov 2007 @ 4:07 PM

  518. Re 507 Matt: “I didn’t say anything about Three Gorges. I was referring to the Tianhuangping pumped storage facility. ”

    Thanks for pointing that out, Matt, but it would have been nice if you had said so clearly and provided the link in your original post.

    Are you aware that pump-storage-generation has been used since the 1890s and is already widely used in the US to even out peak load imbalance and provide greater than peak generation during peak demand?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 12 Nov 2007 @ 4:12 PM

  519. While on the subject of solar powered satellites, what is the potential viability or otherwise of putting a huge bank of photovoltaic solar panels in the Sahara and supplying electricity to Africa, Europe and parts of Asia from it?

    Comment by Dave Rado — 12 Nov 2007 @ 4:23 PM

  520. Re: 519

    Dave Rado Says:
    12 November 2007 at 4:23 PM

    While on the subject of solar powered satellites, what is the potential viability or otherwise of putting a huge bank of photovoltaic solar panels in the Sahara and supplying electricity to Africa, Europe and parts of Asia from it?

    I’ve never seen a formal analysis, but in addition to the obvious socio-political problems, just one word: sandstorms.

    Comment by AK — 12 Nov 2007 @ 5:12 PM

  521. #418: John Coleman of The Weather Channel says AGW is a scam: “I have read dozens of scientific papers. I have talked with numerous scientists.” We keep running into this basic tenant: that climate scientists, in aggregate, are either mislead in mass or are idiots. 2,500 of them working their entire lives writing in countless scholarly works reviewed by yet more scientists and readers. All idiots. John Coleman can out-think them over his morning Post Toasties.

    Worse news, the average human can’t see past it. This is why catastrophes that surpass the human scale, and our limited ability to reason around small problems but not large ones, is our ultimate undoing.

    Comment by Cat Black — 12 Nov 2007 @ 5:15 PM

  522. Dave Rado @ 519: what is the potential viability or otherwise of putting a huge bank of photovoltaic solar panels in the Sahara and supplying electricity to Africa, Europe and parts of Asia from it?
    Considerable (although it’s unlikely to be a single huge project and more likely to be a steady development of a number of large projects, and much of it might be solar thermal rather than photoelectric). I recall reading about an Algerian project, which I think was under construction.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 12 Nov 2007 @ 5:39 PM

  523. James wrote: “Ask the French how long it takes them to construct a plant, using their standard designs.”

    It’s curious how often nuclear proponents cite France as an example for the US to follow with regard to nuclear power, given that the US, not France, is the largest producer of nuclear-generated electricity in the world, and the US has 104 operating nuclear power plants compared to only 59 in France.

    According to Bloomberg.com, the Olkiluoto-3 nuclear power plant under construction in Finland — “the first nuclear plant ordered in Western Europe since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster” — has experienced serious problems including “flawed welds for the reactor’s steel liner, unusable water-coolant pipes and suspect concrete in the foundation” which have led to 25 percent (so far) cost overruns and an expected delivery delay of at least two years beyond the original schedule.

    The group constructing the reactor is led by France’s Areva SA, and the reactor is Areva’s “next generation” European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) design, which is presumably representative of the new standardized reactors that nuclear proponents would like to see built by the hundreds.

    The Bloomberg article quotes Paul Joskow, director of the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research at MIT: “The nuclear industry has put forward very optimistic construction cost estimates, but there is no experience that comes even close to backing them up.”

    James wrote: “Why must existing plants be decomissioned? They might need refurbishing to bring them up to current standards, but there’s a lot of structure that would be wasted by just shutting down.”

    Pushing aging nuclear power plants beyond their original service life (typically 30-60 years) invites disaster. Old nuclear power plants wear out, and are themselves a form of “radioactive waste.”

    They have to be decommissioned which costs hundreds of millions of dollars and takes decades. In the US, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses nuclear power plants for 40 years, at the end of which time the operator can apply for a renewal or decommission the plant, which the NRC says will typically cost $300 million and may take 60 years.

    Yes, this is very wasteful.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 12 Nov 2007 @ 5:40 PM

  524. Re 507 Matt: “But in fact, in checking my math, instead a of $42/kwh of storage the real cost is $84 as you need one storage reservoir above and one below to catch it (duh).”

    Perhaps in the Chinese example, but this is definitely not true for many pump-storage-generation facilities. For example, the twin facilities down stream from Niagara Falls, one on the US side, one on the Canadian side, both draw and discharge water directly from/to the Niagara River, so both plants have only a single storage reservoir.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 12 Nov 2007 @ 5:56 PM

  525. Re #519: [...what is the potential viability or otherwise of putting a huge bank of photovoltaic solar panels in the Sahara...]

    About the same as putting them anywhere else. Figure out how much electricity you want, look up the price of that many solar panels, and multiply. Then figure in the cost of storage if you want power at night.

    Comment by James — 12 Nov 2007 @ 6:03 PM

  526. Re. Nick Barnes, #522, what about the points raised by AK in #520? And if these problems are considered to be realistically surmountable, why isn’t this option being pushed hard now? I don’t think the IPCC WGIII report considered it (correct me if I’m wrong).

    Comment by Dave Rado — 12 Nov 2007 @ 6:23 PM

  527. Dave Rado (526) — What’s ‘being done” in the U.S. I don’t seem to be able to link it, but its in the Scitizen web site entitled

    [Opinion] Climate Change Politics

    Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Nov 2007 @ 7:23 PM

  528. A quick note on solar solutions. First in the Sahara: I’m not sure how many Harmattan seasons the cells would survive before they either blew away or their cover glasses were so pitted that their efficiency decreased to unviable levels. Maintenance of even wells in the Sahara is nontrivial. There are few empty spaces in the world, and there are usually reasons why they stay empty.

    Now in space: It costs ~$10000 to launch a Coke can into space. Moreover, any space-based system will suffer from the same problems that Satellite communications systems suffer from–Sending a microwave beam from GEO probably isn’t terribly practical, and in LEO/MEO, you need a buttload of satellites and/or they are in a nasty radiation environment that will shorten satellite lifetime. It is really hard to get a satellite to last longer than 15 years no matter what you do.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 12 Nov 2007 @ 7:59 PM

  529. Re. David Benson (#527), the Scitizen article is very interesting but I don’t see its relevance to my questions about solar panels in the Sahara?

    Comment by Dave Rado — 12 Nov 2007 @ 8:30 PM

  530. Re: #526 Dave Rado

    The Algeria Project uses mirror-concentrated sunlight. From one news story:

    The plant will be a hybrid, using both sun and natural gas to generate 150 megawatts. Of that, 25 megawatts will come from giant parabolic mirrors stretching over an area that’s roughly the equivalent of 45 football fields.

    I couldn’t find a picture of the Algerian installation (drawing rather, it’s not built yet), but here’s one of an installation in the Mojave Desert at Kramer Junction, California.

    The mirrors appear to be enclosed in a transparent (glass?) cover, and to rotate to follow the sun. Both transparent covers and moving parts are vulnerable to sandstorms, but probably less so than light-weight solar panels. Heavy moving solar panels would still have the same problems as parabolic mirrors. AFAIK, sandstorms aren’t unknown in the Mojave, but aren’t as bad or frequent as in the Sahara.

    According to the article linked/quoted above, “[t]he project is still at an early stage and faces daunting financial and technological obstacles.” Of course, space-based power will also face “daunting financial and technological obstacles.

    Comment by AK — 12 Nov 2007 @ 8:37 PM

  531. Re: #528 (Ray’s comments)

    I’m with Ray on challenges of captivating solar cells and beaming energy down from space.

    Folks need to keep in mind the quantities involved to make a dent. Assume you had a 10 pound aluminum frame to hold a 1m2 of solar cells. That frame would be required to cope with wind loads of almost 1000 pounds (~100psf). Additionally, you would need >10 years of US primary aluminum output to make all the frames. (3.6T KWH demand per year, 324 kwh/yr/m2 from solar cell, ~6B pounds of aluminum per year). The numbers are absolutely staggering.

    I also don’t get space power. With >100 dB path loss, to meet US demand would require the things in space to beam down 4e18 watts 24×7. Even to meet 1% of US demand the numbers are still unbelievable.

    Comment by Matt — 12 Nov 2007 @ 9:26 PM

  532. J.S., as a small example I thought the “*grin*” over the “99% availability for electricity was a bit cavalier. But maybe I inferred too much. Your post #504 is learned and not cavalier.

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Nov 2007 @ 9:33 PM

  533. re 519: “…what is the potential viability or otherwise of putting a huge bank of photovoltaic solar panels in the Sahara and supplying electricity to Africa, Europe and parts of Asia from it?…”

    You still have the (now MASSIVE) storage problem and would lose tremendous amount of power through transmission even with DC. But any quicky checkout of something no matter how bluesky can’t hurt.

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Nov 2007 @ 9:44 PM

  534. Re:

    528

    Ray Ladbury Says:
    12 November 2007 at 7:59 PM

    Now in space: It costs ~$10000 to launch a Coke can into space. Moreover, any space-based system will suffer from the same problems that Satellite communications systems suffer from–Sending a microwave beam from GEO probably isn’t terribly practical, and in LEO/MEO, you need a buttload of satellites and/or they are in a nasty radiation environment that will shorten satellite lifetime. It is really hard to get a satellite to last longer than 15 years no matter what you do.

    531

    Matt Says:
    12 November 2007 at 9:26 PM

    I also don’t get space power. With >100 dB path loss, to meet US demand would require the things in space to beam down 4e18 watts 24×7. Even to meet 1% of US demand the numbers are still unbelievable.

    We’re talking about power satellites (or at least the antennas) in GEO, with a phased array antenna beaming to an earth rectenna. Assuming 5.8 GHz, and equal sized broadcast antenna and rectenna, both would be 4-5 Kilometers across. (Longer in the east-west dimension if the satellite was at a high angle from zenith.) Transfer efficiency would probably be somewhere between 25% and 50%.

    The classic formula given at the 1975 conference was Dd=2*pi*R*Lambda, where D and d are the diameters of the sending and receiving antennas (apertures), R is the distance, and Lambda is the wavelength. With these dimensions, effectively all of the energy sent will be received in the rectenna.

    As for the price of launch, I covered that above:

    Costwise, there are several things to consider. First, economies of scale will lower the price of launch to orbit by several orders of magnitude. Second, the entire launch and setup cost doesn’t create a system of power satellites, it creates a system of factories to make power satellites, using power and mass already away from earth. Once that factory system is built, the actual mass of power satellites will be many orders of magnitude greater than what was launched into orbit.

    Comment by AK — 12 Nov 2007 @ 10:20 PM

  535. Re. #530, AK, fascinating, although I wish there was a bit more detail in the articles about exactly how they hope to cope with sandstorms, and how they get their projected numbers (such as “our potential in thermal solar power is four times the world’s energy consumption”).

    I heard a report on the radio recently that in some recent climate talks leading up to Bali, the developing world countries (G20?) were trying to forge a common negotiating position for Bali, and were stymied in their attempt to do so by countries like Saudi Arabia insisting that they would only sign up on condition that they receive “compensation” for their expected loss of revenue resulting from the future increased use of renewable energy!

    Now it seems to me that if the Saudis (et al) were to change their demand subtly to saying that the “compensation” they are asking for should take the form of investment by the West in large solar projects in the Middle Eastern oil producing countries similar to the Algerian project, under some sort of offsetting scheme, then they’d be onto a winner.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 12 Nov 2007 @ 10:25 PM

  536. One energy storage option I haven’t seen discussed is Flywheel energy storage

    This option is currently used mostly in vehicles, despite many disadvantages. As a mass-produced stationary storage system, it could probably be gotten up and running within a few years. It requires no exotic materials for construction (although many modern flywheels are made of graphite composites). There is some danger of explosion, as with any power storage system, but such explosions are entirely mechanical (no nasty combustion products), and safety precautions would be much easier in a static large facility than a vehicle.

    Comment by AK — 12 Nov 2007 @ 10:33 PM

  537. Re. RodB, #533:

    re 519: “…what is the potential viability or otherwise of putting a huge bank of photovoltaic solar panels in the Sahara and supplying electricity to Africa, Europe and parts of Asia from it?…”

    You still have the (now MASSIVE) storage problem and would lose tremendous amount of power through transmission even with DC.

    I imagine the Algerians must have already thought of that (see #530), and must believe they have an answer to it. And they seem to have invested many millions in it already, so it’s not just blue sky. But I wish there were an article about the Algerian project that covered that sort of issue in detail.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 12 Nov 2007 @ 10:41 PM

  538. Re #23: [...the reactor is Areva’s “next generation” European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) design, which is presumably representative of the new standardized reactors...]

    So it’s the first of the type. There are going to be problems building the first one of anything. You work out the problems on #1, so #2 has fewer problems. By the time you’re at #10 or so, you’ve learned how to build that design well & quickly.

    The important point is that we know they can be built, and will work, unlike most of the proposed alternatives.

    Comment by James — 12 Nov 2007 @ 11:47 PM

  539. re 519. 92 square miles of solar thermal electric generation would power todays US electrical needs. See: http://www.ausra.com/. They claim 3% of the land area of Morocco would supply the electrical energy needs of Europe. Not sure if this includes transmission losses. They are projecting they can deliver electricity (with storage) at competitive prices as they ramp up US production.

    Comment by Edward Mazria — 13 Nov 2007 @ 12:17 AM

  540. #516 dhogaza: No, he’s not being mealy-mouthed. Extinction is typically a gradual event, and we don’t usually know exactly when a particular species goes extinct even for species we’ve named.

    His first statement (“doomed to immediate or early extinction”) could be said to be true regardless. It’s a meaningless statement.

    I could say: “Your driving is horrible. You are doomed to a car crash next week, or at some point in the future.”

    You can never prove that statement wrong unless you die an old man without having been in a crash. It’s a meaningless statement to make, whether it’s about cars or extinctions.

    His second statement (“the annual loss is in the tens of thousands”) in isolation is provably wrong; it’s alarmist. So, he’s got all bases covered. He can use the clearly wrong, alarmist statement whenever he wants, then when he’s called to the rug for some measure of accountability, he simply brings out the full statement.

    He’s argued from teh same vantage point for better than 30 years. Just curious, but at what point will you concede “Yeah, it looks like he was a bit pessimistic”. In 100 years if we’re still at current extinction rates? 200 years? 500 years? Even in a thousand years his kin can still be arguing how prescient great grandpa was–even if current rates are still in tact.

    Name one that was in trouble due to habitat loss that has rebounded without intense (and very costly) human intervention to restore habitat?

    Why limit to habitat loss? None of the original statements were specifically about habitat loss.

    Google for “thought to be extinct” and you get ivory billed woodpecker, Yangtze river dolphin, Siamese crocodiles, South China Tiger, Wollemi pine, Harlequin frog, Madagascar Pochard, Vietnamese Javan Rhino, Diatomyidea, and on and on.

    People thought there were zero, then they found some. Presumably, they weren’t spending money on saving somethign they previously had thought was exctinct. So, we can say these rebounded without any human intervention, no?

    Actually, just for fun, name noe that has rebounded WITH intense (and very costly) human intervention to restore habitat?

    Again why limit to habitat loss? Google “saved from extinction” and you get another long list. Praried dog, whooping crane, grizzly bear, bald eagle, gray wolf, green sea turtle, key deer, florida panther, kirtland’s warbler. And on and on.

    It will differ for every species at risk, which is why it is incredibly stupid for you to expect a precise answer in a general statement about global extinction.

    I don’t expect a precise answer. But I do expect an answer that has some tie back to reality. There’s a reason the UN reports things differently than Wilson and Lovejoy. And there’s a reason Gore cites Wilson and Lovejoy rather than the UN. You know that too.

    Comment by Matt — 13 Nov 2007 @ 1:27 AM

  541. #511. James asks why nuclear power plants need to be decomissioned. It is a question of sea level rise risk.

    Take Hansen’s BAU sea level rise estimate of 5 metres plus by 2100 (for example see
    http://environment.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg19526141.600&feedId=climate-change_rss20 )
    and put 5 metres into here

    http://flood.firetree.net/

    to check against the locations of nuclear reactors installations which are given here

    http://www.insc.anl.gov/pwrmaps/

    Arial pictures of each nuclear installation can also be viewed using Google Earth.

    Assuming 5 metres by 2100, one might assume perhaps 3 metres by 2050 for BAU (especially as the GIS is exhibiting ice quakes growing at something like 5th power).

    Redo the above risks assessments with 3 metres SLR by 2050. (NB risk assessment does not means prediction; it means risk assessment of a potential scenario).

    The risks of huge sea levels on decadal time scales suggest that the nuclear industry needs to go back to its risk assessment exercises for each and every plant and urgently consider whether for each and every plant a premature (ie before-end-of-life) decommissioning needs to carried out. Plant subject to SLR-induced inland quakes also need to be reassessed.

    For those industries that use energy sourced from nuclear, an assessment needs to be made of the ways in which high-impact energy conservation and alternative energy (consider renewables!!!!!) backfill is delivered to cover the sea-level-rise induced nuclear gap.

    Avoiding the nuclear risks should to be top priority.

    Emergency mitigation should be top priority.

    United Nations IPCC sea level rise team: please reconvene full-time as an emergency measure.

    Comment by mg — 13 Nov 2007 @ 4:21 AM

  542. Intelligence is pervasive in nature, and other “intelligent life forms” are all around us. What they lack is the particular, synergistic evolutionary developments that have enabled the human species to develop advanced technologies to exploit and manipulate our “environment”

    An important point, nicely put…

    I have not got out to buy “Cool it” but have had a nice email exchange with Kare Fog in Denmark who thinks the 1.5 Million “cold deaths” comes from extrapolating for a larger population than was examined by Keatinge et al available here:
    http://www.bmj.com/cgi/reprint/321/7262/670

    Fog’s extensive criticism of that approach is here:
    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/coolitBchap2heat.htm

    My take remains as above – the issue is not some absurdity like “AGW is on balance a good thing because we’ll have fewer dead people from the cold”, rather it is “alarmism is bad”. He’s reasonably suggesting that most media accounts, and even some scientists, focus almost exclusively and narrowly on events with a trivial AGW component (European heat wave, Lake Chad, Katrina) while excluding events and circumstances that do not support the idea that AGW peril is imminent and consequences will likely be catastrophic.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 13 Nov 2007 @ 4:52 AM

  543. Re #531 Matt:

    With >100 dB path loss

    Path loss? We’re talking beam propagation here. 85% transmission efficiency has been demonstrated — see the Wikipedia article, e.g. Or were you really thinking of bathing the whole country / planet in a microwave power field? :-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 13 Nov 2007 @ 5:31 AM

  544. RE#540
    Matt said:
    “Google for “thought to be extinct” and you get ivory billed woodpecker, Yangtze river dolphin, Siamese crocodiles, South China Tiger, Wollemi pine, Harlequin frog, Madagascar Pochard, Vietnamese Javan Rhino, Diatomyidea, and on and on.

    People thought there were zero, then they found some. Presumably, they weren’t spending money on saving somethign they previously had thought was exctinct. So, we can say these rebounded without any human intervention, no?”

    Actually, no we can’t say they “rebounded”. The Yangtze dolphin is functionally extinct (circa 2006. There is an unconfirmed sighting in 2007). There are less than 30 South China tigers in the wild(according to Wikipedia). The Javan Rhino recovery is hindered by continual habitat loss. The 10,000$ reward for the discovery of an Ivory Billed Woodpecker nest is still waiting to be claimed, and there has been no “definitive” sighting of the woodpecker either, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

    You need to choose your words more carefully.

    Comment by jbroon — 13 Nov 2007 @ 8:19 AM

  545. SecularAnimist writes:

    [[That’s not true. There are plenty of other intelligent life forms with whom we share the Earth — for example, non-human primates, birds and dolphins. All of them have been shown to have language, reasoning ability, and culture. At least some of them have basic mathematical skills. Non-human primates and birds make and use simple tools, and teach their young to do so. Some non-human primates and some birds have learned to communicate intelligently using human languages (sign language in the case of primates, and spoken English in the case of birds).]]

    True. There is, however, a difference in the level of intelligence. Intelligence, by performance on problem-solving tests, seems to follow encephalization quotient, and while EQ is 7.3 for humans, is is only 5.8 for dolphins, 2-3 for great apes and 1-2 for birds such as parrots. No animal makes fire other than man, although several (apes, monkeys, raccoons) have hands and eye-hand coordination.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 Nov 2007 @ 9:11 AM

  546. James writes:

    [[[How much carbon emissions will they eliminate?] However much is generated by the coal-fired plants they replace.]]

    Not quite. Nuclear plants use large quantities of cement, and machines used in mining uranium are generally fossil-fuel powered. There would be technical problems switching them to electric; those machines need to generate a lot of energy fast.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 Nov 2007 @ 9:19 AM

  547. Can someone comment on this just out on the E-Wire: Rising Sea Levels: Science Fiction. at: http://www.ewire.com/display.cfm/Wire_ID/4347. I will be speaking soon in New Jersey and will surely be questioned about it.

    Re 541. One meter of sea level rise would be catastrophic for the US. See full page ad in the NY Times yesterday “America: Nowhere to Hide” at: http://www.architecture2030.org/pdfs/NY_Times_111207.pdf (it will take a minute to open the file, lots of graphics)

    Comment by Edward Mazria — 13 Nov 2007 @ 9:28 AM

  548. AK writes:

    [[While on the subject of solar powered satellites, what is the potential viability or otherwise of putting a huge bank of photovoltaic solar panels in the Sahara and supplying electricity to Africa, Europe and parts of Asia from it?

    I’ve never seen a formal analysis, but in addition to the obvious socio-political problems, just one word: sandstorms.]]

    Another word: Shovels.

    Sandstorms don’t occupy the majority of space or time in deserts. They will certainly add to wear and tear on the facilities and will cause some downtime. I would imagine they would therefore add to downtime and to maintenance and replacement costs. Will the addition be fatal to the project? My guess would be not, but has anyone studied the question?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 Nov 2007 @ 9:32 AM

  549. Matt @ 540: your short lists of endangered and rescued creatures are all, or nearly all, megafauna. The great majority of species in the world are not(*). It is relatively easy to prevent extinction of a megafauna species, because most such species have wide ranges some part of which can be protected.
    Consider instead the many millions of species of insect in tropical rainforests. Many of these species are known from a very small number of specimens, and of course most species are not known at all. The ranges of the known species are hard to measure, although models suggest that power laws are at work, and that many have ranges of just a few square kilometres or even less. Cut down the range and the species is wiped out.

    (*) I recall reading a paper suggesting that the majority of eukaryotic species in the world are nematode worms and other microfauna living in sea-bottom sediments, but we just don’t know.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 13 Nov 2007 @ 9:36 AM

  550. As far as solar power satellites are concerned, it’s plainly absurd without far cheaper and more reliable launch technologies. So why don’t the SPS advocates come back once we’ve got that wrinkle ironed out?
    I’m quite prepared to believe that it’s the power technology of the 22nd century, but there’s no way it’s going to save us from ourselves in the next couple of decades.
    During those decades, I’m all for spending some of our aerospace subsidy on developing cheaper and simpler launch technology (Google will show me advocating this on sci.space and elsewhere nearly 20 years ago). Rather than, say, ballistic missile defense.
    In the meantime, we actually have plenty of solar energy down here on the earth’s surface. Let’s build some big CSP plants in the hot deserts.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 13 Nov 2007 @ 9:44 AM

  551. AK writes:

    [[Assuming 5.8 GHz, and equal sized broadcast antenna and rectenna, both would be 4-5 Kilometers across. (Longer in the east-west dimension if the satellite was at a high angle from zenith.) Transfer efficiency would probably be somewhere between 25% and 50%.]]

    Probably I’m missing something simple, but if the antenna and the rectenna are the same size, how do you keep the beam from spreading out? Doesn’t the inverse-square law apply?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 Nov 2007 @ 9:46 AM

  552. Joe Duck Says:
    13 November 2007 at 4:52 AM

    My take remains as above – the issue is not some absurdity like “AGW is on balance a good thing because we’ll have fewer dead people from the cold”, rather it is “alarmism is bad”. He’s reasonably suggesting that most media accounts, and even some scientists, focus almost exclusively and narrowly on events with a trivial AGW component (European heat wave, Lake Chad, Katrina) while excluding events and circumstances that do not support the idea that AGW peril is imminent and consequences will likely be catastrophic. …

    This is the article Lomborg mentions:

    “August 2003 was the warmest August on record in the northern hemisphere, but according to the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), even more extreme weather events lie ahead. By the end of the century, the world’s average temperature is projected to increase by 2.5-10.4 degrees Fahrenheit (1.4-5.8 degrees Celsius). As the mercury climbs, more frequent and more severe heat waves are in store. …” – http://www.earth-policy.org/Updates/Update29.htm

    AGW caused what heat wave?

    Comment by J.C.H. — 13 Nov 2007 @ 9:51 AM

  553. Lomborg-errors excerpt:

    “… To say that all deaths in excess of 0.54/100,000 are deaths due to ‘cold’, is a misuse of statistics. This misuse becomes even worse when we are said to have the basic death rate only during the 40 days per year, whereas we are said to have excess deaths due to cold not just during winter, but during 287 days per year, that is during 79 % of the year. We get an awful lot of ‘excess deaths’ in that way. Most of these are deaths of elderly people that would have deceased anyway within about half a year.
    For each location and each temperature, the average daily mortality is taken from the death statistics. It is then believed – falsely, it seems – that even if climate warms, the death rate at each temperature will remain the same. So, if there will be fewer days with relatively low temperatures then the total mortality will be lower. This belief is not founded on any concrete knowledge….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Nov 2007 @ 10:15 AM

  554. An interesting piece under the title “Fuzzy Math” in the current Discover mag, p.19; take with however many grains of salt you deem appropriate.
    ============

    For 115.400 BTU (the amount of energy in one gallon of gasoline), you pay:

    Gasoline: $2.86 (actually more, as we all understand, and about to rise another $0.20 according to this morning’s news.)

    *Solar – $14.44 (I’m assuming photovoltaic, though they didn’t distinguish.)

    Wind – $1.66

    Biofuel, B20 – $2.70

    *Nuclear – $3.75

    *Hydropower – $0.91

    Geothermal – $1.69

    *Natural Gas – $5.37

    Information based on national averages from the Energy Information Administration, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, all offshoots of the Dept. of Energy. Power plants measure energy in kilowatt-hours (kWh), and one kWh is equivalent to 3,413 BTU, or about 3% of the energy in one gallon of gasoline.

    * – Based on California’s high average price-per-kilowatt hour, according to the California Energy Commission.

    =============

    Needless to say, it is obvious photovoltaic Solar has a long way to go. At the risk of sounding cavalier, I think with the inevitable factors of innovation and economy of scale will get us there.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 13 Nov 2007 @ 11:04 AM

  555. Matt, the ivory-billed woodpecker is almost certainly extinct. There’s one *possible* documented sighting in the last 50 years. Even before the $10,000 reward mentioned by jbroon was offered, ornithologists had been looking hard for this species for decades. Not only here, but in Cuba.

    And finding nothing.

    It’s been years since that one documented possible sighting (an ambiguous out-of-focus video tape, and an audio recording of what might be an ivory-billed, but then again could be a pileated, woodpecker). That neck of the woods has been scoured. Nada. Nothing. This is a large, conspicuous, noisy bird that shouldn’t be that hard to find in breeding season.

    As jbroon says, even if a pair or two exist, that’s not a “rebound”.

    I do hope the example of the ivory-billed woodpecker makes clear to you the difficulty of documenting the extinction of a species.

    His first statement (”doomed to immediate or early extinction”) could be said to be true regardless. It’s a meaningless statement.

    I could say: “Your driving is horrible. You are doomed to a car crash next week, or at some point in the future.”

    Bad analogy. A better analogy is “You have incurable cancer. You have one to eight months to live”.

    Again why limit to habitat loss?

    Because reversing habitat loss is usually expensive.

    Google “saved from extinction” and you get another long list. Praried dog, whooping crane, grizzly bear, bald eagle, gray wolf, green sea turtle, key deer, florida panther, kirtland’s warbler. And on and on.

    Most of these aren’t “saved from extinction”, they remain on the endangered list (which means they are at risk of extinction in the very near term).

    Also the amount of money spent on these species is huge. That’s why I posed my questions the way I did.

    There’s no way we’re going to spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on each species at risk of extinction due to human causes. Even here in the US, there’s a huge backlog on the creation of recovery plans for species already on the threatened/endangered lists.

    But I do expect an answer that has some tie back to reality.

    Well, it’s clear that you and lomborg don’t know squat about the subject. E.O. Wilson’s one of the greatest biologists of the last two centuries. I’ll trust his work on this subject over your and lomborg’s handwaving any day of the week.

    Comment by dhogaza — 13 Nov 2007 @ 11:09 AM

  556. re 478 (again)

    “Discarding the 99% availability standard (actually higher than that) out of hand sounds like the true goal is simply to get us back to nature and near pioneering days (sans all the wood burning, of course!)”

    Came across the following regarding this perspective. (Note: this was written a decade before “Collapse”)

    =============

    There is a popular myth going around. It maintains that there is something particularly corrupt about Western civilization – as if it invented war, exploitation, oppression, and pollution all by itself. Certainly if this were so, the world’s problems might be solved by just returning to “older, better ways.” Many do cling to the fantasy that this or that non-Western culture had some patent or universal happiness.

    Alas, if only it were so easy.

    In his book “A Forrest Journey: From Mesopotamia to North America,” John Perlin shows how the vast Feryile plains and mountains of Greece, Turkey, and the Middle East were turned into hardscrabble ravines by ancient civilizations. The record of the pillage goes back thousands of years to the earliest known epic, The Tale of Gilgamesh, about a king who cut down primordial cedar forests to take lumber for his city-state of Uruk. Droughts and floods plagued the land soon afterward, but Gilgamesh, nor any of his contemporaries, ever saw the connection.

    Summerian civilization went on to seize Oak from Arabia, juniper from Syria, cedar from Anatolia. The rivers of the Near East filled with silt, clogging ports and irrigation canals. Dredging only exposed salty layers below, which eventually ruined whatever soil hadn’t already blown away. The result, over centuries, is a region we know well as a realm of blowing sands and bitter winds, but which was once called the “fertile crescent,” the land of milk and honey.

    We don’t need mystical conjectures about “cycles of history” to explain, for instance, the Fall of Rome. Perlin shows how the Roman Empire, the Aegean civilization of ancient Greece, imperial China, and so many other past cultures performed the same feat, ignorantly fouling their own nests, using up the land, poisoning the future for their own children. Ecological historians are at last starting to realize that this is simply the natural consequence whenever a people acquire more physical power than insight.

    While it is romantic to imagine that tribal peoples – either ancient or in today’s retreating rainforests – were at harmony with nature, living happy, egalitarian lives, current research shows this to be far from uniformly true, and more often just plain false. Despite a fervent desire to believe otherwise, evidence now reveals that members of nearly every “natural” society have committed depredations on their environment and on each other. The harm they did was limited mostly by low technology and modest numbers.

    The same goes for beating up on the human race as a whole. Oh, we have much to atone for, but the case isn’t strengthened by exaggerations that are just plain wrong. Stephen Jay Gould has condemned “…the romantic twaddle the common litany that `man alone kills for sport, but other animals [kill] only for food or in defense.’” Anyone who has watched a common housecat with a mouse – or stallions battling over dominance – knows that humans aren’t so destructive because of anything fundamentally wrong about human nature. It’s our POWER that amplifies the harm we do until it threatens the entire world.

    My purpose in saying this isn’t to insult other cultures or species. Rather, I am trying to argue that the problems we face are deep-seated, with a long history. The irony of these myths of the noble tribesman, or noble animal, is that they are most fervently held by pampered Westerners whose well-cushioned culture is the first ever to feel comfortable enough to promote a new tradition of self-criticism. And it is this very habit of criticism – even self-reproach – that makes ours the first human society with a chance to avoid the mistakes of our ancestors.

    Indeed, the race between our growing awareness and the momentum of our greed makes the next half-century the greatest dramatic interlude of all time…

    …Oh, surely, a good dose of guilt now and then can help motivate us to do better. But I see nothing useful coming out of looking backward for salvation of modeling ourselves after ancient tribes. WE are the generation – here and now – that must pick up a truly daunting burden, to tend and keep a planetary oasis, in all its delicacy and diversity, for future millennia and beyond. Those who claim to find answers to such complex dilemmas in the sagas of olden days only trivialize the awesome magnitude of the task.

    David Brin – Afterword to “Earth”

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 13 Nov 2007 @ 11:09 AM

  557. Re: 539

    Edward Mazria Says:
    13 November 2007 at 12:17 AM

    re 519. 92 square miles of solar thermal electric generation would power todays US electrical needs. See: http://www.ausra.com/. They claim 3% of the land area of Morocco would supply the electrical energy needs of Europe. Not sure if this includes transmission losses. They are projecting they can deliver electricity (with storage) at competitive prices as they ramp up US production.

    Actually, that’s a square 92 miles on a side: 8464 square miles.

    Comment by AK — 13 Nov 2007 @ 11:47 AM

  558. AK says “First, economies of scale will lower the price of launch to orbit by several orders of magnitude.”
    And it will do this exactly…how? You are facing the same problem Bill Gates did with Teledesic, and the problem of launch costs was one thing that sunk that project.”

    AK goes on to say:
    “Second, the entire launch and setup cost doesn’t create a system of power satellites, it creates a system of factories to make power satellites, using power and mass already away from earth. Once that factory system is built, the actual mass of power satellites will be many orders of magnitude greater than what was launched into orbit.”
    OK, you’re going to have to help me out here. Where does the mass of the satellites come from if you don’t launch it? Are you proposing to snag meteors as they whiz by? Are you going to set up your infrastructure on the moon? Salvage space junk? Don’t know if you observed this, but space is really pretty empty. Manufacturing in space is also problematic. And again, radiation will limit the lifetime of any factory just as it will your solar arrays. The general rule of economics in space will be: If you make it in space, use it in space, because it doesn’t make sense to overcome the gravity well just to send it back to Earth.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 13 Nov 2007 @ 11:49 AM

  559. James wrote: “So it’s the first of the type. There are going to be problems building the first one of anything [...] The important point is that we know they can be built, and will work, unlike most of the proposed alternatives.”

    Since, as you say, the French-designed EPR reactor at Olkiluoto-3 is “the first of the type”, we don’t in fact “know” that it can be built — in anything like the timeframe, at anything like the cost, with anything like the safety standards (which have already been “relaxed” for this reactor) originally proposed. We may find out that it will take much longer, and be a lot more expensive, and have a lot more quality and safety problems than originally expected. And we don’t in fact “know” that it “will work” — as cost-effectively, safely and reliably as originally expected. It may have lots of unexpected problems over time.

    What we do in fact “know” about earlier reactor designs is that they typically take longer than expected to build, cost more to construct, and have a lot of problems, including frequent, extended and costly periods of downtime due to safety issues. That’s with “proven” nuclear technology. A big part of the nuclear expansion argument is that the unproven “new generation” of plants will be built faster and cheaper and will be safer. The Olkiluoto-3 reactor suggests that these hopes may not be met.

    And we most certainly do know that “most of the proposed alternatives” from large-scale wind turbine “farms” and concentrating solar collectors, to distributed small-scale rooftop photovoltaics, and by far the most important, conservation and efficiency, do work, and work just fine.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 13 Nov 2007 @ 12:04 PM

  560. re 537 (Dave): “…I imagine the Algerians must have already thought of that (see #530), and must believe they have an answer to it….”

    That’t true, but then they are not shipping gigawatts all over Asia and Europe.

    Comment by Rod B — 13 Nov 2007 @ 12:27 PM

  561. Re. #542, Joe Duck, more han half of the deaths from the European heatwave are thought to be atrributable to global warming, and if you consider more than half “trivial”, we use different dictionaries. More importantly, you are missing the point, yet again, that 2003 in isolation isn’t the issue, the issue is that the IPCC projections indicate that by 2100, 2003′s summer will be considered unusually cold, that most European summers will be warmer than 2003 was. The point about 2003 is what it portends rather than the absolute number of people who died that year. This point has been made to you over and over again and it seems to go in one ear and out the other, which is why you keep being accused of trolling. Having to make the same points to you over and over again is extremely frustrating, so please stop this troll-like behaviour.

    In addition, as has also been pointed out to you over and over again, the figures Lomborg quoted were misleading in several respects, and you have failed to address any of those points. For example, that it is not the absolute number of people who die in summer vs. winter that is the issue, but how many additional deaths annually are expected as the world warms – and far more additional deaths are expected annually as a result of heat than of cold as the world warms (see IPCC).

    In the case of Lake Chad and Katrina the AGW contribution is unquantifiable but the concensus is that is is unlikely to be trivial (increases in SSTs undoubtedly do increase mean hurricane intensity, for example); but more importantly, you are again completely missing the point, a point that has been made to you over and over again but which seems to have fallen on deaf ears, that it what they portend for the future that is the issue. The IPCC projections indicate that drying out of major lakes like Chad, and severe droughts in general, will become far more frequent by 2100, and will lead to the displacement of hundreds of millions of people; and similarly that highly destructive extreme weather events like Katrina wil also become much more frequent by 2100 (the number of hurricanes is not expected to increase but they are expected to become far more destructive on average). That’s the issue – as has been pointed out to you over and over again.

    Also, when it comes to extreme weather events, as has also been pointed out to you over and over again but this also seems to have fallen on deaf ears, it is not the proportion of the total contribution that is due to AGW that matters, but whether the AGW contribution was sufficient to lead to it being highly destructive. For example, a recent tidal storm surge in the UK didn’t cause any damage at all because it was 22cm lower than had been expected. Had it been only 22cm higher, it would have breached the flood barriers and caused billions of pounds-worth of damage. It is expected that as a result of AGW, tidal storm surges in the UK will become more frequent and more extreme during the coming century; and furthermore, only a 22cm rise in sea level (expected by 2050 or earlier) would mean that a surge like the one we recently experienced would have breached the flood barriers.So a relatively tiny contribution to the total effective storm surge size by AGW would have been enough to make the difference between no damage at all and billions of pounds worth of damage. Similarly with Katrina, a relatively tiny contribution by AGW might have been enough to make the difference between breaching and not breaching the levies.

    If you bring up these issues again without addressing the above points meaningfully, then you are a troll.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 13 Nov 2007 @ 12:37 PM

  562. Re. my previous post, when I wrote:

    far more additional deaths are expected annually as a result of heat than of cold as the world warms

    I meant, of course, to say that the number of additional deaths that are expected annually as a result of heat are expected to greatly outweigh the reduction in deaths resulting from cold. Sorry about that.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 13 Nov 2007 @ 12:52 PM

  563. Re Matt’s remarkable claim that species driven to the brink of extinction commonly experience a spontaneous population rebound, without changes in the environmental conditions which are driving them extinct:

    Consider the following graphs from links I posted upthread. They show recent population data for several marine species. The decay curves exponentially approach zero. The decay rates have different time constants, illustrating the correctness of Wilson’s phrase, “immediate or early extinction” — see the curves for sea otter decline (fast) and fur seal decline (slower) in the first graph.

    Sequential collapse of marine mammals in the North Pacific Ocean and southern Bering Sea [1]

    N. Carolina great shark population collapse [2]

    Community Changes on the Southern Grand Bank [3]

    Matt proposes that in the absence of a change in the environmental factor driving these species to extinction (overexploitation), these populations will rebound. I disagree and propose that these species, and indeed the entire ecosystems they once comprised, will be extinct forever.

    On E.O. Wilson’s most recent tour, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth, he said it’s estimated to cost about $30 billion to put the most critical wildlife habitats under protection. Is it “alarmist” to say this is not too much to spend to save the world’s biological inheritance from extinction?

    [1] Sequential megafaunal collapse in the North Pacific Ocean: An ongoing legacy of industrial whaling?

    [2] Cascading Effects of the Loss of Apex Predatory Sharks from a Coastal Ocean

    [3] Decline in Biomass

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 13 Nov 2007 @ 1:05 PM

  564. Re #541: [#511. James asks why nuclear power plants need to be decomissioned. It is a question of sea level rise risk.]

    No, that didn’t even enter into my question. I was asking why nuclear reactors in general need to be decomissioned, rather than rebuilt and/or upgraded. The question applies just as much to a reactor in Colorado as to one in Florida.

    Maybe there are good reasons for decomissioning, but I would point out that there are also going to be costs for decomissioning other forms of generation. What, for instance, do you do with a hydroelectric dam when the resevoir behind it silts up? How about if the concrete weakens with age, or erosion makes it unstable?

    As to the sea level rise problem with nuclear reactors, I’d think there’d be better alternatives than decommissioning, like building a dike. The Dutch can build dikes along their whole coastline, so I don’t see protecting a bunch of sites of a few hundred acres as an insurmountable challenge.

    Comment by James — 13 Nov 2007 @ 1:19 PM

  565. Re. 560, Rod B:

    re 537 (Dave): “…I imagine the Algerians must have already thought of that (see #530), and must believe they have an answer to it….”

    That’t true, but then they are not shipping gigawatts all over Asia and Europe.

    They’re planning to ship it all over Europe, according to the article AK linked to.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 13 Nov 2007 @ 1:53 PM

  566. Re. Edward Mazria, #547:

    Can someone comment on this just out on the E-Wire: Rising Sea Levels: Science Fiction. at: http://www.ewire.com/display.cfm/Wire_ID/4347. I will be speaking soon in New Jersey and will surely be questioned about it.

    It’s clearly a disinformation article. The first sentence reads:

    There is a popular myth being foisted on us by the media and that is that sea levels are rising.

    First piece of disinformation. It’s nothing to do with the media foisting anything on anyone, it’s the measured sea levels that are rising. The measured global mean sea level trends are shown here.

    Sea levels are not the same throughout the world and do not rise uniformly throughout the world. They are falling in some places and rising in others but the average rate of global rise during the 20th century was 0.7mm per year. According the the IPCC AR4 report, this has already started to accelerate.

    All sorts of factors affect local sea levels, from winds and currents piling up water locally, to regional salinity levels, to tectonic motion.

    To extrapolate from one small region where the sea level is apparently falling (if it really is, I haven’t checked, but you can look New Jersey up on the NOAA website if you want to) as “proof” the sea levels are falling everywhere is as cynically dishonest as the websites that regularly extrapolate from places that are unusually cold as “proof” that global warming isn’t happening.

    And to pretend that the sea level measurements by thousands of climate scientists and oceanographers are a “media scare” is equally cynical and dishonest.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 13 Nov 2007 @ 2:27 PM

  567. James, see the engineering literature on nuclear power.
    Short answer: neutron embrittlement
    Slightly longer answer: the environment inside a fission reactor changes all the materials for the worse and in ways not completely predictable. Taking them apart is how we figure out how much longer each piece might have been able to function before failing.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TXN-4N7S5B2-1&_user=10&_coverDate=08%2F01%2F2007&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=2f97f30b84b26e6ce2525e6bb81b50c4
    —–excerpt—-
    12 March 2007.
    Abstract

    The management of materials in power reactor systems has become a critically important activity in assuring the safe, reliable and economical operation of these facilities. Over the years, the commercial nuclear power reactor industry has faced numerous ‘surprises’ and unexpected occurrences in materials. Mitigation strategies have sometimes solved one problem at the expense of creating another. Other problems have been solved successfully and have motivated the development of techniques to foresee problems before they occur. This paper focuses on three aspects of fission reactor experience that may benefit future fusion systems.
    ——-

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Nov 2007 @ 2:29 PM

  568. 564 what do you propose the nuclear reactor islanding dikes should be made of and how high do you propose they should be? 5 metres, 10 metres, 20 metres, 60 metres, 90 metres?

    Comment by mg — 13 Nov 2007 @ 2:53 PM

  569. Also, re. Edward Mazria, #547, the article you linked to also states:

    sea levels … will not rise if all the ice caps melt.

    This is also an astonishing piece of disinformation. Sea ice doesn’t markedly increase the sea level when it melts, although it does raise them slightly due to the fresh water trapped in the ice being less dense than the sea water it displaces; but land ice clearly does raise sea levels when it melts. This is really basic science and the writer of the article is clearly trying to hoodwink his readers. The Greenland ice cap is melting rapidly, for instance, and the ice from the Greenland glaciers is going into the sea. How can it go into the sea without raising sea levels? Obviously it can’t.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 13 Nov 2007 @ 2:54 PM

  570. Re: 558

    Ray Ladbury Says:
    13 November 2007 at 11:49 AM

    AK says “First, economies of scale will lower the price of launch to orbit by several orders of magnitude.”

    And it will do this exactly…how? You are facing the same problem Bill Gates did with Teledesic, and the problem of launch costs was one thing that sunk that project.”

    As I understand it, the primary cause was the loss of market. I didn’t pay much attention at the time, I thought (and still do) that broadcast or beamed bandwidth will never be able to compete with fiber except in specialty markets. However, a quick search found an item that said it “will take 175 rockets to put Bill’s star fleet into orbit.” This is hardly enough to generate the kind of economies of scale I’m talking about, although there are rumors that “[t]his caused several groups to start work on new launch vehicles.” I’m talking about launching many thousands of tons of start-up mass in a committed project (presumably funded by a government/private consortium).

    AK goes on to say:
    “Second, the entire launch and setup cost doesn’t create a system of power satellites, it creates a system of factories to make power satellites, using power and mass already away from earth. Once that factory system is built, the actual mass of power satellites will be many orders of magnitude greater than what was launched into orbit.”

    OK, you’re going to have to help me out here. Where does the mass of the satellites come from if you don’t launch it? Are you proposing to snag meteors as they whiz by? Are you going to set up your infrastructure on the moon? Salvage space junk? Don’t know if you observed this, but space is really pretty empty. Manufacturing in space is also problematic. And again, radiation will limit the lifetime of any factory just as it will your solar arrays. The general rule of economics in space will be: If you make it in space, use it in space, because it doesn’t make sense to overcome the gravity well just to send it back to Earth.

    [emphasis mine]

    In the same post you quoted from, I said:

    [...] the plan as described both here and in my links, involves getting most of the mass from the moon, after creating an industrial base on the moon (not a “moonbase” but an entire industrial base).

    As originally presented in the 1975 conference the plan was to gather mass from the moon and shoot it into orbit using a linear induction motor (LIM) where it would be collected and converted by factories into solar panels, antenna elements, etc. (To the best of my recollection. My notes vanished decades ago.)

    There have been a variety of alternative proposals since, I’m pretty much assuming that the habitations and factories will be on/under the lunar surface where there will be plenty of available mass to shield from radiation and small flying objects. Finished parts will be launched to escape velocity using a LIM and will unfurl some solar power panels, after which they will use MHD or ion drive at very low acceleration to steer themselves into place in GEO. Lifetime constraints mean a certain factory production capacity will translate into a specific final delivered power (say 15-20 years’ production), however the factory capacity itself can be expanded with minimal additional mass from Earth.

    This is hardly the only scenario, and most those involved are enthusiasts, So I can’t point you to one place where all these questions are addressed (I wish), but most of them have been considered for most of the scenarios. Unfortunately most of what you see in a quick search is “preaching to the choir”, which isn’t very good for answering the tough questions.

    Comment by AK — 13 Nov 2007 @ 3:48 PM

  571. Re: 551

    Barton Paul Levenson Says:
    13 November 2007 at 9:46 AM

    AK writes:

    [[Assuming 5.8 GHz, and equal sized broadcast antenna and rectenna, both would be 4-5 Kilometers across. (Longer in the east-west dimension if the satellite was at a high angle from zenith.) Transfer efficiency would probably be somewhere between 25% and 50%.]]

    Probably I’m missing something simple, but if the antenna and the rectenna are the same size, how do you keep the beam from spreading out? Doesn’t the inverse-square law apply?

    The inverse square law applies to radiation expanding from an effective point source. A phased array antenna is more like a lens. It is “a group of antennas in which the relative phases of the respective signals feeding the antennas are varied in such a way that the effective radiation pattern of the array is reinforced in a desired direction and suppressed in undesired directions.” Looking at a picture of one, you can see how the elements are in a grid, so their phases can be controlled. An aperture 2pi wavelengths across will create a beam about a radian across. One 20pi wavelengths across, about a 1/10th of a radian, and so on. It actually works like a lens, a 20Km antenna in GEO could transmit into a 1Km rectenna. (At 5.8 GHz.)

    Comment by AK — 13 Nov 2007 @ 4:09 PM

  572. “The North American Carbon Budget and Implications for the Global Carbon Cycle” has been released by the NOAA.

    From the press release:

    http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2007/20071113_carbon.html

    “The report points out a greater than three-to-one imbalance between the fossil fuel sources and the ability of vegetation to absorb carbon. This results in a net release to the atmosphere (over one gigaton of carbon per year in 2003), but there is still some uncertainty in quantifying the North American sink compared to the carbon emission sources. The carbon absorption by vegetation, primarily in the form of forest growth, is expected to decline as maturing forests grow more slowly and take up less carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

    “Report authors find it unclear how rapidly this carbon storage “sink” will decline and whether it might potentially become a source since changes in climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide could affect forest growth differently in different regions. Further warming, for example, could exacerbate drought, increasing carbon release through vegetation dieback and increased fire and insect disturbances.”

    …and…

    “The extraction of fossil-fuels and other primary energy sources and their conversion to energy products and services, including electricity generation, is the single largest contributor to the North American fossil-fuel source, accounting for approximately 42 percent of North American fossil emissions in 2003.

    “Electricity generation is responsible for the largest share of those emissions: approximately 94 percent in the United Sates in 2004, 65 percent in Canada in 2003, and 67 percent in Mexico in 1998. These are the latest years for which data are available.

    “More than half of the electricity produced in North America is consumed in buildings, making that single use one of the largest factors in North American emissions. In the United States, 67 percent is used in buildings.

    “In 2003, the carbon dioxide emissions resulting from energy consumed in United States buildings alone were greater than total carbon dioxide emissions of any country in the world except China. Energy use in buildings in the United States and Canada, including the use of natural gas, wood, and other fuels as well as electricity, has increased by 30 percent since 1990, corresponding to an annual growth rate of 2.1 percent.

    “In the United States, the major drivers of energy consumption in the buildings sector are growth in commercial floor space and increase in the size of the average home. Carbon emissions from buildings are expected to grow with population and income.

    “The report also characterizes in detail the uncertainty associated with these findings. Variability in physical processes, measurement error, and sampling error all contribute to uncertainty in quantifying elements of the North American carbon budget.”

    Abstract:

    http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap2-2/final-report/sap2-2-final-es.pdf

    webpage with links to the entire rport:

    http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/sap2-2/final-report/default.htm

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 13 Nov 2007 @ 4:43 PM

  573. AK (#570): As I recall it from the Gerald O’Neill book, the idea was to place electromagnetic catapults, “mass drivers” — i.e., what you call linear induction motors — on the lunar surface, that shoot “bricks” pressed from lunar material in a bucket brigade off the lunar surface, to be collected at the Earth-Moon system’s fifth Lagrange point. There the production facility will be set up… planetary surfaces are really bad, bad places for doing more than is absolutely necessary ;-)

    The L5 facility would have all the advantages of the powersats themselves, like constant solar energy and microgravity. Actually the O’Neill idea was to build free-floating space cities for human habitation, with powersats as a side product. Those could then be gently lowered into their geostationary orbit, using ionic drives — plenty of electrical power for those.

    Radiation will not be a problem even outside the Earth magnetosphere: lunar dust makes a very nice shield even against heavy primaries from the Sun.

    Tough questions? What tough questions? :-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 13 Nov 2007 @ 4:44 PM

  574. Re 550

    Nick Barnes Says:
    13 November 2007 at 9:44 AM

    As far as solar power satellites are concerned, it’s plainly absurd without far cheaper and more reliable launch technologies. So why don’t the SPS advocates come back once we’ve got that wrinkle ironed out?

    The only thing missing is a major commitment. Current LOX/LH2 technology is mature and ready to be converted to mass production. The actual number of personnel needed in space for the project is probably only a few hundred. If the majority of mass is shipped in multiple units, a certain amount of loss can be allowed for. The same goes for assembly problems in orbit: as long as the overall loss is kept below a few %, it won’t be a problem. This reduces the cost, since everything (in this part of the launch system) can be manufactured to looser tolerances. (It would, of course, be necessary to assure that systems for use by humans weren’t contaminated by low-tolerance manufacture.)

    I’m quite prepared to believe that it’s the power technology of the 22nd century, but there’s no way it’s going to save us from ourselves in the next couple of decades.

    Actually, it could be up and running by 2025 if it were important enough. However, 2090 is probably a better time frame.

    During those decades, I’m all for spending some of our aerospace subsidy on developing cheaper and simpler launch technology (Google will show me advocating this on sci.space and elsewhere nearly 20 years ago). Rather than, say, ballistic missile defense.

    The important thing is to start now. Like most such projects, this one will have a long exponential front-end.

    In the meantime, we actually have plenty of solar energy down here on the earth’s surface. Let’s build some big CSP plants in the hot deserts.

    “Who’s ‘we’ paleface?” Most of that desert has inhabitants who consider it their territory. Are “we” going to take their solar energy the way “they” took their oil?

    Even if the solar power is left in the hands of “inhabitants” to sell on the open market, most areas in the world, especially desert areas, have a tribal culture with all sorts of internal feuds that could target the income streams of enemies. Not to mention transmission lines, and the areas they cross.

    And what about the damage to the environment, real and perceived? There are already conflicts rising between environmentalists and people who want to mitigate CO2. There are people who use violence attempting to stop all use of laboratory animals in disease research. How sure can we be that similar groups won’t arise to protect the desert ecosystems from “exploitation”?

    And don’t forget local politicians who’ll try to hold projects hostage for their own agendas, especially once they’re complete and people are depending on them.

    I’m all for “build[ing] some big CSP plants in the hot deserts“, but given the socio-political risks, we should also pursue space based power as hard as possible.

    In the long run, deserts will be more valuable as pristine ecosystems once power is available from orbit, why not preserve as many as possible by getting space-based power under way now?

    Comment by AK — 13 Nov 2007 @ 5:08 PM

  575. Re: 573 Martin Vermeer

    A stub of an industrial base would still have to be set up on the moon, to “mine” moondust and run the process to shoot to orbit. Most of this would be robotic, but IMO you’d need some people nearby (within very sub-second response time) to supervise. L5′s 2-second response time probably wouldn’t cut it. (Besides, if it did, you could run it from earth.) I don’t recall L5 being part of the scenario that didn’t include habitats, but I could be remembering wrong.

    More importantly, things have changed since High Frontier was written. The assumption was that the phased array antennas would need to be precision objects many kilometers across. With today’s technology, you could make each centimeter-scale element “smart” so it could track its relative position and manage its own phasing. All you need is a big net stretched out, with an element at each node, you don’t need precise positioning. (That also makes the whole thing much cheaper.)

    In fact, you don’t even need that. A few thousand 100-meter antennas that blanket the aperture area (and know where one another are) is all you need.

    The “hard questions” are the ones for people not already familiar with the idea. We should probably take our technical discussion elsewhere and reserve comment here for issues related to the part SPS’s can play in solving the climate problems.

    Comment by AK — 13 Nov 2007 @ 6:05 PM

  576. Dave Rado:
    First, don’t mischaracterize my points. I said the AGW component was trivial. You clearly slipped in GW to strengthen your questionable points.

    It is generally important to make a distinction between GW and AGW and it is imperative to separate out regional climate issues which trump the other factors in almost all cases. e.g. Landsea’s work suggests a few MPH extra for Katrina due to increased ocean temps. Given that almost all the destruction was the indirect result of defective levee system, it’s simply not rational to conclude that Katrina is a good example for an AGW analysis. Yet this is exactly what is often suggested. You, not I, dodge these obvious flaws in the alarmist arguments because Katrina and Chad are thrown out to inspire activism rather than enlightenment. Lake Chad was an almost entirely regional climate issue which combined with irrigation issues to dry that lake. Some research does suggest AGW inspired desertification will slow replenishment. As with most AGW perils however, the future effects are speculative at best and highly alarmist at worst.

    Believing in a very likely AGW component to GW is responsible science, believing AGW is likely to lead to catastrophic climate change is an irrational interpretation of the excellent IPCC data, which is why IPCC does not use the catastrophic language and “certainty” claims so common here.

    You seem to suggest that 2100 or 2050 are the issue here. That is true (current situation is not bad), which is why we need *modest mitigation*, less alarmism, and more refinements to modelling and technologies. Why do moderate mitigation before we squander billions on questionable massive mitigations? If the answers aren’t obvious to you there’s nothing I can say to help.

    Of course the key issue is the future *because the present circumstances are OK with respect to Climate*.

    What points have I not addressed? You just don’t like my interpretations, which is fine, but hardly cause to berate me constantly and unjustifiably.

    I’ll examine your claim that 50% of the Europe heat deaths were the result of AGW. On the surface this seems really questionable to me.

    Also Dave – it is hard enough to participate here when people are reasonably expressing their interpretations of the facts at hand, which generally differ from my interpretation. The attacks on people here who express alternative interpretations are unwarranted and dimish everybody’s ability to attain enlightenment. There is mo need here to call me a “troll” because I do not accept your questionable and irratic interpretations of the evidence at hand.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 13 Nov 2007 @ 7:40 PM

  577. AK, I work with satellites. What is being proposed here borders on science fiction. The reality is that NASA will struggle to establish a permanent moon base by 2020 to 2025–and that is just a base, not a mining and manufacturing conglomerate on the moon. You will not mass on that deal. It is a mistake to underestimate the difficulty of doing anything in space. I recommend watching the space station astronauts in NASA TV sometime–they have a full-time job just staying alive.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 13 Nov 2007 @ 7:50 PM

  578. Joe Duck,

    Great point except that there is no difference between GW and AGW in the present context- something you couldn’t possibly not know having been posting here daily for weeks short of your being a study in dumb in the headness. I can’t conclude you are a troll with IPCC caliber certainty, but it’s getting close. Let’s see the recent evidence: you made a big stink to Nick Gotts about some point that you ‘had to challenge’ and when he drew your attention to a compelling argument from John Quiggin’s on the subject that engaged in more than name dropping you ignored it. Apparently it was no longer imperative that you correct whatever it was you thought you corrected in the first place. You’ve likewise ignored a number of my posts on the subject of your great economics consensus or inferred some question or point that I wasn’t remotely making so you could dismiss them with nonsense and go on trolling. Frankly, if you’re serious about wanting to engage people here, you ought to attempt to redress these crimes against the blog. When you don’t bother, well that’ll be just one more nail for the coffin.

    Comment by Majorajam — 13 Nov 2007 @ 8:28 PM

  579. re J.S. (556)

    Very good! I agree. One caution (not a disagreement) re: “…it is this very habit of criticism – even self-reproach – that makes ours the first human society with a chance to avoid the mistakes of our ancestors.” It is a very fine line between that and the corresponding charge that man is the only animal who exuberantly plans and supports his own downfall and demise.

    Comment by Rod B — 13 Nov 2007 @ 8:47 PM

  580. Re. Joe Duck, #576:

    First, don’t mischaracterize my points. I said the AGW component was trivial. You clearly slipped in GW to strengthen your questionable points.

    More han half of the deaths from the European heatwave are thought to be atrributable to AGW, so it’s you who is misrepresenting my point rather than the other way around. I did not mischaracterise your point, I just forgot to write “anthropogenic”. Given that there is no evidence that I have ever seen that any of the warming experienced since 1975 is not anthropogenic, I don’t see why you think missing out the word “anthropogenic” is important. What element of the last thirty years’ warming do you consider not to be anthropogenic? What non-anthropogenic forcing agent do you consider responsible for it and on what evidential basis? See here for instance.

    You have also misrepresented my reasons (and the reasons of several other people) for accusing you of trolling. No-one here accuses people of trolling simply because we disagree with them. I explained the reasons very clearly, and in previous posts I have spent a great deal of time documenting the evidence to back the accusation up. Your behaviour is troll-like because you make a point, someone points out what they believe to be a flaw in your point; you then ignore their post and make the same point again. Someone else points out the flaw. So you ignore their post as well and make the same point again. And again. So you waste hours of our time, as we end up feeling as if we’re talking to a brick wall.

    For this reason, I won’t respond to the other points you made in your post, because based on your track record, you’ll simply ognore what I write and I don’t have any more time to waste on this.

    Comment by Dave Rado — 13 Nov 2007 @ 8:54 PM

  581. Ray, an atom bomb certainly seemed like science fiction in 1935. I recall a story (maybe apocryphal) about the editor of a science fiction magazine during WWII who got a visit from the FBI over a story about an atom bomb. Of course, that science fiction turned into fact.

    I’ll stand by my statement, although I’m not anything like an expert in current satellite technology: We could do it by 2025 if we wanted to badly enough. I suspect (from what I’ve heard) that the first thing that would have to happen is that somebody would go through NASA with fire and the sword (so to speak). We would also have to take a more cavalier attitude toward risk.

    But I also agree, that “NASA will struggle to establish a permanent moon base by 2020 to 2025“. Maybe not even that, depending on the interest and pressure.

    I’ll take your advice and watch some NASA TV, but can you tell me: How much of the difficulty is from lack of gravity, and how much from vacuum?

    Comment by AK — 13 Nov 2007 @ 9:09 PM

  582. #546 Barton Paul Levenson:Not quite. Nuclear plants use large quantities of cement, and machines used in mining uranium are generally fossil-fuel powered.

    You know how massive current wind turbines are don’t you? The mast for this (1) 750 KW is 55 tons. The blades are 4 tons each. It is 180 feet tall. We need about 1.8M of these things to minimally meet our needs.

    If the concrete base to hold this up this structure is 5X the mast + blade height, and if it indeed (2) takes 400,000 yds3 of concrete for one nuke plant, and if we need 400 nuke plants to run the US…

    Surprise, surprise…building out all nuclear would take 1/3 as much of concrete as building out all wind power.

    If the masts are steel, building out the US for wind would take 2700 times the amount of steel that it took to build Taipei 101.

    (1)http://www.mpsutility.com/TurbineStats.htm
    (2)http://www.nei.org/keyissues/reliableandaffordableenergy/factsheets/nuclearpowerplantcontributions/

    Comment by Matt — 13 Nov 2007 @ 9:27 PM

  583. Re #546: [Nuclear plants use large quantities of cement, and machines used in mining uranium are generally fossil-fuel powered.]

    Coal-fired plants likewise use large quantities of cement, and must mine a far larger amount of material per unit of energy generated. In any case, a moment’s thought will show that the amount of CO2 generated in building a coal-fired plant and mining the fuel must be much, much smaller than what is produced in generation.

    [There would be technical problems switching them to electric; those machines need to generate a lot of energy fast.]

    In fact, much mining equipment is already electrically powered. (I used to work for a utility that frequently needed to do reliability/stability studies due to extending power lines to new mines.)

    Comment by James — 13 Nov 2007 @ 11:05 PM

  584. Re #567: [...the environment inside a fission reactor changes all the materials for the worse and in ways not completely predictable. Taking them apart is how we figure out how much longer each piece might have been able to function before failing.]

    True. And once you learn how long each piece can function, you make sure to replace it before that time expires. Just as with the engine of car, I can replace spark plugs, timing belts, piston rings, & other parts when needed, instead of “decommissioning” the car when one part reaches its useful service life.

    And $568: [what do you propose the nuclear reactor islanding dikes should be made of...]

    You’re asking me? I’m a software engineer: find some Dutch engineers with experience in dike building, and ask them. Or think of other alternatives, such as encasing the reactor in a large submarine :-) The point is that you’ve got an expensive piece of equipment sitting there: why assume that all you can do is take it apart and haul it off to an expensive junk heap?

    Comment by James — 13 Nov 2007 @ 11:27 PM

  585. Yep. Short of some country being willing to throw money and people wholesale into space, and accept levels of loss far greater than anything NASA has actually experienced, it won’t happen.

    Note that NASA has accepted losses far greater than anticipated.
    Two shuttles lost.

    And the low Earth orbit is so full of garbage now that the amount of debris is going to keep increasing from further collisions — known for sure, happening — so the risk will be going up dramatically for a while yet.

    What would it take? Oh, maybe a serious catch-and-release effort to tag and tie steering motors onto a handful of asteroids as they got barely within reach (by the USA and Russia, for example, a maximum reach effort) followed by a lapse of time while that mass was steered slowly into useful orbits — followed by a wholesale throwing of people and equipment into space to work with the material available, taking great losses to accomplish building a new world.

    Could happen. But yes, it’s science fiction.

    And a huge flurry of dirty launches isn’t going to do the climate any good either, unless we really decide dumping a whole lot of rubber cement and aluminum oxide into the upper atmosphere is a good plan to put off some incoming sunlight.

    Heck, I’d put money into a long-horizon catch-and-release, even knowing it’d not pay off or fail til long after my lifetime. Get a passel of small ion engines and a big net and some programmable machinery out there to snag what comes by and begin herding it around the sun a few more times til it can be captured near Earth — why not?

    But it’d be one of those gestures, with not much idea who’d benefit from pulling the goodies into closer to Earth so someone later could reach them and make something out of them without such a stretch.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Nov 2007 @ 2:21 AM

  586. AK @ 574: “Who’s ‘we’ paleface?”
    My “we” was of course the human race. Who will actually build the plant, sell the power, and reap the rewards? Whoever owns those tracts of desert. The Algerian government, for a start.

    As for tribal groups, I don’t suppose that Chinese government will encounter much opposition from tribal groups when they convert tracts of the Gobi to solar power production. Ditto Arizona, New Mexico, Mexico, Texas, etc. The Namibians are interested in selling solar power to South Africa.

    One day, the future government of the Saudi peninsula will sell sunlight from the Empty Quarter.

    ON SPS: LH2/LOX is not a launch system! Where’s the launch system? What’s the vehicle? What’s the motor? What’s the launch site?

    How are your lunar mines and mass-drivers to be powered? Solar, or nuclear? Where’s the lunar nuke plant? Do we know how to build a nuke plant that will operate correctly in lunar gravity? Do we even know how to build a nuke plant which can survive launch to the lunar surface?

    Where are your prototype robot mines? How well do they work in hard vacuum, lunar gravity, and with moon dust?

    Etc etc etc. I read High Frontier in the 1970s, and I still believe that if the human race can dodge various bullets then our descendants will live among the stars. But mega-engineering projects are hard, and your mega-engineering project is way harder than mine.

    I think 2090 is plausible, but 2025 is not.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 14 Nov 2007 @ 5:37 AM

  587. Further to AK’s post in #530 about the Algerian project, with its link to this news article, and the comments by Rod B in #533, Barton Paul Levenson in #548, and previously, Ray Ladbury in #528, I emailed Franz Trieb, who was extensively quoted in the news article, asking about these issues, and I got the following detailed response:

    Dear Dave,

    You will find all relevant information in the quoted studies.

    http://www.dlr.de/tt/med-csp

    http://www.dlr.de/tt/trans-csp

    http://www.dlr.de/tt/aqua-csp

    The article – at least my portion – is not about solar (photovoltaic PV) cells but on concentrating solar thermal power (CSP). This technology does not store electricity as it produces and stores heat for operating conventional steam turbine power stations. Two 50 MW plants are presently build in Spain with storage capacity for 8 hours night-time operation, a 64 MW plant was recently commissioned in Nevada, U.S. A total of 415 MW is on the grid world wide.

    The collectors continuously track the sun (for the concentration of direct sunlight) and therefore they can be put in a protective position if a sandstorm comes up. Those plants are operating since 20 years in the Californian Mojave desert and have survived sandstomes, hailstormes and twisters. The biggest plant there has 150 MW capacity. Strange thing that this is fairly unknown as those plants are on the grid since the mid eighties of the last century.

    High voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission is expected to loose about 10 % from Morocco to Germany, as an example. This technology is running world wide since the 1970ies. It will add about 1-2 c/kWh to the electricity generation cost which will be about 4-5 c/kWh in the medium and long-term. The cost of CSP comes done with production volumes, about 10-15% each time the installed capacity doubles (this in fact is true for most technical devices, but not for fossil fuels, as they are no technical devices but limited resources).

    The collectors replace fuel in conventional power plants, today at a cost equivalent to about 50-60 $/barrel fuel oil (that means they are already cheaper than oil!!). A pre-requisite for achieving equivalent costs of 15 $/barrel after 2020 will be the expansion of installed capacity, that means that people must start acting and stopp talking. That’s what the Algeriens finally did and I can only congratulate them for this, because talking another 10 years about possible problems (like most politicians did for the past ten years) will not solve them and will delay the moment when 15 $/barrel can be achieved for exactly the same time span (that’s in fact the major uncertainty).

    Our numbers have been published in Sustainability Science (Springer) and by the Club of Rome (www.trec-eumena.net) in its Whitebook to the European Parliament that will be released on November 28, both thoroughly peer reviewed.

    At the trans-csp website you’ll find several useful links for more information.

    Best regards
    Franz

    Dr. Franz Trieb
    Systemanalyse und Technikbewertung
    Institut für Technische Thermodynamik
    Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)
    Pfaffenwaldring 38-40
    D-70569 Stuttgart
    Tel.: ++49-711-6862-423
    Fax.: ++49-711-6862-783
    email: franz.trieb@dlr.de
    web: http://www.dlr.de/tt/system

    This looks very exciting to me, and I don’t understand why it’s getting so little publicity. Seems to me that large scale investment in this type of project would be an ideal use of CDM funds. Am I missing something? (No glib answers please – Franz has provided links to a substantial body of research and I think it deserves considered responses).

    Comment by Dave Rado — 14 Nov 2007 @ 9:43 AM

  588. The contention that a severe weather event has to have a proven AGW component in order for it to be used as an example of what a severe weather event of the future might look like is lunacy before it gets out of the gate.

    He’s essentially arguing that Lake Chad does not look like what the dry lake beds of the future will look like, and that’s preposterous. Dry lake beds sort of look alike. Mountains that have lost their glaciers all sort of look alike. A nude mountain top in the state of Washington is going to look like a nude Kilimanjaro. All severe hurricanes sort of look alike.

    And just for the record, Katrina kicked butt in Mississippi. It didn’t just happen in Louisiana.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 14 Nov 2007 @ 10:33 AM

  589. re 580

    “Your behaviour is troll-like because you make a point, someone points out what they believe to be a flaw in your point; you then ignore their post and make the same point again. Someone else points out the flaw. So you ignore their post as well and make the same point again. And again. So you waste hours of our time, as we end up feeling as if we’re talking to a brick wall.”

    Very old Creationist “tactic”. Ignore anything that is said in rebuttal you can’t address and then repeat the argument over and over until the other side gives up trying to “discuss” things with you.

    Claim “victory”.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 14 Nov 2007 @ 10:47 AM

  590. re 579

    “Very good! I agree. One caution (not a disagreement) re: “…it is this very habit of criticism – even self-reproach – that makes ours the first human society with a chance to avoid the mistakes of our ancestors.” It is a very fine line between that and the corresponding charge that man is the only animal who exuberantly plans and supports his own downfall and demise.”

    ====================

    One needs to be cautious not to loose the context of Brin’s remarks, a context that more or less moots the suggestion you are making.

    Loose the “Exuberantly” and even that is a valid observation (though that is NOT what Brin was getting at…it’s more of the same two light bulbs and a transistor radio fallacy you used earlier).

    Name any other animal that knowingly plans and implements technological projects on a massive scale that clearly can be shown to have a detrimental effect. That’s the essence of the statement you made, and it is false.

    Brin’s warning is very clear: “It’s our POWER that amplifies the harm we do until it threatens the entire world … it is this very habit of criticism – even self-reproach – that makes ours the first human society with a chance to avoid the mistakes of our ancestors.
    … the race between our growing awareness and the momentum of our greed makes the next half-century the greatest dramatic interlude of all time …” (Note: this was written in 1989.)

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 14 Nov 2007 @ 10:59 AM

  591. http://www.asimovs.com/_issue_0311/ref2.shtml
    “.. 1944, while American scientists in New Mexico were planning the first A-bomb, John W. Campbell of Astounding Science Fiction published a story called “Deadline,” by Cleve Cartmill, which described in great detail how to construct such a bomb.”
    – Robert Silverberg

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Nov 2007 @ 11:01 AM

  592. Re: 586

    Nick Barnes Says:
    14 November 2007 at 5:37 AM

    AK @ 574: “Who’s ‘we’ paleface?”
    My “we” was of course the human race. Who will actually build the plant, sell the power, and reap the rewards? Whoever owns those tracts of desert. The Algerian government, for a start.

    As for tribal groups, I don’t suppose that Chinese government will encounter much opposition from tribal groups when they convert tracts of the Gobi to solar power production. Ditto Arizona, New Mexico, Mexico, Texas, etc. The Namibians are interested in selling solar power to South Africa.

    One day, the future government of the Saudi peninsula will sell sunlight from the Empty Quarter.

    It took me a while to find some modern sources regarding the on-going violence in Algeria (among all the older stuff of the same type):

    Africa’s unfolding desert war

    Zawahiri threatens North Africa leaders, Abu Laith to support Algeria’s Al-Qaeda

    Military Guide to Terrorism: Future Terror Trends

    Google it yourself, I got “Results 1 – 100 of about 80,100 for algeria GIA combat islamist. (0.20 seconds)

    Conditions within China are open to question, but it’s doubtful they’ll have power to sell outside their own borders. Mexico is doubtful as well (look at their oil production), as is sub-Saharan Africa. Arabia won’t be selling sunlight to “infidels” for quite a while, if ever. The US looks quiet at the moment, but you’re forgetting the environmentalists, as well as entrenched interests.

    ON SPS: LH2/LOX is not a launch system! Where’s the launch system? What’s the vehicle? What’s the motor? What’s the launch site?

    How are your lunar mines and mass-drivers to be powered? Solar, or nuclear? Where’s the lunar nuke plant? Do we know how to build a nuke plant that will operate correctly in lunar gravity? Do we even know how to build a nuke plant which can survive launch to the lunar surface?

    Where are your prototype robot mines? How well do they work in hard vacuum, lunar gravity, and with moon dust?

    Etc etc etc. I read High Frontier in the 1970s, and I still believe that if the human race can dodge various bullets then our descendants will live among the stars. But mega-engineering projects are hard, and your mega-engineering project is way harder than mine.

    I said “Current LOX/LH2 technology is mature and ready to be converted to mass production.” Current systems, such as the Ariane 5 are effectively one-off prototypes. Conversion to mass production remains, starting with prototypes of designs specifically intended for mass production.

    Lunar operations to be solar powered, probably using silicon-based PV systems, with whatever energy storage system is most feasible. (IMO either flywheel or capacitor.) Robot factories and mines are already in operation here (very limited robotics, I’ll agree). Some testing of hardware constraints would be needed early (a manned Lunar expedition wouldn’t be needed for moon-dust testing), as for software, I’ve personally seen a two orders of magnitude difference between what can be done by the right people under pressure, and what happens when it’s left to “business as usual”. Remember, software testing wouldn’t need to be done on the moon (except for the final phase), hardware simulators on earth could provide the test bed, once hardware on the Lunar surface had measured the parameters of the effects.

    2025 is technically feasible given the right human conditions. Politically, 2090 is probably a better bet, but IMO the same can probably be said about wide-scale solar power.

    Comment by AK — 14 Nov 2007 @ 11:07 AM

  593. James, “once you learn”
    Maintaining a fission plant for decades is nothing like changing the spark plugs in your lawnmower. Yesterday you didn’t know what the problem was, and today you’re proclaiming it’s trivial. Read a bit.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Nov 2007 @ 11:14 AM

  594. Re: 587 Dave Rado

    You don’t need to keep giving me credit, all I did was play with Google a little.

    I haven’t reviewed the links you provided, but it sounds very optimistic, technically. My concern about sandstorms has more to do with lifetime of moving parts than actual wind (except for its ability to drive dust into bearings, etc.) These are perfectly solvable problems (just as space problems are), and certainly not unfamiliar to oil equipment workers in such environments. (Well, not the space problems.) I’m just not sure about the expense for productionalized results.

    In an earlier post I reviewed some political problems, both Algerian and US. Dr. Trieb’s comment “Strange thing that this is fairly unknown as those plants are on the grid since the mid eighties of the last century” points up my comment about entrenched interests.

    Comment by AK — 14 Nov 2007 @ 11:42 AM

  595. AK, Re: the difficulty of working in space. I would characterize the difficulty of maintaining life in space as being a case of space providing nothing needed to maintain life. All oxygen, water, food, waste disposal… is dependent on regular deliveries from Earth. The crew need to be protected from particulate debris, radiation, and other hazards. In low-Earth Orbit (LEO) atomic oxygen causes chemical weathering of surfaces. In middle Earth orbit (MEO), the radiation environment makes life particularly nasty, brutish and short. Outside the magnetosphere (GEO, interplanetary, including the moon), there is constant exposure to galactic cosmic rays–and you need a few meters of material to shield against them.
    Think of the difficlty of supplying an advanced force on the battle field. Now multiply those difficulties by several orders of magnitude and you have an idea of the difficulties of operating in space. Look at the failure of Biosphere II–and they were able to take in air from the outside continually.
    As to terrestrial solar farms, we’re a long way from being able to tile the desert with solar arrays, and maintaining these farms in the hostile desert conditions is not a problem that will be easy to solve.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Nov 2007 @ 12:06 PM

  596. Re #593: [Maintaining a fission plant for decades is nothing like changing the spark plugs in your lawnmower.]

    Aside from the fact that my lawnmower doesn’t have spark plugs (it’s electric, of course), how is it different, in principle? You replace what wears out. Seems like modern society has forgotten that, and regards everything as disposable.

    [Yesterday you didn’t know what the problem was, and today you’re proclaiming it’s trivial. Read a bit.]

    Yesterday (well, the day before now) I asked a rhetorical question. Now I’m saying that the problem can almost certainly be addressed at much less cost than full decomissioning. The point I’m trying to get at here is that opponents of nuclear power invariably pick the worst case scenario, exaggerate that beyond all reason, and compare it to the best case of an alternative technology. Or all too often, assume that the alternatives have no costs or risks at all. That’s neither fair nor realistic, and will lead to less than optimal decisions being made.

    Comment by James — 14 Nov 2007 @ 12:44 PM

  597. Thanks, AK.

    -BPL

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 14 Nov 2007 @ 1:15 PM

  598. Joe Duck — All GW is AGW. Here is the reasoning: orbital forcing theory explains the swings between stades (massive ice sheets) and interstadial periods (less ice). It is possible to compute with great accuracy the orbital forcings far into the past and into the future. From this, without anthropogenic influences, the climate should be very slightly cooling from the so-called Holocene Climatic Optimum, about 8,000 years ago, with an attempt at a stade in about another 20,000 years. The remarkable stability of the climate for the past 8,000 years has been attributed by W.F. Ruddiman to anthropogenic influences. His book Plows, Plagues and Petroleum presents this theory (and is a good read). Better understanding of the orbital forcings makes it clear that his case is somewhat over-stated until rather recently.

    None the less, with warming occuring in what should be a slowly cooling climate, there must be a cause. It is known to be the additional carbon added anthropogenically to the active carbon cycle (along with other anthropogenic effects of lesser immediate impotance).

    Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Nov 2007 @ 1:36 PM

  599. More from Franz Trieb. I emailed him again, and wrote:

    This sounds so exciting that I don’t understand why it gets so little publicity. It makes me wonder why the IPCC AR4 WGIII didn’t cover it in detail, for instance? And why massive scale CDM offsetting funds aren’t going into funding projects like these? And why aren’t countries like Saudi Arabia also setting up such projects? And why the European Environment Agency isn’t already putting large scale funding into setting up the infrastructure?

    He replied:

    Yes, good questions, but ask them, not me (seriously, this may be really helpful!). I guess it is that they are ignoring this option, like many other people.

    As an example, IPCC has even quoted our studies, but at the same time saying that by 2030 electricity from CSP will cost between 18-30 cents/kWh (I don’t know were they found that nonsense, by that time CSP will cost 4-6 cents/kWh depending on the site). After telling them so, they corrected their statement to “5-30 cents/kWh by 2030″. So I guess they didn’t read the reports they quoted at all and they don’t want to listen. As consequence of their wrong numbers they eliminated CSP from their medium term options for climate change mitigation. You see?

    Another thing is that if people hear about solar electricity they think PV, and if they hear about solar thermal they think hot water. They usually don’t think further and some even don’t listen any more to what you tell them. But we talk about neither PV nor hot water collectors, so it is quite difficult to transport this information.

    There is also a third category of people saying this is too good to be true. They ignore it actively because many “experts” they know ignore it too. That category makes me wonder if humans and lemmings are so different at all.

    So I think the easiest and most convincing way is to read (at least the summaries of) the reports. This will give a clearer picture and answer many questions, although it takes a little effort, but then you will be able to convince the nonbelievers.

    Best regards
    Franz

    Dr. Franz Trieb
    Systemanalyse und Technikbewertung
    Institut für Technische Thermodynamik
    Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR)
    Pfaffenwaldring 38-40
    D-70569 Stuttgart
    Tel.: ++49-711-6862-423
    Fax.: ++49-711-6862-783
    email: franz.trieb@dlr.de
    web: http://www.dlr.de/tt/system

    Comment by Dave Rado — 14 Nov 2007 @ 2:35 PM

  600. Dave (561) more than half of the deaths from the European heatwave are thought to be atrributable to global warming
    http://www.climateprediction.net/science/pubs/nature03089.pdf

    Dave I’ve reviewed this paper which is somewhat relevant to the “warming” side of the deaths from AGW discussion and also interesting. However I simply don’t understand how you can pull out the wild conclusion that half the deaths in europe were from AGW. My read is that they concluded that it is very likely that humans (I assume they mean AGW) have doubled the risk that heat waves would cross the temperature threshold they set in the study. Extrapolating that half the deaths from the heatwave are from AGW does not make sense to me but maybe I’m really missing something here. A death extrapolation using only this very limited study would not be possible, but to come to your conclusion wouldn’t you have to assume all the deaths from the heat wave were a result of crossing the threshold value they set for the study – isn’t this an unreasonable assumption? I’ll try to write the authors of the paper since this it the type of study that is often characterized oddly in the media as suggesting things it does not suggest, which seem fairly technical and probabilistic to me rather than “helpful” in terms of policy.

    David wrote: “All GW is AGW”. I’ll follow up as this “sounds” odd to me. My impression from IPCC 4 was that it’s likely that most of the observed GW is a product of AGW, but the relationships are simply too complex to make this definitive of a statement about causality. However I’d agree if it’s “very likely” that “all the GW” is from AGW (rather than “most of the GW”), your statement is reasonable.

    Majorajam, Dave: It is hardly fair to say I don’t follow up here. You often want to direct the discussion to your interpretation of events rather than a general examination that might challenge your deeply held points of view. I’ve stated my general view instead of going down your garden path – nothing wrong with that and calling “trolling” is a spurious claim to bully people away from the blog. That approach is common here but unfortunate since this is potentially a great watering hole for informed discussions.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 14 Nov 2007 @ 3:01 PM

  601. Re: 595

    Ray Ladbury Says:
    14 November 2007 at 12:06 PM

    AK, Re: the difficulty of working in space. I would characterize the difficulty of maintaining life in space as being a case of space providing nothing needed to maintain life. All oxygen, water, food, waste disposal… is dependent on regular deliveries from Earth. The crew need to be protected from particulate debris, radiation, and other hazards. In low-Earth Orbit (LEO) atomic oxygen causes chemical weathering of surfaces. In middle Earth orbit (MEO), the radiation environment makes life particularly nasty, brutish and short. Outside the magnetosphere (GEO, interplanetary, including the moon), there is constant exposure to galactic cosmic rays–and you need a few meters of material to shield against them.
    Think of the difficlty of supplying an advanced force on the battle field. Now multiply those difficulties by several orders of magnitude and you have an idea of the difficulties of operating in space. Look at the failure of Biosphere II–and they were able to take in air from the outside continually.

    Thanks, Ray.

    The problems with radiation (and micrometeorites) are part of why I’m assuming a Lunar habitat. A few meters of moon dust (or rock, as appropriate) will protect.

    I’m pretty sure that Biosphere II isn’t really a valid comparison. They weren’t allowed to use electric lights or “outside” CO2 scrubbers (except for the carbonating concrete they didn’t plan on). It was mostly an experiment in maintaining a closed ecosystem, rather than a system with external power, oxygen, and emergency supplies if necessary. Except for the transport issue, I don’t see it as that much worse than an Antarctic base.

    BTW, they weren’t supposed to take in outside air.

    As to terrestrial solar farms, we’re a long way from being able to tile the desert with solar arrays, and maintaining these farms in the hostile desert conditions is not a problem that will be easy to solve.

    As for the Sahara, I agree with you, although the technical problems could probably be solved in a few years. Since an installation in the Mojave has been on the grid since the ’80′s (see #587), I think we can consider the technology mature, although mass productionalization may still be required.

    IMO you may be taking an overly critical attitude regarding technological maturity. The fact that low-volume production, or production of a technology for a slightly different purpose, can’t be rolled out “off the shelf” for a mass-produced use doesn’t mean it can’t be relied on to be available within a few years of the necessary development money becoming available.

    It’s the money, and the politics, and their interaction, that are the major problem.

    Comment by AK — 14 Nov 2007 @ 3:10 PM

  602. David,

    Way up above you say, the technology exists to reduce CO2 to safe levels at reasonable cost. Are you referring to the wedges?

    Comment by SueC — 14 Nov 2007 @ 3:16 PM

  603. AK, I get paid to be skeptical of new technology–it’s part of my day job doing radiation physics for satellites. I only started carrying a cell phone this year. Having said this, what I object to is “relying on” a technology that has heretofore not been demonstrated on anything like the scale that would be needed to meet future energy needs. Solar energy works great when the sun shines. It is problematic when it doesn’t–and that is >50% of the time on Earth. Any space-based system is in the realm of fantasy–and I would note that much of the science fiction in the 50s and 60s having to do with space and energy remained science fiction. Some problems are just inherently difficult.
    Finally, solar energy does nothing to resolve the needs of transort and that is likely to remain a significant consumer of petroleum into the foreseeable future.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Nov 2007 @ 4:17 PM

  604. Re: 599

    A New Chapter Begins for Concentrated Solar Power

    Gilbert Cohen, Vice President of Engineering & Operations for Solargenix, said the project costs somewhere in the range of $220-250 million. He said the power is slightly more expensive than wind power, but less than photovoltaic (PV) power, more commonly used in small rooftop projects on homes or businesses. Other sources close to the project put this price at somewhere between 9-13 cents per kWh. As more are built, however, and they’re scaled up even bigger, Cohen says a target of seven cents per kWh will not be difficult to reach in the near future.

    [my emphasis]

    There are also some nice pictures, and a wealth of interesting information.

    Comment by AK — 14 Nov 2007 @ 5:46 PM

  605. James wrote: “Now I’m saying that the problem can almost certainly be addressed at much less cost than full decomissioning.”

    And you base that claim on what, exactly? What alternatives to decommissioning of aged nuclear power plants are you referring to, where have they been tried, with what result?

    I would suggest that you read the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s fact sheet on decommissioning nuclear plants, which gives details of the regulations and procedures involved, and discusses two dozen or so US nuclear power plants that are in some stage of the decommissioning process.

    James wrote: “The point I’m trying to get at here is that opponents of nuclear power invariably pick the worst case scenario, exaggerate that beyond all reason, and compare it to the best case of an alternative technology. Or all too often, assume that the alternatives have no costs or risks at all.”

    Oddly enough, what I almost always see from proponents of nuclear power is consistent exaggeration of the limitations of and obstacles to renewables as though they were insurmountable, consistent understatement of the costs of nuclear power, and consistent refusal to acknowledge legitimate concerns about the very real risks and dangers of nuclear power, which are always portrayed as the emotional imaginings of anti-nuclear zealots.

    For those who want to pursue this subject in depth, a good statement of the argument that nuclear power is not a useful solution for reducing carbon emissions can be found in a May 2006 article posted at the Nuclear Information and Resource Service website. Nuclear proponents would do well to study that article and do the research needed to offer a point-by-point rebuttal.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 14 Nov 2007 @ 6:17 PM

  606. AK: I didn’t say or mean to imply that China will be selling power outside its borders. You seem to be taking a parochial view. GHG emissions are global. Electricity is expensive to transport intercontinental distances in TW volumes: the transmission lines themselves become megaprojects. Happily we have large deserts in various parts of the world.

    I want to see thousands of square kilometres of mirrors on the Gobi not because I am Chinese (which I am not) but because I think that’s better for all of us than hundreds of GW of additional coal plant (roughly speaking, 1 square kilometre of CSP in a sunny spot can deliver a sustained 25 MW of electrical power). Make no mistake, barring economic catastrophe, one way or another China will be generating and consuming hundreds of GW more electrical power.
    Similarly, I’d like to see more CSP in the Mojave and other western deserts in the US, not because I am American (which I am not) but because it would enable the US to reduce its fossil fuel use and thus reduce GHG emissions.
    The same with Algeria: the Algerians think they can generate CSP electricity and sell it to the Germans and other Europeans. Good luck to them. I’m not going to second-guess their view of their own politics.
    My own suspicion is that anti-western sentiment in Algeria and other states in the Maghreb can be bought off by energy wealth about as effectively as it has been for several decades across the Middle East. If it weren’t for the war and preceding sanctions, Iraq would still be a secular dictatorship selling us oil. Saudi Arabia continues to be a thoroughly evil radical islamic dictatorship, selling us oil. Iran continues to be a rather unique “islamic democracy” and would be delighted to continue selling us oil. And so on. The dollar (well, increasingly the euro) speaks louder than the sword.

    The reason I favour CSP over SPS is that CSP is a proven technology, already generating electricity at affordable prices (a few cents per kWh), which can be rolled out by private industry or by governments, one plant at a time, large plants or small, ready to connect to existing transmission grids, in many different parts of the world. It’s also relatively low-tech (as power generation goes), and easy to maintain.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 14 Nov 2007 @ 6:19 PM

  607. The reason I favour CSP over SPS

    boils down to the fact that I think that a square kilometre of operational SPS in GEO will be far, far more expensive and less reliable than 15 square kilometres of CSP in Algeria, the Gobi, the Mojave, Namibia, or the outback. Betting the farm on SPS seems insane to me: far too many unknowns. Although as I have said I’d be happy for us to put a few billion down on it as a long shot, and would be delighted if that paid off.

    The other difference between SPS and CSP is that we are already building the latter, with serious backing, whereas the former has a few enthusiasts behind it (and, as far as I know, no Actual Money).

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 14 Nov 2007 @ 6:28 PM

  608. James, this is hardly the place to argue with the nuclear engineering profession about what’s a safe way to run the business. Rhetorical questions are a waste of everyone’s time. If you ask a question that seems uneducated, I’ll assume you’re doing so honestly and want help.

    Brief answer: you get statistics about performance by mass producing the components and running enough of them long enough to know how they behave.

    There is no standard nuclear power plant. Each differs in original build and each is modified over time. There is nothing remotely close to enough accumulated information to predict failures. As the clip I posted said, failures have been surprises; patches have led to other surprises. It’s technology full of surprises as of now.

    It’s nuts to try to fix piecemeal something where you know all the parts are being degraded by the combined effects of chemical and physical and radiation conditions.

    There’s a classic story about Henry Ford visiting junkyards and finding out what broke in the Model T, and noticing that all sorts of things failed on the car, but he never found one in a junkyard with a broken crankshaft. So he redesigned it with a weaker and cheaper crankshaft.

    This is not the way to run a fission industry.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Nov 2007 @ 7:05 PM

  609. Re: #603

    Ray, I wasn’t talking about space-based technology, I know that’s visionary.

    Solar power is another matter. I was astonished at the state of CSP, with several installations on the grid since the ’80′s, and nobody talking about it. Granting predictable nights, and very occasional sandstorms and cloudy days, the existing installations and technological progress seem reliable. Much more so if a way is found to pump money into R&D without getting it stolen by pointless bureaucracy or blocked by entrenched interests.

    Another technology linked above is flywheel energy storage. This probably will never be competitive for vehicles, but IMO it’s the cat’s pajamas for storage balance for solar power. Again, some redesign and development is needed, for cost-effective fixed storage eliminating any expensive design criteria for vehicles. Since nobody has mentioned it, I’m assuming it was dismissed because it’s not mature.

    A somewhat more visionary idea I like is fuel cells based on sodium and air (rather than hydrogen and air). IMO with proper development this technology could match the power/weight performance of most batteries, but with much faster recharge times, using direct electrolysis rather than pumping energy back through the fuel cell electrolyte. Unlike hydrogen fuel cells, the existing electricity distribution system could be used for recharging.

    I can find nobody developing this technology, although there was a bus built in the ’90′s using a sodium fuel cell, and one company had a military contract to develop “sodium air batteries” and also has much experience with handling liquid sodium and sodium ion electrolytes.

    IMO if we really have an emergency, all possible technologies like these should be looked at hard, by at least making an honest and well funded effort to create a prototype. Then, those that look halfway feasible should all be pursued.

    Comment by AK — 14 Nov 2007 @ 7:18 PM

  610. Re: 606, 607

    Nick, I’m thinking in world-wide terms, but I find China doubtful as far as replacing coal-fired with solar: IMO if they build solar they’ll simply add it to coal-fired that they’ll continue building as fast as they can. Also, have you noticed the latitude of the Gobi? According to these maps, things start getting iffy around 35-40 degrees. Xianxiang and especially parts of Tibet look better (from a rainfall and latitude perspective, I don’t know about clouds), but both are high-risk areas for insurgency.

    I’m certainly not suggesting “betting the farm on SPS“, But I think it should be provisionally planned for as a long-term solution. And the more attention it can get as a potential solution for climate issues, the better its chances of getting “Actual Money“. (Also, the more people involved in climate discussions who know what it represents and how it’s intended to work.)

    BTW, do government funded studies count as Actual Money?

    Comment by AK — 14 Nov 2007 @ 7:50 PM

  611. Re #605: [And you base that claim on what, exactly?]

    The fact that this approach seems to work with just about everything else. I see no reason to think that nuclear power plants are fundamentally different from any other machine. Do you?

    Re #608: [So he (Henry Ford) redesigned it with a weaker and cheaper crankshaft.

    This is not the way to run a fission industry.]

    Nor is it the way to run an auto industry :-) Consider where Ford is now, versus say Honda & Toyota.

    [There is no standard nuclear power plant. Each differs in original build and each is modified over time.]

    Which seems like part of the problem. If you insist on building each one differently, of course they’re going to be expensive, just as automobiles were too expensive for ordinary folks before standardized production. But I think this is largely a legacy of the original building, where individual utilities each ordered one or a few plants, and operated them independently. I think this is one reason France has had better results: it used standard designs.

    I’d go so far as to say that the standard design is going to be a necessity, if enough plants are going to be built in time. It’s not as though the world has the luxury of time to sit around developing alternative technologies, like solar power satellites, that might work someday. We need to start kicking the CO2 habit now (well, we needed to start back in the ’70s, but absent time travel now is the best we can do), and I don’t see any workable alternatives that don’t involve nuclear as a big part.

    Comment by James — 14 Nov 2007 @ 11:42 PM

  612. #555 dhogaza: I do hope the example of the ivory-billed woodpecker makes clear to you the difficulty of documenting the extinction of a species.

    Yes, understood.

    Bad analogy. A better analogy is “You have incurable cancer. You have one to eight months to live”.

    Wilson put no upper time bound on his prediction. Thus your analogy doesn’t compare.

    Let’s look at this from a different direction, and assume that everything that makes it onto a the IUCN list of threatened species (“the red list”) ultimately goes extinct. Here (1) we see a rise in threatened species from 16116 to 16306 between 2006 and 2007. That’s 190/year. Now, they’ve only evaluated 41K of 1600K species. Presumably if they had looked at all known species, we’d have seen 190 * 1600/41 = known 7400 species per year threatened, and for this discussion, doomed to extinction. That still falls short of Wilson’s “10’s of thousands” prediction. It’s getting close, to be sure. But at this point, I think Wilson’s prediction falls into the bucket of “experts saying it enough and trying to make it so”.

    Now, it coudl be argued that 7400 figure shoudl be multipled by 6 to account for all species. In that case, that puts you at ~44K species, squarely into Wilson’s range. That takes a couple of stretches, IMO, but I suppose I see how that could happen.

    (1) http://www.iucnredlist.org/info/2007RL_Stats_Table%201.pdf

    Comment by Matt — 15 Nov 2007 @ 1:18 AM

  613. Matt RE: 612. Excellent articulation of the issue in dispute. I’m not up on this issue but I sure appreciate the fact somebody is actually doing the math to present the issues under dispute. Unless I’m mistaken the species under observation and on lists are “more likely” to become extinct, so extrapolating in this fashion will lead to too large a number.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 15 Nov 2007 @ 4:34 AM

  614. Ray Ladbury writes:

    [[Solar energy works great when the sun shines. It is problematic when it doesn’t–and that is >50% of the time on Earth.]]

    The Earth is in darkness more than 50% of the time? How does it manage that? It’s a rotating spheroid.

    And as I have pointed out many times, there are solar thermal plants that operate close to 24 hours, because at peak sunshine they can store some heat in molten salts to run the generators later. Energy storage is available in all kinds of ways, from pumping water uphill to charging batteries and fuel cells to speeding up flywheels.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 15 Nov 2007 @ 6:53 AM

  615. The Science is Settled and Scientific and Engineering Consensus has been established for decades. Thus The Precautionary Principle should be invoked relative to the following:

    (1) Coal-burning central electricity generating plants emit more radiation than nuclear power plants.

    (2) The waste from coal-burning power plants is emitted into The Commons atmosphere 24/7.

    (3) Some of that waste is a factor in Global Warming.

    (4) Nuclear power plants emit less radiation than coal-powered plants.

    (5) Nuclear power plants emit far less waste into the commons atmosphere.

    (6) Nuclear power plants do not emit any wastes that are a factor in Global Warming.

    All of the above are Settled Science and have been for decades. Scientific and Engineering Consensus have been established for decades. The Precautionary Principle would seem to dictate that coal-power power plants be replaced with nuclear power plants

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 15 Nov 2007 @ 7:02 AM

  616. Dan, the precautionary principle doesn’t dictate binary choices, you’re misusing the idea by limiting your options to two and trying to force a choice. It’s a capital mistake.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Nov 2007 @ 10:16 AM

  617. Re Joe’s approval of Matt “doing the math”:

    It’s astounding that you prefer back-of-the-envelope ad hockery over the peer-reviewed science. I implore you to look at the published population data I posted in 563. See those exponential curves approaching zero? They represent the complete destruction of entire ecosystems.

    Among biologists, there is no dispute: humans are causing one of the worst extinction events in the planet’s history. Debating the size of the error bars on extinction rate estimates is simply a Lomborg tactic to sell complacency in the face of this appalling catastrophe.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 15 Nov 2007 @ 10:35 AM

  618. re 615

    “The Precautionary Principle would seem to dictate that coal-power power plants be replaced with nuclear power plants.”

    Not to be contentious, but … you are being selective in your evaluation, what Sagan described in his essay “The Fine Art of Baloney Detection” from his book, “The Demon-Haunted World”, as the fallacy of observable selection.

    http://rucus.ru.ac.za/~urban/docs/baloney.html

    Factor in the zero/infinity problem (Low risk/high consequence) and the as-yet-to-be solved issue of long-term (100,000s of thousands of years) storage of nuclear waste, add the potential of other alternatives, and then discuss this in relation to “The Precautionary Principle”.

    Either/or propositions, the idea that something is as simple as deciding between black & white, strike me as disengenuous. Not all the time, mind you, but much more often than not, particularly when there are many complex factors to take into account.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 15 Nov 2007 @ 10:56 AM

  619. Re #614: [The Earth is in darkness more than 50% of the time? How does it manage that? It’s a rotating spheroid.]

    Clouds, of course. There’s a lot less energy to be captured on a cloudy day. (Remember that the eye is a non-linear sensor.) Then there’s angle: unless you can tilt your whole solar array, you’re going to have much less effective area around sunrise & sunset. (Even if individual elements tilt, they’ll still be shading others.)

    “…at peak sunshine they can store some heat in molten salts to run the generators later. Energy storage is available in all kinds of ways…”

    And every one of those ways is less than 100% efficient, so you have to build more plant to cover the storage losses, which increases costs. I’ve never seen an analysis of large-scale solar (or wind) power that includes those costs, but IIRC at the home level the cost of an off-the-grid solar system is about double that of a grid-tied one.

    Comment by James — 15 Nov 2007 @ 11:42 AM

  620. #614 Barton Paul Levenson: Energy storage is available in all kinds of ways, from pumping water uphill to charging batteries and fuel cells to speeding up flywheels

    The problem is that low-cost energy storage is required to make all this work.

    Solar Two, which uses molten salt, requires 30X of the space of of a turbine farm. To power the US would require 23% of CA filled with these things.

    Run the math on a flywheel storage for a day of energy from a single wind turbine and I think you’ll see it’s many, many tons, spinning over 10K RPM and riding on magnetic bearings.

    Storing energy in a pumped water system, as we’ve seen in the Chinese example, costs about $100/kwh for the Chinese to build the plant, which means storing a night of energy for the US would cost over $1T.

    The point is that massive energy storage is required to make alt energy really interesting, but unfortunately, low-cost energy storage isn’t anywhere close to readily available.

    And that’s the dirty secret of alt-power. It works great and can be cost effective when it needs to only kick in a few million kwh here and there. But as soon as it’s anything more than a novelty, the costs start to go up very quickly.

    And the longer folks refuse to allow nuclear because they believe in their head that there ARE clean alt technologies that would work but aren’t being used, the more of a force you are to keep the status quo in tact.

    The day in the 1970s that the US decided it wasn’t going to go nuclear and instead would make alt energy work, oil and coal executives high-fived and took the afternoon off for golf, because they understood they had just been granted another 40 year monopoly on energy generation.

    And those that were responsible for that decision are directly responsible for the >50B tons of extra CO2 our coal plants have pumped out in the last 30 years. I’ll say it again: put up enough barriers, and you are sure to keep the status quo.

    Comment by Matt — 15 Nov 2007 @ 12:45 PM

  621. RE # 620

    Matt, you said:

    [The day in the 1970s that the US decided it wasn’t going to go nuclear and instead would make alt energy work, oil and coal executives high-fived and took the afternoon off for golf, because they understood they had just been granted another 40 year monopoly on energy generation.

    And those that were responsible for that decision are directly responsible for the >50B tons of extra CO2 our coal plants have pumped out in the last 30 years. I’ll say it again: put up enough barriers, and you are sure to keep the status quo.]

    Lets sart with Ralph Nader. In the 1970s he pronounced the end of nuclear power by manipulating environmentalists and politicians to prevent any form of centralized storage of nuclear waste. He intended to kill the industry by choking it on its waste.

    Now, that waste accumulates in on-site storage pools located in close proximity of populated areas.

    Clever guy, Nader. He could not see the difference between Mr. G or Mr. B so he jumped into the campaign and refused to get out in time to assure FL went for Mr. G. Now, we live with Mr. Bs failures.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 15 Nov 2007 @ 1:56 PM

  622. Of course another way to store energy is as hydrogen. Cost effective ways to generate and store hyrogen are currently being researched.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 15 Nov 2007 @ 2:00 PM

  623. James wrote: “I see no reason to think that nuclear power plants are fundamentally different from any other machine.”

    With all due respect your pronouncements about decommissioning nuclear power plants seem to be the result of “reasoning” based on a lot of assumptions and very little knowledge, nor do you seem very interested in acquiring knowledge of the subject, since you have apparently ignored the detailed NRC information, and other articles, on nuclear decommissioning that I linked to above.

    James wrote: “We need to start kicking the CO2 habit now … and I don’t see any workable alternatives that don’t involve nuclear as a big part.”

    In previous posts on this thread, I cited and linked to a January 2007 report from the American Solar Energy Society, which found that full application of existing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies (wind power, biofuels, biomass, photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, and geothermal power) could reduce US carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent by mid-century, which is in line with what mainstream climate science indicates will be needed to keep CO2 levels below 450 ppm, generally considered to be the threshhold for “dangerous” climate change. Fifty-seven percent of total reductions would come from energy efficiency improvements and 43 percent from expanded use of the six renewable technologies examined.

    So, there’s a “workable alternative” that doesn’t “involve nuclear as a big part”. If you “don’t see” it, it’s because you have chosen not to look at it.

    I would also commend to the attention of nuclear proponents a 2003 MIT study, The Future Of Nuclear Power, which began with the pro-nuclear premise that “this technology is an important option for the United States and the world to meet future energy needs without emitting carbon dioxide and other atmospheric pollutants.” The report discusses a hypothethical scenario in which world nuclear electrical generation capacity is approximately tripled by mid-century, thereby “keeping nuclear’s share of the electricity market about constant” and avoiding “1.8 million tonnes of carbon emissions annually from coal plants, about 25 percent of the increment in carbon emissions otherwise expected in a business-as-usual scenario.” Note that this scenario — with a tripling of current nuclear electrical generation capacity — is not envisioned to reduce present levels of CO2 emissions from electrical generation, but merely reduce the growth in emissions by 25 percent from what it would be if the new generating capacity was coal-fired. Emissions benefits are less significant when compared with natural gas-fired electrical generation.

    The MIT study finds that “prospects for nuclear energy as an option are limited” by four unresolved problems: high costs; adverse safety, environmental, and health effects; potential security risks stemming from proliferation; and unresolved challenges in long-term management of nuclear wastes.

    The authors note that “we know little about the safety of the overall fuel cycle, beyond reactor operation” and that “there is also growing concern about the safe and secure transportation of nuclear materials and the security of nuclear facilities from terrorist attack”, that “the United States and other countries have yet to implement final disposition of spent fuel or high level radioactive waste streams created at various stages of the nuclear fuel cycle”, and that “the current international safeguards regime is inadequate to meet the security challenges of the expanded nuclear deployment contemplated in the global growth scenario.”

    The MIT report expresses the view that increased efficiency, expanded use of renewables (solar, wind, biomass and geothermal), and carbon capture and sequestration will all be needed and does not “argue for their comparative advantages” but only attempts to “explore and evaluate actions that could be taken to maintain nuclear power as one of the significant options.”

    Among their recommendations, of course, are calls for hundreds of billions of dollars in government funding to overcome the “challenges” to nuclear expansion (on top of the hundreds of billions of dollars already lavished on the nuclear industry over the last half-century).

    Nuclear proponents who make sweeping pronouncements about nuclear power being “THE obvious answer” to reducing carbon emissions would do well to study the more sober and cautious conclusions reached by this pro-nuclear MIT study.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 15 Nov 2007 @ 2:23 PM

  624. John L. McCormick wrote: “Lets sart with Ralph Nader. In the 1970s he pronounced the end of nuclear power by manipulating environmentalists and politicians to prevent any form of centralized storage of nuclear waste. He intended to kill the industry by choking it on its waste.”

    The nuclear power proponents all seem to be going off the deep end today with their Limbaugh-esque fantasies about wicked liberals killing off nuclear power. Ralph Nader has nothing to do with the failure to implement centralized long-term storage of nuclear waste, ie. the Yucca Mountain repository. That failure is the result of very real problems, problems that nuclear proponents don’t want to acknowledge or deal with, so instead they invent phony bogeymen to blame it on.

    This whole myth of “environmentalists have prevented the US from going to all-nuclear electrical generation” is on a par with the one about “climate scientists perpetrating the global warming hoax” and has just as little foundation in reality.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 15 Nov 2007 @ 2:48 PM

  625. Here is an (indirect) link to a world-wide carbon dioxide monitoring site regarding power producers only it seems:

    http://biopact.com/2007/11/carma-website-reveals-emissions-from.html

    Comment by David B. Benson — 15 Nov 2007 @ 3:08 PM

  626. Jim G: “Back of the Envelope Ad Hockery”. Such a great turn of phrase I won’t spend too much of your time arguing the following problems with your approach, especially because I (and I’m guessing Matt and almost everybody) would agree we have a major problem with extinctions. As with many other global issues AGW is likely a small component – habitat destruction by humans in the Amazon would be the top culprit I assume.

    Matt above has not at all suggested that species extinction rates higher than background are “OK”, and I’m sure he’d agree they are a very bad, human caused problem. Although I have not reviewed all the math I think he’s reasonably extrapolated from real numbers and real estimates. Don’t you?

    Are you additionally saying that since these numbers are a snapshot in time, and trends are negative, we should focus on the worst case scenarios? This is a different point entirely, though also worthy of consideration. I’m uncomfortable assuming that a trend to zero is the same as zero, since actions are generally taken at some point along the curve. When? I’d accept the USA’s species categorization approaches which do not wait for “threatened” to act – they look for potentially threatened species and work to stem the tide. What more would you ask for?

    Are you simply stating that “Species extinction is a serious problem and we should address it immediately!” Agree with that – infact in part thanks to Matt’s “back of the envelope ad hockery”.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 15 Nov 2007 @ 3:52 PM

  627. “As with many other global issues AGW is likely a small component – …” – joe Duck 626.

    Why does this distinction matter?

    Comment by J.C.H. — 15 Nov 2007 @ 4:03 PM

  628. Re: 620

    Matt Says:
    15 November 2007 at 12:45 PM

    Run the math on a flywheel storage for a day of energy from a single wind turbine and I think you’ll see it’s many, many tons, spinning over 10K RPM and riding on magnetic bearings.

    Storing energy in a pumped water system, as we’ve seen in the Chinese example, costs about $100/kwh for the Chinese to build the plant, which means storing a night of energy for the US would cost over $1T.

    The point is that massive energy storage is required to make alt energy really interesting, but unfortunately, low-cost energy storage isn’t anywhere close to readily available.

    And that’s the dirty secret of alt-power. It works great and can be cost effective when it needs to only kick in a few million kwh here and there. But as soon as it’s anything more than a novelty, the costs start to go up very quickly.

    Based on figures here, 100 Kwh/ton is a reasonable storage figure. At the power densities of Nevada Solar One one ton of rotor would be required for every ~200 square meters. With proper design and mass production, a stationary 1-ton vacuum-packed flywheel ought to be fairly cheap compared to the equivalent amount of concentrating mirror and receiver.

    Comment by AK — 15 Nov 2007 @ 4:08 PM

  629. James wrote: “I see no reason …”

    Serious students in the industry do. Look at failure analyses done in the industry by people well aware of the difference they make.

    Just one example:
    http://shippai.jst.go.jp/en/Search?fn=1&dt=0&op=0&so=0&vt=0&kw=Environment&st=1&nct=TZ00000008

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Nov 2007 @ 5:00 PM

  630. Re #623: [...January 2007 report from the American Solar Energy Society, which found that full application of existing energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies (wind power, biofuels, biomass, photovoltaics, concentrating solar power, and geothermal power) could reduce US carbon emissions by 60 to 80 percent by mid-century, which is in line with what mainstream climate science indicates will be needed to keep CO2 levels below 450 ppm, generally considered to be the threshhold for “dangerous” climate change.]

    Yes, I read that report. The problem here is our different ideas of how much CO2 it takes to cause dangerous climate change. You seem to agree with the 450 ppm limit. I think that the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere now has ALREADY caused dangerous climate change. It’s not enough aim for a 60-80% reduction (though I think when I read the report it was more like 40-60%) through alt energy (and maybe fall short of the target). We need to aim for 100% reduction, and also work on things like revegetation that might take out some of the previously-added CO2.

    [So, there’s a “workable alternative” that doesn’t “involve nuclear as a big part”. If you “don’t see” it, it’s because you have chosen not to look at it.]

    No, I have looked at it, and it forms part of the reason I think nuclear is necessary to fill in that missing 20-40%; because a 60-80% solution is just not going to be enough.

    Comment by James — 15 Nov 2007 @ 5:02 PM

  631. Joe, thank you for the reply. I’m glad you agree that species extinction should be addressed immediately. If you’ll recall the original context of this sub-thread, it’s Lomborg who thinks differently — biodiversity loss isn’t on his Copenhagen Consensus list. Until I hear differently from Matt, I can only assume he agrees with Lomborg.

    Although you’re certainly correct that habitat destruction is a major component of the sixth mass extinction event, AGW also plays a decisive role in whether marine ecosystems will survive. It’s well documented that abnormally warm ocean temperatures are destroying corals globally, and when a reef dies, the entire ecosystem that depends on it unravels.

    The specific policy I’m advocating is that the world should spend the $30 billion to protect the most threatened habitats. If we get habitat destruction and overexploitation under control, these ecosystems stand a better chance of stabilizing enough to survive whatever environmental changes may occur in the next centuries.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 15 Nov 2007 @ 5:56 PM

  632. J.C.H. – not sure what you meant above. Distinction between AGW and GW?

    Comment by Joe Duck — 16 Nov 2007 @ 3:25 AM

  633. #631 Jim Galasyn:If you’ll recall the original context of this sub-thread, it’s Lomborg who thinks differently — biodiversity loss isn’t on his Copenhagen Consensus list. Until I hear differently from Matt, I can only assume he agrees with Lomborg.

    Actually, my only concern is that numbers are fairly represented in any argument AND that folks grasp the magnitude of numbers in context.

    If biodiversity “only” costs $30B relative to a world economic output of $50T or so, then it seems reasonable to try and solve.

    Note that Lomborg wasn’t against fixing it. He merely wondered what is the downside to modest extinction rates, even if those rates are 1000X higher than background. He noted the arguements presented to date didn’t necessarily provide a compelling reason why the last beetle of a species was important. Of course, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that does NOT want every animal living on the planet today to keep living on this planet. However, every species isn’t necessarily worth the same (to us or to the ecosystem).

    Comment by Matt — 16 Nov 2007 @ 10:59 AM

  634. #624 SecularAnimist: This whole myth of “environmentalists have prevented the US from going to all-nuclear electrical generation” is on a par with the one about “climate scientists perpetrating the global warming hoax” and has just as little foundation in reality.

    You gotta be kidding (1). Why do you believe the US rates for new plant construction have remained so low compared to the rest of the world?

    You seriously have a uphill battle on this one, when there are so many folks that openly talk about scaring people away from nuclear power. Some never stopped and still are scaring people to death today.

    Consider public opinion of nuclear power in France find 2/3 “strongly in favor” of nuclear power (2). In fact, folks are pleased when a reactor come to their neighborhood. In the US, 70% favor nuclear energy (3), but the % of folks that would accept a reactor anywhere near them is much, much smaller. You can chalk that up to scare tactics from evironmentalists.

    (1) http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/magazine/16wwln-freakonomics-t.html
    (2) http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/reaction/readings/french.html
    (3) http://www.nei.org/resourcesandstats/documentlibrary/newplants/reports/publicopinionreport505/

    Comment by Matt — 16 Nov 2007 @ 11:18 AM

  635. “J.C.H. – not sure what you meant above. Distinction between AGW and GW? …”

    Your persistence in claiming a specific event has a low/small/trivial AGW component:

    “As with many other global issues AGW is likely a small component – …” – joe Duck 626.

    You seem to think this is something important. I don’t think the percentage of culpability that can be attributed to AGW matters much at all.

    You seem to think tagging a negative event with a low AGW component has some magical significance. It doesn’t. It will be interesting to see what AGW component you attach to positive events.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 16 Nov 2007 @ 12:16 PM

  636. Matt #634,

    ‘scuse me for butting in, but this one is not so hard to dispute. Nuclear electricity is relatively cost competitive in France. However, only with nuclear’s multiple tax and other subsidies in the US it can it begin to compete cost wise here given the cheap abundance of coal.

    Recent nuclear industry paper: http://www.uic.com.au/nip08.htm

    This could change with the implementation of a carbon tax…

    Comment by Dan W — 16 Nov 2007 @ 2:16 PM

  637. re 634

    “You gotta be kidding (1). Why do you believe the US rates for new plant construction have remained so low compared to the rest of the world?”

    Three Mile Island, followed by Chernobyl…

    “Some never stopped and still are scaring people to death today.”

    Another fallacy…enumeration of favorable (or, in this case, “unfavorable”) circumstances to the exclusion of any arguments that would suggest there were more than one position or idea, ideological, scietific, political and/or societal that might be at play here beyond people trying to “scare” everyone.

    In short, you are trying to demonize and thereby trivialize the very real and thoughtful positions of people and groups opposed to nuclear power, many of them with very real, cautionary concerns backed by both the history of nuclear power, the understanding of the engineering problems faced, and the science that informs the debate.

    As has been detailed for you exhaustively, this is not either/or discussion, nor is it about scaremongers with an agenda. Until you can acknowledge that, and deal with it honestly, in the end all you really manage to do is trivialize your own position to anyone actually paying attention.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 16 Nov 2007 @ 2:27 PM

  638. Matt, it’s welcome news to hear that you also support taking action on biodiversity loss.

    I’ll disagree with your characterization of Lomborg’s position, however. He explicitly denies there is a crisis of biodiversity loss, and as far as I can tell, he has no interest in doing anything about it.

    He merely wondered what is the downside to modest extinction rates, even if those rates are 1000X higher than background.

    Putting aside the question of how 1000X background can be a “modest” extinction rate, Lomborg’s flawed method is to consider individual species in isolation and to view mass extinction as an incremental affair: one by one, the species go extinct.

    As you say, “He noted the arguments presented to date didn’t necessarily provide a compelling reason why the last beetle of a species was important.”

    This is because Lomborg doesn’t understand ecosystems specifically, and feedback systems generally. In the case of marine biodiversity loss, we are literally strip-mining the oceans of biomass at several trophic levels. This is the ocean equivalent of clear-cutting forests.

    But it’s even worse than clear cutting — at least when an expanse of forest is razed, the animals can potentially flee to adjacent habitat, if it exists. With longlining and bottom trawling, many, if not most, of the animals are caught and killed, and most are discarded as bycatch. It would be as if a forest were surrounded with trap lines and bird nets, then clearcut. When this is done, we see those population curves for multiple species exponentially decaying to zero. In fact, the situation is so dire that only 10% of all large fish are left; 90% of all large fish, including tuna, marlin, swordfish, sharks, cod and halibut are gone.

    In the current mass extinction, the catastrophe is not only loss of species, it’s loss of entire ecosystems. You and I agree that overexploitation is a crisis that must be stopped, but Lomborg explicitly denies there is a crisis. Lomborg comforts himself by saying, “Fishing down the food web just removes the oldest fish from the population.” But he’s really just whistling past the graveyard.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 16 Nov 2007 @ 2:59 PM

  639. re: # 637

    But The Science is Settled. There has been both Scientific and Engineering Consensus for decades.

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 16 Nov 2007 @ 3:39 PM

  640. Matt writes:

    [[ He noted the arguements presented to date didn’t necessarily provide a compelling reason why the last beetle of a species was important. Of course, you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that does NOT want every animal living on the planet today to keep living on this planet. However, every species isn’t necessarily worth the same (to us or to the ecosystem).]]

    “The first rule of intelligent tinkering is to save all the parts.”

    All species are important because we don’t know what the crucial species are. No one does. We will know when we’ve hit the extinction of a crucial species because everything will begin to go bad faster and faster.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 16 Nov 2007 @ 4:22 PM

  641. J.S. to Matt:
    As has been detailed for you exhaustively, this is not either/or discussion, nor is it about scaremongers with an agenda. Until you can acknowledge that, and deal with it honestly, in the end all you really manage to do is trivialize your own position to anyone actually paying attention.

    Sheesh! Matt made all of his positions clear, supported them with data, addressed the concerns raised by others, and has demonized nobody. I only wish others here were as diplomatic and reasonable.

    J.C.H. I don’t think I was trying to make a specific point regarding the size of the AGW connection, I just think it’s important to quantify the AGW component as much as possible so we can know how to allocate resources. e.g. As Matt and Jim note above saving species is a good idea. If we could save all of them for 30 billion it would seem a good use of global resources and perhaps better than using that same 30 billion on carbon sequestration. We simply cannot do everything and mitigation is expensive, so the key question is how do we proceed, and that depends very critically on the degree to which AGW affects these problems.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 16 Nov 2007 @ 4:58 PM

  642. Jim: biodiversity loss isn’t on his Copenhagen Consensus list

    But it could be on the next one. This is why the Copenhagen Consensus approach for all it’s flaws is an excellent approach to resource and solution prioritization. In one sense it is trying to define where we spend our “first few dollars” to solve pressing global problems. This helps avoid the problems that come from how we all focus most of our attention narrowly, assuming that our areas of expertise are of more pressing global concern than others.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 16 Nov 2007 @ 5:07 PM

  643. Barton makes a trenchant observation about intelligent tinkering:

    All species are important because we don’t know what the crucial species are. No one does.

    Fortunately, our knowledge is better than this. We can say with certainty that the primary producers and the apex predators are crucial species. Eliminate them, and their ecosystem is very likely to fall apart.

    But your larger point is well taken: removing any species from an ecosystem is risky business. And I’d have to say that for the oceans, things are definitely going bad, faster and faster.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 16 Nov 2007 @ 5:25 PM

  644. re 639:

    re: # 637

    But The Science is Settled. There has been both Scientific and Engineering Consensus for decades.

    ================

    Settled on what? That it isn’t a problem, or that there is as yet no realistic, long term solution for problems such as nuclear waste? That blow-ups happen? That with an increase in the number of nuclear facillities comes a commesurate increase in potential for disaster? Do you refer to the zero/infinity problem (low short term risk/high long-term consequence if there is a major accident.) That no matter how perfect the machine, humans are infallible.

    This is not an oil spil we’re talking about (though in it’s own way toxic and long-lasting) This is not a wildfire consuming thousands of homes, nor a hurricane-driven flood. What we are discussing is something that, if mishandled, has the very real potential to make vast areas of land uninhabitable for generations.

    Which consensus are you referring to?

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 16 Nov 2007 @ 5:28 PM

  645. Sheesh! Matt made all of his positions clear, supported them with data
    ============

    Rhetorical fallacies are not data.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 16 Nov 2007 @ 5:29 PM

  646. Joe suggests, hopefully, that biodiversity loss could be on the next Copenhagen Consensus list.

    Not very likely. He’s quite convinced that the biodiversity crisis exists only in the minds of alarmists.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 16 Nov 2007 @ 5:32 PM

  647. Such an attribution, regardless of its actual accuracy, has no logical place in the decision for the allocation of resources.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 16 Nov 2007 @ 6:13 PM

  648. This is grim reading:

    http://biopact.com/2007/11/ipcc-to-warn-of-abrupt-climate-change.html

    Comment by David B. Benson — 16 Nov 2007 @ 6:23 PM

  649. Re 644: [What we are discussing is something that, if mishandled, has the very real potential to make vast areas of land uninhabitable for generations.]

    Which is a perfect example of scare tactics. Look at the so-called “dead zone” around Chernobyl, the “worse than worst case” nuclear accident. Humans are (theoretically) excluded because of the radiation danger, and as a result everything else is thriving.

    The problem here is the starting assumption: an exaggerated idea of the dangers of low-level radiation that’s basically derived from a linear response model. We’ve been through this before, in previous threads. Anyone interested can search.

    Comment by James — 16 Nov 2007 @ 10:00 PM

  650. Re Chernobyl :

    Chernobyl ‘not a wildlife haven’
    By Mark Kinver
    Science and nature reporter, BBC News

    The idea that the exclusion zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has created a wildlife haven is not scientifically justified, a study says.

    Recent studies said rare species had thrived despite raised radiation levels as a result of no human activity.

    But scientists who assessed the 1986 disaster’s impact on birds said the ecological effects were “considerably greater than previously assumed”. …

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 16 Nov 2007 @ 10:27 PM

  651. James, while I think the “linear-no-threshold” model is flawed, there is no convincing evidence that directly contradicts it, and so the NAS panel is probably correct in adopting it. It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the difficulties of long-term storage of radioactive waste or the health consequences if the storage should fail. The strategy adopted by the US of “put it in the ground and forget it” is a nonstarter. First, without reprocessing, not only are we burying a lot of fuel, but the volume of waste is unmanageable. Second, most of the longest-lived nastiness is can be recycled, leaving a highly radioactive, but shorter-lived problem. Of course this raises proliferation concerns, and these also should not be underestimated.
    Likewise, renewables also pose daunting problems. I think that most advocates have not thought through the level of effort needed to meet projected energy demand. Given the toxic residue that is often produced by semiconductor fabs, the challenges of managing the waste on a scale needed to meet demand with solar energy are not insignificant. And storage is an issue for any renewable, and the challenges of scale here have not been dealt with. Transport remains a technology where renewables haven’t made a dent and don’t look promising for the future.
    So far the only useful thing the skeptics have brought to the table is their emphasis on these difficulties–difficulties often glossed over by advocates of both renewables and nuclear power. If they would abandon their silly opposition to established science and accept that we face serious risks, they could perhaps make some valuable contributions to the debate about how to handle climate change. They need to understand the difference between conservatism and complacency.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Nov 2007 @ 9:17 AM

  652. Re #651: [The strategy adopted by the US of “put it in the ground and forget it” is a nonstarter. First, without reprocessing, not only are we burying a lot of fuel, but the volume of waste is unmanageable.]

    I agree that it is a far less than optimal strategy, but it would work, especially if we consider the example of Oklo. A billion years or so should be containment time enough. Nor should the volume be unmanagable: the uranium and other materials originally came out of mines, so why shouldn’t it fit back in?

    [Of course this raises proliferation concerns, and these also should not be underestimated.]

    Yes and no. I agree that those should be serious concerns, but as nothing is ever done (except by the Israelis) about the proliferation that is happening anyway, then we should at least get the benefit of CO2-free power. But the subject gets further into politics than I think we should go here.

    Comment by James — 17 Nov 2007 @ 11:13 AM

  653. re 652

    “A billion years or so should be containment time enough.”

    Of course it would. The Sun would have boiled away our atmosphere by then, or be near to finishing the job.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 17 Nov 2007 @ 11:30 AM

  654. Following one of the cites to the article I posted for James earlier brings this digression a bit more back on track.

    The concept of a “sink” biologically applies to wildlife in the Chernobyl exclusion zone — as it does to animals and plants that bind carbon dioxide.

    Understanding what a “sink” means may be helpful. This is a look at how it’s investigated in the Chernobyl exclusion zone — which is a “sink” for wildlife.

    Useful methods for studying and understanding how biologists identify “sinks” — places that on average more life flows into and dies without reproducing successfully.

    http://www.esajournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1890%2F1051-0761(2006)016%5B1696%3ACAAPSF%5D2.0.CO%3B2&ct=1

    “Previous studies have revealed severe reductions in Barn Swallow reproductive performance and adult survival in the Chernobyl region, implying that the population is a sink and unable to sustain itself. Female Barn Swallows are known to disperse farther from their natal site than males, implying that female stable-isotope profiles should tend to be more variable than profiles of males. However, if the Barn Swallows breeding at Chernobyl are not self-sustaining, we would expect males there also to originate from a larger area than males from the control region. We found evidence that the sample of adult Barn Swallows from the Chernobyl region was more isotopically heterogeneous than the control sample, as evidenced from a significant correlation between feather δ13C and δ15N values in the control region, but not in the Chernobyl region. Furthermore, we found a significant difference in feather δ15N values between regions and periods (before and after 1986). When we compared the variances in δ13C values of feathers, we found that variances in both sexes from post-1986 samples from Chernobyl were significantly larger than variances for feather samples from the control region, and than variances for historical samples from both regions. These findings suggest that stable-isotope measurements can provide information about population processes following environmental perturbations.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Nov 2007 @ 11:32 AM

  655. re: #616

    List all the potential methods/systems for terawatt and greater base-load electricity generation that can provide the exact same performance and reliability all day every day for 10s of decades.

    I think it’s a short list of two item; fossil and nuclear.

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 19 Nov 2007 @ 9:40 AM

  656. Re #652 (James) “as nothing is ever done (except by the Israelis) about the proliferation that is happening anyway, then we should at least get the benefit of CO2-free power.”

    An odd claim, in the light of recent events surrounding North Korea (apparently dismantling its bomb-making programme in response to some combination of bribes and threats), Libya (where Qaddafi has in the same way been persuaded to abandon his programme), Pakistan (which has at least promised to stop spreading nuclear weapons technology, and blamed it all on A.Q. Khan) and Iran (which as I recall is currently under some sort of pressure to stop enriching uranium). If you look at predictions from a few decades ago, I think you’ll find the general expectation was for far more than the current 8 or 9 nuclear-armed states by now. Of course, increasing reliance on nuclear power would make it far harder to prevent further proliferation, given the inextricable connections between the materials, technologies and skills involved.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 19 Nov 2007 @ 10:44 AM

  657. re 655

    List all the potential methods/systems for terawatt and greater base-load electricity generation that can provide the exact same performance and reliability all day every day for 10s of decades.

    I think it’s a short list of two item; fossil and nuclear.

    =================

    And both present huge problems, in the case of Nuclear incredibly lethal, long-lasting problems.

    My point is you have to factor these issues in, otherwise your “precautionary principle” is a faux argument.

    Further, you need to factor in the understanding it isn’t only about REPLACING power, watt for watt, but factoring in efficiencies and reductions. Don’t get me wrong; I would like nothing more than for nuclear to work, but the problems associated with it are so prevelant, so long-lasting with the very real potential for harmful consequences that pushing an “if not fossil, nuclear” argument is a non-starter, particularly if your intent is to convince me or anyone else who have valid concerns otherwise.

    Bottom line: trying to suggest this is an either/or argument is a fallacy.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 19 Nov 2007 @ 11:06 AM

  658. Dan Hughes wrote: “List all the potential methods/systems for terawatt and greater base-load electricity generation that can provide the exact same performance and reliability all day every day for 10s of decades.”

    Full exploitation of the capacity for small-scale distributed rooftop photovoltaics can eliminate much of the need for “terawatt and greater base-load electricity generation” in the developed world, and can provide electricity for hundreds of millions of people in rural areas of the developing world where large-scale power plants and large-scale electrical distribution grids are economic impossibilities.

    While large-scale centralized wind turbine “farms” and concentrating solar power plants are playing and will play an increasingly important role, the future of electricity generation is in small-scale distributed generation. As the personal computer revolutionized “data processing” and the cell phone revolutionized telecommunications, cheap distributed photovoltaics and small-scale wind turbines will revolutionize the production, distribution and use of electricity. Large centralized electrical generation plants of any kind will be increasingly less important as time goes on and it is arguable that coal, natural gas and nuclear power plants are already bad investments since they will be obsolete well within their expected operational lifetimes.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 20 Nov 2007 @ 12:59 PM

  659. Re #656: [An odd claim, in the light of recent events surrounding North Korea...]

    North Korea couldn’t dismantle its nuclear program if it hadn’t had one (and according to reports some of the “dismantling” involved shipping things off to Syria), and bribing one to stop would seem to encourage others to start. Iran may be under pressure, but what’s that pressure doing? Nothing, as far as I can see. As for Pakistan… well, what’s a promise worth, in international politics?

    This is veering off into politics, and into some iffy things that depend on intelligence assessments and suchlike.

    To return to the main thread, it seems as though on the one hand we are offered all the possible negatives (some of them IMHO extremely stretched, and none of them exactly certain) of nuclear power, while on the other hand the known destructive power of fossil fuels is – even here – largely ignored, and the possibilities of “renewables” greatly exaggerated, and most of the technical problems glossed over. That’s hardly a realistic approach, and we do very badly need to deal with reality.

    Comment by James — 20 Nov 2007 @ 2:53 PM

  660. James (659) — Find out how well Brazil is doing with renewables, mostly ethanol from sugarcane. No exaggeration.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Nov 2007 @ 4:24 PM

  661. Brazil is doing quite well with ethanol renewables, but, given its overall requirement and, especially, its unique ability to grow massive sugarcane, it is not a practical model that can be replicated all over.

    Comment by Rod B — 20 Nov 2007 @ 5:44 PM

  662. Rod B (661) — That’s why the North should buy ethanol and other biofuels from the South rather than subsidize biofuel production in the North. (And incidently, India is another big producer of sugarcane as well as other southern locations.)

    I’m not talking about all forms of bioenergy. Generating electricity from biomass energy is quite sensible.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Nov 2007 @ 6:17 PM

  663. Re # 633 Matt: “If biodiversity “only” costs $30B relative to a world economic output of $50T or so, then it seems reasonable to try and solve.”

    Rather than focus on the estimated cost of preserving current biodiversity, it might be more useful to consider the cost of losing the ecosystem services provided by that biodiversity should it be diminished – these services include:
    1. Provisioning, including food, water, fuel, and fiber.
    2. Regulating, such as the prevention of soil erosion and flooding.
    3. Cultural, including recreation, spiritual values, and a “sense of place.”
    4. Basic support, including soil formation, nutrient cycling, and oxygen from photosynthesis.

    And in considering how AGW might impact these services, you have to consider other, simultaneous, threats to those services, such as deforestation, pollution, eutrophication, over-fishing, spread of invasive species, etc.. AGW shouldn’t be considered in isolation.

    And while the loss of one species of beetle (or a dozen species) might seem inconsequential, you can never be sure; it is like removing bolts one by one from a jet airliner (or the space shuttle, or the furnace in your house)- you never know which missing bolt is going to cause catastrophic failure of the entire system.

    Here are some useful references on ecosystem services provided by the plants and animals with which we share the earth:

    Stokstad,E. 2005. Taking the Pulse of Earth’s Life-Support Systems. Science
    Vol. 308. no. 5718, pp. 41 – 43
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/2s543r

    Schröter, D. et al 2005 Ecosystem Service Supply and Vulnerability to Global Change in Europe. Science Vol. 310. no. 5752, pp. 1333 – 1337
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/2v8up5

    Worm, B. et al. 2006 Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services. Science Vol. 314. no. 5800, pp. 787 – 790.
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/2r2b2p

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 23 Nov 2007 @ 12:05 AM

  664. Re ecosystem services and biodiversity in 663:

    Thanks to Chuck for the post and the excellent links.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 23 Nov 2007 @ 12:11 PM

  665. Re 662: [Generating electricity from biomass energy is quite sensible.]

    To some small extent, yes, but to generate large amounts of energy from biomass requires the conversion of large amounts of land to croplands, which brings us back to the biodiversity issues again.

    One thing most of the renewable energy sources have in common is that their advocates seem to lack a sense of scale. Biomass, like wind generators, photovoltaics, and the rest all look good when applied to your off-the-grid house located on your couple of hundred acres of land. The problem is that there’s just not enough Earth for everyone to live that way.

    Comment by James — 23 Nov 2007 @ 11:37 PM

  666. Another energy storage technology that apparently is already in production is Vanadium Redox Battery Energy Storage System. It is being marketed by a company called VRB Power Systems.

    According to the company’s spec sheet the Annual Operations & Maintenance Costs are $0.008/kWh, which adds up to ~$10,000/year for 20 hours of Nevada Solar One.

    The power and storage capacity are independently scalable:

    A primary advantage of the VRB-ESS is in its modularity – the separation of the power component and the storage component of the system. A specified power rating is determined by the number of cell stacks maintained in the system while the amount of energy storage capacity required is determined by the amount of electrolyte in litres. If a plant is determined to require a higher power rating, or additional storage capacity is required, simply add additional cell stacks and/or tanks and electrolyte to the system.

    A system designed to store the output of Nevada Solar One for 20 hours might cost, today, somewhere around $250 million, based on a large unit cost of $200/KWh. This compares well with the cost of Nevada Solar One, itself: $220-250 million.

    Of course, all this information is based on the company’s own Web site, but I suppose anybody wanting confirmation could contact some of their customers.

    These prices aren’t competitive today, but that’s probably mainly due to the small scale, as well as subsidies and price supports for traditional power.

    Comment by AK — 24 Nov 2007 @ 7:29 PM

  667. I think I can grasp the complexity of the CO2 sink/source issue. I expect it also depends on the roughness of the seas stirred up by hurricanes or areas of low pressure especially at mid latitudes. Allowing more cold CO2 rich water to the surface, then if a meterological low is sitting above that area it would tend to act as a local CO2 source dumping CO2 into the atmosphere. I would guess near the equater the seas are calm and warm and relatively high pressure systems above the ocean so it should act as a CO2 sink despite the fact that less CO2 can be dissolved into warm water. The polar regions are the breeding grounds for crustations such as krill and plankton thus the cold deep water would have a high concentration of CO2 and since that latidude is also very stormy with billions of gallons of deep water brought up to the surface releasing it’s load of CO2 it would temd to be a CO2 source as well. Am I on the right track?

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 25 Nov 2007 @ 10:16 AM

  668. Re #666: [A system designed to store the output of Nevada Solar One for 20 hours might cost, today, somewhere around $250 million...]

    Interesting, but there’s another cost which you don’t mention, which is storage losses. Nothing is 100% efficient, and from the FAQ at their web site this doesn’t seem to be even close.

    “The system provides a roundtrip efficiency of 65 – 75%. Therefore with the input of 25 -35% additional power to cover the losses…”

    So to use this with a solar or wind plant, you take an already not very high density power source, and chop 25-35% off of that while doubling the plant cost. Doesn’t seem like a sound economic decision to me. I’d think it much better to have baseload generation which, like hydro or nuclear, can generate power as needed, without storage losses. Then you can run a good fraction of wind & solar on top of that.

    Comment by James — 25 Nov 2007 @ 12:03 PM

  669. Re #668

    So to use this with a solar or wind plant, you take an already not very high density power source, and chop 25-35% off of that while doubling the plant cost. Doesn’t seem like a sound economic decision to me. I’d think it much better to have baseload generation which, like hydro or nuclear, can generate power as needed, without storage losses. Then you can run a good fraction of wind & solar on top of that.

    Perhaps. IMO all the technologies should at least be on the table. Current designs for CSP have the mirrors spread out widely, presumably because they are much more expensive than the land. But this could change, as could the cost of systems like VRB. I especially like the disconnect between storage and power. To store more MWh, just build bigger tanks.

    I like flywheels for the long run, they’re already in use in power balancing. Of course some redesign would be necessary to eliminate costly features not needed for long-term storage with smaller loads. I found round-trip efficiencies of 90% mentioned during earlier searches, (couldn’t find one in a quick search today,) which could put it much closer to transmission losses. But they’re not ready OTS today.

    And in the longer run, I still like SBSP, although it certainly won’t be cost effective until we can access Lunar material.

    Hydropower (including power storage) tends to be hard on the environment, including human residents. As for nuclear, I don’t have a problem with it, but IMO it shouldn’t be assumed that political situations will necessarily allow it to be used.

    Comment by AK — 25 Nov 2007 @ 1:36 PM

  670. Why would anyone believe that the oceans are close to CO2 saturation? 3.6E19 g CO2 dissolved in 1.4E21 kg seawater gives an average concentration of 0.026 g/kg. At 0 degrees centigrade water can solvate 3.35 g/kg and at 20 degrees centigrade the number is 1.69 g/kg. Pretty far from saturation I would say. Solvation is of course influenced by salinity and acidity as well, but in this case Henry’s law applies. The solution is dilute and only a tiny fraction of the CO2 reacts with water to form carbonic acid.

    Comment by ianric — 27 Nov 2007 @ 6:39 AM

  671. ianric, re 670. well except that the water in question is just the surface water, and mixing with the deep ocean is slow. Moreover, the falling Ocean pH would suggest that you are wrong.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 27 Nov 2007 @ 8:31 AM

  672. Re 671
    I realize I used the wrong figures in my first comment. These should be more like it.
    Deep ocean: 1.4E20 g CO2 / 1.3E21 kg H2O = 0.11 g/kg.
    Surface ocean: 3.7E18 g CO2 / 7.2E19 kg H2O = 0.052 g/kg. Interesting to note is that the deep ocean has a koncentration of CO2 double that of surface water.
    Still far from saturation. And with pH well over 8, the ocean should function as carbon sink for a long time yet. On the other hand, with calm waters, the top layer of a few metres could of course become temporarily saturated. Just like a field of growing crop can suck the air void of CO2 on a day without wind.

    Comment by ianric — 28 Nov 2007 @ 3:30 AM

  673. ianric, keep in mind that the Ocean doesn’t have to STOP absorbing CO2, even a slowdown has dramatic implications. CO2 emissions keep increasing, temperature is warming and CO2 concentration in the oceans is increasing. It is not enough to look at the equilibrium–you also have to look at the rate.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Nov 2007 @ 8:33 AM

  674. I’ve given medium amounts of thought on most of these topics. I suppose the USA could come up with 8 billion as it’s share of 80 billion world wide, but I have seen little detail on how the money would, or should be spent. I suspect half of the species loss is in Brazil. Purchasing land there as bio preserves is reasonable, but will surely be regarded as meddling in Brazil’s internal affairs if we buy up several billion dollars worth of Brazil’s land. Also how can we be reasonably assured that good jugement will be used in selecting the pieces of land to purchase? How can we be assured that the land will remain an effective biodiversity preserve long term? Are details available? I’m suspicious that this is another scam to make a few people rich.
    I’ve been collecting details on SSP = space solar power for about 2 decades. It clearly is not competitive with coal before 2030 unless we assign huge amounts of collateral damage to coal. Since coal likely puts more radiation in Earth’s atmosphere than nuclear power by the KWH, and has other collateral damage it causes, huge may be prudent. If we spend 80 billion on SSP, before 2030, we have no guarantee that SSP will look good after 2030, but that is true of all our other options, so I am urging a demonstration SSP by 2012, sooner, if we can get reasonably organized. http://spacesolarpower.wordpress.com
    The 80? billion invested in wind power so far seems to have a good shot at being money well spent, so I recommend another 80 billion for wind power before 2012.
    We need to make an 80 billion dollar commitment to photovoltaic in the next year or two or the manufacturing capacity for photovoltaic won’t be available in 2013 for the next scale up of SSP.
    While present heavy lift is ok for a demonstration SSP, we won’t have a practical way to get the 2013 larger SSP even to LEO = Low Earth Orbit, unless we invest another $80 billion plus in heavy lift. Perhaps this amount has already been appropriated.
    Three of my other favorites are http://www.liftport.com http://www.skywindpower.com and very large high altitude balloons, which each need a few million dollars near term to make progress. Neil

    Comment by neil cox — 29 Nov 2007 @ 10:05 AM

  675. Neil,
    space-based solar power is a fantasy. None of the analyses I’ve seen have had a reasonable treatment of the costs–particularly launch costs–or of the threats to a space-based system–e.g. radiation degradation, etc. Yes, the sun is brighter in space, but does that help you all that much after your cover glass darkens after a few years. Right now, it costs $10 Grand to launch a soda can into space, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Some problems are not unsolved because nobody has tried; some are unsolved because they are damned hard to solve.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Nov 2007 @ 11:47 AM

  676. Re: 675

    Ray, it may be true that such costs haven’t been included in the more forward-looking analyses, but part of the reason for that is we don’t know how far they can be brought down because we haven’t done the R&D yet. Unless the money gets allocated for the research now, we won’t know ten years from now.

    Radiation damage? Who knows what workarounds or solutions could be found if people were looking hard for them. Are we speaking of Galactic Cosmic Rays here, or short-wave stuff and particles that could be stopped by a piece of aluminum foil? Gallium Arsenide PV cells can (AFAIK) accept power densities orders of magnitudes higher than solar at Earth orbit, so perhaps concentrating mirrors can focus sunlight into radiation-protected chambers, where the PV cells can do their job protected from radiation. For that matter:

    GaAs is very resistant to radiation damage. This, along with its high efficiency, makes GaAs very desirable for space applications.

    Do they really need glass covers? Could an automated robotic replacement schedule be set up to deal with this need? Etc., etc.

    While extended discussion of technical issues probably isn’t on-topic here, I’m sure your contributions would be very welcome at http://spacesolarpower.wordpress.com in identifying problems for would-be solvers and helping select targets for research.

    Comment by AK — 29 Nov 2007 @ 12:30 PM

  677. A. K., Yes, while it is somewhat off-topic, I think that it is germane because it is indicative of a trend I see–technological optimism requires ignorance to survive. Having worked on satellites for over a decade and with manned space flight for a few years, I can tell you what I’ve learned: Doing things is space is hard. Robotic replacement? Great idea–ever hear of the DART mission? And yes, GaAs is rad hard, but it is expensive compared to other technologies and it still degrades over a period of years. Finally, everything comes back to the fact that you are fighting a very deep gravitational well. I have to say that I am very pessimistic about ever realizing a scheme like this. The unfortunate thing about technical systems is that they break, and fixing them is much easier on the ground.
    But as I said, this illustrates a general problem I see–people tend to gloss over difficulties for their favorite techno-fix. Pro-nuke guys assert that waste storage can be solved and proliferation concerns can be managed–even though no scheme has convincingly addressed these concerns heretofore. Renewables advocates ignore the very real problems of storage, peak demand, and even the sheer scale of the energy problem we are facing going into the next century.
    Economies of scale are wonderful, but they are not universal. It still takes 1 teacher for every 15 students for effective education. It still takes one-on-one interaction for effective medical treatment. And all the technology in the world has not changed that. We still don’t have flying cars or moon bases. I am all for investment, but not every technology has equal probability of success.
    The same goes for remediation of climate change in general. Economist/business types want to attack the science or carry out some geoengineering solution, while the people who actually understand the science say our economic system will have to change. Each seems to look to the area of their ignorance to preserve hope.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Nov 2007 @ 2:25 PM

  678. Re: 677

    Well, either we can ignore the problem and hope it goes away, or we can address it. Technology has solved a lot of problems, but so far, AFAIK, nobody has succeeded in changing human nature, and the experiments in that regard have been pretty horrendous.

    My own experience in software development tells me that problems look a lot bigger before you get a good team to work trying to solve them. If you use “tried and true” methods (as sold by the big consulting firms), a big project gets bigger as it goes along, and ends up with around 25% chance of success. The same problem approached by creative people with proper management and front-end analysis can get the problem solved much more cheaply without cost overruns. The difference is a management problem, not technical.

    So, when I’m told that NASA has had a hard time solving the problems with robotics in space, what I hear is that NASA can’t solve them, not that they can’t be solved. But, even in solving management problems, you can’t ignore human nature. The difference between bureaucracy and weeds is that bureaucracy can appear through spontaneous generation. Once present, they’re both very hard to get rid of.

    IMO, dealing with climate problems will require small, agile, bureaucracy-free organizations, with the needed enthusiasm and esprit, properly defined targets, and good budgets. They must have the money to pay for what they need without anybody being able to divert it into personal foibles.

    How to accomplish that, within the bounds of human nature, I don’t know. But what I can do is point out the possible technologies and the problems needing to be solved. For instance, the storage problem has several solutions on the table, with different parameters and levels of maturity. CSP has enough of a track record that we can (roughly) predict its development cycle and cost evolution. PV cell technology is similar enough to chip tech that we can roughly predict a steady cost decrease, with proper attention to research. Mass production and economies of scale can be expected to bring down the cost of wind power, etc.

    Where space comes in is that there’s no other power source (except perhaps nuclear fission) that can be deployed to provide 10-20 terrawatts of energy without having major impacts on the environment. If space is too expensive, we need to allocate enough money to R&D to bring the costs down. If launching is too expensive (in $ or environmental cost) we need to allocate money to R&D to provide other solutions. If space robotics isn’t developing fast enough, we need to take the money away from the bureaucrats and give it to people who know how to solve problems without writing a rule book first.

    You mentioned the DART Mission. This, IMO, is a perfect example of why NASA isn’t creating what’s needed for orbital operations. We have the communication technology so a human on the ground could perform remote control (with perhaps a fraction of a second lag). The robotics technology was clearly in place. But they evidently just threw it over the wall, hoping the robot could perform by itself. This may have been useful for automated operations in Mars orbit, but what’s needed for NEO or GEO is a robotic system for the high-speed reactions running under close remote control from the ground. If we can beam bandwidth between points on earth via satellite, we should be able to get the same 2-way bandwidth between a ground control station and a robotic satellite/vehicle.

    Another point, this experiment failed in mid-2005. Why was there no follow-up? Where is the stream of repeated efforts, each learning from the previous failures? Why was there so little instrumentation? Did the people planning this mission expect it to be a complete success the first time? Why?

    IMO, this isn’t the way to achieve rapid technological progress, it’s the way bureaucrats manage a space program nobody seems to care about. Assumptions that space research won’t happen because NASA can’t do it are completely invalid. What’s needed is to take the entire space program away from NASA and give it to some organization(s) not full of bureaucrats.

    A carbon tax is a good way to encourage energy conservation, and tilt the balance towards carbon-neutral energy, and a good deal of the money generated should be allocated to space research, but not one penny should go to NASA.

    Comment by AK — 29 Nov 2007 @ 3:57 PM

  679. Who knows more about the oceans than the US Navy?
    Perhaps it’s time for another round of declassification?

    This is interesting:

    http://stinet.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA473826&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

    Title: The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change

    Fields and Groups :
    040200 – METEOROLOGY
    050400 – GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL SCIENCE
    Corporate Author:
    CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES WASHINGTON DC

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Dec 2007 @ 2:52 PM

  680. p.s., apologies for the somewhat tangential post, but this is worth reading. Quoting a bit from the article I linked to above. This is a serious group of policy planners thinking what many climate scientists still seem to think is unthinkable, scenarios including catastrophic tipping into a new climate very fast:

    —– excerpt ——

    The mandate of the exercise was, on its face, very
    straightforward: employ the best available evidence
    and climate models, and imagine three
    future worlds that fall within the range of scientific
    plausibility. … The scenarios in this report
    use the timeframe of a national security planner:
    30 years, the time it takes to take major military
    platforms from the drawing board to the battlefield.
    The exception is the catastrophic scenario,
    which extends out beyond fifty years to a
    century from now.

    The three scenarios are based on expected, severe,
    and catastrophic climate cases. The first scenario
    projects the effects in the next 30 years with
    the expected level of climate change. The severe
    scenario, which posits that the climate responds
    much more strongly to continued carbon loading
    over the next few decades than predicted by
    current scientific models, foresees profound and
    potentially destabilizing global effects over the
    course of the next generation or more. Finally, the
    catastrophic scenario is characterized by a devastating
    “tipping point” in the climate system, perhaps
    50 or 100 years hence. In this future world, global
    climate conditions have changed radically, including
    the rapid loss of the land-based polar ice sheets,
    an associated dramatic rise in global sea levels, and
    the destruction of the existing natural order.
    … Each climate scenario was carefully constructed and the three corresponding national security futures were thoroughly debated and discussed by the group.
    Although the intersection of climate change and
    national security has yet to be fully mapped,
    scholars and strategists certainly have explored this
    territory in recent years. We felt it was important
    to begin this study by looking at this literature,
    in order to understand how we both build on and
    depart from the existing intellectual framework.
    ——end excerpt——

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Dec 2007 @ 3:00 PM

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Close this window.

1.726 Powered by WordPress