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  1. Well done — exactly the right level for interested laymen.

    Given the uncertainties in estimating sensitivities, it could be useful to know more about the state of the scientific discussion, e.g.:

    (1) Are there essentially two polar competing models for smallest vs. largest sensitivities, or a wide variety of models all over the spectrum, depending perhaps on which features are most emphasized?

    (2) Do these preferences correlate with the background of the adherent? For example, do the people who study glaciers tend to reach a common conclusion which differs from that held by people who study stratospheric effects, or is there a correlation with the age of the researcher, or are the disagreements more idiosyncratic?

    (3) Does one model (or agnosticism among them) predominate as a favorite, for whatever reasons?

    (4) Is the uncertainty generally seen to be inherent, as in complexity theory, or does there seem to be a tractable precise answer that we converge towards as data accumulate and modeling improves? (E.g. is the uncertainty and the debate about it significantly more constrained now than 10 years ago?)

    These are intended to be reasonably objective meta-level questions whose answers everyone could agree upon no matter what positions they hold individually with respect to the underlying science, and would give interested outsiders a general sense of the scientific trajectory.

    Thanks again.

    Comment by JimCA — 23 Sep 2010 @ 3:08 AM

  2. Thank you, Chris, for another technical but very understandable discussion of an important topic. I will be linking to this page in my Greenhouse Gases page.

    Comment by Scott A Mandia — 23 Sep 2010 @ 5:15 AM

  3. Thanks. Since you mention overall climate sensitivity estimates, and their uncertainties, at the end of the post perhaps I could use the opportunity to ask a question perhaps a little off the topic of feedbacks per se.

    As I understand it some of the possibility of high sensitivity comes from the possibility of strong aerosol cooling (which would ‘mask’ the effect of warming in observations up to present). This paper:

    Gunnar Myhre, Consistency Between Satellite-Derived and Modeled Estimates of the Direct Aerosol Effect, Science 10 July 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5937, pp. 187 – 190

    seems to reduce some of the uncertainty in aerosol cooling, putting the observations in the range used by the models. My question is, does this help significantly reduce the probability of sensitivities in the 4C+ range?

    Comment by JK — 23 Sep 2010 @ 5:44 AM

  4. Talking to “casual” sceptics (as opposed to political fanatics), I often get the impression that they – paradoxically – refuse to believe in global warming because they think any positive feedback implies that temperatures will rise forever or spin out of control.

    I wish there was some kind of toy applet/flash program that illustrated feedbacks in terms of something else than climate. Maybe water flowing in and out of a tank or something. If these causal sceptics could get the feeling of figuring it out on their own, rather than being told, I think they would be less likely to just retreat to another denial argument.

    Comment by Harald Korneliussen — 23 Sep 2010 @ 5:53 AM

  5. Oh dear, Schmidt et al (2010) is going to be Knorr (2009) all over again. Not for anyone with a clue, of course, but for those vast acres without a clue it will be used as “proof” that CO2 does not alter the greenhouse effect because even under a doubling of CO2, it still accounts for 20% of the greenhouse effect. Yes, this makes no sense whatsoever – but these same people argue that a constant airborne fraction is the same as constant CO2, or that it means anthropogenic CO2 isn’t increasing.

    How can we make sense of these things for people who leave sense at home?

    Well, one step in the right direction is for people with sense to have a really good understanding of the technical details of feedbacks, and this article will be a huge help in that respect.

    Comment by Didactylos — 23 Sep 2010 @ 5:59 AM

  6. Thanks for such a clear presentation.

    As well as Charney sensitivity and feedbacks from land ice/albedo changes (“Earth System Sensitivity”), we also have to consider feedbacks from the carbon cycle. The issue is that CO2 levels tend to go up because the temperature has risen, causing further warming.

    Unfortunately, these effects can interact with an Earth System Sensitivity of ~5 degrees to give some very large temperature changes.

    I’ve discussed this before in Real Climate posts: see for instance here and
    here and also some spreadsheets and tables here.

    It would be good to see this covered in Part 2.

    Comment by Dr Nick Bone — 23 Sep 2010 @ 7:56 AM

  7. Chris, thanks for taking the time to do this. I took a look at your blog http://chriscolose.wordpress.com/ and there’s plenty of good material there too. It really illustrates to me how there is no excuse for ignorance and clinging to misinformed views.

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 23 Sep 2010 @ 8:07 AM

  8. Thanks, this is very helpful. Even better would be the ability to get one click PDF versions of these backgrounder posts. Then, I could easily use them for teaching purposes.

    Comment by Tom D — 23 Sep 2010 @ 9:23 AM

  9. Regarding explaining the water/CO2 difference to people, it occurred to me to use an analogy of our bodies. Everybody knows that if you drink a lot of water, you really don’t gain much weight, except briefly. You get, well, human rain (downpour?). But if you eat even a modest increase in fat regularly, over time you gain weight. Replace that fat with CO2, and the analogy for a system that can flush excess water and not something else, and I think it makes it more understandable.

    Additionally, people who gain a lot of weight have more water in their body contributing to the weight, but it isn’t because they drank a lot or it.

    Comment by Dean — 23 Sep 2010 @ 10:38 AM

  10. Nice summary, except that two items popped out at me at being at odds with other analyses.
    1) A small, but positive cloud feedback. Many other publication show a negative feedback associated with clouds. All show a large uncertainty associated with clouds, possibly larger that the entire CO2-induced warming.
    2) Saying that CO2 is long-lived is true went comparing to water vapor. However, compared to other atmospheric gases, CO2 is relatively short-lived, witness by the large seasonal variability.

    Comment by Dan H. — 23 Sep 2010 @ 10:54 AM

  11. I don’t understand why the moist adiabatic profile should decline in a warmer world. Could you elaborate? Thanks.

    [Response: It's because the Clasius-Claperyon equation is non-linear. The amount of latent heat released by condensation from a saturated parcel that moves up the atmospheric column is a function of the temperature. The warmer it is the faster the saturation goes up as temperature does. So, for warmer starting conditions, you get slightly faster latent heat release during ascent, and so the effect of the moisture (which is to warm the atmosphere relative to dry conditions) is enhanced. Thus the relative increase in atmospheric warming (in unstable conditions) compared to the surface. This increases OLR out to space, and so is a negative feedback to the initial radiative perturbation. - gavin]

    Comment by Jerry Unruh — 23 Sep 2010 @ 11:31 AM

  12. Since you are discussing feedbacks, I would like some expert who believes in a positive global feedback to tell ignorants what he thinks about Roy Spencer’s belief in a negative feedback:

    http://www.drroyspencer.com/research-articles/satellite-and-climate-model-evidence/

    For instance, in his last Figure he compares the energy flux from the earth, given by a satellite, and the average temperature of the lower atmosphere. He finds parallel pieces of straight lines, with a slope which corresponds to a negative feedback. I do not find the flaw.

    Comment by Jacques — 23 Sep 2010 @ 11:50 AM

  13. The clear definition here of positive and negative feedback helps avoid what seems to have been a lot of confusion, where the idea of ‘positive’ is often thought of as a good thing and ‘negative’ as a bad thing. At least we from the electronic control system world can be assured that what we are reading from real climate science is consistent with our terminology. I think the confusion is that many people say things about the climate without any idea at all of the meaning of these words. It is easy to get the idea this error comes from scientists, so it is good to have a clear reference.

    We still have a problem with the terminology in the use of the phrase, ‘mixed layer’ in the ocean. It seems that scientific modeling imagination has misinterpreted terminology from the world of underwater sound, and adapted it as if there is a heat trapping effect in such a layer. There is not. In fact, when there exists a ‘mixed layer’ that condition means that the heat is absolutely not trapped, and instead, it is churned up to the extent that there is no temperature gradient throughout that mixed layer. Below that layer, the more stable lower temperature gradient takes over without a discontinuity in the temperature function. (The derivative of the gradient is discontinuous in simple acoustic models, but in reality, not so much.) On the other hand, when there is not a mixed layer there is a mild heat containing state where there is a temperature gradient. Since it is temperature gradient that determines refraction of sound waves, this is important in the world of submarines and anti-submarine warfare, where the existence of a ‘mixed layer’ means that a submarine can be detected by a simple sonar on a destroyer at medium ranges. If the submarine ‘goes below the layer’ it is relatively secure from being detected. And if the layer goes away, as it often does in summer conditions, it means the submarine can rather easily defeat the destroyer. I only say this about submarines to point out that this terminology that you borrow is not a trivial imagining in my mind, but something of great importance that has long been known and studied in another field.

    As an aside, this has particular meaning in regard to the XBT story. The purpose of the XBTs used by destroyers is to measure the temperature gradient. Nobody involved in ocean acoustics cares much about the absolute temperature, thus the efforts to use the records of these as a reference are bound to be inexact since there was never much need to control the manufacture of these to give a temperature reading. Thus, there can be imagined calibration corrections, but they have little relation to reality. In fact using these to demonstrate heat content history of the oceans is highly questionable.

    But back to the ‘mixed layer’ issue. I have been writing for some time about the way ocean heat content was being analyzed, and have been particularly perplexed by the way vertical mixing is handled. Since I now realize that there is a belief that there is a mixed layer trapping heat, I think I see that the vertical mixing model is based on this simplifying error, whereby it is not necessary to model vertical temperature structure at any significant depth. But I see this as an error that is being set in perpetuity by the frequent reference to this new way of thinking about ‘mixed layer.’

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 23 Sep 2010 @ 12:04 PM

  14. Dan, cloud is tricky for a couple of reasons. In this context, one problem is that we are specifically looking at a feedback from temperatures in general, not at the net contribution of cloud in total. They may not be the same, if there are other factors bearing upon cloud formation than temperature.

    The diagram Chris provides suggests that cloud feedback ranges from small positive to significant positive. I am not aware of work in which cloud feedback is observed negative — except the “IRIS” hypothesis which was really only ever a speculation and turns out to be invalid when checked with empirical measurement. But I could be educated on this if you have a reference!

    I do know that the tables of forcings in IPCC 4AR (Figure 2.21, page 205) have cloud shown as a definite negative forcing (though with large uncertainties). This is, as I understand it, related mainly to the effects of cloud formation from aerosols; not from temperature change. Hence this is not a temperature feedback.

    The second point, on the lifetime of CO2: unlike most gases CO2 does not have an easily defined atmospheric lifetime, precisely because there is an active carbon cycle involving a number of processes and reservoirs. The lifetime in the atmosphere of a single molecule is quite short, because it can cycle through the carbon cycle comparative quickly (a few years) and this is mainly because of the seasonal cycle. But this is not really all that significant for the longer impact, because it IS a cycle, and most of what is taken in by vegetation in one season is returned in the next. So the lifetime in the more useful sense of how long it takes a pulse of carbon into the atmosphere to be removed again is much longer, and this is why CO2 is properly considered a long lived gas; certainly much longer than that lifetime of individual molecules due to the seasonal cycle.

    This is a point of confusion for a number of folks and on a number of websites. A carbon cycle tutorial style post might be a useful thing to consider at R!

    Comment by Chris Ho-Stuart — 23 Sep 2010 @ 12:08 PM

  15. #4 (Harald) – Your question prompted me to try to come up with non-climate examples of non-runaway positive feedback. I finally came up with what I think is a good one, and it’s called “positive feedback”. When someone “likes” a web site, video, story, or entry, other people are more likely to visit. The stronger the positive feedback, the bigger the increase in visitors.

    In rare cases, the feedback is so strongly positive that a runaway response is generated and the site becomes “viral”. But most of the time, the positive feedback simply increases the number of visitors a bit.

    I expand on this analogy at http://blogs.chron.com/climateabyss/2010/09/positive_feedback.html

    Comment by John N-G — 23 Sep 2010 @ 12:12 PM

  16. Good. thanks especially for this: Estimates of this range have been based on not just GCM results, but constraints from observational data (the seasonal cycle, or volcanic eruptions) as well as the past climate record (Knutti and Hegerl 2008 provide a review).

    and this: Recently, some studies have expanded on this view to also include ‘slow feedbacks’ such as the response of ice sheets and vegetation that are important on hundreds of year timescales (Lunt et al 2010; Pagani et al 2010).

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 23 Sep 2010 @ 12:15 PM

  17. A nice clear article – thanks. It was good to read something about lapse rate, which I hadn’t understood before.

    It seems to me that it’s also important to point out that feedbacks will vary depending on the state of the planet at the time, and therefore the climate sensitivity will also be different at different times. For example, there is no ice albedo effect at all on an ice-free world, and I’ve read that there is potentially a very large positive feedback from methane today (in frozen soil and seabed) which would have been much smaller in the geological past.

    Comment by Icarus — 23 Sep 2010 @ 12:18 PM

  18. He lost me on the graphs also. However, something he said earlier might shed light on my earlier post. He mentioned that some scientists claim that warming reduces cloud cover, which results in more sunlight reaching the surface, hence a positive feedback. If this is the positive feedback associated with clouds, then shouldn’t it be called positive feedback due to cloud reduction. Saying clouds are a positive feedback implies that more clouds lead to more warming, as opposed to the opposite.

    Dr. Spencer claimed the opposite – that reduced cloud cover led to the observed increased warming.

    Comment by Dan H. — 23 Sep 2010 @ 12:47 PM

  19. I take it you just aren’t bothering to discuss release of sequestered (i.e. frozen) carbon as permafrost and methane hydrates melt.

    Comment by cervantes — 23 Sep 2010 @ 12:49 PM

  20. Sorry, I got that ReCaptcha problem where my first attempt didn’t have the recaptcha, and when I tried again it said “duplicate post detected” so I don’t know if either attempt got through… Here’s a fresh copy just in case – please eliminate any actual duplicate.

    I’d like to recommend a book on this topic for those wanting to go deeper: Understanding Climate Change Feedbacks [2003: National Academies Press]
    book link on NAP website paperback for $28.35 or free PDF download for personal use only.
    On the issue of how to understand feedbacks in mathematical terms, start with their Box 1.1 on p. 19-20. I found this clarified the issue nicely for me. This also addresses why feedback factors are not simply additive, and why the presence of one positive feedback can make the system more sensitive to the addition of a second feedback.
    The book was produced by an editorial panel of 19 leaders in the field, chaired by Dennis Hartmann of UWa in Seattle, and including many well-known experts such as Betts, Busalacchi, Manabe, Sarewitz, Wallace, Weaver (yay Canada!), Wofsy and Wood.

    - Jim P.

    Comment by Jim Prall — 23 Sep 2010 @ 1:12 PM

  21. http://stephenleahy.net/2010/09/23/arctic-ice-in-death-spiral-risks-climate-catastrophe/

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 23 Sep 2010 @ 2:16 PM

  22. For all these RECAPTCA posts:
    1. Use a browser like Firefox (http://www.mozilla.com/).
    It has a feature where it remembers the form data (the comment), so that you can click back and get your comment text.
    2. If you are unsure of the recaptca text, click on ‘Try another challenge’ in order to get an easier one.
    3. You may also try the Lazarus Firefox addon, https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/6984/ which has a feature to remember all form data.

    Comment by BobRecaptca — 23 Sep 2010 @ 2:24 PM

  23. Plants.

    Relative humidity remains roughly constant in response to CO2-radiative forcing, whereas relative humidity over land decreases in response to CO2-physiological forcing as a result of reduced plant transpiration. Our study points to an emerging consensus that the physiological effects of increasing atmospheric CO2 on land plants will increase global warming beyond that caused by the radiative effects of CO2.

    (my italics)

    That was from the abstract here:

    http://dge.stanford.edu/labs/caldeiralab/Caldeira_research/Cao_Bala2.html

    Since this must be reconciled with the “10 day rainout” criterion discussed by Gavin here :

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/04/water-vapour-feedback-or-forcing/

    it must be discussing a large effect i.e. the total reduction of water vapour produced by this effect in 10 days must be significant. So we must check with the body of the paper here:

    Because reduced plant transpiration, as a result of increased atmospheric CO2 concentration, diminishes a source of water vapor to the atmosphere, water vapor change in response to CO2-physiological forcing is less than what would be predicted from the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship governing temperature induced water vapor change.

    Is this generally accepted? (To Chris and or Gavin)

    [Response: The oceans are an effectively infinite source for atmospheric water vapour in the large scale. That is what determines the global effect. Over land, there are all sorts of reasons for humidity to do different things and changes in plant physiology might be one of them. - gavin]

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 23 Sep 2010 @ 2:27 PM

  24. Chris Colose: It would be a good idea to use the readability tool if your word processing software has one. You need to get the level down to about third grade for most people, not including most readers of RC. Your sentences are too long. I can’t do something else while reading your post.
    The idea of dividing your post into sections is great. Start at 3rd grade level then shift up a few grade levels at a time. The first mathematical symbol will be an absolute stop for most people. Please use 2 mathematical levels.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 23 Sep 2010 @ 2:43 PM

  25. Re: Schmidt et al 2010

    Very unlikely trace gases hold up the water vapor. Please use some imagination.

    [Response: I prefer to study the real world. Thanks for the advice though. -Gavin]

    Comment by Isotopiuos — 23 Sep 2010 @ 4:13 PM

  26. To Jacques (#12) – “Since you are discussing feedbacks, I would like some expert who believes in a positive global feedback to tell ignorants what he thinks about Roy Spencer’s belief in a negative feedback:”

    At the risk of being mistaken for someone claiming to be an expert, I’ll offer my perspective, which is that Spencer’s blog article doesn’t make much sense. First, some basic concepts. Climate sensitivity entails a temperature response at equilibrium, which is approached asymptotically, typically over multi-century timescales. With appropriate models, it is possible to utilize interim data to infer sensitivity, but intervals of a year or less are very treacherous. Early on, a climate perturbation (e.g., a CO2 forcing) will induce a temperature change, which in turn initiates a feedback. At this point, the imbalance caused by the feedback will be at, or moving toward, the higher end of its potential range, but as the temperature responds by moving toward its equilibrium value, the imbalances due to forcings and feedbacks will diminish. Unless one knows where we are under these changing conditions (which can also be affected in unpredictable ways by temporarily changing dynamics of energy exchange within elements of the climate system), the relationship between forcings/feedbacks and imbalances can’t be accurately interpreted. Multi-year, and when feasible, multi-decadal data are preferable for accurate assessment.

    However, there is a more serious problem with the Spencer argument. He suggests that in the case of positive feedbacks, the TOA energy imbalance should change more with temperature than in the no-feedback case, and even more than with a negative feedback scenario. To see why that is not necessarily true, consider two hypothetical scenarios – one involving warming due to a CO2 increase and the other warming from an El Nino. In the first case, theory, models, and empirical data indicate that the CO2 increases will reduce OLR (outgoing longwave radiation), and that the consequent warming will cause water to evaporate, so that its greenhouse effect further reduces OLR, exacerbating the warming – a positive feedback. Now consider an El Nino that warms the sea surface and then the atmosphere. Here, the initial effect on OLR will be the opposite of the CO2 effect – instead of OLR diminishing, it will increase due to the extra heat emitted from the sea. As with CO2, the warming will also add water vapor to the atmosphere, with a consequent greenhouse effect. In this case, however, the water vapor effect will be to reduce OLR rather than further increase it. In other words, the water vapor will amplify warming, but tend to nullify the TOA energy imbalance.

    Effects on solar (shortwave) radiation are also likely to differ between a CO2 forcing and an El Nino. As an example, CO2-mediated atmospheric warming will tend to reduce relative humidity (RH) until water evaporation compensates for, but does not outweigh, the change. In contrast, El Nino warming imposed on an unwarmed atmosphere will tend to increase RH. The effect on cloud formation is likely to differ, and there is evidence for increased low cloud cover associated with El Nino events, which would increase planetary albedo and induce a cooling effect due to increased reflection of solar radiation. Although the data are scanty, some evidence suggests that in contrast, cloud cover in the lower latitudes may have exhibited a diminishing trend over several decades that would be consistent with CO2-mediated warming. The exact changes are probably less important than the concept that El Nino mediated warming and warming induced by atmospheric greenhouse gases will behave differently, and that their feedbacks will be different in magnitude and very possibly in sign.
    Spencer, in analyzing short term data involving sea surface temperatue changes, is almost certainly looking at internal climate modes of the El Nino variety as a large component of his data. Even if short term analysis were a suitable instrument, drawing conclusions about climate sensitivity to CO2 from such an analysis would be misguided.

    Comment by Fred Moolten — 23 Sep 2010 @ 4:19 PM

  27. Relevant to this post, this new paper uses previous estimates of feedback strength to construct probability distributions for climate sensitivity. It shows how uncertainty about feedbacks can combine to create greater uncertainty about climate sensitivity.

    Climate sensitivity distributions depend on the possibility that models share biases
    Lemoine, D.M. 2010. Journal of Climate 23(16):4395-4415. doi:10.1175/2010JCLI3503.1

    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/2010JCLI3503.1
    http://www.dereklemoine.com/lemoine_2010_climate_probabilities.pdf

    Comment by Derek — 23 Sep 2010 @ 4:55 PM

  28. Some responses

    #17 (Icarus): You’re right about sensitivity being a function of the base climate, but this is a decidely secondary effect over the range of climate change in consideration (i.e., so one can use the the LGM to pre-industrial change as a good proxy for the sensitivity from the preindustrial to 2xCO2). This probably isn’t very valid on the more extreme ends, like snowball Earth. Some people (Colman and McAvaney 2009, GRL) have looked at this issue, noting a general tendency for the water vapor and lapse rate changes to offset each other, and albedo feedbacks declining in importance in the warm limit. Clouds are always tough to diagnose, but they become less important in the very cold limit. Most importantly I think is the timescale and making sure you’re comparing two periods at equilibrium and over which feedbacks have similar time scale importances.

    #19 (cervantes): I am not talking about carbon-cycle feedbacks, and this won’t be part of the second post either. It’s an interesting issue of course. This is really a good appeal though for defining your sensitivity to being at a doubling of CO2 rather than, say, “by 2100″ or by emission scenarios, etc. The radiative transfer is concerned with the concentrations, but the actual timescale to get at some specific concentration is of course dependent on a wide variety of socio-economic or carbon feedback scenarios which are not greatly known.

    #23 (Geoff): I don’t know much about the respiration issue, but I agree with gavin that the first-order effect is the ocean. You can understand a lot about the water vapor feedback from thermodynamic limitations, and the large-scale dynamics…but more in Part 2.

    #24(Edward): Sorry! Creating a post (even two parts) that is appealing to everyone is difficult. I think RC has a certain standard though, and third-grade descriptions of feedbacks can be found elsewhere on the web. I’m hoping this one is readable to a wide audience though.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 23 Sep 2010 @ 5:00 PM

  29. Harald Korneliussen @4 — The technical term \positive feedback\ means an amplifying or enhancing effect, not necessarily runaway. An example is found in what is called \power assisted sterring\ or simply \power steering\ whereby the driver does not supply all the force necessary to turn the wheels when the engine is running. No runaway effect there (beyond careless driving).

    Comment by David B. Benson — 23 Sep 2010 @ 5:22 PM

  30. Excellent post! It addresses the middle of the road level of understanding many people seem to have when approaching this subject in earnest.

    Comment by Jacob Mack — 23 Sep 2010 @ 5:33 PM

  31. ATTN: ALL

    When posting a comment, please use short paragraphs of no more than 8 lines. Otherwise the text is too difficult to read in particular for old folks like me with vision problems. About a decade ago I had a detached retina and after repair the plane of vision my right eye has downward slope of a few degrees from left to right.

    If a comment is a long solid block of text, I often don’t read it.

    ATTN: Mods

    When reading a comment can you break up long paragraph into shorter ones?

    Comment by Harold Pierce Jr — 23 Sep 2010 @ 5:40 PM

  32. Great post. Many thanks.

    Comment by J Bowers — 23 Sep 2010 @ 6:28 PM

  33. It still appears that increasing clouds decreases temperature.

    http://www.atmos-chem-phys-discuss.net/10/1595/2010/acpd-10-1595-2010.html

    Comment by Dan H. — 23 Sep 2010 @ 8:13 PM

  34. Re #4 (Harald Korneliussen): From interactions with engineers versed in systems control theory over at Anthony Watts’ blog (WUWT), I think part of the problem is a difference in definition as to what constitutes “net positive feedback” between most climate scientists and the control theory folks.

    Basically, it comes down to this: Most climate scientists think of the temperature response to the original forcing that is implied by the Steffan-Boltzmann Equation as being the zeroth-order effect and anything on top of that as being a feedback. In that usage of the term, it is possible to have a net positive feedback and still not have instability because you can just end up magnifying the temperature change implied by the S-B Equation as applied to the original radiative forcing.

    On the other hand (and more in line with what is apparently done in control theory), you can also think of the increase in emitted terrestrial radiation implied by the S-B Equation as being a feedback on the zeroth order effect of the original radiative forcing. In that context, it is a negative feedback since the original radiative imbalance is reduced as the temperature rises. If you count the S-B response as a feedback then it is in fact true that a net positive feedback leads to instability. Translating what climate scientists are talking about into this language, what you really ought to be saying is that the net feedbacks EXLUDING that implied by the S-B effect are expected to be positive, but still not as large in magnitude as the negative S-B feedback, so that the net overall feedback to the initial radiative balance is still expected to be negative.

    It is interesting to note that a few climate scientists have used the feedback terminology more in line with the control theory usage. For example, Dennis Hartmann in “Global Physical Climatology” talks about the “Steffan-Boltzmann Feedback” noting that it is “the most important negative feedback controlling the temperature of the earth.”

    Of course, this all just boils down to a difference in terminology…The physics of what happens is unaffected. Nonetheless, I think it is important to understand the different usages of the term “net positive feedback” so that one can try to explain it to frantic engineering-types who will insistingly misunderstand what climate scientists are saying. (In my experience, explaining this to them doesn’t really help since most of them over at WUWT are wedded to disbelieving in AGW as a matter of principle and won’t believe what you tell them, but at least one can say that one tried!)

    Comment by Joel Shore — 23 Sep 2010 @ 8:15 PM

  35. In your otherwise excellent article, you say “Although it is not feasible to trigger a runaway greenhouse like Venus even if we burned all the coal today”, I think you are being far too sanguine about it. Here’s why.

    James Hansen, in his book “Storms of my grandchildren”, writes (Ch. 10): “Until recently, I did not worry much about that (a runaway greenhouse) …warmer climates may have a larger climate sensitivity; indeed, that today’s climate is not terribly far from the runaway situation.” Hansen began his career as a climatologist by studying Venus’s atmosphere.

    Quoting the recent PETM study by Zeebe, Zachos & Dickens, “Our results imply a fundamental gap in our understanding of the amplitude of global warming associated with large and abrupt climate perturbations.” He concludes: ” If we burn all reserves of oil, gas and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus Syndrome is a dead certainty.”

    In effect, you are implying there will be no nasty surprises (apart from methane clathrates) awaiting us in the resulting heat age to trigger a runaway event (such as from high-level cirrus clouds).

    It seems to me that even mainstream climatologists are now spooked by the thought of being labelled as “alarmist”, by even talking about the Venus Syndrome. However, since it would be the infinite catastrophy, it should not be swept aside so readily. Even a small risk – like 1% – is unacceptable. You don’t reassure me at all, Chris.

    Comment by Les Southwell — 23 Sep 2010 @ 8:37 PM

  36. I agree with Harold Pierce Jr regarding breaking text into short paragraphs. Not only is this good for us old farts, it is also good practice for general communication. Steve

    Comment by Steve Fish — 23 Sep 2010 @ 8:56 PM

  37. CC says:

    \If you could remove all of the CO2 from our atmosphere, aside from making the planet more efficient at losing its heat to space (thus cooling) you would do a couple of things. First, you’d lose much of the water vapor and cloud greenhouse effects since temperatures would be too cold for them to exist in appreciable amounts. Secondly, you would also get temperatures cold enough to the point where expanding ice cover greatly enhances the surface albedo of the planet and triggers a snowball Earth.\

    This is speculation and is just flat out wrong. The earth’s atmosphere is an insulating gas which retards the escape of heat from its surface. In \Weather\ by Lehr, Burnett and Zim on page 9, they state \The atmosphere as a thermostat controls the earth’s heat as automatically as in any heating system\ and \Its acts as an insulating blanket which keeps most of the heat from escaping at night.\ Presumably this refers to the 24 hour day.

    The lowest temperature recorded on earh is about -90 C deg at the South pole in winter. During the lunar night (2 weeks) the moon’s surface temperature drops to -114 deg C. Since the winter at the South pole is much longer, we would expect the temperaure to drop lower than the surface of the moon, to the first approximation

    The atmosphere also prevents the earth from overheating by removing heat via conduction and convection. During the lunar day, the moon’s surface is about 100 deg C whereas the highest temperature on earth is about 55-60 deg C.

    The wind is the mechanism that transport water into the atmosphere and is far more important than simple evaporation of water in still air. This is why we use fans to keep cool on hot days and nights.

    Comment by Harold Pierce Jr — 23 Sep 2010 @ 9:08 PM

  38. > some imagination

    Science Fiction Atmospheres. R.T. Pierrehumbert.
    http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/papers/BAMS_SFatm.pdf

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Sep 2010 @ 9:20 PM

  39. I’ll attempt some explanations:
    (4) For a simple demonstration of how a simple feedback loop works, consider the following problem: We have an initial perturbation of 1unit, and a positive feeback coeffieient of F, which takes time delta T to be realized. So at time delta T we have changed the system by 1+F. Now the feedback is also driven by the change due to the feedback, so at time two delta T we have F operating on F, and our response is 1+f +f*f.
    We can continue this indefintely and get an infinite series. We know from high school algebra that the sum of this series is 1/(1-f). If F is less than one, the series converges. If F=-1 it won’t converge, but our response would be to oscillate between plus and minus one. Obvious if F is greater than or equal to one, our system is unconditionally unstable.

    (12) Jacques, regarding Spencer.
    Do the following thought experiment, construct an atmosphere in a box, initially in equilibrium. Now heat the left side, but not the right. You get a convection cell (Hadley) where the air is rising in the left hand side, and sinking in the right hand side. The (warmer) lefthand side will be cloudier than the right hand side. Spencer measures the radiative differences between the two, and assumes that the sensitivity of radiation balance as a function of surface temperature is the same as if we hade raised the temperature equally on both sides. Is there any justification for this assumption?
    You could also do a similar though experiment by heating and cooling the whole box on a short time scale. Again is the observed sensitivity of the radiation balance the same as for a slow heating?

    Comment by Thomas — 23 Sep 2010 @ 10:41 PM

  40. Can you help us promote the official cop16 twitter and facebook account, will be deeply grateful!!. thanks
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    Comment by Diego Sánchez Enríquez — 24 Sep 2010 @ 12:00 AM

  41. “To put this in perspective, it would take about five doublings of CO2 or a 7% increase in the total solar radiation hitting the Earth to produce the magnitude of climate change typical of glacial-to-interglacial transitions. Changes of this sort are well outside the bounds of what is characteristic of proxy records and observations, so this must mean that various feedbacks act to change the temperature much more than 0.3°C for a watt per square meter forcing”

    Chris, I think that there is a logical loophole here : the fact that the observed variation is much larger than the linear response doesn’t mean automatically that this is due to a feedback. It can be attributed also to a change of the linear response itself – if this change is not due to the temperature , it is not a feedback. Another thing is that you speak of glaciations, but nothing insures that the feedbacks are the same for colder temperature and for hotter ones (an obvious reason is that the change of albedo due to ice -covered land doesn’t exist anymore during warm periods) . The simple idea of a linear system with a single amplification factor is obviously oversimplified.

    Comment by Gilles — 24 Sep 2010 @ 12:35 AM

  42. re #29, feedback, etc…

    From an electronics viewpoint: Positive feedback IN ITSELF basical DOES describe a runaway effect POTENTIAL, however in a given system, limits inherent to the system may prevent an actual Systen Runaway EVENT. An example is a comparator, where positive feedback causes a rapid shift to an extreme(stable)state. The device can go no further, but will quickly go to that limit.

    The proposed “analogy” of power steering in an automobile is probably closer to an example of Negative Feedback, as used in a typical AMPLIFYING SYSTEM; the amplifier has extreme system gain (perhaps 1 million) but through using negative feedback of the proper amount we can set that gain(damping)to a ratio usably smaller (perhaps 2 hundred)and therefore a few lbs of pressure on the steering wheel is amplified SOMEWHAT to the force necessary to easily stear the vehicle.

    In actuality such a hydraulic/mechanical system’s gain is probably set by simple physics laws and (feedback) doesn’t apply as much to the amplifying stage, however to maintain stability and smoothness of the actual operating process details, there are negative feedbacks (damping)in the design, even such simple ones as rubber bushings.

    My 2 cents worth :)

    Comment by Dean S. — 24 Sep 2010 @ 1:59 AM

  43. Another article on cloud feedback. This tends to support the notion that decreasing cloud cover leads to increases in temperature. Hence, those models that predict decreasing cloud cover in a warming world have a positive feedback associated with clouds, while those that predict increases in cloudiness have a negative feedback parameter. Both, however, maintain that clouds are still are large uncertainty in the whole equation.
    http://www.arm.gov/publications/proceedings/conf08/extended_abs/delgenio_ad.pdf

    Comment by Dan H. — 24 Sep 2010 @ 7:09 AM

  44. Dan, the paper you cite explicitly suggests a positive feedback. I appreciate that there are large uncertainties with cloud, but the paper cited notes in particular (last paragraph)

    … the near-global tendency for clouds to thin with warming seen by ISCCP.

    So I *still* don’t see any good basis for disputing the usual characterization of cloud feedback as positive, but with uncertainty in the magnitude, as described in this post by Chris Colose.

    If models give increasing low cloud with warming, then those models have a problem matching the empirical data from ISCCP (International Satellite Cloud Climatology Program). The paper you cite identifies the GISS GCP as a model that does match the empirical observations low cloud change with rising temperature, and consequent positive feedback.

    You said earlier (#10) that “Many other publication show a negative feedback associated with clouds.” I’m skeptical on that, frankly, though I’ll retract in a heartbeat if these publications can be shown. I’m not an expert on the topic. The conference paper you cite by Del Genio and Wolf does not show negative feedback, however.

    I’m still speculating that perhaps you may have mixed negative feedback with the negative aerosol forcing which is indeed given in many publications and which is described in the IPCC 4AR; but this is a pure guess on my part. I’m not trying to be presumptuous, but it simply doesn’t match my reading to say that there are many publications showing negative cloud feedback.

    Cheers — Chris

    Comment by Chris Ho-Stuart — 24 Sep 2010 @ 8:00 AM

  45. to Chris:
    I liked this article but have have a point which will probably be redundant after Part 2.

    The key sentence is very clear:

    a feedback means that some fraction of the output is fed back into the input,

    But accounts vary as to what constitutes the input and output. For example you say:

    every Watt per square meter radiative forcing the climate would warm by about 0.3 °C without any other responses.

    This looks like a very common choice of ‘system’ i.e. with input in watts/m^2 and output in units of global warming i.e. degs.C

    In this choice, referring to global warming as negative feedback would be double counting because the Planck function (Stefan Boltzmann to Joel Shore) has been included … at least the first part of it has already and the rest will soon be…

    You get:

    global warming so far > more water vapour >…more global warming again in degs.C

    Finished. You have now accounted for all of the Planck radiative feedback; you can’t add it again. You understand this, but will beginners? especially when you include this correct remark associated with an alternative definition of output:

    The ultimate constraint on climate change is the Planck radiative feedback, which mandates that a warmer world will radiate more efficiently and therefore provide a cooling effect

    “Cooling” ? Thats right because you are now losing more energy. Your output variable is now watts/m^2 instead of degs.C

    But to the beginner the previous sentence could look a bit Orwellian, i.e.

    “warming is the ultimate cooling”

    which is right but a confusing consequence of the ambiguous nature of the terms cooling and warming.

    I hope that you will mention that there is more than one way of doing this.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 24 Sep 2010 @ 9:51 AM

  46. #Re 34

    I think part of the problem is a difference in definition as to what constitutes “net positive feedback” between most climate scientists and the control theory folks.

    I have my doubts. Anyone who understands feedback in control theory and who wants to understand climate feedback should have no problem with definitions. In fact the climatologist Michael Schlesinger claimed somewhere to have imported some of these ideas from control theory.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 24 Sep 2010 @ 9:55 AM

  47. Chris,
    The paper I cited suggests a positive cloud feedback because they content that clouds will decrease in a warming world. The decreasing cloud cover would allow more solar energy to reach the surface, hence, warming.
    If the models indicate that clouds increase, then (according to this paper) that would cause a negative feedback. Remember, the knock on Swenmark’s theory is not that increasing cloudiness leads to cooler temperatures, but that incoming galactic rays lead to more cloudiness.
    Based on the research, it appears that increases in temperature will lead to increased water vapor which will lead to increased cloudiness, which will lead to a decrease in temperature. The contention appears to center on cloud formation.

    Comment by Dan H. — 24 Sep 2010 @ 11:07 AM

  48. My understanding is that nighttime clouds are warming, due to trapping heat, and daytime clouds have both warming effects through the same mechanism, and cooling effects b/c of reflecting sunlight back out of the atmosphere. Now I don’t have much else on that topic stored between my ears at the moment, and i’m dashing this off on my lunch break so I’m not in a position to look it up. But it occurs to me that it’s probably not nearly so simple as “increasing clouds” or “decreasing clouds.” Different cloud types presumably have different albedo and different heat trapping characteristics. Clouds at different times of day are going to have different impacts. Clouds at different latitudes–if only because of the amount of sunlight, but perhaps for other reasons–are going to have different impacts.

    So I suspect that one would need to know a lot more detail about the cloud changes that are likely to happen as the world warms than “more or less of them” in order to say what the net feedback would be. And possibly even to be able to say what the sign of the feedback would be.

    Comment by Kevin Stanley — 24 Sep 2010 @ 11:46 AM

  49. I do understand the hypothesis of negative cloud feedback, Dan… I am simply skeptical that it has much published support. I’m not trying to be a pain, but for clarity — what I questioned is the many publications. The sentence I queried is specifically this:

    Many other publication show a negative feedback associated with clouds.

    Is that really true? I don’t think so, but I’m happy to see examples, if there are any.

    I’ve not seem many such publications, apart from the old and by now pretty solidly falsified IRIS proposal, from Richard Lindzen and colleagues. “Does the Earth have an adaptive infrared iris?”, by Lindzen, Chou, and Hou (2001). (Bulletin AMS 82: 417–432).

    This was not model based, and it has been pretty solidly tested and falsified.

    I can believe some models might have a negative cloud feedback, but I don’t know of any off hand and am not aware of a large number of publications on such models.

    Cheers — Chris

    Comment by Chris Ho-Stuart — 24 Sep 2010 @ 1:11 PM

  50. Kevin,
    Agreed. Much research has been which suggests that high, cirrus clouds have minimal daytime cooling, but larger nighttime warming. Low-level, stratus clouds have some nighttime warming, but a much higher daytime cooling. The biggest uncertainty concerns the storm clouds. Much work has been done describing the tropical cooling effects associated with the daytime buikdup of these clouds, but very little is known in the mad-latitude regions.
    Clouds have the potential to greatly enhance global warming or completely moderate it. The literature appears to lean towards a net cooling affect with increasing cloudiness, with a very large uncertainty.

    Comment by Dan H. — 24 Sep 2010 @ 1:20 PM

  51. Long term observational data and climate models both demonstrate net positive feedbacks in the sense of a temperature response to forcings that exceeds what would be calculated if only the S-B feedback were operating. The water vapor response is particularly intriguing, since it is theroretically iterative – i.e., more water vapor increases temperature which causes even more water to evaporate, and so on. Nevertheless, we know – again from models and observations – that this does not create an infinite feedback loop, indicating that the iterations diminish with repetition to a final stable temperature value. The question is why?

    Almost certainly, multiple mechanisms conspire to yield this result, including changes in convection and lapse rates, cloud formation, various regional effects, etc. I would be interested in knowing whether there is a useful information source that identifies the major factors. It occurs to me that similar to CO2, water vapor exhibits a logarithmic relationship between quantity and temperature. I surmise, therefore, that each new increment in atmospheric water vapor will warm less and less. On the other hand, each new increment should retain roughly an undiminished capacity to release latent heat at high altitudes, thereby reducing the lapse rate and releasing heat to space. Does a changing relationship between water vapor feedback and lapse rate feedback contribute significantly to the eventual stabilization of temperature response despite its net positive feedback nature? I’ll be grateful for useful references.

    Comment by Fred Moolten — 24 Sep 2010 @ 1:21 PM

  52. A detail question or two: as clouds trap heat by absorbing IR radiation, wouldn’t some of that absorbed energy be reradiated (nominally split between out and back down)? Does liquid H2O absorb IR into internal stores, like rotation in the case of vapor, or directly into the equivalent of kinetic energy ala molecular center-of-mass velocity (akin to gases but I would assume the molecules just vibrate back and forth instead of zipping around until they crash — like gas)… or both?

    Comment by Rod B — 24 Sep 2010 @ 1:21 PM

  53. #34 Joel Shore,

    In your last paragraph you clearly illustrate an important problem.

    First, if climate scientists borrow a terminology from another field, distort the use of that terminology for their own convenience, and try to use that to convince those in the original field of the truth of a supposedly scientific result, the result is useless gibberish.

    Second, when you use the word ‘frantic’ to describe ‘engineering-types who will insistingly misunderstand’ you show yourself to be a symptom of a major problem of arrogance based on inappropriate confidence in your own knowledge and inappropriate confidence in the absolute truth of climate science. I suggest perhaps that you are not one of the climate scientists that worked out the fundamental energy balance equations, or even one who has seriously attempted climate modeling. The former group must certainly know that their results are not absolutely determining of the future condition of the globe. The latter must certainly have some reservations about the limits of modeling accuracy. Certainly reading the IPCC reports, here and there of course as we all must do, it seems that there is an onslaught of qualifications along with long lists of references which provide a defense against the possibility of actually being wrong.

    On the other hand, many engineers are hacks that have little capability beyond the handbooks that treat already solved problems. Look not to them for creative solutions, or even willingness to recognize instability of the world represented by the handbooks.

    The term ‘research’ has always puzzled me, since it tells us that the activity is involved in working over something that was previously done, hence the scientific community engaged in such ‘research’ can be as uncreative as the handbook bound engineer, and as it seems these folks are more the cheering section for the real searching forces behind the advancement of understanding.

    Then there are folks such as myself who try to grind through the handbooks and look beyond, and overlook the science pedants as well, in an attempt to find solutions to real problems that are reasonably well stated and supported. Of coure this requires a belief that real progress can be thusly achieved; and of this latter group, most of us will almost certainly be wrong.

    The chance that something will be achieved is minimized by the sixth grade science explanations that are handed out by pseudo-scientists along the way. And the gibberish of which I spoke does not even qualify for sixth graders.

    But the real problem I mentioned is that there will be no real progress as long as there is the lack of cooperation that this all has established.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 24 Sep 2010 @ 1:50 PM

  54. 50, Dan H. : Clouds have the potential to greatly enhance global warming or completely moderate it. The literature appears to lean towards a net cooling affect with increasing cloudiness, with a very large uncertainty.

    A citation or a link would be useful. I agree, but when I included a link in a post a few months ago my post had some problem in it and never appeared.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 24 Sep 2010 @ 2:28 PM

  55. Upon reflection, the power steering example isn’t appropriate.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Sep 2010 @ 4:16 PM

  56. Fred Moolten @51 — I don’t think you understanding of water vapor feedback is correct. Each increment of increase of water vapor leads to a further temperature increase since H2O is a global warming (so-called greenhouse) gas. So starting with one increment, sum

    1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + … = 2 = 1/(1-1/2)

    so the feedback I’ve illustrated is f = 1/2.

    Nonetheless, I too would like to be gain more clarity regarding the role of changing lapse rate.

    For those who still confused, the use of feedback in climatology is exactly the same as in any textbook on linear systems theory and so is exactly what is used in control engineering (as well as other parts of physics). There is no runaway from amplifying feedback until the feedback facto reaches or exceeds one.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 24 Sep 2010 @ 4:26 PM

  57. Dan,

    In general the albedo (shortwave) component of clouds, which is dominated by low clouds, dominates the uncertainty estimates of the total cloud feedback. Models which have low clouds increasing in a warming climate generally have much lower climate sensitivity. The longwave component tends to be robustly positive across GCM’s and with substantially less spread. Dennis Hartmann, for one, has argued that this can be understood on rather simple physical grounds (via Radiative-Convectie equilibrium justification and the constraints imposed by Clausius-Clapeyron) and I think this is a good starting framework for thinking about the problem. I’ll try to touch on this a bit in Part 2.

    I agree with Chris Ho-Stuart though that there’s really not much evidence for an important negative cloud feedback. Popular expressions which simplify the problem to “more water vapor = more clouds!” are not meaningful. The thermodynamics and dynamics of clouds depends on much more than just the temperature or vapor content, but on relative humidity, aerosol regions, etc and the radiative transfer depends on the liquid or ice water content and optical thickness, height, and other variables. There’s some evidence low clouds provide a positive feedback (see work by DelGenio, the Clement paper in Science, etc) though I think the constraints on this are fairly weak. But there’s just no evidence for a magic Daisy-World like stabilizer that is going to save us all from a significant departure from the modern cliamte, clouds or otherwise. It doesn’t work in the past climate record, or in modern observations.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 24 Sep 2010 @ 5:26 PM

  58. Re : #51.

    As I see it now:

    No special explanation required to account for finite answer only that gain around loop must be less than 1

    Sketch of self consistent argument.

    Let the rise in temperature W(0) produced by some CO2 be say

    W(0) = SF(CO2)

    This is without feedbacks. This will produce additional water vapour which will produce an additional warming which is roughly proportional to temperature rise (assumed small) i.e. an additional temp.rise of kW(0). But W(0) is no longer the correct temperature rise.
    Lets use W to denote the value modified by feedback. W is the sum of the original rise W(0) and the extra bit due to feedback kW i.e. *

    W = W(0) +kW (1)

    Solving for W gives

    W=W(0)/(1-k)= SF(CO2)/(1-k)

    This works unless the feedback factor k approaches 1 when the original assumption of small warming breaks down.

    Iterative version of argument:
    This equivalent approach sometimes causes more worry ; it uses the geometrical series:

    [1+k+k^2+k^3+...]W(0) which is usually perfectly well behaved with sum W(0)/(1-k), the same as before.

    It is analagous to a sub-critical chain reaction in a nuclear (or chemical reaction). But if each fission produces one additional fission the feedback factor or loop gain is equal to 1 and you start to worry, on the other hand if you keep away from that criticality condition you will be OK. I think Raypierre showed in the the draft of his book that we needn’t worry about runaway k=1 on the Earth but it was possible in principle for a planet in which the clouds played up i.e turned out to contribute too heavily to the positive feedback.

    [* Eq.1 is a very rudimentary version of a Dyson equation]
    ————————-
    #53. I disagree. Looks like a non-issue.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 24 Sep 2010 @ 7:26 PM

  59. #37, Harold Pierce Jr,
    You quoted “[The atmosphere] acts as an insulating blanket which keeps most of the heat from escaping at night.” Yes indeed, that effect is due to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. If all the greenhouse gases were removed, the atmosphere would no longer insulate. Under Chris Colose’s hypothetical, if all the CO2 were magically removed, the atmosphere would cool so it would not hold nearly as much water vapor either due to Clausius-Clapeyron, no matter how windy. The remaining atmosphere would not act much like an insulator.

    Comment by Imback — 24 Sep 2010 @ 8:08 PM

  60. Fred@51.
    Read my explanation of feedback in the first half of comment 39. If the feedback strength is less than 100%, then each iteration of the loop adds geometrically less to the total. It is indeed an infinite sum, but as long as the strength of the feedback is less than a critical level, the sum is finite.

    Comment by Thomas — 24 Sep 2010 @ 8:18 PM

  61. From the perspective of an operational forecaster, I am struck by the many higher-order feedbacks of water vapor, some of which I’ve had to deal with fairly frequently.

    A strong positive feedback is the efficient melting of snow cover by rainfall or, even moreso, by advecting dew points above freezing and depositing the latent heat into the snow. Snow cover is great for reflecting sunlight, but is also an efficient radiator in the IR range.
    Our rule of thumb was that snow cover would reduce prevailing temperatures by about 10F (5-6C) Getting rid of the snow by advecting extra moisture can really change the character of the winter in the zone where snow cover is marginal. The same would apply to the spring in regions with persistent winter snow.

    Water vapor is, of course, a great source of energy for storms. That includes everything from thunderstorms to large tropical and extratropical lows. Many times, rapid intensification of extratropical lows follows the entrainment of subtropical moisture into a system, often in a narrow plume visible by satellite.

    I also note that even the high resolution forecasting models often have trouble handling these processes (which keeps life interesting for forecasters). I wouldn’t expect the coarser climate models to get it right.

    There are lots of other effects from an increased intensity of storms allowed by extra water vapor. For example, more effective poleward transport of energy, vegetation changes, enhanced ocean/atmosphere interactions, better mixing of shallow layers of the ocean, etc.

    I’m not saying that these processes would necessarily make a large change in the overall feedback numbers. However, they could make quite a difference in the local climate experienced by many people.

    Comment by John Pollack — 24 Sep 2010 @ 10:25 PM

  62. To Thomas (60) and David (56) – I seems that the problem is more complex than first appears. Temperatures increase with the logarithm of water vapor, but water vapor (via Clausius-Clapeyron) increases quasi-exponentially with temperature, and so a diminishing temperature increase with iteration is offset by an increasing response to each iterated temperature change. How, when, and on what physical basis the system will converge to a stable state is therefore something requiring more than a simple gain function, because the gain function will change with temperature. How this is determined by the physics of the system is still a mystery to me.

    Since my earlier comment, I’ve discovered that the answers may not be obvious to anyone. Below is a quotation from the review article by Held and Soden in Annu. Rev. Energy Environ. 2000. 25:441–7, involving a gain function they call Beta-H2O:

    “The size of the nondimensional ratio, Beta-H2O, provides a measure of the strength of the water vapor feedback. If Beta-H2O is about 0:4, water vapor feedback increases the sensitivity of temperatures to CO2 by a factor of about 1.7, assuming that I C are fixed. If the value of Beta-H2O were larger than unity, the result would be a runaway greenhouse. The outgoing infrared flux would decrease with increasing temperatures. It is, of course, self-evident that the Earth is not in a runaway configuration. But it is sobering to realize that it is only after detailed computations with a realistic model of radiative transfer that we obtain the estimate Beta-H2O = 0:4 (for fixed relative humidity). There is no simple physical argument of which we are aware from which one could have concluded beforehand that Beta-H2O was less than unity. The value of Beta-H2O does, in fact, increase as the climate warms if the relative humidity is fixed. On this basis, one might expect runaway conditions to develop eventually if the climate warms sufficiently. Although it is difficult to be quantitative, primarily because of uncertainties in cloud prediction, it is clear that this point is only achieved for temperatures that are far warmer than any relevant for the global warming debate (22).”

    Comment by Fred Moolten — 24 Sep 2010 @ 10:32 PM

  63. Chris@57

    re: \But there’s just no evidence for a magic Daisy-World like stabilizer that is going to save us all from a significant departure from the modern cliamte, clouds or otherwise. It doesn’t work in the past climate record, or in modern observations.\

    Which past climate record involving clouds would you be referring to? My understanding is that we have poor cloud data of questionable worth right now and have only had any data at all for about 45 years or so and we have nothing prior to that.

    Les Southwell@35

    It is my understanding that the earth has been significantly warmer in the past with no permanent ice at either pole and 7000ppm CO2. We didn’t \go Venus\ then. So assuming our understanding of the earth’s history is in the ballpark then that alone rules out runaway warming to Venus.

    But on top of that Venus receives about twice the energy the earth does from the sun. Twice! Relevent perhaps?

    Comment by TimTheToolMan — 24 Sep 2010 @ 11:17 PM

  64. gain function will change with temperature.

    My guess: only for ‘very large’ temperature changes. To start with I should think (and hope!) that linearisation should be reasonable. But the computer simulations don’t need to rely on these arguments if I am right.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 25 Sep 2010 @ 3:33 AM

  65. 56
    of course the basic theory of linear retroaction shows that the final amplification factor is 1+F+F^2+… = 1/(1-F) , so there is nothing wrong with a positive value of F<1 giving a finite amplification factor; it's not wrong : it is just uncomfortable, because it means that the F factor must have been rather stable, although it is the combination of several different, ill-known factors (water vapor, clouds, albedo) that can all vary depending on the precise state of the Earth. So it is not expected that the F factor itself is strictly constant – but why the hell has it never crossed the death line F =1, if it is close to it ? this is not a proof that something is wrong – just something weird. It would be much more comfortable to have F = 0.1 to 0.2 for instance , allowing variations by a factor of 2 or 3. But 0. 6 is just … wawooh.. we’ve been lucky that no runaway warming, leading to the complete evaporation of boiling oceans, has never occured during billions of years, haven’t we ?

    Comment by Gilles — 25 Sep 2010 @ 3:58 AM

  66. #42.

    From an electronics viewpoint: Positive feedback IN ITSELF basical DOES describe a runaway effect

    I think that 2 cents is too high an estimate for that pearl of wisdom.

    Where did you find it? Runaway is sometimes called ‘howlaround’ in electronics; it requires a gain of 1 as you go round.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 25 Sep 2010 @ 7:03 AM

  67. Re : #65

    crossed the death line F =1 ….complete evaporation of boiling oceans

    I’m speculating, but it does not appear likely that the second event should necessarily follow from the first. What you are postulating is that there might be some combination of variables, including temperature, which are inherently unstable. If the climate landed there it would have to change abruptly to something more stable. To assert that there would be nothing more stable around involves yet another speculation. Perhaps someone else might comment.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 25 Sep 2010 @ 8:36 AM

  68. 61,64 Linearization should be pretty valid. We are taking temperature changes of roughly 1C, and in that narrow a range Clausius-Clayteron can be reasonably approximated by a linear. Also absolute humidity has increased on average by something like 4%, the second order term would be on the order of .04 squared, so ignoring it won’t alter things much.

    Gilles @65. The H2O runaway has been discuseed before. Planetary atmosphere theory has a critical net IR flux, below which f is less than one, and above which it is greater than 1. We are well below that limit. Give the sun another billion years of evolution, and we will probably cross the threshold and the planet will suffer runaway.

    Of course the H2O-Beta increases with surface temperature, it is greater in the tropics than near the poles, one would want to do something more sophisticated than back of the envelope computations to figure out how to average it.

    Comment by Thomas — 25 Sep 2010 @ 9:11 AM

  69. I hesitate to answer Gilles (#65) but, for the record, his notion that F has never crossed 1 is of course a crude strawman. F > 1 does not imply a runaway unless F is stable. F can safely exceed 1 in certain conditions such as deglaciations. What matters is that it doesn’t remain at > 1 (it won’t after most of the ice is gone in the deglciation case). If F is not stable, it does not only increase: it decreases as well.
    What amazes me is not that a planet which absorbs a good bit less shortwave than its Kombayashi-Ingersoll limit for H2O has not gone into a runaway. What amazes me is that someone as educated as Gilles keeps taking such cheap potshots at the science.

    As to the temperatures on the Moon (#37, #59), the greenhouse effect should not be confused with the ability of an atmosphere to transmit heat from one part of a planet (or moon) to another. An atmosphere transparent to IR can still (though less efficently I assume) move heat around and would prevent Moon-like temperature gradients. Note that such an atmosphere would also increase the average temperature a bit because of the fourth power in the equation for the power of thermal radiation.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 25 Sep 2010 @ 11:02 AM

  70. Re #57: It doesn’t change the basic picture, but an interesting recent-ish discovery of climate science is that there’s a sort of thermostat that keeps the tropics from heating up nearly as quickly as the rest of the planet. This isn’t an intuitive result since the tropics are where the bulk of the heat is gained (from insolation), but is confirmed by paleoclimate studies. The thermostat necessarily requires a mechanism or mechanisms for increased heat transport out of the tropics. Kerry Emanuel proposes that mcu-enhanced tropical cylcone activity is involved, although that doesn’t exclude other possibilities like a reorganization of ocean circulation (which is know to occur to some degree).

    On the one hand this effect is a good thing since without it the tropics would rapidly become uninhabitable, but on the other it seems unavoidable that the scale of heat transport required will have extensive impacts that we will find unpleasant.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 25 Sep 2010 @ 12:50 PM

  71. I wonder if there is anyone left who actually remembers feedback control systems of the old sort. Now, with digital apparatus, the situation is quite different.

    The rule of circuit design was that after the initial smoke test, every intended amplifier would be an oscillator and every oscillator would sit quietly being an amplifier. There were many reasons why smoke could be the outcome.

    Howlaround was where the conditions for oscillation existed, which usually was assured by putting in abundant positive feedback. Nonlinearities would assure that the loop gain of +1 would come about in actual operation.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 25 Sep 2010 @ 1:57 PM

  72. This looks to me like another feedback loop estimate here,
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010GL044174.shtml
    suggesting that

    “… we find that biomass accumulation begins in mid-winter when light levels are minimal and near-surface mixing is deepest. These observations are consistent with the recently proposed dilution–recoupling hypothesis which states that deep winter mixing in the North Atlantic is essential for bloom formation as it decouples phytoplankton growth from grazing losses, thereby allowing net biomass accumulation despite low-light conditions….”

    I’d guess that adds a new term to the modeling of what happens if thermohaline circulation drops below some critical level.

    Might this connection be related in any way to the paleo work that Peter Ward has been publishing?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Sep 2010 @ 2:42 PM

  73. > on top of that Venus receives about twice the energy

    Exactly. But don’t omit what happens there on top.

    On top of that Venus, notice the highly reflective cloud layer.
    Down under that Venus, the ground receives much less than the top.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Sep 2010 @ 2:47 PM

  74. Oh, and let’s assume you’re right that on top of that Venus atmosphere it’s getting 2x what Earth gets ( I did not check your belief, you might want to make sure you’re right about that).

    You can do the arithmetic given one more fact:

    “Venus’ thick atmosphere reflects more than 60% of the solar light it receives … ”
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunlight

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Sep 2010 @ 2:49 PM

  75. “we’ve been lucky” — Gilles

    A brilliant observation!

    “I can only conclude that mankind has been extremely lucky …” — Paul Crutzen, Nobel Prize lecture
    http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1995/crutzen-lecture.pdf

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Sep 2010 @ 3:12 PM

  76. A brilliant observation!

    Since we are demonstrably here, Hank, luck had nothing to do with it. The probability of our existence is exactly unity. I rather think that evolution, survival and intelligence is the result of sustained hard WORK.

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 25 Sep 2010 @ 3:35 PM

  77. Fred Moolten @62 — Thank you.

    And for all in this actually enlightening exchance of comments in this thread, I point out that if/when the matter becomes too complex for complete analysis, measure. To measure requires a model; here is a most simple one:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/03/unforced-variations-3/comment-page-12/#comment-168530
    which estimates a transient response over the instrumental period of about 2.11–2.28 K for 2xCO2, well in excess of the 1.2 K due to CO2 acting alone, (Knutti & Hegerl,2008). I conclude that the net feedback due to water vapor, clouds and all else is definitely positive (if there were any doubts).

    Comment by David B. Benson — 25 Sep 2010 @ 4:35 PM

  78. Hank@72

    Re: But don’t omit what happens there on top.

    This is the equilibrium state and has nothing to do with the drivers that got it into its overheated state in the first place or indeed keep it there. Arguments along the lines of Venus may have been hospitable once are outrageously linearly minded.

    Comment by TimTheToolMan — 25 Sep 2010 @ 5:14 PM

  79. Also keep in mind on the discussion of feedback factors that the 1/(1-f) dependence assumes feedbacks behave in a sufficiently linear fashion as to neglect the higher order terms of a Taylor expansion…which include a bunch of higher order derivative terms. This is the point of Zaliapin and Ghil (2010); http://www.nonlin-processes-geophys.net/17/113/2010/npg-17-113-2010.html . Roe argues this is pretty small though.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 25 Sep 2010 @ 6:07 PM

  80. Hi Chris,

    Regarding the Lapse rate “should decline in a warmer world”. This implies that overall, cloudiness should be reduced. Has this trend been detected?

    Cheers,

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 25 Sep 2010 @ 11:51 PM

  81. AC :”F > 1 does not imply a runaway unless F is stable. F can safely exceed 1 in certain conditions such as deglaciations. ”
    I agree of course – but only if you can justify that F will decrease, which is obviously the case if the feedback is attributed to the decrease of the albedo through ice melting, because it obviously doesn’t work anymore without ice. But it is not the case for feedback from water vapor, because there is nothing limiting the runaway before the complete evaporation of water-that’s precisely the essence of Kombayashi-Ingersoll limit. I know that, with the current assumed values, we are still safely below this limit, precisely because F<1, thanks. My question was : if we are not that far from F=1, why haven't we ever reach this value through water vapor greenhouse effect in the past ? is there a fundamental answer, or as Crutzen and other seem to thing, is it "just luck"? (of course it is not only mankind, but the whole life on earth, who would have been pretty much lucky…)

    Comment by Gilles — 26 Sep 2010 @ 2:30 AM

  82. From the human perspective, catastrophe is when the climate changes faster than expected by human engineering design and economics, thereby damageing critical infrastructure or the economy.

    At the level of reality (as opposed to theory) this bad weather damages our infrastructure to an extent that is difficult to repair. The classic example is successively, unpredictably larger floods that make the repair of flood containment structures difficult.

    For example, suppose past floods on the stream had been 18 feet above normal stream flow. The powers that be build flood dikes that are 20 feet high. Then, (as a result of climate change) a 22 foot flood comes along and floods everything. The climate has changed,. and this happens again and again. Now, we have the capital cost of the obsolete 20 dike plus the damage of repeated floods. So, the Powers that be build a 25 foot flood dike and in a few years the average flood is 28 feet, and we have repeated flood damage – again. Now we have spent money on two dikes, and the damage of many floods, and that capital is not available for other needs.

    On the other hand the design and building of a 40 or 50 foot dike at the first sign of a 22 foot flood level is a very expensive way to gain a few extra years of flood protection, Such extravagant use of capital would seem irrational to conservative Powers that Be with a traditional engineering basis of design in their hot little hands. Nevertheless, another half degree of warming in 40 or 50 years, would likely make such 40 or 50 foot floods possible within the 50 to 100 year design life time of major public infrastructure programs

    Thus, it is not necessary to have wild, runaway climate change to have successively worse weather damage our economy until civilization as we know it is impossible. Climate change will disrupt our economy and civilization anytime it changes faster than the Powers that Be can recognize and adapt to the reality of likely future weather.

    The Powers that Be know about weather, and they think the recent heat waves, floods, and snow storms are just “weather”. It is weather, as disrupted by climate change. Dealing with weather as disrupted by climate change will take a whole new engineering and economic paradigm.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 26 Sep 2010 @ 10:45 AM

  83. A heads up for some new climate science material posted by Sir John Beddington, UK Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government Office for Science.

    http://www.bis.gov.uk/go-science/climatescience

    Comment by Warmcast — 26 Sep 2010 @ 10:58 AM

  84. I have posted a few links to research showing that increasing cloudiness leads to decreasing temperatures. Here are a few more:

    http://www.gewex.org/images/G.Stephens_Feb2010GNews.pdf
    http://www.usclivar.org/Newsletter/VariationsV4N1/BrethertonCPT.pdf
    http://scitation.aip.org/getabs/servlet/GetabsServlet?prog=normal&id=APCPCS001100000001000557000001&idtype=cvips&gifs=yes&ref=no
    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/2008JCLI2237.1?journalCode=clim
    http://meteora.ucsd.edu/~jnorris/reprints/02_Norris_and_Slingo.pdf

    The last article shows that recently-observed cloud decreases are associated with temperature increases.

    Comment by Dan H. — 26 Sep 2010 @ 11:47 AM

  85. Re 63 TimTheToolMan Which past climate record involving clouds would you be referring to? My understanding is that we have poor cloud data of questionable worth right now and have only had any data at all for about 45 years or so and we have nothing prior to that.

    Perhaps some pollen records from photoperiod sensitive vs non-photoperiod sensitive plants could shed some light on the matter … (?? – or maybe it doesn’t work that way; anyway, wouldn’t necessarily address LW effects, and clouds also absorb some SW)

    But aside from records of clouds, there is the record of climate itself, combined with records (or modeling of celestial mechanics, theory of stellar evolution) of forcings. We know it can change and has changed by some amount from some amount of forcing. (For glacial-interglacial transitions, Charney sensitivity can be estimated by using CO2 (and CH4, etc.) and ice sheet changes (and aerosols, I think vegetation) as forcings, though those things changed in reaction to each other, with the ice sheets responding initially to orbital forcing that had very little global average forcing (though regionally/seasonally significant) but a significant global average feedback.)

    It is my understanding that the earth has been significantly warmer in the past with no permanent ice at either pole and 7000ppm CO2. We didn’t \go Venus\ then. So assuming our understanding of the earth’s history is in the ballpark then that alone rules out runaway warming to Venus.

    Although I agree we needn’t worry about runaway water vapor feedback from AGW, keep in mind that the sun was dimmer back when CO2 was 7000 ppm, if it was that high (estimates vary; of course it was that high at some point in the past going back far enough, but if you were thinking of the early Paleozoic, then it might not have been, so far as I know.)

    Re 65 Gilles
    - Another way of thinking of feedbacks is in terms of the inverse of the climate sensitivity. Climate sensitivity = K/(W/m2). Radiative feedbacks have some W/m2 response per K change. They can be added linearly to get some total W/m2 response per K change, which (including the Planck response in that total) is the negative (if W/m2 is positive for a decrease in net outgoing radiation, so that a positive feedback has positive W/m2 per K) inverse of climate sensitivity. The Planck response is negative; if the sum of all other feedbacks is either negative or positive but less than the Planck response, then there is no runaway feedback.

    Re 66 Geoff Wexler responding to From an electronics viewpoint: Positive feedback IN ITSELF basical DOES describe a runaway effect

    That would be the case for climate sensitivity if the Planck response is included among the other feedbacks. I suspect that is a genuine source of confusion for some people, because we (people with some familiarity with climate change science) tend to hold the Planck response as seperate when discussing the sign and size of the net feedback (though one would then wonder why we don’t say that climate sensitivity is infinity).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Sep 2010 @ 3:45 PM

  86. Chris Colose @77 — Thank for the link.

    A timely reminder in a quite interesting paper.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Sep 2010 @ 3:56 PM

  87. Re 63 TimTheToolMan – (refering to the beginning of the Paleozoic and earlier times) also, there was no land vegetation then, and the coriolis effect was stronger (faster rotation; I think this would have some effect on meridional heat transport; I wonder if there could have been multiple distinct extratropical storm tracks in the zonal average?).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Sep 2010 @ 3:56 PM

  88. Crutzen in his Nobel speech raises:

    “… the nightmarish thought that if the chemical industry had developed organobromine compounds instead of the CFCs – or alternatively, if chlorine chemistry would have run more like that of bromine – then without any preparedness, we would have been faced with a catastrophic ozone hole everywhere and at all seasons during the 1970s, probably before the atmospheric chemists had developed the necessary knowledge to identify the problem and the appropriate techniques for the necessary critical measurements. Noting that nobody had given any thought to the atmospheric consequences of the release of Cl or Br before 1974, I can only conclude that mankind has been extremely lucky, that Cl activation can only occur under very special circumstances. This shows that we should always be on our guard for the potential consequences of the release of new products into the environment. Continued surveillance of the composition of the stratosphere, therefore, remains a matter of high priority for many years ahead….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Sep 2010 @ 4:15 PM

  89. Hank Roberts @85 — Yup. Composition of sea water as well.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 26 Sep 2010 @ 5:16 PM

  90. A spectacular article has been published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty about how the Russian fossil fuel companies are taking over in Europe and sponsoring global warming denialism. The companies work with the government.

    The Russian LUKoil paid for translating Vaclav Klaus’s book against global warming and Al Gore.

    I know I am off-topic, but you have to understand who you are dealing with.
    The Russians really want to control the European gas market and undermine the European Union; and Monckton has this political party that is against the EU, so that–and his denialism–is why the Kremlin-financed English-language Russia Today puts him on TV.

    MOnckton trashes the EU and spreads denialist propaganda and so does Klaus.

    http://www.rferl.org/content/Czech_Mate_How_Russia_Is_Rebuilding_Influence_In_The_Former_Soviet_Bloc/2168090.html

    Comment by Snapple — 26 Sep 2010 @ 6:56 PM

  91. AC @ 69 says:

    “An atmosphere transparent to IR can still (though less efficently I assume) move heat around and would prevent Moon-like temperature gradients. Note that such an atmosphere would also increase the average temperature a bit because of the fourth power in the equation for the power of thermal radiation.”

    The various wind currents in the atmosphere transport enormous amount of hot and cold air out of the oceans onto and off the land.

    Santa Ana winds, chinooks, sirocos etc can move a lot of hot air over large areas quite quickly as does El Ninos.

    I live in Burnaby which is next door to Vancouver and the winds blow warm air out the Pacific ocean into the lower mainland, the result of which is a mild climate.

    Comment by Harold Pierce Jr — 26 Sep 2010 @ 10:01 PM

  92. Re 81 Gilles – As runaway water vapor feedback is approached, OLR (outgoing longwave radiation) increases less and less with increases in temperature and eventually levels off (for a given amount of other atmospheric gases, etc.) (see graph here: http://chriscolose.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/climate-feedbacks-part-1/ ),
    maybe somewhere around 320 W/m2 for a present Earth CO2 amount (although I don’t know all the details behind that graph – does it include the cloud greenhouse contribution?), or a bit less if there is more CO2, etc. For various conditions that are fixed or a set function of global average temperature, OLR is a function of temperature. Such functions are shown as the curves on that graph.

    Notice that a change in solar heating (either via albedo changes or solar brightness changes) are a vertical shift on that graph; the equilibrium temperature change is the horizontal shift required to get back to the same curve (absent albedo feedbacks).

    Greenhouse forcing is a vertical shift to a different curve, which results in a temperature change such that the original OLR is reached following the new curve.

    (As seen on the graph at Chris Colose’s site) Interestingly, approaching the region of runaway water vapor feedback, the forcing for a given amount of CO2 (within the range of CO2 amounts considered) is reduced (the vertical distance between 100 ppm CO2 and 0.2 bar CO2 shrinks), but the climate sensitivity (on a per W/m2 basis) increases. More CO2 increases the temperature and decreases the OLR where runaway water vapor feedback is approached.

    Anyway, a very important point is that, given some amount of CO2, etc, sustaining a runaway water vapor greenhouse requires that solar heating be at or above the OLR for those conditions. So if the temperature ever ventured into that territory for other reasons (heat from the formation of the Earth or early large impacts – see for example http://www.pnas.org/content/98/7/3666.full (Sleep, Zahnle, Neuhoff, Initiation of clement surface conditions on the earliest Earth)), the runaway water vapor greenhouse would not sustain itself indefinitely; aside from albedo feedbacks, there would be some net amount of energy leaving the planet, at a rate of OLR – solar heating (+ geothermal and tidal heat fluxes where relevant), with OLR remaining about the same until the climate cools enough to exit the runaway condition (runaway feedback towards cooler conditions). So long as all the H2O (or specifically the H part) hasn’t been lost to space in the duration, an ocean will reform (PS water in the mantle could replenish some loss) and the geologic sequestration of CO2 via production of carbonate minerals may resume (depending on geography and it’s alignment with warm wet conditions, etc.) (PS while warming tends to increase the rate of chemical weathering and thus geologic inorganic C sequestration, sufficiently high temperatures (depending on the cations involved; see fig. 1 of Sleep et al.) reduce the thermodynamic stability of carbonate minerals such that carbonate minerals would tend to react with silicates to emit CO2, which of course is why we can have geologic emission of CO2 from hot material with the same mix of elements present).

    Note that the sun was dimmer farther back in geologic time. Even with 0.2 bars of CO2 (or CO2eq) it would require 300 W/m2 solar heating (aside from anything not included in the formulation of the graph at Colose’s site) to sustain runaway H2O conditions, which would require approximately 430 W/m2 average insolation (TOA) with an albedo of 30 % (not saying it would stay at 30 %), which would require a solar brightness 25 % greater than now.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 26 Sep 2010 @ 11:40 PM

  93. “From the human perspective, catastrophe is when the climate changes faster than expected by human engineering design and economics, thereby damageing critical infrastructure or the economy.”

    Most probably, the rapid reduction of the use of fossil fuels will have exactly the same effect, being faster than expected by engineering design and economics, so would lead to another catastrophe following your criteria…

    Comment by Gilles — 27 Sep 2010 @ 1:15 AM

  94. re #90: RFE/RL has long been putting out conspiracy theories about fossil fuel companies whether the facts check or not. Be wary about your sources.
    One way or another, the European gas market will be supplied by “the Russians”.
    I don’t know if “they” want to “undermine the EU” or not but I know one thing: in order to get global climate change mitigation rolling, one would need Russia to play along. And, as you well know, playing along is not really in Russia’s interest. So concessions would have to be made… concessions which are not in the interest of other parties. If Russia was to demand that the EU or NATO be weakend, then that’s what global action on climate change would cost. Right now that’s not an issue because the USA are not on board either but those of you who fear Russian imperlialism better start getting used to the idea.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 27 Sep 2010 @ 6:09 AM

  95. Re #93 Gilles. The too rapid reduction of the use of fossil fuels will damage critical infrastructure of the fossil fuel industry, just as petroleum damaged the critical infrastructure of the whale oil and fire wood industry. But from the looks of it, the fossil fuel supporters are doing everything they can to make sure that such a catastrophe is delayed as long as possible.
    Here is a guns and butter scenario for you since you seem to like that sort of thing. Agriculture is a precarious weather and climate susceptible industry in the best of times. Just how much loss of food production does the global food industry have to sustain from AGW catalyzed climate change in order to justify damaging the fossil fuel industry in favor of growing non carbon energy industries?

    Comment by SteveP — 27 Sep 2010 @ 6:23 AM

  96. “Most probably, the rapid reduction of the use of fossil fuels will have exactly the same effect, being faster than expected by engineering design and economics, so would lead to another catastrophe following your criteria…”

    He said, without support.

    And I don’t believe.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 27 Sep 2010 @ 6:30 AM

  97. #93 Gilles

    Right, and we seem to be rapidly approaching a confluence of both with resonant magnitudes of sufficient strength to be largely disruptive in the context of current infrastructure.

    When people assimilate what all this means by prescience, or impact of event, the world brain will have quite a wake up call. At this point innovation and method change will be rapid.

    But, of course, due to delays and inertia’s in multiple systems. . . as one very intelligent friend of mine put it, ‘we’re not going to get out of this without breaking a few more things’.

    However, I still will not underestimate the power of human innovation and adaptive capacity. We may be late to the party, but we do know how to get things done once we figure out what is needed.


    Fee & Dividend: Our best chanceLearn the IssueSign the Petition
    A Climate Minute: Natural CycleGreenhouse EffectClimate Science HistoryArctic Ice Melt

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 27 Sep 2010 @ 6:35 AM

  98. “Note that positive feedbacks do not inherently imply a runaway scenario; it just means that the final temperature change is higher than it would have been without the feedback being there.”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this sentence a circular argument at its core, even with the use of “inherently”?

    If you decide that there’s such a thing as a “final temperature”, by definition, the notion of “runaway scenario” cannot happen… But since you cannot decide in advance that there’s such a thing as a “final temperature” (at least something short of the Venus syndrome), you cannot rule out that there can be a runaway catastrophy. In fact, we may be in the middle of it.

    Comment by Pierre-Emmanuel Neurohr — 27 Sep 2010 @ 6:39 AM

  99. Carbon Dioxide is heavier than air, how does it stay up in the atmosphere to form a blanket?

    [Response: The atmosphere is well mixed by turbulence so that the concentrations of non-condensing and non-reactive gases is pretty uniform all the way up the stratosphere. - gavin]

    Comment by EdMars — 27 Sep 2010 @ 8:08 AM

  100. #98

    Correct me if I’m wrong

    I’ll volunteer. The sentence you quote is not circular as you suggest, and does not rule out runaway by definition, because the formula or model could always yield an infinite answer. The sentence itself does not pre-empt the answer one way or another. That will depend on the actual nature and magnitude of the feedbacks.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 27 Sep 2010 @ 8:09 AM

  101. Re #85

    Re#66

    What do you mean by ‘that’ ?

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 27 Sep 2010 @ 8:21 AM

  102. HP: The earth’s atmosphere is an insulating gas which retards the escape of heat from its surface.

    BPL: Yes, it certainly slows down heat transfer by conduction. On the other hand, most heat loss from the surface is by radiation, secondarily by convection. The “insulating” properties of the atmosphere barely come into it.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Sep 2010 @ 8:28 AM

  103. Tim: the earth has been significantly warmer in the past with no permanent ice at either pole and 7000ppm CO2. We didn’t \go Venus\ then. So assuming our understanding of the earth’s history is in the ballpark then that alone rules out runaway warming to Venus.

    BPL: The sun was dimmer then.

    Tim: But on top of that Venus receives about twice the energy the earth does from the sun. Twice! Relevent perhaps?

    BPL: Barely. Since Venus’s albedo is more than twice Earth’s, that means the Venus climate system absorbs LESS sunlight than Earth does.

    F = (S / 4) (1 – A)

    where F is absorbed flux density, S the local solar constant, A the bolometric Russell-Bond spherical albedo. For Venus:

    163 = (2611 / 4) (1 – 0.75)

    For Earth:

    237 = (1366 / 4) (1 – 0.306)

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Sep 2010 @ 8:39 AM

  104. Further for Ed Mars — the carbon dioxide is not acting literally like adding one more \blanket\ (not like adding another thin layer). It doesn’t separate out, it mixes.

    Adding more CO2 to the atmosphere works something like — not literally like — adding a little more goose down down to your sleeping bag or blowing more insulation into your attic. CO2 slows down how fast heat escapes; adding more CO2 adds to the slowing down effect.

    As Gavin said, the added carbon dioxide ends up well mixed (eventually, once it gets far enough away from the smokestack or tailpipe or wherever the fossil carbon is being burned.)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Sep 2010 @ 8:41 AM

  105. Tim 78: Arguments along the lines of Venus may have been hospitable once are outrageously linearly minded.

    BPL: From the ratios of such things as argon and deuterium isotopes, it’s quite possible that Venus once had an extensive ocean.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Sep 2010 @ 8:44 AM

  106. 93 (Gilles),

    There are times and circumstances in history and society when a free market economy, and the natural cause-and-effect of economic pressures, simply do not work.

    Yes, when someone creates a wonderful new invention (the car, the telephone) then an infrastructure will quickly be developed to exploit that technology.

    But consider the case of schooling. There is no direct cause and effect of schooling. For a private school to be paid on the effectiveness of it’s schooling, it would need to wait thirty years to see how it’s students do in life. In addition, a large subset of the population (the children of blue collar workers) might simply choose to simply do without, to save the expense.

    So public education is mandated, and provided by the government except for the very affluent.

    Firefighting is another example. See this article, focused on the health care debate instead of climate change, for more information on the history of firefighting in the U.S. Firefighting was once a private, for-profit enterprise, and it was a disaster.

    Or how about wars. Consider WW II, or any other war for that matter. What if it was left entirely to the free market economy to fight wars? Would an entire nation be able to tool up and train an army, as the U.S. did leading up to WW II, and after Pearl Harbor, if it were left only to individual interests and economic pressures?

    It’s time to abandon the idea that only free market economy solutions will solve every problem.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 27 Sep 2010 @ 8:51 AM

  107. 99 (EdMars),

    Okay, CO2 is heavier than “air” (by which I assume you mean the predominantly O2/N2 mix, in which oxygen is also heavier than nitrogen).

    So if it weren’t well mixed, all of the CO2 would sink to the bottom, forming a fairly thick, separate layer of pure CO2, and any poor creature that lives on the Earth’s surface in need of O2 would pretty quickly suffocate and die.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 27 Sep 2010 @ 8:55 AM

  108. OT: Here’s an article describing how AGW is ruining the Coral reefs:

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/OPINION/09/27/harvell.coral.reefs/index.html?hpt=C2

    Comment by Paul Tremblay — 27 Sep 2010 @ 10:42 AM

  109. Re: CO2 is heavy. (Off topic)

    Non rigorous experiment.
    Wine shops used to sell a wine preserver which operated
    by removing the cork and spraying in a mixture of CO2 and N2. Of course it could work by displacing some of the oxygen by pressure, provided that you replaced the cork quickly, but the salesman argued that it depended for its action on the high density of CO2. When I tried one it failed.

    Even without turbulence, the gravitational effect would be opposed by diffusion.

    Why does this sell? (a) I did the experiment badly or (b) It relies on salesmanship and suggestion?

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 27 Sep 2010 @ 10:58 AM

  110. Re 93
    Which is worse for the economy, A planed refinery shut down with worker retraining into green industry; or the same refinery shut by Mother Nature in 3 hours with contamination of the area? In both cases, the refinery is gone. Which is the lessor of two evils?

    No current human infrastructure is safe from the weather that would be released in 30 years by unchecked global warming. Not military sites like NORAD, or nuclear waste repositories like those at Hanford, Washington.

    Moreover, small amounts of sea level rise could knock out organic chemical manufacturing and high strength steel pipe production facilities that are sole source suppliers of materials required to repair or “jack-up” oil industry infrastructure.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 27 Sep 2010 @ 11:50 AM

  111. John P. Reisman,

    You conclude that our last chance is ‘fee and dividend’ and this is of course a straightforward path to reducing CO2.

    I imagine that you are aware of significant resistance to this, and it seems not to have gained sufficient support to make it happen.

    Having concluded myself that this approach falls into the category of ‘make the bad guys suffer’ solutions, and that I differ about who the bad guys are, or if anyone among us is such, I look for better ways. Such better ways need to avoid punishment, neither of the industrial world that procuces and uses energy, nor of the public that has come to value the life styles derived from cheap energy.

    My first approach has involved finding ways to carry on the chosen life style functions in ways that use less energy without diminishing basic effectiveness. But it seems there might also be a way forward where government takes a role in establishing the ‘carbon capture’ system, doing this initially at public expense but evolving into a self supporting and payback mode. As an initially public funced project it would provide large employment of a constructive nature.

    I speak of the possibility of a national project to establish standing forests on a continental basis, meaning North America as the immediate example. Public land in the West should be sufficient, but water to accomplish this would be the main new ingredient; and it appears that there is sufficient water in the Northern areas to accomplish the entire needed forestation. Though not excluding of such, this project would not focus on agricultural production using newly to be tapped water sources would not be for the purpose of that production; rather, the goal would be to establish standing forests and otherwise permanent wood mass. Creation of permanent forest mass will capture the CO2 from using coal in electric power production on a roughly ton for ton basis. This means of course a massive scale project. But this would be a constructive course of action to enable continuation of the industrial revolution by which we have come to think of ourselves as a developed world society.

    As in solving any problem, important choices are necessary, involving rethinking of environmental priorities. For those who believe that we must at this time act effectively, the choices seem clear, though we must act with reasonable care for the status quo ecosystems involved.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 27 Sep 2010 @ 11:55 AM

  112. Pierre-Emmanuel Neurohr (#98)

    Just to be clear, a runaway greenhouse will eventually equilibriate to a stable surface temperature (generally after the oceans have been depleted). My point was that this is not inevitable if positive feedbacks dominate over negative ones. And it’s not even close on modern day Earth. Right now we’re only talking on the order of a few degrees vs. a degree or so.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 27 Sep 2010 @ 12:11 PM

  113. 111, Jim Bullis: Such better ways need to avoid punishment, neither of the industrial world that procuces and uses energy, nor of the public that has come to value the life styles derived from cheap energy.

    On that I disagree. The people who pay to replace the CO2-generating technologies ought to be the people who benefit from the creation of the CO2 most, and those people are the customers who buy the products, which are manufactured goods, fuel and electricity. Making someone else pay is the least just solution. This is why I favor a direct tax (which will transparently be passed to the purchasers) over cap-and-trade and fee-and-dividend (which will be passed on in a less direct manner.) The size of the tax necessary to make coal (especially) and other fossil fuels less attractive than their replacements is known; the tax could be introduced at a fraction of that, and gradually increased.

    Cap-and-trade and fee-and-dividend are more popular than a tax because it always seems from the description that someone else will pay, which is both deceptive (costs will always be passed on to the consumers of the products, or the producers will go bankrupt) and irresponsible. So cap-and-trade and fee-and-dividend are at best second-rate, and maybe worse.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 27 Sep 2010 @ 12:41 PM

  114. CO2 is heavier and you can get the gas from dry ice and see it stays at the bottom of an aquarium for a while–popular science museum experiment: http://www.google.com/search?q=co2+soap+bubble+float

    But go away and come back the next day and try it and it won’t work because the CO2 will have mixed into the rest of the atmosphere

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Sep 2010 @ 1:25 PM

  115. I have been urging the scientists here and elsewhere for years to consider this from a pragmatic, layman’s point of view, that a rise in CO2 rather automatically leads to a rise in temps and triggers feebacks, raising temps, thus sensitivity is, de facto, CO2 sensitivity + feedbacks.

    Thank you for finally writing it up like this. Speaking of sensitivity in this way will make it more accessible to the layperson and make it easier to deal with nitpicking denialists.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 27 Sep 2010 @ 1:44 PM

  116. #111 Jim Bullis

    I rarely conclude :)

    I can’t agree that this is a make the bad guys suffer approach though. And this of course does not impeded any other better ways.

    I do agree that there are lots of ways to reduce CO2

    First is reduction of consumption
    Second is choosing sustainable energy
    Third is policy

    I don’t think there is actually much resistance to Fee & Dividend. My experience thus far is that people do not understand the reasoning and policy is sort of a third rail.

    This added tot eh fact that people are suffering also issue fatigue adds to the complication factors.

    I remain confident that awareness will change, but the when is still a mystery. Policy is a complicated thing and getting the public aware of policy choices that may or may not be better than another will take a lot more work, including analysis.

    Thus far, I don’t see a simpler mechanism to achieve needed changes in carbon output that can work with the least damage or the most benefit depending on perspective.

    My goal remains identification and promotion of the best policy to achieve the results we need, whatever that is. Fee & Dividend fits the bill well and from all I can tell, is better than Cap & Trade by a long shot based on speed of potential to reduce based on implementation.


    Fee & Dividend: Our best chanceLearn the IssueSign the Petition
    A Climate Minute: Natural CycleGreenhouse EffectClimate Science HistoryArctic Ice Melt

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 27 Sep 2010 @ 1:44 PM

  117. Jim Bullis, you’re correct- reforesting North America could have major impacts on our carbon budget. Heath and Birdsey once calculated that (as an exercise) if we only stopped logging, we would attain CO2 sequestration in excess of 1 billion tons annually.

    The key will be encouraging diverse native species, rather than planting more vulnerable tree farms. Natural forests sequester far more carbon in both the short and long term.

    Realclimate needs to focus more on biological feedbacks. Gavin and company, I suggest that you consult with Dr. Harmon from Oregon State, the forest carbon guru, and Scripps at La Jolla for cutting edge work on the ocean carbon cycle.

    Building houses out of two by fours from clearcuts is almost as bad as burning gas for our cars, as I’ve detailed in a couple of my own articles.

    Comment by mike roddy — 27 Sep 2010 @ 1:45 PM

  118. RCM progress: I’m still parameterizing reflection rather than dealing explicitly with multiple scattering in the equation of radiative transfer. But my latest model is doing pretty well.

    Features:

    1. 20 layers of atmosphere, equal mass. Crude rayleigh scattering scheme based on inverse fourth power of mean wavelength in the band.

    2. 10 gases, 5 of them greenhouse (CH4, CO2, H2O, O2, O3). Ozone distribution after Bradford and Lange 2007. Water vapor distribution after Stephens 1990. Absorption coefficients from Gonima 1992, Chou et al. 1998, Essenhigh 2001. 101 bands, 17 shortwave and 84 longwave.

    3. 2 types of cloud in 3 layers. Cloud distribution scheme after Kiehl and Trenberth 1997. Absorption coefficients from Chou et al. 1998 and Hadley CRU.

    4. “Swamp model” surface, 1 m of seawater, shortwave albedo 0.14 (ISCCP 2009), IR emissivity 0.996 (ECHAM5 GCM).

    5. TSI 1366.1 W/m^2 (after Lean 2000).

    Results:

    1. Albedo 0.296–Trenberth et al. 2009 got 0.299. Absorbed flux density 240.5 W/m^2 (239.0). OLR deficient by 5.3% (0%). Surface illumination 205.3 W/m^2 (161.2).

    2. Surface temperature 290.1 K (288.0), stratosphere 232.9 (220?), troposphere 259.7 (265?), whole atmosphere 254.3 (249.0?)

    3. Tropopause height 13.7 km (should be 11), TOA height 36 km (actual troposphere + stratosphere is about 48 km, but this is due to discretization of the atmosphere, unavoidable in a model).

    Next I’m going to try accounting for downward reflection, which I haven’t got yet. That should clean up most of the energy imbalance. I might also try a sigma-pressure scheme for layer thickness rather than equal mass.

    P.S. It might help if the “Say It!” button came AFTER the CAPTCHA box. Any tired person might click “Say It!” as soon as they came to it, without even seeing the box yet, especially if they got that far by scrolling down.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Sep 2010 @ 2:25 PM

  119. Re 111 Jim Bullis

    I imagine that you are aware of significant resistance to this, and it seems not to have gained sufficient support to make it happen.

    probably because people don’t understand the issue

    Having concluded myself that this approach falls into the category of ‘make the bad guys suffer’ solutions, and that I differ about who the bad guys are, or if anyone among us is such,

    But it’s not ‘make the bad guys suffer’. It’s not a fine, it’s not jail time. It’s a fee, or a tax, intended to correct an externality. If it weren’t an externality, it would already be included in the prices. It’s not crime and punishment, it’s supply and demand.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 27 Sep 2010 @ 3:15 PM

  120. BPL @102

    The wind removes heat from the earth’s surface and the speed of the wind determines the rate of removal.

    From 37

    In \Weather\ by Lehr, Burnett and Zim on page 9, they state \The atmosphere as a thermostat controls the earth’s heat as automatically as in any heating system\ and \Its acts as an _insulating blanket_ which keeps most of the heat from escaping at night.\

    Presumably this refers to the 24 hour day.

    The book is one of the Golden Nature Guides.

    The insulating properties of the atmosphere drops off rapidly with elevaton because the density of air decreases i.e., it can not hold as much heat as denser air at sea level.

    Comment by Harold Pierce Jr — 27 Sep 2010 @ 3:55 PM

  121. Gavin, but the atmosphere isn’t well mixed by turbulence, there are winds, but they vary. Carbon dioxide is considerably heavier than air, so it is always moving downwards towards the ground. There’s somewhere in South America, Venezuela, that has massive lightening storms most days of the year fed by the methane, which is lighter than air, rising from the marshy area around six miles high into the atmosphere.

    [Response: Err.... not sure where you getting this stuff from, but you should look up some vertical profile data (here for instance - fig 1). Methane is basically well-mixed throughout the troposphere. There is a gradient from North to South of a few tens of ppb and some variations in the vertical as a function of air masses, but this is because of varying sources and is nothing to do with buoyancy. - gavin]

    Comment by EdMars — 27 Sep 2010 @ 4:43 PM

  122. @119 (Pierce),

    The Golden Nature Guide may not have mentioned them, but please be assured that greenhouse gases are the insulating part of the atmosphere. If you could somehow take all the greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, then the atmosphere would no longer insulate.

    Infrared radiation is the relevant process, not heat conduction. Suppose that the atmosphere was a perfect heat conductor, so that its (potential) temperature was uniformly the same as the surface. Even then, if the atmosphere were also transparent to infrared radiation, the Earth’s surface would radiate directly to space, making the surface much colder than it is now.

    Thank those rascally greenhouse gases for our warm snuggly climate.

    Comment by Imback — 27 Sep 2010 @ 6:42 PM

  123. Making ice in the desert, using radiative cooling:
    http://yarchive.net/space/ice_in_desert.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Sep 2010 @ 7:06 PM

  124. 107,109:
    If we were to make the atmosphere peerfectly still, all the CO2 wouldn’t separte out out the bottom. In perfectly still air the tendency would be for each atmospheric consituent to have its own pressure gardient, which depends upon gravity, the temperature and the constituents molecular weight. CO2 mixing ratio would be highest at ground level and would decrease with height, but the change would be gradual taking several klometers to become large. It might make an interesting physics though experiment to calculate how long it would take to acheive this weak-form separation, but I bet it is many times longer than anyplace on the planet remains still.

    There is some confusion about air insolating the ground from space. In addition to thermal radiative processes, which might be crudly described as insolation from the cold of space, the air stores and releases heat. So in addition to the thermal storage in the solid ground, the heating/cooling of the air increases the effective thermal mass of the planets surface.

    Comment by Thomas — 27 Sep 2010 @ 9:09 PM

  125. Imback @122

    They discuss incorrectly the GHE on p. 8 and state “…it is re-radiated as heat waves, most of which are trapped by water vapor in the atmosphere. Thus the earth is kept warm. “It” refers to absorbed solar radiation’

    “Thank those rascally greenhouse gases for our warm snuggly climate.”

    Unless you live in the polar regions. When the sun drops below the horizon, the land and air get cold quite quickly.

    You should check out the interesting “Ice Road Truckers” on the history channel

    Comment by Harol-radd Pierce Jr — 27 Sep 2010 @ 9:23 PM

  126. John P. Reisman, et al: It would seem that under fee and dividend (seems could just as accurately be called tax and distribute…) there ought to be a mechanism to invest a major portion of the receipts in the massive replacement energy construction and 2nd tier efforts required (especially with stopping new coal dead in its tracks), as opposed to dividends for the public. Or is the expectation that private capital will suit up and gear up sufficiently to fill the gap?

    Comment by Rod B — 27 Sep 2010 @ 9:38 PM

  127. mike roddy, et al: I thought forestation (flora) capture was mostly a short term (10-30 years) sequestration. Isn’t most of the carbon eventually returned to the atmosphere and only some permanently held in the soil/rock? Or, what is the accepted breakdown?

    Is it the clear cutting part or the house framing part that causes the problem? Aren’t 2x4s an almost permanent sequestration?

    Comment by Rod B — 27 Sep 2010 @ 9:49 PM

  128. Rod B,

    Forests that are allowed to regenerate continue to add carbon for a century or two, depending on the site. Here’s a stat for you: After a forest fire, 80% of the site carbon remains. After industrial logging, only 15-20% is “locked up” in lumber, and the rest decays in the short term. This is the opposite of public perception, and is not controversial among forest carbon scientists.

    The key is allowing nature to take its course. Plantation forestry is not nearly as good for sequestering carbon, since monocultures are less fecund and are vulnerable to climate change. The problem is, there’s no profits to be made in allowing our great forests to return.

    Comment by mike roddy — 27 Sep 2010 @ 11:07 PM

  129. Rod B:

    Only about 15-20% of the carbon on a clearcut site ends up in lumber, and that begins to degrade immediately. The original Kyoto rules didn’t even allow for lumber sequestration, since they are replacing wood products that have decayed.

    Here’s a stat for you: 80% of forest site carbon remains after a fire, the opposite of what happens after logging, and also the opposite of what most people believe.

    Forests are “harvested” early in their growth periods, 30-50 years after planting. They are still putting on girth and sequestering carbon unti they reach approximate equilibrium in a century or two (depending on the site). At that point the carbon is locked up, and actually increases gradually due to soil enhancement and additional growth from secondary species.

    All of this is well known among forest carbon scientists, wbut they are drowned out by timber industry PR.

    Comment by mike roddy — 27 Sep 2010 @ 11:10 PM

  130. Aaron @ 82:

    For example, suppose past floods on the stream had been 18 feet above normal stream flow. The powers that be build flood dikes that are 20 feet high. Then, (as a result of climate change) a 22 foot flood comes along and floods everything. The climate has changed,. and this happens again and again.

    The #1 cause of severe flood damage is flood control projects.

    A woman I knew a few years back bought a house just outside the French Quarter. It was a converted shotgun double — meaning, it used to be a shotgun double, and now it’s a single.

    When Katrina flooded her house, almost nothing happened because it was built at a time when New Orleans was =expected= to flood. Our last house in the city was the third to last house in the subdivision to be built. We built ours, a family we’d known for about 10 years built catty-corner from us, then the last lot was built as a “Cajun Cottage” on pier-and-beam — the rest were slab houses. The “Cajun Cottage” was built after the flood insurance people stopped covering stupidity — they got no water from Katrina. We built our place after a survey that showed the centerline of the street was -1 foot MSL (our slab was +1 foot MSL), our friends likewise built according to the new survey and got no water.

    A lot of “problems” exist because people persist in denying reality, not because of 10, 20, 50 or 100 year events.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 28 Sep 2010 @ 12:01 AM

  131. Very nice post. Agree that it’s always useful to come back to the big picture.

    “It can be shown that for every Watt per square meter radiative forcing the climate would warm by about 0.3 °C without any other responses.”

    Could somebody point me out to a detailed calculation of this 0.3°C?
    I read a book where they estimate it at 0.18°C. There must be a mistake somewhere, but I can’t find it (it looks so simple!).
    Thanks

    Comment by Naindj — 28 Sep 2010 @ 3:55 AM

  132. My understanding is that increasing levels of water vapor is the most important feedback. I have seen various figures quoted as to actual increase from mid last century to today EG 1.5% to over 15%. Is there a reliable source available for these figures somewhere ?
    Am I right in thinking that the main reason that the atmospheric water vapor would increase in a warmer world is that it would be able to ascend to greater heights without condensing into water droplets thus increasing the total volume of atmosphere available to hold water vapor ?
    Or is it simply that a fixed volume of warmer air can hold more water vapor before becoming saturated ?

    Comment by warmair — 28 Sep 2010 @ 5:47 AM

  133. #126 Rod W. Brick

    I think you and I ‘may’ be similar in pragmatic consideration on the economic side of the equation and I admit I lean objective on this. We are not in a free market system at this time. I may be wrong in my assumptions but I don’t think so. So here’s my perspective on the danger zones:

    Keeping a portion of it for energy replacement construction places the cash in the hands of politicians. Generally a dangerous thing to do as it then becomes a football and contributes to political expediency and campaign favors as to who gets the cookies based on how much sugar was donated to influence the recipe at a particular point in time.

    The resource scarcity issues will contribute to monetary economic stressors. Delivering monies back to the people will reduce some of these stressors, which in turn should reduce other costs that occur when unemployment rises. Productivity and monetary economy considerations must not be ignored and monetary flow and amounts do regulate costs in certain areas. Higher flows can offset costs that would result form lower flows. No, this is not soci-alism either, it is a revenue neutral mechanism designed to offset costs and incentives transition to an energy economy that is more sustainable.

    The fee places a graduating stressor on the use of fossil fuels and thus places a reasonably calculable pace to the changes. This allows insurance companies and business in general a metric by which to calculate the change in context of business mechanisms. This is very important to have a reasonably reliable metric as it allows for better business planning.

    Also, keeping the politicians fingers out of the sugar jar forces free-market development of energy solutions. This reduces the danger of ineffective solutions development. When it’s your money, you are less likely to waste it. When the money was given to you by collections from taxes ‘looters’ in Rand speak, then there is less incentive to spend wisely.

    Any mechanism that directs energy toward objective and thereby pragmatic implementation of energy economy transition should prove more effective and efficient, overall.

    I addressed many concerns from business and finance people in US and Europe here:

    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/q-a/

    Names of course are withheld to protect our ability to talk at gatherings ;)


    Fee & Dividend: Our best chanceLearn the IssueSign the Petition
    A Climate Minute: Natural CycleGreenhouse EffectClimate Science HistoryArctic Ice Melt

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 28 Sep 2010 @ 5:51 AM

  134. Rod B wrote: “… It would seem that under fee and dividend (seems could just as accurately be called tax and distribute …”

    Oh, the injustice of requiring polluters to pay the costs of their pollution rather than forcing the rest of us to pay for it.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Sep 2010 @ 6:20 AM

  135. Rod B (#126),
    Fee & Dividend is agnostic as to the measures taken to reduce emissions. It allows every individual and every organization to make its own choices within the constraints of the environment it operates in. It does not mandate that measures should be funded by private or public capital. Yes, it does not mandate public investments but it doesn’t not forbid them either. Yes, it does not restrict businesses from investing and offering any products and services but such restrictions might be implemented independently from the tax.
    For instance, while the tax is implemented the national level, a local government might decide to undertake an upgrade of an infrastructure and to force private parties to use it and to bear the cost of this public investment. But in another part of the country, private capital might be called on to make similar investments in order to make offers to customers who are free to choose their own service providers. If it should become clear after some time that one approach yields better results than the other, one would assume that people will want to switch to the approach that works best at solving this particular problem. Fee & Dividend would not interfere with that process.

    Fee & Dividend has no mechanism to invest the proceeds of the tax into non-fossil energy for several reasons:
    -because it is agnostic, it does not assume that a particular amount of energy production is optimal (perhaps investing in conservation would be more economical in certain situations)
    -because it is agnostic, it does not assume that the government which implements the scheme is also able to mandate the most appropriate investments
    -because it is designed to reward people who have low emissions (whether they have invested to lower their emissions or are simply frugal), it allows them to do whatever they want with the proceeds of the tax instead of forcing them to contribute to investments they don’t necessarily want or need
    -because it is designed not to unnecessarily increase wages, unemployment, poverty and bankruptcies, it allows most consumers to balance their budget by offseting the inflation caused by the tax with the increased revenue provided by the tax
    -because it is designed to be popular, it puts cheques in everyone’s hands instead of in the hands of politicians and their cronies

    Fee & Dividend is an incentive to implement solutions, not a comprehensive blueprint. It is not an incentive to do any particular thing such as “stopping new coal”. It’s an incentive to lower emissions. If physics and the economic situation dictates that the cheapest way to lower emissions is to stop using coal for baseload generation, then that’s what people will most likely do if they are motivated to lower their emissions.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 28 Sep 2010 @ 6:33 AM

  136. HP 120,

    Golden Nature Guides dumb things down for a non-technical audience. If you want specifics, Earth’s surface loses 356 watts per square meter by longwave radiation, 97 by conduction and convection together.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 28 Sep 2010 @ 6:43 AM

  137. Re #114 Hank

    Nice experiment.

    Less nice. There was a terrible accident in the UK some decades ago when a group of workers were suffocated by an unexpected build up of CO2. I have forgotten the details, but it also confirms that mixing takes a finite time. It is also relevant to the storage part of the hypothetical “carbon capture and storage” * procedure because that would have to ensure that unexpected massive leaks did not happen near humans.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 28 Sep 2010 @ 6:53 AM

  138. Bob “It’s time to abandon the idea that only free market economy solutions will solve every problem.”
    Oh, sure, let me make you a confidence : I don’t think that free market economy will solve every problem ! but I can’t see where I said that, and how you answered my comment – that a strong reduction of FF would certainly have catastrophic consequences on the whole economy. You may estimate that the catastrophe is less harmful than that produced by climate change – but it is disputable.

    Chris #112 : “And it’s not even close on modern day Earth. Right now we’re only talking on the order of a few degrees vs. a degree or so.”
    Do you think that an amplification by 3 or so is not “close” to a runaway? well it depends on what you’re calling “close”, but are you comfortable with the idea that the retroaction factor F has never varied by more than 50 % in a warm period as ours (barring the glaciation-deglaciation transition) ?

    Comment by Gilles — 28 Sep 2010 @ 7:10 AM

  139. I think I stand corrected. People are starting to assimilate the importance of the neutral positioning of the Fee & Dividend as an effective mechanism.

    This is, even on this small scale, encouraging.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 28 Sep 2010 @ 7:33 AM

  140. EdMars, you should look up turbopause – the point above which the atmosphere is, as you describe, separated into layers based on molecular mass. The turbopause is at an altitude of (very approximately) 100 km. This is generally regarded as the edge of space, so the stratified layers (the heterosphere) really accounts for only a tiny portion of the atmosphere.

    You are also right that there are local imbalances of various gases near the surface, near processes that add or remove these gases from the atmosphere. For example, CO2 is a well-mixed gas, but there is still a much higher concentration of CO2 around industrialised areas.

    So, that’s what you are right about. However, you are wrong when you say that turbulent mixing and diffusion doesn’t happen. It does, and in more situations than just the atmosphere. If you were right, then the colouring in a soft drink would sink to the bottom if you left it for a while. But that doesn’t happen, even though the colouring molecules are much bigger than the water molecules.

    Comment by Didactylos — 28 Sep 2010 @ 8:52 AM

  141. An interesting real-life “case study” of CO2 mixing is the ongoing Mammoth Mountain discharge. There, subterranean volcanic sources, active since 1996, emit 50-150 tons of CO2 daily, creating a “tree-kill zone”–one must presume it’s not too friendly for any other aerobic organisms either–which poses a potential hazard to humans and their animals that the USGS seems to take quite seriously. Details here:

    http://volcanoes.usgs.gov/lvo/activity/monitoring/co2.php

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 28 Sep 2010 @ 8:57 AM

  142. mike roddy, thanks for the info. a couple of follow up questions: Is the 80% carbon lockup after a forest fire because most of the carbon energy stores turns to charcoal and only 20% actually oxidizes to CO2 in the fire? Or what?

    The 15% figure for lumber is hard to swallow (at least for me who knows little). Is it that only 15% of a log is sawed into lumber with the rest decaying or some such production waste (really hard to swallow), or is it that of the cut lumber eventually 85% of it eventually decays to CO2 and only 15% stays sequestered? Would pressure treated lumber be different?

    I can’t comprehend the plantation vs natural reforestation differences. How does the tree know what it is? My understanding is that early growth (1st 10-15 yrs) carbon “absorption” is far greater than late growth. Is that wrong? But, from your info new to me, I think you said that older trees (50-100yrs?) for some reason permanently sequestered more carbon percentage wise after their natural death than do younger cut trees. Did I get this correct? Is that the reason for the plantation vs natural differences?

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Sep 2010 @ 9:41 AM

  143. Anonymous Coward, I don’t disagree with your thoughts in #135, but I think there is a very large gulf between the plan’s theory and the reality of what might occur. With one exception: as I understand it, the current Fee/Dividend bill floating around Congress prohibits any coal-fired power plant’s construction or operating (including for one 99% complete) permits from being issued as of about July 2011 (the presumed effective date of the law). That IS pretty much stopping new coal dead in its tracks.

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Sep 2010 @ 10:51 AM

  144. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=maracaibo+lightning
    That part’s real.
    “The highest flash rate of the planet has 17.43 flash km-2 year-1 in total mean lightning flash rate, and is located over the Maracaibo Lake in Venezuela [9.625oN, 71.875oW]…..”
    http://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/147355.pdf
    TROPICAL FREQUENCY AND DISTRIBUTION OF LIGHTNING BASED ON 10 YEARS OF OBSERVATIONS FROM SPACE BY THE LIGHTNING IMAGING SENSOR

    Not a mystery, not unexplained, not methane, not replacing the ozone layer, despite what Google finds in the rains-of-frogs articles.

    Google Scholar is always worth checking, when you see weird stuff.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2010 @ 10:51 AM

  145. BPL (135) you inadvertently passed over the direct 40 watts. Earth’s surface emits 396 watts per square meter by longwave radiation…

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Sep 2010 @ 10:58 AM

  146. Naindj: Could somebody point me out to a detailed calculation of this 0.3°C?

    The Earth’s radiative equilibrium temperature Te is

    Te = (F / σ)0.25

    where Te is in K, F is the absorbed flux density in W m-2, and σ is the Stefan Boltzmann constant, 5.6704 x 10-8 K4 W-1 m-2.

    For a solar constant of S = 1366.1 W m-2, and Earth’s bolometric Russell-Bond spherical albedo of 0.306, the absorbed climate flux is (1366.1 / 4) (1 – 0.306) or 237 W m-2. This gives a radiative equilibrium temperature of 254.3 K.

    Doubling carbon dioxide should increase radiative forcing by 3.7 W m-2 (Myhre et al. 1998). F would then be 240.7 W m-2 and Te would rise to 255.3 K, an increase of 1 K. This is with no feedbacks.

    Another way to derive it is from the Stefan-Boltzmann law. Given that

    F = σ T4

    the first derivative with respect to temperature becomes

    dF/dT = 4 σ T3

    Back-solving for dT,

    dT = dF / (4 σ T3)

    for T = 254.3 K and dF = 3.7 W m-2, we obtain dT = 1 K.

    1 / 3.7 then yields 0.27 K W-1 m-2 as the Earth’s present climate sensitivity in the absence of feedbacks. 0.27 rounds off to 0.3.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 28 Sep 2010 @ 10:59 AM

  147. Gavin, thanks, but the polar vortex has nothing to do with the particular lightning phenomenon in Venezuela, which is purely local only 6 miles up and happens 150 days a year and has been going on for centuries; Drake’s ships were caught in its light.

    http://www.suite101.com/content/the-worlds-largest-lightning-storm-a148124

    Thomas, carbon dioxide is one and half times heavier than air, this isn’t a “weak-form” separation, it is considerably heavier and displaces the air and sinks to the ground. There are many examples of this happening in real life situations, breweries, mines, wells, and the recent lake event in the Cameroons. These show that the carbon dioxide sinks to the ground in the atmosphere, only moving when disturbed, wind and so on.

    I’d say your layering, that it gets thinner the higher up in the atmosphere, is indicative of this, because its natural property is to sink displacing the lighter molecules of nitrogen and oxygen.

    Didactylos, I’m not saying that turbulent mixing and diffusion doesn’t happen, I’m saying the opposite in fact. That this turbulence, wind, is what moves carbon dioxide, because heavier than air it can’t move on its own to diffuse through the air; its property is to always sink through air where it is, displacing air.

    I haven’t the faintest idea what that that experiment is supposed to show. One I’ve seen mentioned recently is making a vinaigrette, after a short while the component molecules separate out and turbulence has to be added to mix it again.

    You’ve all given examples where CO2 isn’t a “well mixed” gas, and that gases do layer, so how can you say it is well mixed in the atmosphere?

    Since carbon dioxide displaces air it will do so throughout the atmosphere. It is always displacing air unless something is acting on it to change its direction.

    [Response: Wikipedia is perhaps a better source on this, but the idea that methane is the cause of lightning because of it's buoyancy is still unsupported by anything I know. Lightning maps can be seen here and do not correspond to methane concentrations, and I know of no mechanism that would suggest a connection. The pattern is thought mainly to be a function of the strength of moist convection. There is no evidence of buoyancy driven separation of gases in the troposphere - it is just too turbulent and the concentrations of CO2 and CH4 are too small for this to be significant. - gavin]

    Comment by EdMars — 28 Sep 2010 @ 11:35 AM

  148. Someone at ClimateProgress has posted that the heat content of one gallon of gasoline produces 100,000 times that heat content in future CO2 warming. OK (actually, it’s NOT OK!)

    Someone else posted that flying has the largest carbon footprint of any mode of travel. Many times that of driving the distance in an automobile. They said that if people only fly when absolutely necessary, we could substantially reduce our nation’s carbon load and actually make a dent in the rising CO2 curve. That’s Good, so stop flying.

    On those three unhappy no-fly days right after 9/11, the skies over America were the clearest and bluest that they had been in decades. Didn’t ozone levels drop on those days too? And CO2 ground levels?

    Obviously jet aircraft produce a lot of CO2 with the potential for global warming, other combustion products, and particulates.

    So here’s a climatology question:

    SInce jets generally fly above 10,000 feet up to 50,000 feet, most of the CO2 that they produce is at high altitudes and there’s plenty of it;
    Does the CO2 emitted by jet planes in the upper troposphere have a greater global warming effect than if the same amount of fuel were burned at ground levels? Is there an atmospheric layer somewhere above that has higher levels of CO2 than at the ground? Does high altitude CO2 effect more climate change than ground level CO2?

    Would there be an added benefit to greatly reducing the number of jet miles flown daily worldwide (besides the obvious reduction) in fossil fuel burned because the CO2 wouldn’t be released eight miles up?

    Comment by catman306 — 28 Sep 2010 @ 11:38 AM

  149. A nitpick correction to my comments of “fee & dividend:” The primary related bill floating around the House IS a tax and is an amendment to the Internal Revenue Code. The “dividend” will be paid as a tax credit. Whether this goes to the 20% or so of filers or the roughly 40% (so some assert) of individuals that pay no income tax is unclear. Finally, while it was in one of the main lobbying group’s recommendations for this bill (my 1st source), I can’t find (so far) in the bill itself anything about not permitting coal-fired power plants — not what I said earlier to Anonymous Coward.

    There may be other bills or bill wannabes making the rounds that have other stuff.

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Sep 2010 @ 12:24 PM

  150. RCM progress: By accounting explicitly for reflection downward, my temperature accuracy got a little worse–295 K at the surface, 235 K in the stratosphere. On the other hand, the conservation-of-energy imbalance went from 5.3% to only 1.3%, so it was worth it. Now to find out why my climate system is hotter than Earth’s…

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 28 Sep 2010 @ 12:29 PM

  151. In its 2002 report, The Environmental Effects of Civil Aircraft in Flight, the UK’s Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) noted that in terms of fuel use:

    Allowing for the effects…leading to a factor of around 3 [times greater] in the radiative forcing of carbon dioxide from aircraft compared to terrestrial transport, travelling by air is broadly equivalent to one or two people travelling in a passenger car. The Commission has already pointed out in its Eighteenth and Twentieth Reports that passenger cars are more environmentally damaging than any other form of surface transport. The comparisons presented here show that air transport is in the same category, albeit with a much better safety record.

    The Boeing 787 will lower fuel consumption by about 20% over those airplanes flying in 2002. Also average passenger loading is pretty much at an all-time high as airlines have drastically cut back their fleets, and a large percentage of flights are full, or nearly full (despite airline efforts to pack more seats into each plane).

    I assume, but don’t have figures handy, that high-speed electric rail such as Spain’s AVE, Germany’s ICE, and France’s TGV networks, is significantly better than either air or auto transport (recaptcha: Railroad himpsey).

    But I think those who claim that air travel is much worse (from a climate POV) than average auto travel for long-distance transport haven’t really investigated those claims.

    On the other hand, there seems to be more upside for improving mileage for automobiles than for improving fuel consumption for commercial airliners – manufacturers in the latter sector have been focused on lowering fuel consumption for a long time.

    Comment by dhogaza — 28 Sep 2010 @ 12:31 PM

  152. Warmair #132

    Essentially the latter.

    The simple answer is the Clausius-Clapeyron relation. The saturation vapor pressure of water is an exponential function of temperature. In very basic terms, “the warmer it is, the more water can exist as a gas.” I hate the phrase many use, that “warmer air can hold more water vapor”, because the air has nothing to do with it (partial pressures of ideal gasses are not dependent upon the pressures of other ideal gasses).

    Comment by Nick — 28 Sep 2010 @ 12:34 PM

  153. 134, Secular Animist: Oh, the injustice of requiring polluters to pay the costs of their pollution rather than forcing the rest of us to pay for it.

    The people who benefit from the pollution, including CO2, ought to be the people who pay to remediate it, in my opinion. Mostly, this set of people is comprised of those who buy the products: fuel, electricity, manufactured goods. Direct taxation, fee-and-dividend, and cap-and-trade all do this because the producers pass the costs to the consumers. Put differently, the “external costs” become “internalized”. The advantage of taxing and fee-and-dividend is that the amount (tax or fee) necessary to make the CO2-generating power more expensive than the CO2-free power is known.

    Secular Animist wrote in irony, but the point is that the people who benefit ought to pay the cost. Up above someone called this “punishing” consumers, but really it is “accountability”, or “responsibility”. One has to get rid of the idea that someone else must pay; we all must pay.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 28 Sep 2010 @ 12:36 PM

  154. Rod,
    What bill are you talking about? A Cap & Dividend bill has been introduced but I haven’t heard about a Fee & Dividend bill. In any case, I agree that stopping the construction of all coal plants would be irrational. Better mandate the closure of the dirtiest plants or put breaks on coal extraction (and imports, if applicable). I would at least hope that such a bill allows operators to close an old plant in exchange for bringing a new one on line. People may not realize that coal isn’t that bad when it’s not being used for baseload, especially when the alternative is to turn to reckless natgas production methods. But sometimes you have to settle for the least-bad irrational legislation. That’s politics for you.
    Please leave your gulf of FUD alone and keep to rational objections to policies. FYI, FUD = fear, uncertainty and doubt (the groundless variety which is sown by vague rhetoric)

    Catman,
    In general, commercial flights aren’t that bad. It depends on what you use as a basis for comparison and other details. In particular, I believe a typical airliner filled with passengers on a longish route would emit a lot less than a couple of hundred SUVs driven between those two airports. If you filled high-mileage cars with passengers, the picture would look quite different. Buses could easily emit less than planes as well and trains would obviously emit even less.
    A flat tax on all carbon emissions would avoid us the trouble of arguing about efficency metrics and the like…

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 28 Sep 2010 @ 12:42 PM

  155. 117, Mike Roddy: Jim Bullis, you’re correct- reforesting North America could have major impacts on our carbon budget.

    The 20th century reforestation of the US is one of the most extensive reforestations ever undertaken. Even accounting for the 20th century harvesting of the redwood forests, there is more forest in the US now than 100 years ago. American negotiators at the Kyoto treaty tried to get this ongoing reforestation recognized in the treaty, but were unsuccessful.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 28 Sep 2010 @ 12:43 PM

  156. It might be possible to put intelligent human activity into the feedback loop, where with wise government it would be a significant negative feedback.

    I have described this elsewhere, but would particularly look here for the biochar advocates that were writing here some time ago, since this seems like a useful element of the solution I describe in the following:

    I particularly reacted to the the plan by the EPA to require ‘best available technology’ and the report by them where they said ‘carbon’ capture would cost up to $95 per ton of CO2, and I worked this out in terms of the burden on the use of a ton of coal. It looks to me like the effective cost of using a ton of Powder River Basin coal (half the element carbon by weight) wil go from around $20 now to around $200. Being fond of the products of the industrial revolution that we characterize as the developed world, I see this as a problem. Putting down the industrial revolution ;might seem desirable to some, but I suspect that when we all return to the fields to scratch out a living, there will be a certain measure of discontent. Some might call it a depression; I think it will be seen as a major disaster at some time in the future.

    Thus motivated to find a different way to capture CO2 and thereby stumbled on a solution that seems eminently superior to pounding ‘carbon’ down a rat hole. It also seems superior to paving the desert with solar hardware or even windmills. The key is to create standing forests where every ton of existing forest mass, on a sustaining basis compensates by CO2 capture the burning of a ton of coal, approximately.

    The self supporting solution requires us to rethink the water distribution left us by nature in North America. I guess we can blame it on the glaciers. We have vast regions of abysmallly productive land due to the lack of water. We know how enormously productive such regions can be by looking at the California Central Valley where the latest built California Aquaduct brought great amounts of water to theis agricultural area as well as to a big part of Los Angeles. Maybe the call to capture CO2 will now be louder than the call to keep the status quo left us by the glaciers.

    With due diligence in protecting the ecosystem of North America there is a rational possibility to change the way water is distributed in North America, where Northern water would be carried by an aquaduct system all the way to Mexico, and maybe further,

    It seems to have gone by un-noticed, but Pres. Hu of China stated their plan to do much the same thing, though not to the extent needed, it showed some serious innovation going on there that we may be missing.

    I see the basic aquaduct system as a massive federal project of the scope less than the Federal Highway program, but still very large. It would include both construction and long term forest management to establish and maintain the standing forest system. Agricultural usage would be a way to make it financially sustainable and some support from the coal industry could be a reasonable way to generate a source of capital. And we could continue to enjoy inexpensive electric power for the next few hundred years based on coal.

    Adding this to efficiency measures I have discussed elsewhere, it seems possible that we could have a complete solution to global warming.

    This forestry based part of the solution could be a self supporting enterprise led by wise government. Do you think there might be any of this around?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Sep 2010 @ 12:49 PM

  157. EdMars said “Didactylos, I’m not saying that turbulent mixing and diffusion doesn’t happen, I’m saying the opposite in fact. That this turbulence, wind, is what moves carbon dioxide, because heavier than air it can’t move on its own to diffuse through the air; its property is to always sink through air where it is, displacing air.”

    Gas molecules don’t just sink. Yes, gravity acts on them, but that’s a relatively small factor compared to their molecular kinetic energy. In short, the molecules are zooming around in all directions, and bouncing off other molecules, and they are just as likely to zoom upwards as downwards.

    The key thing about the atmosphere above the turbopause is that the air density is so low that molecules go a very long way before they hit another molecule and head off in a new (random) direction. The small influence of gravity is unchanged, but now it dominates simply because the diffusion effect is so small.

    Your comparison with a vinaigrette is well-intended, but it’s a perfect example of this process *not* happening. This is because a vinaigrette is an emulsion, not a mixture. That is, the oil forms tiny droplets in the water. Tiny, but much, much bigger than a single molecule. As such, molecular physics isn’t relevant here, and in time, the emulsion will separate as the oil floats to the surface.

    I hope you persevere with this topic. Probably you don’t want to rely too much on Wikipedia, because it is very, very thin on this subject. A basic chemistry textbook might help, I suppose.

    Okay, one last example: hopefully a simple one. An ethanol molecule is heavier than the average air molecule, right? But if you leave a bottle of pure alcohol unstoppered for a while, it will evaporate – and the molecules won’t just “sink” back into the bottle, they will instead diffuse across the room. You will know this is happening because you will be able to smell it. Don’t believe me? Experiment with a wine bottle….

    Comment by Didactylos — 28 Sep 2010 @ 12:59 PM

  158. > carbon dioxide … displaces the air and sinks to the ground.

    Nope. You’re not alone, this was Wegman’s famous error.
    But he corrected himself. You can too.

    Think about this and you’ll figure out this is wrong.

    You can tell if CO2 accumulated in mines and lakes is from the air behaving the way you describe, or if it’s instead CO2 coming from sources in the ground and, from that source, immediately accumulating in low and enclosed areas. They’re different mixes of isotopes.

    That’s how we know the CO2 increase is coming from fossil fuels.

    All the examples you gave are of CO2 from fossil sources coming out of the ground into lake water or mines and accumulating there.

    If CO2 were going to sink out of the atmosphere as though it were so many little heavy particles, then — think about it, what would happen?

    Every deep basin would be full of CO2.
    That tank with the soap bubbles — would still work the next day.
    Every empty swimming pool indoors in a closed room would become a death trap. CO2 would flow down into every open well and basement.
    All the CO2 would sink to the top of the ocean and mix into the oceans.

    None of that happens.

    Look at Spencer Weart’s book (first link under Science).

    If you’re reading something that tells you different — where are you reading it, and why do you consider it a reliable source?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2010 @ 2:09 PM

  159. Septic Matthew wrote: “The people who benefit from the pollution, including CO2, ought to be the people who pay to remediate it, in my opinion. Mostly, this set of people is comprised of those who buy the products …”

    Of course those “who benefit” wouldn’t be the fossil fuel corporations who rake in ONE BILLION DOLLARS PER DAY IN PROFIT from “those who buy the products”.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Sep 2010 @ 2:44 PM

  160. 157 Hank Roberts

    I think this is the same reason that the ‘mixed layer’ of the oceans does not trap heat, as the climate modeling done here seems to assume.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Sep 2010 @ 2:50 PM

  161. 117 Mike Roddy,

    It seems we are in many ways in agreement, but what I am talking about is much bigger in scope than just encouraging natural species, not that this would not be a good guide in how to proceed.

    I understand that there were great forests in the eastern Midwest before we mowed them down, and these might be encouraged. However, realism suggests that we move to otherwise minimally productive areas such as the great western deserts, where the addition of water could enable this large scale change that we need.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Sep 2010 @ 3:01 PM

  162. Jim B. writes:
    > I think … the ‘mixed layer’ of the oceans does not trap heat
    (Because of something about CO2 being too heavy to mix? If you have a pointer to anything supporting that, please post; not worth pursuing here)

    Why would the oceans be any different than lakes?
    You can swim in the mixed layer — it’s the warm water on the top.
    You can find the same in salt water though you need to dive deeper to hit the colder water below the mixed layer.
    Turning over of the lake water as the seasons change has long been studied.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2010 @ 3:11 PM

  163. 158 Secular animist,

    The way I see things is that we all benefit as part of the developed world that happened as a result of the industrial revolution, and this of course happened because of cheap fossil fuel. All that balanced out into an economic system, with large injustices of course, but nevertheless, we all thrived on the result.

    I actually went to the trouble of calculating that by insisting the best available technology, and subsequently asserting that ‘carbon’ capture was technically feasible at a cost of up to $95 per ton of CO2, the EPA is signalling the defeat of the industrial revolution. The burden of using a ton of coal from the Powder River Basin would go from around $20 now to $200 under the plan that seems to be emerging from that EPA. Of course the cost would be carried by consumers, but the great reduction in usage would destroy the companies that were set up to provide us with electricity. Claiming that the power generators are the ones that benefit from CO2 is a very short sighted perspective. The threat that such plans might be imposed has had a clear impact that has prevented our economy is not really recovering.

    I suggest your assertion about fossil fuel companies making billions per day indicates that you misunderstand the nature of our corporate investment system, whereby people are induced to hand over their savings by these companies holding out the hope that the investors will get their money back with interest. When threats arise that suggest this might not happen, the economy gets a severe chill. Crummy as things sometimes turn out, this is still the way we get to have our air conditioning and lights.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Sep 2010 @ 3:16 PM

  164. 116 John Reismann,

    Fee and cap, cap and trade, fee and dividend or whatever are all possible ways to clobber the process of using fossil fuels. As I understand, the fee and dividend is a populist trick where a majority gets excited about something because money gets handed out to alleviate suffering of some. And if cleverly constructed, this is a way to garner votes.

    The simple fact of these approaches is that money is used to force less use of fossil fuels. And somebody will pay. And that somebody is us in the long term end, though along the way, a lot of investors in power companies could have their savings clobbered. I suggest that these kinds of stories do not leave an enthusiastic set of investors for future endeavors, however fine they might sound.

    As a little historical lesson, one reason we have little interest in nuclear is that reasonable planning by power producers who were led to believe that there would be a return on investment in nuclear, were unpredictably surprised by the clamor that went on over nuclear, some with good reason and some not. This clamor led to huge losses and the public utility commissions in some places forced the losses on the investors, and let the ultimate customers off the hook. Investors have memories.

    I suggest that there is a lot of misunderstanding on both sides of the question about how the cap and tap would happen, but those doing planning about business expansion tend to have access to some analytical capabilities, and a lot of these folks get it. And we have a lot of reluctance by business to expand. This is a connection that needs to be made, ah yes, it is indeed a feedback of great negative gain.

    Feedback with too much negative gain leaves the output stuck very close to zero.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Sep 2010 @ 3:32 PM

  165. Re #147

    Does high altitude CO2 effect more climate change than ground level CO2?

    Yes. Simplified argument:
    Imagine that you were in a satellite measuring the heat (infra-red) escaping from the Earth. This determines the energy balance of the earth. Without greenhouse gases all that you would see is the radiation from the ground. The effect of adding CO2 is equivalent to replacing the ground as a radiator with some CO2 molecules somewhere else, at least as far as some wavelengths are concerned. The higher those radiating molecules are the colder they will be and hence the lower the radiation (according to Plank’s law) and the bigger the reduction of escaping energy.

    Consider such a wavelength i.e one for which CO2 absorbs infra-red.
    The radiation at such a wavelength from CO2 molecules at ground temperature will the same as from any other substance (Planck’s law again) at that wavelength. It follows that the CO2 on the ground would make no difference.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 28 Sep 2010 @ 3:33 PM

  166. 160 Hank Roberts,

    The topic is widely covered in texts on underwater sound, which I do not have with me now.

    The National Defense Research Council published much of the WWII research results, and in it there is much about sound velocity profiles, which are determined by temperature, pressure, and salinity. In that book you also will find the definition of the ‘mixed layer’ as it has long been used in that field, and it is not the same as the definition used here in the field of climate modeling. I don’t remember the title. Authors of other texts include Albers, Horton, Urick, Tolstoy and Clay etc. if you want to really know about this stuff.

    Or just ask anyone with sonar experience from the Navy. I am surprised that nobody from the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey raised a fuss about this mishandling of climate modeling, since I understand they have had a part in it.

    Mixing is of course a dynamic thing and heat enters at one level and spreads to others, depending on a lot of things.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Sep 2010 @ 3:45 PM

  167. 127 Rod B

    You are on the right track, and yes 2x4s are relatively permanent. The key is whether there is permanent standing forest mass, and this even includes forest products. Such standing forest mass is no good if it is periodically mowed down and disposed of in paper products or firewood or rots on the ground. It is however, a permanent sequestration as a managed forest which is maintained sustainably after it reaches full growth. Of course, the greatest rate of sequestration is during the years before maturity.

    One critic asserted that the albedo as desert changed to forest would be a ‘positive’ feedback or detriment to the system, but though this might be initially true, the capture and sequestration during the main growth years would be a cumulative reduction of CO2, just as continued coal burning would be a cumulative increase of CO2.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Sep 2010 @ 3:56 PM

  168. To BPL (#145) – I wonder whether we don’t also need some modeling, including calculations of radiative transfer and convection, to arrive at an accurate estimate of surface temperature changes from a forcing of 3.7 W/m^2 at the tropopause. At an emission temperature of 255, the 3.7 translates into about a 1 deg C change, as you note. However, at a surface temperature of 288, one needs about a 5.4 change in W/m^2 to raise the temperature by 1 C, of which a fraction will be returned via back radiation. In addition, some of the solar flux is absorbed in the atmosphere rather than the surface, and only a fraction of this is transmitted downward. I don’t see an obvious way to translate a 1 deg C change at the tropopause into a 1 deg C change at the surface without some additional calculations – am I missing something? Is there some good source where this is worked out?

    Comment by Fred Moolten — 28 Sep 2010 @ 4:10 PM

  169. 154 Septic Mathew,

    I gather that by telling us that massive forestation has been done and that negotiators at Kyoto failed to write more into that treaty – not, you are proving that something as I describe would be unworkable or un-necessary.

    One of the first things always encountered when presenting new ways to do things is the response, “We already tried that and it didn’t work.” I expected that here as well. But quite often it turns out that ‘it’ was not really tried, or ‘it’ worked, but the idea was trounced by the hosts that are always against something not already on the table, or not thought of by the opposers.

    Just to set everyone’s mind at ease, I have to give credit to the Chinese for this one, as in the quote of Pres. Hu where he said they were developing ‘forest mass’ in great quantity on great acreage. ( I don’t remember his exact numbers, but it worked out to be substantially less than the amount needed to balance their use of coal, but significant nevertheless.) The only credit I can claim is that I actually read the quote, and nobody else seems to have done that.

    Well, I did figure out that this was something that could happen in North America, though that is a fairly small contribution to the development of the concept. And of course, that was only because I remembered when some, I think including myself, brought up water transfer from the North in the 1970s when drought was looming, and people were talking about towing icebergs to Long Beach CA from Antarctica. (I think Saudi Arabia really tried this, and it didn’t work.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Sep 2010 @ 4:12 PM

  170. 154 Septic Mathew,

    The quote of Pres. Hu is at:

    http://climateprogress.org/2009/09/23/are-chinese-emissions-pledges-a-game-changer-for-senate-action-president-hu-un-speech/

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Sep 2010 @ 4:24 PM

  171. warmair @132 — See if “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer , Weart:
    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html
    [Maybe I could, but I’m really still learning the atmospheric physics part of climatology.)

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Sep 2010 @ 4:28 PM

  172. 127 Rod B and my 166

    I left out that the 2x4s are not a complete use of trees so I am looking for use of branches, wood chips etc. which I think I mentioned somewhere else. Here is where the ‘bio-char’ idea could be useful, and hopefully the person who brought this up before will get back to this possibility here.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 28 Sep 2010 @ 4:29 PM

  173. Re 146 EdMars
    - someone posted earlier described correctly the equilibrium that would occur from molecular diffusion acting alone – for a gaseous atmosphere, the atmosphere would not completely seperate into distinct layers but would have composition continuously vary with height, with the partial pressure of each type of molecule decaying exponentially with height at a rate depending on the molecular mass and the temperature. A perturbation from such an arrangement will drive some net diffusion, so sources and sinks can perturb such an arrangement. This is generally the situation above the turbopause (~ 100 km (or is it more like 120 km?) high), where the concentration of CO2 and Ar drop more rapidly with height while O drops less rapidly than O2. There is a layer dominated by atomic O. Since it it more favorable for atoms to combine into larger molecules at higher concentrations, there should be a tendency for larger molecules to diffuse upward to feed dissociation, with the smaller molecules and atoms diffusing downward, except for the little bit that escapes to space, etc. Then there’s the matter of charged particles interacting with the magnetic field… etc. (see ‘E-region dynamo’). Also, beyond some heights, the relative lack of molecular collisions, relative to other processes, allows significant departure from LTE.

    Below the turbopause, there is a more general tendency for circulation and eddy-diffusion (turbulence) to keep the air well-mixed – not perfectly but approximately the same composition. The way to achieve significantly varied composition is not just to have sources and sinks, but to have sources and sinks supplying or removing the gas at a significant rate relative to the rate of mixing. H2O is highly physically reactive, evaporating and condensing/freezing and precipitating, and so is (both vapor and condensed forms) quite unevenly distributed (with a general tendency for the vapor mixing ratio to decrease with height in the troposphere because of condensation during ascent and associated cooling). Ozone is chemically reactive such that it varies significantly over latitude, season, and height. CH4 oxidizes, but with a time scale on the order of a decade, which is too slow to prevent it’s becoming well-mixed within the bulk of the atmosphere. CO2 is not very reactive within the air – a little bit dissolves in liquid water and is precipitated out of the air, participating in chemical weathering – but unlike the removal of aerosols by rain, this has very little effect on the amount of CO2 in the air on time scales relavent to mixing (over many thousands of years there is a significant effect on the total atmospheric CO2 – see ‘chemical weathering’, geologic emission). CO2 sources and sinks are mainly at the surface; horizontal and temporal variations in those sources and sinks occur, and there can be variations in CO2 concentration near the surface; these get largely washed-out in the bulk of the atmosphere above, aside from a seasonal-latitudinal (and height?) variation that can be detected and is interesting but is not sizable relative to the total amount (I’ve gotten the impression that the CO2 mixing ratio may sometimes increase with height – a little). So to a good first approximation, CO2 and CH4, among other gases including N2, O2, and Ar, are well-mixed in most of the atmosphere, while O3, H2O vapor, and clouds and dust, are not. A few days of calm conditions over a large region just aren’t sufficient to let CO2 ‘un-mix’ gravitationally (molecular diffusion is too slow) or build up or become significantly depleted within a thick layer of the atmosphere by sources and sinks (the composition of a thin layer of air would be more easily altered).

    Re 147 catman306 – see also 149dhogaza; generally CO2 in the upper troposphere would have greater global warming effect than CO2 in the lower troposphere, but it gets mixed rapidly, so it’s not really important where CO2 emission occurs so long as it reaches the atmosphere (or upper ocean).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Sep 2010 @ 4:39 PM

  174. EdMars 146,

    Despite differences in molecular mass, a molecule gets hit by so many other molecules from so many sides, the fall is arrested essentially permanently. You can model it with simple Newtonian mechanics, if you want to do it the hard way. Or you can check out a text on statistical mechanics. I recommend the latter.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 28 Sep 2010 @ 5:48 PM

  175. 158, Secular Animist: Of course those “who benefit” wouldn’t be the fossil fuel corporations who rake in ONE BILLION DOLLARS PER DAY IN PROFIT from “those who buy the products”.

    Is that ironic? Of course the “people who benefit” includes the corporations, but the customers outnumber the people in the corporations by a wide margin.

    168, 169, Jim Bullis: I gather that by telling us that massive forestation has been done and that negotiators at Kyoto failed to write more into that treaty – not, you are proving that something as I describe would be unworkable or un-necessary.

    No, I was merely drawing attention to the reforestation of the US. There are a number of other reforestation projects that have gotten more publicity or UN funding, such as the reforestation in Southern Mexico. I have read what Pres Hu has promised for the future, and a lot of contemporary development in China is admirable, including the wind farms, solar farms, hydroelectric plants, nuclear power plants, and reforestation efforts.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 28 Sep 2010 @ 5:51 PM

  176. 155, Jim Bullis: This forestry based part of the solution could be a self supporting enterprise led by wise government. Do you think there might be any of this around?

    Eritrea, Senegal, and Indonesia all have successful projects of afforestation using salt-tolerant mangrove trees. On some posts a few months ago, I advocated such afforestation efforts for the coastlines of Chile, Peru, Baja California, the Colorado River delta, Australia, India and other fairly sterile places. Plus I advocated plantations of salt-tolerant fuel species like myscanthus as those are developed.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 28 Sep 2010 @ 6:00 PM

  177. Fred Moolten,

    Barton’s Model is correct for the no-feedback sensitivity if you assume the surface temperature and emission temperature are linearly related. I will also re-formulate it in Part 2. Note that models generally produce a Planck response a bit higher than this (~0.3 or 0.31 C / (W/m2)), see Soden ans Held 2005 (note they take 1 divided by these numbers as their definition of feedback); this is not just \rounding\ but due to the radiative properties of the atmosphere, and the response differs only somewhat amongst models. It’s really a negligible source of uncertainty in the actual sensitivity.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 28 Sep 2010 @ 6:08 PM

  178. Re #151

    [With apologies for being fussy]

    The simple answer is the Clausius-Clapeyron relation. The saturation vapor pressure of water is an exponential function of temperature.

    I keep on seeing this, but I thought that CC reduces approximately to a Boltzmann or Arrhenius function of temperature T, i.e to exp(-A/kT) which is different from an exponential, except over a limited range of T. In spite of not being an exponential it also increases very fast with T, roughly 6% per degree K near 300K as far as I remember.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 28 Sep 2010 @ 6:45 PM

  179. Geoff Wexler @177 — It seems you are correct as far as the form of the formula is concerned:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clausius%E2%80%93Clapeyron_relation
    Normalizing the constants to 1 to best see the form, the power series is
    exp(-1/T) = 1 – 1/T + 1/(2!T^2) – 1/(3!T^3) + …
    far from an exponential in T.

    Thanks for the reminder.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Sep 2010 @ 7:49 PM

  180. Chris (176) – Thanks for the comment. I would think an approximately linear relationship between tropopausal forcing and surface temperature change to be a reasonable assumption, since over small ranges, the fraction of surface energy emissions back radiated to the surface should remain fairly constant. Still, the difference between the model values you cite (0.30-0.31 C/W/m^2) and the 0.27 calculated strictly from the 255 K emission temperature value implies that the actual energy transfer calculations need to be modeled to arrive at the best estimate.

    The values cited appear to take into account the fact that some of the solar energy is absorbed in the atmosphere, and presumably reradiated isotropically so that some of it tends to reduce the imbalance at the tropopause without warming the surface. Would the surface Planck response be even higher if all the return to space of absorbed energy had to come from temperature changes at the surface without any contribution from atmospheric heating not derived from the surface?

    Your Soden and Held link didn’t seem to work. Do you have a reference? Thanks.

    Comment by Fred Moolten — 28 Sep 2010 @ 8:15 PM

  181. James Annan reminded me that
    Zaliapin, I. and Ghil, M.:
    Another look at climate sensitivity,
    Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 17, 113-122,
    doi:10.5194/npg-17-113-2010.
    http://www.nonlin-processes-geophys.net/17/113/2010/npg-17-113-2010.html
    has been discussed on his blog:
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2010/05/another-look-at-climate-sensitivity.html

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Sep 2010 @ 8:17 PM

  182. Just in case someone took Jim Bullis’ bizarre apocalyptic pronouncements seriously (I mean the stuff about cheap electricty and the industrial revolution [sic] which has been popping up in every RC thread of late), I checked some numbers. I will not editorialize as they speak for themselves.
    A 180$ tax per ton of coal, assuming no impact on coal production and that coal is being used for electricity exclusively, would raise its average cost by about 4.5 cents/kwh. That’s less than half of the difference between average prices in the USA and Japan. It would take more like a 400$ tax per ton to bring prices in line with those of Japan. Japan’s electricity prices aren’t explained by their reliance on renewables or nukes by the way: only the USA and China burn more fossil fuels than Japan for electricity production while prices are lower in France (nukes) and Norway (hydro).
    A $180 per ton tax would amount to about 1.5% of US GDP (assuming no impact on coal production). For comparison, health care costs amount to about 15% in the USA… and 7.5% in Japan. Note that such a tax would not be a cost but a mere transfer (most of the health care costs are actual costs) so its actual impact would in fact be much less than 20% of the impact of the mismanagement of health care (as compared to Japan).
    I’ve used the latest “key world energy statistics” from the IEA. Most of the numbers seem to be for 2008 or 2009. I used a random website for health care costs so that might be off.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 28 Sep 2010 @ 8:36 PM

  183. Fred Moolten (#167)

    I’ve been posting some tutorials on my blog (written by BPL) that may help. You can even download the Go code for the models and modify it as you want (if you don’t want to install go on your machine you can even paste the code on the go playground on the golang.org home page). I’ll be adding more sophisticated models over the next few weeks. It should help with questions such as this.

    Let me know if you want me to add something to the code or you can even contribute if you want.

    http://gogcm.blogspot.com/

    Comment by Arrow — 28 Sep 2010 @ 8:37 PM

  184. > miscanthus

    http://littlebloginthebigwoods.blogspot.com/2007/10/fuelish-fantasies.html

    Practical thoughts from a research farmer:

    “Close your eyes, and see it: hundreds of thousands of contiguous acres- of DRY grass. 8 feet tall.

    It has to be big, mature, and dry- for any of the fantasy to work. It turns out that if you cut it when it’s green, you seriously weaken the roots- no crop next year. And if you cut it when it’s green- you’ll either have to use it right now, or spend energy drying it, so it won’t rot…..”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2010 @ 9:01 PM

  185. Re 152 Septic Matthew
    134, Secular Animist: Oh, the injustice of requiring polluters to pay the costs of their pollution rather than forcing the rest of us to pay for it.

    (Septic Matthew:)The people who benefit from the pollution, including CO2, ought to be the people who pay to remediate it, in my opinion. Mostly, this set of people is comprised of those who buy the products: fuel, electricity, manufactured goods. Direct taxation, fee-and-dividend, and cap-and-trade all do this because the producers pass the costs to the consumers.

    Which is the result of making the polluters pay. (I wasn’t clear on whether you were agreeing or disagreeing with Secular Animist.)

    ———–

    Re 155 Jim Bullis

    I particularly reacted to the the plan by the EPA to require ‘best available technology’ and the report by them where they said ‘carbon’ capture would cost up to $95 per ton of CO2, and I worked this out in terms of the burden on the use of a ton of coal. It looks to me like the effective cost of using a ton of Powder River Basin coal (half the element carbon by weight) wil go from around $20 now to around $200.

    The effect on the prices of goods and services depending on coal would be less intense.
    back-of-the-envelope
    100 $/t = $0.1/kg,
    coal ~ 10 MJe/kg C (right? ~ 26 MJ/kg, mostly C, a bit under 40 % efficiency conversion), or ~3 kWhe/kg C,
    therefore ~ 1/3 kg C/kWhe
    then 100 $/t C is about 3 cents/kWhe for coal-fueled power plant

    Putting down the industrial revolution ;might seem desirable to some,

    That’s not the idea.

    If the price of CO2 emissions is jutified and it causes industry to implode, then industry is too expensive to justify. But I don’t think that will happen to all industry. Why can’t the industrial (r)evolution progress, rather than remain in stasis? In fact it is progressing; even with our present energy policies, so imagine how things could take off with better policy. Let’s have industrial (and agricultural, etc.) (r)evolution part II – well, part III or IV, depending on how you look at it.

    Granted, specific mandates to build or not build or use something or something else are a bit cumbersome. A CO2(eq) tax is much more elegant. Still, mandates could do good if crafted well, and the non-ideal aspects of the market may justify some mandates and targeted incentives and public investments (building codes and utility policies (get the market out of a rut so that it can find another), credits for energy-efficiency and solar PV or water panels (temporary, can be phased out when old habits have died to let the market work), funding the expansion of new industries to get them up toward mass-market level and farther along their learning-curves (temporary, projects must be chosed objectively, may include analysis of environmental issues with various sites so that industry will be able to know where things will more likely be built or not.)

    ——

    Re 165 Jim Bullis

    Of course the effect of the ocean may be approximated (certainly must be considering finite grid size in models), to varying degrees depending on the goal of the model and the computing power. Some models use a ‘slab’ for the ocean – my understanding is the ocean is just a thermal mass in those models (? no currents – or are the currents just held constant?). Some modeling excercises use oceanic conditions as input to force the atmosphere – this has it’s usefulness (it’s worthwhile to understand the pieces of the puzzle).

    However, I don’t think you can just say that climate modeling has mishandled the ocean. There is a mixed layer and it is at the top of the ocean. It does vary in thickness; it isn’t constant over the globe. Solar heating penetrates deeper than net longwave cooling of the ocean, so there is differential heating that can drive a ‘troposphere’ of sorts in the upper ocean; the effects of sensible and evaporative cooling of the surface (including salinity increases) add to that, while precipitation, and some regional/seasonal/transient variations in radiant and convective cooling can act to stabilize the layer. Wind can do work that drives mixing. Mixing may entrain more dense water from below. Tides and planckton are also involved in mixing (I’m not sure to what extent the tides mix the ‘mixed’ layer vs what they do for the oceans as a whole). Wind also does work to pull denser water up without necessarily mixing it first (upwelling). Aside from this upper mixed layer, the ocean as a whole is stably stratified; dense water forms at the surface and sinks down and fills the depths (although the nonlinear density-temperature relationship actually allows mixing to increase the average density of a water mass).

    The mixed layer readily contributes it’s heat capacity to slow climate change of the atmosphere and surface; if solar heating increases or decreases, the mixed layer warms or cools; if net LW and convective cooling is increased or reduced, the mixed layer retains more or less heat; etc. Warming or cooling will penetrate through the depths of the oceans following the slower circulation there, which involves some heat capacity.

    Could the mixed layer you are refering to regarding sonar actually be a completely different thing?

    ——–

    Re BPL – earlier you wrote that the 3.7 W/m2 forcing from a doubling of CO2 would increase Te; I think you meant that it would decrease the brightness temperature of OLR and that the warming would have to occur to bring it back to the equilibrium Te (whereas solar forcing or albedo changes would change the equilibrium Te).

    Re 167 Fred Moolten – yes, the backradiation at the surface tends to increase in response to increased CO2 and also in response to warming (generally the same goes for any place below the tropopause, where upward radiation decreases with increased CO2 and increases with warming; within the stratosphere, the backradiation tends to increase with the increase in CO2 and decrease with the stratospheric cooling, while the upward radiation does the same as in the troposhere but to a differing amount because of contributions from the stratosphere).

    To a first approximation, convection sustains a lapse rate and the temperature at all levels from the tropopause to the surface shifts by the same amount to increase the net upward radiation at the tropopause to restore equilibrium; radiative forcing and feedback below the tropopause affects the rate of convection but not the temperature. To a second approximation, the lapse rate can vary as a function of climate (lapse rate feedback). To a third approximation – latitudinal, regional, seasonal, diurnal, and local effects and the circulation of the atmosphere (seasonal and diurnal inversions, lapse rates exceeding the moist adiabatic lapse rate, etc, the difference between surface and surface air temperature, surface moisture and humidity, etc, and now consider the effects of radiative forcing at different vertical levels, especially in stable air masses)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Sep 2010 @ 9:05 PM

  186. Re my last comment re 155 Jim Bullis – sorry, I used $100/t C instead of $100/t CO2, the later is approximately equal to $366/t C. So that would be more in the range of a 10 cent/kWhe difference. Which would increase demand for clean energy (and efficiency) a lot!

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 28 Sep 2010 @ 9:27 PM

  187. In #147 catman says:

    Someone at ClimateProgress has posted that the heat content of one gallon of gasoline produces 100,000 times that heat content in future CO2 warming. OK (actually, it’s NOT OK!)

    No, it’s not OK. And it’s completely wrong. I calculated it once for a mailing list I was on, and we had a similar calculation here a while back. The correct calculation is that the CO2 that results from burning a unit of carbon traps more heat in less than a year than was produced from its combustion.

    Catman continues:

    Someone else posted that flying has the largest carbon footprint of any mode of travel. Many times that of driving the distance in an automobile. They said that if people only fly when absolutely necessary, we could substantially reduce our nation’s carbon load and actually make a dent in the rising CO2 curve. That’s Good, so stop flying.

    IIRC, the contribution of air travel is on the order of 6% of total emissions. It’s carbon intensive because of how far people tend to fly more than the actual grams/mile. It depends on the particular jet that one is flying on, but the passenger-miles-per-gallon usually works out to around 30. This is in the same category as two people in an SUV, or a little less than a normal midsize (accord/camry) with only the driver. Not that bad considering it’s going 10 times faster, and can go halfway around the planet without stopping.

    So here’s a climatology question:

    SInce jets generally fly above 10,000 feet up to 50,000 feet, most of the CO2 that they produce is at high altitudes and there’s plenty of it;
    Does the CO2 emitted by jet planes in the upper troposphere have a greater global warming effect than if the same amount of fuel were burned at ground levels? Is there an atmospheric layer somewhere above that has higher levels of CO2 than at the ground? Does high altitude CO2 effect more climate change than ground level CO2?

    Perhaps in a textbook setting. In the real world the CO2 from air travel quickly mixes throughout the atmosphere.

    Comment by David Miller — 28 Sep 2010 @ 9:29 PM

  188. I hope someone who knows the answer to wht airline emissions are 3times worse than ground level emissions will chime in. I’m not buying the argument that it is because the CO2 is released higher up. How long does it take the troposhere to mix high/low altitude air? I’d guess on the order of a week. How long is the CO2 atmospheric residence time (century-ish). So the CO2 will become well mixed long before its concentration can build up. I think the answer has to do with other things in the contrails, H2O, and condensation nuclei, but I don’t know any details. But contrails do have a warming impact, and have been shown (from 9-11 observations) to reduce the diurnal temperature variation.

    [Response: The relative impact of aviation is actually still quite uncertain. You are correct in thinking that it has nothing to do with the height at which CO2 is emitted and also correct that it will depend on the emissions of other factors - NOx (which affects ozone), contrails, black carbon, water vapour, SO2 etc. The interactions between this emissions, the difference in the stratosphere/troposphere effects, indirect impacts on clouds, all make for a very complex picture. It is not a priori obvious what the net effect is, and so many of the 'multiplier' calculations need to be taken with a large pinch of salt. There is ongoing work on this question which is trying to assess all of these effects, but in the meantime read Unger et al (2009) which includes aviation as one of the sectors they look at. - gavin]

    Comment by Thomas — 28 Sep 2010 @ 9:34 PM

  189. David Miller, I’m not so sure of your responses to my questions.
    You wrote: ‘The correct calculation is that the CO2 that results from burning a unit of carbon traps more heat in less than a year than was produced from its combustion.’
    What does that mean?

    “In the real world the CO2 from air travel quickly mixes throughout the atmosphere.”

    That could be an assumption, but it is the very substance of my question. So where are the links to the research that show that tropospheric CO2 from routine jet aircraft flights gets quickly mixed throughout the atmosphere? How long is ‘quickly’? We know from the days after 911 that the air noticeably cleared after a couple of days of no jet travel. So we know that there is a constantly refreshed layer of air, heavy with the combustion products of jet fuel.

    Does the CO2 in that layer contribute more to greenhouse warming than the same amount of CO2 close to the ground?

    Comment by catman306 — 28 Sep 2010 @ 10:00 PM

  190. Gavin, I’ve read the wiki piece and there seemed to be a peculiar comment on the research done by Nelson Falcon which established it was methane, which being lighter than air, rises in air, so there’s no speculation about it, and, saying it doesn’t happen where there are higher concentrations isn’t relating this back to the original, it has been noted for example that there is a decrease of the phenomenon at the lake when there is a dry spell so comparing it with deserts isn’t relevant either. Although the phenomenon happens cloud to cloud even with absence of rain clouds.

    I’ve found an English translation of the report by Nelson Falcon which confirms it is methane. About the Origin and Recurrence of the Lightening of Catatumbo River: http://www.facyt.uc.edu.ve/relampago/4.Publicaciones/Revista%20FARAUTE%20(English).Pdf

    Methane is the major component of natural gas, 87% volume, and natural gas as is well known is lighter than air and so rises in air.

    AKA Marsh gas, and that is a heavily marshy area, but also oil deposits. Angel Munoz of the regional University of Zulia says, “The substrata of the lake are rich in petroleum deposits and share with the river marshes the same geological history. The accumulation of methane in the atmosphere could be favored by leaks of this gas through fissures in the rocky mantle and into the marshes and lagoons.”

    In the physical gas sciences this is important to know, and is well known, because natural gas is lighter than air and propane gas heavier, positioning detectors for example would take that into consideration.

    This page from http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/gas-density-d_158.html has a list of the molecular weight of gases. Propane is practically the same weight as carbon dioxide, and so these displace air in the same way, and methane is much lighter than air which is mainly nitrogen and oxygen, which are nearly the same density, which together make up the bulk of the atmospheric gases; 99.1% of air is these two gases.

    [Response: Thanks for the English translation of the Falcon paper, however we clearly have a different interpretation of what the word 'demonstrate' means. Falcon does suggest that methane plays a role via buoyancy changes and then via 'crystallization' in the cloud- neither of these phenomena are 'demonstrated' and at the concentrations that exist (1 or two ppm at most) make no sense at all. I would be astounded if there is anywhere on earth where ch4 hydrates crystals form in the atmosphere, pressures and concentrations are much too low. What we have here is simple handwaving to explain a potential correlation - not a demonstration of causation at all. As for the buoyancy argument, the impact of ch4 concentration changes at any earth-like values are tiny compared to the changes from a degree of warming or a small change in humidity -work it out. So in summary, this phenomena is indeed interesting, but the methane link is very tenuous and not convincing at all. - gavin]

    Comment by EdMars — 28 Sep 2010 @ 10:12 PM

  191. Jim Bullis: I went to an EPA hearing in Chicago on 16 September 2010 on the subject of coal ash and cinders. My speech was about the fact that coal ash and cinders are radioactive waste unsuitable for any use except as ore for uranium, thorium and about 25 other elements, including arsenic. Coal contains uranium, thorium and all of the decay products of uranium and thorium.  A 1000 megawatt coal fired power plant puts out at least 4 tons of uranium per year. [1 ppm uranium X 4 million tons per year per 1000 megawatts = 4 tons of uranium. Illinois coal contains up to 103 ppm uranium.]   If they use the coal ash as ore for the contained minerals, probably at a profit, that would involve admitting that coal contains those minerals.   The publicity will cause a great deal of trouble for the coal industry while the litigation is going on. There is no beneficial use for coal ash until these and other harmful elements are removed. Coal ash is radioactive waste under the joint jurisdiction of 3 agencies:  EPA, NRC and RCRA.   EPA ruled in 1984 that none of that uranium or any other radiological species in coal poses a significant hazard. If the 1984 ruling is reversed, it will be difficult to burn coal because the ash will have to be treated as hazardous or radioactive waste. Cinders and ash have been used as building material in the past. That extra profit will stop if the 1984 ruling is reversed. Somebody may have to sue the EPA, NRC and RCRA to get coal ash classified as radioactive waste.

    If you can’t stop coal from the front end, try the back end. Coal is NOT cheap, but it has a powerful lobby and, with a $100 Billion/year cashflow in the US, can afford a lot of propaganda. Coal appears cheap if you ignore the huge number of people, especially miners, that it kills. Coal kills about 1 million people per year in China.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 28 Sep 2010 @ 10:32 PM

  192. catman and others,

    As gavin has noted already, CO2 mixing ratio is pretty well-mixed throughout the troposphere. This is not an assumption, it’s an observation from sites around the globe which are not strongly impacted by local, urban influences. This is one reason Mauna Loa for example is a “good station” to get a good picture of global average CO2 levels, although it does have an altitude effect which causes departure from a more accepted “global CO2 concentration” by only about 0.5 ppm.

    The “altitude location” of emission from an airplane or whatever is not really important for the radiative effects that contribute to global warming. There is some spatial variation, and this is especially the case for substances (aerosols) whose lifetime is much shorter than the interhemispheric mixing time, but this is not relevant for long-lived greenhouse gases. In this context, we’re also interested in climate timescales, and in this sense CO2 is a pretty uniform field in 3-dimensional space.

    That said, to get a strong greenhouse effect you need to have some infrared opacity in the high atmosphere. Otherwise you can’t reduce the OLR and warm the surface (this is why high clouds, particularly with a lower liquid water content have a net warming effect). If you could collapse all of the CO2 in the air to a thin layer near the ground then you would essentially eliminate all of its greenhouse effect, and cool the planet substantially. I agree that in a textbook problem asking about where CO2 is emitted vertically, they might be looking for an answer that reflects knowledge of the vertical profile of absorbers and how to reduce the brightness temperature of the planet, but I think the question would be ill-posed. Greenhouse gases basically make it ‘brighter’in the infrared when looking up from the surface and ‘darker’in the IR when looking down from space.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 28 Sep 2010 @ 10:45 PM

  193. Anonymous Coward, actually there is a ton of bills, bills-to-be, or amendments floating around on this topic, 4 or 5 of which might be considered major (starting with Waxman-Markey [cap and trade] which is the only one so far to be voted on and pass the House). I wasn’t going to review them all (way OT) but did want to correct a couple of things that I had said earlier on the bill I researched which was H.R.1337 – America’s Energy Security Trust Fund Act of 2009.

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Sep 2010 @ 10:55 PM

  194. Geoff Wexler (164), this is a broken record of mine, but… a CO2 molecule relaxing its main vibration energy level emits a photon of 1.32×10^-20joules whether it is in an atmosphere at 300K or 200K. Though you’re basic idea is correct and useful…

    Comment by Rod B — 28 Sep 2010 @ 11:17 PM

  195. Harald Korneliussen says:
    23 September 2010 at 5:53 AM
    Talking to “casual” sceptics (as opposed to political fanatics), I often get the impression that they – paradoxically – refuse to believe in global warming because they think any positive feedback implies that temperatures will rise forever or spin out of control.
    —–
    REPLY: Isn’t a scenario wherein “temperatures will rise forever or spin out of control” exactly the basis of Prof. Hansen’s “Venus Syndrome”? I consider that scenario extremely unlikely.

    Chris, thank you for this very well-composed entry! I’ll be sure to pass it along to my students at the Univ of Illinois.

    Comment by CStack — 28 Sep 2010 @ 11:26 PM

  196. Catman, if there were some mysterious force holding together dense clouds of excess CO2, those could be tracked the way contrails are tracked. Contrails interfere with astronomical work. People can track contrails for a very long time as they spread out, for example:
    http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-iarticle_query?bibcode=2001IAUS..196..173P&db_key=AST&page_ind=0&data_type=GIF&type=SCREEN_VIEW&classic=YES

    What kind of proof would you take that something nobody can detect (“CO2 contrails” of some sort?) isn’t there? Why would there be mysterious dense clouds of CO2 only at altitude, and why wouldn’t people be walking into them and suffocating on the ground, if they existed? And combustion isn’t perfect, any CO2 cloud would also be a carbon monoxide cloud and would set off alarms — unless you can think of some mysterious force that only holds CO2 but not CO into little dense parcels.

    It’s a well mixed gas. Look at the discussion at the Mauna Loa website; yes there are different amounts in different parts of the atmosphere at different times; those move with the seasons like waves and can be tracked as they circle the globe — and they diffuse and spread out into the background amount.

    Try some of these.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/co2-measurements-uncertainty.htm
    click the video link there; for more
    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/carbontracker/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2010 @ 11:28 PM

  197. Wood and coal were “learning fuels.” At the beginning of the industrial revolution, we couldn’t have built the power sources that we can now because we didn’t have the technology then. We learned thermodynamics by experimenting with steam engines. It is time to take off the training wheels.

    Question: “The Flooded Earth” by Peter Ward says that making trees into houses sequesters only about 20% of the carbon. I take it that this is because we use so much fossil fuel in the process? So to make reforestation work, harvesting has to get more efficient.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 28 Sep 2010 @ 11:30 PM

  198. Oh, and http://articles.adsabs.harvard.edu/cgi-bin/nph-iarticle_query?bibcode=2001IAUS..196..173P&db_key=AST&page_ind=0&data_type=GIF&type=SCREEN_VIEW&classic=YES
    Title: Aviation and Jet Contrails: Imapct on Astronomy
    Authors: Pedersen, H.
    Journal: Preserving the Astronomical Sky, Proceedings of IAU Symposium 196, held 12-16 July 1999

    Look up papers that cite that one in the ensuing 10 years, for example, with Scholar. Or use that to find search terms to use in Scholar.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2010 @ 11:31 PM

  199. One more — fun with Scholar:
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1987/JD092iD05p05497.shtml

    Here, it takes about a year and a half for CO2 to mix from the northern to the southern hemisphere, for example.
    (sorry for the horrible URL, it’s a Google cache view)
    http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:yjMLTv8MhUwJ:www-naweb.iaea.org/napc/ih/documents/global_cycle/vol%2520II/cht_ii_06.pdf+mauna+loa+co2+pulse+seasons&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjRbhjjOqVJXjrqqm84cHsyhs3867dxJDz34vedM3Sp7XnSP-A49PyHRjKU5gM_coVhj4p1JBSrKtH-bPdw26MkrnAit3iOIzCaSe-36Ac8hMWYQjEhyv_7pSeHgxKVwJfGTIsU&sig=AHIEtbSJ1kn8quwPdBO3IfhcmtTWMviZ8w

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Sep 2010 @ 11:40 PM

  200. One point about air travel is that it makes it much, much more convenient (even with all the security and other hassles) to travel much, much longer distances much, much quicker.

    So more travel is done.

    So more CO2 is emitted into the air.

    If people only traveled by car, bus, train and boat, even if those emitted the exact same quantities of CO2 per Kg per mile, the total CO2 emitted would surely be much less because people would surely travel much less far and much less often, given their relative slowness and inconvenience.

    As I saw graffitied on a wall in Cambridge, MA once, “Convenience Kills!”

    Comment by wili — 29 Sep 2010 @ 12:29 AM

  201. mike roddy says:
    27 September 2010 at 1:45 PM

    Jim Bullis, you’re correct- reforesting North America could have major impacts on our carbon budget. Heath and Birdsey once calculated that (as an exercise) if we only stopped logging, we would attain CO2 sequestration in excess of 1 billion tons annually.

    The key will be encouraging diverse native species, rather than planting more vulnerable tree farms. Natural forests sequester far more carbon in both the short and long term.

    Exactly. This means actually re-creating forests, which we know how to do. However, let’s also consider stacking functions by increasing food security by making some of those strategically placed forests Food Forests/Edible Forest Gardens. This will sequester carbon and address sustainability issues by reducing needed land for farming of various types and/or meeting future food demands, given population will continue to grow for decades regardless of what we do to slow it – if anything.

    Comment by ccpo — 29 Sep 2010 @ 12:35 AM

  202. Correction to last post. Water evaporates because wet air is lighter than air, as the air above water becomes damp from contact with water it will rise.

    Comment by EdMars — 29 Sep 2010 @ 12:55 AM

  203. Rod B says:
    28 September 2010 at 9:41 AM

    I can’t comprehend the plantation vs natural reforestation differences. How does the tree know what it is?

    It is not about the trees, but ecosystems, which is why tree farms or replanting trees alone doesn’t get the job done. Trees are only part of the mass. A temperate forest will have seven or more layers, a tree planted slope has one.

    In a healthy forest ecosystem you might have your canopy, or tallest trees, some understory, or mid-sized trees, then woody shrubs/short trees, then smaller shrubs/buses such as berries, low ground cover types, such as grasses, lichens and the like, then your root species.

    Added to all this is the massive amount of biota and detritus in the soil, which very, very few people really have an appreciable understanding of. Mycelium alone make up huge amounts of biotic life in the soils. Millions of bacteria and such live in just a small area of soil. When forests are cut down, or individual trees, the incredibly complex ecosystem goes with it. Particularly when you clear cut, of course.

    Cut down a forest and all the other living mass will likely also die out and be replaced, eventually, by other species, but the carbon loss will be quite large in short and medium terms.

    Since we know the structures of forests and can study what existed before or in similar ecosystems, we can do a decent job of restoring forest *ecosystems* instead of just trees. Here’s an example of how sensitive ecosystems are to removal of single elements, let alone whole ecosystems: http://www.truth-out.org/the-big-bad-wolf-makes-good-the-yellowstone-success-story-and-those-who-want-kill-it63644

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 29 Sep 2010 @ 1:03 AM

  204. 184 Patrick027

    re my #155

    Yes, of course the effect on cost of goods and services will be less intense than the simple effect on cost of fuel.

    As to your calculation, your approximation of my quote of “‘carbon’ capture would cost up to $95 per ton of CO2″ to your terminology of “100 $/t C” demonstrates the reason why I complain so much about the use of ‘carbon’ when we mean CO2. I hesitate to say it but it looks like you are unaware that a ton of CO2 only contains 12/44 ton of the element carbon. It looks like the EPA has a problem there as well, so you need not feel alone in this.

    Beyond that, I have trouble understanding the shorthand you use in your calculation. Words might help, and maybe you are saying something that I am not understanding.

    As I calculate it, $95 per ton of CO2 means 44/12 x $95 per ton of actual carbon captured, and Powder River Basin coal is about half carbon. This yields a burden for capture related to a ton of coal of about $180 and this adds to the market price at mine of $12 per ton of that coal plus about $8 for transportation. Putting this in terms of electricity costs is not a simple relationship, so I kept it simple and related it only to increase in cost of using a ton of coal as a fuel. With the fuel going up by a factor of ten, it is not difficult to foresee that this would ripple significantly through the economy.

    re my #165

    I am pointing out that there is no such thing as a stable “mixed layer”, and using this flawed construction in modeling is a mistake.

    Is my use of the term “mixed layer” different? Yes. But I particularly point out that when borrowing a terminology long used in another field, some care should be taken to understand it. Of course, there is nothing wrong with creating your own definition in a mathematical context, but when it is use to attempt to explain a model, changing a definition is problematic. And in this case it looks like the term suggested a physical phenomenon that does not exist.

    I am not sure I covered everything so I will look over it again tomorrow.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Sep 2010 @ 1:32 AM

  205. 181 Anonymous Coward,

    You say, “Just in case someone took Jim Bullis’ bizarre apocalyptic pronouncements seriously (I mean the stuff about cheap electricty and the industrial revolution [sic] which has been popping up in every RC thread of late), I checked some numbers. I will not editorialize as they speak for themselves.
    A 180$ tax per ton of coal, assuming no impact on coal production and that coal is being used for electricity exclusively, would raise its average cost by about 4.5 cents/kwh.”

    I say, “huh?”

    And then: I had thought fuel cost when electric power was made from coal was running around 2 to 3 cents per kWhr of electricity produced, and if the fuel cost increased by a factor of ten, that fuel cost would be up to around 20 to 30 cents per kWhr of electricity produced. I rather doubt it would be sold for ’4.5 cents/kwh’ under that circumstance. That would indeed be a bizarre market system. Maybe you would explain how that might come about.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Sep 2010 @ 1:45 AM

  206. 185 Patrick 027

    [edit]

    Maybe you would also show how this translates to a 10 cent per kWhr difference.

    The parenthetical remark following is just a mental gyration by me trying to comprehend what you said, but I am afraid it is not very helpful. (I guess if you start with an imaginary (my pick for illustrative purpose) current fuel cost including transportation of 1 cent per kWhr (wow, we have really been getting ripped off when we pay 10 cents to 30 cents) and it was multiplied by a factor of ten, we could get a fuel cost of 10 cents per kWhr. Add the minimum 9 cent rip off that you assume, and it looks like the electricity price would be a minimum of 19 cents. )

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Sep 2010 @ 2:00 AM

  207. Re 151

    Quote
    The simple answer is the Clausius-Clapeyron relation
    End Quote
    If I have worked out the maths correctly this means that if the worlds average temperature rises from 14 Deg C to 15 Deg C as a direct result of a doubling of the level of CO2 then the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere will increase from 4% to about 4.28% which would not be enough to produce an extra 1 Deg C of warming. My figures are 10 gm/KG to 10.7 gm/Kg at one atmosphere. I assume that temperature would also respond logarithmically to any increase of the level of water vapor in the atmosphere. Note I do not dispute AGW but I would like to understand this issue.

    Comment by warmair — 29 Sep 2010 @ 2:34 AM

  208. Rod B: A lot of the CO2 sequestered in forests is in the roots and soil. By the time you log a tree, strip it of its needles, bark, and pieces that don’t fit your 2 x 4s, a lot of CO2 material is left behind. That ultimately will be released back into the atmosphere. And we are ignoring all the critters and forest plants that depend upon a forest ecosystem.

    In addition, the replanting can be a problem. The most fire resistant forests are old-growth forests, and the most fire susceptible are even-aged plantations. Logging an ancient forest for 2 x 4s is bad not only for the flora and fauna associated with it, but it leads to the likelihood of the young replanted forest being consumed by fire before it reaches a stage where it can be commercially logged. And this possibility is becoming more likely as global warming is allowing bark beetles to kill the trees as they never have before as well as extreme weather conditions encouraging catastrophic fire. [It is late, but if you want references, I can oblige.]

    Jim Bullis: Your ideas are interesting on the surface, but you seem to lack any understanding of ecosystems. Yes, water was brought to the Central Valley of California and agriculture bloomed, but a lot of land now is being taken out of production due to buildup of salt and selenium in the soil. You don’t simply bring in water to a desert and plunk down seedlings adapted to an entirely different climate and expect all to be well. Aside from the devastation to native species that could not survive such a change, the scheme simply is doomed to failure. And that is without considering the curve balls climate change is going to serve up in the future.

    Your proposals simply are yet more geo-engineering schemes. They are plans that will not succeed, and they are dangerous as some people will think that we can continue our current use of fossil fuels and find a simple way to mitigate their impacts. Not gonna happen.

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 29 Sep 2010 @ 3:27 AM

  209. Re #178
    [More fussiness]

    Thanks for the reply. It did however go a bit too far in the direction of highlighting the discrepancy.

    This is because a Taylor expansion is a biassed way of comparing two functions. It over-emphasises low values of the argument which is
    (-A/kT) in this case implying high values of temperature. You would get a better idead by numerically plotting the two functions after forcing them to agree at one temperature (say 300K). Sorry I’m too busy to do it.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 29 Sep 2010 @ 4:14 AM

  210. Addition to my last comment.

    The discrepancy in #178 was highlighted by expanding about an infinite temperature (-1/T)=0. You could have made it appear less by expanding about a physically realistic value for (-A/kT) for water.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 29 Sep 2010 @ 4:53 AM

  211. Re #146

    displaces the air and sinks to the ground.

    [Yet another way of replying to that remark:]

    The sinking tendency is only one contribution, you have also to consider the opposing tendency towards higher entropy. Your remark pre-dates thermodynamics. Although the ground has the lowest potential energy for a body without motion, the equilibrium condition is the one which minimises the free energy which includes a large contribution from the entropy of mixing.

    Of course if you had been right, then “air capture” of CO2 from the atmosphere would so much easier. Pity.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 29 Sep 2010 @ 8:09 AM

  212. Catman, #188, writes

    You wrote: ‘The correct calculation is that the CO2 that results from burning a unit of carbon traps more heat in less than a year than was produced from its combustion.’
    What does that mean?

    I’m sorry, what part of it was unclear?

    Burning carbon containing fuels produces CO2. CO2 traps outgoing heat – that’s the definition of a greenhouse gas.

    Burning a ton of carbon releases X BTU. The CO2 produced from this combustion traps Y BTU per year. Y is greater than X. If memory serves it’s a factor of 3-4 times greater.

    As for the mixing of CO2 created at altitude, Chris and Gavin, among other commenters, have responded.

    Comment by David Miller — 29 Sep 2010 @ 8:19 AM

  213. One of the keys to the surprisingly low carbon sequestration of lumber is that milling the lumber is a very wasteful process–not in a pejorative sense; mills work hard to get as much profitable lumber out of each log as possible. It’s just that reducing irregular natural logs with highly variable dimensions, damaged wood, knots and grain problems to regular, standardized dimensional lumber inherently involves throwing a lot of wood away. (That’s one reason that there are various schemes used to turn that waste into either fuel, or wood pulp for papermaking.)

    I had a quick look round to see if I could find quantitative info on this, and didn’t have much luck. But a couple of sources suggested that waste rates–just at specific parts of specific processes, mind you, not tree-to-end-product waste rates–not uncommonly run around 50%.

    And as Jim Eaton’s post suggests, a lot of biomass exists outside the trees–especially outside the usable species of trees.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 29 Sep 2010 @ 8:27 AM

  214. > EdMars says: 29 September 2010 at 12:55 AM
    > Water evaporates because wet air is lighter than air

    Thought experiment for EdMars:

    You’re on the ISS (currently our only space station).
    You have a wet towel in dry air.
    The water and the air are effectively weightless.
    Why does the water evaporate?

    Seriously, why post these notions when you can make the effort to look up the ideas? You’ve got Google, Scholar, a public library — lots of help. It sounds like you need homework help but aren’t asking for it.

    Google finds some of the experiments actually done on the ISS.
    You know how to find this stuff, don’t you?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Sep 2010 @ 9:21 AM

  215. Jim Bullis,
    The explanation is very simple: I was talking about national averages, not the price in whichever locales happen to rely mostly on coal. I was talking about a tax on coal, not on CO2 emissions so the price of electricity produced with natgas, nukes, hydro and so on would not be affected in the short term. I was quite explicit about what the numbers stood for, and I was explicit about my source. I did these simple calculations in my head and it was very late so I might have made a mistake. Do check, please. But if you have an issue with the data I used, take it up with the IEA.
    Since you were talking about the effect of a national tax on civilization and whatnot I figured national data would be most relevant. It also helps that national data is easy to obtain. Obviously, multiplying the cost of burning low-grade coal by 10 (you seem to have cherry-picked a low coal price) might have severe regional impacts. But if you were truely concerned about the things you profess you are worrying about, you would instead be looking at things which have severe global impacts such as climate change. Economic history is filled with economic havoc at a regional scale. The relatively recent global trade liberalization has famously caused such for example. That was expected but it was carried out anyway, in the name of a greater good.

    Rod,
    I don’t particularily want to discuss proposed legislation but please understand that HR 1337 is not Fee & Dividend. It couldn’t even pass for Fee & Dividend in a dark alley.
    The problem with Fee & Dividend is not, as you asserted, that it would likely be perverted in practice somehow. It’s actually designed to be difficult to mess with. The problem is that it would have very little chance of getting passed. Congress would have to be cleaned up first and I don’t believe the public would have much to fear from a set of politicians upstanding enough to pass legislation like that.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 29 Sep 2010 @ 10:33 AM

  216. EdMars: did you notice my previous post?

    The methane lightening is a nice diversion, but it really isn’t a useful example of anything. Of course a large volume of a gas will rise (or fall) based on density until it disperses. This isn’t in question, and by harping on about it, you have completely lost sight of the important bits.

    “Water evaporates because wet air is lighter than air, as the air above water becomes damp from contact with water it will rise.”

    Are you just making stuff up now? I think it’s time you recognised that you are not a scientist. Listen to Gavin. He is a scientist.

    Comment by Didactylos — 29 Sep 2010 @ 11:18 AM

  217. 184, Patrick 027: Which is the result of making the polluters pay. (I wasn’t clear on whether you were agreeing or disagreeing with Secular Animist.)

    It isn’t always clear to me that people understand that the polluters pass the costs on to their customers, AND that passing the costs in that manner is a good idea. In reading about cap and trade, I get the impression that supporters somehow think that only the “corporations” will pay — or at any rate “someone else”. Just an impression, but I think that the transparency of the tax is an advantage. Secular Animist seems to believe, or seems to have written, that the CO2 tax (or trading cost, or dividend) will come out of oil company profits, but their profits are already less than the government’s tax take; for coal it’s different.

    190, Edward Greisch: Somebody may have to sue the EPA, NRC and RCRA to get coal ash classified as radioactive waste.

    That’s a good idea, and I am surprised that it has not already been tried.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 29 Sep 2010 @ 11:49 AM

  218. David Miller wrote:
    “Burning a ton of carbon releases X BTU. The CO2 produced from this combustion traps Y BTU per year. Y is greater than X. If memory serves it’s a factor of 3-4 times greater.”
    (I thought this is what you meant but wasn’t sure.)
    I think the discrepancy (100,000 versus 3-4) comes from the fact that CO2 stays in the atmosphere a long time, 100 years.

    No one here has addressed the condition in the upper troposphere where, despite constant dispersion, CO2 concentrations are constantly replenished by daily jet flights. Do researchers, perhaps in balloons, measure the CO2 content at various altitudes?

    Hank Roberts, the ‘mysterious force’ holding clouds of CO2 in layers in the atmosphere would be the result of the constant jet flights replenishing the CO2 at the altitudes that jets fly.. Kind of like in the old days of smoke filled rooms. Only a few people were smoking at any one time, but the room was always smokey. Opening the window (analogous to dispersion) would help, but the room would always smell of smoke, with higher concentrations of smoke than outside (other layers of the atmosphere).

    Anyone interested in forestry, plant diseases, and plant growth should find out that ground level ozone is being shown to be a significant contributing factor for plant diseases. So when someone says it’s pine bark beetles killing the pines, they are neglecting the weakening effect of ozone on the tree’s ability to grow and fight off the beetles and fungus. Please find out more about the effects of ozone on plants here:

    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/

    (The writing is consistently far better than mine with many links to scientific resource material.)
    Ozone enables opportunistic insects and diseases to quickly kill trees and plants by seriously impeding photosynthesis.

    Comment by catman306 — 29 Sep 2010 @ 12:33 PM

  219. More information on forest sequestration of CO2:

    http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/carbontracker/

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 29 Sep 2010 @ 12:39 PM

  220. 200 ccpo

    You get how this whole new approach might make sense of a lot of things. However, a leap to a large scale forestation activity is needed to catch up with the on-going coal usage. At the same time it would be entirely desirable to re-establish native species, but the limitation here is that much actively farmed cropland exists now where such native species once stood; and it seems like it would be highly un-economic to displace such activity.

    Of course there is wisdom in using native species where-ever possible.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Sep 2010 @ 1:06 PM

  221. Didactylos – yes I did, and I replied to it, but it seems to have gone awol with only the postscipt correction showing. I also responded to Bob(S) and Hank Roberts.

    Bob (S) asked why there wasn’t a layer of CO2 on the ground if it was always falling. It’s because plants eat it as part of the Carbon Life Cycle. It forms into layers at low spots where there is nothing to disturb it, no wind to move it outside or in closed room, like mines, brewery floors, low depressions around volcanoes, all known physical hazards of CO2.

    Hank, (gave a dry ice experiment), but it doesn’t show diffusion into the atmosphere, as CO2 unfreezes and becomes a gas again it is invisible so it’s not showing what happened to it. The first thing in your link gave a bubble experiment which showed that the bubble which appeared to be suspended in air was actually sitting on a base of carbon dioxide which was supporting it.

    Some dry ice experiments on htt://www.stevespanglerscience.com/experiment/00000055

    Didactylos, molecules may well move like that, but the move move more slowly in liquid states and more slowly again in solid. But this bouncing off each other doesn’t happen in the physical, or hydrogen and oxygen would never combine to form water. This is a description from ideal gas laws which don’t interact with each other and don’t include gravity and atmospheric pressure, they can’t be extrapolated to the physical conditions we find in the atmosphere around us.

    I don’t understand your example about the ethanol, it is heavier in the liquid state, but not in the gas state. As a liquid it displaces air and sinks to the ground, and this is also how CO2 is seen to act when in great amounts, flowing like a stream. A bottle of wine is also water and water has its own vapour point, temperature also making a difference.

    Comment by EdMars — 29 Sep 2010 @ 1:10 PM

  222. 218 Septic Mathew

    Thanks for the esrl.noaa reference.

    Did you notice that the uncertainty chart showed that the uncertainty magnitude far exceeded the absolute values of the numerical base estimate. I take that to mean that they haven’t any idea what they are talking about.

    The idea sounds good; that being to try to understand how things work. Are we really to believe that the most productive agricultural regions, and these being also not densely populated, are the greatest sources of CO2? And there is no peaking of the heavy industry belt? Something is really off here.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Sep 2010 @ 1:25 PM

  223. 220 (EdMars),

    Bob (S) asked why there wasn’t a layer of CO2 on the ground if it was always falling…

    I didn’t ask anything, I gave a common sense example (with a rhetorical question) that demonstrated that your position was and still is absurdly untenable. I’m not exactly sure how you can be clinging to something so obviously and measurably wrong. I’m also unsure, at this point, why anyone is bothering to even discuss it.

    It’s on the level of arguing that the greenhouse gas theory must be wrong because CO2 molecules aren’t actually green, or shaped like little houses.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 29 Sep 2010 @ 2:03 PM

  224. 214 Anonymous Coward

    To address only your point about ‘cherry picking’ coal price: I used the example of Powder River Basin Coal, which is low in heat value due to its low carbon content, and also low in sulphur by the way. It probably is the bulk of the coal used West of the Mississippi, and would be more widely used if not for the cost of transportation. EIA had a chart showing coal prices per million BTU for the whole USA. These varied from around $1 for points close to Wyoming to more generally around $2. This is of course different from the price of coal per ton, and this for the Powder River Basin coal is around $12 per last check and it was up to around $20 when times were booming a couple years ago. Note also that the quoted coal prices are mine mouth prices, and they are not entirely correct since the published prices are not exactly reflective of contract prices and most coal is sold on contracts which are not public information.

    But just to show how it would be if ideal coal, and some is not far from this, were the basis of the calculation. Ideal coal I define as 100% real carbon. When capturing a ton of CO2 from this ideal coal, at a capture only cost of $95, one would be burning only 12/44 ton of the coal. If a whole ton of coal were put into the furnace, there would be 3.7 tons of CO2 to be captured. 3.7 time $95 means $352 would be the cost burden carried for burning this ton of ideal coal. Guessing that such coal would cost $70 per ton this looks like a factor of five increase in fuel cost. (Some Eastern coals are very high in heat content, also high in sulphur, but also closer to the point of usage, so this is not far off the mark.) That price for that kind of coal would have a bigger significance in the final price of electricity. A factor of five increase might ripple up into the price of electricity as a factor of 2 to 3. Northeast electric power already being quite expensive, doubling or tripling it would seem to have a heavy impact on the economies there.

    Clearly there is need for more complete analyses, and these don’t fit well into comment boxes, but my assessment is that we are looking at such large impacts here for ‘carbon’ capture, EPA style, that we would be wise to look for a better way.

    For those of us that are actually concerned about the CO2 problem, I suggest that it is also politically realistic to do that.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Sep 2010 @ 2:21 PM

  225. 207 Jim Eaton,

    So on the surface, things look good, but

    The goal is to establish permanent forest mass, in whatever way that can be done. Some CO2 material might be left behind, but every fiber used in pressed board and every branch effectively turned into biochar would be part of the intended permanent forest mass. But the primary capture mechanism would be to process CO2 into carbon compounds that are the stuff of standing trees. All the discussion about forest management is appropriate, but difficulties that have been announced are not insurmountable.

    The goal is to transition the forests from the growing stage where CO2 capture rates are high into standing forests where storage capacity is high. Thus, the process compares to the idea of capturing CO2 from a power plant stack, compressing it, and pumping it into a cavern. Only the financial outcome of doing this with forests would be ultimately a net public benefit. Putting some of the upfront cost on electric power producers is ok if done wisely, not punitively.

    I would not assert myself as an expert in forest management, but only for starting the thinking process, I much appreciate the old growth redwood forests. These provide large sequestration mass, they produce self preserving wood, and they have an amazing ability to re-grow rapidly from root structure previously developed for the earlier tree. But there may be better choices, and these choices would probably vary with local climate conditions.

    Why would this be ignoring Bambi, the bunnies, and flowers? Yes, we might annoy a few lizards by asking them to move a few miles. If we make too much shade, maybe they will just move on their own.

    Rod B: A lot of the CO2 sequestered in forests is in the roots and soil. By the time you log a tree, strip it of its needles, bark, and pieces that don’t fit your 2 x 4s, a lot of CO2 material is left behind. That ultimately will be released back into the atmosphere. And we are ignoring all the critters and forest plants that depend upon a forest ecosystem.

    But if you don’t like bark beetles that are fostered by global warming, why would a solution that would stop global warming be objectionable? Oh, you announced that it won’t work because it is dangerous geo-engineering. Here we get to the usual resistance to new possibilities. You use the time honored trick of labeling something and then trouncing it as dangerous. However, appropriateness of the label is not discussed. I insist, there has been a lot of complaining about destruction of forests; here I come along and suggest that forests be created, and you call that ‘geo-engineering’.

    In addition, the replanting can be a problem. The most fire resistant forests are old-growth forests, and the most fire susceptible are even-aged plantations. Logging an ancient forest for 2 x 4s is bad not only for the flora and fauna associated with it, but it leads to the likelihood of the young replanted forest being consumed by fire before it reaches a stage where it can be commercially logged. And this possibility is becoming more likely as global warming is allowing bark beetles to kill the trees as they never have before as well as extreme weather conditions encouraging catastrophic fire. [It is late, but if you want references, I can oblige.

    Apparently you are offering advice on ecosystems. Great. Do you think salt and selenium come from irrigating with fresh water? Certainly not salt build up, though what does happen in the California Central Valley is that evaporation of water leaves 'salts' that eventually get to be a problem. (Like carbon dioxide ain't carbon; calcium carbonate ain't salt.) I have heard about the selenium but never have been able to find a credible discussion.

    One fact that I can report, from having driven Interstate 5 through the California Central Valley a number of times, is that the farmers there are putting up signs, and many of them at that. Do these signs whine a lot about salt and selenium? No, I have seen absolutely no such sign. Do they whine a lot about limitations on water supplies due to government decisions? Yes, in fact the signs give rather strong voice to general discontent on the subject.

    Nope, I did not say anything about 'plunking' anything. I speak of a National project and yes, it would employ people; maybe even trained people and we would even need to train some of them. Hm-- Now there is a thought. Do you remember the WPA? I never saw one, but there were shovels around when I was a kid with 'WPA' burned into the handles. I think there was a guy named Roosevelt that came up with this leftist concept that probably kept millions from starving and certainly helped shore up a staggering economy.

    Looking at how our developed world functions using fossil fuels as the primary energy source, I submit that it also might be dangerous to cut that functioning system down, and once you do that I suspect that there will be a problem regrowing it from its roots. I think I told elsewhere about the long memories of the public power producers, especially the investors therein, who were trounced for having believe nuclear power is an option. Even though it still should be an option, the bad feeling is still a strong factor in financial decisions that have to be made to get any system established.

    Well, I guess that my lack of knowledge of ecosystems should keep me from talking about how to keep climate change from throwing us curve balls. Uh, though I thought that stopping climate change would maybe work in the right direction, but that is of course only 'interesting on the surface.'

    But you pronounce, "Not gonna happen." I guess we should forget about it.

    -------------
    I paste in your advice to both myself and Rod B below:

    Rod B: A lot of the CO2 sequestered in forests is in the roots and soil. By the time you log a tree, strip it of its needles, bark, and pieces that don’t fit your 2 x 4s, a lot of CO2 material is left behind. That ultimately will be released back into the atmosphere. And we are ignoring all the critters and forest plants that depend upon a forest ecosystem.

    In addition, the replanting can be a problem. The most fire resistant forests are old-growth forests, and the most fire susceptible are even-aged plantations. Logging an ancient forest for 2 x 4s is bad not only for the flora and fauna associated with it, but it leads to the likelihood of the young replanted forest being consumed by fire before it reaches a stage where it can be commercially logged. And this possibility is becoming more likely as global warming is allowing bark beetles to kill the trees as they never have before as well as extreme weather conditions encouraging catastrophic fire. [It is late, but if you want references, I can oblige.]

    Jim Bullis: Your ideas are interesting on the surface, but you seem to lack any understanding of ecosystems. Yes, water was brought to the Central Valley of California and agriculture bloomed, but a lot of land now is being taken out of production due to buildup of salt and selenium in the soil. You don’t simply bring in water to a desert and plunk down seedlings adapted to an entirely different climate and expect all to be well. Aside from the devastation to native species that could not survive such a change, the scheme simply is doomed to failure. And that is without considering the curve balls climate change is going to serve up in the future.

    Your proposals simply are yet more geo-engineering schemes. They are plans that will not succeed, and they are dangerous as some people will think that we can continue our current use of fossil fuels and find a simple way to mitigate their impacts. Not gonna happen.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Sep 2010 @ 3:23 PM

  226. > it is invisible so it’s not showing what happened to it. …
    > … the bubble which appeared to be suspended in air was
    > actually sitting on a base of carbon dioxide which was supporting it.

    You almost understand. But you missed the rest of the thought experiment.

    You can do this. Think it through:

    Go out, close the door leaving the air circulation off so there’s no moving air in the room, and then come back a few hours later.

    Drop a fresh bubble into the aquarium. Do you imagine it will still float on an invisible tank half full of CO2?

    Nope, it sinks to the bottom.

    Why?

    Diffusion. Brownian motion. How heavy do you think something has to be, for it to fall out of the rest of the atmosphere and sink to the lowest point and stay there?

    About as heavy as dust.

    CO2 isn’t heavy enough to fall out of the atmosphere; it’s heavy enough that a concentrated source of it will spread out slowly and diffuse away.

    Mines, the bottom of welding tanks, buckets with dry ice in them do accumulate CO2. But not because it falls out of the air.

    You can understand this.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Sep 2010 @ 3:39 PM

  227. PS, folks, I know it might just be tasty bait for someone’s amusement.
    But it might be a grade school homework help situation.
    Patience while the moderators allow the questions, they’ll decide.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Sep 2010 @ 3:40 PM

  228. Didactylos, re wet air lighter than air. Is one of those physical facts. Water is heavier than air but it turns to water vapour by evaporation in the surrounding air.

    And explantion here: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/why_dry_air_is_heavier_than_wet_air

    So wet air being lighter travels up and builds clouds where it condenses again into water which is heavier than air and comes down as rain.

    R#210
    I don’t quite understand what you’re saying here, would you elaborate?

    If entropy ends in death, what is that for a carbon dioxide molecule? It has to be an end in one of the physical changes it undergoes in becoming something else. I’d put plants taking it in and utilising the carbon for growth via photosynthesis and in the process releasing oxygen into the atmosphere an example of this, but and I’m not sure of the correct terms here, isn’t that also free energy for the plant, negative entropy?, which is actually reversing entropy in the plant?

    Comment by EdMars — 29 Sep 2010 @ 3:41 PM

  229. One more for EdMars:

    “HOW CO2 GETS INTO CAVES

    “Even though CO2 is 1.57 times heavier than nitrogen and 1.38 times heavier than O2, it will have a tendency to disperse in an isolated volume of air, due to molecular diffusion. In other words a mixture of gasses will not separate into layers of various density gases if they are left for a long time in a still chamber. A possible explanation of the high concentration of CO2 in deep caves (with a relatively still atmosphere), is that CO2 is being produced metabolically or entering the cave via ground water at a greater rate than the gas can diffuse into the cave atmosphere, thus settling at the bottom of the cave because it is a dense gas.”

    http://thelances.org/hr3/CO2paper.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Sep 2010 @ 3:57 PM

  230. catman306 @188 — The atmosphere mixing time (all gases) is about 2 years due to the ITCZ forming a barrier between the hemispheres. Checked by radioactive isotopes during the period of atmospheric testing of atomic bombs.

    wili @199 — Yes, it is now called Jevon’s Paradox.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 29 Sep 2010 @ 4:08 PM

  231. 214 Anonymous Coward,

    My whole focus is about CO2 since that is the main reason for climate change. Yes, it needs to be taken out of the air, either by stopping the putting it in or capturing it and holding it somehow. It seems ok either way.

    Thus, I think I am focusing on climate change.

    I keep running into surprises.

    Some years ago I was focusing on making vehicles that were safe, comfortable and fast. The issue of efficiency first came up for purposes of limiting fuel usage. Then, a few years ago, the electric vehicle seemed like a good thing. Then the climate issue became an established concern, and I realized that electric vehicles would cause increase, not decrease, in the amount of CO2 going into the air; compared to well designed hybrids, that is. Wow, does that ever stir up the climate, would be faithful, cheering section. Fixing that with vehicle concepts that would simply use less energy, of whatever sort, has resulted in a resounding ‘HUH?’ And moderators gird up to block me from standing up for the Second Law of Thermodynamics as I point out that power plant heat losses and emissions count when assessing vehicle benefits. That has been profoundly shocking, but also amusingly revealing of the community expertise in the very physics that is the basis of climate science.

    I think that the economy is now the proper main concern, since a failure here will end much of the imagined mitigating actions, but even more, a failure here will probably be more devastating than climate problems, especially in the immediate decades. So I see it as essential that mitigation go forward without impeding recovery of the economy. In fact mitigation would best involve long term projects that restore productive activities to our economy.

    The obvious course of action being some form of tax that would greatly stifle operation of the CO2 emitters carries with it in my view, a very stifling effect on the economy, and further, the political climate seems to already have trounced this. Then, when seeing the EPA planning, I am shocked to see what I believe is a strange combination of ignorance, arrogance, and indifference to the very things that make the developed world developed. Such actions done in the name of science demonstrate that science can sometimes be not a reasonable guide. There have to be better ways to solve the problem.

    Many seem to reject the motivation I see for solving the problem in a different way, and are perfectly comfortable with actions that I see are unreasonably expensive. I guess that will remain as a difference of opinion, maybe not for too long. Hopefully, this will not bog down discussion of a new way that could be far better for us all.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Sep 2010 @ 4:45 PM

  232. EdMars: you are beyond my help. Read a book. Something high-school level should explain all you need to know about liquids and gases.

    “molecules may well move like that, but the move move more slowly in liquid states and more slowly again in solid. But this bouncing off each other doesn’t happen in the physical, or hydrogen and oxygen would never combine to form water.”

    Kill me. Just kill me now.

    Comment by Didactylos — 29 Sep 2010 @ 4:53 PM

  233. 224 Hank Roberts,

    After you get done with this exercise, perhaps you will get to explaining that warm and cold water have little trouble mixing on a long term basis, thus, there is no heat trapping layer.

    The next source of confusion might be the way ocean acoustic modeling is done with stratified layers. No, these are not mixed layers; instead they are layers of constant temperature gradient, where ocean acoustic ray paths follow constant radius for each layer. And these do not impede mixing, in fact, they simply note the natural gradients that occur until mixing has occurred. The fact that mixing does not ever get finished is due to a continuous maintenance of cold water below and intermittent acceptance of heat from the surface.

    How the continuous maintenance of cold water below comes about has long been not understood, though the recent discussion by Rahmstorf (excuse spelling please) seems to show much progress in understanding this.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Sep 2010 @ 5:02 PM

  234. #219 Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company says:
    29 September 2010 at 1:06 PM

    200 ccpo

    You get how this whole new approach might make sense of a lot of things.

    Impossible to design unsustainably following the principles and ethics in whole system, regenerative design proposed by Mollison and Holmgren.

    However, a leap to a large scale forestation activity is needed to catch up with the on-going coal usage.

    Not just forests, but food forests, which we can put anywhere we wish. Restoring ecosystems is nice, but creating new ones is OK, too.

    At the same time it would be entirely desirable to re-establish native species, but the limitation here is that much actively farmed cropland exists now where such native species once stood; and it seems like it would be highly un-economic to displace such activity.

    Disagree. Massively distributed systems is the answer to the question. Both efficient and robust, like natural systems. Doesn’t much matter whether we are talking about energy, food, what have you. Localizing much of what we do will be vital to drawing down carbon. We can draw down a lot more with not only new forests, but even more so with regenerative farming. About 40% of current emissions, if memory serves, according to the Rodale Institute. Then we need to reduce consumption massively, too.

    Of course there is wisdom in using native species where-ever possible.

    Tru dat.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 29 Sep 2010 @ 5:13 PM

  235. “No one here has addressed the condition in the upper troposphere where, despite constant dispersion, CO2 concentrations are constantly replenished by daily jet flights. Do researchers, perhaps in balloons, measure the CO2 content at various altitudes?”

    Yep-

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/vol316/issue5832/images/large/316_1732_F1.jpeg
    “Fig. 1. Midday vertical CO2 profiles measured at 12 global locations based on fits to samples binned by altitude and averaged over different seasonal intervals. Northern Hemisphere sites include Briggsdale, Colorado, United States (CAR); Estevan Point, British Columbia, Canada (ESP); Molokai Island, Hawaii, United States (HAA); Harvard Forest, Massachusetts, United States (HFM); Park Falls, Wisconsin, United States (LEF); Po$&ker Flat, Alaska, United States (PFA); Orleans, France (ORL); Sendai/Fukuoka, Japan (SEN); Surgut, Russia (SUR); and Zotino, Russia (ZOT). Southern Hemisphere sites include Rarotonga, Cook Islands (RTA) and Bass Strait/Cape Grim, Australia (AIA). Profiles are averaged over Northern Hemisphere summer (A), all months (B), and Northern Hemisphere winter (C). A smoothed deseasonalized record from Mauna Loa has been subtracted from the observations at each site…” Note that there is no bump in CO2 concentration at high altitudes which could be attributed to aircraft emissions, and that the greatest seasonal variations are near the surface, indicating surface sources/sinks, depending on season.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/316/5832/1732 {paywalled}
    Weak Northern and Strong Tropical Land Carbon Uptake from Vertical Profiles of Atmospheric CO2
    Britton B. Stephens, et 21 other als.
    “These seasonal and annual-mean profiles reflect the combined influences of surface fluxes and atmospheric mixing. During the summer in the Northern Hemisphere, midday atmospheric CO2 concentrations are generally lower near the surface than in the free troposphere, reflecting the greater impact of terrestrial photosynthesis over industrial emissions at this time. Sampling locations over or immediately downwind of continents show larger gradients than those over or downwind of ocean basins in response to stronger land-based fluxes, and higher-latitude locations show greater CO2 drawdown at high altitude. Conversely, during the winter, respiration and fossil-fuel sources lead to elevated low-altitude atmospheric CO2 concentrations at northern locations. The gradients are comparable in magnitude in both seasons, but the positive gradients persist for a greater portion of the year and the annual-mean gradients also show higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations near the surface than aloft.”

    Also, if you watch a time-lapse weather radar or satellite cloud movie, the atmosphere moves hundreds of miles per day – the CO2 that is in my atmosphere in NC now(along with a potful of water vapor expected to result in flooding rains) was near the east coast of Florida 12 hours ago. http://www.ssd.noaa.gov/goes/east/eaus/loop-wv.html -the motion and turbulence mix the atmosphere pretty well.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 29 Sep 2010 @ 5:23 PM

  236. 221, Jim Bullis: Did you notice that the uncertainty chart showed that the uncertainty magnitude far exceeded the absolute values of the numerical base estimate. I take that to mean that they haven’t any idea what they are talking about.

    In between “great precision” and “no idea” is where most of scientific research takes place. I would not characterize large uncertainty as “no idea”. About 8 years ago I read a paper in Science claiming that more than 90% of US-generated CO2 is absorbed by US vegetation. I don’t believe it, but it would be nice.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 29 Sep 2010 @ 6:51 PM

  237. 230: Like a member of the compulsive speakers support group on & on and on & on, Jim Bullis went : \I realized that electric vehicles would cause increase, not decrease, in the amount of CO2 going into the air ya da ya da ya da\

    Try actually articulating the thoughts that you are thinking and perhaps the moderators will ungird and perhaps you will leave the \climate, would be faithful, cheering section\ unstirred. Your post is incomprehensible. Oblique. The claim that electric cars do this or that to CO2 emissions is unsubstantiated opinion. Such calculations are based on assumptions. You haven’t stated yours.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 29 Sep 2010 @ 7:48 PM

  238. 233 ccpo

    Distributed is a good sounding word to me also.

    Much could be done by establishing new standing forest where none have existed, uh, that is in the post glacial age or whatever, and that fits the bill for rapid response that we are hearing we need.

    In days gone by farmers maintained a small part of their acreage as a ‘wood lot’ with the obvious purpose of providing a source of firewood. They also maintained lines of trees to function as wind breaks, or even snow barriers. In those days fields were always rectangular.

    But now we see from the sky that many fields are managed as circles, which no doubt enhances the efficiency of a mechanized operation, since tractors do not have to turn around again and again, and overhead irrigation arrangements are efficient in that configuration. The thing is that there are corners left that get little or secondary usage. Here is where the forestation opportunity comes in, and since most of the farm would be unchanged, a distributed system over a large farming area could be established, and it might meet with little resistance.

    So in this case, perhaps there is an even larger scope possible for forests to act as CO2 capturing and sequestering systems.

    There is of course a role here for wise government in administering such as forest project, now on a much wider area basis.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 29 Sep 2010 @ 7:50 PM

  239. What if we stopped mowing lawns?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 29 Sep 2010 @ 8:04 PM

  240. Brian Dodge, thanks for taking the time to answer my question, fully. The hourly and daily natural mixing in the atmosphere precludes any formation of a CO2 layer at typical jet flight altitudes.

    Comment by catman306 — 29 Sep 2010 @ 8:40 PM

  241. What if we stopped mowing lawns?
    … and stopped using tons of petro chemicals on those lawns, and stopped wasting gazillions of gallons of potable water on them?

    Comment by flxible — 29 Sep 2010 @ 8:56 PM

  242. 227 about wet air being lighter.
    We need to do back of the envelope type computations to estimate the order of magnitude of various effects. Yes H2O vapor has a lower molecular weight than air, so adding vapor does in fact decrease the density. However under typical terrestrial conditions the absolute humidity is under 1%, so any change in density due to higher (local) humidity is well under 1%. A 2.85C warming will decrease density by 1% as well. The trouble is evaporation consumes thermal energy (turning it into latent energy), I’m not sure the newly dampened air will be as warm as the dryer air, so boyancy effects won’t be large. But, we have plenty of air motion, even a gentle breeze should mix the dmp boundary layer away from the surface, so I don’t think it makes much difference. The really big difference meteorolgically is that when the moist air reaches an altitude where the vapor starts condensing out, the latent energy is released, and that parcel of air then becomes warmer/lighter than its surroundings.

    Comment by Thomas — 29 Sep 2010 @ 9:00 PM

  243. ccpo, thanks for 202. It seems that the industry could almost duplicate the natural process, but then that strikes me as very complex, difficult and costly… and unlikely.

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Sep 2010 @ 9:38 PM

  244. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company says:
    “warm and cold water have little trouble mixing on a long term basis, thus, there is no heat trapping layer.”

    I don’t understand what you’re talking about.
    You say your specialty in ocean acoustics uses a different definition than climatology. I believe you. But I can’t figure out what you’re arguing.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Sep 2010 @ 9:43 PM

  245. Anonymous Coward, well, it is “fee and dividend” though written as “tax and tax rebate.” However it isn’t as you would design and define a “fee & dividend” as you say. If you think any Congress is going to pass any such legislation without “messing with it,” you’re whistling Dixie. Though no harm in offering your idea.

    Comment by Rod B — 29 Sep 2010 @ 10:02 PM

  246. Ah, perhaps irony involved?
    Mixing happens rarely:

    http://ams.confex.com/ams/pdfpapers/31221.pdf
    MONITORING THE OCEAN ACOUSTICALLY: A REVIEW AND STRATEGY …

    “… In temperate oceans, a sound speed minimum occurs
    at about 1 km depth. This deep ocean sound channel, or
    waveguide, traps acoustic energy in the water column so
    that it can propagate great distances without interacting
    with the ocean bottom….
    … Oceanic convection connects the surface ocean to the
    deep ocean with important consequences for the global
    thermohaline circulation and climate. Deep convection
    occurs in only a few locations in the world, and is difficult
    to observe. Acoustic arrays provide both the spatial coverage and temporal resolution necessary to observe deep-water formation. An experiment in the Greenland Sea observed the formation of a deep convective chimney (Fig. 5; Worcester et al., 1993; Pawlowicz et al., 1995; Morawitz et al., 1996; Sutton et al., 1997).”

    And from the caption to Fig. 5:

    “A deep convective chimney was observed near the center of the array during March 1989 … Convection occurs in March, with cold water extending from the surface to depth. It occurs when the area becomes ice-free and large amounts of heat are lost to the cold atmosphere.”

    So there’s a warm upper ocean, a cold deeper ocean, rare convective chimneys — and likely a coming feedback change — more and earlier and later ice-free ocean, larger amounts of heat lost to the atmosphere, and — then what?

    Change in the location or strength or frequency of these relatively rare deep convective chimneys? Peter Ward was writing about this stuff a while back, saying the deep water formation location could move south and warmer water be convected downward, causing low oxygenation at depth.

    And monitoring may be done — by tomography (3D imaging over time) using the sound channel.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Sep 2010 @ 10:37 PM

  247. Re 203,205 Jim Bullis – yes, I am aware of the difference between C and CO2
    (I assume you saw my correction, where I changed the estimate from ~ 3 to ~ 10 cents/kWhe for coal with ~ 366 $/t C ~= 100 $/t CO2; this was mostly back-of-the-envelope mental math, so I’m not saying that it isn’t 9 or 11 or 12 cents/kWhe, just that it’s close to that. But it should be fairly clear how I got the value: energy density of coal / mass fraction C (assumed near 1 for a relatively ‘pure’ coal) * efficiency of conversion to electricity, converting MJ to kWh, = kWh electricity / kg C; take the inverse and multiply by cents/kg C to get cents/kWh electricity).

    It’s convenient to measure CO2 in terms of C amount for comparing with other forms of C involved in the C cycle, etc.

    Re 232 Jim Bullis After you get done with this exercise, perhaps you will get to explaining that warm and cold water have little trouble mixing on a long term basis, thus, there is no heat trapping layer.

    I think it’s your use of the phrase ‘heat trapping layer’ that is getting in the way. It isn’t that there is a layer which traps heat, but that there is a layer which has heat capacity and which, via mixing, exchanges heat readily with the atmosphere over climatically short time periods, so that its heat capacity is involved in slowing climate change. The heat is not trapped in this layer, and over longer time periods a change in temperature will tend to penetrate through the rest of the ocean, while water from below the mixed layer comes up and affects the temperature of the upper ocean and atmosphere.

    stratified layers. And these do not impede mixing, in fact, they simply note the natural gradients that occur until mixing has occurred.

    Stratification always results in some impedence to mixing; a sufficient turbulent kinetic energy supply can overcome this, and once mixing occurs, it is easier to keep a layer mixed (though the stratification can then increase at the layer boundaries).

    ——
    Re Ed Mars – remember that biological processes are both sinks and sources of CO2 at the surface.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 29 Sep 2010 @ 11:19 PM

  248. 236 John E. Pearson,

    My #230 was specifically addressing the question of what I was really concerned about, as raised by the person addressed there, and it attempted to show a sequence of issues which I had been concerned about.

    As to the statement about electric cars at #230, how good of you to ask for more discussion. The comment block is a little limiting as far as a complete discussion is concerned, but let me try to be a little more complete. I tend to assume that those that might pay attention are familiar with much of the story, and hence I try to cut to the central issues, perhaps a bit too abruptly, as your kind criticism points out.

    The question is, do electric vehicles accomplish any improvement over cars that carry their own heat engines as far as CO2 emissions are concerned? Answer: It depends on the emissions of the respective heat engines that generate the energy to drive the car, whether it is mechanical or electric energy. In general, that heat engine is a coal fired engine at a power plant because this is the available capacity that exists and is capable of responding to added loads of electric vehicles. Coal produces more CO2 per BTU of heat than gasoline, so unless the heat engine in the engine carrying vehicle is significantly less efficient than the heat engine in the power plant, operation of the engine carrying vehicle produces less CO2 than the electric vehicle with its associated coal fired power plant. For hybrids such as the Toyota Prius, the heat engine in the car is more efficient than coal fired power plant engines.

    If there was a future time when there was reserve capacity from renewable sources, then the answer would change, otherwise not.

    Natural gas as a fuel for the power plant shifts the balance in favor of the electric car, but not by much. However, this is generally irrelevant since natural gas, even at $4 is significantly more expensive per BTU than coal, so it is not a rational choice.

    In the ‘warmer and warmer’ discussion previously posted more of the issue of comparisons is discussed, especially in respect to the book by Prof. David MacKay. There the basic controversial nature of the matter should be more clear.

    This could go on, but as I write I realize that this is not much related to feedbacks, which is the topic of the lead article. My apologies to the moderator, but John E. Pearson made me do it.

    On the other hand, I suspect that JEP is really interested in showing critical ability regarding how I discuss things, thus undercutting the more relevant discussions.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Sep 2010 @ 2:56 AM

  249. 242 Hank Roberts,

    I am not sure what you are saying here, but the folks planning to use the sound channel to monitor the mentioned processes might have a difficulty with the multipath structure of acoustic propagating waves in the deep sound channel.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Sep 2010 @ 3:19 AM

  250. EdMars 220,

    We know CO2 is well-mixed because we’ve measured it, both across the globe and at high altitude. It does not settle toward the ground; turbulence is more important than relative molecular weight. Give it up. You’re just wrong.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Sep 2010 @ 4:52 AM

  251. JB 230: I realized that electric vehicles would cause increase, not decrease, in the amount of CO2 going into the air

    BPL: Unless electricity is generated from sources OTHER than coal and oil. Duh.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 30 Sep 2010 @ 5:38 AM

  252. 237 (Edward Greisch)

    What if we stopped mowing lawns?

    I actually think that that might come to pass, eventually. The fossil fuel expense in lawn mowers, gas, and fertilizer, while probably small compared to other uses, is still something of a waste. There are any number of ground cover plants which could take the place of lawns, looking just as green, probably with more interesting variation from house to house, and requiring less care (and less fossil fuels… and being less susceptible to weeds and crabgrass).

    People would still keep smaller patches of grass in their lawns (for yard games, picnics, sitting out, etc.), but there’s little reason to maintain huge swaths of grass, just because it’s what we’ve always done before. More trees (a safe distance from the house) would also be desirable.

    I’m not saying this is strictly necessary, but a lot of people here argue against this or that (solar, wind, whatever) as a renewable solution because it’s too expensive or imperfect, when the reality is we’ll never find one 100% solution, but instead need 100 1% solutions.

    Some of those 1% solutions are as simple as changing cultural habits, like the need for a lush, green lawn as a sign of success, or worse yet, the need for every company to have its employees work 9-5, which results in huge congestion at peak travel periods, which in turn requires wider roadways with more asphalt, more or larger cars and trains, more idle time, etc.

    Other options? Smaller, more energy efficient houses instead of McMansions. Fewer trips to the store just for bread and milk. A restriction (or tax) on vehicle size (my wife wants an SUV, just for armored protection from all of the other SUVs out there… imagine if all cars were smaller and lighter), as well as (this one I think is key) engineering designs for all products which make them easier to repair rather than simply dispose of and replace.

    On the latter, I bought a very expensive treadmill some years back, with the extended warranty. Under warranty it failed. It turned out the problem was only in the controller board, and the company that enforced the warranty felt it was cheaper to just replace the entire unit than the relatively small but expensive electronics. The end result was that I had to dispose of this gigantic treadmill and buy a new one. Foolish and wasteful. [In my defense, I scoured the Internet looking for a used treadmill or control board which I could try to fit to it, but had no luck.]

    Once people recognize (admit to) the problem and get mobilized, a lot of these things are in our future, and thirty years from now people will wonder why we didn’t do things that way to begin with, because a lot of it is just out of force of habit, rather than from any real, meaningful reason.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 30 Sep 2010 @ 8:33 AM

  253. Bob (Sphaerica)

    Another thing that would help is for people to stop buying electronic
    treadmills that require fossil fuels to build and ship, and simply walk outside.

    CJ

    Comment by Catrun J — 30 Sep 2010 @ 8:53 AM

  254. 252 (CJ),

    Another thing that would help is for people to stop buying electronic
    treadmills that require fossil fuels to build and ship, and simply walk outside.

    Agreed, and I didn’t buy another treadmill with the refund (and never will again), and I do run outside most of the year… but I live in a part of the country that makes that impossible 4 months out of the year, and I live in a hilly neighborhood which limits me (now that I’ve hit 50 and my achilles are tightening up). Membership in a health club, to share equipment, would help, but also involves wasteful use of fossil fuels to get there.

    I’ve opted instead to look for a less intensive/expensive, longer lasting piece of equipment, like an eliptical (although I haven’t got one yet)… or, if I don’t get one, to live a less healthy life and die younger, which I suppose is also a savings in FF. :)

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 30 Sep 2010 @ 9:15 AM

  255. Edward Greisch: “What if we stopped mowing lawns?”

    What if American suburbanites invested exactly the same amount of time, labor, money, energy, water, etc. that they currently devote to lawns, shrubbery, flower beds and other purely decorative plants, to growing food instead?

    According to Wikipedia, the US Department of Agriculture estimates that during World War II, “more than 20 million victory gardens were planted. Fruit and vegetables harvested in these home and community plots was estimated to be 9-10 million tons, an amount equal to all commercial production of fresh vegetables”.

    Using the knowledge of intensive organic gardening techniques that we have acquired over the last half-century, we could do much better today.

    We have vast potential to produce most of the food we consume locally and organically, thereby drastically reducing the GHG footprint of food production — and indeed, organic agriculture is a crucial approach to drawing down the already dangerous anthropogenic excess of CO2.

    And by the way, for those who still have some lawn they have to mow, as I do: get an electric mower with rechargeable batteries, and charge them from wind or solar power.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Sep 2010 @ 10:04 AM

  256. > might have a difficulty with the multipath

    They’ve discussed the issue — for years!
    Your info is out of date on this, Jim. Please check before saying something can’t be done, you’ll often find people already doing it.

    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=acoustic+tomography+oceans+multipath

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Sep 2010 @ 10:25 AM

  257. PS, limiting the search to only 2010 skips all the development and discussion from the past decade and shows the application of the idea:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=acoustic+tomography+oceans+multipath&as_sdt=2000&as_ylo=2010&as_vis=0

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Sep 2010 @ 10:27 AM

  258. “About 8 years ago I read a paper in Science claiming that more than 90% of US-generated CO2 is absorbed by US vegetation. I don’t believe it, but it would be nice.”

    Alas, the paper made a simple error – I submitted a correction to Science for it a bunch of years back, and got a ‘thank you” note but never saw any actual correction posted – anyway, I think it was something like comparing total global uptake to US emissions, rather than US uptake to US emissions (which should have been about a third).

    -M

    [Response: Right--not a chance, unless the paper was possibly referring to GPP rather than NPP--and even then would still be questionable--Jim]

    Comment by M — 30 Sep 2010 @ 11:35 AM

  259. Worth noting: ocean and atmosphere interact through a living film that may change the results modeled assuming only mechanical mixing. I know this isn’t news to those working in the area already.

    I wonder how much humaan activity has already changed what lives there — have we been biogeoengineering the interface ?

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19783743

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Sep 2010 @ 12:09 PM

  260. Didn’t find that Science paper with a very brief site search, but did turn up this more reasonable number:

    Science Express 22 May and Science 6 June 2003:
    Vol. 300. no. 5625, pp. 1538 – 1542, DOI: 10.1126/science.1083592
    Research Articles

    Europe’s Terrestrial Biosphere Absorbs 7 to 12% of European Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions

    “With the use of the corrected atmosphere- and land-based estimates as a dual constraint, we estimate a net carbon sink between 135 and 205 teragrams per year in Europe’s terrestrial biosphere, the equivalent of 7 to 12% of the 1995 anthropogenic carbon emissions.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Sep 2010 @ 1:37 PM

  261. SecularAnimist #254, generally speaking, centralizing an operation makes it more efficient, whether were talking buses vs individuals in cars, or apartments vs individual houses, manufacturing assembly lines vs building it yourself. By centralizing or producing in batches, you reduce waste, use raw materials more efficiently, and maintenance is more efficient.

    What is your evidence that decentralizing agriculture is the best use of resources? And for that matter, aren’t there efficiency drawbacks to having personal solar or wind systems, as apposed to having energy generated in a central location?

    Comment by Michael W — 30 Sep 2010 @ 2:17 PM

  262. OT alert:

    This “investor newsletter” arrived in my inbox today, apparently prompted by 180 lawmakers pressing the President to go the protectionist route:

    If Congress had done a better job crafting legislation that would help the country embrace a clean energy future, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

    But they didn’t, and the Chinese did.

    The Chinese have passed a law mandating a certain percentage of their energy comes from renewables. Congress has talked about it, but nothing has been done.

    China also requires utilities to pay a higher rate to developers for clean energy. Congress never got around to doing that, either.

    And yes, when we passed the stimulus back in 2009, $80 billion was set aside for cleantech projects ranging from energy efficiency to energy storage…

    But do you know what China did? It set aside $217 billion for the next five years, and could invest upwards of $600 billion by 2020.

    Some reports show the Chinese are spending $12 million an hour toward developing a cleantech economy, working out to about $100 billion per year. That figure isn’t far off.

    And as I reported this past weekend:

    Last year, $35 billion in private money was invested in Chinese cleantech projects. The United States received under $19 billion.

    And it isn’t just Chinese money; dollars are pouring in from U.S.-based funds and individual investors buying Chinese ADRs.

    Chinese companies will make 39% of the wind turbines sold this year; U.S. companies will provide 12%.

    Chinese companies will make 43% of the solar panels; U.S. firms will make 9%.

    So, to the 180 lawmakers who think China has “an unfair advantage in the green technology revolution,” I can only say:

    “You’re right. And you’ve given it to them.”

    You’ve given it to them with your inaction. You’ve given it to them with your constant yielding to corporate interests. You’ve given it to them with your intense partisanship.

    And that’s sad for America.

    Comments?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 30 Sep 2010 @ 2:23 PM

  263. Just out :

    http://royalsociety.org/climate-change-summary-of-science/

    It does not use the term feedback, but does mention ‘reduction’ = negative feedback and
    ‘amplification’ = positive feedback.

    There is no change, but much of the media are trying their best to pretend the opposite. BBC Radio 4 has not been free of this tendency.

    Comment by Deconvoluter — 30 Sep 2010 @ 3:22 PM

  264. Another reason carbon dioxide cannot be said to be well mixed is because the figures given are averages, as this writer points out, and that satellite data show that carbon dioxide isn’t well mixed in the atmosphere, but varies seasonally and so on.

    http://www.science20.com/chatter_box/co2_greenhouse_gas

    I’m sorry, but I decided to draw the line when scientists in different fields argued that carbon dioxide was a poison, it’s a non-toxic gas and kills by suffocation in sufficient quantities to do so, as in Cameroon. They come up with a totally erroneous explanations for calling it a poison, if they bother at all, but having heard it is when used as an argument against carbon dioxide they become convinced it is true. It’s even been put on poisonous hazards lists by some governments.

    This is what is being taught to our children, to fear the basic food stuff of all life on earth which gives us the air we breathe.

    [Response: "Well-mixed" does not mean absolutely uniform to the twentieth decimal place. The variations in the free troposphere are very small compared to the global increase and so are very minor in terms of radiation transfer. CO2 at high enough concentrations is a poison (above 10,000 ppm), and of course you can suffocate if you try and breath pure CO2 (as in what happened in Lake Nyos). It is also used by plants. All of these things are true at the same time, they are not contradictory. - gavin]

    Comment by EdMars — 30 Sep 2010 @ 4:03 PM

  265. 255 Hank Roberts

    In your rush to find flaws, you should first actually read my words.

    I did not say ‘it can’t be done.’

    I said ‘might have difficulty.’

    I will add though, the difficulty I speak of is not necessarily defeated by a list of academic papers on the subject. You should try to discriminate between people talking about something and doing about it. Sometimes that is hard, even if you read the paper, especially since the real hardware is not something that they talk about in published papers. Not that all the problem is intellectual; this is a subject that quickly stumbles into a world controlled by military interests.

    I certainly do not rule out advances from the long ago days when I was involved in such studies, but there are some real problems. I can tell you from direct involvement that much is not published, and even to this day, I have not been able to get many classified reports written in the 1960s.

    The real issue is to sort out real information from nonsense or idle conjecture based on ignorance. The quotes you offered provide an opportunity to explain how this works for someone, that being myself, who wrote a wavefront mapping program for analyzing the multipath structure in the deep sound channel, had direct control for a week of the largest acoustic source in the world for study of the temporal coherence of ocean propagation over 500 mile long paths, actually listened to sounds from explosive sources hundreds of miles distant, variously designed, built, tested and used at sea such analog and digital devices known as Beamformers (DIMUS for digital forms), Replica Corellators (DELTIC for digital forms), and a variety of other measurement instruments.

    Thus, I can explain why it looks like poor science is going on in the following, though there is also a sprinkling of interesting tidbits.

    I am particularly interested in the observation of deep convection. But the writer shows glancing familiarity with the subject of acoustic measurements. He says, “Acoustic arrays provide both the spatial coverage and temporal resolution necessary to observe deep-water formation.” Ok, acoustic arrays actually provide spatial resolution, coverage being a property determined by ocean propagation effects, and perhaps the beamformer behind the array. Temporal resolution has nothing to do with the array, but is entirely dependent on bandwidth of the signals involved and this is of course sharply limited by the ability of the ocean to support propagation of signals having significant bandwidth, that problem being that the attenuation of higher frequency signals that have bandwidth possibilities quickly eliminates the signal. If they were trying to measure velocity of ocean currents, that would involve Doppler types of measurements, and this would depend on long term temporal coherence of the relevant propagation paths. Since they do not mention this Doppler type of measurement, I am left doubting their ability to use this quite effective type of process.

    All that said, understanding of the deep cold regions of the oceans is of much interest in understanding how the global accumulation of heat will be handled by the oceans. I am hoping that measurement technics will actually evolve to assist in learning about this.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Sep 2010 @ 4:16 PM

  266. 263 (EdMars),

    They come up with a totally erroneous explanations for calling it a poison,…

    Strawman. No one is saying any such thing. Please link to one site which calls CO2 a “poison.”

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 30 Sep 2010 @ 4:25 PM

  267. 263 (EdMars),

    …as this writer points out, and that satellite data show that carbon dioxide isn’t well mixed in the atmosphere, but varies seasonally and so on…

    But it is well mixed at any point in time. The fact that the level varies seasonably has nothing to do with how well mixed it is.

    Do you know why, or can you guess why, the level varies so regularly with the seasons?

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 30 Sep 2010 @ 4:29 PM

  268. 250 BPL

    Duh yourself.

    It seems that there are those of us who see it as obvious that so called renewables or ‘other’ are not to be regarded as serious options to coal for generating electric power or to oil for powering vehicles. And the joke is that moving cars to electricity will reduce use of oil but is certainly going to result in burning of more coal. Double duh, to return rudeness for rudeness.

    To go on, in this group to which you do not ascribe, there are some who are both concerned about global warming and the economies of the developed world. We see that the push for electric vehicles is a hoax on the global warming interests, but of course, it will help reduce the power of the Middle Eastern oil producers. But because the electric vehicle will require more generation of electricity, this will require more coal usage. And along comes the EPA with plans that would significantly increase the cost of electricity generated from coal, so it looks like we are headed for an economic logjam. I guess the duh sayers do not understand this.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Sep 2010 @ 4:33 PM

  269. Michael W wrote: “centralizing an operation makes it more efficient”

    Growing broccoli in expensively irrigated deserts in California, and shipping it in refrigerated diesel trucks 3000 miles to Pennsylvania (which has an ideal climate for growing broccoli), is “efficient”?

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Sep 2010 @ 4:34 PM

  270. 265 Bob (Sphaerica)

    Would the word ‘toxic’ be the same as the word ‘poison’? Maybe this is where we are getting crossed signals.

    There is no doubt in my mind that we are overloaded with distorted words, and it seems a lot of this is due to zealotry in pursuit of something that is otherwise something we want. A lot of it is a transferrence trick, where terminology from past efforts to curtail real toxic substances are being misapplied to generate political momentum, otherwise known as panic.

    A list:
    carbon (CO2)
    dirty coal (emitting absolutely clean CO2)
    clean coal (clean CO2 captured)
    acid oceans (slightly less alkaline than before)
    zero emissions vehicles (zero except for the power plant tied to the car)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Sep 2010 @ 4:43 PM

  271. Michael W: What is your evidence that decentralizing agriculture is the best use of resources? And for that matter, aren’t there efficiency drawbacks to having personal solar or wind systems, as apposed to having energy generated in a central location?
    It’s about the distribution Michael, not to mention the fuel and petrochems used in industrial monocultures vs diversity. Same for personal energy supplies, which greatly encourage conservation – live within your means instead of externalizing by constantly withdrawing the planets “capital”. OTOH, all those folks in urban apartment jungles might get cold and hungry, as they will anyway when the cost of importing their out of season foodstuffs from other continents becomes prohibitive.

    Comment by flxible — 30 Sep 2010 @ 4:49 PM

  272. Another of my posts has gone awol, that too was a postcript.

    Bob (S), rhetorical or not, it was worth replying to because it shows that the basic knowledge of the Carbon Life Cycle was missing in the picture it gave. Carbon dioxide is the essential food for carbon life forms, which we are, and the process is well understood by science. It’s a trace gas, over 99.9% of the atmosphere is not carbon dioxide. The atmosphere then is an entity of mainly nitrogen and oxygen in which carbon dioxide acts. Ditto water vapour.

    Carbon dioxide being heavier than air, nitrogen and oxygen, sinks and is utilised by plants which live at ground level to ultimately feed us and other animal life and produce the oxygen we have in the atmosphere. All of this oxygen is produced by plant life. This is how life began on earth, by the first cyanobacteria producing oxygen from carbon dioxide, these later developed into plants and continue to produce all the oxygen in our atmosphere.

    Plants deveeloped stromata to take in carbon dioxide on the underside of their leaves. That alone should be enough to indicate that they did so because that is where concentrated amounts of carbon dioxide will be found, and from that to see that carbon dioxide sinks, has to sink, to be able to provide their food. Those involved in some food production introduce much higher levels of carbon dioxide into their greenhouses, around 80ppm, because higher levels produce healthier, more drought resistant plants. Water vapour also acts in this entity the atmosphere, in the water cycle through air. The winds move these through the atmosphere and so our carbon life cycle goes on.

    [Response: Wrong, wrong, and wrong. 1. Carbon dioxide is not "food" for anything, including plants--it's simply the initial molecule in reduced organic forms that are that food. 2. The oxygen from photosynthesis comes from the splitting of water, not from CO2. 3. Stomata are predominantly on the underside of most (not all) leaves because they experience less water loss that way, and therefore have a higher water use efficiency for a given stomatal conductance. Any difference in [CO2] from top to bottom of leaf, at those times when it exists at all, is entirely a function of wind flow, leaf shape, and relative rates of photosynthesis and respiration, and has absolutely nothing to do with gas densities. 4. The [CO2] in greenhouses is much higher than 80 ppm, and it is not raised for the purposes you state, but rather to reduce photorespiration by the enzyme RUBISCO, thus increasing carbon use efficiency, which translates to faster growth. It has nothing to do with the “health” of the plants. Please don’t throw out random BS and expect it to go undetected.–Jim]

    [edit wandering nonsense]

    Comment by EdMars — 30 Sep 2010 @ 5:12 PM

  273. Jim, it seems you can explain this stuff; the one review didn’t mention these ideas, but others seem to be using the method you talked about:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=velocity+ocean+current+%2BDoppler++temporal+coherence+propagation+path&btnG=Search&as_sdt=2000&as_ylo=2010&as_vis=1
    I’d be interested if you go into explanations on your blog somewhere.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Sep 2010 @ 5:16 PM

  274. 261 Kevin McKinney (and BPL, you might be interested)

    I have trouble with your list.

    A year ago President Hu said, (according to a quote provided by Joe Romm):

    “We will endeavor to cut carbon dioxide emissions [per] GDP by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level.Second, we will vigorously develop renewable energy and nuclear energy. We will endeavor to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15 percent by 2020.

    Third, we will energetically increase forest carbon … we will endeavor to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from the 2005 levels.

    Fourth, we will step up our efforts to develop green economy, low carbon economy … and enhance research, development and dissemination of climate-friendly technologies.”

    I say: It is hard to know what China is actually going to do. Your list does not say that 80% of electric power in China today is from coal fired power plants and that they commission two more such plants each week. But they might get to 15% renewables by 2020, especially if they count hydro, and who can be against that?

    Then I point out that it is easy to make research sound big, but when the real numbers are compared, it often looks not so big. But “dissemination of climate technologies”?? I take this as meaning they have identified a sucker market in the USA and they will be glad to deliver.

    But let’s get to Pres. Hu’s third point. And also note that the construction of the world’s largest dam on the Yangtze has actually happened. So I put a lot of credibility on the point that they will develop forests, as he says, we will “energetically increase forest carbon”. (I wonder if the word carbon was a product of a translator, or if he really said that.)

    Kevin McKinney, now here is the point I want to make about your list. Somehow it leaves off the entire part about forests and actual power plants. I think it is safe to say that your list was not produced by someone promoting coal usage. But mostly I want to say that it leaves off the part about forests altogether.

    It has not escaped me that promoting a CO2 capture and sequestration system on a continental North America basis offers me no opportunity for financial gain. I suspect the makers of your list discovered the same reality, as they searched out the various assertions about what China was going to do, and cherry picked the list for things that they would like the USA to do.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Sep 2010 @ 5:18 PM

  275. SecularAnimist #267, no that is not efficient. I would use that refrigerated diesel truck to transport broccoli grown in Oregon to people living in the deserts of California. Pennsylvania could have its own broccoli growers central to that area.

    Heres the concept: I would rather have 1 tilling combine prepping the ground for this broccoli on a large farm, than 10,000 rototillers in backyard gardens.

    Comment by Michael W — 30 Sep 2010 @ 7:02 PM

  276. I would rather have 1 tilling combine prepping the ground for this broccoli on a large farm, than 10,000 rototillers in backyard gardens.
    Which indicates you don’t know much about commercial agriculture or sustainable food production. Combines don’t prep the ground, they harvest grain, and tillage is not only unnecessary but detrimental.

    Comment by flxible — 30 Sep 2010 @ 8:06 PM

  277. EdMars,
    Check in with reality. It misses you.

    Sorry, dude, but CO2 is a well mixed gas. It varies by at most a few percent–and since CO2 forcing is logarithmic in CO2 concentration, that is negligible.

    Do you really think this hasn’t been measured?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Sep 2010 @ 8:12 PM

  278. 269 (Jim),

    Would the word ‘toxic’ be the same as the word ‘poison’? Maybe this is where we are getting crossed signals.

    As I asked EdMars, a citation or link please. When has anyone labeled CO2 as toxic? Or poisonous? The science and even the flawed journalistic representations of the science do not say toxic or poisonous. No one has ever said toxic or poisonous.

    …being misapplied to generate political momentum, otherwise known as panic.

    So you’re angry that people are saying something that they’re not saying, and so are using that thing that they’re not saying to try to panic you, and others, who remember having heard them say it?

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 30 Sep 2010 @ 8:26 PM

  279. MichaelW — one tilling machine? That’s a small broccoli farm. Here’s one:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qBgiuLwZsE&feature=related
    Compare this: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/
    They till — with animals — much the way these people do with heavy farm equipment:
    https://www.farm-equipment.com/pages/Feature-Articles—Making-a-Case-for-Vertical-Tillage.php

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Sep 2010 @ 8:35 PM

  280. At this point I find it hard to avoid the conclusion that EdMars is relying on Poe’s law to engage in an extended parody of a willful ingnoramus.

    Comment by Rick Brown — 30 Sep 2010 @ 8:39 PM

  281. 271 (EdMars),

    You absolutely amaze me. Please tell me you weren’t educated in the U.S.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 30 Sep 2010 @ 8:44 PM

  282. 257, M: Alas, the paper made a simple error – I submitted a correction to Science for it a bunch of years back, and got a ‘thank you” note but never saw any actual correction posted – anyway, I think it was something like comparing total global uptake to US emissions, rather than US uptake to US emissions (which should have been about a third).

    Thanks for the comment. I have been hoping to read a confirmation, but never have come across one.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 30 Sep 2010 @ 9:21 PM

  283. Jim Bullis–

    Not sure what point you think I’m making with “my list,” which a) isn’t mine, and b) is more polemic than list, if you ask me. But I deliberately asked an open-ended question in soliciting comment. Nor am I sure why you think there’s a bit about forests which was “left off.” That seems to be your current focus, but that doesn’t mean everybody else has to address it every time a vaguely related topic comes up, does it?

    I thought the rant was rather interesting from the perspective that it is often assumed that the US will somehow be left out on a limb, should actual mitigation be mandated, and particularly WRT China and India. Yet it would appear that China is displaying considerably more commitment to change than is the USA–and part of that is profit motive, with China grabbing market share in turbines and PV. Note that the actions listed include present and past tense, not just future.

    Anyway, I recall that I asked for comment. Do I understand you correctly that your comments are basically two: 1) it’s a cherry-picked list, leaving out Chinese FF use and including airy promises, and 2) they should have included what Pres. Hu said about forests?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 30 Sep 2010 @ 9:28 PM

  284. 277 Bob

    You are correct as far as any responsible statements are concerned. The strongest word from official land seems to be ‘harmful’ which is quite different, as you point out.

    As to my being angry — about terminology usage. Yes, mostly because it causes a lot of confusion where there is need for clear discussion.

    As I try to explain this better, it seems that this is the American way. Sorry, but time prevents me from explaining better.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Sep 2010 @ 10:15 PM

  285. 279 and 280

    No need to pile on. Moderator Jim commented appropriately.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 30 Sep 2010 @ 10:18 PM

  286. Jim Bullis, you are missing some important terms in your argument that electric cars are more carbon intensive then internal combustion cars. The needed comparison is well to wheels, and mine to wheels. There are significant loses in going from buried oil to gasoline. But worst of all, small ICE engines have large standby loses, i.e. the energy needed to maintain engine RPMs, before torque is applied to the wheels. Have you ever compared driving downhill in gear, versus in neutral. About half of the energy in a typical car is consumed in the engine/transmission, these loses are very tiny in the electric variety. The real problem is because cars are massively overpowered, and in typical level constant speed driving only use a small fraction of available power. ICE engines only get rated efficiencies when accererating of climbing hills. If we made ICE cars with twenty horse power engines, they would probably be about as efficient as electric vehicles.

    Comment by Thomas — 30 Sep 2010 @ 10:48 PM

  287. Bob (Sphaerica), don’t be so Pavlovian. There are buku references to CO2 as a poison. [and how 'bout that law that says everything is a poison -- just depends on the quantity.]

    Comment by Rod B — 30 Sep 2010 @ 10:58 PM

  288. “I’m sorry, but I decided to draw the line when scientists in different fields argued that carbon dioxide was a poison, it’s a non-toxic gas and kills by suffocation in sufficient quantities to do so,” EdMars — 30 September 2010 @ 4:03 PM

    escholarship.umassmed.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1446
    “The inhalation of high concentrations of CO2 can lower the pH of the blood and thus trigger effects on the respiratory, cardiovascular and central nervous system ….These effects are caused by two mechanisms: asphyxia and by direct effects of CO2 on the regulation of respiration. Respiration is a tightly controlled phenomenon in mammals (including humans). It is primary regulated by the CO2 tension in arterial blood (PaCO2) and the concentration of hydrogen ions (pH). Arterial PO2 is not the major driving force for ventilation under normal circumstances. So, any condition that increases PaCO2 will result in a stimulation of ventilation in order to eliminate the surplus of CO2. A too high level of CO2 in blood and tissues will lead to acidosis which is harmful for mammalian tissues, especially those with a high sensitivity (e.g. brain).”

    While working with Franz Jobsis to develop an infrared monitor to measure brain metabolism, I had the opportunity to breath a mix of 95% O2 and 5% CO2. Although it provides plenty of oxygen, because of the increase of PaCO2 it feels like your suffocating. Ten or fifteen seconds of 95/5 is all anyone can take, even though it boosts the level of oxygen in the brain. It also causes blood vessels to expand, and some subjects got headaches.
    Breathing pure nitrogen will cause a person to black out without any warning; metabolism will maintain PaCO2 and breathing at normal levels until you have used up all internal O2 stores, then your brain quits. I think the IRB would only approve gas mixtures with a minimum of 10% O2, and we had continuous medical monitoring by a physician.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 1 Oct 2010 @ 12:18 AM

  289. Carbon dioxide is a poison. So is nitrogen at elevated pressure, see nitrogen narcosis. Just because there is a need for OSHA to set limits for carbon dioxide exposure doesn’t mean responsible people think that normal atmospheric levels are poisonous.

    Comment by NoPreview NoName — 1 Oct 2010 @ 1:19 AM

  290. > buku
    typo for “bunkum” — said by people claiming somebody else believes it
    > that law
    Philipus Aureolus Paracelsus

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Oct 2010 @ 2:11 AM

  291. EdMars,
    A clue: Science=/=”just making sh** up”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Oct 2010 @ 4:45 AM

  292. EdMars
    A clue: Science =/=”Just making sh** up”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Oct 2010 @ 4:47 AM

  293. JB 267: It seems that there are those of us who see it as obvious that so called renewables or ‘other’ are not to be regarded as serious options to coal for generating electric power or to oil for powering vehicles.

    BPL: Yes, it’s an article of faith with you. No real evidence behind it, though.

    JB: And the joke is that moving cars to electricity will reduce use of oil but is certainly going to result in burning of more coal.

    BPL: Unless the electricity doesn’t come from coal. Duh!

    JB: Double duh, to return rudeness for rudeness.

    BPL: I don’t care how freaking rude it is, you’re saying something that makes no sense. I can imagine a new administration and congress A) banning any new coal plants, B) heavily stepping up investment in renewable electricity, and C) subsidizing electric cars. Such a policy mix would NOT result in more coal being burned, no matter how many times you say it would. Your conclusion, as someone pointed out above, is based on a series of assumptions you never articulate, possibly because you’re not aware of them.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Oct 2010 @ 4:55 AM

  294. EdMars 271: Carbon dioxide being heavier than air, nitrogen and oxygen, sinks

    BPL: NO IT DOESN’T! Stop saying something that isn’t true, okay? Turbulence is so many orders of magnitude more important than relative weight for molecules of CO2, they have no more tendency to “sink” than anything else. You need to learn some physics.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Oct 2010 @ 4:57 AM

  295. I said I wouldn’t answer Rod B any more, but I CAN’T let “buku” pass. It’s not Japanese, Rod, it’s French: “beaucoup,” pronounced BOH KOO. Okay?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Oct 2010 @ 5:02 AM

  296. Well, Science turned down my paper. Life sucks.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Oct 2010 @ 6:14 AM

  297. 283 (Jim Bullis),
    286 (Rod B),

    There are buku references to CO2 as a poison.

    So providing a link or two to examples of the use of the term “poison” or “toxic” for CO2 should be pretty easy to do, and yet so far none of the three of you have done anything except complain about how it is being done.

    Cite. Link. Reference. Anything.

    Prove your point.

    283 (Jim Bullis),

    As to my being angry — about terminology usage. Yes, mostly because it causes a lot of confusion where there is need for clear discussion.

    Agreed. So why do you start using terms like “poison” and “toxic” when no one else does, thereby confusing the issue and distracting from proper discourse with an irrelevant, emotional, and non-existent tangential issue?

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 1 Oct 2010 @ 6:26 AM

  298. Yes, just about any substance can be toxic in sufficiently large quantities, including water and CO2.

    Yes, just about any substance can be a “pollutant” if it occurs in the wrong place or the wrong quantities, including nitrogen and phosphorus, both of which are essential to human life.

    Yes, the EPA has the mandate to deal with instances of case #2 above.

    No, extended debates about whether CO2 is or is not toxic, or is or is not a pollutant, are not really all that substantive. (Though the info Brian Dodge posted was pretty fascinating.)

    Can we move on?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 1 Oct 2010 @ 7:49 AM

  299. 297 (Kevin McKinney),

    Can we move on?

    Actually, I think this it on topic, bringing up the issue of an important, positive “negative” feedback.

    Arrogant, ignorant, too-much-time-on-their-hands-retired-engineers go onto denialist blog sites to discuss the evil warmists who want to take away their fossil fool toys and so succeed in crowning a social.ist king using black helicopters and the Intentional Panel on Cognition Control.

    Once there, they discuss the things they say they’ve heard the evil, silly warmists do, like calling CO2 a “poison,” or unanimously declaring that the Arctic will retroactively melt by 1970, or passing 11th hour legislation (after first tricking the Republican senators into visiting a strip club) to replace the word “God” with the word “Gore” in the Pledge of Allegiance.

    They discuss and discuss and discuss in the denialist echo chamber, providing critical positive feedback which elevates an entirely non-existent non-fact to the point of being a major irritant. “Don’t you hate the way those silly warm-mongers call CO2 a poison? I mean, how dumb can you get? How can anyone take them seriously?”

    Then they come to a site which is intended to discuss real issues, and casually toss their twisted perception out as evidence of the nefarious and thoughtless, mind-controlling nature of the alarmologists, while at the same time trying to argue a scientific point (the non-mixing of CO2 in the atmosphere) that is so beyond reason (and observation!) as to be laughable — while supporting that proposition with the most bizarre mixture of misapplied, misinterpreted, misunderstood, googled, science references that the Infernet (no, that’s not a typo) has ever seen.

    The effect of the feedback is shocking — on such a minor, trivial point, all three clear headed, rational, thoughtful, and open-minded thinkers on the site (Ed, Jim, Rod) leap to interject their firm belief in its truth, and anger at it’s existence, while steadfastly refusing to support their position with anything other than “You know it’s true! It’s everywhere!”

    If people are going to learn about feedbacks, they need to experience them first hand and recognize them for what they are, in their own lives and thought processes, as well as in the climate.

    I believe this whole issue is one of the most useful experiments that anyone can do to demonstrate that a “trace gas” like CO2 can initiate positive feedbacks that greatly amplify the effects of an otherwise inconsequential, insignificant, teeny-tiny, little, wannabe of a molecule.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 1 Oct 2010 @ 9:06 AM

  300. 295: BPL said Science turned down his paper.

    Dunno if this helps but the last I heard Science rejects 75-80% of the papers it receives without review.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 1 Oct 2010 @ 10:58 AM

  301. 297, Kevin McKinney: No, extended debates about whether CO2 is or is not toxic, or is or is not a pollutant, are not really all that substantive.

    I agree, but as long as we are on the topic, CO2 accumulation is a death threat in SCUBA diving. It can happen when the diver is working harder than usual and not ventilating rapidly enough. Unless forewarned in class or a reminder, a novice diver will continue to override the suffocating feeling in the lungs in order to continue working, and may lose consciousness and discontinue breathing.

    282, Kevin McKinney: Yet it would appear that China is displaying considerably more commitment to change than is the USA–and part of that is profit motive, with China grabbing market share in turbines and PV.

    China is complex: while boosting nuclear, biofuels, solar and wind, they also are boosting CC&S and reforestation; yet at the same time they continue to construct new coal-fired power plants, and more of everything that consumes oil and natural gas. Even as they reduce the CO2 intensity of their economy, they increase their annual output of CO2 at a high rate. I admire what China has accomplished in recent decades, and what they are accomplishing now, including their hydroelectric facilities on their controversial dams. But China will not reduce its net CO2 contribution for decades, on recent quantitative evidence.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 1 Oct 2010 @ 11:23 AM

  302. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/03/Trolling_drawing.jpg

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Oct 2010 @ 11:33 AM

  303. 261, Kevin McKinney: Comments?

    It takes longer to get a permit for construction in most places in the US than it does in China. Almost any hot new technology can be more rapidly mass-produced there than in the US. Among US states, California is one of the worst: it has nothing like the turbine factory in Iowa, the turbine factory under construction in Nevada, or the PV manufacturing capacity of Michigan and Arizona, yet it has legal requirements on the utilities to purchase increasing amounts of electricity from renewable sources. Despite much theoretical support for renewable energy, local California groups, and some statewide groups and national groups, block construction of any new large projects.

    This brief comment hardly hints at the complexities in implementing any new energy economy in the US: everyone knows about the successful resistance to the overwhelmingly popularly supported Nantucket wind farm. Your quote blamed Congress, but I blame no particular person or group. I admire China, but I don’t mean to assert that it is unequivocally superior — Chinese are being to suffer health effects from their increased environmental pollution.

    I have written elsewhere on the growth of the renewable energy industry in the US, and the approximate doubling of output from biofuels, solar and wind every 2 years or so. I used the classic phrase “Sturm und Drang” for the California politicking. To some people, the present exponential growth is too slow, but it does imply great changes over the next 20 years.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 1 Oct 2010 @ 11:45 AM

  304. Re series including 275
    The nicest broccoli that I have seen recently was grown using horse drawn cultivators (in Pennsylvania).

    The single largest energy use in growing broccoli in California is the energy that goes to pumping irrigation water followed by the energy required to produce fertilizer and pesticides, not to cultivation or transport.

    Note, that use of draft animals reduces the need for chemical fertilizer.

    A “combine” means that several operations are performed in the same pass over the land. Most people know about combines that harvest and thrash grain – the original McCormick harvester combine. With modern high power tractors other operations can be combined such as harrowing and seeding. This big equipment requires big fields. If you have a big field and your weeds develop a resistance to Roundup, then your field is too big to go into and hoe the weeds out by hand. And, if there in any kind of an interruption in the fuel supply, that huge field will go fallow. We already see the Roundup issue with cotton. At some point the price of oil will go up resulting in an economic/price disruption of the supply of oil. Thus, we have two conditions where very large areas of agricultural land suddenly stop producing crops.

    With a sharp hoe and a spade, you do not need Roundup to grow a lot of broccoli on a couple of acres.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 1 Oct 2010 @ 11:58 AM

  305. O/T to BPL. And dunno if this helps either, but our paper published in April took 3 years of submissions and rewrites, plus adding on the extra data the project continued to collect. Don’t give up (I’m sure you won’t).

    Comment by Daniel J. Andrews — 1 Oct 2010 @ 12:10 PM

  306. 298 Bob Sphaerica

    Good grief. What was that all about? Did I not grovel sufficiently in acknowledging your point about “toxic”. That is indeed an exageration over ‘harmful pollutant’ which is the EPA wording. I did find that the words ‘toxic’ and ‘poisonous’ were often used for antagonistic purposes, using this word distortion to argue against EPA action. I might add, at my peril, that the Clean Air Act is the authority for controlling CO2 and to call CO2 unclean in order to get it covered by that authority. CO2 is not something that I would call dirty. I do call it harmful.

    The fact that I argue against EPA action that is unwise in its form, not its purpose, is a possible explanation for your last (#298).

    I was really puzzling about who the ‘arrogant, ignorant, — engineers” were until I got down to the “(Ed, Jim, Rod)” identification. Using first names is a trick by you perhaps to leave us wondering, especially for a name like Jim which I carry as a useless identifier in the world populated by vast herds carrying that identifier. I do not have a clear idea of who Ed is but my impression is that Rod is seriously interested in finding ways to work out the problem of CO2, and I certify personally that I have this as a main goal. And of course, I should qualify that to make clear that there are other problems in the world that I am concerned about.

    But again, there is much puzzling in what you write in this #298; much of it seems to react to relatively few of the comments I have made over the last few years, and of course, a broadside slam such as you offered leaves much room for doubt about what or who you are talking about.

    Let’s take just the term ‘retired’ which seems to be the heading for a category to be denigrated, since you seem to think that term should describe people who should crawl out to pasture for a year or two before croaking, but shudders, how could they ever have anything important to say as they drool over their oatmeal.

    The diatribe continues, but through my blearly old eyes, I see a third from last paragraph that seems to be not hostile to three named folks who I had thought were the target of the broadside, and see that this group gets trounced only for failure to document what they have seen everywhere, thus thinking of it as common knowledge, but having been chastised earlier, had already realized that there is no shortage of deceitful arguing from Faux news crowd and friends. Again, I grovel in apology for falling for this trick.

    As to CO2 mixing, I speak not at all on that subject, except to try to use it to focus attention on mixing of ocean waters of varying temperature. When we get to oceans though, there are some scientific matters there on which I find I have some substantial background. How could that be?: A would be physics major turned engineer in a field called engineering science, evolved into electrical engineering with emphasis on mechanical engineering, experienced in circuit design for feedback control system use, instrument builder, ocean going data collector? How could such a person have been paid to carry out experimental research in ocean acoustics, reporting directly to the head of the consortium of research laboratories involved in ocean acoustic research? Oh my god! Maybe the boundary is not quite as firm as you thought.

    Well, maybe we can indeed get back to serious discussion. Just for a parting shot: I think that CO2 is considered a forcing effect that is distinguished from feedbacks according to the general discourse here. Ah, but you said CO2 initiates feedbacks. Hm, I would not have put it quite like that, but ok, maybe we all need to read carefully.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 12:12 PM

  307. Septic Matthew wrote: “Despite much theoretical support for renewable energy, local California groups, and some statewide groups and national groups, block construction of any new large projects.”

    That’s blatantly false. Multiple “new large projects” — including wind, concentrating solar thermal, and solar PV — are already under construction and more “new large projects” are already approved for construction in California.

    Your claim that opposition from unnamed “groups” is blocking “construction of any new large projects” in California has no basis in fact.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Oct 2010 @ 12:32 PM

  308. This question of agricultural scale is an interesting one. The idea of local, small-scale, low impact agriculture is incredibly attractive. But how can we feed the world with this method?

    Norman Borlaug was a strong advocate for intensive agriculture. Without it, vulnerable parts of the world are well beyond what the land can sustain. Famine is a reality already.

    Borlaug said, “some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things”.

    I tend to agree.

    However, as countries develop, populations will stabilise. Most western countries have no rapidly growing population, or imminent food crisis. Why, then, can’t we grow food in a more responsible way? Oh yes…. capitalism. We need to find new economies of scale…. use technology so that small, local and efficient can beat massive and miles away.

    Comment by Didactylos — 1 Oct 2010 @ 12:33 PM

  309. 300 (Septic),

    Even as they reduce the CO2 intensity of their economy, they increase their annual output of CO2 at a high rate

    I think a typical human habit is to attribute single minded, conscious and consistent human-like behavior to organizations, communities and nations. Of course, all of these are collections of individuals, with varying agendas and powers within the system. It’s not at all surprising that there would be a “sustainable future” approach in a country like China, which has already, for many decades, faced population and resource issues that are treated as distant-future possibilities by western peoples.

    At the same time, China has always had aspirations to be powerful (making no statement about whether or not they wish to use that power for dominance), and improving their economy and power output is key to that effort.

    In fact, improving their economy and power output may be key to long term sustainability. It will be hard to make wind turbines and hydroelectric dams and such without using fossil fuels now. That’s one of the huge dangers of ignoring the problem, the fact that the cause must also be a part of the cure.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 1 Oct 2010 @ 12:58 PM

  310. 306, Secular Animist: Multiple “new large projects” — including wind, concentrating solar thermal, and solar PV — are already under construction and more “new large projects” are already approved for construction in California.

    Every large project that I know of in CA has been slowed or halted by citizen activists. I can’t list them all here, but consider the Sunrise Power Link:

    http://us.yhs.search.yahoo.com/avg/search?fr=yhs-avg-chrome&type=yahoo_avg_hs2-tb-web_chrome_us&p=sunrise+power+link

    (That’s a lot of weblinks, so readers should not stop at the most convenient.)

    Having been held up for two + years and having be substantially changed and made more expensive, it has now been approved by the federal and state agencies with the authority to approve it. However, citizen activists with the support of at least one county supervisor are promising to challenge it in court.

    It isn’t sufficient to be “approved” in California, a project has to withstand a gauntlet of court challenges, which may take years to resolve. The Sunrise Power Link may be “under construction” but I predict that it’s completion will be delayed yet more years by the court action. The same is true of the “approved”, “proposed”, and “under construction” solar facilities in the Mojave Desert: each has faced, and still faces, organized citizen opposition. When any of that electricity will become available is anybody’s guess.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 1 Oct 2010 @ 1:04 PM

  311. 292 BPL

    [edit - enough - attacks on other commenters have gotten out of hand. If you can't keep the conversation on specifics, take it somewhere else. And this goes for everyone]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 1:25 PM

  312. 305 (Jim Bullis),

    Apologies if I misinterpreted your stance, but in your post 269 you seemed to take offense to something that has never happened, then in 283 you appeared to try to have it both ways, to admit that it’s never been done, and yet to go on to say that it made you angry (something that’s never happened makes you angry, because it causes confusion?):

    … The strongest word from official land seems to be ‘harmful’ which is quite different, as you point out.

    As to my being angry — about terminology usage. Yes, mostly because it causes a lot of confusion where there is need for clear discussion.

    This comes across (to me) as trying to admit that you were wrong, then dismiss that by acting as if you were right all along.

    A few posts later, Rod (a serial pretend-to-care-but-refuse-to-listen type) set me off by being the third person to claim “poison” is used all the time, again without actually proving it to actually have happened even once. Hearsay has become truth — a tiresome, habitual aspect of the denialsphere.

    As far as the “retired” knock… I have nothing at all against retirees. They’ve done their bit, and actually should be a hugely important element in this debate. They should be people who have been around the block, worked hard, are educated, and now have the luxury of sitting back and worrying about what they are going to leave their children/grandchildren to deal with, when they will no longer be able to do anything to help.

    Engineers, in particular, should have enough education and intelligence and experience to “get it,” yet that seems to be constantly coupled with an arrogance and readiness to believe that scientists are somehow fools. That group (or a loud subset of that group) seems to foster some of the most vocal people claiming that scientists don’t know what they are talking about, or are even willful charlatans purposely misleading the layman.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 1 Oct 2010 @ 1:38 PM

  313. 308 Didactylos, Bob, and even BPL mister duh,

    Borlaug and I say that getting the job done is what counts.

    Where local and distributed work best, do it. Central power plants are collosal wasters of energy. reference: http://www.miastrada.com/analyses (see the efficiency calculations and references there) The early Edison approach would have allowed cogeneration based on small generating plants, located in communities such as is practiced in Denmark in ‘district heating’ sometimes.

    Note: Some time ago a news article credited Borlaug with having saved a billion lives. I would check out feeling good if I saved only a few. Maybe I can help prevent future generations from being as badly set up for trouble as it seems they are going to be by a combination of misguided people adhering to fads and ideologies, most of whom think they have good intentions.

    I conjecture that Borlaug would be pleased to hear about the idea of using water from the Northern part of our continent to establish massive forests to balance CO2 emissions from power plants, but he might outright smile if he thought we would use the same water system to foster massive cropland expansions as well.

    I have been campaigning for years agains the central power plant and later, the smart grids that perpetuate this wasteful but massive scale system of electric power and distribution that we have taken such benefit from. It has not gone well. Reference: http://www.miastrada.com (look at the cogeneration system using small vehicles with very small engines driving electric generators tied to houses, where both heat and electricity are produced and both are fully used. Entirely different from the centralize systems we use.)

    That campaigning could cease if there was a viable way to capture CO2 from such massive wasters of energy. Yes, the heat waste would not stop, but there is enough coal to get by on for about a thousand years, so we could let that go; except for the CO2 part of course. It is a matter of judgment that making the use of coal be a practice that would cost ten times what it does now would have a devastating effect on an economy that significantly relies on cheap electricity. Reference: Beyond scope of a comment block.

    But rather than thinking big about large scale clobbering the coal industry, bad guys that they are (sarcasm), I prefer to think big about water, forests, and agriculture. Argh — where is the money in this??? – - for a lazy selfish lout of an engineer retired; high efficiency car, truck, wheel system, cogeneration inventing; high resolution imaging sonar and medical ultrasound system inventing; machine tool programming, 2 to 3 mile runner every other day or so, drooling, and all that kind of stuff.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 1:58 PM

  314. Two interesting articles from Science News, each with wildly different tangents on climate:

    Planet that could support life discovered

    A planet has been discovered with the potential for life sustaining temperatures (i.e. liquid water). The complication is that it is tidally locked, so one side continuously faces its parent star, but it’s theorized that atmospheric conditions could exist (depending on the nature of the atmosphere) to permit at least some habitable zones to exist. It all depends on the right mix of greenhouse gases, winds, and such.

    Did climate change wipe out the Neandertals?

    A series of three major volcanic eruptions 40,000 years ago could have changed (frozen) the European climate and driven Neandertals to extinction, while H. Sapiens was safely ensconced in Africa and SW Asia, and could later move in uncontested.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 1 Oct 2010 @ 2:19 PM

  315. flxible #276 I don’t know my agriculture very well. But here’s another attempt at a question for SecularAnimist:

    Say we have a community growing thier own food in thier own backyards. Each one has his own equipment, supplies, space, expertise, time, soil conditions, shade/sun conditions, transportation, storage. Wouldn’t it make sense for this community to get together, and plant in a central location, with the best sunlight/shade and soil, enlist the best greenthumb among them to run the garden, and have one set of equipment/supplies/transportation/storage?

    Comment by Michael W — 1 Oct 2010 @ 2:30 PM

  316. specifics for BPL:

    The question of efficiency of vehicles was extensively and openly discussed in connection with the Automotive Xprize competition. It has all been taken down and we are left with only their final thought. It is consistent with the EPA method and definition of ‘MPGE’. I ask, “What do physicists think of the following?”:

    — Unfortunately, while it’s simple and well-understood, MPG is obsolete for two main reasons: the growing popularity of alternative fuels, and the emergence of vehicles powered by multiple fuels (most importantly, plug-in hybrids that use electricity plus gasoline or another liquid fuel).

    Comparing the MPG of gasoline with the MPG of ethanol (to use one example) is like the proverbial comparison of apples to oranges; besides, what’s a gallon of electricity? For a Plug-in-Hybrid-Electric-Vehicle (PHEV), MPG is even more misleading (at best, it tells just part of the story – e.g., accounting for just the liquid fuel but not the electricity).

    If you’ve been following the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE, you know that we think that the best replacement for MPG is MPGe – miles per gallon energy equivalent), defined as
    MPGe = (miles driven) / [(total energy of all fuels consumed)/(energy of one gallon of gasoline)]

    Like MPG, MPGe is a pump (or plug!) to wheels measure – it only depends on the inherent efficiency of your vehicle and how you drive it. Some have argued that “MPGe” should be defined as a well-to-wheels measure that also accounts for upstream energy conversion losses during fuel production and transportation. While such well-to-wheel measures indeed have their place, the dashboard isn’t one of them.

    Consumers understand pump-to-wheels measures – nobody does a well-to-wheels calculation when they refuel. Furthermore, upstream fuel efficiencies are ambiguous as they involve controversial and changing-in-time assumptions and predictions on which proponents of different fuels rarely agree. Note also that that well-to-pump efficiencies are in many cases addressed indirectly by the Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE requirement on total well-to-wheels CO2 emissions.

    MPGe is a simple, well-defined measure of overall vehicle efficiency. In effect, it replaces the question
    “How far can I drive on a fixed amount of gasoline?”
    with the question
    “How far can I drive on a fixed amount of energy?”.
    MPGe is easy to explain, depends only on your vehicle and how you drive it, accounts in a neutral manner for any combination of fuels, and reduces to the familiar MPG in the case of gasoline fuel only. To further explore MPGe, check out the spreadsheet available here.

    MPGe can be calculated easily from on-board measurements of fuel(s) flow and distance traveled. Here’s hoping that you’ll see it on your dashboard soon.

    ————–
    They gloss over the fact that they define electricity as a fuel and the total energy therein is the amount of heat that can be generated by that electricity, not the heat needed to generate it.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 2:38 PM

  317. Bob (Sphaerica), I really dislike being exercised, but, for one: http://www.ehow.com/how_2069794_treat-carbon-dioxide-poisoning.html

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Oct 2010 @ 3:10 PM

  318. Michael W wrote: “… Say we have a community growing thier own food in thier own backyards … Wouldn’t it make sense for this community to get together, and plant in a central location …”

    It’s not an either/or proposition. Backyard gardens and community gardens — as well as community supported agriculture, where members pay a seasonal fee to receive “shares” of a local farmer’s produce, as well as farmers markets where local growers sell their produce directly to consumers to the benefit of both — are complementary.

    My point is that there is huge potential to grow much of the food that Americans consume locally, using organic methods, drastically reducing fossil fuel inputs compared to industrialized agriculture, on suburban land that is now devoted to lawns and other purely decorative plants (which are themselves often maintained with large amounts of toxic pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers and fossil fueled lawn mowers).

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 1 Oct 2010 @ 3:16 PM

  319. 315 (Rod B),

    Are you serious? Really? A how to article on treating real CO2 poisoning (i.e. over-exposure to CO2) is really equivalent in your mind to the claim that scientists have declared that CO2, as a greenhouse gas, makes it poisonous?

    I think everyone understands what’s going on here. EdMars claimed in 264:

    I’m sorry, but I decided to draw the line when scientists in different fields argued that carbon dioxide was a poison, it’s a non-toxic gas and kills by suffocation in sufficient quantities to do so, as in Cameroon.

    This is specifically an accusation that scientists are categorizing CO2 as a poison because of its greenhouse gas properties and expected impact on climate change, something that I contend has never, ever, ever happened.

    You and Jim Bullis supported this contention. Jim has in retrospect retracted the claim.

    You stick to it… and provide this as evidence?

    Let’s go, Rod, no games. Find evidence that scientists (or policy makers, for that matter) have declared CO2 to be a “poison.” If you are going to be so adamant in your beliefs, you have to be ready to back them up with facts.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 1 Oct 2010 @ 3:32 PM

  320. Seems to me that the comments have gone far, far from considering feedback.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 1 Oct 2010 @ 3:43 PM

  321. Michael@314 – Community happens at various levels, might be “networking” with the folks in your neighborhood or with what’s called “community gardens”, sponsered by a city for folks that don’t have yard space to work in, or it might be supporting small scale farms in your local area. The primary “equipment and supplies” involved in growing your own food is a few things like a shovel, rake, garden fork, and hoe, easily obtainable used – and of course the most useful “equipment”, a compost pile so individuals aren’t plugging up the landfills with organic material that should be returned to the soil instead of petrochem fertilizers. Individual expertise is easily obtained, often from community education gardens and in most areas, from Master Gardeners. Soil and climatic conditions can always be worked with. Heck, even New York City is rife with it all, it’s about sustainability and future food security, time to stop assuming South America and Australia will always fly your food in or that California has an unlimited supply of water.

    Comment by flxible — 1 Oct 2010 @ 3:46 PM

  322. SecularAnimist, please keep in mind I am not speaking about community gardens specifically. But it looks like you agree with me that sharing food production resources tends to reduce waste and increase production. Therefore unsharing these resources would increase waste and decrease production.

    If we are going to replace our agriculture system with another one, why not pick one that is has less of an impact on the environment, and produces more food?

    Comment by Michael W — 1 Oct 2010 @ 3:50 PM

  323. 309, Bob (Sphaerica)

    No disagreement here. I did write that China is “complex”. That word hardly does them justice.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 1 Oct 2010 @ 3:53 PM

  324. #301

    they also are boosting CC&S

    … the Chinese that is…

    What does boosting mean? Do you think that CCS will race nuclear fusion to the finishing post? perhaps Ike Solem’s opinion might be of interest?

    Comment by Deconvoluter — 1 Oct 2010 @ 3:58 PM

  325. SA # 316 well said.I agree 100%

    Comment by Jacob Mack — 1 Oct 2010 @ 4:08 PM

  326. For Michael W: an example of an alternative already in practice:
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/homegarden/2009730022_cityfruit25m.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Oct 2010 @ 4:12 PM

  327. Edmars 271: you statement is 100% false. Please do listen to BPL # 294.

    Comment by Jacob Mack — 1 Oct 2010 @ 4:13 PM

  328. Bob (Sphaerica), I almost always listen. Sometimes I don’t believe what I am listening to.

    Comment by Rod B — 1 Oct 2010 @ 4:13 PM

  329. Here’s a web page from one of the organizations that has tried to halt the Ivanpah Valley (in the Mojave Desert) solar project:

    http://www.basinandrangewatch.org/Ivanpah-Stakes.html

    In 2008 the promoters claimed to be able to start delivering electricity in early 2011, but construction has been delayed since that time. This is for those of you who think I make up the stories about citizen opposition delaying projects.

    You could make a case that delay is good (to protect the box turtle on a few percent of its range), but not that delay is absent.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 1 Oct 2010 @ 4:24 PM

  330. More specifics for BPL

    See:

    http://autoblog.xprize.org/axp/2010/08/update-aptera-achieves-1782-mpge.html#comments

    The discussion might show my point about MPGE and the harm of the electric vehicle when misrepresented as a way to reduce CO2.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 5:24 PM

  331. More specifics for BPL

    Table extracted from site showing superior achievement in emissions by the only cars that carry their own engines.

    MPGe*/Energy Consumed**/Greenhouse Gas Emissions***
    ————————————————————————

    American Hypower – ZAMS (1) EV 54.5/2.48/210

    amp – amp’d Sky (13) EV 86.2/1.56/265

    Aptera – Aptera 2e (32) EV 140.1/0.96/163

    BITW Technologies – Vincitore 1000 (53) EV 51.1/2.64/223

    Edison2 – Very Light Car (95) ICEngine 97/1.39/90
    Edison2 – Very Light Car (97) ICEngine 101.4/1.31/86
    Edison2 – Very Light Car (98) ICEngine 80.3/1.68/108

    FVT Racing – eVaro (6) EV 152.4/0.83/157

    Global-E – G1 (26) EV 50.4/2.67/275

    Illuminati Motor Works – SEVEN (77) EV 119.8/1.13/191

    Li-ion Motors – Wave II (27) EV 182.3/0.74/125

    RaceAbout Association – RaceAbout (10) EV 128.1/1.05/178

    Spira – Spira4u (4) EV 84.8/1.59/136

    Tango (Commuter Cars) – Tango T600 (49) EV 86.8/1.55/263

    Tata Motors – Indica Vista EV X (9) 134.3/1/170

    TW4XP – TW4XP (33) EV 107/1.26/214

    West Philly Hybrid X (EVX Team)-EVX Focus(21) 63.5/2.09/256

    West Philly Hybrid X (EVX Team)-EVX GT (22) 57.5/2.35/219

    Western Washington University-Viking 45(45)EV 92.5/1.32/174

    X-Tracer Team Switzerland-E-Tracer 7002(72)EV 180/0.75/127

    X-Tracer Team Switzerland-E-Tracer 7009(79)EV 188.8/0.69/121

    ZAP – Alias (8) EV 111.1/1.2/206

    ———————————————————————–

    *MPGe = Miles per gallon gasoline equivalent
    **Engergy Consumed = Gallons of gasoline equivalent
    ***Greenhouse Gas Emissions = Grams per mile CO2e
    ——————
    I disagree violently with their MPGE system and mildly with their emissions analysis, but the relative emissions analysis is almost fair. (I am not sure what power generation scheme they assume for the CO2 calculation.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 5:50 PM

  332. 320 yup David B.

    I got going here with a major man made feedback system, and got hung up on the reason for it, that being the non-feedback system of CO2 capture being planned by the EPA. I said this would be expensive to the point of seriously damaging the economy. —

    Here is a description of the man made feedback system that I would like to have considered, here, and elsewhere by a political organization that would care to lead to a solution. It follows:

    I would like to point out that there is a real answer to global warming that needs to be promoted. I have written about it in various forums, but probably these are not getting to many analysts. I particularly reacted to the the plan by the EPA to require ‘best available technology’ and the report by them where they said ‘carbon’ capture would cost up to $95 per ton of CO2, and I worked this out in terms of the burden on the use of a ton of coal. It looks to me like the effective cost of using a ton of Powder River Basin coal (half the element carbon by weight) wil go from around $20 now to around $200. Being fond of the products of the industrial revolution that we characterize as the developed world, I see this as a problem. Putting down the industrial revolution might seem desirable to some, but I suspect that when we all return to the fields to scratch out a living, there will be a certain measure of discontent. Some might call it a depression; I think it will be seen as a major disaster at some time in the future.

    Thus motivated to find a different way to capture CO2 and thereby stumbled on a solution that seems eminently superior to pounding ‘carbon’ down a rat hole. It also seems superior to paving the desert with solar hardware or even windmills. The key is to create standing forests where every ton of existing forest mass, on a sustaining basis compensates by CO2 capture the burning of a ton of coal, approximately.

    This self sustaining solution requires us to rethink the water distribution left us by nature in North America. I guess we can blame it on the glaciers. We have vast regions of abysmallly unproductive land due to the lack of water. We know how enormously productive such regions can be by looking at the California Central Valley where the latest built California Aquaduct brought great amounts of water to this agricultural area, as well as to a big part of Los Angeles. Maybe the call to capture CO2 will now be louder than the call to keep the status quo left us by the glaciers.

    With due diligence in protecting the ecosystem of North America there is a rational possibility to change the way water is distributed on our continent, where Northern water would be carried by an aquaduct system all the way to Mexico, and maybe further, It seems to have gone by un-noticed, but Pres. Hu of China stated their plan to do much the same thing, though not to the extent needed, it showed some serious innovation going on there that we may be missing.

    I see the basic aquaduct system as a massive federal project of the scope less than the Federal Highway program, but still very large. It would include both construction and long term forest management to establish and maintain the standing forest system. Agricultural usage would be a way to make it financially sustainable and some support from the coal industry could be a reasonable way to generate a source of capital. And we could continue to enjoy inexpensive electric power for the next few hundred years based on coal.

    We might not be able to enjoy complaining about the evil coal companies if we set a public policy that made coal into a non-problem. Well, maybe we could give up that pass-time.

    Adding this to efficiency measures I have discussed elsewhere, it seems possible that we could have a complete solution to global warming. This forestry based part of the solution could be a self supporting enterprise led by wise government.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 6:00 PM

  333. 324 Deconvoluter

    If we do CCS like I described in my last, Nuclear can stay in the laboratory until they get it right.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 6:03 PM

  334. 328 (Rod B),

    Good. Then you admit that scientists never labeled CO2 as either “poison” or “toxic,” and your emotional reaction to that claim was not only ill-founded, but evidence that putting too much credence in denier rants, rather than actual science, is not a good approach to understanding the issues.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 1 Oct 2010 @ 6:10 PM

  335. 324, Deconvoluter: What does boosting mean?

    The Chinese are constructing large scale demonstration CC&S projects.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 1 Oct 2010 @ 7:00 PM

  336. SM — are you thinking of this “first” CCS project, or do you know of another in the works, or have a pointer to one that’s already built?
    http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90778/90860/7011478.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Oct 2010 @ 7:15 PM

  337. 335 Septic Mathew,

    I provide quote provided by Joe Romm:

    ————————-

    We will endeavor to cut carbon dioxide emissions [per] GDP by a notable margin by 2020 from the 2005 level.Second, we will vigorously develop renewable energy and nuclear energy. We will endeavor to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 15 percent by 2020.

    Third, we will energetically increase forest carbon … we will endeavor to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from the 2005 levels.

    Fourth, we will step up our efforts to develop green economy, low carbon economy … and enhance research, development and dissemination of climate-friendly technologies.

    ————————-

    Do you think the Chinese CC&S project is his third item?

    Please provide source if not.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 7:47 PM

  338. Jim Bullis,
    As I said, even a 350$ tax on each ton of coal burned in a thermal plant (no matter how low-grade) would still yield an average US electricity price lower than Japan’s. Contrary to what you imply, it is quite simple to figure this out. You don’t need to know the actual prices to determine the revenue of such a tax, only the amount of coal burned. By talking about multipliers, you make it sound like it would be a big deal but the cost of procuring coal is a small fraction of the cost of producing electricity in the USA to begin with. You keep asserting that the USA would become a third world country or something (you assertions are very vague) if electricity prices were raised in the US but, if Japan can live with electricity prices that high, what makes you think the USA couldn’t?
    I obviously don’t think that whatever the EPA proposes to do would be a reasonable way to go about addressing CO2 emissions. It would likely fail. Whatever the approach, it would of course be a lot less disruptive if the tax was ramped up slowly and if planners were given as much advance notice as possible as to future tax rates so that economical measures might be implemented in a timely fashion. There’s nothing wrong with being motivated to look for better solutions of course. But there is something wrong with whipping up unwarranted hysteria about a solution you don’t like.
    And I also don’t agree that modest proposals of the geoengineering variety amount to anything other than black comedy however. Emissions cuts and honest geoengineering R&D are not exclusive of course. Proposing that 10% of current emissions be offset with biomass sequestration by 2050 or something would be one thing. The consequences of a failure to reach such a goal wouldn’t be too dire. But betting the house on grandiose schemes which don’t even pass the smell test on paper is something else…
    Finally, I would recommend you to re-examine your overly abstract beliefs about “the economy”. You are handwaving about the need to avoid “stifling” taxes and to protect a “recovery” but tax cuts and GDP growth have not reduced emissions in the past and it should be obvious that the proximate effect of GDP growth would be to increase emissions while introducing a carbon tax would lower them. Investments in emission reductions in the USA are also obviously unconstrainted by either fossil fuel consumption or gross output so it doesn’t look like you are putting forward a rational argument (but feel fee to clarify).
    In sum, please stop repating arguments that you aren’t willing to back up with evidence. We’ve all read your escalator pitch several times now.

    Comment by Anonymous Coward — 1 Oct 2010 @ 8:51 PM

  339. 286 Thomas ( and more details for BPL)

    Sorry not to have taken up your comment before.

    You started off ok with the needed comparison being mine/well to wheels, but then things went wrong. At least you do not propose, as the EPA does, to forget about the heat engine involved in making electricity. Perhaps physicists can’t believe our EPA could be so wrong. We in the USA are not alone in the developed world; that is why I incessantly hammer on Prof. Dr. David MacKay for promoting this error in the UK and elsewhere with his “— Without Hot Air” book.

    Standby losses? Where did you get that idea. Fix it by just turning them off. But idling engines is a mythical thing hyped up by some would be energy savers. Such are the folks that harangue the diesel truck drivers for running their engines while they eat. The fact is that diesels especially idle very efficiently, and that truck operators are very conscious of fuel costs; that is their income.

    Most transmissions run in high gear most of the time, which means that the drive train passes straight through. Bearings are quite good, especially if there are minor lateral loads. Rear axle bevel gears are well optimized for efficiency. The net effect is that drive train losses in modern vehicles are a secondary effect in rolling resistance compared to tires, and these are getting better, especially with the modern hybrids such as the Prius. The original Bridgestone BR700 tires were a big advance in rolling resistance, and the Crr of these, you guessed it, was .700 approximately. That number is taken as the first order loss when analyzing vehicle losses.

    Perhaps you were thinking of the old days of the Dynaflow or Powerglide when a transmission cooler was needed to take the heat built up in these very lossy devices.

    No, electric losses are quite high, but can be much mitigated with the more costly apparatus. An electric motor can be made ever more efficient just by including very careful field control etc. But more money and weight are the consequence.

    You might get a clue that battery efficiencies are a little more than we are led to believe from the fact that battery cooling is a big issue. Just feel how warm your laptop gets if you wonder about this. Curiously, there is no data that I can find that tells us how much batteries lose. Then, if you have designed power electronic apparatus, as I have, you would know that there are significant losses in rectifiers, and even in switch mode power supplies, though once again, they can be made ever better (almost) depending on how much you want to spend.

    Yes, cars are massively overpowered compared to constant speed needs, but you might not be aware that the American market especially, absolutely demands to accelerate at high rates, for example the Tesla requirement for acceleration was set at 4 seconds, for zero to sixty acceleration. For those involved in these things, that is muscle car performance and it costs like heck in efficiency. True, if regenerative braking is effective it could get much of the energy needed to accelerate back on deceleration, but a really effective regenerative braking system is again very costly and complex to get high efficiency, and the real world systems do not approach anywhere close to the ideal. The Tango flunked out of the Xprize competition and on investigation I found that they did not even bother with regenerative braking. ( see data on chart ).

    Vehicle efficiencies vary with engine speed except for diesels, where they vary hardly at all over the speed range. However, a well optimized transmission will keep engine speeds very close to an optimum value, and therefore the efficiency can be reasonably well managed. The Prius uses the electric system to enable the engine to operate with amazing efficiency, especially for a gasoline engine. But the ability to load the engine optimally, where the battery system handles the peak loads and provides regenerative braking, means the whole system is quite refined. Also your assertion about mechanical inefficiencies and that it is exactly wrong, is the reason for the word ‘synergy drive’ in the Prius name. This synergy comes from the fact that where it suits the engine, as in steady speed driving, the electric system is avoided and mechanical drive connects engine to wheels.

    We could make cars with 16 hp engines if they were designed using the airship concept as is the Miastrada concept design. And they would go 80 mph. Any bluff bodied car, as the cars on the road are characterized, will not go 80 mph on 20 hp. And they will probably take half a minute to even get up to 40 mph, if they can do that. Much depends on the gearing though, and some very small cars probably could run on 20 hp, such as the Messerschmitt. Though more slowly, the Isetta might do ok.

    The real trouble with small cars is that people of the developed world have demonstrated a demand for speed, but also they do not want to ride puny! And they especially do not want to be laggards. Hence we see muscle cars and mommy wagons, and elevated pickups all over the place. Why? Well, a big reason is that cars are extensions of our personality; I say that needs to change. But I do not propose to try to take away the speed or safety or comfort that we have come to expect. I see these as appropriate human values.

    As to the personality thing, much of this has been fostered by 100 years of auto industry advertising and style setting. If we could just break away from the fashion industry that the auto industry has become, we will be doing a lot. It will take a lot from engineering with hopefully the support of science to make any headway here.

    Don’t get tricked by the light weight preaching. This helps with rolling resistance, that being determined by the product of Crr and weight, but if you want to go at speeds that would support developed world suburban lifestyles, the real energy loss is aerodynamic drag. This has nothing to do with weight. It does get a lot better if you reduce frontal area and if you lengthen the car to enable the known efficiency of the shapes such as the airship.

    Climbing hills is like accelerating. You get the energy back, maybe, and never all of it. That is the First Law of Thermodynamics. There are ways to work on that.

    You can work on efficiency of heat engines also, but the losses there are huge no matter what anybody has managed to do. The core problem is the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but part of why this hurts is that there are such restrictive temperature limits from real chemistry problems (NOx) and metallurgical problems, and on and on.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 10:14 PM

  340. Correction: BR700 tires have Crr = .0070

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 1 Oct 2010 @ 10:17 PM

  341. Bob (Sphaerica), you say, “…your mind to the claim that scientists have declared that CO2, as a greenhouse gas, makes it poisonous?”

    Where on earth did you get that??? I simply refuted your claim that ‘NO ONE SAYS CO2 is a poison.’ You really ought to check out the food before salivating at a bell.

    Comment by Rod B — 2 Oct 2010 @ 12:14 AM

  342. JB 331: (I am not sure what power generation scheme they assume for the CO2 calculation.)

    BPL: Which vitiates your entire contention that it can’t be done with renewables instead of coal. Again, there are assumptions that went into those figures that you don’t seem to care about.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 2 Oct 2010 @ 6:12 AM

  343. Energy is absurdly cheap in the US–to the point where I believe it may actuall hurt the economy. I can buy durian and jackfruit in local oriental markets more cheaply than I can buy locally produced pears and apples. THAT is absurd. Likewise, the absurdly cheap cost of energy makes it cheaper to import toxic, low-quality manufactured goods from China rather than produce better, safer goods in the US.

    Cheap energy distorts our economy, our lives and our politics–its preservation is even a motivating factor for the distortion of science we see from the denialists. Cheap energy is a bad idea.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 Oct 2010 @ 6:48 AM

  344. 339 (Jim Bullis),

    American market especially, absolutely demands to accelerate at high rates…

    And this needs to change. Smoking was once considered glamorous and cool. That didn’t mean it had to continue once the country was convinced of not only its horrible effects, but also the tremendous cost it imposed on society as a whole.

    The day will come when people who insist on driving muscle cars are frowned upon, and people calmly accept that what they drive simply can’t burn rubber when the light turns green.

    …we see muscle cars and mommy wagons, and elevated pickups all over the place. Why? Well, a big reason is that cars are extensions of our personality; I say that needs to change. But I do not propose to try to take away the speed or safety or comfort that we have come to expect. I see these as appropriate human values.

    Glad you say it needs to change. Shocked that you defend pandering to comfort as a “human value.” Human life has always been a trade off between what you want and what you need to do to survive. “Thou shalt live in comfort” is not the lost 11th commandment.

    I’m not saying people should be willing to sit on seats made of shards of glass, but we don’t necessarily need incredibly spacious interiors with retractable individual DVD players for every passenger. Life is always about living within one’s means, and defending the life style of a pampered “but I want it!” tantrum behavior is exactly a huge part of the problem.

    For all of your discussion of engineering details, I firmly believe that simple changes in behavior, by both societies and individuals (anything from altering commuting schedules to reducing our ridiculously and unnecessarily high consumption levels) will account for huge savings.. the savings needed to bring us into the range where renewables supply all power.

    I also believe that, in the end, people are barely going to notice the difference. I grew up a child of depression era parents. We never wasted, we never overspent, we never bought everything we could. It just wasn’t done, and we were more than happy enough living that way. Building and using every trinket that man can dream of isn’t the way to happiness, it’s not necessary, it’s turning out to be dangerous, and doing so is not a God given right.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 2 Oct 2010 @ 8:13 AM

  345. A source for CC&S in China:

    http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/pdf/china/China%20Policies%20and%20Actions%20on%20CCS.pdf

    It’s a little dated.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 2 Oct 2010 @ 10:57 AM

  346. 343 Ray Ladbury,

    I suggest that you are incorrectly attributing our expensive product to our cheap electricity. [edit]

    [Response: Sorry folks. This particular way-OT discussion thread is now closed. Readers interested in discussing the relative merits of various alternative energy sources and technologies, or other such topics, can find plenty of other sites to discuss this at. Not here please. -mike]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 2 Oct 2010 @ 2:09 PM

  347. 341 (Rod B),

    Where on earth did you get that??? I simply refuted your claim that ‘NO ONE SAYS CO2 is a poison.’

    In the context of the thread of comments, that is exactly what you said, that scientists declared CO2 a poison. That was the statement EdMars made, and to which I was responding, and with which you wholeheartedly (if unintentionally) agreed. If you didn’t mean to, because you chimed in on something without understanding the context of the discussion or exactly what you were saying by participating… your bad, not mine.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 2 Oct 2010 @ 3:03 PM

  348. “… What we have to do is convince the bulk of the public, that amorphous middle. We’re never going to convince that 25 percent who absolutely believe it’s a conspiracy against American religious and economic freedom, and that this is some UN plot to take away our hegemony. And we don’t need to convince the other 25 percent that is already convinced. It’s that 50 percent in the middle that will listen to an argument, that is not immoral or deeply ideological, but that’s a little lazy and ignorant, often quite frightened. We have to get to them to create a tipping point for a majority. And that can be done. My fear is that it’s going to take a hurricane to take out Miami or fires in the West before they finally wake up. I just hope that it’s milder crises sooner, and not more extreme events later.”
    – Stephen Schneider
    http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2010/julaug/features/schneider.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Oct 2010 @ 3:27 PM

  349. Uh, oh:
    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010GL044486.shtml

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Oct 2010 @ 4:00 PM

  350. Uh, oh here, too:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101001144037.htm

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 2 Oct 2010 @ 9:28 PM

  351. “Hank Roberts quotes:”We’re never going to convince that 25 percent who absolutely believe it’s a conspiracy against American religious and economic freedom, and that this is some UN plot to take away our hegemony.”

    About the only funny thing about this is they can be considered co-conspirators who advance their imagined conspiracy by ignoring the real world.

    Comment by jyyh — 2 Oct 2010 @ 10:38 PM

  352. Bob (Sphaerica), you said first, “Strawman. [edit - no more on this please]

    Comment by Rod B — 2 Oct 2010 @ 11:39 PM

  353. \Recently, some studies have expanded on this view to also include ‘slow feedbacks’ such as the response of ice sheets and vegetation that are important on hundreds of year timescales (Lunt et al 2010; Pagani et al 2010). These estimates show that the long-term warming should be even more than the Charney estimates, on the order of about 5°C.\

    Well the response of the pine beetles has been pretty rapid, if you ask me. The resettling of whole ecosystems to their more northerly positions that were f.e. during the Holocene optimum, may well take those hundreds of years.

    Comment by jyyh — 3 Oct 2010 @ 12:00 AM

  354. What I meant to say, while the onsets of warming (or cooling) may well be regulated by the physical attributes inflicted on an ecosystem, the response of the ecosystem (a component of carbon cycle that tries to stabilize it) is usually not linear, hence many of the various tipping points are a result of an exponential (I have to check that) effect life introduces in the carbon cycle.

    Comment by jyyh — 3 Oct 2010 @ 12:25 AM

  355. Kevin McKinney and Hank,
    I don’t think these studies are really telling us anything we didn’t already know. The goal is not “safe”. We can’t even really say whether pre-industrial temperature range was “safe”. The goal is manageable risk–risk tht can be bounded and mitigated with reasonable confidence.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Oct 2010 @ 6:49 AM

  356. it is found that water vapor makes up roughly 50% of the modern greenhouse effect, clouds about 25%, CO2 is 20%, and the remaining gases (primarily methane, ozone, and nitrous oxide) make up the rest

    These are worded as if they are guesses. Am I correct. I am puzzled by the allocation of 20% effect to CO². There is 125 times more H²O which absorbs IR across a much wider band as CO² and absorbs in the same bands as CO² and yet you assign 50% to H²O. Also, as I understand the science currently, as a non scientist, their effects are not well understood and the 25% allocation would seem to be a guess?

    [Response: No. There are some uncertainties (hence "about" and not "exactly") but they are small (a percent or two). The paper is online if you want more info. - gavin]

    Comment by stephen richards — 3 Oct 2010 @ 8:46 AM

  357. Stephen Ricards,
    Just curious as to where you are getting your information. It is phrased in a way that mischaracteizes he terrestrial greenhouse effect on about every point. I would have to wonder whether such consistet mischaracterization on the part of your source could be anything but deiberate.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Oct 2010 @ 10:18 AM

  358. I have a question on this segment of the essay

    “This simple picture is incomplete however, since the total water vapor concentration is largely set by temperature and thus the non-condensable, long-lived greenhouse gases (chiefly, CO2) really provide the skeleton by which the greenhouse effect is maintained and what governs its capacity for change. In that sense, water vapor is in large part supported by the other gases and then amplifies their effect significantly.”

    If watervapor is set by temperature, and is supported by co2, then why has there been a decline in stratospheric watervapor over the last 10 years?

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/01/100131145840.htm

    Is there an interaction between increases in co2 and watervapor in the stratosphere?

    Thanks.

    Comment by George — 3 Oct 2010 @ 3:32 PM

  359. Here’s an excerpt from a good piece on feedbacks. This is John Baez interviewing Nathan Held, from:
    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/week302.html

    — excerpt follows —-

    [NH] … How much warming, including feedbacks? To convert a feedback to a temperature, add it to the so-called “Planck feedback” to get a combined feedback which accounts for the fact that hotter bodies radiate more infrared. Then divide it into the forcing and flip the sign to get the warming. Mathematically, this is….

    JB: Whoa! Slow down! I’m glad you finally mentioned the “Planck feedback”, because this is the mother of all feedbacks, and we should have talked about it first.

    While the name “Planck feedback” sounds technical, it’s pathetically simple: hotter things radiate more heat, so they tend to cool down. Cooler things radiate less heat, so they tend to warm up. So this is a negative feedback. And this is what keeps our climate from spiralling out of control.

    This is an utterly basic point that amateurs sometimes overlook — I did it myself at one stage, I’m embarrassed to admit. They say things like:

    “Well, you listed a lot of feedback effects, and overall they give a positive feedback — so any bit of warming will cause more warming, while any bit of cooling will cause more cooling. But wouldn’t that mean the climate is unstable? Are you saying that the climate just happens to be perched at an unstable equilibrium, so that the slightest nudge would throw us into either an ice age or a spiral of ever-hotter weather? That’s absurdly unlikely! Climate science is a load of baloney!”

    (Well, I didn’t actually say the last sentence: I realized I must be confused.)

    The answer is that a hot Earth will naturally radiate away more heat, while a cold Earth will radiate away less. And this is enough to make the total feedback negative.

    NU: Yes, the negative Planck feedback is crucial. Without this stabilizing feedback, which is always present for any thermodynamic body, any positive feedback would cause the climate to run away unstably. It’s so important that other feedbacks are often defined relative to it: people call the Planck feedback λ0, and they call the sum of the rest λ. Climatologists tend to take it for granted, and talk about just the non-Planck feedbacks, λ.

    As a side note, the definition of feedbacks in climate science is somewhat confused; different papers have used different conventions, some in opposition to conventions used in other fields like engineering. For a discussion of some of the ways feedbacks have been treated in the literature, see:

    • J. R. Bates, Some considerations of the concept of climate feedback, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 133 (2007), 545-560.

    JB: Okay. Sorry to slow you down like that, but we’re talking to a mixed crowd here.

    —- end excerpt —-

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Oct 2010 @ 3:40 PM

  360. George asks:

    “If watervapor is set by temperature, and is supported by co2, then why has there been a decline in stratospheric watervapor over the last 10 years?”

    Maybe because the stratosphere is not warming?

    See:

    http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/get-file.php?report=global&file=uah-lowstrat-global-land-ocean&byear=2009&bmonth=1&year=2009&month=12&ext=gif

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 3 Oct 2010 @ 5:16 PM

  361. George @358 — I’m but an amateur here although this was discussed here on RealClimate several weeks ago. The first question is how H2O manages to get into the stratosphere in the first place. Some is due to chemical changes (very complecated) in the (chemical) decay of CH4 to various stuff, including H2O. Over on Rabett Run, linked on the side bar, there is a post about it. Otherwise, some very strong convective effect can lift H2O in the stratosphere; hurricanes and volcano eruptions, maybe even just very intense thundery storms.

    As I underrstand it, H2O in the stratosphere is a highly potent global warming (so-called greenhouse) gas. So knowing the concentrations would indeed be helpful. However, like so much else in climatology, records extent back only a short time.

    I’ll guess (nothing more than that) that as the global climate warms, there are more intense conventive events, so on average more H2O in the stratosphere.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 3 Oct 2010 @ 5:26 PM

  362. George

    The (very small!) amount of water vapor in the stratosphere is generally treated as a forcing rather than a feedback. Some of the H2O source is methane breakdown chemistry, though the Solomon 2010 paper I think focuses on transport mechanisms of exchange which I’m not too familiar with. But the water vapor is the stratosphere is really a different issue than the water vapor typically discussed in the context of feedback (or the total greenhouse effect), which is dominated in the free troposphere and is very much impacted by temperature

    Comment by Chris Colose — 3 Oct 2010 @ 5:58 PM

  363. RCM progress: My old absorption coefficients were based on taking Houghton’s table figures for line strength and bandwidth and dividing S by δ. But I talked to some people at CRU about it, and they told me you can’t really do it that way; that “mean” figures over the interval don’t properly represent the nonlinear translation into transmissivity. Google Scholar to the rescue–I found a fantastic 1992 paper by L. Gonima that listed actual absorption coefficients for a band scheme for water vapor, carbon dioxide, and ozone.

    I added that and a sigma-pressure-distribution scheme to my latest RCM. Bingo. Beautiful. Now I have a mesosphere (layer 1), stratosphere (2-6), and troposphere (7-20). Surface temperature comes out at 289.4 K, too high by only 0.4%. The energy imbalance is 1.2%. The tropopause is at 11 km, the stratopause at 46 km. Top of atmosphere is way the heck up at 272 km. Albedo is 0.295. Mean stratosphere temperature is 227 K.

    The only real implausibility is that surface shortwave illumination comes out at 218.2 W/m^2, which is the way the heck over the 160-170 you usually find (Trenberth et al. 2009 got 161.2). Not sure why I have an extra 60 W/m^2 in there. Something with the cloud scheme? I need to figure this out…

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 3 Oct 2010 @ 7:17 PM

  364. Is there a simplified expression for the forcing from a fractional change in atmospheric water vapor, similar to ∆F = 5.35 log (c/c0) W m-2 for CO2, that is valid for some range relevant to present climate?

    Comment by CM — 4 Oct 2010 @ 5:43 AM

  365. Feedback question:

    The current La Nina is bothersome, and not only because it’s (so far) failing to bring global observed temperatures down to even “normal” 2000-2009 levels.

    I realized some time ago that a La Nina “pretends” to change the global temperature, by temporarily exposing cooler waters and burying warmer waters. While this lowers the observed global temperatures around the world during the event, it in fact serves to allow the planet to capture more heat during these episodes. That is to say, less heat is radiated away by the colder waters, and less evaporation takes place, cutting off some transport of heat to higher altitudes where it can radiate away more efficiently (i.e. release of latent heat).

    My question is: has anyone done a study, or do climate models predict, that La Nina events will become more frequent, longer lasting, or more intense (or the opposite, with El Niño dominating), and what this means as a feedback itself. I ask because such a change in behavior would in fact constitute an indirect positive feedback… increased temperatures –> more/longer La Nina events –> less efficient radiation of heat due to subverted warm waters.

    Alternately, more/longer El Niño events would constitute the opposite, a negative feedback through more efficient radiation through longer and greater surface area exposure of very warm waters.

    Insights, anyone? And can anyone quantify the overall effect (i.e. Minuscule? Dominant?)

    It think the idea of more El Niños is an interesting non-linear negative feedback that would to some degree cap increases due to other forcings. That is, as temperatures get higher, if El Niños become more common and so hold temperatures down, then it’s possible temperatures could continue to rise for a while, but plateau as a result of the effect.

    The opposite (more La Nina’s) could be a problem.

    [Note: I found some papers with uncertain references to predictions, but ENSO does not seem to be addressed itself as a potential feedback "mechanism" or "instigator", and there's nothing recent. Older papers implied that El Niño events would become more common, but I'm not sure if the inclusion of the 2000-2009 period would support or refute that earlier position.]

    M Collins – Climate Dynamics, 2005 – Springer
    KE Trenberth, TJ Hoar – Geophysical Research Letters, 1997
    GA Meehl, F Zwiers, J Evans, T Knutson, L … – Bulletin of the American …, 2000
    KM Cobb, CD Charles, H Cheng, RL Edwards – Nature, 2003
    FF Jin, SI An, A Timmermann, J Zhao – Geophys. Res. Lett, 2003

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 4 Oct 2010 @ 8:17 AM

  366. Two more papers…

    One more recent, but still non-committal:

    J Hansen, M Sato, R Ruedy, K Lo, … – Proceedings of the …, 2006

    And this one looks interesting, but I don’t have time to read it thoroughly until this evening:

    GJ Van Oldenborgh, SY Philip, M Collins – Ocean Science, 2005

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 4 Oct 2010 @ 8:25 AM

  367. Has anyone figured the GWP of water vapor with or without clouds(net)?
    Is it negative including clouds?
    I would guess it is low as there is probably 15000 ppm? H20 in normal air
    and the effect supposedly 1/3 of GW since 1990.
    Deniers make a big deal about this but we should be able to answer the question?

    Comment by jd — 4 Oct 2010 @ 10:58 AM

  368. Re 365 Bob (Sphaerica) – good insight that hiding or exposing warmer water or doing the opposite with colder water causes the Earth to gain or lose heat. However, this gain or loss happens because the climate tends to go back to the same average surface temperature that can be sustained by external forcings (**absent any changes to equilibrium climate or equilibrium climate sensitivity that might be caused by circulation rearrangements and spatial-temporal rearrangements of temperature, humidity, clouds, etc.). So if we have climate equilibrium and then start a La Nina, there will be cooling of the surface and atmosphere at first, with a rebound back to the former equilibrium (except for the rearrangements of La Nina and **); if we start a permanent El Nino, there will be warming at first, with a decay back to the former equilibrium (with exceptions). For that reason, ENSO changes wouldn’t necessarily act as a feedback for equilibrium climate sensitivity (as defined in terms of global average (surface) temperature), although it isn’t impossible (see **) and it would be a feedback (positive, negative, or ‘sideways’) to other dimensions of the climate system (regional effects, other variables).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 4 Oct 2010 @ 12:12 PM

  369. … of course, generally speaking, the various regional effects of any climate change could have different effects on vegetation, CO2 feedbacks, ice sheet feedbacks (as was so important to responses to orbital forcing), etc … I wouldn’t know if ENSO changes would affect that significantly for the same global average temperature.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 4 Oct 2010 @ 12:16 PM

  370. 337 (jd),

    Has anyone figured the GWP of water vapor with or without clouds(net)? …we should be able to answer the question…

    Why? Why should we be able to answer the question?

    It’s well known that modeling clouds and anticipating the behavior and actual effects with high confidence is exceedingly difficult, so the statement that we should be able to do so is clearly wrong.

    At the same time, there is a reasonable understanding of what would and would not be involved in the various scenarios, so we have to some extent constrained the possible impacts, and know what to look for. Scientists continue to observe and study the problem, and with luck someone will come up with a clever way of nailing it down (Lindzen has tried, and to my mind, failed completely so far).

    Deniers make a big deal out of it because it’s their only real out. Any reasonable scientist, even in the denier camp, knows that CO2 will have a real and unavoidable impact on climate without the existence of some balancing negative feedbacks. Their main hope is to prove that climate sensitivity is low, and that hope is more and more predominantly founded on the idea that as the planet warms, increased clouds (of certain types) will provide a negative feedback.

    One way or the other I think we’re about one decade away from knowing the answer to that question. If temperatures rise another 0.2C in the next ten years, I think it will be very hard for anyone to say, with a straight face, “oh, don’t worry, from here on out the clouds will form and save us.”

    Of course they’ll try, but people would fools at that point to listen, and hopefully by then it will not be too late.

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 4 Oct 2010 @ 12:23 PM

  371. 368 (Patrick),

    For that reason, ENSO changes wouldn’t necessarily act as a feedback for equilibrium climate sensitivity…

    I don’t see how this is valid. You start with the argument that if the system is in equilibrium, ENSO will just balance and keep it in equilibrium. But the whole point/definition of feedbacks is that the system is not in equilibrium, it’s undergoing a forcing, and the feedbacks are a response to that forcing, and so none of this logic applies.

    To restate the proposition: If the system is not in equilibrium, and is undergoing a positive forcing, will this result in a change in the balance of ENSO events, and if so will/could the resulting change result in a positive or negative feedback related to the strength, duration, and frequency of different types of ENSO events, and if so of what strength and direction is the feedback?

    Comment by Bob (Sphaerica) — 4 Oct 2010 @ 1:34 PM

  372. Flexible #321 the idea that sharing resources still works on the level your talking about, even if all you need is a shovel. Say in a community of 100 each buys a shovel, wouldn’t it be more environmentally conscious if they were to buy 50 shovels and share them?

    And for your point about petrochem ferilizers, you would have to make a statement saying “the harmful effects of large farms out way the efficiency achievements”. What is your evidence for this?

    Comment by Michael W — 4 Oct 2010 @ 3:06 PM

  373. Chris Colose,

    Having continued belief in the intention of realclimate to improve understanding of climate science, and noting your stated similar intentions, I would like to discuss some difficulties with your definitions. I was glad to see your clarification about positive and negative feedbacks, which might help a lot, but now to move on to the definitions you offer.

    Definitions are not right or wrong. One can argue about whether or not they are useful, and this usefulness might vary depending on the community being addressed. And one can complain if a stated definition is used consistently. On this basis I discuss your second paragraph.

    I believe the technical use of the word ‘feedback’ originated in the world of engineering. And while engineering does not own words, if it is intended that the engineering world understand the important facts of climate science, it seems like a good idea to at least understand the difference in usage of this term.

    It might not be the intent of climate scientists to include engineering in the solution to global warming, but I will assume that it is.

    Perhaps an example of my idea of how feedback would be involved in global warming issues would help illustrate the difficulty. I can conceptualize a system where the atmospheric temperature at the ocean surface at some starting point is the reference input to this system. The output is the temperature at some later time, which for example we will say is increasing. We would say the feedback is unity negative feedback and this would provide something physical in the form of temperature that would be compared to the reference input. It would be a subtraction effect because of the negative feedback. The difference between the later temperature and the reference would be called an error signal. This error signal would drive the forward ‘gain’ part of the control system and create something like a proportional response, that being increased wind speed driving a temperature reducing effect. As that temperature reducing effect was manifested on the general temperture, the magnitude of the feedback would be reduced and the process would operate to cause the wind to subside. The actual operation of such a system would work to a point that there would be a small residual error signal and a modest, general increase in wind. This is the way a control system would react to counter the general global increase in temperature, and the residual error signal and final general wind speed would depend on how effectively the cooling by the ocean could happen.

    It seems that your use of the word feedback relates to somethihg I would call response, amplification, reaction or such, but not much like the kind of feedback I would talk about.

    This kind of communication difficulty can cause real difficulties in getting problems solved.

    [Response: There is a good discussion of the various definitions in Bates (2007). - gavin]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 4 Oct 2010 @ 3:19 PM

  374. 371: My guess is that a change in water surface temperature due to changes in ENSO will not change (much) the long-term equilibrium surface temperature response to CO2:

    Reasoning: The system will warm up until the surface temperature radiates enough energy to equilibrate with incoming energy. It doesn’t matter whether the surface temperature gets there because ENSO shifted or because it was a long drawn-out process of ocean warming.

    Caveat #1: This will change temperature distribution, even though it doesn’t change mean surface temperature change.

    Caveat #2: The change in surface temperature distribution could change the water vapor feedback (eg, more ocean warming relative to land warming would mean more water vapor), which could change mean surface temperature change.

    Caveat #3: ENSO changes may also lead to other changes, such as cloud changes, which change albedo and therefore incoming insolation and therefore mean surface temperature change.

    -M

    Comment by M — 4 Oct 2010 @ 3:51 PM

  375. Michael W wrote: “And for your point about petrochem ferilizers, you would have to make a statement saying ‘the harmful effects of large farms out way the efficiency achievements’. What is your evidence for this?”

    What is your evidence that large farms are more “efficient” than small farms? You keep asserting this as fact but you have offered no evidence that it is in fact true.

    And there is evidence that it is not true:

    ScienceDaily (Feb. 24, 2010) — Conventional wisdom among many ecologists is that industrial-scale agriculture is the best way to produce lots of food while preserving biodiversity in the world’s remaining tropical forests. But two University of Michigan researchers reject that idea and argue that small, family-owned farms may provide a better way to meet both goals.

    In many tropical zones around the world, small family farms can match or exceed the productivity of industrial-scale operations, according to U-M researchers Ivette Perfecto and John Vandermeer. At the same time, smaller diversified farms are more likely to help preserve biodiversity in tropical regions undergoing massive amounts of deforestation, Perfecto and Vandermeer conclude in a paper to be published online Feb. 22 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

    [...]

    Vandermeer said he advocates the break-up of large-scale farms in the tropics, as well as incentives to encourage “a large number of small-scale farmers, each managing the land to the best of his or her ability, using agroecological techniques.”

    Perfecto said these goals are in line with the findings of the 2009 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development synthesis report. The report concluded that small-scale, sustainable farms are the best way to alleviate world hunger while promoting sustainable development. Perfecto was one of the report’s authors.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 Oct 2010 @ 4:01 PM

  376. CM @364 — Did you try the IPCC AR4 WG1 report? (Linked on the sidebar.)

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 Oct 2010 @ 4:17 PM

  377. SecularAnimist (#375)

    Looking at global food production from the 70′s to now would indicate that, on the whole, the industry has become more efficient. This doesn’t speak directly to small v. large farms, however I don’t think there has been a large changeover to small farms (maybe somewhat in the last decade).

    Most likely, you could find success stories in both large and small farms and there is likely a need for both in order to continue to satisfy world food needs.

    Comment by sambo — 4 Oct 2010 @ 5:48 PM

  378. David B. Benson: Did you try the IPCC AR4 WG1 report? (Linked on the sidebar.)

    Does that link work for you? ‘Cause I get nothing.

    [Response: Thanks. Fixed--Jim]

    Comment by NoPreview NoName — 4 Oct 2010 @ 6:17 PM

  379. Jim Bullis, on definitions

    I have put more on this in my drafts for Part 2, so hopefully that will help to clarify matters. I certainly agree about communicating definitions to different audiences, particularly since people most likely to be involved in mitigation or adaptation strategies aren’t necessarily climate experts.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 4 Oct 2010 @ 7:13 PM

  380. 375 SecularAnimist

    I suspect that Nathan Borlaug would take a dim view of Vandermeer’s opinion, which sound not much like evidence.

    I farmed seven acres in 1956 with high hopes for a bountiful harvest of 100 bushels of corn per acre. At $1.40 per bushel, this would have returned to me around $500 after paying half the crop to the landowner. It was about the best Iowa topsoil around, having been a pasture for the previous 20 years. Instead, rains did not come at the right time and the yield was around 40 bushels per acre. If I would have had to have paid real costs for machinery use and labor, it would have been a starvation deal. In the real world it would have been bankruptcy. Corn now gets three times as much. Other expenses are probably ten times as much. This is reality for small farms. If you were growing just enough produce to feed yourself and a few hogs, you could survive if you owned the land. A family would survive even, that is, the few that stuck around for this grim existence.

    But this would not be a system that would feed the world anything like has been accomplished with large scale farming. Borlaug would have put up with no such nonsense on his way to saving a billion lives. (I did not make up the billion; that was reported last year in a news article.)

    Neither would I put up with ‘plunking down a few seedlings’ on the path to establishing standing forests as a CCS solution to balance use of coal to make electricity.

    A three thousand mile aquaduct with ten mile long branches on each side, spaced about every twenty miles would support the use of coal to power our existing electric needs plus a large influx of electric vehicles. Providing of course that the EVs would be a lot more efficient than Escallades and Yukons stuffed with batteries.

    [Response: I realize that you are responding, at least in part, to others' points on this topic, so I will just request that everyone please get back on topic, which this is not. Please respect Chris Colose's voluntary hard work and his desire to foster productive discussions on climate system feedbacks, a fascinating topic on which much good discussion can, and should, occur. No more diversions, please. Thanks--Jim]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 4 Oct 2010 @ 8:07 PM

  381. David B. Benson (#376), re: simplified expression for water vapor,

    Yes. If there is such an expression in AR4, I haven’t found it. The TAR had a handy table of simplified expressions for various well-mixed greenhouse gases, but not for this.
    http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/222.htm

    The AR4 does state, following Held and Soden (2000), that “given the near-logarithmic dependence of LW radiation on humidity, errors in the control climate humidity have little direct effect on climate sensitivity: it is the fractional change of humidity as climate changes that matters” (8.6.3.1.1, p. 634). Actually, it was reading about this in H&S2000 that made me wonder if there could be a simplified expression for it similar to ∆F=5.35*ln(C/C0).

    Comment by CM — 5 Oct 2010 @ 3:09 AM

  382. Patrick 368-9,

    My own research indicates ENSO may affect the fraction of the world’s land in severe drought.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 5 Oct 2010 @ 8:11 AM

  383. Re 371 Bob (Sphaerica)

    First, I was considering primarily feedback to the equilibrium climate sensitivity as defined by global average (surface) temperature change per unit change in (externally imposed) forcing.

    I think it could be said that ongoing internal variability can exist independently of external butterfly events because of the mix of positive, negative, and sideways feedbacks wrapping around. My understanding of ENSO and NAM and SAM is that they are as pronounced as they are because they have positive feedbacks that tend to reinforce their indices. That is important but it’s not the same as the measure of feedback applicable to the first paragraph.

    Back to that, consider that climate decays to equilibrium at a rate proportional to heat capacity * climate sensitivity. The role of heat capacity is obvious (bearing in mind that it depends on the timescale involved); climate sensitivity prolongs disequilibrium because, while the climate warms or cools to shrink radiative disequilibrium, positive feedbacks counteract that. When external forcing is changed, this introduces disequilibrium and the climate decays to a new equilibrium. The effect of ENSO that you mention acts on heat capacity – it is like jumping ahead or setting back the clock on how much heat has been gained or lost by the upper ocean.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 6 Oct 2010 @ 11:09 PM

  384. This question of agricultural scale is an interesting one. The idea of local, small-scale, low impact agriculture is incredibly attractive. But how can we feed the world with this method?

    Why should we need to? If memory serves, about 2 billion already do small scale ag, but many have lost the sustainable practices they once had, or their unsustainable practices have been made obvious by population, environmental degradation, etc., and may need assistance in moving back to it. Anyone, virtually anywhere, can grow their own food. Even in the desert, e.g. (I’ve posted links multiple times in the past.) Our garden, which is no till, uses no pesticides and no chemical fertilizers: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?croperror&pid=5347072&id=183237338284

    By the way, lawns in the US use 3x the acreage used for growing our largest crop, corn. We can feed ourselves quite easily and continue to trade internationally with the excess.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 11 Oct 2010 @ 12:42 PM

  385. 384

    ccpo

    Norman (not Nathan) Borlaug and I would shovel agricultural scorn on your naive, creative, idyllic, memory. Even with poor rainfall conditions, my lousy seven acre corn field probably produced enough to keep hundreds alive for a year. This is what happens with agricultural scale.

    Yes, I would agree that lawns in America are an ecological disaster; but to change this in a way that would allow efficient, large scale agriculture would require us to give up on our suburban life styles. That is something that many of us value, if not most of us. Some day this might have to happen, but my suggestions are directed at changes that would be more easily accomplished.

    (Borlaug received a Nobel Prize for ignoring the nonsense you espouse and going forward with agricultural methods that are credited with saving a billion lives.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 11 Oct 2010 @ 1:46 PM

  386. Uh-oh, ccpo and Jim Bullis are about to form a feedback loop.

    Comment by CM — 11 Oct 2010 @ 2:35 PM

  387. #359 Hank.

    While the name “Planck feedback” sounds technical, it’s pathetically simple: hotter things radiate more heat, so they tend to cool down. Cooler things radiate less heat, so they tend to warm up.

    I’m sorry to appear pedantic but although the effect is really ‘pathetically simple’ the ambiguous words that follow have made it appear unecessarily paradoxical i.e. less simple:

    “hotter things tend to cool down”
    which could be read as

    OR “Objects with a higher temperature tend to undergo a lowering of their temperature”

    which is confusing. So you should have left it in the original version i.e
    “tend to lose more energy” [you can also drop the 'tend to'].

    Second point.
    On these pages I have seen two conventions based on temperature (as an output) and energy balance. The advantage of having a choice is that teaching both conventions makes people think more and hence end up with greater understanding.

    By the way the crucial nature of the Planck feedback is not equivalent to a crucial need to define or even discuss it. [Repeated point]The temperature version absorbs the Planck feedback into each stage of the iteration and thus hides it. I am not convinced that the physics suffers from this procedure (William C may disagree). Perhaps it may be easier for beginners who will want just one convention. I don’t see the need to make a song and dance about a non existent runaway based on a non existent world with no radiation loss. If you light the gas under the saucepan it will reach a state of energy balance if the level is low. Turn up the gas and it gets warmer ..etc. Now extend the argument to include positive feedback without runaway.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 11 Oct 2010 @ 7:01 PM

  388. “Note that positive feedbacks do not inherently imply a runaway scenario; it just means that the final temperature change is higher than it would have been without the feedback being there.”

    Really ?
    This only holds true if there are other negative feedbacks in the system which counter the positive ones. In a system where only positive feedbacks reside you will always end up with a runaway scenario. This is basic physics.

    I am not a CO2 warming sceptic, but I think that since the earh’s climate has been self stabilising for billions of years following large swings between glacial and interglacal then it is only logical to assume both positive and neagtive feedbacks must be at work else I would not be writing this blog entry.

    I agree with the positive water vapour feedback scenario, but this can not explain (at least in my mind) how we can have moved from interglacial back to glacial, instead of runaway warming. More water vapour evertually leading to more clounds and therefore more albedo cooling could be a likely negative feedback but I have not seen any literature that explains this to date.

    More work needed on this !

    [Response: Well, more work is always needed (we're always working towards a better understanding)...but not for the reason you seem to think. It's well understood by researchers who work in this area that the dominant feedbacks in the climate system, at least over a very wide range, are indeed negative, i.e. stabilizing. In particular, the Planck feedback, which relates to the simple physics that a black body radiates in proportion to the 4th power of it's temperature: All other things being equal, make the Earth's surface warmer, it radiates more heat out to space. There are additional stabilizing feedbacks that act over geological timescales, in particular the silicate weathering feedback: a warmer Earth has a more vigorous hydrological cycle, which increases the rate of chemical and physical weathering and thus the uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere by surface and burial processes. On the timescales of interest, however, the Planck feedback is the key stabilizing feedback. So when we talk about the net feedbacks being positive, what we really mean is that the net effect of the other feedbacks after the Planck feedback is accounted for--i.e. the combined effect of water vapor feedback + ice albedo feedback + cloud feedbacks--is positive. My former Penn State colleague Nate Urban has a very nice explanation of all of this in this interview he did recently at John Baez's site.- mike]

    Comment by Jonas — 16 Oct 2010 @ 6:09 PM

  389. Jonas @388 — No, a small postive feedback just increase the overall effect due to a cause. The formula is

    effect = g/(1-f)

    where g is the open loop, or forward) gain and f is the positive feedback. This formula for linear systems is correct up to f = 1, where “runaway” occurs. As an example, with numbers approxiately correct for warming due to CO2 and then with a positive feedback from net of water vapor + clouds, suppose g = 1 and f = 1/2. Then

    1 + 1/2 + 1/4 + 1/8 + … = 1/(1-1/2) = 2

    Comment by David B. Benson — 16 Oct 2010 @ 6:56 PM

  390. Jonas- Dr. Mann’s response and the corresponding interview with Dr. Urban is very good.

    If you re-read the section on “Feedback behavior” in this post though I try to make it very clear that climate scientists define “positive feedbacks” in such a way as to mean that the temperature change exceeds some reference value (or is less than the reference system for negative feebacks).

    The most obvious reference system to use is one where we just force the climate to change with CO2 (or solar, or whatever) and let the planet come back into radiative equilibrium (and ignore any other feedbacks). Then we ask ourselves, how has the temperature changed once the balancing act of the absorbed solar radiation and the emitted longwave radiation worked itself out? This is the ~0.3 degrees for every Watt Per Square meter radiative forcing (with very little uncertainty). This turns out to be a very small number, particularly a bit too small to make much sense with the magnitude of climate changes in the past. So along with a good deal of observational and support, an theoretical support for some of the individual feedbacks (like water vapor increase, or ice-albedo) we can conclude with high confidence that feedbacks are net positive.

    As Dr. Mann said, we don’t really talk about the Planck feedback in the same context as the other feedbacks, which more or less modify the Planck response, making the planet more or less sensitive than the reference system. So while it is conceivable that there are some negative cloud feedbacks, there’s no need for them to make sense of the argument presented here.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 17 Oct 2010 @ 1:32 AM

  391. Climate models should take into account the fact that the world’s forests are in decline. Put another way, they are not growing – they are dying. They are no longer carbon sinks – they are carbon emitters. The vegetative cover is shrinking because the background level of tropospheric ozone is inexorably rising, and ozone is highly toxic to plants.

    Just sayin’!

    [Response: Badly wrong on several accounts.
    Please do your homework before making public statements like this.--Jim]

    Comment by Gail Zawacki — 17 Oct 2010 @ 12:51 PM

  392. 385 Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company says:
    11 October 2010 at 1:46 PM

    384 ccpo

    Norman (not Nathan) Borlaug and I would shovel agricultural scorn on your naive, creative, idyllic, memory.

    Dear Mr. Bullis,

    Thank you for your scorn. I find it quite useful and positive and appreciate the creative spark it engenders. May I point out the Nobel Prize is not a declaration of god-hood, nor of infallibility. Sadly for Mr. Borlaug, he’s been dead lo this long year hence, thus is not present to re-educate you as he would have re-educated himself by now.

    As a systems thinker, I cannot accept single parameters as meaningful, thus find your scorn entertaining in its limitations.

    Even with poor rainfall conditions, my lousy seven acre corn field probably produced enough to keep hundreds alive for a year. This is what happens with agricultural scale.

    Yes, I would agree that lawns in America are an ecological disaster; but to change this in a way that would allow efficient, large scale agriculture would require us to give up on our suburban life styles.

    Your first error is to assume that the scale of production is determined by contiguous acreage, which it is not. Proceeding from your first implied assumption is the assumption that large areas of mono-cropping is preferable, which is not the case. The more bio-diverse a field or farm is, the healthier it will be. Part of that diversity comes from co-planting, which we used quite successfully here on our little plot, applying not a drop of insecticides and having only one little pest which was controlled by application of compost teas, which also add to soil health, thus a stacked function resulting in less damage and higher yield both short term and long term.

    The second error is in assuming the work of Dr. Borlaug in any way simultaneously argues against small-scale farming. A higher-yielding strain of wheat is useful on either scale. Given that the Rodale Institute and others have shown regenerative agriculture produces better results over the long term because it builds soils rather than depletes them, I have a hard time seeing Dr. Borlaug being unhappy with the process.

    There are more errors, but this is a climate blog…

    Thank you for the straw man argument. I’ve never played with dolls, but will hold it close and cuddle it tightly so you can feel the love. Unless it’s a red erring, in which case I will compost it.

    How gardening at home is in someway an end to suburban life rather than one of the ways to actually preserve it escapes me. Millions of families in the US and Britain did exactly that and, in the US, grew 40% of all fruits and veggies during WWII. This has many advantages over shipping food hundreds or thousands of miles. It reduces the use of fuels, produces more nutritious food, increases exercise, can build community, etc., as well as helping transition to more localized economies, which is inevitable due to the multiple problems of climate, energy transition, and economic malfeasance – all underlain by a growth paradigm driven by population.

    That is something that many of us value, if not most of us.

    No doubt. And it is incredibly difficult to pull people out of stasis. In fact, it’s unlikely to happen on a large enough scale to prevent degrees of change from which society as we know it will survive. If you consider it wise to keep your lawn and not grow 40% of your own food so that you can feel like a “real” suburbanite, who am I to argue?

    Dr. Al Barlett, however, would caution you to pay attention to just how the exponential function leads to a misinterpretation of events. Doing a little backcasting from the endpoint, collapse, e.g., we find that the last doubling leading to collapse occurs when 50% of resources/space/what have you still exists. Standing at te top of the pile of resources, or the middle of the expanse, what have you, it looks like you’ve got all the time in the world. Worse, at the second-to-last doubling you have fully 75% left! No way, no how, does that lead to significant change… unless you understand exponents or think systemically. Seven generations and all that.

    Well, we are at that 50% point with some things and far beyond it with others. Let’s look at this as an hour of time. That last doubling happens at 1 minute to the hour. With oil, we are at one minute till, but with fish stocks, we are mere seconds from the hour. Food? Seconds, for we can grow a lot of food under current conditions, but climate chaos will mitigate that, so there’s no way we have enough resources for 14 billion people. We are seconds away from the hour. Water? Seconds. Coal and natural gas? Maybe one minute.

    Etc.

    Good luck with holding on to the rail of the Titanic; I’m heading for a lifeboat and eventually back to dry land.

    Cheers

    Some day this might have to happen, but my suggestions are directed at changes that would be more easily accomplished.

    You’re a humorist! Building unsustainable numbers of electric cars, e.g., is easier than encouraging people growing some tomatoes, beans and squash? Trying to do the impossible in replacing the massively fungible crude oil with a slew of other things not nearly as fungible is easier than just living more simply, more connected with your neighbors and the natural systems upon which we depend?

    Do tell. Please. Since you have said nothing thus far, this is a serious request. So how ’bout a little content with the insults, eh?

    Borlaug received a Nobel Prize for ignoring the nonsense you espouse and going forward with agricultural methods that are credited with saving a billion lives.

    Now this is an interesting conundrum! What Borlaug actually did was to help make continued population growth possible. He didn’t really save lives per se. Think of it this way. It took a long time to develop the strains he did. Anyone on the brink of starvation when he started did die. I don’t know way people think he saved lives. It makes no sense. Just the opposite. Instead of causing people to address the issue of population, he helped make a much larger population possible and helped allow it to grow exponentially. te knock-on effects of this are directly responsible for the climate issues we like to discuss here.

    Borlaug was obviously a kind man seeking to help. It’s a perfect case of unintended consequences. Perhaps he should have had lunch with M. KIng Hubbert and Admiral Rickover. They could have had quite the little design charrette and perhaps saved the world a lot of trouble.

    Last thought on lives saved. As we move into a world of decreasing net energy, increasing climate chaos and the concomitant problems therein, it is entirely possible – I won’t speak to plausibility – that billions will die. I wonder how you would account Dr. Borlaug’s score card then? (And, no, I am demonizing Borlaug, merely pointing out the limitations in your perspective.)

    Links available on request, though you really should just spend time on The Oil Drum and The Automatic Earth, and be sure to go back to about 2007 and come forward if you’ve serious interest in exploring other points of view.

    Cheers

    [Response: ccpo, your work in Detroit is truly commendable, having benefits on many levels, from personal connections to nature, to individual health, to community relations, to potentially significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions if adopted by the general population. Many of us could stand to take a page from your book of doing something--anything--positive, especially in urban areas desperately in need of wholesale changes of attitude, lifestyle, and social organization. There's no question in my mind that these kinds of grass roots efforts are absolutely essential if we want real change to occur--Jim]

    Comment by ccpo — 18 Oct 2010 @ 12:06 PM

  393. Jim, give me the “several accounts” on which I am wrong, please. Because I HAVE been doing my homework, and there isn’t a single statement I made there that isn’t verifiable.

    Maybe YOU should do some homework?

    Or at least be specific about what you dispute!

    [Response:
    1. Climate models are concerned with forests only to the degree that they influence climate-related, boundary layer processes, such as momentum (surface roughness), sensible heat fluxes from canopy infrared radiation, and latent heat fluxes from evapotranspiration. Climate models specifically coupled to a carbon cycle model and/or a dynamic global vegetation model (DGVM) can account for large scale vegetation changes, and such work has been ongoing for a while.
    2. The "world's forests" are not "in decline"--a gross overstatement. Some forests in some places are suffering high mortality, but many others are not. There are many forests that are healthy and aggrading biomass/carbon, particularly in the United States for example, due to the reversion of ag land to forest over the 20th century. The world's vegetation is a decided carbon sink overall, and forests easily constitute the largest part of that sink.
    3. Ozone is a localized contributing factor to poor tree health in areas of high population density/NOx emissions. It is way down the list of important forest health issues in most places and is not a global problem. And even where it's a local problem, "highly toxic" is an exaggeration of its importance relative to climatic and biological agents.

    Moreover this is off topic. There will be discussions of tree mortality here in the near future, where knowledgeable contributions will be encouraged.--Jim]

    Comment by Gail Zawacki — 18 Oct 2010 @ 5:27 PM

  394. Re #392

    Dr. Al Barlett, however, would caution you..

    It is possible to miss the relevant bit of his talk which is here :

    http://www.albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy_video1.html
    Part 3 of video1

    Part 1 is for real beginners. As I remember the teaching was not quite so good in video2 (above part 5) i.e. the maths was a bit concealed.

    Comment by Geoff Wexler — 19 Oct 2010 @ 6:23 AM

  395. There is no need to be snide, is there? As far as knowledge goes, I have been compiling a list of published scientific research about ozone going back decades, which can be seen here: http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/p/basic-premise.html.

    I would say that with a few exceptions, I now know more than most of those authors because I have realized one thing: we have reached a tipping point where vegetation can not thrive, and are hurtling on the downside of ecosystem collapse. It’s like the earth is a closed garage and the invisible fumes from our running engines have been building up to the point where they are finally lethal.

    Although it is no secret that background levels of tropospheric ozone are rising, travel across oceans, and are toxic – even the EPA has this information on their own website – the extent of the impact has been professionally squelched by fuel companies, in a far more successful campaign than deliberate climate change denial…and we all know the influence they have had on perception of that parallel problem.

    I compare the death of the trees from ozone to the impact of ocean acidification on life in the sea. If climate models don’t take the loss of forests into account then they are merely GIGO. If climate modelers don’t want to work across specialties then when history is written (but don’t worry, at the rate we’re going nobody will be left to write it, let alone read it) they will end up on the same page with Watts and Cheney. “…the limiting factor is the integration of the science spanning multiple disciplines.” as observed in this paper: http://apsjournals.apsnet.org/doi/pdf/10.1094/PDIS.2001.85.1.4

    Here is the pivotal moment described in the New York Times when back in 1987 American foresters decided to conveniently relabel forest death with the euphemism “decline,” thus ensuring a generation of inaction leading inexorably to mass extinction: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE4DB1E3EF935A15753C1A961948260

    All anyone has to do to verify this is take a walk past a few trees and really look at them. Every species is marred with the characteristic damage of ozone exposure – stippled, singed leaves, bare branches, and bark oozing, splitting, and falling off. You don’t need a degree in physics to identify the symptoms of impending demise.

    Labeling this off-topic is cowardly censorship.

    [Response: To be perfectly blunt, your approach to understanding nature is no better than the worst deniers I've seen. You have no idea what you're talking about--Jim]

    Comment by Gail Zawacki — 19 Oct 2010 @ 9:59 AM

  396. “Every species is marred with the characteristic damage of ozone exposure – stippled, singed leaves, bare branches, and bark oozing, splitting, and falling off. You don’t need a degree in physics to identify the symptoms of impending demise.”

    Okay, I looked at some trees. They look fine to me. Therefore, proof by contradiction) you must be wrong. (Yes, this is as silly as your original claim. Oh well.)

    “I now know more than most of those authors”

    Always a good sign. You know how amazingly much you know. When you also know how much that you don’t know, you will have a much better perspective on things.

    By the way, I had a look at your website, and it was scary how many of your links were to things that are irrelevant or unrelated to your claims. Some even undermine your claims, such as those related to tree diseases.

    If you stuck to the facts, you could present a much better case.

    P.S: This browning of leaves you are observing: it’s commonly known as autumn, or fall. Happens every year.

    Comment by Didactylos — 19 Oct 2010 @ 11:43 AM

  397. Yes, there is a sanity clause. Thank you Jim.

    There’s good science, worth reading.
    Pointing to cites helps people focus.

    http://www.ucar.edu/learn/1_7_1.htm (measuring, grade-school, ground level)
    http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI3832.1 (feedbacks, notably a negative feedback from climate change, but increasing anthropogenic precursors)
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&q=tropospheric+ozone+levels&as_sdt=2000&as_ylo=2010 (upper troposphere levels, rates of change, and origins, mostly Asia)

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Oct 2010 @ 11:44 AM

  398. Well Jim, thanks for posting my comment anyway! It’s my hope that once people understand we are destroying plants, the base of the food chain, the transition to clean energy won’t seem so expensive and conservation will become wildly popular.

    [Response: You don't think that credibility as to what's actually happening might factor in there somewhere...?]

    Didactylos: \Okay, I looked at some trees. They look fine to me.\…\P.S: This browning of leaves you are observing: it’s commonly known as autumn, or fall. Happens every year.\

    You have contradicted yourself. You see browning of leaves and think that’s fine, normal autumn. It’s not! The leaves are supposed to turn beautiful colors, then fall off, then turn brown. People have forgotten, it’s called shifting baselines.

    \Some even undermine your claims, such as those related to tree diseases.\ The people who blame tree death on insects, disease, fungus, drought and wind-throw either deliberately ignore, or don’t know, that ozone increases tree susceptibility to all of those factors. Facts from real scientists doing real experiments!

    [Response: WOW, Real Scientists! Cool! Sure would like to meet some of them some day...Oh and thanks for discovering that ozone injures plants, damned if we didn't almost miss that one--Jim]

    Comment by Gail Zawacki — 19 Oct 2010 @ 12:16 PM

  399. Chris Colose, we’re looking forward to Part 2!
    Not to pester you or anything… :)

    Comment by CM — 19 Oct 2010 @ 1:21 PM

  400. 392 ccpo

    It is my perception that Norman Borlaug appreciated the advantages of large scale, commercial agriculture. And it is most likely that he would have been happy about small scale gardening as well, though not so happy if it stood in the way of large scale improvements.

    Though I have many years of experience that directly relates, I would not venture on this comment site to discuss the problems with family gardens, wherever they might be, as an economically viable way to feed the world.

    I did check the site you run and join with you in encouraging people to make their lives better. But if we were to actually discuss food production in any sort of quantitative manner, we would begin to understand the problem of agricultural scale.

    We also need to take notice of demographic trends of the last 100 years or so, and how people choose to live and work. We might like to see things trending differently than they are. Attempting to change things is fine, but if the task of changing the CO2 balance is given top priority, we would likely let some things go in order to concentrate on this priority.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 19 Oct 2010 @ 1:30 PM

  401. > leaves are supposed to turn beautiful colors, then fall

    No, they’re not.

    Fall color shows a failed gamble by the tree. The tree is getting a bit of benefit from photosynthesis even as the days rapidly get shorter, by keeping photosynthesis going as late as possible, but will lose any food value left in the leaves at the first frost. The color change what the tree lost in the gamble that year.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=tree+deciduous+color+change+frost+leaf+food+value

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Oct 2010 @ 2:02 PM

  402. http://thereporter.wcu.edu/2010/09/wcu-s-fall-foliage-forecaster-predicts-colorful-autumn-in-wnc-mountains/

    “… While your garden may not have fared so well because of the soaring temperatures in June and July, the well-established trees and shrubs of our forests do not appear to have been adversely affected. All of which should lead to very nice color change this October ….
    …. Cooling temperatures during the fall contribute to the decomposition of chlorophyll, the chemical that gives leaves their green color in spring and summer. As chlorophyll breaks down, yellow pigments – always present in the leaves, but masked by the green of chlorophyll – are revealed, and new red pigments are produced.
    …. Peak color corresponds to the first frost date of the year….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Oct 2010 @ 2:41 PM

  403. Gail Zawacki: Darn! I managed to contradict myself while making a ridiculous claim for rhetorical effect. I wonder how that could have happened?

    But as Hank points out, you’re wrong anyway. And in addition to that, you should be aware that climate change is probably having a direct effect on autumn leaf timing (Taylor, Tallis et al, Future atmospheric CO2 leads to delayed autumnal senescence).

    Blaming ozone for everything is counter-productive, as is claiming that trees are dying off in droves. Isn’t it far more interesting to ask how much of the tree stress is due to ozone, and is the situation getting worse?

    Comment by Didactylos — 19 Oct 2010 @ 4:04 PM

  404. 392 ccpo

    I will judge from acceptance of your post that the subjects therein are acceptable for discussion here.

    So first, who is Dr. Al Barlett?

    Second, please provide a complete statement to replace, “Millions of families in the US and Britain did exactly that and, in the US, grew 40% of all fruits and veggies during WWII.” And then explain if this is where the ’40%’ in the later, “If you consider it wise to keep your lawn and not grow 40% of your own food – -, ” came from. I did look at your garden picture which was certainly an improvement over the typical Detroit lawn, but I can say with certainty this did not grow 40% of the food that a family of four would need, under anything close to American nutrition standards. Or was there a chicken ranch in the back yard that we are not shown?

    Sorry that you see my characterization of your position as “-creative, idyllic, memory” as insulting.

    I concur with your mixed feelings about how things develop when adequate food supplies are provided. But when it comes to population control by withholding food supplies, I look for better ways here as well.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 19 Oct 2010 @ 4:29 PM

  405. http://www.nicholas.duke.edu/thegreengrok/watervapor-102010
    Demystifying the Water-Vapor Feedback
    by Bill Chameides | Oct 19, 2010

    “… Andrew Dessler of Texas A&M University and S.M. Davis of NOAA and the University of Boulder determined the H2O trend using five separate data sets: one being the data set used by Paltridge et al. and three that relied on more modern processing techniques.

    All of the data sets showed an increase in H2O except one: the one used by Paltridge et al. The authors conclude: ‘it is doubtful that these negative long-term specific humidity trends in the [Paltridge et al] … reanalysis are realistic.’”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Oct 2010 @ 4:34 PM

  406. JIm Bullis,

    That was a lot of blather with nothing to respond to. The statement was complete. You are being argumentative. Where did I say the picture represented 40% of anything? I didn’t. Withholding food supplies? Spin much? Dr. Al Bartlett? Google to find videos.

    If you don’t wish to converse, just say so.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 19 Oct 2010 @ 6:12 PM

  407. 406 ccpo

    Ok. I will try to blather, one blath at a time.

    Instead of “millions” it would be useful reporting if you told us how many millions, in the respective countries. And I presume you are not counting war production; just feeding the home folks.

    Instead of “40% of all fruits and veggies” during WWII” we can perhaps expect something more restrictive. For starters, hardly any fruits are grown in gardens; vegetables, maybe, in season, people were able to meet needs of a family. Potatoes are the most likely product of small gardens, and these can be stored for substantial time. I hope you are not going to claim tomatoes as fruits.

    We seem to be confusing urban with suburban. To me, there is no lawn in urban living.

    You used the quantity 40% twice.

    In WW II we gardened far more than most that I knew, and raised chickens, mostly for our own use. Still, most staples such as flour and bulk cereals were purchased, even under the limits of rationing. With the chore of canning vegetable being carried on, we might have raised 40% of the canned vegetables throughout the year.

    As to the chickens, doing that in an urban setting is problematic, I can assure you.

    I assert that by disturbing the large scale agricultural system as you seem to advocate, you would be withholding food supplies. We would have to come up with numbers to make any sense of this. I tried to quote some examples from direct experience. How might this be spin?

    However, I am willing to let you alone to garden in competition with modern agriculture. If it improves people’s lives that is a big accomplishment.

    All I really was trying to do was to point out the advantages of massive scale agriculture, in combination with my more immediate objective of establishing massive scale new forests.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 19 Oct 2010 @ 7:17 PM

  408. There are a number of secondary factors that influence the timing and degree of leaf turning: humidity, water, temperature (though mainly the difference between day and night temperatures), onset of frost, etc. However, the most fundamental factor is the length of day. i.e. the number of daylight hours. I haven’t heard of climate warming affecting that — did I miss something?

    Comment by Rod B — 19 Oct 2010 @ 7:42 PM

  409. Jim Bullis,
    Albert A. Bartlett, or A-squared B to his students is a professor emeritus of physics at Universty of Colorado at Boulder. He is an excellent science educator and has been doing his exponential growth spiel since I was in high school! He is well worth listening to on issues of population, resource depletion, etc.

    On the issue of home gardens, my wife and I have 3 acres. We have gardens around the house (~1 acre) are starting an orchard on a second acre and are restoring the third to wildlife habitat. We probably grow about 30-50% of the food we consume in season, and we freeze peaches, tomato sauce, edamame and grape juice. We also harvest jerusalem artichokes and this year potatos, garlic, shallots and onions. In addition we have planted about 150 trees since moving in 8 years ago. Our neighbors…not so much. They refer to us as the hippy couple. Oh well

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Oct 2010 @ 8:09 PM

  410. > most fundamental factor … length of day … climate change
    Bait. http://i55.tinypic.com/15d4f2g.png

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.agrformet.2008.11.014
    Modelling interannual and spatial variability of leaf senescence for three deciduous tree species in France

    “The annual timing of temperate forest leaf colouring is affected by climate change; to date, its modelling remains a challenge. We take advantage of a ca. …. We postulate colouring to be the outcome of a one-way process triggered by photoperiod and progressing through a photoperiod-sensitive cold-degree day summation …. the model predicts a trend towards delay in leaf colouring of 1.4 and 1.7 days per decade in Fagus and Quercus, respectively, over the period of 1951–2099 in France.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Oct 2010 @ 8:16 PM

  411. On another news, a bit related to feedbacks: http://news.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid_9096000/9096795.stm

    Comment by jyyh — 20 Oct 2010 @ 12:42 AM

  412. On the forest thing, I think it makes far more sense to batter manage sequestration in forests in the places where trees naturally do well. Not advocating this, but to move all the trees in North America to cold-water storage would require no new infrastructure at all.

    Comment by JCH — 20 Oct 2010 @ 8:24 AM

  413. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/08/090804071358.htm

    http://www.ifoam.org/growing_organic/1_arguments_for_oa/environmental_benefits/pdfs/Rodale_Research_Paper_Regenerative_Agriculture.pdf

    407 Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company says:
    19 October 2010 at 7:17 PM

    406 ccpo

    Instead of “millions” it would be useful reporting if you told us how many millions, in the respective countries. And I presume you are not counting war production; just feeding the home folks.

    The millions is irrelevant, the percentage is completely relevant. However, given most yards are too small to completely feed a family, yet are large enough to produce up to 40% of a family’s veggies and fruits, the number was likely quite large. (Though I should point out there are people growing up to 6k lbs. on as little as 1/8 of an acre.)

    Instead of “40% of all fruits and veggies” during WWII” we can perhaps expect something more restrictive. For starters, hardly any fruits are grown in gardens; vegetables, maybe

    I’ve not seen a breakdown, only the lumped together fruits and veggies.

    We seem to be confusing urban with suburban. To me, there is no lawn in urban living.

    This is simply incorrect. And what is the point? I have already pointed out the amount of lawn in the US is several times that of corn acreage. Clearly we have more than enough lawn space to grow a large percentage of food at our homes. Period. We do not have space, nor need, to quantify which veggies were/are grown, which fruits, etc. People will grow what they feel they want and need and *can* grow given their highly individual situations.

    As to the chickens, doing that in an urban setting is problematic, I can assure you.

    Lots of people do it. More all the time. I’m an urban-based permaculturist, so am well aware. It is true, tho, that many people are raising chickens without thought to their full system and are likely needing outside inputs to make it work. They are fully sustainable when the system around them is well-planned, but that’s true of pretty much everything…

    I assert that by disturbing the large scale agricultural system as you seem to advocate, you would be withholding food supplies. We would have to come up with numbers to make any sense of this.

    Change is hard, so don’t do it? Withholding food supplies? Hyperbole. Whether the Monsantos of the world will choose to do the right thing and either downsize or switch to organic, regenerative, non-GMO crops is on them, not me.

    I assert: change is necessary, so get on with it. It really need not be so much trouble. Cuba lost something like half its energy supply almost literally overnight, massively adjusted their food system, had virtually no increase in mortality, though they did collectively lose about 20 lbs. in the first years. We have far more resources at our disposal than Cuba did.

    However, I am willing to let you alone to garden in competition with modern agriculture. If it improves people’s lives that is a big accomplishment.

    It does, and with the depletion of phosphorus, the need to conserve fuels, and stop using them altogether where possible, and the destruction of our soils, big ag will die/change, or society will.

    All I really was trying to do was to point out the advantages of massive scale agriculture

    There are none in a long-term context. It depletes the soil, diminishes bio-diversity, destroys ecosystems, leads to destruction of the ocean and fresh water habitats… and on and on. Given it was never needed to feed the planet, the tragedy is massive. Back when the soil destruction revolution was going on, there were already people proving it was unnecessary and ultimately destructive, not constructive, such as Masanobu Fukuoka.

    in combination with my more immediate objective of establishing massive scale new forests.

    Food forests are where your fruits and proteins come from in a regenerative system. If we manage to stay afloat, we’ll plant up to fifteen dwarf nut and fruit trees in our @3k sq ft yard to go along with the 6 semi-dwarf fruit trees already there. We’ll be well on out way to supplying 40% or more of our own fruits and veggies when they are mature.

    This brings up an important point: time is of the essence because these transitions take time. We are way, way, way behind.

    Thanks for engaging.

    Cheers

    Comment by ccpo — 20 Oct 2010 @ 9:26 AM

  414. Yep. It’d make a little more sense to advocate starting pure timber farms in deserts–it’s at least imaginable. Creating viable forests where they don’t exist is utterly more complicated.

    Making timber companies quit cutting down viable forest ecosystems they now are given for free or even get paid to cut, in favor of actually investing in farming trees — not so likely.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Oct 2010 @ 9:53 AM

  415. ccpo wrote: “… given most yards are too small to completely feed a family …”

    In his 1983 book Survival Gardening, John Freeman described a gardening system using the intensive methods of John Jeavons, and emphasizing vegetables selected for high caloric yield such as turnips and potatoes, whereby a 1000 square foot garden could produce enough food for one person to live on year-round.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 20 Oct 2010 @ 10:14 AM

  416. Hank: It’d make a little more sense to advocate starting pure timber farms in deserts.

    That’s actually happening (kind of):

    Mauritania plants trees to hold back desert
    ‘Great Green Wall’ to fight desertification gets 119 million dollars

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 20 Oct 2010 @ 11:03 AM

  417. Hank, I said the primary factor in leaf turning is daylight hours, followed with a secondary [likely but very loose] factor of day/night temp differences, which, implied, might be affected by climate warming. Which is what your referenced study says. It seems to prove their point they turn ballparks into micrometers. Took some casual observations of a couple of tree species in France over 8 to 9 years as input data, wrote a model that predicted a trend…. towards [Pretty loose projection] delay in leaf coloring of [but now make it exact so's we look really good] 3.4 hrs/yr and 4.1 hrs/yr through 2100.

    I’m not being critical of the work — that’s how it should be done. I am critical of reading far more into the study than the broad brush SWAG maybe it deserves, especially as it attributes global (France??) warming as anything more than an elusive possibility. (Though logically it probably does have some loose effect.).

    Comment by Rod B — 20 Oct 2010 @ 11:40 AM

  418. ccpo and SA,
    Many farmers in Rwanda survive (just barely) by farming tiny plots of land. I don’t recommend it. That said, you can get some of your food, lower your carbon footprint, sequester carbon, eat better and improve your soil.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Oct 2010 @ 12:20 PM

  419. Rod misstates what’s in the paper; see for yourselves. It’s one way he initiates long digressions about his ideas, bait hardly ever worth taking.

    Phenology and climate change have been discussed here before.
    http://www.google.com/search?q=site%3Arealclimate.org+phenology

    Here’s a good example of current relevant work:
    http://www.plantphysiol.org/cgi/content/abstract/149/4/1982 (free full text)
    The paper begins by pointing out how little we know and what is known, and what mechanisms are likely shared across many or all tree species.

    Discussion includes the “gamble” each deciduous plant makes each fall–when frost comes later, the trees have withdrawn more nutrients leaving less behind to show color.

    “The adaptive value of timing leaf senescence appropriately in northern latitudes …. represents a trade-off between conflicting optima for carbon and nitrogen metabolism and is likely to show adaptation to the local environment ….”

    Talks about the interactions we know about:

    “Bud set and autumn senescence appeared to be under the control of two independent critical photoperiods, but senescence could not be initiated until a certain time after bud set, suggesting that bud set and growth arrest are important for the trees to acquire competence to respond to the photoperiodic trigger to undergo autumn senescence.”

    and ends with an interesting biogeoengineering suggestion:

    “We believe that, once started, senescence in most (or all) leaf systems is very similar (Keskitalo et al., 2005Go). However, tree species that have successfully colonized boreal habitats may have acquired a novel trait that would be highly adaptive in this climate: the capacity to initiate senescence in response to changes in photoperiod alone. This hypothesis needs further attention because if it is true it may be possible to transfer the trait to other genotypes, which are not naturally well adapted to boreal climates.”

    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2007.04.003

    Shifting plant phenology in response to global change

    “Plants are finely tuned to the seasonality of their environment, and shifts in the timing of plant activity (i.e. phenology) provide some of the most compelling evidence that species and ecosystems are being influenced by global environmental change. … Here, we discuss recent advances in several fields that have enabled scaling between species responses to recent climatic changes and shifts in ecosystem productivity, with implications for global carbon cycling.”

    These are climate feedbacks that directly affect the human economy, spurring further feedbacks.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Oct 2010 @ 1:02 PM

  420. Ray Ladbury wrote: “Many farmers in Rwanda survive (just barely) by farming tiny plots of land.”

    Many farmers in Rwanda and elsewhere in Africa are not (yet) using modern organic growing techniques. When they start using such techniques, they do better:

    Organic farming can feed Africa and bring higher incomes to poor, rural farmers, according to a United Nations report focusing on food security and sustainability issues. The report, compiled by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP), contradicts a popular myth that organic-farming methods can’t produce enough food to feed the world.

    Much of the study data comes from East Africa, where an organic-agriculture project was put into place in 2004. Organic and near-organic crop yields in the 24 countries studied increased by 116% since the start of the project. In 11 of 13 cases, food production rose — and sometimes doubled — when farmers switched from chemical methods to more sustainable, organic growing methods. The report’s authors argue this will feed millions more and bring much more food security to the continent.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 20 Oct 2010 @ 1:30 PM

  421. 420 Secular Animist

    Organic, near-organic, sustainable, and chemical methods admit of degree and are generally done in complex combinations.

    The quoted study is curiously contradictory to 100 years of agricultural experience in North America and Brazil; not such small players, I might add.

    In the real progression of things, organic methods improve on chaotic methods, and chemical methods improve on strictly organic methods.

    Water also has a lot to do with it. Organizing to effectively use water is a way to improve things enormously.

    One needs to look carefully when presented data is self contradictory, as in the generalized claim of ’116%’ improvement versus the “production rose in 11 of 13 cases — and sometimes doubled’. 116% improvement is more than doubling of yield, so how can this be reconciled with the further and generally lesser progress statement?

    We also might ask how the test project was carried out, where an organized activity seems to have been implemented. That suggests that a larger scale project was implemented, since that would have been necessary for a controlled study. And large scale operations also carry a big advantage in productivity.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 20 Oct 2010 @ 2:18 PM

  422. Hank, quotes from your referenced paper: “…colouring to be the outcome of a one-way process triggered by photoperiod and progressing through a photoperiod-sensitive cold-degree day summation procedure.” and “The annual timing of temperate forest leaf colouring is affected by climate change; to date, its modelling remains a challenge.” There is nothing in my comment 417 that misstates any of that.

    The myriad of your other references and comments point out the climate change probably has some effect on leaf turning; same as I have said. But I don’t understand the truckload. Per chance are you trying to bury me with it in hopes I might infer (without you having to say) that daylight hours are not the fundamental factor, but climate warming is? If so I suggest you google the forest, not the twigs, and focus on the first 100,000 hits that address daylight hours as THE fundamental –as your reference does.

    Comment by Rod B — 20 Oct 2010 @ 2:25 PM

  423. SecularAnimist, sorry I’m late but suddenly got confused. What exactly is “organic” farming? I thought I knew (as defined in U.S.) but I don’t know 1) how organic farming can double yields routinely; 2) that Rwanda and most of Africa have not been mostly already doing organic farming; 3) how organic farming brings more income (per unit??) to poor African farmers. I understand the latter in the U.S. because people here are willing to pay a bunch more for an “Organic” label, and it’s still unclear whether it is more or less costly for the American grower (though it would seem to be less costly in the long run, not including total crop failures now and then); is that true in Africa? Can you help? Ray?

    Comment by Rod B — 20 Oct 2010 @ 2:40 PM

  424. 414, Hank Roberts: It’d make a little more sense to advocate starting pure timber farms in deserts–it’s at least imaginable. Creating viable forests where they don’t exist is utterly more complicated.

    It has been done in Senegal and Eritrea.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 20 Oct 2010 @ 3:28 PM

  425. 409 Ray Ladbury

    Thanks for demonstrating reality of small scale farming.

    Also thanks for Dr. Albert Bartlett info. I would be interested in his reaction to the water-forest concept.

    My first question would be whether Dr. Bartlett endorses or denies the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and respectively criticizes or encourages electric vehicles. This brings us back full circle to where I started from on this writing journey.

    If we could implement the CCS plan I advocate for, the electric vehicle could become an environmentally friendly item.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 20 Oct 2010 @ 3:32 PM

  426. 416 Jim Galasyn

    Thanks for the link showing a similar project being carried out in Northern Africa by those ‘cavalier ignorants’ (as I am characterized here).

    This link shows that a project there, similar in scale to my proposed project, is planned at a cost of $119 Million. Huh? I would have said $119 Billion, but even at that it would be a bargain in North America.

    Here is the link for reference: http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2010/06/great-green-wall-to-fight.html

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 20 Oct 2010 @ 3:39 PM

  427. Jim Bullis and Rod B:

    Responding to people who ask questions that they could answer for themselves if they did a little bit of reading, and/or who prefer to offer repeated unsupported assertions of their a priori beliefs instead of reading up on the facts, is frustration that I don’t need.

    Studies by United Nations agencies and others have found that (1) organic agriculture can produce yields at least as high as those from so-called “conventional” petrochemical-based agriculture, and sometimes higher yields, particularly under less-than-optimal climate conditions (e.g. drought); and (2) small-scale, diversified farming can produce higher yields than large-scale industrial monocrop farming, again particularly under adverse climate conditions.

    Go look it up.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 20 Oct 2010 @ 3:52 PM

  428. SM, pointer please?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Oct 2010 @ 4:13 PM

  429. 425 Secular Animist

    Regarding agriculture: I know enough to question what a UN study, not the UN, says. Why? I lived through the transition from organic, smaller scale farming to what we have today. Farming was still being done with horses by some, and my father (a Luddite by natural inclination) plowed our garden with a team of horses. Manure was shoveled and spread with a manure spreader. Believe me, tractors and chemicals have some real advantages. So do hybrid seeds now compared to those of those days.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 20 Oct 2010 @ 4:27 PM

  430. 428 Hank Roberts

    This might be related to the SM post:

    http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2010/06/great-green-wall-to-fight.html

    But re 414 by you,

    I am confused by, “–starting pure timber farms in deserts–it’s at least imaginable. Creating viable forests where they don’t exist is utterly more complicated–”.

    Maybe you would clarify the difference.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 20 Oct 2010 @ 5:33 PM

  431. Here’s for Senegal.

    http://www.terradaily.com/2007/091106140421.mbapskof.html

    Perhaps I was too loose in calling it desert. The Eritrea project was described in National Geographic magazine, and was desert.

    In Indonesia they replanted on areas desolated by the tsunami.

    Semi-arid regions of California have forests (usually called “groves”) of fruit and nut trees irrigated with water brought from afar.

    As I recall (no link) Iran, China and UAE are planting forests in desert areas.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 20 Oct 2010 @ 6:34 PM

  432. > pure timber farms … viable forests
    > … clarify the difference.

    http://www.agroforestry.net/pubs/seeing_forest.html
    http://www.terrain.org/articles/14/call.htm

    Alan Savory suggested this idea decades ago:
    http://www.holisticmanagement.org/
    slideshow (site’s being reorganized right now): http://www.holisticmanagement.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=137:test-with-homepage-contents&catid=57:test-file&Itemid=31

    In practice:
    http://www.polyfacefarms.com/
    http://www.pnas.org/content/106/25/10386.full
    “Under conventional management, across the region, millions of hectares of land currently supporting tens of millions of trees will be treeless within decades from now…. we identified an unexpected win–win solution ….”
    Another practice:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Oct 2010 @ 7:08 PM

  433. Here’s one on planting trees in UAE:

    http://desertification.wordpress.com/2008/03/26/uae-tree-planting-in-dubai-google-ame-info-eeg/

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 20 Oct 2010 @ 7:09 PM

  434. Septic Matthew,
    Having done at least a little forest restoration in arid areas of Africa, everything depends on getting villagers to water the trees–and since women carry the water, that means women. In many cases, women must carry water a kilometer or more in tubs on their heads–astoundingly graceful! Every tree essentially means another trip.

    You can certainly plant drought tolerant species in portions of the Sahel, but remember, we are talking about longer and deeper droughts in this region as a result of climate change.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Oct 2010 @ 7:50 PM

  435. 434, Ray Ladbury, I don’t think I have written that every desert will be forested.

    [Response: Get off of this nonsense. None of you have given the first thought as to what would be required to afforest desert lands, nor any of its climatic effects. It's a stupid geo-engineering pipe dream, divorced from reality.--Jim]

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 20 Oct 2010 @ 8:20 PM

  436. SecularAnimist, I was questioning your first statement in 420 that organic farming more than doubled average yield. Not your 2nd statement in 427 that, “…. (1) organic agriculture can produce yields at least as high as…..” which is only roughly half of the doubling.

    I can google it but prefer not to until at least you decide what it is you’re saying.

    Comment by Rod B — 20 Oct 2010 @ 8:21 PM

  437. 432 Hank Roberts

    There seems to be quite a blur between forests and trees and all shades in between. But the way of thinking I like is explained in your link:

    http://www.agroforestry.net/pubs/seeing_forest.html

    All the other links show very attractive and in many cases good bases for designing a massive forest system.

    It seems like the so called developed world has largely ignored the forest as a solution. But a lot of others have ignored us and gone ahead with it, in one form or the other.

    The key for North America is water, that is, if we want to be effective at solving the CO2 problem.

    Maybe the problem here is that there is no real way for me, or anyone else, to make money on this project. So who needs it? Maybe we all do, as a common basis for our industrial system. And who needs that? Again, maybe we all do.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 20 Oct 2010 @ 8:27 PM

  438. 434 Ray Ladbury

    We can go off on a discussion about who carries the water, but that completely fails when we are talking about massive reforestation. I tend to react harshly to such talk about a tree at a time, as one of these ‘every little bit helps’ kind of thing.

    I will leave that to you, while I get busy with things like drag lines and such that dig ditches fifty yards long in one scoop – or something massive like that.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 20 Oct 2010 @ 8:34 PM

  439. An outline of activities (and problems also) in Sahara and Sahel:
    http://www.oss-online.org/pdf/imv-en.pdf

    Comment by Pekka Kostamo — 20 Oct 2010 @ 8:43 PM

  440. Re 398 Gail Zawacki The leaves are supposed to turn beautiful colors, then fall off, then turn brown.

    A bit – actually very – OT, and while not necessarily contradicting your overall argument (certainly O3 is spatially variable, there will be trends, and perhaps different species might react differently)

    When I was younger I got the impression that when it comes to oak, the leaves go from green to brown, and stay on long after other trees have gone bare. I have heard that last part is accepted as true (and the leaves turn brown eventually while on the tree so far as I know). However, I have more recently noticed oaks that turn yellow or deep red (very beautiful) before going brown; perhaps I simply wasn’t paying close enough attention before. I also noticed one oak tree that did seem to go from green to brown based on the few times I looked; it was near a street light, and the leaves closed to the light stayed more green longer.

    One kind of tree’s leaves turn yellow and I think a bit purple; some are dark purplish in summer. Silver maples – When I was younger, I observed (perhaps in error) that unlike some other maples, silver maples don’t generally turn bright red – some had veins turning red while the leaf was still green (Christmas colors!), but generally the leaves turned yellow (sometimes a pale yellow), and would develop brown fringes (also pretty); except for a notable case (now dead – I suspect killed by lighting during a rather awesome storm) which had narrow leaves that grew curved to one side (mutant tree?) which had dark red leaves. Later, I found a neighborhood with many small silver maples that turned bright red (breeding?).

    Of course the past year’s weather is known to affect colors…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 20 Oct 2010 @ 8:55 PM

  441. ccpo and SA, et al: While individual projects are commendable and helpful, on a societal scale I find it hard to see how everyone working their own little organic garden (or a relatively small communal plot) can surpass the useful yield of large scale farming. Plus the diversity gets blown to smithereens and mass food processing, like turning field corn into edible (and likeable) cereal seems a thing of the past. So no more cereal; very little bread; no more ham (until one learns how to raise a hog in his backyard without his rooting up the turnips); probably no beef unless the community farm is sufficiently large to support raising cattle and building their own processing plant; not much more than Hawaiians get to eat pineapple; no artichokes for new england; no oranges for the northern 2/3 of the U.S; no bananas for anyone; chicken and eggs might survive nationwide though maintaining them in your average condo might take some doing etc, etc, etc, ad infinitum. It has been implied that if everyone lived on a turnip and potato diet we might succeed, though actually enforcing that could prove troublesome. It seems subsistence farming is the new goal, as opposed to the previous centuries of hopes and goals to get people off subsistence farming

    So while I admire and respect the one-off efforts, I can’t see a society coming within a few light years of success.

    More on point, I couldn’t find how, even if doable, individual organic farming significantly helps AGW mitigation. Would someone give me a quicky review/reminder (this is a serious question…)?

    [Response: No Rod, how about if you actually read something about the topic of organic farming and what it can accomplish instead of just throwing out ridiculously extreme straw man scenarios that no one here has proposed, and then asking for someone to give you a "quickie reminder" which you can then use for another round of straw man "debates". Industrial, production, high intensity agriculture has a whole slew of negatives that come with it, not the least of which is very large total GHG emissions. Doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that.--Jim]

    Comment by Rod B — 20 Oct 2010 @ 9:08 PM

  442. Rod B said many things, including:

    “diversity gets blown to smithereens”

    Clue: biodiversity is NOT the same as a varied diet. Commercial monocultures are probably the biggest enemy of biodiversity, and small-scale farming copes just fine with producing a varied diet.

    “no more ham”

    This is really idiotic. Small-scale pig raising is how it was done for centuries. You chose the worst possible argument.

    “not much more than Hawaiians get to eat pineapple [blah blah blah]”

    Again, this is just silly. You can grow these fruits in hothouses in almost any climate.

    “turnip and potato diet”

    Small-scale farming doesn’t mean commerce stops dead. People grow different things. Try growing your own vegetables, then maybe you will stop saying silly things.

    Comment by Didactylos — 21 Oct 2010 @ 6:04 AM

  443. Pretty relevant here is the NCAR review study on drought–there’s a post on it here:

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/10/20/ncar-daidrought-under-global-warming-a-review/

    It’s frankly appalling. (And very much in line with what BPL has been saying here.)

    If this scenario comes true–and the good news, such as it is, is that there is still some window to get onto lower emissions paths than assumed for purposes of the study–then the world our kids and grandkids will have to live in is going to be very different, and very much harsher, than this one. And as BPL has been pointing out, this is already happening, in the sense that PDSI trends are increasing, and increasing faster than they had been predicted to do.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Oct 2010 @ 6:51 AM

  444. Rod B wrote: “It has been implied that if everyone lived on a turnip and potato diet we might succeed, though actually enforcing that could prove troublesome.”

    No problem. The communists hiding under your bed will enforce it.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Oct 2010 @ 6:54 AM

  445. A new study from NCAR that is perhaps worthy of an RC article:

    Climate change: Drought may threaten much of globe within decades

    The United States and many other heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decades, according to a new study by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Aiguo Dai. The detailed analysis concludes that warming temperatures associated with climate change will likely create increasingly dry conditions across much of the globe in the next 30 years, possibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.

    Using an ensemble of 22 computer climate models and a comprehensive index of drought conditions, as well as analyses of previously published studies, the paper finds most of the Western Hemisphere, along with large parts of Eurasia, Africa, and Australia, may be at threat of extreme drought this century.

    In contrast, higher-latitude regions from Alaska to Scandinavia are likely to become more moist.

    Dai cautioned that the findings are based on the best current projections of greenhouse gas emissions. What actually happens in coming decades will depend on many factors, including actual future emissions of greenhouse gases as well as natural climate cycles such as El Niño.

    [...]

    “We are facing the possibility of widespread drought in the coming decades, but this has yet to be fully recognized by both the public and the climate change research community,” Dai says. “If the projections in this study come even close to being realized, the consequences for society worldwide will be enormous.”

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Oct 2010 @ 6:57 AM

  446. Relevant comment by Andrew Lacis here (read the thread at Spencer’s blog; just ignore the septic stuff that accumulates; Spencer tries to educate them):
    http://www.drroyspencer.com/2010/10/does-co2-drive-the-earths-climate-system-comments-on-the-latest-nasa-giss-paper/#comment-3411

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Oct 2010 @ 9:29 AM

  447. Jim, I made the rash assumption that the discussion of communal or organic farming here had some connection to climate warning, maybe even to feedbacks. Sorry. My bad. Bad assumption. (Was it this assumption that made it a straw man??) I found only one reference in this thread, a simple declarative that, “organic agriculture is a crucial approach to drawing down the already dangerous anthropogenic excess of CO2.” You seem to (almost) say the same thing. Is it your position that completely redoing and drastically limiting the diet and ending, for all practical purposes, food distribution and diversity is worth the reductions of CO2 from tractors, combines, etc., and fertilizer manufacturing? Or is this the scenario you write off as a “ridiculous extreme” straw man? [How would the Des Moines resident get an orange? How does the Nebraskan get his shrimp? Or, the Cajon for that matter since I suppose shrimp boats are no longer allowed? How do I get my Cheerios, Corn Flakes, or my sandwich bread?]

    [Response: Ridiculous and not worthy of response. These discussions are a game for you it seems. Sure you're not Pielke jr?--Jim]

    Or, if organic/communal farming was not brought up as a significant AGW mitigation, then that should have been the simple answer to my simple question.

    That “industrial, production, high intensity agriculture has a whole slew of negatives that come with it” is not a relevant point. What out there anywhere does not have negatives? The relevant point is does eliminating the slew of negatives leave you with more of less replacement negatives.

    BTW, small communal/regional farming and organic farming are not the same thing. There are some very large centralized commercial organic farms that use tractors, combines, distribution and processing networks, and such (though not synthetic/manufactured fertilizers.) However, this is just an simple clarification that could easily be dismissed with a straw man label, I guess.

    Didactylos, just for the drill, come down from the clouds and describe how just a couple of scenarios would actually work on a day by day practical basis.

    SecularAnimist says, “The communists hiding under your bed will enforce it.” Is there any other way? That’s about all I can think of for stopping the black market pizza deliveries!

    Comment by Rod B — 21 Oct 2010 @ 10:56 AM

  448. #441, Rod, as an organic farmer (The longest continually certified farm in Indiana) I’ve witnessed a huge growth over the past 25 years. Small farms are popping up everywhere and I’d put my production per acre against any operation using chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Not only that I’m locking up carbon (If my enriched soil is any indication) instead of making agriculture an exercise in releasing carbon from the manufacturing of fertilizers and pesticides, transportation, planting and harvesting. One thing we do is take all the tons of leaves from our town and we use them to improve our soil structure which means we need less irrigation.

    We’re seeing exponential growth in vegetables, beef, pork, and poultry with demand out stripping supply. Look for a continuing revival in small farms which will be good for the consumer as well as the farmer. This can be an excellent way to employ people who have a few acres. Instead of 1 million farmers we could see millions more and in the process create opportunity for people with limited means.

    By the way, I’ve got 40 acres of corn in addition to my vegetables and hay. Many organic farmers have fairly large plantings of cereal grains. As the demand increases you’ll see more acreage planted.

    Comment by Dale — 21 Oct 2010 @ 11:21 AM

  449. Rod B wrote: “I made the rash assumption that the discussion of communal or organic farming here had some connection to climate warning, maybe even to feedbacks”

    Yes, there is a connection:

    Agriculture is an undervalued and underestimated climate change tool that could be one of the most powerful strategies in the fight against global warming. Nearly 30 years of Rodale Institute soil carbon data show conclusively that improved global terrestrial stewardship — specifically including regenerative organic agricultural practices — can be the most effective currently available strategy for mitigating CO2 emissions.

    Rodale Institute’s Farming Systems Trial (FST) is the longest-running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional farming systems in the U.S. and one of the oldest trials in the world. It has documented the benefits of an integrated systems approach to farming using regenerative organic practices. These include cover crops, composting and crop rotation to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide by pulling it from the air and storing it in the soil as carbon. Results from these practices — corroborated at other research centers that include University of California at Davis, University of Illinois, Iowa State University and USDA Beltsville, Maryland, research facility—reiterate the vast, untapped potential of organic agricultural practices to solve global warming.

    Agricultural carbon sequestration has the potential to substantially mitigate global warming impacts. When using biologically based regenerative practices, this dramatic benefit can be accomplished with no decrease in yields or farmer profits. Even though climate and soil type affect sequestration capacities, these multiple research efforts verify that practical organic agriculture, if practiced on the planet’s 3.5 billion tillable acres, could sequester nearly 40 percent of current CO2 emissions [emphasis added].

    Rodale Institute advocates a rapid, nationwide transition from today’s prevailing, petroleum-based farming methods to more advanced “post-modern“ systems incorporating best practices based on replicated research. We call this approach regenerative organic agriculture to signify its focus on renewing resources through complementary biological systems which feed and improve the soil as well as avoiding harmful synthetic inputs.

    [Response: The Rodale folks have done great, pioneering work. People should also check out the work at The Land Institute including contributions to this recent forum paper in Science.--Jim]

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Oct 2010 @ 11:39 AM

  450. “come down from the clouds and describe how just a couple of scenarios would actually work on a day by day practical basis”

    Why on earth should I have to do that? There are many, many examples, large and small, if only you bother to look.

    If you can’t use Google, then try a library.

    And next time, please do the research before sharing your views. Thank you.

    Comment by Didactylos — 21 Oct 2010 @ 11:59 AM

  451. Rod @ 447

    “Was it this assumption that made it a straw man??”

    For pity’s sake. What passes for discourse these days.

    I know that this sort of thing passes for humor in some circles, but it seems to me that given the nature of this forum, refusal to analyze and scrub your own comments for fallacies will only hasten your descent into total trolldom.

    See Straw man at Wikipedia.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 21 Oct 2010 @ 12:54 PM

  452. SecularAnimist (449)

    That sounds interesting. I have a question about the 40% figure though. Does that include the change in CO2 production when these techniques are implemented? I would assume there is a different carbon footprint from these techniques and this might also be beneficial (may even be detrimental, I don’t think so but I’m not familiar with this enough to know). The only thing that would likely prevent immediate widespread implementation could be fear of unknown obstacles, particularly by those farmers who have done well with current techniques. They may see it as unproven and not worth the risk until more people have tried it over many years and shown it to be as good as what’s being used now.

    Comment by sambo — 21 Oct 2010 @ 12:54 PM

  453. 435, Jim: Get off of this nonsense. None of you have given the first thought as to what would be required to afforest desert lands, nor any of its climatic effects. It’s a stupid geo-engineering pipe dream, divorced from reality.–Jim

    I disagree with you there. We have provided examples of actual afforestation of desert lands (e.g. Eritrea), as well as discussions of watering salt-tolerant varieties in arid coastlines (previous threads, plus the Eritrea example.) Consider the link in post 439 by Pekka Kostamo. It isn’t intrinsically any more of a “pipe dream” than any other of the “stabilization wedges”, such as organic (minimum tillage) gardening. 1.5 million new trees in UAE is a small step, but all the steps are small.

    [Response: Where's the water going to come from and how much will it cost? How are you going to get seedlings established over many millions of hectares without shade and heat protection? Where are you going to get the seeds? What genotypes of what mycorrhizae are you going to infect the seedlings with? How are you going to prevent salt and metal accumulations in the rooting zone from high evaporation rates? What's going to be the regional effect of a greatly decreased albedo and large increases in water vapor? How will you deal with harvesting for firewood by locals? What unforseen problems with invasive species, including pathogens, are going to arise, and what will be their effect on ecosystems and people? (To list only a few off the top of my head). Get back to me in 40 or 50 years with a progress report.--Jim]

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 21 Oct 2010 @ 1:50 PM

  454. Rod B., you share a widespread misconception, I think. That is that eating locally would mean a less varied diet. It seems intuitive, since you’re “cutting things out,” right? Yet that is not necessarily what happens. Because you don’t have the shrimp or the pineapple, you are motivated to seek out foods that are available–often ones that you may not have tried without that “push.” Moreover, you keep doing this, since what’s available changes with the seasons (assuming you live in a temperate climate.)

    See, for example, Barbara Kingsolver’s experience:

    CURWOOD: So you eat locally for a year and you lived to tell about it and the day this project was finished did you run out for what uh maybe uh…

    KINGSOLVER: Coca Cola and moon pies? No, we didn’t. We forgot to notice the day the project ended. By this time it was just the way we lived. We have a new relationship with where we live. We are what we ate.

    It’s an interview well worth reading–for a fun example:

    KINGSOLVER:I do want to point out that we weren’t the strictest locavores. We didn’t for example give up coffee because my husband said, “Coffee will get you through times with no food better than food will get you through times with no coffee.” And I began to understand important things about my marriage.

    I haven’t read the book yet. I think I will, though; my own experiments with reforming our diet have been decidedly timid so far. Anyway, you can read the interview here:

    http://www.loe.org/shows/segments.htm?programID=07-P13-00018&segmentID=4

    One last quote:

    “. . .this isn’t a story of deprivation. This is a story of gratitude.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Oct 2010 @ 2:22 PM

  455. #453–

    SM, Jim Bullis specifically rejected identification of his “project” with re-afforestation on normal scales. You can plant trees in places where they are native, or at least appropriately adapted. Probably we’d all of us involved in this conversation agree that that was a good thing.

    But trying to kickstart an ecology that’s not adapted to the local conditions (and at the expense, as far as I can tell from the few details that were given, of existing ecosystems in the Southwestern desert and the coastal lowlands of Hudson Bay) is a whole other beast. And not a very intelligent one, IMO.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Oct 2010 @ 2:28 PM

  456. Kevin McKinney quoted Barbara Kingsolver: “We didn’t for example give up coffee because my husband said, ‘Coffee will get you through times with no food better than food will get you through times with no coffee’.”

    There’s a point worth noting there.

    It’s one thing to import agricultural products that can really only be grown well in certain locations, like coffee.

    It’s quite another thing to grow broccoli in expensively irrigated deserts in California, and then ship it 3000 miles in refrigerated diesel trucks to Pennsylvania, which has an ideal climate for growing broccoli.

    Having said that, I hope the Kingsolvers were buying organic, shade-grown, fair-trade coffee (which is what I do, being of the same persuasion as Ms. Kingsolver’s husband when it comes to De Ol’ Debbil Bean).

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Oct 2010 @ 3:01 PM

  457. TNYT, I think it was, maybe elsewhere, had a fine article on reforestation in Burkina Faso, a county in the Sahel region of Africa. Turns out that when a French colony, trees didn’t belong to the landowners, so were all cut down eventually. The farmers there, small holders all, dig pits to collect rainwater rather than having it run off. One farmer put his animal manure in his larger than normal pits. Voila, trees starting growing. Now, on his maybe 43 acress (largely than average anyway), he grows nothing but trees, sell9ing the wood for firewood and making furniture. His neighbors have taken up growing some trees as well, finding this seems to enhane their crop yields.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 21 Oct 2010 @ 4:44 PM

  458. I realise that the threads get more off-topic the longer they go on, but they really aren’t the place for our wilder meanderings. Far fewer people are paying attention, and so there isn’t as much informed comment as one might like. It is too late for this thread, but everyone benefits if people stay vaguely on topic. People do come back to these threads many moons after they were active, and if they find them substantive, rather than combative, that reflects well on everyone concerned. Thanks for understanding.

    Comment by gavin — 21 Oct 2010 @ 5:03 PM

  459. 453, Jim: Get back to me in 40 or 50 years with a progress report.

    Now aged 63, I don’t expect to be around then. As I have written, I expect the whole energy industry to be much different 20 years from now, and even more so in 40 years. Agriculture will also be much different, with or without greater efforts at reforestation.

    As to your questions. The water will come from the oceans and from some of the rivers (as in the areas of China that are being reforested to reverse desertification.) The cost of the water will be less than the cost of the end of civilization as we know it; on an island off the coast of India desalination for agriculture and forestation is provided for by the waste heat from solar power, so the cost of the water is a small addition to the cost of the electricity. In Southern California the water for the avacado plantations comes from the Colorado River, among other places. That might not represent a net gain in CO2 sequestration (the flora of the Colorado River delta were sacrificed, but the delta might support modern salt-tolerant species of all kinds), but it does show that water flows can be redirected hundreds of miles where people are willing to do it. It could profitably be done in the Indus valley as it is being done in western China.

    The seeds (and seedlings) will be provided as they were for Eritrea, Senegal and Indonesia; as they are provided for Weyerhauser and Georgia-Pacific and the reforestation of Southern Mexico; and by DeKalb and Pioneer seed companies as they do for American farmers.

    I do not now know the solutions to all of your other questions. Is it your assertion that those problems have no solutions?

    Success would require continued investment in labor, capital, and ingenuity, but that’s always true of everything.

    A note about Australia, which as a long coast line and much arid country within 100 miles of the coast. There is little natural ecology to preserve in Australia because the first immigrants burned the forests and the subsequent immigrants have made additional large-scale changes. Now they export coal and other minerals, but they could easily become one of the world’s largest exporters of wood, should they choose to make the labor and capital investment to do so.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 21 Oct 2010 @ 5:27 PM

  460. > little natural ecology

    That’s a denial talking point.

    “Australia is the most megadiverse developed country and supports almost 10 per cent of the biological diversity on earth.”
    http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/

    “… here in the east — nonhumans have rights, that there are strict limits on how far you can displace a marsupial that’s living in your chimney because after all, they were here first.”
    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=1603

    http://www.biodiversityhotspots.org/Pages/default.aspx

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Oct 2010 @ 7:30 PM

  461. Dale (448), I’ve nothing against organic farming or its attendant benefits. All for it in fact. I am against the hype and hyperbole that some organic/communal/regional supporters spout. Like more than doubling the yield.

    Is your 40 acres in sweet or field corn? If the latter does it go into seed or processed food (the vast great majority of corn utilization). If the latter, how do you get it converted into cereal or corn sugar, e.g? Is your transportation, planting and harvesting all by hand or mule? That would be unique, but admittedly doable. But does that doable remain when you project your successful experience to every farm (as reconstituted) in the country? Don’t mull on it for too long — the answer is no.

    And at the societal level don’t forget that organic and small are not synonymous.

    Comment by Rod B — 21 Oct 2010 @ 7:35 PM

  462. SecularAnimist, on the surface the Rodale effort seems atypical of the hype and hyperbole I mentioned. “…regenerative organic agricultural practices — can be the most effective currently available strategy for mitigating CO2 emissions.” Really? The BEST? Better the wind or solar power? electric cars? banning coal? (Or possibly they are hedging behind the skirt, “can.” Later in the fine print they do change it to “substantially mitigate….”) Are regenerative organic farming practices the only way to get carbon into the soil. What does regularly farmed corn and soybeans do with their absorbed carbon?

    That being said, I shouldn’t discount it out of hand. Maybe it does better at sequestering CO2 that I would have imagined or understood, and the Rodale effort deserves a further look. Though, maybe admitting my prejudice, 40% of all emitted CO2 is a long, long, very long row to hoe (pun intended).

    Comment by Rod B — 21 Oct 2010 @ 8:03 PM

  463. 460, Hank Roberts: “Australia is the most megadiverse developed country and supports almost 10 per cent of the biological diversity on earth.”

    They also grow rice and cotton, grains and soybeans, and they suffer desertification caused by horses, cattle, rabbits and camels. And the first immigrants burned a major fraction of the forests that used to be there. They mine uranium, iron, coal and other stuff. I doubt that they want to use solar power to pump and desalinate large amounts of water to grow more eucalyptus, walnuts, almonds, dates, mangroves and miscanthus, but they surely could with little negative impact on the marsupials. Certainly nothing comparable to the damage done by burning the native forests and planting cotton.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 21 Oct 2010 @ 8:17 PM

  464. Kevin McKinney, your conflating a “still satisfactory diet” with “keeping the diverse diet” — not the same thing. Explain bananas (but remember saying we don’t need bananas is not the same as maintaining the diet.)

    I appreciate your anecdotal examples. But they ain’t a societal solution.

    Comment by Rod B — 21 Oct 2010 @ 8:22 PM

  465. Rod, again you post your unchecked assumptions. You could read a bit and ask questions that didn’t just allow you to keep arguments going. Try it.

    It took 30 seconds, posting your questions into the search box, to find:

    “more than 80 percent of the new farmland created in the tropics between 1980 and 2000 came from felling forests …. the first study to map and quantify what types of land have been replaced by the immense area of new farmland developed across the tropical forest belt during the 1980s and 1990s….”
    http://www.physorg.com/news202722944.html
    http://www.physorg.com/tags/proceedings+of+the+national+academy+of+sciences/

    “The estimate is that we are now losing about 1 percent of our topsoil every year to erosion, most of this caused by agriculture…. . A geomorphologist who studies how landscapes form, Montgomery describes modern agricultural practices as “soil mining” ….”
    http://www.seattlepi.com/local/348200_dirt22.html

    Sec is right. You could have figured this out for yourself.
    You could check it for yourself if you did a little reading.
    Spare us another long digression about your doubts and nitpicking.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Oct 2010 @ 8:42 PM

  466. Here is a note on part of Australia:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/10/18/who-crippled-the-murray-darling-basin/#more-3359

    It’s tangential to the idea of “af”-forestation with desalinated sea water, but it shows some of the environmental impact of farming. They’d probably benefit from widespread replanting of native drought-tolerant flowers, grasses, legumes, shrubs and trees; considering the damage done by the dairy farms and cotton farms. For that, the water is already there. But it’s up to them. The same advice could probably be given to farmers and ranchers in large areas of Colorado, Nebraska, etc.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 21 Oct 2010 @ 10:52 PM

  467. @392 Jim’s response:

    Thanks for your comments, but you overstate what we have accomplished. Hopefully, in time your comments will reflect our reality. Livin’ on the edge…

    [Response: Doing the hard work with little fanfare in a tough environment (and I know enough about Detroit to know how tough what you're doing must be), is already an accomplishment, and deserves to be publicized widely.--Jim]

    @ 400 Jim Bullis: Jim, there are metrics that trump all others. If I wish to play professional football, but weigh 135 lbs. sopping wet and fully clothed, my size is my Liebig Minimum. With large-scale ag there are a number of them, but the simplest is this: it depletes soil and requires constant addition of fossil fuel-based fertilizers and phosphorus. Both are finite. Both impose limits that have nothing to do with any of the many other issues we might disagree on. Those limits mean that large-scale ag is unsustainable, period. Finite resources are finite resources. And, no, technology doesn’t save us. Since 1950, and all the improvements in efficiency, population has a somewhat more than doubled, but consumption has gone up 11 times. Jeavon’s Paradox.

    @415 Secular Animist: Familiar. Considering the audience. Far out claims to the uninitiated, thus not going there. Yet. That sort of production takes planning and some years to get right. But, yes, very doable. However, we don’t plan the future on the long tail. Or shouldn’t.

    @ 418 Ray: We aren’t discussing subsistance farming, we are talking about regenerative farming building highly productive soil, using and creating all space you have or wish to use and maximizing yield while minimizing work and consumption. The beauty of Mollison and Holmgren’s book is the drawing together of ancient wisdom and knowledge into a modern context. and putting a lot of into in one place. People are growing very large amounts of food on very small areas of land.

    @421 JB: The quoted study is curiously contradictory to 100 years of agricultural experience in North America and Brazil; not such small players, I might add.

    no, it doesn’t. Regenerative agriculture wasn’t being studied until recently. It generally performs as well and somewhat better than chem aided ag over the long run, as the Rodale study shows. Find and watch Mollison’s Global Gardener series of videos to see what can happen in areas such as Rwanda.

    @423 Rod B: I think the numbers cited in that one post are off somewhere, but it depends on where they were starting from. Many African farmers have been encouraged/tricked/forced to go to chem ag, which destroys soils. A destroyed soil changed over to regenerative ag would easily perform as stated over a soil-depleted chem ag farming method.

    Comment by ccpo — 22 Oct 2010 @ 3:31 PM

  468. Apropos diversity — this is where the world is going, if we’re lucky:
    http://www.conservationmagazine.org/2010/06/the-new-normal/
    This is one reason modeling the biological side of climate change is difficult; we aren’t keeping baselines, everything is changing.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Oct 2010 @ 7:45 PM

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