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  1. The value of the approach taken by the book, and the IPCC process, is that it takes us on a sobering journey into various futures, just as Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come did for Scrooge. Scenarios are a vital tool for designing responses. It’s very distinct from some of the popular tactics used lately, which Eric rightly questions above.

    The question remains, will humans shift gears, like Scrooge did, or will current needs win out over future risks, however disconcerting?
    Andy Revkin ( http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com )

    Comment by Andy Revkin — 25 Nov 2007 @ 3:52 PM

  2. In response to your question, I would argue much too cautious and much too reticent. Mark’s book is an excellent book and is one which I use with audiences (mainly industrialists) to work through what an industrial landscape might look like and how an economy might function as we go through the degrees. The book provides a very clear and logical framework by which to analyse economic and industrial scenarios – degree-by-degree.

    [Response: I think it is interesting that the very first two responses answer the question I posed in nearly the opposite way, though they both seem to agree with me on Lynas’s book. I could say a lot more on this, but I will just suggest that it would be good to be clear, in saying “we are too cautious” or “we are not cautious enough”, who the “we” refers to. I think it is not clear in Revkin’s response, above, who is employing the “tactics” he refers to.

    Indeed, I edited my question a bit after posting it, because it was not clear whom I was talking about. In the original version, David Archer pointed out that it sounded like I was putting down Lynas’s book at the end. I was not. For full disclosure, what I originally said was “If a reading of the scientific literature paints such a frightening picture of the future as Six Degrees suggests – much more frightening than most scientists would paint, at least on the record – then are we being too provocative in the way we write our scientific papers? Or are we being too cautious in the way we talk about the implications of the results? ” Hopefully the edited version is clearer. –eric]

    Comment by Michael — 25 Nov 2007 @ 3:55 PM

  3. the IPCC consensus, which indeed reflects a wider scientific consensus, has done a great service to us all, due in part I think to the generally conservative conclusions drawn in it, it is also understood that some or many of the scientists involved in AR4 (and its predecessors) hold less conservative views, it is a balancing act, that’s what you get when there is a political side to it, and my personal opinion of this particular site (if that is the ‘we’ your questions refer to) is that you are doing very well – as your review of the book shows clearly

    the book sounds interesting, I will see about getting a copy, thanks.

    ps – there seems to be a bug in this comment interface, I am using IE6.0, the text of my comment disappears under the brown column to the right, and my preview comes up with patchy yellow shading (?)

    Comment by David Wilson — 25 Nov 2007 @ 4:03 PM

  4. Falsely calling out “Fire” in a crowded theater is not protected free speech. It is protected if the theater is actually on fire. Then it is a duty to warn your fellow citizens of the danger.

    Comment by Joe Alderman — 25 Nov 2007 @ 4:10 PM

  5. Thanks for this Eric – I always heave a sigh of relief when ‘proper scientists’ (as opposed to literary reviewers for the popular media) give the book a thumbs up. I’m writing an updated version for the US market which will be published by National Geographic in February (to be accompanied by a full-length documentary, going out on NGTV and voiced over by none other than Alec Baldwin) where I am changing some of the emphasis a little in order to discourage fatalists – so many readers have come back to me feeling discouraged that I wanted to make it clearer that everything about above 2 degrees is a ‘what if’ scenario rather than a prediction of doom. At the moment you could read it and conclude that if we haven’t peaked global emissions by 2015 then all is lost, which is not the case at all. It’s all about probabilities, really.

    Anyway, I won’t ramble on too much, but I think the answer to your question Eric may lie in the difference between an individual paper and a synthesis effort – I was trying to take a holistic ‘earth systems’ perspective using a huge amount of aggregated material, all published in the peer-reviewed literature, and including both modelling outputs and a paleoclimate perspective. Of course, as some have pointed out, this is exactly what the IPCC does, and I think my conclusions are largely consistent with the AR4, if voiced in rather less cautious language!

    Comment by Mark Lynas — 25 Nov 2007 @ 4:21 PM

  6. “Alarmism” is an alarming word for all people with open minds. As Richard Lindzen’s visit to Rutgers showed recently (http://geology.rutgers.edu/colloquium.shtml), “alarmism” is now the foil for climate disclaimers. The use of “alarmism” is distinctly similar to Creationists now using “Darwinism” as their foil. Eugenia Scott gives a great presentation in showing how Creationist has cribbed “evolution” from their writings and replaced it with “Darwinism.” I the -ism gives it an appearance of a belief system rather than science. The climate disclaimers not only have the “fire in the theater” sense of “alarm” but the the belief system of an -ism.

    Ken Miller

    Comment by Dr. Kenneth G. Miller, Sr. — 25 Nov 2007 @ 4:26 PM

  7. a summary of Lynas’ book

    alarming but not alarmist

    Comment by Chris C — 25 Nov 2007 @ 4:40 PM

  8. I am working with Al Gore’s The Climate Project and I often hear him being criticized for his discussion of sea-level rises of 20 feet. I think it is a distortion to claim that he fails to give the timeframe of 1000 years for this melting, because in fact, he is not talking about melting. Rather, he is talking about these ice sheets becoming unstable due to the formation of moulins that drill down from pools that form at the top of the ice sheet and go all the way to the bedrock, where they might then form a film of water that could lubricate a drifting of the ice sheet into the ocean. My understanding is that the timeframe for something like this occuring might be a lot sooner than 1000 years, but there is much uncertainty about the likelihood of this happening. Perhaps someone from RealClimate could advise me of the possibility of the Greenland Ice Sheet becoming so unstable. And if it is possible, it would certainly not take as long as the melting of the entire ice shee t in place. I talk to groups about moulins and lubrication and then show the increased ice earthquake activity on Greenland over the last 15 years. I want to be on firm ground when doing this. Please advise.

    [Response: Certainly this could happen faster than 1000 years. The Laurentide ice sheet did this repeatedly during glacial times; they are called Heinrich events, and the sea level rose by 1-5 meters in one to a few centuries, is what I’ve read. These events can’t be simulated by models yet, so there’s no way we could predict if Greenland could pull a similar Heinrich maneuver. David]

    Comment by Andrew — 25 Nov 2007 @ 4:47 PM

  9. I had Six caveats about Six Degrees, but am glad to see much to enlighten here.

    The book (UK edition) seems to imply that global average temperature could rise by 6 C by the end of the 21st century. On page 102 a temperature rise of 0.4°C per decade is described as a ‘likely scenario’; page 127 points to a 3°C rise by 2050; on page 223, 5°C is ‘a few decades from now’; and Chapter 6 outlines a scenario for 6°C by 2100. Please correct me if this is wrong.

    Confusion compounding uncertainties about probable time frame for temperature rise seems to be quite common in some places. A paragraph in a recent article in the International Herald Tribune said:

    “Citing a World Energy Outlook from the agency last week, [International Energy Agency] officials said that if current development trends continued unchanged, total carbon emissions would rise by 57 percent by 2030, leading to a global temperature increase of 6 degrees Celsius, or 10.8 degrees Fahrenheit, by 2030.”

    It seems the IEA officials did not actually say that — ‘merely’ that the global average temperature could eventually stabilise at that some way down the line.

    Can someone offer further insight into the probable rates of rise in global average temperature on a given set of scenarios (taking account of various possibilities with regard to feedbacks in the carbon cycle etc)?

    [Response: Thanks for the link to your review of six degrees. Very thoughtful. To answer your question, it all comes down to the uncertainty in climate sensitivity and the uncertainty in how much CO2 we produce… See this recent post on uncertainty.]

    Comment by Caspar Henderson — 25 Nov 2007 @ 4:53 PM

  10. I think it essential that the science be seen to be nonpartisan, i.e. the highest priority of science is elucidating the truth, not supporting a particular point of view. Of course science has been under severe attack by politically motivated forces trying to claim the later. Unfortunately the charge, though unfounded sticks with a significant proportion of the public. We should probably leave the synthesis and the informing of the public largely in the hands of pubicizers such as Mark, and Al Gore etc. Of course the scientific community should be carefully monitoring and advising these groups, so that what they say is in reasonable accordance with our understanding.

    Comment by bigTom — 25 Nov 2007 @ 5:10 PM

  11. I’m going to have to get a copy of the book to read, too.

    One of the things I’ve been wondering about, and it does not sound to me like the book deals with this, is the question, what will the socio-political consequences be of rising sea level and changing climate?

    What will happen, for example, if 100 million Bangladeshis “inundate” neighboring areas of Myanmar and India, as their near-sea level homes are inundated by a rising sea? What will happen in the USA if California’s central valley is flooded, and the midwest dries up? Will Canada build a fence and try to thwart an “invasion” of starving US citizens? In light of the current US attitudes many hold on immigration, some might see such a situation as poetic justice. I see the potential for major social and political upheavals with truly sobering consequences.

    Comment by Gene Hawkridge — 25 Nov 2007 @ 5:22 PM

  12. I also read 6 Degrees recently, and was impressed by the clear and unemotional writing style. I don’t have the knowledge to critique the science quoted though I try and keep very informed on the subject, but found the book very frightening.

    In terms of your question I believe that the scientific consensus is inevitably somewhat late and is, in climate circles, maybe still anticipating the scorn of the deniers which used to be heaped on anything they didn’t like. As such it often reads as if it’s a bit tentative.

    One of the major problems is how to give a sense of urgency without being alarmist. One option would be to combine the simpler book conclusions for each degree rise, with a percentage based chance of reaching that rise within various periods. So as an example each year after the UNFCCC report on emissions, RealClimate could produce a document which assumes these emissions and growth in emissions and states:-

    Under the current growth case we see a
    75% chance of a 1 degree rise over 25 years
    25% chance of a 2 degree rise over 25 years
    5% chance of a 3 degree rise over 25 years

    75% chance of a 2 degree rise over 50 years
    25% chance of a 3 degree rise over 50 years
    5% chance of a 4 degree rise over 50 years

    1 degree rise Ice free Artic..
    2 degree rise Monsoon disruption..
    …….
    4 degree rise Good chance Australia becomes uninhabited etc…

    Even if the science is still a bit vague on the percentages, this allows a rational decision on how quickly we must change, which is, now that the deniers are all but dead or in exile, the major remaining issue.

    I think that focusing on the next 50 years (rather than 100 years as often seen) allows people to think within their own lifetime, and I don’t believe most understand the extent of the worst case disruption within 50 years. Thus while not being sensationalist it clearly brings the worst case to the fore.

    Comment by Alastair Breingan — 25 Nov 2007 @ 5:24 PM

  13. Thanks Eric, Hansen’s recent publications on scientific reticence and sea level rises make a cogent argument that the answer to your questions is the latter – scientists are being too cautious in the way they talk about the implications of the results. This has important implications for policy-makers. There are some good reasons for scientific reticence normally and it is unlikely to change so policy-makers need to take it into account.

    Hansen (2007) comments:

    “Reticence is fine for the IPCC. And individual scientists can choose to stay within a comfort zone, not needing to worry that they say something that proves to be slightly wrong. But perhaps we should also consider our legacy from a broader perspective. Do we not know enough to say more?”

    Policy-makers need to carefully consider the implications of scientific reticence for climate change policies.

    Even the most stringent international policy responses on the table at present set a course to stabilise mean global temperature rises at 2-3°C above pre-industrial levels.

    The stated objective of the EU is to stabilise mean global temperature rises at 2°C, but the emission reduction targets they propose (most significantly, 60% by 2050) appear more likely to lead to a 3°C rise. The IPCC (2007a) report suggests a global reduction of emissions of 60% by 2050 will put the world on track to stablise around a 2.4°C rise.

    If the world adopts an objective of stabilising mean global temperature rises at 2-3°C above pre-industrial levels, Hansen et al (2006) comments have a nagging logic on likely sea level rises:

    “Sea level was 25-35m higher the last time that the Earth was 2-3°C warmer than today, i.e. during the Middle Pliocene about three million years ago.”

    While the IPCC (2007b) estimated sea level rises of 0.18-0.59cm this century it acknowledges, “Models used to date do not include uncertainties in climate-carbon cycle feedback nor do they include the full effects of changes in ice sheet flow, because a basis in published literature is lacking.”

    In the light of the IPCC’s caveat, Hansen’s point about sea level rises suggests trying to stabilise mean global temperature rises at 2-3°C above pre-industrial levels is lunacy and we need to do much better.

    References

    Hansen J, et al (2006) “Global temperature change” 103(39) PNAS 14288, available at http://www.pnas.org/cgi/reprint/103/39/14288.pdf

    Hansen J (2007). “Scientific reticence and sea level rise”. Environ. Res. Lett. 2. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/2/2/024002, available at http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/1748-9326/2/2/024002/

    IPCC (2007a), WGIII Summary for Policy Makers, available at http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg3/ar4-wg3-spm.pdf

    IPCC (2007b), WGI Summary for Policy Makers, available at http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg1/ar4-wg1-spm.pdf

    Comment by Chris McGrath — 25 Nov 2007 @ 5:36 PM

  14. Eric says:

    [[a rise in seal levels of 50 cm would displace 1.5 million people and cause $35 billion of damage.]]
    Somebody’s got to stop those seals!

    [Response: Corrected. Thanks!]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 25 Nov 2007 @ 5:47 PM

  15. Andrew (8) — You ought to be able to find considerable information on the rise of sea stand since Last Glacial Maximum (LGM). In particular, the portion of that rise called Melt Water Pulse 1a (MWP1a) produced a most rapid sea stand rise.

    I’m an amatuer at all this, but I am under the impression we might well see 0.4 meter sea stand rise by 2050 and maybe thrice that by 2100. I am also under the impression that nobody seems to have any certainties about the matter, just concerns. Dr. James Hansen has recently expressed such concerns in The Threat to the Planet: Dark & Bright Sides of Global Warming, a .pdf file found on his web site:

    http://www.columbia.edu/%7Ejeh1/

    Do come back to inform use of the results of your investigations!

    Regards, David

    Comment by David B. Benson — 25 Nov 2007 @ 6:19 PM

  16. Gene Hawkridge writes of socio-political upheavals with sobering consequences. Einstein wrote of the bomb that everything had changed except the moral nature of mankind or words to that effect. And Gore calls the climate crisis a moral question. The building is on fire. I’m telling my neighbors quietly but firmly, “There is a fire. Move quickly & carefully to the exits. Pass it on.” Except in terms of climate I mean move quickly to phase out carbon etc. This will take a spiritual revolution of compassion for all beings on earth…

    Comment by Bird Thompson — 25 Nov 2007 @ 6:43 PM

  17. Sorry, I’ve not reed Lynas book.

    IMO, the more you’re alarmist (or “provocative” for Eric question), the more you fuel scepticism. Because an efficient alarmism needs to elude uncertainties, to focus on some scenarios or sensitivities without mentionning the others, to project on a very long term with a very low significativity for people’s concern (state of the Earth in 2500 or 3000), etc. and all that can be easily and rationally dismissed as a one-sided presentation of the problem. As the credibility of a scientific message is proportionnate to its objectivity, such an attitude seems counterproductive. And there are already “alarmist” claims from lobbies whose it is the job to do that, I don’t understand what would be the gain for climate scientists.

    (Secondarily, speculations about decennal T slope of the 2050s or 2150s are less intersting than explanations about current trends – sceptics better argument for the moment is that there is no trend at all for T since 2001, according to Hadley, UAH or RSS, so that intrinsic variability or other factors are underestimated. I think RC writers do a better job when they deal directly with climate mechanisms, not with public expression on climate).

    Comment by Charles Muller — 25 Nov 2007 @ 7:02 PM

  18. “Are we being too provocative in the way we write our scientific papers? Or are we being too cautious in the way we talk about the implications of the results?”

    Is the wrong question. You are being too short term. You need to be more like the paleontologists. 5 groups of paleontologists are talking about the coming extinction of Homo Sapiens in about 200 years. You don’t need to be like the nuclear power industry. They should talk about how much safer nuclear power is than coal. They use too many numbers. The public does not think at all like scientists of any kind. The public needs a world wide web that can actually tell them the truth. Here is a post I wrote for Alternet recently:
    http://www.alternet.org/audits/66625/?cID=769076

    Reference: “Web Dragons” by Witten, Gori and Numerico 2007.

    The search engines do not understand the web pages they find for you. They are
    just machines. They have no idea of whether or not the web pages they find tell
    the truth. In the US, we have “freedom of speech,” which means that nobody has
    to prove that anything is true before publishing it. We also have a coal industry
    that has a gross income of $100 BILLION per year. That $100 BILLION per year
    could be easily sunk by the nuclear industry unless you can be persuaded that
    nuclear power is dangerous. [The truth is that a coal fired power plant puts 100
    times as much radiation into your environment as the nuclear power plant. The
    truth is also that natural background radiation is 10 times what you get from a coal
    fired power plant.] Do the coal companies have an incentive to lead you astray?
    Yes. Is $100 BILLION per year enough incentive? Yes. Can the coal industry
    afford to hire doctors, economists, environmentalists, website designers, computer
    scientists, psychologists, advertising agencies, and lots of other people on $100
    BILLION per year? Of course. Can the coal industry afford to set up hundreds
    of web pages on hundreds of computers in hundreds of locations and “game” the
    search engines on $100 BILLION per year? Yes. And they do.

    How hard is it to find the truth on the web? Very hard. Most web sites have a
    monetary reason for existing. People who know the truth and are willing to tell
    you the truth don’t have much economic reason to do so. It is hard to make money
    by telling the truth. Nobody ever went broke by underestimating the intelligence
    or overestimating the gullibility of the average person. So how are you going to
    find out the truth for sure? There is only one way. You have to become a
    scientist. You will have to spend a minimum of 4 years in college to get the
    minimum degree, the B.S. You should really spend more like 15 years and get a
    post doctoral degree.

    THERE ARE ZERO HUMAN AUTHORITIES.
    Scientists do not vote on what is the truth. There is only one vote and Nature
    owns it. We find out what Nature’s vote is by doing Scientific [public and
    replicable] experiments. Scientific [public and replicable] experiments are the
    only source of truth. [To be public, it has to be visible to other people in the
    room. What goes on inside one person’s head isn’t public unless it can be seen on
    an X-ray or with another instrument.]
    Science is a simple faith in Scientific experiments and a simple absolute lack of
    faith in everything else. Do not trust any human, not even yourself. Trust only
    the experiments that you personally perform. Otherwise, you will be misled.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 25 Nov 2007 @ 7:11 PM

  19. Thanks very much for this posting, as it addresses one of the “must get to this soon” books on my list, even if it does give away the ending, so to speak.

    On the larger issue of how scientists (and we scientist wanna bes) should approach this situation, I try as much as possible over on my own web site to go wherever the data leads me and nowhere else. The problem is that the data associated with global climate change and peak oil are pointing with increasing and alarming certainty toward truly unpleasant outcomes.

    Whether the speaker is a genuine climate scientist, like many on this site, or an economist who’s studied energy issues for many years, like me, I think the moral obligation is the same: Tell the truth as accurately and fully as possible, and with a degree of spin or salesmanship or whatever you want to call it that’s dictated by the probability and unpleasantness of the predicted outcomes.

    I’ve talked over on my site about how far is too far in selling these ideas. I’ve had numerous people ask me in e-mail and once in an interview with a local paper if James Howard Kunstler really believes everything he says, or if he’s peak oil’s version of Ann Coulter–someone who merely puts on a colorful persona and says whatever will sell books. I’m increasingly convinced that it’s neither, and that Kunstler is intentionally yelling fire in the theater because that’s the only way to alert enough people to a situation that could, with enough indifference, turn into a real conflagration.

    Regardless of whether that blatant guess on my part about what drives Kunstler is accurate, it’s still a valid question: How much salesmanship is too much, even when used for the purest of motives?

    I’ve thought about this a lot, and honestly, I don’t know the answer.

    Comment by Lou Grinzo — 25 Nov 2007 @ 7:28 PM

  20. Thanks for this Eric and Mark Lynas.

    I stated in an earlier article titled “Hot Air in the Media Contributes to Global Warming!”

    We don’t need to be alarmist just because the alarms are ringing. Instead, while the alarms are ringing, we need to be calm and think this through in order to conceive an effective plan to mitigate the amount of disruption to economic, geographic, agricultural, social, environmental, biologic and even military systems. We need to be real when it comes to understanding science and assessment.
    http://www.uscentrist.com/news/2007/hot-air-in-media

    I think it’s starting to sink in, although there is still a tremendous disinformation campaign being waged (moose farts cause global warming, volcanoes put out more Co2 that humans, soda cans??? etc.).

    Some of the key components of potential challenges as I see it are:

    Economy
    Human Migration
    Latitudinal Climate Shift

    People love to attack the word ‘alarmist’ just because its easy from the cheap seats (these types read articles more than science and seem to have trouble with reason and the concept of open minded as well as scientific analysis of relevant data). But pretty much anyone looking at the data can hear the bells ringing and they are just going to get louder.

    There are a lot of things in the potentials here but one can imagine pretty easily. Lots of moisture in the air likely translates to increased snowfall (that melts faster), increased rainfall (that dries faster), regional climate shifts that disable growing regions (so food supplies will be a concern).

    The rapid recognition of the problem and its ramification will alter our industry and commercial systems. Human population is expected to peak according to the UN and begin to fall off again. This will be intertwined with all of the above and all the potential degrees of constraint that will occur in the earth systems.

    It certainly seems obvious that the problem is non linear as pointed out by relevant science and is showing up in the physical record in an increasingly strong data and relevant models.

    So alarms are ringing and for those that are looking at the data its pretty obvious.

    SO, WHY ATTACK THE ALARM?

    I’m a pilot. Most pilots whether low or high hour have had some interesting experiences in the air. alarming situations happen. When you are in the cockpit and an alarming thing happens, you can’t freak out, because that won’t help. If you want to stay safe or even alive, you methodically go through your check lists and procedures to evaluate the situation, and take methodical courses of action based on findings during those steps.

    When an alarm goes off it is not time to be ‘alarmist’ in the scary freaked out sense that some would like to portray it as; it is time to calmly examine the situation and deal with it in an appropriate and meaningful manner.

    There is nothing wrong with relaying the alarm either. Those that would quell the alarm might wish to remember that on the Titanic or any other large human emergency situation, delay often can translate into more lives lost (fires, hurricanes, tornados all with early warning systems specifically designed to save lives).

    All the fine scientists here and elsewhere, working on this, are the early warning system. If we ignore the alarm, then we will deserve what we get. The problem is that some of us are not ignoring it and we don’t want to have to pay the price for others ignoring it. A confounding problem at best.

    The longer we wait, the more energy all these potentials get and that will eventually translate to economic and human costs. The earlier we heed the warning the less economic and human impact. It’s really just common sense.

    Comment by John P. Reisman — 25 Nov 2007 @ 7:39 PM

  21. Andrew, I think your question (about ice sheet stability) is the big one not yet very clearly stated; lots of publications, not enough numbers, no model or mechanism worked out.

    Hansen et al.’s recent paper on icecap stability is currently critiqued at Stoat.

    Glad to hear something from you about Gore’s current presentation, we keep hearing about the old movie and that’s long out of date on new science.

    It _sounds_ like Gore’s current slide show may be rather less ‘alarming’ than Hansen et al. on the subject of icecap stability.

    The past ‘rapid’ change events took several thousand years; the current comparable change in GHG is on top of the last natural rapid rise and is going to take a few hundred.

    Comparable? There must be some way to compare, but how?
    May I suggest leaving this thread for the “Six Degrees” book discussion, and check out Hansen and commentary on icecaps at Stoat?

    http://scienceblogs.com/stoat/2007/11/hansen_again.php

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Nov 2007 @ 7:50 PM

  22. I agree a six degree shift in the century to come is plausible. But I part company with Lynas over a matter of dimensional analysis. He’s talking temperature, and I mean Latitude.

    Both are valid metrics for discussing the impact of climate change.

    The evolution of anything can be modeled in a single dimension, but natural history, like human existence, unfolds in three and evolves over time. Drive south in midwinter and you’ll see what I mean. Geographically, the 48 States span about 20 degrees of latitude. Climatologically, their mean temperature spans about as many degrees C.

    Miami and Minneapolis are ~20 degrees and ~20C apart, and it gets roughly two degrees F. warmer for each 100 miles you put between yourself and the North Pole–100 years of unregulated fuel consumption has moved America South about one degree.

    If you accept the IPCC range, the present debate centers on whether the next century can shift it further by the length of Vermont, or Illinois? Shifting the coordinates of the debate brings a biogeographic corollary to light. Warming extends tropical and temperate biotremes uphill at the expense of holocene boreal refugia.

    [Response: Russell, I think you need to learn a bit more about the patterns of climate change. You seem to be applying the global mean uniformly everywhere, whereas high latitudes warm more than low latitudes and land warms more than ocean. In the estimates we worked up for Mayor Daley’s climate task force, by 2100 the midrange IPCC sensitivity under the A1F1 emission scenario (a high end scenario, which the world is tracking pretty well right now) gives Chicago a climate rather like East Texas. Further, warming does not extend the tropical biome to higher latitudes. To do that, you’d have to change the strength of the seasonal cycle, the length of day, and the rainfall pattern as well. A warmer world introduces fundamentally different ecotypes than those we’ve had in the past two million years. –raypierre]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 25 Nov 2007 @ 7:53 PM

  23. Mark Lynas (#5) wrote:

    … where I am changing some of the emphasis a little in order to discourage fatalists – so many readers have come back to me feeling discouraged that I wanted to make it clearer that everything about 2 degrees is a ‘what if’ scenario rather than a prediction of doom. At the moment you could read it and conclude that if we haven’t peaked global emissions by 2015 then all is lost, which is not the case at all. It’s all about probabilities, really.

    I am rather discouraged with today’s political climate, both at home and abroad, although I do see reasons for a degree of hope. However, one point that I prefer to emphasize — and which is suggested by what appears to be your book’s central conceit — is that things could generally be a great deal worse. And the magnitude of the destruction will increase in a roughly exponential fashion with the change in the long-term, global average temperature. As such, no matter where we are in this century, we have reason to bring things under control — and the costs of not doing so mount the longer we remain on the current trajectory.

    Incidentally, I myself had been under the impression that your book might be “alarmist,” but a certain Lynn Vincentnathan convinced me otherwise, and now eric has convinced me that reading your book will be a great way of introducing myself to more of our current understanding of climate change, perhaps even acting as a kind of jumping-off point for learning about the literature — although I should perhaps try to avoid hysteresis.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 25 Nov 2007 @ 8:19 PM

  24. Here, here, Alastair! The IPCC scenarios are actually rather dreadful to unmangle, as they are detailed and manifold in number. I’ve been using A1B as a reference “business-as-usual” scenario in my modelling, but the scientific papers on the subject seem to like to show the profile of all the A1 scenarios. That makes it hard to understand what’s going on, really. It might be of interest to the community to note that the APEC 2007 “aspirational” targets of reducing energy intensity to 75% of 2003 levels by 2030 actually results in higher CO2 emissions in 2030 than ANY of the IPCC scenarios. I calculate 17.8 gigatons of Carbon per year for this level of intensity “reduction”. The highest emissions of any IPCC scenario is 16.4 gigatons for A1FI. This is of particular relevance to those of us here in Canada, since our prime minister is now leading the charge to make these APEC targets the de facto plan post-Kyoto.

    Comment by Steffen Christensen — 25 Nov 2007 @ 8:30 PM

  25. A sense of alarm is only appropriate. The remaining question is how to sound the alarm in a way that will spur action for a change of course. All too often we talk as if the general population or even those people with most influence are an undifferentiated mass. Many people will only get off the dime if you scare the pants off them, which does not require exaggeration, IMHO. Many other people insist that nothing too scary be said or they will turn away because they are uncomfortable, but are they the action types anyway?
    Don’t we have to accept that people deserve the truth? Or are truth in discourse and even democracy concepts that are luxuries that we humans have shown we don’t necessarily deserve? I think truth and democracy are essential to keep the current elites (dominated by fossil fuel interests) under some control and headed in the least harmful direction.
    The current level of crisis is due to the fact that much action has been blocked over the last 20 years. Who wouldn’t be alarmed at the prospect of those who created this situation being in charge of it’s resolution?

    John Atkeison
    Director of Climate and Clean Energy Programs
    Alliance for Affordable Energy
    New Orleans, LA

    Comment by John Atkeison — 25 Nov 2007 @ 8:49 PM

  26. Re #10: I think bigTom is wrong from a tactical (or is it strategic?) point of view, although his goal is admirable. If anyone, especially a scientist, tones down his public statements in anticipation of attacks from those who oppose rationality, then the attacks have succeeded. Public figures and popularizers of science are too easily dismissed if they are not publicly backed up by scientists such as James Hansen. I’m sure Hansen and at least some of our hosts on this site were shocked at being demonized for presenting science to the public, but now that the battle has been engaged, there is nothing to be gained and much to be lost by retreating to the periphery.

    Comment by S. Molnar — 25 Nov 2007 @ 8:58 PM

  27. Speaking of alarmists…

    I am wondering what climate scientists think of James Lovelock. I found some of his book a bit confusing, repetitive and contradictory, but wonder, does he have a kernel of truth regarding the models he has worked on that suggest a breakdown of the ocean sink and rapid change to new, hotter stable state? The fact that the current climate models don’t incorporate the long-term feedbacks he does makes me anxious. Is his recent book taken seriously? Does he speak as a realist who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is (or might be)?

    [Response: I wrote a post on Lovelock’s latest book here. David]

    Comment by Jason — 25 Nov 2007 @ 9:19 PM

  28. I really wish that Alexandria was not used as an example of the threat of sea level rise. It has been disappearing into the Med. for many a year and will doubtless continue to do so. Much of the Hellenistic harbour and associated works are several metres below sea level.

    Yes, genuine sea level rise will not help but it is a weak example as the most of the damage will still be the result of other causes.

    Similarly it pains me when other places like SE Endland including the London basin are highlighted and the sea level rise is stated as the threat. The whole are is sinking and will doubtless continue to sink. Again genuine sea level rise will not help but much of the coastline is doomed to a watery fate no matter.

    I am sure that their must be better, less contentious, more genuine, albeit less dramatic exmples.

    Best Wishes

    Alexander Harvey

    Comment by Alexander Harvey — 25 Nov 2007 @ 9:47 PM

  29. My family operates a small farm in SW Australia. Previous owners kept fastidious data on rainfall and temps, that data shows us we are tracking the IPCC models very accurately indeed, except we are ahead on temp rises and changing weather patterns, about +0.10 degrees, rainfall is increasingly erratic and the stable falls from high pressure systems have effectively dissappeared. We have over ten years of this sort of data. What was once a cool temperate mountain area is becoming increasingly sub-tropical. We are seeing subtle but discernible shifts in the ecology. Our farm will be a arid desert highland in thirty years.

    Alarmist hardly, hard to get the folks out of the theatre when it is on fire when they cannot pull themselves away from the show!

    Comment by Mike Hart — 25 Nov 2007 @ 9:56 PM

  30. I agree that Mr Lynas’s book, and he has a good blog too, is alarming, but not alarmist. As Mr Revkin wrote above, first post: “The value of the approach taken by the book, and the IPCC process, is that it takes us on a sobering journey into various futures, just as Charles Dickens’s story [Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come] did for Ebenezer Scrooge. Scenarios are a vital tool for designing responses… The question remains, will humans shift gears, like Scrooge did, or will current needs win out over future risks, however disconcerting?”

    News that Mr Lynas is rewriting some of the UK edition for the upcoming US edition is welcome news, and should help the book reach more people with its important message.

    I also see my polar cities research is being alarming, but not alarmist. I hoping and working to try to make sure that humans do shift gears, ASAP. But it will take some time, of course. Most likely, 30 more generations…

    Danny Bloom, Polar Cities Research Project, http://pcillu101.blogspot.com

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 25 Nov 2007 @ 10:16 PM

  31. From the little I have gathered I like the basic premise of the book if it has decoupled cause from effect. It is doublessly imformative to sketch out what various degrees of warming might imply.

    Futurism was invaluable in enlightening the opinions of those who were interested in likely outcomes of nuclear conflict of varying total yields in the 1960s.

    Irrespective of how much or how little warming occurs it is good to have a reference that puts the consequences into perspective.

    As for being alarmist, were the futurist’s predictions of the outcome of a maximum exchange nuclear munitions alarmist?

    Well back then the BBC certainly thought so as did some of the rest of the media and some parliamentarians.

    I refer to the drama-documentary “The War Game” completed in 1965 but not shown on TV until 1985.

    Although considered too alarmist for broadcast TV (it was pulled and shelved) it was no exaggeration of the consequences of nuclear wargasm. I found it painfall to watch especially as much of it was shot in and around where I live.

    Now if somebody would be brave enough to put together a similar drama on the consequences of drastic climatic change that would be something. The power of imaginative drama is (or at least was) of major importance in the forming of public opinion. If you want to move people it is better to aim at the heart not the head.

    Best Wishes

    Alexander Harvey

    Comment by Alexander Harvey — 25 Nov 2007 @ 10:33 PM

  32. Thanks for giving a (short) clear review of the book; I look forward to reading it.
    With regards to the intersection of politics and global warming, the Australian Liberal Party have been overwhelmingly rejected by voters on Sat 25th Nov 2007 (Oz time). The new Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd (Australian Labor Party), ran on a platform which included ratifying Kyoto as soon as possible, *and* personally attending the Bali meeting in December.

    Comment by Donald Oats — 25 Nov 2007 @ 10:51 PM

  33. re: Post No. 31, above: “Now if somebody would be brave enough to put together a similar drama on the consequences of drastic climatic change that would be something.”

    You mean, like “The Day After Tomorrow”? You are right, we need TV movie and feature movies with big stars to show the drastic future that MIGHT await future generations if and when catastrophic climate change does a number, so to speak, on Planet Earth’s human populations, not to mention the animals and plants. I am sure Hollywood is already writing such scripts and getting production plans in place, for more Day After Tomorrows. A movie about what might be like in a sustainable polar retreat for survivors of global warming might provoke discussion, too. We need lots of movies, lots of scenarios, to wake people up, so these scenarios might never really come to be. It’s not entertainment anymore. I am working on a spec script now titled “Polar City Red”, an alarmist movie with a happy ending. I want a happy ending. I insist on a happy ending.

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 25 Nov 2007 @ 11:07 PM

  34. are we being too provocative in the way we write our scientific papers? Or are we being too cautious in the way we talk about the implications of the results?

    Having just dived into the Climate controversies I’m become convinced that the science is excellent but the interpretations of the science are too alarmist, though usually the alarmism comes from outside of the science community. Time to check out his blog, as Lynas appears to be suggesting there otherwise. One challenge for those who worry a lot about *eventual* catastrophic conditions is the mistake of thinking technology won’t change over the next decade, let alone the next century. It will change *dramatically* and is likely to significantly reduce risks in many areas.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 25 Nov 2007 @ 11:40 PM

  35. Re: Mike Hart #29. What do you think of this idea for SE Australia? Use floating solar collectors to evaporate seawater to increase orographic rainfall. Australia furnishes an ideal situation because it has a central desert which heats up by afternoon during most of the year. Heated air, which rises, is replaced by air drawn in from the coast. A mountain range on the east coast causes this ocean air to rise and expand, causing precipitation that provides fresh water to the inland slopes of the mountains. This was a fertile area used for agriculture and water supply, but it is suffering from a drought. A large area of the southeast coastal waters covered with solar evaporator rafts could increase the moisture content of this air inflow and provide needed rainfall. Of course it is not easy to maintain a uniform depth of seawater on a solar collector tray that is heaving and tilting in a rough sea. You don’t want to be heating some water only to have it slosh out of the tray when it rides a wave before it can evaporate. We will need some pumps operated by a photovoltaic panel to keep the water spread out over the evaporator tray. No battery storage is needed because the evaporator only works when the sun shines. The economic model is good here because the equipment and the benefits are concentrated near the heavily populated capital region of Australia. The development and operation could be supported through taxation.

    Comment by Richard LaRosa — 26 Nov 2007 @ 12:39 AM

  36. Joe Duck (#34) wrote:

    One challenge for those who worry a lot about *eventual* catastrophic conditions is the mistake of thinking technology won’t change over the next decade, let alone the next century. It will change *dramatically* and is likely to significantly reduce risks in many areas.

    Regarding that affordable flying car they promised me in the 1950s — I’m still waiting.

    *

    Honestly, though, technological progress will depend in no small part upon how hard the global economy is hit. I am not sure that the economy is in that great a shape as it is — or for that matter have much reason to expect to get considerably better in the foreseeable future. The longer we postpone action, the more committed we will be to our present course. Likewise, the cost of a given project tends to rise quite rapidly as the time for its development becomes shorter.

    But I do have hopes for technology, particularly in the area of genetic engineering. And energy — if we set our money and minds to it.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 26 Nov 2007 @ 2:33 AM

  37. It’s pretty clear that any commentary that doesn’t support BAU will be shortly labeled “alarmist”. That really is the only defense, now. “I don’t have to pay any attention to you, sir, because you are one of those alarmist types.” All neatly tied up. And vague appeals to mythical future technology changes is worse. People clearly do not comprehend our reliance of fossil fuels and how everything “new” is tied relentlessly to oil or gas in some form.

    Thus I don’t imagine that 6 degrees C is in any way out of the question. In fact I cannot imagine any substantive changes in behavior or expectations until we hit 2 degrees C, the N Pole is ice free, and the GIS slips its moorings and slides at once into the N Atlantic.

    At that point I expect to encounter a renewed interest in what exactly was a “solar economy” and how did people get by 300 years before. Though 300 years ago they still had primeval forests and rivers, bountiful seas, human-scale development and farming practices, and a global population something under 1 billion. Which is the point when the light finally comes on and people look around themselves in wide wonder and increasing terror.

    Comment by cat black — 26 Nov 2007 @ 2:56 AM

  38. #34

    When people start treating “The Day After Tomorrow” and “Waterworld” as non-fiction movies which will happen in 20 years, then yes. But actually, I think that a more intelligent person still might not get what is going on- a summary of what a kid in a debate I had said: “sure, polar bears might be in trouble, but a lot of other animals will thrive, we might get some more heat waves but also more mild winters, a few more storms.” I don’t think the public perception is much more alarming than that summary, do you?

    Not a very convincing scenario worth spending 1% of the world’s economy on fixing. Time to scare people a bit, but there is no reason to exageerate to do it.

    Comment by Chris C — 26 Nov 2007 @ 3:29 AM

  39. I plan to read the book. What I do know is that as pointed pointed out in Gore’s ‘An inconvenient truth’, most people do have the frog in a bucket syndrome. The IPCC in my view was too cautious even in it’s last ammendment to the report. It should have scared laypeople and political leaders, kicked them in the butt, presented it’s case soo empathetically, soo in your face that no-one could ignore it..or say well I’ll work on that tomorrow. We need shock tactics!..and I apologise for those of weak fortitude who cant hack the truth and scuttle off to some forgotten and deserted part of the world with their wife and kids, a couple of goats and a sand pit to hide their heads in. The rest of us who feel every bit the kick in our pants and see the storm clouds on the horizon need to get our act into gear. Every-one of us can contribute to the solution, I don’t guarantee at all that we will be successful but we have literally no other choice in this matter. The amount of pollution that the average citizen produces bar the CO2 emitted from industry make up a large percentage. If every household became virtually carbon neutral that alone would make a tremendous impact to the national goal..40-50% or more. Carbon neutality should become national policy and enforcible by law, whether it’s a huge factory or yours and my house. We ALL have a vital part to play.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 26 Nov 2007 @ 3:39 AM

  40. The books six degrees deals with climate sensitivity in the context of a doubling of preindustrial CO2 emissions. Nearly everyone including real climate appears to be stating thats the climate is sensitive to around 3C of warming (mean) but temperatures of 6 degrees cannot be ruled out. However recent work by Hansen in particular casts doubt on the IPCC work in regard to climate sensitivity in regard to not upsetting the politicians and the contrarians and doubters and doubts that it is 3 degrees, just like he doubts sea level rise will be as low as is forecast and that Greenland and arctic sea ice levels will have disappeared a lot more than currently forecast/projected.

    So what is this new angle of AGW that can see more warming than what is being currently forecast by the IPCC. Well it appears that models cannot reproduce certain hothouse events of earths past solely on CO2 alone and the potenital missing ingredient not in the models is climate feedbacks (long term ones according to Hansen) which the models have not evaluated as yet.

    The literature appears to be mounting on this subject with lovelock and Hansen leading the debate. Could science have underestimated climate sensitivity?

    [Response: The six degrees discussed here is the actual temperature rise that is conceivable – not just what you get at 2xCO2. – gavin]

    Comment by pete best — 26 Nov 2007 @ 4:43 AM

  41. It is a strange day when I do a review of your review on my blog a month and a half before you post your review on Realclimate.org. Just curious, why did you decide to put more specifics in your RC post than your Nature entry?

    As an off-topic question, has RC thought about doing a review of the utility of the DSCOVR satellite? Eli Rabett seems to fully support the endeavor. And Desmogblog has a 6 part investigation that is starting to look rather interesting. Avoiding any discussion of the politics and the blatant abuse of the freedom of information act is one thing but discussing the science and utility of DSCOVR would certainly be something that would belong on an apolitical and scientific blog.

    Comment by Sparrow (in the coal mine) — 26 Nov 2007 @ 5:52 AM

  42. After watching this debate over climate change for the past 30 years I am simply astounded at the sheer volume of ignorance concerning earth’s history.

    It is irrefutable that earth is warming…today. It is irrefutable that it has done so numerous times in the past 541 million years long before man could have caused it.

    How is it that climatologists …supposedly learned people… are concentrating on only the past 600,000 years which is a mere one thousandth of the sedimentary history of the earth? They are ignoring the past half a BILLION years! Why? I think I know why.

    Morover, since we all know that climate change has happened hundreds even thousands of times in the past, then what makes us think this one time in earth’s long established history this episode of warming is man’s fault? That is tantamount to claiming the upcoming summer season will be man’s fault even though it has been going on naturally for hundreds of millions of years! [edit]

    Cody Griffin
    Paleo-climatologist

    [Response: This argument is logically flawed. It’s as if the person walking away from the scene of a fire with an empty kerosene can and matches claims that it can’t have been arson because fires have always happened. What matters is the burden of proof this time, not all the other times. -gavin]

    Comment by Cody Griffin — 26 Nov 2007 @ 5:52 AM

  43. Gavin :
    Since the subject is “Alarmism” what Lynas shows the impressionable on his web site ought to serve as a wake up call-
    http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/11/by-their-blurbs.html

    [Response: Um.. You obviously didn’t read what I wrote. You say in your blog that “Eric Steig wonders how anyone could possibly think Six Degrees author Mark Lynas capable of ‘Alarmism?'”. I don’t wonder that at all. I think it is a very natural (and possibly correct) reaction. The harder question is whether it really is alarmism. If you have a *cogent* argument about this, I’d be delighted to hear it. -eric]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 26 Nov 2007 @ 7:06 AM

  44. re #36 (Timothy Chase) “Joe Duck (#34) wrote:

    One challenge for those who worry a lot about *eventual* catastrophic conditions is the mistake of thinking technology won’t change over the next decade, let alone the next century. It will change *dramatically* and is likely to significantly reduce risks in many areas.

    Regarding that affordable flying car they promised me in the 1950s — I’m still waiting.”

    You might also have mentioned the domestic robots, artificial superintelligences, bases on the moon and Mars, electricity “too cheap to meter” (from nuclear power), and the cure for cancer. Of course technology will change over the decade (I would be interested to hear whether Joe expects “dramatic” changes over that period, which is the one in which we have to take serious action to prevent likely disaster, and if so, what), and will change a lot over the century. But it still won’t be magic; and so far advances in technology have generally meant increases in energy demand. Relying on some unspecified breakthrough to save us is no more rational than saying AGW doesn’t matter because The Rapture is due. (In fact, I’ve seen the technological “Singularity” people like Ray Kurzweil fortell described as “The Rapture of the Nerds”.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 26 Nov 2007 @ 7:12 AM

  45. I think we have a pretty good idea of a range of possible temperature increase over the next century, about 2 to 6 deg.C. I don’t think we have a very good understanding of the effects of that warming on planet earth, or on human society. Will sea level rise half a meter or 5 or more? Will tropical cyclones become the scourge of every coast or will some other factor (like wind shear) actually reduce them? Will we see hardships we can handle, albeit with difficulty and great cost, or another PETM mass extinction? I don’t know.

    But there are some things we do know. If the warming is 6 deg.C instead of 2, the chances of apocalyptic disaster are far far greater. And there’s no way in hell we’re gonna get “lucky” and get off scot-free. At the very least we’ll have heck to pay, at the worst there’ll be hell to pay.

    I do *not* think climate scientists are being alarmist, I think they’re being far too timid in public statements of the danger. Of course it’s wrong to say that we *will* suffer 20 ft. or more of sea level rise, devastating drought everywhere, collapse of the ocean food chain and of agriculture worldwide, 120-deg.F heat waves in Kansas, and a dozen cat-5 or cat-6 storms every season. But we *might*. It’s crucial that the climate science community stop the “soft sell” epitomized by IPCC. I understand that it’s a natural consequence of the conservatism of large organizations, and just part of the way science is done — extraordinary pronouncements are risky to one’s scientific reputation. But there’s too much danger to avoid any longer having the “balls” to tell it like it really *might be*.

    It’s like a physician who knows the patient is in life-threatening danger. Not necessarily terminally ill, but in mortal peril. Would it be ethical for this physician to avoid painting a vivid portrait of what might happen, including the worst-case scenario, even though the prognosis is unclear? Certainly not. The doctor has to make it clear: you MUST quit smoking NOW. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    So to the climate scientists I say, start sounding a lot more alarms. From what I can tell, Hansen is the only one even coming *close* to doing the job. Give ‘em hell, Jim.

    Comment by tamino — 26 Nov 2007 @ 7:50 AM

  46. A quote from the article states:

    In its 2007 Fourth Assessment Report, the IPCC said that “Arctic sea ice is responding sensitively to global warming. While changes in winter sea ice cover are moderate, late summer sea ice is projected to disappear almost completely towards the end of the 21st century” (IPCC, 2007a: 776). But even before they were drafted, the 2007 IPCC projections were well behind the physical reality in the environment. In late 2005, Tore Furevik of the Geophysical Institute in Bergen had graphically demonstrated that “the recent [Arctic] sea-ice retreat is larger than in any of the (19) IPCC models” (Furevik, 2005). In December 2006, data was presented to a American Geophysical Union conference suggesting that the Arctic may be free of all summer ice by as early as 2030 and likely by 2040 (Holland, Bitz et. al., 2006) – setting up “a positive feedback loop with dramatic implications for the entire Arctic region” (Amos, 2006). This was affirmed by studies published in March and May 2007 (Serreze, Holland et al., 2007; Stroeve,Holland, et al., 2007) which led Penn State climatologist Richard Alley to comment that the ice sheets appear to be shrinking “100 years ahead of schedule” (Spotts, 2006).

    100 years ahead of schedule!! Now having read nearly all of the posts on this site for the past two years I know that real climate has commented on this in a recent article but appeared to reassure us that this was not the case and that IPCC models still held out under scrunity. Has real climates stance changed any in the light of current sea ice rate of loss?

    Are long term climate feedbacks not currently in the IPCC models possibly increasing climate sensitivity?

    Comment by pete best — 26 Nov 2007 @ 7:51 AM

  47. I have not read the book, though I did see a summary in the UK Independent Newspaper earlier this year. This is a quote from an introduction to the book posted on the web:

    One Degree
    Deserts invade the High Plains of the United States, in a much worse repeat of the 1930s dustbowl. Whilst the epicentre is Nebraska, states from Canada in the north to Texas in the south suffer severe agricultural losses. Mount Kilimanjaro loses all its ice. The Gulf Stream switches off – perhaps, plunging Britain and Europe into icy winter cold. Irreversible feedbacks take hold in the Arctic as ice disappears, and the permafrost line shifts north. Rare species wiped out in the Queensland rainforest, Australia. Coral reefs around the world suffer increasing losses from bleaching and are wiped out. Coral atolls submerge under the rising seas.

    At one degree the Gulf Stream switches off? On the basis of what evidence? This is not what IPCC say. This single statement, a claim without scientific basis, in a web published introduction to this book casts doubt and deters many readers at the outset.

    I was a complete sceptic when I started to follow the debate on global warming / climate change some 18 months ago. Now I firmly believe global warming and climate change are happening – based on the scientific evidence. There are still many sceptics out there, however, including some of our very best scientists (outside of climate science).Convincing others is not easy and pronouncements of this nature, that have no proven scientific basis, make the task a lot harder.

    I may still read the book but with much lower expectations based on this introduction. Climate science is not a precise science and no one really knows what the future holds. It is essential, therefore, to be as accurate and objective as possible and to stick to the known facts based on observation and monitoring.

    The Gulf Stream cut off at one degrees Celsius increase in temperature – this is not a scientific verifiable statement, it is not the scientific way to make such statements, and it is alarmist (in the absence of supporting evidence).

    Gareth Evans

    Comment by Gareth Evans — 26 Nov 2007 @ 7:56 AM

  48. I enjoyed reading this entry very much but it made me wonder: How would you define mean temperature for an entire planet and how would you test if it is changing? Perhaps this has been discussed here before?

    Comment by Susanne Munk — 26 Nov 2007 @ 7:58 AM

  49. re 42.

    Well I’m just a humble software engineer and I like to think that I’m not entirely ignorant of earth’s history, and I very much doubt that the contributors to this blog are either.

    AIUI the emphasis on the climate of the Holocene arises because of the better data from this period, and also because the continental configuration has (obviously) been closer to that of today. The previous half billion years, or more if you prefer, tend to be glossed over as the time differentiation in the geologic record does not permit such fine scale variations to be seen.

    A further problem with long-time-scale variations is that geological processes come into play, but they work on _much_ longer time scales than any human intervention. To give an example, Raymo and Ruddiman proposed that it was the uplift of the Himalayas that caused the Quaternary cooling, due to the drawdown of CO2, but this was a very stately process compared to dumping half of the planet’s accumulated organic carbon into the atmosphere in a few hundred years.

    So if you have any _other_ explanation of why climatologists (Hey Gavin, I’m doing that course I asked your opinion on, does that make me one too???) are ignoring past history, why don’t you share it with us?

    Comment by john mann — 26 Nov 2007 @ 7:59 AM

  50. Look from a buddhist perspective it’s all cause and effect, what goes around-comes around as far as I’m concerned. I’ve had a gutful of people, close friends included who say..it’s fate! it was planned to happen! or the rapture is at hand!. Ocassionally I’ve checked myself thinking the same thing too..but only for a fleeting nano second. The fact is we have caused this by our own hands, not solar cycles, not sunspots/flares etc, and we have to get out of this mess by our own hands also.
    44 Nick Gotts: Whether or not technology can bail us out remains to be seen, but I am optimistic. It all depends on perceived urgency. Depends whether the majority of world leaders and power brokers perceive the urgency and are willing to work in collaboration with other countries, unifying their respective scientists and engineers to put their minds together…if and when that happens we can acheive a lot..a hell of a lot! Unimaginable degrees of innovation, invention, production and utilization can occur. New technologies would be fast tracked..or as needs to be the case..super-fast tracked. I was reading David Suzuki’s forum and there they mentioned new technologies being developed to develop chemical compounds that could be released into the atmosphere in vast amounts to kill off or transform CO2 molecules into something else..hopefully safe for the biosphere?? Dutch reseachers are working on ways to make solar cells equally efficient across the entire chromatic spectrum..if that could be linked to sliver cell tech..WOW! New Technologies will have a huge part to play in cO2 reduction especially technologies that can be mass produced in China or India or other parts of Asia and more importantly effectively utilized by those respective countries as well. If the US comes up with an amazing innovation to cut CO2 methane or produce O2 it should be made available to the developing countries at prices they can easily afford. As I said in earlier posts the rest is up to us as householders..the decisions we make.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 26 Nov 2007 @ 8:31 AM

  51. As I look at the current satellite shots of the pass season’s artic ice melt rate increase, I’m struck by the fact that none of the major, generally accepted climate models reflect this Reality. None even came close to predicting this ice melt increase.

    Is this fact ‘Alarmist’?

    It is breath-taking.

    Imagine if the major climate modelers were made to appear in a public forum and had to jigger their respective mathmatical ‘babies’ until they reflected current observable artic ice melt increases, at .5 degrees(C).

    Then have each of them run their models forward to 2 degrees(C) like the IPCC is currently pushing as ‘acceptable’ compromise.

    I can just hear the Giant Sucking Sound (GSS) it would produce from the assembled masses as they take a Big Gulp (BG) of ‘awsome’ and then faint from the vapors.

    Would such a re-tooling of the present crop of climate models reflecting current observable phenomenon be considered ‘alarmist’?

    Nervous Nellies would no doubt plug-up their ears with their fingers and go la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you while ‘climate holocaust deniers’ would protest too much that the models were unfairly Forced to conform to Reality.

    Positive feedback loops are a real killer when they finally start their ‘compounding interest’ boogy. There is no historic example close to the CO2 increases in the past two centuries or so on the late great planet Earth, short of a big fat asteroid or a mega volcanic event.

    Everyone is whistling past the graveyard if you think that such a CO2 increase into the self-regulating environment of a planet is not going to produce a rather ferocious positive feedback reaction.

    Comment by Lost Horizon — 26 Nov 2007 @ 9:16 AM

  52. Please: Not for publication on the blog.

    Lord Monckton has published a response to a Kentucky newspaper editorial:

    http://kentucky.com/589/story/241071.html


    “The IPCC says the “radiative forcing” from CO2 rose by 20 percent between 1995 and 2005. Yet in that period the atmospheric concentration of CO2 rose from 360 to 378 parts per million — just 5 percent. The radiative forcing effect — which causes temperature change — rose by only 1 percent. That’s a 20-fold exaggeration by the IPCC.”

    Now, some of that seems gibberish. He invents a separate category — radiative forcing effect — and attempts a multiplicative compounding of an “error”, but how DID the IPCC get a 20% increase in radiative forcing with a 5% increase in concentration?

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 26 Nov 2007 @ 9:22 AM

  53. Gareth Evans said “There are still many sceptics out there, however, including some of our very best scientists (outside of climate science).”

    Best scientists? Such as… As near as I can see most of the so-called skeptics sufficiently arrogant to think they are experts in everything are second rate or no longer active even in their own fields. When there is not a single professional society of scientists that dissents from the consensus, you really have to wonder about those who hold out on the basis of flawed understanding.

    I agree that the Gulf Stream conern is probably overblown. We could see interruptions of the Gulf Stream for a couple of years at a time, though, and that would be catastrophic in Europe.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 26 Nov 2007 @ 9:49 AM

  54. I don’t think it really matters whether we call it alarmism or not. The whole point of the book seems to be getting people to think about what the world might look like if we don’t act. As such it eventually stretches the scientific basis here and there (just like Gore) without really telling any lies and thats fine for an author. However I would prefer scientists to only report what they found out without voicing hidden personal opinion or bias as far as humanly possible. The discussion about IPCC reports being somewhat too cautious or too alarming when commented by scientists worries me. I’d like to think that at least the Report itself (not the summary) simply includes scientific facts and I trust this to be the case.
    Eric, you ask whether you’re being too cautious when talking about the implications of the results of your papers? Maybe you can give an example here. My feeling is, that as a scientist you write papers about things you scientifically examined and you should not talk about implications unless you examined them scientifically as well. Otherwise it would just be a personal opinion and should be clearly identified as such. But maybe I misunderstand.

    Comment by henning — 26 Nov 2007 @ 9:56 AM

  55. @Lost Horizon
    I would consider it alarmism IF an event such as the exceptional retreat of arctic sea ice this summer would lead to the conclusion that all models are flawed or conservative without clearly understanding, what exactly caused the retreat. AFAIK this understanding is not yet complete.

    Comment by henning — 26 Nov 2007 @ 10:06 AM

  56. Edward Greisch repeats an already refuted factoid:

    [[The truth is that a coal fired power plant puts 100 times as much radiation into your environment as the nuclear power plant. The truth is also that natural background radiation is 10 times what you get from a coal fired power plant.] ]]

    The truth is also that the estimate for the nuclear plant doesn’t include the “unplanned releases” which plague every real nuclear plant in the world.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 26 Nov 2007 @ 10:06 AM

  57. Susanne Munk (#48) wrote:

    I enjoyed reading this entry very much but it made me wonder: How would you define mean temperature for an entire planet and how would you test if it is changing? Perhaps this has been discussed here before?

    In principle, it would be defined as the integral over the surface area, then integrated over the time period under consideration, then divided by the product of the surface area times the time.

    Now obviously we can’t calculate it quite that way. Instead you have a finite number of measurements, but then there is some sort interpolation which is used. But this will be a little bit off. However, with the law of large numbers, we know that the larger the number of measurements the closer we get to the true average, and in fact the true average can be known with much greater accuracy than the individual measurements.

    To see why, throw a dice. Now you that dice can have any value between 1 and 6. There is a great deal of uncertainty. But throw the dice repeatedly, and you know that the more times you throw it, the average value of all the throws will tend to get closer and closer to 3.5.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 26 Nov 2007 @ 10:16 AM

  58. As a layman, I can say that the problem is simple: how to be definitive amidst scientific uncertainty.

    There is no simple solution.

    For one thing, we have long since passed the point where every conceivable scenario has been ‘predicted’, and most of those have been ‘based on’ what the author considers convincing evidence. Shouting louder will only have the effect of making the shouter seem more desperate. I for one do not automatically interpret desperation as a sign that the person is correct. He or she may be; then again, he or she may be delusional.

    There will never be a public consensus on either the warming or the solutions to it. That is a dream that it is safe to let die. There are simply too many stakeholders. Perhaps the largest constituency of stakeholders are those who are past the mid-point of their lives and simply want a peaceful retirement. They hope to die on a planet that resembles the planet they were born on.

    There was a thread not long ago on the topic of geo-engineering. I took the AGHAST! position that we don’t know near enough about climate to imagine that we can engineer it, or even to engineer a desired range of global temperature. I received some support for that position.

    Since then, I have done a 180. I now believe that we must develop plausible geo-engineering solutions, and the reason is precisely that I believe the science. I believe the radiative forcing potential of CO2 is well understood. I believe that positive feedbacks are decently understood. I believe that the last two years are evidence that science has those things right.

    I am certain that humankind will not reduce productivity in order to reduce greenhouse emissions. I am certain we will continue transforming the land, which is an independent issue from CO2 but every bit as much of a concern. Because I believe these practices will continue, I thus believe that the only available solutions will be those which “solve” the warming by means of reducing surface insolation (or possibly by scrubbing the CO2).

    In other words, I believe it is too late for this discussion, and it was probably unsolvable in the first place. “Six Degrees” will find its place, and those who believe in AGW will defend it; those who do not will dismiss it, or look for the smallest, exploitable flaws.

    That is the one assured outcome in all of this.

    Comment by Walt Bennett — 26 Nov 2007 @ 10:27 AM

  59. Lynas isn’t alarmist — he’s awakeist.
    We need more awake.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Nov 2007 @ 10:53 AM

  60. The scientific community is far too cautious, hestitant, and retiring. Alarm bells should be ringing out all over the place. If scientists do not feel like this is proper behavior for a disciplined and humble community, then most human beings will remain complacent, ignorant, and resistant. Meanwhile, the “scientist” will tentatively tug on the world’s sleeve, saying in a weak voice “Um, excuse me…um, excuse me…” or else later will take off his proverbial thick-framed glasses and announce in a grave voice, “I’m afraid it’s too late to do anything.” If the scientific community must shelter behind people like James Hansen, or Al Gore by proxy, so be it, but absolutely nothing will be done in time. In fact, we already are out of time (eight wasted years is the final lost opportunity), and if everyone who knows this doesn’t start shouting about it, we’ll face even worse chaos.

    Comment by Mark R — 26 Nov 2007 @ 11:06 AM

  61. Well, obviously there is not nearly enough alarmism over GW, or we would have been reducing, not increasing our GHG emissions.

    The evidence is in (our increasing emissions) – there just isn’t enough alarmism to even slightly budge that growing elephant in the room (GW) that no one talks about.

    I’m sort of hoping beyond hope that SIX DEGREES might jar people into sensibly reducing their emissions.

    It’s weird, but one just can’t get alarmist enough re GW. Words (even red-faced screaming them) utterly fail us about the enormity of this alarming problem.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 26 Nov 2007 @ 12:22 PM

  62. Nice post. I actually believe that it’s this type of discussion that is at the very core of this debate. A lay person looks at this kind of book, simply in a binary fashion; is the book right or wrong? Is the science right or wrong? I think as scientists we have to remember that the vast majority of general population has virtually no scientific knowledge past maybe knowing a few elements from the periodic table. So when we make statements about climate change (skeptics or not) they are simply not in a position to assess the science. I look at my own background as a chemist and remind myself that when I first started reading this site I was a denier and as I have learned I’d reclasify myself as a skeptical believer (there’s a new one). But I actually did maths at university and have a scientific education so I can at least try to work my way through the science. Most people don’t.

    One of the most significant changes of the last 30 years (in my opinion) is the increasing gulf in knowledge between scientists and the general public. This has led to all sorts of terrible effects where science is misrepresented or miscommunicated and people lose confidence in our objectivity. You only have to witness the numerous public health panics over every vaccine and medication known to man, food scares and so forth. Sadly, we’re now in a position where we simply have to get this one right. If we’re wrong and things get REALLY bad, worse than predicted, then science is going to be right in the firing line. As scientists we have to get this right. Personally, I see more damage in doing nothing about climate change. There’s very little to lose if we can become more energy efficient and use resources more wisely. Absolutely nothing. On the other hand if it really is going to get bad we need to get our socks on and do some work.

    This is why this book is far from alarmist. It gives, in effect, simple examples of what might happen given certain changes in temperature. It’s as close to binary as we’re going to get. The way I look at it, if I’m driving a 100mpg car in 20 years and catastrophic climate change doesn’t happen I’m not exactly going to get pissed. I’m going to pat myself on the back for doing a great job. If, however, the predictions are worse and I really needed a 300mpg car to avoid catastrophe then I’m going to be pissed. Why didn’t we try harder. Whay didn’t those damn scientists tell me how bad it could get!

    This book is exactly the type of thing that will make people think about the consequences. We have to be pragmatic and communicate the value of that approach. Risk vs benefit.

    So this is science’s great chance to be right. The models (whatever I think of them) have to to be spot on or we’re going to be in a big mess and there are going to be a great number of people asking why we didn’t get it right.

    Comment by Keith — 26 Nov 2007 @ 12:28 PM

  63. I have read this book, early this spring when it first came out, so the IPCC report of early this year is not taken into account. Things have happened this year that have surprised even some of the sceptics, well almost anyway. The melting of the arctic ice during the summer months has surprised most people, and the opening of the NW passage, and even the NE passage passable as well has really caught everyone with their pants down. Some are now forecasting the the summer ice could disappear by 2015.
    However, the melting of the Arctic sea ice will not cause any concern, so Florida is safe for the time being.
    More disturbing is the increased rate of melt of the Greenland ice sheet. All glaciers on both west and east coasts are melting at a rate thought not possible just a few years ago. One, the Jacobshavn breen, responsible for about 7% of the icecaps discharge this year was discharging ice at the rate of 35 billion tons a year, which adds up to approx 500 billion tons from the entire icecap in one year.. The more the icecap recedes the more land area is exposed to sunlight, nore ice melts, more land exposed and so it continues.
    The oceans around Spitzbergeb have been ice free during the past 2 winters, ice which is normally several meters thick. The reason for this is the changing of the direction of the G.S. It is travelling futher north, and higher up towards the surface of the ocean, so that when the temperature should have been -2c it was +2c. Even the land based glaciers on Spitzbergen are also affected.
    The maritime glaciers of Norway have receded on all fronts, to such an extent that they are at their “smallest” since the last ice age. These glaciers were thought not to be affected so soon, but with the winter season becoming shorter and shorter, snowfalls are not replacing icelosses. Permafrost in Norway and Sweden are also thawing, the tree line is getting higher up the mountains.

    Comment by George Robinson — 26 Nov 2007 @ 12:37 PM

  64. If we are in a theater on fire, it is a threat today – a defined threat. Saying, “This theater could burn down in 30 seconds, run now,” is alarmist. It is very unlikely to happen that fast and we are just trying to cause instant motivation. We can all agree on that because we can judge the time it will take, at least roughly.

    If we are in a theater that will slowly catch on fire and burn down over the next three hours, then this is a threat for the future. The statement of “burning down in the next three hours, run” is not alarmist – we have no sense of how to assess risk on a time scale of years or decades. “I could stay and see the whole movie and hope that the roof over my head doesn’t fall before it is over.”

    Now, how do you stop that person from sitting still? Be being calm or frantic or in-between?

    I have read Lovelock’s “Revenge of Gaia”, Pearce’s “With Speed and Violence”, and now Ward’s “Under a Green Sky” in the past year. All are geared for the lay reader and are more likely to be called alarmist, but I have found a disturbing trend in the experts in these books. In their cited scientific papers, these experts write in measured tones, but in interviews, those same scientists are much more likely to be pessimistic and leaning towards the more extreme scenarios. (Under a Green Sky’s last chapter is fantastic and horrifying at the same time. But plausible.)

    Maybe we are the problem – we aren’t being upfront enough about our insights into the changes and the models. How many of the “99% of climate scientists who agree that global warming is happening?” would take the next step and further explain which of the IPCC scenarios they think most likely? How many of us would come in as A1FI (worst case, “business as usual”)?

    Comment by Jamey — 26 Nov 2007 @ 12:59 PM

  65. Re Cody Griffin @42:”Morover, since we all know that climate change has happened hundreds even thousands of times in the past, then what makes us think this one time in earth’s long established history this episode of warming is man’s fault?…
    Cody Griffin
    Paleo-climatologist”

    Same old denialist slights of hand misdirection (humans did not cause past warming events) and untruths (climatologists do not focus exclusively on just the past 600,000 years).

    And from DeSmogBlog @ http://www.desmogblog.com/comment/reply/417/125426 :

    “If indeed man is causing this “pitance” of warming to day…then what caused it 25,000 years ago that resulted in glaciers retreating from TEXAS to Canada? Was it Cro-Magnon and his coal fired electric plants?
    The earth has a long well established history of warming and cooling. The earth has undergone numerous major climate changes long before man was even present. To believe man is the cause or gloabl warming today when he could not have been hundreds of times before is folly…sheer folly.
    Seriously
    Cody Griffin
    Certified Professional Geologist”

    So, Cody, which is it, Certified Professional Geologist, or Paleo-climatologist?
    Seriously, no hits using Google Scholar for either.
    Petroleum geologist, perhaps?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 26 Nov 2007 @ 1:15 PM

  66. #61 On this point, do we have any global estimation of Greenland and Antarctica ice melting since the first “salvo” of GRACE results fall 2006 / winter 2007 (Chen, Velicogna, etc.) ?

    Anyway, I suppose sea-level should reflect this trend, but Jason-Topex-Poseidon most recent data are not particularly… alarming. On this graph from U Colorado, I sea no acceleration for the rate of sea-level rise 2002-2007 when compared to the previous years of satellite measurement. I would even say that 2007 seems a quiet year.

    Of course, we may suppose a non linear evolution, an exponential rate of melting, a tipping point… but the frontier between alarming and alarmist is then not clear until a physical model sustains these hypothesis.

    http://sealevel.colorado.edu/current/sl_ib_ns_global.jpg

    Comment by Charles Muller — 26 Nov 2007 @ 1:23 PM

  67. RE #58, and the scientific community being too cautious. I think scientists have to do what they’ve always done – work hard at science, and avoid the false positive; that is, avoiding claims when they are false — which requires scientists to have high confidence in something, say 90 or 95%, in order to make a claim.

    The onus is on “the people” for not shouting and screaming and ringing alarm bells over this issue, while seriously reducing their GHGs — especially their leaders and policy-makers. We lay people do not need 95% confidence that a lump is cancerous to have it surgically removed, nor do we need 95% confidence that GW is happening and may reach 6C and really wipe out a lot of earth’s biota (including people) to reduce our GHGs by 75% cost-effectively (which is possible with off-the-shelf-technology, and would make sense, even on money-saving merit alone). And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to screw in a compact fluorescent bulb (tho I realize some denialists may need a bit of help :) ).

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 26 Nov 2007 @ 2:04 PM

  68. Most “climatologists” are young, and have spent much of their lives in school, in front of a computer terminal or with their nose in a book. That is good. It is the ONLY way they could learn that mass of stuff that they need to know in order to be a good climatologist. However, it leaves them without the broad diversity of experience that they need to appreciate the implications of global warming.

    A few centimeters of sea level rise does not mean much to an atmospheric physicist sitting at NCAR. It does mean something to a hydrologist fighting salt water intrusions into drinking water supplies. It means something else to civil engineers working on utility corrosion issues at petrochemical plant on the Gulf Coast. It means something else to a foundations engineer dealing with settlement as water levels change under our coastal cities. It means something else to someone working on beach erosion, or sea walls or wild life issues or costal zoning. The climatologist cannot be expected to understand all of the implications of his work. He certainly cannot be expected to address all of these issues. If he tried to, he would not have time to do any climatology.

    Then, Climatologists have been too cautious. The last IPCC report offered a lower bound to lea level rise, but no upper bound. That is unacceptable. Think about that from the viewpoint of all those engineers in the previous paragraph. They are more concerned about the real upper bound of sea level rise, than they are about the lower bound. Economic studies need to reflect the actual cost of dealing with the full upper bound of climate effects rather than the lower bound. An economic study using the lower bound number must be biased toward “BAU.” The critical number is. “How big a sea level change could we have in the next 100 & 200 year periods including all ice dynamics and everything?” THE IPCC was derelict in its duty by NOT offering any up such numbers.

    While many climatologists are excellent technical writers, they are so busy writing for each other, that they have not effectively communicated with other groups and fields that are trained to appreciate the implications of global warming. Climatologists need to write more persuasively. They need to remind people that they are very conservatively, and are NOT addressing the multitude of issues and problems that will arise from global warming. People need to understand that the purpose and viewpoint of peer reviewed papers on climate in a science journal is different from that in an engineering journal. The unstated assumptions are different.

    Some funding organizations have focused on the pure science, without asking the obvious questions about the implications for society that are clearly posed, but not answered by the basic science. Some of the public statements by the heads of these organizations suggest that they are in denial of the implications of the science. This suggests that the climatologists have not effectively communicated to their own managers.

    The global warming situation needs to be clearly communicated the engineering community. The engineers will then generate another set of numbers that can be used for risk management.

    Those numbers can be used for economic cost studies. Then those risk management numbers should be communicated to policy makers. This is not the job of the climatologists. However, full communication of results IS part of the job of the organization managers and funding organizations.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 26 Nov 2007 @ 2:22 PM

  69. RE #9 and the possibility of reaching 6C warming by 2100, I think the more important point in SIX DEGREES is that if we reach 3C warming (whether by 2050 or 2100 or 2150 or later), this will almost ensure that there will be 4C warming, which will almost ensure there will be 5C warming, which will almost ensure 6C warming…..sometime down the line.

    So in that sense, it’s 3C that is really really scary. We’ve got to stop well before we reach 3C, preferrably before 2C. Failure to halt this is not an option!

    And BTW, the book can be ordered (at high shipping price) through http://www.amazon.co.uk

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 26 Nov 2007 @ 2:27 PM

  70. Re (#52), Monckton Editorial:

    Did the IPCC really say “the “radiative forcing” from CO2 rose by 20 percent between 1995 and 2005”? This doesn’t sound like something “they” would say. I don’t recall reading it in the AR4 (but that doesn’t mean much). I find it hard to believe it is there some place. Perhaps they said the rate of change of the increase of radiative forcing increased by 20%?

    Does anyone recall seeing this supposed statement by the IPCC? Or is Monckton making things up?

    Comment by Dan W — 26 Nov 2007 @ 2:39 PM

  71. Nick wrote (and Tim this is an attempt to answer your question as well):
    Of course technology will change over the decade (I would be interested to hear whether Joe expects “dramatic” changes over that period, which is the one in which we have to take serious action to prevent likely disaster …

    Nick I don’t accept the premise that disaster is looming though I agree things could get much worse if the most dire scenarios come to pass. However the science suggests to me disaster is not looming and that the IPCC projections about warming and ice effects should be accepted as reasonable. I need to read more but I’m clost to rejecting the notion of many here that IPCC does not adequately address uncertainties in those projections. I think the IPCC assessments, rather than the unlikely abrupt climate change events, are what we should base our policies upon.

    Why? This relates to your technology question. 10 years will bring a lot of technology improvements, as well as much better climate modelling computer power. Conscious computing, which is 10-20 years away, may bring a climate model that actually has a high level of real-time predictive power. This would settle a lot of the key questions regarding ice changes and the pesky lag issues surrounding CO2 and temperature, which make good projectioons of even a few year time horizon impossible for the current models.

    I doubt it’ll bring a solution to CO2 increases which I think will continue, mostly due to China’s massive development projects and reluctance to curb CO2.

    Eric this is a good, provocative post dude:
    In your opinion what is a good standard for “alarmism”?
    If Lynas is *not* reasonably called an alarmist, then why are so many here so hard on guys like Pielke and Lindzen on the other side of the climate interpretation spectrum?

    Comment by Joe Duck — 26 Nov 2007 @ 2:39 PM

  72. Re: #52 (Lay person comment)

    You are forgetting that “radiative forcing” is defined relative to the pre-industrial level of CO2, which is taken as 280 ppm. The higher CO2 ppms “force” the surface temperature to deviate from the value that prevailed then in order to reach a new thermal equilibrium with the incoming radiation.

    So you would compare the change in the ratio of those values if it were linear (+22%) or more accurately by the change in ratio of their logs (log(360/280)divided by log(378/280)) or about 19.5%

    Tell me I haven’t screwed up the math or the explanation somehow.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 26 Nov 2007 @ 2:55 PM

  73. Excellent question and submissions in this thread. If I think back to the first global warming oriented conference I attended in 1984 at Northwestern and then review in mind the progression of the discussion with respect to glaciers, I would have to say we were being cautious as glaciologists looking at likely changes and the rate that they would occur. This is a conclusion in hindsight now having seen the loss of some substantial ice shelves, the acceleration of some of the the most prominent glaciers in Greenland and Anatractica, the disappearance of 5 of the 47 glacier I began observing 25 years ago in the North Cascades, the retreat of every single one of the more than 100 Swiss glaciers observed in 2005 etc. So today I would tend to think that the scientific community I interact with is being too cautious just as we were then. With respect to the earlier question about moulins and the Greenland Ice Sheet. More water delivered to the base of the Greenland Ice Sheet can accelerate its outlet glaciers somewhat due to more lubrication of the bed. However, there has been for sometime considerable meltwater delivered to the bed of this ice sheet. If you look at early maps of the ice sheet from the 1950’s plenty of meltwater ponds are shown on the ice sheet surface near the margin. As a result though an increase in moulins size and number indicate a bit more melt, and would tend to speed the ice sheet up some, it is not a new dynamic shift in the behavior of the outlet glaciers that alone would lead to a rapid diminution of the ice sheet.

    Comment by Mauri Pelto — 26 Nov 2007 @ 3:07 PM

  74. Scientists are human too ( aren’t they?). Why can’t they,then, when speaking for themselves, give a danger warning when they feel it’s warranted?

    When the latest IPCC report says “Eleven of the last twelve years rank among the warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature(note-the average of near-surface air temperature over land and sea surface temperature)(since 1850).”, I, for one, hear the sound of the alarm clock going off. It’s time to wake up and get to work. 11 our of 12! What are the odds of coincidence?

    It seems that we can use a few alarmists right now to counter-balance the over complacency of high level decision makers right in our backyard (the U.S.).

    Was Paul Revere an alarmist or a realist? (“Ready to ride and spread the alarm to every middlesex and farm”- Longfellow). It was a call to arms then and a similar kind of action is needed today.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 26 Nov 2007 @ 3:14 PM

  75. I have read the book – or at least most of it. The chapters 5 and 6 were almost too painful and dispair-evoking, so I have saved most of them for later. But I do recommend the book to everyone who is seriously interested in the climate crisis.
    What seems more and more evident is that we are not cutting off the branch that we are sitting on – we are cutting of the branch our grandchildren’s children would have liked to sit on. And the branch that we leave for them might not be at all as comfortable as our one.

    Comment by Anders Lundqvist — 26 Nov 2007 @ 3:45 PM

  76. If Gareth Evans (#53) is correct in saying ‘there is not a single professional society of scientists that dissents from the consensus’, then RC has fulfilled its primary purpose and done so magnificently.

    The main body of your audience is active formally or informally in passing on the news (good or bad) to the world at large. We have come to rely on your take of the science involved, together with input from outside contributors and your comments upon that input.

    Our needs are different now. We need you to continue to update us on the science, but as possible effects of AGW begin to impact us (e.g. the Arctic in summer 2007), we would value your opinion on the major events and how they fit with the scenarios generated by GCMs. We understand that one series of events of this nature does not constitute a trend, but the magnitude of the anomalies rings alarm bells in most of us. We naturally come to RC to see whether you are also alarmed and why. Informed comment from RC, with the necessary caveats, would be welcome.

    Yesterday, the BBC News 24 service told us “The number of weather-related disasters has quadrupled over the past 20 years and the world should do more to prepare for them, the aid agency Oxfam says.”

    Reading deeper, this looks to be AGW related and it looks like a trend. Again, I am alarmed by the scale. I want to convey that alarm to those who respect my opinion, but I do not want to be labelled alarmist. I need the best opinion I can get, so I turn to RC. It would help me if you could pick what are significant events in your opinion and provide us with informed analysis, even if (to paraphrase) all you can say is “this is worrying, we need to analyse it further”.

    Comment by Ian Perrin — 26 Nov 2007 @ 4:22 PM

  77. Keith wrote: “So this is science’s great chance to be right”.

    Hmmm, mainstream science not gotten it right before? I’d like to add that mainstream science “got it right” about the ozone hole problem…it was a stunning success story (when everything worked (basically) as it should have) and was listed at about a 95% confidence level, I believe.

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 26 Nov 2007 @ 4:26 PM

  78. About sea level rise.

    The IPCC AR4 2007 states

    “Global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3] mm per year over 1961 to 2003. The rate was faster over 1993 to 2003: about 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8]mm per year. Whether the faster rate for 1993 to 2003 reflects decadal variability or an increase in the longer term trend is unclear.”

    This estimation is already outdated.

    In more precise and up-to-date calculations the alleged faster sea level rise has been shown to be SLOWER, reduced to 1.31 ± 0.30 mm/yr, please see:

    Wöppelmann, G., B. Martin Miguez, M.-N. Bouin, and Z. Altamimi, 2007. Geocentric sea-level trend estimates from GPS analyses at relevant tide gauges world-wide. Global and Planetary Change Vol. 57, No 3-4, pp. 396-406, June 2007

    Wöppelmann et al. note that “two important problems arise when using tide gauges to estimate the rate of global sea-level rise. The first is the fact that tide gauges measure sea level relative to a point attached to the land which can move vertically at rates comparable to the long-term sea-level signal. The second problem is the spatial distribution of the tide gauges, in particular those with long records, which are restricted to the coastlines”.

    These and other new studies raise numerous new questions, besides sea level rise and oceans heat content, e.g. about water cycle, Antarctica, Greenland & glacier melting, SW & LW radiation penetrating into the oceans, ocean mixing & circulation, etc, etc, etc which all might be more or less wrong in the IPCC models.

    Comment by Timo Hämeranta — 26 Nov 2007 @ 4:37 PM

  79. RE #42

    For a paleoclimatologist, this is really a bit bizarre. For one thing, I don’t know if people are “ignoring” the rest of Earth’s history (ex. see Royer on CO2 as a driver over the Phanerozoic). However,it is also nice to use a paleoenvironment in which planetary conditions are much like how they are now…which is not the case the farther back you go with plate tectonics, evolution of the air and sea, etc. Would you rather model 2x CO2 in Holocene-like conditions, or 2x CO2 is a martian atmosphere before testifying to congress on where we are likely headed? Paleoclimate is very important to place where we are now, and where we are headed into context, and you can see ch. 6 in the IPCC 2007 WG1 report yourself.

    Next, climate is generally stable in the absence of external perturbation; past climate changes did not just go off by themselves, sometihng caused it. It could be Milkanovitch cycles, solar dimming, an asteroid, Siberian traps, greenhouse gas release, etc. Actually, most changes involved greenhouse gases as suspects (so your question could be rephrased- is the greenhouse physics different now than it was all thoughout Earth’s history?). This is why there is a detection and attribution process, so we can avoid logical fallacies and the popular claims by secondary sources that past fluctuations must mean humans aren’t a factor.

    Comment by Chris C — 26 Nov 2007 @ 5:10 PM

  80. #47

    This is why you should read the book. The review got Lynas’ thoughts wrong.

    Comment by Chris C — 26 Nov 2007 @ 5:47 PM

  81. RE #23 & “the present debate centers on whether the next century can shift it further by the length of Vermont, or Illinois…”

    What if we build freeways and don’t let those creatures move north? What about the creatures in the arctic areas that have nowhere to go (I understand some migrating species are just taking over and pushing them into extinction)? What about the heat sucking up a lot of moisture into the atmosphere, dehydrating the land (the vertical shift) — causing droughts, and floods in the midst of droughts, and wild fires?

    Okay, so our agri belt goes north somehow (and let’s assume nothing bad happens to it — and we know there’s going to be more droughts & floods), if one gets a globe rather than a map, one thing becomes immediately apparent — there’s less area up north. The promised land is a smaller land.

    Now I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but these things just came to mind as possibilities that make me think that global warming might be a bit more troublesome than moving from St. Louis to Chicago.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 26 Nov 2007 @ 6:09 PM

  82. Jerry Toman (#68) wrote:

    So you would compare the change in the ratio of those values if it were linear (+22%) or more accurately by the change in ratio of their logs (log(360/280)divided by log(378/280)) or about 19.5%

    I believe you did the math right. It was only how you expressed it that was a little wonky. I would divide log(378/280) by log(360/280), subtract 1, then multiply by a hundred to get the percent.

    In any case, better than I would have done right off the bat, I believe.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 26 Nov 2007 @ 6:14 PM

  83. I just read Hansen et al. article published in 1981 in Science (for other reasons that the present discussion). It predicts a 2.5-4.5 °C warming for 21st century according to fossil fuel proportion in energy use. It says precisely that a 2°C global warming would be enough for a 5°C warming of the West Antarctica Ice Sheet, whose melting could be rapid (“requiring a century or less and causing a sea level rise of 5 to 6m” that “would flood 25% of Louisiana and Florida”).

    Well, 1981, 26 yrs ago: hard to say some scientists are “too cautious” in the way they present human consequences of global warming. And reading these “historical” papers on AGW as an emergent problematic gives a strange impression of déjà vu.

    Hansen paper :
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/213/4511/957

    Comment by Charles Muller — 26 Nov 2007 @ 6:34 PM

  84. Andrew (#8) – The basic argument against Greenland being lubricated by moulins and sliding off into the ocean is that the weight of the ice has created a topographic bowl whose center is below sea level. If Greenland’s ice were perfectly free to slide, most of it would stay where it was. The animation of moulins in An Inconvenient Truth gives a correct representation of the underlying topography but doesn’t provide a mechanism for getting the ice cap to slide uphill.

    Comment by John Nielsen-Gammon — 26 Nov 2007 @ 6:53 PM

  85. In Comment #44, Nick Gotts wrote:

    “You might also have mentioned the domestic robots, artificial superintelligences, bases on the moon and Mars, electricity “too cheap to meter” (from nuclear power), and the cure for cancer.”

    The “too cheap too meter” comment was made by Admiral Lewis Strauss in the mid-1950’s to a group of science writers. Strauss was Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and was an Admiral by virtue of his work on war production during the Second World War. He was actually a financier, not an engineer or a technical person of any sort. To get a handle on what technically-qualified people were saying about the economics of nuclear power at the same time, Real Climate readers can visit the web page:

    http://www.cns-snc.ca/media/toocheap/toocheap.html

    I might also note that in big cities, like New York, where perhaps Strauss lived, steam heat and water and, sometimes, electricity, delivered to apartment dwellers, are “too cheap to meter” and the costs are simply averaged out and folded into the rents. That may have been what Strauss was thinking as he shot off his mouth.

    In Comment #55 Barton Paul Levinson wrote:

    “Edward Greisch repeats an already refuted factoid:

    [[The truth is that a coal fired power plant puts 100 times as much radiation into your environment as the nuclear power plant. The truth is also that natural background radiation is 10 times what you get from a coal fired power plant.] ]]

    The truth is also that the estimate for the nuclear plant doesn’t include the “unplanned releases” which plague every real nuclear plant in the world.”

    Well, I missed the “already refutation” of Greisch’s factual factoid, but Levenson can enlighten us with an example.

    Energy Northwest’s WNP-2 nuclear plant is visible out my window, about 30 miles northeast. It has been in operation for some twenty years. The Boardman coal plant, 60 miles south, has been in operation about the same length of time. I take an active interest in both, but am unaware of any unplanned releases — those things Levenson assures us plague “every” nuclear plant in the world, that would bring radiation releases of WNP-2 anywhere near the radiation sent up the stack of the Boardman plant every working day. Also to the point and unmentioned by Levenson, releases from Boardman go right up into the air for everyone around the plant to breathe. Releases, planned or unplanned, from WNP-2 typically have much more tortuous pathways before they reach me or anyone else. In addition, the radiation releases from Boardman are a small fraction of Boardman’s insult to the environment, whereas the smaller radiation releases from WNP-2 are virtually the sum total of its insult to the environment.

    Waiting for a detailed list of WNP-2’s unplanned releases. . . .

    Best regards.

    Comment by Jim Dukelow — 26 Nov 2007 @ 6:54 PM

  86. Lynn Vincentnathan (#66) wrote:

    RE [Caspar Henderson] #9 and the possibility of reaching 6C warming by 2100, I think the more important point in SIX DEGREES is that if we reach 3C warming (whether by 2050 or 2100 or 2150 or later), this will almost ensure that there will be 4C warming, which will almost ensure there will be 5C warming, which will almost ensure 6C warming…..sometime down the line.

    Barring butterflies, the feedback should be a monotonously increasing function of our emissions, assuming a constant rate of emissions over a given period of time. Likewise, I would suspect that given a constant total emissions, given a constant rate of emissions, the feedback will be a montonously increasing function of the rate of emission. 3C fast-feedback might imply 6C total feedback (where we are including the slow-feedbacks), but 3C does not imply 4C which implies 5C which implies 6C.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 26 Nov 2007 @ 6:55 PM

  87. To echo #16, one of the things that turned around the public perception of nuclear weapons were the publications on the possibility of nuclear winter. My own uninformed opinion is that such predictions were probably alarmist. The idea that a nuclear winter will follow nuclear war is pretty firmly ingrained in the public mind, despite the fact that nobody really knows what would happen.

    In the same way, I think that there is room for sober analyses, and there is room for being cautious, but there also needs to be an idea of very blatant and graphic results of global warming to help people get a handle on the possible consequences.

    Today, people don’t really understand how bad things can get . . . small sea level rises that flood a few faraway cities just don’t have the same punch as the “darkness and winter throughout the whole world for decades” nuclear winter message.

    Comment by ME — 26 Nov 2007 @ 7:22 PM

  88. Re: #48 by Susanne on defining world temperature and determining change. An informative source on this subject is:
    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/

    Scroll down to Frequently Asked Questions. My general understanding is that thermometers around the world on land and on sea buoys and from ships gather temperature data. The land temps are measured from about 1 to 2 meters above the surface, and sea temps are taken from about the same distance above the surface,and sea surface temps are taken from ships. Corrections are made for things such as height of the ship above the water surface, and urban heat island effect(which turns out to be negligible). The data are combined and carefully statistically analyzed to arrive to arrive at a global temperature.

    Changes in temperature are compared to a base such as the average Earth temperature say between 1961-1990, and the deviation from that base are used to determine changes.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 26 Nov 2007 @ 8:11 PM

  89. You folks will want to get out responses to the following AGW-skeptic jerimiad, about satellite data saying earth’s temperature has gone down since 1998 etc:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/11/25/nbook125.xml.
    This is good also for readers, so I can see what good answer to give.

    Comment by Neil B. — 26 Nov 2007 @ 8:37 PM

  90. 2007 Is Warmest Year Yet for Hemisphere

    The Northern Hemisphere is the warmest this year since record-keeping started 127 years ago, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

    Temperatures for January through October averaged 1.3 degrees above the norm. If the trend continues, the year could break the record for the warmest set in 2005.

    The Southern Hemisphere is its ninth-warmest since record-keeping began, the center said. Worldwide, this is the third-warmest year through October.

    The USA has also seen warmer temperatures recently: The period from January to October was the seventh-warmest since records began in 1895, according to the national data center. The warmest for that period was in 2000; the second-warmest was in 1934.

    The only month cooler than average was February, while seven months were described as “much above average.” Temperatures in March and August were the second-warmest recorded for those months. …

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 26 Nov 2007 @ 8:45 PM

  91. Re #42

    It is physics, Cody, really very basic physics. I am a retired engineer and it is astounding to me that someone who claims to be a paleo-climatologist would not understand that. Or that someone who claims to be a paleo-climatologist would not recognize the unprecedented rate of CO2 and temperature increase. Who are you, really? What are your academic qualifications for the professionalism you claim? What have you published in the peer-reviewed literature?

    Comment by Ron Taylor — 26 Nov 2007 @ 9:38 PM

  92. #90 I suppose it’s an example of alarmism. At the beginning of the year, and following a Hadley Center prediction, many medias announced 2007 would be the warmest year on records. Ten months later, the Hadley Center CRU database show that it’s not the case and that there”s no more global anomaly in 2007 than in the previous six years. And RSS as UAH agree for low troposphere (Nasa Giss is a bit more warm than 1998 when you compute with a 1200km interpolation, but a bit less with a 200 km interpolation)

    Et hop ! In order to maintain an alarming buzz, the new alarming claim is restricted to NH – because of course, GHGs are not well-mixed, warming is not global, feedbacks don’t operate on SH, etc.

    Hadley record (txt) :
    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/hadcrut3vgl.txt

    UAH record (txt) :
    http://vortex.nsstc.uah.edu/data/msu/t2lt/tltglhmam_5.2

    RSS record (txt) :
    ftp://ftp.ssmi.com/msu/monthly_time_series/rss_monthly_msu_amsu_channel_tlt_anomalies_land_and_ocean_v03_0.txt

    Comment by Charles Muller — 26 Nov 2007 @ 9:49 PM

  93. Andrew (#8) – The basic argument against Greenland being lubricated by moulins and sliding off into the ocean is that the weight of the ice has created a topographic bowl whose center is below sea level. If Greenland’s ice were perfectly free to slide, most of it would stay where it was. …” John N-G

    To me it’s a structure. A very tall and heavy one that is getting taller and heavier year by year. No architect designed it. Structural engineers did not select the materials and think through all the stresses. I don’t know that I would presume all of the ice will remain perched on top of its below-sea-level basement to have it simply melt in place in a linear forever when it’s aggressively rotting rotting away each summer at its lower level. For some reason I do not believe it’s an ice cube in a spoon.

    Wings usually stay on airplanes. When they break off, there’s a reason. Something failed. Tall buildings are not supposed to fall down when there is a fire. How much taller than the WTC is the Greenland ice sheet?

    If the aggressive erosion of ice at the base continues, what prevents huge hunks of it from toppling or sliding down to near sea level where it would melt much faster than they would have at its former elevations?

    Comment by J.C.H. — 26 Nov 2007 @ 10:12 PM

  94. The IPCC concensus like most of the scientific literature is far too cautious and very much the lowest common denominator. The very rapid disappearance of the Greenland ice sheets in the past, which is documented in the scientific literature, is best explained as the result of positive feedback loops and we should expect rapid sea level rise at an increasnig number of meters per century starting now. The scientific concensus is still stuck on gradualism rather than open to seeing what is in the geologic record, namely repeated catastrophes. Sticking with the herd, climate scientists keep shutting off the fire alarm so as not to cause panic when actually alarm is the appropriate response.

    Comment by Don Condliffe — 26 Nov 2007 @ 10:55 PM

  95. Jim Galasyn writes: “… many medias announced …”
    This is why it helps if you provide a source for what you think you remember. You’re remembering headlines, but not the actual story.
    You can look this stuff up. Here’s a news story.

    They blew the link title:
    http://news.softpedia.com/news/2007-Is-Going-To-Be-The-Warmest-Year-Ever-Recorded-43548.shtml

    Someone got it right in the Headline:
    Is 2007 Going to Be The Warmest Year Ever Recorded?

    The writer or editor got it wrong and right in different paragraphs:
    _EXCERPT_
    “There is a probability of 60% that the average surface temperature will overpass the current record established in 1998.”
    _END EXCERPT_

    Conclusion? They guessed wrong on El Nino (we are in a La Nina) and stated a probability slightly over 50:50, and the story writers blew it badly. You got fooled.

    Yep, you can find overblown claims in news stories. This is why actually reading the science and citing what you base your beliefs on avoids confusing and misleading people, or even yourself.

    Human memory is fallible and our wishes often are the hobbyhorses we ride.

    Try citing your sources. It’s good for you and everyone reading.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 26 Nov 2007 @ 11:32 PM

  96. I did enjoy the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” so this book doesn’t sound quite alarmist to me lol (but I still should read it…). Mark, did you go over hauling dirt up to the North and South poles to enable the continuation of growing food? Alarmist, ha. Thinking and speculating rationally sounds more likely. Or, maybe, shining a flashlight in the dark to see the cockroaches scurry for cover?

    Comment by Harold Ford — 27 Nov 2007 @ 12:07 AM

  97. Cody Griffin may be an expert, but he doesn’t appear to up-to-date on what is going on. I found one post by him

    http://www.desmogblog.com/comment/reply/417/125426 (based on the same logical fallacies presented above). Back to Lynas….

    Comment by Chris C — 27 Nov 2007 @ 12:14 AM

  98. 56 Barton Paul Levenson: You are wrong. Thank you 85 Jim Dukelow. The Chernobyl accident put out as much radiation as a coal fired plant of the same capacity does in 7 years and 5 months. A standard 1000 megawatt coal fired power plant puts an average of 4 tons of uranium into the air and cinders every year. That 4 tons of uranium is enough to fuel a nuclear plant for the same year. If breeding thorium into uranium is allowed and plutonium is allowed as a fuel, you can get a huge amount of nuclear fuel from coal smoke and cinders. Chernobyl was obsolete when it was built. It can’t happen here. Coal is almost pure carbon, except for the URANIUM, ARSENIC, LEAD, MERCURY, Antimony, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Selenium, Barium, Fluorine, Silver, Beryllium, Iron, Sulfur, Boron, Titanium, Cadmium, Magnesium, Calcium, Manganese, Vanadium, Chlorine, Aluminum, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc that are coal’s impurities. Using coal cinders as a source of these minerals would be commercially viable. Even though transportation uses more energy, coal fired power plants put more CO2 into the air. See:
    http://www.ornl.gov/ORNLReview/rev26-34/text/coalmain.html

    58 Walt Bennett: There is no reason to reduce productivity. In fact, not having to mine and ship 4 MILLION TONS of coal for every 1000 Megawatt coal burning power plant would free up a lot of capacity. The nuclear plants that replace them need so little U235 per year that you could carry the same weight as the annual supply in a suitcase. Each 4 MILLION TONS of coal becomes 14.7 MILLION TONS of CO2. If nuclear power safety were reduced to a reasonable level, nuclear power would cut the price of electricity a lot. Coal is the dangerous one. We have made enormous strides in nuclear safety in the last 60 years. We have 2 types of reactors that cannot melt down due to the laws of physics. We can, if allowed, use nuclear waste as fuel.

    68 Aaron Lewis: For your 100 year timeframe, read “The Long Summer, How Climate Changed Civilization” by Brian Fagan, 2004 Basic Books, ISBN 0-465-02281-2
    Summary: Smaller climate changes than we have caused already, caused the fall of many civilizations. It is unlikely that civilization will last 100 more years if we don’t mend our coal burning ways.
    In your 200 year timeframe, the paleontologists are telling us that we will go extinct if we don’t mend our CO2 output. Here are some URLs to copy and paste:

    http://www.geosociety.org/meetings/2003/prPennStateKump.htm

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=672

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1535

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00037A5D-A938-150E-A93883414B7F0000&sc=I100322

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/article2509.html

    http://astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=2429&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 27 Nov 2007 @ 12:35 AM

  99. Ron Taylor (#91) wrote:

    Re #42 [Cody Griffin]

    It is physics, Cody, really very basic physics. I am a retired engineer and it is astounding to me that someone who claims to be a paleo-climatologist would not understand that. Or that someone who claims to be a paleo-climatologist would not recognize the unprecedented rate of CO2 and temperature increase. Who are you, really? What are your academic qualifications for the professionalism you claim? What have you published in the peer-reviewed literature?

    I found oddly similar arguments being made quite recently by a “Cody Griffin” in Oklahoma who calls himself a professional geologist.

    Please see:

    Ludicrous at best
    Cody Griffin
    professional geologist
    Published: November 18, 2007 12:14 am
    http://www.stillwater-newspress.com/letters/local_story_322001409.html

    Stillwater is in Oklahoma.

    *

    There also seems to be a fellow who called himself ” ‘Cody’ Griffin” who was a retired petroleum geologist that worked for Mobile, but he died in 2005. But I am assuming this isn’t the same person.

    Please see:

    November 2005 Obituaries Orleans Parish Louisiana
    Submitted by N.O.V.A. (New Orleans Volunteer Association) December 2005
    http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/la/orleans/obits/2005/2005-11.txt

    And there is another Cody Griffin, young-looking lad, perhaps in his early thirties, living in Midland, Texas. Congratulations are in order for that fellow. Looks like he found himself a beautiful wife. (I am omitting the link.)

    *

    Finally, there is something called Griffin Petroleum Company located in Midland, Texas, no doubt owned by a family with oil in their blood.

    But all of this is probably just one large coincidence. I doubt it has anything to do with our paleoclimatologist here.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Nov 2007 @ 1:35 AM

  100. I humours me is that so called paleoclimatologists who should be educated people still cant seem to see the wood for the trees. Re: 42 Cody Griffin. The world hundreds of millions of years ago was a very volatile place, much incresed volcanic activily, tectonic activity and if the story books were half accurate, much greener and more humid. That was probably the era when the famous arizona meteorite hit. It is foolish to base present conditions on what occured at that time. The sun has been relatively stable for at least the past million years, the incidence of volcanos and probably earthquakes has settled down as the earth reaches middle age. There are no sudden catastrophic events that have affected the earth for the last mil years at least apart from a few ice ages that were triggered by small fluctuations in surface temp. The difference this time is one of extent quite apart for the absolute commen sense logic of pumping out billions of tonnes of carbon and other greenhouse chemicals into the air is going to affect our climate. Carl Sagan used to say that if the world was the size of the globe that you had on your desk the biosphere would be no thicker than it’s single coat of varnish. What that should tell anyone with half a brain..no..make that quarter of a brain is that the atmosphere is very fragile and delicate indeed. It doesn’t take much abuse to get it out of kilter. We have been abusing it since the industrial revolution at an exponentially growing rate…I am gobsmacked and astonished the climate has been so resilient to date, but what is painfully clear now is that there is overwhelming evidence that it is finally breaking down.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 27 Nov 2007 @ 1:44 AM

  101. Chris C (#97) wrote:

    Cody Griffin may be an expert, but he doesn’t appear to up-to-date on what is going on. I found one post by him

    http://www.desmogblog.com/comment/reply/417/125426 (based on the same logical fallacies presented above). Back to Lynas….

    Chris,

    I think you are right. I just like digging a little, I guess. Maybe I should have become a geologist.

    I do wish I had a copy of “Six Degrees,” though.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Nov 2007 @ 1:48 AM

  102. re Eric’s reply -43
    Eric kindly posted his response on Adamant, where the remarkable iconography at issue may be seen ,and it is there that I have replied to his comment :
    http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2007/11/by-their-blurbs.html

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 27 Nov 2007 @ 2:02 AM

  103. Re: 63 George Robinson. That’s consistant with what I’ve read as well. I’ve even done the experiment with a tumbler of water filled with water and ice..I thought the ice on top poking above the water might raise the level in the glass somewhat..conclusion..no change at all in water level!. Then I realised that the ice is less dense than the water so the mass of the ice poking above the rim would be cancelled out by the relative rarefaction of the ice below the surface. As you said..good news for Florida.
    I saw a report by 60 mins..and australian current affairs program about the state of Greenland today. The residents say that things have only been realy apparent in the last 10-12 years. He showed the extent of glacial retreat in only 10 years..very scary! The number of hurricanes and weather borne natural disaters has also made a dramatic leap in the last 10-12 years..what significance you think this time frame holds?

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 27 Nov 2007 @ 2:11 AM

  104. @Don Condliffe 94
    Is this claim based on anything but a gut feeling that in reality everything is much, much worse?

    Comment by henning — 27 Nov 2007 @ 3:38 AM

  105. Re #84: John N-G, I don’t think your statement about the GIS ice being stable since it can’t flow uphill is correct at all. Ice flows under pressure, and enough of a push from above will force it toward the path of least resistance, i.e. toward the coast and thus uphill. I don’t think it’s quite the latest work, but this paper detailing the ice flow is public access and based on the Google Scholar listings seems to be by the leading researchers.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 27 Nov 2007 @ 3:56 AM

  106. I guess we need to acknowledge that the general public (and most policy maker) will find it hard to fundamentaly change their habits and outlook in view of the threats of GW because of a very clear cognitive dissonance involved.
    Most people don’t want to think the effects of GW through because our society is based on consumption. If we have to use less fossil fuel energy, and make a gradual shift to other energy sources, we will have to lower the general standard of living in the western world.
    So most people hear something about global warming, scare a bit, and then hear something about Britney Spears.
    And if the alarm bells do start ringing inside their heads, it would probably cause a major upheaval in our consumption-based economic system. And what would happen to the Chine’s government if China’s economic boom slows and their people feel they didn’t get the rise in their standard of living they expected?

    So it’s probably going to be harder to realy convince people to act than would be expected from a rationalistic-scientific outlook, and either way- we are probably in for a very nasty ride.

    Comment by Shlomi Harpaz — 27 Nov 2007 @ 5:10 AM

  107. Re #78: Ah, Timo, I see you’re still with us. You know, it’s impolite to not provide a link so that others can easily check up on citations.

    But anyway, Google is my friend. I faintly recalled having seen discussions of that sea level paper floating around the denialosphere some months back, and sure enough there were loads of such hits. Conveniently, though, the very first one was from a non-denialist (Larry Gilman, a science writer with an engineering PhD) who had read the paper and was able to put it in context:

    ‘[The] remarks about the Woppelmann et al. paper seem, if I understand them, to have a twisty spin. I’ve read the paper in question, as well as Munk’s 2002 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which enunciated the “20th century sea level enigma” to begin with. Woppelmann et al.’s paper does NOT call into question the reality of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming. In fact, it takes as given the reality of anthropogenic thermosteric (warming-expansion) and ice-melting sea-level rise. Its resolution of the enigma of excess sea-level rise noted by Munk in 2002 is that the shortfall gets pinched from two directions: (1) since 2002, estimates of the anthropogenic greenhouse contribution to sea-level rise has been upped to 1.4 mm/yr from Munk’s figure of .7 mm/year, and (2) Woppelmann et al.’s GPS recalibration reduces the rise to be explained from 1.8 mm/yr to 1.3 mm/yr. The uncertainty ranges now overlap nicely. Enigma resolved (if Woppelmann et al.’s work is confirmed by others).

    ‘The problem was that anthropogenic sea-level rise didn’t seem to account for observed sea-level rise: Woppelman et al. say that it does, now that we know that anthropogenic rise is _greater_ than we thought before and the total rise is _less_ than we thought before.

    ‘So, no duh, this paper isn’t a disconfirmation of anthropogenic sea-level rise, some kind of “bad news” for people who acknowledge the mainstream scientific view of climate change, sea-level rise, and the like: it’s the opposite. If it holds up, it brings theory into agreement with observation — and does so by correcting the observations, not by trashing the theory.

    ‘Peddling this paper as evidence that anthropogenic climate change is unreal is simply backwards-ass crazy.

    ‘Here it is in Woppelmann et al.’s own words:

    ‘”Munk (2002) stressed that the sum of climate-related contributions to sea-level change was low (0.7 mm/yr) compared to the observations over the last 50–100 years (1.8 mm/yr) by referring to this factor 2 difference as the ‘enigma’ of sea-level change. Since then, the more recent results now indicate a 1 mm/yr contribution from the melting of global land ice reservoirs (Mitrovica et al., 2006), as well as a 0.4 mm/yr contribution from the thermal expansion of the world ocean (Antonov et al., 2005). We show here an exercise of combining GPS and tide gauge results that reduces the global average-level rise to 1.3 mm/yr. This appears to resolve the sea-level enigma.”‘

    Timo, I suppose somewhere out there is a universe with physical laws that would fulfill your fondest wishes by causing all of the climate change uncertainties to break in a helpful direction despite the recent decades of contrary trends. It just seems unlikely that it’s this universe.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 27 Nov 2007 @ 5:11 AM

  108. I appreciated this book, as a layman it is difficult to understand what effects are. There are clearly many unknowns I hope the book isnt too optimistic. There should also be a documentry on this subject also.

    Comment by Will — 27 Nov 2007 @ 5:20 AM

  109. JCH@93: The GIS is more like a crepe than it is like the WTC. It’s a thousand kilometres from east to west, two thousand kilometres from north to south, a few kilometres thick in the centre, and thinner around the edges.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 27 Nov 2007 @ 5:31 AM

  110. Edward Greisch posts:

    [[The Chernobyl accident put out as much radiation as a coal fired plant of the same capacity does in 7 years and 5 months]]

    Thousands of people aren’t dying of thyroid cancer around the average coal-fired power plant, to my knowledge.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Nov 2007 @ 5:49 AM

  111. “Are we being too provocative or too cautious?” No.

    The problem is that you need an archaeologist beside you to say: “30 previous civilizations collapsed due to lesser climatic shifts.” You need a paleontologist beside the archaeologist to say: “95% of all species went extinct the last time global warming got That bad.” You need a nuclear engineer beside the paleontologist to say: “Nuclear power is safe, cheap and plentiful.” And so on. Or, you could have a synthesizer like Mark Lynas write a book putting all of those voices together for you. You need to announce Mark Lynas’ book on RealClimate. The URL to announce is:
    http://www.marklynas.org/2007/4/23/six-steps-to-hell-summary-of-six-degrees-as-published-in-the-guardian
    unless you can reprint the entire text at that URL, or at least the last chapter.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 27 Nov 2007 @ 6:18 AM

  112. Re #85 (Jim Dukelow) “In Comment #44, Nick Gotts wrote:

    “You might also have mentioned the domestic robots, artificial superintelligences, bases on the moon and Mars, electricity “too cheap to meter” (from nuclear power), and the cure for cancer.”

    The “too cheap too meter” comment was made by Admiral Lewis Strauss in the mid-1950’s to a group of science writers. Strauss was Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission and was an Admiral by virtue of his work on war production during the Second World War. He was actually a financier, not an engineer or a technical person of any sort.”

    Touche! I admit I used it without knowing the source and background. Thanks for the link.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 27 Nov 2007 @ 6:46 AM

  113. Re #107 Steve Bloom,

    please do not put to my mouth something I haven’t said, or try to interpret my plain English.

    As always, I mainly forward scientific information.

    My personal consideration was:

    “This and other new studies raise numerous new questions, besides sea level rise and oceans heat content, e.g. about water cycle, Antarctica, Greenland & glacier melting, SW & LW radiation penetrating into the oceans, ocean mixing & circulation, etc, etc, etc which all might be more or less wrong in the IPCC models.”

    [edit – stick to the issues]

    btw, the Wöppelmann et al study is available at
    http://ff.org/centers/csspp/library/co2weekly/20070809/20070809_06.pdf

    Comment by Timo Hämeranta — 27 Nov 2007 @ 8:36 AM

  114. RE #34 & the idea that technology will change and save us.

    Do I have good news for you. The technology is already here and could save us, if only we’d implement it. Please see http://www.natcap.org and http://www.rmi.org Avory Lovins estimates we could reduce our GHGs by at least 75% (below our 1990 levels) without lowering productivity or living standards (using such methods as “tunneling through”).

    Since I’ve already done that and am saving a nice sum of money each year (while actually increasing my living standards), I’m always amazed why people would want to (in effect) pile up their money out on the front lawn and burn it AND thereby contribute to GW. I’m just waiting for someone to manufacture an affordable electric car or plug-in hybrid, so I can drive on my wind-powered electricity. It’s already been invented. In fact EV were invented 100 years ago (ladies preferred them bec they did have to crank them), it’s just that they are so low maintenance and cheap to drive, they’d not be good for the auto or oil businesses. You can see WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? – http://www.sonyclassics.com/whokilledtheelectriccar

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 27 Nov 2007 @ 9:36 AM

  115. RE #46 and climate sensitivity.

    I think the way they figure sensitivity is simply how much warming will we get from X amount of GHGs in the atmosphere, with 2X CO2 of pre-industrial times being the standard for figuring it, & the mean at that level around 3C with a long skinny tail in the positive direction (e.g., there’s a tiny chance it might be higher than 5C or 6C or even greater for a doubling of CO2).

    This sensitivity figure says absolutely nothing about how much GHGs are actually going into the atmosphere — which could really increase a lot (way beyond 2X CO2) once nature starts seriously emitting from frozen permafrost and ocean hydrates due to the warming.

    I think the IPCC & scientists in individual studies do address these slow feedbacks, but I think since a lot of them are unquantifiable & somewhat unpredictable (beyond our general knowledge that heat melts ice) at present, they can’t really add many of these into their equations or calculations. What they can say is it has happened in the past in a really big way; ergo it could happen again.

    I guess what we need is a qualitative (not simply a quantitative) approach, and that is something Mark Lynas provides us (both quan & qual). As an anthropologist I’m into qualitative research — it is not so strong as experiments or surveys for proving cause and effect, but it does get at important knowledge and understanding that experiments and surveys are not able to get at.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 27 Nov 2007 @ 10:25 AM

  116. Re Hank in 95, I think you meant to quote Charles Muller instead of me — I just posted that story to generate some discussion.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 27 Nov 2007 @ 10:42 AM

  117. “The GIS is more like a crepe than it is like the WTC. It’s a thousand kilometres from east to west, two thousand kilometres from north to south, a few kilometres thick in the centre, and thinner around the edges. …”

    I wasn’t suggesting that the whole thing will topple like the WTC. I mentioned it because it gives people a visual reference for how tall the GIS is (the WTC towers where around 414 meters tall). The WTC suffered a nonlinear failure, and no structure is immune to one when the attributes that are holding it up are compromised.

    I think the GIS needs a George Irwin. Ice cannot stay a few kilometers in the air with a compromised base. There are bound to be massive collapses. Sections of it many many times larger than ever seen before are going to come crashing down to lower elevations. That would mean more melting and less snow accumulation offset.

    Comment by J.C.H. — 27 Nov 2007 @ 10:46 AM

  118. Barton, you really should read the well known information on the content of coal fly ash, this is thoroughly documented. There is a significant amount of natural radioactivity in coal.

    Edward, you really should read the same information again, and then carefully read the information on the contents of an operating fission plant and the half-life of the artifical radioisotopes therein.

    No, you won’t get radio-iodine from coal plants. Yes, much else.

    Guys, this is serious stuff, Gavin’s repeatedly asked it be taken elsewhere, there’s nothing to argue about if you read the good established science and stay with it.

    Confused statements lead to pointless arguments about this issue.
    It’s real. It’s elsewhere.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Nov 2007 @ 11:14 AM

  119. Re 34 (and 36 & 44)

    Joe wrote: “One challenge for those who worry a lot about *eventual* catastrophic conditions is the mistake of thinking technology won’t change over the next decade, let alone the next century. It will change *dramatically* and is likely to significantly reduce risks in many areas.”

    ——————

    Consider:

    Antibiotics were considered a major breakthrough that was going to improve health tremendously. Now, decades later, we’re faced with the very real concern of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from overuse/misuse of the very “breakthrough” that was going to cure our ills. We left evolution out of the equation.

    Plastics were going to make our lives easier; now our world is overrun with them to the point where we find traces of plastic on literally every level of the food chain. (For details, check out Alan Wiesman’s ‘The World Without Us’, an excellent book that, just as Eric observes with Lynas’ book, relies strictly upon the science/evidence that exists to discuss its subject, which is the effects of humanity’s ‘footprint’ upon the biosphere.)

    Fission-driven nuclear power was a stepping stone on our way to fusion, but decades after this claim was made (by many of the same people who proposed using nuclear devices to create a second Panama Canal in the 50s – weren’t we lucky they didn’t follow through on that bit of brilliance?) fusion seems as far away as ever and in the meantime, as discussed exhaustively elsewhere, the remains of the Fission programs have left numerous, virtually indelible scars upon the topography and in the biology of the planet.

    Oil was going to (and did!) reduce the expenditure of energy to create energy on a huge scale. But now, well over 150 years into the age of oil, its effects can be traced everywhere on the planet and within the biosphere in terms of toxins that pollute our water, food and air. And, of course, we have the discharge of CO2, a disturbing byproduct that may change forever the manner in which humanity will be able to exist on this planet.

    My point, of course, is the fallacy of saying “we’ll develop technologies to deal with the problem” ignores the understanding that the implementation of technology is often about trade-offs: to gain an advantage/comfort/relief, what disadvantage/pain/loss must we be willing to accept? This is a question we must constantly ask ourselves moving forward, because when you really look at the problem we face as a species, it is not solely about Global Warming. AGW is a symptom of a much larger problem, albeit a symptom of something that has all the characteristics of a malady that could cause us great, even mortal harm in the long run.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not a Luddite by any stretch: I love technology; I derive benefits aplenty from it both at home and at work. Technology has saved the lives of people close to me. But there is a world of difference, IMHO, between understanding the benefits derived from technology, and blithely believing that whatever happens, we’ll ‘tech’ our way out of it. There are no guarantees this will happen. If you believe otherwise, I would recommend you revisit the claims made at the 1938 World’s Fair in New York regarding what the world would be like in 50 years.

    Finally, while I haven’t read Lynas’ book yet, given Eric’s review I would recommend Wiesman’s book as a companion read, given its emphasis on the true scope of mankind’s footprint upon the biosphere. IMHO, it helps give a better perspective of the true magnitude of the problems we’re facing as a species. This isn’t just about getting GHGs under control, though that is a huge part of it. It’s about reversing a series of trend that is slowly but inexorably instituting changes on a global scale that will likely cause huge, if not insurmountable problems for our descendants.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 27 Nov 2007 @ 11:15 AM

  120. re 87

    “The idea that a nuclear winter will follow nuclear war is pretty firmly ingrained in the public mind, despite the fact that nobody really knows what would happen.”

    You know, I always sort of looked at the idea of a Nuclear Winter as insult following injury.

    I think one could study the data regarding the aftereffects of Hiroshima and Nagisaki and extrapolate accordingly for higher yields and multiple detonations on an international scale.

    Whether the nuclear winter would follow would likely be inconsequential in relation to the damage to the biospehere.

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 27 Nov 2007 @ 11:22 AM

  121. Re 87;
    “there also needs to be an idea of very blatant and graphic results of global warming to help people get a handle on the possible consequences… as [with] the “darkness and winter throughout the whole world for decades” nuclear winter message.”

    If disarmament is too important to be predicated on mythology, how is cogent climate policy to arise from the deliberate confusion of computer modelin and pop artin this case.

    “Nuclear winter”‘s deserved notoriety- notorious is what Kerry Emmanuel called the studies in _Nature_ arose from lack of transparency in peer review- a failure that the IPCC has taken considerable pains to avoid.

    In the nuclear winter case, the most extreme and unrealistic parametrization- a sustained optical depth of 20 became the basis for the popularized version of the hypothesis- an image of the Pale Blue Dot airbrushed flat black. Lynas quaint cut of submerged London belongs to the same genre.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 27 Nov 2007 @ 12:55 PM

  122. RE #87, 121 (ME, Russell Seitz on nuclear winter)

    ME, Russell, take a look at the papers linked from http://climate.envsci.rutgers.edu/nuclear/
    especially:

    “Nuclear winter revisited with a modern climate model and current nuclear arsenals: Still catastrophic consequences”
    Alan Robock, Luke Oman, and Georgiy L. Stenchikov (2007) J. Geophys. Res,112, D13107, doi:2006JD008235

    This indicates that global nuclear war would have utterly devastating atmospheric and climatic effects – global dimming and cooling (to mean temperatures below that at the LGM 18000 years ago)and a sharp drop in precipitation, largely wiping out agricultural production for perhaps a decade, plus extensive destruction of the ozone layer. Still, at least we wouldn’t need to worry about AGW any more.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 27 Nov 2007 @ 1:56 PM

  123. Hmmm, Oh boy…did we just reach an historic paradynm shift on GW in the scientific peer-review, publishing community?

    Science Journal reports that 50 top expert publishing scientists had a meeting on geoengineering and agreed to do something that was previously “taboo”. Oh, boy do I smell a can of worms.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/318/5853/1054

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 27 Nov 2007 @ 1:59 PM

  124. Nick re 122

    Alan is still trying to unload the remainders of his 1987 ‘Nuclear Winter’ book- Please note that the revisionisim extends to downshifting the optical depth by eighteen powers of e. And that instead of temperatures falling to twenty three below zero, the delta T in modern 3-d GCM’s is in the low single digits– a few hundred degree days do not a winter make.

    Though the original advocates remain in ,pardon the expression, denial, the deflation of what CarlSagan styled his ” Apocalyptic rediction’ began with Stephen Schneider’s 1986 _Foreign Affairs_ article ,”Nuclear Winter’ reappraised. I suggest you may also find these links edifying :

    http://adamant.typepad.com/seitz/2006/12/preherein_honor.html

    http://www.defensetech.org/archives/003108.html

    If you believe it trivial to achieve and sustain man made stratospheric aerosols of significant optical depth, I suggest you nominate Paul Crutzen for another Nobel- to be shared with the surviving Alvarez, because at another level of polemic gamesmanship, ‘ nuclear winter’ was the freeze movements attempt to run off with the KT extinction hypothesis.

    [Response: I’m not sure what point Russell is trying to make with the repeated harping on the history of attempts to understand nuclear winter, but to me the nuclear winter business seems to be a good example of the proper operation of science. Somebody points out a possible catastrophe, does the quick back of the envelope calculations to show they’re not crazy to be worried about such things, publishes it. Other people get to work, examine it in more detail, and the problem starts to look less alarming. A century of work on global warming, in contrast, has not made the problem go away. The problem looks as alarming as ever and the science just gets firmer. Also, one shouldn’t be too snide about the value of bold and partly wrong hypotheses. A lot of good work on soot and KT extinction mechanisms was stimulated by the nuclear winter paper. And one should be a bit more humble in the face of the big ideas Carl Sagan introduced into the subject of planetary science — the Faint Young Sun, the greenhouse explanation of the temperature of Venus, the discovery of the Early Mars hydrological system, and many more. I wish my right ideas could be half so important as Sagan’s wrong or partially wrong ones. –raypierre]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 27 Nov 2007 @ 2:48 PM

  125. 122

    By an odd coincidence , “devastating atmospheric and climatic effects – global dimming and cooling (to mean temperatures below that at the LGM 18000 years ago)and a sharp drop in precipitation, largely wiping out agricultural production” were all predicted as the immediate consequences of the Kuwait ZOil Fires by none other that Carl Sagan, when asked on_ Nightline_ if the fires effects would be analgous to those of a nuclear war.

    It didn’t happen.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 27 Nov 2007 @ 3:13 PM

  126. [[You need a nuclear engineer beside the paleontologist to say: “Nuclear power is safe, cheap and plentiful.”]]

    Not telling the truth is counterproductive. That’s part of the reason the nuclear industry generated so much opposition the last time — their tendency to completely blow off any potential problems and make airy statements like the above.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Nov 2007 @ 3:56 PM

  127. Hank Roberts writes, inexplicably:

    [[Barton, you really should read the well known information on the content of coal fly ash, this is thoroughly documented. There is a significant amount of natural radioactivity in coal.]]

    And where, precisely, did I say that there wasn’t? Were you under the impression I was defending coal? My whole point was that I don’t buy the simplistic “It must be either coal or nuclear” dichotomy that Greisch and others keep throwing at us.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Nov 2007 @ 4:01 PM

  128. [[In the nuclear winter case, the most extreme and unrealistic parametrization- a sustained optical depth of 20 became the basis for the popularized version of the hypothesis- an image of the Pale Blue Dot airbrushed flat black. Lynas quaint cut of submerged London belongs to the same genre.]]

    Schneider’s Nuclear Autumn paper also had flaws, like plume heights that were off by a factor of three. Nuclear winter wasn’t ever definitively disproven. The idea that it was is a pop-sci-culture myth.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 27 Nov 2007 @ 4:14 PM

  129. (#105 Steve Bloom) I’ve no dispute with the proposition that the outspreading and subsequent marginal melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet would accelerate with a lubricated base, and there’s evidence that this is happening. However, the time scale for this is centuries, according to existing physical and modeling evidence.

    I presume that one role of the Greenland topography is to provide a self-limiting mechanism for rapid ice sheet collapse. As the depth of the ice declines, the outward pressure that produces the flow of ice decreases, at least until rebound takes place. Such a moderating mechanism is not present on an glacier with an underlying outward-sloping surface. I’m in no sense an expert on this, though.

    To my knowledge, nobody has proposed a decade-scale mechanism for catastrophic failure of the Greenland Ice Sheet, let alone a mechanism that would suddenly produce tens of millions of refugees. The West Antarctic Ice Sheet, being considerably less grounded, is presumably more subject to catastrophic failure, but farther down the road.

    That said, the uncertainty regarding unstable ice sheets is one of the big unknowns that make attempting to identify a specific “safe” level for CO2 rise a very dangerous proposition.

    Comment by John Nielsen-Gammon — 27 Nov 2007 @ 4:53 PM

  130. Barton, I was reacting to this exchange, you both compared incomparables. I’m a nitpicker, I do it evenhandedly I hope. You both have good points, these mistakes detract from discussion.

    Here’s where y’all departed from the facts, one from each:

    >[[The Chernobyl accident put out as much radiation as a coal fired >plant of the same capacity does in 7 years and 5 months]]

    BUT the isotopes are different. Quoting from the linked article,

    “All studies … of radioactive elements from coal combustion conclude that the perturbation of natural background dose levels is almost negligible…. these isotopes over 150 or 250 years could pose a significant future ecological burden …”

    Radiation from coal smoke isn’t comparable to a nuclear plant leak.

    > Thousands of people aren’t dying of thyroid cancer around the
    > average coal-fired power plant, to my knowledge.

    BUT the isotopes are different. That can’t happen.

    Coal has no Iodine-131, no more than it has any Carbon-14. Spencer Weart explains how knowing this helped discover actual evidence of the greenhouse effect.

    Radiation from a nuclear plant leak isn’t comparable to coal smoke.

    And you can check the number of thyroid cases, it’s closely watched.

    —-> Yes, y’all both have good points. I’m urging you always to check, stay with the facts, and cite to sources.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Nov 2007 @ 5:24 PM

  131. Re #11 & the socio-economic impacts of sea level rise. An interesting study by G. McGranahan, D. Balk, and B. Anderson can be found in Environment & Urbanization Vol.19 No.1, April 2007,
    “The rising tide: assessing the risks of climate change and human settlement in low elevation coastal zones.”

    Comment by Bill Sneed — 27 Nov 2007 @ 5:37 PM

  132. If I recall, Mark Lynas also brings up deadly hydrogen sulfide outgassing at 6C (eventually as it plays out over a long time), and I’ve read about this happening during the end-Permian, some 251 mya — the final death blow, after much life had already been wiped out by extreme global warming and its effects.

    It would be good if the RC scientists could at least explain how this might happen eventually (after, say, 100s or 1000s or 10,000s of years (I have little sense of geological timescales)) IF the BAU+very worst case scenario totally plays out. I’m assuming this is at least a small possibility, if not very likely.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 27 Nov 2007 @ 5:56 PM

  133. Hi all,

    thanks 4 the review Eric, i’ve been waiting for RC’s take on this since i bought the book in the UK, just after its release date (Jan or Feb?).

    I thought it was alarming but not alarmist, and contained many bits of valid info i knew to be correct and in context. I’m glad my instincts were correct :-)

    I think Lynas has shown that well-informed journalists (who tend to get a kicking on RC, normally!) have a crucial role in getting the ‘new’ (more alarming) message across to the public.

    Although AR4 did publish a similiar (deg by deg) table later in the year, the fact that Mark Lynas got there first is concerning.

    I don’t know if i’m making myself clear, but we all know how useful a deg-by-deg guide is, for public understanding… so why have we waited for the admirable Lynas to do it? I’d far prefer to have heard it from someone who i didn’t have to wait 9 months to validate, ie the AAAS or the Royal Society etc, etc.

    Thanks anyway, i can hand the book round to my friends with greater confidence, having read this thread.

    Thank u RC

    Mark S

    Comment by mark s — 27 Nov 2007 @ 6:23 PM

  134. John Nielsen-Gammon@129: I agree, the lack of really good dynamic ice-sheet models means we have a major predictive shortfall here. I’ve asked on previous RC threads who, where, is modelling the dynamics of ice-sheet melting, and not got much of a response. I’m sure there are a bunch of scientists working very hard on this, but I don’t know who they are or what they are concluding.

    On mechanisms for catastrophic GIS collapse, consider that Greenland without the ice sheet would be a set of islands. Is it possible for sea water to intrude into the basin, following some marked peripheral melt and thinning? If so, that’s exactly the sort of process which I could imagine involving positive feedback. This is, I think, broadly similar to one of the proposed mechanisms for WAIS collapse: an accelerating retreat of the grounding line, into the interior of the ice sheet. I read an old paper last month, can’t find the cite, about evidence of a previous rapid retreat of the WAIS. In the case of the WAIS, the grounding lines from Ross and Filchner-Ronne would meet in the middle. (My Hollywood version of this has the whole remaining ice sheet tearing itself away from the bedrock, possibly with a huge sucking sound, to float on the new Antarctic Sea, and global sea-level rises by several metres in the course of a few *days*. I’m available for writers-strike-busting.)
    WAIS is also in a basin, of sorts: the central base of the ice sheet is much further below sea-level than anywhere on its perimeter. The main relevant difference between GIS and WAIS boundary conditions seems not to be the bedrock topography but the fact that the WAIS meets the sea in big ice shelves, whereas the GIS meets the sea in a number of somewhat smaller glaciers. But I’m just an amateur here.

    Comment by Nick Barnes — 27 Nov 2007 @ 6:27 PM

  135. 128
    If ,as Barton writes “Nuclear winter wasn’t ever definitively disproven,” it is because semantic aggression has given way to denial encompassing even how the debate began– with Sagan declaring in Foreign Affairs that :

    “Apocalyptic predictions require,if they are to be taken seriously , higher standards of evidence than do other matters where the stakes are not so great.”

    History is full of prophets of doom who fail to deliver.

    [Response: Possibly because they were listened to and actions taken to avoid the worst? -gavin]

    [Response: History is also full of Neville Chamberlains offering reassurances that there’s nothing to worry about. No problems are looming. Peace for our time. Kick back and enjoy business as usual. –raypierre]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 27 Nov 2007 @ 6:47 PM

  136. Did the IPCC really say “the “radiative forcing” from CO2 rose by 20 percent between 1995 and 2005”? This doesn’t sound like something “they” would say. I don’t recall reading it in the AR4 (but that doesn’t mean much). I find it hard to believe it is there some place. Perhaps they said the rate of change of the increase of radiative forcing increased by 20%?

    Does anyone recall seeing this supposed statement by the IPCC? Or is Monckton making things up?

    ar4-wg1-chapter2.pdf
    page 3

    “For the 1995 to 2005 decade, the growth rate of CO2 in the atmosphere was 1.9ppm yr-1 and the CO2 RF increased by 20%”

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 27 Nov 2007 @ 7:10 PM

  137. Lynn Vincentnathan (132) — Where is the H2S supposed to originate? Volcanoes, so by inference also flood basalt formation, produce H2S. The assmption is that the PT event, temporally associated with the formation of the Siberian Traps, was due to that outpouring of basalts.

    The other source of H2S that I know about is sour gas, that is, natural gas with up to 28% hydrogen sulfide. AFAIK, there is little sulfur in peat bogs or under permafrost, but I could be wrong about this…

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Nov 2007 @ 7:16 PM

  138. “People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it.” — Ray Bradbury

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 27 Nov 2007 @ 7:24 PM

  139. World must fix climate in less than 10 years -UNDP

    BRASILIA, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Unless the international community agrees to cut carbon emissions by half over the next generation, climate change is likely to cause large-scale human and economic setbacks and irreversible ecological catastrophes, a U.N. report said on Tuesday.

    The U.N. Human Development Report issued one of the strongest warnings yet of the lasting impact of climate change on living standards and a strong call for urgent collective action.

    “We could be on the verge of seeing human development reverse for the first time in 30 years,” Kevin Watkins, lead author of the report, told Reuters.

    The report, presented in Brasilia on Tuesday, sets targets and a road map to reduce carbon emissions before a U.N. climate summit next month in Bali, Indonesia.

    Emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere help trap heat and lead to global warming.

    “The message for Bali is the world cannot afford to wait. It has less than a decade to change course,” said Watkins, a senior research fellow at Britain’s Oxford University. …

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 27 Nov 2007 @ 7:32 PM

  140. Corecting and finishing comment #136 —

    Sulfur is present in peat bogs from 0.29 to 4.21 per cent.

    The overall reaction was fast, with H2S half-lives on the order of several hours. The results suggest that DOM may chemically reoxidize H2S in organic rich soils and sediments at significant rates.

    DOM = Dissolved Organic Matter

    Methoxylated aromatic compounds are likely a major source of methyl groups for this methylation of hydrogen sulfide, since they are important degradation products of the abundant biopolymer lignin.

    Apologies for the lack of references, but web trawiling on the search phrase ‘hydrogen sulfide peat bogs’ bings up the sources as items 1, 2 and 6.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Nov 2007 @ 7:33 PM

  141. RE #137 & 140, from what I read (& I sure I’m getting it wrong), the H2S kill off came in the very advanced stage of warming during the end-Permian. It came from the oceans, I believe, and it was created by anoxic conditions, and I think the CH4 as it gets released from hydrates, if conditions are anoxic, it turns into H2S. There’re some microbes that change it (I think). And apparently the hypothesis is that great outgassing occured and went over portions of the land, as well, which almost instantly killed most plants and animals in its path (both in the oceans and over portions of land).

    I’m sure I’ve gotten this wrong, so that’s why I was hoping someone would explain it to me.

    Here, I just did a google search from 2003, but I also read something from 2006?): http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/11/031104063957.htm

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 27 Nov 2007 @ 8:03 PM

  142. 135
    Gavin:
    Had RC existed in 1983, I hope the Freeze Movement would have had a harder time turning Crutzen & Birks aptly titled ‘Twilight At Noon’ into the apocalypse of biblical proportions that Sagan merchandised on late night TV

    RC needs to recall that the polemic abuse of global systems models is as old as the Club Of Rome Report, and will likely go on for as long as advertising agencies endure –in post-Cold War perspective , ‘nuclear winter’ may rank as a bad joke played at the expense of the credibility of climate modeling on the eve of the global warming debate. Sure, they were trying to save the world, but since the joke equated even tactical weapons with ” the extinction of homo sapiens” at a time when NATO ‘s conventional forces were severely overmatched, not all SALT era diplomats found it funny.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 27 Nov 2007 @ 8:07 PM

  143. Lynn Vincentnathan (#132) wrote:

    If I recall, Mark Lynas also brings up deadly hydrogen sulfide outgassing at 6C (eventually as it plays out over a long time), and I’ve read about this happening during the end-Permian, some 251 mya — the final death blow, after much life had already been wiped out by extreme global warming and its effects.

    If I remember correctly, Peter Ward seems to believe that four out of the five major extinctions involved this mechanism. It is certainly something I am interested in — and have done some reading on. I also know of an online book which is specifically devoted to that topic. Overhyped title, but the contents seemed professional. I will look it up and get back to you on it — and include it in this thread as I know it is of interest to a number of the people here.

    Personally, I don’t know to what extent we might be threatened by that sort of thing (will we get above 1000 ppm?) but I find it fascinating from a paleoclimatological perspective. Of course I wouldn’t want anyone to learn about it up close though.

    *

    Incidentally, my apologies.

    Your interpretation of an almost ensured slide from 3 C to 6 C does actually appear to be a part of this book. Personally I am not sure how realistic this is. But it is part of the video the authors did for the book — where they lean heavily (too heavily?) on the carbon feedback. Regardless, judging from the video and what Eric has to say, I think the book will be fascinating.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Nov 2007 @ 8:30 PM

  144. Re # 42,
    Gavin, While I agree with the probable intent of your statement,

    You have to admit that a person walking away from a fire with an empty can smelling of kerosene and a book of matches with a burnt match, still does not allow you to come to the logical conclusion that said person started a fire. Though the circumstantial evidence in this example is very strong you would need the security video camera tape of the person pouring the kerosene and actually lighting the match to it to support the logic of your initial statement. To be clear I am sure that you have the tape already in your possession so the culpability of the arsonist is not in any serious doubt, just not by the logic of your original statement. Please forgive my quibble, cheers!

    [Response: Actually, that is just more circumstantial evidence. Is the picture truly clear enough to unequivocally identify the arsonist? Maybe it was tampered with, maybe it’s from a previous fire he set etc…. The same is true in the climate business – we only ever have (more and more convincing) circumstantial evidence – there is never going to be absolute proof – only in pure mathematics does this exist. – gavin]

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 27 Nov 2007 @ 8:33 PM

  145. Lynn Vincentnathan (141) — Thank you for the link. Here is one from 2006

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060930094128.htm

    regarding the role of manganese(III). The link below may help explain what you have in mind regarding H2S from the ocean.

    http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=19276

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Nov 2007 @ 8:42 PM

  146. Re the source of H2S in 141, as I understand it, Lynn is correct. There’s a layer of microbes that consume the H2S produced by the deeper anaerobic organisms — this layer is the redox boundary. As the oceans warm, they become increasingly anoxic, and in the PT extinction theory, the redox boundary rises to the surface. All aerobic organisms in the oceans die, and excess H2S kills life on land as well. Then it attacks the ozone layer.

    Here’s a good story from last year’s SciAm:

    Impact from the Deep

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 27 Nov 2007 @ 8:54 PM

  147. Lynn,

    Sorry about the formatting on 143 — obviously only the first paragraph was yours.

    The book I mentioned is specifically on the methane catastrophe. The problem with hydrogen sulfide, however, receives considerable attention in several chapters. In the current form of this theory is not so much a problem in the open ocean but along the continental plates. I find this much more realistic — and would expect it to have much of the same effect insofar as life, whether in the ocean or on land, tends to prefer to live near the coasts.

    Likewise, rapid warming where the land warms at a considerably higher rate will tend to produce the sort of circulation which encourages such algae blooms along the continental plate, creating anoxic conditions as well as, I believe, warming the methane hydrates we have found or have infered to exist along these areas. And as someone here has pointed out could be exacerbated by the modern use of fertilizer insofar as its river runoff encourages the production of algae blooms that result in dead zones.

    Anyway, here is the book with the over-the-top title, but in my view, quite respectable content — by Dan Dorritie. Likew Peter Ward, Dan Dorrite is a paleoclimatologist.

    Killer in Our Midst
    Methane Catastrophes in Earth’s Past . . . and Near Future?
    Dan Dorritie
    http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/Go/dorritie/index.html#anchorContents

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Nov 2007 @ 9:24 PM

  148. Here’s a better article re the H2S kill off, “Global Warming Led To Atmospheric Hydrogen Sulfide And Permian Extinction,” ScienceDaily (Mar. 1, 2005). See: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/02/050223130549.htm

    I guess my concern is not that this would happen anytime soon, even within thousands of years, but that our triggering of a hysteresis warming event for over 100,000 years, if we do push it to 6C (via slow feedback), could result in such a die off.

    From a moral perspective it doesn’t matter when our actions of today finally result in harm to people and other life forms, but whether they might do so (eventually). Knowing that our actions today (over our lifetimes) might result in such harms puts a serious moral duty on us to cease and desist (i.e. reduce our GHG as much as possible). Re denialists saying they don’t believe AGW is happening or is/will be harmful or this H2S thing might happen doesn’t cut the moral mustard, once we’ve been informed of this possibility from scientists.

    I suppose everytime we drive we pump some local pollutants into the air that might harm people, but contributing to an extremely huge die off of life around the world (and some biologists tell us the 6th great extinction event is already underway), when we could fairly easily reduce our GHG and do so mostly cost-effectively seems disproportionately morally offensive.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 27 Nov 2007 @ 9:31 PM

  149. David B. Benson (#145) wrote:

    The link below may help explain what you have in mind regarding H2S from the ocean.

    http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=19276

    Yep.

    They don’t give you the exact location. Neither does Peter Ward.

    But that is right around Walvis Bay. There is a UN outpost in the northern part of the picture though you can’t see it at that resolution. Try 23 degrees 19 minutes South by 14 degrees 29 minutes East. I scowered the coastline looking for the location in Google Earth some time ago. Didn’t keep the coordinates or even the name of the Bay, but I remembered a geologic formation, the shape of the coastline and the UN post — and so I was able to find it again. At one point I was able to pick out what looked like the hydrogen sulfide cloud in the picture you linked to.

    Lynn:

    I wouldn’t care if it happened four thousand years from now. Might as well be the next ten years — from my perspective.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Nov 2007 @ 10:12 PM

  150. RE #71 (Joe Duck) “Nick I don’t accept the premise that disaster is looming”

    Joe, a disaster is unlikely to *happen* in the next 10 years, but when we take into account the multiple lags in the system: taking decisions at an international level, devising and passing laws, building energy-saving and low-carbon power stations, buildings, transport etc., and the lags in the climate system itself – then even at the mild end of the IPCCs AR4 projections, we could well have only 10 years to avoid a disaster further in the future.

    “10 years will bring a lot of technology improvements, as well as much better climate modelling computer power. Conscious computing, which is 10-20 years away, may bring a climate model that actually has a high level of real-time predictive power. This would settle a lot of the key questions regarding ice changes and the pesky lag issues surrounding CO2 and temperature, which make good projectioons of even a few year time horizon impossible for the current models.”

    As for what technology improvements 10 years will bring, the only specific one you mention is more climate modelling computing power. Yes, the models will get better, but if you look at the models of 10 years ago, I’d say the improvements are real but certainly not revolutionary. No reason I am aware of to expect anything different in the next 10. As for “conscious computing” being “10 to 20 years away”, on what do you base that opinion? I worked on AI in the 1980s and 1990s, and have continued to follow it; I see no prospect of anything you could reasonably call conscious computing in the next few decades – going on the pace of progress over the last 50.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 27 Nov 2007 @ 10:26 PM

  151. Correction to 149

    I spoke of a UN base being at the location I gave, but actually the UN regards it as an environmental hotspot because it is a designated free trade area which is also the host to a great many species of birds. But in any case, the UN symbol should help you find it.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Nov 2007 @ 10:35 PM

  152. Nick Gotts (#150) wrote:

    I worked on AI in the 1980s and 1990s, and have continued to follow it; I see no prospect of anything you could reasonably call conscious computing in the next few decades – going on the pace of progress over the last 50.

    Nick…

    I think you should really have a look at this.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 27 Nov 2007 @ 11:18 PM

  153. The question of scientists being too conservative or not is an interesting one. It reminds me of two things I read. The first is PZ Myers observation that wildlife biologists and conservation ecologists are some of the most depressing people you will meet because of what they know and Ross Gelbspan’s observation in a NY Times review of “Just Cool It” that it is a curse to know about these issues as intimately as climate scientists do. I would say the sober and often boring (for the non-scientist) science literature is just right. It for the most part just gives the facts.

    Raypierre’s comment about wrong ideas in science being very useful is a very valuable insight into how science works. I will repeat a theme I go on about on RealClimate that showing people how science works is just as valuable as the details of the climate science for interested lay people.

    For the all the talk about about doomsday predictions, like from Mr. Seitz, I will bring up the fact that opponents of environmental regulation claimed economic meltdowns would occur if environmental regulations were enacted. These prophesies proved to be wrong. For one example the then CEO of Chyrsler Lee Iaccoca predicted air pollution laws would cripple the auto makers. Now in his latest book he is critical of US car makers for fighting environmental regulations.

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 28 Nov 2007 @ 1:47 AM

  154. Re #144 Gavin, I do understand that in the climate business all you have is ever more circumstantial evidence and that only in mathematics can you expect to come up with something like a proof. That wasn’t my quibble.
    My poorly made and rather unimportant point was simply that while your example would be accepted as logical in the scientific sense and would add to the consensus that the arsonist is to blame for the fire, it doesn’t communicate well to the layperson’s experience of what might occur for example in a court of law. The person with the kerosene can might even be absolved and get off scott free if he can get the right lawyer. This I beleive underscores some of the issues with the communication of scientific concepts and the meaning of words such as theory (in the scientific sense) to the general public. You are not speaking the same language. We need translators who are fluent in both cultures. Obviously I’m not suited for that position.

    [Response: Actually I think you make an excellent point. The analogy of good lawyers getting their clients off when they were caught red-handed could be very aptly applied to some of the contrarian think tanks. – gavin]

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 28 Nov 2007 @ 7:03 AM

  155. Regarding new tech applications aimed at curbing AGW, something interesting a friend came across.

    http://www.news.com/Can-baking-soda-curb-global-warming/2100-13838_3-6220127.html

    Of course, that’s a lot of sodium bicarbonate…

    Picture of the pilot plant, if anyone is interested.

    http://www.news.com/2300-13838_3-6220159.html?tag=ne.gall.latest

    Comment by J.S. McIntyre — 28 Nov 2007 @ 10:29 AM

  156. RE #154, I think an important point to this crime analogy is that most human-caused environmental harms are not crime (though they are most certainly sins, if done with some knowledge), so no one is facing the death penalty for killing people through AGW, for which the legal standard would be “beyond a reasonable doubt” — a standard probably more stringent than scientists requiring 95% confidence.

    We (collectively) are not even facing a civil suit, for which the legal standard would be “preponderance of evidence” — which (as a judge explained to us jurors) amounts to a greater than 50/50 chance we did it. With that standard we lose our case that we didn’t do it, since the scientific evidence re AGW is happening is very strong now.

    What we (collectively) are facing is harm, for which a MEDICAL STANDARD or MODEL is needed. And this is opposite the scientific and legal models of avoiding false positives (avoiding claims and decisions when they are false). We need to avoid the false negative (doing nothing to stop or prevent the harm, when it is real).

    And since this SIX DEGREES shows us the very great magnitude of the possible harm – based on the best science (to date of the writing), rightly including and focusing on the worse case possibilities (as doctors should), it behooves us to take immediate action to halt this harm, even if these worst scenarios are only slightly probable. This magnitude of harm greatly lowers our requirements for proof. We are morally required to mitigate, even if the science were only at 10% or 5% probability that not mitigating would cause great harm.

    If there were a one in twenty chance a child would die if he/she went on, say, an old, delapidated rollercoaster, would the parents pay for the ride and allow him/her to do so? That’s sort of what it’s like. We can reduce our GHGs cost effectively, and not doing so it like staying on some very dangerous rollercoaster ride for the sake of some frivolous ride that gets us nowhere.

    The energy/resource conservative/efficient technology is here, the knowledge about reduce/reuse/recycle is here, alternative energy is here. Let’s just do it and get off this dangerous and frivolous ride ASAP.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 28 Nov 2007 @ 10:48 AM

  157. Joe Duck wrote: “Nick I don’t accept the premise that disaster is looming”

    Nick replied: “Joe, a disaster is unlikely to *happen* in the next 10 years, but … we could well have only 10 years to avoid a disaster further in the future.”

    I disagree with Nick. According to the international relief and development organization Oxfam, disaster is upon us now:

    Weather-related disasters have quadrupled over the last two decades, from an average of 120 a year in the early 1980s to as many as 500 today, according to international agency Oxfam America in a new report. The increase in these extreme climatic events is in line with climate models developed by the international scientific community.

    The number of people affected by disasters has risen by 68 percent, from an average of 174 million a year between 1985 to 1994, to 254 million a year between 1995 to 2004, according to Oxfam. Earlier this year the Asian floods alone affected 248 million people. There has been a six-fold increase in floods since 1980. The number of floods and windstorms have risen from 60 in 1980 to 240 last year. Meanwhile the number of geothermal events, such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, has stayed relatively static.

    “In 2007, we have seen floods in South Asia, Africa, and Mexico that have affected more than 250 million people. But this is no freak year, it follows a pattern of more frequent, more erratic, more unpredictable and more extreme weather events that are affecting more people,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “What we need now is action to prepare for more disasters or humanitarian assistance will be overwhelmed and recent advances in human development will go into reverse.”

    Though colossal crises such as the African famines of the early 1980s, the Bangladesh cyclone of 1991 and the Asian tsunami cause enormous loss of life, the new worrying trend is the increase in small to medium-sized disasters. The death toll caused by these disasters has risen from an average of 6,000 in 1980 to 14,000 in 2005.

    With regard to further climate-change disasters that are “likely” within the next 10 years: prolonged (multi-year), intense drought affecting one or more of the Earth’s most productive agricultural regions, eg. North America, leading to worldwide food shortages, could happen at any time. There are indications that drought is already becoming chronic in North American agricultural regions.

    In my view, mega-droughts are a more alarming and imminent concern than sea-level rise. As far as I can tell, even the most rapid plausible rise in sea levels would likely take decades to disastrously affect coastal areas, inundate cities, etc. Whereas a mega-drought could start any time — this year, next year — and last indefinitely. The vast grain fields of North America could be deserts in 10 years.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 28 Nov 2007 @ 11:20 AM

  158. 125
    It did not happen because Red Adair/ Bechtel Team put out the KOil fires out faster than any (off- project) scientist thought possible. It is truly amazing what can be done by a motivated team of the very brave and the very smart.

    We need to apply similar bravery, intellegence, and motivated teamwork to aspects of AGW. The current AGW situation is just as grave as the KOIL fires. The only difference is that the current phase of AGW does not provide the stunning 15-second video bite for the evening news. (And, big oil companies are not watching their profits go up in flames.)

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 28 Nov 2007 @ 12:34 PM

  159. Re climate disasters in 157, check out the Climate Hot Map for a good collection of documented climate-change effects. Unfortunately, it’s a bit dated — their last refresh was in 2002. They assured me in a recent email that they’ll be updating soon.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 28 Nov 2007 @ 12:36 PM

  160. To the editors:
    Please add http://www.ametsoc.org/atmospolicy/Presentations/Oreskes%20Presentation%20for%20Web.pdf to your list of links.

    It is Dr. Naomi Oreskes summary of the history and rational of the science of AGW. It is the talking points for each argument.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 28 Nov 2007 @ 1:57 PM

  161. J.S. McIntyre (155) — Thank you for the post and the links! :-)

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Nov 2007 @ 2:56 PM

  162. Probably the best indicator of earth warming is the 180 year trend of the glacier shortening rate. The rate is not significant different from period of slow CO2 increases and that since heavy use of fossil fuel. The 150 year trend for ocean level rise supports the above.
    A ten year look at the melting of both poles (1992-2002)showed it to be a small contribution to sea level rise (2%) of nearly 3mm a year. Some recent new guesses might up that to 10%.
    The Hadley Centre global mean temperature data shows no warming the last four years and a different study showed the ocean was cooling significantly but recently found some error and now say it is either flat or slightly cooling.
    If you look at the whole picture you will also find that the removal of sulfur from fossil fuels is probably going to warm the earth more than the CO2 and we certainly have more certaintly in these estimates from the volcano experiences. CO2 is not a pollutant, it is necessary for plant growth which is already increasing with CO2.
    Technology will give us solar power to use all over the world and it will happen well before all the dire thinks I see in the above posts. In the 1890’s they were wondering what to do with all the horse shit in New York and we had the first car in less than 20 years. We should go to nuclear power to free us from foriegn oil and reduce the terror threats that seem to be in part against us using the worlds resourses.
    Yes I believe CO2 is a green house gas, however, all things it brings are not bad.

    Comment by larry W — 28 Nov 2007 @ 3:54 PM

  163. Thermal interia guarantees another of 0.6C of warming making 1.4C in total so far. If climate sensitivity increases from 0.2C per decade to 0.3 or 0.4C due to not taken into account long CO2 feedbacks then 6C is possible. I know that the paleoclimatic data limits viable temperature rises but real world data seems to be contradicting the IPCC models to some degree.

    Comment by pete best — 28 Nov 2007 @ 5:37 PM

  164. Now that I understand the concern regarding the oceans producing H2S, I think that rather unlikely to occur in massive quantities at a mere 6 degrees (shudder). Here is a paleotemperature chart:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1b/65_Myr_Climate_Change.png

    Looking at PETM, 55 million years ago, we see that it was very hot, but does not seem to be associated with an H2S crisis as most plants and many animals survived this event. As for its cause, the linked article suggests massive vulcanism:

    http://environment.newscientist.com/channel/earth/dn11726-did-the-north-atlantics-birth-warm-the-world.html

    But going back to look again at the paleotemperature graph, 6 degrees would put the world back into the mid-Miocene and 12 degrees in the mid-Eocene. In either case many species would survive, provided the transition proceeds, geologically speaking, fairly slowly.

    Neither seems particularly promising for Homo spaiens, a large, cold adapted, mammalian species…

    Comment by David B. Benson — 28 Nov 2007 @ 6:22 PM

  165. Larry, Let me see if I can summarize your argument:

    We’re not warming and if we are it’s natural, and if we’re doing it then it will be good for us.

    That about got it? Does anything motivate you other than complacency?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 28 Nov 2007 @ 7:20 PM

  166. Re the PETM in 164, it’s worth noting that we’re dumping carbon into the atmosphere at a much higher rate than the vulcanism did — we’ll put as much carbon into the atmosphere in a few centuries as the PETM did over 10,000 years.

    It was also a pretty serious marine extinction — some sources call it the worst in 90 million years. For 50,000 years, the oceans were too acidic to support calcareous life; shells dissolved in that low-pH solution.

    McClatchy ran a good story last year:

    Global warming may be an accelerated version of ancient heat wave

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 28 Nov 2007 @ 7:25 PM

  167. Re larry w @ 162: “A ten year look at the melting of both poles (1992-2002)showed it to be a small contribution to sea level rise (2%) of nearly 3mm a year. Some recent new guesses might up that to 10%.”

    I think you may want to bring your understanding of the glacier shortening rate and the rate of sea level rise a little more up to date. You might not then be so prone to dismiss the observed and measured increases as mere ‘guesses.’

    “The Hadley Centre global mean temperature data shows no warming the last four years”

    Did you do the running mean calculations on the data yourself, or do you just believe what someone else told you they show?

    “CO2 is not a pollutant, it is necessary for plant growth which is already increasing with CO2.”

    Why thanks for sharing that with us, but I seem to recall hearing it from the Competitive Enterprise Institute a while ago. Perhaps you saw their commercial “They Call It Pollution. We Call It Life?”

    One last question, did you really think anyone here would take your stock talking points seriously?

    Comment by Jim Eager — 28 Nov 2007 @ 8:40 PM

  168. Re 157 SecularAnimist, drought is indeed a serious problem. Check out my comment#35. Using solar energy to evaporate sea water into the atmosphere won’t work everywhere, but I believe it will work where there is a consistent air current toward a mountain range that has been known to produce orographic rainfall in the past.

    Comment by Richard LaRosa — 28 Nov 2007 @ 11:39 PM

  169. Re #166: [(The PETM) was also a pretty serious marine extinction — some sources call it the worst in 90 million years. For 50,000 years, the oceans were too acidic to support calcareous life; shells dissolved in that low-pH solution.]

    Perhaps this is a bit off-topic, but I’m puzzled. If the oceans couldn’t support shelled creatures for that long a period, how is it that we find them still existing today?

    Also, if shells would actually dissolve, wouldn’t various carbonate rocks do likewise? And wouldn’t that neutralize the the low pH?

    Or have I answered my own question: areas of exposed carbonate rocks created refugia where shelled creatures managed to survive?

    Comment by James — 29 Nov 2007 @ 12:26 AM

  170. James, I think that’s a good question (I’m an amateur, not a scientist, just reading along). Looking it up, a couple of papers seem to help answer that:

    http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2005AM/finalprogram/abstract_92425.htm

    Note the difference in the species present at that time compared to those that currently make shells. You can look up how long ago the current shell-forming species evolved. Like the ability to make eyes, or wings, the ability to make shells shows up repeatedly over time in different organisms. The great extinction events lost a lot of species, and new ones evolved.

    Science 15 December 2006:
    Vol. 314. no. 5806, pp. 1770 – 1773
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1133902
    Nannoplankton Extinction and Origination Across the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum
    —abstract——–
    The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, ~55 million years ago) was an interval of global warming and ocean acidification attributed to rapid release and oxidation of buried carbon. We show that the onset of the PETM coincided with a prominent increase in the origination and extinction of calcareous phytoplankton. Yet major perturbation of the surface-water saturation state across the PETM was not detrimental to the survival of most calcareous nannoplankton taxa and did not impart a calcification or ecological bias to the pattern of evolutionary turnover. Instead, the rate of environmental change appears to have driven turnover, preferentially affecting rare taxa living close to their viable limits.
    ———-end abstract——–
    and

    The Late Palaeocene Early Eocene and Toarcian (Early Jurassic) carbon isotope excursions: a comparison of their time scales, associated environmental changes, causes and consequences.
    A. S. Cohen, A. L. Coe, and D. B. Kemp (2007)
    Journal of the Geological Society 164, 1093-1108
    ——-abstract—–
    Although the Earth’s environment is constantly changing, there have been a few unusual episodes over the last c. 200 Ma when change was extreme in terms of its rapidity, severity, long-lasting consequences and unpredictability. The geochemical and biotic records for two of these episodes, the Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum and the Toarcian Oceanic Anoxic Event (Early Jurassic), possess many significant similarities. Each event was associated with a major carbon isotope excursion, significant levels of biotic extinctions, severe global warming, an enhanced hydrological cycle, and evidence for widespread seawater anoxia. Both carbon isotope excursions can be subdivided into distinct stages with broadly similar characteristics and durations; based on a detailed comparison, the Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum may have been an incipient Oceanic Anoxic Event. The geochemical and biotic changes during these two events are most readily explained by the abrupt, large-scale dissociation of methane hydrate that followed a period of more gradual environmental change linked to the emplacement of a large igneous province. Carbon release rates at those times were of the same order of magnitude as the current anthropogenic release rate of carbon to the atmosphere, indicating that ancient events such as these may usefully serve as analogues for present-day environmental change.
    —— end abstract——

    This gives a perspective on why people worry that the current rate of change, going to the same extremes but far faster than any of the previous events, is going to be troublesome.

    When you hear people saying there’s no way to compare what’s happening now with what’s happened in the past, well, just think about how fast we’re changing the world now compared to the natural major events. If hitting a wall at one mile per hour hurts, how will hitting a wall at one hundred miles an hour feel? We’ll see.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Nov 2007 @ 2:04 AM

  171. 162. “CO2 is not a pollutant, it is necessary for plant growth which is already increasing with CO2″

    You have forgotten about stomata closure with increasing CO2. AGW may jeopardise operational integrity of many of the carbon-capture machines (plants, trees, …) that are currently installed across the planet’s surface. Have a read of “The private life of trees. How they live and why they matter” by Colin Tudge.

    Comment by Michael — 29 Nov 2007 @ 2:15 AM

  172. In a recent Nov 2007 report written by carbonequity they look at the fact that the IPCC may have played it too conservative. James Hansen (quoted widely in the report) and other learned climate scientists are quoted and pronouncements made in conjunction with current thinking on the subject and real world data (rate of Arctic Seal Ice shrinkage for example).

    Hansen says that because Ice Dynamics of ice sheets are little understood real world data is rushing ahead of the models and quotes of what was predicted 5 years ago are already incorrect and out of date. The graph shown states that IPCC projections for Arctic Sea ice are cureently far behind the real world data and presently 2020 to 2040 gives us a summer ice free arctic and WAIS is vulnerable to warming oceans as it is tied to the bedrock below sea level. Arctic ice thinkness and surface area and volume have dropped dramatically in the summer and winter ice is not as extensive either when the spring comes around.

    One climate scientists quoted states that we are seeing in some instances arctic ice levels in the real world not predicted to happen for 100 years.

    In Six Degrees, Lynas states in a table in the end chapter “Choosing Our Future” on page 274 that 1.1 to 2.0C is all set for 400 to 450 ppm with a chance of 3C at 450 ppm. Is he right here? Is climate sensitivity so low ?

    real climate states 550 ppm for greatest probability of 3C, Lynas states that 550 ppm is 3 to 4C probability and see it as the threshold for siberian methane feedback whilst the threshold for carbon cycle feedback happens at between 400 to 450 ppm.

    What seems to be happenning is that people are talking up the chances of 3C at 450 ppm as opposed to 550 ppm with 400 ppm giving us 2C. Is this right ?

    [Response: The best answer to your question is simply that the climate sensitivity is a probabilty distribution. We don’t really know its shape (though there is a case made that we do, in the paper discussed here but are quite sure that the bulk of it is in the 2-6 degree range for doubling — that is, for 560 ppm. See here and here for quite a bit of discussion on this. -eric]

    Comment by pete best — 29 Nov 2007 @ 7:34 AM

  173. Hank Re: #95

    The warmest year prediction was issued by Hadley themselves see http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/corporate/pressoffice/2007/pr20070104.html

    They clearly hadn’t noticed that the El Nino that was active at the time was fading and that the development of a La Nina was a strong possibility. Still – you can’t expect the climate experts to get everything right.

    [Response: I have now turned off Comments, since the discussion is rather far from the post. No offense intended to any of the commentors. I always welcome your input and I am glad that this post sparked some interesting discussion.–eric]

    Comment by John Finn — 29 Nov 2007 @ 9:48 AM

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