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  1. This may be a bit of a tangent, but a cursory look at the Chavez reference shows a strong political bias in the report. The sentence before says “Severe climate change will likely be the deathblow for democratic government throughout Latin America”. Whatever you think of Chavez (and I’m no fan), he is indisputably, except by the mainstream U.S. press (which has bizarrely called him a dictator in the same sentence they said he lost an election to extend his term), a democratically elected head of state. Beyond the bias against Chavez himself, this strikes me as a paternalistic (at best) or racist attitude toward Latin Americans. I can’t say it gives me a lot of confidence in the rest of the report.

    Comment by S. Molnar — 28 Dec 2007 @ 10:29 PM

  2. Generally I treat such learned speculations as entertainment and science fiction; probably because the first one I ever read, “Report From Iron Mountain,” in the 60s was a fraud parading as a government exorcise, but without the drama of War Of The Worlds. There has always been climate change, Athens, Rome, and London had their time in the sun, and so will Washington too. I suspect more people have died over religion and secular political ideologies than real climate change, but if the climate experts work hard enough at it I’m sure they’ll manage to adjust the mortality rates and their causes–by the law of unintended consequences or the paralysis of analysis– to more than compensate for the dismal historical record; doubtless in the effort to save the planet from the scourge of Malthus. And Malthus was wrong too.

    Comment by Don — 28 Dec 2007 @ 10:40 PM

  3. Thanks, I just downloaded the report. I’m an environmental policy person at the local government level and am going to pass it on to my boss.

    Comment by Elizabeth — 28 Dec 2007 @ 10:55 PM

  4. Thanks for scaring the shit out of me!!!

    Comment by Tim Bitts — 28 Dec 2007 @ 11:15 PM

  5. as far as SciFi Movies perhaps representative of future conditions go, I Highly recommend watching Soylent Green & Children of Men. They are both prophetic and right on track. They Should frighten you.

    [Response: I often tell folks that if they want a glimpse of a possible worst-case 2100ish century world, 'Soylent Green' may be their best bet. While the movie was indeed prophetic in recognizing anthropogenic global warming as a real potential future threat in the early 70s (responsible for the perpetual heat wave that afflicts Earth's inhabitants), it appears that overpopulation was envisioned as the primary aggravating factor. Nonetheless, with rising sea level and environmental refugeeism compounding the increased demand on water, food, and land of a growing population (albeit one likely to level out mid 21st century), the combined impacts of climate change and global population increase could potentially yield a world that doesn't look that different from the one portrayed in the movie--indeed, as Jim Hansen puts it, "a different planet"--by century's end. There are a number of other 1970s distopian sci fi movies that were ahead of their time in how they looked at issues of sustainability. The one I find most disturbing of all is "Silent Running". -mike]

    Comment by David R Hickey — 29 Dec 2007 @ 12:06 AM

  6. In addition to reducing GHG emissions, how about targeted programs like
    1. Solar absorber rafts to evaporate sea water to enhance orographic rainfall
    in places like SE Australia.
    2. Pump up 1000-m deep water for surface cooling and nutrient supply in the
    tropics. Pumps powered by solar-heated surface water.
    3. Turbines in the passages between the Antilles Islands to divert Equatorial
    Current water around the Caribbean Sea to lower Gulf of Mexico sea level.

    Comment by Richard LaRosa — 29 Dec 2007 @ 12:16 AM

  7. In speaking to people about climate change and its implications for national/international security, I’ve started to use a line from the Executive Summary of this report. “A careful examination of the potential consequences associated with global climate change is profoundly disquieting.” When the former director of the CIA is the co-author of such a statement, it seems to really strike people in a way that the warnings of scientists do not.

    Comment by Andy Gunther — 29 Dec 2007 @ 1:02 AM

  8. Well, from this, I see that our “polar cities” model is getting closer and closer not only to reality but also to acceptance. It’s still a long way off, what I call “Arctopia,” when breeding pairs int he arctic, a la Lovelock’s phrase, are housed in sustainable polar retreats, circa 2500,
    but this report puts some teeth into these worst case scenario scenarios. If
    you want to see what one such model polar city might look like, check out our images here:
    http://pcillu101.blogspot.com

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 29 Dec 2007 @ 1:43 AM

  9. I haven’t read the report yet, but the big one I worry about, that doesn’t seem the get mentioned much, is what are we going to do about all the nuclear power plants at sea level – as the sea levels start to rise when the ice sheets start to collapse in the near future and what the cost of this will be to try to move/remove radioactive material to safer areas.

    Comment by paul m — 29 Dec 2007 @ 2:30 AM

  10. One question to David. This report was released Nov. 7, Reuters reported on it then, too, why is it being dicussed here now, as if it was “just released”. Quote from above: “A *new* report called The Age of Consequences, *just released* by the Center …”

    In fact, the report is two months old already, no? Well, almost.

    [Response: I first became aware of it a few weeks ago from a comment that Hank wrote, but then the AGU meeting took priority of this site and of my time. It took me a while to get through the fairly dense 125-page report, and writing a useful summary of it took some psyching myself up, since I'm not a historian or a social scientist. At AGU, I wrote a summary of an interesting AGU talk within a half hour of the completion of the talk, don't I get any credit for that? Jeez, this is a tough crowd. David]

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 29 Dec 2007 @ 2:39 AM

  11. I am impressed by the table of events and related potential deaths. It is one thing to try to interpret history after the fact and a whole other to live through it. With anthropogenic global warming I think we are living in a time that will determine the fate of our descendents and we should take this responsibility very seriously. Right now I am in Ankara, Turkey for the holidays and we suffered two earthquakes in the course of a single week. One 5.7 the other 5.5 on the Richter. No death toll but plenty of structural damage. It was pretty darn scary all the same. And it does not even come close to how scary the drought here was this past summer. At least in an earthquake some people can save themselves by stepping out into open areas. How do you survive drought with no food and water for days if not weeks and months on end? Of course climate change killed and kills more people than earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, it just does it over longer time periods, not seconds like earthquakes.

    Comment by Figen — 29 Dec 2007 @ 3:29 AM

  12. A report on the security implications of climate change has recently been published (and presented in Bali) by the German government’s Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) and can be downloaded here: http://www.wbgu.de/wbgu_jg2007_engl.html
    (This is pro domo: I’m one of the authors.) -stefan

    Comment by stefan — 29 Dec 2007 @ 3:51 AM

  13. Who is taking human overpopulation seriously?
    Approximately 2 billion at the end of WW2.
    6+ billion now.
    9ish billion by 2050.
    All contributing greenhouse gases, as well as requiring water, food and land.
    Education, Contraception, Sterilisation and Abortion; free, on request, no restrictions.
    or
    Chaos, Death by Famine, Pestilence and War.

    Comment by Francois Hugo — 29 Dec 2007 @ 4:05 AM

  14. These scenarios are extremely unlikely due to the overestimation of global fossil reserves which the IPCC have taken their data from. The 1600 to 2000 BToe figures used by the IPCC in 2001 and which have not been updated for their scenarios are very very unlikely to be real, 400 Btoe is the more likely amount the IPCC has to work with.

    http://www.inspiringgreenleadership.com/blog/aangel/peak-oil-and-climate-change-q

    Recent work carried out in 2007 by Caltech Professor Rutledge and other demonstrates this seemingly.

    SO peaking fossil fuels become a world disaster before AGW will effect us in the first world anyway. It looks like climate change will be limited to some 460 ppmv at most.

    Coal, gas and oil reserves used by the USGS, IEA and others are wildely optimistic and simply incorrect it would seem.

    Comment by pete best — 29 Dec 2007 @ 6:02 AM

  15. Thanks for admitting the near impossibility of social predictions, but I have a hard time swallowing the supposed predictability of biological systems already. The IPCC report predicts biological mayhem like 40-70% of species extinct, the Amazon dying and other shenanigans by 3.5 degrees already so that I would be surprised if after either the biological feedback (CO2 from decomposing biomass etc.) and/or the effect on the human food chain any significant civilizations remain at 3.5 degrees. The biological sensitivity of the Earth was what shocked me when I started to educate myself on climate change (Tim Flannery) where as previously I thought 2 degrees more meant raising the dykes a bit. So, why bother discussing society if there won’t be any society any more?

    Comment by martin — 29 Dec 2007 @ 6:20 AM

  16. Don engages in a bit of hyperbole: ” I suspect more people have died over religion and secular political ideologies than real climate change, but if the climate experts work hard enough at it I’m sure they’ll manage to adjust the mortality rates and their causes–by the law of unintended consequences or the paralysis of analysis– to more than compensate for the dismal historical record; doubtless in the effort to save the planet from the scourge of Malthus. And Malthus was wrong too.”

    Actually, Don, I suspect Malthus was not wrong, but merely prescient. The reason I suspect this is because both Malthus and I understand population dynamics and the exponential function. Yes, population in Malthus time avoided his predicted collapse–mainly due to the introduction of new crops, especially potatos. And the population increased again–just as expected by population dynamics when the population finds a new food source. And we have avoided it in our current rise to >6 billion people due to the “green revolution”. And perhaps genetic engineering will sustain us to 9 billion. It cannot, however continue indefinitely, as if we extrapolate, at some point the mass of humanity exceeds the mass of the planet that supports us. Long before that time, our technical and economic fixes will have broken down or we will have learned to live within the means of our environment.
    I don’t have a lot of faith that we’ll adopt the latter path. Already, the strain of producing so much food is starting to tell on our agricultural areas. The new crops are more water intensive. They require continual applications of chemical fertilizer, herbicides for weeds, and pesticides to control insects. They make farming more energy and capital intensive. If you are looking for a cure for your complacency, I would urge you to look at some modern farming techniques and imagine how resilient they will be as we confront peak oil, increased drought and expansion of invasive weeds and pests.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Dec 2007 @ 7:57 AM

  17. And with Dr. James Hansen pointing to 350 ppm as the most realisitic goal in the carbon dioxide sweeps to aim for, despite our having reached 382, one asks one’s self, as one 6.8 billionth, can I turn on a dime and walk/work in an absolutely contrary direction? Pick up the hand saw instead of the chain saw? Wait for the dawn to correct a mountain of finals? Mmmmh,–whaddayou say?

    Comment by Juola (Joe) A. Haga — 29 Dec 2007 @ 8:18 AM

  18. The “catastrophic” scenario assumes positive feedbacks … well we all here would agree on that anyway ? So, “catastrophic” it is going to be. Just factor in that we are running out of “cheap” energy (peak oil anyone?) and that the financial system is going into tailspin fast. Did I here worldwide famine ?

    Good luck to all of us and happy new year!

    the Mare Initiative team

    Comment by Mare Initiative — 29 Dec 2007 @ 8:48 AM

  19. Anytime people hear “in 100 years” they just tune out. In my own novel I had to ramp up the immediate danger, which seems to be happening faster just like the Greenland melt. Third world countries including latin America will certainly bear the brunt of instability as they do now. It’s not a matter of political bias, only of reality and behavior to date. Doesn’t look pretty from here.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 29 Dec 2007 @ 9:00 AM

  20. Re #12 Francis Hugo,
    Watch this lecture by Dr Albert Bartlett:
    Arithmetic, Population and Energy
    http://globalpublicmedia.com/lectures/461
    BTW this guy is pretty good with his argument for risk assessment:The most terrifying video you will ever see
    http://www.mareinitiative.com/home6

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 29 Dec 2007 @ 9:23 AM

  21. Coincidence, I just posted a link from the Mare Initiative. Great site!

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 29 Dec 2007 @ 9:27 AM

  22. I like Science Fiction, so I’ll bet two cents that 50% of the West Antarctic ice shelf crumbles into the ocean (much of the ice sheet currently sits on land below sea level) and then floats off and melts in the next 10 years, raising ocean levels 9 feet. A western section of the Greenland ice sheet which similarly sits on land below sea level shall also crumble and float off, adding another 1 foot. Finally, in 10 years super-hurricanes will have added 5 feet to the Corps of Engineers official 500 year disaster ocean flooding levels.

    15 feet in 10 years. How’s that for catastrophic?

    Comment by Paul K — 29 Dec 2007 @ 10:13 AM

  23. Thanks, David. This addresses a lot of my concerns. It seems to be a good attempt at a holistic picture (I need to read it). I might use it as reading for the “Environmental Crime & Justice” course I’m developing for next summer.

    Okay, let’s let this be sci-fi, esp the catastrophe scenario. Let’s vigorously reduce our GHGs down to bare bones.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 29 Dec 2007 @ 10:27 AM

  24. > “Silent Running”
    Me too. Mike.

    I’m still rereading the report slowly and looking up references.

    One bit that struck me is the 1342 German flood and associated massive topsoil loss (third cite in n52); I don’t have the article nor read German unfortunately. If that’s worst case before warming, imagine an increase in strong precipitation like that found at the PETM.

    I hope people will refer to the document– and read it, please.

    Perhaps our hosts could open a Friday Catchall to catch the driveby posters, to help this one keep focus? It’s a dense document.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2007 @ 10:53 AM

  25. “2007 a year of record temperatures in the U.S.”

    http://tinyurl.com/2mla33

    Here’s one I doubt anybody will hear from their TV weatherpersons. I read the story of the NOAA agency directing meteorologists to not include any reference to global warming in their weather reports. That sure applies in Toledo, Ohio. Thus the mainstream opinion around here that global warming is a hoax, and if there is warming, human activity is not likely to be the cause. Very discouraging.

    Comment by Jack Roesler — 29 Dec 2007 @ 11:00 AM

  26. Thanks David and Hank,

    This is a good exercise in conditioning our understanding. The actual
    way it plays out will include a great deal of stressors. In a
    reasonable consideration of how it will play out all we need to do is
    look at current food commodity prices.

    I just spoke with someone from Indonesia. He said that their rainy
    season is now 3 months shorter on average and they are having trouble
    growing crops. So now they are importing more and real inflation is
    9% according to him.

    In a report I read in Switzerland, the price of wheat jumped 80%. The
    strain on the society will be dynamic. We are operating on an oil
    based consumer model in most of the industrial nations. Lots of
    plastic widgets. When the food gets more expensive along with the gas
    the current market structure will be put under a great deal of
    stress. Markets will shift to durable goods that meet immediate needs
    and of course food.

    There are a lot of people on the planet, so when you add human
    migration to economic stress your get societal stress. The challenges
    should not be underestimated. Unfortunately most governments are
    still underestimating them. Less preparation, will increase future
    stressors as well. There is a lot that can be done. We just don’t
    have the political will yet.

    Society has had to deal with change in the past but I don’t think
    anything of this scale has ever been even contemplated. We added over
    5 billion people in the past 100 years or so to the planet. That was
    all based on cheap oil and industrial processes. We will have to be
    very innovative to keep things from unraveling too much? But we don’t
    know what too much really is. In my mind, we have already done too
    much wrong which is why this discussion is occurring.

    I have said this before, just because the alarm bells are ringing
    does not mean we should panic. We need to continue to deliver the
    message and hope that people begin to wake up to what is coming so we
    can prepare and start adjusting. The further ahead of the many curves
    that are coming our way, the smoother or less tumultuous will be the
    transitions.

    I started the Centrist Party specifically for this reason. We will
    need governance that is not tied to special interests if we are to
    begin to get a reasonable handle on this with out undue influence
    from the very same processes that got us here in the first place.

    I think people, at least in the science world that are familiar with
    the relevant data and have common sense, can see the potentials. I
    like many others continue to hope that the rest of the world wakes up sooner rather than later.

    Comment by John P. Reisman — 29 Dec 2007 @ 11:20 AM

  27. This report loses a lot of credibility by showing misleading figures like figure 1. Didn’t RC recently ridicule a paper by Courtillot for truncating and manipulating data to show the desired effect?

    [Response: I don't actually find figure 1 in my copy. There's a page that won't display but gives an error, page 40, maybe it's there. David]

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 29 Dec 2007 @ 11:25 AM

  28. Re Pete Best @ 13: “SO peaking fossil fuels become a world disaster before AGW will effect us in the first world anyway. It looks like climate change will be limited to some 460 ppmv at most.”

    Pete, did you miss this part in the text of your link?:

    “And remember: it is not true that peak oil means that the worst of climate change won’t occur. Recall that even if we keep atmospheric emissions below 450ppm, we still have only lowered the chance of catastrophic climate change to below 50% — not eliminated it (Source: IPCC Fourth Assessment). All the other problems (drought, rising water levels, lower food production, etc.) will continue to worsen as we climb toward 450ppm.”

    Comment by Jim Eager — 29 Dec 2007 @ 11:50 AM

  29. Re Soylent Green in 5,

    “The oceans: they’re dying!” — Charlton Heston, reacting to the Soylent Corporation’s Oceanographic Survey of 2012.

    Probably the most prescient prediction in the film.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 29 Dec 2007 @ 12:43 PM

  30. Re #5 response: [While the movie was indeed prophetic in recognizing anthropogenic global warming as a real potential future threat in the early 70s (responsible for the perpetual heat wave that afflicts Earth’s inhabitants), it appears that overpopulation was envisioned as the primary aggravating factor.]

    Honestly, though, isn’t overpopulation really at the root of AGW? (Even if it’s not often mentioned, for fear of stirring up even more opposition.) If the world population was 600 million instead of 6 billion, there’d be less anthropogenic CO2, even if all 600 million lived at a western standard of living. More importantly, there’d be much less stress on ecosystems which could buffer the changes – no need to convert rain forests to croplands, plow up prairies, or overgraze marginal grasslands. It’d likewise be far easier for 600 million to switch to non-fossil fuel energy, such as biofuels.

    Comment by James — 29 Dec 2007 @ 1:04 PM

  31. about (13), I’m not sure what peak-oil will do to Anthropogenic Greenhouse emmisions. One desperate response could be bigtime consumption of coal and peat.
    Lower thermodynamic (and carbon) efficient technologies like CoalToLiquids might be pursued. There is really going to be a struggle between the desire for short term oil substitutes, and climate sustainable energy systems. It is not yet clear how this conflict will be resolved.

    Comment by Thomas — 29 Dec 2007 @ 1:22 PM

  32. Re Peak Oil and greenhouse emissions in 30, here’s some interesting research:

    Global warming exaggerated, insufficient oil, natural gas and coal
    by Kjell Aleklett

    Climate change and global warming has become part of our everyday life, and central to this debate is the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2). The fossil fuels that we use contain carbon and hydrocarbons, and in the combustion of these fuels, carbon dioxide is released along with energy.

    In the present climate debate, however, the amount of available fossil fuels does not appear to be an issue. The problem, as usually perceived, is that we will use excessive amounts in the years ahead. It is not even on the map that the amount of fossil fuels required in order to bring about the feared climate changes may in fact not be available.

    The presupposition for any temperature increase is that we consume great quantities of oil, natural gas and coal. The fact that IPCC exhorts our politicians to curtail the use of fossil fuels gives the impression that the fossil resources are enormous, but there are reasons to doubt this.

    At Uppsala University we study global energy resources, and have recently put forward a detailed analysis of future oil production. By disaggregating the production into 6 well-defined sections, we are now able to present a time frame for the global maximum production capacity, “Peak Oil”. It will occur between 2008 and 2018. If the world’s giant fields, which produce 60% of the oil, behave like Cantarell in Mexico, we have the “worst case” of a peak in 2008. But if instead the most optimistic prognosis for Cantarell is applicable, and global demand increase is simultaneously dampened, then we have the “best case” of maximum production in 2018.

    We can now calculate how much energy/CO2 that can be produced during this century by using oil, and compare it to the amount required by the IPCC-families. To our surprise, the families A1, A2, B1 and B2 require more oil than what is realistically possible.

    [Response: For climate purposes, the problem is coal (and maybe methane hydrates) - there is more than enough fossil fuel reserves for the IPCC scenarios. - gavin]

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 29 Dec 2007 @ 1:48 PM

  33. Actually, Ray, Malthus was wrong. True, I’m complacent, but I’m certainly not the only one dealing in hyperbole, either for or against the proposition that we are all doomed, doomed, and even more doomed! Energy costs have always been rising, and modern science and technology takes increasing energy, whatever its form. Probably because of a catastrophe, 80 thousand years ago there was apparently a human genetic bottleneck, but we are still here 6 billion humans later. If we do experience a population crash on the proportional levels of 80 thousand years ago, it will probably be because of cheap genetic engineering in a middle east weapons laboratory rather than an ice melting at the north pole.

    Comment by Don — 29 Dec 2007 @ 1:50 PM

  34. Gavin, thanks for the comment in 31.

    I should have posted this para as well:

    The third fossil source of CO2 emissions is coal. According to a widely held view, the amount of available coal is virtually endless. However, when we do detailed studies of production profiles in the six countries harboring 85% of the world’s coal reserves, we discover clear signs of peaking coal production in certain regions. Moreover, we notice a decline in production of the highest quality coal, that is, the coal with the highest energy content per volume. In the US, the world’s second largest coal user, the volume of mined coal is increasing while the total energy content is decreasing. Has US already reached “Peak Coal” in terms of energy.

    I remain skeptical that Peak Carbon will save us from AGW, but I kind of hope it will.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 29 Dec 2007 @ 2:08 PM

  35. Don, I would recommend to you the presentation referred to by Fernando above in #20:
    http://globalpublicmedia.com/lectures/461

    I first saw this presentation given by Albert A. Bartlett (or A^2B to some) of U of Colorado as a teenager. He was still giving it when I graduated with my PhD in physics from Colorado 20 years ago. Bartlett’s argument parallels that of Malthus. Populations increase geometrically (or exponentially) while the means to feed the population cannot be unlimited. So, while Malthus was incorrect in the details of his prediction (that is, when the collapse will occur), he was correct in the gist of his argument–that human population is not exempt from the laws of population dynamics. All we have done is buy time, and we have done so at the expense of serious degradation to the global environment. Other organisms have done as well. The result is ultimately a degraded carrying capacity of the environment.

    Your reference to bioterrorism reflects that you are as ignorant of the essentials of WMD as you are of basic mathematics. Biological entities make lousy agents of terror for the simple reason that the terrorists and everyone they care about are susceptible to the same diseases. The CIA and South African Intelligence services spent years trying to find bugs that preferentially attacked a given race or ethnicity. They failed. Rather than showing us how to do so, the advances in genetic understanding have shown us why it cannot be done.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Dec 2007 @ 2:15 PM

  36. Re #31, Sorry Gavin but that is not necessarily correct. IPCC require 1600 to 200 Btoe for 550 ppmv, recent research suggests only 400 Gtoe exists. In other words IPCC projections of FF resources are potentially exaggerated.

    Peak oil sites have commented on this at length and there is work out there to back them up. Only time will tell I guess but it is not a given I am afraid.

    Comment by pete best — 29 Dec 2007 @ 3:24 PM

  37. Re #27, You have to understand just what oil does for us, it makes stuff, roads, goods etc and transports us. Get ready for as much famine and pestilience without it (or it being too expensive) before AGW becomes a issue for the first world.

    Serious climate isues for the first world requires 2C (or so Governments are suggesting in their BALI talks) and thats not until another 50 years has past. Peak fossil fuels are between around 2010 to 2020 for oil and 2040 for gas and coal (if recent work is correct).

    Comment by pete best — 29 Dec 2007 @ 3:28 PM

  38. 2007 a year of weather records in U.S.
    By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer Sat Dec 29, 12:15 PM ET

    WASHINGTON – When the calendar turned to 2007, the heat went on and the weather just got weirder. January was the warmest first month on record worldwide — 1.53 degrees above normal. It was the first time since record-keeping began in 1880 that the globe’s average temperature has been so far above the norm for any month of the year.

    And as 2007 drew to a close, it was also shaping up to be the hottest year on record in the Northern Hemisphere.

    U.S. weather stations broke or tied 263 all-time high temperature records, according to an Associated Press analysis of U.S. weather data. England had the warmest April in 348 years of record-keeping there, shattering the record set in 1865 by more than 1.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

    It wasn’t just the temperature. There were other oddball weather events. A tornado struck New York City in August, inspiring the tabloid headline: “This ain’t Kansas!”

    In the Middle East, an equally rare cyclone spun up in June, hitting Oman and Iran. Major U.S. lakes shrank; Atlanta had to worry about its drinking water supply. South Africa got its first significant snowfall in 25 years. And on Reunion Island, 400 miles east of Africa, nearly 155 inches of rain fell in three days — a world record for the most rain in 72 hours.

    Individual weather extremes can’t be attributed to global warming, scientists always say. However, “it’s the run of them and the different locations” that have the mark of man-made climate change, said top European climate expert Phil Jones, director of the climate research unit at the University of East Anglia in England.

    Worst of all — at least according to climate scientists — the Arctic, which serves as the world’s refrigerator, dramatically warmed in 2007, shattering records for the amount of melting ice.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 29 Dec 2007 @ 3:32 PM

  39. Pete, There are still mountains of coal in the west and in Appalachia, and if it comes down to a choice between using that coal, people will find a way to use that coal to fill the gaps petroleum leaves behind. There are even schemes to make artificial petroleum. And once the coal is gone we have forests–nominally “renewable”, but still sequestering a lot of carbon. How long do you think those will last if they are the only fuel around. I do not dispute that quality of life will suffer. I merely dispute that carbon emissions will decrease enough to avoid something in the “severe” range in the next century. Also do not forget that at some point natural sources of carbon may overtake anthropogenic emissions, and then the point is moot. I would simply say that your expectations of famine, pestilence and war are more optimistic than mine ;-).

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Dec 2007 @ 4:31 PM

  40. I live in a liberal Northeast state and work in a professional environment with people from all walks of life and I have to say the subject of global warming and the predictions of ensuing calamaties are not taken seriously at all by anyone that I know. A warm January is followed by a bitterly cold March and April and global warming becomes a running joke around the office. I think affecting political and social change is impossible because it has to start at the grass roots level. People will not tolerate higher prices for bread because farmers are growing corn for ethanol instead of wheat. People who are living paycheck to paycheck are more concerned about warming the home than warming the planet. Outside of this blog there exists a very different reality, one that will not change very easily.

    Comment by Phil McCracken — 29 Dec 2007 @ 4:33 PM

  41. You just inspired me to take a look at the report and write about it in my blog. In a nutshell, my take away is the need for a systems approach to the climate change solution. For more: http://lamarguerite.wordpress.com/2007/12/29/facing-the-10-highly-consequential-implications-of-climate-change/

    Not all is lost, but we better make sure we elect the right leader for America . . .

    Comment by marguerite manteau-rao — 29 Dec 2007 @ 4:40 PM

  42. Hi, I am not a meteorologist, but as a pilot I have some interest in the weather, and as a resident of the planet I have concerns about global warming, but I wonder if you can point me in the direction of data, rather than forecasts and predictions. I have used search engines to try and find out about the actual measurements of temperature and other factors (eg: frequency and intensity of thunderstorms), but am having trouble finding much information which has actual factual data in it. There are lots of models and predictions based on various assumptions, and I am certainly not a climate change sceptic; I do think it is occurring, however I am interested to find some actual data to back up this belief, and can’t find much. The CO2 level rise is documented and oft quoted, but why is there such a lack of information about temperature?

    The media (including the internet) seems to love to focus on doom and gloom scenarios, which often become so sensationalised that people become detuned to their predictions. If there was a bit more factual information to support what is being said, ie: “here are some measurements of temperature, which prove conclusively that global warming is occurring”, then it would be helpful. Does such data exist, and if so how do I find it?

    Tex

    [Response: The global average temperature over the past century or so it shown in the IPCC, for example the summary for policymakers figures 3 and 4. Google IPCC and take the second link, and you can download the report. David]

    Comment by Tex — 29 Dec 2007 @ 4:43 PM

  43. True, Ray, I’m a mathematical illiterate. However, as you concede, so far Malthus has been wrong. And while I’m ignorant about WMD I leave you with the following from Janes:

    In 2001 an Australian academic research team published results of its accidental creation of a micro-organism with potentially lethal applications – a modified mousepox virus that does not infect humans but is closely related to the smallpox virus. In 2003 a US government-funded team deliberately created an extremely deadly form of mousepox – to explore how terrorists or malcontented scientists could achieve the same results. The team engineered a mousepox strain that killed all vaccinated mice even when they were also treated with the antiviral drug cidofovir. It turned out to be more deadly than the modified Australian mousepox. It is possible that others with sufficient expertise and resources might try to use the same techniques to modify a pox virus that infects humans.

    While complacent and stoic, I’m basically an optimist, but in my experience caca happens. I see no reason to assume, as you apparently do, that all people at all times will be rational and forgo a biological dooms day scenario. One can’t predict future scientific developments anymore than next years best selling science fiction. However, thank you for the suggestion.

    Comment by Don — 29 Dec 2007 @ 6:13 PM

  44. Tex, look at the top of the page, click “Start Here”
    Look at the right side of the page for the first under the heading
    Science Links: * AIP:Discovery

    Those commenting here — care to say if you’ve read the report described in the original post? I’m most astonished at how this is being ignored. It’s just amazed me — no news, nobody commenting on it for over a month after it came out. I just found it by accident while searching for other things.

    Please take time to read it while you discuss it. It helps.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2007 @ 7:13 PM

  45. On a more positive note, researchers in Germany are demonstrating that they will be able to supply the German electric grid with all the power it needs using an integrated system of solar, wind and biogas-powered electricity. Watch the video at Germany is doing it: reliable distributed power based on 100% renewables.

    The fact is that we already have the technological capacity to do away with all fossil fuels on a global basis, as that video shows. Techie improvements can make the power sources more productive, reliable, and efficient, but the basic energy mix – solar, wind, and biofuels – will remain unchanged.

    What’s preventing this from being the global model for energy is entrenched economic interests and their political allies. Some reasonable policy changes for the U.S. would include a complete ban on fossil fuel energy imports – no petroleum from Canada or Mexico or Venezuela or Saudi Arabia or Iraq, no liquified natural gas from Burma or Mexico. A complete phasing out of coal fired power plants over the next ten to twenty years would also be a good idea.

    That would leave a big energy gap, but as Germany is currently demonstrating, that gap can be filled with solar, wind and biofuel power. It will take some very focused efforts to do so, however – and the entrenched fossil fuel interests will do all they can to stop it from happening. In other words, the obstacles are all touchy, not techie.

    Still, it seems that even if we do this there is an unavoidable amount of warming in the pipeline already – as evidenced by the vanishing glaciers and Arctic ice. In the long run, in the ideal scenario, we might be doing a lot of carbon burial (on land, using charcoal or the equivalent).

    By the way, for even more evidence that iron-based ocean fertilization is a terrible idea as a carbon burial mechanism, see Nitrous Oxide from ocean microbes.

    Turning the ocean into an anoxic swamp will only exacerbate global warming, threaten fisheries, and on and on.

    Also note that carbon offsets do nothing to slow global warming. Building a huge solar power plant and then saying that “offsets” CO2 emissions from a coal-fired plant is nonsense – the only way to offset CO2 emissions is to bury an equivalent amount of carbon in the ground, permanently.

    The point is, there is a solution, it just needs to be implemented.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 29 Dec 2007 @ 7:30 PM

  46. Tex, Check out the Global Warming Art website. It has lots of data plots, and links to the raw data files, or at least the organizations that maintain them, in many cases.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 29 Dec 2007 @ 8:04 PM

  47. Tex, I don’t know how technical you are, but there’s an empire of data at the NASA GISS site: http://data.giss.nasa.gov/ and links therein. You can draw yourself plots galore of real data, examine individual meteorological site data from the entire historical record, and integrate with some climate models. Hansen’s group has done a fantastic job, although the user interface is a little difficult to use. If I get the time, I’d like to make a pretty front-end that serves the data from their site.

    Comment by Steffen Christensen — 29 Dec 2007 @ 8:43 PM

  48. RE #26 & “We will need governance that is not tied to special interests”

    I got in a discussion once with someone who accused the environmental concerns being special interests. I told him, no they are general interests. And environmentalists have to stick to that line. The environment (resources, water, air, habitable climate, food, etc) are fundamental, the economy is contingent.

    The adage, “What is good for GE is good for the country,” is true only if they provide real goods that help us avert the worst of global warming. Perhaps electric cars….

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 29 Dec 2007 @ 9:51 PM

  49. Re #44: Don, I do strongly recommend the A^2B video. Al’s been doing this thing since the ’70s, so he has a great presentation. People are always telling us how this time the laws of physics won’t apply (e.g. perpetual motion, cold fusion…) or the laws of population dynamics won’t apply to humanity (the Malthus was wrong argument) or that the laws of economics won’t apply (the dot.com bubble, the housing bubble…). They always have convincing arguments why this time is different. I’ve never known them to be right. Malthus was wrong on timing. There was no way for him to foresee the green revolution or even the introduction of the potato. His reasoning, however, is dead right. Organisms either limit their population (by mating protocols, suicide, etc.) or they expand until they outrun their food chain and die back. There is no reason to think that humans are any different, and we certainly haven’t limited population. Even if we have another 150 years, Malthus will have been wrong by what…maybe 15 generations? That is pretty good in population dynamics. We are not immune the the laws of nature.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 29 Dec 2007 @ 10:16 PM

  50. David,
    Re your response here: YES, credit where credit is due and we are not a tough crowd, smile, your post was most welcome. I had not seen that report either. chrs danny

    [Response: Actually, the tough crowd at realclimate is what makes it so stimulating and fun to participate. Keeps me honest. David]

    RE”
    [Response: I first became aware of it a few weeks ago from a comment that Hank wrote, but then the AGU meeting took priority of this site and of my time. It took me a while to get through the fairly dense 125-page report, and writing a useful summary of it took some psyching myself up, since I’m not a historian or a social scientist. At AGU, I wrote a summary of an interesting AGU talk within a half hour of the completion of the talk, don’t I get any credit for that? Jeez, this is a tough crowd. David]

    Comment by danny bloom — 29 Dec 2007 @ 10:23 PM

  51. I think those of you invoking peak oil (or peak coal) as salvation from the worse effects of AGW are missing a rather obvious point. What happens if we continue merrily along the current path of economy & critical infrastructure depending on fossil fuels? Peak oil causes major disasters, no? Whereas if we start seriously weaning the world off fossil fuels in order to mitigate AGW, most of the peak oil problems go away. IOW, it’s not peak oil that will save us from AGW, but AGW mitigation that could save us from peak oil.

    Comment by James — 29 Dec 2007 @ 10:25 PM

  52. Would someone please explain Figure 1 in this document? I have gone to the hurricane reanalysis website, and I cannot find this figure or data to support this figure.

    Comment by Stephen Mulkey — 29 Dec 2007 @ 10:37 PM

  53. We know that humans can’t think at a concentration of 1000 ppm CO2.
    http://www.analox.net/site/content_HOSP_co2_dangers.php
    When do you scientists think we might get to 1000 ppm, worst case scenario? By 2200? or 2300?

    And what was the CO2 level in the juraissic or eocene?

    Comment by Susan K — 29 Dec 2007 @ 10:49 PM

  54. One thing I don’t understand, with all these reports out there saying that a Mad Max scenario might happen one day in the far distant future, might, mind you, not will, but might, why are no think tanks issuing reports now about how people might live in those distant years, say 2500? Why is no one discussing polar cities or actual real sustainable northern retreats where people might have to live to serve as breeding pairs in the Arctic, in Lovelock’s famous words? Why is there no discussion about this very real possibility except on my lone blog, which everyone here ignores, in addition to not replying to my polite emails? Are we ourselves in denial, too, about what may come? I would love to hear an answer one day. Meanwhile, for those interested see my ideas here: http://climatechange3000.blogspot.com

    Comment by danny bloom — 29 Dec 2007 @ 11:04 PM

  55. Re 42: Tex, temperature data at CRU gives a realistic view of the warming over the last century or so. You can download it and play around with it if you so wish, but before drawing any conclusions about it you should read the scientific articles that explain the steps in going from raw, instrumental data to the downloadable data. It is a good example of the care required in a scientific field (I mention that because too often people of a cynical bent towards climate science see the fine judgement in data preparation as deceitful manipulation – it’s not).

    CRU links:
    1) Overview of Temperature statistics:
    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/info/warming/
    2) Recommended (essential) reading for 1):
    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/HadCRUT3_accepted.pdf

    3) Top level access to various data sets:
    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/

    Snooping through various scientific articles and the RC website Archive should lead you to a larger collection of data sets.

    Have fun,

    Donald Oats, Murray Bridge SA (PS: I’m not “Don” 43)

    Comment by Donald Oats — 29 Dec 2007 @ 11:54 PM

  56. Re: #53 Susan K

    The reference you cited states that at 1000 ppm CO2 “Prolonged exposure can affect powers of concentration” – that is not quite the same as saying someone “can’t think.” Regardless, other sources put the threshhold for cognitive effects at a much higher (at least 10X) level, for example:

    http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/chemicals/chem_profiles/carbon_dioxide/health_cd.html

    http://www.inspect-ny.com/hazmat/CO2gashaz.htm

    http://64.233.169.104/custom?q=cache:M1Kq-GzyCM0J:www.airproducts.com/nr/rdonlyres/6582611c-16c6-4660-8584-c172182fb0c2/0/safety18.pdf+carbon+dioxide+toxicity&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=24&gl=us&client=pub-2456819124576563

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 30 Dec 2007 @ 12:35 AM

  57. Your exaggerating a little Susan. That’s the level at which thinking starts to become impaired. Still, it’s pretty scary to think that we may be able to push it that far. If there is a chance that once feedbacks kick in we may not be able to keep from going beyond this, then it would be prudent to widely publicize this fact. Mind you, the oceans are likely to be severely affected by acidification at those concentrations, and that doesn’t seem to faze people overly.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 30 Dec 2007 @ 12:38 AM

  58. The authors leave out some detail, I believe that was done to make a point. They are correct in stating that the farmers were inexperienced and used to an unusually wet period. They are also correct in pointing out that the droughts were rather routine for the region.

    But I believe their conclusion that ecological ignorance was the primary problem is not correct. From this link: http://www.feem.it/NR/rdonlyres/FF4D4EE2-FF04-49A8-A3FC-B4A7FC2667FB/380/6901.pdf it was the politics of land allocation that was the primary problem. Essentially the farms were too small to diversify and withstand the drought. My personal opinion is that the story of the Dust Bowl points out the lesson of resiliance which the report appears to dismiss as a solution on page 27 due to “more crowded circumstances” without an explanation of why that decreases resilience.

    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 30 Dec 2007 @ 12:44 AM

  59. Re 53 Susan K
    “And what was the CO2 level in the juraissic or eocene?”

    According to Pagani et al (2005):

    Atmospheric CO2 concentration “ranged between 1000 to 1500 parts per million by volume in the middle to late Eocene, then decreased in several steps during the Oligocene, and reached modern levels by the latest Oligocene.”

    Science 22 July 2005:
    Vol. 309. no. 5734, pp. 600 – 603
    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/309/5734/600?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&author1=Pagani&andorexacttitleabs=and&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT

    Fortunately, no humans were forced to breathe that atmosphere.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 30 Dec 2007 @ 12:47 AM

  60. Re Hank @ 44: “Those commenting here — care to say if you’ve read the report described in the original post?”

    I did a quick scan through it earlier today and reposted the link to several other discussion lists, and I’ve since read through half of it more carefully. Thanks, Hank, for bringing this to David’s attention, and to David for flagging it.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 30 Dec 2007 @ 1:08 AM

  61. re: #51
    I mentioned this in another thread, but really:

    Kharecha & Hansen, “Implications of “peak oil” for atmospheric CO2 and climate”
    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/notyet/submitted_Kharecha_Hansen.pdf

    covers this pretty well. They certainly don’t say Peak Oil saves us….
    Of course, if in 2100, somebody wants to build dikes or sea walls, they’ll likely be doing it without (much) petroleum….

    Comment by John Mashey — 30 Dec 2007 @ 1:33 AM

  62. Danny, I’m most grateful David decided to read this, I sure couldn’t evaluate it, and only stumbled on it myself (hey, those who can’t teach, proofread; those who can’t proofread, hunt and gather (grin)). It’s really not been much reported.

    David’s writeup is the only one I know of by someone who’s read through the paper and thought about it. I hope others will.

    I find indexes for sites like milnet, Navy Postgrad thesis collection, and so on almost daily will, if queried, turn up climate publications I never heard about — that makes me really hopeful about the level of competent attention being paid, quietly, to the science there.

    Stephen, re that image, did you read footnote 101? I didn’t find the exact image but found sixty-odd hits at the referenced site, didn’t have time to look further tonight, they might have an image directory; after the holiday someone there might respond if asked.

    I’d guess the chart may be drawn from the then ‘in press’ article now here: http://journals.royalsociety.org/content/17617v176780q753/

    I tried a global search for the image and happened upon a similar document and discussion from a German climate council advisory group here:
    http://www.wbgu.de/wbgu_sn2006_en/wbgu_sn2006_en_voll_3.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Dec 2007 @ 2:31 AM

  63. Stephen, looks like users do their own charts (and that’s what Fig. 1 says, ‘data from’ that site), and you need a login for access to the data sets, start here:
    http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/data2.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Dec 2007 @ 3:04 AM

  64. My reply to 8 Danny Bloom is:
    Forget the polar city because that requires 15 to 20 degrees centigrade of warming, and we go extinct at 6 degrees C of AGW. Air mixes well over short times, so you can’t avoid death by hydrogen sulfide [H2S] well before your polar city becomes possible as you imagine it. Of course, you could marry an Inuit and take up stone age whaling and fishing, but that won’t get you past the H2S.

    The most realistic Plan B is Move to Mars and wait it out. This will not be a short wait. Figure on your distant descendants returning to Earth in thousands to millions of years. I joined a group called
    “Lifeboat” at http://lifeboat.com.
    See also:
    http://www.liftport.com
    http://www.spacedev.com
    LiftPort is a company formed for the purpose of building a space elevator. A space elevator is like a vertical railroad. Riding the space elevator will get you into space safely and for a reasonable price. If you go all the way to the end [62000 miles straight up] you can fling yourself to Mars by letting go at the right moment. The reason we are not building a space elevator already is that we don’t know how to make carbon nanotubes simultaneously long and strong. They are strong enough in very short pieces, or long enough in very weak pieces. LiftPort needs the world’s greatest synthetic chemist to synthesize long strong carbon nanotubes or diamond nanowire for the 62,000 mile long cable. Do you know any candidates?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 30 Dec 2007 @ 3:28 AM

  65. Re #39, Ray, I believe that total world FF reserves are taken into account. As I have already stated the amount of FF required for so called dangerous climate change for the first world of 3C requires some 550 ppmv of CO2 and we are nowhere near that level as yet and will not be for 60 or so years. Recent work puts peak FF between now and 2020, peak gas and coal around 2040. Coal to liquids just burns coal faster, gas to liquids burns gas faster, it is all FF burning at the end of the day and as we may not have anywhere near as much FF as we currently believe, hence the slight misgivings over the IPCC 2001 FF projeections of 1600 to 2000 Btoe when in reality 400 to 800 Btoe is more likely.

    Re #51, James, I have not doubt that transcontinental grids and sustainable power across continents via solar, wind and storage via hydro electric can provide substantial amounts of power via these DC enabled grids and I also believe that the EU is prototyping one via a recent report I read. However they speok of 20% of the EU’s power coming from this source which is a lot but not enough.

    Politicially everyone currently knows that FF reign supreme, via lobbying and finance. Changing this slowly over time is the issue but if we suddently hit peak FF when no one thought we could then maybe we are not moving fast enough. Politics is complex and large scale changes are probably required in the energy and automobile sectors or industry but these sectors have billions/trillions invested in it so change will take a large part of a century to achieve.

    Be prepared for Green fatigue amongst the populace because even if everyone believes in AGW and demands action, it takes decades to achieve significant change and people won’t like green taxes and the curbing of theire energy intensive lifestyles.

    Comment by pete best — 30 Dec 2007 @ 7:03 AM

  66. IMHO, ”The Age of Consequences” report is very important. I cannot download it so I have not read, but from the summary, I see there are three scenarios. One is soso, one is pretty bad, and the last one presents a kind of Max Max future scenario.

    So I wonder why so very few people have commented on my polar cities concept and blog, and why the mainstream media refuses to discuss my project. The committee that put together the AOC report said it might come to this, the Mad Max part, and my polar cities idea is to plan so that future generations can live a good positive happy life in polar cities until they can come down to middle regions again. Why is everyone ignoring me? Whenever I post, here or there or anywhere, people just read right on by me, and nobody ever replies to my emails. Hmmmm. On this blog, for example, not one person has ever replied to my emails or posted a post pro or con about polar cities. Am I so invisible?

    SMILE.

    My goal for 2008 is a major story in the mainstream media about polar cities. If not CNN, then the BBC, if not the Washington Post, then the New York Times. If not AP, then Reuters. If not dpa, then AFP. Somebody somewhere has got to listen to me, just once. It can’t hoit, as they say in Brooklyn.

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 30 Dec 2007 @ 7:13 AM

  67. Susan Re # 52,
    If you Google: “CO2 levels in the Jurassic”

    You will get plenty of hits, here is a typical result:

    http://www.ucd.ie/cabinets/exhibit1.html

    Roughly 210 to 195 million years ago the earth saw a major extinction event – data from the period suggests that 95% of plant species and 70% of corals became extinct. Fossil leaf studies from this period (known as the Jurassic-Triassic boundary) found that at this time there was an increase in global CO2 levels. It is estimated that at the beginning of the period, CO2 levels where three times as high as they are today. By the end of the extinction event this was seen to rise to seven times current CO2 levels. According to climate models, this led to an average temperature increase of 2-3 degrees C over approximately 15 million years. This increase in temperature lead to a huge upheaval in plant communities – biodiversity of plants was seen to decline which would in turn have seriously affected the ecosystem at the time. Periods of major animal extinction have been offset by major extinction events in plants. Thus these results suggest that rapid climate change associated with increasing CO2 levels has a negative impact upon the environment.

    Comment by Fernando Magyar — 30 Dec 2007 @ 8:01 AM

  68. Re #5: Yes, I remember Soylent Green too. Loosely based IIRC on one of Harry Harrison’s novels (all good BTW). And Silent Running was good too. Steve Bochko directing that, better known later for Hill Street Blues.

    But mostly I remember a book by Heinlein “Farmer in the Sky” from 1945 or thereabouts (!) depicting the adventures of a young immigrant to a terraformed Ganymede. Which really is just a metaphor for Earth. Most all the issues discussed in this forum came up, including glacial isostatic adjustment, and a then still obscure (to the general public) scientific discipline called ‘ecology’ :-)

    Read it in a Dutch translation for boy scouts. Go figure.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 30 Dec 2007 @ 9:47 AM

  69. Need help downloading it?
    Usually rightclick or shiftclick and “save as” works.
    http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/071105_ageofconsequences.pdf

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 30 Dec 2007 @ 10:20 AM

  70. You might want to double-check those temperatures again, especially for the “catastrophic” scenario. If the BBC’s Horizon video on global dimming is right, they’re now looking at a **TEN** degree increase by 2100.

    [Response: see here first - gavin]

    Comment by Noah Important — 30 Dec 2007 @ 10:43 AM

  71. Re #66: [...my polar cities idea is to plan so that future generations can live a good positive happy life in polar cities until they can come down to middle regions again.]

    OK, if you want some of my reasons: 1) I’m not that interested in future generations, I’m interested in ME; 2) I’m far more interested in preventing the problem than in even moderate coping stratagies, let alone extreme ones like yours; 3) I wouldn’t be interested in living in a city, polar or otherwise; 4) What happens to the rest of the biosphere while humans are tucked away in their polar refuges, and can humans survive the effects of that?

    Comment by James — 30 Dec 2007 @ 10:54 AM

  72. Edward Greisch says, “The most realistic Plan B is Move to Mars and wait it out.”

    Uh,…no. First, the energy required to lift even a viable genetic population of humans from Earth to Mars is simply untenable. Hell, Edward, we can only get a tiny probe to Mars every 2 years now when the orbital configuration is favorable. And 1/3 of probes sent to Mars fail. Second, if they got there, they could not survive due to:
    1)lack of energy resources (remember solar flux is 4x lower even when there are no dust storms)
    2)lack of infrastructure
    3)the inhospitable environment (cold, lack of oxygen, liquid water, etc.)
    4)the radiation environment

    Believe me, you’d do much better at the poles or at the equator or anywhere else on Earth at its worst than on Mars. Mars is a pipe dream. At least on the Moon, it might be possible to make occasional foraging missions to Earth for resupply. And we couldn’t even make a go of “sustaiability” in the Arizona desert with biosphere II.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Dec 2007 @ 11:04 AM

  73. Don. Will you please outline what you believe Malthus’s contributions to be, so that we can begin to understand your assertion that he was wrong? Was it his economics, or his discovery of the implications of exponential population growth versus growth of resources (an idea that led to much of the sciences of ecology and evolution), or his sociology, or his politics, or what else that was wrong? Or, was it everything that he wrote?

    Comment by Don S — 30 Dec 2007 @ 11:11 AM

  74. #66, Hi Dan, I have emailed you. I suppose most people here either (1) would like to see GW mitigated and not have to think about polar cities — that’s the whole point of ranting about how bad GW could be, to spur people to action — or (2) they are denialists who would never consider that GW could get bad enough to need such wonderful polar cities.

    I remember in the 70s some people talking about “arks” — small, self-contained communities raising their own food that could survive the environmental devastation that would surely be upon us sometime in the future. Luckily we are still hanging on without having to live in such “arks,” though they still might be needed in the future — inland, polar and near-arctic circle “arks.”

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 30 Dec 2007 @ 11:37 AM

  75. Finally, finally. Real Climate addresses the other third of the equation: the human social factor. This along with the actual climate system of ocean and atmosphere, and worldwide ecosystem degradation are all intimately linked together. Human forcing of climate, along with the devouring of living Nature, will ensure that the complex abstraction that is human society will collapse.
    While I respect the scientific nature of this site, it is imperative that all three aspects be discussed and acted upon in concert. In fact, it is the common ignorance of the consequences of the other two factors which enable the average person as well as politicians and the holders of wealth and power to disengage from the climate issue, to disparage and dismiss it, to obufscate and deceive.
    To Consider only the hypothetical impact of climate change alone minimizes the possibility of catastrophic effects, in the physical world, the biosphere, and human society. Thus, I hear ignorant comments all around me–due to superficial understanding of the looming consequences.
    I feel that within fourteen years, the pressures on human society will cause our civilizations to implode. It may not be total, but it will be the start of the unraveling of human “achievement.” Lack of another energy source after oil supplies diminish will mean that the human population will have to rapidly decrease–billions will starve. Nitrogen-enriched crops will be harder to come by, and the free ride from oil energy will be gone.
    Looking at the US, a century of adulation and obeisance to the automobile has created a society which cannot function without it. We do not have fifty years to retool the physical infrastructure of the US, which means that there is no way to make a non-traumatic transition to another way of living. If the grasslands of the world are desertified, which it seems likely they shall be, there will be no large agricultural lands to continue abusing with industrial agriculture. China will absolutely refuse to change the course it is now pursuing until the northern half of the country suffers complete environmental collapse. This will come sooner than later with the de-glaciation of the Tibetan Plateau.
    Fantasies of Arctic cities will not come to pass; any event which throws the lives of billions of human beings into chaos will cause the collapse of any and all social order. Those who survive will live in “afghanistan,” where not one brick stands upon another, the weak are pushed aside, exploited, or killed, and only capable young men with a weapon prevail.
    One cannot muse about climate change without examining its impact upon ecosystems as well, including the loss of most coral reefs and oceanic life forms, the emptying of the skies of avian life, the loss of the Amazon rainforest, general extinction, and loss of rare and precious diversity.
    The polar bear is the current poster child of climate change-driven extinction, but most people are so disconnected from the natural world that this fact becomes just another bit of background static, drowned out by the diversions of entertainment and advertising.
    Catastrophic physical changes cannot be ruled out. When we have physical proof of devastating floods from breaking ice dams, both in the Washington scablands and from glacial Lake Agassiz, how can anyone suppose that other temperature-related events won’t also be soon occurring? We visited the Canadian Arctic coast two years ago, at the Mackenzie Delta, and the entire “land” there was ice frozen solid, with some dirt in it for marbling. Surely, those methane clathrates will let go at some point.
    Scientists have a duty to step outside the rigorous bounds of their discipline and start shouting. Nothing has yet changed, and we are all headed for disaster.

    Comment by Mark R — 30 Dec 2007 @ 11:54 AM

  76. Answer to #27 and #52.

    Most of the data in the figure are consistent with the graphs presented in Landsea, C. W., 2007 : Counting Atlantic tropical cyclones back to 1900 EOS, 88,197&202.
    (http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/Landsea/landsea-eos-may012007.pdf)

    The differences are:

    1) That the data is further extended back an additional 40 years to 1860.

    2) The data is smoothed using a ten year running average.

    There’s lots of raw data available on the Hurricane reanalysis website and I’m guessing they used the latest 1840 to 1910 data to provide the missing years from Landsea’s pub. The hurricane reanalysis project goal is to deal with biases in tropical storm data sets related to changes in instrumentation.

    I am not sure why this graph would cast doubt on the credibility of the entire report. My biggest problem is that they didn’t do a better job of referencing and captioning it.

    Comment by Peter Houlihan — 30 Dec 2007 @ 12:10 PM

  77. Ref 42 If I might add to David’s reply. I routinely visit 4 sites each month. The first three are
    ftp://ftp.ssmi.com/msu/monthly_time_series/rss_monthly_msu_amsu_channel_tlt_anomalies_land_and_ocean_v03_0.txt

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/tabledata/GLB.Ts.txt

    http://www.cru.uea.ac.uk/cru/data/temperature/hadcrut3gl.txt
    Each month a new figure is added, usually during the first, second and third weeks of the next month, respectively. Other data are available. For example if you substitute nh and sh for gl in the third URL, you will get data from the northern and southern hemispheres.
    The fourth site is
    http://lwf.ncdc.noaa.gov/oa/climate/research/2007/nov/global.html#Temp
    This site gives a comprehensive review of what the month’s weather was like. I have given the latest data; change the 2007/nov as appropiate. The data is normally available in the 15th of the next month, but if you try and access the site some time after the 1st of the month, it will tell you when the data will be available.

    Comment by Jim Cripwell — 30 Dec 2007 @ 12:43 PM

  78. Danny Bloom wrote: “with all these reports out there saying that a Mad Max scenario might happen one day [...] why are no think tanks issuing reports now about how people might live in those distant years, say 2500? Why is no one discussing polar cities or actual real sustainable northern retreats where people might have to live to serve as breeding pairs in the Arctic, in Lovelock’s famous words?”

    I’ll speculate about the reason. Such “sustainable retreats” will have a carrying capacity sufficient to sustain only a tiny percentage of the Earth’s current human population. Perhaps only one percent. And who will that be? It will be the Earth’s ultra-rich, ultra-powerful elite, the “top one percent”, who command the wealth and resources required to construct and operate nuclear-powered, climate controlled enclaves in the Far North, and defend them with private mercenary armies. The rest of the Earth’s billions of humans will perish, surely beginning with the poorest, but the middle-class and “merely” rich people of the industrialized nations will perish as well when the rising tide (literally and metaphorically) of climate chaos leads to the collapse of modern societies.

    So, discussions about building these cities are probably in fact vigorously underway, in certain circles; but those discussions are not for the general public to hear or participate in. Indeed the agenda of those “certain circles” is that the public must be “protected” from the truth about global warming and climate change, so that they will continue business as usual (ie. shopping) and continue to drive the machine known as the “consumer economy” so it will continue to enrich the rich for as long as possible. They are well aware that they are going to need as much wealth and power as they can possibly accumulate to survive what’s coming. The last thing they need is for “consumer confidence” to drop because people are worried about having to evacuate Florida and move to the Polar Circle.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 30 Dec 2007 @ 12:59 PM

  79. @Pete Best. 400 Gtoe of total FF reserves is a very extreme view; that’s only 36 years at present consumption rate. I see that you have now moved up your range to 800 Gtoe (#65). In my opinion, the PeakOil movement has come up with credible information on the oil reserves, but their stories on coal reserves (let alone methane hydrates) are not very mature yet. Anyway, I’d hope you’re right; it would be a strong support for the measures that have to be taken to avoid even more dangerous climate change than we’ve already entered into. 2C (let alone 3C) is by no means the temperature level where strong negative consequences start, it is the extreme limit of risk that society is as present willing to take, given the perceived difficulties of drastic emission reduction.

    Do you have a source for your statement that IPCC scenarios leading to stabilization at 550 ppm assume input of 1,600 – 2,000 Gtoe? The bundle of IPCC scenarios shown on the site that you refer to starts much lower. And do you mean 550 ppm of CO2 (which in combination with other greenhouse gases would lead to >600 ppm CO2eq), or do you mean 550 ppm CO2eq (total greenhouse gases)?

    Needless to say that required measures to cope with both peakoil and climate change are largely the same; there is little reason to compete for the first prize in the Worst (and Quickest) Global Disaster category.

    Comment by Ark — 30 Dec 2007 @ 1:47 PM

  80. Mark, where have you been? “Finally, finally. Real Climate addresses the other third of the equation: the human social factor. ”

    Real Climate gets it that we humans are in real peril. They are the ones who have been trying to get word out about exactly that, for all this time.

    Just because Rush limbaugh tells you something, doesn’t make it fact. Those who are alarmed are not sentimental about just one measly species, but about the survivability of the ecosystem we humans depend on.

    Comment by Susan K — 30 Dec 2007 @ 2:06 PM

  81. Re #49 (Ray Ladbury) Ray, at the end of Ch.2 of his “Essay on Population”, Malthus lays out three propositions on which his theory depends:

    “The theory on which the truth of this position depends appears to me so extremely clear that I feel at a loss to conjecture what part of it can be denied.

    That population cannot increase without the means of subsistence is a proposition so evident that it needs no illustration.

    That population does invariably increase where there are the means of subsistence, the history of every people that have ever existed will abundantly prove.

    And that the superior power of population cannot be checked without producing misery or vice, the ample portion of these too bitter ingredients in the cup of human life and the continuance of the physical causes that seem to have produced them bear too convincing a testimony.”

    Malthus perhaps could not know, but we know now that his second proposition is false: consider Japan, where population has just started to fall, and – absent some unexpected change – will do so for several decades, while it can hardly be argued that the means of subsistence are lacking. The same would apply to a number of west European countries without immigration. We also know the third proposition is false, at least if we accept artificial contraception and the equality of the sexes, which I think Malthus would regard as species of “vice”. Malthus’s main aim in the “Essay” was to refute the dangerous ideas of Condorcet and above all, William Godwin, whose “Enquiry concerning political justice” had recently been published.

    You say “Organisms either limit their population (by mating protocols, suicide, etc.) or they expand until they outrun their food chain and die back. There is no reason to think that humans are any different, and we certainly haven’t limited population.”
    The first part of this is true, but even among non-human K-selected organisms (long-lived, slow-breeding ones), population dynamics are much more complex than you appear to realise: individuals will often not breed unless and until they have the resources to give them a good chance to raise young successfully – primarily territory and nest site. This does not require group selection – it can just be a better strategy not to risk your own health this year, but build your strength and competence and wait. With human beings things are still more complex, because our cultural complexity makes it quite possible for genetically maladaptive behaviours to persist over long periods. Malthus thought we have an irresistible instinct to reproduce, but as a (sadly deceased) gay friend of mine said “I’m quite willing to be a slave of my gonads, but not of my genes.” Animals, and particularly people, are not particles, and approaches to social science which treat them as if they are (neoclassical economics, sociobiology/evolutionary psychology) are dangerously simplistic.

    As for “we certainly haven’t limited population”, well we haven’t, yet, but it is quite feasible that world population will begin to decline, without any disaster, around 2050. Urbanisation is probably the main factor that has roughly halved the rate of increase since its peak in the 1960s, but increased education and status for women, and availability of contraception, have also contributed. None of this means the current world population is not dangerously high, nor that we don’t need to work to halt growth as early as possible, nor that a Malthusian catastrophe could not occur, but in simple terms, yes, Malthus was indeed wrong, and the admirable clarity with which he laid out his view enables us to say where he went wrong.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 30 Dec 2007 @ 2:13 PM

  82. @Pete Best. Following my previous comment (#79) I have done some digging myself. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but this is what I figured out.

    The IPPC “typical business-as-usual” scenario A1B uses 65 ZJ of fossil fuels in the period 1990-2100; that’s 1550 Gtoe (or 110 years at an average rate of 14 Gtoe/yr, that’s 25% higher than in 2006). BUT: this leads to very high greenhouse gas concentrations: 850 ppm CO2eq.

    If this is correct, it means that your statement that IPCC “needs” 1600-2000 Gtoe to come up with 550 ppm is way off the mark. It probably means that even “your” 400-800 Gtoe could do the job.

    Comment by Ark — 30 Dec 2007 @ 2:33 PM

  83. Mark, While everyone here shares your concern, there is the question of exactly what evidence forms the basis for your conclusions–or indeed for the conclusions of this report. Increased Atlantic storm activity while a very real possibility, is not an established consensus proposition. Likewise with the scenarios that lead to collapses of agricultural productivity and increased disease. They are very real possibilities, but we really don’t know enough to even assign probabilities to such occurrences. In fact, I believe this is one reason why most prognostication has dealt with sea-level rise, since it is pretty much a lead-pipe cinch at some level.
    David’s introduction makes it very clear that societa and biological consequequnces rely more on regional climate models, rather than global models, and there is much more uncertainty at the regional level. See Rasmus’s summary from August 2007:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/08/regional-climate-projections/

    Scientists feel most comfortable doing science, and crystal gazing is not science. That does not mean that such prognostications are not useful as a wakeup call, or as a way of prioritizing resources for mitigation/adaptation. However, we have to realize that the more detailed the prediction, and the farther into the future we project, the murkier will the crystal become.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Dec 2007 @ 3:12 PM

  84. This recent article from a UK Times columnist may provide a pertinent psychological analysis of the climate change debate.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/matthew_parris/article3105421.ece

    … Will global warming, as predicted in detail by what the politicians call The Science, raise sea levels as high as the horses’ bridles? For this, too, is (I sense) part of the hunger for apocalypse that characterises our generation. Tens of thousands of the elite of politics, the media and the universities, and hundreds of millions of Western citizens vaguely uncomfortable about the way we live now would actually be a tiny bit disappointed if planetary temperatures started to drop. This doesn’t mean global warming isn’t true, but shows that maybe we want it to be true for reasons not of the head but of the heart and conscience. A dangerous background for the development of scientific reasoning…

    [Response: This is also discussed in Kerry Emanuel's book a little and in my review of the same. There are multiple non-scientific worldviews (including the one alluded to by Parris), but these are the continual background against which science progresses. Science is what allows us to cut through our psychological prejudges - and that's why it's so powerful. - gavin]

    Comment by Fabien Bulabois — 30 Dec 2007 @ 3:45 PM

  85. Hank, I haven’t had a chance to read the whole thing yet, but I’ll give a tentative review. Following up on my comment #1, I find the political views embedded in the report to be very much Washington inside-the-beltway conventional wisdom. For example, we have in boldface “the two great security threats of the day— global climate change and international terrorism waged by Islamist extremists.” Even allowing for the implicit understanding that the author meant only threats to the U.S., the assertion is highly debatable (but please don’t debate it here – I’m only illustrating their world view), but proclaimed as fact.

    Following up on the Latin American point I raised in my previous comment, I find the report lacking any depth of understanding of the non-English speaking Americas, unlike the report linked above by Stefan. They even use the peculiar phrase “Central and Latin America” as if Central America is not part of Latin America. The WBGU report, by contrast, divides Latin America into climatological impact regions and then discusses individual countries within these regions. (What? Chile has a more stable democracy than some of its neighbors? This would be news to CSIS and CNAS.) I don’t doubt the quality of work of the climate experts, but for those portions of the report I have read the conclusions drawn by the so-called “national security experts” strike me as rubbish. I’ll keep plugging away, but I highly recommend the WBGU repot (which I have also not yet finished).

    Comment by S. Molnar — 30 Dec 2007 @ 3:46 PM

  86. Is it possible for sea level to rise in some areas and not others?
    I see that some islands in Southeast Asia, Alaska, etc are going under. But little change is seen in sea levels in some other part of the world: just a couple centimeters or whatever. What is the explanation for that difference?
    How is it possible for sealevel to not rise evenly?

    (Thanks to all for your replies re my 1000 ppm CO2 question.)

    Comment by Susan K — 30 Dec 2007 @ 3:56 PM

  87. David: I don’t actually find figure 1 in my copy. There’s a page that won’t display but gives an error, page 40, maybe it’s there.

    [Response: Yep, the page numbered 37 is actually the 40th page in the file, the one that won't display on my computer. David]

    Figure 1 on page 37 of the report shows named tropical storms from 1860 to 2005 with the following caption:

    The running 10-year average of
    annual frequency shows a dramatic
    and abrupt increase above the
    previous maximum observed in the
    mid-1950s, previously considered
    extreme. DATA SOURCE: The Atlantic
    Hurricane Database Re-analysis
    Project; http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/
    hrd/data_sub/ re_anal.html.

    What is very misleading about this figure:
    It shows a high S/N monotonic increase in storm frequency since 1987.

    [edit - please do not assume motives for which you have no evidence whatsoever]

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 30 Dec 2007 @ 4:05 PM

  88. Malthus is the most patient of economists.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 30 Dec 2007 @ 5:00 PM

  89. Re #79/82. 550 ppmv is end of century levels at current 2 ppmv per annum, or 380 + 180 = 560 ppmv. Peak Oil could be only 5 years away and peak gas and coal around 2040 which means topping out at around 460 ppmv.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTUcxYdMmj4

    Dr Rutledge from Caltech gives the low down here. He states that global oil production is higher in 2100 on IPCC scenarios then now whcih is simply impossible. The same goes for oil and gas.

    Its good work and appears to show some common sense.

    Regardless of amounts, there is simply not enough FF to take us all the way to 2100 as we are now, ie BAU. It takes BAU scenarios until 2100 to put is into dangerous climate change of 3C and more. 2c is 450 ppmv and that appears to be the limiting factor.

    850 ppmv would mean 3 ppmv per annum 90 x 3 = 270 + 380 = 650 or 4 ppmv giving 90 x 4 = 360 + 380 = 750 ppmv which I thought was not on the radar at all. I thought that BAU was 550 ppmv by end of century but maybe natural CO2 release from current natural sinks such as the Amazon and the oceans take up less or even begin to release its own CO2 stores much like permafrost might.

    25% higher Co2 emissions than todays BAU are unlikely by end of century or mid century for that matter, hence if we are releasing 10 Gtoe now then comes 90 years time it will 900 Gtoe equivilent but demand is rising the real world. If we only have 400 Gtoe left as statedin the video (800 gtoe was a 50% error margin I made up) then we cannot even get to 550 ppmv was my main point and peak FF is going to cause us serious trouble way before AGW becomes serious enough to get us all panicking.

    Comment by pete best — 30 Dec 2007 @ 5:30 PM

  90. Nick #81, while I hope that Malthus was wrong about his proposition #2, I would say that the jury is still out on that. After all, we have had population growth slowing and in some countries actually reversing sign, but this is a very recent trend, and the attribution of the trend to “prosperity” to “increased education for women” or to “the high expense of raising children” etc. is somewhat tenuous. Malthus, himself provided an out–moral restraint. And if, indeed, the high cost of raising children is responsible, then it could be argued that scarcity of “sustenance” is behind it, since the children will not be able to sustain themselves without that college education.
    However, it is not even clear whether the trend of falling population will be sustained in the long term. Remember that falling population poses its own economic problems–e.g. increased risk of deflation, supporting aging populations with a decreasing workforce, etc. Moreover, if we find that prosperity is responsible for decreasing fertility, how will humans respond as that prosperity is reduced. Again, we want to think that humans are somehow different from other animals. Unfortunately, we have yet to show that that large bulge of neurons on the end of our spine serves any evolutionary purpose.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Dec 2007 @ 5:41 PM

  91. From the discussion section of John Skilling’s paper Foundations? in 27th International Workshop on Bayesian Inference and Maximum Entropy Methods in Science and Engineering, AIP Conference Proc. #954 (2007):

    … We always process models of the truth. We do not see “the truth”, and even if one of our models happens to be true, we would never know it. We may motivate ourselves by aiming to search out the truth, but it is a myth. …
    Science is commonly, but wrongly, perceived as truth seeking. Actually, it is a quest for predictive connections, and those connections are of practical value. In science’s war with the irrational, we should fight on the firm ground of practicality, and not on the weak ground of some supposedly-authoritative knowledge of mythical truth.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Dec 2007 @ 5:41 PM

  92. Lynn Vincentnathan (or whoever might know or care to take an educated guess)

    I think I remember you writing you had a degree in anthropology. I’m wondering how many civilizations (world wide) have come and gone in the past 10,000 years. I guess the number is in the high hundreds. There’s nothing new about civilizations coming and going, usually because of self induced changes in local climate and soil or outsiders bringing disease for which the civilization has no immunity. Because we have a global civilization, if we fail it will probably be a global catastrophe rather than a local one.

    Comment by catman306 — 30 Dec 2007 @ 6:06 PM

  93. Re #90 (Ray Ladbury) Ray, sorry, but this is just flannel – quite uncharacteristic of you. Malthus said population always increases when sustenance is available, and it doesn’t. The fact that declining population has its own problems is true but irrelevant, and of course it is not certain the trend toward falling population will continue – because people and societies are complicated. Neither alters the facts that Malthus was wrong, that we know how to go about decreasing birth rates, and that in many countries, these are now below replacement level. Why are you so determined to deny or ignore these facts, and to be pessimistic about this?

    “Again, we want to think that humans are somehow different from other animals. Unfortunately, we have yet to show that that large bulge of neurons on the end of our spine serves any evolutionary purpose.”

    Of course humans are different from other animals. This is quite clear from our demographic history alone: no other mammal has a global distribution apart from our symbionts and parasites; none has a 10,000 year history of increasingly uneven distribution; none has a long history of more-or-less monotonically increasing population growth rate (from way back in the Palaeolithic to the 1960s), followed by a reversal of this trend – without a rise in death rate. As for “evolutionary purpose” – what do you mean? If you mean “adaptive function”, of course the brain has an adaptive function – you don’t suppose we’d spend 10% of our energy budget on it, kill a significant proportion of mothers because it’s so big at birth, still have to be born in a near-helpless state, and spend 20 years growing it rather than breeding if it didn’t, do you? If you don’t mean adaptive function, what do you mean?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 30 Dec 2007 @ 6:48 PM

  94. Re #92 (catman306) “I’m wondering how many civilizations (world wide) have come and gone in the past 10,000 years. I guess the number is in the high hundreds.”

    Impossible to say, because “civilizations” are not discrete objects with clear boundaries. I dare say you could come up with any number from about 10 to several thousand.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 30 Dec 2007 @ 6:54 PM

  95. The quote from Machiavelli’s “The Prince” on page 5 of the document pdf is sobering and, it seems to me, a warning about letting scepticism become denial:

    “The Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do, who have to regard not only present troubles, but also future ones, for which they must prepare with every energy, because, when foreseen, it is easy to remedy them; BUT IF YOU WAIT until they approach, THE MEDICINE IS NO LONGER IN TIME BECAUSE THE MALADY HAS BECOME INCURABLE; for it happens in this, as the physicians say it happens in hectic fever, that IN THE BEGINNING of the malady IT IS EASY TO CURE BUT DIFFICULT TO DETECT, BUT IN THE COURSE OF TIME, NOT HAVING BEEN EITHER DETECTED OR TREATED IN THE BEGINNING, IT BECOMES EASY TO DETECT BUT DIFFICULT TO CURE. THUS IT HAPPENS IN AFFAIRS OF STATE, for when the evils that arise have been foreseen (which it is only given to a wise man to see), they can be quickly redressed, but when, through not having been foreseen, THEY HAVE BEEN PERMITTED TO GROW IN A WAY THAT EVERY ONE CAN SEE THEM, THERE IS NO LONGER ANY REMEDY.”

    [My emphasis]

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 30 Dec 2007 @ 6:56 PM

  96. My take on peak fossil fuels and climate change is as follows:

    SRES over-estimated the economically extractable fossil fuel reserves by a wide margin.

    Based on SRES, WGI uses higher than achievable emissions rates for models. However, WGI models don’t include the long-term feedbacks from vegetation dynamics, and apparently these are very important because…

    WGII looks at potential impacts from WGI outputs, and many of the effects expected later this century are already happening.

    Therefore, although fossil fuels are much more limited than SRES believes, what we already have burned is having a greater effect than expected.

    So, while I once hoped that peak fossil fuels would come in time to save us from ourselves, this doesn’t appear to be true. A real bummer.

    Comment by Jason — 30 Dec 2007 @ 7:26 PM

  97. It is slighly disconcerting that the catasrophic scenario “projects” out to 2100, while the severe and expected scenarios deal with the world in 2040. I see the logic of this approach in that the catastrophic scenario assumes natural feedbacks are engaged and it is assumed these will take some time to have an effect. Is this a reasonable assumption?

    I take it that “Severe” is basically a worst case (or near worst case) for 2040. Presumably different high-end emission and feedback scenarios will make little difference by then.

    Do you (David and others) think that climate change and particularly sea level rise have a reasonable chance of being worse than “Severe” by 2040?

    (This is partly a selfish question as I will probably be in retirement by 2040 and my kids will be having their children. It is extraordinary how little impact scenarios for 2100 have on one’s psyche! I think it partly explains the lack of political action on climate change.)

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 30 Dec 2007 @ 7:27 PM

  98. With respect to earthquakes and volcanism.

    My limited understanding is that the break up of the largest Pleistocene ice sheets dramatically increased the frequency and severity of earthquakes and volcanic activity.

    This was due to the “reshaping” of the Earth caused by the redistribution of the ice mass. Continental plates rose under the former ice sheets and sunk along the peripheries. Oceanic plates now under the stress of a deeper water column sunk.

    The increased earthquake activity in Greenland makes me think a similar, though perhaps less dramatic, process will unfold as the remaining ice sheets melt and fragment and slip away.

    I am wondering if anything is written about these possibilities, or even if it is brought up in the report?

    On a related topic…dams bursting on ice sheets may also cause gushes of water that form large waves, possibly leading to tidal waves. So ocean levels don’t just rise slowly, like filling a bath tub, but can do so violently as large influxes with a lot of kinetic energy slosh around an ocean basin. What would matter, it would seem, is whether lakes form on Greenland and Antarctica, how high they are above sea level, and how far they might travel before hitting the ocean. Big lakes, high and far from the ocean could break out and form huge waves. Is this considered a possibility for either of the large existing ice sheets?

    Comment by Jason — 30 Dec 2007 @ 7:38 PM

  99. #66 Danny:
    You asked, and I hate to see passion wasted, so:

    I’ve looked at your websites. I’ve seen your Lovelockian posts in numerous blogs (like Inkstain in May) including 9 here in RC, spread across 6 threads, such as “Start Here”.

    You insert “Polar cities” into at-best-tenuously-related threads, and then it lies there like a many-days-old fish, usually ignored.

    Why?

    It doesn’t help people gain new insights, it’s not particularly actionable, and even if it were, I’d protest any of my governments spending any money on it. As city planning goes, the sketches in your website look like early storyboards for Star Wars movies, and as for seeing a big tree in a greenhouse and being told food will be grown … well, I’m not excited, much as I love trees and have grown a lot of food.

    Suggestions:
    a) Posting this in blogs that focus on:
    - scientific understanding
    - scenario modeling
    - energy/policy/economics
    - actionable ideas to solve problems
    just isn’t going to get a lot of interest.

    You might go hunt up more futurist, speculative blogs/bulletin boards.

    b) OR Why don’t you redirect your energy to writing a science-fiction book, or creating a videogame concept and selling that? Those can be compelling ways to get ideas out, if they’re well-done. Personally, I think the whole idea is pretty bogus, and I don’t need to spend another minute on it, but that’s just me.

    c) You are running a marketing campaign for an idea. When people do that, they normally set some goals, and if the campaign isn’t working, at some point they quit and try something else. Consider “I will get or by some date or I will quit this for good.”

    I have seen cases where people get on some idea, and then spend years pushing it, with minimal results, and just don’t accept that no one cares. Don’t do that. Some ideas are really worth fighting long fights for, but many aren’t.

    Comment by John Mashey — 30 Dec 2007 @ 7:45 PM

  100. Jason (98) — Not really. The tectonic forces responsible for major earthquakes (and also for volcanoes) are far vaster than the fairly minor contribution of adding or removing ice sheets. Such changes probably affect the exact timing of the extreme events, but are not the ultimate drivers.

    Minor earthquakes and also landslides can well be caused by quickly changing the load of water or ice. These are common when the reservior behind a large dam is being filled.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 30 Dec 2007 @ 8:23 PM

  101. Nick, Sorry for being unclear. We’ve seen precisely one generation where human population in a few countries has fallen. All I’m saying is that it is premature to look at that and draw definitive conclusions from it. Many nations (e.g. Germany) in which the birthrate has fallen have reacted with concern and actually taken steps to counteract the trend. Birth control has had some successes–most dramatically in China, where the resulting male-female imbalance all but ensures that there will be an outmigration of young males or further reduction in fertility. Indonesia’s voluntary campaign has had some success, but they’re still a long way from zero growth. Population control is still a dirty word in India and most of Latin America. Pacific Islanders have regulated population for generations, but I don’t advocate their methodologies.
    In the animal kingdom there are indeed some species that regulate population effectively. We’ve given no indication of being one of them.
    As to the crack about the brain, of course I realize the advantages as well as the costs. The thing is, while our species has been tremendously successful at expanding spatially, we haven’t been dominant that long, and we’ve given no indication that we are going to respond to the threats that now face us–in part because of our oversized cerebral cortex. There’s no real indication that we’re handling our situation any more intelligently than yeast in fermenting beer.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 30 Dec 2007 @ 8:28 PM

  102. Regarding the posts about my “polar cities” post, above, I appreciate all the good and well-thought out replies, both pro and con, and those giving advice, and adding new perspectives, especially John Mashey’s 99 post. Thanks, everyone, for your responses. I am digesting what you’ve said and will put it my noggin for some more thinkin’.

    It’s hard to talk about such a wild concept as polar cities for the year 2500, because yes, nobody wants to talk about something so far away, and maybe undoable anyways, but I do want to add here, so everyone understands my concept better: my blog and posts about polar cities, which I began 12 months ago, is what I hope is a “non threatening thought experiment” mainly to get people thinking about taking action NOW, and to scare those people who still need scaring, not anyone here of course, into taking action about global warming NOW. So please look at my polar cities idea, what I also refer to as ARCTOPIA, as a kind of online guerilla theatre for these times. Some people have told me to give it up, others have emailed me and said “keep pushing the idea, it’s a good way to alert people who still need alerting.” That’s the main thing I am trying to do. I am not trying to convince any of you here. But you have given me good ideas as feedback, and that is what i wanted. Thanks.

    My guess is one day soon there WILL BE a govt report or a think tank report on “sustainable population retreats” (SPRs) in the future. As a post above said, this global warming thing entails science and it also entails society. I remain an optimist. I see humanity getting through this thing. But I am also reading all these very good posts here, and they are important. We need facts, and we also need visions.

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 30 Dec 2007 @ 8:54 PM

  103. Ray Ladbury> …we’ve given no indication that we are going to respond to the threats that now face us–in part because of our oversized cerebral cortex.

    Of course, that depends on point of view. Some of us may be smart enough to avoid a stampede into unwise action that may have worse consequences than the original threat.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 30 Dec 2007 @ 11:07 PM

  104. Re #86 Susan:

    How is it possible for sealevel to not rise evenly?

    That is easy: because sea level rise is commonly measured/stated relative to the Earth’s crust, which may well move up or down itself. (A second, much smaller contribution may come from changes in the Earth’s gravity field due to redistribution of masses; we can neglect that here for this argument.)

    E.g., here in the South of Finland, according to tide gauge measurements, mean sea level is going down by some 4-5 mm/a. In reality this is due to the Fennoscandian post-glacial land uplift, which has been ongoing after the last ice age.

    In the Pacific there may be similar crustal uplift or subsidence phenomena ongoing, like moving away from a mid-oceanic ridge tends to cool and subside the crust — and islands with tide gauges on it — while just before diving into a trench or subduction zone, the crust tends to flex upward.

    It is very difficult to get a precise idea of the “true” or eustatic rise of sea level, indicative of the increase in ocean volume, this way. Most promising are satellite techniques, like the radar altimeters onboard Topex/Poseidon and Jason. Contrary to tide gauges, they monitor sea level in a geocentric (Earth centered) reference frame, not relative to the Earth crust, and they average over large ocean areas. The first advantage, geocentricity, also applies to GPS using the worldwide permanent IGS monitoring network. Co-location of tide gauges with GPS base stations is therefore recommended and becoming common.

    A problem with the satellite techniques is the still very short time base (couple of decades).

    Hope this helps

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 31 Dec 2007 @ 5:02 AM

  105. Susan K writes:

    [[Is it possible for sea level to rise in some areas and not others?
    I see that some islands in Southeast Asia, Alaska, etc are going under. But little change is seen in sea levels in some other part of the world: just a couple centimeters or whatever. What is the explanation for that difference?
    How is it possible for sealevel to not rise evenly?
    ]]

    Sea level is different in different areas of the world, due to differences in local water temperature and salinity, currents, the local shape of the Earth, and differential gravity due to the Earth’s rotation. Sea level rise refers only to the global average.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 31 Dec 2007 @ 5:49 AM

  106. Nick Gotts writes:

    [[Neither alters the facts that Malthus was wrong, that we know how to go about decreasing birth rates, and that in many countries, these are now below replacement level. Why are you so determined to deny or ignore these facts, and to be pessimistic about this?]]

    Contrary to popular belief, Malthus did not say people had to starve. He advocated practicing “moral restraint,” which he defined as couples not having sex after having had two children. Neither alters the facts that Malthus was wrong, that we know how to go about decreasing birth rates, and that in many countries, these are now below replacement level. A lot of misconceptions about Malthus can be laid aside by actually reading Malthus. Why are you so determined to deny or ignore these facts, and to be pessimistic about this?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 31 Dec 2007 @ 5:55 AM

  107. Mark R @ 75 and Susan K @ 80,
    I tend to agree with Mark on this. There is a tendency to censor comments about the politics of Climate Change on RC, probably to stop an already heated discussion boiling over.

    I do think climate scientists have a moral responsibility to inform the political debate if not lead it. This is tough, as politics and science are two entirely different thought processes. Jim Hansen is setting a marvelous example.

    I am growing increasingly pessimistic about humanity’s willingness to “get real” on climate change until things really start hurting. Of course it is possible we are looking at an extreme sci-fi scenario with global cities and Mad Max, but who cares. Nearly every participant on this blog will be dead if and when that eventuates.

    The threat we face long before that is the loss of a substantial proportion of the human (and other species) population of this planet, the likes of which have not been experienced since the Black Death in Europe when a third or more of the population died. It may be less serious, but it could also be far worse than that.

    This is something we can foresee as a realistic possibility. It is something those with foresight and the power to act (the “wise” men of Machiavelli) should be pulling out all stops to avoid. Living through a global calamity of this scale will not be pleasant. It is unlikely to doom humanity or reduce us to a breading pair in the arctic (a la Lovelock). But I personally do not wish to risk the possibility of myself, my family and my friends being among the hundreds of millions or billions of lives lost when the proverbial hits the fan.

    ps Happy New Year from Sydney, it’s just gone 12:00.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 31 Dec 2007 @ 8:00 AM

  108. S. Molnar @ 1 and 85,
    For what it’s worth I agree that the report has a Washington DC-centric worldview. I agree with your sentiments about its description of Latin American governments.

    The report is useful none-the-less.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 31 Dec 2007 @ 8:06 AM

  109. Steve Reynolds, Complacency is never indicative of wisdom. Timely action in the face of a threat–even if that action only buys additional time–is often necessary to avoid having action dictated by passion down the road. I think that it is telling that those who are most complacent are those who least understand the science.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Dec 2007 @ 8:25 AM

  110. Thank you David for doing the heavy lifting, and to Hank for the detective work.
    The Executive Summary points out accurately that undeveloped countries will have less resources to adapt to climate change, and with the world being politically, and socially divided and volatile, lagely as a result
    of the gap between poor and developed nations, adaptation,which is being promoted by some in the current administration, is an idea worth reconsideration.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 31 Dec 2007 @ 10:15 AM

  111. Susan K.: as Barton writes (correctly) and I neglected to mention, also variations in temperature and salinity, as well as currents (and wind pile-up and air pressure variations, the s.c. inverse barometer effect), may affect sea level, and if the changes are secular in nature, turn up in the measurements as (local) sea level rise.

    As an example, the Gulf Stream is slightly tilted in the W-E direction due to the interaction of the flow velocity with the rotation of the Earth, the Coriolis effect. You could imagine that, if the Gulf Stream were to change course or strength, sea level as measured in many places would change, and this might produce a sea level rise signature.

    Actually the picture is complex. We describe the gravity field of the Earth by a surface called the geoid, which is a surface of constant energy that sea water would align with in the absence of currents, salinity gradients, etc. This geoid surface is somewhat irregular, deviating up to +/- 100 m from the regular, geocentric ellipsoid of revolution. Internal mass redistributions (like melting ice sheets) will change this geoid surface, and thus sea level, the small effect I was referring to.

    But also true sea level deviates from the geoid by up to a meter, due to the physical effects mentioned (currents etc.). The permanent part of this is called the sea surface topography, and its secular change will indeed show up in sea level measurements.

    But as said, the largest and obvious cause of sea level rise varying from point to point is failure to refer the measurement to the geocenter rather than the local Earth’s crust.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 31 Dec 2007 @ 10:37 AM

  112. RE #92, I’m not an archaeologist, so I don’t know how many civilizations have failed, but I remember reading that the ancient civilization in what is now Iraq failed due to land degradation due to increasing population pressures, and that the farmers knew what was happening (as we know GW portends to destroy our global civ), but they were caught up in having to continue degrading their land.

    I also have read that state-level societies (civilizations) — the newcomers on the block, only been around for some 5,000 years — are inherently unstable, compared to band and tribal level societies, due to political reasons, aside from environmental problems. Of course in our present destruction of our home (oikos), we’re not leaving much of a viable home even for tribal peoples.

    RE Danny’s polar cities & my mention of arks….I did start a futuristic novel some 15 years ago about the year 2085 (didn’t get past chapter 2). Many people were living in “hives” — these were mound complexes of six-plex homes in a circle, with a vegetable garden and fish pond in the center. The complex was covered with earth in a mound form, except for the center solarium garden. The idea was that with increasing heat, wild-fires, and tornadoes, this would offer better protection. There was also an underground pedway for when the weather was bad, linking mounds and the town for pedestrians, cycles, small EVs, also shops along the way (with water-tight submarine doors). This doubled as a flood control channel for the great floods. But this was no utopia, since the Federated States of America (capital in Kansas) could not keep renegade Floridians and people from other states cut off as hopeless areas (due to hurricanes, sea rise, etc) from crossing the border and wreaking revenge on the FSA people. And everyone hated our generations — calling us “doomers.”

    RE apocalyptic thinking (#84) — I take no pleasure in it (though my husband has accused me of doing so). I’m sincerely hoping the worst won’t happen, and despite our sinful behavior that may deserve punishment, I’m sincerely hoping we’ll get a reprieve. And I’m hoping those in power will have a change of heart and do the needful to avert this disaster…and also get a reprieve and avoid going to that place that’s a lot hotter than a globally warmed world.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 31 Dec 2007 @ 10:50 AM

  113. Martin and Barton, thank you!
    So, are these first island’s sealevel changes enough “warm water caused” to be attributable to climate disruption? Or is it mostly slowmoving underlying crust changes, and therefore part of the background unrelated to global warming?
    Or: would you attribute these early examples MORE to climate change? Or not till Wall Street looks like Venice…?

    Comment by Susan K — 31 Dec 2007 @ 12:40 PM

  114. Lynn#112,

    I wish you’d finish that novel! Or even better, a screenplay. I am surprised that the movie industry has not seen its way to telling this horror story that will befall us all.

    Surely it is THE story for our species, (and all those other ones too).

    Comment by Susan K — 31 Dec 2007 @ 12:44 PM

  115. The IPCC does not model ice dynamics and therefore does not properly account for sea level changes. Since much of our economic infrastructure is at sea level, a proper accounting of sea level changes is essential to understanding the impact of global warming on society.

    The following seems jumbled because I am not taking the space to develop and relate the concepts.

    Consider the oil industry. At a sea level change of less than a meter per century, their oil production and refining facilities have substantial residual value. At some higher rate of sea level rise, those capital structures lose value and must be written off. The end of cheap oil could come when the oil industry realizes that they really will have to abandon current refinery, petrochemical, and production facilities near sea level. This decision may be purely a matter of the psychology of the managers and their accountants, which may, or may not be tied, to any particular physical event.

    The end of cheap oil will dramatically affect our agricultural industry. Currently, it is common to use 30 or 50 calories of petroleum energy to produce and deliver one calorie of human food energy. That will change.

    With expensive oil, “globalization” is less attractive as an economic buzz word. Even at the smallest scale, human settlements must be energy efficient. Diffuse settlements (suburbia) will become very costly. In short, expensive oil brings about a cascade of unpleasant social effects.

    There are actual physical events stemming from global warming that are not fully addressed either. The authors do not seem to have an appreciation of the complexity and fragility of the agricultural-industrial complex that provides food for most of the world’s population. A fault tree analysis of agricultural systems suggests a cascade of failures as weather events exceed the original design conditions of modern engineered agricultural systems.

    Time was, after a flood you could replant as soon as things dried out enough to work the soil. However, with modern drained/irrigated/engineered fields, they must rebuild infrastructure after a flood and before they plant another crop. Moreover, anything that disrupts very complex supply and maintenance chains put agricultural systems in jeopardy. Finally, the current agricultural system is hugely subsidized by cheap oil. Anything that disrupts cheap oil, disrupts our supplies of cheap food. Our oil supply infrastructure was engineered for a particular climate. If climate changes fast enough, the oil system will fail. Think about what happens every time a hurricane goes through the Gulf of Mexico. This year for the first time, we had two category 5 hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico (and the first typhoon in the Gulf of Oman in recent times.)

    Do the fault tree analysis for sea level change. Current agriculture needs cheap oil. Oil refining is mostly at sea level. Any significant change in sea level requires the refineries be “jacked-up”. However, the plants that make the steel pipe for refinery repair are also at sea level. So are the plants that make some the required plastics. Any significant change in sea level means a disruption in refining capacity. An extended disruption in refining capacity means cheap oil is at an end. Moving a refinery is a big deal.

    How suddenly could we move from cheap oil to oil that included the cost of new refineries, petrochemical plants and production facilities? All it would take is one big ice flow that produced a measurable change in sea level and scared an oil executive. Global grain stock carryovers have been declining for the last decade. We are one crop failure away from real food shortage. Drought in Australia or the US would be a problem. We have very fragile world food supply. There is no excess capacity to cushion the impact of a season of poor crop production anywhere in the world. Expensive oil makes it less likely that land will be planted, and thus more likely for a single crop failure to have an impact on the global economy.

    I live in California. Just looked out of my office and saw pear trees blooming – 4 months early. (That was yesterday. The buds froze last night. That is agricultural infrastructure that was damaged by global warming – yesterday! I guess I can write off my 2008 pear crop.)

    Welcome to the reality of global warming. That reality is not reflected in the subject report.

    I am not all doom and gloom. There are solutions, but this report does not even hint at how vital it is to take action now.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 31 Dec 2007 @ 12:45 PM

  116. Barton and Nick, Re: Malthus, I really am not trying to be perverse. However, I hear from many quarters that population is a non-issue, that all we have to do is a)make everybody prosperous, b)educate/empower all the women, c)get everybody to exercise “moral restraint, d)end marriage, e)end male hegemony, f)make birth control freely available… Interestingly, the solution often bears a strong resemblance to the political agenda of the speaker. Now, with the exception of ending marriage, I favor most of these ends as well, but I am a little reluctant to draw conclusions while 1)we have less than a generation’s worth of data on countries’ birth rates dropping down to replacement, 2)Global population is still increasing, 3)we are depleting Earth’s resources faster than ever. This makes me a little reluctant to say, “Malthus was wrong,” and declare victory. Hell, Darwin was wrong, too, about some things. I’m just afraid I don’t find a great deal of room for optimism when people are still debating whether a physical system with nearly unknown positive feedbacks might pose a stability concern.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Dec 2007 @ 12:51 PM

  117. Re # 40 Phil McCracken

    While your colleagues at work may not take AGW seriously, the governors of the New England states and Premiers of the Eastern Canadian provinces have been quite proactive in setting goals for reducing the emission of GHGs (to 1990 levels by 2010; to 10% below 1990 levels by 2020; and a long-term reduction of 75-85% from current emission levels).
    Climate Change Roadmap for New England and Eastern Canada – Summary Recommendations. Environment Northeast, http://www.env-ne.org

    That’s not to say the states and provinces are making good progress towards those goals, but at least their governments are taking it seriously, even if some citizens are not.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 31 Dec 2007 @ 1:01 PM

  118. Are these claims a mistake?

    Expert: Global warming fueling ‘mega-fires’ – http://rawstory.com/news/2007/CBS_Global_warming_fueling_age_of_1231.html

    Sea levels may rise 5 feet by 2100 –
    http://climateprogress.org/2007/12/31/sea-levels-may-rise-5-feet-by-2100/

    Comment by JCH — 31 Dec 2007 @ 1:03 PM

  119. I tend to agree with Ray. Malthus may have been wrong only in the sense that he did not foresee how well we could manage to extract resources from our world.

    Looking for instance at Indonesia, I find it hard to believe that the country will fare well if its population keeps increasing at the rate it has, and it continues managing its resources and people the way it has. There are many like examples.

    And it is not because western countries have taken a certain route at a point in their history/development, that all other countries will go similar ways.

    The question is, what are the true manifestations of hitting the limits for a population in a a specific set of circumstances, involving all natural factors (resources, climate etc…) and other aspects such as technology, culture and so forth. There is no assurance that anything catastrophic will happen to reveal the blaring truth. Signs may be more subtle, yet lead to a similar end. We unfortunately tend to focus on the spectacular stuff, on this subject as much as on climate change. However, this is an extremely complex question, way beyond the insight of a single person, would that be Malthus or anyone else. That does not mean that his insight was entirely wrong, perhaps just too simplistic.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 31 Dec 2007 @ 1:31 PM

  120. Speaking of Malthus:

    No Connection Between Environmental Crises And Armed Conflict, New Study Argues

    … Of course people fight over resources, that’s not our argument. We believe, rather, that we have a strong scientific case against the Neomalthusian model, says Binningsbø. …

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 31 Dec 2007 @ 1:36 PM

  121. Ray —

    I agree that Malthus wasn’t wrong. My last post on the subject was a little incoherent because it got mixed up with parts of the post I was responding to. My only point there was that Malthus didn’t say starvation was inevitable.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 31 Dec 2007 @ 1:40 PM

  122. Re #40
    I live in Upstate NY and I haven’t experienced a bitterly cold March or April in my lifetime. Snow, yes. But no bitter cold. Since the 70′s we rarely see temps. below 0 F!

    Comment by rick — 31 Dec 2007 @ 1:53 PM

  123. Re #106 (Barton Paul Levenson)

    “Contrary to popular belief, Malthus did not say people had to starve. He advocated practicing “moral restraint,” which he defined as couples not having sex after having had two children. Neither alters the facts that Malthus was wrong, that we know how to go about decreasing birth rates, and that in many countries, these are now below replacement level. A lot of misconceptions about Malthus can be laid aside by actually reading Malthus. Why are you so determined to deny or ignore these facts, and to be pessimistic about this?”

    Barton, I’m not sure what point you were trying to make, particularly in your last sentence. I quoted from Malthus (1798) “An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society with Remarks on the Speculations of Mr. Godwin, M. Condorcet, and Other Writers.”, and pointed out where he went wrong in this work, which is the one modern “Malthusians” such as Ray Ladbury seem to base their views on. In his 1798 work, Malthus gives no sign of believing that “moral restraint” is capable of counteracting the tendency of population to increase geometrically. I am aware he modified these views in his 1803 revision “An Essay on the Principle of Population; or a View of its past and present Effects on Human Happiness; with an Inquiry into our Prospects respecting the Removal or Mitigation of the Evils which it occasions”, although it is quite clear he was not in favour of contraception, at any period.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 31 Dec 2007 @ 2:31 PM

  124. Re the Malthus discussion, shouldn’t we be discussing the more modern idea of carrying capacity, and whether it’s appropriately applied to humans? Presumably, the only reason it wouldn’t apply to humans is due to human ingenuity.

    Maybe the question should be: Is human ingenuity sufficient to overcome the biological constraints that apply to every other organism on Earth?

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 31 Dec 2007 @ 3:00 PM

  125. Re JCH’s question about megafires in 118, I watched that 60 Minutes story — there was some amazing footage of land transforming from forest to savannah: thousands of black, dead tree skeletons rising from new desert floor.

    As the topics expand and desertification accelerates, it seems inevitable that megafires and deforestation will result.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 31 Dec 2007 @ 3:09 PM

  126. 1. There is accurate polar bear population data. They are increasing in number throughout the Arctic.

    2. What is the best case scenario regarding CO2 accumulation if we continue the status quo approach, that is supporting Kyoto, but increasing emissions everywhere? You have already informed us about the worst case scenario.

    Comment by P Lenihan — 31 Dec 2007 @ 3:24 PM

  127. Re #113 Susan K: I would be very reluctant to draw any hard conclusions concerning global warming / eustatic sea level rise from individual island sites, or even several such sites. The key is careful reduction and realistic error analysis on data sets of global validity and appropriate time base. (I have done some tide gauge analysis in a previous life.)

    There is no royal road to insight :-(

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 31 Dec 2007 @ 4:48 PM

  128. My question is: How many times in the last 50,000 years of the Polar bear has their enviorment changed? Have they adapted?

    Comment by pbview — 31 Dec 2007 @ 5:04 PM

  129. Re #122 (Jim Galasyn) “Maybe the question should be: Is human ingenuity sufficient to overcome the biological constraints that apply to every other organism on Earth?”

    I think all those of us who accept the reality of AGW would probably agree that the answer is “no”: at least so long as Malthus’ first proposition “That population cannot increase without the means of subsistence”, holds. I suppose if we were all “uploaded” as the Singularitarians suggest, we would have overcome those constraints, but would no longer be human, at least in a biological sense.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 31 Dec 2007 @ 5:23 PM

  130. Re #126 (P. Lenihan) “There is accurate polar bear population data. They are increasing in number throughout the Arctic.”

    Where do you get this information? The most recent relevant peer-reviewed paper I found in a brief search (Research and Practice in Social Sciences Dowsley, M Vol. 2, No. 2 (Feb. 2007) 53-74
    “Inuit Perspectives on Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) and Climate
    Change in Baffin Bay, Nunavut, Canada”) does not support the claim, and several sources suggest data simply is not good enough to make any definite statement about their numbers increasing or decreasing.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 31 Dec 2007 @ 5:39 PM

  131. IUCN Polar Bear population estimates.

    Btw, I had to trim most of this post away, due to the thrice-damned WordPress spam filter, which won’t tell me which words it considers to be spam.

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 31 Dec 2007 @ 6:10 PM

  132. Re #116 (Ray Ladbury) “Nick, Re: Malthus, I really am not trying to be perverse. However, I hear from many quarters that population is a non-issue”
    From what quarters? Be specific please. What I hear much more frequently are complaints that “population is increasing exponentially” (it isn’t) – e.g. from Barton Paul Levenson and others on this site not long ago; and that “population is a taboo subject” (it isn’t) e.g. from http://climateextremist.blogspot.com/2007/03/taboo-topic-population-time-bomb.html.
    - and almost invariably, these claims are from people who have not bothered to find out what is actually happening to population at present, and thought likely to happen over the next few decades. Population growth rates have declined markedly in almost every country since the global peak in the late 1960s – globally they have roughly halved, and absolute population growth (annual surplus of births over deaths) has almost certainly been falling since around 2000. Urban populations everywhere have lower growth rates than the nearby rural populations, and people are moving to urban areas. We should not be complacent, we should oppose restrictions on contraception and abortion, we should oppose “pro-natalist” policies, including in countries where populations are declining (or would without immigration), above all we should educate and empower girls and women. However, we should also recognise that the bleats of “population is the real problem”, “population is a taboo subject” etc. provide a handy way of blaming the poor for the problems which we, the rich, have largely caused – and that sometimes (I am certainly not accusing anyone posting here) “there are too many people” is a coded way of saying “there are too many black/brown/yellow people”.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 31 Dec 2007 @ 6:31 PM

  133. SusanK:

    As others have stated already, there are many factors that affect sea level. Subsidence or ascent of land mass affects RELATIVE sea level rise (ie, the sea level at a certain coastal location) and may indirectly affect absolute sea level in certain locations by displacement (ie. clogging up an inlet or something similar). Local variations in sea level are caused by changes in salinity, atmospheric pressure, ocean and atmospheric temperature and wind.

    One of my favourite examples in the equatorial pacific. Trade wind flow (regular east/south-easterly winds across the tropics) pushes on the water, causing it to “build up” on the western side of the Pacific basin near Australia. The fact that to sea level is higher at one side of the pacific than the other drives a “sub-surface counter current” that we can measure.

    Large scale atmospheric phenomena, like Hurricanes can also significantly affect sea level. Check out this cool site to see how sea-level is changing on a short term basis:
    http://www.bom.gov.au/oceanography/forecasts/

    With regards to your second question, it’s very diffucult to attribute the relative sea-level rise at any one site to any one cause. Depending on the island, it could be induced by land rise/subsidence, erosion, thermal expansion of ocean water ect… However, what we do know is that as the oceans warm, the water is expected to expand, leading to a rise in sea level. Carefull measurements made over decades by satellites and tide gauges over a number of sites have detected an increasing trend that is close to what we would expect (actually a little bit more), which lends evidence to this idea.

    However, in climte, it is very difficult to ever nail down an phenomena to a single cause. However, the evidence so far suggests that warming of the oceans is contributing to sea level rise.

    Comment by ChrisC — 31 Dec 2007 @ 7:55 PM

  134. Re 124: that is truly the right qestion. Ingenuity will push away the constraints but up to a certain point only. Then, quality of life will decrease, obviously starting with the most vulnerable (poor). They are likely to bear the blunt of that decrease for a while, but past a certain point, more and more will see their quality of life decrease. However, the exact ways and rates at which this will all manifest is really hard to foresee.

    Stabilizing total population close enough to its current level, or even up to 8-9 billions is not necessarily so bad (if a good bunch of it is urban), as long as we can manage the energy problem and the climate does not make food production too much of a problem, and the ecosystems remain functional, and most places adopt adequate environmental regulations (lots of ifs).

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 31 Dec 2007 @ 8:35 PM

  135. Nick, thanks for your efforts on this re Malthus. The Malthusian meme is interesting in so far as it seems reasonable at first glance but collapses totally when Malthus’ original arguments are actually examined in context and put to the test of the evidence. I gather the same goes for Hardin’s tragedy of the commons, which again looks like a great idea but apparently doesn’t match most cases of actual commons management by human beings. But these two ideas are now central doctrine in terms of pop ecology and most people cannot be disabused of them. (I mean this generally: no slur on Ray Ladbury!)

    Comment by EricL — 31 Dec 2007 @ 9:17 PM

  136. Re #132: [What I hear much more frequently are complaints that “population is increasing exponentially” (it isn’t)...]

    Could you perhaps offer some evidence to back up that claim? I certainly don’t see any evidence that they’re not, even if the exponential factor may have changed. Population growth rates may have declined, but they’re still growth rates. As with CO2 increase, as long as the rate’s positive, the problem is still there.

    As for knowing how to deal with the problem, yes, we know several ways, but none that is likely to work without (at the very least) a totalitarian government willing and able to impose it by force, as with China’s one child per family program.

    Comment by James — 31 Dec 2007 @ 9:49 PM

  137. For John Mashey, Post 99 above, Lynn, David, Hank, and others who have looked at my polar cities blog and read some of my posts here, there’s a new interview with me on a radio station in Vancouver, Canada, here, just ten minutes long, in the middle, from minute 22:40 seconds to minute 32 or so, and people have told me that the radio interview explains what I am doing much better than my print comments. So if time allows, take a listen:

    http://www.ecoshock.net/eshock/ES_071221_Show.mp3

    May 2008 be an important year in our understanding of just what it is we face in terms of climate change. The momentum is building in most Western countries, but I fear the rest of the world could care less. They want what the West has, or what they see on TV and Hollywood movies. They even want blue eyes and blond hair. Sigh. So sad. Globalization has gone a bit too far, I fear. Anyways, this is an important blog and I appreciate the mods letting me participate from time to time…

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 31 Dec 2007 @ 10:04 PM

  138. Eric L, I would like to know better what you are referring to with the Tragedy of the Commons idea. From my own obervation and research, it appears that, at least for preservations of areas where ecosystems proceed with minimum human disturbance (natural parks, reserves, etc…), public works somewhat better than private (esp. large areas). Some try to include the oceans in this commons idea and I think it is a pretty bad example, kind of like the atmosphere as a whole, although technically they are the ultimate commons. People’s perceptions are what matter and they are not yet ready to perceive some things as areas of responsibility. A large chunk of land (with a map for it) can be worked in the public’s psyche. The air or the ocean, in general, can’t, yet.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 31 Dec 2007 @ 10:17 PM

  139. Nick Gotts, Latest estimate has global population growing at 1.167%–still exponential, with a doubling time of ~59 years. Yes, that is much lower than the ’60s. It is still not sustainable. I’m a bit reluctant to risk civilization’s future on extrapolation of a 30 year trend. And you rightly point out that it is not just population, but growth of consumption that is the problem–and since increased resources will be essential to the very forces you say are behind falling population growth rates, will they be sustained in the future? It may well be that we are already beyond the carrying capacity of the planet. Certainly we are doing serious harm to the ecosystems thereof. Malthus may have already proven right wrt the human species. And even if he is not right yet, he is not wrong until humans actually find a way to live in a sustainable manner–in terms of population, resource consumption and even social support systems.
    I really don’t think that this will “just happen” as a result of some fortunate confluence of trends or of our humanity. Perhaps “moral restraint” is not the key to avoiding a Malthusian collapse, but certainly it will take some form of restraint.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 31 Dec 2007 @ 11:13 PM

  140. Re 136 James,
    Try this US Census Bureau site:
    http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idb/worldpop.html
    I think one thing we would all agree on is that if population was increasing approximately exponentially then the change (increase) from year to year would also increase. If the change from year to year was constant then growth would be linear. The largest increase was nearly 88 million in 1989. Since then the annual increase has been steadily declining and is now (2007) about 77 million. This is not even a linear growth rate. I’ve tried to reproduce the table for 1989 to 2007. The site projects out to 2050, by which time world population is projected to be 9.4 billion with an annual growth of about 46 million.

    Year Population (%) Increase
    1989 5,185,743,040 1.68 87,671,844
    1990 5,273,414,884 1.58 83,805,575
    1991 5,357,220,459 1.54 83,275,568
    1992 5,440,496,027 1.47 80,816,729
    1993 5,521,312,756 1.43 79,720,422
    1994 5,601,033,178 1.43 80,645,018
    1995 5,681,678,196 1.40 79,930,775
    1996 5,761,608,971 1.36 78,965,934
    1997 5,840,574,905 1.33 78,141,183
    1998 5,918,716,088 1.29 76,883,801
    1999 5,995,599,889 1.26 76,111,007
    2000 6,071,710,896 1.24 75,825,101
    2001 6,147,535,997 1.21 75,015,718
    2002 6,222,551,715 1.20 74,894,185
    2003 6,297,445,900 1.19 75,483,901
    2004 6,372,929,801 1.19 76,207,322
    2005 6,449,137,123 1.18 76,422,087
    2006 6,525,559,210 1.17 76,715,602
    2007 6,602,274,812 1.16 77,257,452

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 1 Jan 2008 @ 1:32 AM

  141. Re Aaron @ 115 , Jim @ 124, Phillipe @ 134 and others:
    There are at least two schools of thought that suggest that the very complexity and energy required to maintain our civilisation carries the seeds of its ultimate collapse. We have overcome (temporarily) the Malthusian environmental constraints fundamentally by using enormous amounts of fossil fuel energy, but that carries with it a high cost in the complexity (and lack of resilience) of the infrastructure required to maintain modern farming.

    Joseph Tainter maintains that these increasing investments in social complexity reach a point of diminishing marginal returns. At some point additional investment in complexity creates zero return and collapse is a natural result.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Tainter

    The field of Complex Adaptive Systems (especially the John H. Holland view) also posits cycles of emergence, growth, increasing complexity combined with eventually declining resilience, perturbation and collapse, folowed by re-emergence. These are natural and somewhat inevitable processes in such systems.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_adaptive_systems

    I find these ideas enticing and seductive, but ultimately only useful retrospectively when used to describe human societies. It is difficult to work out how to even measure the variables in these systems let alone use them to make predictions about human societies. Maybe someone will set me right.

    In the words of our discussion host, I’m a techie not a touchie.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 1 Jan 2008 @ 2:10 AM

  142. @Bruce Tabor (140). Your own table shows that the “steady decline” in increases stopped in 2002. After that the yearly increase grew again from 74.9 million in 2002 to 77.3 million in 2007. Luckily the percentage growth is still decreasing.

    Comment by Ark — 1 Jan 2008 @ 4:45 AM

  143. Btw, I had to trim most of this post away, due to the thrice-damned WordPress spam filter, which won’t tell me which words it considers to be spam.

    Of course it won’t. If it did, the spammers would simply avoid those words …

    Comment by dhogaza — 1 Jan 2008 @ 4:48 AM

  144. The world’s leading polar bear scientists reported that of the 19 subpopulations of polar bears, five were declining, five were stable, two were increasing, and seven had insufficient data to make a determination.

    This does not support your contention that numbers are increasing “throughout the Artic”.

    I tried to post more, but that post was flagged as spam, so don’t feel too bad about yours having been flagged.

    Comment by dhogaza — 1 Jan 2008 @ 4:58 AM

  145. James writes:

    [[As for knowing how to deal with the problem, yes, we know several ways, but none that is likely to work without (at the very least) a totalitarian government willing and able to impose it by force, as with China’s one child per family program.]]

    Actually, voluntary programs have made great strides in many countries. Bangladesh, once dismissed as a basket case, has managed to lower its lifetime fertility rate from seven children per woman to three. That’s not replacement level yet, but it’s getting there. When I was born (1960) population was rising at about 2.0% per year; now it’s down to 1.3%. You’re right that it should decline further, but we probably won’t need totalitarian control of the Chinese variety.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 1 Jan 2008 @ 6:50 AM

  146. Re #136 (James), 139 (Ray Ladbury) “Latest estimate has global population growing at 1.167%–still exponential, with a doubling time of ~59 years.” Ray, I would have expected you at least to know what exponential growth means: that the proportional rate of change remains the same. It is not doing so; it is falling, and has been doing so fairly steadily for 40 years. As Bruce points out – I’d be cautious about the accuracy of the figures he uses to show sublinear growth, as counting people is non-trivial – but that growth has been subexponential for several decades is really not in doubt. Malthus’s (1798) contention that population would invariably grow if sustenance was available has been proved wrong by the experience of Japan. These are matters of fact, not opinion. Once people stop pretending otherwise, we might have a sensible discussion about population. Incidentally, Ray, I notice you don’t actually give any specific sources for claims that population is not a problem.

    Re #135 (EricL) Eric, yes, I’d agree completely about Hardin: what he should have called the phenomenon is “The Tragedy of the Open-Access Regime”. Real, historical commons were/are governed by complex rules and mutual surveillance. George Monbiot wrote a Scientific American essay “The Tragedy of Enclosure” on this (jan 1994). He says Hardin’s sound-bite has been used to justify nationalising (and subsequently, in most cases, privatizing) commons in many countries, impoverishing those who had rights of use in them.

    I wrote a review of a large sample of the multi-disciplinary literature on “social dilemmas” which some people may be able to get hold of:
    Gotts, N.M., Polhill, J.G. and Law, A.N.R. (2003) “Agent-based social simulation in the study of social dilemmas” Artificial Intelligence Review, 19 (1):3-92. It’s more general than the title might suggest.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 1 Jan 2008 @ 6:55 AM

  147. I also read a report from Utrecht university which explained the chain of events in the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), 55 million years ago which caused the temp of the artic regions to exceed 24C in a runaway greenhouse effect condition. Increased volcanic activity pushed the level of CO2 beyond the tipping point which raised the global temp sufficiently to release vast quantities of methane stored under the oceans as hydrates to excape into the atmosphere thus compounding the temp rise. One also assumes that the methane stored in the tundra would have aslo been released. Tropical algae flourished at the north pole. So that little example shows what happened when mother nature is pushed to beyong breaking point. By all highest level accounts we are reaching that level now. I am currently reading The age of consequences…very thorough report I must say! It’s great ammunition in the fight to get our respective governments to take IMMEDIATE action.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 1 Jan 2008 @ 8:52 AM

  148. Nick Gotts, Eric L., Jim Glasslyn et al., Keep in mind that Malthus was writing in 1798. Surely it is not reasonable to hold him to a higher standard than that to which we hold, for example, Darwin or J. C. Maxwell. Yes, elements of his treatise were incorrect. However, it was a vast improvement over the panglossian vision of Condorcet, and I would contend that the basic tenet–that population cannot expand indefinitely without outstripping its food supply, etc.–is correct.
    Yes, birth rates are falling. That’s good. However, some countries are trying to counter that trend (e.g. Russia and Germany). Also, when you look at the reasons people give for having future children, the expense of raising children figures heavily. Doesn’t this reflect a tightening of availability of resources for survival. And in response, how are they having fewer children? Contraception is a big factor–actually mentioned by Malthus (called a vice).
    Given the rather precarious state we have put our environment in while attempting to feed 6 billion people, I think it is a bit premature to declare victory over Malthus–particularly if we extend to him the liberality of interpretation we extend to other scientists of the 18th and 19th century.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jan 2008 @ 9:32 AM

  149. Re #148 (Ray Ladbury) Good: you agree that Malthus (1798) (for whom I have great respect as a pioneer of social science) was wrong on the key point that population must rise if sustenance is available, and you agree that population is not growing exponentially – at least, that’s how I interpret your post. Now a productive discussion is possible. As I’ve made clear repeatedly, I don’t say population growth is not a problem, so we’re agreed there.

    “when you look at the reasons people give for having future children, the expense of raising children figures heavily. Doesn’t this reflect a tightening of availability of resources for survival.”

    No, if you’re talking about rich countries, particularly those with a decent welfare state, where children do not starve unless their parents or parent-substitutes starve them.(Malthus, wrongly, thought that a welfare state, which is more or less what Condorcet advocated, would lead to a sharp rise in birth-rates.) It may do so in the former USSR, where the transition from statism to kleptocracy has impoverished most people; but a collapse in morale, resulting in increased alcoholism among men and hence a perception by many women that they cannot be relied on for any help, is probably also important. In rich countries it may sometimes reflect a tightening of availability of resources to keep yourself and prospective children in the manner you aspire to. More generally, whether to have children, and how many, is mainly a “lifestyle choice” in urban societies – they are one “luxury” among many available. From this point of view, the need is to ensure that people can live enjoyable and satisfying lives both without children and while cutting their GHG production; to minimise social pressures, particularly on women, to reproduce; and to make it as easy as possible for those who want to, to have sex without risking having children. Here again Condorcet, a contraceptive pioneer, scores over Malthus, who, as you say, regarded contraception as “vice”.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 1 Jan 2008 @ 11:10 AM

  150. So, can I be on the committee that decides who lives and who, er, takes one for the team?

    Comment by Phil McCracken — 1 Jan 2008 @ 11:37 AM

  151. Ray Ladbury> …that it is not just population, but growth of consumption that is the problem–and since increased resources will be essential to the very forces you say are behind falling population growth rates, will they be sustained in the future?

    I guess I don’t see the problem of lack of resources. Sure, we will eventually need to replace fossil fuels with somewhat more expensive nuclear and renewables, but once that is done, why can’t everyone enjoy high living standards?

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 1 Jan 2008 @ 11:41 AM

  152. There is a presumption regarding total human population that we have not far, far exceeded the sustainable carrying capacity of the biosphere already. Unless we devise a means to eat sand, we are dependent on coherent ecosystems for our survival. The apparent fact that we can continue on as we have does not mean that we actually can do so. Resource collapse–and societal collapse–usually comes suddenly, shortly after the point of maximun exploitation. It would be easy to argue that we are near that point now.
    If one looks at the human population curve, suddenly spiking over the last century, and then compare it with the increase in the consumption of petroleum and its many products, it seems that the two are closely linked. That is, without that extra free energy, human population would never have reached such large numbers.
    We do not really know what is the actual human carrying capacity of the planet (thirty years ago, 60 billion was commonly asserted, twenty years ago 20-40 billion, ten years ago 14 billion; now I don’t think anyone could sanely argue for even 9 billion), but the current human population is obviously unsustainable. We will discover how true this assertion is when the backlog of free natural resources shortly evaporates. Suppose at that point there finally will be nine billion humans alive on the planet; what does it matter if the annual growth rate is slowing when the only remaining option is a precipitous crash to near zero?
    Human beings had an outsized impact upon ecosystems even twelve thousand years ago–even fifty thousand years ago, if one subscribes to the theory of megafaunal extinction at human contact (i.e. Australian colonization). One can only conclude that such outsized intelligence as the human mind represents is too destructive to last, because it cannot be effectively constrained for its own long-term welfare.

    Comment by Mark R — 1 Jan 2008 @ 11:41 AM

  153. Re #150 (Phil McCracken) “So, can I be on the committee that decides who lives and who, er, takes one for the team?”

    Very witty, but no-one here has yet suggested killing people as a solution to over-population.

    [Response: And they won't - please no more posts on this. - gavin]

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 1 Jan 2008 @ 11:53 AM

  154. Nick, I don’t think the word “must” should be used often in the social sciences. However, as I said before, falling populations create problems, particularly when growth rate does not fall evenly over a region. Immigration from surrounding regions increases; the issue of supporting an aging population with a smaller workforce is particularly vexing. In some sense, the continuation of the trend toward population stability depends on how we handle these problems. Some governments are already increasing incentives to have more children, and even China is relaxing its one-child policy. In rural India, it might as well be the era of Malthus all over again. And in the United States, we are starting to hear some rumblings in less educated circles about increasing “white” birthrates to avoid being overrun by immigrants.
    And where it really counts–consumption of resources–growth continues apace.
    So yes, Malthus only had a part of the picture. That does not diminish his contribution. It also does not mean we will avoid his projected collapse, which we are still on track to encounter unless we develop a sustainable society. And Condorcet’s arguments in favor of contraception–while anathema to the mind of a 18th century English gentleman–form part of the answer, but only a part. I do not see how we can avoid collapse without a form of “moral restraint”, not necessarily with regard to sex, but more with regard to consumption.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jan 2008 @ 11:58 AM

  155. Steve, the problem is that resources are finite, and our consumption of resources may already be taxing the ecology of the planet beyond the breaking point.

    Nick Gotts, One can view the reduction of population growth in 2 ways: 1)People are making a conscious decision to have fewer childres because their environment presents them with other options; or 2)It is becoming more difficult to support many children, which could be viewed as a tightening of resource supplies. The first has been called the “Tonight Show” effect in the US–a reference to the fact that more people opted for watching the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson than having sex. However, I would point out that the two options are not mutually exclusive. It is possible that when both parents are working to make ends meet, as most are in developed countries anymore, they’re too tired to procreate.
    Population growth rate often decreases in populations where food supply (or in our case, infrastructure) is under stress. Again, I think it’s risky to extrapolate a 30 year trend a century into the future. And the population growth rate is still well above replacement level.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 1 Jan 2008 @ 12:09 PM

  156. Re #154 (Ray Ladbury) Ray, I agree with just about all of that, except I’m not sure what you mean about rural India. Certainly it is over-populated, but as far as I can discover all the national demographic statistics are going in the right direction, although too slowly. The fastest population growth is now in the 50 poorest countries, who are responsible for only a small proportion of the production of GHGs, although a larger proportion of other forms of environmental damage. I certainly agree with the need for “moral restraint” with regard to consumption – indeed I’ve argued it repeatedly here.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 1 Jan 2008 @ 12:17 PM

  157. Re #146: [Ray, I would have expected you at least to know what exponential growth means: that the proportional rate of change remains the same. It is not doing so; it is falling, and has been doing so fairly steadily for 40 years.]

    I think we have a disagreement on the meaning of exponential. What I meant, and I think what I said, is that if at T = 0, you have population P0, then at T+dT, P1 = f * P0. Now of course this is the real world, so f is not a constant, but a complicated function of many variables, and I’m sure that a properly changing f could change the underlying exponential growth so that it’d be linear for a while. However, the mechanism of population growth (any population, not just human) is exponential.

    In any case, this quibbling doesn’t change the underlying problems. The human population is increasing, it already far outstrips the sustainable resources, and there is no sign that it’s ever going to naturally go negative.

    And re #154: [he issue of supporting an aging population with a smaller workforce is particularly vexing.]

    Excuse me for drifting off-topic, but this isn’t really a problem, it’s just a consequence of an attitude that’s all too prevalent in modern society: that once people reach a certain age, they ought to “retire” from productive life. They can even be convinced that being thus thrown on the trash heap is a desirable goal :-(

    Comment by James — 1 Jan 2008 @ 2:06 PM

  158. “And in the United States, we are starting to hear some rumblings in less educated circles about increasing “white” birthrates to avoid being overrun by immigrants.”

    I think that it its definitely hard not to rumble, when hearing other (supposedly more educated?) voices say that there’s just not enough people for doing this or that job and that increase in immigration by any means is necessary. And the immigrants usually do have more children than the original population, so whatever side you look at that, you get more people.

    Comment by EW — 1 Jan 2008 @ 3:54 PM

  159. re 100,

    i think thats very debatable David, in light of this recent article by Bill Mcguire, my favourite catastrophist…

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2007/aug/07/disasters

    Clearly, Mcguire says that climate change will increase the incidence of vulcanism, earthquakes and tsunamis.

    Maybe this would be worth a thread, because i’m not sure how aware other RC readers are of this work, and it certainly gave me new to worry about!

    Comment by mark s — 1 Jan 2008 @ 4:10 PM

  160. The report provides honest answers but the question remains as to how must to trust in state of the art models that remain constrained by computational time and the scientific tools available to front load them with data and physical parameters

    It seems a capital mistake to assume that what they can and do computationally solve is all there is — but some policy makers make that mistake routinely- Woolsey is a case in point, with a mixed record when it comes to critically evaluating the input that framed his executive decision making as DCI.

    The art of intelligence all too often arrives at decaredly “robust” conclusions by strategically ignoring inconvenient complexity, because gentlemen as astute as Wollsey realize simple folk like Senators will balk unless fed clarity , even when the signal to noise ratio in the raw intel is atrocious.

    knowing even this rudimentary fact of organizational life often tempts scientists at earlier stages of the briefing process to represent their strategically simplified view of the world as more complete than it is.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 1 Jan 2008 @ 4:34 PM

  161. mark s (159) — Thanks for the link. The article treats the matter in more detail than my brief post, but is not inconsistent with what I attempted to briefly convey.

    Perhaps the main trust ought to be that people are rarely ready for extreme events.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 1 Jan 2008 @ 5:44 PM

  162. Re #48 Lynn, I agree. General interests are considerate of the common good. Special interests are in the interest of the group that is pushing the particular agenda that has most in common with advantage to the group and not necessarily the common good although special interest often claim the agenda they are pushing is for the common good.

    Technically there is nothing wrong with special interests as long as those interests are not influencing politicians and governance, which is/are supposed to be working for the common good and the national interest. Special interests as they are today are in conflict with the intentions of the founders of the US Constitution and the general intentions of the Constitution. It was written to empower individuals in order to ensure groups would not dictate to the citizens, generally speaking. That is not the case today especially since Buckley v. Valeo Supreme Court decision, 1976. That decision is not inline with the general premise of the constitution and that argument needs to be made in order to begin fixing the electoral process as it pertains to campaigns. It did however support special interests and is still argued about today.

    Sorry all for the political speak, but it really does have a lot to do with the problems we are experiencing in getting the facts to rule the argument re global warming, vs. the fiction.

    Comment by John P. Reisman — 1 Jan 2008 @ 5:46 PM

  163. Russell Seitz> …gentlemen as astute as Wollsey realize simple folk like Senators will balk unless fed clarity , even when the signal to noise ratio in the raw intel is atrocious.

    Kind of like figure 1 in the report that misrepresents the science and implies conclusions not supported by the science.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 1 Jan 2008 @ 5:51 PM

  164. I think the drought in the US during the 1930’s could serve well for a model in how climate change affects society. Some people lost their farms and migrated to other areas, but others were able to stay. Did people die from the effects of the drought? History doesn’t say a lot about this. How about birth rates? I have never read a thorough book on the social effects of this time period. It would be an interesting study in light of the debate on global warming.

    Comment by a.syme — 1 Jan 2008 @ 6:29 PM

  165. Ray Ladbury> the problem is that resources are finite, and our consumption of resources may already be taxing the ecology of the planet beyond the breaking point.

    That is what limits to growth people have been saying since 1972. The Simon – Ehrlich bet showed that we are likely not running out of resources. Besides, resources (other than fossil fuels) can be recycled, not consumed.

    So what evidence do you have that there is any fundamental limit to living standards for currently projected world population due to resources?

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 1 Jan 2008 @ 7:11 PM

  166. > History doesn’t say a lot …
    Would you tell us how you searched for this information? I did a very quick Google Scholar search:

    And found an awful, in both senses of the word, lot of history about that time span.

    One example off the first page of search results:

    http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0002-9602%28194205%2947%3A6%3C816%3AP%3E2.0.CO%3B2-K&size=LARGE&origin=JSTOR-enlargePage

    “Between 1930 and 1940 the population growth of the nation declined markedly with the disappearance of net foreign immigration and with continued decline in natural increase. The decrease in the rate of growth of population in the South was less than that in the North or the West. The balance of age-specific birth and death rates shifted so as to fall below the critical point of population replacement. The rate of urban growth decline greatly, to a point barely exceeding that of rural growth, while the rural-farm population remained practically stationary and the rural-nonfarm population increased relatively rapidly….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2008 @ 7:44 PM

  167. Recommended, short, reading:

    http://gristmill.grist.org/story/2007/12/16/222024/73

    http://gristmill.grist.org/images/user/8/subtraction_slide2.jpg

    —–excerpt—-

    … as a matter of realism, a crash program of global clean energy transition would probably be an excellent vehicle for Keynesian stimulus. Not to mention the “green collar jobs” factor. — Tom Athanasiou

    —–end excerpt, from the comments———

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2008 @ 7:55 PM

  168. Just a passing note here, re my earlier posts above about polar cities, and some later posts pro and con, and mostly con, and that is okay, I am open to all points of view here …. today I received a polite letter from a reporter from a MSM newspaper in the West Coast of the USA who said he could not report about my polar cities “idea” or blog because I was not in the local readership area (since I live far away in another country) and because I have no street cred. I accept and understand what he said. But it’s interesting.

    “Dear Danny -

    You’re correct about the local angle, since you are not a local. But even if you were a local, the
    main reason for not doing a story is that your idea hasn’t passed a
    “seriousness” test – that is, being taken seriously by someone who could
    place it on a path to fruition.”

    SMILE. I love it. What a world! Good thing I have a sense of humor and know that polar cities is NOT an idea whose time has come (and hopefully will NEVER come).

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 1 Jan 2008 @ 8:35 PM

  169. Re 166
    I stand corrected; the climate change during the Dust Bowl is one of the most significant that I can think of happening to an industrialized country. I would think it could teach us some valuable lessons in handling the social impact of climate change, but I don’t see it often mentioned in a forum like this one.

    Comment by a.syme — 1 Jan 2008 @ 8:41 PM

  170. Re: population growth, we are all aware that the pop growth in the developed countries are either near equilibrium or negative. We are also aware that the living standards for the mega populised countries such as china and india is rising, china imposed long ago a one child/family policy for much of the country but india’s rate is also slowing as life becomes easier and the need to procreate becomes less urgent. The carrying capacity of the earth entirely depends on effciencies of farming, distribution, commerce/consumption and the management and reprocessing of waste materials. The capacity of the land to grow crops can only be increased up to a point with the pressure of cities and towns to expand in size swallowing up more land that could be used for agriculture. But as done in many countries, even within cities you can develop a cooperative between a number of families to vigorously farm a plot the size of a city block with great efficiency even better when permacultural techniques are used. The key to our survival in the long run is to create an mindset of carbon neutrality across the globe. Carbon neutrality and self sufficiency in the only long term solution as far as I can see. Still the more people the world has to feed, house and entertain the more pressure has to bear on all the natural biosystems. It comes down to quality of existance, sure the world could probably house 15 bn people but at terible cost? I believe 3-4 bil is the ideal sustainable number.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 1 Jan 2008 @ 9:38 PM

  171. reading this thread put me in mind of my University Sociology class: The UN population graph showed an exponential curve and the commentary was that population curves that turned sharply up to infinity, crashed abruptly back toward zero. (as an aside, the curve up to the early 70′s could have been called a hockey stick) the implication was that humanity faced catastrophe through war, famine, disease or some breakdown of the social order. That did not come to pass as a hodge podge of solutions occurred: Feminism, the pill, abortion, an economy which required a two wage earner family if the consumptive norms of the society were to be met and so forth. The remarks about the transformation of the old Soviet Union from stateism to kleptrocray gave me this amusing insight: Ronald Regan’s minions midwifed the transformation of the Old Soviets into the new Kleptocrats. In doing so they apparently impelled the affected women a view point of the most extreme American feminists: that men could not be relied upon. Reagan and Dworkin would each find the other anathima, but the Reganauts spread the Dworkin mantra to Russia.

    In any event what this discussion leads me to conclude is: AGW will not be addressed and mitigated by any coherent program, but by a cludge, a number of ad hoc responses and unintended consequences. How REALCLIMATE influences real people will be far more its legacy than how its view point is presented at governmental hearings.

    I use all low watt bulbs now, I use Faraday flashlights and a solar led yard light, and I will drag my son in law and my nephew over this summer to help me construct an updraft / downdraft wind generator.

    I will repost this thread on the political board I frequent as: will peak oil save us from AGW or vice versa? —with your kind permission of course—

    Comment by JOHN S.. — 1 Jan 2008 @ 10:45 PM

  172. What’s the problem with Mad Max? I’m totally for “Sound the alarms.” But the Mad Max future was kind of, ahem, cool. Many of the characters it brought out were more appealing – on both the good and not-good sides of the ledger – than those who currently fill our public life. Those movies are more celebratory than cautionary, more about humanity finally coming through even in what, roughly outlined, should be the direst circumstances.

    This is a note on rhetoric. Saying “Mad Max” may put a scare into some, as intended. But to many others that’s not the worst of possible futures – and to those less favored in our current socio-economic order, even has appeal.

    Comment by Whit — 2 Jan 2008 @ 12:05 AM

  173. This list should not be seen as presenting an overly alarming future, since we deal with deaths on all but the “Epidemic” scale every year in the form of diseases like worms and malaria, which kill tens of millions. If this list is a “call to global climate action” then why would we not want to prioritize the easily preventable 3rd world health problems? I’d vote for adding those deaths to this list and then dealing with death in order of return on our investment of time and money.

    Comment by Joe Duck — 2 Jan 2008 @ 3:44 AM

  174. The file A crude awakening is available to watch on Youtube in nine parts. Although it invokes the usual peak oil spokespeople it does seem somewhat compelling in the sense that the EIA, IEA projections of 115 mb/d come 2030 up from 85 mb/d now is very very unlikely, in fact the whole world is looking to the middle east and saudi arabia is particulalr to pump 20-30 mb/d up from 10 mb/d as well as replacing the countries who have already reached peak declinging output. Iraq can obviously pump more but not yet, if ever but the very idea of 50 mb/d by 2030 is laughable.

    Sustainables were talked about in a offhand manner and not covered properly although the verdict was somewhat damming and a bit dismissive.

    For anyone to believe that the life we live now in the first world will spill over to millions more in india, china etc is extremely unlikely based on oil for transport. some growth maybe but china and india will still be energy poor in this regard.

    I do not think that climate change will be effected but it might be dimmed somewhat politicially if gas and coal is used to create liquids which means more CO2 emissions, not less.

    Comment by pete best — 2 Jan 2008 @ 5:54 AM

  175. #159 Mark S,

    Re Bill McGuire and AGW affecting vulcanism. Interesting article, thanks.

    It’s reasonable to say that with the current high population we have, both the direct and indirect impacts of earthquakes and vulcanism will have a greater impact (in terms of numbers affected) than in previous centuries. But I’m sceptical about presenting this as an AGW risk, even though the Benfield Hazard Research Centre seem to have a good reputation with insurers (who “bet” hard money on risk related matters). As a factor increasing population would probably have a greater global impact than any increase in vulcanism.

    The ice sheets are by no means as big as they were at the depths of the last glacial, so as with the “thermo-haline circulation shutdown causes new ice age in Europe” story: Now and then are not comparable. Although to be fair to Mr McGuire, if his citing of Pavlof volcano is correct, he may be able to substantiate his claim in the current context.

    However you’re talking about many milennia to glaciate/deglaciate, longer than that for significant isostatic rebound. And even if we take the most pessimistic scenarios it’s hard to see how Greenland/Antarctic could substantially melt within centuries. Given how sporadic eruptions and earthquakes seem to be, it’s hard to see how you could get a statistical correlation even in century timescales.

    I’ve been dismissive of this previously, mainly because it’s been people claiming the Boxing Day Tsunami as a response of “Mother Earth” to human activity. This is the first article I’ve read putting forward a reasoned argument, and I have to concede that McGuire could have a point in principle. But I’m doubtful it’s going to be a major factor in the real world. For me the AGW risks for the coming decades remain primarily climatic changes (notably reginal precipitation timing and amount) secondary impacts as a result (notably disease vector changes). Sea Level Rise seems to me to primarily be a very long term (centennial) threat, if significant vulcanism seems to be in the same category.

    AGW = anthropogenic (human caused) global warming.

    Comment by Cobblyworlds — 2 Jan 2008 @ 7:49 AM

  176. #165 Steve Reynolds:

    So what evidence do you have that there is any fundamental limit to living standards for currently projected world population due to resources?

    I’ll bite :-)

    I don’t think there is any fundamental limit in the abstract sense. I believe a population of 10B or even more, at a western level of prosperity, could exist on the Earth’s surface stably and indefinitely. It would be high tech and long-term sustainable, fully respecting the limits of its physical environment.

    The problem is getting there from here — which I would posit as desirable if difficult.

    There is a fundamental difference between the situation with “peak oil” and climate change, in that the former is (tends to be) self-regulating. Everyone knows that raw materials run out, even though the precise timetable is usually uncertain. But it is going to happen, and when it happens, there just simply isn’t any more oil to use. (With the usual caveat that there is no sharp limit, only progressively harder to extract sources.) And the market will see it coming and can prepare for it — in principle if not always in practice.

    Climate change works in a different way. It is possible to push the system to the limit and over, without running out of anything — and then disaster hits. It can be made self-regulating as well, by putting a price on the externality that is the cost of climate change, somehow realistically estimated. (Caveat about assumed linear relationship between emissions and damage — almost certainly wrong.)

    Unless such externality costing happens (which would be a good thing), we are likely to see a boom-and-bust dynamic of people not taking effective action until very late in the game, when mitigation will be very costly if at all possible any more.

    Note that many of our investments have a long write-off / replacement time. Power plants, 30 years; most real estate, 50 years. A loss of low-lying coastal areas would represent a substantial capital destruction, if it happened unexpectedly. Same with fuel prices going up: urbanization patterns with suburbs and shopping malls far from city centres are only affordable with cheap fuel. And think space heating: currently there are already affordable space heating solutions that are C-neutral or almost so, but they are best included in new buildings: retrofitting them is costly.

    This puts a premium on taking action well in advance of disaster striking, and putting a price on releasing GHG, and gradually increasing that price, would help to motivate people to do that.

    Again, it’s about getting there from here, in a dynamic situation. Time is of the essence.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 2 Jan 2008 @ 7:51 AM

  177. Gavin, was the Bali climate conference carbon neutral? To fly all the delegates from every part of the globe to a single destination would have resulted in many thousands of tonnes of carbon being pumped directly into the atmosphere. Being in a centralised location such as Bali would have helped a little but still aviation pollution gets worse and worse increasing at 4.5%/yr. Was the food and drink served at the conference locally sourced produce or did much of it come from thousands of kms away by plane? I do hope these issues were met or the whole exercise to me does seem a little hollow. Practice what you preach etc..

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:02 AM

  178. re: 102 Danny Bloom, interesting concept but it’s only for a miniscule percentage of the population, the rest of us will have to sweat it out. An elitist city or cities for the mega rich and powerful is not my idea of a forward thinking world.

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:12 AM

  179. Steve Reynolds posts:

    [[The Simon - Ehrlich bet showed that we are likely not running out of resources. Besides, resources (other than fossil fuels) can be recycled, not consumed.

    So what evidence do you have that there is any fundamental limit to living standards for currently projected world population due to resources?]]

    Well, I guess it is an a priori thing. If resources are, in fact, finite, then exponential growth in resources inevitably ends in running out of same. The fact that we haven’t run out of everything yet doesn’t mean we won’t in the future. And please note that per capita production of grain and fish has already peaked and is now declining. We can be as ingenious as we want, and exponential growth is still not sustainable in the long run. The planet has a fixed mass, about 5.9736 x 1024 kg, although a little adds every year from meteorite infall. We can’t really extract more than that from the Earth — and if you work out a compound interest expansion at, say, 2% per year, you get to that total surprisingly fast.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:28 AM

  180. Steve Reynolds asks “So what evidence do you have that there is any fundamental limit to living standards for currently projected world population due to resources?”

    You mean other than rising commodity proces, the collapse of fisheries around the world, the reliance of green-revolution agriculture on petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, decreasing nutritional content of produce, increased competition for water, depleting aquifers, decreasing tropical forests, inability to consume fish from streams all along the eastern seabord due to mercury contamination…?

    And all this to support only about half the world’s 6 billion people in relative comfort? By the century’s end, we’ll have 2x that many all wanting to live like Americans. That’s not a recipe for stability.

    Recycling only works for some resources. It will not work for energy resources, nor for resources like topsoil. Even groundwater takes much longer to recharge than it does to consume, and salinization of groundwater is becoming an increasing issue. All in all, I’d say there’s more reason for concern than complacency.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:51 AM

  181. wrt polar bears

    the statement “promoting” polar bears to the IUCN Red List says:

    “There is little doubt that polar bears will have a lesser AOO [area of occurrence], EOO [extent of occurrence] and habitat quality in the future. However, no direct relation exists between these measures and the abundance of polar bears.”

    http://pbsg.npolar.no/docs/PBSG14proc.pdf

    are the minutes to the 14th Working Meeting of IUCN on polar bears which gives detailed analysis.

    The study recorded 23,166 polar bears across the 19 populations and sub-populations (many had no data). Using the document’s assumptions and methodology on population change after ten years (eg. 14% chance of increase; 100% chance of decrease), and an arbitrary 10% change in population (the delta of a 1% change in this assumption is a 0.2% change in the expected population, ie. using 10% gives a 2% decline; using 20% gives a 4% decline) the expected population after 10 years is 22,706, a 2% decrease. Interestingly, 805 bears are expected to be harvested annually. Adding these back (v crude and I’m sure it’s not like-for-like) would lead to a poulation of 30,756 bears in 10 years, a 33% increase.

    Comment by Alan K — 2 Jan 2008 @ 10:24 AM

  182. RE #132, I agree with you re pop not growing exponentially. The demographic transition theory ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographic_transition ) has perhaps more merit than Malthusian theory. And I agree that “pop growth is the problem” is a way of shifting blame and avoiding responsibility for ones own actions, or reducing one’s own GHGs. And I also agree that a large and increasing (though not exponentially) population, is putting great stress on the world’s life-support systems, via global warming and many other problems; tho the highest consumers cause the greatest portion of that stress.

    But to bring about the type of society we need to solve the global warming and other problems, we need to swear off all types of violence,
    [edit - this is off topic and we are not going to get into it here].
    We need leaders like Gandhi and MLK. I’m sure if they were here today, they’d be leading marches against global warming.

    So, another theory that sheds a ray of hope re this dystopia thread is REVITALIZATION THEORY (in anthro) or social movement theory (in sociology). When things get bad (due to wars, environmental degradation, oppression, economic failure), movements spring up (civil rights, the hippie movement, the women’s movement, various cargo cults and religions, including Christianty, environmental movements) to bring about a more satisfying culture. And they happen rather suddenly (within months and years). Usually a leader (Gandhi, MLK, Jesus, Buddha, etc — or multiple leaders, as in the hippie movement) will undergo a “mazeway resythesis” (have a fairly sudden insight into a new way of life), and others will catch on and follow.

    I’ve been sorely waiting and hoping for this, and I think it may be happening soon. The ground is rumbling with revitalization movement.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 2 Jan 2008 @ 10:45 AM

  183. Re #165: [So what evidence do you have that there is any fundamental limit to living standards for currently projected world population due to resources?]

    Simple. The Earth has a fixed surface area. A decent lifestyle (using my subjective definition of “decent”, which is as good as anyone else’s) requires a certain amount of living space. I’ll be generous, and put that at 40 acres, though to my taste it should be closer to a square mile.

    If I did the math correctly, at the current population levels, there’s about 5 acres per person. Therefore, the population has to decrease by a factor of 8 in order to afford each person a decent living standard.

    Comment by James — 2 Jan 2008 @ 11:52 AM

  184. RE: #40 Phil and #48 Lynn, some might be amused to read this paper (Stormy Weather Ahead–The Legal Environment of Global Climate Change) written by non-scientist lawyers from a U.S. law firm of, by, and for industry about representing client in the climate change context: http://tinyurl.com/2vxbtk

    The tone and footnotes are revealing, and no hack paper would be complete without describing how ‘scientists predicted global cooling in the 70s.’ The paper apparently played a prominent part in an October conference sponsored by the Washington Legal Foundation, which was devoted to the idea that the climate change bogeyman may be opening the door to the annihilation of free enterprise. Roll eyes. It’s nothing new on the propaganda-ish front really, but the climate background part of the article struck me as rather poor for what should be an objective article (some poor law clerk or 1st year associate probably got stuck with assembling that part). It would be cool to see a detailed Real Climate response, but then that’s what this entire site is.

    Regarding the general Malthus discussion, the general thought from decades of intensive scholarship appears to be that his editor omitted at the last minute a critical conclusory bit that would have made the Malthus theory iron clad. Apparently, the editor thought that the phrase “Besides, you can’t cure “stupid”!” would offend the critics of the times.

    Comment by ghost — 2 Jan 2008 @ 12:05 PM

  185. Population is certainly a problem. However, what is the most pressing problem that we face? Where are the steepest curves?

    Prior to 1980, there were essentially no melt ponds or moulins on the Greenland Ice sheet. Last summer there were tens of thousands of melt ponds and moulins on Greenland. That is a much greater rate of increase then the rate of increase of population over any part of the period since 1980. Last fall, parts of Greenland were still getting rain in November, weeks after the sun went down. Ice that gets rained on falls apart. In short, ice is melting much faster than population is increasing. The difference is enough to make future population increase moot.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 2 Jan 2008 @ 12:49 PM

  186. Re 183

    You did not do the math correctly, and might do well to check for other order of magnitude errors before continuing.

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 2 Jan 2008 @ 1:00 PM

  187. About the total population/consumption aspect, Jared Diamond has an excellent editorial in today’s NYT, in which he examines the problem along the lines of compared consumption rates. According to him, having China ALONE consuming at the current US rate will be the equivalent of a total world population of 72 billion (with the current average rate). He does not even mention peak oil and, funnily enough, this is also the day that oil hit $100/barrel. Interesting read.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/opinion/02diamond.html

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 2 Jan 2008 @ 1:15 PM

  188. Re 184
    I was at a holiday party with one of the elite power lawyers of the SF Bay Area; man that has produced thousands of letter perfect legal briefs. However, he denies the existence of global warming. He said that hundreds of scientists, including Nobel Prize winners had found serious flaws with the “theory of AGW”. However, he could not provide a single cite, and he had not checked a single source document. I know this guy provides cites in his legal briefs, and reviews all of the cited documents in detail. I do not understand why he does not perform a similar level of cite checking in his personal arguments. I was disgusted that a man oft his reputation did not do his homework regarding AGW. This is a man with direct access to senior policy makers, and who is consulted on matters of public policy and governance. I was disgusted, that he did not know any facts about global warming, and worse, that he did not want to learn any facts about global warming.

    He considered global warming to be an argument with two equally valid sides, and he felt that his view was a valid as any. He felt that he was entitled to his view on AGW, just as he was entitled to choose whether to be a republican or democrat.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 2 Jan 2008 @ 1:19 PM

  189. > lawyers

    Very few have _any_ science education to speak of.

    “in 2001, less than 2% of law school applicants specified a major in Biology, 0.6% listed Chemistry, 0.2% listed Physics, and 0.3% … Computer Science (Law School Admissions Council data published by NAPLA, 2002).”
    http://www.wpi.edu/Academics/Depts/SSPS/Undergraduate/prelaw.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Jan 2008 @ 1:20 PM

  190. One of the statements in the report states that “It is conceivable that under certain scenarios a well armed nation experiencing the ravages bought on by climate change might covet the more mild and fertile territory of another country and contemplate seizing that land by force.”
    Didn’t this just happen a few years ago where a “well armed country” preemptively seized another’s land by force?(rhetorical q.) Not for climate change in this instance, but ostensibly to halt the spread of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. This land, Iraq, happened to have the world’s second largest capacity of oil under its land. There’s no question in my mind that might will make right in a world beset by hardships brought on by AGW. This knowledge will give greater incentive for more and more nations to join the nuclear club.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 2 Jan 2008 @ 2:07 PM

  191. Lawyers…

    The job of a lawyer is to represent the interests of their client by devising arguments that support their client’s position. Success for a lawyer is to win the case, whether their arguments were true to evidence and free of logical falacies or psychological sleight of hand is less vital than that they convince the jury (or magistrate).

    The problem with this technique is revealed when they try their techniques to oppose a real physical process. On the whole physical processes are not amenable to obfuscation and persuasion.

    I must admit I didn’t fully read the paper ghost #184 linked to. I scanned it over and decided the most efficient use of my time was to allow the ongoing process to address their “argument”. Furthermore, I don’t mean to be unduly harsh, but I think anyone persuaded by lawyers on this issue is pretty well incorrigible.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 2 Jan 2008 @ 2:12 PM

  192. re 175

    hi Coby,

    i’ve read a couple of books by Prof McGuire, and i have always been impressed with his visibility in the media, at least here in the UK. When ever there is a disaster, he gets wheeled out to comment, and he is generally very quotable and authoritative.

    http://www.benfieldhrc.org/people/cvs/cv_bm.htm

    He is well used to crunching the numbers associated with natural disasters, and he frequently seems to be on the leading edge of a highly pertinent field.

    I really don’t think he is misusing his evidence, as he is talking about his own academic field, and he often says things that very few people are saying, because he is presenting the original data.

    I’m thrilled to have actually provided a link on RC that someone found useful, its made my day :-)

    Comment by mark s — 2 Jan 2008 @ 2:22 PM

  193. One doesn’t need a science background to understand what’s going on with AGW. Just read what’s being presented here and it’s pretty clear. The SF lawyer probably lives a CO2 HEAVY lifestyle and doesn’t want to give it up. Thus, deny, deny, deny.

    Comment by rick — 2 Jan 2008 @ 2:24 PM

  194. Re 189. Hank, You can’t blame the problem of denialism on education. In my profession, there are plenty of engineers who deny climate change outright. Now, while the typical engineer may not have a background that allows them to understand the science in detail, they ought to at least recognize their limitations. Instead, they embrace some half-baked rationalization they read and then forget about the problem. To many denialists, the idea of anthropogenic climate change is a blatant assault on capitalism/libertarianism (fill in favorite ism). It does not matter what the science says or that many conservative capitalists recognize the reality of the science. The subject raises questions about their worldview, and so they never get around to looking at the evidence.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 Jan 2008 @ 2:34 PM

  195. RE #188, I saw on TV there’s this mega-hurricane-looking (extratropical) storm headed for the Northwest coast in a couple of days.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 2 Jan 2008 @ 3:02 PM

  196. Re #188, 189 Lawyers

    All the more reason to appreciate the clarity, wisdom, and logic in Judge John E. Jones III’s ruling in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case, in which he concluded that intelligent design is not science, and teaching intelligent design in a science class is unconstitutional (in the U.S.). http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/dover/kitzmiller_v_dover.html

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 2 Jan 2008 @ 3:36 PM

  197. You know, we are already looking at serious and unavoidable global consequences. For example, every single region of the planet that relies on seasonal glacial melt for their water supply for agriculture and hydropower generation is facing the permanent loss of those supplies. For example, the primary Central Asian water source is Tajikistan’s glaciers – and as Reuters reported, the short-term dangers include landslides and flooding. Oxfam reports that the glaciers have shrink 35% in the past 50 years – and as the radiative forcing increases, that melt rate also increases – so we can be sure that those glaciers will be gone 50 years from now. The same thing is happening in every other glacial-fed interior continental region of the planet.

    As far as the polar regions go, it seems unlikely that the seasonal warming trend will continue. Recent work by Graversen et. al (AFP) seems to provide more evidence that the warming Arctic trend is not “local” but is a primary consequence of global heat transport, rather than local albedo effects. As the Arctic warms, it appears likely that it will start releasing frozen carbon stores to the atmosphere – the permafrost and the shallow marine sediments being the sources.

    A third unavoidable effect under current levels of radiative forcing is the polewards expansion of the subtropical dry zones – this appears to be happening in the Mediterranean, the Sahel region of Africa, and the southwestern United States.

    In the face of this undeniable evidence of global warming, why do many people in the U.S. still deny it? The problem is that there’s only one possible response – leaving all the fossil fuels in the ground, and halting deforestation (especially in the tropics). Imagine if the U.S. took meaningful action – which would include halting all fossil fuel imports to the U.S. and banning the use of coal. That’s essentially what it will take to slow the rate of global warming and avoid the high-end outcomes. Now, we already have the renewable energy technology needed to replace a good fraction of fossil fuel energy. Unfortunately, the vested economic interests are still unwilling to accept the necessary changes – and such interests are largely in control of politics in the U.S.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 2 Jan 2008 @ 3:51 PM

  198. RE: 193 “rick,” the SF lawyer probably represents industry, as do the two listed authors from Texas of the piece I linked (one of whom has a BS in engineering). Some, maybe many, practitioners are deathly afraid of being seen as willing to consider the other side, maybe for fear of losing reputation/clients/money or maybe for fear of ostracism from their imagined clubs. It doesn’t have to be limited to sex or race, but that characteristic appears to me to be prominent in white males among U.S. lawyers. The whole thing reminds me of the question Ralph Nader attributes to his father: “Did you learn how to think or did you learn how to believe?” I know the object is to advocate, but to me, a dogmatic lawyer is a poor lawyer. I would have written that article differently by assuming the audience knows AGW, and then going straight to the preparation-for-risk part. Worse for me was the conference I mentioned, which appears to have been a confederacy of witch hunters. There must be a Monty Python reference somewhere that augments that image :)

    Comment by ghost — 2 Jan 2008 @ 4:29 PM

  199. See also, if you can read them

    http://online.wsj.com/documents/GreensteinTestimony1101.pdf

    House Budget Committee
    November 1, 2007
    Effective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is necessary to prevent costly and potentially catastrophic environmental and economic damages from climate change. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities … focus is on how climate change legislation might affect 1) the budgets of American families, especially those of modest means; and 2) the federal budget. Our analysis indicates that Congress can develop climate change policy that is environmentally and economically sound and fiscally responsible …

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119215822413557069.html

    “The wealthiest 1% of Americans earned 21.2% of all income in 2005, according to new data from the Internal Revenue Service. That is up sharply from 19% in 2004, and surpasses the previous high of 20.8% set in 2000 …. The bottom 50% earned 12.8% of all income, down from 13.4% in 2004 and a bit less than their 13% share in 2000.

    The IRS data, based on a large sample of tax returns, are for “adjusted gross income”…

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Jan 2008 @ 4:57 PM

  200. I found this at a GISS web site about cloud monitoring.
    “Such variations are referred to as “natural” variability, that is the climate varies naturally for reasons that are not fully understood. The problem for understanding climate changes that might be produced by human activities is that the predicted changes are similar in magnitude to those shown here. The difference between natural and human-induced climate change will only appear clearly in much longer ( >= 50 years) data records”
    As they have only been monitoring this for a short period does that mean we should wait another 20 or 30 years for definite answers?

    Comment by Mike D — 2 Jan 2008 @ 5:10 PM

  201. #192 Hello Mark,

    I’m not totally dismissing Prof McGuire and I’m certainly not accusing him of misuse of evidence. I’m just not convinced that this is a substantial issue given the broader potential impacts we face with AGW.

    I’m also aware of the danger of undermining public opinion. Most people pick up a very loose impression of this issue, they don’t remember details as they have little terms of reference (I’m the same with TV Soaps and Celebrities – which, by comparison, my colleagues are expert in). There’s a danger of making the issue of AGW seem ridiculous by associating every problem with it. If there is a chance of persuading people then the message must be kept simple and strong.

    Comment by CobblyWorlds — 2 Jan 2008 @ 5:13 PM

  202. Regarding the comment on “peak oil” and “peak coal”: Considering recent discoveries of new reserves, and the apparent willingness of energy companies to use lower-quality sources, I’m unconvinced that fossil fuel peaks will save us. The cited article asks whether the U.S. has reached peak coal “in terms of energy”. Even if we have, does that mean lower grades won’t be processed and consumed, well beyond that peak? Is it possible that we’ll use more to compensate for a lower energy yield per ton?

    Coal is the bigger issue, but it’s likely to remain a competitive energy source for awhile. So we need to cut emissions as much as possible in other areas as well, including transit.

    Comment by Alex J — 2 Jan 2008 @ 6:02 PM

  203. Mike D., is this your source for that quote?
    The only place I find it is:

    http://isccp.giss.nasa.gov/climanal1.html

    If that’s where you found it, you’ll want to read the bit before the bit you quoted — they are talking about the time needed to find a trend in the specific data they are collecting. It’s a particularly difficult area, and they have only 20-odd years of data so far.

    If you didn’t find it at that page, where did you read it? I’m always curious where people get their info.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Jan 2008 @ 6:11 PM

  204. This appears most promising.

    Cap and Dividend

    Comment by David B. Benson — 2 Jan 2008 @ 6:16 PM

  205. Hank: I did read the atricle and that is the site.

    Comment by Mike D — 2 Jan 2008 @ 6:27 PM

  206. Hank:
    Yes! they are studying clouds and how clouds affect climate.

    Comment by Mike D — 2 Jan 2008 @ 6:31 PM

  207. Re #165 (Steve Reynolds) “Ray Ladbury> the problem is that resources are finite, and our consumption of resources may already be taxing the ecology of the planet beyond the breaking point.

    That is what limits to growth people have been saying since 1972.”

    The reference is presumably to Meadows, Meadows, Randers and Behrens (1972) “The Limits to Growth”. In the course of researching a conference paper recently, I reread this for the first time in decades, and was surprised to find that despite the crudity of their model, their projections have so far held up quite well. Specifically, their “standard model run” has no signs of impending disaster before the turn of the millennium, and peaks of food per capita and industrial output per capita around 2015 or 2020. That they predicted imminent disaster in 1972 turns out to be another of those factoids like “scientists were predicting an ice age in the 1970s”.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 2 Jan 2008 @ 6:44 PM

  208. It is interesting to see how climate science attracts those who believe that Malthus was right. I am old enough to remember the Club of Rome report and the influence that it had. 12 million copies of “The Limits to Growth” were sold. The first big wave of green campaigners told me and others that the most likely outcome if growth were to continue unchecked was that petrol would run out in 1992, there would be no more gold to mine after 1981, mercury in 1985, tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, and copper, lead and natural gas would be all used up by 1993. Other models were also offered, but as I recall it they depended on urgent action being taken to reduce the rate of increase in world population and much lower economic growth, or preferably a prolonged economic downturn.

    Comment by Martin — 2 Jan 2008 @ 7:43 PM

  209. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2008/20080102_researchplan.html

    U.S. Climate Change Science Program Issues Revised Research Plan
    Public Invited to Provide Comments

    January 2, 2008

    The U.S. Climate Change Science Program Revised Research Plan Summary is available in the Federal Register and online for review and comment by the public. Comments received by February 26, 2008, will be considered during the preparation of the final revised research plan and the forthcoming scientific assessment. …

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Jan 2008 @ 7:46 PM

  210. Martin, I would recommend you go back and look at the old Club of Rome studies–as Nick has in 207. Their predictions are actually quite good. In reality, the book was improperly named, as the concern was less with “limits to growth” and more with “limits to consumption”. As long as human ingenuity holds, growth can continue, but consumption must be brought under control–and that includes population control. Many of the conclusions of the initial study adumbrate the issues we are now considering.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:07 PM

  211. Re #208 (Martin) “The first big wave of green campaigners told me and others that the most likely outcome if growth were to continue unchecked was that petrol would run out in 1992, there would be no more gold to mine after 1981…”

    I have what looks like the source of these figures in front of me: Meadows, Meadows, Randers and Behrens (1972), Table 4 “Nonrenewable Natural Resources”. This includes columns for: Resource, Known Global Reserves, “Static Index”, “Projected Rate of Growth” (High, Average and Low estimates), “Exponential Index”, and “Exponential Index Calculated Using 5 Times Known Reserves”. The figures Martin quotes come from the “Exponential Index” column, which represents the years the known reserves would last if consumption grew exponentially (I think at the “Average” estimate, which presumably – this is not made explicit – is the rate of growth in some period up to 1972). The authors are careful to say: “Of course the actual nonrenewable resource availability in the next few decades will be determined by factors much more complicated than can be expressed by either the simple static reserve index or the exponential reserve index”. They have “a more detailed model that takes into account the many interrelationships among such factors as varying grades of ore, production costs, new mining technology, the elasticity of consumer demand, and substitution of other resources” (but still apparently assuming that known reserves would not increase). In the book they give the results of applying this model to chromium: this gives a time to effective exhaustion of 125 years, compared to the 95 years of the “exponential reserve index”.

    So if people gave Martin the figures he quotes without explaining these assumed known global reserves were all that was available (and that Meadows et al knew this might not be the case), and/or without any such caveat as I have quoted, they were oversimplifying what “Limits to Growth” said.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:22 PM

  212. martin (208) — Here is a link in which it is suggested that the world runs out of tin in 20–40 years:

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

    Assuming, of course, no new ore bodies are discovered.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:22 PM

  213. At the simplest, we might summarise the message of both Malthus (1798), and “Limits to Growth” (1972), as “Nothing can grow exponentially for very long”. In the absence of unlimited miniturization, access to parallel universes, or some such “Deus ex Machina”, and assuming space is not infinite with a hyperbolic geometry, this is certainly true. The difficult part is knowing what will halt the exponential growth of any particular quantity, and exactly when.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:37 PM

  214. Re: lawyers.
    Maybe the whole problem is that for the last 30 years, more lawyers have run for elected office (and been elected) then have scientists and engineers. Maybe if there had been a couple of hundred scientists in congress in 1972, the Clean Air Act would have had a section devoted to greenhouse gases, and we would have reduced CO2 as we reduced sulfates. Bygones! Sometimes it is good to have a lawyer acting as your represenative and sometimes it is not.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:39 PM

  215. And sometimes an engineer, maybe:

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/print/1231

    “… for the first time in the history of communist China, … of the nine members of the Communist Party’s ruling Politburo …. All, in fact, are engineers by training ….”

    Good article, worth a look

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:45 PM

  216. Nick and Martin, One of the reasons I think it is premature to conclude that Malthus was wrong is because we have only really had about 30 years of decreasing growth rates for population. On a graph of population vs. time, this would still be a blip, and there have been several blips over time. Another reason for my pessimism is the degree to which our current prosperity–indeed our ability to feed ourselves–depends on cheap energy and petrochemicals. And the third reason for my pessimism is the amount of severe ecological damage we are causing, coupled with our seeming inability to take meaningful action to remediate it.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:46 PM

  217. Aaron, as a scientist, I can state categorically that you do not want 200 scientists in that body. First, most would rather be doing science anyway. Second, managing scientists is slightly less rewarding than herding cats. Scientists are as pig-headed as any other group.
    Having said this, a substantial minority of 10 or 12 might do wonders for the legislative process. Can you imagine a hearing in which a Congressman asks a question to actually learn something rather than to show how much he or she already knows?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:55 PM

  218. Re: Limits to Growth
    It is worth noting that Beyond the Limits (written in 1992)got global warming right. (pages 92-97)

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 2 Jan 2008 @ 8:55 PM

  219. Trees absorbing less CO2 as world warms:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2008/jan/03/climatechange.carbonemissions

    Comment by David B. Benson — 2 Jan 2008 @ 9:08 PM

  220. Re Lynn Vincentnathan @ 182, Philippe Chantreau @ 187:
    Thanks for the Jared Diamond Op-Ed. While I generally agree with what he is saying I would take issue his attribution of terrorism and support for terrorism to envy over the West’s consumption of resources. This is to misunderstand the causes of terrorism.

    On the Age of Consequences report, although I am still digesting some of the details, I will say the following:
    1) The chapter on Catastrophic Climate Change is somewhat light-weight on a systematic evaluation of the social consequences of environmental change and obsessed with terrorism. Maybe this is a reflection of the mindset of the author. ;-)
    2) The report as a whole gives far more emphasis to China and its strategic relationship with Russia than to the Indian subcontinent – especially India’s relationship with Pakistan and China (although these are mentioned). Consider this (from US Bureau stats):

    Country_____Popn2008(/10^6)___Pop 2040(/10^6)__Increase(%)
    China___________1,330___________1,455____________9.4%
    India____________1,148___________1,684___________46.7%
    Bangladesh________321____________508___________58.0%
    & Pakistan

    China has it’s population under control. It is in a much better position to deal with climate change than many other developing countries. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh (the old British India) are a case in point. Their combined population in 2040 is projected to be 2.2 billion – close to the world population in 1940.

    The risk of a Malthusian catastrophy for India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, along with most countries in Africa and the Middle East is very high. Climate change is likely to exacerbate this problem, especially for Pakistan, which receives much of its water via glacial melt-water flowing down the Indus River.

    India will have much greater economic and military power in 2040 than 2008. Unlike China, which may look to Siberia (as the report says, although this may not be necessary), India will have nowhere to move. The internal pressure in India will be immense. Bangladesh and a nuclear armed Pakistan will also be desperate by then. As the report says, India is building a wall to keep the starving Bangladeshis out, but what about Pakistan?

    I think the Malthusian catastrophy discussed in this thread is very likely to happen in many countries, and to be exacerbated by climate change. It is likely to play itself out as much in conflict as in starvation, as we currently see on a much smaller scale in Darfur.
    Note for some other regions:

    Region___________Popn2008(/10^6)__Pop 2040(/10^6)__Increase(%)
    Sub-Saharan Africa______788____________1,489________88.9%
    North Africa____________167______________234________40.6%
    Near East______________205_____________327_________59.5%

    Geesh, formatting tables is hard!

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 2 Jan 2008 @ 9:10 PM

  221. There’s an interesting and relevant op-ed in today’s ‘NY Times’by Jared Diamond of UCLA on relative per capita consumptive rates in the developed and undeveloped worlds:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/02/opinion/02diamond.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    Regarding population growth,I believe the IPCC has several global scenarios where population growth levels off at mid century in its A scenarios, and does so in 2100 in their B scenarios, at about 9 million people(though not in their regional scenarios). The above referenced op ed has an interesting take on this relating to consumption.

    Comment by Lawrence Brown — 2 Jan 2008 @ 9:27 PM

  222. Typo: that’s “likely”, not “unlikely” in #197. If the Arctic is warming because of increased poleward heat transport, then that’s certainly not a “local phenomenon.” It also calls into question the claims made in NOAA’s 2006 “State of the Arctic Report”, such as this one in their summary:

    “There are indications that some components of the physical system may be recovering and returning to the recent climatological norms observed from 1950 to 1980.”

    NOAA’s arctic page is still a good example of distortion of science, however – the headlines don’t exactly match the reports. The politicization of science in U.S. government agencies is still going on, despite all the recent publicity about it.

    Regarding the report, the most disturbing feature of the report is the reference to the EIA’s projections of fossil fuel consumption through 2030 (a steady increase). EIA is a division of the US Department of Energy – which should be leading the way towards a fossil fuel-free future. Instead, DOE is pushing bogus projects like “FutureGen clean coal with carbon sequestration.” No carbon capture projects are ever likey to be put into action – for example, Shell and Statoil cancelled their plans for carbon capture recently.

    In other words, the current U.S. government remains the single biggest obstacle to taking effective action on climate change. There’s little money for research into renewable energy research and development, and certainly no interest at the DOE for reducing oil and gas imports or coal-fired power generation, and various U.S. science agencies are still understating the extent of the problem.

    Comment by Ike Solem — 2 Jan 2008 @ 9:35 PM

  223. Ray Ladbury> You mean other than rising commodity proces, the collapse of fisheries around the world, the reliance of green-revolution agriculture on petrochemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, decreasing nutritional content of produce, increased competition for water, depleting aquifers, decreasing tropical forests, inability to consume fish from streams all along the eastern seabord due to mercury contamination…?

    Ray (and others replying), I still do not see any evidence of “a fundamental limit to living standards for currently projected world population due to resources?” Nothing that you mention is fundamental; all can be solved with careful application of technology and non-fossil energy.

    As the Jared Diamond article that was linked says “Real sacrifice wouldn’t be required, however, because living standards are not tightly coupled to [resource] consumption rates.” It may be that some things such as physical transportation become relatively more expensive than now, but improvement in other standards such as life expectancy, health care, education, financial security, vacation time, and many others will likely far exceed any decreases.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 2 Jan 2008 @ 10:15 PM

  224. Re #186: [You did not do the math correctly, and might do well to check for other order of magnitude errors before continuing.]

    OK, please tell me where my error is. Area of sphere = 4 * pi * R^2, radius of Earth = 4000 miles, gives surface of Earth = 200,960,000 square miles. Some 70% of the surface is water, leaving 60,288,000 square miles of land. There are 640 acres in a square mile, or 38,684,320,000 acres of land. Given a population of 6 billion, that works out to about 6.43 acres each – which I contend is about 5 acres (especially if we leave out Antarctica). It’s certainly not an order of magnitude off.

    Comment by James — 2 Jan 2008 @ 10:18 PM

  225. Regarding posts #185, #197, #216, #219 and many others which express dismay at increasing manifestations of global warming.

    There is still hope for reversal of this trend. Read my article (Opinion) entitled–”The AVE Concept: A Paradigm Shift on How Energy Sources are Evaluated”, published today at http://Scitizen.com/

    No more excuses–time to “stop digging” and quickly phase out electric power technologies that contribute GHGs to the atmosphere and replace them with the Atmopsheric Vortex Engine which uses vast supplies non-polluting energy resources.

    An Engineer

    Comment by AVE_fan — 2 Jan 2008 @ 10:29 PM

  226. Finally, one brave reporter in Canada, Stephen Leahy, reported on the “polar cities” idea in a news story that hit the wires worldwide today. You can read it here:

    http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=40663

    What’s interesting to me, and to the reporter as well, is how almost every “expert” and scientist that he contacted for a quote about the story REFUSED to give a comment publicly. Although I have many private emails, which I keep private and will keep private, from experts and scientists, even some of you reading this, SMILE, who did say the idea was worth talking about and discussing, if nothing else. But none of the big shots wanted to go public with a quote, pro or con. Why? What is the fear here?

    Comment by Danny Bloom — 2 Jan 2008 @ 10:37 PM

  227. Good points, Bruce. I agree that the terrorism remarks in Diamonds’ editorial are not very convincing. The rest of his argument, however, touches the crucial point: it is totally impossible for the western world AND the rest of the world to share the current orgy of consumption experienced by westerners. The result is that something’s got to give, but the entire world’s economy runs on consumption. Decreases in consumption in the US alone can send ripples to the rest of the world. Nobody in politics anywhere seems to have a darn clue about how huge and ineluctable this problem is. In my opinion, it is the biggest problem we face, possibly more immediate than GW, although GW certainly can make it way worse, especially if catastrophic stuff (like massive methane hydrate release) happens.

    As for your take on population, just by eyeballing it looks very much on point. China’s population has been somewhat stable, whereas the former English India is very different. I would think that Indonesia and other SE Asian countries also have quite a potential for trouble.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 2 Jan 2008 @ 10:46 PM

  228. News from the sweaty Antipodes – 2007 was a record warm year in southern Australia. The rainfall deficit for the last 11 years is now equivalent to the historical average yearly rainfall, and the current La Nina event isn’t bringing anywhere near the usual rain.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 3 Jan 2008 @ 12:08 AM

  229. #211 Nick Gotts: So if people gave Martin the figures he quotes without explaining these assumed known global reserves were all that was available (and that Meadows et al knew this might not be the case), and/or without any such caveat as I have quoted, they were oversimplifying what “Limits to Growth” said.

    Ah, yes, the prediction of doom with a widely ignored footnoot allowing everyone to leap off the bandwagon once the wheels start to vibrate and before the entire thing comes apart.

    Did the authors do much to correct the broadly consumed “takeaway” message that we were about to run out of everything? Did they go on TV and in Newsweek to broadly contradict the various environmental groups that were using the book to beat people over the head? Did they call out these footnotes when they debuted the book at the Smithsonian? Did the second edition add some text to the preface stating that everyone was misunderstanding everything? I think the answer to all the questions is “nope”, and thus we can deduce the intent of the authors quite clearly: scare the hell out of everyone.

    Wiki notes that a key idea in the LtG was that the reserves cannot be calculated by taking the reserves and dividing by current rate of consumption. Instead, the rate of *increase* in consumption must also be considered. Are you kidding me? That concept has only been around since 1972?

    Comment by matt — 3 Jan 2008 @ 12:36 AM

  230. Why, yes, in fact, you _can_ look these things up.
    There’s more than a ‘footnoot’ — not that you looked, eh?
    Your own opinion, fine, everybody has several.
    Facts, you should always check to see what’s known these days.

    http://www.context.org/ICLIB/IC32/Meadows.htm

    “The book was interpreted by many as a prediction of doom, but it was not a prediction at all. It was not about a preordained future. It was about a choice. It contained a warning, to be sure, but also a message of promise. Here are the three summary conclusions we wrote in 1972. The second of them is the promise, a very optimistic one, but our analysis justified it then and still justifies it now. Perhaps we should have listed it first…..”

    See? You really could find out that you’re wrong, if you looked.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 1:14 AM

  231. Re Philippe Chantreau @ 227, population growth in SE Asia:
    That was my take on Indonesia some time ago until I looked at the figures. For all countries in ASEAN (the Association of South East Asian Nations):

    Country/Region_____Popn2008(/10^6)___Pop 2040(/10^6)__Increase(%)
    ASEAN_________________581______________754______________29.8%

    Brunei____________________0.4______________0.6_____________54.5%
    Burma___________________48_______________55______________14.7%
    Cambodia________________14_______________22______________56.4%
    Indonesia_______________238______________305______________28.3%
    Laos_____________________7_______________12______________77.3%
    Malaysia_________________25_______________39______________56.0%
    Philippines_______________93______________138______________48.7%
    Singapore_________________5________________5_______________8.6%
    Thailand_________________65_______________71_______________8.3%
    Vietnam_________________86______________106______________23.5%
    Note: percent increase calculated before population rounded.

    Indonesia is one of the ASEAN nations to have managed its “demographic transition” well. It’s projected population growth rate from 2008 to 2040 (28.3%) is less than for the United States (29.1%). In ASEAN, although there is some relationship between a country’s wealth and its position in the demographic transition, the relationship is not absolute – compare wealthy Malaysia (56.0%) and Brunei (54.5%) with impoverished Vietnam (23.5%) and Burma (14.7%). In this group I would only rate the Phillipines, Laos and Cambodia as being of serious humanitarian concern, lacking economic power and with excessive population growth.

    ASEAN’s relatively good situation is encouraging to me living here in Australia.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 3 Jan 2008 @ 2:01 AM

  232. Re matt @ 229:
    Just to demonstrate that Australia is a land of extremes, Sydney is having a mild, pleasant, and reasonably wet Summer – to make up for the very hot ones in the last two years.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 3 Jan 2008 @ 2:05 AM

  233. Craig,(#228)

    Is there any awareness in Australia of Daniel Rosenfeld’s theory that the rainfall in (greater) populated areas is being suppressed by fine particles in the air (pollution), and that the rains would return by a) stopping the pollution or b) cloud seeding?

    Seems possible that a conversion from coal-based electricity to the AVE (#225) might also solve the rainfall deficit problem there in southern Australia, as it also might in here in the southeastern part of the USA.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 3 Jan 2008 @ 2:29 AM

  234. Did the authors do much to correct the broadly consumed “takeaway” message that we were about to run out of everything? Did they go on TV and in Newsweek to broadly contradict the various environmental groups that were using the book to beat people over the head?

    Did they go on TV and in Newsweek to broadly support those groups that were misinterpreting their work?

    Hmmmm?

    Wiki notes that a key idea in the LtG was that the reserves cannot be calculated by taking the reserves and dividing by current rate of consumption. Instead, the rate of *increase* in consumption must also be considered. Are you kidding me? That concept has only been around since 1972?

    Of course they did much more, silly boy. If they hadn’t, you wouldn’t be protesting that the dates they gave were being used to “beat people over the head”.

    (not a very effective technique, BTW, the book is skinny).

    Comment by dhogaza — 3 Jan 2008 @ 3:33 AM

  235. 226. Danny – the polar cities fantasy seems odd to me.

    I live close to two nuclear reactors sited on the coast and the consequential risk of sea level rise is quite obvious.

    If world leaders – those who are paid to discharge their legal Duty of Care – do not get their act together and pull out all the stops to halt AGW dead in its tracks (as far as humanly possible) and if they pursue planetary joyrider policies intent on allowing the ice sheets to disintegrate, those two nuclear reactors will be under water within decades. Why don’t you move to one of the poles, someone might ask. There are over 400 operational nuclear reactors around the world and a good majority are at sea level – the two sitting next to me are not the only ones. It is not clear how quickly the disrupted oceanic circulation will shift radioactive material to the polar regions.

    The matter is truly a question of homelands security, ie security of currently-available homelands. Homelands security is a concept that those who farcified the Bali emergency talks should consider, because it should include ice sheet security.

    Comment by mg — 3 Jan 2008 @ 5:06 AM

  236. Steve Reynolds writes:

    [[I still do not see any evidence of “a fundamental limit to living standards for currently projected world population due to resources?” Nothing that you mention is fundamental; all can be solved with careful application of technology and non-fossil energy. ]]

    How can you apply technology and non-fossil energy to bring back the world’s fisheries?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 3 Jan 2008 @ 5:49 AM

  237. Re #229 (Matt) You appear to be assuming that I have a desire or responsibility to defend every word of “Limits to Growth”, or every action of its authors. I don’t: as I said, their model was crude. On the specific issue of known reserves, they could surely have done better than they did, by looking at how known reserves had changed over time in the past. In my #207 and #211 my intent has been to supply useful detail about what the book said, since I happen to have a copy handy and was myself surprised when I reread it recently. I would note that their “scaremongering” was in part responsible for the measures taken to control some very dangerous types of pollution (such as pesticides and acid rain). Also, if they did intend to “scare the hell out of everyone”, and if they had succeeded, we might not now be in the very difficult situation which the overwhelming majority of relevant scientific experts now consider we are. The increasing levels of atmospheric CO2 are mentioned as a potential problem. I quote (p.73 in the Pan Books edition I have):
    “If man’s energy needs are someday supplied by nuclear power instead of fossil fuels, this increase in atmospheric CO2 will eventually cease, one hopes before it has had any measurable ecological or climatological effect.”

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 6:46 AM

  238. Re #226 (Danny Bloom) “But none of the big shots wanted to go public with a quote, pro or con. Why? What is the fear here?”

    Why should they? To give a sensible response to an idea you have not considered before requires some thought and research, and they probably consider there are better or more enjoyable ways to use their time. These “big shots” are probably bombarded with requests for their thoughts on everything under the sun, and have learned from bitter experience not to shoot their mouths off. How do they know you are not the sort of fruitcake who would start pestering them, or worse, if they gave a response? Try looking at things from other people’s point of view occasionally.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 7:07 AM

  239. Philippe Chantreau (#227) wrote:

    The result is that something’s got to give, but the entire world’s economy runs on consumption. Decreases in consumption in the US alone can send ripples to the rest of the world. Nobody in politics anywhere seems to have a darn clue about how huge and ineluctable this problem is. In my opinion, it is the biggest problem we face, possibly more immediate than GW, although GW certainly can make it way worse, especially if catastrophic stuff (like massive methane hydrate release) happens.

    What’s worse is that aerosols have continued to mask much of the warming. Given a serious economic downturn, much of that masking will be removed. How much and how quickly is difficult to say.

    But if the view that we are near “Peak Oil” is correct, we could be headed towards such a downturn quite soon. Otherwise there is the Middle East which has become quite unstable in recent years. Fighting has already broken out at one point between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurds, Saudi Arabia has threatened to become involved and Iran clearly wants to extend its reach. Additionally, with the debt that the US has accumulated and the decline of the dollar, there is also the risk that international investors could suddenly decide that the US is no longer a good investment — and those who pull out last will get hit the hardest.

    Either a widening of the war in the Middle East or a run on US investment by international investors could trigger a sharp decline in the global economy. Such a decline would leave us with the CO2 we have accumulated in the atmosphere, but with much of aerosols which are currently masking much of its effect being flushed by the rain within a matter of weeks — without the steady replacement by more aerosols that we have seen in recent decades.

    *

    Personally, I half expect the development of sands oil in Canada and shale oil in the western United States — as well as the use of liquified coal — which can even “recycle” the scraps which couldn’t be sold previously. And there are suggestions that the Arctic may contain as much as 25% of our conventional oil reserves. We’ve seen this year how various nations have been trying to position themselves in the expectation that climate change will make it possible to drill for oil there — apparently in anticipation of further step decline in sea-ice.

    I understand of course that there are those who claim that the unconventional fossil fuels which may be economically mined are being exaggerated. Personally, I have my doubts, but I hope that they are right — because if we develop such fuels and are able to extend our dependence upon fossil fuels for several more decades, things will be far worse when we run out of the unconventional fossil fuels, aerosols drop, and global warming is unmasked.

    Perhaps by then several of the major carbon sinks will have become net emitters rather than the merely weakened sinks that we have been seeing as of recent. Climate sensitivity as it is conventionally calculated does not ask where the excess atmospheric carbon dioxide comes from.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 3 Jan 2008 @ 8:11 AM

  240. Steve Reynolds,
    I’m afraid I don’t see how alternative energy sources are going to ameliorate the collapse of fisheries. Reliance on biofuels is only going to exacerbate depletion of topsoil. I do not see how it helps depletion of tropical forests–which even now are being cleared to grow sugar cane for Brazil’s ethanol industry. Depletion of water resources–again, biofuels tend to be hogs when it comes to water. It has been my experience that those who contend that everything will be just fine and that our future is rosy are precisely those who have not looked into the issues very deeply.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Jan 2008 @ 8:39 AM

  241. Re #222 (Ike Solem) “No carbon capture projects are ever likey to be put into action – for example, Shell and Statoil cancelled their plans for carbon capture recently.”

    According to the IPCC special report on CCS:
    “Three industrial-scale storage projects are in operation:
    the Sleipner project in an offshore saline formation in Norway,
    the Weyburn EOR project in Canada, and the In Salah project
    in a gas field in Algeria.”
    Certainly one does not expect corporations such as Shell and Statoil to act out of a sense of responsibility: CCS will have to be mandated by legal limits on emissions, since it will not, in general, pay for itself. However, this will also be necessary in order to replace (rather than augment) fossil fuels with renewables or nuclear in electricity generation. Even if these become cheaper than the current price of fossil fuel generation, the effect would be to drive that price down unless (which I hope but do not believe) the most extreme “peakers” are right..

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 8:39 AM

  242. Matt,
    Did you ever read Limits to Growth? Their tone is very reasoned, and they in fact outline how sustainability can be achieved. There is nothing alarmist about the book. That some irresponsible types misused their conclusions is no more their fault than the abuses of Enron are the fault of Adam Smith. If you were scared by their conclusions, then perhaps concern is appropriate. They predicted peak oil–and were right within about 20 years with a relatively crude model. They predicted that climate change would become an issue. They pointed out that increasing affluence in developing countries would increase demand and prices for raw commodities. I find it interesting that you still accuse them of being alarmist when so much of what they predicted is in fact occurring in front of our eyes.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Jan 2008 @ 8:55 AM

  243. Re #236 (Barton Paul Levenson) “Steve Reynolds writes:

    [[I still do not see any evidence of “a fundamental limit to living standards for currently projected world population due to resources?” Nothing that you mention is fundamental; all can be solved with careful application of technology and non-fossil energy. ]]

    How can you apply technology and non-fossil energy to bring back the world’s fisheries?”

    Reversing extinctions and the spread of invasive species, soil erosion, groundwater depletion and contamination, and ocean acidification also look fairly tricky. Steve, if you know how to solve these problems, start planning how you will spend your multiple Nobel prizes. If not, perhaps you should consider whether it might not be worthwhile putting some effort into stopping things getting any worse?

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 9:00 AM

  244. RE # 222

    Ike, while I generally agree with you many posts, I have to argue this one. You said:

    [In other words, the current U.S. government remains the single biggest obstacle to taking effective action on climate change.]

    Yes, the U.S. government, from the White House to the State Department, EPA AND DOE are obstacles to effective action on global warming. But, the US Executive Branch is no less guilty than the US electorate and citizenry.

    We (all of us Americans) are to blame; even those who buy carbon offsets.

    We cannot blame the checkout clerk for causing the smoker’s lung cancer. Until Americans wake up to our complicity in AGW there will be continued delay of the inevitable mitigation or the onset of the inevitable unraveling of our civilization.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 3 Jan 2008 @ 9:34 AM

  245. Danny, Nick’s advice is good. He put it better than I could have.

    Have other interests, don’t always turn in one direction, contribute to others’ websites — not just pointers to your own. Earn interest.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 10:25 AM

  246. I can well imagine that some of the people who picked up ideas from Limits for Growth were making rather more of it that they should, but as I remember they were sincere and honest people who genuninely expected that we would soon face imminent crises caused by growth of population and declining resources. I will accept that they exaggerated the findings of the Club of Rome – but those views were common in radical circles in the 1970s.

    As for Malthus if you read his Essay on the Principle of Population you find that he offers as a solution for over-population the stopping of all welfare payments. He would put the desperate into harsh workhouses. The consequence of that would be that the poor, old and sick would soon starve to death, and their babies would not survive. This would, he hoped stop the poor from getting married. While he is obviously right in saying that there must eventually be an end to exponential growth, he is hardly someone whom I would want to consider as a hero.

    Comment by Martin — 3 Jan 2008 @ 11:49 AM

  247. John McCormick, while I agree that we cannot, in a semi-democracy, blame our government without indicting ourselves, American’s don’t usually react too well to the blame game. When told they are responsible for climate change, they are more likely to say “*&!# you,” and go out and buy a Hummer than they are to fall on their knees and repent. Personally, I think the most effective strategy for getting Americans to embrace the goal of tackling climate change is for green technologies to become cooler than their polluting counterparts. When I start to hear my single friends and co-workers say, “The internal combustion engine is so 20th century. I need a babe-magnet hybris,” I’ll know we’ve won. Americans are gearheads at heart. If you want them to lead, don’t scold them. Promise them cooler toys.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Jan 2008 @ 12:19 PM

  248. Martin, One can admire the prescience of Malthus without embracing his solutions. Jefferson owned slaves (albeit reluctantly). Franklin was a philanderer. Lincoln favored repatriating freed slaves to Africa (at least until discussed it with Frederick Douglas). This does not diminish their importance. Newton said, “If I see further than other men, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Even if some of those giants may have been myopic–or even misanthropic–in their moral viewpoints, we still see further from their shoulders as long as we try to view things clearly ourselves. In fact, the lesson we should draw is not that our intellectual forefathers were flawed, but rather, that we, too have prejudices that will seem barbaric to our intellectual descendents.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Jan 2008 @ 12:37 PM

  249. Re the Atmospheric Vortex Engine in 225, I love the idea — any guesses on how exporting all that heat to the tropopause would affect climate? It seems like a good idea at first blush, but is it really?

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 3 Jan 2008 @ 12:46 PM

  250. John L. McCormick: “We cannot blame the checkout clerk for causing the smoker’s lung cancer. Until Americans wake up to our complicity in AGW there will be continued delay of the inevitable mitigation or the onset of the inevitable unraveling of our civilization.”

    Nor would I blame the owner/operator of the Exxon-Mobil gas station on the corner for causing global warming.

    But I would blame the big tobacco companies for causing thousands of cases of lung cancer, while engaging in a very successful decades-long campaign of deliberate deceit aimed at disinforming and confusing the public about the causal link between tobacco smoke and lung cancer, in order to perpetuate their profits from the sale of tobacco products for as long as possible.

    And I would blame Exxon-Mobil and other big fossil fuel corporations for causing global warming, while engaging in a very successful decades-long campaign of deliberate deceit aimed at disinforming and confusing the public about the causal link between burning fossil fuels and global warming, in order to perpetuate their profits from the sale of fossil fuels for as long as possible.

    It isn’t quite fair to fault the American public for failing to “wake up to our complicity in AGW” when the public has been systematically deceived about that complicity by the fossil fuel corporations, by an executive branch that literally employs fossil fuel industry lobbyists to suppress and distort science and write government policies on global warming, and by a corporate-owned mass media that has consistently proclaimed a “scientific controversy” about the reality of anthropogenic global warming when in fact no such “controversy” has existed for a long time.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 3 Jan 2008 @ 12:55 PM

  251. > we, too have prejudices that will seem barbaric
    > to our intellectual descendents.

    No parent, uncle or aunt can doubt this is true.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 12:57 PM

  252. Ray Ladbury wrote: “I think the most effective strategy for getting Americans to embrace the goal of tackling climate change is for green technologies to become cooler than their polluting counterparts. When I start to hear my single friends and co-workers say, ‘The internal combustion engine is so 20th century. I need a babe-magnet hybrid,’ I’ll know we’ve won.”

    I’m hoping that third-wave ultra-cheap thin-film photovoltaics (eg. Nanosolar, Ovonics) will quickly achieve that level of cultural “cool”, and that generating most of your own electricity from your roof will become as popular and ubiquitous as the laptop computer, cell phone or iPod.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 3 Jan 2008 @ 1:01 PM

  253. Re #246 (Martin) “As for Malthus if you read his Essay on the Principle of Population you find that he offers as a solution for over-population the stopping of all welfare payments.”

    He’s certainly no hero of mine. He was an important pioneer of social science, a fine writer, a key influence on Darwin (the most important scientist ever, in my opinion) and a man willing to modify his views. If we can take his arguments in the Essay at face value (I haven’t studied him in any detail, and remain agnostic on this point), he thought welfare payments depressed the price of labour by increasing the birth rate and hence the supply of labourers, as well as leading to oppressive regulation of the poor, and that more people would therefore benefit than would suffer if they were stopped. If sincere, he was mistaken.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 1:17 PM

  254. Re #246 (Martin) “I can well imagine that some of the people who picked up ideas from Limits for Growth… exaggerated the findings of the Club of Rome – but those views were common in radical circles in the 1970s.”

    There were certainly those who thought there would be mass starvation in the 1970s or 1980s, though I think such views were more common among what you might call eco-authoritarians like the Ehrlichs and eco-decentralist-conservatives such as Edward Goldsmith than the left (which is what “radical circles” generally implied in the 1970s). Much of the left was (and some still is, e.g. Alexander Cockburn) “cornucopian”, believing that soc*alism could provide everyone with material abundance within decades. Some of us realised this was an error then, and many more do so now.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 1:20 PM

  255. RE # 247

    Ray, I’ll buy your first sentence.

    The heavy and painful cost of mitigation does not begin with promising cooler toys.

    I believe a more effective strategy for getting Americans to embrace the goal of tackling climate change is a tax starting at $75 per ton of carbon with increases, as needed, to achieve reductions.

    If that generates green technologies, good. If some are cooler toys, better.

    Tough love works when errant children do not listen.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 3 Jan 2008 @ 1:29 PM

  256. Re # 249

    Jim,

    Hurricanes remove excess heat (reduce SST) from tropical waters many times a year in quantities far greater than we’re likely to. While much of the heat is radiated to outer space, inevitably, some of it is convectively transported toward the poles, which results in ice melting. Installing and operating AVEs at high latitudes is a potential way of interrupting heat flow from the tropics to cold areas by diverting part of the flow to outer space instead of allowing it to progress toward the poles.

    The effect of an AVE on cloud cover (good or bad on balance) is another important issue that needs investigation. Only building them will give reliable data–otherwise, it is just speculation.

    AVE_fan

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 3 Jan 2008 @ 1:40 PM

  257. RE # 250

    Secular Animist;

    You are being too forgiving of the average American’s failure to wake up. Do the confused and unwitting read newspapers…maybe books, view Gore’s Inconvenient Truth?

    The Chinese and Indian governments are not being chased around by rabid environmentalists demanding GHG reductions. Yet, the reports and actual transmittal of statements by those governments at the Bali Conference give some indication they are beginning to see the health and environmental consequences of their rapid economic growth. Maybe they will shape up before America does.

    [It isn’t quite fair to fault the American public for failing to “wake up to our complicity in AGW” when the public has been systematically deceived about that complicity by the fossil fuel corporations, by an executive branch that literally employs fossil fuel industry lobbyists to suppress and distort science and write government policies on global warming, and by a corporate-owned mass media that has consistently proclaimed a “scientific controversy” about the reality of anthropogenic global warming when in fact no such “controversy” has existed for a long time.]

    If I agreed with your comment, I would also have to conclude that, for Americans, AGW ignorance is bliss.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 3 Jan 2008 @ 1:40 PM

  258. Re:# 252 by Secular Animist who wrote: “I’m hoping that third-wave ultra-cheap thin-film photovoltaics (eg. Nanosolar, Ovonics) will quickly achieve that level of cultural “cool”, and that generating most of your own electricity from your roof will become as popular and ubiquitous as the laptop computer, cell phone or iPod.”

    Be careful what you wish for. Installing absorptive PV panels precludes the possibility of using the rooftop to reflect incoming solar radiation back into space at the same wavelength (increase earth’s albedo). Are you sure your internal net gain in “electricity” production by installing such systems will be greater than the external cost to the “system”? Even with a 15% efficient PV system, 85% of the incoming radiation will be thermally “trapped” at the earth’s surface, requiring some combination of convection and multiple absorption/radiation steps of longwave radiation to escape.

    Consider instead the possibility of building a neighborhood PV plant (or concentrating solar, for that matter) in which the waste heat, say at 50 C, is collected by the inflowing air to an AVE. This “cooling system” will not only allow the PV to operate more efficiently, a portion of (15-20%) of the “lost heat” would be recovered in the form of electricity.

    Not only that, the AVE would be a local pressure “sink” allowing the connecting of piping system for purposes of air ventilation or general services requiring “vacuum” potential.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 3 Jan 2008 @ 2:42 PM

  259. Interestingly, 805 bears are expected to be harvested annually. Adding these back (v crude and I’m sure it’s not like-for-like) would lead to a poulation of 30,756 bears in 10 years, a 33% increase.

    Harvest, properly managed, needn’t impact population numbers at all. “properly managed” is a very species specific thing.

    For instance, trophy deer bucks aren’t a population bottleneck, and hunting them has been shown to have zilch effect on population levels in many, if not most or all, situations. Even buck-only hunts that are managed have minimal impact. Bucks that win a harem in the rut tend to be totally exhausted and run down defending their victory, and winter mortality (at least in harsh areas) tends to be very high. They (literally) get to shoot their wad for a rut or two and die.

    Hunt them, take their antlers, and other bucks step in and are happy to fraternize with the does.

    So if you want to diminish deer populations while maintaining healthy populations, you often need to put a doe hunt into place, because pregnancy is a bottleneck.

    None of this applies directly to polar bear harvests, but should help you understand that stopping harvest doesn’t necessarily impact numbers at all.

    Comment by dhogaza — 3 Jan 2008 @ 3:32 PM

  260. Observations toward the middle and bottom of this item are relevant. No comment I’ve drafted survives the spam filter; I’m even going to have to mangle the link name, so you’ll have to fill in the missing word yourself. It starts with f, ends with k, the third letter is a c, and the second letter is a vowel. Put it in where I typed the asterisks and the link will work.

    Look to the middle and lower part of the page for comments relevant to this thread. It’s worth thinking about the economy as being in a last spasm of sprawl-and-denial, and focusing on what will change because it can’t go on as it has been doing.

    http://jameshowardkunstler.typepad.com/cluster****_nation/2007/12/forecast-for-20.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 5:57 PM

  261. And if you want a really scary scenario — I had been reading Peter Ward’s “Green Sky” and then today read about a freighter sinking in a Black Sea storm, and it occurred to me to wonder what might happen if …. and sure enough, someone has thought about it:
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/t752644g24620867/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 3 Jan 2008 @ 6:30 PM

  262. Hank, I’m a big fan of Jim Kunstler (even if he has stopped wearing bow ties), but you have to keep in mind that he’s a polemicist, and like all good polemicists he shoots from the hip. He is best viewed as an impressionist rather than a realist.

    Comment by S. Molnar — 3 Jan 2008 @ 7:06 PM

  263. Re Jerry Toman @ 233,

    “Is there any awareness in Australia of Daniel Rosenfeld’s theory that the rainfall in (greater) populated areas is being suppressed by fine particles in the air (pollution), and that the rains would return by a) stopping the pollution or b) cloud seeding?”

    I’ve seen that theory presented on our national broadcaster a few times. My impression is that the Bureau of Meteorology views it as unlikely. I personally am unable to make an assessment.

    I have looked into the issue in enough depth to say that the current rainfall shortfall in the eastern states farming areas could still be part of a normal variation – long dry spells like this have occurred before. The current one is severe but not unprecedented. There is not yet statistical evidence of an anomaly. (Note that the concern is with inland areas. Last year Sydney had its wettest year since 1998, receiving 1499 millimetres (59 inches), 284 millimetres (11 inches) more than average.)

    It’s true that the drop in rainfall could be a regional part of global climate change. However, I’ve heard talks from a climatologist expert (Matthew England of Uni of NSW) on this topic and he claims there is insufficent evidence from climate models that climate change will cause less rainfall in the eastern states out to 2100 (more evaporation yes).

    In contrast the models consistently predict reduced rain around Perth in Western Australia and that is in fact clearly happening (to a much greater degree than in the east). But Perth gets its weather from the Indian Ocean. There are no fine particles in the air that weren’t there in the past, so the fine particle theory doesn’t stack up in that respect.

    Cloud seeding has been tried without much success so far.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 3 Jan 2008 @ 7:21 PM

  264. John L. McCormick @ 255 and others,
    I believe mitigation starts with education and continues with the engagement of the American people in their government.

    I am an outside observer (in Australia), but it seems to me that far too much control over people’s thought processes and the government is exerted via a commercial media – anxious not to offend their sponsors – and huge corporations with vested interests in the status quo.

    California has made an excellent start. People there are well educated in climate change and Schwarzneggar has picked up the public mood and taken up the challenge. Starting now with ambitious but still incremental changes will avoid drastic changes in the future. But the problem is URGENT and potential solutions must be sought, tried and, if they work, implemented NOW.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 3 Jan 2008 @ 7:52 PM

  265. Re: 255 John McCormick said: “Tough love works when errant children do not listen.”

    I might be more inclined to agree with you if we were talking of children, but we are not. We are talking about adults who vote, and whose purchasing power (perhaps a more important vote) exceeds yours and mine (or at least mine as a civil servant scientist). All I am saying is that you have to get them moving with the carrot before you show them the stick.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 3 Jan 2008 @ 8:58 PM

  266. Re Jerry (#223) replying to my #228 post

    Is there any awareness in Australia of Daniel Rosenfeld’s theory that the rainfall in (greater) populated areas is being suppressed by fine particles in the air (pollution), and that the rains would return by a) stopping the pollution or b) cloud seeding?

    Australia is a big place with not many people (21 million). Also, most of our industry is on the eastern seaboard and our weather tends to come from the west. So particulates from industry are unlikely to be affecting rainfall much. I’ve read that there is a possibility that land clearance and stock grazing may be impacting on rainfall via various mechanisms, including increasing atmospheric dust particulates and changes to land surface albedo. However, these effects have probably not changed significantly in recent decades. Besides the decrease in rainfall, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has stated that increased temperatures are increasing evaporation and this is significantly decreasing flows into our river systems. Farmers are also responding to the drought by digging more dams, which is reduceing flows into streams.

    Comment by Craig Allen — 3 Jan 2008 @ 9:03 PM

  267. Hank and Nick, et all, 245 post above: RE: “Danny, Nick’s advice is good. He put it better than I could have…..Have other interests, don’t always turn in one direction, contribute to others’ websites — not just pointers to your own. Earn interest.”

    It’s good advice, and well taken, and I appreciate your good words. And yes, I will stop posting about polar cities here for now, and just read the posts as they come thick and thin during this year — 2008 — (well, 12,008 is more like it, or even 4,000,000,008 is more precise!) — but I will give it a rest and have some other interests and not only turn in one direction. Good points, and yes, it’s time to earn some interest. Well said, Hank, thanks.

    – Danny

    Comment by danny bloom — 3 Jan 2008 @ 9:28 PM

  268. Hi ALL, may I share some thoughts with you which you may be able to answer, because I have very little knowledge myself, seeing as I have read a lot on here about people talking a lot about one thing and another to do with life on our planet, and the planet its self. With this in mind I would like you to answer some of my question on WHY dont we? For example,(1) why dont we build higher like sky scrapers, to help save more space on our planet to grow things to eat, and to also help feed the people who actually live in them, using the roof as well for one thing or another. (2) why dont we build more round buildings, against building mostly things with a flat surfaces like houses, when mother nature creats most things for a reason with round sufaces. (3) why dont we build sky scrapers in the desert, which will creat much cooler areas through shading where things can grow, if there’s enough of them. (4) why dont we build higher like sky scraper to house crops, and animals to eat. (5) why dont we store water in higher built buildings like sky scrapers. (6) why dont we build building like sky scrapers to collect the suns energy. (7) why dont we build buildings like sky scraper to use the wind for energy. (8) why dont we build buildings like sky scrapers to act like island where its more likely to flood. (9) why don’t we build buildings like sky scraper to recycle all oue waste, going in at the top and comeing out at the bottom to be reused in someway. (10) why dont we build more buildings like sky scrapers if the world water surface is going to rise in the future, and our population is going to rise too, meaning we must make our selves more selfsuffishientish on what land is left.
    Please don’t say we cant build more sky scraper in the way I have suggested because of what happen in America to the two towers,even though I know this before posting my ideas to help solve the way we could live in the future, if ever tried, suggested by someone like me, who is just trying to do his bit to help others.

    Why dont we all try to live long and happy together if the WORLD IS SUPPOSED TO BE HEVEN ON EARTH. John.J.R.P.

    Comment by John.J.R.P. — 3 Jan 2008 @ 9:45 PM

  269. 236> How can you apply technology and non-fossil energy to bring back the world’s fisheries?

    That one probably requires reduced fishing so they can recover, but some fertilization might help.

    240> Depletion of water resources–again, biofuels tend to be hogs when it comes to water. It has been my experience that those who contend that everything will be just fine and that our future is rosy are precisely those who have not looked into the issues very deeply.

    Ad-homs are not appreciated. Biofuels may not be a very good idea; I expect nuclear, wind, and geothermal to do well. Eventually solar may be cost competitive for more extensive applications.

    243> Reversing extinctions and the spread of invasive species, soil erosion, groundwater depletion and contamination, and ocean acidification also look fairly tricky.

    Unless they are extreme, most of those are likely to have little effect on standard of living for most people, which was the subject of the original discussion. I am in agreement with most here that present fossil fuel emissions need to be limited eventually to keep effects from becoming extreme.

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 3 Jan 2008 @ 9:49 PM

  270. #230 Hank Roberts: See? You really could find out that you’re wrong, if you looked.

    Hank, there’s a problem with your argument. The book was WIDELY believed to be a prediction of doom. In the link you provided (written by the authors), it notes that newspaper headlines: “A Computer looks ahead and shutters” and “Study sees disaster by year 2100″ and “Scientists warn of global catastrophe”. The authors themselves notes “The book created a furor” and “the book was interpreted by many as a prediction of doom”

    I’m sorry, but if an author attempts to convey a tempered message X, and the world overwhelmingly takes away scary message Y, then the author has failed to effectively communicate. Full stop. Now, we can debate if their intention was to scare or not. Given the fanfare around the book at the time, and their failure to clear the air, they seemed to enjoy the additional spotlight, money and fame, and did little correct the misperceptions.

    And now, when the doom didn’t materialize to the extent they’d warned (hoped?), we see them pull bits from the book 20 years later (in your link) and emphasize the gentler, more reasoned parts from the text. As I noted above, it’s the classic prediction screaming doom with the various textual escape hatches buried within. No, I haven’t read the book as it was a bit before my time (I was 6 when it came out and there have been too many other things to read in the more formative years). But the formula is clear and well tested on both sides of the fence.

    Comment by matt — 4 Jan 2008 @ 1:54 AM

  271. Re: 269 Steve Reynolds reply to Nick Gotts’s comment 243> Reversing extinctions and the spread of invasive species, soil erosion, groundwater depletion and contamination, and ocean acidification also look fairly tricky.

    “Unless they are extreme, most of those are likely to have little effect on standard of living for most people, which was the subject of the original discussion. I am in agreement with most here that present fossil fuel emissions need to be limited eventually to keep effects from becoming extreme.”

    That’s an amazingly anthropocentric response to a very legitimate comment. Humans evolved with the other millions of species of plants and animals on this planet, and the problems raised by Mr. Gott cannot simply be excused as having “little effect.” Even without the crisis of global warming, each of these issues has immense ramifications, not only for humans but also for our other fellow travelers on our fragile Earth. The effects of these problems already are extreme, and they must be addressed as well as dealing with fossil fuel emissions, population growth, and consumption.

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 4 Jan 2008 @ 2:35 AM

  272. I think this falls within the topic.
    As a history enthusiast, I like to think how our time will be seen in the future. My uneducated prediction of the three most important things from the first decade of the millenium are:

    1. Effects of climate change became visible, undeniable and harmful
    2. Energy prices started to rise.
    3. Food prices started to rise.

    And as a fourth point, the vicious circle formed by above three reinforcing each other.

    Comment by scipio — 4 Jan 2008 @ 3:06 AM

  273. #259 dhogaza says:

    “None of this applies directly to polar bear harvests”

    exactly so why bring it up?

    My point, meanwhile, was that in 10 years time the polar bear population (including harvests) is expected to decline by 2% when many catastrophists shout about extinctions.

    Three off the top of google:

    http://www.coolkidsforacoolclimate.com/Causes&Effects/PolarBearExtinction.htm

    http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/swcbd/species/polarbear/index.html

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35233-2004Nov8.html

    Comment by Alan K — 4 Jan 2008 @ 3:15 AM

  274. Re #269 (Steve Reynolds) “243> Reversing extinctions and the spread of invasive species, soil erosion, groundwater depletion and contamination, and ocean acidification also look fairly tricky.

    Unless they are extreme, most of those are likely to have little effect on standard of living for most people”

    With regard to extinctions, you are probably right, although some of us regard the loss of natural beauty and variety as a severe and irreparable loss. Invasive species are causing significant problems for people in many areas – Australia perhaps being the worst affected. Soil erosion, and groundwater depletion and contamination, are already causing severe problems, particularly in poor countries. You may have read about widespread arsenic poisoning in Bangladesh, but a far wider concern is the effect of both problems on agricultural yields, the broader effects on health of low-level contamination of water with contaminants such as heavy metals and endocrine disrupters, and of the need to fetch water from further and further afield, which falls mainly on women. Given that soil and groundwater both renew themselves on timescales so long they can be considered effectively non-renewable resources, that we currently have the lowest global grain stocks for many years, and that billions of people are still directly dependent on what they themselves grow or raise, I find your complacency astonishing and reprehensible. You might like to have a look at the proceedings of the 14th conference of the International Soil Conservation Organisation (2006), which are freely available for download (along with the proceedings of earlier ISCO conferences) at http://www.tucson.ars.ag.gov/isco/page3.html. As for ocean acidification, our understanding of ocean ecology is insufficient for us to judge how much acidification would be dangerous, by altering the competitive balance between plankton species, for example.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 4 Jan 2008 @ 5:20 AM

  275. Re #260 (Hank Roberts) “No comment I’ve drafted survives the spam filter; I’m even going to have to mangle the link name, so you’ll have to fill in the missing word yourself. It starts with f, ends with k, the third letter is a c, and the second letter is a vowel.”

    Hank, at least it was obvious what was causing your problem with the filter! I had great problems with #254 – you’ll see I had to include an asterisk in soci*lism. I finally remembered I had seen elsewhere that this word could cause problems – apparently because of the substring ci*lis, which is the name of an imp*tence remedy! Devilish cunning, these capitalists :-)

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 4 Jan 2008 @ 5:32 AM

  276. [[ Installing absorptive PV panels precludes the possibility of using the rooftop to reflect incoming solar radiation back into space at the same wavelength (increase earth’s albedo). ]]

    There isn’t enough rooftop space on Earth for painting them all white to make a signficant difference. Urban areas are, at most, 2% of Earth’s land surface, and a lot of that is road.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 Jan 2008 @ 6:57 AM

  277. Steve Reynolds, Have you in fact looked deeply into these issues? Your responses do not indicate thay you have. Or have you figured out a way to get a car powered by solar, wind or nuclear power?
    Your response to Barton’s question is also not very illuminating. Reduced fishing reduces food supply (expecially protein) at a time when it is already under pressure. And fertilization can cause algal blooms and increases pressure on other limiting factors (e.g O2) in ocean waters.
    Our current society is extremely dependent on cheap energy. That is why I can buy tropical fruits in my local supermarket more cheaply than I can buy local produce (even in season). The plants of the green revolution are miraculous producers. However, they are optimized for production, not survival. They rapidly deplete minerals and nitrogen from the soil, which must be replaced with fertilizers (mainly petrochemical). Without herbicides (petrochemicals) they will die in the shade of faster and taller growing weeds. I would strongly recommend reading Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”. You probably dismiss it as alarmist, whereas most ecologists (my wife included) think he is overly optimistic.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Jan 2008 @ 8:07 AM

  278. John JRP. The answer to most of your questions is simply that it is not economical. Building up is expensive. It can usually only be justified if the cost of land is very expensive, as in large cities. Only the top floor of the skyscraper gets any appreciable natural light, especially if sky-scrapers are built close together. So raising food is impractical. Water would have to be pumped up–lots of energy.
    As to the issue of why buildings are not spherical or hemispherical–two reasons come to mind. You can pack more buildings into an area if they have straight edges and the space inside is more usable. Also, construction materials have more strength against compression and tension than against shear, so a round building has to be like a geodesic dome.

    As to Heaven on Earth, Mark Twain argued that people wouldn’t know how to live in heaven, and I tend to agree.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Jan 2008 @ 8:50 AM

  279. Matt says of Limits to Growth:
    “I’m sorry, but if an author attempts to convey a tempered message X, and the world overwhelmingly takes away scary message Y, then the author has failed to effectively communicate. Full stop.”

    Hmm, interesting contention. So, by this logic, we should blame Winston Churchill for the rise of Naziism, since he obviously did not communicate the threat effectively. And we should blame the framers of the Constitution for all of our problems in politics, since they obviously did a poor job communicating the fundamentals of democracy to the populace. And Christians should blame God for our sinful ways since it’s obvious that people just didn’t get the message in the Bible that we should all live in peace, love and harmony. Oh, wait, maybe there’s another interpretation. Maybe the people didn’t read the damn books! Maybe the reporters were looking for a headline that would sell newspapers. And in turn, maybe the readers of said newspapers did not read the entire article, which may have done a better job of conveying the caveats and the optimism underlying the Club of Rome studies.
    Matt, did you ever read Limits to Growth? If so, I would recommend you go back and peruse it again–because much of what they predicted is now unfolding. And if people found the prediction scary, I doubt they’ll be in much shape to make rational decisions while the collapse is actually occurring.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Jan 2008 @ 9:11 AM

  280. Re #270 (Matt) “newspaper headlines…”Study sees disaster by year 2100″… And now, when the doom didn’t materialize to the extent they’d warned”

    Gosh, have we passed 2100 already? Doesn’t time start to fly as you approach the age of 150!

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 4 Jan 2008 @ 9:12 AM

  281. Ray Ladbury wrote: “Or have you figured out a way to get a car powered by solar, wind or nuclear power?”

    That’s not hard. Grid-charged battery-powered pluggable-hybrid electric vehicles would do it, and they already exist. We could power an entire national fleet of such vehicles without even increasing our existing electrical generation capacity if they are charged during off-peak hours.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 Jan 2008 @ 9:43 AM

  282. Paul Chefurka’s article, entitled “Peak Oil, Carrying Capacity and Overshoot” (www.npg.org) ought to give comfort to those who are concerned that warnings over global warming are not being taken seriously enough. It is easy to ignore doom mongering when the doom won’t become manifest until two generations into the future, particularly if there is even a scintilla of doubt over the forecast. The article referred to suggests that the need for instant action will become apparent almost immediately and will go some way to mitigate longer term warming. (A caveat needed over coal and tar sand related issues).

    This shouldn’t lead to the complacent belief in a soft landing. It is apparently already too late to rely upon lowered fertility rates to bring our population under control and we are led to expect massively increased death rates in order to adjust to a fossil fuel free world. Chefurka believes we’ll only be able to sustain a population of somewhat over one billion by 2100. While he may have underestimated the potential for technological solutions to renewable energy, it seems that most ecologists would hope for no more than a human population of 3 billion.

    Before knocking poor old Malthus too much for his politically incorrect ethical views, we ought to consider that democracy is a political system that can probably only work if there is potential for rising aspirations to be met and that welfare provision is liable to evaporate when “survival of the fittest” strategies offer the best hope for the survival of our own genes.

    Comment by Douglas Wise — 4 Jan 2008 @ 10:24 AM

  283. RE 263

    Bruce, Dr. Susan Solomon and others have written recent papers on their observing tightening of the Antarctic Polar Vortex. Australian meteorologists are also looking at this as possible contribution to extending Southeast Australian drought.

    If you google the term, I believe you will find good information.

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 4 Jan 2008 @ 11:01 AM

  284. Re 281. Secular Animist, battery power is great if you only want to go 100 miles or less, and if you don’t care too much about reliability and if you don’ mind too much if your power source blows up and catches fire…

    Battery technology has a long way to go before we have true plug-in automobiles.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Jan 2008 @ 12:10 PM

  285. #279 Ray Ladbury: Hmm, interesting contention. So, by this logic, we should blame Winston Churchill for the rise of Naziism…[other examples snipped]

    I think you kind of missed the point. If WC had written books and delivered speeches stating that the Nazi’s weren’t dangerous, and then years later trotted out a few passages where he stated the Nazi’s were dangerous, then I get your comparison. But he was 24×7 on message. Unwaivering. There was a contingency on the other side of the fence that effectively blunted his warning. My point about LtG was that the authors wanted the best of both worlds: scare the daylights out of everyone, but leave an “out” so that in 50 years they couldn’t be called alarmists. They didn’t seem to care at all that their book was at the center of a storm of misunderstanding, and did little to correct the misperceptions. Remember the thread on those that claim extinction rates far in excess of what we’re actually seeing? Same blueprint. Scare the hell out of everyone, the add a caveat that you meant species were “doomed” to extinction so in 50 years you aren’t looked at as an alarmist.

    And with your mentioning of Nazis, we are now by law required to terminate this thread, at least in section of Washington state that I live in. Nice going. You have spoiled it for everyone :)

    Matt, did you ever read Limits to Growth? If so, I would recommend you go back and peruse it again–because much of what they predicted is now unfolding. And if people found the prediction scary, I doubt they’ll be in much shape to make rational decisions while the collapse is actually occurring.

    As I said, I was 6 when it came out. Precocious indeed, but not that precocious. About the same time, I did find myself incredibly bummed (almost to tears) whenever the commercial of the crying Indian standing on the shore of a river looking at all the litter came on TV, so you can bet I would have been sympathetic to the book at the time…

    I’ll look for it at the library.

    Comment by matt — 4 Jan 2008 @ 12:20 PM

  286. exactly so why bring it up?

    Because you said this:

    nterestingly, 805 bears are expected to be harvested annually. Adding these back (v crude and I’m sure it’s not like-for-like) would lead to a poulation of 30,756 bears in 10 years, a 33% increase.

    The reality is that, if the management strategy is properly designed, that “adding these back” will have no impact on the population levels at all.

    I used the deer example to make my point because many more people are familiar with deer than polar bears.

    Deer are a backyard species in many parts of the US, and common throughout their range.

    I assumed that you were unaware that properly designed controlled hunts (harvests) don’t negatively impact the species’ numbers.

    Now, if you DID know that, why did you raise the point in the first place? I gave you the benefit of the doubt, that you didn’t raise this point as an intentional red-herring.

    My point, meanwhile, was that in 10 years time the polar bear population (including harvests) is expected to decline by 2% when many catastrophists shout about extinctions.

    I remember when the US Forest Service put out their [northern] spotted owl habitat (SOHA) plan.

    The plan stated that:

    1. The chance for significant decline under the plan was low in the next 10 years.

    2. The chance for extinction after 50 years was high.

    3. The forest service only has to generate forest plans once each 10 years, therefore they could ignore #2.

    So, what exactly do you think “2% in 10 years” means in a context where predictions for a reduction in the artic ice cap that would have a large impact on overall populations is in the > 10 year time frame, given that those changes in the next half century are being pipelined by CO2 increase made today?

    The “2% in 10 year” figure is meaningless. You’re smart enough to figure that out, right?

    Meanwhile, the 2007 summer melt has caused scientists to reconsider the timeframe in question …

    Comment by dhogaza — 4 Jan 2008 @ 12:41 PM

  287. Matt said: “My point about LtG was that the authors wanted the best of both worlds: scare the daylights out of everyone, but leave an “out” so that in 50 years they couldn’t be called alarmists.”

    Wow, and you know all this without ever having cracked the book open! Way to go, Matt. And, you probably don’t know about all the follow-on studies they did either, do you, where they tried to address the criticisms and misinterpretations.

    Matt, I can only recommend to you the counsel of the good Mr. Twain:
    “There is something worse than ignorance, and that’s knowing what ain’t so.”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Jan 2008 @ 12:58 PM

  288. Re #268: [...WHY dont we? For example,(1) why dont we build higher like sky scrapers, to help save more space on our planet to grow things to eat...]

    In addition to the obvious technical reasons, some of which Ray mentioned in #278, there’s the psychological component. A flippant answer could be encapsulated as “So who are you calling WE?”. What you suggest resembles ’60s-era urban public housing projects. The plain fact is that most people don’t want to live in skyscrapers (do you?). Most people don’t even want to live in cities. They do so only because of economic necessity. When they obtain material wealth, they frequently spend it on moving as far as possible from the city where they made that wealth – whether that’s to a suburban tract house and a two-hour commute, a vacation getaway in the mountains, or Ted Turner’s Montana ranch.

    Comment by James — 4 Jan 2008 @ 1:06 PM

  289. Ray Ladbury wrote: “battery power is great if you only want to go 100 miles or less, and if you don’t care too much about reliability and if you don’ mind too much if your power source blows up and catches fire”

    First, note that I referred to “grid-charged battery-powered pluggable-hybrid electric vehicles.” Pluggable hybrids can be charged from the grid and run as pure battery-electric vehicles for “short” trips but have a combustion engine for longer trips.

    The vast majority of automobiles in the USA are driven MUCH less than 100 miles per day — I believe the average is less than 20 miles per day — so if they were pluggable hybrids charged from the grid at night, most of them would run as purely battery-electric cars most of the time.

    With regard to reliability and a “power source [that] blows up and catches fire” I really don’t know what you are talking about. I am not aware that those are problems with the Toyota Prius, and a pluggable hybrid would basically be a Toyota Prius with a larger battery pack and an integrated charger that plugs into a standard house current outlet.

    In fact, many of the existing pluggable hybrids that have been developed by university groups and others are modified Toyota Priuses, which can go some 60 to 100 miles per charge on battery power only, but otherwise have the same performance, reliability and safety of the regular Prius.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 Jan 2008 @ 1:14 PM

  290. #286 dhogoza then brings up, of all creatures:

    the “[northern] spotted owl”

    so from deer to owls. Nice one. Tell me how owls are relevant to polar bear populations?

    Read the IUCN paper; read the “elevation” to red list statement and appreciate that all those things (eg. AOO, EOO) are taken into account. Polar Bears are not at significant risk. Or reference the paper that disputes or updates the Seattle conference minutes and we’ll both look through it.

    If you want to have a discussion or argument about how hunting maintains healthy species you won’t have it with me as I agree very strongly with you. But irrelevant to POLAR BEARS!

    Comment by Alan K — 4 Jan 2008 @ 2:02 PM

  291. Re # 276

    I would tend to agree with your point that, on a “global” basis it is unlikely that putting white reflecting material (thin white plastic?) on the ground anywhere (even perhaps on newly exposed “tundra” that absorbs significantly more heat during the summer than it did with its usual covering of snow) would affect the earth’s energy budget enough to slow down “global warming” to any significant degree.

    My thinking, though I failed to express it clearly enough, was restricted to an “urban heat island” situation, consisting of broad expanses of mostly of one-story dwellings (think LA). In fact, as I write, I am realizing that reducing/mitigating the quantity/effects of excess “urban heat” is a subject area large enough that it could be the topic of a whole new article and thread, so I don’t want to go off the “deep end” here writing about this.

    As you correctly say, a significant portion of the area consists of streets and other asphalted areas, which is probably about 25%, and an initial guess for the roof area could also be about 25% of the total. In my thinking, I assumed that there would be some advantage to effectively “shade” inhabited areas, blocking the sunlight from reaching standard roofing material. Based on your comment, I’m now beginning to think it might be just as advantageous to “shade” parking lots (or even some streets), but that’s a whole different (?) story.

    Shading could be accomplished by installing a purely “reflective barrier” which removes a fairly high fraction of the incident radiation from the overall urban area by reflecting it back into space, or by installing an “absorptive barrier” that would trap the (unconverted) light as surface heat. While this (differential heat) would add to the urban heat effect, it would provide the compensating advantage of generating electricity, albeit at a much higher installed cost than would be incurred by the “reflective barrier”.

    IMO, one would have to conclude that, at current PV costs, installing a “reflective barrier” would be the most cost effective, but, at some point, the PV alternative might be preferred if its total installation costs could be reduced significantly.

    In either case my “preferred solution” would also be to build an AVE in the center of the urban area to take advantage of the increased enthalpy of higher entering (urban) air temperatures by efficiently converting it to electricity. At the same time cooler air from the surroundings would be brought in to replace that which is sent to the upper troposphere in the central vortex, an effect that would proceed well into the evening hours, if not during the entire night.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 4 Jan 2008 @ 2:15 PM

  292. Sec, Toyota did announce a delay in their pluggable hybrid because they don’t plan to use the current lithium-ion batteries.

    Flammability Assessment of Bulk- Packed, Nonrechargeable Lithium …
    … A relatively small fire source is sufficient to start a primary lithium battery fire. The outer plastic. coating easily melts and fuses adjacent …
    http://www.mobilit.fgov.be/data/aero/FAALiBaFiRe.pdf

    Google: lithium +battery +fire
    and “lithium battery” +”energy density”

    A battery _pack_ with a number of those cells, if discharged fairly low, risks having the lowest cell reverse polarity so when charging current is applied again that cell heats up and catches fire.

    Look for inherently safer lithium iron phosphate cells that are beginning to replace the current, more risky batteries.

    Vehicle miles: http://i160.photobucket.com/albums/t175/jcwinni/mileagegraph.jpg

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Jan 2008 @ 2:58 PM

  293. RE #292, & vehicle miles….

    Why can’t many of those 50% of drivers who drive over 25 miles a day live closer to work (at least in cases where there are comparable closer homes to their more distant homes)? It would mean less pollution, less stress, more time for family or recreation, less health hazards (from the pollution inside the car), less chance of accidents.

    But anyway about half drive less than 25 miles per day, and most families have 2 or more cars, so one could be an EV that goes 30 miles on a charge, and the other, an ICE vehicle or hybrid.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 4 Jan 2008 @ 4:11 PM

  294. Re #290 (Alan K) “Or reference the paper that disputes or updates the Seattle conference minutes and we’ll both look through it.”

    I can’t say whether or how this differs from what was said at the Seattle conference, but it’s certainly more recent:

    http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/special/polar_bears/docs/USGS_PolarBear_Amstrup_Forecast_lowres.pdf

    (If the URL doesn’t work, just google something like: Amstrup USGS forecasting rangewide status polar bears)

    Comment by Rick Brown — 4 Jan 2008 @ 4:19 PM

  295. Didn’t the Club of Rome publish a second study, “Mankind at the Turning Point” or some such title, in the ’80s? And didn’t it have a plan for avoiding the problems? I seem to remember a red-and-white paperback…

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 4 Jan 2008 @ 4:21 PM

  296. Re #295
    There have been two updates:

    Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, and Jørgen Randers (1992) Beyond the Limits: Confronting Global Collapse, Envisioning a Sustainable Future

    Donella H. Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis L. Meadows (2004)
    Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update

    These do indeed (as I recall – I don’t have them handy) deal with criticisms, update projections, suggest remedies etc.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 4 Jan 2008 @ 4:48 PM

  297. Jerry Toman (291) — Regarding parking lots, encourage the use of concrete paving bricks which have a hole in the center. The hole is filled with gravel. I’ve seen these used in Germany. Not only higher albedo but also no rain or snow runoff except in the wildest of storms.

    And by all means encourage high albedo roofs.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 4 Jan 2008 @ 4:53 PM

  298. Re: #292,293

    Hybrids, batteries, etc.

    While the “hybrid” automobile (arguably) provides some synergistic effects that improve its overall performance over a “pure” petroleum-based automobile, any additional advantages that might be accrued by extending the vehicle’s size and weight to accommodate the additional battery capacity for “all electric” operation (so-called “plug-in” hybrids), are by no means clear.

    This is especially true if one takes into account that the marginal fuel which provides the electricity is supposed to be (has been?) coal, a gross emitter of GHG’s. What about the news report (TOD) that as far as energy content is concerned, coal already appears to have “peaked” here in the US. So if the “marginal” fuel is no longer coal, what is? If there is no prospect of increased electricity production, which activity will we have forego (take the electricity from) in order to put it into a car’s batteries.

    With regard to the notion that “battery improvement” could eventually lead to PIHVs, I ask the following question: If a battery system is good (efficient) enough to carry “Load A”, to “work” in the morning, why isn’t it “good enough” to also carry “Load A” back home again?

    Wouldn’t the nine hours that would elapse while it sits at work be enough time to charge it back up again? If you only work four hours, how difficult would it be to swap in a battery pack, or set up a system whereby “commuter cars” carried their batteries around on a trailer which could be exchanged in minutes at many locations set up for this purpose? Couldn’t a person just rent a “regular car” on family excursion days?

    Why does anyone feel the need to “own” a car? Most machinery in factories runs at least two shifts a day. What is so special about a “private automobile” that it needs to sleep for 11 hours for each hour that it “works”, often in its own stable? Seems to me like a whole lot of resources just sitting idly around. Why do we need “three-hundred horses” in our stable? Doesn’t it require a lot of hay to feed them?

    “There is something about riding down the street on a prancing horse that makes you feel like something, even when you ain’t a thing”–Will Rogers

    Sorry if this ended up being more of a “rant” than just a comment.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 4 Jan 2008 @ 5:34 PM

  299. Jerry Toman asked: “If there is no prospect of increased electricity production, which activity will we have forego (take the electricity from) in order to put it into a car’s batteries.”

    A January 2007 study by the Pacific National Laboratory found that 73 percent or more of vehicles in the US could be powered by off-peak electricity from underutilized existing generation, through the existing grid, without needing to build any additional power plants.

    Hank Roberts wrote: “Toyota did announce a delay in their pluggable hybrid because they don’t plan to use the current lithium-ion batteries”

    The “current” batteries in Toyota’s Prius are nickel metal hydride (NiMH), not lithium-ion. According to the Wall Street Journal earlier this year, “Toyota has decided against the use of lithium-ion battery technology – at least initially – in the next-generation Toyota Prius, which is still expected in fall 2008 .. The company will instead, at launch, use a new version of the company’s existing nickel metal hydride battery pack in the new Prius”. Other reports indicate that Toyota executives are skeptical that a pluggable-hybrid version of the Prius can be manufactured at a cost that will be widely marketable.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 4 Jan 2008 @ 6:58 PM

  300. Re: #299

    I didn’t mention electric power capacity limitations. “Peak coal energy” means that, if more coal is used at night to “top-off” your automobile energy storage tank, less will be available during the day for A/C, for example. What or which resources are you suggesting we consume (or develop)to make up for this deficit?

    Irrespective of it’s polluting potential, the notion that we can increase coal output enough to replace declining oil reserves to power a significan fraction of our present car population is ludicrous.

    My point from the beginning has been that developing the AVE is the “only possible” means of providing enough energy for this transition. As other’s have suggested, however, “waste is waste”, and surely we have it within ourselves to develop an “optimized” system of transportation that doesn’t require that we carry around with us so much metal and glass for such large distances and at such high speeds as we do today.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 4 Jan 2008 @ 8:52 PM

  301. Ref: 278 – 288.

    Hi Ray and James, please take the time to vist a website that was given to me by someone called addict, on the Environment site, to see what a Mr William Mc Donough and partners have built in the way of a sky scraper, to cover most of the things I was talking about, when I was saying about WHY dont we? it’s http://www.inhabitat.com. May you and yours and what you grow live long and happy. John.J.R.P.

    Comment by John.J.R.P. — 4 Jan 2008 @ 9:23 PM

  302. Barton, re 295. Club of Rome is still actively publishing:
    http://www.clubofrome.org/archive/reports.php

    Their reputation for catastrophism is belied by their publication record. I note that a recent publication on the implications of Peak Oil could have been subtitled “We was right after all.” Being off by 20 years is trivial given what they had to work with.

    Hey they can’t be all bad since Lomborg hates them.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Jan 2008 @ 9:36 PM

  303. John J.R.P. We can certainly build smarter than we do. However, there are always limits to what architecture can do. I suspect one limit it could not breach is making James actually want to live in a sky scraper. There will always be some people who, when they can see the smoke from their neighbor’s chimney, have an irresistable urge to pick up and move. Having lived in Appalachia, I understand this urge.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 4 Jan 2008 @ 10:16 PM

  304. Sec, I didn’t mean currently used in the Prius, I meant currently on the market. Google +toyota +plugin +hybrid +lithium for that news.
    Or +lithium +battery +fire +explosion +risk +hazard for that matter.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 4 Jan 2008 @ 11:09 PM

  305. Re #300, etc: One factor you’re leaving out of the plug-in hybrid discussion is the relative (in)efficiency of internal combustion engines. They use at best 30-40% of the energy in fuel (and are often running nowhere near their optimum): the rest is lost as heat through the radiator & exhaust. Stationary generation is more efficient, so even with transmission losses the increased efficiency of electric motors could result in a net gain. Then once you have a vehicle that uses a primary electric drive, you’re free to run the IC engine at its most efficient point, or even to look at other, more efficient types of engine.

    A second factor is that only about 60% of US generation comes from fossil fuels. The rest is nuclear & hydro, with smaller (but growing) amounts of wind, solar, geothermal, and so on. If the mix of generation on the grid changes to use less fossil fuels, the energy used by the plug-in hybrids automatically follows that change.

    Comment by James — 5 Jan 2008 @ 12:01 AM

  306. Re John L. McCormick @ 283,
    If I understand your reference to the tightening of the Antarctic Polar Vortex correctly you are referring to the tendency for winter weather systems to move poleward.

    I’m not a meterorologist, but as I understand it this effect is blamed for the drying around Perth in Western Australia. You only have to travel a few hundred kilometres north of Perth to reach desert that reaches to the coast. The tightening of the Antarctic Polar Vortex will effectively move this desert southward.

    This effect may also have a large impact on the weather in Adelaide, South Australia, which also faces the ocean to the West. It will surely play a role in eastern Australia, but I understand it gets more complex here for at least two reasons:

    1) The East coast gets rain year round, much of it from the interaction of moisture laden air over the warm Tasman Sea and weather systems inland. The east Australian current down the eastern seaboard will probably warm due to climate change. (The current off West Australia is cold, which explains the sea-side deserts.)

    2) Much of the rain that falls in the Murray-Darling basin and the rest of the interior comes in huge downpours that result from tropical cyclones that have become rain depressions as they move southwards. These may well intensify due to climate change, although they may also be less frequent.

    I’m not a climate modeller or meterorologist, but I gather there are several complex factors at work in the eastern areas of Australia which make it hard to be definitive abound a drying trend – both whether it exists and what may cause it.

    Comment by Bruce Tabor — 5 Jan 2008 @ 2:10 AM

  307. #300 Jerry Toman: Irrespective of it’s polluting potential, the notion that we can increase coal output enough to replace declining oil reserves to power a significan fraction of our present car population is ludicrous.

    Not really. If we all switched overnight to the Tesla MOtors electric car, and did our 12K annual average with that car instead of a gasoline car, the demand on the grid goes up about 12%. We grow output at roughly 3% annually anyway, so it’d really just be like pulling demand ahead by 3-4 years. With a few years go planning and few years of transition (both required), it could definitely happen.

    Plus, if we switched the 120M cars in the US to electric, even with our normal mix of coal, hydro, nuclear, etc, we’d reduce our CO2 output by about 50%. With nuclear it gets even better.

    The hard part is finding enough battery electrolyte.

    Comment by matt — 5 Jan 2008 @ 2:13 AM

  308. dhogoza then brings up, of all creatures:

    the “[northern] spotted owl”

    so from deer to owls. Nice one. Tell me how owls are relevant to polar bear populations?

    It’s called population ecology, and biologists don’t reinvent the basic principles each and every time they study a new species.

    At this point it’s quite clear your ignorance is willful, and any attempt to educate you will fall on deaf ears.

    All in public for all to see, too. Tch, tch.

    Clearly you’ve read “deer” or “owl”, stopped reading, and posted without paying any attention to the content of the posts.

    So, tell me, if I describe the gravitional mechanics of dropping a stone on the moon, will you argue it’s irrelevant to understanding the mechanics of dropping a book on pluto?

    Comment by dhogaza — 5 Jan 2008 @ 4:17 AM

  309. Re #301 A Dutch firm have recently designed a skyscraper for pig-farming. Although this may be a somewhat tongue-in-cheek proposal, and I imagine it would stink to high heaven :-). See http://www.inhabitat.com/2006/06/15/mvrdvs-pig-city/.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 5 Jan 2008 @ 5:52 AM

  310. Jerry Toman writes:

    [[Why does anyone feel the need to “own” a car? Most machinery in factories runs at least two shifts a day. What is so special about a “private automobile” that it needs to sleep for 11 hours for each hour that it “works”, often in its own stable? Seems to me like a whole lot of resources just sitting idly around. Why do we need “three-hundred horses” in our stable? ]]

    Because if you own something, you have an incentive to take care of it. Publicly owned cars would be vandalized, left idling with the keys inside, never have their gas tanks filled, go without maintenance, etc. That’s what happened with public housing. It’s called “the tragedy of the commons.”

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 5 Jan 2008 @ 7:54 AM

  311. Re #310 (Barton Paul Levenson) “It’s called “the tragedy of the commons.” It’s miscalled that: real, historical commons were and are managed by mutual monitoring, graduated penalties for misbehaviour, and often complex rules of use. See Monbiot’s article “The Tragedy of Enclosure” in January 1994 Scientific American, or for more detail, the considerable literature on common pool resources, e.g. Nives Dolšak and Elinor Ostrom (2003) “The Commons in the New Millennium: Challenges and Adaptation”. There are many alternatives to both private property and an open-access regime. With regard to cars, in a number of UK cities, and I’m sure elsewhere, schemes operate whereby cars are owned by cooperatives which ensure maintenance is carried out, you pay a monthly fee, and call and book one for the time you need it. It won’t work for everyone, but owning cars is as much about status as need, cost or convenience.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 5 Jan 2008 @ 10:17 AM

  312. Here’s something pertinent to the topic.

    One of the denialist fears mitigating GW is it will lead to a totalitarian state (the other is it will harm the economy).

    I’ve been rebutting all along that not mitigating GW will harm the economy and lead to both a totalitarian state and chaos (state breakdown & warlord conflict), which is sort of like increasing societal complexity and control AND increasing social entropy. I suggested that a modicum of regulations to help mitigate GW were like innoculations against this trend. (And re the economic fear, you sometimes have to invest money (in energy/resource efficient/conservative products/measures) to make money.)

    Now here’s an article on a book that is not specifically about GW, but relates to the already increasing totalitarianism, and it sort of reminds me of an anthro book I read decades ago about our illusion of being free because we can choose among toothpaste brands, or what career path to follow, etc. And it also resonates with an article I think George Monbiot wrote some 2 years ago, about how the executive branch has been gaining much more power vis-a-vis the other 2 branches by its creative interpretations of the laws.

    The 10 easy steps to shut down a democracy: http://www.precaution.org/lib/08/ht080103.htm#The_Ten_Steps_Needed_To_Shut_Down_a_Democracy

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Jan 2008 @ 10:26 AM

  313. Re #310 (Barton Paul Levenson) “That’s what happened with public housing.”

    Not in Europe. See for example: Hunt, D. Bradford
    Public Housing in America: Lost Opportunities
    Reviews in American History – Volume 25, Number 4, December 1997, pp. 637-642. I quote from the abstract: “Success in public housing no longer means housing the urban poor, it means getting them out. In 1995, HUD announced plans to tear down a total of 100,000 public housing units by the year 2000. In Europe, by contrast, state-sponsored housing serves large numbers without debilitating effects. Why has American public housing failed to live up to its promise?”. There is now an ideologically-driven attempt to destroy public housing in the EU, see “The future of main stream public housing in Europe – a Swedish perspective” Bengt Owe Birgersson, available online at http://enhr2006-ljubljana.uirs.si/publish/PIII_bengt.pdf. Belief it or not, Barton, the USA is not the world.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 5 Jan 2008 @ 10:29 AM

  314. #310 Zipcars, it works.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 5 Jan 2008 @ 11:26 AM

  315. Yeah, I was about to mention zipcars, their website was developed by a friend of mine. You could mention flexcar, too, except you’d be out-of-date ’cause zipcar just bought them.

    Comment by dhogaza — 5 Jan 2008 @ 11:49 AM

  316. And autoshare: http://www.autoshare.com

    And for public housing, the key to makeing it work is not to design it to segregate by income from the outset. Successful public housing includes a mix of subsidized, coop and market units within the same complex.

    Comment by Jim Eager — 5 Jan 2008 @ 12:15 PM

  317. Google ‘tragedy of the unmanaged commons’ for Hardin’s actual meaning.
    The spam filter here won’t let me post a direct quote from Hardin’s paper but you can find it, it’s brief and to the point.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 5 Jan 2008 @ 12:29 PM

  318. Hank Roberts wrote: “I didn’t mean [lithium-ion batteries] currently used in the Prius, I meant currently on the market.”

    Thanks, I misunderstood.

    My point is that perfecting lithium-ion batteries is not a prerequisite for a commercially viable pluggable-hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

    Many of the independently-built Prius PHEV conversions use the same NiMH batteries as in the standard Prius, and achieve a useful range per charge. And Toyota’s own all-electric SUV the RAV4 EV also used NiHM batteries and had a range of 80 to 120 miles per charge.

    Meanwhile according to recent news reports, Toyota is moving forward with mass production of lithium-ion batteries for vehicles:

    Associated Press, 12/27/2007:

    Toyota also said it was preparing to start mass producing lithium-ion batteries for low-emission vehicles.

    Lithium-ion batteries, already widely used in laptops and other gadgets, are smaller yet more powerful than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in gas-electric hybrids like the Prius now.

    Lithium-ion batteries will not be used in the Prius, on sale for a decade and the most popular hybrid on the market, according to Toyota.

    The lithium-ion battery will be used in a plug-in hybrid, which would recharge from a regular home socket, and travel longer as an electric vehicle than the Prius. Toyota has started tests on its plug-in hybrid, but has not shown a model using the new battery.

    Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, who oversees technology, said Toyota had developed the lithium-ion battery to a level that it is almost ready for mass production, although that won’t start until sometime after next year.

    MSNBC / Associated Press 12/13/2007:

    A new battery that can be recharged to 90 percent capacity in under five minutes and lasts 10 years will start shipping in March, Toshiba Corp. announced this week, hailing it as “a new energy solution” for cleaner transportation.

    Toshiba plans to initially make the quick-charging Super Charge ion Battery for electric bikes, forklifts, construction machinery and other industrial use. It can work in temperatures as low as minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

    A newcomer in rechargeable batteries, Toshiba said the lithium-ion battery could be used in hybrid and electric cars by 2010, Mochida said.

    Battery innovations are expected to be key in making hybrid vehicles more widespread, because lighter and easier-to-recharge batteries will improve efficiency. They could also spark mass-produced plug-in hybrids and and even resurrect the idea of all-electric vehicles that use no fossil fuel.

    “This is a truly innovative battery,” said Toshiba Corporate Vice President Toshiharu Watanabe, emphasizing its potential “in the electronic vehicles markets as a new energy solution.”

    Most lithium-ion batteries in use now, such as those in laptop computers, require hours to recharge to full capacity, with the fastest ones requiring about half an hour.

    Toshiba also said its new battery, which is estimated to last 5,000 charges, is unlikely to rupture or catch fire, problems that have beset some lithium-ion batteries used in laptops.

    The Tokyo-based electronics maker expects global sales of the new fast-charging battery to reach nearly $900 million by fiscal 2015.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 Jan 2008 @ 1:03 PM

  319. matt,

    I don’t know how many different ways I can say it, but I’m not “per-se” dissing the concept of building electric vehicles to substitute for our current ICE versions. As far as I can know there may be existing designs that would be preferred over ICE’s for specific situations. As battery technology improves, and ESPECIALLY IF we can start producing low-cost, electricity from non-polluting energy sources, I think its arrival is inevitable. IMO coal, even with carbon removal and sequestration won’t work.

    What I do know is that electric propulsion is viable and thriving when batteries are not involved as in the building of “light rail” systems. Extending that system 10 additional miles via a “park and ride” electric cart doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all. We shouldnt’t be carrying around 2000-3000 extra pounds with us wherever we go. If we could should for something like 750 pounds (HOG coefficient of 5) these vehicles should become viable. Of course the speed of the vehicle and those around it need to be limited.

    I must admit, when I hear the name “Tesla” applied to anything electric, it makes me cringe, because it has been behind so much hype. I don’t know anything specific about this company, or care to know.

    The PEHV, is, like all hybrids, a “compromise”, which implies some reduced efficiency. A regular hybrid seems to work in specific cases. As more and more battery weight is added and the ICE function diminished, some point will arrive when one should just ditch the ICE weight and operate as an all-electric vehicle. If you need long range once in a while, rent a “regular car” for that purpose.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 5 Jan 2008 @ 4:53 PM

  320. A curiosity question re the hybrid/battery powered mitigation. Why do I never (seem to) see any of these technologies applied to the cartage business, i.e. 18-wheelers wall-to-wall on every major highway getting a couple of MPG, intercity busses (maybe intra city, too), and maybe even diesel-electric locomotives? Are they just too far beyond the capability? Or just an oversight?

    Comment by Rod B — 5 Jan 2008 @ 5:27 PM

  321. More-or-less on-topic, I’m providing this link because Lynn Vincentnathan seems to have interest:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080103135757.htm

    Carbon dioxide emissions linked to human mortality

    Comment by David B. Benson — 5 Jan 2008 @ 5:57 PM

  322. Re #320: [Why do I never (seem to) see any of these technologies applied to the cartage business, i.e. 18-wheelers...]

    Because a large part of the benefits of hybrid technology come from allowing changes in the size of the IC engine. It takes comparatively little power to travel down a level road at steady speed: the IC engines in conventional vehicles are greatly oversized in order to provide power for acceleration, and so in cruising they run at much less than their optimal efficiency. Add an electric motor to help accelerate, and you can downsize the IC engine and run it more efficiently.

    Your 18-wheelers, by contrast, are running much closer to optimal efficiency. You may have noticed that they don’t accelerate very quickly, and go slowly on hills. They also tend to travel at steady speeds for long distances. This all means that there’s not very much to gain from making them hybrids, at least at current cost for battery power.

    Where hybrid technology could usefully be applied is in delivery vehicles and such, as with this hybrid UPS delivery truck: http://www.pressroom.ups.com/pressreleases/current/0,1088,4694,00.html

    Comment by James — 5 Jan 2008 @ 6:44 PM

  323. Hybrid is also a good improvement for buses and those are already in the streets in the DC area, Maryland side.

    Comment by Philippe Chantreau — 5 Jan 2008 @ 7:48 PM

  324. RE #321, thanks. I can use that for my environmental victimological studies.

    The extra deaths due to CO2 emissions would, of course, be on top of the deaths dues to small particulate matter (much of it caused by the same sources that emit CO2, and causing 55,000 deaths in the U.S. per year), and on top of deaths from other pollutants that are usually emitted with CO2.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 5 Jan 2008 @ 8:46 PM

  325. James (322) (and Philippe): Thanks. I had not considered that.

    Lynn, still getting all worked up over those studies?? Well, I do appreciate your enthusiasm…

    Comment by Rod B — 5 Jan 2008 @ 10:20 PM

  326. Re: #310

    “Because if you own something, you have an incentive to take care of it [[[pride of ownership, it's usually called]]]. Publicly owned cars would be vandalized, left idling with the keys inside, never have their gas tanks filled, go without maintenance, etc. That’s what happened with public housing. It’s called “the tragedy of the commons.”

    Classist drivel. The analogy to “the tragedy of the commons” taken here is entirely inappropriate.

    from Wikipedia:

    Pride (Latin, superbia)

    Pride (vanity, arrogance, narcissism, hubris)
    In almost every list Pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and indeed the ultimate source from which the others arise. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to give compliments to others though they may be deserving of them, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). Dante’s definition was “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbor.” In Jacob Bidermann’s medieval miracle play, Cenodoxus, Pride is the deadliest of all the sins and leads directly to the damnation of the famed Doctor of Paris, Cenodoxus. In perhaps the most famous example, the story of Lucifer, Pride was what caused his Fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan. Vanity and Narcissism are prime examples of this Sin. In the Divine Comedy, the penitent were forced to walk with stone slabs bearing down on their backs in order to induce feelings of humility.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 6 Jan 2008 @ 12:40 AM

  327. A curiosity question re the hybrid/battery powered mitigation. Why do I never (seem to) see any of these technologies applied to the cartage business, i.e. 18-wheelers wall-to-wall on every major highway getting a couple of MPG, intercity busses (maybe intra city, too), and maybe even diesel-electric locomotives? Are they just too far beyond the capability? Or just an oversight?

    GE builds a hybrid locomotive, which surprises me a bit because diesel-electric is already quite efficient.

    I too have been having trouble with the spam filter so let me just suggest googling for “ge hybrid locomotive”, you’ll find it.

    Hybrid busses are out there, as mentioned above. The first ones tried in portland weren’t very successful, only decreasing fuel consumption by a few percent. In contrast, 10% was saved by implementing two suggestions from mechanics having to do with changing the geometry of the front wheels and the shift-points of the programmable automatic transmission in the latest busses Metro bought (which were set up with longer blocks in mind, Portland city blocks are only 200 feet long).

    Later hybrid busses do much better apparently.

    The answer above regarding long-haul trucks seems reasonable to me, but then again, if hybrid locomotives make sense, maybe hybrid long-haul diesels make sense, too.

    Comment by dhogaza — 6 Jan 2008 @ 4:05 AM

  328. In a discussion about polar bears, after invoking deer and northern spotted owls, dhogaza in #308 decides to clinch it by using the example of the

    “gravitional mechanics of dropping a stone on the moon”

    I have no doubt that the folk down at the IUCN have a more than passing acquaintance with population ecology. Have you read their report yet? It forecasts a 2% decline in the polar bear population in 10 years. I have not yet read a credible update to that paper or number. Please reference one and we can discuss it.

    Comment by Alan K — 6 Jan 2008 @ 3:14 PM

  329. Looks like people in India will be increasing their car ownership:

    The £1,290 car delights Indians but horrifies the green lobby
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,2235975,00.html

    Comment by Steve Reynolds — 6 Jan 2008 @ 3:25 PM

  330. Re #328 Alan K – I don’t know whether you missed my post in # 294 of a link to a recent USGS analysis of prospects for polar bears, or chose to ignore it, but here are some excerpts.

    p. 36 Our forecasts suggested that declines in the spatiotemporal distribution of sea ice habitat along with other potential stressors will severely impact future polar bear populations. Outcomes varied geographically and by time step, and included the following:

    1. Polar bear populations in the Polar Basin Divergent and Seasonal Ice ecoregions will most likely be extirpated by mid century. Approximately 2/3 of the world’s current polar bear population resides in the combined area of these two ecoregions.

    2. Polar bear populations in the Archipelago Ecoregion appear likely to persist through the middle of the century. Some modeling scenarios suggest persistence of polar bears in this ecoregion toward the end of the century. The number of bears in this ecoregion will likely be less than at present due to the reduced amount of habitat and other factors.

    3. Polar bears in the Polar Basin Convergent Ecoregion may persist through mid-century, but they most probably will be extirpated at and beyond year 75.

    A map depicting the different ecoregions is on p. 82 of the document.

    Comment by Rick Brown — 6 Jan 2008 @ 4:48 PM

  331. re: #322, #327

    Diesel-electric locomotives are already “hybrid” in some sense, but the GE folks seem to be adding batteries + regenerative braking to recapture electricity.

    Hybrid energy savings come from:
    1) Regenerative braking.
    2) Minimal energy use when idling
    3) Getting some electric-only range from plug-in (& maybe solar on roof)
    4a) Having a fueled engine to recharge the battery, for the cases when one exceeds the range, i.e., avoiding being stuck [unless at some point there are lots of "gas stations" with standard quick-change batteries. Not Soon, although people are trying.] OR
    4b) Having a fueled engine for extra power [a la Prius].
    5) Using the above to reduce vehicle weight.

    Almost any car or truck can take some advantage of 1) and 2). Item 4a) (as in Toyota 1/X) certainly looks very promising. Item 5) is more helpful to cars than to trucks, which haul heavier loads.

    See How Much Fuel Do Trucks Use? Argonne National Labs

    Comment by John Mashey — 6 Jan 2008 @ 4:51 PM

  332. dhogaza, but isn’t the discussion about and the objective of “replacing” the ICEngine looking at a minimum 50% decrease in direct fuel consumption with high hopes, using somewhat known technology, a 90-99%, nay even 100% decrease (again talking of direct consumption, not that of the power plants for recharging, e.g.) — not the “piddling” (compared to above) 10% improvement in fuel economy.

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Jan 2008 @ 5:41 PM

  333. The debate going on between Alan and dhogaza, Rick, et al (?), which seems really between USGS and the World Conservation Union, is quite interesting. Both should be credible sources though I’m a little put off by erudite bordering on pompus analyses. 138 pages of something other than the King’s English makes me suspect of USGS. Then I glance at the ~200 pages of IUCN’s report. Wow! Either way, how is one supposed to conclude anything about AGW affecting polar bear population with these diametrically opposed but seemingly hard positions — by the sources and the posters. My scientific skeptic (different from just plain skeptic) response is: nobody knows; AGW might be affecting polar bears or it might not; might or might not for the future also; something to keep an eye on like all of the other individual cherry (blossom)-picked proofs of AGW — (which as an aside and to be fair, the moderators here do little of…). Am I off-base? If so, how?

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Jan 2008 @ 6:25 PM

  334. A follow-up on ICE replacement. My initial thought was not so much theoretical but that known battery technology could not deliver the sustained electric power required to get an 18-wheeler started or going up an incline — at least without half of the trailer or so holding batteries instead of goods. Am I wrong about this?

    Comment by Rod B — 6 Jan 2008 @ 6:35 PM

  335. Nick Gotts writes, in his usual charming fashion:

    [[Belief it or not, Barton, the USA is not the world.]]

    No kidding. I’m glad you pointed that out to me. I was too damn dumb to realize it.

    What I said stands — if no one is responsible for a thing, that thing will quickly deteriorate. If the Europeans have found a way to plug incentives into taking care of the building into public housing, good for them. It still doesn’t take away what happened to Pruitt-Igoe.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Jan 2008 @ 6:43 PM

  336. Jerry Toman writes:

    [[Classist drivel.]]

    And then proceeds to give me a long lecture on pride. Gosh, Jerry, thanks for the lesson. As a born-again Christian and an ordained elder at a Presbyterian church, naturally I would never have considered the issue.

    I didn’t endorse pride in the first place. What I said was that having no responsibility for maintaining something usually results in its not being maintained.

    The charge of “classism” is especially droll. Did you know I founded the Constitutional Syndicalist Party back in the ’80s? (Me, and Bill Hall, and Elizabeth Penrose, etc.). I’m a temporary clerical worker. Back when I was a student, my family went through several periods when we couldn’t buy groceries for long periods of time. I dropped Marxism when I realized it was a pseudoscience, but nowadays I’m a liberal Democrat and a John Edwards voter. So I hope you know what you can do with your charge of classism. Sideways.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 6 Jan 2008 @ 6:52 PM

  337. Mr. Levenson,

    “Because if you own something, you have an incentive to take care of it. Publicly owned cars would be vandalized, left idling with the keys inside, never have their gas tanks filled, go without maintenance, etc. That’s what happened with public housing. It’s called “the tragedy of the commons.””

    That is the exact quote.

    First, a few comments with respect to “Public Housing”. I suppose there are many reasons why it didn’t live up to expectations, not the least of which was criminal activity. Isn’t our police system supposed to Serve and Protect–even the poor?

    For those who lived there it was home, the only home they could get because they were poor and uneducated, and their alternative would be to live under a bridge, or maybe you would have preferred that they returned to the fields to “pick cotton” for a living. Maybe they didn’t have the skills to maintain it–maybe it was private–have you ever heard the expression “slumlord”? You, (who I assume didn’t live in public housing) at least had a home and a “white priviledge” history. In your quote you appear to be “blaming the victim” for their housing circumstance. What would you have provided for them instead?

    With respect to the my idea of having “commuter cars” which you were clearly dissing,(electric–no fuel required-no motor “left running”), they would obviously need to be spartan in design, would not (necessarily) be available on a “free” basis (joyriding could get expensive), their users would need a “card” to operate them, where their use would be logged and charged. They would need to be overseen and maintained by “someone” whether that be a public or private entity, just like the public transportation system (eg. buses). To get a “card” they would have to have proof of insurance as well.

    By your line of reasoning, why should we have public “anything”, even libraries, all of which is subject to some degree of abuse?

    With respect to your “world view.. [edit - this is not the forum for this, take it elsewhere]

    In the future, I simply request that you be careful what you “assume” with respect to other people’s thoughts or ideas before characterizing them, especially when choosing a parable that is totally inapplicable with respect to its original intent and purpose.

    Otherwise, I once again will not likely be very careful about what I assume while writing a response.

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 6 Jan 2008 @ 9:33 PM

  338. The report considers the historical societal impacts of disasters ranging from bubonic plagues in the middle ages to Katrina. History teaches that people tend to return to religion in times of trouble, and to turn against people outside their social group. Governments are destabilized by hard times. Natural disasters tend to impact most strongly in less affluent parts of the world.

    Comment by Emily — 7 Jan 2008 @ 12:45 AM

  339. #330 Rick Brown
    sorry no I didn’t see your earlier post.

    Do you have another link to the paper because goodness knows I can’t access it or find it from the USGC site. When I search for “polar bears” or “Amstrup” on the site I don’t get that paper.

    Which I am absolutely sure is nothing to do with what I did get on google, as the very first find on the exact string you provided:

    http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/6317/1/MPRA_paper_6317.pdf

    now that is what I call an interesting paper. It examines the methodology of the forecasts used in the Amstrup paper (and other papers which forecast polar bear popluation).

    Some quotes:

    “[Amstrup, Marcot and Douglas’ paper] could [inflammatory material removed...].”

    “In short we have been unable to find any support for the contention that polar bear forecasting efforts to date have followed accepted scientific principles.”

    A key premise of this paper is that [inflammatory material removed].

    [Response: Give us a break. This paper, co-authored by non other than Willie Soon, wasn't even peer reviewed. Take this elsewhere, we'll have none of that junk here. -mike]

    Comment by Alan K — 7 Jan 2008 @ 3:33 AM

  340. Re Original post, #12 (Stefan), #41 (Marguerite Manteau-Rao).
    I’ve finally finished “The Age of Consequences”, and read the executive summary of “Climate Change as a Security Risk”, which Stefan cites in #12. I found “Consequences” disappointing: the various chapters are written by different authors, and are not well integrated. Although the report is described as dealing with three “scenarios”, they are not really scenarios as the term is generally used in the literature, where it implies a connected narrative. Rather, there is a chapter dealing with the security implications (largely for the USA) of each of three sets of assumptions about future climate change, two dealing with the next 30 years, one with the next century – plus several other chapters. The most useful is McNeil’s chapter “Can history help us with global warming?”, which examines responses to past disasters; the list of “10 highly consequential implications of climate change” in the final chapter is also worth reading, although they are mostly fairly obvious; the first 9 are predictions of the kinds of events likely to occur as a result of climate change, the last an exhortation that “The United States must come to terms with climate change”. There is no coherent set of suggested actions to be undertaken. This contrasts strongly with “Climate Change as a Security Risk” (CCSR), as far as I have read it: the executive summary lays out a coherent, hierarchically organised set of recommendations. The report is Euro- and indeed to some extent German-centric, just as “Consequences” is US-centric, but then it is presumably their own policymakers each set of authors is primarily trying to influence. I’ll give fuller impressions of CCSR when I’ve read the whole thing.

    Both reports assess the risk of inter-state wars resulting from climate change as relatively small (although “Consequences” is not consistent about this). McNeil makes the point that “water wars” are practically unknown, despite predictions of recent decades: rather, even hostile states (India/Pakistan, Israel/Jordan) have often reached agreement on water issues. I think both reports are too optimistic here (I might have to revise this view after reading all of CCSR), because they don’t take into account: (1) The tendency of threatened elites to use foreign quarrels to unify their populations, and (2) The degree to which states have tended opportunistically to take advantage of neighbours’ weakness to enhance their own power. I’d be interested in others’ impressions of either or both reports.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 7 Jan 2008 @ 5:53 AM

  341. Jerry Toman writes:

    [[You, (who I assume didn’t live in public housing)]]

    Bzzzt! Wrong! You are the weakest link.

    I lived in public housing in Forest Hills, PA.

    [[In your quote you appear to be “blaming the victim” for their housing circumstance.]]

    No, I wasn’t. I was blaming the people who set up the program without providing incentives for the residents to take care of the building.

    [[With respect to your “world view”, ... [edit - no religious wars here (I edited the first post too).]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 7 Jan 2008 @ 6:44 AM

  342. Re #339 (Alan K.) Alan, an earlier paper by some of the authors of the paper you cite was extensively discussed here earlier this year. Put “forecasting principles” into the search box.

    Comment by Nick Gotts — 7 Jan 2008 @ 9:27 AM

  343. #333 Rod

    I agree wholeheartedly. dhogaza and I seem to have got hung up on an irrelevance (ie. harvesting). And to be fair, IUCN only makes estimates on likelihood of increase or decrease in populations, rather than making forecasts. If you look population-by-population at their analysis there is a lot of we-don’t-really-know type commentary.

    I therefore agree polar bear populations (among other things) should have an eye kept on them. However, their name is used in vain so often and it is baldly stated time and again that they face “extirpation” that even a “we don’t know” position draws shrill accusations of denialism, etc, etc

    and wrt the USGC report – when people start saying things like: “declines in the spatiotemporal distribution of sea ice habitat along with other potential stressors”, I reach for my gun.

    Comment by Alan K — 7 Jan 2008 @ 9:28 AM

  344. There is a bias that doing field work is worse than working in a cubicle. It’s not. There is nothing wrong or immoral about asking human beings to do the job of picking cotton. The only alternative is a machine that burns fossil fuel.

    Comment by JCH — 7 Jan 2008 @ 9:34 AM

  345. #342 Nick – yes as I saw the latest paper and started typing my post it was deja vu all over again wrt forecasting! I remember reading the thread here – this one is hot off the press, though, so I thought it worth a link.

    Comment by Alan K — 7 Jan 2008 @ 10:06 AM

  346. Re # 339 Alan K

    I’m mystified why Google no longer leads to the paper on the USGS site. Try http://www.plexusowls.com/PDFs/forecasting_polar_bears_amstrup_etal_lowres.pdf

    I don’t have time to enter into the substance of this discussion. You suggested to dhogaza that the two of you review a more current source; I suggested one.

    Comment by Rick Brown — 7 Jan 2008 @ 10:29 AM

  347. > asking human beings to do the job of picking cotton

    Nonsense. Get a clue about the misery of the work — know better.

    Cotton and much else is still picked by hand in China and elsewhere. Don’t fail to read history, lest you end up repeating it.

    This is what tools are for, freeing people from lives of manual labor. I’ve picked cotton, once, for a few minutes — my parents wanted me to understand what the ‘second great emancipation’had meant. It happened in the US only about 60 years ago!

    http://eh.net/bookreviews/library/0464

    Fossil fuel engines can be replaced in harvesters just as they can in any other powered device. Look at the first cotton harvester:

    http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object.cfm?key=35&objkey=158

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jan 2008 @ 11:18 AM

  348. Re #344: [There is a bias that doing field work is worse than working in a cubicle. It’s not.]

    I’ve done both, and have found that working in a cubicle sure pays a lot better :-)

    [The only alternative is a machine that burns fossil fuel.]

    Not at all. Cotton, like most other crops, produces a lot of waste – leaves, stalks and such. Convert those to ethanol or biodiesel, and you’d get more than enough fuel to run the harvesters.

    Comment by James — 7 Jan 2008 @ 11:49 AM

  349. I grew up framing and ranching, and I did a large amount of hard, physical labor. There is still plenty of back breaking work behind the pretty displays at today’s supermarket. I don’t see anybody boycotting it. It’s easier to be against hand picking cotton.

    Comment by JCH — 7 Jan 2008 @ 12:15 PM

  350. James,

    Today, how many mechanical farm machines would make it out to the fields of the world if they had to be powered by cellulosic ethanol?

    Comment by JCH — 7 Jan 2008 @ 12:41 PM

  351. agree wholeheartedly. dhogaza and I seem to have got hung up on an irrelevance (ie. harvesting).

    Um, I was trying to point out WHY it’s irrelevant. When you brought it up, it wasn’t at all clear you thought it was irrelevant. “adding back those harvested numbers might lead to a 33% increase in population …”. That’s hardly a statement that supports an interpretation of “irrelevant”.

    However, their name is used in vain so often and it is baldly stated time and again that they face “extirpation” that even a “we don’t know” position draws shrill accusations of denialism, etc, etc

    If we lose the artic ice cap, they’ll disappear.

    I challenge you to find a single biologist who’s studied polar bears who disagrees with that statement.

    How, then, do they not “face extirpation”?

    A key premise of this paper is that GCMs are “not valid as a forecasting method” with which you may take issue but again, the papers explain exactly why they believe this to be the case.

    If this is true, then I guess we can safely ignore model predictions for everything, right? Not just polar bear future population levels?

    Comment by dhogaza — 7 Jan 2008 @ 1:59 PM

  352. All (of us) old farmboys know how much hard labor it is, which is why many of us didn’t want to be farmers. Farmers are only 2-3% of the population in the US, so they grow enough to feed a lot of people and even make enough meony to live first-world lives, neither of which works very well for subsistence farmers, in countries where 50-60% of the population farm.

    But as a whole, North American farming is highly dependent on:
    a) Nitrogen-based fertilizer, i.e., from natural gas.
    b) Cheap petroleum, to get fertilizer and other inputs to the farms
    c) Cheap petroleum, for mobile farm machinery
    d) Cheap petroleum, for trucks/rail/ships to get food to wherever its going
    e) Energy for pumping water

    Big, productive mid-West farms put a lot of small Eastern farms out of business, among other things, letting some land go back to forest.

    a) Minimizing use of nitrogen is a good idea (less N2O).
    b), c), and d) some of this can be electrified. Small/medium electric tractors already exist, and tractors don’t usually need to go far from home, so some don’t even need to be hybrids.

    I’ve yet to see existence proofs for electric-only combines, or big tractors, or Class 8 trucks – so far, battery energy density just isn’t high enough, and the usage characteristics of cars that make electric and/or hybrids work don’t apply so well. Maybe fuel cells, maybe hydrogen? A lot of breakthroughs are needed for those to work here.

    For the parts of b), c), d) that are not cost-effectively electrified, and assuming that we first go after all the efficiency-engineering we can, I haven’t yet seen convincing overall systems approaches that don’t include *some* biofuels, whether those are second/third/fourth generation cellulosic ethanol, biodiesel, butanol, whatever. Unlike a lot of car driving that is truly optional, crops *must* be harvested, and *must* be gotten to customers, and crops weight what they weigh, and making vehicles lighter helps, but not as much as for cars. I’d be happy to see everything be electric, but I just don’t see how to do it.

    If not biofuels, there will be huge pressure for more oil sands, shale oil, coal-to-liquid, and cutting down Eastern forests a third time to get more farms closer to NYC, Boston, etc.

    ===
    Q: Why do Old Amish “waste” pasture and feed on horses? Why don’t they just have crops and cows?
    A: they can’t use tractors, so they need horses for farming and transport, and spending some land on horses increases their overall yields over what they could do by hand.

    It does no good to grow crops and leave them rot in the fields, which means that some of the fields are likely to grow well-optimized fuel crops, i.e., not corn in the long run.

    Comment by John Mashey — 7 Jan 2008 @ 2:21 PM

  353. JCH, don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.
    Don’t we have a killfile here?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Jan 2008 @ 2:39 PM

  354. John Mashey: “… cutting down Eastern forests a third time to get more farms closer to NYC, Boston, etc. …”

    A better idea would be to re-agriculturalize the suburbs. There are huge amounts of land available throughout the East coast suburban sprawl that could be converted to food production. Farming may be “hard labor” but many thousands of people practice highly productive, intensive organic vegetable growing as a form of recreation. Millions more devote considerable labor and large amounts of money into maintaining extensive decorative plantings, eg. lawns, which could easily be redirected to food production.

    During the World War II era, so-called “victory gardens” made a significant contribution to the nation’s food supply. Following the cutoff of a cheap fossil fuel supply from the collapsed Soviet Union, Cuba successfully fostered organic urban agriculture as the backbone of that country’s food supply.

    Clearly we need to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental harms associated with US agriculture, and end its reliance on soon-to-be scarce & expensive fossil fuels. One way to accomplish that is to turn the sprawling suburbs into “greenbelts” that produce large quantities of a variety of high-quality organic foods right in the midst of our large population centers.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 8 Jan 2008 @ 12:26 PM

  355. #352

    Apparently we are able to get water out to a field for irrigation without extensive duct building by using the “pivot point” concept which allows efficient spreading of water over the field.

    Why can’t the same concept be used to distribute electric power to tractors or combines so they won’t need to rely on batteries with their tedious and inefficient charging cycles and their inherent “dead weight”?

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 8 Jan 2008 @ 1:01 PM

  356. A killfile would be a good place for the misplaced notion that human and animal power should be ruled out as possible solutions for a more CO2 friendly means of food production in the future.

    Comment by JCH — 8 Jan 2008 @ 1:16 PM

  357. I have Crohn’s Disease, and sleep apnea, and a third condition I won’t specify, all of which have tiredness as a side effect. As a result, I am much more feeble than a normal person my age. I don’t think I could cultivate a flower garden, let alone the two acres or so of crops I’d need to feed my wife and myself. Home food cultivation might help decrease energy needs, but some people, like me, couldn’t handle it, and I’ll bet a lot more would rebel at the sheer labor involved. This is the kind of thing deniers will jump on with a vengeance to prove that AGW folk want us to go back to a more primitive lifestyle. Find another solution, please.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Jan 2008 @ 2:10 PM

  358. Jerry, interesting idea, though center-pivot irrigation is I think used only on flat fields

    I wonder if no-till agriculture can be done in a circular-radial plan on slopes?

    Planting along contours is the standard for reducing soil loss, and that’d be harder to handle.

    Anyhow, as others have noted, diesels that work at a steady speed are much more efficient than internal combustion used to accelerate/slow/accelerate or stop and start as for passenger vehicles.

    I know also that at least big diesels go 100k miles between major overhauls — that’s why cities still run diesel buses half empty, they still cost much less than using small passenger vans on the same route overall.

    Cleaning up diesel is obviously happening fast for a lot of reasons, which can extend use of those engines, and they do run on vegetable oil even without modification as long as there’s a battery heater to melt it if it congeals overnight in cold weather.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Jan 2008 @ 2:24 PM

  359. Barton (357), no one expects you to grow your own food in your back yard. No one would force you to even if you were in perfect health. However, if you lived in my neighbourhood, I would be pleased to grow quite a lot of your food for you: you could buy it from me rather than the supermarket. I’d even deliver. I already do this, with twenty or so seasonal vegetables, for a cafe and a number of families in my community. What’s more, I grow organically and by hand, releasing no hydrocarbon CO2 (other than in delivery). I get paid, per hour, about as well as with my other jobs and I find it an awful lot more enjoyable and satisfying than staring at a computer screen. There’s probably somebody in your neighbourhood doing the same…

    Comment by george — 8 Jan 2008 @ 3:55 PM

  360. Each center pivot usually represents a water well that is drilled deep into the ground. In Nebraska they do operate on rolling terrain as many of them are powered by electricity.

    Comment by JCH — 8 Jan 2008 @ 4:41 PM

  361. Barton Paul Levenson wrote: “I don’t think I could cultivate a flower garden, let alone the two acres or so of crops I’d need to feed my wife and myself. Home food cultivation might help decrease energy needs, but some people, like me, couldn’t handle it, and I’ll bet a lot more would rebel at the sheer labor involved.”

    george replied: “However, if you lived in my neighbourhood, I would be pleased to grow quite a lot of your food for you: you could buy it from me rather than the supermarket. I’d even deliver.”

    Barton, if you don’t happen to live in george’s neighborhood, then most likely there are farmers markets and/or community supported agriculture (CSA) farmers in your neighborhood, where you can purchase locally-grown food that is either organically produced or at least uses far less petrochemicals and energy to grow and deliver than the factory-farmed stuff that is hauled in to supermarkets from 3000 miles away in refrigerated deisel trucks.

    I think the transition to a mostly locally- and organically-produced, mostly vegetarian food supply will be inevitable as a result of increasing energy prices and then energy scarcity in the post-peak oil era. As with other impacts of the impending decline in cheap fossil fuel supplies, it can certainly help with the global warming problem if we move in that direction by choice sooner, rather than later when forced to. And indeed, farmers markets and CSA agriculture are proliferating. And the food produced this way is MUCH better, so eating this way is in no way a hardship.

    By the way, in his 1982 book Survival Gardening, author John Freeman wrote that by using the intensive raised bed organic growing techniques pioneered by John Jeavons (author of the classic book How To Grow More Vegetables than you ever thought possible on less land than you can imagine), and growing specific vegetable crops selected for maximum nutritional and caloric yield, it would be possible to produce sufficient calories for one person to survive from only 1,000 square feet of cultivated land. It should certainly take far less than an acre of land to produce all the food needed for one person to eat very well … unless you are planning to graze cattle.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 8 Jan 2008 @ 7:13 PM

  362. Hi ALL, if your interested in a different way of growing things,and food to eat, and the 3 Rs please take a look at my website to do with, New Recycling-Reuse of Waste Ideas, which I’ve posted about on most of the gardening websites in the UK, and it’s to with trying to save lives too, for next to nothing which you might like to tell others about, on my behalf, if your interested in any of these things, like I have been for most of my life. Thank you.
    May you and yours and what you grow live long and happy. John.J.R.P.

    Comment by John.J.R.P. — 8 Jan 2008 @ 8:37 PM

  363. Thanks for your comment, Hank.

    The purpose of this, as well of several of my past posts, has been to present the idea that electricity can play a lot bigger role in mitigating the effects of (imminent) peak fuels (gasoline, diesel, NG) than is generally believed.

    It can also play a role in the making the production of fertilizers and even biofuels (boo!) more economic as I’ll explain in more detail in a later post. These can be used to maintain food production, supplemented by the “electric tractor” example I gave above.

    Cheap electicity allows us to extend the range of its most important quality with respect to agricultural production, its ability to motivate the pumping of water from ever deeper reservoirs or longer distances.

    Having a method to produce cheap electricity from renewables, allows us to mitigate the effects of natural gas depletion because it allow us to convert our homes (hopefully with common walls, ceilings, etc) from furnaces to heat pumps and, more directly, eliminate the need to burn NG to produce electricity.

    So I’m not posting here simply to “stir the pot” when I mention the Atmospheric Vortex Engine which, IMO, has the potential to produce this cheap electricity. This is deadly serious for everyone in the world, and therefore, if I can get any feedback (a term everyone here is fond of using) with regard to its potential, hopefully leading to some consensus, I would be grateful.

    As of yet, I haven’t received a single reason, based on “scientific” analysis that would indicate that the concept “can’t work” belying Prof. Nilton Renno’s comment that the science behind it is “solid”. If this is true, then the weight of opinion of the RC Team, perhaps given as an “Endorsement” (at http://www.vortexengine.ca) recommending further development (not a guarantee), given at the AVEtec website would go a long way toward convincing people to pony up the funding necessary to move foreward.

    On the other hand, if anyone knows a patriotic “angel” willing to fund it, I suppose all that wouldn’t be necessary.

    AVE_fan

    Comment by Jerry Toman — 8 Jan 2008 @ 11:15 PM

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