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  1. ” as in the Nuclear Winter limit”

    Really? How realistic were the TTAPS parameter assumptions ?
    It’s hazardous to predicate natural analogs on phenomena that may not exist- like the instant appearance of homogenous stratospheric aerosols of optical depth 20.

    [Response: See my comment to Bart further down. The climate physics that leads to surface cooling is correct, even if TTAPS estimates of how much soot a nuclear war lofts are wrong. That's why I also referenced the analytical calculation in Chapter 4 of my book, which brings out the physics with less baggage. --raypierre]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 6 Dec 2010 @ 10:29 PM

  2. Suppose instead that you had focused all efforts on reducing the growth rate of CO2 emissons from 3% to 2%,

    You make a persuasive case, but is that a policy that you advocate?

    [Response: I'm not advocating any policy. I'm just pointing out the consequences of various actions. Knowing consequences is essential to any democratic decision-making on policy. --raypierre]

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 6 Dec 2010 @ 10:30 PM

  3. Perhaps the folks who recommend taking baby steps before tackling carbon emissions think technology will be able to cheaply pull out carbon from the air within a few decades. This is so like a bad drug experience where the junkie thinks it will be easier to quit tomorrow than today so why not shoot up now.

    Comment by Andy — 6 Dec 2010 @ 11:17 PM

  4. You say: For example, doubling CO2 from 300 ppm to 600 ppm yields a clear-sky radiative forcing of 4.5 W/m2.

    The number I have usually heard is 5.35 W/m^2 per natural log; which works out to 3.7 W/m^2 per doubling. Is this a typo, or an old value from the second AR? Or is a difference between clear sky forcing and a more general forcing with cloud considered?

    [Response: That's what you get with a clear-sky calculation with 50% relative humidity using the moist adiabat patched to an isothermal stratosphere. IPCC numbers (some of them) are based on a more complex calculation taking into account distributions of clouds and water vapor and the global variations of temperature. Here, I wanted to stick to the simplest kind of calculation, that is easiest to explain and easiest for somebody else to reproduce. I don't think the simplifications very much affect the point on relative strength of radiative forcing for methane vs. CO2. --raypierre]

    Comment by Chris Ho-Stuart — 6 Dec 2010 @ 11:22 PM

  5. One huge area where sulphate aerosols don’t affect human health is open ocean. Ocean going vessels emit sulphate aerosols and produce a cooling effect. This cooling is reduced once the sulfur limits become effective in 2020-2025. At the same time CO2 emissions from shipping will keep increasing. That is an example of a well intended but potentially dangerous decision. Obviously it is necessary to reduce aerosol emissions in coastal areas to protect human health.

    How about buying time by continuing sulphate aerosol emissions in areas where they have minimal negative effects on human health or the environment. The resources thus saved should be used to reduce CO2 emissions instead.

    Comment by Esko Pettay — 6 Dec 2010 @ 11:26 PM

  6. Nice post, thanks! I think the first graph is very useful all by itself.

    Two questions:
    1) Are there plausible estimates for date ranges on each of the 5 lines w2hen one would expect Greenland to have melted? etc? That would be nice to see plotted on the same graph.

    [Response: Depends on which estimate you use. The IPCC range of committment to melting Greenland ranges from about 2°C of global mean warming to about 7°C. So the timeline is anywhere between tomorrow and a very very long time from now.--eric]

    2) It’s not instantly obvious why the bottom two lines have sharp jiggles.
    Can you say a few words about that, or point me where it explains this?
    (I’ll go read the links later, can’t right now.

    [Response: I defer to Ray on this.]

    [Response: Nobody likes the sharp jiggles, but they are there in the UVIC model, which is the only one we had access to that did a series of runs suitable for making a graph like the one I show in the post. The jiggles come from ocean circulation changes that affect the amount of cold upwelling, I think primarily in the Southern Ocean. There is some CO2 signature associated with the jiggles, but the main effect on temperature is coming from fluctuations in ocean heat storage/release. The UVIC model has a very primitive atmosphere, but a decent 3D ocean, so I wouldn't completely discount the reality of this phenomenon. It needs to be examined in a more comprehensive ocean-atmosphere model. --raypierre]

    Comment by John Mashey — 6 Dec 2010 @ 11:53 PM

  7. Since methane oxidizes to CO2 (& 2H2O) in a relatively short time then wouldn’t it be reasonable to just consider it as added atmospheric CO2? Seems like that would at least be a good first order approximation for methane’s long term effect.

    [Response: Yes, but the amount of extra CO2 from methane is very small -- remember, we're adding ppb of CH4 each year, but ppm of CO2.--eric]

    Comment by Dave Werth — 7 Dec 2010 @ 12:26 AM

  8. In other words the IPCC range is far too broad for Greenland.

    Focusing on methane buys more time for more research to be funded.

    Comment by Jacob Mack — 7 Dec 2010 @ 12:50 AM

  9. Jeekers, “this perfect storm is just getting more and more perfect”

    Comment by richard pauli — 7 Dec 2010 @ 12:56 AM

  10. Esko, as to delaying sulfate controls on shipping, the impact is around the port cities now but if you look at this, it’s likely to be more widespread with industrialization. Those of us in countries that industrialized slowly over a couple of centuries find it hard to imagine just how astonishingly fast industrialization is happening in Asia:

    http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/unger_01/ Interaction of Ozone and Sulfate in Air Pollution and Climate Change By Nadine Unger — March 2006

    “… change in annual average sulfate aerosol and ozone air pollution at the Earth’s surface by 2030. There are large increases in pollution in subtropical regions, especially Asia. Over the Indian subcontinent the surface sulfate aerosol amount changes from around 400 pptv in the present day to around 2000 pptv at 2030 and the surface level ozone increases from around 35 ppbv to 60 ppbv. …”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Dec 2010 @ 1:24 AM

  11. A clue:
    http://www.thwink.org/sustain/articles/009/ChangeResistanceAsCrux.htm

    Ignore the non-article by Ramanathan and Victor. Change the system. First do the
    Root Cause Analysis.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 7 Dec 2010 @ 1:51 AM

  12. Can you do a similar analysis of carbon soot? Isn’t it a more important forcing than methane?

    Comment by Paul Kelly — 7 Dec 2010 @ 2:20 AM

  13. Eric, yes of course, I understand that but every little bit adds up. But methane’s not worth worrying about much until we get a handle on CO2 which is the thrust of the story.

    Comment by Dave Werth — 7 Dec 2010 @ 2:21 AM

  14. this perfect storm is just getting more and more perfect

    Seem so RP. If there is some (slight) hope, perhaps it lies in what Aleklett’s group and others are saying about resource limits. E.g., in the first graph above, is there 4000 Gt of realistically extractable carbon to emit? They appear to think not. As I’ve said before, time for RC to address this one. It’s not going away and it does seriously affect the answer, even if it’s far from your specialty. AGW is a multidisciplinary problem.

    G.

    Comment by GlenFergus — 7 Dec 2010 @ 2:42 AM

  15. I think there a few reasons usually put forward for *also* focussing on shortlived forcings (not to the detriment of the focus on CO2):

    - anciliary health benefits (soot, ozone)
    - quicker effect on global temperature (a direct result of their shorter lifetime. This is the other side of the same coin as to why we shouldn’t forego the focus on CO2)
    - gridlock in global climate negotiations (that’s more of a pragmatic-political reasoning, assuming/hoping that the shortlived forcings will be easier to tackle and be less severely opposed, about which people disagree)
    - it will pave the way for CO2 reductions later. I’m very doubtful of that though, as I don’t see how or why. It could also backfire, as in lowering the sense of urgency to tackle CO2, esp if the temperature rise is reduced, which will naturally lower the political will to do “even more”. I.e. does short term success (in reducing global avg temp) help or hamper long term success (for which strong CO2 reductions are mandatory)? In the current political climate it may very well hamper rather than help

    Reducing shortlived warming agents (with a limited atmospheric lifetime) doesn’t reduce the slope (i.e. the long term rate of warming) very much, but rather shifts the line of temperature vs time to the right (or effectively downwards) by a little. Its benefit is constant in time.

    Reducing longlived emissions (e.g. CO2, which therefore accumulates in the atmosphere) reduces the slope (i.e. the long term rate of warming). Its benefit grows over time.
    So what’s at issue here is also whether one is more concerned about the short term or the long term effects of climate change and air pollution (health). To me, the long term climate effects that we’re at risk of committing ourselves to, are of most concern. That’s a personal judgement of course, based not only on science but also on my values and worldview.

    These issues and the op-ed by Ramanathan was also discussed at Kloor’s (http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/12/01/can-we-buy-time/ ) and at my blog (http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/sarcasm-alert/ )

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 7 Dec 2010 @ 3:52 AM

  16. Good point GlenFergus, “[I]s there 4000 Gt of realistically extractable carbon to emit?” Coal is already rising in price and being shipped internationally. If the cost of coal is pushed up more with restrictions on black carbon, renewables may become more attractive because of lower price. One large reason why China is working so hard to install wind and solar power is the terrible smog problem they have caused themselves by burning coal.

    It’s still going to be ugly, worldwide. Peak Coal won’t do much to save us from climate change.

    Comment by Calamity Jean — 7 Dec 2010 @ 4:00 AM

  17. I would like to understand one point : you say that CH4 is much more short-lived in the atmosphere than CO2 ; that means that the CH4 \threat\ due to permafrost disappearance is mainly due to the fact that huge amounts of CH4 could be released, adding therefore a significant contribution of CO2 in the atmosphere ? Or is this \threat\ a non-significant one ?

    Comment by bratisla — 7 Dec 2010 @ 4:13 AM

  18. Esko@5:
    “How about buying time by continuing sulphate aerosol emissions in areas where they have minimal negative effects on human health or the environment. The resources thus saved should be used to reduce CO2 emissions instead.”

    So you want a technology on ships that allows engines to pump out sulphates, particulates etc at sea, but when in port switch on a cleaning system???

    But in any case sulphates are short lived in the atmosphere and CO2 is long lived. Which I equate to passing on the buck to future generations.

    Plus they only partially counter radiative forcing, so all you would be doing is slowing down the inevitable warming.

    Comment by The Ville — 7 Dec 2010 @ 4:28 AM

  19. The historical development of global warming could easily have taken a path that there was an unexplained gap between observations and models and that the gap was due to imprecision in measurement of albedo as epitomised by soot.

    Soot would then become the demon. The logical path might well have led to the implication of GHGs, but this is a toy story and we shall never know. (For example, soot on the ocean does not seem to count for much).

    The case for CO2 as the demon is still weak. You mention above if “all the CO2 is emitted in a carbon orgy near the beginning of the fossil fuel era”. What is your take on an orgy where all the known fossil fuel reserves are burned in a year? What temperature effect would you expect then? Does this not set an upper limit to deltaT?

    I think not, because although it is thrown about that the T response to CO2 is exponential, it is less clear where it sits on the growing curve. Maybe it has already maxed out and adding more does not matter. If you are going to invoke an exponential, you have to add its properties or shape and which part of the shape is relevant.

    Also, because I mention T response to CO2, I do not concede that there is not a mix-up between the dependent variables.

    It’s all so far from settled.

    [Response: Geoff, you are confusing the past with the future. The question of what extent non-CO2 forcing matters — in explaining the 20th century temperature variations for example — becomes less and less uncertain as CO2 concentrations increase. Regarding ‘dependent variables’, please again recognize that the idea that recent CO2 increases is driven by temperature is wrong, plain and simple. If you don’t understand why, please try reading this article.

    Comment by Geoff Sherrington — 7 Dec 2010 @ 5:06 AM

  20. Couldn’t the same basic argument be made in relation to REDD programs? It seems that in focusing on carbon in terrestrial ecosystems, which has long been part of the carbon cycle, REDD is diverting attention from the real long term issue of industrial emissions of carbon from fossil fuels, which have been out of the cycle for millions of years.

    Comment by tc — 7 Dec 2010 @ 5:09 AM

  21. GS 19: The case for CO2 as the demon is still weak.

    BPL: Not if you understand the physics involved, it isn’t.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 7 Dec 2010 @ 5:40 AM

  22. RS 1: ” as in the Nuclear Winter limit”
    Really? How realistic were the TTAPS parameter assumptions?

    BPL: Schneider and Thompson’s 1984 “Nuclear Autumn” paper had the plume heights too small by a factor of three. Thus less sulfate in the stratosphere and a deceptively warm Nuclear Winter. See TTAPS 1991.

    RS: It’s hazardous to predicate natural analogs on phenomena that may not exist- like the instant appearance of homogenous stratospheric aerosols of optical depth 20.

    BPL: What do you think the effect of incinerating several hundred cities would be?

    [Response: Note that my links were to the newer Robock work, but it's irrelevant to my point whether or not any of that work is correct about the real impact of a nuclear war. Regardless of whether a real nuclear war could loft that much soot, the simulations show the basic climate physics of what happens when you put extremely large amounts of absorbing aerosol into the system. --raypierre]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 7 Dec 2010 @ 5:45 AM

  23. “Let’s suppose, however, that we decide to go all-out on methane, and not do anything serious about CO2 for another 30 years.”

    Somehow, I doubt that Ramanathan and Victor are suggesting that carbon reduction efforts be put aside for three decades.

    [Response: You can put your own interpretation on what "a few decades" means. In the Black Carbon newsletter it says "one or two decades." Other writings on this issue leave the time frame for "buying time" unspecified. Even two decades without action would be bad enough, and it's not hard to imagine it stretching to 3 if you go down that path. In any event, my goal here is to make sure people understand what happens if pushing early on control of short lived forcings results in continued unabated emissions of CO2. I don't think that has been made clear by advocates of early, aggressive control of the short-lived forcings. --raypierre]

    At my site, over at another thread devoted to this issue, a pretty smart commenter made this observation:

    “The fact is that political capital does not exist to implement carbon reduction policies. That simple reality can’t be wished away. The goal should therefore be to build capital which, IMO, requires time and continuous effort. Incremental success on secondary and tertiary issues will help. Success in those areas will not only build political capital but will also improve the chances for some kind of carbon reduction scheme. The reason is that if you can demonstrate, for instance, that methane reduction or whatever policy is workable, then carbon reduction doesn’t look so scary to people which lowers the political capital necessary to bring that about.”

    http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/11/29/the-low-hanging-climate-fruit/#comment-30164

    It’s all well and good to remind people that carbon is public enemy number one, but I think this post by raypierre (while understandably science-based) ignores one of the main rationales for focusing–temporarily, not 30 years–on those secondary climate forcings:

    It’s to “buy time” while building momentum towards the necessary political conditions to tackle carbon.

    [Response: I am not going to comment on strategies for successful international negotiations, since anything that I say would be rank amateur speculation. It is fair to point out that negotiations are going nowhere, and to look for ways to revive them. It is fair to say that getting action on carbon is hard. You could argue that any action of any type that shows international collaboration on anything related to climate will hasten the day that carbon emissions are brought under control. But none of that "buys time." Every day that goes past without reducing the rate of CO2 emissions lost is a day irretrievably lost. But beyond that, I'm not sure why you think that there is less low-hanging fruit on CO2 than there is on methane. There is a lot of low-hanging fruit in power plant energy efficiency, and in end-user energy efficiency. And as I said at the end of the post, for soot there is a lot of room for co-benefits on reducing both soot and CO2. Much the same could be said for mercury and CO2. --raypierre]

    Comment by Keith Kloor — 7 Dec 2010 @ 6:04 AM

  24. The Ville@18
    “So you want a technology on ships that allows engines to pump out sulphates, particulates etc at sea, but when in port switch on a cleaning system???
    But in any case sulphates are short lived in the atmosphere and CO2 is long lived. Which I equate to passing on the buck to future generations.
    Plus they only partially counter radiative forcing, so all you would be doing is slowing down the inevitable warming.”

    Reducing CO2 emissions is the priority. But it is worrying to reduce cooling emissions while the warming emissions keep increasing. It is possible to use sulfur removing scrubbers in ships and use them only near coast. That way we could protect human lungs and still keep the cooling effect in open ocean. IMO (International Maritime Organization) treaty might reduce the ships’ cooling impact from 0.58 to 0.27 watts per square metre. The optimal solution of course is to minimize both GHG and aerosol emission. But since that is not going to happen anytime soon we may have to keep emitting these climate cooling things to avoid or delay dangerous tipping-points.
    But once again; the most important thing is to reduce CO2 emissions. Need to go now….

    Lauer, Axel et al: Assessment of Near-Future Policy Instruments for Oceangoing Shipping: Impact on Atmospheric Aerosol Burdens and the Earth’s Radiation Budget, Environmental Science and Technology, 43, 5592-5598, 2009.
    Fuglestvedt, Jan et al: Climate forcing from the transport sectors – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, approved October 5, 2007, http://www.pnas.org.
    Fuglestvedt, Jan, et al: Shipping Emissions: From Cooling to Warming the Climate – And Reducing Impacts on Health, Environmental Science and Technology, 43: 9057-9062, 2009.

    Comment by Esko Pettay — 7 Dec 2010 @ 6:23 AM

  25. John@6 2):
    “Bumps in the warming curves in the left panel are because of adjustments in ocean circulation in response to warming in this particular climate model and
    should be thought of as illustrative only”
    (from Prepublication copy, Figure S3 caption)

    Comment by Jenik Hollan — 7 Dec 2010 @ 8:08 AM

  26. Quick ‘back of the envelope’ calculation.

    Area of global arable land 14,633,840 km2
    Mass of soil (to 1 m) approximately 13,000t/ha (1.3 million t/km2)
    Increase soil organic matter 1% (by wt) 13,000t/km2 – not too difficult
    1.9 trillion t SOM or 1.14 Trillion t C (soil organic matter is about 60% C)
    I know this is not new, but are we looking in the wrong place?

    Comment by Paul — 7 Dec 2010 @ 8:09 AM

  27. #19–”Maybe [temperature response to CO2] has already maxed out and adding more does not matter.”

    And maybe you haven’t been paying attention. This has been studied rather a lot. I’m not going to argue or cite; just start with the “start here” tab at the top of the page, and keep reading.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 7 Dec 2010 @ 8:43 AM

  28. The Chinese have $500 billion in their nuclear power build budget.

    Staff training issues(How long does it take to create an ‘experienced’ nuclear plant operator) and various industrial capacity limitations makes it pretty close to impossible to spend that entire budget in less then 20 years.

    Finland has a similar problem. They only have 2 citizens with PHD’s in nuclear physics, both past retirement age, who is supposed to oversee the nuclear operator treaing courses?

    In most of the world, with the exception of the US nuclear,hydro and wind are already ‘cheaper’ options.

    It’s not a matter of ‘buying time’ for more expensive options. It’s buying time to build the human and industrial infrastructure to adopt ‘cheaper’ options.

    Even in the US, the NRC doesn’t have adequate staff to review nuclear license applications in a timely manner.

    Comment by harrywr2 — 7 Dec 2010 @ 9:08 AM

  29. It seems to me that there are really two issues conflated in this interesting analysis.

    There should be no surprise that Ram is advocating controls on BC emissions, given his long focus on atmospheric aerosols.

    The question of methane control — analyzed quite nicely here — seems a bit different, however.

    There are links, certainly — have a look at forward scattering across a feed lot sometime — but the issues of mitigation as a way to buy time for CO2 emissions controls seem different. As noted, if we get our attention diverted form CO2 emissions by focusing instead on methane emissions, we’re just playing ostrich.

    On the other hand, many sources of BC aerosols are more amenable to fixing — diesel emissions, cooking fires, ships at sea seem like low-hanging fruit. Perhaps those can be tackled without diverting too much attention from the real problem.

    As noted, getting the global community to work together on something (hell, anything) that would address these problems would be a step in the right direction. So far, we’ve got mostly gridlock.

    Comment by DrCloud — 7 Dec 2010 @ 9:18 AM

  30. It’s not about buying time for more ‘expensive’ options.

    It’s about buying time to build the human and industrial infrastucture to adopt cheaper options.

    The Chinese have $500 billion in their nuclear build budget. Unfortunately they only have experienced staff to run 10GW of nuclear power plant, never mind 200GW. It’s going to take 20 years for the Chinese to create enough ‘trained and experienced’ staff to run 200GW worth of nuclear reactors.

    Even in the US, the NRC has insufficient staff to process nuclear license applications in a ‘timely’ fashion.

    In Finland they only have 2 nuclear physicists, both past retirement age. Who is supposed to teach the training courses?

    The price of steam coal is over $100/tonne in Europe and Asia. Burning coal is no longer cheap.

    Coal is only cheap in the US Midwest and Rocky mountain states. All the electric utilities in the US Southeast are patiently awaiting NRC approvals.

    There isn’t a way to train a senior nuclear plant manager in less then 20 years without risking a Chernobyl.

    Comment by harrywr2 — 7 Dec 2010 @ 9:27 AM

  31. It looks like the numbers in this post all assume that reflective aerosols, e.g. SOx, stay at current levels. However, on the timescales used in this post, we stop burning coal and oil, one way or another (we will either stop burning them to limit CO2 or we will reach both peak coal and peak oil this century). Once the these sources of reflective aerosols are gone (and their lifetimes are short), the temperature increase should exceed the estimates presented in this post.

    [Response: You are absolutely right that the loss of reflective aerosols would add another increment to the warming, and make it harder to stay under 2C. I somewhat skirted the issue of reflective aerosols since I didn't want to make an already complex subject yet more complex. However, I do think that one should think of absorbing aerosols and reflective aerosols as a package, all of which needs to go away for reasons independent of climate. Figuring the net side-effect of that on climate is an important task. Estimates vary widely about what that net effect will be, in part because of poor constraints on the aerosol effect on clouds. That deserves a separate post of its own. One of the more intriguing remarks in the Penner essay I cited in the post is that a major effort to control aerosols, if monitored closely, would give us a better idea of how big the aerosol effect was on 20th century climate, and therefore a better handle on climate sensitivity. --raypierre]

    Comment by Earl Killian — 7 Dec 2010 @ 9:53 AM

  32. One question, one observation.

    Question: What is a realistic estimate for fossil fuel reserves? Can total fossil fuel consumption really emit as much as 4275 GtC? Atmospheric CO2 is up from 2,175 gigatonnes to 3,000+ (i.e. up from 280 ppm to 386+ ppm). That implies emissions of 1,625+ gigatonnes of CO2, or 225 GtC. Only a twentieth, so far, of the 4275 GtC shown on the graph. Given that we are close to peak oil, are the high numbers realistic?

    [Response: In the NRC Climate Stabilization Targets report, we deliberately steered clear of taking a position on how much fossil fuel carbon remains. My own personal assessment formed from reading background material on that is that beyond the roughly trillion tonnes of carbon remaining in more or less known economically recoverable coal reserves, we don't have much idea of how much coal is really out there. The 5000 gigatonne ballpark figure often quoted from Rogner's review article is based on very sketch survey responses, not real geological estimates. Rutledge thinks even a trillion tonnes would be pushing it, but when I ran this by Klaus Lackner recently, Klaus thought that hydrocarbon extraction would get so good that we'd probably start running out of oxygen before we ran out of coal. One thing on the side of Rutledge is that it's much harder to hide coal deposits, which need to be near the surface and are always on land, than it is to hide oil deposits. Hence, the chances of major undiscovered coal deposits are (so the story goes) slim. All we can really say is what the world would be like if we do burn 4000 gigatonnes of carbon (which at present rates we get to in about 2100). It could be that we just run out of coal before we get there, but banking on that is not a policy. --raypierre]

    Observation: Scientists who have used “emissions” as their independent input variable, and “temperature increase” as their dependent output variable, have conditioned us to think of “emissions” as the cause of “global warming.” But emissions of CO2 are driven by the energy technologies we choose. And global warming isn’t really the end result – the end result is climate change and marine species killed off by ocean acidification. I believe we would be better off if we set aside the “emissions –> global warming” framing, and replaced it with “Dirty energy technologies –> severe climate damage, severe marine life damage.” Then the goal becomes Protect the Climate, Protect the Oceans. And the action step becomes Shift Our Capital Budgets to Clean Energy Technologies. I think the public will respond more positively to an appeal that links technology choice to climate consequences, and asks everyone to participate in protecting the climate by shifting our energy technology base to one that is climate-safe and ocean-safe.

    Comment by Steve Johnson — 7 Dec 2010 @ 9:56 AM

  33. #29–

    Thanks, harry. (#29)

    I have to deal sometimes with this guy who is a real nuclear enthusiast: well-informed in certain respects, yet as totally dismissive of all other energy sources as being “too expensive” in any but a few marginal situations, as he is absolutely rah-rah about any nuclear option–no matter how “blue sky” it currently remains. (Yes, that includes fusion, and exotica yet farther out than that.)

    Water isn’t a problem for him, waste isn’t a problem for him (since it’s all going to be recycled for fuel, supposedly)–who knows, maybe a lack of human capital will be a problem he might deign to recognize. Or more likely, that the casual reader lurking might recognize.

    BTW, do you have a source I can point to on this?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 7 Dec 2010 @ 10:09 AM

  34. I have 3 questions:

    1) How will CH4 trapped in permafrost, and released as the permafrost melts affect the projected CH4 and CO2 concentrations?

    2) How will methane clathrate decompostion as the the sea bed warms affect projected CH4 and CO2 concentrations?

    3) How will biogenic CO2 and CH4 produced as the Arctic warms affect projected CH4 and CO2 concentrations?

    [Response: There are some answers to these things in the Earth System Sensitivity section of the NRC report. Basically, they are all in the "known unknowns" category. There is enough near-surface carbon to add another trillion tonnes or so, maybe more, to what humans add by fossil fuel burning. The circumstances under which it would be released are unknown, but the PETM says that such things can happen. A related question is how much would be released as methane and how much by CO2. By some estimates there is enough carbon in clathrate methane that you get significant warming even after it oxidizes to CO2. If the methane is released suddenly, you get a big warming spike, followed by a reduction after it oxidizes. If it is released slowly, you get a longer period of elevated methane concentration, accompanied by a steady buildup of CO2 as the outgassed methane is oxidized to CO2. None of this is in any climate projection yet, and the "trillion tonne" target doesn't take into account the risks of such a release. --raypierre]

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 7 Dec 2010 @ 10:40 AM

  35. Ray,

    Thank you for the thoughtful response. I can understand the concerns about a potential loss of urgency on the CO2 problem that might result from turning the focus to short-term climate pollutants. That would be a risk. But the thrust of the NYT op-ed is probably best captured in these closing words:

    “For too long, overly ambitious global climate talks have focused on the aspects of global warming that are hardest to solve. A few more modest steps, with quick and measurable effects, are a better way to proceed.”

    Again, I will offer a link to another observation made by a commmenter at my site:

    “We are, in a way, trapped between the immovable object of political reality and the unstoppable force of nature’s timetable. I guess if I had one overarching point in all this it’s this question: What strategy is likely to bring about co2 reductions the soonest? My basic premise is that continuing to spend political capital pushing for co2 reductions now is only going to result in more failure and an even longer delay than what we’re already facing. If my premise is correct, then it makes sense to alter the strategy (not the goal) and take a more indirect approach.”

    [Response: I have no quarrel with that implication, if that is what you think the op ed is actually saying. But the implication about "buying time" is just false advertising. It also invites the sort of reaction you see in those people who go to a lot of trouble to recycle their plastic (a certainly worthy thing) but then hop in their SUV because they feel they've already done their bit. I don't know why you continue to defend an aspect of the op-ed that is just demonstrably wrong on physical grounds. --raypierre]

    http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/12/01/can-we-buy-time/#comment-30449

    Lastly, let me point out that one of the best rationales (IMO) for the deeply flawed Waxman/Markey cap & trade bill was that it was a start: something to build on and to generate momentum towards stronger climate policies down the road.

    [Response: It's important to make a start, but it's also important that that "start" be in the right direction, and in a direction that can be scaled up later to more effective CO2 emissions reductions. Putting a price on carbon -- any sort of price -- is a start down that path, but it is less clear how how you get that direction out of "other things first." The sort of thing that does set you on the right path are global power plant efficiency targets, which directly get at the CO2 problem, but also can be justified for human health co-benefits, and possibly for climate side-benefits through absorbing aerosols as well (depending on how much of that is offset by loss of reflecting aerosols). --raypierre]

    Comment by Keith Kloor — 7 Dec 2010 @ 10:55 AM

  36. @ 29, Steve Johnson.

    Estimated cumulative emissions from fossil fuel use, cement production and land-use change since industrialization began are ~ 543 GT of carbon. (and counting).

    The 225 GTC you reference relates to the “airborne fraction”, with the rest being absorbed by the ocean and terrestrial systems (as you allude to in any event…). Just a nit… cheers…

    Comment by rustneversleeps — 7 Dec 2010 @ 11:06 AM

  37. 2, raypierre: I’m not advocating any policy.

    I forgot to add, Thank you for an informative and nicely written post.

    That looked to me like a worthy and achievable goal. Other people here do advocate or repudiate policies, and I think that what you wrote should get some discussion.
    29, harryrw: It’s about buying time to build the human and industrial infrastucture to adopt cheaper options.

    I am glad you wrote that.

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 7 Dec 2010 @ 11:15 AM

  38. Keith Kloor’s commenter says: “The fact is that political capital does not exist to implement carbon reduction policies. That simple reality can’t be wished away.”

    When political reality collides with physical reality, which one do you think will win?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Dec 2010 @ 11:29 AM

  39. Geoff Sherrington@19, Sorry, but WTF are you talking about? Who is bloody suggesting that temperature response to CO2 is exponential? If you can’t even be bothered to learn the science (e.g that temperature scales logarithmically for the current range of concentrations), then why should we waste our time with your opinions?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Dec 2010 @ 11:36 AM

  40. Isn’t doing the anthropogenic carbon budget without including natural sources a bit like doing our household budget and leaving out the rent, car payment, tuition, food, and utilities so we can spend the full $2,000 in our bank account for beer?

    We are not students anymore. Do we really think Mother Nature is not going to collect her due? A carbon budget that does not include at least a place holder/estimate for natural sources does not inform the policy. Instead it gives an excuse for delay.

    Comment by Aaron Lewis — 7 Dec 2010 @ 12:38 PM

  41. Ray, are you sure you _want_ to encourage GS to elaborate? He will, you know.

    SM: harryrw wrote “It’s about buying time” — Ray followed up inline above: “the implication about ‘buying time’ is just false advertising.” Still happy with harryrw writing that, or will you help explain to him why Ray’s right?

    My guess: those “buying time” are buying extended time for fossil fuel emission, and are borrowing from the future to do it. It’s a bad choice.
    Always ask them who they’re really buying time for. I’d call it weasel wording but I have more respect for mustelids. It’s lawyer wording.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Dec 2010 @ 12:42 PM

  42. “I don’t know why you continue to defend an aspect of the op-ed that is just demonstrably wrong on physical grounds.”

    I’m actually not comfortable at all defending that aspect of the op-ed, as it was the one thing that raised a red flag for me:

    http://www.collide-a-scape.com/2010/12/01/can-we-buy-time/

    I also think the op-ed authors erred in not using more precise language and for leaving the impression that the CO2-first approach could be downgraded for 20 or 30 years.

    But I don’t think that’s what they meant to convey (it would be nice if at least one of them participated in this discussion), because they’re also saying, in my reading, that the world could “put in place more costly efforts to regulate carbon dioxide” during the “few decades” it takes to build the necessary political space and momentum– via the “more modest steps” they suggest.

    [Response: Keith, I'll leave it to you to be the psychic and tell me what they meant to say. I'm only interested in what they wrote, and even more than that, what conclusions people may draw from what they wrote. --raypierre]

    Thus, I think a more relevant question to ask this: would it be acceptable to “buy time” with a decade (as opposed to 20 or 30 years) focused on the more modest steps outlined in their op-ed? Again, the premise being that this helps establish the political framework and momentum to then segue into the harder, carbon mitigation actions.

    [Response: And the right answer would still be that "other things first" even for just a decade, would not buy time in any sense. The longer you wait before starting in on reducing the growth rate of CO2 emissions, the hard it will be to keep the Earth's climate change within reasonable bounds. If you want to make the politically based argument that any international agreement bearing on climate breaks the ice and gets things moving (a dubious argument, in my view, but that's just an amateur opinion) you could make that argument just as well for things that have co-benefits in reducing the growth rate of CO2 emissions -- as some soot proposals do. --raypierre]

    What about that timeline?

    Comment by Keith Kloor — 7 Dec 2010 @ 12:54 PM

  43. Re: Kloor’s posts. I would guess that controlling black carbon would be easier because people can see it and it makes it hard to breathe. I’ve read a number of interviews where Republican legislators (i.e. global warming deniers) state that reducing harmful air pollutants is where we should focus our attentions as a means of dodging the global warming thing.

    The U.S. EPA’s best tool for reducing carbon dioxide emissions maybe to further restrict emissions of black carbon, sulfur dioxide, mercury, ozone generating chemicals such as nitrogen oxides and other pollutants. Reductions in these emissions means that power generation from natural gas, solar and wind becomes more competitive with coal, thus a reduction in carbon dioxide is acheived.

    I see this as kind of a “don’t throw me into the briar patch” sort of situation for the U.S. Say the Democrats give in on carbon dioxide regulation in return for more stringent controls of “traditional” pollutants such as the above list. The end result may well be strong reductions in carbon dioxide through less use of coal and higher vehicle mileage requirements. For a while this could work. Though a downside would be that tackling the next fossil fuel addiction, natural gas (methane) maybe all the harder.

    [Response: This sort of thing would at least get things moving in the right direction, namely a reduction in the growth rate of CO2 emissions. Putting on the hat of a cynic, I see your argument as reason to keep soot out of the climate negotiations, because the more certain congresspeople realize that controlling soot might also help control CO2, the less they are likely to want to do anything about soot -- even if they would otherwise think it is a good thing to control soot. --raypierre]

    Comment by Andy — 7 Dec 2010 @ 12:56 PM

  44. Tangential question: according to EPA, Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reporting from the Petroleum and Natural Gas Industry (pdf), methane release associated with petroleum and natural gas are higher than previously reported.

    Where do I go to see an official summary in English, including significance?

    Comment by Karen Street — 7 Dec 2010 @ 1:25 PM

  45. About the only advantage I can see to this proposal is that it would give legislative bodies and governments some experience in ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING. It might have been a great idea 30 years ago when we actually had time to play with. However, as we frittered away that time by debating about science established over a century ago, we do not now have such luxuries. It is time to act or devil take the hindmost generation–our grandchildren.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Dec 2010 @ 1:31 PM

  46. > soot

    Soot from wood and dung fires near the Himalayas:
    http://news.discovery.com/earth/black-soot-himalayas-glaciers.html
    http://e360.yale.edu/content/digest.msp?id=2264 “08 Feb 2010: Black Soot is Main Cause Of Himalayan Glacier Melt …. Aerosols and black carbon from air pollution may be responsible for as much as 90 percent of the melting taking place in Himalayan glaciers ….”

    Black carbon is from fossil fuel (diesel engines); wood/dung cooking fires.
    So it’s counterproductive to do anything that continues use of fossil fuel.

    Fortunately there’s an option to increase local biomass use to burn cleaner, already being funded: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/09/u-s-50-million-pledge-cleaner-cookstoves-win-for-women-forests-climate.php?campaign=th_rss

    Reducing soot will “buy time” for the Himalaya glaciers, unless it doesn’t — it’s not clear overall what soot does to global climate

    Clouds: “Global model studies of soot effects on clouds …. Most … indicate that the net cloud response to absorbing particles is cooling. This suggests the need for caution when pursuing mitigation of soot in order to cool climate.” http://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/koch_06/

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2008/07/new-biomass-cookstoves-reduce-indoor-air-pollution-fuel-usage.php
    “New cookstoves, which while still burning biomass (wood, crop waste, dried animal dung) reduce indoor air pollution by 80%, reduce fuel usage by 50% and decrease cooking times by 40%.” — and don’t need to be trucked in.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Dec 2010 @ 1:31 PM

  47. When political reality collides with physical reality, which one do you think will win?

    That’s a trick question, right?

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 7 Dec 2010 @ 1:34 PM

  48. What to control first? high-sulfur fossil fuel; I know high sulfur diesel is still burned in heating oil furnaces in the USA. Most is used in transportation.

    “… solar-absorption efficiency was positively correlated with the ratio of black carbon to sulphate. Furthermore, we show that fossil-fuel-dominated black-carbon plumes were approximately 100% more efficient warming agents than biomass-burning-dominated plumes. We suggest that climate-change-mitigation policies should aim at reducing fossil-fuel black-carbon emissions, together with the atmospheric ratio of black carbon to sulphate.”

    http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/v3/n8/abs/ngeo918.html
    Letter abstract

    Nature Geoscience 3, 542 – 545 (2010)
    Published online: 25 July 2010 | doi:10.1038/ngeo918
    Warming influenced by the ratio of black carbon to sulphate and the black-carbon source

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Dec 2010 @ 1:41 PM

  49. Two decades is the amount of time we need to buy to break even, as a rational carbon policy should have set in two decades ago. The way I see it is that the time we “buy” just compensates for our past foolishness, not for our future foolishness.

    If I may be allowed a moment of armchair economics…

    The foot-draggers say we should delay policy change for as long as possible because we will be wealthier in the future and better able to afford to act. The problem is twofold: 1) as long “as possible” may already have expired and 2) even in the absence of climate impacts, conditions have changed enough that future growth in per capita wealth along the model of the last 200 years is in no way guaranteed.

    The reason to delay impacts for as long as possible (even at the expense of the long term outcome) is the flip side of this argument. At some point climate change may well become so severe that per capita wealth will begin a long term, accelerating downturn. At that point, no mitigation at all will be affordable. This argues for mitigation as early as possible because we can’t afford it once it’s too late; but it also argues for mitigation whose effects are as early as possible.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 7 Dec 2010 @ 2:10 PM

  50. 29 harrywr2: See http://hyperionpowergeneration.com/ and http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf33.html

    The new factory built reactors are so much simpler to operate that the trained operators and physicists are not needed. Also look at the Navy’s nuclear powered submarine fleet. Their operator requirements are much lower than what you quote. Hyperion is planning to offer reactors to power commercial ships.

    The NRC will only have to process 1 application for 4000 reactors to be built by Hyperion.

    Chernobyl is not possible in the US because:
    1. We do not have any reactors that are that primitive.
    2. American reactors have containment buildings that are pressure vessels.
    3. Coal fired power plants spew as much radiation in only a few years as Chernobyl did. Coal contains uranium, thorium and arsenic. The “disaster” was mostly hype.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 7 Dec 2010 @ 2:13 PM

  51. Re methane emissions from permafrost:

    “It’s taking place now, and we are too late, to my mind, for decision making. This process has started, and we have no opportunity to stop it. We have only a time to delay it, to make the results less horrible.” — Dr. Sergei Kirpotin, Biologist, Tomsk State University

    BBC video: Russia permafrost melt – ‘We have no opportunity to stop it’

    Comment by Jim Galasyn — 7 Dec 2010 @ 2:23 PM

  52. Dr. Sergei Kirpotin is mistaken.

    Comment by Jacob Mack — 7 Dec 2010 @ 2:52 PM

  53. I’ve been working on this issue for a while, and have come to two sort-of-gelling thoughts on the benefits of short-lived forcer reduction:

    1) Reduce near-term rate of change (possibly to counteract cooling aerosol reductions). This has near-term benefits, and _may_, due to the positive feedbacks in the system, actually have much longer term effects than would be naively calculated from first principles by just looking at the time scale of radiative forcing.

    2) In a world where CO2 _will_ be controlled, then continuous short-term forcer control can actually lead to \peak shaving\. I think Kopp & Mauzerall may have been an example of this?

    However,

    1) Neither 1 nor 2 provide any notion of \buying time\. I agree with this post’s authors that \buying time\ is the wrong way to think about this. The NRC Stabilization Report actually said that in fairly strong language (search for the word \fallacy\ in the Report).

    2) I’m still on the fence about the benefits of reducing instantaneous BC emissions. You get 2 weeks of forcing reductions, maybe a few months of temperature reductions: not worth much. However, reduction measures are rarely instantaneous: a diesel particulate filter on a new truck engine will lead to 20 years of emission reductions. Home-based wood stoves hang around for up to half a century or more. And behavior shifts such as getting people to switch to cleaner cookstoves can last up to a lifetime (though then the question of \counterfactual\ arises: absent a BC policy, how long would it take for development to get rid of cookstoves anyway?). So these infrastructure investments have lifetimes much longer than BC, making it more valuable to reduce.

    2b) However, CO2 is, I would argue, much more sticky-infrastructure based than BC is. Coal-fired power plants are 50 year+ behemoths. Suburban sprawl commits us to personal transport vehicles for probably the next century… and decarbonizing the transport sector is more challenging than the electric sector (it probably requires electric decarbonization as a first step). Building efficiency improvements are similarly 50+ year payoffs of energy-use, and therefore CO2-use reductions.

    Anyway, thanks for a thoughtful commentary. And I’d suggest looking up the \fallacy\ language from the NRC report and citing that in your statement.

    -M

    Comment by M — 7 Dec 2010 @ 2:53 PM

  54. war to Bart’s attention.

    Semantic aggression can backfire as skepticism, and the NAS gently excoriated t TTAPS lack of realism in concatenating worse-case assumptions to front load a one dimensional ” baseline” model by excluding the expression ” nuclear winter ” from the sober pages of its report.

    Modelers, including systems programmers, who aim for maximum political effect by red-lining the Precautionary Principle should recall that Sagan’s woes arose from failing to deliver on his own rhetoric –
    the Foreign Affairs article to which Schneider & Thompson and I replied commenced :

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

    [Response: No more about TTAPS and Nuclear winter, please, unless you relate it to my point about the effect of absorbing aerosols on the surface temperature –raypierre]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 7 Dec 2010 @ 2:56 PM

  55. I would add a third point to Michael Tobis’ answer to The foot-draggers say we should delay policy change for as long as possible because we will be wealthier in the future and better able to afford to act.

    3) The idea that wealth will increase as the climate degrades is utter nonsense.

    Regarding raypierre’s comments on the amount of fossil fuels available to burn (#31), I think it’s necessary to add the ‘unconventional sources’ to the posited amount of coal. As long as there is economic incentive we’ll keep emitting CO2. In-situ combustion or partial combustion of heavy oil/tar sands/deep coal can be economic even when 3 units of carbon are required to liberate 1 unit of carbon as a useful fuel.

    Comment by David Miller — 7 Dec 2010 @ 3:02 PM

  56. re 22 Previous attempt to post lost its first sentence – please post as follows

    BPL asks : ” What do you think the effect of incinerating several hundred cities would be?

    I commend to his attention the contemporary SCOPE and NAS reports on the environmental consequences of thermonuclear war /

    Semantic aggression can backfire as skepticism, and the NAS gently excoriated t TTAPS lack of realism in concatenating at times surreal worse-case assumptions to front load a one dimensional ” baseline” model by excluding the very expression ” nuclear winter ” from the sober pages of its report.

    Modelers, including systems programmers, who aim for maximum political effect by red-lining the Precautionary Principle should recall that Sagan’s woes arose from failing to deliver on his own rhetoric –
    the _Foreign Affairs_ article to which Schneider & Thompson and I replied there and in Nature commenced :

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

    [Response: Please, Nuclear WInter itself is off-topic. The only thing that is on topic is the radiative-convective behavior of the atmosphere if you greatly increase the absorbing aerosol content. --raypierre]

    Comment by Russell Seitz — 7 Dec 2010 @ 3:08 PM

  57. Edward Greisch wrote: “The new factory built reactors are so much simpler to operate that the trained operators and physicists are not needed … The [Chernobyl]“disaster” was mostly hype.”

    Moderators: allowing an individual to post outlandish and unsupported claims about experimental nuclear power technology that does not, in fact, actually exist outside of a laboratory, along with equally outlandish and contrafactual characterizations of the Chernobyl disaster, invites better-informed rebuttal — leading to yet another prolonged off-topic argument about nuclear power, of the kind that you have often complained about.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 7 Dec 2010 @ 3:12 PM

  58. Re: reply to #42. Yes, I think. Thanks for the post.

    Comment by Andy — 7 Dec 2010 @ 3:16 PM

  59. Edward, there are no transuranics in coal and relatively few light fission daughters; mostly heavy metals. http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs163-97/FS-163-97.html

    Similarly for oil: http://www.deq.state.la.us/portal/Portals/0/permits/sw/NORM%20USGS.pdf

    From the first link, “hundreds of fly ash particles” have been examined; here’s an autoradiograph picture of one particle; tracks from radioactivity:
    http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/1997/fs163-97/fig3.jpg

    Yeah, come to think of it, that does look like a good argument for not inhaling fossil fuel combustion products, doesn’t it? Quite a few traces out of just one little fly ash particle …. who knew?

    I wonder if anyone’s done that study for black soot from diesel engines?
    Well, there’s plenty of time, it will be coming down in the rivers as the glaciers melt and show up in the sediment.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Dec 2010 @ 3:21 PM

  60. The compromise on the tax issue today showed how negligible is the will to do anything sensible in politics in America. Barring some cinematic catastrophe, we will only address climate mitigation when the efficacy of doing anything is long past.

    So, pray (if you pray) that climate sensitivity is in the low range of the estimates.

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 7 Dec 2010 @ 4:03 PM

  61. RC,

    I have a question regarding the 22 billion tonnes of emissions by 2040. Is that CO2 emissions per annum in total, CO2 emissions that stay in the atmosphere per annum or just carbon emissions per annum?

    I thought that we presntly released around 8-9 billion tonnes of Co2 that when combined with 2xO2 becomes around 28 billion tonnes of CO2 of which 60% is absorbed by sinks leaving around 12 billion in the atmosphere.

    Can you fill me in on this one please?

    [Response: That's 22 gigatonnes (annual rate) of carbon emissions. I always prefer to deal with carbon as an accounting standard, rather than CO2. --raypierre]

    Comment by pete best — 7 Dec 2010 @ 4:09 PM

  62. Sorry I meant 8-9 billion tonnes of carbon and not Co2.

    Comment by pete best — 7 Dec 2010 @ 4:10 PM

  63. 40, Hank Roberts: SM: harryrw wrote “It’s about buying time” — Ray followed up inline above: “the implication about ‘buying time’ is just false advertising.” Still happy with harryrw writing that, or will you help explain to him why Ray’s right?

    Still happy, sure. The alternatives to coal are getting cheaper as R&D progresses and larger quantities are mass-produced. I favor a slow phase-out of coal, not pure inaction, over the next 10 years, to be followed by a stronger push when the newer technologies are cheaper than they are now.

    The conjecture that it is “false advertising” is a conjecture.

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 7 Dec 2010 @ 4:33 PM

  64. I don’t think it needs to be so binary or black&white. We need to do both, but by acting on methane etc. the rate at which CO2 emissions need to be cut can be reduced a little. That buys some time. But it would be crazy to do nothing about CO2 till 2040.

    Comment by David Stern — 7 Dec 2010 @ 4:42 PM

  65. #37: “When political reality collides with physical reality, which one do you think will win?”

    Political reality is winning now and looks to keep winning for the foreseeable future. That is the whole point to the NYT op-ed.

    That is not addressed in this post.

    [Response: So political reality is saying "We can't do this thing that's really useful," and i response, you're saying "Well, we'll do this thing that instead isn't all that useful, sing kumbaya and que sera sera." Do I have that right? --raypierre]

    Comment by Keith Kloor — 7 Dec 2010 @ 5:19 PM

  66. When the climate going gets tough, the lukewarmers get…muddled.

    Bewildered by the deniers’ sophisticated, tough propaganda, the Times and people like Kloor and Pielke are yelling “Sit still!” in a flaming theater.

    Comment by Adam R. — 7 Dec 2010 @ 5:30 PM

  67. “We need to do both, but by acting on methane etc. the rate at which CO2 emissions need to be cut can be reduced a little. That buys some time. ”

    Yes on “we need to do both”, and NO on “the rate at which CO2 emissions need to be cut can be reduced a little. That buys some time.”

    The whole point of this post was to point out that methane reductions today do NOT reduce the rate at which CO2 emissions need to be cut if what you care about is temperature reduction in 2100 (and 2200, and 2300). However, methane reductions today _do_ matter for temperatures in 2020 and 2030 and even 2040. So they are worthwhile, because we will most likely see increasing negative effects of AGW over the next couple decades. But the real doomsday events are more likely to happen near the end of the century and beyond if we don’t get a handle on CO2…

    -M

    (note that a world in which we _never_ reduced methane would be a world in which we needed to reduce more CO2 to compensate. But reducing methane _today_ doesn’t change the CO2 target hardly at all)

    Comment by M — 7 Dec 2010 @ 5:45 PM

  68. On a related subject (insofar as it speaks to the urgency of Doing Something Constructive), this just popped up:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101207131735.htm

    If the sub-ocean floor biosphere is biasing the estimates of turnover of the deep ocean water (and they’re not sure if it is), then would that in turn bias estimates of acidification rates?

    [Response: WOW! That is cool indeed, and maybe pretty significant. Thanks for posting --Jim]

    Comment by Maya — 7 Dec 2010 @ 5:51 PM

  69. > cheaper
    You manage to believe fossil fuel isn’t already the most expensive option?
    You’re ignoring any cost except money?
    http://www.shiftingbaselines.org/index.php

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Dec 2010 @ 6:10 PM

  70. RL: \When political reality collides with physical reality, which one do you think will win?\

    MV: \That’s a trick question, right?\

    Would that it were. I suspect human stupidity will prevail just long enough to make Mother Nature REALLY pissed off.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 7 Dec 2010 @ 6:11 PM

  71. Excellent, clear article. This answers the question “if we know that many factors affect global temperature, why do we fixate on C02″?

    There’s no faulting your logic. If society trades off reductions in short-lived climate forcings for long-lived GHG reductions, even in a way that is equivalent in the short run, the long run impact will be higher global temperatures. Seems to me that’s just a matter of arithmetic.

    Yet I found this thought-provoking, because it is so contrarian.

    Let me get down to specific. I’ve ordered a 5-gallon bucket of white “zone paint”, suitable for painting asphalt. I’m planning to use it to paint my asphalt driveway white. (I already painted part of my roof white.) As the US DOE has pointed out, increasing urban albedo is an effective way to reduce the immediate impact of global warming. I figured, for $100 and an afternoon of labor, it seemed pretty cost-effective, based on the DOE calculations.

    Now this article comes along. It sets me back on my heels a bit. Comments above have already captured my reactions.

    On the one hand, if we aren’t going to see much action on C02 until we see more effects of warming (in the US, at least), then that creates exactly the tradeoff you don’t want to see. Reducing warming with short-acting factors (e.g, a coat of paint that might last 10 years) is, potentially, the wrong way to go, as it defers action on C02.

    On the other hand, if climate feedbacks such as arctic methane are significantly stronger than current anticipated, then … buying time, in and of itself, might be a laudable goal. But that’s an admission that we might be, even now, at the edge of the pace of change that we can adapt to. I’m not sure I’d believe that yet.

    Back to specifics. I’m not going to use my white driveway as an excuse to emit more C02. So there’s no micro-level tradeoff for me. Given that, should I or shouldn’t I paint it?

    Or, more realistically, is something like the US EPA’s “Cool Roofs” initiative actually sound policy? (Considering only the albedo effect in isolation, not the reduction in fossil fuels for utilities.) Or is it just enabling us to put off some day of true reckoning?

    I’m not talking about pseudo-green (driving the SUV to drop off a bit of recylables, as above). I’m now wondering whether I should start to question the wisdom of some effective strategies for moderating climate change — because they postpone the day of reckoning on C02.

    I guess that’s unknowable. I’m going to paint my driveway and hope for the best. I’d be interested to hear if you have an opinion one way or the other.

    If there were one other thing I could ask, it would be that you point me toward an accessible summary of the evidence behind the IPCC atmospheric residence time assumptions. When I Google it, all I seem to find is obvious nonsense from deniers. Plus the “bomb carbon”, which has a lot of intuitive appeal, but may or may not be a reasonable proxy for C02 atmospheric residence time.) At the IPCC site itself, all I’ve found is the formula itself (three exponentials), not a capsule of the evidence behind it.

    Comment by Christopher Hogan — 7 Dec 2010 @ 6:16 PM

  72. 63 David Stern said:

    “it would be crazy to do nothing about CO2 till 2040.”

    The US built over 100 GW of nuclear power plants in under two decades. We have the technological ability to build say 500GW of nukes in another two decades. Throw in whatever mix of renewables you want. 1-200 GW of wind. 50-100 GW of PV. Put in heavy tax credits for solar hot water. Quitting coal is eminently doable. Our political system is broken so it won’t happen.

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 7 Dec 2010 @ 6:24 PM

  73. #66

    I don’t see how you get that from my comments here.

    Comment by Keith Kloor — 7 Dec 2010 @ 6:38 PM

  74. Without detracting in any way from Raypierre’s general idea, I do observe there are certainly7 “no regrets” actions focused on methane, such as methane capture for power, from landfills or farms, for example. Unlike most other GHGs, methane is actually useful fuel.

    As long as this is never assumed a substitute for CO2 reduction:

    1)As is: methane => atmosphere, more warming than CO2, until the methane converts

    2) Capture methane => burn to CO2, so remove that extra warming in short term, even if long-term CO2 is same.
    But, depending on where you are, if the generated electricity replaces fossil-fuel energy, that avoids generation of CO2.

    Of course, this is all a small effectt, and one can argue about whether or not it’s a good idea to generate the methane in he first place, but if people are doing it, they might as well capture the energy of natural gas and convert it quicker to a less-strong GHG, if only for long-term energy systems that still work after fossil fuels are no longer usable.

    Comment by John Mashey — 7 Dec 2010 @ 6:41 PM

  75. Raypierre, Great post!!!

    This really puts some truly valuable context on the considerations.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 7 Dec 2010 @ 7:32 PM

  76. Would someone kindly give a direct answer to the questions I put at 19?

    I’m not interested in insults.

    Comment by Geoff Sherrington — 7 Dec 2010 @ 8:04 PM

  77. 71 Christopher Hogan says “Let me get down to specific. I’ve ordered a 5-gallon bucket of white “zone paint”, suitable for painting asphalt. I’m planning to use it to paint my asphalt driveway white. (I already painted part of my roof white.) As the US DOE has pointed out, increasing urban albedo is an effective way to reduce the immediate impact of global warming. I figured, for $100 and an afternoon of labor, it seemed pretty cost-effective, based on the DOE calculations.”

    Christopher, can you please explain where the rejected heat goes? Dis it go somewhere that was kind to your neighbours?

    Is there a gain if some is simply sucked into the inlets of adjacent air conditioners in hot climates?

    Comment by Geoff Sherrington — 7 Dec 2010 @ 8:08 PM

  78. Re: Jim Galasyn @ 51

    Thanks for the link to that vid.

    Here’s hoping Dr. Sergei Kirpotin is wrong in his conclusion; but I suspect the odds are dramatically against that hope, which fades like a flower at summer’s end…

    Evidence-less drive-bye nay-sayers to the contrary, Kirpotin is well-trained to make the distinction he does.

    The Yooper

    Comment by Daniel Bailey — 7 Dec 2010 @ 8:08 PM

  79. Napoleon had several relevantquotes:

    ‘Go sir, gallop, and don’t forget that the world was made in six days.
    You can ask me for anything you like, except time.’

    ‘The loss of time is irretrievable in war; the excuses that are advanced are always bad ones, for operations go wrong only through delays.’

    Comment by John Mashey — 7 Dec 2010 @ 8:21 PM

  80. Geoff Sherrington:

    Christopher, can you please explain where the rejected heat goes?

    What rejected heat? Look up albedo and continue on from there …

    elsewhere Geoff says:

    I’m not interested in insults.

    Asking questions informed by knowledge would help that situation …

    Comment by dhogaza — 7 Dec 2010 @ 8:29 PM

  81. Keith Kloor says:

    #66

    I don’t see how you get that from my comments here.

    No, Keith, I’m sure you don’t. It is part of the the big picture you don’t see.

    You don’t see that the struggle to prevent catastrophic alteration of the climate has reached a desperate stage. You don’t see that flaccid, half-assed ideas like those in the Times article are not merely useless but destructive at this point. You don’t see that your tone-trolling, accommodationist stance is exactly what the climate FUD empire is hoping to provoke in its enemies. You are the Koch brothers’ lap dog, Keith, and you pretend not to know it.

    Comment by Adam R. — 7 Dec 2010 @ 8:36 PM

  82. Surely we might want to delay warming to give us longer to cope with it, in the (possibly erroneous) hope that in 50 years we might be in a better position to adapt to it than we are now?

    Comment by Josie — 7 Dec 2010 @ 8:43 PM

  83. To comment 77: The point of painting the surface white is that visible light isn’t converted to heat, it’s reflected as light. So it (mostly) passes back out of the atmosphere. The white surface stays cooler than the black surface would have been, simple as that. No spillovers to the neighbors, other than the somewhat odd appearance.

    At this latitude (40N), in the summer, the effect on a roof is quite something to experience. Easily 50 degrees F difference between a white roof and a black roof at mid-day. The tradeoff is that the freshly painted roof surface is painful to look at, in full sun, without sunglasses. The compound I used on the roof (Henry Solarflex 287) claims 90% reflectivity when new. (For comparison, the albedo of fresh snow is typically cited at 80 to 90).

    Comment by Christopher Hogan — 7 Dec 2010 @ 9:14 PM

  84. Josie says:

    Surely we might want to delay warming to give us longer to cope with it, in the (possibly erroneous) hope that in 50 years we might be in a better position to adapt to it than we are now?

    Surely. But only if the delay is incremental to permanent reduction in warming. Diversions that allow continued increases in the main villain–CO2–are no help at all.

    Comment by Adam R. — 7 Dec 2010 @ 9:37 PM

  85. 69, Hank Roberts: You manage to believe fossil fuel isn’t already the most expensive option?
    You’re ignoring any cost except money?

    If that’s addressed to me, then Yes and No. I don’t expect the external costs of coal to be fully included in the price any time soon. I have written that people have become more aware of those costs and may come to tax coal or charge higher fees (e.g. penalties for pollution when the ash piles flood out over productive land after floods.) However, I don’t expect a major change right away.

    The political reality is that you can do some things right away: harvest methane from land fills and feedlots and subsidize solar (the current most expensive) and wind and convert coal plants to gas; and you can do some things later (one to two decades later): tax coal, build nuclear power plants and mass produce biofuels.

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 7 Dec 2010 @ 9:45 PM

  86. Re: SM #85 — What, other than the climate, would you expect to be different in 20 years that would enable coal to be taxed?

    Fiscally, this is the best time in 60 years for the U.S., at least, to begin taxing fossil fuels. As this chart from Reutersshows, payroll taxes could be cut, carbon taxes instituted, and the overall tax burden remain relatively low.

    Moreover, with California’s rejection of Proposition 23, it would seem that a significant percentage of the population agrees that on climate, “No, we can’t wait.”

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 7 Dec 2010 @ 10:25 PM

  87. 77: To add to Chris’s answer.
    Increasing the albedo, does decrease the local area heating, by a bit more than the global, i.e.
    some of the reflected light doesn’t make it through the atmosphere (probably around a quarter). But
    if it had been absorbed, it has only two fates: (1) to be reradiated as longwave (infrared), which has lo
    wer proensity to escape to space, and (2) sensible heat. So his frontyard might be a couple of degrees co
    oler, and maybe his neighbors yards a half degree cooler. So A/C and landscaping water demands should be
    incrementally lowered.

    I just used highly watered down housepaint, and slobbed it on with a mop. But I was only looking
    for a few percent increase in albedo that wouldn’t be too noticable, and would make ten year old
    concrete look a little fresher. You might see a decent decrease in nighttime temperatures, as
    pavement does a great job of storing heat during the day and releasing it at night. And at night
    you often don’t have wind, so the lower heat flux from the driveway might not diluted so quickly.

    But, I think that excepting the desire to imcrease your energy efficiency, if we care about
    the long term, shortterm mitigation at this point in time is undesirable, as it reduces urgency.

    I don’t see how simply slowing the rate of emissions, absent the will to leave unoxidized carbon
    in the ground longterm does any good

    Comment by Thomas — 7 Dec 2010 @ 10:34 PM

  88. “Two decades is the amount of time we need to buy to break even, as a rational carbon policy should have set in two decades ago. The way I see it is that the time we “buy” just compensates for our past foolishness, not for our future foolishness.” – 49

    The incoming Republican majority in the House of Representatives has selected the National Science Foundation (NSF) as the first target for a “YouCut Citizen Review”, in which ordinary Americans are being asked to identify “wasteful spending that should be cut”.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LSYTS-nRt4o&feature=player_embedded

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 7 Dec 2010 @ 10:35 PM

  89. #76–Geoff, the questions you asked sound more rhetorical than anything else–especially in combination with your numerous, often not especially well-founded questions. So I, at least, assumed you weren’t really looking for answers. (That would be something seen a fair amount.)

    I think the post is pretty clear that the time taken to emit the carbon is not very critical:

    It turns out that it matters little to temperature whether all the CO2 is emitted in a carbon orgy near the beginning of the fossil fuel era, or spread out over a few hundred years. It’s cumulative carbon that counts, and pretty much it is the only thing that counts.

    So why would you think that compressing all the emissions into a year would make a difference, even if it were possible?

    Then in #77, you betray a near-total lack of understanding of–well, several crucial issues, to keep it short.

    No offense intended, but to ask useful questions, you need to improve your knowledge of the basics, as I suggested earlier, and dhogaza more recently (and pointedly.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 7 Dec 2010 @ 10:48 PM

  90. “Christopher, can you please explain where the rejected heat goes? Dis it go somewhere that was kind to your neighbours?” – 77

    It goes up mostly. I doubt if he has any neighbours living over his roof or his driveway.

    Maybe you have relatives who spend their days hovering over your hat.

    [Response: White roofs or white asphalt have a net cooling effect on the planet, in addition to an effect on the urban microclimate. As an earlier commenter noted, the solar energy is just reflected back to space, and doesn't reappear anywhere on Earth. Globally speaking, the effect is small at any scale likely to be done so the main benefit is in microclimate. It's a form of adaptation, through reduction in the urban heat island effect, and also helps the global picture through reducing CO2 emissions from cooling costs. Green roofs work mainly through evaporation, and this is different. It has substantial local effects, but the heat is not lost -- it is just exported and shows up wherever the water you evaporated condenses. But if the main point is local heat mitigation and reduction in cooling energy, green roofs or land cover also have a benefit. The main argument for any of this is that it reduces CO2 emissions from air conditioning. --raypierre]

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 7 Dec 2010 @ 10:59 PM

  91. Geoff Sherrington, re your questions at # 19, there is an inline response there now. I don’t know if it was there earlier.

    Comment by Pete Dunkelberg — 8 Dec 2010 @ 12:25 AM

  92. > solar energy is just reflected

    Not just reflected, according to a neighbor who long ago was a NASA engineer, familiar with heat management for satellite fuel tanks.

    He tells me high-emissivity surface will work as a heat pump, losing heat to a clear cold sky both day and night, and if the air is close to its dewpoint, can condense water out of the air both outside and in the attic.

    Roofing becomes rocket science. Who knew?

    Same principle used to make ice in the desert:
    http://yarchive.net/space/ice_in_desert.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Dec 2010 @ 12:27 AM

  93. #65, Ray’s inline response:

    No, you have it absolutely wrong. You seem to ignore the reality being addressed by Ramanathan and Victor, which is that nothing is happening on CO2. The political reality is a stalemate, both in the U.S. and globally. That fact–and it is a fact–underlies their suggestion.

    On the contrary, they see it as as useful kickstarter for the carbon challenge.

    Comment by Keith Kloor — 8 Dec 2010 @ 1:12 AM

  94. “He tells me high-emissivity surface will work as a heat pump.” – 92

    Did he fail to tell you that black surfaces cool faster than white ones?

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 8 Dec 2010 @ 2:09 AM

  95. Ray #70, look up “rhetorical question” :-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 8 Dec 2010 @ 2:18 AM

  96. Hi raypierre

    The integral of fossil carbon is the most important problem for our future climate.
    So, it is incomprehensible that there is no serious work, in my knowing, on the question of carbon (coal) availability and IPCC itself says nothing about this in AR4.

    You cited Lackner:

    “but when I ran this by Klaus Lackner recently, Klaus thought that hydrocarbon extraction would get so good that we’d probably start running out of oxygen before we ran out of coal.”

    Is this sustained by a publication or another serious work, or is this a joke?

    Comment by meteor — 8 Dec 2010 @ 3:27 AM

  97. David Stern,

    I think you’re right that it’s better to not view it so much as an either-or situtaion. We need to do both (tackle long term and short term climate forcings as well as air pollution hazards. Win-win situations such as reducing black carbon are especially useful and probably easiest to get political support for).

    However, I think it’s necessarily correct that “by acting on methane etc. the rate at which CO2 emissions need to be cut can be reduced a little.”

    Because the benefit of reducing shortlived forcings is constant in time, whereas the benefit of reducing long lived forcings grows in time (assuming both types of reductions are permanent). So your statement is only true for a limited timeframe, and not thereafter.

    On a different note, there are quite some differences between the different short term forcings, as Ray also alluded to:
    A focus on BC would be good, as it a) offers strong anciliary health benefits; b) is often connected with CO2 emissions, so it would also help with the prime long term forcing (though it is also often associated with reflecting aerosols, so that’s a caveat to be taken into account); c) it has the shortest lifetime so it has the quickest effect, d) it has a disproportionately large effect on the melting of snow and ice in some of the more vulnerable areas of the world; and e) some of its sources are relatively easy to tackle and/or could be expected to garner more political support (cf. CO2 and CH4).

    That makes soot a very different cup of tea than methane.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 8 Dec 2010 @ 3:41 AM

  98. #68 Indeed interesting.
    As is this post by Joe Romm on climateprogress, very scary.http://climateprogress.org/2010/12/07/j-e-n-veron-coral-reefs-bleaching/
    “Veron explains that “the science is clear: Unless we change the way we live, the Earth’s coral reefs will be utterly destroyed within our children’s lifetimes.”

    And in response to my posting of this link on CJN!SA group forum I got this in my email this morning.
    “Thanks for the reef article. I was just scuba diving last month in the Similan Islands National Park in the Andaman Sea in Thailand. I’ve dived there several times and the coral and sea life is spectacular. I was dumb-founded this time to see that most of the hard coral was dead over vast sections of the seabed visible to us on the dives. I spoke to dive instructors who recounted that the Andaman Sea had climbed from its normal 28 degrees temperature to over 33 degrees for two months in April and May. The coral bleached out and with the rainy season high seas it then crumbled into rubble. There was a small amount of hard coral below 20 and 25 metres, but very little survived above that, with the exception of some partially bleached fine table top coral.

    German divers working in the region said the devastation crossed the whole of the Andaman, from India down to Malaysia. The shocking part is that it was so quick and so thorough, none of the bit by bit, slow change but rather a massive and systemic collapse.

    In False Bay, here in Cape Town, the steadily increasing water temperatures now see tropical fish living year round in what should be a cold water ecosystem. The combination of heating, acidification and massive human pollution of the coast lines is placing marine and coastal biodiversity in a perilous position. It will be important for CJN and related media to get the images and meaning out to the African public and policy makers – otherwise the situation is ‘out of sight, out of mind’.”

    This is surely compelling support for the argument for fossil fuel derived CO2 to be classified as a pollutant and be heavily taxed.

    Comment by Hugh Laue — 8 Dec 2010 @ 3:46 AM

  99. Interesting debate, but have questions about the whether it is more important to look at the location of the emissions of CO2 and particulates than just the emphasis on quantity? Have been researching the Vankor and Urengoy Oil and gas fields; they are massive and many have visible gas flares on METOP/NOAA AVHRR images. The world bank estimates approximately 150bcm of gas and other condensates are burnt every year.

    In Russia 1000′s of wells all producing massive amounts of CO2 and particulates at northern latitudes within the arctic circle, surely the location is more relevant than just the quantity? Solar breakdown and dispersal methods and rate of decay are different in the polar regions.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=miOJ86B4xe8
    http://www.rosneft.com/news/today/21082009.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urengoy_gas_field

    [Response: Location of soot and other aerosol emissions is important, but CO2 can be considered (for purposes of radiative forcing) well mixed on account of its long lifetime. It doesn't matter where the CO2 is emitted. -raypierre]

    Comment by David Painter — 8 Dec 2010 @ 5:18 AM

  100. > Did he fail to tell you
    Scott Nudds? http://snap.fnal.gov/crshield/crs-mech/emissivity-eoi.html

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Dec 2010 @ 5:49 AM

  101. #90 raypierre

    I can attest to this on a small scale. I painted the roof, hood and trunk of my Honda. I used to be afraid to touch the steering wheel in the summer. Now life is good :)

    Benefits:

    - Car is cooler
    - Less heat stress on dashboard and interior
    - I rarely need to turn on the AC, even on very warm days
    - Saves on gas mileage because I’m not using AC as much.

    Let’s just say it’s cool ;)

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 8 Dec 2010 @ 6:42 AM

  102. in the response to post #90 about solar radiation:-
    “As an earlier commenter noted, the solar energy is just reflected back to space, and doesn’t reappear anywhere on Earth.”
    Surely this is not quite true? just as solar energy heats up air, gas and water molecules going down to the surface of the planet, the same will happen on the way up? look into a bright illuminated mirror and feel the warmth! (or stare at a white wall in the sun)

    Is it possible that this extra “return trip” energy is significant, especially as the atmosphere above urban areas is relatively “thicker” with CO2 and particulates etc? Effectively doubling the opportunity for energy to be transferred into the atmosphere at sympathetic wavelengths of infra-red. In short Atmospheric density is not uniform so why should it’s ability to absorb energy be? (see clouds..)

    A specific question if anyone interested in answering it?
    As a tremendous amount of deforestation and biomass burning occurs at equatorial regions, and this is where the sun warms the atmosphere most.

    If the contents of the atmosphere above these regions is enriched with CO2 and other gases and particles then surely more energy will be absorbed into the atmosphere here than would have otherwise been the case with cleaner air?

    The question is, as this “enriched atmosphere” rises through the air column and displaces the normal water vapor does it have a significantly higher ability to absorb and transport energy than the “normal” atmosphere it displaced?

    Having watched satellite water vapor images for years I can say that “normal” atmospheric displacement patterns appear to have changed, especially over oil, gas and biomass burning sites.

    Comment by David Painter — 8 Dec 2010 @ 7:08 AM

  103. Feh, a typo in my #89, if anyone still cares:

    “numerous, often not especially well-founded questions” should read “numerous, often not especially well-founded assertions.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 Dec 2010 @ 7:20 AM

  104. Welcome back, Raypierre.

    [Response: Nice to have time to be back, now that the Planetary Climate Book and other major time sinks are more under control. --raypierre]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Dec 2010 @ 7:21 AM

  105. AL 40,

    Natural sources are matched by natural sinks, which is why CO2 was stable at about 280 ppmv for thousands of years. It’s the artificial addition that’s the problem, since the natural sinks are only handling about half of it. That’s why CO2 is up 38% since the industrial revolution started.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Dec 2010 @ 7:30 AM

  106. EG 50: The [Chernobyl] “disaster” was mostly hype.

    BPL: 56 people died and thousands of kids got thyroid cancer. That’s a disaster by any rational standard.

    [Response: Enough please. Let's not re-start the nuclear power flame wars. --raypierre]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Dec 2010 @ 7:36 AM

  107. GS 77: Christopher, can you please explain where the rejected heat [from painting his driveway white] goes?

    BPL: Back out to space, if we’re talking about sunlight. Otherwise it would be absorbed and the driveway would be hotter. Higher albedo DOES cool the Earth, or pretty much anything else.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Dec 2010 @ 8:26 AM

  108. Vendicar 88,

    The GOP is very much opposed to science in general, even when they claim to be defending it. Too often these days scientists are finding reasons to put taxes or regulation on certain big businesses. To stop that, they have to stop science. Then there’s the problem of “teaching our kids they come from monkeys.” And it all fits together. You can’t throw out large areas of science without affecting all the other areas.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Dec 2010 @ 8:30 AM

  109. Keith Kloor, Again, I would suggest that we have to make political reality correspond to physical reality, as I do not know of a way to do the opposite.

    The fact is that while we know the effects of climate change will be severe, we do not know at what temperature they will transform from severe to devastating. We do not know even now how much warming we are committed to in the pipeline as it were. These uncertainties are what make such incrementalist plans risky–that and they give the illusion that people are actually doing something.

    People need to stop being petulant children and accept the reality that lies before them. THAT is the political reality.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Dec 2010 @ 8:50 AM

  110. #101, David Painter–

    A couple of things. First, the atmosphere is pretty transparent to visible light (that’s presumably why we evolved eyes optimized for those frequencies of light.) So light is reflected at the ground (or roof), it mostly escapes the atmosphere quite easily. Yes, there will be some absorption by particulates like soot, but I think that is not large on a global scale compared to the greenhouse effect. (Corrections welcome if I’m wrong about that.)

    What happens when light reaches the ground and is absorbed is that that energy is thermalized. That’s what one feels on one’s face, upturned on a sunny day. That energy will also be re-emitted as near IR, which you mention–and that’s what the CO2 and other GHGs absorb. Reflective surfaces cause this whole process to be avoided.

    Second, you speak of “enriched” atmosphere “displacing water.” I know of no reason to think that additional CO2 or particulates would displace water vapor. (Though particulates encourage condensation, don’t they? But the water is still present, albeit liquid rather than gaseous.) And if it did, the effect on energy absorption might well be negative–since, as both “warmists” and (most?) “denialists” agree, water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas!

    None of that means that your observations of satellite water vapor are wrong; but there may be other reasons for what you see. (Lessened transpiration seems likely to me.)

    Second,

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 Dec 2010 @ 9:24 AM

  111. Ray L,

    I don’t think Keith K disagrees with the necessity to do so. He disagrees about *how* to best start doing so, given the geopolitical situation. You’re attacking a strawman.

    Comment by Bart Verheggen — 8 Dec 2010 @ 10:34 AM

  112. I repeat my question:

    “The integral of fossil carbon is the most important problem for our future climate.
    So, it is incomprehensible that there is no serious work, in my knowing, on the question of carbon (coal) availability and IPCC itself says nothing about this in AR4.

    You cited Lackner:

    “but when I ran this by Klaus Lackner recently, Klaus thought that hydrocarbon extraction would get so good that we’d probably start running out of oxygen before we ran out of coal.”

    Is this sustained by a publication or another serious work, or is this a joke?”

    [Response: As far as I am concerned, no estimate of coal above a trillion tonnes or so is supported by any credible published analysis. You can find lots of arguments for there being a lot less that 5 trillion tonnes, but we just don't know when it will run out. Klaus was not joking, but the general idea is that there are a lot of dilute hydrocarbons in sediments, and it is quite possible technologies will emerge to allow deep, dilute deposits to be tapped. Klaus pointed out that Rogner's review article of about a decade ago didn't include much gas from hydrofrakking, since it wasn't thought to be an economic technology at the time. But I'm way out of my depth here, so don't take anything I say as authoritative. But don't be so quick to take what the experts say either. It's an important issue that needs to be resolved. --raypierre]

    Comment by meteor — 8 Dec 2010 @ 10:43 AM

  113. re: 108.

    It goes even further than that when the GOP (and deniers/skeptics) start claiming that science is a “religion”. As we have seen from some of the regular denier posters here.

    [Response: Getting a bit off-topic here. Kloor's site might be a better place for political discussions. Though I do understand that it is hard to discuss the issue at hand without getting involved with the realities of what can actually be done in the present US political climate. --raypierre]

    Comment by Dan — 8 Dec 2010 @ 10:54 AM

  114. Re 99#
    thanks for response
    “Location of soot and other aerosol emissions is important, but CO2 can be considered (for purposes of radiative forcing) well mixed on account of its long lifetime. It doesn’t matter where the CO2 is emitted”

    If this is true then how is the effect of localized (country sized) biomass and hydrocarbon burning taken into consideration when massive air columns rise up to the outer edge of the atmosphere carrying large amounts of heated gases? (also see volcanic)

    Is it true 200ppm of CO2 at sea level is as damaging as 200ppm of CO2 at 100,000ft?
    (when temperature, pressure and exposure to unattenuated solar energy are massively different)

    Standard weather balloons displace more volume at altitude, so other gases should if injected there behave the same, heavier elements like CO2 should fall back to earth unless heated by unattenuated solar energy surely? Like a sort of minature Roziere balloon? (possibly remaining at altitude)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rozi%C3%A8re_balloon

    Comment by David Painter — 8 Dec 2010 @ 11:15 AM

  115. M. Tobis @49 says: “At some point climate change may well become so severe that per capita wealth will begin a long term, accelerating downturn. At that point, no mitigation at all will be affordable.”

    Exactly! Economists (e.g., Nordhaus and Tol) argue over what’s the appropriate number for the discount rate regarding future environmental impacts – but they assume as an article of faith that the discount rate MUST BE POSITIVE. There is no basis for this assumption – it is not some sort of immutable natural law. Under a scenario of future decline in societal wealth the discount rate can become NEGATIVE and in that scenario it makes more sense to invest NOW in crucial infrastructure that society can afford now and that will be essential later (when that society won’t be able to afford to construct new equivalents of such infrastructure) – as opposed to current spending on lattes and Hummers (ephemeral goods that don’t add future societal value). (Similar to the story of “The Ants and the Grasshopper” and all that.)

    Comment by L. Carey — 8 Dec 2010 @ 11:31 AM

  116. [edit - please don't bother to post abusive comments directed at other commenters]

    Comment by Thomas Lee Elifritz — 8 Dec 2010 @ 11:40 AM

  117. David Painter,
    The way to think of this is as follows:
    Unless the atoms/molecules of gas have energy states that can be excited by the light, the atmosphere will be transparent to that wavelength. Millimeter waves, radio, etc. can excite rotational states. IR tends to excite vibrational states in some molecules (notably ghgs). UV and x-ray can excite electronic excitations (which is why we can’t do astronomy with these on Earth). However, the fact that you can tell the colors of stars, planets, etc. shows that the atmosphere is pretty transparent in the visible. You do get scattering, but that doesn’t impede energy transport much. It’s the same reason melting snow winds up giving a positive feedback by changing albedo or black carbon gives a forcing by changing snow albedo (and then melting the snow).

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Dec 2010 @ 11:46 AM

  118. 86, Walter Pearce: Re: SM #85 — What, other than the climate, would you expect to be different in 20 years that would enable coal to be taxed?
    new paragraph
    Fiscally, this is the best time in 60 years for the U.S., at least, to begin taxing fossil fuels. As this chart from Reutersshows, payroll taxes could be cut, carbon taxes instituted, and the overall tax burden remain relatively low.

    Second point first, this is the best time in 60 years, I agree. I think that a concerted effort focusing on the environmental degradation caused by coal, and not emphasizing CO2, might produce a tax sometime in the next 10 years. Recall that this is a complex democracy and almost nothing both simple and good happens very rapidly. More on politics below. For now remember that lots of people earn their livings around coal, and their representatives are in the House and Senate. Something can be worked out. Maybe sooner: I think Chu, Vilsack and Salazar (an exceptionally good team) have the moxie to work something out with Congressional leaders of both parties, should they focus on coal for at least a year.

    First question, in 20 years ( I think more like 10) the production techniques to replace the electricity from coal will be cheaper, so it will be clearer to everyone that the coal-fired power plants can be readily phased out without sacrificing the electricity and putting lots of people out of work.

    About politics. Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and the Kyoto Treaty that preceded it stimulated a huge public policy debate that for now has been won by the people who oppose a rapid end to CO2. Concomitantly, more Americans have become aware of the challenges of maintaining America’s liquid fuel supply and are more willing to subsidize all alternative sources of energy (these are not exactly closely related logically). My recommendation to you guys would be to emphasize alternative energy production for the next 10 years (as a matter of policy), and focus on the science of CO2 related global warming but go lightly on CO2 reduction (as a matter of policy.) Politics is a “long game”, a “marathon not a sprint”, “a full 4 quarters” etc, and we are in the “early innings”. After being ahead for a while, you are now behind (afaict), so you need a strategy that will pull you ahead in the future. There will be a future, so prepare for it. Also, since this is a democracy, you might need to develop a style of speech more along the lines of “Here are things we can work on together” instead of “You are all corrupt, ignorant and stupid.” (and avoid extravagant Cancun-like parties.) Lots of AGW opponents are equally strident and insulting, and you’d like to marginalize them instead of marginalizing yourselves. FWIW

    I wrote in response to an earlier comment that I’d like to reemphasize: the reason for going slow now (“doing nothing” isn’t what’s happening, to clarify that detail) is that all the replacement technologies are declining in price.

    As to California, I’d hate to see the whole US do to its economy what Californians have done to theirs. I’d recommend you study Iowa and Texas instead: Texas overtook California in producing electricity from wind; Iowa is number 2 and has a large state-of-the art turbine factory. Even Nevada, but not California, has permitted the construction of a new turbine factory. California law AB32 will enrich suppliers in Nevada, Arizona, and China while producing continued economic decline here by raising the cost of electricity. California is a most ambiguous example.

    Since people frequently recommend stuff for me to read, I thought I’d mention that I have ordered Raymond Pierrehumbert,s new book from CUP. Enjoy my few bucks in royalties Raypierre!

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 8 Dec 2010 @ 12:08 PM

  119. #114–

    David, air columns don’t make it to “the outer edge of the atmosphere”–stratospheric levels are pretty much the limit, and most don’t nearly get that far. See:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_atmosphere#Structure_of_the_atmosphere

    I’m going to duck the question of CO2 efficacy at different altitudes, but I will say that CO2 is not much inclined to sink in the atmosphere due to the effects of turbulence, not heating per se. You can actually see this when CO2 fog is used in a stage production; the fog hangs low, but disperses upward and mixes with even relatively sedate motions by the performers onstage.

    [Response: This is a very nice example of a useful 'visual' to use when explaining mixing in the atmosphere -- thanks!--eric]

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 Dec 2010 @ 12:14 PM

  120. re #99
    This is a minor nit. Certainly, for this study, location of CO2 emission is irrelevant, but in a few cases, the location actually does matter.
    See Mark Jacobson testimony to Congress, the oral testimony is probably enough.

    Basically, while CO2 is generally well-mixed, some urban areas have noticeably higher CO2 levels, and if they are already polluted, the higher temperatures a) make pollution worse and if it is warm enough to want air conditioning, b) they want more, which uses more power, which may mean more Co2 emissions somewhere.

    Los Angeles is the obvious example, but it’s also true of the CA Central Valley, and some parts of the SF Bay Area, i.e., like San Jose.

    Comment by John Mashey — 8 Dec 2010 @ 12:14 PM

  121. Im wondering if someone might be able to help me fully understand this.

    If methane oxidizes to Co2 in about a decade, why would we not address methane first? If the higher warming factor of methane lasts for a decade before it turns to Co2, which then lasts for thousands of years, should we not eliminate methane first to get rid of that initial extra warming potential? From my understanding its seems like emitting methane is pretty much the same as emitting Co2, except in the first 10 years of its life it has a greater warming potential than Co2.

    Not touching methane would mean we get its initial short term warming effects plus its long term Co2 warming effects. So in that sense reducing methane initially would be a better approach.

    So what part am I missing here, since this is the opposite conclusion the author draws?

    Comment by eric — 8 Dec 2010 @ 12:15 PM

  122. I don’t think Keith K disagrees with the necessity to do so. He disagrees about *how* to best start doing so, given the geopolitical situation. You’re attacking a strawman.

    No, Kloor’s repeated insistence that no political effort based on climate change mitigation is possible is a strawman, and he bases his entire argument for giving up on mitigation as a political goal on this strawman.

    We saw that in CA during the last election, when an effort to block CA’s ambitious emissions reductions law went down by 21%.

    What is true is that *certain* political approaches are off the table. The Republican Party will ensure that no coordinated federal-level effort will be put into place for the next two years, at least. That’s not stopping states like CA and OR (and others) from moving forward.

    What’s also true is that the UN international effort that depends on consensus agreement among over a 100 countries appears dead in the water. But that’s really been true since Kyoto, since the US didn’t ratify that treaty and it’s been clear that no other overarching treaty would have much chance of ratification here, either.

    That doesn’t block agreements from individual countries, such as the talks between China and the US that appear to be moving forward in Cancun suggests.

    There’s really nothing in the global political environment to support Kloor’s “let’s give up on mitigation and hope that efforts that lead to CO2 reductions as a side-effect rather than goal are sufficient” portrayal of reality.

    Kloor also has this odd POV where he seems to insist that raypierre’s technical assessment of the benefits of an OTF approach doesn’t respect the political situation, i.e. that somehow the physical science should reflect the political environment, which is just weird (you have to read what he writes at his own blog and elsewhere to fully appreciate this).

    Comment by dhogaza — 8 Dec 2010 @ 12:17 PM

  123. Hugh @ #98 – Thank you for the link, I read the whole thing and am going to repost the link in a couple of places. Scary indeed, as is your email … even having read about the problem, I had not realized the coral would die so quickly in such a wide area.

    Comment by Maya — 8 Dec 2010 @ 12:26 PM

  124. I mentioned some of Sterman and Sweeney’s work at Kloor’s as an example of the basic misconceptions that the public has on “flow” problems versus “stock” problems. I think it is worthwhile considering this in the current discussion.

    As I understand it, methane is characterized more as a “flow” problem, while CO2 is clearly a “stock” problem. And you can not substitute solving one for dealing with the other.

    As with most “human” analogies for physical problems, there are shortcomings, but this is one that I have been mulling since the Ramanathan/Victor piece was published.

    Suppose you are hurtling towards personal bankrooptsie*. You have some relatively easy-to-cut expenses, say a golf course membership. And you have some honking huge amount of personal credit debt, that is accruing interest at roughly the same annual rate as the excess personal expenses.

    If you elect to cut the country club membership, and defer dealing with the debt for a decade until it is more politically personally palatable, you have not really bought yourself extra time. More likely, you’ve just exacerbated your situation so that the debt is now truly an intractable problem.

    You were not able to trade the one-time “flow” problem off for the inexorably deteriorating “stock” problem.

    Sure, at least you were doing something!. And perhaps the “heat” of inbound telephone calls abated for a while as the golf course kollekshun* department eased off, and you used the time to you wait patiently to win the lottery or somesuch, but you really have not made yourself better off.

    In fact, you almost certainly would have been far better off to have found a way to reduce the golf course membership in half while using the savings to pay off half of the accumulating interest on the debt. Or even keeping the membership and using any extra funds to keep the debt constant…

    There are inevitable weaknesses in the analogy, but it may resonate better with some.

    As Sterman and Sweeney say, the public’s and policy-makers’ flawed understanding of stocks versus flows: “These beliefs… support wait-and-see policies but… violate fundamental physical constraints including conservation of mass.”

    I really think whenever we can we should be framing the CO2 dilemma in the “budget” concept that Meinhausen et al, Allen et al, TrillionTonne.org and others do. In fact, I think we should emphasize the concept of “a one-time emission endowment amount that we are depleting” rather than “an accumulated emission amount that we want to stay below”, because the idea of “running out” seems – to me, anyway – as more naturally intuitive to most people.

    (I suspect, as well, that black carbon tends more towards the characterization of a “stock” problem, at least as far as ice goes, but that’s just off the top of my head…).

    *I am making some deliberate bizarre misspellings here, because my previous submission got rejected as spam, and I don’t want to have to retype a third time!

    Comment by rustneversleeps — 8 Dec 2010 @ 1:14 PM

  125. [Response: This is a very nice example of a useful 'visual' to use when explaining mixing in the atmosphere -- thanks!--eric]

    Most welcome, Eric! Just for clarity, though, there are other substances used for stage “fog” as well, not all of which behave exactly as described–just another complication to bear in mind. (Sigh.) I did witness this effect recently in a production of “The Nutcracker,” where I happen to know that CO2 “fog” was indeed used.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 Dec 2010 @ 1:33 PM

  126. #121–Because the hugely overwhelming proportion of CO2 is emitted directly; if we eliminated methane emissions, it wouldn’t much affect CO2 concentrations 10 years later.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 8 Dec 2010 @ 1:36 PM

  127. You know, I’m beginning to notice a common theme running through the arguments of the complacent–it is “Anything but CO2″.

    First, they are saying that warming is due to ANYTHING BUT CO2–cosmic rays, land use, fraud, Martian heat rays…. Then when they are confronted with the incontrovertible evidence that CO2 is responsible for current warming, they say we must mitigate ANYTHING BUT CO2.

    The thing is that it is CO2 that is the dominant source of the problem. Addressing everything else is going for the capillaries rather than the jugular.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 8 Dec 2010 @ 1:44 PM

  128. This is one of the best articles I have read on Real Climate. It goes to the heart of the matter and shows that any delay (by almost any means) in stopping CO2 emissions is a very wrong approach. We have to face several realities that all of us seem to avoid to a certain extent. Let me just give one example.
    I have a friend here in Calgary who has invested CD$35,000 to install a PV and water heating system on his house at our latitude (51 degrees north) and altitude (1000 meters). The investment is totally irrational by any economic standards and is in his and my opinion absolutely necessary.
    Even after this investment he still has to purchase electricity and natural gas in our local climate of extremes i.e. our daily temperatures (currently very cold) and other climatological measurements are very mercurial to say the least. This makes switching from CO2 technologies to other technologies very difficult and painful.
    Recently his solar panels were completely covered by snow and ice for days at a time and rendered utterly useless.
    I am afraid that many of our non-CO2 energy producing options will become less and less effective and efficient as global warming proceeds. Hence any delay in drastically decreasing CO2 emissions is extremely harmful.
    Calgary is known as the sunniest city in Canada with over 2400 hours of sunshine per year. This is the average sunshine per year over a number of years. I have the distinct impression that this is changing rapidly and that increased humidity and cloud cover will steal the sunshine hours that we need so desperately. Increased humidity and cloud cover is a prediction by our climate scientists and will proceed inexorably as global warming fueled by increasing atmospheric CO2 content proceeds.
    If we are worried by what global warming may do to our climate and environment how much more should we be worried by what it will do to the efficacy of our available technical solutions to this very dire predicament?

    Comment by Joseph Sobry — 8 Dec 2010 @ 1:53 PM

  129. SM #118 — Thanks, lots of food for thought. On California, btw, I was referring to politics not strategy. We may be closer to a tipping point in favor of change — not only in public opinion but also within the business community — than you or I might have thought.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 8 Dec 2010 @ 1:55 PM

  130. #121 eric

    ppm vs. ppb

    Atmospheric methane (CH4) is measured in parts per billion. So when it does break down, it is not adding much CO2.

    The fossil fuel emissions however are the 800 pound gorilla on the block and need more attention. So comparatively speaking, when the CH4 breaks down, it’s not adding that much CO2 to the overall mix.

    I’m a little fuzzy tonight due to a flu bug. If I have this wrong, would someone please correct me.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 8 Dec 2010 @ 1:56 PM

  131. Sheesh, I’m sorry I wrote so much in 118. It was in response, but still overlong.

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 8 Dec 2010 @ 2:16 PM

  132. Here is another process already under way that will make a big difference in 10 years’ time:

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/commentary/neil-reynolds/north-america-the-new-energy-kingdom/article1828896/

    Would you be willing to support the conversion of coal-fired plants to natural gas while the non-fossil energy sources (including recovery of methane from feedlots, sewage, and landfills) are growing? Would you support substantial tax credits to finance the conversions?

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 8 Dec 2010 @ 2:34 PM

  133. According to WUWT, senator David Vitter (R-LA) has filed the “Public Access to Historical Records Act, S. 4015.” WUWT reports that according to Bryan Zumwalt, Legislative Counsel for U.S. Senator David Vitter, “The bill would force NASA to release their original raw historical temperature data and post it online for anyone to see and use.”

    Any comment?

    Comment by tamino — 8 Dec 2010 @ 2:42 PM

  134. First, excellent work tackling this issue. Very topical, and your post has helped to make very clear that parallel strategies are needed for both SLCFs and LLGHGs.

    I have one suggestion to make, and that is that your readers might benefit from being directed further to the NRC report on Climate Stabilization Targets. I found section 2.3 on Short-Lived Radiative Forcing agents extremely useful, in particular the argument that the most appropriate way to think about the impact of measures to reduce SLPFs is in terms of ‘peak trimming’. This section of the Climate Stabilization Report also emphasizes the fallacy of thinking in terms of ‘buying time’ through emission reductions of SLCFs. Figure 2.8 is very effective in conveying the ‘peak trimming’ message. Perhaps a follow-up post would be warranted to make this additional point.

    [Response: A lot of what I wrote about in this post came from the background reading I did in the course of helping to write that section of the NRC report. Thanks for pointing readers in that direction. I will be standing by the NRC poster to answer questions on Thursday at AGU, so if any of you are around, please stop by. These cartoon sketches of the various climate futures need be turned into precise calculations based on simulations, and that's something I hope to get done in the next few months. I do encourage everybody to read the NRC report, and especially the section on Anthropocene Climate. --raypierre]

    I also have a request for clarification of much of paragraph 5 in this post, which I found very confusing. In particular, the statement about “getting the same radiative forcing for everybody upon doubling their concentration” seems to conflict with the very different values provide for doubling CO2 and CH4 at the top of the paragraph. Also, the text lower in the paragraph about the forcing equivalence of CH4 and CO2 and how it changes with concentration is also unclear to me. You state that “the equivalence factor drops further to 0.5.” and then follow that statement with the following sentence “In that sense, methane is, intrinsically speaking, a worse greenhouse gas than CO2″ but if the equivalence were 0.5 then that would make CH4 less effective than CO2 and not a worse GHG (which we know is not the case). Something is not clear here. Could you take another crack at clarifying the concepts you try to describe in this paragraph? Thank you.

    [Response: I was being a bit folksy there, so I could see how somebody new to this subject might be confused. Here's the same thought in more straightforward language. For most greenhouse gases, you get a fixed increment of radiative forcing each time you double the concentration. The increment differs for different greenhouse gases. For methane, you get about 1 watt per square meter each time you double, and for CO2 it's about 4 watts per square meter each time you double (in round numbers). If you start out with just 1 ppm of methane, you still get 1 watt per square meter for doubling, which is fully a quarter of what you get from doubling CO2 (starting from 300 ppm of CO2). However, it only takes 1/300 as many molecules to double methane, since you are starting from a low concentration. If you start from 300 ppm of methane and 300 ppm of CO2, though, you only get 1 watt per square meter from adding 300ppm of methane, whereas you get 4 watts per square meter from adding the same amount of CO2. That would make methane worse as a greenhouse gas than CO2 by a factor of 1/4. In the example I gave in the article, it actually works out to more like 1/2, because it turns out that when you increase methane that much you do start to get some deviations from the rule-of thumb of a watt per square meter for each doubling. (CO2 shows a similar effect when you get to enormous concentrations). -raypierre]

    [Response: Looking this over again, I realize that the source of confusion is actually my use of the word "worse." This is a good lesson in how easy it is to be misunderstood. When I said "worse" greenhouse gas, I meant that at high concentrations methane was not as effective as CO2 as a greenhouse gas, in that you got less radiative forcing for the same number of molecules. What you evidently thought I meant by "worse" was "worse for the climate," in the sense of "more dangerous." That's not what I meant, but I can see that normative words like "worse" are perilous in scientific communication. I'll definitely try to keep that in mind for the future. Thanks for pointing that out. --raypierre]

    Comment by Elizabeth Bush — 8 Dec 2010 @ 2:44 PM

  135. SM #131 — No worries here…appreciate your thoughts.

    Comment by Walter Pearce — 8 Dec 2010 @ 2:54 PM

  136. tamino:

    According to WUWT, senator David Vitter (R-LA) has filed the “Public Access to Historical Records Act, S. 4015.” WUWT reports that according to Bryan Zumwalt, Legislative Counsel for U.S. Senator David Vitter, “The bill would force NASA to release their original raw historical temperature data and post it online for anyone to see and use.”

    Any comment?

    I thought NASA’s GISTemp uses the GHCN data, which is already online, and which among other things allows you to order DVDs of digital scans of the original data sheets in their archives, etc (which is about as raw as data gets)?

    Comment by dhogaza — 8 Dec 2010 @ 3:23 PM

  137. Huh?

    raypierre, you say, “In contrast, about half of CO2 emitted disappears into the ocean fairly quickly, while the other half stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years.”

    There has to be something missing in this statement.

    I ask facetiously, “How do the ocean destined molecules know they must scurry into the depths?”

    As to the basis of this article which would involve the ‘control of methane’, the NYT times article wherein this notion reached our attention should be questioned. The authors of that piece seem to think that by tweeking up natural gas pipelines a bit and, uh well, controlling what coal does, we might have an opportunity to do something. However, a bit of examining of this could have saved the trouble of all this discussion.

    Much of the natural gas industry involves big natural gas wells, but a lot of natural gas is present in the typical oil well. Where electricity is hard to access, it is common to run engines on self produced natural gas to pump up the oil. But in the more common case where electricity is available, the natural gas is simply allowed loose. When the price of natural gas goes up a lot, there is reason for the additional effort and equipment to capture and pipe the natural gas to a central collection system. I suggest it is mythical that pipeline leaks are the main source of natural gas leaking into the atmosphere.

    As to the coal field naivety, it would be good for those interested to look at the open pit coal mine operations of the Powder River Basin.

    I stand ready to be awed by quantified descriptions of landfill operations to collect methane.

    So let’s get back to CO2 going into the oceans. That needs some real attention. If half the CO2 goes into the oceans in a quick time ‘T’ then half the remaining half should go into the oceans at 2xT. This does not sound like ‘thousands of years’. Unless of course, maybe we are talking about varying rates of absorption?

    [Response: The "half and half" soundbite is an oversimplified sound bite meant to provide a sound bite (for those who demand sound bites) that is better than the oversimplifeed (but much more misleading) sound bite that the CO2 lifetime is "centuries." The latter is a meaningless average. If you want an actual understanding of what is going on, you should read Dave Archer's, "The Long Thaw," followed by the section on carbonate/bicarbonate equilibrium in Chapter 8 of my book. The accompanying software to do a simplified version of the calculation of air fraction is available for free under Chapter 8 ChapterScripts in the Planetary Climate Book web site. Susan Solomon's PNAS article on "irreversible" warming also provides a very concise and readable introduction to the subject. The quick (but mathematical) response to your confusion is that you are thinking in a too Markovian (i.e. history independent) way. The "easily accessible" CO2 sinks get used up first, and then you rely on progressively slower processes to take care of the remainder. --raypierre]

    [Response: Another thing to keep in mind is that the "half and half" part of the sound bite is also an approximation, most appropriate up to cumulative emissions of about a trillion tonnes carbon. As one increases the cumulative emissions beyond that, the proportion of emitted CO2 that stays in the air for millennia increases. It is that increase which cancels out the negative curvature of the logarithmic radiative effect of CO2, and leads to the peak warming being approximately linear in cumulative carbon emissions. This property was pointed out nicely in Matt Damon's Nature paper on cumulative carbon, and is discussed at length in the NRC Climate Stabilization Targets report. The calculation of the increase of air fraction with cum. carbon is also included as one of the problems for Chapter 8 of my Planetary Climate Book. --raypierre]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 8 Dec 2010 @ 3:38 PM

  138. Re #133: That’s pretty funny, Tamino. When it comes to science, it’s as if politicians like Vitter are still in diapers… oh wait.

    Comment by Steve Bloom — 8 Dec 2010 @ 4:03 PM

  139. “I ask facetiously, “How do the ocean destined molecules know they must scurry into the depths?”’”

    I think there is a communication issue here: rather than “In contrast, about half of CO2 emitted disappears into the ocean fairly quickly, while the other half stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years”

    I would prefer the phrasing “In contrast, about half of the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations due to a given amount of emissions is reduced on a short timescale (due mainly to ocean uptake), while the other half of the increase lasts for thousands of years”

    It may be subtle, but the CO2 molecules themselves don’t necessarily stay in the atmosphere that long… but the state of the atmosphere stays changed for centuries. As a very rough example, think of two bathtubs linked by underwater channel. Add 1 liter of colored dye to bathtub #1. You’ll see two things: 1) dye spreading slowly between bathtubs. 2) Bathtub #1 will originally increase in volume by 1 liter, but eventually the two bathtubs will reach an equilibrium of 0.5 liters each. Note 1: The rate at which dye exchanges in not directly related to the rate at which the volume changes. Note 2: some percent of the volume increase is permanent.

    -M

    [Response: Scientific communication to a broad audience is a matter of which way and by how many, you expect to be misunderstood. The worst thing is to be not understood at all, and that involves some compromises. Fussing too much about whether we are talking about individual molecules or the anthropogenic CO2 concentration anomaly is pretty pointless in my opinion, because the number of readers who are likely to confuse themselves on this score is a lot less than the number that would be confused by an awkward circumlocution. Fussing about this point is a lot like this: I'm at a bus stop, I say to my buddy, "The Number 173 bus is running late," and he looks puzzled and complains, "Which bus were you talking about? There are all sorts of different vehicles that run this route. Did you mean that the current bus that was slotted to be here right now is somewhere it shouldn't be?" A reasonable person wouldn't get hung up on that. Buses are fungible, just like CO2 molecules, so the natural intuitive thing is to refer to fungible things by a mass noun, as being equivalent. --raypierre]

    Comment by M — 8 Dec 2010 @ 5:24 PM

  140. RC,

    So its a trillion tonne carbon race and not a CO2 one ?

    Comment by pete best — 8 Dec 2010 @ 5:35 PM

  141. Re 132 ScepticMatthew.

    “Natural Gas vs Coal: Undoubtedly, high efficiency natural gas-fired power stations can produce up to 70% lower greenhouse gas emissions than existing brown coal-fired generators, and less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of the latest technology black coal-fired power stations. Notice the distinction between black and brown coal, however, exactly how much less CO2 also depends upon the type of gas-fired station”.
    Quoted from http://www.global-greenhouse-warming.com/gas-vs-coal.html

    So yes I would love to see all coal fired power plants converted to natural gas in North America and everywhere else for that matter.
    It was largely conversion to natural gas that allowed Britain to meet Kyoto agreement requirements.
    This conversion may allow our friends in the USA to meet the Kyoto protocol requirements without signing the agreement and for at least my province Alberta meeting the Kyoto requirements, Canada having signed the agreement and not lived up to it.
    I live in Alberta where the tarsand companies burn beatiful natural gas to recover oil from the dirty tarsands while other companies simultaneously burn dirty coal to produce electricity. Talk about irony or is it tragedy? My guess would be stupidity.

    Comment by Joseph Sobry — 8 Dec 2010 @ 5:50 PM

  142. 137, Jim Bullis: I stand ready to be awed by quantified descriptions of landfill operations to collect methane.

    chuckle

    Landfills, feedlots, meat processing plants, municipal solid waste, sewage: I think I read that collectively these might produce more than 5% of America’s energy budget. Not much chance of awe. Still, that’s 5% of a large amount, and it’s all domestic.

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 8 Dec 2010 @ 6:07 PM

  143. 142 SM

    That 5% you assert is sort of quantitative. The missing numbers are how much this would cost per kWhr. I am not a snob, so anything that makes it as a sound financial proposition, great. But let’s not skip the burden on the public like the recycling folks do it (A study I read long ago said that sorting of cans and paper etc. was cost free since it was left to the homeowner – I am sure they do not count storage space, containers, etc. and I wonder if they count the extra trucks needed for pickup.).

    Coal is also domestic, by the way.

    Feedlots? Have you ever seen a feed lot? Meat processing? This sounds like a pleasant place to collect stray bits of methane. Chuckle.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 8 Dec 2010 @ 7:06 PM

  144. In #137 Jim asks:

    So let’s get back to CO2 going into the oceans. That needs some real attention. If half the CO2 goes into the oceans in a quick time ‘T’ then half the remaining half should go into the oceans at 2xT. This does not sound like ‘thousands of years’. Unless of course, maybe we are talking about varying rates of absorption?

    That might be almost, kind of, right if there were a chemical reaction occurring to bind the carbon, and there were plenty of the reactants in the ocean.

    That’s not what’s happening. The CO2 is mainly dissolving into the ocean, increasing the amount present there and lowering the pH in the process. It’s a partial pressure thing.

    The rate of absorption should be closely proportional to the difference in partial pressures between the air and water.

    Comment by David Miller — 8 Dec 2010 @ 7:54 PM

  145. 141 Joseph Sobry

    You bring interesting things to the discussion.

    It does not matter what the color of coal is; no energy-significant amount of carbon is left unburned in even the worst power plant, and those putting out unburned carbon should be hunted down by the EPA without mercy.

    The color of coal is somewhat confusing in the matter. The specific coal from Powder River Basin is said to be low in sulphur but also low in heat value. It looks fairly black. No matter, a BTU of heat comes from coal depending on how much carbon is there to burn. And thermal efficiency varies consistently with your statement about ‘existing’ versus ‘latest technology’ in coal systems. So it is the difference in CO2 emitted per BTU produced and the relative thermal efficiency that matters.

    Natural gas is important as a fuel, but it should be used in ways that it is most effective. Burning it up in central power plants that use two to three times as much energy in heat as the energy produced in electricity form is unconscionable. In complete cogeneration systems, no heat is thrown away, since the heat that has to be thrown away by the heat engine is subsequently used for other purposes. Natural gas is distributed in such a way that this could be done.

    Beyond the direct energy considerations, it should also be noted that a large increase in use of natural gas should be expected to cause a large increase in price of that fuel. Thus, using it for power production or for driving trucks is likely to be a very bad thing, since it will rapidly reduce the so-called reserves presently estimated.

    One should look carefully at the UK achievement in reducing CO2 by using natural gas. Yes, check the reserves now and you will find they are nearly gone. The great North Sea boon in natural gas made for a clean England, but it seems likely to soon turn out to be a foolish England.

    Not to worry, we in the USA are fully capable of stepping up and matching their foolishness, blow for blow.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 8 Dec 2010 @ 8:30 PM

  146. 143, Jim Bullis: The missing numbers are how much this would cost per kWhr

    True enough. Municipalities that are adopting the technologies reduce their purchases of electricity and sell their surpluses. The technology is spreading.

    It’s the decaying offal from the meat packing plants that generates the methane and other pollution. Like feedlots, they are places you don’t want to live near.

    Comment by ScepticMatthew — 8 Dec 2010 @ 9:09 PM

  147. You’re absolutely correct on this “buying time” issue. Not that we shouldn’t be reducing BC as it is. It simply sidesteps the underlying problem. And that is the anthropogenic production of GHG’s.

    So now that a study by Lahouari Bounoua concludes that the increase in vegetation growth due to a doubling of CO2 will have a cooling response of -0.3 degrees Celsius (C) (-0.5 Fahrenheit (F)) globally and -0.6 degrees C (-1.1 F) over land, do we all run out and plant a tree. Well sure it will help a little, but there is still that nagging underlying problem that either won’t go away or as some feel — can’t go away.

    Comment by Ron Crouch — 8 Dec 2010 @ 9:55 PM

  148. > coal
    By the way, one of the little side effects of burning vast amounts of coal is destroying an enormous fossil record.

    I’ve always wondered if that could have something to do with the overlap between people who vehemently disbelieve in evolution, and people who are most eager to keep burning coal.

    Take a look, it’s pretty amazing how aggressively people argue against the validity of the fossil record found in coal: http://www.google.com/search?q=coal+bed+fossils+plants+animals+insects

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Dec 2010 @ 10:30 PM

  149. Thanks for this posting. I have long had the opinion that the Kyoto protocol, by including methane and forest sinks, has introduced major complexity and uncertainty into dealing with global warming, and has allowed countries and corporations to manipulate the figures which they use to justify their actions/inactions.

    What you are writing here about methane / CO2 seems to justify my opinion about the relative unimportance of methane, and perhaps indirectly in regard to forest sinks, as you point out so well that the only way we’re really going to deal effectively with global warming is to rapidly phase out our use of fossil fuels.

    Are there atmospheric scientists around of sufficient stature to persuade the world that Kyoto 2, or whatever replaces it, should for the moment forget about methane and forest sinks, and concentrate entirely on CO2? Do you think this could or is likely to happen?

    Comment by John Monro — 8 Dec 2010 @ 11:29 PM

  150. Sorry if this has already been asked… I notice the first graph (temperature evolution for different total CO2 emissions) has small bumps on top of the overall pattern; the smaller warmings have more delayed bumps; the largest warming doesn’t have the bump (perhaps it blends into the larger earlier warming?), and for the smallest warming, after some cooling, their is a small sharp cooling with some rebound. One thing I can think of which might cause that behavior is albedo feedback from an ice sheet, where the feedback is stronger as the ice sheet gets thin in the center so that a smaller mass loss causes a larger areal decline (or maybe that’s not what would happen?) … but I wouldn’t have thought it would be that distinct and sharp, so I’m wondering what it is.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 8 Dec 2010 @ 11:46 PM

  151. Andy Revkin is hassling the word “unequivocal” in the IPCC report in 2 dotearth articles:
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/a-draft-shared-vision-on-climate-with-a-glitch/
    and
    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/08/climate-science-survives-climate-diplomacy/

    Mr. Revkin claims that the first use of “unequivocal” was incorrect. My interpretation is that Mr. Revkin’s correction allows for more time wasting. The attack of the denialists is not limited to proposing time-wasting side activities like methane reduction. “Buying time” for them is buying more time in which they can profit from selling coal.

    How should the IPCC wording be decided? It seems to me that the IPCC reports should be worded in such a way as to require immediate action. I am assuming that our survival as a species is everybody’s #1 value. Therefore, the original wording was better. What do you think?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 9 Dec 2010 @ 12:46 AM

  152. “The problem is that, once you hit that threshold with CO2, you are stuck there essentially forever, since you can’t “unemit” the CO2 with any known scalable economically feasible technology.”

    I beg to differ, at least in part:

    http://www.ifoam.org/growing_organic/1_arguments_for_oa/environmental_benefits/pdfs/Rodale_Research_Paper_Regenerative_Agriculture.pdf

    terra preta and re-foresting, particularly edible forests/food forests will also help a great deal. there are other bits we can also do. If we also drop emissions as much as is possible to do, which is a lot, but requires a new paradigm, we can get to negative.

    Comment by ccpo — 9 Dec 2010 @ 1:55 AM

  153. A fractal view of CO2:
    http://www.fractalnomics.com/2010/11/breaking-carbon-climate-spell-with.html

    [Response: Good luck with it.--Jim]

    Comment by Blair Macdonald — 9 Dec 2010 @ 2:08 AM

  154. Dhogaza #136, you don’t get it do you. The good senator wants the RAW data… RAW. Get it now? The measurements without the Stevenson screen…

    (I am reminded of the story, possibly apocryphal, of a Finnish environment minister visiting a sewage treatment plant, who upon hearing that the pH of the affluent was around 7, insisted that that was too much and that an effort should be made to bring it further down…)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 9 Dec 2010 @ 2:19 AM

  155. GlenFergus says:
    7 December 2010 at 2:42 AM

    this perfect storm is just getting more and more perfect

    Seem so RP. If there is some (slight) hope, perhaps it lies in what Aleklett’s group and others are saying about resource limits. E.g., in the first graph above, is there 4000 Gt of realistically extractable carbon to emit? They appear to think not.

    G.

    Aleklett is wedded to his outcome. I have been round and round with him on this and he never budges regardless of the logical explanations, etc. It is his stated policy and intent to ignore any science that is post-IPCC IV. Talk about a massive cherry pick!

    The result of this intentional and self-inflicted blinkering is that he cannot properly address the potential outcomes of additional emissions… because he simply dismisses that they matter.

    http://aleklett.wordpress.com/2009/12/07/%E2%80%9Dthe-un%E2%80%99s-future-scenarios-for-climate-are-pure-fantasy%E2%80%9D-%E2%80%9Dfns-framtidsscenarier-for-klimatet-ar-rena-fantasier%E2%80%9D/#comments

    But let us first look at Kjell’s assumptions. Well, that’s the problem, they’re assumptions. He treats his group’s estimates like they are facts when they are not, then draws the conclusion from his fallacious assumptions. To wit, he says we have a lot less coal than most think, so the worst case scenarios can’t happen. OK, let’s say he’s right. The problem with this is we can be sure we have about the same amount of fossil fuels yet to burn as we have burned, even if we don’t have as much as some think. We have raised CO2 by 105 ppm and will raise it another 105 if we burn the rest. That takes us to 500 ppm. But, hey, don’t worry! All post-IPCC IV climate science doesn’t exist until it is published in IPCC V!

    Even worse, he simply pretends that 3C is the official, not-to-be-discussed reality when it comes to sensitivity even as articles published even here place it as high as 4.5C or more, if memory serves.

    Research such as that on methane emissions and that showing Greenland possibly can melt away at as low as 400 ppm are completely ignored. 350? Not in IPCC IV. Arctic sea ice, thermokarst lakes, methane emissions, Antarctic melt… all fantasy until IPCC V.

    I am one who understands and accepts the implications of Peak Oil. Aleklett is the worst kind of Peakist because he is too devoted to PO and seems to need it to be THE issue of the day. He does not understand or care about tipping points in the climate system and does not understand the massive risk being taken in allowing CO2 500+. His failure to understand tipping points prevents him from understanding that the effective time period for dealing with them is before they have happened. Given the observations of climate we have all around us, the probability we have passed or are about to pass tipping points is far too high, yet Aleklett fails to see that if this is so, then AGW and PO are actually happening at the same time and must be dealt with now.

    Comment by ccpo — 9 Dec 2010 @ 3:16 AM

  156. re 125
    “This is a very nice example of a useful ‘visual’ to use when explaining mixing in the atmosphere”

    Whilst observing a CO2 exhibit @Bristol (uk)(warm tank with dry Ice dropped into it) the vaporised CO2 forms jets and wave fronts that displace the surrounding volume of air until mixed. (causing vectored motion of the body)By observing METEOSAT Vapor bands and other satellite images of volcanoes, gas fields and biomass sites this effect is demonstrably visible.

    When combined with the Infra-red bands of the satellite it seems these displacements exist in the infra-red wavelengths as well (have images), indicating that at the source of an oil fire,volcano, biomass burning a “front” will spread out from a point. Normal cloud formations are apparently excluded from these regions in some case for quite a considerable time (weeks). From my own observations low level continuous release by higher altitude sources such as aircraft and high altitude sites this effect appears longer lasting (greenland).

    So the response “Location of soot and other aerosol emissions is important, but CO2 can be considered (for purposes of radiative forcing) well mixed on account of its long lifetime. It doesn’t matter where the CO2 is emitted.”

    I find curious, as the volume of expanding gases from a volcano/gas field takes weeks to “mix” to a uniform level, meanwhile it has a more definable effect that appears ignored(?) Energetic sources of CO2 injected to higher altitude (gas flares, aircraft, volcanoes) are further away from carbon sinks and lower dynamic mixing effects so surely longer lasting and therefore cause more longterm effects? If CO2 can exist for approx 100yrs in the higher atmosphere a small level there can cause more warming than a large level at sea level surely?

    Appreciate informed engagement

    Comment by David Painter — 9 Dec 2010 @ 5:04 AM

  157. #153 Blair Macdonald
    http://web.mac.com/biophysicalecon/iWeb/Site/Welcome.html
    website of the Biophysical Economics Workgroup, a community that seeks to advance a new paradigm in understanding economic systems.

    Grounded in the real world.

    Comment by Hugh Laue — 9 Dec 2010 @ 5:36 AM

  158. The death of the coal industry is inevitable, it should be put out of it’s misery before it takes the rest of us along for the ride. A global moritorium on new coal plants is not unreasonable, it’s essential.

    Comment by Alan of Oz — 9 Dec 2010 @ 7:16 AM

  159. Hank@148,
    I used to live in coal country, and my experience of the miners tended toward the opposite coecnclusion. A lot of miners became fascinated with the fossils and some of them as a result rejected Young-Earth Creationism (though not religion or even fundamentalism, necessarily). A lot of these guys were pretty smart–they’d just never had any education.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 9 Dec 2010 @ 7:48 AM

  160. Ed #151, my five cents is that Revkin did a good job spotting that, and spared us at least one round of time-wasting “Cancungate” idiocy down the road.

    Comment by CM — 9 Dec 2010 @ 7:49 AM

  161. raypierre,

    I would like to offer a criticism on this topic:

    “Expectations for the outcome of the Cancun climate talks seem to be running low, and the suggestion has emerged that maybe we should forget about controlling CO2 emissions for now, and instead do something with short lived climate forcing agents like methane or soot.”

    The main problem with the idea of “controlling CO2 emissions” is economic reality. Nations are not going to go along with the idea of controlling emissions because they are at competition with each other in cut throat markets, and energy production is an essential tool for competition. A nation would be quite worried about getting cut out of the market place if it went along with any kind of ‘controlling CO2′ emissions plan.

    In addition, the idea of allowing developing nations an exemption for CO2 emissions is simply a mistake. Today, we live in a world of globalization where businesses can produce in any nation. Investment, production, and CO2 emissions would only change locations instead of being reduced. But at the same time, developing nations are not going to go along with CO2 caps because they want to become developed and productive. All in all, the idea of controlling CO2 emissions is a failed strategy.

    [There is a lot of low-hanging fruit in power plant energy efficiency, and in end-user energy efficiency. --raypierre]

    Although becoming more energy efficient could be desirable from an economic standpoint, I don’t see how it could help with CO2 reduction. More efficiency would almost certainly lower prices, and the consumption of energy would change.

    Instead of trying to ‘control CO2 emissions’, the world needs to focus on replacing the technology that requires CO2. A reduction of CO2 emissions requires innovation instead of stagnation. If funding of research is a problem, the negotiations at the climate talks should center on funding instead of controlling emissions. Nations may be more willing to write a check.

    Comment by E.L. — 9 Dec 2010 @ 8:19 AM

  162. “A reasonable person wouldn’t get hung up on that. ”

    Ah. Yes. Perhaps my problem is I spend too much time dealing with what unreasonable people think, and so am making my own language excessively complicated in order to preemptively defend it from those people…

    Comment by M — 9 Dec 2010 @ 9:25 AM

  163. Edward Greisch 151
    CM 160

    OK. So IMAO, Revkin doth protest too much.

    How it reads to me:

    Very likely. As in, “Yes, yes, my little dears, if you listen very carefully you will very likely hear the prancing of little hooves on the rooftop Christmas eve.”

    Now maybe “unequivocal” is too strong for timid scientists who grew up having the pocket protectors kicked out them at recess. So how about “most probable”? If not that, what wording would most accurately reflect what we can say about physical reality over the babbling of surreal politics? That’s really the issue right?

    So narrate already.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 9 Dec 2010 @ 9:42 AM

  164. Shorter Blair Macdonald:

    An acid trip view of CO2

    Comment by Didactylos — 9 Dec 2010 @ 11:06 AM

  165. EL, to paraphrase Ray Ladbury before, what do you think happens when economic reality meets up with physical reality?

    Although becoming more energy efficient could be desirable from an economic standpoint, I don’t see how it could help with CO2 reduction. More efficiency would almost certainly lower prices, and the consumption of energy would change.

    Jevons paradox isn’t an immutable law of nature you know..

    This is just weird:

    Instead of trying to ‘control CO2 emissions’, the world needs to focus on replacing the technology that requires CO2.

    How, exactly, do you propose to control CO2 without replacing the technology that require it or increasing efficiency?

    Comment by David Miller — 9 Dec 2010 @ 11:58 AM

  166. Gavin, I fully support moving for environmental controls of methane (fossil or biogenic) immediately while we continue to build the case for carbon dioxide reduction.

    I’ve been designing & building anaerobic digesters (methane producing wastewater plants) for over 25 years, and only recently has this technology come into widespread usage. Cargill makes extensive use of these, and my own project for a ConAgra potato plant has won numerous awards including Sierra Club & Trout Unlimited recognition.

    EPA is adding pressure on US power generators via the “Prevention of Significant Deterioration” and tailoring approach, so we will see progress towards CO2 reduction from this understated driver. Utilities will switch to natural gas & improve efficiency, which will help a great deal. I’m doing work in this area presently.

    Sadly, we have virtually no control over China, India etc., so a massive push by the USA into carbon dioxide reduction will hurt us economically, and this is just not politically viable. We would be better off to gather “low hanging fruit” with tax incentives & credits, improve the natural gas pipeline/leakage problems as has been mentioned, and do other biogenic methane mitigation steps.

    In the meantime, new technologies will come to the forefront, and the US government should incentivize the development of these. I have one patent pending that might be part of the puzzle, but getting the capital to develop this stuff is amazingly difficult.

    Comment by CRS, Dr.P.H. — 9 Dec 2010 @ 12:52 PM

  167. I regret not joining the discussion earlier, and sorry for the length of this post, but as one of the few participants in the climate debate focussed on the contribution of halocarbons to AGW emissions, I’m both puzzled and frustrated at the lack of attention thus far on the role of CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs in driving climate change. The combined contribution of these gases to radiative forcing is greater than NO2, and second only to methane in importance, after CO2, yet they seem to have only a tiny amount of attention in the policy debate, yet they are among the easiest and cheapest sources of emissions to address. The NYT op ed at least did something to address this, and along with the Consumer Goods Forum announcement on day 1 of Cancun that the global fast mooching consumer goods industry want to be HFC free by 2015 (or thereabouts…) the early signs that we might see some action on F-gases were looking good.

    Before going any further, I have to confess that I have been guilty of repeating the line that efforts to reduce F-gas emissions will achieve fast acting climate change mitigation, that would help to “buy time” to address the much more difficult, expensive and seemingly intractable problem of reducing CO2 emissions. I’m extremely grateful to Ray Pierre for so lucidly exposing this as attention grabbing spin, that is not supported by the science. I promise not to do this again, and to draw this to the attention of others, though in my defence I’ve never urged action on F-gases as a substitute for CO2 emission reductions, and have never doubted that this is the main game – but surely the task we face is so daunting that we need to use all the tools at our disposal, and the 7% increase in HFCs (10% for HFC134a) recently reported by the Scientific Assessment Panel of the Montreal Protocol ought to be cause for great alarm?

    With the greatest respect, doesn’t the seriousness of the climate threat posed by the ‘super greenhouse gases’ deserve more discussion than the single paragraph: “There are a few greenhouse gases other than CO2 that have lifetimes sufficiently long to lend some urgency to their control. That would include HFC23 with a lifetime of 260 years, CFC13 with a lifetime of 640 years and SF6 with a practically unlimited lifetime. Most of the rest are more like methane than they are like CO2 (e.g HFC31 at 5 years)”. (For instance, a bitter debate rages over the mis-spent CDM funding for HFC23 destruction, a by-product of production of HCFC22, and environmental advocates could really do with some help from those in the scientific community who understand what a big deal this is…)

    As the ESPERE article linked to states, HCFCs “still act as strong greenhouse gases in the troposphere and so can be regarded as a compromise but not the best solution to the problem” – and some increasingly popular blends (eg R-404a and R-410a) of HFCs have even higher GWP than the HCFC R-22 now being subjected to an accelerated phase out due to the recognition of this fact by the Parties to the Montreal Protocol (btw – the GWP values give in this article are now outdated, and have been significantly increased by AR4, and the use of 100 yr GWP in most cases significantly understates the climate impact of these gases, the 20 year figure being a much more realistic measure, but this is another issue!).

    Tragically, the HCFC/HFC compromise delivered by the Montreal Protocol to address CFCs in the 1990s was at the time largely unnecessary, and today is completely so – natural refrigerants, including ammonia, CO2 and hydrocarbons, along with other innovative solutions, are certainly up to the task of meeting the world’s refrigeration and air-conditioning needs, although this is much more accepted in Europe than in the US (and we need all the help we can get to change this very unfortunate situation…).

    Surely the most significant point is that even for relatively short lived gases like HCFC22 or HFC134a, every kg we release to atmosphere means we would have to remove (depending on how you measure it) an additional 1.4 to 5 tonnes of CO2 in the next decade or two, if we wanted to compensate for the radiative forcing impact of these Potent Industrial Greenhouse Gases (PIGGs – my favourite term for them).

    So accepting it’s incorrect to claim that F-gas emission reductions “buy time”, is it not true that reversing the rapid growth of HCFCs and particularly HFCs could save us from a lot of completely unnecessary “heavy lifting” (or some other more appropriate metaphor) in future, in order to keep average temperatures below any particular threshold (not to mention the huge banks of much more potent CFCs, and HCFCs leaking from ‘banks’ of existing equipment around the world, while endless and largely ignored debate takes place in Montreal Protocol meetings, and the fluorolobby pretends their pathetic existing recovery and destruction schemes are working…)?

    Credible projections of HFC atmospheric concentrations over coming decades that assume developing countries follow the high GWP HFC path we have been led down by the fluorolobby indicate alarming increases in their contribution to radiative forcing – from less than 2% now (from nothing 20 years ago!) to upwards of 9%, 20% or 45% depending, inter alia, on assumptions about the success of CO2 mitigation.

    In the next few years we could choose to go down a genuinely climate friendly natural refrigerant solutions path, but the chances of success in this up till now obscure backwater of the global warming debate would be vastly improved by stronger calls for action on F-gases from the scientific community.

    Comment by Brent Hoare — 9 Dec 2010 @ 1:41 PM

  168. PS – in response to the comments above, use of natural refrigerants is one of the best ways to improve energy efficiency in the RAC sector, and there are really exciting innovations occurring in the solar cooling field, for both refrigeration and air conditioning. Already there are commercially available AC systems running on solar panels that provide free hot water too, and competing products are expected to come to market next year.

    Comment by Brent Hoare — 9 Dec 2010 @ 1:49 PM

  169. “The missing numbers are how much this would cost per kWhr.”

    http://www.wef.org/About/StoryPage_nbp.aspx?story_id=152716156
    “Starting next month, the plant will produce 3 megawatts of electricity. One megawatt is enough to power 5,000 homes as a continuous power source.
    The plant captures methane produced by decomposing garbage buried at the landfill. Generators then convert the gas into useable electricity.
    The electricity is fed into the power grid and sold to interested customers, Loehr said. ”
    Charleston has a population of ~50,000, and ~22,000 households, so this plant will provide ~20% of their electricity[1]. According to news reports, it cost ~$6 million, or about $1200 per household. TARP is $700 billion; US population is 330 million, in 127 million households, so TARP is ~$5500 per household.
    This plant will generate >$600,000 worth of electricity per year if sold at a wholesale rate of 2.5 cents per kWh, or a 10% return on the investment. The actual financials may or may not be released subsequent to a FOIA request to the WV Public Service Commission.

    [1] There is a bookkeeping myth that the electricity from this plant will only be sold wholesale to industrial consumers, so they don’t have to go through a bunch of public utility paperwork about regulated consumer electric rates. They will be pumping their electrons through the same pipes (existing utility transmission line infrastructure) that supply everybody – wholesale, retail, industrial, consumer, government, etc.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 9 Dec 2010 @ 1:58 PM

  170. FYI – I will be at AGU. If anyone wants to meet you can reach me via my contact form and I will send you my mobile #.

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/contact-info

    I’ll be on the road for the next three days and arrive in SF on Sunday. I will also have a poster in Moscone south on Thursday.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 9 Dec 2010 @ 2:52 PM

  171. BTW – If anyone needs a poster service, I found one in Redwood City. 48″ x 72″ for $120 and free delivery to your hotel or Moscone Center. I think he said he can turn it around in 24 hours also.

    http://www.biotech-productions.com/

    I have not used the service before so I can’t say much else. But since I’m a bit behind this week, if it works, it will prove to be a wonderful thing.

    Especially since the airline I’m flying told me it would cost an arm and a leg to take a poster on the plane (size makes it extra luggage).

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 9 Dec 2010 @ 3:10 PM

  172. David Miller: EL, to paraphrase Ray Ladbury before, what do you think happens when economic reality meets up with physical reality?

    Markets will make adjustments as they do during boom bust cycles.

    David Miller: Jevons paradox isn’t an immutable law of nature you know..

    Honestly, I’ve never heard of Jevon’s paradox until I read your comment. I’m surprised that someone even considers it paradoxical. I think it makes perfect sense.

    David Miller: How, exactly, do you propose to control CO2 without replacing the technology that require it or increasing efficiency?

    Perhaps you should re-read my comment. I said the focus should be on replacing the technology instead of trying to make it clean or controlling emissions.

    Comment by E.L. — 9 Dec 2010 @ 3:12 PM

  173. EL 161: The main problem with the idea of “controlling CO2 emissions” is economic reality. Nations are not going to go along with the idea of controlling emissions because they are at competition with each other in cut throat markets, and energy production is an essential tool for competition. A nation would be quite worried about getting cut out of the market place if it went along with any kind of ‘controlling CO2′ emissions plan.

    BPL: Then we’re all dead.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 9 Dec 2010 @ 3:19 PM

  174. Ray – this is an excellent post and very helpful and timely. I would like to point out that there is another benefit for reducing SLCFs, using the example of BC in the Arctic – by reducing the overall positive forcing as well as the albedo effect, reduction of BC could have tangible positive short term effects on Artic climate. For example, perhaps more multi-year sea ice would survive over the summer melt season if BC were reduced. In this case, CO2 forcing might have a somewhat less severe effect on sea ice. This doesn’t buy time in the sense of limiting the CO2-induced peak warming and its duration, but it holds out the possibility of somewhat lessening the immediate damage to the Arctic while efforts to stabalize long-lived GHGs are undertaken.

    Comment by David — 9 Dec 2010 @ 5:36 PM

  175. 168 Brian Dodge

    There are still some missing numbers.

    Up front costs to build stuff are not free money. Operation costs are not free money.

    And any electricity put on the grid is the same as any other and merges according to the impedances of the electric circuits involved. Anything paid for electricity is a result of complex market price determination and basically, the cost is whatever it costs to fill the loads at any given time. It is conceivable that the methane could be stored and used to power peaking generators, and in that circumstance the feed in tarif should be quite high.

    Do you suppose the municipal folks have figured that out?

    But the other missing numbers are how much it actually costs to run such a thing, and would 5000 homes be a meaningful part of the community of homes needed to run such a plant. What do you suppose? 1% or so?

    If all the numbers make sense, have at it. But please stay out of the way of real actions. And try not to tell people that every little bit counts, in some important way.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 9 Dec 2010 @ 5:38 PM

  176. I thought the thread was methane and our host, raypierre, told us it was not worth bothering about.

    Someone here quoted that same host as saying something about low hanging fruit. Who can argue with that, except that what seems to be low hanging often turns out to be not so low when costs get correctly considered. Again, if it makes sense, have at it.

    But you need big thinking such as I offer if you really care about fixing the problem. Massive standing forests will indeed take up CO2 and hold it as organic compounds, yes, permanently if correctly managed. And the local critics went wild if this fell short of capturing the entire CO2 output of coal fired power plants. Cost is of course an issue in this, but it does seem that there is a potential enterprise value in the whole thing that could be reasonable.

    [Response: Your host emphasizes that methane needs to be dealt with eventually, especially given the likely growth of agricultural sources. The point is that given a choice of which to do first, it's CO2 that wins hands down. By the way, your host will soon need to bow out of active responses, in order to make time to get ready for AGU, and then Christmas preparations. I hope you enjoy continuing the discussion, and I really appreciate it that everybody has stayed pretty much on-topic. --raypierre]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 9 Dec 2010 @ 5:51 PM

  177. raypierre at 137

    Thanks for responding. I failed however, to adequately state my questions.

    As I continue to distill the references, as I have been doing for some time, it seems that the heart of the matter is how fast CO2 can go into the deep ocean.

    It seems that everyone accepts the Revelle result (Scripps 1960s) that the deep ocean water is extremely old, so the overturning circulation is exceedingly slow. Thus, even though at great pressure and low temperature, CO2 would be held in solution in massive quantities, it will not get there in a meaningful time frame.

    I read a description of the Revelle method and am amazed at the credibility given this technique. It assumes that a sample of water is a capturing of a fixed collection of molecules that has hung together for thousands of years, and has not been corrupted in all that time by sources of carbon dioxide other than the atmosphere, some of which could be via the consumption of oil by bacteria which would drastically bias the results toward the very old end of the scale.

    There also seems to be consensus that overturning currents operate only near the poles, and yet this ignores a variety of mechanisms that might operate slowly, but would not require the delivery system of the thermohaline circulation into the deep ocean. Notice, I leave the term deep with inexact definition, and indeed my question is inexact having the intention of exploring the subject, not pronouncing anything with finality.

    I particularly point to the seasonal variations over much of the ocean surface that function somewhat like the vertical pumping that is acknowledged at the poles. It is a fact* that there is an alternating condition from a vertically mixed layer and a pronounced thermocline. The processing driving this being both sun heating and wind cooling both cause increase in salinity. As soon as the vertical mixed layer sets in, the more saline upper water should mix downwards, just as it happens at the poles. The point is of course that this vertical mixing would seem to cause both heat and CO2 to move downwards, being carried by the more saline water.

    I hasten to add that this process would not negate the threat of global warming, but it could impact the rate, and as you say, the negative curvature having been canceled, this might return some of that negative curvature.

    *Though it has been received here with scorn by some, I have no hesitation about relying on the accumulated data of the underwater sound world to assert that this is the case.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 9 Dec 2010 @ 6:19 PM

  178. 1) A large component of human wealth is:
    work = energy * efficiency

    as per Ayres. Given that we already ~peak Oil, and will likely see peak gas this century, and maybe Peak Coal, the total world use of fossil energy will decrease, even ignoring the climate issues. See p.34 of the Ayres piece for modeled US GDP trajectories under different efficiency assumptions.

    Pick a given level of total emissions, as per Ray. One can assume that most recoverable oil&gas will get used, with the big variable being how much coal stays in the ground.

    Now, what’s the temporal distribution of those emissions?
    The two extremes are:

    1) Use it up as fast as possible (“Drill here, drill now”) and do everything possible to avoid investing that energy into efficiency improvements and non-fossil energy infrastructure.

    2) View the remaining fossil fuel (within the total budget) to be a precious resource to be carefully used, so that when its usage as fuel falls to some relatively small level, the replacement infrastructure gives a smooth transition, not a sudden crash. Given the longevity of many energy systems, and the large capital requirements of some, you have to start early when you have the money.

    There is of course a close analog in business: you depend on selling product X, but it is guaranteed that the volume of X will start decreasing. At some point, you had better be investing profits from X into developing new product Y, because if you wait until X sales really start dropping, it may be too late and you go out of business.

    Comment by John Mashey — 9 Dec 2010 @ 6:39 PM

  179. I agree essentially with what you’re saying Jim (@145). Except that perhaps you did not read the GlobeandMail/Steve Forbes article pointed to by ScepticMatthew. If indeed we will be able to produce a lot more natural gas then we should start shutting down the coal plants now, the dirtiest ones first, and convert to natural gas. As I understand it this is a zero sum game, if the price of NG stays within certain bounds. In fact the utilities may make a profit after the conversion because of it.
    In view of the fact that the (Forbes) article brags about how much more natural gas will be produced then the natural gas price will not be affected by converting from coal to natural gas.
    The other reason I would back up natural gas electrical generation is that, as you point out, it lends itself quite well to co-generation (i.e. get every last calorie out of the stuff and use it wisely) AND it is also easier to do CO2 sequestration per energy unit produced. In addition natural gas is a generally cleaner fuel and cleans up easily at the source even when it has excessive sulfur or CO2 or other contaminants. Thus conversion of coal plants to natural gas will improve public health because we will no longer exhaust some rather dangerous and well documented pollutants that come from ‘clean coal’.
    Ultimately I would like to see all fossil fuel based electrical generation disappear but at my age that is now a pipe dream.
    None of this is really new. If I remember correctly the first and most reasonable request from Mr. Jim Hansen was “No new coal plants without CO2 sequestration”. Since that request was made, I shudder to think how many new ones have been built without any CO2 sequestration. The only half serious attempt I am aware of is the coal pilot plant (30MW) at Schwartze Peipe (literally Black Pipe because of it’s awfully black exhaust smoke stacks) in Germany run by Vattenfall a Swedish utility. But then they are burning very brown and very dirty coal. Even there, the rest of that plant several hundred megawatts worth is still spewing out their awful stuff through their Schwarze Peipe. Convert the whole thing to natural gas, I say.

    Comment by Joseph Sobry — 9 Dec 2010 @ 7:41 PM

  180. This whole analysis depends on the claim that carbon capture from air is not feasible and will not be for 1000′s of years.

    There is already evidence that it is possible with easily foreseeable technology:

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/01/co2-capture-from-air-for-fuel-or.html
    http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/proceedings/01/carbon_seq/7b1.pdf

    In order for your claims about future temp to be correct, you need to make the extraordinary claim that not only is Co2 capture from air not possible in large amounts, but this will remain the case for thousands of year, in spite of technological advancement!

    A more accurate assessment of the trade-offs would look at the impacts of this technology. For example in a technologically advanced world it is entirely possible that we will take more Co2 out the air per year than we currently put in.

    [Response: I think intensive research on air capture is justified, and also that even in the best of all possible worlds, air capture will be needed if we are to hope to get rid of the last one or two gigatonnes (C) of annual emissions. But it is foolhardy to bet at present that air capture will become feasible in time to take care of the problem. If you were betting on controlled fusion solving the energy problem, as many were doing fifty years ago, you would have lost big time. A thousand years is a long time for technology to develop, but it also provides a long time for bad stuff to happen, sociopolitically as well as in the climate system. --raypierre]

    Comment by Russell — 9 Dec 2010 @ 9:32 PM

  181. 180 Russel

    Forests capture CO2 from air as do oceans.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 9 Dec 2010 @ 9:58 PM

  182. 179 Joseph Sobry

    There is a dilemma in the idea that natural gas can be produced in such volumes that it will not affect the price of natural gas if we use a lot of it. The dilemma is that the amount of natural gas that can be produced depends in the first instance on the market price of that stuff.

    Natural gas reserve estimates are based (by definition) on current market conditions. Thus, when the price was $8 per MMBTU it was worthwhile to spend a lot for equipment and processes to search for and extract that stuff. All of a sudden, there appeared a great abundance. Now that natural gas has fallen to around $4 (last month) half of the rigs were taken off the task of natural gas exploration and put on other jobs. Also, reserve estimates are circular, meaning that the reserves are based on the actual production, but paradoxically, actual production also reduces reserves, so there is some reason to mistrust these estimates. You also might note that a natural gas corporation has a stock price which is directly affected by reserve estimates.

    I suspect that market development efforts were directed at getting us to use as much natural gas as possible, and this might have kept the price up, but marketing did not work the needed magic.

    And by the way, other than ever improving seismic technology, the so called new technology for natural gas exploration is not that new. As near as I can tell it is simply using more harsh chemicals and yet higher fracking pressures, and these are fundamentally problematic activities.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 9 Dec 2010 @ 10:14 PM

  183. 179 Joseph Sobry

    The things going on in Germany with power production are likely driven more by the worry about depending on Russia for natural gas.

    Mr. Jim Hansen’s request regarding CO2 sequestration is an obvious course of action if such CO2 sequestration was economically feasible. The surprising thing is that he would think it so feasible, given the fundamental contradiction of using a heat engine, whereby expanding gases convert heat to mechanical energy, and then using mechanical energy to compress those gases and to force the CO2 down a hole. True the gases include 12% CO2 but separating these without energy usage is far from simple.

    And whatever the drained energy for CCS is, that must be compensated by roughly three times that in heat by burning more coal.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 9 Dec 2010 @ 11:35 PM

  184. > Jim B
    > Forests capture CO2 from air as do oceans

    Subtle distinction, already pointed out above:

    Forests capture CO2 from the air with photosynthesis.

    Oceans capture CO2 from the air as the gas dissolves in the water.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Dec 2010 @ 11:45 PM

  185. The earth has captured Carbon since it’s creation as Sidderite Ore, (FeCO3) much of the fossil record contains iron and carbon like this. Some lab research has been done converting organic matter to Sidderite using microbes. Large scale capture and conversion is a possibility as the planet does this without the aid of technology, is any research being done?

    “This process of the formation of siderite concretions has been replicated in the laboratory. It was found that the time it takes for the gel to form is only about two weeks. Any organic material can precipitate this action ”

    Sidderite is stable, locks up Carbon, forms in the presence of carbon CO2 and uses the most abundant mineral on Earth.

    http://www.fossilnews.com/2000/mazon/mazon.html

    Comment by David Painter — 10 Dec 2010 @ 4:49 AM

  186. > sidderite

    “siderite” — geomicrobiology.
    Here’s a review article:
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/e245430315120074/

    “… siderophores as important agents in promoting mineral dissolution, microbial oxidation of reduced minerals (acid mine drainage and microbial leaching of ores), and microbial reduction of oxidized minerals. Under the second topic, both biologically controlled and induced mineralizations are reviewed with a special focus on microbially induced mineralization (microbial surface mediated mineral precipitation and microbial precipitation of carbonates)….”

    Don’t go wackywoo about abiogenic petroleum without reading references you can find with Google Scholar, though. A recent one:
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1751-3928.2006.tb00271.x/abstract

    “The two theories of abiogenic formation of hydrocarbons, the Russian-Ukrainian theory of deep, abiotic petroleum origins and Thomas Gold’s deep gas theory, have been considered in some detail. … Both theories have been overtaken by the increasingly sophisticated understanding of the modes of formation of hydrocarbon deposits in nature.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Dec 2010 @ 9:38 AM

  187. 180 Russel,

    I find it easier to foresee the oceans taking up the CO2. And they are already in place, and possibly doing it as we speak.

    The only thing standing in the way of thinking this, is the carbon dating of deep water by Revelle. Wouldn’t the validity of that carbon dating be worth discussing?

    Hank Roberts,

    I have looked for discussion of this and turn up nothing beyond the Weart discussion which accepts the Revelle result without question.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 10 Dec 2010 @ 1:52 PM

  188. #183–

    “. . .the fundamental contradiction of using a heat engine, whereby expanding gases convert heat to mechanical energy, and then using mechanical energy to compress those gases and to force the CO2 down a hole. True the gases include 12% CO2 but separating these without energy usage is far from simple.”

    Maybe not “simple,” but two groups at least consider it basically solved. One is of course Kilimanjaro Energy, formerly GRT, Klaus Lackner’s company. (Yes, that would be the same Klaus Lackner Raypierre just referred to the other day WRT extractable fossil carbon.) Kilimanjaro has demoed their process, notably at AGU.

    Oops–looking for a link on the agu demo, I found this (which mentions the capitalization of Kilimanjaro a bit about a third of the way down the page) but also a Japanese company which has developed a generally similar process to Kilimanjaro’s:

    http://epoverviews.com/articles/visitor.php?keyword=Carbon%20Capture

    A Canadian university group also came up with some promising technology on this question:

    http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010/10/28/greener-carbon-capture.html

    So three groups now (that I know of) have reported significant work on this problem. Kilimanjaro probably has the lead in that they have obtained serious investment and are currently working toward a *commercial* prototype. I’d link their website, but honestly there’s not that much detail there–they like to play things somewhat close to the vest, IMO.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Dec 2010 @ 2:11 PM

  189. Hmm, then there’s this report:

    http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/4103354

    This, too, though there’s nothing on the technological side. But I was unaware of the extent to which South Korea is taking serious mitigation steps–or at least, appears poised to do so.

    (Yes, I’m aware of deep misgivings on CCS generally, and don’t mean to “cheerlead” the technologies. But it’s relevant and interesting to see what is being attempted.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Dec 2010 @ 2:23 PM

  190. OK, here’s the second link, which I neglected to paste into the previous post:

    http://www.greenmomentum.com/wb3/wb/gm/gm_content?id_content=6905

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Dec 2010 @ 2:24 PM

  191. 185 David Painter

    Every calcite shelled creature has captured CO2 in their shells, and much of this is the sand of the world.

    As I am informed here, the CO2 can become excessive and reduce the rate of growth of such creatures, and the old shell material can be acted on by acid and release of CO2 would occur. It seems to me we are a long way from the acid level needed to do this latter action.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 10 Dec 2010 @ 2:28 PM

  192. 187 Kevin McKinney

    Note I said, ‘without energy usage.”

    The Klaus thing shows heat as an input.

    Then consider the assertion that the CO2 can be a fuel.

    There is of course the cement making process of Caldera (I think its called that) which is promoted by Vinod Khosla. There are serious questions about that also, but it is at least conceivable.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 10 Dec 2010 @ 2:35 PM

  193. Re 161,172 E.L.
    Instead of trying to ‘control CO2 emissions’, the world needs to focus on replacing the technology that requires CO2. A reduction of CO2 emissions requires innovation instead of stagnation. If funding of research is a problem, the negotiations at the climate talks should center on funding instead of controlling emissions. Nations may be more willing to write a check.

    Great idea. And to be fair, the check should be proportional to CO2eq emissions (with some accounting for past emissions to be fair to nations which thus far have not emitted much, not cut down their forests yet, etc.). Now we have an international emissions tax (which nations could, in their own interest, pass on to emitters they host; they can use tariffs and subsidies to correct for trade between nations with different policies, although the international tax would tend to make this less necessary). The price signal shifts demand from higher to lower emissions-intensive pathways. What if those options aren’t there yet? Well, the thing is, the price signal also acts on investement in supply; fossil fuels will become cheaper as demand pulls away, but they’ll become more expensive as investment pulls away; clean energy and efficiency will do the opposite, but will also tend to come down in cost with technological advancement, market volume, and increasing experience, before hitting the limits of scarcity, while fossil fuels will hit the limits of scarcity and increase in price anyway; plus, there is the price induced by the tax.

    (Point being: 1. a well-designed (or even perhaps just adequately-designed) policy, even if a tax, can spur innovation, not crush it; 2. funds for R&D, if they don’t come from a tax on specific activities responsible for the need for said R&D (and/or adaptation costs), must come from the general tax revenue, which is more of a tax on the ‘(small) businesses’ and ‘the people’ and ‘hard working Americans/Australians/Chinese/etc.’ then the former, as it can’t be escaped by individuals choosing lower-emissions alternatives. Maybe you weren’t trying to argue otherwise, but I wanted to make this point…)

    Jevon’s Paradox – makes sense to me too, but not in the infinitely-powerful negative feedback that some may portray it to be. Specifically, if there is a certain amount of fossil fuel we are willing to pay for now, and then nation A (such as the U.S.) decides to impose policies which reduce it’s consumption, then the price goes down, so that other nations (China) are willing to buy more. But what would happen if Chinese consumption increased enough to erase any global effect? Then, aside from costs of transport, etc, the price would go back to what it was before – but at that price, Chinese consumption was lower. So the global consumption should generally tend to be reduced by voluntary reductions of some people/nations, just not generally/necessarily by as much as the voluntary reductions. (Of course, this is all relative to changes that will occur without any such policy.) Anyway, if climate policies result in increased efficiency without changing emissions, that’s better than nothing – at least we’ll have more wealth available relative to what may need to be expended trying to rapidly breed new crops, irrigate parched lands, build sea walls, and relocate climate change refugees, etc.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 10 Dec 2010 @ 2:47 PM

  194. > … much of this is the sand …. It seems to me we are a
    > long way from the acid level … the latter action

    Jim, why proclaim ignorance and belief when you can look this stuff up?
    Would you wait til the beach sand is dissolving to worry about ocean pH??

    Seriously, Google wants to befriend you. You could learn so much that would change what you believe, information that’s easily within reach.

    http://aslo.org:8081/lomethods/locked/2010/0441.pdf
    Limnol. Oceanogr.: Methods 8, 2010, 441–452
    DOI 10:4319/lom.2010.8.441

    “… the rate of change in the physical environment as a result of anthropogenic influence will likely occur faster than biological adaptation or microevolution can occur (see Gienapp et al. 2008; Visser 2008; Bradshaw and Holzapfel 2010). Thus, evolutionary rescue for some species may not be
    an expected outcome (see Bell and Collins 2008).

    … Early life history stages have been a focus of much of the first wave of ocean acidification research, given the central role these stages play in
    maintenance of adult populations via dispersal and recruitment processes (see Kurihara 2008 for a review). The main concern here is that embryonic larval stages may be highly vulnerable ….

    Indeed, accumulating evidence suggests that ….

    … understanding the response of early life history stages to rapidly changing oceanic conditions is indeed a leading research priority for organismal biologists working in marine ecosystems ….”

    ——-end excerpt——

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Dec 2010 @ 3:02 PM

  195. Another feedback:

    http://darchive.mblwhoilibrary.org:8080/handle/1912/3683

    “… degradation of polysaccharides, a major component of marine organic matter, by bacterial extracellular enzymes was significantly accelerated during experimental simulation of ocean acidification. …. Our study suggests that a faster bacterial turnover of polysaccharides at lowered ocean pH has the potential to reduce carbon export and to enhance the respiratory CO2 production in the future ocean.”

    definitive version: Biogeosciences 7 (2010): 1615–1624
    As published: http://dx.doi.org/10.5194/bg-7-1615-2010
    URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1912/3683

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Dec 2010 @ 3:09 PM

  196. Hank, my browser had trouble resolving the aslo link. I found it, but it leaves out the :8081 and says free instead of locked … here is my version, for anyone who had the same problem: http://www.aslo.org/lomethods/free/2010/0441.html

    Comment by Maya — 10 Dec 2010 @ 3:36 PM

  197. #192–Jim B.–

    You can’t mean *zero* energy use, or the damn thing would be a perpetual motion machine!

    The point is to use *less* energy to achieve sequestration in order to make it economic–right? That at least is how I read your original comment.

    WRT to “heat as input,” I think you mean the U. Calgary team, not Kilimanjaro. IIRC, Kilimanjaro don’t use heat, but some sort of washing process (still, of course, requiring a non-zero energy input.)

    I’m not sure where the “CO2 is fuel” bit comes from–or do you mean this: “enabling the production of liquid transportation fuels?” If so, the CO2 isn’t fuel itself–the plan is rather to air capture CO2 and use it for oil extraction. The CO2 from the air ends up sequestered in the oil field, offsetting the carbon in the oil (though to what extent, I’m not sure; I’ve never heard numbers as to how much is released versus sequestered.)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Dec 2010 @ 4:36 PM

  198. BPL: Then we’re all dead.

    People will just have to innovate a solution that is economically viable to compete with CO2 based technologies.

    Patrick 027: “And to be fair, the check should be proportional to CO2eq emissions (with some accounting for past emissions to be fair to nations which thus far have not emitted much, not cut down their forests yet, etc.).”

    A international emissions tax would never work. First, nations have sovereignty that must be respected. Secondly, any nation that spends money on R&D would expect returns on investments. And Thirdly, accounting for past emissions is silly. Even if a nation did not directly emit CO2, it may have benefited from the emissions in another nation. In addition, nations that are taxed higher would be put at a disadvantage on world markets, and no nation would go along with such a proposition.

    Quite frankly, the best bet would be to get a pledge out of nations to spend so much money on R&D within their own nations. But I think a pledge is the most that can be hoped for.

    Comment by E.L. — 10 Dec 2010 @ 5:08 PM

  199. 197 Kevin McK.

    Right you are on perpetual motion, though the scrubber is not an energy conversion machine.

    The point is that the energy to drive the process must be acknowledged, and it seems to often be the case, that it is quite a lot.

    You rightly refine my generalizations.

    I would need a serious explanation of how the CO2 could ‘offset’ carbon in the oil that I guess must be coming from coal? Of course you do not get any kind of hydrocarbon molecule out of carbon and CO2.

    I am perplexed by these kinds of things being accepted as being real possibilities. Not only do they all seem to involve energy consuming processes, they require much expensive equipment as well.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 10 Dec 2010 @ 5:22 PM

  200. 197 Kevin McK.

    I apologize for misreading your last, where you said the CO2 would be used to extract oil from the ground.

    The CO2 would not offset carbon in the oil, it would offset the oil; just like water offsets oil in standard oil recovery operations. Sounds ok? Well, in water flood oil recovery operations a huge amount of water comes up with the oil.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 10 Dec 2010 @ 5:27 PM

  201. Ray – Appreciate that your time to respond is limited, but as the Cancun talks draw to a close, small island states are calling for action on HFCs in order to “buy time” – see http://solveclimatenews.com/news/20101209/island-nations-plead-their-lives-world-dawdles-climate-talks?page=2 – through phasing out HFCs under the Montreal Protocol.

    Are they wrong to do so? Wouldn’t getting rid of the most powerful radiative forcers make a significant contribution to the task at hand, and even if this doesn’t provide an excuse for delaying action on the main game of CO2, surely dealing with this lowest of the low hanging fruit would be a useful contribution to stop us from digging an even deeper hole we will need to climb out of to avoid runaway climate change? Is this a better metaphor for advocates to be using than the notion of buying time? Or could you suggest a more accurate one?

    Comment by Brent Hoare — 10 Dec 2010 @ 7:15 PM

  202. re: #192
    Cement: that’s Calera.
    Without offering an opinion on whether this actually works, and at scale, the founder (a coral chemistry/ cement expert) lives in my town. His talk at Stanford started with a passionate 10 minutes of concern about corals, and then shifted into how they might use similar chemistry to sequester CO2 into cement/aggregate that lasts a long time, is a product that people pay for, and that avoids the CO2 production of regular cement. It can also consume stuff like fly ash, a multiple win if workable.

    He was very clear in saying that the only hope for corals was to do something about coal powerplants in particular.

    Although one always wants to keep an eye on Vinod, Calera has come a long way from when I first heard about it. By experience I am always skeptical of startup claims, at least on paper, the management team and advisors look very good, partners like Bechtel are serious. Of course, there have been many startups that looked good on paper, and I do not understand the electrochemistry and some serious folks have expressed doubts.

    But, I sure wish this one works, because (other than re-using CO2 to do oil-well injection), it’s one of the few that is not just a required burden, but consumes waste materials to make useful products.

    Comment by John Mashey — 10 Dec 2010 @ 8:07 PM

  203. Re 198 E.L.

    People will just have to innovate a solution that is economically viable to compete with CO2 based technologies.

    Yes, and why will they do that? You have indicated funding for R&D. But a price signal can also encourage innovation, and also, if, for example, coal electricity has a public cost of, for example, 4 cents/kWhe, then why should, for example, solar power, have to come down to coal electricity’s price to compete, when it would have net net economic benifit within 4 cents/kWh of the price of coal electricity? That’s where it would be handy to have a price signal, so the benificiaries of an emitting pathway pay the costs of the emissions. (Even when the costs of renewable energy, and/or (properly accounted) nuclear, and/or sequestration, etc, become competitive without the price signal, it still makes sense to have the price signal so that the market share can be optimized – ie that use of alternatives becomes so large that scarcity overcomes mass market advantage and learning curves that the marginal utility declines to the point where the next additional switch from coal/etc to solar/etc. would have no net benifit or cost, including the (for example) 4 cents/kWhe public cost of coal, etc.) (PS even with the tax, it may still make sense for public investment in R&D, and D&D (and some other policies), for perhaps multiple reasons, but one of which being that the PPC may not be convex everywhere (mass market advantage, learning curves) and another being that the market may get stuck in a rut out of habit (and customs) and it takes some exposure to alternatives in order to get the ball rolling.)

    A international emissions tax would never work. First, nations have sovereignty that must be respected.

    No treaties, ever?

    Maybe a tax is the wrong word. Let’s say nations are objectively assigned responsibilities, which they can agree with because it’s objective (a bit of optimism on my part, I admit), and they contribute to a fund accordingly. And part of the incentive to participate could be that they will not recieve their share of the funds in so far as they contribute their share (this won’t work for nations which would still recieve less than they would contribute, but they might not know that they’ll recieve less in the future because they might not be able to predict their future accomplishments; anyway, other factors are a sense of honor and shame. Depending on how things go in the future, nations which do not contribute and emit significantly may become denied various U.N. posititions, isolated, boycotted, embargoed and sanctioned, and eventually … But it may not have to come to that, perhaps in part because the policies stimulate innovation and investment and deployment to the point that it becomes much easier to join the treaty and reap the benifits of clean energy/etc. Also, without any other international agreement, I would suggest a domestic emissions tax with tariffs/subsidies proportional to differences in policies among nations; this could be applied to groups of nations as well; while there may be some economic pain in those nations which have the tax and use more expensive alternatives they or nations with similar policies produce instead of those from nations with different policies, I have to ask, wouldn’t there also be some pain in those nations whose exports suffer and imports increase due to the tariffs/subsidies of other countries? In other words, nations would have incentive to shift their own policies towards each other’s; this includes those which initially do not tax emissions, so those nations which venture out can exert pull on others. Besides, they will profit from there innovation and be able to supply more affordable clean energ/etc. alternatives to other nations.

    Secondly, any nation that spends money on R&D would expect returns on investments.

    Well, the fund might go in part to rewarding those nations/parties which share their technological developments more generously (and investments in other nation’s clean energy infrastructure, etc, (analogous to CDM from Kyoto) and proactive adaptation investments (aquaducts? crop breeding? desalination plants?); also the fund should pay for those otherwise uncompensated climate change costs (again, proactive adaptation; also, damages incured, compensation to climate-change refugees and/or their host countries.

    Thirdly, accounting for past emissions is silly. Even if a nation did not directly emit CO2, it may have benefited from the emissions in another nation. In addition, nations that are taxed higher would be put at a disadvantage on world markets, and no nation would go along with such a proposition.

    Accounting for past emissions would not be silly; it could be quite helpful for leveling the playing field so that the *same* tax rate can fairly be applied to all nations’ ongoing emissions so that they are not unfairly disadvantaged (the issue of past emissions would be addressed with a one-time transfer of wealth (one time as in not repeated; the payments would be over a period of years or decades; they would be indepedent of the taxes for ongoing emissions), it would in total be equal to the same tax rate applied to the world’s emissions in prior years, but then increasingly discounted going farther back in time, and also, increasingly back in time, being assigned to nations according to present accumulated wealth, since the wealth has moved from where emissions occured (this is an approximate method and suggested improvements would be welcome – although this might not be the place to discuss it at length); since climate-change related costs don’t correlate perfectly with accumulated wealthy, this will to some extent be a transfer of wealth from rich nations to poor nations – but it should be noted that (not to knock charity at all) this is not charity, it is paying debts. With this transfer, it should be easier for rich and poor nations to agree to pay the same rate according to emissions.

    Quite frankly, the best bet would be to get a pledge out of nations to spend so much money on R&D within their own nations. But I think a pledge is the most that can be hoped for.

    Maybe, but those nations ought to pay for R&D (and D&D, and other things) with an emissions tax; otherwise it comes from a general tax – better than nothing but what sense would it make to choose the later over the former? Anyway, aside from the important issue of national climate damages not correlating with emissions, I would accept this solution, at least initially – see above.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 10 Dec 2010 @ 8:33 PM

  204. Brent Hoare,
    The “most powerful radiative forcers” as you call them actually trap relatively little radiation compared to CO2–indeed one of the reasons they have greater “sensitivity” is that they are not saturated in the central portions of their absorption lines.

    CO2 is the most important knob we have to twiddle precisely because of the same reason it is difficult to tackle: we produce a whole helluva lot of it. Going after lesser GHGs is nibbling at the capilaries when we really should be going after the jugular of this beast.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 10 Dec 2010 @ 10:42 PM

  205. #200–NO problem!

    I think we’re more or less on the same page with understanding the proposal Kilimanjaro makes; I’m agnostic about how well it would work, or how desirable it is. I just don’t have enough information. I believe, though, that it would probably be similar to the project described here:

    http://www.carboncapturejournal.com/displaynews.php?NewsID=613

    (Actually, this is the most detail I’ve seen on this project, though I’ve got to believe there’s more out there somewhere.)

    2.8 million tonnes of CO2 annually isn’t too shabby, but it’s still a long way to gigatonnes of carbon from there.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 10 Dec 2010 @ 11:02 PM

  206. I have a suggestion for the skeptical politicians. Every developed country that refuses to implement effective climate-change polices should be required to enter into a future contract that requires their nations to pay for the effects of climate change on poorer nations. In other words, if they are that confident that there will be no human-induced climate change (or no serious consequences) then they should be prepared to make a commitment to repair some of the damage, if they are proved wrong in coming decades.

    Comment by Michael Paine — 10 Dec 2010 @ 11:49 PM

  207. EL 198: People will just have to innovate a solution that is economically viable to compete with CO2 based technologies.

    BPL: Read my lips: We control CO2 or human civilization as we know it ends mid-century.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 11 Dec 2010 @ 5:50 AM

  208. Brent Hoare #201: it is true that these HFCs tend to have short lifetimes, e.g., here, less than 15 years; so cutting down on them without at the same time addressing CO2 would indeed be similarly useless. If would only postpone the inevitable loss to the waves of these island states. So, in this sad sense it would indeed be “buying time”.

    However, these gasses differ from black carbon and methane in an administrative sense: unlike the latter, HFCs can be simply phased out within the Montreal framework. This is much simpler than a management regime needed for black carbon and methane, which would need to be of similar complexity as — and would thus compete for political attention with — that for CO2. So in that sense the proposal is risk free.

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 11 Dec 2010 @ 10:05 AM

  209. re-186
    thanks for the links and information.

    Calcium carbonate is mined worldwide and releases CO2 in cement production, shellfish secrete calcium carbonate and capture CO2. A developed process for manufacturing a form of limestone would lock up CO2 as would a process for manufacturing Iron carbonate (Sidderite). Nature produces both of these on a massive scale without investment or technology.

    I am not suggesting shellfish farms as a solution to CO2 capture; but FeCO3 and CaCO3 both lock up carbon atoms at a ratio of 3:1.

    CO2 oceanic schemes and CO2 drilling are possibly prone to uncontrolled release and possible Phretic effects may occur endangering life.

    Many geological deposits contain both limestone and Sidderite together in vast quantities (billions of tons)from the Jurassic showing they both form together in CO2 laden environments.

    A natural mineral capture process could be a scalable, cheap and stable method of CO2 capture with sand as a by product? I am unaware of any literature where this has been given any thought.

    A process like this could be developed as an on site scrubbing system for CO2 production hot spots like cement, oil refineries, power stations etc in the same way that Subteranean air filtration gravel beds are used for slaughterhouses to clean putrid air.

    Pure calcium is hard to find on the scales required but Iron is not and neither is CO2, so the question I would like to pose is “Could iron and CO2 be combined to form Sidderite (FeCO3) cheaply and simply, and capture at source CO2 before it is emitted on a meaningful scale?”

    Can we learn what the Dinosaurs did before we become them?

    Comment by David Painter — 11 Dec 2010 @ 1:19 PM

  210. BPL has reopened his “human civilization as we know it ends mid-century” argument.

    I have to apologise to BPL. I had not seen his post #273, since Gavin had said “enough” and I stopped reading the thread for a while.

    He did indeed attempt to defend his point, but I think his defence just lays out the weaknesses in his argument. Part of my complaint is that the result isn’t particularly new. As he says himself, Dai got a similar result – but to the best of my knowledge, Dai did not jump to the same conclusion. In fact, Dai specifically mentions water management and drought mitigation.

    Water management is a topic that has been discussed recently by Vörösmarty et al (2010), but BPL has so far ignored it. I think that is unwise, since the paper makes important points: water management has a huge effect on water resources. In many regions, it is the difference between enough water and not enough water. But many parts of the world are already under water stress, and thus vulnerable. In the future, more and better water management can mitigate some aspects of climate change – but at a cost.

    BPL, have you read Parry et al (2005)? They repeat many of the points I have been making, including that by 2060, cereal production in developed countries is likely to be up, and production in developing countries down. Under most models, there is little global change.

    Certainly, this will cause problems – very likely severe problems. But jumping to the conclusion of a “global collapse” is naïve in the extreme. Speculate if you will, but don’t pretend that you have provided the evidence to support such a contention, or that you are repeating established wisdom.

    More studies that attempt to evaluate the effects of drought and climate change under varying scenarios will be useful. Pretending it is simple is not useful.

    Comment by Didactylos — 11 Dec 2010 @ 1:48 PM

  211. Of course there is always Eli Rabett’s simple plan to save the world which has the virtues of messing over those don’t want to help and helping early adopters. Oh yes, not everyone needs to play for Eli’s plan to work

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 11 Dec 2010 @ 4:11 PM

  212. Re 206 Michael Paine – Very clever formulation! (How would we force those skeptics to uphold their end of the bargain?)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 11 Dec 2010 @ 5:23 PM

  213. Re 209 David Painter –

    CO2 sequestration as carbonate minerals has been studied as an option for reducing net anthropogenic emissions. From what I remember of one study, CO2 injection into aquifers could result in some fraction of that CO2 reacting and forming minerals; other possibilities include mining minerals to bring to sites to react with CO2, injecting CO2 into mineral sites, and using minerals to capture CO2 from air such as by crushing rocks and leaving the mineral dust out to enhance chemical weathering – or (an idea I had, not sure how well it would work) distributing the dust into the upper ocean (perhaps letting it blow out to sea) to reduce acidification and have the oceans take up more CO2. A year or ? ago, another commenter at RealClimate supplied figures for the energy needed to crush rock, which appeared to be small relative to the energy supplied from fossil fuels per unit CO2. Some approaches specifically use (ult-ra)mafic rocks (dunite, peridotite, minerals such as olivine), but so far as I know, with perhaps generally more rock per unit CO2, more common rocks could be used (?) (oceanic crust, underneath sediments, is generally mafic (basalt, gabbro); continental crust is more felsic (granite, etc.); the mantle is ult-ramafic, but some ult-ramafic rocks can be found at or near the surface in some places). (Because the reactions are product favored under some conditions, I wonder if some useful energy might be obtained from them – low temperature heating, perhaps? Electrochemical cells? But perhaps it would be too little to devote the necessary equipment to it?)

    Suggested searches:
    “co2 sequestration by mineral carbonation”
    “CO2 in situ sequestration dunite”
    “CO2 air capture and mineralization via mineral dust” (I just tried that; there may be some better version of it to get better results)
    “CO2 mineralization in aquifers” (just tried that, came up with second link below)
    also just found:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_sink
    and
    “Modeling Enhanced In Situ CO2 Mineralization in the Samail Ophiolite Aquifer” http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2010AGUFMGC31B0868P

    For any particular mineral reactants and products, the reaction is product favored for sufficiently high CO2 partial pressure and (so far as I know – see figure 1 at “Initiation of clement surface conditions on the earliest Earth” http://www.pnas.org/content/98/7/3666.full )
    sufficiently low temperature (the chemical weathering feedback depends on other things – the kinetics of the reaction (climate), supplied surface area of mineral reactants (mechanical erosion, sea level), etc.) – hence, at sufficiently high temperatures, such as found at sufficient depth beneath the Earth’s surface, the reaction can be reversed, eventually returning CO2 as geologic emissions (geologic emissions and geologic sequestration are both generally quite slow (with exceptions at times in Earth’s history); last I read, about ~ 0.2 Gt C / year).

    You wouldn’t generally want or need to actually supply metallic elements to produce carbonate minerals for CO2 sequestration because of the necessary energy input.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Dec 2010 @ 12:11 AM

  214. … of course, if we’re going to dig up (ult-ra)mafic rocks for CO2 sequestration, perhaps we should get some H out of it too (see ‘serpentinization’, for example: http://www.pnas.org/content/101/35/12818.full) – probably wouldn’t be worth it to get H from the rocks like that were it not for dual usage for CO2 sequestration; not sure it would still be sufficient amount to justify paying attention to it even given dual usage option, but something to think about…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Dec 2010 @ 12:19 AM

  215. Did 210,

    Sorry, you’re wrong. Cereal production will NOT be greater under global warming. Check the literature. Your other points are egregiously wrong as well.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 12 Dec 2010 @ 6:01 AM

  216. J. Bullis – As I am informed here, the CO2 can become excessive and reduce the rate of growth of such creatures…….. It seems to me we are a long way from the acid level needed to do this latter action.

    The Arctic Ocean is projected to reach aragonite undersaturation by 2020. That means parts of the Arctic Ocean, particularly the deep ocean, will be corrosive to marine organisms that make their shells from aragonite.

    Comment by Dappledwater — 12 Dec 2010 @ 6:49 AM

  217. Re: Jevons
    What drives Jeavons’ is 1. desire and 2. population. Someone above forgot about population when calculating what would happen with consumption and treated it as a closed, static loop.

    Uh-uh. Nope. Population, like it or not, eventually trumps all. To demonstrate: Energy use in the United States between 1980 and 2000 or 2005 or so increased in efficiency by 33% or so. Consumption of oil alone, let alone all fossil fuels, rose by about the same percentage.

    Do people not read Diamond, Tainter, et al., regarding complexity and diminishing returns?

    So, we have not only population putting pressure on increased efficiency, but also decreasing returns. Technology cannot solve this. Less energy is less energy if the loss exceeds gains in efficiency, which it always does eventually. This means you must get over this idea of keeping things as they are today on future energy availability unless or until a true breakthrough occurs – which it never does…

    The other issue is that energy is not the only declining resource. There are a slew of them, and I bet you can’t guess the most dangerous one after oil, so I’ll share: phosphorus. We’re looking at supplies to maybe the end of the century. What then? (There is an answer. I’ll check back later to see who comes up with it first.)

    We must, even though this is a climate blog, think, discuss and solutioneer systemically.

    Comment by ccpo — 12 Dec 2010 @ 7:43 AM

  218. Speaking of losing time, and for that matter of black carbon & CO2 emissions, here’s a new paper relating to wildfire and AGW:

    http://www.cbc.ca/technology/story/2010/12/10/climate-change-wildfires.html

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 12 Dec 2010 @ 8:27 AM

  219. Re: ccpo

    “Soylent Green”

    The Yooper

    Comment by Daniel Bailey — 12 Dec 2010 @ 11:11 AM

  220. BPL said: “Sorry, you’re wrong. Cereal production will NOT be greater under global warming. Check the literature. Your other points are egregiously wrong as well.”

    First, don’t misrepresent what I said. That’s just rude. Second, why are you waving around “check the literature” when I actually cited a 2005 study that finds that in the time frame under discussion, developed regions are likely to see increased yields. And why is it so hard to understand? Some regions will have more precipitation, more CO2 and warmer temperatures. Developed regions also have enough money to spread that water around where it can do most good. It’s trivially easy to see how this translates into higher yields, until high temperatures become the limiting factor.

    Why do you have to sling mud instead of addressing yourself to the actual discussion? Did you even pretend to look at any of the studies I cited?

    If you want to be taken seriously, then you have to get serious. Acting like a moron will only get you treated that way, and any larger issue you are trying to highlight will be ignored.

    Comment by Didactylos — 12 Dec 2010 @ 3:03 PM

  221. Re 217 ccpo – population growth – greater than otherwise would have occured – is one way that consumption can increase in response to a reduction in price; *in the simplification of rational agents*1, why would it *necessarily*2 increase to the point that the price is the same as it was when it only supported a smaller population increase? In other words, if a price of $200 leads to consumption 1000 (with efficiency 50 %, so consumption of raw stuff is 2000), then why would a decline in price (via increase in efficiency to 100 %, or to someone else’s voluntary reduction in consumption) lead to an increase in consumption (equilibrium, or equilibrium deviation from a trajectory (think decay of transients)) so great that the price goes back up to $200, when the consumption (before processing) at $200 was only 2000?

    Take out either 1 or 2 and I think that’s still a good question; maybe taking out both qualifying statements leaves more leeway to ‘anything goes’, but my point is, while there is good logic to Jevon’s paradox, it doesn’t necessarily lead to total consumption (for some voluntary reductions) or consumption of resources (with efficiency gains) simply resuming to an otherwise fixed trajectory – in order for this to be the case, the demand slope has to essentially flat (or infinite – depends on which axis is Q and which is P; I forget the convention) – that’s a special circumstance.

    Or in other words, how much smaller would (population * per capita consumption) growth have been if efficiency hadn’t increased?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 12 Dec 2010 @ 9:49 PM

  222. Did 220,

    Your arguments on this are entirely driven by your personal dislike of me. Your likes and dislikes are your business, but I don’t have to enable your rants. Sorry, I’m not discussing this with you any further.

    [Response: Enough. If the entirety of your comment is simply an attack on another commenter, please do not submit it. This goes for everyone. - gavin]

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 13 Dec 2010 @ 6:28 AM

  223. Googling “cancun update” this morning–in the absence of any substantive report that I’ve heard during a rather busy (for me) weekend–I found this depressing item:

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/12/10/further-cancun-update-agrees-t

    Basically what I feared: nada, of any substance at least.

    Is there anything more detailed out there I’ve missed?

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Dec 2010 @ 8:46 AM

  224. Ray Ladbury #204 and Martin Vermeer#208: Many thanks for your thoughtful responses. The reason I call the F-gases the most powerful radiative forcers, and why they are often referred to as “super greenhouse gases” is a description of their comparative effect on a molecule of F-gas by molecule of any other ghg basis – of course the volumes compared with others are much smaller, but due to the multipliers of their massive GWPs, their impact is far from trivial. As pointed out in Velders, G. et al., (2009), “The large contribution of projected HFC emissions to future climate forcing”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, June 2009 (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2700150/), although contributions of HFCs are currently a small proportion, they threaten to erode the very substantial climate benefit we accidentally achieved by phasing our ozone depleting CFCs, which have even larger GWPs than the HFCs (see also Velders et.al. “The importance of the Montreal Protocol in protecting climate”, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Mar 20;104(12):4814-9). If developing countries follow the path taken in the developed countries in embracing gases like R134a, R410a, R407c and R404a etc, and continue to overlook the available genuinely climate friendly natural refrigerant solutions, the HFC contribution is likely to grow to at least 10-20% of global emissions.

    As Velders says in the 2007 abstract, “The climate protection already achieved by the Montreal Protocol alone is far larger than the reduction target of the first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Additional climate benefits that are significant compared with the Kyoto Protocol reduction target could be achieved by actions under the Montreal Protocol, by managing the emissions of substitute fluorocarbon gases and/or implementing alternative gases with lower global warming potentials.” As managing or containing emissions of F-gases has been an abject failure everywhere except the Netherlands (and even this is arguable, according to my Dutch colleagues), this leaves an urgent and rapid transition to natural refrigerants as the best available option.

    As much as I like the metaphor of going for the jugular vs nibbling at the capillaries, I really don’t think it applies in this case, and I don’t think the HFC problem has received anywhere near the attention it deserves from the scientific community or my dear friends and colleagues in the Environmental NGO community (with a few notable exceptions).

    I would be the last person to argue that acting to recover, destroy and phase out F-gases in any way relieves the imperative to curtail CO2 emissions (and following this discussion will urge the few ENGOs who are active in this space to review the “buying time” rhetoric!), but the scale of the problem surely demands that we haul on all the available levers to wind back every one of the dials that contribute to the problem?

    Martin raises the very sound point that HFCs are distinguished also by the potential relative simplicity of the administrative arrangements that are available to get rid of them, if the existing disjuncture between the Kyoto and Montreal Protocols can be remedied. Initial hopes that a big step towards this might have been among the outcomes of Cancun look not to have been realised, which is very disappointing.

    Nevertheless we will soldier on to achieve this goal, for as long as it takes to persuade India, China and Brazil to get out of the way of agreement to amend the Montreal Protocol to address HFCs, and to correct the colossal mistake of having subsidised and encouraged their introduction in the 90′s when far superior solutions were available even then. I’ve attended most of these meetings for the last 3 years as a representative of the natural refrigerants industry (still largely conspicuous by their absence c.f. the fluorolobby who turn up in hordes in a desperate struggle to maintain their market share and marginalise the competition, but it’s a huge advantage having truth on our side), so it’s good to be reassured the goal we are striving for is risk free – but it has thus far proved elusive, in spite of some of the most sophisticated campaigning in the business.

    It would help no end to have more prominent and influential voices pointing out that HFCs/HCFCs (and banks/illegal trade of CFCs) are a big deal, that the solutions are well (if not widely) understood and comparatively easy to implement and achieve, and to thereby help grow the political will to make it so.

    Currently this is sorely lacking, but much better late than never…;-)

    Comment by Brent Hoare — 13 Dec 2010 @ 10:26 AM

  225. > Sorry, you’re wrong…. Check the literature.

    http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/wikipedian_protester.png

    > Cancun

    http://californiareport.org/climatewatch will lead you to:

    http://blogs.kqed.org/climatewatch/2010/12/12/tangible-if-minor-progress-in-cancun/

    A little while after a big climate meeting I always look for a thoughtful summary from Tom Athanasiou at http://www.ecoequity.org/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Dec 2010 @ 11:58 AM

  226. Aside, let me recommend a serious look around the KQED climatewatch site for quite a few relevant articles. They’re doing a good job

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 13 Dec 2010 @ 12:00 PM

  227. Re: Kevin

    Different blog, same conclusion.

    The Yooper

    Comment by Daniel Bailey — 13 Dec 2010 @ 12:05 PM

  228. BPL said: “Your arguments on this are entirely driven by your personal dislike of me. Your likes and dislikes are your business, but I don’t have to enable your rants. Sorry, I’m not discussing this with you any further.”

    Enable? Rant?

    Sorry, you lost me there.

    I don’t dislike you. I dislike some of what you say, because you refuse to back it up with any evidence, yet you repeat it loudly to anyone who will listen (and anyone who won’t), denier or not. You misrepresent climate change, and do a lot of damage in the process. You use the same tactics deniers use to push your own agenda – on a scientific blog. I refuse to give you a free pass just because we agree on most things.

    Gavin, if BPL really isn’t interested in any rational discussion, will you be able to edit out any repetitions of his unsubstantiated claims? Specifically, any claims of certain “global collapse” in 40 years?

    [Response: Look, I do not have time to police every argument that breaks out. But having people repeat themselves over and again is tedious, so please stop. If you don't want to engage with someone, don't. - gavin]

    Comment by Didactylos — 13 Dec 2010 @ 12:17 PM

  229. Hank, Daniel, thanks for the links.

    The content wasn’t what I hoped for, but sadly wasn’t too different from what I expected.

    Appreciate the help.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 13 Dec 2010 @ 3:48 PM

  230. Didactylos @228 — Equally off-topic, I suppose, but via the link below you” find Dr. Dai’s drought review paper. I opine that BPL is close to correct.

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/10/20/ncar-daidrought-under-global-warming-a-review/

    Comment by David B. Benson — 13 Dec 2010 @ 7:58 PM

  231. Patrick, who cares about prices? I wasn’t discussing prices, I was discussing consumption. If you don’t understand that continually increasing population must end up overtaking any gains in efficiency, I really don’t know what to say. This is 2 + 2 = 4 stuff.

    100 people eat 100 apples at 10 cents each.

    Efficiency leads to a drop in price to 5 cents. 100 people still eat 100 ’cause they just don’t want more apples.

    110 people now exist and eat 110 apples. Ooops.

    See? LOL…. No matter how you slice it, lower prices or more people will lead to greater consumption (of a wanted item), with both, it’s even worse.

    Obviously, if you have a resource that is renewable and unlimitedly scalable, none of this would matter. Sadly, such resources do not exist, thus, Jevon’s applies.

    Comment by ccpo — 14 Dec 2010 @ 3:05 AM

  232. David B. Benson: Thank you.

    I have read it, you know. I do my best to look at all sides of an issue, I don’t just charge in bull-headed.

    As I said earlier, Dai specifically mentions that he doesn’t take water management into account.

    For example, people living in regions with advanced irrigation systems, such as those in developed countries, can mitigate the impacts of drought much better than farmers in Africa and other developing countries

    Most importantly, he doesn’t make any claims that can’t be backed up by his research. You won’t find the words “civilisation” or “collapse” anywhere in his review.

    I don’t contest that Dai probably has very similar results to BPL. And eventually, climate change is likely to cause such severe drought that there is nothing we can do about it and civilisations fall.

    My point is that we aren’t there yet, and BPL’s argument requires not one, but many leaps of logic: that drought is the only relevant factor to agriculture, that civilisation collapses as soon as agriculture is strained, that the entire globe is so interconnected that the collapse is simultaneous, and that humanity stands by and does absolutely nothing even when a crisis is clearly underway.

    Those are the logical leaps, as I see them – but in addition, there are the factors that BPL has just ignored: existing and future water management, regional differences, positive effects of climate change that offset some of the negative effects in the short term – and so on, and on…..

    Comment by Didactylos — 14 Dec 2010 @ 8:37 AM

  233. ccpo: I’m not disagreeing with you, but have you considered that in places like India, demand for meat is rising rapidly as a result of a growing, prosperous middle class. Economic success can lead to increased consumption, and if we look at the US or Europe, there seems to be no practical ceiling until we’re all balloon-shaped.

    Supply and demand is a complicated subject, and I’m fairly confident that economists don’t understand it much either (although they hopefully have a better grasp than you or I).

    Comment by Didactylos — 14 Dec 2010 @ 8:48 AM

  234. Barton,
    While you and Didactylos have had your differences, I don’t see how it benefits you or your argument to take his criticisms of your argument personally. I guarantee you will receive similar and probably tougher questions from referees and other researchers. I wonder if maybe you could look at some basic questions of hydrology–e.g. where does the water come from in key agricultural regions–and elucidate in more detail how drought would affect these areas specifically. Such areas would include California and the American Great Plains, but also, perhaps the Punjab and some of the major rice growing areas in Asia. In particular, how much of the water requirements now come from rain and how much from nearby rivers and aquifers. Then look at how the likely increased drought might affect all of these contributors. Agriculture is no longer widely dispersed. The effects on a few key areas could be critical for the viability of the food supply.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Dec 2010 @ 11:36 AM

  235. re 213 – Patrick 027
    Thank you, lots to digest.

    was looking for information on practical trials or experimentation/research into existing accessible deposits. Thanks.

    Comment by David Painter — 14 Dec 2010 @ 1:50 PM

  236. Didactylos @232 — “This is very alarming because if the drying is anything resembling Figure 11, a very large population will be severely affected in the coming decades over the whole United States, southern Europe, Southeast Asia, Brazil, Chile, Australia, and most of Africa.” from Dai’s
    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wcc.81/full

    Now go read what heppened to earlier civilizations when their region dried up.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Dec 2010 @ 4:41 PM

  237. David B. Benson:

    I never said it wasn’t serious! But our modern civilisation doesn’t compare to any past civilisation, in size, wealth, or population. Drawing some vague parallel is all very well, but as an argument, it lacks substance at every level.

    And what’s the biggest difference? In this context, it has to be technology. Water management technology, agricultural technology, distribution technology.

    Now if you want to limit your discussion to subsistence farmers in Africa, then you have a real point. I expect to see major famine in the next 20 years. There may be wars, but it won’t be the people suffering from malnutrition doing the fighting. Malnutrition doesn’t leave people enough energy for that.

    But even within Africa, there will be variations. Some regions will only see mild drought, other regions will see increased rainfall.

    Are you ready to stop dismissing this complexity with a single throwaway sentence?

    Comment by Didactylos — 14 Dec 2010 @ 5:08 PM

  238. Re 231 ccpo – just to be clear, are saying that the 5 cent drop causes the entire population increase (in this example)? What happens when the land resource value comes into play, and drives up the price when people want more apples?

    I wasn’t saying that consumption can’t grow in response to a price reduction; I was saying it won’t necessarily grow so much that it eliminates the price reduction. And this is relative to other changes; consumption could be growing and driving the price higher, but must it always return to the same trajectory?

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 14 Dec 2010 @ 5:32 PM

  239. Ray 234,

    I have never yet come across a peer reviewer who used the kind of personal rhetoric Did uses. The simple fact is that he doesn’t know what I have and haven’t considered. He hasn’t read my paper. I don’t think he’s read what I posted here very carefully. He wants Gavin et al. to censor my posts here–did you miss that? All very different from what I get from peer reviewers.

    If you think I neglected crucial factors, why don’t I send you a copy of the paper? Then you can tell me what I missed.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 14 Dec 2010 @ 5:34 PM

  240. About water management – 1 holding ponds, cisterns, reservoirs, etc. 2. pumping, aqueducts. 3 desalination: I remember reading of a device that can produce 1 m3 of fresh water with 3 kWhe (if osmotic pressure ~ 27 atm (?) ~ 270 m of water head ~ 2.7 MPa, 2.7 MPa * 1 m2 * 1 m = 2.7 MN*m = 2.7 MJ, 2.7 MPa = 2.7 MJ/m3, so 3 kWhe doesn’t require efficiency > 100 %);

    3.6 MJ/kWh * 3 kWhe = 10.8 MJe

    10 cm/year (a precipitation shortfall for illustrative purposes)* 5 E12 m2 (~ 3.3 % global land area) = 5 E11 m3/year

    5 E11 m3/year * 10.8 MJe/m3 = 5.4 E18 Je/year ~= 171 GWe

    Just to consider.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 14 Dec 2010 @ 5:50 PM

  241. Didactylos @237 — I’ve lived here in a dryland farming region for 40 years now.

    No precipitation over the winter, no crop.

    Despite the state’s ag school being here.

    Look very carefully at what Figure 11 is showing you.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 14 Dec 2010 @ 7:59 PM

  242. Didactylos,
    You seem to be suggesting that somehow modernity and complexity confer immunity to collapse. I don’t think this is the case. Food security is really a very recent thing, and it has been achieved by intensive agriculture in a few regions of the globe. A hit to any of those regions could be catastrophic for food supply. The very fact that we ship grains and even perishable tropical fruits around the globe illustrates how interconnected–and so how potentially vulnerable–our civilization could be. There are a whole lot of challenges between us and where we need to be to make civilization sustainable. Failure to negotiate any of them could be catastrophic–and climate change may be among the most challenging.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Dec 2010 @ 9:09 PM

  243. Perhaps the contention could get a room?
    There’s a place: http://thirdreviewer.com/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Dec 2010 @ 10:07 PM

  244. 216 Dappledwater,

    You say, “The Arctic Ocean is projected to reach aragonite undersaturation by 2020. That means parts of the Arctic Ocean, particularly the deep ocean, will be corrosive to marine organisms that make their shells from aragonite.”

    I can understand that insufficient aragonite would slow the growth of marine organisms. Is the word ‘corrosive’ appropriate?

    Then I question what you mean by ‘deep ocean’. Are marine organisms capable of making shells still active in ‘deep ocean’ water?

    Then, what is the process by which aragonite is reduced to undersaturation?

    I would not like to leave anyone with the notion that I know what aragonite is, but since it seems to go away with higher CO2 concentrations that process must in itself take up CO2. Then, as the aragonite depleted water is drawn down into the thermohaline circulation, that would seem to carry CO2 also, into the deep. Right?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 14 Dec 2010 @ 11:49 PM

  245. JimBullis@244 – Instead of speculating about something which you state you know nothing about, why not do at least a basic investigation and not further confuse yourself by acting like you know what “would seem” to be the processess involved?

    Comment by flxible — 15 Dec 2010 @ 1:21 AM

  246. J Bullis @ 244 – “Is the word ‘corrosive’ appropriate?

    Yes. Imminent ocean acidification in the Arctic projected with the NCAR global coupled carbon cycle-climate model

    “Aragonite undersaturation in Arctic surface waters is projected to occur locally within a decade and to become
    more widespread as atmospheric CO2 continues to grow. The results imply that surface waters in the Arctic Ocean will become corrosive to aragonite, with potentially large implications for the marine ecosystem, if anthropogenic carbon emissions are not reduced and atmospheric CO2 not kept below 450 ppm.

    In conclusion, human activities are perturbing the ocean and the habitats for marine organisms. The results of this study and of Feely et al. (2008) for the coastal North Pacific and Orr et al. (2008) for the Arctic show that undersaturation of surface waters with respect to aragonite is likely to become reality in a few years only.”

    Are marine organisms capable of making shells still active in ‘deep ocean’ water?

    An error on my part, I meant deeper water, not the “deep ocean”. Calcium carbonate becomes more soluble at higher pressures and lower temperature.

    Then, what is the process by which aragonite is reduced to undersaturation?

    The consequences of the excess carbon dioxide dissolved into the oceans are not only an increase in hydrogen ions (lower pH), but a reduction in the concentration of carbonate ions. It just so happens that these carbonate ions are building blocks for the calcium carbonate shells of many marine creatures, and the carbonate stable when the concentration of carbonate ions in seawater are supersaturated. Once the concentration becomes undersaturated the chemical reaction which formed the shells swings the other way and the calcium carbonate shells dissolve. Aragonite, being a more soluble form of calcium carbonate than calcite, will be affected first by the ongoing change in seawater chemistry.

    I would not like to leave anyone with the notion that I know what aragonite is, but since it seems to go away ……

    The alternative to guesswork might be to read the peer-reviewed literature on the topic.

    Comment by Dappledwater — 15 Dec 2010 @ 7:26 AM

  247. Ray Ladbury:

    If that’s what you are taking away, then I’m evidently still not being clear enough. I’m not making any absolute statements. I’m just saying that making such specific claims cannot be justified based on the wide variety of evidence and uncertainty.

    Note that this isn’t the same as denying climate change because of uncertainty. We know climate change will make our world almost completely unliveable eventually, whether climate sensitivity is 2.5 or 3.5 degrees per doubling. Something like “civilisation”, though, is hard enough even to define, let alone make sweeping statements about.

    Maybe there is sufficient evidence that certain parts of the world are likely to “collapse” by 2050. Maybe there is sufficient evidence that the majority of the world will have collapsed by 2100. Nobody has yet even attempted to provide any evidence along these lines, or even consider just what sort of evidence would be required to meet varying degrees of certainty. Analysis of water management would be just the very first step.

    As you mention, analysis of what regions are exporters of food and which are importers, and how climate will affect those regions is vital. You would also have to consider that some regions are able to grow crops, but currently it isn’t economically viable. A changing world is likely to alter such underlying assumptions.

    [edit - enough!]

    Comment by Didactylos — 15 Dec 2010 @ 9:09 AM

  248. BPL:

    You are complaining that I haven’t read your paper (I haven’t had the opportunity). But I’m not arguing against your paper, I am discussing the things you have said repeatedly in the blogs where you comment. I’m not a peer reviewer, and a blog comment isn’t a peer reviewed journal article. But that doesn’t mean we can’t take the time to try to get the facts straight, and not say misleading or false things.

    As I have said before, I do not believe your journal article will repeat the things you have been claiming in the blogosphere. If you had, it should have failed peer review. No, I’m sure that you will employ the language of uncertainty, and say “may” and “probably” and “perhaps”. You won’t say anything is certain.

    And this is exactly the behaviour we abhor in deniers: they get a perfectly adequate, unexciting paper published, then they spin it and say things about it that simply aren’t justified.

    I thought you had higher standards. Perhaps you can still claw back some respect?

    Comment by Didactylos — 15 Dec 2010 @ 9:21 AM

  249. David B. Benson:

    You are extrapolating your personal experience to the entire globe?

    Your arguments are just handwaving. Many of the issues I am raising have already been studied (in isolation). There is a huge amount you could say based on substance, but you have chosen anecdote.

    If you aren’t interested in the subject, that’s fine. I’m not forcing you to debate, and it’s not you making the unsupportable claims. Climate change is going to be quite bad enough based on the real evidence we have.

    Trying to save the ship from sinking is really a lot more useful than working out exactly how and when the ship will sink. But saying you already know the exact hour the ship will sink? BPL is almost literally predicting the end of the world.

    Comment by Didactylos — 15 Dec 2010 @ 9:37 AM

  250. Re “Reducing soot and the other short-lived pollutants would not stop global warming, but it would buy time”..

    Reviewing the Infra-red cloud images of western Siberia over the last few weeks, it is apparent that the Infra-red signatures for the Vankor and Urengoy oil and gas fields are visible THROUGH fairly thick cloud layers indicating immense energy dissipation.

    I have never seen this at other locations even at South Pars/North Dome (Iran/Qatar-worlds largest gas field) or the U.S. It appears to even exceed Nigeria in detectable output on METOP Ch3/Ch4/Ch5 images.

    This indicates that during the exploitation of Gas and oil fields; the already banned practice of burning off gas unwanted products continues and is getting worse.

    Surely there can be no reasonable argument against the immediate ceasation of the practice; especially as a major part of the production is in or near the Arctic circle.

    As Russian production is estimated by the world bank to account for approx 50% (including new online fields)of global emissions, this should be an obvious detectable, measurable, and verifyable target to test the global resolve to save our own future and prove the point above?

    My own observations over the last few years show decreasing winter cloudcover over Siberia, not surprising considering as effectively they have the heating on all winter. From cloud patterns, emissions also head north and go out over the northern polar sea.

    Barrel of oil=42 Gallons
    weight of propane 4.11lbs/gallon
    4*42=168lbs propane= approx 76Kg
    76kg*46mJ/Kg=approx 3496mJ per barrel

    1.0 US gallon = 3.79 liter
    Propane:- the energy density of propane is 46.44 megajoules per kilogram.
    (propane is a waste product as can’t be transported)

    If approx at a low estimate, 10 barrel of oil per hour burnt per flare, 3496mJ*10*(roughly >2000 flares)=
    approx 70,000,000 megajoules per hour of heat into the siberian winter atmosphere. The air displacement effect on nominal cloud patterns and air volumes; soot and other effects surely has more merrit for attention than other longer term alternatives that will still have to clear this climate input up at a much later date?

    There are more fields that are shortly to be developed using the same outlawed practices.
    http://en.rian.ru/russia/20100127/157696641.html

    Comment by David Painter — 16 Dec 2010 @ 5:46 AM

  251. BPL 21 we should also note that what you’re replying to is depending on partial quote mining. Nonetheless, the physics is the answer, as you said.

    Comment by Marion Delgado — 16 Dec 2010 @ 6:08 AM

  252. Did,

    What part of “enough” did you not understand?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 16 Dec 2010 @ 8:03 AM

  253. Dear darling Barton Paul:

    The irony! Gavin snipped a line about your debating tactics, and here you go again.

    Insults and quibbles – anything except look at the actual question under discussion.

    This is perhaps the point where I should step away and ignore your sophistry – but your latest jibe passed moderation, so I thought you deserved a reply.

    However, it’s the last I will say to you on the subject, until you inevitably repeat your specious claims.

    Comment by Didactylos — 16 Dec 2010 @ 11:05 AM

  254. Didactylos @249 — Dryland farming is dryland farming, worldwide.

    The matters are relatively simple; Liebig’s Law of the Minimum writ large.

    The precise dates are of course uncertain, but it does appear that all the world’s agriculture will be impacted. Even those regions estimated to have more precipitation in the future may well (therefore) become less productive. [How much yield from the Swat Valley, Pakistan, this last growing season, hmmm?]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 16 Dec 2010 @ 9:37 PM

  255. 250 David Painter,

    I had a little difficulty reading your discussion, since it is hard to comprehend what the alternative is to not burning off the natural gas ‘liquids’, as I think they are called here, if they can not be transported.

    But propane is not that difficult to transport, and there is a market for it, competing at a price much like that of gasoline in many cases.

    On the other hand, where collection and transport of natural gas is not readily done, it is often just flared off. This is superior from a ‘green house gas’ point of view, to just releasing it into the atmosphere. But of course it puts out heat. I think the consensus is here that this is not so important as the remaining gas, either CO2 or CH4.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 16 Dec 2010 @ 10:43 PM

  256. Well, consider the alternative:

    http://eatingjellyfish.com/?tag=cassandra

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Dec 2010 @ 12:39 AM

  257. re 255 Jim Bullis

    The economic realitiy is that at remote gas and oil production sites perfectly usable resources are burnt off, this causes many problems due to the sole persuit of cash, transport is available but often the producer does’nt want the hasstle/costs anyway, and no-one can enforce this it seems. The environment comes way down the list of acual cash priorities of some organisations in contrast with the glossy stements.

    The alternative is not to produce a byproduct if it can’t be used or stored safely by enforcement; an effect will be increased energy costs yes. The irony is most compliant oil and gas fields use this condensate to generate electricity capacity (that they can’t use anyway!) BUT electricity infrastructure is a more “hygenic” alternative to oil/gas pipelines to use this byproduct and gas generators can be “clean”.

    Environmentally to dismiss the pure energy release as having no effect on the environment would be to dismiss thermals and clouds in the same way as they can both be the products of convection caused by differential air density. The volume of heated air I think is very relevant to all the discussions, as a Hot air balloon pilot I can testify that at at whatever altitude propane never completely burns off; the partially burnt gas mixture rises continually carrying the combustion products to even higher altitude until pressure and temperature stop them. unburnt propare released at altitude may not necessaryily go down (as its heavier than air) but due to convection air currents it rises, and I suspect that some of it never comes down again, certainly for kerosine at 42,000ft (aircraft).

    The vast and uncontrolled volumes of flaring are producing millions of tons of lift annually, this will carry all sorts of gasses higher into the atmosphere. This relative high pressure area (as the volume expands) will have an effect on the local winds and convection patterns, and differentially more effect in colder air (the colder the environment the worse the effect).

    The worlds largest hot air balloon (the energiser bunny!) has a burner capable of 30,000,000 BTU/hour and should lift the 1,170 lbs ballon plus crew to over 6000ft with ease (probably never does this though). The convection effect of flaring will affect the usual air flows and thermals defined by nominal weather patterns and geography. The large balloon 30,000,000BTU burner is tiny compared with some gas flares I have see in the north sea, the Nigerian delta has many oil flares 24hrs a day much much larger than this; but the Siberian flares I think are more harmful due to the temperature difference, local topography and the lattitude.

    I don’t know enough atmospheric physics to calculate what size the effective high presssure “bubble” created over the flares would be, but it would carry small particles and gasses to higher altitudes as can be seen on any sunny day by watching thermals, the siberian flares are creating thermals in winter, in the wrong places.

    To “buy time” for real understanding of the climate would be to enforce those agreements already being flouted, at those places most likely to have an adverse affect, near areas of concern.

    True CO2 and CH4 are more harmful on paper, but the debates I have read seem very stuck in the mud, so to speak; in order to cause harm they have to interact with the atmosphere, in order to do that they have to get into the atmosphere above ground level. Many cars producing emissions at ground level next to the carbon sinks (ocean, trees etc) are unlikely to achieve that without convection, Flaring produces the emissions of many 1000′s of cars a day and inject this via convection directly into the atmosphere several 1000′s of feet above the reach of the traditional carbon sinks.

    http://www.energizer.com/energizer-bunny/hot-hare-balloon/Pages/hot_hare_balloon.aspx

    Comment by David Painter — 17 Dec 2010 @ 5:37 AM

  258. Re 257 David Painter – in your 250 comment, you gave a figure of 70,000,000 MJ/hour

    In the global average, ~ 100 W/m2 is the heat flux carried away by convection. 100 W/m2 over just 1 km2 is 100 MW, or

    360,000 MJ/hour; over a 20 km x 10 km area (200 km2), that’s 72,000,000 MJ/hour.

    Localized heating can certainly be a local problem, and it would not surprise me if the heating can affect where some pollutants go via the heights to which they are initially carried, provided they then fall out of the atmosphere shortly. But CO2 and CH4 molecules have atmospheric residence times measured in years …

    (CH4 ~ 10 years, CO2 … off the top of my head, I think it’s close to 4 years, but the molecules are ‘recycled’ back into the atmosphere from the upper ocean over a similarly short time period (from memory) and over a longer time (a couple decades?), from land surface organic C; the longevity of the perturbation of atmospheric CO2 concentration is much longer – it then goes into the deep ocean, and it reacts with dissolving carbonates, allowing farther uptake of CO2 from the air, but this still requires additional CO2 in the air; chemical weathering of carbonates also very slowly supplies carbonate ions that allows the oceans to hold more CO2; it is ultimately the chemical weathering of silicate minerals that supplies ions to the ocean that allows solid carbonate minerals to accumulate along with a net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere (this tends to balance geologic emission of CO2 over time (both from inorganic C and from organic C), except for the contribution from organic C burial)

    … over which time the atmospheric circulation easily mixes the air and transports CO2 and CH4 from any one source to all over the globe. This doesn’t eliminate compositional gradients but makes them relatively small – some exceptions can be found, near the surface, near sources and sinks (under forest canopies, for example), but this affects a relatively small volume of air and has little impact on radiative forcing (generally anything under a forest canopy is not going to directly affect radiative forcing as much anyway; greenhouse gas molecules have reduced effect on the tropopause-level and TOA-level fluxes because the air near the surface tends to have temperatures similar to the surface temperature, and because they underneath greenhouse gas molecules above).

    —-

    Re 244 Jim Bullis – as Dappledwater explained, aragonite and calcite are both forms of CaCO3 (Pearls are made of aragonite).

    but since it seems to go away with higher

    CO2 concentrations that process must in itself take up CO2. Then, as the aragonite depleted water is drawn down into the

    thermohaline circulation, that would seem to carry CO2 also, into the deep. Right?

    Yes, the dissolution of solid carbonate mineral adds carbonate ions to the water, which can react with CO2 to form bicarbonate ions, thus allowing water to gain more CO2 from the air (if it is close enough to the surface) for the same partial pressure of CO2 (and temperature, salinity, etc.). It can then take more inorganic C (by an amount greater than the dissolved mineral content) to the deep ocean upon sinking. As I understand it, bottom water may also gain carbonate ions via dissolution of carbonate minerals and thus, upoon surfacing, take more CO2 out of the atmosphere (or release less CO2 to the atmosphere).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Dec 2010 @ 5:23 PM

  259. (this tends to balance geologic emission of CO2 over time (both from inorganic C and from organic C), except for the contribution from organic C burial)

    I would just say that geologic CO2 sequestration enabled by chemical weathering of silicates, combined with organic C burial, tends to balance geologic emission of CO2 from inorganic and organic sources; however, organic C burial feedbacks don’t, so far as I know, correlate with temperature and atmospheric CO2 concentration the same way that chemical weathering tends to do (aside from enhancement of chemical weathering by glacial weathering and lower sea level during ice ages, and also, vegetation affects chemical weathering … but anyway…

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 17 Dec 2010 @ 5:29 PM

  260. 245 flxble

    It would seem that we understand the English language differently, and it would also seem that it might be unnecessary for you to dish out discipline based on how things seem to you.

    At one time I had the impression that this site was here to help communicate the ‘climate science’ to those who are not members of the peerage. However, I attempt to understand and where things seem confusing I ask questions. I also put forward concepts that would seem to be consistent with the objectives of the scientists here. For you and others who find this annoying, perhaps you could just train your eye to skip my questions.

    I much appreciate those who make an effort to communicate.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Dec 2010 @ 7:14 PM

  261. 246 Dappledwater,

    You seem to have some knowledge of this topic which I find confusing. I appreciate your help, though the pleasure of learning might be enhanced if we could do it without the admonishments to ‘read the peer reviewed literature’. Are you really so insular in your peer position that you do not realize how confusing adademic literature can be?

    As to how we read things, it appears you are unaware of a difference between guesswork and exploratory questions. But I am not one to deliberately mislead; my questions are both pointed and exploratory, as I am not entirely convinced that the ocean effects are adequately recognized in the climate predictions. Note, I said ‘not entirely convinced’ which means I am reserving judgment.

    And I also should note, I am not done. After we get the chemistry sorted out, the question of overturning of the oceans needs clarification, particularly in respect to ‘age of deep ocean water’ on which the consensus rate of overturning is based.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 17 Dec 2010 @ 7:35 PM

  262. ccpo: I’m not disagreeing with you, but have you considered that in places like India, demand for meat is rising rapidly as a result of a growing, prosperous middle class. Economic success can lead to increased consumption, and if we look at the US or Europe, there seems to be no practical ceiling until we’re all balloon-shaped.

    Supply and demand is a complicated subject, and I’m fairly confident that economists don’t understand it much either (although they hopefully have a better grasp than you or I).

    Comment by Didactylos — 14 December 2010 @ 8:48 AM

    To both you and Patrick: I should make clear: I don’t care about prices because I am virtually never dealing in microeconomics. They’re irrelevant (to me) wrt the long-term of where we need to end up. If it isn’t about that, it’s not on my radar. At the end of the day, prices are irrelevant wrt non-renewable and/or over-consumed resources.

    Time is short and the conversation needs to change radically to dealing with the world that is coming. Once we have made some intelligent guesses as to where we need to be and some methods that can help us do that, we can start backcasting and deal with the microeconomics of getting from here to there.

    I should also make clear my understanding of neo-classical/Keynesian economics is rather dismissive. I suggest Nicole Foss and Steve Keen, among others.

    #

    Didactylos @249 — Dryland farming is dryland farming, worldwide.

    The matters are relatively simple; Liebig’s Law of the Minimum writ large.

    The precise dates are of course uncertain, but it does appear that all the world’s agriculture will be impacted. Even those regions estimated to have more precipitation in the future may well (therefore) become less productive. [How much yield from the Swat Valley, Pakistan, this last growing season, hmmm?]

    Comment by David B. Benson — 16 December 2010 @ 9:37 PM

    I would caution against assuming what can or can’t be done in drylands, despite long experience, based on typical agricultural practices and get your hands on Mollison’s “Global Gardener: Drylands” and Geoff Lawton’s “Greening the Desert.”

    Comment by ccpo — 18 Dec 2010 @ 3:04 AM

  263. re 258 Patric027
    Interesting facts thank you.

    The concentrated effects of a large number of concentrated heat sources scattered across a wide area of Siberian Tundra, are producing thermals and convection in an area that would not normally produce such forceful air movement, effectively an unnatural event for the “type” of local area (strong thermals over snow 24/7 365 days a year that should be below the 100W/m2 quoted)

    As can be seen with many things in nature a large number of smaller processes acting together can magnify an effect, or produce something completely different. Many pilots know only a hand full of trees can produce a very forceful downdraft in windless conditions and small lakes can produce equally strong thermals from very small areas of water.

    My point of concern is that just as fires “draw” upwards the air volume around them, the effect of these flares creates an effect that is very much more significant than the simple figures alone suggest; and the scale of air movement over the whole area may be causing massive air movement that is disrupting possibly the global airflow of the arctic and Kara sea.(As it interrupts direction and strength of air currents that would normally flow unimpeded here)

    The location of the oil and gas fields and the apparent (by my own observations) changes in the cloud cover may suggest that these flares are reducing the formation of the “normal” clouds over this vast area, lessening the available water vapor over this area, and magnifying other solar processes(increasing forcing?). Lower clouds + lower airmass density would result with possible other consequences for deviation of fronts/storms etc.

    The infra-red signatures of these flares are far in excess of the cities and towns that occupy far larger areas and are home to many 1000′s of people, so on energy efficiency grounds alone these flares are wasting resources that cannot be replaced.

    An interesting article on airmass causing variations of Arctic sea Ice. “We discovered that months with very little ice cover and high temperatures corresponded with crucial variations in the wind patterns.”

    http://planetsave.com/2010/04/28/russian-winds-reducing-arctic-sea-ice/

    I have flown to 4000ft on approx 30Kg of propane in a 1 1/2 ton balloon (after inflation) so I think the scale of the injection of combustion products from ground level has been underestimated, considering the vast amounts of heat from these sites and their locations and their unlimited lift potential for smaller particles and molecules.

    I have not seen any studies of the thermal effects of these flares.

    Comment by David Painter — 18 Dec 2010 @ 5:26 PM

  264. Patrick 027

    In the words of Weart, Roger Revelle discovered when he examined the chemistry of sea water that CO2 going into sea water quickly re-emerges. The chemistry is not really explained there.

    Your discussion is more believable, but it would lead us to think that CO2 is being taken into the oceans very effectively, though not fast enough. And you qualify that to be at risk as we get to 450 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere.

    The key issues seem to be (1) the extent of the largest producer of calcite, being planckton, and the prospects for growth in the amount of that stuff as warming goes on, before we get to 450 ppm of course, and (2) the overturning rate of the ocean, by which CO2 held as calcium carbonate gets settled into deep water, either as the overturning circulation, or as direct falling of this heavier substance.

    The deep overturning circulation has been discussed here, but it seems to be determined to be a very slow thing based on the Ewing measurements of the age of deep sea water. I am particularly puzzled about how the age of water can be measured by radio-carbon dating, since I can not imagine a long term cohesive lump of water as something that could exist. Thus, not only would precipitating substances affect the date, so would the bacteria that consume oil that leaks from the seabed in a rather general way.

    If radio-carbon dating is in question, then we might look at the work of T. E. Pochapsky in measuring deep currents with neutrally buoyant floats. There are number of papers by him, some of which were under the organization of Hudson Laboratories of Columbia University, and later, Lamont Doherty organization, also of Columbia. The Pochapsky data is not a sufficient sample but it does show deep currents in the North Atlantic (East of Bermuda) that are suggestive of deep flow rates of an order of magnitude that shows fairly short overturning rates.

    The point of this is that with fairly short overturning rates, the increased far Southerly winds said to be expected with a warmer globe, there would be a pick-up of the thermohaline circulation such that the dissolved CO2 as well as the bicarbonate variation you mentioned, would be better carried to deep ocean regions.

    This is all a very complicated business, but I think it could be a useful discussion for the folks here, you in particular Patrick 027.

    Thanks again to our hosts.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 18 Dec 2010 @ 7:15 PM

  265. http://www.aip.org/history/climate/Revelle.htm

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Dec 2010 @ 12:30 AM

  266. 265 Hank Roberts

    Thanks for helping with the link, here and before.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 19 Dec 2010 @ 2:39 AM

  267. Re mine#265,

    Table 2 of:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2153-3490.1963.tb01398.x/pdf

    shows measurements from mid North Atlantic having velocities ranging from 2cm/sec to 10 cm/sec.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 19 Dec 2010 @ 3:04 AM

  268. Jim, I guessed where you might have read Weart on Revelle. But please, cite the sources for what you claim.

    I don’t read it the way you do. Others can look — if you cite your source.

    You should read some of the papers that cite Revelle’s 1957 piece; you’re building on what-if-it-were-true notions. Reading the fifty years of research since Revelle wrote that bit would give you a foundation of facts.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Dec 2010 @ 6:11 AM

  269. 268 Hank Roberts

    Thanks.

    My general point is that the oceans which have capacity to take up heat, will probably do so.

    I question not at all the fact that CO2 from industrial activity would cause an accumulation of it, and that the shift of spectral position of reflected energy would lead to heat entrapment. I also see that the fact of CO2 saturation relative to the outgoing path does not mean saturation of the heat trapping effect involving successive re-radiation from different levels.

    However, the point that I have intended to make is that the accumulated heat will be divided between the atmosphere and the oceans. I further suggested that the fraction going into the oceans would increase as weather activity increased, with hurricanes being one such form of activity as an example. I pointed out that this was a feedback (in the true Bode sense of feedback) which would have a moderating effect on the atmospheric temperature increases. I also cautioned that to use atmospheric temperature as the key measure of global warming could be a mistake since it only partly reflected the situation.

    About a year ago the Leviticus paper was discussed here on this site, and indeed it was discovered that the upper levels of the ocean had taken up heat, and this was not something that had been anticipated in the prior modeling runs. See: Levitus et al., Geophysical Research Letters 36 (2009)

    Noting that Leviticus addressed the upper levels of the ocean, I reacted based on experience going back to the 1960s in deep ocean research that the deep ocean would probably be involved more than seemed to be recognized. In conjunction with equipment installations south of Bermuda, the deep submersible Alvin had done a survey indicating some deep currents existed, though not of much concern for that activity then. I also had vague recollection of Pochapsky’s work which I knew of through conversations with Bill Branscomb who was the electronics engineer for Pochapsky. All this is to say that it simply does not seem right that the deep ocean involvement is relegated to general inactivity due to centuries long overturning rates. Though certainly sluggish in response, the Ewing carbon dating seems to have much overstated the slowness.

    The above only relates to temperature. CO2 sequestration was not on my mind until recently, when I became more aware of the ocean actions in this respect. All of the overturning into the deep ocean questions become much more important, because instead of just being a mitigation of atmospheric temperature problems through real feedback, the possibility of sequestration of CO2 would remediated the real cause of the problem. And of course, this had been taken into account long ago. The Weart explanation seems to say that Roger Revelle’s view of ocean water chemistry is correct. I don’t consider it a question of chemistry since plankton is very much involved, but that is quibbling.

    Weart also discusses Roger Revelle’s discovery that radioactive debris stays in layers in the ocean over 100 square kilometers. That discovery seems to be part of the basis of ocean modeling, though 100 square kilometers is a trivial area in the Pacific, and the circulation issues are far more extensive, and the real complexity is trivialized by layered ocean modeling, though the actual practice here is not clear. There seems to be confusion about a layer of water to some depth which is called a mixed layer, but is only mixed part of the year.

    The paper by Pochapsky: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2153-3490.1963.tb01398.x/pdf and others discuss his attempts to measure vertical water motion as well as horizontal motions. This is also relevant to the notion that horizontal layers are not a good generalization.

    So I was interested in the Labrador Sea data showing quite a lot of warming of deep ocean water at that particular spot, which was a subject of discussion here on this website. The implications of CO2 being sequestered along with movement of warmer water did not come up, but it seems interesting, though it is clearly a complex matter which I hope would be of interest to those more competent in analysis of such things than I am. I would appreciate leads to work of that sort.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 19 Dec 2010 @ 4:43 PM

  270. 268 Hank Roberts,

    I did not adequately address your last paragraph.

    First, you said, “You should read some of the papers that cite Revelle’s 1957 piece – -” Ok. This seemed to be a fruitless endeavor; any suggestions of papers that would really clarify things?

    Second, you said, ” – - you’re building on what-if-it-were-true notions.” Ok, what do you think I am building? I am not in position as an outsider to build much of anything. I look to relate things I know about to the reports from climate science, as I hope I showed in my previous.

    Third, you said, “Reading the fifty years of research since Revelle wrote that bit would give you a foundation of facts.” I suppose so. However, I do not intend to do such a thing; rather, I intend to ask selected questions of those who are familiar with that research; hopefully I will be able to read incisively regarding specific issues.

    In some of my past careers I have made myself useful by questioning of well acknowledged authorities. I am interested in the answers that might come out of this; of course, nobody is obligated to do anything, but I try to make my questions important so that others would be interested.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 19 Dec 2010 @ 5:21 PM

  271. Re 264 Jim Bullis –

    I never stated that oceanic sequestration of CO2 was at risk specifically at 450 ppm, though I am aware that climate itself can affect this process (hence large ice age CO2 feedback, of course); if someone else mentioned 450 ppm, perhaps there was a good reason for it. I wasn’t trying to imply any level of effectiveness in oceanic uptake of CO2; I’m not familiar with a lot of the numbers in this area, just the conceptual/qualitative explanations.

    Formation of solid carbonate minerals will reduce carbonate ions, causing a net reaction of bicarbonate ions to carbonates and CO2. Thus CaCO3 forming and then falling from surface waters would reduce the upper ocean’s ability to hold CO2 (opposite effect of dissolving CaCO3). Addition of Ca and carbonate ions from chemical weathering of silicate minerals, however (where said carbonate ions came from CO2) can supply ions to allow CaCO3 formation while maintaining composition and ability to hold CO2.

    My understanding is that the residence time of a water parcel in the deep ocean (below the upper mixed layer) is ~ 1000 years. This is an average time; some water masses that sink will surface in a shorter time or longer time. Water masses, like air mass (actually perhaps much better than air masses (lack of heating and cooling, evaporation and precipitation in the deep), for potential temperature and density), can retain some characteristics and be identified by source regions (Antarctic bottom water). They eventually could mix (and presumably either mix with surface water as a way to get back to the surface, and/or else they upwell as distinct water masses and then eventually gain characteristics of surface water); this takes a lot longer than air masses because the oceanic circulations are much slower.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Dec 2010 @ 5:40 PM

  272. … of course, as long as some small CaCO3-shelled organisms are floating around, they can supply the ocean with more dissolved CaCO3, helping the ocean to take up more CO2; presumably coral reefs will take longer to dissolve and will remain after all the floating shells have gone (surface area/volume), so at such a point the supply of CaCO3(aq) may be smaller, although the decreasing pH of rain itself (from CO2, setting aside sulfuric and nitric acids or reduction of those) may enable greater supply of CaCO3(aq) from land (weathering of carbonates – maybe silicates too), depending…

    This being before climate feedbacks are taken into account.

    But we don’t really want to have to dissolve everything (and presumably this would affect the organic C cycling, and sea food, etc. PS some nutrients are returned to land upon bears eating salmon!). (Better to sacrifice ‘dead’ CaCO3 than that currently in use; I suppose we could start grinding up the limestone – would that be easier than peridotite?)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Dec 2010 @ 5:52 PM

  273. A = 1.386e+18 ocean volume m3 ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/watercycleoceans.html
    B = 5.67648e+14 AMOC m^3/year http://www.geosc.psu.edu/~kzk10/baehr_etal_cc_07.pdf [1]
    A/B = 2441.6539827 years

    Or about 1200 years to swap the bottom half with the top half. (Ignore the false accuracy from cut’n paste from Appleworks)
    The bottom & top half don’t just get swapped. Upwelling off Portugal, and the Benguela upwelling return some deep water to the surface, which gets carried by the Azores & Benguela currents to the Atlantic Equatorial current, and returned to the Gulfstream in much shorter time frames – http://oceancurrents.rsmas.miami.edu/atlantic/atlantic-arrows.html.

    [1] http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg1/en/ch10s10-3-4.html
    “Observationally based estimates of late-20th century MOC are shown as vertical bars on the left” (which range from ~12 to 22 Sv; I used 18)
    “The MOC is not necessarily a comprehensive indicator of ocean circulation changes in response to global warming.”

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 19 Dec 2010 @ 7:15 PM

  274. 271 Patrick 027

    Right you are about having not said 450 ppm. Sorry.

    That was #246 Dapplewater.

    I am specifically challenging the notion that water is resident anywhere for 1000 years, let alone all water below the upper mixed layer, which is not all that deep. That might have been what Revelle thought based on his 100 square kilometer sample area.

    By the way, the upper mixed layer, when it exists at all, can be quite shallow. There seems to be some confusion about what the upper mixed layer really is, as I previously noted. If it is defined as a fixed geometrical line, then it would be the depth of the mixed layer as it appears seasonally. During the rest of the year when a thermocline dominates, the layer boundary would have to be only as a conceptual definition.

    By the way, your idea of neutralizing ocean acidity is interesting. That might buy time if the 450 ppm number from Dapplewater is real.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 19 Dec 2010 @ 9:18 PM

  275. Re 274 Jim Bullis – the layer above the thermocline of course varies in thickness and dissappears in some places. I wonder about the seasonality – what about lower latitudes? Of course the smaller temperature variations still allows wind changes, precipitation/evaporation changes, etc.

    But I think conceptually it is the layer of water that can come to thermal and compositional equilibrium with the atmosphere above over some time period, perhaps a year or so? Perhaps it could be considered an equivalent volume – the fuzzy edges being divided between the mixed and deeper layer (?).

    More rapid exchange with deep water would tend to delay the approach to climatic equilibrium initially (but reduce the longevity of a remaining residual disequilibrium) but by itself the greater rate of heat capacity exchange would not change the equilibrium (for a given CO2 amount). It would affect CO2, but so far whatever effect it is having, we’ve seen it.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Dec 2010 @ 11:48 PM

  276. … differentiating between a mixed layer (and thermocline) that exists at any one time and a climatic mixed layer (and thermocline) – or perhaps we should just say the upper ocean (?)

    But I still have the impression that at any instant, over much of the globe, a mixed layer can be found.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 19 Dec 2010 @ 11:52 PM

  277. J Bullis @ 274 – By the way, your idea of neutralizing ocean acidity is interesting.

    Except of course, it isn’t his idea. CaCO3 compensation might be novel to you, however research on this topic is decades old . It’s even discussed on a previous post at Real Climate:

    The Acid Ocean – the Other Problem with CO2 Emission

    “The natural pH of the ocean is determined by a need to balance the deposition and burial of CaCO3 on the sea floor against the influx of Ca2+ and CO32- into the ocean from dissolving rocks on land, called weathering. These processes stabilize the pH of the ocean, by a mechanism called CaCO3 compensation. CaCO3 compensation works on time scales of thousands of years or so.

    Yes, it operates on millennial timescales, not much use when the Arctic Ocean will likely be corrosive to marine organisms within a decade, and the Southern Ocean by 2030.

    If you’re willing to learn, here’s a paper that gives you an idea, why the experts are concerned, and has a basic run down on ocean chemistry:

    Ocean Acidification in Deep Time

    Here’s the abstract:

    “Is there precedence in Earth history for the rapid release of carbon dioxide (CO2) by fossil fuel burning and its environmental consequences? Proxy evidence indicates that atmospheric CO2 concentrations were higher during long warm intervals in the geologic past, and that these conditions did not prevent the precipitation and accumulation of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) as limestone; accumulation of alkalinity brought to the ocean by rivers kept surface waters supersaturated. But these were steady states, not perturbations.

    More rapid additions of carbon dioxide during extreme events in Earth history, including the end-Permian mass extinction (251 million years ago) and the Paleocene-Eocene Termal Maximum (PETM, 56 million years ago) may have driven surface waters to undersaturation, although the evidence supporting this assertion is weak.

    Nevertheless, observations and modeling clearly show that during the PETM the deep ocean, at least, became highly corrosive to CaCO3. These same models applied to modern fossil fuel release project a substantial decline in surface water saturation state in the next century. So, there may be no precedent in Earth history for the type
    of disruption we might expect from the phenomenally rapid rate of carbon addition associated with fossil fuel burning.”

    Comment by Dappledwater — 20 Dec 2010 @ 4:04 AM

  278. JB 274: I am specifically challenging the notion that water is resident anywhere for 1000 years

    BPL: Crack an oceanography textbook. It’s not controversial.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 20 Dec 2010 @ 7:05 AM

  279. 278 BPL

    I have no problem with finding fault with things that are not controversial, if they disagree with facts.

    Velocities in the 2 to 10 cm/sec are not consistent with 1000 year stability. This is from one of several papers by Pochapsky from the 1960s.
    See: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.2153-3490.1963.tb01398.x/pdf

    Do you have an oceanography textbook that discusses the radio-carbon dating by Ewing, on which the 1000 year kind of numbers seem to be based, according the Weart (http://www.aip.org/history/climate/Revelle.htm — from Hank Roberts link)

    I would look specifically for discussion of how dating could be valid for something continuously in presence of new sources of carbon, the new sources being oil seepage from the ocean floor that are consumed by bacteria. I also would look further at the possibility that ancient calcium carbonate materials would also have released some CO2 along the way. Hence, the Ewing notion that CO2 in his water samples had to have come from atmospheric CO2 seems inappropriate. And on that basis the radio-carbon dating should be thrown out.

    Thus, we are left to look at actual data showing deep ocean water motions, as in the referenced Pochapsky work.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 20 Dec 2010 @ 2:26 PM

  280. 277 Dappledwater

    Thanks for your link to a paper by which I could learn, though it was disappointing.

    I am not very willing to learn how things will be when all the fossil fuel of the world is exhausted, though it is interesting that even this uninteresting extremity of conditions will reduce ocean pH by only .7 . And that all fossil fuel use in previous history has reduced pH by .1. I wondered as I read if the authors realize how much coal we have. The studies of that resource indicate the limit is only based on how much dirt we are willing to scrape off the enormous coal basins. I accept that things can not be carried to that extreme. However, it is more useful to think about stretching out the time over which coal is used, and this is not an unreasonable way to find balance.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 20 Dec 2010 @ 3:06 PM

  281. David B. Benson:

    I didn’t notice your comment there. Yes, water is a limiting factor. And, despite talk of plants possibly needing less water in CO2-rich environments, I think we can regard it as an absolute limit, practically speaking.

    So, let’s get practical. I’m not a farmer, and nor are you (but we can pretend for a moment). There isn’t just one crop. There are many choices, and many varieties of each. A good farmer will choose crops suited to his climate and other conditions.

    Let’s face it: there are crops that will grow in much more hostile, hotter, dryer conditions than typically found in the continental United States. Probably not as nutritious as some other crops (but scientists are already working on that). Maybe not a good cash crop in the current economy – but that will change as the world changes. When you talk about a farmer’s crop failing, that means that he chose badly with respect to the weather that year. Unusual years are going to wipe anyone out. Lots of unusual years? Time to change old habits.

    Liebig’s law doesn’t mean we have to trip over and fall flat at the first step. With modern sustainable farming, it’s a much longer road to a dustbowl.

    Flooding? Well, that comes down to water management again, doesn’t it. If you’ve got it, you’ve got full reservoirs, water for the dry season and protection against erosion. If you don’t, you’ve got no crop, no home, and no fertile soil left.

    Water management. I’m beginning to think it is the only thing that will keep most of us alive while the world wakes up and takes the action we should already be taking.

    Comment by Didactylos — 20 Dec 2010 @ 7:05 PM

  282. Didactylos says: “Let’s face it: there are crops that will grow in much more hostile, hotter, dryer conditions than typically found in the continental United States.”

    Yup, and they typically yield far fewer calories, grams of protein, nutrition… than do the crops we grow now. If you look at Guns, Germs and Steel, you see that the crops that are grown in a region are grown there for a reason. True, genetic engineering may help, but I don’t think it can keep up with need. It is not simply a matter of moving the US wheat crop to Canada. The Canadian Shield isn’t a very fertile palce. Keep in mind that if we only had a billion people on Earth, we might be able to negotiate the challenges that face us. If we had unlimited sources of clean energy, we could probably get by. It is the combined challenges of overpopulation, environmental degradation, resource depletion, fertility depletion, fisheries collapse, the end of Fossil fuels, etc. And then if we manage to negotiate these obstacles and develop a sustainable economy, we have to figure out how to make it work as population returns to sustainable levels.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Dec 2010 @ 8:22 PM

  283. 281 Didacto

    Water management, you don’t say. Could that concept extend to a long aquaduct?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 20 Dec 2010 @ 8:35 PM

  284. ccpo @262 — Of course the farmers around here are fairly knowledagable and receive advice from the state ag extension agents. Despite all of that, right here it remains usually 2 years of soft white winter wheat and then a year of dry peas or lentils. Of course small amounts of other corns are grown as well.

    But only 100 km to the west, at lower elevation, those unable to irrigate have to leave the fields fallow every other year to accumulate enough ground moisture.

    So thanks for the references, but water is an absolute requirement.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Dec 2010 @ 8:39 PM

  285. Ray Ladbury @282 — Yup.

    Want to run for president?

    Comment by David B. Benson — 20 Dec 2010 @ 9:38 PM

  286. Re 281 Didactylos A good farmer will choose crops suited to his climate and other conditions.

    How good are most of the farmers we have? Not that it’s their fault for not adapting sometimes. There are issues with U.S. agricultural policy that have to be cleared up. And ‘big ag’. Education. Variety in food (consumers will also have to adapt. PS not everyone needs to adapt by eating different foods; the price signals will ‘direct’ those who are willing and able to try something else to the alternatives. I mention this because I can imagine some people with allergies and metabolic conditions may be concerned about the idea that ‘we all’ have to ‘do our part’ – well maybe we do but that doesn’t mean it’s the same part for everybody. For that matter, people can still differentiate according to personal preferences, as they do now (I’m being optimistic about lack of famine)). Ideally, a farmer will be able to change plans when planting must be delayed, to a crop with a shorter season, or a crop that can be planted in those conditions (buckwheat for example – I think if the ground is too wet for wheat, as I recall). Failed/spoiled crops and food waste should still be useful – feed, biofuel, chemical feedstocks…

    Solar power plants in marginal lands could be used to focus precipitation into smaller areas (bordering power plants), essentially producing a locally wetter climate.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 20 Dec 2010 @ 10:07 PM

  287. Ray Ladbury wrote in 282:

    If you look at Guns, Germs and Steel, you see that the crops that are grown in a region are grown there for a reason. True, genetic engineering may help, but I don’t think it can keep up with need. It is not simply a matter of moving the US wheat crop to Canada. The Canadian Shield isn’t a very fertile place…

    I haven’t read the book, but, but you have gotten me interested. However, to amplify a little…

    We know thatstronger equatorial moist air convection is causing the Hadley Cells to expand, but at roughly three times the rate that we expected. In the Hadley Cells the near-equator is where moist air rises, giving up moisture in the form of precipitation as it expands and cools with increased altitude.

    As the air cools and dries out it falls (“subsides”) on the far from equator side of the Hadley Cell, resulting in a dry region, the high pressure, subtropical “horse latitudes,” the deserts of Africa, the Middle East and Northern Mexico. Expansion of the Hadley Cells pushes the region where air circulation brings drier, high altitude air down (where the air “subsides”) after having lost it moisture due to precipitation as it rose nearer the equator further from the equator, drying out the mid-latitudes.

    Likewise, ocean warms more slowly than land due to ocean water’s greater thermal inertia. This implies that as moist ocean air is blown inland, while its absolute humidity may remain the same as when it was over the ocean its relative humidity will drop — leading to less precipitation in the interior continent. Combined with a higher rate of evaporation due to higher temperatures (with the rate of evaporation doubling for every 10°C) the interior will tend to dry out, and as the interior dries out this will lead to a reduction in inland moist air convection that will tend to increase daytime temperatures further.

    The high latitudes of Canada may take over for the reduced harvests of the desiccated US to some extent, but so much of the soil in Northern Canada — where farming isn’t already taking place — has been locked in ice, will subside with the melting and draining of thermokarst lakes. Rocks will have to be cleared. And the shield itself consists of thin soil covering rock.

    High latitude soil will provide a poor substitute for what had once existed in the midlatitudes. Tundra is acidic and brown forest soil becomes acidic with increased precipitation. And of course the infrastructure to support farming will be largely missing. But with temperature continuing to rise more quickly in the high latitudes than the rest of the globe it won’t make much sense to invest heavily in farming. Whatever crops the land might support will tend to be gone a few decades later.

    Meanwhile to the South the coasts will provide some solace from the baking of the continental interiors but cities will keep having to be moved inland — and we will no longer be able to afford the high investment in infrastructure. Even once the temperatures plateau the oceans will continue to rise with the melting of the ice, the loss of glaciers and the icesheets that reside on land, and most importantly the expansion of the oceans.

    Much of our ocean harvests come from the coral reefs which act like tropical rainforests in preserving diversity in an otherwise largely desolate ocean. But coral reefs will largely disappear due to periods of high temperature and increased acidity. And the latter of these will eat away at the calcareous protists that lie at the very base of so much of the ocean food chain.

    Increased drought and the occasional flooding will put at risk much of the fresh water supply — already threatened by our depletion of the water tables and many of our freshwater lakes. What water flows will tend to evaporate more quickly — with the rate of evaporation doubling for every 10°C. Rising ocean levels will likewise result in the contamination of water tables by salt and even red algae. Stronger storms will likewise contribute to this.

    With shortages in freshwater you will see people increasingly relying on whatever water they can find — despite the risks. And the risks will include waterborne illnesses. The places that are hardest hit will become a breeding ground for disease. Likewise the resource shortages will make people desperate, vulnerable to extremist ideologies — and with war comes the spread of further disease.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 20 Dec 2010 @ 11:54 PM

  288. Re 287 Timothy Chase, In the scenario presented in “Earth 2100″, it was a plague (brought on in part by climate-related poverty) that was the death blow to modern global civilization, essentially causing a famine by reducing trade – causing global population to plummet, ultimately disintegrating the U.S. into pieces (too many unsolvable disasters and people lose faith in their governments); the subsequent war between India and China wasn’t described in detail.

    PS of all disaster movies I’ve seen, that was the scariest/most depressing, because it was, so far as I can tell, the most realistic (Discovery Channel’s “Supervolcano” also a bit scary, was somewhat realistic; “Day After Tomorrow” and “Armageddon” had realistic aspects but also some rather unphysical or unlikely stuff; “The Core” was totally unrealistic – a few simple facts were nominally correct, everything that happened was just wrong. But I enjoyed watching it. (insert your Fox News joke here))

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 21 Dec 2010 @ 12:46 AM

  289. JB 279: I would look specifically for discussion of how dating could be valid for something continuously in presence of new sources of carbon, the new sources being oil seepage from the ocean floor that are consumed by bacteria. I also would look further at the possibility that ancient calcium carbonate materials would also have released some CO2 along the way.

    BPL: I would not expect people who deal with the ocean professionally to have missed obvious problems for decades.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 21 Dec 2010 @ 5:45 AM

  290. Ray Ladbury: I did note the nutrition aspect. Just think! The west will be benefiting from research done (and still being done) to aid developing countries. It’s not just GM crops. There are lots of researchers using traditional cross-breeding informed by genetic analysis and understanding the role of specific proteins. What’s more, creating varieties that aren’t “owned” by massive corporations – but a discussion of the idiocy that is US patent law is really, really off-topic.

    Obviously, none of the mitigating and adapting methods I’m discussing will work forever. They all have limits. But to me, the idea that humanity won’t try to adapt no matter what happens – that’s just not reasonable.

    Jim Bullis: Only if there is unlimited money available and no better solutions to be found.

    Patrick 027: I’m sure mistakes will be made on the way. But these days, I imagine most farmers are better informed than in past generations. More science, less folk wisdom. That’s a recipe for success when the assumptions of the folk wisdom break down.

    Tim Chase: Your comments seem to be yet another nail in the coffin for monocultures. So why are they still grown? Eggs, basket etc. And that’s without touching on biodiversity.

    Comment by Didactylos — 21 Dec 2010 @ 6:12 AM

  291. Patrick 027 wrote in 288:

    Re 287 Timothy Chase, In the scenario presented in “Earth 2100″, it was a plague (brought on in part by climate-related poverty) that was the death blow to modern global civilization, essentially causing a famine by reducing trade — causing global population to plummet, ultimately disintegrating the U.S. into pieces (too many unsolvable disasters and people lose faith in their governments); the subsequent war between India and China wasn’t described in detail.

    Well, obviously I could have included a bit more, but I didn’t want to paint too bleak a picture.

    However there is some good news. As the occasional flash floods supercharged by the acceleration of the water cycle carry away the once rich but now dessicated topsoil they will expose then wear away rock. This leads to an accelerated rate at which atmospheric carbon dioxide is mineralized and both it and the acidity levels of the oceans are brought down.

    One of the most important negative feedbacks. Unfortunately this wearing away of rock and consequent mineralization of CO2 tends to act on the scale of tens of thousands of years. The carrying away of topsoil is no doubt much faster.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 21 Dec 2010 @ 8:42 AM

  292. Ray Ladbury wrote: “… they typically yield far fewer calories, grams of protein, nutrition… than do the crops we grow now …”

    Most of the nutritional value of “the crops we grow now” in the USA is squandered by feeding those crops to cows, pigs, chickens and other animals (e.g. 98 percent of the US soybean crop is used for livestock feed) to mass-produce cheap meat, with a resulting LOSS of protein available for human consumption of up to 90 percent.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Dec 2010 @ 1:38 PM

  293. J Bullis @ 280 – it is interesting that even this uninteresting extremity of conditions will reduce ocean pH by only .7

    We can add that to the long list of things about ocean acidification you don’t understand. Small changes on the pH scale represent large changes in hydrogen ion concentration. pH is an inverse logarithmic scale. Each whole unit on the scale represents a ten-fold change in hydrogen ion concentration. E.g. a pH of 7 has ten times as many hydrogen ions as a pH of 8.

    A reduction in the ocean pH of 0.7 represents an over 400% increase in hydrogen ions from todays pH. Along with the other warming induced changes in the ocean(e.g. stratification & reduced nutrient upwelling), that would pretty much be curtains for almost all life in the ocean.

    And that all fossil fuel use in previous history has reduced pH by .1

    Yes, a roughly 30% increase in hydrogen ions from pre-industrial times. Perhaps why so many calcifying marine organisms, such as coral, are exhibiting decreased rates of calcification.

    And business-as-usual scenarios project a further 0.3 – 0.4 unit lowering of ocean pH by the end of this century. A 100- 150% increase in hydrogen ions over today.

    Yes, there’s a good reason why oceanographers are concerned about the rapid onset of ocean acidification, that reason being understanding.

    Comment by Dappledwater — 21 Dec 2010 @ 2:14 PM

  294. Didactylos, Who is saying humanity won’t TRY to adapt? However, just what conditions should we expect. How do you “adapt” to a situation when rainy seasons are not predictable–when one year you have a severe drought and the next year your seed or crops are washed away by flood before you can harvest. Agriculture has only existed during a period of exceptionally stable climate. Do you think that humans only had the ability to domesticate plants as of 10000 years ago? Or perhaps did a settled agricultural lifestyle suddenly increase the number of calories we could harvest over that of a hunter-gatherer mode of existence only when the climate became relatively stable?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 21 Dec 2010 @ 2:42 PM

  295. “Archaeologists have unearthed the remains of over 20 successive settlements in Jericho, the first of which dates back to 11,000 years ago.” from
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jericho

    “More stable living patterns gave rise by around 14,000 BCE [~16,000 years ago] to a Mesolithic or, as some scholars argue, Neolithic culture, but with some characteristics of both.” from
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C5%8Dmon_period

    Both societies are usually considered to be proto-agricultural, that is with seed selection but without the cultivation typical of traditional agricultural practice. At least the Jomon peoples started these settled ways around the time of LGM, seawards of the glaciers on Hokkaido and Honshu.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 21 Dec 2010 @ 5:57 PM

  296. 293 Dabblewater

    Thanks for helping us understand your superiority in oceanography, by virtue of your announcement of my lowly position on the scale; correct though that might be.

    It is always interesting to calibrate the superior people though. We now know that ‘acidification’ that gets us half way to an acidic condition is a hundred years away, and that the ‘curtains’ for humanity will occur, in another 100 years or so, and that is a ‘rapid’ development.

    This is not the issue of course. The issue is whether lessened alkalinity will be harmful to sea life. I would be interested in what superior folks would think about where the pH point would be that plankton stopped growing, and then what would the pH point be where calcite or aragonite would begin dissolving due to dissolved CO2.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 21 Dec 2010 @ 6:18 PM

  297. 289 BPL

    It took a hundred years for Newton’s pebble theory of light to be thrown out, even though the fact of diffraction had been established much sooner.

    So let’s make this all about defects of character rather than about interesting data. That’s the ticket to progress.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 21 Dec 2010 @ 6:29 PM

  298. #287–

    Timothy, I grew up in Canadian shield country. A lot places, if you “clear the rocks,” what you have left is bedrock. Sure, there are pockets of arable soil here and there, at places where sedimentation has been relatively high for long enough. But by and large, northern Canada–if it takes up more of the burden of agricultural production–will be doing it via either grazing or hydroponics, IMO. And it will be because food prices are way the heck up from what we are accustomed to now.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 21 Dec 2010 @ 7:47 PM

  299. J. Bullis – We now know that ‘acidification’ that gets us half way to an acidic condition is a hundred years away,…………….. and that is a ‘rapid’ development

    Errrrr, No. Remember the previous links?. Arctic Ocean corrosive to aragonite within a decade. Other studies reveal the Southern Ocean will be corrosive to aragonite by 2030. The Great Barrier Reef essentially dying within the same timeframe (acidification & bleaching from too warm oceans).

    Remember the highlighted portion from Kump 2009?. The current rate of acidification is likely unprecedented.

    This is not the issue of course.

    Maybe not to you (yet), but very important to marine life.

    The issue is whether lessened alkalinity will be harmful to sea life.

    Kind of the whole point of the links provided. For example, 4 of the 5 previous major extinction events lead to the complete loss of corals from the world’s oceans. It took many millions of years for new forms to evolve. Those were rates of acidification much slower than today. Current observations reveal worrying trends for life in the oceans. Being dead is an impediment to adaptation, hence the scientific community’s concern.

    and then what would the pH point be where calcite or aragonite would begin dissolving due to dissolved CO2.

    See link provided @ 246.

    Comment by Dappledwater — 21 Dec 2010 @ 9:23 PM

  300. “… calcifying organisms are a special case as carbonate minerals will be less saturated—and for the case of aragonite, undersaturated in surface waters in a high-CO2 ocean…. the rest of the microbial community should not be assumed to be at risk ….”
    http://www.nature.com/ismej/journal/v5/n1/full/ismej201079a.html
    http://cmore.soest.hawaii.edu/oceanacidification/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Dec 2010 @ 9:41 PM

  301. Timothy Chase,
    The problem on the Canadian Shield isn’t the rocks–rather the lack of soil. It was stripped away by the glaciers and deposited as a bounty for the Great Plains…’til we pissed that away in the dustbowl. So unless you can figure out how to grow wheat on granite…maybe some sort of wheat-lichen hybrid?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Dec 2010 @ 5:55 AM

  302. And the Python award for dry humor goes to. . . Dappledwater!!

    “Being dead is an impediment to adaptation. . .”

    I’m almost certain I could find it in my heart to believe that.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 22 Dec 2010 @ 9:12 AM

  303. Ray Ladbury wrote in 301:

    Timothy Chase,
    The problem on the Canadian Shield isn’t the rocks–rather the lack of soil. It was stripped away by the glaciers and deposited as a bounty for the Great Plains…’ til we pissed that away in the dustbowl.

    I did say that the soil over the Canadian Shield was thin — although I didn’t quite realize that over so much of the Shield the soil is nonexistent. At the same time much of Western Canada isn’t over the Canadian Shield. But even there you are going to be dealing with subsidence as permafrost melts, clearing of rock, the high acidity of tundra and the acidity of brown forest soil as it becomes moist, the lack of infrastructure and climate zones that continue to move northward — rendering so much long-term investment mute.

    Ray Ladbury wrote in 301:

    So unless you can figure out how to grow wheat on granite…. maybe some sort of wheat-lichen hybrid?

    Well, just so long as it is a wheat-lichen *hybrid*. We wouldn’t want any corporation making money off this situation with genetically modified crops. People may go hungry — or starve, I suppose — but I have my principles to consider!

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 22 Dec 2010 @ 9:30 AM

  304. Ah, more humor, this time from Timothy Chase! Well, the news is pretty horrible on balance, so we might as well laugh.

    Speaking of news, a couple of years back we had a bit of a brouhaha here about drought in the Southeast; at that time the consensus was that you couldn’t attribute drought in the Southeast to AGW. (Or ACC; whichever.) I missed it till now, but ClimateProgress reported in October on a study that came to a different conclusion:

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/10/28/global-warming-extreme-wet-dry-summer-weather-in-southeast-droughts-and-deluges/

    I’d wave my hands about this a bit, but that’s not worth much even when stuck on the roadside, I find.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 22 Dec 2010 @ 10:01 AM

  305. By the way, don’t get all happy and excited upon reading that “the rest of the microbial community should not be assumed to get at risk.”

    That’s
    – absence of evidence, not evidence of absence, and
    – slime. http://www.google.com/search?q=jeremy+jackson+rise+slime

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Dec 2010 @ 10:33 AM

  306. typo: above should read “the rest of the microbial community should not be assumed to be at risk ….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Dec 2010 @ 10:57 AM

  307. Dappledwater raises a good point. Humans adapt. Most other organisms can’t deal at all with such fast change.

    (It’s still adaptation, even if millions die.)

    Not that this has anything to do with my original point.

    As to those discussing Canada – I should point out that Canada is already an exporter of grain. The Canadian shield only covers half of Canada – I find it hard to believe that Canada is anywhere close to a theoretical maximum harvest.

    The Canadian shield is host to diverse ecosystems. Bogs and marshes, permafrost, bare rock and vast boreal forests. Saying there is “no soil” is a) wrong, and b) a gross oversimplification.

    Even if we could, chopping down the forests would probably be a really bad idea.

    I’m growing tired of having discussions about such complicated subjects in black and white terms. I need a break. Have a great Christmas, everyone.

    Comment by Didactylos — 22 Dec 2010 @ 1:41 PM

  308. re 299,246 Dapple

    Said link provides an excellent example of gibberish from the peerage, though it might have some meaningful content.

    It has by no means been completely sorted out by me, as of yet, but a few points are interesting indications of how confusion arises, even among the peers that write the paper.

    First observation is that we have in the abstract of the paper the use of the term 300% saturated, which is, on the face of it, nonsense, since one can not dissolve more than the maximum that can be dissolved. Looking to simply sort out how this could be, Table 1 demonstrates no such 300%, and equation (2) agrees, though the flip from percentage of saturation to percentage of undersaturation is silly. And then I discover that the Table 1 numbers, labeled as level of saturation, but in fact are area fractions instead. And then, why are they only talking about aragonite when calcite is more dominant, and why do we care since we are only concerned with dissolved CaCO3? Along the way, we note that the peers miss-spelled ‘stoichiometry’, which is of course a pardonable offense.

    There are many fields where various ‘super’ prefixes are added to indicate more than normal conditions, which might be what they mean by the 300% but so far, they don’t say that.

    Said link was useful in clarifying that the shorthand ‘carbonate’ actually refers to calcium carbonate, and not just any carbonate compound.

    I have scurried to my chemistry book, and have made it through Table 1 and equation (2), but am wondering if the operationally important answers will be there, since the discussion now seems to descend into computer model stuff.

    Update!!

    There is one paragraph on page 516 that basically says there is great variation in the effects of ‘acidification’, and then descends to the meaningless statement:

    “Scleractinian corals were found to survive and recover
    after experiencing decalcification in acidic water (Fine
    and Tchernov, 2007)”.

    Again, this is meaningless since there is no prospect of ‘acidic’ water, though nobody seems to have told Tchernov that acidification does not mean actually becoming acidic.

    Prepared with my open chemistry book, a question for the chemistry folks is: What is the stoichiometric (that just means weight) concentration of CO2 in water, and associated pH, that removes CaCO3 that is dissolved in seawater from that seawater at a significant rate. If there are other — carbonates around, does this affect the process? Then, what is the concentration of CO2 needed to actually dissolve solid CaCO3, that being calcite/aragonite shells already formed? Would not the originally dissolved CO2 be replaced one for one with the CO2 released in the reaction? Then, what is the degree of concentration of dissolved CaCO3 needed for growth of the various calcite/aragonite shelled creatures – - though Table 1 infers we don’t care since anything less than saturation of aragonite is ruination?

    Clearly, what I do not understand is much. I wonder how well this subject in understood. The Steinacher paper does not speak well for the community.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Dec 2010 @ 3:49 PM

  309. 301 303 Ray Ladbury, Timothy Chase

    Notice, that we got the dirt and Canada got the water.

    Maybe we should make a deal.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Dec 2010 @ 3:55 PM

  310. 302 Kevin McKinney

    Being blockheaded is also an impediment to adaptation.

    Sharing water could prevent both the next dustbowl and enable standing forests to take up CO2. But horrors, this might disturb the ecosystem; though of course, being dead might also disturb something or other.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Dec 2010 @ 4:00 PM

  311. re “oil seepage from the ocean floor” – most of the seafloor is underlain by Mid Ocean Ridge Basalt, which has accumulated a thin crust of sediment over the hundreds of millions of years that the basement rock has been moving away from the ridges.The basalt is not a source rock for oil, and the sediment that has accumulated isn’t thick enough, warm enough, or high enough biogenic content to produce oil. The only place oil seeps from the ocean floor is at continental margins where high rate burial of biogenic sediments creates pressure/temperature profiles that create oil – like in the Gulf of Mexico from the Missippi River.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 22 Dec 2010 @ 4:18 PM

  312. Forgot the link for my previous post – http://www.ngdc.noaa.gov/mgg/ocean_age/data/2008/ngdc-generated_images/whole_world/2008_age_of_oceans_p1024.jpg any ocean floor thats color shaded is not seeping oil

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 22 Dec 2010 @ 4:22 PM

  313. Jim Bullis, we no longer have the dirt. It blew away and is now mostly in the Gulf of Mexico–one of many elements in our patrimony we have pissed away.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Dec 2010 @ 6:01 PM

  314. Fine: Scleractinian coral species survive and recover from decalcification
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/315/5820/1811.full

    cited by:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&lr=&cites=6332364602742886392&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=4pASTfi_N4e4sAOshOmDDw&sa=X&oi=science_links&ct=sl-citedby&resnum=1&ved=0CBsQzgIwAA

    https://darchive.mblwhoilibrary.org/bitstream/handle/1912/2834/bg-6-515-2009.pdf?sequence=1
    Biogeosciences, 6, 515–533, 2009
    http://www.biogeosciences.net/6/515/2009/
    Imminent ocean acidification in the Arctic projected with the NCAR
    global coupled carbon cycle-climate model

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Dec 2010 @ 7:06 PM

  315. 311 Brian Dodge

    It sounds like you believe the line that deep ocean water sits still. It does not.

    I provided Pochapsky references earlier.

    This afternoon I dug up a my old copy of: John G. Bruce, Current Studies South of Bermuda, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Artemis Report Number 37, Feb. 1964. It is DTIC AD0602475 which is a Defense Dept. unclassified report that is said to be available to anyone with a grant. The Abstract says: – - the mean velocity being 10 – 12 cm/sec between 600 fathoms and the bottom. (at around 2000 fathoms here) (A packrat huh, keeping this 45 years.)

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Dec 2010 @ 7:10 PM

  316. 312 Brian Dodge

    That is a great illustration, but your conclusion about oil seepage seems overstated. It looks like all the ocean areas are colored. If you are right we should tell the offshore deep ocean oil drillers to pack up and go home.

    But we watched oil seep in widely varied locations during the BP video show. Huh?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Dec 2010 @ 7:18 PM

  317. Re Jim Bullis – First observation is that we have in the abstract of the paper the use of the term 300% saturated, which is, on the face of it, nonsense, since one can not dissolve more than the maximum that can be dissolved.

    I haven’t looked at that paper, but generally speaking, you can have supersaturation, and it occurs because reactions don’t always reach thermodynamic equilibrium rapidly, or instantaneously for that matter. Kinetic barriers to nucleation and growth of new phases can allow supersaturation to occur. Growth of a new phase can/will require diffusion of heat and matter, thus requiring a gradient, so the concentrations of heat and matter will vary, so even if something is only saturated at the phase boundary, it may be supersaturated at some distance. And saturation can be affected by the surface characteristics. For example, because of the surface tension of water, small droplets have some internal pressure, which increases the saturation vapor pressure at the droplet surface – hence they will be at equilibrium at RH above 100 %, where RH is defined for a flat surface of pure water – of course, droplets forming on soluble aerosols will have reduced equilibrium vapor pressures and may exist at smaller RH’s for that reason, even RH less than 100 % – as solute concentration decreases, larger RH is needed to keep the droplet in equilibrium – this is the condition a haze particle faces; as the droplet grows the concentration of solute decreases with increasing volume while the effect of surface tension decreases with increasing radius, so the curvature effect eventually dominates; when the equilibrium RH decreases with increasing droplet size, the droplet is now a cloud droplet. See ‘Kohler curve’.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 22 Dec 2010 @ 8:16 PM

  318. >> … any ocean floor thats color shaded is not seeping oil

    > It looks like all the ocean areas are colored…. Huh?

    Jim, you’re counting gray as a color. Brian isn’t. Look at the picture.

    Note “Florida” and “Texas” and “Mexico” — the offshore area is shown in the same gray color as the area above sea level.

    I’m commenting for later readers and any kids looking for homework help who wonder about the illustration described.

    And with that, to all, I wish a happy and peaceful stretch of winter holidays, and will switch most of my attention to family and neighbors.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Dec 2010 @ 8:29 PM

  319. 311, 312 Brian Dodge

    Other links are to Swallow with this as an example: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B757G-48BCXVH-15&_user=10&_coverDate=12%2F31%2F1958&_rdoc=1&_fmt=high&_orig=search&_origin=search&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_searchStrId=1587174511&_rerunOrigin=scholar.google&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=fd6b4ff56b2382ad14c37936a8a5171b&searchtype=a

    This is just the abstract and offer to sell the report.

    Here the report is 20 to .8 cm/sec at different depths.

    Swallow makes it into the Weart chronicle, but Pochapsky and Bruce do not. At one later point Pochapsky worked in the Lamont org headed by Ewing. I wonder if they saw things the same way.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Dec 2010 @ 10:19 PM

  320. Correction to my last:

    Weart did put in a few footnotes on Pochapsky papers, but did not seem to have read them. Otherwise the Ewing position on really old deep oceans would have been difficult to defend.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 22 Dec 2010 @ 10:21 PM

  321. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/329/5989/319.abstract

    Modeling:

    Prev | Table of Contents | Next
    Published Online 24 June 2010
    Science 16 July 2010:
    Vol. 329 no. 5989 pp. 319-322
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1188703

    Simulated Rapid Warming of Abyssal North Pacific Waters
    *To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: smasuda@jamstec.go.jp
    (If James Annan is watching this, perhaps he will comment; can’t tell much about the simulation with only the abstract)

    Abstract

    Recent observational surveys have shown significant oceanic bottom-water warming. However, the mechanisms causing such warming remain poorly understood, and their time scales are uncertain. Here, we report computer simulations that reveal a fast teleconnection between changes in the surface air-sea heat flux off the Adélie Coast of Antarctica and the bottom-water warming in the North Pacific. In contrast to conventional estimates of a multicentennial time scale, this link is established over only four decades through the action of internal waves. Changes in the heat content of the deep ocean are thus far more sensitive to the air-sea thermal interchanges than previously considered. Our findings require a reassessment of the role of the Southern Ocean in determining the impact of atmospheric warming on deep oceanic waters.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 22 Dec 2010 @ 10:23 PM

  322. J. Bullis – Said link provides an excellent example of gibberish from the peerage

    Which is you roundabout way of stating you don’t understand it.

    First observation is that we have in the abstract of the paper the use of the term 300% saturated, which is, on the face of it, nonsense

    How about you locate and read the full paper, which is freely available. Further discussion is fruitless unless you make the effort to learn. I don’t have the time to correct all your woolly-headed ideas.

    Again, this is meaningless since there is no prospect of ‘acidic’ water, though nobody seems to have told Tchernov that acidification does not mean actually becoming acidic

    Trotting out tired old denier memes is rather boring Jim. Are you sure you are not here simply to troll?.

    Comment by Dappledwater — 22 Dec 2010 @ 10:27 PM

  323. Hank Roberts @ 300 – There are some rather odd comments in that paper. I’m sure the rest of the oceanographic community is aware that pH is not a homogeneous fixed value for the global ocean. I don’t know why the authors thought it so important to point that out. pH and temperature can fluctuate markedly in some locales, and yet some organisms adapt to those conditions given sufficient time.

    The real issue is that ocean acidification, stratification, reduced upwelling, eutrophication, hypoxia etc all represent a rapidly moving target for marine life to adapt to. Even those species which have adapted to conditions of large fluctuations may soon find themselves outside of thresholds which they are able to tolerate.

    Comment by Dappledwater — 22 Dec 2010 @ 11:20 PM

  324. Hank Roberts @ 314 – try googling ” Galapagos+coral+1982-1983 El Nino”.

    Comment by Dappledwater — 22 Dec 2010 @ 11:24 PM

  325. 321 Hank Roberts

    Thanks for that abstract and reference that seem to be along the same line I have been taking, most recently in noting that effect in the Labrador sea data shown in:

    http://www.argo.ucsd.edu/Research_use.html#atlantic

    The authors here seem not so interested in the fact that at depths from 600 to 1400 meters, the temperature goes from around 3.0 to aroung 3.5 degrees C. They pointed more at the ‘deep convection event’ which seems somewhat likely to be part of the process leading to what I point out.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 23 Dec 2010 @ 12:49 AM

  326. 318 Hank Roberts,

    I see your point, though the ‘gray areas’ do not seem to enclose oil development areas very well. But no matter, there seems to be sufficient deep water motion to mix whatever seepage there is, from wherever, across the extent of the deep ocean.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 23 Dec 2010 @ 12:52 AM

  327. 317 Patrick 027

    Quite right on various occurences of supersaturation, but it does not look like this is what is going on. Maybe I will find out otherwise as I hope to plow a bit further into this paper.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 23 Dec 2010 @ 12:56 AM

  328. 322 Dapple and 321 Hank,

    Maybe it seems I am beating this carbonate stuff to death for no reason. Somewhere between a hunch and an intuition, I see an interesting possibility in the overturning current in combination with plankton capturing CO2, yes, indirectly, as CaCO3.

    Previously I had argued that heat would be transported in meaningful quantities to the deep ocean, thus reducing atmospheric temperature increases somewhat, but certainly causing sea level increase.

    If there is a possibility of capturing CO2 in surface waters by whatever mechanism, and transporting these to the far more voluminous deep ocean regions, this could be a CO2 capture system.

    My long ago awareness of sluggish but still significant deep ocean currents has always been troubling in the face of the almost fixed deep ocean hypothesis. But awareness of these currents is not the same as really understanding them. However, it seems that deep ocean currents have to relate to some extent to vertical water motions, and this would seem to be a means of heat being carried downward. Seeing the possibility of CO2 also being carried downward gives this issue a lot more importance.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 23 Dec 2010 @ 1:09 AM

  329. Didactylos wrote in 210:

    …. Parry et al (2005)? They repeat many of the points I have been making, including that by 2060, cereal production in developed countries is likely to be up, and production in developing countries down. Under most models, there is little global change.

    Not something to be lost in the shuffle. And it is open access.

    Please see:

    In general, the conclusion from recent research has been that, while one may be reasonably optimistic about the prospects of adapting the agricultural production system to the early stages of global warming, the distribution of the vulnerability among the regions and people are likely to be uneven. Where crops are near their maximum temperature tolerance and where dryland, non-irrigated agriculture predominates, yields are likely to decrease with even small amounts of climate change.

    Martin Parry, Cynthia Rosenzweig and Matthew Livermore (2005/11/29) Climate change, global food supply and risk of hunger. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B, vol. 360, no. 1463, pp. 2125-2138
    http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/360/1463/2125.full

    I do wish people would give a proper reference when they give a reference, though. The last name, et al. year makes things a bit more difficult to dig up.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 23 Dec 2010 @ 2:44 AM

  330. Timothy Chase and Didactylos,
    The problem I see is that we are maintaining agricultural production at such high levels only by depleting finite resources–e.g. petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, deep aquifers, etc. Moreover, in so doing, we are damaging other resources–look at the effect of agricultural runoff on the Chesapeake, for instance. If we manage by some miracle to increase production to even higher levels, we will merely deplete these resources more quickly and further decrease the long-term carrying capacity of the planet. I am afraid I draw little comfort from the possibility that we may purchase a little time by consuming our seed corn.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Dec 2010 @ 6:37 AM

  331. Ray Ladbury wrote in 330:

    The problem I see is that we are maintaining agricultural production at such high levels only by depleting finite resources–e.g. petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, deep aquifers, etc. Moreover, in so doing, we are damaging other resources–look at the effect of agricultural runoff on the Chesapeake, for instance. If we manage by some miracle to increase production to even higher levels, we will merely deplete these resources more quickly and further decrease the long-term carrying capacity of the planet. I am afraid I draw little comfort from the possibility that we may purchase a little time by consuming our seed corn.

    I don’t disagree. And if you look back you will see that Didactylos didn’t either. He was speaking mid-century, and he was arguing that the case for the global collapse of modern civilization mid-century hadn’t been made by Barton Paul Levenson. He was arguing for water management. See 210 and 232. And for water management he cites the same source Barton Paul Levenson. See above. I don’t think you would disagree with either of these positions taken by Didactylos. As far as I know the position he takes with respect to agriculture is mainstream — or at least was. At least from what I have seen mid-century projections for agriculture in the United States don’t look that dire — yet. He wasn’t insisting that such projections were right, either. But he wanted to discuss the literature rather than have his position misrepresented — as it was being misrepresented at one point. See Didactylos 210 and 220 and Barton Paul Levenson 215.

    And long-term? Didactylos wouldn’t argue that climate change won’t eventually cause the the collapse of civilization. See 232. Then people seemed to lose sight of the time frames. I was thinking end of century. He may still have been thinking mid-century, and everyone was leaving the time frame they were assuming unstated. And I was “disagreeing” with Didactylos but directing my discussion towards you by essentially underscoring what you had said and elaborating upon it — in part because I felt enough people were arguing with Didactylos already. People tend to become unreasonable when they feel attacked and put on the defensive — and several people simultaneously arguing with you will oftentimes result in your feeling attacked.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 23 Dec 2010 @ 12:00 PM

  332. Timothy, While I agree that Barton has some homework to do before he’s made his case, I would also contend that his is not an implausible scenario. Midcentury will indeed be a period of extreme stress on the biosphere and on our ability to feed what (I hope) will be the crest of human population. In looking to bound potential impact of climate change, it is not a scenario that we can dismiss lightly by mumbling incantations like “water management” and “alarmist”. For one thing, the scale of water management that would be required means we’d have to get started right about…10 years ago. Given our track record on energy–where again, we are about 40 years behind where we should be–this doesn’t exactly fill me with hope.

    I would say that in general, we are about 40-50 years behind where we should be in all aspects of developing a sustainable economy…and even if we manage to negotiate food insecurity, environmental degradation, climate change and resource depletion, we’ll still have to confront something that isn’t even on the radar screen yet. How do we have a stable economy when population is actually decreasing and aging? If people think the sovereign debt crisis is a bear, wait ’til they confront that one.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Dec 2010 @ 1:58 PM

  333. 331 Timothy Chase, Ray Ladbury, Didactylos et al.

    Now that we have much common basis for discussion, consider the resources that are hugely abundant. These are coal and water. I realize that there are those who would not put water on the list, but in the context of climate crisis, perhaps it is time to rethink our boundaries on this point.

    I maintain that the question is whether we can use these resources wisely. If there was a policy of limiting increases in use of coal such that CO2 from that increased use was no more than the amount of CO2 that could be taken up by new systems, an example of such being forest agriculture, then there might be a balanced policy here that would hold for a long time.

    We might discuss whether it would be necessary to balance current rate of coal caused CO2 as well. But if the scope of the forest project were limited to just balancing the increase in coal from this day forward, then the cost might not seem as daunting as Didactylos sees it.

    I was concerned when I saw the Craig Ventner activities related to production of genetically modified algae, where that seems potentially hard to control. On the other hand, genetically modified trees seem like a reasonable thing to consider in order to get the growth and climate suitability of a very large new forest in areas not presently heavily forested.

    But a larger form of agrarian solution could involve nothing more than stimulating growth of plankton in the ocean. According to elementary information, plankton presently grows in bands are adjacent to land masses, due to the need for nutrients from land which are airborne over the bands. The goal would be to stimulate plankton growth so that it grows more rapidly on the edges of the present bands, and the bands would also be enlarged by a modest amount. The action needed would be some system of enhancing distribution of nutrients that are currently limited to what winds can carry from land.

    Happy holidays.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 23 Dec 2010 @ 3:09 PM

  334. Jim Bullis,
    Water is in fact one of the limiting factors in most calculations regarding our prospects for the simple reason that everything we do requires it.
    Similarly, coal, even if there were a feasible carbon capture scheme, is finite. I would much rather see it held in reserve for a feedstock to chem labs than burned.

    And of course the biggest problem: our leaders aren’t leading. They are allowing the people to bask in their ignorance. Human stupidity and ignorance seem to be the only two inexhaustible resources we have to work with.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Dec 2010 @ 3:40 PM

  335. Tim Chase 331,

    Which part of “70% of Earth’s land surface will be in severe drought by 2050-2055″ did you not understand?

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 23 Dec 2010 @ 5:11 PM

  336. Ray 334,

    Cf Albert Einstein’s comment…

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 23 Dec 2010 @ 5:14 PM

  337. Jim Bullis, what I get from all of your comments is this: you are willing to move heaven and earth (literally) to perpetuate the use of coal for generating electricity.

    That makes no sense. There really is nothing else to say about it.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 Dec 2010 @ 5:48 PM

  338. RayLadbury:

    How do we have a stable economy when population is actually decreasing and aging? If people think the sovereign debt crisis is a bear, wait ’til they confront that one.

    That one is currently being “confronted”, by the white American Christian right, search a bit on “Demographic Winter” – climate change is meaningless to folks concerned with insuring their own genes and culture predominate.

    Comment by flxible — 23 Dec 2010 @ 6:01 PM

  339. flxible@338,
    Yes, knowing that the problem is being contemplated by imbeciles will, I’m sure, be a great comfort to me.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Dec 2010 @ 7:25 PM

  340. Ray Ladbury @ 313:

    Sigh.

    We still have plenty of dirt. “Dirt” gets made all the time, and proper soil management, along with proper crop management, insures that there will be more “dirt” tomorrow than today, if only they do the needful.

    The problem is that intensive farming no longer includes “do the needful” as a step. It doesn’t pay to engage in soil conservation or management, so farmers don’t do it as much as they used to.

    And that’s where the dirt went — down the toilet along with the rest of sound business practices.

    Comment by FurryCatHerder — 23 Dec 2010 @ 8:03 PM

  341. Another good idea, Jim. Whales used to take care of that:
    http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2010/06/14/rspb.2010.0863.full
    Found among these: http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=stimulating+growth+of+plankton+in+the+ocean

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Dec 2010 @ 8:36 PM

  342. Barton Paul Levenson wrote in 335:

    Which part of “70% of Earth’s land surface will be in severe drought by 2050-2055″ did you not understand?

    For starters, the bit where it says “peer reviewed.”

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 23 Dec 2010 @ 9:54 PM

  343. Well, I’ve sat this discussion out, pretty much–probably a good thing. Food for thought, though, all of you–so thanks.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 Dec 2010 @ 10:23 PM

  344. And Merry Christmas!

    (ReCaptcha gnomically opines, “slightly perbrial.”)

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 23 Dec 2010 @ 10:25 PM

  345. ReCaptcha, perhaps in a holiday religio/political spirit–is showing me:

    Ephesian Rentist

    And to all a good night.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Dec 2010 @ 11:09 PM

  346. BPL: Which part of “70% of Earth’s land surface will be in severe drought by 2050-2055″ did you not understand?

    Tim: For starters, the bit where it says “peer reviewed.”

    BPL: I’ll let you know when I hear back from J. Climate.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 24 Dec 2010 @ 7:00 AM

  347. Barton Paul Levenson wrote 346:

    BPL: I’ll let you know when I hear back from J. Climate

    Sounds good — and I wish you luck.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 24 Dec 2010 @ 10:51 AM

  348. http://maps.thefullwiki.org/Cold_seep
    “Cold seeps were discovered in 1984 by Dr. Charles Paull in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of . Since then, seeps have been discovered in other parts of the world’s oceans, including the Monterey Canyon just off Monterey Bay, California, the Sea of Japan, off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, in the Atlantic off of Africa, in waters off the coast of Alaska, and under an ice shelf in Antarctica. The deepest seep community known is found in the Japan trench at a depth of 6400m ”

    http://www.mbari.org/benthic/coldseeploc.htm

    http://www.gulfbase.org/facts.php
    “The Gulf of Mexico basin is a relatively simple, roughly circular structural basin approximately 1,500 km in diameter, filled in its deeper part with 10 to 15 km of sedimentary rocks that range in age from Late Triassic to Holocene (approximately 230 m.y. to present). ”
    “Since Late Jurassic time, the basin has been a stable geologic province characterized by the persistent subsidence of its central part, probably due at first to thermal cooling and later to sediment loading as the basin filled with thick prograding clastic wedges[1] along its northwestern and northern margins, particularly during the Cenozoic.”
    [1] “prograding clastic wedges” is geology speak for a large pile of sediment eroded from mountains or continents that’s grown thick enough to begin cementing into sedimentary rock, and gets thicker/older further away from the source.

    http://www.halliburton.com/public/solutions/contents/Deep_Water/related_docs/GOM_DWMap.pdf

    http://emvc.geol.ucsb.edu/downloads.php#SBoil

    http://people.whitman.edu/~yancey/califseeps.html.
    “2. DEEP SEEPS
    Oregon–1800-2000m; Alaska–4400m; JAPAN–1100m, and Trench 6400m
    These are methane and sulfide seeps at various locations in the Pacific. The Oregon ones are on the continental shelf. The Alaska ones are in the Aleutian Trench. The Japan ones are in Sagami Bay and Okinawa Trough (about 1100m) and the Japan Trench.”

    http://www.tdi-bi.com/our_publications/ogj-hf-july02/figures/fig5.gif Oil formation requires >100 deg C, which occurs below ~3km sediment thickness. Because the old deep seafloor starts at about 2-3 degrees centigrade, has had millions of years to lose the heat it originally had near the mid ocean ridge, and has moved away from the hotter mantle underlying the ridge, the geothermal gradient is lower and would require even deeper burial to achieve oil maturation temperatures.

    http://www.geology.yale.edu/~ajs/1999/07-09.1999.02Hedges.pdf discusses the decrease in rate of burial as the distance offshore increases, and the concurrent increase in the amount of oxidation and removal of the organic fraction of sediments, because they are exposed for longer periods to diffusing oxygen and microbial degradation the slower they are buried.

    www-odp.tamu.edu/publications/110_SR/VOLUME/…/sr110_02.pdf shows the stratigraphy of a core from the abyssal plain northeast of S. America, which collected turbidites from the Amazon and Orinoco basins. the core is ~500 meters long, and represents 50 million years of seafloor history. The slow 1 cm per thousand year accumulation of sediment exposed the organic contents to oxygen diffusing in from the seawater, and allowed microbial metabolism to “burn” the carbon therein to CO2, which was carried away by bottom currents.

    http://science.jrank.org/pages/47908/ocean-basins.htm
    http://www.enotes.com/earth-science/abyssal-plains

    ecco.jpl.nasa.gov/~jwillis/willis_grl_10.pdf – Argo floats and satellite altimetry used to better measure and constrain MOC; he finds that the flow of surface water north (and necessarily bottom water South) to be ~18 Sv, the number I used for a crude estimate for overturning time.
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/286/5442/1132.abstract
    “Chlorofluorocarbon-11 inventories for the deep Southern Ocean appear to confirm physical oceanographic and geochemical studies in the Southern Ocean, which suggest that no more than 5 × 106 cubic meters per second of ventilated deep water is currently being produced. ” (=5Sv, less than 1/3 the Atlantic thermohaline circulation)

    Keep in mind that the coastal upwellings (Benguela, East Africa,) that short circuit the AMOC, and reduce the flow available to ventilate Pacific deepwater, make its residence time longer. There are areas of deep ocean where the currents are sufficient to scour the sediments off the bottom, but the existence of the abyssal plains with their smooth coat of ancient sediments argues for large areas of ocean bottom with slow currents.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 24 Dec 2010 @ 7:56 PM

  349. I am sceptical of assumptions in this post.

    Assumption 1. We can trust the trillion tonne argument. This seems to argue that another half trillion tonnes of CO2 can be added to the atmosphere and we can still keep in the comfort zone of an average temperature rise across the earth of 2°C.

    Firstly 2°C may not be much of a comfort zone – even a one degree temperature rise may be worse than expected. In “Intensification of hot extremes in the United States”, Diffenbaugh and Ashfaq report that substantial intensification of hot extremes could occur within the next 3 decades, below the 2 degrees Celsius global warming target currently being considered by policy makers. Elsewhere Diffenbaugh says

    “Frankly, I was expecting that we’d see large temperature increases later this century with higher greenhouse gas levels and global warming, I did not expect to see anything this large within the next three decades. This was definitely a surprise.” and

    “It’s up to the policy makers to decide the most appropriate action but our results suggest that limiting global warming to 2 degrees C does not guarantee that there won’t be damaging impacts from climate change.”

    Secondly the climate models should not be wholly trusted because they may underestimate both “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns”. One of the proponents of the “trillion tonne theory” said of the low point in Arctic Ice in 2007

    “Some claims that were made about the ice anomaly were misleading. A lot of people said this is the beginning of the end of Arctic ice, and of course it recovered the following year and everybody looked a bit silly.”

    It seems clear now that Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than the quote from Prof Allen implies and the albedo effect is serious and Arctic sea ice is some sort of tipping point. I doubt that this was fully represented in the computer models used in the calibration of the trillion tonne theory. I also understand that most climate models do not fully incorporate other potentially important feedbacks, such as temperature dependant greenhouse gas emissions from the Siberian tundra.

    Assumption 2. We cannot (“economically” or “practically”) extract CO2 from the atmosphere. Yes we can. Biochar is one way. The most internationally recognised expert on biochar is Johannes Lehman who has said.

    “To fully understand the potential of biochar, we have to realise that there’s a large amount of carbon dioxide cycling annually from the atmosphere into the biomass by photosynthesis, being recycled by micro organisms, back to the atmosphere. This is a huge amount of carbon that is cycling annually between the atmosphere, the plants and back to the atmosphere. So much that every few years (actually about fourteen years), the entire atmosphere has gone once through the biomass, (the plant biomass) and back out again. So if we capture only a small proportion of that carbon annually fixed by photosynthesis and are able to divert it from this fast biological carbon cycle into a much slower cycling, biochar cycle, we have a technology that then delivers net reductions of Co2 in the atmosphere. If you compare this annual cycle, that’s about sixty or eighty megatonnes of carbon through the plant biomass, with the annual anthropogenic emissions that are anywhere in the neighbourhood of seven or nine megatons annually then you realise that we only need a small fraction of this annually cycling carbon to be captured into a biochar cycle to put a significant dent into the emissions.”

    There are, of course, other ways of extracting carbon from the atmosphere, even without fancy technology: chop a tree sink it in the sea.

    Assumption 3: The long term is much more important than the near term. The near term is full of dangers and unexpected consequences. The current cold spell in Europe may be one minor example. If damage is too great in the near term, there will not be enough resources to cope with the long term.

    Concentration on the long term may downplay the importance of the rate of climate change. Given time, we may be able to reorganise food production to cope with new climates, rebuild the infrastructure disrupted by changing climate and, just possibly, invent new technologies.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 26 Dec 2010 @ 3:05 PM

  350. 348 Brian Dodge

    You put a lot into this comment, of which I particularly notice the information on deep oil discoveries that contradict your earlier assertion in 311 that the colored ocean areas would not seep oil. You add methane seepage information which would also be potentially corrupting of carbon dating results.

    You conclude noting that there are large areas of deep ocean with slow currents. Here I point out that I am noticing measurements of deep ocean currents in the 2 cm/sec up to 30 cm/sec and these speeds would qualify as ‘slow’. My point is that the MOC should include these deep regions since the opportunity for seawater transport is huge, even though the rate is so slow. For explanatory purposes only, consider Northerly flowing surface current down to 50 meters and Sourtherly flowing deep currents down to 5000 meters. The relative cross section of the deep flow would be 100 times larger, whereby a continuous cycle with 2 cm/sec at the deep part would require 2 meters/sec at the surface.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Dec 2010 @ 2:09 PM

  351. 349 Geoff Beacon,

    Your assertion that we can (“economically” or “practically”) extract CO2 from the atmosphere biochar is not correct, though the basic biochar idea has some merit. I say it is not correct because I perceive that it would require use of land, water, machinery, and labor in large measures. Taking land that could be productive for establishing a biochar cycle as you describe is an action that would remove land from potential or actual food production.

    I say that it would be better to store carbon compounds in standing forests. Biochar would be a useful adjunct to that basic standing forest system as a part of the eventual forest management process, as a way of cleaning up after limited harvesting as well as a part of brush clearing processes along the way.

    While the forest project could be part of an overall mitigation plan, I now would look more carefully at possibilities based on ocean based natural processes.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Dec 2010 @ 2:20 PM

  352. 337 Secular Animist

    Sorry you think the subject of coal is closed.

    Given the realities of energy, both importance and limitations, I work to find ways to make it all work for everybody.

    As I see it, the longed for elimination of coal could be achieved by significant changes in life style, but forcing such change on the public amounts to a form of social engineering that I am uncomfortable with; so my general approach is to find ways to make life as we choose to live it work out in the best way we can manage. Getting CO2 under control is part of making things work out. But pre-judging that it has to involve eliminating coal is short sighted.

    The generally held view seems to be that the forest and water plan would be hugely expensive is ignoring of the experience with irrigation systems, most notably the California aquaduct, which has returned investment many times over through agricultural productivity increase, and still has handled a big part of the water needs of Los Angeles County.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Dec 2010 @ 2:37 PM

  353. 278 BPL

    In response to my challenging the existence of 1000 year old water, you announced that I should, “Crack an oceanography textbook. It’s not controversial.”

    Ah, these words are like the clank of steel to an old warhorse. (Please forgive the metaphor.)

    Where might I find such an oceanography text?

    [Response: Google "Deep Pacific 14C age" - gavin]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Dec 2010 @ 2:49 PM

  354. Re 353, gavin inline

    I will, but in the meantime look at the paper at: https://abstracts.congrex.com/scripts/jmevent/abstracts/FCXNL-09A02a-1801224-1-foam_whitepaper.pdf

    Here they say:

    Turbulent diapycnal mixing in the ocean controls the transport of heat, freshwater, dissolved gases, nutrients, and pollutants. Though many present generation climate models represent turbulent mixing with a simplistic diffusivity below the surface mixed layer, the last two decades of ocean mixing research have instead revealed dramatic spatial and
    temporal heterogeneity in ocean mixing. Climate models that do not appropriately represent the turbulent fluxes of heat, momentum, and CO2 across critical interfaces will not accurately represent the ocean’s role in present or future climate.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Dec 2010 @ 4:02 PM

  355. Re 353 gavin inline also,

    I found this interesting re the effects of hurricanes in vertical ocean mixing which we discussed a couple years ago:

    http://tao-tc.ucsd.edu/WEB_DATA/PUBLICATIONS/DAsaro_cold.wake.frances_GRL_2007aug.pdf

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Dec 2010 @ 4:09 PM

  356. Re 353 Gavin inline

    Sampling of the many found items seems to yield nothing that would acknowledge the possibility of corruption of samples by deep bacteria digestion of oil, though it is clear that this is not a simple subject.

    A representative statement is by Adkins and Boyle 1997:

    Accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS)
    studies of the radiocarbon content of contemporary benthic and
    planktonic foraminifera have provided our only direct
    information on these rates [Broecker et al., 1988; Shackleton et
    al., 1988; Duplessy et al., 1989; Broecker et al., 1990a, b;
    Duplessy et al., 1991; Kennett and Ingram, 1995]. In these
    studies, it is assumed that the age difference between benthic
    foraminifera and planktonic foraminifera from the same depth in
    a sediment core is equal to the radiocarbon age difference
    betweent he waters in which they grew. By comparing benthic
    and planktonic pairs from different depths in the core, the
    radiocarbon age history of deep water at one site is then
    reconstructed.

    I suggest that the use of benthos as the reference is fundamentally corrupting of the results.

    [Response: Sorry, but this is nonsense. Benthic foram isotopes have been measured for 50 years everywhere in the ocean, compared to in situ water properties, cultured in labs, scanned with electron microscopes, have been replicated up the wazoo, form the basis of a whole science (paleoceanography), show the same patterns across all the oceans, etc. etc. Your idea that somehow all of this is just some artifact because you think they are all eating oil (even in areas where there isn't any?) is completely without foundation. - gavin]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Dec 2010 @ 4:44 PM

  357. 356 Gavin inline

    Would it not be nonsense to rely on age data for deep water to prove that deep water was not moving, when the very fact of moving water would enable the distribution of deep oil products that would corrupt the data to make the data look like water was not moving?

    And there is substantial oceanographic data that shows that deep water does move substantially, though sluggishly.

    [Response: Huh? If there is a finite age, then there must be movement (otherwise the age would be infinite). Who has claimed that the water is not moving? And where did this nonsense about oil contamination come from? Please get back to discussing something real. - gavin]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Dec 2010 @ 5:18 PM

  358. 357 Gavin

    The question is whether water is moving slowly or very, very slowly; like will surface water be brought into the deep ocean at a significant rate with respect to heat and CO2.

    If it is 1000 years old, you know of course that this indicates very, very slow motion and it would not be necessary to consider it in the modeling. Neither does Rahmstorf consider the deep ocean to be a significant part of the thermohaline circulation.

    The active bacteria in the deep ocean is well known, and since this would leave its products in the deep water, the idea that it would corrupt the dating method is self-evident, and need not have come from anywhere in the peerage. I was reminded of it in connection with the BP spill and then further from recent pictures of the Titanic railing, which was said to have been eaten by said bacteria.

    [Response: The deep ocean is not significant to the thermohaline circulation? Really? Well, this is clearly an ingrained issue for you and while I can't see the obviousness of bacteria messing up 14C dating (or even its sense), you obviously can. You would have thought that if it was so obvious that a well used technique was so flawed someone would have mentioned it, but maybe that's just me. I think there is little more for me to add. - gavin]

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 27 Dec 2010 @ 6:16 PM

  359. Geoff Beacon @349 — The 0.8 K increase so far already is having some severe consequences.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 27 Dec 2010 @ 8:07 PM

  360. JB 352: pre-judging that it has to involve eliminating coal is short sighted.

    BPL: It’s not pre-judging. It’s post-judging after hundreds of years of experience with the damn stuff.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 28 Dec 2010 @ 6:40 AM

  361. Jim Bullis #355. I don’t claim that biochar is the answer to “life, death and everything” but I believe that Raypierre is being too optimistic in his “Trillion tonne” scenario. As David Benson says @359 the 0.8 K increase so far already is having some severe consequences. If the physical and political realities are worse than Raypierre believes, what would you do?

    Do we keep eating methane generating beef and lamb? (These also crowd out much more productive sources of food.)

    Do we keep trucking with soot producing diesel engines?

    Do we leave CO2 in the atmosphere because we refuse to pay the price?

    Let me know.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 28 Dec 2010 @ 10:48 AM

  362. It would be interesting to know what climate feedbacks were missing from (or underestimated in) the climate models used in the calculations in the Trillion Tonne Scenario. Arctic sea ice and greenhouse gas emissions from the Siberian tundra are probably missing but other possible feed backs may be missing also: under-sea clathrates, Amazon die-back, carbon sinks failing, insect infestations in boreal forests, forest and peat fires.

    How many of these feedbacks might be significant?

    Are there any missing ones?

    Are any of the feedbacks accounted for in the models for the Trillion Tonne Scenario?

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 28 Dec 2010 @ 11:07 AM

  363. http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2010/12/14/deep-ocean-heat-is-melting-antarctic-ice/

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Dec 2010 @ 11:15 AM

  364. Zaehle et al. “Terrestrial nitrogen feedbacks may accelerate future climate change” http://www.agu.org/journals/ABS/2010/2009GL041345.shtml

    Is this another feedback missing from the Trillion Tonne Scenario?

    Is it sigificant?

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 29 Dec 2010 @ 9:59 AM

  365. Geoff, you’re basically asking for results from a comparison of two or more different climate models — part of a large ongoing effort — and you’re asking for comparison of one old and one new model that are very different.

    The original post refers to the UIVC climate model (http://climate.uvic.ca/model/ ) — the documentation for UIVC discusses comparing different climate models and how it’s done by their working group.

    Zaehle’s papers (several) describe results from the “O-CN land surface model”– a new model.

    You ask what difference Zaehle’s numbers would make — the abstract gives their results: “… increase atmospheric [CO2] in the year 2100 with a median value of 48 (41–55) ppmv, corresponding to an additional radiative forcing of 0.29 (0.28–0.34) W m−2.”

    You ask if that’s significant. What would the answer mean?

    The original post says “It’s cumulative carbon that counts, and pretty much it is the only thing that counts.” — referring to fossil carbon going into the air, that the total amount is what matters, not how fast we do it. So it wouldn’t matter if it’s from clathrates or coal or tundra, what matters is how much carbon.

    Zaehle’s papers say more carbon may stay in the atmosphere a bit faster.

    Years ago I worked as a cave guide. On every tour, someone would ask “How many miles of unexplored passages are there in this cave?”

    Time will tell. If you look at the climate model comparison work, it’s being published slowly. Your particular question will be answered, but probably not immediately.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Dec 2010 @ 12:22 PM

  366. 361 Geoff Beacon

    You say, “- – increase so far already is having some severe consequences. If the physical and political realities are worse than Raypierre believes, what would you do?”

    I say, “The most immediate physical reality is that industrial production in the developed world is badly sagging. That will drive the political reality; haphazardly of course due to chaos of our government. My perception is that the political reality will stymie attempts to change our energy supply, whereby nothing much will change, though there could be damage to the economy due to the incompetence of attempts to change this energy system.”

    Further I say, “Good or bad weather is not compelling evidence of climate change. Measured increase in heat content of the oceans is evidence of CO2 excess, and increased heat content will probably cause a significant sea level rise.” Where heat content causes ocean surface temperature changes, weather patterns would change.

    You ask what I would do, rhetorically I think, but I will answer the direct question.

    I would continue to try to sort out the ocean effects which seem to be inadequately handled at this time. I rattle between Junior High level stuff and unreadable papers from the peerage, and then get the ‘that is the way we do it’.

    It is particularly curious that deep ocean currents of 2 cm/sec are accepted as truth, but deep ocean water is said to be thousands or more years old. I see this as important since it relates to how the ocean will react to the problem.

    The ocean is important in storing heat which would otherwise heat the atmosphere. It also has a role in storing CO2 which works against the fundamental CO2 imbalance. I question why this is not a focus of science, in particular, why would we not stimulate growth of the plankton which is a key part of the mechanism of that storage.

    I think people should choose what they want to eat. My choice is usually fish, but it is getting harder and harder to find supplies of that. Breakfasts are almonds and home-made V9. (Better than V8.) But please leave me a good hamburger now and then from ‘organic’ beef.

    I know how to build fast cars and trucks that would use around 70% less mechanical energy from whatever generating mechanism, and I should be working more on these. The market is discouraging of this activity, partly because of would be ‘green’ interference.

    Diesel engines are good things, though they need not be so big. (My trucks would use one-third sized engines, maybe smaller.) The real issue is not so much about soot as it is about NOx compounds due to the high combustion temperatures. Though regulations are causing costly adaptation, these are desirable and necessary. Good news seems likely with the developments of catalytic converters that would eliminate these NOx compounds. These could do a lot to eliminate the last remnants of soot as well.

    It appears we could pay a high price to remove CO2 or we might think a little more find low priced answers. Massive forestation is one cost effective answer, where water distribution would enable the forestation while also providing agricultural productivity to pay the way. Maybe providing nutrients that would stimulate plankton would also work cost effectively.

    We should think a little about the obvious stratagems that would foist the load onto the industrial world, though this will reflect back on everyone. Another misguided effort is to hype up electric vehicles as CO2 reducing solutions, which they most definitely are not; and government repeal of the Laws of Thermodynamics will not change the facts – - though ignoring thermodynamics and naive expectations about electric power production will confuse and make cynical the public. Continuation of the system of central power plants is continuation of a hundred year long disaster of waste, and smart grids perpetuate this and shifting to natural gas power plants is a halfway measure that will take away from supplies of natural gas that could be more beneficially used in distributed cogeneration systems for electricity production.

    Do we keep eating methane generating beef and lamb? (These also crowd out much more productive sources of food.)

    Do we keep trucking with soot producing diesel engines?

    Do we leave CO2 in the atmosphere because we refuse to pay the price?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 29 Dec 2010 @ 1:56 PM

  367. I question why this is not a focus of science, in particular, why would we not stimulate growth of the plankton which is a key part of the mechanism of that storage.

    But it has been the focus of scientific study. The extent of scientific knowledge is not governed by your inability, or disinclination to use google.

    Iron fertilization won’t work. For an explanation see here:

    Can ocean iron fertilization mitigate ocean acidification? = Nope!

    Comment by Dappledwater — 29 Dec 2010 @ 4:53 PM

  368. Hank Roberts #355

    Thanks for your reply but it is not relevant to compare climate models. We should worry about the Trillion Tonne Scenario if the models used have missing feedbacks. It’s not relevant that newer models exist.

    The original post does say “It’s cumulative carbon that counts, and pretty much it is the only thing that counts.” But:

    1. The post assumes that human activity is responsible for cumulative carbon emissions. But temperature driven feedbacks cause emissions which eat into “our” trillion tonnes – the coal in “clathrates or coal or tundra” are our emissions the “clathrates and tundra” are not but they diminish our leeway.
    2. It’s not “cumulative emissions” that count but the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. We must extract it.
    3. The speed of climate change does matter because the world needs the time to come to grips with the enormity of it all. In economics that’s called Real Options Analysis. Plan for the near term so we can still cope when predictions fail.

    Nobody here has given any comfort about modelling feedbacks in the Trillion Tonne Scenario. Is the worrying conclusion that it hasn’t been done?

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 29 Dec 2010 @ 5:44 PM

  369. Jim Bullis #366

    Thanks Jim. That’s the sort of thinking we need. I don’t agree with all your conclusions but the division of “experts” into their silos makes it difficult to design lifestyles that will enable us to cope. We need a profession that combines climate science, economics, psychology, town planning, agriculture, horticulture, architecture, etc.

    Not much on the horizon.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 29 Dec 2010 @ 5:59 PM

  370. 369 Geoff Beacon

    Argh! No engineers needed?

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 30 Dec 2010 @ 4:44 PM

  371. Jim

    Stupid of me.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 31 Dec 2010 @ 3:19 AM

  372. Note to my MP:

    Note for Hugh Bayley MP
    31st December 2010

    Dear Hugh,

    Thank you for following up my note to Chris Huhne. You may remember that one of my concerns was the climate modelling that formed the basis of the Trillion Tonne Scenario. I referenced the paper:

    Allen et al, “Warming caused by cumulative carbon emissions towards the trillionth tonne”. Nature 458, 1163-1166 (30 April 2009).

    The worry that I had then and in earlier notes was that current government thinking does not cope with these contingencies:

    – A failure to control global greenhouse emissions soon
    – Feedbacks reacting more strongly than expected.

    An associated worry concerns the Climate Change Committee, who in referring to one possible feedback, have told me

    “we do not assign probabilities to methane release because we do not yet know enough about these processes to include them in our models projections.”

    Also I have formed the impression that the speed of Arctic sea ice melting has not been fully appreciated. This is considered to be a significant feedback. See “Disappearing Arctic sea ice”, http://www.brusselsblog.co.uk/?p=45

    You may also like to look at “Plan A might fail … so we need Plan B”, http://www.ccq.org.uk/wordpress/?p=139

    I occasionally post on an excellent website http://www.realclimate.org, a site run by serious climate scientists. The site is a great help in understanding climate change. A few days ago I posted on this site, which ran a piece relevant to the Trillion Tonne scenario, raising similar concerns to the Chris Huhne note. See:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/12/losing-time-not-buying-time/comment-page-8/#comments

    This is a topic which is of importance: If the climate models used in the Trillion Tonne Scenario are underestimates, Government policy needs to be updated. I have had no reply from the climate scientists as yet. I will keep you informed.

    I will post this note on the RealClimate website.

    Happy New Year

    Geoff

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 31 Dec 2010 @ 7:05 AM

  373. 371 Geoff Beacon,

    Thanks for acknowledging a simple oversight.

    Happy New Year

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 31 Dec 2010 @ 7:04 PM

  374. You can compare Zaehle’s estimated additional radiative forcing to the last IPCC report’s estimaged numbers.

    For the latter if you don’t go to the IPCC source, there’s a good summary here: http://atoc.colorado.edu/~seand/headinacloud/?p=204

    Looks like about a 20 percent increase. Not trivial, but not unmanageable.

    Compare the size of various stabilization wedges: http://www.worldlingo.com/ma/enwiki/en/Stabilization_Wedge_Game

    This sort of thing is being looked at all the time; the next IPCC report is explicitly looking more at uncertainties, this would be one such.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 31 Dec 2010 @ 9:26 PM

  375. Thanks Hank Roberts #374.

    Your calculation that Zaehle’s estimates add 20% to radiative forcing is useful and worrying for me. What about the other feedbacks that may have been underestimated?

    Don’t we need to know the size of the problem now so policy makers can be influenced to come up with plausible scenarios? My experience is that government departments are reluctant to believe things that are inconvenient. I am suspicious, for example, of the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs as seen through their website. For example their website makes it very hard to find work on the carbon footprint of beef and lamb That is despite the fact they commissioned some good work on the subject. Look at Adrian Williams website here:

    http://www.cranfield.ac.uk/sas/aboutus/staff/williamsa.html

    Then try and find the work on the DEFRA website without the key code “IS0205 “work he did on the carbon footprints. Using the key code you may also find a later publication “The Environmental Impact of Livestock Production”, a review of research and literature. I read this document as greenwash and an attempt to hide the impact of Dr William’s findings. The Executive summary starts

    “The main domestic livestock sectors produce a wide range of products (food, leather, wool
    etc) and public services, such as employment, landscape and cultural heritage. However
    livestock production impacts on the environment in a variety of ways, both positive and
    negative, but there are some systems where there is greater potential for the environment to
    be compromised in order to achieve efficient production. The key is to minimise negative
    impacts in the most cost-effective way.”

    I wouldn’t balance “employment, landscape and cultural heritage” against the climate crisis. Landscape and cultural heritage are either NIMBY terms or meaningless. If we really wanted to create jobs there are easier ways – see http://www.morejobs.co.uk.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 1 Jan 2011 @ 11:25 AM

  376. Geoff, I did no calculation; I eyeballed two numbers. Not even long division.
    Look at the sources I linked to, but such a calculation won’t mean much taken in isolation — it’s at most, if it’s real, one additional factor contributing some uncertainty to one side of a broad uncertainty range. The next IPCC will be assessing this stuff from more than just a couple of numbers.

    I think the most you can say is that we’re not confident we know the worst.
    No news there, really, except perhaps for the politicians who want more certainty than the facts we know allow.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2011 @ 1:25 PM

  377. More unfortunate consequences surface:

    http://www.thespacereview.com/article/1723/1

    “… black carbon soot emitted by rocket engines…. deposited in the stratosphere, could have a significant effect on the atmosphere should space tourism and other applications of commercial suborbital vehicles generate significant demand for flights….”

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2010/2010GL044548.shtml

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 1 Jan 2011 @ 1:27 PM

  378. Hank

    “The next IPCC will be assessing this stuff” … too late.

    Look at practical decisions such as the North Yorkshire incinerator plan. The York Press reports “[Harrogate and Knaresborough’s new MP Andrew Jones] said he would argue that the project would mean North Yorkshire County Council committing £90 million, plus £1 billion in operating costs over 25 years. “

    This is one example of future options that will be constrained for decades to come, without the help of the IPCC’s wisdom. If we knew now what truths the next IPCC will pronounce, we could argue for more radical options because we can be certain the picture will be more scary than the last one. Even those of us that idly google the current situation know the situation is scary. We also worry about reports of how the IPCC is politically constrained and out-of-date on publication.

    P.S. A more radical solution to the incinerator? Smaller incinerators with heat recovery for local housing and with carbon capture. (See “Incineration is best”, http://www.ccq.org.uk/wordpress/?p=79). There are, of course, others.

    P.P.S. A more radical solution to the IPCC. Sorely needed.

    Comment by Geoff Beacon — 2 Jan 2011 @ 6:29 AM

  379. 378 Geoff Beacon

    You slipped that bit about ‘carbon capture’ in which goes beyond the descriptions of the small incinerators in your reference.

    Even without that, the cost of the various scrubbers for pollutants, including oxides of nitrogen, make the heat recovery systems difficult to implement in competitition with the old options. Throw in a requirement for ‘carbon capture’ and the whole project is sunk.

    We in the USA already have a lot of cost in-effective things going on with trash.

    Comment by Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co. — 3 Jan 2011 @ 7:45 PM

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