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Climate meeting blogging

Filed under: — gavin @ 8 December 2005

Two climate-related meetings are being covered quite extensively this week, the American Geophsyical Union meeting in San Francisco is being blogged for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the COP/MOP meeting in Montreal is being podcasted by the New York Times and blogged by other attendees. Hopefully this is a sign that scientists are starting to use these tools more effectively than they have so far.

39 Responses to “Climate meeting blogging”

  1. 1
    Todd Albert says:

    There is presently discussion on CRYOLIST about creating a Cryosphere discussion blog modeled after this site. Let the good times roll!

  2. 2
    Pat Neuman says:

    “The Weather Channel” has a blog for weather, climate and global warming at:

  3. 3
    Pat Neuman says:

    “The Fall Meeting is expected to draw a crowd of over 11,000” …
    AGU meeting at San Francisco

    Governments and universities should be leading the way in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from aviation. They’re not!

  4. 4
    Almuth Ernsting says:

    Here is an interesting article,16518,1661916,00.html

    It suggests that the Competitive Enterprise Institute, sponsored by Exxon Mobil, may be paying people to take part in climate change and environmental web blog discussions, in order to make a strong case against climate science findings OR the need for an international climate change agreement.

    Almuth Ernsting

  5. 5
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Re #3, aviation is a problem, Pat. Is there some solution that would allow us to fly without emitting harmful GHGs way up in the atmosphere where they do more harm? What is the possibility of hydrogen fuel cell aircraft? I think spacecraft uses that.

    I flew to a conference last week, and then lots of environmentalists fly around to rallies, etc. If people would just act right & reduce their GHGs, then environmentalists could stay home.

    Or, do we just have to go with silver bullet trains, like they have in Europe, which could be powered by alternative sources.

    Or, maybe we have to replace on-site conferences whenever feasible with teleconferencing & blogging….

  6. 6
    Dave Berry says:

    In the academic world, conferences serve a number of functions. One is the presentation of work, in the form of slides and a talk, or of posters. Another is the record of work, in the form of a paper for citation and for evaluation of a person’s career. A third is for meeting, sharing ideas and forming new collaborations. Finally, they are a form of tourism (conferences usually boast about the attractions of their location).

    I doubt that a single online form of communication can replace all of these, but the three that are pertinent to the job can definitely be replaced to a extent.

    Web seminars work well for presenting work. Web pages could replace physical posters. In both cases the limitation is on questions and answers, but text does a reasonable job.

    Papers can easily be stored in online journals. There is no longer any need for paper journals.

    Blogs and mailing lists enable some sharing of ideas and chat. Videoconferencing (e.g. the Access Grid or H.323) can support more focussed meetings. Videoconferencing is OK for basic communication, say where trust is already established, but isn’t good enough to show the more subtle aspects of body language and tone of voice.

    None of these modes can replace chance side discussions and detailed negotiations, or the trust established by sharing dinner with someone.

    And, of course, none of them can replace tourism. But perhaps academics should pay for our own holidays.

    As an aside, I now pay “carbon offsets” for my flights, see e.g. I regard this as a legitimate expense and would like to see this adopted as policy by all education, government and business institutions.

  7. 7
    Elsie Hume says:

    I am presently teaching grade 5/6 (half time) and kindergarten (half time). In the grade 5/6 class, we have been studying Climate Change and the effects our animals, land and culture. We live in a community of 300 in northern Yukon. The climate is changing very rapidly up here. The students are taking this subject very seriously. They wish to see changes made to stop the change. We are learning to take an active role in doing our part in saving our land, animals and culture. The change in weather has definitely had an impact on trapping and hunting here. Hunters and trappers are not going out because the rivers and lakes are not safe. We have not seen any caribou this fall. We depend heavily on the Porcupine Caribou for food. I like a venue like this one to share what my students and I are studying. Perhaps, I can get my students to email their concerns as well. Thank you. elsie hume

    [Response:Dear Elsie, Welcome to RealClimate. One of the articles I have on the back burner is “Polar Amplification,” which discusses why global warming has a disproportionate effect on the Arctic. I will probably post that sometime in January. I am delighted that your students are interested in this subject. Here’s a suggestion: Have your students study the subject a little, and then make a list of questions they are interested in. email them directly to me (you’ll find my email address at Then, I’ll build a RealClimate article around the questions and answers. It would be nice if you could include some names of the students asking questions, and pictures of students, or maybe a group picture of the class, which I could post with the article, if the students and parents wouldn’t mind. I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the Yukon, but I spend a lot of time in Sapmi (the proper name for Lappland), and have learned something of the effect of climate change on reindeer herding from the Same around Staloluokta in Sweden. I tried to email to you directly but my email to you bounced. –raypierre]

  8. 8
    Pat Neuman says:

    I don’t think there is a solution that would allow people to fly without emitting large amounts of GHGs. I quit flying for vacations and family visits many years ago.

    In 2002, was told I had to attend a conference for my job. That was the last time I flew anywhere.

    I attended a career related conference in Reno, Nevada in 2003, but drove, as part of a family visit vacation.

    I’ve posted to group discussion lists that governments and universities should lead the way in cutting greenhouse gas emissions from aviation by ordering a freeze on air travel, and that airport expansions should be restricted.

  9. 9

    Re current climate change in the Yukon and the North, here is an extract from the message issued from an international conference held in Whitehorse last June:

    We call upon governments and environmental authorities to ensure that:

    · Efforts to monitor and track environmental change, both current and past, are expanded and maintained into the future: sound planning requires accurate and current data from field, laboratory and modelling studies.
    · Those responsible for planning responses to future climate change take into account the effects of past rapid changes on people, settlements and ecosystems;
    · Because indigenous people maintain close cultural and spiritual ties to the land and depend on it for food and medicine, a better understanding is developed of how northern ecosystems respond to climate and other environmental changes; and
    · Decisions and policies recognize that rapid environmental change is part of the natural background. We emphasize that this does not lessen the urgency of dealing with human drivers of harmful change.

    We call upon researchers working on environmental issues, past and present, to ensure that:

    · A fuller understanding is developed of the ways in which peoples’ beliefs and values reflect their experience with landscape and climate change;
    · Concepts of uncertainty, vulnerability, risk and resiliency are discussed more widely in preparing for future changes;
    · Ways are found to acknowledge in environmental policies the reality of the “perpetual” disappearance of life, as well as its continual renewal;
    · A better understanding is developed about the mechanisms by which a society learns from its experience with past environmental changes and catastrophes;
    · Efforts to learn from the lessons of Indigenous Knowledge are strengthened;
    · The search is enhanced for the kind of learning needed to adapt and cope with change;
    · Efforts are intensified to distinguish the consequences of non-human environmental changes from those resulting from social, economic and political pressures; and
    · Research results are communicated much more effectively to the public and to decision-makers.

    We call upon university and research funding agencies to ensure that:

    · In coming to terms with rapid landscape changes, interdisciplinary research is strengthened;
    · Funding agencies and the academic enterprise increase their support for efforts to link different disciplines, existing knowledge and especially Traditional Knowledge;
    · More credit is given to young researchers who work with interdisciplinary teams and publish their work on the Internet and in non-specialist journals and books;
    · Efforts are made to strengthen links between researchers and the media; and
    · Research which takes place in the North is always carried out with the participation of Northerners, with the results communicated fully to them.

    The above statement was approved by consensus at an international conference, Rapid Landscape Change and Human Response in the Arctic & Sub-Arctic, held in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada June 15-17, 2005. The meeting was sponsored by the International Council for Science, International Union of Geological Sciences and its Geoindicator Initiative, International Union for Quaternary Research, Canadian International Development Agency, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Northern Climate ExChange, Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network, Canadian Quaternary Association, Yukon College, Yukon Geological Survey, and Resources, Heritage Resources Unit of the Yukon Department of Tourism and Culture. About 100 people took part, representing First Nations, Artic organizations, governments and universities, and including geographers, earth scientists, ecologists, archaeologists, anthropologists, and environmental philosophers. For further information see
    , see for a report on an international meeting in Whitehorse last June, inhcluding a general message regarding landscape change

  10. 10
    Mike Atkinson says:

    Re #3. Hydrogen has more energy per unit mass than aviation fuel (kerosene), but is much less dense. The fuel tanks would have to be very large. There were design sketches of B747 and Tristars that used hydrogen in the late 1970’s, the top deck of the B747 was extended all along the fuselage and the whole top deck was used for fuel storage. While not impossible fuel would have to be much more expensive and hydrogen much cheaper for similar designs to be looked at again. The advantages of hydrogen are biggest for supersonic aircraft, but even then the ovrall ecomonics of hydrogen are worse than using synthetic aviation fuel. Ref: Advanced High Speed Aircraft.

  11. 11
    RayBender says:

    Regarding flying: several posters (3,5,8) have said things to the effect that they have replaced flying with driving over moderate distances, and simply stopped long-distance travel. All of this because of a perception that flying is somehow bad for the environment. I would like to point out that on a passenger-miles/gallon sense a 777 is as efficient as most cars (777-200LR carries 301 pax for 9420 nautical miles with 50,000 gal of fuel, giving a mileage of over 50 mpg per pax).

  12. 12
    Harley V. Simmons says:

    What Real that messed up Earth?

    science is a grate thing it has helped thousand of normal thinkers solve problems the things we cannot see or think
    about get us in trouble ,
    I believe that a simple thing of changing temperature is
    the answer to life and our weather when Rocks meters, penetrate the Magnetic and Ozone on the Dark side that rite behind them is Static Cold that inters the hole that they cut threw the layers and when the sun radiant heat hit the tube streaks they explode into all directions and make cross currents that create Low’s and High’s in the weather
    conditions that upper clouds move opposite to the lower clouds and when they collide we get hurricanes,tornados that create the heat exchanger between 12000ft and sea level.

  13. 13
    Pat Neuman says:

    Re: 11 … “a mileage of over 50 mpg per pax)” …

    That seems way too high to me. Besides, airlines aren’t flying at full capacity all the time, especially not between stops. Wind direction and speed come into the equation too.


    “Aircraft emissions that go directly into the stratosphere have more than twice the global warming effect of emissions from cars and power stations at ground level” …

    Revealed: The real cost of air travel
    by Michael McCarthy, Marie Woolf and Michael Harrison
    28 May 2005: The Independent on line addition (uk)

    Also in “Revealed: The real cost of air travel”:

    “Planes pump out eight times more carbon dioxide per passenger mile than a train”. (Tony Juniper, the executive director of Friends of the Earth)

    “The only way to stop the problem is to reduce our flying. We just have to accept public transport and highly efficient cars are the only kinds of routine transport we can sensibly use”, (Blake Lee-Harwood, campaigns director for Greenpeace)

  14. 14
    Tony Noerpel says:

    Try this. I only did it twice when I lived in New Jersey. I bicycled to conferences, once to Burlington Vt and another time to New Hampsire. I was fit enough to average about 180 miles per day so could make the trip in just two days. A friend biked out to Ohio and back for a conference. You have to FedEX your clothes. :+)

  15. 15

    I would suggest that every climate conscious scientist would stay at home for his whole life, never take a car, never a plane, and avoid heavy physical efforts to minimize CO2 exhalation (that means: no sports!). This is a joke, but it seems on the same track as some good advices here in the blog!

  16. 16
    RayBender says:

    Re 13: “That seems way too high to me”. Then provide data that says I’m wrong. I found my numbers here

    As you’d know if you’d ever flown, most airlines keep their load factors very high – 80% or above.

    Wind speed and direction is a relatively small factor, and can improve performance; over many flights it averages away.

    Aircraft emissions that go directly into the stratosphere have more than twice the global warming effect of emissions

    I’d like to hear feedback from folks at RealClimate on that one. I would think that CO2 is CO2. NOx, water vapor and particulates might be a different issue, though.

    panes pump out eight times more carbon dioxide per passenger mile than a train

    When they invent a train that can do Boston-Tokyo in any time at all, call me. Until then, lets remember that I compared planes to cars.

  17. 17
    Mike Neuman says:

    Emissions from jet flying include carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and water vapor, much of which are emitted 5-7 miles above the earth’s surface. In the aggregate, aircraft emissions total in the hundreds of millions of tons of greenhouse gases emitted every year.

    Francis, if everyone in the U.S. believed they had a God given right to take at least one trip to China, Australia, Tokyo, etc., every year, do you really believe the earth’s atmosphere could sustain that without any changes? I don’t. And that’s just the U.S.! People in Europe undoubtedly fly just as frequently and far as Americans do every year.

    As for Ray’s initial post, please realize also that when you’re comparing jet travel to car travel, you’re making an assumption that there is just one person traveling in the automobile. If there is more than just the driver traveling in the automobile, you must divide the total emissions by the number of people in the vehicle to get the per capita emissions for travel by automobile. You should not assume only one person per vehicle because many such trips are not taken solo.

  18. 18
    Pat Neuman says:

    Re: 16 RayBender wrote: … “most airlines keep their load factors very high – 80% or above”.

    The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP, 2002) says that density has been decreasing recently in order to provide more room and comfort for passengers.

    Also, the RCEP report states:

    “On average only 78% of seats on international flights, and 65% on domestic flights, are filled. This causes difficulties in interpreting figures for emissions per passenger-kilometer, which are often calculated on the basis of a full aircraft”. [2.23]

    RCEP shows impacts of GHG emissions at high altitudes in:

    Full report by RCEP:

    RayBender wrote: “lets remember that I compared planes to cars”.

    There’s more to consider. I think aviation encourages more car travel, not less. Many people fly to a spot, then drive a rental car, take trains or take additional shorter distance flights to other locations. In addition to government, university and personal air travel, GHG emissions from air cargo must be addressed.

    I think we need to act on our conscience to reduce the fuel burning which we know we can do. It is our responsibility to do whatever we can.

  19. 19
    Hank Roberts says:

    About anthropogenic warming. Please?

    Where are the data sets showing this, online? Is there enough fine grain to distinguish between slow-and-steady change as agriculture spread, vs. punctuated change following disaster-and-collapse events?

  20. 20
    Pat Neuman says:

    In 18 I forgot to include business. My list of groups that travel excessively by air now becomes business, government, university, cargo and personal activity.

    Re #19 “but….but…. About anthropogenic warming.
    Please? Where are the data sets showing this, online?

    I think you’ll find those by looking through the articles and posts with links at

  21. 21
    Calvin Jones says:

    Just to highlight another blog about climate change, the science but also the policy and what individuals can do, personally and through political action. It is called “Climate Change Action” and is linke to through the blog mentioned in the article.


  22. 22
    R. T. Pierrehumbert (raypierre) says:

    Here are a few comments regarding issues that have come up.

    Lynn suggests that airplane emissions are more damaging than ground level emissions, being high up. (see also the query in #16). This is not true, as far as greenhouse warming goes. CO2 has a long lifetime, so it doesn’t matter much where you emit it. Since planes fly parly in the stratosphere, the indirect effects on stratospheric chemistry are indeed different from those that would be caused by ground level emissions, but for CO2 and other GHG emissions, this isn’t an issue.

    One poster pointed out that a modern 777 gets the equivalent of 50mpg per passenger, presumably when running on a long haul. That does indeed show that if you have the choice of flying to LA in a 777 vs. driving in your SUV, you are better off flying. However, putting a family of 4 in a Prius and driving to LA beats the 777 by far. Unfortunately, you are also putting your family at much more peril driving than flying.

    Another poster quotes data saying that planes put out 8x more emissions per passenger mile than trains. This is not inconsistent with other statistics. Trains, fully loaded, are really, really efficient. One of the factors is the long aspect ratio which makes for low air resistance per volume. The slower speed than planes helps, since air resistance is quadratic in speed. Also, steel wheels deform less than rubber, giving efficiency advantages over cars. Finally, you can run trains on non-emitting energy like nuclear electricity, or solar, or (someday) GHCC coal plants with sequestration of CO2.

    Trains have another big advantage over planes in that you don’t need to spend energy lifting them 10 miles up into the sky. This is an especial issue for short runs.

    My experience in Europe is that a lot of cost and efficiency advantages of trains disappear if you need sleeper cars (much as I like overnight trains). Where rail has been a big winner is in the trips taking 8 hours or less. At 200 km/hr, that takes you quite a long way. This is where rail could contribute a lot to the US transportation mix — it’s ideal for trips from Chicago to Minneapolis and so forth. The success of the relatively sluggish Acela trains on the East Coast shows there is a market for this.

    Finally a personal note. I used to feel virtuous not owning a car and doing most everyday errands on foot, bike or by public transit. Then I toted up my CO2 emissions from all the flying I do, largely to professional meetings. Some of these meetings involved relatively pointless travel — like the time IPCC flew everybody to New Zealand for a relatively unproductive meeting that could have been better handled by email, just to “show the flag” in the southern hemisphere. Others, like AGU really do benefit from the face time. Meetings like this, and flying to destinations where I start hiking trips, are a big part of my work and life and I wouldn’t like to give them up any more than anybody else would. The point of energy and climate policy shouldn’t be to ask people to give things up that really contribute to well-being, but rather to figure how to do things smarter. I think that if we had really efficient medium-haul trains, a little more teleconferencing, and much better electric generation and building efficiency policies, and also urban policies that reduced the amount of driving necessary, there would be room in the mix for enough air travel to keep people happy.

  23. 23
    James Annan says:

    I suspect that raypierre is being a little dismissive of the altitude effects of aeroplane emissions, especially due to NOx and water vapour. But I can’t find a good ref right now. Anyway, even though the efficiency of flying seems not so bad on a per-mile basis, the real problem is that it enables/encourages much more travelling – people who would have gone to Brighton or Blackpool for their holiday (in the UK) will now routinely take 2 foreign holidays, in Europe or even further afield. It’s similar to the way in which building a motorway means that people drive further, live further from work, and still spend as much time (or more) in their cars.

    The most obvious first step to improve matters IMO would be to tax aviation fuel along similar lines to other transport uses – this might help to encourage less “frivolous hypermobility” (if you don’t know, don’t ask). Of course this requires agreement with regimes which consider all taxation to be intrinsically evil, but even if they are pathologically opposed to spending the money in a worthwhile manner, you’d think they would have worked out that other taxes could be reduced instead.

    And since we are getting all confessional: living on the other side of the world from all family and most scientists, I reckon one long-haul flight a year is a reasonable compromise. With a modest amount of of planning, I’ve managed to fit in 3 scientific meetings, and 1 or 2 family visits/holidays in a single trip each of the last two years. One project I’m marginally involved in does a lot of video-conferencing across the UK, although we haven’t actually got that working internationally yet (haven’t really felt the need…occasional face-to-face meetings are certainly useful but you can get an awful lot done by email).

  24. 24
    Hans Erren says:

    re 22:
    What about injection of water vapour near the tropopause, emitted by jets?
    Is the observed increase a result of feedback or direct emission?

  25. 25
    Hans Erren says:

    re 4:
    Where do I apply for the funds?

  26. 26
    Andrew Dodds says:

    Re: Above.

    Always try to keep in mind that Transport – Air and Car especially – is very much the hardest part of the whole CO2 emissions problem. Stationary applications – home cooking and heating, industrial energy usage, etc – can be made CO2-neutral by electrification, using nuclear electricity. And the replacement of coal and NG fired electric plant is not a particularly expensive problem.

    Transport requires energy carriers, and so far there is nothing out there that can match oil for convienience and availability. Electric cars lack range, Hydrogen cars have too little range and are extremely expensive, and Biodiesel is environmentally worse than normal diesel in many respects.

  27. 27
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    For those who use, Dr. Glen Barry (who runs it) needs a bit of money to support himself & his family. He gave up his professorship in Wisconsin to run ClimateArk & several other eco-websites.

    RE #26, I’m hoping plug-in hybrids will come out soon. Since I get my electricity from 100% wind, I could drive on wind 95% of the time (we usually drive less than 10 miles per day), then once in a blue moon, we’d use a bit of petrol to go on a longer trip, and use it very efficiently with the hybrid aspect. It seems the Prius comes in a plug-in version in Japan & Europe, but not the U.S. (it seems perhaps the oil industry is blocking this???). I also know that even if recharging is done from fossil fuel power stations, there is a 1/4 to 1/3 reduction in CO2 with electric cars & a much greater reduction in other pollutants (since power stations can better control pollution than I.C.E.s).

    Also, I think I read (off ClimateArk) about some new battery technology that could give electric cars a 300 mile range, with a 15 minute recharge time (you’d want to get out & eat a bite anyway after 6 hours of driving). That’s not too different from a regular I.C.E. car. And families often have more than one car – one could be electric & the other ICE for the occasional longer trip.

    Another problem with hydrogen fuel cells, is making the hydrogen — which could come from fossil fuels in a polluting way, even though tailpipe emissions are only H2O vapor. And then, we’d need lots of infrastructure to support it. For the time being electric cars or plug-in hybrids are the best way to go for automobiles. If only such were available here!

  28. 28
    Pat Neuman says:

    re: #23 James,
    The link below (also #18) has discussion on NOx and water vapour. I’d like to know what you think of the discussion by RCEP on “impacts of GHG emissions at high altitudes”:

  29. 29
    Pianoguy says:

    Re: #27 Lynn: Toyota currently offers no plug-in option for the Prius. You may be confused by the European and Japanese Prius’ EV switch, which allows slightly heavier battery use than with the US version. But the difference is very minor – EV mode is mostly useful if you’re only going a very short distance, and don’t need the engine to come on at all. (This saves you using gasoline to warm up the catalytic converter unnecessarily.) There IS a third-party plug-in kit, but at $12,000, it’s strictly a toy for the rich.

    A plug-in option is surely in the Prius’ future, but it’s probably two generations away – i.e., around 2010. The major obstacle is simply battery capacity: The current Prius battery isn’t big enough to make it worth the expense of adding plug-in capability.

  30. 30
    Tom Fiddaman says:

    Re #4: a more complete article on the CEI funding for skepticism in Europe is here.

  31. 31
    James Annan says:

    Pat (#28),

    Yes, that’s exactly the sort of thing – thanks for the link. They say:

    The total radiative forcing was calculated to be about 2.7 times that of the carbon dioxide alone, a factor that compares with numbers generally in the range 1 – 1.5 for most other activities.

    Of course these factors depend on a number of assumptions (including: what are you actually trying to compare!) but I think it’s fair to conclude that air travel is worse in respect of AGW than the bald fuel consumption indicates.

  32. 32
    Pat Neuman says:

    Re: 31 James,

    Thanks for taking a look. Regarding your comment: “what are you actually trying to compare!”, I’m not sure. Adding water vapor to the upper atmosphere may increase warming for short while, and so would adding water vapor to the lower atmosphere (irrigation, more reservoirs and warmed surface waters). Although an addition of water vapor is short-lasting, our continually adding large amounts of water vapor may have a significant global warming effect, especially in recognizing a hand in hand relationship between global CO2 and temperatures (evidenced by the closely related trends in CO2 growth rates and ENSO from my previous comments).

    Again, I don’t think there is a solution that would allow people to fly without emitting large amounts of GHGs. Large air travel groups include business, government, university, cargo and personal activity. Much (50 percent or more in my view) of the air travel going on is unnecessary. Governments and universities should freeze much of their air travel ASAP. There should be a campaign by business and individuals to reduce air travel, with expenditures in advertising similar to that used to convince smokers to quit. Until we show a stigma against air traveling, people with continue to travel by air without much conscience. Airport expansions should be restricted. There is no need for more airports to handle future “demands” for air travel, if we show that “demand” will severely drop off as people become more aware of the consequences of global warming, an as people become aware of the likely prohibited costs for aviation fuel and fuel supplies decrease and fuel needs increase for other uses (like A/C during longer hotter and more humid summers).

    Blogging will become increasing more widespread, as people spend more time at home, at universities, in their offices and in public libraries. There should be an advertising campaign to make this happen. We know with 100 percent certainty that rapid global warming is happening, and that emissions of GHGs due to our activities are causing most or all of the warming.

  33. 33
    Claire Kenyon says:

    I read on the pointer given in #13,
    ” One return flight [from the UK] to Florida produces the equivalent CO2 of a year’s
    average motoring.”

    Is this really true? Is it a good rule of thumb for estimating the relative impact of my transatlantic flying?
    If so, then I might as well abandon my well-meant but perhaps not well-directed
    efforts to decrease my driving, and try to eliminate one transatlantic trip per year instead…

  34. 34
    Mike Neuman says:

    In comment #33, Claire facetiously says that if flying is so bad, she might as well abandon her efforts to drive less and instead try to eliminate junt one transatlantic trip a year instead.

    In support of the obvious response (who’s to say you can’t do both?), there are many more people who drive regularly than fly. The volumes of GHG from driving in the U.S. add up to roughly 6 times the amount of greenhouse gas volumes from flying, just because there are many more people who drive and they drive much more often.

    What it comes down to is that we all have to be doing as much as we can possibly do to reduce our collective volumes of GHG emissions to the atmosphere daily, weekly, yearly….

    For example, even if we choose to drive a fuel efficient hybrid vehicle, we can cut those emissions in half by driving half as much. Our selection of a fuel efficient vehicle does not get us off the hook in our responsibilities to minimize our total amount of GHG each day (each week…).

    The same goes for flying and driving. Just because we find a way to reduce our emissions from flying, that does not get us off the hook in terms of driving less.

    Speaking of flying, I suppose that a lot of people are starting to make plans for flying to the upcoming winter Olympic games. I hope after this year we begin to see the folly of tens of thousands of people flying to those games when they can get an even better seat right in front of their television sets. I am hereby making my semi-annual call for a boycott of the Olympic games this, because the amount of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere from all that jet flying to and from the games must be tremendously damaging to our atmosphere in the long run. Anyone care to join me in this boycott?

  35. 35
    Tom Fiddaman says:

    Re 33, 34

    The fly/drive ratio is plausible. I’ve seen estimates of .6 to .9 lbs CO2/mile – about the same as a vehicle with 1 to 2 people. A 6000mi flight would be half a year of driving on that basis. The numbers actually look a little fishy to me but I’m sure they’re in the ballpark.

    Another possibility is to buy carbon offsets for your flying. There are now a number of organizations offering carbon neutral flights, quite cheap. There may be issues of “leakage” but it’s better than nothing.

    The real challenge is that as long as the price of carbon is 0, anyone who takes the initiative to avoid travel or offset emissions gets penalized economically.

  36. 36
    Almuth Ernsting says:

    Re: 6 and 35:
    Two people have mentioned carbon offsets to mitigate the impact of flying. I have serious problems with those schemes. I have looked closely at one of the companies (Carbon Neutral Company, UK based), and note three things:

    Firstly, they make claims which are plainly untrue. As a previous article on this blog shows, some of the CO2 emitted from flying will stay in the atmosphere for 100,000 years or so. Trees cannot offset the emissions from burning fossil fuels, even if it is a good idea to reforest land and protect ancient forests for 101 reasons.

    Secondly, the carbon offset companies boast that they allow tourism companies and car manufacturers and airlines to improve customer relations by showing that they care about greenhouse warming. Some of their business partners are quite actively increasing CO2 emissions, and lobbying against efforts to restrict them. What would the worried customers (of whom there are many in the Europe at least) do if they could not get assurances that flights and driving could be carbon neutral? Perhaps they would fly and drive less. In this indirect sense, carbon neutral companies may actually be encouraging increased CO2 emissions.

    Thirdly, some of the carbon offset projects (not necessarily those of the company I have mentioned above) are very dodgy. Look at I have read that some involve thirsty eucalyptus plantations in semi-arid parts of Brazil, plantation on land where ancient forests have had to be felled first, and plantations in Uganda where thousands of poor farmers have been evicted from their land.

    I would be very wary of encouraging of supporting this approach. Although giving money for reforestation or forest protecting projects, or charities that help poor communities get access to renewable energies sounds a good thing to do – it can be done without supporting a carbon neutral company, though.

    Personally, I decided a few years ago not to fly every again. I am in the fortunate position of not having to fly – there are others who would lose their job if they boycotted planes. I am also lucky to not have to use a car often at all – thanks for pretty good public transport where I live. Even one long-haul flight a year can only be sustainable if very few of us do it. 6.5 billion long-haul flights a year (one for each human on the plnet) never could be.

    Almuth Ernsting

  37. 37
    Don Baccus says:

    Minor note on flying … the next generation aircraft from Boeing (now dubbed the 787, I believe) will improve fuel efficiency by about 20% over current generation aircraft such as the 777.

    Part of the problem with flying in regard to emissions is that aircraft are kept in operation for decades. For instance, some airlines are still flying the old MD-80 with it’s low-bypass engines.

    Someone above mentioned taxing aircraft fuel. Anything that causes the cost of fuel to rise will increase the rate at which aging, less-efficient aircraft are replaced by newer, more-efficient aircraft.

  38. 38
    Hank Roberts says:

    Did anyone at the AGU catch Lonnie Thompson’s presentation? Any pointers to discussion? I just noticed this belatedly:

    It sounds like a thunderbolt of a story, did anyone notice it??

    Major Climate Change Occurred 5,200 Years Ago: Evidence Suggests That History Could Repeat Itself
    December 16, 2004

    Glaciologist Lonnie Thompson worries that he may have found clues that show history repeating itself, and if he is right, the result could have important implications to modern society….

    “Something happened back at this time and it was monumental”, Thompson said. “But it didn’t seem monumental to humans then because there were only approximately 250 million people occupying the planet, compared to the 6.4 billion we now have”.

    “The evidence clearly points back to this point in history and to some event that occurred. It also points to similar changes occurring in today’s climate as well”, he said.

    “To me, these are things we really need to be concerned about.”
    The impact of a climate change of that magnitude on a modern world would be tremendous, he said. Seventy percent of the population lives in the world’s tropics and major climate changes would directly impact most of them.

    Thompson believes that the 5,200-year old event may have been caused by a dramatic fluctuation in solar energy reaching the earth. Scientists know that a historic global cooling called the Little Ice Age, from 1450 to 1850 A.D., coincided with two periods of decreased solar activity.

    Evidence shows that around 5,200 years ago, solar output first dropped precipitously and then surged over a short period. It is this huge solar energy oscillation that Thompson believes may have triggered the climate change he sees in all those records…..

  39. 39
    Hank Roberts says:

    Followup — I’m posting a link to a Quicktime video of a speech Dr. Thompson gave very recently. (I had to let Quicktime update itself to view this with Windows, it’s using the Sorensen codec, which is new in Quicktime)

    This is him lecturing with slides. Fascinating view of the man at work. Wish we could get him here, or one of his students, some time. <--- description <----