Fall AGU

The Fall AGU meeting in San Francisco is always an exhilarating/exhausting (take your pick) fixture of the Earth Science calendar. This year will be no different, and since about half of us will be there, RealClimate will probably be a little quiet next week. Hopefully, we should be able to report on any highlights when we get back.

N.B. If any readers will be attending and want to say hi, I will be giving a talk on ‘Science blogging: RealClimate.org and the Global Warming debate‘ on Friday (PA53A, 13:40, MCS 309).

Update: AGU went well – lot’s of good stuff. The actual RealClimate presentation is available here – it’s pretty basic though (only 15 minutes worth)).

131 comments on this post.
  1. SkyHunter:

    A point about economics in regards to hard to extract fossil fuels. New more efficient technologies would need to be developed. It makes no economic sense to burn two barrels of oil to extract just one.

  2. Andrew Alden:

    RE #42, no one who has actually attended AGU sessions would make such a suggestion. Audio-only recordings would be largely of unlistenable sound quality (due to poor speaking practices and, often, thick accents) and nearly useless on top of that, as so much of what is presented is a combination of speech and Powerpoints. Also, the majority of AGU presentations are posters, in which the value lies in engaging the authors personally. Finally, presentations at meetings are not the best science–by which I only mean that they have little or no peer review and that they are not prepared for universal distribution. They are the scientific community’s internal discussions, and about 1 percent of them would be worth the broad public’s attention. Believe me, bloggers would not like podcasts of AGU’s raw audio.

    But I have seen that some major talks, like the memorial lectures, are videotaped. It would be nice if AGU made those available for streaming or as mp3s, where the incremental expense is slight and the benefit plausible.

  3. Debra Tillinger:

    Sorry – I left Friday morning, so I can’t see your poster. But did you see Singer’s? He was on the 1st floor on Thursday. I went from his poster to Hansen’s talk and it was a bit of a shock. Singer’s main contribution was a list of questions to ask Al Gore. Does anyone have a copy? I wanted to take one but the place was packed.

  4. Jim Redden:

    RE: #50 by Andrew

    While I agree that the AGU presentations and posters engage in the process of unproven science, I have a slightly different take of the value of an audio recording…

    Last year when I attended AGU conference, I had no trouble understanding any of the English of the presenters of the twelve sessions I attended, with the exception of a fellow from China, and I was able to get most of it…

    Many presenters provide a URL: to either advance organize or post process their talking points in a conceptual framework. Often, this is the entry to a body of work and supporting or dissenting papers and evidence; the audio of the session serves to deepen the context of the papers, and subsequently, the schematic linking of the information in the cognitive processes of the mind.

    Moreover, a videotape of the session is less valuable than the combination of access to those powerpoints in conjunction with an audio reference.

    Question and answer sessions are very revealing in some instances; moreover, some of the argument subtext of the moment is revealed in the audio modality. Some of the presenters were wisely kind enough to rephrase questions they were posed with that makes it even more clear what is happening.

    For example, Michael Ghil, of UCLA, has some audio only archives of presentations online dealing with stochastic climate modeling, and provides the .ppt files used during the presentation. He and his French accent is understandable enough… The chartsâ��somewhat interdisciplinary and complex–are much more accessible with the audio verbal explication.

    While I can agree that arms-length discussion is of value (and perhaps of pleasure), the greater temporal disparity of reading, listening, and discussion in an online discussion community can very effective in gaining valid understanding of it�s own right.

    For a RealClimate reference, some of the readers here might recall the June 2006 forum on Communicating Science & Technology by Rasmus.


    I don’t see why digital presentations, archives of live conferences, can’t be a goal of AGU and like social bodies of science. Recording audio is very easy–it can be as simple as setting down a solid-state recorder at the podium, and/or diverting the audio feed for the room.

    Then, it’s not a big step to use a shrinkwrap software product like Breeze to sync the sound to a powerpoint for all to download and experience on demand.

    But perhaps we can simply agree to disagree on the inherent value of a relatively carbon-neutral wild audio recording of a run of the gamut AGU session.

    For a topic of interest to me, audio of the session would be of high value, despite the hum of air conditioning, the shuffling of papers, and intrusion of sidebar conversation, amidst the critical vetting of ideas and discourse.

  5. Pat Neuman:

    Re: 48 [Grant’s comment about Al Gore’s speech)

    Having to submit research and findings for review by others at an agency should be a positive step in presenting material that is free from error, redundancy, plagiarism and bias. Problems occur when others (both scientists and non-scientists) are given authority to change or not accept a report without having to show justification. In dealing with work related to climate change and global warming, changes and refusal of findings took place without justification both before Bush became President (2001) and after.

  6. Stephen Pranulis:

    Re: 47 Comments regarding sources of Carbon Dioxide

    What country are you writing about? In 2002 the US produced about 950 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from cars and light trucks, vs about 650 million metric tons from the natural gas used to heat homes AND commercial buildings. ( Sources: Lawrence Livermore National Labs website http://eed.llnl.gov/flow/pdf/US2002_CarbDiox.pdf and EPA website at http://yosemite.epa.gov/OAR/globalwarming.nsf/UniqueKeyLookup/RAMR5WNMKA/$File/04trends.pdf and back of an envelope arithmetic ) So the statement about heating large homes with natural gas accounting for a lot more CO2 than all cars together is just not supported by facts.

    And your solution to the problem of heating large houses sounds like high snark. In the US, not only can we can live in four bedroom houses if we can afford them, but we can easily come up with creative ways to heat them if we want. If I had a four bedroom house, I might make sure it was well insulated, and plaster it with solar heat collectors. As a result, I could produce a smaller CO2 footprint per family member than I might living in a badly heated studio or bedroom apartment.

    Ideologues can and will take comments out of context, and use then to sow mischief so we all need to take care in what we say. Moreover, ideologues sometimes embed innocent sounding but misleading comments as a way of discrediting a source. YOU wouldnâ??t be trying to do that now, would you? Cheers.

  7. Grant:

    Re: #51

    I disagree. Offering your work for review within your own institution is a good idea, and certainly par for the course; I doubt there’s an agency for which this isn’t the norm. But the resposibility to ensure quality in publication lies with the peer review process.

    But that’s not what the Bush administration rules are about. There is absolutely no place in science for the review/approval of scientific work by nonscientists. It’s akin to requiring that before a medical treatment can be permitted, a lawyer has to approve it! Both practically, and morally, wrong.

  8. Inquiring Mind:

    Hi! Can you please state your opinion on http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/1997/97GL01184.shtml ?

    [Response: Why do you so inquire? i.e. there are many things that could be said, but presumably you have a reason for asking. That reason for asking is probably much more useful in crafting an appropriate response…. -gavin]

  9. Hank Roberts:

    That’s from 1997. Has anyone cited it in more recent publications?

  10. cthulhu:

    Re: #44

    I agree about the abstracts. Not that I am a scientist, but the abstracts of some papers do appear to be written for the eyes of a dozen other scientists who are familiar with the specific research.

    You don’t understand why people are allowed to live in four bedroom houses?? wow

  11. Brian Gordon:

    And in a completely unrelated topic, I would like to ask for some help – perhaps from Hank Roberts, the master searcher:

    * I am one of the 1000 trained by Al Gore and The Climate Project (www.climateproject.org)
    * I am trying to find an article on realclimate and cannot; I hope to include it in my presentation
    * The article I am looking for is one posted in the forum; it was in response to a question I asked about Veizer’s Cosmic Ray Flux argument, and I think it was raypierre who broke out three graphs – they showed that Veiver had conveniently omitted the latter part of the CRF/CO2/Temperature graph.

    I want to use these three graphs in my presentation to show people how some of the science they may have heard about as legitimate is not.

    Sorry for being off topic, but I have searched and searched….

  12. Grant:

    Re: #61

    You can find some excellent works on the illegitimate use of scientific evidence at these sites:



  13. James:

    Re #56: “As a result, I could produce a smaller CO2 footprint per family member than I might living in a badly heated studio or bedroom apartment.”

    In addition, if I want to do something about the heating efficiency and/or energy sources of my house, I only have to consult myself – and possibly my bank account :-) If I lived in an apartment, I would have to convince the owner to spend his money on something that wouldn’t have any obvious return for him.

  14. Pat Neuman:

    Al Gore said “There is a greater temptation to ignore inconvenient truths, to set aside knowledge that might challenge a prevailing policy,”

    Al Gore must have been aware that directors in NOAA and NWS had opposing views on global warming in 1999 and 2000.

    How come Al Gore did nothing about the ignoring of inconvenient truths on climate change by NWS directors in 2000?


  15. teacher ocean:

    AGU was a blast this year.. And I really enjoyed Al Gore’s talk!

  16. Grant:

    How come Al Gore did nothing about the ignoring of inconvenient truths on climate change by NWS directors in 2000?

    Maybe because he’s been so busy, trying to persuade congress to deal with the issue back in the 80s, running for vice president, running for president, lecturing about global warming all over the world. He’s been the world’s strongest advocate for action on the issue. When it comes to global warming, let’s not forget who our best friends really are.

  17. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Re “The capitalist economy is driven, not by the Marxist labour theory of value, but by the energy theory of value.”

    Actually, the theory of value associated with modern capitalist economics is the marginal utility theory of value. And you don’t need eternal growth for a free market to function; one of fixed size works just as well.

  18. yartrebo:

    Modern capitalist societies are put under extreme stress and often collapse when there is no growth for a prolonged (say, 5 year) period of time. This is mostly linked to high levels of debt and to a one-way transfer of wealth to the rich, which will forcibly break down when growth stops.

    In societies where inequality and debt are more modest, such as Japan, zero growth can be handled much better.

  19. Eli Rabett:

    Strangely enough Shashka, my observation is that it is those who live in tract chateaus who HAVE the SUVs. The entire lifestyle is built around large houses and large cars. Indeed a major concern is that housing policy in the US encourages people to operate fleets of autos. It is easy to try and paint those concerned with these issues as being inconsistent, but unless you have some data please resist.

  20. Pat Neuman:

    Re #66. [… “lecturing about global warming all over the world.” ]

    How come Al Gore didn’t insist that global warming be an issue in the presidential debates in 2000, and speak out on the need to have had global warming an issue in the 2004 presidential debates?

    How big is Al Gore’s footprint?

  21. CobblyWorlds:

    #61 Brian Gordon,

    Hate to state the obvious.

    But you have checked the category Sun-Earth Connections haven’t you? See here http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/category/climate-science/sun-earth-connections/

    The nearest I can see is the page on Veizer’s work: 19 May 2005 A critique on Veizerâ??s Celestial Climate Driver http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/05/on-veizers-celestial-climate-driver/

    But I can’t find what you’re looking for, sorry.

    However this is one I’ve never read and it gave me a chuckle:

  22. pete best:

    Re# 69. He says he did bring it up 3 times but each time the republicans rejected implementation due to their majority in one of the houses I or he has said

  23. savegaia:

    Is it possible to keep ice from melting with special substances spreaded all over the ice?

    Pat seek your answer here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algore

  24. Hank Roberts:

    Brian, any good reference librarian can help you more than I with searching. I took your search words and found three hits, none here, perhaps one of these three is what you’re remembering. (Firefox 2 on the Mac breaks the fancy new Google/RC search, I get zero results, this is a straight Google search).


    Remember, whatever Google finds you, go to the original paper and check for more recent citations.

    And if you find the opposite of what you want, tell Mr. Gore anyhow, you’re being a searcher, not a decider;
    you know what a fair witness is expected to do?

    Going to the literature only to prove one side of an argument is not honest searching, it’s lawyering.*

    *Lawyering, pronunciation: the ‘aw’ and ‘er’ are silent.

  25. Pat Neuman:

    In viewing the information at the wiki link, I see that Mr. Gore was active in speaking out on global warming in 2004 (but 2000?).

    More important to me in 2000 was that my letters of concern and my requests for help sent to Dr. James Baker (Director of NOAA), William Daley (Secretary of the DOC), supervisors at the DOC Ethics Division and Al Gore were totally ignored.

    My letters of concern and requests for help in 2000 can be viewed in comments to the article at:


  26. Jim Redden:

    From the AGU, James Hansen posts his presentation (speaking as an individual)

    Communicating Dangers and Opportunities in Global Warming


    Nicely done. I see it as a must read, and perhaps a topic of discussion in entirety…

    Another side note, as of today, not a mention in the LA Times of the AGU Al Gore talk about the distortion of science by external political forces… Curious… Meanwhile, the NY Times positioned the story in the context of a few flamings Gore got on CNET… Both either missed the point or the entire story, so it seems… Despite the AP news feed… Go figure.

  27. Alastair McDonald:

    Re 74 I think what Brian was looking for can be found by putting Veizer into the search box at the top of this page. When I did that it came up with this link: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=153 There are several graphs in that article.


    Cheers, Alastair.

  28. Eli Rabett:

    Before refrigeration, sawdust sprinkled on ice did a good job of retarding melting.

  29. pete best:

    Yes well we talk about the phenomena of AGW but not a lot is said about doing anything about it probably because no one quite knows where to start in regard to curbing CO2 emissions by 70% asap.

    The Politics is difficult due to all of the jobs that reside in the energy sector not to mention the power and influence on capital hill. Humans do not like change because no one quite knows where the power will end up no one wants to embark on large scale change.

    The Economics is all messed up because Economics relies on their being sellable solutions that are COST/EFFECTIVE and considering we have different types of energy source and alternatives available but none can replace any one type and hence no one knows where the balance is as yet.

    It is going to take a long time before this is sorted out, longer than 450 ppm and maybe longer than 500 ppm

  30. Alastair McDonald:

    Re #67 where Barton says “And you don’t need eternal growth for a free market to function; one of fixed size works just as well.”

    There is a multiplier effect associated with the money supply. This provides a positive feedback, and so it is extrememly difficult/impossible to find the fixed size where the economy is stable. The optimum is a gently expanding economy. that gives you full employment. Too much expansion and the economic system will crash when the resources run out. But they still run out with a gently expanding economy, only much later.

  31. Alvia Gaskill:

    RE: 73, 78 Covering ice with any material, even black plastic, will slow down the melting somewhat. Why? Ice melts because it absorbs some of the downwelling solar IR (that’s why the albedo of fresh ice or snow is quoted as 90% and not 100%- if totally white the albedo is 100%, but only for visible light- at most, it only reflects 80% of the downwelling solar) and also most of the downwelling thermal IR.

    If the ice is covered, the only way the heat from these two sources can get to it is by passing through the cover. Because the cover, either black plastic or sawdust will not be firmly bonded to the ice, there will be air pockets that will slow down the heat transfer, since convection is more inefficient than conduction in transferring heat energy.

    Of course, our friends from the 19th century might have gotten a little more bang for their block of ice if they had used white sawdust (probably not available at the time).

    The discussion about censorship of government research brings back some bad memories of how all this started. This may have been brought up before, but here goes.

    In the early 1980’s, Reagan was elected president and had as one of his basic goals the elimination of much of the government, based on a simplistic view that government per se is bad, i.e., intrusive, inefficient and in the end a hindrance to progress.

    He appointed people to carry out this mission. Although he wasn’t successful in eliminating any government departments (two of his targets, Education and Energy survive today), there were lasting changes.

    One of those was that disclaimer at the top or bottom of papers, posters and presentations that says something like “the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the agency” (EPA, etc.)

    This was partly done so that all those papers, posters and presentations wouldn’t have to get sent to Washington and approved. They tried that for a while and it just took too much of their valuable time.

    Later on, though, especially in recent years when it became apparent that people were actually reading some of the papers, looking at some of the posters and listening to some of the presentations and that policymakers might actually have to respond (the global warming era), the censorship process got ratcheted up. But it all began in the 1980’s with Reagan.

    One particularly amusing story or maybe not that is true concerns the then (1980’s) EPA Asst. Administrator for Air, Noise and Radiation (don’t those just fit together like a hand in a glove?).

    She was a former school teacher and decided that the best way to limit all those unnecessary missives out of Durham from the Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards that would wind up in the Federal Register would be to check them for grammatical errors and if she found any, send them back for rewrite.

    In the days before spell check, the Asst. Admin. of the EPA, a couple of phone calls away from the president, was spending her time doing the red pencil thing, on the look out for “which” and “that” violations.

    Nowadays, her more clever descendents secretly rewrite documents for the authors and make sure that everyone knows that the people speaking are only speaking for themselves, as if their work was privately funded or they paid for it on their own.

    Leaving the public and media wondering which one to believe or is it that one to believe? Where are the English teachers now that we need them!

  32. Dan:

    Re: AGU

    The more meeting results the better. Those of use who could not attend would like to catch up. It would be great to see some of it on-line, and have something beyond the abstracts and certain PDFs.

  33. John McCormick:

    RE # 79

    Thank you for bringing it home to us again.

    Pete, the frustration and anger level is building throughout the non-political, non-economist world but the pitiful fact remains that the 3-4 billion AGW culprits have few options other than individually changing lifestyles, purchasing energy efficient cars, appliances, etc. That can get us to first base but not home.

    It will require the leadership of short-term elected office holders and short-term investors to come to their senses and take on this fast moving and challenge. I have personally concluded the planetâ??s climate change is far ahead of model projections and even VP Goreâ??s assessment.

    How to get the politicos and international Wall Street and Goldman-Sachs types into the serious discussion is going to depend on large multi-national corporate interests understanding they are soon to be â??or already are- AGW victims. Perpetual drought and severe storms will be their early indicators. (We are measuring the expansion of the topic heat, are we not?)

    Pest infestations and disruption of historic ag planting/harvesting cycles will begin to weigh heavily on timber and grains markets. Even the US ethanol industry will succumb to the ravages of increasing droughts in the drying corn-producing regions of the US North America.

    Colorado River flow is dependant upon snow pack in the Rockies and that is diminishing. So to is the Columbia River annual flow.

    And, melting glaciers in the Andes and Himalayas now – and will continue to â?? threaten water supplies for cities and agriculture on which more than 500 million people depend.

    We know all of this but the stuff has not really hit the fan, yet. Will there be time for us to correct our collision course? If a 70% CO2 emission cut or stabilization at 450-550 ppm are goals,I think not. Adaptation will ALSO PLAY A MASSIVE PART IN OUR RESPONSE.

    Would that VP Gore would put aside the polite message of “Inconvenient” and refer to the future in real terms (even politically incorrect terms of predicting global collapse of capitalism) that will cause people to lose sleep over the realization that we are sealing the fate of our children’s future.

    Keep an eye on Australia these next several years. It is possibly Australia will be the first nation (way ahead of Maldives and Tuvalu) to suffer the changes brought about by AGW. Southern Australian drought could become a (permanent) fixture in its climate and economy.

  34. Brian Gordon:

    Thanks to all who responded to my request for info on the Veizer paper. Hank, I’m not trying to show only one side. When I first came to realclimate, I was somewhat sceptical (ie, brainwashed); I just didn’t believe that people would lie to the extent that some have, given the consequences. I had read a convincing-sounding article in Canada’s National Post by Tom Harris, in which he quoted Veizer, a real scientist, as ‘proving’ that Cosmic Ray Flux was the real reason for fluctuations in the Earth’s temperature. I actually read Veizer’s paper, then asked here about it. One of the scientists here was kind enough to break out Veizer’s graphs into several: CRF, CO2, and temperature – and to include the graphs past whenever Veizer conveniently stopped, I think in the 1950’s. So, I wanted to find those graphs and show them.

    As to those wondering what Al Gore has done: When I went to Nashville for the training, I elected to stay with a host family rather than at a hotel. It turns out that my host was a former journalist, and had interviewed Gore 25 years ago. She gets frustrated with people who think this is something new for Gore, or a way to get attention – she said he was talking about this stuff when she first interviewed him. As to not responding to letters, I don’t know the reason, of course, but the man must get thousands of emails, letters, and phone calls weekly, if not daily. He has a staff, and I suspect they decide what he gets to see to an extent.

    Al Gore’s footprint: near-zero. The book and movie were completely offset (yes, I realise offsetting is not the long-term solution) by a company called Native Energy, as is all his travel. 100% of the profits from the book and movie are going into The Climate Project (www.climateproject.org), the group doing the training of presenters like me. He really is walking the talk, as best he can. Nobody is perfect, but I often get the impression that Americans are waiting for the Second Coming in the hopes of voting him or her in as President.

  35. Grant:

    Perhaps it’s time to paraphrase Mark Twain:

    Everybody talks about the climate, but nobody does anything about it.

  36. Pat Neuman:

    Re. #84. … [As to not responding to letters, … ]

    For anyone commenting on the disappointment I felt that Al Gore and others in the Clinton/Gore administration were not active in replying to my letters in year 2000 … which showed my deep concerns about climate change, hydrologic modeling and flood prediction … please do not oversimplify my statements as if I’m just complaining about Al Gore having not responded to my letters 2000.

    My letters to several directors and supervisors within the Clinton/Gore administration went unanswered on a subject of great importance to me, the U.S. and the world. I think Al Gore knew about my letters of request for help to others in his administration – or he should have known about them.

    As I said in #75, I sent letters to several people in the Clinton/Gore administration in 2000 including … Dr. James Baker (Director of NOAA), William Daley (Secretary of the DOC), supervisors at the DOC Ethics Division … I would like to know why my letters to these others were not answered and why Al Gore didn’t bring up global warming as an issue in the 2000 debates.

    In 2000, I also sent letters of grievance to suspensions which were issued to me for expressing my concerns about climate change and hydrologic impacts in the Upper Midwest. My letters of grievance went to the Director of the National Weather Service, Br. Gen. Jack Kelly, and the Deputy Director of NWS, John Jones. None of my grievances to the suspensions which I received in 2000 were justly considered. All of my requests for consideration by NWS directors in 2000 were denied for “lacks merit”.

    Last week Al Gore urged scientists to be more active. That is exactly what I’m trying to do, and have tried to do since January of 2000 – which cost me my job as a federal civil servant and my career as a hydrologist.


  37. Sashka:

    Re: #56

    Thank you for the interesting links. Not sure about your calculations, though. The transportation is all bundled together without break-up into commercial trucks/buses and private cars.

    Personally, even though I have two relatively inefficient cars in the household and a relatively modest house I still pay about twice as much for heating/cooling than for gasoline. I assume it roughly translates into CO2 pollution. So my personal guilt is more on the house side. Must be similar for most people unless they drive a lot more than we do.

  38. savegaia:

    As Co2 stays in the air “forever”, like 500 years.
    Is there no way to bond the Co2 from the air?

    I start researching here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon but is not very informative in this matter.

  39. Hank Roberts:

    Savegaia, have you had a high school level chemistry class? Tell us what you know so we have some idea where to begin. If you understand exothermic and endothermic reactions and chemical bond energy it will help.

  40. savegaia:

    #89 Yes i had one but it wasn´t very successful. You can consider my knowledge on school chemistry on a scale from 1 -10, a 4 i guess :)
    I attended a climate ozone layer seminar as a private person in university ~12 years ago, and besides reading on the web i have some basic understanding on how the carbon cycle works.

    I think im capable to understand most of it but need some training with specialy formula and understanding of air chemistry and how the reaction of molecules work in particular.

  41. pete best:

    Re #83. John, it is going to be a long hard trek becuase timescales are so short. 3 ppm per annum rising to 4 ppm at some point due to feedbacks etc. 400 ppm is 10 years off and we have no chance of averting it do we? 500 ppm is another 40 years after that (or sooner) plus the latency in the oceans. A 3 deg C average temp rise world wide by 2080 – 2100 is really going to hurt us. pestilence, famine, drought, subsidence, flood (somewhere I guess) and not to mention, heat and the strain this will place on our existing systems. One other major blooper is the population being some 9 billion by 2050 falling back to 6 billion by 2100 could just tip us over the edge in many ways. Energy duage is set to double within 40 years and a large part of that might come in the short term from fossil fuels (although I doubt that they will scale much more than they are now without a massive investment) and that means more CO2 unless humankind is making plans now for its demise.

    I am not sure that they alternatives will be ready in time en masse.

  42. Roger Smith:

    For a fairly crude personal carbon calculator, check out this site:
    It should give you a sense of where your emissions come from, but leaves out important items like food and recycling.

    Also, generally gasoline is used for light-duty vehicles and diesel for trucks and heavy-duty vehicles. Diesel has higher carbon content and “black carbon” soot emissions which have a significant warming impact above and beyond the CO2, but there are a lot of gasoline vehicles.

  43. James:

    Re #88: “Is there no way to bond the Co2 from the air?”

    The only way I know of that’s even remotely practical is to plant trees.

    The main problem is that it takes energy to get the CO2 out of the air, probably more energy than you got from burning the coal or oil that produced it in the first place.

  44. Matt:

    No probably about it, the miracle of photosynthesis is a real winner, but in order to get rid of carbon dioxide you not only have to undo a favourable and very stable chemical state, but you have to collect it too.

  45. Matt:

    Cat black near the top cynically says alt energy would price based on the increasing price of oil/coal reserves. Obviously you have forgotten that most basic of principals called competition. Cartels will always defect to Nash equilibriums and the best price will often reduce to marginal costs rather than substitute good matching. In a nutshell, when alternatives are cost effective relative to increasing prices of current goods we go the cheap way and the things that are more plentiful and common are cheap. Assuming one can get over the transitional hump of start up costs over the next 60 years.

  46. pete best:

    Yesterday the UK approved to very large scale (largest in the world at the present time) wind farms on the east coast near London. The larger one will consist of some 341 turbines covering some 90 square miles and the second one some 100 turbines covering some 13 square miles. They will produce 1.3 GW of electricity and help power some 1 million of Londons 3 million homes. Here comes the fun bit, they will contribute 1 percent to the UK idea of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020. These are offshore windfarms and hence to get to 20 percent by wind alone will take around 441×15=6000 more wind turbines of this nature. So Surely Wind cannot be more than a small factor in the plan for alternatives to Fossil Fuels.

    In the UK Offshore wind turbines work at around 31 percent efficiency.

  47. Matt:

    #79 Economics isn’t messed up, while your complaining about lack of action free market dynamics will have commerce grads plucking the riches of new opportunity. Thst is why as scientists you can’t afford to ignore economists as they unfortunately (for you) have the advantage of influence and action. They also should not have difficulty acting on changes as economics is the social science of choices made in a world with limited resources. Remember that. Economists accept the world has limited resources. Also cost effectiveness is better worded as cost benefit. Why do you think Stern has been trying to deal with it in his own way, he got more publicity in one hit than just about anyone you care to mention (other than journo Gore) This resounding superiority of science attitude will turn more people off than ever, already a lot of people are sick of GW and don’t give a rats, its like were going off the other side of the hill, weve peaked and some are going whats next. You have to engage all things be it politics or economics or science. Without this holistic approach to influencing decisiions you will fail.

  48. John McCormick:

    RE # 79

    Matt, tune in to what Texas Utilities is proposing to construct over the next decade; 11 coal-fired power stations. Seems its on-board economists tuned up with the TXU engineers to capitalize on Texas lignite…a commodity that is not now a limited resource.

    Leave it to the economists to know a cost effective investment.

  49. pete best:


    This is a tricky one and I agree that economics is required in order to resolve the issues before us. However the free market economy is not necessarily the mechanism to deliver us from salvation, it may work and it may not. Fossil Fuels occupy a vested interest and a known financial stream of huge profits that can only increase as we approach Peak Oil and Gas that is delivered to organisations that sponsor Governments to keep the status quo. Sure several major organisations have agreed plans for CO2 trading and the like but as we require large scale cuts in CO2 to minimise temperature rises of upto 3 deg C by 2100.

    I am doubtful that free market capatalism will deliver. Most Governments will not use Taxation to do the job and hence some reasonable temperature rises are inevitable and no one (especially economists) know what the consequences will be.

  50. Grant:

    Cartels will always defect to Nash equilibriums and the best price will often reduce to marginal costs rather than substitute good matching. In a nutshell, when alternatives are cost effective relative to increasing prices of current goods we go the cheap way and the things that are more plentiful and common are cheap. Assuming one can get over the transitional hump of start up costs over the next 60 years.

    Economics does not necessarily rule our future vis-a-vis CO2 emissions. Remember the 2nd world war. Americans made dramatic sacrifices from sea to shining sea — willingly, we didn’t have to be threatened or legislated to it — and the tiny sacrifices of a hundred million individuals added up to a vast difference. Mega-corporations transformed themselves to work for the cause, some because they saw a huge profit in it, others for purely patriotic reasons, yet others because the long arm of Franklin Delano Roosevelt put the screws down hard. From the top to the bottom of the economic heirarchy and the government, people worked together in order to overcome the greatest threat to their children’s future yet seen. And we won.

    Today’s threat is even greater. But our ability to meet the challenge is still there. Two things are lacking: first, sufficient awareness of the gravity of the threat; second, the leadership to mobilize the people’s hearts and minds. In the long run, these will be far greater influences than macroeconomics.

    The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.