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Round up and thanks

Filed under: — group @ 25 February 2007

A few tidbits from around that may be of interest:

  • Tom Yulsman is running a new blog (now linked in our blogroll) for the Center for Environmental Journalism at U. Colorado, Boulder, covering climate change as one of his ‘beats’.
  • The Global Roundtable on Climate Change (GROCC), made up of business leaders, NGOs and academics released a statement on climate change. (Coverage BBC, Reuters)
  • The UN Foundation (an independent NGO established to support the UN mission) has helped put together a site called ‘IPCC facts‘ to help with the outreach associated with the IPCC Fourth Assessment. We haven’t examined every page, so if there are any questions, this is as good a place as any to go over them.

On the lighter side, those people who are fond of the offsetting concept (usually applied to carbon emissions) may find this site interesting (hat tip to Yarrow).

Finally, the more multi-lingual of our readers may have noticed the proliferation of translations of RC posts in recent weeks. We now have regular contributors translating articles into French, Slovak, Swedish and Portugeuse (as denoted by the hybrid flags associated with relevant articles). We can offer them nothing more than our deep gratitude – recent contributions have been from: Valérie Masson-Delmotte, Fernando Manuel Ramos and Ivan Bergier Tavares de Lima (ClimaGaia), Alexander Ač, Olivier Daniélo, Etienne Pesnelle, Jacob Wallström and Yves Fouquart. Many thanks to all!

(And if anyone else would like to help out on an occasional basis translating posts to their native language, please let us know. )

Update: And now turkish! (thanks to Figen Mekik).

70 Responses to “Round up and thanks”

  1. 51
    Gar Lipow says:

    Re: 20
    >Check out the new LED lights. They’re supposed to be even more energy efficient. Here’s one website – http://www.ccrane.com/lights/led-light-bulbs/index.aspx

    If you do some simple arithmetic from the table at that link, they get about 35 lumems per watt, a bit more than half what you get from low end CFLs, and even worse compared to the most efficient T8s. LED lighting is a great technology – but still has some maturing to do, before it can replace CFL lightbulbs.

  2. 52
    Jim says:

    Re 35

    “Next big question, what proportion of the people in the world have common sense?”

    Obviously not that many as you don’t practice what you are preaching. Forgive me if I noticed that you complained about shower heads while you burned how much energy to go on that trip, next you are going to bring them light bulbs? That’s a concernced citizen right there. I have a big problem with other people telling me what they think is good for me and not for them. Also think of all the power you burn while you type on this blog. Remember we all created this problem that means you too.

  3. 53
    Paul Baer says:

    I’d like to comment on some features of the UN Foundation Report referred to in the original posting and in comments 14 and 44, and point out what I believe is an important error in its risk estimates.

    This report of the “Scientific Expert Group” (hereafter “SEG”) is a familiar type of expert assessment. I don’t know much about Sigma Xi, the “Scientific Research Society,” but it seems to be an international body not entirely unlike the US National Academy of Sciences, and this report is like a National Research Council report, but international, prepared for the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs. It is presumed to be independent and to draw its authority from the credibility of the authors in the scientific community, and on the credibility of the scientific community as a whole.

    The SEG report is in fact very much like a condensed version of the entire IPCC, covering the topics addressed in all three working groups. But, and this is where the matters get tricky, it has a normative, rather than merely scientific, charge, or at least has interpreted its charge that way. Specifically, it has endorsed objectives for maximum temperature change and stabilization of net radiative forcing that the authors suggest are consistent with the objectives of the UNFCCC, and with the promotion of “sustainable development” more generally. These are types of conclusions that the IPCC has deliberately stayed away from, seeing it as plainly beyond their remit.

    The relationship between the SEG’s conclusions and their charge is subject for a longer discussion. But I want simply to point out here that there appears to be a fundamental error in their argument.

    They conclude, after a lengthy discussion of potential climate impacts, that “the goal of society’s mitigation efforts should be to hold the increase to 2°C if possible and in no event more than 2.5°C.” Yet they endorse a stabilization target of 450 ppm CO2-equivalent (net, counting all positive and negative forcings). The report states specifically that:

    “In order to have a high probability of holding the expected equilibrium temperature increase above the 1750 value to the 2°C figure embraced by the European Union, the sum of the warming and cooling human influences would need to be stabilized at a level equivalent to about 450 parts per million by volume (ppmv) of CO2 (expressed as CO2-equivalent).” (p. 44).

    By my calculations, this is simply wrong. 450 ppm CO2-e (about 2.6 Wm-2, or 70% of a doubling) implies an increase of 2ºC or greater if the climate sensitivity is 2.9ºC or greater, and an increase of 2.8ºC or greater if the climate sensitivity is 4.0ºC or greater. Given the current range of reasonable climate sensitivity PDFs, the likelihood that the climate sensitivity is 2.9ºC or greater is roughly 50%, and that it is greater than 4ºC, roughly 10%. (Note that these are subjective probabilities, and not in any way precise, but I would argue extremely reasonable.) And a roughly even chance of exceeding 2ºC can’t in any circumstances be called “a high probability.”

    It seems to me that this is a fact of major ethical and political significance. I am surprised that the report’s expert authors and reviewers allowed this in, and I don’t think it should go unchallenged.

    Paul Baer, PhD
    Research Director, EcoEquity

  4. 54
    Dan says:

    re: 52. “I have a big problem with other people telling me what they think is good for me and not for them.”

    And there you have it. A person who has taken action to reduce their GHG imprint attacked for doing their part. Wow, how sad and what a reflection on the state of society.

  5. 55
    Hank Roberts says:

    >LED lights
    Gar’s right; they’re not replacements yet for CFLs. They are good for spot reading lights when you don’t need to light up a whole room.

    > Climate sensitivity

    I fear our regulars get attached to their numbers based on definitions and models.

    It looks to me like the definitions are changing:

    “… changes in the CO2 solubility pump are a thermodynamic property of this definition….”

    If so the models may change, and so the sensitivity numbers will become more — accurate? predictive? realistic?

    Here for example:
    http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-0889.2005.00173.x

    “Anthropogenic CO2 results of the new technique are compared with results from the original technique as well as with results of the technique of Gruber et al. The new technique is furthermore applied to three time-separated data sets in the subpolar North Atlantic and shows consistent results with regard to available data quality and anthropogenic CO2 quantities.

    “The difference between the new thermodynamic approach and the anthropogenic CO2 definition of Gruber et al., which is termed mechanistic, is discussed. Here likely changes in the CO2 solubility pump are a thermodynamic property of this definition, whereas it is a separate phenomenon in the mechanistic definition. The thermodynamic approach is not without caveats, but points to improvements by the synergistic use of model results and those from observations. Future improvements are considered for the initial saturation state of oxygen and CO2, at the instant the surface water loses contact with the atmosphere and for variations in the Redfield ratio.”

    * Toste Tanhua, Arne Biastoch, Arne Körtzinger, Heike Lüger, Claus Böning, Douglas W. R. Wallace. (2006) Changes of anthropogenic CO and CFCs in the North Atlantic between 1981 and 2004. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 20:4, GB4017

  6. 56
    Hank Roberts says:

    Is anyone commenting on Hansen’s speech (which is now apparently only available for $30 from CNN, here: http://www.c-spanstore.org/shop/index.php?main_page=product_video_info&products_id=196804-1&template=4 )?
    http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/feb07/comments/1725
    IEEE Spectrum:

    “… In his briefing to leaders of the press corps, entitled ‘Global Warming: Connecting the Dots from Causes to Solutions’, Hansen said that evidence in the international scientific community shows global warming is occurring at a much faster pace than earlier forecasts predicted and that the burning of coal is a leading cause of elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which traps heat via the so-called greenhouse effect.

    “According to the U.S. Department of Energy, coal-fueled power plants produce about half of the electricity consumed in America. Plans currently call for the construction of some 160 new coal-based facilities to meet future energy needs over the next decade.

    “Speaking as a private citizen, without authority from the U.S. space agency, Hansen said the U.S. Congress should pass legislation to scale back the construction of these plants, but if it does not, ‘citizens must accomplish this.’ The controversial scientist, who has been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s energy policy in the past, said that the offset in electric power could be compensated by increased efforts in producing energy more efficiently.

    “A spokesperson for the National Mining Association, which represents the interests of U.S. coal producers, told the Associated Press that Hansen’s comments ‘ought to be vetted by those who have an understanding of the energy demands placed on the U.S. economy.’ Luke Popovich said, ‘When seen in light of those demands, then statements like that will appear unreasonable, to put it charitably.’ … “

  7. 57
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #52, I hope I didn’t imply we should just stay at home and never go anywhere. I wouldn’t want people telling me what to do, but I’d hope people would use common sense and at least reduce in cost-effective ways. But that’s just my hope. I don’t really have any power to make anyone do anything, and I wouldn’t want it.

    And I would never force the sister to take those CF bulbs, but it’s okay to offer them.

    BTW, it’s about a 45 minute drive from my place, and I would have preferred having the retreat at the place 2 miles from my home, but the rest of the group wanted to go to the monastery….and it was a beautiful experience. I don’t regret it.

  8. 58
    Alvia Gaskill says:

    Just a heads up to those U.S. government scientists contemplating overseas speaking engagements. The Bush Administration has now published guidelines on what topics are appropriate for discussion in mixed company. Religion and politics always a mine field, but you can now add mixing polar bears and weather to the no no list. And please note that I post this comment as a private citizen exercising my right to free speech under the Constitution. Uh, wait a minute, I don’t work for the government. Given that tax season is approaching, better safe than sorry.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070309/sc_nm/polarbears_scientists_dc;_ylt=AhWQS3YXJ6gp18YynmxhDQJxieAA

  9. 59
    Alvia Gaskill says:

    Here is the NYT’s take on the polar bear guidelines, complete with the text of the highly important travel directive. Since NASA had or still has some form of such guidelines, and I understand EPA and DOE do as well, I would think it a good idea if the Administration would compile the complete set of such requirements for all government agencies and that any future requests from journalists or government workers go through the Ministry of Information so that there is no misinterpretation of their meaning. I also believe in the Easter Bunny.

    NEW YORK TIMES
    March 8, 2007

    Memos Tell Officials How to Discuss Climate
    By ANDREW C. REVKIN

    Internal memorandums circulated in the Alaskan division of the
    Federal Fish and Wildlife Service appear to require government
    biologists or other employees traveling in countries around the
    Arctic not to discuss climate change, polar bears or sea ice if they
    are not designated to do so.

    In December, the Bush administration, facing a deadline under a suit
    by environmental groups, proposed listing polar bears throughout
    their range as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because
    the warming climate is causing a summertime retreat of sea ice that
    the bears use for seal hunting.

    Environmentalists are trying to use such a listing to force the
    United States to restrict heat-trapping gases that scientists have
    linked to global warming as a way of limiting risks to the 22,000 or
    so bears in the far north.

    It remains unclear whether such a listing will be issued. The Fish
    and Wildlife Service this week held the first of several hearings in
    Alaska and Washington on the question.

    Over the past week, biologists and wildlife officials received a
    cover note and two sample memorandums to be used as a guide in
    preparing travel requests. Under the heading “Foreign Travel – New
    Requirement – Please Review and Comply, Importance: High,” the cover
    note said:

    “Please be advised that all foreign travel requests (SF 1175
    requests) and any future travel requests involving or potentially
    involving climate change, sea ice and/or polar bears will also
    require a memorandum from the regional director to the director
    indicating who’ll be the official spokesman on the trip and the one
    responding to questions on these issues, particularly polar bears.”

    The sample memorandums, described as to be used in writing travel
    requests, indicate that the employee seeking permission to travel
    “understands the administration’s position on climate change, polar
    bears, and sea ice and will not be speaking on or responding to these
    issues.”

    Electronic copies of the memorandums and cover note were forwarded to
    The New York Times by Deborah Williams, an environmental campaigner
    in Alaska and a former Interior Department official in the Clinton
    administration.

    “This sure sounds like a Soviet-style directive to me,” Ms. Williams said.

    A spokesman for the Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska, Bruce Woods,
    confirmed the authenticity of the notes, but interpreted them
    differently.

    “The cover memo makes it clear nobody is being told they can’t talk
    about these issues,” Mr. Woods said. “What the administration wants
    to know is who is going to be spokesperson and do they understand
    administration policy? It’s not saying you won’t talk about it.”

    Limits on government scientists’ freedom to speak freely about
    climate change became a heated issue last year after news reports
    showed that political appointees at NASA had canceled journalists’
    interview requests with climate scientists and discouraged news
    releases on global warming.

  10. 60
    Stephen Berg says:

    An excellent rebuttal of the Channel 4 hit job on climate change:

    http://inthegreen.typepad.com/blog/2007/03/deconstructing_.html

  11. 61
    Jim says:

    Re 54.

    And you are so much better. You don’t know me and yet you judge me. I went with what was said on this thread. You put those two posts together (18 and 35) and what would you come up with? Probably the same attitude you just directed at me. Looking over this board more, your attitude seems quite consistent in attacking anyone who has even a hint of an opposing view.

  12. 62
    Dan says:

    re: 61. “Probably the same…”

    You know what they say about people who make assumptions, right? Apparently it fits and my comment was spot on. Thanks!

    Try reading and comprehending the science and do not let others tell you what to think or say about global warming. The scientific method works and the science behind global warming is unquivocable. To deny that is to reflect the thoughts from the Middle Ages. Science is not a “fair and balanced” opinion.

  13. 63

    “We are Earth scientists. We are not part of a vast conspiracy to perpetrate a hoax, nor are we crowd-following herd animals. We are concerned about the world we are leaving to our children. (…) As scientists we have a duty to speak out when our findings strongly suggest that a dangerous and harmful development is underway – just like someone who sees smoke billowing out of a house has a duty to call the fire brigade.”
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/04/the-heat-is-rising-at-the-washington-post/

    Merci!

    Olivier

  14. 64
    Hank Roberts says:

    Way too early to have been published, but this story’s already popping up elsewhere:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/0,1518,469495,00.html

    “… Preliminary results, unmistakable conclusions

    The cores are still on a ship bound for Florida, where Andrill researchers from around the globe will meet in May to negotiate the distribution of the samples. Half of the ice cores will be archived in freezers, while the other half will be cut into pieces and distributed among scientists around the world, who will then publish their individual findings in professional journals. “We can expect at least a minor sensation,” says polar researcher Niessen.

    His colleagues at German universities in Jena and Göttingen hope to be able to take along as many pieces of the core as possible. “We want to examine the composition of the particles in the sediment,” Viereck-Götte told SPIEGEL ONLINE. This, he said, would enable him to precisely determine how much ice from the eastern and western Antarctic ice shelves melted into the Ross Sea.

    Melting ice from Antarctica’s inland ice cap also affects global sea levels, but not in the same way as floating ice shelves. “The shelf ice supports the inland ice masses,” says Niessen. If it disappears, the inland glaciers will move and melt at a faster rate.

    “The message of the drill core”

    According to Niessen, the preliminary findings from the new drill core provide “clear indications.” It is “certain without a doubt,” says Niessen, that an ice-free Ross bay existed 5 million years ago. …”

  15. 65
    Hank Roberts says:

    In other news:

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/spiegel/0,1518,461828,00.html

    [the comma breaks the html link, cut and paste the whole line to get to the source]

    begin snippet ——
    “… concentrations of nitrogen dioxide are especially high. The picture from 1996 shows the area between Beijing and Shanghai as a loose group of reddish spots, but one from 2005 completely covers that part of China in bright red….

    “These kinds of clouds float above Europe for most of the year and they’ve traveled far to get there. By analyzing the makeup of particles in the cloud, European scientists were able to identify its origin. “There was a whole bunch from China in there,” says Andreas Stohl, …from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research.

    … the air from Asia that reaches the West Coast of the United States over the Pacific Ocean ….. — soot particles have colored the device’s filter “blacker than we’ve ever seen it,” he says.

    Back in a lab at the University of California at Davis, Cliff and his colleagues analyze the origins of the air pollution with the help of x-rays. According to their “chemical signature,” most have come from coal-fired Chinese power plants, Chinese smelters and chemical factories, as well as from the tailpipes of countless Chinese diesel-powered cars and trucks….

    SEPA official Li Xinmin claims it remains unproven that pollution from Chinese power plants reaches other countries. “That’s a false, irresponsible argument,” says Li.

    Climate expert Liu Deshun from Beijing’s Tsinghua University seemingly has a reassuring statistic or sensible Communist Party decree for almost any pressing environmental problem.
    —————————-

  16. 66
    Hank Roberts says:

    Good news here (albeit also running into denial from China)
    My excerpt from the article (good science reporting!)

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/15/business/worldbusiness/15warming.html?ref=science&pagewanted=print

    “March 15, 2007
    “Push to Fix Ozone Layer and Slow Global Warming
    “By KEITH BRADSHER

    “HONG KONG, March 14 : An unusual coalition of industrial and developing countries began pushing Wednesday for stringent limits on the world’s most popular refrigerant for air-conditioners, as evidence mounts that the refrigerant harms the earth’s ozone layer and contributes to global warming.

    “The coalition is pitted against China, which has become the world’s leading manufacturer of air-conditioners that use the refrigerant, HCFC-22. Most window air-conditioners and air-conditioning systems in the United States use this refrigerant, as well.

    “International pressure has grown rapidly this winter for quick action. ‘We scientifically have proof: if we accelerate the phaseout of HCFC, we are going to make a great contribution to climate change,’ said Romina Picolotti, the chief of Argentina’s environmental secretariat.

    “An accelerated phaseout of the refrigerant could speed up by five years the healing of the ozone layer of the atmosphere. It could also cut emissions of global-warming gases by the equivalent of at least one-sixth of the reductions called for under the Kyoto Protocol.

    “The United States joined Argentina, Brazil, Iceland, Mauritania and Norway on Wednesday in notifying the Ozone Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Program that they want to negotiate an accelerated phaseout of hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, at an international conference in Montreal in September.

    “The conference is tied to the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol, which has reduced emissions of most ozone-depleting gases but left a loophole for HCFC-22 production by developing countries. China has repeatedly said it will honor all current rules of the Montreal Protocol but does not want to add new ones. ….”

  17. 67
    Hank Roberts says:

    Also worth a look — suggestive of why we see the US urging strengthening of the Montreal Protocol. UV damage is way up, skin cancer is up, and the connection to climate change is obvious too.

    http://www.rsc.org/delivery/_ArticleLinking/DisplayHTMLArticleforfree.cfm?JournalCode=PP&Year=2006&ManuscriptID=b515670j&Iss=1

    Perspective

    Photochem. Photobiol. Sci., 2006, 5, 13 – 24, DOI: 10.1039/b515670j
    Environmental effects of ozone depletion and its interactions with climate change: Progress report, 2005

  18. 68
    Hank Roberts says:

    Science 16 March 2007:
    Vol. 315. no. 5818, pp. 1508 – 1510
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1140469
    Rethinking Ice Sheet Time Scales
    Martin Truffer1 and Mark Fahnestock2

    Satellite data show that ice sheets can change much faster than commonly appreciated, with potentially worrying implications for their stability.

  19. 69
    Hank Roberts says:

    Hm, sorry to be ‘bombing’ this thread, would y’alll rather I just emailed these to the Contributors contact email?

    California (Pacific Gas & Electric) Offsets program coming soon:
    http://www.pge.com/about_us/environment/features/climatesmart_faqs.html#topic3

  20. 70
    Hank Roberts says:

    One more thought — from several different angles, I see indications that the ocean’s plankton organisms are likely to change about as fast as the CO2 level changes — selection works quickly, generations are short, reproductive fitness with huge quantities of offspring can change populations within a year or less:

    “… biological responses may occur in phase with the present rise in atmospheric CO2….” (cite below)

    Some research is being done pumping CO2 through seawater to watch the organisms and see how selection changes them, confirming this happens.

    The variability in the ocean is utterly astonishingly huge — look up ‘metagenomics’ for the methods. There’s far more living in the water than anyone imagined.

    It’s become possible to slurp up organisms, break them down into messes, pull out chunks of DNA, probe for new genes, map what’s found, figure out what went with what, then go look for the very rare organisms in the ocean that possessed some particularly interesting new gene.

    In fact, it’s possible to, to borrow Willey Ley’s remark about how not to understand a locomitive, “melt it down and analyze the mess” to learn what’s there.

    This could mean the primary producers, the biggest part of the biosphere, _is_ going to change quite fast as CO2 increases, even in tempo with the rate at which we’re adding fossil fuel.

    The gamble comes down to whether our species is somehow beloved of nature and will be favored by such change — or whether we’re going to be easy and widely available meat; if there are changes as fast as seems possible, though, there may be reasons for the currently living generation to think twice about personal consequences.

    A few papers:

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/v7g4432685137684/

    “… organismal level, a moderate increase in CO2 facilitates photosynthetic carbon fixation of some phytoplankton groups. It also enhances the release of dissolved carbohydrates, most notably during the decline of nutrient-limited phytoplankton blooms. A decrease in the carbonate saturation state represses biogenic calcification of the predominant marine calcifying organisms, foraminifera and coccolithophorids. On the ecosystem level these responses influence phytoplankton species composition and succession, favouring algal species which predominantly rely on CO2 utilization. Increased phytoplankton exudation promotes particle aggregation and marine snow formation, enhancing the vertical flux of biogenic material. A decrease in calcification may affect the competitive advantage of calcifying organisms, with possible impacts on their distribution and abundance. On the biogeochemical level, biological responses to CO2 enrichment and the related changes in carbonate chemistry can strongly alter the cycling of carbon and other bio-active elements in the ocean. Both decreasing calcification and enhanced carbon overproduction due to release of extracellular carbohydrates have the potential to increase the CO2 storage capacity of the ocean. Although the significance of such biological responses to CO2 enrichment becomes increasingly evident, our ability to make reliable predictions of their future developments and to quantify their potential ecological and biogeochemical impacts is still in its infancy……”

    http://web.awi-bremerhaven.de/Publications/Ros2004a.pdf
    Recent work indicates that changes in seawater carbonate chemistry caused by
    rising atmospheric CO2 (Fig. 2) can decrease biologically-mediated calcification
    (Gattuso et al. 1998; Wolf-Gladrow et al. 1999; Riebesell et al. 2000a; Zondervan
    et al. 2001). Changes in seawater CO2 concentration and/or CO2-related changes of the carbonate system are also likely to modify phytoplankton species composition (Tortell et al. 2002), and may even alter the relative abundance of calcifying versus non-calcifying phytoplankton (Rost et al. 2003). Since changes in atmospheric pCO2 give rise to corresponding changes in the carbonate system of surface seawater with a time lag of less than one year (Zeebe and Wolf-Gladrow 2001), biological responses may occur in phase with the present rise in atmospheric CO2….