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CO2 equivalents

Filed under: — gavin @ 11 October 2007

There was a minor kerfuffle in recent days over claims by Tim Flannery (author of “The Weather Makers”) that new information from the upcoming IPCC synthesis report will show that we have reached 455 ppmv CO2_equivalent 10 years ahead of schedule, with predictable implications. This is confused and incorrect, but the definitions of CO2_e, why one would use it and what the relevant level is, are all highly uncertain in many peoples’ minds. So here is a quick rundown.

Definition: The CO2_equivalent level is the amount of CO2 that would be required to give the same global mean radiative forcing as the sum of a basket of other forcings. This is a way to include the effects of CH4 and N2O etc. in a simple way, particularly for people doing future impacts or cost-benefit analysis. The equivalent amount is calculated using the IPCC formula for CO2 forcing:

Total Forcing = 5.35 log(CO2_e/CO2_orig)

where CO2_orig is the 1750 concentration (278 ppmv).

Usage: There are two main ways it is used. Firstly, it is often used to group together all the forcings from the Kyoto greenhouse gases (CO2, CH4, N2O and CFCs), and secondly to group together all forcings (including ozone, sulphate aerosols, black carbon etc.). The first is simply a convenience, but the second is what matters to the planet. Many stabilisation scenarios, such as are being discussed in UNFCCC negotiations are based on stabilising total CO2_e at 450, 550 or 750 ppmv.

Magnitude The values of CO2_e (Kyoto) and CO2_e (Total) can be calculated from Figure 2.21 and Table 2.12 in the IPCC WG1 Chapter 2. The forcing for CO2, CH4 (including indirect effects), N2O and CFCs is 1.66+0.48+0.07+0.16+0.34=2.71 W/m2 (with around 0.3 W/m2 uncertainty). Using the formula above, that gives CO2_e (Kyoto) = 460 ppmv. However, including all the forcings (some of which are negative), you get a net forcing of around 1.6 W/m2, and a CO2_e (Total) of 375 ppmv with quite a wide error bar. This is, coincidently, close to the actual CO2 level.

Implications The important number is CO2_e (Total) which is around 375 ppmv. Stabilisation scenarios of 450 ppmv or 550 ppmv are therefore still within reach. Claims that we have passed the first target are simply incorrect, however, that is not to say they are easily achievable. It is even more of a stretch to state that we have all of a sudden gone past the ‘dangerous’ level. It is still not clear what that level is, but if you take a conventional 450 ppmv CO2_e value (which will lead to a net equilibrium warming of ~ 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels), we are still a number of years from that, and we have (probably) not yet committed ourselves to reaching it.

Finally, the IPCC synthesis report is simply a concise summary of the three separate reports that have already come out. It therefore can’t be significantly different from what is already available. But this is another example where people are quoting from draft reports that they have neither properly read nor understood and for which better informed opinion is not immediately available. I wish journalists and editors would resist the temptation to jump on leaks like this (though I know it’s hard). The situation is confusing enough without adding to it unintentionally.


193 Responses to “CO2 equivalents”

  1. 101
    Eli Rabett says:

    There is a very long and important monograph which describes how volcanic and other effects were dealt with (and shown to be minimal in any case) and Mauna Loa. Unfortunately this has disappeared from the net when it was published (I think in the Journal of Climate), but an image is available via the wayback machine. You can find a description of the publications here

  2. 102
    Eli Rabett says:

    Sorry, the link to the wayback machine image here

  3. 103

    Congrats to the IPCC contributors here on the Nobel — I wanted to say this earlier but the site was unreachable for a while, which I hope means a lot of people were trying to get there.

    Predictably, in Australia, we are already seeing letters in the press saying the Nobel was not deserved. HOWEVER: The Australian’s letters page in the same edition includes not one bit two corrections of a letter claiming that the recent adjustment of long-term US temperature data showed global warming wasn’t happening. This is a new one: The Australian is usually happy to let factual errors favouring the denial cause stand:

    Anyone up for nominating the denial crowd for an Ig Nobel ?

  4. 104
    Jim Eaton says:

    Re. #91, Neil Bates and the excellent responses by Dave Rado and Eli Rabett.

    A week and a half ago I was on the summit of Mauna Kea looking across to Mauna Loa and the location of the Mauna Loa Observatory. I, too, was wondering about the impact of eruptions on their measurements. But the observatory is at elevation of 3400 meters on the northern flank of Mauna Loa ( 4169 meters), and the eruptions of the past few decades have been on the south side of Mauna Loa and below 1000 meters. And the trade winds normally blow strongly from west to east, so the vast majority of emissions from the eruptions do not reach the observatory.

    Yes, there are some CO2 emissions from the summit caldera of Mauna Loa, but as seen from the articles referenced by Dave Rado and Eli Rabett, the observatory is well aware of them and have taken that into consideration in their measurements. Of course, when Mauna Loa erupts again from its summit, all bets are off.

  5. 105
    petefontana says:

    Surly and Ray Ladbury, thanks. In my not so spectacular doctoral studies, I took away one thing of value. – It was this, science is special. The practice of it is wonderful and almost noble. I would rather die honest, than live crooked.

  6. 106
    Bob Clipperton (UK) says:

    Re:- #87 & #92
    Dave,
    I deliberately put question marks before ‘Stott’ because I know there are several scientists in the UK of that name*. Unfortunately, I can’t recall where I saw that a Stott was advising on the anti-AGW case so I assumed it was Phillip Stott – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_Stott

    If this was the case, it must have been confusing for the judge – a case of Stott vs Stott.

    * I think there is another scientist ‘Stott’ in Reading University besides the 2 mentioned here.

  7. 107
    Helmut Wolf says:

    An outcry from Africa (#86) and nobody responds. Are we able to listen to others and response to their suggestions? What about the discrepancy between the view of podwalker (#86) and the alleged helpful growth proposal of Ray Ladbury (#70)? Will growth really cure the problems? (See for instance AR4 WG3 Chap. 1 Fig. 5 and the paper by Raupach et al. PNAS 104, 10288-10293 2007 who equate CO2 emissions growth to GDP and population growth and showed that true decabonization of growing economies still lack to be demonstrated.) And what if those who we are pretending to help with our cure oppose it? Wouldn’t it be better to ask them first?
    I think all of the propositions of podwalker are worth to be considered (with the exception of the liquid nitrogen freezing the polar Arctic Ocean).

  8. 108
    san quintin says:

    Bob Clipperton
    It’s even more confusing than this! P Stott and P Stott are on opposite sides of the debate. The only way to tell them apart is to realize that Peter Stott is a climatologist and knows what he is talking about, and Phillip Stott doesn’t.

  9. 109
    Adam says:

    #104 Bob Clipperton,

    I think the Stott at Reading University may be the same Stott as at the Hadley Centre. Reading has a large meteorology & climate section, and has close ties with the Met Office (and thus the Hadley Centre). This was especially true when the two were just down the road from each other. However I apologise to both if I’m wrong.

  10. 110

    [[Doubling (or more) the cost of electricity to mitigate AGW may be bearable for you personally, but for many it means no electricity at all in their shortened lifetime.]]

    Who in the world is proposing doubling the cost of electricity? Where did you get that idea?

  11. 111
    John Carter says:

    What is the net forcing in MJ integrated across the planet and over 100 years of 1000kg CO2 emitted today.

  12. 112
    Eachran says:

    Group, the Hansen et al paper referred to in post 39 above I have now read, thanks to the poster. For a non-expert like me it is difficult keeping up to date but I try, and reading RC every week helps me do that. Thanks to the Group and all (yes, all) posters.

    The paper was up dated in march 2007 : have there been any further developments since that date which are likely to significantly impact on the comments in section 6 or elsewhere in that paper, please? If you dont feel able to respond could you point me in the right direction please.

  13. 113
    Surly says:

    Surly and Ray Ladbury, thanks. In my not so spectacular doctoral studies, I took away one thing of value. – It was this, science is special. The practice of it is wonderful and almost noble. I would rather die honest, than live crooked.

    Pete Fontana, in my similarly non-spectacular doctoral studies, I came to realize that there are a few honest politicians and a few dishonest scientists. The former make me feel my job is worth doing while the latter make us all knock our heads against walls.

  14. 114
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE # 69 & “When you consider that each year: 4m die of malnutrition…”

    Aside from the point some of that malnutrition is from lower crop yield due to global warming even now….

    The bigger point for me at least is that through GW we are NOW killing people now and well into the future. Some of our today’s emissions may last in the atmosphere up to 100,000 years in the future.

    When people die from natural causes, naturally occuring droughts & storms & disease vectors, and from their unwise behavior that’s only a sin of omission on our part (IF we could have prevented that). But anthropogenic global warming is fully a sin of commission.

    And victims of harms feel much more indignation if the harm has been caused by people rather than nature – even when the harm is at the same level.

    What we need is a victim-oriented (& you’d think policy-maker) approach (of avoiding harms from global warming) to balance out the scientific approach (of avoiding false claims about global warming happening & causing harms).

  15. 115

    Just for my own enlighenment. the formula for CO2-e as given above as
    Total Forcing = 5.35 log(CO2_e/CO2_orig)
    where CO2_orig is the 1750 concentration (278 ppmv).

    This is equal to F= 5.35(lnCO2-e lnCO2-orig)

    In other words we’re subtracting the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere at the start of the industrial era,(278ppm)from the present, which is taken at the zero point as far as forcing is concerned. So what we are computing is the radiative forcing since the preindusrial period.
    I suppose this is done because the systems( carbon exchange between ocean and atmosphere et al) were pretty much in balance until this time.

  16. 116
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Lawrence Brown, Don’t forget the logarithms–they’re important. The subtraction of the logarithm just means we are interested in the incremental heating, which is what WE have contributed.

  17. 117
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Surly and petefontana, Since we all share the distinction of undistinguished doctoral studies, I thought I’d share, too. My wife worked for a while for a certain agency that is concerned with environmental quality. One day her boss was in despair over the fact that the 800 page report he was compiling would just be ignored by the political hacks making policy. My wife, ever the practical type, said, “It’s not our job to tell the politicians what to do. It’s our job to do the science so that when the politicians fail to do what’s right, the government gets sued and the proper policies get put in place.”
    It is extremely unfortunate that people continue to think that they can spin physical reality to their liking. What is even more unfortunate is that where risk is concerned, an unknown risk is of at least as much concern as a high risk. Risk management and science often have opposite tendencies. Science tends to state its conclusions conservatively. However, uncertainty with regard to the effects of climate change is not our friend here. Until we can reduce the uncertainty, it is prudent to assume that the worst case CAN occur.

  18. 118
    Jim Eager says:

    Re 81 Steve Reynolds: “I can understand questioning whether this is correct, but why do you (and others here) so question the sincerity of those of us who believe this?”

    Because I have seen this disingenuous, false dichotomy tactic used over and over in any number of public policy debates, almost always by those with an agenda that has nothing what ever to do with the alternatives put forth. Because, as Ray wrote, global climate change is happening NOW, and because it can only exacerbate the disruption, misery and death caused by HIV/AIDS, malnutrition and lack of potable water.

  19. 119
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    I’d like to see another “total” — some total that would take into account the forcings over the entire life-time of my various GHG emissions (which would take into account the lifetimes of the different GHGs, including their breakdown molecules — since I understand methane breaks down into CO2 + other things). Of course, the negative forcings (& their lifetimes) should be included.

    So, for instance, using coal-based electricity or driving a petroleum ICE car, all the emissions entailed in, say using a KWH of electricity or burning a gallon of gasoline,and those leading to various positive (& negative) forcings on into the future up to their lifetimes in the atmosphere.

  20. 120
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Reynolds wrote: “Doubling (or more) the cost of electricity to mitigate AGW may be bearable for you personally, but for many it means no electricity at all in their shortened lifetime.”

    What in the world are you talking about? I buy 100 percent wind-generated electricity through my local utility company (PEPCO) in Maryland — not “wind credits” or “offsets” but actual wind-generated electricity supplied to PEPCO through the regional grid, by wind-turbine facilities in the mid-Atlantic region. And the price is nowhere near “double” the price of PEPCO’s “standard” mix which is about 80 percent coal-generated. The price of GHG-free wind-generated electricity is at most about 5 or 10 percent more than the predominantly fossil-fuel based electricity.

    And in the developing world which you claim to be so concerned about, many people in rural areas have no chance at all of ever getting electricity from large, centralized coal or nuclear powered generators, precisely because the cost of building a distribution grid to deliver the electricity is prohibitive. Instead, many of them are turning to small-scale (household or village scale) electricity generation with photovoltaics and wind. That’s why these technologies are growing worldwide at double-digit rates every year — there is a huge and hungry market for them in the developing world. They are the great hope for rural electrification in the developing word — a need that large-scale fossil fuel and nuclear electricity generation cannot meet.

    I submit that tossing about phrases like “double the cost of electricity” is exactly the sort of baseless scare-mongering that global warming deniers so often accuse global warming mitigation activists of engaging in.

  21. 121
    Mark A. York says:

    Gavin,

    Have you seen this WSJ article on so-called albedo enhancment? I wonder what fashionable blog they’re referring to?

    What is to be blamed for global warming?
    Since the 1980s, man-made emissions of greenhouse gases have been designated as the principal culprit, especially CO2 emitted by the burning of coal and petroleum products.

    Numerous measures have been proposed to reduce these emissions. And since climate change does not stop at national borders, European governments, the United Nations and more recently the United States have tried to establish world-wide emission goals by organizing a cavalcade of international conferences — from the 1997 Kyoto conference to an upcoming convention in Bali.

    Yet no binding agreement has been reached on reducing global CO2 levels, let alone on the means to assure compliance. Decades into this debate, we have neither widely agreed-upon limits on future greenhouse gas emissions nor the administrative capabilities to implement such limits. Moreover, climate scientists warn that emission controls alone may not stabilize the climate.

    Is there anything that can be done?

    Actually, there is. One approach rarely discussed at global warming conferences is to develop capabilities for increasing the fraction of sunlight that is reflected outward by the upper atmosphere back into space. This approach is called “climate geo-engineering.” Expressed in terms of the metaphor of the “greenhouse effect,” it would work like this: Geo-engineering would put a “parasol” over the greenhouse to deflect 1% or 2% of the sunlight that now affects the Earth. Scattering this small fraction into space would reduce global warming. In the language of climate science, we would increase by a few percent the Earth’s “albedo” — the ratio of incoming sunlight reflected back into space relative to the total inbound from the sun.

    We know it would work because it happens naturally all the time. Clouds routinely deflect sunlight and thereby cool the Earth. Volcanoes — when they erupt and inject millions of tons of fine particulate material into the stratosphere (mostly sulfate aerosols) — have also cooled large regions of the globe. Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991 and cooled most of the Earth for a few years, erasing for a short time roughly half of the global warming that took place during the entire 20th century.

    The idea of artificially increasing the Earth’s albedo is not new. In 1992, a report by the National Academy of Sciences found the prospect of stratospheric albedo enhancement “feasible, economical, and capable.” And there are a great many geo-engineering options apart from adding sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere.

    But beware. Do not try to sell climate geo-engineering to committed enemies of fossil fuels. Although several geo-engineering options appear to be highly cost-effective, ideological opposition to them is often fierce. Fashionable blogs are replete with conspiracy theories and misinformed attacks. Because of this intimidating opposition, no serious geo-engineering research programs have been started. And without some small-scale tests, not enough data will be available to assess the benefits, cost and possible harmful side effects of such approaches.

    Much could be learned about this other half of the global warming picture with a tiny fraction of the funds that have been allocated to climate-change studies focused on greenhouse gas emissions. Those who now oppose climate geo-engineering should understand that none of the suggested options is meant to be a free-standing, long-term solution to global warming. If the greenhouse effect continued to increase, the geo-engineering measures would not only have to be maintained indefinitely but also be gradually augmented to keep pace. Moreover, accumulating CO2 in the atmosphere would make the oceans harmfully acidic over the next few centuries.

    Clearly, we need both: adequately explored geo-engineering options for contingent climate stabilization, and truly effective, practical measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

    Mankind’s current energy system evolved during the 20th century as an offspring of the Industrial Revolution. It may take almost as long to replace this system with the novel energy sources and distribution networks that future generations will need. This huge transition would be greatly facilitated if geo-engineering options are developed and tested to provide a safe breathing space without a massive global-warming crisis.

    Mr. Iklé, an undersecretary of defense policy for President Ronald Reagan, is with the Center for Strategic & International Studies. Mr. Wood, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, is affiliated with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Intellectual Ventures LLC. A version of this article will be published in the January issue of The National Interest.

  22. 122
    James says:

    Re #120: [And in the developing world which you claim to be so concerned about, many people in rural areas have no chance at all of ever getting electricity from large, centralized coal or nuclear powered generators...]

    In regards to this, see this neat invention, the wind belt:

    http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Humdinger_Windbelt#Official_Website

  23. 123
    Steve Reynolds says:

    SecularAnimist> The price of GHG-free wind-generated electricity is at most about 5 or 10 percent more than the predominantly fossil-fuel based electricity.

    I’m interested in understanding your calculation. Can you provide more details (like the actual price you pay, are subsidies being paid, tax breaks included…).

    Also, are you really buying 100% wind generated electricity? Do they turn off your power when the wind stops?

    I’m all in favor of using wind energy, but I suspect that using it for more than a small percentage of the total load is not practical without very expensive energy storage.
    Good sites also seem to be in short supply.

  24. 124
    pete best says:

    Re #99, no we are not as yet in big big trouble. If we at a forcing of 375 ppmv overall then that gives us some time to avert the dreaded 2 C threshold into long term positive climate feedbacks that could destabalise earths systems enough to cause humankind some serious issues.

    I doubt we are going to die out through climate change. I believe that 400 ppmv gives us a range of possibilities of upto 2C as a maximum. A more likle rise though is around 1 C for 400 ppmv which is probably 10 years away. 450 ppmv gives a range of 1.4 to 3 degrees with 2C being quite likely but this is a further 25 years away and hence we still have time to make the necessary changes.

    I personally am troubles by these time frames and I doubt that we ca avoid 2C to be fair but we do have the time to do it.

  25. 125
    Nick O. says:

    Maybe slightly off topic, but just a quick point regarding comments about the possibility of an ‘ice-free’ Arctic in the near future. (I’m assuming that we mean ice-free in the summer, by the way, at least to start with) There’s a fair bit of submarine ice offshore and by the coast of Canada and Alaska, and I presume likewise off the coast of Russia/on the other side of the ocean. I’m not sure what data there are on how deeply buried under sediment it is, but recalling a lecture some years back the ice itself is many metres thick, and there’s lots of it. Does anyone have info./modelling on how this ice is going to react or behave as the Arctic Ocean starts to absorb more heat, following melting of the surface ice?

  26. 126
    catman306 says:

    Secular Animist,
    The developing world doesn’t need the same infrastructure as we’ve grown up with: no wired networks for phone and electric, no gas piping network. It’s the future there because it’s cheap and reliable. Maybe someday it will be our future here.
    How much energy could America save by turning off parking lot lighting and signage in strip malls when the businesses are closed? Motion detectors could turn on the lights when prowlers arrive. Police will quickly see where their presence is required. Good security and saving energy at the same time.
    OT warning
    60 Minutes had a segment about the incredible construction boom in Dubai. It’s all at sea level. I guess they don’t believe in Climate Change or the possibility of rapid sea level rise. I hope they are right.

  27. 127
    Markus says:

    What about the trillions of watts of pure excess heat that mankind creates?

    I figure that even if all power generation is converted to nuclear or some other ‘clean’ form, we still would increase heat energy output. I know it’s less than energy received from the sun, but GW is all about margins, no?

  28. 128
    podwalker says:

    Thank you Mr Helmut Wolf (107) for acknowledging my existence, (and giving credence to my views), whilst the rest of the posts pretended I wasn’t here…. This enforces my points entirely!!

  29. 129
    Jim Eager says:

    Re 123 Steve Reynolds: “I’m interested in understanding your calculation. Can you provide more details (like the actual price you pay, are subsidies being paid, tax breaks included…”

    You mean like the subsidies, tax breaks and limits on liability available to the coal, oil and nuclear industries?

  30. 130

    Re: 116 Ray says,”The subtraction of the logarithm just means we are interested in the incremental heating, which is what WE have contributed.”

    This is my point. I suppose this is splitting hairs, but this is a Delta F(incremental since the beginning of the industrial era) and not a total F.
    BTW I left out the minus sign in the equation F=5.35(lnCO2-e-lnCO2-orig).

  31. 131
    Steve Reynolds says:

    podwalker >…whilst the rest of the posts pretended I wasn’t here….

    My post #90 did acknowledge you in passing, but since it was ‘held for moderation’ for most of a day, you probably missed it.

    Also, from a previous post of mine:
    Interesting African take on mitigation vs. adaptation:

    http://allafrica.com/stories/200707130443.html

  32. 132
    Carl says:

    Re 127 Markus

    All humans added together are a 200-400 GW heat source, and considering that we have reduced the biomass of other heat producing animals, the net effect is negligible. Nevertheless, some fancy highly insulated buildings can be heated purely by the people living in them.

  33. 133
    Alvia Gaskill says:

    RE: 121 I agree with most of what Lowell Wood said. However, I don’t think that blogs, including realclimate have had anything to do with the lack of funding of geoengineering projects.

    In this country, at least, nothing significant will happen on funding of geoengineering and GHG reduction strategies until the next administration unless congress decides to do something on its own.

    I will say that I have been unhappy with the way in which knowlegeable scientists seem eager and willing to be quoted about the the hazards of stratospheric aerosol enhancement to the extent that they exaggerate the potential problems. Since they know better, this has to be assumed to be deliberate.

    Examples: telling ABC News that use of the aerosol strategy would be like Mt. Tambora’s eruption. Tambora was at least 10X greater than Pinatubo, the model being considered for a man-made program. Telling reporters that the ozone layer would be destroyed and everyone would die. Or saying the sky would turn grey and we would all suffer depression. And never failing to bring up acid rain when they know it really isn’t a problem.

    There are issues to be addressed with regard to effects on the hydrological cycle, unilateral action, program continuity and the general concern that geo is a distraction. I discussed some of these issues in a response at John Tierney’s NY Times blog recently in comments 127 and 136 there:

    http://tierneylab.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/10/01/from-gaia-to-geoengineering-a-radical-cure-for-global-warming/?hp

    I don’t think realclimate is guilty of this kind of distorted reporting, mainly because it is a blog and the comments allow for a wide variety of views to be expressed. But this blog gets about 3000 visits a day and the news articles get a lot more. So what I would ask of the science media is that when you offer up a quote like the ones noted previously, ask yourself, is this really true? Just how realistic is this? Otherwise, people might get the idea you guys ARE biased against geoengineering.

  34. 134
    Lawrence McLean says:

    This may be a little off topic however I feel it warrants some comment from someone with credibility. It is regarding Dr William Gray’s response to Al Gore’s Nobel peace prize.

    The following artical is one of the most viewed:
    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2007/10/13/1191696238792.html

    With stories like this circulating, sadly, I cannot see any hope of a groundswell of public opinion occuring (which is required to effectively deal with this problem)

  35. 135
    John Monro says:

    First, an interesting comment by Paul Krugman on Al Gore’s Nobel Prize, and the lack of recognition of this achievement by the worst of your press, and the hatred of Gore by those on the right of the political spectrum. See “The Gore Derangement Syndrome”

    Secondly, I despair when it is proposed that part of the supposed solution to global warming could be geoengineering. There is only one sane solution to global warming, an immediate and substantial cut in global warming emissions until they are quickly brought down to about 10% of what emit now. The reason that this is the only sane solution is that, as these pages demonstrate, our knowledge of our planet, its climate and its atmosphere, its energy balance, is pathetically inadequate – we surmise a lot, but we truly know almost nothing. If humanity can’t get its act together to deal with the relatively simple matter of reducing CO2 emissions, then how on earth is it conceivable that humanity is wise and clever enough to interfere further with the natural function of our planet, the only one we have, without doing even more damage? And once we have started, how are we going to stop?

    How stupid can humanity be? We know that over many millions of years that the Earth will, if left to its own devices, control its own biosphere so as to be receptive to life. Lovelock’s Gaia theory tells us this. Why would humanity suppose that we could do any better? It’s literally crazy, to take on responsibility for the continued health of our planet, for ever, for a monstrous cost, when, if we leave the Earth to its own devices, it will do an infinitely better job, and for free.

  36. 136
    Surly says:

    It is extremely unfortunate that people continue to think that they can spin physical reality to their liking. What is even more unfortunate is that where risk is concerned, an unknown risk is of at least as much concern as a high risk. Risk management and science often have opposite tendencies. Science tends to state its conclusions conservatively. However, uncertainty with regard to the effects of climate change is not our friend here. Until we can reduce the uncertainty, it is prudent to assume that the worst case CAN occur.

    Ray Ladbury, I concur. I apologize for posting political comments, but nothing infuriates me more than political spin especially about such far reaching issues as global warming. I mean, I don’t mind if politicians spin their last trip to the Bahamas, although it disgusts me, but spinning global warming?

    Where I live, the economy is currently booming due to fossil fuel development. There are policy people who know what’s what but it’s hard for politicians to resist raking in the petro dollars and encouraging greater development. It adds to the coffers, allows them to pay down debt, increase spending, give tax cuts, and that always looks good to the voters. We also live in a very energy dependent area of the country due to the weather and with all that fossil fuel available, governments have been slow to develop alternatives or consider ways of reducing GHG emissions. I don’t see much of anything happening to really address global warming or reduce GHG production.

    Policy hacks — believe me, most of us got into it with rose-coloured glasses, thinking we would be part of making the world better, using our education in order to develop and implement public policy. Afer a few years, that myth is whittled away as the political bottom line (getting re-elected) trumps research. I guess thats why I’m so surly.

    Political will — that’s the key. Only when politicans feel that they will be kicked out unless they act effectively, will the political will materialize. Hopefully at that point, the policy wonks will have the best research and evidence at hand so they can develop effective policy and programs.

  37. 137
    Waqidi Falicoff says:

    For the last two years I have been trying to get one of the talk show “global warming naysayers” to agree to have an expert on their show to “debate” the global warming issue. John Zigler, the radio talk show host claims: “I fear nothing. There are no experts on your side that will come on. Like GOre, they are all cowards”. I am trying to get in touch with someone on this website who is willing to on with John Zigler see http://www.johnziegler.com.

    I would say he has a sizable audience. I found his arguments to be rather lame but he believes he knows the subject. (we have had perhaps 20 communications) He has had many naysayers on his show in the past including a few month’s ago Senator Inhofe.

    If there is someone with good credentials (and a thick skin) who wishes to go on his show please contact me. You would have an opportunity to speak to a very large audience and perhaps change a few minds.

    Waqidi Falicoff
    wfalicoff@lpi-llc.us

  38. 138
    Ike Solem says:

    Lawrence McLean, thanks for the link. The problem is twofold – first with Gray’s statement:
    “[He] said a natural cycle of ocean water temperatures – related to the amount of salt in ocean water – was responsible for the global warming that he acknowledges has taken place.”

    It’s hard to tell what Gray was trying to say, or whether the reporter garbled the statement. Was Gray claiming that there was an increased northward flow of warm water from the tropics towards the poles? Actual current measurements indicate that such transport (in the Atlantic) has slowed somewhat.

    As has been said many times, there is natural internal variability in ocean heat content and other climate variables – but that variability is superimposed on a steady warming trend. The “AMO (atlantic mutidecadal oscillation)” explanation for increased sea surface temperatures as the cause of more hurricane activity hasn’t held up too well.

    The second problem was with the news reporter who filed the story, Steve Lytte. Even if this reporter didn’t know much about the topic (in which case he really shouldn’t be reporting on the topic), there are many many prominent climate scientists that he could have contacted for a rebuttal to that statement – yet he didn’t.

    In fact, what kind of a ‘reporter’ is Steve Lytte? Try a google search for his name – the only thing that comes up is that one story! (which was reposted to about a hundred different websites). How does a one-time reporter with no previous background manage to get into the pages of the Sydney Morning Herald? Apparently this is the first story that Mr Lytte has ever written! That’s very odd indeed.

  39. 139
    Mark A. York says:

    Well Alvia Gaskill perhaps if the authors didn’t phrase their thesis in the form of the usual ad hominem one could take them more seriously? Beware of anyone offering pie-in-the-sky star wars style solutions to ground level problems. Especially from a Star Wars proponent! It reminds me of many of my carpentry problems. If only I had a skyhook. Tierney isn’t exactly known for his great understanding of science either. He’s a political opinion writer with no discernable appeal to authority of any kind.

  40. 140
    Waqidi Falicoff says:

    just a correction to the name of the talk show host challenging me to come up with a global warming expert to debate him on his show: It should be spelled John Ziegler.

  41. 141
    Dan G says:

    All trees aren’t created equal — at least not in their effect on global warming. Almost any other ground cover reflects more than do trees, and of course, anything that obstructs snow cover will actually contribute to global warming. Only in the tropics do trees grow fast enough and sequester enough carbon to offset their effective decrease in albedo.

    With careful choices, the boundaries can probably be shifted a little, but hardly materially.

  42. 142
    Alvia Gaskill says:

    RE: 138 The Gray Lecture

    A little digging around and you find that Steve Lyttle’s (not Lytte) story was written for the Charlotte Observer. http://www.charlotteobserver.com/local/story/317133.html Gray’s talk was at UNC-Charlotte last week. One of his former students is a meteorology professor there. That explains how he got to Charlotte.

    News stories as you probably know get printed and reprinted and reprinted again. Read the news on Google or Yahoo and then watch the news on TV. In many cases, it’s identical copy taken from the AP or NY Times, etc. That explains how the article wound up in the conservative Australian paper. The Charlotte Observer had already archived the article, so the search engines take you to a page that says article not found.

    Why make William Gray into the default contradictor of Al Gore? Because “the media” needs to show the “other side.” It is actually heartening that Gray was about the only non think tank person they could dredge up to complain about Gore getting the award. Most likely it was just fortuitous he was giving a talk the same day the award was announced.

    Media Matters referencing realclimate, http://mediamatters.org/items/200710150009?f=h_latest made note of the fact that while Gray may still be regarded as a hurricane predictor, his theories on ocean currents causing warming are not considered credible.

    However, MSNBC seemed to find it necessary to show how “good” Gray’s predictions have been this year, apparently to justify their reference to him as a “top meteorologist.”

    RE: 139 Knocking on Wood, Tierney Credibility

    I think I understand Lowell Wood’s complaint. The bloggers he refers to have pretty much beaten up geo, but they aren’t scientists and have largely drawn upon the-you guessed it- news articles panning the ideas.

    Wood also has some baggage leftover from Star Wars–$62 billion and where are the space lasers, and his connection to a right wing think tank. But that doesn’t make his ideas or geo in general a loser. Evaluate the idea, not the man. I thought it remarkable that the Wall Street Journal would even publish the first paragraph stating that AGW was real.

    The Washington Times ran a short piece about a week ago referencing Dave Schnare’s testimony before the Sen. Envir. and Public Works Committee in which he advocated solar radiation management to prevent destruction of the Chesapeake Bay from AGW.

    So little, by little, the right wing folks, at least the ones with any sense are coming around to the idea that the war against saying AGW is real has been lost. For them, geo is a possible way out of real emissions reductions. But I don’t think it will work out that way. If geo is to be used, either the giant fund I envision will have to be created or other substantive steps will be taken concurrently.

    I don’t understand what John Tierney’s scientific credentials have to do with him raising the issue of geo. The responses came from a variety of people including an NAS member.

  43. 143
    James says:

    Re #141: [Almost any other ground cover reflects more than do trees, and of course, anything that obstructs snow cover will actually contribute to global warming.]

    I think I’m missing something in that. Trees obstruct snow cover? How so? What I see is just the opposite: trees break the wind, and cause snow that’s blown off open meadows to be deposited under them. Then in spring the snow remains under trees long after it’s melted from the open meadows.

  44. 144
    catman306 says:

    Re 127 Markus

    All humans added together are a 200-400 GW heat source, and considering that we have reduced the biomass of other heat producing animals, the net effect is negligible. Nevertheless, some fancy highly insulated buildings can be heated purely by the people living in them.

    Comment by Carl

    Carl, wasn’t Markus referring to the extra heat added to the planet’s environment by our burning of fossil fuels? Do we know that number? Is that heat energy used in climate modeling?

    Guesstimating, your figure looks good 100 w/person X 6.5 Billion = 650 Gw

  45. 145
    David B. Benson says:

    The current estimate is that the world’s population consumes about 400–420 exajoules per year, of which 388 exajoules is from fossil fuels.

  46. 146
    catman306 says:

    Thanks, David B. Benson. So, perhaps, 90% of ‘human caused heat’ comes from fossil fuels and the remainder from photosynthesis. That is not encouraging from the standpoint of sustainability for our civilization.

  47. 147
    David B. Benson says:

    The remainder is from all other sources. The top three are hydropower, nuclear and burning wood or other biomass. Small amounts are obtained from geothermal, wind, tides, etc.

  48. 148
    Hank Roberts says:

    James, the main place where trees are replacing snow-covered ground is the Arctic, where warming is letting conifers survive farther and farther north. In an area where there are deciduous trees, the snow melts off about as fast in leafless forest as in open fields. In an area that used to be open tundra that stayed snow-covered, replacement by evergreens reduces the overall longterm albedo significantly. That’s where this change makes a difference that matters.

  49. 149
    Dan G says:

    Re:#143 — James, a more appropriate way of looking at it might be to examine a coniferous forest — how much sun is going to actually reach the snow? Imagine black-and-white photos of a meadow and a forest. In any case, Google “afforestation and albedo” and you’ll find that every entry seems to corroborate the fact that despite all the myriad influences and feedbacks involved, warming results from afforestation due to reduced albedo at any but tropical areas, although temperate forests may be considered neutral. At its crudest evaluation (yes or no), 50 degrees latitude seems to be the line: any afforestation beyond is quite strongly warming, anything nearer to the equater slowly becomes cooling in effect due to a variety of reactions which overcome the reduction in albedo.

    This is not to diminish the other effects of trees and forests which play on biodiversity, different rainfall patterns and water flow, etc.. But as a definite contributor to global cooling, the applicable vegetation is restricted to a pretty narrow band around the equator. Sigh!

  50. 150

    [[I’m all in favor of using wind energy, but I suspect that using it for more than a small percentage of the total load is not practical without very expensive energy storage.
    Good sites also seem to be in short supply.
    ]]

    I understand that Denmark is now getting 16% of its electricity from wind turbines. That might be something to check out. Clearly, they are coping with the problems in some fashion.


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