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Is the ocean carbon sink sinking?

Filed under: — david @ 1 November 2007 - (Español)

The past few weeks and years have seen a bushel of papers finding that the natural world, in particular perhaps the ocean, is getting fed up with absorbing our CO2. There are uncertainties and caveats associated with each study, but taken as a whole, they provide convincing evidence that the hypothesized carbon cycle positive feedback has begun.

Of the new carbon released to the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion and deforestation, some remains in the atmosphere, while some is taken up into the land biosphere (in places other than those which are being cut) and into the ocean. The natural uptake has been taking up more than half of the carbon emission. If changing climate were to cause the natural world to slow down its carbon uptake, or even begin to release carbon, that would exacerbate the climate forcing from fossil fuels: a positive feedback.

The ocean has a tendency to take up more carbon as the CO2 concentration in the air rises, because of Henry’s Law, which states that in equilibrium, more in the air means more dissolved in the water. Stratification of the waters in the ocean, due to warming at the surface for example, tends to oppose CO2 invasion, by slowing the rate of replenishing surface waters by deep waters which haven’t taken up fossil fuel CO2 yet.

The Southern Ocean is an important avenue of carbon invasion into the ocean, because the deep ocean outcrops here. Le Quere et al. [2007] diagnosed the uptake of CO2 into the Southern Ocean using atmospheric CO2 concentration data from a dozen or so sites in the Southern hemisphere. They find that the Southern Ocean has begun to release carbon since about 1990, in contrast to the model predictions that Southern Ocean carbon uptake should be increasing because of the Henry’s Law thing. We have to keep in mind that it is a tricky business to invert the atmospheric CO2 concentration to get sources and sinks. The history of this type of study tells us to wait for independent replication before taking this result to the bank.

Le Quere et al propose that the sluggish Southern Ocean CO2 uptake could be due to a windier Southern Ocean. Here the literature gets complicated. The deep ocean contains high concentrations of CO2, the product of organic carbon degradation (think exhaling fish). The effect of the winds is to open a ventilation channel between the atmosphere and the deep ocean. Stratification, especially some decades from now, would tend to shut down this ventilation channel. The ventilation channel could let the deep ocean carbon out, or it could let atmospheric carbon in, especially in a few decades as the CO2 concentration gets ever higher (Henry’s Law again). I guess it’s fair to say that models are not decisive in their assessment about which of these two factors should be dominating at present. The atmospheric inversion method, once it passes the test of independent replication, would trump model predictions of what ought to be happening, in my book.

A decrease in ocean uptake is more clearly documented in the North Atlantic by Schuster and Watson [2007]. They show surface ocean CO2 measurements from ships of opportunity from the period 1994-1995, and from 2002-2005. Their surface ocean chemistry data is expressed in terms of partial pressure of CO2 that would be in equilibrium with the water. If the pCO2 of the air is higher than the calculated pCO2 of the water for example, then CO2 will be dissolving into the water.

The pCO2 of the air rose by about 15 microatmospheres in that decade. The strongest Henry’s Law scenario would be for the ocean pCO2 to remain constant through that time, so that the air/sea difference would increase by the 15 microatmospheres of the atmospheric rise. Instead what happened is that the pCO2 of the water rose twice as fast as the atmosphere did, by about 30 microatmospheres. The air-sea difference in pCO2 collapsed to zero in the high latitudes, meaning no CO2 uptake at all in a place where the CO2 uptake might be expected to be strongest.

One factor that might be changing the pressure of CO2 coming from the sea surface might be the warming surface waters, because CO2 becomes less soluble as the temperature rises. But that ain’t it, as it turns out. The surface ocean is warming in their data, except for the two most tropical regions, but the amount of warming can only explain a small fraction of the CO2 pressure change. The culprit is not in hand exactly, but is described as some change in ocean circulation, caused maybe by stratification or by the North Atlantic Oscillation, bringing a different crop of water to the surface. At any event, the decrease in ocean uptake in the North Atlantic is convincing. It’s real, all right.

Canadell et al [2007] claim to see the recent sluggishness of natural CO2 uptake in the rate of atmospheric CO2 rise relative to the total rate of CO2 release (from fossil fuels plus land use changes). They construct records of the atmospheric fraction of the total carbon release, and find that it has increased from 0.4 back in about 1960, to 0.45 today. Carbon cycle models (13 of them, from the SRES A2 scenario) also predict that the atmospheric fraction should increase, but not yet. For the time period from 1960 to 2000, the models predict that we would find the opposite of what is observed: a slight decrease in the atmospheric fraction, driven by increasing carbon uptake into the natural world. Positive feedbacks in the real-world carbon cycle seem to be kicking in faster than anticipated, Canadell et al conclude.

There is no real new information in the Canadell et al [2007] analysis on whether the sinking sink is in the ocean or on land. They use an ocean model to do this bookkeeping, but we have just seen how hard it is to model or even understand some of the observed changes in ocean uptake. In addition to the changing ocean sink, drought and heat wave conditions may change the uptake of carbon on land. The infamously hot summer of 2003 in Europe for example cut the rate of photosynthesis by 50%, dumping as much carbon into the air as had been taken up by that same area for the four previous years [Ciais et al., 2005].

The warming at the end of the last ice age was prompted by changes in Earth’s orbit around the sun, but it was greatly amplified by the rising CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. The orbits pushed on ice sheets, which pushed on climate. The climate changes triggered a strong positive carbon cycle feedback which is, yes, still poorly understood.

Now industrial activity is pushing on atmospheric CO2 directly. The question is when and how strongly the carbon cycle will push back.
 
—–

Canadell, J.G., C.L. Quere, M.R. Raupach, C.B. Field, E.T. Buitehuis, P. Ciais, T.J. Conway, N.P. Gillett, R.A. Houghton, and G. Marland, Contributions to accelerating atmospheric CO2 growth from economic activity, carbon intensity, and efficiency of natural sinks, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, doi 10.1073, 2007.

Ciais, P., M. Reichstein, N. Viovy, A. Granier, J. Ogee, V. Allard, M. Aubinet, N. Buchmann, C. Bernhofer, A. Carrara, F. Chevallier, N. De Noblet, A.D. Friend, P. Friedlingstein, T. Grunwald, B. Heinesch, P. Keronen, A. Knohl, G. Krinner, D. Loustau, G. Manca, G. Matteucci, F. Miglietta, J.M. Ourcival, D. Papale, K. Pilegaard, S. Rambal, G. Seufert, J.F. Soussana, M.J. Sanz, E.D. Schulze, T. Vesala, and R. Valentini, Europe-wide reduction in primary productivity caused by the heat and drought in 2003, Nature, 437 (7058), 529-533, 2005.

Le Quere, C., C. Rodenbeck, E.T. Buitenhuis, T.J. Conway, R. Langenfelds, A. Gomez, C. Labuschagne, M. Ramonet, T. Nakazawa, N. Metzl, N. Gillett, and M. Heimann, Saturation of the Southern Ocean CO2 sink due to recent climate change, Science, 316 (5832), 1735-1738, 2007.

Schuster, U., and A.J. Watson, A variable and decreasing sink for atmospheric CO2 in the North Atlantic, J. Geophysical Res., in press, 2007.


680 Responses to “Is the ocean carbon sink sinking?”

  1. 251
    Matt says:

    #203 Gavin’s inline: I’m pretty sure everyone will agree that IPCC could have been clearer about what their numbers meant and how important this uncertainty is, but your characterisation of the IPCC statements are simply erroneous.

    Considering you had a special post on the topic, I trust I’m not alone in failing to recognize the full threat.

    Here’s my naive take on this.

    1) Oceans have been rising around 1.8mm/year based on long term tidal measurements.
    2) Let’s assume warming, melting sheets, and other bad things bump that to 8mm/year. In 2100, that’d be 72 cm, which is at the high end of everything. Likely not worst case, but hopefully pretty bad.
    3) 634M people live withing 30 feet of sea level, according to April 2007 Environment and Urbanization. No idea if this is valid.
    4) Big jump: 44e6 people live within 0.7m (simple ratio off 634 * 0.7/10)
    5) 60% of Netherlands population (15.8M) are under sea level.
    6) Massive engineer projects take 15 years from start to finish, assuming minimal red tape.

    OK, round numbers…in 88 years we are dealing with roughly 44M people’s place of residence being under water. That’s about 3X the number of people that are currently facing the same issue in the Netherlands.

    88 years is almost 6 massive engineering cycles. Dubai’s Palm Island built land where there was none in 4 years.

    And assume for a moment that we weren’t warming at all due to man. We’d have to deal with this problem anyway in 450 years rather than 88 years. From a planning perspective, what is the difference? Nobody plans 88 years ahead. But if we must, depreciate that which will flood over the next 88 years, give owners time to mitigate, sell, let cities decide how to address. The market will sort this out.

    Poor nations can create enormous wealth in the next 50 years if they have low-cost energy available to them. Look at what Taiwan, Korea and China have accomplished in 50 years. And shame on all of us if a sizable portion of the world is still seeking fresh water and food in 10 years.

    This is an engineering problem, readily solvable. It doesn’t scare me at all. If the water portion scares you, then I must ask why it doesn’t scare you that it’ll happen naturally anyway in 450 years?

  2. 252
    Phil Scadden says:

    re:147
    “They have been having intermittent problems with their software over recent months; comments often go missing without a trace. This happens to me about one comment in three.”

    It would be nice to get a reject message when moderated out. I sent an offtopic post which was only to do a heads up to RC on Bob Carter youtube videos. I am not surprised that it was apparently moderated out as contributed nothing to discussion but it would nice to know that it wasnt missing because of bug in web software.

  3. 253
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Eastern US has seen forests fall to 2% of what it was 200 years ago. > How many extinctions did we see?

    Me personally, a handful. Did you see any?
    You know where to look this up, if you want to know what you missed.

  4. 254
    Hank Roberts says:

    Far off track for ocean carbon levels, but a useful pointer for anyone in N. America who’s curious what birds are thriving and threatened local to you. I’ll point to the glossary, without which the rest won’t make sense. You know what to do.
    http://www.rmbo.org/pif/glossary.html

    “Database dictionary and key to data sources … Partners in Flight Species Assessment Databases (http://www.rmbo.org/pif/pifdb.html) and provides brief definitions for some terms. The databases, and this glossary of terms, should be used in consultation with the Partner in Flight Handbook on Species Assessment (http://www.rmbo.org/pubs/downloads/Handbook2005.pdf), which provides more complete information on the terms listed below. The databases should be used in consultation with this Handbook, which defines the terms listed….”

  5. 255

    #234, Climate science is not a popularity contest, this article is nothing but fluff, fast food for the on the go science amateur. Never goes near the crux of the subject, which is about a relatively sudden unprecedented in 650,000 years injection of CO2 to the atmosphere (and ocean). Lindzen’s sympathetic reporters have always done the same thing, avoid the subject and infomercial the sweatheart contrarian.

  6. 256
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 248

    “Seriously, if you won’t even believe a statement he makes about something in his own life, then there’s not much hope for anything else he does. Speaks volumes about your mindset though…”

    Matt, it’s not a question of believing something he said, as it was shown the statement was at best facile, at worst a lie. Lomborg wrapping himself in an environmentalist flag because he gave money to Greenpeace is much like saying because I contribute money to breast cancer I’m a member of the medical establishment.

    But you are right, if for the worng reasons. There’s not much hope for anything he says, not because he says it, but because, as demonstrated multiple times in this thread and elsewhere, what he does say turns out to be wrong.

    This is an important distinction.

  7. 257
    Figen Mekik says:

    Phil Scadden,

    While I agree with your sentiment about getting a reject message for moderated comments, unless the software is able to generate that automatically it would be quite a lot to ask of the moderators. As you probably well know, this website receives a LOT of comments. :)

  8. 258
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Majorajam> A true welfare analysis takes into account all costs and benefits, (mitigated damages but also mitigated risk and uncertainty), uncertainty about climate sensitivity, about stochastic discount rates, etc.

    There is an interesting discussion of (and not much agreement with) Weitzman by climate scientist James Annan here:
    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2007/10/weitzmans-dismal-theorem.html

  9. 259
    Joe Duck says:

    Ray, nicely put: The most important thing is to buy time so those solutions have a chance of being realized.
    I’d add that finding the most effective way to do will become one of the great challenges of this generation, though I’d prefer to see our innovation used first on the easy problems and do massive mitigations later (when we know which technologies work best and cheapest).

    David Benson: Yes checked links, no have not read “Collapse”. Unless I am mistaken the new carbon sink studies do *not* suggest that we need to fundamentally shift IPCC projections of temp and sea level rises – rather don’t they suggest, somewhat speculatively, that we need minor modification to IPCC?

    Hank: Your examples are a good example of how things have changed but not had catastrophic consequences. Total forest cover is down but we’ve got massive replanting and boards are not all that expensive. I’d bet a halfpenny that the founders would have loved the climate debate but would not have invoked all the alarmist catastrophe talk so prevalent in the media’s failed attempts to articulate the gradual changes that reflect how things are likely to shake out.

    Simply noting (correctly) that there is a potential for climate catastrophe is not all that helpful to anybody. We need some form of quantified risk assessment or we’ll keep doing what humans do so well – budget the big money politically and emotionally rather than rationally and in a cost effective way.

  10. 260
    Hank Roberts says:

    Matt, you say Lomborg somewhere wrote that only one species became extinct in the Eastern US forests in the past 200 years. Where did he say this? Which species did he name?

    Carolina parakeet? Passenger pigeon? Labrador duck? Ivory-billed woodpecker? Bachman’s warbler? That’s considering only birds, and only narrowly defined Eastern forest birds.

    Think about the fact that you got fooled again, and came here believing what Lomborg wrote, even though it’s easy to debunk.

    Don’t let people put stuff in your head without checking it, eh?

    http://www.biology-online.org/articles/forest_losses_predict_bird/predicting_species_losses_forest.html

  11. 261
    J.C.H. says:

    How many decades did it take to cut 98% of the eastern forest? Do you think maybe that makes a slight difference?

    If 98% of the eastern forest were to be cut in something like 10 years, survival would be an entirely different problem for its inhabitants. The eastern forest is still being cut in a process that started centuries ago. I, little old me, helped cut several old-growth red spruce trees out of the Appalachians during the 1990s. My swings of the axe perhaps took it from 97.8888 percent cut to 97.8889. In the 1600s some guy cutting masts for sailing ships probably took it from .8888 to .8889.

    98% of the eastern forest has never been lying on the ground at one time, or a percentage even remotely close to 98%. Cut 98% of it down in one year and you’ll be able to watch a lot of species population numbers go into severe retreat.

    I would like get into brazilian rosewood from the coastal ranges of Brazil, but I hear Lomborg thinks a board foot is a board foot. So first I would love to buy some mature brazilian rosewood from him at yellow pine prices.

  12. 262
    Pete says:

    #247, Maybe I misunderstood but can you provide some supporting evidence that eastern US forest coverage is 2% of what it was 200 years ago? US Geological Survey has eastern US at 54% forest coverage and USDA Forest Service has forest cover at 70% of 400 years ago. 2%

  13. 263
    John Mashey says:

    re: #251 matt
    “Poor nations can create enormous wealth in the next 50 years if they have low-cost energy available to them.”

    Did you read #229? Can you explain to me where poor countries are going to get lots of low-cost energy? I’m eager to know, because it won’t be petroleum.

    re: massive engineering projects take 15 years…
    Zero credibility, “not even wrong”.

    The Netherlands Delta project “was launched in 1958 and largely completed in 2002″. (Wikipedia). And that’s by a rich, smart country that has centuries of practice at this, and it wasn’t for dealing with SLR, it was for storms, and there’s a big difference. In the first, you engineer for a given level of risk. In the other, well, it’s hard to know how to plan, especially if you don’t really know how far up the water is coming.

    And this is *tiny* compared to protecting just the Gulf Coast.

    The distance from one end of the Netherlands to the other, near the coast, is ~500km. which is approximately the width of Louisiana, i.e., distance from Port Arthur, TX to Slidell, along I10 and I12.

    (None of this implies that SLR is the worst problem, either.)

  14. 264
    Nick Gotts says:

    RE #248 Matt “That’s funny. I just checked Wikipedia and he said he was the regional director and shows a picture of him and Jacques Cousteau smiling together. Oh, wait, it just reverted. Never mind.

    Seriously, if you won’t even believe a statement he makes about something in his own life, then there’s not much hope for anything else he does. Speaks volumes about your mindset though…”

    Matt: Lomborg claims he was a Greenpeace member. Greenpeace says they have no record of him. When challenged on this point, he backs down. If Lomborg lied about this, as I believe he did, his only obvious motivation is because it makes a good propaganda point – as you’ve proved by using it here. I’d say that speaks volumes about his mindset, not mine. Let me ask you: do you believe him on this point? If so, presumably, you believe Greenpeace is lying when it says he was never registered as a member or supporter. Do you?

  15. 265
    Nick Barnes says:

    Matt @247: Now Lomborg only addresses animals for the US forests, and animals and plants for the Brazilian rainforest. So I guess a lot of insects could have been lost and Wilson would have been right.
    The last time I checked, insects were animals. Please can you be a bit clearer? What exactly is Lomborg’s claim?

    Matt @251: In 2100, that’d be 72 cm, which is at the high end of everything. It is? IPCC high end is 59cm (steric) plus an unknown number for melting (eustatic). A fairly conservative number for eustatic would be 50cm by 2100 (Greenland will eventually deliver ~7 metres, over a millenium or so). Hansen et al’s recent paper says several metres. Some people here are speculating about 10+m, which seems like a leap to me, based on pessimal ice sheet dynamics. But it’s not completely impossible.
    Matt @251: I think your “big jump” step is unwarranted.

    I am a firm believer in humanity’s ability to achieve amazing things, particularly in science and engineering spheres, particularly if they are highly motivated (by money, patriotism, desperation, or a survival instinct). So I’m not necessarily disagreeing with the thrust of Matt@251. But John Mashey @229 is quite right to bring up the subject of peak oil. Big engineering is going to get harder.

  16. 266
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Matt,
    First on Lomborg’s “Greenpeace membership”. This is at least as old as St. Augustine’s Confessions. Claim that you used to believe as your opponents did, but that you learned better. The role of this ploy is to imply superior wisdom based on hard experience. That’s why you have so many “Christians” claiming they used to be “hippies”, Neocons claiming to have been liberals, neoliberals claiming to have been conservatives, etc. An effective debating strategy that usually turns out to be an exercise in creative writing.
    Now, as to Lomborg’s “greatest mistake”. In short, it is pointless to point out the mistakes of a liar and self promoter. Lomborg simply is not serious or credible anywhere outside of those circles who buy into his ideology.
    As an example, to state that no species were lost in the clearcutting of Brazilian Atlantic forests is simply absurd. Lomborg is taking advantage of the lack of a proper census of species in this region prior to the unfolding of the ecological catastrophe that is Brazil.

  17. 267
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    (Greenland will eventually deliver ~7 metres, over a millenium or so). Hansen et al’s recent paper says several metres. Some people here are speculating about 10+m, which seems like a leap to me, based on pessimal ice sheet dynamics.

    Hansen’s recent paper pretty much ruled out millenial time scales and refused to discount decadal ones.

    “… we find no evidence of millennial lags between forcing and ice sheet response in palaeoclimate data. An ice sheet response time of centuries seems probable, and we cannot rule out large changes on decadal time-scales once wide-scale surface melt is underway.”

  18. 268
    Hank Roberts says:

    So back on topic, just for the hell of it, over at Tamino there’s this: http://tamino.wordpress.com/2007/10/27/uncertain-sensitivity/#comment-8342

  19. 269
    Majorajam says:

    Matt said:

    “Poor nations can create enormous wealth in the next 50 years if they have low-cost energy available to them. Look at what Taiwan, Korea and China have accomplished in 50 years.”

    Here’s a little factoid- the 1970′s with their huge forced mitigation due to the oil embargos experienced significantly higher global GDP growth than the 80′s or 90′s which had extremely cheap energy by comparison. Is that consistent with the assumptions you’ve just made? This decade’s global GDP growth has been faster than the last, with much more expensive energy. How’s your theory holding up?

    “give owners time to mitigate, sell, let cities decide how to address. The market will sort this out. ”

    Give owners time to mitigate? What, costal property owners will single handedly reduce CO2 concentrations to such a point as to impact global climate? Or what, sell? Sell to…? I know, the guy who wants to live under water. Are these fair descriptions of your theory? The critical bit though is Bible faith that ‘market will sort this out’- just like the market sorted out airline security before 9/11, or chemical facility security since, or how it sorted out California’s electricity market in 2001, or the stock market in the 1920s, or how it sorted out clean air and water for Chinese. Just like that. Indeed, the market lets me rest easy at night.

    “This is an engineering problem, readily solvable.”

    I find it intriguing that you believe that erecting massive sea walls around tens of thousands of miles of coastline (together with concomitant environmental damage) will be cheaper than CO2 mitigation. Is that a back of the envelope calculation perhaps? And what happens when the loss of snow and glacier melt devastates the Colorado River system or any of the major river systems that are fed by Himalayan glaciers (or many others for that matter)? I guess we just take on some more engineering projects diverting water however many thousands of miles will be needed to sustain the populations that depended on that melt water? I’m sure you’re not scared, even as you’re keenly aware of the staggering amount of energy required to move water. And no doubt we’ve yet to approach the cost of mitigation, but the good news is we’re not done with the need for engineering projects. Because drought and desertification will require huge irrigation projects if we are to sustain agriculture in afflicted areas. And we’ll have plenty of engineering work to deal with the increased intensity of tropical cyclones, increased flooding, and other extreme weather events. How are we going? Let’s have a look at that envelope.

    “It doesn’t scare me at all.”

    It can truly be said that ignorance is bliss.

  20. 270
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Re Matt’s claim that Lomborg p0wns Wilson, see Wilson’s rebuttal:

    Vanishing Point: On Bjorn Lomborg and extinction

    For Lomborg errors on deforestation, see:

    Not Seeing the Forest for the Trees: On Bjorn Lomborg and deforestation

    Note that this discussion would have happened in regular old scientific discourse if Lomborg had published his results in a refereed journal. Instead, it has to happen in a piecemeal and ad hoc way, with ludicrous claims like “scientists won’t debate him.”

    It might be fun to debate Lomborg’s biggest error/distortion, but that would be a very long conversation. For a comprehensive list of Lomborg’s cluelessness and/or mendacity, I again point you to:

    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/

  21. 271
    RoySV says:

    Interesting coverage of some scietific research on enhancing ocean uptake of CO2 by accelerating the weathering of volcanic rock and making oceans more alkaline. Harvard and Penn State team.
    http://www.physorg.com/news113637002.html

  22. 272
    SecularAnimist says:

    I would like to strongly, and indeed urgently, commend to everyone’s attention this article by Richard Heinberg:

    Big Melt Meets Big Empty: Rethinking the Implications of Climate Change and Peak Oil
    By Richard Heinberg
    Global Public Media
    Sunday 04 November 2007

    I think the article does an excellent job of laying out the difficult technical, economic and political challenges that face the world in responding to the related problems of anthropogenic global warming and fossil fuel depletion, and offers some valuable suggestions for dealing with them.

    I think that most of you will find reading it a more rewarding use of your time than revisiting the well-documented frauds of Bjorn Lomborg that the climate change deniers enjoy wasting everyone’s time with.

  23. 273
    Jim Galasyn says:

    BTW, thanks to Hank for the links to interesting discussion on ocean ecosystems and CO2.

  24. 274
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 247, 262 forest cover

    You have to distinguish between original, primary, forest cover, most of which was cut down, and secondary forest cover which replaced some, though not all, of the primary forest. From McCarthy, B.C. (1995) The Ohio Woodland Journal 2:8-10:

    “Historical records and descriptions of the pre-settlement eastern landscape paint a dramatically different picture from that of the present. Colonists of the 1600s were presented with vast stands of large trees and continuous cover. Most historians agree that this country was settled largely because of its enormous timber resource. The needs of a colonist were simple: a roof over one’s head, food on the table, and warmth in the cold months. As a result, forests were cleared for settlement, sawtimber, agriculture, and fuelwood. In later years, the surviving forests were exploited for a variety of additional wood products including charcoal, pulp, and turpentine. While the exact dates are arguable, essentially all eastern old-growth was eradicated by the turn of the 20th century.

    Today, virtually all old-growth forest that remains in the eastern U.S. consists of small tracts of land (10 to 100 acres) that resulted from surveying errors or private family preservation for the purposes of aesthetics, hunting, or timbering. While these tracts pale in comparison to western old-growth forests, they remain a vitally important resource.”

    (Department of Environmental and Plant Biology at Ohio University, http://www.plantbio.ohiou.edu/epb/instruct/ecology/ogarticie/mccarthy.htm)

  25. 275
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 158

    Matt wrote: “I wonder, too, if oil turns into the cheap fuel for emerging nations in 50 years. If EU + US do indeed bite the bullet and push to do the right thing and get off of oil, then world demand drops and the price would fall to unprecendented levels…”

    =================

    I write this on a day when oil may pass, or at least flirt with, the $100.00-a-barrel benchmark.

    That argument seems anti-intuitive. Your scenario is based on the presumption that the cost of oil production will drop in relation to the rise in cheap alternatives to where it could compete.

    As alternative, renewable energy production grows, the cost would invariably drop. Say you get 30 years out of a solar panel system, and innovation makes the process cheaper (and the odds are very high innovation and increased demand will reduce costs) then the return on that system would make competition from oil a non-sequitur.

    But the price of producing, refining and delivering oil will not change in any appreciative fashion.

    With the alternative energy system, unless I am missing something, you have a one-time manufacture and delivery/setup cost (plus inevitable maintenance costs), whereas with oil you have to keep bringing it in. And as I said, the cost for solar go down, not up. But the costs of oil-production are more or less fixed in terms of a lower-limit, a limit that will likely increase because it takes a large infrastructure to maintain production. And as I mentioned earlier, it is a finite resource in terms of ease of extraction and availability, suggesting that sooner or later (more likely sooner), even with deflated prices, it will eventually cost a dollar’s worth of energy to extract a dollar’s worth of energy. And then production stops.

    Further, it isn’t just the cost of oil you have to consider. More and more, countries are realizing their renewable resources, such as water, arable land, and flora and fauna biodiversity are increasingly valuable to a country’s bottom-line, (something both China and India are becoming increasingly aware of). Oil-based (and coal-based) pollution occurs easily and frequently, can be extremely toxic, long-lasting and difficult to eradicate, so you need to factor in ecological costs. And as time progresses and oil-based damage to the environment deepens, the expense of countering such damage will increase accordingly.

    Oil (and coal) is also a health issue, in the sense its use has been demonstrated to have a negative effect on public health, short and long-term, so you need to factor in this effect on public health and the cost to productivity, the cost of maintaining a health care infrastructure and how an economy is impacted by those costs.

    And then there is the cost of ongoing AGW fed by the continued use of a carbon-based model of energy production.

    I’m sure I’m missing many other factors regarding the expense of using oil. It isn’t just about paying for the energy; it’s about paying for the effect of the energy. Any way you look at it, alternative renewable energy offers better long-term benefits in terms of ecological and societal costs than oil does.

  26. 276
    Joe Duck says:

    Jim RE: #270 Lomborg Errors website:
    I’d also encourage people to visit that site and read about Lomborg but for a different reason. Here the attacks against him seem to be mostly personal. The errors website is pitiful – is is another Danish professor’s attempt to discredit somebody he personally despises. In fact I understand he is often the force behind the many attempts to publicly discredit Lomborg.
    *
    RC moderator dudes:
    How about a Lomborg thread here? And/or a mitigation thread? Those topics seem to almost obsess people here at RC and are generally off topic for the posts on science. Alternatively I’d be happy to set up a blog for the purpose of discussing these hot button topics in the context of the climate science.
    *
    I’d challenge folks to read the back and forth of Scientific American’s critique of Lomborg’s “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and come to anything but the obvious conclusion: Distinguished scientists felt their complex work was getting oversimplified by a non-scientist and felt their ethics were under attack by Lomborg. Rather than address his mostly obvious points they just attacked back. In fact almost all of the “anti Lomborg” rhetoric concedes most of his facts (but says they are cherry picked) and most of his broad points (Environmental awareness is important, AGW is clearly happenging, IPCC data is high quality, etc, etc.
    *
    Few people here appear to have read many of his arguments which in many ways line up with the science presented here. For reasons that still confuse me Lomborg simply pisses off physical scientists even as he agrees with them. Nobody likes to be called alarmist, especially by somebody who is not an expert in the field.
    *
    For example Lomborg has *consistently* strongly supported AGW hypothesis and consistently supported mitigation efforts. What seems to bother people is that Lomborg has spoken against Kyoto and massive mitgation efforts, he has oversimplified some complex issues, and unfortunately he accused many scientists and others in the environmental debate of alarmism and having a vested interest in outcomes. The personal Lomborg debates tend to trump his important and very reasoned point: How do we prioritize global solutions? Although it had flaws, the Copenhagen Consensus was an admirable attempt to create a nexus between science and policy and spending.

  27. 277
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 276

    I’d challenge folks to read the back and forth of Scientific American’s critique of Lomborg’s “The Skeptical Environmentalist” and come to anything but the obvious conclusion: Distinguished scientists felt their complex work was getting oversimplified by a non-scientist and felt their ethics were under attack by Lomborg.
    ===================

    Gosh, Joe, I did read that exchange.

    Never got that impression at all. If anything, quite the opposite; Lomborg behaved as if everyone wasn’t treating him fairly ie: “You’re not making an exception for me, and you should.”

    Here is a link that will allow people to actually see the “debate” in toto:

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00000B96-9517-1CDA-B4A8809EC588EEDF

    Note he also got spanked in Skeptic Magazine and American Scientist right around the same time. Skeptic went so far as to give him 20+ pages to present his argument.

    http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/06-05-18.html

    http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/17791?&print=yes

    In every case, the critiques pretty much underscored much of what has been discussed here.

  28. 278
    David B. Benson says:

    Regarding fossil fuel substitutes, consider what Harvard professor Ricardo Hausmann has written:

    http://biopact.com/2007/11/harvard-center-for-international.html

  29. 279
    dhogaza says:

    Distinguished scientists felt their complex work was getting oversimplified by a non-scientist and felt their ethics were under attack by Lomborg.

    Not simplified, MISREPRESENTED.

  30. 280
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #276 Joe Duck “Although it had flaws, the Copenhagen Consensus was an admirable attempt to create a nexus between science and policy and spending.”

    It was nothing of the kind. It involved no natural scientists, nor any social scientists apart from a group of economists hand-picked to give a predetermined answer – which was overdetermined by his insistence on a short time-horizon. Lomborg riles people because he is a fraud, and not even an interesting or original one. He uses all the stale tricks familiar to most of us from the creationist attacks on evolutionary theory: cherry-picking data, false dichotomies, unsupported and implausible accusations of vested interests, challenges to debates, etc.

  31. 281
    Jim Galasyn says:

    To Joe in 276:

    I read the SciAm exchange back in the day (2001) and wasn’t impressed with Lomborg. The Grist rebuttals are also worth a read. But these discussions are no substitute for publication in refereed journals.

    To be clear: You are proposing that Lomborg understands population biology and climate science better than the published professionals in these fields. You’re telling me to believe Lomborg over E.O. Wilson, and Lomborg over Hansen, correct? Because the scientists are “emotional” and “partisan,” and the dilettante is “rational” and “neutral,” I suppose.

  32. 282
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 276.

    Further the “What’s everyone so mad about?” complaint, something from John Holdren in response to Lomborg’s “rebuttal” to his critique.

    “Now, it is apparent from reading even the first few pages of The Skeptical Environmentalist that Lomborg proposes to make the case that not just environmentalists, but a considerable part of the heretofore respectable environmental-science community, have been misunderstanding the relevant concepts, misrepresenting the relevant facts, understating the uncertainties, selecting data, and failing to acknowledge errors after these have been pointed out – in other words, that the scientist contributors to what he calls “the environmental litany” (namely, that environmental problems are serious and becoming, in many instances more so) have been guilty of massively violating the scientists’ code of conduct. This would be interesting news indeed, if Lomborg could prove it. But reading further reveals that his attempt to do so is itself a richly populated pastiche of these very infractions. Every class of mistake of which he accuses environmentalists and environmental scientists who have contributed to the “litany” is in fact committed prolifically and indiscriminately in The Skeptical Environmentalist (except, of course, for refusing to acknowledge error – for this, one has to read his rebuttals).

    “That the responses of environmental scientists have conveyed anger as well as substantive content, then, ought to be understandable. Lomborg’s performance careens far across the line that divides respectable (even if controversial science) from thoroughgoing and unrepentant incompetence. He has failed thoroughly to master his subject. He has committed, with appalling frequency and brazen abandon, exactly the kinds of mistakes and misrepresentations of which he accuses his adversaries. He has needlessly muddled public understanding and wasted immense amounts of the time of capable people who have had to take on the task of rebutting him. And he has done so at the particular intersection of science with public policy – environment and the human condition – where public and policy-maker confusion about the realities is more dangerous for the future of society than on any other science-and-policy question excepting, possibly, the dangers from weapons of mass destruction. It is a lot to answer for.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=000DC658-9373-1CDA-B4A8809EC588EEDF&pageNumber=6&catID=9

  33. 283
    J.C.H. says:

    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/

    “Thus, it is also expected that the oil price will once again decline from $27 to the low $20s until 2020.” – Lomborg

    Quoting him is a personal attack?

    Please show us some examples of what you consider personal attacks on that website.

  34. 284
    J.S. McIntyre says:

    re 283

    “Quoting him is a personal attack? ”

    Maybe Lomborg would feel it was a personal attack…

  35. 285
    SecularAnimist says:

    Joe Duck wrote: “Distinguished scientists felt their complex work was getting oversimplified by a non-scientist and felt their ethics were under attack by Lomborg.”

    No, distinguished scientists felt that the realities of their fields of study, from climate to forestry to ecology and more, were being systematically misrepresented by Lomborg. And their responses substantiate, in detail, that this was in fact so.

    Joe Duck wrote: “The personal Lomborg debates tend to trump his important and very reasoned point: How do we prioritize global solutions?”

    That’s not a “point”. It’s a question. It is entirely legitimate for Lomborg or anyone else to ask that question. It is not legitimate to “reason” about answers to that question based on falsehoods, which is what Lomborg has consistently done, in order to reach his predetermined conclusions.

    I think the reason that some people get upset with Lomborq on a “personal” level is that they perceive him to be either arrogantly and recklessly irresponsible in his willful ignorance at best, or a deliberate fraud at worst.

    J.S. McIntyre quoted John Holdren: “… what [Lomborg] calls ‘the environmental litany’ (namely, that environmental problems are serious and becoming, in many instances more so) …”

    It is worth noting that not only did Lomborg misrepresent scientific reality, but he also misrepresented environmentalism. His so-called “environmental litany” is a strawman. No one can reasonably argue against the proposition that “environmental problems are serious and becoming, in many instances more so” — so Lomborg argued against a distorted caricature of the central concerns and aims of the environmental movement.

  36. 286
    David B. Benson says:

    TYNT today has a special section entitled Business of Green with several informative articles.

  37. 287

    An awful lot of time and attention, in this thread, is being paid to one individual, the Danish Professor and his principles and personality and we’re getting away from the broad overall picture. Matt and perhaps Joe and some others consider him their guru. Do any of you think you’re going to convince them otherwise?

    Naomi Oreskes did a study which I know many of you are aware of and she found the following:
    [A 2004 article by geologist and historian of science Naomi Oreskes summarized a study of the scientific literature on climate change.[29] The essay concluded that there is a scientific consensus on the reality of anthropogenic climate change. The author analyzed 928 abstracts of papers from refereed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, listed with the keywords “global climate change”. Oreskes divided the abstracts into six categories: explicit endorsement of the consensus position, evaluation of impacts, mitigation proposals, methods, paleoclimate analysis, and rejection of the consensus position. 75% of the abstracts were placed in the first three categories, thus either explicitly or implicitly accepting the consensus view; 25% dealt with methods or paleoclimate, thus taking no position on current anthropogenic climate change; none of the abstracts disagreed with the consensus position, which the author found to be “remarkable”. According to the report, “authors evaluating impacts, developing methods, or studying paleoclimatic change might believe that current climate change is natural. However, none of these papers argued that point.”]
    Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change

    In other words, the unanimous consensus of the more than 900 articles published in refereed journals from 1993 through 2003 was that global warming is under way. This should put into perspective the position of those few scientists who remain skeptical or on the fence.
    I remember seeing the late Stephen Jay Gould being interviewed on the skepticism of scientists on another controversial topic, Darwinism, and he pointed out that were more than a million scientists in the world and there would always be a few who refused to accept the prevalent theory.

  38. 288
    Mary C says:

    Matt (249) and Joe (276) – What is about Lomborg that you two find so admirable and credible? I really, really don’t get it.

    I read the New York Times article, ‘Feel Good’ vs. ‘Do Good’ on Climate (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/11/science/earth/11tiern.html), about Lomborg. It made me cringe, and we’re not even talking scientific issues in that article.

    First, he claims he agrees that, yes, “global warming is real” and that “it will do more harm than good”. Then he makes a suggestion for dealing with it: “… a carbon tax and a treaty forcing nations to budget hefty increases for research into low-carbon energy technologies.” Not bad suggestions, possibly, but given that he puts a lot of his time and energy into dissing the idea of any urgency around the issue of global warming, it’s hard to take his suggestion seriously. And how does one even create a treaty “forcing” nations to do something?

    Then, of course, he moves right on to his real solution: “…make the rest of the world as rich as New York, so that people elsewhere can afford to do things like shore up their coastlines and buy air conditioners.” To which I can only say, “Huh?”

    Now, I have no problem with making the rest of the world richer, although I do have a problem with the idea that a world where everyone uses energy and resources at the rate that we here in the U.S. do currently is in any way sustainable and not only in terms of AGW. Beyond that, exactly how does one do this?

    How do we create the political will to support development in the poorer countries? How do we even determine exactly what assistance can best support development? How do we deal with the selfishness of the rich countries and the corruption and ineffectualness of many developing countries’ governments in order to effectively provide assistance? How do we suddenly successfully do something that we have singularly failed to do so far in history–something that requires not a technological solution (for which we have a pretty good track record) but that requires dealing with complex social, political, and historical issues.

    Moreover, where do the energy resources come from, quickly and right now, so that this development can happen fast enough to deal with climate change issues over the upcoming century–the modest ones that Lomborg agrees are “real”? China is plunging ahead with cheap energy from coal and creating huge, huge local environmental problems in the process. The Chinese are not unaware of the problems but have yet to come to grips with what to do about it. So, what’s available for the rest of the developing world? Where do they get their energy resources? A few countries have oil of their own, but the industrialized and already-industrializing countries are doing their damnedest to get their hands on it for themselves. Lomborg mentions neither the threat of peak oil nor the environmental disaster and other dangers (mine disasters and disease) of coal use nor the major expense for construction and unresolved problems of nuclear energy. He just advocates more energy to make everyone richer. It’s like he wants everyone to join in a chorus of “don’t worry, be happy.” (Which, of course, begs the question of who, really, is the “feel good” person here?)

    He then misrepresents the Kyoto treaty. It was designed as an initial step, for pete’s sake, which is one of the most salient points that all the nay-sayers from G. W. Bush on down never seem to want to acknowledge, and it was totally undercut as a beginning effort by the U.S. unwillingness to get on board and the efforts of people like Lomborg to make sure it was not acceptable.

    Where is the real evidence for Lomborg’s assertion that “We could spend all that money to cut emissions and end up with more land flooded next century because people would be poorer?” I get so sick and tired of hearing about how Kyoto will make people poorer, but the economists I’ve read do not present very convincing arguments–and Lomborg here doesn’t even present any evidence for his claim. We’re just supposed to take it on faith, I guess.

    Limit coastal development, he says. Good idea. But what about all the coastal development that already exists, both in the industrialized and developing world? How does one relocate poor villages, gated communities, and industries that are already situated in coastal areas? I have family in Florida, and the situation down there is getting downright scary. They are getting poorer by the minute as their homes lose value. How much of that is due to transient climate issues (hurricanes, drought, etc.) and how much of it is due to AGW? I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone else does either at this point, but it sure gives an indication of exactly how hard it is going to be to contend with any climate changes that come into existence due to AGW. And that “shore up their coastline” bit he advocated earlier? Is he even aware that Florida has over 8,000 miles of coastline? Exactly how does one “shore up” 8,000 miles of coastline? It is nowhere near as simple as Lomborg pretends it is as he plays the happy, happy “skeptical environmentalist”.

    I also don’t get how Matt can claim that the websites responding to Lomborg’s distortions are “petty” or Joe can assert that the attacks are “personal” when they cite chapter and verse of where he is wrong or has cherry-picked or misrepresented information. Sorry, guys, that just doesn’t fly.

    On a final note, I admit that I haven’t read The Skeptical Environmentalist myself so I don’t know that this is really, really true, but I see that Lomborg is quoted as claiming (on page 122 of the book) that “Thus, it is also expected that the oil price will once again decline from $27 to the low $20s until 2020.” Now, what was the price of oil again today in 2007? And this is the guy that you think is so prescient?

  39. 289
    Majorajam says:

    Steve Reynolds,

    I have seen it yes. I think Annan is missing the point of Weitzman’s work and that is largely a product of his lack of familiarity with economics. Why should it be beyond the pale to include the implication on utility of events with a non-zero probability given what is possible to infer of such? A better question would be, on what basis can we ignore it if the science and statistics indicates it isn’t impossible? I don’t think you’re going to get many economists to present their results with the disclaimer, “we’ve looked at all feedbacks and ramifications except those that blow up our model”. That would be silly and, of course, this is Weitzman’s point. If you’re going to quantify things, quantify them, if you want to pull some levers and switches and proclaim objectivity, you shouldn’t have to add, “disregard the man behind the curtain”.

    Annan’s biggest beef is with Weitzman’s treatment of climate sensitivity as, in the limit of observations, a pdf of known width. He says though that it would be different if we were trying to apply something known more abstractly (as from another planet) about climate sensitivity to earth’s environment. Now here I’m well out of my expertise, which probably means I’m typing, but I have to wonder if that is a valid point. If it is the case that particularities of other planets can drive randomness in this, frankly, artificial parameter, isn’t it also the case then that the changing particulars of our own planet- its eccentricity, land mass makeup and distribution, volcanic activity, anthropogenic activity (GHG & aerosol emissions, perhaps impact on land use), current state of disequilibrium, i.e. momentum in the system, etc.- could do the same? Some of those will matter in high resolution data, others will matter on geological time scales, but ultimately shouldn’t they all conspire to yield randomness, even as described by a very well behaved distribution (as Weitzman models)? Is not a belief in a single point estimate for climate sensitivity simply clutching at some artificial aggregate of chaotic forces because it has an analytically convenient functional form? Holy moly, did I just go on topic? If not, that was close. In any case, input from the brains of this operation (which excludes only about 75% of commenters inclusive) would be much appreciated.

    As I see it and irrespective of the relative merits of my wild a*sed amateurism above, Weitzman has opened a door that cannot be closed by what Annan has done, and must be explored by economists in dire need of self-examination. Annan states in his thread something to the effect of, ‘what Weitzman’s done is apply something intended for one thing in a context it shouldn’t be and that’s silly’. This is patently wrong. He appears to be unaware that the real silliness is the inference afforded to integrated assessment models that come unglued when basic acknowledgement of uncertainty is conceded. Furthermore, it is the case that utility theory does not remotely gel with the empirical data where it exists, i.e. asset returns, and Weitzman’s approach shed’s light on that as well. So I think it is a bit rich to sell it short just yet.

    P.S. It also should be stated that Annan has published papers that claim we can disregard high estimates of climate sensitivity. So far as I can tell, this is not the mainstream view, however, it has obvious and large implications on what Weitzman has done, so it’s less of a surprise that Annan has picked up on it and come to the conclusion he has. If anyone of knowledge is picking up on this post, I would appreciate being enlightened on this point as well. Thanks in advance…

  40. 290
    Dave Rado says:

    Joe Duck, #276, wrote:

    In fact almost all of the “anti Lomborg” rhetoric concedes most of his facts (but says they are cherry picked)

    That’s priceless. So if I wish to “prove” that most human beings have blonde hair, and if I go out in the street and find eight blondes and take their names, and then to make up the numbers, find one brunette and one person with black hair, (which is a classic illustration of what “cherry picking” means) and if I publish my “survey” demonstrating that 8 out of 10 humans worldwide are blondes, then I take it you would have to concede that I was factually correct (while saying my facts were cherry picked)?

    Cherry picking data breaks one of the cardinal rules of science, is anti-science, and amounts to lying.

  41. 291
    Rod B says:

    J.S. McIntyre (275), I think this was a cogent analysis, but I have one disagreement. The cost of producing oil is no way the driving force behind $100/bbl pricing, and there is major leeway between the $100/bbl and the cost of production, transport, refining and delivery (the latter two a near zero factor in the $100 figure) — all from what the folks at OPEC, e.g., simply think they can charge. Neither will the cost of production see large continuous increases in the future. It will see occasional quantum jumps: a little from finding more of it, and a bunch when there has to be a shift from primary to secondary and tertiary drilling techniques. But overall there is considerable wiggle room. I would not be surprised if the producers, if so inclined, could drop the spot/futures price to $50 overnight and feel nary a twinge.

  42. 292
    Matt says:

    #270 Jim Galasyn: For Lomborg errors on deforestation, see…

    Read it this morning before the sun came up. Thanks

    Note that this discussion would have happened in regular old scientific discourse if Lomborg had published his results in a refereed journal. Instead, it has to happen in a piecemeal and ad hoc way, with ludicrous claims like “scientists won’t debate him.”

    As I noted above, Lomborg isn’t a scientist. He’s on par with Al Gore. They are both “faces” on the movements. Their job is to try and make you think the scientists behind them are correct.

    Now, I went into this thinking Lomborg was laying all the cards out on the table. Reading the link above, I’ll concede that it appears Lomborg hasn’t. To me, this puts him on par with Al Gore and Michael Crichton, who I don’t feel put all the cards out on the table either. Nor do I expect them to, because as I said, they aren’t scientists, they are moutpieces.

    So, now that I have acknowledged Lomborg distorts by selectively sharing information with readers, how many here will acknowledge the same about Gore? I recall the kid-gloves treatment Gore received here recently for his “mostly accurate” AIT. Ray? Gavin? Do you feel Al Gore has left out critical pieces of information that cause the viewer to jump to the wrong conclusion? Is it different than Lomborg?

  43. 293
    Rod B says:

    Mary C (288): I was enjoying your post (even though I disagreed with some of it), and then you went and let your visceral get out with “…naysayers [on Kyoto] like George W. Bush….” As your mind knows better than your gut, I’m sure, Clinton and Gore and the Senate of ’97 canned the Kyoto treaty; Bush just carried on the sentiment. A minor point to be sure within the context of the total post, but it does splash on a pile of incredibility, unfortunately.

  44. 294
    ray ladbury says:

    One problem that I think many people have with climate change is grasping the timescales. They see a problem where the worst of the consequences will not occur for a century or more and think that it is of no consequence. Surely, they say, we can come up with technical fixes by then. How, they wonder, do I know that things won’t change dramatically in that time and mitigate the problem without our efforts? The problem with this thinking is that while consequences may be a ways off on a human timescale, our ability to counter these issues before they become inevitable actually has a very short horizon. A scientist looks at a system where positive feedbacks may dwarf our own contributions and is naturally concerned. Anyone with even a little experience of dynamical systems–or even an understanding of exponential functions–is bound to see that such a system is highly unstable. If we do not buy time by reducing carbon emissions, we will push the climate into this regime, and likely nothing we can do will have much effect. That is what scientists are trying to warn people about. That is what people like Lomborg in their sanguine ignorance do not understand.

  45. 295
    Matt says:

    #275 J.S. McIntyre: But the price of producing, refining and delivering oil will not change in any appreciative fashion.

    50% of gas is oil costs according to (1). US, EU are 44% of world oil consumption. If US and EU manage to get substantially off oil (say, 90% reduction) over 50 years, do Saudi Arabia et al simply live with half as much revenue? Do they double the price and accelerate emerging nations shift to non-oil use, or do they halve the price and make it easy for emerging nations to use all the old technology (IC engines), that the rest of the world quit using a while back?

    In other words, if EU and US weren’t buying any oil, what would the price per barrel be? I think it would be quite a bit less.

    1. http://www.atg.wa.gov/uploadedFiles/Another/Safeguarding_Consumers/Antitrust/Unfair_Trade_Practices/Gas_Prices/2007%20Gas%20Price%20Study%20-%20phase%20I.pdf

  46. 296
    Matt says:

    #263 John Mashey: Did you read #229? Can you explain to me where poor countries are going to get lots of low-cost energy? I’m eager to know, because it won’t be petroleum.

    Agree on petroleum. Let’s look at some numbers. Solar cell costs today are around $0.25/kwh. In 50 years, is it reasonable to expect those costs to fall two orders of magnitude? Semiconductor industry would achieve almost 3 orders of magnitude improvement in that time frame (if current trends continue–probably not likely), so perhaps 100X improvement to cost is practical for cells. In any case, in round numbers, if you have sun, you will have super cheap energy. 100X reduction to 0.25, of course, is 0.0025, which is about 1/10 the cost of today’s cheaper options for electricity. Can they afford them? Well if per-capita income growth in India can outpace inflation by 5%, then in 50 years they are getting sorta close to Arkansas’s average income.

    The Netherlands Delta project “was launched in 1958 and largely completed in 2002″. (Wikipedia). And that’s by a rich, smart country that has centuries of practice at this, and it wasn’t for dealing with SLR, it was for storms, and there’s a big difference. In the first, you engineer for a given level of risk. In the other, well, it’s hard to know how to plan, especially if you don’t really know how far up the water is coming.

    This isn’t one big project. It’s a series of smaller projects, that, as I note, complete on shorter time schedules. As you write above, you make it sounds like the project was delivering zero protection until it was finished in 2002. In fact, it has been deliver stages of protection continuously since the 1970s.

    And of course, they are will to contract out their smarts and know how. Dubai didn’t figure out Palm Islands all by themselves.

    The distance from one end of the Netherlands to the other, near the coast, is ~500km. which is approximately the width of Louisiana, i.e., distance from Port Arthur, TX to Slidell, along I10 and I12

    Wiki says there are 10,000 miles of dykes protecting the Dutch. TEN THOUSAND MILES OF DYKES. Holy cow.

  47. 297
    David B. Benson says:

    Poor countries will do well for low cost energy provided they have biomass to spare. Read the link provided in comment #278 for relationships between biofuel and fossil fuel prices.

  48. 298
    Steve Reynolds says:

    ray ladbury> Anyone with even a little experience of dynamical systems–or even an understanding of exponential functions–is bound to see that such a system is highly unstable.

    As someone with experience with dynamical systems, it seems to me the system becomes more stable as ice is eliminated.

    When there is no more ice, there is no more ice albedo positive feedback. Other factors being equal (methane hydrate speculation aside), the system gain is lower, and the system is more stable.

  49. 299
    Dan G says:

    Off topic — sorry! I’ve had a difficult time finding this website, which Google no longer seems to list, even as I ask for http://www.realclimate.org. Can anyone tell me what’s happening? I normally connect almost daily.

  50. 300
    James says:

    Re #294: [Wiki says there are 10,000 miles of dykes protecting the Dutch. TEN THOUSAND MILES OF DYKES. Holy cow.]

    Humm… Standing, or laid end-to-end?

    Re #288: [(Quoting Lomborg) “…make the rest of the world as rich as New York, so that people elsewhere can afford to do things like shore up their coastlines and buy air conditioners.” To which I can only say, “Huh?”]

    Which I can only echo, but for a different reason. That’s maybe the most fundamental difference between the Lomborg types and the rest of us. It might be possible to create such a world, but I have great difficulty in understanding how anyone could see having to spend all one’s time indoors as a desirable goal. Surely we can think a bit beyond mere survival, and consider how the world might actually be made liveable as well?


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