RealClimate logo

Technical Note: Sorry for the recent unanticipated down-time, we had to perform some necessary updates. Please let us know if you have any problems.

The Forecast in the Streets

Filed under: — david @ 28 December 2007

The physical impacts of the global warming forecast can be bracketed with some degree of statistical confidence. Biological effects are more difficult to gauge, except in special cases such as the likely demise of polar bears that would result from the demise of Arctic sea ice. The societal effects, however, are nearly uncharted territory, at least to me. Perhaps the topic of global warming suffers from the same sort of cultural divide as university faculties, between the techies and the touchies; that is the sciences and the humanities. A new report (pdf) called The Age of Consequences, just released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security, tries to bring the social sciences, in particular history, geography, and political science, into the forecast of climate change in the coming century. It makes for fascinating if frightening reading.

The report was based on discussions of a group of senior luminaries with a wide range of expertise. I already knew or knew of and respect the climate scientists Mike MacCracken and Bob Correll, and Ralph Cicerone, head of the National Academy of Sciences. The group also included Nobel laureate Thomas Schelling, former CIA Director James Woolsey, former Chief of Staff to the President John Podesta, and former National Security Advisor to the Vice President Leon Fuerth. (Apparently not all group members, listed in the executive summary on page 8, got writing assignments, so not all of them are listed as authors.)

Images of the future can be constructed based on the lessons of history. The history chapter (beginning on page 26) begins with Table 1, which I will reprint here:

Event Potential deaths
Volcanic eruptions 104
Earthquakes 105
Floods 106
Droughts 107
Epidemics 108

It is sobering to note that the potential horsemen of climate change, floods, droughts, and epidemics, are all at the big end of this list. There is no historical precedent for the type of global multidimensional challenge that changing climate may bring, but there are common elements in societal responses to natural disasters, and many of the impacts of climate change will be regional in scope rather than global, like natural disasters.

The report considers the historical societal impacts of disasters ranging from bubonic plagues in the middle ages to Katrina. History teaches that people tend to return to religion in times of trouble, and to turn against people outside their social group. Governments are destabilized by hard times. Natural disasters tend to impact most strongly in less affluent parts of the world.

History also teaches that people have a tendency to develop ways of coping with environmental fragility, by choices of individual living strategies such as the ability to migrate, or by decisions made at the societal level, such as engineered flood control measures or mobilizing assistance from outside. The report offers the idea that it takes a population a few generations to learn how to operate within the limits of its natural world. For example, the report attributes the dust bowl drought in some measure to environmental inexperience of a population who had only recently migrated from more humid regions. With our recent increased mobility, and with climate change itself, we find ourselves losing this buffer of experience and understanding.

The group imagined three potential scenarios, labeled expected, severe, and catastrophic. These are not forecasts exactly, since forecasting society is even harder than forecasting climate, which is itself pretty dicey on a regional spatial scale, but rather a fleshing out of plausible possibilities, a story-telling, visualization-type exercise.

The “expected” scenario calls for 1.3 °C of warming globally above 1990 levels, by the year 2040. Changes in precipitation and sea level prompt migration at a scale sufficient to challenge the cohesion of nations. The potential responses to this scenario are broken down into specific regions with their particular historical and political settings. Just to pick a region at random, Nigeria in West Africa will suffer accelerated desertification with climate change, prompting intensified migration into the megacity of Lagos, which is itself threatened by sea level rise. Compounding Nigeria’s misfortune, there is oil in the Niger Delta, and as global oil supplies dwindle, the strife and corruption that oil brings a weak nation will only intensify.

In the “severe” scenario, the globe warms by 2.6 °C by 2040 and sea level rises about a half a meter. Scientists in 2040 conclude that the eventual collapse of Greenland and the West Antarctic ice sheets has become inevitable in the centuries that follow. Agricultural production declines in the arid subtropics and in increasingly flooded river deltas. Again to pick a random example from the report: the river systems in the American Southwest collapse, leading to impoverishment of Northern Mexico and increased migration pressure in the U.S. Resource stress in Latin American leads to a tendency toward populist, Chavez-type governments, and more extensive regions of de facto anarchy such as found today in parts of Colombia.

The “catastrophic” scenario assumes positive feedbacks in the carbon cycle to warm the planet by 5.6 °C by the year 2100, and sea level has risen by 2 meters. I feel compelled to note that if this is supposed to be a worst-case scenario, I personally can imagine worse in terms of sea level rise. In the social realm the crystal ball gets murkier as the report progresses from expected to severe to catastrophic, but one important ingredient in the prognosis for the catastrophic scenario is the migration of millions of people, a scale unprecedented in human history, potentially enough to undermine the stability of civilized governance. One participant recommended that we check out the movie Mad Max, only imagine it hotter.

There is far too much in this report for any sort of summary really to cover, and anyway I’m a techie rather than a touchie so my retread wouldn’t do the original report justice, but you get the idea. Results from the IPCC are summarized clearly, including regional climate projections, but the point is also made and discussed that climate forecasts tend to be in general conservative. In the arenas in which I have some competence to assess, the judgments the authors have made seem measured and fair to me. The report is authoritative and very meaty, bringing an astonishing array of perspectives and insights to the table. One could read this report and nothing else, and come away with a considerable expertise on the potential impacts of climate change. I highly recommend it to the readership of realclimate, and I look forward to reading your comments.

Thanks to Hank Roberts for digging this up.

363 Responses to “The Forecast in the Streets”

  1. 301
    John.J.R.P. says:

    Ref: 278 – 288.

    Hi Ray and James, please take the time to vist a website that was given to me by someone called addict, on the Environment site, to see what a Mr William Mc Donough and partners have built in the way of a sky scraper, to cover most of the things I was talking about, when I was saying about WHY dont we? it’s May you and yours and what you grow live long and happy. John.J.R.P.

  2. 302
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Barton, re 295. Club of Rome is still actively publishing:

    Their reputation for catastrophism is belied by their publication record. I note that a recent publication on the implications of Peak Oil could have been subtitled “We was right after all.” Being off by 20 years is trivial given what they had to work with.

    Hey they can’t be all bad since Lomborg hates them.

  3. 303
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John J.R.P. We can certainly build smarter than we do. However, there are always limits to what architecture can do. I suspect one limit it could not breach is making James actually want to live in a sky scraper. There will always be some people who, when they can see the smoke from their neighbor’s chimney, have an irresistable urge to pick up and move. Having lived in Appalachia, I understand this urge.

  4. 304
    Hank Roberts says:

    Sec, I didn’t mean currently used in the Prius, I meant currently on the market. Google +toyota +plugin +hybrid +lithium for that news.
    Or +lithium +battery +fire +explosion +risk +hazard for that matter.

  5. 305
    James says:

    Re #300, etc: One factor you’re leaving out of the plug-in hybrid discussion is the relative (in)efficiency of internal combustion engines. They use at best 30-40% of the energy in fuel (and are often running nowhere near their optimum): the rest is lost as heat through the radiator & exhaust. Stationary generation is more efficient, so even with transmission losses the increased efficiency of electric motors could result in a net gain. Then once you have a vehicle that uses a primary electric drive, you’re free to run the IC engine at its most efficient point, or even to look at other, more efficient types of engine.

    A second factor is that only about 60% of US generation comes from fossil fuels. The rest is nuclear & hydro, with smaller (but growing) amounts of wind, solar, geothermal, and so on. If the mix of generation on the grid changes to use less fossil fuels, the energy used by the plug-in hybrids automatically follows that change.

  6. 306
    Bruce Tabor says:

    Re John L. McCormick @ 283,
    If I understand your reference to the tightening of the Antarctic Polar Vortex correctly you are referring to the tendency for winter weather systems to move poleward.

    I’m not a meterorologist, but as I understand it this effect is blamed for the drying around Perth in Western Australia. You only have to travel a few hundred kilometres north of Perth to reach desert that reaches to the coast. The tightening of the Antarctic Polar Vortex will effectively move this desert southward.

    This effect may also have a large impact on the weather in Adelaide, South Australia, which also faces the ocean to the West. It will surely play a role in eastern Australia, but I understand it gets more complex here for at least two reasons:

    1) The East coast gets rain year round, much of it from the interaction of moisture laden air over the warm Tasman Sea and weather systems inland. The east Australian current down the eastern seaboard will probably warm due to climate change. (The current off West Australia is cold, which explains the sea-side deserts.)

    2) Much of the rain that falls in the Murray-Darling basin and the rest of the interior comes in huge downpours that result from tropical cyclones that have become rain depressions as they move southwards. These may well intensify due to climate change, although they may also be less frequent.

    I’m not a climate modeller or meterorologist, but I gather there are several complex factors at work in the eastern areas of Australia which make it hard to be definitive abound a drying trend – both whether it exists and what may cause it.

  7. 307
    matt says:

    #300 Jerry Toman: Irrespective of it’s polluting potential, the notion that we can increase coal output enough to replace declining oil reserves to power a significan fraction of our present car population is ludicrous.

    Not really. If we all switched overnight to the Tesla MOtors electric car, and did our 12K annual average with that car instead of a gasoline car, the demand on the grid goes up about 12%. We grow output at roughly 3% annually anyway, so it’d really just be like pulling demand ahead by 3-4 years. With a few years go planning and few years of transition (both required), it could definitely happen.

    Plus, if we switched the 120M cars in the US to electric, even with our normal mix of coal, hydro, nuclear, etc, we’d reduce our CO2 output by about 50%. With nuclear it gets even better.

    The hard part is finding enough battery electrolyte.

  8. 308
    dhogaza says:

    dhogoza then brings up, of all creatures:

    the “[northern] spotted owl”

    so from deer to owls. Nice one. Tell me how owls are relevant to polar bear populations?

    It’s called population ecology, and biologists don’t reinvent the basic principles each and every time they study a new species.

    At this point it’s quite clear your ignorance is willful, and any attempt to educate you will fall on deaf ears.

    All in public for all to see, too. Tch, tch.

    Clearly you’ve read “deer” or “owl”, stopped reading, and posted without paying any attention to the content of the posts.

    So, tell me, if I describe the gravitional mechanics of dropping a stone on the moon, will you argue it’s irrelevant to understanding the mechanics of dropping a book on pluto?

  9. 309
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #301 A Dutch firm have recently designed a skyscraper for pig-farming. Although this may be a somewhat tongue-in-cheek proposal, and I imagine it would stink to high heaven :-). See

  10. 310

    Jerry Toman writes:

    [[Why does anyone feel the need to “own” a car? Most machinery in factories runs at least two shifts a day. What is so special about a “private automobile” that it needs to sleep for 11 hours for each hour that it “works”, often in its own stable? Seems to me like a whole lot of resources just sitting idly around. Why do we need “three-hundred horses” in our stable? ]]

    Because if you own something, you have an incentive to take care of it. Publicly owned cars would be vandalized, left idling with the keys inside, never have their gas tanks filled, go without maintenance, etc. That’s what happened with public housing. It’s called “the tragedy of the commons.”

  11. 311
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #310 (Barton Paul Levenson) “It’s called “the tragedy of the commons.” It’s miscalled that: real, historical commons were and are managed by mutual monitoring, graduated penalties for misbehaviour, and often complex rules of use. See Monbiot’s article “The Tragedy of Enclosure” in January 1994 Scientific American, or for more detail, the considerable literature on common pool resources, e.g. Nives Dolšak and Elinor Ostrom (2003) “The Commons in the New Millennium: Challenges and Adaptation”. There are many alternatives to both private property and an open-access regime. With regard to cars, in a number of UK cities, and I’m sure elsewhere, schemes operate whereby cars are owned by cooperatives which ensure maintenance is carried out, you pay a monthly fee, and call and book one for the time you need it. It won’t work for everyone, but owning cars is as much about status as need, cost or convenience.

  12. 312

    Here’s something pertinent to the topic.

    One of the denialist fears mitigating GW is it will lead to a totalitarian state (the other is it will harm the economy).

    I’ve been rebutting all along that not mitigating GW will harm the economy and lead to both a totalitarian state and chaos (state breakdown & warlord conflict), which is sort of like increasing societal complexity and control AND increasing social entropy. I suggested that a modicum of regulations to help mitigate GW were like innoculations against this trend. (And re the economic fear, you sometimes have to invest money (in energy/resource efficient/conservative products/measures) to make money.)

    Now here’s an article on a book that is not specifically about GW, but relates to the already increasing totalitarianism, and it sort of reminds me of an anthro book I read decades ago about our illusion of being free because we can choose among toothpaste brands, or what career path to follow, etc. And it also resonates with an article I think George Monbiot wrote some 2 years ago, about how the executive branch has been gaining much more power vis-a-vis the other 2 branches by its creative interpretations of the laws.

    The 10 easy steps to shut down a democracy:

  13. 313
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #310 (Barton Paul Levenson) “That’s what happened with public housing.”

    Not in Europe. See for example: Hunt, D. Bradford
    Public Housing in America: Lost Opportunities
    Reviews in American History – Volume 25, Number 4, December 1997, pp. 637-642. I quote from the abstract: “Success in public housing no longer means housing the urban poor, it means getting them out. In 1995, HUD announced plans to tear down a total of 100,000 public housing units by the year 2000. In Europe, by contrast, state-sponsored housing serves large numbers without debilitating effects. Why has American public housing failed to live up to its promise?”. There is now an ideologically-driven attempt to destroy public housing in the EU, see “The future of main stream public housing in Europe – a Swedish perspective” Bengt Owe Birgersson, available online at Belief it or not, Barton, the USA is not the world.

  14. 314
    Eli Rabett says:

    #310 Zipcars, it works.

  15. 315
    dhogaza says:

    Yeah, I was about to mention zipcars, their website was developed by a friend of mine. You could mention flexcar, too, except you’d be out-of-date ’cause zipcar just bought them.

  16. 316
    Jim Eager says:

    And autoshare:

    And for public housing, the key to makeing it work is not to design it to segregate by income from the outset. Successful public housing includes a mix of subsidized, coop and market units within the same complex.

  17. 317
    Hank Roberts says:

    Google ‘tragedy of the unmanaged commons’ for Hardin’s actual meaning.
    The spam filter here won’t let me post a direct quote from Hardin’s paper but you can find it, it’s brief and to the point.

  18. 318
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “I didn’t mean [lithium-ion batteries] currently used in the Prius, I meant currently on the market.”

    Thanks, I misunderstood.

    My point is that perfecting lithium-ion batteries is not a prerequisite for a commercially viable pluggable-hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV).

    Many of the independently-built Prius PHEV conversions use the same NiMH batteries as in the standard Prius, and achieve a useful range per charge. And Toyota’s own all-electric SUV the RAV4 EV also used NiHM batteries and had a range of 80 to 120 miles per charge.

    Meanwhile according to recent news reports, Toyota is moving forward with mass production of lithium-ion batteries for vehicles:

    Associated Press, 12/27/2007:

    Toyota also said it was preparing to start mass producing lithium-ion batteries for low-emission vehicles.

    Lithium-ion batteries, already widely used in laptops and other gadgets, are smaller yet more powerful than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in gas-electric hybrids like the Prius now.

    Lithium-ion batteries will not be used in the Prius, on sale for a decade and the most popular hybrid on the market, according to Toyota.

    The lithium-ion battery will be used in a plug-in hybrid, which would recharge from a regular home socket, and travel longer as an electric vehicle than the Prius. Toyota has started tests on its plug-in hybrid, but has not shown a model using the new battery.

    Executive Vice President Masatami Takimoto, who oversees technology, said Toyota had developed the lithium-ion battery to a level that it is almost ready for mass production, although that won’t start until sometime after next year.

    MSNBC / Associated Press 12/13/2007:

    A new battery that can be recharged to 90 percent capacity in under five minutes and lasts 10 years will start shipping in March, Toshiba Corp. announced this week, hailing it as “a new energy solution” for cleaner transportation.

    Toshiba plans to initially make the quick-charging Super Charge ion Battery for electric bikes, forklifts, construction machinery and other industrial use. It can work in temperatures as low as minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

    A newcomer in rechargeable batteries, Toshiba said the lithium-ion battery could be used in hybrid and electric cars by 2010, Mochida said.

    Battery innovations are expected to be key in making hybrid vehicles more widespread, because lighter and easier-to-recharge batteries will improve efficiency. They could also spark mass-produced plug-in hybrids and and even resurrect the idea of all-electric vehicles that use no fossil fuel.

    “This is a truly innovative battery,” said Toshiba Corporate Vice President Toshiharu Watanabe, emphasizing its potential “in the electronic vehicles markets as a new energy solution.”

    Most lithium-ion batteries in use now, such as those in laptop computers, require hours to recharge to full capacity, with the fastest ones requiring about half an hour.

    Toshiba also said its new battery, which is estimated to last 5,000 charges, is unlikely to rupture or catch fire, problems that have beset some lithium-ion batteries used in laptops.

    The Tokyo-based electronics maker expects global sales of the new fast-charging battery to reach nearly $900 million by fiscal 2015.

  19. 319
    Jerry Toman says:


    I don’t know how many different ways I can say it, but I’m not “per-se” dissing the concept of building electric vehicles to substitute for our current ICE versions. As far as I can know there may be existing designs that would be preferred over ICE’s for specific situations. As battery technology improves, and ESPECIALLY IF we can start producing low-cost, electricity from non-polluting energy sources, I think its arrival is inevitable. IMO coal, even with carbon removal and sequestration won’t work.

    What I do know is that electric propulsion is viable and thriving when batteries are not involved as in the building of “light rail” systems. Extending that system 10 additional miles via a “park and ride” electric cart doesn’t seem like a bad idea at all. We shouldnt’t be carrying around 2000-3000 extra pounds with us wherever we go. If we could should for something like 750 pounds (HOG coefficient of 5) these vehicles should become viable. Of course the speed of the vehicle and those around it need to be limited.

    I must admit, when I hear the name “Tesla” applied to anything electric, it makes me cringe, because it has been behind so much hype. I don’t know anything specific about this company, or care to know.

    The PEHV, is, like all hybrids, a “compromise”, which implies some reduced efficiency. A regular hybrid seems to work in specific cases. As more and more battery weight is added and the ICE function diminished, some point will arrive when one should just ditch the ICE weight and operate as an all-electric vehicle. If you need long range once in a while, rent a “regular car” for that purpose.

  20. 320
    Rod B says:

    A curiosity question re the hybrid/battery powered mitigation. Why do I never (seem to) see any of these technologies applied to the cartage business, i.e. 18-wheelers wall-to-wall on every major highway getting a couple of MPG, intercity busses (maybe intra city, too), and maybe even diesel-electric locomotives? Are they just too far beyond the capability? Or just an oversight?

  21. 321
    David B. Benson says:

    More-or-less on-topic, I’m providing this link because Lynn Vincentnathan seems to have interest:

    Carbon dioxide emissions linked to human mortality

  22. 322
    James says:

    Re #320: [Why do I never (seem to) see any of these technologies applied to the cartage business, i.e. 18-wheelers...]

    Because a large part of the benefits of hybrid technology come from allowing changes in the size of the IC engine. It takes comparatively little power to travel down a level road at steady speed: the IC engines in conventional vehicles are greatly oversized in order to provide power for acceleration, and so in cruising they run at much less than their optimal efficiency. Add an electric motor to help accelerate, and you can downsize the IC engine and run it more efficiently.

    Your 18-wheelers, by contrast, are running much closer to optimal efficiency. You may have noticed that they don’t accelerate very quickly, and go slowly on hills. They also tend to travel at steady speeds for long distances. This all means that there’s not very much to gain from making them hybrids, at least at current cost for battery power.

    Where hybrid technology could usefully be applied is in delivery vehicles and such, as with this hybrid UPS delivery truck:,1088,4694,00.html

  23. 323
    Philippe Chantreau says:

    Hybrid is also a good improvement for buses and those are already in the streets in the DC area, Maryland side.

  24. 324

    RE #321, thanks. I can use that for my environmental victimological studies.

    The extra deaths due to CO2 emissions would, of course, be on top of the deaths dues to small particulate matter (much of it caused by the same sources that emit CO2, and causing 55,000 deaths in the U.S. per year), and on top of deaths from other pollutants that are usually emitted with CO2.

  25. 325
    Rod B says:

    James (322) (and Philippe): Thanks. I had not considered that.

    Lynn, still getting all worked up over those studies?? Well, I do appreciate your enthusiasm…

  26. 326
    Jerry Toman says:

    Re: #310

    “Because if you own something, you have an incentive to take care of it [[[pride of ownership, it's usually called]]]. Publicly owned cars would be vandalized, left idling with the keys inside, never have their gas tanks filled, go without maintenance, etc. That’s what happened with public housing. It’s called “the tragedy of the commons.”

    Classist drivel. The analogy to “the tragedy of the commons” taken here is entirely inappropriate.

    from Wikipedia:

    Pride (Latin, superbia)

    Pride (vanity, arrogance, narcissism, hubris)
    In almost every list Pride is considered the original and most serious of the seven deadly sins, and indeed the ultimate source from which the others arise. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to give compliments to others though they may be deserving of them, and excessive love of self (especially holding self out of proper position toward God). Dante’s definition was “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbor.” In Jacob Bidermann’s medieval miracle play, Cenodoxus, Pride is the deadliest of all the sins and leads directly to the damnation of the famed Doctor of Paris, Cenodoxus. In perhaps the most famous example, the story of Lucifer, Pride was what caused his Fall from Heaven, and his resultant transformation into Satan. Vanity and Narcissism are prime examples of this Sin. In the Divine Comedy, the penitent were forced to walk with stone slabs bearing down on their backs in order to induce feelings of humility.

  27. 327
    dhogaza says:

    A curiosity question re the hybrid/battery powered mitigation. Why do I never (seem to) see any of these technologies applied to the cartage business, i.e. 18-wheelers wall-to-wall on every major highway getting a couple of MPG, intercity busses (maybe intra city, too), and maybe even diesel-electric locomotives? Are they just too far beyond the capability? Or just an oversight?

    GE builds a hybrid locomotive, which surprises me a bit because diesel-electric is already quite efficient.

    I too have been having trouble with the spam filter so let me just suggest googling for “ge hybrid locomotive”, you’ll find it.

    Hybrid busses are out there, as mentioned above. The first ones tried in portland weren’t very successful, only decreasing fuel consumption by a few percent. In contrast, 10% was saved by implementing two suggestions from mechanics having to do with changing the geometry of the front wheels and the shift-points of the programmable automatic transmission in the latest busses Metro bought (which were set up with longer blocks in mind, Portland city blocks are only 200 feet long).

    Later hybrid busses do much better apparently.

    The answer above regarding long-haul trucks seems reasonable to me, but then again, if hybrid locomotives make sense, maybe hybrid long-haul diesels make sense, too.

  28. 328
    Alan K says:

    In a discussion about polar bears, after invoking deer and northern spotted owls, dhogaza in #308 decides to clinch it by using the example of the

    “gravitional mechanics of dropping a stone on the moon”

    I have no doubt that the folk down at the IUCN have a more than passing acquaintance with population ecology. Have you read their report yet? It forecasts a 2% decline in the polar bear population in 10 years. I have not yet read a credible update to that paper or number. Please reference one and we can discuss it.

  29. 329
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Looks like people in India will be increasing their car ownership:

    The £1,290 car delights Indians but horrifies the green lobby,,2235975,00.html

  30. 330
    Rick Brown says:

    Re #328 Alan K – I don’t know whether you missed my post in # 294 of a link to a recent USGS analysis of prospects for polar bears, or chose to ignore it, but here are some excerpts.

    p. 36 Our forecasts suggested that declines in the spatiotemporal distribution of sea ice habitat along with other potential stressors will severely impact future polar bear populations. Outcomes varied geographically and by time step, and included the following:

    1. Polar bear populations in the Polar Basin Divergent and Seasonal Ice ecoregions will most likely be extirpated by mid century. Approximately 2/3 of the world’s current polar bear population resides in the combined area of these two ecoregions.

    2. Polar bear populations in the Archipelago Ecoregion appear likely to persist through the middle of the century. Some modeling scenarios suggest persistence of polar bears in this ecoregion toward the end of the century. The number of bears in this ecoregion will likely be less than at present due to the reduced amount of habitat and other factors.

    3. Polar bears in the Polar Basin Convergent Ecoregion may persist through mid-century, but they most probably will be extirpated at and beyond year 75.

    A map depicting the different ecoregions is on p. 82 of the document.

  31. 331
    John Mashey says:

    re: #322, #327

    Diesel-electric locomotives are already “hybrid” in some sense, but the GE folks seem to be adding batteries + regenerative braking to recapture electricity.

    Hybrid energy savings come from:
    1) Regenerative braking.
    2) Minimal energy use when idling
    3) Getting some electric-only range from plug-in (& maybe solar on roof)
    4a) Having a fueled engine to recharge the battery, for the cases when one exceeds the range, i.e., avoiding being stuck [unless at some point there are lots of "gas stations" with standard quick-change batteries. Not Soon, although people are trying.] OR
    4b) Having a fueled engine for extra power [a la Prius].
    5) Using the above to reduce vehicle weight.

    Almost any car or truck can take some advantage of 1) and 2). Item 4a) (as in Toyota 1/X) certainly looks very promising. Item 5) is more helpful to cars than to trucks, which haul heavier loads.

    See How Much Fuel Do Trucks Use? Argonne National Labs

  32. 332
    Rod B says:

    dhogaza, but isn’t the discussion about and the objective of “replacing” the ICEngine looking at a minimum 50% decrease in direct fuel consumption with high hopes, using somewhat known technology, a 90-99%, nay even 100% decrease (again talking of direct consumption, not that of the power plants for recharging, e.g.) — not the “piddling” (compared to above) 10% improvement in fuel economy.

  33. 333
    Rod B says:

    The debate going on between Alan and dhogaza, Rick, et al (?), which seems really between USGS and the World Conservation Union, is quite interesting. Both should be credible sources though I’m a little put off by erudite bordering on pompus analyses. 138 pages of something other than the King’s English makes me suspect of USGS. Then I glance at the ~200 pages of IUCN’s report. Wow! Either way, how is one supposed to conclude anything about AGW affecting polar bear population with these diametrically opposed but seemingly hard positions — by the sources and the posters. My scientific skeptic (different from just plain skeptic) response is: nobody knows; AGW might be affecting polar bears or it might not; might or might not for the future also; something to keep an eye on like all of the other individual cherry (blossom)-picked proofs of AGW — (which as an aside and to be fair, the moderators here do little of…). Am I off-base? If so, how?

  34. 334
    Rod B says:

    A follow-up on ICE replacement. My initial thought was not so much theoretical but that known battery technology could not deliver the sustained electric power required to get an 18-wheeler started or going up an incline — at least without half of the trailer or so holding batteries instead of goods. Am I wrong about this?

  35. 335

    Nick Gotts writes, in his usual charming fashion:

    [[Belief it or not, Barton, the USA is not the world.]]

    No kidding. I’m glad you pointed that out to me. I was too damn dumb to realize it.

    What I said stands — if no one is responsible for a thing, that thing will quickly deteriorate. If the Europeans have found a way to plug incentives into taking care of the building into public housing, good for them. It still doesn’t take away what happened to Pruitt-Igoe.

  36. 336

    Jerry Toman writes:

    [[Classist drivel.]]

    And then proceeds to give me a long lecture on pride. Gosh, Jerry, thanks for the lesson. As a born-again Christian and an ordained elder at a Presbyterian church, naturally I would never have considered the issue.

    I didn’t endorse pride in the first place. What I said was that having no responsibility for maintaining something usually results in its not being maintained.

    The charge of “classism” is especially droll. Did you know I founded the Constitutional Syndicalist Party back in the ’80s? (Me, and Bill Hall, and Elizabeth Penrose, etc.). I’m a temporary clerical worker. Back when I was a student, my family went through several periods when we couldn’t buy groceries for long periods of time. I dropped Marxism when I realized it was a pseudoscience, but nowadays I’m a liberal Democrat and a John Edwards voter. So I hope you know what you can do with your charge of classism. Sideways.

  37. 337
    Jerry Toman says:

    Mr. Levenson,

    “Because if you own something, you have an incentive to take care of it. Publicly owned cars would be vandalized, left idling with the keys inside, never have their gas tanks filled, go without maintenance, etc. That’s what happened with public housing. It’s called “the tragedy of the commons.””

    That is the exact quote.

    First, a few comments with respect to “Public Housing”. I suppose there are many reasons why it didn’t live up to expectations, not the least of which was criminal activity. Isn’t our police system supposed to Serve and Protect–even the poor?

    For those who lived there it was home, the only home they could get because they were poor and uneducated, and their alternative would be to live under a bridge, or maybe you would have preferred that they returned to the fields to “pick cotton” for a living. Maybe they didn’t have the skills to maintain it–maybe it was private–have you ever heard the expression “slumlord”? You, (who I assume didn’t live in public housing) at least had a home and a “white priviledge” history. In your quote you appear to be “blaming the victim” for their housing circumstance. What would you have provided for them instead?

    With respect to the my idea of having “commuter cars” which you were clearly dissing,(electric–no fuel required-no motor “left running”), they would obviously need to be spartan in design, would not (necessarily) be available on a “free” basis (joyriding could get expensive), their users would need a “card” to operate them, where their use would be logged and charged. They would need to be overseen and maintained by “someone” whether that be a public or private entity, just like the public transportation system (eg. buses). To get a “card” they would have to have proof of insurance as well.

    By your line of reasoning, why should we have public “anything”, even libraries, all of which is subject to some degree of abuse?

    With respect to your “world view.. [edit - this is not the forum for this, take it elsewhere]

    In the future, I simply request that you be careful what you “assume” with respect to other people’s thoughts or ideas before characterizing them, especially when choosing a parable that is totally inapplicable with respect to its original intent and purpose.

    Otherwise, I once again will not likely be very careful about what I assume while writing a response.

  38. 338
    Emily says:

    The report considers the historical societal impacts of disasters ranging from bubonic plagues in the middle ages to Katrina. History teaches that people tend to return to religion in times of trouble, and to turn against people outside their social group. Governments are destabilized by hard times. Natural disasters tend to impact most strongly in less affluent parts of the world.

  39. 339
    Alan K says:

    #330 Rick Brown
    sorry no I didn’t see your earlier post.

    Do you have another link to the paper because goodness knows I can’t access it or find it from the USGC site. When I search for “polar bears” or “Amstrup” on the site I don’t get that paper.

    Which I am absolutely sure is nothing to do with what I did get on google, as the very first find on the exact string you provided:

    now that is what I call an interesting paper. It examines the methodology of the forecasts used in the Amstrup paper (and other papers which forecast polar bear popluation).

    Some quotes:

    “[Amstrup, Marcot and Douglas’ paper] could [inflammatory material removed...].”

    “In short we have been unable to find any support for the contention that polar bear forecasting efforts to date have followed accepted scientific principles.”

    A key premise of this paper is that [inflammatory material removed].

    [Response: Give us a break. This paper, co-authored by non other than Willie Soon, wasn't even peer reviewed. Take this elsewhere, we'll have none of that junk here. -mike]

  40. 340
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re Original post, #12 (Stefan), #41 (Marguerite Manteau-Rao).
    I’ve finally finished “The Age of Consequences”, and read the executive summary of “Climate Change as a Security Risk”, which Stefan cites in #12. I found “Consequences” disappointing: the various chapters are written by different authors, and are not well integrated. Although the report is described as dealing with three “scenarios”, they are not really scenarios as the term is generally used in the literature, where it implies a connected narrative. Rather, there is a chapter dealing with the security implications (largely for the USA) of each of three sets of assumptions about future climate change, two dealing with the next 30 years, one with the next century – plus several other chapters. The most useful is McNeil’s chapter “Can history help us with global warming?”, which examines responses to past disasters; the list of “10 highly consequential implications of climate change” in the final chapter is also worth reading, although they are mostly fairly obvious; the first 9 are predictions of the kinds of events likely to occur as a result of climate change, the last an exhortation that “The United States must come to terms with climate change”. There is no coherent set of suggested actions to be undertaken. This contrasts strongly with “Climate Change as a Security Risk” (CCSR), as far as I have read it: the executive summary lays out a coherent, hierarchically organised set of recommendations. The report is Euro- and indeed to some extent German-centric, just as “Consequences” is US-centric, but then it is presumably their own policymakers each set of authors is primarily trying to influence. I’ll give fuller impressions of CCSR when I’ve read the whole thing.

    Both reports assess the risk of inter-state wars resulting from climate change as relatively small (although “Consequences” is not consistent about this). McNeil makes the point that “water wars” are practically unknown, despite predictions of recent decades: rather, even hostile states (India/Pakistan, Israel/Jordan) have often reached agreement on water issues. I think both reports are too optimistic here (I might have to revise this view after reading all of CCSR), because they don’t take into account: (1) The tendency of threatened elites to use foreign quarrels to unify their populations, and (2) The degree to which states have tended opportunistically to take advantage of neighbours’ weakness to enhance their own power. I’d be interested in others’ impressions of either or both reports.

  41. 341

    Jerry Toman writes:

    [[You, (who I assume didn’t live in public housing)]]

    Bzzzt! Wrong! You are the weakest link.

    I lived in public housing in Forest Hills, PA.

    [[In your quote you appear to be “blaming the victim” for their housing circumstance.]]

    No, I wasn’t. I was blaming the people who set up the program without providing incentives for the residents to take care of the building.

    [[With respect to your “world view”, ... [edit - no religious wars here (I edited the first post too).]

  42. 342
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #339 (Alan K.) Alan, an earlier paper by some of the authors of the paper you cite was extensively discussed here earlier this year. Put “forecasting principles” into the search box.

  43. 343
    Alan K says:

    #333 Rod

    I agree wholeheartedly. dhogaza and I seem to have got hung up on an irrelevance (ie. harvesting). And to be fair, IUCN only makes estimates on likelihood of increase or decrease in populations, rather than making forecasts. If you look population-by-population at their analysis there is a lot of we-don’t-really-know type commentary.

    I therefore agree polar bear populations (among other things) should have an eye kept on them. However, their name is used in vain so often and it is baldly stated time and again that they face “extirpation” that even a “we don’t know” position draws shrill accusations of denialism, etc, etc

    and wrt the USGC report – when people start saying things like: “declines in the spatiotemporal distribution of sea ice habitat along with other potential stressors”, I reach for my gun.

  44. 344
    JCH says:

    There is a bias that doing field work is worse than working in a cubicle. It’s not. There is nothing wrong or immoral about asking human beings to do the job of picking cotton. The only alternative is a machine that burns fossil fuel.

  45. 345
    Alan K says:

    #342 Nick – yes as I saw the latest paper and started typing my post it was deja vu all over again wrt forecasting! I remember reading the thread here – this one is hot off the press, though, so I thought it worth a link.

  46. 346
    Rick Brown says:

    Re # 339 Alan K

    I’m mystified why Google no longer leads to the paper on the USGS site. Try

    I don’t have time to enter into the substance of this discussion. You suggested to dhogaza that the two of you review a more current source; I suggested one.

  47. 347
    Hank Roberts says:

    > asking human beings to do the job of picking cotton

    Nonsense. Get a clue about the misery of the work — know better.

    Cotton and much else is still picked by hand in China and elsewhere. Don’t fail to read history, lest you end up repeating it.

    This is what tools are for, freeing people from lives of manual labor. I’ve picked cotton, once, for a few minutes — my parents wanted me to understand what the ‘second great emancipation’had meant. It happened in the US only about 60 years ago!

    Fossil fuel engines can be replaced in harvesters just as they can in any other powered device. Look at the first cotton harvester:

  48. 348
    James says:

    Re #344: [There is a bias that doing field work is worse than working in a cubicle. It’s not.]

    I’ve done both, and have found that working in a cubicle sure pays a lot better :-)

    [The only alternative is a machine that burns fossil fuel.]

    Not at all. Cotton, like most other crops, produces a lot of waste – leaves, stalks and such. Convert those to ethanol or biodiesel, and you’d get more than enough fuel to run the harvesters.

  49. 349
    JCH says:

    I grew up framing and ranching, and I did a large amount of hard, physical labor. There is still plenty of back breaking work behind the pretty displays at today’s supermarket. I don’t see anybody boycotting it. It’s easier to be against hand picking cotton.

  50. 350
    JCH says:


    Today, how many mechanical farm machines would make it out to the fields of the world if they had to be powered by cellulosic ethanol?

Switch to our mobile site