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Are geologists different?

Filed under: — rasmus @ 19 August 2008

rockThe International Geological Congress (IGC) is sometimes referred to as the geologists’ equivalent of the Olympic Games and is an extremely large gathering of geologists from all over the world, taking place at 4-year intervals. This time, the IGC took place in Lillestrøm, a small place just outside Oslo, Norway (August 6-14). The congress was opened by the Norwegian King (before he continued to the real games in Beijing), and was attended by some 6,000 scientists from 113 countries. Even the Danish Minister of Energy & Climate participated in a panel discussion on climate change. In other words, this was a serious meeting.

opera.jpg I didn’t attend the meeting myself, but the scientific programme for the session on climate, shows that the ‘climate contrarians’ were quite well represented. The organizers probably wanted to give room to “other views”. Together with web cast of the panel discussion on climate change (by the way, you may need Windows to view this because of the video format…), the proportion of attendees with a skeptical attitude to the notion of anthropogenic global warming appeared to be notably higher than in other conferences, such as the European Geosciences Union or European Meteorological Society, or indeed the scientific literature. So be it.

Svensmark was there, even though he’s not a geologist, and said that he didn’t understand what he was doing on the panel. He didn’t say much during the panel debate, apart from that clouds are not well described by GCMs (which is true and discussed in the latest IPCC report), and that the 90% confidence in the human influence on recent trends is derived only from models (not true). There is an irony in that, whereas detailed microphysics in clouds are not well understood (hence the uncertainties in the GCMs), Svensmark’s own hypothesis hinges entirely on the cloud response to cosmic rays (which is even less well understood).

Robert Carter said a great deal more than Svensmark on the panel. He made a point of the last couple of years being cold. But he did not appear to understand Jansen’s explanation of the difference between trends and natural variability (see here). What really struck me was not who was saying what, but the intellectual level of discussion: the debate often got stuck at misunderstood trivialities which for a long time have been regarded as solved or explained in the climate research community. When you keep starting at square one, you’ll never make much progress.

Other statements did not have a scientific basis (e.g. Morner popped out from the crowd and said that the sea levels are not rising – not true – and then saluted the panel). Thus the debate seemed to be a step backwards towards confusion rather than a progress towards resolution.

What is going on? Is there a higher proportion of geologists that have a completely different view on climate change, or was this a biased representation of the community? The thought of stifling a scientific debate by insisting on outrageous or ignorant claims also has struck me.

Update: Marc Roberts sent along this mildly relevant cartoon:

314 Responses to “Are geologists different?”

  1. 251
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 241 –

    “Any dissenting scientist (even climate scientists) who questions the hypothesis that climate change on all scales from local and regional to global is driven mainly by man’s addition of CO2 into the atmosphere is labeled a “kook” by many regulars here at Real Climate. The premise used by the activists and politicians is that humans have the power to stabilize the climate to some kind of “optimal”. ”

    There can be a component of climate change on various levels that is a part of natural variability and that will continue – but that is generally a fluctuation within some longer-term state. The case for recent changes in climate forcing, including solar forcing, but with the great majority being anthropogenic forcing, even that being the remainder of warming forcing after the net cooling of aerosol forcing, the largest part of that warming forcing being from CO2 but with CH4 also important, and with tropospheric O3, N2O (or something with N and O in it) and CFCs – the case for these being responsible for a great portion of recent changes, in particular most of the global average surface temperature increase trend (not the specific instances of interannual variability so much), and thus the other changes that are expected to come with that kind of a change – the case is very strong. Of everything the most concern is with CO2 because – 1. aerosols don’t accumulate long-term at all and can’t be expected to keep up, even in proportion, with greenhouse gas forcing; 2. CH4 accumulates for a couple decades or so but if CH4 emissions level off, the CH4 forcing will level off within a couple decades or so [EXCEPT FOR POSITIVE BIOGEOCHEMICAL FEEDBACKS IN THE CLIMATE SYSTEM] 3. CO2 is the biggest portion of anthropogenic greenhouse gas forcing, accumulates for the long term (at least relative to human affairs) and it’s control presents the biggest challenge.

    There is no unqualified optimum climate. But there is an optimum (or two or three…) climate for any particular combination of desires. If you love maple syrup, and that is the only thing you care about, your optimum climate might be that which produces the largest area of forest with some density of good quality sugar maple trees and also the conditions that allow for the most production of syrup throughout the years. It is more complicated than you might think, because some climates may allow more pests to harm the trees, and affect the cost of transportation of syrup, and how much you have to pay for pesticides or some green alternative to take care of the trees (I’m not aware of any pest issue with maple trees in particular but I figure it’s always a possibility).

    But more generally – the extant biodiversity on the planet is that which has survived the most recent conditions and to some degree is similar to those conditions going back in time for a while – so conditions that are unfamiliar for the past 20 years might be just fine, but conditions that are unfamiliar for the past 2000 years may cause some trouble, and conditions that are unfamiliar for the past 200,000 years more trouble, and conditions that are unfamiliar for the past 2,000,000 years … etc. Oh, but what do I mean by trouble? Surely life can and has evolved. But evolution isn’t just changes within a species over time – it is speciations, and it is extinctions. Evolution of any one species is shaped by the ecosystem it is a part of, including other species – so the ecosystem evolves. When conditions change fast, evolution must be fast, but the speed of successful adaptation is limited by various factors, so extinction rates increase, and the ecosystem may be considered ‘harmed’ – likely from the point of view of something that relies on it.

    Our economy, our societies, etc, are a part of the global ecosystem, and vice versa. How long has the industrial revolution been around? What conditions is our modern civilization adapted to? What conditions are the subsistence farmers and their crops in third world countries adapted to? What conditions are the roads and highways, buildings, dams, canals, etc. adapted to? And how rapidly can we change? How many of us must go extinct (‘before our time’) or let our desires and hopes go extinct, in the process? How fast can a farm’s soil migrate to follow the rain?

    Of course the climate will change a little, and that can have consequences – it has had consequences, serious ones, in the course of human civilization – but hopefully our modern civilization would be able to weather the smaller fluctuations, perhaps even with some comfort – but the bigger and faster the change, the bigger the challenge.

  2. 252
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Shhhh! Patrick027, you’re spoiling Bryan’s straw man.

  3. 253

    Thanks, Patrick — a very nice summary.

  4. 254
    Figen Mekik says:

    What is optimal climate?
    Optimal for whom, for what purpose?

  5. 255
    Bryan S says:

    Patrick, Thank you for your thoughtful response. It is flawed on several levels however.
    Let me explain.

    Firstly, modern societal problems related to climate change are not driven by a “global mean”. Societal impacts involve climate change at specific geographic localities over various temporal scales (ie average yearly or seasonal precipitation in western Kansas measured over 30 years, 50, 100 ect.). The fact is, we cannot skillfully predict how precipitation might change in Kansas over these time scales with or without the human GHG component. For example, changes in agricultural and land use practices might have a much larger impact on the regional precipitation than the increase of a well-mixed greenhouse gas. Also, since the climate of western Kansas is never stationary over any temporal scale, understanding how the natural variability and diverse human forcing leads to a change in regional weather and circulation patterns that control the climate of this region is a tough problem. In general, we can certainly predict that the climate will change, but are we really confident exactly how? Will summers become hotter and dryer or cooler and wetter, or hotter and wetter….? Will the winters become wetter and milder, drier and milder, wetter and colder, drier and colder…..? Can we grow wheat or corn, or will we need to switch to cattle? You get the point.

    Now let’s consider another big societal concern, global sea levels. At first glance, this certainly appears to be a problem involving global mean temperature. The intuitive formula is: Warm global mean temperature=less ice=higher sea levels. It seems very straightforward… unless you’re a geologist. As one carefully studies the record of the last 65 million years, some non-intuitive behavior of the ice caps related to global temperature can be noted (as best we can tell from the geochemistry and stratigraphy of the sediments). Examples can be given of an apparently warm ocean corresponding to relatively low sea levels. Conversely, ocean temperatures being close to the modern values can correspond to sea levels higher or lower than present. The point is granted that extreme global mean climates (ie Eocene thermal maximum) are indeed indicative of very large ice sheets or none, but this may turn out to be more of a special case in the geological record than a general rule. So a good working hypothesis which results from the record says that the non-steric portion of global mean sea level variation is also a function of long-term changes in regional climate across the polar regions (not considering the rise and fall of the sea bed due to tectonics and isostosy). Smaller ice sheets in the northern hemisphere can be balanced by larger ones in the southern hemisphere. The dynamical physics governing ice sheet motion seems to be a hot topic currently, but it is not yet worked out in the literature.

    So now comes my class assignment for the week: Briefly sketch out the worldwide climate policy you want to initiate, and then predict (with error bars shown) what effects your policy will have on the climate of Kansas, and upon changes in global sea level.

  6. 256
    Steve L says:

    Perhaps someone has already mentioned this, but I was thinking about Steve Gould’s emphasis on chance vs Carles Darwin’s emphasis on selection. There are others who have sort of ‘taken sides’ on this axis (could say Sewall Wright vs Ronald Fisher or Niles Eldridge vs David Queller), but my undereducated view sees Gould as the champion of random chance. Gould was a paleontologist whereas Darwin studied mostly extant organisms. The immediacy and potency of selection may be more obvious to people who study ecology on living organisms rather than paleontology, or maybe people who study the longer term tend to think that short term selection pressures balance out in most cases (resulting in a stasis until something more important and directional happens).

    Regardless, I wonder if it’s worth drawing a parallel between paleontologists and geologists (well, they share quite a bit of training I imagine, so it’s not much of a stretch), and making a comparison to climatologists and ecologists (who are only similar in that they are focussed on current processes [over-generalization, I know, but that’s the point of the topic]). Maybe someone else could help me flesh out this notion?

  7. 257
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 255 – Yes, exactly, regional effects are of great importance, and it is part of the problem that some or much of that is hard to predict. If it were easier to predict, adaptation to a changing climate would perhaps be a little easier because we could plan farther in advance. There is generally greater certainty in the totality (not just global average temp) of future climate, at least on the time scale of interest to human civilization, if our anthropogenic climate forcing is less rather than more, because, while there is internal variability and small solar fluctuations and episodic volcanic events, these will continue anyway – we have them with or without anthropogenic effects, which introduce yet more uncertainty. Not that the addition is simple – any climate change, forced or not, can potentially affect the way the climate will respond to another forcing. The natural variability, itself an aspect of a longer-term climate, can change with a changing climate. But that doesn’t necessarily reduce the internal variability component of uncertainty – if there is uncertainty in the climate response to anthropogenic effects, it can surely extend into the effects on internal variability, and even if the magnitude of such fluctuations is reduced (which may not be true – some could increase), their overall ‘shape’ may be changed, etc…

    Of course, there could be, in some aspects, a point of ‘saturation’ on the regional level – which can be seen if one considers particular features of the global climate that have locations in space and perhaps time, and considers the aspect of climate change that can be described by their shifting positions in space, and perhaps, time. For example, if one is north of a storm track, and the storm track shifts north, there comes a point where one is south of the storm track, and then the storm track might even move far away, and continued shifting cannot bring the storm track, or any other storm track, any closer or farther than one has already been. (This could also apply to east-west shifting.) And that would pertain to regional precipitation at least. The seasonal timing of storm track positions and activity levels might behave somewhat similarly, although the ecological effects … well, a growing season cannot be longer than a year or shorter than 0 seconds, but some plants are photoperiod sensitive, and different species respond differently to changes and the synchronization can get thrown out of whack, and summer dry spells are important to consider, etc… But yes, in at least some aspects, one can reach a point of ‘saturation’ with climate variability on the regional level. BUT how much of the earth, for how many aspects of climate, actually is at or anywhere near such a point of saturation for internal variability and natural forcing fluctuations alone? (How much do the major relative maxima (the active storm track regions of the extratropics, the ITCZ and regions of tropical cyclones and thunderstorms, summer monsoons, etc.) in precipitation shift relative to their spacing from each other across the major minima (the deserts)? Remember that while these features may shift, shrink or grow and then grow or shrink, becomine more or less intense, with perhaps changes in the frequency and amplitude of activity, etc., some may continue in one direction with regards to position, strength, and other characteristics, and all the while there can be other changes that continue even on a regional level, in a preponderance of regions, in one direction, such as temperature, which has an effect on the water cycle, and changes the characteristics of whatever storm track or climatological region of thunderstorm activity or whatever is nearby to provide some precipitation (for example, warming tends to lead to greater proportion of precipitation concentrated into small times and spaces, I think).

    And then, let me repeat, the bigger changes, the faster the change, the greater the unfamiliarity, and for humans, the greater the uncertainty, then the more expensive (not just in money) the necessary adaptation. For their sustained magnitude, Anthropogenic forcing has changed very fast relative to most any forcing or internal variability that could or would have the same sustained magnitude or greater, except perhaps asteroids and comets (themselves not sustained but the aftereffects would be). (For internal variability of the same magnitude – well, I’m not sure if you could find it, but certainly not on such a time scale – maybe tens of thousands of years, maybe during the paleoproterozoic and neoproterozoic Snowball earths, though in these cases you have to ‘internalize’ into the climate system things typically thought to be outside it on shorter time scales, I think… (for example, geochemical CO2 feedbacks).

    As for sea level rise – I’m glad you made a distinction between tectonically-driven (steric?) changes and ocean volume-driven (eustastic?) changes. There is another point to make, though. Just as a change in sea floor spreading rates or continental rifting or mountain building will not suddenly raise or lower sea level relative to continental surfaces over just 100,000 years let alone 1000 or 100 years, similarly continental drift cannot move continents into or out of polar positions very quickly. Over millions of years, the change in ice volume and thus ocean volume will not generally be matched in the same way to global average temperature because of continental drift at least. But over shorter time frames, with the continental positions being approximately fixed, there will be some relationship – potentially nonlinear of course, but it will be there (there is a general tendency for near surface polar amplification of global average surface temperature changes. Now, precipitation is also important, of course, so if starting from a very cold point, one might at first increase ice mass upon warming, depending on the circulation patterns, etc, but eventually you reach the melting point, and even before reaching it in the center, melting or loss by another process at the edges can thin the ice mass by inducing greater flow). Over a short enough time frame, of course, and you can find an ice sheet that is out of long-term equilibrium but it’s dissappearence is delayed by it’s ice-albedo effect – or you can even find the case where an ice sheet that is there will stay but a new ice sheet could not form under the same conditions.

    Anyway, the major periods of glaciations in the Phanerozoic eon do correspond to low CO2 levels.

  8. 258

    Bryan S posts:

    So now comes my class assignment for the week: Briefly sketch out the worldwide climate policy you want to initiate, and then predict (with error bars shown) what effects your policy will have on the climate of Kansas, and upon changes in global sea level.

    I’ll ignore the fact that you have no authority to hand out assignments to anyone, and just answer the question.

    I would like to see a worldwide CO2-emission trading permits scheme. The one set in place by the Bush (Sr.) administration c. 1990 worked very effectively to reduce acid-rain damage in the United States.

    Any nation that failed to comply would be subject to trade sanctions.

    I would also like to see restructuring of the subsidies in the US and in other countries so that money was not being artificially pumped into fossil fuels and nuclear power while renewables are starved.

    I would also like to see massive federal purchases of PV cells, since a similar program in the 1960s reduced the cost of silicon chips. A large, steady increase in demand gives producers incentive to build factories to mass-produce the item in question, and mass production of the article brings down its price.

    I’m voting for Obama because I like his energy plan — a massive public works program on renewable energy and infrastructure, with five million new jobs created.

  9. 259
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bryan S., Do you seriously want to contend that increased global temperature is not correlated to higher sea levels? Of course there are some oddities in the geologic record, but to contend that we will not raise sea levels by raising global mean temperature is not a defensible position. Would you care to posit a mechanism for how we’ll be miraculously saved.
    Likewise, your contention that we cannot predict the effects of climate change–at all–is not defensible. Current climate models predict among other things that you will see increased, and more prolonged drought in the Western US, and that what rain there is will be more likely to come in large impulsive events. Both of these trends are evident.
    As to climate policy, in my opinion, that is yet to be worked out. However, my top priority would be low-hanging fruit from conservation–greatly increased CAFE standards, increased use of more efficient appliances (perhaps through tax incentives). Compact fluorescent lights can actually result in measurably lower power consumption, and if we can move to solid-state lighting the savings will be greater. Energy costs to consumers need to reflect the full cost. How this happens is less important (e.g. cap and trade or carbon tax)than that it happen. We need a massive R&D effort to develop new sources of energy, emphasizing renewables, but I don’t think we can rule out nuclear power or CCS. Likewise, I don’t think we’ll have the luxury of rejecting “geoengineering” solutions–so we need a lot of effort going into understanding these and their unintended effects. The emphasis has to be on holding CO2 emissions as low as possible while still keeping the economy healthy and developing technological solutions and move toward sustainability.
    Barton is right–we have to enforce trade sanctions against any nation that does not sign on to reducing carbon emissions. Likewise, we have to assist developing nations to meet their increasing energy needs with non-fossil fuel alternatives. Development is part of the sustainability equation. In my opinion, this is THE task of the next generation of human civilization. If they fail at it, they may well be the last.

  10. 260

    Any nation that failed to comply would be subject to trade sanctions.

    Ah, finally, positive thinking!

    Joking aside, I don’t disagree with the underlying notion. Nothing more is needed than only allowing the import of goods that have their permits in order — countries like China and India are highly dependent upon export to the West.

    …but somehow the cynic in me can fully believe mental imagery of a global US strategic bomber fleet targetng… coal fired power plants in other countries. And nary an American citizen seeing the sick historical irony. No problem is so bad that it doesn’t have a highly violent solution ;-)

  11. 261
    Hank Roberts says:

    Just one word more, Martin, to correct that imagery.

    There’s no problem so bad that it doesn’t have a solution that is highly attractive, violent, and _wrong_.

    “People know intuitively where leverage points are. Time after time I’ve done an analysis of a company, and I’ve figured out a leverage point. Then I’ve gone to the company and discovered that everyone is pushing it in the wrong direction!” — Jay Forrester

    recaptcha: be management

    Okay, time to start using the ReCaptcha software in the climate models, it’s clearly trying to be helpful ….

  12. 262
    David B. Benson says:

    Bryan S (255) — I already did it after your earlier post, except for sea levels and Kansas.

    sea levels: stop rising.

    Kansas: about as it is now.

    But “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

  13. 263
    Bryan S says:

    Ray, Sea level changes and global temperature change are commonly out of phase in the geologic record. While Patrick’s statement above is partly accurate, sequence stratigraphers hypothesize that many rapid changes in eustatic sea level are largely driven by changes in mass balance of the ice sheets owing to a combination of temperature, moisture, and precipitation patterns across the regional polar ice sheets. Combined with the dynamical physical processes, it is not surprising that the geologic record shows a strongly non-linear and non-intuitive response. Comparison of sea level curves with the d18O proxy shows a complex pattern of ice sheet growth and contraction, ocean temperature change, and sea level variation. We might even see this effect as a process study using models. Some individual realizations show increasing mass balance and lower sea levels corresponding to a business as usual GHG scenario, and a substantial warming (2-3C). While these are the outliers, it should be noted that no individual realizations show decreasing temperatures for a doubling of C02. It might be pointed out that Hansen dismisses the possibility of increased mass balance based on his apparent “intuition” as to how he thinks the dynamical response will play out, but he has little firm evidence to support his feelings. The point is that most of the general public is not educated on the great uncertainly in the response of sea level under a 2-3 C warming.

    As to your second point, I would remind you that climate models have not been shown to be skillful in predicting multi-decadal regional climate changes. Perfect model experiments bear out the fact that this type of prediction remains a tough challenge. If I am wrong on this, please show me the literature.

    Now allow me to take off my scientist hat, and become citizen Bryan. The policies that you and Barton advocate really deal with energy issues and not climate change. If mitigation of climate change is what you are really after, then your suggested energy policies will fail miserably. I think it was Tip O’Neal who said that all politics are local. Similarly, you should keep in mind that all climate is experienced locally and regionally as well. Unless you can regulate these other human forcings like land use and aerosols, soot deposition, ect., control of GHGs will have little effect in stabilizing climate at the regional and local level. Roger Pielke Sr. makes this case very well, and it is an intelligent view in my opinion.

    I really don’t think that much of the current popular discussion of climate change policy is really about climate change and sustainability at all. I suspect it is more about a romanticized view of a pristine, non-humanized planet earth than it is about anything else. Most of us humans feel a sense of awe when we have the rare opportunity to travel into an environment untouched by humans. We have an overwhelming sense to preserve it. This preservation is balanced with the needs of a civilization which has brought amazing comforts to humanity. An example of this conflict is deciding whether to drill for oil in the Arctic(although most of the public has never seen the Arctic coastal plain, and have the wrong impression about its landscape). It is obvious to me that we must drill in the Arctic if energy demand will be met. This is not a cop out on alternative energy development, it is simply reality. Alternatives to oil must be developed because oil production capacity will soon decline (maybe hyperbolically). But the fact is that the alternatives are thermodynamically challenged. Wind and solar are great, but they are expensive BTU’s to capture. I am glad you are open to nuclear energy because it is going to make a big comeback whether you like it or not. It is simply a matter of economics. Subsidies can prop up an expensive technology for a while, but if it doesn’t stand on its own economic feet, it will be bypassed by something cheaper. That is not a conspiracy by big oil, it is simply basic economics taught in any high school civics class.

    I agree with you that procuring an economically viable energy supply will be a great crises in the next several generations, but let’s not pretend that climate policy and energy policy are the same. By misleading the public with a nonsensically simplistic view of climate change, we risk implementing very costly policies which will neither mitigate climate change, nor aid in supplying our future energy needs. Such a path could also spell disaster. Good discussion however.

  14. 264
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bryan S., Indeed, the policies Barton and I have mooted have to do with energy, since energy is the portion of the economy that is throwing the carbon cycle of the planet out of balance at present. It also happens to be a section of the modern global economy that absolutely must change even if it did not pose a climate threat.
    Climate change imposes two additional constraints:
    1)It precludes meeting energy demand with other fossil fuels–especially coal.
    2)It means the problem absolutely cannote be tackled locally. It does not matter whether the CO2 comes from China or the US. It has the same warming potential.

    Now, while we’re at it, Bryan, maybe you can educate me about why some folks take glee in trying to discredit the skill of the models. The models are in no way necessary to establish the efficacy of CO2 in producing warming. Empirical data and basic physics are sufficient for that. This means you have a threat that you know is in the process of being realized. Now if you can’t rely on the models, then you have no way to bound the risk, and that is worse than even a high-risk threat. If you cannot bound risk, it argues all the more strongly for proceeding as carefully as possible and ensuring that the threat is postponed. Anyone who wants to avoid an all-out panic once climate effects start to manifest in earnest had better be praying that the models are skillful. They are the only thing we have that lets us bound our investment in mitigating climate change.

  15. 265
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 263:

    “While Patrick’s statement above is partly accurate, sequence stratigraphers hypothesize that many rapid changes in eustatic sea level are largely driven by changes in mass balance of the ice sheets owing to a combination of temperature, moisture, and precipitation patterns across the regional polar ice sheets. Combined with the dynamical physical processes, it is not surprising that the geologic record shows a strongly non-linear and non-intuitive response. Comparison of sea level curves with the d18O proxy shows a complex pattern of ice sheet growth and contraction, ocean temperature change, and sea level variation.”

    I haven’t studied geologic history in quite so much detail but nothing in the above sounds particularly surprising. However, at the point we are at in geologic history, it does seem that warming will cause net melting. Sea levels have been rising. Some of that is due to thermal expansion, some is due to melting. Unless the thermal expansion has actually been underestimated (which would have other implications – that the ocean has been taking in more heat than we thought, likely suggesting greater equilibrium climate sensitivity, I think – or that the warmer or saltier parts of the ocean have recieved greater warmth at the expense of the cooler and/or fresher parts, which would be interesting… and I would think there’s a depth dependence as well for the coefficient of thermal expansion, but anyway, it is the top of the ocean and downwelling regions that must react first, of course, in so far as temperature changes go) so much that ice mass is actually growing, but I suspect that’s not likely. Observations of the ice itself indicate net ice mass loss on Greenland, I’m less sure about Antarctica, but I already know that the East Antarctic ice sheet may gain mass first because it is so cold… but again, that state of affairs can only go so far – eventually, if we add enough CO2, etc, to the air, it will get warm enough, for long enough, and eventually, the East Antarctic ice will shrink as well. Of course we all know about the losses of smaller mountain glaciers all over, with some notable exceptions (Mt. Shasta, I think, because of a precipitation increase), but there is a net loss. The uncertainty is great over how fast melting will occur, how much it will accelerate – that’s no great comfort, really. (But see the most recent RealClimate blog).

    You are absolutely correct that energy is not the entire problem (or solution). As I said before, there are reasons why so much focus is on CO2 – the radiative forcing of aerosols (on balance a cooling, but some have warming effects) can be switched off within a short time of halting aerosol emissions (or aerosol-producing emissions). Tropospheric ozone lasts a bit longer, I think; CH4 is in a middle ground between aerosols and CO2 in terms of ‘staying power’. There are other contributors.

    A comprehensive – lets take the ‘carbon tax’ approach for example, which is very similar to a cap-and-trade with 100% auction (Obama’s favored choice, I believe) – the auction part is important, because if too much is just ‘given away’, it can end up benifiting entrenched special interest groups, but anyway… A comprehensive ‘carbon tax’ may be colloquially refered to as a carbon tax, but it would really be a fossil carbon (in the form of CO2)-equivalent emissions tax. Thus, lets say the tax (which could take the form of a fossil C fuel sales tax in so far as energy goes) is $100 / ton fossil C equivalent. If a molecule of methane (CH4) stays in the air for T2 years whereas a CO2 atmospheric increase (distinct from the residence time of the molecules in that case, which is considereably shorter) lasts T1 years, and an additional molecule of methane contributes R2 times the climate forcing of an additional CO2 molecule, than the emissions tax for methane emissions, per unit carbon in the methane, would be $100*R2*T2/T1 / ton C. Actually, there’s an additional distinction to be made from whether the methane is from fossil C, in which case it’s oxydation adds CO2, or if it is not fossil C, in which case it’s oxydation does not add CO2.

    It will be a bit more complicated than that but the simple example illustrates the concept. Complexities come in because – each addtional CO2 increase may have greater longevity than the last one, but at the same time, has a little less climate forcing because the climate forcing for CO2 is roughly logarithmically proportional to atmospheric CO2 amount. The cost due to each unit temperature increase probably is not constant either – the first 1/2 degree (which we’ve already passed by and then some) may not be so bad, etc. I have skimmed a paper by James F. Kasting which as best as I can recall suggested that the various factors combined in such a way as to justify a constant CO2 emission tax invariant in time.

    Also, the CO2 that does go into the oceans can cause other problems and also influences the rate at which more CO2 can go into the oceans, so it isn’t necessarily to be left out of the equation (although than it is more than just climate policy).

    Because reducing CH4 and especially the warming aerosol emissions should be easier than reducing CO2 emissions and have more immediate effects (buying us time to work out the CO2 problem), and in the case of aerosols, could have other benifits. It has been suggested that we should focus more effort there. One way to do that would be to use a shorter time horizon to compute CO2 equivalents – the example I gave was done without a time horizon. In the extreme, an infinitesimal time horizon would simply give you CO2 equivalents in terms of the instantaneous climate forcing ratios. However, if it is truly easier to reduce these problems, the market mechansisms (if and when they are functioning well) would act to solve them faster even with far-out time horizons.

    Aerosol effects have regional effects as well as a global average impact. Black carbon (‘a warmer’) emitted in the vicinity of ice and snow should be particularly targetted because of it’s contribution to polar thawing, which has an albedo feedback (and nearby, a potentially dangerous permafrost-thaw CH4 feedback). I have recently heard that aerosols from China may be contributing to regional warming in the U.S. Overall, the net contribution from aerosols is most likely cooling, which actually reduces the net anthropogenic global average forcing, but the regional effects do exist… BUT regional effects also exist from global warming itself. My impression is that sometimes these effects are opposing – perhaps in effects on the southern Asian monsoon, for example.

    But the aerosol forcing is not going to keep growing even in proportion with CO2 forcing even in business as usual. Because of CO2’s longevity, it is only sensible that we try to solve that early on, say, in the 1980s. Then again…

    Well, here’s the question – just how much stronger on a regional basis is one forcing’s effect compared to another. If global climate sensitivity is nearly constant over some temperature range then, at least for ‘small’ forcings where changes in overlapping portions are small?… well, we could add their global average surface temperature effects nearly linearly, but the regional effects would not be so simple, I would think. … The big concern is what will happen with continued CO2 forcing and increases in that; I suspect we’re dealing with the worst of the aerosol forcing already… SO now I’m starting to ramble, …

    Somebody else should perhaps help me out with the aerosol vs global warming regional effect matter – I suspect global warming is already having a bigger regional impact in many areas (most areas are warming up, at least, and that has an impact even locally on precipitation).

  16. 266
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 263 PART II:

    “It is obvious to me that we must drill in the Arctic if energy demand will be met.”
    “I am glad you are open to nuclear energy because it is going to make a big comeback whether you like it or not.”

    “But the fact is that the alternatives are thermodynamically challenged. Wind and solar are great, but they are expensive BTU’s to capture.”

    Not as expensive as oil – well, that’s not subtracting the profit margin on crude, but then again, I’m not subtracting a profit margin from solar cells either.

    Now, if we are to replace oil with wind and solar, we have to use electric cars (or partial replacement – plug-in electric hybrids). So that adds to the cost. How long does it take to build solar component factories, design and get a car to market, or find more oil and get it pumping? If about the same timescale than that’s not a factor in the comparison, I guess.

    (PS this illustrates a possible problem when there is lack of large-scale planning. If the solar+wind people are waiting on the electric car people and the electric car people are waiting on the solar+wind people (well, there’s no reason to do that, actually, because they can live off of coal for a while).)

    Remember to take into account that an electric car doesn’t necessarily use the same amount of energy as a gas-powered car. I think it should be quite a bit less, actually (electric and hybrid cars also can have regenerative braking).

    (solar and wind power are measured by electrical production. For thermal energy to electricity conversion, the efficiency is typically something like 30 to 40 % efficient, I think. So 30 or 40 MW of solar power would replace a coal plant burning coal at a rate of 100 MW. I think Hydroelectric conversion is ~ 80 % efficient. However, often our total energy usage by source is given in terms of fuel equivalent, in which case I think about 40 W of electric power would be identified as 100 W fuel equivalent).

    I did a calculation a while back and figured out that for the savings from not buying any oil, we might actually be able to pay for enough solar power to replace both coal and oil, or maybe even more than that. That may have been with oil at $140/barrel, though, but you get the idea.

    But I haven’t factored in an appropriate ‘carbon tax’ yet.

    The thing to remember is that if an energy source is more expensive, that doesn’t necessarily mean it takes up as much or more energy as is produced. Solar and wind are truly effective energy resources in so far as that is concerned.

    Another interesting visual, though it may be only partly related to the economics, but compare the energy density of a kilogram of coal, a kilogram of uranium, and a kilogram of solar cell (over it’s lifetime).

    I think it may actually be a waste of money to drill for more oil.

    And I wonder if it may be easier and faster to build factories to churn out solar cells (or other solar technology) than to plan and build new nuclear power plants.

  17. 267
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 263 PART III:

    “I really don’t think that much of the current popular discussion of climate change policy is really about climate change and sustainability at all. I suspect it is more about a romanticized view of a pristine, non-humanized planet earth than it is about anything else.”

    I’m in favor of keeping some parts of the Earth as pristine as is reasonably possible, but I’m under no delusion that we can do that for a great majority of the Earth and still be good to ourselves. But: Taking care of the planet is a part of being good to ourselves – managing our control over parts, conservation in other areas, and to some degree, for aesthetic benifit, even preservation of at least some of it. The climate affects us.

  18. 268
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 263 Part IV:

    Well, here it is:

    Solar (PV tech, presently commercially available)~ $4/(peak Watt) ~= $16 to $20 / W under typical conditions (could be a bit less if you have it angled right and your in the desert especially, particularly if on a tracking device).

    U.S. total energy use fuel equilvalent ~ 100 EJ / year , divide by ~ 32 Ms/year (that’s megaseconds per year) , ~ 0.3 * 10^20 / 10^7 W , = ~ 3 TW fuel equivalent

    =~ 1.2 TW electricity equivalent

    =~ 16 – 20 trillion dollars solar PV equivalent.

    =~ 22 – 28 years of imported oil.

    (if we would be importing ~ 700 billion dollars/year oil. Obviously the total cost for our crude oil is greater than that.)

    So if the lifetime of a solar cell is greater than 22 to 28 years, it pays for itself, without a carbon tax, but not including the increased cost of electric cars, the transitional costs, etc, but you get the idea.

    And when a solar cell’s lifetime is up, it can be recycled. If a solar cell’s efficiency decays exponentially (I’m not sure exactly how solar cell performance typically decays over time, but it’s not a quick process, that’s for sure), and you need it to be at, say 90% of it’s installed performance level to work for your purposes, than if it takes 30 years to reach that, you can buy a new one, but sell the old one to somebody who needs only 90% the power per unit area, etc., and this can go on for awhile… and if it breaks apart in a hail storm (actually they may hold up to your typical hail, I’d think), you can still typically use the pieces… and at the end the valuable materials can be recycled – that would be especially benificial for thin film solar cells made of CdTe or CuInSe2 or … etc…

    Yes, there’s ‘balance of system’ components too, …

  19. 269
    Ray Ladbury says:

    When discussing the merits of drilling for oil, you must also consider WHERE the oil is. How much of the US defense budget is spent keeping sea lanes open for oils from Middle Eastern or South American or African dictators? Removing that necessity would be good for the US and bad for its enemies. Regardless of ones political leanings or respect for the man, when John McCain says we’ll drill our way to energy independence he is either delusional or mendacious.

  20. 270
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Tip O’Neill

    … San Francisco Congressman Phil Burton pops to mind: “When you’re dealing with exploiters, the first thing you gotta do is terrorize the bastards.” …
    (On the statue of him in San Francisco, on the piece of paper sticking out of his pocket, all but the last few words of that quote is readable).

  21. 271
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 269 – YES! (although to be fair, John McCain appears to want an ‘all of the above’ approach, including wind, solar, and drilling (although I found it a bit ironic that he criticized the Obama plan for excluding drilling for more oil, as if it wouldn’t work, and then emphasized after his own plan ‘We can Do this!’ (I paraphrase)). But anything about climatological issues seems to have been downplayed during the Republican convention).

    (Actually, – I would be less likely to mention this if oil weren’t better than coal from a CO2 perspective – but if we need a quick boost to help the economy while those solar cell factories are in the pipeline, why can’t we just put more wells we we already have them, to get the oil out faster (I know there’s an issue with pumping it out too fast reduces the total recoverable amount, but I would think distributed wells would get around that for a given reservoir). We know we’re not going to be using it for all that much longer anyway.)

    Re 263 PART V:

    Notice in PART IV, all energy was replaced with solar energy electrical equivalent for just the cost of the petroleum. Now, of course, much of our energy usage as it is, even outside of transportation, is used directly as burning fuel. In some uses it may not make sense to replace this with electricity, but in some cases it certainly could be done. Consider residential natural gas usage. Aside from gas ovens, which some may want to keep for various reasons (although it need not be fossil gas), there’s water heaters and furnaces. This can be replaced at least somewhat with on-site solar heating. Also, heat pumps can be used to supplement that. If a fuel cell produces waste heat, that heat can be used. (In the summer, the cooling of the house could be coupled to the heating of the water, for that matter.) Of course, winter is a great time for biofuel (not the corn ethanol, let’s move beyond that). Solar daylighting – among the least expensive of energy technologies – although in the summer, keep the solar IR out with special windows – perhaps windows that take solar IR and UV and use luminescent concentrating tech. to convert them to electricity. LED and photonic crystal lighting. Windows facing away from the sun in warm climates could just let the diffuse light in, which likely has a higher proportion of visible energy. Heat exchangers, geothermal storage, better insulation… AND THAT’s JUST YOUR HOME!


    Biofuels from grass clippings, yard debris, .. Remember when the farmers had to leave those tomatoes on the vine (for no good reason, it turns out) this past year? Imagine if, for good reason or not, it happens again, but instead of leaving them, they sell them to a biofuel plant! (although they could have just cooked them too, couldn’t they?)

    Convert the offshore oil platforms to offshore wind + wave power stations!

  22. 272
    Rod B says:

    Ray (269), minor point. I understand the qualitative argument about the military cost of keeping oil lanes open. But it is a highly unsubstantiated thought and would never pass muster in cost accounting circles. You can’t credit military costs savings to the cost of replacing fossil fuels.

    John McCain is neither delusional or mendacious; he’s campaigning… (not to mention the best Republican AGW proponent you got. ;-)

  23. 273
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 268 (me)

    Just to be clear:

    “So if the lifetime of a solar cell is greater than 22 to 28 years, it pays for itself, ”

    In terms of money, relative to oil. Currently, using oil, as expensive as it is, pays for itself (I think). But solar pays for itself faster, so replacing oil with solar pays for itself, apparently enough so that the profit can go to replacing coal with solar, etc.

    Even if the replacement of oil with solar couldn’t pay for itself, that wouldn’t mean that solar couldn’t keep an economy going (albeit with a bit more difficulty)… and it wouldn’t mean that solar cells use more energy than they produce.

  24. 274
    Bryan S says:

    Just to add some oil facts to the discussion: The MMS in a 1995 study estimated the technically recoverable oil (P50) in the US waters of the Chukchi Sea alone at 40 billion barrels. For size comparison, Prudhoe Bay/Kaparuk River Fields (largest field in North America) have a combined EUR of around 15 billion barrels. The 40 billion figure does not include additional potential in the Beaufort Sea and onshore areas of ANWR and NPRA. There is a known hydrocarbon system with good source rocks, seals, and reservoir rocks, with traps imaged on seismic data. There is a high likelihood that there will be a bunch of oil discovered in this region. There will also be tremendous natural gas found in the Brooks Range foothills and adjacent to some of these oil prone areas. The US Navy drilled a number of wells in NPRA during the early 1950’s and discovered natural gas that has never been developed. It is a strategic resource for the US which will be commercially viable when the much publicized Alaska natural gas pipeline is completed. It seems very few policy makers, public or folks in the media understand the endowment in the US Arctic is this large. Now when folks tell you that there is only a few months supply of petroleum up there, you can tell them differently.

  25. 275

    Bryan S writes:

    If mitigation of climate change is what you are really after, then your suggested energy policies will fail miserably.

    Why is that?

  26. 276

    Bryan S writes:

    I really don’t think that much of the current popular discussion of climate change policy is really about climate change and sustainability at all. I suspect it is more about a romanticized view of a pristine, non-humanized planet earth than it is about anything else.

    Ad hominem is a logical fallacy. What the motives of the participants are is irrelevant to whether they’re right or not.

  27. 277
    CobblyWorlds says:

    Following on from a comment by Pete Best (post #106) on the current “How much will sea level rise?” thread…

    Re BBC’s Earth: The Climate Wars
    Sun 7 Sep, 9:00 pm – 10:00 pm

    Should be viewable on BBCi after the broadcast: via search

    Prof Iain Stewart is no denialist, and the BBC in general seem to have got over the “false objectivity of balance. Where he expresses doubts on issues they are measured and reasonable in terms of the primary peer reviewed science. This should be the BBC’s assertion of the science in the face of the pseudo-science of Durkin and the crank internet mob.

    To quote Dr Stewart (a Geologist) from the BBC’s press release:

    Until a few years ago, I was a bit of a climate sceptic. Geologists are only too aware that the climate is always changing and that our planet has experienced very different conditions in the past – warmer, wetter, drier, and colder; far more carbon dioxide in the air; higher sea levels and the rest.

    We geologists are used to these changes happening over non-human timescales – hundreds of thousands to millions of years – so it took me a while to latch on to the notion that it was the rate of change that was important. I was really gob-smacked when I saw the ice cores from Greenland and was able to put my finger on the point in the core when the planet switched out of an ice age and into a warm period over the course of a single season. At most, this fundamental change may occur over one to three years, but it’s certainly not five or 10 and it’s definitely not the centuries to hundreds that I learned about when I did my geology degree 20 years ago.

    What is truly scary about climate change is not any of the specific scenarios of rising seas or melting ice, but the sense that our planet’s climate exists on a knife-edge balance and we really don’t understand what pushes us over the edge, which makes our great chemistry experiment with the world’s oceans and atmosphere all the more short-sighted.

  28. 278
    pete best says:

    Re #277, no they have not got over the objectivity of balance, well not on Radio 5 anyway.

  29. 279
    Rod B says:

    Barton, but not irrelevant to their credibility…

    captcha = “car freedom” : put a chink in the plan to reduce oil consumption???

  30. 280
    CobblyWorlds says:

    BBC iPlayer “Earth: The Climate Wars.”

    This link works from here in the UK, hopefully will allow people elsewhere to watch. I recommend it.

    #277 Pete Best,
    I don’t listen to R5. But if you’re referring to BBC Radio Five’s audience phone-ins then as they will reflect the views of the callers there will be a lot denialism. There would be an outcry if they tried to censor such views, and as AGW denialism has become the latest fashion for pub-bores to show how clever they are, it’s popular. Otherwise I’m seeing less of the BBC giving voice to people like Mr Monckton.

    #274 Bryan S,
    Global annual oil consumption is of the order of 80 billion barrels a year. So new finds of the order of 40 billion will be a blip on the down-slope of post-peak oil supply.

  31. 281
    pete best says:

    Re #280, No I am referring to their articles such as when they brought on a solar scientist who demonstrated via acedamic peer review and research that The Sun is not responsible for recent decadal warming and to counter argue they had Piers Corbyn, a well known AGW contrarian who just spouted off.

    As for Oil consumption you are incorrect in your figures. We consume 85 Mbpb or 30 Billion barrels per annum, not 80.

    I have just watched the program on Iplayer and I will reserve judgement until all three have been aired. He is right about James Hansen sticking his neck out in 1988 though but I knew nothing about the Jason report or the follow up reports commisioned by the Reagan administration. They appear to have been somwhat correct in their assertions although the nature of slow climate change appears to have been the mantra of the day.

    I look forward to the additional two parts but anyone who has looked at the skeptics arguments and their methods knows what is coming. As for science being the ultimate winner in the AGW debate, lets hope that these intervening 18 years have not cost us too dearly but of course it probably already has to some degree.

  32. 282
    Peter T says:

    Using the numbers from RE #268 and some knowledge of the glass industry it would require over 800 glass lines running full time to satisfy the glass requirements in one year for enough typical (CdTe) solar cells to supply just the electricity requirements for the US. (I am asuming the numbers refer to electricity generation and not total power requirements including transportation.) There are not nearly that many glass lines in the world. Spead that over 10 years, and build more glass lines than there are presently in the US and maybe there is a chance. This does not address the metal, electronics, land, plastics, power line, and other requirements that would be necessary too. Solar should be a goal, but it is going to be a slow transition. Other sources such as geothermal, nuclear, wind, tide, clean coal should be developed. Each has its own drawbacks and time scales and some could be phased out as the least objectionable gain in capacity.

  33. 283
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bryan S. waxes poetic in constructing yet another straw man:
    “I really don’t think that much of the current popular discussion of climate change policy is really about climate change and sustainability at all. I suspect it is more about a romanticized view of a pristine, non-humanized planet earth than it is about anything else.”

    Yeah, Bryan, we’ve read about the noble savages, too. If you feel the need to cast all the climate scientists, physicists–hell, even John McCain–as naive romantics, fine, but that has more to do with your own psychological needs than it does with reality. Climate change is objective, physical reality. There is no credible explanation for it other than anthropogenic greenhouse gasses. There is more than ample reason to anticipate that many of the consequences of this change will be severe for an infrastructure supporting a civilization of 9 billion–especially since that infrastructure developed during a period of exceptional climateic stability. Speculating about what Earth would be like without people does not interest me. I am interested, rather, in ensuring that Earth will continue to support that civilization.

  34. 284
    Mark says:

    Re: #281.

    OK, so how long will 40 billionn barrels last at 30bb/yr?

    A significantly longer time?


  35. 285
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 282 –

    1. I didn’t mean to imply it should be solar and nothing else. Mainly I was just countering the idea that solar is too expensive to provide a really big chunk of our energy.

    2. I was calculating the amount of solar cells to replace our electricity in the situation where all our fuel-equivalent energy were converted to electricity. Thus, the U.S. uses ~ 100 EJ (Exajoules, billions of billions of joules) a year in primary energy, fuel equivalent – this would be replaceable by ~40 EJ per year of an electrical energy source. That’s an upper estimate, not taking into account efficiency improvements that would come about by using electricity instead of direct heat of fuel (or internal combustion engines) in some settings. It also doesn’t include the potential for reduced energy need with better building designs, other efficiency improvements (which would also reduce fuel use anyway). Of course, some uses of fuel can’t be replaced with electricity.

    I’m curious where you got your glass information – not doubting you, just would like to know more.

    For more see:
    (another version, with less rounding, of my calculations can be found near the end of the comments)

    And also:
    – there was a related article/blog discussing how costs compare to oil, but I can’t find it now; however I just found this:
    which gives a lower cost figure than I had used.

  36. 286
    Bryan S says:

    Ray: If you don’t like my opinion on this, then ignore it. It was merely my unsubstantiated, unscientific opinion (as I tried to make clear), and was not intended to counter any specific argument or suggestion made by either you or Barton. Sorry that you took offense.

    In conducting geological research in some remote and beautiful places, I have at times had to come to terms with my own personal emotions. I can remember one such instance after making a mountain helicopter landing on an outcrop along the Alaska Peninsula. While peering over the virtually unspoiled landscape in all directions, I partook of a seemingly endless horizon of tundra speckled only by caribou and the contrast of three pure-white, glacier-covered steaming volcanoes with the azure blue Bering Sea as a backdrop. As the cool moist maritime air blew across my sun-scorched face caused by too many weeks in the bush, I wept. For why, I did not know. Many other remote places and scences have not tripped such an outpouring, but the emotion of that particular moment and place continues to haunt me.

    I am glad you are not equally conflicted.

  37. 287
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bryan S., No offense taken. I just think that there is a tendency for both sides here to construct straw-man arguments. Speculating about other people’s motives is not particularly productive. I am more than happy to tell you why I find the consensus science cogent.

    The oracle or ReCAPTCHA: praising consent

  38. 288
    Rod B says:

    CobblyWorlds, your 80BBL annual consumption of oil is more than 3x all I’ve seen.

  39. 289
    pete best says:

    Re #284, Mark, what exactly are you asking here ?

    40 billion barrels consumed at 30 billion per year will last 1.33 years but I am unsure if that is the question you are really asking me.

  40. 290
    Bruce Tabor says:

    “Are geologists different?”

    Yes, at least from my perspective in Australia.

    Here it seems the most vocal skeptics of AGW – of those who have a science background – are geologists. Robert Carter and Ian Plimer are two names that come to mind.

    We may have a biased sample. (As a statistician it’s somthing I’m always aware of.) Alternatively there may be bias in the measuring instrument – media noise!

    It is possible that the dominance of the export economy by miners, including coal miners, may be a significant factor in producing what seems to be a disproportionate number of skeptical geologists.

  41. 291
    Mark says:

    Pete, #289. No, that was the question I asked.

    Now 1.33 years at current rates is worth naff all in commerce. By the time you’ve worked out how to sell it and got the kinks in refinement/transport and other logistics worked out, you have no more oil.

    So although you pointed out that it wasn’t 80bbl, your changed figure doesn’t change the situation to any practical extent.

    So why did you make the correction? 6 months vs 16 months doesn’t change anything economically.

  42. 292
    pete best says:

    Re #289, I am unsure as your orginal post. I was pointing out to someone regarding the BBC and their take/stance on AGW as they are forbidden to have an opinion and must present both sides of the argument (for some reason).

    Your focus on oil (considering we have 1.2 trillion barrels of alleged knowne reserves according to the BP statistical review) seems to have no relevance. I was just pointing out that we only consume 300 billion barrels per decade and not 800 as was stated there.

    There is a big difference between 30 and 80 for the longevity of oil reserves at any rate.

  43. 293
    Antonio San says:

    Re: 277, [edit – no ad hom]

    No really this is backpedalling and a poor one to boot. Geologists are perfectly aware of rapid changes occuring during the past 17,000 years, the HCO, the MWP and the LIA. Those who are so myopic that they can’t link what happens geologically during 100, 1,000, 10,000, 100,000 and 1 million years are obviously poor representants of the profession because it is precisely this ability to zoom in and out that makes our viewpoint singular and precious.

  44. 294
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 293 – You don’t think paleoclimatologists don’t also have such a viewpoint? You don’t think climatologists in general appreciate or have an awareness of such knowledge?

  45. 295
    Antonio San says:

    Re: 294 Of course they do! But Dr Stewart quote is not the finest geologist’s statement ever…

  46. 296
    Mark says:

    Pete Best, #292, it’s a little over double. Now double fifty years is meaningful in a technological timescale. Double ten years is barely adequate to invent something. Double six months? Irrlelevant.
    What can we invent in six months?

  47. 297
    pete best says:

    Re #296, If you are talking about changing a global technology then indeed 50 years might indeed be relevant but oil will spell trouble economically long before then due to its supply / demand issue and its price. As it is traded globally and at a global price then come the global economy being back on track at around 3% growth per annum and global oil extraction rates falling by around 4% per annum the price at some point is going to zoom up to as high as 200 to 300 dollars per barrel and cause a major economic problem. We do not have 50 years with oil. I doubt we have 10 before it begine to severely impact the economy.

  48. 298
    Jacob Mack says:

    Geologists can offer educated, well informed and useful input to the problems of Global Warming. The issue is the ones funded by the oil companies and those that do not do their homework on what climatologists are generally saying.

  49. 299
    Jacob Mack says:

    What is more, data from geological contributions to both weather and climate variability/sensitivity are necessary and do tend to lend evidence to the seriousness of global warming as a whole and drastic regional climate change.

  50. 300
    Mark says:

    pete, #297.


    But how much change can a 4% increase manage over double a unit of time compared to a single unit of time? 4%.

    So, as I told you a few times, complaining that the figures of oil use was wrong by a factor of two is irrelevant when the oil wasn’t going to last long in either case.

    If one doctor tells me I have one month to live and another says two months, and the latter one was correct, that still means disaster. Now if one said I had twenty years to live and the other says forty years, the longer one means practically the normal life span. And that is significant.

    All I’m really looking for is you to say sorry about dissing someone who got 80bbl oil when it was actually 30bbl when the scenario meant that EITHER figure means the US reserves is a blip in the oil supply curve and THAT was what they were trying to show. Not that it was 80bbl used worldwide but that when the reserves are 40bbl and the annual use is about that, then one year is irrelevant, so crowing about how this was a saviour for economic growth is wrong.