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Friday round-up

Filed under: — gavin @ 29 August 2008

Blogging has been a little light recently (apologies!), but here are a few pieces that have caught our eye this week.

First up, the Columbia Journalism Review has a two-parter on journalistic coverage of climate change inspired by comments from Jeff Huggins on the Andy Revkin’s Dot Earth blog. The key issues CJR addresses are familiar ones to readers here: how to communicate mainstream science in a way that doesn’t distort the reality of the consensus on many issues in favour of controversy on more cutting-edge topics. Definitely worth a read, and proof (if such were needed) that commenting on blogs can make a difference to coverage.

Next, the role of CO2 as a long-term climate forcing. The old CO2 lead/lag issue keeps making the rounds as a contrarian talking point (and made a brief resurgence here in comments this week) despite the fact that the existence of impact of climate on the carbon cycle in no way invalidates the impact of CO2 (as a greenhouse gas) on climate. However, there is a nice paper in Nature this week (Lunt et al, 2008) which looks at the various proposed triggers for the onset of the quaternary glaciations at the end of the Pliocene (~3 million years ago). These triggers involve, permanent El Nino events, the closing of the Isthmus of Panama, changes in orbital forcing, tectonic uplift of the Rocky mountains – and long-term decreases in CO2 as a function of very slow variations in sea floor spreading and chemical weathering. Lunt et al find that only the change in CO2 (400 ppm to 280 ppm) can explain the changes in the ice sheet. None of the other ideas come even close.

Thus, it looks very much like the climate changed radically due to this externally forced drift in CO2 (and tectonic is external for climate purposes on this timescale). As a corollary, this is an expansion of the idea we discussed a few months back, that the long term changes in the Earth system due to external forcings might be well be larger than the classical (Charney) sensitivity we often talk about.

Third. There has been a lot of discussion on energy futures in the comments – Nature had a good rundown of the scientific constraints on the different prospects. But this video is a quite entertaining discussion of why we just can’t get our heads around the issue from Dan Gilbert (h/t GH).

Finally, a commentary on the prospects for continued employment as an Arctic ice expert (h/t Climate Feedback).


148 Responses to “Friday round-up”

  1. 51
    SecularAnimist says:

    I don’t mean to launch an off-topic discussion of electoral politics, but perhaps it is appropriate in a “weekly roundup” thread to note that in perusing several online discussions of Republican VP selection Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, I have observed an upsurge of comments from energized, even ecstatic, climate change denialists.

    They are all cheering Governor Palin’s comment about global warming and climate change that “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made” and supporting statements from officials in her administration that she believes “the jury is still out” on the anthropogenic causation of global warming.

    One comment after another cites the familiar celebrities of the denialsphere and familiar long-discredited talking points while praising Governor Palin for bravely standing up to the vast conspiracy by liberal climate researchers, perpetrating their great global warming hoax in order to destroy capitalism with windmills and compact cars.

    I would not be surprised to see a rising tide of the most tiresome, repetitious, grotesquely ignorant, yet supremely confident bordering on triumphalist, global warming denialism swelling over the shores of this site during the next two months.

  2. 52
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Thanks Gavin. FYI and FWIW, I never paste my comments from boilerplate. Ever.

  3. 53
    Rod B says:

    Ike (6), about half of DOE’s $26B budget goes to reduce dependency on oil and/or support climate concerns; this does not include their $9B lo-an program toward the same ends. Also 2/3 of their $9B regular nuclear program goes for already incurred liabilities of maintenance, security, and cleanup. Where does your seemingly misplaced criticism lay?

    (I admit the referenced link was not easily read — clearly written by public relations, not accountants, so I might have erred. Do you have any other source for your contention?)

    Gavin, thanks for the spam tip.

  4. 54

    RE some of the “buttons” Dan Gilbert says GW & its effects are not pushing.

    1. We respond to faces & people (he had pictures of Hitler, et al.), and GW doesn’t have some single, evil antagonists to fear and fight. However, there are evil-doers who have been obstructing the scientific knowledge of GW from escaping NASA & NOAA & EPA — they get my blood boiling.

    2. GW doesn’t violate our moral sensibilities the way disgusting food choices or immoral sex does — it’s just not indecent, repugnant, disgusting, or dishonorable. I disagree here; I consider it all those things to kill poor Africans, which is precisely what we are doing by causing them increased and more intense droughts through GW. Not to mention killing & harming people and other life forms through all the other GW effects. A good & funny podcast on religion & the environment, GOD IS GREEN, asks if carbon is the new sex – http://www.operationnoah.org/node/533 )

    3. We respond to immediate threats, not future threats (at least not as well). In my books GW IS an immediate threat, since we may be very close to the runaway tipping point of no return, in which we will have plunged humanity and the rest of the world over the cliff of massive death and destruction. It’s just that people seem not to be aware of this. The tipping point is perhaps near, but the death and destruction would go on for maybe 100,000 years, and it could get very bad even within this century. Still that’s a hard point to tell people so they’ll do something soon. And I think this point of responding to immediate, not future, danger was well understood by certain presidents — and that’s perhaps why they plunged us into certain wars….bec we were getting too concerned about GW, and they needed to distract us (maybe this is too cynical, but it did cross my mind).

    4. The brain is sensitive to relative and fast change, not absolute and slow change. We don’t see gradual change (Gore made that point in AN INCONVIENT TRUTH with the frog in heating water). Gilbert made the great point that if people of the 1940s could see the environmental harm of today — the polluted water, air, etc., they’d be horrified. But bec these have happened very slowly day-by-day, we just aren’t aware of them. We’ve come to accept the polluted world as is.

    And likewise we don’t perceive the increasing effects of GW, bec they are happening so slowly — the increasing droughts, storm intensities, wildfires, heat spells, floods. These are perhaps considered “that’s just the way it is,” by most people.

    However, I sort of think that these harms are escalating even faster than the scientists were predicting 20 years ago, and the scientists are totally shocked by the alacrity of these intensifications, and even a part of the public is noticing that this is not just the way the world is. The Republicans are shaking in their boots over Hurricane Gustav; they know the current admin failed on Katrina, and that many people are perhaps blaming Republicans for doing nothing re the GW that is spawning more intense hurricanes.

    OTOH, maybe Gilbert is right, and GW & its horrible effects will become “that’s the way the world is” in the minds of people, even if they are aware it’s human-caused. The next “do-nothing” strategy of the powers that be. Yes, GW is happening, and yes we are causing it, and yes it is very harmful, but “that’s just the way it is – get used to it.”

  5. 55
    Peter Ward says:

    Thanks for the great responses to my query about CO2 and icecaps – as a life-long Cretaceous worker dabbling in other times, and very worried about our future, I am perplexed by late Cretaceous sea level changes – really fast in the Campanian/Maastrichtian, suggesting ice cap melting/freezing, but high CO2. Is there a general model of when ice caps can and cannot form relative to CO2 levels that goes beyond Royer, Berner, and others cited in this thread. I do not want to take up valuable space here, but surely a predictive point of view using the past might help us understand how much time we have before high tide.

  6. 56
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Ike Solem #50

    First, how much water would it take to cool it? It would operate on the standard boil-water-and-spin-a-turbine-to-generate electricity, right?

    A lot, but no more than any other technology producing the same energy using boiling water.

    Second, how would all that electricity be distributed to the end user?

    Copper wire. And when the copper runs out, aluminium wire ;-)

    Third, you would need another,uranium or plutonium reactor to generate the heavy isotopes of hydrogen needed for the process, as well.

    No, why? The reactor produces a high flux of neutrons which are used to convert lithium to tritium. Deuterium is stable and can be extracted from sea water.

    The neutron flux is the only residual waste problem, as it would activate the reactor structure, limit its age and have to be disposed of. But it’s orders of magnitude less than with fission.

    Another problem non-existent for fusion would be weapons proliferation due to civilian and military technologies being joined at the hip. It is true that inertial-containment fusion and directed-energy weapons are similarly connected, but the latter are hard to use offensively.

    The prospect of a planetary nuclear gangland is no prettier than any of the climatic scenarios we are trying to avoid, but apparently it is easier for folks like Hansen and Lovelock to see the threat they deeply understand than the one they do not. It would become them to acquire such insight before speaking out :-(

    The biggest problem with fusion though is just getting it to work in the first place.

  7. 57
    Lawrence Brown says:

    Re: 51
    “They are all cheering Governor Palin’s comment about global warming and climate change that “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made” and supporting statements from officials in her administration that she believes “the jury is still out” on the anthropogenic causation of global warming.”

    What does she attribute GW to- Divine Intelligence? It’s good to hear her non-authoritative opinion on this matter, but it’s pure BS! Red meat for the far right.
    If she thinks “the jury is still out” wrt the human factor , she hasn’t been anywhere near the courtroom lately,in fact not in a long time.

  8. 58
    Timothy Chase says:

    SecularAnimist wrote in 51:

    I don’t mean to launch an off-topic discussion of electoral politics, but perhaps it is appropriate in a “weekly roundup” thread to note that in perusing several online discussions of Republican VP selection Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, I have observed an upsurge of comments from energized, even ecstatic, climate change denialists.

    They are all cheering Governor Palin’s comment about global warming and climate change that “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made” and supporting statements from officials in her administration that she believes “the jury is still out” on the anthropogenic causation of global warming.

    She is into creationism as well:

    The volatile issue of teaching creation science in public schools popped up in the Alaska governor’s race this week when Republican Sarah Palin said she thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the state’s public classrooms.

    Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night’s televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, “Teach both. You know, don’t be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it’s so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both.”

    ‘Creation science’ enters the race
    GOVERNOR: Palin is only candidate to suggest it should be discussed in schools.
    By TOM KIZZIA, Anchorage Daily News, Published: October 27, 2006
    http://dwb.adn.com/news/politics/elections/story/8347904p-8243554c.html

    … which is bound to get cheers out of many of the same people.

  9. 59
    John Melnick says:

    “If the deniers are right, nothing irretrievable has been lost. If the deniers are wrong, we’re all stuffed and cooked.” The latter is self evident – but the “if” is pivotal. To the former I say “not quite”. An overreaction to a perceived threat followed by a series of reactionary decisions on economic policy could result in a loss of the US’s status as a preeminent economic and military power. Some may cheer at this prospect but I ask them: “If not the US then who would you like to see in the driver’s seat”? The wrong choice could lead to irretrievable consequences for civilized society as we know it. IMHO.

  10. 60
    Tom Stark says:

    The epistemologist in Gavin might be interested in this:

    http://www.the-thinking-man.com/global-warming.html

    [Response: Curses! Philosophical theorizing yet again proves global warming can't be happening or if it is nothing can possibly be done. Back to the drawing board then... But as an aside, how do you feel about medical advice? Do you still smoke? How's your cholesterol? weight? And why should anyone be concerned about these things? Let's see how consistent your philosophy is. - gavin]

  11. 61
    pete best says:

    Looks like the UK press have gone a bit mad on geoengineering solutions today after the Royal Society released some kind of statement/report decrying the state of CO2 emissions and what we are doing to curtail them (er nothing to be fair) and hence we must engineer a solution or adapt.

    So for all those who think that carrying on as usual is best then it looks like for the present at least you are suceeding. Apparantly the frustration is starting to get to some people as they see literally nothing being done on a large scale to combat AGW especially in the USA I guess.

  12. 62
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #55: Peter, I think this recent Hansen et al paper (supporting material here) is exactly what you want.

    Specifically on the Maastrichtian, see the detailed discussion in this submitted Climate of the Past paper. The authors state that their next step is a paper addressing the details of the glaciations. The Hansen paper discusses why the relationship between CO2 levels and glaciations during this period is probably not a very good guide for our immediate future, however.

    Note finally that Gavin and co-authors have a new paper out on the Greenland ice sheet. It would seem that it’s probably not long for the world.

    [Response: Actually, the paper is about the Laurentide ice sheet (greenland only gets a small mention). - gavin]

  13. 63
    CL says:

    59, John Melnick,

    “An overreaction to a perceived threat followed by a series of reactionary decisions on economic policy could result in a loss of the US’s status as a preeminent economic and military power. Some may cheer at this prospect but I ask them: “If not the US then who would you like to see in the driver’s seat”? The wrong choice could lead to irretrievable consequences for civilized society as we know it.”

    John, you have a point, re economic effects, but I was looking at the situation from a biological perspective.

    I don’t, personally, attach importance to nationality. The chance event of being born in a particular locality doesn’t seem to me, to be a rational basis for identity. We’re all in the same boat, and if it sinks, we all go down.

    As for having American imperialism in the driving seat…isn’t America the major cause of the problem, both historically and on-going ? Who else ? Well, maybe Sweden, or Bhutan.

    As I see it, it’s not a choice between good or bad. It’s a choice between mitigated catastrophes or the disappearance of human civilisation.

  14. 64

    SecularAnimist posts:

    They are all cheering Governor Palin’s comment about global warming and climate change that “I’m not one though who would attribute it to being man-made” and supporting statements from officials in her administration that she believes “the jury is still out” on the anthropogenic causation of global warming.

    I understand she wants creationism taught in public-school science classes too. It’s just two issues, but it looks a lot like she’s a scientific illiterate.

  15. 65
    CL says:

    Isn’t it curious how certain attitudes seem to cluster together ?

    I wonder, if her child had a headache, and the spec-ialist doctor said “It’s a brain tumour”, she’d say “No, it isn’t, I know better”. I mean, she’s not a climates scientist, nor even a scientist, so she has no expertise or insight into the matter to be able to make an informed judgement.

    But then, you don’t need to actually know anything about anything to qualify as a politician.
    As Kruschev said, “When it comes to gathering popular support, a politician will promise every village a new bridge, even where there are no rivers”

    I find the ‘cut off the left foreleg’ quite barbaric. It reminds me of King Leopold’s Belgian Congo, with photos of enormous piles of hands and ears, severed from natives who refused to obey the rubber tappers.

    http://www.defenders.org/newsroom/press_releases_folder/2007/03_27_2007_judge_asked_to_shut_down_wolf_bounty_program.php

    reCaptcha says ‘Yield SEVERED’. Hmmm.

  16. 66
    Leonard Evens says:

    Getting back to the initial discussion of why people find it hard to react to the threat of climate change, I think the analysis ignored the fact that people seem to respond strongly to the threat of eternal damnation, although they have little evidence for it from their daily experience. It is all based on what someone else has told them about what may happen to them after they die. Although there are many departures from what religious leaders teach people, they are still extremely successful at governing behavior. Whole societies have been in the past and continue to be today motivated by hypothetical threat, which can never be proven.

    So what explains the difference. Why are many people in the US, for example, regularly motivated by what they think may happen to them after death, but don’t seem to be specially concerned about what may happen to their children and grandchildren because of their actions today, where there is some good evidence, if not certainty.

    Perhaps if we understood the difference, we might make more progress getting people to modify their behavior so that we could minimize the effects of climate change.

  17. 67
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Re #60 Tom Stark

    From what little search I have done, there doesn’t seem to exist a clear constitutionally valid definition of ‘religion’. But in a common sense sense, this kind of solipsistic libertarianism unshaken by mere fact very much is a religion — and a fundamentalist one to boot. With potentially interesting legal consequences…

    Reminds me of some Marxists-Leninists I used to know. Religion that, too. As my old friend Vladimir Ilyich used to say: useful idiots.

  18. 68
    Rod B says:

    I threw out a passing mostly humorous comment about Nancy Pelosi, planning to just let it lay. But some of the posts here bring it back to unexpected relevance. Everyone is going gaga and piling on Gov. Palin’s comments on AGW (and throwing creationism in for good measure.) This is understandable. What is curious is why these same posters who are criticizing Palin’s scientific illiteracy, are not jumping all over Pelosi, someone already in power with significant authority to directly affect the outcome right now (and only two heartbeats away from the Presidency) , for showing explicit and unarguable sandbox-101 scientific illiteracy by stating a number of times “natural gas is not a fossil fuel”. Is there “good” and “bad” scientific illiteracy in the minds of scientists?

    [Response: Ignorance is curable. Denial, not so much. Pelosi was obviously confused and is wrong. If she ever says the same thing again (now that she's no doubt been informed about the true origin of natural gas), then I'll both be surprised and more critical. The sad fact is that most politicians mis-speak out of unfamiliarity with the details of scientific (and other matters) - my experience is that politicians know much less than we often give them credit for (and that is very true for climate change). Their staff and advisors are another thing entirely - they are usually very well informed indeed (with the possible exception of Inhofe's). - gavin]

  19. 69
    Gary P says:

    Getting back to the subject, one item in the Lunt et al paper caught my eye. 400 ppm. I thought we were at the highest level of CO2 concentration ever in the last 2 million years. Could you please post a graph of what Lunt et al say was the CO2 concentration over the last 2 million years. (I really don’t have the luxury of spending my money to download scientific papers.)

    [Response: The Pliocene is more than 2 million years ago. - gavin]

  20. 70
    Jeff says:

    Rod B (#53),
    I had a look at the 2008 Appropriations Bill for the DOE Budget, and the numbers are different from what you quoted. I lay no claim to whether these percentages are good or bad for the US in the long haul, but I thought that some folks might be interested:

    The 2008 budget was $28.1 Billion and it breaks down as follows:

    Defense related: $15.4 Billion, or 55% of the budget
    Nuclear (non defense): $ 1.9 Billion, or 7% of the budget
    Fossil Fuels: $ 2.1 Billion, or 8% of the budget
    Alternative Energy: $ 1.8 Billion, or 6% of the budget
    Power Plants/ Dams $ 1.4 Billion, or 5% of the budget
    Science $ 4.0 Billion, or 14% of the budget

    Of course, the percentage devoted to science research should be bumped up, but that’s the only pitch I would make!!

    Cheers,
    Jeff

  21. 71
    CL says:

    59, John Melnick,

    “… in a loss of the US’s status as a preeminent economic and military power.”

    Some food for thought, John, as to how that notion looks from the outside.

    http://www.countercurrents.org/oneall010908.htm

  22. 72
    dhogaza says:

    Everyone is going gaga and piling on Gov. Palin’s comments on AGW (and throwing creationism in for good measure.) This is understandable. What is curious is why these same posters who are criticizing Palin’s scientific illiteracy, are not jumping all over Pelosi

    I live in the state of Oregon. I will be voting for Vice President. I will not be voting for or against Pelosi, because I don’t live in her district in California. Only something like one of thirty-five Californians are eligible to vote for or against her.

    Perhaps it will become a campaign issue. It would certainly be legit given the rules of the game. But I doubt I’ll never know, because I rarely pay attention at all to Congressional races outside my district. The last Congressman in California I cared about was Pombo, because of his seniority and constant attacks on the environmental protection act (among other things). Now that the Dems have control, I don’t even know if *he* is still in.

  23. 73
    Jeff says:

    While browsing online, I happened upon a book entitled A History of Atmospheric CO2 and Its Effects on Plants, Animals, and Ecosystems, by authors J. R. Ehleringer, T. E. Cerling, and Maria-Denise Dearing (2005). You can read excerpts of this book online: Atmospheric CO2 data from ice cores: four climatic cycles

    In this article, they talk about the lead versus lag issue in the Antarctic ice cores, and propose an explanation that I hadn’t heard before. The authors acknowledge that CO2 lagged the temperature increase in Antarctic ice cores by 800 ±200 years, but say:

    The rapid glacial-interglacial temperature increase in Greenland obviously lags the rise in CO2 and the Antarctic temperature increase. Greenland temperature and the global CH4 signal change in concert (at least for the main features over the last termination). Therefore we can regard the CH4 signal recorded in the Vostok ice core as a proxy for Greenland temperature. If this analogy holds, the CO2 increase over the last four glacial-interglacial terminations has always occurred before a major temperature increase in the Northern Hemisphere (Pépin et al. 2001). In summary, the CO2 increase probably lags the Antarctic temperature increase by a few hundred years but precedes the Greenland temperature increase by a few millennia as does the Antarctic temperature.

    I don’t think that climate scientists have emphasized enough that the Antarctic temperature record does not represent the global temperature record. I know that there are passing references to this in past RealClimate articles, but they were not worded very strongly, to the point that I did not even remember them being discussed until I went back and had a look. My questions are:

    (1) What constraints do we have on global temperatures for the last four interglacials, including ice cores and other proxies?

    (2) Does temperature really lag CO2 in the Northern Hemisphere during the last four glacial/interglacial transitions?

    The notion that CO2 would lag temperature in the Southern Hemisphere makes sense to me, given that Milankovitch forcings initiated the transitions from glacial to interglacial conditions. CO2 degassing from oceans would occur over hundreds of years, and since most of the oceans are in the Southern Hemisphere, that hemisphere should warm first. I can also see methane rising about the same time that ice sheets were melting in the Northern Hemisphere, due to trapped methane reservoirs in permafrost. Is that a fair analysis?

    My last question would be what happened to the Southern Annular Mode, such that temperatures could warm in the Antarctic?

  24. 74
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Pelosi

    Telling the outdated story is disingenuous.
    You could have looked this up and reported the correction issued a week ago.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2008/08/24/pelosi-on-natural-gas-fossil-fuel-or-not/

    “Update: “She knows it [natural gas] is a fossil fuel but includes it because compared to other fossil fuels (coal and oil) it burns more cleanly,” said Pelosi’s spokesman, Brendan Daly. “Also, it is plentiful domestically and cheaper.”

    ———————————————————————————————————
    Natural gas really does get treated differently than any other fossil fuel, certainly in California. Check your local building codes, I’ll bet it does where you are also, nowadays.

    Why? Natural gas is much less lossy in transmission than electricity over long distances.

    I recently checked into replacing our old gas hot water heater, installed 32 years ago.*

    Transmission losses for electricity are estimated by the city building office at 40 percent, and energy efficiency of the housing stock longterm is a criterion. They permit switching from gas to electric hot water heat only after assessing attic and underfloor insulation, and adding either solar hot water boost or a heat pump system, to recapture that efficiency loss in retrofits.

    By contrast, a replacement of a gas hot water heater with a new one (better insulated, better flame control, electronic ignition) is a simple no-problem permit. The gas hot water heaters available now are well insulated, pizeo ignition, and flame controls. (As of next year our area will join the LA area in also requiring a nitrogen oxides control system standard on gas hot water heaters).
    We’d looked into it because electric is easier to later upgrade to solar boosted (except in our city you have to do the whole installation at the same time, as above). An electric hot water heater can just have its bottom heating element removed and replaced with the heat exchange loop directly, both for solar boost and for a heat pump boost, and can use a long-lived plastic tank instead of a glass-lined steel tank. So for new construction it makes sense to do it all at once.
    http://apps1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/your_home/water_heating/index.cfm/mytopic=12840
    “… While a refrigerator pulls heat from inside a box and dumps it into the surrounding room, a stand-alone air-source heat pump water heater pulls heat from the surrounding air and dumps it—at a higher temperature—into a tank to heat water. You can purchase a stand-alone heat pump water heating system as an integrated unit with a built-in water storage tank and back-up resistance heating elements….”

    (What I want is a way to have our kitchen refrigerator’s waste heat captured to a holding tank to prewarm cold water for our hot water heater. An addon heat pump to add to a hot water system is about the same size and costs a thousand dollars — while the refrigerator sits in the kitchen blowing hot air on your feet yearround. Anyone going to invent this?)

    Summing up, for local politicians and building/zoning people, natural gas is thought of as very different. Yes, it’s a fossil fuel (I’m sure Pelosi wasn’t pushing the abiogenic methane theory).

    ______________________
    * How to get more years of service from a hot water heater:
    – add a long curved dip tube, that swirls the water at the bottom of the tank, reducing the tendency of crud to adhere and insulate right over the flame; add and replace the optional addon corrosion protection rod every decade or so; flush out the sediment from the bottom of the tank, running a few gallons of hot (HOT! CAREFUL) water out the lower drain valve every three or four months as recommended (not turning it off and draining it, just letting the incoming cold water flush the sediment out the drain valve).

    Our plumber says we are the only customers he has who listen to him; he gets comparable long service out of his gas hot water heater. If your gas hot water heater makes ‘bumping’ noises, look into the above before the pounding puts little cracks in the inside enamel and it starts to rust out.

    Oh, and buy a “Leakfrog” too, it’s precautionary good sense. You know how to find this stuff.
    _____________
    reCaptcha: prudence There

  25. 75
    Richard Ordway says:

    Gavin et al. Re. “…the onset of the quaternary glaciations…”

    I’m confused. During the the quaternary glaciations, didn’t the Milankovitch cycles change from strong 40,000 year pulses to 100,000 year cycles?

    CO2 shifts couldn’t explain this, could it?…or what is the latest thinking on why the cycles changed from 40,000 to 100,000?

  26. 76
    Schmert says:

    The subject of religeon seems to have been brought up more than a few times in the replies above, which raises the question, was the biblical quotation ‘And the meek shall inherit the earth’ actually refering to Jellyfish?

    I’m not convinced that there is a growing culture of denial about climate issues, but I think there is a qrowing fear of public panic and civil unrest. The wearing of the ‘bag for life’ supermarket T-shirt is just about all the vast majority of people can actually do about, and whilst the recycling is over-filling the media is claiming that the US’s best year for hurricanes, has got nothing to do with it, it’s not really in the public interest to know that, it’s likely that ‘the end is nigh’.

    A couple of years the UN security council upgraded climate change to a global security issue, they seem now to expecting wars over land, water, food resources etc.

    Would it be best for the majority of people (general public) to be left to stockpile the excess carrier bags, in green T-shirts, whilst those that can, do something about it, then hopefully no-one will notice there was a problem in the first place, and no-one goes out of there minds, although the problem is, it’s likely they won’t.

  27. 77
    Hank Roberts says:

    On the 40- (or 41- or thereabouts) to 100 (or so) thousand year change — that question’s called the “Transition Problem”

    Search within RC, it and much else about this addressed before, particularly inline by Gavin in responses.

    More generally search: +Milankovitch +”Transition Problem”

    “The “Transition Problem,” for example, asks why, prior to a million years ago, cycles occurred at 41,000-year intervals, but after a million years ago, they occurred only at 100,000-year intervals.”
    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2007/08/the-milankovich.html

    Short answer: complexity, including evolution changing primary productivity feedbacks, continental drift changing circulation patterns. Much more if you run that suggested search.

  28. 78
    Timothy Chase says:

    Jeff in 73 says:

    In this article, they talk about the lead versus lag issue in the Antarctic ice cores, and propose an explanation that I hadn’t heard before. The authors acknowledge that CO2 lagged the temperature increase in Antarctic ice cores by 800 ±200 years, but say:…

    Setting aside which hemisphere follows which, I hope you don’t mind if I focus on the lead vs. lag.

    Rant follows…

    Lead vs. lag — in a system subject to positive feedback, the central questions are: “What is the forcing?” and “What is the feedback?” Orbital forcing causes increased solar insulation (absorption of solar radiation), gradually raising the temperature of the ocean, resulting in a reduction in its capacity to retain gases — including carbon dioxide. This raises the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, making the atmosphere more “opaque” (sorry, Hank!) to thermal radiation. (I could show you infrared images of it doing exactly this over western and eastern seaboards of the US due to higher population density, traffic and carbon dioxide emissions.) Given that energy continues to enter the system at the same rate but escapes the atmosphere at a reduced rate, the temperature of the climate system must rise until the temperature to the power of four (thermal emission of radiation in accordance with Planck’s law) rises enough to compensate for the increased opacity of the atmosphere to infrared radiation, and the rate at which energy leaves the system is equal to the rate at which energy enters the system. This basically follows from the conservation of energy. So in this case — what we predominantly see in the paleoclimate record — the increased solar insulation is the forcing, carbon dioxide the feedback — and we would not be able to explain the extent to which the temperature rose simply by means of the increased solar insulation alone.

    However, there are other points in the paleoclimate record where carbon dioxide or methane rose first, before temperature, and temperature followed carbon dioxide. Good case in point: the Permian/Triassic extinction. A supervolcano in Siberia erupted for over a million years, with lava releasing methane from shallow water methane hydrate deposits. The opacity of the atmosphere climbed first, then temperature. So it is false to say that carbon dioxide (or methane) always follows temperature. We see both. Temperatures may increase first or greenhouse gases may increase first. For the most part the climate system doesn’t really care where the forcing comes from — whatever the forcing thatinitially results in an imbalance in radiation going out vs. radiation coming in, the results will largely be the same.

    But not entirely the same… Initially, increases in solar insolation will tend to raise the temperature of both the troposphere and stratosphere as visible light gets absorbed at the surface and ultraviolet by ozone in the stratosphere. In contrast, increased opacity of the atmosphere due to greenhouse gases will lower the amount of thermal radiation that is able to reach the stratosphere, cooling the stratosphere while the troposphere warms due to the reduction in the rate at which thermal radiation is able to escape it. Thus you have a signature of global warming due to greenhouse gases. It has been observed. There are others. For example, increased solar insulation would tend warm days more than nights, but an increase in the opacity of the atmosphere due to greenhouse gases would tend to warm nights more than days. This has also been observed.

    Basically what the denialists are counting on are people being gullible, unable to realize that there is such a thing as positive feedback.

  29. 79
    Jeff says:

    Timothy (78),
    Perhaps you miss the point of my questions. I don’t dispute that CO2 can be a forcing or a feedback, and that it was certainly a feedback during glacial/interglacial transitions. In fact, I agree with everything you wrote. Your response does not, however, answer the two questions that I pose. What I am postulating is that it is in fact wrong to say that CO2 lags temperature during the last four interglacials, because Antarctic temperatures are not representative of global temperatures. If Greenland’s temperatures didn’t start rising until thousands of years after CO2 started to increase, how can one say that CO2 lags (global) temperature? Perhaps by mentioning Southern Hemisphere and Northern Hemisphere I was only causing confusion. What is necessary, however, is a globally averaged temperature record before one can even discuss lead versus lag. I find that this concept has been missing from all discussions.

    Cheers,
    Jeff

  30. 80
    Steve Bloom says:

    Two excellent articles on the Beeb site:

    – Rigor mortis sets in on the cosmic ray-climate connection.

    – The Hockey Stick is back! Mike and team have updated it with the multitude of new available proxies. Unsurprisingly, things remain flattish. Expect a paroxyxm of bile from the usual sources.

  31. 81
    ChuckG says:

    Fusion!?
    I am 73 years old. I can remember reading in Popular Mechanics or Popular Science or Science Digest (remember that one?) or Scientific American in the mid-’50s that unlimited virtually free electric power was only twenty, repeat-20, years away.

    Guess what kids? ‘Tis been 20 years away ever since!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ITER
    According to researchers at a demonstration reactor in Japan, a fusion generator should be feasible in the 2030s and no later than the 2050s.

  32. 82
    CL says:

    Schmert, 76, said

    “…whilst those that can, do something about it…”

    Thing is, who are ‘those that can’?

    The vast majority, who are pre-occupied with the problems of their daily survival ?

    Or, the few, who are vastly rich ? Or the powerful political leaders ?

    http://www.countercurrents.org/walberg310808.htm

    I heard a quote, ‘An avalanche is built of snowflakes’…

    IMHO, we, as a species, have reached the greatest crisis in human history. We should stop calling it ‘climate change’; we should start calling it climate crisis, or climate chaos, or climate cataclysm…

    Maybe it’s the people I contact, but I don’t know of any serious, educated, informed person who is not deeply apprehensive.

    It is possible that the super-wealthy elite, the 6000 or so mentioned in the link above, believe they can insulate themselves and ride out a crash in global population, rather than make the changes that would address the roots of the problem.

    Personally, I think most politicians and CEOs are stressed, harried individuals, who have no time or leisure to look at our predicament in a long-term eco-historical perspective. They see red lights flashing, and pull levers, without a clue as to where we are going to end up…

    Maybe we’ve just exceeded carrying capacity, and are due for a population crash, and there’s little we can do to avoid it.

    I mean, commentators in ancient Rome could foresee collapse of that empire, and analysed the causes correctly, but still could do nothing effective to prevent it from happening.

    What can I do ? What can you do ?

    http://www.greatchange.org/footnotes-overshoot-st_matthew_island.html

    http://www.greatchange.org/footnotes-overshoot-easter_island.html

  33. 83
    ChuckG says:

    dhogaza Says:
    1 September 2008 at 1:13 PM

    The last Congressman in California I cared about was Pombo, because of his seniority and constant attacks on the environmental protection act (among other things). Now that the Dems have control, I don’t even know if *he* is still in.

    Dems brought in someone specifically to get rid of him. He has a lot in common with the new VPpotential (R-AK). ‘Twas a happy day when he lost.

  34. 84
    Ike Solem says:

    RodB:

    Ike (6), about half of DOE’s $26B budget goes to reduce dependency on oil and/or support climate concerns; this does not include their $9B lo-an program toward the same ends. Also 2/3 of their $9B regular nuclear program goes for already incurred liabilities of maintenance, security, and cleanup. Where does your seemingly misplaced criticism lay?

    The general categories in the DOE budget request are:

    Nuclear Security: $9.385 billion
    Environmental Responsibility: $6.344 billion
    Scientific Discovery: $4.398 billion
    Energy Security: $3.123 billion
    Management Excellence: $0.629 billion

    Where might the solar, wind and biofuel research money be hiding?

    Scientific Discovery might be a good place to look, but the wording is extremely vague in the subsections. Here are the only two possible places in that section:
    Biological and environmental research………..$0.531 billion
    Basic energy sciences………………………$1.498 billion

    There is no mention of solar or wind energy in the descriptions of those programs, and very little mention of biofuels.
    (There is also half a billion directly earmarked for fusion research)

    How about Energy Security?
    Yes, there it is, under the subheading “Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy”:

    Biomass and biorefinery systems R&D……………..$0.179 billion
    Solar energy………………………………….$0.148 billion
    Wind energy…………………………………. $0.040 billion

    There is also an Office of Nuclear Energy in this section, $874 billion. There is no Office of Wind Energy, or Office of Solar Energy, or Office of Biofuel Energy.

    So, that’s it in the overall budget, according to this document:
    http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/08budget/Content/Highlights/Highlights.pdf

    So, how does the solar money work?

    Through the Solar America Initiative (SAI), the Solar Program is accelerating the market competitiveness of solar electricity as industry-led teams compete to deliver photovoltaic (PV) systems ($137.3 million) that are less expensive, more efficient, and highly reliable…. In addition, the Solar program is working with industry to lower the cost of concentrating solar power technologies ($9.0 million) and to develop thermal storage capabilities that will enhance its value to utilities and allow solar to compete in large-scale centralized generation markets.

    It’s not about funding basic science at the university level. The details are at: http://www.doe.gov/news/4855.htm

    The teams selected for negotiation have formed Technology Pathway Partnerships (TPP), which include companies, laboratories, universities, and non-profit organizations to accelerate the drive towards commercialization of U.S.-produced solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. These partnerships are comprised of more than 50 companies, 14 universities, 3 non-profit organizations, and 2 national laboratories. DOE funding is expected to begin in FY’07, with $51.6 million going to the TPPs.

    However, this is a cart-before-the-horse program – because there are no basic renewable energy research centers of note, outside of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory – which may be involved peripherally in the solar research. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, oddly enough, is managed by a joint partnership between Bechtel, noted pipeline constructor and nuclear contractor, and Battelle Memorial Institute, the non-profit research corporation that is also leading the public-private FutureGen coal capture project. Back in 1997, they canceled their research into what most people would agree is the highest-yield-per-acre biofuel source, algal biodiesel. The 1998 wrap-up report is here: http://www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/fy98/24190.pdf

    So, that’s why you don’t see large scale renewable energy research projects at the nation’s universities and National Laboratories. There is no federal money available to do it, and the private contractors that manage the DOE energy program are not at all interested in developing replacements for coal, oil and nuclear power.

    We could look to privately funded efforts to do renewable energy (“public-private partnerships”), such as Stanford University’s “Global Climate and Energy Program”, GCEP, which has several hundred million in private funding. The lead donors are ExxonMobile and Schlumberger Oil Field Services, along with Toyota and General Electric. They each have a representative on the committee that makes the final decisions over which projects get funded – but don’t worry, Stanford has a seat at the table as well – and a vote, just like the others. The private partners also get an exclusive extendable 5-year patent control clause.

    Exxon is also very excited about seeing its profits collapse as electric cars take over the market, and so is Toyota. Schlumberger wants to do less business, not more, and GE wants to shut down their entire nuclear division. There is not a single conflict-of-interest issue that needs airing here. And so on.

    Hope that clarifies things a little bit.

  35. 85
    dhogaza says:

    Dems brought in someone specifically to get rid of him. He has a lot in common with the new VPpotential (R-AK). ‘Twas a happy day when he lost.

    Oh, thanks for that, no wonder he hasn’t done anything bad recently!

    And I meant Endangered Species Act above, I brain-farted.

  36. 86
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 84 – that’s maddening.

    Re 73,75,77,78,79:

    CO2 feedback mechanisms are more complex than the simple ‘warm water dissolves less gas’. They have to be, because, while a temperature drop increases the ratio of concentration of a saturated solution of gas to the partial pressure in the overlying air, the change in partial pressure of the air that occurs is too great. Also, if the total organic C content of vegetation and soil declines while atmospheric C declines, that also has to go into the ocean somehow.

    Of course, gas dissolved at depth in the ocean (below the mixed layer) might stay dissolved regardless of atmospheric partial pressures (?)

    But with CO2, it is important to remember that it’s more complex than a physical reaction of going into or out of solution. It also gets converted to carbonate and bicarbonate ions. It affects the PH. The abundance of cations (like Ca ions) affects this. PH affects the abundance of cations (by affecting the stability of CaCO3 solid in the water). The ions affect how much CO2 can be taken up from the air. etc. I don’t know exactly how it all works.

    Other mechanisms I am aware of:

    fertilization of plankton by wind-blown dust (or whatever other mechanism?) – some fraction may fall to the deep ocean. While some fraction may be oxydized there the CO2 produced in the deep ocean may stay there until reaching an upwelling region (PS perhaps increased phytoplankton by upwelling nutrients would thus be ineffective at loading the deep ocean with CO2, considering where the dead plankton would be falling?).

    Change in deep ocean currents, thermohaline circulation – because how much CO2 that goes into or stays in water (aside from decay from plankton falling into it at depth) is affected by the chemistry of the water and the regional climate where the water was last in the mixed layer, and the chemistry of the water is affected by where it comes from and what the conditions were like, for example, when it was at the sea floor over some carbonate minerals and dead plankton (?) – I think.

    Also, when an ice sheet forms, wouldn’t it form on top of the soil before pushing the soil out? So maybe some cold organic C stays in the soil and then gets released from moraines as the ice recedes – or gets washed into the ocean (or lakes), and then see above (more speculative ideas on my part).

    There may be some other points – see also Ruddiman – “Earth’s Climate Past and Future”

    ——–

    Over long periods of time, geologic outgassing (including oxydation of organic C in sedimentary rocks – not sure how big a source that is relative to directly inorganic geologic CO2 emissions) must tend to balance chemical weathering and organic carbon burial (from memory, I think organic carbon burial is typically ~ 20% of the total rate of geologic sequestration of carbon).

    chemcial weathering:
    CaSiO3 (for example) + CO2 (slightly acidic rainwater) -> SiO2 (for example) + CaCO3 (or another carbonate mineral)

    net photosynthesis (focus on C) CO2 -> O2 + organic C.

    geologic outgassing (inorganic):

    CaCO3 + SiO2 under heating (I think) -> CaSiO3 (in magma, then lave, then rock) + CO2

    oxydation of organic C – no need to show formulas there…

    organic burial on land is favored by flat areas (no erosion, poor drainage) with wet (warm, I think) climates, I think.

    chemical weathering is enhanced by warmer and wetter conditions and by rapid mechanical weathering. A tropical mountain range in the path of monsoon rains helps (Himalayas – Tibet itself affects the Asian monsoon) (sure, there isn’t much if any chemical weathering under the mountain glaciers, but in a steady state, glaciers continually deliver rock fragments to their edges, where they may be carried down to warmer wetter conditions, etc…)

    These are all generally slow processes, hence the negative feedback that chemical weathering provides by tending to remove CO2 faster in warmer conditions – this doens’t overwhelm the positive feedbacks of shorter term glacial-interglacial transitions. If the Earth got stuck in one state or the other long enough, and all other factors were right, the chemical weathering feedback could initiate the end of either state – but I don’t think recent 100,000 year timescale climate variations are long enough for this to be important (and there’s Milankovitch cycles).

    Interestingly, repetitive glacial-interglacial variations may, over time, produce an average increase in mechanical weathering and affect chemical weathering that way (I think) – so maybe the interglacials and glacials together have a cummulative effect on CO2 that a prolonged glaciation wouldn’t have (??)

    Continental drift, exposed land area, and in particular, the formation and location (and mineral abundances) of mountain ranges affect chemical weathering. Changes in geologic outgassing can force changes in CO2 over long time periods, changing the climate until the CO2 removal by chemical weathering responds fully, at which point a new (long-term)equilibrium is reached.

    The chemical weathering feedback helps explain the reduction of CO2 over Earth’s history while the sun has gotten brighter, but changes in geologic outgassing rates, geography, and biological evolution also have their roles.

    The negative chemical weathering feedback suggests that a prolonged period of elevated methane would tend to reduce CO2 (perhaps relevant to the later portion of the Archean in particular?). It also played (or would have played, depending) a role in the Paleoproterozoic Snowball Earth episodes – with the Earth in a frozen state for millions of years, CO2 would continually build up from geologic outgassing (meanwhile the very slow but not nonexistant water cycle would have time to produce and build land glaciers and ice sheets). Upon thawing and melting, the positive albedo feedback would have created a ‘carbonic acid sauna’, and the CO2 would have been quickly (much faster than typical rates) drawn out the atmosphere (with the help of newly-exposed and moistenned glacial debris).

    ——-

    The timing issue – Milankovitch cycles do not repeat exactly over time – over hundreds of millions of years the moon has drifted away from the Earth, the Earth has slowed it’s spin and its equatorial bulge has shrunk, and that certainly affects precession and obliquity cycles. Over shorter time periods, the ~ 100,000 year eccentricity cycle is modulated (or occurs on top of?) a ~ 400,000 (or is it closer to 450,000 or 500,000 – I forget) year eccentricity cycle, so that, for example, we are approaching a lower eccentricity value than we’ve had for a few glaciations and interglacials.

    But in as far as the change in climate response around – 700,000 or 900,000 years ago, something like that – is concerned:

    The precession cycle is modulated by the eccentricity cycle – the effect of precession is simply to change the seasonal timing of the effect of eccentricity, so when the eccentricity is low the precession cycle’s effect is weak. The three cycles work together to vary the climate forcing, which is mainly a seasonal and latitudinal redistribution of sunlight (the global and annual average top-of-atmosphere solar forcing changes very little) – which at times may favor ice sheet growth or shrinkage – depending on the overall climate state of the globe, at some high latitudes, depending on ocean currents and land distribution, etc, there could be regions where, when the Milankovitch forcing reduces the seasonal extremes in regional solar heating, mild wet winters may have enough snow accumulation that the mild summers cannot melt it all – whereas greater seasonal extremes could lead to greater summer melting, and maybe less winter accumulation (?). The precession cycle also affects low-latitude monsoons, which may in some way have an effect on ice sheet growth and decay through global circulation and moisture and temperature fluxes, though I’m not sure how important that would be (?).

    There is threshold behavior – at any given location, there is a threshold that must be crossed before an ice sheet can form, and a threshold that must be crossed (not the same threshold, due to ice-albedo effects, and to ice surface elevation, among possible other things) to start destroying an ice sheet – although I’d expect the threshold is made fuzzy by the albedo feedback itself – even if snow cover doesn’t last all year, the longer it lasts, the greater cooling effect it would have – and as air circulates, the cooling effect would affect nearby areas.

    But it still involves some thresholds (as does the precession effect on low-latitude monsoons). If one devised some sort of glaciation-favorability index based on the Milankovitch cycles, one would see crests and troughs that are not all equal – some are higher or lower than others. Thus, depending on where the thresholds are, it may sometimes be that not every crest could start a glaciation, and/or not every trough could cause a ‘full’ (except Greenland and Antarctica) deglaciation. Thus, it’s concievable (at least before examining the actual match up of Milankovitch forcing to glacials and interglacials – I’m not sure exactly what that would reveal – does anyone here know about that?) that the change in behavior sometime aroung 900,000 to 700,000 years ago may involve a shift in the thresholds, perhaps due to a longer-term decline in CO2 (although if that were the case one would be able to draw it out of the ice core records, I would think)…

    But another way to change the threshold, at least for deglaciation, is to change the rate at which the ice sheets flow under their own weight? How might one do that? By removing underlying lubrication. One idea is that, for a time, ice sheets had been forming on top of loose material, and so would spread out faster, but after a number of glaciations, they had scraped down to bedrock, so the next ice sheet would not flow so fast – and so would build up thicker. This generally leads to a higher surface elevation for a given mass of ice. A higher surface elevation will be colder, and so it will then be harder/take longer to melt the ice sheet.

    ——–

    Re 78 – just a couple of technicalities here (which you may already be aware of and just decided for brevity’s sake not to go into)- the fourth power of temperature relationship would only be strictly true for a grey gas. The stratosphere cools not just because there is less LW radiation from below but also because it is more opaque and thus cools more effectively to space. The effect on the LW radiation from the troposphere and surface is reduced as the troposphere and surface warm up, so I’d expect initial stratospheric cooling to be greater than the equilibrium cooling.

    Also, you had a typo, refering to insolation as solar insulation. I only mention this for the sake of third parties who might be confused (as you also had used ‘insolation’) – insolation refers to solar (SW) radiation, specifically to incoming solar radiation.

    ———

    Re 19 – the arrangements of continents certainly has important effects on climate, but it is not so simple. A clustering of continents closer to the equator will tend to raise the overall albedo of the Earth (magnitude of effect depending on whether or not land plants have evolved, and other things (effect on cloud cover, etc.)) and can have a cooling effect that way. One idea is that a clustering of continents at low latitudes makes the negative chemical weathering feedback less sensitive to high-latitude cooling, and if sea ice built up close enough to the equator, the albedo feedback could then cool the Earth faster than the negative chemical weathering feedback would warm it, eventually leading to a runaway ice-albedo effect – and then a Snowball Earth state.

    Continents at high latitudes provide a platform on which to build an ice sheet (if other conditions are right), but moisture supply can be an issue. A warm ocean current running by cold land would be nice. Problems can occur if the land area is too large – larger land masses tend to have larger seasonal temperature changes, and larger seasonal temperature extremes (depending on the annual average) tend to be unfavorable to growing an ice sheet. A larger continent tends to be dryer in the center – if a supercontinent were centered at high latitudes, then the moist edges might not be at high-enough latitudes for an ice sheet to develope.

    ———

    Re 55 –

    “late Cretaceous sea level changes – really fast in the Campanian/Maastrichtian”

    I take it too fast to be explained by rifting and continental collisions or any other tectonic process? Asking just to be clear – certainly not to imply that I know anything at all about the Campanian/Maastrichtian.

    PS Are you the same Peter Ward who wrote (or cowrote- I forget) “Rare Earth”?

    ———

    A wild off the wall question – would the effect of ice sheet or mountain range volume have an effect on global average greenhouse forcing? – higher elevations have less air mass above, part of the reason why they are colder on average (in terms of temperature – in terms of potential temperature, a different story – hence solar heating can drive an upslope wind…) (another potential contributor being adiabatic cooling of the air, if and when the wind is blowing up and down slopes) — BUT mountains and ice sheets displace air, and so increase the local air mass above sea level. I’m wondering if there’s any averaged effect (guessing it’s subtle, I’m just curious – Even more subtle, the existence of low pressure systems requires regions of higher-than average pressure – since low pressure systems tend to be cloudy, a greater amount/number/area of low pressure systems might conceivably increase the overall average greenhouse forcing even if the average effect on cloud cover (at any given level) itself is zero – very subtle, I’m guessing, but interesting).

    ———

    Re 36,59,63 -

    I’d be careful about ‘even if it’s not true’ arguments. In essence it’s a matter of economics – For each combination of mitigation+adaptation, there is some cost and benifit. The goal is to find the combination tha maximizes benifit-cost. The problem is how to measure costs and benifits (I’m not just talking about what is traditionally considered to have monetary value in some time period) – I’m talking about anything of any value at any time – in fact, this economic issue is also a moral issue, because it involves figuring out what we should consider to be of value), and how to deal with uncertainty (we can only try to find a likely approximate maximum).

    There is also the matter that there are other variables which may choose to influence or not – population growth, for example. A greater expected future population changes the result of the calculation. If, for an INDEPENDENT reason, we were resigned to have zero population after some time, we might devalue future consequences – although at the same time it would become less costly to mitigate as well as to adapt… well you see where that goes (even if you are only concerned with ‘inteligent life’ – people – there is still the matter of what record of our civilization we might leave behind to the next inteligent species (so that they might benifit and that we might take comfort in leaving a decodable trace of our existence) to evolve (or to the alien archeologists that may arrive on our planet)…

    Maximization requires (in this case, large scale) planning (it’s harder to enjoy a meal if you find yourself eating pizza with french toast – unless that’s your thing), but at the same time, the mechanisms of planning have costs.

    One interesting point to make – the greater the climate change forcing, the greater the uncertainty in the resulting climate, the greater the uncertainty in regional effects, etc, and uncertainty itself has a cost (but also a benifit, for those who like excitement, but we’ve got enough excitement – the times are interesting enough already, why melt the ice caps when you could go chase a tornado!)

    Anyway, without any carbon tax, solar power is cheaper than oil now, so why waste money looking for more oil (yes, you technically have to include the increase in cost for electric or hybrid cars if that’s what we’re doing, and the time frame – does it take 10 years to develop a new oil field? How long does it take to build solar cell or other solar technology factories? How will the costs of solar cells/etc. change with changing market size (it should generally decrease, at least up to a point)? How long does it take to bring a new car to market? Etc.)

  37. 87
    Jim Eaton says:

    dhogaza Says:
    1 September 2008 at 1:13 PM

    The last Congressman in California I cared about was Pombo, because of his seniority and constant attacks on the environmental protection act (among other things). Now that the Dems have control, I don’t even know if *he* is still in.

    Environmentalist and former Republican congressman Pete McCloskey came out of retirement at age 78 to run against Pombo in the primary but lost. Pete then endorsed Democrat Jerry McNerney who beat Pombo 53% to 47%. McCloskey since has registered Democratic.

  38. 88
    Schmert says:

    I suspect it’s more a case of, whilst the wealthy do something about reducing their fuel bills, in order to safeguard that wealth.

    To convert an existing vehicle to EV would cost around $30k, and whilst the term ‘Government Subsidy’ is bandied around to assist the ever increasing price of oil, a general recall of all vehicles, to be serviced correctly, would probably do more to reduce fuel consumption and short term CO2 emmisions.

    It’s curious the Nuclear power is now considered ‘Eco’ friendly, whilst an article in last weeks New Scientist, reported that Wind Turbines are killing the useful pesticide of bats……

  39. 89
    Timothy Chase says:

    Jeff wrote in 79:

    What I am postulating is that it is in fact wrong to say that CO2 lags temperature during the last four interglacials, because Antarctic temperatures are not representative of global temperatures. If Greenland’s temperatures didn’t start rising until thousands of years after CO2 started to increase, how can one say that CO2 lags (global) temperature?

    Ok. Let’s try this…

    Scientists dryly pronounce:

    … In summary, the CO2 increase probably lags the Antarctic temperature increase by a few hundred years but precedes the Greenland temperature increase by a few millennia as does the Antarctic temperature.

    Member of the reality-based community proudly proclaims:

    See! The temperature in Greenland lags CO2.

    Member of the Exxon-sponsored denialist community steps forward and states:

    … but just as we have been telling you all along, temperature rises first — in Antarctica. Things were already warming up before CO2 began to rise.

    Joe Public sighs, then says:

    I’m so confused… But it looks like the second guy is right: temperature rises first, CO2 follows.

    But the only problem is that this is wrong. There are times when methane or CO2 rise first, e.g., the Permian/Triassic extinction. And by trying to focus on Greenland’s temperature lagging CO2 which lags Antarctic temperatures, you simply serve to put a spotlight where it doesn’t help — and moreover, rather than explaining the actual, very well understood physics, you serve to make the relationship between temperature and CO2 appear purely empirical — as if the only evidence for such a relationship were the paleoclimate record, and we were entirely lacking any theoretical understanding of the matter.

    *

    Jeff wrote in 79:

    What is necessary, however, is a globally averaged temperature record before one can even discuss lead versus lag. I find that this concept has been missing from all discussions.

    From what I know, we have a fairly accurate temperature record going back about half a million years — due to ice cores. But those are found primarily in the very high latitudes: Greenland and Antarctica. So it will be difficult to come up with a global average temperature record when those two diverge. In either case, if temperature rises first at one of the two poles prior to the rise in greenhouse gases, that is all that a denialist will need to argue that temperature always rises first, and that the rise in the levels of greenhouse gases are the effect, not the cause of rising temperatures.

    Or at least that is my take on the subject as a computer programmer in a completely unrelated industry. In any case, I don’t mean to be dismissive, and I apologize if I came off that way.

  40. 90

    Hank #74,

    Semi-seriously, Pelosi was more right than she knew herself :-)

    It is possible to convert natural gas to hydrogen and CO2 at the well, a process called ‘reforming’. Then the CO2 can be pumped down the well to get out the last dregs. This is already now a feasible process, and carbon neutral.

    So yes, natural gas is a fossil fuel, but used in this way not a greenhouse gas…

    (BTW looking forward to Palin’s correction statements. Surely she has access to competent science advice)

  41. 91
    Nick Gotts says:

    Timothy Chase@58,
    I hear Palin is also in favour of “healthy debate” with regard to the origin of babies: are they the result of sex between the parents, or are they brought by the stork?

  42. 92
    Nick Gotts says:

    “If not the US then who would you like to see in the driver’s seat”? – John Melnick@59.

    Ideally, a democratically elected global assembly. In the interim, the UN Security Council, preferably modified by removing the veto power of the permanent members, and adding India, Japan and Brazil as additional permanent members. In any case, no single power.

  43. 93
    Nick Gotts says:

    Re #92 – I omitted to say that UK and France should be replaced by the EU as a permanent Security Council member.

  44. 94
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    I remember a few years ago there was a scientist running around claiming the CH4 wasn’t a fossil fuel, that most of it had just bubbled up from a core source in the earth itself. This was from before the AGW in the News Era so I don’t know what happened to him or his theory.

    [Response: Thomas Gold, and though there might be some abiotic CH4 production, it's not thought to be an important factor. - gavin]

  45. 95
    Rod B says:

    Gavin, much of what you say is valid, but (and I’m not really looking to get into a lengthy unproductive discourse) Pelosi’s statements are still stunning. Misspeak? She repeated the assertion that natural gas is not a fossil fuel a number of times on the same Sunday talk show (Meet the Press I believe), and not just in passing but in response to on-topic questioning. Ignorance? Holy Cow! She arguably is in the most real-time authoritative position as anybody in the country to affect and effect global warming and alternative (read non-fossil) fuel activities. She personally and solely took the vote on off-shore drilling off the table. And she doesn’t know which fuels are fossiliferous??!!? You rationalize her statements as not being the bad “denialism”, but just ignorance. That’s astounding. To use the oft-used doctor analogy: your neighbor denies that you’re showing certain systems = bad (and it is); your doctor has no clue what you have, suspects it’s a broken foot’s that causing your headaches and is going to amputate — this is not a problem because it’s “just ignorance”?? I think it’s magnitudes worse.

    [Response: If Pelosi was a scientist, I'd be appalled. But she isn't. This is the kind of thing that can be corrected with a small word in her ear (which I'm sure has already happened). Having dealt with the high-level politicians on a few occasions, you have to remember how many issues they are juggling at the same time and how shallow their knowledge is likely to be on 90% of the topics. That's not an excuse, it's just a reality. It's on a par with McCain imagining a border between Iraq and Pakistan - a slip that is amusing for commentators but unlikely to have any impact on policy. I do make a distinction between that and Palin's denial of the science of climate change - though this too might soften once McCain's staff have a word. - gavin]

  46. 96
    Jim Bullis says:

    Re Martin #90

    Thanks for an explanation of reforming.

    Is it possible for you or others to give a quantitative description of the heat losses in making the CO2 and the heat (or electric energy and heat) available from the hydrogen, compared to the heat that would have been produced from direct combustion of the natural gas?

  47. 97
    Rod B says:

    Hank, I had heard that Pelosi’s first response was that her dog ate her notes :-P . Fortunately her staff came up with something a tad bit less fatuous, but politically the best available — what you referenced.

  48. 98
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 94 – where abiotic hydrocarbon production could have had great importance is in the origin of life (before that, of course, abiotic production was the only game in town).

  49. 99
    Fred Jorgensen says:

    Re 92,93: Nick Gotts:
    So we should rely on a modified UN rather than the US for superior wisdom and exercising international power for the common good?
    Should the global assembly be elected globally by individual citizens? Since at least 3/4 of the world is ruled by tyrants, that’s pipedream #1!
    Should the global assembly be elected by national governments, many like North Korea, Sudan, and Egypt? That’s pipedream #2 for human rights and the
    common good!
    Among nation states today we have civilized anarchy! The squabbling EU members, like the UN security council, have little power and diluted principles.
    The US is the most free and least evil of nations in the world. That’s my preference for the best cop on the block!

  50. 100
    Figen Mekik says:

    “The US is the most free and least evil of nations in the world. That’s my preference for the best cop on the block!”
    Apart from saying this is really off topic, I take serious issue with blanket statements like this. It requires an enormous amount of knowledge and evidence that other nations are not as free or wise as the US. This line of discussion can get pretty offensive fast. My two cents.

    [Response: Agreed. This is not the place for national p**ing contests. - gavin]


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