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Breaking the silence about Spring

Filed under: — eric @ 11 April 2009

Did you know that in 1965 the U.S. Department of Agriculture planted a particular variety of lilac in more than seventy locations around the U.S. Northeast, to detect the onset of spring — in turn to be used to determine the appropriate timing of corn planting and the like? The records the USDA have kept show that those same lilacs are blooming as much as two weeks earlier than they did in 1965. April has, in a very real sense, become May. This is one of the interesting facts that you’ll read about in Amy Seidl’s book, Early Spring, a hot-off-the-press essay about the impacts of climate change on the world immediately around us – the forest, the birds, the butterflies in our backyards.

The brilliant title of Seidl’s book was one of the reasons that it caught my attention. The other was that I have realized I need to better educate myself about the impact of climate change on everyday life. I’ve been dismissive of the idea that the average person can really detect the impacts of recent warming on, for example, the timing of the apple-blossom season, but I’ve been taken to task by several of RealClimate’s readers for this. If you are paying attention, they have argued, the changes are actually rather obvious.

Of course, Amy Seidl is not the average person. Rather, she’s a trained ecologist with a Ph.D. (as well as an avid gardener) and she’s clearly paying extremely close attention. Her book is the first one I have read that effectively brings home the tangible impacts that global warming will have – is having – on our everyday lives. “We are increasingly familiar,” she writes, of images of melting glaciers, “but how do we give them relevance in our lives? From my window I see no glaciers.” She answers her own question with a series of vignettes, some from her own experiences, many more from her extensive research (well referenced throughout the book).

Cardinals, robins and cowbirds are all arriving earlier in Vermont than they did a century ago. Kingfishes, fox sparrows and towhees are not. Why the difference? The answer, as Seidl explains, is that the former group has the ability to respond ecologically to the changes, because these birds cue their arrival to temperature. The latter, it appears, respond more directly to temporal cues, that won’t change even as climate does. It’s obvious from this example that the make up of bird life in Vermont – the species distribution – will change over time. This may not necessarily be a bad thing of course. On the other hand, it turns out that the robins are the most important host for West Nile virus; the early bird gets the worm, so to speak, and passes it along to humans.

Maple seedlings need about 100 days of below-freezing weather. As this becomes rarer, fewer maples will populate the forests. This, Seidl explains, is why species-range models predict the decline and eventual loss of sugar maple (at least in New England) in the future. But, she notes, the models don’t take into account the full complexity of the system, such as the impact of competition among different species. So we don’t really know what will happen, or how fast. What we do know is that maple-sugar farmers have noticed – and documented – an earlier maple sugaring season over the last few decades.

There are many other examples in Early Spring both of clear climate-related changes (such as the early arrival of robins), and of less clear-cut changes (the maple sugaring season). Seidl doesn’t make the common mistake of assuming that the more ambiguous examples are necessarily due to climate change. For example, she quotes a maple-sugarer who points out that technological changes have allowed them to tap maples earlier, and hence that the timing of sugaring is a weak measure of climate change. The point though, is that even rather minor changes are, after all, being noticed. And if much larger changes do occur, as predicted, they will most certainly have impacts we can’t ignore, even if we don’t live in the Arctic or in Bangladesh. In other words, Seidl tells us, listen to the farmers and gardeners, and the observations of regular people: they are meaningful.

The soberness of Seidl’s approach to the subject of climate change impacts contrasts starkly with that of many books before it. It couldn’t be further, for example, from Mark Lynas’s book, Six Degrees, which is a truly alarming read. In my comments on Six Degrees, I said that it wasn’t an alarmist book. I stand by that characterization, because – and this is what I liked about it – it doesn’t go beyond what is in the scientific literature. However, while Lynas’s book is a straightforward reading of the scientific literature, it is a somewhat uncritical one, and hence tends to emphasize what might happen in the future over what will happen; this is a point that many readers of my review seem to have missed. Seidl’s book, on the other hand, is focused on the more certain – and often less dramatic — things, and on the impacts we are likely to see in our own lifetimes.

The calm demeanor of Seidl’s book, and the very personal nature of it, could lead one to think that it is primarily just a philosophical reflection on the climate change story. Indeed, Bill McKibben, in his introduction to Early Spring, says that in the face of changes we may not be able to prevent, “one of our tasks is simply to bear witness”. Certainly, the book is partly that. But Seidl’s voice, like Rachel Carson’s before her, has the authentic and authoritative voice of a scientist, made all the more compelling for being very much rooted in the author’s own story and experiences. And she doesn’t pull punches when she has something definitive to say: “One thing is clear:” she writes, “we will not be able to manage the climate”.

Early Spring has the potential to be immensely influential, a real turning point in the popular appreciation of climate change impacts among laypersons and scientists alike. Read it.

———-
Note that we review books on a fairly ad hoc basis. For earlier reviews of other books, see here.


347 Responses to “Breaking the silence about Spring”

  1. 301
    Steve Reynolds says:

    SA: “But you don’t seem to have any qualms about subjecting me and everyone else to whatever poisons you feel like spewing into the air.”

    I don’t think I have ever written anything indicating that. And I don’t believe that.

    What I have said is that I am more concerned about what the government might force me to do that what Exxon might force me to do.

    Specifically the concern here is government forced CO2 mitigation that does not have a favorable cost-benefit return. You may think it is obvious that almost all mitigation policies will be favorable, but that does not make it true. Even the IPCC does not claim to have shown that _any_ mitigation policy is favorable.

  2. 302
    Dan says:

    re: 294. You continue to conveniently ignore the fact that you can not do harm to people or public welfare without consequences. The cost of polluting the air is to public health and welfare. Industries in the US have to control pollution as a cost of doing business.

  3. 303
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Martin: “What tax rate / coefficient / formula do you propose, and how do you justify it?”

    I think someone more qualified, like Richard Tol could best justify a rate:
    http://www.scitopics.com/Social_Cost_of_Carbon.html

    But for fun, I will give an example. Using UAH data, conveniently plotted here:
    http://rankexploits.com/musings/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/uah-trends.jpg

    Define the temperature anomaly (from I think the 1980 to 1990 average) and each year calculate an OLS fit to _the complete data set available since 1980_ (to insure long term averaging). Then define Ta as the current year value of the straight line fit. Then set the carbon tax (in dollars per ton of pure carbon emitted) as:

    Tax = $50 x Ta

    which would put the present tax at about 1/2 the probability peak in Tol’s graph for 3% pure time preference rate. If temperatures go back down to 1980-1990 levels, the tax eventually goes to zero, but if temperatures go up another 1/4 degree, the tax rate will double, and will double again with another 1/2 degree.

  4. 304
    Jim Eaton says:

    I understand that this is “weather,” not “climate,” but California SHATTERED temperature records from one end of the state to the other today. And for many of us, tomorrow is predicted to be hotter…

    Note that downtown San Francisco was 93 F today, and coastal San Diego was 98 F.

    TODAYS HIGH OF 96 AT REDDING RECORD BROKE THE RECORD AT BOTH THE
    AIRPORT AND AT THE OLD REDDING CITY LOCATION. THE OLD CITY RECORD
    WAS 93…SET IN 1931.

    THE HIGH AT RED BLUFF AIRPORT REACHED 95…WHICH ECLIPSED THE OLD
    RECORD HIGH OF 91 SET IN 1950.

    THE HIGH AT THE SACRAMENTO CITY STATION REACHED 94 DEGREES…
    BREAKING THE OLD RECORD OF 92 SET IN 1931. THE RECORD AT SACRAMENTO
    EXECUTIVE AIRPORT REACHED 93…THE OLD RECORD WAS 90 SET IN 1950.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 96 DEGREES WAS SET AT STOCKTON CA
    SUNDAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 90 SET IN 1950.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 97 DEGREES WAS SET AT MODESTO CA
    SUNDAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 92 SET IN 1986.

    SITE TODAY`S HIGH PREVIOUS HIGH / YEAR

    GILROY 99 86 / 1992
    KENTFIELD 90 87 / 1950
    KING CITY 100(TIED) 100 / 1931
    MOFFETT FIELD 93 84 / 1986
    MONTEREY* 93 85 / 1986
    NAPA 94(TIED) 94 / 1931
    OAKLAND MUSEUM 93 84 / 1986
    OAKLAND AIRPORT 91 79 / 1986
    RICHMOND 88 83 / 1986
    SALINAS 99 88 / 1986
    SANTA CRUZ 96 88 / 1899
    SAN FRANCISCO 93 84 / 1986
    SFO INTERNATIONAL 91 81 / 1986
    SAN RAFAEL 90 88 / 1950
    SAN JOSE 94 94 / 1906

    THE HIGH TEMPERATURE AT FRESNO/YOSEMITE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT THIS
    AFTERNOON WAS 96 DEGREES. THIS BROKE THE RECORD FOR THE DATE OF 94
    DEGREES SET IN 1950 AND 1931.

    OTHER RECORDS ESTABLISHED TODAY INCLUDE MERCED AIRPORT WITH 94
    DEGREES…MADERA AIRPORT AT 96 DEGREES…AND HANFORD AIRPORT 97.
    THESE ALL BROKE RECORDS THAT WERE SET IN 2006…HOWEVER THESE ARE
    RELATIVELY NEW CLIMATE STATIONS WITH ONLY 11 YEARS OF RECORDS.

    BAKERSFIELD…MEADOWS FIELD…HAD A HIGH TODAY OF 97. THIS IS ONE
    DEGREE SHY OF THE RECORD OF 98 SET IN 1906.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 100 DEGREES WAS SET AT DOWNTOWN LOS
    ANGELES (USC) CA TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 96 SET IN 1958.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 95 DEGREES WAS SET AT LOS ANGELES
    AIRPORT TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 86 SET IN 1986.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 100 DEGREES WAS SET AT LONG BEACH
    AIRPORT CA TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 93 SET IN 1986.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 99 DEGREES WAS SET AT SAN GABRIEL CA
    TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 98 SET IN 1958.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 86 DEGREES WAS SET AT SANTA MONICA
    PIER CA TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 79 SET IN 1958.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 99 DEGREES WAS SET AT UCLA CA TODAY.
    THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 94 SET IN 1958.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 94 DEGREES WAS SET AT PALMDALE AIRPORT
    CA TODAY. THIS TIES THE OLD RECORD OF 94 SET IN 1950.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 96 DEGREES WAS SET AT CAMARILLO TODAY.
    THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 90 SET IN 1958.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 97 DEGREES WAS SET AT WFO-OXNARD
    TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 90 SET IN 1958.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 98 DEGREES WAS SET AT PASO ROBLES
    AIRPORT CA TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 95 SET IN 1950.

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 98 DEGREES WAS SET AT SANTA MARIA
    AIRPORT CA TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 91 SET IN 1986.

    LOCATION NEW RECORD OLD RECORD PERIOD OF RECORD
    FULLERTON APT ASOS 100 96 IN 1958 SINCE 1948
    SANTA ANA 103 91 IN 1986 SINCE 1916
    LAGUNA BEACH 97 85 IN 1987 SINCE 1928
    OCEANSIDE HARBOR 84 76 IN 1999 SINCE 1953
    SAN DIEGO LINDBERGH 98 93 IN 1899 SINCE 1875
    CHULA VISTA 97 89 IN 1986 SINCE 1948
    ONTARIO APT ASOS 100 91 IN 1958 SINCE 1951
    RIVERSIDE UCR 103 99 IN 1958 SINCE 1948
    RIVERSIDE APT ASOS 101 97 IN 1958 SINCE 1927
    BEAUMONT 93 92 IN 1958 SINCE 1948
    WILD ANIMAL PARK 100 91 IN 1986 SINCE 1979
    RAMONA APT ASOS 96 88 IN 1986 SINCE 1974
    ALPINE 99 95 IN 1958 SINCE 1951
    EL CAJON 101 90 IN 1986 SINCE 1979
    BIG BEAR LAKE 75 73 IN 1994 SINCE 1960
    CAMPO 90 88 IN 1997 SINCE 1940

    A RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE OF 90 DEGREES WAS SET AT MEDFORD OR
    TODAY. THIS BREAKS THE OLD RECORD OF 88 SET IN 1986.

  5. 305
    Mark says:

    “You need to show that free market advocates are equivalent to fossil fuel advocates for your logic to be valid.”

    And you need to show that the EPA have said they will hold a gun to your head before your logic is to be considered valid.

  6. 306
    Mark says:

    Also, check set theory.

    Free Market Advocates include fossil fuel advocates.

    This does not mean all free market advocates are fossil fuel advocates. You made that up, you defend it. I said what I said.

  7. 307
    James says:

    Jim Eaton Says (20 April 2009 at 10:42 PM):

    “I understand that this is “weather,” not “climate,” but California SHATTERED temperature records from one end of the state to the other today. And for many of us, tomorrow is predicted to be hotter…”

    Much the same here on the other side of the Sierra Nevada, Reno equalling a record that’s stood since 1888 or so, and predicted to be higher the next couple of days. (We generally get California’s weather, after they’ve used it for a day or so :-)) But possible snow predicted for the weekend…

  8. 308
    Robin Levett says:

    @Mark @150:

    I know. Jasper Carrot had a song about a rooster which used the word extensively.

    Jake Thackray.

  9. 309
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Reynolds wrote: “I am more concerned about what the government might force me to do that what Exxon might force me to do. Specifically the concern here is government forced CO2 mitigation that does not have a favorable cost-benefit return.”

    I am more concerned about what you and Exxon together might force me to do — such as, for example, starve to death when global warming causes continent-wide megadroughts and the collapse of agriculture.

    When you emit CO2 pollution, you receive the benefits and I pay the costs and get no benefit. Is that your idea of “liberty”?

    A whole lot of so-called “libertarianism” comes down to people who like to enjoy the benefits of behaviors that impose huge costs on other people.

    If it takes government coercion to compel you to pay the price for the costs that you subject others to, then so be it. That’s what government is for.

    Do you think a “cost-benefit analysis” should be required for laws that prohibit and/or punish violent acts against others? Do you think that the “benefit” that muggers and murderers receive from their crimes should be balanced against the cost to their victims?

    Your carbon pollution is a form of violence, which I take just as personally as if you punched me in the nose or shot me in the back or kicked in my door and stole my TV. But of course it isn’t just violence against me; it is violence against the person and property of every other human being in the world, and indeed against all life on Earth.

  10. 310
    Mark says:

    “I don’t think I have ever written anything indicating that. And I don’t believe that.”

    Well, pop into a sealed room.

    The CO2 will rise. If it’s not toxic, you’ll be fine, yes?

  11. 311
    Ike Solem says:

    One possible metric of the change in the timing of spring is the number of temperature records set in the early spring months. For one example, see this google search:

    “record high” temperatures

    Compare that to “record high” temperatures april

    or, “record high” temperatures march

    In particular, look at the timelines. There are many reasons Google searches may be biased by date, but that is an interesting phenomenon, just the kind of thing one would expect from a rising temperature trend superimposed on natural variability. This kind of statistical approach has been done in full, see for example:

    http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/30711

    That is a statistical approach to the dynamic computer model experiments – control runs with and without fossil CO2 emissions & deforestation:

    To do this Verdes used a theory known as nonlinear time-series analysis, whereby the existence of a slowly-varying driving force can be deduced without any knowledge of internal dynamics. First, he assumed the driving force was zero and chose a generic function to fit the data computationally. He then introduced a non-zero driving force and estimated different profiles that would improve the accuracy of the fit.

    Verdes found that the driving-force profile that produced the best fit almost exactly matched records of greenhouse gas and aerosol emissions (see Driving force). In other words, fitting the data using the natural components alone left a hole that could be filled by our anthropogenic components. “The coincidence is remarkable,” he said. – Aug 2007

    If statistical approaches and dynamical approaches give you the same answer, and if that also fits well with observational data, then you can have a high degree of confidence in the overall predictions.

  12. 312
    Steve Reynolds says:

    SA: “Your carbon pollution is a form of violence, which I take just as personally as if you punched me in the nose or shot me in the back or kicked in my door and stole my TV.”

    I understand that you feel that way, but some other people would feel the same way if they thought that I had insulted their religion or ethnic group. I don’t want them to be able to take away my right to free speech.

    In the (in my opinion unlikely) event that AGW is proved to be as harmful as you believe, then I’ll agree with the draconian restrictions on GHG that you prefer. Until then a moderate tax on emissions in line with an informed cost-benefit analysis is all that I will support.

  13. 313
    Jim Eager says:

    And if in the event that AGW is proved to be that harmful, but it also proves to be too late to reverse that harm (e.g. natural feedbacks begin to swamp our own CO2 emissions), then what, Steve?

    “Oops, you guys were right after all. Sorry about that.”

  14. 314
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Reynolds wrote: “I understand that you feel that way, but some other people would feel the same way if they thought that I had insulted their religion or ethnic group. I don’t want them to be able to take away my right to free speech.”

    If you are anything remotely resembling a real libertarian, then you know full well that your right to free speech is not a right to use physical violence against me or my property, let alone the persons and property of millions of people who will be harmed by your pollution. You have no more right to pollute the air with carbon emissions or anything else, than you have to dump cyanide in the water supply. It has nothing to do with “free speech.”

    Steve Reynolds wrote: “In the (in my opinion unlikely) event that AGW is proved to be as harmful as you believe, then I’ll agree with the draconian restrictions on GHG that you prefer. Until then a moderate tax on emissions in line with an informed cost-benefit analysis is all that I will support.”

    You know, “conservatives” who are unhappy with the “liberal” proposals that are being put forward to reduce emissions, and the likelihood that those “liberal” proposals will form the basis of policy in this country, have only themselves to blame.

    Why? Because at some point “conservatives” decided that the thing to do was to deny the existence of the problem. By doing so, they denied themselves a seat at the table where possible solutions are debated, leaving that debate to the “liberals”.

    Why should you or other “conservatives” support any policies at any cost, however low, to address global warming, given that you don’t believe there is a problem to be addressed?

    And given that you and other “conservatives” have adopted obstinate denial of the scientific reality of global warming, its cause, and its danger, as an absolute article of ideological faith, why should anyone take seriously any policies that you propose? How can you expect anyone to believe that you are proposing policies in good faith, to address a problem that you deny even exists?

    It’s unfortunate, because “conservatives” might very well have something of value to bring to the policy discussion, but by their denialism they have basically shut themselves out of any serious discussion.

  15. 315
    Mark says:

    “@Mark @150:

    I know. Jasper Carrot had a song about a rooster which used the word extensively.

    Jake Thackray.”

    Aye, now you say his name, he wrote it.

    But I heard it first from Jasper Carrot. “I’ve got this mole” video, IIRC.

    He upped and he tupped,
    like a hero tupps
    He bowed to them all,
    and then
    He upped and he tupped them all again

    Bet it’s not in production anywhere.

    Now how come that isn’t considered stealing from the artist? Refusing to sell is denying the artist the income from their works. That’s what “P2P is theft!!!” is all about, isn’t it? The prevention of *potential* sales.

    Not making it available for sale sounds like it to me…

  16. 316
    Michael says:

    SecularAnimist,

    You say: “Your carbon pollution is a form of violence”

    The problem with your views about C02 is that it makes every person on this planet a criminal including yourself. The only place to go with that kind of thinking is to criminalize us all, including people just trying to live thier lives.

    Its perfectly logical to think this way, but you are not going to get much traction with most people.

  17. 317
    SecularAnimist says:

    Michael wrote: “The problem with your views about C02 is that it makes every person on this planet a criminal including yourself.”

    Not every person, since there are a great many people on the planet who live a subsistence lifestyle and emit little or no CO2. For that matter there are people living in New York City who don’t own cars and whose carbon footprint is significantly lower than mine.

    But it certainly does apply to me.

    And I am fully conscious of that fact, and of my responsibility for contributing to AGW, every time I start up my 45 MPG 1991 Ford Festiva. That’s why I try to limit my driving to pretty much the essentials — typically less than 40 miles per week for commuting and grocery shopping. That’s why I voluntarily pay a higher per-KWH rate for 100 percent wind-generated electricity, and heat my house with a high-efficiency heat pump instead of natural gas.

    And that’s why I don’t blather phony pseudo-libertarian nonsense about a carbon tax or cap-and-trade system meaning “the government” is violating my “right” to “free speech” at “the point of a gun”.

  18. 318
    Steve Reynolds says:

    SA,

    I don’t know to answer your latest because it does not rationally address what we have been discussing. I’m not a denier; I mostly agree with the IPCC conclusions. I’m also not a conservative, not that really matters.

    Maybe it is best to end this discussion.

  19. 319
    James says:

    SecularAnimist Says (22 April 2009 at 11:41 AM):

    “And given that you and other “conservatives” have adopted obstinate denial of the scientific reality of global warming, its cause, and its danger, as an absolute article of ideological faith…”

    Let’s just be clear that not all of the libertarian/conservative persuasion have adopted that position – here I am, after all – just as not all of a more liberal persuasion have been convinced of the reality of global warming. I do hear some voices saying that we can’t possibly do something because it might hurt the poor, adversely affect developing nations, or some other traditionally liberal argument.

  20. 320

    Steve Reynolds #303: Thanks, interesting reading, Tol.

    (There are problems with this approach, but that’s for another day.)

    Then set the carbon tax (in dollars per ton of pure carbon emitted) as:

    Tax = $50 x Ta

    which would put the present tax at about 1/2 the probability peak in Tol’s graph for 3% pure time preference rate.

    That’s where you lose me. Why? Just an engineering solution? Put a plausible-looking feedback loop in place and see how it works?

    Also the units don’t match… the $50 is in dollars/ton, and I assume Ta is in Celcius/Kelvin. Right? So there’s another coefficient hidden in there, dimension tons/Kelvin, that you didn’t tell us about. I could live with the above equation if Ta is in Fahrenheit ;-)

    The Tol piece contains an eight-point list of things we need to know, or have an educated guess on, in order to derive a plausible value for the social cost of carbon (SCC). The empirical global temperature record is not on the list. What comes closest is 3 and 4, which relate to climate modelling.

    My hunch on what you are aiming to do is: replace the uncertainty of this modelling with measurements available in the present and free of modelling uncertainty. Well, you cannot do it this way. You must model, warts and all, if you want to have a realistic SCC value — and you need to set the tax to that value if you want it to be Pareto optimal (price = marginal cost of production). There is no shortcut around that unpleasant truth.

    A darker suspicion is, that you are silently wishing those temperature increases will just go away at some point, and the whole thing will turn out to be a bad dream. Well, pleasant dreams :-(

  21. 321
    Mark says:

    “The only place to go with that kind of thinking is to criminalize us all, including people just trying to live thier lives.”

    But you’re not.

    You’re trying to force other people to accept the way YOU want to live YOUR life.

    We have a law against murder, but it’s hell for the psychopath who just wants to live their life according to the voices in his head.

    You don’t HAVE to burn CO2 at the rate you’re doing. If you’re a US resident, Scotland average rates is less than a quarter. They have a first-world lifestyle. They are in a cold and wet part of the world where light is at a premium most of the time it’s needed. Yet they use 1/4 the power the average USian uses.

    Why?

    Because they’ve gotten used to the way they live because they ignore the consequences.

    It won’t be worse changing living patterns. You’ll still be able to do what you do if you reduce your CO2 footprint. But that’s change. And you’re afraid of it. For no rational reason.

  22. 322
    Mark says:

    re #318. So you believe that there’s a problem and that CO2 is the cause of it, but you don’t like being told that you’ll have to stop producing so much CO2.

    So if you have a stream running through your house and I live upstream and I defacate and befoul the water as it goes through MY land, and YOUR children, playing at the stream edge get sick from it, you’d be all “well, I don’t want him to be forced at gunpoint not to do what he wants to the river on HIS land”?

    The problem we have with you Steve is that you make no sense if all your mouthings are taken at face value.

    If you admit that CO2 production is a problem then there’s two ways to stop it:

    1) tax inefficient CO2 producing processes
    2) make a law banning inefficient CO2 producing processes

    if it’s #1, it’s all a scam to make money by soclialist political elements. If it’s #2, it’s all about putting a gun to your head and proves that this is all about political power.

    If you say that you are and will reduce or remove inefficient processes, then in neither case will you be taxed or have a gun at your head over using inefficient processes, in which case, why are you worried about it? Because you want to SAY you’ll do it, but not actually HAVE to do it, so won’t?

  23. 323
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/121639289/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

    Stream ecosystem responses to the 2007 spring freeze in the southeastern United States: unexpected effects of climate change

    “ABSTRACT

    Some expected changes in climate resulting from human greenhouse gas emissions are clear and well documented, but others may be harder to predict because they involve extreme weather events or heretofore unusual combinations of weather patterns. One recent example of unusual weather that may become more frequent with climate change occurred in early spring 2007 when a large Arctic air mass moved into the eastern United States following a very warm late winter. In this paper, we document effects of this freeze event on Walker Branch, a well-studied stream ecosystem in eastern Tennessee…..”

  24. 324
  25. 325
    Michael says:

    Mark, on the contrary I am not trying to force people to live the way I do. I will not vote for legislation that forces people to change their lifestyle when it comes to emissions, it’s a choice each person has to make individually.

    You can’t compare C02 emissions to murder, because, once again every person on the planet is a producer of C02.

    There is probably a group of people somewhere that would like to prosecute Mark for having a computer. Imagine the industry, the consumerism, capitalism required over the last hundred years to produce that piece of technology. Imagine the emissions.

    My point is the solution to this crisis will not be found in demonizing each other. We have to come up with a solution that has a little more mutual respect.

  26. 326
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Just so you know, your efforts to keep this thread (and really all threads) on track and relevant are not unnoticed Hank. That goes for you too Chris S.

    Is anybody else about at the breaking point for all the continual off-topic noise on these threads? This is NOT a policy blog folks. Please take it elsewhere.

  27. 327
    Mark says:

    Michael, you are. You’re saying that no matter if CO2 is a problem WE must live with YOUR pollution.

    The rest of that idiotic rant remains unread. Try something a little less hyperbolic.

  28. 328
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Martin: “…the units don’t match… the $50 is in dollars/ton, and I assume Ta is in Celcius/Kelvin. Right?”

    Yes and the $50 is in $/ton-K; then the units match.

    As for why this value – I said this was just an example, but the idea was to get the tax to roughly agree with Tol’s SCC if there was another 0.25 K temperature increase.

    Martin “My hunch on what you are aiming to do is: replace the uncertainty of this modelling with measurements available in the present and free of modelling uncertainty. …
    A darker suspicion is, that you are silently wishing those temperature increases will just go away at some point…”

    No, my aim is to propose something that nearly everyone might agree on. Alarmists are certain temperatures will rise drastically and will believe they will get a very large tax to cause drastic emission reductions, denialists think temperatures will fall back, and there will be no tax long term. Moderates will expect a moderate tax that will cause a slow and moderate reduction in emissions. Everyone should be happy!

  29. 329
    Chuck Booth says:

    This letter-to-the-editor appeared in the local paper today – it’s from another meteorologist firmly entrenched in the denialist camp:

    It’s very interesting that after seven years of global cooling, the Environmental Protection Agency would pick now to issue its “Policy Shift On Global Warming” …The full EPA statement on its website trots out all the old scary predictions of several feet of sea level rise, more intense storms and increased drought. Well, in all of these cases, changes have been slight or nonexistent. Although the past seven years of cooling could be an anomaly, the climate models completely missed it. They predicted a continued steady rise in temperatures.
As an operational meteorologist, I worked with weather forecast models for 25 years and recognize their limitations. The climate models are even more limited. Of course, the main ingredient in the models is carbon dioxide, which along with other greenhouse gases make up a tiny fraction of the atmosphere. The models virtually ignore water vapor, a much larger greenhouse gas, as well as ocean influences, and the biggest influence of all: the sun. We are just now learning how variations in short-wave radiation from the sun affect the upper atmosphere.

Because the models are not able to simulate the present cooling using carbon dioxide, which is vital for plant growth and life on Earth, how can they accurately forecast the future? 
Is this the proper basis on which to make far-reaching decisions?

    Can’t they at least come up with something original?

  30. 330
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Steve Reynolds says: “If you do not consider cost as an equally relevant variable, you are blind to the economic side of the cost-benefit analysis.”

    Actually, the problem at present is that we cannot rule out catastrophic damage from even moderate warming because there are feedbacks that we do not understand. As such the “cost” of increased emissions cannot be bounded, so even low-probability threats have to be taken seriously. Under such circumstances the only responsible approach is to proceed with extreme caution and keep the stress (e.g. CO2 emissions) to a minimum consistent with the basic health of the economy. We also need to spend a lot of effort on refining our understanding of so-called tipping points.

    An example: We know that in past interglacials, CO2 and CH4 emissions from natural sources did not pick up until we had had some warming due to increased insolation. How close are we to levels where ghg emissions from natural sources really kick in and swamp any efforts we make to control our own emissions? We do not know, but it is a situation we must avoid.
    I agree that we also have to avoid breaking the economy, but as we have not yet even begun to pick the low-hanging fruit of conservation, I think discussions of breaking the economy are a bit premature. Given the latest science (melting ice, outgassing from thawing permafrost, decreased solubuility of CO2 in the oceans, etc.) discussions of tipping points, however, are not.

  31. 331
    Mark says:

    “Alarmists are certain temperatures will rise drastically ”

    And almost exclusively, the AGW supporters are not saying that.

    And out of the ones talking about extreme events, most of those say “we know that dramatic temperature rises are eminently possible”.

    Or do you say that it is IMPOSSIBLE that temperatures may rise dramatically?

  32. 332
    Bruce Stutz says:

    For those interested in further spring reading, my book, Chasing Spring, An American Journey Through a Changing Season, (Scribners, 2006) covered the science of the season’s altered calendar from effects on plants, forests, water resources to changing bird, insect, and caribou migrations. The book is a trip north during a single spring season, from the southern US, up through the Rockies and Cascades to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It’s available on Amazon in paperback–and very cheap. Enjoy.

  33. 333
    Michael says:

    Mark, likewise we must live with your polution. Such is the life of a carbon based lifeform. I’m glad we were able to come to agreement on the human condition.

  34. 334
    margaret m says:

    I’ve recently spoken to several farmers in the Midwest (west Missouri specifically) who tell me that rather than seeing the onset of spring conditions earlier in the year, they have actually seen cooler springs the past few years. This year their planting has been delayed by almost a month because of late frosts and because the soil is still too wet. Maybe this is just an anomaly, but my point is that climate change may have some unpredictable effects at the local level. There may be a warming trend in general, but that is based on averages. Within that general trend there may be some areas responding in a much different manner. It’s going to be harder to know exactly how plant and animal communities will respond to changing climate conditions at smaller spatial scales.

  35. 335
    Hank Roberts says:

    I went looking for some of the early Usenet bits that got me started doing whatever I could in the way of restoration toward changing climate in my copious spare time. Here’s one that I remembered that got me working harder:

    >From: “Graham Willers”
    >Newsgroups: bionet.agroforestry,alt.forestry
    >Subject: Re: Greenland glaciers present threat if Earth warms up, scientist says
    >Date: Wed, 7 Jun 2000 17:28:39 +0100
    >

    It is a source of some amazement to us in Europe that the US – normaly
    pretty much to the fore in most respects – can be so far behind European
    thinking on climate change.

    To give an example; in Spain the whole forestry business has been going
    through some pretty massive changes for years, due to the impact of global
    warming over the last decade. They are not still arguing over whether or not
    it is happening – they – like the rest of Europe – did that in the mid 80′s.
    Now they are trying to cope with the unprecedented increase in forest fires
    which has led to very serious erosion problems – especially in the region of
    Murcia – but all over the country to a greater or lesser degree.

    They are building low level contour walling on hillsides and changing
    species and systems all over the country. It is generaly accepted that the
    desertification of central southern Spain – which is there for you to see
    with your own eyes – will continue to spread as it has been doing for a
    decade or more now.

    In Britain the last 3-day seminar and AGM of the Institute of Chatered
    Foresters was devoted entirely to the new systems and species we are
    adopting in order to minimise the effects of the climate change. The ICF are
    not exactly renowned for their radical thinking – being a pretty
    conservative bunch of people.

    Our oak trees (Q.Robur) are now leafing 22 days earlier than they were in
    1965 for example ( thats a verifiable record if ever there was one ! ) and
    our beech tree population in the south of England is in serious trouble due
    to repeated droughts. We recommend that noone bothers planting beech trees
    anymore as they are very unlikely to survive more than 50 years.

    Climate change has got everything to do with forestry! It is ‘forestry’ at
    its worst that has helped to bring it about in the first place.
    The climate has fluctuated extremely violently in the past – up 4C in 30
    years in one period – so why are the Americans so sceptical that it is
    happening again? The evidence is right under your noses. I just don’t get
    it.

    GW
    Scotland

    ———–
    Oh, and for anyone contemplating spending the rest of your life at this, the one best bit of advice I found that I didn’t take anywhere near seriously enough:

    Aldo Leopold on Data Management

    “A frequent predicament of field workers is to accumulate so many notes that time is lacking to analyze them, or to have notes string out over such a long period that the earlier ones are lost or hard to segregate by the time a sufficient volume are at hand to warrant a conclusion. “

  36. 336
    Mark says:

    Michael, 333, I don’t drive to work. I take local holidays.

    I’m not polluting you.

    Will you stop polluting me?

    (Oracle knows michael. He says “Judas 30″. Pieces of silver?)

  37. 337
    jayson says:

    Normal historical climate variations happen over centuries and millenia. This is natural and need not be the result of human activity. The deep economic downturn of the middle ages was the result of climate changes in Europe. Crops failed and people starved. It ended and the renascence began.

    So remembering what used to grow in your backyard or community does not tell you anything meaningful. It could easily reverse again over the next 40 years and still be within normal ranges, global warming or not.

    If your going to get involved in making expensive changes to all of our lives, educate yourself about how climates work

  38. 338
    Hank Roberts says:

    Jayson, do you understand the difference between studying one back yard, and one thousand or ten thousand back yards?

    Do you understand the difference in information you get from one thermometer, compared to a thousand or ten thousand of them spread across an area?

    You claim to believe that “The deep economic downturn of the middle ages was the result of climate changes in Europe.”

    Do you also believe Europe was warmer during the Medieval period?

    Would you say that warming climate caused the deep downturn?

    Are you thinking two contradictory things at the same time?

    Read http://history.boisestate.edu/westciv/plague/
    ___________________________
    “travesty organizing” says ReCaptcha.
    Trolled again, eh?

  39. 339
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS, Jayson, speaking of educating yourself:
    http://tv.azpm.org/kuat/segments/2009/4/23/kuat-drought-and-temperature-variation/

    Hat tip and cheers to Julien Emile-Geay at his new site:
    http://college.usc.edu/labs/jeg/home/index.cfm

    “Welcome to the Climate Dynamics group at USC, focusing on understanding mechanisms of natural climate variability over the past 2 millennia. It is currently a very small, friendly and intimate research group (consisting of only one person). But this is something you might change. If the research listed on this page interests you, there are a number of opportunities available in this soon-to-be polynuclear group.”

  40. 340
    jayson says:

    Certainly climates have changed and will change, and certainly human activity has an impact. My point is that any change one person might observe in their back yard over 30-40 years is not a large enough sample or a long enough time period to be meaningful. Climate systems are extremely complex, and complex systems a very difficult to predict and manage.

    The video was interesting, but as the scientist said himself, climates are extremely complex and difficult to predict.

    Computer models are great, but they are very sensitive to the assumptions built into them. Just ask the wall street geniuses who thought they had the markets modeled accurately.

  41. 341
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #340 jayson:

    “Computer models are great, but they are very sensitive to the assumptions built into them. ”

    In all kindness, may I suggest that before posting here you take a little time to get acquainted with the general level of discussion and some of the past discussion history?

    Just read for a bit. You’ll find that the gist of your statement I just quoted and especially what your first paragraph in #337 entailed have been said here and then efficiently shredded literally hundreds of times. Even though the “old hands” here (not me, I’m an arriviste) know you’re naive and can’t help yourself, their patience is only a micron or so thick after attemtping to explain and explain again the same tiny set of relatively simple concepts you’re missing.

    You’re on the tail end of a long line of discredited predecessors, using expired ammunition you’ve been handed by cynics.

    Please, do yourself and everybody a favor by piping down and reading for a while. You can thereby avoid making yourself the subject of yet another ritualized and increasingly perfunctory intellectual humiliation.

  42. 342
    llewelly says:

    Computer models are great, but they are very sensitive to the assumptions built into them. Just ask the wall street geniuses who thought they had the markets modeled accurately.

    The computer models of Wall Street were statistical. The computer models of climate scientists are based on physics. The computer models of Wall Street were deliberately fed bad data when the good data resulted in unpleasant forecasts. Climate scientists have shown no propensity for hiding unpleasant scenarios. Climate science does not rely solely on computer models; there are numerous other lines of evidence. These are only the beginning of the many differences, which have been explained at length here, in nearly every thread since about the middle of 2008.

  43. 343
    Chris S says:

    #340 Jayson.

    Is a ~900 year time period long enough to be meaningful?

    http://img4.imageshack.us/img4/8417/kyotocherrys.png

    (It’s a plot of the date of the kyoto cherryblossom festival since 700. Records become more reliable at around 1100 hence the trend line starts there.)

    For interest here’s a range of papers discussing this dataset.

    From 1956: http://ams.allenpress.com/archive/1520-0469/13/6/pdf/i1520-0469-13-6-599.pdf (pdf)
    From 1994: http://rms1.agsearch.agropedia.affrc.go.jp/contents/JASI/pdf/society/51-2400.pdf (pdf in Japanese but with abstract & figure legends in English)
    From 2007: http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1893.pdf (pdf)

  44. 344
    Chris S says:

    For those who believe all the above will be down to UHI effect, here’s a study of 160 years of Finnish phenology that tries to eliminate said effect from their time series:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6V8W-4TVHYY4-1&_user=1549444&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000053656&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=1549444&md5=fb0f795256f25051fd82d72e3be4d1c6

  45. 345
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Jayson says, “Computer models are great, but they are very sensitive to the assumptions built into them. Just ask the wall street geniuses who thought they had the markets modeled accurately.”

    Ah, another revisionist history major. Jayson, when the geniuses calibrated their markets they did so with historical data based on people with reasonable cred-it getting and paying home lo-ans. Then as demand for mort-gage-backed securities increased, banks started making lo-ans to anyone who could fog a mirror. By that point, the geniuses were no longer running the models. If you apply a model to a situation where the data that calibrated the model are not representative, it is not surprising that the model will fail.

    Here’s another news flash–global climate models aren’t even the same type of model. In GCMs, you put the physics in and see how it does reproducing the trends. And overall, they do pretty well. But, then constructing straw men to comfort yourself is easier than actually learning anything isn’t it Jayson.

  46. 346
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://www.terradaily.com/reports/Yosemites_largest_trees_vanishing_999.html

    Yosemite’s largest trees vanishing
    The older, larger trees, including white firs, lodgepole pines and Jeffrey pines, are key to forest health because their canopies protect and nourish unique habitats for plants and animals.

    by Staff Writers
    Mariposa, Calif. (UPI) May 22, 2009

    Climate change appears to be taking its toll on the oldest and largest firs and pines in California’s Yosemite National Park, researchers said.

    The number of large-diameter trees fell by 24 percent between the 1930s and 1990s in all types of forests in Yosemite, said James Lutz of the University of Washington in Seattle….

  47. 347
    Hank Roberts says:

    _Science_ for May 15th (vol. 324) has two relevant “Perspectives” on pp. 886-7 (Seasons and Life Cycles — … how individual species’ responses to climate warming affect the length of the growing season) and 887-8 (Phenology Feedbacks on Climate Change … a longer growing season … will in turn affect climate through biogeochemical and biophysical effects.)


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