A warning from Copenhagen

In March the biggest climate conference of the year took place in Copenhagen: 2500 participants from 80 countries, 1400 scientific presentations. Last week, the Synthesis Report of the Copenhagen Congress was handed over to the Danish Prime Minister Rasmussen in Brussels. Denmark will host the decisive round of negotiations on the new climate protection agreement this coming December.

The climate congress was organised by a “star alliance” of research universities: Copenhagen, Yale, Berkeley, Oxford, Cambridge, Tokyo, Beijing – to name a few. The Synthesis Report is the most important update of climate science since the 2007 IPCC report.

So what does it say? Our regular readers will hardly be surprised by the key findings from physical climate science, most of which we have already discussed here. Some aspects of climate change are progressing faster than was expected a few years ago – such as rising sea levels, the increase of heat stored in the ocean and the shrinking Arctic sea ice. “The updated estimates of the future global mean sea level rise are about double the IPCC projections from 2007”, says the new report. And it points out that any warming caused will be virtually irreversible for at least a thousand years – because of the long residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere.

Perhaps more interestingly, the congress also brought together economists and social scientists researching the consequences of climate change and analysing possible solutions. Here, the report emphasizes once again that a warming beyond 2ºC is a dangerous thing:

Temperature rises above 2ºC will be difficult for contemporary societies to cope with, and are likely to cause major societal and environmental disruptions through the rest of the century and beyond.

(Incidentally, by now 124 nations have officially declared their support for the goal of limiting warming to 2ºC or less, including the EU – but unfortunately not yet the US.)

Some media representatives got confused over whether this 2ºC-guardrail can still be met. The report’s answer is a clear yes – if rapid and decisive action is taken:

The conclusion from both the IPCC and later analyses is simple – immediate and dramatic emission reductions of all greenhouse gases are needed if the 2ºC guardrail is to be respected.

Cause of the confusion was apparently that the report finds that it is inevitable by now that greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will overshoot the future stabilization level that would keep us below 2ºC warming. But this overshooting of greenhouse gas concentrations need not lead temperatures to overshoot the 2ºC mark, provided it is only temporary. It is like a pot of water on the stove – assume we set it to a small flame which will make the temperature in the pot gradually rise up to 70ºC and then no further. Currently, the water is at 40ºC. When I turn up the flame for a minute and then back down, this does not mean the water temperature will exceed 70ºC, due to the inertia in the system. So it is with climate – the inertia here is in the heat capacity of the oceans.

From a natural science perspective, nothing stops us from limiting warming to 2ºC. Even from an economic and technological point of view this is entirely feasible, as the report clearly shows. The ball is squarely in the field of politics, where in December in Copenhagen the crucial decisions must be taken. The synthesis report puts it like this: Inaction is inexcusable.

Related links

Press release of PIK about the release of the synthesis report

Copenhagen Climate Congress – with webcasts of the plenary lectures (link on bottom right – my talk is in the opening session part 2, just after IPCC chairman Pachauri)

Nobel Laureate Meeting in London – a high caliber gathering in May that agreed on a remarkable memorandum which calls for immediate policy intervention: “We know what needs to be done. We can not wait until it is too late.” The new U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu participated over the full three days in the scientific discussions – how many politicians would have done that?

416 comments on this post.
  1. Mark:

    “OK, Jim, I accept that explanation, but I would say leaving out the chart is the better option.”

    Then there would be a big blank after “The sea ice extent from satellite pictures”.

    This would make denialists ECSTATIC.

    “There’s no proof there’s any reduction!!!” they’ll howl.

    “It’s all a Big Lie to keep them employed!!!” they’ll insist.

    Given that the graph is ALL THE PIGGING DATA THEY HAVE, why not show it?

    It’s not like it’s changed the axis so that it looks like it covers more time than it does (cf TGGWS). It’s not saying anything that isn’t supported BY that graph.

    The graph is real, and there are some limited conclusions that can be drawn.

    And it’s not lying about it.

  2. Rod B:

    Julie, just an observation: 1) I see no lack of compassion, emotion or even hyperbole at times by the AGW scientists. 2) Acting like a banshee seldom convinces people.

  3. Jim Eager:

    Clue to willliam @99:
    Sea level rise has accelerated beyond the observed rate of the past 160 years, and given the observed decline in ice mass in Greenland, it is bound to accelerate further.

    Any idea how high we should build those dikes?

    Captcha: “the summed” answer is needed

  4. David B. Benson:

    naught101 (58) — First check that CO2e is about 450 ppm. Use an 1850 CE baseline of 288 ppm in the formula found in chapter 4 of
    and use a climate sensitivity to a doubling of CO2 of 3 K to find the eventual equilibrium temperature. About 70% of that occurs over something like the 159 years since the baseline start. Very approximately, assume most of the rest takes 2 or 3 centuries.

    That’s my amateur take on your question and I do hope I’ve provided enough informatiion that you can work on an approximate answer.

  5. Theo Hopkins:

    A question on “models”.

    Some folk don’t like computer models.

    So what about “non-computer models”?

    I have had the (simplified for morons like me) HadCRU3T global temperature rises over time graph as my desktop background for a while, downloaded from the UK Met Office. This is a nice graph and lots of pretty colours.

    If I print it out and lay a school ruler on it and with an HB pencil, project a line into the future, the line will go up, up, up.

    Can it be said I am “modeling”, albeit without a computer?

    Is this an answer to those who say “Global warming? Just a (computer) model”?

  6. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    Conclusions stated in the Synthesis Report linked in the lead article here state, “Thus, in 2009 society cannot precisely determine the “right” or the “best” pathway all the way to 2050 and beyond. There will be technological, societal and value changes in the future that will cause the trajectory to change. There should be no penalty for not getting it absolutely right the first time. The most important task is to start the journey now. The first steps are to generate a broad dialogue at all levels of society and to build a consensus on the need to act. Quite probably, when it comes to responding to human-made climate change, the “only action that is inexcusable is to take no action at all.”

    This seems like good sober advice, but the idea that there “should be no penalty for not getting it absolutely right–” could be misread. Ok, absolutely right is not necessary, but hugely misguided action could incur quite a penalty; even to the point that it could poison the political climate for real action.

    Getting it right is certainly not going to be easy, but a careful, though complicated discussion is in order.

    There is a lot to discuss here, but one of the key assumptions in reducing use of coal is that natural gas supplies are abundant. On this basis, penalties imposed on coal might seem economically tolerable. We should be careful about that assumption; if it is wrong, the backlash from banning coal (if it actually is meaningfully done) could be severe. I would be happy to find that natural is indeed abundant, but I have doubts.

    The idea of abundant natural gas emerges from faith in the so called “unconventional natural gas supplies.” This faith has been endorsed by the EIA in their 2009 Annual Report. However, all I can find about this “new” resource shows it to be based on a “new technology” which is elusive; though it seems to be only more agressive application of long known “fracking” and “horizontal drilling” and more drilling methods.

    Trying to track this down, I read the Chesapeake Energy Co Annual Report. They seem to be leading the campaign to convince us that there is a lot of natural gas, along with T. Boone Pickens. The Chesapeake reserves statement is indeed impressive.

    I also looked at annual reports from :
    Encana-largest North American NG producer
    Williams Brothers

    Flaky outfits all. (joking — these represent a significant sample of the total US production)

    None seem to think their reserves have expanded anything like what Chesapeake says theirs have. However, Statoil is joint venturing in one of the Chesapeake operations, so this seems a vote for their credibility.

    Another of these was joint venturing with Chesapeake in an operation, but Chesapeake pulled out of that deal. Hm?

    Chesapeake evalutates their reserves differently than the others on the list. They use a committee of outside consultants (wonder how they are hired and paid). Last year no Chesapeake employees were on the committee. Hm?

    There should be a note that natural gas reserves are a very elusive thing to evaluate. The results depend a lot on how much comes out of a well; it is more difficult to know how much is still there. There is also a large factor influencing estimates of reserves which is the assumed future market price, which can dramatically influence opinions about what projects are feasible.

    All said, I hope Chesapeake is right, but caution is in order.

    This is a critical issue. Just shifting from coal to natural gas for electric power generation could be an important way to reduce CO2 (about 50% for that activity) and it is close to reality. Further, in my view of how things might be, it can be used to reduce CO2 for a given amount of electricity produced by 83% compared to coal fired generation. The natural gas supply and its delivery infrastructure could enable such very significant progress. ( I am referring to cogeneration where electricity is a by-product of heat production–backwards of the usually assumed cogeneration system.)

  7. Wilmot McCutchen:

    The CO2 crisis is indisputably real and imminent. If we don’t significantly reduce CO2 emissions, despite predicted massive increase in coal combustion for power, the whole planet is in trouble very shortly.

    We all know that, but such a preface is necessary to appreciate the depth of dismay occasioned by a look under the hood of that lemon legislation, Waxman-Markey.

    We can say with certainty that cap-and-trade, under the scheme of Waxman-Markey, will not cut CO2 emissions. Look what happened under the last CO2 cap-and-trade scheme, the Kyoto Clean Development Mechanism. Now it’s becoming clear that the intent of Waxman-Markey was to raise money by the sale of carbon credits, the money to be used to fund health care and other priorities instead of solving the CO2 problem. http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/conrad-open-to-energy-taxes-for-healthcare-reform-2009-03-29.html A tax in green clothing. But since it has been watered down with free indulgences and cheap offsets, there won’t even be much of a tax, so any pretense that this will discourage fossil fuel power has no basis in fact.

    Waxman-Markey will discourage, however, the development of the technology we need. Instead of investing in clean tech to cut emissions, what’s best for the utility’s shareholders is to buy tree offsets, cheap. So forget about the “free market” coming to the rescue with some miracle of American innovation, because Waxman-Markey takes away the financial incentive that would drive investment in clean tech.

    As for government-sponsored research, Waxman-Markey insures that clean coal research will continue to be directed into well-known dry holes. Section 114 (b) establishes the Carbon Storage Research Corporation, a subsidiary of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Section 115 (a) mandates regulations for CO2 underground storage (“sequestration”) within 2 years. But the GAO has found that sequestration is unworkable. Which should be obvious: who wants a high pressure lethal gas dump under their town, and who will insure the risk that it won’t leak?

    So what’s the point of Waxman-Markey, if cap-and-trade won’t cut emissions and the research program laid out in it for clean coal is futile? Two ulterior motives are evident now: (1) call off the EPA, which won a hard-fought victory last year in the Supreme Court, giving it the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2 emissions (Waxman-Markey explicitly overrules this victory); and (2) compel utilities and other CO2 emitters to participate in a new junk market in tree offsets, so Wall Street can rise from the ashes of its last financial fiasco by generating an even bigger, worldwide bubble in Nigerian tree credits.

    Yes, the Green Team has been played for fools, and the goal of CO2 emission cuts is farther away than ever.

  8. Hank Roberts:

    Wilmot — or maybe the point is to get all the ideas that are being proposed into public view for skeptical dissection, this year.


    “… Henry Waxman’s climate change bill won’t make it into law this year. That’s why he’s the right guy for the job….”

    Consider the strategist, before you discount the tactic.

  9. Mark:

    Ah, even when Rod B is defending AGW science, he still can’t stop snide digs (102).

    How narrow minded…

  10. Hank Roberts:

    PS, Wilmot, you write above: “the GAO has found that sequestration is unworkable.”
    You make the same claim here:
    where you post a link to http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d081080.pdf

    That GAO report says toward the end:

    “… Specifically, we recommend … (1) obtaining the information necessary to make informed decisions about the regulation of (and potential liabilities associated with) the capture, injection, and storage of CO2; (2) using this information to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework for capture, injection, and underground storage of CO2; ….” May I suggest you follow up over at Breakthrough? It’s a good topic, about the topic you want to discuss.

    It’d be way off topic to discuss that further here and take attention away from the Copenhagen meeting and the scientists’ statements.

  11. David B. Benson:

    Theo Hopkins (105) — Yes, that method might work. Also you may wish to suggest they read

  12. CM:

    Re #92 and #93, some of us were wondering why certain observations were being compared with old projections. Bob asked. MikeN just assumed a cherry-picking conspiracy “to make observations be on the high end of projections”. Bob got the simple answer at #92 because one of the scientists whose integrity MikeN impugned took the time to explain it too us. There’s a moral lesson to be learned from this but those who most need to learn it are not here to learn.

  13. tommy:

    To Hank Roberts #78, and Wayne, #83,
    This is from the actual ARGO website, so if you think it’s bad, take it up with those folks:

    As for Arctic ice, I have looked at those sites. How can you say that the ice extent isn’t greater than 2007? Honestly on that, my thoughts are the next year or two will be a lot more conclusive on whether that trend is reversing, because if ice is ever to become multi-year ice, well, it has to be multi-years old. There was about 25% more second year ice this year over the previous.

  14. Mark:

    I have an interlocutor that says that you can get the Mann Hockey stick from random data.

    It took several goes but this is what he eventually said:

    “Red noise is a random walk. You add a random number to the the previous value and so on.
    You make a number of these series and then you use them to replace the proxy data in a temperature reconstruction.

    If you produce several of these random walks you will see that some of them have a similarity to the instrumental record. Some reconstructions give these series a high weighting overiding most of the other series hence the concerns over a few proxies dictating the result.”

    So you have to use random data and keep using random data until you get Mann’s Hockey Stick.

    That hardly seems to be random data to me…

    [Response: Actually, this line of attack is even more disingenuous and/or ill-informed than that. Obviously, if one generates enough red noise surrogate time series (especially when the “redness” is inappropriately inflated, as is often done by the charlatans who make this argument), one can eventually match any target arbitrarily closely. What this specious line of attack neglects (intentionally, one can safely conclude) is that a screening regression requires independent cross-validation to guard against the selection of false predictors. If a close statistical relationship when training a statistical model arises by chance, as would be the case in such a scenario, then the resulting statistical model will fail when used to make out-of-sample predictions over an independent test period not used in the training of the model. That’s precisely what any serious researchers in this field test for when evaluating the skillfulness of a statistical reconstruction based on any sort of screening regression approach. This isn’t advanced stuff. Its covered in most undergraduate intro stat courses. So the sorts of characters who make the argument you cite either have no understanding of elementary statistics or, all too commonly, do but recognize that their intended audience does not, and will fall prey to their nefarious brand of charlatanism. -mike]

    Thought some of you would like a laugh!

    [Response: Disgust is a more appropriate emotion, recognizing that the errors in reasoning aren’t so innocent, and that there is a willing attempt to deceive involved. -mike]

  15. tommy:

    That 25% figure in #113 is wrong: The second year ice tripled in percentage from the previous year for a slight increase in multi-year ice. http://nsidc.org/images/arcticseaicenews/20090406_Figure5.png

  16. dhogaza:

    As for Arctic ice, I have looked at those sites. How can you say that the ice extent isn’t greater than 2007?

    Wayne didn’t say that. He said it’s nearly at the 2007 level despite melting conditions being much less favorable than they were in 2007, due to the fact that there’s more cloud cover thus far this year.

    Please read what people write rather than rinse, lather and repeat your cut-and-paste knowledge.

  17. Hank Roberts:

    Tommy links to a picture above:
    tommy Says: 22 June 2009 at 5:27 PM

    Tommy, where did you find the link for the picture?
    Why do you consider your source to be trustworthy about what it means?

    do you know what set of numbers that picture charts?
    Did you read the discussion related to the picture
    Do you recognize the acronym on the picture?
    Do you know where the measurements were taken and why?

    Tommy, have you read the website? Try this page:

  18. Hank Roberts:

    And an aside for John Mashey — note the result found using Google Image Search; Tommy’s picture above is the very first hit. Popular image! I wonder why it’s so popular. That’s why I asked Tommy where he found it.


  19. Icarus:

    Re #113 – tommy, surely the short-term drop in upper ocean temperature is exactly what a La Niña is… so how does this familiar and short-term cooling in any way cast doubt on long-term global warming?

  20. Hank Roberts:

    Tommy, again, someone is giving you bad information. Where are you reading the explanations you’re giving us?

    Take the sea ice picture. You link to an image dated 2009, showing an increase in second year ice.

    Now, think about the history of the last few years.

    When was the largest area of Arctic summer sea ice melted? 2007.

    First year ice extent during 2008 was unusually high — because there was an unusually large area of open water for creating first year ice.

    Second year ice in 2009 is the ice that was first year ice in 2008.

    Read what it says next to the picture! (Did you actually look at the original page? Or were you copying a picture link from some other source? What source did you rely on? Why did you trust it?

    Here’s your picture on the page it comes from:


    “Sea ice young and thin as melt season begins

    How vulnerable is the ice cover as we go into the summer melt season? To answer this question, scientists also need information about ice thickness. Indications of winter ice thickness, commonly derived from ice age estimates, reveal that the ice is thinner than average, suggesting that it is more susceptible to melting away during the coming summer.

    As the melt season begins, the Arctic Ocean is covered mostly by first-year ice, which formed this winter, and second-year ice, which formed during the winter of 2007 to 2008. First-year ice in particular is thinner and more prone to melting away than thicker, older, multi-year ice. This year, ice older than two years accounted for less than 10% of the ice cover at the end of February. From 1981 through 2000, such older ice made up an average of 30% of the total sea ice cover at this time of the year.”

    Tommy, there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing unless you don’t learn from the experience. When you find people are giving you bogus explanations or just pictures and claims, look for the original source.

    Don’t rely on some guy on a blog for opinions. You can look this stuff up for yourself.

    I’m just an amateur reader here. All I have going for me is a vast respect for the reference librarians and their tools and the willingness to always check sources, read the notes, read the footnotes, and read the newer papers citing the older ones to see how the science is developing. It’s vast power. It’s available to everyone who wants it.

  21. Doug Bostrom:

    #56 Gil:

    “These are just some random thoughts and ideas…”

    Indeed. Some folks recommend rice, others swear by bananas, or toast. Give it a day or so and it’ll be sure to stop regardless.

  22. tommy:

    Hank, I did use google, but I just searched for ARGO, because I had heard some things about it. What are you seeing in the ARGO site that disputes or refutes their own graphic? I’m just pointing out that ARGO doesn’t show a temperature increase in recent years.

    Icarus, it doesn’t dispute long term warming of the past, and I made no such claim. I think it’s more than just the recent La Nina though…hasn’t the PDO shifted to the cool multi-decade cycle? Again, I just made the assertion that ARGO shows a recent, 5+ year cooling, yet this article states the opposite. How is that?

  23. Deep Climate:

    I can see that it might be considered premature to evaluate AR4 projections. Nevertheless, there is considerable interest in those projected trends, and it’s noteworthy that they appear to run pretty much parallel to TAR, but 0.05 degrees higher. That makes the difference look palpable in these early years, but of course will make little difference to the 2030 projections.

    But it’s still reasonable to wonder where this difference comes from. As I understand it, TAR projections were not baselined to pre-projection hindcasts, as AR4 was. This implies that there are two components of possible “model error” in the AR4 projections, one related to the baseline and the other to the actual projected trends. After all, smoothed temperature trends are already below AR4 projections in 2000 (and have continued to rise, but are not “catching up”, at least not so far).

    Suppose that there might be a baseline error in AR4, due to “over modeling” of Pinatubo volcano aerosols on the one hand and the distortion of the super El Nino on the other. Could one not avoid that issue, by applying the same procedure as Stefan Rahmstorf et al did for the TAR projections, i.e. baselining both projections and observations to the smoothed observations at the start of the projection period?

  24. Save Gaia:

    Well its an argument, but i belive irelevant, maybe the threshold might differ but the balance got disrupted (450 ppm Co2 equality) – hence we had 280 the last 2,1 billion years …
    Maybe a bigger planet could have supported but than again the landtaking of man would have occured expotational/proportional.

  25. Save Gaia:

    I belive we currently see hitting a critical mass in public opinion.
    Everybody starts to act.

  26. Doug Bostrom:

    #96 Carl Wilde:

    “Solar and wind for electric generation is a major user of resources, from synthetic materials, i.e. oil products, copper, lead, and industrial processes to put it all together. At that, efficiency is poor compared to steam plants.”

    Yeah, to any fool it’s obvious that expending 24kW operating a 4kW air conditioner to beat back the sunlight falling on your house while simultaneously running a 4kW resistor to heat water -inside- your house is way more efficient (not to mention intelligent) than organizing some of that sunlight into a useful form, such as heated water. Plus, any idiot knows that since we all have our sunlight and wind metered and can barely pay the bill it’s really important to use sun and wind efficiently by letting it –all– go to waste, as opposed to other, traditional energy sources that are of course too cheap to meter.

    Show me someone burning stuff for light, or warmth, or transportation, I’ll show you a caveman. Setting things on fire used to be the cutting edge, about 40,000 years ago, but no more. It’s time for us to put away the flint and grow up already.

  27. Save Gaia:

    I think we need more Models which point out that we have a “Win Win” situation when we switch quick to renewable energy ressources.
    speaking of biochar, solar farms spiceing electro vehicles.
    No Co2-Cars in Citys.

  28. Hank Roberts:

    Tommy, back to your first picture, in #69 you wrote:
    “The ARGO site shows that ocean temperatures have very slightly fallen the last couple of years.” and later you wrote:

    tommy Says: 22 June 2009 at 5:27 PM
    To Hank Roberts #78, and Wayne, #83,
    This is from the actual ARGO website, so if you think it’s bad, take it up with those folks:

    It’s actually an illustration from this page:

    The two names given there as contacts may be helpful for you if you want to know what it actually is and how it was created and why.

    [Response: You guys seem to be discussing the Niño-3.4 SST, right? That’s a small region in the tropical Pacific indicative of El Niño / Southern Oscillation; i.e. sea surface temperatures there tell you whether the tropical Pacific is in El Niño or La Niña conditions. Has nothing to do with global SST trends. -stefan]

  29. Hank Roberts:

    One last bit for Tommy, in case he wants to do his own research, this may help explain the caption on that image you referred us to (nino3_4):

  30. wayne davidson:

    Tommy: “There was about 25% more second year ice this year over the previous.”

    your reference graph:


    Shows a significant decline in Multi-year ice older than 2 years, greater than 10% since 2007!
    It seems that this is the number you should look at , 08-09 is a newer ice sheet, where the balance between thicknesses has been radically changed. 1-2 years ice is not as important, and may be part of extra ridging from a wider first year pack. As Dhogasa as stated, you must carefully consider your conclusions with a context. If Insolation conditions were identical between 07 and 09, you might have had a point. Just taking numbers out of one source or another does make a poor diagnosis.

  31. Rob Huber:

    I really wish you guys would stop using relative terms like “2 degrees increase” and instead pick a ceiling number like 10C or 20C. Two degrees increase from what? From 100 years ago? From yesterday? From a decade ago?

    [Response: Pre-industrial (ca 1850). – gavin]

  32. Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.:

    Back to the Synthesis report referenced in the lead article and the McKinsey chart on page 29 of that reference: Note how much improvement is attributable to “avoided deforestation.”

    See http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=7933604&story_id=13808825&mode=comment&intent=readBottom for a discussion of how that might not make sense.

    Hint: I have a few trees to not cut. How about my free money?

  33. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #56 Gil

    I hope you realize that the science of climate has nothing to do with whether or not someone wants to paint a roof white, or not.

    Coming up with cost effective alternatives likewise has nothing to do with whether or not this global warming event is human caused.

    However, to address your concerns regarding white paint, I have created a report in response to the Science and Public Policy Institute and the paper presented their written by Lord Monckton, Viscount of Brenchley, which was posted by Bob Ferguson on June 8, 2009


    You might want download and take a look at it. I’m working on a new hurricane page, but it’s not ready yet.

    To any one else that has extra time, if you spot any egregious mistakes in the response, please let me know through the site contact link, and I will correct. For those not familiar with the science, opinions about the report are not appreciated, only well reasoned and/or scientifically sound arguments are acceptable.

  34. Ike Solem:

    Mark Says:

    “I have an interlocutor that says that you can get the Mann Hockey stick from random data.”

    I know someone who says that monkeys, if they are given typewriters and taught to hit them randomly, will eventually produce Shakespeare.

    For some really bad economic advice, turn to the IEA:

    LONDON (Reuters) – Investment in renewable energy is down and achieving oil prices that spur “green-growth” should be a goal for December’s Copenhagen conference, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency said on Monday.

    Well, the only place investment in renewable energy is down is in the United States. see the stats:

    On a regional basis, investment in Europe in 2008 was $49.7 billion, a rise of 2%, and in North America was $30.1 billion, a fall of 8%.

    These regions experienced a slow-down in the financing of new renewable energy projects due to the lack of project finance and the fact that tax credit-driven markets are mostly ineffective in a downturn.

    With developed country market growth stalled (down 1.7%), developing countries surged forward 27% over 2007 to $36.6 billion, accounting for nearly one third of global investments.

    In fact, large scale domestic investment in renewable energy would drive oil prices down by undercutting demand, something I guess that the IEA economist understands very well – but the argument is that if oil prices go up, oil billionaires will invest their money in… the subprime housing market?

    Regardless, it should be obvious that diversification of the energy supply alone should reduce fossil fuel prices, as there would be more (and cleaner) choices for energy consumers. It should also be obvious that with renewables, you don’t have to buy fuels – which is a great deal for the consumer, but a bad deal for the fuel dealer.

    At some point, fossil fuels will just be too expensive to take out of the ground and process – and this would already be the case if the true costs of fossil fuel dependency were included – see the following report, for example:



  35. Jan Theodore Galkowski:

    @AlCrawford, re:

    “Real Climate is a great site — but the general public has no way of reading it. It is beyond the scientific understanding of the average person. If we are going to beat the deniers we must educate and convince the public of what we who follow the science already know. Global warming is here, it is getting worse, and without action it will be very, very bad.”

    Sorry, Al, no. It is not the scientists’ fault, nor the fault of the educators. It is the fault of the sentiments of Pelops War era Athenians transplanted to the USA, or at least of the deep rooted distrust of the scholarly which is American culture, all the way back to its founding Revolution, and heightened through the Great religious Awakening of the 19th century. It is a difference in outlook and outcome, and failing to learn the fundamental lesson of the Last Whole Earth Catalog. Yes, it’s been going on that long. It was discounted then, tossed aside as rubbish from some Yuppie aberration. It is a misunderstanding of what it means to have truth. In some sense, what has happened is a counter scientific revolution, despite the ready willingness to embrace consumer products whose existence depends upon deep science.

    So, *I* think the only things realistically left to do are:

    (a) Work REALLY, REALLY hard at collecting data, modeling, assessing how bad it’ll be and what the effects are going to be. Because it is a matter of economic and physical security, I don’t see why we shouldn’t quintuple funding for research in geophysics and oceans and climate, simply because We Need to know, as well as the maths of doing PDEs better and quicker.

    (b) Prepare as best as can be done to mitigate and move, to step aside in order to avoid consequences. That will be a nightmare in a society which praises and extolls the rights of the individual, and which, today, sees any form of taxation or regulation as tantamount to evil, if not actually evil.

    This will need to be done at a time when, according to Obama himself, we’re “out of money”, and there will be little or no economic growth for the next couple of decades.

  36. Hank Roberts:

    Jim Bullis, you asked; here’s the hint:
    Talk to whoever in your county offers advice, each state in the US has some program and so do most other countries now.

  37. Wili:

    Doesn’t the sharp rise in methane concentrations recorded from the northernmost stations in the last couple years clearly indicate that tundra melting and perhaps ocean clathrate release is in fact contributing significantly to a methane feedback that is now unstoppable?

    To me, this means that we should all stop emitting any more ghg’s than absolutely necessary, in hopes that some unknown unknown negative feedback might save us in spite of ourselves. But maybe that’s just me?

  38. Edward Greisch:

    Danny Bloom: Your polar cities are nonsense. We go extinct first. Your polar cities depend on the climate being linear. It isn’t. Your polar cities depend on civilization continuing in spite of a crash in population from 7 billion to 100,000 or maybe 20, but probably zero. Your polar cities depend on food crops happily growing on melted tundra. They won’t. Your polar cities depend on everything happening over a long stretch of time, like 700 to 1000 years. It won’t take 100 years and could take as little as 10 years.
    Give up your polar cities. They just aren’t going to happen. The climate is too violent when perturbed. People are too violent when civilization fails.
    Read: “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas; “The Vanishing Face of Gaia” by James Lovelock; “Under a Green Sky” by Peter D. Ward; “Collapse” by Jared Diamond and “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan.

    You have only 2 options: Move to the planet Mars or Stop global warming now.

  39. Edward Greisch:

    88 Wilmot McCutchen Says:
    22 June 2009 at 12:37 PM

    him #68 says:

    “Our only hope is the immediate invention of some miracle creations capable of detoxifying the planet.”

    That would be nuclear power, which was invented a long time ago and has evolved to become the safest and cheapest source of electricity. All of your old tired objections have been solved. Nuclear power is the only competitor for coal. The only thing required is a change of attitude.

  40. Mark:

    re mike’s response to 114 They did say that this had been done by two people whose names could not be mentioned.

    I asked if they were Mickey and Donald. And asked if they’d gotten Goofy to call out random numbers until it fitted the numbers they wanted in the graph.

    Which seems to be a shorter version of what you said…

  41. CM:

    Theo (#105)

    If I print out [the HadCRUT3 graph] and lay a school ruler on it and with an HB pencil, project a line into the future, the line will go up, up, up. Can it be said I am “modeling”, albeit without a computer?

    Sure. With your ruler, you are making a simple linear model of global surface temperature as a function of time. With another ruler you could measure the slope and write an equation for it. Its usefulness would be severely limited, though. You’d have to break the ruler to fit in the mid-20th century. And in a business-as-usual scenario you’d need to fit a curve over the 21st century, not a line. In fact, just a short while ago there was a discussion here of a garbage argument that may have resulted from treating IPCC projections to 2100 as if they were linear.

    Is this an answer to those who say “Global warming? Just a (computer) model”?

    I doubt it. It might reinforce their impression that modelling is nothing to do with the real world, and even give them the wrong idea that computer models of climate are just trying to fit lines or curves to observation data, when in fact they do nothing of the sort. Better to give people an inkling of what computer models are about. You could try “Learning from a simple model” on this site, which can also be done with a pencil and paper.

    If you over-simplify, sooner or later people will spot where the simplification breaks down, and will happily believe the failure of your argument proves the failure of climate science. In fact, before you even try the “simple model” referred to above, make sure to consider Spencer Weart’s caution about “people who know just enough math to get into trouble” (first comment in that thread).

  42. pete best:

    Re #134, Yes but reading RC for people who want to be informed allows them to have rational conversations with the deniers.

    i mean look at this stuff on the UK Daily Thelegraph web site:


    A favourite of RC is the DT. Says it all, explain the AGW problem in the context of other alleged scientific unknowns from none other than sciwntists themseles but in disciplines not related to any of AGW and spouting facts that confuse the public, even broadsheet readers!

  43. Alastair McDonald:

    It is not only me who is saying that the US must cut back on its oil consumption. Pickens: Oil Could Go to $300 a Barrel.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  44. CM:

    Some well-buried good news. On p. 20, the Synthesis Report refers to new modelling showing that a 400ppm CO2-equivalents target “is feasible at moderate costs if the full suite of technologies is developed and employed”, with reference to a forthcoming article in The Energy Journal. That should make interesting reading. Sounds more optimistic on the costs of low stabilization than the Stern Report.

  45. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Gil writes:

    the biggest challenge you face has been created by the same scientists who predicted the hole in the ozone layer would destroy the earth 30 years ago.

    No one predicted that.

  46. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Carl Wilde writes:

    you are going to have to realize, current alternative sources will not power a successful industrial nation.

    No, current sources won’t, which is why we have to expand them. Duh.

    Electricity, generated by nuclear primarily, and alternative sources hoping that improvements to the technology will make them cost effective, is the only way to go.

    Why would that be true when nuclear costs more, takes longer to build, and causes more environmental damage?

  47. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Wilmot McCutchen writes:

    We can say with certainty that cap-and-trade, under the scheme of Waxman-Markey, will not cut CO2 emissions.

    No, we can’t say any such thing.

  48. greg:

    I am involved in training Australian landowners in methods of adaptation to climate change. The most strident objectors are those with the most to lose, grasping at any perceived contradiction as if it were life bouy.
    I expect denial and indecision to collapse fairly rapidly once adaptation establishes a successful track record. I expect professional and institutional resistance will harden in reaction to fears of marginalisation. As a consequence, it will be difficult to obtain funding support in competition against programs with more imediate electoral appeal.
    Many people are more apprehensive of imposed carbon costs than than climate change. This arises because the increased costs seem more imediate and certain than the spasmodic progress of climate change.
    The struggle with global warming will be a long one with many disappointments and detractors. Maintaining hope will require a pragmatic attitude and a conscious choice to smell the roses along the way. After all it is a privelige to be in a position to make a difference, however small.

  49. Mark:

    “This arises because the increased costs seem more imediate and certain than the spasmodic progress of climate change.”

    I think it is more a case that those who will have to pay most least benefit from the results.

    That their descendants will survive doesn’t affect *them*.

    Makes you wonder why they need more money they can spend in their lifetime, though.

  50. Mark:

    re 143. Alistair, not only you who says what?