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A warning from Copenhagen

Filed under: — stefan @ 21 June 2009 - (Deutsch) (Chinese (simplified)) (Español)

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 Responses to “A warning from Copenhagen”

  1. 151
    pete best says:

    Re #142, Alastair, the USA consumes 1/4 of the worlds daily 85 Mbd consumption (20 Mbpd) which is a huge amount for a population of some 300 million. 70-80% of its oil is used for transport which is 14 to 16 Mbpd so yes they can easily start to reduce their consumption of the stuff by starting to like cars from European companies that can easily do 40 to 60+ MPG. However the culture of the USA is buried in oil, they discovered it first (modern era), used it in large volumes first and unfortunately for them but fortunately for evryone else used to a 1/4 of their reserves to win the 2nd WW and now it might be peaking which is going to hurt countries totally reliant on it.

    Boon Pickens often talks about oil prices (his fortune was built on it to some degree) and he is a member of ASPO (Association for
    Peak Oil) along with many other learned names in the oil game. Matthew Simmonds, Deffeyes etc all belong in this group and have spoken of peak oil occuring in 2005 or as the IEA/EIA state not for some time in the future (2020). So what does a country like the USA do to secure its future as oil fossil fuels are looking to peak within 20 years! Who knows, but one thing is for certain if we do start to run short in the coming decade or less we need to avoid the following:

    CTL (Coal to Lqiuids)
    Tar and Share Sands
    Other heavy unconventional sources of oil

    These will all be extremely high in CO2 emissions and hence not a good idea. SO what do we do? Well Boone Pickens wants natural gas to be used to transfer freight but its a massive job to do that. More wars aka Iraq, maybe Iran etc or new technologies in a short space of time that do not emit much if any carbon:

    Biofuels from managed second generation forestry and high yield plants or/and even algae.
    Electricity based cars, freight is a diffeent matter though are the best bets for the future of humans transport and a massive upgrade to public sector transport such as rail and trams etc.

    Its all up in the air at the moment so if oil does peak noticeably and the price of oil rockets way before we have any significant alternative energy infrastructure in place (it will) then get ready for a strange future for the time being. Its odd aint it ?

  2. 152
    Mark says:

    “Your polar cities depend on food crops happily growing on melted tundra. They won’t.”

    Heck they require that the north pole rise up a hundred or three metres too!

  3. 153
    Jim Eager says:

    Sorry to be OT, but re the upward trend in winter extent of Antarctic sea ice, is it not the case that the current Milankovic insolation matrix favours more intense south polar winters?

    If so, then winter Antarctic sea ice expansion does not invalidate greenhouse induced warming, it just counteracts it at the moment.

    [Response: Jim, please don't confuse Milankovitch forcing with modern climate trends. The timescales are utterly different. But yes, you are right that recent changes in Antarctic sea ice do not in any way contradict anything else! Upward trends in Antarctic sea ice are readily understood in terms of atmospheric circulation changes, as shown in dozens of papers over the last decade, including a recent one by Turner et al. and my own.--eric]

  4. 154
    Jim says:

    Discerning observers are increasingly skeptical of gloom and doom predictions regarding climate change. Politicians will not spend vast amounts of money on prevention based on computer models. We can yell “there is scientific consensus” until blue in the face. The only motivator will be physical consequences of warming that affect the daily lives of everyday people right now. Because of this, for my money, adaptation is the most effective strategy.

  5. 155
    MarkusR says:

    But did they sign a petition? Ah ha!

  6. 156
    Mark says:

    “Because of this, for my money, adaptation is the most effective strategy.”

    And if that’s not going to happen (I posit that adaption will not happen since people will assume “someone else” will get it in the shorts until too late) then the most effective strategy is to grow long legs and flotation sacs.

    Uh, adaption *won’t* be effective. It’s not even “a strategy” it’s a “oh, well, might as well wait until I *have* to tidy up…”. In other words, procrastination.

  7. 157
    Jim says:

    A strategy is a course of action to achieve a goal. In this case the goal is to mitigate the affect of climate change on civilization. Humans are good at adapting to changing conditions. We are less good at predicting the future, hence the lack of political will regarding prevention.

  8. 158
    Jim Eager says:

    Re another Jim @154: “for my money, adaptation is the most effective strategy.”

    Effective for what?

    How, exactly, will we “adapt” to less irrigation water as rainfall and monsoon patterns shift–as they already are, mountain glaciers shrink–as they already are, and winter snow pack is reduced–as it already is in some areas?

    How will that portion of the global human population that is dependent on rice “adapt” to temperatures that prevent the successful pollination of rice?

    How will that portion of the global human population that depends on the sea for its protein “adapt” to the collapse of the marine food chain due to ocean acidification on top of current overfishing of global fish stocks?

  9. 159

    Mark #156 — I agree with you about the significance of procrastination and its causes.

    Most people in America, at least, would not get motivated to make personal sacrifices even if they were convinced of the imminent danger of Miami and New Orleans (let alone Bangladesh) going underwater, or the European climate going Siberian. Someone else’s problem.

    Also, the long time scales (end of the century) used by climate scientists in describing the disaster leads to procrastination. There’s plenty of time left, and anyway, when it happens, someone else will be miserable.

    And another cause for doing nothing is the faith-based economics that trusts in some future technology to produce a miracle.

  10. 160
    barry says:

    OT

    Has anyone had a go at Lindzen’s “Global Warming – Sensibilities and Science”? It hasn’t been blogged on much in the skeptiverse (Lubos Motl and A Watts posted it) but it seems to be getting some traction.

    Here’s the power point version shown at the Heartland conference:

    http://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/richard-lindzen-3.ppt#256,1,Global

    And the PDF:

    http://www.heartland.org/events/WashingtonDC09/PDFs/lindzen.pdf

    It’s also popped up in a forum I frequent – I confess my main interest is a response to a vexatious critic. I can’t do the maths. But it might make for a post as Lindzen was a star speaker at the event. Make sure to spare yourself the political gafflegab and scroll down to the equations and charts. (Is he on about his Iris theory?)

  11. 161

    Re #148 where greg says:
    “The most strident objectors are those with the most to lose, grasping at any perceived contradiction as if it were life bouy.”

    That’s what’s happening here when I say we have got to reduce our consumption and growth.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  12. 162
    Michael says:

    #159 Wilmot McCutchen

    Emissions reduction as a strategy is one of many strategies. (And one of the more sketchy ones at that) Not participating in this one strategy does not equal doing nothing.

    Changing an entire fossil fuel dependant planet into a non-fossil fuel dependant planet within the time needed is one of the more faith based strategies. Anythings possible but your chances are slim to none.

  13. 163
    CM says:

    Barry #160, have a look at Chris Colose’s blog on it.

  14. 164
    Ike Solem says:

    Cap-and-trade is the wrong strategy – it was championed because it was used in the push towards low-sulfur diesel fuel, but as previously discussed, that just shunted the sulfur into ship bunker fuel:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/03/olympian-efforts-to-control-pollution/#comment-114837

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/03/olympian-efforts-to-control-pollution/#comment-114919

    There’s nowhere to shunt the carbon to – so cap and trade won’t work. What is instead needed is feed-in tariffs for renewable energy generation – for example, put a $2 tax on every barrel of imported oil and use that to provide guarantees for investor in wind and solar. That’s the effective approach – and give a big bonus every time a utility replaces a coal plant with renewable generation capacity.

    Right now you have the opposite situation – investors in fossil fuels are rewarded with long-term contracts and all kinds of government assistance, while renewables are definitely not supported.

    Thus, under this proposed regime, we will be looking at a steady rise in atmospheric CO2 over the next decade, and beyond. The final conclusion is that fossil fuels must eventually be eliminated from the energy mix, and the sooner the better. That’s the only way to slow global warming while keeping human civilization intact, and politicians should just admit it.

  15. 165

    #136 Hank Roberts,

    The problem with the McKinsey chart was what I was trying to point out. The heading, “avoided deforestation” is not necessarily a very meaningful way to mitigate CO2. The first item in your linked search also points that out, though from a different point of view, by making the point that using lumber from forests is actually a good way to capture and store CO2. They should have also mentioned the importance of building such that the lumber lasts a long time.

    My point was that the system of paying people to not cut down trees is not very meaningful, since it is difficult to define such a program in a way to keep it from being easily taken advantage of, as illustrated by my example for my trees that I have no intention of cutting down, regardless of “avoided deforestation” payments.

    There is a real climate beneficial role for sustainable forest management such that harvested wood makes room for new, fast growing trees. This takes some real thought which goes well beyond simply calling for “avoided deforestation” and paying for it in the form of phony “offsets.”

  16. 166
    Mark says:

    “Changing an entire fossil fuel dependant planet into a non-fossil fuel dependant planet within the time needed is one of the more faith based strategies”

    No it isn’t.

    The US went from a mostly rural agrarian society (their major source of work and output) to a vastly larger industrial society in the days from 1942 to 1945/46.

    You seem to have faith in the idea that the change needed is unprecedented and unsupported.

    Care to prove it isn’t faith-based?

  17. 167
    Mark says:

    Re 161:
    “That’s what’s happening here when I say we have got to reduce our consumption and growth.”

    And where we say “claptrap” is the last two words.

    We don’t have to reduce our growth to reduce our consumption.

    1920′s US produced 3600 calories of food for ever calorie of oil.

    1970′s US 1:1.

    Did you produce 3600 times as much food?

    Agribusiness hasn’t changed hardly at all except to use more oil. But tests with Asiatic farms showed that refusing fertilisers did not reduce yields in properly managed (for the locale) farming methods.

    In fact, it increased some yields.

    And cost less.

    And used less oil-based fertilisers and pesticides.

  18. 168

    In the original post Stefan says:
    “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?”

    It’s good to see this administration, and particularly the Energy Secretary taking a pro-active stance regarding the problem,rather than the adaptation position taken by some in the previous administration.

  19. 169
    Hank Roberts says:

    Sorry, Jim Bullis, you’ve got the forestry sequestration numbers backwards. Cutting down lots of trees and planting new ones is the industry’s spin. Don’t rely on the notion posted at the Economist by the ‘Kiwi’ guy that this can’t be accounted for. He’s the same one who who proclaims in the same paragraph that imminent cooling is expected.

    Instead talk to the people, including Jim Bouldin, who are doing the science that’s the basis for the accounting: http://www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/bouldin/index.htm

    You can check your notion that cutting down lots of trees and planting new ones is the right approach– see his publications.

  20. 170
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS to Jim, it’s not your or my intentions about your or my trees that matter for carbon sequestration; it’s whether the trees are committed beyond the brief human lifetime. As our laws are set up, you and I own the entire future of any forest that’s our property. That’s effectively an incredible long span of time. We have the choice to end its productivity forever, or to protect it for a few years during our brief ownership. That’s not enough choices for what’s needed.

    Committing forest land to longterm protection — that’s a problem a lot of us are trying to figure out how to do effectively.

  21. 171
    Michael says:

    Mark, human nature is my evidence.

    Most of the world is ignorant of GW.
    Most of those who know about GW don’t care about GW.
    Of the small number who do have the knowledge, and do care, only a small number can or will do anything significant.

    People express frustration that humans mainly act when its too late, and then go on to say we need to act before its too late. That is faith right there.

  22. 172
    Mark says:

    “Mark, human nature is my evidence.

    Most of the world is ignorant of GW…”

    Hmmm. One recent complaint about AGW is their “alarmism”. A survey (and the figures are all from my head) on the youth’s position on global warming had 58% of the young people responding that they were worried that the world they would grow up in would be unlivable due to the changes in climate resulting from AGW.

    It only seems like people don’t believe if you go to denialist blogs and proAGW blogs with astroturfers.

    Short answer: you’re wrong. Check selection bias in your evidence.

  23. 173
    Michael says:

    Mark,
    58% of the young people from where?

    http://www.gallup.com/poll/117772/awareness-opinions-global-warming-vary-worldwide.aspx

    “This leaves a worldwide median of 38% who either report having never heard about it or did not have an opinion.”

    “Despite the fact that the U.S. ranks third in overall awareness of global warming — at 97% — only 49% of this 97% say they think rising temperatures are a result of human activities.”

    I think it is safe to assume we informed individuals are in the minority.

  24. 174
    Jim Bouldin says:

    Jim Bullis:

    Read the discussion of this topic by Rick Brown starting on page 13:
    http://www.defenders.org/resources/publications/programs_and_policy/biodiversity_partners/implications_of_climate_change_for_conservation,_restoration_and_management_of_national_forest_lands.pdf?ht=

    It’s not nearly so neat a scheme as it’s made to sound by those with an interest in cutting trees.

  25. 175
    bobberger says:

    Re #92, thanks, Stefan. That cleared it up, although I’d say I somehow don’t see the point (beyond the sheer mental excecise). My understandig was, that climate models evolve and that therefore newer models are usually expected to be much “better” or more complete but at least finer resolved than their predecessors – I mean there have been numerous new findings regarding the physics and computers have jumped quite a bit, too, in these 10 years.
    Are there no runs with current models starting in 1990? I’d have assumed that if you consider 16 years as an appropriate timespan for a meaningful comparison, that you’d let the current models run from at least that far back in the past for some sort of verification. Or was it just not within the scope of the Synthesis Report to touch on anything outside TAR and AR4?
    (I don’t mean to make a point here – I simply don’t see the value of comparing the science from 10 years or more ago with current observations, when science seems to have progressed quite a lot in those years. After all, the idea behind the report can’t be to prove that you had it right in the 90s, can it?).

  26. 176

    There are so many comments, I might have missed if anybody mentioned this: the 2 C upper limit is being more and more questioned by more and more countries – those that are low lying islands (AOSIS) and the extremely poor (LDC) – and most badly hit – countries. I think by now about 100 countries or more are supporting a different upper limit: 1.5 C or 350 ppm CO2 (also see http://www.350.org).

    Right now we are already loosing the Arctic sea-ice, the glaciers are melting, sea-level is rising faster than anybody had imagined just last year…do you truly believe that we can warm for another 1 C and be safe? What probability of safety is acceptable for you?

    There are quite a few climate scientists who do not consider that the 2 C limit is safe any more – and they include not only James Hansen.

    I keep wondering why we don’t communicate more effectively: we already have too much CO2 in the atmosphere right now. If we truly want to avoid a catastrophe, we need to do anything in our power to reduce emissions as fast as possible; that includes clearer communication what we are up against, and a clear message what needs to be done: stop using fossil fuels as quickly as possible, making the safe future of our children a priority above all other considerations.

  27. 177
    Rick Brown says:

    Re: Jim Bouldin, #174 Thanks for the pointer to my paper; I’m not so humble that I won’t second that suggestion, but those looking for a more thorough and quantified discussion of the topic of carbon in wood products and forests should look at a Wood Products and Carbon Storage: Can Increased Production Help Solve the Climate Crisis? by Ann Ingerson available (pdf) at http://wilderness.org/content/wood-products-and-carbon-storage

  28. 178

    Re 174 Jim Bouldin

    My objection was only to schemes where there was cash for not cutting trees, as in offset schemes.

    I thought that I clearly said there was need for careful forest usage, which Rick Brown seems to strongly support.

  29. 179
    Doug Bostrom says:

    #161 Alistair MacDonald:

    “That’s what’s happening here when I say we have got to reduce our consumption and growth.”

    For many of us the concept of limits to growth seems akin to thinking about death: We either assiduously avoid the topic or we make up a fantasy about how it does not really happen. Unfortunately it seems very much the case that the physical world exists independently of our personal psychologies and meanwhile there’s no Bible that will magically make the inevitably sordid and grubby outcome of permanent growth go away. We can’t grow forever; we have to stop eventually so we may as well begin learning the economics of how that will work right now.

    #170 Hank Roberts:

    “As our laws are set up, you and I own the entire future of any forest that’s our property. That’s effectively an incredible long span of time. We have the choice to end its productivity forever, or to protect it for a few years during our brief ownership. That’s not enough choices for what’s needed.”

    Very Nicely said and something that ought to be pointed out every time property changes hands or a decision arises about development or exploitation versus preservation. In individual cases we do see choices expanded to include preservation in exchange for some form of compensation; the Nature Conservancy for instance is practiced at arranging conservation agreements in exchange for permanent tax benefits. This ought to be formally promoted in our laws, soon.

  30. 180
    Mark says:

    Michael, they were not the youth of today.

    You know, the ones who will have to live here when the old scrotes have shuffled off this mortal coil, fat and happy.

    When someone else is going to get it in the shorts, it’s easier not to care.

    When you’re going to get it in the shorts, it’s a lot easier to care.

    PS See the Winston Churchill quote: A young man who isn’t a liberal has no heart. An old man who isn’t a conservative has no brain.

    Or something like that.

    (note: said when Winnie was an old man)

  31. 181
    Jim Bouldin says:

    And while we’re on the topic, legislation was introduced in the House last week to provide credits for land-use based carbon sequestration on private agricultural and forest lands in the United States, to complement the lack thereof in Waxman-Markey. See:

    http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.2880:

  32. 182
    Jim Eager says:

    Oh shit, time to batten down the hatches and prepare to be boarded:

    Hansen arrested in coal mining protest

    see lead thread at Coby’s
    http://scienceblogs.com/illconsidered/

    Capcha predicts the nature of the boarders: “manna majority”

  33. 183
    Mark says:

    “We can’t grow forever; we have to stop eventually so we may as well begin learning the economics of how that will work right now.”

    But you miss AGAIN that the problem isn’t stopping growing.

    It’s the intimation or outright statement that we have to stop growing to combat AGW.

    This is wrong.

    It is not right.

    PROVE that a reduction in power use or power needs has NEVER caused an increase in profits that then ploughed back into increased output?

    You won’t be able to.

    Port Talbot Steelworks.

    Rearranged their process. Saved 80% off their energy needs, doubled their output very quickly (if you don’t have to wait for the steel to heat up again, you can produce more quickly).

    PROVE that a per-capita CO2 load being less than the US means a worse lifestyle.

    You can’t: Sweden. About 1/4 the US. Better educated, better fed, better housed. Longer living. Better healthcare.

    Get it?

    It isn’t that growth cannot or should not be reduced or reversed even, but those reasons are ONE WAY of reducing CO2 and undoing AGW. ONE of MANY.

  34. 184
    Chris Colose says:

    barry # 160

    I have went over the powerpoint (the first link you provided) by Richard Lindzen. I am disappointed that such a bright guy at MIT is preparing these types of slides, which only re-affirms his motives of advocacy . Lindzen makes a number of incorrect and misleading claims. Slide #7 for instance shows that he has no understanding of the attribution process at all (or he does, but knows his audience doesn’t). Attribution of warming to CO2 is not a process-of-elimination procedure, nor is formal attribution about the lack of ability to simulate the time-evolution of 20th century warming only when forced with natural factors. Rather, formal attribution is concerned with the spatio-temporal responses to a set of forcings, and natural forcings fail to explain the observed spatio-temporal patterns even if their response is inflated (see Knutti 2008, “Why are climate models reproducing the observed global surface warming so well?”). Such fingerprinting work involves models or physical understanding of the climate and expected changes that occur from an enhanced greenhouse signal. As discussed in Chapter 9 of the IPCC AR4, the conclusion of a dominant anthropogenic signal is robust to different models used, varying degrees of how internal variability is simulated, and even allowing for the possibility of underestimates influence from solar irradiance or other natural factors. Further, when fingerprints from AOGCM’s are used, averaging over an ensemble of model simulations helps separate the model’s response to forcing from its simulated internal variability.

    Lindzen makes further misleading claims concerning the lack of warming seen over the last decade. He only uses one surface temperature product, and as discussed many times by RC and others, there is no expectation that warming flatlines do not occur when you consider a global temperature signal with noise superimposed on a long-term trend. On timescales of several years to a decade (even longer), you cannot make meaningful considerations about the attribution of warming or even in sensitivity estimates. In fact, as discussed recently by Easterling et al 2009, this behavior is not unusual and can even occur later in the 21st century.

    In his later discussions about sensitivity, Lindzen is ignoring different and more recent data, which by now is older news (See Wong et al 2006 linked on my site, see response 163 by CM). The “skeptics” have strongly misrepresented this data and other papers, including the Chen et al 2002 paper in Science, and apparently have no desire to discuss the decades of sensitivity estimates and papers which do not appear to be compatible with a situation of very low sensitivity. It’s probably not worth arguing the point with them however, or trying to teach them something: they have rapidly become the next flat earth society or creationist movement, and their vast number of talking points are essentially going to be confined to the “heartland conference” and other blogs anyway, since they cannot get past the peer-review of authorities in the field.

  35. 185
    Lennart van der Linde says:

    A warning to Copenhagen:
    Jim Hansen was arrested today for civil disobedience:
    http://climateprogress.org/2009/06/23/james-hansen-top-us-climate-scientists-arrested-protest-on-mountaintop-removal/

    Will this start a great domino-effect of similar actions to mobilize a worldwide popular climate movement?

  36. 186
    David B. Benson says:

    Maiken Winter (176) — I opine that nothing above 300 ppm CO2e is safe in the long term.

  37. 187
    Alastair McDonald says:

    Re #51 where Nigel Wiiliams asks:

    Is the Prime Minister of India teaching religious tolerance and offering room again to all those poor water-logged souls in Bangladesh who were previously driven there by the Great Partition? Perhaps they can share in the drought in India as the glaciers feeding the great rivers of Asia dry up and the rice fields die.

    The answer is sadly “No!”

    They are building the Great Wall of India to Fence Bangladesh Out!

    Cheers, Alastair.

  38. 188
    David B. Benson says:

    Chris Colose (184) — Yes, I agree. Call them the modern Flat Earth Society.

  39. 189

    Just to remind — alkaline earth silicate pulverization and dispersal, preferably over land, can take CO2 out of the atmosphere quickly (in climatic terms) and at moderate energy cost (on the order of an eighth of the high-grade energy that was earlier yielded by the coal-fired heat engine that put the CO2 up).

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  40. 190
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Michael says “Changing an entire fossil fuel dependant planet into a non-fossil fuel dependant planet within the time needed is one of the more faith based strategies.”

    Uh, no. It is a strategy that takes into account necessity. Even if climate change were not an issue, the finitude of fossil fuels means that we will soon have to develop alternatives. Climate considerations place further restrictions, but they merely emphasize the fact that our current path is unsustainable.

  41. 191

    Re#185:
    “Jim Hansen was arrested today for civil disobedience”

    It’s high time they decriminalized climate science.
    More seriously, coal is bad news, and mining it using this environmentally damaging method is doubly bad. He’s standing up for principles he strongly believes in. The question,to paraphrase Thoreau, is not why he’s in the slammer, but why are some of us not in it?

  42. 192
    Willis Eschenbach says:

    Stefan, thanks for the article. You say:

    Some aspects of climate change are progressing faster than was expected a few years ago – such as rising sea levels …

    I don’t understand this claim. The TOPEX sea level satellite information at http://sealevel.colorado.edu/current/sl_ib_global.txt tells a very different story. Five years ago the 5-year trailing trend of sea level rise stood at about .4 metres/century. Since then, it has steadily decreased, and is currently at about 0.22 metres/century. This is the lowest it has been over the entire satellite record (1993-2008)

    What sea level information are you looking at? Other sources agree with the Colorado information. For example, Anne Cazenave says in her most recent paper (Sea level budget over 2003–2008: A reevaluation from GRACE space gravimetry,
    satellite altimetry and Argo, A. Cazenave et al., http://etienne.berthier.free.fr/download/Cazenave_et_al_GPC_2009.pdf) that

    This can be summarized as follows: since 2003, sea level has continued to rise but with a rate (of 2.5 +/− 0.4 mm/yr) somewhat reduced compared to the 1993–2003 decade (3.1 +/ − 0.4 mm/yr).

    All the data that I can find shows that the sea level rise is slowing, not increasing.

    What observations are being used that show that sea level rise is “progressing faster than expected”?

    Many thanks for your information on the data sources,

    w.

    [Response: You are talking about short-term variability of sea level over a few years, I'm talking about climate trends. I was referring to the fact that the observed rise (in the satellite altimeter data from Anny Cazenave that you refer to) over the full record (1993-2008) is 3.4 mm/year, which is about 80% faster than that projected in the IPCC TAR for this period (1.9 mm/year best estimate). Note that the AR4 models show almost the same as the TAR models in this respect. This is shown in detail in our Science paper of 2007, the results of which are shown and updated in the Copenhagen Synthesis Report. You could have looked it all up in the report. -stefan]

  43. 193
    Rod B says:

    Mark, asserting that agribusiness hasn’t changed much from 1920s to 1970s is just silly.

  44. 194
    dhogaza says:

    What this specious line of attack neglects (intentionally, one can safely conclude)

    In the case of Jeff ID, I think we can state willful ignorance, not that this is better.

    He was sunk at Tamino’s blog and elsewhere, but “they” won’t change their tune.

  45. 195
    dhogaza says:

    More seriously, coal is bad news, and mining it using this environmentally damaging method is doubly bad.

    This would be something to go to jail for, even if CO2-forced AGW weren’t on the table, and I suspect Hansen’s there for that reason.

    It’s my first major disappointed with the Obama administration, though I suspect they have tricks up their sleeves for the future (I do hope this isn’t forlorn naivite on my part, but on the other hand, I’ve never seen any reason to believe that Obama is a conservationist, in the traditional sense.

  46. 196
    Maiken says:

    Good question, Lawrence. I strongly believe scientists need to take a clear stand, now. Whoever is afraid of losing credibility at this moment seems to not have yet truly understood the urgency to act.
    Sometimes I have the feeling that scientists feel that, because they know, they are already active enough. Knowledge is great, but it gives us the responsibility to act. We all should take Jim’s action as a call to all of us to be not content of just sitting at the computer and lamenting, to not just give fancy presentations at important meetings, but to get out there into the streets and into the politicians opffices and act.
    I am off to Augsburg, Germany, right now, talking to senior city officials about 350. What are YOU doing today to help?

  47. 197
    bobberger says:

    #191

    “It’s high time they decriminalized climate science.”

    I wasn’t aware they “criminalized” climate science in the first place. He was arrested for blocking a street, wasn’t he? Not for programming a climate model.

  48. 198

    146 Barton Paul Levenson: is completely wrong on nuclear. See: http://www.hyperionpowergeneration.com and http://www.ecolo.org
    nuclear costs less, is factory built, and causes no environmental problem. Nuclear fuel is recyclable. 4th Generation reactors have no long term “waste” because they recycle internally.
    Nuclear is 30% cheaper than its nearest competitor, which is coal. Nuclear would be even cheaper if its safety level were reduced to the level of other sources.
    If you are agains nuclear, you are avocating coal. No other source can compete.

  49. 199

    Edward Greisch writes:

    “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.

    Nuclear power is safer than a box of tissues. There are no wastes. Nuclear bombs don’t really work. Nuclear power is too cheap to meter. Using it makes you more virile (if male)/feminine (if female) and will result in more sex and better sex. It is not only 100% environmentally harmless; it actually cleans the environment and makes the air sparkle. Nuclear power makes little children laugh with delight. Opposing it makes the baby Jesus cry.

  50. 200

    Hi, I noticed that there was a statement in #22 about people being able to think in terms of systems. This is a very advanced way of thinking that most people are incapable of, according to the Wilber model of consciousness. Thus the only way forward is for governments to be convinced of the importance so that they can mandate action. This also assumes that the individuals in government are capable of this level of thinking of course. A tall order but better than the general population.


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