Groundhog day

The Onion had a great piece last week that encapsulates the trajectory of these discussions very well. This will of course be familiar to anyone who has followed a comment thread too far into the weeds, and is one of the main reasons why people with actual, constructive things to add to a discourse get discouraged from wading into wikipedia, blogs or the media. One has to hope that there is the possibility of progress before one engages.

However there is still cause to engage – not out of the hope that the people who make idiotic statements can be educated – but because bystanders deserve to know where better information can be found. Still, it can sometimes be hard to find the enthusiasm. A case in point is a 100+ comment thread criticising my recent book in which it was clear that not a single critic had read a word of it (you can find the thread easily enough if you need to – it’s too stupid to link to). Not only had no-one read it, none of the commenters even seemed to think they needed to – most found it easier to imagine what was contained within and criticise that instead. It is vaguely amusing in a somewhat uncomfortable way.

Communicating with people who won’t open the book, read the blog post or watch the program because they already ‘know’ what must be in it, is tough and probably not worth one’s time. But communication in general is worthwhile and finding ways to get even a few people to turn the page and allow themselves to be engaged by what is actually a fantastic human and scientific story, is something worth a lot of our time.

Along those lines, Randy Olson (a scientist-turned-filmmaker-and-author) has a new book coming out called “Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style” which could potentially be a useful addition to that discussion. There is a nice post over at Chris Mooney’s blog here, though read Bob Grumbine’s comments as well. (For those of you unfamiliar the Bob’s name, he was one of the stalwarts of the Usenet sci.environment discussions back in the ‘old’ days, along with Michael Tobis, Eli Rabett and our own William Connolley. He too has his own blog now).

All of this is really just an introduction to these questions: What is it that you feel needs more explaining? What interesting bits of the science would you like to know more about? Is there really anything new under the contrarian sun that needs addressing? Let us know in the comments and we’ll take a look. Thanks.

Page 2 of 2 | Previous page

1,071 comments on this post.
  1. Joseph O'Sullivan:

    I agree there is something of a groundhog quality.

    How about updating some old posts like the old ocean acidification one? New information can be posted without rehashing all of it.

    Maybe have some guest scientists with expertise in areas like general ecology, marine biology or some other life science write posts to explain some of the connections between climate and the biosphere.

  2. Mark:

    Hang in there and keep communicating the facts. Repetition is a necessary part of the process especially when the deniers try so hard to confuse and complicate. It may seem like an uphill fight and maybe humanity cannot not be made to care enough to save themselves but at least you have to try. Keep up the good work

  3. Daniel:

    Well the question that I always ask is not about the science, but about the solution. And those who propose nuclear seem to think that simply building lots and lots of nuclear reactors throughout the third world is going to solve everything. But they never explain how it would solve everything. Nor do they deal with the all too human problems which become exacerbated in regards to nuclear, propensities to militarism, to suspicion, to greed for power, corruption, incompetence, accidents. Not to mention ignoring the radiation and toxins released from mine tailings and waste rock, where the vast bulk of radiation is liberated.

    It would solve nothing.

    PS the “type the two words” test has just failed me three times. They are really hard to differentiate.

  4. Joel Shore:

    Gavin,

    I think I know what comment thread you are talking about in relation to your book and I agree with your assessment of those who were commenting on it. Having read only a small part of your book myself, I did make an attempt to defend it there. (And, I did very much enjoy the parts of your book that I did get to read so far, which are your introduction, Tim Hall’s chapter, and a smattering of other parts.)

    As for suggestions for future topics (and falling mostly under the “contrarian sun” part): One thing that I feel would be useful would be more discussion of the problems with the arguments being put forward mainly by Roy Spencer suggesting that a lot of the warming that we see could be due to internal variability in the climate system that leads to spontaneous changes in cloud cover and hence essentially cause changes in radiative forcing (which he then combines with his claim that the shortwave cloud feedback is strongly negative to argue that most of the warming we’ve seen is due to such spontaneous variability in clouds and not to greenhouse gases). I know you’ve already had a little bit on that here http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/05/how-to-cook-a-graph-in-three-easy-lessons/ but more would be useful.

    And, more generally, some posts with more details about the modeling of clouds and where the models agree and disagree in terms of their cloud feedbacks would be good.

    Another topic, which admittedly might be one of limited interest but would certainly be interesting to me personally, would be some discussion of climate science as a career (and, for example, a career-change from other related fields such as physics).

  5. dhogaza:

    I think you guys do a great job of bringing new research to the table, and can’t think of anything other than that to suggest.

    I found this interesting, though:

    the need for our group to have a functioning and reasonably realistic climate model with which to start the new round of simulations.

    I’m sure you’re talking about finishing the implementation and testing of incremental improvements, but what are they? New research results driving changes in the equations that form the physical model? Code efficiency improvements?

    Anything interesting to talk about there, or is the level of change too trivial to be interesting? I have no way to judge.

  6. MacDoc:

    Perhaps focus on the unexpected or unexposed sources of climate altering emissions – ie shipping fuel efficient vehicles across the Pacific in container ships that are huge unregulated emitters.

    and look at the misconceptions about choices in strategy ( personal and policy ) as this article does well

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17260-train-can-be-worse-for-climate-than-plane.html

    I do notice in some of the forums I participate in a distinct “quieting down” of many of the most irascible and loud denier voices in climate specific threads.

    I see little of that “volume decrease” in “letters to the editor” comments on something that mentions climate change. If anything it seems louder and less informed in those venues. Clearly there is little consensus onthe reality or the threat of climate change in the letter to the editor writing cadre and they seem to have found full voice in repeating discredited concepts.

  7. Mark A. York:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124424567009790525.html#mod=djemEditorialPage

    Refuting this kind of stuff is useful. I guess in some ways many have moved on to the impacts of AGW, buying the concept aside. It’s the same methodology and the same players: Roger Dodger to the rescue.

  8. Chris McGrath:

    As a non-climate scientist I agree with dhogaza (#5), that RealClimate does a great job of bringing new climate research to the table and those are the posts that would most like to see continue.

    For example, your February 2009 post on “Antarctic warming is robust” was really helpful for non-experts trying to understand the complex scientific issues surrounding climate change: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/02/antarctic-warming-is-robust/

  9. Yvan Dutil:

    I know how you feel. Climate change, darwinism, energy problem it is all the same fight. As I scientist, whatever the topic, we face the same challenge.

    It is only recentely, I have discovered why. The way science is taugh for most people is be memorizing standard recipes given by an authority. This is true even for people who are suposingly scientists. I have seen this attitude in engineer and chemist too. Unless, you are train to be a resercher, you will almost never experience the difficulties and complexities of science. Simple scientific paper can have 10-20 concepts that are presupose to be true. In the real world, there is almost nobody working on such complex topic. Therefore most people will tend to think this is a complex story making, which as little relation to reality.

    In these conditions, if you have two “equivalent” experts, you choose the story you like to most. Scientists doing research are making something like 0,1% of the population, and this is probably an overestimate by a factor 10. In consequence, dont expert this situation will change soon.

  10. smile4me2day:

    There are lots of questions worth exploring! One I’d like to see is a thread on that free EdGCM climate model from Columbia and how best to use it.

    It looks like a very cool and fun program, but like anything, having a little inside info from the experts always helps make it more successful in the hands of newbies.

  11. Richard Pauli:

    The high walls between science and politics may be impassible.

    There are no similar arguments about other controversial sciences like dark energy, black holes and cold fusion – because their economic impact is not destructive and in any case would be very slight (for now).

    Clearly, political and commercial interests prefer to fit and shape information in ways to preserve and enhance revenue. It gets contentious as these interests continue to brace against the political and economic changes that are obvious in addressing the problem.

    We face a test of civilization itself, whether we can meet and understand the laws of physics, or temporarily ignore them.

    Thank RC for all that you do.

  12. Dean:

    It was interesting to see your comment about the sci.environment glory days as I was a regular participant in that.

    Here are some issues that I think would be good for you to address:
    1. The tipping point. I’m not aware that the IPCC report deals with the issue of when positive feedbacks become so bad that cutting our emissions will not help. Hansen has been very public on this, and it would be good to get a summary of how much we know about this.
    2. Your thoughts on a National Climate Service – what should it do, how can it help.
    3. Add a section/link somewhere that lists new and quality online resources – whether reports or studies, etc – as they become available (and which are aimed at a general audience), maybe with a brief comment on what is new about them if it isn’t obvious.

    Also – just finishing The Long Thaw (there wasn’t a waiting list for it at my library :(. Good to see people talking about the longer term.

  13. Martin Hedberg:

    Hi.
    Thank you for your great work.

    Geopolitical consequences of adaptation to climate change (global change) as well as mitigation and negotiations related to climate change may not be you primary subject. But at the same time not all of the people working with geopolitics, strategies etc are enough educated in climate science. Can you help overlap the gap?

    /Martin Hedberg

  14. susann:

    I agree that the “Groundhog Day” quality of the debates are extremely tiresome. Disheartening. After I heard them all for the nth time, I decided to avoid all such debates. Not that I have all the answers, but that I’ve heard all the objections by the denialosphere and I feel that reading further repetition will achieve nothing except raise my BP.

    This blog should continue its very important work of bringing new research to the table, explaining it for the public’s consumption and clarifying any mistakes made by honest (and otherwise) critics and naysayers. I need to know why someone is wrong or right and I need someone with credentials to help me understand.

    Keep up the great work!

  15. Steve Fish:

    Hi:

    We have heard some hints that predictions by climate scientists may be on the conservative side. Whether this is the case, or not, I would like to hear more about the factors and feedbacks that, by their nature, could cause significant deviations in predictions. Also, what are the feedback mechanisms, not included in climate models, that have the potential to impact our future.

    Steve

  16. Arthur Smith:

    Add another vote along with dhogaza (5) and Chris McGrath (8) – I’d love to see you talk more about your own research when you can. Going public about stuff too soon, about things which aren’t yet solid, can risk misunderstanding and misinterpretation, it’s true. But with some care I think it can be done in a manner that doesn’t leave false impressions, and the back and forth in comments can be edifying to both sides in case of confusion. Hopefully there’s enough background material on the site already that a few references are enough introduction, but if not that might also suggest some good new background topics to cover.

  17. Mike:

    How about revisiting old posts and explaining why the predictions did or didn’t happen.

  18. Joe Hunkins:

    Model falsifiability & verifiable experiments about CO2 effects.

  19. Dan Satterfield:

    Gavin, I’m halfway through the book now and it’s excellent.

    Was happy to see he chapter by Kim Cobb, I had the chance to interview her last fall for a piece we aired on that ridiculous “Oregon” petition.

    IMHO RC is at it’s best when you write on new papers being published with your perspectives.

    As for the quality of the comments, you have no obligation to give a voice to the “breathlessly ignorant” (see C.P.). Certainly, spending time moderating is not high on your list of pleasant chores, but leave those comments for those sites that cater to those who you will never succeed in educating.

    The public IS “getting it”. I frequently mention climate sci. during weather casts, and I get very few responses from the “hoax” crowd. The true disbelievers are really few in number.

    The confused crowd is growing larger, and that’s the group where you can make a difference. I hear “I’m confused” a lot more than “it’s a hoax!”.

    Lastly,
    How about some more on tropopause/stratospheric changes. New paper here looks interesting: http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2008JD011267.shtml

  20. EL:

    Gavin,

    I’m going to sound like an English professor here, but what audience are you trying to target? Are you attempting to target mathematicians, computer scientists, physicists, biologist, engineers, or general population?

  21. andre:

    Thanks for a very informative web site and all the hard work which you and your colleagues have put into it. Some possible questions I would be interested in,
    – What steps are taken or experiments which are planned for validation and verification of the computer models?
    – What type of runtime is required for a typical model run (machine,number processors, options which eat up cpu time?). Can physically reasonable simulations be done with a desktop processor and with which codes?
    – Has the high profile nature of climate science affected anything at the paper or conference level compared to other sciences? Also, has it affected your everyday work environment in any way?
    – If you track page hits, what are some of the most popular articles on realclimate? (“The CO2 problem in six easy steps” and “What Angstrom didn’t know” are my favorites)

  22. Steve Chamberlain:

    Gavin, thanks for this, it often seems as though there is an unlimited supply of bloggers, “journalists” (if I can use that term in this context) and authors who constantly do the “rinse and repeat” cycle with their “informed debate” and “honest scepticism”.

    One small nitpick – the author’s name in your OP should be Ian PLImer, not PILmer. I wouldn’t normally care, but the odds are someone will come along and try to make the case that mis-spelling his name means ALL facts produced on RC are wrong and thus AGW is bunk/ a Marxist plot/ the IPCC believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden/ Al Gore is fat.

    reCaptcha: “society trounces” Fill in the missing word…

    [Response: Fixed - thanks. -gavin]

  23. Craig Allen:

    Perhaps you should refocus toward RealClimate more toward the science.

    Switch off the commenting a day or two after you make posts in order to save the moderation load for starters.

    Eskew commenting on manufactured controversies unless there is some relevant new research to report.

    And let us know more of what is going on in the field. There must be dozens of papers published each week that we hear nothing of. How about inviting reputable climate scientists to publish summaries of their work, and to do the moderation of their posts themselves.

    Cheers and well done so far.

  24. MacDoc:

    # 7 impacts.

    Yes I find the impact aspect is more front and centre in online conversations….and some deniers are now touting – well warmer = good and it’s really all quite benign.

    One area I would like to see extended or emphasized is the role the cryosphere plays in damping extremes and how the loss of glaciers will impact Europe and other food producing regions in the mid latitudes.
    I find there is little ( and that included me initially )- sense of how big and influential the cryosphere is.

    There is much focus on the poles, Greenland and Antarctica but less so – in my reading – in the mid latitudes.
    Yet the glacial loss in the mid latitudes will have – is having – a more immediate impact on nearby populations – food, recreation and’ I would imagine, on the biota in the watershed below the glaciers.

    When you get an article stating Glacier National Park needs a new name since there will be no glaciers…..that’s very Real….pardon the pun to many people compared to some large chunks of Greenland or an Antarctic ice shelf MIA.

    http://climateprogress.org/2009/03/03/global-warming-impact-faster-than-predicted-glacier-national-park-decade-early-2020-2030/

    Maybe poking into the impacts from a science standpoint that are very immediate and visible would bring the a needed flashlight into the murky corners of what is going on.

    Perhaps an added category of Impact of Climate Change might be useful on the right hand list.

  25. James Martin:

    I read today a claim that in the paper published recently by Dr Steig et al. in Nature regarding the Antarctic warming trend, there is a weighting problem. They claim that most of the weighting comes from the peninsula stations, which represents a relatively small part of the continent.

    I was wondering if this is in fact the case? It doesn’t seem likely, but could you comment on this at all? If these assertions are left unchecked, before you know it they’ll be taken as fact.

    [Response: The point of the Steig et al paper was to use spatial correlations in recent data to look at how under-sampled parts of the continent likely changed over longer time periods. Those correlations will necessarily weight different stations differently as based on the physical characteristics. The analysis you saw is simply a fishing expedition, an analysis of what the calculation is doing (fair enough), combined with an insinuation that the answer is somehow abnormal or suspicious (not ok). But how is this to be judged? What would be normal? No-one there can say and they would prefer simply to let people jump to conclusions. It's kinda of typical of their tactics, but not a serious scientific point. - gavin]

  26. Steve Reynolds:

    I’d like to see something on what possible pitfalls exist in equating solar and GHG forcing, and on whether climate sensitivity should be the same for each of those forcings.

  27. Earl Killian:

    You wrote, “Is there really anything new under the contrarian sun that needs addressing?

    I prefer RealClimate to concentrate on the open issues in our understanding of climate systems and promoting rational discussion between scientists and the reality-based community, and less on debunking the loonies.

    For example, I would like to know your opinion of http://www.pnas.org/content/105/38/14245.full which seems to raise an important point. If we shut down coal power plants and thereby eliminate aerosols that are keeping things cool, won’t we make exacerbate positive feedbacks such as permafrost methane? Do we need an aerosol substitute without the CO2?

  28. paulina:

    I think it would be interesting to understand more about how communication works among different kinds/types of researchers engaged on a particular project.

    Maybe you could share some examples of relevant interdisciplinary challenges and triumphs?

    What divides, if any, have there been for y’all to bridge, how did you make that happen? Important steps along the way? Current challenges in this department?

  29. Chris Colose:

    Hi Gavin,

    First of all, I have to extend thanks for everything that you and RC has done over the years. Always keep in mind when you are frustrated that there are many people who get good information from this site and appreciate the RC efforts.

    At this point in the game, my impression from reading various online sources is that there are now many “educated laypeople” who can correspond with skeptics (of all sorts) and dissect “new and improved arguments.” There was probably a time where many of us needed RC or a similar site to post “rebuttals” to every new argument, or even arguments that were phrased a bit differently than normal, but I no longer think this is necessary.

    It may be worth pointing out exactly what a non-expert would have gotten out of the RC effort if this site was the only thing they read for the last several years that relates to climate change. That person would understand the basic mechanisms behind how climate change works and would be able to communicate this to a lay audience. They would be able to answer general questions or arguments raised from such an audience. That person would be able to follow essentially all of the qualitative details in the literature (generally the introduction, conclusion, etc) of a review paper, and thus take away the important elements of that piece, perhaps only needing to jump over the statistical details or other technical aspects. That person would understand the basic timeline of how climate has evolved in the past, the basic mechanisms of how climate has changed, and what is important for it changing in the future.

    To this end, you have successfully created a person who can correspond well and at an “above wikipedia” detail, can answer criticisms, and can pick up further information on their own without getting tricked by common talking points. For what it is worth, I am only an undergraduate, yet have picked up enough background to maintain a website, work with Eli and others on submitting a paper to the International Journal of Modern Physics (possibly to end up in arxiv), and have given oral presentations on climate change physics aat an undergraduate conferences…much of this developing background I have picked up from RC or papers/other references that RC made me aware of. I would like to think that I have a slight advantage (at least to the extent of being able to follow the terminology and basic science) as I get an atmospheric science degree and prepare for graduate school, with this site being responsible for much of that development, especially in the earlier stages of my interest in climate.

    So what can RC provide in the future? As I’ve said, I no longer feel the necessity to respond to the “Christopher Moncktons” or “Inhofes” of the world, as if they had something important to say. Rather, discussing the latest details of peer-reviewed documents (and even trying to promote more guest posts from experts in their area), and perhaps the occasional technical post (that means maths!) would be great to read. Keeping up with what is going on at the year 2009, such as status reports on the AR5 or video links to recent cliamte conferences may be better than a refresher course in how the greenhouse effect works or why “CO2 lags temperature” does not disprove physics. It’s my experience that posts of high academic level also serve as a filter, already weeding out the people who just want to repeat something from a wingnut site, preventing them from posting in high amounts…probably because those kind of posts offer little opportunity to re-hash common talking points. Hope that helps

    Best
    Chris

  30. Mark A. York:

    I should take this time to say that I couldn’t have written my novel Warm Front, without Realclimate. I dedicated the book to RC. It’s not sold yet but I’m getting closer. The excellent scientific explanations of the workings of AGW were tantamount in the plot. The same ones Crichton ignored.

    RE:#24 I had a whole chapter on Glacier Park but had to cut it. The book features Alaska, Greenland, Antarctica, Boulder, Colorado and Washington DC. Salud!

  31. Ron Eades:

    Gavin, don’t give up! Your subject is extremely complex and difficult for even an attentive mind to grasp if that mind has not been trained in any scientific field. And, there are a lot of us.

    Joseph O’Sullivan, comment one, has a good idea about updating, although you and the other scientists writing information for the rest of us probably have very little time for such an endeavor. As an generalized example of this need, the first time I discovered your website, March 2009, one of the first articles I read was dated several years ago and may have been partially superseded by information in David Archer’s latest book.

    In an ever changing world, people who are unwilling or unable to live in that world comfortably will seek certainty. The only thing obvious in global climate change is that it is exceedingly complex, and does change as new data is added to models (making those seeking certainty very uncomfortable). This turns those folks toward others (contrarians) who deny climate change. Contrarians seem to have the tendency to resist the reality of change and seek the status quo of a more simple world. Rather like the ostrich who can’t see problems and denies his rear is on fire. If RealClimate.org goes away, the contrarians win a large battle.

    Other folks are simply innundated with the pro and con arguments and will not even discuss the issues. Some are just fatalistic about our chances for survival and have given up. Knowing some facts about climate change, about politicians who can be bought by oil and coal, can lead people into total dispair.

    Perhaps a RealClimate department of psychological persuasion, sans science words, submitting many articles to People magazine and other popular magazines would help to predispose non scientists to accept the reality of global climate change and the necessity to alter our way of impacting the environment. Convincing Oprah and then wrangling an invitation to the Oprah show would probably do more than anything else to convince people of the reality of global climate change. Would put pressure on politicians too.

  32. Edward Greisch:

    RealClimate, I’m amazed at your stamina so far. Congratulations. Having to teach the same things over and over seems like a good reason to not be a teacher. I’m so tired of saying the same things over and over as well, including that the educational system should at least teach everybody what science is. I have tried to involve myself with the local school board to try to remedy this. Reference: “Science and Immortality” by Charles B. Paul 1980 University of California Press. In this book on the Elegies of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1699-1791) page 99 says: “Science is not so much a natural as a moral philosophy”. [That means drylabbing [fudging data] will get you fired.]
    Page 106 says: “Nature isn’t just the final authority, Nature is the Only authority.”
    Every grade of K-12 and at least the first 2 years of college should require laboratory courses and Charles B. Paul’s book should be quoted often.

    As they say, the day we named ourselves Homo “SAPIENS,” Hugh Bris was in town. As far as arguments about evolution are concerned, for example, I structure the situation so that I evade the argument part and tell the opponent to go read some book or other. When somebody asks: “Where is the missing link?” I say: “You’re looking at him, and so am I.” The really bad news is that if global warming makes us extinct, the scientists go extinct along with all the rest. That is the ultimate argument in favor of a self-sustaining colony of scientists on Mars. I see no other possible way for a truly sapient race to evolve.

    The questions are begged: “Does this species really deserve to evade extinction?” and “Will a sapient species ever evolve in this universe, or are all candidates doomed to exterminate themselves by global warming?”

    My advice to RealClimate is:
    1. Keep plugging away because if you give up, the denialists will declare victory.
    2. The answers are rooted in the evolution of the human mind. Study sociobiology, psychology and psychiatry in your “spare” time. There are people who are, for the first time in history, attempting to address this problem.
    3. Hope that some medium-sized climate catastrophe will convince a majority of voters before our extinction becomes inevitable.

  33. Michael McGee:

    RealClimate.org provides a service of immeasurable value. When fallacies are repeated in the media, there needs to be excellent sites like this where people can find solid ground.

    Gavin, your article states: “What is it that you feel needs more explaining? What interesting bits of the science would you like to know more about?” The offer is appreciated!

    Something has been on my mind for more than a year. As much as I believe I understand the subject, I am not a scientist and it would be of great benefit to learn how scientists look at the issue. That is, I am writing about the question of what concentration of atmospheric CO2 can be considered safe.

    Although the UNFCCC has no specified target for the atmospheric stabilization of any greenhouse gas (the UNFCCC Secretariat confirmed my hunch about this in an email of April 2008), the EU has a policy of avoiding 450 ppm which is often associated with avoiding 2°C of warming since pre-industrial times. These “avoidance” targets are based on scientists’ “reasons for concern” that global warming of more than 2-3°C may be dangerous. Last year, Hansen et al published different conclusions based on paleoclimate evidence and observations of ongoing climate change. That is, they are saying that atmospheric CO2 must be reduced from current “danger zone” levels of >385 ppm to a minimum of 350 ppm, and likely below that. My subjective sense is that the most talked about target of ‘avoiding 450′ continues to be the prevailing policy position, even among IPCC scientists. (With respect to the position of scientists and the IPCC, this is admittedly a supposition based more on scientist’ lack of comment on 350, and not based a lot of scientists speaking out in favour of the ‘avoiding 450′ target.)

    Could “avoid 2°C” and “avoid 450 ppm” be charactarized as a “soft” (or somewhat subjective) facts / targets that are based on a mixture of policy and a “reason for concern” among scientists? (If there is a main source that would explain the science and reasons behind the “reasons for concern” it would be of great interest. Might the reasons for concern be based on paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change (or something of equal or greater reliability?) On the other hand, to what extent can the Hansen et al conclusion (that CO2 needs to quickly return to 350 and problably lower) be accepted as a “hard” objective fact? Is there an alternate study or conclusion that is more robust or based on better data?

    Given that atmospheric CO2 will soon be exactly between 450 and 350 (i.e. at roughly the same time as when the arctic sea is predicted to start being ice free in summer–for the first time since before the dawn of human civilization) is “avoid 450″ or “350 or less” the safest according to the best available evidence and the best available science?

  34. Edward Greisch:

    3 Daniel: You are simply wrong. I am curious about your fear. What exactly is it that scares you about nuclear power?
    Please read: “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007 Finally a truthful book about nuclear power. Gwyneth Cravens is a former anti-nuclear activist.

    [Response: Please do not post under multiple names - I have edited the comment accordingly. - gavin]

  35. Fern:

    As a reasonably intelligent non-science person who is following this whole issue closely, I find your posts extremely informative. As soon as a claim is made that AGW is bunk, this is my first stop. I think I’ve got a pretty good grip on the basic science, but I want to be kept up to speed by people I can trust. That’s you. Don’t stop. I feel very strongly that we all need to be scientifically literate, at least at a level that we can make responsible choices in our daily lives that (at best) improve the situation and (at least) don’t make it worse.

    So I would say, you’ve done a brilliant job of making the science accessible. Please continaue to dissect the disinformation and lay it all out clearly for us “lay-folk”.

    Cheers

  36. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    I don’t even bother with the contrarians anymore. You could just have some standard rebuttals all set up in a very short post that briefly states their preposterous claim, then says, “For rebuttals look here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.” Then just delete the “heres” that don’t apply.

    What I want to see is discussion on the other end of the spectrum, such as discussion about (permanent) runaway warming, which scientists and others here had been telling me was impossible in this global warming era (I was actually only interested in temporary runaway, or hysteresis, as during the end-Permian), but recently Jim Hansen gave a presentation at the American Geophysical Union ( http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/AGUBjerknes_20081217.pdf ) that talks of the possibility of runaway.

    So I’d like to see discussions about:
    1. possibility of climate hysteresis (as during the end-Permian)
    2. runaway (and the various poinst Hansen raised about this era being different from the past)
    3. the effects of climate change (e.g., human deaths) — which are in scientific fashion being grossly underestimated, I’m sure. Perhaps some guest commentators can participate.

    In other words skip the environmental “right” and take on the environmental “left.” That where the discussion should be — like whether or not runaway is possible, not whether or not global warming is happening, or whether or not it will have negative consequences.

  37. Thomas:

    I thought of a few potential topics that might be of interest. In no particular order:

    >Geoengineering, with can mainly be split into two types, Short wave interventions, increasing the planets albedo, and long wave interventions -absorb/sequester greenhouse gases. The later can be thought of two diferent types, organic absorbers, and inorganic absorbers. What are the potentials -and drawbacks of the various proposals?

    > The Dim Young Sun problem: Theories of stellar evolution make it challenging to propose that the early earth was not frozen. What are the most recnt thoughts about this?

    > Century scale feedbacks: CO2 and methane releases as a result of climate change. What do we know about the potential for positive (or negative) feedback mechanisms? How much should we worry about these?

    > Ice Sheet Stability: What is the timescale of deglaciation? There are plausable mechanisms that may cause an assymetry of timescale bnetween glaciation and deglaciation. What are the current scientific best guesses as to how fats deglaciation can happen?

  38. Donald Oats:

    Actually, it is worse than Groundhog Day, at least here in Australia. One of our independent politicians went across to USA last week, to check out the Heartland Institute’s “conference”. Today our national paper has him spouting “it is the sun”. Sheesh.

    On a more positive note though, I think that where RealClimate has been at its best as a blog, is in providing an entry point into current scientific literature. Something else that comes across is the manner in which science progresses – it seems that an awfully large chunk of the population have no idea at all, beyond some superficial characterisation of scientific method.

    Finally, I have purchased and am in the middle of reading several books on the topic of climate, which I mention for the hell of it. My own personal rating 0-5 ‘*’, more the better, and ‘-’ means negative:
    [-*oooo] Ian Plimer’s rather tragic disjointed opinionated book (I am far enough into it to mightily annoyed at the cul-de-sacs and wilfully ignorant use of references to imply a quite different thing to the original authors’ conclusions). Even the major historical characters, such as Guy Callendar, are mis-spelt repeatedly, such is the meticulous attention to detail.
    [***oo] Chris Mooney’s “The Republican War on Science” spells out in detail the industry dirty tricks used to buy time for as long as they can get away with it. One interesting factoid is that once upon a time there were Republicans that saw environmental issues as terribly important – for example, Russell Train (Ch 3). If I were a conservative, I would not want corruption of science for political reasons, or any other reason for that matter. I hope at least a few people on the right (as well as the left) of politics read this and appreciate the damage being done by political shenanigans of this sort.
    [***oo] William J. Burroughs “Climate Change in Prehistory”, in which the interaction of climate and early humans is detailed. The enormity of even some fairly recent swings in the climate is deftly covered. Given the choice b/n Plimer and Burroughs, I’d go for Burroughs as far more reliable (dare I say ‘credible’) and intrinsically interesting.
    [****o] Barry Saltzman’s “Dynamical Paleoclimatology” is a good introduction into how mathematics, physics and the various components that make up climate, may be drawn together into a simplified global climate model. Undergrad to graduate level, as far as the maths goes.
    [****o] Gavin Schmidt and Joshua Wolfe’s “Climate Change” – great pix throughout, and the accompanying text is at a level that any interested reader should be able to handle. No maths as far as I can recall.

  39. Robin Johnson:

    First of all. I would like the THANK RealClimate for their efforts. I am now much better armed to work against the denialists and their ‘victims’ plus just understanding things better (such as I can).

    Second, I’d like to point out a couple of things about human behavior that not everyone seems to understand that bears strongly on this type of dialog. What I’m about to say is purely anecdotal based on many years of personal experience, observation and experimentation on unwitting subjects.

    Since most people cannot judge the ‘truth’ of certain types of information for themselves, they rely on the source and/or how the information would fit into their world view instead of reviewing the ‘evidence’ and reaching their own conclusion.

    1. Information provided by an untrusted source that is contrary to someone’s world view is easily rejected as untrue.
    2. Information provide by a trusted source that fits into someone’s world view is easily accepted as true.
    3. Information provided by an untrusted source that fits into someone’s world view is often viewed as particularly true since even the untrustworthy say its true
    4. Information provided by a trusted source that is contrary to someone’s world view causes significant retrospection that usually results in the placement of the trusted source into the untrusted bucket – at least on that subject matter – but occasionally causes the someone to adjust their world view.
    5. Information provided by neutral sources (neither trusted nor untrusted) is simply viewed by its fit to someone’s world view.

    But here’s the REALLY odd bit, most people don’t REMEMBER the source of information after a relatively short passage of time. This means they really don’t know whether or not it came from a trusted or untrusted source. And so unless the remembered information has been strongly noted as untruth in their memory or their world view, people seem to make the weird assumption that the information is probably true since they bothered to remember it at all. Worse, once a person believes something is true, they will assume that the information came from a trusted source since they know they should only believe trusted sources.

    Obviously, disinformation campaigns clearly are built on some form of this ‘theory of mind’. One of the ways to discredit information is to claim that a piece of information came from a discredited source. The best way to discredit a source is to claim that an obviously untrue or suspect piece of information came from said source (regardless of reality).

    Disinformers also work hard at providing people with ‘information’ from neutral or trusted sources. So, when their ‘trusted’ news source reports ‘both sides’ without one or both being noted as clearly untrue – bizarrely the disinformation may get stuck into someone’s mind as having come FROM the trusted source. This is also the notion behind benignly or Orwellian named ‘education’ organizations spewing out well-phrased nonsense. The information seems like its coming from a trusted source. This also can have the effect of making trusted sources get confused with untrusted sources and making people think that ALL media is untrustworthy…

    Amusingly, this can work to the advantage of the scientist/educator. During a ‘friendly’ discussion or argument, the goal should not be to ‘win’ the argument on points but instead to provide as much accurate information in a non-threatening (hence non-sourced) manner as possible and always end the discussion in a friendly fashion. The information will often stick in the minds of all observers who will then forget where it came from and so it can often end up in their memories as ‘true’ information. Over time this can influence world views. Once a world view has changed, it becomes highly resistant to disinformation that contradicts that world view. This would be the goal of education (done right).

    I think its important to keep these things in mind particularly when engaged with ‘lay’ people. In other words, don’t expect non-scientists to think like scientists – you will be sorely disappointed.

  40. barry:

    Having followed ‘skeptical’ thread evolutions and occasionally rolled around in the weeds myself, it’s not simply that a talking point is resurrected holus bolus. Often enough the same talking point comes with a slightly new focus. Sometimes I wish to post here to ask for another perspective, but refrain because the conversation is a few levels higher than I feel I can interrupt.

    Here’s one example:

    CO2 lag: If CO2 is largely responsible for the warming in deglaciation periods, why does the lag occur also for glaciation? Checking here, I see Cuffey and Vimeux referenced – that there is no lag when the planet cools down. But reading recent studies, that seems more like an outlier than central view. In the skeptiverse, the supposed lead of orbital variations for deglaciation and glaciation makes the idea of a primary importance for CO2 untenable. For me, if there is a lag during glaciation, I’d like to know why, and what resolution there is on the other feedbacks (aside from ice dynamics).

    I spend pretty much all my time posting simply laying out the mainstream view (as I understand it). Backing that up with accessible studies isn’t easy (but I’ve become pretty good at finding online versions in strange places). I don’t bother trying to convince anyone of anything – how could I take myself seriously, having no scientific qualifications?

    But I can grasp concepts pretty well, and I understand the importance of context. Mostly what I’m doing is unlacing mischaracterisations, correcting erroenous suppositions and pointing out errors of logic.

    I attended a climate change forum at the Sydney Opera House yesterday. The convener held it in the midst of a music arts festival and invited artists because he wanted to explore the notion of a new, inspiring myth – rather than the narrative of warnings – that would create a civilizational change. I sat there with the voices of skeptics in my mind and thought that, for those people, there would be no difference between myth and propaganda.

    As usual, I wondered if I wasn’t wasting my time with the entrenched in the blogosphere. Maybe it’s time to engage the apathetic.

    recaptcha says: ‘their gridlock’

  41. cce:

    I’d like to echo those who’d like to know what’s going into the new round of models.

  42. Tim L:

    Looking forward to this! thank you

    “”the need for our group to have a “functioning” and reasonably “realistic climate model” with which to start the new round of simulations.”"

  43. taust:

    Remember you have done a very good job. I who draws the conclusion that adaptation to the politically inevitable is a more useful option than mitigation appreciate the solid science of ‘realclimate’.

    On new topics how about

    a series identifying and discussing those topics where the research is most active

    a discussion on which are the highest sensitive parameters of the models and how well understood these factors are (may be same as above but I do not know enough).

    Thanks for the site.

  44. ScaredAmoeba:

    Re Daniel #3

    OT but apposite to Solutions

    Not all nuclear reactors are created equal. I suspect that you are primarily thinking of conventional generation III – thermal reactors. These are not the only possible type.

    Please have a look at BraveNewClimate.com, where Barry Brook has been running an interesting series of posts about generation IV Integrated Fast Reactors – IFRs,
    http://tinyurl.com/np2ke8

    IFRs have numerous advantages over conventional reactors. And yes a very few IFRs exist

    Much increase efficiency 95 vs 5%
    Fuels that require only limited on-site processing, meaning diversion for weapons applications requires additional dedicated facilities that would be unequivocally military.
    No additional Uranium mining – it could stop
    Safer design they shut-down
    Can ‘burn’ existing waste stockpiles, make electricity and produces only a fraction of the waste that lasts only ~500 y vs almost for ever.

    It’s hard to see a low carbon future without nuclear and IFRs would certainly look to be a vital part of the solution.

    Captcha inflate Hansen!

  45. Mike Coombes:

    Since you asked, I do have a few questions that I don’t think have been addressed. I am puzzled about “natural variation” and haven’t really seen it quantified. It seems to be an explanation anyone can use to explain anything. I think natural variation should probably be split into two types. One would be the background variation one sees if the only changes in forcing were the daily and yearly variation in the solar heating of the earth. The second type would be variations due to frequency and size of volcanoes, or sunspots, and so on.

    So my first question is, if one runs a large global climate model for a century or two with constant CO2, what kind of variation does it produce and is it consistent with what we see for the earth if we remove the long term warming? How likely is a 5, 10, or 15 year warming, cooling, or flat trend in global temperature and other parameters for such a model? I assume someone has done this because there is an IPCC graph showing temperature versus time with and without CO2 changes.

    My second question is that I am surprised that the daily and yearly variation in solar heating of the earth can produce cycles much longer than a year. I would have assumed ocean thermal inertia would tend to dampen variation. What am I missing? Is it deep ocean circulation?

    Thanks for the great articles.

  46. ScaredAmoeba:

    Once again many thanks to the RC team for your hard work. Please keep it up.

    As I watched the D-K video, I was immediately reminded of the incredibly asinine twaddle I have encountered on various blogs and in face to face conversations.

    Using the John Mashey scale of climate knowledge which places himself at 2 and a working climatologist at 10; I rate myself at ~0.

    Heaven only knows what score these self-deluded D-K exemplars would actually achieve, but it seems perfectly likely they would rate themselves 9-10, with climatologists presumably scoring 6-7.

  47. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    RE #44, from what I understand the scientists do take into account the natural variations, incl seasonal, volcanic, el nino/la nina, and orbit-tilt stuff.

    That’s their null hypothesis — climate response to the natural stuff — and IFF natural stuff can’t explain the changes in climate that we are beginning to see, then they consider it might be the increased greenhouse gases. I think it’s more a model fit thing — they make models based on all the knowledge they have, such as physics AND whatever has happened in the past re the climate and GHGs (the natural stuff, and now the increased GHGs), tweak the models with best knowledge (like some volcanic eruption effect) to fit what is going on now, then shoot them ahead into the future.

    But I’m thinking if they shoot the models too far into the future, we may be talking infinite do-loops, and off the chart stuff. They’d have to take into account all the extra greenhouse gases that nature would emit as the world warms — from melting permafrost & ocean methane hydrates (and from recent studies we’ve been grossly underestimating the GHG potential from these) — and the positive feedback from reduced albedo. Tho eventually all of these “natural” sources which we have caused, like poking some sleeping dragon, would be used up.

    So the final question is, would it be climate hysteresis in which, say, only 90% of life on earth dies and eventually we get back to a life-hospitable climate, or runaway warming as on Venus, in which all life on earth dies.

    In a way we have been running an experiment for thousands of years, keeping greenhouse gases constant; and now we’ve shifted to the “let’s add a bunch of GHGs to the atmosphere and see what happens” experiment.

    I hope there will be some scientists (assuming future folks exist and have the wherewithal to teach science), or at least a few barbarian contrarians to see what eventually happens over the next 1000 or so years with this new experiment of ours.

  48. Randy Olson:

    Gavin – Interesting that you mention all the people who commented on your book without having read it, then point readers to Bob Grumbine’s lengthy comments on my book which hasn’t even been published. He critiques the book as though he already knows what to expect from the voice of a scientist-turned-filmmaker. The only problem is there’s never before been a tenured scientist who has changed professions, gone all the way through film school and a two year acting class at age 38, ended up with a movie on Showtime, then written a book about what he’s learned. Until then, there’s really no data set upon which to draw any predictions of what to expect. It could be the ramblings of a madman who has lived in Hollywood for too many years, or it could be a useful contribution. We won’t know until mid-August when Island Press unleashed it on the public.

    [Response: I read Bob's points as being about communicating to scientists in general - something he knows a lot about - and I mentioned his comment in order to spark engagement, not antipathy. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing your book when it comes out. - gavin]

    [Response: thanks for stopping by Randy. re Gavin's last point, that makes two of us. I expect the book will become required reading (along w/ Chris and Sheril's "Unscientific America"). -mike]

    [Further response: Randy emailed me to make it clear that the tone of what he intended didn't quite come through on this comment. Just another example of how difficult this whole 'communication' thing is ;) .... - gavin]

  49. Anna:

    Well if you are working on IPCC stuff … do you think its possible to monitor global emission of greenhouse gases in a way that would suit LULUCF accounting for UNFCCC ?

  50. donald moore:

    I have information from a 1960s caxton encyclopedia stating that the icecap in antarctica being 2 mls thick compresses the landmass by a thousand feet.Since ice melts from the bottom to top will this not mean that as the ice melts this compressed land will spring back.Could this cause an increase in earthquakes?

  51. alefnula:

    Excellent post, thanks. However, does it really apply solely to the “skeptical” side of the discussion? I can easily imagine exactly the same paragraphs on quite a different websites… :-)

  52. Bruce Tabor:

    Our Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Tony Jones interviewed Ian Plimer after the local release of his book, see: http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2008/s2554129.htm

    For me two things stood out from this interview:
    1) Tony Jones, unlike many journalists, has informed himself on the topic and does a very good job of attacking Plimer’s science, including Plimer’s repeated assertion that the world has been cooling since 1998.

    2) After Jones quotes scientists criticising Plimer’s book, Plimer replies:
    “By contrast to what Barry Brooks says, this book is not a book of science. It’s a book for the public who have felt quite disenfranchised … and this book is to give the public some information such that they can say, I think we’re being led astray.”

    So there you have it from the horse’s mouth, “this book is not a book of science” – it’s a crutch for sceptics.

  53. pete best:

    Most of the relevant politicians have got the message, Europe, the present US administration and China. Regardless of the nonsense spouted by most of the denier sites (WUWT and climate Audit etc) they are not being listened to outside of the blogosphere and those who want to spent their days arguing with them can if they want to.

    The recent post concerning the Antarctic report says it all for those of us who have followed the AGW arguments for some time now and the deniers are just angry people who spout a lot of vitriol and even some of the better deniers with good science available to them should not be posting on those sites but submitting peer reviewable papers. Too many deniers deny peer review, decry not having a voice (but they have nothing to say of any scientific substance it would seem) and hence are just screaming the same old stuff louder and louder.

    At 0.19c per decade we have time, the alarmists (the opposite of denier) would and do tell you otherwise but I do not see the scientific earth science community panicking just yet and we must await copenhagen this year to see if a global plan of action comes about but I feel that modest cuts by 2020-30 will be made and then more serious cuts to come. Renewable energy and efficiency gains creates jobs and a lot of them such is the task and the ball is goingto start rolling.

    I was once fearful of anything constructive being done about the problem and yes positive feedbacks might make things a bit worse but its nothing like what the alarmists are stating could happen. There is a lot of nonsense spouted on both sides of the political divide just to the message screamed across. Its 50 years before 2C is in sight at present AGW warming levels and trends and surely that might be enough time to get a good job done.

    Sometimes though I think that science is not given the respect it deserves especially in the USA but now that they have given Obama the reigns things will progress even though the issues are difficult to get resolved to everyones satisfaction.

    I concur that some nuclear is required regardless of the political green movements objection to it on hysterical grounds. I agree that oil looks like it is going to become economically hard to justify in a few short years time if it peaks. That gas and coal might not be far behind economically and hence that alternative solutions are required. I agonise over the politicians decisions making process when all of the easy stuff has been implemented that might impact peoples lives, that our material existance and hence massive debt in the western world will need to be looked at, that the size of vehicles driven by humans will need to come down, out dietary habits will need to change, walking and cycling might be needed for the masses again etc.

    No one is saying it is going to be easy to cut our emissions by 80 to 90%.

  54. CM:

    First, thanks for all your good work. And please keep it up. At a level where you don’t burn yourselves out.

    As a practical matter, Copenhagen is coming up. The controversy-manufacturing industry will be in overdrive. Your site will be the first stop for correctives. So I hope you’ll stay the course for the next six months.

    As an occasional lurker for years, I’ve been coming here for the pure science, for answers to various denials, and for inspiration on setting up similar resources in other policy areas I care about. (And for Gavin’s inline snappy answers to stupid questions.) I think you have been getting it right from the start, and hope you will continue striking the balance between communicating new science, clearing up confusions for the interested layman, and debunking denialists.

    It would be good to improve signal-to-noise in the comments area — but without excluding altogether the off-topic discussions that often helpfully answer the denial du jour. “Tragedy of the climate commons” is at 1.3 kilocomments and rising, itself a tragedy of the commons. Have you considered a technical change, allowing comments to be subthreaded? It would make parallel discussions easier to follow, and the rest of us could easily skip the flame wars between different alternative energy solutions.

    Wish list for new posts:

    - A status report on methane bubbling up from the warming Arctic: what’s happening, what do we expect to happen, how bad could it be?

    - Like someone above, I’d like you to continue addressing the concept of “dangerous” climate change (as you recently did in “hit the brakes hard”.)

    - A pedagogical post on scientific uncertainty in climate science in general, summing up: what are the real uncertainties, as opposed to the manufactured ones, and what do they mean?

  55. Martin Vermeer:

    Its 50 years before 2C is in sight at present AGW warming levels and trends

    Pete, that’s an optical illusion. But for the delaying grace of deep ocean thermal inertia, we have 1.5C right now.

  56. Steve Milesworthy:

    I’d be quite happy if you addressed the sceptic talking points without addressing the sceptics.

    eg. Do models show the same variability of ocean heat content? What causes the variability? If we don’t know, what amount of additional observations do we need to work out the cause?

  57. Barton Paul Levenson:

    ScaredAmoeba writes:

    IFRs have numerous advantages over conventional reactors. And yes a very few IFRs exist

    I think they’re trying to build them in Finland and running into all kinds of problems, all of which add up to “higher cost and longer construction time than expected.”

  58. Barton Paul Levenson:

    pete best writes:

    I concur that some nuclear is required regardless of the political green movements objection to it on hysterical grounds.

    Bam! Take that, Straw Man!

  59. Bruce Tabor:

    To your questions:
    What is it that you feel needs more explaining?
    Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s a bit like the answer to the complaint that the preacher’s message never changes – the truth doesn’t change. I use this as an illustration only.

    What interesting bits of the science would you like to know more about?
    I would like to see better coverage of significant conferences/papers.

    Is there really anything new under the contrarian sun that needs addressing?
    By far the biggest issue is effective advocacy of the science in the face of opposition of powerful and well funded vested interests. We are already a decade behind in getting started (in a global sense) in tackling AGW seriously. Significant harm is now almost inevitable. How much harm will depend on how fast vested interests are pushed aside and emissions are brought under control.

    I know politics and advocacy is not your focus – science rightly is as it’s your expertise – but it’s in effective adviocacy and catalsis of political change that progress is truly required. Should this become a major component of RC?

  60. Matt:

    Timely post Gavin.
    As for your question- I was going to suggest more on upper atmosphere temperature trends, but looked back at the archives and think that the correction in this post was what I was after:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=58
    (until then never properly understood why incr CO2 should cool the stratosphere)

    So sorry I can’t suggest any specific topics at the present but it did make me think:
    1. now that RC has got to the point where it is covering the same topics/addressing the same talking points again and again, the structure, design and organisation of the site becomes more important- maybe when something new comes up, old articles should be updated rather than a new one started? Or explicit list of links to old articles at the top of each new article, listed in order of relevance (personally I find hyperlinks buried in the text distracting, there’s no way to know the value of each hyperlink before clicking it and then you lose the narrative thread in the original article). Or something more radical- perhaps the standard ‘newest first’ blog format lends itself to short memory spans and repetition, particularly for popular sites like RC which have a continual stream of new readers coming to the front page for the first time.

    2. perhaps realclimate could concentrate more on explaining aspects of climate science that are counter-intuitive to a lay person. Stratospheric cooling is certainly one- why would increasing CO2 cause warming in one part of the atmosphere but cooling in another? This is the sort of confusion easily exploited by the contrarians.

    3. at the end of the day, for this grateful reader, RC has served its purpose. I’m fully convinced that the balance of evidence is overwhelmingly in favour of AGW. While I still check back on RC now and then, I think the focus of the debate is more on policy rather than ‘is there a problem?’ Of course there’s still a need for a good climate science blog written by climate scientists. There are still uncertainties over the rate and extent of climate change, which are very relevant for informing future policy, and new developments in climate science that are interesting in their own right. But as you say, the constant re-hashing of old arguments is a waste of time for almost everyone.

  61. Mark:

    “I concur that some nuclear is required regardless of the political green movements objection to it on hysterical grounds.”

    Uh, the political problems with nuclear are not the green movement. The main problem comes from the Hawk politicians. Nucular terrists and “dangerous states” getting their hands on nuclear power (added to the “dirty bobm” scare they love to use on occasion) mean they cannot allow free use of nuclear power.

    And that has nothing to do with the green movement.

    Though it does make a useful shipping boy (“It’s not OUR fault, it’s those whacko greenies, I tells ya!”).

  62. Chris Rijk:

    I have a couple of suggestions for future work/posts, in no particular order:

    *) Collect a list of climate predictions made in published peer-reviewed papers (including links to the paper or info about where to find it) and the paper (or papers) where these predictions were proven to be true. Eg, for things like “top of the atmosphere will cool”, “nights will warm more than days” – here’s the prediction, here’s the proof.

    *) A “rough guide” to research that’s being carried out now – to what kind of research we might see published in a few years. For example, what kind of advances are being worked on in modelling.

    *) Maybe a post on how well could today’s climate models simulate an arbitrary Earth-like planet? That is, a planet whose major climate features are like the Earth’s. Raising such a point might help explain models better – that they’re based (as much as possible) on the underlying physics. Maybe the Earth from a few 100 million years ago could be an “Earth-like” planet?

    *) More posts on the potential future costs of climate change. Eg, if sea levels rise 1m, what would be the potential costs to coastal cities like London and New York? What if it’s 2m? 5m? The south of England is sinking in general (because the north is no longer covered by an ice-sheet) – could this make sea level rises significantly worse for London? Maybe a brief look into what this could mean for the insurance industry. I wonder what would happen to land prices once the market starts to factor in non-trivial sea level rises.

    *) Posts focused specifically on the rate of change in global temperatures. Just how unusual is the current rate of increase? What kind of warming rates have been seen in the past and how sure can we be about such estimates?

    *) Maybe a look at regional climate model predictions vs reality to date. For example, the distinct impression I get from long term predictions from models is that the UK (particularly the western side) will warm much less than the global average under a “business as usual” AGW scenario. Yet on the other hand, it seems the UK has already experienced non-trivial real warming and doesn’t seem much different from continental Europe in this regard. That’s my impression at least.

    *) Maybe look at explaining the science from a slightly different angle. For example: Let’s say the sun has just set and then suddenly CO2 levels double – what difference would be experienced by the end of the night? Let’s say that there’s no wind, that there’s 12 hours of night and that normally temperatures would drop by 10C during those 12 hours of night. With the doubled CO2 scenario, would the difference be impossible to measure? Maybe a drop of 9C instead of 10C? A smaller difference? I think something like this could help people understand the immediate effects of CO2 a bit better.

    *) Maybe a permanent set of pages (not blog posts) which offer a set of “quick proofs” and “quick rebuttals”. Basically, a page with a subject, a paragraph of text and links to more info. The idea being to provide a resource others can link to (or reference) in internet discussions elsewhere.

    *) Maybe a post about climate inertia and different ways of looking at this – for example, temperatures are generally not highest at midday (when the sun is strongest) but later in the afternoon. Temperatures are generally not highest on the Summer solstice (of each hemisphere) which generally gets the most solar energy, but later in the summer. Is it reasonable to compare the inertia in AGW warming to such things? On a related note, is the following a useful distinction of weather and climate: take a bet on whether it’ll be warmer or colder tomorrow – generally, the odds would be around 50:50 right? Now, do the same bet on whether it’ll be warmer or colder in 6 months time (assuming it’s not spring or autumn currently and not at the equator) – you’re not going to get 50:50 odds on that (probably hard to make a bet at all in fact). Yet, shouldn’t it be easier to predict the temperature one day in advance rather than half a year? Is such an argument a good example of comparing predicting the weather vs predicting the climate?

  63. EL:

    If the general population is the target audience, I would like to see several posts without technical terminology. Explain to me the process of modeling without using any modeling terminology. As the old saying goes, keep it simple stupid.

    If the technical community is the target audience, I would like to see more of a mathematical view of the process of modeling. What type of mathematics is being used to describe the models and their relationships? Give an example of a model or two and use mathematics to show some interesting relationships.

  64. Kevin McKinney:

    RC has been an extremely valuable educational tool for many of us, and this is clearly a good time to say “thank you.” I don’t know how you find the time to moderate and post, even at the “reduced” level that you referred to. Much appreciated. . .

    That said, I think there will be a large ongoing need for updates, as there is a lot of research ahead. (And there may even be some new contrarian talking points to consider from time to time.)

    But (among other things) I’m looking forward to research allowing or elucidating:

    –Better characterization of climate sensitivity (which will help determine target CO2 levels);
    –Better regional-scale prediction capabilities, allowing for reasonable prediction of climate change effects in specific regions (hence better-targeted adaptation strategies);
    –More robust results on climate change consequences generally;
    –Further clarification of feedback issues (eg., clouds, magnetosphere/GCR effects if any);
    –Technology issues affecting mitigation/adaptation prospects.

    I do think, too, that there is a need for an analog to RC focussing more on economic issues. For example, the recent debates over cap-and-trade v. carbon tax v. whatever could well merit an authoritative exploration somewhere. Clearly is a different expertise is called for, and just as clearly it would be tough to agree on a “trusted source”, as economics is much more difficult to disentangle from political ideology than physics. But it would help if it could be achieved. . .

  65. David Heigham:

    This is almost a ‘Well done thou good and faithful master’ moment. You have enlightened the puzzled, clarified the confused and taught all those willing to learn.

    We, your pupils, must now realise that it is our turn to apply what has been learnt. We will be grateful for occasional further illumination of the argument, when that takes your fancy. We will be referring back and back to the archive.

    However, taking on those that decline to learn, those that are incapable of learning, and those who profit from denial is not a matter of clear reason and argument.. What is needed now is satire, scorn, humor and contumely. That is the fun stuff. Let us at it; while you sweat at figuring out more and more precisely what really is going on in our world’s climate.

  66. simon abingdon:

    More on clouds. More on the oceans.

  67. Nick Gotts:

    First, I echo many others in thanking all at RealClimate for excellent work done.

    For the future, I’d say stick with the emphasis on the natural sciences, which is clearly where your strength lies. There are a number of issues I’d like to see examined in more detail, mostly concerning those areas where the models still need improvement, such as clouds, precipitation, snow and ice dynamics, and the effects of ~11 year solar cycle. Another possibility would be a regular (monthly?) “new in the peer-reviewed literature” item. Finally, I was disappointed not to see a report on the Copenhagen conference in March, which I attended, and which I know at least one of your regular posters did.

  68. pete best:

    Re #60 Mark, sorry but the environmental (green) movement is intrinsically against nuclear power regardless of who else is against it. You comment is moot.

    Maybe it is just that nuclear power is just lobbied out of existamce in the USA by more powerful fossil fuel companies so the excuses role on.

    Plenty of people might be against nuclear outside of the environmentalist movement but it is their main reason for existance from what I have read.

  69. pete best:

    Re #54, yes but its only coming at 0.19C per decade regardless fo what id guaranteed. Real climate has stated that 0.8C so far and another 0.6C guaranteed in the thermal intertia of the oceans. To get more we need higher levels of GHGs as I understand it.

  70. Mike G:

    One meme that seems ubiquitous in these discussions is that scientists are creating alarmism to secure funding and that those that don’t play along get shut out of the funding. Unfortunately, for most people the granting process is a black box, so this is a pretty convincing argument, yet the rebuttal doesn’t seem to get much air-time in most blogs. It seems like most people I meet think I just write a letter to some politician in Washington and dupe them with BS and then the grants they give me boost my salary. Besides pointing out that claiming to already have the answers is a pretty bad way to secure more funding, whereas disagreeing with consensus is actually a very good way (as long as there is some basis to your argument), perhaps it would be a good idea to give a quick overview of the funding process and how grants affect your take-home pay.

    Talk a little bit about what it takes for a proposal to become a funded study and then the stipulations attached to that money. Also, perhaps talk a bit about how your income is linked to funding (in general terms of course)- i.e. as a researcher at a university my stipend or salary are set regardless of the number or value of grants I bring in during a given year and I can’t keep more money from grants than I would make teaching 1 summer session.

    If you can find data, it might also be interesting to look at the number compare the amount of money going into climate science vs. various other fields of research and maybe even changes in funding over time.

  71. Icarus:

    The main reason I come here is to read about new issues in climate science. If I want to learn about well-established science then I can easily find that in many places, but new information and new understandings are often not reported at all in the popular media, or they’re reported in a way that is so trivial and erroneous that they’re useless or counter-productive. So, I am keen to read about changes in ice shelves, glaciers, phenology, drought, ocean acidification, Antarctic warming, new understandings of palaeoclimate and so on. As much as I like to see nonsense, misinformation, talking points, fallacies and strawmen demolished, I think the contributors to RealClimate are better off spending more of their time disseminating the real science that might otherwise go unreported.

  72. Ron Taylor:

    Gavin, you and your colleagues do a great job. RC is where I come for a cleansing dose of rationality after encountering some bit of denialist nonsense. It is my personal experience that nothing can be done to convince people who base their conclusions on ideology, rather than evidence. Sadly, they sometimes use all the right terms without even realizing they are turning logic on its head and engaging in Orwellian-speak.

    For me, besides following the overall progress of climate science, I am especially interested in Arctic sea ice, Greenland and Antarctic melting (thus, sea level rise), abrupt climate change and aerosol and cloud effects.

  73. SteveF:

    I largely agree with your frustrations Gavin. Like others, I’d be interested in seeing more discussion of cutting edge climate science and less on refuting denialist talking points. Plus, with Copenhagen on the horizon, perhaps some policy discussions. They could be written as guest posts, making it clear that the primary focus is the science but a dip into policy is appropriate every once in a while.

    If there’s one denialist area that perhaps warrants a bit more attention, it’s the surface temperature record. The “skeptic” crowd seem to be getting particularly noisy in this regard at the moment. Plus, more respectable figures like Roger Pielke Sr are publishing papers that point to apparent problems. So that’s one issue I’d like to see dealt with. Pielke Sr, whilst he has a somewhat unhelpful style at times, does seem to raise some more constructive points on occasion and so if you have any desire to engage with the non-mainstream, I’d probably look towards his blog. Other than that, I see no urgent need to engage the typical denialist crowd, unless they miraculously contribute something genuinely new.

  74. Mark:

    “Unfortunately, for most people the granting process is a black box, so this is a pretty convincing argument”

    Nope, the process being a black box doesn’t make it a convincing argument. Any more than the Official Secrets Act proves that our government is overrun by Alien Lizard Overlords.

    Those shut out would have proof of the process. The information from, say, NASA would not be edited to show the conspiracy norm (shrinking sea ice) because any monies going to climate research is not available for space programs. And so on for other areas which have evidence of global warming.

    Worse, if you want to continue funding, what you want is confusion, not concordance. If there’s confusion, you get TWICE the opportunity for funding: one to say it is a problem and another to say it isn’t. Best of all, as long as you keep the uncertainty, you NEVER end the gravy train!

    So for many reasons, the black-box state of funding is NOT a method of making the conspiracy theory a convincing one.

  75. Mark:

    “Re #60 Mark, sorry but the environmental (green) movement is intrinsically against nuclear power regardless of who else is against it. You comment is moot.”

    But the green movement has been ignored quite easily before. Your demonising them is incorrect. They do NOT cause the holding back of nuclear power. The nuclear powers are holding back nuclear power. The hawk politicals are holding it back. They’ve ignored the green movement for decades. In fact, until the Green Party started up, they were easily ignored and the ONLY reason why they are beginning to get some traction in the halls of power now is that the 10% of voters voting green are voters that the main parties would like to have.

    Same thing as is happening with the Pirate Party: they do NOT want to be in charge, but they want to show how important privacy and restoring sanity to “IP” law is to people and, by collecting 7% of the votes (votes wanted by the major parties to get or maintain power), they know that their single-issue platform WILL be taken up by the main parties.

    But again, it isn’t the greens doing this, it’s the main parties.

  76. pete best:

    Re #74, Nuclear power was a scientific lie as far as I can recall. It was deemed to be loads of energy for very little money but turned out to be completely incorrect and hence got the politicians goat.

    I am not blaming the greens per se for the demise of nuclear, just stating that they do not see it as a viable form of energy to replace coal and gas for electricity generation.

  77. Spencer:

    Great post! I’ve bookmarked so many of the links it’s going to keep me busy for hours! –Thanks

  78. Ike Solem:

    One of the things that realclimate has done well is to take media reports of climate change science, and explain the actual science behind them. As the quality of media reports on climate has dropped and is often apparently biased in wild directions, this is quite a challenge. If it’s any consolation, media reporting on energy science is far worse than it is on climate science.

    Much of this is due to the fact that the U.S. is a fossil fuel nation, and has been for a hundred years – a theme reflected in media, academics and government. Many people are simply psychologically willing to admit that this is unsustainable and will come to an end – thus, you see oil enthusiasts claiming that people will keep burning oil no matter the price – even if it goes up to $500 a barrel – because there is no other option. That’s how gasoline was sold – “the eternal juice of the fountain of life”, etc. The fact that an electric motor is about 500% more efficient at converting stored energy to motion is simply ignored.

    Most people who are ‘incapable of seeing the truth’ would not bother to sit around and post comments on global warming sites – what you are looking at in RealClimate threads is high industry participation. This is no conspiracy theory, the PR firms brag about their accomplishments in this area:

    http://www.desmogblog.com/coal-lobby-pr-firm-memo-boasts-about-manipulating-democrats-and-republicans

    A Virginia-based public relations firm called the Hawthorn Group sent out a newsletter to their “friends and family” outlining the work they did on behalf of a coal industry lobby group called the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. The newletter outlines in quite a bit of detail about how Hawthorn spindoctored coal during the Presidential election.

    So, please don’t take the responses in the comment section as anything other than PR. I would guess this blog draws more attention from the various PR firm bloggers (all anonymous, of course) than any other climate blog – I mean, those are the services that PR firms advertise – loading up blogs with comments that support their employer’s agenda is just part of the advertising world these days, and it is naive to think otherwise.

    On the other hand, realclimate has a disturbing habit of only posting about the nonsensical arguments put forth by people like Monckton and the Heritage Institution, while apparently ignoring the equally distorting arguments put forth by the New York Times and the Washington Post – for example, I was expecting some kind of realclimate response to this NYT headline:

    http://climateprogress.org/2009/05/14/new-york-times-revkin-antarctic-sea-level-ris/

    I mean, how is that any different from the absurdities of Monckton? You can’t really attack the one and ignore the other. Let me point that out again, by quoting from the recent post:

    Our favorite contrarian, the potty peer Christopher Monckton has been indulging in a little aristocratic artifice again. Not one to be constrained by mere facts or observable reality, he has launched a sally against Andy Revkin for reporting the shocking news that past industry disinformation campaigns were not sincere explorations of the true uncertainties in climate science.

    I would argue that Revkin has published multiple distorting articles, especially recently, and seems to be actively working to push the Heritage Institution talking points, which fits in with a whole host of “deliberately deceptive” NYT articles on climate science. So – if you’re not going to analyze those articles, why go after Monckton?

    Personally, reading that some British Lord doesn’t believe in climate science – really, so what? However, Revkin’s distortions are far more likely to be seen as factual by the general reader, aren’t they? What does realclimate think about this Revkin headline: “Study Halves Prediction of Rising Seas”?

    No comment? I think it a wildly dishonest headline that demonstrates a clear bias. We can also note that Revkin covered the Heritage “counter-meeting” to the Copenhagen one, and did not cover the Copenhagen meeting. If we take the same argument on financing for Heritage and apply it to the New York Times, we see two things: one is that the NYT is much bigger than the Heritage Institution. The other is that the NYT board of directors includes fossil fuel interest representatives, and no doubt they want the paper’s coverage to reflect their financial interests. It’s even more obvious in NYT energy reporting. There are no “energy contrarians” in the NYT world – all quotes come straight from the fossil energy lobby. If you take the same argument that applies to Heritage (fossil fuel financing distorts facts) and apply it to much of the U.S. media, you come up with the same conclusion, which is backed up by the actual printed word.

    If realclimate instead wants to avoid discussing difficult topics like media bias, government funding and energy policy and just focus on what climate scientists are doing, that would also be fine. That leads to interesting scientific discussions, at least.

    And, for all the industry bloggers: what a waste of your life, to spend your days doing that.

  79. JBL:

    @ Mike G: For good comments on the process the NSF & related use to distribute funds, see the ten or so comments following this one. (In case that link doesn’t work: it’s to comment 159 on the post Michaels’ New Graph.)

  80. Andy Gunther:

    One day I hope to be able to look back at something I have created with a sense that it truly has made an important contribution to the world. I think RC is just such a thing, and (along with so many others) I offer my congratulations, gratitude, and encouragement to you and your colleagues.

    I think RC has helped create a large group of people who are willing to engage denialists on many fronts. What would be very valuable is for you to continue to build your index of responses (http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/index/#Responses), remind your readers of its existence, and distribute the URL widely. This will provide a valuable resources for those who are willing to continue the ugly but necessary job of countering the recycled lies, distortions, and half-truths.

    This then leaves you more time to present new and updated information that you think is important, while occasionally taking on a denialist statement that gets broader traction in the media.

  81. Hank Roberts:

    Repeating a suggestion I and others have made here and elsewhere–harder work, but if you could do a topic -severely- edited to be a conversation among scientists about an issue, bumping anything inappropriate to a shadow thread (or move such a thread into public view if you have them in private, which might be a better way to ‘draft’ one) — that could be enormously educational.

    Reading science blogs, particularly climate science, is like sitting near scientists who met while taking their kids to a basketball game or amusement park or rock concert. What the scientists say is a lot more interesting than what’s going on all around them. But it’s hard to follow and the distractions are annoying.

    You all are much easier to follow when you’re talking to _each_other_ about one another’s work and interests. You can remember you’ve got the audience, and bring in the rare useful and interesting question from the sidelines to your discussion.

    I wish that could be the format, even for just one interesting research area that needed more exposure.

    It would be slower. It would allow scientists who may follow this but don’t comment to think about responses and make them. And it’d end the copypaste stuff or move it elsewhere; respond to the low level noise, others could do that, if useful, but outside the science thread.

    Curious for more:

    Et al. and Le Quere, the biological side of climate feedbacks, maybe; that would focus on what’s happening in the polar seas.

    Peter Ward, following up this post, whenever he can:
    http://www.realclimate.org/?comments_popup=596#comment-97202
    (update, his TED talk video did, finally, become available)

    The current state of Al Gore’s slideshow, do a diff against the one captured in the movie, discuss how what’s known about the science has changed in that time and how to keep up with that kind of presentation.

    None of those would do well under the barrage of copypaste (and yes, I know you filter _most_ of it. But the remainder is still far noisier than the scientists who are posting, and must deter many scientists from posting. All would be fascinating to listen to with less noise.

  82. Carrick:

    While as a scientist I remain firmly convinced that the Earth is warming, that human activity is playing a major role in it, and that immediate steps need to be made to ameliorate the harmful effects of this human activity, if there were any changes to RealClimate it would be in your comment policy.

    Thinking back to Eric Steig’s post from last week and his handling of comments on that thread, I have myself been enmeshed in extremely heated scientific controversies, and I can tell you that not all or even most scientific debates get settled inside the journal articles. I still have a very thick stack of correspondence with other scientists, and many of these were very publicly circulated (including one that made it into a letter to the Los Angeles Times!).

    [Response: Excuse me, but while there are certainly accusations of my having edited comments on that thread, the fact remains that I didn't do so. --eric]

    While I certainly don’t think that long-winded back-and-forths with trolls is productive, neither is controlling the debate to the extent where you edit the content of comments from people asking critical (but constructive) questions while allowing through the ad nauseam stream of echolalia from non-critical “true believers”.

    You are of course free to run your blog as you choose, and if all you want to be is a cheer leader for people who will champion a particular political cause, that is fine. But if the purpose is to advance the science, you might consider some changes to the comment moderation policy more in line with one that advances the science, and not just a particular economic and social policy.

    [Response: Our comment moderation has nothing to do with any economic or social policy (indeed, look at the tragedy of the commons post which was the most policy-related one in a while). Instead, it is enabled to improve the signal to noise ratio, and cutting out repetitive continuous cut-and-pasted talking points from people with whom there is no point in having rational discussion. By and large that works. - gavin]

  83. Carrick:

    By the way, the letter that I am referring to is that written by Dick Feynman to the Los Angeles Times on January 15, 1986.

    Dick’s comments were later proven wrong, the paper in question did not contain it’s own disproof. The back of the envelope calculation he made to arrive at his conclusion was in error.

  84. Rich Creager:

    This is not a suggestion for a blog topic, but for my money the best climate education on the web occurs when Gavin or the other moderators write a two or three sentance in-line response to a question in the comments. In most threads I find several questions posted which interest me but are never addressed, at least not with the concise authority the writers bring to the table. I’d like to see more brief in-line comments on not-simplistic but not overly technical questions questions in the comments.

  85. EL:

    Hank Roberts – I think a forum would be very useful because it allows multiple discussions to take place.

  86. KSW:

    thanks for the opportunity to request information formally; I made this request previously but had to jam it in the comments section where it didn’t belong and wasn’t explained correctly.

    I am interested in reading a synopsis of the top climate problems that climatologists currently face. What are the unknowns, the uncertainties and what areas of the science are not settled?

  87. sidd:

    My thanks to the authors on this site. I would like to see fewer refutations of bad science and more exposition of current research. In no particular order may I suggest i) a detailed post on ocean circulation with emphasis on mixing times ii)an analysis of the AOGCM models explaining the methods used for coupling fluxes across the ocean-air interface and for parametrization of subgrid effects iii) a lesson on current and proposed ice sheet models

    I do realize the authors are very busy, and I am very grateful for whatever posts they make.

  88. Hank Roberts:

    An aside: I’m following the Air France story, seeing comments and postings from pilots and ‘weather’ experts saying they know what happens in the atmosphere in the intertropical convergence zone.

    It’s amazing how sure the aircraft folks are about what happens there — how much temperature varies from inside a cumulus that’s pushed up into the stratosphere, compared to the temperature of the dry warm stratospheric air being displaced, for example.

    This guy’s just amended his site
    http://www.weathergraphics.com/tim/af447/ after reading recent research someone pointed him to, which may change his idea of what happens to aircraft. That’s a good sign. But the researchers have been looking at this whole area for a while, it’s a big unknown for climate.

    Here’s his earlier image:
    http://www.weathergraphics.com/tim/af447/af447-profile.jpg

    Something about what we know — and don’t know — might be helpful.
    Maybe from here:
    http://www.atmosp.physics.utoronto.ca/SPARC/Announcements.html
    Stratospheric Processes And their Role in Climate
    A core project of the World Climate Research Programme

  89. MarkB:

    “All of this is really just an introduction to these questions: What is it that you feel needs more explaining? What interesting bits of the science would you like to know more about? Is there really anything new under the contrarian sun that needs addressing?”

    Contrarian nonsense aside (their arguments have been dissectedn sufficiently), I’d prefer to see analysis of new studies on climate science. Let’s examine studies on impacts, such as attribution of heat waves, droughts, extreme precipitation events, and projected impacts. I’d also like to see a specific post on short-term variability of ocean heat content.

    I’ve read the first 20 pages or so of your new book. I was expecting mostly photos with a little commentary but it also appears to be a good introduction to climate science for the layperson. I look forward to reading the rest. For contrarians who haven’t read it, I suggest at least checking it out from your local library (you won’t have to worry about spending your money on that “AGW hoax”) and giving it a good open-minded read.

  90. Martin:

    It seems to me that some people I know aren’t particularly interested in forecasts of what the world will be like at the end of this century.
    Short term forecasts, i.e. 10 years or less, preferably specific to the country or state that they live in would be much more relevant.
    I would like to know more about what is possible in this respect. What are the trends regarding local forecasts on this timescale?

  91. Mark:

    76: “I am not blaming the greens per se for the demise of nuclear, just stating that they do not see it as a viable form of energy to replace coal and gas for electricity generation.”

    That’s OK, but your assertion is not borne out by the historical documents:

    53: “I concur that some nuclear is required regardless of the political green movements objection to it on hysterical grounds.”

    68: “Re #60 Mark, sorry but the environmental (green) movement is intrinsically against nuclear power regardless of who else is against it.”

    Does look like “blaming” to me…

  92. Ellen Thomas:

    If you really were thinking that the ‘climate debate’ would be anything else than a very long groundhog day you have never looked at the debates on ‘creationism-evolution’ – still going strong now we’re at the 150 year publication anniversary of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species’. For those of us who are (micro)paleontologists: the whole set of techniques and mode of debate of the ‘climate skeptics’ tends to be a groundhog day experience – great resemblance to the evolution/creationism experience. So have the courage to keep going for at least another 150 years – even if by that time global warming is even more obvious than today, the debate whether it’s anthropogenic may well be going strong..

    [Response: Indeed! - gavin]

    [Response: Thanks for dropping by Ellen. For those interested in the evolution/ID debate, Randy Olson's "Flock of Dodos" is an absolute must see. Randy's new book will almost certainly qualify as "must read". - mike]

  93. dhogaza:

    Maybe a permanent set of pages (not blog posts) which offer a set of “quick proofs” and “quick rebuttals”. Basically, a page with a subject, a paragraph of text and links to more info. The idea being to provide a resource others can link to (or reference) in internet discussions elsewhere.

    Check out this resource:

    How to talk to a climate skeptic.

  94. MarkB:

    Other possible topics (I apologize if I’ve missed posts on these)

    Model details – what are the key differences between models (some show more internal variability than others, for example)

    Sea level rise projections – we see anything from the IPCC range to more recent projections of a meter or more. What are the details that account for the differences in these projections?

    I also wonder what the targeted audience is for this blog. I notice many of strong expertise frequent this blog. At times the posts are quite technical from my point of view and seem geared towards other scientists (as opposed to your recent book). Perhaps this deters some from reading. Of course, “dumbing it down” risks losing important information. Maybe each post could have summary sections for the layperson and details for everyone else (or the layperson with some proficiency).

  95. Steve L:

    Maybe I’m wrong but it seems to me that there is increasing interest in short term phenomena. For me, at least, that’s not simply a reflection of the La Nina and the resulting “planet is cooling” stuff. It’s more that, as a fisheries biologist, the long term stuff is less relevant in many ways. I understand that a lot of things will balance out over the longer term, but the variations around the trend have consequences.
    More specific things I have been wondering about are Arctic Ocean currents (e.g., how fast is freshwater mixed in or lost?) and whether the Moon adds thermal energy to the Earth’s surface via tides (e.g. friction) that will lessen as the Moon’s orbit grows. The second is not an important question, but I find some silly questions to be quite fun.

  96. Peter Joseph:

    Keep up the great work, all you real scientists, and thanks for hanging in there. Your \problem\ may be that you simply think differently from the deniers and inhabit parallel universes. You also earn your livelihoods from honest hard work. Regarding the public, it’s partly a communications problem, so check out the work of Peter Sinclair from The Climate Project: Climate Denier Crock of the Week at YouTube. He’s done a wonderful job at myth busting.

  97. Jeffrey Davis:

    So, where’s Andie MacDowell?

    [Response: The movie gets a mention in our original post of the same name. - mike]

  98. Fred Magyar:

    People who manage to intervene in systems at the level of paradigm hit a leverage point that totally transforms systems.

    You could say paradigms are harder to change than anything else about a system, and therefore this item should be lowest on the list, not the highest. But there’s nothing physical or expensive or even slow about paradigm change. In a single individual it can happen in a millisecond. All it takes is a click in the mind, a new way of seeing. Of course individuals and societies do resist challenges to their paradigm harder than they resist any other kind of change.

    So how do you change paradigms? Thomas Kuhn, who wrote the seminal book about the great paradigm shifts of science, has a lot to say about that. In a nutshell, you keep pointing at the anomalies and failures in the old paradigm, you come yourself, loudly, with assurance, from the new one, you insert people with the new paradigm in places of public visibility and power. You don’t waste time with reactionaries; rather you work with active change agents and with the vast middle ground of people who are open-minded.
    Donella Meadows: Leverage Points – Places To Intervene In A System

  99. Wili:

    This site is essential. It is a good idea not to engage with trolls, but do refer those who might be mislead to places they can go for clear answers to the predictable, repetitive pseudo-questions.

    More discussion of how global warming is unfolding around us would be interesting:

    Updates on rates of ice loss in the Arctic especially in the next weeks and months would be timely and vitally interesting.

    Discussion of any modeling that might tell us what an ice free summer Arctic will do to climate in the north hemisphere (at least) would be of particular relevance for many of us.

    A discussion of the recent shift to a “dipolar” wind pattern in the north that is bringing Arctic air down as far as Texas and warm air deep into the Arctic circle would be useful.

    And do keep us abreast of the latest on atmospheric methane levels (these stats seem to be hard to find this year) and methane release from tundra and clathrates.

    Thanks again from your great work, and don’t let the bastards grind you down!

  100. Rick Brown:

    Pete Best #69:

    . . .”To get more we need higher levels of GHGs as I understand it.”

    We’re getting them, as I understand it.

  101. Ray Ladbury:

    One of the perpetual memes in the denialosphere is, “The models don’t work.” This gets repeated by both idiots and even by scientists who ought to know better. Unfortunately, since science is a process concerned with perpetual improvement, scientists tend to feed this meme by concentrating on how the models can be improved. It would be nice to have a post on what the models specifically get right, where they need to do better and what the consequences are for global and regional and short-term and long-term prognostication.

    It would provide a nice snapshot of where we stand as well as one-stop shopping to refute the models-don’t-work argument.

  102. DavidCOG:

    I’d like to see one article, regularly updated, that lays out the effects so far, and the effects of ‘business as usual’ carbon pollution in the next 10, 20, 50, 100 years.

    RC has real authority, please use that to provide a layman’s guide to the catastrophe we are facing.

  103. bobberger:

    Under “About” on this website it says:

    “RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.”

    Whether that still holds true is probably a matter of interpretation. What I’d really like to see here, is exactly that “quick response to developing stories”. For example, “On Overfitting” was usefull, interesting and informative to follow because it more or less immediately responded to Ryan O’s and Jeff ID’s posts on their own and related blogs. Unfortunately it was closed down very early in the discussion, although I can see why it was necessary at this stage. What I believe could become an equally interesting subject is Anthony Watts’ work on the surface stations. You can of course deal with it once an analysis is published but if the purpose of this blog really is to respond to developing stories, then this may be the right time to comment on whether or how the surface temperature record takes Watts’ findings into acount and especially what parts of the current science really rests on the shoulders of that record. It already is somewhat past “developing” in the media.
    I realise this, too, is part of the groundhog day – but that’s just life, isn’t it? Deja vu over and over again with slight variations until, one day, it suddenly leaps out of the loop (if only to jump right into the next one ;) )

  104. rlasker:

    I am becoming more and more convinced that we will ultimately do nothing to prevent climate change. Even as we speak congress is stripping Obama’s energy plan of any real power to induce change and I would not be surprised if he comes out and praises the legislation if it passes without teeth.

    The fact is that people do not WANT to believe that they are harming the environment and will cling to any argument that is presented absolving them of having to change their consumption lifestyle. There are many people who I believe to be very smart individuals with degrees in engineering and such that are completely convinced that climate change is a hoax.

    Al Gore may have ultimately hurt his cause by firing up the political aspect of the debate and specifically aligning the issue as left and right.

    For every RealClimate.com there are dozens of GlobalWarmingHoax.com type sites. The denialists have a very powerful ally on their hands and that is human greed.

  105. Nick O.:

    Just some general comments.

    I think RC is a great site and this is much to the credit of both those who run it and many of those who contribute to it. However, it seems to me that we can never reach an ‘end’ point with RC and similar blogs, unless those who engage in the blog, whatever their initial standpoint, are prepared to accept that their views may be changed by so doing. In other words, users of this and similar sites should do so whilst accepting the possibility that they may have to change their minds on an issue at some point. The snag then is that many of the more persistent (vexatious?) critics of RC and similar sites do not want to use the site on that basis, rather they think they know the answers, and that RC is therefore ‘wrong’; the process at the blog level is then made inevitably attritional, requiring frequent going over of old ground. Part of the difficulty is that the older material must be repeated in order to maintain the engagement of new visitors to the site, so they can see that what look like to them to be interesting questions are being dealt with fairly by those running the blog. For the bloggers who have seen the material covered before and know it well, the repitition may be a cause of irritation, but we have to be patient; likewise, for Gavin and others, to have to keep repeating it must be very wearing, but again, I think, there is probably not much choice if engagement of new readers/RC users is still to be encouraged.

    Keep up the good work, guys!

  106. Edward Greisch:

    53 Pete Best: Read “The Vanishing Face of Gaia” by James Lovelock. James Lovelock has ideas that are unpopular among some scientists, but he is famous and among the smartest. There is no reason to suppose that the climate is linear just because the climate models are linear. It is the climate models that lack the non-linearities that nobody knows how to model. We definitely DO NOT have all the time you think we have. Dr. Lovelock has identified a 9 degree lurch in the temperature that happens at 450 ppm equivalent. We are now at 430 ppm equivalent. It isn’t the temperature that kills. It is starvation caused by the fact that a fraction of a degree change can move the rain, causing agriculture to collapse suddenly. Agriculture has already collapsed in Australia. See: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/climateprogress/lCrX/~3/5VPFNSlyGtw/

    We have already passed 3 tipping points, natural positive feedback is already happening.

  107. Patrick 027:

    I’d like to see posts on Rossby waves and gravity waves and how climate change affects wave-mean interaction patterns and associated internal variability.

  108. CM:

    MikeG (#70) reminded me of another topic it would be cool to see you discuss from your inside perspective, namely the workings of the IPCC, the strengths and weaknesses of the process, and especially what influence governments exercise on the final shape of the reports (and with what net bias…).

    Attacks on the credibility of the IPCC constitute one set of popular anti-AGW talking points I can’t remember that you have addressed.

    I know, you are natural scientists and participants in the process, not sociologists of science; and a lot of what goes around (conspiracy theories, vicious personal attacks) is hardly worth dignifying with a rebuttal. But still…

  109. MarkusR:

    It’s the same thing that made ID debates stale. Same old, same old.
    But I just started to consider you average school teacher. They have groundhog days every semester, teaching the student the exact same stuff they did the previous year. This stuff is routine and those of you who have a good grasp on the subjects (I hardly do) have my encouragement to keep up the good work.

    Maybe you can keep it fresh the same way textbook writers do: keep improving the method by which to teach the knowledge.

  110. Mark Stewart:

    Gavin -

    I know the feeling, and it is frustrating and perplexing. I have thought a lot about it, and I have decided that we (scientists) are partly responsible. People do not choose their professions, interests and beliefs by accident. They choose them based on the way they assimilate and use information. We became scientists because we believe in rationality, that objective data examined critically can lead us to correct conclusions. We extend that to our life view and mistakenly believe that everyone thinks that way. As a college prof who teaches oceanography and climate change to large masses of non-science majors, I assure you that many (most?) non-scientists do not form opinions based on objective data. Our rational, linear, here is the science, here are the data approach does not work with many people. Many people choose their opinions based on their fundemental, underlying beliefs. Try teaching physics to beginning college students. They already ‘know’ how the world works (Superman can swoop up and catch Lois Lane falling at terminal velocity and not turn her into pulp), and showing them that it doesn’t work that way only influences their response to test questions, not their underlying beliefs. Climate change science suffers from the same handicap. Climate change deniers give people and politicians the answers they want, and despite Real Climate’s excellent effors, most well-educated citizens of the World are not well educated in science and math, so they do not have the intellectual resources to select the kernals of objective truth from the deliberately deceptive chaff.

    We need to link up with people who do know how to communicate and persuade, the political consultants, moviemakers, behavioral psychologists. Although it is difficult for us to accept, as scientists we are really only effective at communicating with other scientists. We need to feed the gory details to those who can package the science in a more socially persuasive way. We need to get past the scientific embarassment of admitting that some of us are worried about the collapse of our technological and democratic societies if we don’t get started on ameliorating the very significant climate change we are already in for. Our resources are now so difficult and expensive to extract and use (we used the easy to get stuff long ago), that if we were to lose our technological abilities even briefly, we would rebuild them only with great difficulty, if ever.

    Real Climate is my favorite blog. It is like Scientific American for climate change. It is “Real”, not opinion or distortion. You guys are doing a great job and a great service. The early posts that explained the basic physics and science of climate change are excellent. Future posts should follow the same explanatory path as new information becomes available, like the new temperature increase probabilities from the MIT model, the reasons for the high latitude anomalies, potential feedbacks, both positive and negative, the differences between decadal variations like the PDO and AMO and long-term change. Don’t waste too much time chasing deniers. It is too much like that game at the arcade where you try to whack gophers popping out of holes.

  111. pete best:

    Re #107, Again RC has stated several times here that OVERALL we are at around 390 ppmv total forcing due to the nature of the forcings and the cooling agents. Maybe RC could fill us in here. I am sure that Lovelock is not correct. The paleoclimatic data does not show a large scale ocean temperature swing in Hansens work.

    I understand that people wish to talk about the danger of positive feedbacks and sudden huge non linear responses but the paleoclimatic records going back 150 million years before the formation of antarctica does not demonstrate this or does not appear to.

    i could be wrong however but RC has spoken of such things here and their stance is the valid one.

  112. John Mashey:

    GROUNDHOG DAY

    1) The movie is a fine analogy, but the crux of the film was Bill Murray’s eventual *changing* response to his endless predicament. That film was *not* “WAITING FOR GrOunDhOg day To end”.

    2) If one is faced with endless repetition of anti-science memes, one can:

    - Whack each one as they come (individualized whack-a-mole or groundhog)
    OR
    - Build up a good database of answers over time, and simply refer back to it.

    I think the latter is far better, especially for onlookers, as it not only answers the question, but makes *clear* that this is such standard dis/misinformation that it’s been debunked long before.

    The RC Wiki does this somewhat, as does Coby Beck’s, but I make most frequent use of John Cook’s Skeptical Science, because his organization works especially well for me:

    a) It starts with a single dense page listing most of the common arguments. All by itself, this dense enumeration gives a powerful message to onlookers, and invites futher perusal after the immediate issue is studied.

    b) It has short, persistent identifiers [code words at right]. The numbers aren't necessarily persistent, and I wish they were, but I understand why John doesn't do that (we've discussed it).

    Having some form of short, persistent identifier is *really* important, in particular for people who want to counter silly letters-to-editors, or posts at character-count-constrained forums/blogs. We all know it is easier to create confusion than clarity with limited word count. I think there is at least a 10X ratio of words required, maybe more, plus fact that LtEs don't have graphs. It really helps to be able to say:

    "These are all long-debunked errors. See (website), items 1 [sun], 2 [change]."

    For example, Shadow thread idea, or perhaps subthreads, or something, to keep main threads denser with serious discussion.

    Good discussions can be well worth pointing people at later ... but some get so bogged down that I'd never send people there. It would just be too painful.

    UNIQUE VALUE-ADDS

    RCers should not waste time doing what others can now easily do as well. Providing good context for the latest science is especially valuable, and is something that is hard for the rest of us to do. For example, in my default expertise-scale, professionals (say 7-10 range):

    a) Read the published literature in Science or Nature.
    [I can do that too: I get Science, and occasionally buy Nature.]

    b) Read the published literature in Geophysical Research Letters, Quaternary Research, etc. Attend AGU meetings, etc.
    [Well, I could do that, and I even joined AGU for a while, but in practice, one has to be really dedicated, and this is nontrivial. The specialized professional literature in any discipline just isn't structured for interested laypeople, no matter how technically skilled.]

    c) Know what's *really* going on, what people are trying that didn't work, or wasn't quite significant, or whether some paper is really indicating an inflection point in a trend, or just noise. Published papers inherently have to lag. Credibly being able to say "Don't get too carried away with this result" is useful all by itself.

    [I get some because I bicycle down to Stanford and talk to people, but not everyone is geographically-placed to do that easily.] From my own experience in computing, I *know* that the top active professionals in any field simply know a lot that isn't in the accessible literature. When I was helping sell supercomputers (to climate modelers & others), I spent a lot of time in discussions of the form "We know this science, we don't know that. We have this data, we don't have that. With our current compute power, certain time/space resolutions are practical. Better resolution will help with these problems, but won't help with those, where the limiters are data or science... but when can we get a TB of main memory cheap?" :-) ]

    I'd certainly love an up-to-date post on that overall topic, as those were stimulating discussions.

    SO: I'd hope RCers would reflect on the questions:

    what sorts of value-add and context are difficult for anyone but active professionals to provide? of that, which makes sense to provide?

  113. pete best:

    Re #100, 2 ppmv per annum so its a fair few decades off is doom, around 2100 and beyond. Remember the charney limit, 550 ppm CO2 for a 3C temp rise which coube be 6C for the new earth sensitivity that James Hansen speaks of. Maybe in the next IPCC report of 2012 (watered down of course).

  114. pete best:

    Re #91, Oh right, I must be reading to much George Monbiot and Caroline Lucas over at the Guardian then for its spelt out many times especially the recent row Goegr had with the other green girl whose name eludes me but she ran for London major the last time around when George and MarK Lynas were in favour of it.

    Everyone in FOTE and GP went mental.

  115. Zane Selvans:

    The Groundhog Day feeling can be incredibly depressing. I guess I’ve finally come to believe that the task at hand is not to effectively communicate the nature of the scientific process, the results of that process, or anything too tightly bound to objective reality. The task we have been given, whether we like it or not, is to frame those facts in a way that elicits the personal and policy responses we want. Lots of scientists find this somehow distasteful, but our opponents have no such qualms. If you haven’t already, I recommend talking to Matt Nisbet of Framing Science: http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/

  116. Bob Cousins:

    “Given the number of simply made-up ‘facts’ in that tome, one soon realises that the concept of an objective reality against which one should measure claims and judge arguments is not something that is universally shared”

    Well, it’s been like that for thousands of years. I guess there is a tiny minority who think rationally and assume that every else does. It’s a bit of a shock to meet someone who believes for example that man and dinosaurs lived at the same time. Unfortunately, the vast majority are like that, and simply presenting the facts and hoping they will “get it” doesn’t work.

    The lesson of Dunning and Kruger is that only substantial improvement in competence allows people to assess their competence correctly. Since the vast majority of kids leave school with a tiny knowledge of science, this leaves us pretty much doomed, if we are relying on these people to get behind the science and change their lifestyles.

    The only real likelihood of change is when AGW starts hitting people in their pocket books. By then it will be far too late.

  117. Adam:

    More WGII oriented stuff, please. Even the tentative stuff, what’s tentative, why it’s tentative, etc…. I’m sure there must be guest writers itching to discuss this stuff?

    A little more specific than…
    Captcha: threaded any

  118. MS:

    Please keep up the very good work at RC. I really enjoy to come here for the scientific arguments.
    Also comming to this site is a very good comfort after having read too many stupid denialist arguments. Here you really get to see that a lot of good people are working hard to inform the world about this very serious issue.

    I find it important that the next generations have a proper scientifically based education on climate topics. If you could start a thread for collecting good online material ( eg. highschool level) I think that would be very helpful.

  119. wmanny:

    Ray (101),

    One of the perpetual memes in the denialosphere is, “The models don’t work.” That may well be, but I would suggest focusing a summary more in the Freeman Dyson direction, that is to say that skeptics claim, “The models don’t PREDICT.” Dyson discusses Manabe’s old claim that they help us understand more than they help us predict in a good follow-up to NYT’s Dyson article at:

    http://www.e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2151

    I assume you believe that claim to be out of date, if it was accurate to begin with!

    Walter

  120. David B. Benson:

    Gavin — I have three suggestions.

    (1) Clouds. I’ve never studied any meteorolgy and other than thundery showers, can’t tell one cloud type from another. I recently read (in Spring 2009 issue of Engineering & Science) “… MLS and AIRS observations show an increase of cirrus clouds and water vapor over warm oceans, indicating that cloud and water-vapor feedbacks amplify global warming.” (Prof. Paul Dimotakis) Not knowing what cirrus clouds were, I went to
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cirrus_cloud
    which includes “It has not yet been determined whether the net effect of cirrus clouds is to warm or cool the earth.” But contrails are cirrus clouds and the few days following 2001 Sep 11 demonstrated cooling with contrail absence I believe. Now what I recall your replying, several times, was to the effect that low clouds –> cooling, high clouds –> heating but having all this wrapped up in one thread would help me and at least one other requester here.

    (2) Basic physical oceanography. Now I’ve read Carl Wunsch’s excellant on-line lecture notes so I think I understand the Gulf Stream. But attempting to understand how the Circumpolar Vortex lifts bottom water in the Southern Ocean appears to be beyond me to work out for myself.

    (3) What Ray Ladbury worte in comment #101. I know there are already several threads which consider some of the issues, but this remains a favorite talking point by contrarians.

    Michael McGee (33) — In my somewhat informed opinion, in the long term nothing above 300 ppm CO2e is fully safe. My reasoning is based on some observationsof glaciers and ice sheets. Glaciers stopped advancing in the Alps in 1850 CE at around 288 ppm CO2. The last remnants of the Laurentide Ice Sheet on the continent melted in the 1930s and 1940s with CO2 at about 310 ppm. The glaciers in the Alps were in retreat in the 1950s with CO2 around 315 ppm. I am under the impression that GIS began melting around then.

    [reCPATCHA agrees, entoning "nonnegligent sizzles".]

  121. Patrick 027:

    … and more information on atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns in general …

  122. RichardC:

    36 Lynn, runaway is not a reasonable outcome. The cure is too easy – artillery shells can loft sulphur high enough to do the trick. The problem is rainfall. There are three temperature zones which shuttle moisture and heat between them – hot, warm, and frozen. What happens when there is no longer a frozen bit at the top of the planet? Rains move north, FAR north. Distance divided by 2 instead of 3. (Obviously, results vary — too widely to be a good thing)

    The Arctic ocean basin is going to get flooded and everywhere mankind lives will get shortchanged. Adding all that fresh water to the Arctic Ocean will lead to a lake-type freeze-up. The top meters of ocean are so fresh that they’ll freeze over a warmer salty ocean below. This helps insulate the water, ensuring that it is good and warm for spring’s next melt.

    We’ve lost the Arctic and the Methane Wars, but we’ll spew enough sulphur into the air to prevent runaway warming. How much we need to spew depends on decisions we take over the next five years or so.

  123. Ray Ladbury:

    Walter Manny,
    Of course models do not by themselves make predictions. Rather, the way models change in response to changes in forcing, etc. illuminates the dynamics, which in turn allows us to predict future behavior. This is true whether the subject of the model is Earth’s climate or a MOSFET.
    Each model run represents one possible realization of the path the climate can take. In that sense, it is a bit like the ensembles of stat mech. No one system in the ensembles represents reality. Together, though, they come arbitrarily close.

  124. barry:

    I too would like to see more reports from the cutting edge and agree that the debunking work should come a distant second or third now that a big list of that effort is compiled here (as well as a few other sites, like Coby’s).

    I’m thinking of the ‘new inspiring myth’ that Brian Eno was looking for when he convened the climate conference at the Sydney Opera House a few days ago. Perhaps it could become a story of enquiry and (technological) development more than doom and gloom.

    recaptcha might be trying to offer some hope, or maybe not: ‘washington sturdily’

  125. Eliot Walter:

    I found Real Climate while searching for data on rainfall during the last warming period in the Ohio valley (USA)- this I could not find, but I found you. Keep up the good work.
    None of the words at Real Climate are needlessThis is the time to step up pressure, though it may be too late as the tundra thaws, thawing ‘frozen’ methane, the gigatonnes of locked carbon released, loss of that shiny white snow cover, etc.

  126. steve:

    Well I for one have appreciated the perspective from the scientists here at RealClimate. I also appreciate the times when I have been shown to be wrong since the only thing I hate worse then being wrong is being ignorant. I don’t know if it really matters much if you continue the debate over what may happen now or not. The primary arguments against co2 driven climate as I understand them are solar and ocean cycle driven climate. With a cooling PDO and a probable weak solar cycle coming up I would expect that many of the arguments will be settled by the climate itself. Those of us not sure who is correct are patiently waiting for it to give us the answer. Thanks for the conversations. I have found the vast majority of you quite likable ladies and gentlemen.

  127. lowiqguy:

    I think you need to stop preaching to the choir. just read the comments on this thread. Not eveybody is ready to drink the purple cool-aid. You do yourselves no favours with this constant “denailist” nonsence. No doubt such people/sites exist, but that is their problem, the folks I follow are saying simply this, “we don`t know what the climate is doing, but guys, your math does not say what you say it does”

  128. Mike G:

    JBL (79)- Thanks, but I wasn’t asking the questions for my benefit. I’m a working marine biologist, so I’m personally well versed in the NSF granting process. It was actually the string of comments that you linked to that made me think the issue deserved more prominent treatment given the prominence of the argument. Clearly, many people on both sides of this argument, including many on this site, don’t understand what’s involved in securing and completing a grant.

    Mark (74)- Once again, I find myself asking what exactly are you trying to argue? I rarely post here, largely because of a few mental masturbators such as yourself who seem intent on showing why everyone else is wrong rather than having a two-way discussion. Last time I posted you spent multiple posts telling me that I was wrong about my own area of expertise until I ultimately gave up in frustration. Now you make a lengthy post that doesn’t give me the impression you even read what I said before you started trying to dispute it.

    I know that the “they’re in it for the funding” meme is convincing to many people who don’t understand the funding process because I talk to them. I’ve personally been accused of trying to drum up alarmism for ocean acidification for my own job security many a time. However, I have yet to find one accuser who can explain the granting process to me (and how that relates to my take-home pay)- because most people aren’t familiar with it. When some denialist, especially one with some credentials, tells them the process is all a big political circle jerk, it is a convincing argument to a lot of people because it’s a completely foreign process to them. They don’t understand what’s ridiculous about that claim.

    Your long explanation of how going along with the consensus DOES NOT secure funding is unnecessary since A) I already understand why this is silly because I understand how scientific funding works and B) I already made the same points in my own post.

  129. dhogaza:

    The primary arguments against co2 driven climate as I understand them are solar and ocean cycle driven climate.

    No. CO2 forcing is a physical (as in “physics” as in “why the brakes on your car work” or “why you need a parachute if you jump out of an airplane [that's not parked on the ground]“.

    Climate science (obviously) incorporates “solar” (as you put it, hopefully meaning “those solar things that have been measured over the last five decades” as opposed to “sky fairy effects that we can’t measure”).

    I would expect that many of the arguments will be settled by the climate itself.

    No, these arguments are rejected at the first order because they don’t explain why the solid physics of CO2 absorption of LW IR magically has ceased recently.

    And many other things, but go chew on this statement and come back when you understand it.

  130. dhogaza:

    Those of us not sure who is correct are patiently waiting for it to give us the answer.

    Why would you expect scientists to be wrong when 99% of the opposition comes from untrained, statistically and scientifically illiterate, self-proclaimed right-wing asshole?

    Why are you unsure?

    (beating my head against the floor)

    Meanwhile, I’ve got a 5,999 year 364 day old fossil to sell you. It’s priceless, because clearly it’s the oldest fossil (buried personally by God for your pleasure), and screw all those scientists who say (can’t believe this!) that the earth is more than 6000 years old.

    Of course, there are xtians on the fence, waiting, as you suggest for

    Those of us not sure who is correct are patiently waiting for it to give us the answer.

    “It”, as firmly as the debunking of the YEC view. being provided by basic climate science.

    Meanwhile, go buy some science texts…

  131. Anne Davenport:

    Perhaps I’ve missed it, but I’ve been trying to piece together a chronology of the development of climate change. A ‘history’ like that makes a lot of things clearer to an audience.

    At one time climate change was just a hypothesis attached to some interesting factoids about increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. But over time, more data was collected, models were built based on different hypotheses about what was causing it and what would happen because of it. Eventually, over decades now, the models based on human-caused atmospheric changes have best predicted what is happening today. And models based on other causes haven’t.

    A timeline of when these models were tested and what data was collected (with references to publications) would be like a trail of breadcrumbs though all the competing ideas about what is going on and why to the conclusions we have about climate change today.

    [Response: Check out Spencer Weart's "The Discovery of Global Warming" available here and in bookstores. - gavin]

  132. sidd:

    “how the Circumpolar Vortex lifts bottom water in the Southern Ocean ”

    I think this is a Coriolis effect ? (minus) omega cross v is upward for Antarctic Circumpolar current ?

    but perhaps i have my cross products wrong…

  133. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    RE #122, I don’t think we’re going to spew sulfur into the atmosphere and create MORE acid rain to kill lakes, soil, tree, monuments, and lungs. That’s not even a possible solution, since the sulfur only lasts a few days or weeks in the atmosphere, while methane lasts about 10 years (before it decomposes into CO2 & whatever), and a portion of CO2 can last up to 100,000 years, acc to David Archer ( see: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2005/03/how-long-will-global-warming-last/langswitch_lang/in )

    In answer to #40 the contrarians are so right about CO2 lagging the warming. But just bec warming can lead to higher CO2 (from melting permafrost & ocean hydrates, dessicating plants & soil, more wildfires, etc), does not in any way disprove that CO2 causes warming. So both positions are correct: CO2 (and other GHGs) cause warming, AND warming causing higher CO2, which causes higher warming, which causes higher CO2, which causes higher warming, and where we end up nobody knows.

    That’s one thing I think might be wrong with the model (not sure), they only have CO2 as an input, but not also as a response to the warming….

    So we have to heartily thank the contrarians for pointing out just how very very dangerous global warming (caused by us this time) is, and we need to mitigate it all the more, slash our emissions way way down…..

    Thanks, contrarians, wherever you are! And let’s hop to it with alt energy and total conservation/efficiency of enegery/resources.

  134. Will Greene:

    Could you please address the “Inhofe” 650 scientists who are dissenting the scientific consensus at the UN? How are so many well educated scientists fighting climate action? Thank you for everything you do Gavin.

  135. PeteB:

    Thanks for a great blog,

    One thing I found slightly interesting was

    http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5084

    which seemed to suggest that ‘peak fossil fuels’ may limit global warming (not that I’m comfortable with the potential prospect of 600 ppm !)

    Any comments ?

  136. Neal J. King:

    Something I have been trying to pin down, so far unsuccessfully: Where can I find the explicit calculation that a doubling in atmospheric CO2 concentration leads to a 3.7 W/m^2 increase in radiative forcing?

    [Response: It comes from estimates using line-by-line radiative transfer models as discussed in Myhre et al (1998; 2001) and Collins et al (2006). There is some sensitivity to uncertainties in the global cloud and water vapour distribution (+/- 10%). - gavin]

  137. Martin Vermeer:

    steve #126:

    Those of us not sure who is correct are patiently waiting for it to give us the answer.

    Steve, you must have had a very protected upbringing :-) Do you really, seriously believe that the selectively credulous who have no difficulty explaining the past decades of man-made global warming, and the body of theory describing it, away, would have any difficulty doing the same with future decades?

  138. Mark:

    “That’s one thing I think might be wrong with the model (not sure), they only have CO2 as an input, but not also as a response to the warming….”

    That’s because the output of CO2 naturally effervescing is (from past records) about 800 years.

    That’s the lag seen between warming causing more CO2 and the CO2 being noticeable.

  139. Mark:

    “Mark (74)- Once again, I find myself asking what exactly are you trying to argue? … seem intent on showing why everyone else is wrong rather than having a two-way discussion.”

    Well I am intent on showing why people are wrong when they are wrong.

    What else should I do? Tell them they are wrong and not say why or how?

    You may be educated in many things, but you haven’t shown much evidence of being an expert, really.

    And if you can’t understand the argument, why should I waste time with you? You’d rather call me names than think.

    And the argument is that “it being a black box” makes “there’s a huge conspiracy” is wrong. The reasons for which I have given a few examples of which you “expertly” don’t understand.

  140. Sekerob:

    Mark, you may not be that educated, but it does not stop you from starting or resuming that. As first informational for you on GHG’s and CO2 particular a link to, oh heck, a wiki article on Svante August Arrhenius… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Svante_Arrhenius

    CO2 has risen to 389.47 ppmv in April from 280 when Arrhenius lived. We’re reaching the period of the year where it will even go down a bit, because of the growth season on the NH. The less there grows, the lesser that periodic temporary slowdown effect… and with warming oceans, and they are, it wont get better. Then when permafrost goes and it’s going alright, you’ll hold on to whatever you ‘believe’ for that will be under duress… oh and Arctic sea ice extend hit 2007 record low track, and it’s thin! Yes it is.

  141. Barton Paul Levenson:

    bobberger writes:

    What I believe could become an equally interesting subject is Anthony Watts’ work on the surface stations. You can of course deal with it once an analysis is published but if the purpose of this blog really is to respond to developing stories, then this may be the right time to comment on whether or how the surface temperature record takes Watts’ findings into acount and especially what parts of the current science really rests on the shoulders of that record.

    While we’re at it, why not take a serious and in-depth look at the archaeological theories of Erich von Dakiken, or the astronomy of Immanuel Velikovsky? The first is relevant because of the connection to quickly building large projects; the second because Velikovskians reject the greenhouse effect in the case of Venus, which they maintain is simply cooling down after passing through the sun a few thousand years ago. Either is just as relevant as Anthony Watts’s work. Their “findings” are certainly just as valid.

  142. steve:

    dhogaza: Insulting me is not a very convincing argument. You have brought up an interesting point though. I thought the argument was primarily over the climate sensitivity of co2 and you have now corrected me and told me it is over the GHG theory. So what exactly is the argument over dhogaza? Is it over the GHG theory or is it over the hypotheses of climate sensitivity and the wide range of the results from the innumerable hypotheses?

    Martin: I’m sure regardless of what the climate does there will be some that ignore the evidence and hold on to their beliefs. That does not mean that they will find many that will listen to them.

  143. Barton Paul Levenson:

    I want to disagree with everyone who thinks we don’t need to answer repeated contrarian arguments because they’ve already been answered. There are people coming into this debate who haven’t been aware of it before all the time, and they have NOT seen the rebuttals. For the sake of those people, we need to answer it whenever some denialist has temporary media attention. Referring people to web sites summarizing arguments is a good idea, but it’s also a good idea to answer people asking questions in this thread. Some genuinely don’t understand the problem and want to know the answer, but even the trolls might convince lurkers if we let them go unanswered.

    For my own part, I find that I understand issues better the more I have to reply to them, and that doing so repeatedly allows me to refine and revise my replies, and get rid of mistakes I made in earlier versions.

  144. Steve Fitzpatrick:

    Hello Gavin,

    I do not know if you will “snip” this comment, (it is after all your blog) but I do hope you will read it. I understand your frustration with non-sense comments that come from people (“denialists”) with little or no technical background. Those who have no idea of the underlying physical concepts usually make comments which contribute little or nothing to a constructive dialog. I hope you agree that similar non-sense comments are also made by people with little or no technical experience, but who completely believe what the IPCC predicts. Were climate science not so politically relevant, none of these folks would even be involved.

    That being said, there are a lot of technically trained people who work outside of climatology that I believe do have enough knowledge of the underlying physical concepts to rationally evaluate the quality of published climate research. It appears to me that your moderation policy tends to sometimes silence those who have legitimate doubts.

    [Response: No. What we dissalow is the incessant cut-and-paste drive-buys of trolls, and those whose doubts are anything but 'legitimate' and whose analyses are anything but 'rational'. -mike]

    I was encouraged by Dr. Eric Steig’s blog exchange with several people who had analyzed the methods used his Nature paper on temperature trends in Antarctica. By the time Dr. Steig ended the exchange, the tone of the discussion was much more reasonable and constructive than at the beginning, and it appeared that even Dr. Steig agreed that there were some legitimate concerns raised, although he did not agree these concerns brought into question the results shown in the Nature paper.

    [Response: Please don't misrepresent Eric. You need to read what he wrote more carefully. He did not indicate that there were any "legitimate concerns raised". Rather, he explained in some detail how the analyzes described on a certain fringe website were rather seriously flawed, e.g. violating the assumption of independence of the statistical cross-validation by adjusting the model to fit the validation data--a major no no, at least to anyone who understands cross-validation. Eric did note that an objective analysis of quality issues with the satellite data would be worthwhile--but that is hardly what was provided in the attempts to attack Steig et al. We closed off the discussion after the post had achieved its end, i.e. when the attackers conceded that indeed they were unable to in any conceivable way 'falsify' the Steig et al '08 results -mike]

    I hope that in the future you would encourage similar exchanges.

    I have several times before considered making comments on your blog, but have not taken the time to do so, since I have seen the text of several comments “snipped” from you blog that appear to me neither offensive nor nonsensical. Can you offer any guidelines on what types of comments are allowed and what are not?

    [Response: Think of it like a dinner party. Discussion is good, disagreement is ok, but throwing food and insulting the hosts or other guests is not appreciated. - gavin]

  145. Steve Fitzpatrick:

    Gavin,

    Thanks for the clarification. I never throw food and try my best to avoid making insults (even when insulted), so I will try offering some comments in the future.

  146. Mark:

    in 140: “Mark, you may not be that educated, but it does not stop you from starting or resuming that.”

    What does that mean?

  147. dhogaza:

    What I believe could become an equally interesting subject is Anthony Watts’ work on the surface stations. You can of course deal with it once an analysis is published

    Until he publishes an analysis there is no “there” there, so why discuss? Do you need a scientist to tell you that a photograph doesn’t

    1. quantify whatever effect a nearby a/c unit might have.

    2. much less “prove” that the algorithms used by GISS to generate a quality product from flawed data doesn’t work.

    If he attempts an analysis I imagine someone will take a look. Tamino, for instance, has shown that Watts is a statistical illiterate in the past.

  148. dhogaza:

    Thanks for the clarification. I never throw food

    More advice, if you don’t mind … if you’re invited to a potluck, don’t bring leftovers that have been moldering in your refrigerator for the last eight years and expect people to congratulate you for bringing such tasty fare.

    Stuff like “climate changes all the time” or “CO2 is only a tiny fraction of the atmosphere” or any of the other myriad debunked and recycled “arguments” that flood blogs.

  149. John Burgeson:

    Gavin — keep up the (very) good work. This site is appreciated. Keep answering the skeptics (but be polite, for you win more with politeness than with sarcasm).

    I see Freeman Dyson, for example, has criticized the climate models recently. I hope the rebuttals are respectful.

    I’m hanging on with my geophysicist friend, but it’s tough.

    Burgy

  150. Sekerob:

    BPL,

    As a early adolescent I ate up the Erich von Däniken stuff… until there were the sections where he was proposing phenomena even a kid would roll eyes. Heaps of loose sand or dust, it’s vague, and not the strongest wind moving a grain springs to mind, somewhere Pacific coast South America.

  151. Chris Dudley:

    Gavin,

    As a reseacher, you present your work perhaps at a conference or two and then in a paper. After that, it belongs to the world and you treat it that way in your further work, referencing it in the same manner you would any other work, not your own. Endless repetition makes no sense.

    A teacher who has a new set of freshman each year must repeat the same information over an over an over again. But, there is great reward because there are new students and new modes of learning all the time.

    In my experience, the best aspects of RC are the responses to questions in the comments on articles. It is clear that some questions have provoked fairly serious thought at times and thus must be a pleasure to encounter.

    I would thus suggest that RC is more like a classroom than a laboratory and you need to recycle your articles over and over, with updates, reaping a new crop of comments each time. If you find yourself referring to an old article a few times, repost it. Eventually, you are going to get all of this honed into a textbook which can become like a scientific paper, out there for reference, but for now, enjoy the process of (re)delivering each lecture to new ears. I’m pretty sure you’ll be getting the gratification of meeting a new climate scientist who was inspired by your blog in the not too distant future, so you have that to look forward to as well.

  152. counters:

    Personally, I think the discourse presented in the articles here at RC is spot on target. A few people have suggested delving more in depth with the status of climate modeling (with respect to its successes and current issues), and this is a very good idea. As a student looking towards a career in modeling, I find these topics the most interesting. However, I think a caveat is warranted: if you do choose to pursue the topic of modeling more in depth, it would be much appreciated if you wrote for a technical audience. As other commenters have pointed out, a lot of the accusations levied against climate models by the denial-o-sphere are based on pure fiction and hearsay; those that maintain these arguments are not even interested in the most basic of facts, and I see no constructive reason for engaging them.

    I find it especially amusing to read the laments of “if only we could see the source and run them ourselves!” – particularly because on the first page of a Google search of ‘climate model source code’ you get direct links to the source of the NCAR CCSM3, GISS ModelE, and GFDL CM2.x!

    Keep up the good work!

  153. pete best:

    Re #135, PeteB, its such a big question you ask here but so lets start with some numbers. The BP statistical review of oil reserves states that 1.2 trillion barrels of oil presently are known of and at a usage rate of 300 billion barrels per decade that 40 years worth of oil left at present usage rates but until the recession anual growth was around 2% per annum. It might not sound much that a doubling of growth every 35 years which is extremely unlikely due to peak oil. So what is Peak oil? when supply and demand can never again be in equilibrium, well no not really, when the flow of oil is not enough to meet demand?, well yes that more like it and hence our oil infrastructure is creaking and the investment required to keep up with demand is more than likely the main problem.

    Gas and coal can become liquid fuels but these fuels are also stated to peak come 2020 and 2025 but the jury is out on this one. Oils that are not conventional might be useful as they can be either mined and refined or turned into gas. Canadas tar sands are part of that 1.2 trillion barrels of BPs reserves so we need to find more or turn gas and coal into oil in order to continue our soaring demand.

    we could engage in a major efficiency program. The USA uses 20 million barrels per day out of a global demand of 85. The USA uses energy inefficienctly and expects $1 a gallon ooil but those days are limited now and its time for them to engage in AGW talks to half their oil and fossil fuel demand somehow. Their average MPG is only 22 and Europes only 32 so as I am sriving a car that does 40 MPG and diesels can do 50-60 its all possible.

    Whatever the consequences of peak oil AGW is still a issue but peaking fossil fuels is probably the first and foremost problem. Either way coping with AGW means coping with fossil fuel addiction.

  154. Mike G:

    Mark wrote- “Well I am intent on showing why people are wrong when they are wrong.”

    That very well may be, but you also seem to argue for the sake of argument, even with people who don’t disagree with you.

    You’re still arguing a point that I never made. Go back and read my posts for comprehension rather than contention you will see that I never claimed that the fact that people aren’t familiar with the granting process is itself an argument for conspiracy. Rather, that lack of familiarity provides an opening for denialists to make an argument for conspiracy- one that is convincing to many people judging by my own personal experience dealing with the public.

    So where am I wrong here? Does the general public understand the funding process and therefore my experience is simply an anomaly? Are denialists not exploiting that lack of familiarity to sow misinformation? Are people not buying into the “they’re in it for funding” argument- again indicating that my personal experience is anomalous?

    This will be my last post on the subject since our tangent is not contributing to the topic of the thread.

  155. Geoff Wexler:

    Monitoring Policy.

    Some examples.
    Realclimate is sometimes criticised by deniers for having a monitoring policy. Dissidents are allowed but only within limits. I think we have a lot to be grateful for the use of this policy; not only does it protect the readers from mass invasions by anti-scientific propagandists * but also the little responses in green from the experts can be particularly useful and add a lot to the lead articles. That monitoring (and replying) must take up quite a bit of time.

    This is where some of the alternatives to Realclimate do not do quite so well. John Cook’s site (Skeptical Science) seems an excellent and rapid source to me. It provides simplified arguments and links to the published works. The author must have worked quite hard to produce it. But a rather lax monitoring policy detracts from the quality of the threads which follow the lead articles. It becomes a gamble.

    Tamino and Stoat use a similar approach to Realclimate.
    ———————
    * The thread following Gavin’s article (not for RC) about his book provided an example of this but I have seen even worse.

  156. Mark:

    “That very well may be, but you also seem to argue for the sake of argument, even with people who don’t disagree with you.”

    Please provide evidence.

  157. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    Gavin, Mike, RC team,

    I really do believe this site is making a big difference, each tiny step at a time. Eventually we reach a tipping point. It’s still whack-a-mole, but I am noticing a bit of a sea change.

    Just for fun, some of my new pages last few months:

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/keeling-curves

    These are quite popular

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/glenn-beck

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/henrik-svensmark

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/the-copenhagen-distraction

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/projects/environment/global-warming/myths/the-denial-machine

    As always, if anyone noticed any relevant problems, let me know ;)

  158. CM:

    Gavin (inline #136), it’s Myhre, not Myrhe. Forgive the nitpick but the poor guy gets misspelled here on a regular basis.

    [Response: Oops. thanks - and I've cleaned up all previous errors too... - gavin]

  159. bobberger:

    > “While we’re at it, why not take a serious and in-depth look at the archaeological theories of Erich von Dakiken, or the astronomy of Immanuel Velikovsky?”

    No thanks. But I hope you can appreciate the difference. Whatever YOU may think about Anthony Watts: the surface stations are factual, you can see them, you can even go out there and touch them. And putting out a story in the press saying that all we think of as global warming is in fact nothing but a bunch of stations measuring exhaust temperatures from parked cars and airconditioners (plus some very convincing pictures) is an easy thing to do. Arguing against it and putting it into perspective in terms that normal people can understand and follow is not.

  160. Dirk Hartog:

    Dear Gavin (& other RC contributors),

    Firstly, thank you very much for the huge amount of effort you have put in to RC. I am sure that you don’t enjoy the constant battering from the denialists, but rest assured that there are hundreds of scientists and other rational people who are cheering you on from the side-lines.

    I see the most important role of RC as giving the information that rational people who aren’t climate scientists need to counter the denialist spin machine. These people can then influence their friends and colleagues, providing a multiplier effect.

    In this context, I think it is very important to provide simple, rapid, authoritative, debunking of the major denialist ideas. E.g., a non-scientist might be impressed by surfacestations.org; after all, how can you argue with a photograph of a badly-sited temperature station? We need a simple one-stop rebuttal of this rubbish that is ranked highly by google.

    An example of where this hasn’t been done well, IMHO, is with the “35 error’s in Al Gore’s film” that the denialists keep on harping about. If you do some googling about this, you can’t (easily) find any rebuttal of the list. Al Gore’s websites don’t mention any rebuttal, or even acknowledge any errors, as far as I could find in a moderately careful search. And there is no way to contact Al Gore or anyone responsible for Al Gore’s websites to request a rebuttal. This is very poor, IMHO, and would lead a curious person who reads the denialist websites to believe that perhaps the denialists are right.

    As for the Plimer book, it is vital that this is debunked by credible climate scientists (and geologists and other experts). Given that Plimer is a full professor at an internationally respected university (U. Adelaide), if the book isn’t shown up to be the rubbish that it is, it will do long-term damage.

    The book is having a large effect in Australia, with virtually every conservative newspaper columnist strongly supporting it. The book is credited with influencing the voting intention of a balance-of-power politician in the Australian senate, and so could have large consequences for political action on climate change in Australia in the near to medium term.

  161. Hank Roberts:

    Gavin, –> Micheal should be Michael in the main post.
    “Nobody ever finds the last typo.”

    [Response: thanks. - gavin]

  162. SecularAnimist:

    Thanks to the RealClimate folks for their excellent and valuable work.

    As long as there are tens of billions of dollars profit per year at stake in continuing “business-as-usual” consumption of fossil fuels, business-as-usual deforestation, business-as-usual industrial animal agriculture and so on, there will be plenty of people who deny the scientific reality of anthropogenic global warming, or deny that it is dangerous, or make false claims that dealing with it will be too costly and damaging to “the economy”.

    Some of the deniers are paid liars. Some of the deniers are delusional cranks. Some of the deniers are Ditto-Heads who slavishly believe and repeat whatever they are told by the phony, so-called “conservative” media (which has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with corporate propaganda). All of them, ultimately, are doing the work of those who profit from causing global warming and don’t give a damn what damage it causes because they cannot imagine that their immense wealth and power won’t protect them from it.

    The struggle to cut through the deniers’ wall of noise and communicate the truth — which is not merely “inconvenient” but terrifyingly urgent — will never end. Even if every coal-fired power plant is replaced with wind turbines and concentrating solar thermal power stations, and every gasoline-fueled car is replaced with a solar-powered electric car, there will still be those who think of the profits they could make if only coal-mining and oil-drilling could be revived. Perhaps someday the main denialist theme will be “the global warming problem has been solved, so now we can return to burning fossil fuels”.

    Please keep up the good work, RealClimate folks. You are needed and you will be needed for decades to come.

  163. Hank Roberts:

    P.S. for Dick Hartog, on searching methods; use the word you’re looking for:

    Your string “35 error’s in Al Gore’s film” didn’t work:
    (found pages of denial copypaste stuff)

    Searching using this found the rebuttal promptly:
    “35 errors” “Gore’s film” rebuttal

    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2007/10/an_inconvenient_truth_team_gor_1.html

    which begins:

    “The Gore response

    With a column titled “Fact Checker,” it is difficult not to lose the forest for the trees. First and foremost, An Inconvenient Truth presented thousands and thousands of facts. We stand by our initial statement. We were gratified that a UK High Court judge, a layperson with a full docket, found the film worthy enough to be shown in British schools. A generation of schoolchildren will become more educated about global warming and what can be done to solve the climate crisis.

    A number of other broader points need to be addressed from the Fact Checker’s last two postings:…”

    and then goes into the details. You’ll find other responses too.

    http://blog.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker/2007/10/an_inconvenient_truth_team_gor_1.html

  164. Ike Solem:

    For El Nino and the status of climate modeling, see:

    http://thewealthofplanets.blogspot.com/2009/06/does-inability-of-models-to-predict-el.html

  165. Rod B:

    Ray, surely you’re not equating global climate models with MOSFET Spice models…

  166. Mark:

    re 165, why not?

    Please show me an electron.

    PROVE they exist.

    Show it to me.

    Heck, we even know that the electron model isn’t “right” since it would have to spin faster than light to have the spin energy it has by measurement.

    Yet, somehow, despite not knowing EVERYTHING about electrons, we can model how a MOSFET junction works…

    Seems an apposite analogue to me…

  167. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod, did you see the word equals or any derivative thereof (equality, etc) in my post? My point was that you don’t go to models for \answers.\ You go to models to get insight so that you can make predictions.

  168. Aaron Lewis:

    My suggestion is that you post the facts and arguments -wholesale and get a “Sales Team” in to sell those facts and arguments on a retail level. Find a university with business school that teaches “sales” and work out a deal whereby those students in sales spend a few hours a week selling climate change. Or, have the sales training program at IBM; use the answering of deniers as sales training or even part of their weeding out process. (i.e., convince a hundred deniers of the facts of climate change) If one cannot sell the truth, how can one sell the subjective value of a particular Brand ?

  169. Israel Ramirez:

    I read this site often for its semi-technical discussions of the latest science. This is, without question, the best site on climate change. Keep it up.

  170. Thomas Lee Elifritz:

    Noah’s Ark Revisited

  171. MarkB:

    bobberger,

    Here are some key reasons why Watts’ effort to undermine the temperature record isn’t going anywhere. He and some of his supporters are making some very erroneous assumptions (some deliberate in my view) based on an apparent lack of knowledge of how temperature analysis is conducted.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/07/no-man-is-an-urban-heat-island/

    A recent AMS study addressed Watts’ project directly regarding photographs of weather stations:

    “Such evidence raises legitimate questions about
    the representativeness of temperature measurements from a number of U.S. HCN sites.
    However, from a climate change perspective, the primary concern is not so much the
    absolute measurement bias of a particular site, but rather the changes in that bias over
    time, which the TOB and pairwise adjustments effectively address (Vose et al. 2003;
    Menne and Williams 2008)”

    So while photographing weather stations might provide useful information, it’s not so useful from a climate change persepctive for reasons discussed above. Given Watts’ various comments and behavior, I’m convinced that the project was set up mainly to try to convince the public we can’t trust the temperature record, and that it isn’t warming anywhere near as much as the record indicates. When the project first started, Watts already jumped to this erroneous conclusion:

    “I believe we will be able to demonstrate that some of the global warming increase is not from CO2 but from localized changes in the temperature-measurement environment.”

    which he still unfortunately peddles today. If you frequent his blog, you’ll also notice that he throws in various stories of cold or snowy weather somewhere, which adds to this political message (as do selected photos of weather stations).

  172. John Mashey:

    This thread illustrates why I keep wishing for “shadow threads” or *something* to keep threads from getting cluttered.

    1) This started as a well-focused request for feedback, and many have supplied such. Hopefully, some will be useful.

    2) But, as often happens, the thread gets increasingly filled with redos of the same debates that are *not* this topic, like for example, nuclear power.

    There exist numerous important topics, but does every thread need to discuss a lot of them at once? Again, some cross-topic connections are worthwhile, but in a non-subthreaded blog, the dilution effect can be very strong.

    3) Here’s an exercise: spend 15 minutes zipping through the posts (I looked at 1:170) and put them into buckets (obviously a subjective assessment on which people can differ):

    a) Clearly on-topic
    b) Maybe, marginal, partial
    c) Diversion, or really off-topic

    From 1 to 100, and then 101 to 170, *I* guess:
    1-100 ………. 101-170
    a) 77 (77%) .. 33 (47%)
    b) 10 (10%) .. 12 (17%)
    c) 23 (23%) .. 25 (36%)

  173. Nigel Williams:

    Comment on the MIT study by Ronald Prinn co-director of the Joint Program and director of MIT’s Center for Global Change Science, released in May has been pretty muted, I feel. What is the view on their conclusion:

    “The new projections, published this month in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, indicate a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, with a 90% probability range of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees. This can be compared to a median projected increase in the 2003 study of just 2.4 degrees. ”

    http://globalchange.mit.edu/news/news-item.php?id=76

    5.2 C vs the 2.4 C that is currently wrinkling our brow. Thats beyond funny. But the blogisphere seems to have left it alone?

  174. Dirk Hartog:

    Re: 163, Hank

    Thank you for those links to Gore’s rebuttal. However, they refer to the original 9 points made by the UK judge, not the 35 from Monckton.

    Also, I didn’t search for the entire string in quotes, but to “35 errors in al gore’s film” (without quotes). There isn’t any rebuttal to the “35 errors” that I can find. Monckton’s document, crazy though it is, is very specific about the errors, and I think it deserves a very specific response. The Gore rebuttal that you linked to is rather weak IMHO. And I think it would make his case much stronger if he put this stuff up on his website so that anyone searching with google would come up with (1) a straightforward admission of whatever errors there might be in the film, and (2) a rebuttal of denialist arguments. The fact that this information is not there might lead any wavering person to be suspicious.

    As an example, Monckton’s point #27 is

    Mosquitoes climbing to higher altitudes –
    Gore says that, because of “global warming”, mosquitoes are climbing to higher altitudes. They are not.

    This is a very specific claim. It would be nice to have a very direct response.

    The reason I bring this up is that these “35 errors” come up again and again in denialist talking points. Any criticism of, e.g., Plimer’s book, will be met with a claim that “you may have found a few errors, but what about the 35 errors in Gore’s completely discredited film?”.

  175. Jim Bouldin:

    but rest assured that there are hundreds of scientists and other rational people who are cheering you on from the side-lines.

    The climate change battle, like any battle, is not supposed to be a spectator sport. Those scientists “on the sidelines” who have the ability to contribute would do well to put a helmet on, get on the field, and do something.

    It is an unfortunate reality that many scientists shy away from controversy in favor of the ivory tower. RC has a very open policy of allowing other scientists to contribute (hell they even allowed me to), but there frankly aren’t that many taking advantage of it. I wonder how that might be changed.

    As for future topics, my personal preference would be to see more on:

    1) The carbon cycle
    2) Regional climate change
    3) WG II type topics (effects)

    I also much agree with John Mashey regarding some better way to keep the comments more focused on the topic raised in the article, and I see far too many irrelevant or unnecessary comments that eat up the moderator’s time and/or don’t educate.

  176. Doug Mackie:

    Every so often over the last 2.5 years or so I have tried to post here (as I did yesterday)

    Now, I’m not saying the posts are always top quality.
    But I do my bit. Some of my research is CC oriented (ocean pH time series) and I write debunking articles in local media so call it hubris but I think I have something to contribute. But darn it, I think with maybe one or two exceptions my posts have never made it.

    After the first few attempts I mostly gave up trying.
    But every now and then I feel I rally have something to contribute.

    The posts preview OK and all but never show up.
    Is there something I should know? Do I have bad breath? Is my fly undone?

  177. bobberger:

    MarkB 171
    Yes, I had seen the “No man is an (Urban Heat) Island” and I find it not very convincing in the current situation. I’d hazard a guess that none of the “Mistraken Assumptions” apply to Watts and a statement like “However, from a climate change perspective, the primary concern is not so much the absolute measurement bias of a particular site, but rather the changes in that bias over time, which the TOB and pairwise adjustments effectively address” does not mean that some further correction to the data might not be neccessary. Just think about a temperature sensor next to an airconditioning vent. The airconditioning will not simply jump in at a certain point in time and operate at a given and constant heat output (which could be easily detected and corrected for) but will, of course, be more active with rising temperatures and thus amplify any temperature change.
    Another difference between now and 2007 (when “No man is an (Urban Heat) Island” was posted) is, that Watts has now checked and cataloged 3/4 or so of the relevant stations, so there is a real basis for further inquiry rather than just a bunch of funny pictures and a rumor. If you’d care to check surfacestations.org you’d also see, that they found many shading issues due to stuff that grew around stations (supposedly making them gradually cooler over time) so whatever updates to metadata come in may even lead to increased values.
    So – as I said – I think its well worth a look by RC, not least of all because it’ll be (and already is) worth a look for the media.

  178. Dirk Hartog:

    Re 176, Doug Mackie,

    The posts preview OK and all but never show up.

    I agree with Doug. Moderation is important, but so is feedback if your post doesn’t make it. E.g., some time ago I posted something that was relevant and scientifically useful on the subject of sub-snow temperature measurements. The post actually appeared briefly (not just “waiting for moderation”), but was then deleted, presumably because the “handle” I chose was “Back off man, I’m a scientist” – which was an attempt at humor.

    If I may be so bold, I suggest that the moderators have a series of buttons they can click to give feedback when deleting a post. E.g.,

    – Off topic
    – Repeats long-rebutted argument, adding nothing new
    – Contains obviously false information
    – Ad hominem attack
    – Posting under a different name from same IP
    – Stupid choice of name

  179. Hank Roberts:

    Dirk, re the story about Monckton claims of 35 errors, he claims that he’s responsible for thinking there were that many, supposedly
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2008/03/monckton_has_a_plan.php

    Monckton’s name wasn’t on the lawsuit that addressed the claims.

    The judge did a thorough job of replying to each of the claims:
    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2007/2288.html

    Who’s claiming Monckton has a list never rebutted? I’d bet on some place like ‘newsbusters’ and recommend not taking the tasty bait if you don’t see a claim with a citation from a source worth trusting.

  180. Hank Roberts:

    Ah, see the “costs and funding” section here:
    http://wapedia.mobi/en/Dimmock_v_Secretary_of_State_for_Education_and_Skills?t=4.#5.

  181. Alastair McDonald:

    Re #176

    I too have lost one or two posts in the past, and I think it is because I did not wait long enough after clicking “Post”. If you don’t wait until your post shows as “Waiting to be approved” then I think it can be lost.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  182. Chris McGrath:

    There is a large dose of “Groundhog Day” in a report just published by the Heartland Instituted, “Climate Change Reconsidered” at http://www.heartland.org/publications/NIPCC%20report/PDFs/NIPCC%20Final.pdf

    The report accepts that there is a greenhouse effect and does not dispute that greenhouse gases such as CO2 are rising in the atmosphere due to human activity. Therefore, the report does not dispute that anthropogenic climate change is happening, merely that it is much smaller than the IPCC suggests.

    Climate sensitivity, therefore, becomes a central issue to consider.

    Chapter 2 advances an argument that the climate sensitivity is much lower than accepted by the IPCC (i.e. around 3C for a doubling of CO2 to 550ppm).

    However, the report places extensive reliance on the “iris effect” advanced by Richard Lindzen nearly a decade ago in chapter 2 and section 1.3. This is surprising as Lindzen has not published evidence to support his original hypothesis and even he appears to have abandoned it in his publications and public statements since 2002.

    The report cited no publications on this topic after 2002 and, consequently, it seems difficult to justify the suggestion on page 17 of the report that “the debate over the reality and/or magnitude of the adaptive infrared iris effect continues”.

    As a consequence, the criticisms of the climate sensitivity adopted by the IPCC in chapter 2 of the report appear to not be supported by the evidence and analysis presented in the report. At least this central element of the report appears to be flawed.

    There are many other issues raised in the report and RealClimate’s analysis of it would be a valuable contribution to the public debate.

  183. Jim Norvell:

    Gore, Hansen and MIT all predict dire consequences in the future if we (Humanity) don’t cut our use of carbon fuels by some thing like 80% in the next 30 to 40 years. Most of you who contribute to this blog are intelligent but I have yet to see any viable solutions proposed to replace the energy supply.

    Jim N

  184. Ron Crouch:

    As far as Groundhog Day, well you can always lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink. That’s not to say that one should stop trying though (ad tedium, but that’s life).

    I would like to see some discussion surrounding projected “glacial rebound” and it’s implications as it pertains to the loss of ice mass from Greenland and West Antarctica. Thanks.

  185. MikeN:

    I think a look at model predictions would be good.

    Not so much their predictions about future climate, as this is based on variables that are unknown. Instead, what are their predictions for carious input parameters, and how much do those estimates change based on new data. It would be good to get a look at how these models evolve.

    I’d also like an update on your ocean heat article from 2006. You said then that ocean heat remains a good validator for models. What did you mean by that? That the numbers validated model predictions? Or that ocean heat levels is a valid test of the models?

  186. Nigel Williams:

    180 Chris.
    Climate Sensitivity is seeming to be but part of the driver for increasing surface temperature, though.

    Prinn et al at MIT’s Center for Global Change Science has just re-done their 2003 IPCC work and found that the combination of ‘traditional’ sensitivity plus other now-better understood forcings are most likely to give us 5.2 degrees Celsius warning by 2100. And that is with much less than a doubling of CO2.

    http://globalchange.mit.edu/news/news-item.php?id=76

    This is a pretty acute divergence wake-up from Groundhog Day. Is there any debate about that? No?

  187. Mark Porter:

    Thanks for building such a useful and exhaustive resource.

  188. truth:

    Every single one of us has a stake in this issue , and all of our lives are going to be impacted by it—-yet politicians are diving into emissions trading schemes or equivalent, with many questions about the science , the consensus and the projections unanswered, and questioners are treated with disdain by AGW proponents.
    —questions on matters like—-
    The actual measurement of global surface temperatures.
    Even James Hansen has said that global temperature measurements are unreliable—has he not? And hasn’t he said that there’s no agreement on methods , and then graphically described the problems with methods ?
    Why should we not wonder about accuracy, when so many of the surface temperature measurement stations are located in unsuitable situations like airport tarmacs, next to tarred roads and large buildings, and airconditioning exhausts etc—-with orientation, maintenance and monitoring problems added to that?
    Why should we not wonder about the integrity of global measurements when many countries have suffered wars , cultural revolutions, genocides etc, during the period, with accurate temperature measurement and the precise recording of it , surely of low priority?
    Why should we not think that all the other impacts over the time in question, like huge population increases, land use changes, unprecedented deforestation, massive building programs where once it was rural, and black carbon from the burning of forests and industry—-might have more impact on global temperatures anyway, than CO2 ?
    The phrase ‘since records began’ sounds apocalyptic, but the most accurate records only began in the late 1970s—surely not a not a long enough time frame for such dire comparisons.
    And in relation to that, why have scientists, politicians and media , who are demanding the end of coal-fired power—[even with CCS technology, as Hansen and others do], and are pushing for politicians to implement carbon trading schemes to limit CO2—on the other hand been so quiet about the black carbon impact on the Arctic warming that we’re told is such a dire threat?
    Documentaries show soot-covered snow quite clearly. Why is this not priority one?
    Why are the consensus crowd and the politicians who believe them unquestioningly, not discussing and planning to follow , NASA’s Drew Shindell’s advice—-
    “We will have very little leverage over climate in the next couple of decades if we’re just looking at carbon dioxide,” Shindell said. “If we want to try to stop the Arctic summer sea ice from melting completely over the next few decades, we’re much better off looking at aerosols and ozone.”
    And—
    ‘—–aerosols likely account for 45 percent or more of the warming that has occurred in the Arctic during the last three decades.’
    Why has this conclusion not shifted the focus to targeting black carbon—instead of the insistence on world disruption and upheaval via emissions trading schemes etc?
    There are questions about evidence of warming other than natural—-Josh Willis and others say the oceans are neither warming nor cooling, even though CO2 is said to be still rising.
    Wilco Hazeleger of KNMI , in the Netherlands says—
    “In the past century the sea level has risen twenty centimeters. There is no evidence for accelerated sea-level rise.’ Others have said similar.
    If global warming is as dire and of the extent we are told it is, would not the seas be warming and the sea level rise accelerating with rising CO2?
    With more being revealed about natural phenomena , like the Indian Ocean Dipole and its relationshp to droughts in Southern Australia, and with other droughts being attributed to land use changes over the time period at issue—with the Pacific Decadal Oscillation linked to warming and cooling trends etc—why do the AGW consensus proponents maintain their steely determination to target CO2 to the extent of changing [perhaps destroying] whole economies? Why is this?
    What is your assessment of the readiness of solar technology [ including solar storage]—since coal-fired power is to be sidelined?
    There is no affordable solar storage method implementable on the scale required, is there?
    If coal is still to be used, but with CCS technology—-what about the extra coal that must be mined to allow for the extra energy use in the CCS—what about the extra energy required for CO2 transportation and sequestration—what about leakage problems with sequestered CO2, and the fact that minimal leakage could add rather than subtract CO2 from the atmosphere, rendering the exercise useless?
    Surely all these factors must not only be questioned , but answered, before AGW science leads politicians to irreversible actions.
    Why not encourage politicians to opt for the mitigation advised by Shindell as a matter of urgency, implement as many conservation ideas in architecture and everyday living as possible , clean up air via transport design etc—-and meanwhile use the prosperity from certain energy supply from coal to fund huge research efforts into the most promising alternatives, including solar power and nuclear fusion?

  189. Hank Roberts:

    See what happens to people who don’t pay attention?
    They repaste the old, often-answered questions, missing the obvious:

    http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/falling.jpg

  190. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    RE #186, thanks for the link to the study. I read about it in ClimateArk.org in the newspapers, and they claimed global warming will be twice as bad as earlier predicted, but I pointed out in various places that a doubling of the warming would lead to much more than twice the level of harm, as warming and harms are not linearly one-for-one related, but harms increase more rapidly, perhaps exponentially or some greater level than the warming….until (perhaps) we peak out 100,000 yrs from now, or all or nearly all life on Earth ends, and the harms flatline.

    So, it is really imperative that we leave the contrarians in the dust and charge ahead. I think their ploy is simply to stall any action by repeating the same old tired arguments — such as, well, it’s unclear from that MIT study that the warming will be 5.2 or 5.3 degress by 2100, ergo we should do nothing until this terrible uncertainty is cleared up.

  191. dhogaza:

    Rather than tackle untruth’s post immediately above (as I’m reading, there may be unapproved posts between), because as usual untruth’s post isn’t worthy of response (other than “get a clue”), I’ll go with this…

    I’d hazard a guess that none of the “Mistraken Assumptions” apply to Watts and a statement like “However, from a climate change perspective, the primary concern is not so much the absolute measurement bias of a particular site, but rather the changes in that bias over time, which the TOB and pairwise adjustments effectively address” does not mean that some further correction to the data might not be neccessary.

    Possibly. But remember tests have been done on the GISS product by people doing stuff like slicing off rural stations and running trends and getting virtually the same result.

    Statistically, it’s been shown that the US ground temp record is oversampled. What that means is that there’s a lot of redundancy, which means proper analysis can tease out the signal from the a/c conditioner next door to 10% of them that might be turned on at the same time every day in summer , or not at all, or might not actually warm the enclosure, etc.

    One of Watts own acolytes, who went by the ‘net name of “JohnV”, did a trend analysis using those stations that Watts said were “blessed by holy water” (well, OK, “met modern siting standards”), and found …

    A trend statistically identical to the GISS product.

    Watts rejected that. At the time JohnV did that, there was 40% coverage of the stations. Now there’s 70%. Watts has issued his report. Any analysis like JohnV’s? No. Just “look, my photos show the earth is really cooling!” crap.

    Or the heat might rise and not affect the temp reading at all, after all, the thermometer is in an enclosure.

    Pray tell, how does a photo tell you “yea or nay”?

    Another difference between now and 2007 (when “No man is an (Urban Heat) Island” was posted) is, that Watts has now checked and cataloged 3/4 or so of the relevant stations, so there is a real basis for further inquiry

    Actually, when EX-Watts (EX emphasized) brown-noser did it when 40% were surveyed, he presented a convincing argument that this was sufficient for analysis.

    To repeat what I wrote above:

    1. Watts rejected his analysis (though it is known that he’s statistically illiterate)

    2. Now that he’s reached 70%, he’s done no analysis whatsoever, yet still has released a long report that concludes “we’ve proven the GISS product is wrong”.

    Why did he not do the kind of proper analysis done by JohnV earlier before declaring his work was done, and GISS is wrong?

    (hint – he’s statistically illiterate)

    rather than just a bunch of funny pictures and a rumor. \

    His “report” is a fine-arts photography vanity book (with shit photos) coupled with a conclusion which isn’t even pretended to be backed up by analysis.

    If you’d care to check surfacestations.org you’d also see, that they found many shading issues due to stuff that grew around stations (supposedly making them gradually cooler over time) so whatever updates to metadata come in may even lead to increased values.

    The GISS product uses the vast redundancy in the oversampled record to build a robust product.

    Again and again – photos don’t invalidate that. You need actual data, and then you need to tackle and disprove the effectiveness of the algorithm used to generate the GISS product.

    Dick waving, which is what Watts does, won’t do it.

    So – as I said – I think its well worth a look by RC, not least of all because it’ll be (and already is) worth a look for the media.

    As I said the first time, without any attempt at analysis there is no “there” there. JohnV’s earlier result, rejected by Watts, should give you a clue.

    It’s a great strategy by Watts to get media attention and to add so-called ammunition to those in Congress who want to avoid action at any cost, but there’s nothing there of scientific value.

    Thus asking scientists to respond in any way other than to say “no scientific value” is … unrealistic.

    Do you think that Watts is capable of working through the algebra (I assume it’s no more complex than that) applied to the raw data to generate the robust GISS product?

    Remember that the satellite temp reconstructions also show horrible results correlated with the GISS ones because satellites are always launched into the midst of orbital cities which are randomly adding BBQs and A/C units as we speak.

    Yessir.

  192. John Ransley:

    I can’t see where anyone has mentioned this in your thread but its so strange it deserves attention. Recently The Australian has published three excellent articles on climate change, plus some very good letters. The articles are in date order: ‘Geology points to dangers ahead’
    by Mike Sandiford (Australian Research Council professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne’s school of earth sciences) May 6 2009:
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25434629-7583,00.html; ‘Denialist ark a wobbly craft’
    by Leigh Dayton (science journalist)May 06, 2009: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,25433327-7583,00.html; and ‘No science in Plimer’s primer’
    by Michael Ashley (professor of astrophysics at the University of NSW) May 09, 2009: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,25433059-5003900,00.html

    As someone who used to teach tertiary level geology I am gratified that the reputation of the profession is being saved by the likes of Mike Sandiford and Mike Archer (Professor of Geology and Dean Faculty of Science, University of NSW, Sydney) who had a nice little letter published on 7 May.

  193. Mark:

    re 174.

    Well, Mark says the mosquitoes ARE flying higher.

    There you go, as well formed a rebuttal as the proclamation you gave.

    Now, what does Monkton do to prove his point?

  194. CM:

    Re Gore’s “35 errors” — nice links, Hank! — obsessives may also wish to consult the Lomborg-errors site, which in its own terms counts “2 errors, 12 flaws, 14 in total” in Gore’s film and book taken together. The count is less interesting than the detailed discussion of the pros and cons of the “flaws”, though YMMV.

  195. MacDoc:

    Truth – why would you focus solely on temperature when the much larger and robust evidence from biota and climate regime shifts are very obvious.

    Energy gain does not translate directly into measurable temperature gains – especially in the crysophere and the gains may be beyond crude digital measurements……but the flora and fauna react to the smallest changes and move where they can – adapt where they can and have been doing so.

    Biological systems just ignore human squabbles and get on coping with the change we inflict.
    They are the best indicators of what we are SEEING.

    Analogue – birds, animals, fish…

    http://www.twilightearth.com/2009/02/20-species-that-are-moving-north-due-to-climate-change/

    http://www.theepochtimes.com/news/6-10-26/47436.html

    http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=115×69911

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/4541429.stm

    Climate change is ponderous and the scale is enormous. Nothing we do at this point will change the momentum much or alter the changes already on the go – particularly at the poles –

    What we do now to cut GHG use at least can lead to leveling of the CO2 which as per the MIT model may keep within the 2-3 degrees by 2100 which is still horrendous for many of us but nowhere near the scale of problem 6-8 degrees globally would represent.

    Whether the yearly temperature reflects it or not the physics of energy gain from GHG goes on despite our wishful thinking and carbon is cumulative.

    Proceeding towards a carbon neutral high tech civilization is essential on a variety of fronts – ocean acidification alone is one….the world dealt with SO2 and ozone depleting chemicals ….dealing with GHG is another step and the framework for agreement such as the Montreal Accord provide a model for action and monitoring.

    183
    No one technology will deal with carbon neutral energy, more efficiency, nuclear, increased renewables will make a dent. Coal burning is clearly the high risk and it then becomes a matter of managing the resources to address efficiency and carbon neutral solutions.
    It was predicted that dealing with SO2 was going to be incredibly costly to industry, kill economies….yada yada – yet in the end it cost far less than thought.

    The stakes with GHG are higher – trying to delay moving forward due to “uncertainty” in a temperature graph when the analogue signals are so abundantly clear is foolish in the extreme.

    It’s akin to peering closely at a wavering anemometer and failing to see the tornado over the treeline.

    Besides…there are fortunes to be made in the moving to carbon neutral energy – at least the VCs know that as Green investment has overtaken fossil fuel investment despite the recession.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jun/03/renewables-energy

    •••

    Gavin – perhaps a new category might be for bringing together science articles dealing with analogue indicators of climate change.
    Ground hog finger in the wind so to speak.

  196. CM:

    #188,

    why do the AGW consensus proponents maintain their steely determination to target CO2 to the extent of changing [perhaps destroying] whole economies? Why is this?

    Why, because we’re the malicious minions of Ming the Merciless with a secret plot to take over your planet. Duh. Oops, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that. Back to our cover story:

    “AGW consensus proponents” do favour action to address non-CO2 greenhouse gases as well as other man-made forcings, black carbon included. But we are aware that if we let CO2 levels keep rising, this will only buy short-term relief. (Note also that a significant part of black carbon pollution arises from fossil fuel use; measures curbing one should help curb the other.)

  197. Anonymous Coward:

    I concur with Lynn Vincentnathan (#36).

    Hansen is apparently saying that one could trigger an H20 runaway with CO2… here and now! We have been told over and over that there’s simply not enough incoming shortwave for this to happen.
    Hansen has quite a stature and his pronouncements can’t be simply ignored. And he’s basically predicting (I quote the PDF Lynn linked to: “dead certain”) the end of the world if unconventional oil is developed!

    What’s going on?
    [edit]

    [Response: My views on discussions of "runaway" effects are clear. Hansen is talking about climate forcings of more than "10-20 W/m2" which are very large numbers (for reference, 2xCO2 (560ppm) is ~4 W/m2, 4xCO2 (1120ppm) is 8 W/m2, 6xCO2 (1680ppm) is 12 W/m2, and 10xCO2 (2800ppm) is 20 W/m2). None of these numbers are "now" and no projection for the next century gets anywhere close to even 4xCO2, let alone the high end. Hansen is taking a rather long view here and discussing total utilisation of all carbon fuel sources, not single site developments. - gavin]

  198. ilajd:

    “Communicating with people who won’t open the book, read the blog post or watch the program because they already ‘know’ what must be in it, is tough and probably not worth one’s time.”
    Gavin I look forward to your in-depth review of Plimer’s book. That is of course when you get around to actually reading it.

    [Response: Not quite the same thing. I linked to Deltoid and Ian Enting's critiques who have indeed been going through the Plimer book with a fine tooth comb and doing an excellent job. Neither Watts, nor Ambler, nor any critic on that thread had looked past the cover - not even to the caption, let alone the actual discussion. A more apt comparison is my crtitique of Crichton's State of Fear which (unfortunately) I read cover to cover prior to reviewing. - gavin]

  199. PaulD:

    I would be interested to read comments and analysis on this article, http://climatesci.org/2009/05/05/have-changes-in-ocean-heat-falsified-the-global-warming-hypothesis-a-guest-weblog-by-william-dipuccio/ , as well as comments generally regarding Roger Pielke’s arguments that ocean temperatures are a much better metric for global warming than atmosphere temperatures.

    [Response: Please read our previous postings on the subject. For better or worse, global warming is traditionally defined as the increase in the global mean surface temperature anomaly - and you don't get a better metric than the thing itself. Ocean heat content trends are a good metric of the net radiative imbalance (which is not the same thing, though important), but while the long term trends are clear, the short term variability depends very much on the analysis method (cf. the differences between Levitus et al and Domingues et al). It would be nice if there was less ambiguity, but right now the short (interannual) fluctuations are neither well characterised nor well understood. Using uncertain short term fluctuations to justify dramatic conclusions is not wise. The smart money is therefore waiting for more data. - gavin]

  200. Nigel Williams:

    188 “Truth”
    Oh please! Please look for the answers to your ‘uncertainties’ in the side bars and Start Here on this page, then search this site’s blog postings for responses to your queries. Its all there, done and dusted. There is no uncertainty to divert us from seeing the peril. There are no ‘unanswered questions’ that we need answered before we appreciate that the enemy is at the gate. He is here, and we are asleep.

    When you are done. Only when you are done. Com’on bak y’hear!

  201. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Jim N writes:

    Gore, Hansen and MIT all predict dire consequences in the future if we (Humanity) don’t cut our use of carbon fuels by some thing like 80% in the next 30 to 40 years. Most of you who contribute to this blog are intelligent but I have yet to see any viable solutions proposed to replace the energy supply.

    Conservation, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass.

    CAPTCHA: “21c incurs”

  202. Barton Paul Levenson:

    truth writes:

    Why should we not wonder about accuracy, when so many of the surface temperature measurement stations are located in unsuitable situations like airport tarmacs, next to tarred roads and large buildings, and airconditioning exhausts etc—-with orientation, maintenance and monitoring problems added to that?

    Because statistical analysis shows that urban heat island bias is well accounted for, and in any case is not large enough to make a significant difference. See:

    Hansen, J., Ruedy, R., Sato, M., Imhoff, M., Lawrence, W., Easterling, D., Peterson, T., and Karl, T. 2001. “A closer look at United States and global surface temperature change.” J. Geophys. Res. 106, 23947–23963.

    Peterson, Thomas C. 2003. “Assessment of Urban Versus Rural In Situ Surface Temperatures in the Contiguous United States: No Difference Found.” J. Clim. 16(18), 2941-2959.

    Peterson T., Gallo K., Lawrimore J., Owen T., Huang A., McKittrick D. 1999. “Global rural temperature trends.” Geophys. Res. Lett. 26(3), 329.

    And because HIGH temperatures are not necessarily RISING temperatures.

    Why should we not wonder about the integrity of global measurements when many countries have suffered wars , cultural revolutions, genocides etc, during the period, with accurate temperature measurement and the precise recording of it , surely of low priority?

    Because we have adequate samples.

    Why should we not think that all the other impacts over the time in question, like huge population increases, land use changes, unprecedented deforestation, massive building programs where once it was rural, and black carbon from the burning of forests and industry—-might have more impact on global temperatures anyway, than CO2 ?

    Because there’s no empirical evidence that that’s the case.

    The phrase ‘since records began’ sounds apocalyptic, but the most accurate records only began in the late 1970s—surely not a not a long enough time frame for such dire comparisons.

    We have accurate temperature records back to the 19th century and good proxies for before that.

  203. Barton Paul Levenson:

    ilajd writes:

    Gavin I look forward to your in-depth review of Plimer’s book. That is of course when you get around to actually reading it.

    Say, ilajd, do you agree with Plimer’s apparent belief that the Sun is made of iron? How do you think that reflects on his expertise outside his own field of geology?

  204. Pilot:

    I am looking forward to the review of Plimers book.

    Would it also be possible to publish a line by line rebuttal of Joanna Nova’s “The Skeptics Handbook”

    This pesky document is causing a lot of trouble in schools and should be dealt with asap.

  205. Anne van der Bom:

    Jim
    9 June 2009 at 8:30 PM

    Most of you who contribute to this blog are intelligent but I have yet to see any viable solutions proposed to replace the energy supply.

    I get the feeling, correct me if I’m wrong, that you’re expecting a ‘miracle cure’. Stop looking. There is none. Whatever path we choose (nuclear, ccs, renewables), it will be full of uncertainties and hard work.

  206. Anonymous Coward:

    Gavin (#197),

    Your position is probably clear but you’ve not made it clear here. I am guilty of the same so let me try again.

    Yes, Hansen is taking a rather long view. But, so far as I know, an actual runaway greenhouse effect on this planet is usually discussed with an even longer view: that of stellar evolution. So I am surprised to see it raised as a real possibility with regards to CO2 from fossil fuels.

    What you have made clear in the post you link to is that the current climate is not prone to a runaway effect.
    What I gather from Hansen’s presentation is that, sometime in a BAU future, a massive CO2 forcing from fossil fuels might well trigger a total boiling of the oceans. That this scenario would not unfold in the next century does not make such a prospect any less alarming in my view.
    You make clear that the current forcing from emissions is much lower but it’s not clear whether you’re implying it’s conceivable that a much larger forcing might be a game-changer that would somehow invalidate the Kombayashi-Ingersoll limit or otherwise trigger a runaway greenhouse.

  207. Chris Dudley:

    Nigel (#173),

    Prinn’s study has been mentioned and Andy’s Dot Earth blog and he plans to look at it more: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/20/high-odds-of-hot-times/
    I’m not sure if that counts as muted.

  208. Lawrence Brown:

    Take heart RC- Some things are changing and by your own account – Don’t forget, a not insignificant ” ..remarkable shift in attitudes by policy makers, the corporate community, and the general public….” (Chapter 10 of Gavin’s book ) There’s a long way to go but it’s not all groundhog day.

    Unsurprisingly, those reviewers, who have read this book have a much more reasonable take on it. . A review given by William Hewitt is right on the mark.
    http://www.nature.com/climate/2009/0906/full/climate.2009.45.html
    A couple of brief excerpts are as follows:
    (1) “…… In enabling the average reader to grasp some reasonably difficult concepts, Picturing the Science measures up well to (Elizabeth) Kolbert’s Field Notes from a Catastrophe….”
    And:
    (2) “On the issue of policy, the book holds up well. There is a particularly clear and concise discussion of cap and trade and other mechanisms. The authors are perfectly correct in their assessment that there has been “a remarkable shift in attitudes” in the last few years. This bodes well, certainly, but the consensus for action needs to be deepened and broadened. That is this book’s raison d’etre, and to that end it will be an important contribution.”

  209. bobberger:

    dhogaza 191
    I have seen John V’s work – and lets be honest. Had he come to a different conclusion, people like yourself would probably have eaten him alive for jumping to unwarrented conclusions from few samplings, let alone methodology. Again: I do NOT claim that Watts’ work will change the world by scientific merit. But its graphic and therefore far better media fodder than oxygen isotopes or aerosol properties and I think it’ll get some serious coverage and an old blogpost from an amateur who calls himself John V will probably not suffice to put it into perspective. (and anyway… if this thread was meant to be the search for a topic “under the contrarian sun” that couldn’t be countered, it’d be rather short, wouldn’t it?)

  210. Bill Hamilton:

    Have you folks discussed the article about diminishing wind speeds that appeared in Yahoo this morning?
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090610/ap_on_sc/us_sci_diminishing_winds

    In particular they mention that Gavin is skeptical about the reports. Admittedly the data is sketchy at this time. However, I hope Gavin will be watching for more data and, if necessary, update his climate model.

    [Response: Um, well they quote me too and I note that the trends are likely real. As I explained to the journalist (Seth Borenstein of the AP-he's quite good), this does not mean that they can be related to anthropogenic climate change. that would require further work, e.g. application of standard detection + attribution approaches to the problem. Seth indeed makes that point in the article. I also pointed out to him that, if there is a climate change connection (and that's an important if), the irony is that climate change could actually be counteracting the efficacy of alternative energy sources that might be necessary to move to a non-fossil fuel intensive energy economy. That point is made in the first sentence of the article. I was disappointed to see Gavin and me quoted as if we're in opposition in our views on the study. We're not--I agree w/ Gavin that there isn't yet a demonstrated climate change linkage. That of course in no way means that such a linkage does not exist. - mike]

  211. Mark:

    “bobberger Says:
    10 June 2009 at 9:40 AM

    dhogaza 191
    I have seen John V’s work – and lets be honest. Had he come to a different conclusion, people like yourself would probably have eaten him alive…”

    Uh, that is an assumption based on what would have to happen for you to defend your position.

    No evidence that it would happen.

    Did you see JohnV’s work and SEE IF HE WAS RIGHT????

    Ah, no, because you can’t control all sides of that situation and may be found wrong…

  212. Mark:

    re 206: “So I am surprised to see it raised as a real possibility with regards to CO2 from fossil fuels.”

    Uh, where? As you point out, not here. Not in Gavin’s linked discussion. Not in Hansen’s discussion either (where he’s talking about millions of years, more likely billions).

    E.g. if the sun were 25% hotter (which could happen in ~2-3 billion years) then all our available CO2 is enough to give a runaway greenhouse effect THEN (figures made up, 25% may be right or wrong, but the current output of the sun isn’t enough, so we either need more artificial Carbon and Oxygen to combine or more Sun).

  213. Chris Dudley:

    Gavin (in #197),

    I agree with #206 that you have not been all that clear on the possibility of a Venus-type runaway. The question is not about when we burn all the tar sands but if that really causes the end of life on Earth. With the price of oil above $60/barrel, we will burn all the tar sands.

    My own view is that Hansen’s reliance on the the idea that slow negative feedbacks are not a help needs a closer look. The atmosphere cannot support the entire world’s oceans as vapor regardless of the surface temperature and so one must wait for hydrogen to be lost from the top of the atmosphere to space, a process that takes some time. I would suggest that this bottleneck provides time for the slow feedbacks to work and one needs a detailed model that would include, for example, erosion and weathering of exposed contenental shelf, before drawing conclusions about the ultimate chances of a Venus-like runaway.

    It is an interesting (and proabably relevant) question and I hope you have time at some point to give it some thought.

  214. dhogaza:

    Had he come to a different conclusion, people like yourself would probably have eaten him alive for jumping to unwarrented conclusions from few samplings, let alone methodology.

    Let’s be honest – you don’t know me.

    And, be he right or wrong, the point here is that JohnV understood the need for analysis, Watts doesn’t even acknowledge the need.

    He’s already on record on his blog, his “paper”, and his recent presentation at the Heartland Institute conference that he’s proven that the GISS temp record is biased upwards and that bias explains much of, if not all of, supposed warming. Proven it w/o analysis.

  215. Anonymous Coward:

    Mark (#212),

    Read the whole document Lynn (#36) linked to! I have not verified myself that Hansen actually wrote this but I’ll quote anyway:
    “Given the solar constant that we have today, how large a forcing must be maintained to cause runaway global warming? Our model blows up before the oceans boil, but it suggests that perhaps runaway conditions could occur with added forcing as small as 10-20 W/m2.
    There may have been times in the Earth’s history when CO2 was as high as 4000 ppm without causing a runaway greenhouse effect. But the solar irradiance was less at that time.
    What is different about the human-made forcing is the rapidity at which we are increasing it, on the time scale of a century or a few centuries. It does not provide enough time for negative feedbacks, such as changes in the weathering rate, to be a major factor.
    There is also a danger that humans could cause the release of methane hydrates, perhaps more rapidly than in some of the cases in the geologic record.
    In my opinion, if we burn all the coal, there is a good chance that we will initiate the runaway greenhouse effect. If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale (a.k.a. oil shale), I think it is a dead certainty.”

    My understanding is that the amount of CO2 would only marginally affect the runaway threshold. The strong greenhouse effect would be from the high H20 pressure in the atmosphere so, given enough incoming radiation, no C02 would be required.
    But it seems Hansen has a different view. I wouldn’t presume to know better than him which is why I brought it up. I was hoping someone could provide an authoritative rebuttal to Hansen’s extraordinarily alarming belief.

  216. John Mashey:

    re: #198, #204

    I am *not* looking forward to having Gavin, Mike, or anyone else from RC review Plimer’s book.

    This is *exactly* the sort of thing that RC folks shouldn’t waste any time doing, especially since various competent Australians have already done a fine job on it (Ian Enting is already up to 35 pages).

    The RC Wiki already has a reasonable list, and there’s a Wikipedia entry on the book.
    Why on Earth should RC folks spend another minute on it?

    We need our good scientists to spend *much* of their time doing real science, and (if we’re lucky), *some* of their time communicating real science to a broader audience.

    Most of the routine debunking can be done by interested others, especially when (as in Plimer’s case) there is a quite capable local community to whom it is especially relevant.

    The rest of us have to pitch in and help as we can.

  217. Mark:

    “Given the solar constant that we have today, how large a forcing must be maintained to cause runaway global warming? Our model blows up before the oceans boil, but it suggests that perhaps runaway conditions could occur with added forcing as small as 10-20 W/m2.”

    And, AFAIR, there isn’t enough CO2 available to get to a forcing of 10-20W/m2.

    Now, when there’s more sunlight, you won’t need so much of a CO2 forcing since the amount of energy it has available to play with is more. And then a 10-20W/m2 could be possible with much lower CO2. Maybe low enough to be caused by the CO2 the earth has to emit.

    Venus, being closer, has a higher solar constant.

  218. wayne davidson:

    The problem with deja-vue is mainly with a few media organizations running like Radio Moscow during the Soviet days. They are the ones giving air time to the Lindzen’s and fellow “not in the oil business” contrarians. I find this amusing more than depressing, they dare rarely to venture away from a friendly “Murdoch” paid reporter questions.

    I credit RC for being the prime absolutely best online University class room on climate, but RC hits not hard enough on certain topics like Arctic ice volume loss, which is the ultimate metric, contrarians always flunk explaining this phenomena,
    I have not read one which did remotely make sense on the subject.

    Its also time for the RC class room to expand, allow a special guest, someone like Lindzen to write something here, and answer questions. But that of course would be, if they have, no fear in their stance, but especially working for free like RC moderators! Rather than using the media as a pulpit, why not a forum loaded with people having expertise in the field. I guess that sending an invite to a contrarian would seem perverse, but if they refuse to give us a lecture and answer questions, they have no merit to elaborate their views and theories to the larger public. Having a guess contrarian might boost everyones prestige at the expense at getting to know the subject better.

  219. James:

    Chris Dudley Says (10 juin 2009 at 10:20 AM):

    “The atmosphere cannot support the entire world’s oceans as vapor regardless of the surface temperature…”

    Could you expand on this? If I’m understanding correctly, you’re saying that (given sufficient forcing) the extra water vapor would increase atmospheric pressure, thus increasing the boiling point? So that instead of a “Venus Effect” where the oceans all boil away, the Earth develops its own “pressure cooker effect” (can I copyright that?) with a hot ocean and an atmosphere that’s mostly steam?

  220. dhogaza:

    I am *not* looking forward to having Gavin, Mike, or anyone else from RC review Plimer’s book.

    This is *exactly* the sort of thing that RC folks shouldn’t waste any time doing, especially since various competent Australians have already done a fine job on it (Ian Enting is already up to 35 pages).

    What John says …

  221. Mark:

    If Pilmer thinks that catastrophic change is inevitable, why does he bother?

    If it ruins the economy, the inevitable change in climate will do it anyway.

    If children die because they are given no care, the inevitable climate change will do it anyway.

    If he’s going to be inconvenienced, the inevitable climate change will do it anyway.

    If it’s all inevitable and we’re doomed no matter what, why hang about in this dreary existence?

    Hope?

  222. Rod B:

    Aaron (168), an interesting thought, but if you think “selling truth” is a slam dunk in the marketing world, you know very little about it.

  223. MarkB:

    Another story that gives contrasting quotes from Mann and Schmidt might be worth covering…

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hTDEhuJEga5TgzmbnWtYF1Y5Gm7gD98NNON81

    Ironically, the same crowd that denies global warming will probably be promoting this story.

  224. Christopher Hogan:

    Bought your book and found it to be thorough, fair, and very well written. The pictures were just a bonus. And I wanted to say what many have already said — you are providing an invaluable resource here.

    As with many others, I’d like to see more discussion of mitigation strategies that are plausibly large enough to matter. I realize from prior comments that you (probably correctly) think we should focus foremost on reducing emissions, not mitigation. But I would like more coverage of (e.g.) proposals to increase mid-ocean cloud cover, proposal to distribute finely ground rock to absorb C02 through weathering, biochar, whatever seems plausible to you. Particularly those that promise long-term carbon storage. Thanks.

  225. RichardC:

    There aren’t that many groundhogs. Perhaps six permanent threads could handle the denialist debate. The threads could be HEAVILY moderated so they have SHORT comment sections which exemplify the best of both sides’ arguments as they evolve. It would be a good addition to the Start Here section.

    Or, we can wait a few months for the Arctic sea ice to crack up. It’s interesting when the speed of debate no longer keeps up with the physical processes driving the debate.

  226. bobberger:

    #214
    >”He’s already on record on his blog, his “paper”, and his recent presentation at the Heartland Institute conference that he’s proven that the GISS temp record is biased upwards and that bias explains much of, if not all of, supposed warming. Proven it w/o analysis.”

    Believe it or not. I really didn’t propose the surfacestations.org project as a topic (on realclimate, no less) in order to find myself almost immediately pressured to defend it. Anyway – here we go. I just listened to the audio of Watts’ presentation at the Heartland Institute (yes, all 27 minutes of it) and he said absolutely nothing of that sort.

  227. Alastair McDonald:

    There is quite a good review of Plimer’s book by his fellow Australian academic Mike Sandiford. It was brought to my attention by John Rawnsley in post #192. The article is entitled:
    Geology points to dangers ahead
    .

    This excerpt caught my attention

    The last time there was so much CO2 in the atmosphere was during the Pliocene epoch about five million years ago. The rhythms of that Pliocene world were fundamentally different and less extreme than those of the ice-age world of the past few million years. The Pliocene world was warmer, less windy and less variable than today

    [my emphasis]

    Then I read the post by Bill Hamilton #210

    Have you folks discussed the article about diminishing wind speeds that appeared in Yahoo this morning?
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090610/ap_on_sc/us_sci_diminishing_winds

    Putting two and two together, it does look as if global warming could be making the world not just “warmer” but also “less windy and less variable.”

    Cheers, Alastair.

  228. Mark:

    Now, re 227, check you haven’t added two apples to two weeks…

  229. Hank Roberts:

    MarkB, that story’s misrepresented what they said; already corrected above — see Mike’s inline reply to Bill Hamilton at 10 June 2009 at 9:57 AM

  230. wayne davidson:

    #227, Greetings Alastair, less winds means less mixing of ocean surface, means less clouds, and hot spots all over the world. It is perhaps a necessity for warm drought periods to be more wind free.
    http://rredc.nrel.gov/wind/pubs/atlas/chp2.html
    “Seasonal Variations of the Wind Resource

    Because there is considerable seasonal variation in the wind energy resource, with maxima in winter and spring and minima in summer and autumn throughout most of the contiguous United States”

    But you do not need to go back in time to figure this out…

  231. MarkB:

    Re: #229

    Thanks. I missed the response.

  232. Chris Colose:

    Just a question– would a reduced pole-to-equator temperature gradient be a reasonable candidate for a less windy planet?

    [Response: It's not so simple. First off, you need to think of wind as a complex field. Under no reasonable circumstances do winds globally increase or decrease. Factors that set windiness in different regions are different. The tropics are different from the mid-latitudes and are different to coastal or monsoonal regions. In the southern ocean, there has been a very strong increase in winds mainly because of the ozone hole changing upper trop/lower strat temperature gradients, while the surface gradients haven't changed much. There is a similar effect in the winter in the Northern Hemisphere after volcanic eruptions and possibly as a function of increasing CO2. Winds in tropical situations respond to the convection (at the local scale) and the Hadley Circulation regionally etc. All other things being equal, a reduced equator-pole surface temperature gradient will reduce baroclinic instability and thus storminess in the mid-latitudes, but that is not the same as mean wind speed, and in any case, all else is not equal! You can see what our model suggest for the A1B IPCC scenario at 2090-2099 here (derivable from here) - it's a complex pattern (strong changes in the southern ocean and tropics), but very little expected change over the US. That is not definitive of course - I haven't looked at other models or seasons - but it should suffice to demonstrate that simple answers are not going to be very applicable. - gavin]

    [Response: In the free atmosphere, wind is essentially 'geostrophic' which means that its driven by the (predominantly north-south) gradients in air pressure, and occurs along contours of constant pressure ('isobars'). Near the surface, this isn't quite true. Friction slows the winds, and causes them to cross the isobars from high to low pressure (hence we get 'convergence' in the center of surface low pressure regions such as the 'intertropical convergence zone' (ITCZ) located near the equator. Nonetheless, we can reason that the changes in surface winds will follow approximately from the associated change in the surface pressure field. The IPCC/CMIP3 projections (e.g. as shown for the 'A1B' scenario) show a general poleward shift of the current subtropical surface high pressure belt into the mid-latitudes, especially during summer (the well-known poleward shift of the descending branch of the so-called "Hadley Cell"). The high pressure belt is a region of low pressure gradient, and hence low wind. This in essence displaces the region of maximum westerly surface winds poleward, from the U.S. into, say, southern Canada. A decrease in the mean strength of the surface westerlies over the U.S. would therefore appear to be consistent with projected changes in large-scale circulation. However, its not quite that simple. The average wind speed depends as much on the day-to-day variance as it does on the mean strength of the climatological westerly surface winds. As Gavin notes above, the decreased poleward temperature gradient implies less baroclinicity in the atmosphere, less storminess, and therefore lower day-to-day wind variance. Both factors do therefore seem to work in the direction of decreasing wind in mid-latitudes. But even this reasoning is somewhat questionable, as wind anomalies over a region as small as the U.S. are unlikely to be representative of the trend for the entire latitude band on the whole. Factors such as El Nino, and the "Northern Annular Mode" have an important role on wind patterns over the U.S., and changes in the behavior of these phenomena could easily overwhelm the average trend for the mid-latitude band. So in short, the observation of decreasing wind speeds over the U.S. is in a rough sense consistent with the large-scale projections, but given the uncertainties in factors that are important in determining wind patterns over the scale of the U.S. continent (e.g. El Nino), its hard to say precisely what would be expected. What is needed is a careful detection/attribution analysis to see if the observed changes in wind speeds is consistent with climate change projections. This has been done for surface temperature, precipitation, and sea level pressure changes, and there is no obvious reason it can't be done for wind speeds. It will be interesting to see if there are any efforts in the community to pursue this, now that this intriguing suggestion of a trend in wind speed is on the table. By the way, the usual sources of disinformation are predictably already trying to distort the conclusions of this study. At least one disinformation outlet has tried to confuse the conclusions of this study with conclusions about tropical storms and hurricanes. The trends observed in this study have nothing to do whatsoever with the behavior of tropical cyclones, and in no conceivable way do they have a bearing on the issue of whether or not tropical cyclones are becoming more intense in our warming climate. Any attempts to argue otherwise reflect either ignorance or mendacity. -mike]

  233. Ike Solem:

    On Alastair’s excerpt:

    The rhythms of that Pliocene world were fundamentally different and less extreme than those of the ice-age world of the past few million years. The Pliocene world was warmer, less windy and less variable than today

    The basic error in Alastair’s use of this quote to portray climate responses is the failure to discriminate between the transient climate response (the period during which the atmosphere and oceans are warming) and the equilibrium response (which occurs once atmospheric gases and global temperatures have both stabilized at a new level).

    Practically, global warming over the next 50-100 years is all about the transient response, not the equilibrium response.

    This distinction between the transient and equilibrium response needs to be emphasized because so many prominent media climate commentators are unaware of it. It also applies to El Nino:

    It suggests that we shall see an elevated level of ENSO activity in the initial stages of global warming, but a reduced level of ENSO activity (or even a permanent El Nino state) when global warming is full-blown.

    Response of ENSO to global warming: A perspective from the global heat balance, Sun, 2008

    This is also the reason that the NYT headline claiming “Study halves sea level projections” was so misleading. Changes in estimates of the absolute volume of the West Antarctic Ice have little or no effect on estimates of sea level rise over the next century – just over the estimates of maximum sea level rise assuming total ice melt.

    The study didn’t even halve the global equilibrium projections, however, since East Antarctica is where most of the ice is – and the Revkin article was a weird mismash of notions related to transient and equilibrium responses – displaying either gross ignorance of the topic, or a deliberate deception.

    So, the transient response is not the same as the equilibrium response – and that also applies to projections of winds, drought, precipitaion, Hadley cell expansion, etc. The transient response is what we are experiencing, and will continue to experience, probably until some 50-100 years after atmospheric long-lived greenhouse gas levels stabilize, when a new ‘open equilibrium state’ will set in.

    How will you know when we get there? Well, at that point the Earth would be in steady state, absorbing as much energy as it was emitting (neglecting any heat exchange with the hot interior, which is minimal). That can be seen from a suitably distant satellite positioned at L1.

    However, since the satellite budget was sabotaged, TRIANA has been sitting in mothballs for a decade, and that leaves nothing but simulations of what TRIANA might have told us:

    Simulation and Correction Of Triana-Viewed Earth Radiation Budget with ERBE/ISCCP Data

    If you cover up your eyes, you won’t see the scary monsters… Oh dear…

  234. dhogaza:

    Believe it or not. I really didn’t propose the surfacestations.org project as a topic (on realclimate, no less) in order to find myself almost immediately pressured to defend it. Anyway – here we go. I just listened to the audio of Watts’ presentation at the Heartland Institute (yes, all 27 minutes of it) and he said absolutely nothing of that sort.

    OK, sorry, I *assumed* his presentation at the Heartland Institution was on his “paper”, which he self-published a week or so ago.

    If not, I apologize.

    However, I’ve read the actual document that is his summary, and it says exactly what I claim:

    This report, by meteorologist Anthony Watts, presents the results of the first-ever comprehensive
    review of the quality of data coming from the National Weather Service’s network
    of temperature stations. Watts and a team of volunteers visually inspected and took pictures
    of more than 850 of these stations. What they found will shock you:

    We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units,
    surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering-hot rooftops, and
    near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat. We found 68 stations
    located at wastewater treatment plants, where the process of waste digestion
    causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas.
    In fact, we found that 89 percent of the stations – nearly 9 of every 10 – fail
    to meet the National Weather Service’s own siting requirements that stations
    must be 30 meters (about 100 feet) or more away from an artificial heating
    or reflecting source.

    The conclusion is inescapable: The U.S. temperature record is unreliable.

    No analysis required. Based on the photos alone, without making any effort at all to determine whether the GISS algorithm(s) applied to the raw data suffices to build a robust product.

  235. Alastair McDonald:

    Re #290

    Hi Wayne,

    Since the Arctic will warm more than elsewhere due to polar amplification, then there will be less of a zonal temperature differential leading to less storminess. OTOH, with warmer tropical seas there will be more hurricanes.

    But I then read that Earth vibrations indicate increased storminess so what to believe!

    BTW, if the Arctic sea ice decreases by the same amount it did 06 to 07 during 08 to 09 then this September we will see a minimum of around 3 M sq km.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  236. dhogaza:

    Apparently I messed up the blockquotes.

    This:

    The conclusion is inescapable: The U.S. temperature record is unreliable.

    is Anthony’s conclusion in his paper.

    The following paragraph are my words.

    Maybe reCaptcha has the answer to Watts not reporting on his report at the conference:

    “no lecturn” :)

    (seriously!)

  237. Mark:

    “We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units,
    surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering-hot rooftops,”

    And unless these stations were standing in midair or were placed on a building that was torn down and replaced to the same height, those stations on the rooftops (or on roads, parking lots, etc) would have been in that situation for their lifetime.

    A net change of WHAT over the site for its lifetime (which is where you get your trend from)?

  238. Ike Solem:

    One other point on wind speeds and global warming – the continental U.S. study is hardly the first to focus on the issue, it has in fact been a hot topic for Southern Ocean carbon cycling, which in turn is thought to be the central player during glacial-to-interglacial transitions:

    Wind-Driven Upwelling in the Southern Ocean and the Deglacial Rise in Atmospheric CO2, Anderson et al. 2009

    ScienceDaily (Mar. 13, 2009) …”The faster the ocean turns over, the more deep water rises to the surface to release CO2,” said lead author Robert Anderson, a geochemist at Lamont-Doherty. “It’s this rate of overturning that regulates CO2 in the atmosphere.”

    We can add, “over the glacial-interglacial scale” to that. What proportion of fossil CO2 will be eventually taken up the ocean is still a very uncertain matter (on a thousand-year timescale, i.e. the ocean mixing timescale – and recall the last deglaciation took about ten thousand years) – but the winds play a key role.

    Now, one modern uncertainty is how the winds and the Southern Ocean will respond to warming, especially as it relates to CO2 uptake:

    Ocean Less Effective At Absorbing Carbon Dioxide Emitted By Human Activity

    ScienceDaily (Feb. 23, 2009) — In the Southern Indian Ocean, climate change is leading to stronger winds, which mix waters, bringing CO2 up from the ocean depths to the surface. This is the conclusion of researchers who have studied the latest field measurements carried out by CNRS’s INSU, IPEV and IPSL. As a result, the Southern Ocean can no longer absorb as much atmospheric CO2 as before.

    This leads to one of the big issues, atmospheric-oceanic coupling and how ocean currents and circulation respond to wind pattern shifts. This is a key issue in El Nino predictions, etc. For example, see these news releases:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081219172037.htm

    “Stronger Coastal Winds Due To Climate Change May Have Far-reaching Effects, Dec 2008″

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081123222842.htm

    “Ocean Currents Surprisingly Resistant To Intensifying Winds, Dec 2008″

    Notice also that if the data on reduced windspeeds indicates a real trend, then that has the opposite impact on hurricanes than this other AP story relates:

    Study: Warming May Cut US Hurricane Hits, Tuesday, January 22, 2008
    By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer

    WASHINGTON — Global warming could reduce how many hurricanes hit the United States, according to a new federal study that clashes with other research…

    In it, researchers link warming waters, especially in the Indian and Pacific oceans, to increased vertical wind shear in the Atlantic Ocean near the United States…

    So that means “global warming may decrease the likelihood of hurricanes making landfall in the United States,” according to researchers at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Miami Lab and the University of Miami.

    Perhaps a side-by-side retrospective is in order. It’s not impossible for ocean and land wind trends to move in different directions, of course – but it seems a little odd. We do expect the regional responses to vary quite a bit from place to place, though.

    Recall also that wind patterns, like ocean currents, are at least partially controlled by geographical features and physical effects (Coriolis, etc.) that are completely independent of global warming (thus, the Gulf Stream will not shut down, etc.). On the other hand, you could see severely negative effects on soil moisture and other drought-related variables, which seems to be among the biggest concerns.

    (Runaway Venusian greenhouse warming seems about as implausible as coal carbon capture, by the way).

  239. Jim Bishop:

    It is common for folks to be confused or to discount current climate change by referring to paleoclimate events…Medieval warm spell, CO2 lagging temperature-increase in ice cores, Little Ice age, etc. The inference seems to be that all sorts of things cause climate change, and CO2 has not been the primary cause of past changes, so current changes and the role of CO2 don’t look all that convincing.

    You have described the role of paleoclimate in indicating climate connections and as a testbed for climate models. But it would be helpful if you discussed in one place the following.
    1. The limited coverage and accuracy of paleoclimate indicators, compared to what we have now, such as: paleotemperature proxies vs. thermometers, sunspot counts and isotopes vs. satellite measurements of solar irradiance, etc.
    2. The relevance and unprecedented nature of today’s rapid and large rise of CO2 and other greenhouse gases as a primary driver of climate change, and the much more complete and accurate record based on weather instruments and satellite observations.

    In short, provide a perspective that can help make clear the limited relevance and accuracy of paleoclimate data compared to current conditions and instrumental observations, so that folks don’t so easily discount industrial-age events just because there is evidence of past climate change without greenhouse gases.

    Thank you, Jim B.

  240. awickens:

    I appreciate RC’s discussion of current events – new research, significant discoveries, etc. I come to RC to find out your (climate scientists) take on things. I’m sure journalists try to get it right, for the most part, but I like how you at RC will flesh out a topic in more detail, and with more nuance.

  241. Peter Houlihan:

    What needs coverage? Please get someone on board who is qualified to blog about the biological aspects of climate change.

  242. Chris Colose:

    gavin and Dr. Mann,

    Thanks for the detailed replies.

  243. Hank Roberts:

    > biological aspects
    I resemble that remark.

    Perhaps there are topics that would deserve a sidebar or guest week? Under the umbrella here, with participation from the RC Contributors — I guess I”m saying once again that ‘listening’ to you all ‘talk’ is really the best learning, among yourselves and with your scientist guests.

    Another ‘sidebar’ I’d like to see would be one on mathematical reasoning, along these lines:

    “… There’s an astonishingly huge quantity of totally bogus rubbish out there, where the authors are clueless folks who sincerely believe … because they’ve heard the basic idea, and believed that they understood it. It’s a wonderful example of my old mantra: the worst math is no math. If you take a simple mathematical concept, and render it into informal non-mathematical words, and then try to reason from the informal stuff, what you get is garbage.” — Mark Chu-Carroll
    http://scienceblogs.com/goodmath/2009/06/chaos.php

  244. Ellis:

    Dr. Schmidt,

    If you need a subject why not just return to your worst post ever (your words). I know that you revisited the subject in the update, http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/11/the-sky-is-falling/ however, that just seems to be you kicking the can to ESPERE. There of course is nothing wrong with that as I am sure the scientists at ESPERE are top notch, I just happen to enjoy your writing style, besides their explanation,

    The second effect is more complicated. Greenhouse gases (CO2, O3, CFC) absorb infra-red radiation from the surface of the Earth and trap the heat in the troposphere. If this absorption is really strong, the greenhouse gas blocks most of the outgoing infra-red radiation close to the Earth’s surface. This means that only a small amount of outgoing infra-red radiation reaches carbon dioxide in the upper troposphere and the lower stratosphere. On the other hand, carbon dioxide emits heat radiation, which is lost from the stratosphere into space. In the stratosphere, this emission of heat becomes larger than the energy received from below by absorption and, as a result, there is a net energy loss from the stratosphere and a resulting cooling.

    would seem to a novice, such as myself, to violate the first law of thermodynamics. Now, I am sure that I am merely misunderstanding the point the scientists at ESPERE are trying to make, but if at some point you could clarify exactly why CO2 cools the stratosphere and disabuse my ignorance it would be much appreciated.

    [Response: My understanding of this point is much better now than it was (hopefully). The key insight is that the effect is a function of the spectral changes in absorption. Looking down from the stratosphere, you do not see very much radiation at the strong CO2 bands coming up. Most of the surface radiation in those bands is absorbed by the CO2 in the troposphere, transfered to heat and then emitted over the other bands by water vapour, clouds etc. An increase in CO2 in the stratosphere would absorb more of the upwelling radiation in that band if it could, but there is very little to absorb. Instead, it becomes a more effective emitter, increasing the upward radiation to space in the CO2 bands and cooling the stratosphere. This doesn't violate conservation or anything because the blocked radiation from the troposphere is coming up in the other wavelengths which don't intersect with the CO2. This explanation has nothing to do with ozone or the temperature structure of the stratosphere, and indeed since it needs to also explain the mesopheric cooling, that's just as well! - gavin]

  245. The Wonderer:

    I suggest that you periodically have a “contrarian roundup” to encapsulate and limit the amount of time you invest in that sort. Spend the remaining posts to let us know what is topical and of interest to you.

  246. Ray Ladbury:

    Bob Berger, the Surface Station project is a joke. First, the Surface stations’ main purpose is measuring weather, not climate, and the purpose of the guidelines was to improve Weather data. Of course, it would be easier to use data from well sited stations, but ease of use is less important for climate purposes than the length of the record, location of the station in relation to others, etc.
    Second, there are about 4 times as many stations as would be needed for a reliable temperature estimate. This opens up a lot of possibilities for filtering the data, censoring incorect readings, correcting for biases, diagnosing changes/problems and so on. As someone who deals with sparse data in my day job, having 4 times more data than I need is something I dream about.
    Third and most important, Watt’s little science project was conducted with zero understanding of the processing algorithms used for the data. He has no way of knowing whether any of the issues he has documented have any effect on the record. Indeed, any ANALYSIS of the data omitting the “bad” stations gives the same answer. Adding the “bad” stations gives additional information, and with a proper processing algorithm can’t hurt, as a single garbage reading will likely be censored and an erroneous trend corrected.

    This was covered at the time on RC. Watt’s project wouldn’t even merit a passing grade in a third grade science fair.

  247. Hank Roberts:

    http://www.dlsc.ca/

    ” DLSC is heated by a district system designed to store abundant solar energy underground during the summer months and distribute the energy to each home for space heating needs during winter months…. fulfilling ninety percent of each home’s space heating requirements from solar energy …

    Project Status
    * Solar energy began to flow into the borehole thermal energy storage system as of sunrise on June 21, 2007 – the summer solstice.
    * Early performance results indicate that the solar energy system is performing as expected and that the 90% solar fraction will be achieved by year five.
    * The final construction of the 52 homes was complete in August, 2007. There are 51 homes currently occupied with the last scheduled for October….

    Hat tip to commenter ‘Brian’ at this also interesting page:
    http://www.iwilltry.org/b/projects/solar-attic/

    Noted as a possible source of some hard numbers, if anyone’s looking.

  248. Chris Colose:

    You need a time series of photographs to even start to make a useful interpretation of how potential biases may have affected the trend. A cute picture with an arrow pointing to an air conditioner isn’t enough.

  249. MikeN:

    You all make these jokes about how ridiculous the surface station project. However the agency running the stations is taking it seriously, and adjusting their stations to improve them. They have already eliminated the very first target of Watts’s posts.

  250. Ike Solem:

    Note that the AP science article on windspeed has some misguided notions in it:

    “It also makes sense based on how weather and climate work, Takle said. In global warming, the poles warm more and faster than the rest of the globe, and temperature records, especially in the Arctic, show this. That means the temperature difference between the poles and the equator shrinks and with it the difference in air pressure in the two regions. Differences in barometric pressure are a main driver in strong winds. Lower pressure difference means less wind.”

    That’s not what generates wind and pressure patterns in the subtropics – that’s more the Hadley Cell circulation, which is pushing northwards. This tends to push the jet streams northwards as well. Second, the intensity of horizontal gradients between high and low pressure systems is what drives wind speed – and we can expect Arctic winters to stay cold enough to generate massive storms. Furthermore, with continental interiors heating up more than coastlines, you will have other gradients to think about, especially if permanent high pressure zones start parking over the southern U.S. during winter, thereby locking out moisture and leading to unprecedented levels of drought.

    A more active El Nino activity might counteract that to some extent, but if the jet stream moves north that will only mean more flooding in Idaho and Montana, not drought relief for the lower states and Mexico.

    This “lower polar gradient” theme was also played up by Richard Lindzen, but it is is incorrect, especially in the transient climate change scenario.

    For more on variable wind effects under global warming, see this:

    Also of critical importance to Southern California wildfires are the timing and intensity of Santa Ana winds, which may be sensitive to future global warming (Miller and Schlegel, 2006).

    Climate change projected fire weather sensitivity: California Santa Ana wind occurrence

  251. Chris Dudley:

    James (#219),

    I think that I am posing a problem for Hansen’s opinion that burning essentially all available carbon leads to Venus-like conditions. He argues that slow negative feedbacks can’t work, I think, because the change in the atmosphere is so rapid. However, to get Venus-like conditions, you need to get rid of the hydrogen which is done by dissociating water and allowing the hydrogen to escape from the top of the atmosphere. Neither the Earth nor Venus are massive enough to retain hydrogen as a gas. But, it does take a while for this to happen since most of the water will be in the oceans rather than in the air for some time and so is not converted to hydrogen by solar UV radiation) for a while.

    The mass of the hydrosphere is about 1.4×1021 kg and the surface area of the Earth is about 488×1012 square meters so that comes to about 3 million kg/m2 or 30 atmospheres of pressure to keep that mass aloft. At 30 atmosphere’s you’d need a surface temperature of 230 C or so to assure that all that water is vapor. This does not seem like such a high temperature compared to Venus which gets about twice the solar energy that the Earth receives. So, there might be chance of raising the oceans after all. But, Venus does its high temperature with a much more massive atmosphere than even the oceans could add to our atmosphere so I’m not sure we’d get the needed optical depth to compete and you still need to convert the water to hydrogen. Anything that takes some extra time seems to me to counter the argument that rapid buildup is key to the result since one can then allow slow processes to work as they usually do.

  252. jyyh:

    #241 Peter Houlihan … No people with such qualifications exist, I’m afraid, most of the biologists have enough to do with the on-going ecosystem changes, that happen because of many reasons, and while they do report these, most are not willing to tie their studies to climate change, as it means a whole lot of additional work with regular measurements of weather in the study areas… which varies even more than climate. The hobbyists such as me may talk of the survival of certain species after some extreme event (or a ‘bad year’ for a species), but as there are no unequivocal projections (apart from the arctic amplification) of regional changes during a global climate change, we’re not (mostly) quite ready to attribute changes in the ecosystem solely to climate change (though it may well be a factor). For most this is simply too much work, I don’t know if there has been many (there have been some) interdiciplinary studies between ecologists and meteorologists, and in any case I don’t know what a meteorologist would get out of routine measurements. Add to that, some boundary die-off conditions would have to be artificially measured, and the animal rights activists might have something to say to it… Making such a study is not an easy task, but might be possible.

    Most people are probably interested in the agricultural side of biology (symbiosis between humans and other organisms), so such a person should have some clue what Monsanto and other agricultural businesses are doing, and also keep a track of the spontaneous mutations in natural species, that might allow it to spread in new areas. In addition he should to have a ‘Tamino-like’ understanding in complex statistics. These are (I guess) some of the reasons most of the reports in ecological papers are so vague in relation to GW. I’m certainly not qualified.

  253. Bart Verheggen:

    On the windspeed issue, I’ve seen indications of the mean oceanic windspeed having increased over recent decades (eg http://coaps.fsu.edu/scatterometry/meeting/docs/2006/yu.pdf)
    The windspeed product being used in that study is obtained by “objective synthesis of surface wind fields from
    − Satellite retrievals (SSM/I, NSCAT, QuikSCAT),
    − COADS ship observations
    − Atmospheric reanalysis and operational model outputs (NCEP, ECMWF)”
    Numerous caveats and uncertainties of course, and at this point it merely adds to the complexity of the issue. An interesting hypothesis is whether global warming led to increased oceanic windspeed, which in turn could influence evaporation and the hydrological cycle, as well as the production of sea salt aerosol (which is known to be a function of windspeed). Of course, such a hypothesis is prone to being abused by the ‘usual suspects’, but that doesn’t make it less interesting.

  254. jyyh:

    Yes, and add a couple more ‘probables’ to the last post. But I’ve thought about this, as I’m nuts, and imho (very much so), in an ideal study, you’d have to have a couple (10 or so) widespread (as one climate is quite an area) species, follow up their numbers, in very many locations (Was it at least 100 observations to get a good, reliable result?) at least weekly (to compare the numbers to transient weather phenomena), track their relations to parasites and competitive species, relation to land use changes (in order to rule out other factors), take weather measurements of the study areas, check artificially how these species respond to some weather phenomena, and ultimately consider if the weather conditions during the study agree to a local projection of climate projections. A quite a heavy load for one researcher.

  255. Pekka Kostamo:

    #246: “Climate measurement” is a topic of frequent confusion. It is, in fact, two quite different requirements.

    In the olden times surface station networks were classified in several categories, with rather clear standards and requirements.

    “Climatological station” was the lowest quality (accuracy) category. Investment in equipment was about 200 dollars. They were manned by voluntary observers, taking down the readings twice daily on an observation form. Purpose of these stations was to provide local statistics in support of farmers and city planners. The form was mailed in monthly, so it was no use for forecasting. Accuracy requirement was fit for purpose.

    In most countries these “climatological stations” were supervised and maintained by meteorological office personnel. A notable exception to this rule was the U.S., where the state climatologists provided this function. Some of them were full time, but many were also part-time, university professors and similar with varied primary interests. Many of the U.S. climate stations and their sitings quite obviously reflect these other interests. A rather flexible organization structure resulted in a somewhat variable standardization of sitings, equipment and observer training.

    Daily forecasting work was supported by higher level networks (NOAA, FAA or military operated in the U.S.), notably the synoptic stations where readings were taken at 3 hour intervals by trained full time observers. Aviation meteorology was supported by hourly or half-hourly observations. These data were coded and transmitted near real time and then plotted as weather maps. Standardization and accuracy of measurement were primordial requirements as the whole forecasting process is based on differences between readings from the various stations.

    “Global climate monitoring” requires standardization and consistent measurement accuracy over extended periods of time. This is an additional requirement, mere consistency within a network at a given time is not good enough for this application although it could meet the minimum requirement for forecasting. Consequently changes in instrumentation became very important considerations (i.e. change from naturally ventilated thermometer screen to a fan ventilated one).

    Global climate monitoring is rather a new requirement. There are only very limited measurements made specifically for that purpose. Generating reliable long term time series from the existing raw data (collected for various other purposes) has taken a lot of study and effort. Elaborate statistical checks based on understanding the history of instrumentation and the relevant organizations allows removal of most errors from the data. Extensive literature exist on this matter.

    Over the past 15 years the WMO has defined a Global Climate Observation System (GCOS), including a selection of surface observation stations. The selections are primarily based on length of record and considerations of geographic distribution. Details can be found at:
    http://gosic.org/gcos/GCOS-dev.htm

    New electronics technology has now partly made obsolete the classifications. Yet some inheritance exists in organizations and probably continues to have an impact on data quality.

  256. jyyh:

    And that was some thoughts of entomology, looks like I didn’t say that. The temperature has an effect also to larger species, but I don’t know how to measure the amount of sweat discreetly, to end this rant of a hobbyist in biology, MSc in biochemistry.

  257. ilajd:

    Ray Ladbury #246. Seems like you have things ass about. The critical factor that Watts has now demonstrated is the unreliability of the data itself. Having 4 times more data doesn’t help if it contains a lot of garbage that is not sorted through. The findings call into question some of the basic assumptions about errors used for instance by Brohan et al (2006-doi:10.1029/2005JD006548) to put together global ave temps. If Watts’ work results in better data he should be applauded for it.

  258. Press:

    Ray Ladbury
    @ 246 – I think that your harsh and flawed criticism of the surface stations project deserves a slap from Gavin himself.
    It is disingenuous to dismiss the work of someone just because you don’t like what he stands for.
    There is no doubt that there are issues with ground station sites and this does introduce a problem. Over the years as paved areas, automobiles and more recently air conditioning, airports and increasing urban sprawl have swallowed what were once rural areas and introduced bias in monitoring stations errors have crept in.
    These stations are used in the records and there is no special selection and algorithms to correct this data as you suggest accept for a modest adjustment for those stations that are deemed to be urban. Ease of use is all very well and the rough trend will still be evident but the degree of change is put in doubt. How can we compare the records of 50 or 100 years ago with todays in this situation? We can’t.
    The average temperature and weather over a period of time is climate so you lost me on that one. What then is used to measure climate may I ask?
    What analysis are you referring to? There has until now been no survey to investigate “badly sited” stations however I believe that just such an analysis is now being conducted. The result should be interesting.

  259. Chris Dunford:

    Hank Roberts #239:

    <It is common for folks to be confused or to discount current climate change by referring to paleoclimate events…Medieval warm spell, CO2 lagging temperature-increase in ice cores, Little Ice age, etc. The inference seems to be that all sorts of things cause climate change, and CO2 has not been the primary cause of past changes, so current changes and the role of CO2 don’t look all that convincing.>

    I think that the reasoning behind this is often somewhat simpler than you suggest. In most cases, it’s very straightforward: climate changed in the past without SUVs, therefore SUVs can’t cause climate change. Case closed.

    I came up with a response for this reasoning that has worked better than anything I’ve tried previously:

    “Humans have been dying of natural causes for millenia. This doesn’t mean you can’t get shot.”

    I get many fewer responses to this than anything I’ve tried in the past (paleocomments?), which I’m assuming means that they have no response for it.

  260. Martin Vermeer:

    Re #258 Press:

    These stations are used in the records and there is no special selection and algorithms to correct this data as you suggest accept for a modest adjustment for those stations that are deemed to be urban.

    It would become you to investigate before pontificating.

    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/1987/Hansen_Lebedeff.html
    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/1999/Hansen_etal.html
    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/2001/Hansen_etal.html
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/sources/gistemp.html

    etcetera…

  261. Ray Ladbury:

    Press and ilajd, did you even bother to read my comment? Let’s go through it point by point and see what specifically you disagree with:

    1)The main purpose of the stations is weather, not climate. The stations are run by NWS and were “selected according to factors such as record longevity, percentage of missing values, spatial coverage as well as the number of station moves and/or other station changes that may affect data homogeneity.”
    2)Do you disagree that there are many more stations than are needed to adequately sample temperatures?
    3)Do you disagree that having 4x as many stations as are needed for adequate sampling allows temporal and spatial characterization and filtering of bad data?
    4)Do you disagreee that Watts’ methodology did not take into account the specific algorithms used for such filtering?
    5)Do you disagree that the analysis of JohnV on a subset of the data showed zero effect when the bad stations were eliminated?

    Watt’s study does not reflect any understanding of how the data are used. As such, he would not even recognize a significant error if he saw one–and more to the point, he would not know which errors are trivially remedied. As I said, it’s at the level of a piss poor third grade science project.

  262. Mark:

    ilajad, if you have two numbers:

    2,9

    the average is 5.5

    If they go up a little

    4,10

    the average is 7. An increase over time of 1.5 or 27%.

    But if we have 8 numbers:

    2,3,2,4,2,1,2,2,9

    We now know that the 9 was wrong. So the average is 18/7 ~ 2.6

    And when the dataset change is applied to the increase

    4,3,5,3,5,6,4,6,6,10

    We can remove the 10 and get an average of 42/7 ~ 6

    An increase of 3.4 or 130%.

    So having more data helps you remove bad data.

    Of course, I’m expecting you to wave your hand and say “this is not the answer I was looking for”.

  263. dhogaza:

    Seems like you have things ass about. The critical factor that Watts has now demonstrated is the unreliability of the data itself. Having 4 times more data doesn’t help if it contains a lot of garbage that is not sorted through

    Building a robust product from this imperfect source of data is the whole point of the adjustment process done by the GISS people.

    That’s the point.

    You need to prove the output wrong, not merely confirm that the input suffers from quality control, as was known long before Watts became involved.

    Then you get to explain why the satellites also suffer from a/c exhaust contamination, making the trend they report match the surface trend so closely …

  264. Mark:

    “However the agency running the stations is taking it seriously, and adjusting their stations to improve them”

    And this proves a problem, HOW?

    I have a bit of hard skin next to my cuticle. Someone points it out and I remove it with my teeth.

    Does this prove that the hard skin was a medical danger to me???

  265. joshv:

    “I think that the reasoning behind this is often somewhat simpler than you suggest. In most cases, it’s very straightforward: climate changed in the past without SUVs, therefore SUVs can’t cause climate change. Case closed.”

    Though you might find people putting forth this simplistic argument, it’s a bit of a straw man – the logical argument is “climate warmed significantly in the past without the presence of anthropogenic CO2, thus anthropogenic CO2 is not necessary to cause significant warming”. There exist other causes of warming, and we observe that historically those other causes have in fact caused warming. It doesn’t have to be the result of man-made CO2.

    The standard reply to this is of course that we’ve looked at every other cause, and none of them could possibly cause this level of warming, thus it must be CO2. Which is well and good. Then which of those other non-CO2 warming factors caused historical warming?

    [Response: We have discussed this particular straw man extensively. Please see the "Index" and scroll down to "Paleoclimate". There are many natural factors that can cause warming and cooling on a variety of timescales. We can rule out those factors as being responsible for the overall warming of globe over the past century. - mike]

  266. Rod B:

    Ray (246), In your opinion is that “four times as many stations as needed” global-wide for the period in question?

  267. Anonymous Coward:

    Chris (#251),

    The basic theory for a runaway greenhouse by evaporation of a condensible gas (from memory) is that there is a threshold at which the temperature becomes very sensitive to the net shortwave radiation so that the oceans can evaporate quickly (as compared to the evolution of the star). Once you get to this threshold, the greenhouse effect from the evaporating oceans can indeed be sufficient to support a huge surface temperature increase.

    But the process Hansen is talking about is apparently different because it would be triggered by a very small amount of CO2 (compared to the amount of H2O) rather than by an increase in the amount of shortwave radiation absorbed by the planet.

    The current state of Venus, which has lost most of its water and which has an enormous amount of CO2 in its atmosphere, is something else.
    The runaway H2O greenhouse being contemplated here would boil away the oceans but would not turn the earth’s atmosphere into something like Venus’. It would be a separate process enabled by the lack of liquid water.

    But do not rely on me and my memory: I believe there are a couple of RC articles on Venus, there’s Pierrehumbert’s book you could skim and so on.

  268. bobberger:

    Ray, Mark, dhogaza, Press
    Thanks for kind of making my point here and beginning an argument that may become rather important in the public discussion in the near future. Let me play the devil’s advocate here and raise a few points in advance.
    If the trends for the last n years already are at the lower end (or even outside) of model prejections, then shaving off another .1 or .2 C from the record would make arguing against models easier and help promoting the idea that the current models generally exaggerate. (Just remember the discussion about which start- or end-year to pick in order to have the measured trend inside or outside of the projections a couple of weeks ago – and still ongoing at “The Blackboard”).
    The argument that siting is irrelevant for the trend and therefore meaningless for climate observations can be dismissed rather easily, because siting issues like airconditioners, rubbermats, tarmac, streets etc. act as amplifieres and don’t merely shift the measurements by a fixed amount – so one shouldn’t use that particular argument out of the blue only to be eventually proven wrong.
    Then we have to remember, that the entire surface record consists of more than just the US and the US stations are, despite all he issues, still considered being the best and “most reliable”.
    In an all together sane world, probably none of this would make much of a difference but this isn’t such a world. We’re in a recession, we see people being bored with the warming story, we see politicians who’re looking for a way out of having to make increasingly unpopular and expensive decisions for the sake of a warming that can’t be seen or felt in most parts of the world (after all, we had a long and cold winter and the summer so far has been even more rotten). And now somebody took a look at all the stations in the US and found out, that most of it was all about measuring in the wrong places – and looking at the most graphic examples on Watts’ website, one can’t help wondering why data from a screen standing on a black rooftop next to the airvent of a cellphone-tower is used at all and not simply discarded.

  269. Dan:

    re 266. That’s sort of a red herring since we have other temperature proxies to use regardless (satellite data, tree rings, glaciers, coral reefs, etc.)

  270. Hank Roberts:

    Chris Dunford misattributed Jim Bishop’s response to me above, to be clear who’s who.

    MikeN, you don’t need to use logic on this. Use facts, they’re more reliable if you bother to look them up.

    WTF went out photographing old stations and comparing them to the criteria for the next generation network and you claim this shows the weather station system takes WTF seriously?

    The criteria were public — and the new stations already going in — before WTF got started.

    Go photograph some old and new cars and claim this proves the car designers listen to your design advice. See who you can fool.

  271. Mark:

    “because siting issues like airconditioners, rubbermats, tarmac, streets etc. act as amplifieres and don’t merely shift the measurements by a fixed amount”

    They do? How?

    If I have AC running at 2kW, it will cause increasingly increasing warming near the AC outlet? HOW??? If it did, would not the older AC units now have nuclear fusion occurring outside their exhaust?

    “And now somebody took a look at all the stations in the US and found out, that most of it was all about measuring in the wrong places”

    Climate monitoring stations or weather monitoring?

    Ah, there’s the rub…

  272. Hank Roberts:

    PS — folks, always, when someone posts a claim without a cite and says it’s a fact then reasons from it, like taking WTF seriously above:

    – don’t believe their ‘fact’ and leap in to argue on their logic.

    – Check the fact claims first. Often they’re wrong.

    No use proving you can reason better than the guy who fooled you on the facts, eh?

    First rule: _don’t_ take the bait and swallow the hook. Sniff first.

  273. dhogaza:

    The argument that siting is irrelevant for the trend and therefore meaningless for climate observations can be dismissed rather easily

    That’s not the argument. Sorry, I don’t dance with strawmen, nor strawgirls for that matter.

  274. bobberger:

    Mark #271
    Normally you set you AC not to 2kW but to, say 21 C. So on a normal summer day you’ll have maybe 24 C plus whatever 1kW produce from an AC running on low power and on a warmer day, you’ll have 35C plus whatever 3kW produce from the very same AC running full speed. On a day with 21C you’ll likely have nothing from the AC at all. What’s your problem with that simple logic?

  275. dhogaza:

    Bob Berger, let’s just throw out GISS and use the satellite trend, instead.

    Happy, now?

    In celebration of your newfound happiness, may I recommend reading this thread, in which Watts and his acolyte Steven Goddard not only demonstrate their scientific illiteracy, but flaunt it?

    The “denial depot” spoof site isn’t 10% as goofy-wrong as the denialist crowd is in that thread …

  276. Ray Ladbury:

    Bob Berger, the entire point boils down to this: Local events/changes do not create a global signal. AND Events which take place at particular times at particular locations will be distinguisable from global trends affecting the entire dataset. Or would your devilish advocacy go so far as to contend that everybody just spontaneously decided to pave the area under every station on the same day at the same time?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to have perfect data. However, given the choice between PERFECT data and MORE data, I’ll take more data. Having more data tells you more not only about the trends you’re looking for but also about the imperfections that exist in the real world. Finally, let me say that I am not against documenting problems. What I’m against is random (or worse, cherrypicked) photos taken without any consideration for what constitutes a problem and what does not. It’s the uneducated, cowboy, yee-haw, ignorant, anti-expertise, pass-the-beer idiocy of the project I object to. Had they bothered to take the time to understand that they need to be looking for correlated problems at multiple stations, the effort might have yielded something worthwhile. As it was, it was worse than worthless, but then, that was the intent.

    As to the effect, it won’t change estimates by 0.1 degrees or 0.01 degrees. It will have no effect whatsoever, because it was ill-conceived from the very beginning

  277. Martin Vermeer:

    Ray Ladbury #246:

    Second, there are about 4 times as many stations as would be needed for a reliable temperature estimate.

    Ray, it depends entirely on what you want. Globally, if all you’re interested in is the long-term global trend (what we’re here all fixated on ;-) ), you don’t need actually more than some 60 stations. See, e.g.,

    http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/abstracts/inpress/Schmidt.html Figure 4.

    Now if you want more than that — like interannual variations or what not –, you need more than that number of stations, but for the trend only, redundancy is very, very high. Especially on land, where those pesky urban heat islands are supposed to live.

  278. MarkB:

    Re: #268

    bobberger,

    Your last paragraph helps to confirm what the purpose of Watts’ project and website. Start with some compelling photos of weather stations, make some scientifically invalid conclusions based on them (explained why repeatedly here), routinely cherry-pick some stories of cold weather events somewhere in the world, spread fear over any proposed actions to reduce emissions and claim the public is on your side and Watts has himself a clever political message.

  279. ApolytonGP:

    Although it’s the sort of thing that would get multiple invention, I think I’m the one who started calling the climate debates groundhog day. I’m actually sympathetic to the denialists politically and even think they raise interesting issues. It’s just that after 4 years of watching them make way more heat than light (for instance McIntyre has only written one “real paper” the GRL05…and no EnE does not count nor do replies to comments), I get a real downer from the whole kerfuffle.

    To address your basic point, what I’d like to see more of:

    1. More technical posts of a Climate Audit type level.

    2. Less of a teacher to the masses type style of discussion and more of a peers canoodling things type discussion. For instance look at Volokh.com, where the writers are equivalent experts to you all (in their field) and as smart or smarter than you all (not meant as a slight, they are incredibly brainy).

    3. Free-er and more rapid discussion. Stop the pre-moderation. Eschew the inline “voice of God” replies.

    4. More interaction and debate (less pre-coordination) between the blog authors. For instance, Volokh.com has more disagreement between the principles.

  280. Press:

    It would be really nice if you guys that are being abusive and quite frankly somewhat childish could listen to what I have to say.
    Climate science is in its infancy. We do not know all there is to know and there are many theories out there that need testing and validation “if possible “. There is no point in being closed minded and dogmatic.
    I have every respect for the researchers out there including Gavin but there is no guarantee that they are on the right track. That should be no problem for a true scientist and no shame either, if they find that the evidence is pointing elsewhere.
    We have to learn and accept that all is not always as it seems. What we really need to do is pool our knowledge and resources without dismissing evidence out of hand because it does not agree with our belief.
    Take account of what is said and what is being observed together with the theory, collate and decide what you think is going on.
    Again I say that there is no shame in being wrong, all scientists are wrong at some point.

  281. bobberger:

    MarkB #278
    > “Start with some compelling photos of weather stations, make some scientifically invalid conclusions based on them (explained why repeatedly here), routinely cherry-pick…”
    Yes, that’s how it all started, obviously. Now that 3/4 of the stations have been evaluated, it will probably take a very long time to somehow quantify the findings into anything you could use as meaningful metadata – apart from the rough categorization already done. In scientidic terms, Watts will only get anywhere with this, if he can show a systematrical error. In terms of public attention, he won’t need that unless debunked so completely, that no journalist would touch the matter.

    dhogaza #275
    “Happy now?
    Lets say “happier” ;)
    The agreement with Satellite data is of course a powerful argument. However I have two questions (and be patient with me here if this is obvious – I didn’t find it when simply googling for the words).
    1) As I understand it, the satellites measure temperature not directly but through interpretation of microwave measurements. If these interpretations somehow rely on the surface stations for calibration and if this calibration is an ongoing process or included a timeseries rather than a single moment in time (it would have to, I guess) then that agreement could mean that a surface station bias has actually transferred into the satellite record.
    2) Your example shows the entire record from 1979 between RSS and GISTEMP. If I chose UAH NSSTC instead, I get a lower trend – so comparing only GISTEMP and RSS is probably not sufficient to make that point without further explanation.

  282. wayne davidson:

    About the winds. There are many simple contemporaneous examples, which can help extrapolate possible climate scenarios. A warmer world simply put, is summer, given that it is known that less winds occur in summer at least in the USA continent, is a strong indicator or confirmation of the cited paleo climate wind estimate. But if we sum up all wind events, the average , may be the same, given stronger hurricanes from a warmer ocean. Therefore the complexity of climate is attached to regions which may not be used to extrapolate the climate scene world wide. But given that the contiguous US has less winds during summer, means that paleo climatic regions during a warmer world, had similar events, droughts, different less windy ecosystems…
    Likewise ENSO effects during summer not being alike during winter reveals ENSO mechanisms
    affecting world wide climate. It is pretty important to get a grasp present day events in order to go back, or forward, in time.

  283. Chris Dudley:

    #267,

    Yes, the enourmous mass of Venus’ atmosphere is provided by carbon dioxide which, on Earth, is locked up in carbonate rock such as limestone. And, the most important slow negative feedback to increased carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere is increased weathering of silicate rock to release metal ions to form carbonates. This absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It happens that most limestone formation is mediated biologically but it can also happen through precipitation from solution.

    It seems to me that while this process is happening, carbon should be leaving the atmosphere. If the process is halted or reversed, then that would not happen and eventually volcanic activity would convert much limestone to carbon dioxide as the Earth resurfaces itself. Surface limestone might also be attacked by acids. Barring that, as soon as we completely run out of hydrocarbons, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere should begin to fall owing to the formation of carbonates and, so long as not all water is lost through the loss of hydrogen, which would take quite a while, there should be cooling and a return to “normal” conditions. If by “normal” we mean life re-evolving from extremophiles and such.

    Perhaps also I am misreading Hansen and he does not mean a permanent conversion but only a temporary one until the slow feedbacks can catch up.

    It is quite a vision, huge trucks lumbering along filled with black goo as the atmospheric pressure at sea level rises to 1.2 atmospheres owing to the vapor burden in the tropics. People watching the price of oil to see if more investments in trucks makes good sense. Then nothing.

    But that is not so different from what we are doing now as the price of oil rises above $70/barrel. It seems to me that we should be forcing the price of oil down so that no more of those truly monster trucks are built. http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2008/06/oil-is-too-expensive.html

  284. Kevin McKinney:

    Press wrote:

    “What we really need to do is pool our knowledge and resources without dismissing evidence out of hand because it does not agree with our belief.”

    What about dismissing beliefs that do not agree with the evidence?

  285. dhogaza:

    1) As I understand it, the satellites measure temperature not directly but through interpretation of microwave measurements. If these interpretations somehow rely on the surface stations for calibration

    They don’t.

    2) Your example shows the entire record from 1979 between RSS and GISTEMP. If I chose UAH NSSTC instead, I get a lower trend – so comparing only GISTEMP and RSS is probably not sufficient to make that point without further explanation.

    UAH has had a long history of making errors. I choose RSS because of their overall better track record (after all, the RSS folks were involved in uncovering some of the early UAH errors).

    I also don’t like the blatant politicization of the UAH team, who allowed their first results to be trumpeted as showing “the world is cooling, not warming!”, if not actively promoting the view. Roy Spencer posts absolute garbage on his website which is no more than anti-AGW FUD.

    I don’t think their political views cause them to intentionally skew their results, but their track record is what it is.

  286. Hank Roberts:

    Bobberber writes:
    > – I didn’t find it when simply googling for the
    > words)… If … and if …or …rather than… I
    > guess) … could mean … bias has actually
    > transferred into the satellite record.

    Or you could look it up. What terms did you search for that you couldn’t find this for yourself and had to post your whatever that is?

    Try:
    http://www.google.com/search?q=satellite+temperature+calibration
    or
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?sourceid=Mozilla-search&q=satellite+temperature+calibration

    Notice the difference in the quality of the results.

  287. Anonymous Coward:

    Chris (#283),

    You are apparently assuming that the oceans could be boiled by the forcing from the combustion of fossil fuels and the known feedbacks.
    But if what we had been told previously is correct, that is a bit more CO2 would only make the planet a bit hotter and if a good bit more solar radiation is required for the oceans to boil no matter the amount of fossil fuels burned, then it follows that another forcing is required for Hansen’s scenario to unfold.

    So consider this: Hansen may not be overturning what was previously theorized about a runaway greenhouse on Earth. He may instead be proposing the emergence of some self-sustaining super-feedback of doom capable of keeping ever growing amounts of outgoing longwave radiation from cooling the planet as the oceans boil away.
    In that case, the weathering of CO2 (which I assume would indeed be expected to occur as long as some water remains) might not stop the runaway once the super-feedback has been triggered and the planet would never become habitable again.
    But I hate to speculate about Hansen’s doomsday scenario and I wonder if anyone knows whether he has been more explicit elsewhere about the mechanism which would enable it.

  288. Hank Roberts:

    AC, when you get the upper atmosphere hot enough, hydrogen boils off. That’s, last I recall reading, what happened to Venus. Lose the hydrogen and you can’t make water. So to speak.

  289. bobberger:

    > “They don’t.”

    Yes, found it. Thanks. So unless there was an airconditioner flying along with every radiosonde…

    > “… had to post your whatever that is?”

    I’d call it a question. Maybe a question based on wrong or misunderstood information and certainly one I could have answered myself without pestering this blog – but a question no less.

  290. Ike Solem:

    Gavin, I’m looking at your book, “Picturing the Science” – and let me tell you, the “Getting Our Technological Fix” chapter by Frank Zeman is atrocious, as is the foreward.

    Coal carbon capture is nonsense – none of the technologies described in that chapter have any chance of solving the problem. Considering that both Jeffrey Sachs (author of the forward) and Frank Zeman are at Colombia, one really has to wonder what is going on. That was one of the most distorting energy articles I’ve ever read, loaded down with inaccuracies and false claims – truly unbelievable. It pretty much destroys the book, I’m afraid – highly distorting.

    Would realclimate authors be willing to sign a petition asking President Obama to direct the NAS to conduct and independent review of the scientific plausibility of coal carbon capture schemes? Or would that be an assault on academic collegiality? Just curious.

    [Response: Do please calm down. If you have an issue with Frank's chapter, feel free to take it up with him, but you are overreacting. CCS is not nonsense - it's not imminent either, but the technology to do it is relatively mature - it's not fusion. Is it used in bad ways politically? Yes. But neither Frank nor myself nor Sachs have ever done so. If you have any specific issues, I'd be happy to look into it. - gavin]

  291. Jim Norvell:

    Re # 260 Thanks for the links. Did you check Plate A2 on page 47 of http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/1999/1999_Hansen_etal.pdf. It shows that the Rural stations have been cooling and the Rural + Small Town + Adjusted Urban are flat since 1950.

    Jim N

  292. Ray Ladbury:

    Press says, “Climate science is in its infancy.”

    Horse Puckey. It’s more than 150 years old!. The role of greenhouse gasses has been known for more than a century, ferchrissake.

    I have an idea: why don’t you go out and actually learn the science so you can comment on it intelligently. I am sorry, but if you can say that climate science is in its infancy, it is clear you have made zero effort to understand the science. Try making points that are not ridiculous and you will not face ridicule.

  293. Michael:

    The RC contributors and moderators on occasion post and comment on issues outside the core sciences of climatology, and touch on related fields such as geology, economics, sociology, engineering, politics, etc.

    And for good reason, I think.

    There is a logic jump between “the Earth is warming” and “so vote for this legislation” for instance. To move the climate change conversation foreward, we need to talk about “the rest of the science”. Maybe guest contributors from other fields?

  294. Hank Roberts:

    Bob, what search terms did you try? Seriously, it helps to know what failed to work out.

    It’s too easy to make up things that might be true based on a series of what-ifs. Leads people to wish the ideas were true or believe them when they find them later on and don’t read the followups, I suggest.

    That’s true on all sides, people worry about things that can’t be happening based on the what-ifs. So learning how people do and don’t check facts is useful.

  295. bobberger:

    Hank
    Actually I pretty much used the terms you suggested but interpreted the results wrongly. I had a picture in my mind that suggested the calibration must have something to do with direct surface temperature measurements and therefore only browsed through the (rather complex) papers in search of the “and this is how we derive the surface temperature from the microwave flux” chapter – not realizing that it wouldn’t be anything like so easy.
    I can confidently say, however, that I wasn’t about to make anything up – hence my questions.

  296. Hank Roberts:

    > CCS technology … relatively mature

    Gavin, I’d guess Ike’s thinking about capturing CO2 from hot coal plant combustion flue gas — being funded now in the US. Is that mature? How long a baseline do we have on storage (reinjection into wells, I guess, has anyone gone back to look at early reinjection wells to see if they are still holding CO2 gas pressure after they were pumped out of oil?)

  297. CM:

    Re experience with CO2 storage in reinjection wells (Hank #295):

    The IPCC special report on “Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage” noted that “lack of comprehensive monitoring of [Enhanced Oil Recovery] projects … makes it difficult to quantify storage” (p. 203). So I guess it’s hard now to make up for the lack of interest back in the 1970s about what would happen to the CO2 after they got the oil up. But look up these pilot projects: Weyburn in Canada (since 2000), comprehensively monitored by the IEA; Sleipner/Utsira in Norway (injecting into a saline formation under the seabed since 1996).

  298. Press:

    Ray Ladbury @292, Ray I understand more than you might believe and for that very reason also understand that our fact base is far from complete. The question of feedback “negative and positive”, ocean currents, aerosols, solar influence, magnetic influence, orbital anomalies and a whole bunch more are yet to be answered in any detail. How do various factors interlace?, do cosmic rays have an effect?, what causes ice ages?, why has the climate varied so much over the ages?.
    When you can answer these points with authority I will listen and worship – until then – lets try to learn instead.

  299. dhogaza:

    Thanks for the links. Did you check Plate A2 on page 47 of http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/1999/1999_Hansen_etal.pdf .It shows that the Rural stations have been cooling and the Rural + Small Town + Adjusted Urban are flat since 1950.

    Looks to me like they’ve gone up by Error 404 degrees …

    [Response: I moved the trailing period - gavin]

  300. Theo Hopkins:

    Ummmm…

    Could someone tell me what Groundhog Day is all about? Seems to be something American (?) and being a simple Irish peasant, I could do with some help.

    Thanks in advance.

  301. dhogaza:

    Oh, got it, the “.” got included in your link

    Here’s the correct link: http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/1999/1999_Hansen_etal.pdf

  302. Phil Scadden:

    CSS – well some aspects are definitely mature. Separating out CO2 is done all the time in natural gas plants, pumping CO2 into ground is also common in oil extraction.
    Funnily enough the research efforts in storage side of CCS is pretty heavily dominated by questions of long term storage etc. At first glance, a natural reservoir that has held methane for a million years or so stands a reasonable chance of holding CO2 for a long time too. Have a look at http://www.co2crc.com.au for more detail into this research. My section is involved with some of these projects.

    I wouldnt rush to writeoff a technology that might be part of the solution before the research results are in.

  303. Mark:

    “The question of feedback “negative and positive”, ocean currents, aerosols, solar influence, magnetic influence, orbital anomalies and a whole bunch more are yet to be answered in any detail.”

    Uh, there’s a whole shedload of difference between the current knowledge of those elements and “yet to be answered in any detail”.

    Care to enlighten us with your knowledge?

  304. SecularAnimist:

    Press wrote: “I understand more than you might believe and for that very reason also understand that our fact base is far from complete. The question of feedback ‘negative and positive’, ocean currents, aerosols, solar influence, magnetic influence, orbital anomalies and a whole bunch more are yet to be answered in any detail. How do various factors interlace?, do cosmic rays have an effect?, what causes ice ages?, why has the climate varied so much over the ages?”

    You are misinformed about what climate science does and does not know.

    Press wrote: “When you can answer these points with authority I will listen and worship – until then – lets try to learn instead.”

    You can correct your misunderstandings if you try to learn from the resources on this site.

  305. SecularAnimist:

    At present, practical, cost-effective, functional carbon capture and sequestration technology for coal-fired power plants exists only as an excuse for building more coal-fired power plants that don’t have such technology, but can be marketed as “CCS Ready”.

  306. MacDoc:

    300
    Groundhog Day the movie is what Gavin is referring to – where an unfortunate time traveller gets caught in a loop with slight variations and keeps repeating the same day over and over.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day_(film)

    Beyond that Wiki is your friend
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day

  307. Phil Scadden:

    Press – “do cosmic rays have an effect”. Not that we can measure so far. “what causes ice ages” – um, what do you find wrong with current models? Yes, figuring out the details of some north/south variations and some bumps remain issues but the broad pattern? (or for that matter much of fine pattern)? The issues in paleoclimate is not trying to find some unknown causative process, but constraining what was happening with the well-known influences (like atmospheric composition, insolation, volcanism). Want to guess what the thermohaline regime was 90myr ago?

  308. Ray Ladbury:

    Press, The fact of the matter is that all you have done is go to a couple of denialist blogs and absorb the talking points. You know it, and anybody who has actually done the work to understand the science (which is most folks here) knows it.

    Would you say that electromagnetism is in its infancy? How about statistical mechanics? The theory of evolution? Yet these fields are roughly the same age as climate science.

    In constructing a scientific theory, you start with your long poles–the things that are most important to the phenomenon. Certainly greenhouse forcing is such a long pole, and CO2 is the second most important greenhouse gas after water. That is why CO2 forcing is very tightly constrained in the models. Are there other things we need to know better? You bet. They don’t change the amount of CO2 forcing much though, because CO2 forcing has some very unique properties and is independetly constrained by 9-12 independent sources of data.

    Likewise, if you are working with a dataset, you know it will be imperfect. So you study the imperfections and figure out ways to filter or correct them. Temperature is a spatiotemporal field. It should be roughly continuous. We know nearby stations shouldn’t vary too wildly from each other for no reason, and consecutive readings shouldn’t vary too wildly either without reason. We know there will be a yearly dependence, a daily dependence, etc. Using these facts we can construct an algorithm that ensures that we get reasonable data. How do we know it works? Well, we have independent measures of temperature–including satellite measurements, proxy data, the independent reconstructions of other researchers, etc. We also have qualititative factors like the fact that ice is melting all over the globe and corroborative observations such as stratospheric cooling, etc. If we had to rely on only one of these, we might be worried about systematic errors. However, the chances of simultaneous systematic errors seeping into independent analyses in all these different fields is infinitesimal. And you don’t have to take my word for it. You can listen to the National Academies of Sciences of more than 70 countries (including pretty much all developed nations), every professional scientific society that has reviewed the data and taken a position, the Department of Defense–hell, even Exx-Mob’s own sicentists!
    Look, Press, you owe it to yourself to at least look at the history so that you get that right. Read this excellent history by Spencer Weart from the American Institute for Physics:
    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/

    I know Spencer. He’s a good physicist, good historian and a good guy. Please read it. By rejecting good science, all you are doing is ensuring that the solutions we develop will not have your input.

  309. Phil Scadden:

    “It shows that the Rural stations have been cooling and the Rural + Small Town + Adjusted Urban are flat since 1950. ”

    Well is shows some regions of US are – ones closer to equator. Note also the broad agreement between rurul and rural + Small town + adjusted Urban. Now look at the global map. GISS is more than just US regions. Also look at plate 2. You see same warming if you just use rural.

  310. Richard Simons:

    I would like to add my voice of thanks for the effort made by the team here.

    One thing I would appreciate is something on the implications for agriculture (I’d have a go myself as regards the crops, except that I no longer have ready access to the literature). The simplistic ‘don’t worry, everything will work out fine’ argument is that, for crops, more CO2 = more growth = higher yields but it is much more complicated than that. For example, higher temperatures = heat stress = poor pollination = reduced yields. There are also potential problems with diseases, pests, the movement of agriculture into areas with poor soil and no infrastructure and so on.

    For some of the non-scientists, especially those who think that 4 years can determine a trend, a simple description of the procedures for measuring variability and the meaning of ‘variance’ and ‘significance’ might be useful, concentrating on the concepts rather than the mathematics. Alternatively, give a link to a suitable site. I had a quick search, but the ones I found assume more background in statistics than is probably appropriate.

  311. Jim Bouldin:

    Ray Ladbury writes: “Read this excellent history by Spencer Weart from the American Institute for Physics.”

    And speaking of which, it was exactly 150 years ago yesterday (5+ months before the publication of “On the Origin of Species”) that John Tyndall gave his first public presentation on his experimental work on the absorption of various wavelengths of the electro. spectrum by various gases, including ozone, water and CO2, showing definitively the strong absorption–and re-radiation–by certain molecules and gases in the infra-red (the “ultra-red” as he called it). Very interesting reading here, by Tyndall describing his experiments in great detail, e.g.:

    “Those who like myself have been taught to regard transparent gases as almost perfectly diathermanous, will probably share the astonishment with which I witnessed the foregoing effects. I was indeed slow to believe it possible that a body so constituted, and so transparent to light as olefiant gas [ethylene, C2H4], could be so densely opake to any kind of calorific rays; and to secure myself against error, I made several hundred experiments with this single substance.”

    “De Saussure, Fourier, M. Pouillet, and Mr. Hopkins regard this interception of terrestrial rays as excercising the most important influence on the climate. Now if, as the above experiments indicate, the chief influence by excercised by the aqueous vapor, every variation of this constituent must produce a change of climate. Similar remarks would apply to the carbonic acid diffused throught the air, while an almost inapprecialbe admixture of any of the hydrocarbon vapours would produce great effects on the terrestrial rays and produce correspondin changes of climate. It is not therefore, necessary to assume alterations in the density and height of the atmosphere to account for different amounts of heat being preserved to the earth at different times; a slight change in its variable constituents would suffice for this. Such changes may in fact have produced all the mutations of climate which the researches of geologists reveal. However this may be, the facts above remain; they constitute true causes, the extent alone of the operation remaining doubtful.”

    See:
    http://onramp.nsdl.org/eserv/onramp:16571/n3.Tyndall_1861corrected.pdf

    http://books.google.com/books?id=mOAEAAAAYAAJ&q=lampblack&source=gbs_keywords_r&cad=1#search_anchor

  312. Ike Solem:

    Gavin, there is no need to “calm down” – it is just a scientific question, one that climate scientists seem ill equipped to handle. Despite the great work done by climate scientists to inform the public, when it comes to energy, you folks are embarrassing yourselves. Here is the basic perspective you should consider adopting:

    1) Any energy technology has two components – theoretical models and prototype demonstrations. This is true for solar PV, gas turbines, nuclear reactors, ethanol plants, oil refineries, you name it. If the claims are not supported by models and prototypes, they are worthless – like climate claims unsupported by models or data. OK? That’s a very basic point in energy technology science, which is routinely under assault from nonsensical claims – i.e cold fusion, zero-point energy, and yes, coal carbon capture.

    2) You should be able to build a benchtop model and a computer model, just as is done with other systems. So, let’s get some coal, build a little mini-turbine, and send the exhaust down a scrubber system, and work out the details – but no, we don’t see that, do we? Why not?

    The reason is pretty obvious – anyone who studies engine thermodynamics knows the answer. If you block the exhaust, what happens? Anyone who has ever seen the output of a coal plant at full tilt knows what I’m talking about – it will never happen.

    Consider secondly that a typical full-size coal power station generates 30 million tons of CO2 per year – as a 10% CO2 mixture in flue gases. Are you really going to sit there with a straight face and claim that you can bury all that CO2 “in the ground”? How many miles of steel pipe, how many pumps along the line – it would be at least as hard to transport as natural gas, but what would supply the power? What do you think the energy loss would be for 100% carbon capture from coal? I seriously doubt you could break even, meaning all the coal energy would go to capture the coal emissions.

    There’s no possible way it can be justified, and no one dares try – even your claims are not based on any scientific platform, are they? Are you really claiming we will be able to capture even a tiny fraction of coal plant combustion in the U.S.? Show me some models, or some prototypes, or just admit you are wrong.

    For solar PV, I can supply dozens of different prototypes, full-scale systems, theoretical models – you name it. The same goes for natural gas turbines and nuclear reactors – but coal carbon capture? Not a single working prototype exists – not one! Oh, they claim to have them – but the performance data? It’s proprietary. So are the models. What would you say if some climate researcher said you couldn’t look at his model because it was proprietary?

    In reality, this is an astounding fraud being perpetrated on the American public by the DOE, the coal lobby, and academic scientists who have found a berth as long as they agree to promote the propaganda. That’s a disaster for science and for the American public.

    Face it – the whole notion is wildly unsupportable, as unscientific a notion as creationism. Name one single person who is willing to defend such technology at a nitty-gritty level of detail – I’m positive I could easily demolish their arguments. If you like, send this to Frank and ask for a response on this blog, and we can have the debate right here. Or maybe Jeffrey Sachs can weigh in on the thermodynamic issues involved, as he is an ardent supporter?

    Yes, I am saying that there is not a single person inside the entire DOE-coal complex who dares to debate this topic in a public forum – any takers?

  313. Jim Bouldin:

    In reality, this is an astounding fraud being perpetrated on the American public by the DOE, the coal lobby, and academic scientists who have found a berth as long as they agree to promote the propaganda. That’s a disaster for science and for the American public..

    Completely out of line Ike. I’m not in favor of CCS at all either, but insinuations of scientists in a conspiracy, and being bought out, not to mention the trashing of Gavin’s book based on this one topic, are not going to get you anywhere.

  314. MacDoc:

    Press and the denier blog fans may just have a very sharp bone to try and swallow tomorrow in Nature

    Carbon Emissions Linked To Global Warming In Simple Linear Relationship

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610154453.htm

    •••

    Press…..some up to date reading that is very current and available on line.

    Climate book – new and very up to date – worth the time
    http://geosci.uchicago.edu/~rtp1/ClimateBook/ClimateVol1.pdf

  315. MarkB:

    The following recent Nature study could use some expert interpretation.

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7248/abs/nature08047.html

    The results seem to challenge the notion of “climate sensitivity” by saying that CO2-related warming is dependent on emissions instead of atmospheric concentration, although the results appear mostly consistent with current projections.

    [Response: It's cumulative emissions - similar in many ways to the studies we discussed in April ('hit the brakes'). -gavin]

  316. Hank Roberts:

    > What would you say if some climate researcher said you couldn’t
    > look at his model because it was proprietary?

    As I recall we’ve had at least one climate researcher visit here whose work is to some extent proprietary — recall the discussion of how to figure out where to drill for oil and gas by modeling the climate of the past in which the sedimentary basins actually formed and, as one of our more notorious congressmen put it, quite recently, “just drifted” up to Alaska. Nice fellow as I recall. I wish we heard more from those who are doing models that are proprietary, they must be rather well funded and work well for their purposes. It’d be quite a contribution if they were made public.

    Same for anything to do with coal, certainly time for proprietary ideas to come forward — particularly if they’re getting the DOE money just announced in the last day or so for demonstration plants.

    What kind of magic would it take? Oh, a cheap way to break water into hydrogen and oxygen would help, magic nanotech/solar; burn the hydrogen in air; use the oxygen for a closed pure oxygen coal plant making pure CO2 output; mine the result for all the thorium and uranium, oops, now we’re threatening hard rock mining industry …
    Doesn’t make a lot of sense does it?

    So there’s a topic for someone — looking at the money DOE just committed, close to a billion for energy projects. Closely. Maybe not here. What became of that Real Climate Economics group, did they get there yet?

  317. Hank Roberts:

    Chuckle. A first step might be to arrange for all these papers to be made available to the public to read, even just starting with 2009. As long as the research is paywalled, even “non-proprietary” doesn’t mean people can actually read the work.
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?num=50&hl=en&lr=&newwindow=1&safe=off&scoring=r&q=carbon+capture+coal&as_ylo=2009&btnG=Search

  318. Hank Roberts:

    But, Ike, you could start here — first hit from that page. Main link doesn’t work; Google’s cache does, for now.
    http://66.102.1.104/scholar?num=50&hl=en&lr=&newwindow=1&safe=off&scoring=r&q=cache:LXOePX9Ke8QJ:aiche.confex.com/aiche/s09/preliminaryprogram/abstract_145731.htm+carbon+capture+coal

    “… The SECARB team, led by the Electric Power Research Institute and Southern Company, conducted a Phase II Saline Reservoir Field Test at Mississippi Power Company’s (a subsidiary of Southern Company) Plant Victor J. Daniel, a power generation facility capable of delivering over 1,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity into the Jackson County power grid. The field test was conducted from October 2-28, 2008, with a total of 3,027 tons of natural CO2 injected. The project was a success, with the lower Tuscaloosa reservoir demonstrating excellent injectivity as evidenced by an average wellhead pressure of 1,100 pound per square inch during the injection of 180 tons of CO2 per day (about 3 MMcfd). Post-injection plume monitoring tools, vertical seismic profile and a neutron log, were deployed in December, and the results will be assessed during early 2009. This data is of paramount importance to the design and implementation of the Anthropogenic Test.

    The SECARB Phase III development project consists of two related field demonstrations; an “Early Test” that utilizes pipeline CO2 and the “Anthropogenic Test” that will use coal-fired power plant CO2. In addition to field test at Plant Daniel, the reservoir properties of the lower Tuscaloosa are being studied in the SECARB Phase II Stacked Storage project led by The Bureau of Economic Geology (BEG) at the University of Texas at Austin. This small-volume injection field test currently is underway at the Cranfield Oilfield, located near Natchez, Mississippi. The Phase III Early Test will expand the Detailed Area of Study of the current Cranfield test and take advantage of ongoing CO2-enhanced oil recovery (EOR) efforts by the field operator, Denbury Resources, International, during 2009 and 2010. This presents SECARB with the opportunity to monitor the large-volume injection of approximately 1.5 million tonnes of CO2, injected over a 1.5-year period, in the down dip water leg of the oil reservoir in order to test commercial and experimental monitoring, verification and accounting (MVA) protocols. Both field tests at Cranfield will provide important data in preparation for the Anthropogenic Test. …”

    They’re from Missippi. They should be willing to show their work.

  319. Jim Norvell:

    # 309 Read page 25 of http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/1999/1999_Hansen_etal.pdf. He seems to sgree with Anthony. However, two years later in http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/2001/2001_Hansen_etal.pdf Hansen changes his view.

    Jim N

  320. Kevin McKinney:

    JIm, I appreciate the Tyndall quote, and all the more as it cites Pouillet, about whom I just published a short article. (“The Science of Global Warming In The Age Of Napoleon III.”) Not included is this bit of cool trivia–is there anything Pouillet didn’t investigate?:

    “He also published an image of a sample waveform. This could be a facsimile of an actual recording Pouillet had made in the way he described. If so, it’s arguably a “record” of the vibrations of a tuning fork made before the invention of the phonautograph. It dates, though just barely, from the first half of the nineteenth century.”

    In other words, Pouillet may have created the earliest surviving sound “recording.” (The site includes an MP3 of the “playback.”)

    http://www.firstsounds.org/features/pouillet.php

    There’s a link to an MP3 of the image “played back.”

    Also coincidentally, the 14th–Sunday–will be the 131st anniversary of Pouillet’s death.

  321. dhogaza:

    Gavin, there is no need to “calm down” – it is just a scientific question

    Quit being an ass, it was no such thing.

    You said:

    Coal carbon capture is nonsense – none of the technologies described in that chapter have any chance of solving the problem. Considering that both Jeffrey Sachs (author of the forward) and Frank Zeman are at Colombia, one really has to wonder what is going on. That was one of the most distorting energy articles I’ve ever read, loaded down with inaccuracies and false claims – truly unbelievable. It pretty much destroys the book, I’m afraid – highly distorting.

    Now … you tell me where there’s a question in that paragraph.

    Please be precise.

  322. Ian Enting:

    Just a comment on John Mashey’s post (216) about my analysis of Plimer. I am not mounting a defense of “mainstream” climate science (others like RealClimate and my colleague David Karoly do that so much better than I do). I am mounting an attack on the lack of scientific integrity. Thus I don’t attack Plimer for disagreeing with the IPCC, I attack him for lying (extensively) about what is actually in the IPCC reports. Similarly, I am concentrating on where he misrepresents his cited references, and where his time series are something other that what he claims. I seem to be getting slow in my old age. It was only yesterday that I noticed that figures 38,39, 40 repeat Michale Crichton’s scam of making the trend look different by using different vertical scales. Since I am only halfway through my list of potential leads, this more targetted role seems to be enough to go on with.

  323. John Mashey:

    re: #322 Ian Enting
    Ahhh, good distinction.

    At a bare minimum, work ought to get numerous basics right, and if it doesn’t even do that, serious arguments about real science are fairly pointless. From Ian’s current list, numerous simple “errors” are easily findable.

    [I recommend Ian's nice book Twisted, which does actually ship outside Australia.]

    But, this just reinforces my general advice: when something is so bad that people can easily find pervasive simple “errors”, and are doing so, doing it again does not seem a good use of RCers’ time.

  324. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    RE #241 & 252, I know a biologist who is studying climate change – Dr. Camilla Parmesan (UT-Austin). I believe her findings relate to how plants and animals are out of sync due to earlier warming — e.g. some bug eaten by some baby birds is coming too early or the birds are born too early and they die of starvation. Or another example — some pollinator coming at the wrong time & crops or plants don’t get pollinated. Things like that… Apparently it’s a pretty big problem for many species worldwide. Examples of how minor climate changes can wreak havoc.

  325. Tim Joslin:

    “What is it that you feel needs more explaining? What interesting bits of the science would you like to know more about?”

    I’d like you to revisit the role of the oceans in the carbon cycle.

    The amount of fossil carbon we can “get away” with emitting will depend to a large extent on how natural processes of carbon uptake/release respond to rising temperatures and elevated levels of carbon dioxide. Important natural processes include those of oceanic uptake and release of atmospheric carbon.

    I recently looked into this issue, attempting to make sense of the relevant passages in the 4AR. I found what I thought was the definitive source to be very unclear on the topic and possibly incorrect in some respects.

    I tentatively concluded that the key oceanic process is turnover of surface waters, i.e. the large-scale circulation of the oceans. Compared to the equilibrium case (i.e. absent anthropogenic carbon) this process moderates atmospheric CO2 increases, NOT by removing CO2 from the atmosphere, but by releasing LESS than was the case at lower atmospheric CO2 levels.

    I’ve posted my conclusions on my blog:
    http://unchartedterritory.wordpress.com/2009/04/12/ocean-carbon-uptake-further-reflections/

    I’m a generalist with an interest in climate science. I’d be interested in reading a discussion of this issue by a Realclimate expert.

  326. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Chris Dudley,

    The surface area of the Earth is about 5.1 x 10^14 square meters, more than a hundred times your figure.

  327. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Well, the surfacestations.org freaks seem to be out in force.

    Watts’s so-called analysis is worthless for the following reasons:

    1. No quantification. He shows photos of temperature stations allegedly next to air conditioners and so on. We don’t see them in three dimensions, so he could easily have shot them so apparently almost-touching objects were really ten feet apart.

    2. He doesn’t get that a HIGH temperature is not the same as a RISING temperature.

    3. He has no model for how the alleged hot stuff affects the temperature stations. No calculations. Nothing. This goes back to point 1.

    4. Statistical investigation of the urban heat island effect shows that it is negligible. Example studies:

    Hansen, J., Ruedy, R., Sato, M., Imhoff, M., Lawrence, W., Easterling, D., Peterson, T., and Karl, T. 2001. “A closer look at United States and global surface temperature change.” J. Geophys. Res. 106, 23947–23963.

    Peterson, Thomas C. 2003. “Assessment of Urban Versus Rural In Situ Surface Temperatures in the Contiguous United States: No Difference Found.” J. Clim. 16(18), 2941-2959.

    Peterson T., Gallo K., Lawrimore J., Owen T., Huang A., McKittrick D. 1999. “Global rural temperature trends.” Geophys. Res. Lett. 26(3), 329.

    5. The trends found by the surface stations are also found in sea-surface temperature stations. Are there urban heat islands on the ocean? They are also found by borehole temperature analyses, balloon radiosonde readings, and temperature readings. The land stations simply aren’t anomalous. Watts’s contention therefore falls under the logical fallacy of “subverted support”–he’s providing an explanation for a phenomenon (too-high temperature trend from surface stations) that doesn’t exist.

    Watts’s work is worthless. Repeat that until it sinks in.

    CAPTCHA: “steamier City”

  328. Ray Ladbury:

    I have an idea. Maybe the denialists need a site like Answersingenesis that tells them what arguments are so embarrassingly discredited that even they don’t recommend them. My first three nominees are:
    1)the greenhouse effect violotes the 2nd law of thermo
    2)climate change is in its infancy
    3)saturation

  329. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Press writes:

    Climate science is in its infancy.

    You might want to learn something about climate science before you lecture the rest of us about it.

    Jean-Baptiste Fourier proposed the existence of the atmospheric greenhouse effect in 1824. Louis Agassiz demonstrated that ice ages had existed in the 1850s. John Tyndall showed that the major greenhouse gases in Earth’s atmosphere were water vapor and carbon dioxide in 1859. Svante Arrhenius proposed Anthropogenic Global Warming theory in 1896.

    That would make climate science older than quantum physics or relativity. It predates the explanation of the photoelectric effect and Brownian motion, the invention of radiocarbon dating, the modern synthesis of evolutionary biology, heavier than air flight, and space travel. As scientific fields go, climate science, hving had nearly 200 years to develop, is one of the oldest and most thoroughly developed of the sciences.

    That doesn’t mean we know all we need to know about climate. It does mean climate science is not “in its infancy” and therefore easily set aside by crackpots with a political agenda.

  330. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Press, still resolutely refusing to actually crack a book on the subject, writes:

    How do various factors interlace?,

    Could you be more specific?

    do cosmic rays have an effect?,

    On global warming? No. The cosmic ray profile has been flat for the last 50 years.

    what causes ice ages?,

    Milutin Milankovic worked that one out in 1930 and his answer was generally accepted by the 1970s. Google his name.

    why has the climate varied so much over the ages?.

    Because of the changing luminosity of the sun, composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, and changes in the arrangement of the continents and ice caps.

    When you can answer these points with authority I will listen and worship – until then – lets try to learn instead.

    Physician, heal thyself.

  331. Mark:

    “# Barton Paul Levenson Says:
    12 June 2009 at 4:48 AM

    Chris Dudley,

    The surface area of the Earth is about 5.1 x 10^14 square meters, more than a hundred times your figure.”

    I was wondering about that. I had thought (though I couldn’t remember where that thought started) that ~5atmospheres was what you’d get with the hydropshere puffed up into the atmosphere, so the 30bar atmosphere Chris got did seem a little high.

    Kept meaning to check.

    Mind you, I’ll have to check YOUR figures now, since 0.3bar seems to me to be a little low.

  332. Chris Dudley:

    Barton (#326),

    The order of magnitude is OK. I used non-standard notation: 488×1012 square meters for the surface area of the Earth which in standard notation comes to about 4.9×1014 square meters, close to your 5.1×1014 square meters. So, the factor of 100 is not a problem. There is a smaller discrepancy though. Your 5.1 looks to be correct. I got 4.9 by dividing 361 square kilometer, the area of ocean, by 0.74, the fraction of coverage given here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean

    My guess is that the 0.74 figure is for the area of the Earth covered by water rather than by ocean alone as stated in th article and this may be the origin of the actual discrepancy between the two figures.

    I did neglect to multiply by g so that the 3 million kg/m2 should have been converted to 30 million N/m2 and thus 300 atmospheres rather than 30. The surface temperature would then have to be about 400 C to keep that mass aloft.

    Currently, the amount of hydrogen that can be lost from the atmosphere is limited by the dryness of the stratosphere. One may not need to evaporate all the oceans to change that. But, a wet top of the atmosphere still faces a random walk problem for losing hydrogen.

    Thanks for raising the question since it turned up an order of magnitude error though in a different place.

  333. Ike Solem:

    Hank and Jim, those are not really scientific issues and Hank’s paper is about CO2 injection for oil recovery, not for storage. Calling CO2-based oil-extraction “sequestration” is just plain false.

    It’s like the iron fertilization nonsense – why not just pipe the coal plant emissions to the ocean, dump in a lot of iron, and solve the problem? That’s about as plausible an approach.

    Consider the full-scale economic-energy budget analysis for a coal carbon capture plant operated by a large utility. You would do this just as is done for a natural gas power plant or for an ethanol refinery.

    See this discussion of waste heat recovery (CHP) in fermentation-distillation plants, for example:

    The round-the-clock plant operations and steady steam and power load in ethanol plants make the industry a prime candidate for CHP systems. Bringing the power plant to the user means that the waste heat from electrical generation can be recovered for process heat. The system efficiencies and reductions in carbon emissions are impressive, and depending on a plant’s fuel cost and electrical rates, can also provide cost savings to the ethanol plant.

    Now, this is a win for the owner of the plant – invest in some reengineering and cut your costs in half. The advantages of waste heat recycling also apply to oil refineries and natural gas-fired power plants.

    Now, look at the coal capture plant, where instead of reducing energy costs, you vastly increase them. A significant amount of the energy from the coal being burned will have to be used to capture the CO2 in pure form – as a gas, remember. No, what I am looking for is prototype and model-based estimates of the energy loss involved in 100% coal CO2 capture – a pretty simple question, yet no one can supply any answers.

    Not only that, any contaminants in the coal emissions – hydrocarbon residues, mercury, arsenic, selenium, and sulfur, for starters – will likely poison and damage the filters and/or catalysts used in the process, leading to high equipment replacement costs.

    So, let’s say our utility drops $1 billion on a big coal carbon capture plant to replace their old pulverized coal turbine system. Immediately, they would have to double, triple, quadruple? their coal purchases, at the very least – that’s in order to keep electrical output up at previous levels. That means costs skyrocket, as do emissions – instead of 30 million tons of CO2 per year, you’d have a minimum of 60 million tons per year to dispose of – and burying such quantities “in the ground” (this is just ONE coal plant) is a ridiculous notion.

    The obvious first initial result would be skyrocketing electrical rates. The coal mines would love it, and so would the railroads, because they’d be shipping far more coal than now – except that the technology does not work as advertised, any more than does “iron fertilization technology”.

    It’s unscientific nonsense, but it is massively supported by the Department of Energy and their primary National Labs contractor, Battelle Memorial Institute, who together control the ‘proprietary technology’ and funnel millions in research dollars towards it – all as a propaganda stunt. It’s as if the DOE started dumping a few billion dollars a year into cold fusion research – “to find out what works.”

    It really is technobabble, with silly references to previous technological achievements. Try this for an equivalent absurdity:

    “We can land a man on the moon, why can’t we get the world’s oceanic algae population to take up all this excess CO2 for us?”

    Maybe if we asked nicely…

  334. Ike Solem:

    One other thing on Jim Bouldin’s comments – bad scientific information in a book does tarnish the entire book. What if there had been a similar chapter lauding the ability of ocean iron fertilization to “solve the climate problem”?

    Jim Hansen is certainly a prolific climate scientist, as is Gavin, but the point here is that expertise in climate science does not translate into expertise in energy science – and look at how dismissive climate scientists have been of energy engineers who claim there is no atmospheric CO2 problem (with good reason, of course) – for example, see this:

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution stunned those of us here at the Heartland Institute April 5 when it published a letter from Heartland friend James Rust, a retired Georgia Tech nuclear engineering professor with more than 50 years experience teaching and research in areas related to energy policy.

    A prominent scientist has said something! Let’s read it:

    There is no consensus on AGW. The computer models used to predict global warming can not duplicate actual conditions in the atmosphere. While carbon dioxide has been increasing at the rate of about one part per million annually the past century, global temperatures have risen, fallen, risen, and now falling the past ten years.

    Ho hum… this of course does not invalidate the nuclear science work of James Rust, but it still is wild nonsense, just as is coal carbon capture.

    As far as “insinuations about scientists” I was mainly referring to the DOE and Battelle-based coal carbon capture proponents and to the outside universities who tap those coal capture funding sources.

    [edit for relevance]

    So, yes, I stand by my comment on academic scientists trading in scientific integrity for berths in such corporate-academic-government complexes. There are just too many examples to conclude otherwise, and yes, it points to a serious, fundamental problem within the U.S. academic and scientific establishment – one that is seriously hampering efforts to bring renewable energy online as a replacement for fossil fuels.

    [Response: You are not reading the same chapter Frank wrote (who is plenty qualified to discuss this). Where does it say that CCS will "solve the climate problem"? You appear to me arguing against it even being mentioned! Instead, the chapter goes into some detail about what is required in order to sequester carbon and the technologies that already exist to do so (and yes, there are estimates of the additional energy burden that would entail - roughly a 50% increase). None of us work for DOE or Batelle and attempts to dismiss discussion of CCS because of their allegedly questionable activities is simply a smear. - gavin]

  335. Douglas Wise:

    Does the removal of CO2 from the waste gas stream of a coal plant necessarily require that it be purified? I think I read somewhere that activated charcoal (or biochar) could, in combination with ammonia, convert SO2, NOx and CO2 into a fertiliser, primarily ammonium carbonate with a high organic carbon composition.

    I have no idea as to practicality or scalability but one would certainly be producing a high value product rather than a waste in need of sequestration.

    Could anyone elaborate?

  336. Hank Roberts:

    Gavin, another area where you might go into new material, perhaps — rapid events. I know these are hard to resolve in the record.

    Purely as an example — I’m not asking about this one in particular, but about a topic on natural rapid change events generally:

    Deglacial variations in South Atlantic deep water ventilation
    Barker, S.; Broecker, W.S.; Diz, P.; Vautravers, M.; Hall, I.R.

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2008AGUFMPP23A1458B

    “… New benthic-planktonic foraminiferal 14C results from the deep South Atlantic reveal significant variability in deep water ventilation during the last deglacial period. … Our results suggest very rapid (less than 500 yr) ventilation of the deep South Atlantic during the [Bolling/Allerod period].”

    That’s fast change with only natural forcings operating.

    Much more turns up, searching on terms found in that abstract:
    http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=deglaciation+%22Mystery+interval%22

    I wonder what this did to plankton/biological cycling.

    Another thread possible eventually: results from the lab work on samples from Eric’s and Peter Ward’s recent trip on that icebreaker. I realize it may take a year to work up the collection for publication.

  337. David B. Benson:

    Ike Solum — There are completely straightforward ways to capture CO2 from the air. Use plants to capture the carbon, use anaerobic digestion to produce biogas. Use 100% existing technology to separate the biogas into methane (goes into the natural gas pipelines) and captured CO2. Pumping CO2 around is already done; there is such a pipeline from SW Colorado to Texas. Costs must be similar to pumping natural gas around; modest.

    The difficulty is scaling up. Significant CCS from biomass would require a lot of hectares. Think Sahara Desert size.

    With just the most minor web searching you can learn about the pilot CO2 sequestration project being conducted in Germany. For geochemical reasons leakage is most unlikely to be an issue.

  338. bobberger:

    I don’t get the point about condemning CCS either. Vattenfall’s pilot plant looks promising enough for them to believe that they can compete with today’s overall efficiency by optimizing the primary energy cycle and compete with non-CCS (but equally optimized) plants by 2015 through emission rights trading.
    Of course, the renewable crowd opposes it (at least as fiercely as they oppose nuclear) and sometimes one has to wonder, what they really want – less CO2 or just more windturbines and PV panels.

  339. James:

    Chris Dudley Says (12 June 2009 at 9:06 AM):

    “…thus 300 atmospheres rather than 30. The surface temperature would then have to be about 400 C to keep that mass aloft.”

    OK, this is one boundary condition – boil the whole ocean – and one that’s highly unlikely to impossible. What I’m asking, though, is whether there might be other quasi-stable states between current conditions and that, where added CO2 raises temperatures, increases amount of water vapor in the air, which adds its own greenhouse forcing, and initiates a “runaway” that stops at the new state. The stereotypical “Cretaceous steambath” might be one such, but might there be others that’d be appreciated only by thermophilic bacteria?

    “Currently, the amount of hydrogen that can be lost from the atmosphere is limited by the dryness of the stratosphere.”

    Wouldn’t it also be limited by the rate at which H2O photodissociates?

  340. Nigel Williams:

    Re CCS; the difficulty is the shear volume of stuff involved to make any material difference. For every litre of fuel we burn or every kg of coal you end up with roughly two kq of CO2. So the ‘make it go away’ system has to have TWICE the transport processing and handling capacity as the ‘dig it up system’.

    In other word to continue to use fossil fuels we have to create a parallel system with TWICE the capacity of the extraction system just to make it go away. This does not add anything to the available energy, and the additional energy demands of the ‘make it go away and stay away’ system will be huge, and if we are to sustain present-day net energy availability for end users, then we will need a hugh increase in energy production to address the CC and S, which is a double whammy as far as emissions are concerned.

    Also its been calculated that to meet the increased global economic recovery expectations of the G8 will require a massive increase in demand for energy and an increase in crude production of about 25%. If we add the ‘make it go away’ system to that it will be closer to what, +50%?. And we appear to have passed peak oil in about June 2008. +25% or more is a dream. + anything is a dream. So too is any effective level of CCS that is likely to see a halt in the rate of increase in CO2 levels.

    And the net result of even 100% success in this CCS effort is that we we only stop the rot. We still get the warming thats in the pipeline, and the ice will still eventually melt, etc etc.

    Then we have to figure out how to pull CO2 down from 387 to 350.

    The cynical side of my normally accommodating nature cant help seeing CCS and other such mitigation efforts as make-work schemes intended to divert the well-intentioned away from the key issues before us of figuring out what to do now that we have actually broken the planet while allowing the fossil fuel industry to cary on with business-as-usual-until-it-stops in the interests of their shareholders. Likewise scientists still hold out the slender olive branch of “We must..” and “This could…” and “We can..” actually achieve the required change in the climate to right this sorry wrong. I fear they may do this simply to ensure that their readers do not flatly label them as scare-mongers. I could be wrong. But Lovelock could be right.

    I also had a go at figuring our what area of mature pine trees standing at 5 metres centre to centre it would take to reduce atmospheric CO2 from 387 to 350ppm. With 1 cubic metre trees that works out at timber 4mm thick over the area – about 2cm of solid dry matter and about 1mm thick of Carbon, to be generous). Wiki the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Divide by 387. Multiply by (387-350). Vent the oxygen from the CO2 to convert that to cubic metres of carbon. Divide by 1mm to give area in square metres. The answer was silly. More than all the farmable land there is.

    We should be into a life-boat building mode now, the holes in our old ship are too numerous to patch.

  341. Jim Bouldin:

    Kevin (320):

    Interesting stuff–I look forward to reading your article. It is amazing what they did in the 19th century. I sometimes get the feeling those guys made at least one great discovery before breakfast.

  342. Hank Roberts:

    Hmmm. Interesting claim, I’m looking for numbers:

    “If the American people were to restore the soil fertility of the Great Plains that we have destroyed in the last 150 years, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide would be reduced to near pre-industrial levels.
    Seen globally, the same results would be achieved if we humans were to increase the organic matter levels of the world agricultural and grazing lands by 1.6%.
    (See Allan Yeomans, Priority One: Together We Can Beat Global Warming)”
    http://www.carbonfarmersofamerica.com/

    “… only soils can sequester significant amounts of atmospheric carbon in the next 30 years. Every other solution will take 30 years to start shifting meaningful volumes….
    “C Sequestration in soil and vegetation is a bridge to the future. It buys us time while alternatives to fossil fuel take effect.”
    http://www.carbonfarmersofamerica.com/Kiely1.htm

  343. Robert Gibson:

    To those who create Real Climate:
    – You are providing a very valuable service to those of us who need to understand both the advances in climate knowledge and the answers to the sceptics. PLEASE keep it up.
    – Perhaps you can share the burden and increase the value but having some professional communicators put together a ‘Real Climate for Laymen’ sub-site which provides:
    a) concise summaries from Real Climate with links to the full site.
    b) periodic ‘What’s new in Real Climate’ newsemails which we can sign up to.

    With thanks from Hong Kong

  344. Chris Dudley:

    James (#339),

    As I’m inclined to read Hansen’s lecture notes, buring all the hydrocabons yields a Venus-like state because, the Sun is more luminous now and the speed with which we pollute overwhelms the negative feedbacks which might be a help. A Venus like state is characterized by a very massive CO2 atmosphere with a surface temperature around 460 oC. The hydogen is mostly gone.

    Having the hydrogen gone is important because the chemistry of carbonate rock has a lot to do with water. Once the water is gone, little limestone will be formed. But, in an active planet like the Earth, the existing limestone will calcinate as it is subducted, releasing CO2. So, you end up with the massive CO2 atmosphere eventually.

    So long as I’m reading Hansen correctly, this scenario is something he considers very likely, should all the hydrocarbons be burned.

    The balance of the photodissociation rate and the collisional reaction rate is important. When the mean free path of a proton or hydrogen molecule to a collision with atomic oxygen is about the radius of the Earth, then a good fraction of that hydrogen will escape. But, in denser parts of the atmopshere, most dissociations will be “wasted” since the hydrogen can get mopped up by combining into new OH radicals or water etc….

    Yes, the photodissociation rate is important at a certain height.

  345. James:

    Chris Dudley Says (13 June 2009 at 12:27 AM):

    “A Venus like state is characterized by a very massive CO2 atmosphere with a surface temperature around 460 oC. The hydogen is mostly gone.”

    Could the “hydrogen gone” state happen in much less than a billion years or so, though? I’m thinking not so much of Venus here, than of Mars, which apparently lost the ocean it had for the first billion years or so through a similar process of hydrogen loss. From what I’ve read, that ocean was comparatively smaller than Earth’s, on a planet with lower gravity (but about half as much solar energy per unit area).

  346. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Chris,

    I’m sorry, I failed to notice that your 488 was not 4.88. Sorry about that.

    The usual figure I see for ocean coverage of the globe, after Sellers’s 1965 estimate, is 70.8%. Sometimes this is rounded off to 71% or even 70%. I don’t know where 74% came from.

  347. Barton Paul Levenson:

    bobberger writes:

    Of course, the renewable crowd opposes it (at least as fiercely as they oppose nuclear) and sometimes one has to wonder, what they really want – less CO2 or just more windturbines and PV panels.

    We don’t oppose carbon capture and sequestration. I certainly don’t. We do object to pinning our hopes on a technology that doesn’t exist yet, when solar and wind and biomass already work.

  348. Kevin McKinney:

    Jim Bouldin, thanks. The link is:

    http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Science-of-Global-Warming-in-the-age-of-Napoleon-III

    It takes you back to a time when climate science was a peaceful refuge from the turbulence of power politics. . .

  349. Ray Ladbury:

    Bob Berger, re CCS vs. renewables
    What we have here are two technological solutions with really big missing pieces. For renewables, the missing piece is energy storage. This is a big issue, but we have at least some idea on how to approach it–e.g. chemical (including Li-ion batteries), mechanical (flywheels, etc.), thermal (molten salt), improved grid, etc.
    CCS on the other hand is a wildcard. We don’t know how to capture CO2 from the burning coal economically. We don’t know how to store the CO2 reliably and economically. It is difficult to foresee a solution.

    Certainly, it is a mistake to pre-judge a solution. However, people are bound to have varying opinions on what is in fact still an open technical issue.

    Ultimately, however, there is one argument that favors renewables over coal + CCS. That is that fossil fuels and even nuclear fuels are one-time energy windfalls–finite resources that can at best meet our energy needs for a few centuries. A sustainable energy infrastructure MUST be based on renewable energy. Now we can change our energy infrastructure now to rely on different finite resources than we do at present–and then change it again in a hundred years, or we can try as much as possible to work toward sustainability NOW. Given the economic disruption associated with replacing infrastructure, the RIGHT F***ING NOW strategy has some appeal to it.

  350. bobberger:

    Ray, Barton,
    I think we all agree, that there won’t be a switch we can throw that simply takes us from one solution to another. CCS is not supposed to work forever (as you pointed out, coal is a finite solution anyway) but it could help solving the baseload problem at least for one or two centuries and it could do that probably faster and cheaper than renewables plus storage. I don’t say its the way to go (I’d prefer nuclear) but its certainly a way we should explore. Things like li-ion batteries, flywheels, compressed air, salt, vanadium cycles etc. already exist – true – but I have yet to see a cost calculation for an industrialized area like the US or Europe that doesn’t either rely on rediculously low future prices for renewables+storage (as if using 4 times the amount of the world’s known vanadium reserves – as seen in one proposal – would actually make vanadium cheaper rather than kick its price through the roof) or uses small, badly calculated examples and simply assumes scalability without actually doing the math. If you happen to know a serious study from that area, please let me know.
    On the other hand, we actually have economies running predominantly on nuclear and they seem to work well. France has a carbon emission of 6 metric tons per capita – the US have about 20. This is only half the picture, of course. In order to get rid of the emissions not coming from electricity generation, we will most likely need more electricity, which sets the target for renewables even higher. Of course, there are ideas like “Vehicle to Grid” etc. that could help in that respect – but I haven’t seen serious, large scale calculations for those as well. And they often have the problem, that they have to rely on too many things synchronously progressing forward (like renewables, electrification of traffic, grid technology in case of V2G) and depending on one another in order to work at all.

  351. Hank Roberts:

    Ray, IFR; look at Barry Brooks’s site. Going that direction hits serious political problems — it wipes out a lot of value for the hard rock miners, it freaks out the self-labeled environmentalists who don’t understand ecology, among others. And although IFR won’t blow up or melt if briefly neglected or misunderstood, it can still be screwed up in a nasty longterm way by a sufficiently ingenious or malicious idiot.

    But the numbers on renewables just don’t seem to work, for the next century or two.

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/06/11/an-inconvenient-solution/

  352. Hank Roberts:

    > numbers on renewables
    here: http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/06/03/sa-sets-a-33-renewables-by-2020-target/

  353. Gail Z:

    My question is this: If you accept Darwinian evolution, AND you accept climate change, wouldn’t you expect ecosystems to collapse, since they evolved in a different climate? Isn’t it inevitable that species that are selected to survive in a particular environment aren’t going to survive when that environment is altered faster than they can genetically adapt?

  354. Neil B ♪:

    Just like weathermen/women, most predictive climatologists focus on temperature and give short shrift to dew points. I’d like to know the trends for DPs. It seems that would be more “telling” than temperature, for if evaporation is increased that offsets temperatures a bit. But the DP would show a more significant increase. It also would underline the risk from H2O potentiating the effect of CO2. CO2 increase alone (in the short term) is not enough to make the big temp. increases, true?

    Also, would trying to mine methane hydrates be even more dangerous than burning more carbon later? I mean, disturbing the stuff.

    Finally, the idiot rubbish like Glenn Beck implying we add net CO2 by exhaling continues apace. I wonder if he really doesn’t understand the surface carbon cycle v. bringing more from underground, or pretends not to.

  355. Hank Roberts:

    GailZ — nope. Now don’t get hung up on “Darwinian” as opposed to the rest of evolutionary theory here. Darwin was a founder, but founders in science aren’t like founders of religions. They do early work that leads others to do better work later, even if they’re wrong. Darwin didn’t know much. But he knew more than anybody else, and got what he knew put together and published.

    We know a lot more now. Darwin didn’t know about genes or DNA.

    Nature doesn’t lose genes when conditions change and have to produce a whole new set for the new conditions.

    What happens when conditions change is mostly that the plants, animals, or other organisms that happen to be better adapted to the new conditions have slightly more grandchildren — their heredity is somewhat more frequently reproduced.

    But the rest of the genes are carried along in the background even if at low levels, and when conditions change again, whichever organisms happen to have the old inheritance — have slightly more grandchildren.

    These changes — in which genes are most common — are the main thing that changes when conditions change. Selection is mostly just reshuffling the deck and copying more of whichever cards come to the top, each generation — but the other cards get copied too, just not as many copies in that generation because they weren’t as useful for survival.

    Not to worry. Yes, we can wipe out species and are doing so at a great rate. That’s as much to do with overharvesting and cutting up environments into little bits and pieces, changing the background, as it is to just changing the environment beyond the ability to survive.

  356. Anonymous Coward:

    Chris (#344), James (#345),

    I’m repeating myself a bit but I think one should be careful not to confuse oceans loss due to an H2O runaway greenhouse and oceans loss due to hydrogen loss.
    In theory, the H2O greenhouse effect should be sufficient to evaporate the oceans given enough absorbed incoming radiation but I guess small seas might be left behind (there would large altitude differences for one thing). My understanding is that this could happen much faster than hydrogen loss. There’s still a significant amount of H2O on Venus apparently.

    With regards to weathering of CO2, water is not strictly necessary and I don’t know if the science is settled on the speed of these processes but, as long as you have no more precipitation (and no more oceans of course), CO2 should accumulate beyond the equilibrium level. I gather that H2O in the atmosphere is not an obstacle so hydrogen loss would not be necessary.
    And if it’s not clear that hydrogen loss would get rid of liquid water to begin with because, with an atmosphere primarily composed of H2O, hydrogen loss would diminish the greenhouse effect and lower temperatures. A self-sustaining super-feedback of doom (as opposed to the theoretical runaway greenhouse as I understand it) could allow H2O loss without a corresponding drop in temperatures though.

    By my reckogning, there is not quite enough water on Earth for 300 atmospheres but it doesn’t matter. The implied temperatures are large enough, especially if you don’t assume a 100% relative humidity, that many of the assumptions we make would probably break down. You could have radiative heat transfer at different wavelenghts, CO2 outgassing rather than weathering, compounds which are currently stable which would melt or boil and so on. So I don’t know that it’s very useful to speculate about such a climate.

    Of more immediate relevance is the mysterious process which would boil away the oceans. 10-20W from CO2 can’t do it (so far as I know anyway) and the CO2 concentration should fall at faster than geological speed because weathering should be faster at moderately higher temperatures (though this is purely speculation of course).
    I can’t imagine what would enable the kind of hot equilibrium James (#339) is asking about except perhaps at very high temperatures. Pierrehumbert’s runaway greenhouse charts do not support such a “stepped runaway” with intermediate equilibriums but Hansen seems to believe that they wouldn’t apply or that an unknown process would be kicked into gear. And who can say what an unknown process would do?

  357. Ellis:

    Thank you for your response to my question(244), Dr. Schmidt. As is often the case, a good answer leads to more questions and I hope you will bear with me for a few more queries.

    This doesn’t violate conservation or anything because the blocked radiation from the troposphere is coming up in the other wavelengths which don’t intersect with the CO2.

    I can understand the system as a whole conserves energy, however, I had always assumed that this law is holographic in nature. In other words, every part of the system must satisfy the law of conservation and not just the system as a whole. Is this a poor assumption on my part?

    An increase in CO2 in the stratosphere would absorb more of the upwelling radiation in that band if it could, but there is very little to absorb. Instead, it becomes a more effective emitter, increasing the upward radiation to space in the CO2 bands and cooling the stratosphere.

    The two questions I have for this response.
    1. Exactly what is CO2 emitting? I mean without the absorption there is nothing to emit, CO2 could be a perfect emitter, but without incoming energy there will be nothing to emit.
    2. Does not the sun produce IR in the bands that excite CO2? Would not this downwell IR in fact act to warm the stratosphere.

    Most of the surface radiation in those bands is absorbed by the CO2 in the troposphere, transfered to heat and then emitted over the other bands by water vapour, clouds etc.

    O.K here I will show my ignorance over the AGW theory. I thought that theory rested on the supposition that CO2 absorbs a photon of energy and then emits that energy in random directions that necessitates that half of those emission continue on their marry way to TOA, and the other half is emitted back to the earth which is what causes the warming. I guess my problem is when you say transferred to heat then emitted by water vapor, etc. at what point is that added energy to the system, and why would convection not serve to dissipate that heat?

    Thanks again for taking the time to read my post.

  358. Patrick 027:

    Re Gail Z:

    Yes.

    Re bobberger – The V cycles – is that vanadium in an electrochemical battery or is this some new nuclear fuel cycle or…?

  359. James:

    Ray Ladbury Says (13 June 2009 at 8:27 AM):

    “A sustainable energy infrastructure MUST be based on renewable energy.”

    The problem, though, is how to get there from here. Absent sufficiently-advanced-magic solutions such as orbiting solar collectors, renewables can’t supply power for the current world population to live near western levels of consumption (or possibly at any level), without the side-effects causing significant environmental destruction.

    The seemingly inescapable conclusion is that the current world population is not sustainable. Reaching a sustainable level by reducing the birth rate (rather than calling on one or more of the Four Horsemen, which I for one would prefer to avoid) will take a century or more. So how do we provide for the existing population without spewing climate-altering amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere?

  360. Gail Z:

    Neil B., you might find this of interest:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090610185530.htm

  361. Ray Ladbury:

    James and Bob Berger, As I said, we may need less than palatable solutions to make it to sustainability. However, I see no reason to believe that either stroage of muclear waste or CCS are any more tractable than renewables + storage. This is a subject for research and it is a mistake to pre-judge the outcome. If we were to give the nod to one over the other, though, renewables offer the best hope for a long-term solution we don’t have to junk in a hundred years or so and which doesn’t leave us with longterm messes to clean up.
    In the near term, though, the only solution is energy efficiency–even to the point of austerity. Every watt we don’t use is 3 watts saved.

  362. CTG:

    Oh dear, I think this thread is starting to feel a bit like Groundhog Day itself. We all know where this discussion is going to go, so rather than repeating all 1400 comments from “Tragedy”, can we all just agree the following:

    * CCS is a nice idea if it works, but the technology is not there yet, and may never be economical
    * Nuclear will be useful in replacing coal/oil, but 100% nuclear will never happen, and waste is a problem
    * Renewables look promising, but costs are not certain for the required scales, and storage is unanswered as yet

    Realistically, some combination of all of these, plus efficiency, plus distributed/co-generation is going to be required. None of the options is going to be cheap, but all of the options are cheaper than BAU, so we just have to get on with doing something, rather than arguing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

    Please lets not have another thousand comments of name calling and posturing (from all sides).

  363. Hank Roberts:

    > There’s still a significant amount of H2O on Venus apparently.

    Apparent to whom? Citation needed.

  364. Anonymous Coward:

    Hank (#363),

    I do not take kindly to this:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/02/antarctic-warming-is-robust/#comment-111836

    But for the benefit of the other readers, a mission called Venus Express has been sending us data about the second rock from the Sun. Therefore I recommend searching for /venus express water/ rather than /venus water/.

    I gather that the atmosphere on Venus is more vulnerable, not only due its proximity to the Sun and the lower gravity but also because of the Earth’s magnetic field. So I assume a lower rate of loss would be expected if Hansen’s scenario was to unfold.

  365. Hank Roberts:

    In the earlier thread, I asked what your source was.
    So you don’t take it kindly to be asked what your source is?

    How about I give you a source and you say whether you like it?

    http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2009JGRE..11400B39B

  366. AlCrawford:

    I am not sure if this fits, but I am in an argument with a skeptic about the declining Arctic ice extent. His argument is that we only know of the ice extent since 1979 and that is too short of time to be able to make predictions. Try as I can I have not been able to locate references to the Arctic conditions prior to 1979. Could I get help here.

    [Response: Try the HADISST data - they pull together ship reports/ice charts etc going back to the 19th C - though obviously the coverage is not complete. Reasonable estimates of the extent - particularly in the North Atlantic. - gavin]

  367. Jim Bouldin:

    It takes you back to a time when climate science was a peaceful refuge from the turbulence of power politics. . .

    You mean it’s not that now? :)

    I often find it interesting to read about the development of a scientific topic in the days before it became popularized and/or contentious. A lot of the deniers appear to believe climate change science started with Jim Hansen, if not Al Gore. I’m sure they’ll figure out some way to discount Tyndall and Pouillet, once they learn who they were.

  368. Patrick 027:

    Gail Z – I also agree with Hank Roberts; but my yes was just that yes, if changes are too fast, you get more extinctions (adaptation has two parts – changes in genetics, and changes in behavior or phenotype in response to environmental changes for the given mix of genotypes. Either way, when some species start to change in response to change in different ways, this can actually add stress to ecological relationships – for example, if pollinators and their plants start missing each other’s seasonal timing).

    (PS some potentially deleterious genetic variations are maintained in a population because either
    1. they are recessive and thus, when selected against, become rarer, and thus less likely to be found in homozygotes, and thus harder for selective pressures to act on.
    2. they may only be deleterious in homozygotes; they might be advantageous in heterozygotes.
    Many other interesting aspects of how selective pressures can work on population genetics. Sexual selection, kin selection, frequency-dependent selection, epistasis,…)

  369. dhogaza:

    It takes you back to a time when climate science was a peaceful refuge from the turbulence of power politics. . .

    It’s an interesting evolution … especially considering that Darwin sat on his notions regarding evolution for years, until Wallace pushed him, do in large part to his “anticipation” of the social reaction.

    (“anticipation” as in … I’m putting it mildly)

    Climate scientists can at least appreciate than even when their science is accepted by all, evolution will still be denied by 40% of the population of the US.

  370. Patrick 027:

    Re 357 Ellis -

    Yes, energy is conserved at all points (define any given box, one can have an energy budget (inflow – outflow = storage), momentum budget, entropy budget (inflow + production – outflow = storage), etc.

    The greenhouse effect would work in some way if it were based on fluorescence (photon absorption followed by photon emission without complete thermalization) or scattering or reflection. In most planetary atmospheres I wouldn’t expect fluorescence to be a big factor – For the Earth’s atmosphere, in the great majority of the mass of the atmosphere, molecular collisions are too frequent relative to photon absorptions and emissions; the energy of photons that are absorbed and converted to internal energy (‘heat’) of the atom or molecule(s) that absorb it is usually spread to other atoms/molecules (or other degrees of freedom in the same molecule) by molecular collisions before that energy would have been emitted. This process is called thermalization – it spreads the energy out over the substance so that all the different gaseous substances and other materials tend to remain near the same temperature; they share their energy.

    So when a CO2 molecular emits a photon at some wavelength, that removes energy from the molecule, which likely came from molecular collisions with other molecules, which at some point in the chain could have come from the absorption of other photons, over various wavelengths, by various substances, and possibly in a different location (because of convection).

    Convection is important but it does not ‘erase’ the greenhouse effect; ultimately, essentially all heat must leave the Earth-atmosphere system as radiation; convection only redistributes heat, and mainly below the tropopause. Convection can not make the atmosphere isothermal because air expands and cools as it rises (less so if water vapor is condensing, but this is all quite well understood). So the temperature tends to decrease with height in the troposphere. A majority of the radiation to space comes from the troposphere. Increasing the opacity of the atmosphere reduces the average distance over which radiation can propagate between emission and absorption – more of what you would see (at the wavelength being considered) would come from shorter distances. Substances emit photons according to their emissivity (a contributor to opacity, and for Earthly conditions, the dominant one for wavelengths where surface and atmospheric emission dominates over solar radiation) and their temperature – more photons per unit area per unit time per unit solid angle are emitted at higher temperatures. Temperature variation from the surface, throught the atmosphere, and to space (essentially zero Kelvins for climatological purposes) occur over optical distance; Except when temperature variations are over short distances relative to optical thickness, increasing the opacity decreases the net flux of radiant energy from thermal emission because it decreases the variation in temperature that is ‘visible’ from any one location, so that the radiant fluxes from opposite directions become more similar, reducing the net flux.

  371. Patrick 027:

    “more photons per unit area per unit time per unit solid angle”
    … and per unit of the spectrum …
    ” are emitted at higher temperatures”

    In the absence of scattering or reflection and assuming local thermodynamic equilibrium (effective thermalization of the energy involved), emissivity and absorptivity along any path length approach 1 as the optical thickness increases to infinity. This is because a fraction of the photons emitted along the path that make it to some point are absorbed over the next portion of the path, in proportion to the amount of photons that are added back by emission.

    This is all true at one wavelength. For the greatest accuracy, the entirety of radiative energy transfer has to be evaluated over different wavelengths and directions.

  372. Patrick 027:

    Ellis – see also many comments here:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/03/olympian-efforts-to-control-pollution#comment-115348
    (comments before and after that, going back to http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/03/olympian-efforts-to-control-pollution#comment-115180 )

    and

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php?p=12&t=512&&a=18#2944
    (and also on other pages, with great detail on pp 20 – 21; for your own sake, just ignore Gord).

  373. CM:

    Gail Z. (#353), yes, nature’s ability to cope with the pace of man-made climate change is a huge worry. The IPCC expects 20-30% of species assessed so far to be at higher risk of extinction with a warming of more than 2-3% over preindustrial levels.

    But no, evolution is hardly the issue. Someone who rejected the theory of evolution, ruled out genetic adaptation, and believed e. g. that all species were created 6,000 years ago, would just have to worry all the more about climate change impacts. Some species have indeed specialized for a very narrow range of conditions. Others have evolved to be more versatile and able to cope more or less well with a range of climate conditions with the genes we are dealt, as one might expect from evolution on a varied and varying planet. After all, each of us is directly descended from a line of ancestors who proved resilient to every climate change on the planet since the beginning of life. Of course, that was true for the mammoths, too; the next change could always turn out to be the last for a species, and the real problem is that we have pushed so many to the brink of extinction already.

    Also keep in mind that evolution or extinction are not the only options. Fast-dispersing species can also migrate polewards or up mountainsides with the moving temperature zones. But human destruction and fragmentation of the natural environment makes this migration a much more tricky proposition than in the past.

  374. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Ellis,

    The sun doesn’t emit much infrared in the thermal bands where CO2 does most of its absorption. In the stratosphere, the energy balance is between absorption of ultraviolet by ozone and emission of infrared by carbon dioxide. The CO2 gets its heat from collision with the other molecules around it. The cycle is UV into ozone, ozone heating and splitting and hitting other molecules, which then speed up, heating up by the laws of statistical mechanics, those molecules hit CO2 molecules, which then radiate away the energy as infrared.

    Thus the signature of global warming due to increasing CO2 is a warming troposphere coupled with a cooling stratosphere. Some stratospheric cooling is due to ozone depletion, but not enough to account for all of it.

  375. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    renewables can’t supply power for the current world population to live near western levels of consumption (or possibly at any level), without the side-effects causing significant environmental destruction.

    Garbage.

    Think that’s argument by assertion? So is your more elaborate statement above. There’s no reason to think a world powered by renewables would cause more environmental damage than one powered by fossil fuel and nukes; very likely it would be very much the reverse.

    [Response: To all, let's not simply repeat all the points made in the last long thread... - gavin]

  376. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Hank Roberts writes:

    > There’s still a significant amount of H2O on Venus apparently.

    Apparent to whom? Citation needed.

    Many sources give mean Cytherean atmospheric water vapor as 30 ppmv. The Venus atmosphere has a mass of about 4.8 x 10^20 kg. Given the respective molecular weights of water vapor and Venus air of 18 and 44, we can conclude that there are about 6 x 10^15 kg of water vapor in the Cytherean atmosphere. Compare this to 1.27 x 10^16 kg in Earth’s atmosphere on average, and you can see that Venus has almost half the water vapor in its atmosphere that Earth has. The big difference in Venus’s water vapor inventory is the lack of it in the lithosphere and Venus’s nonexistent oceans.

  377. Hank Roberts:

    Barton — exactly; what’s ‘significant’? That we have numbers.

    http://www.esa.int/esaMI/Venus_Express/SEM8MYSTGOF_0.html

    “If you could condense all of the water vapour in Venus’s atmosphere, it would create a thin covering of water just 3-cm thick. For comparison, if Earth were a smooth ball, all of the water in the oceans and atmosphere would create a covering 3-km deep.”

    http://www.esa.int/esaMI/Venus_Express/SEMGK373R8F_0.html

    Details aplenty remain to be worked on:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.icarus.2009.01.013

  378. bobberger:

    Patrick #358
    Yes, I was talking about redox flow batteries.

    And its true (and frustrating) that the discussion about how to solve the AGW problem suffers from much the same Groundhog Day syndome as the discussion about climate itself. As much as I wish people like Roy Spencer suddenly turn out to be right and almost everybody else being dead wrong, I wish that one day suddenly somebody comes up with a working alternative for nuclear, making all the discussions obsolete – but all we have is the same discussions over and over again. Maybe that in itself would be an interesting thing for realclimate to discuss: How do we break free of the loop? What would be the best strategy to quickly get beyond symbols like Kyoto and windturbines?

  379. SecularAnimist:

    CTG (#362) wrote:

    … can we all just agree the following:

    * CCS is a nice idea if it works, but the technology is not there yet, and may never be economical

    I agree that the technology is not there yet and may never be economical. I don’t necessarily agree that it “is a nice idea if it works” because there are other significant harms caused by burning fossil fuels besides their contribution to AGW and thus other good reasons to phase them out. Not to mention that supplies of fossil fuels are dwindling, so we will have to phase them out at some point anyway.

    I think the focus of “carbon capture & sequestration” research should be on using agricultural and forestry practices to draw down the already dangerous anthropogenic excess of CO2 by capturing carbon in the soil & biosphere, rather than on capturing carbon from ongoing fossil fuel emissions.

    * Nuclear will be useful in replacing coal/oil, but 100% nuclear will never happen, and waste is a problem

    I don’t agree that nuclear will be useful. I think nuclear is an extraordinarily costly and ineffective technology for reducing CO2 emissions from electricity generation. It is simply not possible to build enough nuclear power plants fast enough for nuclear power to make a “useful” contribution to reducing CO2 emissions in the time frame within which that needs to happen. Renewables can do the job faster, cheaper and better. Resources spent on expanding nuclear power would be far more effectively spend on rapid deployment of renewables and efficiency technology. Because of the “opportunity costs” of taking resources away from renewables to put them into nuclear, doing so hinders rather than helps the effort to reduce CO2 emissions.

    As a practical matter, I doubt that very many nuclear power plants are actually going to be built in coming decades. At the rate that renewables, efficiency, energy storage and smart-grid technologies are advancing and growing (for wind and solar, it’s record-breaking double digit growth rates every year), there is just going to be less need for large, centralized power plants in the energy economy of the future. Nuclear power plants, as well as large centralized coal-fired power plants, are just not a good investment. And if you look at where private investment capital is going, it reflects that.

    And of course nuclear waste is a serious problem. So is nuclear proliferation. So is the toxic waste from mining uranium. So is the vulnerability of nuclear power plants, and the whole nuclear fuel infrastructure, to accidents and terrorism.

    Does it really make sense to build up a massive energy infrastructure — not only in the USA and other “enlightened” nations, but if it’s going to help with global warming, all over the world — that is fundamentally reliant on mining, refining, transporting, burning and burying vast amounts of some of the most toxic substances known, which incidentally can be used to make weapons of mass destruction?

    * Renewables look promising, but costs are not certain for the required scales, and storage is unanswered as yet

    Renewables are more than “promising”. Renewables are booming. Wind power accounted for 42 percent of all new electric generation capacity installed in the USA in 2008, and will soon account for a majority of all new capacity. Manufacturing of wind turbines and components is growing strongly in the USA and China. Concentrating solar thermal power — with integrated thermal storage, providing 24×7 baseload power — is poised for a major boom in the USA and elsewhere. Inexpensive, efficient mass-produced photovoltaics for municipal utility-scale applications, as well as traditional distributed rooftop applications, are on the market now and prices for PV are expected to drop dramatically in the next year or two as manufacturing expands.

    Worldwide, in 2008 investments in “green” renewable energy exceeded investment in conventional energy for the first time. Venture capitalists as well as major utilities and corporations like Intel, Cisco, Google and GE are pouring many billions of dollars into wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, efficiency, storage and smart grid technology. The top recipient of venture capital investment in the USA in 2008 was Nanosolar, a manufacturer of inexpensive, high-efficiency, mass-produced thin-film solar panels.

    These investments reflect market confidence that these technologies will be successful — and profitable — on a large scale.

    As to storage, it is not really the challenging problem that some people make it out to be. First of all, studies have showed that a diversified regional portfolio of renewable energy sources — wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, hydro — managed through a smart grid can provide 24×7 power that is at least as reliable as coal or nuclear, even without storage. Second, numerous storage technologies are already available, for utility-scale applications as well as for distributed home & business applications, and even mobile applications: e.g. batteries, fuel cells, compressed air, flywheels, pumped hydro, thermal storage. And these technologies are advancing rapidly.

    I find that very often people who are skeptical that renewables can “get the job done” are just not following the field closely, and are not aware of how far along renewables already are and how rapidly they are progressing, both in technological development and in market growth.

    So, anyway — I’m not going to drag this on for another 1400 comments as in the “Tragedy” thread, but there’s my two cents as to the question of what we can all agree on. Or not.

  380. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (14 June 2009 at 4:10 AM):

    “Think that’s argument by assertion? So is your more elaborate statement above.”

    Assertation? No, merely an attempt (in advance) to comply with Gavin’s request to avoid repetition. Figures for land use can be found in for example, the “Solar Grand Plan” article you folks like to cite http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=a-solar-grand-plan Other numbers can easily be found for e.g. the North African scheme, or calculated.

    The only assertation here is your opinion that those numbers & effects would not be significant. I admit that I don’t understand how it’s possible to reach that opinion through any process involving reason. If you can explain, I’d be interested. Otherwise, just re-read that other thread :-)

  381. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “Reaching a sustainable level by reducing the birth rate (rather than calling on one or more of the Four Horsemen, which I for one would prefer to avoid) …”

    Oh, you would prefer to avoid that now, would you?

    I guess that’s an improvement over your previous position which you stated in the “Tragedy” thread, that a nuclear war that destroyed every city in the USA would be preferable to installing concentrating solar thermal power plants on one percent of the USA’s deserts to provide one hundred percent of the USA’s electricity.

  382. Patrick 027:

    “converted to internal energy (’heat’) of the atom or molecule(s) that absorb it is usually spread to other atoms/molecules (or other degrees of freedom in the same molecule) by molecular collisions”

    As long as I went into that, I should point out that when the energy is spread by molecular collisions, it also spreads out of internal energy – it is a part of enthalpy. Change in Enthalpy = change in temperature * heat capacity at constant pressure; change in internal energy = change in temperature * heat capacity at constant volume; the difference is that at constant pressure, generally materials will expand with an increase in temperature, and the enthalpy includes the internal energy plus the work done by expansion at nonzero pressure.

  383. Alastair McDonald:

    James writes:

    renewables can’t supply power for the current world population to live near western levels of consumption (or possibly at any level), without the side-effects causing significant environmental destruction.

    Barton replies:

    Garbage.

    It’s not garbage. Even non-renewables can’t supply power for the current world population to live at western levels of consumption!

    For that to happen we would need more than three planets. Our generation of westerners has used up half of the global oil. There will soon be none left for our kids to share, far less the the remaining developing world. The only way the developing world will get to share in the benefits of the oil boom is to use as much as they can now before it is all gone!

    I doubt that was said in the previous thread. People don’t want to face the truth.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  384. Lawrence Brown:

    Re #300. “Could someone tell me what Groundhog Day is all about? Seems to be something American (?) and being a simple Irish peasant, I could do with some help.”

    “Groundhog Day” is the title of a movie in which the same day is repeated over and over.It’s come to be used to symbolize or signify repetition, or non-changing conditions.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groundhog_Day_(film)

    But don’t be too discouraged. Not everything is staying the same.There’s even talk that the next batmobile may be a hybrid. :)

  385. Gail Z:

    thanks for all the replies!

    since I last checked, I found this wealth of information as copied here:

    http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2009/06/climate-change-is-always-followed-by.html

    Any more thoughts are deeply appreciated!

  386. sidd:

    “Even non-renewables can’t supply power for the current world population to live at western levels of consumption!”

    1)”western” levels ? are we speaking of the USA or Europe or ?

    2)i do not believe that the governments of China and India are unaware of the elementary calculation indicating that USA levels of consumption are unsustainable.

    3)Those governments face a rather more immediate problem. A large proportion of their constituents have rather less potable water than I flush down my toilet in a single use and no access to electricity at all. To suggest that those administrators are unaware of climate effects further reducing freshwater supply, or the potential for decentralized solar and wind power, would be naive. Both China and India have now committed to renewables by 2020 on a scale dwarfing the West.

    4)Yes these are small steps. A journey of a thousand miles, etc…

  387. Timothy Chase:

    The other problem with carbon emissions…

    Front page, albeit local news:

    Now, as the oyster industry heads into the fifth summer of its most unnerving crisis in decades, scientists are pondering a disturbing theory. They suspect water that rises from deep in the Pacific Ocean — icy seawater that surges into Willapa Bay and gets pumped into seaside hatcheries — may be corrosive enough to kill baby oysters.

    Oysters in deep trouble: Is Pacific Ocean’s chemistry killing sea life?
    Sunday, June 14, 2009 – Page updated at 06:08 p.m.
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2009336458_oysters14m.html

    Same paper:

    Video: Washington’s Troubled Shellfish…
    Monday, December 8, 2008 – Page updated at 12:41 PM
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/flatpages/video/seattletimesvideo.html?bcpid=1543292770

    The Seattle Times is actually a bit conservative — on account of everyone in Washington to the north, south, east or west of Seattle. Just the same, they don’t seem to subscribe to the theory that the ocean is just too big for humans to affect its chemistry.

    … but the editorial pages may be a different story:

    Here is a list of beliefs in the biomedical and climate sciences that must not be questioned if you’re applying for a government grant:

    * That global warming is caused by humans;

    * That AIDS is caused by a virus;

    * That radiation, cigarette smoke and other toxins are dangerous in proportion to their strength, no matter how small the dose;…

    Bruce Ramsey / Times editorial columnist
    Government’s funding framework breeds scientific conformity
    Originally published Wednesday, March 19, 2008 at 12:00 AM
    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2004290766_rams19.html

  388. Phil Scadden:

    Ike, is someone arguing that CCS ISNT going to increase the energy from coal significantly? We know that it will. The question is by how much? Could we bury all the coal-produced CO2 with CCS. Nope and I dont think anyone informed is claiming otherwise. Would capturing only 40% of coal CO2 help? You bet it would. Could it be a partial solution for some situations? Well maybe. Depends on economics, safety and getting the required technologies. I dont think you can write it off till the work has been done. Are you going to make steel without coal? This is another place for CO2 capture.

  389. Patrick 027:

    RE CCS – if we could plan for some relatively set amoung of fossil C emissions to be used before we are done with it, it would actually make the most sense to use up natural gas first, then oil, and then coal (except for security, etc.), so it might make some sense to pursue CCS with oil and gas as well as coal, and then adapt it to biofuels for net negative emissions at some point. And then there are biochar and carbonate mineral sequestration.

  390. Patrick 027:

    James – compare land use to land use for coal and nuclear (don’t forget mining). Compare it to urban land.

    Compare it to agricultural land. Not that we can replace much if any of that now, but on some semiarid rangelands/pastures, runoff from solar power plants could – if managed well – boost productivity of neighboring land, so maybe there wouldn’t be much loss in agricultural value. Or maybe they could grow shade crops among the solar panels/collectors.

    And there is roof space out there.

  391. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (14 June 2009 at 12:52 PM):

    “I guess that’s an improvement over your previous position which you stated in the “Tragedy” thread, that a nuclear war that destroyed every city in the USA would be preferable to installing concentrating solar thermal power plants on one percent of the USA’s deserts to provide one hundred percent of the USA’s electricity.”

    (Sigh) I really wish you would work on your reading comprehension, followed by some exercise in elementary logic. You badly need it, because when I state that given two bad choices, I’d prefer one over the other, you come to the conclusion that choice is something I actually want. Just for the record, I want neither of them, nor any of the other alternatives that fall under the aegis of those horsemen. Reality, alas, has the unfortunate habit of ignoring what I’d prefer.

    You also might go back to that Scientific American article you love to cite, and exercise your skills further, because your numbers are way off. The authors’ plan requires 30,000 square miles to generate 69% of electricity, 35% of total energy, but assumes significant improvements in efficiency to get those numbers.

    Those square miles have to be subtracted, not from the total area of the US, but from what’s left after large areas have been converted to ever-expanding cities & suburbs, paved for highways, turned into monocultured factory farms… And so you cover an additional chunk with mirrors & PV panels, and get “green” power. But the population keeps expanding, all those people demand more power to run their toys, you have to cover over another chunk to meet their demands, and you keep on until you’ve got nothing left but solar panels filling every space that’s not a factory farm.

    So what do you have to offer, for the long term, that’s worse?

  392. James:

    sidd Says (14 June 2009 at 8:53 PM):

    “Both China and India have now committed to renewables by 2020 on a scale dwarfing the West.”

    Since when? Last I looked, they’re both committed to building large amounts of coal & nuclear, with a small fraction of “renewables”. (India does have a tentative plan for more solar http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6122 but it’s hardly committed yet.) I don’t think anyone has ever claimed that renewables can’t provide useful amounts of power, in the right circumstances. Certainly I haven’t, if for no other reason than that most of the electrons I’m using right now are courtesy of the geothermal plant a few miles down the road. But providing useful power is a far cry from providing all the power.

  393. bobberger:

    SecularAnimist #379
    “I find that very often people who are skeptical that renewables can “get the job done” are just not following the field closely, and are not aware of how far along renewables already are and how rapidly they are progressing, both in technological development and in market growth.

    So, anyway — I’m not going to drag this on for another 1400 comments…”

    You could make that considerably shorter by taking out a calculator and checking the numbers. Pick whatever mix of renewables suits you, be optimistic and make it double as effective as it is today, pick your favourite storage technology, pick a really cheap grid structure and assume its going to work – and then add it all up to 2 GW 24×7 and compare the result with a nuclear plant. If you think this is unfair, do it on a national or continental scale.

  394. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Alastair writes:

    It’s not garbage. Even non-renewables can’t supply power for the current world population to live at western levels of consumption!

    Human power consumption right now: 1.3 x 10^13 watts.

    Sunlight falling on Earth’s surface, on average, at any given time: 1.2 x 10^17 watts.

    Still think it’s impossible? Now add geothermal.

  395. Alastair McDonald:

    US power consumption in 2005 3.5 TW (10^12)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petawatt

    US population in 2009 307,000,000
    http://www.census.gov/
    World population 2009 6,787,000,000
    http://www.census.gov/

    Therefore for everyone to reach US 2005 standards we would need consume 22 * 3.5 TW of power = 7.7 x 10^13watts viz. 6 times the energy being consumed at present.

    We can’t use all that solar energy because it is needed to radiate back to space to keep us cool. Moreover the solar energy is need to grow our crops for food.

    It is probably impossible to replace all non-renewable energy supplies with renewable ones. There is no way we can supply six times that energy. We are already using the maximum we can get out of the Earth.

    Either America will get richer and China poorer, or China richer and America poorer. You can see which already. So will they go to war?

    Cheers, Alastair.

  396. Mark:

    “We can’t use all that solar energy because it is needed to radiate back to space to keep us cool. Moreover the solar energy is need to grow our crops for food.”

    Uh the work will produce its own radiation and since it is of even lower “quality” than the radiation from a warm earth, likely to be outside the 15um wavelength.

    And we’re unlikely to put solar panels over the corn fields, are we.

    So we still only need ~0.6% of the energy the sun gives us to get usage up to the US average.

    But is that needed?

    A USian over here for a year working in the UK found that they didn’t use a clothes dryer much here, whereas in the US it is done that way without a thought.

    And was quite surprised (though after realising it happened, knew it happened, just didn’t think about it) how much lower the electricity bill was.

    So is using the same power as the average USian a good or bad thing? It’s certainly not necessary.

  397. Hank Roberts:

    Alastair, do you suppose there’s any chance both will become smarter, more efficient, and more careful of the world instead?

    I wish I knew.

  398. Rod B:

    Barton, that comparison (394) is so elusive as to be delusionary, interesting though it is. Just to play: If you needed say 4×1013 watts to equalize the world’s requirement to the West’s as James proposed and used PV to use the insolation directly (using up about 0.04% of the insolation reaching the surface), I think it would take about 0.2% of the Earth’s surface (including oceans, mountains, polar caps, corn fields,pastures, cities, etc.). Looks like a small absolute number but seems like a tremendous amount of area – one square meter for every 20 x 25 meter patch (gross).

  399. Ike Solem:

    No, China really is outpacing the U.S. on renewable energy investment – but so is the rest of the world. That’s not really the image that any Washington politicians with close ties to various fossil fuel lobbyists (i.e. most of them) want to see presented, however. Instead, they’d like us to believe that we are “world leaders” in renewable energy, which is simply not the case.

    For example, the U.S. has so far refused to join the International Renewable Energy Agency and is pursuing a resolutely fossil fuel-based foreign policy agenda in Africa, South America, the Arctic, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. This flies in the face of global efforts to shift to renewable energy-based economies – and what’s even more remarkable is that the U.S. press is refusing to cover the story.

    If you think climate science reporting has been bad, you should look at energy science & industry reporting – it is far worse, almost as bad as reporting on pharmaceutical & health science-related issues. That’s really the reason that the U.S. public is so un-informed on global energy issues – you really see nothing on the regular media. You have to look at sites like:

    http://www.solardaily.com/
    http://cleantechnica.com/
    http://www.greencarcongress.com/

    For a nice picture of how China’s renewable energy growth will soon lead to global market domination, see:
    http://www.solarbuzz.com/

    Yes, that is an increase from 5% to 40% in four years. Hmmm…. project that trend, would you?

    For global solar demand (dominated by Germany and Spain), see:
    http://www.solarbuzz.com/Marketbuzz2009-intro.htm

    [edit]

    It sure isn’t a science-based political decision, whatever it is.

  400. bobberger:

    Barton #394
    > “Human power consumption right now: 1.3 x 10^13 watts.

    Sunlight falling on Earth’s surface, on average, at any given time: 1.2 x 10^17 watts.

    Still think it’s impossible? Now add geothermal.”

    Please put some real numbers behind that. How many PV cells, how many additional grid hubs and lines, how much storage, what’s it going to cost etc.

    Mark #396
    > “So is using the same power as the average USian a good or bad thing? It’s certainly not necessary.”

    A dangerous path to go. Once we start talking about what’s really necessary and what isn’t, we quickly end up in the corner reserved for extremists nobody in their right mind would even listen to. (Having said that, probably everybody will agree to what you’ve said – however they’ll all have totally different ideas about what is necessary for themselves and especially what may or may not be necessary for others.)

    captcha to this was “beloved dentist”. Now there is an oxymoron.

  401. Anne van der Bom:

    Alastair,
    15 June 2009 at 8:29 AM

    The figure you quote is total primary energy consumption, mostly in the form thermal energy released upon combustion of a fossil fuel. Renewables are always measured in electric energy. That can be used far more efficiently than thermal energy. You can not compare those two 1:1.

    Try to work out how much electricity the globe needs for a US life style. Can we use electricity to warm our homes instead of NG or oil? If so, how much, using which technology? Can we use electricity to drive a car? If so, how much and using which technology?

    These kind of simple calculations tend to overestimate the needed amount of renewable electricity by a factor of 4 or so.

  402. bobberger:

    Anne van der Bom #401
    “The figure you quote is total primary energy consumption, mostly in the form thermal energy released upon combustion of a fossil fuel. Renewables are always measured in electric energy.”

    Not really. It would be totally uneffective to, say, create electricity with PV and convert it through an electric heater to create thermal energy to heat your house and your water. You’d use thermal solar or geothermal heat for that. Just an example for renewable not measured in electric energy.

    “These kind of simple calculations tend to overestimate the needed amount of renewable electricity by a factor of 4 or so.”

    I’d really love to see a calculation for that – a rough one would suffice – but it should include not only heating for homes and hot water but also other direct thermal applications like steel and cement production and high energy density applications like airtraffic.

  403. Mark:

    re 400:

    “Mark #396
    > “So is using the same power as the average USian a good or bad thing? It’s certainly not necessary.””

    However, I throw your words back at you:

    “Please put some real numbers behind that.”

    Same post, even.

    Tch.

  404. Mark:

    re 400:

    “Mark #396
    > “So is using the same power as the average USian a good or bad thing? It’s certainly not necessary.”
    A dangerous path to go.”

    should have been the start of the last one. Sorry, but if you can edit that for me…

    Ta.

  405. Mark:

    PS boober, are you saying that EVERYONE ***MUST*** use a tumble dryer or we’re all lost?

  406. Richard C:

    Alastair why would you want everybody to be as profligate as Americans? I see from your website that you, like me, live in the UK. From
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_energy_consumption_per_capita
    I see that per capita energy consumption in the US is double that in the UK. What is missing from our lives that every single person in the UK should double their energy consumption?
    Or how about GDP per CO2 emission
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_ratio_of_GDP_to_carbon_dioxide_emissions
    We get almost double the GDP from our emissions, why would we want to halve that?

  407. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (15 June 2009 at 3:27 AM):

    “Human power consumption right now: 1.3 x 10^13 watts.

    Sunlight falling on Earth’s surface, on average, at any given time: 1.2 x 10^17 watts.

    Still think it’s impossible?”

    Impossible? No. Desireable? That’s a very different question. What your bare numbers leave out is the fact that most of that sunlight is already being used to run the complex web of life that is the ecosystem. Cover an area with mirrors or PV panels, and you have that much less working ecosystem.

    Even leaving out issues such as quality of life, how much ecosystem can we do away with before there’s no longer supports human life? I admit I don’t know the answer, but I’m damned sure I don’t want to find out by experiment.

  408. Patrick 027:

    Anne van der Bom (cool name!) – “The figure you quote is total primary energy consumption, mostly in the form thermal energy released upon combustion of a fossil fuel. Renewables are always measured in electric energy. That can be used far more efficiently than thermal energy. You can not compare those two 1:1.”

    Very good point. One must be careful though – sometimes electrical energy is given in terms of fuel equivalent, even if it was not from fuel (but that makes sense if one wants to know how much fuel usage is displaced by hydroelectric or whatever…).

    Comparing tables 8.2a and 8.4a from the website below, using a sample year of 2005 (PS I did this quickly but it seems correct):

    net electrical generation efficiency:

    Fossil Fuels:

    coal—–: 32.9 %
    petroleum: 32.3 %
    natur.gas: 38.8 %
    other gas: 34.2 %
    FossilFuel
    weighted
    average–: 34.2 %

    Nuclear–: 32.7 %

    Renewables:

    Conventional
    Hydroelec: 34.1 %
    Solar—-: 34.1 %
    Wind—–: 34.1 %

    Geotherma: 16.2 %
    biomass:
    wood—–: 27.4 %
    waste—-: 21.0 %

    Renewables
    weighted
    average–: 31.0 %

    With verification from the footnotes and Table A6 (appendix), the values for hydroelectric, wind, and solar, of the energy consumption in Table 8.4a are in terms of fuel equivalent heat content for a standard fossil fuel plant conversion efficiency.

    Helpful info (some prices are also included – solar heat collectors look good):
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/

    Flow diagrams 2007.
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/pdf/pages/sec1_3.pdf
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/pdf/pages/sec8_3.pdf
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/pdf/pages/sec7_3.pdf
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/pdf/pages/sec6_3.pdf
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/pdf/pages/sec5_3.pdf

    Entire report 2007:
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/pdf/aer.pdf

    —-

    1 kWh = 3.6 MJ
    1 Btu ~= 1055.056 J
    1000 trillion Btu ~= 293.0711 billion kWh

    1 W = 8.76 kWh/year (not a leap year)
    1 W = 8.766 kWh/year (averaged with 1 leap year every 4 years)

    Also:

    1 kWh/day = 3.6 MJ/day ~= 41.66667 W

    3 kWh/day = 10.8 MJ/day = 125 W

    4 kWh/day = 14.4 MJ/day = 1000/6 W ~= 166.7 W
    4.5 kWh/day = 16.2 MJ/day = 187.5 W
    5 kWh/day = 18 MJ/day ~= 208.33 W
    6 kWh/day = 21.6 MJ/day = 1000/4 W = 250 W

    8 kWh/day = 28.8 MJ/day = 1000/3 W ~= 333.3 W

    ——–

    From some solar resource maps:

    Annual average for flat plate (direct+diffuse=global insolation) at latitude tilt:

    Except for the *parts* of Oregon and Washington, all of the contiguous 48 states recieve an average annual insolation on latitude-tilted flat plates greater than 1000/6 ~= 166.7 W/m2. Starting in the East, the line of 187.5 W/m2 goes from roughly New Jersey down to touch the North Carolina-Tennessee border, and then runs up to North Dakota. Parts of the Southeast and most of the West (up to part of Oregon, parts of southern Montana and part of South Dakota) recieve more than 208.3 W/m2. Much of the Southwest, including southern Nevada and most of Arizona and New Mexico, get over 1000/4 = 250 W/m2.

    Geometric concentrator (only direct solar radiation, no diffuse radiation), two-axis tracking, annual average insolation:

    Most of Maine, most of Wisconsin and northern Michigan, and most of Kentucky and Tennessee get at least 145.8 W/m2. Within that triangle, it is at least 125 W/m2. Most of Arizona and parts of Nevada, California, and New Mexico get at or over 291.7 W/m2

  409. Rod B:

    Ike, one can look at statistics various ways (and statistics themselves can vary). If you’re talking of electricity production and you don’t include hydro, the US will significantly outpace China in renewable electric generation until almost 2025.

    China might be currently producing 40% of PV cells as your reference says, but they are not being installed in China. PV is virtually insignificant in China passing us by 2025 as opposed to wind generation projections. China is expected to beat our pants off in coal generated power, however, generating twice as much (and growing 7x faster) as the US from coal by 2020 when they finally generate more total electricity than US.

  410. James:

    Ike Solem Says (15 June 2009 at 10:50 AM):

    “China really is outpacing the U.S. on renewable energy investment…”

    China is also outpacing the US on coal energy investment and nuclear energy investment, is it not? Something that’s not surprising, when you consider that China is adding generating capacity, and increasing per-capita consumption, far faster than the US. (Which is trying, however halfheartedly, to reduce per-capita use.) This is a far cry from being an exclusive committment to renewables.

    Renewables make great sense in some situations – that geothermal plant down the road from me, the solar water & space heaters that should be on most homes, rooftop PV in sunny climes, etc. It likewise makes sense (from the Chinese perspective) to seize a share of the foreign market for equipment. This is a simple egineering/business decision, not a political/religious committment to renewables.

  411. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B., Large or not, that is the area we’d need for sustainable generation. Actually, we’d probably need ~10x that given inefficiencies, etc.
    We need to remember that fossil fuels, nukes, etc, are all one-time energy windfalls. Ultimately, we we can’t meet our needs with what comes from the Sun, we have to decrease our needs.

  412. sidd:

    Re: Carbon Capture and Storage

    For the IPCC CCS report please see

    http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/srccs.htm

    From the technical summary Table TS-10 I see that:

    1)For a pulverized coal plant with geological storage: the increase in fuel requirement is 24-40% for capture , the cost of electricity increases by 43 to 91% when one includes both capture, transport and geological storage

    2)For a integrated coal gasification plant with a combined cycle for power: increase in fuel is 14 to 25% for CO2 capture at the plant and the increase in cost is 21 to 78% (including capture, transport and geological storage)

    As for the Battelle efforts, I find some information from their partners at Alstom and AEP quite readily available. The Vattenfall project is also quite interesting.

    It is clear that price increases for CCS from coal ower are substantial, but it is yet unclear (to me) if the rise is so large as to render coal with CCS uncompetitive for baseload generation.

  413. Mark:

    James, in #407 you should be directing your remarks not at BPL who just did the sums, but at bob who says that we MUST all use as much energy per capita as the US average.

    You’re attacking the wrong person on that. Then again, since BPL doesn’t think nuclear a good idea to push as a replacement, maybe that is your main hope, not the energy needs being too big.

    Which being the case, we can all see the hole in your arguments and why you cling so hard to them.

  414. bobberger:

    Mark #405
    “… are you saying that EVERYONE ***MUST*** use a tumble dryer or we’re all lost?”

    I’m saying that trying to judge even seemingly trivial things like tumble dryers by the question whether they’re “necessary” or not, leads absolutely nowhere. Nowhere good, that is. I don’t understand what you’ve been trying to say in #403 and #404.

  415. RichardC:

    411 Ray said, “Ultimately, we we can’t meet our needs with what comes from the Sun, we have to decrease our needs.”

    You forget fusion. The “other” path is to use fossil and fission while waiting for fusion to come along.

  416. bobberger:

    Mark #413
    “… bob who says that we MUST all use as much energy per capita as the US average.”

    Don’t play games. If you like to argue against yourself, I’m sure you’ll find less annoyingly boring ways than this to do so.

  417. Tim McDermott:

    RichardC: I, personally started eagerly awaiting fusion power about 50 years ago. I must admit the eagerness has faded. I don’t think we should bet humanity’s future on getting fusion working.

  418. Hank Roberts:

    Worth a look:
    http://www.scienceblog.com/cms/blog/2040-review-medea-hypothesis-and-other-news-science-shelf-21042.html

  419. Phil Scadden:

    Waiting for fusion is extremely risky. Unlimited fusion energy requires cracking a temperature 20x that of the sun. You cannot assume a priori that economic production with these issues is feasible. Far safer would be live on what you know you can get until you know that it is possible.
    I am still puzzled how a US citizen actually gets through so much energy and I am guessing that its vehicle use. It would be interesting to see how price-sensitive energy use is.

  420. Laurie Dougherty:

    Thanks for all your great efforts. I would like to suggest a periodic summary of the state of the science (maybe focusing on a few key topics). Nwe research is coming out all the time and even reading about it as it comes out, it can be hard for a lay person to get a grasp of where things stand overall.

  421. John Mashey:

    1) A SIMPLE ANALYSIS OF GROUNDHOG DAY POSTING TRENDS

    As people right recall, the purpose of this thread was:

    “What is it that you feel needs more explaining? What interesting bits of the science would you like to know more about? Is there really anything new under the contrarian sun that needs addressing?”

    Following the approach in 172 above, I’ve made a pass over the first 400 posts in this thread, placing them into rough buckets:

    a: on-Topic
    b: maybe
    c: Off-topic [maybe be perfectly good discussion, BUT...]

    by 100s:
    …….a…b..a+b
    100 77 10 87
    200 45 16 61
    300 23 06 29
    400 17 02 19

    I lumped a+b together, giving the benefit of the doubt. I.e., in posts 301-400, I only thought 19 of 100 seemed like actual input to Gavin.

    I graphed the by-0100 percentages and cumulative percentages here.

    Conclusion: most of the first 100 posts look like actual on-topic replies. About half of 101-200 are on-topic.

    From 201 onward, most (70-80%) are primarily repetitions of multiple long-standing arguments.

    2) IF THIS WERE SOFTWARE

    This would be like a request for bug/feature enhancements. I have often been a receiver of such, and sometimes, as feedback to the suggesters, I’ve summarized the results:

    - Will get covered
    - Maybe sometime
    - OK ideas, but not likely soon

    Maybe, as feedback to all us suggestors, whenever Gavin closes this thread, he’ll favor us with some thoughts about what he got out of this?

  422. James:

    Mark Says (15 June 2009 at 2:55 PM):

    “James, in #407 you should be directing your remarks not at BPL who just did the sums, but at bob who says that we MUST all use as much energy per capita as the US average.”

    No, I don’t think so. First, because the mistake was in leaving out a very significant factor from those sums. Most of the incoming solar energy goes towards powering the biosphere. Take away some of that energy by intercepting the sunlight, and you kill off the part of the biosphere that depended on it.

    Nor is the “must use” necessary, except to produce a concrete example. Adjust per-person energy use however you like, even down to hunter-gatherer level, and I think you’ll find that the current population can’t be supported by renewables without doing significant harm to the biosphere.

    For example, think about the other boundary condition, where all of the population lives at 3rd-world energy use levels. (I don’t want to get into the question of how you go about persuading people to accept this.) That would require abandoning mechanized agriculture, most food shipping, certainly refrigeration. Under those conditions, could the world produce enough food for everyone? I think the answer’s an obvious no. Just consider how much food is exported from agriculture-as-industry nations such as the US…

    “Which being the case, we can all see the hole in your arguments and why you cling so hard to them.”

    If you can see it, please show me, because I surely can’t see any such hole.

  423. CTG:

    Oh dear, I think this thread is starting to feel a bit like Groundhog Day itse… Wait a minute, didn’t I just say that?

    Can we please stick to the climate science? The only thing this endless discussion is making clear is that people hold strong opinions on the subject of energy production. There are plenty of other sites you can go to discuss policy or call people names if you want.

    I want to hear about the climate science.

  424. Ike Solem:

    Yes, the climate science – how about getting someone to write an article on the carbon cycle – an outside guest post would probably be best.

    Possible titles:

    “The carbon cycle, oceanic iron fertilization, and algal biomass”

    “The carbon cycle, from peat to coal, from diatoms to petroleum”

    “The carbon cycle, and the likelihood of a permafrost carbon burp”

    “The carbon cycle, or why clean coal carbon capture is non-plausible”

    For an interesting discussion of some of the above concepts:

    NASA Research Could Help Policymakers Restrict Carbon Emissions Wednesday, June 03, 2009

    Too bad their satellite is about to fall into the sea, with no replacement in sight – if ignorance is bliss, look for lots of happy faces at NASA.

    As far as FutureGen, it actually might just be a coal-to-liquid project disguised as a clean coal project. There is a massive push for coal-to-liquid underway, including a $1 billion investment in Virginia:

    “We wouldn’t be spending this type of money if we weren’t highly confident that we could have a project here,” TransGas President Adam Victor said at that time.

    The goal is to put the plant, which could eventually use up to three million tons of locally mined coal to make more than 6.5 million barrels of gasoline every year, into operation by 2013.

    The FutureGen plant, if you take off the power-generation/carbon capture unit, is just a coal-to-liquid gasoline plant minus the F-T condensation unit, which is simple to swap in. Both generate syngas; FutureGen claims to be able to separate the H2 in the syngas from the CO2 and other pollutants (partially burned hydrocarbons, mercury, arsenic, sulfur, selenium, and various other elements in different states). This claim is unlikely, however, and has never been demonstrated by any coal-burning prototype model. However, we have no shortage of coal-to-gasoline plants.

    That does appear to be the central policy now – tar sand oil and coal-based gasoline as the ultimate replacements for cheap foreign oil – at least that is the plan being promoted by the federal government.

    I’m pretty convinced that this is what has happened. I’d be willing to be that if FutureGen is built, within a few years it will be converted to a coal-to-gasoline plant, and any efforts at carbon capture and burial will be discarded as technologically and energetically unworkable.

  425. Jim Satterfield:

    One of the things I’ve looked for and haven’t been able to find is a simple experiment showing in a laboratory the greenhouse effect of CO2 in a lab environment. I know that this reflects basically nothing concerning how it functions in the real world but I’ve actually been seeing some deniers trying to cast doubt on even whether CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

  426. Jim Bouldin:

    Can we please stick to the climate science? The only thing this endless discussion is making clear is that people hold strong opinions on the subject of energy production. There are plenty of other sites you can go to discuss policy or call people names if you want. I want to hear about the climate science.

    AMEN!

  427. Jim Bouldin:

    One of the things I’ve looked for and haven’t been able to find is a simple experiment showing in a laboratory the greenhouse effect of CO2 in a lab environment. I know that this reflects basically nothing concerning how it functions in the real world but I’ve actually been seeing some deniers trying to cast doubt on even whether CO2 is a greenhouse gas.

    You can go and read, online, Tyndall’s detailed descriptions of his experiments doing exactly that almost exactly 150 years ago. See post # 311. Note in particular the pains he went to to make sure that his results were solid and not confounded by other possible explanations.

  428. Jim Eager:

    Jim Satterfield (425), if they are that brain-dead it’s not worth wasting time on them, but if you really want to, here you go:

    Model Experiment about the Greenhouse Effect
    http://www.espere.net/Unitedkingdom/water/uk_watexpgreenhouse.htm

  429. Steven Earl Salmony:

    How is the family of humanity to sensibly organize to respond ably to the human folly, avarice and stupidity that is now being consciously perpetrated by those few million greedy people who possess a lion’s share of the world’s wealth and the power it purchases? After all, a tiny minority is primarily responsible for the Earth being ravaged and threatened as a fit place for habitation by our children.

    When are the morally bankrupt, super-rich Masters of the Universe among us to be held to account for having disgracefully institutionalized the ‘goodness’ of their pathological arrogance, conspicuous consumption and excessive hoarding for the benefit of none others than themselves and minions? For many too many economic powerbrokers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians
    short-term financial gains, power accrual, economic expediency and political convenience have directed their thought and behavior.

    Perhaps it is time for many ordinary people not only to deploy these words from Mohandas Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”, but also to live out this great man’s example of principled, peaceful, refusal to submit to arrogant, dishonest, avaricious and dishonorable authority that is relentlessly degrading Earth’s frangible environment and recklessly dissipating Earth’s limited resources in our time.

    Perhaps honesty, more transparency, constructive personal action, accountability and necessary social change are in the offing.

    Scientists have a duty to warn and to inform; leaders of the family of humanity have a responsibility to act with moral courage and a willingness to do the right thing. At least some scientists appear to be doing their duty. Except for a precious few, great human beings like President Barack Obama, the human community appears to be virtually bereft of adequate leaders.

  430. Mark:

    Yes, James, I think so.

    “No, I don’t think so. First, because the mistake was in leaving out a very significant factor from those sums.”

    But those sums reduce if you have people running power requirements than the US average.

    And how does the sums change:

    “Human power consumption right now: 1.3 x 10^13 watts.

    Sunlight falling on Earth’s surface, on average, at any given time: 1.2 x 10^17 watts.

    Still think it’s impossible?”

    ?

    Solar constant is correct. No missing figure.

    Earth requirements is about right, but dependent on where you get the data from, not the sun. And since S>>E, getting all our needs from the sun is not impossible. That would only be true if E>~S.

    So the sums really DO say that it isn’t impossible. Unless it’s impossible to use more than .1% of the sunlight and impossible to use anything other than sunlight.

    Which isn’t in the response you gave.

    And, likewise, those sums only require the earth goes to average power needs, not that high-power-loaders like the US reduce.

    So your sums are wrong too.

    Going to complain to yourself on here???

  431. Mark:

    “bobberger Says:
    15 June 2009 at 4:18 PM

    Mark #413
    “… bob who says that we MUST all use as much energy per capita as the US average.”

    Don’t play games.”

    What games?

    You don’t want us to consider using less than the US average.

    If we can’t consider it, we MUST allow it.

    If we MUST allow it, it will be used. As long as it’s supplied. If it weren’t used, then the price would go down until it DOES get used up. Supply/demand.

    I’m not playing games with myself. I’m playing games with your arrogance.

    Just because YOU like to use an arbitrary power level, doesn’t mean you should.

  432. Alastair McDonald:

    Richard,

    I was not advocating that everyone should be as profligate as Americans. I was saying that it is physically impossible for us all to be like that. In fact it is impossible for everyone to be as profligate as we are in the UK. That would result in global power consumption increasing by a factor of ten! It would also mean that the standard of living of US citizens would be halved. Will they accept that?

    Of course we in the UK should not be so smug. If there was a fair global system then we Brits would have to cut our standard of living to a tenth of what it is now, and that would entail no global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

    In other words, if we are going to tackle global warming then we must accept that we will become poorer. This is the issue that Gavin et al. have not dealt with. Judging by the most recent posts on this thread, if they had then the blog would not have been as popular as it is.

    People do not want to discuss this issue :-(

    Cheers, Alastair.

  433. Anne van der Bom:

    bobberger
    15 June 2009 at 1:00 PM

    You’re right about the solar water heater not being measured in electric kWh’s. I was more referring to the general discussion about wind and solar.

    I can ignore your aviation and steel production examples. These are relatively small fossil energy consumers. The three big, roughly equal, chunks of primary energy consumption are: space heating, road transport and electricity generation. See this overview of the energy flows in the UK. (The relative flows will be roughly the same for the US and other western countries).

    Chunk 1: road transport. Internal combustion engines have an average efficiency of 10-25%. We all know that electric motors are far more efficient than that. This has been discussed before, I’m not gonna do it again. A gain in efficiency of 5x is realistic.

    Chunk 2: space heating. A modern system of low temperature floor heating by means of a ground source heat pump can easily achieve a COP factor of 5, meaning 5 kWh of heat for 1 kWh of electricity. This ORNL guide gives a ‘cost effectiveness’ example on page 3. It shows the heating requirements by normal fossils-based space heating at 1970 therms (~57000 kWh). The ground source heat pump only needs 11400 for heating, or about a fifth. If you google around you will generally find COP factors of 3 – 5. Assuming a COP of 5 for a modern system, I would say 5x better efficiency is realistic.

    Chunk 3: electricity generation. The average efficiency there is around 40%. I hope you see that it is stupid to say: “We need 1 kWh of renewable electricity to replace 1 kWh of thermal energy that is used to generate 400 Wh of electricity.”

    I would say that the efficiency gain can be 5x for heating, 5x for road transport and 2.5x for electricity generation. An overall ballpark figure of 4x doesn’t seem too bad an approximation.

  434. Ray Ladbury:

    Jim Satterfield, the problem you may be having is that the experiments are over 150 years old. See
    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm

    Talk about Groundhog’s day. These guys are still fighting battles they lost before the Civil War!

  435. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    “Human power consumption right now: 1.3 x 10^13 watts.

    Sunlight falling on Earth’s surface, on average, at any given time: 1.2 x 10^17 watts.

    Still think it’s impossible?”

    Impossible? No. Desireable? That’s a very different question. What your bare numbers leave out is the fact that most of that sunlight is already being used to run the complex web of life that is the ecosystem. Cover an area with mirrors or PV panels, and you have that much less working ecosystem.

    Even leaving out issues such as quality of life, how much ecosystem can we do away with before there’s no longer supports human life? I admit I don’t know the answer, but I’m damned sure I don’t want to find out by experiment.

    Urban areas already take up 2% of the land surface. You’re saying we can’t use the equivalent of 5% of that to provide power without hopelessly disrupting the ecosystem?

    Talk about alarmism.

  436. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James continues to point out the grave dangers of solar power:

    Most of the incoming solar energy goes towards powering the biosphere. Take away some of that energy by intercepting the sunlight, and you kill off the part of the biosphere that depended on it.

    You need, at most, about 0.1% of the solar input. How much of the world is covered with crops and rangeland and forest? Can none of that be used for biofuels? Is none of the world covered with rock, desert, ocean? Would setting up wind turbines there kill the ecosystem?

    You are using a qualitative argument (sunlight is need for plants) to disguise a quantitative fallacy (getting all our power from renewables will destroy the ecosystem).

    “Which being the case, we can all see the hole in your arguments and why you cling so hard to them.”

    If you can see it, please show me, because I surely can’t see any such hole.

    See above. Anybody with a brain and/or a calculator can see the holes in your arguments.

  437. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Jim Satterfield writes:

    One of the things I’ve looked for and haven’t been able to find is a simple experiment showing in a laboratory the greenhouse effect of CO2 in a lab environment.

    You need a sealed glass box with the glass transparent to infrared radiation. Put it in a dark room. Put a thermometer in the box and another outside. Shine an infrared light against one wall of the box and put an IR photometer on the other side. Calculate how much IR would fall on the photometer from the light if there were no interference. Calculate how much actually hits it. See how much the temperature of the gas in the box rises. Try air, then pure N2/O2, then pure CO2.

  438. Adam Gallon:

    Subjects to look at?

    How clouds are included in the modelling process?

    Why the assumption has been made that global cloud cover is a constant and how much would it need to have varied to have produced percentages of the observed warming (eg 25, 50, 75 or 100%)?

    [Response: No such assumption has been made. - gavin]

    How the various natural cycles (ENSO, PDO, etc, etc) and their effects are accounted for in the modelling process?(Probbaly get horribly mathematical for most of us)

    [Response: They are part of the model solution and analogous features are generated (with varying degrees of fidelity) in all the coupled models. - gavin]

    Why there is such a huge variation in the predictions produced by climate models?

    [Response: Depends what you are looking at. All models show increasing temperatures and decreasing Arctic sea ice, but they vary in projections of rainfall in the Sahel. Differences might arise because of differences in the details of the formulations, or they might just be part of the natural variability, or due to a real difference in the sensitivity as a function of base climate which is a little different in each model. The degree to which the model's vary is a rough metric for how much you should pay attention to the result of any one model. - gavin]

    How the various models have compared to observations, ie, what temperature values for 2008 did models predict in the first IPCC report, compared to measurements?

    Why the various measures of global mean temperatures differ from each other and what this means for modelling purposes?

    [Response: Many of these questions were discussed in the FAQ on climate modelling. - gavin]

  439. Mark:

    Alistair, 431:

    “In other words, if we are going to tackle global warming then we must accept that we will become poorer.”

    In what way is insulating your house so you spend less on heating it making you poorer?

    In what way is not using a hot-air tumble dryer making you poorer?

    Are you saying that when I bought an A-class fridge I was making myself poorer than if I’d bought a F-class fridge for the same price? HOW???

    Did Port Talbot Steelworks make themselves poorer when they changed the process of making steel girders to use less coal?

  440. SteveF:

    Another possible thing to comment on (apologies if mentioned already):

    “The Obama administration’s long-awaited scientific report on the sweeping and life-altering consequences of a failure to act on global warming – Global climate change impacts in the United States – is released today.

    It provides the most detailed picture to date of the impacts on the US in the worst case scenarios, when no action is taken to cut emissions.”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jun/16/climate-change-sea-level

    the report here:

    http://www.climatescience.gov/Library/sap/usp/clearance-draft/USP-3rd-clearance-draft.pdf

  441. Rod B:

    Jim Eager (428), I was impressed with your referenced experiment. It was simple but still tried to emulate the whole process with infrared generated by a blackbody heated by visible radiation. There was one odd but major anamoly in my view that maybe you can explain. Contrary to their conclusion the pure CO2 is not heated far more than the air. It was heated 50% more the first five minutes, then virtually the same at a linear rate for the rest of time. That seems not in accordance with the theory. Is there something in the experiment setup that can explain this?

  442. Rod B:

    Steven Earl Salmony, Oh, stuff it! Geeezz. You make Ike sound absolutely docile ;-)

  443. Rod B:

    Mark, et al. The original proposition adjustment was to use power requirements like the developed West; United States was never proposed. My figures took a rough average of the US and the mid to high end of Europe’s average. In any case it is minor to the overall question.

  444. Ike Solem:

    Gavin, show me one model that generates the PDO:

    “How the various natural cycles (ENSO, PDO, etc, etc) and their effects are accounted for in the modelling process?(Probbaly get horribly mathematical for most of us)

    [Response: They are part of the model solution and analogous features are generated (with varying degrees of fidelity) in all the coupled models. - gavin]“

    Other cycles like the AMO seem entirely made-up – just artifacts of time-series analysis (see the latest results on how water spreads out across the deep Atlantic, for example – hard to make the AMO work with that). Unlike with ENSO, the mechanisms for things like PDO and AMO are also non-existent, although they must be based in the ocean if they exist.

    [Response: Having worked and published in this area, I must respectfully differ with your assessment. With regard to the AMO being a time series analysis artifact, that seems an oblique reference to arguments we made in Mann and Emanuel (2006). However, we were not arguing that the AMO itself was an artifact, simply that the way the AMO had sometimes been defined in studies linking it with hurricane activity (i.e. by a simple linear detrending of tropical Atlantic SSTs) was inappropriate, and did yield spurious conclusions, e.g. that the AMO projects strongly onto tropical Atlantic SST. More careful signal detection approaches and analyses of control simulations of coupled models which do indeed exhibit an AMO mode [see e.g. Delworth and Mann (2000) and Knight et al (2005)] show little projection of the AMO onto tropical Atlantic SSTs (the SST footprint is largely extratropical in nature). This makes it more difficult to argue that the AMO is a major driver of long-term tropical Atlantic SST variations. A more parsimonious and physically-based explanation, as argued in Mann and Emanuel (2006), is that the tropical SST trends can largely be understood in terms of low-frequency natural and anthropogenic radiative forcing. As for the argument that there is no mechanism for the AMO, that’s simply wrong. Please refer to Delworth and Mann (2000), Knight et al (2005), and the numerous references therein which describe in some detail the mechanisms by which the AMO–an oscillatory mode of multidecadal North Atlantic coupled ocean-atmosphere variability–operates (at least, in the world of the climate models). – mike]

    In any case, things are hardly as well-understood as you indicate.

    For more on FutureGen:
    http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23777.html

    Democrats insisted they were so serious about keeping pork out of the stimulus bill that it was President Obama himself who blocked the FutureGen project from the massive spending package.

    “It shows that we’re serious about it,” Brendan Daly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s spokesman, said at the time. “The speaker said it, and the president said it: There will not be earmarks in this bill.”

    Earmarks? Perhaps not. But funding for FutureGen? Absolutely, to the tune of $1 billion.

    The Department of Energy on Friday announced that the FutureGen project is on track after all, committing federal stimulus money to advance the project to its next stage. One reason: It was the only shovel-ready project that fits the requirements of the stimulus bill.

    In reality, this just shows that coal interests are in the driver’s seat in the Obama Administration. The Department of Energy is planning eight new ‘public-private partnerships’ related to energy research – for the details, see

    http://www.cfo.doe.gov/budget/10budget/start.htm

    More coal and tar sand projects, if past behavior is any indication – and public-private partnerships all suffer from the same proprietary restrictions on information – and that is done just to hide the truth from the public.

    The truth is that coal carbon capture and ‘clean coal’ is a nonsensical notion, and that Futurgen’s real purpose is probably to provide political cover for a massive expansion of domestic coal-to-gasoline plants (like the $1 billion version being built in Virgina). The front end of both systems is identical, and with coal-to-gasoline, you can make, rather than lose, money.

    It’s the only way to explain the push for the technology, other than as a pure propaganda effort designed to halt efforts to replace coal with solar and wind.

  445. Rod B:

    Barton (435), 5% of what? Land surface??

  446. Mark:

    RodB, #443, which original?

    For some reason the Oracle doesn’t think much of the thread. He says: lannitor porkers.

    If you tell a porker, what is it you’re doing?

  447. Ike Solem:

    Note to Jim Bouldin:

    Quoted quote: “Can we please stick to the climate science? The only thing this endless discussion is making clear is that people hold strong opinions on the subject of energy production.”

    Yes, it is unfortunate that global human energy choices have had an undesirable effect on the climate – everyone can agree with that. The problem is that burning fossil fuels adds CO2 to the atmosphere, primarily. Other issues matter, when it comes to global warming – deforestation and N2O emissions, for example. In addition, climate changes impact natural biodiversity and human agriculture, leading to snowballing effects.

    Thus, the climate and energy issues cannot be neatly separated, anymore than a system can be separated from its surroundings – a coal-fired plant must take in coal and air and put out CO2, and a green algae takes in CO2 and water and releases oxygen.

    If you agree with what climate scientists have been saying ever since the late 1970s, there really is no choice but to eliminate fossil fuel combustion as an energy source – assuming you want to stablize the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. That would be a natural conclusion of climate science, and it’s why the topic actually does include energy choices.

    The climate might not even be as controllable as we hope, as the current warming might cause a largish methane/CO2 belch, essentially locking the world into an intense warming trend that will be irreversible on any plausible human timescale.

    While it might be safer to stick to climate science, in the end you need to apply the same kind of rigorous scientific approach to energy science claims that has been applied to climate science claims – but here you run into the fundamental difference between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ science: one involves business interests, one does not.

    Business interests do not survive via the free and open exchange of information, do they? In fact, they divide technological progress into two categories: “emerging” and “disruptive”.

    All renewable energy technologies are highly disruptive to established energy cartels in the coal and oil sectors. That’s essentially the issue here – you can have a very effective energy supply with no coal or oil involved, but that would involve massive global economic shifts in power and wealth, from Saudi Arabia to Venezuela to Wall Street, and since such interests largely control politics in the United States, we see no real progress on a transition to a renewable-energy based economy.

    What a bummer, huh? Think of how hard the fossil industry has fought against climate science – their fight against energy science will be (and has been) equally deceptive and dishonest. This will require scientists involved in the energy field to make choices – do you trade in integrity for profit or position, or not?

  448. bobberger:

    Anne van der Bom #433

    Thanks. It obviously depends on how stupid the original “simple calculation” has been done. If it even includes primary energy for coal used for generating electricity, its simply junk.

    Mark #431
    What an extraodinarily labyrinth twist of logic leading from

    “I’m saying that trying to judge even seemingly trivial things like tumble dryers by the question whether they’re “necessary” or not, leads absolutely nowhere.”

    to

    “You don’t want us to consider using less than the US average.”

    And to answer your question: No, you don’t have to “allow” it because, fortunately, nobody has to ask you whether they may use a tumble dryer or not – nor whether you find it “necessary”.

  449. Mark:

    re 447, that was because I had said that the US will use hot air tumble dryers (there’s on in the Simpsons household, there#s one in the Taylor house, one in Rosanne’s and so on…) and that this requires energy to operate. Therefore some of that US energy needs was unwarranted use of a tubmle dryer.

    But you think this is a bad idea, to consider using less than the US average.

    How?

    How does starting to use a tumble dryer a bad thing? How does stopping use of a tumble dryer a bad thing?

    And that’s only one element.

    There will be thousands more.

    The UK is hardly a third world country, yet it uses half the per-capita energy the average USian. Sweden is a more developed country yet (and further north, so more needing of power) yet uses half of what the UK does.

    So why MUST we allow the US average to be the world average?

    If we all have the same standard of living as Sweden, this is no bad thing, and results in 1/4 the power needs you think is scary to ask about reducing.

    You are grasping at straws, kid.

  450. Bocco:

    re 424

    The FutureGen plant, if you take off the power-generation/carbon capture unit, is just a coal-to-liquid gasoline plant minus the F-T condensation unit, which is simple to swap in. Both generate syngas; FutureGen claims to be able to separate the H2 in the syngas from the CO2 and other pollutants (partially burned hydrocarbons, mercury, arsenic, sulfur, selenium, and various other elements in different states). This claim is unlikely, however, and has never been demonstrated by any coal-burning prototype model. However, we have no shortage of coal-to-gasoline plants.

    Please inform us all which technology that does not separate H2 and/or CO2 is use in these coal-to-gasoline plants that still manages to produce the correct CO/H2 ratios for the apparently easy-to-swap-in FT unit? (There are of course many different configurations for FT, but you need to separate CO2 or H2 somewhere). Coal has too much carbon for FT, and so carbon has to be separated. If this technology exists (you suggest there in no shortage) then why couldn’t it work in, if we believe everything to write, exactly the same sort of plant for power production with carbon capture? They have many things in common but also many things that are different. Easy-swap: give me a break.

    The only thing that is almost correct is that if you strip off all the equipment after the gasifier in both these technologies then they are the same, namely gasifiers. That’s like saying if we get rid of all the technology then it’s the same coal we start off with, whether for CCS or coal-to-gasoline, which basically means they are the same technology. That’s like equating tidal power generation to nuclear fusion, both using sea water as the main starting ingredient.You are wrong on so many levels in this piece of …

  451. bobberger:

    Mark #448

    Read again. I never said nor implied that we must use the same amount of energy. Here in Germany we produce about 10 metric tons per capita as opposed to the 20 or so used in the US – and as you say, it doesn’t exactly feel 3rd world. All I’m saying (again) is that the discussion about what is necessary and what isn’t just doesn’t make any kind of sense. There are people who believe surfing the web and commenting on blogs is an unnecessary waste of energy (and as far as this thread is concerned, they may have a point ;) ), there are people who don’t understand that almost every building in Arizona has an airconditioner, that people drive around in bullet trains when walking works just as well, that people watch television and that they use tumble dryers, dishwashers and what have you. I do have a tumble dryer because I don’t have the time and nerve to parade my lingery to the neighbors. I have an awfull personal CO2 balance sheet because my job requires flying a lot. Is that necessary? For me, yes. The point is that everybody will have rather different things on a list of really necessary things and that’s not only true for individuals but for economies, too. There’s quite a lot of industry in the UK or Germany, for example, and we therefore certainly require more energy than Switzerland.
    I see your point that becoming overall more efficient is important – I just don’t believe that the question whether or not something is necessary is a question that should be asked. Let people and economies figure out for themselves what they find important. Politics should set the frame and create the conditions leading to the desired results – but no more.

  452. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (16 June 2009 at 5:31 AM):

    “You need, at most, about 0.1% of the solar input.”

    But how do you get that out of the incoming solar without blocking it from some area of the underlying surface?

    “How much of the world is covered with crops and rangeland and forest? Can none of that be used for biofuels?”

    Ah, but now you’re shifting your ground, and in fact trying to occupy one of my positions. If you will recall past threads, you’ll find that I have often suggested mixed-prairie biofuel production as a way to capture some solar energy while at the same time improving the health of the local ecosystem, by replacing monocultured, fertilized, & chemically-treated industrial farming with something closer to a natural landscape. Though that gets us into the food vs fuel issue: something else that strongly suggests that the current population can’t be supported by renewables.

    I doubt that this could provide sufficient biofuel to replace anything close to current use (though I don’t have figures, and would be happy to be proved wrong), but it could also, if political obstacles could be removed, be extended to revegetating parts of the world (North Africa, the Middle East, Australia, the US west, etc) that have become desertified though thoughtless human action. I hope you can see that working with the biosphere like this is very different from the “scrape it bare, cover with mirrors, and spray herbicde in the cracks” solar-power approach?

    “Is none of the world covered with rock, desert, ocean? Would setting up wind turbines there kill the ecosystem?”

    Shifting ground again :-) Remember that we were talking about covering those areas with solar panels or mirrors? Which would, as discussed, kill the ecosystem there. Even those “bare” areas of rock have their ecosystems.

    Wind turbines in appropriate places (not everywhere) can, as I’ve been saying all along, can provide useful amounts of power, just as solar in appropriate places can. The question is first, how to restrict them to such places, and second whether, if you do so, they can still supply whatever you consider an acceptable level of energy for the current world population.

    “You are using a qualitative argument (sunlight is need for plants) to disguise a quantitative fallacy (getting all our power from renewables will destroy the ecosystem).”

    The fallacy is yours. It’s the fallacy of believing that everything is linear; that because a little bit does no observable harm, then a little bit more won’t either, nor any of the little bits you keep adding. It’s really not all that different from fossil fuels: mining a little bit of coal or pumping a little bit of oil had no observable effect on the world, and offered great economic benefits, so why not use a little bit more? Add a bit more, and more after that, and here we are.

  453. Mark:

    bob 451, read what you said again:

    “Mark #396
    > “So is using the same power as the average USian a good or bad thing? It’s certainly not necessary.”

    A dangerous path to go. ”

    Sou you demand that we don’t talk about using less power than the US.

    What was misread about that?

    I’m not talking about what’s *necessary*, I’m talking about what is *unnecessary*.

    It isn’t necessary to drive a car that only gets 10mpg when you can buy a car that does 20mpg.

    It isn’t necessary to build houses with bad insulation so that you have to spend 4x the costs on heating.

    It isn’t necessary to do so much waste with energy that means that the US uses twice what the UK and Germany does. It isn’t necessary to waste so much energy that the UK and Germany does that Sweden doesn’t.

    So ANY calculation that requires we give everyone the same power needs as the US is to make that we SHOULD NOT consider using less power.

    And that is WRONG.

    You may not be thinking you’re saying it, but you are.

    Thinking about using LESS POWER than the US is NOT a “dangerous road to take”. It is a NECESSARY road to take. EVEN if you have abundant cheap energy. If you use less energy, you have energy left to do MORE, even if it saves you nothing monetarily.

    So if you have changed your mind, say so.

    But I’ve always been arguing about that message of yours and you still haven’t retracted it, so I CONTINUE to argue against it.

  454. bluetwink:

    Dear Gavin and Company,

    A detailed discussion of the physics of greenhouse gases with particular attention given to how the various gases interact with one another in terms of blocking or re-enforcing one anothers influence would be welcome. In particular a discusion of the extent to which modern lab technique demonstrates or repeats the action of the various gases in the atmosphere. I have seen the mathematical or formulaic statement that CO2 has a logarithic effct, but I have not seen any discusion except the very shortest of statements of how this is confirmed. I have read John Tyndale’s paper from 1861 which was a great deal of fun. His language is quite different from today’s, although perfectly understandable without an excess of effort. But things have moved on from the day when more likely than not a scientist would have to invent the tools to do his work. Or so I imagine. Examples of good discusions of the physics as it currently stands that are understandable to an intelligent layman or laywoman would be very welcome. And examples of reputable scientific papers which would give a view of the current state of the art would be of interest (perhaps even anotated versions of landmark papers?) What is most interesting to me is how the theory is confirmed both in the labratory and the field.

    Skeptics like to make the claim that climatologists can not predict the future. And then go on to say that climatologists can not even predict the past. A discusion of the extent to which the past can be accurately modeled and examples of how well the past thirty years of work have held up would be very interesting. I have seen graphs compairing James Hansen’s 1988 paper which was part of his testamony with the temperature record up to the near present. There certainly were more models between then and now, were there not?

    On a subject like this clarity for clarities sake, making something not merely clear but palpably explicit is very desirable.

  455. bobberger:

    Mark

    Since you “asked”, I tried making my point more clear in #414. I do stand by that and of course it does not imply, that everybody must or should use the same amounts of energy as the average US citizen does. And yes, I strongly disagree with your ideas about “necessary” or “unnecessary”. Who are you to decide or even judge? I lived in a society where some people had the arrogance to believe they could decide what you need and what you don’t need, what is waste and what is a sensible use of resources, how big your car should be and whether you need a washing machine, how much meat you can eat and how many potatoes. Not only was it no fun but it simply didn’t work. So who are you to decide? Well, as I said, fortunately you aren’t in charge – so just rant on about the Americans and maybe you can put in some guilt about yourself doing things the average African or Asian will probably find highly unnecessary.

  456. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “Remember that we were talking about covering those areas with solar panels or mirrors?”

    What I “remember” about your “talking” is that when someone suggests that installing concentrating solar thermal power plants on “less than one percent of America’s deserts, less land than currently in use in the U.S. for coal mines, and a tiny fraction of the land currently in agricultural use” could power 90 percent (and more) of the US grid, you immediately convert this into a hyperbolic nightmare scenario of turning the USA into nothing but cities surrounded by a continent full of solar panels, and say that it would be preferable to destroy every city in the USA with nuclear weapons.

  457. Richard C:

    Okay Alastair, you’ve lost me. Back in 392, you gave us “Therefore for everyone to reach US 2005 standards”, an implicit assumption that to raise everybodys standard of living to that of the developed world, a US level of power consumption for all is necessary. You also said that it would require 6 times current global consumption.

    I think I showed that standard of living does not directly translate into power consumption, and halved your hypothetical target. Somehow that reduced level of power consumption now requires ten times current global consumption in your 432, and you claim that for the US to consume our per capita rate would halve their standard of living. Why? If Europe can do it, why can’t they?

    “If there was a fair global system then we Brits would have to cut our standard of living to a tenth of what it is now”. Piffle! Standard of living does not directly translate into energy consumption. It depends on what you do with the energy.

    As for being smug follow the link Anne gave in 433 and see how much we consume just in domestic natural gas, and remember that we have national legislation for all of our new builds to be zero carbon homes, (that’s living not building), in less than seven years. The other Europeans are doing things their own way, but they are all either trying to reduce consumption, replace fossil fuels or both, and not one is suggesting we return to the Dark Ages to do it.

    So from your first calculation we are down to three times current consumption and reducing. Now look at the header picture at the top of this page.
    http://www.desertec.org/
    Couldn’t we put one of those red squares in the Sahara, one in the Gobi, one in the Outback, one in the US southwest? Suddenly we have energy to spare.

  458. Richard C:

    And for my Groundhog Day questions. Is the fresh water flooding into the Arctic changing the salinity significantly? Will it affect the Thermohaline? How long does it take to flush out? Will the heat it carries into the Arctic affect ice melt, will the lower salinity affect ice regrowth?

  459. Phil Scadden:

    I would like to see some sources for what the energy use in the US is, just to see where the huge energy per capita comes from. Googling around, it looks a couple of big differences. One is the energy use by industry in US is huge compared to say Sweden. Second, the transport energy use is enormous. Tumble-dryers dont really seems that important. A fairer comparison between say US, UK, and Germany would need to look at embodied energy as well. I would suspect that the US (like China) exports a great deal of energy in goods and that Sweden imports a great deal.

  460. Mark:

    “And yes, I strongly disagree with your ideas about “necessary” or “unnecessary”. Who are you to decide or even judge?”

    OK, so should everyone use tumble dryers as a matter of course or a clothes line and a clothes horse for when it’s raining?

    Guess.

    How about 10mpg cars vs 20mpg cars?

    How about insulating new houses PROPERLY or not?

    Go on, which should be done?

    “But we’ve always done it that way” is why they’re being done now.

    But they aren’t necessary.

    If you’re just hamming down that road “you can’t tell me what to do” then you can’t tell me what I can tell you to do either.

  461. Mark:

    “I would suspect that the US (like China) exports a great deal of energy in goods and that Sweden imports a great deal.”

    Well, Phil, the first link from Google on trade deficit Sweden per capita shows that the US has a negative trade deficit with Sweden. Sweden sells the US more than the US sells to Sweden.

    Would you like to try again?

  462. Jim Bouldin:

    Gavin, show me one model that generates the PDO:

    Well, according to Barnett et al (2008), Bonfils et al (2008) and/or Pierce et al (2008), the NCAR CCSM3 and PCM models both do so, as well as the Japanese MIROC model.

    Barnett et al (2008) Science 319:1080-
    Bonfils et al (2008). J Climate 21:6404-
    Pierce et al (2008). J Climate 21:6425-

  463. Patrick 027:

    Re 453,451,455 (bobberger, Mark):
    Yes, I think Mark may have misunderstood bobberger, but then… I am not a Free Market purist, but for what it’s worth: A free market is a form of rationing. We have to put in something to get something out. Which sounds fair. Of course, it is only fair if everyone starts in the same place and there is no ‘luck’ (that’s what insurance is for)… but anyway, it is a desirable rationing system because it tends to (with a learning curve and some caveats – negative sum games, negotiating power, externalities, the benifit of public planning) increase the total value that can be had or realized using a finite set of resources. (Other interesting points – even the free market doen’t always believe in itself – what’s with buy one get one free – isn’t that soci-alism? :) – (and at least some businesses are run successfully by people making decisions about how to allocate resources) – well, apparently people see fit to off apparently irrational services when taken in isolation because of the rationality of the benifits as seen in the context of the big picture – and also, there is a cost-benifit trade-off for any given level of accuracy, so sometimes we get free breadsticks and pennies… But there are some things that just don’t make any sense, like why CEOs get paid more than they are worth or why people get paid to fly from Madison to Minneapolis…)

    It is a rationing system that allows people to pursue wants (their own individual wants) as well as needs (their own individual needs). And what is a need anyway – in elementary school, the three needs were food, clothing, and shelter – well we don’t need clothes, but we need water… but we only need these things in order to live. We don’t need to live – we just want to live (most of us, I hope).

    Having things we want is all well and good, but we can’t have everything we want, hence the need to ration. Aside from international complexities, the most simple solution is to enact a global flat rate emissions tax (per unit global warming potential – time horizon to be specified).

    And then the market response would ration accordingly. Some people would choose not to use tumble dryers. Other people would choose to use tumble dryers but drive less – perhaps move closer to work or buy a more energy efficient home. Others might choose to move to the sunbelt for more affordable solar energy. Others might prefer to pay somewhat more for energy so that they can continue to enjoy snow and fall colors, and maple syrup (and not worry about Malaria, Dengue fever, Black Widow spiders, various snakes, alligators, etc.) Etc. But, aside for the unfairness inherent in life (not that we should give up on all efforts to change that), it would be fair.

    However, some other additional climate policies may make good sense because of market learning curves and the fact that there is knowledge out there that could be used. It is especially important to build buildings right at the outset, so I think a first order of business is to update some building codes (not a one size fits all, but as a function of local climate and landscaping (ie you don’t need to put solar cells on your roof if you’ve got a lot of tall trees around or if there is not enough solar energy as a function of current PV technology costs, but then you should at least have passive solar design)…

    ——-

    Re 406 – Certainly the U.S. is less efficient than some other countries; however: Aside from the energy intensities of exports and imports (see 459 Phil Scadden’s point – although I’m a bit concerned that the U.S. might use more energy than it does domestically due to imports from China??), different regions will have different energy requirements per capita for the same standard of living and lifestyle, and level of technologybecause of climate. People in tropical climates would likely use less heat and light; people in some other locations would not use much air conditioning. People in arid regions would not use as much air conditioning for the same hot temperature as in a humid region. People in some coastal regions might not use much heating or cooling.

    ——-

    Re 425 (Jim Satterfield): – try looking for the spectrum of radiation emitted to space from the Earth – at wavelengths of greater opacity, the brightness temperature is less because the colder atmosphere blocks radiation from warmer levels below – except in some very narrow wavelength intervals where the atmosphere is so opaque that one can’t see much beyond the stratosphere looking down from space.

    Increasing the opacity makes the Earth look colder from space; aside from feedbacks, there has to be warming somewhere in order to restored balance between solar heating and radiant cooling to space. Convection tends to make the various levels of troposphere and surface warm and cool together, so the tropopause-level radiative forcing (changes in the balance between solar heating below the tropopause and net upward surface+atmospheric emissions) is of particular importance.

    See also my comments 370-372 above.

    Re 454 – see my re 425 (including links in the referenced comments); the logarithmic proportionality is due to the shape of the CO2 absorption spectrum and with the present concentration, the present saturation at tropopause level in the central portion of the band; thus with each doubling of concentration, the effect is more to block radiation over a wider interval of wavelengths.

    ————-

    Re 433 – “It shows the heating requirements by normal fossils-based space heating at 1970 therms (~57000 kWh).” – OMG – Thank You! I’ve always wondered what the heck a therm was.

    - these heat pumps – I am used to thinking of a heat pump as a heat engine in reverse, where some amount of work pumps a potentially larger amount of heat energy. COP depends on whether one uses the cold or the hot end.

    However, I have gotten the impression that the term heat pump can also refer to any pump for a fluid that carries heat from point A to point B. Obviously the work input can also be much less than the heat energy being transported, but it is not the reverse of a heat engine.

    So I wanted to clarify that you were refering to a ‘reverse heat engine’ – although I could just check the website (I will in a while)…

    ————-

    From 435 (Barton Paul Levenson): urban areas 2 % of land surface.

    Is that U.S., global, or both? Well, I did some calculations:

    U.S. is a bit over 9 M(km2) (not technically correct usage of the metric prefix Mega (M), but you get what I mean), so
    2 % of 9 M(km2) is 0.18 M(km2).

    Assuming 150 to 200 W/m2 horizontal surface (less than what would be on solar collectors since they would be tilted toward the sun in some way), and 15% to 20% efficiency ( a bit high now but the technology will progress)… Expect about 30 W/m2 power production:

    5.4 TW. (in fuel equivalent, over 5 times U.S. primary energy)

    If roof space (and the occasional covered parking lot) is 10% of urban area, then:

    0.54 TW. (just over U.S. electric power; in fuel equivalent, roughly half of U.S. primary energy)

    Now it would probably be tricky to actually use all roof space – maybe half of roof space, but then we’d only need another 0.009 M(km2) = 9000 km2 somewhere else to make up for it…

    300 M people in 0.18 M(km2) is = 1666.7 people/km2, is 600 m2/person – that’s about what I’d expect for suburban/urban population density – not that I’d know.

    WORLD LAND
    Approx. 150 M(km2)

    2 % is 3 M(km2). Multiply by 30 W/m2: 90 TW. Div by 10 (roof space factor): 9 TW.

    That’s almost what the world uses now in primary energy use. Converting to fuel equivalent, this would thus be almost 3 times current world primary energy use.

    3500 M people (half world population) in 3 M(km2) is 1167 people / km2.

    ————-

    Re 407,422,452 James
    “The question is first, how to restrict them to such places”

    Easy. You restrict them to such places. :)

    “No, I don’t think so. First, because the mistake was in leaving out a very significant factor from those sums. Most of the incoming solar energy goes towards powering the biosphere. Take away some of that energy by intercepting the sunlight, and you kill off the part of the biosphere that depended on it.”

    See what others have said, but for my part (this is some rough back-of-the-envelope work):

    Land surface approx. 150 M(km2) The greenest parts will be cloudier – assume average 150 W/m2.

    Annual cycling of C from the atmosphere through land vegetation and back – about 100 Gt (gigaton) of C.

    Energy in carbohydrates (sugar is the initial product (well, after the whole NADPH (?), whatever stuff) of photosynthesis) about 4 kilocalories per g (ah, my 7th grade health class helps me in climatology and energy analysis – awesome!), or about 16 kJ/g (and that’s the differene in energy between carbohydrates and CO2+H2O). Roughly 1/2 of carbohydrate mass is C. So Roughly 32 kJ/g C.

    So 32 MJ/kg C * 100 Gt C = 3200 million trillion J.

    Almost 32 million s per year.

    So 100 TW.

    Conclusion: Land-based photosynthesis provides 100 TW of power.

    IF this is concentrated onto 1/2 of land area, then 100 TW/75 M(km2) = 1.33 W/m2.

    1.33 W/m2 divided by 150 W/m2 is about 0.89 %.

    Albedo of vegetated land – maybe 15 % (it varies). So photosyntheis is just over 1 % efficient on average (??) BUT to really be ‘fair’ to photosynthesis, we should factor in the dormant times of the year. Suppose on average 2/3 of land vegetation is actually photosynthesizing; then we get 1.33 % of incident solar energy, or 1.56 % of absorbed solar energy. But not all absorption is actually by the plants – some reaches the soil. Not all absorption by plants is by chlorophyll.

    Obviously I made some number of guestimates above, so…

    Aside from photosynthesis, the ecosystem uses the rest of the solar energy via the climate system. If we take some, convert to electricity, and use it, we produce heat, which is what it would have become in the first place – except for changes we make to albedo in the process, which will be a minor issue (the heating that occurs on site is the reduction of albedo minus the fraction of incident solar energy that is converted to usable energy; the usable energy is converted back to heat upon use, which happens to energy we use from fossil fuels anyway. High efficiency devices in low-albedo areas could actually have a local cooling effect, which perhaps might reduce local boundary-layer cloud cover on average, boosting performance ???).

  464. Alastair McDonald:

    Re #457 Where Richard C Says:

    Okay Alastair, you’ve lost me. Back in 392, you gave us “Therefore for everyone to reach US 2005 standards”, …

    You have to look at my previous post #383 to see my point of view.

    There, I was going a step further than James who wrote in #359

    renewables can’t supply power for the current world population to live near western levels of consumption (or possibly at any level), without the side-effects causing significant environmental destruction.

    Barton had replied in #375:

    Garbage.

    And I had replied:

    It’s not garbage. Even non-renewables can’t supply power for the current world population to live at western levels of consumption!

    What I am trying to say is that western levels of consumption cannot be provided to the whole world. Current levels of consumption are unsustainable, and are about to cause dangerous climate (assuming that they have not done so already.) If we are going to prevent that we must cut back globally. Even if the western world switches to renewables, the developing countries will still continue to burn coal and oil. We are finding it difficult to switch to renewables. How much more difficult will it be for the and at the levels needed then the western world it is going to be hurt.

    American (Canadians and US citizens) consume twice the energy of that used by the typical European, and that is unsustainable. Are they willing to cut their living standards by a half and join the Europeans. Or are they going to blame the Chinese, expecting them to remain poor so the US can remain as the richest country in the world?

    You suggest building a solar array in the Sahara Desert to solve all our problems. If that is so easy why has it not been done already? The cost of solar panels is extortionate because of the energy needed to manufacture them. Remember you have to include the cost of the raw materials and their processing. And having built them how long would they last being sandblasted in the desert? How are you going to get the energy from Africa to Europe, Asia, and the US?

    I am afraid your idea of using solar energy is just pie in the sky! and you have no intention of making sacrifices to save the world :-(

    Cheers, Alastair.

  465. Phil Scadden:

    Relative trade between US and Sweden isnt relevant here. What matters is energy flows in within goods. How much of what Sweden consumes is produced using local energy versus what is imported using somebody elses energy. Industrial energy use in US is high and I suspect a fair bit is exported. Ditto on food front. However, I dont have anything like the necessary data to judge this and it would be extremely interesting to see what the break down of consumer energy use for a US citizen versus rest of world rather than just gross primary energy per capita. Primary energy per capita for a citizen of UAE or Kuwait is really extreme but a lot easier to account for.

    At other end of scale, China’s already modest energy per capita would resolve to something even smaller when you consider how much energy goes into industrial goods, much of which is then exported.

    If our consumer energy use here in NZ is anything to go by, then you need to worry about transport before you worry too much about household electrical use.

  466. Patrick 027:

    continued from 408 above:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/06/groundhog-day-2/langswitch_lang/ja#comment-127040

    (Discussion of solar resource maps thus far based on maps found here: http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html, 1998-2005 data)

    Geometric concentrator (only direct solar radiation, no diffuse radiation), two-axis tracking, annual average insolation:

    Most of Maine, most of Wisconsin and northern Michigan, and most of Kentucky and Tennessee get at least 145.8 W/m2. Within that triangle, it is at least 125 W/m2.

    Most of the states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama, and Georgia, parts of the states of Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, and Most of North Dakota, and parts of the states Washington and Oregon, recieve at least 1000/6 ~= 166.7 W/m2. Most of the West – except Canadian border states – gets over 208.3 W/m2.

    Most of the Southwest, including parts of western Texas, Southern portions of Colorado and Utah, part of California, most of Nevada and all of Arizona and New Mexico get at least 1000/4 = 250 W/m2.

    Most of Arizona and parts of Nevada, California, and New Mexico get at or over 291.7 W/m2

    —-
    Seasonal: December:

    Flat plate titled at latitude:
    Most of Wisconsin and Illinois, and most of Maine and Kentucky, get more than 104.2 W/m2. Most of New Jersey and Tennessee get over 125 W/m2. Most of the Southwest and a fraction of the Southeast get more than 166.7 W/m2. Parts of the Southwest (including southern Nevada and most of Arizona and New Mexico) still get more than 208.3 W/m2.

    Geometric concentrating, Two axis tracking:
    A majority of Wisconsin and most of Illinois, and most of Maine and Kentucky, get more than 83.3 W/m2. Parts of the Southwest (including southern Nevada and majorities of Arizona and New Mexico) still get more than 208.3 W/m2.

    —-
    How does older data (1961 – 1990, http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/redbook/atlas/ ) compare to the new data:

    Annual averages:

    Flat plate tilted at latitude:
    similar.

    Geometric concentrating, Two axis tracking:
    similar, but in the older data, parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania get less than 125 W/m2 and the area in the Southwest reaching 291.7 W/m2 is much smaller; also, portions of the Gulf Coast get less than 166.7 W/m2, as does a longer portion of the Pacific coast.

    The change doesn’t necessarily indicate a trend because the two datasets may be different (one is reconstructed from satellites)

    See for more info:

    http://www.nrel.gov/solar/
    http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/
    http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/solar_data.html
    http://www.nrel.gov/rredc/publications.html
    ——————-

    Most of the contiguous 48 states is at latitudes less than 45 deg latitude. Panels tilted to face south at a 45 deg angle (PS if mornings are cloudier than afternoons or if there are tall trees on the east side of the lot, the panels should actually face somewhat southwest. Etc.) would vertically project onto a horizontal area 70.71 % of the panel area. At the equinox, the shadows cast by such panels at 45 deg latitude would completely cover the horizontal area without covering each other if the panels were spaced to occupy a horizontal area 1.41 times the panel area. However, one would want to prevent panels shading other panels most of the year; one would want to go by the shadow cast by the sun at the winter solstice. But the shadow will be longer later in the day. However, most of the energy over the year will not come from when the sun is within some angle of the horizon, so there is some tradeoff between efficiency of land use and efficiency of panel use that may allow some shading of devices (but because of issues related to photovoltaic behavior, shaded portions should be disconnected or… etc. Many photovoltaic panels are around 9 to 12 % efficient. That should increase over time. Concentrating devices might be around 30 % efficient, I’m not sure offhand – but that could also increase over time – especially for concentrating PV technology.

    In response to Barton Paul Levenson above, I figured that maybe, of 180,000 km2 of urban (and suburban, I presume) area, mabye 10% (that’s a bit of a guess on my part, though) is roof space, and maybe half of that could be used for solar power – 9000 km2 (we wouldn’t want to use the parts of sloping roofs that face poleward (except for passive solar – skylights – with a shade to block in summer to reduce heating needs), and also, some residential building roofs would be shaded by trees (but skylights could still be used there). I’m going to adjust the numbers a bit now: at 180 W/m2 and 10 % efficiency, that would be 0.162 TW. But skylights would be nearly 50 % efficient (visible fraction of solar power), and the photovoltaic panels could be paired with water heating panels to use the waste heat, so we might get 0.15 TW plus 0.012 * 5 = 0.06 TW of lighting (which would displace 0.6 TW of electricity – wait, I don’t think we use anywhere near that much on lighting (at least not in daytime) – well, I guess we don’t need all that much in skylights – except that the 0.06 TW of visible light let into the building would turn into heat after absorption, so maybe we use a shade in the summer and let it in in the winter (at which point it might only be 0.03 TW, annually averaged to maybe 0.015 TW, depending on location. So we displace 0.015 TW of heating and 0.045 TW of lighting in fuel equivalent. Now for the 0.15 TW of electricity produced, that displaces about 0.45 TW of fuel equivalent, plus, with – let’s suppose 0.45 TW of waste heat used from the same area, for a total of 0.9 TW fuel equivalent + the skylight heating and lighting 0.06 TW.

    We’ve displaced 0.96 TW fuel equivalent now, almost 1/3 U.S. usage, and we’ve got roughly 1/3 of the electricity.


    Bear in mind that the solar panels need not heat water up to the desired temperature – that might not be desirable if the heater is pressed against a photovoltaic layer. But it could get close, so that only some small additional heat is needed to get to the desired temperature.

    In general, low temperature waste heat can be collected first, then higher temperature. For cooling, higher temperature heat sinks should be used first, then lower temperature.

    At combined geothermal-solar-biofuel plants, solar energy could raise the temperature of the fluid heated by geothermal energy, and then there could be an extra boost from biofuels, especially in winter. The higher temperature would then increase the efficiency of electricity generation of all the heat.

    Now for the other 2 TW primary energy, which in electrical equivalent would be about 0.67 TW:

    0.4 TW of power from concentrating devices in the desert Southwest, 250 W/m2 after accounting for shading by overlap near sunrise and sunset, 30 % efficiency (it could be more, though). 75 W/m2 of device, maybe 15 W/m2 of land area. 20,000 km2

    0.3 TW from devices distributed among rangelands and croplands. Spacing is less of an issue because immediately behind each row are some shade-grown crops, or plants that are dormant when the sun doesn’t reach them anyway – assume land area is only 2 times panel area. 15 % efficient on average, 180 W/m2 on average. 22,222 km2.

    But these requirements can be reduced because there will be some wind and some geothermal, some hydroelectric, and some nuclear (at least for awhile). And there will be efficiency improvements in both solar devices and in energy usage (aside from what was already mentioned: using heat pumps instead of direct heat from combustion. Also, some natural gas/biofuels could go through fuel cells to produce electricity, and waste heat could be used.)

  467. Chris Colose:

    Ellis (357)– About your question concerning downwelling infrared energy with extra CO2 and the role of convection in removing the extra energy gain.

    This is good insight. I find it’s a bit better to think of the role of the extra CO2 as effecting what leaves the planet at the top of the atmosphere, not necessarily the energy gain at the surface. It’s even possible to add CO2 and not necessarily get extra IR going to the surface. The increased downwelling energy from the atmosphere to the surface is not just IR, but all the heat fluxes which interact between the atmosphere and surface, and the increase in downwelling energy is moreso due increased temperatures rather than extra CO2. In this way (loosely speaking), the whole troposphere is pretty much stirred by convection to stay on a moist adiabat and the surface is dragged along with the rest and warms and cools together.

    By the way, this all ties together with the post by Ray Pierrehumbert on “A Saturated Gassy Argument” which describes why throwing more CO2 in the atmosphere will essentially never result in further increases having no effect because all the radiation is already blocked.

  468. Patrick 027:

    Alastair – “The cost of solar panels is extortionate because of the energy needed to manufacture them. Remember you have to include the cost of the raw materials and their processing. And having built them how long would they last being sandblasted in the desert?”

    I too have wondered how solar devices would fair in sandstorms. For tracking devices, I would think there should be some way for them to track upside down and lower into the surface to hide the more sensitive/delicate optical surfaces… or maybe a lid could flip shut over them…

    The energy of mining and manufacturing, etc, is payed back in 1 or 2 or 3 or 4 years, depending (I have some more specific notes indicating in the range of 1.5 years, thought that might be just for CdTe). These numbers are in the range of less than 1 to around 7 % or so of the energy that would be supplied. This is comparable to the approximately 5 % of energy produced in a typical power plant that is fed back into the power plant ( http://www.eia.doe.gov/aer/pdf/pages/sec8_3.pdf ).

    Total U.S. spending (see related websites in comment 408) on energy is about $1 trillion, while either the GDP or GNP is about $11 trillion (well, it used to be).

    Solar photovoltaic prices are heading toward $10/average W and will probably get below that in time (at least one technology is actually priced at about $1/peak W now, which may be $4 – $6 per average W, depending on location).

    Suppose that once installed, performance degrades 1 % per year (including complete loss of some devices).

    Suppose we spend $50 billion this year (year 0) on solar PV power, and increase that spending by $10 billion each additional year, and assume that cummulative PV power displaces spending on its fuel equivalent. The total energy spending would peak in year six at 6.64 % above current spending, and it would drop below current spending ($1 trillion) in year 19. The time-average spending from year 0 would drop below current spending in year 30, at which point solar PV would supply over 0.5 TW. At year 44, total spending would be just under half what it is now, specifically, at $495 billion, and only $5 billion would be on non-solar power. The next year, all energy would be solar PV, an average power supply of 1 TW. Only $100 billion a year would be required to maintain the power supply. So what would we do with the other $390 billion in manufacturing capacity? Well, we could sell it to other countries. Of course, that transition would more likely be gradual – we’d maintain a little bit of other power while exporting some solar power devices.

    Granted, this doesn’t included ‘balance of system’ or inverter losses (maybe 5 %), but it also assumes solar PV modules/panels remain at $10/average W.

  469. Patrick 027:

    Yes, the total energy spending in that scenario would actually have to be some additional percentage higher in order to supply the energy to make the solar PV devices, but that’s a modest fudge factor, which could be alleviated in the near term by efficiency improvements – which we want anyway.

  470. James:

    Patrick 027 Says (16 June 2009 at 7:14 PM):

    ““The question is first, how to restrict them to such places”

    Easy. You restrict them to such places.”

    But how do you do that? Consider the outcry from so-called “greens” when local residents & others object to dumping a wind farm on one of the US’s most scenic coastlines. Or the developers & government officials who are happy to build solar plants (or housing developments, industrial estates, etc) on what they call “undeveloped” land – as though it were of no value at all unless it has something built on it.

    “Conclusion: Land-based photosynthesis provides 100 TW of power.”

    OK. Now the other half of the equation: land-based animals, from bacteria & earthworms on up to you, me, and the buffalo, eat approximately how much of that? My guess would be about 99.999 TW – that is, all but the tiny fraction that would become coal & oil in a hundred million years or so.

    “Aside from photosynthesis, the ecosystem uses the rest of the solar energy via the climate system. If we take some, convert to electricity, and use it…”

    OK, but how can that be done in a way that doesn’t have destructive effects on the ecosystem? The scrape, cover, and herbicide approach seems favorite among the renewable-only believers here, and haven’t we discussed that enough? Biofuel gets you into things like food vs fuel, and cutting down rain forests to plant oil palms or sugar cane. Hydroelectric dams kill off the salmon…

    , we produce heat, which is what it would have become in the first place – except for changes we make to albedo in the process, which will be a minor issue (the heating that occurs on site is the reduction of albedo minus the fraction of incident solar energy that is converted to usable energy; the usable energy is converted back to heat upon use, which happens to energy we use from fossil fuels anyway. High efficiency devices in low-albedo areas could actually have a local cooling effect, which perhaps might reduce local boundary-layer cloud cover on average, boosting performance ???).

  471. Mark:

    “# Phil Scadden Says:
    16 June 2009 at 7:31 PM

    Relative trade between US and Sweden isnt relevant here. What matters is energy flows in within goods.”

    It IS relevant when you say that you think it should be that Sweden is using less power because it’s importing stuff that others have spent energy creating.

    What does the US export nowadays? Movies?

    Sweden makes their savings from building appropriate buildings, rather than wooden playhouses for adults like the US. Public transport is better too.

    So rather than “I would guess” how about you put that effort you made for that post into looking into what’s really going on?

  472. Mark:

    Alistair what we’re saying is garbage (and you have done nothing to show it isn’t except by repeating it again and again and again…) is this:

    “American (Canadians and US citizens) consume twice the energy of that used by the typical European, and that is unsustainable. Are they willing to cut their living standards by a half and join the Europeans.”

    That living standards equates to power consumption is garbage.

    Rot.

    Rubbish.

    Tommyrot.

    Sweden has if anything a better standard of living than the UK and much better than the US, but use about 1/4 the US energy per capita. And it can’t be because it is in a better location than the US since it’s farther north than the US population centre.

    Standard of living does NOT equate to power consumption.

  473. bobberger:

    Mark #460

    “If you’re just hamming down that road “you can’t tell me what to do” then you can’t tell me what I can tell you to do either.”

    Yes, well, go ahead – just don’t expect me to follow.

    Here’s a graph showing the net-exports for the US, UK, Japan, Spain and Germany in billions of Euro.
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/de/2/2d/Nettoexporte_Grafik.png
    As you can see, Japan and especially Germany export far more than they import, while the UK, Spain and the US import more than they export. This is just money. It doesn’t even give a clue about energy efficiency, let alone CO2 emissions. Germany shows huge net-exports because it focuses more and more on integrating and refining components originating more and more from other countries. We used to have a rather significant steel industry, for example, but nowadays most of the steel is being imported (a good thing for our emissions, though globally irrelevant) while the cars and stuff that’s made from the steel and adds most of the value to what would just be metal otherwise, is still being produced (or at least crops up on the export list) of our local industry. Its much the same development with the chemical industry, plant manufacturing and other major industries over here. So we export a lot more than we import plus we have relatively modest CO2 emisssions – does that make us more effective? Does that mean we’re not doing “unnecessary” things? No.

    Another metric: GDP in thousands of US Dollars per ton CO2:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_ratio_of_GDP_to_carbon_dioxide_emissions

    UK: 3.670 – Germany: 3.393 – Japan: 3.663 – US: 1.936 – Sweden 6.591

    Conclusion? Are the US wasting money on energy? Is energy “too cheap” in the US? Should we all live like the 20 million or so Swedes? Or maybe Sweden is simply blessed with a lot of area for very few people, enough streams and lakes to provide more than half of their electricity requirements from water and a handfull of nuclear plants providing the other half? I didn’t find any statistics about tumble dryers vs. clothes lines in Sweden, but I’d hazard a guess, that tumble dryers are pretty common. Are they necessary in a country to far up north? I don’t know, but I guess you can decide nevertheless.

  474. Thoughtful Tom:

    I have to admit I have not ready the 467 above, but the last line of the original post touched on something I think is important.

    All the defense happens here, and on illconceived, and a few other science bases sites. But public opinion is formed and changed on other sites, like Politico and huffingtonpost. So I post there a few times a week and put in a plug for science.

    I have two bits of bad news. One is (at least at Politico), the posts run literally 9 to 1 against the planet (ie 9 denier, 1 fact based). So that sucks. But the scarier thing, to me, is that a climate post will get 100 replies (if I step in and create controversy by posting a few facts). But “Letterman apologizes to Palin” gets 1400. Or “Gingrich scratched his nose” gets 754 replies.

    The depth of apathy and old fashined denial (the I just won’t think about it kind) seem to rule the issue of climate change.

    Anyways my request is that a few other folks come over to these sites and show people that its ok to look at the facts and the science so I don’t look like a crank for pointing to the real science.

    thanks,
    Tom

  475. pete best:

    Re #447, An excellent post Ike. Very realistic and unfortunately accurate. However our energy consumption can be split into primary and secondary considerations. Primary being that energy source/carrier that you can actually use directly (gasoline, gas, coal/charcoal and electricity) and secondary being all of the goods and services that you buy that have used energy in their production that you do not use directly. The secondary component is probably larger and to the consumer relatively unknowable and hence hidden from out consciousness. This energy could be more readily changed. The future can only be electric really, for everything but it is not without its issues:

    Cars can be elextric as an example but can tractors be, can combine harvesters and 18 wheelers be and large scale haulage?

    We can stop (in principal) from using masses of shipping to ship the goods of the world around the world and produce local stuff but can ships work at all without liquid fuel? Can aircraft or will they always need liquid fuel and hence can shipping and aircraft be run on biofuels, freight to and the farming industry etc.

    We all know that lobbyists will always try to defend and push fossil fuels as the only energy worth considering but their lifespan is finite and if we are close to half way usage they are going to get very expensive in the coming decades. Theefore all by themselves they will need replacing at some point regardless of AGW.

    Fossil fuels are used in massive numbers globally, 4.5 billion tonnes of oil per year (7 barrels = 1 tonne). Just replacing existing electricity generation from coal and gas is a big enough project but running all of the cars to this way is a daunting challenge. Maybe we will just have to consider using and doing a lot less in life and change our culture which is something that people are not wanting to think about it seems.

    The solutions to our issues are as much cultural as technological but most people seem to think that the issue is one of technology. how many times have I heard people say that after oil come the next thing and when you tell them there is presently no next thing they are dismayed and a little dismissive.

  476. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Alastair writes:

    if we are going to tackle global warming then we must accept that we will become poorer.

    Garbage.

  477. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Rod B asks:

    Barton (435), 5% of what? Land surface??

    Yes. If urban areas are 2%, and pure solar power requires 0.1%, the ratio of 0.1% to 2% is 5%.

  478. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    “You need, at most, about 0.1% of the solar input.”

    But how do you get that out of the incoming solar without blocking it from some area of the underlying surface?

    You can’t. But some of it is already blocked, like rooftops. And some is taken up by plants, and there’s no reason some of those plants can’t be used for biofuels. Which brings us to

    “How much of the world is covered with crops and rangeland and forest? Can none of that be used for biofuels?”

    Ah, but now you’re shifting your ground, and in fact trying to occupy one of my positions.

    Nope. Again, I’m talking about using solar energy.

    the food vs fuel issue: something else that strongly suggests that the current population can’t be supported by renewables.

    No, it doesn’t.

    I doubt that this could provide sufficient biofuel to replace anything close to current use (though I don’t have figures, and would be happy to be proved wrong), but it could also, if political obstacles could be removed, be extended to revegetating parts of the world (North Africa, the Middle East, Australia, the US west, etc) that have become desertified though thoughtless human action. I hope you can see that working with the biosphere like this is very different from the “scrape it bare, cover with mirrors, and spray herbicde in the cracks” solar-power approach?

    It’s still using solar energy, isn’t it? You’re the one who insists solar power must rely on ecological destruction.

    “Is none of the world covered with rock, desert, ocean? Would setting up wind turbines there kill the ecosystem?”

    Shifting ground again

    No, I’m still talking about using solar power, since that’s what drives the wind.

    Wind turbines in appropriate places (not everywhere) can, as I’ve been saying all along, can provide useful amounts of power, just as solar in appropriate places can. The question is first, how to restrict them to such places, and second whether, if you do so, they can still supply whatever you consider an acceptable level of energy for the current world population.

    Yep. They can. Easily.

    “You are using a qualitative argument (sunlight is need for plants) to disguise a quantitative fallacy (getting all our power from renewables will destroy the ecosystem).”

    The fallacy is yours. It’s the fallacy of believing that everything is linear; that because a little bit does no observable harm, then a little bit more won’t either, nor any of the little bits you keep adding. It’s really not all that different from fossil fuels: mining a little bit of coal or pumping a little bit of oil had no observable effect on the world, and offered great economic benefits, so why not use a little bit more? Add a bit more, and more after that, and here we are.

    Your idea that renewables are just as destructive of the ecosystem as fossil fuels or nuclear is a fantasy designed to support your pro-nuke environment. I’m sure renewables cause some ecological damage, but nowhere near the amount the present mix does, and switching to all renewables would be a distinct improvement, not a setback.

  479. Mark:

    re 447, you mean “5% of what we already pave over”. I.e. if that extra land is damaged by the placement of solar power, then we MUST reduce our land use, since it is 20x that value.

  480. bobberger:

    One more thing. If we assume for a second that it doesn’t matter at all, how much CO2 was produced by whatever we do but that energy consumption in itself was the yardstick, we get the following, rather interesting picture:

    Energy consumption per capita in metric tons of oil equivalent, change to 1990, metric ton of oil equivalent per million US$ GDP, change to 1990 (all based on 1999):

    Sweden: 6, +4%, 261, -4%
    Germany: 4, -6%, 182, -17% (the GDR breakdown included)
    UK: 3, +5%, 189, -10%
    US: 8, +5%, 264, -10%

    Energy usage per sector (Industry, Transportation, Agriculture, Commercial Services, Residential, Other) in %
    Sweden: 36, 23, 1, 14, 23, 3
    Germany: 30, 38, 1, 10, 26, 5
    UK: 26, 32, 1, 10, 27, 4
    US: 24, 42, 1, 12, 17, 4

  481. Douglas Wise:

    There has been much discussion here upon whether or not a renewables only solution can be made to work on a global scale. It has largely been conducted at a technological level and such economics as have been discussed have been focussed on the developed world.

    The citation below, which I found on BraveNewClimate, considers renewables from a different perspective. It argues that, unless an energy solution cheaper than that of fossil fuels can be found, 80% of the world’s population won’t adopt it. If the developed world does, it will make fossil fuels cheaper for everyone else and exacerbate the global problem. The author suggests that our only recourse is to increase the rate of natural carbon sequestration with improved land and forestry practices.

    The citation is as follows:
    http:/www.city-journal.org/2009/19_2_carbon.html

    I think that the only carbon free sustainable energy source that might end up cheaper than coal could be 4th generation nuclear. I have found that most correspondents here don’t agree and are unwilling even to address the differences between this technology and that provided in the second and third generation nuclear reactors with which they are more familiar.

    Regardless of the above, I would be interested in the reactions of renewable energy proponents here as exemplified by Barton Paul Levenson, SecularAnimist and Anne van der Bom to the link given. I think it might serve to move the debate forward as it currently appears to have entered an eddy. I am not necessarily agreeing with the article and would like to hear other points of view. Please do not comment on the basis of my rather inadequate summary but read the article first (it’s quite short). I guess that Mark might shoot from the hip because he knows everything about everything already but I have no interest in his views anyway.

  482. Jim Bouldin:

    Ike Solem (447):

    Thanks, but I’m well aware of the basic facts of the carbon cycle and it’s relationship to global and local climate. And I’m as against the large scale burning of coal as anyone–with CCS or not–although if it’s done, effective CCS is certainly far better than no CCS.

    But that’s not the point. However important present energy policy may be to future climates, this blog’s central focus is climate science per se. If you want to discuss the ins and outs of the carbon cycle, great I’m all for it, but re-hashing the same old “my energy use numbers and policies are better than yours” type arguments, in spite of having just done so to the tune of 1400 comments, and Gavin’s request that you please not do so again, has gotten exceedingly tiresome to a number of us.

    Then there are a number of insinuations about scientists in the buy of the fossil fuel industry and/or lacking integrity, and the trashing of Gavin’s book because you don’t like the CCS discussion therein, not to mention faulty and derogatory claims about the skill of climate models/modelers in respect to the capturing of natural variability.

    I get the feeling that after being invited to a free dinner in a nice house, you’d complain that the food was no good because it was prepared all wrong and that the house construction and decor was entirely sub-standard.

  483. bobberger:

    Douglas #481

    This is pretty much the same string of arguments Huber and Mills already used in their book “The Bottomless Well” – and I can’t really find anything wrong with it. It has been argued a lot, that especially developing countries should in theory have a higher future demand for renewables like solar or wind, because they don’t have any infrastructure to make electricity from coal or oil. That is certainly a problem in terms of aiding development but of course, once that development is under way and energy demands rise (take India as an example), the cheapest energy will kick in again and not even the hardcore renewable-proponents will at this stage argue against the fact that that’s coal.

    I think, besides Huber’s proposal about natural sequestration, the best way would be to lease out or sell cheap G IV generators. Once in serial production, they could eventually beat coal on price and could solve the development problem for customer countries. Simply ordering a G IV to be delivered to your doorstep is probably faster than building your own coal plant(s) – however that entire idea is probably carried mostly on the shoulders of political naivete.

  484. James:

    pete best Says (17 June 2009 at 4:43 AM):

    “Cars can be elextric as an example but can tractors be, can combine harvesters and 18 wheelers be and large scale haulage?”

    Wouldn’t be all that difficult? For farming, are you familiar with center-pivot irrigation? Use the same principle, but with an electric cable. Large scale hauling can be done with railroads, which can easily be electrified. (They already are in much of Europe.) Ships could have sails… You might have to give up having your new laptop custom-assembled in China and delivered by air the next day, but that seems like a fairly minor sacrifice :-)

  485. Deep Climate:

    Getting back to requests for RC, I’d like to see a “big picture” post on modelling focusing on the CMIP5 round and the effort to provide more detailed modelling in the medium term (to 2035).

    I’d also appreciate a treatment of smoothed AR4 projections in the style of Rahmstorf et al 2007 “brief” on TAR. My own admittedly simplistic attempt is here:
    http://deepclimate.org/2009/06/03/ipcc-ar4-projections-and-observations-part-1/

  486. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (17 June 2009 at 5:35 AM):

    “You can’t. But some of it is already blocked, like rooftops. And some is taken up by plants, and there’s no reason some of those plants can’t be used for biofuels.”

    (Sigh) Which, as you might remember if you’d been paying attention at all, is what I’ve been saying all along. How many times have I written that putting solar on existing rooftops would be a great thing? And on the biofuels, aren’t you fer gawdsakes QUOTING me? Do you bother to read at all, or do you just cut and paste for exercise?

    “the food vs fuel issue: something else that strongly suggests that the current population can’t be supported by renewables.

    No, it doesn’t.”

    Saying doesn’t make it so – or are you auditioning to take over the post of Sir Oracle? How about some facts and/or figures?

    “It’s still using solar energy, isn’t it? You’re the one who insists solar power must rely on ecological destruction.”

    Again, you really need to start reading for comprehension, because you’ve got things pretty much backwards. It’s not that solar power MUST rely on environmental destruction, it’s that most of the current & proposed projects DO. I don’t think you’ve even tried to disprove that, you just claim that the destruction doesn’t matter.

    Then there’s the associated issue of whether the Earth can continue to support its current population (much less predicted increases) at any standard of energy consumption…

    “Yep. They can. Easily.”

    Once again, saying doesn’t make it so. How about those facts & figures? Or just explain why, if it could be done, the developers instead choose to put some of their first projects (such as the aforementioned Cape Wind, or Maple Ridge http://www.wind-watch.org/news/2009/03/26/maple-ridge-wind-farm-has-been-a-disaster/ and others that can easily found with a little searching) in sensitive places?

    “Your idea that renewables are just as destructive of the ecosystem as fossil fuels or nuclear is a fantasy…”

    Humm… I use observed evidence, however controversial or unpalatable, and have at least tried (to the best of my admittedly limited ability & free time) to calculate some numbers. You seem to rely on asserting that your wishes are fact, and claim that I’m fantasizing…

  487. RichardC:

    458 Richard C asks, “Is the fresh water flooding into the Arctic changing the salinity significantly? Will it affect the Thermohaline? How long does it take to flush out? Will the heat it carries into the Arctic affect ice melt, will the lower salinity affect ice regrowth?”

    A recent study suggests that the increased Greenland melt could alter ocean currents in a way to slow down the melting of arctic sea ice.

    Increased warmish fresh water will certainly lead to more stratification of the ocean. Reduced ice coverage and salinity will slow the thermohaline. I’d say that within ten years the Arctic will complete its switchover to a seasonal ice pack and we’ll end up with a whole new climate system in the northern hemisphere. I wonder if models are sophisticated enough to capture reasonable predictions as to what that would mean. “Fortunately” we won’t have long to wait to see, eh?

  488. Ike Solem:

    Jim, if I was invited to a house party and served food that had been barbecued over coal, I’d probably refuse to eat it – and so would you. If you had a really high-grade anthracite barbecue, it might be tolerable – but probably not. Politeness does not extend to poisoning oneself in order to keep the host happy.

    This is not some academic argument – billions of dollars in funding and the energy future of the entire country are at stake. Now, why am I annoyed about how this whole issue has been treated by our media, academic and government institutions? Why do I complain about conflict of interest? I don’t know – why did James Hansen complain about being muzzled by junior administrative know-nothings when he wanted to discuss climate science with reporters?

    The history of ‘coal carbon capture sequestration’ goes right back to Lawrence Livermore and the DOE and their private contractors. Here is the first “technical report” on the issue, 2003:

    A Coal-Fired Power Plant with Zero Atmospheric Emissions

    Joel Martinez-Frias, Salvador M. Aceves, J. Ray Smith
    Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

    Description/Abstract: This paper presents the thermodynamic analysis of a coal-based zero-atmospheric emissions electric power plant. The approach involves an oxygen-blown coal gasification unit. The resulting synthetic gas (syngas) is combusted with oxygen in a gas generator to produce the working fluid for the turbines. The combustion produces a gas mixture composed almost entirely of steam and carbon dioxide. These gases drive multiple turbines to produce electricity. The turbine discharge gases pass to a condenser where water is captured. A stream of carbon dioxide then results that can be used for enhanced oil recovery, or for sequestration.

    Link

    That was March 2003, pub 2004, directly after the FutureGen proposal was made public (Feb 27, 2003). LLNL has been involved since day one, and the renewal of their DOE carbon capture funding relies on public acceptance of ‘clean coal’ claims. That’s hardly the only example of poor oversight at LLNL / DOE, but the conflict of interest here is pretty clear.

    Of course, the same argument applies to climate scientists and climate models – but here, we have extensive public scrutiny, including scrutiny by scientists hired by fossil fuel interests for no other purpose – pretty exhaustive scrutiny, as I’m sure the realclimate writers would agree. You also have the fact that accurate weather and climate data is of key importance to agricultural and shipping interests (and others), so data collection tends to be supported – although even that is under attack by people who think no news is good news.

    Notice also that similar problems are becoming pervasive across the entire spectrum of federal government-based science and engineering programs – and the root cause is the uncontrolled rise of public-private partnerships based on exclusive licensing of taxpayer-generated patents – which means, essentially, that anyone who gets a DOE partnership deal is getting a large public R&D subsidy – again, all based on exclusive control of any patents. Not only that, this system prevents the public from examining claims made by these public-private partnerships – which, unlike public institutions, are not subject to FOIA requests. For example, when you hear that NASA and Hewlett-Packard are involved in a $5 billion contracting deal, yet NASA can’t get weather and climate satellites launched (not even the $100 million Triana), you really have to wonder what exactly is going on. And yes, the public does have a right to know how these interior government-academic-industrial deals work in practice.

    If you read the fine print, it is pretty clear what is going on with DOE and FutureGen:

    http://www.fossil.energy.gov/programs/powersystems/futuregen/

    The Alliance, with support from DOE, will pursue options to raise additional non-federal funds needed to build and operate the facility, including options for capturing the value of the facility that will remain after conclusion of the research project, potentially through an auction of the residual interests in the late fall.

    So, they’re going to build a big syngas converter as the first stage – that converts coal to a hydrogen-rich mixture of gases via the use of steam. This is also the first stage in a coal-to-gasoline plant, which also, surprise, costs about $1 billion. So, once the “research project” is over, the only likely use will be as a coal-to-gasoline plant, just like the one being built in Virgina.

    So, yes, it is pretty ridiculous – but I’ll try and switch my emotional state from furious irritation to amused incredulity – probably a more effective approach. ;)

    But really, the Emperor has no clothes.

  489. Ike Solem:

    Getting back to approved climate science topics, any guesses as to why predictions of La Nina have flipped to a 50% chance of El Nino?

    La Nina is here — get ready for another dry year
    Published: Saturday, Jan. 3, 2009

    This year’s La Niña looks stronger and longer-lasting, said Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

    and also:

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/enso_disc_jan2008/ensodisc.html

    For the more recent links:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

    What’s up with that? Must be the PDO in action… or something. Oh well, don’t worry, Don Easterbrook has assured us that we are “locked into a cooling phase of the PDO” so there’s nothing to worry about.

    In April 2008, scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory announced that while the La Niña was weakening, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation—a larger-scale, slower-cycling ocean pattern—had shifted to its cool phase.

    Not very pretty at all.

  490. Anne van der Bom:

    Douglas Wise
    17 June 2009 at 8:1 AM

    I think that the only carbon free sustainable energy source that might end up cheaper than coal could be 4th generation nuclear.

    When do you think the mass rollout of gen 4 reactors can start? Is a proven design ready for that? How much will it cost? Will they be cheaper or more expensive than current gen III reactors?

  491. bobberger:

    According to the roadmap…

    http://www.gen-4.org/PDFs/GenIVRoadmap.pdf

    … G4 technology will be ready in 2030 with G III+ as an intermediate step starting from 2012. As almost everything concerning large scale energy, the “sooner or later” will depend mostly on political decisions.

  492. SecularAnimist:

    bobberger wrote: “… G4 technology will be ready in 2030 …”

    If so, that rules it out as an option for reducing CO2 emissions from electricity generation in the time frame those reductions must be made in order to avoid the worst outcomes of anthropogenic global warming. Not to mention that by 2030, we can (if we wish) be producing so much electricity from renewables that no one will bother to build any “G4″ nuclear power plants because they won’t be needed nor will they be competitive with renewables.

    The “third generation” nuclear power plants now being built — like the French AREVA power plants being built in Finland and France — are mired in the same delays, cost overruns and safety problems that have always afflicted nuclear power.

  493. Douglas Wise:

    re 490: Anne van der Bom

    You ask highly relevant questions about 4th generation nuclear. You will appreciate that my reading has led me to be very inclined to support bobberger’s take on the subject of our future energy requirements and the manner in which they might be obtained.

    However, I don’t claim any expertise on the subject and most of the information I have gleaned on Generation IV reactors has been from BraveNewClimate where there have been several interesting discussions, including both supporters and opponents of the technology. If you want serious information, you would get a good and quick start by looking at the site and the detailed links given therein.

    Most of the correspondents there are backing the S-prism design of IFR though some prefer LFTRs, but these are further from commercial development. It would appear that a commercial IFR prototype could probably be up and running within 5 years because a “proven design” is already extant. If it proved itself economically, mass rollout could follow within 10 to 15 years (a modular design and factory built reactor vessels). There are excellent technological reasons to believe that they should produce electricity significantly more cheaply than existing gen 111 reactors and, more importantly, more cheaply than from newly constructed coal plants.. However, given that costs for nuclear are very sensitive to discount rates with high up front costs (as with wind), construction delays by protesters and regulators can totally alter the result.

    It may well that my enthusiasm is based on my naivity. I would be very interested to hear what your take on the subject is after you have looked further into the subject. However, until we have a commercial prototype to evaluate, nobody can really be certain. It seems to me that, at the very least, we need one as soon as possible.

  494. Phil Scadden:

    Mark, I did the figures for NZ. It took me weeks and I knew where to find the figures. Accessible trade figures are mostly in $$ so a right pain to turn into energy values. This is a job for someone in Sweden or US to do for their country.

    However, with only about 20% of US energy use going into residential, you cant tell me that you get sweden-like figures by just better housing, personal conservation etc. The figure that stands out is energy use on transportation. More efficient transportation seems the high priority for US.

    The question as to how much each energy each imports/exports in good though takes more analysis than I have time to do.

  495. Anne van der Bom:

    bobberger
    17 June 2009 at 2:1 PM

    The document you provided only outlines a roadmap with an indicative time schedule. Based on that document there is no way you can declare: “G4 technology will be ready in 2030″. Even the scientists themselves will not take such a strong position.

    Your document is from 2002. The 2007 annual report is very vague. I can not extract any serious achievements from it, but I think you are more knowledgeable on the subject than me. Are they still on schedule? Is 2030 still the target?

    Mind you, even if they make it, that is only the START of rollout. Taking the long planning and building time of nuclear reactors into account, before these gen IV reactors are ready to deliver their electricity it is easily 2050. Don’t you agree that that is far too late?

    What is the backup plan in case unexpected issues arise and the schedule starts slipping?

  496. Ray Ladbury:

    Douglas Wise, You know that I am not particularly anti-nuke. However, ultimately sustainability demands that we be able to get by on what comes our way from the Sun. Nuclear power can only serve as a stopgap measure–at best–and that presumes that we can resolve the waste, proliferation and fuel supply issues. It also presumes we come up with a way to make the plants idiot proof, since idiots, arguably, have been the main cause of serious nuclear accidents.
    There is another reason why I’ve become a little less enthusiastic about nuclear power, though. It necessitates a second change of infrastructure in a few decades to a century down the road. Given the difficulty we are having with this one, I have my doubts about whether we’ll be able to make yet another such transition in the face of opposition from yet another group of entrenched interests. In many ways, I think it would be better to force through a renewable future as quickly as possible, relying as much as possible on conservation in the interim, perhaps with minor contributions by nuclear power and, possibly coal with CCS.

    The Oracle of ReCAPTCHA says: nonesuch Spencer. I have nothing to add.

  497. Phil Scadden:

    On topic. Just had a talk from paleoclimate modeller using the NCAR CCSM. He talked a little about the problem of validation when someone changes the physics model, problems with different compilers and architectures. Now this is intriguing stuff (and somewhat relevant to problem I do at work which also have validation issues with initial value, non linear PDEs). Someone at RC want to discuss the processes?

  498. Michael Stefan:

    Ike Solem
    17 June 2009 at 1:00 PM

    What’s up with that? Must be the PDO in action… or something. Oh well, don’t worry, Don Easterbrook has assured us that we are “locked into a cooling phase of the PDO” so there’s nothing to worry about.

    The latest SST anomaly charts look a lot like the positive PDO phase; e.g. http://polar.ncep.noaa.gov/sst/oper/global_anomaly_oper0.png, so I guess they were wrong about a long-term PDO phase shift.

    Also, I for one have never considered the PDO to have any significant influence on global temperatures (same for the AMO, though these need to be considered for regional climate variations); I recall seeing a reply from a RC contributor regarding the effect, a tenth of a degree C or less. In addition, some research shows that the PDO is entirely dependent on ENSO, so with La Nina ending and a likely El Nino, it isn’t surprising that it has shifted back:

    ENSO-Forced Variability of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation

    The article (from 2003, but same can apply now) ends with:

    For example, the recent long-term positive phase of the PDO may have simply resulted from the 1977–98 period being dominated by warm events in the Tropics, and the recent apparent “change” in phase of the PDO is an expected outcome of the cool tropical SST in the east Pacific of the last few years. Thus, with tropical SSTs having returned to warm conditions in 2002, the PDO has likewise become positive again. In the absence of a La Niña this year, the PDO may be expected to remain positive in 2004.

    And if the PDO is strongly correlated to ENSO, and ENSO is the dominant mode of short term variability, then it stands that the PDO will have some correlation with temperatures – but not necessarily being the cause. Also, consider 2008 and 2009 thus far, 2009 has been much warmer while the PDO was much more negative until recently; the AMO has also been negative every month so far.

  499. Patrick 027:

    463(free market as a rationing system)
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/06/groundhog-day-2/langswitch_lang/jp#comment-127132

    Re James, Alistair, others…

    We will have to make sacrifices. We have always had to make sacrifices. But what do we get out of it? We will give something up but we will get something back – it makes sense if what we get back is better – and that is the whole point. Do we give A up (and get C in return) or do we give B up (and get D in return)? Consider how a free market would respond if the public costs of emissions were not public.

    James – Yes, we will lose some area that could be used for another purpose including wilderness/wildlife refuges, food production, etc. But what do we get back? What if the use of renewable energy prevents enough climate change to save some greater amoung of habitat, some greater amount of cropland – or in particular to save the quality of a much larger area?

    ——————————-
    466 (area requirements):
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/06/groundhog-day-2/langswitch_lang/jp#comment-127140

    will get back to that…

    ——————————-
    468 (solar spending scenario):
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/06/groundhog-day-2/langswitch_lang/jp#comment-127145

    I adjusted the solar investing scenario to include a 2 year energy payback for solar devices.

    In this scenario, I keep the power supplied to purposes other than producing solar power devices at a constant 1 TW of power ; the energy used to produce solar power devices in in addition to that 1 TW.

    Initially, the non-solar power supply rises, but it goes back below the initial value (1 TW) in just 3 years. Thus, year 3 is the first year to realize a reduction in non-solar power consumption.

    Total spending on energy (including solar) peaks at $1.0906 trillion, 9.06 % above the initial non-solar spending (before this plan starts), in year 8. It first falls below the initial value in year 24, at which point, solar energy supplies 0.36 TW. The average spending from year zero falls below $1 trillion in year 37, when solar energy supplies 0.74 TW.

    The last year in which there is some non-solar energy usage is year 45; in that year, total spending is $0.567 trillion, of which, $0.067 trillion is on non-solar energy. After that, a constant average solar power supply of about 1.020408163265306122… TW can be maintained by producing new devices at a rate of 0.01020408163265306122… TW per year; which uses the 0.020408163265306122… TW, leaving a net 1 TW power supply.

    (I actually used a numerical integration with a time step of 1 year, and to be conservative, additions to solar energy one year were from spending in the previous year and already degraded by 1 %, but figured out the rate of solar device production for maintaining a constant power supply analytically.)

    What happens if all spending above $1 trillion is paid with debt (deficit spending), with an annually-compounded interest of 5 % adjusted for inflation (would be just over 7 % in nominal terms with 2 % inflation): The first year without burrowing is year 24; at this point, the difference between $1 trillion per year and actual energy spending each year is used to pay off the debt. Because of interest, the debt continues to rise until it peaks in year 35 at $4.27 trillion. It drops to $3.04 trillion in year 45, when a payment of $0.433 trillion is made to pay down the debt. Keeping the same annual payments after that point (paymets could rise as solar energy spending drops to maintenance levels), the debt goes to zero in year 54. If payments continue beyond that point, earning the same interest, there would be an accumulation of $73.7 trillion in the account in the year 100.

    Now, what happens if the amount paid with debt or to pay down the debt is the difference between total energy spending and the $1 trillion plus a carbon tax of $50 per ton C – using a ratio of about 1.41 gigatons C per 1 TW of non-solar power (derived from the actual U.S. energy emissions in 2006, using a 1.139 TW electrical equivalent for all primary energy). In that case, the debt actuall starts out negative and remains until year 4. It peaks in year 19 at just $0.328 trillion, and goes to zero in year 27. IF payments continue to made and earn interest, the account would reach $6.74 trillion in year 45. The total emissions in that time are just over 2/3 of the business as usual scenario with constant 1 TW electrical equivalent, and emissions are zero after year 45.

    What happens if solar power device manufacturing continues at constant year 45 rates after year 45 instead of going down to power-supply maintenance levels? In that case, spending half of what is now spent on energy, the power supply increases to 1.58 TW in year 60, goes over 2 TW in year 74, and passes 3 TW in year 115. The accumulated additional reductions in emissions if that displaces more emitting energy sources elsewhere of the same mix as in the U.S. would balance out all emissions from the U.S. since year 0 by year 89.

    Caveats:

    0. Over time, depending on how much device degradation is total loss of solar collector area (which would be recycled if it is by breakage – although in some cases, pieces can still be used, but with some reduced efficiency) or through gradual efficiency decay of functioning devices, it may make economic sense to retire some devices past some age, because of a need to produce enough energy from a given area, and/or because of area-proportional costs. There could actually be a sequence of life stages as lower-efficiency devices might be useful in other settings. But some ultimate retirement age would increase the necessary power-supply-maintenance spending – but by a modest fraction. This effect probably wouldn’t be significant until sometime after all power is solar power in the scenario above.

    1. This doesn’t include balance of system costs and losses (besides transmission and distribution losses, which affect all electric power). However, it also assumes constant $10 per new average W.

    2. Obviously there is not a need to replace all hydroelectric power (some might need to be replaced, depending on climate changes, etc.) with solar power, and there can be contributions from different solar technologies, biofuels, geothermal, wind, waves, currents, etc. But these could all be lumped into something analogous to the above plan, except that spending on biofuels in particular would tend to involve less long-term investing.

    3. Electrical equivalent energy cannot actually replace all thermal energy. Devices cannot generally be expected to be nearly isentropic (perfect heat engines and heat pumps), so the same thermal energy at a high temperature cannot be expected to be produced by a heat pump using the electrical equivalent.

    However:

    In some residential and perhaps commercial applications, the same thermal energy could be supplied with significantly less than it’s electrical equivalent as defined for power plants, because the temperatures desired are moderate.

    Some moderate to low temperature thermal energy can also be supplied as waste heat from electrical power production.

    Passive solar design will reduce both lighting, heating energy needs.

    Waste heat at low temperature can be fed into a stream that is heated to higher temperatures by additional energy from other sources.

    Other types of solar energy and other energy resources can be involved in an analogous plan. Some types of solar energy might produce high temperature heat for direct use in industries. This might tend to have a higher efficiency of conversion from incident solar radiation than solar electricity generation.

    __________

  500. Mark:

    Phil, 494, so can you at least agree that your original statement had nothing to back it, except hope?

    If you’re having so many problems with NZ (which wasn’t the one mentioned anyway) and cannot see a way forward with Sweden, you couldn’t have had anything other than a desire for power and quality of life to be correlated positively.

  501. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Does anyone have a numerical time series, preferably annual, for the volume or magnitude of the PDO?

    CAPTCHA: “aquanaut reports”

  502. richard zurawski:

    I work in the media (30 years) and science communication and my undergraduate background is in physics and math and I have long been frustrated with what you are seeing. As long as the media allows the naysayers such unlimited access to airtime we will have the GHD Effect and I see no reason for it diminishing along with all the other pseudo-sciences. (Think paranormal, alternate medicine, anti-vaccine, creationism et al). The reason it comes to this is the media is all about controversy and eyeballs, reality shows etc, which is where the fuel for the need for constant repetition comes from. It was never about information, because the vast number of journalists, producers and broadcast gatekeepers live and die with the ratings. The internet is just the latest extension of the TV system and allows for possibility of becoming a “star” with just a few words or opinions. And its easy to post. Scientific method is not intuitive, easy or accessible to most of the folks who are watching and listening because of the effects of our media. What you are doing is invaluable and necessary and above all tedious, but you can’t stop.

  503. bobberger:

    I think the point is, that we don’t have to wait for G IV. Think of G IV as a step on the way. The first nuclear reactor delivered electricity back in the 1950s and the technology has progressed immensly since then. G IV is interesting, because it will solve some of the major drawbacks we still have with nuclear power. G IV gives nuclear a serious perspective for a very long time – at least until fusion is ready or maybe even far beyond that. To reduce emission in the developed world, we don’t need it now.
    However, as Huber pointed out in the Article linked by Douglas, even G IV would still have to struggle in order to beat coal on price and there will always be political hurdles. Nobody would sell a G IV reactor to, say, Nigeria nor would they want to buy one in the first place.

    “Not to mention that by 2030, we can (if we wish) be producing so much electricity from renewables that no one will bother to build any “G4″ nuclear power plants because they won’t be needed nor will they be competitive with renewables.”

    I asked for numbers to support bold claims like that over and over – but they don’t seem to exist. Otherwise I wouldn’t understand why nobody ever cites them. Its somehow even funny that the same people who don’t believe we can roll out a technology we have had for half a century and where entire developed economies (France) are being run from today would somehow “not work” while the same people claim that we can easily overcome the inherent problems and limitations of renewables in a jiffy – and make them dirt cheap as well. You people say we can’t wait for G IV (true, but we don’t have to) and complain about a “vague” roadmap. Well, what is YOUR roadmap? Where is the serious concept binding all the buzzwords (wind, solar, biomass, storage, grid, …) together and showing how we get there from where we are today, what it will cost, how long it will take etc.? I don’t mean “are you blind, solar has doubled in x months from .1% to .2%, what a great thing” or “just take wind and flywheels et viola” or “didn’t you hear about Waldpolenz – it works, hurray, a couple tens of touthands of those and some storage an there you go.”

  504. Ray Ladbury:

    Bob Berger, First, I have zero faith that hydrogen fusion will ever be a significant energy source on Earth. Second, even if it is, there’s a small matter of a 14 MeV neutron that 1)robs us of much of the energy from the fusion reaction, and 2)damages any containment vessel.
    Second, I’ve heard nothing convincing from you or anyone else about how we deal with the waste issue. The experience with Yucky mountain demonstrates that geologic storage is problematic. Also, if you look at the sorts of analysis and wishful thinking that went into the “science” from DO(P)E, it raises some serious issues about how we can manage a project on such a scale in a financially viable way. Any assessment of costs that doesn’t include costs of waste disposal is a joke.
    Now lest you think you are talking to some wide-eyed anti-nuclear activist, I am a physicist with a PhD in particle physics who regularly works with radioactive sources and at accelerators and reactors. However, it is precisely the glossing over of technical difficulties that has eroded support for nukes in the past. It is far from clear to me that the problems associated with a nuclear/fusion future will be any more tractable than the problems of a renewable future.

  505. Rod B:

    Patrick 027, I didn’t understand (or maybe just missed) one of your 2nd tier assertions in #499. Why does passive solar reduce the requirement for lighting and heating energy?

  506. tamino:

    Re: #501 (BPL)

    You can find monthly PDO data here:

    http://jisao.washington.edu/pdo/PDO.latest

  507. Lawrence Brown:

    U.S. natural gas reserves estimated to be 35 percent greater, than previous estimates.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/18/business/energy-environment/18gas.html?_r=1&sq=Estimate%20places%20natural%20gas%20reserves%20%2035%%20higher&st=cse&adxnnl=1&scp=1&adxnnlx=1245337336-I9n0EfgeCEFy0aC5FAQZHA
    Since natural gas emits less CO2 per unit of heat energy than coal, this sounds like good news for help in bridging the gap to renewables.

  508. Rod B:

    This is a belated comment that’s been in my mind for some time (which likely means it’s OT) and just triggered by richard zurawski in #502. You folks that complain about the media supporting and reporting mostly the skeptic side of AGW have been too long away from watching TV, or reading newspapers and magazines. For at least the past couple of years they have been overwhelmingly in support of AGW. The internet IMO leans toward AGW though it’s a long way from overwhelming — there is a large number of prominent skeptic blogs; your complaints have a little validity here.

  509. Rod B:

    Ray, I agree with bobberger in #503. I think any reasonable power source that mitigates our need for the eventually depleted fossil fuels ought to be pursued. I don’t understand the strong thoughts by many who also want to displace fossil fuels but seemingly absolutely only if the replacement is non-nuclear. This is evidenced as bobberger says by their blowing nuclear’s challenges way beyond even unsurmountable while blowing off wind and solar challenges with a flick of the wrist. Given its challenges, with which you are certainly familiar, do you think that future nuclear has no business being explored and we ought to put all of our eggs in the wind/solar basket?

  510. Douglas Wise:

    re#495. Anne van der Bom

    Of all the different versions of Gen IV reactors discussed in the roadmap cited by bobberger, the SCR with pyroprocessed fuel (IFR-S-Prism)is far the most advanced in its development and the roadmap suggests that it will be ready for deployment by 2015. The 2030 date is probably more apposite for most of the other proposals and may well be too late.

    You ask about a Plan B should 4th Generation not live up to expectations. The Plan B should obviously be continued deployment of renewables. There do not seem to be many Gen 1V enthusiasts who are inherently anti the deployment of renewables. The boot seems to be on the other foot. Let’s, at least, aim to get a commercial prototype up and running asap.

    Your comments suggest that you have not yet had the opportunity to look for further information on the subject at the BraveNewClimate website. I would urge you to do so as it might, at least, address and possibly even quell some of your doubts. However, should they remain, I would like to hear them

  511. bobberger:

    Ray #504

    “Second, I’ve heard nothing convincing from you or anyone else about how we deal with the waste issue. The experience with Yucky mountain demonstrates that geologic storage is problematic.”

    I assume you mean Yucca Mountain? Whatever – if that example would prove geological disposal impossible (which it doesn’t, though as you said, it is problematic nevertheless) we’d be in trouble anyway. Nuclear is here today and it won’t go away just like that – including the considerable waste it already produced and will continue to produce. Personally, I think recycling radioactive waste and/or store the non-recycable parts under control on the surface is safer than burying it somewhere – even if its buried SWD-style. The cost has to be included, of course. I don’t know about the US but most calculations I’ve seen about cost of nuclear in Europe do include reprocessing or waste disposal (and therefore vary quite a lot with reprocessing of the rods usually being the more expensive option at current uranium prices).

  512. James:

    Patrick 027 Says (18 June 2009 at 12:04 AM):

    “Yes, we will lose some area that could be used for another purpose including wilderness/wildlife refuges, food production, etc. But what do we get back? What if the use of renewable energy prevents enough climate change to save some greater amoung of habitat, some greater amount of cropland – or in particular to save the quality of a much larger area?”

    I don’t, of course, disagree with this in principle. The problem is that you’ve artificially limited the scenario (by allowing nothing but renewables) to produce an either/or response. So instead I offer a less-limited scenario:

    1) Use renewables where they don’t cause significant damage, or (as with mixed-prairie biofuel) might even improve the existing environment. (And pay attention to cost of storage, etc.)

    2) Increase efficiency & make other changes to use less energy while improving quality of life.

    3) Use nuclear power as a limited-term way to fill in the remaining power needs.

    4) Work on reducing the birth rate in order to eventually get the population down to a level that the planet can support.

    And one question on your economic analysis: are you including cost of storage, or did I miss it somewhere?

  513. SecularAnimist:

    Douglas Wise wrote: “The Plan B should obviously be continued deployment of renewables.”

    Given that the USA — and the world — has vast commercially exploitable wind and solar energy resources that can produce more electricity than we currently use, with today’s technologies, which are already being widely deployed on a large scale, and which have the enthusiastic backing of private investment, and are capable of being scaled up as rapidly as we wish, it seems to me that “continued deployment of renewables” should be “Plan A” as far as energy production goes.

    And indeed, it’s not even really a “plan”, it’s the reality of what is happening right now, today.

    Today’s nuclear technology can’t do it, and tomorrow’s nuclear technology doesn’t exist yet.

    The idea suggested by, for example, Ray Ladbury that nuclear could serve as a “stopgap” until we move to a fully renewables-based energy economy only makes sense if it refers to keeping the existing nuclear power plants running until they reach their end-of-life and are shut down and decommissioned. In that sense nuclear can be a stopgap — and I agree that it is far more urgent to shut down coal-fired power plants than it is to shut down existing nuclear power plants.

    But the idea that an expansion of nuclear can serve as a stopgap on the way to renewables makes no sense. Renewables are already here, now, and can be scaled up more, and more easily, and faster, and cheaper, than nuclear. Any significant contribution to reducing GHGs by expanding nuclear power is decades away.

    Indeed, if for some reason it was highly desirable to greatly expand nuclear power, the urgency of the climate crisis would mean that we would have to use renewables as a “stopgap” during the decades it would take to expand nuclear power.

    But once we fully build out that renewable “stopgap”, who needs the nukes?

    (Captcha says “bleeping ing” — perhaps suggesting what the moderators would like to do to comments about renewables vs. nuclear?)

  514. bobberger:

    Lawrence #507

    “Since natural gas emits less CO2 per unit of heat energy than coal, this sounds like good news for help in bridging the gap to renewables.”

    Another way of looking at it would be, that this means even more fossil fuel to burn, making it cheaper as well.

  515. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Thanks, Tamino!

  516. Patrick 027:

    Re 505 – Passive solar can be thought of either as renewable energy or as energy efficiency, so long as it is not double counted except where allowed (eg light turns into heat).

    Passive solar is use of solar energy directly for light and heat, not including any equipment besides windows (thermally-insulating) and building design and materials (to add heat capacity where desired, so that daytime heating does not make the temperature too high in the day but prevents the temperature from getting too low at night). As I understand it, passive solar does not include any ‘active’ use of heat sinks and sources that would require directed flow of fluids (ie it doesn’t include solar water heating, geothermal heat storage). Obviously, though, passive solar can be combined with such things.

  517. David B. Benson:

    The comments on this thread seem to have taken up a groundhog day quality.

  518. Patrick 027:

    James –

    I did not explicitly include the cost of storage in that scenario. The scenario will be approximately accurate if the total cost can come down to $10/average new W.

    However, in the earlier portion of the scenario, there will not be so much need of storage because of the remaining non-renewable power sources. In the later portion of the scenario, energy spending is much reduced from now at $10/ average W, so additional costs could be tolerated. (Although it should also be pointed out that we may need those financial savings in order to pay for climate adaptation and compensate for climate-change damages.)

    Ultimately, the variability of direct solar heat (high temperature, moderate temperature, and passive) and light, and solar photovoltaic electricity, and wind, waves, etc, can be complemented with the controllability of solar-thermal electric generation (where heat is stored), geothermal power, biofuels (and natural gas, etc, in the near future), hydroelectric, currents, OTEC, and geothermal power, as well as transmission across distances on the scale of cloud cover variations, the greater use of energy during the day, greater use of electricity in the summer (right? – although that could change when heat pumps replace furnaces ?), a tendency in some locations for wind power and solar power to have opposing seasonal variations, and – except where droughts are cloudy, a tendency for greater hydroelectric and biofuel power availability when there is less solar energy, and a greater need for desalination and water pumping when solar energy is more abundant. Some non-fossil fuel linked carbon sequestration could also be done when there are surpluses of variable energy sources.

    ————-

    After your last comment, I would say that our positions are not so radically different from each other. I am ambivalent about nuclear power – I know Chernobyl was a bad design that was badly run, but I also know that there have been reports of poor maintenance (and why can’t they afford the maintenance/safety measures if it is affordable – well, it probably is, I guess, but there are always some people who will try to get away with stuff), and on site storage of waste has its risks.

    It is important to note that both nuclear and coal have ecological footprints that are larger than what happens at the power plants (in addition to coal’s CO2 and other combustion emissions)

    (with coal, consider the mountaintop removal mining of West Virginia (certainly it would be more environmentally friendly to line those ridges with wind turbines?) – and I know I should use an example for nuclear land use but I’m not as familiar with the specifics there).

    This will be true to some degree for everything, but my impression is that the total land for solar power is either less than or comparable to coal and nuclear power, and the CO2 emissions (when fossil fuels are part of the supporting infrastructure) per unit energy are similar among solar photovoltaic, wind, and nuclear.

    The cost (not just financial) of the area used depends on the scenic and ecological sensitivity and/or food or other value it would or does have. Part of what makes remaining praire and temperate forests so valuable is that we’ve made them more rare by displacing so much for food production and unrenewed wood. I certainly don’t think the desert is worthless for what it is, and changes in one location can have effects elsewhere (habitat quality depends in part on connectedness), but the sacrifice would tend to be reduced if areas are chosen that are similar, in species and/or landscape, etc, to other areas that are not used.

    As for agricultural land, the actual footprint can be less than the area used in a way. From my own experience, lawn grass grows just fine on the north side of a two-story building. Solar panels and collectors that are tilted (tracking or fixed) and spaced out to get the most from each dollar spent on panels, will cast long shadows over the land in winter, but plants will tend to be dormant, possibly covered with snow, in that season; more sunlight will land in between devices in summer when the plants are growing. There are a couple of different ways that solar power plants on semiarid range land could increase the food or biofuel value of the land – by either concentrating moisture on sunny areas between shadows or outside the plant, or by slowing evaporation from underneath, where there could be shade-grown plants.

  519. Phil Scadden:

    Mark – my statement “I would suspect that the US (like China) exports a great deal of energy in goods and that Sweden imports a great deal.”
    was certainly made with no more than perception of US as car makers, steel producers etc. and sweden being largely service based. “Hope” is the right word – I did qualify with “suspect”. I also had figures showing US energy use dominated by industry and transportation so when trying to explain why US energy per capita was so high, it didnt make sense to be looking too hard and tumble dryers and insulation.

  520. SecularAnimist:

    Some informative articles on solar energy:

    Solar Power Experiences Strongest Year of Growth Yet
    by Yingling Liu
    WorldWatch Insitute
    June 18, 2009

    Juice From Concentrate: Reducing Emissions with Concentrating Solar Thermal Power
    By Britt Childs Staley, Jenna Goodward, Clay Rigdon & Andrew MacBride
    World Resources Institute
    May 2009

    (Note that the article linked above is a summary of a longer 64-page report that is downloadable as a PDF.)

    Squeezing More Juice From Concentrating Solar Thermal
    By Britt Childs Staley
    World Resources Institute
    June 18, 2009

    Enjoy.

  521. Lawrence Brown:

    Re:514
    “Another way of looking at it would be, that this means even more fossil fuel to burn, making it cheaper as well.”

    That’s the downside of the equation,Bob. Hopefully,we’ll come to realize that fossil fuels,in any form, are a limited resource as well bad for the climate,and all which that entails. Or, given our track record, maybe not.

  522. Alastair McDonald:

    RE #499 where Patrick 027 Says:

    Re James, Alistair, others…

    We will have to make sacrifices. We have always had to make sacrifices. But what do we get out of it?

    You won’t get anything out of it now. We have to sacrifice now in order to prevent catastrophe in the future.

    It is quite simple, with CO2 at current levels the Greenland ice sheet will melt and raise sea levels by 20 feet. The desertification of California as a result of wild fires will continue, etc. etc. Even if we stopped all fossil fuel burning now, these high levels of CO2 will persist for at least another 100 years, perhaps longer. These are the things Gavin is not telling you!

    If we switch all current energy production over to renewables, we would still not be producing enough energy to supply the needs and wants of the developing world who would like to live in the same manner as those they see in the Hollywood films.

    Either we have to reduce our per capita consumption to sustainable levels, or the global population will be reduced to a number that is sustainable. Sacrifice now or face catastrophe later!

    Cheers, Alastair.

  523. James:

    Patrick 027 Says (18 June 2009 at 3:48 PM):

    “…with coal, consider the mountaintop removal mining of West Virginia (certainly it would be more environmentally friendly to line those ridges with wind turbines?)…”

    Would it? Perhaps not if you consider time. The coal mine will eventually have all the coal removed from it, and if left to itself the land will recover in time. Those wind turbines, solar panels, and so on will have to be there “forever”.

    “This will be true to some degree for everything, but my impression is that the total land for solar power is either less than or comparable to coal and nuclear power…”

    I don’t see how anyone could possibly come to that conclusion. (Even though I know there is one poster who asserts it, though I don’t recall ever seeing supporting data and haven’t found any in my own searches.) IIRC that Scientific American article gave 30,000 square miles as the area needed to produce about a third of US power from solar, while the state of West Virginia is a bit over 24,000 square miles in area. Wouldn’t that much strip mined area be glaringly obvious on satellite images?

    “There are a couple of different ways that solar power plants on semiarid range land could increase the food or biofuel value of the land – by either concentrating moisture on sunny areas between shadows or outside the plant, or by slowing evaporation from underneath, where there could be shade-grown plants.”

    Do go back and read some of the links to the details of the actual construction of these plants (existing or planned). The area on which the mirrors/panels are installed is scraped bare, and regularly treated with herbicides to prevent anything from growing. And yet, some people still believe it’s “green” power.

  524. RichardC:

    523 James, Solar power in the desert INCREASES biological potential because water is the limiting nutrient, not sunlight. A solar power system concentrates water, which allows for more growth. The more desert we cover with solar systems, the better it is for the environment.

  525. Cris Dudley:

    James (#345),

    A number for the timescale of loss of hydrogen might be about 600 million years: http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/venus_life_040826.html

    Mars may still retail a lot of water in its soil. We’ll see.

  526. Patrick 027:

    Alistair – ” These are the things Gavin is not telling you!”

    Um, I don’t know about Gavin specifically just off hand, but this site as a whole has told me such things. And I was refering to consequences over time – we agree on that.

    James – well, I will have to look up more information on land use for coal and nuclear, but:

    1. “regularly treated with herbicides to prevent anything from growing.”

    Is that to prevent bird droppings from landing on the equipment and blocking light? I would think some short ground cover would keep the dust down… I don’t see why it has to be as you say, even if it is that way at the moment (?). Although light covered ground surface between panels (and reflective backsides of tilted panels in rows equatorward of other rows) could boost power from flat panels and non-geometric concentrators.

    2. Perhaps not if you consider time. The coal mine will eventually have all the coal removed from it, and if left to itself the land will recover in time.

    It takes mountains millions of years to grow, and the collisional part of the equation is not happening right now. There are water quality issues. It’s messy stuff.

    But that reminds me of another point – in some cases, solar power plants might be put on top of old mines and landfills.

    ——

    Area: the best roofs for solar power slope mainly toward the equator – because of the spacing between buildings, new building designs would enable panels to cover a larger area than the projection of the roof into a horizontal plane, without much shading of other panels. Especially if the tallest buildings are on the poleward sides of cities.

    When panels are put closer together so that there is some shading, then the panels should be less tilted to make the most of the solar energy available when long shadows are not cast. That also reduces the shading. However, it also tends to make the difference between summer and winter power supply greater, so there is a tradeoff.

    When solar power fields are initially filled, I’d suggest using only every other row initially, or more generally, wider spacing in some way. This reduces shading so that there is more energy per unit device. For the same degradation rate and efficiency variation with insolation (in proportion to the efficiency at a standard insolation – this relates to the fill factor for photovoltaic devices), reduced cost per peak W can allow for greater density of devices of a given tilt or tracking orientation per unit horizontal area – this increase the average power per unit area of land but decreases the average power per unit area of device.

  527. bobberger:

    Richard #524

    “A solar power system concentrates water, which allows for more growth. The more desert we cover with solar systems, the better it is for the environment.”

    Oh I hope not. The whole point about solar from the desert is the “desert” part, isn’t it? Merciless sun unencumbererd by clouds, fog, rain etc. – only a dust storm every once in a while.

    You may already know – there is some development with DESERTEC, btw. They now seem to have a letter of understanding about the funding with the German media being all over it but a strange kind of silence from TREC themselves.

    SecularAnimist #520

    “Some informative articles on solar energy:”

    Marketing…

    Phil #519

    “…no more than perception of US as car makers, steel producers etc. and sweden being largely service based.”

    Actually – no. I don’t think anybody in Sweden would buy a US car, while there’s quite a lot of Volvo and Saab in the US. (Mind you, Saab belongs to GM and is now more or less dead and Volvo is really Ford, but whatever…)

    See #480 for details about energy consumption (which, according to Mark, should show significantly more efficiency for Sweden but, for some reason, appear not to).

  528. Mark:

    OK, Phil.

    On this: “I also had figures showing US energy use dominated by industry and transportation so when trying to explain why US energy per capita was so high”

    Uh the amount of power used doesn’t mean you’re doing it a lot, it can mean you’re doing it badly.

    E.g. in the 1920′s (IIRC) the US produced 3600 calories of food per calorie of oil used in its production.

    In the 1980′s it was 1 to 1.

    Think on that.

    PS if the US produces so much, why is Sweden not buying from them? Because it’s either them not buying from the US or Sweden aren’t importing a lot.

  529. CM:

    Alastair:

    It is quite simple, with CO2 at current levels the Greenland ice sheet will melt and raise sea levels by 20 feet. … Even if we stopped all fossil fuel burning now, these high levels of CO2 will persist for at least another 100 years, perhaps longer. These are the things Gavin is not telling you!

    Come on.

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/03/catastrophic-sea-level-rise-more-evidence-from-the-ice-sheets/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/09/how-much-will-sea-level-rise/

    (with:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/09/on-straw-men-and-greenland-tad-pfeffer-responds/
    )

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2006/11/how-much-co2-emission-is-too-much/

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/02/irreversible-does-not-mean-unstoppable/

  530. Jim Eaton:

    Re: 524 RichardC Says: “523 James, Solar power in the desert INCREASES biological potential because water is the limiting nutrient, not sunlight. A solar power system concentrates water, which allows for more growth. The more desert we cover with solar systems, the better it is for the environment.”

    Excuse me RichardC, but the flora and fauna in our various deserts have evolved to flourish in their various desert environments. Solar systems which raid local groundwater supplies will have an impact both on the local area as well as downstream (or groundwater supplies down gradient).

    Spraying water on mirrors to clean them will allow additional water to seep into the ground. But these solar plants are not intended to allow vegetation to take advantage of this water. The vegetation will be destroyed to maintain maximum solar efficiency.

    Some concentrated solar power facilities may be necessary to meet our future needs, but we should not be fooled into thinking these plants will be good for the lands on which they are located. This is why we should choose as our first priorities desert lands that already have been disrupted due to agriculture or military uses. Our intact ecosystems should be left undisturbed as much as possible (as these ecosystems are sequestering CO2 as well).

  531. Alastair McDonald:

    Patrick,

    We don’t agree on consequences over time. Jim Hansen doesn’t, James Lovelock doesn’t and I don’t.

    We are like a crowd in a blazing cinema, with the usherettes afraid to yell fire because they have been told it will cause panic. The customers are staying in their seats because they want to see the whole of the film for which they have paid. They refuse to move until they get their money’s worth. (No sacrifice from them.) Meanwhile the roof is about to collapse.

    This planet is held at a tolerable temperature by two large “air conditioning units” one at each pole which reflect solar heat back to space. One is about to break down. The Arctic ice has only a few years left. But RealClimate, rather than broadcast these facts loud and clear, play down the warnings from Hansen and Lovelock.

    It is over five years since I was told by an important scientist that the Greenland ice sheet was about to pass the point of no return. Only 10% of the Greenland ice shelves remain. But have RealClimate reported that. No! There is a conspiracy of silence amongst all the scientists to keep the truth from the public. They are afraid they will be called alarmists!

    Cheers, Alastair.

    Captcha = dynamics Tempest

  532. Ray Ladbury:

    James says, “The coal mine will eventually have all the coal removed from it, and if left to itself the land will recover in time.”

    You have obviously never been to Eastern KY or WV. Recovery after mountain-top removal is on geologic timescales.

    The fact of the matter is that if we are to have a sustainable economy, it cannot be based on oil, or natural gas or coal or nuclear. Consumption has consequences. We can minimize consumption to what is necessary for welfare and a degree of comfort. We cannot bring it to zero.

  533. Kevin McKinney:

    James, the SciAm article you reference says “. . . installations in place indicate that the land required for each gigawatt-hour of solar energy produced in the Southwest is less than that needed for a coal-fired plant when factoring in land for coal mining.” (And yes, your memory is correct that their plan calls for 30,000 square miles of PV arrays. However, coal mining is not limited to West Virginia!)

    By way of perspective, the book Lots of Parking states that “. . . the nation’s transportationscape comprises 38 million acres of roads, streets and parking lots.” This equates to around 59,000 square miles. I’ve not been able to verify or confute your descriptions of solar sites “scraped bare” and treated with herbicides, but photos of actual sites sure don’t look like environmental Gehenna to me.

  534. RichardC:

    527 Bob, 530 Jim… Ever been to a desert? Lots of sand and not much life. Most of the life seeks shade and water. Yep, solar plants will change the equation. Nope, nothing will go extinct because of them. My point is that all in all, the biodiversity and richness of the areas will increase. Or are you arguing that a lack of life (aka sand dunes) is incredibly important to maintain in the fullest?

  535. Alastair McDonald:

    Re #532 where Ray wrote:

    We can minimize consumption to what is necessary for welfare and a degree of comfort. We cannot bring it to zero.

    What I am trying to say is that if we do not bring it to zero, it will end up as zero. With a finite resource that is inevitable.

    This is why switching to nuclear is not the answer. Uranium is finite, and that mined on land will soon run out.

    Solar collectors in the deserts may seem an endless source but the resources needed to collect are not. An occasional sand blast from a dust storm will soon shorten their useful lives.

    Every one seems to be living in an Imaginary world.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  536. RichardC:

    530 jim maintains, “Our intact ecosystems should be left undisturbed as much as possible (as these ecosystems are sequestering CO2 as well).”

    Ludicrous. The baking of the soils in a desert negates any sequestering. Deserts are “life on the edge”. All effort goes into not dying. Any concentration of water via solar plant construction will provide areas where sequestration of CO2 can occur. Remember, we’re not talking about covering a majority of the deserts, just a percent or two. We have to disturb SOME land SOMEWHERE in order for humans to survive. It sounds like you are calling for extermination of the entire human race. You aren’t calling for the use of uranium and coal mining on well-populated by life lands so as to spare the nearly lifeless deserts from any encroachment, are you?

  537. Rod B:

    Kevin, or et al. I’m trying to follow this to check if my back of the envelope calculation (#398) were anywhere near accurate. I’m having troubles with SciAm’s units: the land area required to generate GWHr (energy) versus GW (power). This seems to give coal a distinct advantage: a solar array can probably produce an average of 1/2 of its peak power for roughly 8 hours per day; a coal plant can generate 100% of its peak power for 24 hours per day — looking at generation capacity, not demand. Or, put another way one can, given enough time, generate one GWHr with only, say, 10 square meters of PV panels. Can you shed some light on this?

  538. Mark:

    re 530: “Excuse me RichardC, but the flora and fauna in our various deserts have evolved to flourish in their various desert environments.”

    Excuse me, I don’t think you can call a dessert ecosystem “flourishing” without the unstated “in relative terms”.

    Plant your petunias in the dessert.

    Will they be thinking (in petunia, of course) “Lovely, just what I wanted, a bit of sun!”? Or will it be more “AAAAARRRRGGGHHH! It Buuurrrnnssss! Water! I need Water!!!”?

    And given that the dessert areas are expanding anyway because of warming, the displaced dessicants can move to the newly available areas.

  539. Ray Ladbury:

    Alastair, Might I refer you to the work of The Club of Rome (e.g. Limits to Growth) and before them the right reverend Thomas Malthus to point out that you do not have priority in the discovery that the planet is finite.

    I would point out, however, that we do have a rather large amount of sunshine blowing up our skirts for the next 3 billion years or so. It is up to us to figure out how to develop a sustainable economy with that. We can use nukes and even coal with CCS to tide us over, but sustainability within the solar power budget has to be the ultimate goal.

  540. bobberger:

    Richard #534

    “527 Bob, 530 Jim… Ever been to a desert? Lots of sand and not much life. Most of the life seeks shade and water. Yep, solar plants will change the equation. Nope, nothing will go extinct because of them. My point is that all in all, the biodiversity and richness of the areas will increase. Or are you arguing that a lack of life (aka sand dunes) is incredibly important to maintain in the fullest?”

    Yes, more often than I wanted to. In fact I fully agree. I was merely pointing out that if you put solar in a desert because thats where its most effective, it’ll better stay a desert (more or less) and not become a rainforest (for the collector’s effectiveness’ sake) – but I guess we can rule that out anyway. On the other hand – looking at the sheer enormity of DESERTEC (400 billion Euro have now been approved – at least they said so on the radio a minute ago) it just can’t be without some effect to the ecosystem although I guess it’ll be nothing on a scale that can’t be dealt with.

    Alastair #535

    “Uranium is finite…”

    I’m sure they’ll find it a laughing matter in 3000something, when they scan through the archives and see, that back in 2009 people worried about something as stoneage (from their perspective) as Uranium being available for them. Fortunately our ancestors never bothered about conserving, say, flintstone in order for us not to freeze to death during the winter, but simply used it to survive and make our existance possible in the first place.

  541. dhogaza:

    Ever been to a desert? Lots of sand and not much life. Most of the life seeks shade and water. Yep, solar plants will change the equation. Nope, nothing will go extinct because of them. My point is that all in all, the biodiversity and richness of the areas will increase. Or are you arguing that a lack of life (aka sand dunes) is incredibly important to maintain in the fullest?

    Apparently you’ve never been to the Mojave, which is not a desert of sand dunes. There are dunes in the Mojave, but the vast majority of the Mojave is covered with plants like the Joshua Tree, and there’s plenty of life, and plenty of biodiversity. Same is true of the Chihuahuan desert, and it’s even more true of the Sonoran.

    My guess is you’re an engineer or physical scientist with little or no experience of the ecosystems you’re so cavalierly waving off as being nearly non-existent.

    My first trip to a Mojave Desert sand dune yielded – in fact I almost accidently stepped on it, as its coloration mimicked the sand so nicely – a rare species of Mormon cricket endemic to the dune.

    No life, indeed.

  542. dhogaza:

    Excuse me, I don’t think you can call a dessert ecosystem “flourishing” without the unstated “in relative terms”.

    Plant your petunias in the dessert.

    Plant a joshua tree in Portland, Oregon.

  543. CM:

    Mark (#538 or thereabouts): “Dessert areas are expanding anyway because of warming.” Yummy! But: “Plant your petunias in the dessert”? Yuck. And “the displaced dessicants can move”? A look in the dictionary under “des-” might be useful.


    ReCaptcha getting violent: “Total somebody”

  544. dhogaza:

    The baking of the soils in a desert negates any sequestering. Deserts are “life on the edge”.

    Praise be to God that I’m surviving life on the edge.

    There’s a nice bit of ecological ignorance being demonstrated on this thread …

  545. dhogaza:

    Remember, we’re not talking about covering a majority of the deserts, just a percent or two. We have to disturb SOME land SOMEWHERE in order for humans to survive.

    And somewhere up there the point was made that there’s plenty of already disturbed and screwed-over acres of land within the Mojave available that we should be able to build solar facilities without sacrificing increasingly rare areas where the various Mojave ecosystems are still largely intact.

    In other words, the statement above, “Our intact ecosystems should be left undisturbed as much as possible”, is a no-brainer.

  546. dhogaza:

    Most of the life seeks shade and water.

    Brewer’s sparrow – very possibly the most numerous native bird in the lower 48 – do not need to drink water to maintain their metabolism.

  547. dhogaza:

    Which of these two pictures were taken in an area averaging about 10 inches of rain a year?

    Door #1

    or

    Door #2

    ?

    (no fair looking at the URLs)

  548. Mark:

    re 544.

    Would you consider the biosphere of, say, the tropical rainforest to be “abundant”?

    What is the density of life in there?

    Now compare that to, say, the Australian Outback.

    Now if you want to say “surprisingly abundant compared to what people think of as in the dessert” then *yes*.

    Then again, someone with 10 arrows through the chest is surprisingly healthy if they aren’t actually *dead*. Doesn’t make “nearly dead” healthy.

    There’s a bit of ignorance of what they’re saying going on here…

  549. Mark:

    Take a look at the pictures:

    http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/desert.htm

    http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/rainforest.htm

    Which one looks most abundant?

  550. James:

    RichardC Says (19 June 2009 at 9:16 AM)

    “Ever been to a desert? Lots of sand and not much life. Most of the life seeks shade and water.”

    As a matter of fact, I happen to live in one. Or to be technical, in an oasis at the base of the Sierra Nevada, so going east just a little bit gets me into the actual Great Basin desert, and I’ve spent a good bit of time there. Where do you get your ideas of what a desert is like, old movies?

    Here’s some real desert for you: http://www.basinandrangewatch.org/Ivanpah-Wildflowers.html

    (19 June 2009 at 9:44 AM):

    “Ludicrous. The baking of the soils in a desert negates any sequestering.”

    Cure at least a little bit of your ignorance: http://www.celsias.com/article/are-deserts-hidden-carbon-sinks/ (news article) or http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/120091813/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0 (link to abstract, the full text is behind a paywall).

    Mark Says (19 June 2009 at 10:42 AM):

    “Plant your petunias in the dessert.”

    What kind? Chocolate cake or ice cream?

    “Will they be thinking (in petunia, of course) “Lovely, just what I wanted, a bit of sun!”? Or will it be more “AAAAARRRRGGGHHH! It Buuurrrnnssss! Water! I need Water!!!”?”

    And so? Ever try to grow dryland plants where it’s too wet for them? They drown. Plants & animals evolve to suit their environment. Move them to a different environment, and they usually don’t prosper, if they survive at all.

  551. Patrick 027:

    Re 533 – thanks for that info (transportation land use).

    Re 530 – I really don’t think desert ecosystems sequester much CO2, but I would agree with the overall point that providing either more or less water to a region will change the ecosystem, not protect it.

    Re 538 – Prickly Pear have beautiful flowers. Although I’ve come to realize those actually grow far and wide well beyond the desert, but then there’s also the Saguaro cacti. Yucca, century plant, agave (now I’m just listing plant names I know – is agave the same as a century plant? I have no clue).

    Re 534 – “Or are you arguing that a lack of life (aka sand dunes) is incredibly important to maintain in the fullest?”, Re 527,530,536,

    Even a seemingly lifeless landscape has at least scenic beauty. Different landscapes and ecosystems have different values in different and multiple ways (natural pest control and pollination, water processing, flood control, climate regulation, a genetic library resource, source of knowledge and heritage, aesthetics, psychological health, financial investments, production/maintence of material and energy resources including food and shelter and space for those things, etc.). different uses affect the different sources of value in different places differently.

    My earlier point about improving value of unused land via water runoff pertained more to agricultural land. Of course, with climate change, it could pertain to natural ecosystems to the extent that it counteracts a drying trend.

    And yes, some water may actually be used by solar power plants. Except maybe for thermal electric generation, though, I think it’s quite a bit less than is used by coal and nuclear power, and a smaller fraction is actually lost by evaporation (?). Probably the best power for lack of water needs is wind power – or anything in the ocean, since it then becomes a moot point.

    An increase in vegetation in some areas greater than the loss at ths solar power plant would have a climatic effect, tending to increase cumulus convection by reduced albedo. Some types of solar power plants could cause localized cooling that might enhance the solar resource if it tends to decrease cloud cover above (most effective for an overhead sun, or for solar power plants aligned in the direction of the shadow the sun would cast – north-to-south lines might be best since the solar resource is greatest at ‘local noon’, generally). Simply moving the precipitation from one area to another would not increase the overall evaporation from the two areas, and trapping moisture within the solar power plant by reduced evaporation would not increase the humidity level of the air above the devices.

  552. James:

    Ray Ladbury Says (19 June 2009 at 6:55 AM):

    “You have obviously never been to Eastern KY or WV. Recovery after mountain-top removal is on geologic timescales.”

    In fact I have, though not for some years. But I do live where mining was and is common (do a search on “Comstock Lode”, for instance) so I can look at any number of abandoned mines & tailings piles, and see that life is reclaiming them. Even here, where lack of water limits growth rates, recovery is on the order of centuries.

    (And of course I’m not talking about recovery being “hey, there’s a mountain there again”, but “that flat place where there used to be a mountain now has grass & trees on it”.)

    “The fact of the matter is that if we are to have a sustainable economy, it cannot be based on oil, or natural gas or coal or nuclear. Consumption has consequences.”

    Screw the economy :-) The fact of the matter is that current population levels simply aren’t sustainable, period. The problem isn’t how to sustain an economy based on those energy sources, it’s how to use them to transition to something that is sustainable.

  553. Ike Solem:

    On PDO and chaos vs. stability in weather patterns:

    Let’s say we have something called the ASO, the “Atlantic Seasonal Oscillation”, which drives yearly variation in sea surface temperatures and wind patterns. This mechanism of this oscillation is based on Earth’s tilt and the progression around the sun – very clear.

    Within this oscillation, let’s create the AWO “Atlantic Weekly Oscillation”, which, during parts of the year, generates easterly waves on a roughly weekly basis. This is due to atmospheric features over the Sahara desert, which generate ~60 waves per year. The physical mechanism driving these weekly oscillations is nowhere near as regular as the moon’s orbit, and thus they are not referred to as oscillations – and there is no solid connection between the number of easterly waves per year and the number of hurricanes per year. (Consider the problem of predicting how many acorn seeds will grow into trees, assuming a constant rate of acorn production – the acorn oscillator).

    Now, let’s look at other oscillations, and ask if we can find the oscillatory mechanism – for example, in El Nino, is the water just sloshing back and forth on a time period of 2-7 years? What drives that? In other words, where is the oscillator? One likely overall candidate is the tropical ocean heat content, and strong La Ninas after big El Ninos could be some evidence for a kind of bounce effect.

    Here is the picture to keep in mind, anyway which is the average surface heat flux for the world ocean:

    http://oceanworld.tamu.edu/resources/ocng_textbook/chapter05/Images/Fig5-10B.htm

    The cool blue along the western edges of North & South America and across the equator are due to wind-driven upwelling of deeper waters.

    One possibility is that global warming essentially overwhelms the upwelling for good, leading to a permanent El Nino state across the region. That might have been what the climate was like 4 million years ago, which could be a likely long-term equilibrium state under the current climate trajectory.

    Another is that winds will intensify and drive more vigorous upwelling, bringing up more cold water and perhaps resulting in an enhanced El Nino/La Nina cycle, with wider swings – and that was why the 1997-1998 El Nino was so powerful. This might be a transient effect – the heat has been turned up, but we’re not yet at full boil.

    In any case, there isn’t much doubt that ENSO is the best understood “ocean oscillation system”, and the driving force is definitely not a moon-earth type oscillation.

    When it comes to others, like the AMO and the PDO, ‘spurious’ comes to mind. Where is the multidecadal oscillator?

    [Response: Did you really not read any of my response to your previous posting? Or any of the links I provided to several peer-reviewed modeling studies that discuss in some detail the multidecadal oscillatory mechanisms behind the AMO? Please do not continue to post on points that we have already addressed. It is most definitely not appreciated. -mike]

    And why would anyone think that a slow-moving weak phenomenon like the PDO, if it even exists, could “damp” a much stronger and faster-moving equator-generated phenomenon like El Nino? Similar arguments apply to ‘cycles of droughts’ recorded in lake bed sediments – and chaotic phenomena can generate apparently periodic behavior (are hurricanes periodic? How about 100-year storms, 500-year floods, etc?).

    The PDO in particular is odd – it must involve the Kuroshio current and the North Pacific gyre, but how? (similar issues arise with respect to Atlantic MO claims).

    Nevertheless, we have this media broadcast from Bill Patzert at NASA/JPL – “Today, a Godzilla Niño is a long shot. Today’s Niño Pequena will be fighting a stong negative phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which tends to damp Los Ninos.”

    Really? Just like the AMO controls hurricane formation, and La Nina controls global drought… cycles within cycles, didn’t you read your Laplace?

    However, teleconnections seem to go in the opposite direction – and the deterministic gearing seems to be missing a lot of teeth:

    The Atmospheric Bridge: The Influence of ENSO Teleconnections on Air–Sea Interaction over the Global Oceans (pdf Alexander et al. 2002)

    While surface heat fluxes are the key component of the atmospheric bridge driving SST anomalies, Ekman transport also creates SST anomalies in the central North Pacific although the full extent of its impact requires further study. The atmospheric bridge not only influences SSTs on interannual timescales but also affects mixed layer depth (MLD), salinity, the seasonal evolution of upper-ocean temperatures, and North Pacific SST variability at lower frequencies.

    For current ENSO conditions, and to track the developing? El Nino:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/enso/

  554. Jim Bouldin:

    Actually there’s been quite an interesting controversy brewing over desert C dynamics the last few years, especially the last year, when a couple of papers came out describing high sink rates in the Mojave and in western China. That garnered a Science (320:1409-) news story, and then a couple months ago, William Schlesinger, a leader in biogeochemistry going back 30 years, weighed in with the rationale of his strong doubts in a brief Global Change Biology article. He lays the blame primarily with faulty eddy covariance measurement techniques:

    “Although it is possible that substantial uptake could have occurred during the 3-year period reported in these studies, the absence of changes in carbon storage in the ecosystem would presume that equally large losses are occurring (Chapin et al., 2006). However, the mechanisms for such loss are not obvious. Thus, we question the net uptake reported from these gas exchange studies in the Mojave Desert.

    For largely the same reasons, uptake reported by Xie et al. (2008) from an experimental study of saline and alkaline desert soils in western China – amounting to 62–622 g C m−2 yr−1– is even more problematic. The higher value exceeds net ecosystem production of highly productive coniferous plantations in the southeastern United States (Galang et al., 2007) and is orders of magnitude greater than net accumulations in soil carbonates of desert ecosystems worldwide. The field studies in China indicate that the uptake is the result of abiotic processes, most easily observed at night. Dissolution of carbonate minerals could account for the night-time uptake, but would render night-time values invalid for extrapolating to diurnal rates of uptake. In addition, such uptake would not occur in dry soils; thus, the extrapolated amounts are likely much too high. Carbon dioxide associated with carbonate dissolution accounted for an uptake of 2.1 to 7.4 g C m−2 yr−1 in a semi-arid, Russian cold steppe ecosystem (Lapensis et al., 2008)

    Gas exchange studies of net ecosystem production in some forests agree closely with harvest measurements of carbon uptake (Oren et al., 2006). The large estimated fluxes of carbon uptake in deserts are intriguing, but these fluxes should produce obvious and related changes in the storage of carbon over relatively short periods of time. These studies of desert ecosystems show that even the most sophisticated modern techniques occasionally need validation by the use of a shovel and a pair of pruning shears.”

    Schlesinger, W.H. et al. (2009). On carbon sequestration in desert ecosystems. Global Change Biol. 15:1488-

  555. Mark:

    James, 552, then why the big push for nuclear power?

    If the answer is to reduce power (and I agree: and that reduction DOES NOT have to mean reduction in standard of living, Alistair, especially if it turns up because we want it, rather than we have to adjust), then building new nuclear power stations is a waste of time, money, effort and resources.

  556. Mark:

    Patrick, 551: “Even a seemingly lifeless landscape has at least scenic beauty. Different landscapes and ecosystems have different values in different and multiple ways”

    Aye, and I never said anything different.

    A dessert can be gorgeous.

    [Response: I agree, especially a nice chocolate tart with colorful berries and whipped cream on top, with a raspberry ganache. -mike]

    However, it cannot be considered an abundant biosphere. There’s a lot more out there than you’d expect when watching “Lawrence of Arabia”, but that abundance does not make.

  557. Mark:

    James 550: “And so? Ever try to grow dryland plants where it’s too wet for them? They drown. Plants & animals evolve to suit their environment. Move them to a different environment, and they usually don’t prosper, if they survive at all.”

    Well, yes.

    But the greater hardship for all life is the lack of water, not the excess of it. Heck, life can live without ANYTHING from the sun. I don’t know yet of any lifeform that doesn’t need H2O. Do you?

    So would a rainforest be abundant and a dessert not?

    Or if you insist on calling a dessert abundant, what would you leave to describe a rainforest? “Massively overgrown seething mess of biologic processes seething in their own slime”?

    [Response: Okay, now stop all of this discussion of dessert. Its late on a friday afternoon, and I'm really starting to get hungry now. Well, until you mentioned the slime - that sort of put a damper on the whole thing. -mike]

  558. Mark:

    re 546. Yup, they get their water from what they eat.

    This is not “doing without water”. Many dessert lizards do so and to a much greater utility. PS isn’t that the one that has the bushy breast and dips it in water to take back to the nest?

    [Response: Dessert lizards??? Now that's just plain disgusting. -mike]

    re 547, Uh, The Antartic is a dessert. Yet there’s plenty of water there. If it were all to move out of the area and melt, isn’t it about 10-20 metres sea level rise? That’s a lotta water.

    [Response: Antarctic a dessert? Not sure about that. But "Baked Alaska"--now, that is a dessert! -mike]

    And isn’t there a place in Peru that has never rained in 20 years? However, a wet ocean sea breeze brings water in and it causes fog, so has a better (much better) water availability than the land just a little bit further inland.

    Rainfall != water availability

    (rather like weather != climate)

  559. James:

    Re: “[Response: Dessert lizards??? Now that’s just plain disgusting. -mike]”

    Yeah, lizard should be for the main course :-)

  560. RichardC:

    541 dhogaza, I own 160 acres outside of Alamosa, Colorado. Lots of sage, some cacti, a few wildflowers. Nothing over about 2′ high. There is little biodiversity – what lives on my 160 acres also lives on the zillions of acres surrounding my land, and there is no real threat to any species which exists there (other than climate change). Adding solar systems would just add to the mix. There’s plenty of space.

    To all – The amount of life in a desert varies depending on which desert you’re talking about. The key is water. Solar power systems concentrate water, and also bring deep groundwater to the surface for the purpose of cleaning and whatnot. Yep, leaving pristine environments intact as much as is practical is a grand idea. Fortunately, it is EASY. There are zillions and zillions of pristine acres out there. The typical desert human encroachment is minimal. I have 160 acres. Perhaps 1 acre is disturbed. Most of my neighbors have 0 acres disturbed. Somebody putting in a solar concentrating power plant to power Alamosa would buy a SMALL plot of land (out there, 160 acres is dinky) and the environment wouldn’t notice the change – other than the water table and water availability would rise in the surrounding land. The whole argument about saving desert land from power stations is so stupid as to be laughable. Grazing, mining, road-building, just about any human activity is orders of magnitude more destructive than a solar power plant, especially since the solar power plant gives life to the land around it. Remember, power stations are sited to be as close as possible to human habitation, so pristine lands aren’t even on the list of potential sites. Instead, a few 160 acre homesites will be bought near a town. There is NO risk and NO issue here. It’s all a fake issue.

  561. James:

    Mark Says (19 June 2009 at 3:16 PM):

    “James, 552, then why the big push for nuclear power?”

    Because there are some six billion people on the planet. Unless you’re into mass murder, reducing the population to a sustainable level has to be done by reducing the birth rate, and that takes time. So the question becomes one of how to provide for the existing population while destroying/degrading the least possible amount of ecosystem. Look at the available (proven) options, and it appears that a significant share of nuclear does the best job, and costs little or nothing more than other possibilities when storage &c are taken into account.

    Unlike some, I’m not at all religious about the power choice. Show me another option that a) works, b) has the same or lesser effects on ecosystems, and c) isn’t so much more expensive as to be impractical, and I’ll be all over it.

  562. James:

    Mark Says (19 June 2009 at 3:23 PM):

    “Or if you insist on calling a dessert abundant, what would you leave to describe a rainforest?”

    Too hot & humid for comfort? Or in the case of e.g. the Pacific Northwest, or the west of Ireland, just sopping wet :-)

    But really, abundance or the lack of it isn’t the issue here. The plain fact is that what you think are barren deserts do indeed have plenty of life, which survives quite well on its own terms, and adds its not-insignificant contribution to the global ecosystem.

  563. RichardC:

    561 James. Crapola. You said that full-scale nuclear war was a reasonable option compared to the utilization of 2% of desert lands for human use. The sooner you retract that abhorrent stance the sooner you will gain a wisp of credibility.

  564. dhogaza:

    I own 160 acres outside of Alamosa, Colorado. Lots of sage, some cacti, a few wildflowers. Nothing over about 2′ high. There is little biodiversity – what lives on my 160 acres also lives on the zillions of acres surrounding my land, and there is no real threat to any species which exists there (other than climate change)

    How are the sage grouse and burrowing owls doing on your land? Done a survey recently? Find any?

    Got any cheatgrass on your land? Peppergrass? Crested wheatgrass?

    How long has it been grazed with fire suppression and why do you think you’ve described an increasingly rare intact semi-arid ecosystem?

  565. dhogaza:

    This is not “doing without water”.

    In the sense of consuming water, yes, species can and do. Brewer’s sparrow is able survive on air-dried grain, solely on metabolic water (this is not the only species, I find it interesting because a) I bet you’ve never seen one nor heard of it and b) most are surprised to learn that the species that is likely the most abundant in the United States is one that they’ve not heard of and is able to live without consuming water).

  566. dhogaza:

    However, it cannot be considered an abundant biosphere.

    Obviously deserts have lower biodiversity and lower carry capacity than tropical ecosystems. Building strawmen must fun.

    That does not, however, mean that your characterization of desert ecosystems being analogous to a person shot with ten arrows is correct.

    Please, though, stop with the dessert ecosystems biodiversity stuff. The lower the (living) biodiversity in my food, the better.

    ReCaptcha: gelded sister? that’s not even possible!

  567. dhogaza:

    Since some above equate sand dunes with deserts …


    How much rainfall does this desert get?

    This one?

  568. Wayne Davidson:

    #531, Alastair, Gavin is usually always right on the science, enough to garnish my greatest respect beyond his astonishing time he dedicates for this blog. He was humble enough to admit that they didn’t see coming the great Arctic ocean Ice melt of 07. The ice as you mentioned is key, and I only fault RC for not placing it as a hot topic especially from now on, because this is the Achilles heel of the contrarians,
    and Arctic Ocean ice should be in the minds of every one studying AGW, there is no need to be alarmist, the ice disappearing is alarming enough…. But many don’t understand its implications as you do, so please RC bring back Arctic Ocean sea ice topic, its time to describe why the models have failed predicting it, and especially to bring the most important present symptom of AGW (aside from Ocean acidification) always on the front page…

  569. David B. Benson:

    “Sudden Collapse In Ancient Biodiversity: Was Global Warming The Culprit?”:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090618161150.htm

    Take heed.

  570. David B. Benson:

    Because

    “New Report Says World Is Warming Faster than Thought”:
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,631262,00.html

  571. Ray Ladbury:

    “but oh my desert yours is the only death I cannot bear.” —Richard Shelton

    OK, I have to confess to being a bit of a desert rat. Some of my best times have been spent in places that actively try to kill you–Arches, Canyonlands, and I’ll confess to coveting RichardC’s land near Alamosa. In my opinion, anything that can survive on only 5 inches of rain a year is deserving of respect. Deserts are beautiful and fragile, and they can teach us a lot. They need to be preserved and protected. That said solar energy plants have to go somewhere, and if you think going to nuclear will save the deserts, you obviously haven’t read up much on Yucky Mountain. Where do you think they’ll store nuclear waste? I’ll give you a hint: it won’t be Manhattan or Washington, DC.

    The fact of the matter is that we have to have a new energy infrastructure, and there won’t be any perfect solutions. However, regardless of the energy solutions we choose, we can either do this in a way that minimizes damage to the ecosystems around us, or we can exhibit the sort of idiocy that has characterized our species over recorded history. I don’t think we can avoid building solar generating stations in the desert. I also don’t think that means we have to destroy the desert.

  572. Patrick 027:

    Re Ike on XOs: see:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/03/with-all-due-respect/langswitch_lang/fa#comment-116260
    and
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/03/with-all-due-respect/langswitch_lang/fa#comment-116325

    554 (Jim Bouldin) – very interesting. (James, I wanted to look at the websites on C uptake you mentioned, but neither seemed to be working at the time.)

    On that topic, tropical rainforests do not sequester all that much C once mature. I think wetlands tend to do the most sequestering of the land ecosystems, so far as I know. Although prairies do build up a hefty mass of soil.

    Re 560 RichardC – it is not necessary for any human to have every stepped foot in a place to leave a mark. Not that I know of any specific cases in the desert, but an intrusive non-native species need only be introduced onto a connected area. (Not exactly far flung from direct human actions, but I have read that cattle may have changed grasslands in semiarid portions of the U.S. into shrublands (?) simply by the compaction of the land under their hooves.) (And then there’s feral horses. But feral horses are only a more recent version of our ‘native’ bison, which themselves, as I recall from reading, crossed the landbridge from Asia, replacing some megafauna that used to fill the same niche. Horses really came from the Americas, they’ve just come back home. But then, ecosystems evolve over the intervening time. “Jurassic Park” – Let’s not bring back the dinosaurs just yet. :) ) Salmon bring nutrients from the sea back to the land via getting eaten by bears – reverse erosion. Runoff from one area affects another. Albedo in one area affects the climate of another. I won’t see the tundra swans in the midwest if their breeding grounds up in Canada (I presume) are destroyed. Etc. (and not to imply that you are not aware of these sorts of issues – I just thought it deserved a mention).

    Re 566 dhogaza:
    “Obviously deserts have lower biodiversity and lower carry capacity than tropical ecosystems.”
    YES!

    Re Mark
    “However, it cannot be considered an abundant biosphere.”

    Yes, and I never said otherwise as well.

    Good point about that part of coastal Atacama. I saw that in the program “Planet Earth”. I think part of the Namib desert is also a ‘fog desert’ (or ‘cloud desert’ (?)). What is interesting is that … I’m not sure, but I think the plants act to collect moisture from the air when it otherwise would not have been collected by the ground – so it is distinct in a way not only from rain/mist/snow but also dew and frost.

    I’m not so sure about the classification of Antarctica as a desert, though. While the precipitation is meager, so is evaporation, and I’m not sure but in some definitions having a wet or icy surface exposed to air more often then not would disqualify one from desert status – (?).

    Complete Antarctic thaw would raise sea level 10-20 meters multiple times.

    ——-

    My over point being:

    Yes, we affect the ecosystem when we put solar power plants in the desert. The effect is not just on the area occupied, or even just on the area where any runoff from the plant would go. But, if we use the least unique areas (by whatever combination of valued dimensions), or try to pick out any already degraded areas, and leave migration routes mostly connected, etc, we can minimize the ecological losses and the land area costs. And it seems worth it to me to do so to save quantities and qualities of water resources and ecosystems, included ecosystems we’ve created (croplands, infrastructure, etc), by reducing climage change to come.

  573. David B. Benson:

    There were horses and camelids, also giant ground sloths, in North America before 12,900 years ago. By the way, horses are not closely related to bison.

    [reCAPTCHA gets it with "1867 runaways"]

  574. James:

    RichardC Says (19 June 2009 at 4:16 PM):

    “561 James. Crapola. You said that full-scale nuclear war was a reasonable option compared to the utilization of 2% of desert lands for human use. The sooner you retract that abhorrent stance the sooner you will gain a wisp of credibility.”

    Such a stereotypical reaction: when confronted by evidence that you’re wrong, try to change the subject :-)

    But I’ll bite, though this is yet more evidence that some few people here really, really need to work on reading comprehension :-) But let’s start with the parable about the camel’s nose: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel's_nose You want to say that it’s perfectly fine to cover up 2% of the land (though that’s a considerable underestimate of the actual area), in a way that kills off the underlying ecosystem. There’s your camel’s nose.

    Now with the power supply problem “solved”, what happens? The population and the demand for power increases, and guess what? 2% just isn’t enough any more, now you need 4%. (Here comes the neck.) And after a few years, it’s 8% (the front legs), then 16% (the torso)… And how long is it before the whole camel’s in the tent, before solar panels cover everything that isn’t factory farm or city?

    Though of course this point is never actually reached, because at some point before that the ongoing whittling away of the ecosystem will cause total collapse, and most of the human race will be condemned to slow starvation at best.

    So yes, I think a small to medium scale nuclear war (one small enough to avoid a “nuclear winter” scenario) would be preferrable to this, just as I’d prefer to be shot than starved to death.

  575. dhogaza:

    I don’t think we can avoid building solar generating stations in the desert. I also don’t think that means we have to destroy the desert.

    Same with wind power. Those who claim we can ignore siting issues because there are no siting issues because they don’t harm ecosystems are just being blind in the same way every other natural resources exploitation industry has been blind.

  576. James:

    Ray Ladbury Says (19 June 2009 at 8:47 PM):

    “…if you think going to nuclear will save the deserts, you obviously haven’t read up much on Yucky Mountain. Where do you think they’ll store nuclear waste?”

    Underground? Which in fact Yucca Mountain does. Now I think that a lot of really dumb decisions went into its design, first and foremost being the decision to store once-through “waste” rather than reprocessing it, but the affected surface area is quite a bit less than would be covered by those solar plants.

    “The fact of the matter is that we have to have a new energy infrastructure, and there won’t be any perfect solutions. However, regardless of the energy solutions we choose, we can either do this in a way that minimizes damage to the ecosystems around us, or we can exhibit the sort of idiocy that has characterized our species over recorded history.”

    Which is pretty much what I’ve been trying to say. And I think if you look at the options without the “Omigawd, it’s radioactive!” factor, you have to come up with an answer close to mine.

    “I don’t think we can avoid building solar generating stations in the desert. I also don’t think that means we have to destroy the desert.”

    Which is fine, once someone invents a magic new technology that lets us do that. But I don’t see how it would work. Maybe put the solar panels on giant helium balloons (or hot air – good use for all that waste heat) and float them up to the stratosphere.

    Humm… Just how thin can a thin-film PV cell be made? Or maybe mirror-surfaced balloons, reflecting on to a central solar thermal generator… Quick, somebody call my patent attorney!

  577. dhogaza:

    But, if we use the least unique areas (by whatever combination of valued dimensions), or try to pick out any already degraded areas, and leave migration routes mostly connected, etc, we can minimize the ecological losses and the land area costs.

    Yes, exactly.

    But if people are convinced that there aren’t unique systems in the desert, that degraded areas are “pristine”, and that migration routes aren’t important, then siting criteria will be based simply on what’s most convenient for industry. Just as we blow the tops of mountains and dump the spoils in valleys, obliterating streams and small rivers, because it’s most convenient for industry. Or just as we used to let heap-leach cyanide gold mines ignore leakage issues because it was most convenient for industry.

    Do people really want the solar and wind power industries to act with the same lack of consideration for natural resources values as traditional energy companies have done?

  578. Tenney Naumer:

    Dear Gavin,

    Just try to imagine what it would be like for us, the ones who really want good information, science, and a grounding in the real world, if Real Climate did not exist.

    You all are irreplaceable.

  579. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    Dessert in a desert, a delectable delight, wouldst though favor the flavor of a dreamy dusty diet, or the freezing dry of ice, to the heat of Mojave’s midday might.

  580. PeterMartin:

    “What interesting bits of the science would you like to know more about? Is there really anything new under the contrarian sun that needs addressing?”

    I’m not sure that it is that new , but I would like to see some sort of explanation as to why the relationship between temperature and CO2 concentrations should be logarithmic. It cannot be logarithmic at very low concentrations; at zero concentration, the nonsensical answer of “-infinity” is the outcome.

    The simple answer, I would guess, is that the relationship changes (morphs) from a linear to a logarithmic one. But this explanation isn’t very satisfactory. What determines when the change over occurs?

    I hate to mention the name of Motl but his suggestion of a reducing exponential relationship does have some merit. He’s clearly fiddled the constants in his original suggested equation, but if they were made a little more realsitic a curve showing 3 degs of warming from 2x Co2 looks pretty reasonable.

    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3380/3582363543_ee6a6872d4_o.png

    Of course it can well be argued that no simple equation can be truly representative of the real relationship, over all concentrations, but the contrarians have latched on to the logarithmic relationship to produce all kinds of improbable curves. Isn’t it time to make a little more of the linear relationaship at lower concentrations?

  581. Mark:

    Patrick (#572) Fair enough, you didn’t say abundant but so many had before you and it looked to me like you were winding up toward that statement too, so I figured it had better be headed off at the pass.

    And the rest of the entry is fine.

    Ta.

    Re 567, dhagoza, all that repeating of straw is getting tiresome.

    a) you don’t get dessert in a place with 10 inches of rain a month
    b) you still haven’t proven or even flipping answered the “are desserts abundant” query.

    I haven’t even bothered clicking the links because you aren’t answering the question so the links you put aren’t going to either.

  582. Mark:

    ” However, it cannot be considered an abundant biosphere.

    Obviously deserts have lower biodiversity and lower carry capacity than tropical ecosystems. Building strawmen must fun.”

    Good. You agree. Finally.

    In 544: you make the strawman I have been trying to beat up, so either you’re agreeing with you making it up or you have your rectal regions mixed with your elbow.

    > The baking of the soils in a desert negates any sequestering. Deserts are “life on the edge”.
    >
    >Praise be to God that I’m surviving life on the edge.
    >
    >There’s a nice bit of ecological ignorance being demonstrated on this thread

    Only by you.

    “life on the edge”. In what way, when talking about desserts is this wrong?

    As I said right at the beginning, there’s a lot of pompous wanger-waving going on with some who are overly impressed with their education and rather narrow minded when it comes to the phraseologies that people less educated in a narrow sphere.

    So, now that you agree there is a lot less life in the dessert than in the rainforest, please, instead of being a pompous ass, say why “desserts are life on the edge” is so wrong and deserving of scorn.

  583. Mark:

    This is not “doing without water”. Many dessert lizards do so and to a much greater utility. PS isn’t that the one that has the bushy breast and dips it in water to take back to the nest?

    [Response: Dessert lizards??? Now that’s just plain disgusting. -mike]

    Well, that very nearly WAS a genuine LOL! I snorted a bit and *nearly* laughed.

    Yeah, so the grammar made sense in my head (where time is a relative concept) but when boring old consequential linear time got in (when typing it out, darn keyboard) it IS rather fractured.

    PS my grief with dag was his snooty nosed “You’re so dumb” comment. Heck, even if it was to RodB at his worst, I’d be telling him off. If he’d expanded and, say, tried to EDUCATE, maybe the snoot would have had some use, but plain old snooty doesn’t help anyone.

  584. Mark:

    [Response: Okay, now stop all of this discussion of dessert. Its late on a friday afternoon, and I’m really starting to get hungry now. Well, until you mentioned the slime - that sort of put a damper on the whole thing. -mike]

    Problem is geting used to the wavy red underline not appearing when you write dessert and wanted desert. And double ss’s aren’t easy to spot when you’re the one writing the sentence, since you read the sentence not the words. Unless you’re reading it anew.

  585. RichardC:

    564 dhogaza asks, “How are the sage grouse and burrowing owls doing on your land? Done a survey recently? Find any?

    Got any cheatgrass on your land? Peppergrass? Crested wheatgrass?

    How long has it been grazed with fire suppression and why do you think you’ve described an increasingly rare intact semi-arid ecosystem?”

    I can tell you that the mosquitos are doing fine :-). The San Luis Valley is a fairly unique biosphere – almost no rain but no lack of water. It used to be an alpine lake, then a swamp, and now a desert – the water is all artesian. (The San Luis is the source for the Rio Grande) A couple of my neighbors have 4″ wells (but no houses) that spew like firehoses. (ergo the mosquitos!) Most of the farms use flood irrigation. I’ve no idea the last time there was a fire. The sage oil sure burns and the wind blows, but there isn’t a source of ignition. They call the San Luis the land of cool sunshine. LOTS of sun, LOTS of wind, and friggin cold in the winter.

    You ask why I think it’s increasingly rare – well, my point is the opposite. Desert lands have such a low human population as to be mostly unspoiled even where people live. Small towns here and there and just outside town 160+ acres per lot with most lots totally empty doesn’t make for rare. My point is that there is plenty of desert to spare. A few percent for power production would just add to the diversity.

  586. SecularAnimist:

    Ray Ladbury: “… if you think going to nuclear will save the deserts, you obviously haven’t read up much on Yucky Mountain.”

    Or uranium mining.

    But I’m sure that James will enlighten us about how massively expanded uranium mining in areas like, for example, the immediate vicinity of the Grand Canyon, will be a “net improvement”. Even better than Chernobyl.

    Just like the lush forests that he imagines are growing on Appalachian mountaintops obliterated by coal mining (above the streams and watersheds buried under toxic waste).

    And he’ll explain how either of those options — or even a nuclear war — is preferable to putting solar thermal power plants on one percent of the USA’s deserts.

    And he will of course refuse to even address proposals to provide most of the USA’s electricity from CSP power plants on one or two percent of the USA’s deserts, and instead start raving about the horror of covering the entire continent with an endless sea of solar panels.

    I’m really trying to avoid the “groundhog day” syndrome by not responding to James’s silliness, but sometimes …

  587. Hank Roberts:

    Dhog, got a blog somewhere to talk about cheatgrass and medusahead? Pointer welcome.

  588. Mark:

    “I’m not sure that it is that new , but I would like to see some sort of explanation as to why the relationship between temperature and CO2 concentrations should be logarithmic.”

    Not the accurate answer, but think of lagging on a hot water pipe.

    Double the thickness can not remove as much as the first lagging thickness you put on, can it? If, for example, you put on enough to halve the loss, putting the same amount on won’t do the same power rate loss, else it would be a perfect insulator.

    So you can see that insulation will not be a linear change in power retained for a linear increase in lagging.

    Now given that, what do YOU think it will be?

    To get to the more accurate answer, what is your education and what is your level of expertise.

    And to make sure answering you is worth any effort whatsoever, answer the following:

    1) Why do you want to know
    2) Will you read it
    3) What do you expect to know that you did not before

  589. James:

    Mark Says (20 June 2009 at 4:34 AM):

    “a) you don’t get dessert in a place with 10 inches of rain a month”

    Though I haven’t checked the actual rainfall figures, I’ve never had trouble ordering dessert in Seattle…

    “b) you still haven’t proven or even flipping answered the “are desserts abundant” query.”

    Sheesh, just read the flippin’ menu!

    “I haven’t even bothered clicking the links…”

    Explains a lot, that does :-)

    But what does the “abundance” (whatever you mean by that) of deserts, or lack thereof, have to do with anything? They are as they are, and (like any ecosystem) are better left that way than when scraped bare and treated with herbicides.

  590. Mark:

    “I hate to mention the name of Motl but his suggestion of a reducing exponential relationship does have some merit.”

    Um, isn’t a reducing exponential relationship merely a polynomial fit???

    The reason why you fit an exponential fit is if the new value change depends only on the previous value.

    E.g. each number is the double of the earlier number.
    1
    2
    4
    8

    Like, for example, the extinction of light through an opaque but homogeneous medium.

    But you wouldn’t use an exponential fit for, for example, the tangent of a value as the value increases.

    Etc.

  591. dhogaza:

    Desert lands have such a low human population as to be mostly unspoiled even where people live.

    This is totally false, and your own post declares it:

    Most of the farms use flood irrigation. I’ve no idea the last time there was a fire.

    Right. Flood irrigated farms represent a pristine, untouched desert ecology.

    Don’t get me wrong, flood irrigation hay farming provides abundant habitat for a great diversity of birds such as sandhill cranes, willet, avocet, black-necked stilt, yellow-headed and red-winged blackbirds, bobolink, phaloropes, and many more.

    I suspect many of these species are familiar to your neighbors managing those flood-irrigated fields.

    None of those are considered desert-adapted species, though (one of my photos above was of a flood-irrigated field in the SE Oregon corner of the Great Basin, perhaps 10 inches of rain a year, yet supporting a great diversity of wetland life due to the reliable spring flow of water from snow up in mountains a few tens of miles away).

    These are wetland ecologies which happen to be located within a geographically arid or semi-arid region of the country.

    You ask why I think it’s increasingly rare – well, my point is the opposite. Desert lands have such a low human population as to be mostly unspoiled even where people live.

    This is extremely untrue. Sheep and cattle grazing, along with introduced pest plant species introduced both deliberately and unintentionally, have greatly altered most of our (US) arid and semi-arid lands. This is not a controversial point for anyone who’s done any biological field work in the West.

    Where it might be said to be true would be the extreme arid (5″ or less, typically, in our western states) salt pans, sand dunes (those not trashed by ATVs), etc which have never supported enough vegetation of a variety palatable to even sheep.

    If you want to build your solar plant on top of Bonneville Speedway, hey, ecologically you’re not going to hear much of an argument. The salt flats are about as barren of life as it gets, biology types have no particular interest in maintaining race car and motorcycle ecologies, and if there’s an expensive solar installation there perhaps the State of Utah and feds might be motivated to get off their ass and force the potash mines and highway people (Interstate 80) to alter their water management to quite eroding the salt flats (which have lost something like 2/3 of their depth in the last few decades).

  592. dhogaza:

    I own 160 acres outside of Alamosa, Colorado. Lots of sage, some cacti, a few wildflowers. Nothing over about 2′ high

    And, I see you never actually answered my question but responded by talking about flood irrigated lands nearby.

    So, how are the burrowing owls on your land and the neighboring sage-steppe (not flood-irrigated hay fields)? Doing well? If not, why not? Because your 160 acres are pristine sage-steppe habitat? Got cheatgrass? Peppergrass? How are the jackrabbits? Badger? Ferruginous hawks?

    Ever done a biologically survey of your land to see if claims to its representing pristine desert habitat is actually true or not?

  593. dhogaza:

    So much for the pristine San Luis Valley:

    The winterfat shrub steppe ecological system occupies approximately 2% of the Southern Rocky Mountain ecoregion, primarily situated in the San Luis Valley and the Gunnison Basin (Johnston 1997) areas. Small occurrences are also documented in the Colorado River basin and North Park. This system is comprised of dwarf shrubs and prior to anthropogenic changes the dominant shrub was Krascheninnikovia lanata (Johnston 1997). Today, Chrysothamnus greenei is the dominant shrub in the San Luis Valley although the wetter areas still have significant amounts of winterfat. Other shrubs that have increased from historic heavy livestock grazing include Chrysothamnus parryi, C. viscidiflorus, and Gutierrezia sarothrae (Johnston 1997). Krascheninnikovia lanata, Stipa comata, and Oryzopsis hymenoides are considered decreasers with grazing. Bouteloua gracilis is a common grass of this system. Winterfat shrub steppe occurs between 7,500-9,500 feet in elevation, on windswept mesas, valley floors, gentle slopes, or shoulders of ridges. A conspicuous gravel pavement is found on the surface (Tiedeman and Terwilliger 1978 as cited in Johnston 1997) and often persists throughout the profile (Johnston 1997). Pinyon-juniper woodlands and sagebrush shrublands commonly are adjacent to this system at the upper elevations.

    The large-scale natural ecological processes maintaining this ecological system is fire and grazing. Anthropogenic changes that have altered this system include fire suppression and historic heavy livestock grazing.

  594. dhogaza:

    And my first question was how long has fire been suppressed and how long has it been grazed. I asked that knowing nothing about the San Luis Valley because any place in the semi-arid west where there’s water, there have been cattle, historically as many as the ranchers could pack on until the Taylor Act, and afterwards not much less until federal conservation laws began to take hold in the 70s and be more strongly enforced in the decades after.

    The claim that there are huge swaths of land in the arid and semi-arid portions of the west that are largely untouched by human impact is simply false.

    What this actually means of course is that there are millions of acres of heavily-impacted land available for solar power and really no reason to place them in those areas which have been relatively lightly touched. The Mojave? There’s plenty of military land that was chewed up extensively by tanks during training for the north african invasion in 1942 that’s probably still pretty much messed up. Why pick sensitive areas other than the fact that 1) they’re closer to LA 2) public land, no acquisition costs 3) most people – including many here – believe that they’re ecologically useless.

  595. dhogaza:

    And why do I ask RichardC about sage grouse (specifically Gunnison Sage Grouse, split as a separate species based on DNA studies not long ago)?

    The revised map of potential presettlement habitat included some areas omitted from previously published maps such as the San Luis Valley of Colorado…

    The distribution of potential Gunnison Sage-Grouse habitat encompassed 46521 km2, with the current range 4787 km2…

    The dramatic differences between the potential presettlement and current distributions appear related to habitat alteration and degradation, including the adverse effects of cultivation, fragmentation, reduction of sagebrush and native herbaceous cover, development, introduction and expansion of invasive plant species, encroachment by trees, and issues related to livestock grazing.

    Again, so much for the pristine, unaltered, lightly-touched sage steppe habitat with the San Luis Valley.

    BTW sage steppe used to be characterized as having a fairly decent amount of bunchgrass with much less sage and prickly pear and the like that RichardC accepts as being the norm there.

    I’m not personally familiar with the San Luis Valley, but the reason why cattle ranchers were attracted to the Great Basin sage steppe habitat was because of an ABUNDANCE OF GRASS. Not an abundance of sagebrush (cattle don’t eat it, why would sage/greasewood/winterfat/etc alone attract cattle ranchers when they don’t eat it?). Great Basin Rye grows well in excess of six feet in good habitat, though it’s generally less impressive where there’s less water. Carrying capacity of cows in sage steppe in the Great Basin today is much lower than in the late 1880s. Thus efforts in the 1960s (mostly) to restore creativity by using anchor chain dragged between two tractors to uproot sage, greasewood and other plants (in pre-ranch years removed fairly frequently by fire), followed by the planting of crested wheatgrass from the steppes of eurasia (which is far more grazing tolerant than the native bunchgrasses).

    This is what one piece of sage steppe, with some encroaching juniper, looks like ten years after fire

    The sage hasn’t returned though you can see how densely it covers the ground in the background where it did not burn.

    The original landscape looked a bit like a blend of the two, plenty of grass with interspersed woody shrubs such as sage. But the juniper would’ve been an anomaly because they were largely restricted to ridgelines and lee slopes (of prevailing winds) where they were protected from burns (some being very well protected, juniper of 1,000 years in age have been bored on Steens Mountain, Oregon).

    Anyway … let’s site our solar power plants with care and some respect for those ecosystems which will be damaged to some extent by their development. Plenty of trashed land out there, after all.

  596. dhogaza:

    “restore creativity” -> restore productivity (i.e. grass for cattle) :)

  597. Jim Bouldin:

    [duplicate]

  598. Jim Bouldin:

    Patrick (572) says:On that topic, tropical rainforests do not sequester all that much C once mature.

    The idea that old growth forests, tropical or otherwise, are carbon neutral is a hypothesis advanced by Eugene Odum 40 years ago on the basis of data from a single site over a limited time. Certainly at some point, forests must be carbon neutral–they cannot accumulate without limit–for a given environmental envelope. But in the last decade there have been a couple of papers showing that this limit appears not to have been reached.

    Most directly relevant was the paper in Nature earlier this year by Lewis et al (Nature 457:1003-; “Increasing carbon storage in intact African tropical forests”). They demonstrated that in equatorial, undisturbed African forests, above-ground carbon was accumulating at an average rate of just under 2/3 of a metric ton per ha per yr (0.63 Mg C ha-1 yr-1), over a 40 year span. Including the American and Asian tropics, they estimated a tropics-wide mean rate of about a half metric ton per ha per yr. The mechanism for these increases is uncertain, but most likely represents either atmospheric and/or climatic enhancement rather than long term response to disturbance.

    I think wetlands tend to do the most sequestering of the land ecosystems, so far as I know. Although prairies do build up a hefty mass of soil.

    You are confusing sequestration with productivity there. The latter refers to carbon that is permanent over some defined time frame, whereas productivity does not (same as the distinction between NPP and NEP). Wetlands have high productivity (NPP) but, with the exception of swamp forests, do not generally accumulate a lot of biomass (low NEP), because their predominantly herbaceous vegetation is quickly lost via mortality and ecosystem respiration. The sequestered part is the partially decomposed plant matter and CH4 at the bottom. Prairie soils can accumulate high soil carbon stocks, but the above-ground C is small and the total doesn’t compare with forest C.

  599. Jim Bouldin:

    above, should be: “The former refers to carbon that is permanent…”

  600. Mark:

    further to 596: one of the causes of the Savannah being grassland when the vegetation is trying to settle trees in there is the elephant.

    But we don’t kill off all the elephants to get it “pristine”.

    Yes, we SHOULD be careful of any change we make in sorting out our energy needs, but it’s “careful” not “paranoid” like some would like to say (you don’t seem to be saying this).

    And our energy needs should be reduced. There’s a lot of waste that goes on.

  601. dhogaza:

    one of the causes of the Savannah being grassland when the vegetation is trying to settle trees in there is the elephant.

    But we don’t kill off all the elephants to get it “pristine”.

    There’s a point here? I can imagine a few which are ecologically ignorant but I don’t want to put words in your mouth …

  602. dhogaza:

    Yes, we SHOULD be careful of any change we make in sorting out our energy needs, but it’s “careful” not “paranoid” like some would like to say (you don’t seem to be saying this).

    I’m just saying it should be knowledge driven. And we have to acknowledge that there have to be trade-offs. But if we don’t knowledge, how do we identify trade-offs and make intelligent decisions?

    As an example … sage grouse are a species of concern, probably should be listed. One of the stimulus projects funds a study of wind farm-sage grouse interactions in ne oregon (I only know because some anti-science republican wingnut senator from oklahoma is trying to block it).

    One way to look at it is “oh no, if we uncover hazards to existing sage grouse populations, we may be limited as to where we build wind farms, so let’s just claim wind mills are harmless to birds!”

    Another way …

    What we learn may help guide the siting process AND perhaps more importantly, guide siting of habitat restoration and sage grouse re-introduction projects in the future. Because restoring a healthy population of sage grouse is going to require habitat restoration, typically (AFAIK, a bit of a WAG here) a regime of prescribed burning and reseeding with native grasses (sage grouse when young are dependent on the seeds of a variety of grasses), doing so in a way that promote a variety of structure (open areas, areas with large shrubs, etc, the latter important because older, taller sage and other woody shrubs are required for cover especially during nesting) etc. Not cheap, and more research needed.

    If wind farms are truly harmless to sage grouse, well, a wind farm might be a great place for a restoration project. More likely, we get information on how to site both wind energy projects and restoration projects in ways that minimize the negative impact of the first, and maximize the possibility of success of the second.

    And our energy needs should be reduced. There’s a lot of waste that goes on.

    Totally. The environmental community has been preaching energy conservation for decades, in order to minimize the demand for energy thus the impetus to develop the north slope, oil sands, etc. Now that AGW has been established beyond doubt (and has been for far too long), we’ve got another compelling argument for conservation.

    For some reason the argument that conservation generally saves consumers money has never been a winning one … though that seems to be changing, too.

  603. Hank Roberts:

    Folks, if you haven’t clicked on Jim Bouldin’s name — please do.
    Reading from the people actually working in the field helps a lot.

  604. Patrick 027:

    PeterMartin – “Of course it can well be argued that no simple equation can be truly representative of the real relationship, over all concentrations, but the contrarians have latched on to the logarithmic relationship to produce all kinds of improbable curves. Isn’t it time to make a little more of the linear relationaship at lower concentrations?”

    Yes. The relationship must be approximately linear at low concentrations. CO2 optical thickness decreases away from the approx. 15 micron wavelength center of it’s absorption band. That is really a general trend over fluctuations across small wavelength intervals between absorption line centers and gaps between them, but the trend can be traced through the line centers, through the minima between line centers, etc. When there is a high enough concentration, the effect at the tropopause level is saturated at the most opaque wavelengths near the center of the band – meaning that adding more CO2 makes little direct change to net upward longwave radiative flux at those wavelengths at the tropopause level (the troposphere and surface, coupled by convection, tend to warm up and cool off together in response to radiative forcing at the tropopause level, evaluated after stratospheric equilibration but including further stratospheric feedback to the changes below the tropopause – with variations in this pattern over seasons and latitudes, etc.) (Stratospheric equilibration is the temperature response in the stratosphere in the absence of changes below the tropopause – it is generally a cooling effect for increased greenhouse gases because it increases the stratosphere’s opacity to space (it can be seen more from space – it radiates more to space) while blocking more radiation from the surface and warmer lower tropopshere. The effect for ozone is complicated because ozone can recieve radiation from the surface and warm humid airmasses or low level clouds at wavelengths in which, absent clouds, the air in the troposphere (except in low level warm humid air) tends to be somewhat transparent (because of the reduced concentration of ozone relative to the stratosphere); its dominant effect is in aborbing solar radiation.) However, additional CO2 continues to have an effect at other wavelengths. The shape of the CO2 absorption spectrum is such that after some amount of saturation in the center of the band, the intervals of wavelengths of moderate opacity (where the greatest change occurs when more CO2 is added) shift outward from the center of the band as the central high opacity interval widens approximately linearly in proportion to the logarithm of CO2 concentration.

    ———-

    James -
    “Humm… Just how thin can a thin-film PV cell be made? Or maybe mirror-surfaced balloons, reflecting on to a central solar thermal generator… Quick, somebody call my patent attorney!”

    Solar balloons:
    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Earth2100/story?id=7736882&page=1
    See Annotated Transcripts:
    Endnote 33 of Act 11
    “Solar cells are expensive, so it makes sense to use them efficiently. One way to do so is to concentrate sunlight onto them. That means a smaller area of cell can be used to convert a given amount of light into electricity. This, though, imposes another cost—that of the mirrors needed to do the concentrating. Traditionally these are large pieces of polished metal, steered by electric motors to keep the sun’s rays focused on the cell. But now Cool Earth Solar of Livermore, California, has come up with what it hopes will be a better, cheaper alternative: balloons.
    Anyone who has children will be familiar with aluminised party balloons. Such balloons are made from metal-coated plastic. Cool Earth’s insight was that if you coat only one half of a balloon, leaving the other transparent, the inner surface of the coated half will act as a concave mirror. Put a solar cell at the focus of that mirror and you have an inexpensive solar-energy collector. (Source: “Solar Energy: Party Time!” The Economist, March 5th 2009)”

    (But how are these aimed?)

    This also reminds me of an ‘experiment’ I did, trying to make a concave mirror by stretching plastic wrap over a bowl and then pressing it in to push some air out.

    (PS an alternative could be to use fixed spherical or circular-cylindrical mirrors on the ground, with a moving grid suspended above to track the focal points/lines – spherical aberation limits the amount of concentration, but maybe the economics would be better? Or how costly would it be to use corrective lenses/mirros on the moving grid?).

    One time I came up with an idea for using soot in solar cells, and then found out that people were experimenting with camphoric soot.

    For thin-film technology – I think the photovoltaic layer is generally a few microns thick. This could be reduced by using plasmons.

    Crystal Si has had to be in thicker layers, I think about 300 microns, because the Si layer is manufactured as a stand-alone component before additional layers are added, and thus has had to be mechanically strong enough to withstand the processes. Aside from that, though, it has to be at least … not sure, maybe 100 to 200 microns, in order to absorb most of the photons available, because unlike many other semiconducting materials, it has an indirect band gap – the minimum energy level of the conduction band and the maximum energy level of the valence band do not line up at the same electron wave vector (within solids, an energy band is actually a range of values taken by energy as a continuous function of wave vector (proportional to momentum) within what I believe is called a brillioun zone; electrons travel with group velocity which is somehow related to the gradient of the energy over wave vector space (forgot details), and this averages to zero over all the states within a given band, which is why an electric current requires a band to have at least some occupied and some unoccupied states (holes) – at least that’s my understanding of it). Once excited across the band gap, electrons and holes will tend to settle into the energy levels closest to the fermi level by thermal relaxation (I think) (except in ‘hot carrier’ technology where electrons and holes are removed fast enough so that a significant amount of the otherwise excess energy is used), so for an indirect band gap material, none of the electron-hole pairs can really carry the energy of even the least energetic photon that is easily absorbed; photons of energy closer to the band gap energy can be absorbed but only by processes that are less likely and thus require longer photon path lengths to become significant.

    Crystal Si layers could be made thinner using light-trapping, whereby diffuse back reflection, with perhaps scattering at the front interface, utilizes total internal reflection, so that a large fraction of photons that are not absorbed in one round trip are likely to be given another chance.

    “Now with the power supply problem “solved”, what happens? The population and the demand for power increases, and guess what? 2% just isn’t enough any more, now you need 4%. (Here comes the neck.) And after a few years, it’s 8% (the front legs), then 16% (the torso)… And how long is it before the whole camel’s in the tent, before solar panels cover everything that isn’t factory farm or city?”

    Well, that’s where keeping the population somehow in check (peacefully, without disease, starvation, and involuntary sterilization, etc. – preferably with education, resources, and …) comes in. And the requirement that we have to pay the costs for stuff. And efficiency. I don’t think supporters of any solar plan would generally be averse to these things. (Limitations should be put in place to protect desert ecosytems, which would allow solar power desert installations to grow to some point. As technology per unit capacity becomes cheaper, greater power per unit land can be extracted with the sacrifice of less power per unit capacity. The potential value of farmland and rangeland for solar power and biofuel will raise the price of, among other things, beef, but that can be mitigated by less reliance on animal protein, and the use of runoff from solar plants to boost productivity of neighboring land, and that the long shadows cast by panels in the winter at mid-to-high latitudes does nothing to reduce photosynthesis of dormant plants covered in snow, and also, that biofuel technology can also be used to reduce the cost of growing food by offering a way to cut losses from crop damage, disease, spoilage, poor weather conditions too late in the season to switch crops, crop residues not fed to livestock, crumbs, used coffee grounds, etc.).

    RichardC: – “My point is that there is plenty of desert to spare. A few percent for power production would just add to the diversity.”

    Yes. It would not generally save a natural ecosystem unless it counteracted some other changes, but it would add diversity. We will have human-made effects, they might as well be aesthetic.

    Mark – ““life on the edge”. In what way, when talking about desserts is this wrong?”

    Well, I would expect that is true for the entirety of life, as it would be for some other extremes (high altitude, Antarctica, hot springs and deep sea hydrothermal vents, underground) – of course there will be some unique organisms in those places, but the entire biodiversity and biomass and/or biological nutrient cycling rates may be much reduced.

    However, for individual organisms, life is pretty much on the edge anyway – if it’s not scarcity, it’s competition or disease, etc. Except (just barely) for the occasional first world human, his/her pets, gardens, livestock and crops.

    David B. Benson
    “By the way, horses are not closely related to bison.”

    What I meant was that horse ancestors were in the Americas before they were brought back here, and something like bison (perhaps a relative of bison) was also here before bison were here.

    Re 579 John P. Reisman – Nice!

  605. Patrick 027:

    “Except (just barely) for the occasional first world human, his/her pets, gardens, livestock and crops.”

    Not to ignore that the livestock often pay for it.

    ———–

    Making the photovoltaic layer has the advantage of reducing internal losses for a given material quality, so not only is less material required, but that material can be made more cheaply. (Losses within the photovoltaic layer include recombination of electron-hole pairs). Using a folded p-n junction can reduce necessary material quality by reducing opportunities for recombination, I think.

  606. dhogaza:

    RichardC: – “My point is that there is plenty of desert to spare. A few percent for power production would just add to the diversity.”

    Yes. It would not generally save a natural ecosystem unless it counteracted some other changes, but it would add diversity. We will have human-made effects, they might as well be aesthetic.

    I hadn’t noticed that comment … the kind of diversity might well be associated with a lot of soil disturbance, etc, during construction. In other words a kind of diversity we already have too much of – disturbed soils laden with a fine variety of opportunistic invasive species that have a bad habit of swamping such sites all over the arid and semi-arid west.

    On the other hand, there’s that kind of trashed habitat available all over the West … could just build there, instead.

  607. David B. Benson:

    Patrick 027 (604) — Bison bison is native to North America, a smaller version of the extinct Bison antiquus and the long extinct (early) steppe bison of the Pleistocene:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bison

    I don’t know the dates of the first B. bison fossil, but this is some help:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_bison
    and
    The ancient bison was somewhat larger than the modern subspecies, but a trend towards smaller body size is indicated by some early Holocene (10,000-6,000 years ago) intermediates that are usually assigned to a separate subspecies, the western bison (Bison bison occidentalis). Some authors contend that hunting by paleoindians was a driving force in this size reduction, but a similarly post-Pleistocene trend has been noted for the steppe bison in Eurasia (4). is from
    http://osfosseisdosergio.blogspot.com/2006/07/bisonte.html

    [reCAPTCHA offers sound advice with "ME humility".]

  608. Patrick 027:

    Correction to 572: “My over point being:” should be “My overall point being:”

    Correction to 605 (will be 604 when double post is removed):
    “Making the photovoltaic layer has the advantage of reducing internal losses”
    should be
    “Making the photovoltaic layer *thinner* has the advantage of reducing internal losses”

    591 (dhogaza)- “If you want to build your solar plant on top of Bonneville Speedway, hey, ecologically you’re not going to hear much of an argument.”

    What’s really funny is I just thought of that in the last couple days, thinking about where the most ‘barren’ places are and noticing that bright white patch on a Weather Channel map.

    But does the wind ever blow salt particles around there? That might be a corrosion hazard. (?)

    592,593,602(will be 601 when the double post is removed) – very interesting, good points! Thank you.

    “I only know because some anti-science republican wingnut senator from oklahoma is trying to block it”[sage grouse wind farm study]

    Well, that could be anybody! :)

    597 (Jim Bouldin) Thanks for that information; – “The mechanism for these increases is uncertain, but most likely represents either atmospheric and/or climatic enhancement rather than long term response to disturbance.”

    Could it be said then they they haven’t reached maturity for the conditions?

    “You are confusing sequestration with productivity there.”

    I know the difference, but certainly admit to not being sure how any given ecosystem will rate on either scale.

    “Wetlands have high productivity (NPP) but, with the exception of swamp forests, do not generally accumulate a lot of biomass (high NEP).”

    What about peat bogs? (PS going way out on a tangent here, but a friend told me that fens are alkaline and bogs are acidic, and I was wondering if the plants involved act to cause that (perhaps in effect defending and spreading territory in the process) or if local mineralogical conditions determine which will form, or some combination of the two?)

  609. Rod B:

    Mark, temp and CO2 relationship is logarithmic because of some intuitive hot pipe analogy???

  610. Rod B:

    Jim Bouldin (597), others have said forest sequestration is not linear, trees absorbing much more during early growth, not so much as they mature, becoming almost nil the last few years. Does your reference article address this contention?

  611. Hank Roberts:

    RodB, you could read the Abstract, which answers your question:
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v457/n7232/abs/nature07771.html

  612. Nigel Williams:

    609 Mark, Rod.

    For the range of time and temperature we are immediately concerned about the relationship has been found to be pretty linear.

    “The researchers used a combination of global climate models and historical climate data to show that there is a simple linear relationship between total cumulative emissions and global temperature change…”

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v459/n7248/full/nature08047.html

    The proportionality of global warming to cumulative carbon emissions
    H. Damon Matthews1, Nathan P. Gillett2, Peter A. Stott3 & Kirsten Zickfeld2

    “…we estimate CCR to be in the range 1.0–2.1 °C per trillion tonnes of carbon (Tt C) emitted (5th to 95th percentiles)…”

    Add carbon; Increase temperature. End of discussion.

  613. RichardC:

    591 dhogaza, there are NO farms and NO cattle anywhere near my land. 15 miles to the south you’ll find them. To the north of me you’ll find mostly vacant land. Of course, undisturbed is a relative term. You’ll find dirt paths and there’s bullets in the sand and the occasional load of debris somebody didn’t want to take to the dump, but as far as the local wildlife is concerned, local mankind is far down the list of threats. Yep, the valley is different than it used to be – it was a swamp. Heck, my land isn’t “pristine” because of my neighbors’ 4″ wells. All that water creates an abundance of life where naturally there would be very little. Change isn’t always bad.

    There’s been calls for having all the sage ripped out of the ground to allow the grasses more space. The points you bring up just reinforce my point – pristine land isn’t where the solar power stations would be built. They’ll be built close to towns and cities. As to other changes to the environment, well, that’s not exactly relevant to the discussion. We’re not really disagreeing, I think. I’m talking about what we have and where we’re going while you’re pointing out where things used to be. All’s valid.

    As for your question about sage grouse – I’ve never seen one. I doubt they live in the San Luis – as I said, it’s friggin cold in the winter.

    574 James says, “Now with the power supply problem “solved”, what happens? The population and the demand for power increases, and guess what? 2% just isn’t enough any more, now you need 4%. (Here comes the neck.) And after a few years, it’s 8% (the front legs), then 16% (the torso)… And how long is it before the whole camel’s in the tent, before solar panels cover everything that isn’t factory farm or city?”

    [edit] what causes increased population. (The answer is poverty) Provide mankind with a reasonable standard of living and suddenly folks have 0 or 1 child instead of 7 or 8. Your scenario is [edit]

  614. SecularAnimist:

    I am certainly in favor of applying the most stringent environmental standards to the construction of utility-scale, or industrial-scale, solar and wind power installations. As a society we failed to do so for fossil fuel development and we are experiencing the resulting damage. We should learn a lesson from that.

    For example, solar power stations should obviously not be installed on relatively “untouched”, environmentally important, delicate desert ecosystems, particularly where threatened or endangered species may be involved. In my view these areas should be declared national parks or nature preserves and protected from any significant human impact.

    The specific issues with wind turbines may be different — e.g. bird and bat kills — but the principle is basically the same. Obviously wind “farms” should not be built in the migration paths of endangered birds, for example, and the best possible technology for mitigating animal deaths should be mandated.

    I am an animal rights advocate and a vegan for 21 years and I will probably be more inclined than most to oppose solar or wind projects that have egregiously harmful impacts on our fellow sentient beings whom we call “wildlife”.

    Having said that, the fact is that human beings are going to continue for as long as we can get away with it to use some sort of technology to provide the energy that we need to sustain the comfortable and prosperous technological lifestyle to which we have become accustomed, or would like to become accustomed.

    In my view the demand side of the energy equation is far more important than the supply side. We in the USA are obscenely profligate squanderers of energy to a degree that is, to be blunt, morally wrong. And to a great extent our rapacious consumption of energy — and 80 percent of the USA’s primary energy supply is fossil fuels — does not even serve us very well. Not only does it not really “enhance” our well-being beyond a certain point, but it contributes to serious problems like obesity and other symptoms of a pathologically sedentary lifestyle.

    On the other hand, hundreds of millions of people all over the world are in real and desperate need of more energy. They have no electricity. None at all. Which means no access to any of the benefits of modern technology. They have to burn wood and dung and kerosene for heating and cooking and light and suffer from indoor air pollution as a result.

    We, the rich, need to cut way back on our energy consumption. And much of the rest of the world needs more energy. Both sectors need to use whatever energy is available, as efficiently as possible.

    There is some amount of energy which, equitably distributed and efficiently used, can sustain indefinitely some number of human beings in a comfortable, prosperous, modern, technologically advanced lifestyle, within the carrying capacity of the Earth’s biosphere, allowing for much of that biosphere to live and prosper in its own way free of human manipulation.

    Whatever that amount of energy is, we will have to produce it somehow.

    And it is clear that the technologies that are at hand, which can move us most quickly and safely away from fossil fuels and towards zero-carbon energy, with the least amount of other negative environmental impacts, are wind and solar and geothermal and hyrdo and biomass.

    These technologies are available now and are ready to be scaled up as quickly as we want to do it. Currently available technologies are ready for the job. And their rapid ongoing development, particularly in solar, has incredibly exciting promise for delivering really vast amounts of cheap electricity.

    Meanwhile, the smart-grid and storage systems that will facilitate getting more and more of our energy from a diverse mix of large and small, centralized and distributed, baseload and intermittent energy producers are also being rapidly developed.

    The suggestion that solar power causes vastly more environmental damage than nuclear power is silly. Uranium mining alone causes massive long term damage to the very desert ecosystems that are portrayed as being devastated by solar power plants.

    The suggestion that installing CSP on one or two percent of the USA’s deserts amounts to paving the continent with solar panels is inane.

    The suggestion that wind turbines are more destructive to Appalachian ecosystems than mountaintop-removal coal mining is laughable.

    Given the need to produce some substantial amount of energy from some technology to sustain some number of humans in a comfortable, prosperous, technologically advanced civilization, it is efficiency and clean, renewable energy combined that offer the least overall negative environmental impact.

    That’s where we need to go, as quickly as possible, and that’s where we should be investing our resources — not in nuclear power and coal.

  615. Ike Solem:

    In case you think that intensive fossil-fueled based agriculture and industrialized factory farming of animals doesn’t have serious repercussions, see the following:

    ANN ARBOR, Mich., June 19 (UPI) — The Gulf of Mexico’s oxygen-deprived “dead zone” could be one of the largest on record this summer, researchers at the University of Michigan say.

    This so-called “dead zone” is expected to blanket about 7,980 square miles, an area about the size of New Jersey, Donald Scavia, a university aquatic ecologist, said in a release Friday.

    It is possible to have equally productive agricultural systems without fossil fuels, but that would require a very different approach to agriculture than that currently promoted by the nation’s agricultural universities, which are almost wholly dedicated to the intensive fossil fuel-based model. Making such a transition, domestically, requires technical effort, but also government leadership in the form of real incentives that encourage private farmers to make the switch – something that the fossil fuel lobby earnestly opposes in Congress.

    This is of even greater importance to developing nations, who simply won’t have access to cheap fossil fuels in the future for even the most basic work, such as pumping water for irrigation. Solar-powered water pumps, electric tractors and other innovative small-scale technology are what developing-world farmers really need – but that doesn’t fit the western fossil-fuel-based industrial model, so such efforts are not promoted by USAID, the World Bank, or other international development agencies funded by the industrialized nations. If they were, the fossil fuel lobby would certainly push to have such agencies defunded by Congress.

    Hopefully, that shows that solving these problems requires coordinated efforts, and that it is not, as the public relation industry claims, “a matter of personal responsibility”.

    If you disagree, consider the era before public sanitation (sewers, sewer processing plants, etc) existed, when human excrement was simply tossed into the streets to be washed away by the rain. This was also known as the ‘cholera era’, and can still be found today (there was a recent outbreak in Iraq).

    Would ‘personal responsibility’ solve that problem? If you carefully dealt with all your own personal waste, would the city be free of cholera? Of course not, because it only takes a relatively small number of people to perpetuate the problem. Instead, you need sewers that reach every single house in the city – and no one is allowed to dump their excrement in the streets, even if that is “an infringement on personal liberty.”

    The same general concept applies to the high levels of primarily industrial agricultural effluent that kills off the Gulf of Mexico each year – and it’s not just the Gulf of Mexico anymore, it really is becoming a global effect, with hypoxic zones appearing in many different regions:

    http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2008-08-14-3253832470_x.htm

  616. Jim Bouldin:

    Patrick: “Could it be said then they they haven’t reached maturity for the conditions?

    Yes, an excellent way of putting it. There’s a disequilibrium, or forcing, and the forests are responding to it. In Africa, the forcing appears to be either CO2 fertilization and/or climatic changes (my hunch would be mainly the former, but it would be just that, a hunch).

    “What about peat bogs?…a friend told me that fens are alkaline and bogs are acidic, and I was wondering if the plants involved act to cause that (perhaps in effect defending and spreading territory in the process) or if local mineralogical conditions determine which will form, or some combination of the two?)

    Yes, peat bogs would count, the seq. rate would likely be low (cool to cold, oxygen-poor, acidic substrate) compared to anything with woody vegetation and/or aerated soils. Bogs are definitely acidic, but going strictly from memory, I don’t think fens are necessarily alkaline. The main difference between them is stagnant vs flowing water. Yes, the plants in a bog strongly influence the acidity, probably fully determines it in most cases, although I suppose there could be cases where the bedrock contributes something too.

    Rod: The statement is more or less correct (more exactly, they grow fastest when their ratio of leaf area to respiratory tissue is maximum, the timing of which varies depending on several factors). The ratio of photosynthetic C production to respiratory C use (P:R) approaches 1 (bare maintenance) as a tree gets larger, for biophysical reasons (leaf area increases slower than respiratory tissues do). What’s interesting about the Lewis paper, which was focused on documenting the C increases (being a synthesis of inventory data collected over 40 years across several tropical African countries), is that they find that trees are still growing, and so presumably are not close to their P:R limit. But why? They addressed this partially, by presenting evidence regarding the nature of the disturbance regime, finding that large scale disturbances in the past were unlikely, and hence, the likelihood that the observed C increases were due to a rebound therefrom was also unlikely, and hence the increase in biomass was likely due to the remaining possible causes: CO2 fert. and/or climatic changes. There have been other papers over the last decade finding similar C increases in the Amazon, and also in some temperate forests. But there have also been some important ones finding the opposite (e.g. the van Mantgem et al (2009) paper that I wrote a story about back in February).

  617. Rod B:

    Hank, I couldn’t find my answer in the abstract — only mean average sequestration over 40-some years.

  618. PeterMartin:

    Mark,

    The example, you give, of lagging on a hot water pipe is one of a decreasing exponential too. It isn’t logarithmic.

    In the limit when the thickness of the insulation tends infinity the heat loss tends to zero. At the other limit when the thickness of the insulation is zero the heat loss is still finite. Not infinite as you’d get from a logarithmic relationship.

    True the plot of a logarithmic realtionship and a reducing exponential relationship would look very close over much of the range but that’s as far as it goes.

    Looking at what happens at the limits, the extremes, is always a good test of any physical equation.

    You ask me why I want to know? That seems a very strange question to ask. How about scientific curiousity? Will that do for an answer?

    I’m not a contrarian if that is what is concerning you. I do accept that the dangers of AGW are very real and I am concerned that an overuse of the logarithmic function is allowing certain groups to understate those dangers.

  619. dhogaza:

    I tried to respond to RichardC’s ignorance, and it got flagged by spam.

    Spam filter’s are fine but … why after being informed, if I try to go back to correct, is the whole post deleted?

    It’s not like the spam filter has 10% the intellect of Anthony Watts.

    Meanwhile, one statement:

    As for your question about sage grouse – I’ve never seen one.

    Of course, they’ve been extirpated due to anthropogenic impact, as I would assume an intelligent person would have managed to understand from the information I posted above.

    I doubt they live in the San Luis – as I said, it’s friggin cold in the winter.

    The only place sage grouse live is where it’s friggin’ cold in winter. That’s their habitat, christ on a crutch …

  620. dhogaza:

    As for your question about sage grouse – I’ve never seen one. I doubt they live in the San Luis – as I said, it’s friggin cold in the winter.

    This is something that REALLY PISSES ME OFF. If you’re so ignorant that you argue that you live on ecologically pristine land while saying “I’ve never seen a sage grouse” which is native to that habitat and only absent due to anthropogenic changes, including historically known HEAVY GRAZING BY CATTLE, etc.

    You are not qualified to differentiate an unaltered desert habitat from an underground Manhattan parking structure.

    Just saying.

    You’ve exposed your ignorance here. I think your heart is in the right place, but please, learn some desert ecology. You own 160 acres out there and you’ve not bothered to learn what the native pre-grazing habitat was like? And now lecture us about “oh, sage grouse don’t live here because it’s too cold”? Total bullshit?

    Forget global warming, for the moment. Go learn some sage-steppe ecology and do your bit for habitat restoration.

    Crap, I’ve debated with big-time cattle operators for years and I’ve never heard the level of denialism you express. They tend to be honest – “gotta make my living, even if I know sage grouse didn’t die because it got too cold”.

    Sheesh.

  621. James:

    dhogaza Says (20 June 2009 at 1:04 PM):

    “The claim that there are huge swaths of land in the arid and semi-arid portions of the west that are largely untouched by human impact is simply false.”

    True enough, at least in my observation. But even if it has been changed (often for the worse, to my taste at least), it still remains a living ecosystem.

    “What this actually means of course is that there are millions of acres of heavily-impacted land available for solar power…”

    No, what this means is that there are millions of acres that could use some habitat restoration. What you seem to be saying is that because it’s been somewhat messed up, so it’s no longer pristinely “natural”, then it’s ok to go ahead and destroy it?

  622. Chris Colose:

    PeterMArtin,

    You are correct that the CO2 forcing is not logarithmic at very low concentrations (or very high ones, in fact) but such conditions are not relevant at Earth-like climates (at least over the last few hundred million years or the forseeable future) and thus the standard formulas for forcing (e.g., Myhre et al 1998) are suitable over the terrestrial climate regime. The reasons for this logarithmic forcing involve the exponential decay of the absorption in the principal bands, and this is explained in Ray Pierrehumbert’s book in chapter 4.

  623. Douglas Wise:

    re 614:

    SecularAnimist makes the following statement: “There is some amount of energy which, equitably distributed and efficiently used, can sustain indefinitely some number of human beings in a comfortable, prosperous, modern, technologically advanced lifestyle, within the carrying capacity of the Earth’s biosphere, allowing for much of that biosphere to live and prosper in its own way free of human manipulation.”

    In theory, this is an unexceptinal statement but one that needs some qualification. Could SecularAnimist attach a relevant figure to the “some number” of people who could live sustainably in the way he envisages? In particular, would the figure exceed 8 billion, that which we are scheduled to reach in 2050? If not, equitable distribution of energy would probably ensure the mutually assured destruction through starvation of the human race and certainly not leave the rest of the biosphere to prosper in the manner he wishes. In any event, perhaps he could explain what political system he would advocate to achieve the equity he seeks and comment on whether he considers it compatible with our evolved, competitive natures.

    I support SecularAnimist’s objective. If I had to guess at the sustainable human population, living in the way he would like, and leaving plenty over for other species, I would arrive at a figure of 1 to 2 billion. To arrive at this figure, starting at 6.7 billion and increasing to more than 8 billion before ultimately falling back to reach it, may or may not be possible, particularly against a background of peak oil and AGW. I wish I had his confidence that all this can be achieved by transitioning to a more costly energy system than the current one. I believe the only hope to be from an energy system that is actually cheaper than that which we now have. I am hoping that this will be provided by sodium cooled fast reactor technology but accept that this may be wishful thinking. If I’m wrong, renewable energy will probably allow some of us to survive for a bit longer. Perhaps, a massive die off through famine, war and disease is just what is needed as a prerequisite for the state of affairs that SecularAnimist is hoping for. However, lacking his idealism, I shall do my best to behave selfishly, as a good animal should, to ensure the survival of my own genes rather than those of others. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet found an appropriate strategy to give me the confidence that it has much chance of success.

  624. James:

    Patrick 027 Says (20 June 2009 at 3:18 PM):

    “But now Cool Earth Solar of Livermore, California, has come up with what it hopes will be a better, cheaper alternative: balloons.”

    Drat! It’s the same old story: someone always comes up with my great ideas before I do. Now I know how Wallace felt. (Alfred Russel, not George.)

    “…an alternative could be to use fixed spherical or circular-cylindrical mirrors on the ground…”

    But the whole point is to get the solar generators off the ground, and to a high enough altitude that they don’t completely block sunlight from the land below. Getting them to high altitude also puts them above most clouds.

    Apparently tethering things at that altitude isn’t impossible, as here’s a recent proposal to put wind generators in the jet stream: http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2244394/flying-researchers-target-jet

    So if you have a half-silvered balloon, gas pressure should make it approximately spherical at altitude, so it would focus the light on to a small patch of photocells (which IIRC are more efficient at colder temps, another plus). A small movable weight tilts it to track the sun in the horizontal plane, while a controllable wind vane would rotate it around the vertical axis. Waste heat helps keep it inflated, and I think might radiate better, yielding a slight reduction in warming as a side effect.

  625. James:

    RichardC Says (20 June 2009 at 7:46 PM):

    “…what causes increased population. (The answer is poverty) Provide mankind with a reasonable standard of living and suddenly folks have 0 or 1 child instead of 7 or 8.”

    Sorry, no. Methinks you need a little lesson in the birds & bees :-)

    Or perhaps in simply looking at real-world data. Yes, that “prosperity reduces population growth” meme is popular among the apologists for consumerism, but where is the actual evidence? Here’s a link to growth rates by country: Up near the head of the list you’ll find some of the wealthier countries such as Kuwait, the UAE, and Ireland. The bottom – and the only ones with actual negative rates – is mostly filled not with rich countries, but with members of the former Soviet Bloc.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population_growth_rate

  626. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (20 June 2009 at 8:11 PM):

    “The suggestion that solar power causes vastly more environmental damage than nuclear power is silly.”

    Yeah, when you’ve got a fixed belief system, any facts that conflict with those beliefs are silly :-)

    “Uranium mining alone causes massive long term damage to the very desert ecosystems that are portrayed as being devastated by solar power plants.”

    Where on Earth do you get your ideas from? Even open-pit uranium mines cover relatively little area, and once the mining operations are finished, they can be restored. Underground mining requires only a small amount of surface, which again can be restored when mining is finished.

    But in fact, both of these have largely been replaced by a process called in-situ leaching, which has only a small effect on the surface: http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf27.html

  627. Mark:

    “# Rod B Says:
    20 June 2009 at 6:42 PM

    Mark, temp and CO2 relationship is logarithmic because of some intuitive hot pipe analogy???”

    No.

    Why do you think that?

    It does illustrate that a linear relationship won’t work, though.

    I would ask you to illustrate what the mathematics is, but given that comment I suspect you’re too functionally illiterate to manage that task.

  628. Mark:

    Nigel, I think the other fella was talking about the doubling of CO2 produces a linear change in temperatures.

    Which is a logarithmic relationship.

    But for small changes, it’s linear.

    Rather like a small section of opaque atmosphere will, say, remove 1% of the light. The next small section also removes 1% of the light. This is linear.

    BUT because the light that gets to the second section is already reduced, the second section is removing 1% of the remaining 99% of light.

    And the third section is removing the 1% of that 99% of 99% it gets.

    And so on.

    And THIS is a logarithmic progression (dX/dl=1/constant occurs when X=log(l)).

    From a linear constant reduction over a small displacement, the relationship of the result over a large displacement is logarithmic.

  629. Mark:

    “Mark – ““life on the edge”. In what way, when talking about desserts is this wrong?”

    Well, I would expect that is true for the entirety of life, as it would be for some other extremes (high altitude, Antarctica, hot springs and deep sea hydrothermal vents, underground)”

    Well that would explain why daghoza doesn’t like that phrase, but it doesn’t actually make it wrong, does it?

    And I do not think it would be true for the entirety of life, but life in other extremes WOULD be. After all, they are extreme environments, not paradisaical ones. Else we wouldn’t have given them a different name…

  630. RichardC:

    613 – Those edits were uncalled for. My comments were proper and on topic. I’m feeling picked on! ;-)

  631. Alastair McDonald:

    RodB,

    Trees sequester carbon in two ways. First in their trunks and branches. That increases mostly in youth and ends on death until the tree falls over and rots. They also sequester carbon in their leaves, and that increases as they grow and remains high until near their death. The leaves rot and return the carbon to the air, but much does not rot and forms leaf litter or boggy swamps. In the extreme case during the Carboniferous geological period the trees in much swamps drew down so much carbon that there was an ice age. We are now putting that carbon back into the atmosphere when we burn coal.

    HTH,

    Cheers, Alastair.

  632. Mark:

    “PeterMartin Says:
    20 June 2009 at 23:35

    Mark,

    The example, you give, of lagging on a hot water pipe is one of a decreasing exponential too. It isn’t logarithmic.”

    Nope. It’s not decreasing exponential (and I note you haven’t said what the heck THAT means scientifically), it’s logarithmic.

    At least as far as energy loss is concerned.

    AND it wasn’t an accurate simlulant of the problem asked, AS I SAID IN THE BEGINNING OF THE BLOODY POST YOU READ!

    It’s an analogue.

    It shows that linear wouldn’t be right.

    And that a doubling of thckness could well result in half the loss of energy, making the lagging and energy loss reduction logarithmically dependent.

    And so much effort has been wasted and you haven’t answered the queries.

    We still don’t know if the full-on quantum explanation will sail straight over your head. We still don’t know why you think it isn’t logarithmic (e.g. why do you believe a handful of scientists but not a roomful?). And so on.

  633. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “Yeah, when you’ve got a fixed belief system, any facts that conflict with those beliefs are silly”

    You have provided NO facts — none at all — to support your ridiculous assertion that solar power is more environmentally damaging than nuclear power.

    So much more damaging, in your opinion, that nuclear war would be preferable to installing solar power stations on one percent of the USA’s deserts.

    You just keep making the same baseless assertions supported by other baseless assertions and ill-informed assumptions.

    And you don’t honestly engage with what others actually say. When I cite a study showing that installing concentrating solar thermal power plants on one percent of the USA’s desert land could power 90 percent of the grid plus electric cars, you respond that I want to pave the entire North American continent with solar panels. Let’s call that movie “James vs. Strawmanzilla”.

    When someone presents facts that don’t support your “fixed belief system”, you don’t respond to the facts — you accuse them of being part of an anti-nuclear religious cult.

    Meanwhile, you systematically exaggerate the problems of renewables while pretending that the very serious problems of nuclear power don’t exist.

    Look, I understand that nuclear enthusiasts are nuclear enthusiasts. Some people want nuclear power because, well, because they dig it. That’s cool. That’s fine.

    But the facts just don’t support the argument that nuclear power is better than renewable energy, or that mountain-top removal coal mining is less environmentally damaging than wind turbines, or any of the other baseless assertions that you keep glibly repeating.

    The facts don’t even support the argument that nuclear power is a necessary, or desirable, or effective, or affordable solution for reducing GHG emissions from electricity generation.

    The facts show that renewables can do the job — and are already on the job, growing at record-breaking double-digit rates year after year, enthusiastically backed by venture capital, major utilities and corporations, and increasingly encouraged by enlightened government policies.

    Meanwhile the “new generation” of nuclear power plants is mired in the same multi-year delays, multi-billion dollar cost overruns, and safety problems that have plagued nuclear power for a half-century.

    My expectation is that well before any “nuclear renaissance” begins to actually deliver any significant amount of power from new reactors, that renewables will have grown so much that they will eclipse nuclear power as an energy source.

  634. Patrick 027:

    … Thinking about water use: If it can be shown (as I expect it can) that the energy for desalination of seawater and pumping it uphill and inland by some standard amount is a small fraction of the energy produced by a solar plant using the same quantity of water, that would bode well. Of course, some of that water will runoff and could be used for another purpose. (If the water is additional to the rainfall in the region, some fraction of the evaporation of that water would, depending on drainage patterns and winds, be recycled and add to the rainfall.)

    But then again, the cooling water that flows through a typical coal power plant is still there after use – it is warmer, there can be a local heat pollution issue, and it will evaporate faster than otherwise, but it isn’t wholly used up.

    Nuclear power uses cooling towers; my understanding is that all the cooling water must evaporate? Some portion will be lost from the region depending on winds and drainage patterns. On the other hand, some will come into the region from other power plant evaporation.

    So I guess now I’m not sure how the water issues work out; except perhaps that nuclear power tends to need more liquid water on hand…(?)

  635. Patrick 027:

    Jim Boulding 616 (could turn into 615) – Thanks; great info!

    Re 624(James) – Thanks.

    Would those balloons be in the stratosphere (to avoid cumulonimbus convection)?

    I offered the other concept (fixed mirrors, moving foci) because it occured to me that it might simply the tracking mechanism requirements.

    Re 623(Douglas Wise): “In any event, perhaps he could explain what political system he would advocate to achieve the equity he seeks and comment on whether he considers it compatible with our evolved, competitive natures.”

    Human nature is a mixed bag. We aren’t bees, but we aren’t Humboldt squid either.

  636. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (21 June 2009 at 10:47 AM):

    “You have provided NO facts — none at all — to support your ridiculous assertion that solar power is more environmentally damaging than nuclear power.”

    On the contrary: I’ve provided plenty of facts, from the simple logic that says blocking sunlight & spraying herbicides is not a recipe for environmental health on up. You’ve just (figuratively) stuck your fingers in your ears and repeated “I can’t HEAR you”.

    “So much more damaging, in your opinion, that nuclear war would be preferable to installing solar power stations on one percent of the USA’s deserts.”

    You also need to work on your reading comprehension, because what I wrote is that nuclear war would be preferrable to a world that’s paved over with cities, solar plants, and industrial agriculture.

    “And you don’t honestly engage with what others actually say. When I cite a study showing that installing concentrating solar thermal power plants on one percent of the USA’s desert land could power 90 percent of the grid plus electric cars…”

    A study from a company seeking investment capital to build those plants? Don’t I recall, from a previous thread, a certain degree of scepticism regarding the objectivity of industry-financed research? But of course that doesn’t apply when it gives the results YOU want :-)

    Then there’s that Scientific American study, which finds that it would take roughly 3% of the entire (continental) US to do the same thing. Which am I supposed to believe?

    Now if we want to go into the question of “baseless assertations”, how about your assertation regarding uranium mining? It should be a simple matter to compile a list of present & past mines, add up their surface areas, and supply a link, but have you done this?

    “Meanwhile, you systematically exaggerate the problems of renewables while pretending that the very serious problems of nuclear power don’t exist.”

    Nope. I point out the fairly obvious problems with renewables that you gloss over in your enthusiasm, and show that many of the alleged problems with nuclear are (charitably) not evident in practice.

    “Look, I understand that nuclear enthusiasts are nuclear enthusiasts. Some people want nuclear power because, well, because they dig it.”

    (Sigh) But I’m not a nuclear enthusiast. I’m only concerned with results: how to get sufficient power at reasonable cost without trashing the environment. Nuclear (as part of a mix) does that. Nothing else that I’ve ever seen will.

    “But the facts just don’t support the argument,,, that mountain-top removal coal mining is less environmentally damaging than wind turbines…”

    But when have I ever made that claim? The closest I’ve come is to point out the (fairly self-evident, I would think) fact that the wind turbines are going to be a permanency, while a played-out coal mine can be rehabilitated into a functioning ecosystem.

    “The facts show that renewables can do the… job increasingly encouraged by enlightened government policies.”

    = subsidies. Which is another way of saying that if it weren’t for tax breaks &c, nobody would be building those wind farms or desert solar plants.

  637. James:

    Patrick 027 Says (21 June 2009 at 12:49 PM):

    “Nuclear power uses cooling towers; my understanding is that all the cooling water must evaporate?”

    No. It depends on the design of the cooling. t’s really just thermodynamics. Any heat engine, be it nuclear, coal-fired, geothermal, or solar thermal, needs cooling, because heat engines run on temperature differences. If your plant is located next to an ocean or lake, you can use that for cooling (consider nuclear submarines…). If you have plentiful water, you can use evaporative cooling. In a dry area, you can use a closed-loop system that rejects heat to the air.

  638. Ric Merritt:

    I’m getting pretty darn tired of not-fully-named James. He’s a clever fellow, and able to reason sometimes, and apparently takes the position that when kicking around big issues we should not restrict ourselves to prissy PC statements. So do I. So he goes on to favor, in at least some circumstances, nuclear war over any large amount of solar power on deserts. Well, that’s fine and dandy for 2AM in the dorm, but I haven’t lived there for some decades, and my finger is getting tired just from scrolling past all the unsupported speculation. How did we get from 1 or 2% of certain areas covered to a disaster worse than nuclear war? James doesn’t say, just some hand-waving about parables (#574, camel’s nose). Having had one moderate nuclear war, how do we know it doesn’t lead to various barely imaginable horrors with more certainty than the camel’s nose of desert solar? James doesn’t explain, for the obvious reason that no one on earth could ever do better than wild speculation on something so uncertain and unprecedented. If you’re going to get into world energy policy, at least acknowledge the huge array of interacting choices, and discuss them with some humility about the unknowns, having absorbed the choices at least on the level of, say, Joe Romm’s Climate Progress blog, together with the transitive closure of its nearly limitless references. That goes for James and everyone else.

  639. Rick Brown:

    Rod B, see if this helps:

    Luyssaert, S., E. D. Schulze, et al. (2008). “Old-growth forests as global carbon sinks.” Nature 455(7210): 213-215.

    available at:

    http://www.borealbirds.org/resources/study-nature-oldgrowth.pdf

  640. David B. Benson:

    James (626) — Please read “Radioactive Revival in New Mexico”, by Shelley Smithson, in the 2009 Jun 29 issue of The Nation regarding the results of mining uranium.

    Hint: Ain’t pretty.

  641. Patrick 027:

    From: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/03/with-all-due-respect/langswitch_lang/fa#comment-116099
    Regarding a solar thermal power plant with central recievers and many heliostats:

    Assuming a capacity factor of 1/4 (the stated 400 MW seems to be a capacity; capacity factor = average power / capacity), osmotic pressure of sea water less than 30 MPa (less than about 30 atmospheres), and that the amount of water used by the power plant is to be desalinated and pumped upward 1000 m in a 33.3 % efficient process, less than 0.1148 % of the energy from such a power plant would be used for desalinating and pumping water. Getting all electricity from such power plants would use about 1.08 gallons of water per person per day with present day energy usage in the U.S (0.4748 TW of electricity in 2007 (0.4573 TW of that from the electric power sector), approximately 300 million people). (and much of that water would not be ‘used up’ by the process).

    Water use is about 6.33 mm/year or 0.25 inches/year over the area of the power plant.

    Perhaps more generally, rainfall on solar panels or mirrors could be made to drain towards collectors at the bases of those devices?

  642. Patrick 027:

    James -

    I’ve been going back over the “Solar Grand Plan” numbers. They wanted to be conservative in establishing feasibility, so they assume a 1 % increase in energy demand per year.

    This article is from 2008. So I use 42 years until 2050 and 92 years until 2100.

    U.S. population is now about 300 million people. It seems reasonable that U.S. population may grow to 400 million in 2050 (in fact I think that is about the projection from the CIA – or maybe 405 million). Suppose it reaches 450 million in 2100.

    Energy use increases by a factor of 1.52 from 2008 to 2050 and 2.50 from 2008 to 2100, while population increases by factors of 1.33 and 1.5 over the same periods. So per capita energy use increases by factors of 1.14 and 1.67 over those periods.

    That’s their scenario.

    On the other hand, per capita energy consumption has remained about flat over the last 3 decades. I think electrical power consumption has increased faster than non-electrical power consumption.

    Now here’s where things get tricky – the Solar Grand Plan article does not appear to convert solar electricity into a thermal fuel equivalent for accounting, so they state that while energy demand increases, energy consumption actually declins a little in the first 42 years (to 2050). Another wrench in the equation is that they have some portion (perhaps nearly all?) of energy consumption by transportation being solar electricity by 2050. Which is potentially a very good thing, but it makes the math trickier.

    They also give capacities of power rather than average power output.

    Some clarifications are made in the comments.

    I’m going over it, but I suspect the actual area needed by 2100 could be reduced to 1/3 of their stated area.

  643. Mark:

    You’re not a nuclear enthusiast?

    Your words speak a different story, James.

  644. James:

    David B. Benson Says (21 June 2009 at 2:52 PM):

    “James (626) — Please read “Radioactive Revival in New Mexico”, by Shelley Smithson, in the 2009 Jun 29 issue of The Nation regarding the results of mining uranium.”

    Read it. Long on emotion, short on facts. As for instance, how does past uranium mining differ from any other mining? For instance, there’s this one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almaden_Quicksilver_County_Park where I’ve done a bit of hiking. Or this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comstock_Lode just over the hill from me (and the local hills have literally hundreds of small mines & exploratory shafts from that era). This one http://yosemite.epa.gov/r9/sfund/r9sfdocw.nsf/vwsoalphabetic/Leviathan+Mine?OpenDocument is just down the road a bit, this one’s http://ndep.nv.gov/yerington/history.htm about an hour’s drive.

    Then there is plenty of ongoing mining around here. Gold is big http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_mining_in_Nevada but there are mines producing a range of minerals from gypsum (got sheetrock in your house?) to lithium (all those laptop batteries) to opals. So why’s uranium any different than any of these?

  645. James:

    Mark Says (21 June 2009 at 4:56 PM):

    “You’re not a nuclear enthusiast?
    Your words speak a different story, James.”

    Well, as I keep saying, some people need to work on their reading comprehension :-) If I’m an enthusiast for anything, it’s for having a nice world to go on living in. Show me something that seems more likely to accomplish that, and I’ll be happy to hop on the bandwagon. But you do need to have some sort of evidence…

  646. David B. Benson:

    James (644) — Given you last question, you could not have read the article with much attention.

    So try again and then go find out some information about the effects on ground water of the various forms of mining, the effects on miner’s (and others) health of various forms of mining, etc.

    Try Butte, MT, and Silver Valley, ID, versus NW New Mexico. Some forms of gold mining are not so bad. Look into the mercury extraction techniques being used in parts of South America.

  647. RichardC:

    dhogaza, Stop with the “pristine land” stuff. I’M NOT SAYING MY LAND IS PRISTINE! And stop grousing about grouse. I’m looking at the historical range map and it shows that my land is just outside their historical range. Your point just failed.
    http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/birds/sagegrouse/map_sagegrouse_range2000.JPG

    636 James said “the wind turbines are going to be a permanency, while a played-out coal mine can be rehabilitated into a functioning ecosystem.”

    uh, a played-out coal mine means that ANOTHER mountain MUST be destroyed.

  648. PeterMartin:

    Mark,

    You say “Um, isn’t a reducing exponential relationship merely a polynomial fit???”

    No.

    Going back to your example of heat loss from a lagged pipe you can say the heat loss is given by:

    H=H0(1-exp(-t/d))
    H0 and d are constants. t is the thickness of the lagging. When t=0, H=H0. And, when t is very large H=0. Just like you’d expect.

    If you plot out the function, you’ll see that there is a linear looking region at low values of t, then a region which is more logarithmic looking at higher values.

    If you try to describe the heat loss by a logarithmic function you don’t get such a sensible outcome at the limits. As I said previously you get infinite heat loss in the limit of zero lagging thickness.

    It may seem a pedantic quibble but I’d like to see some recognition that at zero CO2 levels the earth’s temperature would not plunge to -infinity!

    Besides that, the contrarians are using a logarithmic relationship to claim that whilst CO2 is an important GHG, and contributes significantly to the total natural level of 33 degC, that this almost entirely happens at very low concentrations. ‘Almost entirely’ is an obvious exaggeration. But it can be justified on the grounds that every time CO2 levels are halved the temperature will change by the same amount as when they are doubled. This certainly would be the case if the relationship was logarithmic.

  649. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #645 James

    Well, having less weapons grade plutonium on the market would give us a reasonably better shot at it.

    You don’t need evidence for the future potentials of nuclear war in a resource scarce world, you need to be intelligent.

  650. Mark:

    Peter, but the doubling is less significant an increase at low concentrations.

    This balances out.

  651. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    what I wrote is that nuclear war would be preferrable to a world that’s paved over with cities, solar plants, and industrial agriculture.

    It’s still a psychotic comment to make.

  652. Ray Ladbury:

    Peter Martin, the main reason why Motl’s relation is wrong is that it saturates, whereas the physics shows that you continue to get broadening of the absorption bands as concentration increases. The reason the equation changes going from low concentration to high is that the physics changes–you literally are dealing with a different regime of the absorption vs. frequency curve. It would probably be possible to construct a single equation, but it would be quite complicated and not very intuitive.

    Motl’s equation fundamentally misunderstands the physics–or–it is deliberately misleading. You pick.

  653. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #645 James

    PS And you can’t have evidence of the future, because it hasn’t happened yet.

    PPS Yes, reading comprehension is good, you should look into that.

  654. Rod B:

    Ike (615), it’s not obvious (to me) how burning fossil fuels create oceanic hypoxic zones. Can you briefly explain? I understand fertilizer and sewage per your reference, but not fossil fuels.

  655. Jim Bouldin:

    Rod, he’s referring to the amount of fuel needed for industrial agriculture (a lot), including fertilizer production, transport and application.

  656. dhogaza:

    RichardC says:

    dhogaza, Stop with the “pristine land” stuff. I’M NOT SAYING MY LAND IS PRISTINE!

    Earlier RichardC said:

    Yep, leaving pristine environments intact as much as is practical is a grand idea. Fortunately, it is EASY. There are zillions and zillions of pristine acres out there. The typical desert human encroachment is minimal. I have 160 acres.

    I think I may be forgiven my “confusion”, and despite my “confusion”, RichardC’s claim that there are “zillions and zillions of pristine acres out there” is false.

    Fortunately the opposite is true, fortunately in the sense that if we protect the highest-quality (from a native ecosystem point of view), there’s still zillions and zillions of previously heavily grazed, heavily used by ORVs (in the Mojave) or use for military training (if you don’t mind the unexploded ordinance, oh well), mined, etc.

    James says:

    No, what this means is that there are millions of acres that could use some habitat restoration. What you seem to be saying is that because it’s been somewhat messed up, so it’s no longer pristinely “natural”, then it’s ok to go ahead and destroy it?

    I’m saying first priority should be to preserve that what’s left that requires minimal restoration. Would I oppose building solar plants on a fraction of heavily impacted lands, then spending the required money in habitat restoration for the rest of the heavily impacted lands where practical?

    No, of course not. There’s already a lot of active habitat restoration going on, at least in Oregon’s share of sage steppe, by agencies and conservation groups, both. Increasing the effort would obviously be fine with me.

  657. dhogaza:

    RichardC:

    I’m looking at the historical range map and it shows that my land is just outside their historical range. Your point just failed.

    Whether the historical range based on observations that have been reported and survived, or the habitat-based estimate I posted earlier, is more accurate is an issue that’s impossible to resolve without a time machine.

    However, the fact remains that historically heavily-grazed sage steppe such as is predominant in your valley (those portions which aren’t flood-irrigated) is characterized by having lower biodiversity and higher impacts from invasive pest species than those pockets which have been entirely or largely ungrazed. Using your and your neighbors’ land as an example “proving” that biodiversity in deserts is low is not useful.

  658. RichardC:

    648 Peter said, “It may seem a pedantic quibble but I’d like to see some recognition that at zero CO2 levels the earth’s temperature would not plunge to -infinity!”

    You’re using the wrong units. CO2 has to do with heat retention, not heat loss. At zero CO2 the excess heat retained by CO2 IS zero. That doesn’t make the planet’s temperature zero K. (eyeroll at negative infinity)

  659. Rod B:

    Mark, in answering why temp-CO2 relationship is logarithmic you said “…[roughly] think of lagging on a hot water pipe.” That’s why I thought (wondered about) such.

    I’m not going too fast for you, am I?

  660. James:

    David B. Benson Says (21 June 2009 at 6:31 PM):

    “James (644) — Given you last question, you could not have read the article with much attention.”

    I think I did (but of course I’m biased :-)), but just to be courteous, I did as you asked and read it again. I also looked at the source: “The Nation is a weekly United States periodical devoted to politics and culture, self-described as “the flagship of the left.” (From the Wikipedia article, but it seems a nice summation.) As I said, long on emotion, short on fact. It seems (though I didn’t actually count lines) to devote more space to conflicts between various communities than anything, mentions the environment only in passing…

    “So try again and then go find out some information about the effects on ground water of the various forms of mining, the effects on miner’s (and others) health of various forms of mining, etc.”

    So I do this, but I still have the same question: how does uranium mining differ from mining anything else? Mining-related diseases are hardly unique to it: black lung, silicosis, itai-itai disease, and many more that can be found with a little searching. Nor should it be exactly news that mining operations in the past weren’t much interested in either protecting workers’ health or cleaning up after themselves. But, as those links I gave should have shown, uranium mining was no different from the rest.

    So wouldn’t it be fair to give the same scrutiny to the mines that produce all the materials that go into PV cells (some interesting heavy metals there), mirror arrays, or wind turbines?

    “Try Butte, MT, and Silver Valley, ID…”

    Of course there are many other mines. I picked the ones I did because I’ve actually spent significant time around them. But take Butte, which was mostly a copper mine. Those wind turbines will almost certainly use large amounts of copper in their windings. They, and the solar plants, will be connected to the grid by copper transmission lines. Why shouldn’t copper mining be of the same concern as uranium mining?

  661. James:

    John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) Says (22 June 2009 at 8:52 AM)

    “PS And you can’t have evidence of the future, because it hasn’t happened yet.”

    Oh? So all those climate models forecasting the future effects of increasing CO2 are worthless, and Gavin & company might as well take their computer modeling expertise to Wall Street?

  662. James:

    dhogaza Says (22 June 2009 at 10:30 AM):

    “…there’s still zillions and zillions of previously heavily grazed, heavily used by ORVs (in the Mojave) or use for military training (if you don’t mind the unexploded ordinance, oh well), mined, etc.”

    I wish that were so, but there just aren’t “zillions and zillions” of acres out there. In fact, there are only a bit under 2 billion acres of any sort in the continental US. (Or a bit over 6 acres/person, which hardly seems like enough.) Subtract the ones that have been paved, plowed, or had cities & suburbs built on them, and there’s not that much left.

    “Would I oppose building solar plants on a fraction of heavily impacted lands…”

    But why sacrifice that fraction, when there are options that don’t require it?

  663. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “Those wind turbines will almost certainly use large amounts of copper in their windings. They, and the solar plants, will be connected to the grid by copper transmission lines. Why shouldn’t copper mining be of the same concern as uranium mining?”

    How much copper do wind turbines, solar power plants and transmission lines burn up as fuel over their operational lifetimes?

    More on nuclear power vs. renewables:

    The likely cost of electricity for a new generation of nuclear reactors would be 12-20 cents per kilowatt hour (KWh), considerably more expensive than the average cost of increased use of energy efficiency and renewable energies at 6 cents per kilowatt hour, according to a major new study by economist Dr. Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School. The report finds that it would cost $1.9 trillion to $4.1 trillion more over the life of 100 new nuclear reactors than it would to generate the same electricity from a combination of more energy efficiency and renewables.

    Titled “The Economics of Nuclear Reactors,” Cooper’s analysis of over three dozen cost estimates for proposed new nuclear reactors shows that the projected price tags for the plants have quadrupled since the start of the industry’s so-called “nuclear renaissance” at the beginning of this decade – a striking parallel to the eventually seven-fold increase in reactor costs estimates that doomed the “Great Bandwagon Market” of the 1960s and 1970s, when half of planned reactors had to be abandoned or cancelled due to massive cost overruns.

    The study notes that the required massive subsidies from taxpayers and ratepayers would not change the real cost of nuclear reactors, they would just shift the risks to the public. Even with huge subsidies, nuclear reactors would remain more costly than the alternatives, such as efficiency, biomass, wind and cogeneration.

    [...]

    To pin down the likely cost of new nuclear reactors, the Cooper report first dissects three dozen recent projections of the cost of new nuclear reactors. Second, it places those projections in the context of the long sweep of the history of the industry with a database of the costs of 100 reactors built in the U.S. between 1971 and 1996. Third, it examines those costs in comparison to the cost of alternatives available today to meet the need for electricity. Finally, it considers a range of qualitative factors including environmental concerns, risks and subsidies that affect decisions about which technologies to utilize in an environment where public policy requires constraints on carbon emissions.

    Among the key findings of the Cooper study are the following:

    * On average, the final cohort of “Great Bandwagon Market” reactors cost seven times as much as the cost projection for the first reactors of the Great Bandwagon Market.

    * The cost projections put out early in today’s so-called “nuclear renaissance” were about one-third of what one would have expected, based on the reactors completed in the 1990s.

    * The most recent cost projections for new reactors are, on average, over four times as high as the initial projections used to spark the “nuclear renaissance.” Unlike the 1960s and 1970s, when the vendors and government officials monopolized the preparation of cost analyses, today Wall Street and independent analysts have come forward with more realistic and therefore, much higher estimates of the cost of nuclear reactors.

    * Utilities and Wall Street analysts agree that nuclear reactors will not be built without massive direct subsidies from the federal government and/or ratepayers.

    * Analysis of the technical potential to deliver economically practicable options for low-cost, low-carbon approaches indicates that the supply is ample to meet both electricity needs and carbon reduction targets for three decades.

    * Considering economic risk and the environmental, safety and security issues associated with nuclear reactors shows that not only are nuclear reactors among the worst options we have available from the point of view of consumer pocketbook economics, they are also among the worst from the societal point of view [emphasis added].

  664. Hank Roberts:

    Dhogaza, do you have a pointer to anywhere people are discussing these issues? Cheatgrass is no joke, it’s a horror. But this is the wrong place. I’d welcome a pointer. The journals are working away at it, e.g. http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.2111/07-133.1

    “… Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum L.) is the most widespread invasive weed in sagebrush ecosystems of North America. Restoration of perennial vegetation is difficult …. effects were temporary …. Short-term reductions in N or cheatgrass seed supply did not have long-term effects … Longer-term reductions in soil N, higher seeding densities, or more competitive plant materials are necessary to revegetate areas dominated by cheatgrass.”

    (And no, cheatgrass doesn’t sequester carbon well; it loves fire. I’ve prescribe-burned patches of it, doesn’t work — it sounds like popcorn, throwing little green seeds in all directions, half of them ending up behind the fire line ready to reestablish.)

  665. dhogaza:

    Subtract the ones that have been paved, plowed, or had cities & suburbs built on them, and there’s not that much left.

    This is simply not true in the four American deserts, nor in the rest of the west inland of the cascades/sierra ranges and west of the Rockies.

  666. Rod B:

    Jim Bouldin, Thanks. It does sound like a nonsensical stretch, though. How about the lettuce cause, since farmers need their salad to keep working? :-P

  667. Ike Solem:

    The application of solar power to energy problems? Yes, it works. How to go about it?

    1) Solar photovoltaics, the direct conversion of sunlight to electric current using the basic semiconductor workhorse, one-way electron flow across a p-n junction. In fact, the discovery of effective silicon-based PV chips happened at the same place and time (Bell Labs, 1950s) that silicon based computer chips were invented. It’s a classic example of the difference between disruptive and emerging technology – one gets developed, the other doesn’t (in free market ideology, there are no disruptive technologies, and no cartel-based economic systems).

    2) Solar thermal, the use of sunlight to heat a working fluid which can then be used as a source of heat itself, or to drive a turbine engine for electricity generation. Most concentrating solar plants operate on this principle.

    3) Solar photochemistry, the least developed but most intriguing and futuristic possibility – and a bridge to natural plant photosynthesis. Here, the goal is to convert sunlight to stored chemical energy, essentially directly. Plants actually convert solar electricity to electronic potential first, before storing it as chemical energy. If this is fully developed, you can envisage solar-powered plants that take in water and atmospheric CO2, and put out stable hydrocarbon fuels – think of it as a carbon equivalent of the Haber process for nitrogen fixation. (CO2 -> CH4 vs. N2 -> NH3) This is probably a far preferable approach to agricultural biofuel production, especially with current drought-flood projections.

    All these technologies are highly disruptive to existing financial deals in the electrical utility business. Utilities are generally closely linked to railroads and coal mines via holding companies; that for example is a core business of Berkshire Hathaway, which partially owns utilities like Constellation, railroads like Burlington and UNP, etc. These large investments in rail were tied to the fact that high oil prices were driving greater use of coal over the past few years. Coal is the most lucrative business for railroads to be in – every new coal plant is a new decade-long coal hauling contract. By contrast, a new solar plant? No coal hauling contract. That’s why several directors of “Americans for Clean Coal Electricity” are also railroad executives.

    Now, let’s ask what a fossil-fuel-free energy system would really look like. The U.S currently generates 20% of electricity via nuclear power, with no CO2 emissions, so let’s leave that intact. This is best for nuclear reactors, which do not respond well to being ramped up and down (bad for the fuel rods, among other things). There is a single optimal set of operating conditions that maximizes fuel usage, and thus nuclear is best for 24-7 baseline energy production. France actually has too much nuclear capacity, leading to problems as they have to bring plants on and offline (plus, if their rivers get too hot, the plants have to be shut down).

    The question is then, is it possible to replace coal and petroleum and natural gas with solar and wind and tidal electricity and solar-powered biofuels? The answer there is yes. If you have a mix of residential, industrial and large-scale solar power plants, plus energy storage, you can replace coal – and this is especially true across the lower half of the U.S., where sunlight is more intense.

    Solar panels do not pollute the local or global environment because there are no chemical bonds and mass transfers involved – just electrons, no atomic or molecular transformations. That’s what clean electricity really looks like – no fuels involved at all, other than the material in the Sun’s core.

    So cheer up, James – there’s no reason for despair.

  668. Mark:

    “This is simply not true in the four American deserts, nor in the rest of the west inland of the cascades/sierra ranges and west of the Rockies.”

    But does the already damaged area consist of 1% of the US landmass?

    If it does, you’re sorted.

  669. Mark:

    Huge reading comprehension on James’ part:

    ““PS And you can’t have evidence of the future, because it hasn’t happened yet.”

    Oh? So all those climate models forecasting the future effects of increasing CO2 are worthless,”

    Nope, never said that there wasn’t the ability to make a forecast.

    Just that there’s no evidence in it.

    Until it’s happened, it’s just a forecast. When it’s happened, there’s evidence.

    See how the two words use different letters?

    forecast

    evidence

    ?

    That’s because they’re *different words*.

    So please stop trying to make them the same one, m’kay?

  670. Hank Roberts:

    Coming soon (not sure when) and I’m sure worth reading:

    … “The Solar Power Threat to Wild Deserts.”
    from Dave Foreman, in his somewhat irregular email newsletter.

    To receive “Around the Campfire” contact Susan Morgan at:
    smorgan1964@earthlink.net

    See also: http://www.rewilding.org/

  671. Mark:

    “The U.S currently generates 20% of electricity via nuclear power, with no CO2 emissions,”

    Apart from the petrol in the trucks/cars/trains/ships that transport it.

    Oh, and the mine equipment.

    Oh, and the travel distance for the workers in the mine.

    Oh, and the purification plants.

    Oops. Forgot the decontamination (the plant and the trains/planes/automobiles that get the waste from station to plant).

    Oh, and the building materials, decomissioning, maintenance, …

    But *apart from all that*, what CO2 does a nuclear power plant do for us.. (uh, sorry, got Pythoned there…)

  672. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #661 James

    Gee, you got me there. ;)

    Everyone can go home now… oh, wait… you forgot context again. No surprise.

    You see, you were talking about solar v. nuclear again, and I was talking about weapons grade plutonium…

    … You see, the climate is a physical force, not a psychological one…

    and there is this little thing called physics, and inertia, and atmospheric life time of CO2, and feedback…

    Oh, never mind.

    Keep working on that reading comprehension thing though, maybe someday you will graduate.

    Oh yea, and what Mark said too (#669) :)

  673. RichardC:

    625 James asks, “Yes, that “prosperity reduces population growth” meme is popular among the apologists for consumerism, but where is the actual evidence?”

    http://db.jhuccp.org/ics-wpd/exec/icswppro.dll?BU=http://db.jhuccp.org/ics-wpd/exec/icswppro.dll&QF0=DocNo&QI0=321152&TN=Popline&AC=QBE_QUERY&MR=30%25DL=1&&RL=1&&RF=LongRecordDisplay&DF=LongRecordDisplay
    ” Countries with the highest fertility rates per woman tended to have a much lower gross national income per capita than countries with the lowest fertility rates.”

    Your link is off a tad. Population growth is a lagging indicator. Fertility rate is more accurate.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_territories_by_fertility_rate

    The rich countries (with rich being defined as money to the people, as in median income) tend to have low birth rates and the poor ones generally have high ones. Bringing up outliers such as Kuwait, where essentially all the money goes to the government, is silly. 85% of the jobs in Kuwait are held by foreign workers! Of course, poverty isn’t the only issue. Religion, tradition, and other factors come into play as well. (Look at the oil princes with dozens of children – the Kuwait/Saudi issue)

    Here’s a good graph which shows clearly that poor countries have high reproductive rates
    http://www.cmaj.ca/cgi/reprint/177/8/846.pdf

    What about within a country? Here’s the numbers for India:
    http://medind.nic.in/jah/t00/i1/jaht00i1p70g.pdf
    Mean fertility/ Income(Rs) 3.30/7000

  674. PeterMartin:

    Mark,

    “Peter, but the doubling is less significant an increase at low concentrations.”

    Yes, intuition would suggest exactly that. But that’s not the way the logarithmic function describes it. If a doubling of CO2 levels from pre-industrial levels is going to produce a 3 degree increase, then halving it will produce a 3 degree decrease, according to the logarithmic relationship.

    The problem is that you can halve it again and again Is that another 3 degree decrease for every time you do it? Obviously not.

    Richard C,

    Yes, at zero CO2 concentrations the heat retention (of CO2) is zero. Correct. But take the logarithm of this and what do you get?

    When you’ve finished rolling your eyes, you might want to keep them still long enough to check that the logarithm of zero is in fact -infinity.

    There’s a big difference between zero and – infinity!

  675. David B. Benson:

    PeterMartin (674) — Not sure what your point is but the logarithmic reltionship is only an approximation applicable over a ce3rtain range of concentrations. There is an informative section on this in IPCC AR4 WG1.

  676. dhogaza:

    But does the already damaged area consist of 1% of the US landmass?

    Yes. Why do you think I keep repeating that there should be plenty of already heavily impacted land on which to site solar power plants, rather than site them on more ecologically valuable lands?

    The problem, of course, is that the US has a history of ignoring such things, building willy-nilly, with industry cheerleaders either insisting there will be no harm, or there’s so much (ahem) pristine land available that we can ignore the problem or that (ahem) they’ll actually increase biodiversity thus be good for the land (just as paving freeways across the desert causes wetter habitat at the sides due to runoff, so there are more flowers, so obviously freeways are a net ecological gain for deserts!) etc etc.

    So I’m not at all convinced that there’s going to be much attention paid to siting issues.

    In fact, politically it’s probably going to be less of a problem to site such plants where there’s been little disturbance, versus, for instance, some place that’s been used as a desert off-road racetrack for 40 years by “desert enthusiasts” from Los Angeles. Try to do that and tens of thousands of off-roaders will revolt.

  677. BobFJ:

    Ray Ladbury 652:

    “Peter Martin, the main reason why Motl’s relation is wrong is that it saturates, whereas the physics shows that you continue to get broadening of the absorption bands as concentration increases. The reason the equation changes going from low concentration to high is that the physics changes–you literally are dealing with a different regime of the absorption vs. frequency curve. It would probably be possible to construct a single equation, but it would be quite complicated and not very intuitive…”

    I think you are being a tad pedantic on this, the point being that the consensus seems to be that at earthly levels of CO2, the relationship is roughly logarithmic. There are a number of equations around that give an approximation, and I think as you imply, it is very complicated, and none of them can be fully correct.
    If we consider band broadening in the region of say 300 – 600 ppm, would you care to hazard a guess, as to what the increase in absorption might be from band broadening alone? (AOTBE) How about ~1%, does that sound good to you?

    Peter Martin 648:

    “…Besides that, the contrarians are using a logarithmic relationship to claim that whilst CO2 is an important GHG, and contributes significantly to the total natural level of 33 degC, that this almost entirely happens at very low concentrations. ‘Almost entirely’ is an obvious exaggeration…”

    Now that is an interesting statement. Any chance of you being a bit more specific? Some examples perhaps? Is the relationship NOT roughly logarithmic within that range 300- 600 ppm mentioned above?

  678. SecularAnimist:

    dhogaza: “So I’m not at all convinced that there’s going to be much attention paid to siting issues.”

    Well, it’s certainly incumbent on those — such as myself — who think that large, utility-scale concentrating solar thermal power plants with thermal storage have an important role to play in a clean energy future, and who want such power plants to be built, to ensure that proper attention is paid to siting issues.

    The same applies to siting issues (e.g. bird migration paths) for utility-scale wind turbines.

    But there are plenty of places where such facilities can be sited that are already “disturbed” and that do not have an inordinate impact on animals or ecosystems.

    And the amount of land involved is tiny, James’s dystopian hallucinations about a continent paved with silicon notwithstanding.

    Remember, serious estimates — from the peer-reviewed Ausra study, to the Scientific American “Solar Grand Plan” article — put the amount of land needed to produce over 90 percent of the USA’s electricty from solar in a range from one percent to a high of three percent of the USA’s desert lands. This is a tiny fraction of the land used for many other accepted human purposes, from agriculture to roads to airports to coal mining.

    But of course we don’t have to use all that desert land — because the commercially exploitable wind energy resources of only four midwestern states are also sufficient to generate more electricity than the whole country uses. And by the way, those windmills can be built on land that is already cultivated fields, without displacing that food cultivation and without impacting any pristine land.

    And because, according to Solyndra, a manufacturer of cylindrical photovoltaic arrays, installing PV on all of the nation’s commercial rooftops (factories, office buildings, shopping malls, stores and warehouses) could produce over 180 gigawatts of electricity. That’s a whole bunch of nukes that we don’t need to build — and fuel with uranium — right there.

    And because municipal-utility-scale PV and CSP can be built on already disturbed “brownfields” adjacent to cities all over the country, producing a large part of the nation’s electricity locally, where it is needed, and where it can be efficiently and intelligently distributed by micro-grids.

    And because the off-shore wind energy resources of the Northeast alone are sufficient to provide more electricity than the entire country uses.

    And because we now know how to build solar-powered, super-insulated, ultra-efficient “net zero energy” homes that are net producers rather than net consumers of energy.

    Again, this idea that moving to a renewables-powered, ultra-efficient society necessarily entails vast environmental destruction, or despoiling endangered ecosystems is ludicrous. Renewables are the least harmful energy technology and are the best solution not only for reducing GHG emissions but to reducing the overall environmental impact of human society and conserving & protecting intact ecosystems.

  679. RichardC:

    656 dhogaza, yep, you misinterpreted. I said I own minimally developed land. It has never had any other than solar electricity. I said the typical desert encroachment is minimal, and that describes my land. The “real” pristine land is where the roads aren’t. Much of the Sahara would be an example. In the San Luis, the Great Sand Dunes National Park is an example. There are a couple of National Wildlife Refuges in the valley as well. Frankly, you could argue that even those aren’t pristine, but that’s splitting hairs and definitions. As I made clear (and you ignored) I defined my land as typical of what would be good for a CSP project.

    676 Dhogza, there are zillions of acres of protected land, and significant forces working to protect other land of ecological significance. Your fear that planners will pass up the zillions of acres of cheap generic land and go after sensitive land is silly. Anybody trying to put a power plant in the Alamosa Wildlife Refuge would be laughed out of court.
    http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2201 15% of US land is protected, and a further 18% is protected except for extractive use (logging/mining)

    677 SA, good post. It’s nice to see some sanity in the house.

  680. dhogaza:

    dhogaza: “So I’m not at all convinced that there’s going to be much attention paid to siting issues.”

    Well, it’s certainly incumbent on those — such as myself — who think that large, utility-scale concentrating solar thermal power plants with thermal storage have an important role to play in a clean energy future, and who want such power plants to be built, to ensure that proper attention is paid to siting issues.

    And people like me, who’ve retired from the board of the co-lead plaintiff of the spotted owl suit that led to an injunction on old-growth logging in the late ’80s.

    I’m no longer serving on that board (or any other), being a semi-retired old-fart.

    You are essentially restating my position (thank you) but I took that position because people here like Mark and RichardC have been spouting the “renewable energy has no downside” crap.

    The same applies to siting issues (e.g. bird migration paths) for utility-scale wind turbines.

    Yes, as I’ve said many times.

    But there are plenty of places where such facilities can be sited that are already “disturbed” and that do not have an inordinate impact on animals or ecosystems.

    Yes, as I’ve said many times.

    And the amount of land involved is tiny, James’s dystopian hallucinations about a continent paved with silicon notwithstanding.

    Well, yes, as I’ve tried to say, but maybe not so directly.

    If you think you and I have different views, quote something specific I’ve said, please, that would support that conclusion.

    (it may be true, but it wouldn’t be as stupid as any of the above possible differences)

  681. dhogaza:

    Remember, serious estimates — from the peer-reviewed Ausra study, to the Scientific American “Solar Grand Plan” article — put the amount of land needed to produce over 90 percent of the USA’s electricty from solar in a range from one percent to a high of three percent of the USA’s desert lands

    Again (being a bit annoyed here) as I’ve been arguing that there’s more than enough presently hammered lands to support renewable energy, rather than trash more ecologically valuable land, why do you not think I know what you are telling me?

    If you want to argue, tell me that the LA (and other urban) “recreationists” who believe it is their god-given right to trash all desert lands will respond positively if (say) a solar farm is scheduled to be sited on their favorite “desert racetrack” rather than some BLM WSA because, well, the BLM WSA is less hammered than the ORV area.

    Do you believe that? Do you believe that political reality favors preservation of habitat rather than preservation of ORV track?

  682. James:

    dhogaza Says (22 June 2009 at 1:13 PM):

    “Subtract the ones that have been paved, plowed, or had cities & suburbs built on them, and there’s not that much left.

    This is simply not true in the four American deserts, nor in the rest of the west inland of the cascades/sierra ranges and west of the Rockies.”

    I honestly don’t see how you can possibly come to that conclusion. Unless I pushed the wrong buttons on the calculator, the entire land area of the continental US, divided equally, would give just a bit over 6 acres (for our metric friends, about 150 by 200 meters) per person, per person, which is barely room to live. Of course some deprived people have to live crammed into cities, which leaves a bit more for the rest of us, but still, I live between the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies, and it’s getting pretty crowded. There just isn’t land to spare.

  683. dhogaza:

    I tried a more detailed follow-up, flagged as “spam”, and the back-button was disabled, so I couldn’t even look at it, much less try to discover what embedded set of letters in an innocuous word triggered this.

    This is f***ed. It happens to me too frequently, and makes me wonder how many denialsphere claims of censureship are due to the spam filter stupidity.

    Anyway, the thrust of my comment was that even though people like SecularAnimist are trustworthy (as am I), as solar and windfarm becomes more and more mainstream, it will be the large energy corporations investing and building, and won’t have SA’s values at heart (nor mine).

    Gotta be aware of that …

  684. PeterMartin:

    David Benson,

    You say ” Not sure what your point is but the logarithmic reltionship is only an approximation applicable over a certain range of concentrations.”

    Yes that’s correct. It is only an approximation. But, in the hands of the Lindzen , Spencer and Co it becomes a tool in their campaign of disinformation. It can be used to produce graphs which show too high a degree of temperature change at low concentrations of CO2 and too little change at higher concentrations.

    Fo example: Spencer claims that 80-90% of the natural GHE, of 33 degC, is produced by water vapour and clouds. So presumably this leaves 10-20% for GHGs. And yes I know that this is probably an underestimate and that it is very difficult to assign definite percentages to individual GH components.

    Nevertheless, if the relationship were linear, then 10-20% of the natural GHE would translate to between 3.3 deg C and 6.6 deg C of warming.

    Spencer and Lindzen can only argue that a doubling of CO2 will produce a small increase in temperature (maybe 1 degC) by assuming an almost purely logarithmic relationship between the two.

    OK. I’m not saying that it is linear, but I’m saying that it is not logarithmic either. It can’t be. It is a mixture. And it would be worth knowing just what that mixture was.

    The natural GHE of 33 degs is easy to justify scientifically. If we got away from a logarithmic approximation, and used something which was more accurate, it would also be easier to justify a figure of 3-4 degs for a doubling of CO2 levels.

  685. James:

    Mark Says (22 June 2009 at 2:04 PM):

    “forecast…evidence?

    That’s because they’re *different words*.”

    OK, I’ll cater to your request for pedantry. Please provide me with some sort of FORECAST, showing your starting data and the math/logic by which you derived the forecast :-) Same question, using about five times as many words, to which (in the unlikely event you stop trying to evade it) I expect an answer that’s some more or less obfuscated version of “It’s gotta be that way because that’s the way I want it to be”.

  686. James:

    RichardC Says (22 June 2009 at 6:44 PM):

    “Population growth is a lagging indicator. Fertility rate is more accurate.”

    Not at all. Fertility is only one factor in population growth. What matters is how many survive to reproductive age. For most of history fertility was high, yet population growth was low due to infant mortality.

    Seriously, don’t you think it’s rather a stretch to claim that there could be a better measure of population growth than the actual population growth?

  687. Hank Roberts:

    RichardC, as to the likelihood that planners will go after sensitive lands, it’s a certaintly; they do that for the convenience of being able to clear the rights of way: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29837101/

  688. James:

    RichardC Says (22 June 2009 at 10:54 PM):

    “676 Dhogza, there are zillions of acres of protected land…”

    Wrong. First, “zillion” is hardly a precise number, but let’s assume that it’s larger than a billion, OK? But the total area of the continental US is only about 2 billion acres, so there can’t be zillions of acres.

    Now it gets worse when you look at “protected” areas. Federally designated wilderness outside of Alaska is a mere 49 million acres. National Parks add about 49 million to that (but of course some of that is historical areas and the like). Add in a bit more for state parks and so on, and I thinkyou’d still have a hard time getting to 200 million acres.

    Beyond that, consider that most of that protected land is protected because it’s particularly scenic. You and others keep going on as though all that matters are those few special places, the ones that have scenery or endangered species. How about a little consideration of the just ordinary sitting-there-being-part-of -the-ecosystem land, the sort that doesn’t often get protected?

  689. Patrick 027:

    660: James – “So wouldn’t it be fair to give the same scrutiny to the mines that produce all the materials that go into PV cells (some interesting heavy metals there), mirror arrays, or wind turbines?”

    Yes, it certainly would be fair.

    For solar panels, the median energy density (MJ/kg) of several commercially available modules (using a lifetime energy output of 60 years equivalent at rated efficiency, 200 W/m2 average panel insolation) is about 454 times that of coal’s electrical content (33 % efficient conversion from 23.175 MJ/kg) – or using a safety factor of 4/3, 340.4 times coal electricity.

    I just did a few back-of-the-envelope calculations, and figured that the effective energy density of the ore used to create solar panels might be about 3.6 to 5.4 times coal electricity for 10 to 15 % efficient panels, or perhaps as low as 2.4 to 3.6 times coal electricity in the case of a panel with a photovoltaic material layer of 10 micron thickness, density 5 times water, and mass fraction in ore of 0.01 %. Much of the difference between ore energy density and panel energy density comes from the assumed 0.5 % grade of copper ore and an assumed 400 micron-thick layer of Cu – this might be replaceable in part by Fe or Al (average crustal abundances of 5 % and 8 %, respectively). I had to make a lot of assumptions in this, though, so …

    But if that is in the ballpark, it suggests that less mining disturbance would be required to produce solar power than coal electricity. (use energy density of U and grade of U ore to figure out nuclear fuel ore energy density). But this doesn’t even factor in that solar panel materials will (or should) generally be recycled at end of service life. So the actual energy density could be much greater.

    The case has been made that putting Cd in CdTe solar cells actually reduces Cd in the environment – because it comes from byproducts of other mining. Te and Se come mainly if not entirely from Cu processing byproduct – there is really no Te ore, unfortunately – it is one of the rarest of the rare in the Earth’s crust – however, the amount that could be obtained from copper reserves would allow CdTe solar technology to supply about 0.037 TW of power (average, not capacity) if panels are 10% efficient and under 200 W/m2 insolation – or perhaps 0.052 TW of power if efficiency increases to 14 % as is suggested in the “Solar Grand Plan” (assuming the same layer thickness of 3 microns, approximately 0.02 kg of CdTe per square m) (theoretically it could get as high as over 25 % for the band-gap of the material, and each successive recycling might produce more energy from the same limited Te). 0.05 TW is a bit over 10 % of U.S. electrical consumption. Te might also be obtained from byproducts of mining and refining other materials (maybe Pb, …).

  690. Mark:

    James, forecast and evidence are two different things.

    Do you accept that?

    Then withdraw the comment you made.

    Be a man.

  691. Martin Vermeer:

    PeterMartin #683

    OK. I’m not saying that it is linear, but I’m saying that it is not logarithmic either. It can’t be. It is a mixture. And it would be worth knowing just what that mixture was.

    You can. Go to

    http://geodoc.uchicago.edu/Projects/modtran.orig.html

    and do the computations. It’s logarithmic from about 1 ppmv upward, linear below. It’s the center of the band saturating that does it. Going from 1 ppmv to 390 ppmv constitutes about nine doublings, i.e., 27C for the natural (total) greenhouse effect, assuming 3C doubling sensitivity. Not far off the known 33C value.

  692. Barton Paul Levenson:

    James writes:

    “Would I oppose building solar plants on a fraction of heavily impacted lands…”

    But why sacrifice that fraction, when there are options that don’t require it?

    Because that does less damage than the alternatives. Duh.

  693. manacker:

    Mark

    First off, I am employed by neither the nuclear industry, the coal or oil industry nor by an anti-nuclear environmental activist group and I am not receiving any government grants for AGW climate research. So I’m clean.

    But your post #671 got me thinking.

    How much CO2 is really generated per kWh generated by nuclear power versus a natural gas fired or coal fired plant, and how does this compare with wind or solar power?

    In the USA, 65 nuclear power plants generate around 20% of the nation’s electricity.
    The average for Europe is 33% (France: 78%/59 working reactors; Britain: 20%/23 reactors; Germany: 32%/17 reactors; Switzerland: 38%/5 reactors).

    From the “Nuclear Age Peace Foundation”, an anti-nuclear activist group, I have seen the following figures for CO2 generated for nuclear power generation:
    http://www.nuclearfiles.org/menu/key-issues/nuclear-energy/basics/introduction.htm

    “In a case study in Germany, the Oko-Institute determined that 34 grams of CO2 are emitted per generated kilowatt (kWh).”

    “In comparison to renewable energy, energy generated from nuclear power releases 4-5 times more CO2 per unit of energy produced.”

    Note: The Öko-Institut e.V. is a German-based anti-nuclear environmental consulting group with 120 employees, which was founded in 1977 to oppose the construction of the nuclear Kernkraftwerk Wyhl
    http://www.oeko.de/das_institut/dok/558.php

    Let’s assume that the 34 grams of CO2 per kWh generated (as estimated by this anti-nuclear environmentalist group) are correct for a nuclear plant.

    As estimated by groups favorable to the use of solar energy, photovoltaic (PV) solar power units take about 3 years of operation to generate the amount of energy that was required for their production, excluding the energy used in crystallizing microelectronics scrap (the raw material for solar panels). When this energy is included, it takes 4 years of operation for a solar panel to generate the amount of energy that was required for its production.
    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy99osti/24619.pdf

    Fossil fuel power plants (in the USA) generate the following amounts of CO2 per kWh generated:
    http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/page/co2_report/co2report.html

    1 kg CO2 per kWh (Coal)
    0.67 kg CO2 per kWh (Natural Gas)
    0.61 kg CO2 per kWh (Average, all sources)

    So per m^2 the solar panel will generate around 1,700 kWh/year (23% on-line factor)
    And it required 6,800 kWh to produce the panel, which caused the emission of 6,800 kg CO2 (coal-fired plant), or 0.61 * 6,800 = 4,150 kg on average.

    So, on average, 4 * 0.61 = 2.5 kg CO2 are produced per kWh/year generated, and with an optimistically estimated life of 30 years the solar panel “generates” 2.5/30 = 0.083 kg or 83 grams CO2 per kWh generated.

    This is more than twice the amount calculated by the anti-nuclear group for nuclear power

    The same calculation can be made for wind turbines.

    A giant 6 MW wind turbine operates at about 18% of its installed capacity over the year. A blogger named Alexander has figured out that, at 100% capacity utilization, the giant turbine requires 102 days to produce the energy it took to produce the steel and concrete required for its construction and installation (see post by Alexander February 17, 2009 at 5:59 am).
    http://www.metaefficient.com/news/new-record-worlds-largest-wind-turbine-7-megawatts.html

    At 18% capacity utilization the giant turbine generates:
    24 * 365 * 6,000 * 0.18 = 9,460,000 kWh/year.

    And it required 102 / (365 * 0.18) = 1.6 years or 1.6 * 9,460,000 = 14,700,000 kWh, which generated 0.61 kg CO2 per kWh = 8,930,000 kg CO2.

    In addition the cement used in making the concrete added another 150,000 kg CO2, for a total of 9,080,000 kg CO2.

    Over a 20-year turbine life this is 1,000 * 9,080,000 / (20 * 9,460,000) = 48 grams CO2 per kWh generated.

    This is about 50% higher than the figure calculated for the nuclear plant.

    Note that most wind turbines are much smaller than the 6 MW giant turbine, so the CO2 per kWh generated will be higher.

    So the statement is incorrect that nuclear power “generates” 4 to 5 times more CO2 per unit of energy produced than “renewables”. It actually “generates” around one-third to one-half less CO2 than the “renewables”.

    Max

  694. Mark:

    “First off, I am employed by neither the nuclear industry, the coal or oil industry nor by an anti-nuclear environmental activist group and I am not receiving any government grants for AGW climate research. So I’m clean.”

    You say.

    But then if AGW is all a pack of lies by thousands of scientists worldwide, how much easier is it to lie about your credentials on a blog where you haven’t had to prove who you were or even give a name you have to use in other places?

  695. Ray Ladbury:

    Peter Martin, I really don’t understand why you and others obsess on the logarithmic approximation. It gives reasonable results AND it captures the physics (unlike Motl’s silly-assed approximation). The fact is that the greenhouse effect doesn’t saturate. Ferchrissake, it’s not even saturated for H2O.
    If you expand ln(x) about x=1, you get a nearly linear dependence. At a 50% increase, theres less than a 10% difference between the logarithmic and linear dependence. At 2x, it’s 31% different.

    Frankly, all the controversy over the logarithmic dependence is silly. What matters is this:
    1)the contribution of CO2 doesn’t saturate with concentration.
    2)the 500th ppmv has less effect than the 499th ppmv.

    Beyond this, you can argue about the form ’til we’re under water and you will have negligible effect.

    My advice: Keep your eye on the physics.

  696. Mark:

    “Wrong. First, “zillion” is hardly a precise number, but let’s assume that it’s larger than a billion, OK? But the total area of the continental US is only about 2 billion acres, so there can’t be zillions of acres.”

    It’s “rhetoric”, James. daghoza has a bee in his bonnet about the poor little burdies. What he feels about bees confined to bonnets is anyone’s guess…

    He’s also leaping WAAAAYYYY off the track to avoid being tramlped by the elephant that has “we only need 0.1% of that land” written on the side.

    Not a bad trick with your eyes closed and yelling “nananana! can’t hear!”.

  697. BobFJ:

    Ray Ladbury & Peter Martin, (et al)
    May I draw your attention to my first post 677, addressed to both of you, which may have been lost in the background whilst it sat in mediation.

  698. dhogaza:

    He’s also leaping WAAAAYYYY off the track to avoid being tramlped by the elephant that has “we only need 0.1% of that land” written on the side.

    Trivializing legitimate conservation concerns by personally insulting me may make you feel superior, but in my mind, it only confirms what I already know: you’re an ignorant ass.

    He’s also leaping WAAAAYYYY off the track to avoid being tramlped by the elephant that has “we only need 0.1% of that land” written on the side.

    Shove it. We need exactly 0% of the land I’m speaking of, the most ecologically sensitive lands in the Mojave. You can take the 0.1% of that land from elsewhere in the Mojave.

    The fact that RichardC wants to argue that most of our desert lands are “pristine”, and that industrial-scale development of solar power will “enhance biodiversity” in desert environments, doesn’t make him right, and science wrong.

    Science is right sometimes, don’t you agree? If you’re an ecology and biology denialist, why not become consistent and deny climate science, as well?

  699. dhogaza:

    My first blockquote was meant to be this mindless insult:

    daghoza has a bee in his bonnet about the poor little burdies. What he feels about bees confined to bonnets is anyone’s guess…

    Now that you mention it, Mark, native bee species in the American West are also declining fast, and ecologists in the Sonoran have been mapping the decline of those plants that depend on them for pollination, as many are co-evolved to the point where the european bee can’t do the trick.

    Yes, I care about conservation. Yes, I know you don’t. Yes, that makes you a lesser person in my mind.

    ReCaptcha has something to say, too, about Mark and other “sarcomas which” plague the discussion.

  700. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #684 James (smoke/mirrors)

    To expound upon Mark #690

    Why don’t you have enough integrity/honor to just admit you are wrong on the point (forecast/evidence).

    Are you so insecure that you can not admit when you are wrong?

    Instead you throw up a smoke screen/mirror to ‘try to sound intelligent’ and avoid admitting you are wrong by deflecting.

    Instead of acting like a typical politician, try acting like a responsible member of a community.

    Are you here to share/learn or to evade/confuse?

    Do you really think people here are not smart enough to see how evasive you are?

  701. Mark:

    “Now that you mention it, Mark, native bee species in the American West are also declining fast”

    And bees are the second biggest killer in Australia.

    Look, you obviously feel VERY strongly about that whole birdies being whomped thing. Rather like James feels VERY strongly about that whole “Nuclear power” thing.

    Notice something?

    You are annoyed by James’ continued harping on about things that you think are not important or over-hyped or under-represented.

    And so are others.

    James is annoyed by your continued harping on about things that he things are not important or over-hyped or under-represented.

    And so are others.

    So take that rod out your backside and _relax_.

    “Yes, I care about conservation. Yes, I know you don’t.”

    Uhm, you’re not the “baseline” of caring about conservation. The minimum required standard to care about nature. That you consider anyone LESS concerned about conservation than you as not caring AT ALL about it shows your arrogance.

    You know what?

    Are you worried about the intended extermination of Bilharzia? The poor little snail that just wants to live?

    No?

    Well, you must not care about conservation as much as you think.

    Are you paying to get woods back into the Scottish Highlands, so it gets back to it’s original pristine state?

    No?

    Well, you must not care about conservation as much as you think.

    I do care about the natural system.

    I don’t care as much as you.

    But in my opinion (and in many others) you care on a level over neurosis over the natural system.

  702. James:

    Mark Says (23 June 2009 at 3:06 AM):

    “James, forecast and evidence are two different things.
    Do you accept that?”

    No, I don’t accept that, certainly not in the context of the question that I asked – which I notice you still haven’t even tried to answer.

    After all, there are many different kinds of forecast, from those of Nostradamus to NASA’s forecasts of solar eclipses: http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/solar.html They may either be products of imagination, or based on scientific evidence. So, as I keep asking, where’s your evidence? If I don’t see any, I’ll just have to keep discounting your forecasts as products of an overactive imagination :-)

    [edit]

  703. James:

    Barton Paul Levenson Says (23 June 2009 at 5:55 AM):

    “Because that does less damage than the alternatives. Duh.”

    But it doesn’t. Even leaving out nuclear power (to avoid more fruitless repetition), it seems quite obvious that the alternative of putting solar panels on existing roofs (or over parking areas, etc) would have essentially no additional impact on the land.

  704. James:

    Mark Says (23 June 2009 at 7:48 AM):

    “It’s “rhetoric”, James. daghoza has a bee in his bonnet about the poor little burdies. What he feels about bees confined to bonnets is anyone’s guess…”

    I know it’s rhetoric. Your rhetoric, employed to try to persuade people to give credence to your lie, that there is plenty of land to spare.

  705. James:

    Patrick 027 Says (23 June 2009 at 12:35 AM):

    “For solar panels, the median energy density (MJ/kg)… 340.4 times coal electricity.”

    Nice to see someone else try to do actual numbers! But a couple of questions/niggles:

    “…might be replaceable in part by Fe or Al (average crustal abundances of 5 % and 8 %, respectively).”

    But crustal abundance is not the same as economically recoverable ore. Consider aluminium…

    “But if that is in the ballpark, it suggests that less mining disturbance would be required to produce solar power than coal electricity.”

    I don’t doubt that at all. But the question is really nuclear vs solar/wind. If you’re looking at just uranium vs cadmium, tellurium, and other rare elements that go into solar cells, then (with good practice) either should produce orders of magnitude less disturbance than coal mining.

    “…the amount that could be obtained from copper reserves would allow CdTe solar technology to supply about 0.037 TW of power…”

    Which I think would be less than existing suitable roof area?

  706. Mark:

    James, 704.

    You seem to be under the mistaken impression that just because I disagree with you over your stance on nuclear that I will disagree with you over everything.

    Well, guess: I don’t disagree with you on this, I disagree with dag.

    But when you read it again, you’ll not jump to erroneous conclusions again, yes?

  707. Mark:

    ““James, forecast and evidence are two different things.
    Do you accept that?”

    No, I don’t accept that, certainly not in the context of the question that I asked – which I notice you still haven’t even tried to answer.”

    Because we haven’t yet got a common ground. You don’t agree that evidence and forecast are different words.

    [edit - lets try to keep this civil]

  708. Rod B:

    Ray (695), then why shouldn’t the conclusion be, “we therefore expect the temperature to increase” — nothing more definitive than that.

  709. Jim Galasyn:

    Tom Fulller at the SF Examiner has a new multi-part series that channels Watts and Lomborg:

    http://www.examiner.com/x-9111-SF-Environmental-Policy-Examiner

  710. dhogaza:

    Well, guess: I don’t disagree with you on this, I disagree with dag.

    Figures. James says the land between the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies is, essentially, crowded, basing this apparently on dividing the area of the US by its population, and his personal experience in one particularly heavily populated portion of the Sierra Nevada slope.

    On the other hand, having worked and lived out in the Great Basin for months at a time, I speak from personal experience and state that this isn’t true.

    RichardC is correct about the “zillions” (which I doubt he meant to be interpreted as a precise term) of unpopulated land, though he’s incorrect to claim it’s “pristine” as most of our arid and semi-arid lands have been hammered quite hard.

    Here’s a photo of Nevada’s Antelope Valley, looking west from the Goshute Mountains. The near range, the Pequops, is about 30 miles distance, the far range, the Ruby Mountains, about 80, to give you some sense of scale. There’s not a permanent resident that I’m aware of in the Antelope Valley, and only a few dozen in the valley separating the Pequops and Rubies. The Antelope Valley’s been subjected to grazing in the past (they may still graze sheep there today), and has an unreasonably high number of feral horses (which the BLM hasn’t been able to figure out how to control, trying everything from rounding them up for auction to shooting the mares with contraceptive darts).

    A few more people live here, but it’s hardly overrun with houses.

    There’s plenty of room in the west to site solar plants without building them on top of relatively untouched areas of high ecological value. It’s a political issue, not a geographical one.

    Unfortunately, politics virtually ensures that the worst sites are among the most likely to be chosen, as Hank stated above, and as I’m sure Dave Foreman will be pointing out in his upcoming e-mail essay.

  711. Mark:

    “Figures. James says the land between the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies is, essentially, crowded,”

    And you said zillions of acres were needed.

    [edit - behave or don't post]

  712. Mark:

    “# Rod B Says:
    23 June 2009 at 12:00 PM

    Ray (695), then why shouldn’t the conclusion be, “we therefore expect the temperature to increase” — nothing more definitive than that.”

    Because we can say more than that.

  713. Jim Bouldin:

    Jim Bouldin, Thanks. It does sound like a nonsensical stretch, though. How about the lettuce cause, since farmers need their salad to keep working? :-P

    Rod, not sure I follow on the lettuce analogy. If it were possible to both keep fertilizer from washing out of the soil, and apply exactly the right amount, then it would be a stretch, because that’s the proximate cause. But since it’s not possible, the two are related, because industrial ag promotes the use of mucho fertilizer.

    captcha: cement Minnesota. Would certainly increase the albedo but seems a tad extreme at this point.

  714. dhogaza:

    And you said zillions of acres were needed.

    Huh? If that’s the take-home message you’re getting from me, either you’ve misunderstood me, or I’m guilty of not expressing myself clearly.

    I did say this, above:

    Fortunately the opposite is true, fortunately in the sense that if we protect the highest-quality (from a native ecosystem point of view), there’s still zillions and zillions of previously heavily grazed etc …

    That’s not a statement that “zillions” of acres are needed, but rather that we have “zillions” of acres of heavily impacted lands to choose from.

    See the difference?

    [edit - no more insults please]

  715. dhogaza:

    And you said zillions of acres were needed.

    Well, mark, I’ve looked over each use of the word “zillion” in my posts, and can’t see where I said this.

    Can you please cut and paste the sentence in which I made this claim?

    [edit - please stay substantive and avoid pointless bickering]

  716. Mark:

    dag: “The fact that RichardC wants to argue that most of our desert lands are “pristine”, and that industrial-scale development of solar power will “enhance biodiversity” in desert environments, doesn’t make him right, and science wrong.”

    RichardC wants to argue thet the desert lands are pristing.

    Have you asked what his basis for this is?

    It’s not unaffected by us even if we NEVER SET FOOT THERE (or any other part of our anatomy). Not only AGW, but the removal of groundwater so that parts of Texas have sunk several feet because the water isn’t in the rocks any more.

    And please prove that biodiversity will ONLY be harmed no matter HOW you manage the installation?

    Here are ways it could be better:

    1) Removal of a small fraction of the solar energy reduces the temperature by a small amount (OK, maybe real small).
    2) Shade where there was none.
    3) New habitats. See the effect of urbanisation on many rural species like, say, foxes or raccoons.
    4) We don’t add MORE AGW. How boned will they be under “business as usual”?
    5) Removal of redundant infrastructure. When we no longer have uranium ore moved by raid, no more nuclear waste to hide away, we don’t need the railroad. Pick it up and recycle. We don’t need to push nuclear waste under Yucca mountain (or other places until the decision is made where to hide it).
    6+) Others.

    Now it IS necessary for a voice that cries out WAAAAAY over the far side of sanity on the side of the little burdies. But mostly because we have voices crying out WAAAAAY over the other side of sanity telling us “it doesn’t matter, it’s cheaper and you’re all trying to get us to the Stone age, you econazi hippie treehuggers”.

    It’s only by recognising the extremes we can say “the compromise is between them”.

    And based on the voice strength “pro-business” it will be further away toward the protective burdies side. Whether it gets there depends on whether we RECOGNISE the extremes and have the strength to fight them.

    BOTH OF THEM.

    And even if the dessert gets decided as the place, would you throw your toys in the pram because it’s a terrible thing? Or would you be better checking that whatever is done there is done in the best way possible. E.g. not running unarmoured cables overground carrying current.

  717. FurryCatHerder:

    Mark @ 711:

    And you said zillions of acres were needed. [edit]

    [edit - pointless bickering removed]

    At my latitude, and assuming fixed orientation, 1MW from polycrystaline panels is about 5 1/2 acres. To produce the 900GW of available capacity in the States would take about 24 million acres or 37,500 square miles, or a chunk of land about 610 miles on a side. There are states in this country that aren’t 610 miles on a side. If that’s not a “zillion acres”, I’m not sure what is.

  718. FurryCatHerder:

    James @ 705:

    “…the amount that could be obtained from copper reserves would allow CdTe solar technology to supply about 0.037 TW of power…”

    Which I think would be less than existing suitable roof area?

    Well, it can be calculated, you know.

    37GW is about 9 billion square feet. Yeah, a lot less than the available roof area.

  719. Anne van der Bom:

    manacker, Mark, Ike (and others)

    The amount of CO2 released per kWh of nuclear or renewables is hardly interesting. Why? Because as more and more fossil power plants are being replaced by nuclear or renewables, the generation mix will change and less and less CO2 will be released in solar panel production or uranium enrichment, etc.

    A thought experiment: envision a future of your liking with 100% electricity generation by either nuclear or renewables. All factories, mining equipment, cars, offices, etc run on electricity. Where then are the 34 grams or whatever amount of CO2 per kWh emitted?

    CO2 emissions for both renewables and nuclear are a transient issue.

  720. SecularAnimist:

    dhogaza wrote: “If you think you and I have different views, quote something specific I’ve said, please, that would support that conclusion.”

    When I responded to your comment that you are “not at all convinced that there’s going to be much attention paid to siting issues”, I was not disagreeing or arguing.

    I agree that siting issues are very important. I only meant to say that the amount of attention paid to siting issues is, at least in part, a function of people who care about siting issues demanding that attention be paid to them.

    And, that there is so much land available for siting wind and solar where negative impacts on ecosystems and animals would be minimal, that there is really no need to put them in vulnerable and/or “pristine” locations.

  721. SecularAnimist:

    James wrote: “So wouldn’t it be fair to give the same scrutiny to the mines that produce all the materials that go into PV cells (some interesting heavy metals there) …”

    Well, here’s an interesting observation along those lines, from Martin Roscheisen, the CEO of Nanosolar:

    The notion of a kilogram of enriched Uranium conjures up an image of a powerful amount of energy. Enough to power an entire city for years when used in a nuclear power plant, or enough to flatten an entire county when used in a bomb — that’s presumably what many people would say if one asked them about their thoughts.

    In our new solar cell technology, we use an active material called CIGS [Copper indium gallium selenide], a Copper based semiconductor. How does this stack up against enriched Uranium?

    Here’s a noteworthy fact, pointed out to me by one of our engineers: It turns out that 1kg of CIGS, embedded in a solar cell, produces 5 times as much electricity as 1kg of enriched Uranium, embedded in a nuclear power plant.

    Or said differently, 1kg of CIGS is equivalent to 5kg of enriched Uranium in terms of the energy the materials deliver in solar and nuclear respectively.

    The Uranium is burned and then stored in a nuclear waste facility; the CIGS material produces power for at least the warranty period of the solar cell product after which it can then be recycled and reused an indefinite number of times.

  722. Mark:

    “CO2 emissions for both renewables and nuclear are a transient issue.”

    Uh, nope. Unless you’re putting your nuclear piles right next to the uranium mines.

    Which is possible in Sim City.

    Real life isn’t quite as nice to us…

    However, it’s easy to place solar where the sun shines. Putting it where the sun shines not is the hard part!

  723. manacker:

    The CO2 GHE per Hansen et al. (1988) is plotted here.
    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3607/3655295608_8fbf2cedce_b.jpg

  724. David B. Benson:

    PeterMartin (684) — Here is how BPL approximates planetary atmosphere temperatures:
    Greenhouse101
    http://www.geo-cities.com/bpl1960/NewPlanetTemps.html
    (copy into your browser window and remove the – in geo-cities. For some reason the span filter is perjudiced again said site.)

    For Charney sensitivity of about 3 K, appeal to IPCC AR4 WG1.

    Don’t let the purveyors of FUD lead you around!

    {but reCAPTCHA knows about the spam filter, “mailbox Police”.]

  725. dhogaza:

    SecularAnimist: thanks, we’re in total agreement. Mark’s repetitive and intentional misrepresentation of my posts, combined with his constant abusiveness, has me a bit tetchy, I guess.

  726. dhogaza:

    And even if the dessert gets decided as the place, would you throw your toys in the pram because it’s a terrible thing?

    The desert is where they will, and should, go.

    I have never said otherwise.

    I also support wind power, and have never said anything to the contrary.

    Please stop misrepresenting my views and using your misrepresentation as the basis for hurling a stream of personal abuse and insults my way.

    Thank you.

  727. FurryCatHerder:

    Mark,

    The point is that once all CO2 emission sources have been replaced with non-CO2 emitting energy supplies, it really just won’t matter where anything is, from a transportation perspective — by definition, that transportation will then be CO2 neutral. The giant trucks at the mines will be running on biodiesel, the employees will commute to work in electric cars, the processing plants will be running on green electricity, etc.

  728. Mark:

    OK, I see what you’re saying now.

    As long as we get electric EVERYTHING.

  729. Mark:

    “The desert is where they will, and should, go.”

    And with increasing CO2, they will go places they’ve not been for 300 million years!!!

    Yeah, that’ll help.

  730. BobFJ:

    Mark, Reur 694 of 23 June 2009 at 7:44 AM, in response to Manacker’s 693, 23 June 2009 at 7:13 AM , you wrote in part:

    “…But then if AGW is all a pack of lies by thousands of scientists worldwide, how much easier is it to lie about your credentials on a blog where you haven’t had to prove who you were or even give a name you have to use in other places?

    Here is a summary of Max’s post:
    It contained 1045 words & 5 links.
    It was an interesting summary concerning CO2 footprints of various methods of electricity generation, that took into account the plant production investment levels, payback, and lifetime/ maintenance/ replacement considerations etc. (for instance concrete and steel whatever CO2 footprints in creating the plant)

    Here three questions for you:
    1) How did you manage to digest his very substantial post, and then compose and then post your response in only ~31 minutes. That is, if there was zero lag in you picking up the arrival of his post… so it was more likely even less than 31 minutes?
    2) Do you have any problems with the information that he supplied?
    3) What provoked your blast: “But then if AGW is all a pack of lies by thousands of scientists worldwide”? What part of Max’s post had anything to do with that part of your response?

  731. PeterMartin:

    Martin,

    Thank you for the reference. I should make it clear that the logarithmic approximation of CO2, for all practical levels, with temperature isn’t in dispute. Its just that I’ve asked the question of what would happen if CO2 levels were very low. Almost zero even. It is obvious that the relationship would no longer be logarithmic, even as an approximation, and that there must be a linear region at low concentrations. You’ve said that the logarithmic region is above 1ppmv. Incidentally, Gavin Schmidt suggested, in a personal correspondence, that the logarithmic region was approximately 100ppmv to 1000ppmv. I’ll keep looking into it.

    At least we have established that there is a linear region. I can’t see how it can be a silly or controversial topic!

  732. dhogaza:

    “The desert is where they will, and should, go.”

    And with increasing CO2, they will go places they’ve not been for 300 million years!!!

    I’ve advocated renewable energy and energy conservation for over thirty years now, made a point of visiting Solar One on my next trip to the Mojave after it was built and put online (and as far as I knew then, and to my knowledge today, the site just outside Barstow and near Interstate 40 was a fine choice), etc.

    Yeah, that’ll help.

    Nothing I’ve posted warrants this snark.

    In regard to global warming, you and I are on the same side. As I said above, quit bashing me over the head for positions I don’t hold.

    [edit]

  733. Mark:

    OK, dag, so where do we put those replacements for coal power stations?

    You seem to be set on saying “no” to deserts, so where?

    [Response: Conversations generally go more smoothly if people are listened too, rather than assuming what they might have said. Unless the tone of this conversation improves (with perhaps a little time out), I'm going to shut this thread down. Bickering is not what we are here for. - gavin]

  734. RichardC:

    dhogaza says, “Mark’s repetitive and intentional misrepresentation of my posts, combined with his constant abusiveness, has me a bit tetchy, I guess.”
    and
    “RichardC is correct about the “zillions” (which I doubt he meant to be interpreted as a precise term) of unpopulated land, though he’s incorrect to claim it’s “pristine” as most of our arid and semi-arid lands have been hammered quite hard.”

    Goose and gander for sure. Scroll up and see how many times I’ve said that the typical US desert land is not pristine. How close to pristine is debatable; what you call hammered I might call not bad, but for the purposes of this debate we both are saying close to the same thing: For any rational mix of energy sources, the part produced by solar can be done without undue harm to deserts, assuming it is done in a sane fashion. Perhaps adding 10 acres to fully protected lands for each acre of solar might keep everyone happy.

    (and yes, “zillions” translates to “a lot”. It has no specific order of magnitude)

  735. dhogaza:

    For any rational mix of energy sources, the part produced by solar can be done without undue harm to deserts, assuming it is done in a sane fashion.

    I suspect this is true, though “sane” isn’t a fair description of our traditional energy and development policies on desert lands. I’m hopeful that the Obama administration won’t put the conservation community in the position of having to sue to force proper adherence to the ESA, NEPA etc while siting decisions are being made.

    I have no expectation that industry’s going to pay any attention whatsoever to ecosystem conservation values unless they’re hit over the head with a hammer, though. Just my personal opinion based on being personally involved in conservation since the 1970s.

    Perhaps adding 10 acres to fully protected lands for each acre of solar might keep everyone happy.

    There are all sorts of possible solutions that would make conservationists happy, but there are many other stakeholders, including the extremely vocal ORV crowd. Someone’s going to be unhappy, that’s a certainty.

    The LA exurbs out in the Mojave would be perfect, and there’s even an existing road network available for hauling construction materials, some of the housing could be preserved for workers, etc! You wouldn’t find a single conservationist in the West opposed to replacing these exurbs with solar power plants … :)

    The Victorville Solar Plant .. not a bad idea at all!

    (I’m joking … sort of)

  736. Tim McDermott:

    At 717, FurryCatHerder said

    1MW from polycrystaline panels is about 5 1/2 acres. To produce the 900GW of available capacity in the States would take about 24 million acres or 37,500 square miles, or a chunk of land about 610 miles on a side.

    Those numbers seem off to me.

    900GW = 900,000MW

    5.5 acres * 900,000 = 4,950,000 acres for 900 MW

    4,950,000 acres / 640 acres/sq mile = 7,734 sq miles

    Which is less than 90 miles squared.

  737. Jim Eaton:

    Re: 735, dhogaza Says:

    “The Victorville Solar Plant .. not a bad idea at all!

    “(I’m joking … sort of)”

    Actually, there already is a Victorville Solar Plant coming on line:

    http://www.power-technology.com/projects/victorville/

    Captcha calls it “subsidized up”

    and a Victorville 2 Hybrid Power Project under review (although my contact at the California Energy Commission says this will be 10 percent solar and 90 percent natural gas).

    http://www.energy.ca.gov/sitingcases/victorville2/documents/

  738. Rod B:

    Jim Bouldin, Sorry, I was too cute which made it too obtuse. I was questioning fossil fuels being thrown on the pile for causing dead zones. (I understand the other causes.) In essence the logic was that farmers need petrol to run their machines to spread the fertilizer for example. That seemed a long stretch. My analogy (also a stretch to make a point) was that the farmer has to eat his vegetables for the strength to drive the tractor to spread the fertilizer. Ergo veggies get thrown on the pile of dead zone causes.

    (this lengthy explanation is not worth the point…) ;-)

  739. Rod B:

    FurryCatHerder, but not to be sneezed at. 37,500 square miles is about the size of the whole state of Virginia. Your watts/m2 sounds pretty good, though does that allow for non-peak production? And how much land for the storage systems?

  740. Patrick 027:

    James – my point about average crustal abundances was that however much ore we use up, we will never (in the foreseeable future) need to use ore at any grade below that average crustal abundance. So we would never need more than 125 kg of aluminum ore to get 10 kg of aluminum.

    Although I think the resources of Al and Fe are actually quite large (see USGS mineral yearbooks and … etc.) so it would be a long long long time before we’d ever get to that point – perhaps never (recycling).

    Yes, I don’t think CdTe would supply more than a few percent of world electricity, but that’s still a huge market and important contribution. Then there’s CIGS, amorphous Si, thin crystalline Si (with light trapping), (Ti,V,Cr,Mn,Fe,Co,Ni,Cu,Zn,Zr,Nb,Mo,W,La,Ce,Nd,Y,Sn,Al,Si,C…)x(O,S,P,N,Sb,Se,C…)y (in layers on the order of 10 microns, few (besides Se, …Y?…) if any of these elements are a limiting nutrient for solar PV, even for non-concentrating devices) and rarer elements (B (actually not hard to obtain, though), Ge, In, etc, … Se,Te,Ag,Pd,Au,Pt…)can be used in dopants, photosensitizers and very thin interfacing layers. Etc. And concentrating devices can use the more rare (Al,Ga,In,…)x(As,…) semiconductor compounds, in triple junctions and other efficiency boosting features.

    More comiing…

  741. James:

    dhogaza Says (23 June 2009 at 12:32 PM):

    “Figures. James says the land between the Sierra Nevada and the Rockies is, essentially, crowded, basing this apparently on dividing the area of the US by its population, and his personal experience in one particularly heavily populated portion of the Sierra Nevada slope.”

    (Sigh) What gave you the idea that I stay at home all the time? I’ll grant that I haven’t gotten east of the Rubies in quite a while (I’m more likely to spend time in the Toiyabe & Toquima Ranges, or go northeast to the Black Rock or Santa Rosa Mountains). And it’s also possible that we have a different definition of crowded :-)

    However, I’d remind you that there’s a major highway running through the valley in your first picture (I think that’s it in the foreground). Follow it south a bit, you come to Ely, where until this week there were plans to build a large coal-fired plant. Go north a few miles, and you come to the gambling metropolis of Wendover. Over on the other side of the Rubies you find the mining towns of Elko and Carlin

    “RichardC is correct about the “zillions” (which I doubt he meant to be interpreted as a precise term) of unpopulated land…”

    Again, there simply aren’t “zillions” of acres of such land, by any reasonable definition of zillion. That’s why it’s valuable: it’s part of the ever-decreasing area of unpopulated land in this country, and it ought to be kept that way.

  742. James:

    FurryCatHerder Says (23 June 2009 at 2:11 PM):

    “Well, it can be calculated, you know.”

    Yeah, I know. But I was being lazy – and it worked, you calculated it for me :-)

    “37GW is about 9 billion square feet. Yeah, a lot less than the available roof area.”

    OK, so why bother about large PV plants (using this technology, anyway). Putting them on roofs saves the cost of building transmission lines, line losses, &c.

    And when we’ve used up all the tellurium, why not turn southwestern cities into urban solar thermal plants? Take Las Vegas as a start (since nothing done there could possibly make it worse). Here you have dozens of square miles of suburban roofs, and you also have some tall, centrally-located towers. Mirrors on the roofs (with tracking), the molten-salt collectors on top of the towers, and there you have it. Solar power with no additional environmental impact.

  743. James:

    FurryCatHerder Says (23 June 2009 at 5:21 PM):

    “The giant trucks at the mines will be running on biodiesel…”

    As a matter of fact, quite a bit of mining equipment is electric already: see http://www.phmining.com/equipment/shovels.html and http://www.mining-technology.com/contractors/used_equipment/lnh/ No reason most of the rest couldn’t be. And of course electric railroads are already widely used in Europe.,..

  744. James:

    SecularAnimist Says (23 June 2009 at 3:20 PM):

    “Well, here’s an interesting observation along those lines, from Martin Roscheisen, the CEO of Nanosolar:”

    Would be more interesting if he showed his work. I suppose “CIGS” must be copper indium gallium disulfide? So here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indium I read “The recent changes in demand and supply have resulted in high and fluctuating prices of indium, which from 2005 to 2007 ranged from US$700/kg to US$1,000/kg” and “based on content of indium in zinc ore stocks, there is a worldwide reserve base of approximately 6,000 tonnes of economically-viable indium. This figure has led to estimates suggesting that, at current consumption rates, there is only 13 years’ supply of indium left.”

    “The Uranium is burned and then stored in a nuclear waste facility…”

    If you run a once-through fuel cycle, which I think is the assumption on which his calculations are based. Reprocess the waste and/or breed some plutonium, and you might get a different answer.

  745. BobFJ:

    Gavin, Reur editorial response appended onto Mark’s 733

    [Response: Conversations generally go more smoothly if people are listened too, rather than assuming what they might have said. Unless the tone of this conversation improves (with perhaps a little time out), I’m going to shut this thread down. Bickering is not what we are here for. - gavin]

    As a NEW blogger here, I agree with you that from what I’ve seen just recently, some regulars here are stretching the boundaries of rational debate. As an example of my feelings on this, my 730 to Mark might hopefully prompt to him to change, and adopt a proper debate etiquette, but I rather doubt it, and he is not totally unique in this problem.

    NEVERTHELESS, there IS some good stuff going on here!
    You suggested closing the thread to fix the problem, but that would also convict/disappoint the innocent!

    Would it not be more “democratic” to just block the currently known computer IP (or whatever) of repeat offenders. Sure, they might have a second computer, or change their primary computer IP, and ID, and/or Email address, but eventually the process should weed-out the habitual offenders.

  746. PeterMartin:

    Mark,

    You say Nope. “It’s [the lagging thickness example -PM] not decreasing exponential (and I note you haven’t said what the heck THAT means scientifically), it’s logarithmic.”

    Lets do a simple example which may explain:

    thickness of lagging (arb units).. 0, 1, 2, 3, 4
    heat loss (arb units)…………… 16, 8, 4, 2, 1

    So the heat loss follows a geometric progression and is therefore a logarithmic series.

    However the heat loss is calculated from the (decreasing) exponential:

    HeatLoss=16*exp(-thickness/1.4427)

    I hope this isn’t considered to be a pedantic point. Of course logarithms and exponentials are closely related, but there is a difference and it is usually necessary to know which is which.

  747. Mark:

    “I suspect this is true, though “sane” isn’t a fair description of our traditional energy and development policies on desert lands.”

    And when we’re changing our traditional energy methods and have different energy policies, this is relevant HOW?

    It’s a good reason to check to make sure we don’t *repeat* the mistakes of the past, but you seem convinced that “not doing the same old stuff” is the ONLY option, even when it’s not the same old stuff to be done.

  748. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B.,
    Science deals with quantitative comparisons. As such, I’m afraid I don’t understand your comment.

    BobFJ, well, it seems to me that we could calculate the contribution due to broadening in this range. Have you checked the literature?

    http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20080045430_2008044312.pdf

    Also, are you misinterpreting the broadening effect? As I understand it, it’s not that increasing CO2 broadens the CO2 absorption lines. Rather it is that the lines are broader @ 1 atmosphere, and so saturation doesn’t occur, especially in the wings.

  749. dhogaza:

    However, I’d remind you that there’s a major highway running through the valley in your first picture (I think that’s it in the foreground).

    No, it’s to the south of the photo …

    There is a stock tank in the foreground, though.

  750. dhogaza:

    Actually, there already is a Victorville Solar Plant coming on line

    Nice! If they’re going to build an exurb out there, they might as well get the electricity for it rationally.

  751. dhogaza:

    Go north a few miles, and you come to the gambling metropolis of Wendover.

    Twenty-five miles, actually

    Over on the other side of the Rubies you find the mining towns of Elko and Carlin

    One hundred miles west of Wendover. You forget Wells, though, a mere 60 miles. Who can forget the rooftop of that old motel proclaiming “Donna’s Ranch”?

    The Victorville Solar Plant’s footprint is about 7 square miles.

    It would be a visual blight, for sure, but would provide power sufficient to light Wendover, Wells, Ely (something like 75 miles south of that photo), and Elko, and all of the local ranches combined.

    An area of about 10,000 square miles.

    BTW a nuke would be a visual blight, too … and you’d need water to run it.

    Neither nearly as gross as Wendover, though.

  752. manacker:

    Jim Eaton

    The Victorville 2 Hybrid Power Project (10 percent solar and 90 percent natural gas) is sort of like the 50/50 rabbit and horsemeat stew (1 rabbit to 1 horse).

  753. Mark:

    “Of course logarithms and exponentials are closely related, but there is a difference and it is usually necessary to know which is which.”

    Aye, but it ISN’T a decreasing exponential, is it and we can agree on that.

    Deal?

  754. Rod B:

    Ray, you said (695),

    “…controversy over the logarithmic dependence is silly. What matters is this:
    1)the contribution of CO2 doesn’t saturate with concentration.
    2)the 500th ppmv has less effect than the 499th ppmv.”

    after you told Peter Martin, “…the logarithmic approximation…gives reasonable (meaning maybe close enough but not numerically precise) results…”

    all of which sounds like numerical precision (or maybe anything numerical) is not important as long as you have something qualitative. I wondered why this doesn’t also apply to the temperature increase as is commonly projected numerically at hundredths or at least tenths of degrees over the entire globe 10, 50, 100 years out — since this quantitive projection depends entirely on a precise quantitive projection of absorption about which you say, in essence, ‘who cares about that?’

    As you know I for one have serious concerns with the numbers and precision used in forcing mathematics.

  755. Mark:

    “all of which sounds like numerical precision (or maybe anything numerical) is not important as long as you have something qualitative”

    RodB, measu ring tempe rature is ASSU MING a lin ear depend ency on the expa nsion of alc ohol in a tube to amb ient tempera ture.

    This is not true.

    This is why thermom eters are defi ned based on the tem perature they are to me asure to (this is called “metrol ogy”). Wit hin this range, they are ass umed ca nonically true. OUTS IDE that range, not.

    This would not be the case if the meas ured change were line arly depe ndent on tempe rature.

    [edit]

    (as is the filter here. I’ve put spaces in all words longer than 5 characters to get the bleeding thing to go in. What’s it complaining about?)

    [Response: "ambien"-t. sorry about that. - gavin]

  756. RichardC:

    746 Peter said, ”
    thickness of lagging (arb units).. 0, 1, 2, 3, 4
    heat loss (arb units)…………… 16, 8, 4, 2, 1″

    I may be thick, but if I have 1″ of insulation and it results in 8BTU of heat loss, I would expect 4″ of insulation to result in 2BTU of heat loss. Explain?

  757. manacker:

    Peter

    An insulating material has a certain thermal conductivity.

    The amount of heat transfer through this material is inversely proportional to:

    a. The thickness

    And directly proportional to:

    b. The surface area
    c. The temperature difference

    Since b and c are constant, the heat transfer is inversely proportional to the thickness.

    Maybe this is what you were saying, but it was not so clear.

  758. Mark:

    Flipping heck, Gavin.

    Lets hope spammers don’t start using climate in their spamming, eh?

    Mind you most of the spam I get is all the random section from books and no payload.

    I wonder how they expect to sell anything when there’s no link, no product, just 30 plus random words whipped out in the email.

    It’s not people buying stuff from it, it’s people buying spammer work,

  759. Patrick 027:

    Re 754 Rod B. – The terms linear and logarithmic describe a qualitative aspect – they describe the structure of an equation that can be used to approximate a real relationship over some range of values. The coefficients in that relationship can be further specified and the significance of the error in the approximation can be quantified.

    As I understand it, more detailed parameterizations of radiant fluxes are used in climate models – these are also approximations, but they can be compared to the more precise line-by-line evaluations.

    For a range of CO2 values that we are currently in, there is almost a 4 W/m2 (maybe around 3.7 W/m2 +/- something) tropopause level (after stratospheric adjustment) radiative forcing per doubling of CO2. I think this includes the relatively minor SW forcing.

    —-

    Peter Martin – did you see my response to you earlier?

  760. BobFJ:

    Ray Ladbury 748:

    BobFJ, well, it seems to me that we could calculate the contribution due to [CO2 absorption band] broadening in this range. [300 - 600 ppm] Have you checked the literature?

    http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20080045430_2008044312.pdf

    I must confess that I’ve not checked the literature lately, but my recollection is that band broadening is a minor consideration, and that it is an extremely complex matter in an air column in the atmosphere, as distinct from observations in a tube in the lab. Your NASA reference only serves to confirm that it is all too complicated to calculate realistically. Intuitively, I repeat/suggest that AOTBE, the contribution of band broadening alone might be about 1%. (= a guess)

    Also, are you misinterpreting the broadening effect? As I understand it, it’s not that increasing CO2 broadens the CO2 absorption lines. Rather it is that the lines are broader @ 1 atmosphere, and so saturation doesn’t occur, especially in the wings.

    You might be considering the possibility of “new” absorption lines appearing within the bands under some circumstances, but I would include the strengthening of existing weak lines under the total broadening effect, and of course, increased concentration of CO2 has this effect. In terms of the argument, it is the CO2 concentration consequence that should be considered, and not any change in atmospheric pressure or whatnot. There is a lot of other stuff going on such as the complicating water vapour absorption variation in the same bands, and I tossed-in a sort-of qualifier of AOTBE in my original 677 to imply this. (AOTBE= All other things being equal)

    And, of course some things are more equal than others

  761. PeterMartin:

    RichardC,

    You say “…..if I have 1″ of insulation and it results in 8BTU of heat loss, I would expect 4″ of insulation to result in 2BTU of heat loss. Explain?”

    No, if you put 1″ of insulation over a hot surface the heat flow will, say, halve. Put on another 1″ and it halves again.

    Another example would be a the loss of a high freqency signal in a coaxial cable. It halves ( has a 3dB loss) every N metres.

    So yes, the answer is a geometric progression, which is exactly the same as saying that it is logarithmic, but you do use an exponential function rather than a logarithmic function for the calculation.

    Ray,

    The point I have been making is the opposite of what you suggest. I would like the mathematics to be precise as possible, and make some sense at the limits.

    I’m just curious as to why the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere isn’t analogous to the thickness of insulation we’ve discussed. BTW It wasn’t my choice of examples.

    I’d just like to know over what region the logarithmic approximation holds. Someone suggested anything over 1ppmv of CO2. But I must say, I find it hard to believe that going from 1 to 2ppmv would have the same effect as from 280 to 560ppmv.

  762. Hank Roberts:

    Stefan, what happens next?
    From this conference and its reports, to the upcoming December meeting?

  763. BobFJ:

    RichardC 756, I see that Peter Martin is persisting with his unique theory on heat transfer via conduction, which BTW seems to be a red herring morph away from his original “concerns” that were also shaky/puzzling to the audience here.
    You wrote:

    thickness of lagging (arb units).. 0, 1, 2, 3, 4
    heat loss (arb units)…………… 16, 8, 4, 2, 1?

    I may be thick, but if I have 1? of insulation and it results in 8BTU of heat loss, I would expect 4? of insulation to result in 2BTU of heat loss. Explain?

    I also see that in his 761, Pete persists in his argument, in which he is WRONG. (and you are correct). Here is one example of the accepted explanation of the process: (scroll down to Conduction)

    http://sol.sci.uop.edu/~jfalward/heattransfer/heattransfer.html

    Here again is his allegation, to which I’ve added a third line according to the actual science

    thickness of lagging (arb units)……………………………………………… 0, 1, 2, 3,,,,,,, 4
    heat loss according to Pete (arb units)……………………………..……. 16, 8, 4, 2,,,,,, 1?
    Heat loss according to the thermodynamics of conduction alone: ………. 8, 4, 2.67, 2

    (AOTBE, heat loss is inversely proportional to thickness of insulation)

  764. Patrick 027:

    Re 760 – are we discussing line broadenning?

    The basic shape of the CO2 spectrum regarding its most important effects (it absorbs in some other wavelength bands with generally less effect) is a multitude of absorption lines whose strength generally decays – I think roughly exponentially – away from 15 microns; thus, with any doubling of CO2, the wavelength interval encompassing lines surpassing some strength will widen outward from the 15 micron center. Without line broadenning, those lines would correspond to absroption and emission over an infinitesimal fraction of the spectrum – thus overall the atmosphere would be nearly transparent.

    There is some broadenning due to quantum uncertainty. There is doppler broadenning, due to random molecular motions – this will be stronger at higher temperatures. There is pressure broadenning, or collisional broadenning, which is stronger at higher pressure. The strength of the lines also varies with temperature, but as far as I am aware, not so much as to be a significant feedback to climate change relative to the forcing. All these effects, or at least the line broadenning effects, do vary significantly over vertical distance in the atmosphere, and it is necessary to take them into account when evaluating radiative fluxes in a precise manner, but at any given vertical level, so far as I know, the radiative feedbacks from line strength and line broadenning changes are quite a bit smaller compared to the radiative forcing that would produced a climate change.

    For CO2, line broadenning reshapes the absorption spectrum from infinesimal line widths to a series of peaks in absorption at line centers and minima in between lines, but with the general trend of decay outward from 15 microns applying to both the peaks and the minima in between. Thus, the width of the band of wavelengths in which some level of opacity is exceeded will have ‘fuzzy’ edges, where, going outward from 15 microns, there is some wavelength interval between the first minimum that falls below a level of opacity and the first line center that falls below the same level. But both the range line centers exceeding some level of opacity and the range of minima exceeding the same level will widen by some amount with an increase in CO2 concentration.

    In clear dry air, this widening means that increasing CO2 concentration blocks more radiation from the warmer surface from reaching space; the total wavelength interval in which more than some fraction of radiation from below is replaced by a generally smaller radiative flux from the generally cooler CO2 increases. Because significant air-to-air net radiant energy transfer depends both on sufficient absorption and emission within the air and on sufficient transmission across distances over significant temperature variations, net air-to-air radiant energy transfer tends to occur most in wavelength intervals of moderate or intermediate opacity. Once the central portion of the CO2 band is sufficiently saturated (so there is little air-to-air net transfer near 15 microns), the interval of intermediate opacities shifts position in the spectrum but does not change size much, so increasing CO2 beyond the point of significant saturation near 15 microns does not have much affect on net air-to-air radiant energy tranfers.

    When there are other agents in the air that can emit or absorb at the same wavelengths – such as water vapor and clouds – then the effects are altered – increasing CO2 can reduce net fluxes where water vapor or clouds contribute absorption and emission. Thus, additional CO2, even when the central portion of the band near 15 microns is saturated, will tend to decrease net radiant fluxes not just between the surface and space and from the surface to the air (when the temperature of the air is more similar to that of the surface going toward the surface) and from the air to space (except in the stratosphere and above, since the temperature is more different from space’s brightness temperature when going toward space within the stratosphere), but also between the air and clouds, between cloud layers, between clouds and the surface, between clouds and space, between humid air masses and other air masses, clouds, the surface, and space, etc.

    At the same time, water vapor and clouds’ spectral overlap with CO2 reduces the effect of additional CO2 – if a cloud already blocks radiation from below and is higher up in the troposphere, and thus colder, additional CO2 just above the cloud at a similar temperature will not have much more effect on upward LW fluxes just above the cloud (LW radiation is at wavelengths longer than about 4 microns, whereas SW radiation is at shorter wavelengths; SW radiation is essentially all solar radiation, while LW radiation is mostly emitted by the Earth and atmosphere).

    Because water vapor concentration increases downward within the troposphere, the reduction of the effect of CO2 by water vapor will be more significant at the surface; the CO2 in the upper troposphere hides the water vapor below it within a significant range of wavelengths around 15 microns.

    Of course, all of this has to be weighted by the blackbody radiant intensity at each wavelength. Blackbody radiation intensity varies slowly enough relative to spectral features of CO2 such that the effect of doubling CO2 is qualitatively similar to what it would be if blackbody radiant intensity were independing of wavelength within the LW portion of the spectrum. For the range of temperatures found on the surface and within most of the atmosphere’s mass (not including the thermosphere – very little mass and very little opacity at most wavelengths), the wavelength of greatest blackbody radiant intensity per unit wavelength interval ranges from near 10 microns (which the short wavelength edge of significant CO2 absorption will go toward with increasing CO2) to near 15 microns (near the center of the dominant CO2 absorption band).

    CO2 absorption is presently significant between about 12 and 18 microns. This range encompasses roughly 30 % of the radiant energy flux for temperatures typical of most of the surface, troposphere, stratosphere, and mesosphere.

    Between the tropopause and space, water vapor is nearly transparent between roughly 7 microns and 25 to 30 microns, while CO2 absorption is still large near 15 microns. For the total atmosphere between the surface and space, water vapor opacity is small between about 8 and 12 microns, except in very humid air masses near the surface (where new absorption lines may emerge from interactions among water vapor molecules) – at a given relative humidity, water vapor feedback will reduce the transmissivity of the atmosphere to near zero in the whole LW portion of the spectrum with increasing temperatures – the effect (radiative feedback at the surface per unit temperature increase) is especially strong near 300 K; but additional CO2 will still reduce the net upward LW flux at the tropopause by blocking radiation from the humid air masses below.

    Low level clouds have less effect on the tropopause level LW flux than upper level clouds because low level cloud tops tend to be more similar in temperature to the surface below and thus do not reduce the upward LW flux as much; their effect is also reduced by the CO2, H2O, and any clouds found at higher levels.

    This all also depends on the vertical temperature profile. The general tendency is temperature to decrease within the troposphere, in a pattern shaped by the moist adiabatic lapse rate (because radiative fluxes by themselves would make the lower atmosphere unstable to convection; convection couples the temperature at different positions so that they tend to shift together – with some exceptions and variations from that pattern (such as where regional conditions make the atmosphere stable to convection – such as high latitudes at winter, and low level inversions caused by strong surface cooling at night, etc.), and increase in the stratosphere. But there are latitudinal, regional, seasonal, and diurnal variations in that pattern (and variations on timescales from day-to-day weather to ENSO, etc.). As I understand it, a climate model can numerically evaluate all those effects (and the effects of the spatial and temporal cloud and humidity variations, etc.).

    Please see my other radiation comments above and references therein.

  765. PeterMartin:

    Patrick,

    I did see your and other responses. I’m not disagreeing, in essence, with what is generally accepted but I still don’t understand WHY there is a general reluctance to quantify the logarithmic relationship between CO2 and temperature.

    However if it was explained like this I would have no problem:

    A good (but not perfect) analogy for the absorbtion of IR radiation in the atmosphere would be the absorbtion of RF power in a coaxial cable or the screw in coaxial attenuators that can be added to the cable with the purpose of achieving a known power reduction. 1dB for 10% absorbtion (approx), 3dB for 50%, 6dB for 75%, 10dB for 90%, etc. Meaning that 10% is passed in transmission through a 10dB attenuator.

    These are indeed logarithmic in transmission. Screwing three together. Say 1dB +3dB +6dB =10dB Meaning that, again, 10% of the power passes in transmission. 90% is absorbed.

    But what about the absorbed power? Is that logarithmic too?

    No it isn’t. Consider a single 0.5dB coaxial attenuator which absorbs approximately 5% of the incident power. If the power is quite high then the attenuator will become noticably warmer. Then we add another one. That absorbs 5% of 95%. 4.75%. So it gets almost as warm too.

    However, if we add another 4 x 0.5dB attenuators the total attenuation will be 3dB meaning that the signal level has halved. Consequently the sixth attenuator will only warm by approximately half the amount as the first one.

    If 20 attenuators are connected in line the total attenuation will be 10dB and so the last ones will warm only very slightly.

    So in effect there are three regions. A linear region for very low absorbtion. A logarithmic looking region for intermediate absorbtion. And a saturated region for high absorbtion.

    Now I’m not saying that the levels of CO2 are in any way saturated or even anywhere near saturation! I can also anticipate that some might consider this analogy to be an oversimplification. All analogies are. But, I would suggest that it is less of a simplification than the logarithmic assumption.

  766. PeterMartin:

    PS Oops! I just realised that 1dB is 25% of power, and 0.5dB is in fact 12% of power, not 5% as I stated in in my previous post. But it doesn’t change the point of the argument.

  767. BobFJ:

    Patrick 027 Reur 764, what a magnificent post!
    You did not have to convince me that absorption spectra and their variability/consequences/ interactions with other stuff in the atmosphere are made very complicated by a host of things. (not much like observations “made in a tube” in the lab).

    I’ll be reading your post a few times yet, probably.
    Just a couple of quick points I’d like to ask you:

    1) You wrote towards the end: “…As I understand it, a climate model can numerically evaluate all those effects (and the effects of the spatial and temporal cloud and humidity variations, etc.)…”
    I find this proposition to be mind-blowingly difficult both in terms of the myriad types of variously combinant calculations, spatially and temporally, but also with the vast amounts of data input required. (some of which may not be fully understood) Do you feel relaxed about this consideration?

    2) As I understand it, the context of the discussion WRT bands/lines has been; what happens when CO2 increases within a relevant earthly range. (I suggested 300 – 600 ppm). I suggested that weak CO2 lines would strengthen as a consequence of increased CO2 alone, but that the effect would be small, and hazarded a guess of ~1% increase in total absorption, AOTBE.
    What do you think?

    BTW, I’m new here, and have only read from around post #580 down, so far.

  768. Chris Colose:

    761, Pater Martin

    You could play around with David Archer’s online MODTRAN model and examine the quantity “I_out” for various atmospheric contexts. Here are some sample runs in a atmosphere with just CO2 as a non-condensible trace greenhouse gas and conserving relative humidity in the U.S. Standard atmosphere (1972):

    0 ppmv = 295.317 W m^-2
    0.25 ppmv = 293.119 W m^-2
    0.5 ppmv = 292.02 W m^-2
    0.75 ppmv = 291.235 W m^-2
    1 ppmv = 290.576 W m^-2
    1.25 ppmv = 290.01 W m^-2
    1.5 ppmv = 289.539 W m^-2
    1.75 ppmv = 289.1 W m^-2
    2 ppmv = 288.692 W m^-2
    .
    .
    .
    5 ppmv = 285.457 W m^-2
    5.25 ppmv = 285.238 W m^-2
    .
    .
    .
    280 ppmv = 268.25 W m^-2
    280.25 ppmv = 268.219 W m^-2

    Clearly the magnitude of change diminishes rapidly at just a couple parts per million, and is essentially negligible at pre-industrial or modern concentrations. Accordingly, the radiative efficiency for CO2 (a small perturbation of +1 ppmv at a background of 385 ppmv) is roughly .0139 W m^-2 ppm^-1. This is why HFC’s, CFC’s and other such compounds which are virtually non-existent in the atmosphere are so much better at perturbing the radiative balance per incremental change, and why methane is often remarked to be “20 times more powerful than CO2.” Instrinsically, CO2 is actually a better greenhouse gas at terrestrial-like climates but exists in much higher background concentrations.

  769. manacker:

    Peter,

    In your search for a non-logarithmic CO2 / temperature relation that could hold even at the extreme ends of the theoretical atmospheric CO2 content, you probably do not need to look any further than the relation proposed by Hansen et al. (1988), cited in the IPCC TAR:
    http://www.grida.no/climate/ipcc_tar/wg1/222.htm

    This formula gives a roughly logarithmic relation within the practical extreme limits, i.e. from pre-industrial 1750 (at 280 ppmv) to the highest level, which we are likely to ever see anytime in the far distant future (1120 ppmv), when all fossil fuel reserves have been used up. It shows a very slightly lower warming from 280 to 560 ppmv than it does from 560 to 1120 ppmv (both around 1°C for 2xCO2). (See my post 723 for a plot of this equation.)

    According to this formula a doubling of CO2 from 1 to 2 ppmv would add around 0.4°C, and a doubling from 0.5 to 1 ppmv adds only around 0.2°C, while a doubling from 140 to 280 ppmv adds 0.8°C.

    At the extreme low end this formula (like any other) is probably suspect, but at least it avoids the “minus infinity” problem and it should work OK at the practical ranges we are ever going to see.

    Possibly one of the other posters here might have more to say on the viability of the Hansen et al. formula versus the straight logarithmic equation used by Myhre et al.(or Lindzen or Kondratyev and Moskalenko, for that matter).

    The practical difference is minimal in any case.

    Max

  770. Ray Ladbury:

    Rod B. says, “As you know I for one have serious concerns with the numbers and precision used in forcing mathematics.”

    Yes, I also know that you don’t understand it. OK, Rod, it’s time to your homework. I’m really serious. It’s very hard to take what you say seriously when it’s clear that you aren’t willing to wade through some math to understand WHY a logarithmic form is used.

    First, look at the shape of the absorption lines in figure 4 of the reference I gave to BobFJ in #748. Note that the tails of the distribution do not go to zero nicely as would a Normal, lognormal or other well behaved function. No matter how far you go out, the ccontribution looks non-negligible. It looks kind of like a Cauchy distribution, right?

    OK, play around with a Cauchy distribution in Excel or some other spreadsheet or download R (it’s free)

    http://mathworld.wolfram.com/CauchyDistribution.html

    Note that no matter how far out you go, the contribution isn’t negligible. What this means is that the incremental energy for every molecule of CO2 keeps decreasing (e.g. the 400th ppmv contributes less than the 100th ppmv), but it doesn’t go to zero. That is, the CO2 contribution is nowhere near saturation. Agreed?

    OK. Now we need to find a relatively simple mathematical form that describes this. Motl’s exponential is right out, because it saturates. A power law with exponent between 0 and 1 won’t work because the 400th ppmv would contribute more to the energy absorbed than the 100th ppmv. Right?

    Your assignment: Go find a relatively simple form that meets the physics I’ve outlined above. Until you go through this exercise, I don’t see how even you can consider your opinions credible.

  771. BobFJ:

    Patrick 027, further to my 763, there is something else to add concerning Peter Martin’s naïve assertions to you in his 761 that included:

    No, if you put 1? of insulation over a hot surface the heat flow will, say, halve. Put on another 1? and it halves again.

    The problem with this assertion is that Pete is apparently confusing heat transfer via conduction with the other common different forms that are simply expressed as radiation and convection. The (rather distracting/poor) analogy to the ~log relationship of EMR absorption, that was originally raised by Mark, I think, to demonstrate a non-linear relationship, is concerned with the effect upon heat conduction loss and lagging on a hot water pipe.

    Returning to the quote above, Pete’s imagined hot surface loosing 16 units of heat, cannot be loosing it through the insulation, because there is no insulation, it being specified as 0 thick. Thus, the first bit of information in context in his little table is at 1 unit thick and 8 units of heat loss. Thus, we have no idea what is happening between 0 and ~1 thick. If the amb ient surroundings of the bare hot surface are a gas, then heat loss will be via radiation, convection, and conduction into the amb ient fluid itself. (not the insulation of thickness 0). If it is in a vacuum, it would be by radiation only. If there is progressively an amount of insulation, then there will be some conductive loss through the insulation.
    In practice of course, there is no such thing as a pure conductive loss, because the process is imperfect. (other heat losses). However, there is no specific relationship between the primary conductive loss through the insulation, and the secondary heat losses. For instance, at the termination of the insulation, there will be net radiative losses, but only at the termination and not throughout it, etc, etc.

  772. BobFJ:

    Patrick 027,
    I think Peter Martin’s 765 & 766 are addressed to you.
    I don’t know if you are familiar with his tactics in debate, but I have experienced it elsewhere for a long time, and his ploy above of introducing red herrings that provoke responses are just one of his methods.
    I think of it as:
    Yet
    Again
    Waffling
    Nonsense

  773. BobFJ:

    Patrick 027 & RichardC;
    Whoops, sorry, my 771 was intended to have been for RichardC

  774. manacker:

    Peter Martin

    To keep the discussion on how temperature increases with increased atmospheric CO2 within reasonable bounds, you should probably limit it to an upper maximum of around 1100 ppmv (or around 4x the “pre-industrial” level of 280 ppmv).

    It is not possible for human CO2 emissions from all known and optimistically estimated fossil fuels on this planet to get us above that level, so barring a major natural disaster as has been suggested for the PETM there is no way we will ever see 1100+ ppmv CO2 in our atmosphere.

    A formula that works between 280 and 1100 ppmv is really all that is needed in practice (other than just as a matter of scientific curiosity).

    Max

  775. Hank Roberts:

    > barring a major natural disaster as has been suggested for the PETM

    Don’t you have to bar _all_ natural feedbacks, to get such a low number?
    You’re giving us the change in temperature from instantaneously doubling the number of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere, without any other changes that we know happen, if I read your chart correctly.

  776. Ike Solem:

    You know, I posted this back around #444, and for some reason it never showed up – r.e. Mike’s comments on AMO and PDO:

    P.S. Mike, I did read your comments on how models might generate an AMO, but those models are probably not treating the so-called meridional overturning circulation correctly. See the following on the latest data from the Atlantic, which seems to put the notion of an “Atlantic conveyor belt” to rest:

    ScienceDaily (May 14, 2009)

    …The question is how do these climate change signals get spread further south? Oceanographers long thought all this Labrador seawater moved south along what is called the Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC), which hugs the eastern North American continental shelf all the way to near Florida and then continues further south.

    But studies in the 1990s using submersible floats that followed underwater currents “showed little evidence of southbound export of Labrador sea water within the Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC),” said the new Nature report.

    That’s the problem with the ocean component of models: insufficient data and too many assumptions by climate modelers. This appears to be changing, i.e. the recent decade-scale predictions based on more accurate ocean data:

    Smith et al. 2007 Improved Surface Temperature Prediction for the Coming Decade from a Global Climate Model (pdf)

    Global climate models have been used to make predictions of climate change on decadal or longer time scales, but these only accounted for projections of external forcing, neglecting initial condition information needed to predict internal variability

    and, see this:

    Because the internal variability of the atmosphere is essentially unpredictable beyond a couple of weeks, and the external forcing in DePreSys and NoAssim is identical, differences in predictive skill are very likely to be caused by differences in the initialization and evolution of the ocean.

    It seems clear that El Ninos are examples of ocean weather, just as hurricanes and mid-latitude fronts are examples of atmospheric weather. The ocean does not seem to be any less chaotic than the atmosphere, just much slower in its movements. If AMOs or PDOs exists (which is questionable), they must behave similarly.

    Finally, if there is a mechanism for the AMO, why can’t it be described simply?

    Please refer to Delworth and Mann (2000), Knight et al (2005), and the numerous references therein which describe in some detail the mechanisms… (at least, in the world of the climate models). – mike

    The explanation in the paper for observed historical SST variations no longer holds much weight:

    “The model variability involves fluctuations in the intensity of the thermohaline circulation in the North Atlantic” – Delworth & Mann 2000

    That was also supposed to lead to a reduced ‘thermohaline circulation’ due to freshening water, etc. However, see the new data – the SST link is hardly so clear.

    Also, (and as the paper notes), the historical records are far too short to apply time-series analysis (a 70-year cycle from 100 years of data???) with any degree of confidence – leaving what? Not very much – unless the stated solar cycle explanation is the driving force, which also seems unlikely. Yes, I actually read papers – something most journalists seem to avoid.

    All in all, the existence of predictable periodic multidecadal oscillations in the world’s oceans remains highly questionable, and poor use of time series data analysis approaches plus oversimplified ocean circulation models is probably the cause. “Phase-locking” (as per the PDO claims) is even more unlikely – even the relatively well-understood El Nino ‘cycle’ displays sensitive dependence and low predictability, and that’s with a robust mechanism that explains just how an El Nino develops.

  777. Hank Roberts:

    Spinning still a problem:

    “This week, the CBO ran the numbers on the Democratic cap-and-trade, and in the process, discredited the Republican talking points on the proposal.”

    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2009_06/018764.php

  778. Rod B:

    Patrick 027 (759), I agree with that — that the relationship between CO2 concentration and forcing is linear-like sometimes and log-like other times. But Ray implied that even this distinction is not important (though I think he doesn’t really think this — probably just came out wrong.) My personal concern/question stems from taking this general qualitative form and then adding some very precise numbers to the equation and then maintaining those precise coefficients/exponents through a very large range of concentrations and situations.

  779. Hank Roberts:

    > 778 My personal concern/question … taking this … adding
    > some very precise numbers … maintaining those … through a
    > very large range of concentrations and situations.

    Then don’t do that! Focus on the real world range of possibilities.
    Give Chris Colose’s link to anyone who gets so confused.
    25 June 2009 at 6:16 AM

  780. Rod B:

    manacker (769), et al: Now I’m really confused. It is commonly known that the primary forcing math used is a precise log relationship and the forcing-to-temp math is linear. This says that any doubling of CO2 will result in the same temperature increase no matter the base. How does this fit??

  781. Jim Galasyn:

    What’s all this about EPA suppressing some economist’s opinions of its “endangerment finding”?

    Is the EPA suppressing or withholding information on global warming?

    Deniers are going ape.

  782. Rod B:

    Ray, you’re still missing my point. I have no real quarrel with the log form relationship between CO2 concentration and forcing. My questioning is twofold: 1) I’m not totally swayed with the precise mathematics, i.e. 5.35*ln[C/Co]; I don’t fuss much at current and recent concentrations (though it has not always had this coefficient) even though there certainly is a range of possibilities. (One has to go with a single number in modeling so long as it seems reasonably accurate — I got no problem with this, either.) Whether the coefficient holds or is even close at different concentrations (600ppm? 800ppm? 1000ppm? 10,000ppm?) is problematical and not known with certainty — the self confidence of some scientists not withstanding, though it’s probably close at the near-end range. 2) I don’t know, and neither does anyone else know for certain, when the coefficient or even the log form changes. Is it A*ln[C/Co] at 10,000ppm? How do you know?

  783. Hank Roberts:

    RodB, you’re missing the point. Heck, you’re missing the broad side of the barn. This isn’t a Platonic ideal. It’s a planet. You can’t change just one thing, holding everything else constant. Pick any meaningful question you can ask about the environment and push it far enough and something else will surprise you.

    That wouldn’t be a reason to delay doing the obvious, though.

  784. Hank Roberts:

    Hey, Jim Galasyn, good pointer, everyone should read this story you just pointed us to:

    http://www.examiner.com/x-9111-SF-Environmental-Policy-Examiner~y2009m6d24-Is-the-EPA-suppressing-or-withholding-information-on-global-warming

    The update reveals the devastating ability of a large organization* to lie to the news organizations, and how they mistakenly repeated the falsehoods in public.

    This is how they spin the facts about reports on climate change.

    I trust we’ll see this widely reported.
    The Examiner took an hour or so to correct the error.
    Let us know if you find CEI correcting the original bogus report.
    ______________________________________________________
    * Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), caught lying

  785. Mark:

    “1) I’m not totally swayed with the precise mathematics, i.e. 5.35*ln[C/Co]; ”

    No, you wouldn’t. It doesn’t say what you want it to say.

    “Whether the coefficient holds or is even close at different concentrations (600ppm? 800ppm? 1000ppm? 10,000ppm?) is problematical and not known with certainty —”

    That it holds at 100-600 IS.

    Now if it gets to 600, we’re boned, so who freaking’ cares if it breaks down after that?

    And how do you know it doesn’t hold at some level with certainty? It’s not like we don’t have computers to do the maths VERY quickly for us.

    Or doesn’t maths work when computers do it?

    “2) I don’t know, and neither does anyone else know for certain, when the coefficient or even the log form changes. Is it A*ln[C/Co] at 10,000ppm? How do you know?”

    Well, what will have melted by then? All of the ice? 20m increase in water levels. The summer in new york (if you float on the water) will be what? 60C? More?

    And you can’t think that “it goes up until you get to 1000ppm and then adding more CO2 *cools the planet*!!!”.

    So since it’s already going to be ball-boilingly hot and there won’t be any land where most of our biggest cities exist and the centre of continents like the US will be dustbowls, how much do you think we should care about the precise mathematical concordance between temperature and CO2 concentrations?

  786. Hank Roberts:

    Teh goal in trolling is to drop a pithy item into the thread — crafted to elicit longer posts from others that further digress from the topic of discussion. The more long off-topic replies the better you did.

  787. PeterMartin:

    Ray,

    You say “Motl’s equation fundamentally misunderstands the physics–or–it is deliberately misleading. You pick” I’d go for deliberately misleading!

    Motl is a smart enough guy. However, the problem that I have with his equation is not so much its form as the way he’s fiddled the constants used in it (1.5 & 200), without any real justification, to try to prove the saturation effect will prevent temperatures rising any higher than 1.5degC.

    However if you change the constants in his equation to something more reasonable, the graph comes out to be virtually identical to Hansen’s 1988 plot over the range of values 70ppmv to 560ppmv. Incidentally one is for climate forcing , and one is for temperature and I have made the conversion shown in the link below:

    http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2562/3661605904_2bbcb70f32_o.png

    This form of equation may not be valid for the reasons you suggest at higher levels of CO2, but I’m looking to find a reasonable value of the intersection on the y axis. (where the equations using log approximations are not valid either). This is effectively the temperature the Earth would be with no CO2 present in the atmosphere. I don’t believe the GHE would disappear completely. Water vapour would still have an effect.

    Its not just idle curiousity. It would enable us to answer the question of how much does CO2 contribute to the natural GHE. If we can say that this is about 8 degC or 25% of the natural GHE of 33degC, the figure of 3-4 degs for a doubling of this level sounds much more plausible than the less than 1 degC that people like Lindzen would have us believe.

  788. Hank Roberts:

    Are you asking for a calculation for a hypothetical sphere of rock the size and location of Earth, as surrounded by various atmospheres?

    That omits the climate. You might get the simple equation you’re describing (or it may have been done).

    Or are you asking about climate sensitivity?

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/308/5727/1431

  789. Kevin McKinney:

    On another front wrt 10,000 ppm of CO2, we’re getting into the realm of direct toxicity about that point:

    “Due to the health risks associated with carbon dioxide exposure, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that average exposure for healthy adults during an eight-hour work day should not exceed 5,000 ppm (0.5%).”

    10,000 ppm causes discomfort in about 20% of subjects, and more frequently drowsiness.

    (Wiki)

  790. Jim Galasyn:

    Hank, I’m impressed at how you got that horizontal rule in your post!

  791. Hank Roberts:

    ________ it’s just the underscore character, repeated _______

  792. Patrick 027:

    Re 782 – Rod, the calculations can be done to whatever degree of precision is worthwhile given access to computer power and the necessity of a degree of accuracy, etc. The logarithmic relationship is an approximation that can be plugged into ‘toy’ models. Climate models don’t, so far as I know, use a precalculated tropopause level radiative forcing for a given CO2 level; as I understand it, I think they use a parameterized simplification of radiation to calculate radiative fluxes on the scale of the grid spacing – these parameterizations can be checked against the more precise line-by-line calculations.

    Sometimes the net result of very complex behavior can be described accurately in a greatly simplified description.

    Re 787 Peter Martin – if you took all the CO2 out of the atmoosphere, the cooling would pull most of the water vapor out of the atmosphere as well.

  793. Rod B:

    Hank (777), ’twasn’t clear: is spinning still a problem with Republicans or with the Washington Monthly? ;-) I’d hold off on the hats and horns until the details and assumptions are checked and the economic dust settles.

  794. Rod B:

    Hank (783), and your point is what?? this whole business is loosey-goosey (like a planet, not a Platonic ideal) but we take your answers as unassailably accurate? Or are you saying the BAU scenario can just as easily drop the temp by a couple of degrees by 2100, since all is loose? Or is the IPCC projection right on (with of course the 90-95% thingy) despite all of the “flaky” stuff that went into it?

    Is 5.35*ln[C/Co] the correct direct forcing math (period) for CO2 or not? What’s your view? Yes or No?

  795. dhogaza:

    Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), caught lying

    Hank, you forgot to say, “on the eve of the big vote tomorrow (friday in case you don’t read this tonight, Thursday)”.

    They’re not caught, truly and fairly, unless the bill passes tomorrow.

    If it doesn’t, they can be crucified in every way imaginable but won’t care. This is just a calculated ploy to give cover to a couple of votes that they’re hoping will be enough to sink the bill.

  796. PeterMartin:

    Patrick,

    ” if you took all the CO2 out of the atmoosphere, the cooling would pull most of the water vapor out of the atmosphere as well.”

    How much is “most”? And, again, the effect would be highly non-linear so how much of the GHE would be left? Would it produce a snowball earth? Or would the ocean still be ice free in tropical regions?

  797. manacker:

    RodB (780)

    You ask:

    “It is commonly known that the primary forcing math used is a precise log relationship and the forcing-to-temp math is linear. This says that any doubling of CO2 will result in the same temperature increase no matter the base. How does this fit??”

    To answer your question: It fits fine for me, both theoretically and practically. I have no problem with the logarithmic function as proposed by Myhre et al., particularly within the practical limits we are ever likely to see on this planet.

    But Peter Martin is desperately looking for a CO2 / temperature relationship that does not follow the logarithmic relationship (which says that any doubling of CO2 will result in the same temperature increase no matter the base) because he, personally, cannot accept that a theoretical 2xCO2 from 17.5 to 35 ppmv (for example) could have the same temperature impact as a possible future 2xCO2 from 280 to 560 ppmv. It appears that he believes that the logarithmic function is part of a conspiracy by Lindzen, Spencer and others to downplay future AGW.

    So I proposed to Peter that he look at the somewhat modified Hansen et al. (1988) equation cited in the IPCC TAR. Within the range of 280 to 1120 ppmv this gives essentially the same result as the straight logarithmic function of Myhre et al., but it avoids the “minus infinity” problem at very, very low (hypothetical) CO2 levels, with which Peter has been struggling.

    It still doesn’t solve Peter’s problem, though.

    Max

  798. manacker:

    Hank Roberts

    To your #775. You wrote:

    “Don’t you have to bar _all_ natural feedbacks, to get such a low number?
    You’re giving us the change in temperature from instantaneously doubling the number of CO2 molecules in the atmosphere, without any other changes that we know happen, if I read your chart correctly.”

    There are two points here.

    First is the maximum level of atmospheric CO2 we can ever expect to see from anthropogenic sources. This appears to be around 1,000 ppmv or barely 4x the “natural” pre-industrial level of 280 ppmv. That’s all there is out there. Only a natural disaster, such as that which has been suggested for the PETM, could change this significantly.

    The second point is the amount of temperature increase we could reasonably expect to see from this all-time maximum CO2 level.

    If we stick with the no feedback equilibrium forcings according to IPCC TAR (Myhre et al., Shi and Hansen et al.), we see that this all-time temperature increase is between 1.7 and 1.9°C.

    All the rest is suggested positive feedbacks from water vapor, clouds and surface albedo, minus the negative lapse rate feedback.

    As these are all anything but certain based on the