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Two degrees

Filed under: — david @ 8 July 2009

The countries of the G8 today approved a target of 2° C rise in global average temperature above the natural, preanthropogenic climate, that they resolve should be avoided. The Europeans have been pushing for 2 degrees as a target maximum temperature for several years, but this is something of a development for the Americans. We posted recently on two new papers about what it would take to limit global average warming, finding that it would require fairly strong change in trajectory. About 2° C as a target, we wrote,

… even a “moderate” warming of 2°C stands a strong chance of provoking drought and storm responses that could challenge civilized society, leading potentially to the conflict and suffering that go with failed states and mass migrations. Global warming of 2°C would leave the Earth warmer than it has been in millions of years, a disruption of climate conditions that have been stable for longer than the history of human agriculture. Given the drought that already afflicts Australia, the crumbling of the sea ice in the Arctic, and the increasing storm damage after only 0.8°C of warming so far, a target of 2°C seems almost cavalier.

Nevertheless, we view today’s development as a constructive step.


411 Responses to “Two degrees”

  1. 1
    David Kambic says:

    This 2 degree limit tops everything I have ever heard about the warming frenzy. How arrogant can these politicians be. How can anyone think that they are so important that they can actually change the world’s temperature. For their short lifetime on this earth these people actually believe that they have had that much effect while science and other data proves them wrong. Simply appalling.

    For every fool that subscribes to the global warming frenzy there many others who actually have taken the time to properly research the subject. Information from our own US government proves them wrong. I guess I just don’t see myself as being that important. Of course I am not interested in making money on the global warming issue.

  2. 2
    dhogaza says:

    For every fool that subscribes to the global warming frenzy there many others who actually have taken the time to properly research the subject

    So you’re expecting us to believe that the climate scientists that host this site haven’t properly researched climate science, while you have?

    OK … what’s your tinfoil hat size? I’ll send you one, free.

  3. 3
    MikeN says:

    Hasn’t Pielke published to the contrary regarding storm damage caused by global warming?

    Isn’t a 2C target too high? Even with large reductions by China and the rest of Asia, that is probably not achievable.

  4. 4

    David Kambic… go read a few articles about astroturfing. You’ve been duped.

    This is the company you keep.

    http://one-blue-marble.com/blog/2009/04/21/big-tobacco-big-oil-big-coal/

  5. 5
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Peak Oil may actually help here since it’s a choke on expansion and economic activity. We’re going to have to do something and, at this point, all alternate energy sources are pretty much on the same footing. It makes as much sense to make a wind farm as it does to build a coal-to-gasoline plant.

    [Response: Yeah, but there's still the option of cooking ourselves burning coal to generate electricity, no matter what happens with oil and transportation energy. David]

  6. 6
    Doug Bostrom says:

    David, not to pick on you in particular, but your remarks remind me of pilling our household cats.

    How could this be?

    Both cats require to given a pill each day. Without these pills, the cats will prematurely waste away and die. Each day, once for each cat, I grab a pill, lodge the cat in my lap, squeeze his or her jaws open, push the pill down-gullet as far as possible, then hold the cat’s jaws shut until I think the cat has swallowed the pill. Very often the pill reappears later, gagged up. The cat has no notion what a pill is, nor what will happen if it fails to swallow enough pills. It is untrainable in that way.

    To me it’s a nice model for how Gavin and others must feel, trying to get facts about anthropogenic climate change integrated into the minds of people who for whatever reason cannot or will not accept them.

  7. 7
    David B. Benson says:

    MikeN (3) — Given what we are seeing with the 0.8 K so far, yes, 2 K is much too high.

  8. 8
    David Wilson says:

    article in Spiegel the other day (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,634738,00.html) telling us, among other things:

    “But the Obama administration is realizing that ordinary Americans are adamantly opposed to their country becoming the global leader in a radical new green movement. A majority of Americans do not consider the climate crisis to be particularly important: According to a poll carried out in January by the Pew Research Center, only 30 percent of Americans rated global warming as a top priority for President Obama. The issue came last on the list of priorities, far below the economy and terrorism.”

    I have not been able to find the poll referred to, but the jist sounds about right from my conversations with Americans when I was living in Houston, regular people, good people, kind people, people who talk to strangers on the bus – and people who just don’t believe it is happening

    anyway … just for your interest

  9. 9
    Knut Witberg says:

    Very practical decision.

    Now the governments decide how much they want to cut (or not cut) by selecting the scientists that fit the bill.

    There are plenty to choose from: One group holds it for true that a doubling of the CO2 will cause 4-6 C temperature increase. They are out!

    Another says that doubling cause 1 C increase. They are in!

    Just wait.

  10. 10
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Regarding pilling cats, another boring, repetitious feature comes to mind, that being the writhing and struggling and histrionics the cat performs as it tries to make sure it is not kept from dying.

    And now, here are the cats, waking up. Time to get out the pills…

  11. 11
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    I have not been able to find the poll referred to, but the jist sounds about right from my conversations with Americans when I was living in Houston, regular people, good people, kind people, people who talk to strangers on the bus – and people who just don’t believe it is happening

    You may be right. Humans have an horizon of concern measured in weeks, not decades. We’re probably going to just blow past the point of no return. If one were looking for a way to rid the planet of a pesky species, AGW is startling in its simplicity: addict the beasts to carbon energy.

  12. 12

    (The last cat I pilled died on me – but that (I hope!) is beside the point!)

    As has been suggested, anything we do to avoid (or not) 2K almost accidentally prepares us for life after the end of peak oil and the ravages of a sillier climate. So it is hard to find a downside to the necessary efforts.

    Even if we are aiming at the wrong goal, the journey gets us to place that is safer anyway, so its worth doing.

    The only bad thing to do – is to do nothing.

  13. 13
    Simon D says:

    It is a first step, but what good is a temperature target without an accompanying greenhouse gas emissions target? The leaders agreed to a +2 deg C target but would not agree on emissions target that could limit warming to 2 deg C.

  14. 14
    Rob D says:

    The critical nation in the initiative to cut greenhouse gas emissions IS the United States. When it moves, others will follow. If it stalls, so will they. America must lead and I fear the American people and their political leadership have an astonishingly weak grasp of the responsibility that lies on their shoulders.

  15. 15
    Peter Wood says:

    This is a constructive step, but what we need is for this commitment to translate to an emissions budget that gives a low probability of exceeding 2 degrees. The proposed references to probabilities of exceeding 2 degrees in the draft UNFCCC long-term cooperative action negotiating text refer to 50% probabilities.

  16. 16
    Mark A. York says:

    RE: #8,

    I don’t think Houston, Texas, or anywhere in Texas would be a good indication of Americans’ attitude, or aptitude, on global warming. People know which side their bread is buttered as the saying goes. Houston is oil and gas. Weaning folks anywhere off carbon will be tough. Tough enough that many will chose not to believe and even those on the fence will not succumb to a perception of being lectured on what the facts are on the topic. They just don’t want to know.

  17. 17
    Will Denayer says:

    To me, this is not constructive at all; it strengthens my sense of despair. I do not see the good in this as long as there is no strategy to limit warming to 2 degrees C. I do not think we need a lot of policy; what we need is politics and thinking assumptions through. For example, for the last 30 years the best way to end a non-conversation with any mainstream economist was uttering the p-word (protectionism). Now, this begins to change. Personally, I am not for protectionism in the old style, but I am opposed to free trade also. I am a proponent of a multilateral world wherein trade works on the basis of bilateral and multilateral agreements between countries. This could have enormously (positive) effects on global warming, but it is something politicians cannot see. This is only an example between many. Because, in its childish simplicity, it is all too true what David Morris said long ago: he was eating in a restaurant in Minnesota, picked up a toothpick and saw ‘Made in Japan’, but Japan has no wood and little oil; so it’s deemed efficient to send wood to Japan as well as oil, wrap the one in the other and send it all over the globe. Meanwhile, a factory in Minnesota produces chopsticks (disposable ones, of course) for sale in Japan. The wood that Morris used as a toothpick traveled perhaps as much as 30, 000 miles. This is complete insanity. While we are at it, we need to rethink and reverse the global division of labour and we need to destroy speculative capital. We are not tackling the root of climate change and fighting carbon will not help. We need to tackle the whole economic and political apparatus and rebuild it so that both serve human needs. If something like this would happen, I am sure the population would be very welcome to do its part, while now Joe the Plumber doubts climate change and certainly does not lose any sleep over it.

  18. 18

    Climate Pearl Harbors that will actually get the attention of most Americans, not in any particular order:
    The price of bread goes to $10/slice.
    There are no oranges in the grocery store.
    There is no lettuce in the grocery store or at the salad bar.
    500 Million people starve to death in India.
    600 Million people starve to death in China.
    Produce formerly grown in California cannot be found. That would include fruits, nuts, and leafy vegetables.
    Wheat or corn production in the US drops below 30 million bushels.
    There is no more Prime or Choice steak.
    The salad bar at your favorite restaurant is empty. You can’t afford to eat there any more anyway.

    By then it will be too late. It could be a whole 5 years from now. The only way to avoid extinction is to move to Mars. Another thing that amazes me: Americans are afraid of nuclear power plants and not afraid of coal. Coal fired power plants make 40% of our CO2 and nuclear power plants make none.

  19. 19
    dofus kamas says:

    No negotiating, texas is always like this

  20. 20
    Tad Boyd says:

    David,

    “Given the drought that already afflicts Australia, the crumbling of the sea ice in the Arctic, and the increasing storm damage after only 0.8°C of warming so far”

    Could you point me to something authoritative that shows how the drought in Australia has been caused by the .8 degrees Celsius increase in global average temps.

    Here in Washington State, everything under the sun has been linked to global warming (local TV and newspaper reports, seems like almost daily); and we’ve had a couple of cold years as I was able to confirm from a recent report from our state’s climatologist (not just my perception). I come to this site to try to separate what is real from what is hype. I can’t look at everything. It is just too overwhelming but you’ve printed a link between the Australian drought and the .8 degree increase in temp, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at that. I’ve found many stories but no actual science showing clearly the linkage.

    Thank you for your time,

    Tad

  21. 21
    jyyh says:

    2 degrees would be the limit for being sure east antarctica will stay +- as it is, yes?

  22. 22
    Chris Dudley says:

    David,

    Do you think that a 350 ppm CO2 target makes more sense?

    [Response: Hansen's argument for 350 is that it would stop the Earth from warming further -- he calculates the committed warming at our current 390 or whatever it is, then dials down CO2 until the climate stays as is with no further committed warming. Sounds very sensible to me. David]

  23. 23
    Mark Andrews says:

    With an 80% reduction in GHGs by 2050 we have a 50% chance of dangerous climate change or runaway global warming. That is far too much risk. A good chance would be 5% or less, I suggest. Obviously more work needs to done by the G8 and other nations on improving the world’s chances of avoiding both dangerous climate change and runaway global warming, but at least we now have a significant advance on the George “Dubya” Bush position of no substantial action on emissions reductions.

  24. 24

    #20 Chris Dudley

    I think a 300ppm CO2 makes sense.

  25. 25
    dhogaza says:

    Terribly off-topic, but will the “recent posts” widget on the right get fixed soon? It was and still is a simple SQL query …

  26. 26
    Sean Rooney says:

    I find it interesting that in this, ahem, scientific age, it’s an antiquated 17th century utterly unscientific economic system that’s holding us back. Men like Herman Daly and many at the British Sustainability Commission seem to understand this while everyone else just keeps whistling in the dark.

    IF we had a modern, sustainable, eco-friendly economic system the problems of GW, climate change and fossil fuel use could be solved almost overnight. The real outrage is that we do not have such an economy and we don’t even complain much when the dog we have that passes for an economic system kicks us in the teeth and makes us pay the repair bill AND the $20 billion in bonuses Goldman Sachs is paying its employees, and kicks us hard, real hard.

    But oh no, we like our 17th century capitalism, even though its plainly going to be the death of us and the planet. The mere fact that we haven’t imagined our way past our archaic economy, no, our obsolete economy, is living proof that we are collectively dumber than a box of bolts.

    ‘Tis a sad tale to tell. We’re all complicit.

  27. 27
    Doug Bostrom says:

    2 degrees is probably more than “enough”, surely?

    Here’s a fact to try and swallow:

    July 7 JGR-Oceans:

    We present our best estimate of the thickness and volume of the Arctic Ocean ice cover from 10 Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) campaigns that span a 5-year period between 2003 and 2008. Derived ice drafts are consistently within 0.5 m of those from a submarine cruise in mid-November of 2005 and 4 years of ice draft profiles from moorings in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Along with a more than 42% decrease in multiyear (MY) ice coverage since 2005, there was a remarkable thinning of ∼0.6 m in MY ice thickness over 4 years. In contrast, the average thickness of the seasonal ice in midwinter (∼2 m), which covered more than two-thirds of the Arctic Ocean in 2007, exhibited a negligible trend. Average winter sea ice volume over the period, weighted by a loss of ∼3000 km3 between 2007 and 2008, was ∼14,000 km3. The total MY ice volume in the winter has experienced a net loss of 6300 km3 (>40%) in the 4 years since 2005, while the first-year ice cover gained volume owing to increased overall area coverage. The overall decline in volume and thickness are explained almost entirely by changes in the MY ice cover. Combined with a large decline in MY ice coverage over this short record, there is a reversal in the volumetric and areal contributions of the two ice types to the total volume and area of the Arctic Ocean ice cover. Seasonal ice, having surpassed that of MY ice in winter area coverage and volume, became the dominant ice type. It seems that the near-zero replenishment of the MY ice cover after the summers of 2005 and 2007, an imbalance in the cycle of replenishment and ice export, has played a significant role in the loss of Arctic sea ice volume over the ICESat record.

    http://www.agu.org/pubs/crossref/2009/2009JC005312.shtml

  28. 28
    John Gribbin says:

    How does this square with the evidence that the warming response is non-linear?

  29. 29
    ccpo says:

    Re: #1 David Kambic

    I find it instructive that in all the years and after all the post of asking people of your mindset to do so, not one – not one – has ever been able to post five scientifically sound, peer-reviewed papers on climate science that have not been shown to be flawed, in error or that have been replicable while showing clear evidence that the existing body of climate science is wrong.

    You see, this is what is interesting and what no denialist of any rank, privilege or position is able, and more importantly, willing to do: exhibit how the entire breadth and depth of climate science is wrong. All you do is pick at what you think is an area that can be easily exploited to create confusion.

    The troposphere study done a while back is a good example. Review here at RC showed the study had some serious weaknesses, but more so for my argument, that one study was touted across the deniosphere as a refutation of anthropogenic forcings and climate change itself. Such reactions are proof in and of themselves that the deniosphere has a bias that either a. causes them to be willing to lie outright or b. blinds them to simple logic.

    To wit, I have taught children as young as third grade students about the scientific process, and they understand it with no trouble whatsoever. They are taught that any result that is anomalous needs to be replicable by others, and if it cannot be, treated with caution. That is, it’s unlikely to be accurate. Also, if it stands it should not be treated as a refutation of all that came before it unless and until further study proves it out. More likely, it is simply an expansion of our understanding of the issue in question and needs to be assimilated if shown to be robust. But, as stated in the post above, this is rarely ever a refutation of an entire area of scientific inquiry. If third-grade students can understand this, why can’t the deniosphere, other than those that have been actively paid not to?

    Since science should always start with observation, as opposed to an agenda (disproving ACC/AGW), why is it that the entire denial industry is focused on disproving rather than proving? What observations do you offer that would encourage this other than claiming the last 3 years (2005 hottest) or last twelve (’98 hottest) equal global cooling when they are all among the hottest years in the last 2 million (a fundamentally flawed assertion that shows 100% ignorance, or willful disregard, of basic scientific principles, namely that a three – twelve year period is not a long-term trend, but is variability until proven otherwise.)

    In point of fact, I don’t think you can point to even one study, let alone five, that in any way does more than suggest a rethinking of a small bit of what we term climate science. To my knowledge, such studies simply do not exist.

    In order to legitimately refute the current consensus on anthropogenically-forced climate change, you must offer a theory to do most, if not all, of the following:

    1. Refute the Greenhouse Effect.
    2. Prove another mechanism for heat/energy retention
    3. Explain ice core data
    4. Explain changes in habitat/flora/fauna relationships, i.e. why habitats are moving to higher latitudes/higher elevations or flora and fauna or out of synch, or why populations are crashing/climbing for various flora and fauna… etc.
    5. Explain why the Arctic sea ice extent and mass have dropped precipitously since pre-2005.
    6. Explain net land ice losses in Greenland and the Arctic.
    7. Explain why the number and intensity of weather-related disasters has risen precipitously.
    8. Explain why the overall temp trend is up.
    9. Explain why temps are now higher than they have been for at least 2 million years.
    10. Etc., etc., etc….. (Perhaps Gavin or one of the other contributors could give us a list of key elements of climate change that essentially must be refuted or explained alternatively in order to “debunk” ACC/AGW?)
    11. Explain why the proof of climate denial by the GCC, Exxon, GC Marshall Inst., etc, is not pertinent and why, given that is the source of your skepticism, why this proof (yes, it is fact) does not affect your stance.
    12. Refute the risk assessment that: given temps are rising, given they will continue to rise for 1k+ years even if we had zero emissions starting today, given the risks of rapid climate change and long-term temp rises are real and threaten our ability to function as a society, etc., we should act to mitigate these threats, particularly since the actions to be taken will lead to a healthier existence for humanity even if AGW/ACC turns out to be wrong. Meanwhile, doing nothing saves us from nothing, but makes the negative outcomes not only worse, but certain.

    The above list is not exhaustive, to be sure, but until you can do at least that, don’t you think you are morally and ethically bound to cease and desist spreading disinformation?

  30. 30
    John Firth says:

    The reality is that we will be extremely fortunate to limit average global tempeerture rise to 2 degrees, given the lack of progress in limiting GHG concentrations. It has become the least worst politcially acceptable level. However it comes at an enormous price. At a seminar I presented at in November the Prime Minister of Barbados stated that “2 degrees is entirely uncacceptable because it spells disaster for my country”. It also spells disaster for the developed world, reliant upon the developing world for its resources (including food)and for the commercial markets it provides.

  31. 31
    Jerry Toman says:

    The AGW discussions at the Convention have all the earmarks of an “Alphonse-Gaston” routine (but more tragic than comic)–who will be willing to go first?

    The “balance-of-world” side rightfully claims that Americans, on a per-capita basis, at least, have been responsible for much more than their fair share of the carbon dioxide present in the atmosphere, including that deemed responsible for already measurable “ocean acidification”.

    On the other hand, Americans can be too easily (not to mention, conveniently) convinced that AGW may, in fact, not be real, but more likely the result of a conspiracy by s*ci*l*sts, Muslims, or foreign nationals (Russian, Chinese, Indian…) to overtake the USA as the dominant economic power in the world. At a minimum, enough seeds of doubt can be planted to greatly weaken any potential agreement.

    Do any of the words; stalemate, gridlock, Mexican standoff, etc., come to mind?

    Any fool can see that the “diplomatic” pathway will go nowhere when each side feels that they would likely come out on the short end of any agreement. Thus, any politician that actually advocates or agrees to anything truly effective and equitable, which can so easily (given the mentality) be framed as “putting the country at a competitive disadvantage”, will surely LOSE the next election–BIG TIME in the bad economic times that will surely prevail.

    So what is to be done?? –As it turns out, nature has provided humanity with an “escape hatch” from this conundrum, which is a means to cool the surface of the planet with the same techniques as nature uses to cool overheated tropical sea water. That response is to form a gigantic vortex we call a hurricane. These can transfer as much heat in a day from the surface into the troposphere where it is radiated to space, as the all of mankind uses in a year.

    The same phenomenon occurs on a much smaller and weaker scale, in the form of dust-devils or waterspouts, but involves the same principles. Obviously, in the case of tornados the dynamics can be much more complex, involving CAPE, as well as weather fronts, which neither of the first vortices mentioned normally require.

    As it turns out, there has been nothing of a scientific nature put forward as yet to suggest that it would not also be possible for man to create a stationary vortex, and to extract from the winds at the confluence, mechanical energy, which could be converted to electrical energy that would be considered to be essentially “carbon free”.

    I know that many scientists find it uncomfortable to be reduced to the state of looking for “lost keys” in the only place they could possibly be found, under the nearby “street lamp”, but, IMO the Atmospheric Vortex Engine is an extraordinarily bright lamp.

    With respect to further development, we appear to be in a “chicken-or-egg” situation. Funds are needed, but no funds are forthcoming because there is insufficient scientific support. Scientists are reluctant to support it because it hasn’t been demonstrated on a sufficiently large scale to prove it will work.

    What can be done to get the development of this technology off the dime and get it into the next developmental stage?

    Gandhi said–first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then You Win. In this case, if proven practical, the whole world would win.

    While I wouldn’t mind it at all if you good and descent scientists here at RealClimate were to skip the “laughing” stage and get directly to the “fighting” one, isn’t it time we get past the “ignoring” stage?

    The basis for this has been developed meticulously over the years by the inventor, Louis Michaud. Given the stakes, it seems strange that few, if any of you have gone over this with the idea of coming up with a fundamental reason why it WON’T or CAN’T work, if indeed, such a reason, perhaps due to some error in calculation, does exist.

    If none of you can (I can’t imagine that none of you would try) I urge you to discuss and present your findings to those further up the food chain, so that some action may soon be taken in support of this. A pronouncement in support of this by Dr. Hansen, for example, could work wonders in getting this moving. I’m sure he would find it preferable to standing in front of coal shovels.

    Even if moving it up that far isn’t possible, your own valuable words in support of AVE development would be greatly appreciated.

    Ref: http://vortexengine.ca

  32. 32
    pete best says:

    All that has happened so far is that a broad agreement has been reached on what to (epistimological) do and not how to do it ontological) and hence its just a broad agreement amongst the G8. China and India are as yet to get involved in any meaningful way and even if they are it will be a monumental undertaking.

    We all know that the world uses 30 billion barrels a year (4.5 billion tonnes) of oil and the additional equivilent amounts of coal and gas combined. If no agreement is reached regarding economic growth and world population growth and we just opt for the alternative energy to so the same amount of thinsg we do now then it is very difficult to see how it can be done.

    Any how to do it strategy will need to incredibly well funded (one hurdle to overcome) and takes it as red that sufficient alternative energy exists to not only replace existing electricity in use but also all of the oil in use and gas! In regard to the sensitivity of the earths climate to forcings is it still 3C for 550 ppmv equivilent or 6C as James Hansen has postulated for new boundary conditions he has spoken about? Are we to use all of the existing oil and gas and only replace coal with alternative energy making around a 450 ppmv limit of CO2 plus all of the other GHGs whilst eliminating all of the cooling agents.

    Lots of questions and few as yet answers from governments.

  33. 33

    Well, it would be nice, if this happens.

    However, peak oil means a double whammy – it reducec GHG emissions from oil, however, there is the danger, that we switch to coal-to-liquids, gas-to-liquids, tar sands and oil shales, just because increases in energy efficiency, solar and wind output are not enough to counter population increase, decrease in oil availability, and increase in total energy consumption…

    Adopting of 2°C means nothing unless we are serious with moratörium on new coal power plants today and on oil shales and tar sands… is this going to happen anytime soon?

  34. 34
    donald moore says:

    it is very likely that the current trend will continue with polar temperatures rising much faster than the rest of the world [two and a half times faster at the moment.] whether this will average out at less than two degrees is irrelavant what happens at the poles particularly the south pole is the crutial thing and what will ultimately effect the world climate.

  35. 35
    Mark says:

    “How can anyone think that they are so important that they can actually change the world’s temperature”

    How arrogant must someone be if they think that they can wreak damage with impunity?

    And this isn’t about controlling the temperature, it’s about controlling us playing around with it.

    Is stopping slapping you controlling you?

  36. 36
    Maiken says:

    Approving the target is a great step forward. However, words need to be followed by actions that are not just half-measures but that will truly give as a reasonable chance to succeed.

    For anybody who is interested, you can read more about this here:
    http://www.cleanenergy-project.de/2009/07/08/now-is-the-time-to-pressure-your-politicians/

    Maiken

  37. 37
    Matthias says:

    The 2 centigrade target is noble (though still dangerous as pointed out in this and other fora), but it very much remains to be seen that this threshold can indeed be implemented and maintained which would require a truly global concerted effort and understanding. History has proven us wrong thus far. Canada, for example, not only failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions a la Kyoto (which they signed), but they significantly increased their emissions from 1990 levels, largely due to oilsand developments. I also don’t see any Chinese plans to scrap their plans of constructing some 40 coal-fire power plants per year for some time to come. I have a, perhaps overly pessimistic, feeling that national energy interest and the mantra of ever-continuing economic growth will trump international agreements unless there are enforcable and painful penalties for non-compliance.

  38. 38
    John says:

    When will climate scientists in numbers understand that it is their responsibility to force political action?

    They should be before the public in the Press and on Television and radio making this the issue that it should be. It seems that only Hansen has attempted this so far.

    Nothing will be done until the front pages of the Press find this a more important issue than Michael Jackson’s passing.

  39. 39
    tharanga says:

    Edward Greisch:

    Sometimes sceptics say things like “the models say the oceans should have boiled off by now, but they haven’t, so the models are trash”.

    Seeing as no GCM projects any such thing, I wonder where they get that idea. It is easy to find the model projections, yet they invent their own straw men.

    Speaking of agricultural catastrophe possibly within five years and having to move to Mars adds to such confusion, I think. Let’s stick to what is actually supported by the science.

  40. 40
    Fred the Hun says:

    @#8,

    A majority of Americans do not consider the climate crisis to be particularly important: According to a poll carried out in January by the Pew Research Center, only 30 percent of Americans rated global warming as a top priority for President Obama. The issue came last on the list of priorities, far below the economy and terrorism.”

    Maybe if we can get a famous psychic on Oprah to say he is channeling Michael Jackson and Michael says that Americans have to take action on climate change… Heck it might be worth a try ;-)

  41. 41
    Chris Dudley says:

    John (#22),

    The 2 oC number is coming after a great deal of political pressure from activists who thought that the science was saying that dangerous climate change starts after that. The science now seems to be saying that there are overlarge risks associated with that target. That is OK. Activists can adjust. They were successful getting to this target, they can work to get to a stronger target as well. It will take just about as long to do this, perhaps five to seven years, as getting agreement on the current target.

    Hansen’s work on targets has lead to a revision of activist effort towards 350 ppm. http://www.350.org/ My own inclination, based on the idea that we should unmake our waste, is that 280 ppm should be the final target. But, if we are to take a risk based rather than principles based approach, the target we select will be higher than 280 ppm. What then, based on risk, is the target to adopt? Perhaps 350 ppm is the correct next step and 300 ppm will follow as the science becomes more certain? So far, I know of a clear case for 350 ppm.

  42. 42
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David Kambic, You’re right. You’re not important, but it’s because you’ve opted to remain ignorant of the science. Fully 90% of scientists publishing on climate related topics and vurtually all the evidence say the globe is warming and that we’re the cause. Let us know when you realize that you don’t understand the climate and are ready to learn.

  43. 43
    Jim Prall says:

    I was going to ask if you could make the comment entry box larger, then I noticed the little diagonal stripes in the lower right corner. I didn’t know this was possible, but this site lets commenters enlarge the comment box, allowing us to see more of our comment while reviewing before posting – so we should have no typos, right guys? :-) I just thought I’d point this out for others, since I’d never noticed this before and hadn’t seen it at any other site.

  44. 44
    Spencer says:

    @8 David Wilson:
    Pew Research Center and several other polls are discussed, for example, on Andy Revkin’s N.Y. Times DotEarth blog, 1/22/09 and 3/11/09

    Yes, the American public is not only skeptical… but INCREASINGLY skeptical. This may be partly because of media matters discussed by Revkon and also on this blog–polemicists of every stripe leap on any new scientific finding that seems to support their position. The news media inevitably featured the latest findings, inevitably unreliable (the oceans were warming! …no, they were cooling! …oops, they really were warming!). Many citizens, scarcely aware of the laboriously developed pronouncements by authoritative scientific bodies, take the matter as nothing more than partisan political posturing.

    Hmm, “preview” comment feature is gone, it would be helpful…

  45. 45
    keith says:

    Sadly, McCain got 47% of the electoral vote and a large % of that total is made up of the scientific illeterates embodied in comment #1. All these fools have to do is sway another 4% of the know-nothings out there and it’s syonara to civilization as ya knew it!

  46. 46
    Gareth John Evans says:

    This is a start – cutting emissions by 80% (90% in the UK by 2050) will not be easy. Could leave a big energy gap. What are the options:
    1) Nuclear Power – actually has a large carbon footprint in life cycle terms. Uranium is a limited resource – there could be supply problems within 20-30 years (see, http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/publications/downloads/Nuclear-paper8-UraniumResourceAvailability.pdf ) Major security issues.
    2) Renewables – solar, wind etc. Variable output – energy not always available to meet demand.
    3) Fossil fuels using carbon capture and sequestration – will be developed in the short term. Oxygen depletion potentially a problem in the longer term. These technologies will permanently remove oxygen from the atmosphere. Same for hydrogen fuel if hydrogen is obtained from regenerative methods – the cracking of methane.
    4) Energy conservation – important but will quickly be off-set by the demand for more energy if current rates of growth are maintained.
    5) New forms of energy. Space-time energy may be a possibility but little interest / investment in it to date:

    http://www.aias.us/

    http://www.aias.us/documents/miscellaneous/Spacetime-Dev-2.pdf

    http://et3m.net/

    “Spacetime energy is is the only energy source available 24 hours a day, that does not use fuels and other resources that are finite and limited, that produces zero emissions to the atmosphere, that does not produce other wastes that cannot be recycled, that is not toxic or radioactive or a danger (in any known way) to the environment or public health , that does not depend on natural processes that vary and are subsequently not reliable (such as the sun or wind), and is completely silent (and so produces no noise nuisance)”.

    See the last link.

    Gareth Evans

  47. 47
    John McCormick says:

    RE # 6

    David, my comment to you is entirely off topic but I was caught by your description of the cat medication process you use. I have been there and know how frustrating it was to medicate my pet especially when I know it is a matter of my cat’s survival.

    Try crushing the pill and mixing it into some tuna fish or like medium. The cats will love you for it.

    And, on topic,

    The G-8 decision to cap global temperature at 2 degrees while China and India refuse to enter any discussion on any negotiation on how to achieve that cap tells me what is becoming so obvious to those who follow climate change as a serious matter.

    It is too late to save the Himalayan glaciers and the next 20 to 30 years will witness the unhinging of South Asia’s civil society. Meanwhile the Southwest monsoon is late and not sufficient to fill the reservoirs Mumbai relies upon for municipal and industrial water. Thirty days supply and that part of India runs out of water. A new chapter opens for that finance capital while China, US and India dictate the future.

    We ran out the clock back in the 1950s and our children will inherit our arrogant stupidity.

  48. 48
    Richard Steckis says:

    Ray Ladbury says:

    “Fully 90% of scientists publishing on climate related topics and vurtually all the evidence say the globe is warming and that we’re the cause.”

    1. What is your evidence for that statement.

    2. Then it is not 98% as Oreskes maintains?

  49. 49
    Randy L says:

    Well this following comment has always got me into trouble. But here it is anyway. I don’t see a down side to the earth losing 1 to 1.5 billion humans. Since it appears it is we humans who are contributing to the global warming phenomina, why not reduce the number of humans in order to control the issue. And what better way than for “nature” to do it. Would be better than a political or military solution, albeit the natural progression would obviously lead to political and military actions.

    This comment is not to be confused with the religious right wingnut idea of the “rapture”. It is simply a normal response by nature to anything that tries to create an imbalance to the natural equilibrium.

  50. 50
    Edward says:

    #27 CCPO
    It’s possible that CO2 contributes about a .6C increase in temperature and that the effects of clouds acts as a negative feedback to moderate further increases. As far as I know all the GCM’s assume positive cloud feedbacks to get to some of the higher temperature increases. so it’s possible that that all the GCM’s may turn out to be incorrect. Time, more data and a better understanding of clouds will clarify this over the next 10-20 years.
    Thanks
    Edward


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