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AGU Fall 2009

Filed under: — gavin @ 14 December 2009

16,000 attendees, thousands of cups of coffee and thousands of interesting conversations (and debates) about science.

That would be San Francisco, not Copenhagen of course.

There are a few of the RC crew there, so hopefully we’ll get some updates, but keep track of some other attending bloggers as well:

and the whole AGU blogroll. There are some live webcasts through the week that might be interesting too.

If there are any other attendees reading, feel free to post about any interesting sessions/talks you see. I’ll update the main post with anything particularly noteworthy.

81 Responses to “AGU Fall 2009”

  1. 1
    Lab Lemming says:

    Someone tell Mike Mann he doesn’t need to worry about Andy Revkin’s unpredictability anymore:

  2. 2
    Steve says:

    Mike’s giving a talk at 8am on Thursday morning on Communicating Climate Change, which I’m really looking forward to:

    [edit of URL]

  3. 3
    Jeff L. says:

    Ahhhh yes, talks during the day, pints at Plough and Stars at night. I know how it goes! :^ )

  4. 4
    Chris Colose says:

    Hopefully someone can go to Richard Alley’s talk and report if it doesn’t appear online. He’s one of my favorite scientists, and a great communicator.

  5. 5
    berkeley_statistician says:

    Hello Gavin,

    I know that you have been interested in changing the impression of “secret science”. Unfortunately the skeptics have been provided some more ammunition with the recent redirects of the CRU data. Do you have any thoughts on why this is happening? Load per se cannot be the issue as these files are not that much larger than a webpage.

    [Response: I’m guessing that ‘normal service’ has not been resumed. Do not underestimate the amount of c**p that has descended on everyone there. – gavin]

  6. 6
    mondo says:

    #2: “Mike’s giving a talk at 8am on Thursday morning on Communicating Climate Change, which I’m really looking forward to:”

    Events of the last week or two have certainly demonstrated Mike Mann’s particular skills in Communicating Climate Change. Would love to be there too.

  7. 7
    Edward Greisch says:

    Their blog alone is worth a lot. Thanks much RC for pointing this conference out to us. Very interesting.

  8. 8
    Elliot says:

    Does anybody ever wonder about the contribution 16,000 people make to global warming by traveling to these things? It seems like every man and his dog is at copenhagen.

  9. 9
    MarkB says:

    Thanks for covering this. Earlier today, after reading about the 10th tiresome post on stolen emails over at AccuWeather’s climate blog, in which it was incredibly enlightening to learn that William Gray finds “ClimateGate” to validate his conspiracy theories, I finally advised the blogger it might do his readers some good to ditch the political soap box for a few days and cover one of the major scientific conferences of the year. The lack of media coverage on Copenhagen doesn’t look so bad when compared with the crickets from this kind of event.

    Steve Easterbrook’s comments are a good read.

    Tuesday’s lectures look pretty good. Perhaps part of closing the communication gap between science and the public is to get more of these lectures online. Does one need to be an AGU conference attendee to absorb Richard Alley’s lecture, or will there be some online material? How about a more condensed layperson summary?

  10. 10
    Steven239 says:

    As an occasional contributor to RealClimate and also a big fan of the transatlantic Alliance, I thought this short You Tube video on NATO and climate change might prove interesting:

    I hope that posting links like this is not frowned upon.

  11. 11
    Patrik says:

    Aren’t they packed with CO2 that releases upon pouring?

  12. 12
    Deech56 says:

    Happy hour at the San Francisco Brewing Company in North Beach – really worth the walk.

  13. 13
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Elliot says:
    15 décembre 2009 at 2:55 AM
    “Does anybody ever wonder about the contribution 16,000 people make to global warming by traveling to these things? It seems like every man and his dog is at copenhagen.”

    Uh, Elliot, we’re trying to combat climate change so that we can save human civilization. If you’re going to insiste that we give up science, then I’m afraid I don’t see the point.

  14. 14
    Dean says:

    So I’m curious as whether any of our bold and intrepid skeptics or denialists are going and presenting their case for why this or that measurement, process, or whatever is faulty. Or maybe they made a request to present and the were denied the opportunity by the world-wide climate conspiracy?

  15. 15
    attila says:

    “Uh, Elliot, we’re trying to combat climate change so that we can save human civilization.”

    Well that and the hookers. And the beer. And the government grants. And the hookers.

  16. 16
    Chris S says:

    Re: #8 Elliot & #13 Ray.

    From: Keith J. Mason “Future trends in business travel decision making” Journal of Air Transportation Vol. 7, No. 1 – 2002

    “The companies spent £95 million on air travel in 1999. The average number of short haul trips taken in 1999 was over 9,000, and the average number of long haul flights (longer than three hours) was 2,260.”

    11,000+ flights per company per annum in 1999.

    Just sayin…

  17. 17
    mike roddy says:

    I’m originally from the Bay Area, and suggest that attendees take BART to Berkeley. Hotels cost half as much, and you can meet some great scientists from Cal.
    San Francisco has become too touristy anyway.

  18. 18
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Chris S., then maybe we need to figure out a way to travel that is less carbon intensive. Just sayin’…

    Yes, we can telecon more, but you cannot replace face-to-face time with a telecon.

  19. 19
    yggdrasil says:

    Gavin, you should really pay attention to Popular Mechanics. They have just published a list of 500 peer reviewed articles that dispute the main arguments of anthropogenic global warming:

    DO you think you could provide a similar list for your side? With both of these lists it would be really easy to immediately see where the real controversies in science are. Let the debate begin!

    [Response: Ummm.. since I’m an advisor to Popular Mechanics, I think they’d have told me. You might want to look into it a little more…. – gavin]

  20. 20
    Hank Roberts says:

    Yeah, and stock trading times are down to single digit milliseconds.

    I recall reading that Admiral Hopper used to carry a ‘millisecond’ (a piece of wire showing how far light travels in that length of time) to explain why satellite phone calls have necessary delays in them to Congressmen. This is the inverse of that; smaller faster computers squeezed closer together just to make the financial markets spin faster. And they don’t remember that ‘velocity’ multiplies how much ‘money’ is effectively in circulation and worry that it will evaporate. Again.

    There’s ample stupidity about what things cost and what the world is worth, for sure.

  21. 21
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Comment by Elliot — 15 December 2009 @ 2:55 AM

    “Does anybody ever wonder about the contribution 16,000 people make…”

    Just thinking about the air segment, about 2.2 billion people travel by air each year. So you can quickly work out a rough idea of the the percentage impact on air travel imposed by the conference. Put another way, this is just a small flavor variant on the sophomoric and trivial “Al Gore and his road show” joke so much appreciated by the innumerate dullards everywhere.

  22. 22
    Doug Bostrom says:

    yggdrasil says: 15 December 2009 at 12:04 PM


    Does “Popular Mechanics”==”Popular Technology”

    “Let the debate begin!”

    Too funny.

    The CRU damp squib has exposed an entirely new and previously unplumbed sump of wannabe wits, depressing the worth and durability of pseudonyms around here. “yggdrasil” all used up, in one post, but I guess this stands as an example of why somebody would hide their identity for good cause.

  23. 23
    Konstantin says:

    @15 attila: Hookers, beer and government grants are an integral part of civilization since at least the Pharaohs.
    Those who appear all outraged at their existence are either surprisingly unobservant or understandably upset at not enjoying them as much as they would like.

    @18, Ray Ladbury:

    This might be a good idea:

    It is far from my area of physics and I have no time to do a proper lit search, but I read about it sometime ago
    and it sounds good. At speeds of 500 mph it has half the speed of commercial airplanes, so
    it could be used to supplant flights of less than 4 hrs duration (thinking that in any flight there is about a 2 hrs. procedure of checking-in, security and boarding so that a 4 hr. train ride is tantamount to a 2 hr. flight).
    Short haul trips are by far the majority of flights so this system could be a big help.

  24. 24
    Chris S. says:

    #18 Ray.

    All I was trying to show was a comparison between Copenhagen and the average multinational – Doug showed it better in #21.

    Given that all the quality time at any conference I’ve been to happened outside the lecture halls (mealtimes, poster sessions, sat on the coach to/from the hotel, fag breaks even) I fully understand the need for them – although I’d agree that telecon has its place.

  25. 25
    dhogaza says:

    I recall reading that Admiral Hopper used to carry a ‘millisecond’ (a piece of wire showing how far light travels in that length of time

    Nanosecond, actually. Carrying around a millisecond would’ve been a bit burdensome … :)

  26. 26
    Phillip Shaw says:

    Re #20:

    Um, Hank, I believe you meant that Admiral Hopper carried around a piece of wire representing how far light travels in a nanosecond. About a foot (30 cm). A millisecond length would be about a million feet, roughly 200 miles, which would be awkward to tote to lectures.

    This nit aside, I certainly appreciate the links and info in your comments. You do a great service to the layman reader.

  27. 27
    Molnar says:


    Actually, you are a little bit late. The list has been already “debated”

    See here:

  28. 28
    Skip Smith says:

    I know you won’t publish this, but I’m responding so Gavin can see my comment.

    Gavin, you said:

    [Response: I suggest that the next time the IPCC writes a report, you review it and suggest clarifications of any line you don’t find clear. Thousands of people did last time to very good effect. However, it’s a little late for AR4. – gavin]

    My response:

    (1) Thank you for finally admitting that sentence was unclear and did not convey that tree ring proxies diverged from temperature readings.


    [Response: It is clear that the sentence isn’t clear to you. However, it was clear to me. It is not as if the IPCC report is supposed to be inerrant; the multiple rounds of review are very helpful in sorting out issues which may be clear to the authors but were not effectively communicated but aren’t perfect. Had you reviewed the report, no doubt you would have made a comment, and the sentence might well have been expanded slightly. But going over it again and again now is a little pointless. – gavin]

  29. 29
    Jim Prall says:

    There are several problems with that list:
    a) a large share (90 items) are in Energy & Environment, a contrarian “grey” journal that caters to those in denial about AGW. They provide “peer” review in the sense of “fellow deniers”, but they have very few subscribers and their impact factor seems to be off the scale at the bottom: ISI Web of Knowledge doesn’t list them at all. The PopTech website gives a footnote for E&E saying it’s carried in 39 libraries worldwide, “at universities” – notice how they give no number; last I heard it was about five.

    Now, while there are a scattering of articles that made it into serious journals with significant impact factor (I see Nature, EPSL, PNAS, GRL) these surely also undercut the claim that climate ‘skeptics’ are being uniformly shut out and censored. They can publish just like anyone else, as long as they make some kind of plausible case for the specific point they argue. Peer review doesn’t mean something is guaranteed correct; rather, it means it’s more likely to be worth taking time to read, consider, and then possibly argue with than all the articles that don’t make it.

    Now look at some of the other venues where list entries had to go to get into print:
    Irrigation and Drainage
    Iron & Steel Technology
    Latvian Journal of Physics and Technical Sciences
    Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service
    Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology
    AAPG Bulletin – that’s the American Assoc. of Petroleum Geologists

    The text at the end is a bit overheated as well – look under “Rebuttals” and notice how every criticism of the list is deemed “LYING”, and the last item saying that nobody can rebut the list on a blog, wiki, or YouTube video (although the list is on the internet, it can’t be rebutted on the internet?)

  30. 30

    Goodness, scientists meet once a year to discuss recent research and exchange ideas and the usual skippies have to make sour comments here. Ugh!

    Anyway, I had thought that the GrIS mass balance results up to and including August were usually presented at the AGU fall meetings, but this year, I looked through the program and could not find this type of presentation.

    Please, can someone tell me when and where the GrIS mass balance results through August 2009 will appear? I already know that the results through February are out there.


  31. 31
    Brian Dodge says:

    regarding the list of papers at
    posted by yggdrasil — 15 December 2009 @ 12:04 PM

    It’s crap.

    in the abstract for “A Climate of Doubt about Global Warming
    (Environmental Geosciences, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp. 213, June 2008)”
    – Robert C. Balling Jr. claims that “In addition, increased output of the sun, lack of recent volcanism, and trends in El Niño/Southern Oscillation have certainly contributed to any observed warming. The entire issue is further complicated by the fact that satellite-based and balloon-based measurements of lower atmospheric temperatures show no warming whatsoever over the past few decades.”

    But in the very next paper on the list, “A comparison of tropical temperature trends with model predictions (PDF)
    (International Journal of Climatology, Volume 28, Issue 13, pp. 1693-1701, December 2007)”
    – David H. Douglass, John R. Christy, Benjamin D. Pearson, S. Fred Singer publish data from satellites and radiosonde measurements that show warming trends and prove Balling is lying about the temperature measurements.
    He’s also lying about increased output of the sun; see Figure 3 in (#24 on the list) “Are there connections between the Earth’s magnetic field and climate? (PDF)
    (Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Volume 253, Issues 3-4, pp. 328-339, January 2007)”
    – Vincent Courtillot, Yves Gallet, Jean-Louis Le Mouël, Frédéric Fluteau, Agnès Genevey,
    (or I wonder if Courtillot et al truncated the temperature data at 1990 to hide their own “divergence” problem?)

    Indeed, it’s not just crap, it’s self refuting crap. It would be an enormous waste of time to put on hip boots and wade through it all, but then that’s the point.

    google searches (yes I know correlation isn’t causation, but it’s a start)
    Results 1 – 10 of about 1,450 for “climate change denial” “Craig Loehle”
    Results 1 – 10 of about 2,730 for “climate change denial” “Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen”
    Results 1 – 10 of about 2,860 for “climate change denial” “journal energy and environment”
    Results 1 – 10 of about 3,040 for “tobacco industry” “fred singer”
    Results 1 – 10 of about 4,000 for “climate change denial” “Robert C. Balling”
    Results 1 – 10 of about 6,050 for “climate change denial” “John R. Christy”
    Results 1 – 10 of about 20,700 for “climate change denial” “Stephen McIntyre”
    Results 1 – 10 of about 37,400 for “climate change denial” “Ross McKitrick”
    Results 1 – 10 of about 41,500 for “climate change denial” “S. Fred Singer”

  32. 32

    Re: #31

    I love that link to the list of shoddy papers!

    Puts all the lies in one place! Excellent resource material for knowing just what is crap and what is not.


  33. 33
    Dave Petley says:

    I have posted a summary / review of Richard Alley’s Bjerknes lecture “The biggest control knob – Carbon Dioxide in Earth’s climate history” on my blog:

    AGU Day 2

    The review of Alley’s lecture starts in the fifth paragraph and comprises the remainder of that post.

    In brief – it was very well attended, beautifully presented and thought-provoking. He spent some time at the start outlining how an alumnus from his own university had tried to have him dismissed for “crimes against the scientific community, Penn State University, the citizens of this great country and of the world”. This caused considerable amusement in the hall.

  34. 34
    franky says:


    I have heard that most of the top climate scientists had/have taken a pledge to stop flying in order not to appear hypocritical and to present a positive role model for the average person. Is this true?And if it is, were the participants in SF and Copenhagen local scientist that took public transport, or rode their bikes to the conference?

  35. 35
    Alfonso says:

    Given that (1) annual human CO2 contribution to the atmosphere is around 3% (actually 2.91% from figures published in IPCC´s 2001 report), and that (2) CO2 maximal estimated contribution to the green-house-effect is 26% (Wikipedia: a non-skeptic-source for AGW), the actual maximal-man-made-contribution to global warming could be calculated to be: 0.03 x 0.26 x 100 = 0.75%. That means that less that 1% of any change in the climate can be attributed to anthropogenic CO2. Knowing this figures to be correct (a good estimation), which reasoning do you use to blame humankind for 100% of any CO2 linked climate change?.

    [Response: You are very confused. The human contribution is about 27% (105 ppmv out of 385 ppmv) of the current CO2 level, almost 60% of the CH4 level, and 100% of the CFCs. The impact of these changes cause changes in the other components of the greenhouse effect (the ‘feedbacks’) and so the % attribution seen in total GHE is not the relevant number (and since I am the source for it in the first place, I should know). Instead, the correct calculation is to work out the total forcing of of all the anthropogenic and natural changes over the 20th C, and then multiply that by the sensitivity of the climate, take into account the thermal inertia of the system and then compare the result to the temperature rises. And lo and behold, it fits. – gavin]

    It seems to me very unlikely that the actual annual increase of CO2 in the atmosphere (11,700 billion Tm; according to IPCC´s 2001 report), equivalent to 50% of our CO2 production, corresponds only to human produced CO2. In this respect, are there any atmospheric CO2 isotope studies supporting that Mother Nature selectively absorbs/retains ONLY/MOSTLY human-produced-CO2 in the atmosphere?. If so, any references pointing to that possibility would be most appreciated.

    Don´t you think that we´ll have to conclude that 99% OF ANY CLIMATE CHANGE LINKED TO ATMOSPHERIC CO2 IS NATURAL, and only 1% could be atributed to man?.

    [Response: No. – gavin]

  36. 36
    Brian Dodge says:

    Tenney Naumer
    Not all the papers on the list are shoddy, nor do they all “dispute the main arguments of anthropogenic global warming”.

    For instance, “Nature of observed temperature changes across the United States during the 20th century (PDF)”
    (Climate Research, Volume 17, Number 1, pp. 45–53, July 2001)
    – Paul C. Knappenberger, Patrick J. Michaels, Robert E. Davis

    ” Our results show that the nature of temperature changes in the United States during this period of warming are quite different from those that occurred during an earlier period of comparable warming with much less human modification of the composition of the atmosphere.”
    and “…the surface air temperature change that has occurred during the period of the greatest human influence on the climate is one in which increases of extremely low temperatures have dominated over those of high temperatures – a climate tending toward moderation rather than the extreme”, which is consistent with model predictions of decreased differences between the tropics and the poles, and greater warming in the polar regions where the cold air masses that drive temperate region cold snaps originate

    Mostly what’s crap is they way the papers were all lumped together without understanding, consistency, or regard to their actual contents –
    OTOH, “Falsification Of The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects Within The Frame Of Physics (PDF)”
    (International Journal of Modern Physics B, Volume 23, Issue 03, pp. 275-364, January 2009)
    – Gerhard Gerlich, Ralf D. Tscheuschner made the list.
    One abstract contains the gems “Temperature can be completely decomposed into four timescales quasi-periodic oscillations … The dominant contribution of CO2 concentration to global temperature variation is the trend……Therefore, if CO2 concentration remains constant at present, the CO2 greenhouse effect will be deficient in counterchecking the natural cooling of global climate in the following 20 years.”
    The list may only be intended to get folks to pay for the large number of E&E papers which are paywalled.

  37. 37
    John Peter says:

    2200 years ago a Roman General had this to say re deniers et al

    “Commanders should be counseled chiefly by persons of known talent, by those who have made the art of war their particular study, and whose knowledge is derived from experience, by those who are present at the scene of action, who see the enemy, who see the advantages that occasions offer, and who, like people embarked in the same ship, are sharers of the danger.

    If, therefore, anyone thinks himself qualified to give advice respecting the war which I am about to conduct, let him not refuse his assistance to the state, but let him come with me into Macedonia.

    He shall be furnished with a ship, a tent; even his traveling charges will be defrayed, but if he thinks this too much trouble, and prefers the repose of a city life to the toils of war, let him not on land assume the office of a pilot. The city in itself furnishes abundance of topics for conversation; let it confine its passion for talking to its own precincts and rest assured that we shall pay no attention to any counsel but such as shall be framed within our camp.”

    [General Lucius Aemilius Paulus, surnamed Macedonicus, Roman general and patrician, c. 229-160 B.C.]

  38. 38
    Tom Dayton says:

    Back to AGU 2009:

    In session PA24A, Providing Climate Policy Makers With a Strong Scientific Base (4:00-6:00 today–Tuesday), an interesting point was made by a presenter from the National Wildlife Federation (Staudt), by a former congressional intern (Walser), and by an audience member from AGU’s public affairs office (or somesuch).

    Climate scientists should meet with their own congressfolk. Preferably in person. Congressfolk are affected by having a personal conversation with a scientist from that congressperson’s own district.

    AGU, the National Wildlife Federation, and a slew of other nongovernmental organizations are eager to help arrange such meetings either in Washington or in the congressperson’s district, and to advise scientists on how to interact with the congresspeople for maximum effect.

    An example of the latter is Walser’s strong advice to always, always ask for something before leaving the meeting. Something concrete and actionable. Even if the most specific thing you can think of is more funding for a particular line of research. Otherwise the congressperson’s memory of the meeting dissolves the moment it is over, because a bazillion other meetings, requests, and data arrive. Don’t expect the congressperson to translate the knowledge or even enthusiasm you (the scientist) might have passed to them. You must provide that targeting yourself.

    And by the way, you don’t even have to leave the conference hall to get beer at the late afternoon break! How civilized!

  39. 39
    Elliot says:

    To all those who dismissed my point about the impacts of travel on global warming I find you a little hypocritcal. On one hand you want me to reduce my miniscule carbon footprint while you stomp around the planet doing good works. I mean there is something like 40,000 people attending copenhagen. Doing what? Plus all the protestors trashing Denmark in what is essentially a “small flavor variant” on the anarchist protests at the various G8 events. I wonder if it is the same people and if those people are also soccer holigans. Same behaviour.

    Anyway moving on I just want to point out the burning lots of fossil fuels and and saying but my actions will lead to other people burning less is about as ethical as the catholic church living the life of Riley on people tithes and asking people to be poor dirt and humble for God. Actions speak loader than words, walk the talk and video conference or something. Everyone needs to cut back and the people doing the asking should cut back the most not the least.

  40. 40


    The yeast that produces the CO2 bubbles in beer takes it out of the air to begin with. Beer is carbon neutral. Go have yourself another six-pack.

  41. 41

    Elliot: the catholic church living the life of Riley on people tithes…

    BPL: “Reilly.” And have you never heard of the vow of poverty? Churches collect money for the same reason as any other voluntary organization–to pay salaries, rent, costs, and to fund programs. Churches don’t make a profit, which is why, in the US, they are invariably incorporated as nonprofit corporations. They don’t have stockholders. They don’t pay dividends.

    People need to fly to Copenhagen because flight is the only practical way to get there quickly. Yes, our flight infrastructure uses too much fuel. Why don’t you work for airlines to use alternative fuels, then? Or to bring back dirigibles? Blaming scientists for using the transportation infrastructure that exists, rather than some nonexistent alternative, is not very realistic.

  42. 42
    Jkiesel says:

    @barton Paul levenson:
    NO! not a six-pack.
    Do you know how much bubbles there ae in a can (just shake before you open it, and you will know). Yes, it’s from the yeast. But how about the CO2 emitted during the production of the can and the production of the steel for that can? It’s 25 times that volume, from coal…

  43. 43
    Alfonso says:

    @Gavin (about your answer: You are very confused. The human contribution is about 27% (105 ppmv out of 385 ppmv) of the current CO2 level…)

    Gavin: How could that be?. If the estimated annual human contribution of CO2 in 2001 (asumed to be the highest historically at that time) was 1%, and previously our annual contributions were smaller, it follows that the cummulative total % of CO2 contributed by humans (roughly the average of all the annual contributions by humans) will have to be smaller than 1%. It seems to me that you are taking a wrong asumption by considering that any atmospheric CO2 excess over preindustrial times is anthropogenic in origin, don´t you think?.

    Best regards

    [Response: No. Perhaps you might like to entertain the possibility that your sources are not being entirely truthful? See here. – gavin]

  44. 44
    Ray Ladbury says:

    You know, when I lived in Africa doing development work, every day I had to confront the moral ambiguity of being well fed, well housed and well resourced as I tried to help people who were none of these. Is it your contention that I should not have bothered or that I should have given away all that I had and then been unable to help anyone? Do you idolize Theodore Kaczynski? He was certainly true to his beliefs. To change the world, one must live in the world.

    I commend to you the words of Emerson: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

  45. 45
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “But how about the CO2 emitted during the production of the can and the production of the steel for that can? It’s 25 times that volume, from coal…”

    I don’t know about anyone else, but when I drink a beer, I don’t try and drink the can too…

  46. 46
    tharanga says:

    Alfonso: Think about what you’re saying for just one second. If the net ‘natural flow’ of CO2 into the atmosphere were that big, wouldn’t the atmospheric concentration of CO2 be absolutely huge, and increasing insanely quickly, as well?

    There’s a carbon *cycle*. Huge amounts of CO2 come into the atmosphere each year. Huge amounts of CO2 leave it each year. What you need to consider is the net effect, in order to understand the accumulation in any one place (atmosphere, ocean, land).

  47. 47

    Re: #36

    Thanks, Brian. Those were real gems alright.

  48. 48
    David Miller says:

    In #35 and #43 Alfonso brings up an old talking point that we humans emit a small percentage of what nature emits, and concludes therefore that nature is responsible for most of the increase.

    Alfonso, you need to start thinking about *net* additions. For millions of years nature has been very very nearly balanced, taking as much carbon out of the air as it adds to it.

    Gavin pointed out that we are responsible for 27% of the total amount of CO2 currently in the atmosphere because virtually all of the 100ish ppm of increase over the 280 ppm pre-industrial level (107/387 = .276). You come back and ask how that can be, repeating that on an annual basis our contribution is a tiny fraction of what nature adds.

    The part you’re missing is that nature takes all her carbon back out – and about half of ours too. We just add it, we don’t draw any down, so the increase is definitely our responsibility.

  49. 49
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Elliot says: 16 December 2009 at 2:56 AM

    “To all those who dismissed my point about the impacts of travel on global warming I find you a little hypocritical.”

    I personally was callous, yes, and I should work on checking that tendency a little bit.

    But this really is a scenario where seeing the big picture in terms of proportions is helpful and encouraging.

    As you imply, the Copenhagen conference is undoubtedly larded with a lot of dead weight and dunnage; the core objectives could probably be accomplished by many fewer persons, indeed more efficiently in terms of delivering an actionable plan.

    Yet the impact of 16,000, 40,000, even 100,000 persons descending on Copenhagen is a rather small number compared to that of 6.8 billion persons pursuing their daily activities. Taking just a subset, about 1.2 billion of us live in “developed” nations. For those of us in that 1.2 billion, there are a plethora of small changes in behavior or choice that– if we’re thoughtful and remember them– will literally in a few hours’ time erase whatever impact of the necessary conjugation of experts and policy makers in Copenhagen.

    For instance, I’m painting the downstairs portion of my house. I’m missing some stuff for prep work. I could make a trip right now to the hardware store and get what I need. Yet in about 5 hours I’ll be making another, scheduled trip to keep an appointment. That trip takes me by the hardware store. By being mindful even on this level I’ll save perhaps a liter and a half of gasoline consumption. I don’t doubt that out of 1.2 billion persons there are many tens of thousands facing the same generally analogous choice, right now. If we’re thoughtful, we avoid using astounding amounts of gasoline. It’s as easy as falling off a log, if we’re mindful. Really, easier than making the wrong choice; why would I want to do the transport segment twice?

    The point here is that we personally each have a lot of low hanging fruit to pluck when it comes to improving our lifestyles, and there are so many billions of us available to do it that inefficiencies such as self-styled anarchists traveling to Copenhagen so as to make a narcissistic brouhaha are really lost in the noise.

  50. 50
    Ken W says:


    Maybe this can help clear up your confusion.

    If I consume 2500 calories each day, I won’t gain any weight (given my current level of activity). If I increase my consumption of food (no change in activity) by just 25 calories/day (1% of the total), I will gain just under 3 lbs each year. In 10 years I’ll be almost 30 lbs heavier.

    The extremely small increase of caloric intake (just 1%) has caused a significant weight gain. The same is true for a small increase in CO2 emissions. It’s the cumulative effect. It’s throwing things out of balance (the emission and absorption) that causes the increase in atmospheric CO2 levels. Which in turn causes the warming (or in the case of food, weight gain).

    If you’re still confused, try this: