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Unforced variations 3

Filed under: — group @ 19 March 2010

Another open thread. OT comments from the Amazon drying thread have been moved over. As usual, substantive comments only please and no abuse.


844 Responses to “Unforced variations 3”

  1. 1
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    78 Eric,
    Stefan is saying that IPCC is conservative (not alarmist). This is clear in Pielkes post. I fail do see that Pielke distort anything. Stefan is indeed saying that IPCC is flawed: “Why do I find this IPCC problem far worse than the Himalaya error? What went wrong in this case needs to be carefully looked at …” Pielke argues that being conservative or alarmist is equally problematic, since he want accuracy (that the IPCC report represent truth out there).

    Deliberate conservatism is most likely a political strategy by the IPCC. I recognice it from Bert Bolin, the first head of the IPCC. He established the strategy of conservatism as the most effective way to advocate climate policy in the long term (we might loose 10 years for politics, but climate is here to stay he argued). That many sceptics claim that the IPCC is alarmist may amplify this conservatism, and sceptics was one reason to why Bolin advocates this from the beginning, he was afraid that errors migh be effectively used against his and the IPCC climate avocacy. This discussion is a good example that IPCC is not and cannot be objective. IPCC is part of a complex unfolding of climate science and politics and society and sceptics and business ….

    Pielke is NOT stealth issue advocate, I would say. He is an open advocate To be stealth, by definition, one needs to hide ones politics. but I do think that Pielke should be even more open about his advocacy, especially since he is advocating rather intensively. I dont find this to be a big problem, Pielke is just one individual and science should promote open debate with diverse viewpoints. Much more problematic is that IPCC work in stealth fashion as they claim to have no prescriptive role for policy, yet having a highly influencial position in both science and politics.

    [Response: Your points about Pielke just being one individual, and diverse viewpoints are needed, etc. etc. are all fine. I agree. But that's not the point. The point is that IPCC is under fire for being 'alarmist'. Stefan's point in his post was that -- to the the extent IPCC mades serious errors -- they were on the side of being too conservative, precisely the opposite conclusion from what Pielke, among others, have been saying. If Pielke were presenting honest assessment of Stefan's post he would have titled his own post accordingly. To suggest that the title he did choose --
    Sea Level in IPCC: "Far Worse" than the Himalaya Glacier Error -- is anything other than misleading is simply ludicrous. I'll grant you that Roger may really believe he is an 'honest broker", but if that is really his intention, he's doing a remarkably poor job of it.--eric]

  2. 2

    Gilles (@155), pointing out that your “challenge” to me was a “post hoc ergo propter hoc” fallacy may be momentous to you, but I suspect “Nature” would be less impressed.

    You’re supposedly trying to convince me that fossil fuels are necessary to development.

    I’m telling you that the fact that developed nations have all used fossil fuels during the course of that process doesn’t even come close to meeting the criterion of “necessary and sufficient.” You’ve haven’t shown either, yet. After all, can you name any undeveloped nation that isn’t burning fossil fuels in large quantities today? (Maybe there are a couple–say, Fiji?) And yet some of them are very poor indeed.

    The amounts of energy available from renewables is theoretically much more than enough to meet today’s global demand; much the same could be said for nuclear power over a considerable (though not indefinite) period. Yet you are resigned to a future of slow decline because–poor humanity!–we are running out of those “indispensible” fossil fuels. It would be purely pitiable, if it weren’t that there are difficult and urgent practical challenges to be met.

    We don’t need more councils of despair (WRT fossil fuels) or ungrounded complacency (WRT climate change.)

  3. 3

    Andreas, why would it be “problematic” for any advisor to be good at, well, advising?

    Yet that’s the logical conclusion of your last paragraph in #158: a reliable advisor will always tend to become influential over time, as (presumably) their advice is validated as being generally accurate. It will then tend to influence policy.

    Yet their role will remain non-”prescriptive.” They will still be saying not “Here’s what you should do,” but rather “Here’s what your situation is.”

    That’s what the role of the IPCC was defined to be. They don’t prescribe policy. But that doesn’t mean that the intention was that their input should be ignored, either. And none of this implies that they operate in “stealth fashion.”

    You seem to infer the existence of bad faith, without any actual basis for it.

  4. 4
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “165
    Kevin McKinney says:
    18 March 2010 at 7:33 AM

    Andreas, why would it be “problematic” for any advisor to be good at, well, advising?”

    I think the problem would be “it’s devastating to my case!”. A good advisor would advise well and the best advice is reduction of energy use, reduction of fossil fuels on top of that and lots of other adaption strategies that adapt our actions to the results of them.

    This would be a problem for Andreas…

  5. 5
    Gilles says:

    “”tell me one country that developped without fossil fuels.”
    Roman Empire.
    British Empire.
    Spanish Empire.
    Dutch Renaissance.
    Aztec, Minoan, Ur, ”

    Sorry CFU, if you call that industrialized countries, then there is no problem with cutting off any fossil fuels indeed. Just prepare yourself to live in an industrialized country with 60 % peasants and an annual GDP per capita between 500 and 1000 $.

    Interestingly enough however, all these civilizations eventually disappeared, although their main source of energy (agriculture) was much less fragile than ours (fossil energy), because it was a priori unlimited. Think about that.

    Kevin:”I’m telling you that the fact that developed nations have all used fossil fuels during the course of that process doesn’t even come close to meeting the criterion of “necessary and sufficient.” You’ve haven’t shown either, yet. After all, can you name any undeveloped nation that isn’t burning fossil fuels in large quantities today? (Maybe there are a couple–say, Fiji?) And yet some of them are very poor indeed.”

    Kevin, have you ever looked at a correlation curve between any indicator of development you wish, and CO2 production? have you EVER looked ?

    “The amounts of energy available from renewables is theoretically much more than enough to meet today’s global demand; much the same could be said for nuclear power over a considerable (though not indefinite) period.”

    what is wrong is computing an “amount” without questioning the form (liquid fuel is not like electricity), the availability , and the costs. “Amount” doesn’t mean anything. The amount of methane in Titan is huge, but it is totally useless.

    “Yet you are resigned to a future of slow decline because–poor humanity!–we are running out of those “indispensible” fossil fuels. It would be purely pitiable, if it weren’t that there are difficult and urgent practical challenges to be met.”

    so you think that Roman empire, Roman Empire, British Empire, Spanish Empire, Dutch Renaissance, Aztec, Minoan, Ur, … are pitiable? should argument with CFU.

    I don’t have any judgement about what is good and evil. I just think that the objective features of industrial civilization : energy consumption, amount of produced artifacts, and hence economical indicators like GDP, will most likely decline. I let everybody have his own judgement about if it is good or bad. That’s not my business. I just think that this will happen soon enough for these problems being much more pregnant than those due to GW.

    Besides that, I have no doubt that mankind will do all its possible to do the best, developing as much as it can renewable energies : why not do it ??? I can’t say clearly what the asymptotic state will be, I’m not a prophet, and nobody can do either in my opinion. I just presume this level will be significantly lower than the current one, meaning that we should prepare to a long period of “de-growth”. I would be happy to be wrong, of course.

  6. 6
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    165 Kevin McKinney,
    The problem for me is not (1) whether IPCC is good or bad at doing what they do, but (2) whether they are honest or dishonest about what they are doing. That is two very different things.

    (1) Yes, I would say that IPCC is rather good at a) assessing science b) act strategically in the interface in science and polics in ways that enable IPCC to have scientific authority at the same time as they are co-producer of climate policy. I think that IPCC can improve both a and b by altering some procedures and assessment structures, as well as altering the so called linear model of science and policymaking, since the latter is a false representation of reality and not effective.

    (2) No, I would not say that IPCC is honest about their actual role. They do the same as you, assert that their defined role (highly idealistic) is also their actual role (which is naive to believe). This is part of the political strategy of the IPCC (in the interface of science and policy) and part of the scientific culture of objectivity that is rooted in the hard natural sciences (that falsely believe that science for policy can be objective when dealing with post-normal issues such as climate change).

    That an advisor becomes influencial doesn´t mean that the advice are accurate. That might be the case, perhaps often, but far from always. Your model of science in policymaking is far too rationalistic. For example, an advisor that tend to say to politicians what politicians wants to hear is often highly influential. To speak truth to power sometimes results in no influence at all for the advisor. Do you agree? (these examples are hypothetical, not intended at all as descriptions of the IPCC behaviour).

    As my example illustrate, the IPCC had a strategy to influence policy from the start. The aim of Bert Bolin in the 1980´s was to establish climate change on the political agenda at the international level. That is to advocate policy, yet the IPCC claim to have no interest in there being or not being climate policies. They are mere objective, disinterested, only interested in truth. That is NOT honest. It is advocacy in stealth fashion. IPCC is a promoter of climate policy would be an honest thing to say. I have no problem with that. My problem is with dishonesty and the asserting of naive views on science for policy.

    [Response: This is simply a smear and one that is beneath you. What would be the point in having any kind of assessment if it was not designed to influence anything - what would it be for? But there is a huge difference between providing relevant information that informs policy, and determining policy. What is dishonest here is your complete refusal to acknowledge that this is a real difference. Advocating for a problem to be taken seriously is not to 'advocate policies' - If I think that homelessness should be taken seriously by local governments doesn't imply that I have a specific (or even any) policy in mind to fix it. The science in the IPCC reports is as objective as it can be and, yes, the authors and reviewers involved are interested in truth. And however many times you say it, the IPCC is not a 'promoter' of climate policy except in the absolutely trivial sense that they conclude (as have many others - dating back to the 1960s) that the problem is worth policymakers attention. Your desire to reduce complex questions into some simple calculus that means that you can claim that all scientists are naive and dishonest, might suit some agenda you have, but this is just nonsense. In fact it is the same nonsense that claims that any public statement by a scientist must be political (in some very broad sense) and that when a scientist just explains some particular piece of the puzzle they must either be naive in thinking that this is policy neutral or some dishonest advocate. Explaining radiative transfer is not advocating for cap-and-trade. Defining feedbacks does not support a renewables mandate. Describing cloud microphysics does not force a ban on incandescent light bulbs. Note the difference - one thing is science, and the other thing is a policy. Please try to keep it straight. - gavin]

  7. 7
    Gilles says:

    “BPL: Why wouldn’t they? You keep saying they can’t, that this is a myth, etc., etc., etc., but you offer no clear argument as to why not. Do you know how much solar energy is absorbed by the climate system every second? About 1.2 x 10^17 watts.”

    First, this argument is totally irrelevant. Imagine a small group of humans living in the middle of nowhere from agriculture (which is obviously a way of converting solar energy for human applications, including cattle). They would also have theoretically 1.2 10^17 watts available. Actually this amount would be proportional to the cross section of the Earth, and for a theoretically flat and infinite Earth, it would be also infinite. But this wouldn’t change the slightest thing in their way of life. So your parameter is simply irrelevant. What is relevant is productivity per capita. The “total amount” available is only relevant when the population grows and reaches the boundary of the resources, which decreases this productivity (we are close to this point for fossil energy and probably hydroelectricity and even agriculture). But before this point, the limit is totally immaterial. It could be 10^18 or 10^19 or 10^300 , this wouldn’t make solar panel cheaper, nor produce electricity during the night – which is the actual problem of course.

    161 Nick “Why don’t you propose a specific bet, with specific amounts of money and odds, and a specific procedure for ensuring that the loser pays up? Come on, put your money where your mouth is.”

    Actually the bet is not particularly interesting because it should be held, it’s just interesting to precise what’s your real belief. A proposal is enough for that. I notice that when I asked for this proposal, my speeches transformed from “wrong” or “idiotic” to “vague”. So I offer you a precise prediction : I would bet that the production of CO2 per capita is to peak before 2020, which isn’t predicted by any IPCC scenario to my knowledge. Would you agree to bet on that ?

    CFU 162 :”Let me ask: are you convinced that plate glass is a requirement for economic development? After all, you tell me of one country that hasn’t progressed into a higher economic realm after the introduction of it?Therefore we MUST continue to use it, yes?”

    Plate glass is ONE of the commodities that was VERY expensive before the availability of cheap fossil fuel energy, and became much cheaper with them. I agree, it would be one of the requirement that would disappear with the disappearance of fossil fuels – not impossible to produce of course, but much too expensive for most people. And they are many others like that.

  8. 8
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “If you don’t agree with the simple fact that you need energy to develop, this discussion is pointless.”

    I’ve never said they didn’t.

    However, energy != fossil fuels.

    If you refuse, like Gilles does, to agree with this simple fact, this discussion, as with Gilles, is pointless.

  9. 9
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    166 Completely Fed Up,
    On the contrary, reduction of energy use, fossil fuels and on top of that lots of other societal changes that mititage and adapt to climate change (as well as mitigate and adapt many other problems, hopefully also with clever synergism), would be a very good thing according to my politics.

    Not all critique of the IPCC and climate science is rooted in right-wing politics. I´m afraid that your assertion is rooted in fairyland (the binary world of the good and the bad guys, and the princess).

  10. 10
    Nick Gotts says:

    So I offer you a precise prediction : I would bet that the production of CO2 per capita is to peak before 2020, which isn’t predicted by any IPCC scenario to my knowledge. – Gilles

    Of course not, because whether it does so depends on whether sufficient action is taken to bring this about. Since this happening in no way contradicts anything I know or believe to be the case, and since I don’t like betting against things I very much want to happen, I would not be keen to bet against it. The IPCC scenarios, as you should know, are premised on no specific action being taken to reduce emissions.

    We might be able to agree on such a bet conditional on none of a list of actions to reduce emissions being taken, but it would necessarily be quite complex and I would need time to research it, since there are probably numerous possibilities that would have that much effect. Since you are convinced that no such action having a significant effect will be taken, I would be willing to bet that either at least one of a (probably long) list of actions will be taken by some agreed mintermediate date, or per capita CO2 emissions will not peak by 2020 – provided the odds are reasonable, and you can come up with a convincing way of ensuring that the loser pays up.

  11. 11
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside: CFU, you’re being used by the trolls. Please try to ignore them.
    Gavin’s told Andreas off bluntly. That should end the nonsense if it’s not encouraged. We can hope anyhow, and not contribute to it by responding.

  12. 12
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Gavin,
    I expect you to react that way since we have very different views on the interface of science, policy, politics. From my point of view, I am telling a truth and I feel rather sad that truth can smear you are your collegues. I think this is due to the fact that no political role is allowed for scientists, according to your point of view. To be political is to taint the scientists objectivity. I don’t agree with that. Morals are part of science and morals don’t taint truth. From your point of view, I am being dishonest and disloyal.

    We also have a conceptual disagreement. You have a much more restricted definition of advocacy. I argue that to advocate for a problem to be taken seriously (Agenda setting) is the first step in the so called policy cycle. To advocate something pressupose values. When these values are not explicit, one is working in stealth fashion, especially when a researcher claim that the conclusion (climate change should be taken seriously) is claimed to result from objective science. Perhaps it´s better to change vocabulary? To act political, is that better? Or to be a normative agent? I don´t care that much what language we use. Scientists that invest their authority in mitigating homelessness, let us call them recreational politicians from the scientific community.

    We also disagree on the role of science in policymaking. I agree that there is a difference between inform and determine. However, science is very powerful in agenda setting in all environmental policy. Agenda setting is crucial since that influence the direction of more concrete policy formulations. For example, when (natural) science frame climate change as a global problem, the “south” oppose since neither they cause nor the concequence are global and to acknowledge this favors their politics. The strong economic bias in the social sciences included in the IPCC is very likely to result in marked based mitigation policies. To say that science just inform is to give science too little political power. To say that science determine policy is to give far too much political power. Science is far from that powerful in politics. That is why I say that science co-produce policy. Science is there all along, from agenda setting, in policy formulation, evaluation and so on. Next to each politician in the COP meeting is a scientists giving advice, most of these elite scientists are also working with the IPCC. Science is used in the political negotiatians as political tools. For example, US delegates claimed that all countries must contribute substantially to mitigation since that is what the scientific models tells us.

    I don’t contest that science in the IPCC reports is as objective as it can be. I claim that the IPCC is trying to be more objective that they should and that they are far from as objective as they claim to be.

    I don’t contest that the authors and reviewers involved are interested in truth. I contest that they only are interested in the truth. Some are mere interested in truth, but these guys are not the most effective at influencing policy. Sadly, the choice for a scientists that wants to influence politics, is to work in stealth fashion. To be open with value preferences results often in reduced authority for a scientist,
    that is the reason why so many scientists are stealth, especially natural scientists since the humanities and social sciences are much more forgiving to normative agendas in science.
    From my point of view, you are the one reducing complexity, whereas I are trying to address the full picture. Climate science (in the broadest definition) is very complex. When you ad the interface of science and politics to this, the complexity increase and also the options for action that we have to.
    I don’t say this to start a fight, but rather to try to explain why we think different. Since very many natural scientists hold the same position as you, and quite many social scientists interested in science for policy hold similar positions to mine, it is worth to try to reconcile the viewpoints, and I don’t think that either of them is 100 % true.

  13. 13
    Gilles says:

    “Ergo, they didn’t use fossil fuels despite having a growing and vibrant economy.”

    CFU, have you any idea of the average growth rate of these “growing and vibrant economies” , per capita ?

    Hint : + 2%/yr means doubling in 35 years, and multiplication by eight in 100 years. Do the maths.

    What you call “growth” was only political annexation through wars, and limited progresses in agriculture in the best cases. If you are satisfied by that, and very concerned by CO2, I suggest you to buy some house in the country without electricity and car, and grow your vegetable and some chickens, which should be enough to survive, in a Far West style. Your life will look very much like that of the vast majority of people living in those vibrant and growing empires you admire so much.

  14. 14

    #157 CFU re. Gilles

    I’m glad you brought that up. Lest we forget the Persians, Asians… oh what the heck the entirety of human civilization began without coal plants or gasoline. To limit our view to only modern civilization is an odd way to look at it, since the pre-industrial society did not endanger the climate system.


    The Climate Lobby
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    Sign the Petition!
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  15. 15

    #172 Gilles

    So I offer you a precise prediction : I would bet that the production of CO2 per capita is to peak before 2020, which isn’t predicted by any IPCC scenario to my knowledge. Would you agree to bet on that ?

    It’s a silly bet. You can’t even build a good straw-man out of it. And besides what’s the point of the bet to solidify beliefs on things that are not easily calculated? Or are you privy to the water pumping numbers in Saud?

    Gilles, you are very good with red herrings, but they truly are quite boring. You don’t seem to understand economics. Heck, for all I know, that could be your job ;)

    PS Relevance needs context. Context perspective exclusive of all major relevant factors is irrelevant. Avoiding context only creates ambiguity… You can’t find solutions when you are not looking at relevant system factors. I do understand that it is possible for some to think they have ‘all relevant factors’ but that is not a scientific way of looking at things, is it.

    It’s easy to be arrogant, it takes more effort to be contextually relevant.

    Still looking forward to your response re: #296 Gilles



    From the ‘Why We Bother’ thread?
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/03/why-we-bother/comment-page-7/#comment-166519


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    Sign the Petition!
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  16. 16
    Nick Gotts says:

    Andreas Bjurström,

    Sadly, the choice for a scientists that wants to influence politics, is to work in stealth fashion.

    The very existence of this blog shows what complete crap this is.

    To be open with value preferences results often in reduced authority for a scientist,
    that is the reason why so many scientists are stealth,

    There you go again, accusing most scientists of lying – and you wonder why this is resented.

    especially natural scientists since the humanities and social sciences are much more forgiving to normative agendas in science.

    Say, maybe that’s why the natural sciences have been so much more successful!

    Andreas, there is nothing wrong with scientists having and being open about their values; what they must avoid doing, to the best of their ability, is to prevent those values influencing their findings. That is objectivity at an individual level. Because individuals (and teams) are not all that good at this, science has developed institutional systems (standards for how work is done and described, penalties for allowing your values to determine your results, peer-reviewed journals, conferences, citation, systematic review, learned societies) to overcome these limitations. You, explicitly, consider that the attempt to be as objective as possible should be abandoned. That would be utterly disastrous.

  17. 17
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    178 Hank Roberts,
    You demonstrate the main sceptical attitude: Deny inconvenient truths (without strong arguments or empirical basis).

    Sceptics comes in many flavors. What is inconvenient and why differs.

    The physical climate sceptic is the most well known. He is usually politically motivated, and may deny any physical aspects of reality when appropriate.

    What we deal with here is much less well known. The social climate sceptic. He believes in most, if not all, physical aspects of climate change, especially after strong arguments and empirical basis has been demonstrated. However, he may deny any social aspect of climate change when appropriate. Why is that so?

  18. 18
    flxible says:

    Gilles

    “CFU, have you any idea of the average growth rate of these “growing and vibrant economies”, per capita ?”

    Gilles – Do you understand the concept of sustainability? You argue that easily accessible oil and coal are necessary for “modern” society, yet also assert that those commodities will relatively soon disappear, therefor the climatic effects of their use are not a concern. Why keep going around in these circles?

  19. 19
    Nick Gotts says:

    However, he may deny any social aspect of climate change when appropriate.

    What utter garbage. Of course climate change has social aspects: it is social activities such as fossil fuel use and agriculture that are causing it, and either it, or the measures required to limit it, or both, will have vast social consequences. The only people who deny the latter are the likes of Gilles, not those like Hank Roberts. What you mean, of course, is that Hank refuses to accept your caricature of natural science, as well he should, and considers further argument with you a waste of time – while I think it’s important to expose your nonsense for what it is.

  20. 20
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas Bjurström
    For someone who claims to be studying the scientific process, you sure have a lot to learn about how it is actually done! The IPCC is conservative in its approach because that’s how science is done–especially when summarizing the consensus. And your characterization of the IPCC as dishonest about its role is beyond the pale! In terms of the science, they have been scrupulously honest. In terms of outlining the consequences, I think they have made a good faith effort at bounding the risks as they understood them. And in terms of mitigation options, they are feeling their way in the dark as we all are.

    Have you considered that climate scientists have tried to elevate the level of concern about climate change because they have discovered a credible threat? Would you consider a water-born disease expert to be dishonest because he tried to draw attention to pathgens he had discovered infecting a city’s water.

    Andreas, most climate scientst would be more than happy to study their subject in relative obscurity. I don’t know of too many scientists who want to be on Oprah! and I know of even fewer who crave the Jerry Springer like atmosphere of the climate debates as they currently stand. Have you ever even talked to scientists one on one?

  21. 21
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    190 Nick Gotts,
    There is a difference between explicit lying and not saying the full truth (and sometimes not even knowing that one doesn´t know the full truth). Besides that, I expect that scientists, on average, will be humble enough to not be resented by (any) truth and open enough to consider possible truth without emotional bias being trump. One might linger in cognitive dissonanse for some time, but that is part of the scientific process. As I read you, you tend to argue that any claim that may treaten the emotional well-being or self-image of a scientist must be expelled without second thought and irrespective of this claim being likely true or false.

    “maybe that’s why the natural sciences have been so much more successful!”

    To believe that normativity is the main hindrance for progress in the social sciences is VERY naïve.

    “Andreas, there is nothing wrong with scientists having and being open about their values; what they must avoid doing, to the best of their ability, is to prevent those values influencing their findings. “

    I agree on that.

    “You, explicitly, consider that the attempt to be as objective as possible should be abandoned. That would be utterly disastrous.”

    Yes, I do, but not in the way you think I do. I believe that science MUST deal with facts and values. We don’t even have a choice since values are part of science. Scientists will not be more objective just because they try hard to hide their subjectivity, for themselves and others. Deception doesn´t amplify objectivity. The question we need to address is: HOW do we deal with facts and values? Aim: In ways that prevent values to influence findings. Methods for this: Not much progress, yet, since there is still far too much value denialism in science. And the areas that doesn´t deny values in science (e.g. gender research) tend to deal with values in ways that is problematic. Other areas such as philosophy tend to deal with values in a formalistic way that is not very useful for the scientific practise(s).

  22. 22
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 192 Andreas Bjurström says: 18 March 2010 at 11:22 AM
    > 178 Hank Roberts, You demonstrate the main sceptical attitude:

    I’m sorry, but you’ve replied to a wrong number.
    Please hang up and try again.

  23. 23
    Gilles says:

    Nick : “If we manage to prevent that likely outcome, and build a civilisation based on sustainable resource use, then the undoubted boost that the availability of fossil fuels gave to scientific and technological development will mean most of us (including me) would judge it a good thing.

    CFU : Gilles – Do you understand the concept of sustainability?

    There is some bizarre misunderstanding between us. I have no problem to accept the idea that agricultural civilization are robust and sustainable. Probably much more robust that ours, despite our hubris and self confidence. Simply, I think it impossible to sustain everything that made our life so different from that of our grand-grand-parents without fossil fuels.

    Now if you don’t mind to go back to their life, I don’t think there is any problem AT ALL. I advise you to do a very, very simple thing. Just calculate the amount of money you need to live in a solid, but small flat. One room is enough, actually many people live being several in a single room. That’s not deathly. Then what do you need for not starving for death? well, I would say 100 $/month is already not bad. Find a small job to pay that – no need to have a high salary of course. Then give up all the rest. No car of course, no computer, no TV, no fridge (you can walk to the next store every one or two days can’t you?), no vacation abroad (walking through a park and listening birds is really nice, do you know ! )

    I think your life will be still much more comfortable than the average peasant in any glorious empire you mentioned : at least you’re protected from starvation, epidemies, wars, and children mortality. Actually I think they wouldn’t have dreamt of such a comfort. If it is enough for you – fine. The planet is saved, hurrah ! enough with speeches, we need real action, don’t we ?

  24. 24
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    187 Reasonable Observer,
    I very much agree with that.

    Gavin
    I agree that the definition of concepts are crucial here. However, I don´t think that scientists should not use technical terms or not speak openly on some things because parts of the public may abuse this or miss subtle things. I think that you politicize science when you think like that, or?

    [Response: So by pointing out that science and policy are separate things, I am politicizing science? Listen to yourself - this is through the looking glass stuff. - gavin]

    At the same time, I agree that a strategy for communication with the public is needed.

    To be consistent, I think you need to agree with me, since realclimate want to be open and educate the public on all physical aspects of climate.
    So why not also try to educate the public with a more realistic view of what science can achieve and how science actually behave within scientific and the policy context. [edit]

    [Response: Where have we ever done anything else? Point me to any statement in a posting on this site where we have claimed that science has all the answers, or that the science compels a specific policy, or that scientists are flawless automata. By continually raising strawman arguments about scientific caricatures, try actually engaging with one - without assuming a priori that they are dishonest or hopelessly naive. - gavin]

  25. 25
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    200 Ray Ladbury,
    Well, that is not what Bert Bolin, the first chief of the IPCC, told me when I talked to him a few years ago. That is neither what Bert Bolin writes in his book about the IPCC. Stephen Schneider, also a early advocate for climate policy, also tells a somewhat different story than you do (about himself and about the IPCC). Schneider doesn´t like conservative science and he wasn´t very found of the IPCC, from what I read. And yes, Schneider kind of like to be on Oprah ;-P
    Actually, many of the climate scientists that influence policy have a bit of Oprah in them. Where I live, we have a scientists that are extremely influential on swedish climate policy, and he also seems to enjoy being in the media, also talking on personal issues, e.g. stories where he tells he was a good football player when he was young. There is probably mechanisms of selection for the type of scientits that linger in the policy context and who stay inside the laboratory.

    I don´t contest that science is conservative (that is why revolutionary progress is so hard. Often the elderly scientists have to die before consensus change with the new generation scientists, as Thomas Kuhn argue in his classic book). However, Bolin was clear that HE deliberately used a conservative approach in the IPCC to establish climate change as a policy issue. Thus, to be conservative in the IPCC context is SCIENTIFIC and POLITICAL at the same time. Ouch, that is a lot of conservatism, I think I need a beer or two ;-)

  26. 26

    re. 170 Andreas Bjurström says:

    “”"”165 Kevin McKinney,
    The problem for me is not (1) whether IPCC is good or bad at doing what they do, but (2) whether they are honest or dishonest about what they are doing. That is two very different things.”"”"”

    Yawn, your comments are very irresponsible and ignorant.

    The IPCC only reported on the mainstream scientific consensus history that had long since been established before the IPCC ever started writing. Your ignorance is appalling.

    1979- US National Academy of Sciences (the final word for a US national science body) stated a consensus that we are warming in 1979.-

    “A plethora of studies from diverse sources indicates a consensus that climate changes will result from mans’ combustion of fossil fuels and changes in land use.” 1979-National Academy of Sciences Archives, “An evaluation of the Evidence for CO2-induced Climate change, Assembly of Mathematical and Physical Sciences, Climate Research Board, Study Group on Carbon Dioxide, 1979, Film label: CO2 and Climate Change: Ad Hoc: General.

    There was a consensus that GW (human-caused global warming) would occur, however the question at that time was when GW would show itself. Best estimates were 2040-2050, etc.

    GW has unfolded much faster than scientists thought. Scientists have been conservative in reality.

    GW Surprised scientists because in only a few years after 1979 US National Academy of Sciences GW concensus report, the signs of GW had become detectable.

    1995, This signal was summarized by the IPCC, Consensus of people actually working and studying on climate, “The balance of evidence suggests a discernible human impact on global climate.” Houghton et al., eds., Climate Change 1995, 5. Its not hysterical, not catastrophic, ..human fingerprint had become scientifically detectible. This was a scientific consensus.

    1995 Scientists had found evidence of global warming and they had predicted it. Why had they predicted it…because basic physics showed carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, if you increase CO2, you expect climate to change. And that’s what happened.

    IPCC conclusion based on both observed empirical evidence of effect, and well-established theoretical framework linking the observed cause and effect. We expect this to happen…and its happening.

    Oreskes 2004 study showed that scientists had a consensus that warming would happen since late 1970s.
    Scientists had a consensus it had become detectible since early-mid 1990s Oreskes 2004 Science.

  27. 27
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    Gavin,
    To suggest that one should not say that science and policy are interrelated, which they are to some extent, because the public may misunderstand what that imply, and because that in turn may decrease the scientific authority and influence on policy for the scientific community that you belong to, because of these considerations, I think that you tend to politicize science? (I might be wrong, but that is how I read you).

    [Response: Again with the strawman. Science and policy can be considered separately, but they are also related since the science impacts issues that policymakers and the public care about. The fact of the latter, does not imply the impossibility of the former. And completely in contrast to your claim, this can depoliticize science. Radiative transfer can be (and mostly is) discussed by scientists and interested lay public without having to always refer to the Kyoto protocol. It exists and is interesting independent of political context. - gavin]

    Response 2: That is a fair request. I will try to come back some time in the future, and also try not to repeat my rather theoretical models.

  28. 28
    flxible says:

    Gilles@206
    “Simply, I think it impossible to sustain everything that made our life so different from that of our grand-grand-parents without fossil fuels.”
    I agree with the premise, the conclusion is where you’re confused. To me it indicates we should keep that thought in close conjunction with your acknowledgement that the supply of said fossil fuels is limited, and plan now for sustaining that future.

    “Just calculate the amount of money you need to live in a solid, but small flat.”
    Or, indeed, maybe even a small but mobile retirement home, built to last, possibly using leading edge science like this or like this, with solar power, and home made bio-fuel for any required “migration”. All the “amenities” don’t have to be abandoned, they’re all currently available solar powered, and in our wasteful consumer society are frequently to be found inexpensively, sometimes nearly free. :)

    “(…) enough with speeches, we need real action, don’t we?”
    Yes, and some of us started acting years past, so are likely to be in a much better position than those who haven’t yet accepted the need for action. Which group do you belong to?

  29. 29

    #206 Gilles

    What’s that smell? Hmmmm, more red herring. Someone should open a restaurant.

    Gilles, what precisely are you arguing for? Just saying our modern civilization can’t survive without fossil fuels? That is first a misconception of potential of the ingenuity of mankind, and second a political bandwagon phrase arguing that we must burn fossil fuels or we all, whatever…

    It’s really a simple qualitative argument. If we continue to burn fossil fuels because they are the cheapest we will pay for it by degrading total economic capacity of the earth system. Maybe you need to actually learn economics first, then jump back into the discussion.

    BTW, what do you mean by real action? Please do feel free to be concise and on point.


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  30. 30

    Well, Hank, I’ve exhausted everything I have to say to Gilles (or Jean.)

    No value judgements, thinks we’re going to do our best to transition to renewables anyway, utterly immovable on the inutility of trying to do so, as he is on the probability of climate change causing problems.

    Seems to render everything pretty much pointless to discuss, as far as I can tell.

    Although I’ll admit, I’d sure welcome it if CO2 emissions were to decline beginning in 2020. I’d gladly say “I told you so”–though 2010 would be better still. . .

  31. 31
    Gilles says:

    flxible 215 : “I agree with the premise, the conclusion is where you’re confused. To me it indicates we should keep that thought in close conjunction with your acknowledgement that the supply of said fossil fuels is limited, and plan now for sustaining that future.”

    Actually there is no doubt of me that the future is perfectly sustainable without fossil fuels – mankind has lived hundreds of thousands of years without them. What you’re saying is that we should try to keep our standard of living without them. Maybe, or maybe not. Why actually ? You’re true only if you postulate that the western standard of living is an absolute necessity – which contradicts the position that the other civilizations are equivalent. In some sense, that is a subjective judgement, so I let you at your own opinion. The only thing I’m saying is that it’s probably impossible to keep it without fossil fuels.

    “Gilles, what precisely are you arguing for? Just saying our modern civilization can’t survive without fossil fuels? That is first a misconception of potential of the ingenuity of mankind,”
    Well, I could say the same for the argument that our modern civilization can’t survive to some degrees more in average temperature. Isn’t it a misconception of potential of the ingenuity of mankind, too? I can’t find a simple explanation why it should work in one case and not in the other.

    JP Reisman 217 “If we continue to burn fossil fuels because they are the cheapest we will pay for it by degrading total economic capacity of the earth system. Maybe you need to actually learn economics first, then jump back into the discussion.”

    Oh gosh. “degrading total economy capacity of the earth system” ! I wonder what is the “economy capacity of the earth system”? is it defined in the economics textbooks? so do you mean that, when mankind wasn’t burning fossil fuels, the “economy capacity of the earth system” was much larger ? because it seems to me that the economic capacity of mankind was much LOWER- and is still much lower at places where they don’t burn much fossil fuels (they can’t “continue”, since they have hardly begun at all). And also that economy seems to grow where they are burning MORE fossil fuels (in China for instance) .

    But I agree, I’m not an economist. I must learn these strange concepts first, that “economy capacity of the earth system” is much better defined and much more significant that the mere “economy”.

  32. 32

    Gilles #167

    Kevin, have you ever looked at a correlation curve between any indicator of development you wish, and CO2 production? have you EVER looked ?

    Here’s an even better one: the correlation between the roll-out of fixed-line telephones and development. But with today’s technology, you wouldn’t do it that way. It’s vastly more expensive to festoon a country with copper wires than to use cell technology (or satellite in remote areas).

    Just because something was done in a particular way in the past doesn’t make it the only way, or even the optimal way in today’s world. China and possibly India have the option to get part of the way to industrialising on fossil fuels. Add in Africa as well and we start to see very rapid depletion of known reserves. Also factor in that much of the less developed world does not have nationwide power grids and road networks, and a very different development trajectory just could be possible.

    If there is not other way, industrial society is soon going to be on a downward curve, so there is a massive incentive for humanity collectively to work on this problem; purveyors of fossil fuels don’t want us to do so expeditiously because they make more profit this way.

    Gilles, did you read David McKay’s book as I proposed a couple of pages back? If not, look at that comment and read the book (it’s a free PDF online if you’re too cheap to buy it).

  33. 33
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas, Don’t you think it should bother you that your picture of science is utterly unrecognizable to anyone who actually does science? You seem to be unable to understand that science is inherently a collective activity. Yes, individual scientists may be advocates or pigheaded or simply wrong. That is why consensus is crucial in science.

    One absolutely crucial piece of information you seem to be missing in your understanding is the system of reinforcements in science (positive and negative). Science rewards individual scientists for (anong other things)
    1)being productive
    2)being honest
    3)subverting personal agendas and prejudices for the good of the field
    4)being creative and challenging long-held views

    It punishes individual scientists for
    1)not producing
    2)playing fast and loose with the truth
    3)having an agenda
    4)conformism
    5)etc.

    So it is not that individual scientists don’t have values or agendas or preferences. Rather it is that progress in the field requires them to put those aside to a greater or lesser extent. Really, Andreas, until you understand what motivates scientists, you are destined to spout bullshit.

  34. 34
    Hank Roberts says:

    Andreas, from the past year’s best science writing online,
    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/?p=886

    this excerpt:
    ___________________________

    Science doesn’t work despite scientists being asses. Science works, to at least some extent, because scientists are asses. Bickering and backstabbing are essential elements of the process. Haven’t any of these guys ever heard of “peer review”?

    There’s this myth in wide circulation: rational, emotionless Vulcans in white coats, plumbing the secrets of the universe, their Scientific Methods unsullied by bias or emotionalism. Most people know it’s a myth, of course; they subscribe to a more nuanced view in which scientists are as petty and vain and human as anyone (and as egotistical as any therapist or financier), people who use scientific methodology to tamp down their human imperfections and manage some approximation of objectivity.

    But that’s a myth too. The fact is, we are all humans; and humans come with dogma as standard equipment. We can no more shake off our biases than Liz Cheney could pay a compliment to Barack Obama. The best we can do— the best science can do— is make sure that at least, we get to choose among competing biases.

    That’s how science works. It’s not a hippie love-in; it’s rugby. Every time you put out a paper, the guy you pissed off at last year’s Houston conference is gonna be laying in wait. Every time you think you’ve made a breakthrough, that asshole supervisor who told you you needed more data will be standing ready to shoot it down. You want to know how the Human Genome Project finished so far ahead of schedule? Because it was the Human Genome projects, two competing teams locked in bitter rivalry, one led by J. Craig Venter, one by Francis Collins — and from what I hear, those guys did not like each other at all.

    This is how it works: you put your model out there in the coliseum, and a bunch of guys in white coats kick the shit out of it. If it’s still alive when the dust clears, your brainchild receives conditional acceptance. It does not get rejected. This time.

    Yes, there are mafias. There are those spared the kicking because they have connections. There are established cliques who decide what appears in Science, who gets to give a spoken presentation and who gets kicked down to the poster sessions with the kiddies. I know a couple of people who will probably never get credit for the work they’ve done, for the insights they’ve produced. But the insights themselves prevail. Even if the establishment shoots the messenger, so long as the message is valid it will work its way into the heart of the enemy’s camp. First it will be ridiculed. Then it will be accepted as true, but irrelevant. Finally, it will be embraced as canon, and what’s more everyone will know that it was always so embraced, and it was Our Glorious Leader who had the idea. The credit may not go to those who deserve it; but the field will have moved forward.

    Science is so powerful that it drags us kicking and screaming towards the truth despite our best efforts to avoid it. And it does that at least partly fueled by our pettiness and our rivalries. Science is alchemy: it turns shit into gold. Keep that in mind the next time some blogger decries the ill manners of a bunch of climate scientists under continual siege by forces with vastly deeper pockets and much louder megaphones.

    ———————

  35. 35

    #223 Gilles

    You talk a lot about economy but it is clear you do not understand what economy or economic capacity means.

    Point of fact: before the industrial age the global economy and economic capacity of the earth was much larger and in fact healthier in the context of capacity and sustainability. Unwise usage and practice has eroded the economy.

    As I mentioned, you do not understand what economic capacity means in the relevant context, which is why your posts are largely inconsiderate of the reality.

    To learn, start here:

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/economy

    2a, 3a and 3b are the relevant definitions.

    When considering the economy of the earth system one must consider the relationships of the inter-dynamic systems and materials resources in relation to those inter-dynamic systems.

    You make the common mistake of thinking economy is merely monetary in nature. Economy includes the relationships and capacity between systems. A good example of the difference between a healthy economy and an unhealthy one would be the overuse of a system to favor one system over another without consideration of the overarching affect through time in relation to system needs over time, such as the Hoover dam, which according to the department of agriculture will be shutting down around 2023 due to the down trend of the water levels in the feed lake, possibly or most likely due to global warming trends and usage combined, and of course the Ogallala aquifer which is estimated to be dry by around 2020.

    Think of what happens to the monetary economies connected to these manmade and natural economies when these systems shut down due to inconsideration of those economic realities.

    Think about the oceans as an economy and the fact that around 90% of the big fish have been fished out and that the ocean is acidifying due to CO2 absorption.

    These are economies that were healthier before the fossil fuel boom. Now put in context of human needs, potentials, time and capacity. Do you see a bright economic future with continued burning of fossil fuels? If so, you still don’t understand what a healthy economy is.


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  36. 36
    Patrick 027 says:

    So as to not annoy the hosts or Hank Roberts any farther, this is my last comment here on this O.T. (unless I find a mistake in this in hindsight).

    Re 155 – Gilles

    As measured in a ‘complete’ way, yes, I expect the most meaningful measure of wealth** to increase as a result of forcing a price signal into the market to reflect the externalities of polluting activity (and also for other policies that work around market inefficiencies, such as efficiency in building codes, etc.).

    (** GDP or GNP – I don’t know exactly what the distinction is, but either is a measure of economic productivity per unit time. However, what about the wealth loss rate? Value gets ‘used up’. Wealth accumulates if wealth production exceeds wealth decay. If more of the GDP comes from durable goods production, then there will be some accumulation of wealth. On the other hand, the total value of something reflects the potential to provide benifit over time, so owning a $100,000 house doesn’t mean you get $100,000 of benifit from it every year, but that you could expect to get $100,000 benifit over it’s life span – actually, $100,000 plus whatever money must be invested to keep up the house. And of course, this refers to what the house is worth TO THE OWNER, which should be more than what it was bought with, the difference being the profit to the buyer. Adjusting for inflation, of course. Of course, part of the value of owning a house is (recent years being the exception) that the value of the house may increase in time, but that is part of the value of the house to the owner/buyer, etc. … So anyway, maybe GDP is a better measure of economic benifit per unit time than total wealth (except wherein their is wealth destruction in addition to wealth consumption, although having enough in case of destruction is part of the value of having a bit more than what you’d need if everything were perfect…). But let’s fold ecosystem services and aesthetics and etc. and all the things we don’t have to pay for in money but could be affected by economic activity into the mix to really get a handle on what’s at stake.)

    In the long term, conventional economic measures may do the same. But in the short term, GDP could decrease in response to climate policy such as emissions taxes or cap-and-trade/dividend, etc. This makes sense, given that the full externality is realized over a long time period, and that from a standpoint that is blind to the externality, a market economy should tend to perform less well in response to such policies, at least in the shortest term (though there may be caveats). I am refering to the global total, by the way; I’m not saying it couldn’t increase in some places and decrease in others depending on variations in national policies.

    (PS it needn’t be taken as given that individual countries must go it alone on this issue. In the absence of actual global policies, or even with them, I would support trade tariffs and maybe subsidies proportional to differing national policies. This wouldn’t just be for different total efforts, they would also be for different structures. For example, if one nation taxed fuel at the mine/well, and another taxed sales of fuel to power plants or distributors, then trade of fuel between the nations would goof up the mechanisms withou some corrective tariff/subsidy. Note that a nation which is more reliant on emissions-intensive activities would suffer more, but trade partners who benifit from those activities would share in that burden as costs are passed along (in general, it is only necessary to tax an emitting pathway at one point along the flow; added price is distributed over sales and decreased profits are distributed back up the chain, driving both investors and consumers toward alternatives.))

    —-

    “The volume of production is not constant : it has continuously increased despite an almost constant price – because first of demographic growth and second the continuous rise in various applications, including electricity. You forget that world has only 15% of people with reasonable (for western people) standard of living, and 85 % of eager people knocking at the door. is what you propose locking the door ? it seems contradictory with your last sentence ! ”

    Certainly I have not forgotten. I was comparing effects for a given time (how does a publically-imposed change in demand or supply affect economic conditions at the time it is implemented, or in the short term as measured relative to the trajectory in the absence of such a policy), and for trajectories over time (economy with no climate policy vs economy with climate policy, compared for the same time periods).

    —-

    “For fossil fuels, this MUST be wrong at some time since the production cannot grow indefinitely. So there is a point where the increase of prices simply reduces the demand (like the tax you prefer is supposed to do ! why should a tax reduce the demand, and not the natural increase in prices ??? ) , and there is then no more investment, nor alternatives, since the demand has simply been destructed. That just happened last year.”

    Well I never implied that scarcity of fossil fuels would not eventually bring down consumption. However, there is an externality; given an externality with public net cost, scarcity alone will not bring consumption down along an optimum trajectory; it would be better than otherwise for consumption to go down faster.

    PS noting how realistic markets perform, and some other issues, it might be argued that the full imposed price signal for fossil fuels should be larger than that justified by CO2 (and some CH4 associated with fossil fuels) alone. It might be benificial to force the market into realizing some higher scarcity sooner, so as to have a smoother transition.

    Oh, and a quick note (so as to not annoy the hosts more than necessary), yes, peak oil seems near, gas – I don’t know, but there is coal, and more coal, and more coal, and oil shales and tar sands. Coal is dirty at both ends (moutaintop removal mining especially), but dirt cheap as far as markets are concerned. What if coal is gassified? Oil shales and tar sands are probably more expensive sources (and dirty at both ends from what I’ve heard), considering conventional oil resources are considered conventional for a reason, yet they are being pursued. Eventually the pace of innovation and depletion of the lowest fruit of fossil fuels may cause a switch and keep a lot of carbon in the crust (assuming civilization is able and willing to support vibrant economies through that point), but given the logic of externalities, however fast this happens without appropriate climate and pollution policy, it ought to happen faster than that.

    —-

    “You said it. So, again, can you say when the marginal cost of externality exceeds the marginal benefit of burning 1 more t of C ?”

    No, you’ll have to go to others for likely numbers. (Maybe IPCC AR4 WGII and wGIII)
    Of course, if the tax is accurate and the market works well, the market will limit emissions at that point.

    —–

    (are you Patrick C. in my neighborhood ? :) )

    Nobody knows me as Patrick C, and I don’t know anybody outide of here as Gilles.

    “Which “thresholds”? I don’t catch your point.”

    - The idea that a quantity has to exceed some amount before it matters to another quantity. It’s a bit like saying that reducing your sugar and saturated fat intake by 1/4 will be of no good to your health (assume for the sake of the argument you’re an average person in a modern affluent society) but reducing them by 1/2 will. Of course there may be nonlinearities, but the idea that small reductions simply don’t count seems odd, in this case and for climate change (but I will agree that small actions by small groups are not so great because the benifits are distributed, which is why of course it is important to have policy agreements for at least large industrialized countries and, depending on how fast innovation is relative to growth, eventually the world).

    (An aside:
    Of course, such thresholds do exist in the climate system (and other things), such as in the orbital forcing required to green the Sahara or perhaps end an ice age (or start one) (though in that case I’m not sure the threshold is quite as stark as ‘not mattering at all until it matters’), but with regards to AGW, if we only have probalistic knowledge of where any such threshold exists (if there are any such large and sharp thresholds), than the expectation value is a smoother function of our actions.)

    In other words, even if emissions continue to grow for awhile and take time to decay to zero, it may still be better than having emissions grow faster for a longer time period with a greater cummulative effect.

    ———————–
    Gilles (167)

    “what is wrong is computing an “amount” without questioning the form (liquid fuel is not like electricity), the availability , and the costs. “Amount” doesn’t mean anything. The amount of methane in Titan is huge, but it is totally useless.”

    Yes, of course, but:

    As to forms of energy: many people, including myself, are not arguing that we must replace all energy consumption with one particular type of power. Although we needn’t continue to use energy with the same proportion of electricity and heat as we presently do.

    (Hybrid PV solar systems can produce electricity and heat, perhaps boosting the electricity production by cooling the PV devices, while heating water at the same time. Of course, CSP could do the same thing, or provide heat directly for industrial processes. Heat (as in CSP) can be stored on the timescale of a day, and fuel (solar produced H2, biofuel, or something else) or, in some cases, geothermal could be available to supplement CSP or solar heating (industrial or residential) during the winter or cloudy weather. Hydroelectric power as well as the grid (think of varying weather conditions over space) (HVDC lines) (rooftop solar electricity and heat and passive solar and more efficient HVAC systems can reduce might reduce average use of the grid, so that the same grid might handle larger deviations from average power transmission) can help in matching supply to load over short time periods, and weather patterns may involve some correlation between hydroelectric power and wind power and lack of solar power, while solar power might be more available during droughts when there is greater need for water desalination and pumping. When total renewable energy goes above all other available uses and storage capacity (CAES, pumped water, aluminum?, geothermal storage?), the surplus might be directed towards carbon sequestration (including carbonate mineral production) (effective sequestration should be payed at the same rate as the emissions tax). Some energy intensive activities might be made flexible to adapt to changing weather patterns (aluminum, other materials?, water).

    (If we continue to get methane gas fed to buildings through pipelines, we might use that fuel in fuel cells or thermophotovoltaic furnaces to produce electricity and heat; could natural gas pipelines handle hydrogen, or could we feed biofuel-produced CH4 or ___ into them?)

    As to practicality and economics: Of course we can’t hope to use any large fraction of solar energy reaching the surface (directly), nor should we (in a direct way), nor need we. But technology has come, it is advancing, the economics are getting better. Material scarcity is an issue for some types of solar and other renewable power or energy conversion devices, but there are alternatives even within these categories.

    I don’t know how much of global electricity in 2050 or 2100 could be supplied by CdTe or CIGS devices, but certainly it could be quite a bit more than now, and there’s still room for improvement with c-Si, and there are other promising materials (it’s unfortunate investments in zinc phosphide and copper-tin-zinc-sulfide (?) have lagged behind – so far as I know, that may be simply a consequence of investment and attention flocking towards already somewhat-known materials, as opposed to any actual lack of promise in these less familiar but abundant (relative to the amounts that would be used) materials), and there is CSP, … etc.

    There may be issues with Li for batteries and some rare-earth metals (they are actually not all that rare, but they tend not to be found in concentrated form) in other things, but these are not make-or-break issues for the larger categories (there are alternatives within the broader alternatives to fossil fuels).
    Some have suggested that energy input into production and operation, etc, of renewable energy is a problem. It could be if the wrong choices are made, but from what I’ve read, it’s not such a big problem in general (for ethanol from corn, yes, it is a problem, at least the way it’s done now). Consider how much energy is used by the energy industry now, petroleum in particular (I am not refering to the fuel input that corresponds to fuel equivalent energy output, that is the energy they supply, but I am refering to the use energy in extracting and processing fuel, in producing and maintaining power plants, etc. Water use is not such a big issue for solar power (it tends to be an issue for nuclear and fossil fuel power plants). It also should be kept in mind that materials in devices could be recycled, so in the long term, extra expenditure of money, energy, etc, to mine the lower grade resources could pay back a lot in money, energy, etc. Also, don’t think that the warranties for photovoltaic devices reflects the expected lifetime. Good PV cells could work for 60 years or more (it’s interesting to consider their effective energy density as a fuel substitute). A lot of this is long term investment.

    And for centralized solar and biofuels, there are some land-use issues (though not huge for solar, and they needn’t be huge for biofuels, especially if biofuels came more from certain plants or from crop residues or used napkins and coffee grounds and peanut shells and algae, etc.). There are also land use issues with coal and nuclear, though. But solar needn’t destroy large or rare ecosystems, and I suggest it might be used in such a way as to boost productivity on neighboring agricultural land. (Solar collectors cast the longest shadows (in daily average effect) in winter, so they might be used within agricultural land and the spaces between them might still be quite productive, especially if the solar power concentrates the precipitation into those spaces.) The amount of land necessary can be reduced with increasing power conversion efficiency and with decreasing device cost (which makes it less costly to allow more shading at more hours and more months of the year – for example, newer more efficient devices might be placed in taller collectors in between the older less efficient devices within established power plants). (If the series connections within panels are horizontal than partial shading needn’t shut down larger parts of the panels.)

    —-

    Re 223 –
    “Well, I could say the same for the argument that our modern civilization can’t survive to some degrees more in average temperature. Isn’t it a misconception of potential of the ingenuity of mankind, too?”

    Could be a priori, but remember we also would need to help ecosystems adapt in order to keep them up to what we want for them and from them or else replace them. If there is some cost to change in general, it makes sense that there would be a cost to switching away from fossil fuels, but also a cost to adapting to climate change. The cost of adapting to climate change should be reflected in the externality tax. Then ‘the market’ would (tend to, ideally) decide what’s best (to some approximation).

    Incidentally, because of the inequities of consequences as well as responsibility, I think it would be best to make some effort to compensate for above-average climate change damages. Lest we sow more of the seeds of future genocidal campaigns and perhaps epidemics?

    Assuming a convex production possibilities curve, some mix of mitigation and adaption will be optimal. Research needs to be done to quantify that. See WGII and WGIII of IPCC AR4, for example.

    ——–
    Re many people:

    The origin of life required anoxic conditions somewhere (so far as I know) and could have benifited from cyanide and hydrogen sulfide (and maybe atmospheric shock waves?). Human evolution (in the specific form we’ve seen it; this is not a general comment about intelligent life) in some way was contingent on an asteroid impact. The Earth itself was born in harsh conditions.

    If Fossil Fuels were a necessary step, that step might be like crawling. We’re ready to walk now.

    Good point, 224 Philip Machanick

    The second batch of cookies can turn out better if we learn from the mistakes with the first batch. In one way, developing countries have an advantage in that they can start building infrastructure most compatable with clean energy sources. It is in the interest of developed countries to encourage other countries to take full advantage of that opportunity.

    ———–

    Re 186 Jean B. -

    “I think Norway, Australia, Israel, Japan, Sweden, Texas are good example of no correlation between any of these parameters and any climate parameter.”

    Okay, now move everthing in Sweden and Japan into Texas, Israel, and Australia, and see what happens. And how many of these countries (and Texas) have important trade relations with cropland regions like the central U.S.?

    Re Nick Gotts 195, good point.

  37. 37
    Edward Greisch says:

    Gilles red herring: Fossil fuels were necessary to START the Industrial Revolution and DO the research that lead to: NON-FOSSIL sources of energy that could not have been discovered without fossil fuel energy.
    BUT NOW THAT NON-FOSSIL FUEL ENERGY SOURCES HAVE BEEN DISCOVERED, WE CAN DROP THE FOSSIL FUELS.
    So drop the red herring.

  38. 38
    Gilles says:

    Ray :”Andreas, Don’t you think it should bother you that your picture of science is utterly unrecognizable to anyone who actually does science? You seem to be unable to understand that science is inherently a collective activity. Yes, individual scientists may be advocates or pigheaded or simply wrong. That is why consensus is crucial in science.”

    I think that what you say is utterly unrecognizable for a scientist. In their all day work, there is no consensus at all, for the simple reason that the research deals with topics where no consensus exists – or it isn’t research anymore. Of course some consensus emerges at the end, but AFTER research is settled. If you wan’t to exist as a researcher, you have to bring new ideas and hence try continuously to break the consensus. Think of this simple question : who were the greatest scientists in the history of mankind and what did they do ?

    It is not the least paradox of IPCC that it is (was?) in charge to express a consensus by exploring the scientific literature. Actually policymakers need consensus – but not scientists. That may be the reason why some researcher admitted privately (and very honestly) that he ” tried hard to balance the needs of the science and the IPCC , which were not always the same.” Consensus can not be declared by a intergovernmental panel. It exists as a fact, when no serious scientist questions the basis of knowledge (which don’t seem to be the case in climate science, as far as I can judge), or it doesn’t exist.

  39. 39
    Gilles says:

    Ray actually i reacted to the first part of your post, but I agree on the second part, which obviously contradicts the first one :
    ” Science rewards individual scientists for (anong other things)…

    4)being creative and challenging long-held views

    It punishes individual scientists for
    ….
    4)conformism

  40. 40
    Jim Eaton says:

    Having watched this discussion for some weeks, it appears that Gilles, Jean B, and Andreas Bjurström are dishing up the same old contrarian arguments that have been debunked time and time before.

    If they truly were skeptics who wanted to learn, they would pay attention to the wealth of information offered on this site, and the patience of those who reply to their comments with detailed documented replies.

    But no, they have no interest in really learning the science behind climate change, they are simply here to waste our time.

    I do truly appreciate the patience of those who take the time to try to educate these folks, assuming that they really want to learn, but is surely must be clear by now that these three are stuck in the mode of “my mind is made up — don’t confuse me with facts!”

    It makes me sad that “…the U.S. is 33rd out of 34 developed countries in the percentage of adults who agree that species, including humans, evolved.”

    Does our species deserve to survive? Considering that we are but one of millions of species that may face extinction due to our actions, it is a good question to ponder.

  41. 41
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    216 Richard Ordway,
    “For 11 years I was with arguably the best climate scientists in the world at a US national center for climate research … If you so much as opened your mouth to the press, you were quivering in your shoes for fear of the career implications (and getting harassed) and you often got called in by a (non scientific) supervisor afterwards.”

    Can someone confirm that this is true? Is this the culture of the best climate scientists in the world?

    I very much hope not. The North Korea of science are controlling the climate agenda. A very scary thought. But that can´t be true, can it? That if far beyond my fantasy (and far beyond, far worse, much more ugly, than all my claims here, that some find to be offensive).

  42. 42

    Gilles (167): Kevin, have you ever looked at a correlation curve between any indicator of development you wish, and CO2 production?

    BPL: Gilles, have you ever looked at a correlation curve between any indicator of development you wish, and rapes? Number of jails? Deaths due to pollution emergencies?

  43. 43

    Gilles (172): Imagine a small group of humans living in the middle of nowhere from agriculture (which is obviously a way of converting solar energy for human applications, including cattle). They would also have theoretically 1.2 10^17 watts available. Actually this amount would be proportional to the cross section of the Earth, and for a theoretically flat and infinite Earth, it would be also infinite. But this wouldn’t change the slightest thing in their way of life. So your parameter is simply irrelevant.

    BPL: It’s HIGHLY relevant for a civilization with well-developed industries manufacturing, setting up, and using photovoltaic power cells, concentrating solar power plants, and wind turbines. A small group of humans living in the middle of nowhere from agriculture is what we’ll wind up with if too many people listen to you.

  44. 44

    Gilles (223): The only thing I’m saying is that it’s probably impossible to keep it without fossil fuels.

    BPL: And we’ve explained at length why you’re wrong, and you keep saying it, and you always will–because, by your own words, you work for an oil company! Your superiors are reading this blog. If you openly changed your mind, or even admitted doubt, you know very well they’d fire your butt. You’re here to disrupt and delay, not to either learn or teach.

    Everybody, can we put this troll on Ignore? His pal Jean B., too, who is either a sock puppet or a colleague of Gilles. I know I’ve been as guilty as anybody in answering these disinformation experts, but we’ve got to stop giving them a platform.

  45. 45
    CM says:

    Gilles #223

    argues that if human ingenuity will allow modern civilization to survive without fossil fuels, by the same token it should be able to handle a few degrees’ global mean temperature rise.

    The topic of this post, the sensitivity of the Amazon to climate change, illustrates one flaw in that argument. Rapid cuts in fossil fuel use only affect the functioning of modern human societies, they leave nature undisturbed. Rapid warming, beyond the temperature range known to human civilization, threatens vast and hard-to-predict changes in the natural world, disrupting the provision of resources and ecosystem services on which civilization ultimately depends.

    Replacing fossil fuels as an energy source for the technological underpinnings of modern civilization is not a trivial task. But at least we know something about building renewable energy technologies. Substituting brainpower for the genetic resources and ecosystem services of, say, the Amazonian rain forest, goes way beyond non-trivial to the realm of science fiction.

  46. 46
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Gilles also doesn’t know his history of the petrol engine.

    The Diesel Engine was invented first and was intended to use biofuel oils. Petrol was refined before the Diesel engine got off the ground commercially speaking and then when it saw a resurgence, it was recrafted to use diesel from fossil fuel sources.

    Now they’re having to retool it back to its original purpose: using waste buifuel oils.

  47. 47
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    242 Jim Eaton,
    Interesting that you frame scientific discussion on climate related issues as mere a proxy for political debate. Or how should I interpret “contrarian arguments”? The bad guys from the wrong political camp I suppose? If so, you are just being prejudiced. I´m not a sceptics at all.

    [Response: Separate two things in your mind. The quality of an argument - which can be assessed based on logic and the literature, and the use of such arguments by various people. It is unfortunately true that many bad arguments (by which I would define as one that can be independently assessed as being logically and scientifically weak) are used by specific political groups. However, this isn't exclusive. The same bad arguments have been used by people as politically opposed as Alex Cockburn (on the radical left) and Senator Inhofe (not so much). Thus the 'badness' of an argument cannot be easily correlated to political opinion, and certainly the converse (that because an argument is used by someone with whom you disagree politically it must perforce be 'bad' ) cannot be supported. So, please, can you stop with the strawman arguments? You might enjoy arguing with imaginary caricatures of people, but it's not particularly interesting for the reader. - gavin]

    252 Barton Paul Levenson,
    Science is evolving all the time as well as splitting up in thousands of subfields. You should not with for a science that is not chaning. Moreover, if you read the discussion here, you will find lots and lots of
    judgmentalism attitudes from the natural science ….

  48. 48
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gilles says: “In their all day work, there is no consensus at all, for the simple reason that the research deals with topics where no consensus exists – or it isn’t research anymore. ”

    Whoa, now there’s a massive failure to comprehend. Let’s see:

    1)In particle physics we have The Standard Model. They use this model to design experiments, interpret results. They use this model even to suggest for what to look for in terms of departures from it.

    2)Geophysics: Ever hear of the Preliminary Reference Earth Model (PREM)? It revolutionized seismology.

    3)In my own field, there are agreed upon standard models for charge carrier behavior in semiconductors, radiation transport…

    And of course, we have consensus that particles exhibit both wave and particle-like behavior, standard analysis techniques, standards for evidence. Hell, when publishing, you even have standard fonts you must use! All of this is essential to your beloved research–and it’s all based on consensus. Yes, by definition there is no consensus on fields of active research, but consensus is essential for doing active research. In fact, learning all of this background is the reason why it takes so long to become a scientist.

    Let’s look at an example–the establishment of quantum mechanics in the period from the Bohr model to about 1930. Physicists were dealing with incomprehensible new behaviors, and yet they were able to establish order within 20 years. Why? In part because they had a common understanding of classical physics and a common belief that quantum behavior ought to converge to classical behavior as masses, energies and distance and timescales approached the classical sclaes.

    Consensus does not stifle creativity–it makes it possible. Take a look at oriental painting sometime

  49. 49
    David Miller says:

    Andreas asks in relation to Richard Ordways description of political pressure on climate scientists during Republican administrations:

    Can someone confirm that this is true? Is this the culture of the best climate scientists in the world?

    Andreas, that’s the way Hansen describes the political climate in his book “Storms of my grandchildren”. He goes into some detail on the lengths the political appointments went to to try and keep him quiet.

    He went public with both the information, and the fact he was being told to keep quiet, and did so by making it crystal clear that he was speaking on his own time and traveling on his own nickel as a member of the public.

    [Response: It is also worth stating that this was an aberration, and has stopped. The statement on scientific openness by the then-head of NASA, Michael Griffin, is the ideal that is (mostly) lived up to. - gavin]

  50. 50
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    257 Gavin,
    I usually appreciate your comments, since you are a clever and sharp researcher. Although I don´t see any evidence that you have reading much social science literature, you usually contribute with something valuable anywat. However, this last statement of yours is flawed, since it totally miss the point. I describe the position of Jim Eaton. He clearly frame scientific discussion on climate related issues as mere a proxy for political debate. In other words, he is strongly politizicing climate science. I think that this is problematic. In fact, I think the whole “culture” of this site is deeply problematic (yet I do appreciate your educational mission). I have rather good insight to why this is the case, and I also understand that the culture will not change. We are interested in different things, and the culture here will keep on being extremely ignorant on many things that I care about. many of these things will (are are all the time) refuted without any second thought, despite there being a huge literature that support most of these things with empirical studies. You cant blame me for faults I intentify in your culture.


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