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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. 101
    SecularAnimist says:

    ccpo wrote: “There is literally nothing yet known that is as freely available, cheap and fungible as oil is …”

    That is simply false. Sunlight is far more freely available, and is cheaper when all costs are internalized, and can be easily converted to electricity which is the most fungible form of energy there is. And there is vastly more energy available from sunlight than from all the world’s reserves of fossil fuels, and the supply is limitless and inexhaustible on time scales that are relevant to human civilization.

    As for the transition being “difficult” — well, it will be especially difficult for those who have grown immensely wealthy and powerful from extracting, processing, distributing and selling a limited (and rapidly dwindling) supply of expensive fuel, and who are looking at not only their products but their entire business model being rendered obsolete by an energy economy which is no longer based on fuel but on the widespread proliferation of powerful, inexpensive technologies for harvesting ubiquitous, abundant supplies of free energy.

    And the transition is being made more “difficult” by their deceit, denial, obstruction and delay.

  2. 102
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gilles@75, There is how well we know a quantity and how well we need to know it. If CO2 sensitivity is 4.5 degrees per doubling, we are in severe trouble. If it is 3 degrees per doubling, we’re in it deep, and if only 2 degrees, we’re only in serious trouble. In other words, we know enough to know that keeping on our current course is betting the future of our progeny on a 20:1 longshot.
    Gilles, I would love for the situation to be as cut and dried for some of the decisions I make in my day job as it is for climate.

    Here’s something that puzzles me Gilles. You are claiming that civilization will collapse without fossil fuels. I would think you would be advocating the strictest conservation measures so that we could find solutions–or at least prolong the plenty. But, no, it seems we can’t burn fossil fuels fast enough for you. Now why is that?

    I happen to agree with you that developing a sustainable energy infrastructure won’t be easy. I do think it is doable, and it’s doable with a lot less hardship and infringement of liberties if we have longer to do it. I just wonder why you aren’t agitating for strict conservation and a crash program to develop solutions. Hell, taxing fossil fuels would even curtail driving and thereby reduce some of those traffic fatalities you’re so worked up about. Ever think of that?

  3. 103

    #67 Gilles

    Right, TAR sands. As to prices easily dropping, I read an article from the Economist recently that showed oil price inflation (during a recession). The inference was that this may be a sign that we are near peak oil. Then, about a month ago, there was an article on increase pricing of extraction, which indicates to me that water pumping costs are going up to squeeze more oil out.

    My opinion of your posts in general is that you are building giant straw-men in the sky. It’s the old John Coleman argument by inference. We love the benefits of fossil fuels, so global warming can’t be human caused. But you of course play with the nuances.

    In my opinion, in your case, your being afraid of posting your full name is an integrity issue that seems par for the course.

    And Hank Roberts is right, I do tend to target those that appear to be trolls, along with the reasons aforementioned.


    The Climate Lobby
    Understand the Issue
    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/
    Sign the Petition!
    http://www.climatelobby.com

  4. 104
    Sufferin' Succotash says:

    The transition to a renewable energy infrastructure and economy will be a planning and engineering challenge, but that’s a kind of problem to which human ingenuity has proven itself equal.

    Three centuries ago the notion of using coal as a primary energy source seemed wildly exotic. Wood was definitely the way to go, an indispensable resource in fact. And there were in fact practical difficulties involved in exploiting coal resources (flooding mineshafts, accumulations of coal dust, etc.)
    So that’s why we never took up coal and why we still heat our homes and power our vehicles and industries with wood instead.
    :P

  5. 105
    Bulldust says:

    Ray Ladbury
    You seem to put great stake in consensus… do you not acknowledge that it is just as easy to poit out many examples of where the consensus was exactly wrong? We can go back to earth-centric views of the solar system and right through to more modern gaffes like the main causes of peptic ulcers. Consensus is not proof of truth although it appears to be very compelling for a large section of the populace.

  6. 106
    ccpo says:

    since the pre-industrial society did not endanger the climate system.


    The Climate Lobby
    Understand the Issue
    http://www.climatelobby.com/fee-and-dividend/

    Says whom? If I recall correctly, the signal of human impact on climate, while on steroids as we speak, has been detected back millennia as per recent research. I’ve seen no estimate of the long term effects of pre-industrial society. Got any?

    Cheers

  7. 107
    Garry S-J says:

    Andreas: “He (Jim Eaton) clearly frame scientific discussion on climate related issues as mere a proxy for political debate.”

    Utter nonsense. Please stop insulting everyone’s intelligence, Andreas. There is nothing clever about misrepesenting what other people say.

  8. 108
    flxible says:

    JohnReisman@103 – Gillies did post his name, a link to his edu page, I don’t recall where, you’d have to search all these threads he’s been dominating. He is pretty much as he appears, a swaggering young astrophysicist who believes he swings the world by the tail, he even dazzled us with some slight-of-hand numeracy in a couple posts, which excited him so much he accidently misremembered his own name – he seems to have forgotten one slip about working for the petro industry tho, consulting or something on the side, and later denied it. Judging by his erratic use of the English language, I think time of day has a lot of influence, like before or after the aperitifs and digestifs. ;)

  9. 109
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    107 Garry S-J,
    I suppose you don´t see any problem with Jim Eatons misrepresentation what i was saying? Why did he call me contrarian? I guess you dont want to give any argument to what I misrepresent? What was wrong in my analysis?

  10. 110
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Bulldust@105,
    First, you have to draw a distinction between scientific consensus and political consensus. The “consensus” regarding the geocentric Universe predates Galileo and Francis Bacon by a couple of thousand years, and hence could not have been scientific. Moreover, scientific consensus is based on evidence and the productivity of a theory in terms of insight, pridictive ability and understanding. Rarely is a “consensus” written down–for one thing it is evolving continually. However, a good idea of the consensus can be gained from looking at the techniques and theories used by the most productive researchers in a field.

    Second, your example of a geocentric universe isn’t a good one–as there was no consensus at the time of the Greeks and in Medieval Europe it was more enforced dogma than consensus.

    More common and better examples would include
    1)Wegener’s continental drift hypothesis–unfortunately, though Wegener was wrong, as his mechanism was nonsense. It would have had little predictive power and might well have retarded development in geophysics. Thus you had a competition between two wrong theories. Once our understanding of the physical properties of rock under high pressure evolved sufficiently, the appropriate theory became clear.

    2)The role of H. Pylori in causing ulcers. Here, the theory of stress causing ulcers was not based on evidence, but rather on ancient medical lore–hardly a scientific consensus in any reasonable sense of the term.

    However, consensus can certainly be wrong. In fact, it almost always is–as scientific knowledge evolves continually. However, I know of no consensus theory that has been overturned when it had acheived the level of support we see with the theory of Earth’s climate. Such a theory is likely to evolve gradually, rather than be overturned. I’ll go even further, scientific consensus provides the most reliable knowledge of the physical world that we as humans can possess at a given moment. So the question with regard to climate change is whether we make policy based on extraordinarily well supported science or whether we go 180 degrees against extraordinarly well supported science. Which way you gonna bet? Feel lucky?

  11. 111

    105Bulldust says:
    19 March 2010 at 6:06 PM
    “”””Ray Ladbury
    You seem to put great stake in consensus… do you not acknowledge that it is just as easy to poit out many examples of where the consensus was exactly wrong? We can go back to earth-centric views of the solar system and right through to more modern gaffes like the main causes of peptic ulcers. Consensus is not proof of truth although it appears to be very compelling for a large section of the populace.”””

    Read peer-reviewed Naomi Oreske’s new scholarly book. You are putting up a strawman.

    Today’s science is almost in another universe compared to your first example. Back then, you could count the number of scientists on your hand. For the false comparison to peptic ulcers, climate change is based on extremely well understood principles.

    If the Earth’s energy can’t leave due to a force, the Earth’s surface must warm up (1827 Fourier). Global warming due to human produced carbon dioxide by burning oil, coal and gas was predicted by equations in 1896 and the 1970s to cause warming (Arrehenius, US National Academy of Sciences, IPCC 1995).

    Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas (1860s-Tyndall). You add it and it must warm you up (1860s-Tyndall). CO2 is increasing… Guy Calendar-1930s, Keeling curve-1958-1980. It is caused by humans (Keeling curve and isotopes). Warming was predicted because according to the irrefutable laws of physics it had to happen…and it happened-National Academy of Sciences 1970s/ IPCC 1995).

    Human caused global warming has to happen according to the laws of physics. It has no other choice and was first predicted in 1896 by equations. Your comments show ignorance of the most basic science.

  12. 112
    Gilles says:

    66 Edward : “43 Gilles: Nuclear power was discovered before fossil fuel?”

    we in France have the best place to judge what nuclear power can bring : useful to reduce somewhat CO2 production, but far from being able to replace fossil fuels. How could you do much better than France with it?

    “The importance of the plate glass example is not just the plate glass per se, important though it may be. Instead of thinking of the whole economy, it is quite worthwhile to think of the segments of the economy. In California summers, about 15% of peak demand is for air conditioning; this demand can be met with solar power, and by 2020 probably will be”

    You’re only talking about concerns of rich people. American people use twice as much energy as European ones, who are very far from living in third world. So obviously you can cut off some of your energy needs (air conditioning is not really necessary for life…), and replace some of the carbon energy by renewable ones. You don’t solve the problem of basic needs for poor people, that can only be fulfilled with fossil fuels. Again, try to convince China and India to develop with solar panels.

    “Some sacrifice may be necessary to build the new energy industry during the next 40 years, but whoever does it best will be best positioned to be a technological leader in the second half of the 21st century….”

    that the weird point of your argumentation. IF renewable energies were much more productive that fossil fuels, then they should have replaced them naturally just like fossil fuels have replaced wood, mechanical water and wind mills; just because they were much more interesting, producing more energy by unit human work invested. It was not a cost, it was a benefit to use them. Energy produces much more wealth than it costs , and the cheaper it is, the more wealth it produce.

    Now you both argue that renewable energy can replace without problem fossil fuels , but that it requires money and sacrifices. That’s plainly contradictory for me. IF it was as productive as fossil fuels, it would just be economically interesting to develop them, because they would be cheaper and allow to build things at a lower cost. The replacement would trigger a new phase of growth just like implementation of fossil fuels has trigger an unprecedented growth in western countries.

    But it’s obviously not the case. Alternative energies are NOT cheaper, are NOT more productive, and indeed need subsidies to be viable. That’s plainly contradictory with the claim that it would do no harm to the economy to use them. Again energy is not a cost, it is an earning for the economy.

    “Gilles
    Simply, I think it impossible to sustain everything that made our life so different from that of our grand-grand-parents without fossil fuels.
    There is plenty of evidence, and ongoing development, to suggest that we might be able to replace our entire fossil fuel economy in the upcoming decades.”

    Sorry, but a claim, even repeated, is not evidence. Where is the “plenty of evidence” that we could replace the ENTIRE fossil fuel economy??? apart in science fiction reports, of course?

    Ray 71 :”Gilles says: “For if it were only the nature on stake, well, we could very easily all go back to the fields or even to the forests, and that’s it.”
    Nope! There’s no way the planet could support 6.7 billion people as hunter-gatherers or even subsistence farmers. That’s a recipe for at least half of humanity to starve to death. The only reason our population has climbed this high is because we’ve learned how to convert petroleum into corn and soy beans.”

    Come on ! don’t say you that fossil fuels are helpful for mankind ! well actually you’re right of course, but agriculture uses only 10% or so of the total fossil energy produced, so we could reduce drastically our need without starving for death. Just living in much smaller houses, having no car, and not travelling abroad, would spare a fair portion of our consumption. Of course at the expense of GDP …

    102 “Ray :”Gilles@75, There is how well we know a quantity and how well we need to know it. If CO2 sensitivity is 4.5 degrees per doubling, we are in severe trouble. If it is 3 degrees per doubling, we’re in it deep, and if only 2 degrees, we’re only in serious trouble.”

    Sorry, your statement cannot be true since you don’t consider the crucial parameter of how much carbon we can burn, which controls entirely the amount of CO2 we produce. How can you hope to convince me with so illogical statements?

    “Here’s something that puzzles me Gilles. You are claiming that civilization will collapse without fossil fuels. I would think you would be advocating the strictest conservation measures so that we could find solutions–or at least prolong the plenty. But, no, it seems we can’t burn fossil fuels fast enough for you. Now why is that?”

    Ray, the real question is : why did you understand something that I never said ???

    CM “we know how to make windmills, PV cells, biofuels.”

    Wrong. We don’t know how to make them without fossil fuels. And we don’t know how to power a society just with them. If you believe it , you’re either naive or a liar, and in any case you don’t have a single piece of evidence that it is possible.

    OK, so if the bet for CO2 production isn’t strong enough, I offer a second bet. Unlike you, I don’t believe that renewable energy will be able to replace fossil fuels, starting with oil. So I bet that after the peak oil, GDP per capita won’t increase anymore, and eventually global GDP won’t increase at all. Meaning that peak oil won’t occur willingly and because we don’t need it anymore, but because of the squeezing of natural resources, bringing industrial civilization to decadence. And energy is only part of the problem. After it, all metallic ores, and other commodities like phosphates, helium, etc… will also gradually become exhausted. That will be the real problem of XXI century.

  13. 113
    David B. Benson says:

    ccpo (106) — Read climatologist W.F. Ruddiman’s popular “Plows, Plagues and Petroleum”, his guest post here on RealClimate and his highly readable professional papers hosted on his website.

  14. 114
    ccpo says:

    I noted that, unlike the end of fossil fuels, global warming would both affect human systems and the natural systems on which human systems ultimately depend. The oil price doesn’t matter to the rainforest, but rainfall matters a great deal.
    This is a view that belies a lack of systems analysis. One reason I encourage people to study permaculture is that it takes a systemic view of how we live with the planet at large. Such thinking encourages us to see all systems as part of a larger system. What you have done here is claim that energy, its different forms and how it is procured mean nothing to the natural system. There are numerous areas of the planet laid waste by the extraction of energy that are easily pointed out. I trust I need not do so here.
    The price of oil matters a great deal to the rainforest, for it is the price of oil, and the effects of its burning, that are significantly responsible for the destruction of natural systems to distill biofuels.
    The transition to a renewable energy infrastructure and economy will be a planning and engineering challenge, but that’s a kind of problem to which human ingenuity has proven itself equal. (It took some planning and engineering to build the fossil fuel economy in the first place.) And we know how to make machinery move without fossil fuels; we know how to make windmills, PV cells, biofuels.
    You are missing several very important points here. One, all the things listed above have been built with FFs. (You can’t make plastic out of sunlight.) Two, human ingenuity is the cause of collapses historically. Diamond argues that as societies become more complex they try ever more complex fixes. The eventual extreme complexity is fragile. Typically, those societies that simplify, transition and survive much more successfully than those which attempt to solve all their problems by adding complexity. There are two reasons, basically: complexity itself, and that virtually all collapses have a resource constraint as a primary or secondary cause. You can engineer more rainfall, e.g. You can simplify and use less.
    Another thing you may be ignoring is unending growth. This is impossible, as illustrated by a few simple examples. While we are attempting to transition to RE, billions of people are seeking to live like we do. For everyone on the planet to live like the US does? 174 billion barrels of oil a year. All oil gone, taking the absolute most optimistic view and assuming every drop is recoverable (as opposed to the more realistic 30 – 40%), that oil would last perhaps ten or eleven years. European lifestyle? Maybe 20. How low would you like to go?
    In other words, you are thinking ethnocentrically/regionally and not globally and ignoring population growth altogether.
    Finally, you are completely missing Liebig’s Minimum. Think weakest link. That which causes collapse is not necessarily that which is most obvious. Did you know there is a serious issue with phosphorus? What of the 95% drop in large fish stocks? Etc?

    Major disruptions to what’s left of nature — now, that’s a different matter. We don’t know how to make rainforests that grow without rain. We don’t know how to make anything that does what rainforests do. It’s a salient difference. Comment by CM — 19 March 2010 @ 4:34 PM
    Again, if you really believe electricity (a form of energy, not a source, btw) is as fungible as oil, you’ve got another thing coming. First, it’s the wrong comparison, you mean solar radiation/heat, not electricity. While you can get far more energy from sunlight than FFs, given enough infrastructure, you actually need more sun energy than the equivalent FFs, particularly oil, because it is *not* as fungible. You will use a lot of resources getting that solar energy to be combined with other things to become useful. You cannot lube a machine with electricity.
    All of you dismissing energy from the equation of future fixes is making a huge mistake. Let me end this by pointing out that the Kuwaiti government just released their analysis of oil production going forward and found peak in oil in 2014. (Crude peaked already, actually. All liquids likely peaked 2008. Decline without intervention in existing fields is 9% a year, minimum. (IEA) and around 6% after intervention (IEA.) With replacement we are treading water IF you include all liquids and not just crude.)
    • ccpo wrote: “There is literally nothing yet known that is as freely available, cheap and fungible as oil is …”
    That is simply false. Sunlight is far more freely available

    Then why does it make up well under ten percent of our energy mix? Perhaps you mean it *will* be?
    and is cheaper when all costs are internalized
    Hmmm…. How many joules in a cup of oil, which costs between 15 and 20 cents, vs the energy from SPV?
    and can be easily converted to electricity which is the most fungible form of energy there is.
    Well, if you consider the building, distribution, installation and maintenance of solar panels easy…
    Fungibility? You are quite simply wrong. Make plastic from electricity. Lube an engine with electricity. Make polyester clothing from electricity. Virtually everything you see around you as you read this is made with some form of FFs, and much of it from oil.
    And there is vastly more energy available from sunlight than from all the world’s reserves of fossil fuels, and the supply is limitless and inexhaustible on time scales that are relevant to human civilization.
    True. But that is not the issue. No straw men allowed. The issue is availability now and during the transition.
    As for the transition being “difficult” — well, it will be especially difficult for those who have grown immensely wealthy and powerful from extracting, processing, distributing and selling a limited (and rapidly dwindling) supply of expensive fuel
    Actually, those very rich people will hardly notice. They’ll all have off-grid homes much as W did even as he fought against climate change legislation.
    And the transition is being made more “difficult” by their deceit, denial, obstruction and delay.
    Comment by SecularAnimist — 19 March 2010 @ 4:45 PM

    What’s your point? Are you under the delusion I work for an oil company?

    Cheers

  15. 115
    ccpo says:

    Thank you Mr. Benson. I appreciate the links to add to my overburdened set of links. I was hoping Reisman would support *his* contention, though. Perhaps he will in future.

    Cheers

  16. 116
    Ray Ladbury says:

    OK, Gilles, then make yourself clear: Do you favor aggressive conservation measures to 1)conserve the supply of petroleum as long as possible and coincidentally 2) to minimize CO2 emissions.

    As to the amount of CO2 we can produce–I’ve done the math. We can easily make it to 1000 ppmv with proven reserves of fossil fuels. We could easily do that this century, particularly if we must burn a lot of energy converting coal into a liquid fuel.

  17. 117
    Thomas says:

    Well Giles, I think we are both (actually just about everyone here) worries about the transition away from fossil fuels. Where we disagree is whether concerns about climate should justify an additional constraint, beyond those created by the simple geological exhaustion of the sources. We ought to be able to agree, that a near term policy response of conserving our sources of fossil fuels (in case the transition takes longer than currently hoped), and a policy based upon climate protection, really don’t look much different. That is unless you think fossil fuel sources put off limits in the near future will somehow be binding on future generations. So I really don’t think opposition to the earlyg steps of the transition makes sense -even if you completely discount the climate part of the argument. Slowing our fossil fuel consumption buys us more time to make the transition away from them.

    When I look at India and China, I see two societies which (relative to the size of their economies) are being much more aggressive with respect to the pursuit of alternative energy technologies than the USA. True they are both still pusuing coal. But China is trying to force an annual doubling of wind generation for the next decade, and has taken over a large portion of the world solar panel production. Compared to the pace here, that has to be considered to be an extraordinarliy aggressive pace.

    As far as the cost of the transition. I’m currently getting about two thirds of my electrical consumption from PV panels which cover about a third of the southwest facing roof. The ratio of the cost of this stuff to the market value of the house is something like one part in twenty. I.E. the implication is that the cost of converting to renewables is a small fraction of the cost of our built infrastructure. Its just not an economy killing proposition (not if we allow several decades to accomplish it). I think we would agree that solar plus wind has problems with intermittency. But a combination of solar plus wind, with natural gas backup makes sense as a major thrust for our energy policy for say the next quarter century. Not only does this reduce carbon emissions, it also conserves our limited fossil fuel resources.

  18. 118
    Robert says:

    “That is simply false. Sunlight is far more freely available”
    “Then why does it make up well under ten percent of our energy mix?”

    You’re moving the goal posts, ccpo. You said oil was more freely available than sunlight. That’s wrong. Now you wan to change the subject to why solar energy is a small part of our energy mix. Different question entirely.

    You got carried away and exaggerated the virtues of oil, and in so doing you made a basic mistake of fact. Can you admit that?

  19. 119
    Thomas says:

    Now for another change of topic. We have a rather odd report out:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100316101705.htm
    Which claims that the local increase of urban CO2 does so much local damage, that Cap and Trade makes no sense, as Urban emissions are much more damaging than rural emissions. I have to confess (I don’t have acess to the details of their arguments), that my response is Huh! I can’t imagine the local vertical column CO2 could be more than a percent or two than for rural areas. And the local climate effect should be quite minimal. Has anyone read the papaer? Does his claim make any sense at all?

    [Response: The local temperature differences reported are tiny (thousandth’s of degrees), and given the very short length of the simulations (a year) I find it hard to see how this could possibly be detectable in the real world. – gavin]

  20. 120
    Bulldust says:

    richard ordway
    You seem to have me confused as someone who thinks CO2 does not cause warming. Far from it. It would be folly to argue otherwise, so thanks for the stroll down scientific memory, but that is not the crux of the issue as we both know.

    The difference between the warming caused by CO2 alone and that supposed to be caused by feedbacks portrayed by the IPCC projections is where the debate lies. But I am perfectly willing to read conclusive and/or compelling evidence that the multi-fold amplifications of CO2 warming through feedbacks are consensus science.

    It is the leap from accepted CO2 warming science to predictions/projections (semantics) of 4-6C temperature rises due to feedbacks that I struggle with.

  21. 121
    flxible says:

    ccpo@114 – An objection – the “fungibility” claimed is with respect to energy, not the range of other products petroleum provides – and plastic really doesn’t require petroleum anyway, Henry Ford proved soybean meal and hemp work fine. It’s actually likely that there’s a lot of what we use petroleum for beyond energy that could be obtained from plant materials, including medicines and chemicals, we’ve already found modified vegetable oils more useful for a variety of lubricating purposes. And I, among many, do quite well without polyester clothing, thank you!!

    Also for joule comparisons interesting figures here, and note that SA was specifying “when all costs are internalized”, which I believe means include the “deferred” environmental costs.

  22. 122
    JiminMpls says:

    Gilles – The supply of oil isn’t as limited as you seem to think. Cheap oil, yes, but recoverable oil, no. There are an estimated 513 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil in the Orinoco tar sands alone. At a $100/bbl, it would be economically recoverable. As prices go up, so will the supply. Oil is odd that way. After that, we’d move on to extracting keragen from marlstone – another trillion or so barrels of oil-equivalent.

    It could be done, but it is wise to do so?

  23. 123
    kd says:

    I have come across a rather strange and somewhat incoherent argument from a climate denialist (of the variety that the problem is much smaller magnitude than the scientific consensus suggests). His latest argument is based on Trenberth’s latest energy balance paper, and suggests that the climate sensitivity will reduce to zero as we get to a doubling of co2 levels on pre-industrial levels.

    Here is one of his less incoherent versions of the same argument, and I’d really appreciate it if someone with a better understanding of this stuff than me could take a look at it and point out the problems:

    [ Trenberth starts with a warming imbalance of 0.9W/sq.m (2000-2004 average) which equates to 145E20 Joules/year applied to the whole planet’s surface.

    The O.9W/sq.m is made up from radiative forcing elements quoted in IPCC AR4 Fig 2.4 plus various feedbacks. Dr Trenberth makes the point that this number is not derived from direct measurement because the devices for such are not accurate enough. ie. an imbalance of 0.9 W/sq.m is not possible to directly measure in the roughly 240 W/sq.m of energy flux passing through the atmosphere. So the 0.9 number is composed from climate model corrections and indirect measurements, feedbacks etc (complex to describe all the components).

    Dr Trenberth then goes on to account for a range of 45-115 E20 Joules/year (av 80) by best estimates of ice melt, land warming and ocean warming etc leaving a residual of 30-100 E20 Joules/year (av 65) for the period 2004 – 2008.

    So of the 145 he accounts for roughly 80 and a residual of 65. That is the current state of play.

    The 80 accounted for represents an imbalance of about 0.55W/sq.m of his assumed starting point of 0.9W/sq.m.

    In the Aug09 paper and a particular email he suggests that brightening of clouds could be an unmeasured factor. Cloud albedo has a low LOSU and wide error bars in the IPCC AR4 Fig2.4 forcing numbers requoted in Dr Trenberth’s paper.

    Clean Air Act reductions in SO2 are quoted as explaining the cooling of 1940-70 but there were few if any direct measurements 1940-1980, and the Clean Air Act does not apply to current India & China (the world’s most reliable witnesses to these emissions).

    I would suggest that the places to look hard at the discrepancy between the proposed 0.9 W/sq.m warming imbalance and the roughly accounted 0.55 W/sq.m are:

    1) Cloud Albedo increase from unaccounted emissions,
    2) Much more accurate measurement of ocean heat content.

    Remember that AGW theory rests on an assumed warming imbalance postulated by the lead IPCC author Dr Trenberth at 0.9 W/sq.m. He can only account for 0.55 W/sq.m as of Aug09.

    There are only two possibilities – (1) either the imbalance is not 0.9 but something less – closer to 0.55 W/sq.m due to overestimated CO2 effect or increased cooling effects mainly from aerosols …..OR… (2) the ‘missng heat’ is sequestered in the oceans below the depths which currently show no warming (700-900m).

    A paper by von Schuckmann publiched after Dr Trenberth’s Aug09 paper suggests that 0.77 W/sq.m of ocean surface equivalent heat flux is stored down to 2000m. This sole paper (unknown to Dr Trenberth until last month) is the only piece of evidence so far quoted in the AGW blogs which finds the missing heat energy. Several other analyses of ocean heat content give different results.

    The above illustrates the serious uncertainties in the current knowledge of the energy balance of the earth system – which is the key to the degree or warming (if any) occurring at the present time. ]

  24. 124

    The details on how NASA analyzes global temperature, and their conclusion: continued rapid temperature increase: http://bit.ly/GISmeth

  25. 125

    Cthulu for President!
    When you’re tired of voting for the lesser of two evils.

  26. 126

    Hank (95, 96),

    As they say in Japan–or should…

    Akasofu-san wa bakayaro des’.

  27. 127

    Ray, John,

    I strongly recommend ceasing to respond to Gilles (and Gavin et al., I recommend kicking him off or at least restricting him to his own thread, as they do with obnoxious posters at Deltoid). His clear pattern is to present some indefensible statement (“Only fossil fuels can provide a high standard of living!” or “Only fossil fuels can develop the Third World!”). A dozen people refute him at length. He argues minor points. Then, after a while, he makes the same indefensible statements again, often without bothering to reword them. He is neither trying to learn, nor teach. He is here to waste our time. Don’t enable him.

  28. 128

    Bulldust: You seem to put great stake in consensus… do you not acknowledge that it is just as easy to poit out many examples of where the consensus was exactly wrong? We can go back to earth-centric views of the solar system and right through to more modern gaffes like the main causes of peptic ulcers. Consensus is not proof of truth although it appears to be very compelling for a large section of the populace.

    BPL: You use “consensus” the same way creationists use “theory”–with the popular definition instead of the one scientists use. The scientific consensus is that which has been so thoroughly shown by the EVIDENCE that scientists don’t bother with it any more. Nobody’s investigating whether the sun orbits the Earth. Not because it wasn’t a viable hypothesis at one time, or because they’re trying to suppress brave dissenters with a new idea, but because THEY KNOW IT’S A WASTE OF TIME. Get with the program.

  29. 129
    Gilles says:

    Thinking a little bit more of what Ray said, I’ll try to elaborate the reasons of my trouble in all these discussions

    102 “Ray :”Gilles@75, There is how well we know a quantity and how well we need to know it. If CO2 sensitivity is 4.5 degrees per doubling, we are in severe trouble. If it is 3 degrees per doubling, we’re in it deep, and if only 2 degrees, we’re only in serious trouble.”

    Ray recognizes explicitly that there is a rather large uncertainty in a physical quantity , the CO2 sensitivity. Of course it is perfectly understandable given the complexity of the climate machine, and it would be difficult to reproach it to climate scientists who are doing their best to reduce this uncertainty. But at least it is relatively well-posed physical problems (even for instance if the validity of things like “global average temperature” can be questioned). But what is weird is that he seems to claim that the relation between CO2 sensitivity and “trouble” of mankind is much better known. Well, that’s surprising. First because i don’t know any precise quantitative definition of how this “trouble” is measured, not speaking of a scientific definition of “severe”, “deep”, or “serious”. Then even if such a definition could be given, the relation between it and CO2 sensitivity depends obviously on many factors, such as (as I recalled) the total amount of carbon we can burn, the impact of temperature on various very different ecological systems, and the impact of ecological systems on the “trouble” of mankind – and of course the potential POSITIVE impact of the use of fossil fuels. None of these things are well settled, and as far as I know , many of them cannot even be precisely defined. So what is weird is that Ray seems to acknowledge that what should be expected to be the best known physical quantity, which is the main goal of climate science (CO2 sensitivity) is the main source of uncertainty, but that all the rest (which if you think a little bit is NOT the result of climate science studies and for the main part isn’t studied by any “hard science” and scientific peer-reviewed literature) is very well known ?? strange indeed, very very strange.

    and worse, what people like JeanB, myself, and other are claiming, that all known (even imperfect) indicators of welfare are positively correlated with the use of fossil fuels, with regression coefficients relatively easy to define and measure , is considered here as mere BS and dismissed as totally unproven. Whereas it seems to me that the amount of evidence for this correlation is much greater and the quantitative coefficients are much better defined that any of the supposed “well-known” factors above. Well, I can admit that despite being a honest scientist and not the worse student of my generation, I can do mistakes and misunderstandings. But sorry guys, I need some more explanation from you, on how you form your judgement about what is “proved” or not by facts, since my conclusions are obviously very different from yours.

  30. 130
    ZAREMA says:

    Thanks the author for article. The main thing do not forget about users, and continue in the same spirit.

  31. 131
    Fred Magyar says:

    Andreas Bjurström @73,

    “Science is so powerful that it drags us kicking and screaming towards the truth despite our best efforts to avoid it.”

    Wishful thinking rooted in the natural sciences. So sweet and comfortable.

    For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.

    Richard Feynman

    Andreas, if I recall it was Social Science that brought us public relations…

  32. 132
    Hunt Janin says:

    Please forgive my inexact language, but didn’t I read somewhere that the work of the IPCCC is going to be “investigated” (my word, not the article’s) by a group headed by a famous British scientist? Can anyone enlighten me on this matter?

  33. 133
    Walter Manny says:

    GAS: Fair enough.

  34. 134
    Walter Manny says:

    Ray,
    “However, I know of no consensus theory that has been overturned when it had achieved the level of support we see with the theory of Earth’s climate. Such a theory is likely to evolve gradually, rather than be overturned.”

    You have made an appealing argument except for one drawback: it is baseless. For one thing, not knowing about other strong consensuses being overturned has nothing to do with the efficacy of this one. I love analogies as much as the next human and have fallen victim to analogizing many a time, but either we are causing warming or we are not. The theory claims to be able to predict the future well enough for us to takes steps to avoid the harmful aspects predicted. To state that the theory is likely to be proven correct, with refinements (a fair paraphrase?) is to state that our ability to predict the future will be proven correct in the future. Well, yeah, maybe. But we actually have no way of knowing whether the theory will evolve gradually or skew wildly. It is frustrating, to be sure, that neither you nor I will live to see whether the long-term predictions are borne out, but I submit that claiming the consensus is accurate this time in this case is just that, a claim, and one well worth considering. With respect, I suggest you stick to the merits of what we know now, which you do very well, rather than the merits of what you surmise we will know in the future.

  35. 135
    Louise D says:

    # 61 SecularAnimist

    “It is good to have an open thread specifically for “OT” comments.
    It appears that there might also be a need for an open thread specifically for self-indulgent incoherent doubletalk, pompous pronouncements based on willful ignorance, and baseless flame-baiting slanders against climate scientists that appear to have no purpose except for the author to impress himself with his ability to waste other people’s time.”
    Rather a belated response but I second this!

  36. 136
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Just as I suspected, “IPCC has underestimated climate-change impacts, say scientists” – see: http://www.dailyindia.com/show/365610.php

    According to Charles H. Greene, Cornell professor of Earth and atmospheric science, “Even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions were stopped tomorrow and carbon-dioxide levels stabilized at today’s concentration, by the end of this century, the global average temperature would increase by about 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 2.4 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, which is significantly above the level which scientists and policy makers agree is a threshold for dangerous climate change.”

    “Of course, greenhouse gas emissions will not stop tomorrow, so the actual temperature increase will likely be significantly larger, resulting in potentially catastrophic impacts to society unless other steps are taken to reduce the Earth’s temperature,” he added.

    “Furthermore, while the oceans have slowed the amount of warming we would otherwise have seen for the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the ocean’s thermal inertia will also slow the cooling we experience once we finally reduce our greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

    This means that the temperature rise we see this century will be largely irreversible for the next thousand years.

  37. 137
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    As an addendum to what I wrote….

    A group of faculty are planning an interdisciplinary Environmental Studies Program at our U. I suggested we have a “Statistics & Research Methods” course requirement, because I felt students should understand that science is conservative and is set up to err on the side of NOT establishing a causal link. That is, it focuses on avoiding the FALSE POSITIVE of making untrue claims. However, others — policy-makers, environmentalists, journalists, people concerned about the viability of planet earth, mothers & others — should be striving to avoid the FALSE NEGATIVE of failing to mitigate (& adapt to) AGW when it really is happening and threatening great harm.

    One Humanities faculty said she thought lots of Humanities students might fail such a “Stat & Methods” course.

    So I came up with a Humanities alternative, using expressive culture.

    See, once upon a time there was this boy who stood guard at night against wolves entering the village and killing the people…

    You know the story. Well, the moral of the story for scientists is: they cannot afford to be that boy–they cannot risk losing their reputations by making false claims (and having people disbelieve them in the future), so they have to be very very confident (usually 95% confident) that there really is a wolf out there threatening the villagers, before calling “wolf.”

    However, we lose sight of the moral for us, the villagers, who get eaten up because we made an error of the FALSE NEGATIVE, of disbelieving the boy on that final “Call Wolf” and failing to protect ourselves.

    So the moral is:
    Avoid the FALSE NEGATIVE of sleeping while the wolf eats us up & AGW kills us off; and don’t worry about the FALSE POSITIVE of that boy calling wolf when there isn’t any wolf — which would be the very best of all worlds re the AGW issue: we mitigate & thereby save tons of $$ and help the economy, plus mitigate a plethora of other problems,… AND no AGW!

  38. 138
    MartinJB says:

    Gilles,

    just curious… has anyone here actually suggested that we should (or could) go cold-turkey on fossil fuels in the next few years? I don’t think so.

    Also, you make the point that if alternative/ renewable energy was really competitive with fossil fuels, it would be replaced fossil fuels. That assertion is flawed. First, the cost of fossil fuels to the economy is understated in multiple ways. It doesn’t include the cost of mitigating the damage caused by fossil fuels – air pollution, damage from extraction, climate change. A lot of fossil fuels rights are sold or leased at prices below cost by governments. Arguably, the US spends a lot of money on military and foreign efforts to keep fossil fuel sources secure. Second, market forces are not quite so powerful. Social and political momentum (both of which protect status quo, i.e. fossil fuels as the dominant energy source) are important too. Change doesn’t happen just because it’s more efficient.

    Finally, you’ve mentioned multiple times that we won’t (or is it can’t? it’s not obvious from your writing) emit enough CO2 to cause the worst effects of global warming. Really? Do you know how much CO2e is tied up in oil shale, tar sands, clathrates and coal? Look it up. It’s truly vast. Hopefully, we’ll have the sense to make sure that most of those “resources” stay where they are.

    –Martin

  39. 139
    Septic Matthew says:

    114, ccpo: (You can’t make plastic out of sunlight.)

    Not directly, but you can make plastic out of cellulose and algae squeezin’s.

    Make plastic from electricity. Lube an engine with electricity. Make polyester clothing from electricity. Virtually everything you see around you as you read this is made with some form of FFs, and much of it from oil.

    With current catalysts, you can make the precursors of this stuff out of water and CO2 powered by sunlight.

    Did you know there is a serious issue with phosphorus? What of the 95% drop in large fish stocks?

    These issues are not closely related to AGW or new energy industries.

    How many joules in a cup of oil, which costs between 15 and 20 cents, vs the energy from SPV?

    He did say “when all costs are internalized”. The US spends considerable $$$ and lives guarding MiddleEast oil, and fighting the insurgents who are paid from ME oil proceeds. With coal, there are deaths and disease due to the release of mercury and (ironically) radiation. If these costs were paid by taxing the resultant energy, then PV cells would produce cheaper electricity.

    Well, if you consider the building, distribution, installation and maintenance of solar panels easy…

    Now here, I side with you instead of SA: “easy” is the wrong word, but so are “hard” and “impossible”. Some companies now produce more than 1GW peak PV generating capacity per year, which is faster than 1GW of continuous nuclear power generating capacity can be produced. PV power is now more expensive than nuclear, but the costs continue to decline with better materials and production technology. Nuclear costs will also probably decline, but there is a huge up front capital cost for each installation.

    112, Gilles: CM “we know how to make windmills, PV cells, biofuels.”
    &&&&
    Wrong. We don’t know how to make them without fossil fuels. And we don’t know how to power a society just with them. If you believe it , you’re either naive or a liar, and in any case you don’t have a single piece of evidence that it is possible.

    On this, you appear to be uninformed. Perhaps there will some day be a thread devoted entirely to energy, and we can fill you in on ALL the alternatives under development. The rapid expansion of algae based biofuels is especially impressive. What is needed now is continuous investment of money, labor, talent and time.

  40. 140
    Geoff Wexler says:

    I seem to have misunderstood the title of this thread. Perhaps the only comments I have seen which refer even tangentially to unforced variations of the climate sort, is one referring to Akasofu , who appears to have a pre-scientific outlook (dodgy description without understanding) and #111 which is good except for its disregard of unforced variability. I take it that the gap can be filled by running a climate model for say a thousand years and plotting the magnitude against the frequency of occurrence of such unforced behaviour. Am I right? If so has anyone got the references?

  41. 141

    #106 ccpo

    In context, I am inferring magnitude of event by comparison. I think it is safe to say pre-industrial society did impact its environment, but comparing those minor changes to a radiative forcing shift up to 3.6 W/m2 above relative natural forcing averages…

    well, no meaningful comparison in that context.

    No cites, I’m merely making a qualitative argument.


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  42. 142

    #108 flxible

    Thanks. No time to review all his posts but if he is only afraid of aggressive words, then he should relax a bit and feel free to post his full name on his posts.

    You may be right about language and location. After aperitivo may explain lapses in memory as well ;)


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  43. 143
    Dale says:

    If this has been previously noted I apologize.

    “Some new voices pronouncing predictions of peak oil have distinctly Arabic accents. Researchers from the University of Kuwait with the Kuwait Oil Company have published a new study titled Forecasting World Crude Oil Production Using Multicyclic Hubbert Model (abstract here) that names 2014 as the fateful year when conventional crude oil production will peak. That’s pretty close to the 2015 date chosen by Sir Branson and his taskforce pals.

    The Kuwaitis arrive at their conclusion via an updated version of the Hubbert model that uses additional production cycles that consider political situations, new finds, technical innovation and other factors. Their world model is derived from an amalgamation of the individual models of 47 producer countries.”
    http://green.autoblog.com/2010/03/18/kuwaiti-study-conventional-oil-to-peak-in-2014/

  44. 144

    #127 Barton Paul Levenson

    If Gilles tried to be more explicit and clear on what he thinks should or should not be done, or tried to understand holistic context, or was open-minded enough to drop his religious beliefs in without fossil fuels civilization ends etc., I would not mind him so much.

    But he is a slippery fish and quite boring in my opinion. This latest idea up-thread about how we will exhaust all natural recourse completely ignores the innovative potential of humankind.

    I remain of course

    1. Consumption reduction
    2. Transition to renewable/sustainable
    3. Start looking ahead and stop staring at our feet as we walk through life.

    Gilles should start his own blog where he can rant all day long in incoherent strings of circular logic that never lead anywhere meaningful.

    However, as long as Gavin et al continue to allow him to post, we should respond so that others that see the string can see reasonable, logical and factual refutation of the poor logic Gilles employs in his myopic pseudo reasoning.

    My thoughts are that we are here to help others understand how truly silly and unreasonable arguments like his (and others like his) are. He spins nearly everything out of context, so much so that I suspect he is a politician of sort… no wonder he is afraid to post his name. Politicians hate being responsible for things they like to say, but publicly can’t for reasons of culpability.


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  45. 145
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Walter Manny claims: “But we actually have no way of knowing whether the theory will evolve gradually or skew wildly.”

    Bullshit! Either science works and gives us a reasonable approximation of the truth or it does not. Do you have evidence that when it is strongly supported by evidence over a period of decades that it does not? Because, I can point you to a 400 year track record of success. What is more, the issue here is the effect of a strong, long-lived, well mixed greenhouse gas–the fingerprints of which are all over the climate everywhere you look. It is not particularly demanding act of prognostication to assess how increasing such a gas will affect climate. That is something we know now. It’s something we’ve known for 50 years. The fact that the knowledge comes with error bars doesn’t change the fact that it is knowledge.

    What you are asking us to do is take actions that will have disastrous consequences unless reality winds up being well outside of those error bars. In effect, you ask us to bet the future of human civilization on the only known habitable planet on a 20:1 longshot.

    The fact is, Walter, science does predict the future–even for unpredictable and chaotic systems. And compared to that, the consequences of our current course are quite predictable.

  46. 146
    JiminMpls says:

    Gilles – Take a look at http://www.switch2hydrogen.com/h2.htm.

    Using solar/wind power to produce hydrogen overcomes the greatest limitation of hydrogen fuel cell powered automobiles – the amount of electricity required to produce hydrogen. Imagine hydrogen fueling stations powered by wind and solar. No distribution system required for either the fuel or the electricity! It’s all produced in situ. Vehicles could be gas/elec/hydrogen hybrids allowing for maximim flexibility.

    Renewables will replace oil and coal just as oil and coal replaced wood, beeswax and sperm oil.

  47. 147
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Gilles,
    As I have repeatedly recommended, read this:

    http://www.iac.ethz.ch/people/knuttir/papers/knutti08natgeo.pdf

    At least read figure 5, as it is a good summary of likely consequences. If you have some actual (evidence based) qualms with the projected consequences, that’s fine. However, to date, you seem immune to evidence.

  48. 148

    #137 Lynn Vincentnathan

    Wholehearted agreement on method. Personally, I’m virtually 100% confident (99.99%) there is an AGW wolf. Science is at 95% or greater and AR5 may even raise the bar? Therefore, to not say there is an AGW wolf can be reasonably considered irresponsible. If villagers get eaten, it should be because they ignored the warning, not because scientists, and people who understand, did not give the warming.

    Since science is conservative by nature, it is safe to say that the warnings given based on the science are on the conservative side. That needs to be taken to heart. The likelihood of more challenging and expensive outcomes is reasonably considered more, rather than less, likely.


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  49. 149
    Gilles says:

    Martin :”Gilles,just curious… has anyone here actually suggested that we should (or could) go cold-turkey on fossil fuels in the next few years? I don’t think so.”

    well, actually , the idea that we should restrain our consumption of fossil fuels really means that we should, at some point, not extract a fair part of fossil fuels that we COULD extract. Leaving them untouched under the ground, depriving future generation of their use, even when they will eventually totally disappear, although they are technically and economically extractible.

    So in other words we have to organize a sooner peak in fuel consumptions that what is imposed by nature, and maintain it for eternity . I’m ready to accept a demonstration that we must indeed do that. I’m just asking : ok, but why, when, and who will insure this will really be done in the entire world, for eternity ?

  50. 150
    ccpo says:

    Just as I suspected, “IPCC has underestimated climate-change impacts, say scientists” – see: http://www.dailyindia.com/show/365610.php

    According to Charles H. Greene, Cornell professor of Earth and atmospheric science, “Even if all man-made greenhouse gas emissions were stopped tomorrow and carbon-dioxide levels stabilized at today’s concentration, by the end of this century, the global average temperature would increase by about 4.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 2.4 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels… …This means that the temperature rise we see this century will be largely irreversible for the next thousand years.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 20 March 2010 @ 10:23 AM

    It will be interesting to see if this result stands, but I have considered this to be self-evident for at least the last three years. While it is good to confirm what logic states must be true, it is not wise to curtail action in search of certainty.

    The fact that so many changes are happening so far ahead of schedule was all we needed to know to come to the conclusion climate is more sensitive than we realized.

    But what the heck does a former teacher/current director of a permaculture training program know?

    Cheers


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