Up is Down, Brown is Green (with apologies to Orwell)

The Samanta paper does not directly address the first point; this is addressed using global circulation models (of which some, but not all, show a strong drying trend for the east of the Amazon over the 21st century). The second point is only addressed in a limited way. The critical question is how these forests respond to repeated droughts, not merely single-year droughts. The forests are of course able to withstand these single droughts (otherwise there would be no rainforest!) — it is their ability to survive an increased frequency of the most severe droughts that is critical to answer. Drought experiments, where a roof is built under the forest canopy to reduce rainfall, show that most forest trees survive a single year’s intense drought, in agreement with the ground observations in the 2005 drought, but can’t persist with repeated years of drought. The Samanta study does not address this point at all.

In conclusion, the new Samanta et al. study lends further weight to the emerging picture of the impact of the 2005 drought: that tree growth was relatively unaffected, but tree mortality increased, contributing temporarily to accelerating the rate of climate change, rather than as usual reducing it, via additions of carbon to the atmosphere from the dead trees. The mortality was far from catastrophic, but the impact on the carbon cycle was globally significant. This is hardly the ‘no impact’ of the 2005-drought on the forest suggested in various news reports.

I should add that there is considerable uncertainty associated with the models suggesting decreases in rainfall, and uncertainty as to how Amazon forests may react (especially when one considers the impacts of deforestation, logging, and fire combined with climate change impacts). But this uncertainty is being chipped away at by scientists, a task in which the Samanta et al. paper assists.

Oddly, the Boston University press release to accompany the paper was titled, “New study debunks myths about Amazon rain forests”. The opening line runs: “A new NASA-funded study has concluded that Amazon rain forests were remarkably unaffected in the face of once-in-a-century drought in 2005, neither dying nor thriving, contrary to a previously published report and claims by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” So, have scientists, myself included, been peddling myths? Have respected journals being publishing them? Have the IPCC? The answer is no, no and no.

The reality is that the IPCC have largely ignored the papers on the model results of decreasing rainfall in the east of the Amazon, and the diverse evidence used to assess the sensitivity of these forests to such rainfall reductions. There are a couple of lines in IPCC Working Group I (“New coupled climate-carbon models (Betts et al., 2004; Huntingford et al., 2004) demonstrate the possibility of large feedbacks between future climate change and vegetation change, discussed further in Section 7.3.5 (i.e., a die back of Amazon vegetation and reductions in Amazon precipitation).”). And in Working Group II there is a now infamous single sentence:

“Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000).”

The statement is not as carefully worded as it should be, and incorrectly referenced, but basically scientifically correct and defensible with recourse to the peer-reviewed literature available at the time. Rainforest persists above a threshold of rainfall, below which one finds savanna. If this threshold is crossed a landscape dominated by rainforest can ‘flip’ to savanna. Therefore a ‘slight’ reduction can lead to a ‘dramatic’ reaction. Of course, evidence of a shift to a new lower rainfall climate regime is needed, and evidence of large areas of forest close to that rainfall threshold would be required for the IPCC statement to be reasonable; there is ample published evidence for both.

Overall the conclusions in the IPCC 2007 Fourth Assessment Report are strengthened (because the anomalous result of the Saleska et al. 2007 paper appear to be at fault), not weakened, by the new Samanta et al. study as their press release implies.

Update: Saleska responds, pointing out that a) their 2007 paper is not contradicted by Samanta et al. (2010); b) nor is the IPCC report weakened by either paper. Confused? Then read what he has to say: here.

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235 comments on this post.
  1. Lynn Vincentnathan:

    I guess the logic at Fox News et al. is that unlike Eternal Truths that never change, science just keeps changing and changing, as new and better evidence comes in, and better, more elegant theories are thought up to explain it. Ergo, dump science.

    But that’s not all. Glen Beck is dumping religion, as well, if that religion has anywhere in any of it’s literature or preaching the words “social justice.”

    So now that we’ve dumped science and religions, what next….”back to the trees”? Oh, yeah, that metaphor is out, so I guess it’s “blindly back to the trees,” assuming there are any trees left (see above).

  2. cervantes:

    As a climate science layperson (I am a social scientist) I faced the problem most people do of trying to decide what to believe about the apparent controversy over the AGW hypothesis when it just wasn’t possible for me to invest the time in deep learning about the scientific issues. It was apparent that this matter was very important so I spent what time I could on it, and got the basic ideas in hand. The atmosphere is largely transparent to visible and UV light, which warms the ground; but it contains gases which are opaque to IR and so some of the heat that is radiated back gets trapped. That’s why we have a livable climate in the first place, and it makes perfect sense that if you increase the pct. of gases opaque to IR, all things being equal, the temperature goes up. I saw that there were controversies over feedback mechanisms and possible mechanisms that promote stasis; the size of this effect resulting from human activities; how long C02 stays in the atmosphere; the actual temperature record; the possibility of other effects being more powerful than human activity; etc. I knew I couldn’t learn enough to sort all this out myself, but two factors have convinced me:

    1) It is clear that the vast majority of people who truly are expert in the field believe that AGW is real and that consequences could be very damaging for humans and other creatures. I know how science works and that it does no accommodate conspiracies against the truth. Errors happen and can persist for a while, but they get fixed.

    2) The tactics of deniers are not credible. They misrepresent evidence, engage in ad hominem attacks and other fallacious arguments, they continually premise shift, when challenged they change the subject, they use obfuscation and argument by assertion; they are funded by people with a vested interest in a particular conclusion; and more.

    So, that’s good enough for me. It ought to be enough for everyone in the corporate news media as well, but apparently it is not.

    [Response: The trouble with the media is that an honest asssessment of the situtation — e.g. “Scientists actually have a clue what they are talking about, and random TV personalities and bloggers do not” doesn’t make for very entertaining reading.–eric]

  3. Luke Lea:

    ““Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction . . .” Coulda, woulda, shoulda. The word “could” rules out very little.

  4. RickA:

    “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000).”

    The author states that “The statement is not as carefully worded as it should be . . .but basically scientifically correct and defensible . . .”

    This statement made it through the review process – and passed muster – even though it was alarmist – ”
    could react drastically”.

    Then a slight change is shown not to cause drastic change and the statement looks to be to strong.

    The author points out it is only one year – but still – as always when science makes statements which are to strong – they got burned.

    It would be better to stick to the science and not try to spin the science to spur political action – then you don’t have to back down in the face of new evidence.

    [Response:Try re-reading this artice again, slowly, and thoughtfully. You’ll realize your comment should be directed elsewhere.–eric]

  5. Carl:

    ” .. contributing temporarily to accelerating the rate of climate change, rather than as usual reducing it, via additions of carbon to the atmosphere from the dead trees.”
    How was this “accelerating the rate of climate change” measured [edit]

  6. tharanga:

    This is not the first time a press release has provided a poor description of a work or its context.

    Given that many journalists and bloggers simply regurgitate the press release instead of reading and understanding the paper and other related papers, this is clearly a problem.

    So why do bad press releases continue to appear?

  7. SecularAnimist:

    RickA wrote: “It would be better to stick to the science and not try to spin the science to spur political action”

    Yes, it would certainly be better for corporations like ExxonMobil, which alone makes about ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS PER DAY IN PROFIT from fossil fuels, if climate scientists who understand that a rapid phaseout of fossil fuel consumption is urgently needed if we are to have any hope of averting the most catastrophic outcomes of AGW, would just stick to the science and keep their mouths shut about that so as not to “spur political action” to save civilization from destruction.

  8. MapleLeaf:

    What the Samanta et al. paper does not address is how the forest responds to multi-year droughts or in months/years following the drought. Research into how the Boreal forest responds to drought has shown that the most significant die back/mortality was not observed during the year of the drought but in subsequent years.

    For example,

    Impacts of a regional drought on the productivity, dieback, and biomass of western Canadian aspen forests. 2008. Hogg, E.H.; Brandt, J.P.; Michaelian, M. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 38(6): 1373-1384.

    This seems to be consistent with the findings of Lewis et al. (2009).

  9. Completely Fed Up:

    “So why do bad press releases continue to appear?”

    Because there’s no downside to doing so (no repercussion if shown wrong: see how the howls of protest at “censorship” when Phil Jones was asked if a paper he’d read was worth including in the IPCC), but there’s a downside to trying properly: it takes more effort.

  10. Completely Fed Up:

    Carl, from here:

    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2.lrg.gif

  11. Hank Roberts:

    > ” .. contributing temporarily to accelerating the rate of climate change,
    > via additions of carbon to the atmosphere from the dead trees.”

    Carl, that’s simple arithmetic. Is there a step you don’t want to accept?

    –> A big temporary increase in dead trees (measured from the satellite)
    —-> an increase in CO2 to the atmosphere (they’re made of CHON)
    ——-> increasing CO2 faster changes climate faster (Arrhenius et al.)

  12. Carl:

    CFU, no acceleration is shown there. Hank R, I was asking for measurements, not theory.

  13. John Peter:

    Gavin

    From model-data comparisons 461

    “[Response: Actually I'm writing a post on this now. But if you have a library look up some letters between Lewis Kaplan and Plass in Tellus in 1960. - gavin]

    Googling “Kaplan and Plass in Tellus” helped me find this:

    http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/2010/1/carbon-dioxide-and-the-climate/1

    The good news is that your January American Scientist paper is one of the best I have read. It should be required reading for all denier, skeptic and yes warmer “scientists”. Congratulations.

    The bad news is that I liked it so much I purchased (24 hour access to) the pdf, an action I almost never take with on-line publications. Imagine my surprise to receive an edited version – some (very important) sections had been elided because “the original article ran to more than 6000 words … too much to be included here”. I was keenly disappointed.

    I chatted with “Greg” at Sigma Xi who was as surprised as I was, recovered to say this rarely happened, tried to be helpful, etc.,etc. I had already copied and printed your paper (tsch, tsch) – but that’s not my point. Why they edited without your knowledge – Sigma Xi yet – is beyond me.

    Surely you can find a way to make the full paper available on the internet with a new reference. It is really worth it

  14. Completely Fed Up:

    “12
    Carl says:
    15 March 2010 at 2:43 PM

    CFU, no acceleration is shown there.”

    Yes there is. Look at the first 30 year average, the middle 30 year average and the last 30 year average.

  15. Gerda:

    This is the second reference to Orwell I have read in 10 minutes. The other was a reaction to the recent goings on at the Texas Board of Education.

  16. Carl:

    CFU, I can’t see any acceleration due to the 2005 Amazon drought.

  17. Kate:

    Thanks Eric, I was hoping RC would cover this issue. I read the NASA study and thought it would be something like this – single year vs long-term trend. Nevertheless, it’s nice to have it confirmed (and translated) over here. Keep up the good work.

  18. Bart Verheggen:

    cervantes (2),

    That’s indeed the kind of logical thinking that we have to make more people aware of. I collected some hints as to how laypeople can decide who to believe on a complex topic such as global warming:
    http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/2009/02/08/who-to-believe/

  19. mike roddy:

    What about the increased fire probability from higher temperatures alone, apart from drought? Lynas mentioned it, but I’d like to see citations. My interest would be for temperate forests as well as tropical ones.

  20. KnowYourPlanet:

    If you think the CRU data is false, why not go to http://www.knowyourplanet.com/climate-data/ and take a look at it? It is displayed in a interactive format and you should be able to find a measurement stations somewhere reasonable close to you. Enjoy!

  21. KnowYourPlanet:

    http://www.knowyourplanet.com/climate-data/

  22. Dappled Water:

    “Drought experiments, where a roof is built under the forest canopy to reduce rainfall, show that most forest trees survive a single year’s intense drought, in agreement with the ground observations in the 2005 drought, but can’t persist with repeated years of drought. The Samanta study does not address this point at all.”

    http://eebweb.arizona.edu/faculty/saleska/Ecol596L/Readings/Nepstad.07_Drought.mortality_Ecology.pdf

  23. RickA:

    #7 – SecularAnimist:

    It doesn’t matter how much money Exxon makes per day. That doesn’t change the fact that the Working Group II infamous sentence was phrased stronger than it should have been, and oversold the science.

    Now “slight reduction” is being spun to mean multiple years of drought instead of a single year of drought.

    In hindsight, the Working Group II infamous sentence should have been scaled back, and never used the phrase “slight reduction”.

    It overstated the science. RealClimate is now saying – well it was akwardly phrased – but defensible. It is a multiple year thing not a single year thing.

    Thats what I mean when I say stick to the science. Lets not hype things up – lets stick to the facts. It is easier that way when later science shows that something has been oversold or hyped.

  24. ghost:

    The Accuweather Climate Blog seems to have picked up the tone of the press release sound bite. Could someone knowledgeable please correct them over there? :)

  25. Kjell Arne Rekaa:

    The:
    …uncertainty as to how Amazon forests many react…
    Should have been:
    …uncertainty as to how Amazon forests may react…
    I think?
    Otherwise a frightening good article – I hope more of us “main street” people starts to understand the possible consequences of such positive feedbacks…

    [Response: Fixed, thanks.–eric]

  26. JimD:

    Can we focus on the science please and not the yah boo nonsense. Being juvenile doesn’t get the point across very well – and some of us are actually interested in facts rather than personalities and propaganda.

    Many thanks.

  27. Arindam Samanta:

    Folks,

    The press release accompanying the GRL article disputed the following IPCC AR4 (2007) claim –

    “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000). It is more probable that forests will be replaced by ecosystems that have more resistance to multiple stresses caused by temperature increase, droughts and fires, such as tropical savannas.”

    for two reasons: (1) this is presented as the consensus view by quoting Rowell and Moore, 2000. (2) There was more than a slight reduction in precipitation during the third quarter of 2005 and, most of the drought-impacted forest area for which we have uncorrupted satellite greenness data showed no enhanced or reduced greenness levels (third quarter average EVI values) as compared to non-drought years (between 2000 and 2008).

    It is only in this context that the material in the press release and the GRL must be understood. We do not dispute any other results related to this theme in these two documents.

    Respectfully,
    Arindam Samanta (on behalf of the authors of the GRL papers).

    [Response: Dear Arindam,

    Thanks for the response.

    On the IPCC statement, as I have said it is not as well-worded as it ought to be. Strictly, perhaps it can be taken as having one of two different meanings,

    1. That the IPCC mean that small reductions in precipitation at any given time cause a drastic response (of which your paper ably shows that for satellite-monitored ‘greenness’ there is no such drastic response, and is an important paper I will certainly cite), or

    2. They mean responses of vegetation to mean climate regimes with differing precipitation (of which your paper says little).

    It seems clear to me that the sentence is about responses to a shift from one climate regime, the recent past and present day, to another, with less precipitation, in the future (it is the IPCC climate change impacts report after all, and they do say ‘… not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation’).

    If meaning two of the sentence is taken, then what the IPCC say is reasonable, defensible, basic science: warm lower-rainfall environments tend to be dominated by savanna, while warm higher-rainfall environments tend to be dominated by rainforest, with a threshold amount of rainfall separating which vegetation type one finds. If substantial areas of the Amazon are in a climate regime close to the savanna-rainfall threshold, which diverse evidence suggests they are, then there may be a vegetation shift if rainfall consistently decreases in the future due to climate change.

    Your response implies you think meaning one is correct, which is mistaken (logically it can’t hold as a proposition). Had your paper cited the IPCC chapter and the sentence you object to and why – which it doesn’t – the misunderstanding could have likely been addressed at the review stage.

    Details aside, it’s the ‘debunking Amazon myths’ headlines, and quotes about putting right ‘muddled understanding’, and, “The way that the WWF report calculated this 40% was totally wrong, while [the new] calculations are by far more reliable and correct,” that are problematic and have unnecessarily confused people. There are no calculations in the WWF report (it’s a review), nor are there any new calculated updates on the IPCC ‘up to 40%’ statement in the Samanta paper, and the ‘muddled understanding’ quote highlights the ‘twin pressures’ facing the Amazon, as logging and climate change, when outright deforestation is certainly the number one current pressure in the context of the quote.

    I know the media regularly run out of control (its happened to me several times), but in my view it is critical to try and put things right. Most journalists and bloggers will help put things right once they know there is a problem, but you have to tell them.

    With best wishes,

    Simon]

  28. JiminMpls:

    #16 Carl

    2005 was the hottest year on record. The dead and decaying trees in the Amazon contributed to that.

    Satisfied?

    Of course, that’s a rather absurd statement, but expecting a measurable impact from a net 5 GT increase in carbon dioxide is absurd, so the answer fits the question.

  29. jcrabb:

    4 months of decreased rainfall seems an extreme interpretation of ‘slight’.

  30. Dave E:

    #23
    “That doesn’t change the fact that the Working Group II infamous sentence was phrased stronger than it should have been, and oversold the science.”
    Infamous sentence? How many sentences are there in the report? Have you ever tried to write a substantive work where every sentence you write exactly expresses your thoughts, while simultaneously insuring that your thoughts are in sync with mountains of published material?
    If this is the best you can do as criticism, you should give it up.

  31. Jean B.:

    Well, it looks like the press release was carefully worded, and referring back to Anthony Watts article on his blog which is criticized at the beginning of the RC article, i see no wrong claim there…
    Hiss main argument is written in bold : “The IPCC is under scrutiny for various data inaccuracies, including its claim – based on a flawed World Wildlife Fund study — that up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically and be replaced by savannas from even a slight reduction in rainfall.”

    That looks very close to what Arindam Samanta writes here in the comments:
    The press release accompanying the GRL article disputed the following IPCC AR4 (2007) claim –
    “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation [...] It is more probable that forests will be replaced by ecosystems [...] such as tropical savannas.”

    [Response: The point is that it would be very surprising if one year of low precipitation would matter very much. The Saleska paper, though, suggested it did, and not only that, but in the opposite direction to what one would expect. That was news. now, the new Samanta paper suggests that actually, no, one year of low precip isn’t very important.

    Watts’ title of his post is: “Amazon more drought resistant than claimed [by IPCC]“. Anyone reading that who was not 100% familiar with the text of the papers involved would assume that this means “Amazon is not as damaged by drought as IPCC claims”. That’s why I called Samanta’s press release “careless”, and it is why Watts post is disingenuous.–eric]

  32. jimt:

    Dr Samanta @27

    As pointed out in the post, “The critical question is how these forests respond to repeated droughts, not merely single-year droughts”. How can a study based on a single-year be used to dispute any predictions about long term impacts of climate change (i.e. long term changes in rainfall patterns)?

    I am curious as to what or who motivated the press release? Was it genuine concern from the authors that one small sentence in the IPCC may be wrong (or could be interpreted as such, depending on how “slight reduction in precipitation” was interpreted), or was it simply an attempt to generate some publicity? Was the press release written by the authors or by a PR consultant/advisor?

    [Response: Dr. Samanta and colleagues are of course welcome to answer your question if want to spend their time responding to queries on blogs, but I have to say I object to the insinutation here about scientists motivations. I have little doubt Samanta et al. were not aware of how easily their press release would get misued and abused. I’ve been in the same boat myself. No matter how carefully one words the press release, some people will misunderstand it, whether on purpose or out of naivete.–eric]

  33. Francis:

    Here in Southern California, foresters are well aware of the impacts of multi-year drought — bark beetle mortality is skyrocketing in drought-stressed pine populations in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.

  34. Hank Roberts:

    Question for Dr. Samanta if I may — I’d read that the opposite of the way jcrabb did, a “slight reduction” in an article about climate change would seem to me to mean an ongoing longterm change.

    Do you think that Rowell and Moore’s “slight reduction” was intended to include a reduction during one calendar quarter of one year? Wouldn’t that be considered natural variation in precipitation?

    I know this is complicated and there is a lot of field work going on, and that one question is whether the vegetation is getting most of its moisture from groundwater or from rainfall on leaves directly absorbed.

    With a temperate-zone experience, I’ve tended to equate a change in precipitation with a change in groundwater availability–which might not change much with due to a change in rainfall in one calendar quarter.

    Serious question, I don’t know most of the details about rainfall and plants in the area. I’d actually thought the article was more about the satellite sensors, data, and analysis at this point and was expecting some ‘ground truth’ information later on to tie the color change in the pictures to the actual changes on the ground.

  35. Mark A. York:

    Whew! Andy Revkin Tweeted this so-called debate between Lindzen and Hadi ….of the U. of BC. Wow. Life as we know it will be no problem at 600 ppm of CO2. Both agree that the models are Ouija boards. Unbelievable. Well, it is considering the players. No wonder media is so confused. Both disagreed with the NASA films the moderator showed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJwayalLpYY

  36. MapleLeaf:

    Hank Roberts@ 34. See my earlier post regarding delayed response of Boreal forest in Canada to drought. Also, it has been well established that the Amazon forest can be a net source of CO2 during drought periods. In fact, a study by Dr. Phillips in 2009 demonstrated that. This from ScienceDaily:

    “The 2005 drought sharply reversed decades of carbon absorption, in which Amazonia helped slow climate change.

    In normal years the forest absorbs nearly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. The drought caused a loss of more than 3 billion tonnes. The total impact of the drought – 5 billion extra tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – exceeds the annual emissions of Europe and Japan combined.”

    And relevant here:

    Visually, most of the forest appeared little affected, but our records prove tree death rates accelerated. Because the region is so vast, even small ecological effects can scale-up to a large impact on the planet’s carbon cycle,” explained Professor Phillips.”

    And

    “But in 2005 this process was reversed. Tree death accelerated most where drought was strongest, and locations subject even to mild drying were affected. Because of the study, we now know the precise sensitivity of the Amazon to warming and drought.

    If repeated, Amazon droughts will accelerate climate warming and make future droughts even more damaging.”

    I agree with Hank that this study focuses on the response of the canopy during the drought. Phillips et al. have clearly noted that while visually all may seem well with the Canopy during the drought, that is in fact not the case.

    Quoted text from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090305141625.htm

  37. Craig Allen:

    RE John Peter #13:

    Excelent article GavinEric and Simon. Comprehensive and very readable. Perfect for a couple of my friends who are interested in the science and who are beginning to relize that the denialist position is mostly bluster and noise.

    Thanks John for the heads up about the purchasable pdf being an edited version. I would have purchased and printed several copies and then been very peeved. I’ll set to work copying and pasting the online version into a word doc.

  38. Steve Bloom:

    Re #32 reply: “Dr. Samanta and colleagues are of course welcome to answer your question if want to spend their time responding to queries on blogs, but I have to say I object to the insinutation here about scientists motivations. I have little doubt Samanta et al. were not aware of how easily their press release would get misued and abused. I’ve been in the same boat myself. No matter how carefully one words the press release, some people will misunderstand it, whether on purpose or out of naivete.–eric”

    That’s far too generous unless you want to argue they didn’t know what “myth” means. Whoever wrote that press release was angling for controversy.

  39. jimt:

    Eric @32 says “I have to say I object to the insinutation here about scientists motivations. I have little doubt Samanta et al. were not aware of how easily their press release would get misued and abused.”

    As a research scientist myself I would never insinuate anything about “scientists motivations” in general (I know they are infinitely variable), but I do find this sort of press release very puzzling, and I am genuinely curious about who wrote it and why. I know (from personal experience) that university press units sometimes encourage researchers to “sex-up” their research, and that there are many external pressures to increase citation rates (hence to exaggerate the implications of ones papers) – regardless of ones personal motivation for doing science. If the authors genuinely believed the IPCC report needed correcting, fair enough (but why do it via press release?). If they – or whoever wrote the press release – was just trying to generate some interest in their paper, then they should be be more careful.
    In the current “climate” it seems very naive to think that a press release claiming to “dubunk myths” and contradict claims by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change would not be used and abused by climate deniers. And I really am baffled why the authors would bother making such a statement given the limitations of the study – in terms of saying anything about climate change impacts.

  40. Frank Giger:

    My fear for the Amazon is that climate change studies on impacts resulting in less forest are rather like discussing erosion displacing earth at a strip mine.

    Unless the rate of deforestation by humans has been greatly reduced, that is.

  41. Ike Solem:

    This is the disputed quote: “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000).”

    First, if you want to see a good example of how this kind of work (climate effects on ecosystem behavior via satellite analysis) should be done, please read this:

    Behrenfeld (2006) “Climate-driven trends in contemporary ocean productivity” Nature

    http://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/bibliography/related_files/mjb0601.pdf

    We find a clear, strong correspondence between MEI [multivariate ENSO index] variability and SeaWiFS [satellite] -based anomalies in NPP [net primary productivity] (r2 5 0.77, P , 0.005) and SChl [surface chlorophyll]. An increase in the MEI (that is, warmer conditions) results in a decrease in NPP and SChl, and vice versa. This relationship emphasizes the pre-eminent role of climate variability on ocean productivity trends. The observed physical–biological coupling between NPP and the MEI [multivariate ENSO index] functions through an effect of climate on water column stratification. Climatic changes that allow surface warming cause an increase in the density contrast between the surface layer and underlying nutrient-rich waters. For the global stratified oceans, the density difference
    between the surface and a depth of 200 m provides a useful measure of stratification. Monthly anomalies in this stratification index exhibit similar trends as the MEI for the SeaWiFS period. Importantly, enhanced stratification suppresses nutrient exchange through vertical mixing. Conversely, surface cooling favours elevated vertical exchange. Phytoplankton in the ocean’s upper layer (that is, the populations observed from space) rely on vertical nutrient transport to sustain productivity, so intensified stratification during a rising MEI period (Fig. 2b) is accompanied closely by decreasing NPP (Fig. 2b) (r2 5 0.73, P , 0.005)

    Note that:

    1) They examine this over an eight-year period, a long enough time frame to make the conclusions more robust.

    2) They raise interesting issues related to the Amazon:

    Modelling studies suggest that shifts in ecosystem structure from climate variations may be as or more important than the alterations in bulk integrated properties reported here

    Hence, the authors of the recent GRL paper did nice work sorting out flaws in earlier research, but their press release claim about the IPCC quote isn’t substantiated for that reason alone – satellite data might be entirely missing changes in species composition. That’s not the only reason, either.

    Furthermore, in evaluating such things, it’s good to look for other examples:

    VANCOUVER, Canada, Mar 10, 2009 – The sheer magnitude of the devastation left by this tiny beetle is shocking on its own. “The pine beetle kill”, as it’s known to British Columbians, refers to the millions of hectares of trees left for dead in the wake of the voracious insect. Forestry officials in Canada’s westernmost province estimate the volume of wood lost to be around 620 million cubic metres – roughly equivalent to 15 million logging truck loads.

    According to a B.C. Ministry of Forests report, roughly half of the province’s pine trees are now destroyed by the bug, with the most extensive damage occurring in the central Canadian Rockies, where two-thirds of the region’s lodgepole pine forests have been transformed into a sea of orange needles.

    Now, is a rough guess of 40% loss really so unreasonable? The Amazon may or may not be as robust as the Canadian pine forests – but the IPCC statement seems fair enough, doesn’t it? Why attack it with a press release blurb unrelated to the actual subject of the paper?

  42. Edward Greisch:

    Simon Lewis: Please go over that “roof” thing again. Don’t trees absorb water through their roots in the ground? So how does a roof over a few trees affect the ground water? Did you somehow block the flow of ground water as well? Surely you can’t build a roof big enough to affect ground water?

    [Response: The roof thing… here are some pictures… http://www.whrc.org/southamerica/drought_sim/index.htm
    You build a sloping retractable roof under the canopy to shift water away from your ‘drought’ plot, and dig a trench around the area with the roof (and dig around the control plot) to stop some of the lateral movement of the water back in once it reaches the soil (you’re totally right that the trees get their water through their roots). Then you monitor the water in the soil, photosynthesis, tree mortality etc in your pair of plots to assess the impacts of controlled decreases in water availability on the forest.–Simon]

  43. Alan of Oz:

    RE #19 The CSIRO has done a lot of work on AGW’s impact on busfires. See http://www.csiro.au/science/Climate-Change-Fire-Weather.html to get you started. You might also want to check out how fire weather risk is measured via something known as the forest fire index (FFI).

    Also a shameless plug for a bushfire story I posted on slashdot http://slashdot.org/firehose.pl?op=view&id=3586459

  44. Martin Vermeer:

    KnowYourPlanet #20, nice service; but please do not repeat false memes, not even in order to refute them. Rather, build the message around a positive meme. Like ‘redundancy’…

  45. Gilles:

    “#16 Carl

    2005 was the hottest year on record. The dead and decaying trees in the Amazon contributed to that.

    Satisfied?”

    Obviously nobody answered Carl correctly – and saying that the high 2005 temperature is the consequence of the CO2 emitted by the Amazon forest after the …2005 drought is of course totally surrealist. So did this CO2 contribute to an acceleration AFTER 2005? obviously not since 2005 is still the warmest year following GISS (but not other measurements). In any case, a ” temporary, source of over 3 billion tonnes” has absolutely no effect on the total CO2 level and hence on temperatures which react with a much longer timescale, so the only reasonable and quick answer to Carl would have been : No, of course !!!

    Another funny thing here :
    “The evidence for the possibility of a major die-back of the Amazon rainforest is due to two factors,

    1. That climate change induced decreases in rainfall in the dry season occur, and

    2. The trees cannot tolerate these reductions in rainfall.

    The Samanta paper does not directly address the first point; this is addressed using global circulation models (of which some, but not all, show a strong drying trend for the east of the Amazon over the 21st century)”

    So a strong drying trend is shown by “some, but not all” models. Obviously this is by no means a certitude. Again, and as usual, predictions are based on the fact that models are uncertain. If you raise the uncertainty, you raise the errors bars, meaning that more and more models will predict catastrophic (and wrong) predictions. So we have the first weird result that the more uncertain the models are, the more action is needed.

    But there is worse, much worse. We KNOW that Amazon forest is shrinking, at an accelerated rate. But not because of droughts, that have not yet been observed to increase. Because of ecological pressure, deforestation, both for use of wood and use of land for agriculture. Now what do you think would be the result of a reduction of fossil fuels? a diminishing, or an increasing pressure on biomass ? biomass is the only source of carbon apart from fossil fuels. Brazil is the main producer of biofuels, through sugar cane, and this needs land. So the result is rather obvious to predict – and does not rely on uncertain GCM, but simple and basic logics and sense of reality. Very weird, indeed…

  46. Gilles:

    Sorry hadn’t read #28. But then saying ” but tree mortality increased, contributing temporarily to accelerating the rate of climate change” is disingenuous, since absolutely no significative “acceleration of the rate” is visible at all.

  47. Gilles:

    “In normal years the forest absorbs nearly 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. The drought caused a loss of more than 3 billion tonnes. The total impact of the drought – 5 billion extra tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – exceeds the annual emissions of Europe and Japan combined.”

    Yes.. if the enhanced mortality is not compensated in the next years by an increase of CO2 absorption, which is quite possible if old dead trees are replaced by new growing ones; the peak of mortality in France during the heat wave in 2003 was almost exactly compensated by a decrease in 2004 – obviously because the main effect was an advance of some months of the death of old people. It’s meaningless to consider only short term events, you have to take a global average on relevant timescales. That’s why speaking of an acceleration of the warming is also meaningless, unless it has been proved that the phenomenon is significative on the long term.

  48. Eli Rabett:

    Eric, given the constant coverage of the IPCC’s alleged mistakes it is difficult to believe that Samanta, et al, were innocents playing with matches. Even if the release was written by a public information officer, they had the obligation to review and correct it.

    Eli would be a lot more impressed if Samanta had written the same response to the various denialist blogs and news media that have picked up the ball he threw out onto the playing field and are running with it. What say we do an experiment and repost Samanta’s mea not culpa on Climate Audit and similar to see what happens. Wanna bet what happens?

    [Response: Eli: I can understand with your sentiments, but among the many differences between us and people like Steve McI. and Roger Pielke Jr is that we don’t accuse or insinuate that other people of dishonest or nefarious motivations without substantive evidence. And it any case it is irrelevant to the point here. The science speaks for itself very unambiguously in this case.–eric]

  49. Edward Greisch:

    I thought “a slight decrease in rainfall” meant a “permanent” slight decrease in rainfall, so I didn’t see a problem with the thinking. A permanent slight decrease could cause a switch.
    Doesn’t the jungle “generate or regenerate its own rain”? So wouldn’t there be a positive feedback?

    47 Gilles: “significative”: Are you George W. Bush?

  50. Leonard Weinstein:

    The IPCC claim was that the rainforest was excessively sensitive to a slight decrease in rainfall. Anyone would know that a severe and prolonged lack of rain would be bad, but that was not the claim. The IPCC claim is wrong, and trying to relate that to the more extreme situation is incorrect.

    [Response: You are reading things into the IPCC that aren’t there. The IPCC does not say “a slight, shortlived, one-year long anomaly” will matter. The implication is obviously that a prolonged decrease will matter. IPCC was arguably less than precise here, but they probably didn’t realize anyone would be so foolish as to think they meant weather, rather than climate.–eric]

  51. Kevin McKinney:

    It may be “obvious” to Gilles (@45) that the use sugarcane for ethanol is linked to deforestation–but is the “obvious” true?

    Not according to this:

    http://www.mongabay.com/brazil.html

    A substantial discussion of the issue–and biofuel production doesn’t even make the list.

    How can that be? Well, according to Wiki:

    “In 2008 Brazil has 276 million hectares of arable land, 72% use for pasture, 16.9% for grain crops, and 2.8% for sugarcane, meaning that ethanol is just requiring approximately 1.5% of all arable land available in the country.[61]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel_in_Brazil

    The underlying citation, for fact checkers (who read Portugese!):
    “Produção de álcool e de açúcar baterá recorde em 2008, prevê Conab” (in Portuguese). Folha de São Paulo. 2008-04-29. Retrieved 2008-11-09.

  52. Nick Gotts:

    So we have the first weird result that the more uncertain the models are, the more action is needed. – Gilles

    That’s not “weird” at all. In a situation where we have excellent grounds for expecting disruptive changes to occur as a result of our activities, greater uncertainty concerning the scale of these changes of course mandates greater caution.

    Now what do you think would be the result of a reduction of fossil fuels? a diminishing, or an increasing pressure on biomass ? biomass is the only source of carbon apart from fossil fuels. Brazil is the main producer of biofuels, through sugar cane, and this needs land. So the result is rather obvious to predict – and does not rely on uncertain GCM, but simple and basic logics and sense of reality. Very weird, indeed…

    Pressure on the Amazon results primarily from cattle ranching, growing soybeans for cattle feed, logging for timber, mining, and subsistence agriculture. While oil palm plantations are a significant cause of deforestation in south-east Asia, the oil is used almost entirely for food, not biofuel. In short, tropical forest protection is a matter of political will; if this is not present, they will be destroyed, irrespective of whether we attempt to reduce fossil fuel use – because it is highly profitable to destroy them. The attitude behind this destruction is exactly the same as you are advocating – maximise profit and economic growth at any environmental cost.

  53. Completely Fed Up:

    “The IPCC claim is wrong, and trying to relate that to the more extreme situation is incorrect.”

    And the papers and proofs of this error are where..?

  54. EL:

    My absolute favorite spin today:

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2010/03/logical_positivism_and_the_ipc.html

    I must say, this article is the largest abuse of Godel that I have ever laid eyes on.

  55. Kooiti Masuda:

    This seems to be another case of what Andrew Revkin calls “journalistic whiplash” many times, relatively recently on 13 January at http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/01/13/climate-whiplash-in-the-greenhouse/ . The problem can be summarized, with the words of Kenneth Caldeira quoted in the Dot Earth article: “the press’s tendency to make a big story out of every individual paper, rather than reporting the picture that emerges out of the findings of a field of science over time”.

    p.s. Eric, do the name “Salenta” which appeared twice in your response to comment #31 actually mean “Samanta”?

    [Response: Fixed, thanks.–eric]

  56. Gilles:

    ““In 2008 Brazil has 276 million hectares of arable land, 72% use for pasture, 16.9% for grain crops, and 2.8% for sugarcane, meaning that ethanol is just requiring approximately 1.5% of all arable land available in the country.[61]”

    Yes, to power around 10 millions cars. How many are to be powered in 50 years? I’m talking about increased pressure. And biofuels are not the only commodity when biomass is needed to replace fossil carbon.

  57. David Schoonmaker:

    @13 John Peter wrote:

    “Surely you can find a way to make the full paper available on the internet with a new reference. It is really worth it.”

    and Gavin replied:

    http://www.americanscientist.org/issues/feature/2010/1/carbon-dioxide-and-the-climate/1

    The HTML version at the URL above is the only version with all the original text from the 1956 Plass article. The PDF was made from the version that was printed in the paper edition, which was elided based on suggestions from Gavin. (Note: Gavin’s commentary is included in full in both versions.) We failed to anticipate that people would purchase the PDF expecting to see the long version, for which I apologize. We would be happy to refund your money.

    David Schoonmaker
    editor
    American Scientist

  58. Spencer:

    Not entirely off-topic: an open letter from US scientists proposing, among other things, that the IPCC establish a website where errors in reports can be acknowledged and claims of errors that are themselves incorrect can be refuted in “internet time”. This is what realclimate has been trying to do all by itself, and how great it would be if the IPCC would take up the idea! But would it be lively and readable, or bogged down in negotiated bureaucrat-speak?

  59. Gilles:

    “That’s not “weird” at all. In a situation where we have excellent grounds for expecting disruptive changes to occur as a result of our activities, greater uncertainty concerning the scale of these changes of course mandates greater caution.”

    For me, greater uncertainty is not an “excellent ground for expecting disruptive changes”, but maybe it’s only a question of philosophy.

    But actually, I would say that your kind of position makes my warnings about the potential danger of reducing fossil fuels still more relevant : in the same spirit, the greater the uncertainty on the potential drawbacks of reducing fossil fuels is , the more cautious we should be before reducing them.I’m aware that this could appear as a paradox, but the paradox is from the beginning in the precautionary principle : uncertainty can go in both directions, and doesn’t really help to determine which is the best one to take.

  60. Michael Tobis:

    The contents of the press release are not remotely supported by the publication.

    It is clear that the political process is much more concerned about press releases than about the underlying work. Consider the McLean/de Freitas El Nino paper and its subsequent spin.

    http://deepclimate.org/2009/07/30/is-enso-responsible-for-recent-global-warming-no/

    The relationship between scientists and their respective press offices is no longer the trifling matter that many scientists would be inclined to expect, if indeed it ever was so.

    As matters stand Dr. Samanta or someone claiming to be him (did RC verify it was him?) stands by the press release. This thus becomes less of a process issue; we do not need to establish how this nonsense got past the press office if Samanta is willing to say he approves it. Assuming the attribution is correct, it now becomes Dr. Samanta’s responsibility to defend the argument implied in his comment #27 above, which is hardly less tendentious than the press release.

    The IPCC WG II comment that “up to 40% could react drastically” simply expresses a concern. There is no implication of certainty; indeed it implicitly states that “at least 60% is unlikely to react drastically” which could be taken as reassuring. In any case it would be difficult to refute.

    As has been discussed at length in the parent article and the comments, the quoted research does not constitute a refutation of that position in the slightest, but rather is a detailed refutation of the contrary and counterintuitive paper by Aragao et al that seemed to claim that rain forests love drought. This is a case where you don’t need a weatherman to say which way the wind blows. If tropical rainforests were so fond of drought, they would be growing in dry places. However, Samanta et al did the service of refuting Aragao.

    It is far from obvious how Samanta disputes Rowell or the IPCC. Many of us who have taken a first look at the matter believe that it does not.

    A couple of additional points remain to be resolved here. How did a press release which is perfectly attuned to what the doubt merchants might want it to say, and almost perfectly tangential to the actual results of the study, come out of the press office? This, it seems to me, remains a matter for the university to investigate.

    Second, it is important to note that if a paper were to come out that actually did refute Rowell 2000, it would not constitute any indication of a flaw in the IPCC process, nor an error in any sense. Questioning the conclusions of IPCC is necessary, else the first report would suffice.

    Science progresses. The idea that a refinement or even a reversal on a particular point in the consensus report constitutes evidence that the consensus process is flawed is hopelessly pernicious. It puts science in a perfect bind.

    But we need to cross that bridge in cases where the science has actually progressed. The distinction between a one-year drought and a persistent decline in precipitation ought to be obvious to a person working in the field. It is less obvious to the rest of us. If there is a case to be made, it was not made in the peer reviewed publication, but rather only in the press release.

    I have not been alone in spending a lot of time worrying over the badly damaged links between science and the press and writing about it. But so far as I know, little has been written about the connection between scientists and the institutional press offices that are supposed to serve scientists. The Samanta et al story makes it clear that this relationship can’t be taken for granted.

  61. Tom S:

    [edit]
    The problem with the IPCC was not specifically with the data itself (which does appear flawed anyway), but that it was another case of the IPCC clearly using very questionable sources for their “peer reviewed” conclusions.

    [Response: You are confusing several different things; the IPCC didn’t particularly rely on the Saleska et al. study; I don’t think it is even cited.]

  62. Ike Solem:

    Giles: “Yes.. if the enhanced mortality is not compensated in the next years by an increase of CO2 absorption, which is quite possible if old dead trees are replaced by new growing ones.”

    Is that a line from the CEI “CO2: We Call it Life” campaign? Global warming is good for you? CO2 is Nature’s Fertilizer?

    Again, look at the Canadian pine forest case. Has there been a spurt of new growth? Or are the underlying ecological factors taking over?

    Researchers with Natural Resources Canada agree historically frigid Canadian winters have kept the mountain pine beetle at bay, but the past decade hasn’t produced cold enough temperatures to kill off the insects. A winter low of -40 C for a sustained period or a sudden cold snap in early fall or late spring of -25 C is needed to end the outbreak, but mild winters have decreased the winter mortality rate from the usual 80 percent to less than 10 percent.

    Because of the reduced wood supply, forest companies have laid off thousands of workers, mills have closed and government officials are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the crisis. Fears are now mounting in the neighbouring province of Alberta, where a battle is mounting to prevent the eastward expansion of the beetle.

    The worry of both the pulp and paper industry and conservationists is that the pest will spread east on a diet of jackpine, a close relative of the lodgepole pine, as the beetle has shown a taste for it. Billions of jackpine trees are at risk, as their boreal forest home stretches across a massive northern eco-region from Alaska to Newfoundland.

    Could persistent Amazon drought, like persistent warm subarctic temperatures, lead to similar unforeseen effects?

    The main historical and present cause of deforestation in the Amazon is the expansion of cattle and soy production for export to European, Japanese and American markets, by the way. If sugarcane has any impact, it’s in the Cerrado region to the south – and again, it’s a minor constituent. This is probably why the IPCC head made the comment about how eating less meat would reduce deforestation-linked carbon emissions.

    But what is this, Giles, running with three myths at once? Biofuels are an ecological nightmare, fossil fuel CO2 promotes plant growth, and global warming is just a temporary blip due to natural variation – is that what you want people to believe?

  63. Hank Roberts:

    Leonard, there’s a slight decrease in rainfall every time the clouds blow on by and the sun comes out. You’re confusing weather and climate.

    The IPCC report wasn’t written to avoid every possible intentional misreading.
    Please do better, we _need_ competent smart critics, not debate rhetoric.

  64. Andreas Bjurström:

    Eric, can you give substantive evidence that Pielke usually don´t have substantive evidence for his claims? (this is a fair intellectual request)

    From reading Pielkes blog, I would say that he are fairly good at giving substantive evidence by quoting other scientists, high-lighting certain sentenses, analyzing what they are saying, arguing stringently for his claims, etc. That is the scientific method (of the social scinces) at work. Everyone is also free to comment at his blog, without censorship. What more can you ask for?

    My impression (besides the general picking and power struggle among researchers that want to be influential) is that the basic issue here is that scientists don´t like that other scientists (that are not close peers, i.e. that don´t belong to the right tribe) are critically analyzing that they are doing. Politicians are always scrutinized by the media and democracy demand that,whereas researchers demand iwory towers.

    [Response: Give me a break. Repeating false claims by others about plagiarism, and making up claims himself about plagiarism doesn’t count? How about going on an on about the ‘hidden agendas’ of scientists, such as (most recently) Jane Lubchenko? One thing I’ll agree with you about: Pielke Jr. is good at “high-lighting certain sentences” to give a particular (often false) impression of what is actually going on. I am happy to receive fair criticism. It is innuendo and lies I have trouble with. There is actually a difference bewteen these you know.–eric]

  65. Reasonable Observer:

    I am glad to see Dr. Lewis posting on this subject. We had a big back and forth on this a couple of weeks ago so it is helpful to have the expert posting here.

    Dr. Lewis says:

    “Rainforest persists above a threshold of rainfall, below which one finds savanna. If this threshold is crossed a landscape dominated by rainforest can ‘flip’ to savanna. Therefore a ’slight’ reduction can lead to a ‘dramatic’ reaction. Of course, evidence of a shift to a new lower rainfall climate regime is needed, and evidence of large areas of forest close to that rainfall threshold would be required for the IPCC statement to be reasonable; there is ample published evidence for both.”

    This seems reasonable.

    So what percent reduction in rainfall would cause 40% of the Amazon to shift to savanna?

    Since you note earlier in your post that their is considerable uncertainty, maybe you could even give us a range.

    Something like: A reduction in rainfall of between X% and Y% would cause 40% of the Amazon to shift to savanna.

    Alternatively: A slight reduction is rainfall (5%), would cause between X% & Y% of the Amazon to shift to savanna.

  66. Paul Gosling:

    The switch from CO2 uptake to production in 2005 seems much more likely to be a response of the soil to drying than decay of the dead trees, whih presumably take several years to decay, even in a wet (but then dry) climate.

  67. Jim Galasyn:

    Dappled Water mentions the Amazon Rainfall Exclusion Experiment. More here at the Woods Hole site: Drought Simulation.

    Another surprise was that the observed sensitivity of large canopy trees to drought is greater than expected. Once the moisture that is stored in deep soil is depleted, the largest trees – towering 130 to 150 feet above the ground and basking in full sunlight – begin to falter and die.

  68. Nick Gotts:

    “That’s not “weird” at all. In a situation where we have excellent grounds for expecting disruptive changes to occur as a result of our activities, greater uncertainty concerning the scale of these changes of course mandates greater caution.” – Me

    For me, greater uncertainty is not an “excellent ground for expecting disruptive changes”, but maybe it’s only a question of philosophy. – Gilles

    I think in this case it will be clear to everyone that you are deliberately twisting what I said. I did not say that greater uncertainty is an excellent ground for expecting disruptive changes, as is quite evident from your quote from me. The fact that you are unable to make a case without this sort of distortion is extremely telling.

    I would say that your kind of position makes my warnings about the potential danger of reducing fossil fuels still more relevant : in the same spirit, the greater the uncertainty on the potential drawbacks of reducing fossil fuels is , the more cautious we should be before reducing them. – Gilles

    Indeed, uncertainty works both ways, but there are a number of differences. First, there are additional grounds for reducing fossil fuel use, which you yourself have noted: the supply of such fuels is finite, and in the case of oil, probably quite limited. Second, there are large differences even between rich countries in the amounts of fossil fuels used, and many ways in which use can be reduced by increasing efficiency: hence we have good grounds for believing that considerable reduction is possible without adverse effects. Third, so far as the use of electricity is concerned, we already have alternatives, and we know that much of the electricity-producing plant will in any case need to be replaced in the relatively near future. Fourth, reducing fossil fuel use is readily reversible; changing the composition of the atmosphere is not.

  69. Hank Roberts:

    One hit on Saleska (2003) in Ch.7, in discussing the available studies, the uncertainties, and the need for large scale study to determine trends:

    “… the recent pan-tropical warming, about 0.26°C per decade (Malhi and Wright, 2004), could increase water stress and respiration, and stimulation by CO2 might be limited ….
    … studies involving large-area plots (9–50 ha) have indicated either no net long-term change or a long-term net decline in above ground live biomass (Chave et al., 2003; Baker et al., 2004; Clark, 2004; Laurance et al., 2004), and a five-year study of a 20 ha plot in Tapajos, Brazil show increasing live biomass offset by decaying necromass (Fearnside, 2000; Saleska et al., 2003).
    Koerner (2004) argues that accurate assessment of trends in forest carbon balance requires long-term monitoring of many replicate plots or very large plots; lacking these studies, the net carbon balance of undisturbed tropical forests cannot be authoritatively assessed based on in situ studies….”

    That’s why we’re seeing so many satellite color interpretation studies–it’s far less expensive, if and when the satellite data can be reliably established as showing something specific is going on on the ground. But this is one of those “need to run old and new system in parallel” problems so beloved of beancounters who just want to throw out the old and start up the new and trust in luck. Getting enough data to _know_ what the satellite data sets reflect takes serious ground work for a while.

    A different study (2005) on which Saleska is a coauthor is cited in Ch.13

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=site:ipcc.ch+saleska

  70. Nick Gotts:

    My impression (besides the general picking and power struggle among researchers that want to be influential) is that the basic issue here is that scientists don´t like that other scientists (that are not close peers, i.e. that don´t belong to the right tribe) are critically analyzing that they are doing. – Andreas Bjurström

    Well, “impressions” differ. Mine is that scientists resent pseudo-scientists making extravagant claims on a basis of ignorance; and that the latter are themselves extremely touchy in response to critical analysis.

  71. Eli Rabett:

    Eric, you are infantilizing Prof. Samanta, and setting yourself (and us) up for a beating. As you may have noticed, the climate debate is NOT being played out in the scientific literature and there are a fair number of nasty people out there gunning for you and your colleagues. Pretty much anyone can spin a clear statement into a CYA garment. Either Samanta knew what he and his colleagues were doing in that press release, in which case as Dr. Lewis has shown, he was culpably wrong, or he was unbelievably naive, in which case he still is wrong and needs not to post on Real Climate, but in the places where his paper is being used as a club against the IPCC. Eli makes no assumption about motives, but he understands responsibility and effects.

    In the words of Daniel Patrick Moynahan, if you define deviency down, you get devients. A large proportion of the mess we find ourselves in is owed to your (climate scientists) willingness to listen to excuses in private from the Lindzens and the Pielkes, while they read you out in public. Samanta has taken the first bite, either the cost is made clear to him, or he will take the second.

  72. Hank Roberts:

    Oh, and for “reasonable observer” — you’re asking for a prediction in advance of the facts needed, while many links here could inform you of the work going on. We know this kind of flip happens — from the paleo record; at some level of decrease in rainfall/availability of groundwater, forests are replaced by grasslands. But that’s a gross oversimplification–it describes the change in the rock layers! The details, in living systems, are just now being looked at.

  73. Kooiti Masuda:

    A remark to the comment by Michael Tobis (#60) which I generally agree.
    The paper which claimed counterintuitive greening is not by Aragao, but by Saleska et al. The paper by Aragao et al. mentioned more biomass fires during the drought (according to the paper by Samanta et al.).

  74. Mark A. York:

    Can someone put this guy’s accusations on climate sensitivity to rest? I used previous discussion on the Schwartz papers, but apparently that isn’t enough.

    “1) Annan and Hargraves 2006 found a climate sensitivity distribution of (1.7, 2.9, 4.9) not the 3C cited. Their paper came under criticism of how they handled the Bayes’ theorem at the center of their analysis (SV Henricksson Climate of the Past Discussions Sept 2009). Contrary to Dr Schwartz, there has been no response to the criticism.

    2) I guess you didn’t read step 6 of your realclimate citation. This is the heart of the Schwartz 2009 position: Realclimate uses the IPCC net forcing of 1.6 W/m2 for 2005 and a climate sensitivity of 0.75 C/ (W/m2) to calculate the expected equilibrium temperature increase of 1.2C vs. the observed 0.7C. They attribute the difference of 0.5 C to ocean warming (in the pipeline).This is a ocean warming of 0.7 W/m2.

    Ok, Schwartz’s points: a) With the IPCC GHG forcing of 2.63 W/m2 you need a negative aerosol forcing of -1.2 W/m2 to get 1.6 W/m2 (there are other minor forcings). With GHG 2.63 W/m2, the expected temp rise is an embarrassing 2.1C vs. the observed 0.7C. Aerosols have no agreed forcing history and the IPCC concedes the “level of scientific understanding” of aerosols forcing is “low”. So everything turns on aerosols not GHG

    b) Your required ocean warming of 0.7 w/m2 can’t be found. The IPCC lists it as 0.21 W/m2+/- 0.04 (see IPCC page 391). Schwartz uses 0.37 W/m2 in his 2009 paper. By my own analysis from 1955-2009, I get 0.26 W/m2. Kevin Trenberth Aug 2009, went looking for James Hansen’s claimed ocean heat uptake of 0.9 W/m2 and couldn’t find it.”

  75. Kevin McKinney:

    Gilles (#56)–

    No doubt–presuming business as usual, at least. But with the other pressures (which actually DO drive deforestation in very troubling amounts–though Brazil has moved the trend in a better direction in recent years), will the “increased pressure” matter? If the warming due to AWG does in fact create a prolonged drought and a transition to savannah land, will the “increased pressure” matter?

    So with real pressures today, bringing in one that is currently (and over the next couple of decades) insignificant seems disingenuous at best. If we lose the Amazonian rainforest, it is highly unlikely that it will have anything to do with sugarcane growing.

  76. Deep Climate:

    #60 Michael Tobis

    I agree entirely that the gap between the actual science and PR (or science journalism, for that matter) based upon it is problematic.

    It’s important, though, to distinguish between the case of McLean et al and the Amazon research of Samanta et al. In the case of McLean et al, the authors actively co-operated with a PR campaign that can only be characterized as disinformation. In fact, I would argue the whole point of that article’s publication was the ensuing dishonest PR campaign.

    In the current case, we have legitimate research that is being spun by the usual suspects. Unfortunately the lapse in PR (perhaps a misguided attempt to sensationalize the results) has made it easier for the spinmeisters.

    There was a similar case to do with research by Peter Clark at Oregon State University, where the PR mishandled the context, and was subsequently spun by Lawrence Solomon in the National Post (I don’t have the reference handy right now, but it’s a case I’ve been intending to look at).

    Coverage of Mojib Latif’s work by Fred Pearce in the New Scientist would fall in much the same category, I would say. A sincere but misguided interpretaion of the work was then distorted by Marc Morano and became a persistent contrarian talking point.

    To me, the current situation has two lessons:

    1) The PR needs to be carefully reviewed by the scientists to ensure its accuracy.

    and,

    2) Scientists need to speak out when their work or statements are distorted or misrepresented in the popular press.

    The following commentary by Terence Corcoran of the National Post is a prime example.

    http://network.nationalpost.com/NP/blogs/fullcomment/archive/2010/03/12/terence-corcoran-remember-amazongate.aspx

    Deltoid has discussion here:
    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/03/its_always_bad_news_for_the_ip.php

    To be continued …

  77. Bob:

    What doesn’t make sense to me is the quote by Ganguly, one of the paper’s authors (from the press release, or at least the version of it that I find everywhere on the Internet — emphasis mine):

    “This new study brings some clarity to our muddled understanding of how these forests, with their rich source of biodiversity, would fare in the future in the face of twin pressures from logging and changing climate,” said Boston University Prof. Ranga Myneni, senior author of the new study.

    The IPCC is under scrutiny for various data inaccuracies, including its claim — based on a flawed World Wildlife Fund study — that up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically and be replaced by savannas from even a slight reduction in rainfall.

    Our results certainly do not indicate such extreme sensitivity to reductions in rainfall,” said Sangram Ganguly, an author on the new study, from the Bay Area Environmental Research Institute affiliated with NASA Ames Research Center in California.

    [Again, emphasis mine.]

    What gives? Is Ganguly being quoted out of context (i.e is his quote being placed into a false context by the preceding two paragraphs)? In this context the quote strongly suggests that this study directly refutes the IPCC statement. It’s no surprise to me that people are getting confused.

  78. Andreas Bjurström:

    Eric,
    My question was sincere. For people outside the “core group”, this Pielke vs. Romm, Climategate etc. debate seems overly emotional. What is left if we strip the emotions that are of interest for a limited number of people?

    For instance, I fail to see that you have a case for “Lubchenko”. I find the case overstated, yet reasonable. Why do you think otherwise? Moreover, stealth advocacy is one of Pielkes main concern as researcher. Some people here goes on and on about climate modelling :-)

    [Response: I don’t doubt your sincerity. Many colleagues of mine that I know are sincere seem to think Pielke is “reasonable.” All I can say is that well meaning people thought that Joe McCarthy was ‘reasonable’ too. Those people weren’t paying attention (or they had rather un-American values). Now: read this post by Stefan (Sealevelgate in which he is unambiguously saying that IPCC is conservative (not alarmist), and then read RP Jr’s post in which he misconstrues Stefan’s post to mean that “another leading scientists says that IPCC is flawed.” THERE is stealth advocacy for you. Look me in the eye and tell me you think Piekle is being “reasonable” here. (Note: I grant you that it is possible that Pielke may just be too stupid to have understood what Stefan wrote. But I doubt that.) –eric]

  79. Andreas Bjurström:

    70 Nick Gotts,
    Please clarify your extravagant claims on a basis of ignorance :-)

  80. Hank Roberts:

    Agreeing with Eli, those who wrote the press release ought to be following it up where it’s being misused.

    I asked way back –did the press release writers really mean to say, as they did, that the IPCC discussed changes in rainfall as brief as a calendar quarter? If so, why not a week, or a quarter of an hour? The IPCC talks about changes in climate, not weather.

    Yes, press officers ought to take responsibility to corral their scientists and ask the hard questions, when the scientists aren’t being clear or making sense. But once the gaffe — 8:02 PM — is being repeated around the bogusphere, both ought to be making an effort to correct it, beyond posting an unclear comment here.

  81. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #296 Gilles
    Still interested in your response to my post #313 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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  82. Andy:

    Massive conversion of savannah to closed canopy forest has occurred in very little time throughout the SE United States where I work. In the western United States, minor climate changes are turning savannahs into non-forested landscapes.

    Savannahs are partially forested plant communities where recruitment into the canopy is restricted by sporadic survival of tree seedlings and saplings. While under natural conditions this sporadic recruitment is controlled by climate: for example in dry savannahs seedling survival is restricted by competition for water and nutrients with grasses and prolonged wet periods are needed for tree recruitment; or prolonged drought is needed to allow seedling survival where mortality is from drowning (bald cypress savannah).

    Thus removal of grass by cattle removes the tree’s main competitors and converts dry savannah into closed canopy forest under all weather conditions. Grazing also removes fuel for fires which further increases tree recruitment into the overstory. These factors along with outright fire supression and tree planting have converted savannah to forest all over the SE US where I work.

    The process has worked both ways in Africa where too many cows have converted savannahs into forests and brushlands by grass removal, and too many elephants have converted savannahs into grasslands by too much tree removal (elephants eat or otherwise destroy brush and trees).

    At any rate, changes in human behavior (lighting fires to clear agricultural lands in the Amazon) greatly exacerbate changes in forests and savannahs otherwise driven by climate. I think change is likely to come much more quickly than climate models or recent past experience alone predict.

  83. Reasonable Observer:

    Hank Roberts says:
    “Oh, and for “reasonable observer” — you’re asking for a prediction in advance of the facts needed, while many links here could inform you of the work going on. We know this kind of flip happens — from the paleo record; at some level of decrease in rainfall/availability of groundwater, forests are replaced by grasslands. But that’s a gross oversimplification–it describes the change in the rock layers! The details, in living systems, are just now being looked at.”

    Remember the IPCC said:
    “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000).”

    Dr. Lewis says he believes that statement is supported by the literature. I am just trying to get him (or anyone else) to give me a sense of what the literature actually says in his view.

    To me, there are three issues with the statement:
    1) “up to 40%”
    2) “could”
    3) “slight reduction”

    Does the literature suggest that 1% (up to 40) of the Amazon has a 10% change (could) of becoming savanna with a 25% (slight) reduction in rain? If so, I think we have a problem and the IPCC statement is technically true but obviously highly misleading and alarmist.

    Does the literature suggest that 30% (up to 40) of the Amazon has a 50% chance (could) of becoming savanna with a 5% (slight) reduction in rain? In that case, the IPCC statement is not just true but also an accurante reflection.

    I don’t know the answer so I asked Dr. Lewis to pitch in. If you don’t like my two sentences, then create one of your own that gives a more accureate reflection with better phrases than “up to”, “could” and “slight”.

    Hank seems to be saying that my request is unreasonable. But if you have no idea, then how do you know the original statement is an accurate reflection of the science?

    I am not saying I know the answer, I am just asking the experts to give us a better view.

    [Response: Here is a recent paper that is consistent with the IPCC statement: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2374898/
    This provides a way into lots of the literature. Also, see Lewis, S.L. (2006) Tropical forests and the changing earth system. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London Series B-Biological Sciences, 361, 195-210. Available from this page: http://www.geog.leeds.ac.uk/people/slewis/publications.html
    –Simon]

  84. Eli Rabett:

    Andreas, Eli had hoped to avoid Pielkeology, but for starts you might look at Jr.’s behavior in this case and this case and this case and oh yes, the time our boy went ballistic because Don Kennedy had not published something he submitted to Science, only to come back in a day or so to tell us that it had been submitted to Nature

  85. Bob:

    Reasonable Observer,

    See this statement by Nepstad, a researcher on whose work at least some of the statement seems to have been based:

    Nepstad on IPCC Statement

    Also look for his referenced papers on the subject (not that hard to read, and by so doing you get to understand the methodology used, a bit about the ecosystem, and why one cannot set percentages for chances as you are requesting).

    I’ve found this one that doesn’t require a subscription:

    Amazon drought and its implications for forest flammability and tree growth: a basin-wide analysis

  86. Bob:

    Reasonable Observer,

    See also:

    MORTALITY OF LARGE TREES AND LIANAS FOLLOWING EXPERIMENTAL DROUGHT IN AN AMAZON FOREST (2007)

    Large-scale impoverishment of Amazonian forests by logging and… (1999)

  87. CM:

    Read in its context in the IPCC report, the slight-reduction-in-precipitation statement refers to a long-term reduction.

    However, two layers of poor referencing might mislead people into thinking the IPCC was saying a single drought could flip it. First, the IPCC’s reference to the Rowell and Moore 2000 report rather than to the first-hand studies. Second, R & M’s omission of relevant references for the first part of the following statement:

    Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive
    to small reductions in the amount of rainfall. In the 1998 dry season,
    some 270,000 sq. km of forest became vulnerable to fire, due to
    completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper five
    metres of soil. A further 360,000 sq. km of forest had only 250 mm of
    plant-available soil water left.

    Dan Nepstad has explained that R&M did have sources to back up the first sentence.

    Their omission made the observed fire vulnerability after the 1998 drought appear to be the basis for the 40% statement, though the numbers didn’t check out. Certainly had me confused.

    Which is why so much time is spent drumming into students the mechanics of source referencing. Pedantry aids understanding.

    Another thing students are taught is not to draw conclusions that go beyond what their data can support. That should apply to press releases as well.

  88. eric:

    Note that Simon Lewis has replied to #42, #83 and to Samanta (#27).]

  89. Jim Steele:

    “The evidence for the possibility of a major die-back of the Amazon rainforest is due to two factors,

    1. That climate change induced decreases in rainfall in the dry season occur, and..”

    I am confused. Warming models suggest warmer air increases moisture and therefore greater amounts of precipitation. So in the winter we expect more snow, but in the tropics less rain? The mechanisms for these generalized predictions seem a bit obscure.

  90. Ernst K:

    72 Hank Roberts says:
    16 March 2010 at 12:00 PM
    [blockquote]Oh, and for “reasonable observer” — you’re asking for a prediction in advance of the facts needed, while many links here could inform you of the work going on. We know this kind of flip happens — from the paleo record; at some level of decrease in rainfall/availability of groundwater, forests are replaced by grasslands. But that’s a gross oversimplification–it describes the change in the rock layers! The details, in living systems, are just now being looked at.[/blockquote]

    We’re not restricted to the paleo-record. Since at least the 1990s there has been a lot of research into developing models that can predict the dominant vegetation type for a given climate. They have had success reproducing natural vegetation (see MAPSS, for example: http://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/mdr/mapss/index.shtml).

    Based on the way MAPSS models this, competition between forests and grassland is primarily dependent on the frequency of large scale fires. If fires are relatively infrequent, forests have a chance to re-establish themselves. If not, grasslands begin to take over because they can recover easily from such events.

    Because dry conditions encourage more fires, long term decreases in precipitation encourage more fires and encourage grasslands to potentially out-compete forests over the long term.

    Of course, there’s also competition between different species of a given vegetation class, which is a more difficult problem because there are so many different species with so many different responses to climate conditions.

  91. Gilles:

    296:#296 Gilles
    Still interested in your response to my post #313 from the ‘Why We Bother’ thread?—

    Sorry I missed it. About my full name? I don’t think that it would be very interesting for you , but if you really want to, we can communicate by email.

  92. Eli Rabett:

    OK, Eli has an Andreas question, why is the name Peter Cox missing in all this?

    [Response: Eli, with all due respect (and I do have a lot of respect for you), and at the risk of your calling me naive again, please don’t stoppoing making this personal. If you have something to say about scientific work, say it. If you are merely going to use people’s names — e.g. Peter Cox — with no context, then you are a) assuming the readers here know what you’re talking about (I certainly don’t) and b) risking casting unwarranted aspersions on people. The point of this post was “what the science shows is totally different than what is being said about it”, NOT to speculate on the the underlying motivations of the authors or anyone else. Feel free to speculate about that on your own blog, but not here.–eric]

  93. CM:

    Simon Lewis (inline at #27) very clearly addresses the misunderstanding of the IPCC paragraph on which the Samanta et al. press release seems to be based. The odd notion expressed in the press release, that the IPCC 40% statement was based on a ‘calculation’ in the WWF 2000 report, may stem from the confusion I noted at #87.

  94. CM:

    Eli (#92), check out the Huntingford et al. paper Lewis cited above.

  95. Deep Climate:

    #76

    Hmmm … I wrote that before I saw Samanta’s comment at #26 with Simon Lewis’s reply.

    It would appear that at least some of the co-authors do not understand that the press release’s discussion of the IPCC statement is misleading.

    It’s pretty clear that the press release overreaches, and that the denialosphere has torqued the findings even more. It’s disappointing that, so far at least, the authors are unwilling to acknowledge the obvious distortions of their work.

    In particular, Terence Corcoran claimed: “Some scientists have argued that the 2005 drought caused significant rainforest disturbances.” This appears to be an indirect reference to the Saleska et al 2007 paper. In other words, Corcoran (like Watts before him) actually presents a result that shows that there was in fact no positive response to the 2005 drought, as somehow anithetical to the IPCC. But the earlier result purported to show that a one-year drought could actually cause a positive response (due to increased sunlight), and this result is clearly now undercut (as Simon Lewis demonstrates so convincingly above).

    Since Corcoran claims that his interpretation is based on an interview with Myneni, the authors have no choice but to forthrightly disavow this particular interpretation of their work.

  96. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #91 Gilles

    You can contact me through the OSS site:

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/contact-info

    We can communicate by email or phone. If you wish to remain anonymous that is your prerogative, but I for one appreciate more those who are willing to put their names behind their words on this issue. I do understand some have other issues re. anonymity, but when possible, it’s nice to see real names :)

    Would be happy to discuss by email, skype, or phone.

    John


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  97. Eli Rabett:

    Eric, you have Eli very wrong. Peter Cox has done a lot of modeling of Amazon die back. Simply wondering why this has not been part of the discussion. For example:

    ———————
    Abstract: Simulations with the Hadley Centre general circulation model (HadCM3), including carbon cycle model and forced by a ‘business-as-usual’ emissions scenario, predict a rapid loss of Amazonian rainforest from the middle of this century onwards. The robustness of this projection to both uncertainty in physical climate drivers and the formulation of the land surface scheme is investigated. We analyse how the modelled vegetation cover in Amazonia responds to (i) uncertainty in the parameters specified in the atmosphere component of HadCM3 and their associated influence on predicted surface climate. We then enhance the land surface description and (ii) implement a multilayer canopy light interception model and compare with the simple ‘big-leaf’ approach used in the original simulations. Finally, (iii) we investigate the effect of changing the method of simulating vegetation dynamics from an area-based model (TRIFFID) to a more complex size- and age-structured approximation of an individual-based model (ecosystem demography). We find that the loss of Amazonian rainforest is robust across the climate uncertainty explored by perturbed physics simulations covering a wide range of global climate sensitivity. The introduction of the refined light interception models leads to an increase in simulated gross plant carbon uptake for the present day, but, with altered respiration, the net effect is a decrease in net primary productivity. However, this does not significantly affect the carbon loss from vegetation and soil as a consequence of future simulated depletion in soil moisture; the Amazon forest is still lost. The introduction of the more sophisticated dynamic vegetation model reduces but does not half the rate of forest dieback. The potential for human-induced climate change to trigger the loss of Amazon rainforest appears robust within the context of the uncertainties explored in this paper. Some further uncertainties should be explored, particularly with respect to the representation of rooting depth.
    ——————————

    and

    Why is the modeling missing??

    [Response: Eli, I’m not questioning your intentions. I’m just asking you to be clear. This time you are being clear. Thank you!–eric]

  98. Hank Roberts:

    Aside: I have long felt a great fondness for Cox’s choice of acronym:

    > vegetation dynamics … model (TRIFFID)

    http://climate.uvic.ca/common/HCTN_24.pdf

  99. Patrick 027:

    89 Jim Steele -

    Precipitation is expected to increase in the global average with warming (but with some dependence on the cause of warming, because precipitation is limited by how much convective heat loss is required at the surface to balance net radiant heating; I think solar forcing has a greater effect than greenhouse warming in that regard, although warming tends to increase the fraction of convective heat loss from the surface that is evaporation; the same warming from more greenhouse forcing with an offset by cooling aerosols will result in less of an increase in precipitation because of the reduction of solar heating at the surface). The distribution may be restructured so that some areas recieve less precipitation (the forcing pattern may have spatial and temporal variation; but more importantly for forcings that are not too idiosyncratic, feedbacks are not evenly distributed, so that there are changes in temperature gradients, causing changes in winds, causing changes in heat fluxes and momentum fluxes and diabatic heating distributions, causing changes in temperature gradients and winds….) Also, evaporation rates tend to increase with higher temperature, so no change in precipitation can result in a loss of soil moisture. Seasonal and ~daily/hourly (or some such short time period) distributions of precipitation affect how ecosystems and economic infrastructure respond to it.

    78 Andreas Bjurström -

    What is left? The big picture is about what we thought it was, though we are looking at it through a foggy window, we can still make some confident conclusions.

    A picture with a mountain in it may also have a part without the mountain. That part doesn’t prove the mountain is not in the picture.

    – Gilles -

    1. A lot of people would not want biofuels to supply all or most of our energy. However, production possibilities curves are often convex; there may be a fraction of our energy that can be supplied by biofuels more easily than other sources without large costs to food and environment. Anyway: solar (PV, CSP, CPV, luminescent panels, skylights, water heaters), wind, hydroelectric (limited room for increase in average power, but can help in matching supply to load), geothermal, efficiency improvements, maybe nuclear …). Technology. Intelligence. Innovation. Policies to address externalities.

    2. Outside of mitigation, there is adaptation. Some optimal adaptation would be proactive. Proactive adaptation with efficiency requires prediction of changes. PLAN A: Suppose we use our best prediction and make investments and the climate change and ecosystem responses are different (either less or more, or different shapes) – then we’ve wasted resources. PLAN B: let’s assume the prediction is wrong and do something else. Question: What sign do we assume the error is? Question: How foolish do we feel when the prediction turns out to be right? PLAN C: Let’s do what we can to be prepared for all possibilities (in proportion to probability as best as can be judged). Well, similar problem as in PLAN A – the probability distribution might be off, but in addition, we have to invest more resources to cover the bases. PLAN D: Just be prepared for all possibilities equally. Well, that’s a bit wasteful, isn’t it, if only one possibility comes true or if only a few were likely.

    With maybe some caveats, if the sensitivity of any aspect of climate has a range of uncertainty, the the uncertainty in total effect should tend to be proportional to the forcing that is applied. So we can reduce uncertainty by reducing the forcing, and thus increase the efficiency of adaptation.

    (There is a natural level of uncertainty that makes reduction to zero impossible; nonetheless this natural level doesn’t saturate the range of possibilities and render other changes and, ***so for as I know**, uncertainties, moot. (if cost were linearly proportional to change, then it could be argued that, for the same time scale, any forced change less than the range of natural variability would have no net cost because it could reduce total change as easily as it increases total change; however, net costs would be incured by larger forced changes. The cost might not be linearly proportional; if the ecosystem and economy are adapated to a range of conditions, than any shift in that range risks increasing costs. Or even if the economy is not so flexible but the ecosystem is, … gets complicated, etc. And the forced changes could affect the range of natural variability (note I am not just refering to global average temperature; I’m refering to any ecologically or economically important climate variable, such as regional precipitation.). (Fortunately, some people actually have studied climate change costs/benifits)

    A simplistic argument to be sure; there could easily be some nonlinearities that I have not accounted for. Do *you* know what they are?

  100. Robert:

    “But then saying ” but tree mortality increased, contributing temporarily to accelerating the rate of climate change” is disingenuous, since absolutely no significative “acceleration of the rate” is visible at all.”

    Speaking of disingenuous, your assertion is absurd. More CO2 accelerates climate change, because CO2 warms the earth. You do not have to demonstrate that each individual release of CO2 changes the global temperature trend in order to prove that. Next you’ll be asking scientists to prove the opening of a coal plant near your house changed to trend line. No. Your burden in challenging this idea can take one of two forms:

    * You can refute the century of atmospheric physics that tells us that more CO2 in the atmosphere causes warming, or;

    * You can explain why this CO2 increase (caused by decreased absorption and release from dead trees) is different from all the other CO2 increases.

    Or you can skip to your next denialist talking point. I won’t hold my breath.

  101. Pete:

    So, my only question now is are paleontologists in cahoots with paleoclimatologists to guarantee mutual career longevity:
    http://www.theonion.com/content/radio_news/exxon_paleontologists_call_0

    Pete.

  102. Edward Greisch:

    67 Jim Galasyn: Much thanks for the link to the Amazon Rainfall Exclusion Experiment. Now it makes sense.

  103. Gilles:

    “You can contact me through the OSS site:

    http://www.ossfoundation.us/contact-info

    We can communicate by email or phone. If you wish to remain anonymous that is your prerogative, but I for one appreciate more those who are willing to put their names behind their words on this issue. I do understand some have other issues re. anonymity, but when possible, it’s nice to see real names :)”

    That’s a digression, but I have had some bad experience on French forums because people spotted me on a forum (the combination of my first name, location, and my -rare- job makes it rather easy ;) ) and had some aggressive words in some bizarre context. That wasn’t a big deal, but it didn’t give me trust in the capacity of some people to keep in the tracks of reasonable and scientific arguments and avoid personal attacks. BTW, why don’t you ask this to every anonymous poster on this forum ??

  104. Edward Greisch:

    Gilles: Uncertainty is a 2 edged sword. It cuts both ways. We can’t prove that we won’t be extinct in 5 years or that we will be extinct in 100 years. It is way too risky to take that chance.
    Would you rather be less rich or extinct? That is your choice. Supposing that you own a coal mine or an oil well, you can sell your stock now and buy stock in something else that doesn’t damage the climate. DO SO.

  105. Gilles:

    ” Gilles …Anyway: solar (PV, CSP, CPV, luminescent panels, skylights, water heaters), wind, hydroelectric (limited room for increase in average power, but can help in matching supply to load), geothermal, efficiency improvements, maybe nuclear …).Technology. Intelligence. Innovation. Policies to address externalities.”

    Sorry, Patrick, I know all these fairy tales by heart. You’re neither adding anything to my knowledge by repeating them once more and, again, nor addressing any issue I’ve already raised against them.

    In the part 2 , there is an big flaw just from the beginning, that makes the entire discussion totally immaterial. The big flaw is the confusion between three meanings of “reducing fossil fuels consumptions”. These 3 meanings are :
    a) reducing the energy intensity (the amount of fossil fuel used PER UNIT service)
    b) reducing the annual consumption (which is the product of a) * GDP)
    c) reducing the cumulative fossil consumption (which is the integral of b) over time).

    The only thing that matters for CO2 is c) over the timescale of CO2 absorption (100 years or so).

    But the vast majority of “actions” address only a).

    And there is a huge gap between a) and c) for two -cumulative – grounds :

    a) does not imply b) because nobody is able (or even willing to) regulate the global GDP of the world : concretely if an american gives up its Hummer for a small economical hybrid car, nobody can really prevent a chinese or indian to burn the spared fuel in two or three more economical cars, with a constant consumption (that’s the essence of Jevons paradox). There are enough poor people who want to benefit from any spare fuel we would let them.

    b) doesn’t imply c) because nobody knows how to (and is willing to) regulate the total amount of fossils in the ground; So even if b) would be achieved (which is by no means granted) , it would only allow more people in the distant future to burn them, on a longer time, since we don’t know how to sustain modern societies without them.

    So there is absolutely no reason why fossil fuels should peak before we are squeezed by natural constraints, and obviously they never did : I do not know any country or company that has renounced willingly to exploit an accessible resource. If it is the case for every individual, it is true for the global world. So conserving and improving efficiency will NOT result in a decrease of the fossil consumption, but in a INCREASE of global GDP produced by a given amount of finite resource. That is, ironically, environmentalists are the best support for the very thing they claim to fight : increasing the GDP as much as possible with the finite amount of resources we can exploit.

  106. CM:

    Hmm – re: my own #93 and Lewis inline #26,

    When I checked this morning, he press release as it appears on the Boston U. site did not contain the following quote: “The way that the WWF report calculated this 40% was totally wrong, while [the new] calculations are by far more reliable and correct”. The quote, attributed to Jose Marengo (not one of the Samanta et al. authors), has appeared all over the place, e. g. here and here, and certainly looks like it came from the original press release. What gives? Did Marengo protest? With apologies to Orwell, did the BU press office send the paragraph down the memory hole?

  107. Roger Pielke Jr.:

    Eric-

    (#78) I may indeed be “too stupid” to understand what Stefan wrote about sea level rise. I understood him to suggest that the IPCC made a mistake far worse than the glacier mistake because it underplayed the literature on sea level rise. Hence, Stefan says “What went wrong in this case needs to be carefully looked at when considering future improvements to the IPCC process.”

    I interpret flaws in the IPCC process to be flaws irrespective of the error of the sign with respect to the magnitude of climate effect. Wouldn’t you agree?

    Did I get that wrong?

    Also, I appreciate your commitment to not personalizing issues and focusing on the science.

    All best, Roger

  108. Sou:

    In comment #27 Arindam Samanta justifies his press release in part on the basis of one quarter of low rainfall.

    I am a layperson in regard to climate science. However I interpret the statement: “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation…” as referring to a longer term reduction in precipitation lasting years, not months.

    I’m with those who interpret the press release as seeking attention from the media, in particular from the anti-science media given the current ‘climate’ of media disinformation.

    I cannot fathom why any serious scientist would want to get accolades from the anti-science media and bloggers. Still less why they would then try to justify themselves on spurious grounds to readers of realclimate.org.

    There are times when it’s good policy to refrain from criticising others in your profession. I’m not convinced this is one of those times. In any case, I don’t have the same reticence.

  109. JMurphy:

    So, it seems that since the denialists couldn’t break the ‘hockey-stick’;
    couldn’t break the temperature records; couldn’t break certain scientists
    (Hansen, Mann, Briffa, Schmidt, etc.), and couldn’t break the warming
    trend, they are now concentrating on any scraps they can find within the
    last IPCC report. It’s their last hope, I suppose, but it does show-up
    their obsession with words and sentences in small parts of a report, rather
    than any of the science or, even, the whole report itself. Shame they can’t
    see that the lack of breaking rather points up the robustness of the
    science, etc.

    But why now, years after the report was released ? Has it taken them this
    long to get through it all, or is it just that they can smell an
    opportunity to prolong the dissembling, now that all their other hopes have
    disappeared ?

    The thing is, what are they going to say about the next report ? Do they
    now have their excuses worked out already, i.e. ‘We don’t believe it
    because of the last one, which was, um, full of, er, some discrepancies’.
    Or are they going to say : ‘Give us a few years to work it out and then
    we’ll talk about it…maybe’ ?

  110. Nick Gotts:

    Sorry, Patrick, I know all these fairy tales by heart. You’re neither adding anything to my knowledge by repeating them once more and, again, nor addressing any issue I’ve already raised against them. -Gilles

    You haven’t raised any issues against them that have not been answered, IIRC.

    You are right (I think this is probably the first time you have been right about anything here), that reducing fossil fuel intensity does not automatically reduce the rate of usage. This is why some combination of carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, and carbon sequestration, backed by international treaty and combined with the direction of investment into alternative energy sources, is essential in combination with greater efficiency.

    You are wrong, and indeed, as so often, self-contradictory in claiming that reducing current consumption is pointless because the fossil fuel remains in the ground. You say:

    “The only thing that matters for CO2 is c) over the timescale of CO2 absorption (100 years or so).”, and then:
    “So even if b) would be achieved (which is by no means granted) , it would only allow more people in the distant future to burn them, on a longer time”
    You really think 100 years is “the distant future”? Come off it. All the fossil fuel could be burned without causing problems if this was done over a long enough period.

    Again, that your case depends on such transparent manouvreing, as well as repeating your false claims, is extremely telling.

  111. Ray Ladbury:

    Gilles asks “BTW, why don’t you ask this to every anonymous poster on this forum ??”

    He doesn’t ask every anonymous poster–just the ones who seem to be trolls.

  112. Gilles:

    “Gilles: Uncertainty is a 2 edged sword. It cuts both ways. We can’t prove that we won’t be extinct in 5 years or that we will be extinct in 100 years. It is way too risky to take that chance.
    Would you rather be less rich or extinct? That is your choice. Supposing that you own a coal mine or an oil well, you can sell your stock now and buy stock in something else that doesn’t damage the climate. DO SO.”

    Edward : again, the question is not black and white. It is : how to determine at which point using more fossil fuels brings more drawbacks than benefits. This point occurs of course much before the danger of extinction. And IPCC has never issued any warning about the total extinction of human race. So please keep reasonable. It’s all a question of balance.

    It’s out of any doubt that cutting fossil fuels do have a cost. Otherwise it would have been done for a long time. So questioning at which level the intersection between the costs and benefits occurs makes sense.

  113. Kevin McKinney:

    “Fairy tales?” Most of these technologies are in use today–mostly requiring (for much more widespread use) that the true costs of CO2 emissions be reflected in pricing of energy alternatives.

    Gilles’ whole position seems to consist in elaborate rationalizations as to why nothing can change materially from the status quo–except, of course, by the route of disaster.

    However, the history of industrial civilization has been one of change–undertaken voluntarily, often, and in remarkably short periods of time. (Think of the decline of solid-fuel use for home heating, or the establishment of the electric grid.) These changes have often had the effect of trading one environmental problem for another, it is true. But industrial society has repeatedly transformed itself. I see no reason to think that it can’t do so again, if economic structures are aligned more closely with physical reality.

    It’s a statement of faith on my part at this point, I recognize, but I’d bet that we will:

    –Continue to improve efficiencies in innumerable ways (Gilles’ “a”.) These will incorporate not only straightforward technological changes, but social adjustments such as doing away with regulations which essentially necessitate the automobile, changing design requirements, increasing transit, etc. Few of these changes will be dramatic by themselves, but there is good reason to believe that we have enough of these “stabilization wedges” to do the job.
    –Construct effective agreements ensuring that GHG emissions don’t become just another “tragedy of the commons.” We will do this because the necessity of doing so will become entirely obvious. Denial will at some point collapse under the weight of its own accumulated falsehoods. Such agreements will address Gilles’ point “b.”
    –Point “c” will follow, for reasons sufficiently pointed out by Gilles himself.

    The only question (in my mind, at least) is, how bad will the damage we are committed to be, before such action occurs? How “nasty, brutish and short” will the lives be to which we will have constrained our descendents?

    Unfortunately, I wouldn’t bet on the answer to that–even leaving aside the probability that I’ll be dead well before the answer is decided.

  114. John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation):

    #103 Gilles

    You can contact me through the OSS site:

    How is contacting, as you suggested, a digression?

    As to your question “BTW, why don’t you ask this to every anonymous poster on this forum ??”

    Need I remind you of what I wrote in post #96

    “I do understand some have other issues re. anonymity”

    which you copied back to me in your post #103…

    I’m sorry your afraid of aggressive words. But there is an old saying, ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.’ Good advice in your case I think.

    My point is if you are willing to say something, especially when it does not seem to make much sense, you should stand behind your words. Best way to do that in a forum such as this is with your full name.

    I don’t mind being attacked for my words. Some people are afraid of such things as you have illustrated. Personally, I have had my life threatened on multiple occasions. No, I will not go into detail, but ask me if I care?

    Since you consider personal contact a digression, even though you are the one that suggested it. Please do reply to my previous post here publicly.

    #296 Gilles

    Still interested in your response to my post #313 from the ‘Why We Bother’ thread?

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/03/why-we-bother/comment-page-7/#comment-166519

    You see, my general thesis is that you don’t make much sense because you ignore relevant reason. I’m hoping you can show me how wrong I am. Here are the two points I raised that you did not answer:

    It’s likely that you “can’t see” because I am addressing your lack of holistic logic, as illustrated in your selective reasoning.

    As to your statement:

    “I agree that everything is in balance and context (that’s precisely what I try to elaborate)”

    You don’t seem to be considering enough inter-dynamic systems and economies to achieve holistic balance and context.


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  115. Jeffrey Davis:

    It’s out of any doubt that cutting fossil fuels do have a cost. Otherwise it would have been done for a long time. So questioning at which level the intersection between the costs and benefits occurs makes sense.

    I suspect the line was passed back when the first copper smelting on Cyprus occurred thousands of years ago. The point at which one is addicted doesn’t happen when one is gap-toothed and emaciated. It happens when you’re still going to work on time and think you can take it or leave it alone. Consider our resident denialists. Fit as a fiddle, smooth pelt, clear eyed, no trouble sleeping. Definitely no trouble sleeping.

  116. Nick Dearth:

    “It’s out of any doubt that cutting fossil fuels do have a cost. Otherwise it would have been done for a long time.”

    Certainly this is true, but the issue seems to be more of a cost to whom. If the changes are beneficial to the general public, or even a relatively small (initial) cost, but the changes affect the profits of a few very powerful companies, then your argument takes on an entirely different meaning than you seem to be indicating. Saying something would have already changed if there was not cost to someone isn’t really saying anything at all.

  117. SecularAnimist:

    Gilles wrote: “Sorry, Patrick, I know all these fairy tales by heart.”

    On the contrary. With all due respect, your comments demonstrate a profound ignorance of the current state of wind and solar energy technologies, both their advanced level of development as well as their widespread, rapidly expanding and highly successful deployment.

    And your ignorance seems entirely willful, since you consistently ignore any information presented by other commenters that is contrary to your pre-conceived and ill-informed notions, and respond only by mechanically repeating vacuous bromides like the one above.

  118. Tim Jones:

    Stanford researcher says ‘Climategate’ is not increasing skepticism
    http://www.eenews.net/climatewire/ (subscription)
    2010/03/17/
    Christa Marshall, E&E reporter

    Despite a spate of reports proclaiming an increase in climate skepticism, the percentage of Americans who believe in the existence of global warming has changed little since 2008, according to a Stanford University pollster.

    Three-quarters of adults continue to hold such a belief, a percentage that is “a slight dip” of 5 percentage points in a year and a half, said Jon Krosnick, a professor of political science and communication at the California-based institution.

    At the same time, public confidence in climate scientists remained constant over the past few years, he said. That means that the 2009 “Climategate” situation, in which stolen e-mails revealed internal disagreements among prominent climate scientists, did not influence public opinion, he said.

    “Public support for government efforts to address climate change has been at remarkably high levels for many years, and it has dropped only a tiny amount recently and most likely for a reason that’s temporary,” said Krosnick. In his view, the brief blip in attitudes is most likely due to weather patterns in 2008, which was the coolest year on record between 2001 and 2009.

    People already distrustful of climate scientists fueled the 5-point drop in belief about global warming, a point that strengthens the conclusion that the weather, rather than Climategate, caused a shift in opinions, he said.

    Krosnick’s analysis of four years of polling research and Climategate is being released now, although his most recent data collection occurred in November. His conclusions come on the heels of a slew of recent polls from academic institutions and Gallup reporting a growing distrust in scientists and an ease in concern about global warming generally.

    So why the seeming discrepancy from poll to poll?

    Yale professor says a ‘convergence’ of polls shows increase in skeptics

    Krosnick blamed “multi-barreled” questioning in some surveys that overload respondents with too many choices, rather than asking people one thing at a time. Some pollsters ask people what they’ve heard about climate change, rather than what they believe, he said.

    The time of year also may matter, he said. He noted that the percentage of people saying that average temperatures in the world “have been higher in the last three years” dropped from 58 percent in 2008 — when questions were asked in the summer — to 43 percent in 2009 — when they were asked in the winter.

    Yet Yale University professor Anthony Leiserowitz argued that public opinion could have shifted significantly since Krosnick conducted his poll in November. Climategate stories heated up in the news media after Nov. 25, and since then, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has taken a public relations hit for making errors in its 2007 report about Himalayan glaciers and other issues, he noted.

    Several surveys showing a dramatic jump in skepticism used data gathered after November, said Leiserowitz, who worked on a recent series of polls on climate change with George Mason University. The “convergence” among multiple polls conducted after November is notable, he said.

    “You can’t just look at one poll. There’s very strong evidence that something is going on,” said Leiserowitz, who said Climategate and the economy could be increasing the number of skeptics.

    Krosnick said it is possible that opinions have changed since collection of his November data, but expressed strong doubt that was the case.

    “There is lots of research and research showing that public opinion changes very, very slowly,” Krosnick said. “This long ago became an inside baseball kind of issue, and many people are not paying attention to the media controversies.”

    Krosnick’s 2009 poll was conducted among 1,055 adults Nov. 17-29, and was funded by the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University and the Associated Press.

  119. Jobnls:

    I fail to see how this even qualifies as science. Trees die when they get to little water (everyone knows this). What kind of impact does this have on global climate? No one has the slightest idea.

  120. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Gilles (105): if an american gives up its Hummer for a small economical hybrid car, nobody can really prevent a chinese or indian to burn the spared fuel in two or three more economical cars, with a constant consumption (that’s the essence of Jevons paradox). There are enough poor people who want to benefit from any spare fuel we would let them.

    BPL: You are assuming

    A) That China and India aren’t also threatened by AGW, or are unaware of it.
    B) That a large-scale switch to renewable-energy cars in the US wouldn’t make them available more cheaply to India and China.
    C) That the use of biofuels wouldn’t result in fuel prices that will stay stable as the price of oil-based gasoline rises indefinitely, thereby giving the biofueled cars a competitive advantage.

    There is no natural law that says oil consumption must be constant.

  121. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Job (188),

    No, YOU have no idea. Most of the rest of us think the decay of the tree will release carbon dioxide, and its death means it won’t breath in any more carbon dioxide. When more trees die and fewer are born, CO2 goes up and a natural sink for it begins to disappear.

  122. Nick Gotts:

    Jobnls,
    What is the “this” to which you refer? I fail to see how your comment even qualifies as making sense.

  123. Hank Roberts:

    > Jobnls

    If you were to paste your own words into the Google search box, and hit Enter:
    – you would no longer fail to see,
    – you’d have answsers, and
    – you’d realize that many people, now including you, have a fairly good idea because they’re doing research.

    Google would like to be your friend.
    Google will use your own words to make you more informed.
    Try it here.

  124. Eli Rabett:

    Marengo did not say what he was quoted as saying.

    Samanta et al. approved the press release. In other words they are totally culpable and deserve full blame. All of them

  125. Gilles:

    “Fairy tales?” Most of these technologies are in use today–mostly requiring (for much more widespread use) that the true costs of CO2 emissions be reflected in pricing of energy alternatives.”

    The fairy tale is not that these technologies cannot be used and even developed. I am not so ignorant as to deny that. The fairy tale is to believe that these technologies would allow to maintain a industrial society without fossil fuels, and even a CO2 production much less than a few tons/cap/year together with the modern standard of living (obviously there is no more problem if we accept abandoning this way of life. Personally I’m not sure I would consider that as a disaster).

    Now as I said, and for a different reason, I don’t think either that it coiuld exceed a lot this value on average, because of the limited amount of available cheap fuels. So my opinion is that the overall fuel consumption will peak naturally in some decades (around 2020 -2030 if you want more precise estimates), and that after this peak, the industrial society will gradually decline since alternative energies couldn’t balance significantly this decline. I don’t think this will be a catastrophic collapse however, I think it will a decline of about -2 ou 3 %/year, taking several centuries before being achieved, and going back to mainly agricultural society (this scenario doesn’t really fit in any SRES scenario of course). With the total amount of used fossil fuels (around 1500 GtC, but in several centuries, about one half in this century), my estimate is that the GW will still be manageable, and no specific effort to reduce even more than that the amount of fossil fuels is actually needed (and besides that I think that this would be neither politically acceptable, nor very efficient, since the depletion in itself will already cause considerable difficulties). I am not convinced by the dire predictions of a catastrophic threshold above 450 ppm, or even 550 ppm, for instance.

    I fully understand that you can disagree with this opinion, and that we can exchange rational arguments about why this scenario is plausible, or not.

    I can less easily understand that you qualify it as non-scientific, profoundly ignorant of realities, motivated by the desire of trolling the forum, defending the capitalism(who hates hearing about peak oil BTW) and/or the wasteful consumption of all resources as fast as we can, or all the other kind appreciations I hear here. It just my personal synthesis of all the information, that I have gathered and thought about, the most scientifically I could. Not less, not more. I am not paid by anybody to say that.

    As I already said, just for fun, I would consider favorably an offer for a bet, if you think that I’m deeply wrong in my general picture. What feature in what I said do you think is totally incorrect and which amount are you ready to bet on that ? I’m curious to know.

    For those who think it is very important to contact me personally, you can find my coordinates on :
    http://www-laog.obs.ujf-grenoble.fr/~henri/
    (don’t look for scientific publications about climate change, there aren’t any. But I hope you will admit that I’m not totally ignorant in physics. Sorry a nice homepage is not really in my priorities…).

    cheers

  126. Kevin McKinney:

    Gilles, what I disagree with is the repeated assertion that fossil fuels are irreplaceable as an energy source, if an industrial society is to be maintained. I don’t recall seeing anything in what you posted that really made clear why you think so.

    Certainly, there are problems connected with various renewables–but most appear soluble. Certainly, the “disposable” ways of our society may need to change. But the basis is there, as repeated analyses have shown.

  127. Completely Fed Up:

    “The fairy tale is to believe that these technologies would allow to maintain a industrial society without fossil fuels, and even a CO2 production much less than a few tons/cap/year together with the modern standard of living”

    Sweden has a better standard of living than the US.

    Yet the per-capita CO2 production is lower.

    There is no link between CO2 production and standard of living.

    You continue to state that fallacy and never listen to any arguments about why it is incorrect.

  128. Kooiti Masuda:

    From the perspective of Monsoon Asia, I cannot believe that tropical rain forests suddenly flip to savannas. I envisage either drought-deciduous forests or forests of evergreen trees with very deep roots. Biodiversity of tropical rainforests is very large, so it seems plausible that they contain some species with traits which are not useful under the current climate. But, this guess is not supported by evidence. We need more knowledge about adaptability of various species of trees.

  129. Edward Greisch:

    112 Gilles: You are 100% WRONG as usual. Using more fossil fuels ALREADY brings more drawbacks than benefits because we are already way past the safe zone. WHAT WOULD BE THE ECONOMIC IMPACT OF THE EXTINCTION OF HOMO SAPIENS OR THE COLLAPSE OF CIVILIZATION? YOU, GILLES, WILL NOT SURVIVE EITHER ONE. The IPCC report was edited by all governments is why it doesn’t contain proper warnings. To find the true warnings, you have to read further.

    Climate Threat to the Planet:* Implications for Energy Policy and Intergenerational Justice
    Jim Hansen
    December 17, 2008
    Bjerknes Lecture, American Geophysical Union San Francisco, California
    Page 22: Climate Threat to the Planet The Venus Syndrome

    [Temperature on Venus: over 450 Centigrade. here is NO life on Venus.]

    Page 29: Runaway Greenhouse Effect?
    1. Unprecedented Speed of +Forcing 2. Negative Feedbacks (e.g. Increased
    Weathering Rate) of Little Help 3. Solar Irradiance has Increased
    My [Jim Hansen] Opinion:
    All Coal␣?? (Runaway Possible) Coal + Tars␣!! (Dead Certainty)

    “Climate Code Red” by David Spratt and Philip Sutton says the following:
    Long term warming, counting feedbacks, is at least twice the short term warming. 560 ppm CO2 gets us 6 degrees C or 10.8 degrees F. We will hit 560 ppm before mid century.

    Per “Climate Code Red”, we need ZERO “Kyoto gas” emissions RIGHT NOW and we also need geo-engineering because we have already gone way beyond the safe CO2 level of 300 to 325 ppm. We are already at 455 ppm equivalent and we have tripped some very big tipping points. We aren’t dead yet, but the planet needs critical intensive care if we humans are to have a chance of survival.

    “The Vanishing Face of Gaia” by James Lovelock has identified a 9 degree lurch in the temperature that happens at 450 ppm equivalent.
    Looks like we are not going to make it. We HUMANS could be EXTINCT by 2050 because politicians are not considering sufficiently strong action.
    The book “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas says: “If the global warming is 6 degrees centigrade, we humans go extinct.” See:
    http://www.marklynas.org/2007/4/23/six-steps-to-hell-summary-of-six-degrees-as-published-in-the-guardian
    Lynas lists several kill mechanisms, the most important being famine and methane fuel-air explosions. Other mechanisms include fire storms.

    The following sources say H2S bubbling out of hot oceans is the final blow at 6 degrees C warming:
    “Under a Green Sky” by Peter D. Ward, Ph.D., 2007.

    http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=00037A5D-A938-150E-A93883414B7F0000&sc=I100322

    http://www.geosociety.org/meetings/2003/prPennStateKump.htm
    http://www.astrobio.net is a NASA web zine. See:

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=672

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=1535

    http://www.astrobio.net/news/article2509.html

    http://astrobio.net/news/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=2429&mode=thread&order=0&thold=0

    From NASA right now:
    HYDROGEN SULFIDE EMISSIONS ALONG THE NAMIBIAN COAST
    Hydrogen sulfide erupted along the coast of Namibia in mid-March 2010.
    * http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/NaturalHazards/view.php?id=43143&src=nha
    *** MODIS(Terra) image from Mar 13, 2010 (Posted on Mar 15, 2010 2:27 PM)

    If you want to know what a collapse of civilization is like, read “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan and “Collapse” by Jared Diamond. Again, I guarantee that YOU, GILLES, will not survive a collapse of civilization. How do I know? Because you are reading this on a computer. Any survivors have never seen a computer. They are still living in the stone age in very remote locations.

    Again, the IPCC reports are VERY WATERED DOWN. Saudi Arabia and all other coal and oil exporting countries were allowed to delete anything they wanted to. You don’t get the whole truth that way. RealClimate is probably prevented from telling all they know because of a law called the Hatch Act and because of other gag orders imposed on federal employees. There is nothing current federal employees can do about it. That is why I am telling you.
    We must stop burning coal by the end of 2015. We must NOT use tar sands or oil shale or within the next 1000 years.

  130. Gilles:

    Kevin, I just summarized my position in the last post without elaborating it. I have already presented some arguments, but it isn’t really “OT” here. In a nutshell : if I was offered, by a king, a very interesting proposal of winning one billion dollars if I succeed in building a stable industrial economy without any fossil fuel, but the death if I fail, I would refuse. And you ?

  131. Bob:

    Gilles, you have the proposition wrong. The king is telling you that he may or may not kill you, on his whim, if you don’t succeed in building a stable industrial economy without any fossil fuel, whether or not you try.

    I would try. What about you?

  132. Hank Roberts:

    Please muppetlumping stop with the peak oil/green sky stuff, would you guys?
    Yes it’s all true or not but it doesn’t have to be said in every single topic.

    This was and could be a really interesting discussion of a particular set of science papers and the climate spin going on around those particular papers.
    We actually had an author speak up. Maybe he would again, given a chance.

  133. Bob:

    Gilles,

    Oh, and just to flesh the analogy out a little more, the king’s wiser and more trusted advisers are all telling you that he will almost certainly kill you if you fail, while the court jester is telling you not to worry about it, the king is usually in a good mood, so just go out and have fun and let what happens happen.

    And he’s not a king, she’s a queen (Mother Nature).

    “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature.” [spoken in a harsh tone... this reference is lost on anyone that didn't grow up watching margarine commercials on American television.]

  134. Hank Roberts:

    PS, Edward G, once again, you’re giving proof that there are alarmists who will misconstrue and mis-cite papers to try to scare people. Please do it somewhere else, not at RC. It makes the site look bad.

    The Namibia gas occurs periodically from surface conditions, as the site says — overfertilization and oxygen deficit.

    It’s not a case of what Peter Ward warns about — it’s not gas coming up to the surface from anoxic deep water.

    These are different. You’re pointing to a longterm known surface water phenomenon and suggesting it’s a new example of deep anoxic water.

    It’s not. Don’t lie about this stuff to scare people. Reality is scary. Horror fantasy is entertainment. People can tell the difference.

  135. Kevin McKinney:

    If building industrial economies were within my skill set, I wouldn’t be waiting on the will of kings to start.

    That said, I do think Bob’s formulation of the wager is a bit more apropos.

  136. Gilles:

    Sorry guys , I proposed an analogy to explain my belief. You invent other stories that illustrates other beliefs, but that’s not relevant to my first comparison.If you don’t answer my question, it means that you share my belief, but you can’t say it (including to yourself).

    I’m currently watching TV on a remake on Milgram’s experiment, where people have been asked, in a fake TV game, to inflict high voltage shocks to a (fake) candidate. 80 % went up to 450 V without resisting to authority. http://www.france24.com/en/20100317-game-of-death-game-show-france-electric-shock-tv-nazi-milgrim
    It’s not easy to be alone resisting to a crowd. It’s much easier to howl with the wolves – for 80 % of people. Not exactly on topics, but quite instructive.

  137. Kevin McKinney:

    I’m crying for you, Gilles.

    Perhaps your “analogy” was less explanatory than you hoped?

    You’ve insisted, over and over, in the face of repeated examples to the contrary, that fossil fuels are somehow unique and irreplaceable. I still don’t understand why you think that.

    Sorry, but there it is. For instance, to what or whom is the “king” analogous? In Bob’s version, we know. In yours, not so much.

    Here’s a valuable resource for picturing what that “stable industrial economy” might look like:

    http://cmi.princeton.edu/wedges/

  138. Philip Machanick:

    Gilles, I strongy recommend you read in its entirety David McKay’s Renewable Energy without the Hot Air, which I’ve reviewed at my blog, before posting further on the subject of alternatives to fossil fuels.

    You can bet (without invoking imaginary kings) that a Cambridge physics professor has thought these things through with more clarity than you have.

  139. Gilles:

    “I’m crying for you, Gilles.

    thanks, I don’t need it. : the king analogy seems pretty clear to me, but nobody has declared he would accept this offer (and nobody clearly accepted a bet against me, although I’m am supposed to tell insanities ). Princeton’s scenarios are just that (like IPCC ones) : scenarios. They haven’t been proved by any real facts. Real facts are that CO2 emissions have just receded for the first time in a historical – 3% after one of the biggest crisis since 1929, after oil prices has climbed to the sky, oil production has plateaued, and only through economical recession. I know , that’s just these damned bankers, but of course, everything will recover thanks to windmills and solar panel. Sleep well.

  140. Steve Bloom:

    Re #128: That’s an interesting point, Kooiti, but wouldn’t we be able to address it by looking at existing transitional biomes between tropical forest and savannah?

  141. Jean B.:

    #137 Kevin
    “You’ve insisted, over and over, in the face of repeated examples to the contrary, that fossil fuels are somehow unique and irreplaceable. I still don’t understand why you think that.”

    You never commented my answer to that : tell me one country that developped without fossil fuels.

    I know countries with very very different average temperature that managed to develop, but I don’t know any country which manage to develop without the use of fossil fuels.

  142. Jean B.:

    #131 Bob
    “I would try. What about you?”
    I wouldn’t.
    No country developed without the use of fossil fuels and no developed country managed to get rid of a significant amount of fossil fuels with renewable energy (which doesn’t include nuclear).
    And i don’t know any developed country that managed to decrease significantly its total energy consumption (Jevons paradox).

  143. JiminMpls:

    Gilles – I do not know any country or company that has renounced willingly to exploit an accessible resource.

    Poppycock. The USA has, for example, designated millions of acres of land as wilderness areas that are off-limits to logging and minerals extraction. Most other countries have done the same. We have voluntarily limited commercial fishing on most lakes. And we’ve banned the development of potentially enourmous keragen resource. (Though at one point, there were proposals to set off underground nuclear explosions in order to frack the keragen out of the marlstone.)

  144. JiminMpls:

    Here a suggestion: Everyone (myself included) just stop responding to Gilles. Let him rant, but don’t drag every thread down the same downward spiral. He’ll never change his mind – and he’ll never change ours. Let it rest.

  145. Hank Roberts:

    A followup to MT’s post
    which he directs here

    Has anyone from EurekAlert! (a service of AAAS) checked in here or talked with any of the scientists discussing this? Might they be invited?
    http://www.eurekalert.org/aboutus.php

    Many press releases are sent out with an embargo period.

    That could allow those who have access — including, as they say, freelancers and public information officers — to consider whether they make sense (I’ve wondered why EurekAlert! doesn’t do that — or maybe they’re already doing their best).

    In other words — peer review of a sort for press releases.

    Possible?

    Is there something like a professional organization of press office officials?
    (they couldn’t have used that name, the acronym is unfortunate).

  146. Patrick 027:

    Re Hank Roberts 132 – I apologize in advance for encouraging this.

    Re 133 Bob – the irony of transfat!

    Gilles –

    “if I was offered, by a king, a very interesting proposal of winning one billion dollars if I succeed in building a stable industrial economy without any fossil fuel, but the death if I fail, I would refuse. And you ?”

    I would be reluctant to accept that deal, however, I would also be reluctant to accept this deal (quoting you but with a few words changed):

    …a very interesting proposal of winning one billion dollars if I succeed in building a stable industrial economy relying mainly on fossil fuels, but the death if I fail…

    And I’m not sure about this one:

    …a very interesting proposal of winning one billion dollars if I succeed in building a stable industrial economy relying mainly on nuclear power, but the death if I fail…

    —-
    (to be cont.)

  147. Hank Roberts:

    Tell me one country that developed without lead paint.

    You can make a long list of choices that looked good at the time, and look good to the heirs of those who made money on them in retrospect, but don’t look all that good now that we know the consequences.

  148. Edward Greisch:

    134 Hank Roberts: Isn’t Namibia gas the same gas? Does it matter whether the anoxic water is shallow or deep? Why? Other places in the ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico, are becoming anoxic because of human-caused pollution. Won’t they emit H2S as well? It looks to me like Namibia gas is a precursor of more H2S from more places. Are you saying the Namibia area has always been that way? It seems to me that the coast of Namibia should be a warm spot in the ocean where the sulfur bacteria phenomenon could be starting. How do you know it won’t spread from there? How much of the ocean surface can become Namibia-ized before it becomes a danger? How does the area or volume of Namibia gas generating ocean vary with climate?

    If you know a lot more about it, please write a guest article on why we don’t have to worry about Namibia gas. I would like to read an RC article on this because Namibia gas scares me.

  149. flxible:

    Edward Greisch – You’re getting too excited over one aspect of the picture without seriously thinking about what the article says in full – note the NASA report says [my bold] “As reported in a 2009 study, the frequent hydrogen sulfide emissions in this area result form a combination of factors: ocean-current delivery of oxygen-poor water from the north, oxygen-depleting demands of biological and chemical processes in the local water column, and carbon-rich organic sediments under the water column.

    Commercially important fish species have hatching grounds along the Namibian coast, and hydrogen sulfide eruptions can often kill large numbers of fish. In addition, the gas eruptions send a noxious rotten-egg smell inland. These events bring some benefits, however. Sea birds eat the fish carcasses, and humans can make meals of lobsters fleeing onshore to escape the oxygen-deprived waters.” The study cited this study, states “While the causal mechanism for the episodic fluctuations in methane and dissolved sulphide concentrations remains unclear, this data set points to the importance of alternating advective and diffusive transport of methane and hydrogen sulphide to the water column.”

    So yes, the Nambia situation “has always been that way”, or at least for quite some time, and isn’t because of one simple human caused condition. Here’s some info re hypoxic conditions, start your research on ocean hypoxic zones before jumping into a probably later phase of our likely demise.

  150. Hank Roberts:

    Edward, read the link you pointed to; that describes what happens at Namibia and how it’s happened repeatedly at that location. Compare that to the description in Peter Ward’s book and interviews of what might happen if ocean circulation stops feeding cold oxygen-rich water from the polar oceans down to the depths; if that occurs the deep water becomes anoxic.

    Don’t rely on me, I’m some guy on a blog. Read the references you have, compare the descriptions side by side. They’re very different.

    Namibia is a known repeating event. Ward’s described global extinction events occurring after major changes in how the ocean circulation works on a global basis. You can refer people to Ward’s book and interviews.

    Google finds this recent one for example: http://74.217.48.72/ideas/19003
    (there are several other interviews with him there). Reality is plenty scary; so is his speculation about what he’s been finding. I hope he publishes more from his latest trip sometime soon.
    ——-

    This is way off topic; let’s go back to Amazon tree color imagery from satellites, eh?

    I’d like to know more about what may have been wrong with the first paper’s results. I’d speculate, purely from watching California droughts, that what might have happened is the background low brush/grasses suffered more and changed color, leaving the deeper-rooted trees still green, and the satellite imagery didn’t distinguish them clearly. Anyone know?

  151. Patrick 027:

    Gilles (continued)-

    1.

    a) reducing fossil energy intensity (let’s say GWP intensity to make coal comparable to oil, etc, and include other sources).
    b) reducing annual GWP emission
    c) reducing cummulative GWP

    You actually have set up artificial thresholds where there is a continuum.

    The cummulative GWP trajectory (c) is a function of economic trajectory (b’), and GWP intensity trajectory (a).

    Any downward adjustment of either (b’) or (a) results in a downward adjustment in (c).

    2.

    Jevons paradox

    You are assuming that the demand curve is approximately flat. Maybe it is, but assuming any nonzero slope where demand quantity increases with decreasing price:

    If group A voluntarily reduces demand, the price drops, which increases consumption by others. If there is no net change in consumption, the price never changes. Thus the consumption increase by some should not be as much as the voluntary reduction by others. Maybe it is almost the same, but it isn’t necessarily exactly the same.

    (I believe that logic holds when trade is taken into account, because a voluntary reduction of consumption in one form may increase demand for other uses of the same thing, even by the same people (who are saving money), but again, if the total consumption didn’t change, the price wouldn’t change, and if people were willing to spend the same amount of money on an alternative use, why weren’t they before when the price was the same. Again, maybe they could be approximately the same, but no general reason to expect a complete balance.)

    Of course, when oil use declines to a point where the infrastructure is uneconomical, then oil itself migh t fall in price (at the well, anyway), because few will find it easy to get or use.

    Meanwhile, innovations in some countries (which could get a boost in part from economic limitations (imposed or otherwise) to trade, including temporal limitations to change) , if strong enough relative to Jevon’s paradox, might eventually drive down GWP contributions even in other countries.

    Another factor is mass market advantage – consider how Texas policies (unfortunately) affect the supply of gradeschool books over the rest of U.S. in the same way, not in the opposite way (or at least I’ve heard that; there could be, I imagine, a short term effect in the opposite direction.

    3.

    “So there is absolutely no reason why fossil fuels should peak before we are squeezed by natural constraints, and obviously they never did : I do not know any country or company that has renounced willingly to exploit an accessible resource. If it is the case for every individual, it is true for the global world. So conserving and improving efficiency will NOT result in a decrease of the fossil consumption, but in a INCREASE of global GDP produced by a given amount of finite resource. That is, ironically, environmentalists are the best support for the very thing they claim to fight : increasing the GDP as much as possible with the finite amount of resources we can exploit.”

    Taking an idealized market economy, price signals communicate valuation of different economic processes so as to direct resources in an optimum manner. (Scarcity of supply sends a price signal that directs the resource toward where it is most important and redirects some demand toward alternatives. High demand increases the potential for profit, pulling investment of resources toward increasing the supply, away from other less valued activities.

    Climate change (and ocean acidification) is an example of an externality. Externalities ‘gum up’ the computation of the market.

    An externality can be corrected by a. privatization of the commons b. public management c. imposed price signal (proactive, like a tax, or retroactive, as in civil suits). [For various reasons, for climate changing emissions, I prefer the tax, or at least some other proactive price signal-type policy, direct or indirect; although some short-term increase in management, as in efficiency and otherwise 'green-ness' in building codes, could be a good idea.]

    (NOTE that a price signal can shift the direction of technological advancement, so it is not only a matter of shifting usage to alternatives that already exist.)

    When the total value of everything is accounted (a hard excerise in practice, but I propose that in principle, anything of benifit has value), NOT correcting an externality IS a waste of resources, unless the mechanism used has costs exceeding the benifits. We are as a world willingly refusing to exploit an accessible resource.

    (Of course, the actual pricing of an externality may be nonlinear, for example, depending on the future trajectory, so the solution might have to be found via an iterative calculation to find an optimum, rather than solving simple equations…)

    4.
    “environmentalists are the best support for the very thing they claim to fight : increasing the GDP as much as possible with the finite amount of resources we can exploit.”

    What are environmentalists fighting, here? If we allow GDP to be calculated so as to include all things of value, then I’d say environmentalists (or at least many of them) are fighting for exactly that: Getting more for less, the ultimate deal.

  152. Patrick 027:

    Of course I didn’t intend to mean that absent all such simple externalities, the market would work in an ideal way; but I don’t thing all the caveats would completely void my point.

  153. john byatt:

    wandering through the Australian rainforests during drought, i have noticed a loss of leaf gloss rather than color , also the leaves tend to stiffen,
    some trees even beyond the point of no return still appear to the untrained eye to be quite okay, just my observations,

  154. Kevin McKinney:

    @141–”tell me one country that developped without fossil fuels.”

    I can’t, of course, any more than I can point you to one without professional sports, one lacking in the technology of plate glass, or one unacquainted with the ouevre of J.S. Bach.

    Are you going to tell me that all these, too, are prerequisites for prosperity? Post hoc ergo propter hoc. . .

    Or will we agree that countries following similar trajectories at the same time are likely to share important cultural characteristics, including the dominant technologies?

  155. Gilles:

    “reducing fossil energy intensity (let’s say GWP intensity to make coal comparable to oil, etc, and include other sources).
    b) reducing annual GWP emission
    c) reducing cummulative GWP

    You actually have set up artificial thresholds where there is a continuum.”

    Which “thresholds”? I don’t catch your point. That’s 3 different quantities (like position, velocity and acceleration), with different dimensions and units (J/$, J/yr, J)

    “The cummulative GWP trajectory (c) is a function of economic trajectory (b’), and GWP intensity trajectory (a).
    Any downward adjustment of either (b’) or (a) results in a downward adjustment in (c).”

    downward adjustment of (b’) HOLDING (A) CONSTANT, or (a) HOLDING (B’) CONSTANT results in downward change in (c) But nothing says that one is kept constant while decreasing the other one (except in IPCC scenario of course). Economists reason as if the growth was given a priori – which is simply wrong, and known since Jevons.
    “Jevons paradox
    You are assuming that the demand curve is approximately flat. Maybe it is, but assuming any nonzero slope where demand quantity increases with decreasing price:

    I didn’t assume that, and what you say is the essence of Jevons paradox ; improving economy allows to produce more at lower cost (for instance, non conventional resources become more and more accessible (hence cheaper) with the improvement of techniques).
    “If group A voluntarily reduces demand, the price drops, which increases consumption by others. If there is no net change in consumption, the price never changes. Thus the consumption increase by some should not be as much as the voluntary reduction by others. Maybe it is almost the same, but it isn’t necessarily exactly the same.”

    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 !

    BTW, you should not overestimate of what means “reducing the demand”. I have close relatives who bought a hybrid car and equipped their house with low energy bulbs, but went on vacation in New Caledonia and California, and built a (warmed- by heat pump but warmed) swimming pool in their garden. And they’re among the most “concerned” by CO2 around me.
    “Taking an idealized market economy, price signals communicate valuation of different economic processes so as to direct resources in an optimum manner. (Scarcity of supply sends a price signal that directs the resource toward where it is most important and redirects some demand toward alternatives. High demand increases the potential for profit, pulling investment of resources toward increasing the supply,”

    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.
    “If we allow GDP to be calculated so as to include all things of value, then I’d say environmentalists (or at least many of them) are fighting for exactly that: Getting more for less, the ultimate deal.”
    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 ?

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

    “@141–”tell me one country that developped without fossil fuels.”
    I can’t, of course, any more than I can point you to one without professional sports, one lacking in the technology of plate glass, or one unacquainted with the ouevre of J.S. Bach.”
    Oh, really, Kevin , you convinced me that fossil fuels are by no way necessary to development ! that’s now so clear ! I suggest you to publish your argument in Nature, it is a very important thought. Thanks. Don’t you have another one to solidify it ?

  156. Edward Greisch:

    149 flxible: Thanks. I see nothing in the NASA release that indicates a definitive time scale. I can see only the abstract of the Science Direct article. It talks about 3 years. The Scientific American article says: “Oxygen-deprived areas in the world’s oceans usually found in deeper water are moving up to offshore areas and threatening ” and “Since 2002 tongues of hypoxic”. That sounds bad. SciAm also says: “The hypoxic seawater is distinct from the well-known “dead zones” that form at the mouths of the Mississippi”, which sounds less bad.

    150 Hank Roberts: Thanks. So it only takes 200 ppm of H2S to kill a person. How much ocean circulation is slowing down I don’t know, but Europe isn’t colder yet that I know of. Is slowing the ocean circulation the only way to produce enough anoxia to get 200 ppm of H2S? Or just one way?

    So how much of the “dramatically reduced oxygen levels showing up in these waters” is due to the GW we already have is unanswered by what I have seen so far. I will keep my eyes open to new information on this subject and I continue to ask RC for an article on all of these questions. I sent an email to NASA Natural Hazards Updates asking about it.

  157. Completely Fed Up:

    ”tell me one country that developped without fossil fuels.”

    Roman Empire.

    British Empire.

    Spanish Empire.

    Dutch Renaissance.

    Aztec, Minoan, Ur, …

  158. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Gilles (125): The fairy tale is to believe that these [renewable] technologies would allow [humanity] to maintain a[n] industrial society without fossil fuels.

    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. Do you know how much energy humanity uses in total? About 1.3 x 10^13 watts. Less than one part in 9000 of the total. Some of that goes to wind, some to biomass. Geothermal, on the other hand, is a separate source which can give us even more power.

    No, we can’t make carbon steel without carbon. Fine, let’s use it for that. We need oil for plastics. Let’s use it for that. We need no fossil fuels for electric power, industrial processes, or transportation. Renewables can do it all. Not right away, not without investing in replacing the present energy infrastructure with the new one, but since the course of action you advocate–letting things go on as they are now–will destroy our civilization, switching to renewables looks like a better bet.

  159. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Jean B (142): No country developed without the use of fossil fuels

    BPL: No great civilizations developed with the use of slavery. Does that mean it can’t be done?

    Don’t confuse “we did it this way” with “this is the only way anybody can do it.”

  160. Nick Gotts:

    Gilles,
    You have repeatedly asked others to propose bets, but one reason (not the only one) for reluctance to do so is that your claims are so many, so vague, and so long-term that it is not clear what such a bet should be. 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.

  161. Completely Fed Up:

    “Oh, really, Kevin , you convinced me that fossil fuels are by no way necessary to development ! that’s now so clear !”

    NOTHING would convince you otherwise. Your assertion is axiomatic and inviolate, [edit]

    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?

  162. stevenc:

    “Turning sardines into superheroes. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

    Off the coast of southwest Africa, toxic gas is bubbling up from the ocean floor, killing marine life across areas as large as New Jersey, and even worsening the greenhouse effect. What could stop this menace? Why, the lowly sardine.

    Andrew Bakun is a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami. He says the toxic gas comes from decaying microscopic plankton—microscopic plants that sardines normally eat.

    Bakun:

    They have very fine filters in their gill rakers, and they can actually filter these microscopic phytoplankton directly out of the water, and actually consume them directly.

    With the local sardine population decimated by overfishing, Dr. Bakun says a rebound might stave off the toxic eruptions. And protecting other sardine populations could stop this from becoming a global problem. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.”

    This is one person’s opinion.

  163. Completely Fed Up:

    BPL: “We need oil for plastics.”

    Actually, all we need is a long chain polymer. petrol happens to be able to give us a form that we’ve developed a lot of interesting ways of making into various plastics.

    Methods we didn’t have until after we developed them.

    As would happen if we moved over to biological sources.

  164. Jean B.:

    @157 CFU
    That’s pure anachronism, they didn’t know about fossil fuels so of course they couldn’t use them.
    And i’m sorry but they didn’t develop the way fossil fuels allowed development. Do you think in the lifetime of a Roman or an Aztec one could see any technological advancement ? any rise in their standard of living ? Growth was close to zero.

    “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?”
    You know your argument is totally fallacious, and it’s sad you have to base yourself on that kind of things…
    If you give glass to a country it won’t develop ; if you give them energy, they will.

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

  165. Gail:

    When I first read about the study I wondered if the satellite is reading not just the green of trees, but perhaps as trees lose leaves, light reaches beneath them and encourages vines to grow up into the branches? If so that could account for some disparity between pictures from space and ground measurements.

  166. Completely Fed Up:

    “169
    Jean B. says:
    18 March 2010 at 8:42 AM

    @157 CFU
    That’s pure anachronism, they didn’t know about fossil fuels so of course they couldn’t use them.”

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

  167. Completely Fed Up:

    “Sorry CFU, if you call that industrialized countries,”

    They were industrialised countries.

    That is all you required.

  168. Completely Fed Up:

    Please show me an industrialised country that has not used slave labour.

    We don’t need it now, though.

    Neither do we need fossil fuels.

    We have technology. Get into the 21st Century and out of the 18th!

  169. Jean B.:

    @174
    “However, energy != fossil fuels.”
    For this scale of energy consumption, energy = fossil fuels.
    85% of world energy is from fossil fuels, 14% from nuclear/hydro/biomas, 1% from other sources.
    I think you don’t realize the amount of energy need to sustain the industrial civilization….

    @173
    “Ergo, they didn’t use fossil fuels despite having a growing and vibrant economy.”
    Did you read the end of my comment ?

  170. Jeffrey Davis:

    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 ?

    Since Peak Oil passed in 2005, that’s a loaded bet. If you change the phrase “production of CO2 per capita” to “atmospheric concentration of CO2″ — which acknowledges the existence of feedback CO2 from non-human sources — would you still want to make the bet?

    I think BAU will one day make our own contributions merely a part of the increase in atmospheric CO2, then a secondary part, and eventually irrelevant. The bet should be: will atmospheric CO2 still be increasing in ten years? I’d bet that it will.

  171. Hank Roberts:

    Is there any one reading who can talk about the actual satellite instruments, bands, and how they’re interpreted? That seems to me to be the real meat of both the older and newer papers, and perhaps we can cut through the fog of assertions, beliefs, and just post-at-the-top-no-matter-what-the-subject stuff.

    If there’s a scientist who doesn’t want to post directly, remember you can email the people who run the site.

    I found a bit about extending the AQUA work here, for example. There’s plenty more: http://oceancolor.gsfc.nasa.gov/DOCS/modis_hires/

    “The 36 spectral channels of the MODIS instrument were selected to support observation of clouds, land, and oceans. The traditional channels used for ocean color observation are the 9 bands in the 412-869 nm spectral regime, with a spatial resolution of 1000-meters at nadir. These ocean bands were designed with high sensitivity over the dynamic range of reflectances typical over open oceans, including contributions from the surface and the atmosphere. Over highly turbid coastal and inland waters, it is possible for this dynamic range to be exceeded, such that the bands saturate and the true signal is unkown. Other bands on MODIS were specifically designed for land and cloud observations, with both increased spatial resolution and reduced sensitivity over a broader dynamic range. These land/cloud bands overlap the spectral range of the ocean bands and extend into the short-wave infrared (SWIR), from 469 nm to 2130 nm. The ocean processing code developed by the OBPG, the Multi-Sensor Level-1 to Level-2 code (msl12), has been extended to support these additional bands. The primary purpose of this effort is to provide a mechanism for exploring the potential value of the increased spectral information, as well as the higher spatial resolution and saturation limits of the land/cloud bands, for application to coastal and inland waters.”

    Ok, not specifically about the Amazon or trees, I realize. I’m sure similar efforts are going on with a lot of satellites, and probably with reanalysis of previously collected data as the instruments are better characterized.

    Just hoping to hear from someone working in the area on how this is being done, and how much the field and satellite work is coordinated.

    For example — when you go to a field site, do you ever place a known target, or make local measurement of a specific location, and coordinate that with satellite data collection of the same spot at the same time?

    Could that be done and would it be helpful?

  172. Witgren:

    “Jean B. says:
    18 March 2010 at 8:42 AM

    @157 CFU
    That’s pure anachronism, they didn’t know about fossil fuels so of course they couldn’t use them.
    And i’m sorry but they didn’t develop the way fossil fuels allowed development. Do you think in the lifetime of a Roman or an Aztec one could see any technological advancement ? any rise in their standard of living ? Growth was close to zero.”

    Now the goalposts are changing. Before it was “development can’t happen without fossil fuels.” Now it’s apparently “well, ok, development can happen, but won’t happen as fast.” Personally, I’d prefer slow development to backward development.

    And actually, the Romans were familiar with coal and oil. Coal was used in some areas, especially Roman Britain, for heating. And the Byzantines used petroleum in their naptha. Steam power was known among the intelligentsia among the ancient Greeks and Romans and could have been turned into a power source, but with plentiful manpower (aka slaves) there was no incentive to do it.

  173. Jean B.:

    Source : Gapminder

    Oil consumption per person with income : positive correlation (+1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2007$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj1jiMAkmq1iMg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEfr_zKfD2RIcA;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=194;dataMax=96846$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0107;dataMax=11$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Energy use per person vs income : positive correlation (+1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2004$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj1jiMAkmq1iMg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEd1G8qI4GpZQg;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=269;dataMax=119849$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0182;dataMax=28$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Energy use per person with human development index : positive correlation (+1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2004$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=tyadrylIpQ1K_iHP407374Q;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEd1G8qI4GpZQg;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=0.2392;dataMax=0.9711$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0182;dataMax=28$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Energy use per person and total health spending per person : positive correlation (+1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2004$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=tR3MM-UTZ0B44BKxxWeAZaQ;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEd1G8qI4GpZQg;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=10;dataMax=7154$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0182;dataMax=28$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Energy use per person with infant mortality rate : negative correlation (-1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2004$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0NpF2PTov2Cw;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEd1G8qI4GpZQg;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=2;dataMax=420$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0182;dataMax=28$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Energy use per person with under 5 mortality : negative correlation (-1)
    http://www.gapminder.org/world/#$majorMode=chart$is;shi=t;ly=2003;lb=f;il=t;fs=11;al=30;stl=t;st=t;nsl=t;se=t$wst;tts=C$ts;sp=6;ti=2004$zpv;v=0$inc_x;mmid=XCOORDS;iid=phAwcNAVuyj05ZR69usyQIg;by=ind$inc_y;mmid=YCOORDS;iid=pyj6tScZqmEd1G8qI4GpZQg;by=ind$inc_s;uniValue=8.21;iid=phAwcNAVuyj0XOoBL_n5tAQ;by=ind$inc_c;uniValue=255;gid=CATID0;by=grp$map_x;scale=log;dataMin=1.9;dataMax=437$map_y;scale=log;dataMin=0.0182;dataMax=28$map_s;sma=49;smi=2.65$cd;bd=0$inds=

    Now please anyone provide me with some links showing a clear (anti)correlation between any of those parameters : income, human development index, health spending, child mortality, under 5 mortality and any climate parameter you want.

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

  174. Reasonable Observer:

    “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.”

    This statement gets to the root of the issue doesn’t it.

    Our world has a whole host of problems, most of which could in the end be fixed with unlimited resources. Politics and policy are essentially about finding and allocating resources to fix problems and address needs.

    When you say “taken seriously”, you are essentially arguing for an allocation of resources to your problem. You don’t address the problem that there is a fixed pool of resources and allocating them to your problem means allocating less to other problems.

    Saying is something should be “taken seriously” is a political statement that is arguing for a reordering of policy priorities. While you may be neutral on the specific policy, arguing the priorities is a policy in itself.

    [Response: It’s not a ‘policy’ in the sense that everyone else interprets the word. It is ‘advocacy’ – but it is very clear and obvious kind. I also push for better science literacy and a wider dissemination of knowledge about climate science (which is why I co-wrote a book on the topic), but neither of these things make me an ‘advocate’ in the sense implied. The problem is that we can define anything that happens in public as ‘political’ and any desire for any change in anything at all as ‘advocacy’ – but when scientists are described as ‘political advocates’ in the public discussion, none of the subtleties are carried over and the message is communicated that we are partisan political hacks and shouldn’t be trusted because we are obviously dishonest in denying that. You might see the problem here. – gavin]

  175. Nick Gotts:

    Call the editor of Nature!!! Stop the presses!!! Jean B. has discovered that rich countries generally use more resources per capita than poor ones!!!!!

  176. Jean B.:

    @183 John P. Reisman
    Again if you want to compare for example roman civilization with 30% of live birth dying before the age of 5 -that’s not taking into account stillbirths of course- and an average lifespan of 40yrs with current modern civilization, you’re free to do it…
    From the beginning of the western roman empire to its fall (i.e over 400yrs), average estimated lifespan went from 34 to 36rs…what an improvement in health care !

    “since the pre-industrial society did not endanger the climate system.”
    Would you say that the use of fossil fuels is a good or a bad thing overall ?

  177. Nick Gotts:

    Have you noticed, Jean B., that most rich countries (which would of course score best on your measures), are in the temperate zone?

  178. Completely Fed Up:

    “Again if you want to compare for example roman civilization with 30% of live birth dying before the age of 5 ”

    That has nothing to do with the economy, just the medical knowledge.

  179. Nick Gotts:

    Would you say that the use of fossil fuels is a good or a bad thing overall ? – Jean B.

    I would say that that is a remarkably stupid question. Good for whom, over what timescale? If it leads to the collapse of civilisation and billions of unpleasant premature deaths, then it will turn out to have been a bad thing. 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.

  180. Stuart:

    Steam power was known among the intelligentsia among the ancient Greeks and Romans and could have been turned into a power source, but with plentiful manpower (aka slaves) there was no incentive to do it.

    Interesting aside on this subject is a speech given by Robert Allen on how the uptake of fossil fuels (initially coal) and development of mechanisation/industrialisation started due to the high labour costs in the UK around that period: http://paul.kedrosky.com/archives/2009/10/robert_allen_on.html

  181. Completely Fed Up:

    “What utter garbage. Of course climate change has social aspects:”

    Nope.

    Climate change doesn’t give a fig for the social aspects: molecules and photons do not have a society.

    What we DO about it has social aspects.

  182. Completely Fed Up:

    “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)”

    But you’ve assumed that the IPCC haven’t stated what they don’t know.

    http://www.ipcc.ch

    “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.”

    You’re the only one who reads it that way.

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

    Got anything to actually *say*? Or just statements to be taken as gospel?

    “I believe that science MUST deal with facts and values.”

    And the IPCC do.

    Watts doesn’t.

    “Scientists will not be more objective just because they try hard to hide their subjectivity”

    Who’s talking about hiding? Only you.

    “The question we need to address is: HOW do we deal with facts and values?”

    How do YOU do it?

    “Methods for this: Not much progress, yet, since there is still far too much value denialism in science.”

    Not in the IPCC reports. Monckton? Yup. G&T? Yup. Heartland? Yup.

  183. Andy:

    Both of the satellite “canopy color” studies ask the wrong questions.

    Dr. Phillips is on the right track with a very long road ahead. However the death of adult trees doesn’t necessarily indicate a change in forest structure from closed canopy to savannah is likely. It simply means that some trees; very large, shallow-rooted canopy emergent ones, are likely to be hammered by a climate where soil moisture deficits increase in intensity and/or duration (note that this could happen even in a climate that produces more average annual rainfall). But the Amazon may simply change forest composition to include more drought resistant tree species. That is a significant finding regardless of whether the future Amazon contains more or less forest or savannah. Such a change in forest composition would decrease the diversity of the Amazon’s flora and fauna and could be ecologically devastating.

    But; savannah surrounds much of the Amazon, and is found inside of it where soil conditions are unfavorable for tree growth, and separates it from the other Amazon now almost gone – the Atlantic coast forest. Much of the Amazon flora is a subset of the surrounding savannah which itself is tremendously diverse. This all points to a high sensitivity of the current forest structure to climate changes. Further, the forest-savannah boundary is a moving squirmish line that is found all over the world, and is known to have moved greatly with past climate change, and is largely driven by soil moisture levels with many complicating factors such as fire and grazing levels, and is much better studied in areas outside of the Amazon such as the SE United States.

    One has no need of determing canopy greeness to predict the great forest’s future under whatever climate scenarios are presented. This is good old ecology, often jeered as “natural history”. Knowing an area’s natural history means knowing the right questions to ask before you collect data.

  184. Walt The Physicist:

    It was stated earlier in the posts that the scientists don’t want to be on Oprah and prefer seclusion. I beg to differ. Everyone who ever tried to obtain government funding knows that a lot of exposure via publications and presentations and strong claims of “greater impact” are necessary to obtain funding. Seclusion leads to no-tenure, no funding and finally ending up in a small firm or teaching in a school. Thus, all of us, scientists play the game; however, some of us excel by turning it into an “entertainment science”. In such a way receiving notoriety they secure funding, promotions, and invitations to some pretty boring parties where they award each other with the “Excellence Awards”.

  185. Geoff Wexler:

    [OT butif others do it then...]

    Not all critique of the IPCC and climate science is rooted in right-wing politics.

    Taken on its own , that quote may be correct. (I have not been following the context of the earlier remarks.) In the UK we have the independent weather forecaster Pers Corbyn, whom I have been told used to be left wing. I have no idea whether this has changed.

    The following is partly unchecked speculation.
    There are some people on the left who have an ideological commitment to industrial growth, and take up a political position to oppose green environmental policies. That should not affect their attitude to science, but it occasionally dominates it. There are also a few such people who are not right wing but are highly suspicious of appeals to authority of any kind including scientific authority. They don’t understand the authority of the evidence.

    Of course it is money which drives the propaganda, and there is much more of that from right wing sources who get publicised by right wing newspapers.

    It appears to end up with leftie critics of global warming science sharing conferences and propagandist programmes like Channel 4′s Swindle with well funded people from the right. The right wing Swindle didn’t forget that part of its constituency. It included a section on Margaret Thatcher whom it accused of promoting AGW as part of the struggle against the miners.

    As far as I remember the recent contrarian BBC blog by Hudson consisted mainly of a promotion of Corbyn’s appearance at a conference when he was due to overthrow the whole subject of AGW.

  186. Completely Fed Up:

    “Simply, I think it impossible to sustain everything that made our life so different from that of our grand-grand-parents without fossil fuels. ”

    Why?

    What is so special about the energy from fossil fuels that means we cannot live without it?

  187. Richard Ordway:

    212Walt The Physicist says:

    18 March 2010 at 1:20 PM”"”"”It was stated earlier in the posts that the scientists don’t want to be on Oprah and prefer seclusion. I beg to differ.”"”

    WHOAAAAAAAA, you must come from a different parallel universe then from where I come from for 11 years. I come from the trenches, bloodied and battered along with IPCC lead authors and many well-respected publishing journal scientists…how about you?

    Below are both personal observations as well as peer reviewed articles stating that you are wrong.

    For 11 years I was with arguably the best climate scientists in the world at a US national center for climate research and related with them on an almost every day basis. I also related with other respected peer reviewed publishing climate scientists from around the United States federal agenices (NOAA, EPA etc.)

    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.

    The press seemed to misquote you 100% of the time and you got the fall. Then you were threatened by a non-scientific supervisor. “Someone” alone with you in their office would say that ‘you might regret something you say someday’. It is a standing joke for anyone trying to get a scientist to speak in my current town.

    The word was you don’t talk to the Sierra Club or any other organization…or there could/would be consequences.

    The senior scientists could do it a little easier than others…but the institutional pressure, peer pressure and pressure from Washington to shut up and not implicate your home institution and make it a target or a target for budget cuts was stifling. I received threating Emails that were a result of actions from Washington. I know from where I speak. I am not alone.

    I personally witnessed publishing scientists putting pressure on other peer-review publishing scientists when they opened their mouths too much not only in peer-rerview but also to the press.

    The way to get funding is to publish sucessfully in peer reviewed journals and build a good reputation. The way to get sh_t, is by using almost any other way to get noticed. You get the hell hammered out of you in real life if you stick your head up.

    Every IPCC lead scientist I saw interviewed where I was (inhouse no less by inhouse people on an inhouse video camera about human-caused global warming with questions being asked by inhouse people) was quivering, sweating, gulping, eyes were flying around the room like a trapped deer…That’s the way it is. Whatever you say is on record and can come back to haunt you and your career and your all important reputation.

    I have talked to many publishing scientists around the country from NASA, NOAA, EPA…and it appears to be systemic.

    So don’t you dare hazard your opinion when the truth is a lot different.

    It is even recorded in the permanent peer review record:
    ______________________________________________________________________

    “They generally are not encouraged by their employers and funding agencies to communicate to non-scientists.”

    Environmental geoscience; communication challenges.
    D. G. E. Liverman (2008)
    Geological Society, London, Special Publications 305, 197-209

    Articles
    Environmental geoscience; communication challenges
    David G. E. Liverman
    Geological Survey of Newfoundland & Labrador, Department of Natural Resources, Government of Newfoundland & Labrador, PO Box 8700, St. John’s, NL A1B 4J6, Canada (e-mail: dliverman@gov.nl.ca )

    http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=9yqfy2TSX4EC&oi=fnd&pg=PA197&dq=Environmental+geoscience%3B+communication+challenges.+&ots=dGHwehsDUD&sig=sMzB-wH5lc3Nidwg3PtAV8ofiQE#v=onepage&q=Environmental%20geoscience%3B%20communication%20challenges.&f=false

    http://sp.lyellcollection.org/cgi/content/abstract/305/1/197
    _________________________________________________________________________

    “Recent attempts at political interference can be roughly grouped into 4 types: … (2) controlling federal scientists” (early 2000s)

    “Information can also be controlled by muzzling scientific experts.

    “A widely publicized example involved James Hansen, PhD, director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administrations’s (NASA’s) Goddard Institute for Space Studies. A vocal spokesperson on the urgency of
    taking action on climate change, Hansen was warned of “dire consequences”
    by a low-level agency public affairs political appointee
    if he continued to make such statements.”

    “Other federal climate scientists have reported similar pressure.”

    “Despite congressional hearings and sustained media attention on the suppression of global warming scientists, in March 2007, US Fish and Wildlife Service scientists were prevented from answering questions at an international conference about the impact of climate change on polar bears.”

    “The ability of federal scientists to participate in scientific
    exchange also has been curtailed.”

    “The inevitable result will be…consequent lessening of US influence and relevance.”

    Rest and Halpern American Journal of Public Health | November 2007, Vol 97, No. 11

    http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/AJPH.2007.118455v1

  188. Theo Hopkins:

    @ Gavin Wexler at No.213

    Them Yanks have a lot of Creationists.

    But we don’t have many in the UK – really very, very few.

    Yet the level of scepticism in both countries is about the same.

    Really just my note in passing. Why?

    [Response: Different cultural context. If you look at any of the anti-science movements around the world, the one thing they have in common is that they are being stoked and reinforced by specific political constituencies that have local cultural resonance – anti-GM food in France, creationism in the southern/rural US, anti-HIV/AIDS links in South Africa. They are not a reflection of one population being more science literate than another (I see no evidence for that), but rather that specific political groups find it useful to rally people under an anti-science banner – whether that is a stand-in for American-led globalisation, urban/East Coast elites, the nefarious medical ‘establishment’ or colonial imperialism (respectively). These movements thus only grow where there is fertile soil. – gavin]

  189. Walter Manny:

    To Gavin’s: “Advocating for a problem to be taken seriously is not to ‘advocate policies’”

    With respect, then, what is the below AR4 section about? Non-advocacy?

    Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change
    E. Policies, measures and instruments to mitigate climate change.
    [suggestions listed with the imprimatur: "high agreement, much evidence"]

    Why should the IPCC not advocate for that which it believes? Should it have none of the courage of its convictions? Right or wrong, the IPCC appears to have a distinct point of view of its version of the truth, and I fail to see what is wrong with that or why anyone needs to defend its right to a point of view.

    [Response: Giving an assessment of policy options in WG3 is fine. It is still not advocating for a specific policy. People are of course free to advocate for any policy they want – and many scientists (though not all) have been quite vocal about they prefer – but this again is not the ‘IPCC’ saying that. – gavin]

  190. Theo Hopkins:

    Somewhere on this thread or eslewhere recently, there was a link to:

    “”Nature 463, 296-297 (21 January 2010) | doi:10.1038/463296a; Published online 20 January 2010

    Fixing the communications failure.”"

    This was roughly about why and how people are right/left and why right/left have a set of values, so that lefties (like me) accept AGW and right wing cranks (Lord Monkton?) don’t.

    Gavin…

    Stop posting bloody science stuff. Go and get a good suit.

    Not joking here below.

    Thee was a nice picture of Phil Jones in the Guardian newspaper in the UK. Sort of casual open-necked shirt stuff, and his graying hair slightly disheveled. Looked younger than his true age. “My” sort of bloke, I would be happy to waste an hour with him in the pub.

    Then there is that Ian Pilmer bloke. Suit/Combed hair/Sober tie. Wouldn’t trust him an inch. Probably skip the pub when his round of drinks was due. Pilmer (or is it Plimer) was talking to the United Kingdom Independence Party (Want the UK out of Europe, mostly right wingers, “Little Englanders”). His audience was all over-middle aged men in sober suits and ties who were trying to hide their baldness, rather than accepting it like Jones.

    Gavin. Go get a really good suit and a sober tie. And a bit of premature baldness would give you gravitas.

  191. CM:

    “Reasonable Observer” #187 replied to Gavin’s homeless example:

    Saying is something should be “taken seriously” is a political statement that is arguing for a reordering of policy priorities. While you may be neutral on the specific policy, arguing the priorities is a policy in itself.

    But by that standard, we’re all advocating policy, since saying nothing is also a political statement, one of tacit support for the status quo. And if people are sleeping under bridges, that’s a loud kind of silence. If your findings are that business as usual could flip the Amazon into savanna, and you don’t bring this to people’s attention, you’re advocating like crazy.

    From a sociological viewpoint I think defining almost everything as political sometimes has its uses, but that you also need a narrower definition of politics. Otherwise you will lack the words to describe a central feature of modernity: the differentiation of science and politics* into specialized, relatively autonomous subsystems geared to producing knowledge and power respectively.

    (* and religion, and business, and so on)

  192. richard ordway:

    218Theo Hopkins says:
    18 March 2010 at 3:45 PM
    @ Gavin Wexler at No.213

    “”"”"Them Yanks have a lot of Creationists.

    But we don’t have many in the UK – really very, very few.

    Yet the level of scepticism in both countries is about the same.

    Really just my note in passing. Why?”"”"
    _______________________________________________________________________
    Have you compared the laws in the US to that in Europe (campaign contribution laws)???????? Do you even know the difference? Do you even care?

    In Europe, big oil, coal and gas industry can’t do 1/4 the political contributions (if that) compared to the US by law if I understand it right…

    The USA, unlike Europe, is open season for the richest of industries to flood the politicians, the voting system and the political system with a virtual tsunami of money…and big industry HATES change and threats to their established products…oil, coal and gas.

    Read the book the Heat is On by Ross Gelbspan who lead a Pulitzer prize winning team for the Boston Globe on how US big industry has worked the political system on climate change.

  193. Geoff Wexler:

    #218

    [ I can't claim any credit for the response, in green, to your comment; that impression may have been suggested by the hybridised name at the beginning]

    Re : my #213; there is another effect which may turn out to matter. Whereas the three party leaders are all saying similar things in the UK, this similarity may not reflect opinion a bit lower down. A recent poll of new Conservative candidates for the general election showed a rather high level of AGW skepticism. That would not be surprising if they got their climate education from Conservative newspapers.

  194. Ray Ladbury:

    Walt the Wannabe@212, Sorry, Walt, but Oprah ain’t gonna help get you a grant. What matters in maintaining funding is delivering on promises to funding agencies. In academia, you have to produce PhDs and keep people working. Now I have had scientists include a clipping from the technical literature or from a popularization in Physics Today or Nature or Science or American Scientist. It’s nice. You can show it to your kids, but it’s not going to change whether you get funding. Dude, no way are you a physicist. Your picture of scientific research is right out of prime-time TV.

  195. Theo Hopkins:

    @ Gavin

    To my comment that there are few creationists in UK, but scepticism is at same level.

    “”Response: Different cultural context. If you look at any of the anti-science movements around the world, the one thing they have in common is that they are being stoked and reinforced by specific political constituencies that have local cultural resonance – anti-GM food in France, creationism in the southern/rural US, anti-HIV/AIDS links in South Africa. “”

    Interesting that you quote France as anti-science, thus anti-GM. In the UK,the very successful anti-GM campaign was run by the serious dark greenies (including my partner, a toxicologist, PhD, three years post-doc in good ‘ol US of A)who are now at the front of climate change protest.

    And these UK greenies recently marched, while mixing it with the riot police, under the banner “We come armed only with peer reviewed science”. :-)

    It’s an odd world.

  196. Dale Power:

    This may seem a little off topic, but I think it relates well enough to the public perception of Climate Science and the Denial campaign…

    The Denial campaign, the fake “Skeptics” out there claiming that science and fact don’t exist because it scares them, are a bit like everyone’s angry Uncle Joey.

    You know, the guy that turns every family gathering into a political argument, and seems to believe that the louder he shouts, the more he has proved his point?

    That fellow with the glass of beer in his hand, foaming at the mouth, that everyone else just tolerates because they have begun to realize after a time that arguing with him won’t make any difference as his mind has been closed since slightly before the Regan Era?

    So instead of arguing with Deniers, just repeat a few simple phrases over and over again until they get it or go away:

    1. Science shows that Climate Change is happening.

    2. Deniers are deluded and too scared of what has happened to take real action.

    3. Deniers always get the science wrong. They use some of the right words, but can’t back it up scientifically.

    Arguing actual points with such people won’t work anyway, so why waste your time?

    I think number three above is perhaps the best idea to promote.

    It’s true and most people really do understand that some people with loud mouths just don’t know what they are talking about.

  197. Scott Saleska:

    I don’t know who chose the title of this post (“Up is Down, Brown is Green”), but it is even more true than the insightful commentary by my colleague Simon Lewis indicates! The Samanta et al paper says brown, but in fact their own data (when you dig it out of the supplement) shows green, consistent with (and indeed virtually indistinguishable from) our original findings published in Science (Saleska et al., 2007).

    Samanta et al. misrepresents our work on many levels (one of which is to assert, falsely, that we did not filter out atmosphere-corrupted observations when in fact we did), and we intend, of course, to present an appropriate response in the peer reviewed literature, where the technical details of our differences may be evaluated by anyone who wishes. But for the moment we will, for the sake of argument, accept their analysis at face value and ask: even if Samanta et al are 100% correct in their critique of our methods (which we of course dispute), what are the implications? Does the alternative to our method which Samanta et al advocate, or the recent update in the MODIS satellite data (to version 5 from version 4), make any difference for the main conclusion of our paper?

    With due respect to our friends and colleagues at Boston University, the answer is no, it does not.

    First: the relevant Samanta et al data (which looks at the satellite-detected response of the 2005 drought region) is this:

    Table S3 (Samanta et al. 2010, supplement)
    Year Rain defecit (%) Area Green (%) Area Brown (%) Area (%) Valid no chang area (%)
    2000 0.99 5.19 6.13 23.75 35.09
    2001 6.09 5.15 5.68 24.24 35.09
    2002 10.5 5.08 6.05 23.95 35.09
    2003 5.34 8.05 4.12 22.90 35.09
    2004 4.68 7.56 6.72 20.80 35.09
    2005 87.04 10.80 3.89 18.98 33.68 + 1 Standard deviation)
    Saleska et al. (2007): 34% (p<0.000001)
    Samanta et al. (2010): 32% (p<0.004)

    The bottom line is that their observed 2005 result (32% greenness) is indistinguishable from ours (34%). I.e. Samanta et al effectively reproduce the results of Saleska et al.

    To summarize in plain words:
    – Samanta et al data show a drought region green up that is on average indistinguishable from Saleska et al (but they call it NO green up).
    – Samanta et al data almost exactly reproduce Saleska et al's most salient bottom-line result (but they say what we did was not reproducible).

    This summary response of necessity focuses on the first order results, glossing over nuances (which we expect to address in the literature). It also begs some very interesting outstanding questions about tropical forest response to climate variation: what caused the anomalously disproportionate green-up in the drought region?, and why do some regions green up and others brown down? Are the short-term green-up results consistent with the longer-term mortality increases reported in Phillips et al (2009), and refered to in Simon Lewis' commentary? For the moment, however, we will leave discussion of causal mechanisms to the literature, because such discussion does not directly speak to our original Science paper, which was a simple observation, not an argument for a particular mechanism. But one area we can surely agree with Samanta et al is that these are important questions that would benefit from further research.

    Best regards,

    Scott Saleska

  198. John Eggert:

    I’m sure this has been pointed out before, but the fact that Jo Nova, Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre (among other skeptics/deniers/whatever) all prominently display active links to realclimate whilst you show no such desire to extend them the same courtesy is . . . questionable. Why are they willing to show people what you think when you seem dead set against showing anyone what they think? Makes one wonder about all this talk of openness from you. That may not be fair and it may be the intent of their links, but the fact remains, they link to you, but you don’t link to them. Got something you don’t want people to know? If not, put a link to them on your site. McIntyre at least, if not some of the others. In this skirmish in the battle of credibility, they have won.

    [Response: Whatever. We only link to credible sources of information and avoid those who misrepresent it or inappropriately personalize or politicize the science. Should any of the sites you mention decide to follow that pattern, we’d link to them. (And really, you think those sites show us courtesy? Really?) – gavin]

  199. himThere:

    Hank @ 230

    A masterly description of the power, the majesty, the fallibility, and the cruelty of the ways of science. The outputs and outcomes from science can be truly awe-inspiring, but the journey can inflect great pain and suffering from the scientists, not least of all from their highly competitive ‘colleagues’. The impact that the ways of science has on its practitioners is rarely seen outside science itself.

  200. Ian:

    Gavin

    I am aware that WUWT is anathema to many both to those that post on RealClimate and those that manage the site. However, a post on WUWT dealing with the changes in the temperature data from 1955-1965 does raise questions about the integrity of the data that are the bedrock of global warming. You probably consider this type of report plus discussions on the MWP are not fit topics for discussion here. If that is indeed the attitude of RC, and it may well not be, it means that WUWT, a very popular blog, gets a free kick at the expense of AGW. Is there any truth in either of these reports?

    [Response: Is it conceivably possible that data from thousands of weather stations and ocean records which have been carefully corrected to account for jumps in instrumentation, stations moves, biases derived from dozens of independent databases might just give slightly different results than a splice of European and US station averages with a compilation of 63 uncorrected radio-sonde stations? Maybe, just maybe…. – gavin]

  201. Edward Greisch:

    “the message is communicated that we are partisan political hacks and shouldn’t be trusted because we are obviously dishonest in denying that. You might see the problem here. – gavin”
    Reference: “Fighting Identity” by Michael Vlahos, page 80: “Those who critically examine sacred narrative are of course always heretics”.
    But what Vlahos means by “sacred” isn’t what most of us think of when we use that word. To Vlahos, “The Market” and “The Iraq War” are sacred narratives. To Vlahos, YOU, RC, are trying to CHANGE THE IDENTITY of the American people. That is tantamount to a religious conversion.
    Now how else would a preacher of the old religion of “Fossil fuels are good $$$$$” see us besides as all those bad things?
    I am only the messenger. It is Vlahos’s opinion, not mine. I hope I have understood him correctly so far. I am on page 114. Vlahos is difficult reading.

    From me: Anger should be expected; but anger may be the first stage of learning. Luckily, we have the First Amendment.

  202. Walter Manny:

    “[The IPCC] is still not advocating for a specific policy.” – Gavin.

    Are we splitting hairs here? The IPCC is clearly an advocacy group over and above its scientific theorizing and resulting conclusions. Note it does not lay out for anyone’s consideration the policy of non-mitigation, and why should it given its beliefs? I don’t recall reading about any objections from the IPCC’s rank and file (though there may well have been some) to its acceptance of the Peace Prize, a political award if ever there was one. I get it that many in the organization (and here) would prefer it to be viewed as an objective, dispassionate group simply following the evidence to its logical ends — what conceit could be more flattering to a group of scientists? Pachauri, though, has no qualms about advocacy, and he is the relevant party, no?

    [Response: Read the whole comment thread, we went through all this before. – gavin]

  203. Theo Hopkins:

    @ Geoff Wexler #226

    It now seems to be official policy of Ukip (United Kingdom Independence Party) that AGW does not exist.

    I noted recently that Lord Monkton has joined Ukip, and seems to be one of their advisers on climate/energy.

    What I find interesting is that, as far as I know, my own Ukip MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Ian Coleman, for the Southwest Region is pretty sceptical, but has not talked to the people at the Hadley Centre, which is situated in Exeter, so the scientists he doubts are his own constituents, and if he wanted to talk with them, as an MEP, he would be happily received by the top people there.

    Ditto, Giles Chichester, the Conservative MEP (and fairly sceptical) for the Southwest has also not talked to Hadley. Chichester seems to have a problem with Hadley/Met Office because they did not predict the cold weather over Christmas.

    (I am corresponding with all my Southwest MEPs, to check if they are sceptics – and if so, have they talked to Hadley)

  204. Chris S:

    Walt the Physicist #212

    Ed Witten. Philip Anderson. Frank Wilczek.

    Ever seen any of them on Oprah…Or anywhere else in the media for that matter?

    Who are they? They are the highest ranking physicists according to their h-index (well they were in 2008, the most recent measure I could find in 5 minutes of googling.)

    Being a physicist I’m sure you’re familiar with their work but I confess – as an ecologist – I hadn’t heard of any of them. Still they are evidently doing well, Witten has an h-index of 110 & has more than 40 papers with 100+ citations.

  205. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Jean B (1979): “Ergo, they didn’t use fossil fuels despite having a growing and vibrant economy.”
    Did you read the end of my comment ?

    BPL: You don’t know your Roman history. They very much knew about both coal and oil, both having been described by Greek philosophers and also studied by Roman philosphers (e.g. the Plinies). There was an ancient-world debate over using machinery, since 3rd century BC Alexandria had seen a primitive steam engine invented. They never used steam on a practical scale, but they had a debate about machines versus slaves. They decided in favor of slaves. Not only was there a huge and economically important slave trade, but slaves were essential to agriculture and comfortable living for the upper and middle classes as well. And what would you do with the suddenly-unemployed slaves? Kill them? Let them starve to death? Can’t settle them in North Africa because there isn’t enough colony space. In short, they decided–very consciously–much the way you’ve decided about fossil fuels–”That’s how things run, and it’ll be a disaster if we change it.”

  206. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Jean B (186): You’re comparing ENERGY USE, not FOSSIL FUEL USE. Energy can come from other sources.

  207. Barton Paul Levenson:

    Jean B (193),

    The difference in lifespan between modern and ancient cultures was primarily due to infant mortality, not the very real difference in medical technology. I imagine doing away with the widespread infanticide by which Rome controlled its population may have had something to do with why the lifespan increased later on. Well-designed sewers helped, too. They were using plenty of fossil fuels in 19th century London, but infant mortality took a long time to decrease. Seems more babies survive when you feed the poor.

  208. Barton Paul Levenson:

    AB (210 and many others),

    Allow me to inform you that my father, Dr. Myron Herbert Levenson, Ph.D. (chairman of the department of sociology and anthropology, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and author of the first low-cost, paperback sociology textbook, Human Relationships, 1974), and my mother, Beverly L. Darwin Ph.D. (author of “An Operational Theory of Medical Anthropology”) were both social scientists. I grew up reading ethnographies. And you know what? I NEVER ran across a social scientist who did what you do–arguing with the group being studied about all the things they’re doing wrong. For all their other faults, one thing the old school of Boaz and Mead had down pat was nonjudgmentalism–the social scientist was there to observe, record, analyze, and interpret–not to interfere. You don’t act anything like an anthropologist or a sociologist. You act like a missionary. And, evangelical Christian though I am, that’s not a compliment.

  209. J Bowers:

    251 BPL: I imagine doing away with the widespread infanticide by which Rome controlled its population may have had something to do with why the lifespan increased later on.

    The first time I have to disagree with you, BPL ;) The abandoned babies tended to end up as slaves, companions for other children, or were adopted by childless couples, hence the abandonment took place in very public places (the well travelled Velabrum, and Olitorium with its nursing columns were the most used locations). Sorry for the OT.

  210. CM:

    Sorry, I added to the noise ratio another comment on Gilles before noticing that Saleskas had joined the fray here with a retort to Samanta et al. This could get interesting, so could we all please stay on topic for a bit, or pipe down?

  211. Eli Rabett:

    Three comments about reordering much of this:

    First, with Scott Saleska joining the discussion it is time to recognize that the principal author of the Samanta paper is Ranga Myneni. Why Samanta stepped up and took the hit is an interesting point, pushing grad students in front of the bus is an ancient, but unethical, tradition, on the other hand, some of them just like to play in traffic.

    Second, the whole Gilles back and forth points out the need for threading the comments.

    Third, Eli STILL wants to know why the Amazon modeling studies are not being discussed. Have they been discarded as unreliable? If so why?

  212. Walt The Physicist:

    247 Chris S, you forgot one more important name – Jan Hendrik Schön, receipient of the Otto-Klung-Weberbank Prize for Physics in 2001, the Braunschweig Prize in 2001 and the Outstanding Young Investigator Award of the Materials Research Society in 2002. During his best year he coauthored about 50 articles! By now he would have surpass all the fellas you mentioned. Too sad he was exposed to rig his experimental data by just one Princeton Prof while hundreds of peers were either silent or supportive. Chris, there is unspoken requirement in academia and publically funded research labs for those of us who do natural or applied sciences to publish at least 2 – 4 articles per year in the peer reviewed journals. To the defense of promotion committees it is really difficult to judge quality of work, it is much simpler to judge by quantity. So, majority comply and publish whether they have something to say of don’t. Few publish only when they really discover something worthy. And some produce fantastically large number of publications. Those fellas have citation index soaring just because of mere number articles. Who can tell the quality? Sorry for long post, I thought you would be interested in sharing experiences. How is it in ecology?

  213. Ray Ladbury:

    @258 I would echo CM, might the sociological/energy/etc. discussion move to perhaps the IOP thread?

  214. Richard Ordway:

    [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]

    Yes, in those days, climate scientists from other agencies were getting “pressure” too, not just NASA- cited from peer review:

    “A widely publicized example involved James Hansen, PhD,
    director of the National Aeronautics and Space
    Administrations’s (NASA’s) Goddard Institute for Space
    Studies. A vocal spokesperson on the urgency of
    taking action on climate change, Hansen was warned
    of “dire consequences” by a low-level agency public
    affairs political appointee if he continued to make
    such statements.”

    “Other federal climate scientists have reported similar pressure.”

    Rest and Halpern American Journal of Public Health | November 2007, Vol 97, No. 11

    http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/AJPH.2007.118455v1

  215. Jack Maloney:

    Interesting article on global drought conditions here: http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2010/02/24/update-on-global-drought-patterns-ipcc-take-note/

    [Response: The actual article is interesting, the spin from Michaels, not so much. – gavin]

  216. Hank Roberts:

    > CM says: 19 March 2010 at 7:47 AM
    > Sorry, I added to the noise ratio another comment on Gilles before
    > noticing that Saleskas had joined the fray here with a retort to
    > Samanta et al. This could get interesting, so could we all please
    > stay on topic for a bit, or pipe down?

    Oops, dagnabbit, me too. Saleska? Where? What’d he say? Good grief, it was right before the pager rolled over, too, and got pushed back to the previous page by all this blithering. Can we put a cork in Andreas or give him his own topic over at Deltoid or, um, quit taking his bait. I promise….

    Thank you Dr. Saleska for commenting. Thank you CM for noticing.

    Can we restart with this one?
    It’s: Comment by Scott Saleska — 18 March 2010 @ 9:13 PM

  217. Hank Roberts:

    It’s #197: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/03/up-is-down-brown-is-green-with-apologies-to-orwell/comment-page-4/#comment-167179

  218. Sou:

    This topic seems to have been totally derailed. Could we institute a thread purely for Gilles, Andreas Bjurström and co who can’t seem to prevent themselves from hijacking any and every thread. (Maybe resurrect the open thread?)

    Is Eli Rabett the only person who noticed the comment from Scott Saleska, which sticks out like a sore thumb because it is the only comment relevant to this topic out of the last 100 or so comments, from what I’ve seen. (Well, I might be exaggerating a bit, but then again maybe not.)

    With all the interest in the wonderful Amazon region over the decades, I’d have thought there’d be a whole lot more information around. But it looks like climate and the Amazon is a whole other new area for research.

    If anyone who has expertise is able to comment on Saleska’s post or otherwise add to the main topic, that would be excellent.

    [Response: Agreed. All OT comments should now go to the new open thread. – gavin]

  219. Completely Fed Up:

    Ray: “2)Scientific consensus has nothing to do with panels or polls. It is measured by what techniques, ideas and theories are used or implied in work being published and cited.”

    It is also accepted because IT WORKS!

    If it doesn’t, it doesn’t find a consensus. Rather like GCR effects on cloud seeding in the earth’s atmosphere.

  220. Edward Greisch:

    215 gavin: Original article demands money. We can’t see it.

  221. Richard Ordway:

    [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]
    _______________________________________________________________________

    Another peer reviewed statement which perhaps sheds a bit more light…

    “”"Environmental geoscientists working within government agencies usually are restricted to existing institutional means of distribution or communication with external agencies or the public… (see Nield 2008)”"”

    Geological Society, London, Special Publications; 2008; v. 305; p. 197-209;
    DOI: 10.1144/SP305.17
    © 2008 Geological Society of London

    Articles
    Environmental geoscience; communication challenges
    David G. E. Liverman

    http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/AJPH.2007.118455v1

  222. Barton Paul Levenson:

    John Eggert (198): the fact that Jo Nova, Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre (among other skeptics/deniers/whatever) all prominently display active links to realclimate whilst you show no such desire to extend them the same courtesy is . . . questionable.

    BPL: By the same logic, isn’t it a shame that the Journal of Evolutionary Biology doesn’t extend links to Kent Hovind’s Dinorama and the Institute for Creation Research? How discourteous can you get?

  223. Barton Paul Levenson:

    J. Bowers (209) — Tacitus writes, “We drown infants born sickly or deformed.” Wikipedia adds “Three thousand bones of young children, with evidence of sacrificial rituals, have been found in Sardinia… Pelasgians offered a sacrifice of every tenth child during difficult times (as in the verb “to decimate” the population). Syrians sacrificed children to Jupiter and Juno…

    …A letter from a Roman citizen to his wife, dating from 1 BCE, demonstrates the casual nature with which infanticide was often viewed:

    “I am still in Alexandria. … I beg and plead with you to take care of our little child, and as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. In the meantime, if (good fortune to you!) you give birth, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it.”

    …At the end of the 12th century, notes Richard Trexler, Roman women threw their newborns into the Tiber river even in daylight.”

    Note also:

    Faerman, M., G.K. Bar-Gala, Dvora Filon, C.L. Greenblatt, L. Stagerd, A. Oppenheimer and P. Smith 1998. “Determining the Sex of Infanticide Victims from the Late Roman Era through Ancient DNA Analysis.” J. Archaeol. Sci. 8, 861-865.

    “Infanticide has since time immemorial been an accepted practice for disposing of unwanted infants. Archaeological evidence for infanticide was obtained in Ashkelon, where skeletal remains of some 100 neonates were discovered in a sewer, beneath a Roman bathhouse, which might have also served as a brothel. Written sources indicate that in ancient Roman society infanticide, especially of females, was commonly practised, but that females were occasionally saved and reared as courtesans. We performed DNA-based sex identification of the infant remains. Out of 43 left femurs tested 19 specimens provided results: 14 were found to be males and 5 females. The high frequency of males suggests selective preservation of females and that the infants may have been offspring of courtesans, serving in the bathhouse, supporting its use as a brothel.”

  224. Andy:

    Dr. Saleska/Samanta:

    So what? You are approaching this research question as if there aren’t other plants and animals out there competing with or feeding on those whose canopy currently dominates your measurements. What if the drying of a forest stressed by seasonal high water allows it to achieve more growth? A bald cypress tree will grow way better in my front yard than it will in its natural swamp habitat as it won’t be stressed from prolonged flooding and I’m sure canopy greenness measures would support this supposition. Yet my suburbia isn’t full of cypress swamps and alligators. Strange isn’t it?

    The forest’s existing species composition is dictated by the differential success in reproduction, growth and survival of species under current climactic conditions.

    If the climate dries, sure the existing seasonally stressed forest will grow more; until it is replaced by competing plant species that can not tolerate the current levels of flooding.

    The forest will change. The edges of the forest will drawback as they are converted into savannah. Likely any level of drying will greatly exacerbate forest loss to fire as well. Maybe no more savannah, but rather more cattle pasture and hectares of cogon grass. Oh boy, what a fun future for Brazil’s greatest asset. The other amazonian habitats will change as well. Fish assemblages will be lost as river flows and flood timing, intensity and duration changes.

    Species will be lost and the world and its nutrient, carbon, water, etc. cycling will take one more step to homogeinity and loss of robustness.

    Of course it is way more complicated than this. Assembling a model of the earth’s climate from individual physical laws is child’s play compared to doing such to the unbelievable number of individual species interactions involved in forest ecology.

    Seasonally flooded savannahs like the llanos where tree survival is hampered by prolonged inundation may dry out and be converted to closed canopy forest. Palm swamps converted to dry land forest. Likewise, savannah maybe converted into brushland if it isn’t converted to soybeans first. And on and on.

    Yes, the idiots out there are crying up is down and cats and dogs are sleeping together; I’m not arguing that. Nor am I saying that getting refining satellite and aerial photographic estimates of tree growth and levels of photosynthetic activity isn’t vital research. But climate change science needs to be better married to ecology. In the past it may have been the lack of regional models and climate projections that prevented this; but no more. The IPCC’s WWF (World Wildlife Fund) citation was no mystery to me. Their ecologists are world reknown and Thomas Lovejoy and others have spent most of their careers conducting massive field experiments in the Amazon.

    Ecological changes are often more easily visible to the general public and a greater concentration on studying this may provide a way of making climate change real to a lot more folks. The die-off of the western US and Canada’s evergreen forests due to more beetle infestations due to increased winter temperatures has been a real wake-up call.

  225. MapleLeaf:

    An update and clarification on the Amazon “greenup” fiasco has been posted at
    ClimateProgress.com

    http://climateprogress.org/2010/03/19/amazon-forests-drought-ipcc-feedback-debunk/

    The IPCC needs a PR division to tackle nonsense like this in a timely fashion!

  226. IPCC_vs_Hannity:

    In browsing the net about this story I ran into a strange post by the authors of this GRL paper and thought this sheds light on their ulterior motives. Their post titled “New Science Paper Debunks IPCC Claims About Amazon” on Sean Hannity (A vocal and extreme right wing leaders in the US) forum http://forums.hannity.com/showthread.php?t=1855601 speaks volumes.

  227. Hank Roberts:

    > Hannity
    Wow.

    It begins:
    March 5th, 2010, 6:27 pm rmyneni rmyneni is offline
    Man On The Street
    Join Date: Mar 2010
    Posts: 1
    Default New Science Paper Debunks IPCC Claims About Amazon
    An article published yesterday (March 4, 2010) in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), the authors report that Amazon forests did not green-up during the 2005 drought, contrary to a 2007 report published in the prestigious journal Science and the IPCC claims about these forest response to precipitation declines. This article corrects much of the mis-information regarding the drought sensitivity of this important biome. The abstract of our article is shown below. I hope you will find this article interesting enough to write about it and/or help disseminate the news. If you wish to talk to us about this article, please contact the first author, Arindam – arindam.sam@gmail.com

    ——
    That would be this guy?
    http://cliveg.bu.edu/people/rmyneni.html

  228. Hank Roberts:

    Course lecture notes and much else available online.

    “The total radiative forcing due to greenhouse gases is thus estimated to be about 2.5 W/m2. A general rule of thumb is warming of about 0.6 C results from 1 W/m2 forcing of the present climate system.”
    http://cybele.bu.edu/courses/gg101spring04/L28-Detailed-Notes.pdf

    Education.

  229. JiminMpls:

    So, now Drs Saleska and Samanta will be treated to lavish vacations at exclusive resorts in exchange for an hourlong PowerPoint presentation of their weak research. Like Lindzen – but unlike Suet and Baloney – they’ll stress that none of their research was funded by political or fossil fuel industry interests.

  230. Sou:

    @226 – I got a message: “Sorry. The administrator has banned your IP address. To contact the administrator click here.”

    Must be a Hannity fan club only forum, though how they could tell that I’m not a fan of Hannity’s by my IP address is quite a mystery!

  231. J. Bob:

    While the ancient world did not use a significant amount of coal or “pitch”, they did burn a very significant amount of wood. Unfortunately many forests were clear cut, and the eventual erosion took place. So what ever the case, wood, coal, oil or natural gas, CO2 results. Only in the last 70-80 years, where I live have the woods grown back, after being almost cut down for firewood.

    In many high mountain areas, solar reflector ovens are now being used to cook, instead of firewood. This results in less work gathering wood, and a chance for the trees to grow.

  232. FurryCatHerder:

    I wonder if the reason for bad PR, Orwellian references, etc. is that the #1 “vehicle” for media messages is the silver screen and most of the “Climate Disaster” movies have been so far into the realm of science fiction that the message just doesn’t get across.

    Perhaps something much longer. Like a miniseries.

    And I’m being serious here, because so much of what’s discussed in this particular thread is how cats sleeping with dogs type of information evolves — the sky hasn’t actually fallen yet, and the only =other= message is that it never will.

  233. Hank Roberts:

    Jim–not Saleska. See the Update and new thread.

  234. JiminMpls:

    #233 Hank – Yes, I realized my mistake. Reading the letter on Hannity’s site made me even ditzier than normal. My sincere apologies to Dr Saleska, but I’ll stand by what I wrote in regards to Samanta. It just seems like a ploy to get into some very deep pockets.

    Politicizing the science indeed!

  235. Geoff Wexler:

    re #132 Hank Roberts
    I agree. A good antidote might be an occasional visit to Stoat.
    ———————————-
    Re: #13 and #37
    Yes ; Plass still reads well , but you might want to progress to the slightly more advanced:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/01/plass-and-the-surface-budget-fallacy/

    History of science tends to be more complicated than it looks at first.