RealClimate logo


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

Filed under: — eric @ 15 March 2010

In the alternate universe of Fox News, Anthony Watts, and many others, up is down. Now, it appears, brown is green. Following the total confusion over the retraction of a paper on sea level, claims of another “mistake” by the IPCC are making the rounds of the blogosphere. This time, the issue is the impact of rainfall changes on the Amazon rainforest.

A study in 2007 showed that the forest gets greener when it rains less. A new study, by Samanta et al. in Geophysical Research Letters shows that the earlier work was flawed. Aided by an apparently rather careless press release, this is being used as evidence that the Amazon is less sensitive to rainfall changes than the IPCC claimed. But the Samanta et al. paper actually does not address the central questions at all. It only addresses whether a single anomalous rainfall year had an impact that is measureable and interpretable from a satellite sensor. The conclusion is that they could not detect a change. As noted in a commentary from Simon Lewis, University of Leeds, “the critical question is how these forests respond to repeated droughts, not merely single-year droughts.”

Lewis – a broadly published expert on tropical forests – makes a number of additional important points in his commentary below. Bottom line: IPCC gets it right as usual.

—————
Guest Commentary by Simon Lewis, University of Leeds, UK

The new Samanta et al. study uses sensors on satellites to assess the colour of the rainforest canopy in the dry season of the year 2005, compared to the dry seasons of the years 2003 and 2004. More detected green colour in 2005 may suggest that the forest is being more productive (more green leaves photosynthesising), or more brown colours may suggest leaves dying and less productivity, than the previous years. The results show that 2005 was little different to the previous years, despite the strong drought.

This is important new information, as in 2007, a paper using broadly the same satellite-based method showed a strong ‘greening-up’ of the Amazon in 2005, suggesting tolerance to drought (Saleska et al. 2007, Science). The new study shows that those results were not reproducible, but also highlight the extreme caution that should be attached to satellite studies generally in this field, with instruments in space collecting data which is then used to infer subtle changes in the ecology of tropical forests.

In contrast to the 2007 paper, Oliver Phillips, myself, and others, published a paper in Science last year, using ground observations from across the Amazon, showing that while the 2005 drought did not dramatically change the growth of the trees compared to a normal year, as Samanta et al. also show, the deaths of trees did increase considerably. The new study of Samanta et al. does not contradict the Phillips et al. study, which itself shows the Amazon is vulnerable to drought via impacts on tree mortality. The Phillips et al. paper showed that remaining Amazon forest trees changed from absorbing nearly 2 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere annually over recent decades, as tree growth has been exceeding mortality, to being a large, but temporary, source of over 3 billion tonnes, from the elevated tree mortality associated with the 2005 drought event.

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). 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.


235 Responses to “Up is Down, Brown is Green (with apologies to Orwell)”

  1. 101
    Pete says:

    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.

  2. 102
    Edward Greisch says:

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

  3. 103
    Gilles says:

    “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 ??

  4. 104
    Edward Greisch says:

    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.

  5. 105
    Gilles says:

    ” 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.

  6. 106
    CM says:

    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?

  7. 107
    Roger Pielke Jr. says:

    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

  8. 108
    Sou says:

    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.

  9. 109
    JMurphy says:

    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’ ?

  10. 110
    Nick Gotts says:

    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.

  11. 111
    Ray Ladbury says:

    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.

  12. 112
    Gilles says:

    “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.

  13. 113

    “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.

  14. 114

    #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.


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

  15. 115
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    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.

  16. 116
    Nick Dearth says:

    “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.

  17. 117
    SecularAnimist says:

    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.

  18. 118
    Tim Jones says:

    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.

  19. 119
    Jobnls says:

    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.

  20. 120

    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.

  21. 121

    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.

  22. 122
    Nick Gotts says:

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

  23. 123
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 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.

  24. 124
    Eli Rabett says:

    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

  25. 125
    Gilles says:

    “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

  26. 126

    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.

  27. 127
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “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.

  28. 128

    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.

  29. 129
    Edward Greisch says:

    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.

  30. 130
    Gilles says:

    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 ?

  31. 131
    Bob says:

    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?

  32. 132
    Hank Roberts says:

    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.

  33. 133
    Bob says:

    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.]

  34. 134
    Hank Roberts says:

    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.

  35. 135

    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.

  36. 136
    Gilles says:

    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.

  37. 137

    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/

  38. 138

    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.

  39. 139
    Gilles says:

    “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.

  40. 140
    Steve Bloom says:

    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?

  41. 141
    Jean B. says:

    #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.

  42. 142
    Jean B. says:

    #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).

  43. 143
    JiminMpls says:

    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.)

  44. 144
    JiminMpls says:

    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.

  45. 145
    Hank Roberts says:

    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).

  46. 146
    Patrick 027 says:

    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.)

  47. 147
    Hank Roberts says:

    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.

  48. 148
    Edward Greisch says:

    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.

  49. 149
    flxible says:

    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.

  50. 150
    Hank Roberts says:

    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?


Switch to our mobile site