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IPCC report card

Filed under: — gavin @ 30 August 2010

Update: Nature has just published a thoughtful commentary on the report

The Inter-Academy Council report on the processes and governance of the IPCC is now available. It appears mostly sensible and has a lot of useful things to say about improving IPCC processes – from suggesting a new Executive to be able to speak for IPCC in-between reports, a new communications strategy, better consistency among working groups and ideas for how to reduce the burden on lead authors in responding to rapidly increasing review comments.

As the report itself notes, the process leading to each of the previous IPCC reports has been informed from issues that arose in previous assessments, and that will obviously also be true for the upcoming fifth Assessment report (AR5). The suggestions made here will mostly strengthen the credibility of the next IPCC, particularly working groups 2 and 3, though whether it will make the conclusions less contentious is unclear. Judging from the contrarian spin some are putting on this report, the answer is likely to be no.

403 Responses to “IPCC report card”

  1. 351

    Rod B 338,

    Okay, I’ve had enough of this. You are flatly refusing to be instructed by people who know considerably more than you. You’re a troll after all.

    I really, really didn’t want to do this, but I can’t waste my time this way any more. You’re on filter. Have a nice day.

  2. 352
    Silk says:

    “If we knew what mitigation would cost and it was minimal, I’d likely say go for it: the risk-reward-cost analysis would favor it. But we don’t know what it will cost, and it might be gargantuan — even maybe culture destroying. Given the current (un)certainties of the science I come down on holding off (except for some of those things that are relatively not so hard and don’t cost gigantic resources) and tripling or so our scientific endeavors. It is a judgement call.”

    Logic error

    We don’t know what it what CLIMATE IMPACTS will cost, and it might be gargantuan — even maybe culture destroying.

    A lot of smart people have looked at this. Economists, physical scientists, actuaries etc.

    The people have concluded that the risks OUTWEIGH the costs of the actions needed to mitigate the risks. (And they admit the the benefits of taking the actions are under-estimated, because we don’t know how much air quality would improve as a result of these actions, and poor air quality kills thousands and costs the global economy, quite literally, billions)

    Furthermore, the people who understand the science know that this problem is TIME CRITICAL

    You say “Wait and see”

    I say “We might wait another 15 years, find that, yeah, climate change is going to be every bit as bad as we thought it was, and the intevening 15 years have completely buggered us”

    This is not some mere academic issue. This is probably not the survival of the human race, but could well be the survival of human civilisation as we recognise it. And the efforts we take over the next 10 years will be critical is preventing it.

    For every year we delay action, the International Energy Agency estimate the costs of dealing with the (mitigation) problem increase by $0.5 trillion, globally.

    So the argument for inaction has to be a lot more rigourous than “I’m not convinced yet. Try me this time next year”

    I resent the fact that business as usual is happening, and screwing my future prosperity, and that of my children, and I get no say in the matter because the people doing the damage are rich, and will die, fat and healthy, in 50 years time.

    And /I’m/ the one who has to provide more proof, despite the fact that the science academies of all the major nations recognise climate change as a real and urgent problem?

    You aren’t going to land on the right side of history on this one, Rod. Right now, you’re the Catholic Church, and Hanen and co. are Galileo. The only difference is that the church didn’t kill millions of people by refusing to recognise that Mr G. was correct. Whereas those who refuse to accept the reality of climate change, and the myriad brilliant ways in which we can mitigate it (and afford to do so) will kill (prematurely) millions, and probably destroy the global economy in doing so.

  3. 353

    338 (Rod B),

    Okay, you have me very confused.

    We have two eventualities which may be “culture destroying.”

    One is AGW, which you put at a 50-50 chance, and a large body of very intelligent, educated and professional scientists put the odds a lot higher.

    Our only control over AGW is to mitigate CO2 generation, soon. If we wait too long, and AGW comes to pass, then the damage done to people, nations, and economies, as well as the cost of efforts to adapt to the changed climate and to more rapidly mitigate further CO2 generation, will in fact be “culture destroying.”

    The other eventuality is that too much, too aggressive CO2 mitigation will be “culture destroying.” Our only control over that is the economic and political systems of the world, and human decision making processes and their limits, whereby a vast number of invested parties (peoples, governments, national economies, corporations) have an influence over what is done, when and how.

    Governments can choose to act rationally or reasonably, or rashly and wildly. People in democracies can vote out ineffective or dangerously irrational governments.

    Corporations can participate in the process, or cheat and fight using lobbyists and propaganda, moving operations to other countries, etc.

    People, in addition to voting, can influence events with their own behavior and purchasing choices.

    Economies will react as they always do, putting pressure on governments, nations, and peoples by making goods more or less available, and expensive.

    So we have a huge number of ways of controlling the mitigation effort, and all evidence points to the fact that it will be very, very difficult, even if the AGW problem is properly acknowledged, to take effective action.

    Here we have two culture destroying propositions, one (AGW) over which we have very little control, particularly if we don’t begin to mitigate now, and one (mitigation efforts) over which we have almost too much control, and so really isn’t a problem at all.

    You are really saying that we should hold off on mitigating CO2 because the mitigation could be culture destroying, even though we have complete control over that outcome, while failing to mitigate CO2 could also be culture destroying, and we have no control over that except for mitigation?

    This is really your position?

  4. 354
    Rod B says:

    Jim Eaton, the difficulty is, rather than detailed responses showing why my views are wrong, I get mantra memes wrapped in rage over anyone who doesn’t roll over and accept their judgement. I occasionally raise rather specific scientific questions and the response is usually (though certainly not always) along the general vein of ‘who the hell are you to be questioning all of us smart guys? Whatever you implied or said is wrong (usually followed by a couple of textbook ad homs). The science is whatever I said it is.’

    On the other hand, as I have said many times, they really don’t have to answer the specific scientific question in detail. That would likely be too long an effort, not appropriate of blog comments, and honestly not their responsibility. A response along these thought lines would be understandable. But what I usually get is a simple frustrated angry inquisition attacking my heresy.

  5. 355
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Eaton wrote: “So is Rod B a real global warming denier, or is he a bit of an enigma who just wants to test the arguments of those who understand the horrific problems we face?”

    I think that Rod B’s comment (#117 on this thread) in which he wrote “as we watch the liberals work to destroy the U.S. right before our eyes … ” (emphasis added) says everything that needs to be said about his game.

    It has nothing to do with science and everything to do with fear and loathing of “the liberals” who he believes are “working to destroy the US”.

  6. 356
    Walter Pearce says:

    #354…No, what I see are very detailed, reasoned answers, which grow more strident in proportion to your unreasonable obstinacy.

    At the same time, your refusal to answer many of the questions directed your way is telling…

  7. 357
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David Benson, Barton and I have all provided detailed reasons why your insistence on incorporating the 5.35 into the exponent of the concentration ratio is flat-assed wrong. Do you not understand them, or are you simply playing a game? We’ve also repeatedly pointed you to analyses that detail the rationale for CO2 forcing.

    Again, simple incredulity is not science. You need to support your position with evidence and analysis.

  8. 358
    David B. Benson says:

    Ray Ladbury @357 — Evidence? Analysis?

    [reCAPCHA agrees: "missugh under".]

  9. 359
    Radge Havers says:

    Ah, this is really all about the so called culture wars isn’t it? If the ‘culture’ is so fragile that it can’t adapt to climate change, maybe it’s not worth keeping around as it is.

    Reminds me of that South African creationist who went around destroying fossils because they were evidence of evolution.

    By the way, where is the evidence that AGW won’t cause any harm? It’s not enough to sit around trying to pick holes in AGW because it’s scary, or even coming up with new rhetorical tricks (no bad effects of AGW = Intelligent Design for climate deniers?). Even if you were to actually find a problem, you’d have to show that it that it means something, otherwise you’re either arguing in a vacuum or we might as well consider it a trivial matter; fix the error and continue on model intact.

    I’ll give the creationists this much, at least they have an alternate model of how things work –albeit a magical nonsensical one.

  10. 360

    For those of us who look for mitigation in ways that look possible and even beneficial in our economic ecosystem, perhaps some consideration might be given to a proposition not much discussed as of yet. The IPCC seems to generally endorse things of this sort, but there has not been anything discussed of a scale that could get the job done.

    I particularly react to the ill founded plans emerging from the EPA to require CO2 (they think it is carbon) to be captured from power plant stacks and pounded into holes in the ground. Thus motivated, the following seems interesting:

    Barely noticed, if at all, the Chinese showed intention of significant action against CO2 emissions in their forestation plan. We in the USA could take a hint about how to actually accomplish something without wrecking our fundamental industrial base.
    President Hu said, “— we will energetically increase forest carbon — we will endeavor to increase forest coverage by 40 million hectares (2.5 acres) and forest stock volume by 1.3 billion cubic meters by 2020 from 2005 levels.” This was reported by Joe Romm at his ‘climateprogress’ web site. See –
    This part of the speech went un-noticed on the particular Joe Romm discussion. However, it seems to contain the critical answer regarding ‘carbon’ capture and sequestration. For us to do it here in the USA it could turn out to costing less than nothing, and IT COULD ACTUALLY ACCOMPLISH THE FULL SCALE TASK.
    A clue about how China might accomplish might be seen in the water policy behind their construction of the world’s largest dam.
    In the USA we could establish on barren desert lands, standing forests with massive ‘forest stock volume’ which would capture CO2 from coal on a roughly ton of forest stock for a ton of coal basis. (Powder River Basin coal is the reference here.) I point out, we are talking about standing forest. It would only require water and a little good sense.
    Good sense is necessary to negotiate North American water distribution that would bring excess water from the far North, yes Canada, down through the USA and Mexico. Yes, Canada would get a share of the productive benefits of this new water arrangement, and it goes far beyond forest establishment.
    Of course Canada would get credit toward their green pledges, and to sweeten the deal, we could tell the EPA to leave off haranguing them about their oil sands CO2 emissions.
    And certainly there would be a need for due consideration for the balance of the things in the Arctic region; shifting water away from Hudsons Bay would mean less heat would be carried there by north flowing rivers, and more salinity would develop in those waters. The net effect would no doubt be unresolvable, so perhaps the water would better come from watersheds that open to more open ocean regions.

  11. 361
    Rod B says:

    Bob (Sphaerica), it sounds as if you are saying that my judgement to hold off on (excessive) mitigation is specious and academic, as all of the natural and economic forces won’t let it happen anyway. Those forces will only allow such efforts that are, well, almost effortless. That’s actually not as much as I would favor, and certainly doesn’t describe the desires of AGW protagonists that I have heard..

    I suspect I’ve missed your point….

  12. 362
    Rod B says:

    Ray Ladbury, of course. I’ve said so. 5.35 is more instructive as a coefficient. But saying 5.35 can not be an exponent in the equation is the equivalent of loudly saying the emperor is dressed just fine and 2+2 does not equal 2-squared, and anyone disagreeing deserves burning at the stake. Out of curiosity, what are the units of log[P_out/P_in]?

  13. 363
    Ray Ladbury says:

    David Benson@358

    Dare to dream, I say!

  14. 364
    flxible says:

    “Good sense is necessary to negotiate North American water distribution that would bring excess water from the far North, yes Canada, down through the USA and Mexico. Yes, Canada would get a share of the productive benefits of this new water arrangement, and it goes far beyond forest establishment.”

    Less likely in the future than it’s been in the past, you’re not the first to imagine the US water supply shortage could be made up by wasting Canadas, we’re doing fine on that score, supplying you petro fuels from the oil sands. ;)

  15. 365
    Brian Dodge says:

    If k= 5.35 in the equation RF = k*ln(C/C_0) = ln((C/C_0)^k) when RF is in W/m^2, what’s k when RF is in dyne-parsec/rood-fortnight?

  16. 366
    Septic Matthew says:

    329, Brian Dodge: b. an analogous property of other physical quantities that resist change: thermal inertia

    I had a suspicion that it was merely an analogy, without a technical definition. Unlike “latent heat” which is defined and measurable. I just wasn’t sure.

  17. 367
    Silk says:

    Rod B – Three points

    1 – It’s not a power. This should be obvious, because you can express the forcing in log base-10, rather than natural log, and you get a different coefficient. I think we can agree that changing log powers doesn’t change physics!

    2 – #362 is unitless, of course

    3 – I really don’t understand your obsession with this issue. You /cannot/ mathematically prove the forcing of any GHG. What you have to do is measure the spectra as accurately as possible (done – see HITRAN), come to some conclusions about the make-up of the vertical column between the point of interest and the earth (clearly an experimental, not mathematical, problem) and work out what the impact of adding an incremental amount of that gas to that column will be.

    If you are /really/ interested in this topic, then I suggest you look at the IPCC AR3 (I’m sure AR4 touches on this, but I’ve got AR3 in front of me) Working Group I report, pages 356 and 357, and references therein.

    This sets out how you go about doing it, in some considerable detail.

    If you don’t trust the models that have been used to do this work, then it should be reasonably simple for you to write your own model that calculates what the radiative impact on going from 350ppm to 550ppm CO2 would be, for example.

    If you don’t trust HITRAN I pity you, but any undergraduate chem. student can go into the lab and measure the spectrum of CO2.

    And before you jump to any conclusions, note that the mathematical models used to calculate the increase in forcing in a real world system are in agreement with observations.

    finally, Fig 1. at (and references therein) clearly, EXPERIMENTALLY, show that the spectrum is NOT saturated, since there is emission from the earth at the frequencies where CO2 absorbed.

    If you have an /specific/ questions about what the IPCC says, or what the papers referenced therein say, I’d be happy to take them. Probably beyond my humble powers but I’ll do my best.

    If you can’t be bothered to read the IPCC report, I can help you.

  18. 368
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B.,
    Yes, and you can transliterate English into Chinese characters or fricking Egyptian heiroglyphics as well. It just won’t mean anything to anyone else. The physics matters! And to express the equations in manners that contradict the physics is just flat WRONG!! I have to agree with Barton: The fact that you persist in doing so is an indication that you really aren’t serious about learning.

  19. 369

    361 (Rod B),

    Bob (Sphaerica), it sounds as if you are saying that my judgement to hold off on (excessive) mitigation is specious and academic, as all of the natural and economic forces won’t let it happen anyway.

    That is correct.

    Those forces will only allow such efforts that are, well, almost effortless.

    That is unnecessary hyperbole.

    That’s actually not as much as I would favor, …

    And yet your (and others) repeated effort are having exactly that effect, to, combined with the natural friction and checks and balances in the system, totally and completely stall any mitigation, to the point that the problem will be uncontrollable by the time action begins to be taken.

    …and certainly doesn’t describe the desires of AGW protagonists that I have heard.

    More hyperbole, wrapped in “I have heard.” Please provide a citation. Exactly what actions have you “heard” that AGW protagonists “desire,” at what cost, and which protagonists?

    This last to me seems to be a constantly propped up denier strawman, equivalent to the claims that the real goal is a new world order/government, or that Obama is Muslim and wants to make the U.S.A. communist. It’s fun to say, and no one can challenge it or change your mind because you “have heard.”

    But in the end, it’s an excuse to add even more friction to the process, and so completely stall all efforts. Then you get to have your cake and eat it, too. You get to say that you want to mitigate climate change, while making sure that not a single thing is done to actually do so.

  20. 370
    Radge Havers says:

    Oh those ‘auditors’.

    You gotta love how people who couldn’t see the financial crisis coming suddenly think their bookkeeping skills are enough to tell scientists what’s what about physics.

    Finance is a human construct invented by humans for human transactions. Science is about trying to understand the universe around us. Two entirely different endeavors.

  21. 371

    #360, #364–

    Where in the world does the idea that Canada’s water contains an “excess” come from? Is the implication that direct human need defines sufficiency?

    Canadian water represents a relatively large proportion of the national surface relative to other nations, true–but lakes are dynamic bodies, depending upon the balance between input and output. That means if you start withdrawing the “excess,” the lake in question will eventually disappear (something we in Georgia have noticed repeatedly in the last few years.) So, unless you define “excess” in terms of precipitation increases resulting from AGW, I think there is a real problem.

    Those lakes contain functioning ecosystems (well, most of them, anyway!) and also are very, very important for the terrestrial ecology surrounding them, not to mention to the existing culture and economy.

    These proposals to sell “excess” Canadian water en masse surface from time to time, but I don’t think they’ve ever convinced many that they are either workable, fair or desirable. It does seem that the slow-motion American water crisis is apt to get worse, and it does seem quite possible that it could shape American perceptions of the desirability of buying water, whether from Canada or somewhere else. But that is as much an illustration of the conflict-inducing potential of ACC (as in “Anthropogenic Climate Change”) as anything else.

  22. 372
    Septic Matthew says:

    334, Ray Ladbury: When there is an energy imbalance in the climate, the system must warm until the energy radiated (blackbody(T) minus ghg absorbed) again equals energy incident.

    I think that you mean “energy flow imbalance”, not “energy imbalance”. Anyway, “inertia” is not defined technically, and Trenberth’s comment that where the energy all is isn’t known should be taken more seriously. Temperature is the aggregate effect of the average kinetic energy; some energy resides in the higher energy levels of the CO2 and CH4 bonds, some resides in the evaporated water and melted ice at constant temperature, some is reradiated outward to the universe, some resides in the chemical bonds of complex structures, and some resides in the increased kinetic energy of the water in oceans. There is a time lag between the change in the CO2 and the predicted increase in measured surface temperatures, but in each interval of that time lag, the energy is potentially measurable. Some resides in the higher potential energy of the evaporated water.

  23. 373
    Septic Matthew says:

    oops, In my last comment, add “energy levels of electrons in H2O bonds” to CO2 bonds and CH4 bonds.

  24. 374
    SecularAnimist says:

    Rod B wrote: “… it sounds as if you are saying that my judgement to hold off on (excessive) mitigation is specious and academic …”

    As far as I can tell, you define “excessive” mitigation as any government action that places a price on carbon pollution (e.g. carbon tax or cap-and-trade), or that directly limits carbon pollution (e.g. EPA regulation), or that in any other way directly reduces the consumption of fossil fuels and thereby reduces the profits of the fossil fuel corporations.

  25. 375
    Rod B says:

    Bob (Sphaerica), well, I can cite 80-90% of the comments in RC on the subject of mitigation: hardly any are only in favor of mitigation efforts that can only be done with personal ease and very little cost. “I have heard” is predominately from reading RC threads.

    When I say I am in favor of some mitigation efforts, why do you assert that I am in favor of doing nothing? If someone else wants to do nothing, go fuss at them, please. (…this point is getting tiresome…)

  26. 376


    Thanks for the link to the news on water in Canada.

    But you seriously have to be kidding to call yourself ‘flxible’.

    It is always good to be reminded that I am not the first to think of something when I bring up a topic. Actually, I thought of water re-distribution around 1975 when people were talking about towing icebergs to Saudi Arabia. But then, so did a lot of others then as well. And there was a similar outcry from the North country environmentalists; and not much from the three inhabitants that would be affected, but would probably be delighted at a settlement that would enhance their life style, disruptively of course.

    But I am not talking about water to alleviate drought. I am talking about something far bigger than that, which would be of extent to enable re-establishing deciduous forests in the lower parts of North America.

    Of course there will be a lot of problems with water distribution that is not already happening.

    So as I look at the link about water situation by some statistician, I see a problem that needs fixing, not a problem that needs to be exacerbated to alleviate minor complaints.

    From my way of thinking, the problem that needs fixing is the CO2 problem first and foremost. And I would rather see it fixed with our engineering capabilities than by reversing 200 years of the industrial revolution by clobbering the energy usage system that keeps us going, though the standing threat to impose a cost burden on electric power of $95 per ton of CO2 to capture said CO2. (For those who do not know that CO2 weighs 3.6 times as much as the carbon element that it contains, please hold the discussion about how cheap this is until giving some thought to how this loads the cost for using coal — don’t feel picked on, our EPA seems to not know this elementary chemistry.)

  27. 377

    374 Secular Animist

    Do you have any idea how much the EPA is talking about as the cost of ‘technically feasible’ ‘carbon’ capture?

  28. 378
    Hank Roberts says:

    SM is forgetting about feedback effects and trying to limit climate models solely to energy flows (the forcings, which give the very low base number for climate sensitivity considered apart from feedbacks).

    I’m sure this is a repeat of a previous digression on the same byway.

  29. 379

    371 Kevin McKinney

    You misunderstand. Water from Canada would not be for the purpose of alleviating our water problems in the USA, though it might spill off a little in that direction. I am talking about vastly more water than you are imagining. Had you noticed there is CO2 problem? — and here is a fix. Now get a grip and think about priorities.

    I said elsewhere that Hudsons Bay should be treated carefully so as not to disturb salinity in a significant way, and maybe we could go easy on the Great Lakes. But for water now going into the ocean, a hard look should be given to diverting it in a southerly way.

    Are we worried enough about global warming to actually try to do something rather than clamboring for a flogging of those who keep things moving.

  30. 380

    371 Kevin McKinney

    I hope I made it clear that I was not talking about draining lakes, and not even lakes in particular, but instead there needs to be a well considered plan to balance the needs of the smelt etc. with the needs of the planet.

    The trade-off that will result in an actual accomplishment is a trade-off between environmental priorities.

    As I understand the prognosis for global warming, the smelt will not be any more happy with that than they will be if the water flow slows somewhat.

  31. 381
    David B. Benson says:

    Rod W Brick asks what are the units of log[P_out/P_in]? @362. It is a pure number, dimensionless as is the argument which is a ratio.

    It is the case that the value of the coefficient changes as the base of the logarithm changes.

    Did you never study any chemistry, physics or even \algebra\ in high school? Never do any elementary interest calculations?

  32. 382
    Rod B says:

    Silk, I appreciate your response. Sorry for my wordy answer.

    1) 3.7 = 5.34ln2 = 12.30log2. What’s the problem?

    2) The units of log[P_out/P_in] is the bel — because we said…

    3) I assume you’re questioning my “obsession” with the general question of molecular radiation absorption, and not the silly coefficient-power thing. It’s not an obsession; it’s simply the biggest area of the science where I have skepticism and want to understand — so it’s where my primary focus is at the moment. I am not trying to prove/disprove forcing with the mathematical formula. I agree almost 100% with your #3 of #367.

    I think the possibility of error in the forcing projection is significant. Essentially they have done a laborious curve fitting with numerous assumptions and averages and uncertainties built on top of one another and then projected the resultant mathematical formula into a different environment with its own assumptions and uncertainties. This is not to be critical of the effort. The work that went into this analysis is very impressive and clearly scientifically cogent and diligent. I think the collective scientists made their best (and it is good) judgement and conclusion. But it is not irrefutably 100% accurate and precise. Just as a couple of examples: there is a degree of uncertainty (error) in the forcing variance with different mixing ratios (also one of the variances in HITRAN, btw), with the effect of clouds, with the effect of stratospheric radiative function, with one-dimensional vs three-dimensional analysis, with global- vs regional-wide analysis. All of these are (IIRC) readily admitted — properly so — and taken into account (quite commendably IMO).

    These are in the curve fitting effort of the past environments. They get magnified when projected blindly (an exaggeration to make a point) into the unknown future of atmospheric physics. Was the effort credible? It was more; it was/is commendable. I think one can come away that their best “guess” has significant scientific support and learned judgement, and has a decent probability of being accurate. But there is some probability that it is significantly inaccurate.

    You have incented me to reread the pertinent TAR and AR4. Thanks.

    HITRAN is very impressive, but, again, not perfect. As minutely detailed as it is, it still uses assumptions and averages to assess physical experimental results and to collate with the basic physics math. One example: the usable base pressure broadened half-width factor for CO2 is averaged (weighted) over the different vibration absorption frequencies and is listed as between 0.008 and 0.11; the temperature dependence exponent [ (T_0/T)^n ] as between 0.49 and 0.78 (might have been updated since). There are many similar. I’m greatly oversimplifying HITRAN database, but my point remains. The highly detailed HITRAN is not fully usable (or accurate) as the models have to take averages, assumptions, and approximations. A model using every line and every parameter and their variances might not ever complete a run!

    I have more to say, but am already too long and have long since worn out my welcome on this topic. Thanks for the opportunity.

    Epilog: The ‘write your own model” smart-a–’ meme is getting old. O.K. My forcing formula is F = 0.02ln[CO2/CO2_0]. That was easy.

    The Harris graph in skepticalscience doesn’t prove much either way. Though it likely shot down the hyperbolic American Thinker assertion. BTW, my skepticism says CO2 absorption could be close to saturation, not is saturated; and there will always be some marginal absorption, even if very tiny.

  33. 383
    Rod B says:

    SecularAnimist, Stupid carbon tax or cap-and-trade, or stupid regulatory limits carbon pollution would be excessive and should be avoided. Stuff that reduces the consumption of fossil fuels can be O.K… or maybe not. Oil Co. profits are a non sequitur.

  34. 384
    David B. Benson says:

    Rod W Brisk @383 — OT here. Take it elsewhere, such as

  35. 385
    Septic Matthew says:

    378, Hank Roberts: SM is forgetting about feedback effects and trying to limit climate models solely to energy flows (the forcings, which give the very low base number for climate sensitivity considered apart from feedbacks).

    Trying to limit? Not so.

  36. 386
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod, You are now at the point of embarrassing yourself. Please stop. Think about what was written. Only a fool defends the indefensible.

  37. 387
    Hank Roberts says:

    SM, you replied to mention of “simple climate models which include inertia” by posing your question that began “In analysis of energy flows” — and have gone on since trying to talk about energy flows, as though only the forcings (energy in from outside) mattered and needed to be tracked. This is ignoring the feedbacks (which are part of the inertia, the slow responses over time that contribute to climate sensitivity).

    Want to know what inertia means in climate modeling? Easy, a child can do it:

    Want to argue about what the word means, instead of staying with the discussion about climate models? You know how to drag it out, but

    ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master ….”

  38. 388
    John E Pearson says:

    Rod wrote: “Epilog: The ‘write your own model” smart-a–’ meme is getting old. O.K. My forcing formula is F = 0.02ln[CO2/CO2_0]. That was easy.”

    Damn And I know better than geting involved in these tar babies. SO you have a dimensionless F? You must, otherwise your formula is inconsistent.

  39. 389
    Septic Matthew says:

    387, Hank Roberts: about energy flows, as though only the forcings (energy in from outside) mattered

    “as though only the forcings … mattered” is something that you inferred.

    I was referring to Trenberth’s model of all energy flows — I repeat, all energy flows. The things that children can understand are mostly irrelevant here, which was why I asked if there was a technical definition of inertia in this field.

  40. 390
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Trenberth’s model of all energy flows

    Where do you find whatever it is you’re talking about?
    Where did you find that “Trenberth’s model of all energy flows” please?

    You’re not thinking of this? It’s not a model, it’s a discussion that refers to various models:

    This article (citing Trenberth) refers to time lags.

    Seems to me you leaped from mention of simple climate models to the notion that someone has a comprehensive model of all energy flows including the lag times so you could define a specific number for each lag time?

    That would be great, but I think it’s a bit early to have it all nailed down from what the modelers are telling us.

  41. 391
    flxible says:

    Jim Bullis@376
    “But I am not talking about water to alleviate drought …” No, just about water to grow trees where the natural cycle can’t support them because of permanent natural drought. And spending a few kings ransoms to do it. How about planting the trees where the water is? Many acres of beetle killed trees in western Canada that need replacement.

    You were apparently thinking about water “redistribution” around the same time that the Governor of Arizona was proposing to “redistribute” the major rivers of British Columbia to his desert using our “engineering capabilities”. That didn’t fly either. My flexibility involves focusing on the cause of the real climate change problem, unsustainable consumption by an unsustainable population that feels entitled to “redistribute” the planet. The global hydrologic cycle and patterns are already being disrupted enough.
    Not kidding at all, Flxible.

  42. 392
    Brian Dodge says:

    “Good sense is necessary to negotiate North American water distribution that would bring excess water from the far North, yes Canada, down through the USA and Mexico.” Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company — 13 September 2010 @ 4:31 PM (California State Water Project)
    Annual SWP payments $600 million/yr 32 % power costs(~$192 million dollars) 70% urban 30% agricultural, 750k acres agricultural use.
    8.7e9 kwh generation, 5.1e9 kwh net use, California has high mountain reservoirs to collect the water, and generates power from this head to offset the energy require to pump the water So -> 13.8e9 gross kwh to pump the water.
    “Pine plantations in the Southeast can accumulate almost 100 metric tons of carbon per acre after 90 years, or roughly one metric ton of carbon per acre per year (Birdsey 1996).
    Carbon accumulation in forests and soils eventually reaches a saturation point, beyond which additional sequestration is no longer possible. ”
    5,838,381,000 tonnes CO2/year US emissions
    29,321,302,000 tonnes CO2/year global emissions

    Edmonton to Juarez ~ 3000 km
    Redding to Tijuana ~ 1000 km
    CA SWP 1128 km total aqueducts pipelines etc

    New Mexico area 121412 square miles, or ~7.77e7 acres, Arizona 7.3e7 acres, and Chihuahua Mexico 6.1e7 acres

    I plugged this data into a spreadsheet and calculated that if water could be collected in Canada as efficiently as California, and discounting the likely additional distances involved, it would cost about 45 billion dollars per year to pump the water required to grow enough trees in the Southwest to sequester 10% of US 2007 emissions. If all the power had to be purchased, and grew proportional to the longer distances, it would cost $364 billion per year. it would also require ~7.5 times the area of New Mexico, 8 times the area of Arizona, 9.7 times the area of Chihuahua, Mexico, or 2.76 times the area of all three.

    As a point of reference, duckweed, one of the fastest growing plants in the world, can produce about 30 tons of dry matter per acre per year, when fertilized with N & P at rates equal to about half the concentration found in US municipal sewage, about 175.0 mg/L Total Available N and 65 mg/L PO4-P.

  43. 393
    Silk says:

    “Epilog: The ‘write your own model” smart-a–’ meme is getting old. O.K. My forcing formula is F = 0.02ln[CO2/CO2_0]. That was easy.”

    At this point, I give up.

    You don’t give a damm about understanding whether or no CO2 is saturated, or what it would even mean for the climate. You merely want to cling onto the notion that it ‘might be’ because that enables you to hold the political views you hold, which would be otherwise indefensible.

    This is where I get off.

  44. 394
    Rod B says:

    Hank Roberts, I found the NOAA Ocean Observation reference in #390 helpful (as was Trenberth ref — but already had that).

    I found the units cubic km very odd for comparing water vapor with liquid precipitation. Do you suppose that’s what they meant?

    Moderators: when did Captcha start using Greek symbols?!? That seems beyond the pale…

  45. 395
    Septic Matthew says:

    390, Hank Roberts,

    Here is the reference to “Trenberth’s model of energy flows”:;328/5976/316?maxtoshow=&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=trenberth&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&resourcetype=HWCIT

    That would be great, but I think it’s a bit early to have it all nailed down from what the modelers are telling us.

    The authors agree with you that it is not all nailed down. They report some of the flows with 3 significant figures, which is nice if it is accurate.

  46. 396

    re #392 Thanks Brian Dodge for some interesting comparisions, and you provide a start for a lot of thought. And I do not pretend that I have completely digested all you said; though I would like to give some quick response on some of it.

    Some of what you say seems a little biased.

    Not to trivialize cost, but it has not cost a lot to pump water down the Mississippi for some millions of years. And I read recently that it takes about 20% of the hydro power in California to pump water, so that is not such a big chunk of the total electricity output of the state. Compare that with the EPA plan to put a factor of ten increase in the cost of using coal, with the threatened imposition of ‘carbon’ capture costs on the power industry.

    Cost is also something that gets much reduced by productivity, not just forests, that come from water supply.

    As to the area required, I think a ton of trees roughly matches a ton of coal. And lets not sandbag the whole thing by requiring the entire US CO2 tonnage has to be captured; I would be satisfied with capturing just the CO2 from coal in power plants. (I have cars and trucks under control with other plans, but that is a different big plan and different discussion.) On the other hand, I would not use ‘duckweed’ as an example since that seems not to be the kind of permanent capture I am talking about; growing fast is good but if it just gets turned back into CO2 by rotting or being used in fuel, it gets us nowhere.

    Anyway, I appreciate your input, but wonder if the numbers would change much if you actually wanted the scheme to work. And maybe the same goes for me where I am trying to make it work, that is, my numbers might be overly optimistic as I think yours seem overly pessimistic.

  47. 397

    #392 Brian Dodge,

    I estimate that an acre can support 50 to 100 trees and that these can reach a weight, easily more than 10 tons in 25 years. So I would say the Birdsey reference is off by about a factor of 20 to 40 or so.

    In an effective harvesting program, where wood is permanently used, and old growth root structures are preserved, the rate could be far higher.

  48. 398
    David B. Benson says:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company @395 — Preserving old growth root structures (and truck) is called coppice culture. Suited to several tree species, but not all.

  49. 399

    394 (Rod B)

    when did Captcha start using Greek symbols?!? That seems beyond the pale…

    The Google re-Captcha system is actually one that combines and effort to digitize documents through OCR with the need for captcha mechanisms. It is purposely, randomly giving you snippets of text which were not able to be perfectly read by a machine. Usually, these include arcane words (“techno-speak” in various specialties), as well as mis-spellings, blurred words, and other unexpected items like special symbols such as (R) and (TM)… or Greek letters. I’ve even seen one where the text was a word turned 90 degrees counterclockwise, and shrunk about 400%.

    Anyway, what you get is random, and they don’t know what they’re giving you. They only know that the computer couldn’t reliably read it. It’s just any old snippet that the OCR program couldn’t handle. If you can’t handle it either, use the circling-arrows button to get something easier.

  50. 400
    Brian Dodge says:

    Jim Bullis

    “Subtropical Plantations: 2.4 metric tons (Mg) of carbon per year with soil carbon.” [per hectare - 6 tons per acre] Forestry Sequestration of CO2 and Markets for Timber R Sedjo – 2000 – Cited by 23

    “How fast can a tropical tree plantation absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide? Through photosynthesis a plantation can accumulate between 15 and 25 t of dry biomass per hectare per year, with a working mean figure of 20 t (Evans, 1982, 1987; Pandey, 1983; Tang et al., 1988; and Zsuffa, 1984; see also Brown et al., 1985, and Cropper and Ewel, 1987). As a measure of the conservative nature of these figures, note that eucalyptus plantations in southern Brazil have been regularly averaging over 30 t/ha/yr (Brandao, 1985). Roughly half the plant growth is made up of carbon, so a plantation can assimilate 10 t (a mean working figure) of atmospheric carbon per hectare per year.” [~ 4 tons per acre per year]

    I used duckweed as an example of high growth rates for plants in the real world; because it doesn’t make cellulose, it doesn’t directly sequester CO2 long term like trees. It would require processing to separate the nutrients from the carbohydrates, recycling the nutrients (N is in protein, so preferably through the food chain) and sequestering/charring? the carbohydrate parts. The nitrogen content of wood is about 0.2-0.5 percent, depending on species, so every ton of wood ties up a couple of kg of fixed nitrogen; wood is hard to separate from its fixed nutrients because cellulose is so stable. Many species of trees & shrubs fix nitrogen (alders; see also, but the energy diverted to this reduces the creation of cellulose(fixed carbon).

    Most waste water treatment plants in the US are designed to convert the fixed nitrogen in the influent to nitrogen gas, because its presence in the effluent, usually dumped into the nearest stream, causes eutrophication. We currently convert atmospheric N plus methane into NH3 plus CO2, at a cost of about $1000/ton. Apply the NH4 to crops, eat (or feed animals & eat them)the crops, pee and poop (animals and people) a significant fraction of the fixed nitrogen into waste streams, and convert it back into nitrogen gas if it doesn’t go directly to eutrophying the environment. Seems to me it would be smarter to recycle nitrogen once it’s fixed – it might make more sense to pipe pretreated sewer effluent instead of Canadian fresh water to the Southwest.

    Tube grown algae under optimum small scale trials has reached ~200 tons/acre per year(I vaguely remember 220 or 280 tons/acre in lab scale trials, but haven’t found the specific reference again) , so I suppose that genetically engineered nitrogen fixing frankentrees might someday approach that, and we’ll probably need them sooner than we would like. These extremely high growth rates have only been achieved with high CO2 levels, and have been done in anticipation of using the technologies in conjunction with concentrated sources of CO2 – e.g. high tech greenhouse/algae tube growth chambers next to a coal power plant or cement plant. At 400 (or 500 or 600 ppm CO2) atmospheric diffusion will rate limit even the best biosequestration schemes, if everything else is optimized (Liebig’s Law).

    In the short term, there are other water problems looming –

    “Drought-stricken Lake Mead has dropped an additional 10 feet since last summer, and now, Arizona and other Colorado River users are scrambling to keep the reservoir full enough to avoid water rationing.
    Before year’s end, the lake will likely sink to within 9 feet of the level that would trigger the first round of restrictions – and the first such restrictions ever on the river. They begin with a reduction in water deliveries to Nevada and Arizona, where farmers would be affected first.”

    ” Challenges to our water supply system
    Though this system has served California well in the past, it faces a number of challenges that threaten the reliability of its water supplies.”
    “Dry conditions
    California is feeling the effects of multiple dry years. Water Year 2009 was the third consecutive dry year, and many key reservoirs were far below normal at the beginning of 2010. Though rain and snowfall have been closer to normal in early 2010, state water managers say it is not enough to overcome the string of dry years. Water deliveries are expected to be significantly reduced for many areas of the state.”
    “Ecological problems in the Delta
    …is in an ecological collapse that has triggered major cutbacks in water deliveries….”
    “Growing pressure on our water delivery system
    …the state’s water infrastructure is struggling to keep up …”
    ” Climate change
    Experts agree that long-term climate change is occurring and that it is already affecting California’s water resources.”
    ” Solutions
    … an $11.14 billion water bond slated for the November 2010 ballot … …many of its elements will take years to implement.”

    IMHO, the problems facing our (modern, industrial, fossil fuel dependent, large corporation dominated)civilization from CO2 emissions and other causes of global warming are, unfortunately, too large and too expensive to have simple solutions. Yes, we need to do (expensive, massive, global, government mandated) sequestration projects; there will be political and economic winners and losers. And we must rebuild our energy infrastructure – peak oil, and national security reasons, and global warming; even if one discounts global warming, it’s still necessary. There will be winners and losers in this. We don’t have much time left before we reach political and economic tipping points – the transition will haver to be fueled by coal and oil, and they are rising in price; when we can’t afford to pay for the fossil fuel necessary to build the solar, wind, biofuel, geothermal infrastructure, if we don’t have enough renewable replacements on line, we’re done. If China, India, Pakistan, Saudia Arabia (or their proxies) are fighting over water, territory, and political power, they aren’t going to be interested in supplying us with wind turbines, or solar cells.

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