Unforced Variations: Aug 2011

This month’s open thread. Your starter for 2010, the 2010 State of the Climate report….

475 comments on this post.
  1. Hank Roberts:

    It’s from a series.

    This appears to be the first edition, which might be interesting to compare once the 2nd comes out.
    Fundamentals of Atmospheric Physics, Volume 61 …
    Murry L. Salby (Author)
    Roger A. Pielke Sr. (Series Editor)

    Search inside the book:

    Try “sensitivity” — which takes you to p. 252.
    I hope someone will try working the sample questions that follow and comment on them.

    His citations for the chapter start at p. 252 and include
    Liou (1980), Lebedev (1972) on exponential functions (not to be confused with the contemporary climate denier Lebedev); a very early Ramanathan piece, and the 1990 IPCC (Houghton et al.).

    So I guess the current (older, first) edition is really, really old.

    Looking forward to someone getting the $$$ new one and checking what’s changed against the first edition. Or perhaps the series editor will blog it.

    ReCaptcha Oracle offers: “ediers (footnote”

  2. Fred Moolten:

    I find the debate about the Salby talk intriguing, because it raises questions that I’d like to see answered (although the published paper may answer them, but in the meantime, I’m curious).

    To me, there are two separate questions:
    (1) Are Salby’s conclusions wrong? Given the wealth of evidence for anthropogenic contributions as the dominant or even exclusive contributor to the past century’s CO2 rise, I would have to say Salby is wrong, but question (2) is more interesting to me.

    (2) If he is wrong, what is wrong with his argument? I infer (speculatively) that he has taken detrended CO2 data, regressed annual CO2 changes against temperature, and concluded that rather small temperature changes are associated with rather large changes in the rate of net CO2 flux. By “rather”, I mean that if he takes the slope of the curve he derives and applies it to the past century, it tells him that 0.74 C would deliver most of the 110 ppm increase in CO2 levels that have been recorded. In other words, his argument is a quantitative one, and can’t be dismissed by claiming that temperature fluctuations cause only “slight” CO2 changes if the data appear to show the opposite.

    Perhaps his data are inaccurate or the correlations too poor to be meaningful, but I suspect not. What then is wrong with the conclusions he draws? Merely to say that the other evidence contradicts them is insufficient to fully put the matter to rest. I have some ideas as to the errors in his logic, but before posting them, I’d be interested in the views of others.

  3. Edward Greisch:

    90 Tom Keen: “Baby Lauren and the Kool-Aid” at http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110729_BabyLauren.pdf

    Yes. James Hansen is correct and still the boss of NASA-GISS. I especially liked “The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy” part. The article was repeated at: http://bravenewclimate.com/2011/08/05/hansen-energy-kool-aid/

    I expect that fossil fueled power plants will be shut down by rulemaking by the EPA rather than by a carbon fee. The reason is that the rulemaking is partially insulated from politicians and propaganda. The EPA can continue to do its job as long as the Tea Party [Koch Oil Company] can be blocked from shutting down the EPA.

  4. Edward Greisch:

    90 Tom Keen: “The bigger problem is that people who accept the reality of climate change are not proposing actions that would work.” True. That is a psychological problem and a general knowledge problem.

    Some Japanese are trying to reduce their exposure to radiation to LESS THAN THE NATURAL BACKGROUND! They didn’t have geiger counters before the tsunami, so they didn’t know that there has always been natural background radiation. They also do not know about the radiation that they are getting from coal. The problem is the lack of general education in the sciences.

  5. Hank Roberts:

    Uh, oh: http://io9.com/5825270/blame-sheep-for-screwing-up-tree+ring-dating
    “New research published in Functional Ecology


    has shown that sheep have more of an impact on tree rings than the climate….”

  6. Edward Greisch:

    From: http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/03/denial-science-chris-mooney


    The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science

    How our brains fool us on climate, creationism, and the vaccine-autism link.
    —By Chris Mooney

    “Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue. Doing so is, effectively, to signal a détente in what Kahan has called a “culture war of fact.” In other words, paradoxically, you don’t lead with the facts in order to convince. You lead with the values—so as to give the facts a fighting chance.”

  7. Geoff Wexler:

    RE #98 (old edition)

    [Notes (can’t copy/paste)from p. 23].

    .. interaction w. oceans & biosph.make CO2 budget complex but human activity is strongly suggested in recent measurements..

  8. Patrick 027:

    Correction re my 27 a runaway water vapor situation doesn’t imply permanence.As opposed to (if I recall correctly – and I never read a whole lot about this) what had been thought about a snowball Earth with dry ice clouds in some conditions (but it turns out that dry ice clouds are effective greenhouse agents)

    Actually, even if dry ice clouds had no greenhouse effect and just increased the albedo to the point that it is harder to warm up the planet to reduce the dry ice clouds (if that’s how it was supposed to have worked?), albedo still presumably is below 100 % and a strong enough dose of energy could do something; or perhaps an asteroid impact could fill the air with a darker aerosol, etc.

  9. Chris G:

    Icarus #95,
    I think there are too many uncertainties = not enough data. Probably the best estimates of what is to come are paleoclimate studies of what has happened in the past. There’s a problem with that though; we are off the map. I’m not aware of any record of such a rapid increase in GHG concentrations. Probably we won’t really know what we have caused until it is behind us, but this has been understood for decades.

    All, thanks for the discussion on Salby. What I’m walking away with is that, yes, temperature increases can cause CO2 increases, but this has been understood for a long time, Salby’s position falls into the “it’s happening, but it’s not our fault” category, and that his argument has some major flaws, as described in previous comments.

    dashed ronverm

  10. Radge Havers:

    “culture war of fact”

    I’d go further and say that in this case words (generated by the “debaters”) aren’t proxies for reality in a scientific sense, rather they are proxies for social dominance which is perceived as the only reality of any importance.

    The availability heuristic bias was mentioned on another thread (i.e., if you can think of it, it must be important). That along with a primate obsession for dominance, the Dunning-Kruger effect and no doubt quite a number of other human design flaws, makes for some miserable company on any issue of importance.

    It’s why I think it’s really important for scientists to design simple, condensed statements that summarize the science in easily available form. Else is there really any way to inject into the public sphere the kind of rigorous training that would ordinarily be required to undo the massive skeins of interconnected malware sitting in so many people’s heads?

    For cheerful optimists, Wikipedia has a quick and compact list of cognitive biases that will probably fix your little red wagon for the rest of the day.

  11. Meow:

    @99: See message 82. Among other things, Salby’s got to account for the > 350 GT C we’ve added to the atmosphere since 1751, the oceans’ falling pH and rising pCO2, and the fact that ~6K changes during glacial cycles are associated with only ~100 ppmv changes in CO2. Also, he’s got to identify a source for his CO2 that explains not just the quantity accumulated since the industrial revolution, but also its isotopic composition. While he’s at it, he’s also got to explain how that CO2 “hasn’t” worked to heat the earth as its physics would predict, and where the heat came from to liberate the CO2 that he says was liberated.

    Anyone can find all sorts of correlations in climate data, and can use them to hypothesize virtually anything. The question, as always, is whether the hypothesis holds water. To do so, it has — at a bare minimum — to account for observations.

  12. Ron R.:

    Hank Roberts @ 12:22 PM

    A few thoughts. We have a horse and note that when the green grass she grazes on is gone (around the end of April) she becomes more of a mixed grazer/browser and stays that way until the grass is back in the rainy season, Maybe six months later. Then she reverts wholly to eating grass again, much her preferred diet. This is not representative of what would be found in the wild because even in the dry months she still continues to eat the brown grass down to the ground where as in the much larger wild grazers will have more grass available, even though dry, and thus would probably browse less.

    As to the study, I only read the abstract, but if everything is as intimated it would seem that browsing could lead one to assume a cooler local environ in the past than was actual. I wonder though about the unnatural effects of concentrating sheep around certain trees (though maybe they made allowances for estimations of browser populations in the past?). This study is valuable in establishing that browsers have an impact on tree ring growth but would those trees have been that heavily grazed without the fence that was erected around them? And what time of year were they putting them in those enclosures? Summers, when they would be browsing more. They even say, “This shows that the density of herbivores affects the tree ring record, at least in places with slow-growing trees.

    Also at higher elevations I believe that evergreens are much more abundant thus it would seem that the susceptibility of any one tree to heavy browsing (and the chances of accidentally choosing those particular browsed trees for ring growth study is doubtful). IOW, many more evergreen trees used for proxy data would be unbrowsed than browsed giving a truer reading would it not?

    The author says “in lowland regions tree rings are less likely to have been affected by herbivores because they can grow out of reach faster“. Maybe I’m wrong but I suspect that the kind of trees subject to this test would make a difference as I have doubts that evergreens are browsed as much as deciduous when available, first because evergreen leaves are hard, narrow and bitter and second because they generally tend to be found at higher elevations while browsers and grazers are generally found lower down.

    In the study looks like they used Birch trees which are deciduous. But don’t most tree rings used for proxy data come from evergreens and wouldn’t that for the reasons stated above make the data coming from them more reliable?


    I also wonder how this study comports with this one which seems to indicate an anomoly with regard to birches and responses to temperatures.


  13. Paul S:

    Fred Moolten – ‘(2) If he is wrong, what is wrong with his argument?’

    He actually makes a few arguments: Firstly, that year-to-year growth rate of CO2 is highly variable and this variability is almost entirely due to changes in natural sources and sinks, driven by temperature changes, rather than human emissions. This part is already well accepted and widely known. Strangely he presents the information as if it’s groundbreaking but perhaps that’s because he is speaking to a layman audience.

    Secondly, he infers from this that the long term trend in CO2 could likewise be explained mostly by temperature change rather than human emissions. I’m not sure your description of his methods is correct so here’s my interpretation:

    Salby takes a satellite MSU LT temperature record and compares it to the Mauna Loa CO2 trend over the satellite-era. He finds a strong correlation and calculates a sensitivity (the natural source/sink change in CO2 for a given temperature change). He then builds a simple model which ‘predicts’ atmospheric CO2 further back in time, using his inferred sensitivity and a surface temperature record (probably Gistemp based on 1880 being his ‘end’ point). A comparison is then made between his model and the Law Dome ice core CO2 record*. He finds that his model result for 1880 agrees well with the Law Dome record.

    There are a few problems I can see here. a) CO2 is known to increase global temperature so a good correlation between them is hardly surprising. b) Salby’s chosen study period – 1880 to near-present – exhibits mainly warming which makes it difficult to discern if the model is telling us something significant or if a reasonable correlation is obtained only for the reason stated in a). A real test of the model would look at a period where human emissons have increased but temperatures haven’t. Luckily such a period exists in the middle of the 20th Century. Salby reports that there is a considerable discrepancy between his model and CO2 measurements over this period so essentially the model doesn’t do well for its only real test (he strongly suggests this is down to problems with the surface temperature record). c) as Jon Nils-Gammin says, if Salby’s model were pushed further back to the deglaciation period you would quite quickly get negative CO2 concentrations. Not sure this one is necessarily a fundamental problem though – an empirical model could be correct in one set of conditions (Holocene) and not for another (Deglaciation).

    I think the fundamental problem is that the 20th Century is a wholly unsuitable period for Salby’s methods because of the (plausible) major contamination from human CO2 emissions. Since he’s trying to discern the sensitivity of natural CO2 sources/sinks to temperature changes he really needs to apply the method to a period in which there isn’t a large ‘external’ source of CO2 emissions.

    Thirdly, the 13/12 ratios. But this post is already too long. Maybe later.

    *As an aside, Salby repeatedly refers to the ice core records as “proxy data”. I believe this is erroneous. Ice cores can be proxies for temperature but gas measurements are direct, just on air that has been previously trapped and stored rather than ‘realtime’.

  14. arch stanton:

    As mentioned above by Geoff Wexler (104) Salby’s statements concerning anthropogenic CO2 contributions on page 23 of the ‘96 edition of Fundamentals of Atmospheric Physics are very “conventional” and are at odds with his recent talk.

    (Hank’s link):

    Maybe Byant (91) and Metzler (97) are on to something with the hoax/experiment thing?

  15. Kooiti Masuda:

    It seems that the argument raised by Salby (except technical details) is similar to what a group of Japanese AGW deniers advocates for several years. Atsushi Tsuchida is a retired physicist and I think his contribution in the 1970s to the non-equilibrium steady-state thermodynamic thinking about environment and resources is positive and remarkable even though both mainstream economists and physicists regard him as a heretic. Kuniaki Kondo is an engineer and maintains a web site http://www.env01.net/ which advocates Tsuchida’s and his own views. They are self-convinced anti-nuclear-power activists, and they claim themselves as grass-roots environmentalists rather than supporters of the capitalist regime. Note that, in Japan perhaps like in France, promotion of nuclear power, rather than of fossil fuel, is associated with the establishment, so that AGW skepticism tends to align with left-wing rather than right-wing criticisms. (Incidentally, Kondo also advocates against development of wind power facilities, ironically very much like Lovelock does.)

    They found a picture, originally made by Keeling in the 1980s, of band-pass filtered records of CO2 concentration and temperature, which shows that changes of CO2 concentration lag those of temperature. So they consider that the temperature is the cause and CO2 concentration is the effect. They did some data analysis. They found good correlation between annual increase of CO2 concentration and temperature. They wrote a paper (in Japanese) and submitted to the bulletin of the Meteorological Society of Japan. MSJ rejected it as a result of peer reviews. Tsuchida sued the MSJ claiming that MSJ rejected their paper on political grounds. The courts ruled against him, but he tries again.

    Apparently Tsuchida does not forget the conservation of mass, but he believes that fossil-fuel CO2 can easily be absorbed somewhere, and that the CO2 flux between the ocean and the atmosphere is determined by the surface temperature. We cannot convince him that his theory does not hold, while he cannot convince the judge.

    Tsuchida also claims that since the mean residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere is around 3 years, the effect of fossil-fuel CO2 should damp with this time constant after emission. I have not directly discussed with him about that, but I encountered several people entrenched in that view. They take hold on such expression in standard texts as “nearly half of fossil-fuel CO2 remains in the atmosphere” and say that it contradicts the established knowledge about the residence time. I needed many rounds to realize the problem. Tracking a piece of material (e.g. a carbon atom) and evaluating mass balance are different things. Even if an “anthropogenic” CO2 molecule go to the ocean, a “natural” CO2 molecule can fill the place, then the anthropogenic effect to the mass of CO2 in the atmosphere does not change.

    I think that AGW deniers are likely tempted to take their position, but it likely makes self-contradiction in their arguments.

    First, Tsuchida and Kondo take the surface temperature records compiled by NOAA or Japan Meteorological Agency for granted. They just deny anthropogenic global warming as a mechanism. This argument is not compatible with denial of global warming as a phenomenon.

    Second, if they adopt the theory that “temperature causes CO2 flux”, and if they consider that it was globally warm in the “medieval warm period”, then CO2 concentration in that period must have been as high as present. They may consider that compilation by E.-G. Beck is more reliable than Antarctic ice core records. But then they cannot use the lag between CO2 concentration and temperature (actually isotope ratio) in the Antarctic ice core during the glacial cycles as a reliable support to their theory.

  16. Edward Greisch:

    99 Fred Moolten: Salby: First you need a mechanism to make the temperature go up. Salby just assumes that the temperature goes up by itself. That doesn’t work. There has to be a reason for the warming. Science isn’t about correlations. Remember Newton’s clockwork universe? We want to know what got adjusted in the clock to make the temperature go up first. Or, what made the natural CO2 emission go up? We know about the infrared optical properties of gasses. Oxygen and nitrogen are transparent in the infrared. CO2 is opaque to infrared. So CO2 can prevent infrared from escaping from the Earth.

    Look up the Keeling curve, such as http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/24/your-piece-of-the-keeling-curve/
    Salby spouts nonsense on the Keeling curve. The Keeling curve is an annual sine wave added to a long term rise.

    If Salby has a new measurement of natural emission or absorbtion of CO2, he should have made the speech about that measurement. Salby just states that CO2 goes up with temperature. No mechanics. And then he says that he fooled you and used financial graphs instead of CO2 and temperature.

    Managers like self-confidence. Salby sounds too self-confident. Too much self-confidence is a bad sign in science because scientists are shy. Salby sounds tense, as he would be if he were lying. There is software for testing truthfulness from a recording.

    See Gavin’s response to 55, 57, 81.

    110 arch stanton: Page 23 of Salby’s book does indeed contradict Salby’s speech. And yes, I think Salby’s speech was a lie and Salby knows it.

  17. Eli Rabett:

    Besides the conservation of CO2 arguments it seems to Eli that Salby is assuming an instantaneous response of the sinks to the emissions. Since the turnover time is ~ 7 years and the sinks are temperature sensitive on a faster time scale, this is not going to work

  18. Geoff Wexler:

    Re : #110.
    True. The contents of the old edition look impressive. But if I had to choose between it and Raypierre’s book, I would not follow Judith Curry’s advice on this occasion, but go for the latter book, because of its Chapter 8 alone, “Evolution of the Atmosphere” which includes a good discussion in section 8.4 “Partitioning of Constituents between atmosphere and ocean”.

    In contrast Salby’s early book does not appear to have covered this. I have so far failed to find any references to Bolin and Ericsson (and perhaps Revelle and Suess) ,who I thought, had so much influence on current understanding (see e.g. also Spencer Weart web pages on discovery of GW). They came out a few decades before the old edition of his book.

    The same applies to the words acid,carbonic,carbonate,bicarbonate, pH, etc.

    [Needs checking:am I wrong to emphasise this?]

  19. Larry Gilman:

    Jim Hansen is a climate-change god, and I revere him for that, but he has a big, shiny, Phillips-head screw lose on the subject of renewable energy sources and Amory Lovins, whom he has repeatedly, and falsely, accused of making a false “projection” about the rise of renewables back in the 70s. I deal with this false claim by Hansen in detail at http://nolongerbythinking.blogspot.com/2009/05/letter-to-jim-hansen.html . Short form: what Hansen calls a now-falsified “projection” by Lovins was in fact labeled by Lovins from the get-go as an “Alternate Illustrative Future,” i.e., a claim about what would or could happen if certain energy policies were adopted. But those policies were not adopted, so how can the figure fairly be characterized as a failed prophecy? How can a conditional prediction be accused of failure if its conditions are not met? Hansen himself, as I show at the foregoing link, has published similar illustrative projections of different variables. Yet he stubbornly and unfairly continues to insist that Lovins made an erroneous _forecast_.

    Two major points:

    (1) Supplying electricity and other forms of energy is something that engineers and other applied physicists do and that energy experts study — not climatologists. And Hansen is a climatologist. He is therefore opining out of his field when he talks energy supply technologies and their global adequacy, yet does not, that I have seen, acknowledge this. Nor does he cite any significant literature to back up his assertion that renewables are intrinsically, hilariously unable to undergird our energy economy. Instead, he heaps scorn on Lovins 30-year-old “illustrative” graph, which he misrepresents as a failed forecast. This is not, to put it mildly, meaningful technical discourse. Many persons with actual expertise in energy have a different view, and have had the grace to show us their numbers: see, for example, the rather conservative peer-reviewed analysis at “Providing all global energy with wind, water, and solar power”
    (from _Energy Policy_: Parts I and II at http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/JDEnPolicyPt1.pdf and http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/DJEnPolicyPt2.pdf). The IPCC, citing extensive technical literature and making no mention of fairies or bunnies, just released a report in May 2011 ( http://srren.ipcc-wg3.de/report ) showing that renewables can, in fact, power the world. But Hansen, apparently writing two months after the IPCC report came out, does not even reference it, much less rebut it. He has anecdotal evidence about solar panels on his daughter’s house that he’d rather talk about. This is a sad performance indeed for a world-class scientist.

    (2) Contra Hansen, there is no fundamental scale mismatch between our needs and the basic renewable resources and no fundamental technological or economic obstacle to harvesting those resources in sufficient quantities, especially if we use what we harvest with even moderate efficiency (and efficiency will be increasingly necessary and/or profitable no matter what source of energy we tap). Hansen calls these elementary physical facts an “Easter Bunny fable,” and fervently believes that nuclear power — which remains spectacularly and stubbornly beached on the golden sandbar of its awful per-kWh costs despite the astonishing volume of subsidy offers pumped under it of late, whose global output remains stagnant after a decade of “renaissance,” with its multibillion-dollar power cathedrals, decade-long lead times, and retirement-bound global reactor fleet — Hansen fervently believes that nuclear is an affordable, large-scale energy jackrabbit that can push Old Man Coal out of the picture and save us from climate change. It’s surreal: Hansen accuses numerous experts of Easter Bunny belief while parading around in a giant “I Believe in Santa Claus” signboard. In reality, wind is now much cheaper per kWh at the margin than nuclear and is going to remain so.

    Lovins reviews, with extensive references, the “terminal attack of market forces” that long since crippled nuclear power at http://www.rmi.org/cms/Download.aspx?id=2585&file=E08-01_NuclearIllusion+(1).pdf&title=The+Nuclear+Illusion . But Hansen does not address any of this material: he’d rather misrepresent a 35-year-old chart and rant about how it didn’t come true after all . . .

    Jim, you can do better than this!

  20. Vendicar Decarian:

    Republicans in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives have put a provision in the foreign aid spending bill that would eliminate U.S. funding for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

  21. Aaron Lewis:

    Looking at http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2011/08/05/288347/warming-shrink-russian-permafrost/ and related going back to http://www.plant.siu.edu/faculty/vitt/pdf/183-2002.PDF , http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100304142240.htm , http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071025174618.htm , & http://www.mtholyoke.edu/courses/jbubier/pdf/Liblik97GBC11.PDF , I was surprised that the 2010 State of Climate did not address methane releases from permafrost and clathrates in more detail.

    I find methane from permafrost and clathrates to be a much higher risk than CO2, because they are not in our climate models, and thus we know less about how they will affect out climate. And, less knowledge suggests greater risk.

  22. DeWitt Payne:

    In case anyone hasn’t noticed, there’s a new ‘paper’ out by someone touted to be a qualified astrophysicist although he lists his degree as Msc in the title: The Model Atmospheric Greenhouse Effect. It’s being highly touted in what even I would have to call the denialist fringe blogs like Climate Realists.

    It’s awful. It makes Gerlich and Tscheuschner look almost reasonable by comparison. It’s not quite to the level of ridiculousness of Nasif Nahle, but it’s close.

  23. John Mashey:

    re: #122
    See PSI, whichsays:

    The ‘Slayers’ book project and PSI were both conceived by legal analyst and science writer, John O’Sullivan. The British former teacher and lecturer correctly identified that the formation of a large body of experts uniting to address the perceived corruption within government-funded science would succeed where lone voices have failed.”

  24. ccpo:

    @Larry 119: (2) Contra Hansen, there is no fundamental scale mismatch between our needs and the basic renewable resources and no fundamental technological or economic obstacle to harvesting those resources in sufficient quantities, especially if we use what we harvest with even moderate efficiency (and efficiency will be increasingly necessary and/or profitable no matter what source of energy we tap). Hansen calls these elementary physical facts an “Easter Bunny fable,”

    Hansen is correct. The analysis lacking is on your end, and Lovins’. What virtually all who attempt to address future energy consumption fail to understand are a few simple things such as the Law of the Minimum + resource limits + ecological services limits + population (exponents) + Jevons Paradox and more. If energy were the only issue, you might be right and Hansen wrong, but it is energy and …. everything else. I repeat everything else. This is why people get caught up in nearly-pointless, essentially semantic non-distinctions like the one you have raised.

    Hansen is right: we can’t use renewables to continue growth. Hansen is wrong: We can’t use nuclear to continue growth.

    1.5 Earth’s ecological services and counting. Efficiency cannot make up the difference, and that’s not including the additional 2 – 5 billion people on the way.

    The error is assuming growth at all.

    If this isn’t self-explanatory, let me know what you’d like to explore.

    Quick hits:

    Renewable are made using fossil fuels.

    Renewables at a scale well below, lower tech, massively distributed, etc., are very doable. Just not at 9 or 12 billion and sucking up lots of other resources to deliver that electricity.

    Diminishing returns.



    Time. (most people don’t realize things such as typical turnover of the US auto fleet would take something on the order of 17 years. Imagine the scale of what we must do…)

    Scale. (On the order of 10,000 nuclear reactors globally. Good luck with that.)

    Time. We can massively reduce consumption now. We cannot keep up increasing consumption much longer.

    The strains on the system are everywhere. If you don’t think we’re well into a series of bifurcations globally…

  25. MattB:

    Larry in 119: Hansen is perfectly qualified enough to make an assessment of the energy options available to us. To me his prime concern is the climate and he wants a solution that works. Lovins, whom I do think is good value for the most part, seems more interested in having a world that is shaped according to some cozy anti-energy ideal.

    Could you please show me some genuine savvy applied physicists and engineers who think that Lovins is right as I can’t find them… to me the world is full of applied physicists and engineers who are astounded by the zealous pursuit of the renewable dream in the face of the harsh realities of energy supply.

  26. MapleLeaf:

    More BS from Spencer that should probably be addressed, well that is if anyone cares anymore what he believes.


  27. chris colose:

    DeWitt Payne,

    I just skimmed through this. I don’t have time to check all the equations but there are several issues:

    1) The author seems to have a huge issue with the factor of “4” used in the radiative balance equation S(1-a)=4sigma*T^4 in deriving the emission temperature. This is indeed problematic for an airless body with low thermal inertia, like Mercury or the moon, where it is more appropriate to factor along a hemisphere or even a point. The diurnal temperature range is relatively smooth over Earth, and especially Venus.

    2) The author implies that the atmospheric emissivity must exceed one in order to determine the surface temperature of Venus, which he then claims is an obvious absurdity; it is, but in this case he attempts to use a single-layer atmosphere in order to derive this result, which itself is absurd. Even for realistic radiative transfer modeling on Earth you need to break up the atmosphere into many layers of varying temperature and emissivity. For a single layer atmosphere, the surface temperature is constrained to be no greater than (2^0.25)*Te, where Te is ~255 K on Earth (see his equation 8); this is because the atmosphere also emits energy upon absorption. If the planet had a high albedo in the infrared spectrum, and the floating plane were instead a good infrared reflector, you could substantially heat the surface well in excess of this value.

    3) You can poke a lot of holes in the simple textbook explanations, but it is well known to the academic community that the real world is not a single pane of glass with some constant emissivity hovering over the surface. In that sense, most of this paper is attacking an artificial issue. More complex models than back of the envelope learning tools employ the Planck function at a large number of points, and must solve the problem with the temperature and absorber distribution at each point.

    4) The author seems to imply that a constant lapse rate fixed over defined depth of the atmosphere forbids “back radiation” to increase the temperature differential between the top and bottom of the atmosphere. This is an obvious misunderstanding. There is no justification for using a fixed depth, since the greenhouse effect increases the mean emission level to space, allowing you to extrapolate along a greater distance from the emission level to the surface, reaching a higher surface temperature. The infrared opacity determines the height of emission! And on a planet like Venus, a high optical depth implies a much higher tropopause as well. On Earth, the higher tropopause (in the tropics for example) is instead largely a result of the lower lapse rate.

    Those are some of the more noticeable issues, but I’m sure others can have fun poking jabs at some more.

  28. Edward Greisch:

    Dear Moderator: Are you going to delete 119 Larry Gilman’s comment branching into discussing nuclear vs renewables, or do I have to answer it?

    James Hansen “was trained in physics and astronomy in the space science program of Dr. James Van Allen at the University of Iowa, receiving his bachelor’s degree with highest distinction in physics and mathematics, master’s degree in astronomy, and Ph. D. in physics in 1967.” That is from his CV at http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/hansencv_201106.pdf

    Dr. Hansen is therefore qualified in all of physics, including nuclear physics and energy in general. Larry Gilman’s questions have already been answered in a previous post, so I hope I do not have to answer them again.

  29. Didactylos:

    Larry Gilman:

    I haven’t read every single word Hansen has ever written, but I’m still very sure that Hansen isn’t proposing nuclear power to the exclusion of other renewable sources.

    His points that renewables (including nuclear) have failed to live up to expectations in many ways, and that some regions are not ideally placed to go the 100% wind/solar route, are perfectly valid.

    You make a few errors in your assumptions. First, nuclear isn’t as expensive as you think it is. Most countries that get a significant fraction of their energy from nuclear get it at a price that is comparable or better than coal. Second, some regions of the world are too densely populated and too short of wind and sun to get 100% of their energy needs from these sources. I do have to note, however, that the continental US in general is not one of these regions – they have plenty of sun, wind, and open space. That’s not to say that nuclear doesn’t have a role in US energy, but for other countries it is much more vital.

    And you make a big error in your reading of SSREN. It states quite clearly that global renewables can meed global demand (something we all know, and few people argue about) but that some regions have “relatively low levels of technical potential”. It further makes the point that even these regions don’t yet fully exploit the potential available, which is perfectly true. We still need increased take-up of renewables everywhere, even when they can’t ultimately provide 100% of our needs.

    In summary, then: please do everything you can to boost renewables, but don’t do it at the expense of other non-fossil options that will be needed.

  30. deconvoluter:

    Re #122

    [You might think that this is waste of space but I think that some of it is amusing]

    Hosted by the modestly entitled Principia Scientifica in the UK, previously devoted to repeating 100 year old work on small glass greenhouses.

    Is this, its first weighty article, from the Lyndon la Rouche School of Theoretical physics?

    The back-radiative GH model is boot-strapped into existence (i.e., pulling oneself out of quick-sand by pulling up on your own bootstraps…a basic violation of mechanics) via paradigmatic illogic, which must obviously be congruent and inherently systemic.

    This, as opposed to the illogical direct comparison of said physically unique (i.e., different) metrics without qualification and the consequent arrangement of tautologies built up to superficially sustain and promote that original deception. Thus, there is absolutely no allowance nor justification for a back-radiative GHE whatsoever, in the reference frame of logic and Natural Philosophy.

    That puts one automatically into the contention that, if you explain that there is no radiative GHE in the atmosphere, then people will respond with the confusion over the greenhouse effect in a real greenhouse which everyone knows really does exist, but without actually knowing why it exists.

  31. Jesús R.:

    There’s a new paper on the tropical tropospheric trend saga:

    While satellite MSU/AMSU observations generally support GCM results with tropical deep-layer tropospheric warming faster than surface, it is evident that the AR4 GCMs exaggerate the increase in static stability between tropical middle and upper troposphere during the last three decades.


    [Response: For those without access to the full paper, an important caveat in the conclusions (italics mine):

    “One of the striking features in GCM‐predicted climate change due to the increase of greenhouse gases is the much enhanced warming in the tropical upper troposphere. Here we examine this feature by using satellite MSU/AMSU‐ derived deep‐layer temperatures in the tropical upper‐ (T24) and lower‐ (T2LT) middle troposphere for 1979–2010. It is shown that T24‐T2LT trends from both RSS and UAH are significantly smaller than those from AR4 GCMs. This indicates possible common errors among GCMs although we cannot exclude the possibility that the discrepancy between models and observations is partly caused by biases in satellite data.” -eric]

  32. Dan Lufkin:

    But top climatologist Joe Postma bases his analysis on a theory of cognition by noted American Patriot and polymath Lyndon LaRouche. How can you find fault with that?

  33. meteor:

    In the context of Compo et al 2008, which concerns the influence of SST on the recent land warming, how do you understand the difference between the two warming periods in the 20th century 1910-1945 and 1975-2010?

    In 1910-1945 the increases are for SST 0.41°C and for land 0.30°C
    In 1975-2010 the increases are for SST 0.39°C and for land 0.73°C.

    Thus for the same increase of SST there are very different increases of land?

    How is it possible if the temperature land is the slave of ocean temperatures as Compo and al and others claim it?

  34. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Shorter # 128: word salad, heavy on the nuts.

    People who think that throwing together a bunch of words like that means they are on to something are defective. What is a good explanation of the defect?

  35. Marcus:

    Re #128

    Sounds like physicists having an evening with a lot of fun (and a couple of beers)

  36. flxible:

    Hansen is right: we can’t use renewables to continue growth. Hansen is wrong: We can’t use nuclear to continue growth.

    Why most intelligent folks continue to ignore this most central aspect of the unsustainable nature of human behavior on the planet is baffling. The only possible future is one with massively fewer humans, and I think the herd is going to insure that outcome.

    reCAPTCHA: objectio isthere

  37. Kevin McKinney:


    Compare and contrast what William Charles Wells did with a few thermometers, props, handkerchiefs, and bits of paper back in 1811–oh, and he needed access to a good grassy lawn, too. His “An Essay Upon Dew” can be accessed free at Google books, and is an illuminating read for anyone interested in the issue of atmospheric radiation.

  38. John W:

    flxible says
    “The only possible future is one with massively fewer humans”

    That will only ensure the extinction of all known life. Without the pressure of over population and resource competition why would we spread to other planets? Then what happens when something really bad happens to this one. GAME OVER.

  39. Kevin McKinney:

    #120–Yes. They also voted to defund a potential NOAA climate unit, and forbade the Dept. of Agriculture and the US Army Corps of Engineers to consider anything to do with climate change in planning for the future.

    And no, I’m not joking; my local Representative introduced one of these measures.

  40. Hank Roberts:

    Nukeeeeeeees—> Barry Brook has quit entertaining climate deniers.

    He now accepts posts only from people who understand climate change is happening.

    Want a focused thread in which to discuss nuclear/climate?


    This ain’t it.

  41. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Re: #131, Fu, Q, Syukuro Manabe, and C M Johanson, August 2011: On the warming in the tropical upper troposphere: Models versus observations. Geophysical Research Letters, 38, L15704, doi:10.1029/2011GL048101.
    is probably an excellent paper. By luck there are some probably related papers in Ari Jokimäki’s Papers of the Week.

  42. Marcus:

    Sorry Edward Greisch, this was an answer to #130 deconvoluter

  43. ccpo:

    @flxible says (Comment by John W — 8 Aug 2011 @ 10:39 AM)
    “The only possible future is one with massively fewer humans”

    That will only ensure the extinction of all known life. Without the pressure of over population and resource competition why would we spread to other planets? Then what happens when something really bad happens to this one. GAME OVER.

    The population things is very debatable. We can, in fact, grow enough food to feed even 12 billion (but not how we do it now), so survival really isn’t an issue unless the planet gets too hot, which it seems likely to do (because growth is a veritable religion and/or appears tied to the size of our egos) and growing food differently goes a long ways towards keeping the planet from getting too hot, so… grow enough food the right way and you save the world. But let us set this aside for human being are largely not rational about growth, and even more so about population growth.

    What I find truly striking is the idea that if we aren’t all about to die because we have learned to live within the ecological footprint of the planet, we all die because we suddenly become stupid and unmotivated.



    First, living within the ecological services of the planet will require far more cooperation, planning, organization and inventiveness than suicide does.

    But, really, the longest-lived species haven’t lasted more than some millions of years (stromatolites are darned impressive in their – what? Billions? – years of existence, but they don’t throw much of a party and their engineering is pretty limited.

    I think sun-driven shake-n-bake is a bit too far long-term than even I am willing to bother with. Besides, a dinosaur-killer class asteroid or the Yellowstone Caldera or another Ice Ball Earth will come along well before then. A number of times, in fact.

    Oh, and did you know they’ve already figured out most of how to terraform Mars? We’re fine: Move to Mars, mine the Moon, the Earth and those crazy kids, the Asteroids, and it’s all good. (That’s why we should save the fossil fuels for later.)

  44. Pete Dunkelberg:

    ccpo, stromatolites are a type of ecosystem not a species. But more to the point, I think your space hope leaves the reality oriented community behind.

  45. Edward Greisch:

    116 myself: That software for lie detection is at http://www.truster.com/
    Requires a PC.

  46. flxible:

    Wikipedia: Stromatolites are a major constituent of the fossil record for about the first 3.5 billion years of life on earth, with their abundance peaking about 1.25 billion years ago. They subsequently declined in abundance and diversity, which by the start of the Cambrian had fallen to 20% of their peak

    About what needs to happen with the human species if the planet is to survive us. Sustainability has limits, we have already exceeded them. They may have figured out how to terraform Mars, they just haven’t figured out how to afford getting a viable sized cohort there and established – or how to mine the moon. You may have figured out how to feed 12 billion humans, but you haven’t figured out how to make that happen. Currently the species is unable to properly feed even half that, and we’re rapidly slipping on that.

    Today I heard a youngster [15-17?] who went on a Polar Year expedition say it woke him to climate change, and he wanted to do something so HIS grandchildren would have a livable planet too. So now we’re talking of ‘the storms’ of Hansens great grandchildren – or maybe great-great . . . do we have 3 or 4 more generations of fossil fuels and water and minerals and rare earth elements to fritter away?

    The species and the planet do not have decades of further over-exploitation of resources in order to salvage the mess we’ve made of society and the planet. Overpopulation is the root of most every human problem. and I think as with the Stromatolites, “nature” will prune those roots.

  47. Edward Greisch:


    “The paper, combining evidence of driftwood accumulation and beach formation in northern Greenland with evidence of past sea-ice extent in parts of Canada, concludes that Arctic sea ice appears to have retreated far more in some spans since the end of the last ice age than it has in recent years.”

    Is it true that arctic sea ice extent was less 6000 years ago than at present? If so, this is something that needs your attention because denialists are having a field day with it.

    [Response: Yes, this is probably true. But I don’t see what the concern is. 6000 years ago we had a very different orbital configuration – with much more sunlight during the summer. NH summers were noticeably warmer, and tropical rain bands had moved significantly further north (the ‘Green Sahara’). NH winters had less sunshine and so there was a countervailing effect which makes the net response different from what we are seeing today. This period provides a good test case for the models. – gavin]

  48. Edward Greisch:

    140 Hank Roberts: That should apply equally to windeeeeees and suneeeees, which is my point.

  49. Hunt Janin:

    What kind of now-unexpected events, if any, might speed up the melting of the polar ice?

  50. deconvoluter:

    Re #135 and #142
    I find your ‘answer’ to be unfalsifiable.