The high cost of inaction

In 2004 Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow published a paper in Science in which they argued that a pragmatic, but still difficult, way of stabilizing atmospheric CO2 levels over the long term was via the implementation of seven “stabilization wedges” over the next 50 years. The idea was very simple: each wedge represented one in-hand technology or societal practice that could be implemented, relatively slowly at first and increasing linearly with time, to make a small but growing dent in the rise in CO2 emissions, stabilizing them at 2004 levels (about 7 Gigatons C/Year) over the next 50 years (see figure below).

These seven wedges would be chosen from among a larger set of fifteen possibilities that included standard mitigation approaches such as increased energy efficiencies in vehicles and buildings, carbon capture at coal plants, nuclear power increases, and reduced deforestation and agricultural tillage-based losses. These practices would collectively buy time while larger scale transformations to renewable energies on a global scale could be developed and implemented that would drive emissions to zero over the following 50 years. This drastic emissions drop in the second 50 year period requires an immediate start on the research needed to develop and implement these technologies five to ten decades out, and the wedges themselves require a deliberate and committed effort, starting now.

A couple of weeks ago, Socolow updated this work in a brief commentary piece to show where we are seven years later. The results are not encouraging. First, and most significant, rather than decreasing the emissions rate, the lack of implementation of these strategies has been accompanied by an accelerated rate of emissions, such that annual CO2 output is now just under 9 Gt C/yr, a 2 Gt/yr increase. Accounting for natural sequestration, this represents an increase of about 13-14 ppm CO2 over that time. But this is not the full story by any means. As Socolow notes, if we re-set the clock to 2011 and start the wedge strategy implementation now, it would now take nine wedges implemented at the proposed rate of the original seven, to accomplish the same goal (keeping emission rates constant over the next 50 years).

The stabilization wedge concept, circa 2004 vs 2011

Here is the real kicker however.   Even if we were to do so, starting today, with stable emissions for 50 years and then falling gradually from there to zero emissions over the following 50 years, an additional ~50 ppm of CO2 would be added to the atmosphere by 2111, relative to what would have been added had the seven wedge strategy been initiated in 2004. This equates to a roughly 0.5 W/sq m forcing increase, and a ~0.4 degree C global temperature increase, assuming an equilibrium sensitivity of 3 deg C per CO2 doubling and that the additional 50 ppm is added on top of the increase that would have occurred even if the 2004 wedge strategy had in fact been initiated.  In other words, seven years of inaction, even if we immediately begin implementing the strategy now and fully carry it out over the next century, have larger climatic consequences over the next century than one might expect.

So are we ready to begin that now, and the research needed for the drastic drops from 2061 to 2111 that the strategy requires, or will we be repeating this same story in 2018, with a couple more wedges required, and another 50 ppm or more likely in the pipeline and no commitment to the needed advanced technologies?

You can read more about it, and commentary on it from some influential folks, here, here, and here.

142 comments on this post.
  1. A. Jessen:

    A thought-provoking piece, but I’m a bit confused. Isn’t CO2 output currently around 30 Gt a year? If so then presumably the figures in the article are just for the carbon?

    [Response: Correct, thanks for clarifying.–Jim]

  2. Jeffrey Davis:

    Sometimes our political process reminds me of the movie scene where Joe Pesci kills a rival by using a vise. The savage, bizarre excess of the process isn’t just destructive, it looks to be the activity of people who enjoy the harm they’re doing. Consider AGW, Peak Oil, our ruinous trade imbalances, and our involvement in Middle East warfare. In each case, developing alternate energy sources would be sane and humane, but our hoodlums-in-charge have us doubling down on carbon.

  3. Chris Colose:

    A. Jessen, yes, it should be GtC, not Gt CO2

  4. Karen Street:

    The original wedge concept was based on stabilizing emissions in 50 years, and assumed a rate of increase for emissions lower than most other analysts were assuming. Then in 2006, China built 100 GW in coal.

    From Science, September 10, 2011 Farewell to Fossil Fuels? Martin I. Hoffert;329/5997/1292

    “Unfortunately, the original wedges approach greatly underestimates needed reductions. In part, that is because Pacala and Socolow built their scenario on a business as usual (BAU) emissions baseline based on assumptions that do not appear to be coming true…

    “The enormous challenge of making the transition to carbon-neutral power sources becomes even clearer when emissions-reduction scenarios are based on arguably more realistic baselines, such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s “frozen technology” scenario. Capturing all alternate energy technologies, including those assumed within this BAU scenario, means that a total of ∼18 of Pacala and Socolow’s wedges would be needed to curb emissions (see the figure). And to keep future warming below 2°C, even under the Davis et al. age-out scenario, an additional 7 wedges of emissions reductions would be needed—for a total of 25 wedges (see the figure).”

    This analysis antedates the German decision to increase use of fossil fuels dramatically.

  5. Edward Greisch:

    2 Jeffrey Davis: Reference book: “The sociopath next door : the ruthless versus the rest of us” by Martha Stout. New York : Broadway Books, 2005.

    According to Martha Stout, 4% of all people are born sociopaths/sciopaths/psychopaths. There is no cure because it is caused by a part of the brain simply being missing. A written test, the MMPI [Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory] can identify sociopaths.

    Since sociopaths care about nothing and nobody, they are bored. They seek excitement constantly. You got it right.

  6. Pete Dunkelberg:

    The cost of delay? Everything. example:

  7. Mike Roddy:

    Good one, but it’s not really news to the people who read this blog and Climate Progress. The next stage has to be developing better ways to communicate to the public, because journalists obviously are not going to do it for you.

    [Response: Yes, Climate Progress has been on top of this, but I particularly like the succinct way that Socolow lays out very simply and quantitatively the cost of seven years of inaction, in terms of final CO2 concentrations. This is very helpful I think–Jim]

  8. prokaryotes:

    Since 2004, there have been considerable improvements to renewable energy and the discovery of negative-emmission technologies. And we have tested and quantified the potentials of biochar better. But with no real action and still tolerating organized climate denial, there will be not enough change.

    Humans are too stupid to prevent climate change

    [Response: Well, Lovelock [doesn’t] understand that the emails in the CRU hack do not in fact represent real evidence of “data fudging” and manipulation for a set agenda, so I wouldn’t put much stock in that.–Jim. Update: it’s been pointed out to me that Lovelock has changed his position regarding the CRU emails being evidence of fraud, so I retract that comment.–Jim]

  9. Edward Greisch:

    I don’t know if “Occupy Wall Street” will help or not, but you can find one near you at:

  10. David M:

    You’ve got to read Dyson’s comment on the link. I hope I die before I get old.

  11. Chris O'Neill:

    an additional ~50 ppm of CO2 would be added to the atmosphere by 2111,

    This equates to a roughly 0.5 W/sq m forcing increase, and a ~0.4 degree C global temperature increase,

    I’ve sometimes wondered how the future forcing from suphate aerosols (currently ~ -1 W/sq m) can be expected to play out over the period that we hope to reduce fossil fuel burning, given that sulphate aerosols are caused by fossil fuel burning. That -1 W/sq m is an awful lot of negative forcing, enough that if it “suddenly” disappeared then we should “suddenly” expect the global temperature to increase by 0.8 degrees C. So trying to rapidly reduce fossil fuel burning also carries the risk of temporarily increasing global temperature, unless we want to do atmospheric engineering at the same time.

    [Response: This is the point made by Armour and Roe in a recent GRL paper. The loss of net aerosol cooling is inevitable if we decarbonize the economy, so the warming you get from that (uncertain) 1W/m**2 should be considered part of our committed warming from fossil fuel use. –raypierre]

  12. Burt Armstrong:

    I do not like my conclusions but I do not think that there is any indication that control of carbon will start anytime soon. This stated is only an observation of what is happening at the present and what has happened in the past in issues as contentious as is climate change. We as a society have lost the ability to understand a complex issue that harms the short term bottom line of big business. Why, realistically we have the news media where most people get their information being owned by big business and nor responsible to the public. This consolidation of the news media is a new event and has a short history of three or so decades. Plus the media wants controversies not settled science. A controversy sells people on consuming more media and that is better for their short term bottom line.

    We are in the era of both Truth Free Media and Truth Free Government.

    This issue is not about truth and never has been, it is about the short term bottom line. It has been fought by people who erroneously think that by providing the truth the public will understand the issues and force their governments to comply with reducing the burning of fossil fuels. Such silly thoughts have gotten us to the current place and keeps us continually distracted with the thoughts that governments will start to act for the long term good. No they will not, they only think about the next election nothing longer term comes on their radar.

    No we will not start to control carbon emissions for a long time. I can not reasonably see any meaningful control starting before 2020. I just attended a University lecture by the head economist of Alberta University that showed that it is more economical to control carbon at the 650 ppm level than either 550 or 450 which also appeared on his graphs. Nowhere in his talk did he mention 350ppm. Yes I was shocked but he had the sides with the arcane economic magical math to prove his point. Course why anyone thinks economists can project the future with any accuracy better than magic is another question.

    So when are we going to realize that we should start to talk about controlling at 450 and 550 because that is where economic thought is now and they have the ear of government and business. If you are not shocked then you live on another planet and do not crucify me, I am only transmitting the troubling information.

    So with people like him out there talking to governments just when do you think government will act? Not in the next election cycle (2012) that is for sure so we are looking at 2016 at the earliest for the question even to come up in a meaningful way, like there is a problem even to address. Then you have the inertia of society to change and it is terribly slow to respond ears like in the following election cycle not the current on it is voted on so add another 2–4 years for anything to start after it is voted on. That is where I get the 2020 as the earliest date we can look to reasonable start to control green house gasses and at what ppm will they be at with business as normal happening until then? So 2020 is the earliest and likely far to early at that.

  13. JimCA:

    I think you are confusing Gt of C with Gt of CO2.

    33 Gt of CO2 would contain about 9 Gt of C.

  14. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Also Check Joe Romm’s
    and links therein. Romm notes “Even the traditionally staid and conservative the International Energy Agency explained two years ago that “The world will have to spend an extra $500 billion to cut carbon emissions for each year it delays implementing a major assault on global warming.””

    Romm and others prefer 14 or 15 wedges, not just seven.
    Somewhere that I can never find, there is a pie chart of all those wedges.

    [Response: That’s for stabilizing concentrations at a much lower than what Pacala and Socolow are aiming for: 500 (initially) and 550 (now).–Jim]

    Socolow’s preferred wedges:
    “Many of the stabilization wedges promoted in Pacala’s and my 2004 paper are ready for vigorous implementation, including ending deforestation, pursuing energy efficiency in all economic sectors (while monitoring actual energy savings), expanding large-scale wind and solar power (while attending to the associated infrastructure), and ramping up carbon dioxide capture and storage projects at coal and natural gas power plants (while radically reducing emissions that affect public health). There is not much risk of braking too quickly in these cases.”

    Is carbon capture and storage is ready for prime time? That’s news to me.

  15. BillD:

    I agree with James Hansen that exploitation of the tar sand oils in Canada and elsewhere is a key to whether we will take steps to get carbon emissions under control. The fact that the Democratic administration is going full speed on the pipeline from Canada without even mentioning impacts on climate change bodes very badly for the future. On the other hand, we have Gov. Perry proposing “drill baby drill” on steriods with much reduced environmental safe guards. Where is the media balance. Why are environmental extremists on the right able to dominate the media? Until mainstream science is better publicized the future is bleak.

  16. prokaryotes:

    Jim, my impression is that Lovelock’s remarks (without him reading the emails) has 2 side’s of the coin. Fudging climate data is a crime against humanity, committed by the people which trumped up the story in an orchestrated campaign, originating from Delingpole and McIntry’s blog and those who fund the denial machine.

    False climate change data a Crime Against Humanity

    That aside, my point was that humans are to stupid to combat climate change, this means how to treat the denial machine and large scale action to prevent dangerous emission scenarios. Industrial civilization is in collective denial and disconnected from nature, and my impression is that most of the undeveloped world is uneducated on this.

  17. Nagraj Adve:

    Interesting as Prof Socolow’s piece is, and with respect, I felt his current piece (as also their earlier article in Science) misses 2-3 core issues underlying global warming. One it does not deal with systemic traits that are inherent to capitalism, namely the drive for profit, the use of cheap energy (coal), and growth, which is central to the system.
    Two, they do not adequately deal with class, particuarly consumption by the better off.
    The above, in a nutshell, are why emissions have continued to rise and why political and financial elites don’t do anything about them. It’s very disturbing but hardly surprising. Prof Socolow persists in not addressing these core issues.
    Nagraj Adve

  18. PeteB:

    Is not a simpler solution to just bring in an additional ‘Carbon’ tax, taking account of our best estimate of the damage caused, incorporating the chances it might be worse, the chances it might be better. We can do this gradually to minimise economic dislocation and adjust the price in the light of new research. We can also distribute the proceeds of this tax to make sure it is not regressive.

    Where there is economically attractive alternatives, these will quickly take over. Where fossil fuels including the carbon tax is still the most economically attractive, we are at least are paying a realistic price that includes the cost of the damage caused.

    I am not convinced that centrally planned initiatives are the optimal way of combating this

  19. Icarus:

    Do these scenarios assume that the climate system will continue to sequester around half of our annual CO₂emissions? My understanding is that the oceans will cease to be a net sink around 2050 on the current path… a path which puts us at 2°C above mid-20th Century global temperature by mid-21st Century. It seems unlikely to me that the terrestrial carbon sink won’t also have turned into a net source around that time, or earlier.

    Is it physically possible to ‘stabilise’ global temperature at some much higher level of atmospheric CO₂that we choose, or will multiple positive feedbacks make that impossible? If the latter is the case then there must be a point at which no amount of emissions reductions will halt global warming. We would need to be actively removing CO₂from the atmosphere, and the only way I know of to do that which doesn’t require massive inputs of energy is biochar. However, if we’re already adding three times as much CO₂to the atmosphere as the entire terrestrial biosphere is capable of absorbing, there’s no chance at all of growing enough biomass to offset more than a small proportion of current emissions by converting to biochar.

    I suppose what I’m saying is that it appears to be too late to have any realistic chance of avoiding a very large rise in global temperature, however aggressive (and currently inconceiveable) our emissions reductions are. I’m not trying to be a ‘doomer’ but I just don’t see how it could be done, all things considered.

    [Response: There is no consideration of changing flux rates between the atmosphere and the other two pools, as far as I can tell. If the existing sinks shrink, the final CO2 concentration will be even higher, as you state. Two of their possible wedges do actually involve increasing the terrestrial sequestration rate (by reforestation, plantation planting, and increased conservation tillage), so they are actually proposing an increased sink rate over the 50 years in these cases. They state: “A second half-wedge would be created by reforesting or afforesting approximately 250 million hectares in the tropics or 400 million hectares in the temperate zone (current areas of tropical and temperate forests are 1500 and 700 million hectares, respectively). A third half-wedge would be created by establishing approximately 300 million hectares of plantations on nonforested land….If conservation tillage could be extended to all cropland, accompanied by a verification program that enforces the adoption of soil conservation practices that actually work as advertised, a good case could be made for the IPCC’s estimate that an additional half to one wedge could be stored in this way. “–Jim]

  20. Anna Haynes:

    It would be helpful to have a dollar amount for cost of a year’s delay if we limit ppm to the 500-550 Sokolow is aiming for, akin to the IEA estimate.

    (It’d hit home in a way that “.4 C” doesn’t, for most.)

  21. Anna Haynes:

    (sorry, Socolow)

  22. Jeffrey Davis:

    The haloed 4th Estate model of the media was largely a result of World War 2. Before that the yellow press dominated. The heroism of lots of reporters and photographers — the famous photographs of D-Day, for example — raised the profession’s status. Then, for a a couple of decades the relative idealism of William Paley lifted entire news organizations up so that they appeared to have the status of a little less than angels. But that was solely the work of individuals. After Paley, people like Rupert Murdoch and Jack Welch have seemed to revel in destroying journalism’s status. The old, large news organizations today exist to advance corporate interests. The development of the WWW destroyed most of the rest of the financial resources of journalists, and today they are little more than PR men. Relying on journalism to spread the truth about climate change is a serious mistake. There are idealists here and there, but there’s almost no distribution structure for them anymore.

  23. Brian Dodge:

    “It has become clear that they neither understand the causes of climate change nor understand how to prevent it.” Freeman Dyson,

    This is a self serving, politically motivated, intentional lie.

    As a physicist, Dyson knows about the radiative properties of CO2, H2O, and other polyatomic gases.
    As a physicist, Dyson knows that even cold gases can excite some of their polyatomic gases to an isotropically radiative state.
    As a physicist, Dyson knows that the postulate that a cold gas with excited radiating molecules can’t radiate to a warmer earth violates relativity. (G. Gerlich and R. D. Tscheuschner didn’t know this)
    As a physicist, Dyson knows that water vapor isn’t well mixed, since it exists as a solid and a liquid in earth’s atmosphere.
    As a physicist, Dyson understands the Clausius–Clapeyron relation.
    As a physicist, Dyson knows the difference between measuring and counting, and that inherent measurement errors don’t falsify fundamental physical laws.
    As a mathematician, Dyson knows that the uncertainty in our measurements and modeling of those measurements, which lead to the statement that “a doubling of CO2 will cause an increase of global average temperature in a likely range of 1.5 to 4.5 °C, with the best estimate being 3 °C” doesn’t preclude catastrophic warming and secondary effects.
    As a mathematician, Dyson knows the difference between probability and risk, and that our uncertainty about how bad global warming will be makes his wish for inaction more, not less, dangerous.

    “…the claims of scientific experts to understand climate change have become less and less credible.” ibid

    What insulting arrogance. Dyson’s not Galileo, and climatology isn’t faith based geocentrism.

    “…the Democratic Party made a tragic mistake when it adopted the alarmist view of climate change as a part of its ideology.” ibid

    No. The mistake is the right wing choosing denialism over science, and believing that enough political wishful thinking will “create our own reality”. The tragedy is ranchers going broke in the Texas drought; farmers flooded out in the Ohio, Missouri, and Missippi river basins; 35000 heat related deaths in Europe; thousands dead and millions homeless in Pakistan floods (what political hacks like Freeman Dyson call “useful victims”); food riots over heat driven declining rice production and rising prices; the deaths and crop destruction in the 2010 Norther Hemisphere hat wave; and on and on and on…

  24. Davos:

    A (apparently) dirty little secret in this community is it’s not just ‘denialism’ that’s responsible for the failure of significant wedge mititgation strategy to be implemented.

    No one’s willing to look at environmentalists themselves.

    Of course there’s always going to be opposition to implementing various things for various reasons… but when you have local environmentalist opposition to projects that require local approval to get off the ground, this is a serious (and tragic) jeopardization of the entire project. These folks would represent the most informed on the subject, and the most motivated. Even ardent ‘denialists’ might still be convinced to welcome a privately financed increase of the tax base, but others may not be convinced about a project until after hearing the disapproval of a community environmentalist.

    With that in mind… until those committed to clean(er) energy are willing to put up with a wind farm, solar installation, biomass facility, natural gas installation, and/or nuclear power plant in THEIR backyard– none of these strategies is going to be more than just pillow talk and arm waving. And, judging from the number of such projects that have been proposed and then cancelled/rejected, it is this type of NIMBY hypocrisy that just might be more directly detrimental than science denialism.

  25. Donald Condliffe:

    Cutting carbon emissions has not happened. Rather the amount of carbon release is increasing. For example from the US EIA “Most of the electricity in the United States is produced using steam turbines. Coal is the most common fuel for generating electricity in the United States. In 2010, 45% of the Country’s nearly 4 trillion kilowatt hours of electricity used coal as its source of energy.” Many US home renters depend on coal burning power plants to not freeze in winter or swelter in summer. Does anyone out there think that there will be action by the US Congress forthcoming to spend money or make rules to upgrade tens of millions of rental homes in the US?

    Globally coal mining is projected to increase not decrease, as long as there are reserves, at least until 2025. People in China and India want modern amenities that require electricity. Lots and lots more electricity. It is likely that worldwide we will burn every ton of coal we can get and still want more power from every other source available.

    Every fossil fuel source available is increasing production to the extent feasible. We are about to start mining tar sands on a massive scale in Alberta to feed the US market. Fracking is creating immense new wealth and natural gas burning is increasing. It seems that the best long term estimate of carbon emissions is a steady upward projection at or above the old worst case projections.

    Unfortunately the inaction is continuing and there is no prospect of that changing. There is near zero likelihood of carbon emissions coming down in the foreseeable future. No change in humanity’s behavior pattern is happening. I now think no change can be reasonably be expected until large scale environmental disasters cause such devastation that people are terrified into action. That will be a bit late.

    The Pacala and Socolow paper, much as I liked it and recommended it as a really good example of what we could do, now seems to have been ivory tower thinking not taking into account human nature in the real world.

  26. Hank Roberts:

    > Davos says …
    > No one’s willing to look at environmentalists themselves.

    When did you last check that?
    It’s a common claim, often refuted by looking.

    I can recommend Google’s natural language search; it keeps improving.
    Phrase your question as a question and follow it with a question mark.

    Here’s an example:

    From the first page of results:

    Donald R Strong (2008) Ecologists and environmentalism.
    Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment: Vol. 6, No. 7, pp. 347-347.

    “Environmentalism needs serious discussion by ecologists…. Whereas ecology is science and environmentalism sometimes is and sometimes isn’t, the latter is necessary for the former. We ecologists have the same relationship to the subject of our studies as do art historians and archeologists to theirs. There is no opprobrium upon artists and archeologists advocating for the preservation of art and antiquities. Protection of the environment – environmentalism – is advocacy of what we study. Why should we not advocate for protection of the environment in our professional capacity?

    The negative branding of environmentalism comes from groups that are part and parcel of the notorious war on science. They are dedicated to denying the environmental degradation that ecologists are documenting every day ….”

  27. Ray Ladbury:

    Well, we will never know until the fossil-fuel paid and ideologically motivated denialists acknowledge physical reality and 1)admit that fossil fuels are finite, so that our energy infrastructure is in need of reinvention; 2)admit that same infrastructure is permanently and adversely affecting the planet’s climate.

    Now why don’t you take your concern trolling to a less intelligent audience where it might be effective.

  28. Hank Roberts:

    > Davos
    See also:

  29. tamino:

    Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. Consequently he who molds public sentiment, goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.

  30. prokaryotes:

    Davos, Natural Gas is not a solution, Natural Gas is part of the problem.

    Natural Gas Bombshell: Switching From Coal to Gas Increases Warming for Decades, Has Minimal Benefit Even in 2100

    Department of Energy Panel Calls for More Study on Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Natural Gas Fracking

    [Response: The Cornell natural gas vs. coal study is bunk. It inflates the impact of methane leakage in part by inappropriate use of global warming potentials, and I would argue that even using 100 year global warming potential understates the importance of CO2 as compared to methane due to leakage. But even if you adopt 100 year GWP as your metric, a more reasonable estimate of life-cycle impacts with a more reasonable estimate of leakage makes natural gas a clear winner over coal. Several studies have concluded this, but look particularly at this one]

    . –raypierre

  31. Toby Thaler:

    Icarus #19, please refer us to some peer reviewed literature showing that biochar can be a significant mechanism for carbon sequestration. It appears to me that all biochar does is slow the emission of CO2 from biomass like trees that would otherwise rot. Trees which should be left growing/standing as long as possible regardless. And it takes energy to conduct pyrolysis. As with CCS (carbon capture and storage), biochar has the odor of pseudo-science or at least of technologies that fail when scaling up is attempted.

  32. Toby Thaler:

    Davos #24. I am active in the debate about biomass. It is my considered opinion that with few exceptions (maybe algae), it is neither carbon neutral nor capable of replacing significant quantities of energy on a sustainable basis. Burning it to make power is also a large public health risk factor.

  33. Kevin McKinney:

    Continued coal use is “inevitable,” Davos says. Yet:

    “EIA expects that coal consumption for electricity generation will decline by 19 million short tons (MMst) (1.9 percent) in 2011, as the growth in total electricity generation of 0.6 percent is satisfied by increases in generation from natural gas (1.2 percent) and hydropower (23 percent). Projected increases in generation from natural gas and nuclear, combined with lower electricity consumption, contribute to an additional 3.9 percent decline in electric power sector coal consumption in 2012.”

    That’s short term, of course. Yet coal’s share of the electric generation mix has been falling for several years now; it used to be 52% or more. Now it’s 46% and falling–not fast enough, but falling all the same. The best part of that is that there’s every reason to expect that trend to accelerate.

  34. prokaryotes:

    [Prokaryotes, if you would like to make arguments for biochar’s usefulness in regards to mitigation wedge strategies, that’s fine, but please don’t just copy and paste large chunks of text from Wikipedia, or anywhere else for that matter.–Jim]

  35. Craig Nazor:


    Your attack on whom you are calling “environmentalist” is long on assumptions and short on specific examples.

    Where, specifically, have environmentalists caused significant delay to the fight against anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC), outside of those technologies that you assume (without offering any evidence) will work to effectively stop AGCC without creating other environmental problems in their wake? Nuclear energy is fraught with significant environmental problems not directly related to AGCC, and some very good recent studies show that the carbon footprint of natural gas may be too large to have a net effect on CO2 reduction:

    One way to combat AGCC, improvements to energy efficiency, was noticeably missing from your list of “NIMBY hypocrisy.” That omission is also found in most statements from the big energy corporations and their investors, because energy companies cannot make money on energy conservation. Was that a coincidence?

    Without specifics, your attack has little merit.

  36. prokaryotes:

    Toby Thaler “I am active in the debate about biomass. It is my considered opinion that with few exceptions (maybe algae), it is neither carbon neutral nor capable of replacing significant quantities of energy on a sustainable basis. Burning it to make power is also a large public health risk factor.”

    The point is that you collect the gases from biomass, which otherwise would compose,rot and are already part of the carbon cycle anyway. It’S called BioEnergy and with Biochar in the process BECCS.

    In January 1991, Sweden enacted a CO2 tax of 0.25 SEK/kg ($100 or EUR 72 per ton) on the use of oil, coal, natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, petrol, and aviation fuel used in domestic travel. Industrial users paid half the rate (between 1993 and 1997, 25% of the rate), and certain high-energy industries such as commercial horticulture, mining, manufacturing and the pulp and paper industry were fully exempted from these new taxes.
    In 1997 the rate was raised to 0.365 SEK/kg ($150 per ton) of CO2.[112][113] In 2007, the tax was SEK 930 (EUR 101) per ton of CO2.[114] The full tax is paid in transport, space heating, and non-combined heat and power generation. Owing to the many exemptions, oil accounts for 96% of the revenues from the tax, although it produces less than three-quarters of CO2 from fuel combustion.
    The tax is credited with spurring a significant move from hydrocarbon fuels to biomass. As Swedish Society for Nature Conservation climate change expert Emma Lindberg said, “It was the one major reason that steered society towards climate-friendly solutions. It made polluting more expensive and focused people on finding energy-efficient solutions.”[115][116]
    It increased the use of bioenergy,” said University of Lund Professor Thomas Johansson, former director of energy and climate at the UN Development Programme. “It had a major impact in particular on heating. Every city in Sweden uses district heating. Before, coal or oil were used for district heating. Now biomass is used, usually waste from forests and forest industries.
    Economic growth appears to be unaffected. Between 1990 and 2006, Sweden’s economy grew by 44-46 percent (approx 2,8% annually)

  37. Davos:

    I don’t remember saying that continued coal use is inevitable. I wish it weren’t. It also seems that when another point is brought up (relevantly), it’s left unengaged with the use of links.

    Of course you can link to ‘other folks’ and ‘ecologists’ that are willing to look at the damage done to various green-energy projects by environmentalists that are prioritizing NIMBY concerns over that of the value of these initiatives. I’m talking about the direct engagement of this subject from the leading advocates in the field of climate science. That’s my ‘no one’.

    Think about it. If those who know about the fate of inaction in green-energy initiatives in this present day stand up in city council meetings to quash the installation of a wind farm in their town (trust me, it’s happend) because of xyz, then they are demonstrating that xyz is of greater concern/importance than the future of the planet. This produces a counterproductive harm to the whole operation.

    “Concern-trolling” bah! … Gut-check time… Go down the list of these ‘wedges’ … Nuclear, natural gas, biomass, (and to a lesser extend wind and solar), etc. Which of those are you going to actively campaign to be installed near your home (or at least not prevent their installation)? Which one?

    I myself worked actively for the installation of a (construction-waste) biomass facility less than a mile from my house. It passed through one city council regime, got held up in court, then got rejected by a new city council regime. The figure-head of the vocal opposition was lead by a local meteorologist…Very well informed, and well presented (like most environmentally concerned folks). In the end, millions of dollars went for nothing and the developer is spooked about trying again.

    ANY energy generation facility has things no one wants and no one likes.

    It’s truly sad that there are so many people out there (and perhaps even reading this) that, to quote Ray: “acknowledge physical reality, and 1)admit that fossil fuels are finite, so that our energy infrastructure is in need of reinvention; 2)admit that same infrastructure is permanently and adversely affecting the planet’s climate.” and yet STILL would absolutely refuse to permit a green-energy installtion of one or all the types specified in Socolow’s wedge strategy.

    Flame all you want…but deep down, it’s true.

    To get the type of mass-deployment necessary, it’s going to have to affect your neighborhood too, and you’re going to have to SACRIFICIALLY let it happen. Perhaps being first will motivate others to come in line.

    How about this for a link:
    Anybody see sources of energy here that also show up in Socolow’s Wedge strategy? Look at all the thumbtacks on the map… Admittedly, some of them are for dirty coal plants and the like… But just imagine if the others instead became a newly added part of a growing green-energy infrastructure…

    [Response: It’s true, the kind of opposition you are describing does in fact occur, I’ve seen it too. If we don’t get a wide range of people to see the seriousness of the global problem, we will not get sacrifice at the local level. Keep in mind though that reductions in emissions often do not require an energy generating facility to be placed near communities or whatever else is considered to be “the back yard”.–Jim]

  38. prokaryotes:

    Jim, apparently the chunk of information was from the Mitigation study published in nature, in response to post #31. This is exactly the kind of information about technologies, which are required to reach emission targets.
    And in order to answer the question raised in post #31 from “Toby Thaler”, you have to post the abstract of this paper to answer his “concerns”.

    [Response: No, you don’t. You can just refer to the relevant studies and summarize the relevant arguments/points/data etc. Don’t just copy and paste blocks of text with no explanation.–Jim]

    But since that is not wanted here, i leave you just with the exact linkage.

    Here you can read about the energy which is required to power the fast and slow pyrolysis process.

    This study outlines the mitigation potential of biochar. Sustainable biochar to mitigate global climate change

    I’m a bit baffled why, what i consider small chunks of information, are removed at RealClimate.

  39. Davos:

    @ #35

    I never said that none of those energy options/alternatives don’t have issues or problems. I am in agreement with you about various energy types (aka nuclear) that are “fraught” with problems unrelated to AGCC.

    One of my points is the following: If you therefore elimate each of these energy sources that have these problems, what do you have left? How would Socolow’s wedge theory really work? If we’re supposed to be in the business of identifying strategies or evaluating the science, wouldn’t a truly critical look at this paper identify a lot more problems with it?

    Can we get there with energy efficiency improvements, solar, and windpower? Really?

    Or…instead…what’s more important? Socolow’s wedge project identifies a path to a destination. If we decide the destination is not worth the ‘other environmental problems’, then we run the risk of convincing others that the destination is also not as important. You could create a network of local groups that would rather see “inaction” on a local level when it comes to a number of energy initiatives. Is the “cost” of this inaction not high enough to outweigh its local “benefits”?

    If so…then apparently Socolow needs to redo his wedge theory, and concentrate on what’s left that’s ‘acceptable’. If not, then there needs to be a heckuva lot more sacrifice at the NIMBY level.

  40. Kevin McKinney:

    A scholarly primer–unsure whether you’d technically call it “peer-reviewed” or not–on biochar is here:

    (Amazonian Dark Earths)

    I believe the issue of sequestration is addressed therein–among many others.

  41. James Staples:

    We who ‘know’ or are members of the ‘Investment Class’ should all do what we can to drive home the point that Trillions of Dollars of assets are at risk from rising ocean levels; as that’s one of the most ‘no-doubt-about-it’ (because it is the longest termed) observations that’ve been made in regards to our Changing Climate, and they well know that at least 70% of the Total Insured Assets – or, to put it in a clearer light, a slice of the Portfilios Net-Worth too large for them to wish to lose – are within the predicted inundation zone.

  42. Ernst K:


    Perhaps the one “saving grace” of Alberta’s Tar/Oil sands is that it’s restricted to a single, relatively small jurisdiction. Because of this, complete exploitation of the resource over then next century is virtually impossible because Alberta doesn’t have the capacity to do it even if you allow for a a very high rate of growth in development (i.e. quadrupling production rates over the next 20-30 years). This wouldn’t be the case if the resource was distributed over a number of jurisdictions around the world.

    Some numbers:

    Total Reserves = 1.7 trillion barrels (~10% recoverable with current technology at current prices)

    Current production rate = 1.3 million barrels per day
    Planned production by 2020 = about 3 million barrels per day
    Potential production by mid century = about 5 million barrels per day

    Even at 5 million barrels per day, it will take about 100 years to exploit even the 10% (170 billion barrels) that is currently considered economically recoverable.

    Furthermore, if you consider that 1 barrel of crude oil includes 86.5 kg of Carbon, and allow for an extra 20% to reflect the increased energy required, 170 billion barrels of tar sands translates to 17.6 gigatonnes of Carbon (GTC), which in turn translates to about 8.3 ppmv CO2 (not including any carbon being absorbed by the oceans).

    I believe Hanson does a disservice when he uses the “200 ppm CO2” statistic without putting it in context because it’s relatively easy to show that this number is almost meaningless.

    I fully support maintaining pressure on tar sands development because it is important that exploitation of the resource never gets above a few million barrels a day, if not much less. It’s a resource that needs to be limited to being used to help transition to a carbon-free economy. But there are a myriad of good arguments for keeping development at relatively small scales without worrying that stopping the development is “a key to whether we will take steps to get carbon emissions under control”.

    If anything is a key it’s putting a high price on carbon. The implications of failing to stop Keystone pales in comparison with the implications of continuing to keep fossil fuels the cheapest source of energy.

    [Response: Your figures are based on recoverable fraction at current prices and current technology. Who ever said that both of these would remain fixed? If the tar sands were to become fully recoverable by some combination of higher price and more advanced technology (both of which would also increase the production rate) then your numbers would go up by a factor of ten, and then the total carbon released, when added to carbon from conventional crude and the CO2 already emitted by human activities, would indeed take us very close to the trillion tonne limit that corresponds to a 50-50 chance of 2C or more warming. So, your optimism (and that of the Canadian Embassy) in discounting the significance of the Athabasca carbon pool is in fact based on pessimism about technology and an unrealistic picture of likely price trends in liquid fuel. –raypierre]

  43. Toby Thaler:

    Re biochar, #38: The paper you cite makes my point. From the abstract: “In this paper we estimate the maximum sustainable technical potential of biochar to mitigate climate change. …12% of current anthropogenic CO2-Ce emissions.” (my emphasis) And without doing the research, I hedge on my acceptance of the authors’ calculations, especially with regard to full cost accounting (carbon budget). Regardless, the realistic potential is likely to be far less than 12%. As with CC&S, I’m not holding my breath to see biochar become a significant contributor to carbon sequestration. Biochar proponents have been pushing it for years, and I have yet to see any major effort to scale it up. Am I missing something?

    For what it’s worth (lowly policy analyst that I am), my opinion is that our lifestyles are going to change, either by choice for by necessity. There is simply not enough quality energy (see EROI) to sustain the current level of consumption. Whether this ramp down occurs before global economic and social systems collapse (or at least have major crises) due to environmental stresses is open to question. If past performance is used as a predictor, I would say probably not.

  44. deconvoluter:

    re: #23

    Perhaps I have missed it, but I have never seen much evidence that F.D. has read much about climate science. There is evidence that he is by no means the only senior scientist who relies more on prejudice than hard work when considering topics outside his or her expertise.

    Regarding your comment, it is rather hard to challenge F.D. because he says so little. For example his latest argument is not about the science, but an unsubstantiated political assertion that the Democrats would improve their chances by following his example in disregarding the majority of the research. Is their any evidence that some politicians have already made such calculations or is it just a question of voting strengths?

    His second political argument is similar to that of Bjorn Lomborg i.e that mitigation would discriminate against the poor. That risk does need to be addressed but it is not the subject of this thread.

  45. john byatt:


    The Australian prime minister with the aid of three independent members of parliament have just passed the carbon price legislation

    They have done this despite knowing that it will be terminal for their election prospects in 2013.. They do not care, placing the greater good as the important outcome.

    All members of the Australian government are to be congratulated for remaining steadfast against a hostile opposition and Murdoch press.

  46. Damien:

    For those that may be interested, Australia has introduced legislation for a carbon price, the so-called Clean Energy Future. It has passed the lower house (minority Labor government with the support of the Greens and independents) and is expected to pass the senate shortly.

    The policy aim is a reduction of CO2 by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020 (business-as-usual is expected to be 124% of 2000 levels by 2020). The headline is that it will introduce a price of $23/ton, (applied to the top 500 polluting companies), increasing by 2.5% above inflation until 2015, when it becomes a floating price. There are significant subsides to affected industries, notably the steel industry.

    Price rises for the average household are expected to be $10 per week. Compensation to households via tax cuts and pension increases offset this by $10 per week. Lower income households are over-compensated, higher-income households are under-compensated.

    The federal opposition Liberal/National* party coalition strongly opposes the introduction of the carbon price and promises to repeal the bill should they win government at the next election.

    * The Liberal Party in Australia is actually a conservative party whose philosophies are more in line with the British Conservatives of the USA Republicans. The name sometimes confuses international readers!

  47. David B. Benson:

    We have been over the following before here on Real Climate, but this time note that the irregated forests eventually mature and then the resulting wood could be converted to biochar for long term sequestration.

    Irrigated afforestation of the Sahara and Australian Outback to end global warming

  48. RichardC:

    35 Craig says, “Where, specifically, have environmentalists caused significant delay to the fight against anthropogenic global climate change”

    The proposed wind farm off of Cape Cod is a grand example. The Kennedys, amongst others, don’t want their views altered. They seem to think that other people’s views should be altered but not their own. This project also highlights the high cost of offshore wind power. Cape Wind will sell intermittent power at around 20 cents per KWH wholesale, which is more than double the price of non-intermittent power – and that’s after huge subsidies. So are we willing to ruin our views and triple the cost of electricity? What choice do we have? Nuclear/Thorium? Oops, there’s another example where environmentalists have impeded a low-carbon alternative.

    Besides, what is the benefit? There are plenty of countries in the world, and most of them don’t have the luxury to absorb a tripling of energy costs. They’ll scoop up any fossil fuels we don’t use. India’s stance is fair and logical. They say they’ll keep per capita CO2 emissions no higher than the USA’s. The result? Most fossil fuels will be used up. Saudi et al aren’t going to stop selling their only product! Tar sand pipelines and increased drilling is the plan for Obama’s USA! Reducing fossil fuel production (and it’s production, not consumption that is key) will always be “a good idea, but not right now, and certainly not for us”. Oil costs $6-$40 and sells for $100. Who’s going to stop producing with those numbers? Renewables, uranium, and thorium will only be used to make up for increased energy demand and the inevitable decline in fossil fuel production as resources get depleted.

    In the end, the cost of inaction might be minimal. Each additional ppm of CO2 is less damaging to the atmosphere than the previous one and we’ll end up tossing sulphur in the atmosphere to compensate as best we can. Geoengineering is cheap, and cheap wins. Let’s just hope that ocean acidification doesn’t kill off too much sea life.

    [Response: You’re kidding right? –Jim]

  49. Kevin McKinney:

    #37–Davos: “I don’t remember saying that continued coal use is inevitable.”

    Correct, sir. It was actually Donald Condliffe who said (approximately) that. More exactly, he wrote: “Every fossil fuel source available is increasing production to the extent feasible.” (Not true, although it’s closer to true than I’d like.)

    Anyway, sorry for the misattribution.

  50. Susan Anderson:

    Aging technocrat Freeman Dyson is well outside his area of expertise – an argument for treating scientists as humans with the usual share of foibles.

    It is unfortunate that the denial industry has figured out that they can shoot little darts in all directions and get those working on solutions to mistrust each other. This is not surprising or new in propaganda expertise. I’m not saying we’re not prone to building too many walls around our positions, just that all too often the comments are a disingenuous or naively adopted from sources whose motives are hidden enough to deceive.

    It’s getting increasingly unrealistic to keep pointing away from the catastrophic nature of consequences already under way (water, food, and vast numbers of homeless around the globe), though I can see it’s not very helpful to just stand around saying doom doom doom.

    The gold dust being sprinkled about is stupid and dangerous, but the chances of anyone giving up their accelerating “need” for entertainment, comfort and unnecessary conveniences are slim to none.

  51. Septic Matthew:

    6, Pete Dunkelberg: The cost of delay? Everything. example:

    If I had a $1trillion to devote, and I could ensure that it was actually spent on the projects that I chose (as opposed to simply being embezzled by governments), I would ensure that at least $400billion went to flood control (including reforestation) and irrigation projects in places like California, the Indus valley, and the headwaters of the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Mekong, Irrawaddy and other places where there are alternations of too much and too little water. These floods will recur even if CO2 emissions are reduced, just as they always have occurred. It would be criminal to spend enormous sums of money on CO2 reduction in the industrial and developing worlds and watch the floods and droughts continue to kill people year after year.

    I would indeed make sure that the irrigation/flood control projects were complete or well underway before increasing the investments in alternative energies.

    How would you, or others, allocate the money first, and how do you know that it would have a beneficial effect? The US and EU could halve their CO2 output without affecting global warming.

  52. Septic Matthew:

    Oh, I liked the Stephen Pacala and Robert Socolow paper when it first appeared in part because of the diversity of approaches. Not every place has to implement every wedge technology for the whole to work together.

  53. R. Gates:

    Being a student of both climate and politics, and watching what is unfolding on both the national and international political stages, I am not encouraged that any “wedges” will be implemented or planned for any time soon. Currently the pendulum of public and political opinion has turned against decisive action on any sort of mitigation of CO2. Helping to nudge this pendulum away from action are both economic and political forces, domestic and international, combined with the plan fact that climate change, was and still is equated primarily with global warming, and we all know that there has been a rather well-publicized flat-lining of global temperatures over the past decade. Regardless of the cause of this flat-lining (aerosols from China, frequent La Nina’s, a quiet sun etc.), it has taken a bit of the urgency of the need for CO2 “wedges” off the front burner of public perception. Combined with all the aforementioned issues has of course been the rather tepid global economy, which has caused no small measure of disruption and pain to millions of people, such that the issue of CO2 and climate change is now registering barely a collective yawn.

    As I’ve been saying for years…for CO2 and climate change to become once more a front-burner issue, it will have to force its way back into the collective consciousness of humanity through a clear, unequivocal, and rather painful wrap on the side of our collective heads. Until this happens, expect an increasingly cool public and political reception to the issue. Let’s just hope such a wrap– when and if it comes– isn’t a knock-out punch instead.

  54. Scott Wesley:

    We have a bio source system that has ZERO CARBON EMISSIONS, which takes most any bio source and eliminates it and converts to renewable energy. MP BioMass can take; fly ash~coal ash, lawn debris, wood chips, petroleum waste, sludge, garbage, and more and thermal chemically process it to electricity which can be funneled into the grid, oxygen ~ grade 5, and methanol. We have been doing this since 2003, have facilities models to prove it, and have one of the finest scientific foundations and engineering firms in the world backing us. Please feel free to visit us at Facebook!

    Scott Wesley

  55. Edward Greisch:

    Davos: There is a fight we don’t want to get into again here. We have been down that road before. Let’s let people find out for themselves, as they must anyway, before they will understand.

    I just finished reading “Prescr_iption for the Planet” by Tom Blees, 2008. I think burning boron to power vehicles has been discussed before here, but it was some time before my time here. I have the impression that boron is too brittle to be made into wire.

    Davos: See:

    The cost of inaction could be extreme if BPL is correct, and I think he is. The growth of deserts is a cubic equation. That means that, by the time most people “get it,” we will be into a steeper part of the curve. That is what worries me sick.

  56. prokaryotes:

    Re raypierre comment #30, the 1st link is to an assessment from Climate Progress about several studies, mainly the IEA June report and a NCAR study and the peer-reviewed Cornell study.

    And then there are question’s:
    What is the leakage rate for methane? Well, as I’ve written, we don’t know exactly because the gas companies won’t release all of their data. ses-warming-for-decades/

    Among other implications
    Uranium in Groundwater? ‘Fracking’ Mobilizes Uranium in Marcellus Shale

    or about groundwater fracking in general, as outlined in the movie Gasland. Or about the affirmed connection from hydraulic fracturing and earthquakes. With all this to bet on Natural Gas as a bridge fuel, seems kind of naive. I suggest to open a topic on alternative forms of energy and technologies which can make the transition to an zero and negative emission scenario.

    [Response: The Howarth study may be peer-reviewed, but that doesn’t make it right. There are a number of comments coming out in the same journal shortly pointing out what is wrong with the study, which relies both on poor estimates of leakage rates and inflates the impact in part by using short-term global warming potential. But I would go beyond even most of the criticisms to date, because even the critics of Howarth are still for the most part using 100 year Global Warming Potential, which significantly overstates the relative importance of methane and CO2. When you burn coal you release CO2 directly, and that changes the climate substantially for the next 10,000 years or more. In contrast, the radiative forcing methane released by leakage from frakking disappears almost completely within a decade after emissions. That makes methane a big winner over coal if you look at what climate you’re stuck with in the years past 2100, until the leakage rate gets pretty darn close to 100%. Note that I am not disputing the other environmental risks from frakking. Those are real, and need to be taken seriously. But people who are worried about effects of frakking on water pollution should make their case based on real environmental damages, not on scientifically unsound and trumped up charges of frakked methane being worse than coal burning. –raypierre]

  57. Ricki (Australia):

    7 years delay = 50 ppm extra. Although I am speaking to the converted here, this is just another bad news tale for global warming. Tackling the denial that we are in is a big hurdle. I tend to agree with Lovelock that we are too stupid, but then the fact that we go to war already establishes our level of intelligence.

    I lament that we may lose such a beautiful world through our own stupidity, which is why I keep fighting for more action.

    The Gillard Govt is passing the start of a new way of doing things in Australia – a cap and trade system. Unfortunately the target is set at 5% which is not even the 15% Aust committeed to at Copenhagen. At least it is a start.

    A cap and trade system is the best economic solution as it uses competition to find the most economical solutions to reduce emissions. Lets hope it works.

  58. Ricki (Australia):

    PS. I mean it’s new for Aust (not a new idea).

  59. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Septic Matthew @ 51, Thank you for noticing the example I posted back @ 6, but I am surprised that you take the “don’t focus on reducing on CO2 because it’s rained before” approach. You didn’t just discover this issue today. Aren’t you aware that floods have increased? Check this
    if you missed it. And have you some idea of why? I think you do.

    Major cities are often located on the seacoast or in river valleys. I think you know enough about climate change to realize if you just give a little more thought that delay in reducing CO2 emissions is likely to lead to the necessity of not just flood controls but the relocation of most large cities.

  60. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Septic Matthew @ 51, I am astounded that you repeat such absurdities as “It would be criminal to spend enormous sums of money on CO2 reduction in the industrial and developing worlds and watch the floods and droughts continue to kill people year after year.” You write as if you have no idea why floods just happen to be increasing in intensity, and no awareness that this is expected, for good reason, to keep getting worse due our energy-related habits. SM, the whole thesis of the top post here is that reducing emissions saves money and much else. The full costs of fossil fuels are not acknowledged in the official cost of energy, but are paid nonetheless. You perversely inject the opposite, but false, assertion that using less fossil energy = “spending enormous sums”. Replacing old, polluting coal fired power plants with renewable energy sources, using renewables for new power plants, instituting “feed in tariff” for rooftop solar power and so on will benefit humanity.

  61. Davos:

    @ #55 … I think the failure of the nation to get the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility off (or under) the ground highlights the extreme conflict and complexity that challenges so many of these wedges that Socolow presents more matter-of-factly than I’d like. I mean really… if a project can be nixed because of a lack of a plan for what happens in year 12011 (yes, 10,000 years from now), then anything is susceptible.

    It’s obvious that no one WANTS to live next to or near any of this stuff…but someone’s go to.

    One of the problems that I see for the US relative to many other places in the world is that we have a Constitution that guarantees due-process afforded to every citizen. In this way, believing that a pervasive scheme of mass-convincing by itself is what we need to get the job done is wrong-headed.

    Even if 80% majorities wholly desire a certain energy infrastructure to be located in their district, it can STILL fail because of very few well-informed and well-financed individuals knowledgeable about the litigation process. Endless appeals and staggered demands for proper process and impact studies, etc. (there should be at least several of you who know exactly what I’m talking about). One litigant pursuing their due-process rights infront of a sympathetic judge is all that it takes. Even legislation enacted to consolidate the appeals process can itself be challenged in court.

    It just sounds like the places that can achieve real deployment on any scale necessary happen to be communist and monarchical countries. I don’t see ‘due-process’ being eliminated any time soon.

    Since all of us live all over the world, we should look inward to see what we advertise to our communities as to what’s really important. If eliminating the harmful side-effects of energy strategy xyz is MORE important than its contribution toward future CO2 stabilization, then you need to understand there is at least one person living in every other place on this Earth (including where you prefer that technology instead be deployed) that feels the same way. Unless YOU change what you’re willing to sacrificially permit near your home, it’s not going to matter what is published in academia regarding ‘wedges’ because there’s going to just continue to be costly ‘inaction’.

    A serious question… If everyone who lurks and posts on this board were to be truly honest… If we eliminate all energy sources that at least one person objects to if it were near them, what are we left with that is “acceptable”? It appears that we’re down to just solar, no?

    [Response: You seem to think entirely in terms of large energy generating facilities. A number of these wedges don’t involve this, specifically increased energy use efficiency, reduced tillage, reduced deforestation, and reduced total energy use. And some of the others don’t necessarily imply centralization, or if they do, they can be located in relatively remote locations, and/or their local impacts are not as adverse as are those from existing facilities, coal plants for example. The other point is that Pacala and Socolow weren’t attempting to address the social issues you’re raising–they were addressing only what’s technically feasible. So that criticism is misguided–Jim]

  62. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Septic Matthew @ 51, It is as if although you know many details, you just can’t or won’t put them all together. I am reminded of something it says here:

    Failure of imagination is equally evident in our prolonged refusal to act on global warming. Collectively, we have proven incapable of imagining either the future we are headed for, or the alternative pathways that could save us, even though scientists and economists, using critical reason, have developed very good pictures of what lies ahead. Thus, the problem is not a lack of information, but a lack of capacity to grasp that information as a coherent whole, which is the very foundation of our capacity for imagination.

  63. Pete Dunkelberg:

    A reminder on denialism. Delay is the bottom line.

    Delayers may argue that they are not deniers, based on out of date dictionary definitions. Denialism is now a defined technical term best explained here. It is a business model developed by the tobacco industry. Recall that the tobacco industry had analyzed all the data and knew of the pernicious effects of their product all along. It would be very surprising if Big Carbon has not analyzed all the data. If there were any scientific support for denial, they would publish it. They must know that their extreme profits can not continue indefinitely, but like the tobacco industry they can prolong the money stream for decades with the consequence (evidently acceptable to them) of “giving the whole world cancer.”

  64. R. Gates:

    This article from today’s New York Times sums the issue up quite well:

  65. Radge Havers:

    “a lack of capacity to grasp that information as a coherent whole, which is the very foundation of our capacity for imagination.”

    There’s productive imagination, then there’s imagination that has slipped a cog and runs free. I can’t help thinking that there’s something cultish in the way that denialists thrash about in the data. It’s like they’re playing records backwards in order to find proof that Paul is Dead…

  66. Ernst K:

    raypierre in response to 42:

    “Your figures are based on recoverable fraction at current prices and current technology. ”

    Not really. They are based on what could be strongly argued is a highly aggressive plan to develop the tar sands as fast as possible for the foreseeable future. The Alberta economy is bursting at the seams trying to keep up with the labour demands required to put all the infrastructure in place to produce even 3 million barrels per day, let alone 5 million, or the 50 million that would be required to develop the entire resource in 100 years. It’s a bit of a coincidence that 5 million barrels a day for 100 years works out to the 10% of the resource that is currently recoverable. But the facts on the ground in Alberta are that no one is proposing to produce oil at a rate in excess of 5 million barrels a day.

    “If the tar sands were to become fully recoverable by some combination of higher price and more advanced technology (both of which would also increase the production rate) then your numbers would go up by a factor of ten”

    Increasing the recoverable reserve would not necessarily result in an equivalent increase in the rate of production because Alberta is not a regulation-free no-mans-land. You wouldn’t be able to develop 1 barrel of that increased reserve without government approval. Also, having the technology to remove 100% of a pool rather than just 10% of a pool is not the same thing as being able to increase the production rate by 10 times. Usually it means being able to produce the pool for 10 times longer.

    While it’s likely that economic reserves will increase the recoverable reserves somewhat, the vast majority of the tar sands that are not currently recoverable are “not recoverable” for reasons of basic physics: too deep to be surface mined and too viscous to be pumped. As the price goes up, companies will be willing to hang around longer to put the extra effort in to produce another barrel of oil from their lease. They already have every incentive to produce as fast as possible.

    And all this ignores the simple fact that almost all of this increased production will go to supply US demand, and it’s US demand for oil that encourages development of the tar sands. The tar sands will not be producing anywhere near 50 million barrels per day unless the US continues to demand it.

    The full volume of tar sands reserves is only a threat if we assume that we will completely exploit all available oil sources before switching over to alternative, greener energy sources. But if you believe that, then you’ve already given up on any hope of staying below 450 ppm, let alone 350 ppm. Whatever needs to be done to keep CO2 at these levels will also heavily discourage massive development of the tar sands.

    Personally, I think that Alberta can responsibly develop up to 5 or 10% of the total tar sands resource over the coming century without having much impact on global CO2 levels. This is actually more than enough to keep Alberta awash in oil royalties for as long as oil remains a valuable resource while it struggles to manage the significant local socio-environmental impacts.

    I fully agree that developing any more than that would be increasingly irresponsible and 100% would be a total disaster (both globally and especially locally).

  67. Davos:

    Jim @61 … I agree with you that criticism specifically of what Socolow has published is misguided if I declare they have avoided the critical task of deducing what could be ‘really possible’ without a social paradigm shift on the part of both polluter-supporters and NIMBY environmentalists– because that indeed was not their intent.

    I also agree I’m not concentrating as much on the wedges that are not related to energy facility and infrastructure…

    If we’re just talking about strategies that involve conservation, efficiencies, etc. we’ll be looking at only about 6 wedges (perhaps more if you include CO2 storage for already existing facilities). At some point, there needs to be this change in conversation that puts the elephant in the room of ‘how’ wedge technology is really going to work. (If not Socolow, then someone like him, writing a different piece with this goal).

    If the point is to just say flatly that “we have the technology” and “if only” and leave it at that, point taken (but I would say that’s what’s misguided). We know that waving the wand isn’t going to work. Wishing we all were communist/monarchical isn’t going to work. And, at this point, wishing everyone understood the true gravity of the situation isn’t going to work (because we know people who do and yet still put local inaction as more important/valuable).

    We also have the ‘technical’ ability to eliminate 1/2 of the world’s population. That would be a ‘wedge’ too ;) (clearly there is at least some sociology on the table).

  68. dhogaza:

    Personally, I think that Alberta can responsibly develop up to 5 or 10% of the total tar sands resource

    I’ve seen it from the air, from somewhere between 35,000 and 39,000 feet. They’ve not been responsibly developing it thus far, why would one imagine they will in the future?

  69. Septic Matthew:

    59, Pete Dunkelberg: Aren’t you aware that floods have increased?

    The evidence that floods have increased is very poor.

    60, Pete Dunkelberg: You write as if you have no idea why floods just happen to be increasing in intensity, and no awareness that this is expected, for good reason, to keep getting worse due our energy-related habits.

    China, to pick one example, has managed to save millions of people (compared to losses in the early decades of the 20th century) through building its current flood control system. Other places where floods occur should do the same.

  70. prokaryotes:

    Re #56 Raypierre, you may be right that coal is the greater evil here, but really does that help? I mean we have to reduce emissions, and to do this with “emissions”, seems kind of a panache. Also observation suggest, that certain deposits are really unstable once you start open them. And then there is the problem of high water usage required to “frack”.

    DEEP in the Arctic Circle, in the Messoyakha gas field of western Siberia, lies a mystery. Back in 1970, Russian engineers began pumping natural gas from beneath the permafrost and piping it east across the tundra to the Norilsk metal smelter, the biggest industrial enterprise in the Arctic.

    By the late 70s, they were on the brink of winding down the operation. According to their surveys, they had sapped nearly all the methane from the deposit. But despite their estimates, the gas just kept on coming. The field continues to power Norilsk today.

    And then the fact that the energy infrastructure is a great leaker as well.

    Video: More than 8 billion cubic metres of natural gas are lost in the US each year

    [Response: One of course shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that natural gas is a fossil fuel and still produces CO2. It is true that emissions need to eventually drop to “essentially zero,” but any action that even reduces the rate of emission growth puts off the day when we hit our trillion tonne threshold, and buys time to develop more decarbonization technology. Switching from coal to gas does this, because gas produces less CO2 per unit of energy produced, can be burned more efficiently, and can be used in conjunction with cogeneration schemes. Gas plants have lower capital cost than coal, and so can be more easily written down when something better comes along. And gas plants start up fast, so they provide a good complement to renewables, up to the point when renewables make up a substantial portion of the feed (at which point you start to need serious storage on the grid). Already in the US very few new coal plants are planned, because gas has become cheap enough that the lower capital cost and lower neighborhood resistance makes them the first choice. From my investigation of electricity choices in Illinois, it also appears that newly installed wind power beats the cost of newly installed coal (considering full lifecycle), which also undercuts the need for more coal. Main question there is when we run out of places to put new wind farms. So, gas isn’t a panacea, but it’s a step forward from what we have. I think a bigger issue with frakking (besides the water pollution) is whether the amount of gas that can be recovered using this technology has been way overestimated. –raypierre]

  71. Septic Matthew:

    60, Pete Dunkelberg: Replacing old, polluting coal fired power plants with renewable energy sources, using renewables for new power plants, instituting “feed in tariff” for rooftop solar power and so on will benefit humanity.

    I would recommend the other $600B for diverse wedges, including increased solar in the U.S. as the coal-fired plants are replaced. But only after the flood control projects are well under way. Notice, that’s $600B additional to what is happening now. I would also recommend a feed-in tariff for solar electricity, but I would have it low in recognition of the costs of maintaining the grid; if it worked for a while, then I would possibly raise it. I saw news of a new solar farm with an installed cost (if the news item is correct) of $1.57 per kw. Solar will soon be price competitive against every method of generating electricity in the daytime, when in fact electricity is most used.

    If you could direct $1trillion, how would you direct it?

  72. Russell:

    Pacala and Socolow’s original study paid little attention to the internal variability of its largest fuel term. Given the rapid growth of coal consumption since 2004, it is increasingly important to recognize that there is presently no incentive to minimize the carbon to hydrogen ratio of the coal that is electively mined. If markets favored high hydrogen coals to the exclusion of more carbonaceous varieties , substitution might enable CO2 savings , on a constant BTU energy scenario basis , of a substantial fraction of a wedge globally.

    Such an emissions reduction could be simply regulated , If carbon taxes featured a rebate for the heat generated by hydrogen combustion. The potential CO2 savings is much larger than one might initially imagine, because coal composition statistics are calculated in weight per cent.

    To realize the actual hydrogen to carbon combustion ratios, the small percentage of hydrogen [ typically 2 to 5% ] must of course be multiplied by the ratio of the atomic weights of carbon and hydrogen, before going on to the combustion energy and and stochiometry factors.

    though the potential reduction is not so great as the contrast between the outliers– remember that unsaturated and cyclic hydrocarbons can have C:H ratios of 1:1 ! — ,anthracite and highly bitumenous coals are rare, the very large set of unexploited higher-volatile deposits has the potential to afford whole % reductions in global emissions. The coal market is vast and easy to demonize, but hydrogen is where you find it, and at the margin emissions may be mitigated by promoting its combustion at the expense of carbon.

  73. Pete Dunkelberg:

    SM @ 69, you referred to 59 but ignored the link there. Then you changed the subject. No one is objecting to flood control measures. Governments and societies must do many things including that. You earlier statement strongly implied that other important things like using renewable energy would be criminal because, somehow, flood control is also needed. Your swipe at energy source changes (not mentioned directly but implied) and support for delay is the reason for my comments above.

  74. Miguelito:

    Thank you, Raypierre, for stating the obvious about the Cornell/Howarth shale-gas GHG emissions study. Another excellent refutation is Jiang et al. 2011 in Environmental Science and Technology (they don’t address the Howarth study specifically, but they do use a proper and realistic methodology with good assumptions).

    The Howarth study is another example of scientists publishing in a field they have no background in and the result is an atrociously bad and misleading paper. Then the media runs with it, not checking with experts in the field about its veracity, and it becomes another internet meme that has to be repeatedly bebunked.

    And I agree, there are environmental controversies with gas drilling, but the coal vs. gas argument isn’t one of them.

  75. Kevin McKinney:

    #61, 67–“It appears that we’re down to just solar, no?”

    Sadly, no–there are those who see solar farms as some kind of ecological scorched earth thing, too. (And who have said so on this forum.)

    But law is not actually the main factor in ‘What Gets Done’ in a functioning democracy, though it is a crucial part of the puzzle. Political and social “givens” are just as important, if not more so. If we had 80% agreement on the mainstream science, overt obstructionism would become very costly indeed for its practitioners–folks get very upset if they think their kids are at risk, and they say so, very loudly indeed.

    Nor does obstructionism avail forever. Controversial public works projects do get built, even if objectors get their due process first.

    So I don’t think that we need to wring our hands unduly about democracies and free markets being ‘Unable To Act.’ In fact, they will probably be the nimblest, if the situation ever does become clear to the kinds of majorities posited.

    The question is, will the situation become sufficiently clear sufficiently soon? And that’s probably unknowable until well after the fact.

  76. Pete Dunkelberg:

    By the way SM, if you didn’t mean your # 51 the way I took it, that great, and I apologize for misunderstanding you. Here’s a little fun as compensation:

  77. Hank Roberts:

    > “… the gas just kept on coming …”

    But you can’t rely on New Scientist for science.

    They’re an entertainment niche publication.

    Mystery? Is there really a mystery there?

    Check the actual published work.

    Look for more recent articles.

    Reposting old info doesn’t go far toward informing people about what’s known.

    Ask some questions about the stuff you find.

    Did the gas keep on coming? (was the article right?)
    Was there really a mystery? (was it an entertainment article?)

    Is gas evolving there still (is the article outdated?)
    Is it the same gas? (can you tell methane from petroleum from methane from gas hydrates?)

    Why did the gas just keep on coming?
    Was there just more than expected?

    Or, considering the location, did they destabilize a gas hydrate deposit?

    Or did warming in the area destabilize gas hydrates, and since there were already wells tapping the site, they collected that gas as it was released?

    Looking it up:

    Looks like there are answers to the obvious questions in the literature.

  78. Hank Roberts:

    In fact — judging by the bit Scholar excerpts from this paywalled article found with the above search — releasing the pressure by tapping a gas reservoir can make hydrates start to release more gas:

    Towards Commercial Gas Production from Hydrate Deposits
    [PDF] from
    J Marcelle-De Silva… – Energies, 2011
    “… nature of gas hydrate dissociation. The production from the Messoyakha field of West Siberia (a Class 1 type deposit) has been attributed to simple depressurization of natural gas hydrates overlying a free gas zone which was on production [63,64]. …”

    Choosing to use frakking to break open strata rather than tapping gas out of reservoirs under permafrost probably depends more on where the company has leases than on what makes sense environmentally for the global atmosphere.
    Ya think?
    “Biologically rational decisions may not be politically possible once investment has occurred.” Science v315, 5 Jan. 2007, at 45

  79. Hank Roberts:

    PS, again recommending Google’s natural language search feature, which keeps getting better.

    On occasion I try to remember to take my own advice.

    Feeding it the question I asked above:

    Seems to be possible:

    “… The methane in clathrates typically has a bacterial isotopic signature and highly variable d13C (-40 to -100‰), with an approximate average of about -65 ‰ (Kvenvolden, 1993; Dickens et al., 1995; Matsumoto, 1995)…..”

    –Aside, RC’s 2005 post is on the first page of results:

  80. Russell:

    I don’t think the wedges approach is the best way to approach the problem, for the following reasons:
    Imagine an analogy where instead of having to find carbon savings quickly, you have to earn money by a deadline quickly. Now the best way to do that would be to find a job with a high hourly rate and work all the hours there are at it. If you were offered a job at $100 per hour you wouldn’t say “Great, that’s one wedge, I will work 10 hours a week at this, then look for another job.” You would try to spend all the time you could doing it. If the job was only available for 10 hours then you would look for others, perhaps paying less but not unless you had to.
    A similar thing applies to technologies to combat climate change. For example if solar continues its exponential growth, and rapid drop in price, you should do as much of it as you possibly can as soon as you can without trying to get some balance between solutions. It can power the world many times over so could quite possibly end up being the lions share of the solution.
    It is the nature of technological progress that it is very unlikely that the problem will be solved equally by many approaches. Some or even one is bound to win out by a large margin over the others.
    Here are some possibilities:
    1. Solar becomes cheaper than coal in most places. If this happens then energy storage becomes more important than anything else e.g. for storing power when the sun isn’t shining and for electric cars.
    2. Offshore wind or jet stream wind becomes effective and cheap. Similar to 1, energy storage now the most important challenge.
    3. Modular nuclear works. Once again, batteries for electric cars are needed.
    4. Air capture of CO2 will either work well or not at all, it is unlikely that it will say remove 20% of extra CO2 from the air, rather than 0.1% or 100%. Its the nature of our technology, exponential growth and cost reductions that it won’t stay at 20%. If it gets there in some sensible amount of time, its reasonable to assume it will then go on to pretty much solve the whole problem. If it is cost effective at 20%, then why not 150%?
    Here is how I would approach the problem.
    1. Recognize that solutions grow exponentially not linearly. Once a technology works it will pull ahead, that should be encouraged.
    2. Look ahead for potential road blocks to such growth. The obvious one for pretty much all renewables is cheap grid storage/batteries. Money should be spent on solving this before it comes a road block.
    3. Spend more on unexplored technologies that could scale. One example is jet stream wind. The other is air capture. Far too little has been spent on air capture yet it is part of the plan. Spending 100’s of millions per year on this is entirely justified to find out whether it will work.
    4. Focusing on growing a solution rapidly is more effective and motivating to the public than focusing on cutting things that make CO2. This is widespread support for renewables, patchy support for carbon taxes etc. Energy efficiency is not enough and while worthwhile when it saves money is neither necessary nor sufficient to solve the problem. It is also obviously diminishing returns, but no one seems to acknowledge this. Because there is such a long way for a solution to grow, it must undergo a period of rapid and sustained exponential growth.
    While it is understandable, focusing on the current total emissions isn’t the most important thing in my mind.
    I think a situation where 10GT/Y of CO2 is emitted but renewables have grown from 1-30% would be a better situation to be in compared to one where 9GT/Y is emitted, but renewables have grown from 1-5% with the reduction coming from efficiency. Progress should be measured by growth of a solution, not the current size of the problem.

  81. Ray Ladbury:

    Davos, To contend, as you seem to want to, that birdwatchers with fieldglasses constitute a greater threat to our addressing the challenges of climate change than brownshirts and their political masters who refuse to acknowledge century-old physics is simply silly.

    To ignore the role of the media in bringing false balance into play, is absurd.

    And your profound ignorance of the shortcomings of Yucky Mountain as a Nuke suppository are entertaining to say the least. I’m all for a sensible nuclear plan, but let’s at least get one based on science rather than politics, shall we?

  82. prokaryotes:

    Correction to the True Cost of Coal Power – MMN11

    In short, the CO2 external costs estimated in MMN11 are extremely conservative. Nevertheless, they estimated that in the USA, coal combustion CO2 emissions cause an additional $15 billion in external damages per year which are not reflected in its market price. Had they used a more realistic SCC value, this figure would be much, much higher. This just reinforces our previous conclusion even further, that the economy would benefit by putting a price on CO2 emissions, thus allowing the free market to incorporate those (currently external) costs.

  83. prokaryotes:

    And then there are these kind of news about methane deposits.

    Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush

    Natural gas companies have been placing enormous bets on the wells they are drilling, saying they will deliver big profits and provide a vast new source of energy for the United States.

    But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells.

    In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves.

  84. prokaryotes:

    Raypierre the entire point about Natural gas is denial in face of the looming catastrophic climate change. We have to remove Co2 from the atmosphere, not contribute to it. Only because Natural Gas might have a lower Co2 impact does not change our situation. Using Natural gas is like fighting fire with oil.

    We need to transition to clean energy alternatives, such as Wind, Solar, Geothermal and Wave. Fossil Fuels are not a solution to our problems! Natural Gas is uncontrollable and flawed on many levels.

  85. Andy Revkin:

    I’m kind of surprised you didn’t note the extensive additional thoughts from Rob here, along with input from Ken Caldeira, David Victor, and many others:

    [Response: Thanks Andy.–Jim]

  86. Craig Nazor:


    Your statement (#37, #39): “Of course you can link to ‘other folks’ and ‘ecologists’ that are willing to look at the damage done to various green-energy projects by environmentalists that are prioritizing NIMBY concerns over that of the value of these initiatives.”

    Do you have any evidence that this is a significant problem with the search for ways to address AGCC? Or is your apparent “anti-environmentalism” merely political bias?

    With wind power, three objections that environmentalists might have are bird strikes, sound pollution, and esthetic placement. These are legitimate concerns, as they impinge on endangered species concerns and demonstrable quality of life issues (sound pollution particularly). Both the bird issue and sound issue are being researched, and strides have been made toward minimizing these impacts. Esthetics is a little more subjective, but we are having little problems in Texas with any of these issues as windmills are rapidly appearing along the Gulf coast.

    And, no, I don’t trust you, nor will I ask you to trust me – post your evidence.

    It seems to me that you are arguing that if humans want to successfully address the problem of AGCC, all we have to do is do what you tell us. You know, someone far, far more accountable than yourself once told America that nuclear energy would make electricity “too cheap to meter,” so pardon my skepticism.

    Without any evidence to back up your projections about what you believe that environmentalists want or how they will react, your argument is just hot air.

    And in #65 – are you trying to tell us that we must abolish due process in order to fight AGCC?

    You also might be interested in this:

    You have gotten now to the point that they are no longer merely “environmentalists,” they are “NIMBY environmentalists.” That borders on name-calling. Actually, many of my “environmentalist” friends are putting solar cells, passive hot-water heaters, skylights, etc. on their own roofs, and using the output fom the solar cells to power their homes and drive their electric vehicles, generating all their energy on site. That’s not quite the back yard, but it’s awfully close.

  87. Craig Nazor:


    I find it revealing that you would mention Ted Kennedy’s objection to wind farms but not Donald Trump’s objection to them:

    Ted Kennedy is a very dead Democrat and “The Donald” is a very live and outspoken Republican. Who is currently the bigger impediment to wind power, the live Republican or the dead Democrat?

    Do I detect a little bias here?

    I think that the real problem is that these people have (in Ted Kennedy’s case, had) a lot of money invested in their real estate. And in Trump’s case, he wants a return on his investment, and he believes that windmills will get in the way of that.

    In fact, I would argue that large monetary investments are one of the major impediments to addressing AGCC. Dirty carbon fuels are cheap right now because they are heavily subsidized through trillions of dollars worldwide in both public and private investments. If the true costs of the damage that these fuels are doing to the environment were factored in, clean, renewable energy sources would be very competitive, and the Pacala/Socolow wedges would become far easier to impliment.

    The reason that Thorium is not now being used as a source of nuclear energy has very little to do with environmentalists. Oops.

    In answer to your last paragraph, I can do no better than Jim’s response.

  88. George Blahusiak:

    Now all we need as a paper on the cost of getting it wrong.

    As for the replies, #7 has a good point. The trouble is, most people don‘t want to know.

    #12 got it partly right, but he doesn’t go far enough. The entirety of the CO2 argument is designed to allow us to do more with more people consuming more resources. It has essentially nothing to do with climate change. How do I know? Ans: No one has put forward a long term plan. Worse, the majority of the plans that are presented address only one small part of the problem, as if solving one small part of the problem means we have solved the whole problem.

    #15 has a good point, just like #7, and as in #7, most people simply don’t want to know.

    #46 Thank you for the detail. Unfortunately you got most of it wrong. The cost of carbon reduction is closer to $40 per week for every man woman and child, i.e., $160 per week for an average family. Of course if you count only part of the carbon then you get a far more optimistic, and far more useless, picture. Consider energy growth. Business as usual will give 124% increase by 2020? The last time I looked population growth alone was closer to 2% p.a.. That would mean 40% growth (assuming for simplicity linear growth) by 2020. Then you have to count industrial development, add another 1% p.a.. Then you have to add personal development, add another 1% p.a.. Let’s say 50% growth all up by 2020. That means every car has to get twice as much out of every litre of fuel, every light must be twice as efficient, every refrigerator must be twice as efficient, every air conditioner must be twice as efficient. But the situation is far, far worse. The amount of energy to produce every car must be reduced by 50%. The amount of energy to produce every refrigerator must be reduced by 50%. And yet that is still only part of the problem. The amount of energy to mine the ore that goes into the metal that is used to build these things must also be reduced by 50%. And the amount of energy to refine those ores must also be reduced by 50%. And the amount of energy to transport those goods through all of those stages must also be reduced. The administrative overhead, from sales to management to public service must be reduced by 50%.

    And kindly do not tell me that it is the pollution industries that will pay this impost.

    When a mining company uses energy to dig up iron ore they use energy ON YOUR BEHALF.

    When a food store uses energy to run their stores they use energy ON YOUR BEHALF.

    When the government builds a road they use energy ON YOUR BEHALF.

    When a car company uses energy to build a car they use energy ON YOUR BEHALF.

    When an appliance company uses energy to build a washing machine, or refrigerator, or air conditioner, or DVD player, or television, they use energy ON YOUR BEHALF.

    Oh, wait. There is a report called Zero Carbon Australia. It says we can reduce our carbon footprint by driving less, say only 8000 kms a year. Say goodbye to the tourist industry. But tourism employs only 500,000 people. Shouldn’t have to much impact on unemployment. Not.

    #48 got a lot close to the truth. In order to go renewable Australia will have to build 300,000 wind turbines by 2050, at a cost of ~$2Tr. That’s 1 turbine every 10 metres between Perth and Melbourne. But hey, if we put fairy lights on them they might look rather fetching. The unemployed can look at them and know that they are doing something for the environment.

    Renewable energy isn’t going to cut it. And it isn’t carbon neutral either.

    Oh, and finally, about rising sea levels. The way I see it, even if ALL of the currently postulated energy imbalance were poured into the Greenland ice cap it would still take 80 years for it to melt. I figure 200 years, or more, would be a far more likely scenario. If people can’t get out of the way by then, well, perhaps we would be better off without them. Harsh? Sure. But why carry an anchor made of granite while trying to swim.

    It’s either that, or addressing the real problem. I’m sure I need not elaborate.

  89. Septic Matthew:

    71, myself: of $1.57 per kw.

    That was an installed cost of $1.57 per watt of power.

    76, Pete Dunkelberg: By the way SM, if you didn’t mean your # 51 the way I took it, that great, and I apologize for misunderstanding you.

    Large sums of money are discussed. For the kins of money discussed, it can’t all be raised and allocated in short order, so there has to be some focus and priority. I would focus on the flood control and irrigation first. In terms of the theme of this thread, that would contribute to the perceived cost of procrastination. Since floods and droughts will recur in any scenario, I think it is the best order of business.

  90. Edward Greisch:

    61 Davos: You are off on a forbidden topic again. Please read “Prescr_iption for the Planet” by Tom Blees, 2008. The IFR eats nuclear waste.
    “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007

    book: “Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy”


    And no, there are objections to solar. Something will change when the population as a whole gets mad enough.

    But see this objection to coal:
    Coal contains: URANIUM, ARSENIC, LEAD, MERCURY, Antimony, Cobalt, Nickel, Copper, Selenium, Barium, Fluorine, Silver, Beryllium, Iron, Sulfur, Boron, Titanium, Cadmium, Magnesium, Thorium, Calcium, Manganese, Vanadium, Chlorine, Aluminum, Chromium, Molybdenum and Zinc. There is so much of these elements in coal that cinders and coal smoke are actually valuable ores. We should be able to get all the uranium and thorium we need to fuel nuclear power plants for centuries by using cinders and smoke as ore. Unburned Coal also contains BENZENE, THE CANCER CAUSER. We could get all of our uranium and thorium from coal ashes and cinders. The carbon content of coal ranges from 96% down to 25%, the remainder being rock of various kinds.

    67 Davos: “If the point is to just say flatly that “we have the technology” and “if only” and leave it at that, point taken (but I would say that’s what’s misguided). We know that waving the wand isn’t going to work.”
    Davos: We are trying to avoid a local war of nuclear vs wind & solar, if you don’t mind. So raypierre, please edit Davos from now on.

    raypierre: Thanks for the info on methane leak rates. But according to Aiguo Dai and BPL, we do not have time to change energy sources twice. Natural gas would have been good in 1930.
    There are 2 wind turbines near Interstate 80 at Geneseo, Illinois. I go by there once or twice a month. On the average, it seems like one is turning. I recently read that you get an average of 17% of nameplate power out of a wind turbine.

    [Response: He wasn’t bringing up the “forbiden topic” of nuclear power except to use it as an example of his point of how difficult it is to implement some of the proposed wedges, because of various oppositions to them. Rather, you were the one who took that as an opportunity to promote your very obvious attachment to nuclear power, as well as another chance to get your “civilization is going to collapse in 50 years” viewpoint in, which I am getting exceedingly sick of, as it has no basis in anything but speculation. So for you to request other people be moderated out is ridiculous.–Jim]

  91. RichardC:

    84 Prok says, “We need to transition to clean energy alternatives, such as Wind, Solar, Geothermal and Wave. Fossil Fuels are not a solution to our problems! Natural Gas is uncontrollable and flawed on many levels.”

    Quite true. Add to this the economic reality that solar power is declining in price quite rapidly. There just isn’t any economic justification to expand natural gas utilization. By the time new gas comes online, solar will be cheaper, and the use of natural gas will just lessen the decrease in solar costs, so we’ll pay for expensive gas and also pay more for solar and wind! How much money do we want to waste developing fossil fuels? Pump the oil we’ve already drilled for. Keep the coal mines we’ve already built. Extract the natural gas we’ve got online. But NO NEW FOSSIL FUELS. NONE. They are a waste of money given the inexorable decline in renewable energy costs. And that’s not even counting the damage fossil fuels cause to the planet. The Keystone XL dinosaur would be an unmitigated disaster that would be abandoned perhaps a decade after completion from lack of demand as solar and wind drop in price while tar sands remain expensive. A total waste.

  92. Kevin McKinney:


    Um, no.

    You’ve conflated energy-use reduction with carbon emissions reduction. The two are not the same.

    And your repeated ‘on your behalf’ really doesn’t need all caps–it’s obvious enough already, thank you very much.

  93. SecularAnimist:

    Jim replied to comment #14: “That’s for stabilizing concentrations at a much lower than what Pacala and Socolow are aiming for: 500 (initially) and 550 (now)”

    It is my understanding that there is a plausible scientific case that there can be no such thing as “stabilizing” CO2 concentrations at 500 or 550, since those concentrations are sufficient to produce feedbacks that will guarantee further increases.

  94. Hank Roberts:

    Ocean pH change:

  95. Kevin O'Neill:

    #48 “…Australia will have to build 300,000 wind turbines by 2050, at a cost of ~$2Tr. That’s 1 turbine every 10 metres between Perth and Melbourne. But hey, if we put fairy lights on them they might look rather fetching. The unemployed can look at them and know that they are doing something for the environment.”

    Sounds like a $2 trillion jobs program, so perhaps the unemployed can work building and maintaining the turbines — or do the wind turbine fairies magically leave them under pillows for ecologically minded boys and girls? Were those talking points numbered or bulleted …

  96. George Blahusiak:

    RE: #93. Confusing energy use with carbon emission? OK, so some energy is not as carbon intensive as others. You think it doesn’t need caps? It’s in caps because the coal industry is being whipped from pillar to post as the bad guy when it isn’t. It is consumers (and the number of them) who are the bad guys. Trouble is, no one seems to want to admit it. That’s why it is in caps. It’s an atempt to get people to recognize the real problem instead of blaming someone else, or blaming their ‘injuries’, as sports people are prone to do, or blaming the GFC, as economists are prone to do, or blaming ‘the opposition’, as politicians are prone to do. It’s an attempt get people to face facts, to use their brains, not their emotions. If you have a better solution, please don’t be shy about telling the rest of us what it is. As for #96, I despair. I really do. Does anyone think that those people will not require energy, provided for in any one of the usual ways? Of course they will. And what will be the end result? By the time those wind turbines are built we will be in virtually the same position we are now, running around like chooks with our heads cut off, trying to blame someone else insead of looking at ourselves.

  97. Hank Roberts:

    > industry … the bad guy … it isn’t. It is consumers …
    > who are the bad guys.

    But we have that same problem with tobacco, lead, CFCs, DDT — you name it, it’s always the consumers who are causing the problem by buying what’s offered on the market.

    So you’re putting forth an old familiar critique of capitalism and markets: they offer cheap attractive problems and expensive unattractive solutions?

    That’s what they do.

    Look at the British East India Company’s history; they did that with the Colonies — the colonialists’ response was revolting, and successful.

    What alternative do you see, other than people gathering together as the colonialists did to form governments to deal with corporations?

    You can’t blame the consumer _and_ keep them helpless to organize, forever.

  98. David B. Benson:

    Oh me, oh my. Consider for now just electrical energy production. [When considering alternatives, do not forget those who live in apartments (flats), commericial needs and especially industrial needs.] By looking at actual data (sometimes in scarce supply in these discussions] I designed the following simplified and scaled electrical power grid. From 11 pm to 6 am the demand is a constant 10 GW; from 6 am to 11 pm the demand is a constant 14 GW. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to design the electrical generation required to energize this reference power grid using solely low carbon, scalable technologies. I know of only three: wind, solar and NPPs. And yes, the design has to provide reliable, on-demand power so you might include underground pumped hydro for storage although that is quite expen$ive, although less so than alternatives.

    Least cost alternative is the winner!

  99. Hank Roberts:

    “… “We’ve moved beyond trying to place blame, because that’s just an argument that will never be won,” said co-author Steven Davis of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. “The only way it’s ever going to get sorted out is if we can come up with anything resembling a consistent, unavoidable price on carbon that applies globally and then the chips will fall as they may.”

    The scientists analyzed fossil fuel extraction, combustion, and consumption in 112 countries and 58 industry sectors. They learned that 51 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions from human activities stemmed from fossil fuels or goods that were sent across borders to get to consumers.

    Incentive for big drillers and miners
    They found that 67 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions would be covered if regulation of fossil fuels was done at the point of extraction in China, the United States, the Middle East, Russia, Canada, Australia, and India. …”

  100. Davos:

    I’m afraid of being edited now, so not sure what to say.

    @ #81 … “No” Birdwatchers with field-glasses are not the greater threat. And, I’m not talking about the media’s false-balance.

    But, “Yucky Mountain” and Craig’s comments (87) make my point for me.

    @ #87 … My evidence for this being a “significant” problem is going to be difficult to produce for you, because of the shifting views of ‘significance’ and ‘importance’…Indeed, my point all along is that the view of the impending doom that lies ahead without CO2 mitigation below 550ppm can take a back seat to causes of things like “bird strikes”, “sound pollution”, and “esthetic placement”. If environmentalists take these positions on local levels, then so will non-environmentalists. In the end, there are enough issues that jeopardize the siting and deployment of practically any installation. Juxtapose that with the sheer massive deployment required in order to achieve mitigation– and we’ve got a problem.

    Here’s some evidence though…
    This is a link to more than 6000 energy installations or proposals that have been targeted. Considering the massive deployment necessity, I think this is an issue.

    And (obviously) carbon-heavy ‘dirty’ energy infrastructure is NOT off the hook here, but I’m willing to bet you for every clean energy installation you can find that is protested and litigated –on a local level– by a competing ‘dirty’ energy outfit, I can show you 2 or 3 that are protested and litigated on a local level by a concerned environmentalist. Are all their concerns legitimate? My point is: If so, then how can we ever get the deployment we need? Yes, the dirty energy industry is lobbying hard to keep their subsidies, and to denigrate any such funding for alternative energy. Perhaps the extra funding and guarantees may get clean energy industries over the hump when having to fight siting protests/litigation, but the point remains that the legion siting issue is more-or-less not a product of dirty energy– they obviously have to fight this too.

    …And my point in #65 is that an extreme minority of well-informed, well-heeled individuals is all that’s really required to pursue, delay, and litigate energy installations in our country. I’m not advocating for the abolition of due-process (at all), just merely pointing out why a place like China can more easily achieve deployment of any energy installation they want (I don’t think this is controversial).

    @ #91 … I guess it’s their right to edit me :/ …I don’t have a dog in any fight about which energy is ‘better’… Socolow’s wedge theory doesn’t either. The deployment NEEDS to be diverse and massive. There is where I begin my argument.

    [Response: You are fine–there’s nothing wrong with this discussion, you’ve made some good points, and we’re not here to promote a certain view on this. One thing I would say is that my guess would be that a lot of the “NIMBY environmentalists” who oppose local mitigation efforts likely do not really understand the significance of climate change, even though they would say otherwise.–Jim]

  101. Septic Matthew:

    73, Pete Dunkelberg: No one is objecting to flood control measures.

    Actually people do object.

  102. CM:

    Blahusiak #89,

    > The cost of carbon reduction is closer to $40 per week for every man
    > woman and child, i.e., $160 per week for an average family.

    The amount of FUDD some people will spread. Damien at #46 was talking about the actual carbon price legislation, A$23 per ton CO2, and giving an estimate that it might raise prices by $10 per household per week (to be offset by other measures).

    Let’s try to get a back-of-envelope upper bound for what this might cost Australians. Assume, for the sake of argument,
    1. that there are no carbon cuts cheaper than A$23/ton,
    2. that every ton CO2 emitted in Australia will be taxed, and
    3. that every cent of this price will be passed on to Australian consumers.

    Given Australian annual per capita CO2 emissions of a whopping 18.9 tons in 2008 (Wikipedia), you can just multiply by A$23/ton and divide by 52 weeks to get ~ A$8.40 per person per week as an unlikely upper limit. Given an average household size of 2.6 in 2006 (AIFS), it works out to ~ A$22 per household (or, if you prefer, ~ A$33 per four-member family).

    Now recall that this simplistic upper-bound estimate rests on three extreme assumptions, since in reality (1) carbon cuts come at a range of prices, starting with those that save money; (2) only 500 companies will pay; and (3) part of the cost will be taken out of profits, or passed on to consumers abroad through exports. On the other hand, the estimate ignores administration costs and various conceivable effects on the wider economy. Even so, Damien’s A$10 per household (before offsets) sounds reasonable; your A$40 per capita, not so much.

  103. Ray Ladbury:

    George Blahusiak: ” It’s in caps because the coal industry is being whipped from pillar to post as the bad guy when it isn’t.”

    Hmm. Massey Energy has the blood of a lot of miners on their hands. The Koch bros are up to their necks in denialists. Been through Appalachia of late? I can show you former mountain tops where nothing grows even after 20 years. Broadform deeds, anyone? Tailings ponds flooding towns?

    George, come on. I don’t throw the word “evil” around much, but Don Blankenship and the Koch brothers ought to have their pictures next to the word in the dictionary.

  104. Hank Roberts:

    > Septic Matthew says:
    >> Pete Dunkelberg: No one is objecting to flood control measures.
    > Actually people do object.

    Developers object vociferously to flood control measures that demonstrably do work in the longer term (reducing paving, minimizing runoff; keeping development out of floodplains).

    Ecology-minded types object vociferously to flood “control measures” that defer and increase flood damage, like trying to put a million cubic feet of river in a 200,000 cubic foot concrete-lined channel.

    It’s not like you can’t tell where the water will go when it goes.

  105. steve:

    #50 Maybe Dyson has a valid point – “Any increase of the price of energy hurts the poor far more than it hurts the rich. The ordinary citizen sees the subsidizing of expensive green energy projects as a welfare program for the rich”.

  106. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Septic Matthew @ 102, Are you just messing about? I think you can understand expressions. In fact no one in this conversation is objection to flood control measures as such, and although there may be someone somewhere who objects even to ice cream there is no general objection to flood control measures as such.

    It is obvious that particular cases should be evaluated based on all likely consequences, just as with any proposed action. If you dig up some case of some particular measure meeting some particular objection and present it as a “refutation” I will conclude that you are just arguing to argue.

  107. Pete Dunkelberg:

    Septic Matthew @ 90 says
    “I would focus on the flood control and irrigation first. In terms of the theme of this thread, that would contribute to the perceived cost of procrastination. Since floods and droughts will recur in any scenario, I think it is the best order of business.
    (emphasis added)

    This is at first glance a reasonable policy statement. The problems are packed in the word “first”. Of course in an emergency building a wall around Bangkok, say, takes priority. Outside of that type of emergency, there is no “first”. Nations and societies must do many things at once. Build both schools and roads, strenghten levies and convert to clean power sources.

    Stepping back and taking a slightly longer and broader view, we have an emergency in that our high and continuing use of fossil fuels is warming the atmosphere, which leads to more water vapor in the atmosphere, which leads to more floods until we address the cause. If we insist on just building higher levies “first”, in other words using that particular expense as an excuse not to address the cause, we can keep on doing that indefinitely or until the rising seas and rivers make a mockery of all our efforts.

  108. Kevin McKinney:

    #97–George, I have little time to respond to your last comment, unfortunately, much as I wish otherwise.

    However, let me note the contradiction that on the one hand you criticize others for failing to rely on logic and reason, and on the other, your own comments are much heavier on rhetoric than on the qualities you advocate. (The litany in caps I mentioned is one example–hardly information-dense; another is the “discussion” of Australia’s supposedly necessary “renewables strategy” of building wind turbines every 10 meters and putting “fairy lights” on them.)

    If you want a serious discussion, you’re hardly modeling for us what you say you desire. In fact, I still don’t really know what you are actually in favor of–nuclear energy? Population control? Zero economic growth? BAU?

    Despite your rhetorical flourishes–or perhaps because of them–I really can’t tell at this point.

  109. Hank Roberts:

    Is this the same George Blahusiak who writes reviews at Newstrust?

  110. Ray Ladbury:

    Yucky Mountain was never a suitable nuke repository–if there is even such a thing. It would have contaminated groundwater. It would also have filled up rapidly. That is what the sceince tells us. The politicians overruled the scientists. If we are serious about nuke disposal, reprocessing is essential. Please inform yourself.

  111. Hank Roberts:

    > … who oppose local mitigation efforts likely do not really
    > understand the significance of climate change, even though they
    > would say otherwise.–Jim

    Yep. “It is difficult to get a man to understand the significance of climate change, when his plans for improving his lovely home and manicured yard depend upon his not understanding it!”

  112. Kermit:

    2 degrees warmer will necessary for more plants and animals and for the >10 billion people we will have in the future. 390 ppm got us to 7 billion and record crop production. Once the fossil fuels run out how will we keep CO2 in the 500-600 ppm range?

  113. sam marshall:

    @davos – I don’t think it’s mainly ‘environmentalists’ standing up against wind farms. I think the main opposition is just regular locals. How many people are seriously committed to the environment – maybe 5%? How many people are much more worried about keeping the price of their house sky-high – maybe 50%?

    It’s a disturbing trend because ‘not complaining when somebody wants to put up a wind farm (non-polluting, relatively quiet and pretty, causing little traffic) that you can see from your house’ is pretty much the least amount of positive effort/inaction it’s possible to contribute on behalf of the planet. And for a large number of people, even that is too much.

    Not really much to do with science, this, I guess…

  114. Septic Matthew:

    104, Hank Roberts & 106 Pete Dunkelberg,

    I think that you need to get together. Especially for Hank Roberts, perhaps a clear distinction between “flood control” and flood control would be a good idea. I think that “flood control” is something that someone might actually want to invest in.

    In the mean time, the Sierra Club opposes building either “flood control” or flood control everywhere.

    I think that advocates of CO2 control have lost the argument everywhere except the EU and Australia (excepting a few places in Africa and S. America where advocates expect to receive transfers of money.) In the 10 years it will take you to win back majority support, better flood control and irrigation might be something achievable.

    One of the really nice things about the “stabilization wedges” is that they don’t all have to be capital-intensive bursts of construction of the same sort in every place.

    Am I messing with you? I don’t think so, but the psychoanalytically inclined would call me in denial, so it’s pointless for me to answer.

  115. Ray Ladbury:

    Uh, Kermit, productivity goes down with temperature.

  116. Brian Dodge:

    “…please refer us to some peer reviewed literature showing that biochar can be a significant mechanism for carbon sequestration.” Toby Thaler — 15 Oct 2011 @ 3:12 PM

    “BIO-CHAR SEQUESTRATION IN TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS – A REVIEW” JOHANNES LEHMANN, JOHN GAUNT and MARCO RONDON, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change (2006) 11: 403–427 DOI: 10.1007/s11027-005-9006-5 “Conversion of biomass C to bio-char C leads to sequestration of about 50% of the initial C compared to the low amounts retained after burning (3%) and biological decomposition ([less than]10–20% after 5–10 years), therefore yielding more stable soil C than burning or direct land application of biomass.” “Biofuel production using modern biomass can produce a bio-char by-product through pyrolysis which results in 30.6 kgC sequestration for each GJ of energy produced. Using published
    projections of the use of renewable fuels in the year 2100, bio-char sequestration could amount to 5.5–9.5 PgCyr−1 if this demand for energy was met through pyrolysis, which would exceed current emissions from fossil fuels (5.4 PgC yr−1).” Cited by 273

    “Energy Balance and Emissions Associated with Biochar Sequestration and Pyrolysis Bioenergy Production” JOHN L. GAUNT AND JOHANNES LEHMANN, Environ. Sci. Technol. 2008, 42, 4152–4158
    “Our findings show that the avoided emissions are between 2 and 5 times greater when biochar is applied to agricultural land (2–19 Mg CO2 ha-1 y-1) than used solely for fossil energy offsets. 41–64% of these emission reductions are related to the retention of C in biochar, the rest to offsetting fossil fuel use for energy, fertilizer savings, and avoided soil emissions other than CO2. Despite a reduction in energy output of approximately 30% where the slow pyrolysis technology is optimized to produce biochar for land application, the energy produced per unit energy input at 2–7 MJ/MJ is greater than that of comparable technologies such as ethanol from corn.” Cited by 65

    “Rethinking biochar” REBECCA RENNER Environmental Science & Technology, Sept 1 2007
    “Nitrous oxide is several hundred times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas. The agricultural application of nitrogen fertilizers is a major source of the gas and has been difficult to control. Preliminary results indicate that biochar amendments to soil appear to decrease emissions of nitrous oxide as well as methane, which is a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than CO2. In greenhouse and field experiments in Colombia, nitrous oxide emissions were reduced by 80% and methane emissions were completely suppressed with biochar additions to a forage grass stand… Lukas Van Zwieten and colleagues at Wollongbar Agricultural Institute are seeing similar preliminary results, and Lehmann’s group also has greenhouse and field data showing the same effect.” Cited by 22

    “A handful of carbon” Johannes Lehmann, Nature, Vol 447/10 May 2007 Cited by 201

    “Black carbon decomposition and incorporation into soil microbial biomass estimated by 14C labeling”, Kuzyakov et. al., Soil Biology & Biochemistry 41 (2009) 210–219
    “Black carbon addition amounting to 20% of Corg of the soil or 200% of Corg of loess did not change total CO2 efflux from the soil and slightly decreased it from the loess. This shows a very low BC contribution to recent CO2 fluxes. … Considering about 10 times slower decomposition of BC under natural conditions, the mean residence time (MRT) of BC is about 2000 years, and the half-life is about 1400 years. Considering the short duration of the incubation and the typical decreasing decomposition rates with time, we conclude that the MRT of BC in soils is in the range of millennia.” Cited by 67

    “Biochar proponents have been pushing it for years, and I have yet to see any major effort to scale it up. Am I missing something?” Toby Thaler — 15 Oct 2011 @ 6:18 PM

    Peer reviewed literature, perhaps?

    “Fate of soil‐applied black carbon: downward migration, leaching and soil respiration”, Major et al, Global Change Biology, Volume 16, Issue 4, pages 1366–1379, April 2010; et al GCB for CIAT.pdf
    “Using stable isotope techniques, we investigated the fate of BC applied to a savanna Oxisol in Colombia at rates of 0, 11.6, 23.2 and 116.1 t BC ha−1”
    “Black C caused a 189% increase in aboveground biomass production measured 5 months after application (2.4–4.5 t additional dry biomass ha−1 where BC was applied)”

    “Direct and residual effect of biochar application on mycorrhizal root colonisation, growth and nutrition of wheat”, Solaiman et. al., Soil Research 48(7) 546–554
    “We investigated the effect of deep-banded oil mallee biochar at different rates (0, 1.5, 3.0, and 6 t/ha) with 2 types of fertiliser (non-inoculated MultiMAPS® at 30 or 55 kg/ha; inoculated Western Mineral Fertiliser at 100 kg/ha) on wheat growth at a farmer’s field in a low rainfall area of Western Australia. Wheat yield increased significantly when biochar was applied with inoculated fertiliser and 30 kg/ha non-inoculated fertiliser.”

    “Maize yield and nutrition during 4 years after biochar application to a Colombian savanna oxisol”, Major et al, Plant and Soil, Volume 333, Numbers 1-2, 117-128, DOI: 10.1007/s11104-010-0327-0
    “Maize grain yield did not significantly increase in the first year, but increases in the 20 t ha−1 plots over the control were 28, 30 and 140% for 2004, 2005 and 2006, respectively.”

    “BIOCHAR AMENDMENT GREATLY REDUCES RICE Cd UPTAKE IN A CONTAMINATED PADDY SOIL: A TWO-YEAR FIELD EXPERIMENT’, Liqiang Cui, Lianqing Li, Afeng Zhang, Genxing Pan, Dandan Bao, Andrew Chang, BioResources, Vol 6, No 3 (2011
    “A field experiment was conducted on the effect of biochar (BC) amendment on Cd uptake by rice (Oryza sativa L.) in a contaminated paddy in 2009 and 2010…. Under BC amendment at 10, 20, 40 t ha-1, rice grain Cd concentration was observed to be reduced by 16.8%, 37.1%, and 45.0% in 2009 and by 42.7%, 39.9%, and 61.9% in 2010, while the total plant Cd uptake was found to decrease by 28.1%, 45.7%, and 54.2% in 2009 and by 14.4%, 35.9%, and 45.9% in 2010, respectively.”

    Unfortunately, Ag researchers can’t run down to the local farm supply store and buy 4000 tons of biochar to do a 100 ha field trial, but fossil fuel derived ammonium nitrate is readily available for ~$1000 a ton.

  117. Hank Roberts:

    SM, don’t imagine most of us here agree with everything others think or how we use the words — “flood control” among others. We’re trying to learn from the climatologists.

    Urging flood control spending? specify what you think should be done, or at least what you’ve read, eh? –try this, for talking points that will lead you toward something others can agree or even disagree with productively:

    Ethos, Equity and the Water Resource

    By Luna B. Leopold, February 1990
    University of California, Berkeley
    The Abel Wolman Distinguished Lecture
    Reprinted by permission of the National Academy of Sciences – National Research Council.

  118. Craig Nazor:


    I have not a clue what reality you inhabit, but it does not seem closely related to the reality that I live in.

    I have sat through hundreds of hours of local, state, and federal hearings about clean energy issues, water issues, endangered species issues, and other AGCC-related environmental issues. Here in Texas, “NIMBY environmentalists” are not seriously hampering clean energy. A far, far larger problem is our AGCC-denying governor (and now, presidential candidate), who has appointed AGCC-denying real estate, banking, energy, manufacturing, and other vested-interest people to boards like the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA), the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and others. Here is just one of the results:

    Your still-undocumented “NIMBY environmentalists” don’t hold a candle to this kind of crap, when it comes to addressing AGCC. The AGCC-denying LCRA is another example. In June, the LCRA Board seriously considered granting 25,000 acre feet of water a year to a dirty, coal-fired power plant from a river system that is being seriously taxed by the worst single-year drought on record which shows no signs of relenting. Fortunately, the “NIMBY environmentalists” (NOT) were able to stop it, when hundreds of citizens showed up to the hearing. Filthy wealthy “NIMBY environmentalist” (double NOT) had to pay for an independent water study, which ACTUALLY MENTIONED AGCC in its water forecasts, as opposed to the official (and taxpayer-funded) “scientific” LCRA study, which did not. I posted the issue here on RealClimate and asked for any interested, local scientist who might want to testify to contact me, and I got exactly zero responses, yet you don’t hear me complaining about “NIMBY climatologists.”

    We do not have to further slice and dice our already declining migratory bird populations with poorly sited windmills to get clean energy. People like you, Davos, just have to think that healthy bird populations are important. Here are just two ways that healthy bird populations are beneficial to the human economy:

    You have STILL not produced any proof whatsoever that there is a significant problem with “NIMBY environmentalists” and global warming mitigation, despite all your worrying and hand wringing. So why are you trying to scare people with your “NIMBY environmentalists”? What’s in it for you?

    In reality, environmentalists are LEADING THE POLITICAL BATTLE to address AGCC in America.

    And if the Chinese system of government can so much “more easily achieve deployment of any energy installation they want,” then why is China so unable to address its massive pollution problems?

    (And of some interest to this discussion as it relates to the lack of appreciating “NIMBY environmental” concerns as they relate to birds:)

    I think that China has some deeply systemic problems of which you may not be aware.

    Your poorly supported and misdirected “NIMBY environmentalist” arguments remind me of an old Hindu observation: The true enemies of Krishna are those that go around trying to make the unimportant things important.

  119. Pete Dunkelberg:

    SM, set the psychology aside. As a technical matter, delay is the bottom line for the denialism business .
    “Doubt is Our Product”
    for a reason.

  120. Kevin McKinney:

    The sub-thread about NIMBYism and environmentalism connects very well with a point made in Andrew Weaver’s Generation Us: namely, that traditional activism has been predominantly reactive and negative–“Don’t pollute my stream,” “Don’t release PCBs into my air,” “Don’t force me as a taxpayer to subsidize this dirty industry,” or whatever.

    But to be effective in the struggle to mitigate GHG emissions, he argues, we need to learn to agitate for measures that will be effective. That makes sense to me: in few of life’s venues does a purely passive, reactive stance prove advantageous, and it seems correct that you can’t just wait around to see what “the man” is going to do so you can know what to paint on your sign!

    The rub, of course, is that consensus around a policy is much harder to build–that, too, is visible on these august threads, where we have pretty much embargoed the whole question of renewables v. nuclear (although why it should be “v.” kind of stumps me, but as we well know, there are strong emotional reactions on both sides of the nuclear energy question.)

    As I read Dr. Weaver, he thinks the first priority should be to appropriately cost carbon emissions. From there, developing non-fossil energy sources and technologies, and implementing conservation and efficiency strategies follow. The example he uses is in fact around wind power: a hypothetical wind farm opposed by NIMBY opposition. In that context he argues for principled support for the development from environmentalists, for exactly the reasons laid out upthread.

    But what do we need to do in order to make this shift in emphasis? Many of us here are involved in conversations around these issues, speaking or writing about them on a regular basis, and might wish to be involved in accomplishing such a shift (assuming we agree with the analysis.)

    So let me ask the collective readership about it. Where is the policy conversation occurring? What sources of information are most trustworthy on these narrower policy questions?

  121. p:

    @ 120 Where?
    America’s Democracy Deficit
    The Power to Change Systems.
    and in the streets.

  122. Septic Matthew:

    117, Hank Roberts: Urging flood control spending? specify what you think should be done, or at least what you’ve read, eh?

    What I would do in the Mekong headwaters is different from what I would do in the Indus Valley. What I would do in the upper Missouri/Mississippi/Ohio headwaters is different from what I would do in California. In and around New Orleans I would finance reforestation and do something about that ship channel. In the greater Amazon drainage basin I would initiate reforestation while studying other options for a few years; investors and government are promoting a large hydroelectric dam in the headwaters near Peru — I don’t know what I think, but I’d study it.

    If there is only $400B of my hypothetical $1T available for a while, I’d invest it all in flood control and irrigation, and not increase investment in alternative energy supplies until all the projects were well underway.

    Around the base of Mt Kilimanjaro, over hundreds of square miles, I’d invest in reforestation.

    In the upper Mekong and upper Amazon, opponents of the proposed big dams do not think the hydropower is worth the environmental cost. It doesn’t look to me now that any other power source in those areas is less environmentally damaging: solar, wind, and biofuels require equivalent sacrifices of acreages. I read (some time ago) that solar power equivalent to the output of Hoover Dam would require an area equal to Lake Mead; but there it would have been desert area, whereas the Mekong and Amazon drainage basins have productive forests. The upper Mekong projects purport to provide both flood control and electricity, so the question becomes do the dams optimally (or satisfactorily) provide two benefits that together are worth the sacrifice of the forested land? I think they do, but I am not sure. One way or another, the Mekong drainage area would benefit from flood control and irrigation; I would not want to oppose both flood control and electricity production, and any other method of electricity production would have some environmental cost.

    To me, flood control and irrigation should have priority over alternative energy and CO2 reduction, as they have in China over the last 3 decades.

  123. ChrisN:

    After 15 years of no warming according to RSS satellite data (1997-2011), I can’t believe you guys still have your jobs.

    [Response: After years of cherry-picking start dates and data sources and ignoring significance, I can’t believe people are still at making comments like this. – gavin]

  124. wili:

    Kermit at #112 wrote: “Once the fossil fuels run out how will we keep CO2 in the 500-600 ppm range?”

    First, ffs are not about to ‘run out.’ Some, like conventional light sweet crude oil, seem to be at or near their peak of production, which means that, while we may not ever exceed by much current rates of extraction, there is about the same amount left to extract as has been extracted so far. Other ffs have not yet reached this point and probably won’t for a while. So there is plenty of safely sequestered carbon for us to foolishly un-sequester and spew into the atmosphere. And short of very strong global restrictions, we are likely to burn every last bit of even the dirtiest coal, tar sands, oil shale…even as the energy returned on energy invested reaches or exceeds one.

    Second, we don’t have to do anything to ‘keep’ CO2 at high levels. The means by which CO2 are taken out of the atmosphere and sequestered are generally very slow–things like mountain weathering. So the excess CO2 we put into the system now will stay there for a long time.

    Finally and most importantly, let me introduce to the concept of ‘feedbacks.’ There are many of these, some, like seabed methane, many times greater than all the forcing industrial society has added to the system so far. More study is needed, but these seem to be destabilizing in the Arctic. Melting permafrost, burning forests and peat bogs, oceans getting too warm to absorb CO2 are among the major feedbacks likely to exacerbate the problem in the coming years and decades.

    Our forcing may, in fact, merely have served as a finger pulling the trigger on these larger mechanisms which, once started, will be essentially impossible to stop until they have run their course. We have been playing with planetary fire and may be about to get incinerated, taking most of the rest of life on the planet with us. Peak oil or other resource constraints are not likely to save us, unless they so thoroughly destroy the economy that no one is able to invest in any further ff extraction (which of course will be catastrophic in other ways), or unless it along with gw prompts us to wake up and move rapidly to a much more modest carbon footprint lifestyle with the rest supplied by renewables.

    (I humbly await further clarification and correction from those more knowledgeable than I on these matters.)

  125. otter17:

    Thanks for the reference to the paper. I continue to collect references to the costs of climate change and other effects. They help me get the word out more effectively.

    I don’t comment on Real Climate much, but I do deeply appreciate the communication that you guys do. Thanks.

  126. Brian Dodge:

    “After years of cherry-picking start dates and data sources and ignoring significance, I can’t believe people are still at making comments like this.” – gavin
    It comes from willful ignorance.

    Anthony Watts says in his blog The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project puts PR before peer review, “The issue of “the world is warming” is not one that climate skeptics question, it is the magnitude and causes.” Apparently he doesn’t read the comments on his own blog.

  127. Septic Matthew:

    123, gavin in line: After years of cherry-picking start dates and data sources and ignoring significance, I can’t believe people are still at making comments like this. – gavin

    The proper way to pick a start date is to pick the dates on which projections are computed, and select the temperature record from thence forward. For example, there was a forecast by Hansen in 1988, so select the temperature record after that (I believe that this should be recomputed using Hansen’s current best estimate of the climate sensitivity, the CO2 record since then, and the relevant volcano record since then); also, the dates of the IPCC reports, those that contain forecasts (or scenarios.)

  128. Survival Acres:

    Why would anyone honestly believe that we have desire to change the status-quo in a significant enough ways to slow down or stop climate change? Greed governs our world. Our entire civilization is built upon the premises that we “own it all”, and that the world’s resources are here for the exclusive use of humanity, in any manner we see fit (including generational suicide).

    This viewpoint, held by billions now is very narrow, short-term and even xenophobic, and even encouraged by all of our major institutions.

    Yes, change is what we claim we want, as things get a bit more difficult then before, but what is this change we seek exactly? In a so-called “more perfect world”, a more equal distribution of wealth… equity, justice, the abolishment of a our duopoly… protection for the environment, etc.

    However missing from all of these desires for change is something very fundamental: Us. We are not changing at all. We expect more, not less. We demand more, not less, even if it is to be more “fairly distributed” and there is more equity in the world.

    This is incompatible with a finite world of depleting resources. Humans seek to reshape and redesign their entire living environment rather then live symbiotically within it. This will always result in a devastating conflict. Our interest .vs. everything else (and I mean everything, including those essential resources and lifeforms on this planet required for our existence.)

    Our hubris is to fail to admit to our failings, to include all of above, and our incompatibility to adapt ourselves to our environment, versus adapting the environment to our demands. This will always lead to disaster, which is where we find ourselves now.

    We are going to repeat (on a global scale this time) what civilizations of the past also found out. There is no escape from this.

    We err greatly by thinking that with our modern science, tools, inventions and so-called “know-how”, that we have something they didn’t, and that we can now be confident that we will avoid their same fate, because of our “progress”. This is patently false, because it utterly fails to address the real fundamental issues of who we actually are, and that this progress is the very reason we are now collapsing.

    It is also the height of hubris to claim that if we re-achieve “350 ppm” that this will prevent catastrophe. Jevons Paradox teaches us this. We cannot be expected to constrain ourselves in reality, because we now lack the moral capability.

    Consider this: why are we not talking about the real issues, such as the basis of civilization itself? Or population? Or how we actually exist on this planet? The fact that we choose to ignore these very important topics reveals our moral failings and our hubris and why we will fail. Instead, we go on promoting how humans can fix things back up, which is quite ridiculous when you think about it.

    Humans do not actually produce anything (other then a few new man-made elements), we refashion and consume what was already here — but with devastating consequences as it turns out. We think our ingenuity and invention is our salvation, because we are blind to the real truth.

    We have now become our own worst enemy, having “conquered” the planet (temporarily) but destroying ourselves in the process. Nature bats last, and the grand slam to come is most definitely headed our way. We should be focusing instead on how to co-exist here symbiotically, while we still can, rather then how to foolishly try to master (and control) it all.

    The reason why other life-forms have lived here for so long, far, far, longer then humans ever have, is because of their ability to adapt themselves to their environment, not the other way around. Our brain might be bigger, but we’re not smarter — we’re conceited.

    Not to worry, in “The World Without Us”, our edifices are shown to crumble very fast, leaving almost no trace of our passing “civilization” and pitiful attempts to master the world. We may yet exist, but then again, maybe not. If we fail to embrace some very basic truths, then the latter is much more likely.

  129. Lewis:

    Socolow’s Wedges update fails to mention that his objective of the ‘stabilization’ of CO2 at some chosen level actually demands the use of technologies including massive airborne carbon recovery and albedo restoration. In their absence, the interactive mega-feedbacks will predictably accelerate to dwarf current anthro-GHG outputs, driven by the pipeline warmings of timelagged GHG impacts and, very probably, by warming from the loss of the ‘sulphate parasol’ as fossil fuel use is curtailed.

    Three of the five mega-feedbacks now accelerating off the time-lagged warming of the mid-’70s CO2 ppmv have recently been quantified:
    Albedo Loss was reported last spring (Geophysical Letters) to be imposing a forcing equivalent to around 30% of anthro-CO2 outputs;
    Water vapour is reported to rise at around 7% per degree C (a CO2e figure for this would be helpful);
    Permafrost melt carbon emissions were projected (NOAA/NSIDC) as peaking at 1.6GTC/yr by 2100, and rising to around 0.5GTC by 2020 – which equates to around 25GT/yr CO2e if the carbon were emitted half as CO2 and half as CH4.
    I’ve yet to see credible figures for current CO2e outputs from the rising global incidence of wildfire, or from the CO2-driven microbial decay of peat bogs, and there is still controversy over the observations of methyl clathrates’ collapse at increasing depth.

    Suffice to say, the feedbacks are real, diverse, interactive, accelerating, and of a scale to dwarf Socolow’s recipe for CO2 reductions before its time span is one third run.

    A further lacunae in the Wedges proposal is that by focussing on the shares of sundry technologies that need deployment for his arbtrary mitigation target, it actively encourages the assumption of a ‘market-led’ solution in which non-fossil energies displace fossil options. In reality, this doesn’t happen – any fossil fuels displaced are simply bought and burnt elsewhere. In a world of rising energy demand, non-fossil energies cannot and will not reduce GHG outputs – that requires global legislation of the allocation of national emission rights under a declining annual global emissions budget. Non-fossil energies are the means by which society is powered under that legislation: they have no practical role as an alternative route to mitigation, and propagating that delusion, whether intentionally or not, dangerously diminishes efforts for the requisite climate treaty.

    Perhaps Socolow has written of the subordinate nature of the Wedges proposal to each of these two fundamental priorities – but if not, I’m puzzled as to why a science-based site like RealClimate affords his proposal such a high degree of credibility.



  130. Craig Nazor:

    “Survival Acres”:

    Read this:

    Who would have thought it? Looking at the daily news, I certainly wouldn’t have. That’s because the daily news is biased towards talking about violence. So where are you getting your information about what is happening globally to address AGCC?

    There are always those things that can happen that no one can predict. This includes the discovery of new technologies as well as unforeseen natural events.

    Lots of very intelligent people out there believe that it is possible for humans to change their behavior, and have shown how technology could help make it happen. There are millions of humans working towards clean energy. The study being discussed here is just one way to approach it. Look at what’s going on in NYC right now, and echoing around the world. A lot of people are getting tired of unbridled greed. Who would have thought it?

    Can humans reverse the trend of ever-increasing carbon pollution? I don’t know. But I would put little stock in those who claim they can accurately predict the future of human behavior. So what is left to guide our actions in an uncertain world? Follow science as far as that will take us, and keep looking for answers. After that, I would suggest some old human wisdom: Think positive and be wary of negative projections – after all, your glass is either half full or half empty; both perceptions are accurate. One will help you function much better than the other. Do what you know is right. Love thy neighbor. Work for the best. Prepare for the worst. (Those last two sentences are what USED to be called “conservative”!) Change is constant.

  131. john byatt:

    Monday 24th

    nothing new, just confirmation.

    A lack of international will means the chances of bringing climate change under control may already be “slipping out of reach”, scientists have warned.

    A study by the Swiss science university ETH Zurich shows that without an early and steep cut in greenhouse gas emissions, global temperatures are not “likely” to remain less than 2C higher than pre-industrial levels. The 2C target, which experts say is needed to avert dangerous climate change, was agreed by the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009.

    But countries that signed up to the Copenhagen Accord have yet to commit to measures far-reaching enough to meet it, according to experts.

    A voluntary agreement hammered out in the dying hours of last December’s UN climate talks in the Danish capital is said to fall well short of the cuts required.

    The new report, published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, sounds a further loud warning that time is running out. It suggests that for a “likely” chance (more than 66%) of holding warming below 2C by the end of this century, emissions must peak before 2020.

    Emission levels will also have to drop drastically to around 44 billion tonnes in 2020, and then keep falling. By 2050, they will need to be well below 1990 levels at around 20 billion tonnes, says the research.

  132. RichardC:

    129 Lewis says, ” In a world of rising energy demand, non-fossil energies cannot and will not reduce GHG outputs – that requires global legislation of the allocation of national emission rights under a declining annual global emissions budget.”

    This is especially true since the cost of fossil fuels is far below their price. If renewables supply increases beyond increased demand, energy prices will fall. This will affect renewable suppliers, but won’t affect fossil fuel suppliers much, as they’ll just cut prices until demand again buys up all fossil fuel output. Oil only costs a few dollars a barrel to produce, so even at $30 a barrel, oil production is an immensely profitable endeavour (and even tar sands oil is profitable), and at that price somebody will buy every last barrel.

  133. kevin McKinney:

    #130–interesting, and I hope it’s true.

    Although comparing 2008 genocide deaths to 1942 genocide deaths seems like a bit of a cherry pick to me.

  134. TJ:

    You talk about the “high cost of inaction”, but then fail to quantify the cost.

  135. Ray Ladbury:

    TJ, Uh, Dude, they did quantify it–we have to implement far more “wedges” today than we would have previously. Pay attention.

  136. adelady:

    survival acres “This will always lead to disaster, which is where we find ourselves now.”

    I’m not convinced. 100 years ago people were using – and developing – wind power. Remember the battery had been invented 40 years earlier and it was very useful for all sorts of nifty things – including lighting at night from batteries powered up during the day. (Country people in Australia, and I presume elsewhere, were using this method years after WW2 ended.) Some people then made a choice to move to oil-based and coal-based power generation. And handily improved their chances of profit by destroying public transport options in cities all over the developed world. It didn’t just happen in Los Angeles in the 20s, it happened in Australian cities not many decades later.

    Now I see home improvement companies advertising roof and related services with *free* solar panels, 1.5k’s worth, as an incentive. It makes me sad to think that we could have been in this position 20ish years ago if we’d moved forward from Jimmy Carter’s impetus on this rather than backwards as we did fairly soon thereafter.

    The sadness is that we could have had a much more manageable set of problems and consequences to deal with if we’d been more sensible.

  137. Hank Roberts:


    “It should be emphasized that one should not take any comfort with the fact that the aerosols may be negating much of the greenhouse gas forcing–in fact just the opposite. Because the atmospheric residence time of tropospheric aerosols is short (about a week) compared to the decades-to-centuries lifetimes of the greenhouse gases, then to whatever extent greenhouse gas forcing is being offset by aerosol forcing, it is last week’s aerosols that are offsetting forcing by decades worth of greenhouse gases. Because the greenhouse gases are long-lived in the atmosphere, their atmospheric loadings tend to approximate the integral of emissions. Because the aerosols are short-lived, their loading tend to be proportional to the emissions themselves. There is only one function that is proportional to its own integral, the exponential function. So only if society is to make a commitment to continued exponential growth of emissions can such an offset be maintained indefinitely. And of course exponential growth cannot be maintained forever. So if the cooling influence of aerosols is in fact offsetting much of the warming influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases, then when society is unable to maintain this exponential growth, the climate could be in for a real and long-lasting shock.”

  138. TJ:

    “TJ, Uh, Dude, they did quantify it–we have to implement far more “wedges” today than we would have previously. Pay attention.”

    That’s not a quantification of the cost. All they quantified was that CO2 goes up by another 50 ppm. That’s not very convincing to people who think that high CO2 and higher temperatures are not a problem in the first place.

    [Response:What is your evidence that higher temperatures will not be a problem?–Jim]

  139. TJ:

    “Aging technocrat Freeman Dyson is well outside his area of expertise – an argument for treating scientists as humans with the usual share of foibles.”

    I’m sorry, but I’m unwilling to vote for massive interventions in our economy based on experts whose arguments are so complex that even Freeman Dyson (or myself) can’t understand them. Either people make a compelling clear argument that other scientists can understand, or nothing is going to happen.

    [Response: What a strange rule. Do you apply it to anything else? If one can find a single economist that disagrees with monetary policy, the government should do nothing? Or if a single doctor prefers lemon juice drinking over surgery, you would refuse treatment? If yes, then you have no clue, and if no, you are setting climate as some unique issue that requires unanimity, which just seems irrational. – gavin]

  140. Hank Roberts:

    > where is the policy conversation?

    You’ll find a lot of leads if you start at


    “… I’m struck, repeatedly, by the sense that the more people know about the science, the less they believe that we’re going to rise to the occasion. This pessimism seems to me to be key. To oppose it, we have to remember one equally simple thing—we have the resources and the technology that we need to build the future. We really do. But the climate transition is not a techno-economic problem. It’s a political-economic problem, and we can’t leave it to the incrementalists.

    Why [censored by blog software] bother? Let me answer this way – I’ve been a left green for decades, and pissing in the wind is something I’m used to. And, lately, it seems to me that the wind has begun to shift….”


    “… Left and right have long disagreed about more or less everything, except the existence of an expanding ‘cake’ to share out. As long as the cake is expanding, then you can argue – as the political philosopher John Rawls famously did in his Theory of Justice back in 1971 – that inequality is OK if the worst off people are better off, in absolute terms, than they’d be under an equal distribution. But if the cake is finite, then by definition more for the better off means less for the worse off. It’s a much starker proposition….”

  141. Lewis:

    Gavin – I’m puzzled by the lack of a staff response to my critique of Socolow’s Wedges update (at 129). He appears to me scientifically illiterate in excluding from his calculations any CO2e contribution resulting from the known pipeline warmings driving well-documented interactive positive feedbacks, and economically careless at best in excluding the fundamental caveat that non-fossil energies will not displace fossil energies without the market regulation supplied by a global climate treaty.

    I may of course be mistaken in believing these two factors to be real and of fundamental significance, but if so, I’d be glad to learn why; if not, I wonder if you could help with two factors of the science case that seem obscure:

    first: would it be possible to put an authoritative CO2e output/yr value on the widely asserted 7% rise in water vapour per degree C of global warming ?

    [Response: No. This is part of the response already taken into account in the climate sensitivity. – gavin]

    second: in your view, what is the likely average ratio of TsCO2 to TsCH4 emitted from melting permafrost in the next two decades ? The degree of water saturation shown in Siberian ex-permafrost peat would imply a predominantly anaerobic decompostion and thus a very high fraction of carbon emitted as CH4, but perhaps other factors counter this probability ? My projection of ~25GT CO2e output in 2020, based on the NOAA/NSICD projection of ~0.5CTG output in that year, reflected equal volumes of carbon being assumed to go into CO2 and CH4, with the former having a multiple of 3.667 and the latter a multiple of 1.333 for methane and of 72 for CO2e GWP on a 20 year horizon. As even this moderate assumption would imply an increase over present anthro-CO2 output of ~80% in 9 years time, I’d be very glad to learn just what the scientific projections would amount to.

    [Response: The decomposition depends on water saturation of the soil, the ratio of methanogenic and methanophilic bacteria etc. Your estimates appear far higher than anything being measured right now and appear to violate a number of paleo constraints (i.e. why didn’t methane increase enormously during the early holocene or the Eemian?). This is an issue that warrants further close monitoring, but it isn’t as dramatic as you are claiming. – gavin]

    I should add that while Socolow appears to me pathetically complacent and even misleading, it is very good to see policy responses being discussed here on RC as well as the science. I guess we may agree that “the cart needs the horse to get anywhere useful.”



  142. Lennyh4747:

    If you do not start building Nuclear Plants now then all your math is silly. The people against co2 are against nuclear power so the whole subject is silly.