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Unforced Variations: July 2012

Filed under: — group @ 3 July 2012

Have at it.

561 Responses to “Unforced Variations: July 2012”

  1. 101
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Ray #96

    Exactly. Models can explore feedback scenarios. When are they going to explore the scenarios with increased forest fires, increased tree growth changing Artic albedo, methane clathrates disassociating, carbon released from melting tundra & etc.

    Did the Allen/Pierrehumbert model runs explore such scenarios?

    Should we look to cut short term forcing and stop eating beef and tax activities that cause wood smoke? Or should we ignore short term forcing until we are near peak CO2 emissions?

  2. 102
    Marco says:

    Thomas @85 (and Gavin inline)

    According to the USGS, Pinatubo’s eruption emitted about 0.05 Gt CO2. Which is about 0.1% of annual anthropogenic emissions.
    Link here:

  3. 103
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Unsettled Scientist has supplied two studies. They don’t indicate an overwhelmingly important effect–as would be expected from events that are Poisson and local. What evidence do you have that their effect is significant and that significant resources should be directed that way–rather than, say, toward understanding cloud feedbacks better?

  4. 104
    MARodger says:

    Patrick @86
    By way of answer to your enquiry, let’s start by what Dr Keeling (the son of the famous one) has to say on the matter as given here.
    Dr Keeling has calculated than oxygen mass is lost from the atmosphere at a rate eight times faster than the rate our use of fossil fuels is adding carbon mass to the atmosphere.
    Now this sounds like really bad news. Forget AGW. At the present rate of oxygen loss from the atmosphere, O2 levels will be down to 6% and we will all be asphyxiated in 420,000 years.

    Of course, an alternate nemesis for mankind could be the rising sea levels due to the water that results from burning FFs and which is causing the oceans to rise at a whopping 0.015mm per year. Will even the citizens of La Paz be safe from such a mighty inundation?

    Then, we don’t have to take this O2 depletion lying down. Live at the lowest altitude that you can. Leave La Paz by the next bus. Go live by the sea. Or better still, try living in Death Valley (assuming it hasn’t flooded yet) where the atmosphere is thickest. Avoid sources of carbon monoxide which reduce your O2 intake. Breath deeply and don’t overload your kidney function.
    Alternatively, if this all seems a mite too extreme and you have more money than sense, there are food suppliments on the market that insist they oxygenate the body and promote well-being.
    However, I would be more mindful of that old adage – “Laughter is the best medicine.

  5. 105
    Hank Roberts says:

    > When are they going to explore the scenarios with increased forest fires

    Well, I started asking about that in the 1980s, and when I got on to sci.ecology, several groups of Spanish and Portugese* forest ecologists had been working on the question for quite a while. They gave me the advice I needed to start trying to put topsoil back on 40 acres on a mountain that had had a huge forest fire (after 50 years of fire prevention fuel build-up). They advised terracing, telling me that with climate change warming things up, they expected both more and hotter fires and more intense rainfall events.

    See, the thing is, this isn’t new, and when someone comes along like Geoff who doesn’t believe the work is being done, so doesn’t bother to look for the answers, and poses the question as he said above just rhetorically or hoping to waste the time of people willing to help, and then utterly ignores the repeated attempts to point out that there are answers — one has to wonder if the whole point is simply to delay and befuddle.

    This is why Joe Romm says public discussions are often taken over by the extreme alarm and extreme delay proponents, crowding out those actually knowledgeable about what’s being done, what’s still needed, and how to learn.

    Anyone who believes this work isn’t being done _really_ doesn’t want to know.
    * They’re still at it:

  6. 106
    Geoff Beacon says:

    As ice sheets thawed toward the end of the last ice age, Earth responded with a fit of volcanic eruptions – possibly as a result of the Earth’s mantle responding to the transfer of the weight of ice at the poles to a weight of water around the equator. Even if increased volcanism were to happen, I have the comfort of answers #72 ann #135 in Skeptical Science’s Global Warming & Climate Change Myths reinforced by Gavin’s earlier comment in #85

    The idea that Pinatubo released a climatically important amount of CO2 is however a myth – there is no evidence for this at all. 

    I read Gavin’s comment as a further cue that CO2 from volcanoes will a negligible effect compared to other climate forcing agents such as methane from cattle or diesel smoke from transport(are these added to the SRES scenarios?).

    The question I ask is “If forest fires (and other wildfires) increase will they be “climatically important’?”. It is not a question that your references address. They address the question “Can climate models be used to predict future frequency and size of wildfires?”.

    Who amongst you is willing to say “Don’t worry about increases in wildfires they will cause only negligible climate forcing”. Their effects need not be fed into the model runs for The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of IPCC.

    HadGEM2 seems to be important for AR5.

    Will it be run with wildfire forcing in it?

    Any advance on wildfires? Forest albedo? Clathrates?

  7. 107
    dbostrom says:

    Here’s a puzzler.

    Shell Alaska’s Arctic spill management barge has failed to gain US Coast Guard certification, a key step for Shell in proceeding with exploration/exploitation plans for Arctic seas.

    The main issue?

    Coast Guard officials said Shell Alaska had initially received approval for the vessel in December under a stringent set of structural standards based on the American Bureau of Shipping’s standards for floating production installations. Since then, they said, Shell engineers have said they believe the company should be held to the less rigorous standards for mobile offshore drilling units.

    The difference, said Coast Guard Cmdr. Christopher O’Neil, is in the strength of storms the vessel can withstand.

    “Because of the intended use of the Arctic Challenger and the harsh conditions experienced by maritime traffic in the Arctic, the Arctic Challenger is required to be able to withstand the forces generated by a 100-year storm. The operators of the Arctic Challenger contend that the 100-year standard is too stringent of a design standard, and that a 10-year (storm) standard is more aligned with historical conditions for the area of the Arctic they intend to operate (in) this summer,” O’Neil, who is chief of media relations for the Coast Guard, said in an email to the Los Angeles Times.

    Shell ready for Arctic, but oil-spill barge isn’t

    So at root we have Shell Alaska as an early player in leveraging persistent weather changes that are making Arctic waters more amenable to exploration and drilling, but Shell Alaska is hoping the USCG will approve equipment that is only designed to withstand short term weather behavior. This seems counterintuitive.

    As weather events come and go we stick with the story that massive amounts of extra energy in the atmosphere will remain mysteriously hidden, that no firm attribution can be be connected between a given event and our winding-up of the atmosphere. That fond hope is apparently what Shell Alaska believes should prevail in this case; should this equipment be held to a higher standard?

  8. 108
    Hank Roberts says:

    Kids! Need to write a school paper about climate change and you’re not sure where to start? Start by typing

    into your web browser, followed by the subject you’re interested in.

    Say you wanted to write about climate change and, oh, “wildfire” just to pick an idea of the air.

    So you type that word into your browser right after the site: limiter.

    That gets you any mention of that word at that site.

    Now this may be a lot more than you’re used to reading.

    Buck up. You can add more words to narrow the result, work it down to the amount of stuff you can read.

    Here’s the kind of thing you can find — great stuff, it’ll impress your teacher:

    “… Destruction of forest biomass by burning releases large quantities of CO2 and is estimated to create 10 percent of annual global methane emissions as well as 10-20 percent of global N2O emissions. Thus, fire can have a significant effect on atmospheric chemistry (IPCC, 1992). The process is well known in terms of general effects, but it has many uncertain parameters in relation to specific fire events because fire effects are related to fuel amounts, arrangements, and conditions as well as weather conditions at the time of combustion-all of which can be highly variable or unpredictable (Goldammer, 1990; Dixon and Krankina, 1993; Price et al., 1998; Neuenschwander et al., 2000).

    Monitoring, Verifiability, Transparency, and Permanence
    These factors are very difficult to achieve in relation to wildfires, which are such highly stochastic events that any estimate of the effect of management on actual changes in wildfire dynamics is likely to be speculative. Post-event monitoring, however, has begun to provide estimates that can be used to build predictive models (Neuenschwander and Sampson, 2000)….”

    You know how to find this stuff.

    Now stop and think. This is important: _don’t_ just use what I showed you in that example. That’s 12 years old!

    You can figure out how long the scientists have been thinking about a subject by noticing the dates on the citations (you know what a citation is, sometimes it’s called a “cite” or a “source”).

    You know how to find this stuff for yourself.


  9. 109
    Hank Roberts says:

    “Destruction of forest biomass by burning releases large quantities of CO2 and is estimated to create 10 percent of annual global methane emissions as well as 10-20 percent of global N2O emissions. Thus, fire can have a significant effect on atmospheric chemistry (IPCC, 1992). The process is well known in terms of general effects, but it has many uncertain parameters in relation to specific fire events because fire effects are related to fuel amounts, arrangements, and conditions as well as weather conditions at the time of combustion-all of which can be highly variable or unpredictable (Goldammer, 1990; Dixon and Krankina, 1993; Price et al., 1998; Neuenschwander et al., 2000).

    Monitoring, Verifiability, Transparency, and Permanence
    These factors are very difficult to achieve in relation to wildfires, which are such highly stochastic events that any estimate of the effect of management on actual changes in wildfire dynamics is likely to be speculative. Post-event monitoring, however, has begun to provide estimates that can be used to build predictive models (Neuenschwander and Sampson, 2000).”

    That’s just an example, quite an old one.
    Search using this string: wildfire

  10. 110
    dbostrom says:

    Geoff, after a certain point your continued requests become something akin to a child asking that its shoelaces be tied for it.

    What are -you- doing? Search your options and find a way to lend concrete support for your curiosity and concern.

    How about using that online startup funding thingamabob to pay for a chemical assay of the burgeoning smudge on Greenland’s ice sheet? Researcher Jason Box wonders if the smudge is soot from wildfires; you can help him find out. That would help to provide some data for modelers to plug into their systems.

  11. 111
  12. 112
    dbostrom says:

    I should add for Geoff…

    Box seems like a creative person when it comes to accessing his research subject. Talk to him, see if some extra money would help to answer the composition question of the dirty stuff infecting Greenland’s ice sheet. If he’s amenable, initiate a Kickstarter project. I’m sure I’m not the only person who’d be delighted to contribute money to such a tangible goal. Our “free lunch, low taxes” experiment here in the US is not working out to my satisfaction and I bet I’m not the only person willing to exploit another way to contribute.

  13. 113
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Chris Colose 60 –
    Thanks for reminding me of that (you pointed it out to me here – (direct link: ) – I think I did skim it but then I put it aside for awhile…)

  14. 114
    Frank Shann says:

    We need some graphs to help in the battle against the denialists. It would be very valuable indeed if Real Climate had a prominent link on the home page to three UP-TO-DATE graphs of (i) actual temperature (GISS?) and variability-corrected temperature (, (ii) CO2 concentration, and (iii) sea level observations superimposed on the 95% CI of the IPCC4 projections – that is, updated versions of figure 1 in Science 2007;316:709 (plus variability-corrected temperature), but with just the overall IPCC 95% CI. If these graphs were updated every 6-12 months, they would be a very useful resource in the battle against the deniers.

    In addition, denialists often claim that the IPCC just changes its incorrect predictions to fit the data, so it would be helpful to have three other up-to-date graphs of actual and variability-corrected temperature plotted on the 95% CI of the IPCC1, IPCC2 and IPCC3 projections.

    As the authors of Real Climate are well aware, the political battle is almost as important as the actual scientific investigation, and these six graphs would be a great help in the political battle, as well as being a good summary of the scientific evidence.

  15. 115
    Ron R. says:

    Wow. You have to wonder what is wrong with some people?

    “My colleagues and I have been talking about this quite a lot lately,” said Gorrie. “It’s either a vendetta and a total assault on the anything environmental or a total disinterest in the issue. Whatever it is, I don’t think we’ve seen anything quite like this in Canada.”

  16. 116
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Hank #106

    As you say, climate forcings from wildfires are described by

    1)Goldammer, 1990;
    2)Dixon and Krankina, 1993;
    3)Price et al., 1998;
    4)Neuenschwander et al., 2000

    Will their findings be used to provide forcings for the CMIP5 models to be used for AR5?

    Dbostrom #106, #109

    You mention Jason D. Box’s blogpost Greenland ice sheet albedo continues dropping at highest elevations. He wonders

    1. Are the widespread wildfires, for example in Siberia or in Colorado adding to the albedo reduction?
    2. Or given that “Since 2000, global coal consumption has grown faster than any other fuel. ” … Is coal combustion part of the problem?

    Jason’s wonderings are not peer reviewed. So some here might dismiss them. I don’t because they are just the sort of obvious questions I am trying to ask. The next obvious question is …

    Will these effects be used to provide forcings for the CMIP5 models to be used for AR5?

    Hank #108.

    Does your IPCC link shed any light whether the CMIP5 models have wildfires as a forcing or feedback? I can’t see the connection myself but being an amateur and an outsider, I don’t have the inside knowledge of the professionals.

  17. 117

    #112–I’ve been saying for a while that the Harper government must be the envy of the Tea Party, in terms of anti-environment activism. (The main difference is that Harper and Co. follow the good old Canadian political tradition of not saying what you mean; the Tea Party, by contrast, is nothing if not candid. It’s probably a mistake.)

    And the Harper mandate runs for another 4 years, too.

  18. 118
    dbostrom says:

    Geoff: Will these effects be used to provide forcings for the CMIP5 models to be used for AR5?

    If the material in question (crud on Greenland ice) is not identified, is temporally ambiguous and variously offers no presently tractable means for plugging into a climate model without a lot more legwork being done first, what do you think? Researchers should magic the numbers into models?

    Repetitious bitching about other people not doing enough work fast enough is not useful. Did you ping Jason Box to see if there’s some way you can help identify the material he mentions? Even an “amateur outsider” can help, by putting money where the mouth is; indeed the only useful role the vast majority of us on the planet can play in this research is to open our wallets.

    Which is flapping widest: your mouth or your wallet?

  19. 119
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Geoff Beacon — 7 Jul 2012 @ 10:51 AM:

    You say: “Should we look to cut short term forcing and stop eating beef and tax activities that cause wood smoke? Or should we ignore short term forcing until we are near peak CO2 emissions?”

    You seem to be having a problem with understanding physical reality. What we (especially here in the U.S.) should do is to reduce the release of fossil carbon CO2 from our homes, transportation, electrical generation, agriculture and industry. These activities are currently unsustainable and will be responsible for much more direct warming, and other problems, than that caused by feedback from wood smoke and eating beef that offering these before other primary measures is just plain silly.

    Let’s take your beef eating hobby horse as an example. If we make the assumption that beef production has remained relatively constant in the U.S. over more than the last 10 years, then the amount of methane in the atmosphere has not been increasing and will not increase if the industry continues at the current level indefinitely. In this thought experiment the methane derived from beef production has not increased global warming (or ocean acidification) at all over 10 years or so. In contrast, all of the fossil derived CO2 released by all of agricultural activities, including production and delivery of grains, fruits, and vegetables, or any plant product farmed for human consumption during this period, has greatly increased global warming and ocean acidification. Fossil carbon is the most significant problem.

    The problem of interest in your context is not beef, instead it is unsustainable agriculture. We need to find a way to feed the 7 billion (and counting) people in this world in a sustainable manner. This must be done quickly before there is too much atmospheric CO2 and the fossil fuels have run out. Currently fossil fuels are necessary for fertilizing, raising, and distributing agricultural products. What else do you propose?

    One excellent example of a way that sustainable agricultural practices need to be scaled up as quickly as possible, in order to make food production sustainable, is:

    Please tell me of another method that will work without fossil fuel, I will be very interested. Steve

  20. 120
    Hank Roberts says:

    Geoff, I pointed you to 12 year old (and older) information from the past. Were those used in the IPCC’s work at the time? Hint: where were they when you looked at them?

    Now, did you look at the citing papers for each of those, and see what subsequent research has been done that mentioned them?

    You seem to want guarantees of an outcome. If you’re a government, you’re expected to do that and you get to help write the result.

    If you’re a citizen, work on your government — not by asking some guy on a blog what they IPCC will do but by learning what the science is and who will be writing the next summary — look at the authors’ work.

    The exercise in rhetorical questions is really just recreational typing.
    I’m done with you.

  21. 121
    Ron R. says:

    Kevin McKinney: And the Harper mandate runs for another 4 years, too.

    A determined individual with the power wreak do a lot of havoc in four years. In the past no one wanted to be identified as anti-environmental; these days it’s a badge of honor (among thieves).

    Sadly this seems to be the Age of Outrage.

  22. 122
    Geoff Beacon says:

    dbostrom #118

    Researchers should magic the numbers into models?

    That would be better than pretending that the models were producing reasonable results if they aren’t. I judge/guess that the trillion tonne scenario from Pierrehumbert/Allen did that. I know policy makers that this scenario affected.

    the only useful role the vast majority of us on the planet can play in this research is to open our wallets

    Most of my spare cash goes to the expenses involved in lobbying policy makers. Some key ones are waiting for the results of AR5. If those results are under cooked we’re in trouble.

    What you seem to be saying is the community of climate scientists (CCS) are wonderful people (agreed) and they are doing the best science they can (agreed) but I say they should state/shout clearly without prompting what they can’t yet do.

    I’m not ashamed to call myself an outsider and amateur. There are amateurs – better than me – who I trust more than official scientists. See: Climate officials and climate provisionals)

    Steve Fish #119

    Inside Polyface Farm, Mecca of Sustainable Agriculture. Joel Salatin sounds a worthy man but beef cannot be sustainable. If he claims sustainability, he may not have looked at the research. (See No Beef). Beef cannot feed the world (See It’s the poor that starve.)

    What else do you propose?

    See Food: Scientists vs amateurs and related Making planning work differently.

    Fossil carbon is the most significant problem.

    You might like to follow up Short Term Solution for Climate Change

    Hank Roberts #120.

    Now, did you look at the citing papers for each of those, and see what subsequent research has been done that mentioned them?

    No I prefer to ask the professionals if they have done their job properly – they are the ones that should know. But it pains me I am getting so few answers.

    The question for this week is “Will the AR5 use CMIP model runs with reasonable sets of climate feedbacks?”

    [Response:I’d recommend reading the CLIVAR newsletter on what’s planned for the CMIP5, and last year’s WMO report on black carbon issues, since that appears to be your main concern wrt fire effects/feedbacks.–Jim]

    If they can’t fit them in everybody should be warned.

  23. 123
    Geoff Beacon says:

    To make this clear I am sure Pierrehumbert/Allen did not ‘pretend’. I think their work was an important step forward. It does however need to be seen in the context of missing feedbacks.

    I do suspect there is pretending in certain government circles.

  24. 124
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Kevin McKinney@117, I’ve started refering to the Canadian Gummint as “the Harpercrites”.

  25. 125
    Jim Eager says:

    Hey, just don’t blame Canadians for electing Harper. An overwhelming majority of us did not vote Conservative. A multi-party race in our antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system allowed him to win a majority of seats with a plurality of only 39.6%.

  26. 126
    flxible says:

    Harper is a megalomaniac by inclination and an economist by training who is determined to see Canada be an economic superpower by leveraging the natural “resources” it has always used wantonly. In the next 4 years Canadian environmental oversight will be irretrievably dismantled. His position is heady stuff for an economist.
    “The megalomaniac differs from the narcissist by the fact that he wishes to be powerful rather than charming, and seeks to be feared rather than loved. To this type belong many lunatics and most of the great men of history.” Bertrand Russell

  27. 127
    dbostrom says:

    Geoff, it’s a dark and stormy night. The bus you’re riding has one broken headlight, is approaching a railroad grade crossing with broken signals. Some folks are standing next to the road almost invisible in the murk and rain, waving their arms, yelling “you probably won’t make it, stop the bus!” Unfortunately your driver is also drunk and myopic; some of the shouting bystanders have gotten too close to the bus and have already been run over.

    Fixing the broken headlight might help. Fixing the crossing signal might help. Screaming louder might help. Exaggerating the danger in the absence of supporting facts won’t help. Yelling to the bus driver that there might be a big dragon riding on top of the train that’s about to transect his bus won’t help his decision process or coordination.

    Let’s be clear that when the bus and its contents are are broken and spilled it won’t be the fault of bystanders next to the road who noticed the danger and pointed it out.

  28. 128
    Geoff Beacon says:


    Thanks to your response to #122. I will look at the CLIVAR newsletter to see if any of my concerns are met.

    I was aware of the WMO report on black carbon and was very interested to know it’s origins. I had hoped that it was aimed to be an urgent wake-up call for short-term forcing – haveing been aware of the views of Schindell aand Ramanathan. For Schindell see the New York Times A Second Front in the Climate War and for Ramanathan see The Copenhagen Accord for limiting global warming: Criteria, constraints, and available avenues

    I had also heard that Bob Watson was influential in getting this project started. This gave me the hope that there was some realisation of the urgency of the issue and that there was some serious behind-the-scenes political lobbying to get government to stand up to the terrifying reality.

    A conversation with Johan Kuylenstierna dashed my hopes. If I remember correctly, he just said that a few of them got together at a scientific conference and thought it was a good idea. I suppose I must take his low-key answer at face value. I have a vestige of hope because Johan has known me for a long time and seems to think very carefully before he tells me anything. I suppose I can’t blame him.

    This brings me back to your answer. You have responded with scientific references with not much comment on how you stand on the urgency (or otherwise) of tackling short term forcing agents.

    Any chance of your opinion?

    [Response:Sure. I’m 100% for reducing anthropogenically generated forcing agents whose dynamic varies on any time scale, short or long. The quickly responsive ones may well be the place that the most immediate benefits can be derived, a place to get started, get the first wedge in. But I have no special insight into it beyond that, that’s for sure–Jim]

    P.S. I’ve just remembered, back in 2010 I wrote Cooling and Supercooling. It could have been written better but you see where I stand on this issue. What about you?

  29. 129
    Geoff Beacon says:

    dbostrum #127

    Thanks. Fantastic. My first smile in days.

  30. 130
    Geoff Beacon says:


    I forgot to ask.

    Is there any planet-saving behind-the-scenes lobbying going on?

    [Response:No idea.–Jim]

  31. 131
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Geoff Beacon — 8 Jul 2012 @ 4:03 AM currently at #122:

    Your responses are getting very old. You apparently don’t understand what Joel Salatin actually does. With his experimental farm he has developed a method of sustainable agriculture that improves the carbon content and fertility of his land for growing food without having to use fertilizer from fossil fuels.

    I have looked at the No Beef advocacy website and it presents very little science and what is there is not balanced or complete. You just don’t seem to understand that agricultural methane derived from currently growing plants turns over in 10 years or so, while fossil derived CO2 builds up so that it is essentially permanent on the human civilization time scale.

    Your posts on your Brussels Blog just repeat more of your unsupported opinion. Here you disparage scientists and science and seem to think that food can be grown and harvested without maintaining the soil. Most scientists and amateurs gardeners know that this is impossible. You have no solutions and the short Public Radio International discussion of “Short Term Solution for Climate Change” doesn’t support anything you have been advocating.

    Finally, your response to Hank Roberts’ post at #120 is shameful. You are whining because the experts don’t seem to want to give you special attention instead of doing just a little work for yourself. You sound like the one or two students I had every year that didn’t like the textbook and/or want to come to lectures, but instead wanted me to explain all the material especially for them in my office. Lazy.


  32. 132
    Bart says:

    Geoff Beacon,

    On the question of short-term forcings (such as black carbon, methane, ozone) vs long-term forcings (chiefly CO2) I wrote something at Planet3:

    The former have faster, but limited effect, the latter has effect for longer and is cummulative.

    So the question is: Are you more concerned about the short term or the long term effects of climate change?

    The most sensible answer to what we should focus on is of course both.

  33. 133
    Ron R. says:

    Jim Eager @ 9:58 AM.

    That’s more than Bush got in 2004 (just 30.8 percent of all eligible voters). And we know how well that turned out!

  34. 134
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Steve Fish #131

    Ah, An academic that thinks I’m a student and should keep my place!

    The key work NoBeef references is Dr Adrian Williams of Cranfield University, paid for by our Defra (the “Farmers Department in Government”) and buried by them. I think they didn’t like the results. I’m sure you can find some students to look for similar work – it’s there. Try Donal Murphy-Bokern.

    “methane … turns over in 10 years or so”. True but forcing from short term agents is almost half the total – an issue I discuss at #128.

    “Unsupported opinion” in BrusselsBlog? Be specific. Get some of your students to add up the number of supporting references for each posting. Why not take the Cooling and Supercooling post mentioned in #128 and criticise that specifically?

    P.S. What do you think of Sepp Holzer and Geoff Lawton’s work on permaculture?

    P.P.S. I do admire what I’ve seen of Joel Salatin’s work but his cattle are a big problem.

  35. 135
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Bart 132

    As you say in you rather good piece, either/ or is a false dilemma.

    With the right economic incentives we could extract lots of CO2 from the atmosphere.

    I advocate a very high carbon price and counting methane as 105 times CO2 (i.e. 20year GWP + Shindell).

    Once we’re over the cliff of a serious tipping point there is no turning back.

  36. 136
    SecularAnimist says:

    Steve Fish, some people appear to have the impression that the major, if not the only, GHG problem with beef is the methane emissions.

    That is not the case. Producing beef for human consumption is extremely fossil fuel intensive, and the resulting CO2 emissions are by some estimates (e.g. the FAO) comparable to the CO2 emissions from the entire transport sector.

    Small-scale boutique beef producers like Salatin are all well and good for those who insist on enjoying the nutritionally unnecessary taste of beef. But such methods cannot be scaled up anywhere near to producing the vast amounts of cheap beef that Americans commonly consume. That requires fossil-fueled industrial agriculture, which apart from the massive GHG impact is also the leading source of water pollution in the USA as well as the source of epidemics of entirely preventable degenerative disease.

    And it’s those methods — US-style fossil-fueled, chemical-fertilized industrial agriculture — not Salatin’s methods, that are rapidly expanding all over the world as increasingly affluent populations in the developing world move to adopt a US-style meat-heavy diet.

    Sure, for those who just cannot do without beef, and who have the time and money to seek out small-scale sources of “sustainable” beef, that’s a better choice than conventional factory-farmed beef. But it is far easier, cheaper, and healthier, and reduces your GHG impact more, to eliminate beef and other animal products from your diet entirely.

    “Going vegan” remains one of the easiest and best things that most Americans can choose to do to reduce their personal contribution to AGW.

  37. 137
    Hank Roberts says:

    On the much larger scale, the same approach replicates (and restores, to some extent) the natural grassland environment before selection by firearm hunting changed herd behavior.

  38. 138
    Tom Rooney says:

    I just finished reading RC contributor David Archer’s “The Long Thaw.” I highly recommend it. I am a pretty well-educated guy when it comes to the basics of climate, paleoclimate, and climate change (but I am no expert). That said, I learned a lot. I really appreciated the long view forward–that is, going beyond the 2XC02 and year 2100 to understand the very long-term implications of climate change.

  39. 139
    Bob Loblaw says:

    Ron R. @ 2:49pm.

    Note that the 39.6% that Jim Eager referred to (Harper’s vote in the last Canadian federal election)), was 39.6% of the people that voted. Voter turnout was only 61.1%, so that means Harper was elected by 24.2% of the eligible voters…

    Personally, I’ve gotten rather tired of hearing cabinet ministers begin speeches with “the people gave us a mandate…” [apparently to do whatever they d@#& well please…]

  40. 140
    Ron R. says:

    Bob Loblaw @ 8:45 PM.

    Ah yes, thank you for that. I see that he mentions that it was a multi-party race.

    Personally, I’ve gotten rather tired of hearing cabinet ministers begin speeches with “the people gave us a mandate…” [apparently to do whatever they d@#& well please…]

    I remember Bush said that very thing.

    Not that I’m any big fan of Obama anymore.

    [Response:Can we get back to science please? There are plenty of other places to discuss political preferences… Thanks – gavin]

  41. 141
    Chris Dudley says:

    “Can we get back to science please? There are plenty of other places to discuss political preferences… Thanks – gavin”

    Apparently, politics has some impact on science. The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory was forced to close on account of politcs for example:

  42. 142
    Ron R. says:

    Right Gavin. Sorry about that.

  43. 143
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Geoff Beacon — 8 Jul 2012 @ 2:54 PM:

    As usual you are not trustworthy- You didn’t respond to the fact that I found that one of your references doesn’t support what you claim. Now you say that “Methane is almost half the total…” Total of what, and methane from what source? It certainly isn’t half of greenhouse forcing and the first reference in Google Scholar that I got for Donal Murphy-Bokem (your recommendation) shows greenhouse potential warming amounts of CO2, CH4, N2O, and refrigerants for the total UK food chain, and methane is about 15% of their total without breaking out that just from beef operations. You don’t seem to read what you recommend. I couldn’t find much of an academic nature in Scholar on Holzer and Lawton except commentaries, blogs, and books for sale. I like any ideas about permaculture, but I would like to see some numbers from a reliable source.

    You say that Salatin’s “cattle are a big problem.” They are not. You have failed to dispute the fact that methane forcing from beef operations will not increase any further than the present if the operations don’t increase in size. In fact, Salatin’s farm greatly reduces methane below that of big commercial operations and eliminates fossil CO2 additions to the atmosphere that is also a big problem for raising plant food for humans.


  44. 144
    wili says:

    Geoff, iirc, Lovelock in _Revenge of Gaia_ claimed that peat fires in SE Asia had contributed a significant portion of the total CO2 emissions one year. If you count these as wildfires, I would think that this would mean that wildfires could indeed make a significant contribution to GW. Those peat fires were the result of intentional clearing of land, as I recall, but the same could happen from GW (and has happened in the tundra, I believe).

    Your basic point is a good one–if various carbon (and probably other) feedbacks are being systematically excluded from all models that IPCC and others use, we inevitably have information that is systematically skewed toward a picture that is rosier than it should be. This may be an argument for putting a bit more weight on paleo-studies, as Mark Lynas has suggested.

    In any case, please keep asking questions, and just ignore the people who seem to think that no one should never ask any question on this thread unless they have spent hundreds of hours looking in all the right places for the answers first.

    (And of course you are right that the American commercial-meat-centered diet is a major part of how we contribute to global warming, among various other harms. And the spreading of that diet to the rest of the world is a further giant step in the wrong direction. The Salatin promoters have not read him very carefully–he doesn’t think his system can work unless almost all urban dwellers return to the land–probably a good idea, but not one that is going to happen any time soon. In the mean time, most of us should, as Michael Pollan says, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Those of us that choose to eat all plants leave more meat for the carnivores, so they should offer us their praise, rather than ridicule! ‘-)

    (reCaptch: capucines orshoil– a plant name! But I’m not sure it’s good sauted in ‘orsh oil’!)

  45. 145
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by SecularAnimist — 8 Jul 2012 @ 3:05 PM:

    I agree that CH4 is not nearly as important as fossil CO2, but in all agricultural operations. I have tried to keep mentioning the fossil CO2 as separate from CH4 in my comments above. However, I think that your dietary proclivity may be biasing your perceptions. Consider the following:

    On this forum we have seen many discussions about “the tragedy of the commons” and, so called, “economic externalities” in relation to everything from fisheries to transportation fuel. In this light you should be a major booster of Salatin’s sustainable agriculture. His methods eliminate the need for insecticides and fossil fuel derived manufactured fertilizers. Methane from the cattle gut is reduced because they eat food for which they are evolved and this is also much more humane than force feeding corn which both produces methane and makes them sick and then having to feed them antibiotics which can create resistant bacteria for human disease. Methane from cattle manure is also mostly eliminated because when spread on the range by the animals it doesn’t ferment anaerobically. The externalities are greatly reduced and the land is improved. As you say, this type of operation results in more expensive (but higher quality) beef, but this will reduce demand. This is exactly what we wish to see happen with fossil fuels, that is, we have to either eliminate or pay for the externalities. Check out this detailed economic analysis for scaling up Salatin’s methods-$FILE/2010-12.pdf

    Now, how do you propose to produce plant based food for us while eliminating most of the methane, pesticides, and all of the fossil carbon while also dealing with the species diversity problems caused by giant monocultures? We all have to get this figured out before too much fossil carbon is released and/or when it runs out.


  46. 146
    SecularAnimist says:

    wili wrote: “The Salatin promoters have not read him very carefully …”

    If you read Salatin “very carefully” you will find that he makes many statements about vegetarian diets and human nutrition that have about the same relationship to actual science (represented for example by the American Dietetic Association) that Lord Monckton’s statements about global warming have to the IPCC.

    And some of his claims regarding the ecological efficiency of his methods have been questioned. For example one analysis on Michael Pollan’s blog found that the soy and corn that Palatin feeds to his “broiler” chickens would provide more calories for human consumption if eaten directly than the meat from the chickens.

    As far as I am concerned, anyone exploring alternatives to the mass destruction perpetrated by fossil-fueled, chemical-saturated industrial agriculture is worth listening to. But please keep in mind that Salatin has a product to sell — and to promote — and apply appropriate skepticism to his claims.

  47. 147
    Marcus says:

    #143 steve fish:

    Sepp Holzer is a self educated farmer who has developed interesting techniques that actually do work, as one can discover by visiting his farm in austria (one method of growing vegetables is at work in my garden, so I could convince myself :-). It is probably true that not much scientific work about it exists,
    but he is not a learned scientist and his first steps into permaculture were just about 20 years ago, I think


  48. 148
    CRV9 says:

    45.James Hansen, October 2010 (PDF) (emphasis added):

    [ … ]

    The greater water vapor content of a warmer atmosphere allows larger rainfall anomalies and provides the fuel for stronger storms driven by latent heat.”

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 5 Jul 2012 @ 12:28 PM

    Thank you SecularAnimist. That’s what I thought as the part of my big picture. I knew they knew because they always know whatever I come up with. But it made me feel good. Thanks. It is important to me to read details in context of the big picture becasue it’s so easy to get lost in technical talks and it’s way too difficult to me to understand them. And reading up on these things wouldn’t bring me any bacon home anyway.
    Thank you, SecularAnimist, again.
    (I said I was off. I lied. I cheat, steal and lie. What can I say?. But this is an open thread though.)

  49. 149
  50. 150
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Steve Fish #143

    Thank you for pointing out my sloppiness. I had remembered a diagram I cannot now find showing non-CO2 greenhouse gasses having radiative forcing almost equal to that of CO2. Methane is the largest forcing agent of these but I was wrong when I meant to say it was half the total. In Box 2. of The Copenhagen Accord for limiting global warming:Criteria, constraints, and available avenues Ramanathan et. al. say this

    CO2 (1.65 Wm-2) and the non-CO2 GHGs (1.35 Wm-2) have added 3Wm-2 of radiant energy since preindustrial times.

    I find this paper an excellent one. It has a good sense of urgency in discussing how global average temperature increase should be kept below 2 °C

    Even if GHG emissions peak in 2015, the radiant energy barrier will be exceeded by 100%, requiring simultaneous pursuit of three avenues: (i) reduce the rate of thickening of the blanket by stabilizing CO2 concentration below 441 ppm during this century (a massive decarbonization of the energy sector is necessary to accomplish this Herculean task), (ii) ensure that air pollution laws that reduce the masking effect of cooling aerosols be made radiant energy-neutral by reductions in black carbon and ozone, and (iii) thin the blanket by reducing emissions of short-lived GHGs. Methane and hydrofluorocarbons emerge as the prime targets.

    They also say

    About 33–45% of the annual CH4 emission of 230–300 Mt is caused by livestock and the agriculture sector, 30% is caused by the energy sector, and 25% is caused by waste treatment and disposal

    I’d be interested to hear views on this paper.

    Unless comments get closed more later this week with a few comments on Google Scolar.

    P.S. You didn’t take up my challenge on my Cooling and Supercooling post.