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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. 151
    Hank Roberts says:

    old info but useful for the relative proportion of forcing by various gases:

  2. 152
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Opinion from the

    We may also be betting too much on “scientific” agriculture. By “scientific” I mean agriculture that attracts research funding. I got caught between advocates of gardening, permaculture, horticulture recently and three “scientific” professors from the UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. I characterise the gardeners as “the amateurs” and the professors as “the scientists”. Starting with claims the “gardening can’t feed the world” from one the professors I found none of the professors knew anything much on the topic.

    The “amateurs” knew about Sepp Holzer and Geoff Lawton the “scientific” professors knew nothing. Guess whom you can find in Google Scholar?

  3. 153
    MARodger says:

    Given the length of the interchange down this thread on livestock methane emissions, I’m surprised the size of such emissions have not yet been nailed down satisfactorily. Wikipedia is often a good place to start. It gives the figure for livestock methane emissions as 35% of man’s total methane but this figure needs to be reduced as the anthropogenic total used does not include rice cultivation. From the lilely range of methane emissions from rice given here, this would put livestock methane as 27% – 33%.
    As a proportion of positive anthropogenic forcings Skeie et al 2011 graph methane as of 2010 at 15% (0.49 W/m^2 of 3.31 W/m^2). Adding the methane-derived stratospheric H2O would boost this to 17%, thus setting % forcing from livestock methane at a little under 6%.
    A graphical presentation of Skeie et al 2011’s 2000-2010 numbers linked here (usually two clicks to ‘download your attachment’

  4. 154
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 136 Secular Animist, Re 145 Steve Fish, Re 150 Geoff Beacon

    I want to second what Steve Fish said about increasing beef expense and the supply and demand relationship.

    I’m definitely not against anyone going vegan; it’s funny how it sometimes seems people think of milk/dairy as the source of Ca and meat/nuts/beans as the source for protein (too bad coffee, chocolate, and vanilla are not beans as such!), but there’s really protein and Ca distributed among food options.

    But different ways to get the same nutrition are more or less enjoyable to different people (and more or less good for them – not everyone can eat like everyone else, unfortunately) – food really ought to be more than just about physical sustenance; it is one of the ways we enjoy life (and one of the reasons for mitigating climate change), along with music, science blogs, and watching storm chasing videos.

    If people reduce their meat consumption, that should help. There are lands not so suitable for food crops but can produce feed for some animals (and not all of it is presently forested, etc.). Meat can be sustainable and help feed the world (and be healthy, assuming there’s exercise, etc.) if it is a small enough part of the average person’s diet, same with everything else (well, not everything, but you know…). If somebody would rather save money from not buying meat and spend it instead on chocolate and maple syrup (plants!) (another motivation for mitigating climate change), I’m fine with it (except then there’s less chocolate and maple syrup for me – oh, well).

    PS different forcing agents can have different efficacies because there are some subtleties about how they work; for example, black carbon deposited on ice/snow near freezing, by causing warming at the point where a positive feedback can work, may have greater global effect relative to it’s global average forcing. Aside from that sort of thing, CH4 emissions have greater effect than just through CH4 radiative forcing because they affect things like tropospheric ozone (although I’d have to get back to you on the numbers).

    But I’ve only read back to ~ comment 120-ish so maybe you’ve covered that already.

  5. 155
    Jack Roesler says:

    @SecularAnimist, #136: I agree that going with a vegan diet is a very good way to got one’s carbon footprint down, but estimates I’ve found put it at about 1.5 tons of CO2 reduction per year. I’ve done that, but other measures, like putting in a high eff. furnace and windows, having my house fully insulated, using my AC on only the very warmest days (I use an exhaust fan on moderately warm days, to cool the house at night, then close it up in the morning), using my feet and bicycle for local trips whenever weather permits, consolidating my auto trips, etc. Overall, I’ve cut 7.5 tons of CO2 off my footprint, which includes the 1.5 for my mainly vegan diet. A huge side benefit is that I’m very healthy at 72, in spite of having a mild case of cystic fibrosis.

  6. 156
    SCM says:

    Does RealClimate take requests?

    Recently I have read a number of pop-sci type articles pointing to research on jet-stream weakening caused by a reduced North to South temp gradient thanks to sea ice loss. These articles suggest that a slower more meandering jetstream is responsible for some of the weather extremes seen in the Northern hemisphere in recent years (big droughts & heatwaves, and big freezes/floods) due to greater North/south excursions of hot/cold air and ‘blocking’ weather patterns caused by jet-stream meanders.

    I couldn’t find any recent RC articles on this topic using the search, and I would love to see the RC take on this. Is this research really solid yet or just in preliminary stages? It certainly sounds intriguing.

    [Response: It’s both intriguing and preliminary. The impact of climate change on winter-time jets has been a topic of research for a long time (for instance, a number of papers I co-authored looked at this – Shindell et al, 1999; 2003, Miller et al, 2006) – but the focus then was on whether changes near the tropopause (and/or stratosphere) contibuted to shifts in the NAO/AO. A +ve NAO is associated with zonal flow (i.e. not much meandering of the jet), while a -ve NAO is associated with a lot of meandering and a lot of cold air outbreaks. The indications at that time seemed to be that we would see a small +ve trend in the NAO (i.e. towards more zonal flow). The rapidity of the sea ice loss might be an additional factor though. Clara Deser did some work years ago suggesting that sea ice loss would give a small push towards negative NAO, but it wasn’t very conclusive. With the new input from the CMIP5 models – which have larger losses in sea ice, it might be that there is a different signal in the models – which would be interesting. Getting at this just from the observations is tricky because the year to year variability is very large, and we just went from a record minimum (in 2010/2011) to a record maximum (2011/2012). I doubt very much that any of the potential forced responses are anything like large enough to explain that. – gavin]

  7. 157
    Geoff Beacon says:

    To calculate the carbon footprints of meats the Green Ration Book used the following Defra funded study of beef, tomatoes, etc by Williams, A.G., Audsley, E. and Sandars, D.L. (2006) Determining the environmental burdens and resource use in the production of agricultural and horticultural commodities. Main Report. Defra Research Project IS0205. Bedford: Cranfield University and Defra.

    Available on, and

    For methane rated over 100 years, the computer model by the lead author Adrian Williams gave carbon footprints for different meats expressed here for 1 tonne deadweight meat and the corresponding carbon footprint in CO2 equivalent.

    Using GWP100 for methane it gave….

    Beef……. 13.989 tonnes CO2e
    Pig meat… 5.380 tonnes CO2e
    Poultry…. 3.996 tonnes CO2e
    Sheep meat. 14.279 tonnes CO2e

    Using GWP (20years) for methane it gave….

    Beef……. 25.231 tonnes CO2e
    Pig meat… 7.249 tonnes CO2e
    Poultry…. 3.978 tonnes CO2e
    Sheep meat. 26.095 tonnes CO2e

    I don’t think this took into account the uprating of methane by Schindell in Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions

    I don’t think you will find the Williams report in Google Scholar.

  8. 158
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re my 154 – see Hank Robert’s 151 link; it shows the attribution of forcing to emission of CH4.

  9. 159
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re my 154 – see Hank Robert’s 151; link shows attribution of forcing to CH4 emission

  10. 160
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 156 SCM – see also:

    Note – the reduction in temperature difference between pole and equator is not evenly distributed over latitude and reverses sign going up through the troposphere. Although the surface temperature gradient is of particular importance to baroclinic instability (mechanism for spin-up of midlatitude cyclones; although this doesn’t include the addition of latent heat).

    reminds me –
    (cont. later)

  11. 161
    SCM says:

    Re #156
    Thanks very much for the detailed reply. I will await future developments with interest.

    BTW I tracked down the paper that prompted the recent pop sci articles I mentioned above:
    Francis, J. A., and S. J. Vavrus (2012), Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L06801, doi:10.1029/2012GL051000.

  12. 162
    MARodger says:

    Geoff Bacon @157
    I feel your numbers err rather greatly on the high side. If you multiply your CO2e/ton(meat) numbers by world meat production figures 2010 , they total to 2 Gt CO2e (your upper table) or 3 Gt CO2e (lower table). To quickly convert this into the meat contribution to AGW, take recent anthropogenic forcings as 80% CO2 with emissions of 30 Gt CO2 and remembering 55% of our CO2 does not remain in the atmosphere, your tables would thus equate to saying meat production is responsible for 12% (lower table) or 18% (upper table) of present AGW. Even if you account for troposherical O3 (that was misplaced @153) and ignore a likely livestock contributon from dairy production, 12% still remains too high a figure.

  13. 163

    Earlier on this thread, we briefly discussed Canadian government’s appalling record of anti-science funding decisions. This morning I’m reminded that Mike Mann had written in “The Hockey Stick…” about denialism ‘awakening a sleeping bear.’ Seems that’s true in Canada:

    It’s going to take more than a rally or two, I’m afraid, but I sure hope this gets some political traction!

  14. 164
    Geoff Beacon says:

    MA Rogers @162

    Previously the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) had highlighted livestock’s impact on the environment in Livestock’s long shadow: environmental issues and options. This estimates that livestock causes 18% of total greenhouse gas emissions. But the World Bank people say:

    Livestock are already well-known to contribute to GHG emissions. Livestock’s Long Shadow, the widely-cited 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), estimates that 7,516 million metric tons per year of CO2 equivalents (CO2e), or 18 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions, are attributable to cattle, buffalo, sheep, goats, camels, horses, pigs, and poultry. That amount would easily qualify livestock for a hard look indeed in the search for ways to address climate change.

    But they continue:

    But our analysis shows that livestock and their byproducts actually account for at least 32,564million tons of CO2e per year, or 51 percent of annual worldwide GHG emissions.

    So the Times says 9%, the UN FAO says 18% and the World bank says 51%

    Reference links here: How long is livestock’s shadow?

    My guess is somewhere between the FAO and the “World Bank people”.

    Which of these can be found in Google Scholar?

    [Response: The report linked is nothing to do with the World Bank, rather it is a report from World Watch Institute – which I assume is some kind of NGO. Regardless, the reported numbers are nonsense – for instnace, they count respiration as emissions (which makes no sense at all), and make a lot of unsupported assumptions. The FAO figure it should be noted is not just methane, but includes all of the industrial activity attributed to argicultural activities. – gavin]

  15. 165
    Hank Roberts says:

    Geoff, what’s your problem with Google Scholar?

    Use any other search tool.
    It doesn’t matter which one.
    They all look at the same web.

    You seem not to understand
    the basics of searching, citing, and references.

    Those aren’t computer skills.
    They’re library skills.

    Asking others to do searches that you expect to be pointless,
    then ignoring the results people show you
    is not working well for you.

  16. 166
    SecularAnimist says:

    Gavin replied to Geoff Beacon: “The report linked is nothing to do with the World Bank, rather it is a report from World Watch Institute – which I assume is some kind of NGO.”

    Yes, the Livestock and Climate Change report (PDF) was published in 2009 by Worldwatch Institute, an NGO founded by Lester Brown, which does important work related to climate, energy and agriculture:

    “Through research and outreach that inspires action, the Worldwatch Institute works to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world that meets human needs. The Institute’s top mission objectives are universal access to renewable energy and nutritious food, expansion of environmentally sound jobs and development, transformation of cultures from consumerism to sustainability, and an early end to population growth through healthy and intentional childbearing.”

    For those who may be interested, Worldwatch has a “Sources and Resources” page for that report on their website, which includes a FAQ section.

    As for the NoBeef site’s references to “World Bank people” and what “the World bank says”, they attribute the report to Lord Stern’s “ex-colleagues at the World Bank”, which is an accurate characterization of the authors:

    “Robert Goodland retired as lead environmental adviser at the World Bank Group after serving there for 23 years. In 2008 he was awarded the first Coolidge Memorial Medal by the IUCN for outstanding contributions to environmental conservation. Jeff Anhang is a research officer and environmental special-ist at the World Bank Group’s International Finance Corporation, which provides private-sector financing and advice in developing countries.”

    However, it is not accurate, and indeed is misleading, to characterize the Worldwatch Institute report as “what the World Bank says”.

  17. 167
    Geoff Beacon says:


    Thanks to your response to me @164.

    I’m having problems with the spam filter. This is truncated.

    According to Livestock and Climate Change by the Worldwatch Institute the two authors were WB employees.

    You may note the NoBeef piece said

    The Times interviewed Lord Stern recently (Barack Obama must attend Copenhagen climate summit, says Lord Stern). He was a bit controversial saying we should give up meat to save the planet from climate change. In the supporting diagrams the Times gave livestock’s footprint was 9% of total greenhouse gasses.

    Stern may have been influenced by a recent report by ex-colleagues at the WB…

    The NoBeef piece perhaps should have explicitly mentioned the Worldwatch Institute, rather than just linking to the report on their website but you cannot deny there is a WB connection which justifies the speculative “may have been influenced by”. That may be a bit limp but it is accurate. Additionally it does not say that the FAO figure was just counting methane.

    [Response: The World Bank is an authoratative institution. World Watch Institue does not have that authority regardless of who it’s authors used to work for. In either case, what matters is the analysis, not the source. And the analysis is wrong. – gavin]

    Livestocks long shadow says

    The livestock sector accounts for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions. The largest share of this derives from land-use changes – especially deforestation – caused by expansion of pastures and arable land for feedcrops. Livestock are responsible for much larger shares of some gases with far higher potential to warm the atmosphere. The sector emits 37 percent of anthropogenic methane (with 23 times the global warming potential (GWP) of CO2) most of that from enteric fermentation by ruminants. It emits 65 percent of anthropo-genic nitrous oxide (with 296 times the GWP of CO2), the great majority from manure. Live-stock are also responsible for almost two-thirds (64 percent) of anthropogenic ammonia emissions, which contribute significantly to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.

    There are two methane issues here

    1) The selection of a GWP measure (100 years or 20 years). Livestock and Climate Change chooses 20 years and give their figure for GWP of methane as 72 rather than 25 times CO2.

    [Response: GWP is not the same as the attribution to current change. – gavin]

    2) You were one of the authors of Improved Attribution of Climate Forcing to Emissions which uprates the GWP20 of methane to 105 times CO2. (Am I wrong? I’ve lost track of the copy I paid for).

    It seems to me there is no correct choice here without considering future scenarios of climate change – are we near one or multiple tipping points that must be avoided by short term actions while we work out how to cope in the longer term? If we are in this situation, it seems to me to be a possible choice to go for GWP20 rather than GWP100.

    I don’t understand why you say “they count respiration as emissions (which makes no sense at all)“. I wasn’t completely convinced by the Livestock and Climate Change argument but respiration is oxidation of biomass with roughly the same outcome as burning biomass. If the biomass that livestock eat were used in power stations, it could displace some fossil fuels … and burning biomass with carbon capture could actually extract CO2 from the atmosphere.

    [Response: Respiration is recycling the carbon that was extracted from the atmosphere very recently and stored in the biomass. As such it is carbon neutral and you could increase it as much as you want without directly impacting climate. Adding it the anthropogenic contribution to GHGs is just silly. It’s as silly as contrarians claiming that the EPA wants to regulate peoples’ breathing. – gavin]

  18. 168
    Radge Havers says:

    Re: awakening bears @ 163

    Bears are generally ignored except as viral material for YouTube. Maybe some cute videos of befuddled scientists falling out of trees would draw some attention…

    The Silence on Global Warming

    …This phenomenon of silence – both in the political and journalistic realms – has not gone completely unnoticed. It’s just that those who make the point are ignored, too.

    “For instance, Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, gave a major speech on the Senate floor on June 19 lamenting the failure of the U.S. political system to address the global-warming crisis but the speech got little play…

    “…just as the U.S. news media failed the country in 2003 by caving to the Right’s pressure on the Iraq invasion, American journalism is now failing future generations by cowering in front of the loud voices of powerful climate-change deniers.”

  19. 169
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Secular Animist @166.

    Yes. Thanks

  20. 170
    MARodger says:

    Geoff Beacon @164

    First my apologies for appelational error @162. I have to blame my converting you from source of enlightnement to smoked meat on mislayed glasses. Sorry.

    As the [Response] @164 states, your World Bank report is actually a Worldwatch Institute document who’s authors have links to the World Bank. I’m not at all impressed by its amending of the UN FAO report. Indeed, to my mind their amendments show such a poor grasp of the accounting problem they address, it isn’t really worthy of comment.

    The UN FAO report has a more reputable authorship and a lot more pages but happily only about 40 pages are about GHGs.
    However I am not very happy with its conclusions. These are that livestock is responsible for 9% CO2 emissions, 35-40% CH4 emissions & 65% Nitrous oxide emissions and that these equate to 18% of all anthropogenic GHG emissions.
    I would question these conclusions on a number of counts. Firstly the figure for annual CO2 FF/cement emissions are taken as 6.5 GtC pa, a value not seen since 1995 and low enough to greatly boost those percentages. Conversely annual CO2 from land-use change is taken as 1.9 GtC pa, an enormous value but given the vast majority of the CO2 emissions it attributes to livestock fall into this category, a large land-use value is probably easier to accept. Then I’m not sure such emissions should be so accounted as they are a product of change in livestock farming not the framing itself. (That means they are not annual emissions.)
    Their methane numbers also appear to be applied to a low total anthropogenic emission figure. N2O emission levels are not something I am immediately familiar with.
    All in all, the UNFAO report’s 18% I’d argue to be unrealistic with the actual figure for all GHGs probably less than 9%.

  21. 171
    wili says:

    Carnivores on the thread will be happy to learn that they will be able to cheaply gorge themselves on cheap meat as ranchers and farmers cannot afford to feed their herds at current and likely future crop prices (due to current and forecast near-universal drought:

    So they will be selling their calves and cattle cheap to avoid total loss. Bon appetite.

    Enjoy your feast while ye may (or stock up the freezer), since the temporary glut in cheap meat will most likely be quickly followed by a meat scarcity–hard to find at any price. (So maybe it would be better just to start getting used to bean burgers now?)

  22. 172
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Gavin, thanks for responding to me @167

    [Response: GWP is not the same as the attribution to current change. – gavin]

    Even if I understood that, don’t both publications use GWP’s in the same way?

    [Response: Respiration is recycling the carbon that was extracted from the atmosphere very recently and stored in the biomass. As such it is carbon neutral and you could increase it as much as you want without directly impacting climate. Adding it the anthropogenic contribution to GHGs is just silly. It’s as silly as contrarians claiming that the EPA wants to regulate peoples’ breathing. – gavin

    Burning biomass may cut total GHG emissions by displacing fossil fuel power generation. Cattle breathing by oxidising biomass does not. We should not aim at carbon neutral but at carbon negative activities now.

    I don’t particularly want to be stuck with defending this “breathing causes climate change” position but I do dislike the term “carbon neutral”. “I’m carbon neutral so I’m not to blame” is not a stance I admire if I could actually be carbon negative and correct some of the damage I’ve done.

    P.S. What do you think of Ramanathan’s The Copenhagen Accord for limiting global warming: Criteria, constraints, and available avenues.

    Is his urgency sensible?

  23. 173
    JCH says:

    As a cowboy, the numbers for sheep look suspect. I seldom sees those varmits out on the lonesome prairie. Maybe some of those strange countries have more of them than we do.

    One wonders, if those puny little ruminants can produce 26.095 tonnes CO2e, could their albedo feedback be a wild and wooly sum that also needs to be in them climate models.

  24. 174
    Geoff Beacon says:

    MA Roger @170.

    I know GWP can be a difficult concept but it is in international treaties.

    What value for the GWP of methane would you use?

    And why?

    Is methane GWP an example of “a poor grasp of the accounting problem” in Livestock and Climate Change?

  25. 175
    Jonathan says:

    As regards beef:

    There is a new paper on all this in the most recent volume of Energy and Environmental Science (Powell, Lenton, ‘Future carbon dioxide removal via biomass energy constrained by agricultural efficiency and dietary trends’, 20 June 2012)

    I should note in passing, @66/95/152/157/164, and indeed @165: you can turf it up on Google Scholar.

    As far as an unlearned reader like me is concerned, it makes interesting reading. They’ve set out at a range of basic scenarios involving different habits of meat production to 2050 (when we’ll be feeding an estimated world population of 9.3 billion), based on dietary preference and agricultural efficiency, and taking into account the type of livestock (beef being the least energy-efficient) and how intensively animals are farmed. An important element is there account of the amount of waste and inefficiency in current practice. (By their reckoning only around 4% of crops grown for livestock currently turn into meat.)

    They conclude that a ‘low-meat, high-efficiency’ approach (e.g. focussing on poultry and pork instead of beef) could lead to a 25 ppm reduction in lower atmospheric CO2. On the other hand ‘A high-meat, low-efficiency future would be a catastrophe for natural ecosystems (and thus for the humans that depend on their services) with around 9.3 Gha under cultivation in 2050 and a net increase in atmospheric CO2 in 2050 by 55 ppm due to land use changes.’

  26. 176
    Jim Larsen says:

    Grasslands are a huge amount of natural area. Humans can derive benefit from them either by destroying them and planting monocultures, generally of incredibly bad for human health crops such as corn and wheat (bad omega6/3 ratios), or by grazing animals and then eating the resulting carbon neutral and incredibly environmentally friendly meat. In North America, the bison is the primary grass-eater. It is truly a climate-friendly and health-beneficial food. That folks have chosen to provide/eat toxic cows forced to eat toxic grain (OK, bad for you is probably a better phrase/word than toxic) in no way changes the fact that grasslands’ best and highest use for humans is to raise meat.

    I ask SecularAnimist (and other vegans), how the great plains should be used, if not for grass-fed bison? What ya gonna do? Grow more omega-6 corn using fossil fuel fertilizer, thereby adding to the ill-health of humanity and the degradation of the biosphere? I suspect not, but I sure don’t see a better use for the plains than to grow bison.

    And, SA, name ONE thing detrimental to ANYTHING, which is inherent in the production and consumption of bison meat. Grass-fed meat is the BEST environmental AND health answer.

    And remember, that sentient animal owes its LIFE to the fact that its gonna be eaten. Eliminating meat means the extinction of meat-producing domestic animals.

    The problem isn’t meat, but corn and wheat. Meat (and that includes YOU) needs to be grown with grass, not grain.

  27. 177
    Hank Roberts says:

    > bison
    And elk.

    “… It’s 1795…. Kentucky. The landscape is a sea of chest-high grasses, dotted with clumps of oak and hickory trees. In the distance, a herd of bison graze, while elk nibble on woody shrubs.
    … in 1975, LBL biologists are excited to discover a small patch of native prairie …”

  28. 178
    MARodger says:

    Geoff Beacon @174
    My objections to the Worldwatch Institute paper Livestock & Climate Change does not extend to GWP. Indeed, my many objections are more profound than mere conversion factors between the various GHGs & CO2e.

    As an example of these objections, consider their assertion that their claim “…is a strong claim that requires strong evidence.” This sounds encouraging yet a few paragraphs later their first amendment of the UN FAO findings is to include livestock respiration, a contribution (clumsily) dismissed by the UN FAO report. Worldwatch argue (unconvincingly) otherwise and quantify the contribution thus:-

    “Carbon dioxide from livestock respiration accounts for 21 percent of anthropogenic GHGs worldwide, according to a 2005 estimate by British physicist Alan Calverd. He did not provide the weight of this CO2, but it works out to about 8,769million tons.Calverd’s estimate is the only original estimate of its type, but because it involves only one variable (the total mass of all livestock, as all but cold-blooded farmed fish exhale roughly the same amount of CO2 per kilogram), all calculations of CO2 from the respiration of a given weight of livestock would be about the same.”

    What is objectionable here is that Worldwatch entirely fail to mention in their account the 3,161 million tons for this quantity that UN FAO arrived at. Not a squeak. And it is one hell of a big difference to go uncommented on. In my view, this lack of comment is quite unforgivable when somebody has just been telling me they are providing “strong evidence.”

  29. 179
    dhogaza says:

    The problem isn’t meat, but corn and wheat. Meat (and that includes YOU) needs to be grown with grass, not grain.

    Bison feeds on grass, but is not grass …

  30. 180
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 172 – Geoff Beacon – I lost track of who said what about % of anthropogenic CO2eq, but here’s the meat and potatoes of the issue:

    GWP vs attribution to present change vs forcing:

    Forcing is, in this context, an energy flux (per unit area, generally in the global annual average, although orbital forcing’s interesting aspects are seasonal and regional) into the climate system or the reduction in net outgoing energy flux from the the climate system (essentially all radiation – there’s just not much ‘evaporative cooling’ by Raleigh-Jeans H escape) – for Earth-like planets this is pretty-much equal to top-of-atmosphere (TOA) values – net downward solar, net upward longwave radiation, and changes in that – because the geothermal flux is (except locally) very small and don’t change much (in the large-scale) except over geologic time (and those changes are still very small except in such times as after large impacts, etc.).

    Present change in climate is the effect that changes in forcing from some baseline (preindustrial) have had, through time, up to this point – if not for heat capacity and assuming only rapid feedbacks, this would tend towards being equal with climate sensitivity * change in forcing, but the climate takes time to reach equilibrium (if behavior were linear, disequilibrium exponentially decays if forcing is held constant), so there will be some historical dependence.

    The present change in CO2 will also have greater dependence on the older emissions than CH4 does; CH4’s emission history ‘fades’ on a timescale of a decade (exponentially decays on that timescale), while CO2 initially (if I understand this correctly) decays even faster but then slows as the extra CO2’s redistribution approaches temporary equilibria with successive cominations of reservoirs, so there is a longer-lived remnant of the perturbation of atmospheric CO2 amount. So the oldest CH4 emissions may have very little direct impact on present equilibrium climate, though they have contributed to the warming that has brought the actual climate closer than otherwise to the present equilibrium value (ie take out the older CH4 emissions out and forcing would have had to increase more rapidly at some time after that, so the climate may have warmed less – this effect of course will also fade with time after that because the disequilibrium decays).

    GWP is proportional to the integration of forcing over time per a unit of emission, since the time of emission – see eq. 6.2 at . The present forcing includes remnants of emissions from many different times, and the forcing history … well, you can figure out one from the other but you’d probably need a spreadsheet.

    And why people have a beef with including respiration: generally, animals eating plants (or eating animals that ate plants, or fungi or bacteria that are eating whatever, except when they’re in an oil spill) are exhaling C that was just taken out of the atmosphere a short while ago. Granted, if you build up a stockpile of grain, or if you start eating the wood of an old tree, (or for carnivores and bacteria, if you’re eating an older animal – although most of what that animal had eaten will already have been emitted again – at least if it’s warm-blooded, so far as I know) than it’s not such a short while, but what remains important is the net effect – if trees or crops are growing at the same rate as the C is being oxidized, pretty much however that oxidation occurs (setting aside the other effects of fires, land albedo, temporary existance as CH4 or CO, etc. (although if as CH4, I suppose the C at first stays in the atmosphere longer because it doesn’t go into the ocean as much until it turns into CO2?)). While food and feed stockpiles and biomass don’t stay constant, they will average out to constant over time for a sustained operation where feed is grown at a sufficient rate for the animals to eat. So respiration as such, while not a solution, really isn’t part of the problem (if you incentive C uptake and tax CO2(eq) emission at the same rate, then one with no net emission or uptake is not directly impacted either way). What may be part of the problem is other aspects of land use – is the soil losing C over time, for example, or are you changing the type of vegetation, such as from forests to corn, reducing the stored C? (PS obviously you can’t count the same emission from a deforested acre each year after deforestation, except for any ongoing emissions due to the change, such as … whatever, you get the point).

  31. 181
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Larsen wrote: “I ask SecularAnimist (and other vegans), how the great plains should be used … that sentient animal owes its LIFE to the fact that its gonna be eaten.”

    The idea that everything in the world consists of two things, (1) human beings and (2) “resources” to be used by human beings, is the very root of our “environmental” problems. The pathologically anthropocentric thinking that got us into this mess is not going to get us out of it.

    Jim Larsen wrote: “Eliminating meat means the extinction of meat-producing domestic animals.”

    I don’t see that as a problem. On the contrary, I see ending the mass production of “meat animals” as an essential step towards restoring some semblance of ecological balance and preventing the mass extinction of most species on this planet (including those not considered “useful resources” for human beings).

    More than NINE BILLION sentient animals are slaughtered for meat every year in the USA alone — the vast majority of them having endured unspeakable misery during their short, wretched lives and ultimate slaughter. That is what I see as the problem.

  32. 182
    dbostrom says:

    Chris Horner and ATI are engaging in renewed degenerate behavior, now targeting Katherine Hayhoe, Andrew Dessler, various journalists.

    “The ultra-conservative American Tradition Institute has expanded its legal pursuit of climate scientists, using transparency laws to try to flush out potentially damaging emails.

    The strategy – used to seek records from prominent scientists such as Michael Mann – is seen by scientists as an excuse to try to dig up embarrassing or damaging communications that could be used to discredit climate science.

    Now for the first time the media is being drawn in as well, with ATI seeking the release of scientists’ communications with specific journalists. The list of news organisations targeted by the request includes the New York Times, the Associated Press, Frontline and the Guardian.

    Earlier requests focused on exchanges between scientists. “We view this as a new chapter,” said Jeff Ruch, a lawyer working with the Climate Science Legal Defence Fund. “Before they were going after interactions between individual scientists. This is basically a spying operation to see who are you talking to, but presumably the idea is the same: to find material that is potential of use in discrediting a scientist.”

    Christopher Horner, the director of ATI’s environmental law centre, deployed the new tactic for the first time last week, in a 5 July 2012 open records request to two scientists at public universities in Texas.

    Horner, who holds posts at the Competitive Enterprise Institute as well as ATI, has led the legal pursuit of climate scientists through open records laws.”

    More at Horner target

    If you find this annoying, don’t just whine and moan; productive catharsis may be found at the Climate Science Defense Fund. Engage in the ritual called “donate” and you’ll instantly feel more calm and happy.

  33. 183
    Patrick 027 says:

    …”So respiration as such, while not a solution, really isn’t part of the problem “… To put that another way, are you part of the problem because you are not mining dunite (a proposal to artificially accelerate chemical weathering)? And would we include a lack of such artificial chemical weathering as emissions?

  34. 184
    dbostrom says:

    After some quick calculations I was able to quantify my anger w/ATI and Horner: another 250 clams.

    How angry does it make you when the malicious litigators of ATI go after a nice person like Hayhoe? Report your results here.

    Make ATI into a fundraising machine for climate science defense.

  35. 185

    “Eliminating meat means the extinction of meat-producing domestic animals.”

    This isn’t a Boolean problem. Has the near-elimination of horse-drawn transport eliminated horses? Just sayin’.

  36. 186
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    >needs to be grown with grass, not grain.

    Huh? What? Grain *is* grass. Cereals *are* grasses. Barley, oats, wheat, maize, rice, rye, sorgham, millet, zoysia, bermuda, “Kentucky Bluegrass”… it’s all Poaceae.

  37. 187
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 177 Jim Larsen – I return to my point that food should be enjoyable, and while I would have cattle graze on the proper grassy perennials, I – no vegan (and no exercise fanatic), mind you – will feed myself with (not too much, I hope) wheat and corn (and oats) (no, not only those – fish, some beef, some chicken, blueberries, grapes, apples, almonds, chocolate, sugar maples, sweet potatoes, basil, cheese, and tomatoes too! – and maybe some apricots, a dash of salt, some fennel… but the point here isn’t to give you recipes :) ). (PS what is the fraction of cropland that is for feed vs for human food?) Of course if improvements can be made to how wheat and corn are grown, I’m all for that.

    Remember that even if (as I’d expect, based on the existence of crop residues and the times of year when crops’ leaves don’t fill in their alloted area, etc.) you can grow more grass per unit area with less additional resources (I believe), there is still that matter that you have to feed it to an animal to produce a smaller amount of food in the form of meat (I don’t know the conversion rates for dairy and eggs – presumably it depends on how old the animals get before they are used for meat?). So there’s give and take. And when we do (being optimistic sooner rather than later) get off fossil fuels (except for whatever dwindling trickle might be more than compensated by biochar and dunite dust, etc.), the life-cycle CO2(eq) emissions of agricultural products will look different.

    and re “Eliminating meat means the extinction of meat-producing domestic animals.” – um, not to get too deep into philosophical ‘potential beings’ stuff, but a brain that never existed doesn’t care. No matter how many animals are born, there will still be many combinations of parents’ genetics and environment that hasn’t been tried out.

    Re my own 160 – that reminded me of my comments 47,50:
    here (in particular, 47):

    3rd-to-last paragraph:

    Rossby waves can also occur at an IPV front between regions without IPV gradients – the combination of the two implies the possibility for Rossby waves to propagate along a line.
    – the idea of a line being a sharp surface potential-temperature front. Of course fronts at a surface don’t continue to exist without features existing away from the surface, but if you start without a front and then insert one only as required for the effective surface PV gradient (as a surface potential temperature gradient), then the concept should work so far as I know.

    I’ve read that all Rossby waves on a PV-front would have critical levels on either side, where the wave is not propagating through the fluid, so that continual displacement results in mixing, so that PV tends to become more homogeneous on either side. Jets on PV-fronts are also ‘flaccid’ as well as ‘elastic’ (there’s an article – don’t have the website offhand).
    – I think it was this article:
    M. E. McIntyre, “Potential-vorticity inversion and the wave-turbulence jigsaw: some recent clarifications”


    PS attempted start at redo of that comment (doesn’t cover all of it):

    The conservation of angular momentum in the absence of a torque (or change in it with a torque), along with some intellectual effort applied to Newton’s laws of motion (which actually describe the conservation of angular momentum, so that first part is redundant, although it deserves emphasis), shows that a quantity can be defined – (isentropic (or isopycnal)) potential vorticity, or (I)PV for short

    which is proportional to absolute vorticity (planetary vorticity (that of the rotation of the planet) + relative vorticity(that of the fluid motion relative to the planet)) divided by a fluid layer mass depth, or something analogous to that such as the mass per unit area per unit vertical difference in either potential temperature or potential density (constant values of which define isentropic surfaces or isopycnal surfaces, respectively, so that a difference defines a fluid layer of some thickness)

    which is conserved (at least approximately – I’m not sure how the ‘curvature terms’ in the momentum equations would alter this) following fluid motion for adiabatic inviscid processes and whose distribution can be used to derive the velocity at any location within the fluid if a balance assumption is made (such as geostrophic balance or gradient wind balance) – so that the winds are cyclonic around a cyclonic IPV anomaly, etc, and as such winds redistribute IPV, this allows one to visualize how a circulation pattern can evolve, and also in particular predicts and explains how a category of circulatory perturbations propagate through the fluid like waves when there is a ‘basic state’ quasi-horizontal (or isentropic/isopycnal) IPV gradient – in fact they are waves, with interesting phase propagation and group velocity behavior

    (phase propagation always has a component directed such that increasing positive IPV or decreasing negative IPV is to the right (increasing cyclonic PV is to the right in the Northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere; note that PV includes the effect of planetary rotation and so cyclonic PV has a tendency to increase poleward – in particular it does this when there is no flow and no (quasi-)horizontal variation in fluid layer mass depth or analogous quantity (see above), while the group velocity can have a component in the opposite direction for sufficiently short wavelengths – PS this is in a frame of reference following the ‘basic state’ flow.)

    And also, it turns out the the horizontally-large-scale circulation of the atmosphere away from the ground and at sufficient distance from the equator does tend towards such a balance, and the viscous and diabatic processes that do occur modify the wave behavior but are not strong enough to mask it.

    Such waves propagate at a speed through the fluid that is dependent on wavelength, and so if such waves are forced by sea surface temperature anomalies or topography with just the right wavelength, then the waves can propagate at a speed that is equal to the speed of the more general wind, so that they become ‘quasi-stationary’. Thus SST anomalies may alter the global circulation (ENSO is a good example – PS I have read that SST anomalies at low latitudes should be much more effective because it is the latent heating (in this case) in the atmosphere above which perturbs the flow, and you get a greater difference in that for a given SST anomaly when the baseline SST is larger. On the other hand, I imagine the difference in sensible heat transfer and associated air temperature difference between ice-free and ice-covered ocean might be large enough to be important in this context(?)).

    While the pole-equator temperature difference will tend to be reduced at the surface (esp. in winter), this is not evenly distributed over latitude, and the reverse is expected in the upper troposphere.

  38. 188
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 185 Unsettled Scientist – thanks for that ! :)

  39. 189
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Hank Roberts #165

    What do I have against Google Scholar??

    That’s too difficult for a quick response but Wikipedia says

     the Google Scholar index includes most peer-reviewedonline journals of Europe and America’s largest scholarly publishers

    Peer-review is for professionals and as George Bernard Shaw said

    “All professions are conspiracies against the laity.”

    Jim Larsen @177

    I ask SecularAnimist (and other vegans), how the great plains should be used, if not for grass-fed bison?

    If you were serious about climate change you would advocate growing biomass to replace fossil fuels (to be burnt with carbon capture) or grow trees to make wooden buildings that store carbon in their structure or have human settlements with locally grown food or …

    MARodger @179

    I don’t want to be cornered into defending the Worldwatch Livestock and Climate Change. I wasn’t totally convinced myself. But

    1) I prefer the way they count the GWP of methane. Again, what about you?
    2) I think there is something in their respiration argument (see my post @172)

    Have you or anyone any views on Ramanathan et. al. The Copenhagen Accord for limiting global warming: Criteria, constraints, and available avenues?

  40. 190
    SecularAnimist says:

    Patrick 027 wrote: “(PS what is the fraction of cropland that is for feed vs for human food?)”

    The EPA’s page on “Major Crops Grown In The United States” has some information on this.

    Regarding corn, the EPA says “According to the National Corn Growers Association, about eighty percent of all corn grown in the U.S. is consumed by domestic and overseas livestock, poultry, and fish production.” (That may be out of date; if I recall correctly, the percentage of the US corn crop used to produce ethanol for fuel exceeded that used for animal feed for the first time in 2011.)

    Regarding soybeans, the EPA says “Over 30 million tons of soybean meal are consumed as livestock feed in a year.” The Encyclopedia Britannica Online states that “Ninety-eight percent of the U.S. crop is used for livestock feed.”

    Regarding the US wheat crop, the EPA states that “about 22% is used for animal feed and residuals”.

    Also, the National Barley Growers Association states that “Approximately 51 percent of the barley crop consumed in the US is used for animal feed.”

  41. 191
    dbostrom says:

    Geoff: … or grow trees to make wooden buildings that store carbon in their structure…

    Polyethylene buildings built with resin produced via solar-heated catalysis. Sequestration and happy plutocrats! Nirvana!

    “Polyethylene: Nature’s Plastic!”

    Of course the buildings would crumble when exposed to direct sunlight. Perhaps they could be shaded with trees?

  42. 192
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 10 Jul 2012 @ 3:28 PM, currently hovering around #176:

    I think this is just the sort of plan for both returning land to its natural state and making it productive for human food with environmental savings. We really need to switch red meat production to a natural model to reduce cruelty, bring back the fertility of the land (soil), and to reduce the large fossil CO2 footprint of current big agriculture. I also think that the natural browsers for a specific region should also be added.

    The point is that there is a very large part of the U.S. (and everywhere else) that used to consist of fertile soil and that supported large numbers of grazing and browsing critters. Large areas of these regions are not useful to us humin beans and are currently empty of big animals. It is not farmable because there is not enough water or fertilizer, it currently isn’t very fertile, and it is covered with invasive grasses and plants. If this area was repopulated with indigenous grazing and browsing prey animals and plants, we could derive low carbon footprint protein by replacing large predators that maintained balance in this ecosystem in the pre human past.


  43. 193
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re my last comment – re 177, “Remember that even if“…”you can grow more grass per unit area“… …”And when we do“…”get off fossil fuels
    – The point was we might reduce the amount of land we use to produce food by relying less on animal products (although elimination of animal products would eliminate an options for food crop residues, although those could be used for energy … although there may be benifits from leaving them behind).

    Re “No matter how many animals are born, there will still be many combinations of parents’ genetics and environment that hasn’t been tried out.” … Of course there are stochastic processes in brain development too; outside quantum uncertainty that could be due to environment on a molecular/etc. level. But anyway, the point is that rescuing non-specified potential beings from nonexistence for their own sake may be futile and any reason for doing so is for another’s benifit.

  44. 194
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 190 SecularAnimist – Thanks.

    PS I’m thinking there actually might not be too many animals out there that don’t somehow someway benifit us. I enjoy seeing flocks of geese. What benifits geese? Etc.

  45. 195
    ozajh says:

    Patrick027 @ 187,

    “food should be enjoyable”

    Yes, indeed.

    I slightly startled myself when I calculated that when not eating out (which is once a fortnight at most) I have averaged well under an ounce of meat a day for the last year or so, plus maybe 1/2oz a day of fish. However, I’m not a vegetarian and don’t pretend to be, and I’ll freely confess that that last small amount would be hard to eliminate unless plant-based alternatives improve a lot.

    (To me, there’s quite a big difference between the taste of pea soup and pea AND HAM soup, even when I don’t use that much ham/bacon. Same goes for the small amount of beef mince I put into the vegetable/barley/legumes soup which is my other staple hot dish.)

  46. 196
    MalcolmT says:

    Patrick027, SecularAnimist, GeoffBeacon and all: Patrick’s comment at #154 and Jim’s at #176 hit about the right level. Yes, a lot of meat production is environmentally expensive but not all meat production is so, and grazing is the most environmentally benign use of some land.
    Steve Fish @192: There is a case study at and the factors applying there must also apply in parts of the US (and may apply to more parts with climate changing the way it is), South America and southern Africa.
    We need to be as smart about this aspect of the environmental debate as about all the others. A broad-brush “Meat is evil” approach is not smart.

  47. 197
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 195 ozajh – myself, I’ve gone through meat-eating and quasi-vegetarian phases. As a teenager I once had 3 1/4-lb’ers w/ cheese in one sitting (although I also had ~15 buttermilk pancakes for breakfast once. Youthful metabolism rocks!). I also went for a few years hardly ever having beef, and didn’t really miss it much for that time (because there is pizza and pasta … and cod and salmon etc.). But I’ve never actually been a big meat eater in a time-average sense.

    I’ve actually had some good veggie burgers (Amy’s brand – but your preferences may be different). One thing that helps is not to force it to be exactly a beef substitute in your mind; enjoy it for what it is, like any other food. There’s supposed to be a restaurant somewhere in the Pacific Northwest that makes a really really good veggie burger (saw it on the Food Network). I think some veggie burgers are made with nuts, which are healthy, but some people won’t be able to eat them; (?)they might also be too fibrous for some people(?). I’ve also enjoyed mac n’ cheese with small blocks of tofu in it (along with red bell peppers, potatoes, peas, carrots); liked the tofu. Unfortunately, I don’t know of anything vegan that’s good and like cheese. Is there any thermoplastic form of tofu with a similar melting point?

    Next week on cooking w/ Patrick… oops, this is a climate website.

  48. 198
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re my 193 – “rescuing“…”potential beings from nonexistence for their own sake may be futile and any reason for doing so is for another’s benifit.

    While way out on a tangent, I just want to clarify that this is independent of moral duties regarding potential beings when given some probability of, plan, and/or desire for coming into existence. Ie we don’t owe it to any future person to bring them into being, but if we expect them to exist (as for our own sakes we may want them to exist for some substitute for immortality or…), we owe them some consideration. Which isn’t unrelated to climate change issues, but anyway, now I’m done with that subject here.

  49. 199
    MARodger says:

    Geoff Beacon @189
    What is your message in reply to me @179? I think I’ve got the gist of it.

    All that you write@179 is irrelevant as I do not want to defend the Worldwatch paper in its entirely.
    But (1) what do you think of their use of GWP? I prefer it for reasons I won’t mention.
    And (2) surely Worldwatch’s inclusion of livestock respiration in GHG has some sort of merit but I won’t explain why I say this (And @172 I did make clear I didn’t want to defend this either.)

    Doing you the courtesy of addressing your ambiguous questioning:-

    (1) Calculating GWP from the average impact of CH4 over 20 rather than 100 years triples the weighting of CH4 in terms of CO2e. Is this preferable? Or does it make yet more nonsense to introduce into the Worldwatch analysis? I say nonsense.
    The Worldwatch choice of CH4 GWP remains purely arbitrary, granting absolution to CH4 emissions prior to 1992. It is no more realistic than setting it at 1912. All it does is account CH4 emissions more heavily. Yet the CH4 forcing remains the same.
    Why 20 years? Worldwatch say it is because “a 20-year timeframe … is more appropriate because of both the large effect that methane reductions can have within 20 years and the serious climate disruption expected within 20 years if no significant reduction of GHGs is achieved.”
    By such reasoning, perhaps we should account more weight to future CH4 emissions which will be still full powered as GHGs in 2032, the year when AGW will be at its height according to Worldwatch. But then, CH4 only exists in the atmosphere a short while. It is gone before its forcing has a chance to have its full effect on climate. On that count we should be reducing the GWP of individual CH4 emissions.

    (2) The crux of the Worldwatch argument to include livestock respiration as a GHG source is that, like cars, cows are a non-essential “human invention.” Thus the CO2 they emit is just as much causing AGW as the exhaust from a car’s exhaust pipe.
    However, this central part of their argument is entirely nonsense.
    Yes, the oxygen comes from the same place in both instances but the carbon burnt to create the CO2 does not. If the cows do happen to act as a chimney for some quantity of FF derived carbon (or carbon obtained from changing land-use), if so then the carbon has already been accounted for in the carbon inputs into livestock farming.

    Geoff Beacon. Regarding your comments here:-
    Can I suggest to you less questioning & less ambiguity in your comments in future. If you cannot manage a reduction in both, a reduction in one would be a big step in the right direction.

  50. 200
    Ray Ladbury says:

    The inclusion of bovine respiration is on its face just flat stupid, unless you take into account the fossil-fuel intensive nature of modern agriculture. Livestock fed on grain grown with large input of fossil fuels will have a larger carbon footprint. This will not be true of grass-fed beef unless the grass were also fertilized with petroleum-based fertilizers.

    So there is a tiny grain of truth in the Worldwatch report. However, the general incompetence of the report is sufficient to make me wonder whether ol’ Lester has lost it.

    Note that there are still large numbers of pastoralists in the world for whom their animals are not just a source of sustenance, but also of deep spiritual meaning. You will not get far if you try to get a Masai or Pohl tribesman to give up his cows.