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Unforced Varations: Aug 2012

Filed under: — group @ 2 August 2012

Once more with feeling…

571 Responses to “Unforced Varations: Aug 2012”

  1. 101
    Hank Roberts says:

    > nasty chemicals getting into the water
    It’ll still be radioactive coming out, as it’s carrying deep drilling material — radon and her daughters — I think.
    But no synthetic organic chemicals added. Unless the marketing people for those industries make the case for using them anyhow.

    They’re very good, these sales people.

    Remember the ‘oxygenating’ gasoline additive MTBE? That was a waste disposal problem, then it became a salable additive, and now it’s a toxic waste in aquifers. So they introduced a profitable sale step into the traditional toxic waste mishandling procedure.

  2. 102
    Jim Larsen says:

    Dang. Spam-labelled. So here goes patching…

    95, Patrick, emission taxes are great except that we don’t have a 1*world govern-ment. Import a vacuum cleaner, model “A”, VS model “B”. How much carbon did each produce? If the manufacturing country has a different carbon tax than the importing country, things get fouled up quickly, even if the amount of carbon is known. Look at the Middle East, where negative carbon taxes (gas subsidies) are common. Look at the nasty fight over airline emissions in the EU. How well do you think folks will take to the idea of US manufacturers paying for carbon while China gets off scott free? (That every dollar either reduces debt, is returned to us, or decreases other taxes will be ignored) And unlike Europeans, Americans would consider it logical (or imperative) to spend up to 99 cents on politics to fight a carbon tax’s one dollar non-cost.

    Though I believe a rising carbon (and other GHG) tax similar to Hansen’s idea, or even better, use it to eliminate the payroll tax, is the easiest, fairest, and most effective solution (all of the above issues could be dealt with), the political attractiveness of give-aways means they are are here while a carbon tax is not.

    One big difference is that a carbon tax won’t do much to promote solar and wind until parity is close, while give-aways do so in any market conditions. Look at Secular’s example. HUGE initial credit, THEN triple market rates for the electricity produced. You’d need a carbon tax of maybe 600% of the fuel’s cost to have the same effect. Give-aways say, “Build it NOW at ANY cost to the taxpayer” while a carbon tax says, “Increase efficiency (and negawatts are way more effective than watts) while promoting renewable research. Build it when and where it makes sense.”

    Or, just pay folks a few dollars to let the government put PV on their roof, and the taxpayer gets the benefit. Heck, the government is paying for the whole deal anyway (Actually over 100%. Assuming a 15 year 80% mort-gage, these folks will never pay a single penny towards their system. Negative investment because some of the initial credit goes in their pocket, and then the feed-in tariff pays the mort-gage.) If I’m going to pay for somebody’s PV system, I want to OWN it.

    And Secular, let us know how it goes. Kudos for your support of renewables under the system in place. First adopters are precious.

  3. 103
    Chris Korda says:

    According to Gallup, “Forty-six percent of Americans believe in the creationist view that God created humans in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.” Apparently the respondents didn’t study much paleontology.

    Many people seem to be unwilling to face the consequences of Stephen Jay Gould’s work. Evolution doesn’t converge on us, or anything else. There’s no top or bottom, no good or bad, just a seemingly endless parade of organisms more or less fit for ever-changing conditions. If we make earth an unsuitable environment for ourselves, we and many other organisms will suffer more, and go extinct sooner than we otherwise might have, but slime will inherit earth regardless. This is just one of the many disturbing truths science reveals to humanity. I’m capable of facing it, so others must be capable of facing it too. Facing the pointlessness of existence squarely should be taken as a sign of mental health. What psychological distress I do experience is mostly due to being surrounded by deluded people who believe they’re going to heaven. I wish they would hurry up and leave.

    The pictures from the Hubble telescope are clear enough. There’s no meaning to be found out there. Meaning can only be constructed socially, and this implies cooperation. People could conceivably construct a meaning for themselves that allowed them to coexist in a reasonably steady state over a long period of geologic time. But is there any reason to believe this is likely? What precedents do we have? Ants normally exhibit extraordinary cooperation and altruism, but they also periodically fight wars of extermination, even against colonies of their own species. Aboriginal societies were sometimes stable compared to modern civilization, but only at vastly lower population densities.

    The hard problems are all ethical, not scientific. Why should people embrace disturbing truths instead of convenient fictions? Why shouldn’t the rich live soft lives and be waited on hand and foot if they can get away with it? Why shouldn’t the ruling class use force to take whatever it wants? Why should people make sacrifices for the benefit of future generations? Why should individual humans care what happens after they’re dead?

    These and similar questions were seriously considered in the wake of WWII. There was some consensus in the West that people needed to be pacified and weaned away from nationalism. At the time, socializing people to embrace individualism and consumerism seemed a logical alternative to repeating WWII with hydrogen weapons. Very few were concerned about the consequences of further industrialization. Pollution wasn’t seriously addressed for decades. Climate change was almost totally unanticipated. In the 1950s if you’d told Americans that they shouldn’t build suburbs because automobiles would accelerate climate change, they would have given you a lobotomy.

    We’re caught in a cascade of side effects, and increasingly our reality is spinning out of control. Older people wish for a reversal, back to the relatively pristine conditions they enjoyed in their youth, but this is pure fantasy. Even if we stopped producing CO2 today, the warming and sea level rise already in the pipeline are enough to ensure drastic physical and social changes. On our current course we’re facing chaos and disruption on the scale of WWII or worse, something most people alive today can scarcely imagine.

    Genetics sheds much light on cancer, but it doesn’t seem to cure people of believing that the only possible to solution to their problems is unlimited growth. I wish more people would watch Albert Bartlett’s famous lecture, “Arithmetic, Population, and Energy.”

    “The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.”
    -Albert Bartlett

  4. 104
    Ian Perrin says:

    Storm warning that will likely reduce Arctic sea ice extent and area. They are talking about 21-22 Manhattans!

    from Neven here.

  5. 105
    Neven says:

    The 21-22 Manhattans refer to the fast ice breaking off along the northeast coast of Greenland, which as a news item is literally blown away by the Arctic storm. ;-)

    This fast ice breaks off every year (in the last couple of years, don’t know about before), but it’s a very spectacular sight. One of the pieces is very big this year.

  6. 106
    Yves says:

    Is a post on Arctic sea ice planned for these days, for instance 5 years after the Aug. 10 post? I’d appreciate!!!
    The extent curve for summer 2012 seems competing with the 2007 curve (according to NSIDC, Cryosphere and IARC/JAXA). But, looking at the ice shape and concentration reveal some striking differences (I’ve got a figure from Cryosphere today website): back to 2007 the ice extent (envelope area) seemed nearly coincident with the ice area; in 2012 it is not. There are many “ponds” of seemingly free water (more exactly ice concentration below a given threshold) surrounded by denser sea ice, especially around the East Siberian Sea which was ice-free at the same time in 2007. Seems that is a sign of fragility of new ice compared with old ice, the latter being disappearing.

  7. 107
    wili says:

    Yves said, “back to 2007 the ice extent (envelope area) seemed nearly coincident with the ice area; in 2012 it is not. There are many “ponds” of seemingly free water”

    Neven has a post on this phenomenon, and yes, among other records, this year has a record high difference between ice extent and ice area, meaning, even without the storm that is about to hit, we should expect very rapid melt rates for the rest of the season. But if this storm holds together, it is going to scatter all this loose ice which will then melt very quickly indeed.

    It looks to me as if this is going to be another 2007-like jaw-dropper for the end of the melt season, almost certainly shattering previous records for minimum extent, area and volume.

    What this means for climate in the Northern Hemisphere and heating of the ESAS, I shudder to think.

    (reCaptcha: “iscapru”. Yes, reCaptcha, I do rue the loss of the ice cap.)

  8. 108
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Larsen wrote: “Yes, having other people give you free money might sound good to you”

    Are you opposed on principle to any and all tax credits offered by the Federal or state governments for any purpose whatsoever? Or are you only opposed to those for investment in renewable energy generation? If you agree that it’s appropriate for the government to offer targeted tax breaks to encourage investment in anything at all, then I guess “having other people give you free money” sounds good to you too.

    Are you also opposed to Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards, that require utilities to either generate a certain percentage of their electricity from renewables or make up the difference by purchasing tradeable Renewable Energy Credits? Because that’s where the $1,014 from the state REC program comes from. It’s not “free money” in the form of tax credits or grants; it’s what the local utility pays to buy tradeable RECs from small renewable energy generators, such as homeowners who install solar panels.

  9. 109
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Chris Korda — 6 Aug 2012 @ 3:40 AM:

    Thanks for reminding me of Albert Bartlett. I haven’t watched the lecture in a long time and went back to see it again. It is very relevant to the discussions here at RC.


  10. 110
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Larsen wrote: “Look at Secular’s example. HUGE initial credit, THEN triple market rates for the electricity produced.”

    Actually, I didn’t state the amount of the initial credits for installing solar panels — only the net cost after those credits. For the record, the system I described cost $19,500 before any credits. The net cost of $12,500 mentioned in my previous post is after a $5,800 Federal income tax credit and a $1,200 state grant. So the total subsidy is $7,000 or about 36 percent of the total cost — and 83 percent of that subsidy is a tax break. Is that “HUGE”?

    As for “triple market rates for the electricity produced”, I am not sure what you are talking about. As I mentioned just above, the estimated $1,014 per year is from the sale of tradeable RECs, which are are a feature of my state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio standard, which allows utilities to meet the standard by purchasing RECs from renewable energy producers. The price of the RECs is determined by supply and demand in the REC market, and is not related to market rates for electricity.

    As for any surplus electricity that I might produce, my state does not have feed-in tariffs (as far as I know, nowhere in the USA has yet implemented feed-in tariffs, which have contributed greatly to Germany’s rapid expansion of small-scale distributed PV). Instead we have net-metering, which is quite a different deal, and means that the utility credits my electric bill each month for any surplus electricity I feed into the grid — but the credit is well BELOW what I pay them for retail grid power, and even below the wholesale price that they pay large commercial generators.

  11. 111
    Steve Fish says:

    Regarding various comments by Jim Larson about government subsidy of PV solar installation:

    Because you don’t say anything about the much greater amount of public money spent on supporting the coal industry and the very much greater health and environmental externalities of coal fired electricity, your complaints seem to be biased. I will support subsidy of solar and other clean energy, and argue for even more, until government support for fossil fuels are completely dropped and externalities are addressed so that the prices will rise to reflect real costs. If that were to happen, then clean energy could compete without subsidy on a level playing field. Steve

  12. 112
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Jim Larsen
    – trade – yes, I know it’s trickier to solve than what one might at first think (because there is a very obvious solution, it’s just hard to properly calculate it) (I have some long comments there; back-and-forth was interesting – and this is probably more on-topic over there, or here:)
    (trade issues could even arise between countries with the same CO2eq tax if they apply it at different points in the CO2eq flow – a nation taxing at the mine/well/deforested acre/landfill/cow/rice paddy… well at the mine/well part anyway, if it exports coal/oil to another country which taxes at the utility/refinery… etc, then those exports would be double taxed; but simply applying corrective tariff/subsidy measures at the border shouldn’t be too hard in that case, I’d think. And how easy must it be – they draft bills 1000 pages long in congress – of course that can be an opportunity to hide things,… anyway…) (And at some point, you have to have a level of acceptable error.)

    I’m not a fan of witholding good ideas just because people don’t like them. And as dire as things look right now, I think… maybe there is reason to hope – if people don’t like an idea because they think it’s bad, well look at the bad ideas people have been convinced to accept. If people can be convinced to want things that they really don’t want, surely they can be convinced to want things that they really do want?

    Setting aside the trade aspect, remember the way an externality tax works is 1. adding cost to supply – the have less incentive to produce due to lower profits, or they raise prices – 2. demand reacts to prices, consumption is driven toward alternatives or just reduced. 3. Investors see all this, can even (the smart ones) anticipate it before a law goes into effect, and shift investement into alternatives, increasing supply/reducing costs of alternatives, reducing consumer prices, boosting profit, etc.

    That third part is an important aspect of how an externality tax shapes usage of technology. Private investment will be driven toward the R&D and production of clean energy or energy-efficient technology – if they know about learning curves and mass market advantage, they can decide to invest in things not at the moment competitive, and make it competitive, or better.

    I would argue that this is good justification for present government spending and green regulation as such (and will continue to be even with a tax that encourages private investment, because government has historically played a long-term investment role (internet!)).

    Free give-aways may lead to less efficient use of products, but demand for those products nonetheless is shaped by the benifit. Setting aside all other factors (access to grid, etc.) besides the solar resource, certainly a person in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington may take advantage of a free panel – however, a person in Arizona will still reap more benifit from it – you get a free panel and the larger amount of free electricity – so more effort would be made to get it, install it, etc. And are there really completely-free give-aways here, or just subsidies (or mandate-shaped spending as Secular Animist pointed out) that reduce the consumer price?

  13. 113
    WheelsOC says:

    I hope everybody was watching history being made last night/this morning/whatever time it was for you when they landed the Mars Science Laboratory rover successfully!

    Makes one wonder what kind of instrumentation network would need to be set up on, around, or pointed at the red planet if we want to understand its climate at least as well as ours.

  14. 114
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 103 Chris Korda

    Facing the pointlessness of existence squarely should be taken as a sign of mental health. What psychological distress I do experience is mostly due to being surrounded by deluded people who believe they’re going to heaven. I wish they would hurry up and leave.

    I think I get what you’re saying, but … please do distinguish between ( believers in Heaven – and/or God – and believers in various specific unprovable assumptions or made-up nonsense that pertains to scientific knowledge, history, logic, morality (as in the logic of it – like how much could it matter how humans came to be, because regardless, we are what we are), and important decisions that affect our health and well-being.

    – You may want to check out Stephen Hawking’s series – I think it was called “Stephen Hawking’s Grand Design” (specifically about ‘the meaning of life’). “Equations of Eternity” by David Darling is a good read.

    (A very key thing is that consciousness itself has never really been explained. Unless we assume that all the bits of the universe have some of it and the brain’s structure is such that they … well, I totally get that the mind is the behavior of (that part of) the brain (ie that part which is not focussed on maintaining your body temperature, etc.), but there’s still something there which is completely mystifying.

    Heaven could just be the time before one dies but after one’s brain loses it’s sense of time, creating the illusion of forever (kind of like the event horizon of consciousness). Or not, I don’t know, I’ve never tried it. Otherwise, I think death could be a bit like (DO NOT READ THIS BEFORE BEDTIME OR IF YOU HAVE ANXIETY ISSUES) the very worst of agoraphobia and claustrophobia combined – you are launched into an infinite void in a space ship which is perpetually shrinking down to nothing. (On the other hand, the process is supposed to lead to a release of dopamine, right? – assuming it’s not too fast, I suppose) So I would forgive people for believing in Heaven (which smells like almond extract, by the way ;) ) (In other words, you get a vacation from Occam’s razor once in while, as long as you don’t use it to hurt people or impede their education). It may even be quite healthy, because it’s not like it’s something you could take action on anyway – there are no heaven-destroying emissions to tax.)

    Apologies for an unforced variation that makes the ’98 El Nino look perfectly forced. I meant to busy myself with the pointlessness of deriving an equation for the tidal torque on an oblate spheroid…

  15. 115
    Hank Roberts says:

    I eagerly await seeing Curiousity listed as a surfacestation site.
    “… oh, no, they moved the weather station, clearly can’t be reliable …..”

    Here’s a timelapse animation of plate tectonics (warning, loud music. hat tip to Metafilter)

  16. 116
    Patrick 027 says:

    That last comment of mine is still awaiting moderation (the re Chris Korda)… well I’m having second thoughts about it too; I don’t mind if it’s removed.

  17. 117
    B A Carter says:

    David B Benson @93.

    I can still write the equations for these processes and am reasonably familiar with the petrography and typical field relations of these rocks!

    I don’t doubt that the processes you advocate are feasible to some extent, but the side effects could cause problems. A 40% increase in volume of buried rocks is going to build up considerable stresses in the overlying rocks, continuous gradual uplift would be tolerable but I suspect that the uplift will be episodic in nature…and ultimately you would be modifying the topography of extensive areas.

    Of course, my comments refer to occurrances of suitable rocks on land, but there is another thought. These processes are happening all the time in the mid ocean ridges and transform faults deep in the oceans, all you have to do is come up with techniques to increase sea water circulation!

  18. 118
    Jim Larsen says:

    108 Secular asked, “Are you opposed on principle to any and all tax credits offered by the Federal or state governments for any purpose whatsoever?”

    Way off topic, but I’ll apologize to all and answer (but no more – you can have last word)…

    Yes. If the government wishes to support something, then funds should come out of the treasury. Taxes should be untouchable – no deductions, no credits, no exemptions. The tax code should be about 10 pages long tops for both business and individuals. By forcing the government to “pay” for things, passing such laws becomes “real”. As it is now, a billion dollars can be “spent” with nobody knowing diddly about it except the lucky sod who pockets the money through a loophole his lobbyist inserted while opponents weren’t parsing properly.

    If said support happens, then the taxpayer should be reimbursed to the fullest extent possible. If an individual/group thinks that wind power would be a good investment and the govt agrees, then the govt could give loan guarantees IN EXCHANGE FOR part ownership.

    In the specific case of zero-risk zero-effort zero-investment systems (for the owner) such as a residential PV system where the govt/utility pays the down payment, pays the mort*gage, and holds the mort*gage (Fann*y/Fred*die), perhaps $2000 for 30 years of roof rent would bring many offers. When a roof needs replacing, many folks will be scrambling for that $2000, and PV is best done at replacement time.

    A return question: If that had been the program – you get $2000 cash and get to help promote solar with no risk or effort – would you have accepted the offer? (Not a slam dunk – you’d lose the ability to install your own in 15 years when prices are way lower – though some sort of buyout option could be included)

    On RECs, copy the above swapping “ratepayer” for “taxpayer”. Functionally they’re identical.

    And on renewables, they are my favorite, but they’re Step 2. Step 1 is energy efficiency. For every dollar spent on renewables today, a smaller amount would have reduced demand by more. Not as sexy, but a more effective use of effort. (I’ll find cites if anybody wants them. Amory Lovins is a good source for such things) Since credits/payments target renewables (and are expensive) while carbon taxes target efficiency AND help renewables (and net out as free), I’m in the carbon tax camp.

  19. 119
    Harmen says:

    @ unsettled scientist

    “Harmen @38, thanks for the link to the EGU press conference video. I enjoyed it but am now depressed. I see no indication of a sober conversation happening soon in the general population.”

    I am very sorry to read that..Reality bites sometimes..

    However ignoring reality will make depression even worse in the long run..

    If that does not help you..Maybe this will…

  20. 120
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    WheelsOC, I stayed up late and watched it live. I’ve never heard people so excited to see a small grainy photo of a wheel before. Truly amazing work the people at NASA did to achieve this. A captivating photo that they released today is of Curiosity parachuting down through the Martian atmosphere from the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

    Much cooler to me than a wheel ;)

  21. 121
    Jim Larsen says:

    112 Patrick, I just took Secular’s example at face value. Since that example will never experience a negative cash balance even from day 1 (with an 80% 15-20 yr mort*gage), I consider it “free”. The triple rate I mis-defined as “feed-in”, but $500 savings + $1k payment for $500 of electricity is triple, assuming Secular’s estimate of production and payments holds true. All told, one could smash the system on day one and still come out with a profit, assuming the REC continues to pay. I’m amazed Secular’s area isn’t swamped with applications. (Are they?)

    111 Steve, I advocate carbon taxes, which means I want to eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels. Otherwise, what’s the point? To be clear, I advocate large carbon taxes, working up to pricing gas at $10 and fossil electricity at 50 cents. No offsets – paying folks to plant trees, etc needs to be separate or it’s gonna get gamey.

    113 Wheels, great name for your post! GO NASA!!!! Now skeptics can’t say there aren’t any SUVs on Mars, so temperature increases will be explainable! :-)

  22. 122
    Sceptical Wombat says:

    Can anyone tell me how Ice Shelves are dealt with in the NSIDC data on sea ice? Are the ice shelves just included in the sea ice or are they excluded. If the latter what happens when ice shelves break up and are presumably replaced by sea ice? Or are ice shelves just so small in relation to sea ice that it doesn’t matter?

  23. 123
    Chris Korda says:


    When I said that the hard problems are ethical, I didn’t mean to belittle the difficulties faced by scientists. What I meant is that ethical problems aren’t necessarily *solvable* in the scientific sense of the word. Ethical assertions are social constructions and don’t have to be rooted in objective reality at all. For example the U.S. Supreme Court can assert that corporations should have the same rights as people, and there’s no easy way to refute it, because it’s just a reflection of our society’s current power structure. Imagine how different it would be if the same court asserted that ten is a prime number, or that the moon is made of cheese. Many ethical assertions are similarly absurd, but since they’re normalized by the culture in which they occur, the absurdities are hard to see except in retrospect. White man’s burden may be transparently offensive now, but it was a respected ethical position throughout the nineteenth century.

    Humans could turn out to be great at science but lousy at ethics. This would partly explain why we aren’t reacting to climate change quickly enough. Dan Miller’s “A Really Inconvenient Truth” makes this same point in an amusing way:

    “Imagine that you read in the newspaper tomorrow… that all the excess CO2 in the world is being released by al-Qaeda. Think about that. Would we react? Of course we would. We would spend any amount of money … to fight that. We would spend a trillion dollars, which we just did.”

  24. 124
    Susan Anderson says:

    Monbiot today, with his usual depressing clarity:

    the commodification of nature forestalls democratic choice. No longer will we be able to argue that an ecosystem or a landscape should be protected because it affords us wonder and delight. We’ll be told that its intrinsic value has already been calculated and, doubtless, that it it turns out to be worth less than the other uses to which the land could be put. The market has spoken: end of debate.

    All those messy, subjective matters, the motivating forces of democracy, will be resolved in a column of figures. Governments won’t need to regulate, the market will make the decisions that politicians have ducked…. The costing and sale of nature represents another transfer of power to corporations and the very rich.

    It diminishes us, it diminishes nature. By turning the natural world into a subsidiary of the corporate economy, it reasserts the biblical doctrine of dominion. It slices the biosphere into component commodities: already the government’s task force is talking of “unbundling” ecosystem services…. The more we learn about the natural world, the more we discover that its functions cannot be safely disaggregated.

    Rarely will the money to be made by protecting nature match the money to be made by destroying it. Nature offers low rates of return by comparison to other investments. If we allow the discussion to shift from values to value – from love to greed – we cede the natural world to the forces wrecking it. Pull up the stakes, fill in the ditch, we’re being conned again.

  25. 125

    #122–I don’t specifically know the answer to your question, SW. but I note that according to this:

    …the total area of all Antarctic ice shelves is about 1.5 million km2, which is roughly the minimum Antarctic sea ice area, according to Cryosphere Today. Max extent is around ten times that.

    So even a pretty big ice shelf collapse–Larsen B was around 3,000 km2–barely budges the statistics, even at minimum–presuming that ice shelves ‘become’ sea ice when calving occurs.

    NB.–the Arctic ice shelves are much, much smaller; 90% of the former Ellesmere Shelf has already collapsed, leaving a few small remnant shelves behind.

  26. 126

    Oops! “Max area,” of course, not “max extent.”

  27. 127
    Chris Dudley says:

    Patrick (#92),

    What seems to explain the very low brightness temperature measurements is a very dry atmosphere above Antarctica. Perhaps you should use that as an input?

    PS editors: reCaptcha is becoming very scrambled.

  28. 128
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    Dynamics of snowball earth:

    The Sturtian is the oldest (~716 Ma) of three pan-global glaciations in the Cryogenian. At Omutirapo, in northern Namibia, a 2 km wide, 400 m deep palaeovalley is filled by glaciogenic strata of the Chuos Formation, which represents the Sturtian glacial record. Sedimentary logging of an exceptionally high quality exposure permits detailed stratigraphic descriptions and interpretations, allowing two glacial cycles to be identified. At the base of the exposed succession, strong evidence supporting glaciation includes diamictites, ice-rafted dropstones, and intensely sheared zones of interpreted subglacial origin. These facies collectively represent ice-proximal to ice-rafted deposits. Upsection, dropstone-free mudstones in the middle of the succession, and the absence of diamictites, implies sedimentation free from glacial influence. However, the reappearance of glacial deposits above indicates a phase of Sturtian glacial re-advance. Comparison to age-equivalent strata in South Australia, where evidence for sea-ice free sedimentation has been previously established, suggests that a Sturtian interglacial may have been extensive, implying global-scale waxing and waning of ice sheets during a Cryogenian glacial event.

  29. 129
    SecularAnimist says:

    Patrick 027 wrote: “… A very key thing is that consciousness itself has never really been explained …”

    And in most such discussions, a key thing is that “consciousness itself” is never really defined. Which is not only an obstacle to “explaining” it, but begs the question of whether there is really anything that needs to be explained.

  30. 130
    Yves says:

    Wili (107): Thanks for the link. I’ve also noticed that other blogs are posting on the topic, e.g Gareth at (called “Favourite worst nightmare” and followed by another piece on “Greenland’s extraordinary summer”). Btw NSIDC website just released its analysis, along with… Greenland melting. Greenland had an extraordinary heatwave around July 10, such that nearly all its icesheet surface, even in the interior, underwent some degree of melting detectable by satellites. Such event is estimated to occur every 150 years under an average interglacial climate (according to the ice cores) but is bound to be more frequent.

  31. 131
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 6 Aug 2012 @ 4:25 PM:

    I agree that a carbon tax is the way to go, but as long as this stuff- – is going on in the background to manipulate the market, I doubt it could work the way it should. Steve

  32. 132
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 127 Chris Dudley – okay; what is the W/m2 downward flux in Antarctic winter?

    Re 123 Chris Korda – totally agree on science not being able to solve ethics at it’s root; although certainly morally-effective decision making requires applying values to intelligence – some past errors might have corrected if better info had been available, although people would of course have to have been willing to believe it. Another thing, though, is logical inconsistency – there are easy parts of the hard problem.

  33. 133
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Chris Dudley:
    Town et al
    60 to 80 W/m2 winter south pole, clear sky (except for diamond dust)

  34. 134
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Nature offers low rates of return by comparison to other investments.

    If you don’t discount the value of the future to zero after a century or so, nature comes out way ahead of “economic” investments.

    Nature delivers, for millenia, and you can eat your returns.

  35. 135
    Hank Roberts says:

    > nature
    And, uniquely, after you eat your returns, you can reinvest them.
    (Well, unless you’ve got a lot of heavy metals and antibiotics and estrogen mimics in your sewage, in which case, as a species, yer doin’ it wrong …)

  36. 136
    sidd says:

    Mr. Korda writes, on the 6th of August, 2012 at 11:09 PM:

    “Ethical assertions are social constructions…”

    That is the challenge, but also the foundation of hope. I quote Pollan in ‘Second Nature’

    “If nature is the one necessary source of instruction for a garden ethic,culture is the other. Civilization may be part of our problem with respect to nature, but there will be no solution without it. As Wendell Berry has pointed out, it is culture, and certainly not nature, that teaches us to observe and remember, to learn from our mistakes, to share our experiences, and perhaps most important of all, to restrain ourselves. Nature does not teach its creatures to control their appetites except by the harshest of lessons–epidemics, mass death, extinctions. Nothing would be more natural than for humankind to burden the environment to the extent that it was rendered unfit for human life. Nature in that event would not be the loser, nor would it disturb her laws in the least–operating as it has always done, natural selection would unceremoniously do us in. Should this fate be averted, it will only be because our culture–our laws and metaphors, our science and technology, our ongoing conversation about nature and man’s place in it–pointed us in the direction of a different future. Nature will not do this for us.”

    [Response:I’d also recommend David Orr’s “Down to the Wire” if you can get your hands on it.–Jim]

    It is up to us. We are having the dialogue right now. We are choosing our future, and the future of many to follow. The fact of fossil carbon induced climate change is disputed by those who would rather have fossil fuelled comfort today, at the price of a blighted world tommorrow. They would have our forests flare and fall and fail in fire, our oceans overflow in souring filth, our air become a stifling fume, and behead our very mountains themselves, leaving not a small corner unfouled in all our once green world.

    And then there are some of us who would rather not tread that path further. Let us see then, whose vision is the more persuasive.


  37. 137
    Jim Larsen says:

    The nature VS economic development argument is a bit like selling a kidney. Sounds good economically, right? Now suppose two people each own one of your kidneys. Both will be wise to sell, which results in your death. In fact, the second seller has even more incentive because the world’s last kidney would be very valuable.

    The “magical marketplace” deals with natural systems by making their destruction ever more imperative as they become more rare.

    Perhaps I’ll start hoarding rhino horn and await the extinction. Fortunately there is no “substitute resource” for a fake medicine!

    ooo… perfect recaptcha: question urethics

  38. 138

    “And in most such discussions, a key thing is that “consciousness itself” is never really defined. Which is not only an obstacle to “explaining” it, but begs the question of whether there is really anything that needs to be explained.”

    You seem pretty conscious to me, SA…

  39. 139

    “You seem pretty conscious to me, SA…”

    But please don’t ask me to define what I mean by that.

  40. 140
    wili says:

    Did anyone notice the hurricane (or whatever one can call such a system in the Arctic Ocean) over the North Pole?

  41. 141
    Richard Simons says:

    Yves @130:

    Greenland had an extraordinary heatwave around July 10, such that nearly all its icesheet surface, even in the interior, underwent some degree of melting detectable by satellites. Such event is estimated to occur every 150 years under an average interglacial climate . . .

    My understanding is that it is surface melting at any one point that is estimated to occur about once in 150 years, not melting of the entire surface at the same time. There is likely to be a big difference between the two situations.

  42. 142
    SecularAnimist says:

    Kevin McKinney wrote: “You seem pretty conscious to me, SA … But please don’t ask me to define what I mean by that.”

    Well, in the context of blog commenting, it can only mean that I pass your personal Turing test, and that you assume that any entity or process that does so must be “conscious”. Which doesn’t really require defining “consciousness”, only hypothesizing that whatever “consciousness” is, any entity capable of carrying on human-like interactive communication must have it.

  43. 143
    Pete Wirfs says:

    Regarding July 2012 NOAA has announced “…the warmest July and all-time warmest month on record for the nation in a period of record that dates back to 1895.”

  44. 144
    David Lewis says:

    Muller bought what the deniers were shovelling, hook, line, and sinker.

    I became curious about Muller after reading his infamous op-ed, which contained this: “Three years ago I identified problems in previous climate studies that, in my mind, threw doubt on the very existence of global warming“.

    I found this video. And there is this: Muller’s Congressional testimony of March 2011.

    In his March 2011 appearance, he tells Congress they should set up a “Climate-ARPA” to facilitate funding to outstanding amateur scientists. This is his only recommendation for climate legislation. He names two of these incredible individuals: “Without the efforts of Anthony Watts and his team…. [and] …for the work done by Steve McIntyre….” blah blah. “Their ‘amateur’ science is not amateur in quality; it is true science, conducted with integrity and high standards“.

    In the video Muller struts back and forth in front of a chart depicting the Mann hockey stick. He denounces Mann for manipulating their data to produce a false result: “you are not allowed to do this in science“. He makes it clear he believes that if it can be established that the single Mann study he’s denouncing is what he says it is the entire edifice of climate science crumbles away:

    Jim Hansen who predicts things ahead of time, he’s going to find we have a group here [Mann] who feels it is legitimate to hide things. This is why I’m now leading a study to redo all this in a totally transparent way

    Muller is emphatic that the Mann study “would not have survived peer review in any journal I’m willing to publish in“. Really? Nature published Mann’s first “hockey stick”. GRL published his second effort. One has the distinct feeling Muller would publish his BEST (crappiest?) work anywhere at this point.

    Muller is one of these clowns who let their bit of success in one field go to their head. Instead of humbly apologizing and crawling back under whatever rock he came out from he’s now trumpeting his proof that he knew nothing as a significant contribution to climate science.

  45. 145
    Jim Larsen says:

    142 Secular said, “any entity capable of carrying on human-like interactive communication must have it.”

    No, he said SEEM, not MUST, ie, a computer can SEEM conscious, but that says little to nothing about whether the computer IS conscious.

  46. 146
    Sceptical Wombat says:

    Thanks Kevin @ 125

  47. 147
    Edward Greisch says:

    132 Patrick 027, 123 Chris Korda: Science will solve ethics. But we don’t have ethical equations yet. Look up “socio-biology” at the Library of Congress 1 – 20 of 1997 books
    “The Genetics of Altruism” by Scott A. Boorman, Paul R. Levitt.
    “Genes, mind and culture” by Edward O. Wilson
    Sam Harris’ “The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values”
    “The Science of Good & Evil” by Michael Shermer
    The Brights project on ethics and morality without god.

    The #1 directive of sociobiology: Preservation of your own species has to be the primary value.

  48. 148
    Edward Greisch says:

    101 Hank Roberts: Please read this book: “Radiation and Reason, The impact of Science on a culture of fear” by Wade Allison.

    Professor Allison says we can take up to 10 rems per month, on the order of 1000 times the present “legal” limit. The old limit was 5 rems/lifetime. A single dose of 800 rems could kill you, but if you have time to recover between doses of 10 rems, no problem. It is like donating blood: You see “4 gallon donor” stickers on cars. You know they didn’t give 4 gallons all at once. There is a threshold just over 10 rems. You are getting .35 rems/year NATURAL background radiation right where you are right now.

    Divide 5 rems by your present Natural Background Radiation. For Americans, Natural Background Radiation is at least .35 rems/year. Our Natural Background Radiation uses up our 5 rems/lifetime when we are 14 years old.

    It would be very difficult [impossible] to burn enough natural gas to get 11 rems per month. “Marcellus Shale is 8 to 32 times background.” 32 times .35 = 11.2 rems/year. Dividing by 12 gives .93 rems/month if you were immersed in Marcellus Shale.

    The radiation in Marcellus Shale is greater than the natural background anywhere on the surface, but the radon in fracked natural gas is still inconsequential unless you are also living in the city of Ramsar, Iran.

    Fukushima: 573 certified deaths were due to evacuation-related stress at Fukushima.  Zero due to radiation.
    The people who died were evacuated from such things as intensive care and old folks homes.

    Here are some natural background readings from “Power to Save the World; The Truth About Nuclear Energy” by Gwyneth Cravens, 2007:   
    Guarapari, Brazil:  3700 millirem/year
    Tamil Nadu, India:  5300 millirem/year
    Ramsar, Iran:  8900 to 13200 millirem/year
    Denver, Colorado   1000 millirem/year
    A not entirely natural reading:
    Chernobyl:  490 millirem/year

    Calculate your annual radiation dose:

  49. 149
    Hank Roberts says:

    Yet another program on Muller on KQED today

    Repeats Thu, Aug 9, 2012 — 2:00 AM
    Climate One
    “Richard Muller — UC Berkeley physicist Richard Muller generated headlines last fall when he said evidence for climate change “is clear and incontrovertible.” Until then, he had questioned temperature measurements gathered around the world, which he now says are valid and without bias. Muller joins the program to discuss what changed his thinking.”

    I’m thinking Talking Points Bingo would be appropriate, if anyone’s been keeping a list of the items consistently stated on each appearance.

    Double points for two mentions of “Clean fracking”…

  50. 150
    Jim Larsen says:

    It looks like the Cap and Trade scheme is being scammed. In the creation of a type of refrigerant gas a second waste gas is created. Releasing it is illegal in the West, but China and India permit it. The waste gas is a tremendous GHG, so companies in India and China get 11,000(?) tons CO2 credit per ton to destroy the waste gas. Unfortunately, this makes production of the refrigerant, also a GHG, beyond profitable, with obvious results. They’re meeting complaints with an ultimatum: if you don’t give us the credits, we’ll just release the gas.

    This is one reason I prefer payments to be made for children or renewables or whatever we choose.

    Another cool recaptcha: mostbuyi themselves