RealClimate logo

Unforced variations: Sep 2012

Filed under: — group @ 5 September 2012

Open thread – a little late because of the holiday. But everyone can get back to work now!

591 Responses to “Unforced variations: Sep 2012”

  1. 401
    Jim Larsen says:

    Charles, Maslowski’s speculation was 2016 +- 3 years, and so far 2019 is looking pretty good. As SecularA said, those wacko extremist outliers are looking prescient.

    291 AJ asked, ” (what is the mass balance of Arctic sea ice melting and Antarctic sea ice increasing)”

    There are two types of sea ice: seasonal and multi-year, and they act on the climate in different fashions. Historically, we had one ice cap’s worth of each. The Southern Ocean around Antarctica was seasonal and the Arctic Ocean was multi-year.

    Both types insulate the ocean in winter, making global warming worse, but in summer seasonal ice melts and lets sunlight into the ocean, making global warming worse, while multi-year ice remains in summer, making global warming better.

    We are now switching over to 2 seasonal caps and no multi-year cap.

    Say you owned an igloo (Antarctic sea ice) and some ice in your pants (Arctic sea ice). You take the ice out of your pants, and use it to make your igloo thicker. I suspect you’d feel a tad warmer, even though your total ice hasn’t changed.

  2. 402
    Jim Larsen says:

    386 David B said, “Somewhere above about 285 ppm arctic melt will continue.”

    So no miscommunication, but no cite yet either.

  3. 403

    Arctic Ocean being completely ice free in summer will be a dramatic event, but I think its more of local Arctic significance rather than affecting the wider world of weather. Having observed the cold temperature North Pole not really moving much during this past summer seems to indicate that the remaining very thin sea ice has had a small weather impact and will be largely overshadowed by towering Greenland , the last bastion of ice in the Northern Hemisphere. So I am not sure if its worth getting excited over “the look” of no sea ice at all while the climate change will be steadied by Greenland over several summers to come. So the remaining ice pack may be smaller or larger than 2012 minima extent for decades to come, what may be left protected and preserved by Greenland, clouds, sea currents and tides, all while continental shelves of Russia US and Scandinavia will be ice free. We tend to forget a lot that the ice free North Pole is the next tangible event long before there will be no sea ice at all during summer.

  4. 404

    In simpler terms; There will be a much larger wide open Arctic Ocean every summer for decades, unless there will be a dramatic climate changing event. The effect of the remaining sea ice will be far lesser than the sea ice coverage of the 70’s for instance.

  5. 405
    Rob Dekker says:

    Gavin said (regarding Maslowski’s projections of 2016 +/- 3 years for an “ice free” Arctic summer) :

    no justification for these extrapolations has been given, and I consider predictions based on them to be hugely over-confident.

    I understand your position that any prediction based on only a sub-set of the uncertainties in the Arctic (in Maslowski’s case, ocean heat flux), could be considered “over-confident”. However, designating the claim as having “no justification” seems a bit premature.

    If Maslowski can conclude on ocean heat flux increase alone that volume will decrease significantly (which seems to be supported by basic physics of ice melt), and that this will possibly lead to ice-free summers within a decade, then it may be good to see if we can refute that argument with GCM simulation results, which, after all take many more climatic variables into account, or with observations of Arctic sea ice. Let’s look at the evidence :

    Arctic sea ice extent seems to have bottomed out at 3.36 million km^2, a whopping 800 k km^2 below the previous record minimum in 2007, and the reasons for this significant decline seems to be reduction of ice thickness (volume), exactly what Maslowski was projecting. Also, ice extent is some 4 sigmas below the CMIP3 trends, and still some 2 sigmas below the most recent CMIP5 trends, with the additional issue that CMIP5 models do not capture ice volume field nor increased ocean heat flux, nor reduced snow cover in spring and early summer very well at all.

    So we may ask the question if there is any more “justification” to accept extrapolations based on GCMs (projecting ice free Arctic late in this century) versus extrapolations based on Maslowski’s high-resolution ocean heat flux models.

    Don’t get me wrong, Gavin, I completely respect the significant effort of climate scientists to model the response of the Arctic to GHG forcing. The Arctic, with all its feedback mechanisms is arguably the most difficult area to model.

    But there comes a point where it may be time to point out that Nature may be following more of the upper-end of the Bell curve of possibilities, rather than the lower-end that is being argued by climate change contrarians.

  6. 406
    Rob Dekker says:

    For references :

    Stoeve’s assessment of how well CMIP5 models replicate ice volume distributions :
    which is… not well at all.

    And that we may be aguing about the lower-end of the Bell curve, while Nature may be following the higher end :

  7. 407
    MARodger says:

    Re Prediction of an ice-free Arctic.
    The original (or I suppost it is) 2007 NYT article mentioned @392Response is here. WRT 2013, it says no more than “At least one researcher, Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, projects a blue Arctic Ocean in summers by 2013” while it quotes other scientists, for instance Marifa Holland who warns against expecting an ice-free Arctic in 2012-17.

    The Maslowski prediction is dealt with directly in this 2007 BBC item, it being the result of a study using ice levels 1979-2004. In the aftermath of the 2007 melt, Maslowski does not hold back calling it “Our projection of 2013 for the removal of ice in summer” that “may be … already too conservative” in light of the 2007 melt. But he also adds “In the end, it will just melt away quite suddenly. It might not be as early as 2013 but it will be soon, much earlier than 2040.” and discussing the previous accepted wisdom concludes “My thinking on this is that 2030 is not an unreasonable date to be thinking of.”

    Of course Maslowski’s quotes are not being cherrypicked denialists this year as he didn’t used the magic word “2012” that adorns this year’s calendars. The man who did use 2012 was NASA’s Jay Zwally of whom the National Geographic said in 2007 This week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: “At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.”
    So he wasn’t entirely predicting an ice-free 2012. He was more explaining 2007 in terms of a nearly ice-free future. But that doesn’t stop denialists misrepresenting him. Apparently 2012 isn’t at all ice-free like the dumb-ass scientist said it would be because there’s two Alaskas-worth out there unmelted. Wow!

    Strangely, it occurs to me that “Wow!” is exactly what self-proclaimed scientist Charles@392 said just before he read too much into a title that said “NASA: 2 degrees temp rise will cause 25m sea level rise.” He somehow decided it must be meant to apply to 2100 and was thus entirely preposterous. Perhaps this was why he didn’t bother to appraise himself of what the article actually said before waving it joyously at us here. Myself, I will overlook this act of stupidity. After all I have been know to get a bit miffed with folk projecting preposterous sea level rises. But then, I do get more exercised by the arrant fools who fail to consider that continung sea level rise will also be a nasty problem after 2100.

  8. 408
    Dan H. says:

    Part of the confusion with Hansen’s statement on 25m sea level rise, is that he said the last time the world was 2C warmer, sea levels were 25m higher. He says that we will see 2C by 2100. Many people have put 2 and 2 together and arrived at 25m by 2100.

    [Response: So Hansen is to blame when people can’t read? The same error was made by some headlines after the Overpeck et al paper in 2008 – and just as in this case, scientists have pushed back and got corrections made and added context. Yet they are apparently still to blame that people like Charles and these others can’t in fact add 2+2 correctly? Are we supposed to never mention what sea-level was like at the Eemian or Pliocene? – gavin]

    This has led to these various fringe-element photos:

    Also, check out the covers of these “fringe” publications:

    It sure does seem that there are those willing to let these “fringe” groups spread the most pessimistic views in order to gain support.

    [Response: These are newsstand covers – hardly the place to look for nuances. In any case, one cover is about record tornadoes not climate, one is a dumb piece in a sports magazine, two others are unproblematic in any way. You too are guilty of labelling things as extreme in order to support rhetorical points. It’s boring. – gavin]

  9. 409
    Phil L says:

    Dr. Inferno at Denial Depot referred recently to “Watts Law: A record low in Arctic ice is a sign that a Recovery has begun. Such an event occurred in summer 2007.”
    Right on cue, Over at Wattsupwiththat there’s a post with the title “Sea Ice News Volume 3 number 13 – 2012 Arctic sea ice minimum reached, it’s all gain from here”.

  10. 410
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote at #359: “What I have said is a simple insult.”

    Thank you for posting that. One of my pet peeves is people who mistake insults for ad hominem fallacies.

    Good insults are an art form and should be appreciated as such, not denigrated as mere rhetorical fallacies.

    [Response: Actually, neither insults nor ad homs are particularly welcome here. None of us really has time to moderate this kind of stuff, and frankly we resent the time it takes to police the various slanging matches. Please stick to the substance and try out the art of the insult somewhere else. Thanks. – gavin]

  11. 411
    Dan H. says:

    The question was whether global warming was being “oversold.” This is what is being picked up in the news, and what the majority of people are seeing – not well-informed scientists or “fringe” groups. Those that stepping in to correct the media misrepresentations were quickly labelled, “deniers” or “voodoo scientists.” Your retreat to the literary nuance, and subsequent blaming the masses, may be a larger part of the reason that people are distrustful of climate scientists. You do neither yourself, nor the movement any favors with this type of response. It is no wonder some posters consider this site as having “cherry-picking” repsonses.

    [Response: Oh please. Now climate scientists are responsible for the lamentable state the media too? You have to have been living in a cave not to be aware that the media has a bias towards sensationalism and controversy as opposed to nuance and substance on complex issues: “Can their toothbrush be killing your children? More at 11….” (answer: No). Scientists are actually at the vanguard of trying to improve matters – by providing more context, trying to do a better job of communications and criticising the media when they screws up. No doubt you prodigious googling skills will find many examples (which I am sure you will not hesitate to share with the commenters here). But because it serves a rhetorical purpose, you continue to blame scientists for the lack of science knowledge among headline writers and cover artists, rather than tackling the institutional fault lines that are actually the cause. And when scientists go out of their way to point people to reliable sources instead of soundbites, you respond that we can’t be trusted and that this is cherry-picking. Brilliant! Your epistemic bubble is complete. – gavin]

  12. 412
    Dan H. says:

    Do you live under a shoe? Of course the media has a bias towards sensationalism. That is exactly why Hansen, Gore, Muller, and a host of others have directly to that venue to make claims that would not hold water in a scientific journal.

    [Response: Gore is not a scientist, and I have certainly criticised Muller’s leap into the fray via press release prior to the publication of his groups papers. Your claim relating to statement about Hansen is less valid – almost all of his statements are backed up by his papers. – gavin]

    Be honest, are you actively criticizing those who make extreme claims towards exaggerated warming effects, or only those who make similar claims towards no warming?

    [Response: Both – I have (and will do some more) criticised Maslowski and Wadhams for their claims about the Arctic, NGOs who have claimed impossible warming rates, people who talk too glibly about running away tipping points of no return etc. There are many more critiques in the inline comments on this site when people have asked questions about specific issues that arise in the media. I’m not sure how you imagine I am supposed to monitor the entirety of the media output and police it for accuracy. – gavin]

    What about the [edit – pejorative] who have criticized those scientists who are providing more context (Jairam Ramesh sound familiar?)? If not, maybe you could google it, since you feel that anyone who disagrees with you has no scientific skills.

    [Response: Never heard of him. Wikipedia says he’s an economist, so I’m not sure what I’m supposed to looking for. And you have it completely wrong (again) – ask any scientist who has seen me at meetings or has corresponded with me: I disagree with a lot of people – some of whom have mad scientific skillz. But I also take exception to unsubstantiated claims made by people who have none. Note however, the disagreements are about the claims, not the people. – gavin]

    You seem to want to blame everyone else for the failings of climate scientists, and that the scientists, themselves, are above reproach. Why you think certain scientists can be trusted and others cannot, seems to just reinforce your cherry-picking stereotype. Instead of blaming scientists, why not try to work them to achieve a greater understanding? Closed-mindedness does little to enhance scientific understanding.

    [Response: Calling you out on your rhetorical excess is equivalent to “closed mindedness”? Ha. On the larger point, of course certain scientists are more trustworthy on some issues than others on other issues. Obvious no? Which is precisely why I spend most time pointing people to the collective assessments from IPCC and NRC etc. since they are much less affected by any single person’s bias or trustworthiness. I have never claimed that climate scientists (or any other scientists) are perfect human beings – but that is just another strawman. – gavin]

  13. 413
    Superman1 says:

    Gavin #411,

    There is ‘cherry-picking’ going on here. I responded in detail last evening to three postings directed at my comments, and not one of these responses was posted. Since then, further comments by the original posters have been posted. That’s the kind of ‘cherry-picking’ I would expect from Watts, not from this site.

    [Response: The thread was getting out of control and being hijacked by excessive and tendentious comment wars (including some of yours but others as well). Substantive comments will be posted but please take a time out and try and moderate the zeal. There is nothing that is worth saying that won’t wait for a calmer discussion. – gavin]

  14. 414
    Hank Roberts says:

    > (in Maslowski’s case, ocean heat flux)

    Dr. M. works at the Navy Postgraduate School.

    I’ve never seen reference to any data he may be using that isn’t publicly available.

    The U.S. Navy must have information about, for example, ocean heat fluxes — in detail — that isn’t published.

    Would there be any hints in the hallway conversations outside meetings that Dr. M. and his students are able to rely on such information in making their projections?

    You can find public information along these lines, coarse-grained and farily old:

    will find you this (powerpoint, you’d have to download it)

    Warm Core Eddies…/ppt/…/Ocean%20fronts%20and%20Eddies.p...

    File Format: Microsoft Powerpoint – Quick View
    Inter-leaving of warm and cold water masses along front can cause shallow … Submarines may attempt to avoid detection by transiting parallel to fronts; If the front … wind direction opposes current direction and decreases when wind and current … Decreases the Mixed Layer Depth (MLD) and the Sonic Layer Depth (SLD) …

    That has some detailed maps of ocean heat fluxes.

    It has a link to


    Shorter question: I know the IPCC and the scientific community in general has to work with published science. Otherwise you go off the rails and end up with assertions that can’t be supported.

    I also know the military has equipment and data far better than is available to the public in areas relevant to military operations. Remember the “Two military spy telescopes, just as big and powerful as Hubble, donated to NASA — Jun 5, 2012” — they have old_discards_ as good as the best current equipment.

    Now look at the Arctic Ocean — it’s brand new for almost all military operations aside from the very limited submarine use. And submarines have been kept lurking under the ice for decades as part of the strategic nuclear deterrent, ready and waiting to launch missiles to blow up the enemy’s glowing ashes if the enemy were so foolish as to start a nuclear war. And other submarines and other equipment must have been all over under the ice to find and kill the enemy’s equipment.

    And now — the ice is melting and the sunlight is shining in. And that changes the whole question of how to hide your assets, which is part of their job.

    Of course they must be collecting data frantically to go with whatever they’ve collected for decades.

    Of course they can’t disclose it– this is brand new warfare possible, entirely new conditions in a changed world.

    But — is there any hint Dr. M. might be using such information to project _when_ the ice will be mostly gone?

    There’s a serious military timeline to consider — when do they need to have what equipment in service where.

    And if we’re going to see war over oil under the oceans — as China and Japan are threatening in the Pacific — it’s apt to be in the Arctic.

    Just, you know, speculating here.

  15. 415
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 403 wayne davidson – (because you refered to a relative lack of summer SST changes) – the water absorbs solar energy and needs to release more heat in the winter before ice can form again.

    Re 401 Jim Larsen – “Both types insulate the ocean in winter, making global warming worse” – made me think of another geoengineering idea: continually bulldoze winter sea ice into small spaces (near Greenland?) to keep openning up more spaces for heat to be released and ice to freeze. It would be a weird winter but you could have thicker ice (and snow?) at the end of it. I’m guessing it’s not practical.

  16. 416
    Dan H. says:

    Thank you for your responses, and not bore holing my posts. I will end here, with the hopes that you will continue to take exception and point out exaggerated unsubstantiated claims (granted we may disagree on what constitutes these claims, but that is minor).

    By the way, Jairam Ramesh was the Indian environmental minister who released the report by glaciologist Vijay Raina detailing that the Himalayan glacier retreat had not excellerated over the past 50 years, and that the IPCC predictions were recklessly alarmist. Pachauri called this report, “voodoo science.”

    [Response: Pachauri was right. The discussion of global warming and glaciers in that report (Ch 8) was rubbish. (Note for other readers, this report made no mention of the IPCC error related the 2035 date – it doesn’t even mention the IPCC). Why Ramesh should be consider a paragon for this report is a little mysterious. – gavin]

  17. 417
    Radge Havers says:

    Interesting bit on NPR this morning:
    Why Mental Pictures Can Sway Your Moral Judgment

    Verbal v. visual thinking. Made me wonder if images illustrating climate change should include more of the ugliness that’s implied. You know, pictures you probably wouldn’t want hanging in your dining room but that are powerful nonetheless.

  18. 418
    Jim Larsen says:

    415 Patrick mused, ” I’m guessing it’s not practical.”

    My favorite is netting the Fram and other straights, but stacking ice is a grand one, too.

    recaptcha has an opinion: seemed etsour

  19. 419

    Gavin, Hansen papers backing him up is nice and important, but his predictions coming through is the most critical thing. What would Einstein relativity be without gravitational lensing proved by an eclipse captured by Eddington? Hansen passed the ultimate peer, simple observational reality. While other scientists have written mistakes even when peer reviewed. Attention must be given to those who were correct. This is how peer review gets checked.

    Patrick, there are live models of the Arctic Ocean basin, Baffin Bay and Hudson Bay, both enclosed by land with a narrow strait to the Atlantic Baffin is my favourite, and it used to have ice year round, sinking whalers regularly, it is next to Greenland and has a similar circulation to the Arctic ocean. Eventually sst’s became so strong that it lost its year round pack not so long ago about 1993??. So warmer sst’s is indeed key. All should keep in mind that Killer whales were observed attacking and eating Narwhals near Pond Inlet this year, an important observation of warming. I don’t think its necessary to be fixated with an image fantasy of no ice at all when theory driven prediction from the past needs reality of the right now in order to prove like Eddington.

  20. 420
    Jim Larsen says:

    417 Radge H, thanks.

    How about an orbital desert scene – desert for thousands of miles – zooming in to where two middle aged friends are talking while waiting to die. “You take the last sip, Joe.” One talks about his mother, who did everything she could to ensure nothing bad ever happened to her baby, while fading the scene to a small young mother driving her son to school in a huge Abrams tank, spewing carbon all the way…

  21. 421
    prokaryotes says:

    Trance Song: The Rate of Climate Change

    This disco-dance track has a climate science theme, featuring samples from James Hansen. Maybe this is another way for messaging and to address the unprecedented crisis we face. To help bring awareness to the topic of climate change and it’s implications. I am not aware of many climate related songs, though maybe this is interesting for some, enjoy :)

  22. 422
    David B. Benson says:

    Jim Larsen @402 — I stated that poorly. Check when the last growing glacier in Switzerland stopped and began shrinking. Then use the ice core records of CO2 to determine the concentration at that date. That’ll be a suitable approximation.

  23. 423
    Chris Korda says:

    Insults aside, @313 I’m accused of doing “nothing” to combat climate change. My response is as follows:

    1. I have not procreated and never will.
    2. I’ve been a strict vegetarian for more than thirty years.
    3. I founded a 501&#40c)(3) educational foundation dedicated to restoring balance between humans and non-humans via voluntary population reduction. Since 1992 we’ve reached millions of people via art, music, culture jamming, and agitprop, and inspired many of them to not procreate or eat animals.

    You may not agree with the strategy or the tactics but this certainly isn’t “nothing”.

    If history is any guide, people will only change course if they’re forced to by external events, or they’re persuaded by a new point of view with sufficient emotional charge to overcome their stubbornness. I’ve been concentrating on the latter, though I freely admit the former is becoming more likely.

    Climate change will not be avoided or even mitigated without deep cultural evolution. Technological change will not be enough. In many ways it’s rapid technological change, and the hubris associated with it, that got us into this mess. I would like to see less self-righteousness, elitism, and contempt for non-scientists, and more discussion of culture, socialization, and particularly the relationship between science and power.

  24. 424
    Radge Havers says:

    Jim @ 420 
    I’ve noticed that a lot of imagery tends to be either rather beautiful or tawdry but not especially thought provoking in and of itself re AGW.  Even a melting glacier looks glamorous, and aerial shots tend to be appealing in an abstract sort of way. A dried up cornfield just looks dusty. It’s problematic.  Plus real ugliness will often have multiple causes.

    Prokaryotes @ 421

  25. 425
    Didactylos says:

    wayne davidson: when we see larger areas of open water in the Arctic earlier in the melting season, closer to the summer solstice, we will see some very large SST anomalies.

    This year, we saw large areas with less than 15% ice, but a small fraction of ice still remained in these areas until very late in the melting season. I don’t need to lecture you about the physics involved.

    The Arctic basin is virtually* a closed system. Albedo changes and consequent SST changes are going to have a very significant local effect – even if modelling these effects leaves some uncertainty over what may happen.

    * Not literally, and on short timescales.

  26. 426
    Rob Dekker says:

    Dan H said #409 :

    Part of the confusion with Hansen’s statement on 25m sea level rise, is that he said the last time the world was 2C warmer, sea levels were 25m higher. Many people have put 2 and 2 together and arrived at 25m by 2100.

    Would you kindly point out a few examples of people that arrived at 25m by 2100 ?
    So far the only one arriving at that conclusion is Dan H in #409.

    and in 411 :

    The question was whether global warming was being – oversold.-

    Actually the question was “How can the truth be ‘oversold’?”
    But since Charles and you changed that back to the assertion in Watts’ PBS piece, lets look at some evidence that “the global warming crowd oversells its message”.

    So, I’ve been looking, but it seems that neither you, nor Watts in his PBS interview, nor any one of the commenters on the 3 online PBS pieces that followed, are able to give even ONE example of where “global warming was being oversold”. Not just evidence of overselling in scientific literature, but even more astounding, not even in mainstream media either !

    Watts spends most of his interview handwaving at “climategate” and “opinion polls” and motives (“lots of money involved”), without actually even giving a single example of where the still unidentified “global warming crowd oversells its message”.
    Now, that’s interesting, no ?

    The only concrete challenge that Watts brings up (against Muller’s data set) is the UHI effect. Unfortunately for Watts, we all know what Fall et al 2010 found after investigating a very large number of stations :

    The lack of a substantial average temperature difference across classes, once the geographical distribution of stations is taken into account, is also consistent with the lack of significant trend differences in average temperatures – .average temperature trends were statistically indistinguishable across classes.

    So, who exactly is overselling exactly which message again ?

  27. 427
    Rob Dekker says:

    Chris Korda said

    I would like to see less self-righteousness, elitism, and contempt for non-scientists, and more discussion of culture, socialization, and particularly the relationship between science and power.

    Considering the increasingly hostile behavior against scientists and their ‘inconvenient’ findings, by a large number of our politicians and prominent media networks, as well as industies that may be adversely affected by these scientific findings, allow me to rephrase your statement to this :

    I would like to see less self-righteousness, elitism, and contempt for scientists, and more discussion of culture, socialization, and particularly the relationship between industy interests and power.

  28. 428
    Jim Larsen says:

    422 David B,

    Thanks, and it isn’t interesting enough to me to investigate. My thoughts are that if 285 happens to be needed and our efforts only get to 350, we can wait or we can give things a nudge with a temporary aerosol emission in the best possible place and time, finishing the deal quite easily, and with better control than mere CO2 reductions.

    Since we’re in a natural temperature decline, just not losing means we win eventually.

    However, and unfortunately, I think even voicing a number is incredibly damaging. The complex relationship between current atmospheric/ocean concentrations and future equilibrium is generally lost on most folks, so it translates to, “We need to get to 285-350 and we’re at 390 and not stopping soon.”

    The options are to believe the speaker is nuts, or that we’re all going to die and there is no chance to change things, so WTF.

    The reality is that if we get below the then-current biosphere and ocean uptake, then we can pretty easily patch any leaks the planet springs. Want a cooler June in the Arctic? Not exactly rocket science – well, maybe, but we’ve got rocket scientists.

  29. 429
    Jim Larsen says:

    David B, I meant not interesting enough for me to investigate at this moment, but please enlighten me as much as you like. :-)

  30. 430
    Jim Larsen says:

    Really bad wording. “My thoughts are” was meant to reduce everything that followed to mere opinion, and “rocket scientists” to show how seriously difficult things are. Just showing optimism.

  31. 431
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Chris Korda,
    OK. Truce. I was out of line. I take back 50% of the nasty things I said about you. ;-)

    My wife and I are also nonbreeders and mostly vegetarian (we do eat venison culled from the overpopulation of deer in our area, and when traveling pretty much whatever is put in front of us).

    I agree that cultural transformation is essential if humans are to survive. However, one of the changes that needs to happen is that people need to start listening to what science is telling them, even when–no, especially when–those truths are inconvenient. I think it is arguable that science with its emphasis on facts, evidence and inquiry has done more to transform humanity in just 400 years than any other human institution has done in the previous ~10000 years of civilization. I think that this transformational power is one of the reasons why scientists often face hostility from conservative elements of society.

    As such, I am used to coming under fire from the right. When I start scientists start receiving enfilade fire from the left, I tend to react harshly–particularly because I know of no group of people more devoted to truth than scientists.

    I believe in science. It works. And I would suggest that you will not transform society in any useful way without it.

  32. 432
    SecularAnimist says:

    Chris Korda wrote: “Climate change will not be avoided or even mitigated without deep cultural evolution. Technological change will not be enough.”

    You may be correct. In which case, we are doomed.

    We simply don’t have time for “deep cultural evolution” to address the problem of anthropogenic global warming. We need to stop the growth of GHG emissions immediately (within a few years at most), and then begin drastic reductions to near zero within perhaps 10 years, if we are to have any hope of avoiding the worst outcomes of AGW. That’s just not enough time for “deep cultural evolution” to have any effect on anything.

    We are going to have to solve this problem with the culture we have, not the culture we wish we had. It’s a quick technological fix — or nothing.

    The good news is that the technological fixes we need are readily available, and can be implemented much more easily, much faster, and at much lower cost than most people realize — and this can certainly be done within the context of our existing “cultural” norms. Indeed, the technological fixes that are needed can be the basis of a New Industrial Revolution that can create more humane, egalitarian and sustainable prosperity for people all over the world.

    The bad news is that the entrenched wealth and power of the fossil fuel corporations is a huge obstacle to making that happen. And that’s why we have been stuck for an entire generation.

  33. 433
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Since we’re in a natural temperature decline

    Can’t assume that the conditions causing a natural slow decline are still in place behind the human changes.

  34. 434

    Sorry I missed the discussion on electric vehicle efficiency. It seemed to be confusing, though some commenters here seemed to comprehend the basics.

    One can count all the impacts for any kind of fuel and so forth, but there is no avoiding the fact that heat engines are the dominant basis of energy for transportation. Although Joule showed ‘equivalence’ of mechanical energy and heat, it took Lord Kelvin to knock some sense into his head, explaining the process does not really work for conversion from heat to mechanical energy.

    Efficiency of heat engines is the issue addressed in the MPG rating of cars, where a gallon of gasoline produces 33.4 kWhr of heat energy and the miles that a car can go on that heat energy is meaningful. It might be reasonable to make a definition of MPGE based on heat energy and miles travelled for electric vehicles, but the heat engine has to be specified. But a battery and electric motor do not a heat engine make, neither is the wall socket. Producing 33.4 kWhr of electricity takes something like 60 to 110 kWhr of heat in a power plant. The EPA formula ignores the difference between 33.4 and 60 – 110. That is a falsehood of large magnitude. Call it what you want. I call it embarrassing that an educated nation would accept such nonsense, and especially distressing that those that assert to an education in physics would not rise in an uproar of protest.

    The next point of importance is the idea of impact on CO2 of using electricity. Here the notion of marginal response has to be recognized. It is comparable to marginal income tax rate, which is the rate for the last dollar, more or less. For electric power, as long as there is reserve capacity in natural gas based equipment, and that fuel cost is lowest for similarly available capacity, then that will be the generation base used. The efficiency will not be that of the latest combined cycle natural gas equipment since that is equipment that is fully in use, regardless of load variations. A fair rating is around 40% which is where natural gas production averaged around three years ago. If natural gas goes back to traditional price levels, or if it goes to European prices, coal will become the marginal response and a fair notion of efficiency is more like 33%.

    True, there are sloppy car engines that do worse, but we have a solid demonstration of practical engines such as the Prius engine that has been measured at 35% to 38% by Argonne. Diesel engines for cars are in the same range. The various machinery arrangements that get power from engines to wheels remain to be compared, but we know that a combination of batteries and electric motors is generally lossy compared to simple mechanical drive trains. (That is why Toyota uses the synergy drive to make best use of whichever drive train is most efficient.)

    So the reality is that the efficiencies of various carefully designed drive systems are not that much different. Of course, when figuring CO2, it is much better if the fuel involved is natural gas, about 50% more for gasoline, and double for coal. Unfortunately, it is likely that coal will return to its long held position as the very cheapest source of heat.

    By far bigger gain could be had with high efficiency aerodynamics, but that will have to wait for a different attitude from the car market.

    In the meantime, the best I can do is an electric tractor which can be seen at the website shown. I hope some of this group will see the point.

  35. 435
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “I think it is arguable that science with its emphasis on facts, evidence and inquiry has done more to transform humanity in just 400 years than any other human institution has done in the previous ~10000 years of civilization.”

    I think it is arguable that empiricism — which is the heart of science — is responsible for essentially all of humanity’s advancements throughout all of human history and pre-history.

    By the way, yesterday (September 20) was the anniversary of the founding of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1848. Garrison Keillor had a short and very interesting commentary on his radio program “The Writer’s Almanac”, which among other things noted that “the term ‘scientist’ had been coined in English just 15 years earlier”.

  36. 436
    David B. Benson says:

    Hank Roberts @433 — Orbital forcing suggests a natural cooling for the next millennium or so.

  37. 437

    435 Secular,

    Under Thomas Jefferson who was looking to build a Nation, I have my reservations about what to call the Lewis and Clark form of science that Garrison Keillor is referring to in his commentary.

  38. 438
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 434 “Here the notion of marginal response has to be recognized. It is comparable to marginal income tax rate, which is the rate for the last dollar, more or less. For electric power, as long as there is reserve capacity in natural gas based equipment, and that fuel cost is lowest for similarly available capacity, then that will be the generation base used.

    – Overall generation capacity and capacity factors: highlights the importance of changing electricity sources

    – with regard to which part of the electricity supply infrastructure is being used for whatever purpose, the same could be said for any other usage of electricity, unless time of day, year, and geographic location is specified, in which case there will be some consequences for unstored/’short’ distance wind/solar.

    (Although it may be that storage of otherwise stranded or overly cheap (via demand-supply) wind+solar (after (pumped storage or not) hydroelectric and CSP, geothermal?, n??, AA-CAES responses) may sometimes/often take the form of renewable fuel production, which could go toward (P)HEVs, or space or water heating, and/or some industries, and/or CSP backup – see prior comments this and last month’s unforced variations – someone had provided an interesting link about that…).

  39. 439

    431 Ray Ladbury,

    I tend to agree that scientists as a group are more devoted to truth than many others, but when that group is passive in the face of blatant fallacy from government, that being the definition of MPGE from the EPA, then devotion to truth is not apparent.

  40. 440
    Patrick 027 says:
    – “undulatus asperatus”
    I’ve totally seen those before!

  41. 441
    Patrick 027 says:
    – “undulatus asperatus”
    I’ve totally seen those before! (Not a climate change, just a type of cloud that hasn’t been officially recognized yet.)

  42. 442
    Chris Korda says:

    @435 SecularAnimist:

    I think it is arguable that empiricism – which is the heart of science – is responsible for essentially all of humanity’s advancements throughout all of human history and pre-history.

    This is almost a dictionary definition of scientism. Please try to imagine the emotional impact this statement has on artists. Have they contributed nothing to humanity’s advancement? Are the contents of museums useless rubbish? Should we empty them out and repurpose the buildings as laboratories or factories? What is advancement? Is it inherently good, or does its goodness depend on what we’re advancing towards?

    I’m not being rhetorical or provocative. I’m trying to understand how we got into this mess in the first place, so I can more effectively inspire myself and others to deal with it. Robert Pirsig raised similar questions in his 1974 inquiry into values, “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” He described pervasive technological ugliness, and hypothesized that its source was a split between art and science, or between what he called the “classic” and “romantic” world-views. He then attempted to save reason from its own self-devouring logic, by positing pre-intellectual awareness (which he called “Quality”) as the source of both subjects and objects. In my view his solution was naive and retreated into mysticism, but regardless it apparently didn’t work, because forty years later we’re no closer to a resolution, and the ugliness Pirsig was describing has blossomed into the greatest threat in human history.

    In a famous passage Pirsig used realism to prove the existence of his central term, “by subtracting Quality from a description of the world as we know it”. His description could just as easily describe a world in which “empiricism … is responsible for essentially all of humanity’s advancements.”

    We have been listening to scientists, maybe not about climate change, but about nearly everything else, for hundreds of years, and the results are increasingly ghastly. Even scientists are scared. If scientists are now going to tell us that there’s no hope without even more drastic technological change, they would be wise to adopt some humility, and acknowledge that mistakes were made, instead of preaching science as a glorious march to advancement.

    I know it seems like I’m attacking science but it’s more subtle than that. I’m an engineer. I work with scientists and use math and logic all day long, and I don’t doubt for a second that science “works”, in the pragmatic sense that our explanations of phenomena can improve with time and effort. What I’m questioning is the notion that science is neutral, or as Pirsig would say, Quality-free. Art isn’t just “whatever you like” and there’s more to life than being right.

    “We are healthy only to the extent that our ideas are humane.”
    -Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

  43. 443
    sidd says:

    Chris Korda writes on the 21st of September, 2012 at 8:12 PM:

    “What I’m questioning is the notion that science is neutral, … ”

    Mr. Korda, several thoughts came to me when I read your comment, but they would be much more appropriate on a climate ethics blog, such as the one at penn state or climatechangefork, and so I think would yours.


  44. 444
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re Chris Korda – the problem is not with science but with ourselves.

  45. 445
    Radge Havers says:

    Chris Korda

    Hmm, well it seems to me it’s not the science that’s ugly. You could say that postmodernism, however, is profoundly ugly. For that matter not all art in museums is intended to be beautiful.

    Perhaps you should ask what is science at the service of? My old painting/art history professor used to say that art has always been at the service of something.  Look around you: lots of art being used to sell and promote all kinds of dehumanizing, toxic filth.

    If there’s a dichotomy between art and science, I’d like to suggest that it’s not where you seem to be drawing it.

  46. 446
    Jim Larsen says:

    433 Hank said, “Can’t assume that the conditions causing a natural slow decline are still in place behind the human changes.”

    Orbital cycles and geography are set. The statement was predicated with an immediate-ish peak and a drift back to 350, with the clock beginning only after 350 is achieved. By then we surely won’t be emitting significant aerosols. So land use is left? Our knocking around the china shop surely has unforseen consequences, but still I think the assumption is reasonable.

    My post was about focusing on carbon sinks rather than atmospheric concentration, as well as to clearly separate acute and chronic climate change. (acute = CO2 is going UP; chronic is CO2 is above 280-350) I think it’s the way to bring the public on board solutions-wise. Buy a 50MPG car, a ground source heat pump, a solar water heater, maybe a few PV cells, and insulate the heck out of your house. A little federal subsidy, a little federal financing, and BOOM! You’ve solved(?) acute climate change for the USA. From there, as they wear out, replace CH4 plant with low-carbon emitters. Coal plants can go on a reasonable attrition basis. Building a very few new CH4 plants might be justifiable, but they last a very long time, so such construction commits to a lot of CO2 or a lot of lost use of a capital asset. The oceans will drop us to and below 350, and then we get to choose our climate, puffing GHGs generally and/or or aerosols in specific locations and seasons. I hope it is clear that this in no way resembles the denialist meme of spewing CO2 and then covering the stench with a gallon of eau de aerosol.

    One easy way to help climate is to include expected energy costs in loan applications. If one pays $100 a month less in utilities, then one should qualify for a $100 higher payment. Suddenly, super-insulation and a ground source heat pump become viable choices for the average consumer, especially for a new house.

    434 Jim B, we discussed what I called “the last KWH”. It quickly became apparent that the subject is fraught with variables. Perhaps a better visual is total capacity. We’re building wind/solar as fast as politically possible, so it’s not affected by EV construction. In fact, since EVs and wind/solar compete for the same pot-o-subsidies, building an EV reduces wind/solar. in contrast, we’re shutting down coal as it makes sense. So, add a coal-plant’s worth of EVs, and one coal plant won’t shut down, plus some wind/solar won’t get built. (CH4 complicates but shouldn’t invalidate)

    On wind, I read an article on a company which has already started the post-subsidy layoffs. Total insanity, and it isn’t in not renewing the subsidy, but in writing a subsidy that violates the first rule of subsidies:

    Subsidies *MUST* have tapered tails. Tax changes should be handled similarly.

  47. 447
    Jim Larsen says:

    The debate about geoengineering has to enter a new phase. Within a year, as science digests 2012’s data and 2013’s becomes available, we may know that the Arctic ice cap will disappear essentially immediately if left to “natural” devices. We can prevent the loss pretty cheaply and with certainty, but with unknown consequences. I’m finding it hard to imagine an unknown consequence bigger than the loss of Arctic sea ice, and I’d consider allowing the ice cap to disappear the larger “experiment”, when deciding whether to experiment.

    The sole reasonable objection seems to lie with public opinion. If we delay this tipping point, then people will be encouraged to believe all tipping points are solvable. [edit – less hyperbole please]

  48. 448
    Jim Larsen says:

    439 Jim B said, “that group is passive in the face of blatant fallacy from government, that being the definition of MPGE from the EPA,”

    dhogaza explained that. MPGe is defined as tank-to-wheels, just as MPG is. Upstream losses, which are significant for both, are ignored, as are low-carbon sources. Scientifically impeccable. The stickers also have CO2 g/mile, which is the figure you’re looking for. What’s missing, I think, is what arguably MPG VS MPGe “should” be based on: cash out of the customer’s pocket. Using that metric, I shouldn’t MPGe figures be way higher?

  49. 449
    MARodger says:

    Jim Bullis, Miastrada Company@434,

    You are definitely not correct when you say that with use of mpg(e), “the heat engine has to be specified.”
    The whole concept of mpg(e) is to allow a direct comparison in mpg(e) between an EV &, say, a petrol-fuelled Prius equiped with any blindingly-advanced engine and drive systems you wish to mention. The “heat engine” and the thermal cycle it uses remains irrelevant. It is the fuel used that is specifed within the mpg(e). Indeed, the latest diesel should also use an mpg(e) because the carbon intensity of diesel per gallon is not identical to petrol. Ditto LPG. The point of mpg(e) is that if a vehicle is up to snuff wrt emissions, its mpg(e) will show it, irrespective of particulars of engine or fuel.

    You are also incorrect in suggesting that the a US gallon’s worth of CO2 is released getting 33.4 kWh of electric(US) to a plug-in point for an EV.
    The figure used by the EPA is 33.7 kWh and this is the primary energy used at the power station to create the electricity for the EV. It thus includes the generation and transmission losses.

    You mention the marginal emissions, that extra electric demand will be supplied by a mix of fuels that may not have a carbon intensity equal to the average for all electricity supply.
    To suggest this will be ‘dirtier’ electricity is wrong. If the EV fleet is plugged in during off-peak periods, the fuel could well be the ‘cleanest’ of electricity. It should also be considered that the mix of elecrtic will get ‘cleaner’ (hopefully) with time, something petrol could have achieved with ‘clean’ biofuel had that technology come good. (May be it still could.) And there is much talk (as Patrick 027@438 does) of the benefits of the significant levels of electrical storeage that would be available from the mass adoption of EV, thus assisting the ‘cleaning’ of electricity for all user.

    As for “far bigger gains,” you propose aerodynamics is the avenue to pursue. I would suggest there are many useful considerations that lie beyond a vehicle’s mechnaical efficiencies, for instance size & weight of car, the speed it is driven at, its handling (eg acceleration & braking, tyre pressures, etc), non-driving power demands, how far it is driven and how often.

  50. 450
    MARodger says:

    Chris Korda@441,
    I actually like SecularAnimist’s use of the term ’empricism’. The last 400 years are not truly characerised by the notion of scientific advance providing the goodies. Were Watt, Murdock, Stephenson or Brunell ustilising scientific knowledge or were they practising engineering? Surely it was the latter. Were they even inspired by some scientifc possibility? Probably not. Where science has played an essential part to the last 400 years is by sustaining the technological advances through the last century, an essential requirement.
    And how did we get here? Myself, I blame Abraham Derby who was the first man to invent a use for fossil fuels beyond cooking & warming rooms. And if you want to blame the Chinese for all these emissions, they did have a go at coal-made steel centuries before Derby.
    As for your questioning, perhaps you seek Soft Systems.