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Unforced variations: Oct 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 October 2012

This month’s open thread. Try to keep it at least vaguely focused on climate science…!

782 Responses to “Unforced variations: Oct 2012”

  1. 151
    Craig Nazor says:

    Dan H – read the first post on the link. I just said goodbye to a carfull of good friends from Austin last night on the UT campus, headed towards east Texas.

    Don’t make the same mistake that Nixon et al did and underestimate the idealism of the next generation. As always, they are going to have to live with the results of our ignorance.

  2. 152
    MARodger says:

    Jack Roesler @132.
    You ask “Could that be accurate?” The short answer is Yes!!

    I have calculated on more than one occasion that the energy captured as a GHG by the ~45% CO2 emissions from the average FF that remain in the atmosphere takes 12 months to equal the energy released by the burning of that FF. This is the average for the world mix of FFs. Coal is quicker – 9 months (If I remember correctly). Natural gas is slower – 15 months.

    So how long will that CO2 remain in the atmosphere? According to Archer et al 2009, about half of that ~45% will be sucked out of the atmosphere in a matter of centuries and so cannot contribute much to any 100,000 figure. So we can pleasantly ignore it for once. (In any other circumstance, ignoring centuries of GHG warming like this would be a symptom of that dreadful desease Wattsupia.)

    The remaining ~20% emissions will persist of for many thousands of years. Archer et al 2009 speculate about the last remaining 10% surviving 100,000 or 400,000 years, the latter of which would yield your heat-trapped-as-a-GHG/heat-released-by-burning ratio of 100,000. (Note Archer et al’s ~45 thousand year mean CO2 lifetime for 100% of the CO2 does neatly yield ~100 thousand year mean CO2 lifetime for the ~45% that is used in this here comment for the FFenergy=1 year GHGenergy.)

  3. 153
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Given what happened to the corn crop here in the US, I am not sure I would be so sanguine. After all, there is a significant problem with hunger here in the US already. The problem with global warming is that it is in fact global.

  4. 154

    #132, Jack Roesler: “I read a study stating that for every unit of fossil fuel-derived energy, the CO2 liberated eventually traps 100,000 units of the sun’s energy in our climate system. Could that be accurate?”

    Well, for me to answer this is probably an instance of a fool rushing in… however, though the proposition seems badly stated to me*, I’m guessing that the main point–that the GHE effect is much, much greater over time than is the direct energy released–is correct.

    A related discussion comes up every now and then when someone tries to say that observed global warming must be due to all the waste heat released, not the GHE (which they usually argue not to exist.) But the math (according to many more qualified folk than I) doesn’t support that; though waste heat can be detectable in some UHI measurements, the effect is too small to have a real impact on any but local scales.

    *In that “traps 100,000 units” makes the “trapping” sound a simple and permanent process, which is misleading in some ways as I understand it. On one hand, the specific energy interacting with GHGs in the atmosphere does escape, all but a tiny fraction. (The TOA energy imbalance is a fraction of a Watt per square meter, in contrast with TOA insolation, which is <1300 W/m2.)

    On the other hand, if we imagine a case where the planet actually equilibrates at some warmer temperature, then there would be an energy difference proportional to the difference in global temperature–and that difference would be quasi-permanent, in line with the notion that energy was 'trapped' in the system. Perhaps that was the sense intended?

  5. 155
    James McDonald says:

    I have a few very general questions, at the executive summary level.

    From what I can gather, climate models now do a rather good job of predicting (or retrodicting) global climate patterns and a plausible job for regional patterns, with the glaring exception of Arctic sea ice.

    Q1: Is this a fair description?
    Q2: Is there a simple explanation (or set of candidate explanations) for why the models have underestimated the loss of Arctic sea ice we observe?
    Q3: Can we expect the models to be adjusted any time soon to more accurately account for Arctic sea ice?

    If I made any incorrect assumptions, feel free to correct them. I’m really just trying to get a high level grasp of the overall robustness of the models.

  6. 156

    DanH, I suppose everyone is entitled to categorize as they will; however, since energy efficiencies directly result in less FF burned, most people consider them to very ‘green’ indeed. (Though see the considerations around “Jevon’s paradox.”)

    As to the $3 bn for ‘clean coal,’ I already pointed that out in my comment; did you not read that part? And no, I don’t consider that ‘green’, but rather politically- and economically-motivated ‘greenwashing.’

  7. 157

    #152–Nice answer, MAR–thank you.

  8. 158
    Chris Dudley says:

    Jim (#147),

    As I’ve tried to make clear to you, it is countries that set policy, not per capitas. Counties make choices to increase or decrease emissions. Thus, it is countries that must be held responsible.

    Again, all of your social considerations go right out the window when we are talking about culpability for taking us over the threshold of dangerous climate change. Everyone knew there was a threshold out there. Most started cutting emissions. Some did not. So, we know who is to blame that we have crossed it.

    I’ve said this several times. Why do you ask me to repeat it again?

  9. 159
    Jim Larsen says:

    128 SecularA said, “Skyrocketing food prices — a direct result of anthropogenic global warming”

    Prove it. Not to a scientist, not to me, but to somebody who pre-disbelieves you.

    It’s all deniable, and seriously, “skyrocketing”? I haven’t noticed any change in food prices, which means said change is “minor increases in”, not “skyrocketing”. Yep, some poor 3rd worlder might consider it skyrocketing, but, you know, am I even going to notice his death by starvation? Since he has no “vote” anyway, voters aren’t significantly affected by…

    I disagree with your fear of personal harm through climate change. I’m guessing you’re old enough that without Life Extension Tech you’ll be dead before you’ve got to sacrifice anything more than an uneasy feeling about “tropicals” dying. Insurance goes up… higher water bill… landscaping changes… whatever. As if this year’s supposedly-caused-by-agw drought made the slightest difference. It’s a few bucks, not anything life-changing for most voters. (with votes not per capita but per dollar)

  10. 160
    Cugel says:

    Regarding the relative impact of AGW on individuals, I think it will be quite fractal in its distribution. At the largest scale poor countries will fare worse than rich ones, but within even the richest and poorest societies the poor will fare worse than the well-off, while some will actually benefit. In some societies the poorest will simply be written-off, and perhaps even hurried on their way before they can cause trouble.

  11. 161
    Superman1 says:

    SecularAnimist #127,

    “That’s a blatant falsehood, as public opinion polls have repeatedly shown that strong majorities of voters consider climate change to be “a very important” or “the most important” issue facing the country.

    With all due respect, sir, you make a lot of these broad claims that have no support in fact.”

    Two points. You, and especially The Three MisQuoteers (Fish, Ladbury, and Larsen) have made pointed remarks on my posts. When I have attempted detailed in-depth responses, they have not been posted. My responses don’t contain invective, expletives, or hyperbole, but they tend not to follow the Party Line of this blog. What you’re getting is the image of my comments that the site monitors want you to get, not my context.

    On to your comment about polling. I have no doubt that if people are asked whether climate change is an important issue, they will respond in the affirmative. It costs nothing to make that statement. But, if they were asked about specific actions they would take; e.g., would you eliminate all airline flights except for the most dire emergencies, would you use a bicycle for all trips under fifteen miles, the answer would be far different. Despite your stated philosophy of what is required to ameliorate climate change, far more sacrifice will be required if we have any hope of avoiding the catastrophe. I don’t believe the electorate is willing to do much more than responding affirmatively to a poll.

    I know plenty of people who say they are concerned about the potential impacts of climate change, yet I know of no one who has altered their energy use in any meaningful way. The closest is perhaps trading in a full-size car for a Prius, but I suspect the price of gas had as much to do with that as concern about the climate. So, believe the polls all you want; they bear little relation to potential actions.

  12. 162
    Superman1 says:

    Thomas Lee Elifritz #126,

    “I posit that simple solar L1 irradiance modification experiments could be designed to test the hypothesis without any serious side effects”

    You need to provide more detail on what you mean. If you’re suggesting something like placing solar shields in orbit at the Langrangian L1 point on the Earth-Sun line one million miles from Earth, that was examined in some detail in one study by Roger Angel in 2006. For meaningful solar insolation blockage, almost 2% of the earth’s cross-sectional area would have to be shielded. He proposed launching trillions of two foot diameter thin disks by electromagnetic rail gun to keep the costs down. There would be twenty of these guns firing 800,000 disks every few minutes for ten years continuously. He estimated a cost of five trillion dollars. I suspect the real cost would be five or ten times that much, given the development complexity of real world systems. What part of this would you characterize as ‘simple’? I’m familiar with these launchers; simple or reliable are not words I’d use.

  13. 163
    SecularAnimist says:

    Craig Nazor wrote: “Dan H – What are we supposed to do with that Gallup poll?”

    Craig, in fairness to Dan H, he was responding to my assertion about public opinion polls on the perceived “importance” of global warming, which was in turn my response to Superman1’s unsupported assertion that the US electorate “couldn’t care less”.

    Dan H was not, I believe, saying that public opinion has any bearing on the scientific facts. Public opinion does, however, have considerable bearing on whether and when government, corporations and other institutions will begin to take appropriate action.

    See the CSM article linked below for a recent overview of public opinion polls on climate change:

    In a nonpartisan national poll released by George Mason and Yale in March, 72 percent of Americans surveyed said global warming should be a very high (12 percent), high (28 percent), or medium (32 percent) priority for the president and Congress. Among registered voters, 84 percent of Democrats, 68 percent of independents, and 52 percent of Republicans said global warming should be a priority.

    More on the subject from Yale:

    Majorities of Americans say that global warming and clean energy should be among the nation’s priorities, want more action by elected officials, corporations, and citizens themselves, and support a variety of climate change and energy policies, including holding fossil fuel companies responsible for all the “hidden costs” of their products. A majority also say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports a “revenue neutral” tax shift from income taxes to fossil fuels, and that global warming will be one of the issues that determines their vote for President this fall.

    And this is in spite of the fact that the US and UK mass media have emphasized and publicized the claims of organized climate change denialists to a degree not found in the media of other countries, which of course has the (intended) effect of depressing public concern:

    This letter contrasts the way climate scepticism in its different forms is manifested in the print media in the USA and five other countries (Brazil, China, France, India and the UK), in order to gain insight into how far the US experience of scepticism is replicated in other countries. It finds that news coverage of scepticism is mostly limited to the USA and the UK; that there is a strong correspondence between the political leaning of a newspaper and its willingness to quote or use uncontested sceptical voices in opinion pieces; and that the type of sceptics who question whether global temperatures are warming are almost exclusively found in the US and UK newspapers. Sceptics who challenge the need for robust action to combat climate change also have a much stronger presence in the media of the same two countries.

  14. 164
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Larsen wrote: “I’m guessing you’re old enough that without Life Extension Tech you’ll be dead before you’ve got to sacrifice anything more than an uneasy feeling …”

    I am approaching 60 and in good health, so I have a fair shot at attaining the average US male life expectancy of 75 years or so.

    If I do so, I fully expect that food shortages will be a real problem for me personally, in my lifetime.

    If you know of some reason to be confident that what you dismiss as “this year’s supposedly-caused-by-agw drought” will not continue for another three or five or ten years, that it will not in fact turn out to be permanent, I’d like to hear it.

    As for “supposedly caused”, it is exactly the sort of drought that climate scientists have predicted for a generation would result from AGW, it is clearly linked to AGW-driven changes in weather patterns, it continues to worsen and spread as I write, and it is much like similar mega-droughts already affecting major agricultural regions all over the world.

    If you want to entertain any “skepticism” about its connection to AGW, well, welcome to denial.

    As for “uneasy feelings” about people in the developing world who are already experiencing food shortages and/or skyrocketing food costs that in their case lead to the same result — hunger — I suggest you read up on the role of food costs and shortages in contributing to the so-called “Arab spring” and other social and political upheaval, including the overthrow of multiple governments, and consider that we in the USA will not be unaffected by such developments.

  15. 165
    Jim Larsen says:

    158 Chris D said, “Most started cutting emissions. Some did not. So, we know who is to blame that we have crossed it.”

    I’m signing off. We’re talking at, not talking to. My questions were simple and direct, and you’ve evaded them every time. So, I’ll close by answering your statement:

    1. The USA, by your definition, is the SOLE country refusing to reduce vehicle emissions significantly over the last decade, and so is the SOLE culpable party. Your REFUSAL to even respond to that is proof that you are motivated by “who” is involved rather than “what” the country is doing.

  16. 166

    #155 James, I have only seen one model animation from Hadley, the 2007 melt was off by 38 years. Apparently there are several models:

    All of them flunked. These model animations are very hard to see, if they do animate, we can almost instantly see if they are “life like”, but we don’t see them and its a pity.

  17. 167
    Hank Roberts says:

    John Brunner wrote in The Sheep Look Up:

    “We can just about restore the balance of the ecology, the biosphere, and so on — in other words we can live within our means instead of on an unrepayable overdraft, as we’ve been doing for the past half century — if we exterminate the two hundred million most extravagant and wasteful of our species.”

    That was 1972.
    Forty years ago.

  18. 168
    Dan H. says:

    The claim was made earlier that voters in the U.S. felt that climate change was either very important or the most important issues facing our country. The poll seems to indicate otherwise. Politicians regularly check these polls (whether or not they have cancer), to check the pulse of the electorate. The poor showing is reflected in the lack of attention paid to emvironmental issues this year. Had the numbers been different, and these issues places near the top, I serious doubt that Romeny would’ve made the comments about the supporting the pipeline and liking coal in the debate. Obama has been shying away from the issue also, in order to avoid disenfranchising voters.

  19. 169

    The claim was made earlier that voters in the U.S. felt that climate change was either very important or the most important issues facing our country.

    I guess you missed the ‘global’ in global warming.

    Dan, the veracity or magnitude of the global warming problem, or any problem for that matter, is not determined by ‘polls’. It’s determined by evidence. You and the rest of humanity can think what you want and it’s not going to make a bit of difference to the demonstrable effects already set in motion. These effects are irreversible to those not willing to accept them or make the changes or conduct the experiments necessary to change those effects. Humanity has already taken the plunge, and they’ve had plenty of warning on this outcome going all the way back to the 60’s.

  20. 170
    wili says:

    I’m with fuzzyggon @ #146–We seem to need a separate thread at real climate to have a general discussion about the real climate.

    Did anyone check out the nature article about permafrost feedback? Or the posts at Skeptical Science and ClimateSight that discuss it? Does anyone have anything to say about it?

    It looks to me as if it is saying (once you connect the dots that other feedbacks will kick in/are kicking in) that we are already in a runaway global warming situation. I would be much more than happy to be proven wrong.

  21. 171
    Chris Dudley says:

    Jim (#165),

    The US has raised CAFE standards. Perhaps you missed that development.

  22. 172
    wili says:

    Ah, now RealClimate has a post on the permafrost feedback article as well.

    Perhaps it is time for RealClimate to have a separate post on this very important article as well?

    Or we can just go back to talking politics and bashing each other with brick bats.

    (But reCaptcha tells me: “never, uliaboo” –I’ve been called worse ‘-)

  23. 173
    Radge Havers says:

    SA @ 163, just as an aside.

    “A great deal of focus has been devoted to the analysis and development of various communications techniques to better convey and understanding of climate change to individual members of the public. However, this analysis shows that these efforts have a minor influence, and are dwarfed by the effect of the divide on environmental issues in the political elite.”

    at CJR

    Although you have to wonder to what extent media softening its overall watchdog role is a factor.

    The debates and the reaction were a lesson in communication or lack thereof by the “political elite”: simian threat displays and submissive postures make the peanut gallery hoot as a rhetorical device honed by anti-science nutters gets wider play. See Cenk Uygur discovering the Gish Gallop who then ponders fact checking at CNN (

    One take away, there’s a fine line between being moderate and level-headed on the one hand and making yourself an entertaining target for bullies on the other. Cross it and you may find yourself struggling.

  24. 174
    wili says:

    The permafrost feedback article has also attracted a post at tamino’s blog:

    And has garnered some discussion on the open thread at Deltoid:

    So nearly everyone else is talking about this bombshell. Can’t we do so here, too?

  25. 175
    SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “My responses don’t contain invective, expletives, or hyperbole, but they tend not to follow the Party Line of this blog.”

    No, I have not found your posts to contain harsh or abusive language. But with all due respect, your posts do typically contain a lot of unsupported, sweeping generalities, and your responses to substantive rebuttals are mostly just repetitions of the same sort of thing.

    In this case, your unsupported generalization that “the electorate could not care less” about climate change was rebutted with actual opinion polls showing that significant majorities of “the electorate” do, in fact, care a good deal, and consider the issue a priority for the President and the Congress, and support policies to regulate GHG emissions and to hold fossil fuel corporations responsible for the full costs of their products.

    In response, you “move the goal posts” to argue that it’s not really the views of the electorate that matter — it’s not the policies that people will vote for (which is what “the electorate” implies) that matter — but rather their alleged unwillingness to make major changes in their way of life that shows they “couldn’t care less”.

    But again, you offer no substantive evidence to support that general claim.

    In fact, the Prius is the third best-selling car in the world and the new Prius Plug-In sold 1,000 vehicles a month in its first six months. The Chevy Volt is outselling 50 percent of the cars on the market today, and is already selling significantly more vehicles than the Prius did in its first year on the market. And of course the Volt is only one of the growing number of electric vehicles on the market today.

    Meanwhile, residential solar PV installations are growing robustly, with second quarter 2012 installations totaling 98 Megawatts, which is up 42 percent over second quarter 2011.

    These statistics are all direct reflections of public interest — and willingness to invest our own hard-earned money — in low-carbon or zero-carbon energy solutions, when and where such solutions are available.

    Moreover, I would suggest that those of us in “the electorate” who are well-informed about this issue are well aware that changes in public policy — including putting a price on carbon pollution, directly regulating GHG emissions, and providing effective support for the development and deployment of efficiency and renewable energy technologies on a scale at least comparable to the subsidies that fossil fuels have received for a century — are far more effective than the options that any individual can currently choose, and are in fact crucial to making more such options available to all of us.

    Your posts suggest an insistence on wallowing in defeatism. I would suggest to you that like denial — not the dishonest denial of the fake “skeptics”, but the psychological denial of a problem to painful or frightening to face — defeatism offers false comfort, the false comfort of throwing up your hands, declaring “everything is lost, nothing can be done, nothing will be done, nobody cares, nobody will act, time to give up” and retreating into bitter, morose passivity.

    Don’t go there. Ask yourself “what can be done?” and “what can I do?” and “what can I encourage others to do?” and “what can I, along with thousands of others, browbeat our public and private institutions to do?” Embrace the answers you find, and fight for them. Fight like hell.

  26. 176
    SecularAnimist says:

    A word about the arguments over “culpability”.

    The word is “capability”.

    What matters is not who is “culpable”. What matters is who is “capable” of bringing about effective change.

    China and the USA can point fingers of blame at each other — this is what the fossil fuel interests love to see.

    Or, China and the USA can focus on bringing their respective strengths and capabilities to bear on the problem in the most synergistically effective way possible — this is what will get us somewhere.

    The Chinese are not worried that dealing with global warming will lock them out of economic growth in the 21st century — the Chinese know that dealing with global warming is THE key to economic growth in the 21st century. China is on track to become the world’s leading supplier of wind and solar technologies, and to become an economic superpower in the process.

    Fools point fingers. Smart people put their fingers to work building solutions.

  27. 177
    SecularAnimist says:

    wili wrote (currently #170): “Did anyone check out the nature article about permafrost feedback? … It looks to me as if it is saying …”

    It looks to me as if it is saying what we already know:

    In addition to ending anthropogenic GHG emissions as soon as possible — which is to say, on an emergency basis, as close to immediately as possible — we also need to draw down the already dangerous excess of anthropogenic GHGs to preindustrial levels as soon as possible.

    This can be done through a worldwide transition to organic agriculture and a worldwide program of reforestation, which will sequester carbon in soils and biomass, and also restore the health of ecosystems and the biosphere generally.

    As with phasing out fossil fuels, we know how to do these things. We know they have other far-reaching benefits. We know they are the basis for sustainable, equitable prosperity.

    The only real obstacle is the entrenched wealth and political power of those whose continued wealth and power depend on maintaining the status quo.

  28. 178
    wili says:

    Now climate central has taken up the permafrost feedback article, too.

    Can we call it “viral” now? Will this be the last climate related site to engage in a serious discussion of this important article?

  29. 179
    Craig Nazor says:

    Dan H – I understand your point, although I do not think that a poll can accurately reflect true voter feeling about as complicated an issue as climate change. If a building is on fire, but the residents do not believe that the building is on fire, the best response is not to just sit and wait until the residents finally decide that the building is on fire. So MY response to your poll is: so what? Even if that poll wins your argument (and I don’t think it does), so what?

    Unfortunately, you do not seem to understand my point.

    At one time, the majority of the American electorate felt that black people should be treated differently than white people, or that women should not have the right to vote.

    The case with climate change is worse. Science is telling us that if we don’t do something now to stop climate change, people’s lives will be severely affected, as in extreme discomfort, disease, and possibly death. Some people are OK with denying this possibility, despite the evidence; others are not. The trouble is, if we wait too long to act, the science also tells us that we lose the ability to do anything about it. This is going to p!ss some people off, to put it mildly. This conflict could very likely destabilize our society, at least to the same degree that we saw such destabilization over the Vietnam War. I would argue that we are seeing the beginning of that right now, and I produced my evidence.

    So far, no one has actually commented on that evidence, which I find interesting.

  30. 180
    observer says:

    Re: Car sales statistics in #175.

    The WSJ has statistics for car sales in September 2012 and 2012 year-to-date at

    The Chevrolet Volt is not in the top 20. The Prius is 13th. Number 1 is the Ford F-Series pickup, number 2 is the Chevrolet Silverado pickup.

    It may well be true that the Chevy Volt is outselling half the car models in the market—I bet a lot more Volts are sold than most Porsche models. shows 15 different Porsche models. I suspect many people find the prices of the 911 GT2 RS ($245,000+) a tad steep.

    There are lots of car models out there—so outselling half of them does not seem particularly significant.

    The reference you cited states that 13,497 Volts had been sold through August 2012. According to the WSJ, about 5 million cars, 5 million light-duty trucks, and 3 million SUVs have been sold so far this year. 15,000 out of 13 million is not huge market acceptance.

  31. 181
    SecularAnimist says:

    wili wrote: “We seem to need a separate thread at real climate to have a general discussion about the real climate.”

    I think we seem to need a separate thread for people who like to respond to every new development in climate science by posting “we are doomed” and “it is hopeless” and “why are you wasting your time talking about solutions because we are doomed and it is hopeless”.

  32. 182
    Edward Greisch says:

    161 Superman1: All kinds of little efficiency improvements made by individuals and appliance makers can be lumped into such words as: cosmetic or displacement activity or greenwashing. Displacement activity is a dissipation of nervous energy which accomplishes nothing. Whether Jevons’ Paradox works or not, the source of the CO2 is the source of the fossil fuel. ONLY by attacking the source of the fossil fuel can we stop the CO2 production. We should drop all of those “personal” energy “savings”from the law and do a fee and 100% dividend on all fossil fuels at the source, per James Hansen. The alternative is to ban coal outright, then ban natural gas, then severely restrict oil.

    There is no Party Line of this blog because scientists actually THINK, which means “do math.” The electorate has been heavily propagandized by the fossil fuel industry. We can engineer the required changes to have little effect on the lifestyle of most people. That is what engineering is for.

  33. 183
    SecularAnimist says:

    observer, believe it or not, there was a time when the number of personal computers sold per year was zero. There was a time when the number of cell phones sold per year was zero.

    They went on to transform “data processing” and “telecommunications” beyond recognition and to radically alter the entire fabric of our society. Many people now view land line phones as obsolete and archaic. And how many people do you know who have dumb terminals and log in to time-sharing mainframes nowadays?

    Like PCs and cell phones, electric cars and photovoltaics in particular (because they are all about technology, not “resources”, and because they are consumer technologies that can be adopted by individuals) have the potential to cause disruptive radical change in a short time. Indeed, one of the main concerns of people studying how the US electric grid can most effectively integrate renewables is that end-users will deploy too much PV, too fast.

    Given that NO mass produced electric cars were even available to consumers just a couple of years ago, and given that the charging infrastructure that will make them as easy to “fuel” and operate as gasoline fueled cars is barely in its infancy, their rate of adoption is astonishing — and again, it is faster than was the case for hybrid cars which became absolutely mainstream within 10 years.

  34. 184
    David B. Benson says:

    James McDonald @155 — Nobody understands ice melt very well. There have been attempts to predict the melt on the Great Lakes and St. Lawerence River. There might be a summary paper regarding how successful these attempts have been.

    Another aspect that the climate models don’t seem to be predicting well enough is extreme precipitation event frequency in various regions.

  35. 185
    Superman1 says:

    Secular Animist #175,

    “Your posts suggest an insistence on wallowing in defeatism. I would suggest to you that like denial — not the dishonest denial of the fake “skeptics”, but the psychological denial of a problem to painful or frightening to face — defeatism offers false comfort, the false comfort of throwing up your hands, declaring “everything is lost, nothing can be done, nothing will be done, nobody cares, nobody will act, time to give up” and retreating into bitter, morose passivity.

    Don’t go there. Ask yourself “what can be done?” and “what can I do?” and “what can I encourage others to do?” and “what can I, along with thousands of others, browbeat our public and private institutions to do?” Embrace the answers you find, and fight for them. Fight like hell.”

    Your first sentence is only partially correct. The posts of mine you have seen wallow in realism (which you interpret as defeatism), but the articles I submitted that were not posted offered ‘solutions’. I place quotes around solution because they are solutions in theory. I refuse to delude myself they have much probability of being implemented in a timely manner, if at all.

    Here’s my perception of the problem. We are committed to somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5 C to 2.5 C of temperature increase above pre-industrial even if we terminate fossil fuel combustion tomorrow. This is without most positive feedbacks taken into account. The positive feedbacks have kicked in already, and some are starting to accelerate. I don’t believe that we can stabilize in the 1.5-2.5 range without further corrective action. But, the primary step has to be to stop adding fuel to the fire. We need to stop burning fossil fuels ASAP.

    One low tech corrective step would be reforestation and afforestation. I addressed this issue in one of my non-published posts. It is neither cheap or very near term, and it runs diametrically opposite to the increasing trend of global deforestation. You may interpret that as ‘wallowing in defeatism’; how can I credibly put a positive spin on that? I’m not Mitt Romney! But, hypothetically, suppose we could terminate fossil fuel combustion and reforest. That may not be adequate, given the feedbacks already occurring. Like any system already in the ignition phase, some quenching of the self-sustaining mechanisms may be required. It may be necessary to add the ‘artificial trees’ that Lackner has proposed, and/or add some interim aerosols to the atmosphere. In other words, we may want to swing the pendulum past the desired target point to insure the self-sustaining mechanisms are quenched. Other theoretical possibilities include a solar shield at the Lagrangian L1 point. The Angel proposal for such a shield is unrealistic in terms of cost, complexity, and schedule. Other options may be theoretically possible.
    But, it seems to me that to honestly address what I believe is the problem, solutions of the above magnitude are required. How can I look myself in the mirror and state that they have any degree of feasibility, in an era when two Presidential candidates don’t even discuss the problem in their debates or speeches, other than give meaningless platitudes? If you remember in 2008, before the meltdown occurred, we had a near-riot in the country from the truck drivers and farmers who were complaining about $4.00 gasoline. Do you think they will support the types of price increases and severe rationing required to account for fossil fuel pollution clean-up?

    Your statement that ” The Chevy Volt is outselling 50 percent of the cars on the market today,” needs to be taken with a grain of salt. In year to date, the Volt has sold slightly over 16,000 vehicles, while the total USA cars and light trucks have amounted to ~11,000,000. while commendable, that’s not on the radar. And, I have yet to be convinced an electric vehicle that draws its energy from a fossil fuel source operating through a heat cycle converter is sufficiently more fossil fuel efficient than a gas-driven vehicle to make a significant difference on the scale of what is required. I realize it sounds good to talk about electric car sales, and it may feel like a contribution to solving the problem is being made, but we’re past the feel-good stage. Show me a credible Roadmap with steps of sufficient magnitude to solve the problem that confronts us in a timely manner. You have outlined some positive steps in your post; place them in the context of what is required.

  36. 186
    Superman1 says:

    Secular Animist #177,

    “As with phasing out fossil fuels, we know how to do these things. We know they have other far-reaching benefits. We know they are the basis for sustainable, equitable prosperity.

    The only real obstacle is the entrenched wealth and political power of those whose continued wealth and power depend on maintaining the status quo.”

    We “know” how to solve most of our major problems; ‘knowing’ is a necessary but not sufficient condition. We ‘know’ how to end most lung cancer; however, twenty percent of adults are not able to stop smoking. We ‘know’ how to end the increasing trend of brain cancers; however, most people are not willing to give up their heavy use of cell phones. We ‘know’ how to end liver cirrhosis; a substantial number of people are addicted to heavy drinking. In fact, we know how to end most cases of cancer, as the medical literature shows; the great majority of population does not want to adopt the rigorous lifestyle required to do so. Knowing is the first step, but being motivated to surrender one’s addiction is the true roadblock to progress.

    But, the obstacle you identify to phasing out fossil fuels is not the most important obstacle, even though it does present a formidable problem. As in the above examples, the real obstacle is the energy consumer, who in the USA has become addicted to a lifestyle based on high energy utilization intensity for which fossil fuel is required, and who in India and China is striving to achieve such a lifestyle. Until the real obstacle has been addressed, little progress will be made toward solving the real problem. I haven’t figured out how to overcome the real obstacle, and frankly, from your posts, neither have you.

  37. 187
    Superman1 says:

    Wili #178,

    “Will this be the last climate related site to engage in a serious discussion of this important article?”

    What is there to discuss? It is another in an increasing stream of technical studies that postulates an additional positive feedback mechanism. It is part and parcel of a general operational principle.

    During this Summer’s Arctic ice melt, I examined a simple model. I started with a large body of water fully covered by a thick ice sheet. I then observed what happened as the ice sheet thinned and water began to appear at the periphery. As the water region expanded substantially, a substantial number of positive feedback mechanisms kicked in, changing the melt dynamics significantly. The metaphor of a shark drawing blood, and the rest of the pack closing in for the kill came to mind. It seemed to me the ice will not go slowly into the night, but its end will be swift. That’s the template or microcasm I see from what’s happening in the planet writ large. Myriad self-reinforcing mechanisms are starting to kick in, and I suspect their effects will mirror those of the Arctic.

    That’s why I believe that not only the input must be stopped immediately, but strong additional counter-measures are required to neutralize these positive feedbacks.

  38. 188
    Superman1 says:

    Edward Greisch #182,

    “There is no Party Line of this blog because scientists actually THINK, which means “do math.” The electorate has been heavily propagandized by the fossil fuel industry. We can engineer the required changes to have little effect on the lifestyle of most people. That is what engineering is for.”

    Au contraire. Most posters do not want to face the fact that we are at the climate equivalent of Stage 4 cancer. At best, the Kevin Anderson (former Tyndall Centre Director) approach seems to be the limit of comfort: aim for 2 C, start cutting fossil fuel emissions heavily by 2020. Even Anderson admits that 2 C is getting into the ‘dangerous’ region, and his estimates do not include the major feedback mechanisms. So, we see solutions proposed like heavy reforestation, at a time when the world is trending heavily in the opposite direction. We see solutions proposed requiring substantial reductions in fossil fuel emissions which, even though they may be insufficient, are in the opposite direction of the global ~5% increase we are seeing now.

    Your statement that we can engineer our way out of this problem and have minimal impact on lifestyles defies reality. That’s like telling the Stage 4 cancer patient that we will pull out all the stops on experimental chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, but they won’t notice a thing. That’s the Party Line I see. There will be sacrifices necessary to transition from this profligate lifestyle to a self-sustaining lifestyle, and the sooner everyone understands and accepts this, the sooner we can start to solve the real problem.

  39. 189
    wili says:

    SA, good suggestions. Note that I have not said any of the things you seem to attribute to me.

  40. 190
    wili says:

    Superman, a number of articles have shown that in mid and upper latitudes, establishing forests can actually add to warming because of change of albedo. In some of these cases, restoring native prairie grasses would be more effective. But the time is rapidly running out for any of these approaches, as planting zones seem to be shifting northward at an increasing rate.

  41. 191
    Chris Dudley says:

    SA (#176),

    For mitigation, that is just right, but attribution is another kettle of fish. It points the finger automatically. And, we are seeing some pretty sound attribution now for heatwaves. Once you know that our drought is a shriveling attack on US soil, something has to be done. It isn’t an act of God any more, or even an Elizabethan convulsion, it is deliberate harm.

  42. 192
    David B. Benson says:

    James E. Hansen & Makiko Sato
    Paleoclimate Implications for Human-Made Climate Change
    can be linked via
    and the 2011 Jan 18 preprint is well worth your time to read.
    (Somehow I missed it before now.)

  43. 193
    Snapple says:

    They know who that accused criminal is who gave Cuccinelli all that money for some unknown reason. He is really named John Cody, and he is wanted by the FBI for questioning in an espionage investigation. This is from the Ohio Attorney General’s site.

  44. 194
    Jim Larsen says:

    SecularA, I agree totally. My response to the tossing of blame was bad – tossing it back to show the initial toss was inappropriate – and I regret that.

    Basically, just price carbon at a known rising rate and be done with it. No games, no gimmicks, no trades, no offsets with something that would have been done anyway, and where on the planet it happens can’t matter, or people will game the system by moving emissions to the “proper” country.

    And you’re also right that it isn’t hopeless. I think that technology and ice melt and drought have a good chance of converging by the next presidential election. We’re close to your dream of a quick ramp up. Maybe not as fast or complete, but in the same ballpark.

  45. 195
  46. 196
    James McDonald says:

    David B. Benson @ 184: That seems to be the case, but I find it puzzling.

    If you look at a graph such as the following, there is a very clear pattern. It seems weird that something should display such steady and regular behavior, yet not have a straightforward explanation.

  47. 197
    MARodger says:

    Superman1 @185.
    I do wonder if the “wallowing in defeatism” / “wallowing in realism” mismatch is worth addressing as a way of coming to a better common understanding. Certainly you and I are not on the same page in terms of your assertions of inescapable temperature increases of 1.5-2.5ºC + slow feedbacks.

    Here is my take on the ‘inescapable’ commitment. If all emissions stopped as of 2010, the damage that would result from anthopogenic forcings would be simplistically less than 2.8ºC -that is with a positive forcing of 3.3Wm^-2, zero negative forcing & sensitivity 3.2ºC on a doubling of 3.7Wm^-2 – forcings as per Skeie et al 2011. Added to this would be the prospect (very likely at that level of warming) of additional feedbakcks.
    This assessment I term “simplistic” as it is not at all realistic (as is an instantateous ending to our use of fossil fuels, today in 2010).

    As equilibrium is reached, so too will CO2 levels drop. Over the next few centuries, our CO2 rise will halve in size reducing CO2 forcing by 0.9W^m-2, most of this occuring over the next century. And let us be a little less handless and think also of reducing our methane and nitrous oxide emissions, say cutting another 0.33Wm^-2.
    Consideration could also be given to the other ‘long lived’ GHGs but not here so consider their present levels part of the commitment.
    The negative forcings which have been masking the full impact of human influence will also disappear in this hypothetical situation but isn’t it then just a little silly to ignore the tropospheric ozone and its 0.43W^m-2 contribution to positive forcings? Perhaps that too should be disappeared!

    We have thus clipped 1.66Wm^-2 from the maximum forcing from our hypothetical inescapable commitment. The resulting hypothetical ‘maximum’ temperature rise of 1.4ºC is not small, and it is still into the zone where serious feedbacks could bite. But it is below this range of 1.5-2.5ºC+very-likely-feedbacks and in such a diminished state it will greatly colour opinion of the mitigation policies being discussed in this thread.

  48. 198
    Dan H. says:

    This is not the first time that people have mobilized against the pipeline. It also does not show that there is a mass movement against global warming (people could be against the drilling in ALberta or the heavier petroleum pushed through). Some people have quite strong reactions to certain issues, and will protest vocally in favor of gay rights or against abortion, or any number of social, political, or other issues. Determining a large scale feeling based on a small protest id far-fetched. That does not mean that it could not erupt into one. But currently, it does not exist.

    As with all volatile issues, there are two sides, and the debate showed where each candidade stood. As I mentioned earlier, if there was such a large scale outcry against the pipeline, such that it was likely to lead to less votes than more, then I suspect that Romney would not have thrown his support behind it on national television. It would be a foolish move. The same is true of the science to which you descirbe. You seem to think that all science are of a similar mind here. I suggest you read elsewhere. Afterall, the best way to truly understand an issue, is to listen to your opponent’s viewpoints.

  49. 199
    Rich Creager says:

    Superman1- Thanks for emphasizing the size and difficulty of the problem of effectively addressing climate change in the real world. I am a scientifically literate lay-lurker, and while I refuse to give in to pessimism, I cringe at the assertion that we can fix climate change whithout breaking a sweat. There is a small, shrinking, window of opportunity to avoid catastrophic disruption of natural ecosystems and human society. Unfortunately the course of civilization carries substantial inertia, and it is not pointing toward that window. The closer we get to that window before we come to our collective senses and make the course change, the more wrenching it will be. And of course there is no guarantee we will do it at all. Those who say “put a fee on carbon, and that will do it” seem a little naive. World-wide, and in the near future, unless you can show me mature technology that so far is only science fiction, we have to stop burning fuel. That means living completely on the power budget we get from renewables for everything- taking all the coal and gas plants off the grid, running all of transportation, heating, manufacturing etc with whatever solar, wind, hydro and nuclear we can cobble together. Worldwide. Think maybe that would disrupt a few people’s lives, change a few standerds of living in the U.S.? I’ve read estimates where the fraction of GDP to implement the wedges is seemingly not that high, seems doable if we just decide to. Unfortunately someone is already using that money, and they’re not giving it up without a fight. This is a struggle that can be won, the window is there, but it will require sustained effort by individuals combined with nearly flawless decision making by all organizations at every level of society.

  50. 200
    Fred Magyar says:

    MARodger @ 6 Re: Nissan Leaf

    “Assuming significant proportions night-time charging & large reductions in grid carbon intensity in coming years, the 73 mpg(US)ce is probably way too low.”

    The point is obviously moot! Anyone who still clings to the notion that maintaining the ‘Business as Usual’ automobile centric paradigm in which it is necessary for a single occupant to be esconced in a 3000 lb steel shell to travel from point A to point B doesn’t yet understand the full implications of physical limits on a finite planet containing 7 billion plus Homo idioticus.

    It might be time to start a complete rethinking of what the term ‘Auto Mobile’ means.

    First, electrified rail for mass transport and then something like this… might be a more sane approach:

    Not that I’m holding my breath or anything.