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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. 351
    Jim Larsen says:

    Chris D, yep, I’ve got a carbon tariff scheme:

    Whatever the USA charges, the proper counter-tariff is double the amount (as opposed to rate). Trade wars are ever so easy when your opponent relies on you to be his banker.

  2. 352
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote: “If you want to build it now, Tom Murphy’s approach — using off the shelf commercially avaliable parts — is the way to go.”

    I looked at Tom Murphy’s “Do The Math” blog, and his home-built, DIY solar setup is really impressive — as is his detailed monitoring and analysis of his results. However, most home-owners who could benefit from solar energy don’t have the skills to build such a system from parts.

    Fortunately, today you can call up Home Depot — or any number of independent solar installation companies — who will design and install a turnkey grid-tied PV system for you, with or without batteries.

    And there are a growing number of companies like Sungevity, Solar City and SunRun who will install the whole thing with a leasing or power purchase agreement contract, where you pay little or no upfront cost, and instead pay a fixed monthly payment. When you add that payment to your reduced utility bill, you come out ahead.

    Putting in residential rooftop solar today is just about as simple and mainstream as installing a heat pump or gas furnace. Just call a few contractors, price-shop for the best deal, and get it done.

  3. 353
    SecularAnimist says:

    TLE wrote: “the time, the science and the technology to develop atmospheric drawdown and sequestration systems and indeed, the technology to eliminate fossil fuel combustion in the open atmosphere entirely.”

    We already have all of that.

    The technology for “atmospheric drawdown and sequestration” is called organic agriculture and reforestation, which can draw down the already dangerous anthropogenic excess of CO2 and sequester it in soil and biomass. See the research by the Rodale Institute and others on this. This approach also has other huge benefits — it helps to restore the overall health of ecosystems in other ways, and organic agriculture has been shown to be more productive than “conventional” agriculture under the conditions of drought which AGW is already making more common.

    The “technology to eliminate fossil fuel combustion” includes solar and wind energy, geothermal energy, a variety of hydropower energy sources, combustion of biomass to generate electricity (an entirely different matter than liquid biofuels for transport) and more — ALL of which is already at hand, and already being deployed at both large and small scales all over the world.

    Sure, let’s keep developing new technology — there are certainly some exciting and potentially revolutionary solar technologies and battery technologies in the works, for example.

    But by far the more urgent thing to do is to start rapidly deploying the powerful, mature zero-emission technologies that we already have, as rapidly as possible.

    Look, I know I am succumbing to that OT temptation again, and I’ve said this before, but the most frustrating thing is when people opine about these things when they haven’t really looked at — and seemingly cannot be bothered to look at — what is actually going on with renewable energy in the real world today. We HAVE solutions at hand, NOW, that are ready to go — and compared to what we COULD be doing, we are just letting them sit around.

  4. 354

    The technology for “atmospheric drawdown and sequestration” is called organic agriculture and reforestation, which can draw down the already dangerous anthropogenic excess of CO2 and sequester it in soil and biomass.

    But if you ‘do the math’ you will understand that won’t work fast enough for the anticipated nine billion inhabitants in an industrialized society on a planet that is rapidly desertifying. And you still need energy for water.

    I agree that is part of the solution, having implemented those techniques.

  5. 355
    wili says:

    SA, do you have figures for how much CO2 changes in land use could sequester over a given time and acreage? Or point me to a source with such figures. I support these approaches, but I’d like to be able to support them in my discussions on other sites and face to face by having the numbers on hand. Thanks ahead of time.

  6. 356
    john byatt says:

    This would seem to be the source for Trenberth’s IPCC AR5 comments.

    Has his view been faithfully represented in this piece?


  7. 357

    349: “If a product currently costs $10 and will cost $5 next year, but will produce $20 in value over the next year, then waiting a year is unwise. If you can’t take that logic and apply it to various industries, then, well, that means you ain’t even interested in a discussion.”

    Logic aside, I doubt the writer of this post can produce numbers incorporating a scenario applied to renewables that incorporates both outright consumer costs and environmental “externalities,” but welcome an attempt.

  8. 358
    Chris Dudley says:

    Jim (#351),

    Your plan may face some difficulties at the WTO. The US can impose a tariff for environmental reasons, but the reverse would not seem to be justified.

  9. 359
    SecularAnimist says:

    Jim Larsen wrote: “Um, you suggested and I accepted your invitation to take the discussion elsewhere … I’m waiting for SecularA to pick a venue.”

    Frankly, that’s childish. I’m not interested in mano-a-mano blog combat.

    You make many statements about the renewable energy industries that very clearly tell me that you haven’t bothered to educate yourself about what’s really happening with wind and solar today, and that you prefer to “argue” based on ill-informed assumptions, guesswork and generalities.

    If I have “invited” you to do anything, it’s to inform yourself before spouting off. If you are not interested in doing that, it’s your loss. I couldn’t really care less.

  10. 360
    Jim Larsen says:

    357 Walter P wondered about conversion scenarios and costs.

    I’ll be posting attempts to do exactly what you suggest on my new blog at Blogger – So Left It’s to the Right.

    As I have stated before, I advocate a strong increase in carbon-reduction spending while at the same time directing that spending where it will do the most “carbon good” – R&D, the grid, efficiency for cars, houses, and industry, paperwork reduction, smart appliances, etc. This will result in the smallest total cumulative carbon emissions for a given cost by 2050 or so. (I set the spending for my plan to be whatever you would have spent on yours, so anyone saying I want to “wait” or “go slow” is misrepresenting my ideas.)

    Scientists here and elsewhere have repeatedly said that emissions over any particular year or 5 are irrelevant. It’s cumulative emissions that matter. Thus, focusing on anything sooner than 2050 or so is blatant disregard for what the scientists are telling us.

    A carbon-reduction system has many related and unrelated components. The last component of a system to be built should often be the component that is dropping in price the fastest, while R&D expenditures should often focus on that very same component. Had we used last year’s money for a 500%(?) increase in R&D and to install ground source heat pumps, year 2050 carbon-wise and financial-wise we’d be way ahead.

    Carts and horses….

  11. 361
    Hank Roberts says:

    > > Mottness and electronic and lattice frustration

    > If you want to build it yourself you can do that already

    I really have no idea what you’re talking about by now, sorry.

  12. 362
    Craig Nazor says:

    Dan H @198 – I would suggest that it is you who have not “listened to your opponent’s viewpoints.” Your links show that you are still stuck in the denialisphere. You haven’t even been reading the newspapers.

    On Oct. 24, 2009, announced an “International Day of Climate Action.” This included over 5,200 different synchronized demonstrations in 181 countries. CNN called it “the most widespread day of political action in our planet’s history.”

    In early September, 2011, 1,252 people were arrested (including Dr. James Hansen) in front of the Whitehouse, demanding that the Tar Sands pipeline be stopped from crossing the border from Canada.

    On November 7, 2011, well over 10,000 people surrounded the Whitehouse to demand the rejection of a permit for the same pipeline. The application was finally rejected after it had been judged by many to be a fait accompli.

    Most Canadians ARE against Tar Sands strip mining in Alberta (it is NOT “drilling” – that shows your ignorance of the issue). In fact, recent fierce political opposition from almost every affected party has made the “northern route” for a high-pressure bitumen pipeline across British Columbia all but impossible.

    And in east Texas, we have not begun to fight, as they say. Today, a NY Times reporter and photographer were ejected from the protest site (that is only going to guarantee more scrutiny), and the pipeline is still blocked. Protesters are flooding in from around the country, and TransCanada is losing more and more money.

    The reason I believe that Romney now denies global warming (after he acknowledged it) is because that’s what he feels he has to do to activate the Republican base. Obama is avoiding the issue out of caution, but that may change at the next debate.

    None of that even begins to address the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which is having rapidly growing success stopping the construction of new coal-fired power plants (we have stopped one, the White Stallion power plant, in Texas already, and we are working on actually shutting down an older one).

    So I would suggest that your statements reflect your own opinion more than any kind of outward reality. In truth, there is a growing worldwide movement to reduce the human release of CO2 into the atmosphere, because a growing number of us are not going stand idly by and let deniers such as yourself destroy the world.

    Sorry, not much science here, but there is a lot of factual information. And I did owe Dan H response.

  13. 363
    Dan H. says:

    Your last post stated that this planet is rapidly desertifying. I cannot find anything to support this statement, even on the green sites.

    Dp you have any supporting documentation?

  14. 364

    Dan, we went through this before with you several months ago. You are like a broken record here.

  15. 365
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#342),

    It was a physics joke. Waste heat is usually considered to be degraded in the sense that the temperature difference with the environment is too low to make investing in using it worthwhile.

    Consider doing CHP with a nuclear power plant. You’d have to send wet steam miles and miles and miles to find a customer. The investment in insulated steam pipes would be prohibitive. Better to just dump the waste heat into the environment as quickly as possible to improve Delta T (which was not great to begin with) for the primary use of power generation.

    CHP can work well on a small scale which is why the Rocky Mountain Institute pushes decentralized power generation so strongly. But, in that case, the fuel is the energy storage mechanism so no need for molten salt.

  16. 366
    Dan H. says:

    Yes, and back then we determined that there was no clear long-term trend. Granted, there was some short-term evidence to support either position, but neither was conclusive. Do you have anything new to add, that would support your statement?

  17. 367
    Rich Creager says:

    Gavin- Just caught up on the comment thread. It’s good to know that, despite the demands of work, blog writing, hand-waver auditing etc, at least you are getting enough REM sleep!

  18. 368
    flxible says:

    “back then we determined that there was no clear long-term trend.”
    Dan is using the royal ‘we’ again. Maybe he could cite some “short term evidence” to support his determination – other than quibbling over the definition of ‘rapidly’.

  19. 369

    No Dan, ‘WE’ did not determine what you claim. ‘YOU’ did. You only speak for yourself, how many times do I have to remind you of that. You come on this forum and continue to make unsubstantiated claims for everybody but yourself and then you expect ‘ME’ to do your research for you, because the only thing you are capable of finding are blog articles that support your worldview.

    All right, here is an article that supports your worldview.

    Regional desertification: A global synthesis, Ulf Helldéna and Christian Tottrup, Global and Planetary Change,Volume 64, Issues 3–4, December 2008, Pages 169–176

    Are you happy now? Can you see the problem with the title of that paper?

    Here is a comprehensive review paper by a world renowned expert using state of the art climate modeling compared to currently available historical climate proxies that definitively does not support your claim.

    Your claim was that you could not find any information on the subject, which is definitively false. If you want to participate here with quality I can suggest two things. 1) Start thinking and speaking for yourself and not your handlers. and 2) Start reading the literature. It’s easy to find.

    Start here. Thanks in advance.

    And please stop wasting ‘my’ time.

  20. 370
    wili says:

    I see we are back into troll-feeding, tail-chasing mode.

    Again, if anyone actually wants to discuss an actual scientific paper that seems to have important consequences, I noticed “John Doe” at tamino’s site has a link to the full permafrost feedback article (it’s about the 18th comment down):

    The take away for me is the sentence that spans pages 720-721:

    “In experiments where DEP 8.5 is followed up to a given date when emissions are instantaneously reduced to zero, all simulations with climate sensitivities above 3.0 ◦ C produce a self-sustaining PCF [permafrost carbon feedback] even if emissions are reduced to zero in 2013 (Fig. 3 and Supplementary Fig. S5).”

    I’m hoping someone can find a flaw in their methodology. Could they be double counting here? Isn’t this kind of carbon feedback already included in the calculations that yield climate sensitivities of 3.0 degrees C and up? Is anyone at least willing to look at the article and discuss a tiny bit of science on a science blog?

  21. 371
    Jim Larsen says:

    359 SecularA said, “Frankly, that’s childish…haven’t bothered to educate… “argue” based on ill-informed assumptions, guesswork and generalities….inform yourself before spouting off.”

    Of your many “talents”, projection is your best. Please get off our side. You only help the opposition with your (see above).

  22. 372
    Ric Merritt says:

    Just to clarify, my recommendation of Tom Murphy’s blog was not mainly about details of PV, fascinating as that topic can be. The real subject of the blog, in my mind, is human use of energy this century and beyond.

    And, TLE, your metaphorical-table-pounding insistence that the blog contains no math at all is false (duh). If you would like to calm down and discuss which math is wrong or missing, do it over there where it can get a good discussion in context. I am quite sure that Tom can keep up with your level of discourse.

  23. 373
    Bernd Herd says:

    #370 “In experiments where DEP 8.5 is followed up to a given date when emissions are instantaneously reduced to zero, all simulations with climate sensitivities above 3.0 ◦ C produce a self-sustaining PCF [permafrost carbon feedback] even if emissions are reduced to zero in 2013 (Fig. 3 and Supplementary Fig. S5).”

    If Primafrost Carbon would produce a self-sustaining PCF at current temperatures (2013 scenario), then it would have likely also produced a self-sustaining feedback 1000 or 2000 years ago, which has not happened. Isn’t this a near proof that either this understanding of the PCF is wrong or the climate sensitivity cannot be above 3.0 °C?

    If they would re-run their model with let’s say data from Year 1000 A.D. on, this could be proven, or not?

  24. 374
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Better to just dump the waste heat [from fission plants] into the environment

    Nope, lack of foresight there is worldwide but we do know better. It’ll be far better to store heat locally as an additional way to generate electricity; when* the grid goes down, it’ll be invaluable to have alternative power sources that can provide maintenance power during the cooldown months.

    These technologies may be “competitors” in the market, but when the market and grid go down, they support each other, if build together.
    * <a href="; not if

  25. 375
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Jim Larsen …
    > one company … that’s taking my advice

    You work for GE, or you’re advising them?
    You’re an economist?

    Hard to tell. The stuff above sounds like PR for a business.

  26. 376

    Ric, in the several dozen blog posts I examined on ‘Do The Math’ I found reams and reams of text with no math whatsoever. I’m not going to search for math on some misnamed blog when I can just do the math myself. And I’m certainly not going to read the text when I have the Arxiv at my disposal.

    human use of energy this century and beyond.

    If you would even ‘read the math’ you would understand my skepticism about that statement. If human civilization survives even the next few decades at the the current rate of scientific and mathematical advancement and progress, the concept of energy conversion in the next century will bear little resemblance to the ‘discussion’ on Tom Murphy’s blog. Even semiconductor donor acceptor technology is only sixty to seventy years old and has radically changed the way electric motors function in the modern world in just the last two decades. Yes, Maxwell’s equations and Onsagar relationships still apply, but our ability to manipulate the composition, position and geometry of individual atoms in a lattice and simulate and measure their effects is about to take a step into the realms of science fiction. You just aren’t keeping up with these developments in my opinion. This is a race for survival now, and you are racing backwards, quickly. We need disruptive technology, we already have at our disposal historical technology which we aren’t utilizing to maximum theoretical efficiency. Even at maximum theoretical efficiency it won’t be enough to avert the momentum we have already impressed upon the atmospheric and oceanic system.

  27. 377
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 373 Bernd Herd – “then it would have likely also produced a self-sustaining feedback 1000 or 2000 years ago” … As I read that, I anticipated seeing ~ 6000 to 8000 years ago (or maybe my dates are off; I haven’t memorized the Holocene) and was surprised to see something so recent proposed. On the other hand, while ‘MWP’ was strongly regional (so far as I’ve absorbed), so is permafrost. However, global warming such as is occuring now also has some regionality such as Arctic amplification… Did you have a particular paleotemperature map in mind?

    (oh, and might we already have exceeded the prior Holocene temperature range?)

  28. 378
    wili says:

    Thanks for your response, B. Herd (@#373).

    Unfortunately for your theory, global temperatures have not been higher in 1000 or 2000 years, as far as I can tell–recall Mann’s ‘hockey stick’ and all that.

    So are you claiming that you know of some proxy data that indicates that local temperatures specifically over major permafrost areas were higher some time in the past than they are today? If so, please do share them. I am not aware of any such. 1841,

    Thanks again for responding. I look forward to further support for your idea.


  29. 379
    Jim Larsen says:

    362 Craig N said, “stopping the construction of new coal-fired power plants”

    and 370 wili quoted, “even if emissions are reduced to zero in 2013″

    wili, I’ve often pondered about the ice age cycles, how a bit-o-carbon equivalent in orbital changes can cause a 100ppm increase in atmospheric carbon. After we stop emitting we’ll get to watch the race between equilibrium and feedbacks such as permafrost emissions. Even if we “win”, have we already “poked the beast” more than that which initiated an interglacial? Your link suggests we’ll lose the race, which, of course, just starts a new game.

    Also, what’s the proper definition of “zero”? Is it “emissions stop today”, or is it “stop building fossil infrastructure today”? I vote for the latter and wish scientists would include it in their scenarios.

    Preventing the building of new fossil is our current issue. (WTG Craig!) There’s many ways to accomplish that. Focusing our efforts on the least-cost-effective way is sexy and satisfying but unwise.

  30. 380
    Bernd Herd says:

    #377, #378: I didn’t want to suggest that any earlier time in the holocene was warmer. The suggestion 1000 A.D. was just symbolic for any time before antrophogenic influence became important, so 1800 would also do.

    No, my question is different: In linear mathematics, the value of the temperature would not be important to decide if we have a stable of an unstable system. Just the strengths of amplification factors would decide if it is stable or unstable.

    But the System is oviously non-linear, thus a change in the global temperature can be modelled as a change of the operating point, where both the old and the new operating point can be approximated by two linear systems which are either stable or unstable.

    Until 2013 we have only 0.8°C global warming, so the system should behave at least similar to the holocene until 1800. So if the amplification factors have changed only a very little bit and we find a self-sustaining PCF for 3° climate sensitivity and above, then likely we’d find a self-sustaining PCF for let’s say 3.5° climate sensitivity for 0.8°C less before 1800.

    I think that the analysis of the coupling probably gives a new information: Let’s assume that the modelling of the Permafrost Carbon Feedback is correct.

    If an analysis for before 1800 would show that such a self-sustained PCF according to the model also occurs when the climate sensitivity is 3 °C or 3.5 °C, this could define an upper limit for the climate sensitivity, for we know that in the past there was no such self-sustained PCF. Or the assumptions that the models are correct would be false.

    In the other case, when the model shows for before 1800 temperatures, that even at high CO2 sensitivities no self-sustained PCF occures, then just heating the earth by 0.8°C alone was sufficient to change the amplification factors so much, that a self-sustained PCF is possible, depending on the CO2 sensitivity. But that is no new information in comparison to what the permafrost feedback article already said.

    So analyzing with a coupled model gives an additional information that was not available with an uncoupled model. It is like modelling the amplifier in a coupled loudspeaker-microphone system. Either the feedback is high enough for an acoustic feedback or it isn’t.

    You see, I’m an electronic engeneer, not a climate scientist. Modelling with the linearizations around operating points is a usual approach in electronics design.

  31. 381
    Charles says:

    In all fairness, you were asked for supporting documentation for your claims, and you provided models of future predictions. This hardly qualifies as evidence of past events.

  32. 382
  33. 383
    wili says:

    Thanks again for a very lengthy and thoughtful reply, B. Herd. I’m not sure I follow all of it, but you seem to be saying either there was going to be a permafrost feedback or there wasn’t. And if PDF was going to happen, it would have happened already at a much lower forcing.

    My understanding is that there is a threshold above which the forcing kicks in–this point is sometimes called the tipping point, if I understand it correctly.

    Surely something like this must exist in acoustic feedback as well. Below a certain level, good sound systems don’t go into feedback mode. Only if the amount of sound going into the microphone from the speaker system exceeds so threshold to you get the feedback effect. What am I missing?

  34. 384
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#374),

    Not sure how local storage and 0.7 GW of waste heat production get connected nor how to generate electricity economically from warm water. Thermodynamics does not seem to favor that kind of scheme.

  35. 385

    Back in focus of the really big on going event, record Arctic sea ice area lows:

    Which had some publicity, but really I think studying it openly is far more constructive,
    especially since the edge of the Arctic Basin pack ice coincides with the -10 to -15 C surface temperature outline. This is really interesting, isn’t it?

  36. 386
    Hank Roberts says:

    >How to generate electricity economically from warm water

    Ah, you’re waffling over the term “economically” ?

    You can Google that; it’s being done now, you know.

    No, it can’t compete with cheap coal power just yet at ordinary market ratews — but there’s one specific situation where funding development of working systems to test these methods in real full size systems capable of producing power in actual use is going to be economical at any price — if there when next needed.

    1) Be prepared to provide power when the grid goes away for several months
    2) Be associated with, and have your salt melted by, heat from the fission plant
    3) Switch output to power the cooling pumps while the grid has gone away
    4) Be one of a variety of alternative power systems available during the crisis
    5) Profit!

    There’s a business case demonstration available for the value of having multiple redundant alternative power generators — all where they’ll be needed, all working even at a loss in normal circumstances, available for the day of the next Carrington Event. Japan was a minor local short term grid loss event compared to what another Carrington will do.

    At that point, despite loss of grid, transportation, refineries, and staff, electricity needs to be supplied where needed — cooling pumps — for months.

    Part of the cost of doing fission is having guaranteed backup power sufficient for all the working plants, for several months, when the grid goes away. The plants need to be surrounded by the best possible. Molten salt is to try out.

    Combine solar, thermal, and whatever local alternatives suggest: tide, wind, pumped hydro, ranks of bicycles in the parking lot — any source of electricity will be economical when* the grid goes away for months.
    * not ‘if’

  37. 387
    Jim Larsen says:

    383 wili said, “My understanding is that there is a threshold above which the forcing kicks in–this point is sometimes called the tipping point,”

    Me too, and my understanding is that the tipping point is whatever the melting point of soggy peat is. Since that tipping point is buried underground at widely differing depths (even in the same location), it’s not so much an on-off switch, but a delayed slowly opening valve.

    Also, the world average temperature is probably not a reasonable metric. We’re only concerned about polar temperatures in this case. Since CO2 is far higher now, polar amplification should be higher, and permafrost should be subject to thawing at a lower average world temperature. The work on north-of-Greenland ice coverage hints that we’re not quite as warm as it was in the Arctic, but we’re on a trajectory to leave that in the dust. 400ppm is insanely high. I’m sure the paper you referenced takes all this and more into account. Are their conclusions correct? As if you or I have any clue beyond faith.

  38. 388
    Chris Dudley says:

    wili (#370),

    I took a look at the paper and I notice that for diagnosed emission pathway (DEP) 2.6 which includes moderate capture of carbon dioxide, the additional concentration from permafrost at the end of the twenty-third century (44 ppm) is about the same as at the end of the twenty-first century (39 ppm) so it looks as though it is quite possible to keep up with this effect. DEP 2.6 trajectory looks like a build-it-once-and-let-it-run technological approach to carbon dioxide capture which means that the capacity to build it once or twice or thrice more would be available if needed.

  39. 389
    Hank Roberts says:

    Oh, and why use locally sited renewables when the grid goes away for several months instead of coal supplied by coal trains traveling across the continent, or fossil fuel supplied by pipelines and trucks from refineries across the continent? Two reasons. Backing away from carbon; and transport and refining go down with the grid when the grid goes down. Not if.

  40. 390
    wili says:

    Thanks for the link, wayne. Somewhere we have to have a list of the various elements that have been proposed to explain the difference between modeled sea ice loss and actual loss.

    I find the “Tale of the Tape” sea ice anomaly chart to be the Cryosphere Today chart that speaks most strongly just how anomalous the current sea ice situation is:

  41. 391
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#386),

    I don’t think the salts are being considered for months of storage either, just daily storage at the same site as the generation unit so less generating capacity is requires and baseload or dispatchable power can be provided. And, you need high temperature to melt the salt. So, this does not sound feasible to me.

  42. 392
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts (#386) wrote: “Be prepared to provide power when the grid goes away for several months”

    Thanks for this comment. I have become extremely concerned about the possibility of another Carrington Event in the near future. We’ve had a couple of close calls just recently.

    I would add that there are other very real threats to the aging and increasingly fragile electric grid, that while not necessarily as catastrophic as a Carrington Event, would certainly be disruptive and costly — and these include, of course, the impacts of AGW-driven extreme weather events, which we have every reason to expect will become more frequent, and worse.

    For example, the electric grid around Washington DC — which is to say, the electric grid in some of the richest counties in America, surrounding the capital of the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth! — has been repeatedly knocked out for hundreds of thousands of households, businesses and other institutions for days at a time by violent storms and blizzards in just the last few years. It’s getting to the point where you basically have to expect that utility power will go down for several days at a time, a couple of times a year.

    Obviously the power grid needs a lot of work — not only to “harden” it against violent weather and solar flares, but to make it “smarter”, more efficient, and better able to effectively integrate power generation from diverse, distributed, and variable sources at all scales.

    Meanwhile, I think that the unfortunately increasing unreliability of the grid is one factor that will drive adoption of distributed, on-site generation and storage. I know that around the DC area, backup generators are becoming increasingly popular — but of course, those require fuel, and it becomes problematical to keep more than a couple of days’ fuel supply on site. That is not a problem with a photovoltaic system with battery backup, which is one reason such systems are becoming more attractive to residential consumers.

  43. 393
    Chris Dudley says:

    Borrowing a page from Daisy World, it strikes me that release of permafrost carbon might be slowed by boosting summertime Arctic surface albedo. Seeding Northern Yarrow across the soil that is newly exposed by snow melt might help. The midsummer bloom time and white color of this flower might reduce polar amplification to some extent.

  44. 394
    Chris Korda says:

    Hank Roberts, Chris Dudley, SA et al @386 and below: Sorry to be a pain but according to Gavin @222 “the economics of energy generation” is permanently off-topic at RealClimate. I gather that our hosts are fed up with reading and/or moderating OT discussions, and since everyone here values RC so much, the least we can do is help it survive by moderating ourselves.

    Of course it’s not only you, all parties need to resist their temptations and either ignore OT topics if they’re broached, or politely reply that it’s OT. It would also help if the rules were posted somewhere obvious, so we don’t have to go through this all over again every time a newbie inadvertently posts something OT. I’m not claiming to be blameless, but I am relatively new to RC and AFAIK the situation wasn’t spelled out so clearly when I first joined. But now that it is, we need to roll with it. For reference here’s a summary of recent moderator statements on the subject:

    “Please keep discussions related to the science of climate change. Not the politics of climate change, the economics of energy generation, how cell phones do or do not give you brain cancer, the end of the world as we know it, or how strongly you feel about saving the world.” -Gavin, Oct 2012 @222, see also @205

    “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.” -Gavin, Sep 2012 @410

    “Defensible statements and discussion of the physical, chemical, biological, statistical etc. issues only from here on out please.” Jim, Aug 2012 @373

  45. 395
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#389),

    I think solar PV provides very important reliability in just such a situation. Keeping people’s medication refrigerated, for example, can be handled well that way even with low penetration into the generation market.

    But, molten salts have nothing to do with that. Concentrated solar power (CSP) tends to work well in the desert and that is the only way in which high temperatures are involved in solar power. Clouds that most of us get because we live someplace habitable ruin CSP. PV continues to work however even with clouds. You’ve just got a hold of the wrong tool for the problem you want to address.

  46. 396
    Bernd Herd says:

    #383, #387 Jim Larsen Said: “My understanding is that there is a threshold above which the forcing kicks in–this point is sometimes called the tipping point,”

    In the microphone-amplifier-speaker correspondence the tipping point is the point when you turn the volume a little big up and then the positive feedbacks are stronger than the negative feedbacks and you get that horrible noise.

    The raising temperature is what slowly turns the volume knob for the Permafrost Carbon Feedback (PCF). At some point a “tipping point” can be reached which would cause a self-sustained PCF.

    However a second “volume knob” is the CO2 climate sensitivity, which is not yet known exactly. I hope that one could define an upper limit for the climate sensitivity by finding out at which climate sensitivity a self-sustained PCF would have occured with pre-1800 temperatures.

    #387 Jim Larsen “Since that tipping point is buried underground at widely differing depths (even in the same location), it’s not so much an on-off switch, but a delayed slowly opening valve.”

    Right, there likely have always been parts of the Permafrost that were in danger of thawing. If the system would have been unstable, that would have meant that 1 kg of thawing permafrost would have caused enough additional heating to cause more than 1kg of permafrost to thaw in addition.

    The raising temperature likely changes the strength of that feedback. And the climate sensitivity also is relevant.

  47. 397
    Hank Roberts says:

    > … other … threats to the … electric grid
    Yup. I read the news today, oh boy …

    Well it’s barely climate —
    – our climate starts at the Sun, and we rely on its stability
    – ignoring significant risks to save money short term

  48. 398
    Chris Dudley says:

    Chris (#394),

    It is really a discussion of Carnot’s theorem.

  49. 399
    Jim Larsen says:

    [edit - OT]

  50. 400
    Hank Roberts says:

    How warming and steric sea level rise relate to cumulative carbon emissions

    Williams, R. G., P. Goodwin, A. Ridgwell, and P. L. Woodworth
    Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L19715, doi:10.1029/2012GL052771
    Key Points
    Warming linearly increases with total carbon emissions after emissions cease
    Warming and emissions are related by a climate sensitivity and a carbon inventory
    Steric sea level rise and emissions are related by an ocean climate sensitivity

    “… atmosphere-ocean equilibrium, reached many centuries after emissions cease…. approached perhaps 500 years or more after emissions cease.

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