RealClimate logo

Unforced variations: Dec 2012

Filed under: — group @ 1 December 2012

A new meteorological season, perhaps some new science topics to discuss…

369 Responses to “Unforced variations: Dec 2012”

  1. 251
    David B. Benson says:

    Patrick 027 @250 — That is not uncommon here. It requires that the ground is below freezing (or snow covered) but the air temperature near the ground is just above freezing. Of course the air aloft is cold enough for snow to form.

    If the bottom layer of slightly warmer air is thick enough, the snowflakes curl up into little balls — full of holes similar to tiny nerf balls. It usually melts right away. I call it corn snow and it certainly is not
    as the texture is different and the size is smaller.

  2. 252
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    It’s been a while since I posted a comment here and was looking for the unforced variations thread..but none to be found?, so this is a little off topic:
    I posted a comment ages ago about my hunch that there is probably a correlation between global warming and tectonic activity or an increase in the frequency of earthquakes and volcancic eruptions. At that time you all seemed to dismiss my comment..but I kept plugging on with my hunch and now it seems the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (Germany) and Harvard have been plotting this over the last 500,000 odd years and have found an “amazing” correlation between the two. The reason they believe has to do with tectonic rebound..exactly what I guessed! As the ice melts on the land surface billions of tonnes of weight are lifted off the bedrock but simultaneously as the ocean ‘fills’ the weight on the seabed is increased thus squashing the magma and forcing it to find additional ways to the surface. Ok!..I mentioned tectonic rebound but not also of the added force on the oceanbed. The two complement each other perfectly. Trusting not to find so many dismissers this time around!

  3. 253
    Isotopious says:


    do you think it is possible that warming is moving off the IPCC target range?

    Because we seem to be at the end of the regular period (10 -15 yr) where there is only slight warming….

    So (according to you guys),..time for warming. I’m just wondering what your thoughts are, especially since you have admitted we are i9norant of the climate system.

    In any case I look forward to the model comparison update.

    Stores-Brooklyn reasummu

  4. 254
    MARodger says:

    perwis @247.
    Thank you for pointing out the A2r=RCP8/5 equivilance. I did try to find some sort of numerical comparison for A2 & A1FI with A2r but the numbers I found all present different units. So I resorted to a bit of measurement and came up with A2r(1390) = 920ppm(CO2) by 2100 (from fig 9 in Riahi et al 2007), with A2 = 850ppm & A1FI = 950ppm.

  5. 255

    #240–Rita: “AGREED: “the proceeds from a tax must be directed at subsidizing the implementation of additional renewable energy resources to be effective.” IMO, that is the ENTIRE point of the TAX….:)”

    Well, I wouldn’t say that that’s a bad idea, given how deep in a climate policy ‘hole’ we are today. But I’d like to expand upon what I wrote above (#236), because this is a confusion that I’ve encountered before, which makes me think that it is fairly widespread.

    The main point of a carbon tax is not to subsidize anything. The point is to ‘make the polluter pay.’

    If the tax is well-designed and honestly enforced, it makes things involving a big carbon footprint more expensive relative to (competitive) things involving a smaller carbon footprint. Coal-fired electric becomes uncompetitive; gas-fired loses some of its (currently large) cost advantage over truly emissions-free technologies.

    And it’s not limited to the power sector; the beauty of it is that the price signal–“carbon costs”–propagate throughout the economy. When ‘carbon costs’ throughout the economy, it then pays to do the right thing and choose greener alternatives in every facet of one’s economic life–a very powerful force for social change, precisely because it is so pervasive.

    And the British Columbia experience suggests that even relatively modest taxes–if I understand it correctly, their current tax rate is $20 a tonne–can have a noticeable impact.

    As I said, I’m not ‘agin’ using the money to implement low-carbon-emissions technologies. But there are two pretty good reasons for the approach that BC took.

    One is that subsidies are tricky, economically speaking–in principle they distort the market, which is believed to create economic inefficiency (which really means that the economy as a whole ends up a little poorer than otherwise.) The degree to which this occurs is variable, but for a really bad subsidy structure (tax breaks for Big Oil, anyone?) it can be considerable. The results can even be completely ‘perverse’ in some cases, where particularly badly-designed subsidies actually act to discourage the very thing they were intended to promote.

    The second thing is a bit of political pragmatism: whereas subsidizing specific sectors of the economy will mean creating ‘losers’ by fiat, who naturally will fight, a carbon tax that funds rebates or tax credits makes everyone a ‘winner’, at least to that extent. Therefore, it has built-in political ‘sex appeal.’ That’s no bad thing…

  6. 256
    flxible says:

    Lawrence Coleman, it’s good to reference your comments, at least to the press release, and to the DOI when available.

  7. 257
    Hank Roberts says:

    Thanks flxible.

    A bit of a quote from that press release:

    —- quote follows —-

    “… The periods of high volcanic activity followed fast, global temperature increases and associated rapid ice melting….

    “In times of global warming, the glaciers are melting on the continents relatively quickly. At the same time the sea level rises. The weight on the continents decreases, while the weight on the oceanic tectonic plates increases. Thus, the stress changes within in the earth to open more routes for ascending magma” says Dr Jegen.

    “The rate of global cooling at the end of the warm phases is much slower, so there are less dramatic stress changes during these times. “If you follow the natural climate cycles, we are currently at the end of a really warm phase. Therefore, things are volcanically quieter now. The impact from man-made warming is still unclear based on our current understanding” says Dr Kutterolf. The next step is to investigate shorter-term historical variations to better understand implications for the present day.”

    Kutterolf, S., M. Jegen, J. X. Mitrovica, T. Kwasnitschka, A. Freundt, P. J. Huybers (2012): A detection of Milankovitch frequencies in global volcanic activity. Geology, G33419.1,

    —- end quote —

    Rate of change is going to be interesting to watch.

  8. 258

    #255–A diversion, no doubt, but the press release writers were wrong to say that: “Conversely, the idea that climate may also affect volcanic eruptions on a global scale and over long periods of time is completely new.”

    Nils Ekholm, among others, attempted to link geology and CO2-mediated climate change back around the turn of the 20th century. His story is told here:

    (Though the geological connection is not discussed at a lot of length.)

    There’s also a nice quick summary of his ideas here:

    That also gives a link to his 1901 paper On the Variations of the Climate of the Geological and Historical Past and Their Causes.

  9. 259
    Edward Greisch says:

    21 & 22 Kevin McKinney: There is nothing in my atheism that leads to existential nihilism. Look up Sociobiology, starting with “Genes, Mind & Culture” by Lumsden and Wilson. Morality and ethics are instinctive for 96% of all humans. Monod did not find a contradiction. The “teleonomy” of living things does not contradict the objectivity of science. There is no “profound epistemological contradiction.” Life is the meaning of life, and no other meaning is needed. Neither vitalism nor animism is needed. “the unwearying, heroic effort of mankind desperately denying its own contingency” is nonsense. The universe has no meaning. It just is. Be happy with ” Life is the meaning of life.” That is all you get. We humans could be extinct soon, if we are not smart enough.

    “It runs counter to our very human tendency to believe that behind everything real in the world stands a necessity rooted in the very beginning of things.”
    Sorry about that, Monod. I never had any such tendency to believe.
    “We today are no less in the habit of differentiating between brain and mind than they were in the eighteenth century.” “What doubt can there be of the presence of the spirit within us?” See books by Raymond Kurzweil: “How To Make a Mind” “The Age of Spiritual Machines” etc..

    Monod is full of old fashioned nonsense. And so are James A. Coffman & Donald C. Mikulecky

    From Wikipedia;
    James A. Coffman is not there.
    Donald C. Mikulecky is almost not there.
    Who are they?

    “Metaphysical terms?” not needed. Read Book “Regenesis” by Church & Regis
    The biologists have already made viruses directly from chemicals and they are now working on making bacteria directly from chemicals. It will happen within 10 years. They are thinking about making humans with reverse chemical handedness.

    Reference the book: “A Universe From Nothing; why there is something rather than nothing” by Lawrence M. Krauss, 2012

    page 178: “This is why philosophy and theology are ultimately incapable of addressing by themselves the truly fundamental questions that perplex us about our existence.”
    Why does the universe exist, etcetera is a science question, not a religion or philosophy question. There are almost no questions left for religion or philosophy, and soon there will be none.

    As a graduate student in physics in the early 1970s, I took a course, High Energy Astrophysics, in which one of the topics discussed was the origin of the universe. In 1930, Heisenberg published his Uncertainty Principle. It is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle that enables us to know that the god theory is irrelevant to the creation of universes. In that course we postulated 6 or 7 ways for universes to create themselves out of nothing. Since gravity points inward, gravity is a negative energy. Our universe still adds up to nothing. We don’t know how many universes there are but we know that there could be infinitely many universes.

    In another century, we will be able to create a universe.

  10. 260
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Yep I’m often guilty of not quoting sources or links..will attenpt to address that in future..thanks fixible.
    Could anyone give a guesstimation of how additional volcanic vents in the ocean floor could affect ocean temp. I know that ocean scientists are surprised at that rate of temp increase in the bottom water around antarctica..could that partially be related to additional super hot volcanic venting? My guess is that it is probably negligible but it’s worth the question. Thanks!

  11. 261
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    253 Isotopius: In listening to those two lectures by Prof. Ramsdorf…he mentioned that the IPCC current and future predictions of global temp increase are pretty spot on because the global energy budget is very well understood by climate scientists. However when it comes to ice albedo in the arctic circle more variables come into play that are not that well understood and as a consequence the IPCC’s predictions are blatently erronious. Sea level rise is another where the actual point to point measurements and the satellite data are light years away from the IPCC’s conclusion. This is dangerous because the world’s policymakers usually use the IPCC’s data as their primary reference, if they believe the ultra ultra conservative predictions by the world’s largest gathering of climate scientists they might be forgiven for believing there is still time for action where in actualality we are quite probably ‘past time’ for any meaningful mitigation action.
    So I don’t kow what needs to happen but the IPCC has to get a firm hold on it’s understanding otherwise it will lose what left of it’s credibilty.

  12. 262
    Superman1 says:

    Kevin McKinney #255,

    “The main point of a carbon tax is not to subsidize anything. The point is to ‘make the polluter pay.’”

    I don’t think a real carbon tax would get off the ground. Here’s Robert Frank’s recent perspective on costs to achieve necessary carbon reductions (
    “The good news is that we could insulate ourselves from catastrophic risk at relatively modest cost by enacting a steep carbon tax. Early studies by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that a carbon tax of up to $80 per metric ton of emissions — a tax that might raise gasoline prices by 70 cents a gallon — would eventually result in climate stability. But because recent estimates about global warming have become more pessimistic, stabilization may require a much higher tax. How hard would it be to live with a tax of, say, $300 a ton?

    If such a tax were phased in, the prices of goods would rise gradually in proportion to the amount of carbon dioxide their production or use entailed. The price of gasoline, for example, would slowly rise by somewhat less than $3 a gallon. Motorists in many countries already pay that much more than Americans do, and they seem to have adapted by driving substantially more efficient vehicles.”

    To paraphrase Bush the Elder: ‘Read my lips; no high carbon taxes’. There is no way the American public would support a doubling of gas taxes in the near future to help avert climate change.

    Now, seventy years ago, we instituted a method to reduce gasoline consumption that worked. It was called rationing. It worked because we were at war, supported by the majority of Americans. I remember older cousins and neighbors serving in the war, and the people at home were not about to complain about modest sacrifices while members of their families and communities were in harm’s way. We have neither that spirit of sacrifice nor the unanimity in agreement of the criticality of the climate change threat today.

    I don’t see any method based on democratic processes that will limit fossil fuel consumption to the extremely low levels required. I am starting to believe there may be one slight possibility, having nothing to do with any democratic process, but it will be neither pleasant or painless for a large number of people.

  13. 263
    perwis says:

    MARodger @254

    Yes, comparing RCP and SRES scenarios is not trivial.

    The best comparison I have found is in Rogelj et al (2012), where they provide the following table (from Table 3):

    RCP ~ SRES scenario with similar median temperature increase by 2100
    RCP3-PD ~ None
    RCP4.5 ~ SRES B1
    RCP6 ~ SRES B2
    RCP8.5 ~ SRES A1FI

    However, it should be noted that this result is based on running a reduced complexity carbon-cycle and climate model (MAGICC) in order to compare results from SRES and RCP scenarios.

    Rogelj, J., Meinshausen, M., & Knutti, R. (2012). Global warming under old and new scenarios using IPCC climate sensitivity range estimates. Nature Climate Change, 2(4), 248–253. doi:10.1038/nclimate1385

  14. 264
    Superman1 says:

    Lawrence Coleman #261,

    ” However when it comes to ice albedo in the arctic circle more variables come into play that are not that well understood and as a consequence the IPCC’s predictions are blatently erronious. Sea level rise is another where the actual point to point measurements and the satellite data are light years away from the IPCC’s conclusion.”

    The IPCC has a procedural charter that is not only unbelievably cumbersome (, but, in my view, guaranteed to arrive at the most conservative conclusions possible. From Appendix A of the above, ” The essence of the Lead Authors’ task is synthesis of material drawn from available literature as defined in Section 4.2. Lead Authors, in conjunction with Review Editors, are also required to take account of expert and government review comments when revising text. Lead Authors may not necessarily write original text themselves, but they must have the proven ability to develop text that is scientifically, technically and socio-economically sound and that faithfully represents, to the extent that this is possible, contributions by a wide variety of experts.” In addition, the Appendix spells out the required intervention of the supporting governments at all steps in the process. Anyone who has ever attempted to hammer out an agreement between two or three governments knows the compromises required and the conservatism that results from this process.

    But, suppose the IPCC operated in the best way possible: more recent inputs, models that depicted the Arctic ice melting accurately, models that included the effects of positive feedback mechanisms that we have already seen, etc. What makes you believe the actionable response of governments and their citizenry would be any different from what it is today? With all the built-in conservatism and under-estimation of present day models, their predictions as documented by the spate of recent major reports (IEA, World Bank, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, etc) are still quite dire. We can argue all we want whether the Rowlands model predicts 3 C or 4 C by mid-century, or whether such models predict 5 C or 6 C or 7 C by century’s end, the reality is that BAU spells the end of the civilization as we know it by at least century’s end, and perhaps much sooner if positive feedbacks are included. And, what has been our response relative to what is required to head off this disaster? Zero! I frankly believe that our response would be no different under the best models, given that the underlying problem is addiction to unlimited cheap energy use rather than lack of technical information.

  15. 265
    JustMyOpinion says:

    Superman1, your source makes the error of considering taxes a cost, when in fact they are costless transfers which can be freely substituted with/for other taxes. The effect of a revenue-neutral carbon tax of $300/ton would be to drop the cost of goods as less resources will be required and no net increase in taxes would be levied. Goods with less than average carbon emissions will drop in price even more. Some highly inefficient goods might increase in price. Such a tax could allow for the reduction or elimination of the payroll tax, thus helping create jobs.

    So, to answer your question, I think we’d survive the increased prosperity a large carbon tax would bring, but you’re probably right that the USA’s particular version of society and media combined with a government designed to thwart change makes even a token carbon tax unlikely in the near future.

  16. 266
    Patrick 027 says:

    Re 260 Lawrence Coleman – global average geothermal flux is a bit under 0.1 W/m2 (from memory). Of course it varies. gives 0.09 W/m2 ; the highest value implied in Fig 3 is 0.45 W/m2, and that would be found somewhere within the relatively small fraction of global area with the strongest red color. Of course that’s for some limit of resolution (which limit I’m not sure. 10 km^2? – there’s a link from Fig 3 which might be of some help, although I’m not sure if they talk about decadal-centennial fluctuations at all – I’m guessing not, sorry); I’m not sure what the highest time-averaged heat flow is for a given m^2 but obviously temporal fluctuations in some places would get very large. But to heat some larger region of water or ice over some period of years by some amount you’d need a fluctuation on that spatial-temporal scale…

    re 259 Edward Greisch – re Kevin McKinney 21-22 where?

  17. 267

    “There is no way the American public would support a doubling of gas taxes in the near future to help avert climate change.”

    Not even if it were rebated directly to their bank accounts? I beg to differ, in such a case. And it shouldn’t be ‘gas taxes’–it should be as comprehensive as possible. The only existing test case, as I said above, suggests that the idea will work. (And note justmyopinion’s comments about costs versus transfers in #265.)

    “I don’t see any method based on democratic processes that will limit fossil fuel consumption to the extremely low levels required. I am starting to believe there may be one slight possibility, having nothing to do with any democratic process, but it will be neither pleasant or painless for a large number of people.”

    I beg to differ there, too, until proven wrong by events. After all, I don’t rule the world (or any significant subset thereof), so that pretty much leaves me the democratic process with which to work.

  18. 268
    Superman1 says:

    Lawrence Coleman,

    “Yes, we have already heard on our mainstream media here in australia that acheiving the magic 2Deg threshold is now virtually impossible and that we shouldn’t be surprised to end up at the 4-5deg mark in the not too distant future. I listened to both lectures; being a climate scientist he lent a lot of cred to the presentation. It was interesting the graph of temp vs sea level rise. You can appreciate the problem we have at present having created this 40% rise in CO2 almost overnight..very very unnatural! So that the temp/sea level graph are now simultanously tracking each other. He didn’t mention either the thawing permafrost and methane hyrates in the ocean bed that as the ocean unstoppably warms will progressively get released in a more or less exponential fashion. He still rather naively (to me at least) stated that there is still a window of time at which to address CC. The arctic will be ice free in summer within 5-6 years, progressing rapidly to all the remaining 9 months of the year as the arctic ocean continues to warm. Greenland ice albedo is now in full swing, we have reached a tipping point now that ensures all the land ice will disappear probably well before the next couple of millenia. Prof. Ramsdorf still believes we have time???.”

    You need to consider the funding source, and its influence on content of someone representing them. Dr. Rahmstorf is presenting as a member of the German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU), a body of experts appointed by the German government and advising it on global change issues. None of the IPCC member governments are interested in presenting the message of e.g. Guy McPherson, or someone similar. Rahmstorf gives the message presented in typical government and industry reports: a graphical representation of what we can expect based on models that do not include proper ice dynamics or positive feedbacks, and therefore are very conservative estimates of the future; a glimmer of hope at the end, whereby all we need do is tighten our belts somewhat and switch to renewables, and we can dodge the major impacts of the impending climate change catastrophe.

    The 2 C target you mention, and Rahmstorf admits is based more on politics than science, is an interesting one. Anderson states that decades ago, 2 C seemed a reasonable number, based on the available science. Anderson states further that the recent science results imply 1 C might be a more rational target. Now, when one designs a complex system, one allows a hefty safety factor for uncertainties in material/component properties, and for unexpected perturbations (think Fukiyama). Pressure vessels might use a safety factor of four; automobiles three. What Rahmstorf and Anderson are doing, aiming for a temperature increase limit of 2 C, is like designing the system to have a safety factor of 0.5. And, in a sense, the fate of our civilization hangs on successful operation of this particular system!

    Even an effective safety factor of 0.5, ludicrous though it is, may be inadequate. At a temperature increase of 0.8, we will probably lose the Arctic ice cap, at least for part of the Summer. At a temperature increase of 0.8, we appear to have triggered off methane releases in diverse parts of the Arctic, and they appear to be increasing. Maybe the design temperature increase for this system should be 0.4 C.

    You question Dr. Rahmstorf’s stated belief that we still have time. Given the uncertainties of temperature and related profiles over time published in the unclassified open literature, and the spectrum of projections and interpretations, one can ‘cherry-pick’ whatever profiles they like depending on assumptions for positive feedback trends and potential ice dynamics mechanisms. At one end of the spectrum are the Guy McPhersons, who believe we have triggered irreversible positive feedback mechanisms that cannot be stopped, and we have another generation or two left as a civilization. At the other end of the spectrum are those who either ‘deny’ the scientific projections altogether, or who downplay the immediacy and suggest there is time to effect an orderly transition to a renewables economy.

    My personal reading of the computed temperature profiles, with some ‘boost’ added in for effects from the positive feedback mechanisms that we are observing now, is that we still have a theoretical chance to avoid the major catastrophe, but much sacrifice and pain would be required in the very near future. I read Anderson’s results as telling us the CO2 limit for the atmosphere has already been reached for an approximately 2 C limit. There is no more room (unless we find a near-term approach for removing copious amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere rapidly) for additional CO2, which means ending fossil fuel use ASAP. We need to reforest rapidly and, because we are seeing initiation of the self-sustaining positive feedback mechanisms, we need some modest geo-engineering to ‘quench’ these self-sustaining mechanisms.

    I see no way we can accomplish this under the present system. The plans for fossil fuel use of all the major countries, especially including China and India, are in the opposite direction of what is required above. There is one slight chance that the above requirements could be met, but it would not be accomplished through democratic means, and would be neither pleasant nor painless.

  19. 269
    Superman1 says:

    Kevin McKinney #267,

    ” 267.“There is no way the American public would support a doubling of gas taxes in the near future to help avert climate change.””

    The wording should have been gas prices, half the increase coming from the ‘carbon tax’.

    ” Not even if it were rebated directly to their bank accounts?”

    We’re playing semantic games here. The fundamental objective is to drastically eliminate the use of fossil fuels in transportation. Either we change the form of transportation, or make it very painful economically for drivers of gasoline-powered vehicles to continue their driving habits using gas. In the short term, the only realistic way to do this would be people walking or bicycling to their destinations, or having large car pools. Given the sprawling nature of the American infrastructure, this is not realistic for many/most people. In the long term, yes, one could envision a renewables-based grid charging electric vehicles that have themselves been manufactured in facilities powered by this grid. That’s a long way off, and if you believe Anderson’s message, we don’t have the luxury of time to drastically reduce our use of fossil fuels. So, in practice, you’re proposing a doubling of gas prices, and I don’t believe it will sell.

    ” After all, I don’t rule the world (or any significant subset thereof), so that pretty much leaves me the democratic process with which to work.”

    And, what has that process done for climate change since Hansen sounded the alarm thirty years ago (and others well before that)?

  20. 270
    Hank Roberts says:

    Welcome to Planet Wobegon, where all our temperatures are above average:

    “November 2012 … the 36th consecutive November and 333rd consecutive month with a global temperature above the 20th century average.”

    hat tip to Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub

  21. 271

    “We’re playing semantic games here.”

    With all due respect, no, we are not. We are talking about a comprehensive measure which would send a price signal propagating through the entire economy, versus a limited measure aimed at transportation only. Emissions are much bigger than transportation only. In fact, transportation is what, 17% of emissions, or something like that? Other carbon-emitting bits of the economy need to have incentives to use carbon-free technologies and techniques, too, from agriculture to cement manufacture.

    And yes, folks are sensitive to gas prices. But a majority also believe that we have an emissions problem, and if the carbon tax were revenue-neutral–as in the case of the BC tax–that it would be acceptable. They like their cars in BC, too, after all.

    “And, what has that process done for climate change since Hansen sounded the alarm thirty years ago (and others well before that)?”

    More than you think, apparently, though less than I’d like.

  22. 272
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Superman1: I respect your optimism. I think us humans, especially the ones in the western world have believed decades of corny hollywood movies that perpetuate the myth that we can do anything, control everything and that the planet is ours for the taking. It’s time we realised that we have crossed a vital line. The biosphere has detected a pathogen bent in caused mortal harm to the stupendously intricate web of life and collective consciousness/intelligence and will seek to irradicate it. If that means another mass exctinction like 220 MYA so be it. We have to wake up that we are no longer in change..we no longer control proceedings, nature does. Bit of a bugger though to finally wake up and find you are halfway down the bear’s throat well on your way to his stomach!. The biosphere has an collective intelligence that puts ours into the ‘gnat’ catagory.
    That’s why by continually stressing the natural system for as long as we have we initiated a vast unstoppable cascade of positive feedback mechanisms that will quickly (1-2 epochs)restore equilibrium once again to the planet.

  23. 273
    Dan H. says:

    Isotopius and COleman,

    Understanding current changes would be crucial for the IPCC to regain credibility. Possibly, the body will re-evaluate their projections, and lower them to match the recent data. The other possibility is that we are current in lull, and the data will rise to match their projections. I agree that this is a critical time for their political existence.

  24. 274
    Chris Korda says:

    superman1 @262:

    There is one slight chance that the above requirements could be met, but it would not be accomplished through democratic means, and would be neither pleasant nor painless.

    You said something nearly identical to this @262. It begs the question, what means do you have in mind? Based on previous experience I’m willing to hazard a guess. In November’s open thread @382 you said:

    Governments may have to change and types of governments may have to change; peacefully if possible and by force if necessary.

    In my reply @383 I compared your statement, which appears to endorse the overthrow of democratically elected governments (presumably including your own), to statements made by Pentti Linkola. Others also responded, e.g. Ray Ladbury: “Democracy is the only form of government that can claim legitimacy in a pluralistic society.” Your response to these criticisms was, “We all seem to have different Codes of Honor.” My reply: democracy is an indispensable condition for any code of honor worthy of the name.

    Meanwhile our moderators have repeatedly (ad nauseam) asked posters to stick to climate science and take political discussions elsewhere. To my mind it seems pretty obvious that RealClimate is a totally inappropriate place to advocate or even discuss sedition, martial law, green dictatorship, etc. and dancing around these themes is no better.

    Also in November’s open thread @430 you stated: “I have published well over two hundred papers in the peer-reviewed journal literature.” Several posters, again myself included, have asked you to support this claim. To my knowledge you have not yet done so.

  25. 275
    Superman1 says:

    Kevin McKinney #271,

    “Emissions are much bigger than transportation only. In fact, transportation is what, 17% of emissions, or something like that?”

    I understand very well the fraction of total fossil fuel use devoted to transportation. But, when someone makes a proposal for e.g. increasing taxes, I like to understand how it would work in very specific situations. I deliberately chose automotive transportation because that’s relatively straight-forward, and there is a history of various states trying to impose gas taxes to raise revenue. Your response does not convince me the average American automobile owner would be willing to pay twice the present cost of gasoline and radically alter his driving habits in order to stave off severe climate change. In twenty years he might be singing a different tune, but not today.

  26. 276
  27. 277
    prokaryotes says:

    Biogeochemical plant–soil microbe feedback in response to climate warming in peatlands

  28. 278
    prokaryotes says:

    Enzymology under global change: organic nitrogen turnover in alpine and sub-Arctic soils

    Understanding global change impacts on the globally important carbon storage in alpine, Arctic and sub-Arctic soils requires knowledge of the mechanisms underlying the balance between plant primary productivity and decomposition. Given that nitrogen availability limits both processes, understanding the response of the soil nitrogen cycle to shifts in temperature and other global change factors is crucial for predicting the fate of cold biome carbon stores. Measurements of soil enzyme activities at different positions of the nitrogen cycling network are an important tool for this purpose. We review a selection of studies that provide data on potential enzyme activities across natural, seasonal and experimental gradients in cold biomes. Responses of enzyme activities to increased nitrogen availability and temperature are diverse and seasonal dynamics are often larger than differences due to experimental treatments, suggesting that enzyme expression is regulated by a combination of interacting factors reflecting both nutrient supply and demand. The extrapolation from potential enzyme activities to prediction of elemental nitrogen fluxes under field conditions remains challenging. Progress in molecular ‘-omics’ approaches may eventually facilitate deeper understanding of the links between soil microbial community structure and biogeochemical fluxes. In the meantime, accounting for effects of the soil spatial structure and in situ variations in pH and temperature, better mapping of the network of enzymatic processes and the identification of rate-limiting steps under different conditions should advance our ability to predict nitrogen fluxes.

    Though from the supplemental above (nature link) on page 6, it is suggested that increase of temps, follows more fungi growth which causes less carbon sequestration. But i am not entirely sure what this means

    “Our data suggest that climate-induced changes in plant cover can reduce the productivity of peat mosses and potentially prime the decomposition of organic matter by affecting the stoichiometry of soil enzymatic activity.”

  29. 279
    Pekka Kostamo says:

    274 Chris: There exist many variants of democracy, and more can be invented.

    The most popular of the current variants seem to result in laws written by a random sample of the population. This is not only a problem with respect to the climate issue, the same applies to other fields of science (i.e. genetics, medicine, physics, etc.). The potential for good or bad outcomes due to use or neglect of science is now enormous and growing more so.

    For instance, how about a democratic government patterned after the current American one, but the Senate consisting of scientists? After all, even the democratic governments have to improve over time to remain competitive in a changing world.

  30. 280
    Superman1 says:

    Lawrence Coleman #272,

    “Superman1: I respect your optimism.”

    This is probably the first time anyone on this site has suggested that I am an ‘optimist’. I view myself as neither an optimist nor pessimist, but rather a realist. Even in the best of cases, as I tried to show with my safety factor argument in #268, we are treading on extremely dangerous territory. Any margin for error vanished a while ago. The chances of achieving even this dangerous 2 C limit are nil if the public writ large or their representatives have a choice. As I point out in #268, “There is one slight chance that the above requirements could be met, but it would not be accomplished through democratic means, and would be neither pleasant nor painless.” I have not spelled out the details as my critics have demanded because I, unlike many of my critics, want to keep the focus on climate science and how it can impact/influence personal/national/global strategies.

    Now, why am I ‘optimistic’ that anything the citizens of this planet could do would be able to reverse what you call “a vast unstoppable cascade of positive feedback mechanisms that will quickly (1-2 epochs) restore equilibrium once again to the planet.” Here, I am forced to rely on intuition and experience, because, unfortunately, the climate modelers have chosen not to include the major positive feedback mechanisms in their models. I like to draw the analogy to a striking match. When the match is first moved against the rough surface, work is converted to internal energy, and the temperature of the reactants is raised. At some point, an ‘ignition’ temperature is reached. Here, sparks start to fly, and the reaction usually proceeds into the burn phase with the appearance of a flame. However, sometimes the sparks do not transition into a flame, but rather disappear. So, in the early part of the ignition phase, when the self-sustaining mechanisms have not formed fully, they can still be ‘quenched’. That’s where I believe we are with respect to the positive feedback mechanisms in the climate system, given the state of what I see published on the positive feedback mechanisms and the absence of any model results that include these effects. Five years from now, when more time trend series of these effects become available, I might change my mind even without the appropriate model results.

    Now, if someone can present climate models that contain estimates of the effects of these feedbacks, and can show convincingly that we are either in the ‘burn’ phase (as McPherson suggests) or have a long way to go before we reach ‘ignition’, then I am open to change from this source as well. But, given the skimpy evidence I have available in the unclassified literature, my present best guess is that we still have a theoretical chance to pull back from the cliff. Would you call that ‘optimism’; one could make almost a similar statement about winning the Powerball jackpot?

  31. 281
    prokaryotes says:

    Can somebody shine some light on current cold episodes in the norther hemisphere? Are these due to arctic air intrusion?

  32. 282
    prokaryotes says:

    Looking for winter weirdness 3

    This time the weirdness seems to have hit Russia.

  33. 283
    prokaryotes says:

    Looking for winter weirdness

    “The Atlantic is full of low pressure systems, while there is a huge blocking high pressure centred over Russia, which is preventing low pressure from moving into Europe and also prevents the rainbands from progressing eastwards too.

    “Because the low pressure is squeezing against this Russian block and the battle is taking place over the UK the winds will be strong.

    This time the culprit seems to be that blocking high over Russia. And that’s just the thing to look for when looking for winter weirdness. Unfortunately I lack the knowledge and experience to give you all the meteorological ins and outs, what the jet stream is doing and everything. But I do know that there’s an increasing amount of research into a potential connection between disappearing sea ice and an increase in blocking patterns caused by a meandering jet stream.

    Global Warming changes the Jet Stream, cause of more Extreme Weather

  34. 284
    prokaryotes says:

    Reposted Neven’s post, added input from Sam Carana (AMEG), added 2 videos on the connection of extreme weather anomalies with Jet Stream / Sea Ice decline relation.

    Though the science is still evolving and RC run a post on this during the 2010 winter period, maybe time for an update.

  35. 285
    Hank Roberts says:

    Science 14 December 2012:
    Vol. 338 no. 6113 pp. 1424-1425
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1229351
    Policy Forum
    Climate Change
    The Greening of Insurance
    “… Insurers publicly voiced concern about human-induced climate change four decades ago (1). I describe industry trends, activities, and promising avenues for future effort, from a synthesis of industry progress in managing climate change risk [see supplementary materials(SM)].”

  36. 286
    Chris Korda says:

    superman1 @280:

    I have not spelled out the details as my critics have demanded because I, unlike many of my critics, want to keep the focus on climate science

    That’s just a convenient excuse for ignoring the criticisms. The issue is using/abusing a prestigious climate science forum as a platform for disseminating extremely reactionary political views and conspiracy theories (EMF/cell phones cause cancer*, etc.), while claiming to have hundreds of papers in the published literature, without providing any support for the claim.

    Thanks to interminable repetition over the last six months, the rhetoric–including “quench,” “hail Mary pass,” corrupt scientists, smoking/cancer analogies, and thinly veiled sedition–is by now all too familiar, as is the highhanded tone. I’m convinced it’s a type of trolling, i.e. posts calculated to provoke predictable responses that waste time and bandwidth, distract from more appropriate discussions, and unduly elevate the poster’s importance. I have drawn attention to it on numerous occasions, to no avail, presumably because this is akin to “quenching” a fire with oxygen. When an individual consistently disrupts a group and refuses to moderate their behavior, the best/only option may be to ignore that individual, in the hopes that they will eventually tire of soliloquizing and seek a more receptive audience elsewhere.

    *See open thread posts Nov 2012 #286, Oct #186, Sep #322.

  37. 287
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Chris Korda — 25 Dec 2012 @ 5:39 PM

    Right on!


  38. 288
    sidd says:

    Mr. Chris Korda writes on Christmas Day, 2012 at 5:39 PM:

    “…presumably because this is akin to “quenching” a fire with oxygen. When an individual consistently disrupts a group and refuses to moderate their behavior, the best/only option may be to ignore that individual, in the hopes that they will eventually tire of soliloquizing and seek a more receptive audience elsewhere.”

    Now you’re catching on. From the long xperience on Usenet, only two things work:
    1)dedicated and benevolent moderators
    2)do not feed the troll attitude

    1) works forabit, till moderators lose interest
    2) works for ever, but runs into the “someone on the internet is wrong” problem now and then

    Don’t feed the troll. If you think you see a troll, reply once and move on. Proceed. You do not need to spend your entire life educating the wilfully blind.

    People come here for science. Long troll deconstructions turn them off. They can see thru the trolls, don’t underestimate the commentariat.

    Let’s talk science. Deniers are noise, they grow more irrelevant by the day. So are doommongers.

    So, speaking of science, i have been looking at the Pfeffer projection from 2008, in light of Tedesco et al. and the Shepherd reconciliation. It is still not wrong, GRIS on the low edge, and WAIS about 60% below, but both accelerating uncomfortably. Hope that the recent EAIS mass gain in Shepherd persists.


  39. 289
  40. 290
    Superman1 says:

    Lawrence Coleman #272,

    “That’s why by continually stressing the natural system for as long as we have we initiated a vast unstoppable cascade of positive feedback mechanisms that will quickly (1-2 epochs)restore equilibrium once again to the planet.”

    What would be useful on this blog is to have a thread devoted to the issue you raise. I have in mind a debate, or some sort of exchange, among three experts in this area. One would be Guy McPherson, who believes we have already passed this point of no return. A second would be Kevin Anderson, who believes we are getting near. A third might be David Archer, who had a post on this blog about a year ago downplaying the immediate danger from methane relative to what McPherson or Wadhams would propose.

    The debate could be written only, with three separate contributions answering very specific topics. Or, it could be a phonecon among the three, with audio and transcript made available. Or, it could be an email exchange, with the full exchange transcribed. But, it would be valuable for each proponent to have to defend his viewpoint against knowledgeable experts.

  41. 291
  42. 292
    David B. Benson says:

    Erratic Environment May Be Key to Human Evolution

    This seems to be proxies from about 3 mya, somewhat pre-Quaternary. So the global climate cycling was not yet the deep glacial/interglacial but the milder (and steadier) stade/interstade (as I will term it). Yet around Olduvai Gorge, being on the boundary between two climate regions, the shift between steppe (grassland) and forest (maybe woodland steppe) was quite rapid.

    I’m impressed by this work (a tough proxy to work out) and impressed by the rapidity of the climate change in East Africa.

  43. 293
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Superman: I’m just visualising the inertia in the system – the oceanic and the atmospheric. How long do you think it will take for world emmissions to come down again to 280ppm? According to James Hansen thats what it will take to reverse the process. 2C rise will still mean the complete melt of the greenland ice shelves over the next couple of millenia. I would hate to look at western antarctica by then but that would I imagine be gone as well. So we are probably looking at 7m from greenland, probably an additional 7m from antarctica and the rest probably another 7m from alaska, canada..etc. That’s only at 2C increase!. We’ve pretty well blown our changes with that 3-4-maybe5C? The sea is going to continually warm and expand..thats practically locked in. I’m not even factoring in the powder keg 3.5Gt of methane compounds that has begun to be released. If the world got serious about CC and China/USA and India cut their emissions by say a solid 50% that still wouldn’t be for 20-30 years. The arctic regions would be ice free then for what..maybe 6 months in a year?. The jet sreams winds from the equator to the poles would have slowed to a crawl, weather systems will never seem to move..they just hang around for months at a time. Sorry but I cannot see this not happening, just going by the immense inertia of the gloabal systems involved and human nature. Btw I am a buddhist by I don’t beat around the bush in telling it as I see it.
    I would love to see a serious debate with the characters you mentioned. As long as they are not too entrenched in their closed mind frame and are willing to expolre other options..when they realise they cannot logically argue against the blatently obvious any longer.

  44. 294
    David B. Benson says:

    Once again
    Fluctuating Environment May Have Driven Human Evolution
    states roughly 2 million years ago but nothing else in my just prior comment requires correction.

  45. 295
    Edward Greisch says:

    Arctic Methane Emergency Group [AMEG]

    What do you think about AMEG?

  46. 296
    Edward Greisch says:

    294 David B. Benson: Roger that. Will happen again, but there is no assurance anybody will survive or what the results will be. [edit – not here]

  47. 297
    Superman1 says:

    Lawrence Coleman #293,

    ” when they realise they cannot logically argue against the blatently obvious any longer.”

    Arguing against the ‘blatantly obvious’ has never stopped the climate change ‘deniers’ and, increasingly, as evidenced by some of the posts above, many of the climate change ‘believers’. In my mind, the only question is ‘when’ we go down due to climate change, not ‘if’. The problem is like a three-legged stool, with one leg being technical/scientific, the second leg being economic, the third leg being sociopolitical. Even if we could theoretically address the technical/scientific component, which still might be possible, the other two ‘legs of the stool’ would prevent the implementation.

    ” 2C rise will still mean the complete melt of the greenland ice shelves over the next couple of millenia.”

    Kevin Anderson views 2 C as the entre to the Extremely Dangerous world of climate change. From 0.8 C to 2 C is uncharted territory; severe effects could kick in well before 2 C. Even if we were to terminate fossil fuel use today, the temperature would continue to rise for the next three-four decades and, if runaway temperatures were not triggered during this process, would theoretically start to decline. The peak temperatures reached during this period are quite uncertain, but have been estimated to range between 1.5 C and over 3 C, depending on climate sensitivity and aerosol forcing. It seems to me that under the most stringent fossil fuel use conditions and some geoengineering in parallel, this temperature profile could be tailored to minimize the peak and perhaps avoid the catastrophe that awaits us. The more fossil fuel used during this period, the harsher become the geoengineering requirements, and the riskier the processes.

    I see no chance of implementing the severe fossil fuel restrictions required using voluntary means.

  48. 298
    Superman1 says:

    Edward Greisch #295,
    “What do you think about AMEG?”

    Climate change amelioration bears a number of similarities to treatment of human health problems. One can identify and remove the causes of the problem, and thereby (hopefully) eliminate the problem itself, or one can treat/suppress/attenuate the symptoms of the problem, but allow the underlying problem to fester and (usually) get worse. In addition, the symptom treatment approach tends to be associated with its own side effects.

    The AMEG group has recognized the seriousness of the climate change problem as reflected in the Arctic. They recognize the hopelessness of removing the cause(s), so they focus on identifying and proposing treatments. From their strategic plan (, I have identified a number of their proposed fixes, and appended them at the end of this post. Will they work; who knows? Can we model them with sufficient accuracy to identify any potential side effects?

    I do have a concern about the three techniques, based more on intuition than any evidence from model results (which AMEG has not presented). The foundational problem is not the sunlight coming in; it is the blockage of thermal radiation from Earth back into space. In medical terms, the Earth is suffering from thermal constipation. Their first two proposed ‘treatments’ seem analogous to going to a Doctor with a complaint of constipation, and the Doctor prescribes a starvation diet! The sun is necessary for many life processes, and reducing it by e.g. solar shields or other types of blockage should be a last resort, not a first resort. Removing the blockage by CO2 removal or AMEG’s third cloud removal approach, or perhaps some radiation frequency conversion approach that bypasses CO2 absorption, would seem more logical as a first resort. However, clouds serve their own purposes, and arbitrarily removing them might have its own set of unintended consequences. Can we model this situation with sufficient accuracy to be confident we are not making the problem worse?

    So, to answer your question, AMEG’s heart is in the right direction, but whether we have the tools to gauge whether their proposals would be beneficial or detrimental is an open question. They are effectively proposing immediate approval of a widely-used drug while bypassing years of laboratory testing and clinical trials; a Hail Mary pass if ever there was one. But, a Hail Mary pass may be all we have available, if they are correct!

  49. 299
    Superman1 says:

    And, here is the appendix to #298.


    Three preferred cooling techniques

    A combination of three cooling techniques is proposed, to give flexibility in deployment and maximise the chances of success:
    ● stratospheric aerosols to reflect sunlight;
    ● cloud brightening to reflect more sunlight;
    ● cloud removal to allow thermal radiation into space.

    The first technique mimics the action of large volcanoes such as Mt Pinatubo which erupted in 1991 and had a cooling effect of 0.5 degrees C over 2 years due to the sulphate aerosols it produced in the stratosphere. However larger particles in the aerosol are liable to reflect thermal radiation from the planet surface, hence having a warming effect. To avoid this, there is an advantage in using TiO2 particles, as used in white paint. These can be engineered to a constant size, and coated to produce required properties, such as not sticking to one another. Large quantities could be dispersed at high latitudes in the lower stratosphere either using stratotankers or balloons, to have an effect lasting a few months during spring, summer and early autumn. Due to circulating winds, the aerosol will spread around the latitude where it has been injected.

    Cloud brightening is a technique whereby a very fine salt spray is produced from special spray nozzles mounted on a ship, and gets wafted up to clouds where it increases their reflective power. Whereas stratospheric particles can provide blanket cooling at particular latitudes, the brightening technique can be used to cool particular locations, using sophisticated modelling to decide when and where is best to do the spraying.

    The third cooling techniques involves removing certain high clouds during the months of little or no sunshine when they are having a net blanketing effect – reflecting heat back to the ground.

    Additional techniques should be considered for more local cooling, especially by increasing surface albedo; for example one could increase snowfall over land or brighten water by injection of tiny bubbles. Another technique is to break up the sea ice in autumn and winter, which has the effect of thickening the ice and producing what looks like multi-year ice. A very promising approach is to reduce currents carrying water into the Arctic Ocean, in particular the partial damming of the Bering Strait.

    Note that all the above techniques are expected to enhance the Arctic ecosystem, which is in danger of sharp decline as a result of sea ice collapse.

    Local measures to save the sea ice

    There are a number of physical ways to reduce loss of sea ice:

    ● corral the ice when it is liable to break up and float into warmer waters
    ● reduce wave action at the edges
    ● replace or cool warmer surface water using colder water from beneath
    ● thicken the ice by shoving ice on the water onto other ice
    ● thicken the ice by adding water on top to freeze
    ● thicken the ice by adding snow (which may also brighten it)
    ● add a layer of white granules or reflecting sheet.

  50. 300
    perwis says:

    Sidd @288

    I find it interesting that “worst case” scenarios or “upper bound” projections seldom are REALLY worst case or upper bound.

    Pfeffer et al (2008) is an excellent example of this. For example, they use a thermostatic contribution of 0.3 m for 2100, while IPCC AR4 maximum value is 0.44 m (see Church et al 2011 for a thorough discussion of the AR4 calculations). Katsman et al (2011) uses 0.49 for their “global high end scenario”, and Sriver et al (2012) estimates the thermostatic upper bound to be 0.55 m.

    This may not sound much, but upper bounds are important for planning. Sriver et al argue that an increase of the upper bound from +2.0 to +2.25 meter have unexpectedly large impacts for flooding risk projections. For a case study they find that the flooding frequency would be nearly three orders of magnitude higher!

    By the way, I recently noticed this new paper by James Hansen et al: “Climate Sensitivity, Sea Level, and Atmospheric CO2”, submitted to Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A, and available at Arxiv. Among other things, they argue that hysteresis and slow response in current ice sheet models are exaggerated. I have not had the time to read it in full, but I am interested in discussing it when I have.


    Church, J., Gregory, J., & White, N. (2011). Understanding and projecting sea level change. Oceanography 24(2), 130–143.

    Hansen, J., Sato, M., Russell, G., & Kharecha, P. (2012). Climate Sensitivity, Sea Level, and Atmospheric CO2, 34. Atmospheric and Oceanic Physics. Retrieved from

    Katsman, C. a., Sterl, A., Beersma, J. J., Brink, H. W., Church, J. a., Hazeleger, W., Kopp, R. E., et al. (2011). Exploring high-end scenarios for local sea level rise to develop flood protection strategies for a low-lying delta—the Netherlands as an example. Climatic
    Change, 109(3-4), 617–645. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0037-5

    Pfeffer, W. T., Harper, J. T., & O’Neel, S. (2008). Kinematic constraints on glacier contributions to 21st-century sea-level rise. Science (New York, N.Y.), 321(5894), 1340–3. doi:10.1126/science.1159099

    Sriver, R.L, N. M. Urban, R Olson, and K. Keller: Towards a physically plausible upper bound of sea-level rise projections. Climatic Change Letters, DOI 10.1007/s10584-012-0610 (2012).