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Unforced Variations: Jan 2013

Filed under: — group @ 1 January 2013

A new year… so comments reflecting the past year in climate science, or looking forward to the next are particularly apropos.


301 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Jan 2013”

  1. 101
  2. 102
    patrick says:

    @95 The final science graphic in H.J. “John” Schnellnhuber’s presentation at the University of Melbourne (12 Jul 2011) was purely conceptual. It’s at minute 43 here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etl0FBDghtA

    This “little animation” shows that the economic paradigm of convexity is “at the least…a multi-equilibrium landscape.” To the rest of us, that means factoring in the externalities–one of which is climate change.

  3. 103
    patrick says:

    @98 Copy. Russell “Rusty” Schweikart may not have named the perspective-altering experience, but he described it very early, just about this way (“No Frames, No Boundaries”):

    http://www.context.org/iclib/ic03/schweick

  4. 104
    MARodger says:

    I’m having a bit of fun with an occasional troll at CarbonBrief on the subject of Bob Tisdale’s 100%ENSO-0%AGW warming speculation. The reason I bring talk of such nonsense here (Tisdale describes his nonsense to Wattsupia here) is because I can see a way within this Tisdale scheme of setting a lower ‘back-stop’ limit for climate sensitivity.

    Tisdale advocates that the recent global warming is in no way the result of energy being held back by increased levels of GHGs. Instead the entire warming is due to energy streaming through holes in the clouds into Pacific waters during a La Nina, then gathering together round Manila harbour for a few years until bursting forth in an El Nino to further warm the entire planet and keep it that warm until the next El Nino arrives. All rather nonsensical.

    To bound the lower limit of climate sensitivity in such a scheme, if it is assumed that at the point of an El Nino starting, all the OHC outside the W Pacific is dropped to 1960s levels (having expended itself keeping the planet warm as Mr T says it does), the entire increase in OHC since the 1960s would be available for the impending El Nino to do its stuff. That’s about 200 ZJ and it cannot be higher than this.
    If the interval between El Ninos can be 10 years, that means there is 20 ZJ or less per year available to keep the planet the 0.65°C above 1960s temperatures.
    I was a bit niggardly here and knocked of 3% for melting a decades worth of ice and warming other stuff before converting into a 1.22 Wm^-2 energy flux, or 0.33 the size of 2xCO2 yielding a sensitivity (transient) of >>2.0°C.
    Now such a number will be most annoying for denialists so I was wondering if it could be improved upon.
    Is there anywhere an easy source of OHC by ocean basin? Or perhaps any helpful advice?

  5. 105
    David B. Benson says:

    Impressive visualizations of the state of sea level over the past 20 ky:
    http://www.psmsl.org/train_and_info/geo_signals/gia/palaeoshoreline_webpage/HTML/HOME.htm
    I found the European region helpful, although I don’t think the portrayal of the region north and east of the Gulf of Bothnia is quite right.

  6. 106
    sidd says:

    Re:OHC by basin

    Levitus,2012, Fig 3

    sidd

  7. 107
    MARodger says:

    sidd @106.

    Many thanks. Knowing it was available, I tracked down the paper in full here along with appended ‘auxiliary material’. I also have the quarterly Levitus data by North & South & basin that I missed somehow on the NOAA website.
    It should keep me busy for a while.

  8. 108
    sidd says:

    Re:OHC by basin
    might wanna look at Koketsu(2011) reference in Levitus for OHC below 2000m. Contribution is substantial, esp. in the Southern Ocean.

    “The HC increases in the deep layer (below 3000 m) are estimated at 5.0% of the full depth HC changes in the global ocean, 8.7% of changes in the Pacific, 0.4% in the Atlantic, 1.5% in the Indian, and 16.2% of the full depth changes in the Southern Ocean. ”

    sidd

  9. 109
    Michael Sweet says:

    Does anyone know how the extreme pollution currently in China affect AGW? Does it lower surface temperatures by blocking the sun? Does it raise or lower albiedo of the planet in that area? Is the area affected big enough to affect global temperatures? Any references?

  10. 110
    Dan H. says:

    Michael,

    Two competing factors are at work here. First, carbon black deposition (from coal burning) acts to change the albedo of the surface on which it coats. This is especially concerning atop glacial and sea ice. Aerosols (particularly sulfur) from coal burning have a larger and an opposite effect, acting to suppress temperatures due to cloud formation.

    http://www.extremeskins.com/archive/index.php/t-350285.html

  11. 111
    David B. Benson says:

    Michael Sweet @109 — The aerosols from East Asia now routinely make it all the way to the Pacific Northwest and are obviously blocking sunlight. So over a rather large area these aerosols are reflecting sunlight back into space and so lowering temperatures.

    There is a somewhat older paper about the aerosols from South Asia but I don’t recall any of the details.

  12. 112
    Hank Roberts says:

    JSTOR offers some limited access to some issues of some paywalled journals.
    http://about.jstor.org/rr
    http://about.jstor.org/alumni#Institutions-in-program

  13. 113
    Patrick says:

    @ 109 In Melbourne (“Climate Change: the Critical Decade” 12 Jul 2011), after doing “the wiggly-line exercise” on warming and presenting the curve of CO2 emissions, John Schnellnhuber said: “Now the biggest volcano currently on earth is the Chinese industry. …You know burning coal…means that a lot of aerosols, in particular sulfur particles, are put into the atmosphere. This can create a temporary cooling effect. We don’t know yet whether this is true. But my friend…an eminent climate scientist…believes that we currently think we have a warming, a temperature increase on this planet, of .8 C above 1900…but…feels that this is masked by the inertia of the ocean…and, in particular, by aerosols…and he thinks that the true value, given the CO2 content of the atmosphere currently, is 2.4 C. …So, this is one factor that is not a good reason for optimism.” That’s at minute 20 here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etl0FBDghtA

  14. 114
    jgnfld says:

    Ran some regressions on the annual Jan-Dec GISTemp numbers that were just released and lo’ and behold I find that “there has been no global warming in the past 16 years” is now not exactly true.

    Basically, regressions up to 1997 lead to significance with trends ~.15 degrees/decade in the early 90s. The 1998 regression is still barely NS (trend=.09 degrees/decade, p <=.06), but warming "returns" in 1999 14 years ago (trend=.13 degrees/decade, p <= .02). It "disappears" again in 2000 only barely (trend=.10 degrees/decade, p <=.07).

    Anyway, now the "correct" statement is that warming did briefly, but only barely "disappear" (now) 15 years ago, but it "returned" 14 years ago!

    Captcha seems a bit aggressive: "Remblex you"!

  15. 115

    As jgnfld says, the annual numbers for GISTemp are out. Gavin gets to be spokesperson for Science Daily:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130115190218.htm

    No huge surprises, really, about the results.

  16. 116

    #115–Upon closer inspection, that should have read, “Gavin gets to be spokesperson for GISS,” which only makes sense after all: SD just ran the GISS release verbatim.

  17. 117
    Dan H. says:

    Yes, no real surprise, 2012 was the 9th warmest and 9th coldest of the past 17 years, about 0.02C above the average during that time.

  18. 118
    Superman1 says:

    There is a foundational problem related to climate science that I have not seen addressed on this blog. There are many concepts that have been proposed for ameliorating climate change, most of which involve the transition to renewables-based energy. All of these concepts will require some fossil fuel expenditure, especially at the front end where our main energy source is fossil fuels. The implicit assumption is that this ‘good’ expenditure of fossil fuels will not drive us into ‘runaway’ temperature in the transition/conversion process, and will eventually allow us to eliminate most major sources of CO2 emissions.

    Where is the evidence for such an assumption? Any useful prediction of how much leeway we have with respect to further allowable CO2 emissions will depend on a trustworthy model of climate that includes the known major positive feedback mechanisms. Such a model has to be validated to be credible. How are such validations done? For example, consider the Rowlands model, where we debated the issue of its temperature prediction in ~2050, 3 C or 4 C. From the Abstract in Rowlands et al paper: “We find that model versions that reproduce observed surface temperature changes over the past 50 years show global-mean temperature increases of 1.4-3 K by 2050, relative to 1961-1990, under a mid-range forcing scenario.” In the full paper, they state: “Towards the end of the century, we observe a similar relationship with the IPCC expert estimate, although by that time the uncertainty could be larger if carbon-cycle feedbacks were included in our ensemble”. They are using a model that excludes carbon-cycle feedbacks, gives good agreement with the past when there were little carbon-cycle feedbacks, and attempts to estimate the future with similar physics when there could be massive carbon-cycle feedbacks. So, it was validated after the data were generated.

    That’s what will be required for any forward-going model that includes positive feedback mechanisms (which the Rowlands model did not). Here’s the problem. By the time enough positive feedback data has been accumulated and is available for validation, it is probably way too late for us to change direction to make a difference (except for the extremely low probability case that the feedbacks are shown to progress extremely slowly). So, even though we see these positive feedback mechanisms initiating and growing right before our eyes, none of the predictions about climate where positive feedback mechanisms could be important have any basis in evidence. All that we know is that the dire predictions of existing models (which don’t contain positive feedback mechanisms) are conservative and best-case assumptions, and reality will be worse, probably far worse. Under these conditions of uncertainty, it seems to me the only prudent step is to insure that we leave the maximum safety factor that we can, and hope that will be adequate. This means end fossil fuel use today, whatever the cost and sacrifice required, if we want to see our civilization continue beyond this century. First, insure we have a future; second, worry about the nature of the energy supply in that future.

  19. 119
    Hank Roberts says:

    Wait, the _9th_coldest_of_past_17_ was above average?
    How many of the past 17 were below average? What average of what?

  20. 120
    T Marvell says:

    I have been arguing in these posts that the relationship between CO2 growth and temperature growth is linear. Stefan argued that it is log-linear with CO2 logged. Here is a the case for linear:
    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6117/280.short
    In the long run, it obviously makes a big difference.

  21. 121

    “First, insure we have a future; second, worry about the nature of the energy supply in that future.”

    It’s referred to as the “No Regrets” policy.

    The no regrets comes about because if we reduce fossil fuel combustion to prevent AGW and it turns out to be a bust, we have solved the other problem of a finite crude oil supply. Therefore, we have No Regrets on making the decision.

    It’s also killing two birds with one stone. Peak Oil and AGW are both solved by going to renewable or alternative energy options.

  22. 122

    #118 & 121–That’s all very well, but most of the food eaten in the developed world (and, increasingly, the rest of the world too) is raised, processed, and transported in ways dependent upon fossil fuel combustion. End FF use tomorrow and most of us will starve by the end of the week–which is not exactly “ensuring that we have a future.”

    We have a large and systemic problem, which can’t be walked back (forward?) easily. That’s one of the things that is so galling about our (now) prolonged failure to begin to tackle the issue.

  23. 123
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Superman1,
    Your “foundational problem” is not addressed here, because it is not climate science per se, but rather mitigation of warming. Yes, discussions often stray into mitigation, but the posts tend to be on climate science.

    You also seem to be under the false impression that we will come to some cliff and then things will be as bad as they can get. Not true. We can continue to make things worse by following bidness as usual until we burn the last tree, and even then, we will have opportunities to make things worse.

    The issue we face is how do we confront the fact that human population will crest around 10 billion people around 2050 under the best of scenarios, and that our energy infrastructure may significantly decrease the carrying capacity of the planet. It does not good to say simply that we must stop consuming fossil fuel. If we stop consuming fossil fuels abruptly, you will see billions starve–not millions, billions. And what is more, I don’t expect they will meet their fate stoically. So the answer has to include some use of fossil fuels so that we can feed, clothe and shelter around 10 billion people for the next century until demographics hopefully start to scale back our numbers. Put metaphorically, we’re gonna have to tap on the brakes and maybe even use the gas now and again to get out of this skid.

  24. 124
    Dan H. says:

    Kevin,
    Yes, for the majority of the world, worrying about the supply of energy (and food) comes first. Any talk of near term cessation of carbon-based fuels, without adequate replacement, is absurd. Most of these people are worrying about today, not the future. For them, any potential change years in the future, pales compared to today’s basic needs. The best way to ensure their future, is to live through today.

  25. 125
    Hank Roberts says:

    Wait, the _9th_coldest_of_past_17_ was above average?
    How many of the past 17 were below average? What average of what?

    What time period? What geographic area? Citation?

  26. 126
    Hank Roberts says:

    David Brin proposes we need to:

    “… lay the foundations by doing one simple thing — performing a broad-spectrum survey in order to find out who – in human civilization – happens to be right a lot.
    Can you believe that there has never been a systematic effort to do that one, simple thing? Shine light on all the actuaries, horseracing touts, stock analysts, political pundits and so on who claim to have a handle on the future, with a clear and do-able aim – to appraise and score them, so that we can find out – at long last – who gets it right more often than others… perhaps anomalously often, far above chance? And in contrast, who is full of bull?”
    Inventing Hari Seldon’s psychohistory – and other science marvels

    Actually I’d guess Google is doing that — looking for “The Sources of the Nile”

  27. 127
    Hank Roberts says:

    After decades of ignoring the early warnings, someone’s finally listening to the pedologists

  28. 128
    SecularAnimist says:

    No one is talking about ending all fossil fuel use tomorrow.

    There are, however, multiple realistic plans that have been put forward publicly for ending all fossil fuel use within a generation, with most of the reductions occurring within the first ten years.

    I respectfully suggest that it is more helpful to discuss those plans than it is to debate strawman arguments about ending all fossil fuel use “tomorrow”.

    I would, though, point out to the deniers who like to weep crocodile tears about the supposed impact of a rapid fossil fuel phaseout on the planet’s impoverished multitudes, that those folks use little if any fossil fuels already, and receive none of the benefits and much of the harm attributable to the ongoing fossil fuel gluttony of the rich nations.

  29. 129
    Hank Roberts says:

    In the comments to the soils article at Time, these links posted by reader erichjknight are climate-relevant:

    “… easily biologically degradable plant material is initially converted to microbial biomass which then provides the source material to soil organic matter”
    http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=126987

    (That may change the notion of burying longterm biochar (as stable carbon) — might be smarter to have it quickly feed soil microbes to turn it into useful soil)

    “… fungal potassium being the primary nucleating catalyst for rain:
    How Fungi May Create the Amazon’s Clouds”
    http://discovermagazine.com/2012/sep/04-mushroom-cloud

  30. 130
    Dan H. says:

    Hank,
    See Kevin’s post #115. All your questions have been answered already.

  31. 131
    prokaryotes says:

    The SPIEGEL claims today that Global Warming has stopped since 1998 and claims this is confirmed by a NASA scientist (in 2008). German article (probably soon available in english):

    http://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/natur/stillstand-der-temperatur-erklaerungen-fuer-pause-der-klimaerwaermung-a-877941.html

    Though the article acknowledges some developments but misses the bigger picture and is entirely build on this one argument in a report from 2008. Use google translate for a rudimentary translation, will post the english version once it becomes available.

  32. 132
    Jim Larsen says:

    Hank asked, “Wait, the _9th_coldest_of_past_17_ was above average? How many of the past 17 were below average? What average of what?”

    Just a “debating” technique. Find a meaningless factoid, say, that 2012 was about median if you limit both the baseline and the data to 17 years and only use rank. Now state it so the listener gets a tad confuzzled (mostly cuz the factoid is meaningless) and comes to a totally wrong conclusion.

    Reminds me of the ol’ “Doubt [and confusion] is our product.”

  33. 133
    MARodger says:

    Up thread I was looking for OHC data that would allow the debunking of Bob Tisdale’s nonsensical speculation that recent climate warming was due to ENSO and nothing to do with GHGs. (Tisdale takes this mighty seriously. Not only a book, apparently there’s even a film. Could there be a musical in the offing?)
    I did eventually happen upon a NOAA TOA Project site that gives OHC for the equatorial Pacific. Their T300 data pretty much shows that the energy flux from the 1998 El Nino cannot be big enough to warm the planet as Tisdale insists. The most generous quantity I can count would result in a very high climate sensitivity – about 10ºC/2xCO2 – for El Nino to power the surface warming of the last half century. And at such a level of sensitivity, it would take a lot to explain how anthropogenic forcings have been so well balanced so as to not significantly impact climate, as Tisdale asserts.

    And it gets worse. I have yet to properly consider how the global rise in OHC will effect things. I think it will likely result in showing Tisdale broke thermodynamic laws in his quest to establish his rambling theory of climate.

  34. 134

    #115–SA, I agree with you for the most part. However, someone is indeed talking exactly as I indicated. Specifically, superman1′s #118 says:

    “This means end fossil fuel use today, whatever the cost and sacrifice required…”

    So my comments were not directed a strawman argument (at least as far as I can tell, at least.)

    Beyond that, I can only endorse the call for discussion of realistic plans for rapid emissions reductions. (Bearing in mind, of course, that RC is not necessarily the prime venue for such discussions.)

  35. 135

    Gah! SA’s comment, which I referenced as #115, was really #128. Sorry for any confusion resulting…

  36. 136
    Hank Roberts says:

    125, 130, and

    > Find a meaningless factoid …. state it
    > so the listener gets a tad confuzzled

    Dan H. now cites Gavin as his source.

    Oy.

  37. 137
    Superman1 says:

    Ray Ladbury #123,

    “Your “foundational problem” is not addressed here, because it is not climate science per se, but rather mitigation of warming.”

    The foundational problem we face is the absence of a credible validated climate science model that incorporates all the major positive (and negative) feedback mechanisms in its outyear projections. Without such a model, any statements about rapidity of implementation of renewables and the accompanying expenditures of fossil fuels have no relation to what the climate will allow. I understand quite well the concerns that you and Kevin and Secular are expressing. But, we are talking about decision-making under a high level of uncertainty, in the context of a nonlinear dynamical system. If we guess wrong, such systems have the capability to take uncontrollable excursions very rapidly.

    Let’s take a specific hypothetical example. Suppose, tomorrow, a research group comes out with a new climate model that includes these feedbacks, and the scientific community agrees that the assumptions seem reasonable. Suppose the most probable case is we have one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly, or the climate system goes into self-sustaining mode: the match ignites. Would you say, ‘well, we certainly can’t evacuate the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhatten to the countryside in one year, so let’s hold off for five years’. Obviously, these are far more acceptable statements than mine, but in effect you would be condemning seven billion people to an early demise. For all we know, this may be in fact the case we face. In the absence of more tangible knowledge, it seems the most prudent course would be to phase out fossil fuels ASAP. That’s the cost of our inaction for the past three decades.

  38. 138
    SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “Suppose the most probable case is we have one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly, or the climate system goes into self-sustaining mode: the match ignites. Would you say, ‘well, we certainly can’t evacuate the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhatten to the countryside in one year, so let’s hold off for five years’.”

    What in the world does “evacuating the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhattan to the countryside” have to do with phasing out fossil fuels?

    The per capita fossil fuel consumption of residents of Manhattan is already far lower than that of people living in the “countryside” (suburbs and rural areas).

    If for some reason you wanted to reduce fossil fuel use by mass relocation, you would want to “evacuate” people FROM the countryside, TO the cities, and have them live in apartments and get around by foot or public transit.

  39. 139
    Superman1 says:

    To further amplify the points made in #137. Any of the proposals for how to implement renewables and reduce fossil fuel use can be viewed as project proposals, albeit quite ambitious ones. Successful projects I have seen tend to have three major characteristics: a clear Vision of what is the desired end point; metrics/targets/requirements that will enable the Vision; a detailed Roadmap that will show the temporal steps for reaching the end point, and will insure that no critical constraints are exceeded. Projects that are deficient in even one of these characteristics tend be disasterous.

    Most of the proposals I’ve seen offered here for transitioning to a renewables-based economy don’t contain even one of these characteristics, much less all three. But, even if a proposer took the time to lay out a Vision and associated requirements, they still couldn’t satisfy the third condition: a Roadmap that insured none of the critical constraints were exceeded. That’s because we don’t have the credible climate model I have described above that would tell us what these non-negotiable constraints are. So, from my perspective, any proposals about switching to renewables in a generation may sound nice, but are meaningless in relation to what the climate will allow.

    I support solar and the other renewables. In 1961, I worked on a solar concentrator-Rankine cycle converter combination for powering a Space vehicle. I noticed recently that such a system was being demonstrated for a power plant in Spain. We had this technology fifty years ago, and could have implemented it then! No fancy solar cell efficiency upgrades required; only reflectors, absorbers, and a working fluid. We chose not to, and are left with some grim choice alternatives.

  40. 140
    Chris Korda says:

    Superman1: Do you imagine we suffer from collective amnesia? We’ve heard this argument from you countless times. Reduced to its bare bones: incompetent and/or corrupt scientists create flawed models, which engender false optimism and prevent us from ending all fossil fuel use tomorrow by declaring worldwide martial law. This is pure trolling and belongs in the borehole. I’m still waiting for some proof of your “well over two hundred papers in the peer-reviewed journal literature.” (November 2012 open thread @430)

  41. 141
    Chris Colose says:

    Superman1-

    You seem to have in mind models with an interactive carbon cycle, as opposed to those in which CO2 evolution is prescribed externally (in your case, to see the impact of emissions over some defined mitigation time period). This is becoming fairly standard. Really, I don’t see why such an experiment would need anything more than an intermediate-complexity model like UVic, coupled with some sort of simple model to allow for permafrost or other carbon feedbacks. This is also along the lines of the Coupled Climate Carbon Cycle Model Intercomparison Project (C4MIP), including both extended AOGCMS and EMICs. And for CMIP5, core simulations use prescribed Representative Concentration Pathways of atmospheric CO2 to encompass the envelope of issues like those you bring up. Then you have the paleo-community (see PMIP) looking at the prevailing mechanisms in the past…(
    One MIP, two MIP, red MIP, blue MIP…how big is the climate blip?)

    Carbon cycle feedbacks certainly affect the CO2 concentration, by e.g., 2100, and thus the global temperature evolution at some point in time. That can also impact the long term tail of global temperature, and perhaps bring something like the Greenland Ice Sheet to within a destabilization point. But I think you vastly overstate the importance of such feedbacks in your post, and the possibility that gradually increasing model complexity will suddenly result in a hidden and brand new catastrophic climate regime that has not been founded by the modeling or paleo community. I’m unconvinced.

  42. 142
    Hank Roberts says:

    Hey, look at the process as New York recovers from its last big flood and storm. The deniers (in the House of Representatives) don’t want any money spent to improve the infrastructure to anticipate different future conditions, because they don’t believe the future will be any different. Why waste money, they say, just put it all back like it was.

    I have never seen, in the real world, a case where the phrase “it seems the most prudent course” actually described what all the people involved believe.

    That’s certainly an opinion. I agree with it.

    It’s not a policy; it’s not a fact.

  43. 143
    sidd says:

    I used to play bridge. You, as declaring team, arrive at a contract. The lie of the cards is initially hidden, and reveals itself as the game proceeds. The contract is an estimate of what you can make, and you play each trick _as though your best current estimate of the card distribution were correct_

    Are there possible distributions that cascade your losses ? Of course! But you must go with what you know, and your best informed guesses as play proceeds. Eventually you will know if the contract is horribly doomed, and then you will play accordingly.

    But that time is not yet.

    sidd

    P.S. To be fair, the defender on the contract is Nature. You cannot hope for errors by the defense … and she has been known to sneak in a joker now and then …

  44. 144
    Susan Anderson says:

    MARodger@~33
    on Tisdale, you might like to take a look at Tamino’s work on this. Don’t know if it will help:
    https://tamino.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/he-knows-not-what-hes-doing/

    SecularAnimist makes some good points.

  45. 145
    Russell says:

    Can Superman1 provide a photo > I need a new model after Watts misadventure with the fearless fossil hunters of The Journal Of Cosmology

  46. 146
    Jim Larsen says:

    129 Hank speculated, “(That may change the notion of burying longterm biochar (as stable carbon) — might be smarter to have it quickly feed soil microbes to turn it into useful soil)”

    My speculation is that at all reasonable ratios biochar is better for plants and will last longer than the soil which would have resulted from the same amount of composting. Surely 50% biochar and 50% compost added to deficient soils couldn’t be too far off the mark.

    Superman1 said, “Suppose the most probable case is we have one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly, or the climate system goes into self-sustaining mode”

    Silly and impossible. We’ve been at this since the 1800s. What are the odds that 2013 is THE magical year?

    But giving you that, with humanity having decided to phase out emissions over 50 years primarily because models aren’t quite ready, and neither is humanity. Say five years pass by. Guess what? We’ve added 10ppm. I’m pretty sure that being able to tell whether a specific 10 ppm will break the system would require a model superior to anything we’ll ever see in our lifetimes.

    But giving you that, we have the ability to cool the planet, reduce ocean acidity, and draw down CO2 concentrations. The only things stopping us from doing all three are risk and expense. When the alternative is total destruction, we’ll probably vote to save our collective hides.

  47. 147
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Superman1: “Suppose the most probable case is we have one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly, or the climate system goes into self-sustaining mode: the match ignites.”

    Simple. Then we’re screwed and tatooed. Period. Next question. You seem to share a misapprehension with the denialists–the idea that if a model is not perfect, then it is worthless. To quote Richard Hamming:
    “The purpose of computing is insight,not numbers.”

    Positing speculative, low-probability scenarios on the negative side is every bit as worthless as positing unreasonably rosy scenarios. Hell, it may be worse as it tends to demoralize the general public.

    Look, we had our chance to avoid significant consequences without severe hardship. That boat sailed. Now we need a much more severe program. We also have to hope like hell that we are going to be damned lucky. Otherwise, we are simply screwed.

  48. 148
    Hank Roberts says:

    > we’ll probably vote to save our collective hides.

    I’m afraid we’re already doing that, for values of “our” defined by voting.

    Voting — and acting — outside our own boundaries, to save our and our neighbors’ and furriners’ and enemies’ kids and grandkids — that’s Buddhist, innit?

  49. 149
    Mal Adapted says:

    I’m engaged in a discussion at SkepticalScience, about whether replacing fossil fuels with renewables can be done without reducing average global buying power (what’s usually meant by “standard of living”) or GDP. The “con” argument is formulated as:

    CO2 limits will harm the economy
    “Legally mandated measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are likely to have significant adverse impacts on GDP growth of developing countries [...] This in turn will have serious implications for our poverty alleviation programs.”

    The “pro” position is stated thus:

    Economic assessments of proposed policy to put a price on carbon emissions are in widespread agreement that the net economic impact will be minor. The costs over the next several decades center around $100 per average family, or about 75 cents per person per week, and a GDP reduction of less than 1%. Moreover, the benefits outweigh the costs several times over, as real-world examples illustrate.

    My non-expert opinion is that the transition clearly must be made soon if climate catastrophe is to avoided, but that for thermodynamic and/or political reasons the economic impacts may be greater than is optimistically projected. IOW, there’s no easy way out. I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, though.

    The larger question is whether halting the liquidation of all natural capital, as must occur if global human society is to be made sustainable in the long term, is possible without major social and political changes. I say no, but defer to Naomi Klein because she writes way better than I do.

  50. 150
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Jim Larsen — 19 Jan 2013 @ 5:16 AM

    You say “The only things stopping us from doing all three are risk and expense.”

    Risk and expense don’t mean squat if about half the voters can’t be persuaded from following their elected officials who, in turn, follow their campaign finance nose rings that are, in turn, yanked on by fossil fuel interests and their pet think tanks. First things first. I don’t know how to do this, but I admire and support those who are trying.

    Steve


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