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Unforced Variations: Jan 2013

Filed under: — group @ January 1st, 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. 151
    SecularAnimist says:

    Superman1 wrote: “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.”

    With all due respect, I have yet to see you offer any substantive, serious analysis of any of the multiple proposals for transitioning to a renewables-based economy that are readily available in the public domain. You just dismiss them out of hand, offering little but unsupported generalities as your reason for doing so.

  2. 152
    Superman1 says:

    Ray Ladbury #147,

    ” 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.””

    Au contraire. In all the models I have developed, the greatest benefit was what I learned in constructing the model. As should be obvious by now, unlike the computer-bred generation, I place far more value on intuition than numbers and charts coming out of a computer (although I certainly don’t discount the latter). When I started focusing seriously on the Arctic during the massive ice melt last Summer, I drew a simple model of a body of water covered by a thick layer of ice. I looked at the gradients of the major variables and the fluxes of mass, momentum, and energy. I then allowed the ice to start melting and expose open water. Beyond some critical amount of open water, the various fluxes, especially across the interface, underwent dramatic changes, in both lateral and vertical directions. All these changes essentially went in one direction: accelerate the ice melt! My interpretation was that Mother Nature was doing whatever it took to eliminate the ice, and these new mechanisms were acting synergistically. It also seemed to me this was a microcasm of the larger positive feedback mechanisms operating in the total biosphere. We are getting a similar synergism, and that’s why I don’t believe the comments of those who downgrade the importance of climate models that incorporate all the feedback mechanisms, positive and negative.

    ” 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.”

    Agreed. But, how do you know the scenario I have posited is low probability, without having the full model to provide some insights? Kevin Anderson states that 2 C limit is the entre to Extremely Dangerous, which includes the possibility of runaway to a much higher equilibrium. He posits 1 C. Why do we believe that is safe? Here we are at 0.8 C, and we’re about to lose the Arctic ice cap for at least part of the Summer. That will allow solar insolation 24/7, and dangerous heating of the ocean. It doesn’t require a great leap to understand the danger of this warming water relative to releasing the methane to the atmosphere. It may very well be the margin of temperature safety is really about 0.5 C, before we lost the ice cap, and we’ve been led down the primrose path with talk of 2 C or even 1 C. So, any scenario on the road to renewables that allows for additional fossil fuel combustion only places us further in the dangerous pre-runaway regime.

  3. 153
    Hank Roberts says:

    > I place far more value on intuition than numbers and charts
    > coming out of a computer …
    > … how do you know the scenario I have posited is low
    > probability, without having the full model to provide
    > some insights?
    > … 2 C limit is the entre to Extremely Dangerous,
    > which includes the possibility of runaway to a much
    > higher equilibrium ….

    Wait, is that runaway and higher equilibrium intuitively obvious?
    And does “runaway and higher equilibrium” emerge from a model?
    Citation would be useful if some exist.

    There’s something odd about this thought process.

  4. 154
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Superman1 — 19 Jan 2013 @ 2:22 PM

    You say “But, how do you know the scenario I have posited is low probability, without having the full model to provide some insights?”

    Exactly, how could we possibly know that anything you write is worth reading without any documentation?

    Steve

  5. 155
    Superman1 says:

    Secular Animist #151,

    “With all due respect, I have yet to see you offer any substantive, serious analysis of any of the multiple proposals for transitioning to a renewables-based economy that are readily available in the public domain.”

    Somehow, you’re not getting the message. The first step in generating a proposal to solve a problem is to define the Requirements for solving the problem. I have no problems with the technologies being offered to transition to a renewables-based economy. I believe you when you state the possibilities of solar replacing fossil fuel, as you have done many times. But, one of the Requirements is that the critical constraint on temperature during the transition process not be exceeded, lest we enter the regime of ‘runaway’ temperature to a much hotter equilibrium. Until you can show that any of the proposed scenarios satisfy this constraint, how can any serious analysis be performed on the proposal? In a sense, I’m posing an unfair question. Until we have credible and validated climate prediction models that incorporate feedback mechanisms, positive and negative, you or any other proposer can’t say whether your proposal will violate or satisfy the critical temperature constraint. Climate science is central here, not just a peripheral item.

    But, to me, this debate is equivalent to two assistant surgeons discussing the merits of which precision scalpel to use in the upcoming operation, when the Chief Surgeon is coming into the room with a meat axe. As I stated in my previous email, I believe we’re in the danger zone at 0.8 C. Compared to the mainstream approach of our government, the fossil energy companies, the fossil energy-producing countries, and other fossil energy related entities, where they are pulling out all the stops to extract and burn as much fossil fuel as they can, either of our approaches would be like a breath of fresh air. That doesn’t mean they would be safe on an absolute basis; they would only be far better than the present suicidal approach, but may still lead to catastrophe.

  6. 156
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Superman1,
    We know the scenario is low-probability based on the preponderance of evidence. It hasn’t happened even though the temperature has warmed more than we are likely to see by 2050. That is not to discount the severity of the effects we are likely to see. They are bad enough. They would be made worse by a sudden crash of productive capacity that prevented us from supporting current populations. You need to remember that climate change is but one of the threats we face. True, all of them require us to invent a sustainable economy if something resembling modern global civilization is to persist into the next century.

  7. 157
    sidd says:

    For those of us who prefer measurements and analysis (as opposed to intuition, no matter how divinely inspired) here is a paper by Alexeev et al. in cryosphere discuss about the influence of Atlantic water (AW) on sea ice melt north of Svalbard all the way to Severnaya Zemlya

    http://www.the-cryosphere-discuss.net/7/245/2013/tcd-7-245-2013.pdf

    for the modellers here, they use NorESM, which includes CICE4 for sea ice

    ” … recent AW warming episode could have contributed up to 150–200 km^3 of sea ice melt per year, which would constitute about 20 % of the total 900 km^3/yr negative trend in sea ice volume since 2004.”

    depiction of extent of sea ice decline is quite shocking. They cannot resist pointing out that AW has enuf heat to melt all the ice several times over. And at 900Km^3/yr sea ice minimum is zero in 3-4 years…

    ” … quite unexpectedly, the expedition entered an open water area where surface water measured about 1 to 2 C while the outside air temperature was −10 to −15 C. Ocean temperature reached almost 5 C at 100 m depth (Fig. 1).”

    sidd

  8. 158
    sidd says:

    The Alexeev and other descriptions of recent voyages in the High Arctic reminded me of an excellent book, “Farthest North” by Fridtjof Nansen. I heartily recommend it, and I am re-reading it now.

    The contrast between the condition of the ice in the late nineteenth century, as contrasted to the Alexeev account is startling.The book is on Gutenberg. Be warned that the slaughter of wildlife is prodigious, and at times the tale is ruthless.

    “It was sad to think we could not take our two last dogs with us, but we should probably have no further use for them, and it would not have done to take them with us on the decks of our kayaks. We were sorry to part with them; we had become very fond of these two survivors. Faithful and enduring, they had followed us the whole journey through; and, now that better times had come, they must say farewell to life. Destroy them in the same way as the others we could not; we sacrificed a cartridge on each of them. I shot Johansen’s, and he shot mine.”

    I do believe the ship “Fram” (Forward!) was reused by Amundsen on his conquest of the South Pole…and I see that the Amundsen narrative is on Gutenberg also.

    sidd

  9. 159
    Patrick says:

    @127 & 128 Hank: on fungi and soil, and fungi as “gateway species, vanguard species,” go to Paul Stamets:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XI5frPV58tY

    We got here by co-evolution, and we’re not getting out of here except by elightened co-evolution.

  10. 160
    Patrick says:

    Oops. Hank, I mean: @127 & 129.

  11. 161
    Superman1 says:

    Sidd #157,

    “AW has enuf heat to melt all the ice several times over. And at 900Km^3/yr sea ice minimum is zero in 3-4 years… ”

    You are correctly describing a very ominous situation. McPherson refers to the lateral convective transport of energy (warm water) from the Atlantic as one reason for his belief that the ice cap will go sooner rather than later, and there will be increased stress on the clathrates. I suspect the desperate nature of this situation is what drove Wadhams to join the AMEG effort. However, as I pointed out in a previous posting I have serious reservations with the three remedial approaches AMEG listed in their Strategic Plan, and as your reference implies, lateral water convective energy transport from outside the Arctic would have to be reduced as well.

  12. 162

    @138 Secular Animist: “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).”

    Sorry, pretty much incorrect. Though I know nobody here accepts intuitive knowledge or logical reasoning, this was intuitively and logically obvious. But, then. I think of things in terms of patterns and sustainable design and have studied climate, energy, economics and sustainability in equal measure, because we must to understand the system.

    One point that even the link below doesn’t seem to consider is embedded energy. E.g., the people dwelling in the city are responsible for a prorated portion of the emissions that created the built environment. And to extend the thought experiment, the future city, the one two hundred years from now that will actually be, much like our skin, will be an entirely different city as buildings crumble and are replaced and repaired. All of this has to be considered. When we look at climate, we are talking about emissions going far, far into the future to keep cities alive in their current states. Where do the resources come from for NY to go through it’s never-ending molt?

    A second point, covered in the link below, is the point of use of products vs. point of production. Who is responsible for the impact of a TV, the maker or the consumer? Just as people rightly point out much of China’s FF use is actually shifted consumption that rightly is attributable to the customers, the consumption of the city is the correct accounting, not the production location.

    It is virtually impossible for a city to be considered sustainable. Regions, yes. A city? No way, no how, and to continue speaking of “sustainable cities” is to me a moral and ethical failure, just like saying NG is “clean” and electric cars, massive windmills and solar PV are all sustainable. No, they are not. Electric cars are a joke in terms of carbon footprint from reduced fuel use (most electricity in the US is generated from fossil fuels) and ecological impact (batteries) vs. keeping an older car and its higher FF use. Greenwashing is possible because the trick is to call efficiency sustainability, and the public – and most activists so far as I can tell – have little idea that these two words mean completely different things.

    Anyway, here is the article: http://phys.org/news/2011-06-city-dwellers-co2-countryside-people.html

    Cities are utterly unsustainable without being thought of as part of a region, or even a continent, in current form. Rural living, however, can be sustainable without cities existing at all. Ergo…

    And, really, what are cities of millions going to *do* in a sustainable future? People seem to have little idea how far consumption must fall to not only get to emissions neutrality, but actually go in reverse for 20 – 100 years, then maintain emissions – with at least 9 billion people on the planet! – at pre-industrial levels so they do not start rising again. What are those city folk going to do with no banking as it is now? With nobody to buy whatever gadgets they might make? Much non-essential work will be gone. Simplification is a foregone conclusion and absolute necessity (Limits to Growth, Catton, Tainter, Diamond) to achieve a sustainable society.

    The city of the future will be much like Detroit will likely be in 20 or 30 years: a patchwork of rural-like areas and little dense neighborhood/community clusters, all running on mass transit – most logically trolleys and light rail, and human powered machines and animals. Small communities will pop up in areas now currently rural. Basically, most cities will see depopulation as a logical consequence of living sustainably.

    And all with roughly the same FF footprint. This bias towards cities being more carbon efficient is going to result in the continued urbanization of the population. This is a very dangerous prospect for the planet.

    And all of this is highly dependent on the weather extremes *not* gauging the food supply, which at this point seems unlikely. You couldn’t pay me to take that bet. http://sustainablog.org/2013/01/global-grain-stocks-drop-dangerously-low-as-2012-consumption-exceeded-production/

  13. 163

    139 Superman1 says,”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.”

    I think there is a logic error here. Risk assessment does not require a perfect model. Risk assessment is virtually never done with perfect knowledge. Proper risk assessment is based on the worst case scenario as balanced by the risk. If the worst risk is more sunburns, well, heck burn all the FFs you want. If the risk is extinction, or at least collapse, stop ASAP.

    We already know the worst case scenario is already at the highest possible level. We do not need better models. All they can do is tell us how much more certain extinction is. What we need is rapid decarbonization. And, yes, there are very workable outlines for how to do this. People already are.

  14. 164
    Hank Roberts says:

    Killian, thank you for that phys.org article on cities in context.

    We put this up on the wall at home as a guide:

    “You can never get enough of what you don’t need to make you happy.”
    – Eric Hoffer

  15. 165
    SecularAnimist says:

    I wrote: “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).”

    Killian O’Brien wrote: “Sorry, pretty much incorrect. Though I know nobody here accepts intuitive knowledge or logical reasoning, this was intuitively and logically obvious.”

    Lots of people find things to be “intuitively and logically obvious” that are, in fact, false, because they’ve applied intuition and logic to unfounded assumptions rather than to facts.

    From the New York Times, April 2009:

    Generally speaking, studies have shown that city dwellers, who frequent public transportation, occupy smaller-than-average and multiunit living spaces, use less energy to heat and cool, tend to have lower carbon footprints than their suburban or rural counterparts, who often have bigger homes, use more energy to heat and cool, and typically drive themselves to and fro.

    A 2008 report by the Brookings Institution, for example, found that the average American in a metropolitan area has a carbon footprint of 8.21 tons — 14 percent less than the average American living outside the city.

    And Edward L. Glaeser, an economics professor at Harvard, reached a similar conclusion in a study he conducted along with Matthew Kahn, a U.C.L.A. environmental economist. “Cities generally have significantly lower emissions than suburban areas, and the city-suburb gap is particularly large in older areas, like New York,” the authors found.

    A new study appearing in the April issue of the journal Environment and Urbanization looked at cities in a variety of countries, and for the most part, it affirms these findings.

    Analyzing the per capita emissions from 12 major cities in Europe, Asia, North America and South America, the study’s author, David Dodman of the International Institute for Environment and Development — a London-based sustainable development research group financed by a variety of public and private donors — found that per capita emissions from cities were typically smaller than their nation’s averages.

    Using data collected from a variety of sources, including several previously published studies and commissioned reports, Mr. Dodman found that, of the cities studied, Washington ranked the highest in terms of per capita carbon dioxide levels, with 19.7 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emitted, compared to 23.92 tonnes nationally.

    For its part, New York City, which in 2007 conducted its own greenhouse gas study, registered 7.1 tonnes per capita.

    Please note that I was not addressing the long-term “sustainability” of “cities”.

    I was specifically addressing Superman1′s assertion (#137) that if we had “one year to phase out fossil fuels linearly” to avoid a runaway greenhouse scenario, that we should “evacuate the residents of the Upper East Side of Manhatten to the countryside in one year”.

    My point was that a mass evacuation of New York City to “the countryside” makes no sense at all as a way to rapidly reduce fossil fuel consumption or GHG emissions, since the GHG footprints of New Yorkers are already among the lowest in the nation, right where they are. And I believe the studies mentioned above support that view.

  16. 166
    Superman1 says:

    Killian O’Brian #163,

    In #139, I stated: ” 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.”

    You have taken my third sentence completely out of context. The context is that it is the responsibility of the proposer to show his/her concept is ‘safe’, and will not violate temperature constraints. If the proposer is not able to demonstrate safety, then we cannot assume it is safe and move forward. You then go on to say: ” We already know the worst case scenario is already at the highest possible level. We do not need better models. All they can do is tell us how much more certain extinction is. What we need is rapid decarbonization.”

    Well, yes and no. Depends on what is being proposed. Many proposers, including myself, propose a combination of CO2 emissions reduction, atmospheric carbon recovery, and some interim geo-engineering to help insure the temperature does not go beyond some critical level during the interim transition process. I rule out nothing; everything is on the table. While I might prefer the most radical CO2 emissions reduction, with its attendant pain and sacrifice, I am open to combination schemes that could ease the transition process. Maybe there is an interior optimum. All I require is that the proposer demonstrate we don’t go over the temperature cliff during the transition process. I don’t see how one can do that without a climate model that includes the feedback mechanisms. More broadly, given the point that McPherson makes and Sidd has amplified further today about warm Atlantic water entering the Arctic and contributing to ice melting and beyond, we need a coupled atmospheric-ocean model, and if we want to ascertain the risk to releasing methane from the clathrates, we need these models coupled to a sediment model as well. There is too much at stake here for our civilization to base some proposal for transition to renewables on essentially what is feel-good arm-waving.

  17. 167
    Superman1 says:

    Secular Animist #165,

    In #137, I gave a hypothetical example to illustrate a point: ” 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.” You state, in relation to the evacuation sentence in my example: ” My point was that a mass evacuation of New York City to “the countryside” makes no sense at all as a way to rapidly reduce fossil fuel consumption or GHG emissions, since the GHG footprints of New Yorkers are already among the lowest in the nation, right where they are.”

    i would have to see every assumption made in any study that came to that conclusion. New Yorkers living in fifty story high-rises on the Upper East Side would be dead in one week without fossil fuel. Everything they get has to be imported, including their food. They don’t even walk to their units; they are transported today by fossil fuels. They make essentially nothing in that community. In my mind, that is the exact opposite of sustainability. And, do these computations include the cost of all the fossil fuel that was burned in order to create that infrastructure? I’ve known people who lived in communal arrangements in places like New Mexico who were completely self-sustainable, by design. Night and day, compared to the Upper East Side. I would appreciate a link to that study, so I can see what assumptions were in fact made.

  18. 168
    Hank Roberts says:

    > people who lived in communal arrangements
    > in places like New Mexico who were completely
    > self-sustainable

    Yeah, but then came the drought, and the Spaniards, and the Texians …

  19. 169
    AIC says:

    Maybe not news for many, but since I don’t seem to see it here, I will toss out that Think Progress http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/01/20/1474571/koch-funded-study-finds-25f-warming-of-land-since-1750-is-manmade-solar-forcing-does-not-appear-to-contribute/ comments that Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Study (BEST) papers are now published http://berkeleyearth.org/papers/ http://www.scitechnol.com/ArchiveGIGS/articleinpressGIGS.php .

    [Response: A completely un-novel result published in the first volume and first issue of a journal I've never heard of before. No wonder. Any good reviewer would have said "the paper should be rejected for its lack of new information". Muller is quoted as saying the results are "more rigorous than the IPCC", which makes no sense on several grounds, starting with the fact that the IPCC doesn't do research; it just collates published findings of others. Wow. Maybe I should write a paper "discovering" E=MC2 and publish it in issue 2 of this journal. Sorry to be so cynical but.. I remain amazed at the arrogance of the Berkeley group. I suppose it is a good thing this was published, but I am sure it will be ignored both by the reality-based community who knew it already, and by those who don't want to know it.--eric]

  20. 170

    SA said, “Please note that I was not addressing the long-term “sustainability” of “cities”.”

    You were. Perhaps you didn’t realize it, but they are one and the same discussion. As someone else pointed out earlier, the thought experiment of a one-year evacuation is moot, so not worth the time. The point about city vs. rural FF footprint/efficiency is a vital one. The city being more efficient is false according to the link I provided. That is the only germane point worth responding to, so I did. Responding with an older study that did not apply the updated and seemingly much superior methodology doesn’t make much sense.

    But let us play with your thought experiment. First, let us appropriately dismiss the “cities are more efficient/have a lower carbon footprint” thesis. Still, the new study does not say rural dwellers are less carbon intensive, rather they are roughly equal, so shifting would appear to be a wash. However, the original condition of a single year is beyond pointless, so we summarily dismiss that, too. For the thought experiment to be more than a Middle School debate topic, it must be extended to a time period that actually allows for a solution, and that is likely somewhere between 100 and 200 years, and that in a rather perfect response paradigm.

    With an extended time line, a significant portion of the population shifting out of the city is a necessity because, again, few cities have the land area to even begin to approach anything like self-reliance in… anything. Depopulation creates space needed to create a broader economy that at least edges toward sustainable, reduces the number of people with virtually nothing to do as consumption plummets to a very small fraction (maintenance of sub-300ppm CO2 production levels) of current levels, and reduces the burden on the surrounding region in supporting the city in areas it cannot produce in large quantities, such as food.

    I see pretty much zero chance of this scenario not playing out, else, how do you reduce consumption to such low levels with 9 billion people?

    Sorry if you feel I have moved the goal posts, but we are years past the point where we should be engaging in meaningless hypotheticals. Meanwhile, a very important point has been clarified, which cannot but be good for future discussions.

  21. 171

    Superman1 says: Killian O’Brian #163,

    In #139, I stated: ” 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.

    Perhaps you have not read mine, or been exposed to permaculture design principles?

    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.

    You don’t lay out the vision. That’s the first error. Sustainability is what it is. You design for it or you don’t. The nature of sustainability is that it is ultimately local, and all sustainable design is based in what the ecosystem *can* provide rather than what we wish it did. This is based in a resource inventory and a needs analysis. The parameters are defined by local conditions, solved at local levels, likely with some bio-regional cross-support, and in the early stages some national support (as a region or ara, not a socio-political structure.) If you want it more detailed than that, you are already failing to design within the principles that guide us to sustainability.

    Second error is repeating the original error of requiring perfect knowledge and failing to accept that proper modality is not perfect constraint of future possibilities, but risk assessment based on the worst case scenario that has more than a tiny chance of occurring. We already have that. We know continued emissions = massive degradation of the ecosystem and some level of collapse. It’s already starting in the form of eutrophication, acidification, mass extinction, ecosystem disruptions, food production falling below consumption this year and other recent years ( http://sustainablog.org/2013/01/global-grain-stocks-drop-dangerously-low-as-2012-consumption-exceeded-production/2/ ), and on and on. We also know the Arctic began losing ice around 1953 when atmospheric CO2 was only around 310 – 315 ppm. The parameter you seek is simply this: we are headed for collapse, so we must radically decarbonize. Period.

    That’s because we don’t have the credible climate model I have described above

    And likely never will. We don’t need it. Policies are not based on scientific results, they are based on risk assessment sussed from those results. Policy is far broader than the science in scope. We have more than enough science to know the cliff lies ahead and must brake, if we are not too late.

    that would tell us what these non-negotiable constraints

    I repeat: the Arctic started melting at 310 – 315 ppm. Factor in ocean lag time of thirty years and it’s… fairly certain to be sub-300 ppm. That’s your limit. You do not need to know anything else.

    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.”

    Given renewables aren’t renewable, you have a point. But this is why simplification is so important. It means transitioning homes and buildings to hyper-efficiency and reducing consumption via a build-out of mass transit magnified by a massive reduction in the need for any transit, etc. The real problem most “planners” have is they want to preserve the structure of society that is. They do not want to consider simplification even though it is blindingly obvious there is no choice. (See Tainter and Diamond.) This requires a super-massive “renewables” build out. Reduce consumption by something like 80 – 90 percent and you suddenly do not need anywhere the build out of renewables currently assumed.

    There is a saying in the literature, “The problem is the solution.” I hated it when I first encountered it as a Mobius strip of empty rhetorical flim-flam. But it is true. Sometimes it’s along the lines of the old joke about telling the doctor it hurts when I do that and the doctor telling you to not do that. If, e.g., current farming practices are destroying the soil and emptying aquifers, stop doing that. Sometimes it’s more subtle. If, e.g., you are growing cattle (based on a true design story) and keep getting swarms of locusts that eat their grass, well, you don’t have an overabundance of locusts, you have a lack of turkeys, which love to eat locusts. (Hope I’m not mixing up the biota!) And, rather than being a beef or dairy farmer, your environment is telling you to be a turkey farmer. Design is local, and the problem is the solution.

    What is the parameter? What Nature told you it was: sub-300ppm. What’s the solution? Produce no more GHGs than the planet can sequester to stay below 300 ppm (and for a while produce little enough to allow rapid sequestration.) How? Simplify. Localize.

    You have taken my third sentence completely out of context. The context is that it is the responsibility of the proposer to show his/her concept is ‘safe’, and will not violate temperature constraints.

    Don’t think I did. I just know sustainable design and that what you want to do is rather completely irrelevant. Nothing is perfectly safe. It’s about risk levels and error bars and adjusting if errors are made. Nothing I would suggest is really all that scary. You could change a rain pattern in a way you didn’t anticipate by reestablishing a large area of forest, but trees can pretty quickly be cut down, if so, e.g. You go trying some dopey technofix adaptation and it goes wrong, you are very possibly in deep trouble. Natural fixes, not so much. And given solutions are local, any given design element is highly unlikely to affect the globe – unlike seeding the ocean or space mirrors or what have you.

    We do not need better models. All they can do is tell us how much more certain extinction is. What we need is rapid decarbonization.”

    Well, yes and no. Depends on what is being proposed. Many proposers, including myself, propose a combination of CO2 emissions reduction, atmospheric carbon recovery, and some interim geo-engineering to help insure the temperature does not go beyond some critical level during the interim transition process.

    Yes, actually. Principle: Natural before mechanical, mechanical before hi-tech.

    The only good geo-engineering is natural geo-engineering and the only good carbon capture is natural carbon capture. Sequester carbon in soils (Rodale study), reforest (James Hansen), afforest, farm regeneratively (Rodale), bio-char (Albert Bates), but mostly slam the brake on consumption (Tainter, Catton, Diamond, Limits to Growth and most recently http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1754/20122845.full.pdf+html )

    All I require is that the proposer demonstrate we don’t go over the temperature cliff during the transition process.

    Well, I have stated above how to reduce carbon significantly without changing society much at all (reforestation, afforestation, food forests, regenerative farming) and larger changes that would be transformative. All a bit simplistic, but unavoidably so as sustainability truly is primarily local. An area I truly do not wish to get into here is sustainable governance. It is beyond important, but would not be a discussion welcomed here, I do not think.

    Everything I have suggested only pulls us back from the temperature cliff. These responses are necessary, imo, and will be an important part of an ultimately sustainable design, but if only some are done in isolation they are little bandaids. What they importantly would be, are buyers of time (if key tipping points with the oceans and the Arctic have not been passed.)

    Ideally, these things would happen in concert with full-blown, rapid decarbonization which just might step us back from the brink of tipping points and end in a sustainable societies globally.

    I don’t see how one can do that without a climate model that includes the feedback mechanisms. More broadly, given the point that McPherson makes and Sidd has amplified further today about warm Atlantic water entering the Arctic and contributing to ice melting and beyond, we need a coupled atmospheric-ocean model, and if we want to ascertain the risk to releasing methane from the clathrates, we need these models coupled to a sediment model as well.

    I’m not sure why you are repeating this. The climate models are not how risk assessment is done and we know more than enough to act without them. We must go backwards. How much more do you need to know? The clathrates are already melting. How fast? Who cares! Because we don’t know where the tipping point is, the only sane response is to pull back ASAP, and faster than that. The only safe assumption is it is happening as we speak, but rapid draw down of carbon will prevent it from become self-perpetuating. Narrowing the error bars does not change any of this assessment an iota. The risk is an ELE, and the trigger is already being pulled back.

    The problem we have here is I cannot write ten pages to explain what a sustainable society must look like, at least in its basic characteristics, so I have no means to show you why your call for perfect modeling is irrelevant. The short answer is, simplification literally cannot lead to *greater* carbon use unless it devolves into warfare. But, then, it’s no longer simplification, right? My point thus holds: if we simplify, and thereby reduce consumption to a level that will allow 9 billion people to produce no more GHG’s than allow the planet to stay below 300 ppm, we can stabilize climate. None of the solutions increase carbon output:
    * Localizing reduces transport energy, energy transmission losses and more.
    * Simplification, aka consumption reduction, helps every metric.
    * Reforestation supports bio-diversity and mitigates extinctions, increases oxygen, sequesters carbon, provides raw materials and food stuffs, improves and allows some manipulation of water cycles and rainfall patterns, reduces air particulates, allows management of air flows, sequesters water in the soil, builds soil, and more.
    * Food Forests do all that reforestation does while stabilizing the food supply significantly.
    * Agroforestry, sustainable farming, et al., will build soil, sequester carbon, sequester water (refilling aquifers as carbon content of soils grows and retains far more water in the soil to make its way into the aquifers), maintain and/or increase food production, reduce waste (thus “increasing” food production by up to thirty percent or so.)

    Which of these do you see as increasing carbon emissions?

    And don’t come back with any of this being politically impossible. Irrelevant because there is quite literally no choice. It’s sustainability or bust, pure and simple. People can gnash their teeth and shake their fists all they want, but they still will not be driving individual vehicles by mid-century. Well, not unless we have chosen sui-genocide by then.

    The problem is the solution: Politically impossible? Change the political structure. Change to sustainable governance. Can’t be done? Too bad. You have no choice.

    Choose: sustainability or ELE/collapse. And please do note Mollison’s words: While the problems are increasingly complex, the solutions remain embarrassingly simple.

  22. 172
    John West says:

    Inline Response to #169
    “Any good reviewer would have said “the paper should be rejected for its lack of new information”.” — Eric

    And probably did (I doubt that GIGS was their first choice), but I don’t recall seeing this result before, perhaps it’s new: (?)


    “The behavior of the diurnal range is not simple; it drops from 1900 to 1987, and then it rises. The rise takes place during a period when, according to the IPCC report, the anthropogenic effect of global warming is evident above the background variations from natural causes. Although the post-1987 rise is not sufficient to undo the drop that took place from 1901 to 1987, the trend of 0.86 ± 0.13°C/century is distinctly upwards with a very high level of confidence. This reversal is particularly odd since it occurs during a period when the rise in Tavg was strong and showed no apparent changes in behavior.”

  23. 173
    Superman1 says:

    Killian O’Brian #171,

    “Second error is repeating the original error of requiring perfect knowledge and failing to accept that proper modality is not perfect constraint of future possibilities, but risk assessment based on the worst case scenario that has more than a tiny chance of occurring. We already have that…… The parameter you seek is simply this: we are headed for collapse, so we must radically decarbonize. Period…..We don’t need it [credible climate model]. Policies are not based on scientific results, they are based on risk assessment sussed from those results. Policy is far broader than the science in scope. We have more than enough science to know the cliff lies ahead and must brake, if we are not too late…..You do not need to know anything else.”

    Right. Forget about climate science. Just keep adding and removing substances to the atmosphere and ocean without understanding the downstream consequences. That has certainly served us well.

    Here’s the context. There have been a number of proposals for ameliorating climate change on this blog and many other climate blogs. I offered one, consisting of extremely rapid elimination of fossil fuels, rapid removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, and some interim geo-engineering to ‘quench’ the positive feedback mechanisms before they lead to ‘runaway’ conditions. I realized there was zero chance of this happening voluntary, so I suggested the only way it could be implemented was by involuntary means, and offered some possibilities. In the interim period, as the temperature profile is (hopefully) turned around, living would have to be quite austere by today’s mainline standards; e.g., Pennsylvania Amish or perhaps even indigenous Native Americans.

    None of the respondents liked the ‘involuntary’ aspect; they wanted to retain democratic approaches. In my view, if survival is compromised, that’s an irresponsible constraint. None of the respondents was comfortable with extremely rapid decrease of fossil fuel use. Most of the proposals that tend to appear on this and other climate blogs tend to involve perhaps a one or even two generation transition to renewables, with modest changes in living standards, and minimal discomfort.

    Now, we have to keep our eyes on the goal post. The end target needs to be survival of our civilization, with the definition of ‘survival’ having a broad range. It seems to me that proposing a ‘sounds-good feels-good’ approach might be good for political objectives, and might have an acceptable end product, but it does us no good if we go off the cliff in the transition period. That’s the value of a credible climate model; it provides some indication of whether any proposal is viable.

    Harsh as it is, I don’t know whether my proposal is viable. Cutting out fossil fuels has two consequences. It does not add any more CO2 to the atmosphere, which is good. It also does not add any more short-lived fossil sulphates to the atmosphere, which is not good. The Albedo is reduced. As a consequence, if we were to cut fossil fuel use ‘today’, we would see a temperature increase to ~1.5-3.0 C over the next 30-40 years, according to estimates I’ve seen, with some outliers even higher. That may be enough to put us over the cliff. That’s why I recommend rapid CO2 drawdown and some geo-engineering in parallel, to do some temperature profile tailoring to hopefully stay within acceptable limits during the transition. Any CO2 drawdown and geo-engineering will require some fossil fuel expenditures for implementation, and this has to be taken into account as well. So, even my harsh proposal needs to be validated by some credible climate model with feedback mechanisms, to insure that we violate no constraints.

    The other proposals are less harsh, and would take us even closer to the cliff. All I’m asking for from the other proposers is to demonstrate that their approach will not take us over the cliff during the interim transition. I don’t know how they can do this without a valid climate model.

    You also state: “And don’t come back with any of this being politically impossible. Irrelevant because there is quite literally no choice. It’s sustainability or bust, pure and simple. People can gnash their teeth and shake their fists all they want, but they still will not be driving individual vehicles by mid-century. Well, not unless we have chosen sui-genocide by then.

    The problem is the solution: Politically impossible? Change the political structure. Change to sustainable governance. Can’t be done? Too bad. You have no choice.”

    Now, your proposal is not much different from mine. Both are rather harsh compared to how we live today. When you state that there’s no choice, it’s sustainability or bust, that’s hard medicine for people to swallow. If we had seen a decade or two of people going, say, 40% of where they needed to be in terms of fossil fuel use reduction, or 60%, then we could envision that with a little more coaxing and incentives, we could get them to give 100% all-out effort. But, looking at the record of the past thirty years, we see people going 0.0% of where they need to be. What do you think the odds are of their doing a 180 degree turn-about, especially in the near-term where it’s needed? Politically impossible; you bet, at least from a voluntary perspective.

    I’m not sure we haven’t passed the point of no return, but I would like some confirmation of that with credible models. If we still have some breathing room, and can accommodate some of the more politically-acceptable proposals made on this site, great. But, the proposers need to demonstrate no temperature constraints violated in the interim, and I don’t see how that can be done without credible models.

  24. 174
    Hank Roberts says:

    > I don’t see how that can be done without credible models.

    No models are credible (as you use the word) but some are useful.

    > looking at the record of the past thirty years,
    > we see people going 0.0%

    Post a cite to what you’re looking at that shows zip zero nada?
    Somehow you are not seeing published work on the subject, e.g.
    http://www.aceee.org/proceedings-paper/ss04/panel07/paper20

  25. 175
    Hank Roberts says:

    see also the other articles at that site, e.g.

    “The United States economy has tripled in size since 1970 and three-quarters of the energy needed to fuel that growth came from … efficiency advances—not new energy supplies…. the United States economy remains about 13 percent energy-efficient…. such investments can provide one-half or more of the needed greenhouses gas emissions reductions most scientists agree are needed between now and the year 2050.”
    http://www.aceee.org/blog/2010/08/america-s-anemic-13-energy-efficiency

    Your opinions that none of this is happening must rely on information you consider reliable. But I can’t figure out what you’re looking at.

  26. 176

    Has President Obama shifted his stance on the politics of climate change? Maybe…

    http://doc-snow.hubpages.com/hub/Not-One-Word

  27. 177
  28. 178
    Superman1 says:

    Hank Roberts #175,

    “But I can’t figure out what you’re looking at.”

    Try a plot of global CO2 emissions for the past three decades. Or, if you want USA numbers, add together what we’ve actually emitted and the emissions from industries that used to be in this country are now generating overseas. Keep your eye on the ‘pea’ (CO2 emissions) not the shell (additional sources we’ve added). The ‘pea’ is what’s doing us in. The only people I know who are burning less fossil fuels are those who never recovered from the recession, and who take less trips, keep their homes cooler in Winter and warmer in Summer, etc. That’s all Kevin Anderson is really recommending. Let’s have ‘planned austerity’, and there will be more of these types of conserving people around, using less fossil fuel-based products because they have less to spend.

  29. 179
    SecularAnimist says:

    Hank Roberts wrote to Superman1: “Your opinions that none of this is happening must rely on information you consider reliable.”

    As far as I can tell, it’s turtles all the way down.

  30. 180
    wili says:

    I don’t really see that much difference between Sup and Brian’s positions (to the extent that I’ve followed it)–both seem to grok the basic fact that we are too far along for half-way measures (even if those seem to be the best the current political situation seems to offer, if that). To the extent there is a difference, I tend to side with Brian, particularly with nature-based ‘geo-engineering’–using plants and trees to do what sequestration they can do. One point on that, though–iirc, in upper (and mid?) latitudes, new trees can actually enhance warming by shifting albedo.

    Hanks point about the possibility of economic growth without equal levels of ff use increase is perhaps even better made by looking at Germany, though I don’t know how much manufacturing has been off-shored there.

    Long-term, though, I still think economic growth will not be possible over decades with a rapid draw-down and eventual elimination of fossil fuel use (unless ‘economic growth’ is redefined in such a way to make it essentially meaningless).

    Basically, we need a new ideal economic lifestyle to aim towards, rather than the high-consumption one of the West, and now of much of the rest of the world. People can have high levels of both subjective and objective levels of well-being without engaging in obscene levels of consumerism. But this sweet-spot of low-consumption matched with high levels of well being is now not in evidence on a national basis in any country that I know of, though Bhutan has at least explicitly set this as their national goal, iirc.

    By the way, Brian is also of course right about cities. Much as I love them, they are by definition not sustainable within their borders. Historically, there were pretty much no cities larger than one million people before the industrial revolution unless they were the centers of empires–that is, unless they exploited many resources from far beyond their spacial municipal borders.

    Fossil fuels can be seen as temporarily allows exploitation of resources beyond temporal borders of the city–robbing from both past and (more essentially) future.

    But that robbed-from future is now upon us.

  31. 181
    Jim Larsen says:

    150 Steve Fish said”..half the voters.. their elected officials..by fossil fuel interests..their pet think tanks”

    All of the above are people or groups of people. Their aggregate honor, morality, ethics, and other characteristics is average. You surely can point to major bad apples, but that’s what exists in an average group. By the way, this is axiomatic per “We the people..” and related documents and religions. Yours?

    By and large they all have children or otherwise think of posterity with great interest. By and large they have convinced themselves that you are the evil which must be stopped in order to save their children from ruin.

    But once things get a little worse and science pins down sensitivity better and Lindzen et al go quiet or quietly join the mainstream and renewables drop in price – you know, all the stuff that we KNOW will happen over the next decade – well, their aggregate intelligence is average too. They’ll change their minds. After all, their motivation is to protect their children.

    And you don’t have to convince many. Skeptics are an older demographic. Ten years will kill off quite a few. And once you’ve got 60-70% of the electorate, resistance becomes futile.

  32. 182
    Jim Larsen says:

    152 S1 said, “In all the models I have developed, the greatest benefit was what I learned in constructing the model.”

    Classroom experience (or self-taught) is grand, but have any of your models been used one for productive work?

    How many lines of code was that ice-over-water model?

  33. 183
    Hank Roberts says:

    > 60-70 percent

    “… 89% of the [geologists surveyed at two annual meetings] respondents believe that climate change presents a significant risk to the public, whereas only about half the general population is concerned.”

    http://www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/23/1/article/i1052-5173-23-1-51.htm

    Looks like they own seashore property, or worry about those who do: http://www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/23/1/figure/i1052-5173-23-1-51-f01.htm

  34. 184

    Right. Forget about climate science. Just keep adding and removing substances to the atmosphere and ocean without understanding the downstream consequences. That has certainly served us well.

    Why pretend this is what I said? What does that get you, or anyone else?

    consisting of extremely rapid elimination of fossil fuels, rapid removal of CO2 from the atmosphere, and some interim geo-engineering to ‘quench’ the positive feedback mechanisms before they lead to ‘runaway’ conditions.

    Until you specify how this might be done, you aren’t really saying anything. (Any geo-engineering when all we have to do is grow food differently and plant forests makes no sense at all.) My proposals are fairly specific. Reforestation, afforestation, food forests and regenerative farming alone would equal somewhere in the neighborhood of > 150% of current emissions. That includes no attempt at localization whatsoever. Current emissions are equaling somewhere north of 3 ppm CO2/yr when you count both atmospheric increase and the 25% or so going into the oceans. So by this count we should be able to start reversing CO2 at around 4ppm/yr, with no broad social changes at all. Reduce consumption to 80% of current and you’re now going backwards at, what?, around > 7 ppm? Realistically, can we expect better? We can realistically be below 300ppm within 20 years. Well, realistic would probably be closer to 50 years. Regardless, we are talking a global mobilization, or, rather, demobilization.

    I’m not sure we haven’t passed the point of no return, but I would like some confirmation of that with credible models.

    Show me a group of scientists willing to model significant CH4 destabilization and significant ice sheet disintegration within 100 years, and you might get that. I don’t think either of those things are included in any current models, are they? You want your credible model? It has to include those possibilities.

    Here’s something I toyed with back in 2008-9. Still valid, and what you are actually trying to get to. We know more than enough about the climate science to make changes. We should continue the research by all means, but not for policy so much as awareness and reinforcement of just how close to the cliff, or over it, we are. The changes we make will be the same regardless of any new information if we are moving to sustainability.

    What actually needs modeling are the solution responses, not because we don’t know what to do or how to design sustainable communities, but to convince people to do it!

    http://aperfectstormcometh.blogspot.com/2009/05/perfect-storm-world-simulation-peak-oil.html

    From the post:
    …envisioned something with the following components or characteristics:

    - It would be huge, along the lines of MMPRPGs, but necessarily bigger than any before it. This needs to be international in scope since any solutions must also be, and must offer realistic simulations.

    - It would include participation of individuals from all levels of society, i.e., gov’t. officials and orgs, non-profits, NGO’s and, most importantly, the public.

    - It would preferably have an interface like [a] virtual reality game.

    - It would have real climate models attached…

    - It would would include energy decline reality.

    - It would include other resource constraints (water, fisheries, farming, etc.)

    - It would include real-world economic data.

    - It would allow for new models of governance, economic systems and societal structures to be tried and tested, such as Steady State economic models (1, 2, 3), barter economies, etc.

    - Perhaps multiple runs/games going simultaneously, much like Global Climate Models. Maybe individuals could start up their own runs and people could jump in if they liked the parameters set by the originator?

    - Perhaps dummy nodes/agents coded to model the averages for given regions/cities/countries to get the numbers up as high as possible.

    I’d still love to do this. There are a couple games out there kind of like this, but none so grand in scope or realism. In fact, I suspect one may have been developed after someone read about his idea on theoildrum.com, which is where I first proposed it. I think something like this could actually help us model a pathway.

    Note: I developed this idea and wrote the blog post before I studies sustainable design, so the sophistication of my knowledge level now is significantly higher and would affect my suggestion if re-written.

  35. 185
    sidd says:

    Mr. Jim Larsen asked:

    “How many lines of code was that ice-over-water model?”

    One, but it was in APL, (and he laughed immoderately…)

    More seriously, CICE4.1 seems to be not so large, 50K lines of F90, i am reading the docs and it all seems sensible, might play with it forabit

    sidd

  36. 186
    sidd says:

    1)CH4 destabilization

    clathrate gun didnt go off in the Eemian so why now?

    2)ice sheet disintegration in 100 yr

    How will you get a mole of joules into the ice sheet ? For WAIS i calculate that the 1/2 Sverdrup influx of CDW measured under PIG (Jacobs et al. 2011, DOI: 10.1038) for example, would have to be multiplied into something at least two or three orders of magnitude larger. I suspect that half a mole of Joules into GRIS and WAIS each in 100 yr might be feasible, but show me the math, and more important, the physics. Until then I prefer a millenium rather than a century for those time constants.

    sidd

  37. 187
    David B. Benson says:

    sidd @186 — The SI unit you want is
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joule#Yottajoule

  38. 188

    “Skeptics are an older demographic. Ten years will kill off quite a few. And once you’ve got 60-70% of the electorate, resistance becomes futile.”

    I tend to think that the general thrust of this is correct: another ten years will make a big difference. Of course, we really don’t have another ten years to initiate effective action…

    But is there a cite on the ‘older demographic’ bit? I’ve seen a few anecdotes to that effect (and the video of the Monckton Pomposity Tour showed a lot of older folks in the crowd), but you know what anecdotes are worth.

  39. 189
    Jim Larsen says:

    188 Kevin M said, “But is there a cite on the ‘older demographic’ bit?”

    I’ve read a few, but polls are what they are. Pick a position and you can find a poll to support it.

    The absolute strongest link is “conservatives tend towards climate ignorance and denial”. They don’t care and are always wrong. Everything I’ve read said Obama won amongst younger voters. Everything I’ve read says old conservatives are the core demographic of skeptics.

    Sure “everything I’ve read” could be totally wrong, but anecdotal and polling data does build up after a while. It’s evidence, not proof.

  40. 190

    sidd, selective quoting is not appreciated. When you’d like to discuss, please note I didn’t merely say “clathrate gun” nor did I merely say “ice sheet disintegration.”

  41. 191
    T Marvell says:

    So we are about to go over the cliff, unless we drastically cut ff use. Given the long lag between CO2 increases and temperature increases, it’s possible that we are already over the cliff.

    Only an extreme optimist can believe that the world’s governments will get their act together and reduce ff use for many decades. Conservation efforts have not slowed energy use, and it’s silly to think it will.

    We have to get ready for a “hail Mary” – something drastic and something that has not been thought of or has been viewed as totally unacceptable.

    There are two areas where a hail Mary might come from. The first is a new energy source that would replace ff. But nothing is on the horizon. Sun, wind, tidal, atomic, etc., are hardly making a dent. We have to consider other ideas, even wacko ideas, and maybe something will come out of the blue.

    The second is reducing the earth’s albedo. A little less heat from the sun will go a long way. Geo-engineering has a bad name and fierce opposition from environmental groups, but going over the cliff is worse. Seeding the atmosphere (and above) has especially been considered risky and unfeasible. I have long tried to wip up interest in requiring commercial airlines to spray cloud-seeding molecules on their regular trips(in the morning, at mid to low lattidudes, and seasonly), but the opposition by environmentalists has been large.

    The best place to look to counteract global warming is the ocean’s small albedo, about 7%. Even a tiny increase would quickly cool the earth. As far as I know, this has received little attention (other than the water/ice albedo difference). It is likely that a thin surface film (oil, soap, etc) would increase the albedo because there is double-reflection (off the top of the film and off the top of the water) and because there are more whitecaps. But there will be less evaporation and other countervailing forces. Again, this is a hail Mary.

    Basically, the environmentalists and almost all others who oppose AGW have put their eggs in one basket – reducing ff use. It’s time to face the obvious: they have failed to make progress, and the evidence is that they will continue to fail. Their fall-back position seems to be that, when we go over the cliff, they can say “see, we told you so” and be smug about their wisdom.

  42. 192
    Edward Greisch says:

    Second INAUGURAL ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  (Applause.)  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and more powerful storms. 
    The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult.  But America cannot resist this transition, we must lead it.  We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries, we must claim its promise.  That’s how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure — our forests and waterways, our crop lands and snow-capped peaks.  That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God.  That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

    There it is, the break we have been waiting for. Let’s hold him to it.

  43. 193
    Superman1 says:

    T Marvell #191,

    “191.So we are about to go over the cliff, unless we drastically cut ff use. Given the long lag between CO2 increases and temperature increases, it’s possible that we are already over the cliff.

    Only an extreme optimist can believe that the world’s governments will get their act together and reduce ff use for many decades. Conservation efforts have not slowed energy use, and it’s silly to think it will.”

    What a breath of fresh air, especially compared to the well-meaning but completely unrealistic proposals we see propounded here day after day.

    We have two real options for attempting to avoid the cliff, assuming we have not gone over already: voluntary and involuntary. I view the involuntary option as the only one that will eliminate the foundational causes of the problem, and lead to long-term survival. I have no idea of its probability of occurrence. The voluntary option will not address the foundational causes; it has not, and there is zero evidence that it will. The best we can hope for is what we get in elective medicine today; some exotic treatments that do not address causes, but focus on attenuating symptoms and allowing the patient to survive a few more years.

    The only approach I can see gaining wide acceptance among the electorate is the climate change equivalent of chemotherapy: geoengineering. Risky as it is, it could probably be sold as an Apollo-type effort: high tech, job expansion, large profits for many, no changes in lifestyle required. Highly acceptable politically, unlike the approaches that require foundational changes. Geoengineering will certainly have its side-effects, but it may delay the inevitable until the final bills come due.

  44. 194
    Hank Roberts says:

    So let’s talk about the science.
    Got citations, it’s worth discussing.
    Killian’s got the politics, PR, policy, and permutations thereof on his own blog (no real need to extensively quote yourself here, pointer works).

    Science of overshoot, anyone?

    Climate and carbon cycle changes under the overshoot scenario

    Global and Planetary Change
    Volume 62, Issues 1–2, May 2008, Pages 164–172
    http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloplacha.2008.01.002
    Picture this

    This might actually interest some of the climate scientists here.

  45. 195
  46. 196
    Ray Ladbury says:

    T. Marvell and Superman1,
    The metaphor of a cliff is inappropriate. It is not as if we will reach a certain level of emissions and things will be as bad as they can get. Each additional ton of CO2 will make things incrementally worse. Not that all increments will be of the same size. Some will trigger additional feedbacks.

    Both of you seem to favor geoengineering. I have also come across folks in the last day or so advocating nukes, reforestation and migration off of the planet. All of these suffer from the same shortcoming–there is no viable plan translating the idea into effective remediation/solution. It is not enough to say we will inject aerosols into the atmosphere. How much? Where in the atmosphere? What aerosol and how will they be stabilized? What will be the side effects and how will we counter them? And the ultimate problem is that aerosols are among the forcings we understand least in the climate. In contrast, reducing CO2 emissions has an effect we can calculate with fairly high confidence. Want to dump iron into the oceans–again, the effects and side effects are highly uncertain.

    Because the carrying capacity of the planet is strained to the breaking point if not beyond, we cannot afford mistakes that further damage the planet’s fragile environment. Remember, climate change is only one of many threats we face–and the ultimate solution to all of them is the development of a sustainable global economic system including energy infrastructure. Anything that stops short of that is merely postponing the inevitable crisis.

    Do I reject geoengineering. No. We are in desperate enough straits that we cannot afford to reject anything that buys us more of that precious commodity that we have up to now squandered–time. I suspect we will have to avail ourselves of geoengineering, nukes and many more unpalatable and controversial measures to avoid the worst effects of the current crisis. We should not, however, mistake such expediencies for actual solutions. We must keep our eyes on the prize–sustainability.

  47. 197

    #193: “I view the involuntary option as the only one that will eliminate the foundational causes of the problem, and lead to long-term survival. I have no idea of its probability of occurrence.”

    IMHO, indistinguishable from zero. There are many problems with this ‘option,’ but that is the existential one.

  48. 198
    Superman1 says:

    HR #194,

    Instead of looking for ways to get away from the present danger zone as fast as humanly possible, the authors seem to be looking for ways to excuse our profligate behavior for longer periods of time. At some point in kicking the can down the road, we’re going to run out of road. I’m surprised this five year old paper even got five cittions.

  49. 199
    SecularAnimist says:

    T Marvell wrote: “Only an extreme optimist can believe that the world’s governments will get their act together and reduce ff use for many decades.”

    The world’s governments did not mandate the use of personal computers or cell phones. Yet somehow, virtually overnight, we went from no one having them, to everyone having them, and the whole fabric of our society being transformed by them.

    Electricity from rooftop photovoltaics is already cheaper in some places than the retail cost of grid power. Do you think “the world’s governments” will need to force people to reduce their electric bills?

  50. 200
    Dan H. says:

    Jim and Kevin,

    While the demographics may show that the skeptics are older, that does not necessarily correlate with their levels diminishing significantly in a decade. In general, conservatives are older, but their numbers do not shrink as time goes by. Rather as people age, liberals become independent, and independents become conservative, keeping the relative percentages intact. (Social movements have tilted the percentages toward one side, such as the 60s anti-establishmentism, and 80s Reaganism, but these have been short-lived). Therefore, if climate skepticism is a conservative political trait, then I do not see the numbers shifting much over time. Massive changes will only come from scientific research and observations.


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