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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. 251
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Killian,
    I disagree that the only solutions are local. The entire problem of energy infrastructure is one that absolutely must be solved, and the solution cannot be local.

    Consider for instance the situation we are in now with transport–whatever happens, be it electric cars or fuel cells, the solution has to extend across borders–indeed, across oceans.

    A smart grid is essential to capitalizing on renewables, but a smart grid cannot be local.

    And as I have pointed out–trying to support 10 billion people as locivores is a recipe for starving half of them.

  2. 252
    SecularAnimist says:

    Dan H wrote: “The development of anti-biotics tranformed medicine in the 20th century. Without them, the world would face a much more serious threat than could ever be imagine from global warming.”

    Nonsense. Antibiotic resistance won’t cause several billion people to die from starvation and lack of drinking water. And it certainly won’t cause the mass extinction of most life on Earth. Global warming could easily cause both of those outcomes.

  3. 253
    Dan H. says:

    Killian,
    Yes, the food price spikes were caused by the oil price hikes, not by food shortages. That is seperate from Secular’s contention that food shortages will be caused by global warming. Global food production has increased several fold over the past 40 years, during a period of rising temperatures.

    http://www.geohive.com/charts/ag_crops.aspx

    Killian, my apple and pear trees suffered the same fate last year, due to the early warmth and late freeze (also in Michigan). This comes a year after a bumper crop. However, this one year does not necessarily constitute a trend.

  4. 254
    SecularAnimist says:

    Dan H wrote: “Yes, the food price spikes were caused by the oil price hikes, not by food shortages.”

    One more falsehood from Dan H.

    According to a September 2012 joint statement on international food prices from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP):

    There have been three international food price spikes in the last five years. Weather has been among the drivers of each. Droughts in some part of the world have impaired global grain production virtually every other year since 2007. Elsewhere, major floods have also caused severe damage to crops …

    Until we find the way to shock-proof and climate-proof our food system, the danger will remain …

    We are vulnerable because even in a good year, global grain production is barely sufficient to meet growing demands for food, feed and fuel – this, in a world where there are 80 million extra mouths to be fed every year.

  5. 255
  6. 256
    Dan H. says:

    Secular,
    I think your response more adaptly describes your own position. Neither event would cause mass starvation or lack of drinking water. Politics might, however.

    If the worst forecast of global warming come to pass, it would result in much hardship, but not mass extinction. Widespread disease would not either, but its effects could be much more widely felt. Look back to the flu epidemic of 1918. This pandemic killed more people in a few months (est. 50 million), than any other disease in history. Compare than to today’s biggest killer – malaria, which cause ~1 million deaths annualy.

  7. 257
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS, I do wonder, that Nature link is to a 1988 Letter:

    Nature 332, 63 – 65 (03 March 1988); doi:10.1038/332063a0
    Mass extinctions, atmospheric sulphur and climatic warming at the K/T boundary
    Michael R. Rampino & Tyler Volk
    ________________________
    no citing papers subsequently. Have climate models reached the point yet of dealing with phytoplankton population changes?

    “… marine primary productivity as a whole was drastically reduced …. The elimination of most marine calcareous phytoplankton would have meant a severe decrease in DMS production, leading to a drastic reduction in CCN and hence marine cloud albedo. Here we examine the possible climatic effects of a drastic decrease in CCN associated with a severe reduction in the global marine phytoplankton abundance. Calculations suggest that a reduction in CCN of more than 80%, and the resulting decrease in marine cloud albedo, could have produced a rapid global warming of 6°C or more.”

    Oops.

  8. 258
    Hank Roberts says:

    Ah: EXPERIMENTAL EVOLUTION MEETS MARINE PHYTOPLANKTON
    Thorsten B. H. Reusch1, Philip W. Boyd
    DOI: 10.1111/evo.12035
    Article first published online: 14 JAN 2013

    “… We focus on one important functional group—photoautotrophic microbes (phytoplankton), which are responsible for ∼50% of global primary productivity. Global climate change currently results in the simultaneous change of several conditions such as warming, acidification, and nutrient supply. It thus has the potential to dramatically change phytoplankton physiology, community composition, and may result in adaptive evolution. Although their large population sizes, standing genetic variation, and rapid turnover time should promote swift evolutionary change, oceanographers have focussed on describing patterns of present day physiological differentiation rather than measure potential adaptation in evolution experiments, the only direct way to address whether and at which rate phytoplankton species will adapt to environmental change….”

  9. 259
    Marcus Grünewald says:

    I don´t know whether these points falls under the “No comments” embargo on AR5, and I absolutely don´t buy the “no warming since 1997/2002/last summer” rhetoric, but does the relatively low warming in the latest +/- 15 years not warrant a commentary here? Eg. when the multimodel mean trend appears to be quite a bit higher than the actual trends:

    http://rankexploits.com/musings/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Changed_Baseline.jpg

    I myself have often countered skeptics with the standard argument about short timeframes, but I do find that this argument gets less and less useful as the short timeframes are growing.

    Another thing: The aerosol negative forcing estimates also appear to have been lowered somewhat. This should leave the total forcings within a range of about 1.7-3 W/m2.

    http://i81.photobucket.com/albums/j237/hausfath/ScreenShot2012-12-13at43419PM_zps4a925dbf.png

    Does this have any implication for the long-term sensitivity (even allowing for a substantial ocean lag)?

    [Response: The reason for the no-comment on the draft is that the final version (after much reviewing) will be different. Concluding anything based on the SOD is premature. I will have an update to model/obs comparisons up soon, and we can discuss then. - gavin]

  10. 260
    Killian says:

    Dan H. said Yes, the food price spikes were caused by the oil price hikes, not by food shortages.

    Yeah… and no. It has, in fact, been both, and most recently due to weather. The Russian heat wave caused them to stop exporting. Flooding/severe weather has caused a few countries Asian nations to stop exports at various times. In the US, the current drought is driving up prices, particularly for people in 3rd World countries due to federally mandated ethanol production. Price rises cause shortages even when total stocks are sufficient, no? Local and regional shortages create physical shortages.

    That is seperate from Secular’s contention that food shortages will be caused by global warming.

    Did SA say that? If so, I am of the same opinion. Thought I’d posted on that here…

    Food shortages are already being caused by global warming, as are conflicts and higher prices. Don’t know why I ever respond to you. Hate climate denial. Passionately. It’s a prevarication that is costing lives now, potentially billions in the future. Once facts are known, people pretending they don’t exist should be summarily shown the door if they are immune to education. Here’s your inoculation for denial: http://sustainablog.org/2013/01/global-grain-stocks-drop-dangerously-low-as-2012-consumption-exceeded-production/2/

    Global food production has increased several fold over the past 40 years, during a period of rising temperatures.

    Logical fallacy, and far too obvious a cherry pick.

    **Dan, while the right to an opinion is equal for all, all opinions are not equally valid.**

  11. 261
    Killian says:

    Ray Ladbury said I disagree that the only solutions are local. The entire problem of energy infrastructure is one that absolutely must be solved, and the solution cannot be local.

    Nitpicky. Logic should lead you to understand my intent, but shame on me for being lazy and not saying, as I more typically do, “sustainability is *ultimately* local.”

    What’s not sustainable are energy systems that use massive amounts of resources to generate and move energy, at losses of up to 75% or more of original production, over long distances. Now, if one builds an extremely efficient house (Strawbale, PassivHaus, e.g.) does not one end up far ahead? Until I can sit you down and walk your through the principles of sustainable design, you are never going to agree to anything I say. You want to discuss parts, but these problems are systemic and you apparently have pretty much zero knowledge of the design principles I’m always referencing.

    Consider for instance the situation we are in now with transport–whatever happens, be it electric cars or fuel cells, the solution has to extend across borders–indeed, across oceans.

    But that is irrelevant if local sustainability does not exist. Also, I’ve stated elsewhere medicine, knowledge and communication and minimal transportation probably need to remain global.

    A smart grid is essential to capitalizing on renewables, but a smart grid cannot be local.

    Yeah…. maybe. Not convinced a smart grid is required to support a consumption level that is 10% of today’s. And, with local production, any extra-regional grid would be minimal. Also, don’t know the components of the machines that make up the smart grid, but I’d bet at least some of them are unsustainable, which would meant a smart grid is unsustainable. Pony Express and telegraph (half of which was powered by ground batteries!), anyone?

    And as I have pointed out–trying to support 10 billion people as locivores is a recipe for starving half of them.

    Only if one contends people with legs, feet, wheels and boats are immobile, and if you don’t know how to grow food intelligently.

  12. 262

    “If the worst forecast of global warming come to pass…”

    Try reading this.

  13. 263
    Hank Roberts says:

    > profit from public health

    I retract what I said. Here’s one doing business right.
    http://www.vestergaard-frandsen.com/component/tag/guinea%20worm

  14. 264
    patrick says:

    @ 234 Thanks, Hank, for the cartoon. I laughed so hard I decided to call geo-engineering: GeeE. It’s part of the problem. Lasting solutions require designing-in prevention at the beginning, rather than tacking on something at the end. It’s a matter of mental slots: remove it from the ‘mitigation’ slot and revision it as low- lower- and lowest- carbon design. That’s the only geo-engineering worthy of the name. The mental inertia shown in the cartoon is an ironic image of cultural inertia. Antibiotic resistant microbes are a good example of what such inertia produces. Even when their use is scientifically invalid and suboptimal they are used anyway, just for the sense of satisfaction about doing something. The next industrial revolution requires a fundamental recognition of mutualism. The only final (globally optimal) answer for unfriendly micro-organisms is friendly ones. The vast majority are friendly. Value friendly microbes. Don’t dignify GeeE as engineering.

  15. 265
    MARodger says:

    Killian @261
    You expand your principle of “sustainability is *ultimately* local.” suggesting this is due to transmission losses.

    So if (as some are attempting to realise) solar PV power from the Sahara can be transmitted to Europe, you would brand it “unsustainable” because it has high transmission losses.
    Why is that? Even if the transmission losses are great, they may not be prohibitive because of the vast availability of solar PV power in the Sahara.

    Does your principle of “sustainability is *ultimately* local.” also applied to the transport/transmission of other things? Or is it just energy?

  16. 266
    Hank Roberts says:

    > micro-organisms …. The vast majority are friendly.

    Heck, each walking-around ecosystems we call
    a “human being” is made up in large part of such organisms.
    We won’t understand people until we understand dirt.

  17. 267
    SecularAnimist says:

    Regarding the discussion of “local sustainability”:

    One of the leading organizations that studies and promotes local sustainability as the basis for, and a path to, attaining sustainability for the overall human enterprise, is the Institute For Local Self-Reliance.

    Note the use of the term “self-RELIANCE” — not “self-SUFFICIENCY“.

    I think that’s an important distinction.

  18. 268
    sidd says:

    “…move energy, at losses of up to 75% or more of original production,…”

    ?!! transmission dissipating 75% of the power transmitted ?!!. Where in the world does this number come from ?

    http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=105&t=3

    “According to EIA data, national, annual electricity transmission and distribution losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States.”

    Seems like an order of magnitude slip.

    sidd

  19. 269
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “A smart grid is essential to capitalizing on renewables, but a smart grid cannot be local.”

    With all due respect, of course a smart grid can be local. And so can renewable energy.

    There’s no reason that a local, municipal utility, for example, might not put up enough solar panels and wind turbines to generate as much electricity as an entire town or county uses, along with a local smart grid to connect those resources to the local consumers (who might themselves have rooftop PV).

    Add some storage capacity to that, either at the municipal generating sites or distributed at the end-user sites, and you’ve got a highly self-reliant local power grid. Which of course can be connected to the wider, regional grid, from which it can purchase electricity when necessary.

    Also, I’d point out that much of the ongoing R&D for smart grids is, in fact, focused on local grids, and even “microgrids” — in particular, the US military is putting a lot of resources into creating smart microgrids to provide self-reliant power from “renewable distributed energy generation” (RDEG) for both US and overseas bases.

    I would add that imagining there is a dichotomy between “local” on the one hand, and “large-scale centralized” on the other, is not necessarily helpful. A key word here is “distributed”. The essence of a “smart grid”, in fact, is that both generating capacity and the “smarts” to manage electricity generation, consumption and distribution is highly distributed, so that both centralized and local components of a large-scale grid can interact optimally.

  20. 270

    #268–I imagine Killian will answer for himself, but in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder what the ‘oil well-to-gas station’ efficiency for gasoline is? Let’s see…

    http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/energy-futurist/what-eroi-tells-us-about-roi/361

    Hmm. If I’m reading this right, Killian is probably thinking about corn ethanol.

  21. 271
    Killian says:

    265 MARodger says: Killian @261
    You expand your principle of “sustainability is *ultimately* local.” suggesting this is due to transmission losses.

    No. Losses in and of themselves may or may not tip one into a negative return (we get closer to this every day with fossil fuels; net energy per capita is on a long-term downward trend. Tar Sands/Oil Shale, etc., have very low EROEI.) It’s more the resources needed to build and maintain the grids. Losses are part of the equation, not the whole equation. Solar energy is theoretically limitless in relation to human needs, after all.

    (Important to keep in mind when discussing resources that replacement rate of fully renewable resources is as important as limits to non-renewable resources. Consumption is consumption. See Oglala aquifer. This is why even in a society that is otherwise solely built on totally renewable resources, population matters. At the end of the day, sustainability is about population. Nothing is sustainable beyond a given rate of consumption.)

    So if (as some are attempting to realise) solar PV power from the Sahara can be transmitted to Europe, you would brand it “unsustainable” because it has high transmission losses.

    See above. I’m not inherently against anything with the exception of nuclear (and non-mass transit; should be obvious to any and all that we can’t have cars much longer, and certainly not for 9 billion people), and that because it doesn’t meet the criteria of principles of sustainable design. A thing, process or system is either sustainable or is not, but the accounting has to be done, and it has to be endlessly reproducible. Is solar? I doubt it as currently produced, but I suspect there is a low-tech way to make solar cells that can support an extremely low-energy society.

    A simple test for sustainability is to do this simple thought experiment: Can it last as long as humans might? Can it be scaled to the size of our eventual minimum population of 9 billion? If either answer is no, it doesn’t work. You can choose to assume we will eventually find gentle ways to reduce population massively, thus reducing the demand in the second criteria, but the first is non-negotiable at any scale.

    Does your principle of “sustainability is *ultimately* local.” also applied to the transport/transmission of other things? Or is it just energy?

    Everything. Logically impossible for it to be otherwise. However, we may choose to do things not strictly necessary, such as continue to share info and coordinate sustainable practices via an internet, transport goods and people extra-regionally, but it’s not necessary once sustainability is a fully assimilated way of life, much like some indigenous societies.

    (BTW, not my principle. One can only design sustainably if one allows the location to guide design. When we impose ideas on a site based on want, we fail to acknowledge what can be supported vs. what we wish to have supported. Ex. It is possible to live in deserts. It is not possible to sustainably live in locations such as Las Vegas and Pheonix with the infrastructure and populations they now have. Those cities will be much, much smaller some day, just as happened with the Anasazi collapsing back into the Pueblo system.)

  22. 272
    Killian says:

    sidd says:

    “…move energy, at losses of up to 75% or more of original production,…”

    ?!! transmission dissipating 75% of the power transmitted ?!!. Where in the world does this number come from ?

    http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=105&t=3

    “According to EIA data, national, annual electricity transmission and distribution losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States.”

    Seems like an order of magnitude slip.

    Open to correction. I didn’t question the source of the info. Also don’t trust EIA data, though. That number seems very low, regardless. Perhaps there’s an engineer who’d know lurking about? I should say, also, I think of this from source to light switch. How much would that change the EIA numbers, I wonder? Energy accounting also has to include embedded energy. D owe get 93% of the energy of the water falling at Hoover to the final destination? Or even 93% of the energy we get out of the generators less embedded energy for construction, maintenance, repair, upgrade, management and use?

    BTW, haven’t located that source for the age of methane yet. Seems it was from one of the well-known Arctic scientists.

  23. 273
    flxible says:

    Not to worry says the the Reasearch Council of Norway, climate sensitivity is low and sulphate particulates aren’t cooling things much.

  24. 274
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Hmm,
    “Sustainability is local”

    “Sustainability is ultimately local”

    How do these two sentences differ in meaning?

    As near as I can tell, the meaning is the same, unless that is, the word “ultimately” is introduced as a modifier meaning “I really have no idea what I am saying, so I’ll insert a modifier so I can move the goalposts and never get pinned down.”

    A word of writing advice from Mark Twain, Killian: “If you see an adjective, kill it.”

    Perhaps you would like to tell us how the UK will develop a purely local energy infrastructure, by, say 2030?

  25. 275
    MARodger says:

    Killian @271.

    Your long response makes matters less clear rather than more clear. Assuming such a transformation is not sustainable, I will attempt to get to the bottom of your arguments with further questions to you.

    You appear to be saying that society’s use of transportation and its transmissions are not in themselves unsustainable but do impact on sustainability. Okay. But then you also say that the transmission of data and the transport of goods & people extra-regionally (whatever that may mean) is “not necessary once sustainability is a fully assimilated way of life.” Could you explain the implied incongruity?

    And you certainly paint a very restrictive picture for sustainability. Have I got this right? If the whole world (every man, woman and child now and in the future for ever) cannot be provisioned with a wonderful turbo-widget designed and created using present day technology, I should not be contemplating acquiring such a device because it would be unsustainable.
    Does such a diktat still hold if I forgo my future second-helpings of pudding and chopped extra firewood?

  26. 276
    Hank Roberts says:

    Killian, have you read Overshoot? If not — it might help.

    The research work that’s been done on the subject starting with Catton’s book will give you many hours of reading, and help be convincing on this.

    If you are familiar with this previoius discussion, and are posting the ideas to convince others, it would help if you’d cite what you’ve read.

  27. 277
    sidd says:

    “…dont trust the EIA data…”

    The 7% number is correct for the North American grids. The data are excellent, and the calculations straightforward, though complex. Real money depends on this. Try selling power made in Quebec off James Bay down in Philly thru the PJM. Or worse yet, across a grid boundary. You will get up close and personal with a concept known as “wheeling loss.” And of course, the FERC/NERC regulations and such.

    In places like, say, South Asia, where power theft is rampant, the figures are much worse. It might make actual sense to put in solar panels in villages. And guess what, it’s happening…some call it tech leapfrog…

    In NAmerica you got a grid, might as well use it.

    sidd

  28. 278
    Killian says:

    269 SA, Nice, succinct, but comprehensive response. Nice to see some people thinking in terms of systems, particularly localized and self-reliant.

    Kevin McKinney says:
    26 Jan 2013 at 11:26 PM

    #268–I imagine Killian will answer for himself, but in the meantime, I can’t help but wonder what the ‘oil well-to-gas station’ efficiency for gasoline is? Let’s see…

    http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/energy-futurist/what-eroi-tells-us-about-roi/361

    Hmm. If I’m reading this right, Killian is probably thinking about corn ethanol.

    Honestly, I was thinking primarily of electricity with the original, but I alwats think in terms of deep sustainability. WRT corn ethanol, there are some who account it as being no energy gain at all, and likely an energy loss. The socio-economic losses alone make it a very bad idea. Whole system.

    Overall, life cycle accounting is a must, so all efficiencies are much lower than virtually all typical economics accounts them.

    274 Ray,

    Your rudeness and knee-jerk dismissal of things you do not understand is not impressive. If you aren’t going to make an effort, your comments aren’t worth the time. This is your last response from me to a rude comment you make. Capiche? Next time, please be patient and wait for those asking pertinent, engaged questions to answer if they see the need if you have no more intent than to insult.

    All of this is directly connected to environmental issues – very glad to see more leeway with these conversations on this site – and deserve better.

    I don’t know how to help you with not understanding a modifier or context. I said, quite clearly, without local systems being sustainable, having larger systems be sustainable is moot. While we do not *need* any global systems to achieve global sustainability, we do need *all* local systems globally to be sustainable. Clear enough for you, no?

    275 MARodger says: Killian @271.

    Your long response makes matters less clear rather than more clear.

    Well, I thought it was clear!

    Assuming such a transformation is not sustainable

    Why can’t we get to sustainable?

    You appear to be saying that society’s use of transportation and its transmissions are not in themselves unsustainable but do impact on sustainability.

    Did not say that. I actually answered that everything must be sustainable. However, some of the nested systems of global sustainability are very long loops and the sustainability may not be obvious if the accounting is not appropriate to the particular subsystem in question. Ultimately, all loops must be closed and/or regenerative, by definition.

    You have to note the use of modals and adjectives. I don’t know if we can make long-distance transport sustainable as currently engineered, but I doubt it. I am certain we can’t make cars sustainable unless we start making them out of hemp or something silly like that. Rubber band motors? ;-) No problem to go back to modernized sail, e.g. (already being added to tankers to improve efficiency.)

    But then you also say that the transmission of data and the transport of goods & people extra-regionally (whatever that may mean)…

    “Extra-regional” is better stated as “inter-bio-regional.”

    is “not necessary once sustainability is a fully assimilated way of life.” Could you explain the implied incongruity?

    I’ve clarified above, but for sustainability to be achieved, a system cannot exceed use of resources available to that system. For example, we know sailing ships can be sustainable. (We can grow trees after all. I’m not suggesting that is the only way to make ocean freight sustainable, it’s just a fer instance…) So if there were a locally sustainable tech or hi-tech doodad, part, whatever, then it could be transported globally, right? Or, perhaps some form of sustainable hi-tech transport can be come up with (doubt it, but that’s what R&D is for. Regardless, global transport will be greatly reduced both due to lack of need for it and inability to support resource-intensive systems.)

    And you certainly paint a very restrictive picture for sustainability.

    It’s not restrictive, it’s simplified and more rewarding. Study after study has shown simpler societies are more content. Think more in terms of stuff and distractions becoming activity and interactions. Sustainable governance and organization is quite time-consuming. Aboriginal cultures, pretty much the only sustainable societies, spend huge amounts of time sitting and talking through problem-solving.

    Have I got this right? If the whole world (every man, woman and child now and in the future for ever) cannot be provisioned with a wonderful turbo-widget designed and created using present day technology, I should not be contemplating acquiring such a device because it would be unsustainable.

    I don’t see where that conclusion comes from. Is the turbo-widget sustainable? Will R&D all come to an end? What is true, is that you don’t count unhatched chickens. You design for what *is* sustainable and adjust in the future if and when new knowledge comes to be. Designing now, for example, as if fusion will be a reality in twenty years is likely suicidal. Design for what we can do now and you leave yourself the possibility of a future innovation.

    Does such a diktat still hold if I forgo my future second-helpings of pudding and chopped extra firewood?

    Why can’t you have pudding and firewood? What is true is that you can only have “extra” firewood if you can grow the replacement wood at a rate that does not deplete the forest.

    The key here is to not assume anything is or isn’t unsustainable without looking at the resource base vs. use. Some things are obvious, though. We can on;y grow so many rubber plants for tires, make so much copper, steel, aluminum, plastic, etc., so cars are unsustainable both in terms of finite resources and finite rates of consumption of some sustainable resources, right? Cars are toast. Trolleys? Now that we can probably figure out how to do sustainably.

    Some things we have to get better at using. Many people still do not know phosphorus supplies will last a century or less, e.g. If farming/gardening does not move to regenerative practices we are looking at a mass die-off no matter what else happens. All else could be perfect, but that one resource limit would lead to a collapsed society. (Thankfully, regenerative food production is simple.) This is an example of Maunder’s Law of the Minimum. In lay terms, it’s as simple as the weakest link or last straw. You don’t need every resource to be limited, just one that is irreplaceable. This is part of the reason we have to get used to think of the entire system and every resource and element in the system.

    I realize not all of this is obvious to everyone. How many people posting here know the list of principles of sustainable design off the top of their head, e.g.? I hope this helps clarify what I have said.

  29. 279
    Killian says:

    Hank, well-read on overshoot. Have cited Catton, LtoG, Tainter (whom I have spoken to personally) and Diamond many times here and elsewhere. Have cited permaculture and sources thereof numerous times. Have referenced Jevons, Maunder, theoildrum.com, Gleick on Chaos, multiple climate scientists and their works, and on and on. I lost all my bookmarks the last January with a computer crash, so very hard to rebuild that database and thus reference stuff I’ve been reading for over seven years.

    It is important to note this all really is exceedingly simple. Seems counter-intuitive unless you take Diamond (crucial to understanding simplification as a choice) and Tainter (crucial to understanding diminishing returns to complexity, thus the need for simplification to successfully transition from overshoot) seriously, which I do. Their work fits perfectly with what we know of resources and designing sustainable systems.

    I have at various times mentioned not only the extent of resources, their sustainability and their rates of use, but also their fungibility. Nothing, e.g., can actually replace crude oil. Nothing. There is nothing that even comes close to matching it in terms of its combination of energy content and fungibility. Most discussions of petroleum resources are framed in barrels of oil and barrels of other stuff. It is rarely discussed in terms of energy equivalents. 100 barrels of oil is far more energy than 100 barrels of LPG or coal-to-liquids. Them even if you equate them energetically, they still cannot be used for all the same processes and materials that oil can. They are even less often discussed in terms of Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROEI) or Net Energy. Total net energy is well below a 10:1 (oil) return. Oil was at 100:1 at the beginning of the previous of the century.

    If you hold on to neoclassical economics, all of this will seem hair-brained to you, which is why I also refer to Steve Keen and Herman Daly. But so long as one refuses to, or is unable to, at least suspend disbelief long enough to look at these ideas and concepts objectively, them making sense to such persons is very, very unlikely because neoclassical economics is irrational.

    If you think I am missing something, state it explicitly. Your implication is clear as mud. Direct is good.

    A list of things one might read (Not necessarily in order, though if you must choose one, find a way to get educated about the ethics and principles of permaculture even if you don’t study any methodology or techniques):

    1. Permaculture: A Designers Manual. (Sustainable Design)
    2. Other permaculture books.
    3. Everything and anything on soil biology
    4. Rodale’s thirty year study on farming methods (regenerative farming comparison w/ “Green Revolution” methods; carbon sequestration. http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/farming-systems-trial/farming-systems-trial-30-year-report/ )
    5. Mollison’s Global Gardener series. (Broad perspective on/intro to possibilities for sustainable food production over the four major climate types)
    6. Jeff LAwton’s Intro to Permaculture video.
    7. Brad Lancaster’s books on water.
    8. Edible Forest Gardens, Jacke and Toensmeier
    9. Collapse, Catton.
    10. Limits to Growth – Update.
    11. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Diamond (collapse as choice)
    12. The Collapse of Complex Societies, Tainter (diminishing returns on comlexity)
    13. Chaos: the Making of a New Science, Gleick (nature of tipping points, cascading failures, unpredictable sequences, resiliency )
    14. Non-linear systems theory (tipping points, cascading failures, resiliency)
    15. Herman Daly (steady state economics)
    16. Steve Keen (steady state economics)
    17. C.A.S.S.E. (steady state economics)
    18. http://www.theoildrum.com – energy (really important to understand energy issues)
    19. Any climate science that interests you.
    20. Maunder’s Law of the Minimum
    21. Jevons’ Paradox
    22. Anything on aboriginal societies WRT being sustainable and (egalitarian) decision-making. (This essay and most of the essays in this series is an excellent CliffsNotes-type shortcut)
    23. BBC’s Lost Pyramids of Caral (Evidence original (@4,500 ybp) large-scale/urban civilizations were more likely peaceful than war-like, indicating we can choose large-scale cooperation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMacuGusmeg )
    24. Prof. Albert Bartlett on exponential growth. (YouTube)
    25. BBC Secrets of our Living Planet (3of4): The Magical Forest (Complexity and fragility of ecosystems)
    26. Forms of egalitarian decision-making.
    27. Risk assessment methodologies.
    28. Shameless self-promotion: PermOccupy. (Rough sketch of pathway to sustainability https://docs.google.com/document/d/1YicmOh9NKXs73jE3hqWYJISNXXDOYQe1p8KPYpBzDZM/edit?pli=1 )
    29. Localization of production/consumption (local energy, re-skilling, mass transit, time banks, tool banks, co-ops, local currencies, CSA’s, experiential education)
    31. Massively distributed energy production (more self-promotion via old, very, very rough sketch of such: http://aperfectstormcometh.blogspot.com/2008/03/build-out-grid-vs-household-towards.html )
    32. Renewable Energy – Without the Hot Air, David MacKay
    33. VERY basic thermodynamics, unless a physicist or something.
    34. “You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
    To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” R. Buckminster Fuller
    35. “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein

    Whew! Yes, many links long gone via that crash. Sorry.

  30. 280
    patrick says:

    @ 266 Hank >We won’t understand people until we understand dirt.

    My spiral clade diagram agrees. Mycologist Paul Stamets finds six ways fungi can save the world:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_stamets_on_6_ways_mushrooms_can_save_the_world.html

    “We have now entered into 6 X, the sixth major extinction on the planet.”

    He says that fungi mycelium, taking “the first step in the generation of soils,” sequesters CO2 as oxylates of calcium and other minerals.

    Might as well build your carbon sink on an um, culture of fundamental medicine–and also a source of old-fashioned aerosols.

  31. 281
    MARodger says:

    Killian @278.

    Thank you for annotating my comment @275 so copiously.

    As communication is by its very nature a two-way street, perhaps I should cliarify my use of pudding and chopped firewood @275.

    What I was presenting with the pudding was an example of ‘choice’.
    I don’t want my pudding. What I want instead is a turbo-widget. Let us say that turbo-widgets are unsustainable in that if everybody had one we would run out of biofuel. But I’m a turbo-widget freak and I want one. If I give up my pudding, that will reduce biofuel use which will go a long way to meeting the biofuel use of my turbo-widget.

    But let us say turbo-widgets-minus-pudding are still not quite sustainable.

    What I was presenting with the firewood chopping was an example of ‘reward for work’. I work harder chopping more wood and so can expect more reward, access to more of the biofuel. So now my turbo-widget ownership is sustainable.

    Do you envision that ‘choice’ and ‘reward for work’ would be part of a society where sustainability is a fully assimilated way of life?

    (I am conscious that long discussions about sustainability are pretty much off topic for a climate science website, even in an open thread. Given that sustainability has yet to be usefully defined and thus discussing the likes of “principles of sustainable design” would be a little messy, I can imagine the moderators deciding that a sustained dialogue on sustainability is unsustainable here!)

  32. 282
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Killian,
    First, as I recall it was you who called me out for leaving out your all-important and meaningless modifier. Second, if you’re gonna go all gangsta on us, at least get the frigging Italian right.

    Third, I note that you conveniently forgot about the substance of my query–to wit, how do you meet energy needs in a purely local manner. FWIW, I agree that part of the answer is local. That’s the easy part–at least in those locales where they realize they need sustainable. For those locales that still think everyone can have a Hummer, that won’t work too well.

    Ultimately, we are going to need an infrastructure capable of supporting a global population of about 10 billion people by mid century. I do not see how that infrastructure can be developed purely locally.

  33. 283
    Hank Roberts says:

    Killian, your “shameless self-promotion” link is helpful.
    I think if you use pointers instead of rewriting or pasting here, people will see your writing in context. It may make more sense to them.

    Your site is the productive place to further your discussion, I think.

    As it says there: “Any one of these assumptions being incorrect likely invalidates the entire model.”

    Argue your assumptions there, citing the climate science here.
    Point to the discussions there, where you can be read in context.
    Arguing individual assumptions here isn’t interesting people who come here for climate science. Brief pointers work far better than long chunks of text out of context.

  34. 284
    SecularAnimist says:

    Killian wrote: “Is solar [sustainable]? I doubt it as currently produced, but I suspect there is a low-tech way to make solar cells that can support an extremely low-energy society.

    May I respectfully suggest that rather than “doubting” and “suspecting”, you could be informing yourself about the sustainability of solar energy technology. A good place to start is the CleanTechnica.com site which does an excellent job of reporting on developments in the solar industry as well as other renewable energy and efficiency topics.

    One thing you’ll find is that “as currently produced” is a very rapidly changing state of affairs for solar, both as to the manufacture of conventional silicon PV panels as well as the development of newer thin-film and organic PV materials.

    The solar energy that reaches the Earth’s surface in one hour is more than all of human civilization uses in a year. A society powered by solar is not “an extremely low-energy society”. On the contrary, it is a society which enjoys an abundant, ubiquitous, endless supply of clean energy, provided by technologies that can be safely proliferated to people everywhere, at all scales from rural off-grid villages in Africa to centralized utility/industrial scale power plants in the USA.

  35. 285
    SecularAnimist says:

    Ray Ladbury wrote: “how do you meet energy needs in a purely local manner”

    How do you define “purely local”?

    According to the Energy Self-Reliant States project of the Institute For Local Self-Reliance, “more than 40 states plus the District of Columbia could generate 25 percent of their electricity just with rooftop PV”.

    And using today’s generation of wind turbines, 27 states could generate 100 percent (or more!) of their electricity, and 30 states could generate at least half of their electricity, from in-state wind power alone.

  36. 286
    flxible says:

    MARodger – Your turbo-widget can never be “sustainable” because they’re all made in China using coal power. And if your pudding is Tapioca, you can only have it to give up if Cassava is grown for biofuel in your locavore permaculture. [how come my spellchecker doesn't include either of those words??]

    Killian has presented his case for ‘sustainable local permaculture’, again, as in threads past. The concepts are beautiful, and on a large scale very impractical, Americans in particular are addicted to a wide variety of imported foods, both out-of-season and exotic – I don’t think they grow many bananas or pineapples in Detroit, or Cassava for that matter.

    So we’re all aware that human civilization as presently constituted is unsustainable, particularly the high-tech aspects of it, now lets get back to figuring out what the climate is doing

  37. 287
    Hank Roberts says:

    http://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/late-lessons-2

    “The 2013 Late lessons from early warnings report is the second of its type produced by the European Environment Agency (EEA) in collaboration with a broad range of external authors and peer reviewers. The case studies across both volumes of Late lessons from early warnings cover a diverse range of chemical and technological innovations, and highlight a number of systemic problems. The ‘Late Lessons Project’ illustrates how damaging and costly the misuse or neglect of the precautionary principle can be, using case studies and a synthesis of the lessons to be learned and applied to maximising innovations whilst minimising harms.”

    http://scienceblogs.com/thepumphandle/2013/01/28/late-lessons-from-early-warnings-of-risks-to-health-and-ecosystems/

  38. 288
    Hank Roberts says:

    From the summary section:

    “When the first volume of Late lessons from early warnings was drafted there appeared to be too much legitimate controversy about climate change for the issue to be included. … despite the then widespread acceptance that ‘the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate’….

    Over a decade later and after two more reviews by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of a much greater volume of climate change science it seemed appropriate to include climate change in this volume, despite some continuing controversy. The evidence that human activities are having a dangerous impact on the climate has strengthened since 1995.

    … Given the size and irreversibility (on human time scales) of many of the harmful effects of human-induced climate change, there is an urgent need for action to reduce CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases. Some contrarian views persist, however, as the authors illustrate. …”

  39. 289
    David B. Benson says:

    Bugs in the Atmosphere: Significant Microorganism Populations Found in Middle and Upper Troposphere
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130128151912.htm
    Plenty of CCNs.

  40. 290
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Plenty of CCNs.
    Next, select bacteria that absorb more energy on the down side and emit infrared on the up side — Maxwell’s Demon stratospheric bacteria. Warming problem solved.

  41. 291
    patrick says:

    @285 Thanks for that wind power link/map. I’ve thought so, without the numbers. Too bad more of America in prime average wind speed locales is not already on the blades.

    On advising a leader who is also a physicist, Dr HJS says of Angela Merkel: She’s a physicist: she knows what a pdf is…a probability density function.

    I’m not just interested in wind power (as it um, stands). I’m interested in motion capture–applied to the inherent generating capacity of all the mass that is always already-in-motion on and around this planet. When big wind hits its limits, many pathways remain. In solar there are linked heliostats, and whatever is next, along with photovoltaics.

    If the style of generation represents a least bad idea, I am happy to live with it, rather than being, um forced to put it ‘away’ somewhere.

  42. 292
    Edward Greisch says:

    Solar power for Europe: Have you heard the news from Mali recently?

  43. 293

    “Have you heard the news from Mali recently?” Hardly the only option; in fact, rather a speculative one at present.

  44. 294
    Hank Roberts says:

    From today’s issue of comp.risks:
    —————
    Great blog posting in Scientific American re Comment Moderation
    Lauren Weinstein
    Tue, 29 Jan 2013 11:37:40 -0800

    http://j.mp/XPYnRl (Scientific American via NNSquad)

    “If you don’t delete or disemvowel inappropriate comments, people will
    think you are not even reading the comment threads. If you don’t show up
    in person, nobody will know you are even interested in their thoughts. If
    you don’t delete the trolls, the trolls will take over and the nice people
    will go somewhere else.”

    Yes, yes, and yes!
    —————————-

    Thanks again for the moderation here.

  45. 295
    Hank Roberts says:

    A bit of a quote from the SciAm article linked above:
    _________________________
    “There is more and more evidence that a small subset of trolling posts (e.g., those aggressively promoting climate denialism) may be paid for by astroturf organizations funded by some vested interest groups. By peppering every article and post that can remotely have anything to do with their topic of choice, they provide an illusion that their pet movement is bigger than it really is, or that support for their position is more widespread than it really is (which then, if it works, results in the actual rise in the support for their anti-science positions). This then encourages the others (after they got persuaded quickly, without having their own sufficient knowledge …) to keep posting additional comments for free. The first troll comments are supposed to be seeds for more trolling. Which is why it is essential to cut them at the root. You do not want to provide a free platform for a paid political operation….”

  46. 296
    June Roullard says:

    There is a great ongoing 9-part series of articles in a Vancouver newspaper explaining the basics of climate change. They are some of the clearest explanations I have seen…I highly recommend taking a look and forwarding to family and friends. I don’t know how to make an active link, but here’s the link to one explaining the difference between weather and climate:

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/01/28/Climate-Change-Crash-Course-4/

  47. 297
    wili says:

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate-scientists-esld.html

    Any chance for a lead post on this? It seems kinda…important.

  48. 298
    Aaron Franklin says:

    I’m in need of some clarification on what we should be now using as a GWP for methane.

    From Archer 2007:
    …..so a single molecule of additional methane has a larger impact
    on the radiation 5 balance than a molecule of CO2, by about a factor of 24 (Wuebbles and Hayhoe, 2002)……
    …..To get an idea of the scale, we note that a doubling of methane
    10 from present-day concentration would be equivalent to 60 ppm increase in CO2 from present-day, and 10 times present methane would be equivalent to about a doubling of CO2. A release of 500 Gton C as methane (order 10% of the hydrate reservoir) to the atmosphere would have an equivalent radiative impact to a factor of 10 increase in atmospheric CO2……
    …..The current inventory of methane in the atmosphere is about 3 Gton C. Therefore, the release of 1 Gton C of methane catastrophically to the atmosphere would raise the methane concentration by 33%. 10 Gton C would triple atmospheric methane.

    (so doubling atmos methane requires 3 Gton release, 10x present methane requires 30 Gton released?)

    Here also GWP methane is taken as 24. As we know 20yr GWP methane is commonly stated as 72 (IPCC) or 100.

    Factoring in findings of :
    Large methane releases lead to strong aerosol forcing and reduced cloudiness 2011 T. Kurt ´en1,2, L. Zhou1, R. Makkonen1, J. Merikanto1, P. R¨ais¨anen3, M. Boy1,N. Richards4, A. Rap4, S. Smolander1, A. Sogachev5, A. Guenther6, G. W. Mann4,K. Carslaw4, and M. Kulmala1

    -That previous GWP methane figures need x1.8 correction factor….
    We should be using 20yr GWP methane of 130 or 180. This is 5.4 or 7.5 times the 24 GWP that Archer 2007 appears to be using.

    So maybe the above should say, looking at a 20yr period(using the 100 becomes 180 gwp):

    …..To get an idea of the scale, we note that a [100% increase/7.5= 13% increase] of methane from present-day concentration would be equivalent to 60 ppm increase in CO2 from present-day, and [10 times/7.5= 1.333times] present methane would be equivalent to about a doubling of CO2. A release of [500/7.5=66.7] Gton C as methane (order [10%/7.5=1.3%] of the hydrate reservoir) to the atmosphere would have an equivalent radiative impact to a factor of 10 increase in atmospheric CO2……

  49. 299
    David B. Benson says:

    Study Rebuts Hypothesis That Comet Attacks Ended 9,000-Year-Old Clovis Culture
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131095314.htm
    claims that the tektites are not 13,000 years old. However, not only did Clovis culture disappear but many species of large mammals simultaneously became extinct. Finally, there is a potential impact carter of Holocene age at the bottom of Lake Ontario.

    So the mysteries surrounding the beginning of Younger Dryas remain…

  50. 300
    David B. Benson says:

    Ozone Thinning Has Changed Ocean Circulation
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130131144106.htm
    and in a way I hadn’t known about previously.


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