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Unforced Variations: Dec 2013

Filed under: — group @ 1 December 2013

This month’s open thread. It’s coming to the end of the year and that means updates to the annual time series of observations and models relatively soon. Suggestions for what you’d like to see assessed are welcome… or any other climate science related topic.

354 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Dec 2013”

  1. 151
    Hank Roberts says:

    for James Newberry:

    The observed downward trend amounts to 19 ‘per meg’ per year. This corresponds to losing 19 O2 molecules out of every 1 million O2 molecules in the atmosphere each year.
    (one of many answers; for more: )

  2. 152
    MARodger says:

    James Newberry @147.
    The biosphere overall is doing very well at present, sucking much of our unwanted CO2 out of the atmosphere, as are the oceans. Because our atmospheric inputs from fossil fuels do not include oxygen, when our emissions are thus sucked from the atmosphere, it takes oxygen with it. Thus oxygen levels are dropping (see Scripps Inst. data.) but only by a miniscule amount.

  3. 153
    prokaryotes says:

    Edward Greisch: Renewables require energy storage that would cost the US $500 Trillion

    Can someone reference or elaborate on this claim?

    It appears to be false just by looking at current developments.

    Thermal energy storage (TES) is achieved with greatly differing technologies that collectively accommodate a wide range of needs. It allows excess thermal energy to be collected for later use, hours, days or many months later, at individual building, multiuser building, district, town or even regional scale depending on the specific technology. As examples: energy demand can be balanced between day time and night time; summer heat from solar collectors can be stored interseasonally for use in winter; and cold obtained from winter air can be provided for summer air conditioning. Storage mediums include: water or ice-slush tanks ranging from small to massive, masses of native earth or bedrock accessed with heat exchangers in clusters of small-diameter boreholes (sometimes quite deep); deep acquifers contained between impermeable strata; shallow, lined pits filled with gravel and water and top-insulated; and eutectic, phase-change materials.
    Other sources of thermal energy for storage include heat or cold produced with heat pumps from off-peak, lower cost electric power, a practice called peak shaving; heat from combined heat and power (CHP) power plants; heat produced by renewable electrical energy that exceeds grid demand and waste heat from industrial processes.

    Technology status

    Concentrated solar thermal is again making the news, with the world’s largest parabolic trough array with thermal storage – opening for business in Arizona.
    The 280 MW Solana Generating Station constructed by Spanish group Abengoa has six hours of molten storage capacity that will allow it to produce energy into the evening, and deliver output according to the needs of the customer.

    “Solana is a monumental step forward in solar energy production,” said Don Brandt, the president of APS, the local utility. “This provides a huge boost toward our goal to make Arizona the solar capital of America.”

    The opening of Solana is one of three major new projects that are coming on stream, as CSP begins to recover the ground lost, and projects ceded, to solar PV when that technology delivered massive cost reductions in recent years.

    The 375 MW Ivanpah project, the largest solar power tower in the world, has delivered to the grid for the first time and is due to start full operations within the next few months, as is the 110 MW Crescent Dunes facility in Nevada, which will be the world’s largest solar power tower project with molten salt.

    Also, the first commercial scale solar thermal plant with storage, the Gemasolar plant in Spain, recently marked its second anniversary by delivering electricity 24/7 for 36 consecutive days. On Thursday, Dr Keith Lovegrove, the head of solar thermal at Australia’s IT Power, said CSP with storage is ”virtually unbeatable” as a technology, and the costs are coming down quickly.


  4. 154
    wili says:

    Over 1000 died evacuating Fukushima. Unless you think no one should have been evacuated, those must be counted as deaths from nuclear power.

  5. 155
    Hank Roberts says:

    Edward, where’d you get that number? Usual questions: what’s the source? Why do you trust the source so much you adopt and copypaste the claim without citing it? Or is it your own work?

    I find the number tossed around, but not cited to anything.

    My guess would be that’s something like the current price for doing all the needed load balancing with contemporary lead-acid battery storage, counting ramping up the lead industry to satisfy the sourcing and management of that much lead and sulfuric acid — in other words, it’s somebody saying “it would cost the Earth* to do that” as an argument that there will be no progress in energy storage, so it’d be a waste to build more renewables.

    Admittedly that’s a bit of a gamble — but it’s steps along the right path investing in a future we want. Personally I’d rather gamble that energy storage will come along to satisfy the need to build out renewables.

    The alternative, of course, would be gambling that space pixies will take care of the results of continuing to burn fossil fuel.

    Natural Capitalism, LH Lovins, A Lovins, P Hawken – 2007 – “… If natural capital stocks were given a monetary value, assuming the assets yielded “interest” of $36 trillion annually, the world’s natural capital would be valued at somewhere between $400 and $500 trillion …”

  6. 156

    Edward Greisch: Renewables require energy storage that would cost the US $500 Trillion

    Can someone reference or elaborate on this claim?

    Sure, that’s easy. It’s utter nonsense. Don’t even bother.

  7. 157
    Hank Roberts says:

    for Jon Kirwan, “what little welcome this topic may have”

    You’re not alone.

    “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

    ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

  8. 158
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Ben Adler
    [Grist, speculation riffing on associations between vegan diet; climate change; Gore; Clinton; health]
    Which part didn’t you like?

  9. 159
    Mal Adapted says:

    Steve Fish:

    The Ben Adler piece is an example of the bull that gives a bad name to those of us who are concerned about the environment and good science.

    What bull (heh), specifically, do you object to in that piece? Is the referenced science all that controversial?

    Although I’ve cut my consumption way back from 20 years ago, I still loves me some meat. That said, I’m willing to pay more for what I eat if at least some of its externalities are internalized. If I have to pay a lot more for it, I’ll probably eat a lot less of it. I wouldn’t like that, but I can’t deny the GHG-based case against meat production (leaving aside the other arguments against it as off-topic at RC).

  10. 160
    Hank Roberts says:

    Gavin, opening this month’s topic, wrote:

    > updates to the annual time series of observations and models
    > relatively soon. Suggestions for what you’d like to see assessed ….

    Anything with plankton?

  11. 161
    Mal Adapted says:

    There seems to be a communications failure here between Secular Animist and those who think a rapid transition to renewables will have negative economic impacts. I suggest that differing timescales of analysis may account for some of that.

    I agree with SA that, once the transition is well advanced, there’s no reason why energy from renewable sources has to cost more than energy from fossil fuels, when all costs are counted. However, for the transition to progress beyond its incipient stages (at least in the U.S), government intervention to impose a carbon price, along with targeted R&D funding, will be required. It may be possible to design that intervention so as to minimize or eliminate immediate economic impact. Speaking as a frustrated U.S. citizen and voter, though, I have little expectation that our political process will lead to optimal or even sensible intervention over the near term. Consider corn ethanol.

    Again, I expect that over time, and with necessary corrections, the economic impact of government intervention will be positive. I’d personally be willing to live with short-term negative impacts caused by sub-optimal government intervention, because if vastly more severe future impacts are to be avoided, a rapid transition to non-fossil energy must commence.

  12. 162
    wili says:

    Jon K @149 wrote: “The answer is to reduce energy use. It won’t happen. But it is the only answer, just the same.”

    Well, and succinctly, put.

    The goal of all right thinking people now must be to LIMIT human potential, particularly their potential to gobble up the planet. Given that this is the purpose that nearly all the relatively cheap and abundant energy that industrial society has used so far has been put to, this means limiting energy to said society, not increasing it.

    But if you think, in spite of hundreds of years of history of industrial society becoming ever more efficient in its rape of the natural world, that it is right on the cusp of making a sudden 180 degree turn and devoting itself nearly exclusively to preserving and restoring the natural world…

    Well, then all I can ask is, “What drugs have you been taking?” and “Can I have some, ’cause I’m getting tired of facing the world the way it is and would like to take a vacation in your fantasy world for a while.”

  13. 163
    wili says:

    “The only avenue left to people is civil disobedience and 2014 will be the year of climate activism, he said.

    ‘Now is the time to put our lives on the line and face jail time,’ Naidoo said.”

    What are we willing to do to save our only planet?

  14. 164
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Dec 2013 @ 12:19 PM
    And- Comment by Mal Adapted — 15 Dec 2013 @ 12:27 PM

    Mal Adapted, I very much agree with your statement. I too have been restricting the animal protein portion of my diet by trying to only purchase from, for example, “organic” (silly term) cattle ranchers who raise animals solely on natural grasslands. I am currently paying more for the higher quality meat and compensating by reducing my consumption. I also have strategies for other animal proteins.

    The problem with the Adler article is that he doesn’t distinguish between methane from the natural carbon cycle (cow farts), which is very much less important than the CO2 released by the damaging agricultural practice of, for example, using fertilizer made from fossil methane. There is no mention of the fact that the same bad practices are used for growing vegetables for all of us including vegans. I also have a personal strategy for dealing with this.

    All of agriculture needs to make a big shift in its methods in order to correct its many damaging practices including increasing atmospheric CO2, cruelty to animals, and feeding low levels of antibiotics which produce resistant human disease organisms. Further the only well understood method for growing crops without the chemical manufacture of fertilizer is using animal fertilizer. Putting out a flawed description of the food problem just sows confusion.


  15. 165
    Jon Kirwan says:

    Hank Roberts wrote (in #157):

            for Jon Kirwan, “what little welcome this topic may have”

            You’re not alone.

            “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a
             world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to
             laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that
             the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the
             doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself
             well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

            ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

    Reminds me of a phone call I made to the Clackamas County biologist, a few years ago, asking him about the status of Salmon and the smelt (Eulachons) in the Sandy River, locally. I have lived here all my life and we talked a little about what has happened in my 60 years living here (born and raised in the same place, still here.) (Sloughs once so filled with life that I could simply dip a pickle jar once into the water at random and come up with dozens of guppies and tadpole — now completely dead and stagnant, for example.) Then I just asked him about our local riverways and the near future. He said, “I won’t talk about it.” I said, “Why?” He said, “I just can’t talk about it.” I said, “Because you’ve lost hope the subject is painful?” He said, “Yes. Let’s change the subject.” Given that I only wanted to talk about how things were going in the local ecologies, the discussion was pretty much cut short.

    I live 10 miles from a national forest system of thousands of square miles and my own property is kept forested, with snags and much of nature left intact for birds such as owls and pileated woodpeckers here. We have four kinds of squirrels here, including the Northern flying squirrel. (A nocturnal squirrel with the softest fur you can imagine, and retina/tapeta [tapeta lucida] with such combined efficiency you cannot see their reflection. They are also non-violent, unlike so many other wild squirrels.) I even have several kinds of bioluminescent insects on the property! I go out into the woods to just watch and observe, often. You can know the name of a bird in every language in the world and know nothing about it. Observation means everything to understanding.

    My life hasn’t been that long. Yet in that short time, I’ve seen so much that has completely disappeared. Far, far fewer bird species, even going many many miles away from population. Mt Hood’s 11 glaciers declining by more than 50% of their mass balance just since I’ve become an adult. (I had to call two key scientists simply to make them aware that they needed to include Mt Hood in their studies, about a decade ago, and to get their promise to do so.)

    Much has changed over a very short time. It’s not slow. It’s very fast. Insanely fast. I think we are seeing a balloon that has already been popped. It’s just that our time scales let us see the explosion in slow motion. But it’s already unraveling.

  16. 166
    John Mashey says:

    Corn ethanol:
    To have a useful opinion on this, one needs to know some history, i.e., changes in farm policies by Earl Butz in 1970s, and to be able to count farm state US Senators.

    Hint: the use of corn ethanol has a lot more to do with the above than with the much later environmental motivations.

  17. 167
    Tony Weddle says:

    Kevin Anderson thinks that avoiding dangerous climate change means shrinking economies. That seems about right to me, though he does rather optimistically suggest that contraction may only be temporary.

    Wishing for growth without emissions growth is just that: wishing. At least at a global level, and remember that we now have a global economy, there is no nation that goes it alone, that I’m aware of. It’s a global problem and can only have a global solution.

    Even if we could have unlimited renewable power (built, maintained and operated only by renewable power) or infinitely stable societies (to enable safe nuclear power for ever), we could not have both a habitable planet and economic growth. We might as well get used to that and accept that mitigating the destruction of our ecosystems is not compatable with economic growth.

  18. 168
    prokaryotes says:

    Acting on climate change does not necessarily cause an economy to shrink as is evidenced by Sweden, since they established a Carbon tax the economy prospered.

    The tax is credited with spurring a significant move from hydrocarbon fuels to biomass. As Swedish Society for Nature Conservation climate change expert Emma Lindberg said, “It was the one major reason that steered society towards climate-friendly solutions. It made polluting more expensive and focused people on finding energy-efficient solutions.”[109][110]
    “It increased the use of bioenergy”, said University of Lund Professor Thomas Johansson, former director of energy and climate at the UN Development Programme. “It had a major impact in particular on heating. Every city in Sweden uses district heating. Before, coal or oil were used for district heating. Now biomass is used, usually waste from forests and forest industries.”
    Economic growth appears to be unaffected. Between 1990 and 2006, Sweden’s economy grew by 44-46 percent (approx 2,8% annually)

  19. 169
    wili says:

    Steve Fish at #164 wrote: “the only well understood method for growing crops without the chemical manufacture of fertilizer is using animal fertilizer”

    Humans are animals.

  20. 170
    Mal Adapted says:

    John Mashey:

    Hint: the use of corn ethanol has a lot more to do with the above than with the much later environmental motivations.

    Looks like you got it, not that I’m surprised that you did. Any legislation ostensibly aimed at AGW abatement will have a similar backstory, requiring a deep delve into history to reveal the ulterior motives of its sponsors. Whence my low expectations.

  21. 171
    OnceJolly says:

    Hank Roberts @ 15 Dec 2013 at 12:19:

    Ben Adler writes:

    “In the past, the Environmental Protection Agency has said that meat production accounted for only around 3.75 percent of U.S. emissions. But the estimate failed to factor in the grain fed to livestock and the transportation of grain and livestock. The new NAS study corrects that error, finding that in 2008, the U.S. released 49 million tons of methane, rather than the 32 million tons estimated by the EPA. As the Associated Press notes, that means America’s methane might contribute as much to climate change as its entire transportation sector. Some of that comes from byproducts of fossil fuel extraction, such as fracking, but most of it comes from animals.”

    Adler’s claim is inconsistent with existing EPA figures, which estimate enteric fermentation and manure at 32 percent of emissions. The study he’s referring to notes in the abstract:

    “Our study indicates that emissions due to ruminants and manure are up to twice the magnitude of existing inventories. In addition, the discrepancy in methane source estimates is particularly pronounced in the south-central United States, where we find total emissions are ∼2.7 times greater than in most inventories and account for 24 ± 3% of national emissions. The spatial patterns of our emission fluxes and observed methane–propane correlations indicate that fossil fuel extraction and refining are major contributors (45 ± 13%) in the south-central United States.”

    The EPA’s percentages and the figure of 32 million tons cited by Adler imply that about 10 million tons of methane were attributed to livestock. Doubling the total to 20 million tons to account for the correction by Miller et al and livestock accounts for about 40 percent of methane emissions. In comparison, earlier figures from the EPA estimated that 41 percent of emissions are from fossil fuel activities. Provided the remaining 7 million tons of emissions found in the PAS study are all due to this sector, and fossil fuels account for about the same share of the revised estimate as livestock (~40 percent).

  22. 172
    Steve Fish says:

    Re Comment by wili — 16 Dec 2013 @ 8:27 AM

    “Humans are animals.” Wili, you are absolutely correct! Now what?


  23. 173
    Hank Roberts says:

    > corn ethanol

    For a reminder how complicated this situation is,
    ‘oogle “corn sugar” “gambling” “cuba” “castro” for the old history;

    This and that will bring you up to date.

  24. 174
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Prokaryotes, definitely. I think that the change may actually promote growth. Remember, we are creating a whole new energy infrastructure and all the technology that goes with it. The issue is that there will be winners and losers–and it is the potential losers that are screaming the loudest against the science.

    Whoever develops a viable solution first will be a big winner. I think the Chinese know this and have set their minds to beating our pasty white asses.

  25. 175
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Then I just asked him about our local riverways
    > and the near future. He said, “I won’t talk about it.”
    > I said, “Why?”
    > He said, “I just can’t talk about it.”

    It’s possible a scientist saying something like that is hinting that a gag order has been imposed, say due to a pending lawsuit against a local polluter. That’s the hopeful scenario.

    But, yeah. Many of old people remember when we could stop and drink out of a stream almost anywhere.

  26. 176

    #167, 168–Economic growth is essentially (in my heterodox view) the quantization of the process of making a society which is more in line with our values. If we value things which do not require increased energy use, and find ways to pay for them–whether it be by monetized purchase, by ‘sweat equity,’ or by pure ingenuity–then we will have economic growth without energy growth.

    Now, I hope that doesn’t sound as though I think it’s ‘easy.’ Cultural change is incredibly hard.

    But my intuition does keep insisting, loudly, that it’s at least possible.

    #162–wili, I have a lot of sympathy for your point of view. But for God’s sake, don’t ever again formulate it that we need to “limit human potential!” It’s not really what you mean, and sure as sure, it’ll get hung around your neck and mine as evidence that environmentalists are ‘anti-people.’ Sure, it’s silly, but when did that ever stop ’em before?

  27. 177

    By the way, this is a touching science (glaciology) story which may interest some–even if the writer appears to have screwed up an important detail:

  28. 178
  29. 179
    Mal Adapted says:

    Steve Fish:

    The problem with the Adler article is that he doesn’t distinguish between methane from the natural carbon cycle (cow farts), which is very much less important than the CO2 released by the damaging agricultural practice of, for example, using fertilizer made from fossil methane.

    Thanks, but what is the evidence for your assertion that methane from “cow farts” is very much less important than other agricultural practices? A few minutes of searching turned up this Global Methane Inventory from GISS, estimating the contribution from enteric fermentation (i.e. cow farts) plus animal waste (manure) at 21%, with rice cultivation at 12%. And why do you say that “cow farts” are part of the natural carbon cycle, when emissions from domestic livestock are anthropogenic by definition?

    To be fair, Adler cites a PNAS article by Miller et al. (doi:10.1073/pnas.1314392110), and says

    …America’s methane might contribute as much to climate change as its entire transportation sector. Some of that comes from byproducts of fossil fuel extraction, such as fracking, but most of it comes from animals.

    I wasn’t able to find support for that in Miller et al, which concludes only that contributions from both source have previously been underestimated.

  30. 180
    OnceJolly says:

    Correction to my earlier post…the abstract of the PNAS study can be found here.

  31. 181
  32. 182
    Hank Roberts says:

    > my own property is kept forested

    Me too. One parcel lost a foot of topsoil since the late 1800s (and has aobut a third of an inch left, said the hydrologist 30 years ago). Working on it. It’s a 200 year project to get that back. The other parcel hasn’t been touched for more than a century — Thoreau advised me the measure of wealth is what we can afford to leave alone. Good advice.

    Problem is how to take care of something that can live and go on producing wildlife just about forever — under our mayfly species’ property and tax laws dedicated “ownership” transfers that end up grinding up such sites and cranking out “money” instead.

    I think there are little patches of almost wild land remaining many places.

    Were they somehow protected and otherwise left alone — they would keep attracting and teaching young humans effectively forever.

    Kids invariably find them and are attracted to them, if they can walk or bicycle the distance — and if the ‘grownups’ haven’t trashed or infested them.

    Wildland is the most robust and most fragile of environments. I don’t know what to do with mine as I get old.


    The Earth Manual: How to Work on Wild Land Without Taming It
    by Malcolm Margolin, Michael Harney (Illustrator)
    A guide for landowners, conservationists, and youth group leaders on how to work with (rather than against) the wildness of the land.
    Paperback, 238 pages
    Published January 1st 1985 by Heyday Books (first published 1975)

    ISBN 0930588185 (ISBN13: 9780930588182)

  33. 183
    wili says:

    Interesting link, as usual, prok (@181). For those who may not have clicked on his link (always a mistake to miss), read and marvel at what we have wrought:

    “Now that West Antarctica is losing weight–that is, billions of tons of ice per year–its softer mantle rock is being nudged westward by the harder mantle beneath East Antarctica.

    The discovery comes from researchers led by The Ohio State University, who have recorded GPS measurements that show West Antarctic bedrock is being pushed sideways at rates up to about twelve millimeters–about half an inch–per year. This movement is important for understanding current ice loss on the continent, and predicting future ice loss.”

    A possibility that prok has often pointed out as likely is now well attested: GW is having effects on the very shape of the earth’s crust.

    Steve Fish said: “Now what?”
    wili says: “Humanure!”

    Kevin M wrote: “don’t ever again formulate it that we need to “limit human potential!”
    wili replies: We need to limit human potential! We need to limit human potential! We need to limit human potential! We need to limit human potential! ‘-)

    No really, once we start censoring ourselves for fear of what lunatics might say, we may as well all just go home. Even if we never said anything that could possibly be misinterpreted (which is actually a linguistic impossibility), they would then just make sh!t up (as they often have done and will doubtless continue to do).

    I obviously mean limit humans: “starting with those most empowered already who are mostly using that power to limit the ability of all future generations, i.e. the global top 10% or so, probably including everyone posting here.”

    In that sense, we need to limit many humans now so that humans in the future (and really not so distant future) will not be limited beyond any ability to live, or to live any marginally decent life.

    But I assume that, at least in certain arenas, you and most here would agree. We certainly need to limit human use of nuclear (and chemical, and…let’s face it, most) weapons. It would nice if humans could limit our propensity to overpopulate the planet.

    Most can agree that such limitations, however achieved, are necessary for a livable future. But the limits have to be extended to many more of what we have come to consider normal parts of industrial life.

    I do hope it’s obvious that I am not particularly worried about “limiting the potential” of the indigenous Andamanese, or of the Aka, or the Khoisan, or any number of other (mostly already threatened) small scale traditional cultures. I would note, though, that all these peoples have strong sets of taboos that could be said to ‘limit their potential’ in ways often confusing to outsiders, but these self-restrictions have obviously allowed these folks to live sustainably in their environments for tens of thousands of years. It is the setting up of a similarly powerful (or more so) set of taboos that is needed now for ‘modern’ societies to keep them from utterly destroying everything of true value.

    We obviously, for example, have to move toward a global “taboo” of some sort on burning fossil ‘death’ fuels. But if we replace these sources of energy with others that allow us to continue modern industrial society’s implicit program of turning everything on earth into toxic waste, success against GW will be a rather hollow victory (not that I think any kind of real total ‘success’ on this front is really possible at this point in any human time scale).

  34. 184
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Mal Adapted — 16 Dec 2013 @ 12:45 PM

    Combining cow farts (actually mostly burps) and emissions of CO2 and methane from cow pies with the emissions derived from fossil sources is just wrong. All of the CO2 and methane derived from the cow digestive system was just previously captured CO2 from the atmosphere by the growing plants that were used for feed. So you have to subtract this from the CO2 and methane from the digestive processes of cows. This is also true for all other animals raised for humans in order to derive an accurate estimate of greenhouse potential. After 7 to 10 years, once the methane component is broken down to CO2, it is carbon neutral. This means that if the numbers of animals that are raised for human purposes remains relatively constant, the atmospheric greenhouse gas load doesn’t change at all from this source. In contrast, when fossil carbon is used for creating fertilizers and other agricultural purposes the carbon is added to the atmosphere.

    Here is a simpler example. Sitting next to me as I type is 10 gallons of my homemade Uncle Steve’s Christmas Stout. It is noisily bubbling CO2 into the atmosphere from fermentation and it will emit approximately 300 gallons (at atmospheric pressure). It is releasing the carbon that was sequestered from the atmosphere by barley as it was growing less than a year ago. This is a part of the carbon cycle and is true of the many large emitters of methane and CO2, such as termites and any animal that eats cellulose and includes microorganisms in flooded rice fields, swamps and forests, and cow farts are a relatively small component of this natural cycle.

    People who do not recognize this inflate the problem. Maybe they are just ignorant or trying to make the problem more spectacular or have some kind of agenda, I don’t know. The real problem is that all agricultural practices that release fossil carbon, not just meat production, will have to be revised along with all other uses of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. There are a lot of very smart people working on the agriculture problem. See here for an example-


  35. 185
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Dec 2013 @ 1:21 PM

    I live on a fairly large parcel of forest in the Northern California coastal range that we would like to preserve intact. Here there is a land trust organization that helps local land owners create a legal trust that will prevent further development or logging in perpetuity while keeping it in the family. We are going to do this and I would bet that you can find a similar organization in your area. Steve

  36. 186
    prokaryotes says:

    Capitalism and the Destruction of Life on Earth: Six Theses on Saving the Humans

    From climate change to resource overconsumption to pollution, the engine that has powered three centuries of accelerating economic development revolutionizing technology, science, culture and human life itself is today a roaring, out-of-control locomotive mowing down continents of forests, sweeping oceans of life, clawing out mountains of minerals, drilling, pumping out lakes of fuels, devouring the planet’s last accessible resources to turn them all into “product” while destroying fragile global ecologies built up over eons.
    Between 1950 and 2000 the global human population more than doubled from 2.5 billion to 6 billion. But in these same decades, consumption of major natural resources soared more than sixfold on average, some much more. Natural gas consumption grew nearly twelvefold, bauxite (aluminum ore) fifteenfold. And so on.

    At current rates, Harvard biologist E.O Wilson says, “half the world’s great forests have already been leveled, and half the world’s plant and animal species may be gone by the end of this century.” Corporations aren’t necessarily evil – although plenty are diabolically evil – but they can’t help themselves. They’re just doing what they’re supposed to do for the benefit of their shareholders. Shell Oil can’t help but loot Nigeria and the Arctic and cook the climate. That’s what shareholders demand. Link

    Many argue that a collapse is a solution to our problems, but what if a collapse would thwart our last chances to organize the transition, the paradigmen shift required to act in a timely manner? There are ofc many outcomes in any system change but any situation which arises probably means violent confrontations and thus the outcome might leave us in a worse state then we have now(at least this is a possibility).

    There are many studies which show more violence triggered by climate impacts and thus conflicts with weapons of mass destruction become more likely in a warmer world.

    The time to act is now and actions must be common sense and help the common people, because change must come from each of us. But maybe we are to much trapped in a world separated by money, hate and greed and thus we will go down in history, because we were unable to change and act united to preserve the ecosystem states we had during the Holocene.

  37. 187
    flxible says:

    Hank Roberts: “I don’t know what to do with mine as I get old”

  38. 188
    Hank Roberts says:

    > land trusts

  39. 189
  40. 190
    prokaryotes says:

    More on seismic and PETM

    Paleoseismology looks at geologic sediments and rocks, for signs of ancient earthquakes. It is used to supplement seismic monitoring, for the calculation of seismic hazard. Paleoseismology is usually restricted to geologic regimes that have undergone continuous sediment creation for the last few thousand years, such as swamps, lakes, river beds and shorelines.

    Many notable discoveries have been made using the techniques of paleoseismology. For example, there is a common misconception that having many smaller earthquakes can somehow ‘relieve’ a major fault such as the San Andreas, and reduce the chance of a major earthquake.

    It is now known (using paleoseismology) that nearly all the movement of the fault takes place with extremely large earthquakes. All of these seismic events (with a Moment Magnitude of over 8), leave some sort of trace in the sedimentation record.
    Another famous example involves the Megathrust earthquakes of the Pacific Northwest. It was thought for some time that there was low seismic hazard in region because relatively few modern earthquakes are being recorded. There was a concept that the subduction zone was merely sliding in a benign manner.

    All of these comforting notions were shattered by paleoseismology studies showing evidence of extremely large earthquakes, along with historical tsunami records. In effect, the subduction zone under British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and far northern California, is perfectly normal, being extremely hazardous in the long term, with the capability of generating coastal tsunamis of several hundred feet in height at the coast.

    Waking the Giant (Bill McGuire 2009)

    Accompanying the event, wholesale melting in the Earth’s mantle underlying the waking the giant region fed vast outpourings of lava across Canada’s Baffin Island, Greenland, the Faeroes, and north-west Britain. In places, lavas were piled more than seven kilometres thick, while elsewhere magma intruded en masse into the local rock and sediments. Estimates suggest that the total volume of magma involved was staggering, ranging between 5 and 10 million cubic kilometres. Impressive, undoubtedly, but what has this to do with the PETM? According to Mike Storey of Roskilde University in Denmark, and colleagues, quite a lot. Storey and his fellow researchers propose that the puzzle of the initial PETM warming can be explained by the release of prodigious volumes of carbon-12 enriched methane as magma associated with the splitting of Greenland from Europe heated and baked carbon-rich sediments that fl oored much of the region prior to the tectonic upheaval. The timing is just about right, with the start of the PETM occurring a little after the beginning of the great, magmatic outburst.–giant.pdf

    investigation of palynofacies and low-field magnetic susceptibility reveal significant detrital influx during the interval. Several magnetic susceptibility phases and trends are recognised and are interpreted in terms of sea-level fluctuations before, during and after the PETM. Coupled with results from other sections, our data reveal the presence of an unconformity followed by an eustatic sea-level rise (TST) in the latest Palaeocene.

  41. 191
    Dave Peters says:

    Apropos of the sandbox chat (rather civil thus far):

    There, David Biellos often cites the recent paper by Hansen/Sachs. [I have been watching this publication for decades, and they have previously published Lovins on multiple occasions. So, something of a tergiversation or sea change may be afoot.] As here, refuting Jon Kirwan’s concern (# 150): “the speediest drop in greenhouse gas pollution on record occurred in France in the 1970s and ‘80s, when that country transitioned from burning fossil fuels to nuclear fission for electricity, lowering its greenhouse emissions by roughly 2 percent per year.” [Jon, your response @ (# 122) is thoughtful , but to respond to it would tack even further from climate.]

    Steve (# 148), “all we have to do” is not need electricity 24 hours per day. Did you see the Sandy victims waiting in line for petrol to feed their home generators? But, in other settings, I set the bar far lower than you. Consider the clothes line. Perfectly small scale, soft-path, distributed, and with no line losses. NO ONE line dries clothes. Below this thresh hold, are tens of millions of Rush Limbaugh listeners, who follow him to the view that AGW is a hoax. To provide this constituency with carbon free modern life, you need a power source to which they are indifferent. That is what the French have so convincingly shown the world they learned to do four decades ago. And what no other mitigation idea is within a decade of being a real alternative to.

    A last point about balls-to-the-wall, and scaling. If one had polled economists in U.S. academia in 1939, about soon producing a Victory/Liberty ship per day, or aircraft by the tens of thousands, they would have encountered deep dubiety. We have portable power craft tools today, and cell phones, and portable task menu and documentation software the guys who built our fleet, and the French, did not have. There are a hell of a lot of welds in a nuclear power plant. I worked a several hundred mile hitch of a forty-eight inch gas pipeline out of Wyoming several years back. You have to wrap a seam ten-fold, so you are running bead about the length of the line. You might be amazed to see how much of that welding is done robotically nowadays.

    With apologies to Secular Animist, Susan Anderson & MARodger for the name mistakes. Getting old.

  42. 192
    Jon Kirwan says:

    Hank Roberts wrote:

            It’s possible a scientist saying something like
            that is hinting that a gag order has been
            imposed, say due to a pending lawsuit against
            a local polluter. That’s the hopeful scenario.

    I understand why you might imagine so. But I didn’t report the entire conversation. Just enough to get the idea across, I thought. (Obviously, I didn’t do a good enough job of that.) He was in mental pain about the situation, not under an order not to talk, given other parts of the conversation I had with him.

    And thanks for the recommended books. I will get them and read them. Our land looks almost exactly like the Mt. Hood National Forest. The woodpeckers depend upon snags, so I don’t clear them. Very dense generally, plus ferns, rhododendrons, douglas and noble firs well over 100′, etc. I only wish I felt I deserved to live her. It’s much too nice.

    Land Taxes in Oregon are deferred if your get “forest deferral” (10 yr rolling period) or “farm deferral” (7 yr rolling period.) But forest deferral REQUIRES that you grow “marketable timber.” This means it must qualify, in their opinion, as a type of tree that is profitable (by some measure.) You also cannot allow “trash wood” to interfere — which means no maple, no ash, etc. You cannot just let things “grow wild.” It must be managed. Or no deferral.

    I elected to get no deferral. It’s NOT CHEAP.


  43. 193
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by wili — 16 Dec 2013 @ 4:25 PM

    Humanure is an obvious way to make use of this resource. One of my neighbors is doing this with some success. Unfortunately it is very difficult and expensive on a national scale. Sewage plants are distributed with population centers not agricultural areas. It is very expensive to process on a large scale because of the variety of diseases, medications people take, heavy metals, and whatever else is flushed down the toilet. It takes a lot of heat from natural gas to purify large quantities of humanure.

    But wait, in steps Amory Lovins. He suggests that as many sewage treatment plants as is practical could create artificial marshes that sewage would seep through and the water would be cleaned by microorganisms and plants. One example of a crop that could be grown in these marshes is cattails (e.g. Typhe latifolia, one example of the common bulrush). Because contaminated cattails would not be useful near any kind of human food, Lovins suggests that the starchy rhizome could be fermented and then distilled into pure alcohol using the dried leafy portion for the distillery heat source.


  44. 194
    Tony Weddle says:


    Sweden is not a closed economy. It has not accounted for all emissions due to its economy.

    Economic growth is not compatible with declining emissions (though it might be just possible from time to time). This is a global problem that requires global actions.

  45. 195
    Edward Greisch says:

    154 wili: Nobody should have been evacuated! Zero people have died from fukushima radiation.
    “Fear of Radiation (unnecessarily hasty evacuation and other measures) has killed 761 and radiation has killed none from Fukushima” as of August 07, 2012

    573 certified deaths were due to evacuation-related stress at Fukushima. Zero due to radiation. As of February 4, 2012

    In other words, regulations that were too strict on radiation caused intensive care and old folks homes, etcetera, to be evacuated. If the evacuation had not happened, nobody would have died. Please read this book: “Radiation and Reason, The impact of Science on a culture of fear” by Wade Allison. [The Wade Allison in England, not the other Wade Allison at Harvard.]
    Professor Allison says we can take up to 10 rems per month, a little more than 1000 times the present “legal” limit.

  46. 196
    Edward Greisch says:

    153 prokaryotes: That is my own rather rough estimate. Somewhere I found an electricity usage rate of 17 trillion watts. Is it “only” 13 trillion watts for the US? So what? Somebody else pointed out that a long, cold, calm, cloudy winter can drain a whole week’s worth out of your energy storage over 3 or 4 months in Europe. So multiply by the number of hours in a week to get 17 trillion watts X168 hours/week= 2856 trillion watt hours of energy storage =2.86 x 10 exponent 15 = almost 3 quadrillion watt hours.

    Now, there are lots of ways to attack the next part of the problem.:

    Fairbanks, Alaska paid $35 Million for a battery to backup the local power supply which provides 40 megawatts of power for a whole 7 minutes. Multiply that out for just the US. You get far more money than the US GDP or the world GDP. You know we can’t go that way.

    How much NaNO3 and KnO3 do you need? Is there that much available?  Where are we going to put it?  How much does it cost?

    Other people have made estimates:

    There is one common thread: We can’t get there from here using renewables. You keep running out of unobtainium no matter how many brands of unobtainium you try. Multiple types of storage systems run out of stuff later, but you end up in the same hole. The price is always many times economic possibility, and you can’t get enough stuff anyway. So what if I am off by 10 times? We still can’t get there from here using renewables.

    So, prokaryotes and SecularAnimist: I don’t care about current developments. Current developments are irrelevant. prokaryotes and SecularAnimist should do the arithmetic personally. Is this an example of a lack of communication or is it an example of prokaryotes and SecularAnimist not being math oriented? I say it is the latter, but lack of math orientation is a pandemic. In order to “communicate,” we have to cure the pandemic.

    prokaryotes and SecularAnimist: Prove me wrong. I double dare you.

  47. 197
    Edward Greisch says:

    155 Hank Roberts: “Admittedly that’s a bit of a gamble”

    Remember what you are gambling. One of our own, Barton Paul Levenson, told us that we could have an agriculture crash between 2050 and 2055 if BAU continues. An agriculture crash immediately causes a civilization crash and a human population crash. Who knows whether there will be survivors?

    You are gambling everybody on your unproven idea.

    156 Thomas Lee Elifritz: It is my number. I computed it.

  48. 198
    Fred Magyar says:

    prokaryotes @186,

    “Many argue that a collapse is a solution to our problems, but what if a collapse would thwart our last chances to organize the transition, the paradigm shift required to act in a timely manner?”

    I assume you mean global civilization’s and or economic and political collapse and that you have at least a smidgen of hope that humanity might still come to it’s senses and and implement radical paradigm change to avoid global ecological collapse.

    However to me it seems quite clear that ecologists and biologists such as E.O. Wilson are telling us that we are already in deep ecological overshoot and almost all of our critical life support systems are in the throes of a massive global collapse as we speak.

    Just curious is there anything that you see happening that gives you hope? If so please share it because from where I sit I have pretty much lost all hope…

    I’m not an ecologist but I do have a bit of a background in the biological sciences and have spent the last 30 years or so, both as a professional and amatuer diver, diving on tropical coral reefs. I currently live in South Florida and I can tell you that our reef system is not looking good. And that’s just one system that I have seen collapsing first hand during my lifetime, which in the big picture, constitutes just the blink of an eye!

    Good luck to us all!

  49. 199
    prokaryotes says:

    Edward Greisch, regarding the number of $500 Trillion you toss around to make your points. The recently finished Solana Generating Station in Arizona cost 2 billion and supplies electricity to 1 million homes. Let’s pretend the US has 300 million inhabitants, that would mean $600 Billion investment for everybody powered by concentrated solar, including energy storage. The GDP of the USA is 15.68 trillion USD (2012).

    On the bottom line, i’m interested to discuss reliability and security question’s when it comes to nuclear power, because i wonder how safe nuclear plants are in a warmer world with more seismic and SLR.

  50. 200
    prokaryotes says:

    Fred Magyar: Just curious is there anything that you see happening that gives you hope? If so please share it because from where I sit I have pretty much lost all hope…

    I think we have to look at the fundamentals of planetary system dynamics to better understand the evolution of higher life forms. Planetary boundaries appear to force us to deal with the environment if we like it or not. If we keep producing emissions and keep destroying our environment we will certainly “boot the system” and Humans likely become part of history among many other species.

    Hope can be regained once we see emissions drop. And the best way to reduce emissions is to end fossil fuel driven transportation. Can we reduce emissions? Yes, ofc we can do it. So this possibility gives me hope.