RealClimate logo


Unforced Variations: Jan 2014

Filed under: — group @ 2 January 2014

First open thread of the new year. A time for ‘best of’s of climate science last year and previews for the this year perhaps? We will have an assessment of the updates to annual indices and model/data comparisons later in the month.


662 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Jan 2014”

  1. 501

    Hank may be impressed by the effects of thinner sea ice outside of it keeping the Arctic Ocean warmer during winter, especially with respect to Long Wave Radiation effects. http://eh2r.blogspot.ca/

    There is a great deal of learning to be done and so little time to explain it.

  2. 502
    flxible says:

    SA says:

    We have the ability to eliminate virtually all of those emissions within 10 years, by rapidly deploying todays renewable energy and efficiency technologies. The explosive and accelerating growth of wind and solar energy that we have already seen in the last few years demonstrates that this is possible. Achieving this will have enormously beneficial environmental, economic and social “side effects” in addition to reducing GHG emissions and has no real downside in any of those respects.

    While I appreciate your championing of renewables, I’m really skeptical of your prognostication on the global environment, economy and society. Case in point in the real world: I chose to live in British Columbia, where fossil fuels supply virtually no electricity generation. In fact I live in an area supplied by local hydro that feeds a wider area when capacity allows. This [glacier fed] impoundment currently is at the lowest level in its history, and ‘export’ has been curtailed. The general area here on the “wet coast” has just had the driest fall quarter on record, 9 of the past 12 months have seen well below normal precipitation.

    To make up the increase in demand in the province, the govt now plans to build another mega billions dam, that will certainly have some less than beneficial side effects, at the same time that expanding population in the limited prime agricultural areas of the ‘lower mainland’ is “paving paradise”.

    I suppose it would be possible for some major solar installations in the B.C. interior to take up the slack, with the generation exported to the coast, although the amount of sun in winter would make that a pretty expensive proposition. Meanwhile, to make up for uneconomic management in the past, and pay for the new dam, our electric rates will be increasing by 26% over the next 5 years – should help to curtail demand, especially for those of us on a pension. Can’t imagine what solar and wind installations in addition to that, or in place of, would cost, but I know that although I’ve planned for years to add PV solar to my in-progress RV retirement home, I’ve not been able to afford it so far, and may never.

    All of which is to point out that here in the real world, the ability of the masses to deploy anything is very limited at best. Talk “the 1%” into dedicating 90% of their worth towards achieving this utopia of which you speak.

  3. 503
    SecularAnimist says:

    flxible wrote: “All of which is to point out that here in the real world, the ability of the masses to deploy anything is very limited at best.”

    And yet somehow, in the real world, “the masses” have managed to deploy over 100 gigawatts of solar PV generating capacity — two-thirds of it deployed within the last two years, and the cumulative installed capacity expected to double over the next two years.

    And that’s without half trying. And that’s not including the nearly-as-rapid growth of wind power.

    flxible wrote: “I’m really skeptical of your prognostication … towards achieving this utopia of which you speak”

    I am not prognosticating. I have not offered any predictions as to what WILL happen.

    Nor have I said anything about any “utopia” in which all our problems are finally and completely solved. In fact I have criticized the focus on utopian notions of “sustainability” as misguided and even counterproductive.

    What I have said is that we have in hand, now, the technologies needed to quickly eliminate a large part of anthropogenic GHG emissions, namely those from fossil-fueled electricity generation — IF we choose to do so.

    And importantly, and often forgotten by those of us in the developed world (a.k.a. the “top 5 percent”), these same technologies can be deployed in distributed fashion to provide the enormous benefits of electricity to millions of people in the developing world who desperately need it — WITHOUT requiring a massive increase in GHG emissions that would result from generating that electricity with fossil fuels.

  4. 504
    Rick Brown says:

    Bill Ruddiman @ 497: Thanks for the clarification. Knowing that even you can make this goof may lead me to be more forgiving of others ;-). I’m enjoying and learning from your book.

  5. 505
    SecularAnimist says:

    Kevin McKinney wrote: “SA has done a much better job of supporting his optimism.”

    I am not optimistic. On the contrary.

    I do believe it possible that we CAN avoid the worst possible outcomes of AGW. That doesn’t mean that I’m confident that we WILL.

    Diogenes wrote: “I think he will find that the amount of fossil energy used during the full transition to maintain lifestyle and prosperity, which he loves to emphasize, will lead to undesirable temperatures … He needs an energy use diagram with the detail and complexity …”

    What is your alternative, Diogenes?

    Accept defeat, give up, and do nothing?

    Demand “solutions” like immediately shutting down the entire electric grids of every developed country on Earth and instituting an immediate worldwide ban on all use of fossil-fueled transportation? Would you care to provide a “detailed” and “complex” plan for just how that will work?

    As for “leading to undesirable temperatures”, the current anthropogenically-elevated temperatures are self-evidently already undesirable, and are already having destructive impacts, and beyond any reasonable doubt we are headed for worse. There is no way around it. The only way through it is to eliminate GHG anthropogenic emissions as quickly as possible.

    I focus on eliminating fossil-fueled electricity generation because it is one of the easiest, quickest, most affordable, and generally beneficial opportunities to do that.

  6. 506
    SecularAnimist says:

    flxible wrote: “I suppose it would be possible for some major solar installations in the B.C. interior to take up the slack, with the generation exported to the coast …”

    Perhaps you could engage with these folks:

    BC Sustainable Energy Association
    http://www.bcsea.org/

    Canadian Solar Industries Association
    http://www.cansia.ca/

    As for exporting electricity from the interior to the coast, that could be a two-way street …

    http://cleantechnica.com/2013/01/28/canadas-first-off-shore-wind-farm-set-for-b-c/

  7. 507
    Mal Adapted says:

    Bill Ruddiman said at 20 Jan 2014 at 9:27 AM:

    Re: 487: My goof.

    I’ll bet that was a fascinating comment, Bill, and I’m sure we’d all like to read it. Where did you make it 8^)?

  8. 508
    Mal Adapted says:

    Oops, my goof, Bill — you were correcting a figure someone else cited you for. Thank you for being so attentive 8^}.

  9. 509
    wili says:

    flexible at #205: Nicely put, especially: “Talk “the 1%” into dedicating 90% of their worth towards achieving this utopia of which you speak.” There’s the rub. As K. Anderson points out, it is a relatively small portion of the total global population who could rather quickly do rather a lot toward reducing total carbon emissions. The problem is that it is exactly that portion of humanity who are (mostly) the most entrenched in short term, me-first ideology. (That’s pretty much, after all, how they got where they are and how they justify maintaining that status.)

    SA said (of me, presumably): “those who have their hearts set on failure and take comfort in defeatism and despair”

    I do wish others would stop mis-characterizing my positions, though. If people want a practical step, how about getting rid of subsidies to ff companies. I helped elect and re-elect one of the sponsors of a bill to do just that, and have been pushing him to do so and to keep at it. Is that practical enough? Have others done the same? I have also struggled at every level from personal/family, through workplace/municiple to national international to effect changes, often at considerable sacrifice. How are others doing on these fronts? My http://www.myfootprint.org score is down to one earth–how are others doing on that front?

    So if you think that all this means that I some how ‘have my heart set on failure’ and ‘take comfort in defeatism…’ all I can say is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dckSQeB3LRc ‘-)

    Ray (@#484), I agree with most of what you say here. I just think we are past the point that we can realistically offer promise of things getting better. Unfortunately, again as K. Anderson points out, all choices are now dire and radical. In the shorter term, though, I do think it would be possible to offer such things as forgiveness of debts, free universal healthcare, free education, guaranteed employment and housing, much reduced income disparity…but that would mean taking on the 1% and those who support them directly and those who have been duped into supporting them. But perhaps if the nation were put on the kind of emergency footing necessary to the current need, those would be more…doable.

    And yes, some things like insulation and alternative energy systems do need to grow, but, though ‘austerity’ (if you choose to call it) may not be sufficient, I have to agree with Kevin Anderson that there is now no way to get anywhere close to where we have to be without a lot of immediate curtailment of activities that generate emissions–economic contraction. Obviously, you see it differently. Perhaps we just need to leave it there.

  10. 510
    wili says:

    Yet another climate scientist choosing to speak out about the truth of our situation (in spite of the likelihood of being accused of being among “those who have their hearts set on failure and take comfort in defeatism and despair”):

    “Climate scientist Dessler to US Senate: ‘Climate change is a clear and present danger'”

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/dessler-senate-climate-change-clear-and-prsent-danger.html

    “Andrew Dessler, a climate scientist from Texas A&M University, was one of the expert climate science witnesses invited to testify. In his testimony, Dessler simply and clearly articulated what we know about climate change, and why he personally views it as “a clear and present danger.” Dessler’s main points were:

    1. The climate is warming – not just the atmosphere, but also the oceans, which are rising as a result, and ice is melting.

    2. Most of the recent warming is extremely likely due to emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by human activities. This is supported by overwhelming evidence and hence was a conclusion of the 2014 IPCC report.

    3. Future warming could be large. Over the 21st century, if we continue with business-as-usual, the IPCC projects 2.6–4.8°C average global surface warming.

    4. The impacts of this are profound. The virtually certain impacts include increasing temperatures, more frequent extreme heat events, changes in the distribution of rainfall, rising seas, and the oceans becoming more acidic. There are numerous additional possible impacts as well.”

  11. 511
    flxible says:

    SA, Those ‘gigwatts’ of alternatives are NOT being deployed by ‘the masses’, or by governments to ameliorate AGW or help the masses, they’re being deployed by wealthy investors to produced profit.

    I have been fully involved in alternatives since I was old enough to realize the world was ‘going to hell in a handbasket’. I’ve dealt with a major resource in Canada, have kept tuned to our local consultants/installers, have been watching prices of panels/systems at a wholesaler here on the Island, and am aware of regional activities such as the Haida Gwaii wind project and various “run of the river” schemes, which of course will be expected to be paid for by whatever they generate, plus a profit. I’m also well aware of the information the BCsea discusses about costs. Alternatives to CO2 emissions [other than reduction] are not affordable for the average person even in N America, let alone in developing countries.

  12. 512
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Wili, People tend to act in concert with their perceived interests. The 1% are greedy bastards. We have to promise them the prospect of gain–and there is a whole helluva lot to gain in developing a new infrastructure for energy, agriculture and industry in a century. And last I checked, we lived in a quasi-democracy, so if we can educate a majority of the 99%, we can ameliorate some of the worst of the buccaneer capitalism we see in the US.

    There is nothing to be gained by despair. Even if it is too late to avoid severe consequences, we’ll be better of for trying than we will if we give up and get drunk. A guarantee of success is not a prerequisite for a heroic effort.

  13. 513
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Wili, if I may, I like reading your posts. They’re quite informative. I think we have every reason to be seriously concerned and there’s not nearly the amount of so called “hand wringing” coming from this site that I see coming from many other reputable climate sites. I don’t think there’s a person on here who in there heart of hearts isn’t worried. They may not say it publically but if they’re honest and really understand the situation I don’t know how you couldn’t be worried. Just because someone is worried doens’t mean they’re not rational and level headed. Fear is the very thing that keeps us alive because it causes us to avoide dangerious situations.

    Right now we’re all hell bent on trying to avoid a very dangerous situation. As long as we stay calm and rational we can arrive at solutions. I don’t mind admitting I’m more than a little worried. We just have to stay focused on solutions and hope we have enough time to implement them. Our problem is more political than anything else. I think we know how to fix most of the problems but we’re stymied by ignorance and apathy on the part of the general public and political gridlock in D.C. I’m not at all sure we can overcome that problem. It would, in my opinion require a massive PR campaign and we need some serious media backing and money to match organizations like The Heritage Foundation. We have the message and the knowledge but we don’t have the PR skills and we’re not employing the very people who would be most willing to back our message. Robert Redford is on the Board of Directors at the NRDC. He’s already made a documentary about the Colorado River. He spoke out during the BP Oil Spill and he knows how to use a camera. It may sound far fetched but I think it would be a great idea to get his attention.

    Rock on Wili!

  14. 514
    wili says:

    Ray wrote: “Even if it is too late to avoid severe consequences, we’ll be better of for trying than we will if we give up” I agree (though I’m not completely averse to a drink or two now and then). I just think we need to have one place where we can stare the scientific truth in the face no matter how dire it is. I was thinking this would/should be that place.

    You seem to be saying that we can’t talk about anything any scientist says if it suggests really, really bad things are heading our way (and if we do, we will be accused of advocating despair….). I hope I am misreading you on that.

    “The 1% are greedy bastards. We have to promise them the prospect of gain…” Or maybe we have to rethink their worth (or lack thereof) to society. There is no end to their greed. They would consume the whole planet and more, and are in fact largely doing so. Providing them with yet more of the same is no solution, imvho.

    You might find this piece interesting: http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2012-08/14/utilitarian-environmentalism-backfiring
    “Telling people to save the environment for selfish reasons can backfire”

  15. 515
    wili says:

    And it goes beyond the “1%”:Here’s a stat to put into your collective pipes and take a few puffs on:

    “If the 85 richest people own as much as the 3.5 billion poorest”

    Let’s put that another way: eighty five individuals own more than half the population of the entire planet.

    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jan/20/oxfam-85-richest-people-half-of-the-world

    Do we need to give them everything that the other half of the planet owns to get them to do the right thing? Would that really work?

  16. 516
    Tom Flood says:

    DIOGENES @494 and Sid @476:
    There is an important posting over at Clean Technica …

    http://cleantechnica.com/2014/01/10/horrible-eia-forecasts-letter-cleantechnica-readers/?utm_source=Cleantechnica+News&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=1f932619e3-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_b9b83ee7eb-1f932619e3-331974233

    about the problems with EIA projections. The main problem is that the EIA is constrained to not make assumptions about new future policies, but it can allow current policy to expire as scheduled. This leads to absurd overall scenarios that result in ridiculous projections. It is unfortunate that many individuals are not aware of these distortions that render some EIA projections useless (even damaging). I urge everyone to check out that posting.

  17. 517
    David B. Benson says:

    Steve Fish @488 — Rust
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/viv1/10046130556/
    is not an ore.

  18. 518
    wili says:

    Thanks, Chuck. Yeah, the Heritage Foundation and its ilk are doing a lot of very careful planning and strategizing with very disciplined, well coordinated (dis-)information campaigns. While there are obviously some groups doing important things on ‘our’ side, I don’t know of any group yet that has fixed on either Hansen’s or Anderson’s goals of 6% (global) or 10% (industrial nations) annual reductions in ghgs. I’d be glad to be pointed to any group that is (besides the Holmgren stuff).

    Is this a fraction of a sliver of a bit of a reason for some hope that things may start moving a tiny bit closer toward the right direction?:
    http://www.nationaljournal.com/energy/clean-energy-experts-to-offer-obama-a-path-forward-without-congress-20140120

    “Clean-Energy Experts to Offer Obama a Path Forward Without Congress:
    The White House was briefed on new report to be released Tuesday”

  19. 519
  20. 520
    wili says:

    Thanks, Hank (@#516). It’s a good piece. To save others time, I would just point out that you need to scroll down on that site to the section headed “Who benefits from the politics of outrage?” to get to the part that includes what Hank quoted.

    But really much of that good analysis is stuff that’s been around for decades. Most folks with a clear head know the general contours of the basic problem, but so far the political will to change these insane practices is not really in evidence. It’s why some of us were hoping that Elizabeth Warren might run for president. But then one person, even a president, is not likely to be able to enact these changes alone.

  21. 521
    sidd says:

    1)We see from Balmaseda(2013) doi:10.1002/grl.50382 that heat is increasingly mixed down to colder layers.
    2)We know that thermal expansion coeff of sea water at increases with T
    3)We know that GIS put 574 Gtonne(1.5mm SLR) into the ocean 2012, and AIS is doing 1/2 mm/yr now
    4)But SLR shows no upward excursion in response to 3)

    is it possible that SLR due to meltwater from ice sheets is masked by decreased thermal expansion of seawater since colder waters are warming ?

    please dont make me do the gridded calculation … someone… anyone … Cazenave ? Mitrovica ?

    sidd

  22. 522
    DIOGENES says:

    SecularA #505,

    “What is your alternative, Diogenes?

    Accept defeat, give up, and do nothing?

    Demand “solutions” like immediately shutting down the entire electric grids of every developed country on Earth and instituting an immediate worldwide ban on all use of fossil-fueled transportation? Would you care to provide a “detailed” and “complex” plan for just how that will work?”

    I addressed this issue in #70, on the thread “If you see something, do something”. I stated:

    “Maybe the best that can be sold to any substantive number of people is the technology substitution approach offered by e.g. SecularA, which would maintain economic activity. As I have pointed out, my estimate is that it would lead us to a temperature peak somewhere between 2-3 C (given that Anderson has considered renewables and improved energy efficiency as part of his proposal, and still requires substantial demand reduction to stay within 2 C). How horrific life would be at such temperatures, and whether we can stabilize at such temperature levels is open to question, and is one of these questions which would best be left unanswered by proactive avoidance policies.”

    Your approach may delay the inevitable, but it won’t prevent it. However, is your approach really a Trojan Horse? Here’s what I have in mind. To get the billions of people on board that would be required even to get your approach accepted globally, their ‘consciousness’ or ‘level of awareness’ would have to be raised from the present Level 1 to some higher Level 2. Analogous to many energy state transitions, it may be too large a transition to go from Level 1 to some Level 3 where sufficient cuts in economic activity would be required to reduce total CO2 emissions to some acceptable level. But, once the thinking and awareness have adapted to that required for Level 2, perhaps the transition from Level 2 to Level 3 may be more feasible. So, in a sense, your proposal would be the ‘foot in the door’ that could possibly lead to doing what needs to be done rather than lead to doing what can be sold. This two-step approach may not be optimal (one immediate transition step would be better), but it may be adequate for survival. Is that what’s in the back of your mind, or are you basically satisfied with rapid introduction of renewables and increased energy efficiency?

  23. 523
    SecularAnimist says:

    flxible wrote: “SA, Those ‘gigwatts’ of alternatives are NOT being deployed by ‘the masses’, or by governments to ameliorate AGW or help the masses, they’re being deployed by wealthy investors to produce profit.”

    First, SO WHAT? Does the fact that a solar panel is “producing profit” somehow cause it to generate less zero-emission electricity?

    Second, as a matter of fact, you are incorrect. The great majority of solar generating capacity deployed so far is in the form of relatively small, distributed, end-user PV installations — NOT large “profit producing” utility-scale power plants.

    In fact, one of the hot issues today in countries like Germany and Australia where distributed rooftop solar is exploding is that end-user electricity consumers are generating so much of their own power that the profit model of the large-scale, centralized generators of grid power is being seriously undermined.

    And third, the ongoing expansion of distributed, end-user solar power is, in significant part, being enabled by various government policies designed specifically to promote the deployment of solar power.

    I have never said that what is happening now is “enough”. What I have said is that it demonstrates what CAN be done, if we choose to do it.

  24. 524
    SecularAnimist says:

    wili wrote: “I do wish others would stop mis-characterizing my positions, though.”

    Well, join the club.

    I am pretty fed up with being accused of advocating “endless growth” every time I simply point out that we have at hand the technologies needed to eliminate GHG emissions from electricity generation within a decade if we choose to do so.

  25. 525
    SecularAnimist says:

    If you are an emergency room doctor and a guy is brought in who has just had a massive heart attack and is in immediate danger of death, the first thing you need to do is to stabilize him so that he doesn’t croak right there in the ER. You may need to zap him with the paddles, more than once.

    IF you can keep him alive and stabilize him, THEN he can be evaluated to determine what if anything can be done to keep him alive longer. Maybe that means medication. Maybe that means scheduling him for emergency bypass surgery ASAP.

    And then IF you can get him past that point, AND he can survive and recuperate enough to go home, THEN there will be time to talk about making diet and lifestyle changes to prevent another heart attack, and perhaps even reverse his heart disease, and give him a good chance of living a “sustainable” life for decades to come.

    We’ve got a patient in front of us whose heart is failing and about to stop. The comments from a number of participants here sound to me like they are standing in the ER demanding a detailed plan outlining the exact diet and exercise regime that will guarantee the patient’s ongoing wellness — and meanwhile, for lack of emergency intervention, the guy has already died.

    If future generations are to have ANY chance at all, if the Earth’s biosphere is to have ANY chance to heal, then we need to eliminate virtually all anthropogenic GHG emissions in THIS GENERATION.

    That is our urgent task — not drawing up plans for “sustainability” on the scale of millennia. That’s an ongoing task that will extend indefinitely into the future — but only if there is a future.

  26. 526
    flxible says:

    “The comments from a number of participants here sound to me like they are standing in the ER demanding a detailed plan ….”

    in the US that would end “… of who’s going to pay the bills” :(

    Canada doesn’t have much of the subsidy action the US has, nor do most other countries, and the gigawatt wind project you originally referenced is a commercial venture, aimed at a specific area, so for the consumer, yes profit matters in this capitalist world.

  27. 527
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Can anybody tell me what this means exactly? I’m not too good with charts and graphs. October looks busy. Thanks.

    http://origin.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/people/wwang/cfsv2fcst/imagesInd3/nino34Mon.gif

  28. 528
    prokaryotes says:

    Go to google and search for “realclimate ipcc”, 90% is denial. How?

  29. 529
    Tony Weddle says:

    Kevin,

    An industrial and technological society would be highly desirable if there were no consequences and if it could be maintained without growth. Without those things, even if renewables, built, operated and maintained only with renewables, provided the source of energy, there would still be carbon lost from the soil, there would still be ecosystem damage as materials were mined and waste was dumped.

    This is what I’ve yet to see explained; how we run even this economy, these societies, on zero-emission power, without continuing to damage the environent that supports everything else.

    As SA has stated, climate change is a crisis that we have to respond to. However, responding to the crisis in a way that supposes we can continue doing what we do, will just be kicking the can down the road. Of course, kicking the can down the road may be a good idea, all the same, I have to admit. But, as James Hansen has noted, a stable climate is now a memory. I’m not sure we can continue to do what we do, even with renewables, without a stable climate.

    Ray,

    Economic growth is growth in goods and services. Smart technology isn’t going to provide growth without needing more resources and energy. Maybe from time to time, it could, but not over the longer term.

  30. 530
  31. 531
    DIOGENES says:

    SecularA #525,

    “If you are an emergency room doctor and a guy is brought in who has just had a massive heart attack and is in immediate danger of death, the first thing you need to do is to stabilize him so that he doesn’t croak right there in the ER. You may need to zap him with the paddles, more than once.”

    Wrong analogy; that’s not what we have. In our situation, the guy is brought into a rehab center. He has been on ‘coke’ for decades, and his vital organs are on the verge of collapse. if you’re the attending physician, you would tell him he could reduce his ‘coke’ 5% a month, and substitute methadone. In about a year and a half, he would be off ‘coke’. If I’m the attending physician, I tell him he needs to go ‘cold turkey’, given the lab tests on his vital organs. If he says he can’t do ‘cold turkey’, but is willing to substitute 20% methadone per month for coke, I’d probably say ‘OK, but there’s no guarantee you’ll survive; your vital organs are too far gone already, and even with cold turkey, you may not make it’.

    The Hansen targets mean ‘cold turkey’ for emissions. Anderson’s 2 C limit is the 20% per month substitution for methadone. Your approach is the 5% per month for twenty months. Better than nothing, but that patient better have his Will made out.

  32. 532
    DIOGENES says:

    http://truth-out.org/news/item/21060

    “And contrary to green capitalism proponents, across the spectrum from resource extraction to manufacturing, the practical possibilities for “greening” and “dematerializing” production are severely limited. This means the only way to prevent overshoot and collapse is to enforce a massive economic contraction in the industrialized economies, retrenching production across a broad range of unnecessary, resource-hogging, wasteful and polluting industries, even virtually shutting down the worst.”

    Insightful article about relation of economics to climate change. Think about this article when you read the proposals about converting to renewables and increased energy efficiency technologies and maintaining prosperity and jobs in parallel.

  33. 533
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Diogenes,
    The article is far from insightful. It sounds like it was written by a Rush Limbaugh of the left–string together a series of true observations and use them to justify an utter nonsequitur. In particular, the author makes it sound like game over if we haven’t cut emissions by 90% in 2050. Yes, things will get worse, but most of the worst effects will unfold slowly and can be mitigated to some extent.

    Yes, we are in deep kimchee. No, we don’t know how to create a sustainable civilization. That doesn’t mean that it is impossible or that we should prejudge what such a society would look like. I agree that in the near term, the consumer society we have grown up in is going to have to be drastically reduced. I do not think this requires drastic reductions in the welfare of all citizens–quite the contrary.

    People need enough to eat–that doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of meat protein. They need to be sheltered–that doesn’t mean everyone gets a McMansion. They need some transport–that doesn’t mean everyone gets his or her own car or flies at will on a plane. They need to be clothed–that doesn’t mean a closet overflowing with clothes we don’t wear. And people need a degree of security–I think that the magnitude of the task before us is sufficient to guarantee work to all.

    Sustainable does not mean static. Progress can and must be maintained.

  34. 534
    MARodger says:

    Walter Crain @495.

    You keep linking to that graphic from that Nature item by Jeff Tollefson and seem wedded to the idea that PDO is some major driver of climate, almost showing symptoms of obsession about it.

    So let’s run through this again. ENSO causes wobbles in the global average temperature record. This is not controversial and can be easily demonstrated (as per here (Usually 2 clicks to download your attachment) which plots HadCRUT4 wobbles & ENSO (MEI).

    There are many other “oscillations” whose impact is analysed by climatologists. The NOAA presentation of data indices you ask of @495 includes many such “oscillations” but the only ones that are significant for the global temperature record are the ones that represent (in some form or other) ENSO. This includes MEI, NINO3.4 & SOI. The PDO is very much interlinked with ENSO. This graph of ENSO(MEI) & PDO shows strong correlation between the two. If you increase the smoothing (see here), the “negative” phase of PDO coincides with a “negative” phase in ENSO. And so does the “positive” phase.

    Thus when you @495 talk of “when the negative ENSO and the negative PDO and the “negative” solar cycles go positive”, you are trying to having your ESNO cake and PDO eat-it at the same time while also adding for good measure some meagre ‘solar cycle’ crumbs off the plate. Such climatalogical accounting is surely bonkers.

  35. 535
    MARodger says:

    Chuck Hughes @527.

    The usual definition of an El Nino is when 6 consecutive months have a NINO3.4 anomaly above +0.4ºC (& a La Nina -0.4ºC). Other definitions put ‘warm’ conditions as above +0.8ºC. But what that graph shows is a strong set of predictions for El Nino conditions for the back end of 2014. NOTE – That is strong predictions but NOT a prediction of a strong El Nino.

  36. 536
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tony Weddle: “Economic growth is growth in goods and services.”

    Why, gee, thank you for that textbook definition. Had I known you were going to provide this, it would have saved me the trouble of taking Econ 101 35 years ago!

    Actually, it is the value of the goods and services we are talking about. Increasing the quality/capability/durability and decreasing the resources permanently consumed in making the goods increases growth. Services are the fastest growing portion of the economy–and they are neither extractive nor consumption intensive. Economic growth can be driven by technological advance–we just have to get a whole helluva lot better at it.

  37. 537
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Walter Crain
    > i DO see a correlation

    No, you don’t. Because you can’t.
    Correlation is not something you can see.
    Correlation is something you can calculate.

    Why? Because

    our brains are belief engines: evolved pattern-recognition machines that connect the dots and create meaning out of the patterns that we think we see in nature. Sometimes A really is connected to B; sometimes it is not. When it is, we have learned something valuable about the environment from which we can make predictions that aid in survival and reproduction. We are the ancestors of those most successful at finding patterns.

    Think you see a leopard in the leafy shadows, flee up a tree — have grandchildren (even if 99 times out of 100, you were mistaken).

    Fail to see one leopard in the leafy shadows, no grandchildren.

  38. 538
    wili says:

    MARodger at 535 wrote: “strong predictions but NOT a prediction of a strong El Nino” Good point, but when “La Nada” years like 2013 are in the top ranks of hottest year on earth, any kind of El Nino is almost certainly going to be record breaking.

  39. 539
    DIOGENES says:

    Ray #533,

    I didn’t say I agreed with every point of his, but I do agree with his general assertion that switching to a ‘green’ economy without severe economic cutbacks won’t hack it. There is no article I have found where I fully agree with the statement of the problem and the proposed solutions. The problem seems relatively clear. If we couple Hansen’s prior-Holocene-based temperature limit of ~1.1 C with the results of the CO2 cessation TODAY studies, we find that we have run out of carbon budget. I’m not going to argue with Hansen on that target, and, in fact, he is one of many who have proposed similar numbers.

    Now, if one believes we have run out of carbon budget, what is the next step? Well, we know what we would do on a personal level. If we ran out of credit or funds, we would cut spending to the bare minimum until the day our finances improved. Or, if we suffered a severe wound, and were in danger of running out of too much blood, we would apply a tourniquet until the flow stopped. Somehow, when it comes to running out of carbon budget, these common sense approaches no longer apply. Well, we just adjust the tourniquet very loosely, and let the blood flow gradually stop, so after a few days maybe it has ceased. You state: ” In particular, the author makes it sound like game over if we haven’t cut emissions by 90% in 2050.” Well, if in fact the worst case of Hansen’s concerns comes true, 90% cuts in emissions by 2050 may be overly optimistic; that’s what running out of carbon budget means.

  40. 540
    JCH says:

    Chuck Hughes – ENSO forecast

  41. 541
    DIOGENES says:

    Tom Flood #516,

    My message is not getting across; I will repeat it from another perspective. As I have shown on other posts, we have run out of carbon budget. Cessation of CO2 emissions today would result in a temperature peak (in a decade or two) at the limit Hansen states it would not be safe to exceed (~1.1 C). Any rational strategy from here on out involves minimizing further CO2 emissions, recognizing that ANY further CO2 emissions push us further into that unknown region that could lead uncontrollably to the ‘unthinkable’.

    The ONLY projections that count in this scenario are fossil fuel use. Any projections I have seen for fossil fuel use, whether from EIA, IEA, industry, or any other credible source show increasing use out into the foreseeable future. Renewables or nuclear projections are irrelevant EXCEPT TO THE EXTENT THAT THEY REDUCE LEGACY FOSSIL FUEL PROJECTIONS. I don’t care that reneweables might replace fossil fuel GROWTH; that’s an irrelevant metric. If they, or nuclear, can’t replace the BAU fossil projections, what I call the legacy fossil fuel projections, we will see today’s global climate models projections for 2100 occurring well before then.

    The fossil fuel nation states (oil, coal, and gas) depend too much on this resource for revenues and jobs to allow renewables or nuclear to take a meaningful and environmentally-protective share of the market. We all know the role the fossil energy companies, with their vast resources, are playing to preserve this industry. So, unless you can show me a credible projection of rapidly PLUNGING fossil fuel consumption, with the slack taken up either by GREATLY reduced demand or EXTREMELY RAPID introduction of renewables and nuclear, the admittedly sizable errors by the EIA or anyone else in projecting these small renewables numbers are meaningless in the larger picture.

  42. 542
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Diogenes,
    I’ll stipulate that we need significant energy savings. I would not say “severe”. When an avalanche took out a transmission tower supplying Juneau, AK back in 2008, the residents made significant energy savings with very little time to prepare and without severe hardship. There is a lot of fat to cut before things get severe.

    What is more, mere austerity wouldn’t get us there in any case. If we simply cut energy consumption by 90% abruptly, the results would be catastrophic. Energy consumption by 8 billion severely freaked out humans during a population crash would not be less than energy consumption by 10 billion during a soft demographic landing.

    We need a concerted effort to develop more efficient technology, not economic contraction. If we can get people on board with that, we stand a snowball’s chance in hell of coming out the other side with something that at least resembles a global civilization.

  43. 543
    SecularAnimist says:

    Diogenes wrote: ” I do agree with his general assertion that switching to a ‘green’ economy without severe economic cutbacks won’t hack it.”

    “Severe economic cutbacks” tells me nothing. It reminds me of a fellow I encountered on another blog who loved to repeat the mantra that addressing AGW would require “draconian sacrifices” that “the public” would never accept — but he steadfastly refused to spell out exactly what those “draconian sacrifices” might be or exactly why they would be required.

    You have repeatedly demanded “credible projections” and “detailed plans”. Perhaps you would care to share “details” of the “severe economic cutbacks” that you believe are needed, and some “credible projections” for actually achieving them.

    While I’m waiting, I just keep watching coal-fired power plants being closed and long-term contracts for coal-fired electricity being canceled, because coal is no longer competitive with wind and solar.

  44. 544
    Hank Roberts says:

    > My message is not getting across

    On the contrary. The facts are what they are.

    If human nature is consistent, seven billion people will die this century, one way or another.

    What matters isn’t who dies or how, so much, it’s what do we leave behind. “A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land.”

    It’s what we leave alive after we’ re dead that matters.

  45. 545
    SecularAnimist says:

    Diogenes wrote: “Your approach is the 5% per month for twenty months.”

    No, that does not remotely resemble any “approach” that I have ever advocated, here or anywhere else.

    What I have said repeatedly is that we can eliminate ALL greenhouse gas emissions from electricity generation (33 percent of US emissions) within 10 years, if we choose to do so. And I have said repeatedly that the current explosive growth of solar and wind generated electricity demonstrates that we can, in fact, do that.

    I have also repeatedly pointed out that the USA in particular WASTES well over half of our primary energy consumption, and much of that waste can be very easily ended using readily available and well-understood efficiency measures.

    Both of those approaches — moving rapidly towards zero-emission electricity and maximizing efficiency — are ongoing, are proven effective, and could be greatly accelerated by appropriate public policies.

    NEVER have I said that those are the ONLY approaches that are needed.

    There is much more that could be and should be done. For example, also within the realm of energy generation and use, we can and should electrify most ground transport and bring the age of the internal combustion engine to an end as soon as possible — which I think will be more challenging than de-carbonizing the electricity supply but still could be accomplished much more quickly than most people imagine.

    Outside of the energy domain, there is a huge opportunity to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture — and even to draw down the existing GHG excess by sequestering CO2 in soils and biomass — through organic agriculture and a shift to vegan diets.

    As I wrote in my previous comment, what I would like to see from you is a specific, detailed proposal for achieving in “the real world” the “severe economic cutbacks” that you insist are needed. Exactly what are these cutbacks? Exactly how would they reduce emissions, and how quickly? Who exactly would be affected by them, and how? And who will make them happen?

    Ideologically-driven anti-capitalist screeds like Richard Smith’s TruthOut essay are not what I’m looking for, and I don’t think they are very helpful.

  46. 546
    SecularAnimist says:

    The Richard Smith TruthOut essay that Diogenes linked to above concludes by asserting that solving the global warming problem “is inconceivable without the abolition of capitalist private property in the means of production and the institution of collective bottom-up democratic control over the economy and society.”

    Right. As I understand the science, if we are to have any hope of avoiding the worst outcomes of anthropogenic global warming, GHG emissions must peak and begin a steep decline within five years at most, to near zero within 10-20 years at most, with most of those reductions occuring in the first 5-10 years.

    And Richard Smith proposes that the way to accomplish those reductions in that very, very short time frame is to abolish capitalism and private property and institute complete control of “the economy and society” by a global “collective”.

    Well, good luck with that.

  47. 547
    DIOGENES says:

    SA #544,

    “As I wrote in my previous comment, what I would like to see from you is a specific, detailed proposal for achieving in “the real world” the “severe economic cutbacks” that you insist are needed. Exactly what are these cutbacks? Exactly how would they reduce emissions, and how quickly? Who exactly would be affected by them, and how? And who will make them happen?”

    Well, SA, you and I have one thing in common. Neither of us have offered a credible proposal that would keep the planet out of Hansen’s and Anderson’s danger zone; not even close. You make believe you have, with no backup. There’s nothing new in your proposals; these options have been known for decades. What would be ‘new’ is to show that some combination of them at this point in time would keep us out of the danger zone. You haven’t been able to do it, because your combination of options is missing the essential ingredient: the sharp cutback in demand that Anderson and many other experts believe is a non-negotiable requirement for keeping us out of potential ‘catastrophe’.

    I have not offered one either, and I have stated the reasons many times. I don’t think that any approach that requires severe economic decreases will be acceptable to investors, workers, and politicians, even though that’s what I believe we need. I think the technology substitution approaches might find receptive audiences, but they won’t take us anywhere near where we need to go. What you propose is certainly better than BAU, but in my view takes us well into the danger zone.

    “While I’m waiting, I just keep watching coal-fired power plants being closed and long-term contracts for coal-fired electricity being canceled, because coal is no longer competitive with wind and solar.”

    Well, I just keep watching the Keeling Curve continue its monolithic climb upwards, and the CO2 emission curves following suit. The fossil fuel nation states (oil, coal, and gas) depend too much on the fossil resource for revenues and jobs to allow renewables or nuclear to take a meaningful and environmentally-protective share of the market. We all know the role the fossil energy companies, with their vast resources, are playing to preserve this industry. I see no slowdown in fossil fuel exploration, no slowdown in construction of fossil fuel distribution facilities, and absolutely no credible projections of any slowdown in fossil fuel demand. If anything, they are increasing, especially in the rapidly developing nations of this world.

  48. 548
    Chuck Hughes says:

    H-h-h-hank…. I’m assuming you mean d-d-die of natural c-c-causes, d-d-don’tcha Hank? Like, old age? …Right?

    “If human nature is consistent, seven billion people will die this century, one way or another.

    What matters isn’t who dies or how, so much, it’s what do we leave behind. “A land ethic, then, reflects the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of land.”

    It’s what we leave alive after we’ re dead that matters.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts

    A little bit of snark there from me but that does sound quite serious. (A little bit of humor helps me to cope). Sorry, but I read most of your comments and I’ve never seen you state things in quite that manner before.

  49. 549
  50. 550
    DIOGENES says:

    “Europe Just Set Out To Cut Its Carbon Emissions 40 Percent By 2030″
    http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/01/22/3194021/europe-cut-emissions-40-percent/

    “In December, Kevin Anderson, a climate scientist at the Tyndall Center, sent an open letter to the European Commission, insisted an 80 percent cut by 2030 was needed to keep global warming below the 2°C threshold.” This is for a 2 C ceiling, which Anderson and Hansen both acknowledge is far too dangerous. What level of cuts would we need by 2030 to keep out of the dangerous regime: far more than the 10% Anderson says is necessary to stay under 2 C. And, how could we achieve these desired emission cuts?????


Switch to our mobile site