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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. 351
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tony Weddle: : As wili mentioned, we need economic contraction, not growth.” Nope. Growth is the only way we can get our little asses out of this meat grinder we find ourselves in. What we need are massive increases in energy efficiency, technological advancement and reduced wasteful consumption, especially where consumption is highest. All economic contraction does is keep poor people poor, and poor people have lots of children.

    Siimon Abingdon: What, pray tell, is funny about the deaths of 6 billion people? Your failure of inagination and comprehension do not constitute evidence against the possibility of population collapse.

  2. 352
    Nick Gotts says:

    “But to paraphrase the late Professor Albert Bartlett, in his lectures about the exponential function, everything humans do seems to exacerbate the problem (of population growth) so I guess we’ll leave it to nature to sort it out.” – Tony Weddle@349

    If you are reporting him correctly (and from a quick google, you do appear to be), then Professor Albert Bartlett (whom I note was a physicist by trade) was an ignoramus with regard to demography. We know a number of things that reliably reduce birthrates: availability of contraception and abortion, better medical care, urbanization, economic development, and above all, improvement in the status and education of women. The growth in human population has not been exponential or anything like it (“exponential” means that the proportional rate of growth – or shrinkage – is constant). The rate of global population peaked in the early 1960s at around 2.2% per annum; before then, it had been increasing for centuries, so population growth had been super-exponential; since then it has fallen continuously, and is now around 1.1%, so growth has been sub-exponential – and at some points, slightly sub-linear. Total births per annum peaked in the late 1980s at 138 million, and in 2011 the figure was 134 million. There are very few countries where the growth rate is not falling, and an increasing number where the birth rate is below long-term replacement level. These facts are not difficult to come by – I got most of them from the wikipedia article on “World population”, but there are many other sources. Is it too much to ask that people who bleat about the impossibility of ending population growth without mass starvation actually aquaint themselves with the facts?

  3. 353
    DIOGENES says:

    Chuck #345,

    “Judging from that and what I’ve been able to find online it looks like we’re going to easily hit 3C at or before mid century.”

    Whatever the specific number turns out to be, every projection I’ve seen of life in 2050 under BAU is horrific. This includes drought, arable land/food availability, storms, ocean life, etc. Look, we are trapping net solar energy due to greenhouse gases, and that energy has to go somewhere. It goes mainly into the oceans, but some small part goes into the atmosphere, some into land/vegetation, and some small part into processes like melting ice, and these ‘sinks’ also interact with each other. If one year the amount into the atmosphere is reduced from the previous year, this means one or all of the other ‘sinks’ will be increased by that amount. So, even if the fictitious atmospheric temperature hiatus had existed, that would be no cause for comfort. Substantive cumulative energy input to any of the four ‘sinks’ will eventually lead to catastrophic effects, and substantive cumulative energy input to all four ‘sinks’ will lead to …..! Irrespective of specific numbers from the models, we have to start reducing the energy trapped ASAP; that means not adding any more CO2 (or other) blankets to the atmosphere, and eliminating those blankets that exist presently.

    My problem is that BAU appears to be the default option from today’s perspective, and I view it to be the most probably case from now to ….! I see no precursors that would indicate potential movement away from BAU. Are their any new governments that have taken office as a result of a strong stand against BAU? Look no further than Australia, Canada, and, yes, the USA for the answer to that question. Are there strong steps being taken to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies; if so, show me one? Are there strong steps being taken to add taxes to fossil fuels to account for environmental damage clean-up; if so, show me one, especially in the major fossil exporting countries? Are there strong steps being taken to reduce the impact of fossil fuel money on politics; just the opposite! Pick any precursor you like; where is there any indication of movement away from BAU?

  4. 354
    Hank Roberts says:

    So, a rant.

    Hey, Salmonella controls its population growth.

    Can we do what Salmonella does?

    Controlling parasites can stabilize a population.
    Could that approach apply to the economy?

    As the economic system takes over more and more of the ecology, it will eventually stabilize — Stein’s Law — but how?

    A stable population requires a stable economy. I can only speculate that controlling economic parasites, however defined, would be required. If you haven’t read John Brunner, you should consider his computer’s projection that the greediest ten percent of the human population could eliminate ourselves by overreaching and collapsing, soon enough to spare the rest of the planet.

    Or, perhaps, we could get smarter, and emulate Salmonella and control our own overgrowth?

    http://www.populationinstitutecanada.ca/scarcity-overshoot-collapse/

    http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/programs/population_and_sustainability/index.html

  5. 355
    SecularAnimist says:

    Diogenes wrote: “I see no precursors that would indicate potential movement away from BAU.”

    Well, with all due respect, you can’t be looking very hard.

  6. 356
    SecularAnimist says:

    Regarding population growth:

    1. We already know of multiple approaches that effectively and humanely reduce population growth rates, which are easy and inexpensive to implement, and which have beneficial “side effects”. These include educating and socially empowering women and girls, and meeting the HUGE unmet worldwide demand for family planning and birth control services.

    2. Nonetheless, there is no way that humanely reducing population growth, or even humanely reducing the total population, is going to end the growth in GHG emissions and begin rapid emission reductions within five years, leading to near zero emissions within 20 years, with most of the reductions occuring up front, which is what we need to do to have any hope of avoiding the worst outcomes of AGW.

    3. We can, however, achieve that urgent, short-term goalwith “technical fixes” (e.g. replacing all fossil fuel use with zero-emission energy sources) — which will buy time to address population growth and other longer-term problems.

  7. 357
    Hank Roberts says:

    Crikey

    Last October The Sydney Morning Herald announced it would not publish letters from climate change deniers that misrepresented the facts. So naturally I was shocked to see an opinion piece from right-wing think tank operative John McLean published on both the SMH and The Age websites earlier this month. Not only was the piece misinformed, but McLean was falsely presented as an expert on climate science.
    It’s a veritable coup for the climate denial noise machine.

  8. 358
    wili says:

    Two titans of the sustainability movement (for lack of a better word) have gone head to head over how to proceed from here (or at least about how to think about the process). Holmgren is the top permaculture guru and Hopkins the father of the Transition Towns movement.

    One really has to read through each position to understand where they are coming from, but briefly:

    Holmgren sees the only hope of having anything like a livable planet left after industrialization is to intentionally crash the planetary financial economy. He thinks the global financial system is now fragile enough that a relatively small part of the middle class could bring about it collapse by basically opting out–disengaging from most of the financial economy.

    The latter is a good thing to do for all sorts of reasons anyway, and it is these positive reasons that Hopkins would like to emphasize rather than promoting local resilience and permaculture (which now have mostly positive associations, to the extent they have even been heard of in the larger culture) as a means of collapse. Hopkins thinks there are still positive things to get out of the system, and the goal should be to extend the influence of the nascent local organizations up into the city and state levels, in hopes that these in turn can put pressure on national and international levels of governance to do the right thing. He also emphasizes the importance of employing the Buddhist dictum of “skillful means.”

    The whole discussion brings up many issues battered about around here and on other fora, but here we have major leaders of these alternative movements expressing them openly.

    The link to the original Holmgren piece, “Crash on Demand,” is here: http://simplicityinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/CrashOnDemandSimplicityInstitute13c.pdf

    Hopkins response “…be careful what you wish for” is here: https://www.transitionnetwork.org/blogs/rob-hopkins/2014-01/holmgren-s-crash-demand-be-careful-what-you-wish

    Nicole Foss has also chimed in here: http://www.theautomaticearth.com/crash-demand-response-david-holmgren-3/

    And I see there is another piece now at the Resilience blog that seems to be related (though I haven’t read it yet) called “Economic descent, hopefully with skillful means” here: http://www.resilience.org/stories/2014-01-14/economic-descent-hopefully-with-skillful-means

    One of the main things driving these debates is the ever-worsening prospects for addressing climate change. Unfortunately, the major participants occasionally reveal great misunderstanding about the latest science. So I would encourage folks (who are up to such things) to help go and clarify the science with responses on the linked sites.

    Getting further into the specifics of the proposals in the threads on RC would probably get too far away from the mostly-science focus of the site. I did think it was important for people to know, though, what kinds of things are being discussed on these other sites, since a primary concern of all involved (except perhaps Foss) is climate change.

  9. 359
    Hank Roberts says:

    > BAU

    BAU as of what year? Remember, part of business as usual is consistent exaggeration. That’s how business gets driven and investors get captured, by exaggerating what’s going to happen. Selling the sizzle not the steak, as they say. The illusion is part of the process.

    BAU

    needed either the reality or the illusion that finance could, as John Maynard Keynes put it, “defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelop our future.”

    deLong

    Look at the record:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/Storms/Storms_Fig.02.gif

    You know my take on citing sources. I hope I can be as on guard against the truly self-deluded, and the illusionists and hype merchants posing as, progressives and liberals.

    Look at the proffered alternatives to BAU as carefully as you look at BAU.

  10. 360
    DIOGENES says:

    Ray Ladbury #351,

    Both you and Tony Weddle are correct, and that is part of the dilemma we face. We need population reduction to reduce the total demand on energy (and other resources), and that will increase the pressure on the limited number of young people who have to support a larger fraction of an aging population. I think the present trend toward eliminating industry pensions and in reducing local government pensions as part of bankruptcy settlements reflects this problem. The ratio of Social Security beneficiaries to contributors has increased by over an order of magnitude since the program’s inception, when people didn’t live long enough to collect all that much.

    We also need economic contraction to reduce the activities that require fossil fuel, at least at present. There is a whole host of other conflicting requirements.

    Climate change is a problem whose scope and challenges are far beyond what we have ever faced as a global community, and we are unequipped to respond appropriately. All the major issues of the past: – wars, space program, major construction projects – required doing something, usually putting your foot on the accelerator to mobilize people and get the job done. Climate change resolution may involve taking your foot off the accelerator and stepping on the brakes, at least in part. That’s not how we traditionally address these large scale challenges; doing less; what kind of solution is that? But, on the economic growth issue, I agree with Tony, Wili, and Anderson: we need some hefty cuts. Take your foot off the accelerator, put on the brakes, and stop adding those CO2 blankets.

  11. 361
    wili says:

    Ray, dude, where has rapid reduction in ff energy AND reduction in consumption ever corresponded with economic growth? And note that economic growth does not always help the poor–India’s economy has grown quite a bit, but its poorest citizens are by and large as poor as ever.

    I guess I just want to know if you think infinite growth can happen on a finite planet? If not, when should it stop? If not now, when we are teetering on utter destruction (if we’re not already over the edge), when? I know that what you are spouting is just the standard neo-economic ‘wisdom’/ideology, but if there was ever a time to rethink assumptions, this is it. Try it sometime.

    I was going to correct Tom Weedle on his over-statement that humans have never had any success with addressing population growth–look to China, Bangladesh, Mexico–all places where careful planning have greatly reduced growth rates. And of course most affluent countries have low to negative rates. But then I saw that Nick Gotts already addressed it…but _then_ I saw that Nick seems to think that a growth rate of 1.1 percent is not exponential and is nearly linear. Perhaps Nick is confusing growth rate with birth rate? A growth rate of 1%, as the rule tells us, means a doubling in 72 years, any rate that regularly doubles is of course exponential. The hope is that the world populationgrowth rate will continue (and ideally accelerate) its long-term decline. Unfortunately it jogged slightly higher last year…as with carbon emissions, going in the wrong direction. http://www.indexmundi.com/g/g.aspx?v=24&c=xx&l=en

  12. 362
    wili says:

    Diogenes (Sinope?) at #353 asked: “Are there strong steps being taken to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies; if so, show me one?”

    http://www.sanders.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/legislation-to-end-fossil-fuel-tax-breaks-introduced-by-sen-sanders-rep-ellison

    (I helped elect and re-elect Ellison. Does that mean I’ve done my job and I can go back to sleep now?? ‘-))

    And: “Are there strong steps being taken to add taxes to fossil fuels to account for environmental damage clean-up; if so, show me one, especially in the major fossil exporting countries?”

    And I don’t know if this constitutes a “strong step” but it’s movement in the right direction, at least: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/01/10/3145331/climate-task-force/

  13. 363
    Ray Ladbury says:

    wili,
    Have you been to India? Even the peasants in the poorest villages have benefited somewhat.

    And to answer your question–fossil fuel reduction and decreased WASTEFUL consumption could result in economic growth if the economy were mobilized to build a new sustainable energy infrastructure–an effort akin to mobilizing for war. And what I am saying is hardly the typical liberal (in the economic sense) economic vision. What I am trying to do is see how we get from where we are now to sustainability–that means:
    1)a stable and much smaller population
    2)a restored demographic pyramid
    3)a sustainable, renewable energy infrastructure
    4)a new industrial revolution that doesn’t rely on huge capital investments requiring mass consumption to recoup costs
    5)a whole helluva lot more than that.

    The climate crisis is just the first in a long line of crises we must confront–yes, we must confront it, but we have to think two or three moves ahead. It will do no good for the US to develop sustainable energy if China and India burn the last lump of coal, the last drop of oil and the last twig of wood. It will do no good to develop a sustainable energy infrastructure if we don’t stabilize population. It will do no good to do all of the above if civilization collapses because there are too many old people for the working age population to feed. Getting 70% right on this is not a passing grade.

  14. 364
    DIOGENES says:

    SA #355,

    “355.Diogenes wrote: “I see no precursors that would indicate potential movement away from BAU.”

    Well, with all due respect, you can’t be looking very hard.”

    Well let’s look a little harder. From Andrew Freedman’s summary of the EIA International Energy Outlook, we find these tidbits.

    “Global energy consumption will grow by 56 percent by 2040 with fossil fuels remaining dominant energy sources. Along with that growth will come increased carbon dioxide emissions and a continued reliance on coal, oil, and natural gas for transportation and electricity generation, according to a new report published Thursday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA). The International Energy Outlook, which is released every two years, shows that strong economic growth in developing countries will be the dominant force driving world energy markets during that period.”

    “http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/ieo/”

    “Importantly, though, the report projects that, despite robust growth in renewables, fossil fuels will continue to supply nearly 80 percent of world energy use through 2040.”

    “As far as carbon emissions are concerned, the report estimates that global energy-related CO2 emissions will rise from 31.2 billion metric tons in 2010 to 36.4 billion metric tons in 2020, and 45.5 billion metric tons in 2040 — an increase of 46 percent over 30 years. During that period, the gap between emissions coming from developed nations vs. developing nations is expected to significantly widen. In 2010, developing country emissions exceeded the emissions of industrialized countries by 38 percent. In 2040, they are projected to be in the lead by about 127 percent.”

    But, you’re right, this is a precursor indicating potential movement away from BAU. Unfortunately, the movement is toward greater than BAU!!

  15. 365
    DIOGENES says:

    Wili #2,

    ” “Emissions reduction of 6%/year and 100 GtC storage in the biosphere and soils are needed to get CO2 back to 350 ppm, the approximate requirement for restoring the planet’s energy balance and stabilizing climate this century.”

    How do you square this requirement with my recent response to SA showing an EIA global projection of CO2 emissions increasing ~46% per annum over the next thirty years?

  16. 366
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Diogenes wrote: “I see no precursors that would indicate potential movement away from BAU.”

    Well, with all due respect, you can’t be looking very hard.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 14 Jan 2014

    SA – I’m looking pretty hard and I haven’t seen any significant move away from a BAU scenario. I see plenty of renewable energy coming on line and more fuel efficient cars but as for the oil and gas wells and drilling NOTHING has slowed down. We have more gas wells in Arkansas now than I’ve seen throughout Texas and Oklahoma my entire life. I also know that the oil and gas companies are licking their chops over the ice free Arctic. Politically we seem to be stuck.

    Climate Change is not on everybody’s lips in the media. And nobody I personally know is talking about it at all. Other than some members of my immediate family I know of no one who thinks that Climate Change is a problem. I bought the only Chevy Volt in the county and it sat on the lot for almost three years. Nobody even wanted to test drive it. I got a hell of a deal because the car dealer couldn’t sell it.

    I’m not a scientist so I don’t have the qualifications to assess the physics of the situation but I can tell you that unless “we” are able to get some serious media attention or form a PAC that is well funded, most folks are not going to see this for the emergency it is. The Heritage Foundation has the money and media advantage. I say we should use whatever influence we might have to tap into the Hollywood industry. there are plenty of intelligent/wealthy folks who would be able to lend their celebrity and maybe funding toward getting the message out. The scientific community needs some backing and PR from people who know how to wield a camera.

    Again, that’s my 2 cents worth on it. Feel free to tell me why it can’t be done.

  17. 367
  18. 368
    Nick Gotts says:

    “but _then_ I saw that Nick seems to think that a growth rate of 1.1 percent is not exponential and is nearly linear. Perhaps Nick is confusing growth rate with birth rate? – wili”

    No, I’m not. I stated clearly that “exponential” simply means that the rate of growth (or shrinkage) is constant; it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with what that rate is at any particular point. I noted that the rate of growth has halved over the past half-century, meaning growth has not been exponential, and indeed it has been near-linear and at times sub-linear – the absolute year-on-year increase in global population has sometimes fallen. While it is true that there appears to have been a very slight uptick in the growth rate last year, in an earlier comment I noted that the demographer Danny Dorling argues that the higher-than-previously-forecast-by-the-UN growth in the past few years is a “reflection” of an earlier baby boom, and there are good reasons to expect the fall in growth rate to resume. Of course we should encourage (non-coercive) measures to promote this fall, but one of the big causal factors in bringing it about, urbanization, is going to continue whether we want it to or not, and in itself promotes some of the others, such as literacy, access to contraception, and female workforce participation.

  19. 369
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Chuck Hughes
    > I haven’t seen any significant move away from a BAU scenario

    You’re demonstrating a basic problem in human perception here: We typically don’t notice shifting baselines.

    See 14 Jan 2014 at 1:15 PM following the first part where I asked:

    BAU as of what year? Remember, part of business as usual is consistent exaggeration.

  20. 370
    DIOGENES says:

    #365,

    RE-WORDING.

    “How do you square this requirement with my recent response to SA showing an EIA global projection of CO2 emissions increasing ~46% per annum over the next thirty years?”

    ‘increasing 46% from 2010 to 2040′.

  21. 371
    DIOGENES says:

    #366 Chuck,

    “SA – I’m looking pretty hard and I haven’t seen any significant move away from a BAU scenario.”

    The reason you haven’t seen it is that it doesn’t exist. Today’s CP has an article about how newspaper climate change coverage has plummeted, and continues to plummet. Another precursor away from BAU that doesn’t exist. The notion that any precursors away from BAU exist is a triumph of ideology over credibility.

  22. 372
    Hank Roberts says:

    > methane monster

    > a handful of leading scientists who are very concerned

    > methane spikes in the Arctic were very significant

    > Barrow, Alaska … risen from an average of 1895 ppb
    > during early 2012 to about 1920 ppb by early 2014, an
    > increase of more than 12 parts per billion per year

    > it becomes more difficult to cling to the comfort
    > provided by a number of the more conservative scientists
    > on the issue of methane release

    > compare the Arctic Methane Monster to a massive volcano.
    > One that continues to rumble even as it releases ever
    > greater volumes of its climatologically volatile and
    > heat-contributing gasses. As anyone living in the neighborhood
    > of a volcano can attest, it’s generally not a good idea to ignore

    Oy.

    And what should we do about all this?

    Well, there’s:

    Promptly invest money and time to depressurize the strata, pipe and sell the methane on an emergency rush basis

    Or there’s:
    Stop investing in more new fossil fuel development and distribution

    Gee, what to do, what to do.

    I thin I hear a cash register somewhere, ringing ….

  23. 373
    wili says:

    From prok’s link at 367 (http://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/beneath-the-cracking-melting-ice-the-arctic-methane-monster-continues-its-ominous-rumbles/):
    “Given the evidence showing an amplifying methane signal coming from the Arctic, a signal that becomes louder with each passing year, it becomes more difficult to cling to the comfort provided by a number of the more conservative scientists on the issue of methane release (hydrates, compost bomb or other). Though we have not yet seen major releases large enough to push global methane levels higher by 50, 100 or more parts per billion per year (as we would see during an exceptionally catastrophic event), what we have seen is a growing Arctic release that remains a serious cause for concern.

    In such an instance, we might be wise to compare the Arctic Methane Monster to a massive volcano. One that continues to rumble even as it releases ever greater volumes of its climatologically volatile and heat-contributing gasses. As anyone living in the neighborhood of a volcano can attest, it’s generally not a good idea to ignore such things. In this case, the monstrous volcano is so large as to make all the Earth its neighborhood. So we should all be paying attention.”

    I hope we can all agree, at least, that this area is worth much more careful and thorough study.
    —–

    Nick (at 368), yes, the rate of growth is on a long-term trend toward zero. But it is not dropping anywhere near fast enough, and last year’s numbers suggest that the drop in rate of growth may have stalled.

    —–
    Diogenes (at 365), yes, what our top climatologist are saying we absolutely must do right now is the polar opposite of what our industrial society seems to be hell bent on doing–toasting the planet.

    —–

    Ray (at 363), a good friend of mine is an economist from India who is greatly disappointed that economic growth has done so very little for the neediest in that country. This is a widespread concern–as anyone can see with a simple ‘oogle search–first recent hit:

    “there is one shocking statistic India’s economic miracle has not been able to improve: the number of children that are severely malnourished.”

    http://www.ibtimes.com/indias-economic-growth-leaves-starving-children-behind-709629

    But basically your answer is a tacit admission that you cannot answer the main question posed, which, again, is: “where has rapid reduction in ff energy AND reduction in consumption ever corresponded with economic growth?”

    And are you saying that ‘wasteful’ consumption is going to go down at the same time that general consumption increases? Who decides which consumption is ‘wasteful’? And exactly how much more of the world should we consume?

  24. 374
    Nick Gotts says:

    Addendum to my #368:
    “Female economic independence” would be much better than “female workforce participation”: rural women most certainly work, but generally have little or no income of their own.

    “wili,
    Have you been to India? Even the peasants in the poorest villages have benefited somewhat.” – Ray Ladbury

    Yes, and I’d say more than a little. Despite the fact that India has on the whole done less well by its poor than China, life expectancy has increased from a little over 40 to around 65 in the last half-century. See here:
    http://internationalmchjournal.org/?p=1111.
    Again, I note the apparent imperviousness to simple facts displayed by many when it comes to what’s changed for the better in poorer countries over the past half century.

  25. 375
    SecularAnimist says:

    Chuck Hughes wrote: “I haven’t seen any significant move away from a BAU scenario”

    What Diogenes wrote was that he could “see no precursors that would indicate potential movement away from BAU.”

    “Precursors to potential movement” are quite a different matter than “significant moves”.

    In fact, the extremely rapid scaling up of renewable energy that is already happening now IS, in my view, a very significant move away from a business-as-usual scenario. Without it, the world would be emitting significantly more greenhouse gases than we are.

    And as a “precursor to potential movement”, it provides evidence that we have at hand the technological and economic means to eliminate all GHG emissions from electricity generation in a much shorter time than most people realize.

    The fossil fuel interests clearly understand this. That’s why they are fighting tooth and nail against any and all public policies that promote the rapid deployment of wind and solar — particularly distributed photovoltaics whose ongoing growth is truly explosive, and threatens the entire business model of utilities that distribute power from large centralized power plants.

  26. 376
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Nick Gotts — 15 Jan 2014 @ 7:40 AM

    A 1% growth rate results in a doubling in 70 years. Population is currently at 7 billion, so with a 1% yearly increase there would be 14 billion around 2084. Because this is compounded “interest” the next 70 years would yield 28 billion. We need 0% increase or less.

    Steve

  27. 377
    DIOGENES says:

    There are four interesting climate change numbers that need to be addressed in an integrated manner. First, we have Hansen’s prior-Holocene-based target temperature ceiling increase of ~1 C. Second, we have Anderson’s agreement with Hansen’s target, further stating that many climate scientists agree. Additionally, we have Anderson’s computations showing that ~10% CO2 emissions reduction per annum is required for years to stay within a (dangerous) 2 C ceiling target. Third, we have the EIA stating that “global energy-related CO2 emissions will rise from 31.2 billion metric tons in 2010 to 36.4 billion metric tons in 2020, and 45.5 billion metric tons in 2040 — an increase of 46 percent over 30 years.”

    Finally, we have estimates of what would happen if all CO2 emissions were to cease soon. Hare and Meinshausen, 2006, predicted that cessation of CO2 emissions would result in a further temperature increase of 0.4 C, raising the total temperature increase to ~1.2 C in a decade or two. MacDougall et al, Journal of Climate, Dec 2013, stated:

    “In a scenario of zeroed CO2 and sulfate aerosol emissions, whether the warming induced by specified constant concentrations of non-CO2 greenhouse gases could slow the CO2 decline following zero emissions or even reverse this trend and cause CO2 to increase over time is assessed. It is found that a radiative forcing from non-CO2 gases of approximately 0.6 W m(-2) results in a near balance of CO2 emissions from the terrestrial biosphere and uptake of CO2 by the oceans, resulting in near-constant atmospheric CO2 concentrations for at least a century after emissions are eliminated.” In “Climate response to zeroed emissions of greenhouse gases and aerosols”, Matthews and Zickfeld (2012) concluded:

    ‘Eliminating all emissions led to a peak followed by decline in non-CO2 forcing, which drove a global warming of 0.3  °C over a decade, followed by a gradual cooling that converged with the CO2-only result after about a century’.

    So, we need no more than a temperature increase of ~1.1 C to (hopefully) stay out of the real danger zone. If we reduce emissions by ~10% annually for decades, resulting in essentially zero emissions by well before 2040, we should be able to stay within (dangerous) 2 C. If we reduce emissions by 100%, according to the above, we get to the upper limit of what Hansen views as ‘safe’. If, however, we GROW emissions by ~1% per annum, as the most likely scenario from EIA predicts, and the CO2 emissions in 2040 are over 40% greater than those of 2010, then we would probably be in serious, in fact extremely serious, trouble. How do we reconcile the emissions we need by 2040 (~0) with those projected from BAU? I cannot think of another endeavor where we are two orders of magnitude away from an extremely critical target, and there are NO precursors showing ANY movement to close the gap!

  28. 378
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Ray Ladbury — 14 Jan 2014 @ 5:28 PM

    Good post. It occurred to me that one potential development that might, at least in part, address your points 2 to 4 is described in this Fine Homebuilding article- http://www.finehomebuilding.com/item/32909/solar-companies-next-big-thing-on-wall-street?utm_source=email&utm_medium=eletter&utm_content=fhb_eletter&utm_campaign=fine-homebuilding-eletter

    If this business strategy, advocated and partially invented by Jigar Shah, continues to expand exponentially, it would provide a large number of local jobs for skilled and unskilled labor (your point 2), create a sustainable and renewable infrastructure (point 3), and can be done with off the shelf components on a piecemeal basis (point 4).

    It amuses me to think that concerns about poor public education, fossil fuel investors and their whores, Tea Party culture wars, and politicians for hire, might be misguided if the best answer is to outcompete carbon emitters with a good renewable energy business model. I would like to see how the Ayn Rand hugger stink tanks would dance in order to deal with successful business competition.

    Steve

  29. 379
    Radge Havers says:

    Interesting climate change show on Diane Rehm today.

    Clive Hamilton: “Earthmasters”
    http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-01-15/clive-hamilton-earthmasters

  30. 380
    Tony Lynch says:

    Nick Gotts. You might like to read Pankaj Mishra, Nov 21, 2003, NYRB.

  31. 381
    Hank Roberts says:

    > companies that install rooftop solar systems at little or
    > no cost and then sell the electricity

    A neighbor who’s very good at thinking this stuff through just went with SolarCity, saying he wanted to see the very simplest, easiest to understand approach at work.

    He has a nice sturdy new house, though.

    Our old house would need significant strengthening of the roof to take current solar panels, and so far each of the solar companies I’ve talked to did their numbers and we don’t use enough electricity and gas combined to make doing the installation cost effective, given the structural work needed. But the panels get lighter and cheaper, time will come when thin film PV can go on the existing roof structure.

    My hunch is the companies are really capturing solar real estate — and they may find it profitable to upgrade panels several times during the time they have rights to the roof — each time increasing the amount of surplus power they get to resell, above what goes to the homeowner.

    Meanwhile, I put some money into Mosaic, to fund solar on other people’s buildings. This is not investment advice, mind you, I don’t know if it’s a good investment. But it’s a good idea.

  32. 382
    Garry S-J says:

    Hi guys,

    Anyone know where I can find NASA’s GISS land+ocean data? All the sites google gives me are unresponsive.

    Also, just a thought, any idea why these major data sets – NASA GISTemp, HadCRUT etc are do damned hard to find?

    Joe or Jospehine Average trying to check skeptic claims about temperature trends will find it almost impossible to navigate to a site where the actual numbers can be found.

    The fact that a site like woodfortrees is actually necessary suggests it’s not just me.

    [Response: We have a data page with just that kind of info... - gavin]

  33. 383
    ying yang says:

    People look at the present, see the seemingly iron-clad CONstraints that have prevented a breakthrough and confidently proclaim the problem impossible…until it suddenly gives way and we’re in a new normal.

    I see the point that there are those who claim, game over without playing and those that claim it will fix itself and or blame cows or deny green house gas, except all of those are contradictory arguments by the same people who forget to use their other accounts to argue with themselves.
    Just an observation.

  34. 384
    Chuck Hughes says:

    How fast we are able to move away from a BAU scenario is meaningless if we can’t move fast enough. Time is of the essence. We still have 7 billion + people on the planet consuming everything in sight. CO2 emissions are still on the rise and have accelerated. All the great solutions to the problems don’t matter much if we hit the wall of reality.

    I have a feeling that there are some wealthy influential people listening to this conversation who would be more than willing to help us get the message out and put it front and center. We’re not tapping into all available resources here. There are high profile people who have backed the Clinton’s and President Obama in their political campaigns. Those same people would be willing to help if they knew what to do. You get an Oprah Winfrey or somebody of that stature to mobilize their peeps and you’ll have success.

    “The Day After Tomorrow” was pretty much a Si Fi movie but it got a lot of attention. The only problem is it wasn’t realistic. We have some high profile scientists like Gavin and James Hansen and many others who are regular guests on TV. They could at the very least talk to a few people about getting something started. The younger generation would embrace it and that’s where the real change is going to come from. Utilize all available resources in the media and modify the message into something average folks can understand and grasp. Talking amongst ourselves will get us nowhere. We have to play the media game and appeal to those with the most power. I posted a Leonardo DeCaprio video about Climate Change earlier. He would jump on this in a New York minute if a few high profile scientist were to hit him up and provide him with the necessary information.

    It may sound stupid and far fetched but it beats setting around waiting for the worst to happen. Getting anything done will require a massive media blitz backed with credible proof, demonstrated in such a way that the average Joe can understand it. Somebody out there has the contacts to get this started.

  35. 385
    TCFlood says:

    This is my vote for one of the most interesting papers of the year:

    A. Abe-Ouchi, F. Saito, K. Kawamura, M. E. Raymo, J. Okuno, K. Takahashi, and H. Blatter, “Insolation-driven 100,000-year glacial cycles and hysteresis of ice-sheet volume” Nature, Vol 500, August 8, 2013, p. 190.

    Modeling produces a time plot of ice volume changes over the last 400,000 years that is a close approximation of the usual temperature or [CO2] plots over that period. An especially interesting feature of the modeling results is that if [CO2] is kept constant at 220 ppm across the entire time period, the model still produces the 100 ka ice age cycle with nearly the same curve shape. If [CO2] is kept constant 260 ppm, the ice ages completely disappear. If [CO2] is kept constant at 160 ppm, the ice age frequency is much higher and interglacials are much colder.

    These results indicate that [CO2] is critical to gross climate behavior, but that whether [CO2] precedes or lags temperature is not particularly important in ice age-interglacial periodicity and intensity. It also suggests that at 400 ppm of [CO2] descent into another ice age will not be possible.

    The strange thing is that I have seen nothing about this paper in blog space. Is this already all well-known?

  36. 386
    Tony Weddle says:

    For those who think population will take care of itself, I hope you’re right. I hope your dreams eventuate. There is no guarantee, no guarantee whatsoever, that economic growth will continue to take care of the problem or that any plateau is sustainable. Indeed, although the rate of growth has fallen, it hasn’t fallen continuously, as Nick Gotts states; between 2004 and 2008, it was stable or growing, with the 2008 rate greater than 2003. Since then, it resumed it’s downward course but actually grew from 2011 to 2013. So there are no guarantees it will level out, though climate change may force a reduction in population before too long. Albert Bartlett was not an ignoramous but, yes, a reducing rate of growth will lengthen the doubling time though, as wili pointed out, there is still a doubling time if the rate is positive (a halving time if it’s negative).

    For those hoping that economic growth can continue a lot longer (on a finite planet, it has to end, no matter where you get your energy from), and can lift all boats, check out a special edition of New Scientist which pretty much buries that myth.

    In case it has escaped anyone’s attention, climate change is looking increasingly dangerous, and pretty much certain to reach catastrophic levels. We don’t have the luxury of hoping that we can just switch energy sources and continue economic growth and happy-go-lucky lifestyles, with more aspiring to so-called developed status. Some reality focus is needed.

  37. 387
    wili says:

    Here’s the link to the excellent Mishra article cited by Tony Lynch at 380: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/nov/21/which-india-matters/?pagination=false

    “Which India Matters?”

  38. 388
  39. 389
  40. 390
    MARodger says:

    Garry S-J @382.

    It is not that such temperature data (or other climate data) “are [that] damned hard to find.” It is rather the presentation of the raw data in its various forms is not seen as having a large audience. The vast majority do not want raw data but rather graphical representations. And with sites beginning to offer ‘interactive’ functionality, the raw data becomes even less necessary for most of that audience.

    As somebody who attempts to provide up-to-date climate data (using old-fashioned static graphs), I am very conscious of the difficulty of presenting a fair and proper representation. Part and parcel of such propriety is a link to the data sources I use. It appears that WoodForTrees is of a similar mind.

    And relying on Google alone to provide your climate data sources is perhaps asking too much.

  41. 391
    Garry S-J says:

    Thanks Gavin.

    See, this is why everyone loves you so much!

  42. 392
    prokaryotes says:

    A new paper submitted to the Cryosphere Discussion (Eisenman, I., Meier, W. N., and Norris, J. R.: A spurious jump in the satellite record: is Antarctic sea ice really expanding?, The Cryosphere Discuss., 8, 273-288, doi:10.5194/tcd-8-273-2014, 2014) suggests that much, if not most, of the upward trend in southern hemisphere sea ice may be due to a spurious jump caused by an undocumented change to how the data are processed. It also explains the dramatic difference in the state of affairs between what was reported in AR4 and what was in AR5 just a few years later. URL

  43. 393
    DIOGENES says:

    SA #375,

    “In fact, the extremely rapid scaling up of renewable energy that is already happening now IS, in my view, a very significant move away from a business-as-usual scenario. Without it, the world would be emitting significantly more greenhouse gases than we are.”

    We need to define BAU. I define BAU with respect to CO2 emissions and atmospheric concentration. The BAU emissions component means that we continue to have present or increasing emissions levels for the foreseeable future; essentially, the EIA projections. Any precursor of potential movement would need to offer the promise of potentially rapid decreases in emissions. While renewables certainly have the capability of offering decreases in emissions (although from Anderson’s perspective not with sufficient rapidity in the short-time scales of the near-term, where they are required), I don’t see them as a precursor yet. Their introduction has come mainly as a result of traditional market forces. To get the steep declines in emissions we need, there have to be extra-ordinary efforts made as well.

    In #353, I identified a few of these possible extra-ordinary efforts that would signify early-stage precursors:

    “Are there any new governments that have taken office as a result of a strong stand against BAU? Look no further than Australia, Canada, and, yes, the USA for the answer to that question. Are there strong steps being taken to eliminate fossil fuel subsidies; if so, show me one? Are there strong steps being taken to add taxes to fossil fuels to account for environmental damage clean-up; if so, show me one, especially in the major fossil exporting countries? Are there strong steps being taken to reduce the impact of fossil fuel money on politics; just the opposite!”

    I see none of them operating. Without these extra-ordinary efforts, renewables will continue their growth, but, as in the past, mainly substituting for growth of fossil. While this is certainly welcome, renewables need to displace existing fossil, and do it at unprecedented levels. Without these extra-ordinary efforts that could serve as precursors, I don’t see that happening.

  44. 394
    DIOGENES says:

    A few more non-precursors of potential movement away from BAU, from this morning’s CP:

    “Department of Energy. Funding for government research into renewable energy and efficiency gets a 4.8 percent boost in the omnibus budget, from $1.95 billion in 2013 to $2.05 billion in 2014. That level is unfortunately lower than what was requested by the White House and proposed by the Senate, but it’s also much higher than the $983 million the House GOP wanted to go with. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) — an advanced green energy research project originally funded by the 2009 stimulus — also gets a 5.6 percent increase to $280 million in 2014. Again, that’s lower than the $379 million the White House and Senate wanted, but way above the $90 million the House GOP wanted. On the downside, RESEARCH INTO FOSSIL FUEL DEVELOPMENT ALSO GETS MORE THAN THE WHITE HOUSE, THE SENATE, OR THE HOUSE GOP WANTED: $562 MILLION, 5.2 PERCENT UP FROM 2013. AND PRESIDENT OBAMA’S REQUEST FOR $200 MILLION TO SUPPORT A “RACE TO THE TOP” ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM IS SCRAPPED ENTIRELY.”

    “Along with department and agency funding, the 2014 omnibus budget also includes a few riders with more specific consequences for certain policies and programs.

    Weakened limits on investment in overseas coal projects. Earlier in 2013, the Obama administration released new guidelines curtailing when the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) could invest in coal power in foreign countries. A provision added to the omnibus bill by the House GOP PREVENTS ENFORCEMENT OF THE GUIDELINES IN 2014….”

  45. 395
    Nick Gotts says:

    Steve Fish@376,
    I am aware that a 1% growth rate leads to a doubling in about 70 years. I have nowhere said, or implied, either that population growth is zero, or that it does not need to be halted.

    Tony Lynch@380,
    Why might I? Having followed the link kindly provided by wili@386 (if you recommend a piece, it’s useful to be rather more explicit about where it is to be read) it doesn’t tell me much I didn’t know: I’m well aware of the gross inequalities in India. Maybe you think an improvement in life expectancy from just over 40 to around 65 is of little or no benefit, but I doubt whether those living an extra couple of decades would agree.

    Tony Weddle@386,

    Yes, my “continuously” was inaccurate – thank you for pointing that out. But as far as I know, no-one has said or implied that population growth will take care of itself. I certainly haven’t. In my #368 I explicitly said:
    “Of course we should encourage (non-coercive) measures to promote this fall”
    I also alluded to a possible explanation for the (very small) recent increases in the growth rate.

  46. 396
    wili says:

    Prok, thanks for pointing out the important article at #389, “Australian heatwave shows man-made climate change, scientists say.”

    But your link doesn’t actually go directly to that article (for me, at least), and the FT site it does go to does not make more than the first few lines of the article available; the rest of behind a paywall. The LowCarbonFacts site allows you to see at least a bit more of the piece:

    http://lowcarbonfacts.eu/australian-heatwave-shows-man-made-climate-change-scientists-say/

    Including the crucial bit:

    “An interim report published on Thursday by the Climate Council, a non governmental group staffed by Australian scientists, found heatwaves in the country are becoming more frequent, lasting longer and the hottest days are becoming even hotter. It blames increased greenhouse gas emissions for the intensity of the heatwaves.”

  47. 397
    DIOGENES says:

    Wili #396,

    One of the linked articles on your Lowcarbonfacts site discusses how the EU cannot even come to agreement on 40% emissions reductions by 2030.

    http://lowcarbonfacts.eu/eu-climate-leadership-in-doubt-as-talks-on-2030-targets-stall/

    This is a perfect example of a non-solution being discussed seriously because it has the appearance of a solution rather than the substance. Neglecting compounding effects, this is basically an emissions reduction of ~2.5% per year. It is well below even Anderson’s requirement of 10% per year globally, and even further below what the Annex 1 nations (advanced nations) would have to contribute to the global 10% for equity. It is far far below what would be required to achieve Hansen’s targets.

    Is it better than what we are doing now? Of course; almost anything is better than what we are doing now! Will it prevent catastrophe, even if agreement could be obtained? Probably not; it would put us on the road to well over 2 C, and there, all bets are off!

  48. 398
    wili says:

    TCFlood @ 385: Thanks for pointing that paper out. I had not noticed it being discussed anywhere, either. I started a thread on it over at neven’s forum. We’ll see if anyone nibbles. https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php/topic,728.0.html

  49. 399
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tony Weddle,
    The sort of economic growth dealt with in the New Scientist issue is unsustainable. There is no dispute there. I do not think it is the only sort of economic growth possible. Growth based on technological advances ought to be sustainable, and, indeed, it could even wind up decreasing resource consumption.

    It is all well and good to proclaim “Growth has to stop.” How would you propose to stop it? How would you propose to African villagers that they cut back on what is already a near starvation diet? How do you propose to convince mothers to have fewer children without bringing down infant mortality rates and educating those mothers? And indeed, how do you keep a coal miner from digging coal if you don’t offer him an alternative way of supporting his family.

    We have to think beyond zero-sum games. People will make sacrifices–but you have to promise them something worth the sacrifice on the other side.

  50. 400
    wili says:

    Another article questioning the workability of attaining Anderson’s and Hanson’s proposed levels of transmission cuts without abandoning limitless economic growth _and_ capitalism: “Beyond Growth or Beyond Capitalism?” by Richard Smith

    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/21215-beyond-growth-or-beyond-capitalism

    The main claim is that steady-state or no-growth capitalism–of the sort promoted by folks like Herman Daly, Tim Jackson and Jonathan Porritt–are unworkable fantasies.

    “Either we save capitalism or we save ourselves. We can’t save both.”


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