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Unforced variations: Feb 2014

Filed under: — group @ 4 February 2014

A little late starting this month’s open thread – must be the weather…

435 Responses to “Unforced variations: Feb 2014”

  1. 401
    Hank Roberts says:

    SA, “Same result” for that architect meant satisfying LEED criteria, which can be done in several ways:

    The new LEED v4 rating system transforms how building products are specified

    I’m not defending it.

  2. 402
  3. 403
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS: “white roof” refers to reflecting visible light.
    “Cool roof” doesn’t have to mean white:
    (that’s about 8 years old, but I haven’t seen an update)

  4. 404
    john byatt says:

    On the sunshine coast in SE QLD white roofs are just about black within six to twelve months and not even rain removes it, seems to be a mould or something, very few actually scrub it off

  5. 405
    MARodger says:

    The first 2014 hourly average CO2 readings above 400ppm reported at Mauna Loa by Scripps Institute for the 26th February.
    For about the last 8 weeks CO2 levels have been a bit flat. Oh my God!! Another “hiatus”!! That’s another one UN IPCC have failed to predict!!! If this run of hiatii keeps going, it could become statistically significant in, what, half a Gs or so.

  6. 406
  7. 407
  8. 408
    Hank Roberts says:

    Worth reading in full (from Reddit)

    excerpt follows:

    … These climate change scientists do climate science for a living. Surprise! Articles. Presentations. Workshops. Conferences. Staying late for science. Working on the weekends for science. All of those crappy holidays like Presidents’ Day? The ones you look forward to for that day off of work? Those aren’t holidays. Those are the days when the undergrads stay home and the scientists can work without distractions.

    Now take a second before you drop your knowledge bomb on this page and remind me again… What’s your day job? When was the last time you read through an entire scholarly article on climate change? How many climate change journals can you name? How many conferences have you attended? Have you ever had coffee or a beer with a group of colleagues who study climate change? Are you sick of these inane questions yet?

    I’m a scientist that studies how ecological systems respond to climate change. I would never presume to tell a climate scientist that their models are crap. I just don’t have the depth of knowledge to critically assess their work and point out their flaws. And that’s fair, because they don’t have the depth of knowledge in my area to point out my flaws. Yet, here we are, with deniers and apologists with orders of magnitude less scientific expertise, attempting to argue about climate change.
    I mean, there’s so much nonsense here just from the ecology side of things

  9. 409

    #407–Thanks. Dave.

  10. 410
    prokaryotes says:

    “The most troubling aspect of the Keystone pipeline is that,” he says, “it’s an encouragement to use oil longer than we should.” Field says the fight over Keystone is largely symbolic but still important, because other countries are looking to the United States to lead on climate change.

  11. 411
    DIOGENES says:

    Tony Weddle/Wili #346, #348,

    Wasdell’s Bottom Line is correct, even though his approach can be questioned. We have run out of carbon budget, and are in substantial carbon debt.

    In the thread “If you see something, say something” (IYSSSS), #291, I use a different approach to identify the temperature target ceilings for avoiding the climate Apocalypse, and come to the above conclusion. In IYSSSS #511, I present the only self-consistent plan on the climate blogs that, if implemented, would provide a reasonable chance of avoiding the climate Apocalypse. It starts with the temperature ceilings from IYSSSS #291, and then outlines a policy/strategy as a basis for action. The actions required are not pleasant, but neither are the prospects for our survival if these harsh actions are not taken.

  12. 412
    Mal Adapted says:

    The Dunning-Kruger effect is on display in the comments at Hank’s link:

    Thus an increase of carbon dioxide from 350 ppm (0.035%) to 400 ppm (0.04%) is not a significant change in the atmosphere (and not enough to have an effect on climate)


    The rational interpretation of current CO2 levels and temperature compared with the past is that the they aren’t nearly as closely related as computer models suggest. One can speculate endlessly like a taxi driver pretending he is lost as the meter continues to revolve.

    It still amazes me that deniers will flaunt their arrogant ignorance (“arrognorance”?) like that, in the faces of bona fide experts.

  13. 413
    Hank Roberts says:

    This is probably worth a look, for those with paywall access:
    Science 14 February 2014:
    Vol. 343 no. 6172 p. 732
    DOI: 10.1126/science.1249069

    Books et al.

    Environmental Law
    The Case for a Public “Trust”

    mentioned in

    The relatively recent history of the public trust doctrine in US law is likely to interest those who like this sort of thing: ‘oogle it.

  14. 414
    SecularAnimist says:

    Diogenese wrote: “We have run out of carbon budget, and are in substantial carbon debt.”

    This is something that everyone who has seriously looked at global warming has known and been saying for years.

    There is a reason that Bill McKibben named his organization “” and not “” when he founded it six years ago (when CO2 concentrations were around 385 ppm).

    As Hansen et al wrote that year:

    If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less … An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured, and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.

    Diogenese wrote: “I present the only self-consistent plan on the climate blogs that, if implemented, would provide a reasonable chance of avoiding the climate Apocalypse … The actions required are not pleasant …”

    Whatever may be said about your February 9th comment, it is certainly not “the only self-consistent plan on the climate blogs”, and indeed, it really offers nothing more than what Hansen et al recommended in one sentence in the abstract of their 2008 article: “phasing out coal use … and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon.”

    Again, pretty much everyone who has seriously considered the issue has understood for years (some of us for decades) that any solution must be built on the foundations of (1) eliminating fossil fuel use ASAP, necessarily focusing on the largest sources first (e.g. coal-fired electricity generation and oil-fueled ground transport) and (2) drawing down the already dangerous excess of CO2 with organic agriculture and reforestation.

    And of course, during recent years, numerous researchers like Marc Jacobson at Stanford, Amory Lovins and his colleagues at the Rocky Mountain Institute, and the organic agriculture researchers at the Rodale Institute, have produced numerous detailed, documented — and in some cases peer-reviewed — plans for phasing out anthropogenic CO2 emissions and sequestering atmospheric carbon much more quickly, much more easily, and at much lower cost than most people realize can be done.

    Indeed, in many cases these plans would have large economic benefits and would enhance human well-being in other significant ways, so there is nothing at all “unpleasant” about them.

  15. 415
    Hank Roberts says:

    Interesting perspective:

    Debating the Value of Blog Comment Sections February 27, 2014 By Keith Humphreys

    I miss reading the insightful commenters who used to be able to respond to my blog posts, but on balance am very happy with my decision to close off comments on most of my posts. The result has been that I have more time to engage on Twitter with knowledgeable people. I also have time to look at emailed comments from readers, and thus far at least have been able to respond to every one that was civil and substantive. Last but not least, I like knowing that in blogging I am no longer providing a platform for the subset of people who comment out of hatred, ignorance or intellectual dishonesty. That’s a lot of upside for one click on the WordPress template.

    My suspicion is that in the long run, Twitter and whatever technologies succeeds it will supplant most blog comment sections as fora for interactions between bloggers and readers.

  16. 416
    Radge Havers says:


    “It still amazes me that deniers will flaunt their arrogant ignorance (“arrognorance”?) like that, in the faces of bona fide experts.”

    OTOH if they didn’t flaunt like that, they wouldn’t so arrogant to begin with. They’ve been trained in this comforting and righteous virtue by an anti-intellectual, authoritarian culture which they will go down defending to the bitter end — because, you know, learning and changing you mind about something is weak, unprincipled, and just plain unpatriotic.

    If it were just a matter of D-K, the problem could be simply fixed by a little education. I rather think we need a major retooling.

  17. 417
    wili says:

    ASLR at neven’s blog posted a handy summary of recent advances in climate science that must be factored in when assessing estimates from AR5. Most of these have been discussed at some point here, but I thought it was handy to have them all presented and summarized together. I would be interested in any comments, corrections…Fuller references are available at the above mentioned site:,106.msg21064.html#msg21064

    “(a) Sherwood et al (2014) and Fasullo & Trenberth (2012) show that the most likely value for ECS is about 4.5 degrees C instead of the assumed mean value of 3 degrees C; therefore, you should multiply the old projections by a factor of about 1.5, due to the low amount of cloud cover near the equator.
    (b) Pistone et al. (2014) shows that the decrease in Arctic albedo (including land snow, sea ice and black carbon effects) beyond that previously assumed results in additional radiative forcing equal to ¼ of the CO₂ in the atmosphere.
    (c) Schuur & Abbott (2011) shows that the permafrost emits about 2% of its carbon emissions as methane instead of as CO₂ (as assumed by AVOID), and as over a one hundred year period, methane has a global warming potential at least 35 times that of CO₂, this means at least a 70% error in the carbon emissions from the permafrost degradation. See also Monday et al. (2014) and Isaksen et al. (2011).
    (d) Cowtan & Way (2013); England et al. (2014); Santer et al (2014); and Rosenfeld (2014); all provide solid evidence that the current mean global temperature has been masked by such causes as: limited data; the negative phase of the PDO cycle; volcanoes, and aerosols, respectively. Furthermore, once corrections are applied to the GCM projections to account for these masking mechanisms, one will find that the ECS is actually higher than previously assumed, which supports my points (a), (b) and (c).
    (e) Hansen et al. (2013) and Previdi (2013) show that the inclusion of slow-response feedback mechanisms can cause Earth Systems Sensitivity to be as high as 6 degrees C (while work such as Pistone et al. (2014) shows that the “slow response” feedback mechanisms are occurring very quickly).”

  18. 418
    DIOGENES says:

    Hank Roberts #408,

    Ah, yes, leave it to the experts! And, what do the climate experts tell us?

    “Does the [IPCC] report support recent claims that two-thirds of fossil fuels need to stay in the ground?

    This statement comes from the International Energy Agency (PDF). It’s based on the goal of limiting warming to two degrees Celsius (global average) above preindustrial conditions, which has been the target of international climate talks. The IPCC report says that meeting the two degrees Celsius goal requires keeping the total amount of carbon we’ve emitted from rising above 800 gigatons or so. (The tally as of 2011 was roughly 530 gigatons.)”

    Not to worry; we have modest carbon budget left!

    In the thread “If you see something, say something” (IYSSSS), #291, I identify the temperature target ceilings for avoiding the climate Apocalypse. To have a 50/50 chance of achieving 2 C, Anderson requires a demand reduction of ~10% per year for a few decades. To have a 90/10 chance of staying within 2 C, Spratt quotes that we have run out of carbon budget. Both Anderson and McKibben state that 2 C is a political target; the scientific target is ~1 C. Hansen, in his recent Plos One article, states that 2 C would be a dangerous target, and we shouldn’t exceed 1.1-1.2 C. Now, if we have run out of carbon budget to have a 90/10 chance of staying within 2 C, what does that mean if we want to have a high chance, or even a reasonable chance, of staying within Hansen’s, and many other experts’, desired target of ~1 C? It means we have not only run out of carbon budget, but we have accumulated substantial carbon debt. And, how do we pay off this debt in the timely manner required to avoid the climate Apocalypse?

    In IYSSSS #511, I present the only self-consistent plan on the climate blogs that, if implemented, would provide a reasonable chance of avoiding the climate Apocalypse. It starts with the Hansen-derived temperature ceilings from IYSSSS #291, and then outlines a policy/strategy as a basis for action. The actions required are not pleasant, but neither are the prospects for our survival if these harsh actions are not taken. Furthermore, no one has shown with either simple or complex computations that the required targets can be achieved with high chances of success without the personal deprivations and hardships that my plan requires, and without the adverse global economic consequences that will follow in all likelihood.

    If you want to leave it to the ‘experts’, feel free, but what is required to avoid the climate Apocalypse with high or reasonable chances of success is far more than their report (or recommendations) suggests.

  19. 419
    DIOGENES says:

    Wili #417,

    The articles you have referenced show an increasingly dire situation. My climate change amelioration plan, designed to provide a reasonable chance of avoiding the climate Apocalypse, is based on data gathered prior to the publication of these articles. My plan, detailed in the thread “If you see something, say something” (IYSSSS), #511, requires severe personal deprivation and hardships, and almost assuredly very adverse global economic consequences. Your posts only increase the hardships required to make my plan effective. If you notice, there have been no critiques of my plan that contain numbers to the contrary. No surprise; the real-world numbers allow essentially one conclusion.

  20. 420
    Hank Roberts says:

    > If you want to leave it to the ‘experts’, feel free

    Surrounded by straw men you are.

  21. 421
    Hank Roberts says:

    There is no issue more urgent than climate change, yet government, corporations, and the public are reluctant to change. This conference will examine the psychological factors, money and politics, and infrastructures that impede change as well as the difficult choices that must be made to foster urban resilience in the face of climate change.

  22. 422

    People might be interested in seeing the UK Annual Average rainfall from 1910 to 2013.

  23. 423
    Pete Best says:

    Re #418 – yes it is all dire warnings and those who pontificate on the advisory boundaries between science (reality) and politics (what we think is reality and reasonable) state that we still have a chance of avoiding 2C because otherwise how else can they approach it. Anderson’s recent talks and papers state that cutting emissions to avoid 2C is not really possible as we are locked in to our existing technologies (cars – 10 years, aircraft 30-50 years, power stations 50 years etc)and hence avoiding the 1 trillion tonne limit (if it is indeed that high) is now most unlikely.

    Only demand side technological change can over the next 10 years can help here. He suggests buying cars that to 60 mpg essentially and a few other things besides until supply side and deman side can make a difference but as far as he is concerned a 3-4C world is more likely than a 2C one due to the area under the curve and heroic assumptions made by economists that have no scientific merit.

  24. 424
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Saying we are out of carbon budget is the equivalent of John Boehner saying the US is “broke”. It’s true, but not meaningful. It is not meaningful because the world is not going to stop on a dime and change its energy and industrial infrastructure. That is a process that will take decades, and it will take lots and lots of capital. That means energy, and that energy will be produced with current infrastructure at least for now. That does mean we are opening ourselves up to potentially severe consequences. That is the consequence of 30 years of political standstill. We are out of good options. We have to choose the least bad.

  25. 425
    prokaryotes says:

    Re #421, Climate change is a trigger for evolution, hence it will bring change (rapid simplification (short time) -> extinctions (short/med time) -> new evolving species (long time)). Today we already have problems which originate from climate disruption and yet we do not prepare and stiluse oil to distinguish fire.

  26. 426
  27. 427
    Hank Roberts says:

    Smart, thoughtful discussion, a while ago, with cites to sources:

    … Counterintuitively, even though global warming had ceased, some of the impacts of warming continued to worsen.

    These experiments, assuming an overnight apocalypse, are purely hypothetical. By definition, we’ll never be able to test their accuracy in the real world. However, as a lower bound for the expected impacts of our actions, the results are sobering.

    Posted in Science Lessons

  28. 428
    DIOGENES says:

    Ray Ladbury #424,

    “Saying we are out of carbon budget is the equivalent of John Boehner saying the US is “broke”. It’s true, but not meaningful.”

    Don’t agree; there is a major difference between running out of monetary budget and running out of carbon budget. At the individual, corporate, and national level, there are Safety Nets that have been instituted that allow people who have run out of monetary budget to maintain a modest semblance of a ‘normal’ lifestyle. In fact, as we saw in late 2008, for large enough corporations, more than a modest semblance!

    When we run out of carbon budget, there is no Safety Net. Any further carbon expenditure goes toward increasing carbon debt. This increased debt translates into reduced chances of avoiding the climate Apocalypse. Any plans or proposals that focus on substituting low carbon technology for high carbon technology without the parallel extremely harsh reductions in fossil energy demand are nothing more than recipes for reducing our chances of avoiding the climate Apocalypse. So, once we accept the reality that we have run out of carbon budget (as I have shown), then EVERY non-essential expenditure of fossil energy is one step closer to the climate Apocalypse. We have to tighten the belt on fossil energy expenditure until we can barely breathe; we have no other options if we want to avoid the climate Apocalypse!

  29. 429
    SecularAnimist says:

    Diogenes wrote: “If you want to leave it to the ‘experts’, feel free”

    Thank you.

    I do value the views of those who have done decades of work on strategies, approaches and plans for rapidly ending GHG emissions and drawing down excess CO2, over the views of anonymous blog commenters who obviously have given little real thought or study to the issues involved.

  30. 430
    DIOGENES says:

    Pete Best #423/ Ray Ladbury #424,

    What I have been trying to do is span the gamut from where I believe we are headed based on all the available evidence to what is theoretically possible if the citizens of this planet decided to work collectively. At one end of the spectrum, if we remain on the BAU path, and all available credible evidence implies that we will, the global climate models predict we will experience global mean temperature increases on the order of 5 C by the end of the century. This spells extinction for our species. If the major carbon feedbacks are included in these models, the time to reach these temperatures will be accelerated by perhaps a generation or more.

    At the other end of the spectrum, the self-consistent climate change amelioration plan I presented in IYSSSS #511 shows that it may be possible to avoid the climate Apocalypse if we do hard demand reduction on fossil-based energy until the transition to low carbon technology is complete. This requires major personal deprivation and economic dislocations. I don’t believe this level of hardship can be avoided.

    What are the likelihoods or chances of these options being pursued? I believe the likelihood of the BAU option is close to 100%, from all available evidence. I don’t believe the major reason is the infrastructure commitment, as Pete, Anderson, and others have suggested. If the citizens of this planet became serious about survival of our species (which they are not at present), they could ‘bite the bullet’ and replace that existing infrastructure with the low carbon equivalent; they have taken similar losses in wartime to save their countries. The major reason is that they presently are not motivated to elect the leaders who will direct such transformations. Electing the Tony Abbots and Stephen Harpers of the world, who openly support extracting every last gram of fossil fuel from the ground, does not show the commitment needed to effect the major transformations required.

    The likelihood of my plan in IYSSSS #511, or something similar, being implemented is about the same as my likelihood of winning the $500M PowerBall. The will is not there to endure such deprivation and hardships, and the major economic dislocations that will follow.

    What about intermediate options; Pete mentions Anderson believing 3-4 C is more realistic? A number of climate experts have made similar predictions; the question is whether we can stabilize at such temperatures, horrible though life at those levels may be. Hansen’s recent Plos One article summarizes the difference between aiming for 1 C vs 2 C, as follows:

    “However, distinctions between pathways aimed at ~1°C and 2°C warming are much greater and more fundamental than the numbers 1°C and 2°C themselves might suggest. These fundamental distinctions make scenarios with 2°C or more global warming far more dangerous; so dangerous, we suggest, THAT AIMING FOR THE 2°C PATHWAY WOULD BE FOOLHARDY.

    First, MOST CLIMATE SIMULATIONS….DO NOT INCLUDE SLOW FEEDBACKS such as reduction of ice sheet size with global warming or release of greenhouse gases from thawing tundra. These exclusions are reasonable for a ~1°C scenario, because global temperature barely rises out of the Holocene range and then begins to subside. In contrast, GLOBAL WARMING OF 2°C OR MORE IS LIKELY TO BRING SLOW FEEDBACKS INTO PLAY…..The lifetime of fossil fuel CO2 in the climate system is so long that it must be assumed that these SLOW FEEDBACKS WILL OCCUR IF TEMPERATURE RISES WELL ABOVE THE HOLOCENE RANGE…..with our ~1°C scenario it is more likely that the biosphere and soil will be able to sequester a substantial portion of the anthropogenic fossil fuel CO2 carbon than in the case of 2°C or more global warming…..With the stable climate of the ~1°C scenario it is plausible that major efforts in reforestation and improved agricultural practices, with appropriate support provided to developing countries, could take up an amount of carbon comparable to the 100 GtC in our ~1°C scenario. On the other hand, with warming of 2°C or more, CARBON CYCLE FEEDBACKS ARE EXPECTED TO LEAD TO SUBSTANTIAL ADDITIONAL ATMOSPHERIC CO2, perhaps even making the Amazon rainforest a source of CO2…..a scenario that slows and then reverses global warming makes it possible to reduce other greenhouse gases by reducing their sources. The most important of these gases is CH4.”

    My interpretation of his article is that when we get much past prior Holocene experience, we really don’t know what is going to happen, but the feedbacks have the potential to increase radically. If he has this problem with a 2 C target, one can only imagine the extent of the problem with 3 C or 4 C. So, in my view, ANY plan or proposal that doesn’t have a hard quantitative interim temperature ceiling target near ~1 C is a recipe for heading straight into the climate Apocalypse. For all practical purposes, targeting 3 C may be little different from targeting 5 C or 6 C. If the feedbacks do indeed kick in with a vengeance, as Hansen et al imply they might when going well past prior Holocene, targeting 3 C may buy us an extra generation or two, if that much.

  31. 431
    Tom Dayton says:

    When y’all publish your 2013 update to model-observation comparisons, will you please show the spaghetti mass of skinny lines for individual model runs instead of the gray blob covering the range? I realize it will be more work, but the skinny lines make it easier for me to explain that the models do not project that the temperature to be as smooth as the ensemble mean, but that instead the models project the temperature to be jagged like each of the individual model runs.

  32. 432
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the spaghetti mass of skinny lines for individual model runs

    That’s always helpful. I suspect many people don’t know or remember that’s how these things are worked out.

  33. 433
    prokaryotes says:

    These experiments, assuming an overnight apocalypse, are purely hypothetical. By definition, we’ll never be able to test their accuracy in the real world. – See more at:

    Nuclear winter is studied heavily, which could result in dramatic population decline. But then after a decade or longer the Nuclear summer kicks in – which would thwart the capabilities of natural ecosystems to cope when exposed to high levels of UV-C radiation. This would also increase the time greenhouse gasses would prolong in the atmosphere. And then we have the large climate inertia and possibly a higher climate sensitivity than previously thought. Earth energy balance needs to be restored, either naturally over many millenia or by human intervention (reforestation, carbon sequestration and the help of carbon negative technologies).

  34. 434
    Dave Peters says:

    SA (#414)
    One aspect of our being laggards, is seeing where other’s choices lead:

    Me, rather than the RMI “path”, I prefer the harder route taken by nearly carbonless France, forty years ago. Because it costs < 2/3rds the average of these peers, for household electricity: GB, Spain, Italy, Germany, Netherlands & Denmark.,_second_half_2011_(1)

  35. 435
    pete best says:

    Re #430 – the jury is out on long term feedbacks but as our emissions are at 2 ppmv per annum and earth has not experienced GHG emissions of this magnitude seldom, if ever then YES, it could definitely be a factor come the end of the century. Methane clathrates are once such possibility as the Arctic faster than just about anywhere else and more quickly then as permafrost warms up then volume increases of methane are to be expected but just how much of an increase is open to question. SO YES slow feedbacks may indeed warm us up some more than just our emissions alone but its a hard one to empirically nail down.

    Although I don’t disagree with your appraisal of the situation I would questions one of your assumptions. The notion of some collective humanity deciding that we can all wean ourselves off of FFs with or without some hardship to ourselves. I doubt human nature in various states of ignorance regarding the implications of ACC can make the world take the action you state we should. The reality of the situation is that with our present economic and political systems in place and PROSPERITY and PROGRESS being the watchwords of the system then taking a massive 10% per annum growth until 2050 only means that the very foundation of the post second WW system would not be sustainable and a new system needs to emergy which I am presuming is what you are suggesting?

    Yes we cant deny what you are saying really, its just the method of transitioning to this system that is in question. I would suggest that the USA for example has a priority list such as energy security, reliability and availability and hence the easiest method of eliminating ACC as a major threat to your way of life presently would be to get rid of coal as it will be the least difficult to do as technologies exist that can provide base load power with very low emissions. Gas and Oil and less easy to replace presently. CSP and Solar, Wind, Nuclear can replace coal globally. Then we can tackle gas and oil as they are going to be in short supply anyway come 2040-50. Eliminating coal wont be politically or economically easy though but with the right message and thinking it can be done.

    Hansen always states that the elimination of coal was the best bet