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Unforced variations: Aug 2014

Filed under: — group @ 5 August 2014

This month’s open thread. Keeping track of the Arctic sea ice minimum is interesting but there should be plenty of other climate science topics to discuss (if people can get past the hype about the Ebola outbreak or imaginary claims about anomalous thrusting). As with last month, pleas no discussion of mitigation strategies – it unfortunately does not bring out the best in the commentariat.

222 Responses to “Unforced variations: Aug 2014”

  1. 51
    DIOGENES says:

    Doug #38,

    “the cherry on the top is calling your self a pearl, and scientists who run this blog irritants”

    You need a course in reading comprehension. Nowhere did I call myself a pearl, and nowhere did I call the scientists who run this blog irritants. For your information: deliberate misquoting infuriates me. If anything should be banned from this blog, that’s my number one candidate!

  2. 52
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Check out,-26.67,560
    It gives you real time, air temp/wind/humidity/ocean temp and a million other parameters. Great to see how the earth system are behaving. Also because you can see what each atmospheric layer is doing, easy to spot tell-tale rossby waves as well. Great site!!

  3. 53

    #50–Got metaphor?

  4. 54
    DIOGENES says:

    [edit – if you don’t realise that this kind of posting is exactly why ‘mitigation’ is currently off-topic, then there isn’t much hope for any continued dialogue here. You obviously have a lot to say, so please start your own blog where you can outline your ideas in complete freedom. We’ll be happy to post a link to it for anyone interested.]

  5. 55
  6. 56
    Tom Adams says:

    #11 Do ants increase sequestration merely by digging up minerals and exposing them to the atmosphere? Seems like green powered robots could do the same thing. I am not clear what the mechanism is.

  7. 57
    Fergus Brown says:

    Misinformation strategy chapter 3: ask stupid questions about the connection between climate change and something unrelated and by inference encourage denial: if the answer is ‘no’, then CC is not a problem, and if the answer is ‘could be’, the science can be challenged, this discrediting the underlying idea.
    Suggest folks are careful when responding to such enquiries…

  8. 58
    Hank Roberts says:

    Scholar Alert: Document citing “Proxy evidence for an El Nino-like response to volcanic forcing”

    Vegetation and climate change over the past 800 years in the monsoon margin of northeastern China reconstructed from n- alkanes from the Great Hinggan …
    Y Zhang, X Liu, Q Lin, C Gao, J Wang, G Wang – Organic Geochemistry, 2014
    Abstract: n-Alkanes from the Great Hinggan Mountain ombrotrophic peat bog in northeast China record changes in vegetation and climate of the East Asian monsoon marginal region over the past 800 yr. At the end of the Medieval Warm period, shrubs and/or sedges were …

  9. 59
    Mike Coday says:

    I read here on occasion, so have trouble keeping all of the posters straight, but one of the reasons that I scan this site is to monitor if/when climate scientists are going to shed their scientific reticence and start hollering “all hands on deck.”

    All of the global warming processes that I have been following have been moving along as fast or faster than climate models have predicted. I have been tracking the methane release issue from tundra, arctic sea floor for several years and have been unable to get a clear sense of how bad that might be, even as I have a clear sense that it is happening and that it might be really, really bad.

    Because the climate models have underestimated the impacts as shown in each successive IPCC where we see that the higher end of earlier projections has been the most accurate (shouldn’t we see something near the middle if the models are not damped in some systematic way?) I am uneasy about the slow and cautious political action of the scientific community about our situation. For species survival reasons, I would think that we would want aggressive/cautious public policy to protect against the worst case scenarios, but instead, we get public policy that lags way behind the scientific reticence, which itself is lagging behind the actual facts and impacts of global warming. At some point, we will be yelling fire in the theater, and maybe that is already happening, with folks like McPherson, Ward and Garrett, but I wonder if there is a better way to communicate the gravity of our global situation because there is no quantitative easing for a global climate disaster to engineer a soft landing.

    I recognize that straying into rhetoric and public policy may damage or end a career in the sciences and I am sympathetic to the reluctance, but there are some large ethical concerns about generational and environmental justice to consider, so I think climate scientists are in a bind.

    The upshot of this for many concerned lay persons come to a website like this one, hoping/looking for any good new, rays of light and hope and we expect that those are likely to be discussed in the language of mitigation. And mitigation is a discouraged thread.

    I understand that mitigation discussion creates a lot of conflict. I would love to see the mitigation discussion continue with the disagreements simply dealt with in a simple and relatively polite manner, like: “yes, that idea comes up, but is weak, see this link:” or “yes, I understand that you are pursuing that idea, remember to post the hard science links, not just the cultural fluff, that supports that idea, so we can keep the discussion based in ideas that are subject to peer-review.”

    One thing that I think is likely is our species will choose deliberate geo-engineering in an ad hoc manner. I am not happy about that, but I think the way to stop the climate disaster is to dismantle the global economy and I think that is not going to happen. I think the alternative is deliberate, ad hoc geo-engineering that will probably produce more resource war than global cooling or stabilization.

    Have to get off to work, not sure that I communicated effectively or added anything to the larger discussion, but I will continue to read here on occasion. I wish you all well.

  10. 60
    Lynn says:

    RE the Carteret Islands, does anyone know if the inundation there is caused by the islands sinking (subsidence) or sea level rising, or both?

  11. 61

    Of course, this site would be most appropriate to host a dedicated discussion on the topic of mitigation. Who would be better?

    How about once or twice a year? Maybe on the equinoxes or solstices?

  12. 62
    Chris Dudley says:

    There are some here who insist that fossil fuels are required for agriculture and nothing can be done about that. In fact, there are more efficient ways to do agriculture that don’t involve fossil fuel inputs.

    “Researchers have developed a method to produce ammonia simply from air and water. Not only is it more energy efficient than the century-old Haber-Bosch process currently in use all over the world, but it is also greener.”

  13. 63

    For those who might enjoy a reasonably ‘sciency’ essay on the “puny humans” denialist meme, I’ve just published one on Hubpages:

    Please feel free to correct me on any mis-statements I may have made on paleobiology, or anything else, for that matter.

  14. 64
    Radge Havers says:


    From where I sit, the issue of mitigation is not currently off topic because of reticence. Rather it’s because threads have been swamped with Gish gallopy, repetitive and trollish crankiness on the subject. It’s disruptive, and while I’d personally like to see mitigation dicussed, the moderators have been exceptionally patient, and I’d like to thank them for the steps they’ve taken to keep the site focused and classy. If you’ve spent any time on the internet, you well know that some people just don’t respond to politeness and that the techniques they use to derail serious discourse (intentionally or otherwise) are myriad.

  15. 65
    alan2102 says:

    mike coday, #59: “many concerned lay persons come to a website like this one, hoping/looking for any good new, rays of light and hope and we expect that those are likely to be discussed in the language of mitigation. And mitigation is a discouraged thread.”

    Would it be possible to split the mitigation discussion off from this forum; create an “unforced-variations-M” forum for the purpose? I for one am not necessarily looking for “rays of light and hope” so much as intelligent conversation, quality links, thoughtful fact-based suggestions, etc.; i.e. let the “rays of light and hope” be based on good analysis and facts. Even the obstreperous and obstinate Diogenes would be a good contributor, if for nothing else than to demark the very far end of a range of views describable as rational. Maybe this is something that the RC proprietors/moderators might consider?

    coday: “straying into rhetoric and public policy may damage or end a career in the sciences … [but] there are some large ethical concerns about generational and environmental justice to consider, so I think climate scientists are in a bind.”

    Indeed! Would this alternative forum idea provide enough separation so that no careers are jeopardized, while allowing a vital conversation (re mitigation) to proceed within the stable, credible venue of RC?

    Moderators: consider please that doing this could be a contribution to alleviating our global predicament — one that you are in a unique position to make. And as Coday says, there are large ethical issues here. This is not just a quarrel about numbers of angels on pinheads.

  16. 66
    Chuck Hughes says:

    This is something I’ve been wondering about:

    I’m not in any sort of panic mode but I’ve heard people like Dr. Stephen Hawking, Peter Ward, James Lovelock, Frank Fenner and Michio Kaku saying basically the same thing or at least suggesting it as a real possibility. I am wondering if any of the people here at RC view this as likely?


  17. 67
    SecularAnimist says:

    richard pauli wrote: “Of course, this site would be most appropriate to host a dedicated discussion on the topic of mitigation. Who would be better?”

    I respectfully disagree, and I agree with the moderators’ requests in the last couple of “unforced variations” threads of discouraging discussion of mitigation here.

    I think the immediate impetus for those requests is the behavior of a couple of regular commenters, who have repeatedly and egregiously engaged in personal attacks against anyone who disagrees with their views on mitigation strategies.

    I, for one, have been told repeatedly and explicitly that I am “paid by the Koch brothers” to lie, and have also been targeted with the contradictory accusation that I am a “windmill salesman” — simply because I have posted links to information about solar and wind energy that contradict those commenters’ assertions.

    But I think that behavior happens here for a reason. For one thing, it seems to me that the moderators — who are all busy climate scientists — have better things to do than to moderate immature, abusive behavior on a blog comment page, and quite rightly have little interest in doing that. The result tends to be that trolls can “run wild” here.

    For another, the moderators are climate scientists — and the whole rationale of this site is that it’s an opportunity for the public to get an inside look at climate science, from some of the world’s leading experts in the field, who are doing the hard work of seeking answers to the most difficult questions about global warming and climate change.

    The moderators are NOT, however, experts on mitigation strategies — on the numerous energy technologies that could replace fossil fuels, on energy efficiency, on strategies for demand reduction, on agricultural and land-use and forestry practices, or other approaches to mitigation. So they are not necessarily any better informed on these matters than anyone else, and not necessarily the best people to run and moderate a blog that focuses on these issues — even if they had the desire to do so, which it seems clear they do not, and IMHO wisely so.

    Lastly, as several commenters have pointed out from time to time, there are plenty of other websites and blogs that DO focus on mitigation strategies, where such discussions are ongoing, moderated by folks who — regardless of any bias for or against particular strategies — tend to be well-informed, intensely interested, and in some cases have hands-on academic, regulatory or commercial experience in the relevant fields.

  18. 68
    Eric Swanson says:

    There’s an article in today’s WaPo about the mysterious crater which appeared in Russia. The story reports claims that the crater is the result of melting permafrost.

    While melting permafrost might have weakened the roof on the crater and pressure from methane gas may have been the driving force for the eruption, I doubt that the cavity below was the result of melting of the permafrost. Having ventured into a limestone cavern and witnessed such a large cavity from below partially filled by the collapse of some of the overlying material, I think some other process formed the cavity. From the photographs which have been published, there appears to be much less material around the rim of the hole than would fill the cavity. It’s been suggested that a large mass of ice may have pushed up from below. Does anyone happen to know about karst activity in the area, which would produce sinkholes, like that evident in Florida?

  19. 69
    Chris Dudley says:

    Tom (#56),

    I don’t think the paper settles on an answer, but it is suggested that the increased partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the nest may play a role.

  20. 70
    CRS, DrPH says:

    Gavin, you say “Keeping track of the Arctic sea ice minimum is interesting but there should be plenty of other climate science topics to discuss (if people can get past the hype about the Ebola outbreak….” Really?? Hype about the Ebola Outbreak?? CDC has activated its Emergency Operations Center to its highest response level, the World Health Organization as formally declared the multi-nation Ebola outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and you dare to say “hype?” People are actually dying of Ebola, please show more respect.

  21. 71
    Barbara says:

    Chris #38
    That’s still an industrial process. Haven’t you heard of diluted urine? It’s the obvious natural fertiliser (but not when poured into the sea).

  22. 72
    Gorgon Zola says:

    “I read here on occasion, so have trouble keeping all of the posters straight, but one of the reasons that I scan this site is to monitor if/when climate scientists are going to shed their scientific reticence and start hollering “all hands on deck.”

    I guess the answer to that inquiry lies buried in the answer to another question, namely: whom are they going to holler at?

    If we talk about the US specifically, it is no secret that the ones that determine policy are not the ones we call the elected officials. Those who have vested interests in the CO2 producing industries do not only include the usual suspects but in effect include every consumer of the commons. Both groups, as a result of finely developed psychological compartmentalization techniques, look at short term effects of keeping those industries running as opposed to drastically turning the wheel, which is what the research tells us is needed. What we see instead, is a completely pathological approach to the matter where not only the scientists but just about everyone is finding themselves in a bind, save for some indigenous peoples and emerging, though scattered environment minded communities who are by no means on the same page themselves.

    So we have reality on the one hand and a deeply flawed recognition of that reality on the other. If you want to holler at the vested interest groups, you are preaching to the quire. These people are not idiots, they know perfectly well what is going on and what the implications are going to be like. If you want to holler at your fellow man, you will encounter a few problems:

    personally, I know of no one in my active social network that has even a rudimentary knowledge of how climate systems work. What little knowledge was passed on during the few moments in school it was discussed, has long been forgotten. Global warming is just a pesky term they read in the papers once or twice a year. AGW is criminally under-reported (read: avoided) at least in the main stream media where I live (Holland). The latest IPCC report, if my memory serves me correctly, got a small editorial on page 11 in one of the most read national papers.

    A second problem no doubt, is the religious mindset of so many people, most of whom don’t even practice their religion in a hardcore fashion. I’ve spoken to dozens of young, educated people (some were academics) from Turkey (where 99% of the people or something like it, though moderately, ascribe to Islam) who think that evolution is a fairy tale not founded in evidence and who think climate change, even if it were true, cannot possibly be a problem since there is divine oversight.

    Thirdly, the implications the research tells us should get serious consideration, is simply too big for most people to handle. I’ve asked several people if they would still consider to have kids if the most dire of predictions was a given. At no point did my hypothetical even sink in. Just see the responses of audiences where climate change is discussed. When the subject of possible human extinction (or the termination of civilization as we know it) is mentioned, people tend to chuckle. I doubt they would respond that way if their doctor just told them they may have a form of cancer for which there may not be an effective treatment.

    The science has been clear about the issue for many, many decades and the global response to it is not even lagging, given the dire implications, it’s practically non-existent. Like a lung cancer patient stating he’ll consider smoking a bit less, but only in a few years time, and then proceeds to order a ten year supply of cigarettes somewhere online.

    According to Chomsky, if anything can still sway the direction this is going, America needs to step forward as the world’s richest and most influential country and commit to drastic change if you want to mobilize the rest of the world in doing the same. As far as I’m aware, the US are taking an opposite route as they commit to a 100 year energy independence thus taking the piss out of any carbon budget discussion.

    Another problem is growing political instability in many parts of the world to which you can now add Eastern Europe as well where Russia is finally responding to the growing NATO influence in the surrounding region. You can’t have all that volatility and also expect to get everyone on the same page when entire continents seem to -in effect- deny there’s even a book to open up, let alone go to a specific page.

    The exact number for climate sensitivity, the precise tipping point thresholds or an accurate oyster reproduction response to acidification index.. it’s no doubt all very interesting to those in the fields. But all that research is meaningless if no one can use even the underlying basic knowledge of climate change and turn it into policy because of insuperable implication restraints and the absence of any hope of a global cooperative effort which the problem itself is only going to have a negative impact on.

    Disregarding everything else (the possibility of nuclear war, meteorites and Rush Limbaugh) I guess we were just unlucky that our oil, gas and coal reserves were/are as large as they were/are. If only we had long depleted them by now and have let Tesla die a rich man, we wouldn’t be having this discussion today.

  23. 73
    Brucie Bruce says:

    95: Would something like this, from Dr. Jason Box, suffice?:

    What’s the take home message, if you ask me? Because elevated atmospheric carbon from fossil fuel burning is the trigger mechanism poking the climate dragon. The trajectory we’re on is to awaken a runaway climate heating that will ravage global agricultural systems leading to mass famine, conflict. Sea level rise will be a small problem by comparison. We simply MUST lower atmospheric carbon emissions. This should start with limiting the burning of fossil fuels from conventional sources; chiefly coal, followed by tar sands [block the pipeline]; reduce fossil fuel use elsewhere for example in liquid transportation fuels; engage in a massive reforestation program to have side benefits of sustainable timber, reduced desertification, animal habitat, aquaculture; and redirect fossil fuel subsidies to renewable energy subsidies. This is an all hands on deck moment. We’re in the age of consequences.

    There are still questions, of course, but the cautionary principle makes clear we have to keep this dragon in the ground.

  24. 74
  25. 75
    Radge Havers says:

    Enjoyed it. The meme seems to be a perverse analogue of the Frankenstein trope. Puny humans thinking small, so to speak:

    Puny humans who think they are on a par with god and nature will be punished
    Puny humans who think they can change climate deserve to be punished
    Instead of just
    Puny humans who dare to screw up the climate will be punished


    “Puny Earthlings were shocked today to learn that a ball of garbage will destroy their pathetic city of New New York.”
    ~ Morbo

    “Morbo is pleased but sticky.”
    ~ Morbo

  26. 76
    Edward Greisch says:

    I have just finished reading “Bottleneck” by William Catton, 2009. Catton says we have several reasons for a human population crash, not just GW. I don’t know if I can remember them all, but some of the others are overcrowding, fuel depletion, aquifer depletion, lack of empty land, other resource depletion, …..

    Catton says: terrorists suffer from “diminished significance.”

    Catton says our culture of seeing other people as walking wallets to be picked and tools to be used is a big part of the problem. City-fication.

    Catton may as well have said: “It is Hotel Rwanda until the population gets small enough.” How small is that? How few after GW?

    Catton calls us “Homo Colossus” because of the energy we use.

    Catton gives a date of “This century” for the population crash to happen.

    Catton’s mitigations are lowered birth rate and quit using energy.

    If it is Hotel Rwanda, do you have enough ammunition?

    Deer without wolves on an island: Catton says they didn’t starve. They got some other organic disease never before seen. ~99% died; and they started over.

  27. 77

    #75–Thanks, Radge. Appreciate the feedback.

    And that’s a pretty good summary you made–and from an angle I didn’t really consider (ie., the substitution of divine or karmic wrath for natural consequences.) The psychology involved seems fascinating if creepy.

  28. 78
    Radge Havers says:


    Smithsonian has an artsy graph based on the original book (note that AGW is not considered here):

    and an interview with Meadows:

    Meadows on collapse:
    “In the world model, if you don’t make big changes soon—back in the ’70s or ’80s—then in the period from 2020 to 2050, population, industry, food and the other variables reach their peaks and then start to fall. That’s what we call collapse.

    “Now, in real life, what would that mean? It is not clear. In a way, it is like being in San Francisco and knowing that there is going to be an earthquake and that it is going to cause buildings to fall down. Which buildings are going to fall down, and where are they going to fall? We just don’t have any way of understanding that. What we know is that energy, food and material consumption will certainly fall, and that is likely to be occasioned by all sorts of social problems that we really didn’t model in our analysis. If the physical parameters of the planet are declining, there is virtually no chance that freedom, democracy and a lot of the immaterial things we value will be going up.”

  29. 79
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Health Organization as formally declared the multi-nation Ebola outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, and you dare to say “hype?” People are actually dying of Ebola, please show more respect.

    Comment by CRS, DrPH

    Your chances of dying from Ebola are slim to none. Death from the flu next year here in America will probably be in the hundreds of thousands. Ebola outbreaks tend to happen after severe drought or flooding as I understand it. Water borne illnesses associated with a warming climate are on the increase which is a concern for everyone. It all goes back to CO2.

    “Multi-Nation” in this context refers to the 4 African countries already affected and the potential spread to surrounding countries, I think. Somebody feel free to correct me.


  30. 80
    Philip Machanick says:

    Anomalous thrusting? I thought my take on the speed of dark would excite some attention, but no…

  31. 81
    Chris Dudley says:

    Barbara (#71),

    Crop rotation that includes legumes has been a traditional means of fixing nitrogen.

  32. 82
    alan2102 says:

    SA #67:

    Good points. I am convinced.

    However: if the moderators want mitigation to be off the table, then they’ve got to follow through on that. That means summarily axing posts having to do with mitigation. That will solve the problem, easily and completely. Trollish behavior will vanish. No one will continue posting on that subject if ALL of such posts disappear into a black hole, never to be seen. The trick is for the moderators to be consistent and ruthless. If they allow one mitigation-related post, then that post will spawn others — as well it should; that’s what a forum for the exchange of ideas is supposed to do. There’s nothing wrong with setting out the allowable scope of the forum, however, and “no mitigation” is just fine as a restriction. Only, ensure that the restriction is enforced, uniformly.

    Failing that, the best alternative would seem to be something along the lines that I (and others) have suggested.

  33. 83
  34. 84
    Geoff Beacon says:

    Edward Greisch:

    Wikipedia has a quote from Catton which includes

    … our lifestyles, mores, institutions, patterns of interaction, values, and expectations are shaped by a cultural heritage that was formed in a time when carrying capacity exceeded the human load. A cultural heritage can outlast the conditions that produced it. That carrying capacity surplus is gone now, eroded both by population increase and immense technological enlargement of per capita resource appetites and environmental impacts.

    Does he actually go onto say something useful like the Earth could easily carry a larger population if we changed our “cultural heritage”? i.e stopped screwing the world up by driving cars, flying planes, eating beef &etc?

    Although I would support an academic that’s on the right side, it irritates me that what seems perfectly obvious should have to be couched in wooly academic guff. But, I suppose, some “intellectuals” need “a source of conceptual insight and existential inspiration regarding the ecological basis of human societies”.

    Some of us see the bleedin’ obvious.

  35. 85
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Are the current Arctic Ice levels (minimum) a sign of anything other than natural variability? Also will having more ice this year have a positive/negative effect on the jet stream pattern?

    Thoughts? Ideas?


  36. 86
    Anna Karisto says:

    I would really want to know what you think about this.

  37. 87
    Radge Havers says:


    FWIW, the moderators seem to stuff the most boring verbiage into the Bore Hole and remind the commentariat (rightly I think) to put some effort into self-policing the gray areas. The approach is more patient and open than authoritarian and dogmatic. The moderators also no doubt have more important things to do than make a full time job of baby sitting commenters. So it gets messy. I’m just amazed and grateful that they let my trifling comments pass.


    Well I think people tend to resort (appeal) to stock responses that are derived from folk wisdom. If there’s any validity to my take on puny humans, then the confusion is leveraged from the fact that warnings are coming from the scientists, who must always wear the mask of bad guys in this type of morality tale.

  38. 88
    wili says:

    So, chuck, we should only be concerned about things that are likely to be a direct threat to us in the near future? I guess we shouldn’t be worried about global warming at all then, right? ‘-)

    Really, though, case numbers of ebola are doubling every month, deaths doubling at nearly that rate. And if it is now loose in Lagos (over 21 million pop.), that is a very large pool of potential new cases. And each new case is someone who could get on a plane during the up to 21 days that they are asymptomatic and be anywhere in the world in a few days. Each new case is also another chance for the virus to mix DNA with other viruses and become even more easily transmissible. Many officials are saying that cases are under-reported, reported cases representing perhaps a little as 25% of the actual total.

    I have no idea why anyone would call “hype” an exponentially expanding lethal disease that has caused WHO to issue its highest level of alert, three countries to declare national emergencies, nations to shut down borders and restrict air traffic…

    It may have only tangential relations to GW, but its spread has certainly been linked to deforestation, which we will likely see more of as GW takes its toll, even if all more direct assaults on forests stop.

  39. 89

    #85–[See more at:

    “Are the current Arctic Ice levels (minimum) a sign of anything other than natural variability?”

    You are confusing me a bit here; minimum is still at least a month out. It remains to be seen how this season plays out, though it’s unlikely this season will reach remarkable melt levels now. Indeed, it may be something of a ‘recovery’ year. (Volume this year already ‘recovered’ once, during the winter, before falling once again.) I think that the short answer is no–over the last couple of seasons, all we are seeing is variability.

    The long-term trend is, of course, another story–it’s highly significant statistically.

    The best source for anything sea-ice related is Neven’s Sea Ice Blog:

    “Also will having more ice this year have a positive/negative effect on the jet stream pattern?”

    As far as I know, the general question of how sea ice affects the jet stream pattern is still open, let alone the much more difficult question of just how a particular level will affect it. It may be worth noting that last year’s extent was much higher than 2012 and we still had much jet stream weirdness (in fact, it’s still ongoing, isn’t it?)

  40. 90
    Chris Dudley says:

    [edit – rules apply to everyone]

  41. 91
    Hank Roberts says:

    > hype about the ebola outbreak

    That word’s used referring to the press coverage.
    The press hypes immediate short-term hazards that dramatically affect few people.
    The bigger and slower the problem, the more people at risk, the less excitement in the press.

    Microbiologist (and science fiction author and teacher) Joan Slonczewski describes the press coverage the same way:

    Michael Spector in the New Yorker…. his title “The Doomsday Strain” is overhype

    Respect for victims isn’t diminished by pointing out journalistic failings. Quite the contrary.

  42. 92
    SecularAnimist says:

    alan2102 wrote: “… if the moderators want mitigation to be off the table, then they’ve got to follow through on that. That means summarily axing posts having to do with mitigation. That will solve the problem, easily and completely.”

    I think the folks who run this site, who are among the world’s top climate scientists, probably have better things to do than moderate unruly and disrespectful blog commenters. Even full-time, professional bloggers have better things to do than that.

    FWIW, I would be happy to see the RealClimate comment pages abolished and replaced with a Q & A section.

    Rather than letting people post comments willy-nilly and engage in extended, frequently off-topic dialogues (or monologues as the case may be) that require active moderation, invite visitors to submit questions to the hosts, who could then select particularly interesting, timely or otherwise important questions and respond substantively to those in a way that is informative to the general readership of RC.

    Off-topic or “bore hole” type questions could just be ignored, and frequently asked questions directed to a FAQ page, or to previously given answers in the Q & A section.

    This happens occasionally in the comment pages when one of the moderators posts an in-line reply, and IMHO that’s the best thing about the RC comment pages.

  43. 93
    Eric Swanson says:

    #76 Edward Greisch, RE: William Catton

    I’ve ordered a copy of Catton’s book, Overshoot, and I’ve just begun to read Craig Dilworth’s book Too Smart for Our Own Good.

    Dilworth’s first chapter begins things with a statement of the basics of energy and entropy, which ultimately govern the reality which faces humanity as population continues to grow unchecked and non-renewable resources are exhausted. There have been several other writers over decades which have addressed our ecological predicament and most conclude that there will be a collision between our selves and the rest of the Earth, leading to a sharp decline in total population. The concept of “sustainability” is at the middle of these discussions and it’s entirely possible that mankind’s population has already passed that which can be sustained without fossil fuels.

    Having become familiar with these concepts as an engineer over more than 40 years since the first Earth Day, beginning with study of the energy problem after the 1973 Arab OPED Oil Embargo, I must agree that we are headed for some serious turmoil, some of which may already be appearing in the nightly news. It appears that production of conventional oil peaked around 2005 and the more recent upsurge in production has been from unconventional sources like tar sands and fracked shale oil, much of which costs more to produce than previous sources. As the conventional sources are depleted, one might expect that the market price for oil will increase and the clamor for more oil will lead to more conflicts, such as we now see in Iraq and Libya. We may find solutions to the energy side of things, which would allow continued population growth, but climate change awaits and the ultimate problems are food and water, which will become ever more difficult to address as more hungry mouths appear to consume that which can be taken from the biosphere.

    I’m rather glad that I have no children to face this bleak future.

  44. 94
    prokaryotes says:

    Re Eric Swanson #68, there are several craters now and here are a few science statements in those regards. Though, craters might be classified as an extreme form of thermokarsting? But in the crater cases, probably with some methane involved. Also notice this particular image (2008)

    In regards to the recent methane observations by SWERUS expedition, see this post (includes quotes from Gavin).

  45. 95
    prokaryotes says:

    Re Dave Erickson #26, since above link is broken, here is the link to the paper An update on Earth’s energy balance in light of the latest global observations (2012)

  46. 96
    Hank Roberts says:

    From a few months ago at

    … scientists a decade ago not only predicted the loss of Arctic ice would dry out California, they also precisely predicted the specific, unprecedented change in the jet stream that has in fact caused the unprecedented nature of the California drought. Study co-author, Prof. Lisa Sloan, told me last week that, “I think the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire that our study suggested.”

    Back in 2004, Sloan, professor of Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and her graduate student Jacob Sewall published “Disappearing Arctic sea ice reduces available water in the American west” (subs. req’d). They used powerful computers “to simulate the effects of reduced Arctic sea ice,” and “their most striking finding was a significant reduction in rain and snowfall in the American West.”

    “Where the sea ice is reduced, heat transfer from the ocean warms the atmosphere, resulting in a rising column of relatively warm air,” Sewall said. “The shift in storm tracks over North America was linked to the formation of these columns of warmer air over areas of reduced sea ice.” In January, Sewall wrote me that “both the pattern and even the magnitude of the anomaly looks very similar to what the models predicted in the 2005 study ,,,

    Looks like another conservative under-estimation of climate change effects, in hindsight.

  47. 97
    alan2102 says:

    SA & Radge Havers:

    “the folks who run this site…have better things to do than moderate unruly and disrespectful blog commenters.”

    Indeed. But this is a very low-volume forum, and I am under the impression that each message is approved/disapproved individually, anyway — after either reading or brief scanning. Correct? Is the volume of posts received vastly higher than the number actually posted? If I were moderator, I believe I could scan 20 messages (probably more than the actual daily total incoming) for inappropriateness/unruliness/relevance-to-mitigation in perhaps 5 minutes. In fact, I hereby volunteer for the task, if my services would be of help.

  48. 98
    Chris Dudley says:

    A submission for the bore hole then. I think the the rudeness SA suffered should be addressed somewhere.

    “I, for one, have been told repeatedly and explicitly that I am “paid by the Koch brothers” to lie, and have also been targeted with the contradictory accusation that I am a “windmill salesman” — simply because I have posted links to information about solar and wind energy that contradict those commenters’ assertions.” – See more at:

    Some of this rip may have resulted from my asking to have a discussion that included nuclear power regarding the IPCC WGIII report which had suggested that retaining some old nuclear plants could help with emissions. This seems to be incorrect if the falling cost of renewable energy paced with deployment. The rising expense of maintaining old nuclear plants created an opportunity cost in delaying more effective emissions reduction.

    While nuclear power was topical regarding that report, broaching it seemed to have broken the OT stricture elsewhere. The nuclear fanboi culture is particularly abrasive and devolves into ad hominem over silly questions about Adm. Rickover’s motives and if people hate President Carter sufficiently to be part of the fanboi club.

    That kind of vitriol got reintroduced.

    Mitigation is an interesting topic that has a subject line in the RC Index. The speed of mitigation is strongly tied to what kind of Representative Concentration Pathways get explored in the literature with RCP 2.6 really only getting modeled after the Hansen Targets paper
    suggested that kind of path in the climate science literature. Mitigation could go even faster than that and there should be new modeling covering that so that avoided climate change costs can be better understood.
    Rapid mitigation methods certainly impact the climate modeling parameter space between RCP 2.6 and the instantaneous emissions cessation that is sometimes modeled. Impacts on carbon feedbacks particularly need a quantitative treatment.

    So, discussion of mitigation methods that can scale quickly should be part of the discussion here.

  49. 99
    Chris Dudley says:

    Kevin (#63),

    Nice writing. Wish you had found a place for ants in there especially after what T. H. White did with them. Where you end up, that humans make choices, might be taken a step more. The puny humans meme is then a force against freedom since it seeks to take our choices away from us by denying they exist.

  50. 100
    wili says:

    Hank @#91–good points.
    @#96–Thanks for the awesome link and quote. It helped me in a (fruitless, as usual–why do I bother?) battle with a troll/sockpuppet over at SkS.