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Unforced variations: September 2014

Filed under: — group @ 2 September 2014

This month’s open thread. People could waste time rebunking predictable cherry-picked claims about the upcoming Arctic sea ice minimum, or perhaps discuss a selection of 10 climate change controversies from ICSU… Anything! (except mitigation).

189 Responses to “Unforced variations: September 2014”

  1. 101
    Hank Roberts says:

    > applying it to an open, chaotic system is not easy, nor is it exact.


    slipping debaters’ claims as though they’re known good science.
    There’s one now.

  2. 102
    Ric Merritt says:

    Wili et al, thanks for reading and reacting. I think we are about done with this threadlet.

    My summary: recognize complexity, we all compromise. This recognition is compatible with vigorous opinions and advocacy, but not with assigning large organizations to an inappropriate circle of damnation because of evidence of compromise, or even blunders, without much more context. No false comparison there.

  3. 103
    Lyndon says:

    With respect, maybe it’s the sun, or all the underwater volcanos?
    Neither are insignificant or constant.
    But please stop defending what are patently wrong, ie that the models predicting warming based on co2 concentrations.
    Science is never settled, if it was then it is not science.
    Someone wise once said, correlation does not prove causality.
    The more I read on this topic, the more confusing it gets.

  4. 104

    #103–No, Lyndon, it is neither of the above. The solar influence has been studied, a lot. And volcanic fluxes are just way too small.

    So has the question of ‘models predicting warming based on co2 concentrations.’ If that idea is incorrect, then we really don’t have an explanation for the observed warming. And that model is *not* based upon ‘correlation.’ Remember, the AGW arrived as a prediction from physical theory, long before the IPCC was ever dreamt of:

    “The more I read on this topic, the more confusing it gets.”

    Maybe you should stop reading those whose intention is to confuse?

  5. 105
    Chris Dudley says:

    Some preparations for Sunday are described here:

    Susan, notice that artists are playing a big role.

  6. 106
    Dave Peters says:

    While orthodox physicists might regard Mr. Tisdale’s worldview as, at the least, one chip shy of a complete board, nevertheless, the unflagging attention which he devotes to monitoring and describing happenings in the equatorial Pacific is simply all in. Much like the devotions of many of the regulars here.

    For those who would like a summary on El Nino status, since our thread has gone stale, his early September post presents several excellent graphics.

  7. 107
    Dan H. says:

    I fully understand the laws of physics. I am not sure that you do. The earth is not a closed system; energy enters and leaves continuously. Yes, CO2 traps heat. However, this process is reversible, as are many process in physics. The concept of tipping points (except for an extinction event) defies most physical laws.

  8. 108
    Ray Ladbury says:

    So, Lyndon, let me get this straight. Because you find the science confusing, that means it must be wrong?

    Well, I guess that’s one interpretation. Can you perhaps think of another?

  9. 109
    Brucie Bruce says:

    Probably should have mentioned that the Jason Box link comes via Robert Scribbler’s latest:

  10. 110

    The issue with Tisdale is that all that stuff he posts gets linked high on the Google, and unsuspecting readers think what he says is right. For example his assertion that ocean warming is the result of solar TSI integrating over time is thoroughly debunked. Yet, that’s what people will think after doing some innocent Google searches.

  11. 111
    GORGIAS says:

    #103– Lyndon

    I must say that I really like the way you phrased that. One is hard-pressed to find such an outstanding troll on for instance YouTube. I really mean that.

    If the trolls on said entertainment medium would all open with “With respect, “, I’m sure they would garner even more responses to the already hook, line and sinkers they seem so fit to bestow upon that particularly receptive crowd.

    While you’re at it, perhaps you could drop by Pharyngula on FreeThoughtblogs and state that we can’t rule out a divine or extraterrestrial instigator to explain life on Earth. And after that onto Popular Mechanics! After all, steel buildings just don’t collapse into their footprint like that after a small, short fire. They just don’t! And lest we forget Randi’s Million Dollar Challenge which is surely up for the taking by now… Maybe your amazing Derren Brown like skills at getting clowns like me to even respond to your inciteful queries, is enough to convince the old fart to do a disappearing act on his dough.

    You fly back to school now, little Starling.. fly, fly, fly.. and do let us know how you fared..

  12. 112

    And NCDC has updated, with a very toasty August indeed in the record books.


    The first eight months of 2014 (January–August) were the third warmest such period on record across the world’s land and ocean surfaces, with an average temperature that was 0.68°C (1.22°F) above the 20th century average of 57.3°F (14.0°C). If 2014 maintains this temperature departure from average for the remainder of the year, it will be the warmest year on record.

  13. 113
    sidd says:

    Mr. Roberts lays it out:

    “By emitting ton of carbon we are, in a tiny, incremental way, harming all of humanity, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.

    Conversely, however, every ton of carbon emissions we prevent or eliminate benefits, in a tiny, incremental way, all of humanity, especially the poorest and most vulnerable.”

    “Adaptation is nearly the opposite. It is action taken to protect oneself, one’s own city, tribe, or nation, from the effects of unchecked climate change. An adaptation dollar does not benefit all of humanity like a mitigation dollar does. It benefits only those proximate to the spender.”

    New York City retreats behind ever higher sea walls as Bangladesh drowns. While cumulative CO2 load from the latter are dwarfed by those from the former.


  14. 114
    Doug says:

    If anyone wants to read about just how incredibly, fantastically, reality shockingly stupid Republican Congressman are in the U.S., please read this story from Climate Progress. In the story, Congressman Bucshon is quoted as saying:

    Bucshon: “Over the last few years, we’ve gone from global warming to climate change since the temperature hasn’t changed in many, many years. The temperature or the earth has been changing for centuries. I fully believe that the temperature is changing. But of course now supporters of this new regulation are saying ‘Well, it’s changing now at an unusual pace compared to the past, because now the American public is getting it that the temperature of the earth has been changing for centuries.”

    In his first sentence he says the temperature hasn’t changed in many, many years. In the third sentence he says “I fully believe the temperature is changing” He only had one sentence in-between!!!!!! Did he forget THAT SOON what he had said about 3 seconds before?????? The temperature hasn’t changed, the temperature is changing, the temperature hasn’t changed, the temperature is changing. The temperature hasn’t changed, the temperature is changing.

    Where do the Republicans find these people? The insane asylum? Something tells me he failed logic in college. Here’s the most incredible thing. He’s a DOCTOR. That takes education right????

    After reading this story in Climate Progress I called his regional office tonight and left a message asking how such a moron can get elected? I don’t know if anyone will check the answering machine based on the fact that their voice mail talks about being out of the office for the July 4th holiday. Is it possible these people think July 4th happens in September? The temperature is changing. The temperature is not changing. The temperature is changing. The temperature is not changing.

  15. 115
    Doug says:

    “With respect, maybe it’s the sun, or all the underwater volcanos?
    Neither are insignificant or constant.
    But please stop defending what are patently wrong, ie that the models predicting warming based on co2 concentrations.
    Science is never settled, if it was then it is not science.
    Someone wise once said, correlation does not prove causality.
    The more I read on this topic, the more confusing it gets”.

    I count three factual errors, and two sentences that he thinks scientists believe, of which they don’t.

    Very impressive for a six sentence paragraph. Please come back Lyndon and see if you can at least have a one to one ratio of stupid utterances to sentences? You’re almost there.

  16. 116
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Where do the Republicans find these people? The insane asylum? Something tells me he failed logic in college. Here’s the most incredible thing. He’s a DOCTOR. That takes education right????

    Comment by Doug — 19 Sep 2014

    Herein lies the BIG PROBLEM; The American people have a penchant for electing complete morons to hold public office. You’d think that we’d be electing the “best and brightest” people to be our leaders when in reality, we keep electing boneheads or people who are paid to tell us what we want to hear. I think too many Americans like to sit and admire themselves in the mirror and repeat positive affirmations to themselves, much like Al Franken’s character, Stewart Smalley on SNL.

    Who wants to be told that we’re screwing up the planet and screwing our children out of their future??? That would mean we’re the villains in all this. That would destroy Capitalism as we know it. It would totally crush the Koch Brothers et al idea of Utopia. What’s the solution? Pretend the Scientists are the ones who are insane. Flip reality on its head where black is white and up is down. Rewrite those textbooks and omit the facts.

    The problem is not the Climate… the problem is us and what we choose to believe about ourselves. That is why I think… not believe… think… that this is almost an impossible situation. How do we change ourselves? I don’t have the answer for that one. When you allow others to sabotage the entire educational process in order to fulfill greedy desires, it’s pretty much over. IMO

    Captcha says: completely worssu

  17. 117

    “The concept of tipping points (except for an extinction event) defies most physical laws.”

    – See more at:

    Oh, really? Care to name them? Or explain what this rather gnomic sentence actually means?

  18. 118

    #114–Yes, that is the source of much of the humor in this original parody:

  19. 119
    Brucie Bruce says:

    Doug @ 114:

    Here are a couple of other well-educated insane people:

    1) Insane for political (and maybe religious) reasons:

    2) Insane for religious and political reasons:

    3) Probably just plain insane:

    Unfortunately, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

  20. 120
    Chuck Hughes says:

    The concept of tipping points (except for an extinction event) defies most physical laws.

    Comment by Dan H. — 18 Sep 2014

    In that case, would you please tell the planet to knock off the warming so we can get on with more important matters?

    And while you’re at it, put in a good word for Venus.

  21. 121
    Meow says:

    @18 Sep 2014 at 8:48 AM

    I fully understand the laws of physics. I am not sure that you do. The earth is not a closed system; energy enters and leaves continuously. Yes, CO2 traps heat. However, this process is reversible, as are many process in physics.

    You misunderstand what is meant by reversibility in physics. Generally it means “time reversibility”, such that, if time were to run backwards, the interaction in question would be exactly reversed. This has nothing whatever to do with any concept of reversing the trapping of heat by CO2.

    The concept of tipping points (except for an extinction event) defies most physical laws.

    Evidence for this preposterous proposition? Didn’t think so.

  22. 122
    dbostrom says:

    Further to Kevin and NCDC, if 2014 does turn out as the warmest in the books then surface temperaure enthusiasts should declare the “hiatus” over, in the interest of consistency with their own methods. One datapoint to rule them all, king 1998 is dead and long live the king, etc.

    How will they slither away from their history, when this does happen?

  23. 123
    Matthew R Marler says:

    Here is a study that addresses a question I have been asking:

    Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 1575–1589, 2014
    © Author(s) 2014. CC Attribution 3.0 License.
    Hydrology and
    Earth System
    Open Access
    A general framework for understanding the response of the water
    cycle to global warming over land and ocean
    M. L. Roderick1,2,3,**, F. Sun2,3, W. H. Lim2,3,*, and G. D. Farquhar2,3
    1Research School of Earth Sciences, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
    2Research School of Biology, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia
    3Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, Canberra, Australia
    *Currently at: Department of Civil Engineering, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tokyo, 152-8552, Japan
    **Invited contribution by M. L. Roderick, recipient of the EGU John Dalton Medal 2013.
    Correspondence to: M. L. Roderick (
    Received: 22 November 2013 – Published in Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss.: 13 December 2013
    Revised: 24 March 2014 – Accepted: 24 March 2014 – Published: 6 May 2014
    Abstract. Climate models project increases in globally averaged
    atmospheric specific humidity that are close to the
    Clausius–Clapeyron (CC) value of around 7%K−1 whilst
    projections for mean annual global precipitation (P) and
    evaporation (E) are somewhat muted at around 2%K−1.
    Such global projections are useful summaries but do not provide
    guidance at local (grid box) scales where impacts occur.
    To bridge that gap in spatial scale, previous research has
    shown that the “wet get wetter and dry get drier” relation,
    1(P −E)/P −E, follows CC scaling when the projected
    changes are averaged over latitudinal zones. Much of the research
    on projected climate impacts has been based on an
    implicit assumption that this CC relation also holds at local
    (grid box) scales but this has not previously been examined.
    In this paper we find that the simple latitudinal average CC
    scaling relation does not hold at local (grid box) scales over
    either ocean or land. This means that in terms of P −E, the
    climate models do not project that the “wet get wetter and dry
    get drier” at the local scales that are relevant for agricultural,
    ecological and hydrologic impacts. In an attempt to develop a
    simple framework for local-scale analysis we found that the
    climate model output shows a remarkably close relation to
    the long-standing Budyko framework of catchment hydrology.
    We subsequently use the Budyko curve and find that the
    local-scale changes in P −E projected by climate models
    are dominated by changes in P while the changes in net irradiance
    at the surface due to greenhouse forcing are small and
    only play a minor role in changing the mean annual P −E
    in the climate model projections. To further understand the
    apparently small changes in net irradiance we also examine
    projections of key surface energy balance terms. In terms of
    global averages, we find that the climate model projections
    are dominated by changes in only three terms of the surface
    energy balance: (1) an increase in the incoming long-wave
    irradiance, and the respective responses (2) in outgoing longwave
    irradiance and (3) in the evaporative flux, with the latter
    change being much smaller than the former two terms and
    mostly restricted to the oceans. The small fraction of the realised
    surface forcing that is partitioned into E explains why
    the hydrologic sensitivity (2%K−1) is so much smaller than
    CC scaling (7%K−1). Much public and scientific perception
    about changes in the water cycle has been based on the notion
    that temperature enhances E. That notion is partly true
    but has proved an unfortunate starting point because it has
    led to misleading conclusions about the impacts of climate
    change on the water cycle. A better general understanding of
    the potential impacts of climate change on water availability
    that are projected by climate models will surely be gained by
    starting with the notion that the greater the enhancement of
    E, the less the surface temperature increase (and vice versa).
    That latter notion is based on the conservation of energy and
    is an underlying basis of climate model projections.
    Published by Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union.

  24. 124
    Russell says:

    The Climate Summit At World’s End is fast approaching.

  25. 125

    Yes, CO2 traps heat. However, this process is reversible, as are many process in physics. The concept of tipping points (except for an extinction event) defies most physical laws.

    Dan, why do you keep repeating denialati tripe here? This is a science blog. Anybody here can trump you on your scientific knowledge and credibility.

    There is an entire domain of mathematics and physics which I am intimately familiar with called ‘Mechanics’ and ‘Dynamics’ that clearly deals with Hamiltonian flows, cusps and bifurcations. I suggest you start with Abraham and Marsden’s ‘Foundations of Mechanics’ if you think you are qualified. Yes, Earth is an open system. It is bombarded with photons, radiation and particles, and even large chunks of matter occasionally. It radiates. It loses light volatile atoms slowly over time as well. Everybody here knows that. The fact is that we are confronted with a demonstrable global planetary energy imbalance at the top of the atmosphere (where it counts) of at least 0.5 Watts per square meter, possibly higher, and rising, and most if not all of that energy is currently being transported into ocean reservoirs because the atmosphere can no longer absorb all of it, and is responding by changing. The ocean too is responding by changing. This energy imbalance is continuous, and is expected to continue for hundreds and thousands of years if not reduced, and the numbers are ENORMOUS. ALL of the excess carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere since the industrial revolution is a result of the industrial revolution. All of it. Yet you continue to deny the magnitude of the problems and the science, and even science itself here with zeal.

    Sure, we can change the radiative imbalance at the top of the atmosphere. All that requires is the enthalpy of formation for each and every excess carbon dioxide molecule that has entered the atmosphere since the beginning of the industrial revolution and reproduce the raw carbon from whence it came and store it, or make things out of it, for instance, humus, deciduous tree leaves, or even diamond. Or, alternatively we could remove it, stabilize it with a alkali metal or alkaline earth cation and store it, or we could freeze it and store it somewhere. Or better than that, or in addition to all those things I have just mentioned, we can quit adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and start collecting photons, start educating the public and our children and reducing our birthrate. You are not helping. In fact, you are willfully ignorant and are pleased to spread disinformation on these problems at every opportunity here.

    Nevertheless, denying this extreme energy imbalance and the only ways that we can reverse it, makes you look a fool. This is mandatory, not optional.

  26. 126
    Unsettled Scientist says:

    Dan H. >”I fully understand the laws of physics.”

    Doubtful. I doubt you even have an undergraduate degree in physics, as you have famously misinterpreted climate indices to be the opposite of what they mean.

    Richard Feynman > “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”

    Long adage (oft attributed to Feynman) > “Anyone who says they understand quantum mechanics doesn’t understand quantum mechanics.”

  27. 127
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Neil Young came to Arkansas after the pipeline burst in Mayflower. Being a Canadian I knew he was on to something. This is his latest in support of the Climate march on Sunday:

    Who’s Gonna Stand Up
    Protect the wild, tomorrow’s child
    Protect the land from the greed of man
    Take down the dams, stand up to oil
    Protect the plants, and renew the soil

    Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
    Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
    Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
    Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
    This all starts with you and me

    Damn the dams, save the rivers
    Starve the takers and feed the givers
    Build a dream, save the world
    We’re the people know as earth

    Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
    Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
    Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
    Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
    This all starts with you and me

    Ban fossil fuel, draw the line
    Before we build, one more pipeline
    Ban fracking now, save the waters
    And build a life, for our sons and daughters

    Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
    Who’s gonna say that she’s had enough?
    Who’s gonna take on the big machine?
    Who’s gonna stand up and save the earth?
    This all starts with you and me

    Who’s gonna stand up
    Who’s gonna stand up
    Who’s gonna stand up
    Who’s gonna stand up

    Ahead of the People’s Climate March, Neil Young has shared with Democracy Now! an acoustic recording of his new song, “Who’s Gonna Stand Up.” We will be airing the song during our 3-hour special broadcast live from the march on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. EDT. Watch at
    Who’s gonna stand up

  28. 128
    Dave Peters says:

    Again, Fire.

    Last summer, I commented here upon the tragedy of the group of fire-fighters who perished in New Mexico–highly trained, and betting their lives upon their capacity to assess conditions humans have never confronted before. Dr. Lindzen seems to me quite glib, at times, with his pat assurances about the minimal consequences of living with minor increments of surface heating. Never mind the extrapolations to an eventual recreation of the Pliocene, if not the Cretaceous, forest dwellers already know of that realm of the hitherto unknowns, in their daily lives. Today.

    Two summers back, here within view of Colorado Springs’ Waldo Canyon conflagration, I vividly recall some details: a) a hoisted ember astonishingly re-igniting things across a mile wide mountain lake, breaching the NE perimeter; b) our relative humidity, the day of the blaze, was so low the am weatherman uttering “you night as well say we have none;” c) the flown-in Commander, on camera and perhaps the best mind in all the world on matters such, describing never before witnessed probabilities for live ember re-ignitions, as “perhaps two out of three;” & d) that sad day’s all-time record setting mark of 101 F., here @ 6,500 feet + elevations, in that astonishing summer where lower-48 averages jumped by more than a single degree Fahrenheit in one realm-altering excursion.

    Now this report from my niece’s evacuation zone, in California’s King Fire. Dr. Schmidt’s quip about “five standard deviations” being good enough for the Higg’s boson tumbles through the mind as one ponders how many standard deviations does it take to create a “one-in-five-hundred-year drought?” A gob of em, no doubt.

    More coverage: Thick smoke from King Fire makes way into Valley
    Nearly 5,000 firefighters are battling the blaze.
    “There are a lot of firefighters saying that this fire is producing fire conditions unlike anything that they have ever seen,” Cal Fire Battalion Chief Joe Tyler said at a community meeting Thursday night. “It’s creating its own weather overhead. Just the tinder-dry fuel conditions are igniting fuels every time – brush or timber – every time an ember drops on the ground.”

  29. 129
  30. 130
    Boris says:

    So there’s a new WSJ editorial on climate science:

    It’s actually quite good for the WSJ, although it does seem to be making the “uncertainty means inaction is justified” argument.

    Most of the science-y parts looked decent (though cherry-picked in some cases), but I have a question about this:

    “The models predict that the lower atmosphere in the tropics will absorb much of the heat of the warming atmosphere. But that “hot spot” has not been confidently observed, casting doubt on our understanding of the crucial feedback of water vapor on temperature.”

    I’ve seen this argument elsewhere (“No hotspot=no water vapor feedback”). I think David Evans has made this claim. It strikes me as obviously wrong as water vapor feedback would be expressed everywhere and would likely be more pronounced in areas where the absorption lines for WV are not saturated, which, I would assume, would be cooler, drier areas and not the warm, wet tropics.

    Or am I wrong?

  31. 131
    Meow says:

    @19 Sep 2014 at 5:22 PM: Or, he could simply align a book with the edge of his desk, then slowly push it so that more and more of it projects over the edge. He will observe that the book lies flat until it suddenly tumbles off the desk.

  32. 132
    gmb92 says:

    Opinions from the WSJ are a dime a dozen, and there is certainly no shortage of nonsense in the Koonin piece, such as the assertion that because the human contribution to the Earth’s greenhouse effect is relatively small (would be 33 C cooler without the overall greenhouse effect), it precludes us from projecting climate change this century, and of course throughout there’s the implied “natural variation is at least as strong” argument throughout. This is a purely rhetorical argument, not a scientific one. Koonin wants to come across as “balanced” by rejecting notions that global warming is a hoax or that all climate science is settled. The latter is almost always a strawman constructed by those who want you to believe their bogus interpretation of confidence levels in various areas of climate science.

    Koonin is listed as chair-elect of the APS Panel of Public Affairs, and was head of the sub-committee that assembled a false balance group to assess the latest IPCC report and make recommendations on the APS statement on climate change.

    His op-ed reads mostly like a summary of the fringe “skeptical” arguments from the panel meetings. Anyone have insight on how this turned out, or what the next step in the process is?

    I’d like to see RC scientists issue a rebuttal.

  33. 133
    Hank Roberts says:

    Any climate bacteriologists reading who’d care to speak up?

    I see the old notion that limestone formed from the shells of ocean animals is a bit outdated

    (as they told me in college, after a few decades, everything you learned is wrong except the habit of looking for newer information)

    I wonder if this has been incorporated into any modeling for climate change. Like the work on marine plankton, these organisms go through reproductive cycles days or weeks long so ecosystems and the ecosystem services they provide can change very fast. Anyone watching for changes?

    It’s also an area where meddling, I mean, biogeoengineering might be tempting, Dr. Faust, if you’re listening.

  34. 134
    Hank Roberts says:

    Help me out here. Where does the oxygen in the atmosphere come from?

    … it is a myth that photosynthesis controls the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. Even if all photosynthesis on the planet were shut down, the atmosphere’s oxygen content would change by less than 1 percent….
    … the Amazon rain forest is a closed system that uses all its own oxygen and carbon dioxide.

    September 20, 2014, on page A23, New York edition, NY Times; “To Save the Planet, Don’t Plant Trees”
    by Nadine Unger, assistant professor of atmospheric chemistry at Yale.

    [Response: This is indeed an odd statement. The recycling time for atmospheric oxygen is roughly 2000 years, and so the change in O2 after a change in photosynthesis is a function of time-scale. Eventually of course, O2 will disappear. But the change in any one decade would be roughly 10/2000 ~ 0.5%. The Amazon is mostly a closed system as long the carbon stock is constant – deforestation reduces the carbon by a lot and so causes a net increase in CO2 (and small decrease in O2). – gavin]

  35. 135
    Matthew R Marler says:

    128 Dave Peters: Now this report from my niece’s evacuation zone, in California’s King Fire. Dr. Schmidt’s quip about “five standard deviations” being good enough for the Higg’s boson tumbles through the mind as one ponders how many standard deviations does it take to create a “one-in-five-hundred-year drought?” A gob of em, no doubt. – See more at:

    Good question. Do scientists have evidence of the fire storm rates during the Medieval Warm period and other relatively warm periods more local to California?

    With or without wind farms, solar farms, bullet trains and such, California will continue to experience floods, droughts, and fire storms. Shouldn’t California invest in flood control, irrigation and water generally, and preparation for fires?

  36. 136
    Edward Greisch says:

    “1 Chris Dudley says:
    2 Sep 2014 at 9:56 AM
    The ten new climate change controversies are:
    1) The role of nuclear power: Is it a threat or a promise?”

    Is on mitigation, which is not allowed.

  37. 137
  38. 138
    Hank Roberts says:

    Re the odd statement about photosynthesis from the NYT that I quoted above, I suspect that’s a NYT editor’s screwup, ignoring change over time — it amounts to saying that if photosynthesizing life on Earth died or disappeared the atmosphere wouldn’t change. That’s probably true, for a few minutes or perhaps a few hours. Or perhaps it only applies to temperate forests. Or something. Something’s missing there anyhow.

    The underlying point — funding and urgently protecting and restoring tropical forests is needed, rather than replanting temperate forests — I think is sound in the shorter term.

    I admit bias — the bit of land I’ve tried restoring is in Ca.; getting a good fire regime reestablished that would let topsoil keep accumulating has seemed like the best use of my time. Unmanaged land thereabouts burns and re-burns, often badly, and often ends up as gravel — which, yes, increases the albedo, but the silt washed away clogs the salmon streams downhill. There’s always more to consider.

    I see according to her website:

    Dr. Unger applies numerical modeling and integrated studies to advance understanding of interactions between atmospheric chemistry and climate. The goal is to support effective decision-making and the development of smart climate policy.

    Perhaps someone worth drawing out a bit more?

    I suspect there are serious policy choices needing better information — like the timber companies that want to clearcut then claim carbon credits for replanting.

    That’s already a well known scam in California, and succeeding:

    That may be the point that got lost in that NYT article.

    Anyhow — climate modelers are indeed called on to inform policy, this week and next.

  39. 139
    Hank Roberts says:

    Aside, how did I miss this?

    This is actually kind of wonderful, in a bang-your-head-on-the-table sort of way. Pielke isn’t claiming that it’s hard in practice to limit emissions without halting economic growth, he’s arguing that it’s logically impossible. So let’s talk about why this is stupid.

  40. 140
    Meow says:

    The NYT article by Unger made several questionable and/or wrong points. This makes it so misleading that it should never have been published.

    In addition to the whoppers about photosynthesis and atmospheric oxygen discussed above, I noted the following:

    1. First, the author says “The conventional wisdom [reducing global warming by storing carbon by planting trees and avoiding further deforestation] is wrong”. This is just wrong. The author apparently hasn’t read AR5, which says:

    There is currently low agreement on the net biophysical effect of land use changes on the global mean temperature (WGI Chapter 8; (Myhre and Shindell, 2013).

    AR5 WG3 s.11.5.1. That means, your mileage may vary, depending (as AR5 notes) on the balance between CO2 uptake, albedo change, etc., which depends on what trees are planted (or preserved) where. So the proper description of the “conventional wisdom” is: it depends, and we need to carefully research and plan what we’re doing to make sure we get the effect we want.

    2. Then she goes on to say “humans have changed about 50 percent of the earth’s surface area from native forests and grasslands to crops, pasture, and wood harvest.” This is just wrong. We’ve done that to ~50% of earth’s *land* surface, which 50%, in turn, is a total of less than 15% of “earth’s surface area”. Basics matter. A lot. Get them right.

    3. Then she says, “Worse, trees emit reactive volatile gases that…are hazardous to human health”. This is badly misleading and highly inflammatory. Concentration matters. Yes, distilled turpentine (containing many of the same hydrocarbons emitted by trees) is distinctly toxic. And no, forest air is not toxic, let alone “hazardous”.

    4. Then there’s the implication that tree VOCs have a similar magnitude of climatic effect as changes (what changes?) in albedo and “carbon storage capacity”. This is misleading w.r.t. albedo (what are the numbers — they matter!) and meaningless w.r.t. “carbon storage capacity”, because that phrase itself is meaningless.

    5. Then there’s the whopper that “Eventually, all of the carbon [in trees] finds its way back into the atmosphere when trees die or burn”. This is at least 3 ways misleading. First, there’s time scale. If we plant a Douglas Fir tree now, it’ll grow and absorb carbon for about 500 years. That some of its carbon might then return to the atmosphere is irrelevant to fixing the immediate problem of sequestering existing atmospheric carbon. Second, not all forest carbon returns to the atmosphere. Some gets deeply buried and eventually sequestered as fossil carbon, usually coal. The author should know this, and let the public know it. Third, fossil carbon takes hundreds of millions of years to return to the atmosphere (via subduction and volcanic outgassing), unless we dig it up and burn it. The author should know this, and let the public know it. “Eventually” is meaningless to us. The near-term effect — the next few hundred years — is what matters now.

    All in all, the article was so misleading that it should never have been published.

  41. 141
    Chris Colose says:

    Gavin, Hank-

    I had a discussion with David Catling and David Grinspoon, and evidently the lifetime of atmospheric O2 against geologic sinks is about 2 million years (see e.g., this paper). So the NYT op-ed is true on a short timescale but obviously wrong in the long-term, since oxygenic photosynthesis is the only significant source of free oxygen on Earth’s surface.

  42. 142
    sidd says:

    The trees are bad thing sounded sufficiently weird for me to actually read a NYT article. Prof. Unger’s papers are more legible than the NYT piece.

    Let us take one paper referenced as

    “Research by my group at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and by other laboratories, suggests that changes in tree V.O.C.s affect the climate on a scale similar to changes in the earth’s surface color and carbon storage capacity”

    Presumably this is Unger(2014) doi:10.1038/nclimate2347
    (Why isn’t any of the group on the author list ?) In any event, from the abstract:

    “Here, I show that the effects of the global cropland expansion between the 1850s and 2000s on BVOC emissions and atmospheric chemistry have imposed an additional net global radiative impact of −0.11 ± 0.17 W m−2 (cooling).”

    What ? that is zero to within error. And Ruddiman has made a case that historical forest-cropland transition rate estimates are grievously in error .

    With some archeology one finds doi:10.1039/C2CS35095E which ruefully admits:

    “The magnitude and sign of the net climate influence, however, is uncertain given incomplete knowledge of BVOC oxidation chemistry and corresponding OH changes, particularly in low-NOx regions of the atmosphere”

    The albedo effect is perhaps more interesting but useless without evaporation rates put in as well …

    She does say:
    “Planting trees and avoiding deforestation do offer unambiguous benefits to biodiversity and many forms of life.”

    I am reminded of Pope: “Damn with faint praise”

    What really made me write this comment is the last para

    ” The science says that spending precious dollars for climate change mitigation on forestry is high-risk: We don’t know that it would cool the planet, and we have good reason to fear it might have precisely the opposite effect.”

    1)Science says nuttn about how precious dollars are
    2)According to her own research the effects are zero to within error. Suggest she refine her method until she gets better result.

    In short, read the papers. I do not think they support what Prof. Unger is selling. And for goodness sake, would it kill people to include proper citations so we don’t have to go digging ?


  43. 143
    Chris Dudley says:

    It seems to me that evangelizing for atheism in the comments section ought to be avoided. This religion tries to hitch its wagon to science like a few others, but just as falsely as they do. With over 400,000 people marching for climate justice this weekend with many faith groups involved in the organizing, trying to pick fights here is counterproductive.

  44. 144

    #135–See more at:


    Less than five minutes digging turns up studies of fire during MWP megadroughts: “There are numerous independent indicators of past aridity that have been described from various subregions in the West. These indicators include in situ tree stumps in lakebeds and river channels (in California) (12), an above-average frequency of fire scars on trees (in California) (16), elevated charcoal in lake sediments (in California, Idaho, and Wyoming) (17–19)…

    And that’s from research from 2004:

    And then there’s “Shouldn’t California invest in flood control, irrigation and water generally, and preparation for fires?”

    Er, I’m unaware of anyone suggesting that California shouldn’t do so. And if any wacko out there is, the state isn’t listening:’s-water-challenges-through-action-and-collaboration/

  45. 145
    Ric Merritt says:

    Boris and others pointed out the WSJ piece, which is indeed better than some of the ones you probably remember. The really embarrassing ones were true editorials, that is, approved by some in-house group of allegedly sober opinionators. This is, I guess, an Op Ed. (The term originated with the NYT, which prints opinion pieces *OP*posite the *ED*itorial page. Harder to orient some things now, on line!)

    And Koonin certainly has a better idea of the science than the WSJ editors, give or take some false balance like mentioning Arctic and Antarctic ice in the same breath without the context of which changes are larger. The giveaway though is pinning the outlook on opposition to the thought that The Science Is Settled, which pops up 10 times as a straw man in rightwing/denial contexts for every 1 from an advocate of action against global warming, usual someone careless or unsophisticated rather than a working scientist.

  46. 146
    Hank Roberts says:

    Hat tip to Retraction Watch:

    Sci Eng Ethics. 2014 Sep 18. [Epub ahead of print]
    Fake Journals: Their Features and Some Viable Ways to Distinguishing Them.
    Hemmat Esfe M1, Wongwises S, Asadi A, Akbari M.

    In this paper, we aim to discuss the fake journals and their advertisement and publication techniques. These types of journals mostly start and continue their activities by using the name of some indexed journals and establishing fake websites. The fake journals and publishers, while asking the authors for a significant amount of money for publishing their papers, have no peer-review process, publish the papers without any revision on the fake sites, and put the scientific reputation and prestige of the researchers in jeopardy. In the rest of the paper, we present some viable techniques in order for researchers and students to identify these journals.

    PMID: 25230907[PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

  47. 147
    Meow says:

    @22 Sep 2014 at 12:32 AM: The article would have been much more informative had it stuck to the scientific upshot, which is that (1) it matters what trees you plant or preserve where (see IPCC AR5 WG3 s.11.5.1); (2) the total effect of tree planting on global warming is limited (AR5 WG1 s., and needs further research (AR4 WG3 s.9.4.1); so (3) it’s vital to do other things, such as cutting emissions, to control global warming.

  48. 148
    Mal Adapted says:

    Reforestation of previously-forested land, with the same mix of species that was formerly present, has unambiguous benefits to biodiversity. Afforestation (intentionally or through neglect) of land supporting a native non-forest ecosystem, reforestation with tree genotypes that weren’t there previously, and establishment of monocultural tree farms no matter what the previous condition, have highly ambiguous if any benefits to biodiversity.

    YMMV, but as a lifelong Conservationist, I won’t readily support proposals to fight climate change if they entail the sacrifice of other natural values.

  49. 149
    Chuck Hughes says:

    I am curious as to the moderators take on this weekend’s Climate March in NYC and others that are taking place around the world. And, anyone else who wants to throw in their opinions on the impact or long term effect on the political landscape.

    I thought it was pretty impressive myself and it seems we may be reaching critical mass. I earlier dissed the OWS protests as not having much effect but this Climate March seems to have been tied in with the OWS movement in some ways. It was covered on the National news tonight with Brian Williams and on CBS This Morning and quite heavily on MSNBC.

    Thoughts? Opinions? Outlooks? Is this a game changer or too little too late?


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