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Unforced variations: March 2015

Filed under: — group @ 6 March 2015

This month’s open thread. We’ve burned out on mitigation topics (again), so please focus on climate science issues this month…

278 Responses to “Unforced variations: March 2015”

  1. 201
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    200: Thomas, That’s correct but do politicians know that once one has passed (ticks all scientific criteria for definition of passing (99%certainty)) may as well pack your bags for another planet. It’s pretty clear that the situation in the arctic is a tipping point in the process of tipping over. What is it going to take for the world to take action??. Got to hand it to China, they seem to got the message even if it is just because their bigger cities acrid air is becoming such an embarrassment on the world stage. Either way they are now taking definitive steps to slow their emission rate.

  2. 202
    wili says:

    “Western US temperatures for first 5 months of the 2015 #water year blast through 120-year record”

  3. 203
    wili says:

    “Jason Box at Economist Arctic Summit 2015”

    Includes a list of feedbacks missing from the major climate models.

  4. 204
    Killian says:

    #200 Lawrence Coleman said, Got to hand it to China, they seem to got the message even if it is just because their bigger cities acrid air is becoming such an embarrassment on the world stage. Either way they are now taking definitive steps to slow their emission rate.

    I don’t know why this idea that China is late to the Climate table comes from, other than perhaps the massive energy needs and use of coal plants, but China has long had a national climate planning process in place, and policies – unlike the U.S.

    From Wiki, but I have seen multiple articles and discussions of China’s policies, including statements that climate change is not doubted by Chinese leadership, and their consternation at US denial.

    “China issued is first Climate Change Program in 2007, in response to its surpassing of the United States as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions in the world.[14] The Chinese national carbon trading scheme was later announced in November 2008 by the national government to enforce a compulsory carbon emission trading scheme across the country’s provinces as part of its strategy to create a “low carbon civilisation”.[15] The scheme would allow provinces to earn money by investing in carbon capture systems in those regions that fail to invest in the technology.[16]

    In 2004, Premier Wen Jiabao promised to use an “iron hand” to make China more energy efficient. China has surpassed the rest of the world as the biggest investor in wind turbines and other renewable energy technology. And it has dictated tough new energy standards for lighting and gas kilometrage for cars.[17] With $34.6 billion invested in clean technology in 2009, China is the world’s leading investor in renewable energy technologies.[18][19] China produces more wind turbines and solar panels each year than any other country.”

    China policy

    And this on current actions:

    Now they’ll be building the equivalent in carbon-free power every week for decades to meet their commitment, made in the deal with the U.S., to “increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030.” That means adding some 800-1,000 gigawatts of zero-carbon power in 16 years, which is “more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to total current electricity generation capacity in the United States.”

    China Building Capacity, Coal Use drops 2.9%

    As I have said here before, many seem to mistake momentum for reticence.

  5. 205
    Thomas says:

    Killian, I think the idea that China was/is not going to do its part started a few decades ago. Back when AGW first started becoming an international issue, China was adamant, they it would be unfair if they (then a poor underdeveloped country) were to forgo fossil fuels, so they (and other developing countries) would have no part in emissions controls. The delayers took advantage of this creating the meme, that there is no point in trying to reign in emissions, since China/India won’t play ball. You still hear this meme today, even though China, and India have become incredibly aggressive in their renewables buildout.

  6. 206
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    204:Killian, thanks that was encouraging. Just that I heard last year that they plan to roll out dozens of coal hungry power stations across the country within the next 10 years or so. If they turn out to be latest generation power stations with aggressive carbon capture technology built into the design then that action wouldn’t be deemed completely irresponsible by the developed countries but rather a step in the right direction. I so wish Australia could work with the Chinese agencies on high efficiency solar collectors and or solar/thermal tech, apparently we are the world leaders in this field despite our crippling ignorant and denyalist government thwarting every step of the way of home grown manufacturers to develop renewable technology.

  7. 207
    Thomas O'Reilly says:

    #210 Lawrence, I am not at all hopeful.
    “What is it going to take for the world to take action??”
    I suspect mounting deaths year on year from major extreme weather events, mainly heat stress and wild fires, but also cold and storms, but especially crop failures (and no fish to catch) on a global scale leading to mass starvation.
    Even then many people, especially politicians and corporate shareholders of today, will still be living in denial and will fail to accept any responsibility for the outcomes.
    They’ll blame the scientists of course, for not “warning” them properly with any “hard evidence” soon after the shit hits the fan! Seriously, they will. Human psychology:101
    Meanwhile, there’s always religion, nuclear arms, or evil lefties to fight a war over to keep the western populace occupied.
    My view is the summer arctic ice will all be gone and still little action will occur even then. Not until the effects play out will anything serious be done. It will be too late, of course. Which is why I don’t really care anymore and only take an occasional and very casual view to this subject these days. It’s just not worth the personal energy. Good luck trying to make a difference and learning why it is like it is.

  8. 208
    Thomas O'Reilly says:

    Permanent Disaster Recovery Agency for 2nd largest State in Australia

    The Queensland government is to establish Australia’s first permanent disaster recovery agency to deal with a future of more extreme cyclones and floods brought on by climate change.

  9. 209
    Hank Roberts says:

    In fake Hermetic uniforms
    Behind our battle-line, in swarms
    That keep alighting,
    His existentialists declare
    That they are in complete despair,
    Yet go on writing.

    Under Which Lyre
    A Reactionary Tract for the Times
    (Phi Beta Kappa Poem, Harvard, 1946)
    W. H. Auden

  10. 210
    Killian says:

    #206 Lawrence Coleman said, 204:Killian, thanks that was encouraging. Just that I heard last year that they plan to roll out dozens of coal hungry power stations across the country within the next 10 years or so.

    Again, it’s really an issue of momentum rather than a desire to keep spewing GHGs. One thing about the Chinese – and Koreans, in my experience – when it comes to issues of science, they tend to be very pragmatic, unlike the fools we elect.

    China, despite the Communist Party, is an ethnically and culturally diverse country, but not everyone seems to understand this, and that China is not necessarily the monolith it seems at times. They have a high number of social disturbances, apparently, that are little-reported. They really need to keep people happy, according to some.

    The advantage of a political homogeny is the ability to simply DO. Thus, China is, within its particular limits, doing.

    They have been, and are, well ahead of us in terms of any coherent national policy.

  11. 211
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    210: Killian, Yep! you might know my views on the futility of democracy to govern immediate CC mitigation. Almost got my head bitten off last time I posted here contrary to the democratic status quo. Anyway I still maintain that’s exactly WHY China, unburdened by eg. congress and other lobby groups can indeed fast tract these renewables projects. I’ve never envied Obama’s task, not for a nanosecond. At all other times except in times of war and urgent CC mitigation – democracy is the correct format to live and raise the kids by.

  12. 212
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    207: Thomas even though our pragmatic views are pretty well coherent on this, I still need to convince and instil hope in my 9y/o son that he has a bright future despite what we perceive as the obvious and imminent end game. As I mentioned in a before post – our best hope even if starts to take effect after the horse has bolted is education. He’s excellent at mathematics btw, I’ll attempt to gently coerce him into climate science..haha!

  13. 213


    Teach him to farm and to fight. That will be more useful.

  14. 214
    John Atkeison says:

    I’ve had an otherwise sensible person drop this on my facebook page
    “Survivable IPCC Projections Are Based On Science Fiction”

    Does anyone have a link to an existing refutation?
    My reply was “I am not impressed with Breeze. He makes all sorts of allegations without providing any evidence. The charts & graphs do not link to their source so we can evaluate whether he uses them contextually properly. If it is true that the IPCC RCPs totally depend on “geoengineering” then a few links to the publicly available documents would be easy to provide. Doesn’t feel credible to me- quite the contrary.
    “This is an important time to be as realistic as possible, which requires high standards with regard to where we are at in the process of global warming and what effective actions are available. “We’re screwed” is just the flip side of shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, IMHO.”

  15. 215
    Thomas says:

    Isn’t China’s plan coalwise at least in part to close older dirtier and less efficient plants and replace the output by building efficient modern ones. What matters AGW wise, is the trajectory of net GHG emissions. Do the plants they intend to close emit more carbon collectively, than the planned new construction?

  16. 216
    MARodger says:

    John Atkeison @214.
    I spy with my little eye something beginning with a silly schoolboy mistake.
    The argument presented down the link you provide (and I haven’t read it fully – it doesn’t warrant such attention) is based on the fallacy that the bottom trace on the graph presented represents “accumulative CO2 emissions” which is not the case. The link states:-

    “In the attached image, IPCC SMP Expert Reviewer, David Tattershall has inserted vertical red lines to mark the decades between years 2000 and 2100. Within this 21st Century range he has also highlighted a steep decline in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (shown by the steep declining thick red line).”

    That bottom trace is, of course, annual emissions CO2. It even says so – “Fossil fuel CO2 emissions GtCO2/year” It basically shows we have 2½ decades-worth of emissions in hand if we want to achieve PCP2.6.

  17. 217
    Hank Roberts says:

    “When a measure becomes a target,
    it ceases to be a good measure,
    because people will game the test;
    there’s an incentive to cut corners.”

    That’s from the radio today, a cautionary observation about human behavior well known from social science.

  18. 218
    Icarus62 says:

    Regarding global sea level rise, my understanding is that palaeoclimate data shows sea level rise of around 20 ± 10 metres per °C of global warming (at equilibrium, obviously). If we’ve already had around 1°C of warming since the end of the 19th Century, does that mean we’re already committed to at least 10m of sea level rise in the long term? Or, is it not that simple?

  19. 219
    Hank Roberts says:
    Stephen Schneider

    “The most comprehensive and accessible tutorial website in existence on the history, content, and implications of climate-change science”
    — John P. Holdren

    This website features many of Steve Schneider’s priceless presentations captured in video with his photographs and the figures that he used to bring his lectures alive, so we can continue to learn from one of the world’s preeminent communicators of complex science who consulted with eight US administrations and numerous national and international agencies. Steve hoped that this website would be useful to all interested in the interdisciplinary science of climate change. As he said, this site is a work in progress — an in-depth mini-book with links to related websites and relevant literature, placed in a context that was his view of the climate problem.

    We are currently updating with new and updated content in his words that he wanted to have posted as well as reflections by people he taught. Please explore and come back often as this dynamic site evolves.

  20. 220
    wili says:

    Good interview withe Kevin Anderson:

  21. 221
    MARodger says:

    Icarus62 @218.
    The paleoclimate data may in some manner give the figure you provide but AR5 suggests the process of deglaciation is lumpy and that the underlying rate of SLR/°C is about a tenth of that figure. Specifically, AR5 Figure 13.14 suggests a figure of about 2m SLR/°C with a 5m jump at some point due to the disintegration of the Greenland ice cap. Figure 13.14e which gives the total equilibrium SLR/°C (The righthand column gives SLR for 2,000 years after the temperature change.) also compares this with paleo-derived values which are not as high as your figure.
    The caption for AR5 Figure 13.14 reads:-

    Figure 13.14 | (Left column) Multi-millennial sea level commitment per degree Celsius of warming as obtained from physical model simulations of (a) ocean warming, (b)mountain glaciers and (c) the Greenland and (d) the Antarctic ice sheets. (e) The corresponding total sea level commitment, compared to paleo estimates from past warm periods (PI = pre-industrial, LIG = last interglacial period, M11 = Marine Isotope Stage 11, Plio = Mid-Pliocene). Temperatures are relative to pre-industrial. Dashed lines provide linear approximations in (d) and (e) with constant slopes of 1.2, 1.8 and 2.3 m °C–1. Shading as well as the vertical line represents the uncertainty range as detailed in the text. (Right column) 2000-year-sea level commitment. The difference in total sea level commitment (j) compared to the fully equilibrated situation (e) arises from the Greenland ice sheet which equilibrates on tens of thousands of years. After 2000 years one finds a nonlinear dependence on the temperature increase (h) consistent with coupled climate–ice sheet simulations by Huybrechts et al. (2011) (black dot). The total sea level commitment after 2000 years is quasi-linear with a slope of 2.3 m °C–1.

  22. 222
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    218 Icarus62: Yep! it almost is that simple. Keeping global temps to below the ‘magical’ 2.0C will be a monumental challenge. Once tipping points tip we’re locked in for the very long haul I’m afraid. However there could well be some interesting subplots on the way..namely: The AMOC(atlantic meridional overturning circulation) is weakening due to simply massive amounts of cold fresh water flooding the surface ocean layer south of greenland cooling the warm surface current from the equator that’s helps moderate the north atlantic countries during winter. As the ocean cools it might slow down or even reverse the rapid melt that the arctic sea is experiencing. Thus is a relative rate issue. That cool region in the subarctic atlantic has been getting progressively cooler over the last 100 year as the Greenland melt rate has been accelerating. However the arctic ice summer death spiral has really only happened since about 1980. Once we get a totally ice free summer state in a few years the length of that state will quickly lengthen allowing many more terrawatts of solar energy to warm the arctic sea. So which will ultimately win, I’m betting on the lightning fast arctic melt to cause a cascade of severe positive feedback mechanisms before the AMOC really slows enough to cause a theoretical refreeze.

  23. 223
    John Atkeison says:

    Thanks, MARodger. anyone else?
    (214, 216)

  24. 224
    Icarus62 says:

    @MARodger (221): That’s interesting and I must say that I’m surprised at such a low figure in AR5. My understanding is that global sea level rose about 120 metres with about 5°C of global warming during the last deglaciation –

    We expect sea level to rise as the ocean takes up heat and ice starts to melt, until (asymptotically) a new equilibrium sea level is reached. Paleoclimatic data suggest that changes in the final equilibrium level may be very large: Sea level at the Last Glacial Maximum, about 20,000 years ago, was 120 m lower than the current level, whereas global mean temperature was 4° to 7°C lower (5, 6). Three million years ago, during the Pliocene, the average climate was about 2° to 3°C warmer and sea level was 25 to 35 m higher (7) than today’s values. These data suggest changes in sea level on the order of 10 to 30 m per °C.

    I appreciate that there is now less ice to melt than there was at the LGM, but there’s still about 80 metres equivalent in sea level rise. 2.3m per degree of warming seems like it might be a bit conservative.

  25. 225
    MARodger says:

    Icarus62 @224.
    I can but assume that at some point the temperature will be reached when Antarctica sheds the bulk of its ice, but at a temperature just a little warmer than those shown in Figure 13.14. I mean, if that rate of a couple of metres SLR per degree celsius continued, the planet would have to warm a further +30°C to be ice-free, which is obvously wrong.

  26. 226
    Hank Roberts says:

    > IPCC SMP Expert Reviewer, David Tattershall

    What’s an “IPCC Expert Reviewer?”
    “Expert reviewer for the IPCC” doesn’t mean that they asked him to review material – all it means is that he asked to see the draft report.

    You can look it up.
    You can be one too.

  27. 227
    Killian says:

    What? Me worry? So what if significant thinning of Antarctica started two decades ago and is rapidly speeding up?

    Hmmm… So, if Antarctica started melting in 1995-ish, and climate impacts from CO2 are on a rough 30-year delay, then, like the Arctic, the response to forcing was triggered closer to 300ppm than 350 ppm.

    I think 350 dot org needs to change their name.

    (Hank, BPL, other Peanut Gallery residents, no need to respond.)

  28. 228
    Killian says:

    #213 Barton Paul Levenson said, Lawrence,

    Teach him to farm and to fight. That will be more useful.

    Logically, it will not, at least not in terms of long-term survival of the blood line. Mark my words, if all this turns into war rather than redesign, you may as well give everybody toe tags now.

    If this is not clear, feel free to ask, but suffice to say a sustainable planet means, literally, a sustainable *planet.* Wars will do nothing but reduce our ability to become sustainable while there is still time.

    So, no, go for the climate science. Or, better yet, send him to me for training in regenerative design.

  29. 229
    John Atkeison says:

    Thanks, Hank!

  30. 230
    Thomas O'Reilly says:

    Published Online March 26 2015
    Volume loss from Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating
    Fernando S. Paolo1,*, Helen A. Fricker1, Laurie Padman2

    Quoting from The Guardian
    Holland said: “What humanity needs to know is what’s the sea level rise in 2100 and the biggest source of uncertainty in that is what’s going to happen to the ice sheets.”

    Over the past decade the loss of ice shelf volume in Antarctica increased from 25km3 to 310km3 every year.

    It is unclear whether the loss of ice is directly related to man-made climate change or a cyclical change in ocean currents.

    Comment: Unclear? Uncertain?
    There is clear multiple streams of evidence that man-made climate change is real. There is clear evidence, based on the simplest physics and hundreds of years of accumulated human knowledge PLUS Modern Climate Science knowledge, that AGW/CC WILL have a melting impact on the Antarctic Ice Sheets and Ocean Currents and Atmospheric winds.

    Like we do know that right? Minutia and incomplete data sets aside as to exactly which year or when, by how much, or how fast, and for how long. Correct?

    Are there clear multiple streams of evidence that a NATURAL VARIATION of a “cyclical change in ocean currents” would cause, or has ever caused, “the loss of ice shelf volume in Antarctica increasing from 25km3 to 310km3 every year” in less than a Decade absent the current known extent/impacts of AGW/CC?

    Yes/No – with the emphasis on “clear multiple streams of evidence” please.

    A few words about “logic”, and I suppose Human Reason, at least when it is based upon known credible science.
    ” ‘Contrariwise’, continued Tweedledee:
    ‘If it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be;
    but as it isn’t, it ain’t. That’s logic.’ ”
    — Lewis Carroll, Through The Looking Glass, Ch. IV.

    Logically, I therefore believe that, “What humanity needs to know is” how to reverse AGW/CC Drivers now – and then do it.

    The extent of Ice loss and Sea levels in 2100 are irrelevant in 2015, when there is far more important critical work needed to be done now. Just my own reasoned opinion, mainly founded upon the current global state of knowledge regarding AGW/CC and Energy Use.

  31. 231

    Re., Paolini et al.

    #227–“Since 2003” would be one decade, not two.

    #239–IMO, this question ain’t “minuta.” It could actually be consequential to understand “when, by how much, or how fast, and for how long.”

    Of course, it is true that:

    “What humanity needs to know is” how to reverse AGW/CC Drivers now – and then do it.

    But may I humbly suggest that the utility of loudly insisting on that here is rather low? We already agree with that premise. Try or something.

  32. 232

    K 228: If this is not clear, feel free to ask, but suffice to say a sustainable planet means, literally, a sustainable *planet.* Wars will do nothing but reduce our ability to become sustainable while there is still time.

    BPL: I wasn’t advocating wars. I was advocating defense of a homestead surrounded by conditions of desperate anarchy that will last a couple of years until starvation and disease kills off the vast majority of the population.

  33. 233

    TOR 230: Logically, I therefore believe that, “What humanity needs to know is” how to reverse AGW/CC Drivers now – and then do it.

    BPL: We already know how to do it–phase out fossil fuels ASAP, stop deforestation, switch to sustainable agriculture and biochar, possibly create large-scale CO2 reclamation plants. The problem is with the second part–“and then do it.” That’s the part that’s not going to happen, partly because there simply isn’t enough time left. The deniers have won. Our civilization is going to collapse, and that will happen fairly soon by my estimate–about 2028 (call it 2022 to 2034).

    I live in rainy western Pennsylvania. 28 counties here were just declared in drought. California is estimate to run out of water in 2016, which by my calculation is next year. I predicted it, but I couldn’t get my predictions published. Humans as individuals are mostly rational. As a group, suicidally stupid.

  34. 234
    Mary Ellen Cassidy says:

    Excuse the off-topic comment. I could not find a “contact us” option. Would Real Climate ever consider a Train the Trainer series of workshops or seminars to produce/select speakers on Climate Change for the general public. I know that other organizations do this, but often are associated with political alliances that may hamper their outreach.

  35. 235
    wili says:

    BPL wrote: ” California is estimate to run out of water in 2016, which by my calculation is next year. ”

    You’re obviously very good at estimating! ‘-)

    But I really am interested in how you come up with “2022 to 2034” for collapse. It doesn’t actually seem unreasonable to me, but do you see this as a largely climate induced collapse, or will economic or military destabilization hit first and harder? Or some combination??

  36. 236
    Doug says:

    #233 Wili & #235 BPL,

    Nobody is saying California is going to run out of water next year. The scientist that was quoted for that well known story, estimated one year left in the reservoirs. Others think that is too pessimistic.

    Although it’s certainly depleting, California will need to depend more heavily on ground water now it appears. I’ve seen estimates that they could have many decades left of groundwater, but nobody seems to really have a good handle on how much they have.

    But they do have groundwater, and California will not run out of water next year.

  37. 237
    Edward Greisch says:

    228 Killian & 235 wili: BPL is correct. The point is that civilization is almost guaranteed to collapse. Reference: “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan and “Collapse” by Jared Diamond. When agriculture collapses, civilization collapses. Fagan and Diamond told the stories of something like 2 dozen previous very small civilizations. Most of the collapses were caused by fraction of a degree climate changes. In some cases, all of that group died. On the average, 1 out of 10,000 survived. We humans could go EXTINCT within 40 years or within 13 years.

    When civilization collapses, life becomes very short and exceptionally brutal. In Chaco Canyon, people hunted people as food in the last collapse. Remember Rwanda? Consider that the new normal. The killing stopped when the population fit the available farm land.

    We are headed for a human population crash from 7 Billion to 70 thousand or zero people within 40 years. Some say within 13 years. We don’t have time for research or fooling around with renewables. Causes of a population crash:

    1. Global Warming [GW] will cause civilization to collapse within 40 years because GW will cause the rain to move and the rain move will force agriculture to collapse.

    2. Population biologist William Catton says that we in the US are overcrowded; immigration must reverse. Collapse from overpopulation could happen any time now. The Earth has 4 Billion too many people. An overshoot in population requires an equal undershoot. We overshot by 4 billion, and the consequence is an undershoot by 4 billion. The carrying capacity is 3 billion. 3 billion minus 4 billion is zero because there can’t be minus 1 billion people.

    3. Aquifers running dry No irrigation, no wheat. No wheat, no bread.

    4. Resource depletion
    4A oil
    4B minerals

    War will kill a lot of people. Famine will kill 8 billion out of 7 billion. 7-8=-1, but with population, the crash ends at zero.

    NATURE has lots of other ways to kill humans. Don’t provoke her.

  38. 238
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    Lead author at the IPCC’s Lima conference stated that 2.0C limit to global warming is manifestly inadequate. Reason why 2.0C was accepted upon was because to be able to negotiate with the wealthy power hungry industrialised countries a higher target would mean unanimous approval. Even though everyone with half a brain recognises 2.0C as a crock of s**t. At 0.8C global av rise, the equatorial band 0.4C hotter / the northern polar regions 3-4C hotter. Should we reach 2.0C what the non scientists of the world are told is still safe… equatorial regions 1.0C hotter / the northern polar regions 8-10C hotter. Ok! taking into the increase in water vapour and a thickening atmosphere (venus effect) into account maybe equator 2.0C hotter / polar 6-7C hotter. The lead author said at 2.0C rise there will be an increased risk of catastrophic events…um! we are already seeing the effects at 0.8C, can anybody bold enough envisage the situation at 2.0C, and he pathetically and wimpishly calls it an “increased risk”!. There is no ‘risk factor’ with certainty!
    Is it any wonder governments are not heeding the scientific advice.

  39. 239
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    213 BPL: Thanks! but I would still like to believe that the ‘pen/brain’ is mightier than the sword/brawn.

  40. 240
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    233 BPL: I blame the dumbing down of society. In saying that, my son is watching alvin and the chipmunks..see I’m also complicit in the social experiment. Sigh!

  41. 241


    This is based on my own study, the one I can’t get published. I found out not only that global warming increases the fraction of Earth’s land surface in severe drought, but that drought feeds back on warming. The physical mechanism appears to be the inhibition of surface heat loss through evapotranspiration. The effect was discovered in a 1984 paper about the Sahel drought; I found that, statistically, it shows up on a global scale. Given my estimates, the world goes to 100% of land in severe drought in 7-19 years, depending on the CO2 growth rate.

    Now, obviously, it’s never really going to go to 100% drought, since the coastlines get _more_ rainfall, not less. I was following a curve out of the range of observation, which is generally considered a no-no in science. But I do think it’s valid that A) we’re on a rising J-curve where severe drought is concerned, and B) it’s going to get very bad very fast. It’s really starting to happen, and has been beginning for a long time now. The fraction of land in severe drought (PDSI(PM) <= -3.0) was stable at about 10% from 1948 to 1970, but has doubled since then. A linear increase would give us a lot more time to act, but I showed statistically that the increase was not linear.

    I didn't want to believe the short time scale any more than anyone else. I threw every test I could at my results, trying to see if I'd missed something. As far as I can tell, I didn't. Sheffield thinks I'm using the wrong data set, but he also thinks the published NOAA data relies on the Thornthwaite (1948) equation for evapotranspiration, when in fact it was revised to use the Penman-Monteith equation several years ago (Monteith 1948, Penman 1965).

  42. 242

    While I still don’t agree with Ed that renewables are useless, I am far less anti-nuke than I used to be. Hey, if a nuke blows, you lose a city or so. At least you don’t lose the whole planet. Let’s go with nukes AND renewables. Anything but carbon.

    Although, as I said, it’s probably too late for any solution at all.

  43. 243
    Chuck Hughes says:

    War will kill a lot of people. Famine will kill 8 billion out of 7 billion. 7-8=-1, but with population, the crash ends at zero.

    NATURE has lots of other ways to kill humans. Don’t provoke her.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 28 Mar 2015 @ 5:16 AM

    Edward, is this the general consensus right now? I mean, that’s what I keep reading and seeing but are we already there?

    I can tell you that merely talking to people about it doesn’t work at all. Setting an example for others to follow isn’t working for me. Chevy Volts aren’t being purchased in my neighborhood. LED lighting seems to be taking off but that’s about it. In other words, I’m not seeing any real progress or an overall “awakening” amongst the common folk to our situation. Do you have any good credible sources besides the ones you’ve mentioned? I would like to hear a few sober assessments of our situation if for no other reason than how to plan for the next few decades.


  44. 244


    No,Chuck, Ed’s (extremely) pessimistic take is not the consensus. Although our doomish friends are out in numbers in the last few posts, they are not the only POV on offer.

    I think the chances of civilization collapsing in the next 30 years, let alone the next 10, are vanishingly small.

    That’s less positive than it sounds, though, because I think the chances of getting into an unrecoverable spin that will render said collapse unavoidable within that same span are much, much higher. IOW, I think the collapse will take much longer to play out that Barton or Ed are envisioning.

    That’s mostly because–in my opinion, of course!–global agriculture is not going to simply collapse. Temperature and precipitation changes are not going to be at all homogenous. So we’ll get sequential regional collapses, some fairly complete, others partial. The severity pervasiveness of this phenomenon will be modulated by our choices over the next decade or two will be pretty decisive.

    If we can’t get emissions on a decreasing trajectory pretty damn fast, well… let’s just say that Lawrence’s considerations at #238 will be coming into fuller and fuller play. (Though he forgot an important exacerbating factor, which is that a *global* 2 C on a watery world like Earth implies a much higher mean increase for all inland areas. IIRC, current warming for land only is about double; anyone can check that for any current dataset, as I believe all break out land and ocean numbers separately.)

    So, returning to the depressing collapse scenario I left a paragraph back, I think that those regional agricultural collapses will spark wars which will inhibit mitigation efforts via two paths: 1) enemies can’t negotiate or enforce climate deals, and 2) war’s exigencies will mandate increased emissions and also collateral environmental disasters, possibly including nuclear winter. Climate-related migration will be very big indeed, and will provoke further conflict, both political and military.

    There will be a whole lot of vicious circles turning.

    However, I think extinction is unlikely. There will be places where agriculture can succeed enough to support small populations, and someone will end up in possession of those areas. Contemplating what those cultures might look like, though, removes much of the satisfaction that I might otherwise feel in envisioning human biological survival. Those cultures won’t be ours, though they will somehow be carrying some of our cultural baggage. It probably won’t be all the best stuff that gets kept.

    And what do I think the time scale might be? Well, it’s still pretty strongly dependent upon what does or does not get done by way of mitigation. But that could be a whole other comment.

  45. 245
  46. 246
    Hank Roberts says:

    1.5°C or 2°C: a conduit’s view from the science-policy interface at COP20 in Lima, Peru

    Petra Tschakert

    Correspondence: Petra Tschakert

    Author Affiliations

    Department of Geography and the Earth and Environmental Systems Institute (EESI), Pennsylvania State University, 322 Walker Building, University Park 16802, PA, USA

    Climate Change Responses 2015, 2:3 doi:10.1186/s40665-015-0010-z

    The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

    Received: 27 January 2015
    Accepted: 3 February 2015
    Published: 27 March 2015

  47. 247
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Thomas O’Reilly: “About the only thing science/maths can predict with any degree of accuracy is the movement of the bodies in space.”

    Utter horsecrap. When you say things like this, you merely betray your ignorance of the utility of science and math. And I would point out that even where predictions are questionable, it is usually science and math that demonstrate this. Without them you are flying blind through the fog with no instruments. You like that better?

    I get so damned tired of artsy-fartsy ignoramuses using high-speed computers and the Internet to say science isn’t worth anything.

  48. 248
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Thomas O’Reilly — 29 Mar 2015 @ 2:04 AM, ~#246

    Thomas, your unsupported comments-

    “’Theories’ based on flaky data about Sea levels in 2100 etc., is counter-productive and a bad joke.”
    “Psychology and Cognitive Sciences already prove beyond reasonable doubt that this is so.”

    -both suggest a lack of understanding of how science progresses, of the difference between “flaky” data and noisy data, and of the difference between a projection and a prediction. To start, why don’t you provide some specific research citations demonstrating “flaky” data and some specific research citations for psychology and cognitive science that prove your assertions?


  49. 249
    Chuck Hughes says:

    And what do I think the time scale might be? Well, it’s still pretty strongly dependent upon what does or does not get done by way of mitigation. But that could be a whole other comment.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 28 Mar 2015 @ 6:03 PM

    Thanks Kevin, As per Hank’s post @245 it sounds like 2C is as unacceptable as it is unavoidable. I’m wondering how soon we could pass that temperature milestone? With this latest El Nino in the works as well as the PDO I can’t tell exactly what’s happening in regards to temperature increase. I think it was Kevin Trenberth who said we’re about to go up a notch in global temperature. There’s also talk of us hitting 404ppm of CO2 in April. I guess it’s all conjecture at this point. I’ve noticed the tacet response from the moderators on this subject of doomerism but I would think they would intervene if some of the POV got too out of hand.

    If I understand you correctly you’re saying that the temperature increase would be double on land or did I read that wrong? Either way the news isn’t good. Collapse seems inevitable at some point whether we’re talking about a few decades or later this century. I listened to Jared Diamond talking about it yesterday and he seems pretty credible on the topic. I keep hoping for that Oh Sh*t! moment to happen with the public but nothing seems to phase them unless it’s another political scandle or the latest on Benghazi or Hillary’s emails. I personally think a lot depends on the 2016 elections. If we aren’t able to get some competent political action happening in this country we really are in serious trouble.


  50. 250
    Hank Roberts says:

    the only thing science/maths can predict with any degree of accuracy is the movement of the bodies in space.

    Have you ever asked yourself:
    This box you are looking at, and these little alphabet keys you are tapping with your fingers that make the letters appear in front of your eyes — what magic do they use? And that long cord with the plug on the end that is in the socket on the wall — how does it bring life to your magic box?

    You can read more about these and other technologies you find indistinguishable from magic at