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Unforced variations: Oct 2015

Filed under: — group @ 2 October 2015

This month’s open thread. Since most climate related discussion this month will be focussed on the COP21

What is (or should be) the role of climate science in the upcoming negotiations? Discuss.

201 Responses to “Unforced variations: Oct 2015”

  1. 51

    RC: nor will you willingly triple(?) your electrical rates so power companies can trash their coal-fired plants and build solar farms.

    BPL: In one year, two at the most, solar will be cheaper than coal.

  2. 52
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Edward Greisch,
    I am not sure why you think a new personality for scientists will carry the day in Paris. It is not as if we have lacked for eloquent and passionate advocates of the science. It is not as if we have not come up with excellent metaphors and analogies that give even the innumerate among policy makers an idea of how the science works.

    If scientists respond dispassionately to denial by indicating the mountains–literal and literary–of evidence backing their position, they are accused of being boring or milk toast. If they respond with passion, they are accused of being emotional and alarmist.

    And it is not as if the policy makers do not understand what is required to avert catastrophe. They do. The message has been received…and ignored. The actions required are difficult and not politically expedient.

    I don’t see anything being done unless voters become a whole helluva lot smarter or a whole helluva lot more scared. I hope it is the former. Stupid voters will demand actions, but they often make really stupid demands/decisions.

    Let’s let the scientists do what they do well–science. The science will still be there to guide policy once the politicians decide to embrace reality.

  3. 53
    Digby Scorgie says:

    A Coward (#45)

    Dingy? Is that by accident or design?!

    I was actually using the AR5 SPM in conjunction with other data on carbon budgets. It didn’t help me. So why should politicians fare any better? There has to be a transition from science to policy. As far as I can tell, only climate scientists have the expertise to determine the rate at which we need to cut production of fossil fuels. That to my mind, is the information needed to bridge the gap between science and policy. But if nobody is interested, there’s nothing I can do about it.

    As for being too late, I know it. But we do have a choice between merely dangerous and utterly catastrophic. Sooner or later we’re going to have to cut production of fossil fuels. Why not sooner?

  4. 54
    Digby Scorgie says:

    A Coward (#45)

    Dingy? Is that by accident or design?!

    I was actually using the AR5 SPM in conjunction with other data on carbon budgets. It didn’t help me. So why should politicians fare any better? There has to be a transition from science to policy. As far as I can tell, only climate scientists have the expertise to determine the rate at which we need to cut production of fossil fuels. That, to my mind, is the information needed to bridge the gap between science and policy. But if nobody is interested, there’s nothing I can do about it.

    As for being 25 years too late, I know it. But we do have a choice between merely “dangerous” and “utterly catastrophic”. Sooner or later we’re going to have to cut production of fossil fuels — why not sooner?

  5. 55

    Well, we’re all too grown-up to expect a true silver bullet… most of us, anyway.

    But still, this is interesting and unexpected. Squamish, British Columbia, is now the proud possessor of one (1) functioning, pilot-scale but allegedly scalable, industrial air-capture CO2 production plant. Sez here it’s been working since May with no glitches. Next they plan to start making carbon-neutral synfuel, about 200-400 liters per day:

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/carbon-capture-squamish-1.3263855

    The process involves calcining carbonate pellets at ca 900 C, so a logical question is where does the heat come from?

    Glad you asked: nat gas. But hold on, they cycle the exhaust gas into the input, so that CO2 gets captured, too. And they co-generate: the process heat they need is also used to generate their electricity. Future iterations may combine with solar thermal or nuclear energy.

    No word on costs yet. Bill Gates is apparently an investor, but I’m not sure what that says about future economic viability.

    A relatively informative webpage, especially for those interested in the chemistry:

    http://carbonengineering.com/our-technology/

  6. 56
  7. 57
    Dan Smith says:

    I appreciate all of your responses to my pedestrian questions. Thank you. I wrote a question the other evening, 9/13ths the way through, the solar power I ran out… (to be fair, I was watching “zoo” fun metaphorical climactic art.)

    I tried to write this question the other evening. But I think something got screwed up, and nothing got posted. My simple question is this: When you are a nose-to-the-grindstone climate scientist, and have so much proof at your fingertips, at what point do you stop doing research and start arcing towards action (and I’m not saying your research is inaction by any means). It is the foundation.

    But is there some point, while you are drilling ice cores or exploring ocean temperatures, where you say this science is so sound, that the only worthwhile use of your energy is to change the trajectory of humanity? I’m not saying that there is, but I’m incredibly curious if something close exists.

  8. 58
    Anonymous Coward says:

    Digby,
    “Dingy” was of an accident, sorry.

    Of course you might be in a position to cut your own consumption of fossil fuels right now and most likely your government is in a position to do the same at the national level. Many individuals and governments have indeed already cut fossil fuel consumption, often times for reasons unrelated to climate change.
    The main reason why “we” are not going to cut consumption and therefore production at the global level however is that there is no world government or other global “we” that can take difficult decisions and implement them in a fair manner. Instead, most nation states are competing with each other. A simplistic way to put it is that worst polluters do not to be held responsible for cleaning up their act while nobody else wants to foot the bill in their stead. And so “we” are at a bit of an impasse.
    Some progress can still be made but considering that lots of people around the world still aspire to a lifestyle that has a higher carbon footprint, that would for the time being translate into slower emissions growth rather than outright cuts.

    There is no “rate at which we need to cut production of fossil fuels” so of course you’re not going to find it and AR5. That said, if there’s something specific in AR5 you’re having trouble with, do tell.
    What politicians can do with AR5 and other such documents is to derive the rate you’re interested in (more likely a more complex timetable) from more or less arbitrary goals. They can also change the goals if that yields a rate they don’t think is achievable. Or they can muddy the water, delay, go on tangents and so forth if they want to obstruct any change. In the case of people who can afford knowledgable staffers and who have collectively been at this for quite some time, I would not attribute to gross incompetence what can be attributed to self-interest.

  9. 59
    Edward Greisch says:

    52 Ray Ladbury: You missed what I was trying to say. Here it is again: Governments are tombstone agencies. That means: “If you can’t show them dead bodies, they aren’t going to do anything.” Just like you can’t have a murder trial unless somebody is dead.

    The whole issue is: “Show me the dead bodies.”

    That means that scientists have to do the science necessary to become 95% confident that some number of persons are dead because of Global Warming. If they died of a gunshot wound, but the gun wouldn’t have been fired if there hadn’t been GW, that is evidence. You can use linkages. But it has to get back to dead bodies, preferably a huge pile of dead bodies.

    So far, scientists are unwilling to say: “5 million people have been killed by GW and you, Mr. Politician, may be next.” I want the scientists to say: “5 million people have been killed so far by GW and you are under arrest for genocide.” That would be just like the gang busters during prohibition.

    Wikipedia: “The Untouchables is an American crime drama that ran from 1959 to 1963 on the ABC Television Network. …it fictionalized [Eliot] Ness’ experiences as a Prohibition agent, fighting crime in Chicago in the 1930s with the help of a special team of agents handpicked for their courage, moral character, and incorruptibility, nicknamed the Untouchables.” Gang busters.

  10. 60
    Mike says:

    The scientists have consistently underestimated the problem we are facing. It’s not just a problem with the consensus model of the IPCC, it’s a failure of imagination by some of the best-known and most respected scientists. Here is a quote to back up that assertion:

    http://www.examiner.com/article/cold-blob-causes-lingering-fears-will-day-after-tomorrow-become-a-reality

    The fear is this disturbance could lead to global weather havoc including a sharp rise in sea level. (CNN) Rising sea levels threaten coastal cities, like Miami and others across the world. The scariest part of the ice melting in Greenland is the rate; more than one hundred billion tons of ice each year (Chicago Tribune).

    In an email, Mann wrote: “I was formerly somewhat skeptical about the notion that the ocean ‘conveyor belt’ circulation pattern could weaken abruptly in response to global warming. Yet this now appears to be under way, as we showed in a recent article, and as we now appear to be witnessing before our very eyes in the form of an anomalous blob of cold water in the subpolar North Atlantic.” (Sydney Morning Herald).

    If scientists want to help the species make needed changes, they will have to start talking loudly about the worst case scenarios because those have been the scenarios developing year after year. I know there are folks here who say the scientists have been clear, direct and accurate about the dangers. We will have to agree to disagree on that. The scientific community is naturally conservative when it comes to predictions and models and that serves us very poorly in our current circumstances. Hey, scientists, your hands are not clean. Start talking about the costs of the worst case scenarios and make it clear that we have to address the problem as an existential emergency now.

    Or play it safe and see how that works out as the sixth extinction gathers momentum.

  11. 61
    Digby Scorgie says:

    Sorry about #53 and #54 — I thought #53 had failed to register.

  12. 62
    Edward Greisch says:

    51 BPL: But the battery for the US, given wind and solar power, would cost about a quadrillion dollars. My own back of the envelope calculation agrees with others. We can’t build the required energy storage for purely renewable energy. I have lots of other references, but the best 2 are:
    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/
    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11pump-up-the-storage/

  13. 63
    MA Rodger says:

    Kevin McKinney @55.
    That Carbon Engineering initiative (not the only one trying out extracting CO2 from the atmosphere) gets me scratching my head and trying very hard not to go all contrarian about it. Mind, I suppose the experiments aren’t doing any harm. But how is it useful work? The allegedly informative websites are a bit short on the explanation. So bear with me.

    I have images of a city full of fossil-fuel-guzzling SUVs & air-con systems spewing out CO2 while down the road a bunch of folk using renewable energy are desperately sucking as much of that CO2 back out of the atmosphere and… Well what the dickens are they going to do with all that captured CO2? The IPCC in 2007 didn’t find an answer other than storage. The Carbon Engineering website provides a page showing a bunch of rather worrying scenarios all still using fossil fuels with nothing other than storage.
    Elsewhere a Parsons Brinkerhoff slide show suggests there is presently a market for 80Mt of CO2 of which 50Mt(CO2) is for pumping the last few barrels of oil out of ageing oil wells. And in future CO2 usage is seen to grow by 60Mt(CO2) but I note that include less-than-attractive uses like Coal-Bed Methane Recovery. Yet it also appears to be saying that there is 2,500Mt(CO2) of available and unused CO2 supply. So this extraction of CO2 from the atmosphere appears unlikely to find immediately a lucrative market for its recovered CO2 and will have to find a means of disposal.

    “All CDR technologies described here share the need for available and safe CO2 storage. (Kriegler et al 2012 ‘Is atmospheric carbon dioxide removal a game changer for climate change mitigation?’)

    And this particular CDR (Carbon Direct Removal) is not the only CDR game in town as “BECCS (ie Bio-Extraction) is arguably the least cost CDR option if biomass availability is not a strongly limiting factor.”

    And then there is the ‘conventional’ CCS.
    Keith (2009) ‘Why Capture CO2 from the Atmosphere?’, tells us in his piece that is very supportive of CDR “It is nevertheless clear that air capture will always cost more than post-combustion capture from power plants if both facilities are designed and operated under the same economic conditions.”

    The circumstances that are required to make sense in all this nonsense is firstly the end of concentrated CO2 emissions from large power-stations and secondly the need for a supply of CO2 for the creation of synthetic fuels in the likes of the Sabatier process, fuels which are an attractive proposition because they (a) Allow simple storage of renewably-sourced power and (b) Allow renewable-sourced power to fuel things pretty-much as we do today.
    Thus CDR is one process that would be required in one technology in one potential future world (that is where electrical power and hydrogen power prove unable to fully replace carbon fuels and in which bio-fuels are unable to provide that supply). And to make a bit more sense of the argument, the talk of CDR costing $1,000/ton(CO2) $600/t(CO2) or ” a “conservative estimate” of the cost of … at “less than $250 per ton” of CO2″, that ton(CO2) would be enough to provide carbon for 3 barrels of oil which today cost $50/barrel pre-refining (although that is half the cost of a year back or so).

  14. 64
    Mike says:

    What role? speak up publicly at every opportunity about the connection between ongoing global events and warming. Article in the NYT about outbreak of dengue fever in India, not a word about global warming, but dengue fever incidence is expected to increase with global warming, right?

    See something? Say something. Connect the dots for people.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/10/world/asia/desperate-families-in-delhi-as-dengue-overwhelms-hospitals.html?emc=edit_th_20151010&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=29826959&_r=0

    https://www.google.com/search?q=dengue+fever+and+global+warming&oq=dengue+fever+and+global+warming&aqs=chrome..69i57.7182j0j4&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=0&ie=UTF-8

  15. 65
    AIC says:

    Article in the Los Angeles Times: Scientists and management at Exxon knew about fossil fuel CO2 causing climate change by the 1980s, and did research to determine how it would affect operations by Exxon: http://graphics.latimes.com/exxon-arctic/ . As we know, Exxon kept raising doubt about climate change (“doubt is our product”) for decades. Articles such as this in mass media are very important for pulling the rug out from under those who claim that we are not causing climate change. This article, by quoting scientists who were working for Exxon, is especially powerful.

  16. 66
    AIC says:

    Not sure if this went through:

    Article in the Los Angeles Times: Scientists and management at Exxon knew about fossil fuel CO2 causing climate change by the 1980s, and did research to determine how it would affect operations by Exxon: http://graphics.latimes.com/exxon-arctic/ . As we know, Exxon kept raising doubt about climate change (“doubt is our product”) for decades. Articles such as this in mass media are very important for pulling the rug out from under those who claim that we are not causing climate change. This article, by quoting scientists who were working for Exxon, is especially powerful.

  17. 67
    Killian says:

    Re: # 55: Cool. Utterly unsustainable, but, hey, who cares about survival so long as we have syngas?

    ;-)

  18. 68
    Fred Magyar says:

    @ 41, Comment by Kevin McKinneyq — 6 Oct 2015 @ 1:24 PM

    When do we lose Miami?

    I think for all practical purposes we already have.
    I moved to Hollywood Florida about twenty years ago. During that short time I have personally witnessed a steady increase in incidence of saltwater flooding due to high tides along the intracoastal and especially A1A.

    I can’t see places like South Beach, in Miami remaining viable with a sea level increase of even one foot. I do however readily admit to experiencing more than a bit of schadenfreude whenever I see all those expensive Ferraris, Porsches, Mercedes, Lamborghinis etc… driving through the saltwater along Collins Avenue. This is already happening on a rather regular basis today, not in some distant future scenario.

    For what it is worth I took a look at the NOAA visualizer tool which you linked to. I don’t think it even comes close to portraying what would really happen with even another 1ft rise in sea level. And that’s not even counting what might happen if Miami should get hit with severe weather or God forbid, another major hurricane, which BTW, is just a matter of when not if!

    Miami is already a dead man walking! The recent 500 million dollar investment in pumps notwithstanding…
    Stories like this one are already becoming the norm.
    http://www.wsvn.com/story/30232443/pumps-working-to-clean-up-flooded-miami-beach

    I love South Florida but things don’t look too good and don’t even get me started on the coral bleaching on our local reefs!

    Cheers!

  19. 69
    MA Rodger says:

    GISTEMP is reporting for September with the 2nd hottest September on record (after last year). This is the sixth ‘2nd hottest for the month’ so far for 2015, with the three other 2015 months 1st, 3rd, & 4th.
    For all months, September 2015 holds the =13th hottest monthly anomaly on record. Six of the nine 2015 months are in the top 20 monthly anomalies.
    The last 12 months (base period: 1951-1980):-
    =9 …. 2014 10 … +0.86ºC
    =67 … 2014 11 … +0.69ºC
    =18 … 2014 12 … +0.79ºC
    =11 … 2015 1 …. +0.82ºC
    =7 …. 2015 2 …. +0.88ºC
    =4 …. 2015 3 …. +0.90ºC
    =42 … 2015 4 …. +0.74ºC
    =18 … 2015 5 …. +0.79ºC
    =27 … 2015 6 …. +0.77ºC
    =48 … 2015 7 …. +0.73ºC
    =13 … 2015 8 …. +0.81ºC
    =13 … 2015 9 …. +0.81ºC

    With the end of 2015 just 3 months to go, the average anomaly for 2015 so far stands at +0.806ºC, the last 12-month average anomaly is 0.799ºC while the hottest calendar year on record so far (2014) stands at a cool +0.748ºC.

  20. 70
    Edward Greisch says:

    Who is Professor Sybren Drijfhout who says an ice age is coming, at least to Europe?

  21. 71
    Edward Greisch says:

    “Climate Catastrophe Depicted In ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ Could Happen, Study Warns”
    In the original paper at http://www.nature.com/articles/srep14877 by Sybren Drijfhout we learn that the fresh water layer in the North Atlantic is forced into the model by hand. “AMOC collapse is enforced by adding permanently a freshwater anomaly of 1 Sv (Sverdrup = 106 m3 s−1) between 50°N and 70°N in the Atlantic. ” That is not a reason to believe that the fresh water layer will get there in the real world. For ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ to actually happen, real fresh water has to cover the North Atlantic.

  22. 72
    Chuck Hughes says:

    “Republicans would be ‘fringe’ in any other country.”

    Really? They’ve already wet themselves in Congress over the prospect of turning the United States into a gun toting theocratic-oligarchy. Since the house is already engulfed in flames why not pull the car in the garage and get it over with.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/republican-party-stands-alone-in-climate-denial.html

  23. 73
    MartinJB says:

    EG “But the battery for the US, given wind and solar power, would cost about a quadrillion dollars.”

    Care to show us how you got there? Both of the links you provided have costs in the tens of trillions. Which isn’t trivial, but given their assumptions is probably exaggerated and doesn’t really account for advancing technology.

  24. 74
    Mal Adapted says:

    Mike:

    If scientists want to help the species make needed changes, they will have to start talking loudly about the worst case scenarios because those have been the scenarios developing year after year. I know there are folks here who say the scientists have been clear, direct and accurate about the dangers. We will have to agree to disagree on that. The scientific community is naturally conservative when it comes to predictions and models and that serves us very poorly in our current circumstances. Hey, scientists, your hands are not clean. Start talking about the costs of the worst case scenarios and make it clear that we have to address the problem as an existential emergency now.

    Mike, I don’t understand why you think it’s up to scientists to “help the species make needed changes.” You have a firm grasp of the evidence for the consensus case on AGW, and you got it by listening to scientists. What makes you think the rulers of the World will finally listen to them if they only talk louder? How many divisions has the climate science community got?

    I’ve argued that it’s as much your fight as it is anyone’s. You disagree, but still haven’t said why. I’ll say it again: it’s up to you, Mike. Why are you trying to dodge your own duty? Will you be in Paris on November 30th? Are you planning to participate, one way or another? If not, your hands are as dirty as those of the scientists you expect to do your fighting for you.

  25. 75
    mike says:

    dan at 57: “But is there some point, while you are drilling ice cores or exploring ocean temperatures, where you say this science is so sound, that the only worthwhile use of your energy is to change the trajectory of humanity? I’m not saying that there is, but I’m incredibly curious if something close exists.”

    That is a good question to be asking at a website like this one. I think Hansen would say definitely yes, and we have passed that point. The younger scientists who still need to be funded and earn their retirement funds have to be more cautious or they put their financial security at risk. That is a tough one for a young-ish person. I think we continue to call out the scientists collectively and individually and let them know that the record will be clear that they equivocated on public policy noise when the climate science was not in question. Sixth extinction, here we come.

  26. 76

    EG 62: But the battery for the US, given wind and solar power, would cost about a quadrillion dollars.

    BPL: So let’s use pumped hydro, a technology which goes back at least to the 1930s, and which is already in widespread use. And wide-area smart grids. And flywheels. And compressed air. And biomass gas burners.

  27. 77
    SecularAnimist says:

    Edward Greisch wrote: “But the battery for the US, given wind and solar power, would cost about a quadrillion dollars.”

    With all due respect, that is absolute raving nonsense, which reflects profound ignorance of what is actually happening in the USA today in the wind, solar and battery storage industries.

    To anyone who is actually interested in learning about wind, solar, batteries, EVs, smart grids, and related technologies and the industries that are developing and deploying them today, I commend to your attention the website http://www.CleanTechnica.com, which is an excellent news feed site for the latest developments in renewable energy and efficiency.

  28. 78

    #63–Very good points, MA.

    Indeed there are numerous questions around the future of this, as other, carbon capture technologies. In fact, I share many of your misgivings, which is what motivated my introductory comment about silver bullets. (Possibly I made the tone insufficiently ‘skeptical’.)

    The synfuel application is described as a ‘commercialization strategy.’ I suspect that, as was avowedly the case with Kilimanjaro energy, the long game is to provide a means by which sequestration could be economically accomplished. If that is so, then the question of potential markets is ultimately moot (no matter what they must do in the shorter term to ‘make markets’ to develop the technology.) The Carbon Engineering site doesn’t say that, exactly, so it’s hard to be certain, but FWIW that’s my impression.

    That said, decarbonizing transport seems to be more problematic than decarbonizing electric generation, despite the strides electric vehicles are making. It doesn’t seem impossible to me that there could be a niche for something like CE’s process at some point in the game.

    And I found it frankly surprising–and therefore worth the update–that air capture had progressed as far as a pilot scale plant. If nothing else, it’s a milestone. (Though still TBA whether or not the road leads anywhere we need to go.)

  29. 79

    #67–Yes, Fred, I’m afraid that that could be true. Thanks for your street-eye view. If you remember, I was already questioning the possibilities, based on SLR trends under the various RCPs. Since there’s not a lot of difference among them out 30 years or so–the trends diverge really only start to diverge around 2030–we would seem to need to do much better than RCP 2.6 to give Miami much of shot.

    Heck, even the 2.6 central estimate is about 0.4 meters by 2100–call it 15 inches. Not good.

  30. 80
    mike says:

    Mal at 74: I am doing what I can. I am minimizing my footprint, challenging the denialists, doing as much informing as I can do at every opportunity. BUT, I have a ba in social science field and nobody with any sense is going to think that my projections and opinions regarding climate change and global warming are as good as Dr. Michael Mann’s projections and opinions. Nor are decision makers likely to consider my pronouncements at anywhere near the impact of Dr. Mann’s, yet I posted the quote from Mann where he says he was skeptical that the AMOC could be shut down, and yet now we see the AMOC starting to slow.

    There it is in black and white: an important scientist admits that his past skepticism about a very important aspect of climate change was incorrect. It is certainly reasonable to argue that Dr. Mann’s earlier skepticism had much more impact on the policy makers than my small, non-phd concerns about the pace and danger of global warming. If you want to defend scientists, well, ok. Go ahead. The record is pretty clear that over and over, the facts on the ground have advanced faster than the projections. This is a moment and area where to be wrong on the low side does a significant disservice to a lot of beings. You connect the dots, kemosabe.

  31. 81
    sidd says:

    Re: “When do we lose Miami ?”

    A USA specific projection is at
    http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1511186112

    In the following quote, the “triggered” case is if WAIS collapses.

    “In the baseline case, without any special assumptions concerning West Antarctica, cumulative emissions through 2015 commit SLR that translates to 414 (0–942) US municipalities where more than 50% of the population-weighted area will fall below the future high tide line. City commitments climb to 604 (92–1,011) after accounting for future emissions implied by current energy infrastructure. The same sea levels would cover land where a total of 6.2 (0.0–15.1) million people live today across all coastal US states, or where 9.5 (0.0–17.4) million people live after accounting for emissions expected from infrastructure.Median commitments from purely historic emissions are much larger under the triggered case, at 1,153 municipalities and 19.8 million people, with current energy infrastructure adding less than 5% marginal increases beyond these higher base levels.”

    Miami and New Orleans face certain doom. But the paper argues that (especially in the case that WAIS collapse can be avoided)

    ” … rapid and deep cuts in carbon emissions could help many hundreds of coastal US municipalities avoid extreme future difficulties.”

    Another paper at DOI: 10.1038/NGEO2563 emphasizes the importance of mitigation to the future spread of surface melt in Antarctica:

    “Future melt trajectories are intimately tied to current and future climate pathways, thus highlighting a critical anthropogenic control on the future evolution of the Antarctic ice sheet and its potential contributions to global sea level.”

    Disingenuous denialist arguments arguing that mitigation is hopeless should be treated with contempt.

    sidd

  32. 82
    mike says:

    this just in from a blogger in WA State with a BA! by way of WAPO

    “The start of the Younger Dryas was in a couple of years, really five years or so,” says Hans Renssen of VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands, who led the research, along with scientists from Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland.

    Using climate change models, the researchers tried to reproduce the cooling of the Younger Dryas period. And they found that simulating a full shutdown of the Atlantic’s overturning circulation actually made things too cold — but combining together a more moderate ocean circulation slowdown (losing about half of its force) with a concurrent reduction in solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface and a change in atmospheric circulation patterns did a very good job of simulating the cool down.

    Slowing the Atlantic ocean’s circulation thus “plays an important role, but it’s not the only mechanism,” Renssen says.

    When it comes to modern day implications of the research, however, “it shows that climate is sensitive to changes in the freshwater balance of the ocean,” Renssen says. “So I would not expect a Younger Dryas, or a thousand year-long cold period, but I think there’s still a serious risk of the ocean circulation to weaken, and even abruptly.”

    Dr. Mann has been skeptical about a slowing of AMOC, but a blogger in rural WA State thinks Dr. Mann has underestimated the dire situation that we face. Renssen thinks abrupt change is a serious risk. Is Dr. Mann skeptical about the risk of abrupt change. Who should we believe? I say Dr. Renssen because his concern is more likely to help the species get the message and make necessary changes.

    A role at COP 21? Get it right. Speak up clearly about the projection mistakes and skepticism that have allowed the policy makers wiggle room to express doubt about what we need to do. A part time blogger with a BA in social science and strong hunches about how dire our situation is does not swing a big bat on this global challenge.

  33. 83

    “Care to show us how you got there?”

    I think I remember how Ed got this grotesque estimate:

    By extrapolating out the cost of the Fairbanks, AK, battery storage system, installed more than a decade ago and using lead-acid tech;

    By assuming that the needed capacity had to cover a full week of windless, sunless weather over the entire US;

    And by assuming no change in prices and no change in technology.

    None of which is what anyone but Ed (and maybe Ted Trainer) would call realistic.

  34. 84
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    I’ve been conducting an experiment. Whenever the jetstream over Canada and the US at around 250mb becomes appreciably rossby-like, no clear path, meandering all over the place, deep excursions from north to south, forming many eddies and fractured troughs etc, I’ve predicted an extreme weather event the next day(it gets reported here by our media 2 days later). Whether it was flash flooding in UTAH or South Carolina etc. I’ve been spot on 4/5 times sequentially. The obvious slowdown in the jetstream seems to greatly affect the incidence and severity of flash flooding events more than anything else. Has anyone else noticed this??

  35. 85
    Thomas O'Reilly says:

    new study
    Global alteration of ocean ecosystem functioning due to increasing human CO2 emissions
    Ivan Nagelkerken1 and Sean D. Connell
    http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/06/1510856112.abstract?sid=7cf666e7-ed44-4205-af86-fe92592a6201 {pay wall}

    People are not only concerned about climate change and its effects on plant and animal diversity but also about how humans are fundamentally changing the globe’s largest ecosystem that sustains economic revenue and food for many countries. We show that many species communities and ocean habitats will change from their current states.
    http://www.pnas.org/content/suppl/2015/10/06/1510856112.DCSupplemental/pnas.201510856SI.pdf

    [media report extract]
    Important ecosystems could be massively damaged by 2050 unless greenhouse gas emissions and localised pollution is drastically reduced, researchers say

    The food chains of the world’s oceans are at risk of collapse due to the release of greenhouse gases, overfishing and localised pollution, a stark new analysis shows.

    A study of 632 published experiments of the world’s oceans, from tropical to arctic waters, spanning coral reefs and the open seas, found that climate change is whittling away the diversity and abundance of marine species.

    The overarching analysis of these changes, led by the University of Adelaide, found that the amount of plankton will increase with warming water but this abundance of food will not translate to improved results higher up the food chain.

    “There is more food for small herbivores, such as fish, sea snails and shrimps, but because the warming has driven up metabolism rates the growth rate of these animals is decreasing,” said associate professor Ivan Nagelkerken of Adelaide University. “As there is less prey available, that means fewer opportunities for carnivores. There’s a cascading effect up the food chain.

    “Overall, we found there’s a decrease in species diversity and abundance irrespective of what ecosystem we are looking at. These are broad scale impacts, made worse when you combine the effect of warming with acidification.

    “We are seeing an increase in hypoxia, which decreases the oxygen content in water, and also added stressors such as overfishing and direct pollution. These added pressures are taking away the opportunity for species to adapt to climate change.”

    The research adds to recent warnings over the state of the oceans, with the world experiencing the third global bleaching of coral reefs.

    Since 2014, a massive underwater heatwave, driven by climate change, has caused corals to lose their brilliance and die in every ocean. By the end of this year 38% of the world’s reefs will have been affected. About 5% will have died.
    http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/13/marine-food-chains-at-risk-of-collapse-extensive-study-of-worlds-oceans-reveals

  36. 86
    Richard Caldwell says:

    BPL: In one year, two at the most, solar will be cheaper than coal.

    RC: Your numbers are “fudged”, as the levelized cost of electricity assumes full utility for solar without any need for storage. That’s obvious BS when one is talking about an electrical grid which relies almost totally on renewables. We have to add in the cost for storage and other ways to prevent or use up overproduction. Next, add in the cost to dismantle the coal mine/railroad/power plant system we rely on today. And the loss in current value for coal reserves. Somebody loses/pays that money. Big Coal will surely be made whole financially, so that leaves ratepayers and taxpayers to foot the bill. For a real-world example of the real costs, Germans pay double Americans’ rates and they are only at 11% renewables (mostly wood). In April 2014 Germany peaked at 74% renewable production, so they can’t go beyond perhaps 16% renewables without having serious issues with overproduction. (74%/11% = 100%/16%) Getting to even 50% will surely require building lots of really-low-utility uses for electricity to burn off the excess when the sun and wind peak. And the opposite? Picture a bitterly cold and calm winter night with nary a cubic foot of natural gas… Stuff’s solvable, and doubling or tripling electrical rates would still leave energy dirt cheap, so this isn’t a reason to not convert. Add in externalities, and coal surely costs triple what we pay for it, too. What is the current value of a devastated future planet?

    Ray Ladbury: Let’s let the scientists do what they do well–science. The science will still be there to guide policy once the politicians decide to embrace reality.

    RC: Climate science is an old science. The essential work is already done. What future “non-guaranteed” advance in science would help the situation? Other than geoengineering research, I can’t think of anything Earth-shattering. Inevitable incremental advances plus each new yearly datapoint is plenty good enough. Communication is key now. When a house is on fire, who would sit there taking measurements to determine whether the fire is at 1000F or 1002F while not yelling, “Fire!” I’d like to see scientists bypass or “pre-pass” the IPCC. Let scientists do what scientists do – which includes clearly stating to the public what the science says sans politicians’ influence. “Here’s what IPCC scientists alone say, and here’s what the full IPCC says after politicians got involved.”

    Mal Adapted: it’s up to you, Mike. Why are you trying to dodge your own duty? Will you be in Paris on November 30th?

    RC: It seems Mike IS doing his duty by commenting as best he can. (And going to Paris just to add another body would be counter-productive. Airplanes spew lots of carbon.)

  37. 87
    Jim Baird says:

    Sybren Drijfhout1 points out in Nature “When heat transfer to the deep ocean temporarily increases, the response to further increases in radiative forcing can become weak or even zero, giving rise to a climate hiatus. Also a temporal decrease in net radiative forcing might cause a climate hiatus, but on longer timescales one would expect it to be associated with a decrease in downward TOA energy flux and ocean heat uptake instead of an increase, with vertical heat exchange between deep and upper ocean counteracting the radiative forcing. Whether this also holds for shorter (up to decadal) timescales is still unclear, but the signal of a volcanic eruption is reflected in a short-time upward TOA energy pulse in net TOA radiation timeseries.”

    Unless I totally miss read this study “Competition between global warming and an abrupt collapse of the AMOC in Earth’s energy imbalance”, it appears to make a strong case for energy production by the transfer of heat to the deep ocean through a heat engine?

  38. 88
    Edward Greisch says:

    76 BPL and 77 SecularAnimist: “Tom Murphy is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego.
    http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11/pump-up-the-storage/
    Pump Up the Storage”
    We would have to lift Lake Erie half a kilometer skyward per Tom Murphy. Be sure to read http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/
    first to see why we need a week’s worth of storage. The basic physics and chemistry didn’t change.

    “Green Illusions” by Ozzie Zehner: A complete renewable energy system for the US would cost 1.4 QUADRILLION dollars.

    My estimate for the cost of a battery for the US is $0.5 QUADrillion. 5 times 10 to the eleventh power. About 29 times GDP. How I got it: Fairbanks has a battery that can last 7 to 15 minutes. They paid $35 Million for it. Fairbanks has 30,000 people. That is $1167 per person. Multiply by 400 million people. Divide 7 minutes into a week. Multiply that by the number you got before. You get half a quadrillion dollars. Batteries are out. I did not account for price going up as resources are depleted.

    What is absolute raving nonsense is forgetting to read physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math before commenting. Smart grids and flywheels and compressed air and biomass gas burners all added together don’t make any difference.

    See: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner – “GVEA s Fairbanks battery bank keeps lights on”
    http://newsminer.com/view/full_story/12739242/article-GVEA-s-Fairbanks-battery-bank-keeps-lights-on?

    To go with renewables only, you need a whole week’s worth of battery power for the whole world because Europe can have a long cold cloudy calm winter. The batteries can run down over several months.

    My list of references is too long to put here.

  39. 89
    Edward Greisch says:

    73 MartinJB: Basic chemistry hasn’t changed. Batteries improve some % per year. We need an improvement of about a million times.

  40. 90
    Edward Greisch says:

    77 SecularAnimist: http://www.cleantechnica.com/ is advertising “hidden” in news. Cleantechnica makes no pretense of being science or engineering. What is absolute raving nonsense is not recognizing the difference between advertising and science. What is absolute raving nonsense is not recognizing the difference between advertising and engineering. So now I know what the problem is.

  41. 91
    S.B. Ripman says:

    “We predict not only that the Southern Ocean surface will cool, rather than warm, but also that the cooling will be largest in the Western Hemisphere.”

    “What we have is a push and shove match between global warming, which warms the global ocean surface with amplification at high latitudes, and the freshwater stratification effect, which causes ocean surface cooling in the North Atlantic and Southern Oceans. IPCC simulations for the 21st century find a warming Southern Ocean with declining sea ice cover, as freshwater injection is either omitted or small. In contrast, with our assumed rates of freshwater injection, estimated from observations today and extrapolated into the future with several alternative doubling rates, the freshwater cooling effect is already comparable to the greenhouse warming effect in the Southern Ocean, and cooling wins out in our model over the next decade or two.”

    “ … our prediction is that, as (this current) El Nino fades, Southern Ocean cooling and ice area will grow, with the signal rising above the noise level during the next several years.”

    The foregoing comes from the most recent paper put out by James Hansen and associate; here is a link to it: http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2015/20150921_IceMeltPredictions.pdf

    Here’s a link to an easy-to-use sea surface temperature anomaly map: https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/teleconnections/enso/indicators/sea-temp-anom.php?begmonth=8&begday=1&begyear=2010&endmonth=8&endday=26&endyear=2015

    It will be interesting to check in on it from time to time to see if the Hansen predictions are borne out. If next summer we see a chill-down in the Southern Ocean (particularly in the Pacific region), and persistent cold anomalies there for a while thereafter, the IPCC’s sea level rise parameters will be looking overly conservative.

  42. 92

    MA Rodgers at 63 – You may be interested to learn that LDCs are exporting charcoal – from mostly wildly innefficient production and unsustainable practices – for around $300/T fob, or about $82/TCO2 equivalent.

    Given that an efficient retort can convert as much as 7 times as much of the wood to charcoal, and given the re-growth rates on coppice in much of the tropics simply by excluding browsing livestock, it seems unlikely that capturing CO2 and interring the charcoal product as a soil fertilizer and moisture regulator needs to cost much more that $80 /TCO2.

    There is of course no interest in this basic, affordable, low-tech, and potentially highly benign system of Carbon Capture & Storage among the “serious” people lobbying for CCS. Not even in view of the fact that all other approaches I’ve heard of are not actually CCS – they pursue Carbon Dioxide Capture & Storage – and so entail handling 3.664 times the gigatonnage, not in the inert and valuable form of charcoal but as highly lethal high pressure liquid CO2.

    That seems to me beyond stupid. How about you ?

    Regards,
    Lewis

  43. 93
    Edward Greisch says:

    83 Kevin McKinney: 1.7-volt nickel cadmium batteries were used in Fairbanks. Lead-acid would be more cost effective/cheaper. The article in the Newsminer was posted on Sunday, April 10, 2011. The link is still live.
    Again: Book: “Green Illusions” by Ozzie Zehner: A complete renewable energy system for the US would cost 1.4 QUADRILLION dollars.
    Book: “Why We Need Nuclear Power; the Environmental Case” by Michael H. Fox, 2014
    A grotesque estimate is an estimate that is actually wrong by many orders of magnitude. I see that you did not read Tom Murphy again. Nor did you read “Green Illusions,” or even look for it. If you had, you would realize that my estimate is in line with other people’s estimates.
    Kevin McKinney: Since you have not done any math at all on this subject and told us about it, how would you know what is grotesque?

    86 Richard Caldwell: Germans are paying 30 cents per kilowatt hour. I am paying 7&1/2 cents per kilowatt hour.

    Available from Amazon:
    Personal Name
    Zehner, Ozzie.
    Main title
    Green illusions : the dirty secrets of clean energy and the future of environmentalism / Ozzie Zehner.
    Published/Created
    Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, c2012.
    Description
    xx, 437 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
    ISBN
    9780803237759 (cloth : alk. paper)
    LC classification
    TJ807.9.U6 Z44 2012
    LCCN
    ‪2011042685‬
    ‬Dewey class no.
    ‪333.79/40973‬

    CALL NUMBER
    TJ807.9.U6 Z44 2012
    Ozzie Zehner did get a few things wrong later in the book.

  44. 94
    MartinJB says:

    Ed, I asked a simple question. How did you arrive at your multi-quadrillion number? Can you any of your inputs? Talking about chemistry doesn’t in any way answer the question. Thanks!

  45. 95
    MA Rodger says:

    Lewis Cleverdon @92.
    Note I had to acronym search to find LDCs=Less Developed Countries.
    The mind-sets that spawn CCS do appear to be of the ‘immensely well-set’ variety and that seems to transport across to Bio-Energy CCS. (Note my acronym usage @63 was a bit faulty. I had BECCS wrongly as Bio-Extraction CCS.) I suppose this CCS mind-set is fixated by the selling of something while simply burying charcoal would apparently lack tangible customers with cash in their pockets. But with that mind-set, I do wonder if it is the sort of people who are employed to address such issues that is the problem. For instance, a UK study allegedly done with government blessing points to potentially 100mt(CO2) emissions reduction from BECCS, this as part of the 610Mt(CO2e) the UK is trying to cut 1990-2050. But if BE-CCS is burying CO2 and using the biomass to generate electricity, surely wouldn’t the 100Mt(CO2) be contributing 200Mt(CO2e) to that 1990-2050 target? And what actually happens to the cost calculations and all those fancy-but-necessary technology requirements (the UK govt is spending £1billion on it) if you forget about the power generation part?

  46. 96
    Jim Baird says:

    Edward Greisch 88. To go with renewables only, you need a whole week’s worth of battery power for the whole world

    The ocean can be considered the largest battery on the planet. Its energy potential stems from the temperature differential between its surface and the deep. NOAA estimates this battery is being charged at a rate of about 330 terawatts annually. Since this charge is not being drawn down we are experiencing the problems associated with global warming.

    Pump Up the Storage. We would have to lift Lake Erie half a kilometer skyward

    To get the energy, estimated at about 14 terawatts, you can derive from the ocean battery to shore it needs to be converted to an energy carrier like hydrogen which is 14 times lighter than air. This hydrogen will rise of its own volition to any place on the planet which has an average land height of 840 meters.

    Fourteen terawatts of electricity produces about1.8 trillion kg/year of hydrogen by electrolysis. This is a conversion of 16 trillion kgs of water which in turn is reconstituted on land when energy is produced in a fuel cell or the hydrogen is burned. At a height of 840 meters this water has the potential to generate 4.3 terawatts of hydro or about 4 times what the world is currently producing. It also is the equivalent of 600 gallons for every person on the planet, which is an even more valuable resource than the energy.

  47. 97

    RC:

    “And the loss in current value for coal reserves. Somebody loses/pays that money. Big Coal will surely be made whole financially, so that leaves ratepayers and taxpayers to foot the bill.”

    – See more at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2015/10/unforced-variations-oct-2015/comment-page-2/#comment-636635

    Seriously doubt it. Big coal is going to be allowed to fail, and indeed, most of the coal majors have already seen the majority of their former worth evaporate:

    http://tinyurl.com/CoalCommodityPriceChart

    I don’t think that those prices are adjusted for inflation either, which makes the picture even uglier if one is a coal investor.

  48. 98

    Ed: “Basic chemistry hasn’t changed. Batteries improve some % per year.”

    – See more at: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2015/10/unforced-variations-oct-2015/comment-page-2/#comment-636685

    *Battery* chemistry, however, is changing rapidly. There is a constant stream of new formulations and developments. One of the great things about that is that different chemistries have different strengths; while various lithium chemistries are great for EV batteries, due to energy densities needed, different flow-battery chemistries work well for onsite energy storage.

    So, yes, there is incremental improvement, but there is also disruption. Li chemistry was pretty disruptive, and still hasn’t fully been exploited yet. But there’s more coming.

  49. 99

    #88–Ed, please reread your citation to “Do the Math” on the Nation-sized battery. His conclusion:

    This post does not proclaim that there is no way to build adequate storage to accommodate a fully-renewable energy infrastructure. A distributed grid helps, and an armada of gas-fired peak-load plants would offset the need for full storage. Storage can be augmented by pumped hydro, compressed air, flywheels, other battery technologies, etc.

    Rather, the lesson is that we must work within serious constraints to meet future demands. We can’t just scale up the current go-to solution for renewable energy storage—we are yet again fresh out of silver bullet solutions.

    – See more at: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/#sthash.bMNlnVSU.dpuf

    Yet what are you doing?

    Proclaiming loudly exactly what Dr. Murphy says cannot be concluded–and citing him in support. You are not being honest with yourself here.

    Moreover, Dr. Murphy is doing a couple of things that you are ignoring. One is that his estimate is for *total energy consumption”–ie., doing absolutely everything with electricity. Two is that he makes no effort to assess what storage is actually needed based on empirical data–he simply does a ‘back of the envelope’ calculation, avowedly conservative–as he breezily says, “Let’s buy ourselves security.”

    This is a long way from anything realistic. And Dr. Murphy doesn’t claim that it is–he is very explicit in saying that his aim is to illustrate the scale of the problem:

    “Let’s be clear that I am not making any claim that large scale storage at the level we need is impossible. But it’s far more daunting than almost anyone realizes. It’s not a matter of “just” building up when the time comes.”

    Just to illustrate, let’s for a moment consider your favored solution, nuclear power, in the same light as the two Murphy posts you link. If the US needs 2 TW of power, as he says, and a typical fission plant gives us 1 GW, then that’s:

    (2 x 10e12)/(1 x 10e9) = 2000 fission plants, minus the existing 61 plants. We’d need to expand existing capacity by a factor of roughly 32.

    Considering cost first, if we use the most recent estimates for the Vogtle expansion, the total cost for essentially 2 GW is going to be $7.4 billion. So we’d have to pony up $7.4 trillion for the reactor fleet. That’s nearly half of current US annual GNP, which is pretty steep.

    (But that’s assuming the sudden huge increase in demand for everything specific to building reactors doesn’t do anything to prices, which is a bit dubious. Well, maybe more than a bit, but let that slide.)

    What about workforce? Georgia Power says that peak construction will require 5,000 workers and that the permanent operating staff will total about 800. So, scaling that up, we will need 5,000,000 workers to build our “US-sized nuclear fleet”, and about 800,000 permanent staff over all.

    It’s unclear what proportion of those will be skilled personnel, but currently there are about 40,000 power plant operators for all other forms of power in the US:

    http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes518013.htm

    There are only about 3,700 nuclear plant operators:

    http://www.bls.gov/oes/2006/may/oes518011.htm

    Perhaps we can guess that we’d need to increase that number by the expansion factor of 32 that I derived from needed capacity, above. If so, we’d be talking about ~120,000 new op positions.

    Hmm. Pretty big training job. Where do we get enough qualified trainers?

    What makes all this hard, of course, is that the timeframe is short. If we just needed to plan, finance, build and staff those reactors by 2100, that would be one thing. But we need meaningful emissions cuts in a decade or two at the most. And it takes, currently, about 10 years to build a complete nuclear plant.

    Does this mean that we can’t, or shouldn’t, build *any* nuclear plants, because they can’t be a silver bullet for our fossil fuel problem?

    Of course not. *Nothing* constitutes a silver bullet, and *everything* that we can do offers daunting challenges of scale.

    That’s one very big reason why we can expect that a diversified approach to decarbonization will be adopted. That’s Dr. Murphy’s takeaway, and that’s what I’ve been saying all along. I do have a lot of enthusiasm for renewables, because they are demonstrating much better scalability in the real world than almost anyone expected, say, 10 years ago. But we aren’t going to see a purely renewable energy sector anytime soon, and quite possibly that’s OK. Efficiency, intelligent demand management, and nuclear power are all going to be contributing over the coming decades, just as a matter of realism.

    So it’s a waste of everyone’s time to single out generation modalities and ‘prove’ that they can’t do it all. They are not going to be able to, nor be required to.

    The hard work is figuring out what mix of options gives us the best chance of decarbonizing fast enough to avoid the worst levels of climate change.

  50. 100

    #90–Ed, my apologies, but when you pillory Cleantech as ‘advertising’, I think you are ignoring the ‘advertising’ that goes on in certain other sites you find more to your liking.

    Yes, one finds advocacy on Cleantech–they make no secret of that–but one finds it also on, say, the webpages of the World Nuclear Association. In either case, ignoring valid news isn’t justified.

    So, please don’t ignore what is presented on Cleantech, or elsewhere, by the a priori assumption that it’s nothing but ‘advertising.’ That way lies complete self-deception via willful ignorance.