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Unforced variations: Jan 2016

Filed under: — group @ 1 January 2016

Happy New Year, and happy new open thread.

As per usual, nuclear energy is off-topic – it’s not that it’s uninteresting, but it ends up dominating conversation to the total exclusion of everything else and just becomes repetitive and dull. Recent excursions on this topic shows what happens when we relax the moderation, so back to being strict about this. If you want to discuss this, please go somewhere else.

434 Responses to “Unforced variations: Jan 2016”

  1. 1
    Russell says:

    What does GISS make of the above freezing temperatures near the North Pole that usshered in the New Year?

  2. 2

    Thank you for that decision!

  3. 3
    Andre says:

    It would be interesting to get a blog post from one of the authors of this Nature article,

    “Implications for climate sensitivity from the response to individual forcing”
    Kate Marvel, Gavin A. Schmidt, Ron L. Miller & Larissa S. Nazarene

    I can’t tell from just the abstract if this shifts or helps to constrain the uncertainty in the climate sensitivity’s probability distribution.

    [Response: Coming! – gavin]

  4. 4
    Mal Adapted says:


    Edward Greisch,
    You seem to have your ducks in a row.

    RC is dedicated to the justified understanding of the complex natural phenomena comprising global climate, with Science as the way to avoid fooling oneself. Peter Morcombe, who sometimes uses the nom de clavier “gallopingcamel”, would rather fool himself.

    As a deontological libertarian, he is devoted to Freedom-and-Prosperity. He believes that any problem the free market can’t solve isn’t a real problem. That leads him to conclude that anyone who argues that AGW represents market failure must simply hate Freedom-and-Prosperity.

    Ask yourself if you want this man’s praise, Mr. Greisch. Remember that, fairly or not, you are known by the company you keep.

  5. 5
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    1: Russell. It would be interest to know the relative altitudinal temps of the arctic circle as well. Null school gives a hint but it’s not the entire story. Assuming the warm air extends upwards quite far the equatorial – polar jet stream should be slowing somewhat as well. I was expecting that during the northern winter the jet stream over the US would be quite strong and directional but what I can see is that whilst it is stronger than during the summer it is still quite haphazard and prone to strong diversions. Unseasonal tornado and concurrent blizzard conditions covering a large chunk of the US. The duration of the tornado activity was unprecedented. England’s chronic flooding situation on the other side of the atlantic. This kind of tells me that the jet stream meanderings and these event might be linked?

  6. 6
    patrick says:

    Here’s “What’s warming the world?,” the Bloomberg data animation:

    Here’s “Where’s Spot?,” the story:

    Here’s the creative process ‘behind the scenes’ that connects them: Data Stories #59, segments 7 & 8 (starting at 07:56 & at 09:21):

    It’s all good, for instance: “We need more of these projects…”

    There’s a lot here on language and presentation for communicators of all sorts.

  7. 7
    Chuck Hughes says:

    I think there needs to be a serious event clearly attributed to GW before we will get the vote of the people.

    Comment by Theo van den Berg — 1 Jan 2016 @

    I think you need to have your head examined.

  8. 8
    Doug Schaefer says:

    Roy Spencer has worked more than 30 years on air T derived from satellite microwave irradiance fluxes. Trends over time are positive except for a 1998 start date. Starting from then thus grossly misinterprets his work. I wonder therefore, why he does not object?

  9. 9
    Christopher Yaun says:

    Hank and others, thank you for indicating that burning fossil fuels removes only 2ppm of existing O2 from a current concentration of 21% (210,000ppm).

    A lose of 2 molecules of O2 from a million seems unimportant. One Monarch butterfly seems unimportant. One tall grass prarie seems unimportant. Two buffalo, two Codfish, two whales?

    The problem is not the science, or the math. Both are well developed and can be defended with adequate reference to peer reviewed literature. Then the problem is politics? Philosophy? Religion? Does that render all conversation here useless?

  10. 10

    #6–Thanks, Patrick, that is a darn good explanation, and highly succinct. I’ll share that.

  11. 11

    Any comments on reports such as this of huge Arctic temperature anomalies?

  12. 12
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Christopher Yaun: point is, science can help you decide _which_ issue is real. One of the tactics most effective in delaying action is to fund opposed parties, the more extreme the better, to prolong debate by emptying out the political center. There are wackos out at the far edges on all sides.

    “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

    ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

    You need to be a diagnostician, understanding what matters, rather than waste time and energy advocating for action on whatever story seems scary to you without understanding the numbers.

    Aside to all: isn’t it funny that when you ‘oogle “advocacy science” the first hit is to a JC blog thread decrying alarmist environmentalists? That gets more hits than the AAAS pieces or the law journal articles about that business.

  13. 13
    Hank Roberts says:

    PS for Christopher Yaun — I’m not kidding about the tactic of funding extreme opposite groups to dry up the center and delay action. One stunning example is how the tobacco industry funded “fire marshals” organization, well documented at — to argue for fireproofing furniture instead of removing the combustion-enhancing chemicals added to cigarettes that keep them burning oh so conveniently:

    Two powerful industries — Big Tobacco and chemical manufacturers — waged deceptive campaigns that led to the proliferation of these chemicals, which don’t even work as promised.

    Read that series and you’ll see how the tactic has been used to delay regulation for decades, with much collateral damage done from unforeseen consequences.

  14. 14
    Edward Greisch says:

    I think 4 Mal Adapted made a personal [ad hominem] attack that is off topic. gishgallopingcamel is no friend of mine as I have never heard of him before. Nor have I ever heard of Peter Morcombe before. Wikipedia says Peter Morcombe may be a right wing politician from down south. I see that gishgallopingcamel seems to have agreed with me in a comment 172 in the December unforced variations.

    I am neither a politician nor right wing. Don’t call me a politician and don’t call me right wing. I am an engineer with a degree in physics, which means I solve problems.

    Other than that, I find Mal Adapted’s comment to be not understandable.

  15. 15
    Dan H. says:

    That does not grossly misinterpret his work. Rather it yields more information, than a single 30-year trend. It shows that the trend changed from a positive to a neutral, with that date as an inflection point.

  16. 16

    Another thought – since 90% of the energy change in the planet goes into the oceans, how much bigger can an El Niño be than previously?

    As I understand it El Niño occurs when energy is transferred from the ocean to the atmosphere. Much more energy in ocean = much more to transfer to atmosphere, not so?

  17. 17
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    11: Philip. I read that Canadian article. She kind of got the connection between the intense el-nino and the arctic warm blast. However as the Arctic warms at a much faster rate than the poles the s-n ..then w-e jet stream must slow and exhibit far deeper excursions and diversions than before. Thus allowing warm equatorial air to extend in this case right up to the arctic circle. This concept fully explains what has occurred and many weather related anomalies of the past years.

  18. 18
    Omega Centauri says:

    Phil @11.
    Seems to be a familiar story, a weather event outside of previous experience, but not so far outside that we can’t say it couldn’t ever have happened in a non warmed world. So the media can say, “its just El Nino”. Its only the far less cognitively compelling story, that its not the occurrence of any one of these extreme outlier events, but the frequency of outlier events that we are seeing that is scientifically/statistically highly significant.

    And if we think about the past few weeks, we’ve had quite a number, although they are all related to the same atmospheric circulation pattern: extreme warmth in much of the Eastern and Central US. Unprecedented winter floods on the lower Mississippi, Unprecedented December Tornado outbreaks, unprecedented flooding in the Northern UK, A massive 928mb low hit Iceland (which also wafted the warm air to the pole), only a couple of weeks after another massive low hit the same small island.

    So, I’d say these are a harbinger of the new world of extreme weather we have entered into. But, I doubt any skeptics will be won over by that argument.

  19. 19
    Killian says:


    They are higher than has been assumed. As I said they logically *had* to be… at least 8+ years ago. Thus things changing faster than expected… as I said… 8+ years ago.

    Re: Mann, et al., on applying risk asessment: Anyone here an echo? Said that 7 years ago. Here. How many points for me on the publishing contract, Michael Mann?



  20. 20
    Alexey says:

    Could anybody give the links to the articles and models that were used to make decisions at COP21 ?

    My personal impression is that if the balance is not achieved yet then the warming will continue for many years even if humanity will stop to produce CO2.

  21. 21
    Theo van den Berg says:

    Re 7: OK, with the offending statements removed, I will now repeat my question.
    How do we sell a further cap of half a degree to the common people, if that means serious economic hardship ? You all know and I know that this half a degree is important, but when common people like me see 33 yesterday, 25 today and maybe 45 tomorrow, what is the fuss about half a degree ? Exactly what would persuade them and get them on our side ?

  22. 22
    Edward Greisch says:

    4 Mal Adapted: I am most definitely not a natural-rights libertarian or a libertarian of any kind.

    4 Mal Adapted’s comment is pure insult.

    On the atomic insights web site: Choice of how to do mitigation is not in Bill Gates’s jurisdiction. Nor is the choice of how to do mitigation in the jurisdiction of politicians, or diplomats or musicians or preachers or management or the general public. The choice of how to do mitigation is in the jurisdiction of the engineers who do the engineering at electric generating companies. All others are usurpers.

    The general public and the politicians have the right to set certain parameters such as the maximum death rate per terrawatt year, the down time and brownout time per year, a price goal, etcetera, as long as they set requirements which are not absurd. For example, a death rate of zero is ludicrous. Once those parameters are set and certified by the engineers as attainable, everybody except engineers should keep their noses out of it. Negotiation between the engineers and the politicians is acceptable, but engineering rules because Nature rules. The engineers are representing Nature, or God in antique language, in this case.

    My choice of mitigation method is based on knowledge of engineering and science, not on politics. Mal Adapted: If you think I would make an engineering decision on political grounds, you, Mal Adapted, have very seriously insulted me. I would never do such an unprofessional thing as make an engineering decision on political grounds. In other circumstances, it could be a defamation case.

  23. 23
    Chuck Hughes says:

    It looks like the drop in oil prices have created an economic crisis in Saudi Arabia which could destabilize the Middle East, if I’m reading this correctly. If a power struggle ensues between Syria, Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia we could be in for a rough ride. In any case the problems stem from oil prices dropping on the global market. It looks like the United States is trying to exit the stage at a critical moment. Is anyone else keeping up with this latest development? Thoughts?

  24. 24
    Killian says:

    The choice of how to do mitigation is in the jurisdiction of the engineers who do the engineering at electric generating companies. All others are usurpers.

    …engineering rules because Nature rules. The engineers are representing Nature, or God in antique language, in this case.

    My choice of mitigation method is based on knowledge of engineering and science, not on politics.

    Comment by Edward Greisch

    This may be one of the most ignorant comments on mitigation and adaptation I have ever read from someone who sincerely sought solutions. I want to agree with you Ed because I think of regenerative design as ecological engineering, because it is. To treat tech-based engineering as on par with nature, however, is absurd on the face of it.

    Engineers are the *last* people to ask to design a sustainable system. They tend to be utterly clueless unless it involves resource-intensive toys and machines. What do they know about key lines, needs analysis, soil remediation and soil building? Nada.

    No, I will not be calling an engineer to design sustainable locations. I will cal them to help with specific elements, such as a windmill made from parts in a junkyard, setting up a localized power grid, etc. But the system? God help us if the engineers take over. Collapse would be assured.

    That said, engineers *should* be naturals at regenerative design as it is based on First Principles thinking, systems thinking and patterns and flows. But asking engineers to step away from mech/tech and apply engineering to natural systems is a tough sell.


  25. 25
    zebra says:

    Eward Greisch #22:

    Here’s a quote from wikipedia:

    On May Day 1970, a sleek, futuristic aeroplane lands outside of what remains of Everytown. The sole pilot, John Cabal, emerges and proclaims that the last surviving band of “engineers and mechanics” have formed a civilisation of airmen called “Wings Over the World”. They are based in Basra, Iraq and have renounced war and outlawed independent nations.

    Perhaps you’ve watched that movie a few too many times?

    Seriously, and it relates to some other commenters on how to move things in the right direction, you can’t change things by keeping everything the same. Some dinosaurs may have to die– FF companies and utility companies are at the top of the list. When I said previously that you bear a remarkable similarity to those in the denial camp, it is particularly in this fear of innovation and embrace of authoritarianism.

    The market will do the job of deciding about mitigation and adaptation just fine, as long as there is an actual free market, rather than the paternalistic/feudalistic approach you appear to favor. The role of government should be to create and maintain that market.

  26. 26
    Killian says:

    #173, previous UV:

    A team of researchers has derived the first theoretical equation to demonstrate that global warming is a direct result of the build-up of carbon emissions since the late 1800s when human-made carbon emissions began.”

    From 2014, but I don’t remember seeing it. In case anyone else missed it…

    Comment by Killian — 30 Dec 2015

    Killian, do you think we’ve reached the point where other sources are driving our annual increase of CO2 noticeably higher? I believe you said earlier “something is cooking somewhere.” I took that to mean that there’s more to our annual increase in CO2 than human activity alone. Are the potential feedbacks having a discernible effect on the annual increase?

    This question is open to anyone else who may know. I was just looking at post #145 – Comment by mike and trying to figure it out. Thanks

    Comment by Chuck Hughes

    You may recall I have thought so for a long time. I’ve thought the methane clathrate/permafrost melt issue was more serious than considered by many for a long time – since 2007. I am not as apocalyptic about it as some in the sense that I don’t think we’re getting 2+ ppm/yr from natural sources yet. Yet.

    However, I also think we’ve never been here before. The planet has never been here before. There is no analogy in Earth’s history. Risk assessment in that case means assume the worst. The worst case is, imo, something like 2-10 ppm a year from the Arctic above and beyond what has been up till now, and I think we are extremely close to seeing that begin to kick in for one very simple reason: Kilometer-wide pingos on the Siberian Shelf. Wasn’t but 8 years ago we heard that melt-created lakes in the Arctic had tripled in number in less than ten years. Then the methane seeps from large areas of the shelf. Then massive blowouts on land last year. Now km-wide pingos on the Arctic Sea floor?!

    Yeah, somethings cooking. So, yeah, I am apocalyptic in the long term if we don’t start cooling the oceans again before those clathrates start hitting +2 ppm/yr. Is that happening now? I’ve got a bad feeling about this massive El Nino being that moment in history everyone points to and says that was the year everything changed. That, of course, would be absurd, but it might be accurate to say this was the year the world at large had an “Oh, isht!” moment, while simultaneously losing the war.

    I have to still hope because I have an 8 year-old son. I have no choice. Thus, my *hope* is the EN will not fully tilt the Arctic into uncontrollable collapse of clathrates and permafrost. What I *think* is happening now is the usual EL CO2 boost of 2ppm, but bigger because of the preconditioning of the clathrates and permafrost, as well as multiple other – myriad – preconditionings globally. I am *hoping* that’s the case. CO2 peaks in May, so we have a bit of a wait on our hands. The numbers are roughly thus:

    404 in 2015.
    +2.3 anthropogenic/yr, supposedly not increasing in rate.
    +2 El Nino-induced push

    Anything over 408.3 means we need to figure out right quick whether that means emissions continue to rise, or did this EN boost even more than usual, or is the Arctic humming the first bars of our finale? Is a skinny, haggard, polar bear skin-wearing former fat lady about to start singing?

    I said sensitivity was higher than thought. Seems Gavin, et al., now agree. Said risk assessment was the only sane metric for policy. Seems Mann, et al., now agree (according to an AGU talk Michael just gave.) I have said for a long time, also, as goes the Arctic, so goes the planet. I’m not the only one. But I have been one of those saying the clathrates were a more urgent issue that most in the scientific community thought. Feel free to ask the sub-sea pingos their intentions, right?

    Good news is (as I have previously linked), a paper briefly played with modeling a return to pre-industrial CO2 and found the polar ice sheets started recovering within decades. That implies a planet cooler than in 1953.

    Hope is eternal until it dies in a coal mine, its yellow feathers spread over E. Dickinson’s grave.

  27. 27
    Edward Greisch says:

    See lectures at

  28. 28
    Hank Roberts says:

    Folks, Gavin has work to do.
    Off-topic posts and drama are wasting his time.
    More self control. Please.

  29. 29
    Omega Centauri says:

    I can accept Ed G. as a technocrat. But, in fact no-one has a system of pure technocratic governance as Ed wishes for. Public perception and misperceptions end up having a huge effect on those decisions, and in the case of Ed’s favored solution, they create very stiff head winds. Folks like myself have simply decided that Ed’s option is just not going to become a significant part of the solution path, and have moved on from there. In case case, too much animosity between technocrats offering different technologies is harmful.

  30. 30
    Treesong says:

    Edward Greisch 22: Your position seems incoherent to me. Different mitigation plans have different consequences, and by saying plan X is the best you are saying that your definition of ‘best’ is the right one, which is an inherently political act. Others may agree with you on what the possible consequences of various plans are and still not agree that plan X is best. Still others may rightly argue that in dealing with a system as complex as climate, engineers are not competent to assess the probabilities of various consequences on their own. (This applies more to geoengineering than various low-carbon technologies.)
    Me, I favor a mix of technologies including nuclear and conservation, with a carbon tax as a start in that direction. But I don’t think we’d have a free market even if government never passed another law.

  31. 31

    #23–And add to that the further deterioration of Saudi-Iranian relations consequent to the execution of Imam Nimr.

    “Rough ride?”


  32. 32
    zebra says:

    Treesong #30,

    I don’t want to continue too off-topic but this particular misconception really annoys me. You too appear to have been indoctrinated by the right-wing campaign that started after WWII to redefine the term “free market”.

    A free market exists when there is a balance of market power between buyers and sellers. Such a condition can only be maintained with strong government intervention.

    In this particular area of buying and selling electricity, the government can intervene easily by strongly regulating or taking over the grid and making it operate under the kind of rules that govern shipping companies. Everyone can buy and sell under equitable terms; I can buy electricity from my neighbor’s rooftop solar, or Mr Greisch’s N-plant, or Farmer Joe’s wind farm where he also grazes cows. So, after we get the carbon tax, those different options, along with conservation, will find the appropriate balance, and the right generating method will be matched with the right consumption application.

    I think people simply can’t get their heads around just how distorted the current paradigm is.

  33. 33

    EG 22: The choice of how to do mitigation is in the jurisdiction of the engineers who do the engineering at electric generating companies. All others are usurpers.

    BPL: Shorter Ed: We hereby declare that we are King for the rest of Our natural life.

  34. 34
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Dan H. @15,
    That is utter, complete claptrap. First, there are well established methods for ascertaining whether a trend has changed with statistical significance. Second, if you divide the rather short satellite data series in half, you don’t have enough data to establish any trend on either side of the dividing line.

  35. 35

    #33–“BPL: Shorter Ed: We hereby declare that we are King for the rest of Our natural life.”

    Yes, just so, Barton. And rather a King Canute, at that.

  36. 36
    Chuck Hughes says:

    …Nor is the choice of how to do mitigation in the jurisdiction of politicians, or diplomats or MUSICIANS or preachers or management or the general public. The choice of how to do mitigation is in the jurisdiction of the engineers who do the engineering at electric generating companies. All others are USURPERS.

    Comment by Edward Greisch

    Seems like I remember “mitigation” being OT at one point. I guess it’s our only choice now. So anyway…

    What’s your deal with musicians Ed? Did a Mariachi Band screw up your Bar Mitzvah?

    I’ll show up at your daughter’s wedding with some bagpipes, an accordion and a didgeridoo. After everyone scrams I’ll eat all the food. you… you… Upstart!

  37. 37
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Comment by Killian — 3 Jan 2016 @ 11:33 AM

    Thank you for the thoughtful answer.

  38. 38
    Chuck Hughes says:

    “Rough ride?”


    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 3 Jan 2016

    I’m guessing that there are some indirect connections between Saudi Arabia and Climate Change. If food and energy are being subsidized by the Saudi government and those subsides are paid for by high oil prices abroad, then it seems to me at least that sooner or later the money source will dry up and the S.A. economy would collapse in a big way. Food prices would skyrocket and then we’re off to the races.

    If S.A. appears to be weakening I can easily see how that would create a power vacuum. I am not an expert on the Middle East but I’ve always heard that in the event of a Climate crisis the trouble would likely start there.

    How bad can it get and how soon? What would the global impacts be? How much of a role, if any, does Climate Change play in this situation? Thoughts?

  39. 39
    Killian says:

    Re: #37 Chuck Hughes says: Comment by Killian — 3 Jan 2016 @ 11:33 AM

    Thank you for the thoughtful answer.

    And you the question.

    Re: #30, #33, #35, et al.:

    Funny. Is not all the above being better, basically saying it is best? Funnier, none of you are using a germane metric.

    * Because engineers say so!

    Uh, no.

    * The kitchen sink, ’cause no opinion left behind!

    Uh, no.

    There is one metric: What can the ecology support? It starts and ends with that. Everything between that Alpha and Omega of ecosystem must be filtered through the capacity of that ecosystem.

    The conversation rarely starts there, thus germane solutions are rarely on the table.


  40. 40
    Urs Neu says:

    @ 11, 17: We should be very careful in linking two (or more) events just because they happened at the same time – unless we have a plausible physical mechanism:

    1. Arctic warm episode: The recent warm episode in the Arctic was due to a far north-reaching, long-stretched rossby-wave, transporting warm air within short time from low to high latitudes. Such patterns can occur occasionally (and accidentally) and happened before. While there do exist influences of El Nino on atmospheric circulation patterns (see e.g., El Niño primarily influences the pattern over the Pacific-North American region. An influence on this particular wave over the East-Atlantic / Europe is not that obvious and probably low. Thus my suggestion: no link at all or rather weak.

    2. The storm(s) over Iceland and in the Arctic: The strong storm over Iceland was mainly a dynamical and in the main phase a stationary phenomenon that did not much contribute to the transport of the warm air to the Arctic. The storm was a near surface phenomenon that influenced the winds only on part of their way from south to north. (Surface) storms produce strong winds only regionally and do not produce long-range transport. In contrary, cyclones follow the direction of the overlaying jet-stream or rossby-wave flow. Long-range transport of air is primarily a matter of rossby-waves/jet stream, not of small cyclones, even if they are strong.

    A second point is the influence of Arctic amplification on circulation. This is quite tricky, because there are competing effects on the one hand and there is the difficulty of climate models to simulate changes in circulation on the other hand.

    Competing effects:

    a) While there is a strong decrease in the meridional temperature gradient at the surface, the gradient higher up in the troposphere does not decrease in the same way or even increases (due to less warming over the Arctic and stronger warming over the tropics in the upper troposphere). Therefore we might have a change in the vertical temperature gradient within the polar front, which might influence circulation in a yet hard to predict way.

    b) While a decrease in the temperature gradient in principle might generally slow the flow and thus “allow” more meridional and stationary flow, we have to keep in mind that meridional patterns in rossby waves mainly occur with strong temperature gradients (because meridional patterns allow a better meridional transport of warm and cold air masses and thus a better balance of temperature in the atmosphere). What the effect of the reduction of the meridional temperature gradient might be we can also see in the summer (although it is not exactly the same conditions): you won’t find large amplitude waves in summer…

    My feeling is (consistent with subjective observation) that the amplitude of rossby waves will rather get smaller, and that hemispheric wave patterns (i.e. wave paths, wave positions) will get more persistent. There is not many analysis of recent changes in wave dynamics, since this is a quite tricky thing and cannot be captured by principal component or similar analysis usually used to describe circulation or teleconnection patterns. Analysis often is limited to blockings (which is the easiest pattern to capture because it’s stationary).

  41. 41

    #38–My thoughts the Saudi situation?

    FWIW and IMO, the Saudi regime is just one iconic member of a club facing difficulties just now because of the low price of oil. Other prominent members: Russia, Iran, Venezuela. Cuba is sort of a secondary member because they are financially supported by Venezuela. If the club were actual instead of metaphorical, Canada might have observer status; Mr. Harper’s success in turning a mixed economy into a true petro-state was incomplete, but while the Canadian economy is still growing, it’s doing so in a pretty feeble manner right now.

    The Saudis are unique in that they are the ones primarily responsible for the oil price collapse. They decided to turn on the taps and try to drive US frackers out of business. It may be working a bit now, but the pain for the Saudis has been much longer and worse than they seem to have counted on. They’ve burned through a considerable chunk of their massive financial reserves, and are starting to take some mild measures to conserve, as your link pointed out.

    The current price crisis is thus somewhat artificial and at some point will likely end, possibly by way of a gradual tapering off of production, possibly by a more sudden change due to political upheaval or simple policy change. But it’s an exemplar of the matters at issue as the next big phase of mitigation kicks in. Currently, we’re in the process of kicking coal–and it’s been, and will continue to be, an uneven, messy process as we deploy alternatives in the quest to decarbonize electric generation. Obviously, given recent trends in posting here, there are and will be big disagreements about the hows, whats, whens and ifs involved.

    But the next logical phase would seem to be transportation, and that’s going to be harder. The replacement technology is arguably less mature, and the cultural imperatives–from the ‘car mystique’ to the dominance of long-haul trucking in many logistic/economic systems to the structure of cities and of the ‘built environment’ generally–are more entwined and stubborn. And one of the dimensions of the ‘entwinement’ is national self-interest. Each and every member of the Oil Club has a lot to lose if mitigation succeeds.

    Canada, in the last election, made a choice to try to get out of dependency on the oil business.* The Saudis have made some gestures toward lessening their dependence on oil–there’s a push for solar power specifically and advanced tech generally going on–but they are very deeply addicted to the current model, and were the biggest ‘spoiler’ at COP 21, by some accounts at least. Russia signed on, and submitted an INDC, but as I recall it’s pretty lame; they are still coasting on the head room afforded them by the collapse of the Soviet-era economy. Iran is pretty distracted by power politics and ideology, and is highly dependent upon oil as well. Venezuela–well, is there any reason to think that the long term is even on the government’s radar screen in any way?

    There are still a lot of choices to be made, and it’s pretty predictable that there will be a lot of conflict, both within societies and between/among them. What’s less predictable is the specific choices that get made. The Canadian election shows that some of them may be helpful; others, surely, will be less so.

    *(Though I’m not sure that the choice was highly conscious in that regard; Mr. Harper’s muzzling of federal scientists certainly received play in the campaign, and was I think connected with climate change and conservation issues, but the role of oil in the national economy, not so much. Yet the consequences of electing a government strongly committed to climate action, as manifested at COP 21, will be very relevant to that role, even if neither the nation nor the government has yet faced them clearly.)

  42. 42
    Mal Adapted says:

    Edward Greisch:

    Mal Adapted: If you think I would make an engineering decision on political grounds, you, Mal Adapted, have very seriously insulted me.

    Mr. Greisch, I didn’t intend to insult you. I’m not suggesting you’d make engineering decisions on political grounds. Mr. Morcombe, OTOH, has clearly allowed his political beliefs to inform his understanding of climate science. I’m suggesting that you should be wary of his attempt to ally himself with you, as it may make you appear guilty by association, here at RC and elsewhere.

  43. 43
    patrick says:

    Michael White’s 16 Dec podcast with Gavin Schmidt is a totally helpful conversation about climate science and modeling. It also looks back at the motivation for founding this blog. It ends with some for-instances about important things that people don’t understand about climate. If it’s all you hear, hear that.

    This is part of Michael White’s series of interviews with climate scientists. Thanks to Michael White and once again to Dr. Schmidt.

  44. 44
    Theo van den Berg says:

    Re 21: Definitely not OT. So none of you “Climate Experts” have any idea how to sell the COP21 target to our children ?

  45. 45
    Eric S. says:

    Edward Greisch @#22 said: Negotiation between the engineers and the politicians is acceptable, but engineering rules because Nature rules. The engineers are representing Nature, or God in antique language, in this case….My choice of mitigation method is based on knowledge of engineering and science, not on politics.

    I too come from an engineering background, only I found that technology made the air so polluted in ’60’s California that I could not live there. That made me much more aware of the limits of the natural world and the importance of changing the way we engineers tended to do things. I also worked politics for a few elections.

    From that perspective, let me note that politics will ultimately decide what the engineering community will do, like it or not. It’s a fact that most home owners can not add PV panels to their buildings and it the local utility is required to purchase the resulting electricity by politicians, the utility will face the stark choice of maintaining reserve capacity much greater than needed on most days. That’s very expensive for coal or nukes and may well put your utility out of business.

    Similarly, national politicians might well repeal the Mining Act of 1872 and simply declare that all resources below some depth are to become the property of the Federal Government. After that, those far thinking politicians might sharply curtail the extraction of those resources, driving the utilities which rely on them to seek other sources of energy to convert into electricity. It’s called the Power of Eminent Domain and the Federal Government can take what ever they want, the only requirement being that they must compensate the previous title holder. Not that such action would be likely today, sad to say…

  46. 46
    dP says:

    it seems that some stats are not being updated. CDIAC has not updated it’s chart of greenhouse gas concentrations since feb 1014. Also charts of Sahel rainfall haven’t been updated for 2 years. What’s happening?

  47. 47
    Chris Dudley says:

    Seems strange for climate scientist to so publicly and awkwardly open the topic of nuclear power, then shut down discussion. But a better place to disuss the shortcomings of the proposal in the Guardian might be here.

  48. 48
    Hank Roberts says:

    >There is one metric: What can the ecology support?

    The ecology can and often does support overshoot — followed by a crash. Ask any snow hare.

    Point is we should be smarter than to go that route.
    So far, not so optimistic about that.

  49. 49
    S.B. Ripman says:

    Here’s a link to a news article that’s interesting for those of us who are not climate scientists and wish to know more about the methane threat:

  50. 50
    Edward Greisch says:

    Jurisdiction is an inseparable part of our democracy. It is called “separation of powers.” Congress has jurisdiction over writing laws. Congress is the “king” of writing laws. The president has jurisdiction over signing or vetoing bills. The court has jurisdiction over declaring a law constitutional or unconstitutional. An Iowa judge cannot try cases in Illinois. It is a matter of jurisdiction.

    Inside the president’s part of the government, each federal employee has jurisdiction of some particular thing. It could be, for example, the robots that aim the guns in Cobra helicopters. If you have a problem with a particular thing, you have to go to the person who has jurisdiction over it. It won’t do you any good to talk to anybody else. The person who has jurisdiction is a very minor “king.”

    Likewise, when you need a new electrical outlet in your house, you don’t call a carpenter. Carpenters don’t have jurisdiction over wires. When your house is on fire, you need a fire fighter, not a cop.

    When a government or a person buys something that has to be made to order, the contractor will provide exactly what the contract calls for. If you don’t ask for exactly what you want, you will get what the contract says, not what you wanted. Writing contracts that get what you want is a big problem for anybody who writes those contracts. It is very difficult to do it right.

    What happens when a usurpation takes place: If the president manages to take over writing laws and declaring laws constitutional, we no longer have a democracy. Jurisdictions have to stay separate to prevent dictatorship.

    One time congress mandated a shorter ship than the navy wanted. Congress wanted to save fuel. The navy followed orders exactly and bought a shorter but wider ship that used more fuel because of its inefficient shape. If a government wants to lower CO2 production and tries to do so by mandating renewable energy, the price of electricity doubles or quadruples, but CO2 production does not go down.

    You have to ask for exactly what you want because you are going to get what you ask for, not what you want. If you want lower CO2 production, you have to ask for lower CO2 production. Is that difficult? Voters need to ask what the real purpose of the mandate was. Trusting politicians is not a good idea, and you can’t trust politicians to be able to figure out what you want when you don’t say it right.

    It is almost humorous the way people try to describe their dream car/SUV. The average person knows nothing about how to write an engineering specification, so they ask for things that will get them anything except what they want. If they want to win the stoplight drags, they ask for V8 power. What they get is a V8 engine that can’t win the stoplight drags. What is the problem? The problem is lack of training on the part of the average customer. Customers also ask for absurd things, such as absolute reliability. Anything they ask for that is nonsensical will get ignored. You can ask for more reliability if you do it in engineering language. Customers as a group could force more reliability if they knew how.

    When a soldier asked me for a lighter weapon, I told him he could get one at Toys-R-Us. If he wanted a weapon that also kills enemy soldiers, it is going to have to be a little heavier. If he wants it to not jam ever, that feature will cost another pound or 2 of weight. The soldier needs a person whose jurisdiction it is to understand the nature of machines.

    If the customer asks for too much, the vendor always has the option of producing nothing. You can’t get the electric company to do what you imagine if it is not possible. The company can always leave the business. The education system has to produce customers who can figure out what is real and what is not.

    Jurisdictions make the system and the civilization work. Confusions of jurisdiction make the system and the civilization break down.