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Unforced Variations: Mar 2016

Filed under: — group @ 1 March 2016

This month’s open thread. Pros and cons of celebrity awareness-raising on climate? The end of the cherry-picking of ‘pauses’ in the satellite data? Continuing impacts of El Niño? Your choice (except for the usual subjects to be avoided…).

376 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Mar 2016”

  1. 101

    #79–“Do you know of a good paper to read that provides an overview as well as a quantitative analysis from atmospheric extraction to end use, which includes the energy inputs as well?”

    I don’t. Unfortunately for inquiring minds, both efforts are corporate and privately funded, which means that they don’t have to say much. And they don’t. Nor have I seen a good overview of the field along the lines you seem to be seeking. Sorry; it’d definitely be interesting.

    You may have picked up on the slightly skeptical tone of my comments; I’m certainly not cheerleading for air capture. But from what I can gather, it seems to me that the efforts linked do in some sense ‘work’. The questions that remain unanswered are basically quantitative: are the technologies scalable? Are they going to lead to significant drawdowns of atmospheric carbon, as actually deployed? Are they economically viable, or potentially so?

    And I’ve not seen anything that really answers those questions in a substantial way. (Oh, the Calgary synfuel folks *say* their tech is scalable, but while I have no reason to think they are being deceptive, their assessment of the possibilities is unlikely to be definitive–it will inevitably involve estimates, projections, assumptions and probably a good slug of pure, undiluted optimism (since ‘doers’ tend to be optimistic by nature). So I don’t think that one can simply accept that assurance as a given.)

    However, ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’, as former Secretary Rumsfeld used to say in his lucid moments, so my metaphorical conclusion is that these wisps of smoke do evince at least a little fire. As you put it, “I don’t know that we’ll fail.”

  2. 102
    Bill D says:

    My first comment here after lurking for a long time.
    I regularly have a look at the sea ice extent and related records at NSIDC and it seems to me that the pace of change seems to be picking up.
    This years Arctic sea ice extent is hovering on the boundary of +- 2 sd from the 1981 – 2010 average which is a BIG difference. It is also at this stage looking as if the sea ice extent may be developing in such a way that we could end up with a worse sea ice extent even that the outlier of 2012.

    I haven’t seen any explicit analysis of this but to my untutored eye it seems to me that the pace of change is speeding up. It is starting to look quite troubling. What are people thoughts on what the sea ice extent data is telling us?

  3. 103
    Hank Roberts says:

    Anderson, in this context, believes that a climate solution now means an effort of the order of the total war it took to destroy Hitler.

    Show me a total war won by building, rather than blowing up and tearing down, and I’ll think better of the notion. Yeah, a lot of technology did advance during each great war or near-war, most all of it new and better ways to blow things up and tear things down, counting people as things for that matter.

    It’s just a poor analogy.

    We need the dedication and shared multigeneration commitment that built cathedrals — got another example? I’d like something better — not the total effort that blows up cities.

    We have a common shared problem, and the people who caused it start with our great-grandparents and up through us and all our institutions.

  4. 104

    Re #79 & my initial response:

    The Carbon Engineering website may be worth the time of those inclined to look a bit deeper at the issue. CE has their patent information up, as well as quite a few papers on the mitigative, tech and business aspects. Encouragingly, from the viewpoint of assessing CE’s integrity, they include the APS review from 2011:

    The page for those links (as well as media coverage):

    An important takeaway is that they see themselves competing not with CCS–since their costs are significantly higher, and CCS is already of questionable economic viability–but with biofuels. So their goal is to help decarbonize transportation, not electricity generation.

  5. 105
    Pete Best says:

    Re #96, I personally like Kevin Andersons style of presentation but it is not for everyone and in diplomatic terms probably not helpful at all as his style might come over as being somewhat confrontational no matter how factual it might be.

    The idea of the techno fix for all of our environmental ills is quite common amongst the western nations as no one wants to progress backwards and the very notion of cutting back on our present lifestyles would be unthinkable and hence traveling in biofuel powered aircraft and ships, electric or hydrogen powered cars, buying goods build by electricity created via renewables means or if all else fails somehow find a way of cooling the atmosphere and oceans either by sucking co2 from the atmosphere or shading the earth somehow.

    So its techno fix first and if that fails who knows what we will do.

  6. 106
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chuck, scrabbling to scare people — worst possible case extrapolations from each unverified outrageous data point — fails:

    “Non-authoritarians who were sufficiently frightened of threats … could essentially be scared into acting like authoritarians”

    Reality is plenty scary enough.
    But the terrorize-the-people-into-action is strongman bait.
    And it defeats the scientists’ attempt to educate people about trends by making every transitory unchecked data point a new OhMyGod event.

    The exaggeration plays into the worst, not the best, that people can do.

  7. 107
  8. 108
    Jon Kirwan says:

    #79 Jon: You said

    “I believe it is nothing short of pure fantasy to imagine any practical human mechanisms for reducing atmospheric CO2.”

    Fortunately, you are incorrect.

    One of our portfolio companies, Inventys Thermal Technologies, has developed a new method for capturing CO2 from power plants and other point sources for a fraction of the cost and energy of chemical-based systems. It’s working today. It uses much less energy for a variety of reasons including that it uses the Earth’s energy (air) for part of the cooling process. You may tell me that there is a minimum cost for drying a pair of pants in a dryer, but then I can take those pants and put them on a clothes line outside and dry them for free. The clothes line does not violate the laws of thermodynamics. For similar reasons, it is also possible to design air capture systems that are relatively inexpensive on a per-ton basis, even though the total cost will be in the trillions since we need to dispose of many gigaton of CO2.

    The way to get these systems deployed on a wide scale is to put a rising price on carbon.

    I think you misunderstood me and/or misunderstand the fuller implications of what I wrote.

    I was quite specific about separating the concept of “capturing CO2 from power plants” from processes that would be required to extract CO2 from the 400ppmv concentrations found in the atmosphere and concentrate it to practical levels. Since you seem to conflate things, even after I took so much time and effort to separate them, I’m not sure what else I can add. You are discussing a different subject and are at cross-purposes with what I wrote and meant to address. So there’s nothing I can help you with, there.

    Different things, entirely.


  9. 109
    Chris Dudley says:

    Kevin, #101

    The Navy has a patent for getting CO2 from seawater with some costing work included. Seems to me that with ceaseless winds in some regions of ocean, that might be where the deed gets done.

  10. 110
    sidd says:

    Direct air capture seems quite possible, but where will the captured carbon go and at what cost ? Any captured CO2 must be stabilized and disposed of, so we are already speaking of large burial operations, which might be as disruptive as coal mines. Or for example, if you put all the coal miners to work mining, crushing, and spreading olivine, you will achieve substantial direct air capture of CO2. In the process, you will create one of the top three mining industries in the world and no doubt decapitate some mountains and blight some ecosystems, since this works best in wet tropics, where there are many live things already.

    No easy answers. No quick technofixes. So sad.


  11. 111
    Dan Miller says:

    #108 Jon: I was commenting that both CCS from power plants and direct air capture (DAC) are both possible. Of course, capturing CO2 at 5~15% concentration is easier and costs less than from the air (0.04%). But both are possible. Power plant capture is more fully developed but DAC is possible and should cost less than $100/ton, perhaps significant less with reasonable spending on R&D.
    Again, using the Earth’s energy (to dry sorbents in the case of DAC) makes the system much more energy efficient than some people assume. Klaus Lackner and I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much it would cost to capture all of mankind’s annual CO2 emissions using DAC and it was on the order of $2 trillion. It sound like a lot of money, but it is probably the best deal will will every be offered!

  12. 112
    Jon Kirwan says:

    @110 Direct air capture seems quite possible, but where will the captured carbon go and at what cost ?

    Please read some of the IPCC’s Special Report on Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage. I mentioned two of the important chapters earlier. The report is clear enough (to me) on the impracticality of direct capture from the atmosphere.


  13. 113
    Jon Kirwan says:

    @111 “Klaus Lackner and I did a back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much it would cost to capture all of mankind’s annual CO2 emissions using DAC and it was on the order of $2 trillion.”

    It’s not clear what you imagine as the capital costs going in, annual maintenance costs, operational costs, manpower, and if this also includes the sequestration (mineral or otherwise.) But I’m interested in the details, sufficient that I might attempt my own calculations. The IPCC’s SRCCS mentions Lackner, but simply doesn’t address the topic in their work product because, they say, the concentration in air is so small and because for their foreseeable future they felt industrial source capture was going to be far more cost effective.

    So the low hanging fruit would be source capture. That’s not being done yet (as to matter.) Only once we’ve done the easier parts (and they aren’t easy), would it seem worth considering the harder parts (assuming we could in any reasonable way do it, at all.) But I’m open to learn more about a realistic approach at direct extraction and concentration of ambient, atmospheric CO2.

    Start with explaining what you mean by tossing out a single figure. If it is a capital investment, then it isn’t operational costs. Something is missing here. But for now, I think I will wait and see what humans do regarding the “easy stuff,” such as collecting at the industrial sources and then storing that in credible long term sequestration. That isn’t even happening, so extraction from air seems very far fetched to me. Not even counting how the IPCC SRCCS avoids discussing it, as well….


  14. 114

    If we don’t start collecting CO2 from the air, even at very high cost, we’re all going to die. What’s the cost of that?

  15. 115
    Bill D says:

    There already is a proven technology for carbon capture direct from the atmosphere. It uses electromagnetic radiation to stimulate a chemical process that converts CO2 to a product that we could use as a feedstock for building material and other things. It’s called photosynthesis. Maybe we should be thinking how we can improve natural photosynthetic capture of CO2 by doing some radical things like massive reforestation. Just a thought.

  16. 116
    Aaron Lewis says:

    With crude justice, the Oil Patch and points north aand east, are watching a rain event unfold. At this time, some 20 million people are under a flood watch.
    In a time of AGW, should places like Houston plan on such rain events on a regular and routine basis? In a time of AGW, will such rain events occur every year? Or, every 5 years?
    How frequently will RECORD rain events occur? These are important policy questions that climate science has not addressed. Or, rather has not provided numbers useful for public safety policy and infrastructure engineering. Climate is what we expect. Climate science should be telling engineers, and policy makers that they can expect record rainfall on a regular basis, into the foreseeable future.
    Twenty-six years ago, I was at a conference in Houston, there was a rain storm, and the conference center flooded. We were told that it was a “freak storm”. Today, such storms are normal, and the current, more intense rain event is the freak storm. In a few years, the current record storm will be normal, and the freak storm will be much more intense.
    Flooding traditionally caused most weather related deaths. Flooding along the Chinese rivers and the North sea have been controlled by engineered infrastructure. As AGW pushes weather far out of the engineering basis of design, we can expect such engineered infrastructure to fail. Planing for record storms is harder than planing for record heat, but the discussion has been avoided.

  17. 117
    Hank Roberts says:

    > No idea why …

    Oh, Gavin, you’re being too subtle for the fifth graders who may be reading along here.

    You do too know why those graphing tricks get propagated. Get their attention.

    Who could Brian Abernathy’s “colleague” be? “colleague” sounds like educated, doesn’t it?

    But no. That fudged graph came via “realclimatescience” — a cleverly misnamed source of misinformation.

    That one belongs in the Annals of Climate Disinformation list Nature used to keep.
    Pity they quit adding to it.

    [Response: Well, yes. We know exactly why they do this. Assuming it’s semi-serious is nonetheless helpful for the bystander… Your point is well taken though. – gavin]

  18. 118

    “Show me a total war won by building, rather than blowing up and tearing down, and I’ll think better of the notion. Yeah, a lot of technology did advance during each great war or near-war, most all of it new and better ways to blow things up and tear things down, counting people as things for that matter.

    “It’s just a poor analogy.”

    I can sympathize with your distaste for the blowing up and tearing down, Hank. But there is a strength to the analogy, which is the point that survival is at least potentially at stake. As Dr. Johnson famously observed, existential threats can concentrate the mind.

    Of course, some would decry this aspect as ‘alarmism’–though I suspect most of them still put on seat belts while riding in cars, observe safety warnings of all sorts, and do not poke beasts with sticks (unless, perhaps, they are ‘climate beasts.’)

    Climate communication seems to be a bit of a ‘wicked problem’ on its own.

  19. 119
    mike says:

    February CO2

    February 2016: 404.16 ppm

    February 2015: 400.31 ppm

    Plus we have the disputed and hard-to-quantify CH4 levels of disparate origins. Methane spikes, Porter Ranch, methane clathrates in Arctic seabed in a warming Arctic Ocean



    Warmest winter on record revealed for US: El Nino and global warming blamed for temperatures 4.6 degree above normal

    Average temperature for the Lower 48 was 36.8 degrees, 4.6 above normal
    Breaks the record set in 1999-2000
    Christmas Eve saw high temperatures with New Yorkers sunbathing

    I trust this collection of factoids will not pass muster as a scientific review, but we will know the reality of global warming in all its glory when we can visualize it clearly in the rearview mirror.

  20. 120
    Chuck Hughes says:

    The exaggeration plays into the worst, not the best, that people can do.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Mar 2016 @

    Hank, would you please explain to me how pointing out what has happened in the past is a “scare tactic”? I’m up on the whole “reality” thing. I get it. Is Dr. Jim White exaggerating by pointing out what’s happened in the past? Is he using “strong arm tactics” by citing ice core data? If so, what are the implications for all the other scientists who cite Ice Core Data?

    And what’s up with the Donald Trump analogy? How did he manage to work his way into the conversation? Maybe I’m missing something or I misread what you wrote. I’m going to give it the benefit of doubt and assume I misread.

    Is Paul Beckwith not a credible source either? I thought he was. I’ll admit his videos are strange. I don’t understand why he walks while filming himself. That’s kinda weird. Looks sorta like a hostage video.

    I’m speaking as someone who doesn’t know a lot. I’m still learning and listening and trying to figure it all out.

    As for BECCS I don’t see any real future in that. Not on any time scale that would be useful to our survival anyway. Just my opinion but once again I think Kevin Anderson has laid out the case pretty well of the impracticality of implementing reforestation on a global scale or scrubbing smoke stacks for CO2. Just more wishful thinking that we can go on polluting without penalty. That’s not how life seems to operate. We’re gonna pay and pay big.

    AGU 2014: Dr. Jim White
    Abrupt Climate Change: The View from the Past, the Present, and the Future

  21. 121
    SecularAnimist says:

    Pete Best wrote (#105): “The idea of the techno fix for all of our environmental ills …”

    Global warming caused by CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels is a very specific technological problem. It requires a technological solution.

    And if we are to have any hope of avoiding the worst possible outcomes, it needs a technological solution to be implemented VERY quickly — within YEARS, not decades, generations, or centuries.

    The good news is that ending fossil fuel use can be accomplished much more quickly and at much lower cost than most people realize, and will in fact have huge positive “side effects”, for the environment, for public health, and for the economy.

    Fixing “all of our environmental ills” is another story, and like the story about achieving some sort of unending, immortal, absolute “sustainability”, it is completely irrelevant to fixing the specific and urgent technological problem of ending all GHG emissions from fossil fuel use.

  22. 122
    Jon Kirwan says:

    @115There already is a proven technology for carbon capture direct from the atmosphere. It uses electromagnetic radiation to stimulate a chemical process that converts CO2 to a product that we could use as a feedstock for building material and other things. It’s called photosynthesis.

    Yup. That’s my thinking, as well. Too bad we are instead deforesting the planet.

  23. 123
    sidd says:

    I am sympathetic to the idea of massive reforestation as a sink for CO2, but from a paper by Ruddiman (Climatic Change 61: 261–293, 2003 , see esp. Fig 10; a copy is at ) i see that even a reforestation of the scale induced by the plagues or the depopulation of the Americas only moved the needle by approximately 10 ppm

  24. 124
    wili says:

    Hank, thanks for reminding us of A4R’s work.
    Chuck, thanks for that Jim White video.

    On Beckwith, I’m afraid I have to agree with Hank…he’s not a particularly reliable source.

  25. 125
    Hank Roberts says:

    For Chuck: the distinction I’m trying to point out isn’t addressed to you, though you leaped in to argue about it.

    I’m critical of the “worst thing has already started OMG” stuff that pops up whenever there’s an unverified raw data point well outside the expected range.

    Your response was “it could happen, it’s happened before”
    and I don’t argue with that at all. Yes it could. Yes it did.

    No, it hasn’t happened THIS TIME RIGHT NOW each time someone’s gone exponential about it.

    I mean, when the “666 apocalypse” blogger criticizes the exponential freakout folks, don’t you think there’s a line worth drawing, somewhere, about what people are being told?

    Reality is plenty scary without claiming a breakpoint in a longtime trend — based on one unverified data point.

    The freakout bloggers make climate education _harder_. Learning to determine a trend is fundamental to understanding the science.

    Claiming the trend’s broken and OMGWAGTD isn’t helpful.

    Yes, it might happen. Yes, it could happen. Yes, in the paleo record, it may have happened (but the evidence needs scrutiny about just how fast — recall those varves could also have been smears due to drilling problems, you know that, right? It’s well blogged over years past).

    But you’ve really gone far past the point I was trying to make without responding to what you think of the scrabbling.

  26. 126
    Bill D says:

    I’m not foolish enough to think that reforestation alone would solve the problem. It clearly wouldn’t. But it’s one step in the right direction and it is maybe something that people could get behind. The problem of course would be that there would be a tendency for people to think that any single solution that was deployed was the end of the matter. We should not underestimate how difficult a task it is going to be to get enough people to take their
    head out of the sand quickly enough.

  27. 127
    Bill D says:

    Just a small additional point. I live in Scotland – a fairly thinly inhabited country. Once most of Scotland would have been forested. Now almost all the major forests are long gone and everyone seems to think that bare heather clad hills is the natural state of affairs. It isn’t of course.

  28. 128

    A critical point, I think, for the discussion of DAC comes down to this, from Chapter 7 of the IPCC report that Jon linked:

    “Renewable energy sources and nuclear power are specifically excluded, as their availability would have implications well beyond the analysis of CO2 utilization options (see Chapter 8 for further discussion).”

    The link for that, BTW, is here:

    CF., Dan Miller’s comment (#111, currently) that “using the Earth’s energy (to dry sorbents in the case of DAC) makes the system much more energy efficient…” The Report analysis essentially assumes fossil fuel-driven energy inputs, as I read it.

    Chris Dudley’s comment about the US Navy process, and the patent therefor, is relevant and can be further explored with these links (and there is a lot more one Google search away):

    In the case of the Navy, their aim is to reduce logistic complexity and make Naval aviation more self-sufficient. And the effort depends, seemingly, on using some of the nuclear power afforded by some of their large vessels to manufacture the fuel in situ. There have been a number of proposals to use various non-FF energy sources to create synfuels. There could be economic benefits–for example, synfuel manufacture could be used as a sink for excess RE outputs during times of high wind and sunshine (and perhaps low grid demand), either with RE alone or in conjunction with nuclear baseload capacity.

    In the case of the Carbon Engineering project, they are ‘paying’ 10 GJ to produce 1.5 T of pure “pipeline quality” CO2. They are currently getting that by burning natgas; at 1.1 MJ/scf that’s not quite 10,000 cf (10 mcc). For context, one government estimate found that in 2009, a typical US home with natgas service used about 74 mcc annually. So, the pilot uses 3650/74 = ~49.3 times that of a typical household.

    Take into account the energy costs of getting to the synfuel, then compare the heating value to a typical household of just burning the natgas, and it quickly becomes evident why CE talks about that synfuel as a ‘niche’ product, and why the IPCC report was so pessimistic about DAC. Still, there is the aspect of potentially making money on the arbitrage of cheap electricity (and thereby adjusting the demand curve). And there is the prospect of using carbon-neutral synfuel where electro-motive technology isn’t adequate to the need. (It’s still unclear, IMO, where, or even if, that will be the case as battery tech improves.)

    Turning to sidd’s comment about storage, it seems ironic that we’d try to ‘green up’ via essentially making stuff at an energy cost then throwing it away to sequester it. After all, landfill disposal of non-biodegradable plastics is essentially a ‘sequestration project’ that’s been running for several decades now. (I suspect it’s probably carbon-postive from a life-cycle perspective, too, considering all the embodied emissions in the plastic.)

    But in principle, it would seem that one way to sequester stuff would be to make highly stable artifacts out of DAC or CC carbon, then bury them in landfills. But the IPCC report did consider the general case of industrial use of carbon, and concluded that the mass involved wouldn’t be nearly high enough to help significantly.

  29. 129
    Victor says:


    I could add many more such articles, but you get the point. If any of these extreme weather events had occurred in recent years, they would certainly have been attributed to climate change, no question.

    Sorry to be continually raining on your parade (no pun intended) but really, folks. Sometimes the hyperbole, too often raised to the level of hysterics, just becomes too much to bear. You’re supposed to be scientists, so act like scientists.

  30. 130
    Hank Roberts says:

    P.S. for Chuck Hughes and anyone else worried about immediate current catastrophic changes in various trends, which show up repeatedly.
    I’ll post a couple of quotes, but don’t respond to these out of context — read the source and the links you’ll find at the original page.

    This covers most of the prominent catastrophe stories.

    Scott Johnson says there:

    McPherson’s … claim is that Paul Beckwith, a PhD student at the University of Ottawa, predicts 5 – 16 C of global warming within a decade— or, in a softer version, that Beckwith believes such a warming event could occur within a decade in the near future. McPherson continues to make this claim, despite the fact that it has repeatedly been shown to him to be inaccurate. To be fair, Beckwith has stated the second version of this— that such a thing could happen. However, Beckwith also appears to be confused. (I tried several times to get this straightened out with Beckwith, but haven’t had any luck.)

    Beckwith has been referring to climatic swings called Dansgaard-Oeschger events …. During the abrupt warming phase of these events, the cores record 5-17 C warming in as little as a decade. Following that jump, temperatures gradually dropped over the following centuries. Dramatic as they are, they are not swings in global average temperature, but swings in local Greenland temperature. ….
    … The point is that they are not instances of global warming, they are regional events. Noting that Greenland rapidly warmed 5-16 C over one or a few decades in the past does not imply that the entire globe could do the same thing today. In order to change the average global temperature so significantly, you have to alter the planetary balance of incoming and outgoing energy in a big way. That didn’t happen ….


    there’s really nothing there to support [McPherson’s] eschatalogical message of imminent human extinction— and those who aren’t sure what to make of his dire claims should take that into consideration. If we listen to climate scientists, instead, we find more than enough justification for immediate action on climate change without resorting to sci-fi-like exaggeration. And action would be a lot more productive than sitting around waiting for an extinction that isn’t going to show up on the date circled on your calendar.

    Seriously, folks.

  31. 131
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Hank Roberts: Reality is plenty scary without claiming a breakpoint in a longtime trend — based on one unverified data point.

    Richard: Folks should remember their thoughts back in 1997/8. What did “you” think when that data point lept towards the sky? Instead of repeating errors, learn from experience.

  32. 132
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Kevin McKinney: But in principle, it would seem that one way to sequester stuff would be to make highly stable artifacts out of DAC or CC carbon, then bury them in landfills.

    Richard: Yes! I’ve always been amazed at how folks trot out that “disposable diapers sequester both carbon and sea level rise for THOUSANDS of years while also providing us with methane for power production” as if that were a bad thing.

  33. 133

    V: Sometimes the hyperbole, too often raised to the level of hysterics, just becomes too much to bear. You’re supposed to be scientists, so act like scientists.

    BPL: And you’re supposed to be a troll, so act like one. Live under an abutment, and whenever someone walks over it, call out in a spooky voice, “Who’s that trip-trapping upon my bridge?”

  34. 134
    Hank Roberts says:

    And a (I hope) last tidbit for Chuck H. — this is the sort of extrapolation that I’m criticizing:

    and here’s an earlier example — note the orange (preliminary) data points

  35. 135
    Edward Greisch says:

    128 Kevin McKinney has violated the rules and intentionally misinterpreted his referenced source. The title of Paragraph 7.3 of “Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage” is “Industrial uses of carbon dioxide and its emission reduction potential.” Obviously, a source of energy that does not produce CO2 is excluded from making CO2 for use in an industrial process.
    pages 330 and 331

  36. 136
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Hank Roberts: It’s just a poor analogy.

    Richard: Yep, but in the USA it’s the Only Analogy. Attempting to craft a more accurate one would probably “blow up”. I’ll ponder the idea, though. Maybe I’ll come up with something.

    BTW Hank, if you want to and are willing to sign a non-disclosure, I’ll tell you how my new engine cycle works.

  37. 137
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Kevin McKinney: some would decry this aspect as ‘alarmism’–though I suspect most of them still put on seat belts

    Richard: Sure, but who feels the dread of One Who Is Scurrying Into a Bomb Shelter when she clicks her belt? Much can be said in favor of turning this from “Apocalypse Now” to “Clickit or Ticket”

  38. 138
    Chris Korda says:

    A casual RealClimate reader could be forgiven for concluding that abrupt climate change is a conspiracy theory, but this would be a grave error. James White is hardly a “freakout blogger” and his 2014 AGU presentation Abrupt Climate Change: Past, Present and Future should be cause for alarm. White shows that temperature increases on the order of 1 degree C per year have occurred repeatedly in Earth’s history, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere, with even more drastic increases–as much as 5 to 10 degrees C per year–in Greenland. As White says so memorably, speed kills. While it’s obviously true that polar temperatures aren’t the same as global averages, this is hardly comforting since the vast majority of the remaining ice is confined to the poles.

    Nor is White a lone voice in the wilderness, on the contrary many respected scientists would agree with him that abrupt climate change is certain and already occurring, and that a more meaningful inquiry is “How abrupt is abrupt?” Experts are revising previously confident predictions almost daily, nearly always in an unpleasant direction, and it’s becoming apparent even to non-scientists that global climate can become inhospitable much more suddenly than we would like. Given that humanity has consistently exhibited shortsightedness and wishful thinking, while severely overestimating the stability of earth’s systems, a little more humility in the discourse here seems called for.

  39. 139
    pete nest says:


    I was being poetic regarding all our environmental ills. I meant ghg and it’s mitigation. Unlike your good self regardless of available technology, it’s scalability, it’s cost etc I don’t think that the political or economic will exists and hence the techno fix won’t occur quickly enough for anything but a 4c world. Therefore consider lifestyle changes, no way I would suggest

  40. 140

    “You’re supposed to be scientists, so act like scientists.”

    Um, no, Victor–you appear to be talking to the commentariat here, and we (mostly) aren’t scientists.

    Actual scientists do things like, you know, attribution studies before they opine about, well, attribution.

    But do carry on.

  41. 141
    sidd says:

    I should mention the 4 per thousand project, an attempt at carbon sequestration in soils. I think this is possible, but permafrost seems to be voting the other way

  42. 142
    Dan Miller says:

    #113 Jon: Carbon capture systems cost money to build, operate, and maintain. Based on assumed production levels, you can translate these “Capex” and “Opex” costs into a per-ton cost. Current Amine-based power plant CCS systems cost about ~$100/ton for capture. The new Inventys system, which is based on solid sorbents, costs about $20/ton for capture. Pressurization, transport, and injection adds $15~20/ton. You can see how the Inventys system works here:

    DAC system costs can also be translated to $/ton values. Some academic studies have stated that DAC must cost on the order of $500/ton. I have looked at specific implementations of DAC systems and I believe that with further R&D, DAC costs can come in under $100/ton, and perhaps closer to $50/ton.

    Some people are against CCS because they believe that it would extend the lifetime of fossil fuels. Well, CO2 levels are already too high so anything we can do to lower CO2 emissions sooner rather than later is worth pursuing. Note that the Inventys system is much smaller than Amine-based systems so it can be retrofit to existing power plants. This is important because no matter how fast we deploy renewables, we can’t afford the emissions from the established fossil fuel infrastructure.

  43. 143
    generic commenter says:

    A statistics blogger notes that “there is a statistical crisis in science, most notably in social psychology research but also in other fields”, from researchers casting around to find something with p below .05, behavior described as “researcher degrees of freedom”.

    This wave of generalized distrust is likely heading toward climate science, at least in the minds of the public and of “doubt is our product” practitioners. Has someone addressed whether & why climate science findings are different, in writing that’s lucid, cogent, and concise?

  44. 144
    Richard Caldwell says:

    Victor’s link ends with: In the wake of the disaster, states across American acted to prevent a repeat occurrence. Indiana established a

    Richard: Yep, if we REMOVED all our modern flood controls, then a modern storm might make the 1913 storm damage seem like a cakewalk. Apples to apples, dude.

  45. 145
    Chuck Hughes says:

    I trust this collection of factoids will not pass muster as a scientific review, but we will know the reality of global warming in all its glory when we can visualize it clearly in the rearview mirror.

    Comment by mike — 9 Mar 2016 @ 11:44 AM

    I tend to agree with you. What we’re doing ‘right now’ has no corollary but why assume the unexpected until it actually happens?

  46. 146
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Sorry to be continually raining on your parade (no pun intended) but really, folks. Sometimes the hyperbole, too often raised to the level of hysterics, just becomes too much to bear. You’re supposed to be scientists, so act like scientists.

    Comment by Victor — 9 Mar 2016

    Weaktor, how is it that you’re still able to post comments? Here we sit on the cusp of a 6th Great Mass Extinction Event and you’re still able to post nonsense with impunity.

    I predict that in a million years you’ll be part of some future core sample that represents a very thin layer of Climate Change deniers that existed for a nanosecond. Or maybe you’ll be like Hank surmised and appear as “a smear due to drilling problems.”

    Either way, I don’t see a bright future for you and your drivel.

  47. 147
    Urs Neu says:

    @129 Victor, there are no scientists attributing any extreme weather event to climate change. Thinking or speaking about climate change having partly contributed to the strength of an event or about climate change enhancing the intensity of an event is something very different.
    A single extreme weather event always is the result of a combination of several coincident contributing factors or situations. Therefore, climate change does not trigger or “cause” an extreme event alone and thus, no single event can be “attributed” (solely) to climate change.
    However, climate change sometimes may contribute to the intensity or frequency of extreme events by changing the predisposition of factors that are important for the build-up of certain extremes. E.g., in a warmer world, maximum temperatures in heat waves will be higher on average, or the probability of more precipitation in a single event rises with more moisture content in warmer air, etc.

    Now, since most of human induced climate change observed so far has only occurred in the last few centuries (since about 1970), you cannot expect – even if climate change had already enhanced the intensity of some extremes by about 10-20% (what we do not expect yet), that within a few centuries you would observe new record extreme events with return periods of hundred or hundreds of years for any kind of event in every region.

    Therefore it is evident that, if you go back centuries in history, you will find a huge number of extreme events that have been stronger than what we have observed in the few decades of human induced climate change yet, simply because they were not everyday events but maybe a once-in-five-hundred-years event. The probability, that such an event – even if its occurrence probability had already been doubled by climate change – has occurred in the last few decades, is not very high.

    Thus, finding record extreme events in the past in certain regions that have not (yet) been surpassed is not at all in contradiction to the discussions about an already possible influence of climate change on the frequency or intensity of current extreme events.

  48. 148
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Hank, I don’t understand your characterization of my comments. I never mentioned methane. Also, what one deems as “alarmist” is quite subjective. I try to avoid “alarmist” messages because it’s better for my mental health. Beckwith seemed a little ‘out there’ for me which is why I was looking for a second opinion. Ya never know.

    As for the ‘based on one unverified data point’ are you referring to Dr. Jim White’s presentation? Because I don’t remember him citing only one data point or only one ice core sample or even one particular event. He cited several. Dr. White also went on to illustrate the “abrupt changes” that are happening today as evidence that rapid changes are to be expected going forward.

    If you have some other source of information that refutes what Dr. White presented I would love to see it. Thanks

  49. 149
    Aaron Lewis says:

    re 129
    No, many of the past weather disasters are events that would be expected every few generations ( e.g.,50 years). Even China can forget some of the sorrow of a Yellow River Flood in 50 years. And, the lessons of past weather disasters are forgotten more quickly in a time of war.

    With AGW, we are seeing weather events that have not occurred in the last few thousand years. (e.g., Global Temperature Rise, Arctic Sea Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise.)
    There are orders of magnitude of difference between AGW driven weather and would be expected without AGW. From the changes in temperature, we know there is more heat in the system, which provides a clear physics rational for attributing smaller weather events to AGW.

    The real lesson of the current rain event in the southern US is that sea surface temperatures have not been warm enough the generate such a storm system for a long, long time. When the weather guys say that, it means that they have not seen such a storm – it means OK, they have not seen such a storm in the 120 or so years that folks have been keeping weather records. When put in the context of the sea surface temperatures needed to drive such a storm, and given our knowledge of sea surface temperatures from sea floor cores, then it is likely that yes, it has been a long, long time since such a storm

  50. 150
    Brian Abernathy says:

    #117 Hank & Gavin: Thanks for your responses. The “colleague” in question is an Engineer with a couple of degrees (Electrical Eng & Masters/Chemical Engineering) who should have adequate science background to stop throwing this drivel at me. I am the ONLY Engineer in my company that believes in climate change (technically one guy believes in climate change but that it’s not human induced). It takes them only a few minutes and a blurb from Rush Limbaugh or someone to try and discredit me. I don’t normally dig into their information but he was so specific that I knew there must be a denier to reference.