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Unforced variations: Oct 2017

Filed under: — group @ 1 October 2017

This month’s open thread. Carbon budgets, Arctic sea ice minimum, methane emissions, hurricanes, volcanic impacts on climate… Please try and stick to these or similar topics.

286 Responses to “Unforced variations: Oct 2017”

  1. 1
    Tim McDermott says:

    A study in Science says that tropical forests are now net sources of CO2:
    Here we use 12 years (2003–2014) of MODIS pantropical satellite data to quantify net annual changes in the aboveground carbon density of tropical woody live vegetation, providing direct, measurement-based evidence that the world’s tropical forests are a net carbon source of 425.2 ± 92.0 Tg C yr–1. This net release of carbon consists of losses of 861.7 ± 80.2 Tg C yr–1 and gains of 436.5 ± 31.0 Tg C yr–1.

  2. 2
    Tim McDermott says:

    My HTML is really rusty. URI is doi: 10.1126/science.aam5962.

  3. 3
    Russell says:

    EPA Administrator Pruitt has come to Stephen Hawking’s critical attention

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2017/09/if-trump-fires-pruitt-will-hawking-get.html

  4. 4
    Mal Adapted says:

    alan2102, last month:

    just reduce calorie intake and increase calorie expenditure. And of course it is true. If you do that, you will lose weight, inevitably.

    So attest I. In the last 6 months I’ve lost at least 20 lbs that way.

    In empirical reality, it does NOT stick. That advice has done NOTHING to ameliorate obesity, even though obese people have overwhelmingly great incentives to lose weight.

    For values of ‘stick’, ‘ameliorate’, and ‘great’, on top of values for ’empirical reality’.

    The scientific literature clearly shows that 95% of people who diet and exercise to lose weight fail, over the long term.

    As you imply, there are PDFs for values of success and failure, all with poorly constrained sources of variation. Speaking for myself, staying under 2000 Cal/day has been much easier than I thought it would be, and I’m planning to keep the weight off the same way I lost it. Ask me in a year if I’ve succeeded, and again in a few more years 8^D.

    Regardless, the analogy of voluntary personal weight loss to global decarbonization is limited.

  5. 5
    Mal Adapted says:

    nigelj:

    Perceptive comments.

    I=PAT is commonsense and generally true, but is so very general as to almost be useless.

    Per capita consumption might not increase with lower population. Per capita consumption is a function of economies of scale from a growing population, so a shrinking population will not consume at the same rate, even though the resources are there to exploit.

    But then if the robots take over, manufacturing ever more things, maybe the shrinking living population will consume at the same rate, or even more!

    The trouble is all the variables in the equation inter-relate.

    Thanks, to the extent that “Per capita consumption might not increase with lower population” is logically complementary with what I said, which was “impact, or sustainability, can not be [strictly] linear with population” 8^}.

    “I=PAT is…almost useless” however, is only true for values of ‘almost’. In its simplest form, the relation is sufficient to show that I (the resultant, not the first-person pronoun) is strictly linear with P only if AT is constant or is strictly linear with P. In the latter case, A and T collapse into a black box and I is a simple linear function of P. I’m unconvinced it is or they do.

  6. 6
    zebra says:

    Mal Adapted #5, and previous from nigel,

    Come on guys. Think quantitatively– if I can’t get you to do it, there’s little hope with the others.

    Will a global population of 10 million consume at the same per capita rate as USA, Europe, Scandinavia, whatever you like…?

    Ok, Mal has already agreed on that– no, much less.

    Now we move to 100 million.

    Huh: We can still locate in a couple of temperate zones that have access to hydro. So, much less consumption, for the reasons I mentioned earlier.

    How about 1 billion? Yes, Earth is a big place. So, if the option exists, people will choose– without the God-like pronouncements of the Killians and others– to live where they can access non-polluting energy, get by with less energy, and grow their crops with less inputs, “simply” because it makes rational economic sense.

    Now we get to the part worth discussing: Between 1 billion and 10 billion, when do the economic effects of a reducing population start to accelerate the downward trend of consumption? That means, when does it stop making sense to put in the effort of promoting and extracting fossil fuels, because the demand is going in the wrong direction? When do long-lasting goods (houses included) outperform junk, because there simply is no economy-of-scale market advantage?

    Really, you have to get past this kind of is-must-be fallacy– where we are is the result of past causes; there are alternative paradigms.

  7. 7
    Killian says:

    #4 Mal Adapted said
    alan2102, last month:

    just reduce calorie intake and increase calorie expenditure. And of course it is true. If you do that, you will lose weight, inevitably.

    So attest I. In the last 6 months I’ve lost at least 20 lbs that way.

    In empirical reality, it does NOT stick….

    The scientific literature clearly shows that 95% of people who diet and exercise to lose weight fail, over the long term.

    I’m planning to keep the weight off the same way I lost it. Ask me in a year if I’ve succeeded, and again in a few more years 8^D.

    And here it is. Dieting does not work. Changing lifestyle does, and that is what simplification is, change, not temporary tweaking.

    Regardless, the analogy of voluntary personal weight loss to global decarbonization is limited.

    Indeed.

  8. 8
    nigelj says:

    Mal Adapted @5

    Regarding I=PAT, I agree with the first part of your comments, but I’m not sure how you think changing the numerical values of the terms would make it non linear, and what you mean by collapse into a black box. I’m probably just missing your points however.

    I don’t actually know much about the equation, but I just think it seems very rough and approximate as follows.

    1) Changes in affluence may actually lead to reasons to breed less so could have a decreasing effect on population. Although birth control would be the main factor.

    2)Changes in affluence may not have any impact on the environment, if much of that affluence is just used for speculation, and this is very common. Not that speculation is much real use.

    3)Increasing affluence relates directly to more technology, so the terms seem interdependent.

    4) Increased technological efficiency could still lead to more consumption.The equation doesn’t have terms reflecting this obvious possibility.

    5)Changes in consumption based on raw materials extraction versus recycling are very different things, but are treated the same in the equation.

    6) Changes in population interrelate to production output of technology due to economies of scale.

    Regarding your successful battle with weight loss. I also lost about 20 pounds last year, through a moderate diet and exercise programme over about 7 months or so and found it reasonably easy but then 20 pounds isn’t that much. I think it would be hard for really obese people.

    I felt a moderate plan would be better than half killing myself, even if it took longer. I am now getting some increased hunger, I think from what I read the appetite resets at a higher level, but nothing I haven’t been able to resist so far. I really want to stick to it, because theres nothing worse than buying new clothes, bulging in the wrong places, etc.

    Apparently from what I read eating protein reduces hunger cravings, and this has worked for me. Meat is not ideal, from a climate change and environmental view point, so I eat quite a bit of fish.

  9. 9
    Killian says:

    It has been claimed recently this doesn’t work. Yes, that’s a banana tree in Massachusetts. And that’s a lot of carbon where there was not much carbon 13 years ago. And a lot of carbon being turned into soil. And a lot of preventive CO2 sequestration in terms of food miles, tilled farming, chem farming, etc.

    Farming and gardening are both keys to a regenerative future, and a survived crisis.

  10. 10
    Nick O. says:

    Very interesting post by Christopher Burt – “A Dramatic Increase in Annual Average Temperatures for U.S. Cities This Decade” – on hot and cold temperature record trends of 60 US cities, based on records going back to 1895. Some striking results found by his analysis. In his conclusions he also comments on how this year is turning out. Well worth a look, link is here:

    https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/dramatic-increase-annual-average-temperatures-us-cities-decade

  11. 11
    MA Rodger says:

    UAH has just posted for September with an anomaly of +0.54ºC, the warmest UAH TLTv6.0 anomaly of the year so far (ahead of May which was +0.44ºC). September 2017 is the warmest September on the UAH record ahead of September 2016 (+0.45ºC) and 1998 (+0.44ºC). It is the 9th highest monthly anomaly on the all-month record behind the peak months of the two big El Ninos (Jan-Apr 2016 & Feb+Apr-Jun 1998). So for a non-El Nino year, we certainly have “scorchyisimmo!!!!!”

    The table is ranked by the average anomaly of the first nine months of the year. It looks more likely that annually 2017 will end up in 3rd slot in UAH TLTv6.0 as it would now require the final three months averaging above +0.90ºC to gain 2nd spot and (still conceivable) or below +0.30ºC to drop below 2010 into 4th (& with recent monthly anomalies that appears unlikely).

    …….. Jan-Sep Ave … Annual Ave ..Annual ranking
    1998 .. +0.56ºC … … … +0.48ºC … … …2nd
    2016 .. +0.55ºC … … … +0.51ºC … … …1st
    2010 .. +0.39ºC … … … +0.33ºC … … …3rd
    2017 .. +0.34ºC
    2002 .. +0.24ºC … … … +0.22ºC … … …5th
    2015 .. +0.22ºC … … … +0.27ºC … … …4th
    2005 .. +0.20ºC … … … +0.20ºC … … …6th
    2007 .. +0.20ºC … … … +0.16ºC … … …9th
    2014 .. +0.16ºC … … … +0.18ºC … … …8th
    2003 .. +0.16ºC … … … +0.19ºC … … …7th
    2013 .. +0.14ºC … … … +0.13ºC … … …10th

  12. 12
    Mal Adapted says:

    nigelj:

    I’m probably just missing your points however.

    The problem may be that there are lots of point to make and you, zebra and I are each making different ones.

  13. 13
    Titus says:

    Staying on the losing weight thread:

    Some latest scientific studies (just do a quick search) are showing that our bodies do not know how to burn fat, having had it removed from our diets for the last 50yrs or so. The trick here is to get the body burning fat again and doing it by initially having 85% fat in diet. Once the body is forced into consuming it, it will start feeding off your excess body fat quite naturally. You can then return to a ‘normal’ diet keeping fat at about 30%. Nice satiated feeling so no cravings for more food.

    I’ve seen this work many times, even with folks that keep physically fit but cant shift the body fat. Personally, I’ve always kept a goodly amount of fat in my diet (learnt from my mum and school days). I have to keep weight on and build muscle to achieve that. Never had a problem with excess fat.

    Hope this helps……..

  14. 14
    nigelj says:

    Zebra @6

    Good to see your comments. Always interesting.

    “Will a global population of 10 million consume at the same per capita rate as USA, Europe, Scandinavia, whatever you like…?”

    I’m not sure where you are going with this, or the context of your ideas. Its a bit hypothetical, because we are sadly heading to higher population for quite some time. Best guesses are it will flatten off around 2100 at about 12 billion. Whew!

    I also don’t see that level of population then falling massively as an absolute number, unless we really do totally trash the environment catastrophically. Which is of course quite possible.

    But I would say smaller population would consume less per capita, because consumption is dependent on the ability of large scale industries to generate goods and services. A small population like that would presumably eat about the same quantity of food or a bit more, but you can only eat so much food even if its abundant, and beyond that the smaller scale technology they would have would have limited ability to extract minerals and produce goods.

    The difference in consumption could be reasonably large per capita. Houses would be smaller. I’m assuming your example compares like with like in terms of levels of technological development.

    And your example appears hypothetical. If you alternatively had a population falling in size, it would have access to existing infrastructure so could consume more per capita. Its just not clear what scenario you are talking about, hypothetical or actual

    “How about 1 billion? Yes, Earth is a big place. So, if the option exists, people will choose– without the God-like pronouncements of the Killians and others– to live where they can access non-polluting energy, get by with less energy, and grow their crops with less inputs, “simply” because it makes rational economic sense.”

    Would it? They would probably choose what energy is easiest, which might be rather polluting energy like coal. A one billion size population could still have large inputs of things like fertlisers wouldn’t they per capita?

    I suppose the potential would be there to pollute less if they choose to. It comes back to how they regulate what they do and what laws they have.

    And a small population might pollute more, as they would perceive the environment as so large, and could just move from place to place.

    I suppose if land is not under so much pressure, fertliser use would be a bit less if that’s what you mean.

    (But clearly a one billion population compared to five billion has less environmental impacts all other things being equal.)

    “Now we get to the part worth discussing: Between 1 billion and 10 billion, when do the economic effects of a reducing population start to accelerate the downward trend of consumption?”

    Good question. It would be hard to calculate and again its so hypothetical and unlikely that population numbers would actually drop that much, as I have stated. But you could look back at history of when consumption was less and population less, and less economies of scale, but its a tough one as built in obsolescence is a function of other things as well.

    “Really, you have to get past this kind of is-must-be fallacy– where we are is the result of past causes; there are alternative paradigms.”

    Such as what specifically?

  15. 15
    Gordon Shephard says:

    Cows producing 11pc more methane than previously accounted for. Degraded tropical forests becoming carbon sources rather than sinks. Tropical forests being cut down in order to produce feed for cattle.

    Any read on how badly, in net, this is affecting the models?

  16. 16
    Hank Roberts says:

    Here’s someone doing sustainably right — and blogging about how he does it.
    It’s a welcome relief from all the “you otter do this because: I thought of it first” blogging we see so much of.

    http://mistersustainable.blogspot.com/

  17. 17
    Digby Scorgie says:

    zebra @6

    Global population is a peculiar animal, possibly akin to an elephant in a room. So many people react with outrage at any hint of interference in their divine right to overpopulate the planet. But I can’t think why there should be any doubt that our climate problem would be far less serious if the global population were stable at, say, one billion.

    There is, however, an additional intangible reason for preferring a low total population: it makes life so much more enjoyable. I’ve lived in New Zealand for a third of my life now and I revel in my access to wilderness and sparsely populated country. I’m only an hour’s drive away from a spirit-fulfilling hike in the mountains, with splendid scenic views far from city crowds.

    Why in hell would I want to throw this way just to boost the country’s population to 50 million from its current 4.5 million?

  18. 18
    MA Rodger says:

    And finally for August, HadCRUT for August has been posted with an anomaly of +0.72ºC. This is the 5th warmest month of year-so-far (months which span +0.87ºC to +0.63ºC). August 2017 is the 3rd warmest August on record after 2016 (+0.79ºC), 2015 (+0.74ºC) and the 21st warmest month on the all-month record (NOAA =26th, GISS =25th & all the rest of this pretty-much identical to NOAA & GISS).
    In Hadcrut, the complete twelve months of 2017 is more certain to drop to 3rd warmest year after 2016, 2015 & ahead of 2014. (The final 4 months of 2017 would have to average above +0.83C to make 2nd spot & drop below +0.27ºC to drop to 4th.) So we can be certain that the top 4 hottest years on record will be the last 4 years, likely averaging 0.18ºC hotter than the previous four hottest years (2010, 2005, 1998, 2013). These earlier years, mainly El Nino years, average 11.5 years earlier than the projected recent hottest four, perhaps suggesting a rough calculation of the recent rate of AGW of at +0.16ºC/decade, this of course the warming trend of peak years through the so-called ‘hiatus’ years and being ‘peak years’, it is a rate which assumes cooler years will be coming along soon.
    The table below is ranked by Jan-Aug average anomaly.
    …….. Jan-Aug Ave … Annual Ave ..Annual ranking
    2016 .. +0.88ºC … … … +0.80ºC … … …1st
    2017 .. +0.73ºC
    2015 .. +0.71ºC … … … +0.76ºC … … …2nd
    1998 .. +0.61ºC … … … +0.54ºC … … …6th
    2010 .. +0.61ºC … … … +0.56ºC … … …4th
    2014 .. +0.57ºC … … … +0.58ºC … … …3rd
    2002 .. +0.55ºC … … … +0.50ºC … … …11th
    2005 .. +0.53ºC … … … +0.55ºC … … …5th
    2007 .. +0.53ºC … … … +0.49ºC … … …12th
    2009 .. +0.49ºC … … … +0.51ºC … … …10th
    2013 .. +0.49ºC … … … +0.51ºC … … …7th

  19. 19
    Alastair B. McDonald says:

    Just to return to one of the suggested topics, Arctic sea ice extent appears to have passed its minimum for this year with a value higher than has recently been the case. It was just above the average for the 2010’s. See https://ads.nipr.ac.jp/vishop/#/extent

    That web page also has a link to the Antarctic sea ice which appears to have passed it maximum for this year. However to see that this max is indeed the lowest ever recorded it is necessary to got to http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/charctic-interactive-sea-ice-graph/ and select Antarctic, 2, and 2016.

    The first web page also has a link to global sea ice extent, and that shows that it is at a record low for the this day of the year, and has been very low for most of the year. That means that global albedo has also been low and could explain global temperatures remaining high after last years El Nino. Last month was the warmest September in the satellite temperature record and Australia also recorded its warmest September.

    It seems that during last year’s El Nino a tipping point was passed where the Antarctic sea ice extent, instead of slowly increasing year by year, changed to a mode where it is suddenly began to decrease.

    This does nnot seem to have been noticed elsewhere!

  20. 20
    wili says:

    A couple links to articles on the effect of major volcanic eruptions on global climate, particularly relevant given the possible/probably/imminent eruption of Mt. Agung:

    https://www.skepticalscience.com/ClimateImpactsPossibleMtAgung.html#comments

    https://phys.org/news/2017-10-large-volcanic-eruptions-tropics-trigger.html

  21. 21
    Thomas says:

    ABMcD “This does nnot seem to have been noticed elsewhere!”

    I noticed it. I notice lots of things. But people would rather yabba about bs and stroke their egos instead. (shrug) ;-)

  22. 22
    Aksel says:

    Assumptions in a thought example:
    The air today contains 400 ppm CO2
    We will emit 40 gt CO2 in the coming year, of which 20 gt ends in the air and 20 gt ends in the ocean/land.
    The emissions result in an increase of 2 ppm to 402 ppm CO2 in a year.

    With these assumptions (and of course, Ceteris Paribus) I have the following questions:
    a) If tomorrow we cut CO2 emissions from 40 to 20 gt, what are ppm in a year?
    b) If we stop total CO2 emissions tomorrow, what are ppm in a year?

  23. 23
    zebra says:

    nigelj, Mal Adapted, Digby Scorgie,

    I try to be brief in my comments and perhaps what I think is obvious isn’t, so let me first answer Digby’s question by way of illustration:

    “Why in hell would I want to throw this way just to boost the country’s population to 50 million from its current 4.5 million?”

    That’s easy. If you had a resource that Others wanted, you would increase your population in order to have a surplus of young males with testosterone-fueled aggressive inclinations, to die defending it. Are we really not aware of all the times a nation or a religion has explicitly advertised the need for women to produce children as a duty to the tribe’s interests?

    So, nigel, it’s not really “speculative” to examine different scenarios when we have a wealth of knowledge, both theoretical and empirical, about how humans interact with themselves and the environment. This is how science progresses.

    You say

    They would probably choose what energy is easiest, which might be rather polluting energy like coal. A one billion size population could still have large inputs of things like fertlisers wouldn’t they per capita?

    But this ignores all the things we know: Why is coal “easy”? Why do we need fertilizer? How did we arrive at this point where those options make economic sense? (Even putting aside climate change and pollution.)

    Well, let’s put it to a vote:

    A population of 100 million, with no competitors for any resource or location, has the choice of living near a good source of hydro and wind, or, living near a good source of coal. Think about the technology for each case, and what the working conditions would be for energy workers. How is coal the rational choice? It isn’t; it was a terrible choice even when it was initially developed, but there was no option. We know this from history.

    What about fertilizer? Well, you are somewhat sympathetic to the eco-topian paradigms of Killian and Scott. OK, what if the US had a population of 100 million total? Say 50 million on the East Coast, 50 million on the West. In between, Scott’s endless grasslands. Fertilizer? For what? Now you can have your local, sustainable, agriculture, and plenty of hunting and gathering as well. You can catch fish, which are no longer depleted, with relative ease. What economic incentive is there to create the agri-chemical supply chain?

    As I said, I don’t like to make long comments; I think most people can apply this kind of reasoning to other issues like transportation, urban organization, and so on.

    The idea is to work the math in terms of world geography– areas where there is a reasonably moderate climate, and relatively sustainable resources, where we can choose what kind of technology we deploy, balanced against local population. (for example in 100 million people “units”)

    If we are not having wars over resources, the “forcing” on the population side is only maintaining genetic diversity, and the ability to specialize to maintain the technological base and increase knowledge. There is a (realistic, achievable over perhaps a couple of centuries) point of equilibrium.

    This comment is way longer than I like– have at it, and I will try to reply to specific questions.

  24. 24
    David B. Benson says:

    Once in awhile a beautiful similarity is noticed:
    https://m.phys.org/news/2017-10-earth-climate-topological-insulators-common.html
    Equatorial body waves for the same reason as conduction in so-called topological insulators.

  25. 25
    Mal Adapted says:

    Titus, on a topic we might be able to agree on:

    Personally, I’ve always kept a goodly amount of fat in my diet (learnt from my mum and school days).

    I grew up on eggs, butter, bratwurst and fried chicken. In adulthood I’ve been whipsawed between celebration and horror of fat. My dad maintained his health with dogged discipline. I married a diabetic woman who closely controlled her weight and her blood glucose, and considered all fat to be empty calories. I, OTOH, ate plenty of fat. Dietarily, she and I were Jack Sprat and his wife in reverse. Be that as it may, my weight stayed stable until age 45, whereupon it started creeping up year after year; 30 lbs later I was divorced. I lost about half of it on the heartbreak diet, but soon gained all that back, then stayed 30-35 lbs overweight until this year.

    For the last 15 years I’ve taken a statin. It keeps my blood lipids well under alarm thresholds regardless of my dietary fat intake, with no side effects the doctors or I can detect. When I embarked on my calorie counting exercise this spring, I decided I’d eat fat but avoid carbohydrates more. I’ve never had much of a sweet tooth, but I do now 8^(; I allow myself an occasional fudgsicle, but I find it’s easier to stick to my daily calorie limit when I don’t have anything sweet in the house. Under those conditions, I’ve been losing weight as long as I stop at an honest 1800 Cal/day, or up to 2000 on days when I exercise

    Those prone to over-pluralization might presume to generalize from their idiosyncratic personal experience, but I’m not like that ;^D. Actually, I am: it makes some sense that including a generous portion of daily fat would make being hungry easier, no 8^|? Also, I’m not the first dieter to notice that eating sweets makes it harder.

  26. 26
    Digby Scorgie says:

    zebra @23

    Increasing the population to defend a resource others want? Trouble is, the resource consists of large expanses of wilderness and sparsely populated country. Increasing the population would destroy the resource!

  27. 27
    MA Rodger says:

    Aksel @22,
    The Airborne Fraction of all our CO2 emissions (FF+cement+land use) that remains in the atmosphere is a little under 50%, perhaps 45%. It is the other bit, the 55% that is absorbed by land/oceans which is of interest. The split is more into ocean than land, perhaps 32% ocean, 23% ‘land’. The ‘land’ reaction to increasing CO2 is reasonably quick, while the oceans has big time lags. So we could perhaps say that if we cut emissions by 23% plus 45%, the land would pretty-much stop absorbing (a mass of assumptions saying that) and the oceans would continue to absorb a similar amount as at present. So CO2 would stablise at roughly today’s levels with cuts of 68%. This, of course, is a larger cut than in your question (a).
    If you cut CO2 emissions to zero as per your question (b), the oceans will continue to absorb CO2 as deep waters that have never seen today’s CO2 levels emerge from the depths and take their share of it. This would drop atmospheric CO2 levels, this also dislodging some of the CO2 absorbed by ‘land’. The process would continue for a millenium, slowly stablising with the atmospheric CO2 level in 1,000 years containing 20% to 30% of our total emissions (as opposed to the 45% of today). So by the latter half of the coming millenium, CO2 would be approaching something like 350ppm. Roughly.
    Oh, and they tell me concrete does re-absorb the cement CO2 over a thousand years. This would reduce the atmospheric burden by another 5ppm.
    The remnant of our emissions will remain up in the atmosphere for very much longer. As Archer et al (2009) concludes:-

    “Generally accepted modern understanding of the global carbon cycle indicates that climate effects of CO2 releases to the atmosphere will persist for tens, if not hundreds, of housands of years into the future.”

  28. 28
    Mal Adapted says:

    zebra:

    Why is coal “easy”? Why do we need fertilizer? How did we arrive at this point where those options make economic sense? (Even putting aside climate change and pollution.)

    Those are good questions, with candidate answers at multiple levels within a hierarchical systems framework. However, perhaps another question is even more important: how will we reach a stable global population of 100 million? I realize we’re carrying on a thought experiment, but at some point we’ve left empiricism behind.

  29. 29
    nigelj says:

    Zebra @23

    I didn’t say speculative. I just said a global population falling in absolute numbers is unlikely for a long time, so is rather hypothetical, and not much of a solution to pressing environmental problems. I assume you obviously realise this and are taking a long general view?

    I do think its very desirable environmentally that birth rates be as low as possible ( 2 children families at most maybe), population growth rates slow, and global poplulation falls in absolute numbers. At least you would want a population of ten billions falling. It will all be a slow process, and needs a lot of education, better health care, birth control etc. I live in NZ as well and our small population has a range of benefits.

    And I totally agree with your point a smaller population will solve many of the problems we are talking about, and gets around complicated contentious solutions.

    Regarding hydo versus coal and wind. Hydro power is massively capital intensive to build but wind is cheapest so you have a good point, BUT none of this will resolve the climate issue in population terms, because it would be maybe a couple of centuries or more before population falls appreciably in total numbers. Or am I missing something you said?

    I agreed over your fertiliser thing. I already said smaller population would need less fertilizer inputs!

    Yes there’s a population equilibrium. I would say an optimal sort of level might be a better word.I think it you looked back at historical data and trends you might be able to derive an equation or something. Its not my area though, its a sort of economic calculation.

    Economies of scale would have a point of diminishing returns. Robotic manufacturing has also shifted everything in advantage of smaller population once it really gets going. Although like Killian says its hard to see a world with millions of robots doing the gardening etc. But we just dont really know because humans are ingenious at developing clever materials.

    Comments can be too long, and they can also be too short and cryptic. Just saying.

  30. 30
    alan2102 says:

    #4 Mal Adapted 1 Oct 2017:
    “the analogy of voluntary personal weight loss to global decarbonization is limited.”

    All analogies are limited. The point was: easy to say (“it is so simple!”), hard to do. And the empirical statistical record reflects that fact.

  31. 31
    alan2102 says:

    BTW, to everyone talking about losing 20 pounds: that is not what I was talking about. It is not hard to lose 10 or 20 pounds and keep it off. I was talking about successful recovery from obesity, especially BMI >35. That is rare, like someone recovering from stage 4 cancer, or 90% occluded coronary arteries. I should have made that more clear; sorry.

  32. 32
    Hank Roberts says:

    Another for the Cassandra file, another factor to add to the models:

    http://science.sciencemag.org/content/358/6359/101

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-06/there-s-a-climate-change-bomb-under-your-feet

    What they found, published yesterday in the journal Science, may mean the accelerating catastrophe of global warming has been fueled in part by warm dirt. As the Earth heats up, microbes in the soil accelerate the breakdown of organic materials and move on to others that may have once been ignored, each time releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

    Extrapolating from their forest study, the researchers estimate that over this century the warming induced from global soil loss, at the rate they monitored, will be “equivalent to the past two decades of carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning and is comparable in magnitude to the cumulative carbon losses to the atmosphere due to human-driven land use change during the past two centuries.”

  33. 33
  34. 34
    zebra says:

    nigel #29,

    Yes, you are missing something. I don’t think I’m being cryptic; I acknowledged that I may have made the rookie teacher’s mistake of assuming others have the same background and thought process.

    The point of the exercise is to

    1. Establish that there is a boundary value where per-capita consumption is much lower than that of developed countries today, as a consequence of lower population. Everyone seems to agree with that.

    2. Recognize, that being the case, that current consumption levels (relative to that end-point) are caused by past increases in population, to some degree as part of a positive feedback loop.

    3. Determine, approximately, where there might be an inflection point, where the consumption curve changes direction as the result of a change in the slope of the population curve.

    I’m pretty sure I’ve said something about this in the past: What if population just plateaued? I suggest, for example, that it would change things by decreasing the value of resources, so that investment would move from e.g. oil leases to developing renewables.

    So, the point would be that efforts put into reducing population would have a much bigger payoff much quicker than what you are saying.

    Digby S and Mal A, #26 and #28

    My hypothetical example (NZ has some massive lithium deposits or something, rather than just being a great place to live) was intended to illustrate point 2. And the answer to Mal is also in point 2; we know that prosperity and empowerment of women results in lower birth rates, but in combination with new technology, a virtuous cycle should result, amplifying the benefit.

  35. 35
    Thomas says:

    By Dr James Hansen (latest missive, quoting)
    “Once, with Larry Gibson, protesting mountaintop removal, I refused to pay the fine and was threatened with one year in prison. One year was a period I was willing to risk – for the sake of drawing attention to the situation in West Virginia, where elected officials and even (some of) the judiciary were crooked, bought off by the coal industry. Somehow, after years, West Virginia quietly dropped the case, so I escaped punishment.”

    “There was one serious conscientious objector in the Bush/Obama era – Bidder 70, who disrupted an auction of public property for fossil fuel exploitation. The science shows that we can’t burn those additional fossil fuels, unless young people extract the CO2 from the air (unlikely) or suffer the consequences. President Obama let Bidder 70 go to jail and cook there for a couple of years – sending a message. The Clean Power Plan will be Obama’s legacy – a tiny short-term dent that at best encouraged widened use of natural gas. Some legacy! Obama blew the enormous opportunities that he had, both early and late.”

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2017/20171006_NorthDakota.pdf

  36. 36
    Thomas says:

    James Hansen PS quotes

    “One cannot attend a trial such as that of Michael Foster without asking discomfitting questions. Who are the real criminals? This story is complicated, with calamity around the corner.”

    “I once called Governor Jerry Brown’s cap and trade approach half-baked and half-assed to Jerry’s face at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. Some in the audience gasped, but Jerry took it in stride – he is, after all, a tough guy with a sense of humor. Jerry defended his program as “pretty darned good.” In truth, it’s pretty damned bad.”
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2017/20171006_NorthDakota.pdf

    Despite my genuine support for Hansen, I still think he is extremely misguided with his “carbon fee and dividend” being a practical solution of merit. Only strict Government Regulations internationally with heavy Criminal Sanctions for breaches attached to them will do the job required from here.

    China’s current approach right now today is the morally right way to go. Strict, enforceable, national goals and reform programs to back them up. That and massive fines for Corporations in Breach of the Law (even if that sends them to the wall financially and their shareholders lose everything in the process). Plus very long term Jail time for their Board of Directors.

    Is it time to take the “rose coloured glasses” off yet? Yes, it is. Time to get real and very serious about AGW/CC.

  37. 37
    Thomas says:

    Neven ASIF – The 2017 global sea ice extent trend line is at a point where it has to decide whether it will join the pack of trend lines, or tag along with the 2016 trend line:
    https://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=2141.0;attach=53555;image

  38. 38
    Thomas says:

    Recent Monthly Average Mauna Loa CO2
    September 2017: 403.38 ppm +2.35 ppm
    September 2016: 401.03 ppm
    Last updated: October 5, 2017

    Up-to-date weekly average CO2 at Mauna Loa
    Week beginning on September 24, 2017: 402.77 ppm
    Weekly value from 1 year ago: 400.70 ppm
    Weekly value from 10 years ago: 380.74 ppm
    Last updated: October 6, 2017

    As MA Rodger points out as well – UAH has just posted for September with an anomaly of +0.54ºC, the warmest UAH TLTv6.0 anomaly of the year so far (ahead of May which was +0.44ºC). September 2017 is the warmest September on the UAH record ahead of September 2016 (+0.45ºC)

    Other national, regional and global data reports similar results for Sept 2017. From here on in CO2 ppm begins to rise – how fast will be interesting to observe especially if you enjoy watching ‘scary horror movies’ :-)

  39. 39
    Killian says:

    Someday science might actually catch up to permaculture, et al.

    http://news.stanford.edu/2017/10/05/soil-holds-potential-slow-global-warming/

    “Dirt is not exciting to most people,” said Earth system science professor Rob Jackson… “But it is a no-risk climate solution with big co-benefits. Fostering soil health protects food security and builds resilience to droughts, floods and urbanization.”

    Among the possible approaches: reduced tillage, year-round livestock forage and compost application. Planting more perennial crops, instead of annuals, could store more carbon and reduce erosion by allowing roots to reach deeper into the ground.

    Jackson, Harden and their colleagues also found that about 70 percent of all sequestered carbon in the top meter of soil is in lands directly affected by agriculture, grazing or forest management –

  40. 40
  41. 41
    Scott Strough says:

    Nigelj,
    Keep in mind that is forest soils. The grassland biomes and that includes their soils and symbiotic biology function entirely differently.

    Forests are short cycle carbon (labile soil fraction) and they always were. The increased heat and humidity only serve to increase the rate of decay. It is yet one more reason why I have stated all along to the tree hugger crowd, good intentions, wrong biome to mitigate AGW.

  42. 42
    Mal Adapted says:

    alan2102:

    I was talking about successful recovery from obesity, especially BMI >35.

    Ah. Agreed. The etiology of morbid obesity does appear to involve more than ‘middle-age spread’, i.e. ordinary self-indulgence and age-dependent inertia; and MO’s contributions to death and disability statistics are indeed more ‘significant’ in common if not statistical usage 8^).

    I should have made that more clear; sorry.

    nigelj:

    Comments can be too long, and they can also be too short and cryptic. Just saying.

    I am vindicated ;^D!

  43. 43
    Mal Adapted says:

    zebra:

    we know that prosperity and empowerment of women results in lower birth rates, but in combination with new technology, a virtuous cycle should result, amplifying the benefit.

    Your first clause is true to the extent that total fertility rate has fallen in countries that have become more prosperous. In some long-prosperous countries it’s fallen below replacement TFR. Whether your ‘but’ clause is true, however, remains to be shown for long-term global population. Here I’m repeating my caveat about getting too far ahead of the available data.

    Despite the existence of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement*, there’s justification for assuming Homo sapiens won’t actually allow itself to become extinct voluntarily, or stabilize its global population at 100 million or any other number either. TFR is a population-level statistic: individually, we are the current generation of a 3.5GY-long line of ancestors who left more copies of their genes than their conspecifics did.

    The 19th-century racist catchphrase survival of the fittest obscures the reality that “evolution through descent with modification by natural selection” is driven by differential reproduction. Throughout the history of life on Earth, the phenotypic character of ‘philoprogenitiveness’ has been strongly selected for. Ah, you say, but our species evolves culturally as well! Yes, and human culture facilitates reproductive competition.

    It’s all very well to kick butt and take resources every year before dying at age 100: if you die childless, whatever in your genes helped make you a successful survivor is immediately selected out, along with the rest of your personal genome.

    OTOH, a women of low socioeconomic class who dies at age 20, but has a large extended family to raise her two children, has replaced herself (each child has two parents). And her relatively-numerous family members will replicate consanguineous fractions of her genome. Yet even if she lives to age 100 after raising 12 children, 48 grandchildren and 85 great-grandchildren, her facebook frenemy who leaves more genetic descendants unto the Nth generation wins. Regardless of who’s in charge.

    All that is to say the burden is on you, z, to support your ‘virtuous cycle’ hypothesis.

    * I’m in, are you ;^)?

  44. 44
    Mal Adapted says:

    Scott Strough:

    It is yet one more reason why I have stated all along to the tree hugger crowd, good intentions, wrong biome to mitigate AGW.

    Once again, you’re right and wrong. You’re right WRT tree huggers, but forests can grow trees for burial in tectonic subduction zones.

    Not that I’m in favor of that, make no mistake.

  45. 45
    Al Bundy says:

    I’ve filed the provisional patent for my engine. If any of the regulars wants to see how it works, post a temporary email address here, along with a promise of privacy.

  46. 46
    Al Bundy says:

    “But then if the robots take over, manufacturing ever more things, maybe the shrinking living population will consume at the same rate, or even more!”

    AB: Naw. People only need so much physical stuff at one time. Folks will buy, play, toss, and then robots will reassemble your discards into that which you can’t live without.
    —————–

    Digby Scorgie: Why in hell would I want to throw this way just to boost the country’s population to 50 million from its current 4.5 million?

    AB: There is no prize for the highest population – except for the oligarchs whose income is based on the number of peons… …and who make up your minds for you.
    —————

    Alistair B McDonald: It seems that during last year’s El Nino a tipping point was passed where the Antarctic sea ice extent, instead of slowly increasing year by year, changed to a mode where it is suddenly began to decrease.

    AB: Yes, “seems”. But a year is just a year until it’s joined by a few more.
    ————–

    Aksel: If tomorrow we cut CO2 emissions from 40 to 20 gt, what are ppm in a year?
    b) If we stop total CO2 emissions tomorrow, what are ppm in a year?

    AB: The planet absorbs CO2 based on concentration, not emissions (other than near point sources). If we were to halve or cease emissions, then about the same amount will still be sequestered each year.

  47. 47
    nigelj says:

    zebra @34

    Look I think we largely agree. Clearly you are right smaller populations will consume less “per capita” and its a good point. I think I made it clear I supported that point and its a desirable aim ultimately. I was just throwing in a few criticisms of some of your related points, just my natural tendency to pick things to bits.

    You just don’t seem to read what people say at times. I really get annoyed when people ignore what I say.

    My main criticism was that its somewhat hypothetical because it really will be centuries before population drops by literally billions. But tell me If you think Im being too pessimistic with that? And its still desirable longer term.

    “Determine, approximately, where there might be an inflection point, where the consumption curve changes direction as the result of a change in the slope of the population curve.”

    Yes I acknowledged this but how do you calculate this? I’m not an economist. Perhaps someone with an economics degree can comment. Its a very interesting thing.

    “I’m pretty sure I’ve said something about this in the past: What if population just plateaued? I suggest, for example, that it would change things by decreasing the value of resources, so that investment would move from e.g. oil leases to developing renewables.”

    I just don’t see why this would be the case. Surely it would have to at least fall to cause a change?

    “we know that prosperity and empowerment of women results in lower birth rates, but in combination with new technology, a virtuous cycle should result, amplifying the benefit.”

    Totally agree. Putting it slightly differently a range of things contribute to lower birth rates in a virtuous circle.

    High tech done smartly with respect to the environment seems the best configuration. (for example Hollands clever use of glass houses is very productive agriculture but has low fertliser inputs etc) Low tech seems over simplistic and a sledgehammer. Simple answers to complicated problems are usually wrong. But lets not start that debate up again.

  48. 48
    Thomas says:

    47 nigelj says: “I really get annoyed when people ignore what I say.”

    Welcome to Planet Earth, Brother Nigelj — comes with the Territory. (big smile)

  49. 49
    Thomas says:

    AB says: “…and who make up your minds for you.”

    Now ain’t that the truth! Unfortunately.

  50. 50

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