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2006 Year in review

Filed under: — group @ 27 December 2006 - (Français)

A lighthearted look at the climate science goings-on over the last year:

Best highlight of the gap between the ‘two cultures’:
Justice Scalia: ‘Troposphere, whatever. I told you before I’m not a scientist. That’s why I don’t want to have to deal with global warming’ .

Least effective muzzling of government climate scientist by a junior public affairs political appointee:
George Deutsch met his match in Jim Hansen.

Most puzzling finding that has yet to be replicated:
Methane from plants

Worst reported story and least effectual follow-up press release:
Methane from plants

Best (err… only) climate science documentary on public release:
An Inconvenient Truth.

Most worn out contrarian cliche:
Medieval English vineyards.

Previously prominent contrarian cliche curiously not being used any more:
“The satellites show cooling”

Most bizarre new contrarian claim:
“Global warming stopped in 1998”.
By the same logic, it also stopped in 1973, 1983, and 1990 (only it didn’t).

Most ironic complaint about ‘un-balanced’ climate coverage on CNN:
Pat Michaels (the most interviewed commentator by a factor of two) complaining that he doesn’t get enough exposure.

Most dizzying turn-around of a climate skeptic:
Fred Singer “global warming is not happening” (1998,2000, 2002, 2005) to global warming is “unstoppable” (2006)

Best popular book on the climate change:
Elizabeth Kolbert’s “Field Notes from a Catastrophe

Least unexpected observations:
(Joint winners) 2006 near-record minima in Arctic sea ice extent, near-record maxima in Northern Hemisphere temperatures, resumed increase in ocean heat content, record increases in CO2 emissions

Best resource for future climate model analyses:
PCMDI database of IPCC AR4 simulations. The gift that will keep on giving.

Best actual good news:
Methane concentrations appear to have stabilised. Maybe they can even be coaxed downward….

Biggest increase in uncertainty as a function of more research:
Anything to do with aerosols.

Least apologetic excuse for getting a climate story wrong:
Newsweek explains its 1975 ‘The Cooling World’ story.

Most promising newcomer on the contrarian comedy circuit:
Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

Least accurate attempted insinuation about RealClimate by a congressional staffer:
‘There’s so much money’: Marc Morano (Senate EPW outgoing majority committee staff, 5:30 into the mp3 file)

Boldest impractical policy idea:

Boldest practical policy idea:
Creation of a National Climate Service, which could more effecitvely provide useful climate information to policymakers.

Most revealing insight into the disinformation industry (fiction):
Thank you for smoking

Most revealing insight into the disinformation industry (non-fiction) and year’s best self-parody:
‘CO2 is life’

Feel free to suggest your own categories and winners…

106 Responses to “2006 Year in review”

  1. 1
    Grant says:

    Most bitter “oily politician”: James Inhofe

    Best performance by a current politician: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    Best performance by a former politician: Al Gore.

    Best performance by a future politician: Wes Clark.

    Lowest low blow: Michael Crichton, for fictionalizing one of his critics as a child rapist.

    Best unverifiable, improbable, changeable-on-a-moment’s-notice theory: galactic cosmic rays.

    Most pessimistic forecast: James Lovelock.

    Most optimistic *realistic* forecast: James Hansen.

  2. 2
    David Wilson says:

    ‘An’ Inconvenient Truth isn’t it? And it is not available with Portuguese sub-titles that I can find – if anyone knows different please let me know.

    [Response: whoops. -gavin]

  3. 3
    Kevin Hicks says:

    Come on you guys in the interests of fairness and so that we don’t suffer from preposterous reactionary legislation (especially in small countries like New Zealand) please, please, please calm down the hype that this issue is causing. At least Mike Hulme had the decency to do that:

    Scientists should take the lead, not politicians, economists, activist, and especially not Hollywood.

    More awards:

    Biggest joke of the decade on climate change was this idiosyncratic article making it onto the Nature website (Nature!!!??):

    Earth System Science: The warming hole

    The upcoming IPCC working group 1 report highlights something interesting about global climate trends – the eastern United States is an anomaly. For a blob centered roughly on Alabama (and encompassing DC and the white house), things haven’t got significantly warmer between 1901 and 2005. It looks like the only other place in the world for which that’s true is over the water just south of Greenland.
    In more recent years, the eastern US hasn’t fallen victim to warmer days (though it has seen warmer nights). The most significant change is that it’s wetter. More cloudy days over the capital might not be hammering home the message that climate change is real and the world is getting warmer…
    Posted November 11, 2006 04:57 AM

    I agree that geo-reverse-engineering is ludicrous, but surely this one rates as “the Boldest impractical policy idea” (PNAS!!):

    Angel R. Feasibility of cooling the Earth with a cloud of small spacecraft near the inner Lagrange point (L1). Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2006 Nov 14;103(46):17184-9.

    Best piece of hoping on the bandwagon? (Science!!)

    Balanya J, Oller JM, Huey RB, Gilchrist GW, Serra L. Global genetic change tracks global climate warming in Drosophila subobscura. Science 2006 Sep 22;313(5794):1773-5.

  4. 4

    “Most pessimistic forecast: James Lovelock.”

    Some might describe it as the most optimistic forecast.

  5. 5

    The Great Warming is another fine documentary in public release. Much smaller budget, and therefore much lower profile. But soon to be out on DVD (mid-February). There’s an ambitious bi-partisan coalition (spanning greens to evangelicals) around using the movie as a catalyst towards making climate the dominant issue in the 2008 U.S. elections (the Climate Elections).

  6. 6
    John L. McCormick says:

    While this is the season of good cheer and a time to allow light to reign, this thread can accommodate a bit of reality as well.

    Let 2006 be recognizes as the year Southern Australia confronted the pain of global warming.

    The following three short pieces will not make a convincing scientific argument that Southern Australia’s drought is being driven by a warming planet but municipal governments are facing the grim reality their water supplies could run out by the end of next year if significant rainfall does not occur.

    The water availability “tipping point” may have passed for major cities like Melbourne, Canberra and Sidney.

    “Australia ponders climate future”

    “What is Causing The Rainfall Declines Over Southern Australia – Ozone, Climate Variability or Climate change?”


    Global warming signature in Australia’s worst drought
    James Risbey1, David Karoly2, Anna Reynolds3, Karl Braganza1

  7. 7
    Grant says:

    Re: #3

    Mike Hulme’s editorial represents one view (an optimistic one). James Lovelock’s book Gaia’s Revenge represents another view (a pessimistic one). Please don’t assume that just because Hulme is calling for restraint, his viewpoint is correct.

    Suppose — just for the sake of argument — that Lovelock is right and Hulme is wrong. Then maybe some “reactionary legislation” wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

    When you say “please, please, please calm down the hype,” you *assume* that the current rhetoric is “hype.” What if it’s not?

  8. 8

    Your : “Boldest impractical policy idea:
    Geoengineering ”

    entry suggests RealClimate may be in the running for a Robert Burns Award for Unsober Introspection.

    The item’s link reveals Gavin’s deeply shocking opposition to geoengineering notions “regardless of their merit or true potential,” because they ” are often seized upon by people who for various reasons do not want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

    Who would have suspected RealClimate’s committment to a one solution policy agenda ?

    I suspect Al Gore should also share the ‘Most revealing insight into the disinformation industry (fiction)’ award with Christo Buckley’s _Thank you for smoking_ , because the truthiness disconnect between what Al has to say and half of the graphs in _An Inconvenient Truth_’s slideshow would do credit to Marc Morano.

    [Response: Your selective quotation of my Geo-engineering piece places you pretty high on the Morano scale as well. Readers can go check, but the actual line (in context) was: “The paper is being published in Climatic Change, but unusually, with a suite of commentary articles by other scientists. This is because geo-engineering solutions do not have a good pedigree and, regardless of their merit or true potential, are often seized upon by people who for various reasons do not want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” which is obviously true and has nothing to do with my policy inclinations. We generally do not make recommendations for policy here since it tends to divert and distract from discussing the science (which is what we know most about). -gavin]

  9. 9
    Hank Roberts says:

    Chuckle — that site’s graphic warnings:

  10. 10

    Re 8&9

    Make that a cognitive dissonance award- warning sign still under construction.

    I am amiably agreeing that RealClimate’s erstwhile commitment to defining the problem ought to preclude dismissing proposed solutions out of hand- the salient thing about deliberate geoengineering being that it has no track record

  11. 11
    Bryan Sralla says:

    “resumed increase in ocean heat content”
    Levitus states that the “warming is not yet statistically significant” through the first 3/4ths of 2006 (a bit different flavor than what you suggest here). If this holds through the entire year, this also means that there is not a “statistically signifiant” TOA radiative imbalance through this period. I would consider this rather “surprising”, as most if not all the models do not predict that the ocean heat content at the beginning of 2007 would be close to the value in 2000. This means that there has been very little actual global warming (or net TOA radiative imbalance) in these seven years.

  12. 12
    Nick Riley says:

    Big disappointments
    1)Failure of CO2 capture and storage to be recognised in the Clean Development Mechanism- it will not now be considered for another 2 years- thank you Brasil and others for this!.

    2)Undermining of the European Emissions Trading Scheme by introducing too generous allowances and giving allowances away rather than auctioning them. Special thanks, surprisingly, goes to Germany.

    3)Still no serious concerted and effective action on reducing CO2 emissions from G8, OECD or the top 20 greenhouse gas emitters. All leaders- thank you

    4)Increasing lock in of new coal burning plant which is not designed to be capture ready. This lock in will persist into mid-century. Thankyou to all the countries building new coal fired power plant without it being capture ready

    5) We have now lost the chance of stabilising the atmosphere below 450ppm- and we are now very close to missing 550ppm- but the urgency of the situation does not seem to register in an effective way with the public or governments. All governments and public elligible to vote but chose the wrong lifestyle or political agenda- thank you

    1)Storage of carbon dioxide captured from land based industrial sources in geological formations under the sea bed is now accepted (Nov. 2006) by the London Convention and its Protocol. The strongest argument being that ocean acidification from anthropogenic CO2 released to atmosphere is the greatest threat to the ecosystems of the world’s oceans- far greater than the very slight local risk that might arise if a sub sea bed geological storage site leaked. Thank you scientific advisors to the LC and the countries and civil servants who helped make this amendment to the Annex happen.

    2)Stern Review- it’s a no brainer that the cost of preventing greenhouse gas emissions now is a far better option than trying to deal with them, or their consequences, later. Many scientists have consistently given this message for years. But it is a much stronger message when an international economist of such status says it- even if it takes him 100s of pages of information to get there!. Thank you Sir Nicholas Stern- lets hope that your report does not just gather dust!

    3)An inconvenient Truth- well done Al Gore!- please translate into all the main languages of the world, please give free DVDs to all schools- or allow free download of the movie over the web. Your movie only has a very short shelf life because things are changing so fast. So you might as well give it away if its in your power to do so.

  13. 13
    SecularAnimist says:

    Nick Riley wrote in #12: “well done Al Gore!- please … give free DVDs to all schools”

    Laurie David, the producer of Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth, has already offered to donate 50,000 free DVDs of the movie to the National Science Teachers Association to distribute to science teachers across the US. The NSTA rejected the videos.

    Why? According to Laurie David:

    At hundreds of screenings this year of “An Inconvenient Truth,” the first thing many viewers said after the lights came up was that every student in every school in the United States needed to see this movie.

    The producers of former vice president Al Gore’s film about global warming, myself included, certainly agreed. So the company that made the documentary decided to offer 50,000 free DVDs to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) for educators to use in their classrooms. It seemed like a no-brainer.

    The teachers had a different idea: Thanks but no thanks, they said.

    In their e-mail rejection, they expressed concern that other “special interests” might ask to distribute materials, too; they said they didn’t want to offer “political” endorsement of the film; and they saw “little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members” in accepting the free DVDs […] there was one more curious argument in the e-mail: Accepting the DVDs, they wrote, would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.” One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.


    NSTA says it has received $6 million from [Exxon Mobil Corp] since 1996, mostly for the association’s “Building a Presence for Science” program, an electronic networking initiative intended to “bring standards-based teaching and learning” into schools, according to the NSTA Web site. Exxon Mobil has a representative on the group’s corporate advisory board. And in 2003, NSTA gave the company an award for its commitment to science education.


    NSTA’s list of corporate donors also includes Shell Oil and the American Petroleum Institute (API), which funds NSTA’s Web site on the science of energy. There, students can find a section called “Running on Oil” and read a page that touts the industry’s environmental track record — citing improvements mostly attributable to laws that the companies fought tooth and nail, by the way — but makes only vague references to spills or pollution. NSTA has distributed a video produced by API called “You Can’t Be Cool Without Fuel,” a shameless pitch for oil dependence.


    An API memo leaked to the media as long ago as 1998 succinctly explains why the association is angling to infiltrate the classroom: “Informing teachers/students about uncertainties in climate science will begin to erect barriers against further efforts to impose Kyoto-like measures in the future.”

    Science teacher and journalist John Borowski has documented other “educational” materials distributed at NSTA conferences:

    Project Learning Tree’s Energy module, supported by API’s Red Cavaney who wants ANWR opened, opposes the Kyoto Treaty, and wants more public land opened to energy exploration.

    Lesson plans, coloring books, free coal samples from the American Coal Foundation – minus any substantive discussion, let alone mention of climate change.

    Lessons and videos from a group that was called the “Greening Earth Society,” funded by the Western Fuels Association. The message of the film was firm and academically clear: There is no human-induced climate change.

    Borowski further documents the close relationship between the NSTA and the fossil fuel industry:

    In 2003, [NSTA Executive Director] Gerald Wheeler acted as an executive producer on a ten-part video funded by ConocoPhillips, and 20,000 of those copies were shipped out! The American Petroleum Institute heralded the release with a statement on their web site. “The Search for Solutions [is a] multiple winner of the Telly Award for outstanding programming … The videos are designed to capture the attention and imagination of junior high and high school students.”

    I downloaded the “teaching materials” and saw a potpourri of fossil fuel endorsements. My favorite is a 3-page teaching sheet on “Finding Oil” that ends with “Let the drilling begin.” ConocoPhillips is a powerful member of the API powerhouse of fossil fuel interests and is very determined to open more federal waters to oil drilling […] in an April 22, 2003, news release: “The partnership between the National Science Teachers Association and ConocoPhillips has produced a very valuable tool for our nation’s science teachers,” said Gerald Wheeler, NSTA Executive Director. “The Search for Solutions video series brings their students vivid, real-life examples of the nature of science and technology, a much-needed resource.” And ConocoPhillips received the ultimate endorsement for their Trojan horse foray into our schools: with compliments and help from the biggest science teachers’ organization!

    So, there is no need to ask Al Gore to distribute free DVDs of An Inconvenient Truth to schools, since he and his producer Laurie David are already willing to distribute 50,000 free copies!

    Instead, what is needed is for scientists like the contributors to this site to write to Gerald Wheeler and ask him to reconsider the NSTA’s alliance with the fossil fuel industry, to stop distributing (not to mention co-producing!) the fossil fuel industry’s climate change denialist propaganda disguised as “science education”, and to support actual science (not to mention the survival of the human species) by accepting Laurie David’s offer to distribute the DVDs.

    The above-quoted passages are from John Borowski’s detailed articles on this subject, and a Washington Post op-ed by Laurie David, which are linked below. This is must reading for anyone — especially scientists — concerned about educating the public about the realities of global warming.

    Largest Science Teachers Organization Rejects Gore Video … Why?
    By John F. Borowski
    28 November 2006

    Science a la Joe Camel
    By Laurie David
    The Washington Post
    26 November 2006

    World’s Largest Science Teachers’ Organization Awash in Denials
    By John Borowski
    13 December 2006

  14. 14
    David Graves says:

    Biggest Disconnect between Fact and Opinion Award goes to….the Wall St. Journal. Once again, the reporting today has a story on the listing of polar bears and runaway coal-fired powerplant construction in China. Both (one short and one longer) are up to the high standards of WSJ reporting in general. The story in July on the Texas electrical utility TXU’s plans for a heap of coal-burning plants was another great bit of reporting. Turn to the editorial page and it’s a different story. And my favorite letter to the editor was one that trashed FedEx for investigating ways to improve the fuel efficiency of its fleet and then hauled out the malaria-DDT canard. Two for one!

  15. 15
    Regina says:

    Great website and commentary, I check in regularly, thanks for all you do!!! Just thought it would be nice to also provide a link under An Inconvenient Truth in your FP article. Here it is:

  16. 16

    Re “Instead, what is needed is for scientists like the contributors to this site to write to Gerald Wheeler and ask him to reconsider the NSTA’s alliance with the fossil fuel industry, to stop distributing (not to mention co-producing!) the fossil fuel industry’s climate change denialist propaganda disguised as “science education”, and to support actual science (not to mention the survival of the human species) by accepting Laurie David’s offer to distribute the DVDs.”

    If someone will get together a petition, I’ll gladly sign it. I have no science credentials, but pressure from the general public might help as well.

  17. 17
    Chuck Booth says:

    CO2 is Life….yep, tell that to the relatives of the 1700 people killed by a toxic cloud of CO2 that erupted from Lake Nyos in Cameroon, West Africa, in 1986.

  18. 18
    pete best says:

    The hockey stick still holds true in accordance with the data.

    Is there enough fossil fuels to do serious climate harm ?

    What happens when we attain peak Oil and then shortly after Peak Gas ?

    The cost of fossil fuels is likely to increase between now and 2010 due to aforementioned peaking of gas and oil

    I hope that no one latches onto Methane Hydrates as an energy source?

    Where are the alternatives to fossil fuels and where is the political economic and scientific will to implement them (if they exist) and hence head of climate change?

    Can the world meet energy requirements for the 21 st century, cut greehhouse gases at the same time (not at the moment), and increase economic prosperity for all ? Answer – ITS UNLIKELY in the timeline required to offset climate change

    Contrary to environmentalists beliefs Wind, Wave, Tidal, solar (photovoltaic) are not the panacea that we are told they are, we need to roll these technologies out en masse big time and now to alleviate any of the CO2 impact we are having and that means giving it to China, India and Brazil, no chance of that is there?

    Oil companies will continue to prospect for new sources of Oil and Gas rather than focusing on delivering alternatives to them in the main. Sure alternatives will be researched in accordance of making them look good in the eyes of the public but will it be too little too late.

    Again here comes the marketing message from the suppliers of so called green goods and even the politicians but beware for it will be a marketing message only in the main. Sure we have some good things out there that use less energy but not enough and never by as much as they say.

    Thanks Real Climate for this years debates and stories, it has been fascinating stuff and has increased my understanding and appreciation of the complexities of climate science greatly.

    Two other questions:

    Is there a good reason for the lack of hurriances this year (dust from the Sahara dampening the storms maybe) to make the science there a bit more concrete?

    Is there drought in southern australia possible Co2 related or a cylce?


  19. 19
    John McCormick says:

    RE #16

    Pete, you asked: [drought in southern australia possible Co2 related or a cycle?]

    Australia is on the losing end of El Ninos. The WMO and NOAA El Nino updates indicate a slow-forming El Nino is observed in the tropical Pacific. Australian meteorologists link El Ninos to periods of very low rainfall in southern Australia.

    Possibly, this forming El Nino also had an impact on formation of tropical storm systems in the Western Atlantic this past hurricane season.

    Australian drought could also be intensified by the poleward shift of the subtropical jet being pulled by the tightening Antarctic polar vortex. A cooling polar area and warming elsewhere is spinning the vortex faster which pulls southward the winds and pressure belts that deliver Australiaâ??s winter and spring rains.

    The Antarctic lower stratosphere appears to be cooling by about 0.5 C/decade though readings only go back 2 or 3 decades. The cooling can be attributed to ozone depletion and increased atmospheric CO2. The 2006 Antarctic ozone hole is experiencing some of the strongest stratospheric ozone depletion seen in recent years. The depletion has persisted well into October 2006 and ozone amounts are lowest seen in the 21-year observation record. Partial column ozone amounts in this layer declined from an average of 125 Dobson Units in July/August 2006 to 1.5 DU on October 6..a 99% loss of ozone.

    The stratospheric cold contributes to formation of the polar stratospheric clouds which act as catalysts for activating chlorine and bromine compounds responsible for Antarctic ozone destruction. Despite compliance with the Montreal Protocol, there remain sufficient quantities of these compounds available to remove ozone.

    A continuing very cold lower stratosphere and lingering El Nino could combine with warming and drying Southern Australian earth surface to worsen and perpetuate the continentâ??s drought.. from cycle to chronic.

    I only know what I read.

    see # 6 for the following and other citations

    “What is Causing The Rainfall Declines Over Southern Australia – Ozone, Climate Variability or Climate change?”

  20. 20
    Phillip Shaw says:

    I hope you’ll forgive a somewhat off-topic question:

    What are the criteria that distinguish weather phenomena from climate phenomena? I understand the Mark Twain definition of “Climate is what you expect, weather is what you get”, and that the two terms are interrelated, but in discussing AGW with my skeptical friends this question keeps coming up. For example, is El Nino a weather phenomenon or a climate phenomenon?

    I would think that duration is a factor; a drought that lasts a year is weather, but one that lasts a decade or more may be a climate change. But is there an accepted duration at which point it changes status? Predictability should also be a consideration with weather forecasts being near-term and climate being long-term. It isn’t possible today (12/28/2006) to confidently predict the date, intensity and track for the first hurricane of 2007 (weather), but forecasts can be made for the 2007 hurricane season (climate). What other criteria are important?

    My thanks to all of the RC contributors and commentors. This really is an informative and, yes, entertaining website. Wishing you success in all your endeavors in 2007.

  21. 21
    pete best says:

    Re#19 John,

    Is it more likely that El Ninos could be a permanent feature of pacific climate as I have read and hence leading to a permenant drought in south Australia?

    Thanks for the info btw.

  22. 22
    Peter Backes says:

    Re: 8

    While I don’t agree with the general tone or most of the characterizations in this comment I do agree that RC seems too dismissive of geo-engineering (being awarded the ‘boldest impractical idea’ award certainly gives that impression) at least as a stop-gap solution to global warming.

    I’ve just finished reading James Lovelock’s ‘The Revenge of Gaia’ in which the author discusses the idea (originally Budyko’s) of injecting sulfer dioxide in the stratosphere by way of commercial aviation and sulpher in jet fuel. This ‘geo-engineering’, while certainly having its drawbacks as mentioned in other RC posts, could be turned on and off relatively easily and would mimic the Pinatubo cooling effect.

    This idea among others should be taken seriously as unintentional geo-engineering in the form of fossil fuel burning has gotten us to where we are now with respect to AGW and purposeful geo-engineering may be necessary to avoid a meltdown during our transition to a sustainable relationship with the Earth’s climate.

  23. 23
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re #8 and #22
    If they don’t already have, geoengineers need an ethical code analogous to Hippocrates’ advice to physicians: “As to diseases, make a habit of two things â?? to help, or at least to do no harm.” (Epidemics, Bk. I, Sect. XI), and
    “I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone.”
    (Hippocratic Oath)

    In this case, the “patient” would be planet earth and its inhabitants. It’s difficult for me to believe injecting sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere (or dumping iron filings into the tropical Pacific to sequester CO2) could be done with the reasonable assurance that the benefits will outweigh the risks.

  24. 24
    Edward Greisch says:

    On Geo-Engineering: See Jim Oberg’s book “New Earths”. This book is about “terraforming”, which means making Mars and other planets habitable. Terraforming is engineering on a much grander scale than what has been proposed as geo-engineering.
    Suppose we make a self-sustaining colony on Mars just before earth becomes uninhabitable due to AGW. All of the AGW deniers on earth would die and be unable to mine more coal in that case. Nature or Gaia could then begin healing the earth. The martians [formerly earthlings] would then have the opportunity to terraform earth back to being earthlike. The martians could then re-colonize earth. There is an organization dedicated to just this proposition. See: There is a race between AGW and space colonization. Support the Space Elevator. See:

  25. 25
    Nick Riley says:

    Pete- Re #18 Australia

    There is an interesting article buried in the AGO website


    Regarding oil and gas peaking see-

  26. 26
    pete best says:

    Re #24. just confirms my worst fears that climate change will be relegated to irrelevent once Peak Oil and Gas hit due to people becomming very cold and not being able to afford to get to work. Unfortunately politics and economics play a greater role in family life then does the environment.

    It is imperative even if climate change was not a issue that humanity gets its energy act togther for life after fossil fuels. However this does not seem to be sinking home and I fear that humanity will not be transitioning to anything else due to its own short sightedness and intrinsically odd systems that politics and economics now work by, namely that of free market economics.

  27. 27

    Re “Contrary to environmentalists beliefs Wind, Wave, Tidal, solar (photovoltaic) are not the panacea that we are told they are, we need to roll these technologies out en masse big time and now to alleviate any of the CO2 impact we are having and that means giving it to China, India and Brazil, no chance of that is there?”

    Wind power is already competitive with fossil fuels, and wind generation reached 1% of US electricity generation this year. Europe is going into it in a big way.

    Re “Is there a good reason for the lack of hurriances this year (dust from the Sahara dampening the storms maybe) to make the science there a bit more concrete?”

    There wasn’t a “lack of hurricanes,” though the conservative blogosphere is busily repeating this distortion. There was a lack of hurricanes IN THE UNITED STATES. There were more than usual in Asia. The US is not the whole world.

  28. 28
    pete best says:

    Re #25 That is not a factual statement regarding Wind. It is not as yet competetive with Fossil Fuels.

    Wind is fickle and does not diminish the need for Fossil Fuels apparantly due to its fickle nature which is a shame really although I am sure that other complementary technologies can help here. Maybe wind will soon be truely competetive but it is not that which truely matters but the nature of wind itself.

    I meant to say Atlantic Hurricanes or they are not known as hurriances in other parts of the world but typhoons I believe and other names besides I am sure.

  29. 29
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    2006, the GW word became “feedback.”

    See the Independent article, “Review of the year: Global warming:
    Our worst fears are exceeded by reality,” by Connor and McCarthy (emphasis mine):

    “It has been a hot year. The average temperature in Britain for 2006 was higher than at any time since records began in 1659. Globally, it looks set to be the sixth hottest year on record. The signs during the past 12 months have been all around us. Little winter snow in the Alpine ski resorts, continuing droughts in Africa, mountain glaciers melting faster than at any time in the past 5,000 years, disappearing Arctic sea ice, Greenland’s ice sheet sliding into the sea. Oh, and a hosepipe ban in southern England.

    “You could be forgiven for thinking that you’ve heard it all before. You may think it’s time to turn the page and read something else. But you’d be wrong. 2006 will be remembered by climatologists as the year in which the potential scale of global warming came into focus. And the problem can be summarised in one word: feedback.

    “During the past year, scientific findings emerged that made even the most doom-laden predictions about climate change seem a little on the optimistic side. And at the heart of the issue is the idea of climate feedbacks – when the effects of global warming begin to feed into the causes of global warming. Feedbacks can either make things better, or they can make things worse. The trouble is, everywhere scientists looked in 2006, THEY ENCOUNTERED FEEDBACKS THAT WILL MAKE THINGS WORSE – A LOT WORSE.”


  30. 30
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Re # 18, individual technologies are not panaceas. Nothing in itself is a panacea for GW, just as no one action is causing GW. There are no silver bullets, no single heroes in this movie.

    So I’ve developed a “Little Way of Environmental Healing,” in which individuals do all that they can to combat it, no matter how small, including taking a hanky to wipe hands in public restrooms, rather than using paper towels. Getting an energy efficient frig, such as SunFrost ( ) can make a family’s electric bill take a nose-dive, as it did for us (we bought ours in 1991 & it’s already paid for itself, also by preserving veggies nearly forever — less waste), and it’s going on to save us $$hundreds a year. And remember each product has a GHG component (in resource extraction, shipping, manufacture, shipping, overhead, retailing), so buying the same needed product with a smaller “carbon emissions factor” also helps reduce GHGs. We need a shopper’s carbon guide. And water needs energy to pump & heat it, so anything that can reduce our consumption of it, like a low-flow showerhead (which saves $2,000 over its 20 year lifetime), is great.

    By these ways, a typical American household could, say, reduce their GHGs by at least 1/3, perhaps 1/2 cost-effectively (saving money). Then with all that money saved, they could start investing in alternatives, such as getting their electricity from 100% wind energy with Green Mountain Energy ( ) at about $5 extra a month (since they’ve alread cut their KWHs to bare minimum), and maybe even go on to buying an electric car — oh, yeah, that’s right, they’ve crushed them…..

    Meanwhile maybe GE will start producing EVs, and the other alt energies will come on line.

    Wind is intermittant, but windfarms located throughout a state and/or coupled with solar fields could help that problem (in business they call it “diversifying the portfolio”).

    And re cost competitiveness, if there were a level playing field (all subsidies & tax-breaks added in), alt energy would come much closer to competitive. Then if fossil fuel externalities were factored in–harms to environ, acid rain, dead lakes/forests/soils, corroded property & lungs, local pollution real costs (from small particulate matter & toxins), military protection of supplies & diplomatic wheeling-dealing costs, etc. etc–alt energy would likely prove much cheaper. We do pay for a lot of these things April 15th or in health bills & lost wages, so they aren’t exactly free lunches.

    Now, I’m not saying it’s all up to individuals, but it needs to be done at the individual, household, local biz & gov, state & fed gov, & international gov & multinational biz levels. Anyway, individuals are not off the hook, since they are the consumers, voters, and drivers of these “structures of high GHG emissions.”

  31. 31
    Jeff Weffer says:

    Regarding Australia and warming – how about snowfall on Christmas in southern Australia and Tazmania (this is like snowfall on June 25th in South Carolina.),20867,20974527-601,00.html

  32. 32
    Eli Rabett says:

    WRT 24 and 25 There is a real difference between base load, and full demand. Nuclear and gas are good for baseload. Solar and wind for peak demand. Solar is strongest during summer days when peak demand is highest. Wind, during winter nights when heating is called for.

  33. 33
    Nick Riley says:

    Re #31- no its not comparable with the S. Carolina- the Southern Ocean is colder than the Atlantic Ocean of the SW US.

    Re #26 & #28- true, wind is not comparable in price or with the delivered capacity of fossil power generation- if it was, then wind would not need the huge subsidies it gets here in Europe- including the UK (about £1bn/annum)- which is the best place in NW Europe for wind power!. Many parts of the world are unsuitable meteorlogically for wind anyway. So fossil will dominate, like it or not, for several decades to come.

    As oil peaks gas will increasingly be used to make liquid fuels(GTL). Oil shales and tar sands will also be deveolped and coal will be liquified to make synfuels. Also gas reserves which are dominatly CO2 (e.g like Natuna) will be developed. This all points to CO2 capture and storage (CCS) being an absolutely essential technology if we have any hope of stabilising at or below 550ppm CO2 equivalent. CCS by itself cannot do it alone- we also need renewables, nuclear and reduced energy demand through efficiencies all working together. But without CCS we will not make it either. This is the reality that many purists fail to realise.

    The issue of stabilising CO2 is paramount- and not being biassed about the technologies of how we get there is an essential thing to grasp. Lets hope that in 2007 that revelation permeates everyone.

    By the way- readers may be interested in the following link about a large ice shelf that has broken free in the Arctic- another key event in 2006?

  34. 34
    Hank Roberts says:

    South Carolina isn’t surrounded by polar ocean.

    Don’t confuse weather with climate; the prediction is for more extreme weather, and for a warming climate. At this point the variations in weather are, at any single location, greater than the warming from climate change. Weather is getting more variable as climate warms. The warming signal emerges from the global averages over time, not at any single point.

  35. 35
    Hank Roberts says:

    Nat’l Public Radio in the US is reporting the ice shelf story at the moment, though it happened a while back:
    “The Ayles Ice Shelf – 66 square kilometers (41 square miles) of it – broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island ….” — found with Google News.

    NPR gave some of the history as found here: (the ice loss has been happening for more than a century, but the last bits of the old ice age ice sheet are going fast now
    “… a total of 48 square km … calved from Milne and Ayles ice shelves between July 1959 and July 1974…..”

  36. 36
    Katheryn Kenyin says:

    I of course believe global warming is occurring. I live in north central Maryland. While I remember one year without snow, it has never hence occurred. This winter so far, the average daily high temperatures haven’t fallen below 40°F. As we edge into January, the average seems to be rising. Today, the high temperature is 51°F! I believe the south is defintely moving north. Palm trees could have survived our “winter” so far.

  37. 37
    Dan says:

    re: 28. There was not a lack of hurricanes in the Atlantic this past season. That is another poor media and “blogosphere” distortion. It turned out to be an average year for the number of storms. Which is remarkable considering the developing El Nino and the ingestion of dry, Saharan air off the coast the Africa. Both should have led to a below-normal number of hurricanes. Yet it still ended up average. Which is consistent with modeling and other data that indicate the hurricane season baseline is rising in response to climate change.

  38. 38
    Paul Dietz says:

    Solar and wind for peak demand.

    Ah, so the wind blows strongest when demand is at a peak. Who knew?

    Wind is handicapped by being undispatchable. On a levelized basis, and without subsidies or consideration of CO2 externalities, it’s twice as expensive as coal in the US. It’s also more expensive than Gen 3 nuclear reactors are projected to be.

    An earlier poster wrote:

    4)Increasing lock in of new coal burning plant which is not designed to be capture ready. This lock in will persist into mid-century. Thankyou to all the countries building new coal fired power plant without it being capture ready.

    There’s a new CO2 capture technology based on absorption into chilled ammonia/ammonium bicarbonate solution that’s supposed to be half as expensive per unit of captured CO2 as current amine absorption technology. If this pans out it could be retrofitted onto existing powdered coal plants.

  39. 39
    Nick Riley says:

    Re #38
    Paul, Your comments about retrofit of pulverised coal plants- it’s not so simple as that. You need space to fit the capture plant- not all have this. This means siting plant with space around it. I recently visted China’s most efficient and cleanest PF plant (near Xiamen, it is still being built and will be around 6GW capacity when completed (it’s already 3.8GW) but it has no space for capture plant to be retro-fitted and it is doubtful (though not certain) that appropriate geological storage is available nearby.

    You need plant built with access to the appropriate geology for storage. Also- if you build plant that produces an flue gas emission of around 14% CO2 concentration, as is currnetly the case for PF, that’s a huge amount of flue gas you have to process. The largest coal plant in Europe (DRAX #4MW capacity (emits <17Mt CO2 annum) produces about 2kt of CO2/hour which is diluted in other gases (mailnly nitrogen). To capture that amount and process all that exhaust gas is a huge challenge regardless of halving the cost of amine scrubbing. You also have to protect the absorbants from SOx a much higher standard than current SOx scrubbing does.

    We need to press on urgently with oxyfuel and precombustion scrubbing, so as to reduce the amount of gas and pollutants to be scrubbed, as well as save on the energy penalty of dealing with flue gas at atmospheric pressure.

  40. 40
    SecularAnimist says:

    Paul Dietz wrote in #38: “Wind is […] without subsidies or consideration of CO2 externalities […] twice as expensive as coal in the US. It’s also more expensive than Gen 3 nuclear reactors are projected to be.”

    In the Maryland suburbs of Washington DC, I buy 100% wind-generated electricity through PEPCO Energy Services, and it is only slightly more expensive than PEPCO’s “standard service” which is about 57% coal, 35% nuclear, 5% natural gas, and 1% oil. It is certainly not twice as expensive.

    What would nuclear power cost today “without subsidies” — without the hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies that it has received for half a century?

    What will these “Gen 3” nuclear reactors (which exist only on paper) cost — without the billions of dollars in subsidies that the nuclear industry is demanding from the taxpayers to build them?

    The “subsidies” that wind power has received to date are miniscule compared to the historic and ongoing subsidies to nuclear power — and to the fossil fuel industry, for that matter.

    In fact, private investment is pouring into renewable energy — wind and photovoltaic electricity, and biofuels — and all of these technologies are growing rapidly. They have a lot more potential than most people realize, not only in the US but particularly in the developing world.

    According to WorldWatch Institute:

    “Since 2000, global wind energy generation has more than tripled; solar cell production has risen six-fold; production of fuel ethanol from crops have more than doubled; and biodiesel production has expanded nearly four-fold. Annual global investment in “new” renewable energy has risen almost six-fold since 1995, with cumulative investment over this period nearly $180 billion.”

    Photovoltaics: In 2005, global production of photovoltaic (PV) cells – which generate electricity directly from sunlight – increased 45 percent to nearly 1,730 megawatts, six times the level in 2000. (See Figure 1.) Cumulative production, at just over 6,090 megawatts by the end of 2005, has increased on average 33 percent a year since 2000, making solar power the world’s fastest growing energy source. Japan remains the leading PV producer. The 833 megawatts manufactured there in 2005 represent an increase of 38 percent over 2004 levels and more than the entire world produced just two years earlier.

    Wind: Global wind power capacity jumped 24 percent in 2005, reaching nearly 60,000 megawatts at the end of the year. (See Figure 1.) Wind energy generation has more than tripled since 2000, making it the world’s second fastest growing energy source after solar power. The estimated 11,770 megawatts of wind capacity added in 2005 was 41 percent above the previous record annual addition set in 2003. For the first time since the early 1990s, the United States installed more wind power capacity than any other single country. An estimated 2,431 megawatts were added, bringing the U.S. total to 9,149 megawatts – trailing only Germany and Spain.

    Biofuels: Production of fuel ethanol, the world’s leading biofuel, jumped 19 percent in 2005 to 36.5 billion liters, continuing a growth surge that began in 2000. Ethanol, produced mainly from sugarcane and corn, accounts for more than 90 percent of the world’s total biofuel production. Biodiesel, derived from plant oils, is the main other type of biofuel; its output shot up 60 percent in 2005. Overall, biofuels now account for about 1 percent of the global liquid fuels market. The United States produced 16.2 billion liters of fuel ethanol in 2005, nearly surpassing Brazil to become the world’s largest fuel ethanol producer. These two have dominated the ethanol market since the 1980s and accounted for almost 90 percent of the output in 2005.

    In a year full of extremely grim news of observed climate change that is much more rapid and extreme than scientists had predicted, the rapid growth of clean renewable energy technology is definitely good news.

  41. 41
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    Here’s one for the “year in review”: The greatest turnaround: the Bush administration is considering putting polar bears on the threatened species list.

    Environmentalists were gleeful, because it means their habitat will have to be protected, which means we’ll have to mitigate global warming.

    Of course, it was NRDC that brought suit and forced the issue. And then, acc to the news cast I watched, the Sec of Interior was very adamant about ruling out native hunting and……….well, oil drilling as factors in threatening the polar bears (leaving global warming as the only remaining cause). And then, of course, they are only going to talk about it and review the issue for a year, so, well, maybe it wasn’t really such a big turnaround afterall.

  42. 42
    Gareth says:

    Re #31

    Cold southerly outbreaks are not uncommon in Tasmania or New Zealand over Christmas and the New Year. We’ve had a few this year. Not warm where I live at the moment, either.

    I watched people making snowmen at the top of the Crown Range Road (about 1100m – between Wanaka and Queenstown, SI, NZ) on Jan 2 or 3, 2000.

    Local weather wisdom suggests that the good weather arrives in February, just as the school summer holidays end. That’s when I’ll be off to the beach…

  43. 43

    There’s a good review of Singer’s bete noire, English pinot, at

    More interesting still is the question of what will become of the barley crops that testify to Greenland’s post-Medieval Warming: there is no exotic nation so Godforsaken that it cannot find an export market for its beer, and Iceland has long and shamelessly been flogging ‘Icelandic’ vodka made from grain imported from Bulgaria and points south-

  44. 44
    Lubos Motl says:

    A very nice idea. Some extra categories are here.

    Happy New Year

    [Response: Nice try… – gavin]

  45. 45
    SecularAnimist says:

    Gavin wrote in response to Lubos Motl #44: “Nice try”

    I clicked the link. Gavin, your restraint is superhuman.

    [Response: Motl is so wrong on almost every conceivable point he tries to make regarding climate that my restraint is merely a reflection of my unwillingness to venture into his Augean stables for fear of what a herculean task it would be to try and set him straight. Alas, I am not blessed with any of the heroic qualities required. – gavin]

  46. 46
    James says:

    Re #38: Why not compare apples to apples? That is, if you’re going to figure subsidies into the cost of wind or nuclear power, then why not figure them into the cost of fossil fuel power, too? How much do you figure it would cost the average coal-fired plant to remove the CO2 from its waste stream, instead of dumping it on the public?

  47. 47
    Eli Rabett says:

    #38 Visit Chicago in winter for example.

  48. 48
    Nick Riley says:

    Re#46 James,
    Cost of CO2 capture and storage on average coal plants.

    Not much compared to all the other costs which you pay for electricity delivered through the grid to your home (at least in the UK). I got my bill this morning. It already has included in it the subsidy for green electricity- which I have to pay as a consumer- so you could argue that if I buy low emission coal based electricty (I have actually chosen green electricity), I could transfer that subsidy cost to that power source.

    As a domestic customer I pay a range of prices depending on the time of day. They are £0.1837, £0.0993 and £0.0426/Kwh. Average clean coal (which would mean PF post combustion capture on existing plant) would add around £0.02-0.03/Kwh to the price. With plant built from new with capture in the design then the cost might fall by £0.005. Of course this assumes current technologies and we would expect costs to fall as more plant was built and the infrastructure put in to store CO2. In the UK our coal burning palnt is very inefficient. New plant would have an efficiency increase of around 10% so that would offset a lot of the cost of capture- if you use our existing fleet as the baseline

    In the USA and Australia electricty prices are amongst the cheapest in the world so consumers there would notice this price rise much more than those of us in Europe. In Europe the grid companies, retailers and the tax man get several bites which puts the final price up. We even pay tax on tax!- the final tax take is Value Added Tax at 5%- which is charged on top of the rates given above (which already have other taxes built in).

    Put another way clean coal cost is comparable with nuclear and onshore wind.

    There is a good table of cost ranges in the UK Energy Review annexes.

    In my view consumers can cope with higher prices-we have proved it here in the UK. We have had major rises in electricity here- not just because of all the factors I mention above but also because our primary gas prices are amongst the highest in the world and gas is now used for a large amount of our power generation here in the UK (hence people are getting nervous about our gas dependency- especially as our own N. Sea fields deplete)

    UK Gov Energy Review (July 2006)

    Annex B has the cost modelling (plant gate costs).

  49. 49
    Lynn Vincentnathan says:

    RE #44, Lubos Motl’s blogspot entries, I think the most telling is:

    “The most ‘dangerous’ technological idea that could mean that even the climate change won’t be enough to establish the world government and cripple the world’s economy: Artificial volcanos.”

    What the denialists fear (perhaps more than death itself, or the undermining of life-supports for a large chunk of biota) is the loss of freedom and the collapse of wealth. No one wants to live as an impoverished prisoner. Better even to die.

    Another thing I found from my studies is that flood victims (who are in areas most likely to be flooded again and more extensively via GW), are the least likely to believe in GW — a surprising finding for me, and I can only explain it this way: being a flood victim is really horrible, and the idea that it will happen again, and wasn’t just a fluke, is cognitively and emotionally unbearable.

    Another thing, I ran into an complete-denialist at an Xmas party — he (a medical doctor) was absolutely certain GW was definitely not happening. His only argument was that funding goes to scientists who find out a problem, not to those who find there’s no problem. He didn’t allow me to speak much, but I did get in my favorite argument about scientists needing 95% certainty to make claim and thus being overly cautious (they need to avoid false positives in order to protect their reputations — which is understandable), while those living in the world (environmentalists, potential victims) would want to follow the “medical model” of avoiding false negatives, and would be concerned about possible problems at a much lower standard of certainty (a doctor would not tell her patient that there is only 94% certainty the lump is cancerous, so we won’t operate).

    The only other parting shot I could get in was that I’ve found that people with children are less likely to believe in GW, than people without children, because GW is such a horrible problem to contemplate for future generations that there’s a huge cognitive dissonance about it (I haven’t done a study, it’s only my sense of things); the man has three small children.

    Alas, re the granting argument, I could have just gotten the hostess and had her explain: she gets huge $million grants from NIH for diabetes studies, and complains bitterly that a large chuck goes up into the UT system (not to our campus), a large chunk goes to our campus (but not her project), and only a fraction goes to her project, and none of it raises her salary one iota. So there! A consultancy fee from Exxon goes directly into the contrarian’s pocket and is added on top of the salary, unlike grant money.

    Plus it sounds weird to say that GW doesn’t exist because money is being granted to study it – like the tail is wagging the dog. One would rather think that GW is a problem, and therefore studies on it continue to be funded, unlike cold/chemical fusion studies (for which I would guess the funds would have died down). Are granting agencies so stupid as to continue to fund bondoggles indefinitely? You’d have to believe that to believe that man’s argument, but even then it still doesn’t disprove GW.

  50. 50
    Nick Riley says:

    Re #49 “People with children are less likely to believe in GW”
    – we have 5- all boys, and most of my colleagues working on sorting the GW problem out have kids- so your anecdotal experience does not hold true with ours. Having children actually makes us more concerned about GW because its future generations that will be impacted the most if we do not get a world wide grip on stabilising emissions very soon. Indeed, I find it a fantastic privilege to be working in an area where our kids appreciate what we do and can see a direct relevance to their everyday and future lives- especially since science and technology is not really attracting youngsters here in the UK as a career (all sorts of reasons for that!).

    Re #48- which was my post on CO2 capture and storage and cost of fitting to “average coal plant”
    I forgot to mention the following link which describes all the CO2 capture and storage technologies and a strategy for the UK of how we might deploy them.

    UK Gov link