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Unforced Variations: Jan 2014

Filed under: — group @ 2 January 2014

First open thread of the new year. A time for ‘best of’s of climate science last year and previews for the this year perhaps? We will have an assessment of the updates to annual indices and model/data comparisons later in the month.

662 Responses to “Unforced Variations: Jan 2014”

  1. 301
  2. 302
    Mark E says:

    No doubt the issue is complicated, but here goes…. if acidification takes out ocean phytoplankton, what are the implications of atmospheric oxygen (i.e., the stuff we breath)?

  3. 303
    Mark E says:

    No doubt the issue is complicated, but let’s say acidification really does take out the phytoplankton. What’s that mean for atmospheric oxygen (i.e., the stuff we breath)?

  4. 304
  5. 305
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tony Weddle,
    Can you envision any way to provide for the food and energy needs of 10 billion people that will not have adverse consequences? And yet doing so is the only way we have of 1)bringing growth of human population under control, and 2)progressing toward sustainability. We have squandered all of our good options. Now we have to select the least bad.

  6. 306
    DIOGENES says:

    Ray Ladbury #297,

    “Do the experts say we’ll get 3-6 degrees of warming. OK. Let’s do whatever we can to hold it to 3.”

    Agreed; that general approach is the best we can do. In fact, if we really roll up our sleeves, we may be able to limit it to 2 C, given the commitments we have already made in the pipeline.

    I see four sticking points to achieving even these limited goals. First is the technical one. As Hansen points out in his Plos One paper, once we get past prior Holocene experience, there are really many unknowns that could crop up. Who knows; some could be good, but based on recent experience, most seem to go in the other direction.

    Second are the political ones. Most of the fossil-exporting governments are like Australia in drag. Australia and Canada have no shame in admitting they are going all out on fossil, and pursue openly options to destroy the opposition. But, fundamentally, is the USA acting any differently? There was an article in the paper recently that, based on a fund from North Sea oil, every Norwegian is now a millionaire. Do you think Norway, or any other fossil exporter in a similar position, is going to unilaterally give that up?

    Third are the economic ones. The fossil energy companies have put, are putting, and will continue to put a large amount of money towards opposing any effort to curtail the use of fossil fuels. There is no effective organized opposition with the dollars or the numbers to counter this. Also, people who own stocks and believe, as Anderson does, that any efforts to save the biosphere will involve severe cutbacks, will be reluctant to support curtailment of fossil fuel. I believe strong demand cuts have to be part of the solution, along with off-the-shelf improvements in energy efficiency and off-the-shelf installation of renewables, and I think the markets will suffer. I don’t see that being supportable by both large and small institutional investors in myriad securities.

    Fourth is also economic from the employment perspective. CP (or maybe it was Salon) had some interesting articles about the new Governor of Virginia, McAuliffe. He was supposedly the climate advocate of the two candidates, but he now is pushing clean coal solutions. There are large coal-producing areas in parts of Virginia, and he didn’t want to do anything to hurt employment. I think this plays out in all states and countries with a strong fossil fuel producing contingent, and is another source of opposition that has to be overcome. The only way I could see getting their support is to ensure that energy efficiency improvements and renewables installation are given to these people first when they lose their fossil jobs, with comparable salaries. Otherwise, they will exert anti-climate sentiments at the ballot box, and unlike the 1%, they have the numbers to keep their advocates in public office (McAuliffe, anyone).

  7. 307
    wili says:

    Ray, I agree. But please note that neither I nor Diogenes have use the words “no hope.” That was Hank at 281.

    In the spirit of Hank ‘-), I would love to have a source for your statement that “damage scales exponentially with increasing temperature above about 2 degrees”–not that I doubt it, but I would like to be able to defend it if I quote it elsewhere (especially since people are so eager to accuse one of advocating ‘doom and gloom’ and giving people ‘no hope’ when one points such things out).

    As I said at #2 at the top of the thread: “Two of the world’s leading climate scientists have now laid down clear indications of the range of reductions needed immediately. It is the job of the rest of us to make it happen.

    What are your strategies for realizing these difficult-to-achieve but absolutely necessary reductions personally, locally, nationally and globally? Can we have a conversation about this crucial issue here?”

    I would still like to hear from others what their strategies are. (Do these words sound like someone calling for people to do nothing or to wallow in hopelessness?)

    If he can back away from his overwrought emotionalism, I think it would be good to have a further discussion about the role of non-scientists in getting across the messages we understand from the science. Should words like “catastrophe” be off the menu?

  8. 308
    SecularAnimist says:

    Diogenes wrote: “the question is whether we can close the loop on the numbers”.

    And the answer is unknowable.

    For all we know, we may have long since passed the point where the anthropogenic warming that has already occurred, plus the additional anthropogenic warming already locked in, by our cumulative GHG emissions is already sufficient to trigger various feedbacks that must now inevitably lead to the complete collapse of human civilization and the mass extinction of most life on Earth.

    Or not. And so what?

    The options available to us are still the same, either way. And the massive, costly damage that global warming, and the climate change and extreme weather that it is causing, are already sufficient reason to act, with urgency.

    Gloom-and-doomism is irrelevant. We already know what we need to do. We already know that we need to do it now. We cannot know whether, or to what degree, we can prevent or mitigate the worst possible outcomes — and we don’t need to know that.

  9. 309
    Mal Adapted says:

    Steve Fish:

    Hank, I am confident that there are more than a few here who understand what you are saying with regard to intellectual honesty and communicating with scientific accuracy. I, for one, appreciate your voice.

    Ditto that from me, and I emphatically reject the dittohead label 8^D!

  10. 310
    SecularAnimist says:

    Tony Weddle wrote: “… we shouldn’t pretend that our present society can continue its ways with renewables …”

    A society that abandons the massively wasteful use of fossil fuels and rapidly transitions to maximally efficient use of 100 percent renewable energy sources is, by definition, not “continuing its ways”.

    Tony Weddle wrote: “… that amount of renewables could have consequences which could be like hauling ourselves out of the fire only to land in the frying pan. All of the energy received from the sun is currently used in providing the planet we now live on. It may not be that great but diverting more of that energy to provide humans with their niceties may not improve the planet.”

    These questions about the potential environmental impacts of greatly expanded renewable energy use have been studied. I would refer you for example to the work of Mark Jacobson at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment.

    In short, the world’s solar and wind energy resources are sufficient to power all of human civilization many times over, so only a tiny fraction of those resources need be “diverted” to human use. And much of the infrastructure can be built on land that is already in use by humans (e.g. wind turbines built on agricultural land which can then still be used for farming) or even incorporated into existing infrastructure, the obvious example being solar panels on rooftops. By one estimate, solar panels installed on all the flat, commercial rooftops in the USA could generate as much electricity as all the country’s nuclear power plants.

  11. 311
    SecularAnimist says:

    Tony Weddle wrote: “I know many people think nuclear is a major part of the ‘answer’ to our problems …”

    Niagara Falls … slowly I turned … step by step … inch by inch …

  12. 312
    SecularAnimist says:

    wili wrote: “Should words like ‘catastrophe’ be off the menu?”

    When I see “catastrophe” on the menu, I have to ask the waiter what’s in it. Because the word on the menu gives me no clue.

    I think that “catastrophe” is an appropriate term for consequences of global warming that have already occurred.

    Others seem to disagree, and seem to suggest that only the “Venus effect” qualifies as “catastrophe”.

    So, if you are going to use that word, please be specific and clear as to what you mean by it.

  13. 313
  14. 314
    Pete Dunkelberg says:

    > What has the West Virginia chemical spill to do with climate change?

    Shows how hard it is to clean coal.

  15. 315
    Hank Roberts says:

    Less terrifying, more horrifying. That, more or less, was the between-the-lines takeaway from Friday’s National Research Council (NRC) briefing on abrupt climate change.

    The event was part of an announcement of the NRC’s newly released and finalized report, “Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises.”

    Several of the scientists involved in the report were present, including James White from the University of Colorado at Boulder, Anthony Barnosky from the University of California at Berkeley, and Richard Alley from Penn State University.

    In one of the most shocking statements, Barnosky said the world’s oceans are now undergoing a change in pH and temperature that is so rapid and severe, that if we stay on our business-as-usual emissions pathway, then we will see the most significant degradation in the world’s oceans since 250 million years ago when there was the “end-Permian extinction event.” That was possibly the most extreme extinction event in Earth’s entire history. Over 90% of marine species in the fossil record went extinct.

    “Just in the next five or six decades we will see some very major problems,” Barnosky said….

  16. 316
    sidd says:

    Mr. Chuck Hughes asked about sea level rise acceleration. In this regard I note Jevrejeva(2014)

    “Trends and acceleration in global and regional sea levels since 1807,” Jevrejeva et al. (I see Grinsted in there),Global and Planetary Change v. 113 (2014) pp. 11–22

    From the abstract: ” We calculate an acceleration of 0.02 ± 0.01 mm/yr^2 in global sea level (1807–2009)”

    More interesting, from the paper (GSL12 is their study):

    “There is an excellent agreement between the linear trends from GSL12 and satellite altimetry sea level since 1993, with rates of 3.1 ± 0.6 mm/yr and of 3.2 ± 0.4 mm/yr respectively. GSL12 shows a linear trend of 1.9 ± 0.3 mm/yr during the 20th century and 1.8 ± 0.5 mm/yr for the period 1970–2008. Regional decadal trends demonstrate diversity since 1970 with the fastest regional linear trends of 4.1 mm/yr in the Antarctic region and 3.6 mm/yr for the Arctic basin”

    thats 4 mm more water pressure every year levering ice shelves up and adding pressure forcing hot water under.

    Another interesting thing. They invoke see glaciers and small icecaps accelerating twice as fast .006mm/yr^2, Leclerq) as thermal component (Gregory) of sea level rise, but the acceleration actually measured is 0.02 mm/yr^2. The elephant must be AIS and GIS which are absent from Leclerq.


  17. 317
    wili says:

    Here are some comments on the “Is CC Already Dangerous” piece that (for reasons I still don’t understand) has caused such a kerfuffle among some posters (comments collected essentially at random–the first ones that popped up from a ‘oogle search):

    “Here is an excellent overview of the current climate situation, with special attention paid to feedback mechanisms.”

    “The IPCC’s new assessment report hasn’t even been released, but the denialist fog machine is already running hard. If you’re tired of it — and, frankly, if you’re tired of the smoothly-leveled understatement that we usually get from the IPCC — take a look at Is Climate Change Already Dangerous?, a new report by David Spratt of Australia’s Climate Code Red.

    I’ll not summarize this report; there’s no point because it’s already a summary, one which sticks extremely close to the original scientific literature…Spratt’s paper is excellent…Spratt’s conclusions echo Jim Hansen’s…

    Spratt is an honest man, and it would serve us well to recognize that, in drawing this conclusion, he is not a mere dupe of some geo-engineering mafia…”

    “In a compelling survey, this report answers the question many are afraid to ask: is climate change already dangerous?This science survey measures the current manifestations and impacts of climate change against the “safe boundaries” metric; surveys the literature on tipping points and non-linear climate events; and provides a detail study of significant recent events in the Arctic.”

    But don’t take these guys’ word for it, or mine, or diogenes, or hanks (who doesn’t seem to have read it)…read it yourself, and then please do critique it.

    For now, I will point out that Spratt’s summary is already out of date, even though it only came out about three months ago. On the positive side (for climate), the aerosol shielding may not be as high as thought, so when it goes away, there might not be as big a temperature spike. But on the other side, as the neighboring thread here points out, climate sensitivity may be considerably higher than thought (or at least we may need to give up hope that the lower sensitivities would end up being the right ones).

    I would be interested in other, specific, critiques, within the context of the piece. It also seems to be a good focus of discussion for the issue of the role of non-scientists in summarizing and presenting this material to a broader audience. I don’t think categorical dismissals based on a phrase or two are very fruitful to the discussion, though.

  18. 318

    #307–“I would love to have a source for your statement that “damage scales exponentially with increasing temperature above about 2 degrees”

    It’s not quantified that tightly, but that’s pretty much the takeaway from “6 Degrees”:

    But perhaps Ray has something more directly pertinent.

  19. 319
    doug says:

    I’d just like to tell Hank Roberts that I really appreciate all of his input and links he provides here. Thank you. I believe it was Susan Anderson that said she has learned a lot from you, and I can second that.

  20. 320
    sidd says:

    Here’s to you John Mercer ! Wish we had listened.


    Last para: (MISI is marine ice sheet instability)

    “Here we show that for the next decade the PIG grounding line is probably engaged in an irreversible retreat over tens of kilometres and that the dynamic contribution to SLR will remain at a significantly higher level compared with preretreat conditions. All three models, despite their differing physics, numerics and parameters, support the notion of MISI in PIG, and two out of three cast doubt on any possible recovery. Starting from the first years of significant imbalance increase, the variation of the mass loss between experiments after 20 years is relatively narrow with a cumulative contribution to SLR of 3.5–10 mm over this period (Fig. 4). Afterwards, estimates diverge dependent on further retreat of the grounding line across a region of gentler slopes and stronger basal traction behind the instability zone. Once the grounding line has crossed the steep retrograde slope, imbalance decreases but remains between three and six times higher than the mean estimates obtained for the past 20 years (20 Gt yr−1 ; ref. 4).”

    Now consider that these models are not coupled to the ocean, except thru a prescribed melt rate. No basal hydrology as far as I can tell (In this context see Livingstone et al. (doi:10.5194/tc-7-1721-2013 which I find fascinating.) And Thwaites is next door, and order of mag wider. And every prediction has underestimated so far.


  21. 321
    Tony Weddle says:


    The only 100 percent renewable energy source that I’m aware of, for humans, is eating plants and animals (who eat plants or eat other animals who eat plants). I’d concede that it may be hypothetically possible to also convert sunlight and other natural energy to forms, that you and others might judge more useful, using only renewable energy sources but I’m not aware of any such infrastructure, though would be happy to have examples.

    Regarding research into the impacts of renewables, I checked that link you provided but Mark Jacobson only seems to have two publications that have renewables as their subject. One is an article about biofuels needing more research and one paper about wind versus coal but I couldn’t access the text so I’m not sure if he addresses environmental impacts of wind. The only research paper I’ve seen to address impacts is by Axel Kleidon concerning the limits of Wind energy. Do you have a link to a paper?

    Hypothetically, wind and solar definitely could power industrial civilisation many times over but you seem to be saying that only diverting a tiny fraction of natural energy flows will have no significant impact. Do you have a reference to research which backs that up? Of course, that is only one aspect. Whether there are the other resources needed to power industrial civilisation this way is another question which seems to rely on wishful thinking (in terms of the exhaustability of such resources or the substitutability of other resources). A further question would be whether the needed resources could be obtained and refined by renewable energy and could be done so sustainably.

  22. 322
    Tony Weddle says:

    Ray Ladbury,

    It really depends on what you mean by the “energy needs of 10 billion people”. Do you mean at the energy use level of the US, Europe, China or the Sentilenese? Concerning food, there are ways to produce food that do not require more energy than is obtained from the food (unlike the common way of producing food today). Whether they could feed 10 billion people or not is not certain to me (though some people seem to think so) but should we aspire to feed 10 billion people? Would population not increase to 10 billion if enough food were supplied? Would that be a good thing for our planet and future humans? You say doing so would bring population under control. How do you know that? So far, producing enough food for everyone has certainly not brought population under control. When was it under control in the past? What were energy consumption levels like then? Can we “progress toward sustainability” with 10 billion people (assuming that was the plateau, though UN projections have the population still growing, though much more slowly, by the end of the century)? How would 10 billion live sustainably?

    I don’t believe we have squandered our good options. We can always choose to live our lives differently. That may not do anything on an individual scale but if whole societies wake up to our predicament, there would be much more scope for effective action (not to “solve” climate change, I don’t think even nuclear will do that, but to reduce and limit its impact). Even though I also don’t believe whole societies (of significant size) will choose to live differently, I also don’t believe that whole societies will adopt the “least bad” options purely to reduce the impact of climate change in the short term.

  23. 323
    Chuck Hughes says:

    @ 316 – thank you Sidd.

    Now I have one more fundamental question about our situation…. at the current rate of warming, understanding that it could accelerate or slow down, how long would it take us to reach 3 Celsius above pre industrial levels? I know we’re nearing the 2C mark and that’s bad but are we likely to see 3C before mid century?


  24. 324
    DIOGENES says:

    Wili #317,

    It should be obvious why even some non-deniers would be uncomfortable with Spratt’s excellent paper. He’s essentially saying we are already in a dangerous region, and one can only conclude that we have run out of carbon budget. That’s my conclusion, if it has not been evident already. If in fact we are out of carbon budget, then ANY carbon we expend only compounds the danger. The objective in any remedial action therefore has to be twofold: demand reduction first and foremost, and strong carbon removal from the atmosphere as well. This does not sit well with advocates of alternative technologies like nuclear and renewables, who might argue that only modest demand reductions need accompany rapid introduction of their alternative technologies. If one couples Anderson’s reduction requirements to Hansen’s targets for temperature ceiling, the only conclusion that can be drawn is what I have stated above and what Spratt states in his outstanding article.

  25. 325
    patrick says:

    #315 National Research Council streamed event on abrupt climate change. For more:

    If anyone besides me missed the streamed event, it’s here, now, at the NRC, with press release:
    along with the report in brief (PDF):

    the report in full:

    plus feeds and contacts.

    And it’s here on YouTube:

  26. 326
    DIOGENES says:

    SA #308,

    ” We already know what we need to do.”

    Since you have rightly asked people to define what they mean by ‘catastrophe’ when they use it, I will ask you to define ‘we’ when you use it. Other than accelerate use of off-the-shelf technologies to enhance energy efficiency, I see no consensus agreement that ‘we already know what we need to do’. Greisch et al believe we need to accelerate nuclear installation. You et al believe we need to accelerate renewables installation. Wili, Anderson et al believe we need to accelerate strong demand reduction. Hansen believes we need to accelerate strong reforestation. And we can find advocates for strong carbon capture , geoengineering, etc.

    That’s the problem I raised initially. We do not have a clear, simple, and unified message that we can present to the larger global community, and until we can come up with such a message, we cannot expect a massive shift in the required direction. We, the climate advocates, are our own worst enemy!

  27. 327
    wili says:

    Mark E @#303: The loss of phytoplankton would indeed affect levels of O2 in the atmosphere. But since there is a lot of oxygen in the atmosphere already, it would take a good while for the levels to drop to dangerous levels–on the order of thousands of years, iirc.

  28. 328
    wili says:

    And The Onion again nails it: “‘It’s Not Too Late To Reverse The Alarming Trend Of Climate Change,’ Scientists Who Know It’s Too Late Announce”,34896/?ref=auto

  29. 329
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Tony Weddle,
    The “energy needs” must be sufficient to realize the gains on which UN assumptions of reduced population growth are predicated. We have already failed to make sufficient progress for the population curve to follow the low end of UN predictions–population cresting at 9 billion in 2050. We could still meet the mid level of 10 billion by 2080. If we don’t meet this scenario, the situation will be grim indeed.

    However, even if we do manage to stabilize population, that is only the beginning of our difficulties. Somehow we have to keep economic growth sufficiently high that a reduced and decreasing working population can support their aging parents and grandparents. The only way I can see this happening is an acceleration of technological advance coupled with medical advances that allow older adults to work longer.

    Now it is true that if we don’t manage this, nature will take over the task. However, nature doesn’t usually handle population die backs in a very orderly fashion, and we’d be unlikely to emerge on the other side with something resembling a global, technologically advanced society.

  30. 330
    wili says:

    Ray at 329 wrote: “we have to keep economic growth sufficiently high”

    Economic growth has to be strongly negative for a long time if we are going to have any chance at a livable planet. Employment can remain high in a managed downturn–reduced work-weeks, federal work projects…

    But, just as you point out about ‘natural’ die backs, un-managed economic contraction can be very ugly indeed.

  31. 331
    SecularAnimist says:

    Tony Weddle wrote: “Mark Jacobson only seems to have two publications that have renewables as their subject”

    Jacobson does indeed have more than two publications on the subject of renewable energy, and has authored or co-authored several papers or articles which address precisely the issues you are asking about, with regard to powering the world with 100 percent renewable energy. Here are some additional links:

    Jacobson is also a participant in The Solutions Project which is an effort to develop detailed plans for each state in the USA, which “provide comprehensive data modeling for each State proving the viability of an 80% renewable energy target by 2030 and virtually 100% by 2050”.

    The plan for New York was published in the journal Energy Policy in March 2013 and is available for download as a 17-page PDF.

    Jacobson also appeared on David Letterman’s TV show in October to discuss proposals for a 100 percent renewable energy economy, and the video of their conversation is available on YouTube.

  32. 332
    SecularAnimist says:

    wili wrote: “And The Onion again nails it: ‘It’s Not Too Late To Reverse The Alarming Trend Of Climate Change,’ Scientists Who Know It’s Too Late Announce’ …”

    Too late for WHAT?

    Again, this is like using the word “catastrophe” without explaining what you mean by it.

    Without that explanation, expressions like “TOO LATE!” and “CATASTROPHE!” are just noise.

  33. 333
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by DIOGENES — 13 Jan 2014 @ 6:08 AM

    Your statement – “This does not sit well with advocates of alternative technologies like nuclear and renewables, who might argue that only modest demand reductions need accompany rapid introduction of their alternative technologies” – is a straw man argument.


  34. 334
  35. 335
    Hank Roberts says:

    But, cynically, “devil take the hindmost” is more likely to be the policy outcome. Whether that’s the hindmost one third, or the hindmost 99 percent, I dunno.

    Wasn’t there some report about the Bush family buying a large remote isolated chunk of a South American country, sited over an untapped aquifer, and installing a Space-Shuttle grade airstrip, a while back? Or was that just paranoia?

  36. 336
    Nick Gotts says:

    “should we aspire to feed 10 billion people?” – Tony Weddle

    I take it you’re volunteering yourself and your family (if you have one) to be among those who don’t get fed if we don’t so aspire and population reaches 10 billion.

    Ray Ladbury,
    Actually, a peak of 9 billion around 2050 is by no means out of the question. The demographer Danny Dorling, in “Population 10 Billion” argues that current UNDP estimates are too pessimistic; specifically, that the slowdown in the rate at which the population growth rate has declined, which we’ve seen in the last decade, reflects an earlier “baby boom” in the 1980s.

  37. 337
    Hank Roberts says:
    Bloomberg and others, year-long program on climate risk for business

    hat tip to

  38. 338
    SecularAnimist says:

    Nick Gotts wrote: “Actually, a peak of 9 billion around 2050 is by no means out of the question.”

    Neither is a crash to one billion, or less, well before 2050.

  39. 339
    DIOGENES says:

    Chuck Hughes #323,

    “are we likely to see 3C before mid century?”

    Here’s the view of Maslin and Austin, in a Nature editorial of June 2012.

    “Dan Rowlands of the University of Oxford, UK, and his colleagues have run one complex model through thousands of simulations, rather than the handful of runs that can usually be managed with available computing time. Although their average results matched well with IPCC projections, more extreme results, including warming of up to 4°C by 2050, seemed just as likely.”

  40. 340
    Hank Roberts says:

    Uncertainty: Climate models at their limit?
    Mark Maslin & Patrick Austin
    Nature 486, 183–184 (14 June 2012)
    Published online 13 June 2012

    referring to

    Nature Geoscience | Letter
    Broad range of 2050 warming from an observationally constrained large climate model ensemble

    Daniel J. Rowlands, et al.
    (long list of coauthors ending with yet more et al. at Nature)
    Nature Geoscience 5, 256–260 (2012)
    Published online 25 March 2012

    Cited by 42 subsequent papers, per Scholar:,5&hl=en

  41. 341
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Nick Gotts,
    It may be that the UNDP estimates are pessimistic, but we are nowhere near meeting any of the trajectories. Population is still not under control. Moreover, it is better to plan for a reasonable worst case.

  42. 342
  43. 343
    Steve Fish says:

    Distinguishing Science From Nonsense:

    A short essay from The Chronicle of Higher Education that is relevant to discussions here-


  44. 344
    wili says:

    The Australian heatwave is spreading and deepening:

  45. 345
    Chuck Hughes says:

    @ Comment by DIOGENES

    Judging from that and what I’ve been able to find online it looks like we’re going to easily hit 3C at or before mid century.

    Somehow all this scientific information will have to be turned into some sort of political action committee. Maybe that’s what is but you need some sort of cute name to throw off the dogs. It seems like Super PAC’s are the way to go if you want to help fund political campaigns for politicians who will vote to cut CO2 and other emissions and fund renewable energy. Unless we can get some major political activism happening really soon I don’t see a way out of this mess. Surely there’s a way to get it done since we have folks like Al Gore and Bill Clinton and John Kerry already. How about recruiting some Hollywood celebrities like Robert Redford, George Clooney and Leonardo DeCaprio? I think if you could get some big money and a couple of film makers involved things might get rolling. Here’s an example:

    Just a thought of course. I’m sure somebody has already tried this and I’m sure there are plenty of obstacles standing in the way but since it seems to be a desperate situation, why not give it a try? Change is going to come from the younger generations anyway because they stand to lose everything if we don’t act. Therefore I would concentrate on the 20’s and 30’s demographic and forget the old farts. Again, just my 2 cents worth. Thanks

  46. 346
    Hank Roberts says:

    Barnes, Elizabeth A., Etienne Dunn-Sigouin, Giacomo Masato and Tim Woollings: Exploring recent trends in Northern Hemisphere blocking.** Geophysical Research Letters, accepted 01/06/2014.

    from the Abstract:

    “… we diagnose blocking using three unique blocking identification
    methods from the literature, each applied to four different reanalyses. No clear hemispheric increase in blocking is found for any blocking index, and while seasonal increases and decreases are found for specific isolated regions and time periods, there is no instance where all three methods agree on a significant trend. Blocking is shown to exhibit large interannual and decadal variability, highlighting the difficulty in separating any potentially forced response from natural variability.”

  47. 347
    prokaryotes says:

    High levels of molecular chlorine in the Arctic atmosphere
    Chlorine radicals can function as a strong atmospheric oxidant1, 2, 3, particularly in polar regions, where levels of hydroxyl radicals are low. In the atmosphere, chlorine radicals expedite the degradation of methane4, 5, 6 and tropospheric ozone4, 7, and the oxidation of mercury to more toxic forms3. Here we present direct measurements of molecular chlorine levels in the Arctic marine boundary layer in Barrow, Alaska, collected in the spring of 2009 over a six-week period using chemical ionization mass spectrometry. We report high levels of molecular chlorine, of up to 400 pptv.
    Concentrations peaked in the early morning and late afternoon, and fell to near-zero levels at night. Average daytime molecular chlorine levels were correlated with ozone concentrations, suggesting that sunlight and ozone are required for molecular chlorine formation. Using a time-dependent box model, we estimate that the chlorine radicals produced from the photolysis of molecular chlorine oxidized more methane than hydroxyl radicals, on average, and enhanced the abundance of short-lived peroxy radicals. Elevated hydroperoxyl radical levels, in turn, promoted the formation of hypobromous acid, which catalyses mercury oxidation and the breakdown of tropospheric ozone.
    We therefore suggest that molecular chlorine exerts a significant effect on the atmospheric chemistry of the Arctic. doi:10.1038/ngeo2046

  48. 348
    simon abingdon says:

    #338 SecularAnimist

    “Neither is a crash to one billion, or less, well before 2050.”

    With all due respect, sir, that is utter nonsense. I find myself thinking that your comment must be some kind of joke.

  49. 349
    Tony Weddle says:

    Secular Animist,

    Thanks for the links to Jacobsen’s work. It will take a while to go through but I note that the two part paper about powering the world with renewables doesn’t include a section on environmental impacts, which I thought you wrote he’d researched. He also seems to be overoptimistic on the availability of materials, even admitting that some of the research on which he bases that optimism is limited or non-existent. But I haven’t read the papers fully yet, so I’ll reserve my opinion on that.

    Nick Gotts,

    What? I’m not about to make the decision on who gets to eat and who doesn’t. But to paraphrase the late Professor Albert Bartlett, in his lectures about the exponential function, everything humans do seems to exacerbate the problem (of population growth) so I guess we’ll leave it to nature to sort it out.

    Ray Ladbury,

    As wili mentioned, we need economic contraction, not growth. It’s a tall order keeping economic growth going not only until (and if) population plateaus but, presumably, for some time after that unless life expectancies drop quickly to start righting the balance between young and old. I think scarcity of critical resources could well kick in well before population plateaus, making hoped for economic growth impossible, even if the energy for such growth could be delivered.

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    Radge Havers says:


    From a link Hank posted a while back:
    Exponential Economist Meets Finite Physicist

    So I can twist my head into thinking of quality of life development in an otherwise steady-state as being a form of indefinite growth. But it’s not your father’s growth. It’s not growing GDP, growing energy use, interest on bank accounts, loans, fractional reserve money, investment. It’s a whole different ballgame, folks. Of that, I am convinced. Big changes await us. An unrecognizable economy. The main lesson for me is that growth is not a “good quantum number,” as physicists will say: it’s not an invariant of our world. Cling to it at your own peril.