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Unforced variations: Mar 2014

Filed under: — group @ 3 March 2014

This month’s open thread.

679 Responses to “Unforced variations: Mar 2014”

  1. 201
    Chris Dudley says:

    Kevin (#197),

    Well, it is worth it to consider limiting emissions profiles so we can understand what we are working with. That inertia actually depends strongly on future ongoing emissions to act like inertia is a result that makes you wonder if “inertia” is really the right term to use.

  2. 202
    Chris Dudley says:

    estimated not exterminated….

  3. 203
    Jeffrey Davis says:

    Corn dies at 45C. It doesn’t take repeated or prolonged exposure either.

    It got that hot in Kansas 2 summers ago, and the corn was gray the next morning.

    We haven’t even had 1C of warming yet.

  4. 204
    Hank Roberts says:

    The Atlantic:

    “too warm” is a concept we need to wrap our soon-to-be-baked brains around, according to new research from NASA’s Drew Shindell. After performing a region-specific analysis of the things that affect the global climate, Shindell has come to the conclusion that, slowdown be damned, we are still looking at a vast leap in the earth’s heat levels. In fact, there could be a warming increase about 20 percent greater than indicated by surface-temperature observations from the last 150 years, according to his new study in Nature Climate Change

    The [in original] map of the globe, furnished by NASA’s visualization and simulation teams, shows where the heat is likely to come down hard by 2099. Dark-red areas at the North Pole indicate positive temperature anomalies of up to 25 degrees. Much of Canada could see hikes of 10 to 20 degrees and in the United States, 5 to 12.5 degrees. That would mean that future warming will be much worse than described in the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (which took the slowdown into account when making its projections). NASA has the figures

  5. 205
    prokaryotes says:

    As i mentioned last month, i offer all RC regulars full forum access at CS. Just email me your TinyPass email or ask here

    And i second wili’s comment #196

  6. 206
    Hank Roberts says:

    Tonight on San Francisco’s KQED Radio (usually audio and transcripts may be available later online at the website):

    Climate One: From the Commonwealth Club

    Skeptics and Smog — The basic principles of human-caused climate change have been known for more than a century and are based on physics 101, chemistry 101 and economics 101. Yet the public debate about the consequences of burning fossil fuels is muddied by manufactured confusion about the science. The balance bias – giving a tiny faction of skeptics as much weight in news articles as the 97 percent of scientists publishing peer-reviewed articles – has skewed mainstream media coverage of the scientific underpinnings of climate disruption.

    It is no wonder average citizens have difficulty seeing through the smoke of industry obfuscation and exaggeration spewed by some environmentalists.

    The Six America’s research from Yale offers insight into what American’s really think about climate disruption. Public opinion, however, tends to fluctuate in part due to media coverage and extreme weather events.

    How well has the mainstream news media covered the carbon story? Have some reporters crossed the line from journalism into advocacy?

    The program hosts a conversation with three communicators deeply involved in the public debate about carbon pollution, including:
    Bud Ward, editor of The Yale Forum on Climate Change and The Media;
    John Cook, founder of Skeptical Science and co-author of “Climate Change Denial: Heads in the Sand;”
    Jim Hoggan, co-founder of DeSmog Blog and chair of The David Suzuki Foundation.

  7. 207
    DIOGENES says:


    The Ceres Clean Trillion Report (referenced on this thread recently) proposes an investment of $36 TRILLION over the next 36 years in low carbon, energy efficient, and carbon capture technologies to ameliorate climate change impacts. The plan is based on the IEA’s 2DS scenario, defined by the IEA as follows: “The 2°C Scenario (2DS) is the focus of ETP 2012. The 2DS describes an energy system consistent with an emissions trajectory that recent climate science research indicates would give an 80% chance of limiting average global temperature increase to 2°C. It sets the target of cutting energy-related CO2 emissions by more than half in 2050 (compared with 2009) and ensuring that they continue to fall thereafter. Importantly, the 2DS acknowledges that transforming the energy sector is vital, but not the sole solution: the goal can only be achieved provided that CO2 and GHG emissions in non-energy sectors are also reduced. The 2DS is broadly consistent with the World Energy Outlook 450 Scenario [450ppm] through 2035.”

    As Mike Raupach at the ANU has shown, if one wants a 90% chance of not exceeding 2C, there is NO “carbon budget” left”. This is actually a low bar; if your chances of landing safely on a flight from NYC to LA were 90%, would you take the flight? Why, then, would this risk be acceptable when the survival of our species is at stake? In any case, even with 90%, this means that ANY expenditure of fossil fuel from now on reduces our chances of staying below 2 C, and we have shown repeatedly that even 2 C is a target that the experts term VERY/EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. Well, reducing CO2 emissions by half over the next 36 years, if the plan were implemented now, means that we will be starting from 100% emissions, and reducing them by a non-compounded average of about 1.5% per year.

    WOW!!! For $36 TRILLION, we end up with more than an order-of-magnitude less emissions reductions than that required to give us any chance to avoid the climate Apocalypse. If this isn’t the Windfall to end all Windfalls, I don’t know what is!

    How does this proposed Windfall compare with my plan (#63)? My plan has two major components, species survival and lifestyle maintenance. The Ceres/IEA plan could be a modest approximation of what is required for the lifestyle maintenance component of my plan, and would include a small portion of what I require for the carbon removal component. So, my plan would capture this. However, implementing only the Ceres lifestyle maintenance component by itself would take us on the HOV-3 Express Lanes to climate Apocalypse. The remaining components of my plan, especially the strong fossil fuel demand reduction over and above that provided by the lifestyle maintenance component, provide the near term emissions reductions that offer any chance of avoiding the climate Apocalypse.

  8. 208
    MARodger says:

    Have we seen the winter maximum for Arctic Sea Ice. I think the Sea Ice Area probably has ‘maxed’. It’s mid-March, hot for the time of year (UAH TLT anomaly over the Arctic Ocean (usually 2 clicks to ‘download your attachment’) at a record level, NOAA SSTs from nomad3 (graphed here but to show winter temps) were February records) & we are 2 weeks & 200k below the maximum SIA so far.
    If it is the maximum, it will the a record low maximum. That icy “recovery” thro’ 2013 so loved by all the denialists – it didn’t last very long, did it.

  9. 209
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Chris, quoting:

    There’s no evidence that even super aggressive action on curbing emissions would meaningfully tweak patterns of extreme weather in the lifetime of anyone reading this blog.

    Similarly there was no evidence that backing off from the fully-deployed stance of mutual assured destruction as built in the Cold War would avert a catastrophe within “time scales relevant to policymakers or taxpayers”. Apparently the statesmen and negotiators dedicated to that effort were wasting their time.

    Who knew?

    It’s a shame that a professionally-trained journalist was not at the table to bring reason and logic into the discussion; we’d not have wasted all that hardware and taxpayer revenue dealing with an imaginary problem.

  10. 210
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Further to Revkin’s appeals to a misty-eyed, imaginary future of caring: figure out in hard numbers–dollars and cents– what you yourself are spending to help the poverty-stricken of today. To the extent that number is larger you can legitimately shed tears for the poverty-stricken of tomorrow. Most of us will remain dry-eyed after performing that simple calculation unless we’re crocodiles.

  11. 211
    wili says:

    To the mods: Was the site shut down for a day or two a little while ago? A number of folks (myself included) at SkS and at tamino’s site couldn’t access the site. Was it just down for routine maintenance, or was there hacking involved?

    Thanks for all your work, by the way. I was wondering if we were about to experience the feeling of ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’!

  12. 212
  13. 213
    Chris Dudley says:

    Thanks for considering my question. After a few more posts at dot earth, I’m thinking that Andy is trying to do something quantitative again. This is probably an original idea of his based on misunderstanding climate commitment. If any one does see this in the denialsphere though, I’d be glad to read of it. I avoid those sites the way I avoid fishing in polluted waters.

  14. 214
    Hank Roberts says:

    Wili, your question “to the mods” was answered at the top of the page, right below the graphic: “Technical Note”

  15. 215
    prokaryotes says:

    Clarification, i meant Logarithmic scale.

  16. 216
    Hank Roberts says:

    Citation: Phys. Today 67, 3, 14 (2014);

    A nanoscale look at how soil captures carbon

    Organic matter bound to mineral grains can remain there for many decades. But only a fraction of the mineral surface area ever binds any carbon.

    Soil is a huge component of the global carbon cycle. As shown in figure 1 ,
    the world’s soils contain more carbon than the atmosphere and all living things combined, and the flux of carbon into and out of the soil dwarfs the rate of anthropogenic carbon emission from fossil fuels.

    Among much else, this is why leaving forests alone even when the wind blows the trees down is a good idea. Much of the carbon captured is in the roots and in the soil around them, which persists (unless disturbed).

    Plant a tree, or protect a forest.
    If you can’t do anything else, go to woodfortrees and make a contribution, eh?

  17. 217
    wili says:

    Thanks, Hank.

    Chris 23 213 said ” I avoid those sites the way I avoid fishing in polluted waters.” Me too.

  18. 218
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Chris Dudley
    check (carefully) the link on your home page for “Affordable Solar Power” which looks right but isn’t taking me where it should — I suspect
    either your page has been hacked, or I’ve got malware, or some DNS is confused.

  19. 219
  20. 220
    wili says:

    Apologies if this has already been linked by prok or others:

    “Leaked IPCC Report Reveals Unsettling Findings”


  21. 221
    Chris Dudley says:

    Joe Romm has a nice rhyme today:

    “The science is clear. The solutions are here. It’s time for the political will to appear.”

  22. 222
    DIOGENES says:

    Walter #219,

    I assume that’s your blog being referenced; best of luck on its success. My favorite of those you’ve posted is:

    Look, no blog is perfect. People invest the substantial amounts of time and effort (and money) involved in running a blog to fulfill personal agendas. If these agendas align with ours, we think it’s great; if not, well…..

    The people who moderate RC are world-class climate scientists, and they could obviously be making more profitable (in the classic sense of profit) use of their time doing more research and consulting. Obviously, there is a sense of public service from what they are doing, in addition to whatever personal agendas are being advanced. While your specific points are valid critiques, my main problem is with the larger picture.

    The expertise here is climate science, and that should be the main focus. But, what aspect of climate science? Forty years ago, the esoterica of climate science, and vaguely related fragmented technologies as well, would have been appropriate for the mission. Today, in 2014, the Huns are at the Gates!! We no longer have the luxury of climate science for the sake of climate science. The need is for climate science in the national interest. We need ideas and plans for how to extricate ourselves from the impending climate disaster on the horizon, informed by what the latest in climate science has to offer. Every thread should have this focus, and every post should contribute to advancing this mission.

    Instead, what we have is the equivalent of a bulletin board in a large building, where many posters are advertising technologies for sale, masquerading as approaches to stave off the impending disaster. That is a waste of everyone’s time, is extremely misleading, and diverts our attention from the problem at hand. Any post that offers a technology or other type of option for ameliorating the climate problem should be required to identify the consequences of that option quantitatively. Allowing the unpaid advertisements to dominate postings, as is the case at present, detracts from the credibility of the Web site.

    Once the mission becomes strengthened and more focused, many of the problems you have identified will vanish. Then, the value of this site will increase dramatically.

  23. 223
    DIOGENES says:


    This is the same general finding that David Spratt reported for an Australian poll (and which I referenced a while back). Given what is required from the citizenry to even have a chance of avoiding the climate Apocalypse, this is extremely disquieting news.

  24. 224
    MARodger says:

    The first +400ppm daily CO2 level of the year has been reported at MLO by NOAA-ESRL. Last year there were six +400ppm days recorded by ESRL, split between two weeks so the highest weekly CO2 was 400.01ppm.
    The CO2 value for 12 March 2014 is 400.62ppm making it a new daily record, although these reports can be subsequently revised downward. It is also a fair bit above recent values. So it could prove an outlier or it could be the start of an upward jump following the preceding eight-week ‘hiatus’. The hourly data graphed by Scripps Institute should provide some clue as to whether it is outlier or ‘jumper’ when they update through to 12 March. (But note that a Scripps day is 12-hours out of sync from an ESRL day.)

  25. 225
    DIOGENES says:

    Interesting post by RobertScribbler on Arctic methane.

    “How dangerous and vicious the monster ends up being to a world set to rapidly warm by humans depends largely on three factors. First — how fast methane is released from warming stores in the sea bed. Second — how swiftly and to what degree the tundra carbon store is released as methane. Third — how large the stores of carbon and methane ultimately are.

    On the issue of the first and third questions, scientists are divided between those like Peter Wadhams, Natalia Shakhova and Igor Simeletov who believe that large methane pulses from a rapidly warming Arctic Ocean are now possible and warrant serious consideration and those like Gavin Schmidt and David Archer — both top scientists in their own right — who believe the model assessments showing a much slower release are at least some cause for comfort. Further complicating the issue is that estimates of sea-bed methane stores range widely with the East Siberian Arctic Shelf region alone asserted to contain anywhere between 250 and 1500 gigatons of methane (See Arctic Carbon Stores Assessment Here).”

  26. 226
    SecularAnimist says:

    Recommended reading:

    Cultural production of ignorance provides rich field for study
    By Michael Hiltzik
    LA Times
    March 9 2014


    Robert Proctor doesn’t think ignorance is bliss. He thinks that what you don’t know can hurt you. And that there’s more ignorance around than there used to be, and that its purveyors have gotten much better at filling our heads with nonsense.

    Proctor, a professor of the history of science at Stanford, is one of the world’s leading experts in agnotology, a neologism signifying the study of the cultural production of ignorance. It’s a rich field, especially today when whole industries devote themselves to sowing public misinformation and doubt about their products and activities.

    The tobacco industry was a pioneer at this. Its goal was to erode public acceptance of the scientifically proven links between smoking and disease: In the words of an internal 1969 memo legal opponents extracted from Brown & Williamson’s files, “Doubt is our product.” Big Tobacco’s method should not be to debunk the evidence, the memo’s author wrote, but to establish a “controversy.”

    … Big Tobacco’s program has been carefully studied by the sugar industry, which has become a major target of public health advocates.

    It’s also echoed by vaccination opponents, who continue to use a single dishonest and thoroughly discredited British paper to sow doubts about the safety of childhood immunizations, and by climate change deniers.

  27. 227
    Rafael Molina Navas, Madrid says:

    THE “ENEMY” AT HOME … A few hours ago I emailed to “” what follows:
    How can a scientist say:
    ” … But since 1998, the rate of warming has been only 0.09°F (0.05°C) per decade …”
    You DO know 1998 was an exceptional positive ENSO year, NOT VALID for any comparison, let alone saying “per decade” just with a sample of 1 1/2 decade!
    That IS what deniers now use for their purpose, NOT what is expected from NASA scientists!

  28. 228
    Hank Roberts says:

    > who believe the model assessments

    That’s wrong; paleo evidence, not models, have been cited in replies to AMEG stuff: it’s been warmer in the past, without a burp.

  29. 229
    FurryCatHerder says:

    One brief comment on the $36T plan —

    It is worth noting that many of the technologies which are candidates for ending our dependence on fossil fuels have extremely favorable ROIs compared head-to-head ago fossil fuels.

    There’s another more interesting property of an all-in approach to renewable energy – it has the potential to make energy so plentiful that we’ll actually be able to waste the stuff.

    A year ago I leased a Nissan LEAF. For a while I only drove my “normal” amount. After enjoying NO GASOLINE BILLS for several months I started driving around for no particular reason. That got old because it takes time to drive around for no particular reason.

    For what it’s worth, my electric consumption for today should be around -10kWh. I recharge my LEAF every night, so that -10kWh includes recharging my car.

  30. 230
    wili says:

    LO CO2 daily reading above 401 ppm on March 12 – two months earlier than last year.

    METOP IASI CH4 above 1800 ppb on March 12 – two weeks earlier than last year.


  31. 231
    DIOGENES says:

    FCH #229,

    “One brief comment on the $36T plan…..There’s another more interesting property of an all-in approach to renewable energy – it has the potential to make energy so plentiful that we’ll actually be able to waste the stuff.”

    The main point of my comments on the $36T plan was that, while it would maintain lifestyle, it would not avoid the climate Apocalypse. Based on the recent polls I cited in #223, most people would be more than willing to make that tradeoff. Energy to waste; what’s not to like?

  32. 232
    FurryCatHerder says:

    Diogenes —

    “Energy to waste” includes “energy to do all sorts of otherwise unimaginable things”.

    I believe that it is possible to sequester any carbon-bearing “whatever” that we can get our grubby fingers on. Think of it as “putting the coal back in the ground”. There’s the answer to The Apocalypse.

    I spent 30 years in high tech, and the last 5 in renewable energy. The advances in just those 5 years are truly unbelievable. A year or so after I found RC, in 2007, I was looking at what it would take to replace all my energy consumption with solar. The price tag was around $68,000 (from bad memory — it was around 6.8kW DC) and would have meant no more gasoline or electric bills. Ever. Today that figure is right around $20,000, except that efficiency changes in my life mean it is even lower. The ROI on that $20,000 is better than the stock market, which means the cost is negative (it’s a profit).

  33. 233
    DIOGENES says:

    More on the polling issue referenced in #223.

    There were two recent polls that included climate change in the USA and Australia. Both these countries experienced an upsurge in extreme climate events in the past few years, and one would think that would have serious impact on peoples’ attitudes. Well, here are the poll results.

    Gallup Poll: Question: tell me if you personally worry about this problem [climate change] a great deal, a fair amount, only a little, or not at all. Results: a great deal – 24; a fair amount – 25; a little/not at all – 51. “According to Gallup, environmental concern peaked back in 2007.”

    Australian Poll (from David Spratt’s blog-ClimateCodeRed): “In the last six years, support in Australia for the view that global warming is a serious and pressing problems that requires taking steps now, even if it involves significant costs, fell from over 60% to under 40%, according to Lowy Institute polling (below). WE LOST OUR MAJORITY.”

    So, in both cases, concern peaked about six years ago, and has been dropping since. Consider the significance of these results. All the Gallup Poll is doing is asking whether people WORRY about this problem. The Poll doesn’t ask whether the people would be willing to pay higher costs, or give up non-essential travel, or give up meat; it asks about the minimal commitment possible, do they even worry. AND ABOUT HALF SAID ESSENTIALLY NO!! The Poll doesn’t ask about specific actions they are taking for the problem, such as changing personal habits, joining organizations, attending meetings, etc. And, it certainly doesn’t ask them for a financial commitment to help solve the problem.

    I suspect that if any of these more serious commitments were in the Poll questions, then the number of supporters would have plummeted to rock bottom. This essentially closes the loop that we have been observing with our own eyes. Very few politicians supporting any meaningful legislation on climate change, limited discussion in the Press and political debates, projections for increasing fossil fuel use as far out as the eye can see, etc.

    Most of the posts on this blog for proposals to decelerate climate change require maximal efforts. We see terms like ‘Manhattan Project’, wartime effort, conversion to renewables in a decade, eliminate all non-essential fossil fuel expenditures, etc. Any of these proposals would require massive political and public support to have any chance of being implemented. Extrapolating the results of the above minimal polls to polling asking for real commitment, there would be insignificant support for any of the amelioration measures that have been proposed. The gap between what we need to stave off the impending climate Apocalypse and the willingness of the population to participate in these amelioration efforts is as wide as can be imagined.

  34. 234
    DIOGENES says:

    FCH #232,

    “I believe that it is possible to sequester any carbon-bearing “whatever” that we can get our grubby fingers on. Think of it as “putting the coal back in the ground”. There’s the answer to The Apocalypse.”

    Could you be more specific? For example, how would you sequester the CO2 in the atmosphere to reduce the concentration from 400ppm to ~325ppm in a timely and low-carbon fashion?

    “I spent 30 years in high tech, and the last 5 in renewable energy. The advances in just those 5 years are truly unbelievable.”

    I’ve never questioned that. My concern was expressed in #87: “So, even in this most ideal case of complete cessation of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel immediately, the temperature will rise to unacceptable levels. Now, assume all fossil fuel use could be converted to zero carbon technology within a generation (another fantasy). The first year, (ignoring lag times for planning, construction, and start-up) would still have 95% of the original CO2 emissions, since only 5% of the capability had been converted. The second year would have 90%, and so on. There would be roughly ten additional years of the original fossil fuel use expended, further exacerbating the temperature increase and driving us closer to the climate Apocalypse. That’s why sharp demand reduction is required in parallel with low carbon technology introduction, as well as some type of rapid carbon concentration reduction.”

    The main point, as Kevin Anderson has pointed out repeatedly, is that the supply side can’t reduce emissions sufficiently to bring us to even the unacceptable 2 C temperature ceiling, much less the desired 1 C ceiling. Anderson suggests a demand reduction on the order of 10% per annum. If one requires a 90% chance of staying under 2 C, then there is no carbon budget left. The CO2 emitted during the period the transition to renewables occurs will reduce the chances of staying within the 2 C ceiling.

  35. 235
    DIOGENES says:

    Good summary of the Steinacher paper published in Nature last year (see summary below). Basically, it concludes that e.g. if we need a 10% annual demand reduction in fossil fuel use to stay within a 2 C temperature ceiling, as Anderson recommends, then, if six critical parameters are taken into account, we essentially need to double the emissions reduction number, or 20% per year in the Anderson case. And, that only gives us a reasonable chance to stay within the scientifically unacceptable level of 2 C. For high chance, we have run out of carbon budget, and if we are to have any hope of coming near the scientifically desirable level of 1 C, we have run out of carbon budget and run up carbon debt.

    ” The study by Steinacher et al suggests that climate targets need to be based on a broader assessment of climate risks, rather than looking just at temperature change. Their modelling shows that emissions consistent with ‘safe’ temperature rise would produce unacceptable results in other aspects of the climate.

    Steinacher and his team took a number of variables related to the climate system – temperature rise, sea level rise, ocean acidification, change in plant productivity, and loss of carbon from soils – and defined what they called acceptable limits of risk. They then used computer models to work out how much carbon dioxide could be released before these limits were reached.

    They found that to stay below all of the limits they set, greenhouse gas emissions would have to be much lower than if they were only trying to keep temperature rise below two degrees.

    To stand a 66 per cent chance of keeping below two degrees, emissions of carbon would need to be limited to about 570 gigatonnes by the end of the century. But staying below the safe limits on all six variables, including temperature, would mean limiting emissions to between 290 and 350 gigatonnes of carbon, the model showed.

    There are some big uncertainties here, and these figures aren’t exact, but the point is fairly clear. When you consider the impact of emissions on other parts of the climate system, cumulative emissions need to be considerably lower.”

  36. 236

    I think scenarios beyond preserving the planet need to be considered if we’re facing an apocalypse. One option is space travel by the creation of an ark/biosphere based on various propulsion systems including Beamed Propulsion where humans can continue on as a species. Another is to create a dome like environment where everything is controlled and we live either underground or above ground with a highly regulated environment (again, the same thing as a spaceship but without propulsion). Both options could be tried.

    I think the work we’re doing to control the greenhouse effect will be hugely helpful in the design of both systems. A first step is to create a biosphere capable of sustaining life completely independently with internal power sources. A parallel stuff is to work on propulsion systems capable of carrying large payloads to distant star systems.

    I think we already have the technology needed to accomplish both tasks. I also think this is more doable by independent actors (nations) than all nations working collectively to reduce emissions drastically.

  37. 237
    wili says:

    Diogenes, thanks for reminding us of that important Steinacher study. But to be clear, the study itself doesn’t come up explicitly with figures like “20% per year,” right? That’s your extrapolation? It would definitely be nice to have such concrete figures from a study like this.

    In any case, is 20% per year the figure that _you_ are proposing? If so, is it mostly from this study, or from other considerations. And has anyone of standing in the field come up with a figure for, say, staying within 1.5 degrees C (though this is clearly still too high)?


    I thought the following quote would be a good one to add to the on-going conversation about the role of growth in any imaginable sustainable society:

    “The fundamental problem with issues such as Climate Change and Ecological Degradation is that they stem from a core problem, the exponential growth of human demands upon the earth, and thus the only solution is an end to that growth.

    With the industrialized human societies having spent the past two centuries developing a tight fit to the exponential growth facilitated by fossil fuels, an end to that growth will require wrenching changes to how those societies are structured and operate. Such changes, while producing great concern to the general populace, will be extremely threatening to those that have succeeded under the current societal arrangements.

    These are the rich and powerful that have most control over media organizations, as well as other determinants of social reality such as the school system and the workplace.”

  38. 238
    Jim Larsen says:

    236 Ram S,

    The odds of finding a better planet than a ruined Earth are low. Geoengineering is easier than terraforming.

    Fortunately, our species is not in jeopardy. Climate change could drive us toward the poles or make us manipulate the climate, but we’ll survive.

  39. 239
    Hank Roberts says:
    March 12, 2014

    Matthew E. Kahn

    … three of my new applied NBER economics papers focused on climate change mitigation….
    One is on Walmart’s energy consumption.
    One is about public bus purchases and scrappage and
    the third is about learning about California voter’s preferences for carbon mitigation based on voting on AB32 and High Speed Rail.

  40. 240

    Hi Jim (Larsen), one wouldn’t do this to find a better planet necessarily but to exist in space. If there is a self-contained biosphere (or many of them) floating around in space, I think it has potential for the advancement of humanity in many ways.

    The geoengineering solution assumes we can keep things below a certain limit, like 4 degrees C, after which no matter what we do, we’ve gone past a point of no return. Kevin Anderson has talked about this 4 degree limit apparently (according to Wikipedia) where the system becomes unstable. Still, I agree that geoengineering done in time could be the answer but I was proposing alternatives in case we’re unable to keep this planet habitable for humans.

    As far as humanity surviving, I’m not so confident it will happen. The dinosaurs ruled the earth far longer than we’ve been around but yet ALL went extinct. We’re putting all our eggs in one basket staying on this planet while dealing with an apocalyptic scenario (which I presumed was what diogenes was talking about). The planet currently is ruled by bacteria who’ve been around the longest and I presume they will survive but I’m not sure about any other species if certain scenarios come into play.

  41. 241
    FurryCatHerder says:


    I hate the spam filters sometimes. I had a great post, but something in it is being flagged as “spam”.

    Here’s the net-net — a lot of things that reduce carbon emissions are now cost-savers. We need to get that message out. My annual electric bill is now less than my highest summer electricity+gasoline bill.

    That’s it. That’s how we “sell” people who don’t want to be “sold” on protecting the planet.

    (BTW — after getting the “I think you are SPAM” message, I couldn’t get the “Captcha” box to come back, so I had to switch browsers to post …)

  42. 242
    Phil L says:

    There have been some comments in this thread seeming to indicate that forests should not be harvested. The forest type with which I’m most familiar is the boreal, which relies on periodic major disturbances such as wildfires for renewal, with a resulting mosaic of stands of different ages across the landscape. It seems reasonable to me that a forest management regime that more-or-less mimics natural disturbances while producing wood products is a sensible approach.

    Here is part of what the IPCC Working Group 3 said about the role of forests in mitigating the effects of climate change:

    “… Mitigation options by the forestry sector include extending carbon retention in harvested wood products, product substitution, and producing biomass for bioenergy. This carbon is removed from the atmosphere and is available to meet society’s needs for timber, fibre, and energy. Biomass from forestry can contribute 12-74 EJ/yr to energy consumption, with a mitigation potential roughly equal to 0.4-4.4 GtCO2/yr depending on the assumption whether biomass replaces coal or gas in power plants…

    In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber, fibre or energy from the forest, will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit. Most mitigation activities require up-front investment with benefits and co-benefits typically accruing for many years to decades. The combined effects of reduced deforestation and degradation, afforestation, forest management, agro-forestry and bioenergy have the potential to increase from the present to 2030 and beyond … “

  43. 243
    Hank Roberts says:

    > forests
    Yeah, the studies I cited are newer than that IPCC report.

    Remember, there’s always going to be something more to learn. In this case both how soil is holding carbon, and how forests work.

    We’ve already degraded almost all the forest ecosystems. The few remaining ones are terribly tempting to those who’d rather have money.

  44. 244
    Goober says:

    People who think commercial levels of biomass can be removed from ecosystems, especially low soil nutrient systems like boreal or tropical, in perpetuity need to review some basic ecology. Each system is producing the level of nutrients it needs to feed on and recycle within the system to retain its productivity and diversity. There is no free lunch.

  45. 245
    DIOGENES says:

    Wili #237,

    “Diogenes, thanks for reminding us of that important Steinacher study. But to be clear, the study itself doesn’t come up explicitly with figures like “20% per year,” right? That’s your extrapolation? It would definitely be nice to have such concrete figures from a study like this.”

    That’s correct. The numbers of gigatonnes allowed she presented in the summary showed a halving from the temperature-ceiling-only case, and that was the basis for my doubling. I had seen a written interview with Steinacher shortly after the study was published, and his bottom line was that emissions reductions would have to be roughly doubled over those from the temperature-only case. I have not been able to locate that written interview, or else I would have quoted from that.

    In any case, is 20% per year the figure that _you_ are proposing? If so, is it mostly from this study, or from other considerations. And has anyone of standing in the field come up with a figure for, say, staying within 1.5 degrees C (though this is clearly still too high)?”

    My plan (#63) starts with the temperature target that cannot be exceeded in the interim. The target is thus conservative if we take Steinacher’s requirements for additional parameter targets into account. I show that for high chance of staying under 2 C (~90% or more), we have run out of carbon budget, and for even coming close to the desired target of ~1 C, we have not only run out of carbon budget, but have accumulated substantial carbon debt. I selected ~1 C as the target, but even if I had selected high chance 2 C, there would still be no allowable carbon budget remaining.

    Based on that, I have not set a specific figure for CO2 emissions reduction, but rather a maximization condition. We eliminate all non-essential expenditures of fossil fuels, and introduce behavioral changes and technologies that will make the remaining fossil fuel expenditures more efficient. The number would be determined by what the market would bear; we tighten the fossil belt until it hurts! It would have to be at least the twenty percent, and hopefully much higher. ANY expenditures of fossil fuel from now on decrease our chances of staying under 2 C and even coming close to 1 C.

    I haven’t seen any proposals for emissions reductions to achieve 1.5 C, but no doubt they exist. Remember the example I provided a few weeks ago. If we eliminated all CO2 emissions today, we would still get temperature increases in the unacceptable region within a decade or two. McKibben mentioned a doubling to ~1.6 C based on computer outputs he had seen; I have seen studies that showed temperature peaks ranging from ~1.2 C to well over 2 C. How rapidly the temperatures would decline afterwards, or even if they would decline afterwards, would also depend on the level of permafrost (and other carbon feedback) emissions we have triggered already, and those that would be triggered as we went to even higher temperatures.

    So, for a 1.5 C ceiling, especially for a relatively high chance, we have also run out of carbon budget, and piled up some carbon debt. And, this is for the ideal case of CO2 cessation today. Again, in this case, we need to do whatever the traffic will bear. Within that context, the $36T Ceres proposal doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what is required to avoid the impending climate Apocalypse.

  46. 246
    Ray Ladbury says:

    To those advocating space travel as a means of ensuring species survival:

    1)Please share the source of the drugs you are taking.


    2)Do the math.

    Even a cursory examination of the fuel needed to send an expedition to Mars for 6 months shows it is at the limits of our capability. Now multiply that by the factor needed to make that expedition self-sufficient in an inhospitable environment, and maybe you will start to understand the difficulty of what you are proposing. And Mars is a)easy to get to and b)probably impossible to terraform due to its cold temperatures, dust and lack of planetary magnetic field.

    And once you have begun to contemplate this, then consider the effects of space radiation. You cannot shield against galactic cosmic rays–you’d need 13 cm of Aluminum shielding just to cut down the flux by a factor of 2.

    If we don’t keep Earth survivable, we won’t survive.

  47. 247

    Ray Ladbury, I wouldn’t claim it is easy. But neither is keeping Earth survivable the way we’re all living. I assumed we’re discussing a looming apocalyptic scenario given our inability to reduce emissions and that we’re seeing the effects of emissions from decades ago catching up with us now. Do you really honestly believe we have the political will to cut emissions and keep it down to under 2 degrees C variance, and then under 4 degrees? If you read Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows’ 2011 paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, you’ll see projected likelihoods of achieving certain scenarios. I don’t think we have a lot of the carbon budget left before the situation becomes completely untenable. The math for space travel is at least doable.

    I think space travel is not that much more unlikely than us avoiding a 2 degree threshold (i.e., both are unlikely), perhaps 4 degrees (after which people like Kevin Anderson have said the system would become unstable) and it doesn’t have to be either/or. We could try it all, and perhaps we’re obligated to do so, and end up with a hybrid solution with different likelihoods for individual components. I understand the time it takes for light to travel across stars, but I never said it had to be done in a single generation and terraforming is one option, just surviving as a species in space was the point.

    It doesn’t mean challenges don’t need to be surmounted, but we have similarly extreme challenges facing us in terms of living on this planet, and unlike with space travel, the challenges are predominantly political instead of technological (which if past experience is any guide, are the easier type of challenges to surmount). The Wikipedia article on interstellar travel lists challenges to be faced (, which includes not only radiation but also lack of gravity and impacting objects.

    Perhaps we could just live in space in an equatorial orbit, but my point was that we should learn to construct self contained biospheres that could be used in a adapted to a variety of scenarios. Doing this may well teach us how to keep Earth survivable. And if we fail in that effort, then we have other options, including living underwater, on the surface, in low orbit, as well as travelling constantly across great disances.

    IMO, the key difference to me between the space travel/biosphere approach and the let’s keep the entire planet survivable approach is that the former necessitates only one or a few countries with similar social, political, and technological cultures working together to make it happen. The latter requires a far more diverse segment of humanity spanning multiple countries, societies, political regimes, and stages of technological development. The former can be accomplished by relatively small segment of humanity while the latter needs a larger segment to work cooperatively. It, however, has a bigger payoff in terms of the number of humans that can survive of course. And it would be terrific if both happened down the road, but I think they’re both extremely difficult tasks ahead for humanity to accomplish.

    I think the problem really is that it takes decades for the effect of emissions on climate to show up. So there’s a complacency about the way we approach this problem collectively even if we intellectually understand what’s going on.

    –Ram :)

  48. 248
    Radge Havers says:

    Um, I’m all for getting out into space, but a moment of reflection should dispell any near future, sci-fi fantasies of space opera redemption.

    The other planets are all less hospitable than Earth under the very worst scenario of “APOCALYPSE OF SCREAMING BLOOD ON THE FRANKEN-EARTH OF DOOM.” If we can’t build a survivable enclave here at home where it’s most convenient, then we won’t do it elsewhere. Don’t confuse whatever capacity we’ll have in the coming decades for exploration with salvation through mythic pioneer expansion.

  49. 249
    DIOGENES says:

    Ray/Ram #246-247,

    Unfortunately, you’re both correct. Not only is there a fuel problem and a radiation problem for the extended space flight, but there are a few G’s on takeoff that have to be withstood, and many other troubling issues. The idea of transporting ten billion people to live in equatorial orbit boggles the mind, even if spread out over a few generations.

    Even if we could limit the peak temperature increase to 2 C in the transition period, there is little guarantee that it would be adequate. See Hansen’s discussion on this issue in his Plos One article; it’s about as good an argument as I’ve seen. And, to limit the temperature increase to 2 C with high chance, we have basically run out of carbon budget, and need to reduce CO2 emissions radically. To minimize CO2 generation would require strong cooperation and motivation among seven billion citizens of this planet. When you couple that requirement to the poll results in #233, where about half the American respondents don’t even EXPRESS the most minimal commitment to ameliorating climate change, WORRYING about it, then there is infinitesimal chance we will even approach anything near 2 C. These conclusions apply to the situation today. Things can always change, and maybe some series of Pearl Harbor events could make a major change in the international consciousness.

  50. 250
    SecularAnimist says:

    FurryCatHerder wrote: “… a lot of things that reduce carbon emissions are now cost-savers. We need to get that message out.”

    Interestingly, some regular commenters here seem greatly concerned to prevent that message from getting out, to the point of calling anyone who dares to suggest such a thing a paid shill and part of a deliberate “Merchants Of Doubt” disinformation campaign — while they continue to repeat (with no supporting evidence whatsoever, and often contrary to observed facts) that rapid, major emissions reductions MUST impose draconian “deprivation and hardship” on the entire population.