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Unforced variations: May 2014

Filed under: — group @ 2 May 2014

This month’s open thread. In order to give everyone a break, no discussion of mitigation options this month – that has been done to death in previous threads. Anything related to climate science is totally fine: Carbon dioxide levels maybe, or TED talks perhaps…

394 Responses to “Unforced variations: May 2014”

  1. 251
    wili says:

    So with the recent increases in estimations of current and future melt rates from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and from Greenland, has any one put this new info together to come up with new projections for sea level rise over the next decades to centuries?

  2. 252
    S.B. Ripman says:

    In political news (from TPM):

    “A Texas lawmaker on Tuesday said that President Obama believes he can combat climate change because he thinks he’s God, according to Raw Story.

    “During a debate between candidates in the lieutenant governor race, an audience member asked state Sen. Dan Patrick (R), who will likely win the election, how much money he would spend to “cool the environment.”

    “Patrick said he would spend “zero dollars” to combat climate change.

    “I understand why Obama thinks he can change the weather — because he thinks he’s God,” he said, as recorded by Raw Story. “He thinks he is the smartest person in the country. He thinks he knows better in Washington what we do in Texas. He thinks he’s the one, through all of his executive orders, that Congress isn’t even up to his level, so I’m not surprised that he also thinks he can change the weather.”

    “The state senator went on to argue that global warming is not backed up by solid scientific evidence.

    “First of all, when it comes to climate change, there’s been scientific arguments on both sides of the issues,” he said. “But you know, if you want a tiebreaker, if Al Gore thinks it’s right, you know it’s wrong.”

    “Patrick added that policies enacted to address climate change will “destroy our economy.”

    “I’ll leave it in the hands of God. He’s handled our climate pretty well for a long time,” he said.”

    Apparently this sort of rhetoric works in TX.

  3. 253
    Hank Roberts says:


    Greenland will be far greater contributor to sea rise than expected May 18, 2014

    Deeply incised submarine glacial valleys beneath the Greenland ice sheet

    M. Morlighem1, E. Rignot, J. Mouginot, H. Seroussi, E. Larour
    Nature Geoscience (2014), doi:10.1038/ngeo2167

    Drat. This is definitely going to be more inconvenient than imagined.

  4. 254
    Hank Roberts says:

    On the other hand, more glacial meltwater is going to deliver more biologically available iron:

    Statham, P. J., M. Skidmore, and M. Tranter (2008), Inputs of glacially derived dissolved and colloidal iron to the coastal ocean and implications for primary productivity, Global Biogeochem. Cycles, 22, GB3013, doi:10.1029/2007GB003106.

    This glacial meltwater input of Fe to adjacent polar waters will be greatest around Greenland where there are highest annual meltwater discharges. However, the greatest impact of this source of glacial meltwater Fe is anticipated to be in Antarctic high nutrient low chlorophyll (HNLC) waters where phytoplankton productivity is typically limited by availability of Fe. For Antarctic waters the estimated meltwater Fe (TDFe) input is about 10% of that suggested to come from sea ice melting, but glacial inputs continue throughout the austral summer ablation period after sea ice melt is complete.

    That hints that we (for values of “we” equal to grandchildren and above) ought to see a boost in recovery of the life in the oceans, if it turns out that we (us, now) have left the oceans in shape to recover to pre-anthropocene population levels.

    If not, of course, the jellyfish and slime will remember us with gratitude.

  5. 255
    DP says:

    Re 225 you give yourself credit for ending the nuclear arms race, when actually they became redundant when the USSR imploded. While I don’t think we will be using them in 2100 or even 2050 they will likely be around for a while.

  6. 256
    David B. Benson says:

    DIOGENES — Over on
    there is an entire section devoted to any topic related to climate change that does not relate to a BNC blog post. The moderator is most capable and you are, I thoroughly believe, welcome to develop your thoughts there. Indeed, if over there I might actually read what you write, which I do not here. This is (supposed to be) a climatology and only climatology site.

  7. 257
    Hank Roberts says:


    A new fuel-cell concept, developed by an Michigan State University researcher, will allow biodiesel plants to eliminate the creation of hazardous wastes while removing their dependence on fossil fuel from their production process.

    The platform, which uses microbes to glean ethanol from glycerol and has the added benefit of cleaning up the wastewater, will allow producers to reincorporate the ethanol and the water into the fuel-making process, said Gemma Reguera, MSU microbiologist and one of the co-authors.

    “With a saturated glycerol market, traditional approaches see producers pay hefty fees to have toxic wastewater hauled off to treatment plants,” she said. “By cleaning the water with microbes on-site, we’ve come up with a way to allow producers to generate bioethanol, which replaces petrochemical methanol. At the same time, they are taking care of their hazardous waste problem.”

    The results, which appear in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, show that the key to Reguera’s platform is her patented adaptive-engineered bacteria – Geobacter sulfurreducens….

    Avoiding methanol is a big improvement.
    Not to mention not needing any fossil fuel.
    Microbes — they know what they’re doing, if we listen.

  8. 258
    Robin Levett says:

    @DIOGENES #242

    I could be wrong, but as I understand it there is no ban on discussing mitigation this month; there is instead a requirement that if you wish to do so, you do so on a specific thread, where it is already the subject of discussion, and not in this particular thread. If that is correct, is that such a hardship?

  9. 259
    Susan Anderson says:

    Hank Roberts, thanks for looking at biological consequences; also the ocean link is fascinating and, sadly, predictable. They give me a cauld grue, but it’s better to know. Some of this is a bit dated, but that only indicates that we are culpable in not being continuously aware of the dangers involved.

    SciShow has something (from a different route) about eutrophication towards the end of his “what’s the worst” show, starting about minute 9, mentions anaerobic bacteria and hydrogen sulfide:

    Jeremy Jackson is also depressing; here’s the short verion (Hank, I know you knew about this; also, I prefer the long version with extended slides of evidence and all which can be found with a simple search on jj and oceans):

  10. 260
    owl905 says:

    @Chris Dudley 244. Yes, producing hydrogen is expensive now, but it will never be cheap. Cheap renewable energy will not be wasted drawing expensive energy from the ground – it will be served directly to consumers at market price n profit. Renewable sources will become competitive at the new expensive paradigm of energy resources, but will not reshape the market structure; just as the fracking revolution only put a dent in the market shape for a few years. Reduced carbon will be even more expensive to extract and to exploit than tar sands, and it will follow the tar sands business case model.

  11. 261
    Dave Peters says:

    “I lit a cigarette on a parking meter and walked on down the road. It was a normal day” B. Dylan

  12. 262
    Chris Dudley says:

    There are some interesting details on China’s means of obtaining fossil fuels here:

  13. 263
    Chris Dudley says:

    “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” –Mahatma Gandhi

    On divestment, here is a funny kind of laugh-at-you article. The joke seems to be on the writer Steffy. He urges the students to turn off the lights on their protest signs because “At night in Wisconsin, you aren’t powering your lights with wind or solar power.” which shows a certain ignorance of wind power which supplies 2.3% of power on average in Wisconsin but a greater fraction at night when demand is lower. The flag at the top of the photo indicates the wind is blowing pretty well. The real funny, however, is that it is blindingly obvious that the students’ signs are battery operated. He has no idea where the power to run those signs came from. The rest of the article is clueless as well. Published by Forbes:

  14. 264
    Susan Anderson says:

    Following on about fish problems, NYTimes has an interesting item about clearcutting about to be approved in Alaska (actual area is quite small):

    United States Forest Service … intends to approve the Big Thorne timber sale, which would allow the logging industry to harvest about 6,200 acres of remnant old-growth trees in Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest remaining temperate rain forest. It would be the most destructive old-growth cut in the forest in the past 20 years.

    …. In a healthy system, the old-growth western hemlock and Sitka spruce provide a moderating influence for the stream environment; large trees along the banks help cool water in the summer and warm it in the winter. The forested hillsides absorb rainfall and snow melt, ensuring a steady flow of current for the hatching and spawning fish.

    But when timber companies arrive, punching in their roads and clear-cutting, gone are the trees and root wads that create a diverse stream environment. Now the water runs in flash floods down the bare hillsides, washing away the fish eggs and silting up the spawning grounds.

    It’s sad, and it’s bad business. …. the Forest Service, buffeted by lobbying pressures and subject to a 1990 Congressional mandate to seek to meet demand for Tongass timber, is stuck in an outdated “get out the cut” mind-set that made sense back when timber was southeast Alaska’s economic backbone. ….

    As for logging, it actually costs taxpayers more than $20 million annually for timber programs and logging roads, even after timber sales receipts are taken into account.

    To be clear, I’m not anti-logging. The harvesting of young growth and second growth could play an important role in the southeast’s recovery. But when the Forest Service makes a timber sale, it’s geared toward larger, out-of-town companies that can exit the state quickly. Small-scale local operations can’t afford the large tracts the Forest Service makes available, nor do they have the equipment to complete the cut by the required deadline.

    …. The Forest Service …. has estimated that it will take more than 50 years to redress the problems logging in the Tongass has already caused wild salmon.

    Here’s a crazy idea: Instead of prioritizing large-scale timber sales, what if the Forest Service protected the Tongass? … tourists who come to Alaska to see one of the last wild places on earth wouldn’t find in its place a moonscape.

  15. 265

    Interesting articles in the semi-popular periodical EOS Transactions this week …

    <a href="; title="On the loss of WHOI's Nereus“>

    <a href="; title="EOS's summary of the Rignot, et al paper on the WAIS”

    And, at the risk of transgressing the guidance at the top of the post,

  16. 266
    Øyvind Seland says:

    I can not read the article since it is behind a paywall, but I assume that it says that DMS from algae is the largest contributor from natural sources. I have not seen anyone claim it to be larger than anthropogenic. However it as an important part of the sulphur cycle (10-30 %), and I think most models which include the sulphur cycle also include DMS.

  17. 267
    Tony Lynch says:

    The real Diogenes was a monster of pride. Et tu DIOGENES.

  18. 268
    DIOGENES says:

    Robin Levett #243,

    “he is working out how long it will take to burn through the 10,900GtC he has identified as being available. If you are right that we’ll only get through 2,000GtC by 2125, it makes his point even more forcefully.”

    What point is that? According to McKibben, in his Terrifying New Math article in Rolling Stone:

    “Scientists estimate that humans can pour roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have some reasonable hope of staying below two degrees…..This idea of a global “carbon budget” emerged about a decade ago, as scientists began to calculate how much oil, coal and gas could still safely be burned. Since we’ve increased the Earth’s temperature by 0.8 degrees so far, we’re currently less than halfway to the target. But, in fact, computer models calculate that even if we stopped increasing CO2 now, the temperature would likely still rise another 0.8 degrees, as previously released carbon continues to overheat the atmosphere. That means we’re already three-quarters of the way to the two-degree target.”

    And, that’s for about an 80% chance of staying under 2 C, a contrived meaningless target about twice what is allowable. So, using the 565GtC will be more than enough to do us in, much less the 2,000 GtC mentioned above. The 10,900 computation is a meaningless exercise!

  19. 269
    Chris Dudley says:


    You are quoted saying:

    “So when we go out into the future, there’s a difference. The future is unknown, the future is uncertain, and there are choices. Here are the choices that we have. We can do some work to mitigate the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s the top one. We can do more work to really bring it down so that by the end of the century, it’s not much more than there is now. Or we can just leave it to fate and continue on with a business-as-usual type of attitude. The differences between these choices can’t be answered by looking at models.”

    The quote is from here:

    Did you misspeak when you used the word “can’t” in the last sentence or is this a transcription error? It does not seem to make sense in context.

    Actually I meant the differences in policy that lead to the different outcomes. It could have been clearer. – gavin

  20. 270
    DIOGENES says:

    From today’s CP:

    “Long-Awaited Plan To Fight California’s Epic Drought Passes Senate With GOP Support”

    The title, as usual, is a misnomer. This plan is completely reactive and reflexive, and will not get at the root of anything. It is analogous to addressing a symptom without eliminating what is causing the disease. Unfortunately, that’s the BEST we’re going to get from our Congress when it comes to amel******** climate change.

  21. 271
    DIOGENES says:

    If you read one climate blog article this year, it should be the following:
    “The real budgetary emergency and the myth of “burnable carbon”

    “We have to come to terms with two key facts: practically speaking, there is no longer a “carbon budget” for burning fossil fuels while still achieving a two-degree Celsius (2°C) future; and the 2°C cap is now known to be dangerously too high.”

    “What is less well understood is that if the risk is low, THERE IS NO CARBON BUDGET LEFT.”

    “If a risk-averse (pro-safety) approach is applied – say, of less than 10% probability of exceeding the 2°C target – to carbon budgeting, there is simply no budget available, because it has already been used up. A study from The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research shows that “the combination of a 2°C warming target with high probability of success is now unreachable” using the current suite of policy measures, because the budget has expired.”

    “For all these reasons – that is, prudent catastrophic risk management, accounting for food production and deforestation emissions, and for Arctic sea ice and carbon store instability – the idea of “burnable carbon” – that is, how much more coal, gas and oil we can burn and still keep under 2°C – is a dangerous illusion, based on unrealistic, high-risk, assumptions.”

    “A second consideration is that 2°C of warming is not a safe target. Instead, it’s the boundary between dangerous and very dangerous, and 1°C higher than experienced during the whole period of human civilisation. The last time greenhouse gas levels were as high as they are today, modern humans did not exist, so we are conducting an experiment for which we have no direct observable evidence from our own history, and for which we do not know the full result.”

    Where have we heard this message before?

  22. 272
    Robin Levett says:

    @DIOGENES #258:

    From my #243:

    “His point AIUI is that given that there are 10,900GtC available to be emitted to the air if we throw cheap renewable energy at the problem of its extraction (which figure is calculated in the original comment to which he referred you at his #216), there are no resource constraints on BAU until at least 2125 – so that ending BAU requires a conscious decision to stop. – See more at:

  23. 273
    Hank Roberts says:

    A bit more ‘oogling in Scholar for atmospheric sulfur:

    Estimates for 1976, made with the aid of emission factors, indicate that man’s activities generate a total of 104 Tg Sa−1. This already represents over 40% of all atmospheric sulphur emissions and, if it continues to increase at the present rate, will exceed Nature’s contribution well before the end of the present century.

    but that was early in the Clean Air Act, and didn’t happen:

    Chemosphere Volume 58, Issue 2, January 2005, Pages 163–175

    Global emissions peaked in 1989 and declined rapidly thereafter. The locus of emissions shifted towards East and South Asia, but even this region peaked in 1996. My estimates for the 1990s show a much more rapid decline than other global studies, reflecting the view that technological progress in reducing sulfur based pollution has been rapid and is beginning to diffuse worldwide.

    but China, India …?? and changes in the microbial populations ….??>

    I’m just trying to ask an interesting enough question to tickle someone who knows something about the subject to comment about ocean microbiology and climate; pointers welcome to more reading (tho’ I’m paywalled out of much).

  24. 274
    Wally says:

    DIO the 2,000 GtC is cumulative since ~1750/1800 whatever. It includes the 565GtC and all the way out to 2100, fwiw.

    It won’t happen but only because things will implode globally long before then.

  25. 275
    Chris Dudley says:


    In my #259, I’m trying to figure out if you disagree with the IPCC when they distinguish different outcomes from different RCP’s. Are you saying that the future is so magically different in its nature that in that one case models are completely without skill?

  26. 276
    DIOGENES says:

    Robin Levett #258,

    “I could be wrong, but as I understand it there is no ban on discussing mitigation this month; there is instead a requirement that if you wish to do so, you do so on a specific thread, where it is already the subject of discussion, and not in this particular thread. If that is correct, is that such a hardship?”

    You are correct, but the way this blog works, posting on a page 3 thread is equivalent to pissing in the ocean to raise its level. Disallowing appropriate discussion of climate change mitigation on Unforced Variations FOR ANY REASON is equivalent to the Presidential candidates not discussing climate change during the debates. The game now is all about mitigation, and the central technical problem is selecting the targets to drive the mitigation.

    Read #271, and re-read it. If those targets are correct, and I believe they are, our maneuvering space is collapsing rapidly and may have disappeared. The main contribution of a climate science blog, moderated by world-class scientists, should be to address the validity of those targets mercilessly and incessantly. Who else is going to do it??? With the Huns at the Gates, disallowing mitigation discussion is equivalent to giving the sentries a week off!!

  27. 277
    DIOGENES says:

    Wally #274,

    “DIO the 2,000 GtC is cumulative since ~1750/1800 whatever. It includes the 565GtC and all the way out to 2100, fwiw.”

    Understand. My point is that the 565GtC is a fiction. It is based on a contrived target (2 C), which even McKibben admits has little scientific basis, and is probably a factor of two too high. We have a bizarre situation in which two of the leading proponents for harsh actions, Anderson and McKibben, both admit their target of 2 C is basically contrived, has little scientific basis, and may be high by a factor of two. Yet, that doesn’t stop them from making recommendations based on the 2 C target. Does that make sense to you? If your broker tells you that a firm appears headed for bankruptcy and its stock is way overvalued, yet recommends that you buy now, would you find that credible? Why are the recommendations of Anderson and McKibben any more credible, based on targets that even they admit are contrived? And, why is this climate blog not pulling out all the stops to provide maximum insight as to what the credible targets should be?

  28. 278
    Chris Dudley says:

    owl905 (#259),

    So, Austin is buying grid ready solar power for $0.05/kWh. I think you’ll agree that we can dispense with the inverters for hydrogen production. So, cut the cost in half. That is $42 for an oil barrel’s worth of energy. Let’s assume 85% efficiency for producing hydrogen, no well costs since we are using existing oil fields and we double the energy content of the hydrogen when we drag up the fossil carbon. That comes to a production cost of $25/barrel. At a market price of about $100/barrel, that looks profitable. Nope, looks like renewable energy can put substantial downward pressure on oil prices. Certainly processing the Green River shale at an EROEI of 3 gives a very attractive $14/barrel cost. The Saudis may even envy that these days.

    We’re looking at an absolute glut.

  29. 279
    Chris Dudley says:

    Gavin @269,

    Thanks for the response. I’m still not clear. I could see that climate models need policy choice input, or better, forcing scenarios, to work. But the IPCC also uses economic models to try to translate specific policy choices into emissions outcomes. Are you just saying that climate models don’t tell you how to implement policy, only what that policy must accomplish?

    I think that changing ‘can’t’ to ‘can’ fits in the context of the transcript. So, I’m still stuck.

    [Response: Choices by society are not made by models, they are made by people. – gavin]

  30. 280
    Wally says:

    272 Robin Levett … “there are 10,900GtC available to be emitted”

    Evidence ? CITES please ?

  31. 281
    Hank Roberts says:

    Dio, look at the right hand sidebar. You’re oblivious to how this works.

    New comments, and inline replies, are listed in the list in the right sidebar.
    That appears on every screen people see. NO MATTER WHICH TOPIC they post in.

    There is no “Page 1” here.

    People are ignoring you _because_ you make irrelevant posts,
    and you refused to use the topic dedicated to your ideas,
    and you appear to think you own the blog.

    Hey, maybe you do. IF so you’re going to be all alone here soon.

    Until you figure out how to use the tool, you can’t do the work.

  32. 282
    Hank Roberts says:

    CD, all your math assumes no externalized costs and no carbon tax, right?
    Using a clean fuel (hydrogen) to gather otherwise unreachable dirty carbon makes no sense unless you believe there’s no added cost to burning it.

    There’s also the notion of doing exactly the opposite of what you keep suggesting — extracting the hydrogen from hydrocarbons in situ, leaving the carbon in the ground. That might make sense.

  33. 283
    Robin Levett says:

    @wally #280:

    “272 Robin Levett … “there are 10,900GtC available to be emitted”

    Evidence ? CITES please ?”

    Restoring your snip, what I actually said top DIOGENES was:

    “His point AIUI is that given that there are 10,900GtC available to be emitted to the air if we throw cheap renewable energy at the problem of its extraction (which figure is calculated in the original comment to which he referred you at his #216)”

    from which it is clear that a sufficient cite is the post to which CD referred you at #216 – namely his #26.

  34. 284
    Chris Dudley says:

    Hank (#282),

    Good question. We are not good at bringing externalized costs back into accounting, so I’m just looking at what a producer pays in costs and what the producer gets in revenue. Using cheap renewable energy to produce high priced liquid fuels seems pretty inevitable.

    Hydrogen, by itself, is a little inconvenient to work with. It is presently produced from natural gas though as you suggest. But, the carbon is released to the atmosphere, not returned to the ground.

  35. 285
    Chris Dudley says:

    Gavin @279,

    Still stuck though that is clearer. Would you agree with this? “[Questions about t]he differences between [the outcomes of] these choices [can] be answered by looking at models.”

    It may not be the point you were trying to make, but it does seem to be true.

  36. 286
    sidd says:

    Fascinating study of the destabilization of Austfonna in Svalbard by Dunse et al. doi:10.5194/tcd-8-2685-2014

    “We identify a hydro-thermodynamic feedback that successively mobilizes stagnant ice regions, initially frozen to their bed, thereby facilitating fast basal motion over an expanding area.”

    “Cryohydrologic warming and increased frictional heating both act to enhance this positive feedback, weakening the flow resistance exerted by the lateral shear margins and initially cold-based ice patches acting as “sticky spots”. The interplay between cryohydrologic warming and the emergence of basal hydraulic lubrication over an expanding area of the ice base constitutes a hydro-thermodynamic feedback.”

    Read all about it, open access


  37. 287
    Radge Havers says:

    D @~ 276, 277

    What Hank said.

    D, you couldn’t have done a better job of poisoning the well on that topic if you tried, and yet here you are still attempting to muddy the waters at the intersection of science and policy. Hmmm, what if the people who do this for a living actually had a better handle on the nuances of this situation than your basic, self-styled prophet? It’s a devilish conundrum, eh?

  38. 288
    flxible says:

    Seems military scientists have different ideas than CD about hydrogen :)

  39. 289
    Chuck Hughes says:

    Now that Antarctica is in a state of decline, what’s next? I’m assuming several meters of SLR are already in the works. Greenland is unstable. We’re not slowing down with emissions so what’s the game plan? The IPCC has issued several dire warnings. I’m hearing more talk about Climate Change in the media and on the news. Even the Pope has taken a stand. I take that as a positive development but where do we go from here? Thanks.

  40. 290
    Chris Dudley says:

    flxible (#287),

    We’re not discussing responsible ways to get liquid fuels this month.

    Note, however, that the energy needed to reduce carbon in that process is not required for a coal-to-liquid scheme, for example. For the Navy, the process makes a lot of sense; no need to haul jet fuel around. But, for commercial use, using fossil reduced carbon as a feedstock would be cheaper.

  41. 291
    wallly says:

    283 – Robin Levett
    #216 is not a Cite nor evidence. AIUI is not a cite nor evidence.
    and #26 is far from being factually accurate let alone rational … and light years from being a Cite so it may as well be a coin toss, in my humble opinion.

    Perhaps the RC crew could consider pre-registering people allowed to post comments here, as it would make it far better and less of a waste of time for Gavin (and many readers who never post). The scientific literacy quotient would skyrocket over night. Yeah that would mean barring (not approving) me and Dio too … in case you wonder how serious I am .. I am very serious. The world was heading in a better direction when RC had Mojo.

    Meanwhile Gavin would be far more effective (and I suspect happier) if he started doing more TED Talk type presentations than wasting his time on these bog comments pages. The one he ref’d at the beginning of this months thread was excellent … everything since then is well, far less impressive (or useful). cheers

    (but what would I know …. well I would be pretty close to accurate to say that the RC traffic now would be less than ~20% of what it was in 2008/09. ASk Gavin he would know for certain. )

  42. 292
    Robin Levett says:

    @flxible #288:

    A couple of points:

    Firstly, as yet, the technology is at lab scale, and will require serious work and time to get it up to ship scale. The technology will be limited to nuclear-powered ships producing jet-fuel – massive energy input is required, which would rule out producing enough energy to power the ships themselves (if they could produce enough solar to create liquid fuel to power the ship, they could run the ship directly off the solar…).

    Secondly, the US Navy has the advantage of floating on their (prospective) fuel source. If this is going to be used to replace liquid fuels for transportation generally, the production technology will have to be developed further, and integrated into the existing storage and distribution networks. Who knows whether, absent the military imperative, that will be economically feasible given the necessary energy inputs, which will have to come from non-fossil sources.

  43. 293
    DIOGENES says:

    Wally #274,

    “It won’t happen but only because things will implode globally long before then.”

    As I interpret your remark, the only reason that we won’t burn up the xyz GtC by 2100 is ‘global implosion’. What is your global implosion scenario, especially with regard to limiting fossil fuel use? If climate degradation produces more intense heat waves, more intense storms, more wars, etc, these types of events tend to use more fossil fuels, not less. Other than massive population die-offs, what is it that will reduce fossil fuel use under these conditions?

  44. 294
    Susan Anderson says:

    Wow, Gavin hits the jackpot!

    “Choices … are made by people”

    So obvious when you think about it, innit?

    And unfortunately, some people are not related to reality. Our House of Representatives, for example, who voted to pass this (which hopefully the Senate will stop). Just like those expensive and useless votes to repeal health care for all.

    None of the funds authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to implement the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order

  45. 295
    Steve Fish says:

    Re- Comment by Chris Dudley — 25 May 2014 @ 12:40 AM and above

    It is impolite to troll your off topic idea here when the rest of us are trying to respect the management’s wishes.


  46. 296
    Chris Dudley says:

    Robin (#291),

    At the risk of discussing something sensible, and since you’ve broached the subject, cheap renewables make this sort of thing competitive as well, just not as competitive as making the planet nearly entirely uninhabitable. There are, for example, places south of Iceland where the wind resource is exquisite and applying that to producing liquid fuels from hydrogen and dissolved carbon dioxide from the oceans there would fit our present liquid fuel delivery infrastructure like a glove: there is already a world supplying tanker fleet. As Gavin points out, we have a choice to do the responsible thing. We could be fossil fuel free at lower cost than our present energy system in a couple decades. But polluting even more costs even less on a market decision timescale, so BAU would not follow a sensible path. It would, rather, make every nation’s territory desolate.

  47. 297
    Fred Magyar says:

    Susan Anderson @ 292,

    “Choices … are made by people”

    So obvious when you think about it, innit?”

    And unfortunately, some people are not related to reality.”

    I think it all depends on who is buttering their bread…

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

    ― Upton Sinclair

  48. 298
    wili says:

    A while ago, I asked if anyone had any idea what the new research on WAIS and GIS melt rates might mean for rates of global slr. Here’s what I found in an AJ piece:

    “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in August warned of a three-foot sea level rise by 2100. But with new insight into melting glaciers in West Antarctica, that increase must be revised to at least seven feet.”

    And that’s not including the increases above earlier estimates from GIS melt, so one might conservatively add another couple feet, yielding at least 9 feet or 3+ meters total sea level rise by centuries end. (But if I’m way off here, I trust someone will correct me.)

    Does that make sense to others? Are there any other places where anyone has been hearing these estimates being made in light of the most recent research on WAIS and GIS melt rates?

    It seems to me that these are crucial calculations for the huge portion of the global population that now lives below these levels. How much of this increase in slr should we expect to get in, say, the next 20 years? Half a meter? Less? More? (Obviously, specific locations will have less or more than the global average, whatever the numbers may be.)

    Another point made here (toward end of video):

    is that there is a 100-1000 times greater likelihood of coastal flooding with even just a .5 meter increase in slr. So the near-term (years to very few decades) consequences for many coastal residents would seem to be quite dire for many.

    Thanks ahead of time for any insights.

    (Might we expect a main post on these important developments?)

  49. 299
    Iconoclast says:

    [edit – do not use multiple sock puppet names on this blog. You will be automatically deleted.]

  50. 300
    Chris Dudley says:

    Susan (#292),

    The choices Gavin outlines in the TED talk is pretty complicated.

    “Here are the choices that we have. We can do some work to mitigate the emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. That’s the top one. We can do more work to really bring it down so that by the end of the century, it’s not much more than there is now. Or we can just leave it to fate and continue on with a business-as-usual type of attitude.” – See more at:

    If you start to parse that, the word “we” is complicated. The “we” who starts an effort probably isn’t the same “we” who finishes since there is “now” and “the end of the century” involved which is long enough to have a few generations of people. So, what sort of “we” has that kind of durability. Nation state hold a kind of enduring identity and can take decisions, but it seems pretty clear that Gavin’s third choice, BAU, only needs a few “we’s” to take that road for any efforts on the part of others to be erased. So, “we” means the entire world for a long time, and our experience is that that sort of thing falls apart after a while. The UN has shown a little staying power, but the League of Nations did not endure. So, the “we” that needs to make decisions may not be well enough defined for long enough to be capable of making decisions.

    And, then there is the decision itself. In some ways it is like a call to repentance. If you decide to repent, you have decided something, but do you really decide not to repent, or is it just habit carrying you along? One aspect of the theory of the ban- al- ity of evil is that evil can just crop up without any particular decision point. BAU represents a non-decision in its very description. We could say that once we are informed about the consequences of our actions, we are responsible for them, but there are many people actively trying to lie to us about this issue, so it is hard to know it we are informed or not.

    Then it starts to devolve into a whole can of worms of not what to do, but how to do it, a topic we are avoiding this month. There are people who can’t stand that Al Gore wanted to censor por- no- graph- y, so they’ll insist that whatever gets done has to be done in a way that he would not like. There is a guy who’s father’s project at a national lab was a horrible mess to clean up. He wants our global warming problem to be a means of vindicating his dad’s failed project. He’s worked hard at promoting that and now Jim Hansen is writing the President about it. What a waste of time.

    And, perhaps the worse thing is that there is just so much carbon we can access. Just as Carl Sagan pointed out that over time the chances of an accidentally caused nuclear conflagration become quite large absent disarmament, a century or so of high carbon emissions anytime in the next ten thousand years means desolation. How could we “disarm” those carbon pools and put them permanently beyond use? I’m not sure we could. The choices Gavin describes don’t get made once and for all, they have to be stuck to.