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Unforced variations: July 2014

Filed under: — group @ 2 July 2014

This month’s open thread. Topics of potential interest: The successful OCO-2 launch, continuing likelihood of an El Niño event this fall, predictions of the September Arctic sea ice minimum, Antarctic sea ice excursions, stochastic elements in climate models etc. Just for a change, no discussion of mitigation efforts please!

373 Responses to “Unforced variations: July 2014”

  1. 251
    Mike Roberts says:

    Diogenes, there is enough sloppiness in McPherson’s “documentation” of the science, that it throws much of his work, in this area, into question. See Hank’s link above, the target of which also has a link to another blog looking at what McPherson claims.

  2. 252
    DIOGENES says:

    Chuck Hughes #246,

    “Somebody correct me if I’m wrong about this. Please.”

    Gladly! When I use the term suppression in the present context, I’m not talking about stamping climate change data TOP SECRET, as ‘we’ have done with e.g. communications surveillance data. I’m talking about de-emphasizing its presence in the media, and effectively taking it off the radar screen. I find it amazing, and rather hypocritical, that so many posters will cry ‘conspiracy’ when decrying the lack of coverage of real climate change issues by the networks or the false balance of deniers and non-deniers by the networks, or will cry ‘conspiracy’ and ‘cover-up’ when describing the role of the large energy companies in downplaying the reality of climate change, but don’t see similar suppressive forces at work in downplaying the harsh realities of climate change on the advocacy blogs and other media.

    As you point out, the information is available, but is not READILY available. Up until a couple of months ago, how many times did you see Ozzie Zehner’s outstanding book Green Illusions referenced on this blog or on CP? How many times did you see the peer-reviewed papers on low renewables ERoEI referenced on these blogs? How much information on the real 1 C limit do you see advertised on any of the blogs or official reports? It is not enough that information be available in theory; it needs to have a prominent role in the media. Posters here are always complaining that the poor poll results on climate change are due to lack of real information on the topic by the public. Using your logic, one could argue the true information about climate change is available to the public; what’s the complaint. They could get the truth about the real targets from Hansen’s publically-available papers and Spratt’s publically-available blog. They could get the truth about renewables from Ozzie Zehner’s book Green Illusions and the publically-available peer-reviewed papers I referenced in my posts. In theory, they could, but unless these sources are given the prominence that we presently give to the contrived 2 C limit sources and the sources that whitewash renewables, this information becomes de facto suppressed.

  3. 253
    DIOGENES says:

    Kevin McKinney #241,

    “Of course mitigation and climate change are ‘bound up’. And of course they can be separated for purposes of discussion.”

    What I am telling you is, in climate change, we are seeing mitigation-driven science being reported! That is the only reason the contrived 2 C target has gained any traction. It is ludicrous to separate the science from the mitigation for discussion purposes, in this particular case.

  4. 254

    #246–You are not wrong, Chuck.

  5. 255
  6. 256
    Chuck Hughes says:

    “In modern times, I find it odd that people turn to me to comment on these other matters. I’m an astrophysicist. But there are people who are climate scientists. I think more climate scientists should step up to the plate and serve that same corresponding role that the physicists played during the Cold War, and if they want, to empower lawmakers and the citizenry to make informed decisions about the future of the country. So I think it should happen more than it has happened. But, like I said, many of these issues are not directly at the center of my professional expertise and we have others for whom it is. So in the way that nuclear physicists stood up, I think we should have climate scientists standing up. With any issue that comes up, when we have an emergent scientific truth, we can’t just sit back and watch people debate a scientific truth — they should be debating the politics that would follow from the emergent scientific truth. That’s really what the debates should be about, but they haven’t been. And I’m disturbed by that, because I don’t know what kind of democracy that is, if you’re gonna run around cherry-picking the results of science, of emergent scientific consensus because it conflicts with your philosophy and you want to be responsible for the governance of the nation, which involves thoughtful planning for the future of our health and our wealth, the state of the economy, all of the above.” ~ Dr. Tyson

  7. 257
    Hank Roberts says:


    This continues to be an interesting, frequently updated list/link collection on climate subjects. Today’s page there includes among much else:

    I Crashed a Climate Change Denial Conference in Las Vegas

    More Grumbine Science: Data are ugly

  8. 258
    patrick says:

    Kevin McKinney #206. Thanks for the timely link to the post of July 5.

    Speak of the devil:

    I’m not linking company websites, but you can start with the link in paragraph 7. The subject is timely because of the collaboration announced June 25. The second company involved says, we’re three years ahead…we are doing what others are talking about (video).

  9. 259
    patrick says:

    “Just step back and look around.” –Jason Box:

    July 12 interview, with Bill Maher:

  10. 260
    patrick says:

    > Speak of the devil, etc. Correction:

    You can start with the link in paragraph 8.

  11. 261
    Chris Dudley says:

    Chuck (#246),

    Scientists don’t know things for sure, they know something about how well a thing could be known. This is not a conspiracy, it just how science works. However, because of this way of backing into knowledge, there is a kind of caution in science that could become a value judgement within a political context. Is it more important to warn strongly of danger, or emphasize the uncertainty on how dangerous the danger might be? Hansen has called this scientific reticence

    So, should we take science based warnings and multiply them by pi? Should we accuse scientists of base motives like your interlocutor? No, I think the best approach is to act like an outfielder and run in an arc to get under the ball. You don’t know, when the ball is hit, just where it will land, but you start moving at the crack of the bat so that you can adjust an be there as the trajectory becomes more apparent with time.

  12. 262
  13. 263
    Radge Havers says:

    How symmetrically tidy.

    advocates = denialists.

    Just more false balance. Substantiation requires more than argument by analogy.

  14. 264
    DIOGENES says:

    Mike Roberts #250,

    “Diogenes, there is enough sloppiness in McPherson’s “documentation” of the science, that it throws much of his work, in this area, into question. See Hank’s link above, the target of which also has a link to another blog looking at what McPherson claims.”

    Hank’s reference has been around for a while; I came across it months ago. It is yet another hatchet job on McPherson. The author states: “but he cites nearly as many blog posts and newspaper columns as published studies”. Ironic, since the author is not publishing his critique in any recognized journal or magazine, but rather, as you guessed it, on his blog!

    Look, most scientists in any field will spend their research careers within a very narrow cocoon, making incremental improvements in the science, and reporting very specific results. That’s how one racks up a lot of pubs, garners many citations, and gets continuing grants. The more specific the results reported, the less open they are to criticism. Every once in a while, a visionary will come along, start with what the existing science is telling us, then make a huge leap into what MAY BE possible. There is tremendous danger in doing such extrapolations, and such a scientist becomes open to criticism from the timid and cautious majority who feel threatened by the visionary’s eclectic and expansive world view.

    McPherson is such a visionary. Unfortunately, he is his own worst enemy. He combines the hard science sources from the top-tier journals with the less-accepted sources from the blogs and presentations. In my estimation, he could make a solid case if he relied on his more bullet-proof sources alone. The way to make maximum use of McPherson is to examine the myriad sources referenced in his Summary and Update, and come to your own conclusions. That’s what I have done.

    Do I agree with his projection of Near-Term Extinction? No, although I don’t have a solid basis for saying it can’t happen. But, I think that’s a moot point. There is every bit of evidence that we will remain on the BAU path for the foreseeable future, and as the global climate models predict, we will attain temperature increases on the order of 4-6 C, or more, by the end of the century (probably more if we ever include the carbon feedbacks in these models). At those temperatures, we will reach the same end point as McPherson predicts, or some reasonable facsimile thereof.

    I have seen many posts on different climate blogs where people wallow in the minutae of McPherson’s articles/speeches, point out the inconsistencies, and exult in the belief they have actually accomplished something. Why, then, isn’t this same level of detailed scrutiny applied to the temperature ceiling targets in numerous climate science papers and reports, or to the inadequacies and deficiencies of the low carbon and energy efficiency technologies for contributing to climate change amelioration? Read Ozzie Zehner’s outstanding expose of the inadequacies of ‘green’ technologies, Green Illusions, for a description of some of these problems. Read the peer-reviewed journal articles I have posted previously on the deficiencies of renewables, and their inconsequential contribution to climate change amelioration. Amazing, isn’t it, how we focus the most detailed analytical guns on someone whose results and conclusions challenge the potential for Windfalls from the ameliorative technologies, while we give a ‘pass’ to those who promote targets and technologies designed to foster these Windfalls.

    McPherson’s articles and speeches leave much to be desired. If he were your typical garden variety scientist, he would be publishing very narrow model or experimental results, and staying within the confines of his specific data and parameters. You would learn all you need to know about the trees, but little about the forest. McPherson provides a big picture with some blurry sections, but overall there is much to be learned from his approach. The good outweighs the bad!

  15. 265
    Hank Roberts says:

    from COMP.RISKS:

    How to Flawlessly Predict Anything on the Internet
    Lauren Weinstein
    Sun, 20 Jul 2014 07:55:26 -0700
    Medium via NNSquad

    “This is a modern update to a classic confidence game—find a risky scenario with limited possibilities, bet on every single combination, and then hide your failures. The result is that you look like you’re either psychic or a goddamned genius. Variations of this scam have been used for centuries in finance, magic, and gambling…. “

  16. 266
    Chris Dudley says:

    Ric (#246),

    You are still asking for all the trappings of a grubby-make-work-fetch-and-carry energy system. A let-it-come-to-you system just does not need all those trains.

    You are laboring under a storage myth as well. Experience shows this is not a big deal.

  17. 267
    DIOGENES says:


    “”We face a systemic industrial massacre,” said Antonio Tajani, the European industry commissioner.

    Mr Tajani warned that EUROPE’S QUIXOTIC DASH FOR RENEWABLES WAS PUSHING ELECTRICITY COSTS TO UNTENABLE LEVELS, leaving Europe struggling to compete as America’s shale revolution cuts US natural gas prices by 80pc.

    “I am in favour of a green agenda, but we can’t be religious about this. We need a new energy policy. We have to stop pretending, because we can’t sacrifice Europe’s industry for climate goals that are not realistic, and are not being enforced worldwide,” he told The Daily Telegraph during the Ambrosetti forum of global policy-makers at Lake Como.

    “The loss of competitiveness is frightening,” said Paulo Savona, head of Italy’s Fondo Interbancario. “When people choose whether to invest in Europe or the US, what they think about most is the cost of energy.” “

  18. 268
    Edward Greisch says:

    How to get our message out?
    MOOC courses are good. You can teach 20,000 students at once at a junior high level. There will be lots of trolls if you have a forum. You won’t be teaching everybody, but you will be making inroads.

    But most people don’t own a computer and fewer have an internet connection. Plan for the worst internet connection you can.

    Massive letters to the editor campaigns could work if they had a lesson plan.

  19. 269
    Lawrence Coleman says:

    260 Chris: “Scientists don’t know things for sure, they know something about how well a thing could be known.” They have a ‘general’ idea of how well something can be known, for the more you delve into the understanding of nature/science the more questions and variables pop up. You might have a good grasp of the macro mechanics of something but fail to appreciate the other lessor players that could conspire under ideal circumstances or unprecedented circumstances to completely change what you though the outcome would be.

  20. 270
    Mal Adapted says:

    Chris Dudley, responding to Chuck Hughes:

    Scientists don’t know things for sure, they know something about how well a thing could be known. This is not a conspiracy, it just how science works. However, because of this way of backing into knowledge, there is a kind of caution in science that could become a value judgement within a political context. Is it more important to warn strongly of danger, or emphasize the uncertainty on how dangerous the danger might be?

    In my experience, a person chooses to become a physical scientist mostly for personal reasons, usually a powerful curiosity about the Universe together with a competitive urge to discover things previously unknown. Most of them wind up funded by government because pure research is a public good, and doesn’t attract much private investment. A dedication to public service isn’t typically what drives a physical scientist, though.

    When their research reveals a risk to the society they’re part of, scientists have a responsibility to make their findings public, but to expect them to offer false certainty is unreasonable. Nor is it reasonable to expect a precise estimate of the magnitude of the risk if the available data won’t provide it, especially when the risks will be greater or lesser depending on who is asking. That is the case with climate change in general, and the impacts of Arctic methane in particular. If you aren’t getting the answers you want, is it more likely that scientists are concealing them from you, or that you’re asking a question they’re simply unable to answer?

    Even acknowledging the limitations of science, as a tool for seeing what lies ahead and a guide to action it’s the only thing better than divination with a sheep’s liver. Scientists aren’t shamans, though, and it’s not their responsibility to intercede with the Universe on anyone’s behalf. It’s the responsibility of anyone who is aware of scientific findings to decide what they mean to him. It’s the responsibility of everyone to decide collectively what society’s response should be. In the US, we expect our elected officials to lead collective decision-making. It’s not the fault of climate scientists if our leaders have not lead.

  21. 271
    Jim Larsen says:

    255 Chuck Hughes quoted Dr. Tyson, “I think more climate scientists should step up to the plate and serve that same corresponding role that the physicists played during the Cold War.”

    I think the problem is efficiency. How many hours are spent moderating this blog when there is an overabundance of volunteer labor to moderate, respond, and refer to the owners of the blog? Especially, unforced variations, which the audience clearly wants to open up to mitigation and adaption.

    Cheap resources (FREE!) should act as gatekeepers for the $expensive$ experts. Gavin, I bet you could identify and recruit a stellar group of gatekeepers.

  22. 272
    Jim Larsen says:

    Given target choices of 1C and 2C and that 1C is the real safety limit, then what harm will come from hitting 2C and then fudging down to 1C through geoengineering?

  23. 273
    Magnus W says:

    Any one seen comments to this article?

    HAC robust trend comparisons among climate series with possible level shifts.

    by the usual suspect that spins it like the models are off

    [Response: The new econometric techniques described seem interesting, but the application to climate models is silly. The idea is that one can look for trends including jumps and do the comparison between observations and models. The problem is that the ‘jump’ identified is the ‘Pacific Climate shift’ sometime around 1976, is very clearly an expression of internal variability of the climate system (like ENSO, or the NAO). In comparing that to the models, you would need to be looking at the internal variability there too, but McKitrick instead uses the ensemble means to do the comparison. These only defines the externally forced part of the variability, and so he is guaranteeing that he will not find a match. Conceivably if the shift in 1976 was externally forced (and I’m not aware of any evidence that it is), you would expect to find a match with models only if there were that forcing applied, but since we don’t know of any such forcing, that is obviously not included in the GCMs, and so a mismatch is again guaranteed. An interesting study could have been done, looking at individual simulations, on how often events like the shift occur in the models (which might reveal deficiencies, or not), but to use these internal shifts as an argument that overall sensitivity is too high is, as I said above, silly. – gavin]

  24. 274
    patrick says:

    I’ve been waiting for sci-fi to step up.

    It hasn’t. So Naomi Oreskes & Erik Conway do:

    July 25: “14 concepts that will be obsolete after catastrophic climate change”–

    Linked in the current SkS news roundup:
    Originally from an essay [now, a book] in Daedalus, winter 2013:

    “In this essay, we blend the two genres to imagine a future historian looking back on a past that is our present and (possible) future.”

    The authors are historians of science. Ms. Oreskes’ background in geosciences and her entire cv–ditto, Mr. Conway’s–make this kind of insight possible.

    It’s a big frame, and a big mirror; and it’s the concept that counts.

  25. 275
    MartinJB says:

    Hi patrick (#273), in your wait for sci-fi to step up, have you read Paolo Bacigalupi’s books? I think he paints a very interesting picture of a post-climate/ecological collapse society. The Windup Girl has perhaps received the most attention, but don’t ignore his “young-adult” works (Drowned Cities and Shipbreaker).

  26. 276
    Hank Roberts says:

    the ‘jump’ identified is the ‘Pacific Climate shift’ sometime around 1976, is very clearly an expression of internal variability of the climate system (like ENSO, or the NAO).

    Is this part of that?

    U.S. Dept. of Commerce / NOAA / OAR / PMEL / Publications
    Physical forcing of ecosystem dynamics on the Bering Sea Shelf
    P. J. Stabeno,1 G. L. Hunt, Jr.,2 J. M. Napp,3 and J. D. Schumacher 4
    1NOAA, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, Seattle, Washington, 98115
    2University of California
    3Alaska Fisheries Science Center
    4Two Crow Environmental Consultants, Silver City, NM, 88061
    Chapter 30 in The Sea, Vol. 14, A.R. Robinson and K. Brink (eds.) ISBN 0-674-01527-4.
    Copyright ©2005 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Further electronic distribution is not allowed.
    4. Processes in the Southeastern Bering Sea
    Natural fluctuations in climate dramatically influence biota in the Bering Sea (e.g., Napp and Hunt, 2001). Trends observed in 11 species (fish, marine birds, and marine mammals) found in the eastern Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands ecosystem show marked changes in relative abundance (Fig. 30.5). Using 100 physical and biological time series (29 of these from eastern Bering Sea marine biota), Hare and Mantua (2000) showed a significant change occurred in 1976/77 and to a lesser degree in 1989. While the mechanisms that link climate to biota were not addressed, it appears that a shift in the decadal patterns of climate (indicated by changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Arctic Oscillation) contributed to changes in biota. More recently the change in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) in the late 1990s has been interpreted as a regime shift (McFarlane et al., 2000; Macklin et al., 2002; Peterson and Schwing, 2003) or more recently as a shift in the dominate mode of variability in sea surface temperature (Bond et al., 2004). It is not necessary for the climate shift to be immediately manifest as biological change; shifts in the demersal fish communities are characterized by lags from the climate/ocean regime shift (Conners et al., 2002) and buildup of demersal fish stocks can exert top down control on populations of commercially important fish well after the climate shift (Bailey, 2000).

    Relative abundance of large animals in the ecosystem — something rather huge happened there in the mid-1970s.
    Internal or external change? Enough to change something else of interest?

    I know I’m just handwaving, but I’d really like to see more on ocean ecology and climate.
    I keep wondering if there’s a tail-wagging-dog feedback showing up in changes in ocean ecosystems in this climate excursion.

  27. 277
    DIOGENES says:

    Jim Larsen #271,

    Given target choices of 1C and 2C and that 1C is the real safety limit, then what harm will come from hitting 2C and then fudging down to 1C through geoengineering?”

    Nowhere do I rule out the use of geo-engineering. In fact, we may have no choice even with the best of intentions. The essence of my desired plan is threefold: strict demand reduction; massive reforestation and soil-vegetation management; and, if temperatures appear to peak much above 1 C even with the above massive and strict measures, then some geo-engineering for the interim period.

    I have two major concerns about geo-engineering, and a number of minor ones. It would be nice to be able to predict the effects of such large-scale modifications BEFORE we implement them. Since we are not able to model all the necessary phenomena excluding geo-engineering today, especially all the major carbon feedbacks and the ice mechanics and dynamics, I would feel very uneasy about our modeling effects accurately of such large geo-engineering experiments (and, they are experiments). Second, a number of geo-engineering proposals I have seen limit applications to one region, usually the Arctic. It’s not clear that such confinement would be adequate, especially with warm water entering the Arctic from other bodies of water. It may very well be that that some approximation of full global geo-engineering modifications would be required. I am very uneasy about such orders of magnitude scale-up from where we are. Such levels of scale-up are well beyond my personal experience, and I have found that even modest scale-ups can produce many unexpected and unwanted effects. But, we may have no choice, even if we were to aim for a 1 C target, as proposed above. Our decades-long delay in implementing ameliorative practices has left us with choices ranging from horrific to worse than horrific.

  28. 278
    PCalith says:

    @266, while there are problems with the a transition to renewable energy, this is not one of them. I’m sure you’ll dismiss anything I post out of hand, but in Germany at least, industry has been thriving, and remains one of the most competitive states for investment around the world. Indeed, the whole of Europe is generally pretty industrially competitive, independent of renewable generation. There is, after all, more that goes into investment decisions than energy costs. The argument you quote, and are making here, is more often made by large utilities and fossil fuel corporations looking to preserve their profit – which is under great threat by renewables throughout the EU.

    On European Utilities in the red:

    On Competitiveness:

  29. 279

    #267–Ed, FWIW, most people in the US do have access to computers:

  30. 280

    #266 (Diogenes) –Anti-green illusions, more like. Tajani is a political flack, a former member of the Berlusconi team that has been driving the Italian economy into the ditch.

    Savona, by contrast, has real economic chops. But while he is clearly concerned with the high cost of energy in Europe, there’s a lot more to that story than renewables–something the story conspicuously doesn’t explore, quite possibly not by coincidence: the Telegraph has as much interest in anything green (that isn’t a piece of US currency) as a pig has in Shakespeare. It’s highly suspect to take anything they say at face value.

    And yes, that’s an ad hom, but it’s founded in a long and inglorious history.

    Be that as it may, I looked for some clues as to where Dr. Savona is coming from, and came up with very little. But this paper’s abstract–the paper is by one Carlos Viviani, and I *think* it cites Savona–seems to be pretty compatible with the Telly story:

    ABSTRACT Climate change, security and cost of energy supplies, and the competitiveness of firms and economies have been focal points of the general political and economic policy debate in recent years. This article examines the choices in this field made at global level with the Kyoto Protocol and in Europe with the more recent “20-20-20” package from the standpoints of the Italian national interests and the negotiating stance adopted by our Government in European and international forums. The European negotiations on renewable energy sources, the reduction of emissions in the sectors with and without emissions trading schemes, automobile emissions, the auctioning of emission rights, and the identification of industries exposed to the risk of delocalization (carbon leakage) are described in detail, including background data not previously available, and the reasons for Italy’s positions set forth. The principle guiding Italian negotiators has been to balance the various policy aims, in an effort to ensure that the necessary action against climate change does not have excessive repercussions on growth and employment. The principle is all the more valid in the global talks on the regime that will succeed the Kyoto Protocol when it expires on 1 January 2013. Without a credible global agreement entailing an equivalent commitment, or sectoral agreements, instruments will be needed to prevent Europe’s climate commitment from producing an unfair competitive disadvantage, with potentially serious social and economic consequences but no appreciable environmental advantage.

    Luke warmish–and highly incongruous, dear friend Diogenes, with your stated positions. Viviani (and I think) Savona wants to avoid all sorts of economic disruption. You, on the other hand, want to shut down everything that you deem inessential and to hell with the consequences.

    Strange bedfellows…

    But of course, all this concerns mitigation and really should be off topic for another week or so at least.

  31. 281
    Mike Roberts says:

    Diogenes, commenting here, yes, McPherson has many interesting things to say but explaining why the evidences points to near term extinction is not one of them. I agree that you can draw your own conclusion from his links. My conclusion is that it’s impossible to say how this all plays out. McPherson differs but, as far as I can tell, doesn’t explain why, seeming to prefer piling on feedback after feedback (often incorrectly) as though that is sufficient explanation. But, as I say, because he is sloppy with his references, in many instances, it leads to the thought that he can be simply dismissed. To avoid that, he needs to go back to his evidence, spend time to understand what it is saying and what it isn’t saying, and hone it down to corroborated and well understood processes, then project from there. He could be a force for waking people up but appears to prefer just gathering in acolytes who seem to desperately want the end of the world.

  32. 282
    sidd says:

    Mr. Jim Larsen writes on the 25th of July, 2014 at 6:45 PM:
    “Especially, unforced variations, which the audience clearly wants to open up to mitigation and adaption.”

    I do not. Rather, I would like a separate thread or threads specifically for those. Keep “Unforced Variations” uncluttered.


  33. 283
    Chuck Hughes says:

    There must be more to the methane situation.

    [Response: Mostly a good summary, but giving credence to Carana’s blog is a mistake (it’s almost all wrong), and the IASI satellite retrievals are not reliable (and still unpublished). – gavin]

  34. 284

    Those who followed the November 2013 thread Arctic and American Methane In Context will find the in-progress reports from SWERUS-C3 interesting.

    ”This was somewhat of a surprise,” writes chief scientist Örjan Gustafsson, Stockholm University, in his latest blog entry. He speculates that the leaking methane from the seafloor of the continental slope may have its origins in collapsing “methane hydrates,” clusters of methane trapped in frozen water due to high pressure and low temperature.

  35. 285
    Chris Dudley says:

    The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an essay by Donald P. Gould, trustee and chair of the investment committee at Pitzer College and president of Gould Asset Management. Pitzer decided to divest from fossil fuels. Gould describes responses the college discovered to the following objections to divestment:

    We would be violating our fiduciary duty as trustees to do anything that does not maximize our endowment’s performance.

    The big fossil-fuel companies won’t stop producing fossil fuels because we divest. Our sale won’t cause even a blip in the stock market.

    We would look like hypocrites, selling our investments in fossil-fuel companies while tanking up our cars.

    Selling those holdings from our endowment will deprive us of their investment returns.

    We invest in commingled vehicles such as mutual funds. We would have to sell those funds in order to remove the fossil-fuel companies that they hold, so divestment would force us to sell most or all of our investments, at great cost to the endowment.

    The endowment should not be used to make political statements.

    While there is much to chew on, the response that Harvard President Drew Faust should take to heart is that for a college, divestment is an educational action. The Harvard Charter requires that the endowment support education. She is standing personally in the way of the Charter being honored.

  36. 286
    DIOGENES says:

    Kevin McKinney #280,

    “You, on the other hand, want to shut down everything that you deem inessential and to hell with the consequences.”

    Every action, and inaction, with respect to climate change amelioration has its own associated set of consequences. At this point of decades-long procrastination with respect to climate change amelioration, ALL the consequences I see from any action or inaction are different flavors of horrific. My main goal is to minimize the adverse consequences, with the priority being human survival over economic benefits for the Windfallees. If that requires drastic reduction in demand/consumption, especially fossil-based demand, so be it.

    “But of course, all this concerns mitigation”

    So, let’s talk science. For the Nth time, what specific temperature ceiling and GHG concentration ceiling targets should be our goals? I have anted up 1 C for temperature and somewhere in the range of 300-325 ppm for CO2, and have backed up these numbers with hard studies. You have yet to commit yourself to any actual number. And, you know why? Any mitigation scheme that you will present in five days from now won’t even get you into the ballpark of what we need to survive. Your philosophy is truly ‘the hell with the consequences’ in action!

  37. 287
    DIOGENES says:

    Mike Roberts #281,

    We’re essentially making very similar conceptual comments on McPherson, albeit using some different words. But, again, why aren’t you and others who dismiss McPherson’s comments (and essentially throw out the baby with the bathwater) applying similar critical levels of analysis to other climate change researchers/presenters. In particular, Anderson provides demand reduction recommendations based on a 2 C target with 50/50 or 65/35 chances of remaining under 2 C. McKibben provides carbon budget allowances based on 2 C target. The IEA 2DC plan, on which the Ceres Clean Trillion plan is based, uses a 2 C target with 80/20 chance. The 2 C target was contrived for political purposes, not scientific purposes, from all I have read. Therefore, any recommended plan or actions resulting from a contrived target will be essentially useless for insuring our survival. Most climate change papers and reports that start with some target use the 2 C value. Why aren’t you making the same comments about these paper/report authors that you make about McPherson? Why are they one iota more credible than McPherson?

    Further, if you examine papers and reports that recommend institution of low carbon sources as a significant component of any climate change amelioration plan, what targets do they project they will attain? Show me one document of this genre that comes anywhere close to achieving a 1 C target, or even a 2 C target with greater than 90/10 chance of staying under 2 C (Hint: the latter requires zero remaining carbon budget). So why aren’t you making the same comments about these low carbon technology paper/report authors that you make about McPherson? Why are they one iota more credible than McPherson? There is a (very) small chance that McPherson may actually be correct in his predictions; there is far less of a chance that these low carbon promoters will attain any meaningful targets.

    I’m not defending McPherson; my previous comments should make that very clear. What I am saying is make maximum use of the extensive research and reference gathering he has done, separate the wheat from the chaff, and ascertain which dots make sense to connect, and which should be eliminated from the diagram.

  38. 288
    Chris Dudley says:

    “The Environmental Protection Agency is failing to control leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, from the nation’s natural-gas pipelines, the agency’s inspector general said Friday.”

  39. 289
    DIOGENES says:

    Mike Roberts #281,

    One final point on McPherson that I neglected to mention in my most recent response to you. I suspect many, if not most, people posting on this blog view McPherson as less than credible. I also suspect that most, if not all, posters view Hansen as highly credible, perhaps more so than any climate scientist. Given the central message in Hansen’s December 2013 Plos One paper, and the central message in McPherson’s blog Update and Summary, how much do they really differ? Aren’t they saying essentially the same thing, albeit with different timescales for the outcome?

    McPherson predicts human species extinction on the order of mid-century. Hansen states that ~1 C is a relatively ‘safe’ temperature ceiling target, and he provides a plan that would, in theory, get us to ~1 C (although I don’t remember any statement about the chances of staying under 1 C that his plan assumes). Look at the elements of that plan; do you see even the slightest chance that even a modest fraction of that plan would be implemented? That plan has essentially no more chance of being implemented than my plan, whose starting point was in fact Hansen’s plan. And, Hansen states that 2 C would be dangerous (as does Anderson), without really defining what ‘dangerous’ means. The implication one can derive from the paper is that many of the ‘slow’ feedbacks would be accelerated and/or triggered as 2 C is neared. Will the end result of that process be any different from McPherson’s prediction? Yes, we may gain a few more generations of human survival under Hansen’s scenario (or possibly not), but that is a blink of an eye on the time scale of our civilization.

    Bottom Line – if the two credibility extremes come up with the same outcome, albeit perhaps a few generations removed, we should probably be worried; very very worried!

  40. 290
    Hank Roberts says:

    > his latest blog entry
    is linked on the Progress Report page Kevin posted (thank you!):

  41. 291
  42. 292
    Hank Roberts says:

    A while back I speculated on a way that warm water could circulate deep down into otherwise stable hydrates — the “aquarium undergravel filter” sort of pump where rising bubbles in one location entrain water, pulling it up at that location, so pulling water down from other areas.

    Figure at some point in the situation, bubbles are being produced. Add in fractures from faults, or uncapped (or rusted-out) abandoned oil and gas wells, as conduits from the seabed down to strata of gravel or sand through which water can move laterally — and lo, a way to circulate warm water through deep, otherwise well protected strata. Assuming oil/gas wells are widespread and carelessly left open when unused so they rust out, we could imagine a situation with more possible routes for warm water, so no longer analogous to paleo times.

    The “aquarium undergravel filter” notion is pure speculation on my part, just the exercise of trying to imagine a situation in which the deep stable methane ice could be destabilized faster and easier this time around — which requires warming deep down, faster than conduction can transfer heat.

    I start to wonder when I see these holes in Siberia:

  43. 293
    Chris Dudley says:

    sidd (#282),

    Unforced Variations is supposed to keep other threads uncluttered. “Please use these threads to bring up things that are creating ‘buzz’ rather than having news items get buried in comment threads on more specific topics. We’ll promote the best responses to the head post. – See more at:

    The RC archive has the following themes: Aerosols, Arctic and Antarctic climate, Atmospheric Science, Climate modelling, Climate sensitivity, Extreme events, Global warming, Greenhouse gases, Mitigation of Climate Change, Present-day observations, Oceans, Paleo-climate, Responses to common contrarian arguments, The Practice of Science, Solar forcing, Projections of future climate, Climate in the media, Meeting Reports, Miscellaneous. – See more at:

    These subjects would typically be on topic. Under Miscellaneous I’d ask: Are the Orioles doing well because of climate change related increased humidity lowering the air density at Camden Yards?

  44. 294
    Jim Larsen says:

    282 sidd says, “, I would like a separate thread or threads specifically for those. Keep “Unforced Variations” uncluttered.”

    I agree.

  45. 295

    “You have yet to commit yourself to any actual number.” Oh, a damning criticism! Yet if anybody else in the world cares what I think the target should be, I haven’t heard about it.

    – See more at:

    You’ve somehow convinced yourself that having the right target is so important that it obviates the need for any sort of intellectual consistency.

    But the likely effect, if any, of your fulminations (other than repeatedly taking RC threads off-topic) would be to decrease and delay effective mitigation action, by discouraging the implementation of non-fossil energy sources. That’s why some here have wondered if you are, in fact, working to support the fossil fuel interests who are currently waking up to the fact that renewables are actually a serious threat to their business models.

  46. 296
    DIOGENES says:


    “Germany’s push toward renewable energy is CAUSING SO MANY DROPS AND SURGES FROM WIND AND SOLAR POWER that the government is paying more utilities than ever to help stabilize the country’s electricity grid.

    Twenty power companies including Germany’s biggest utilities, EON SE and RWE AG, now get fees for pledging to add or cut electricity within seconds to keep the power system stable, double the number in September, according to data from the nation’s four grid operators. Utilities that sign up to the 800 million-euro ($1.1 billion) balancing market CAN BE PAID AS MUCH AS 400 TIMES WHOLESALE ELECTRICITY PRICES, the data show.

    Germany’s drive to almost double power output from renewables by 2035 has seen one operator REPORTING FIVE TIMES AS MANY POTENTIAL DISRUPTIONS AS FOUR YEARS AGO, raising the risk of blackouts in Europe’s biggest electricity market while pushing wholesale prices to a nine-year low. More utilities are joining the balancing market as weak prices have cut operating margins to 5 percent on average from 15 percent in 2004, with RWE reporting its first annual loss since 1949.”

  47. 297
    Chris Dudley says:

    I bet Hank has already covered me on this, but here is the link to the Chronicle of Higher Education article.

  48. 298
    Hank Roberts says:

    dismiss McPherson’s comments (and essentially throw out the baby with the bathwater)

    use … the extensive research and reference gathering he has done, separate the wheat from the chaff

    “Sure is a big pile, must be a pony there somewhere.”

  49. 299

    How about a RealClimate discussion of “A spurious jump in the satellite record: has Antarctic sea ice expansion been overestimated?” by I. Eisenman1, W. N. Meier2, and J. R. Norris?
    Thanks very much!

    The Cryosphere, 8, 1289–1296, 2014

  50. 300
    Dave Peters says:

    ? . How do you know when you confront of a gaggle of travelers which holds its core orienting convictions with such ferocity, as to be impervious to news? An, ah’em, religion?

    A. When you monitor fifteen hours of the podium at their recent Vegas confab, three months into the fact of it, and nary a mention is made of the breaking ninety day pause in the pause.