Adaptation, mitigation, or both?

I’ve been trying (and maybe failing) to mainly discuss science, and to not delve too much into the specifics of climate policy. However, I have found it interesting that the rhetoric associated with climate policy appears to be changing somewhat. There seem to be more and more people – some of whom are surprising – arguing that we should be doing something. The rather odd thing about their argument is that they appear to be saying “those who’ve been campaigning for us to do something should stop doing this as it’s preventing us from doing something”. I don’t fully understand what’s going on, but I think part is related to a view by some that adaptation is the only way forward, coupled with a view that “the other side” is arguing for mitigation-only policies.

It’s my sense that there is an element of strawman and confusion about the arguments some are making. What I think some don’t recognise – or are unwilling to recognise – is that there is a lot of inertia in the climate system. There is virtually nothing we can do now to stop a certain amount of further warming. Even if we were to completely stop all carbon emissions (and I’m not suggesting we do) we would continue to warm for at least the next few decades, and would likely reach temperatures 0.5 to 1oC warmer than today. Given that mitigation will likely have very little effect in the short-term, I suspect most would therefore agree that an element of adaptation is unavoidable.

Given this inertia, however, it would seem that the real discussion is not really about the short-term impacts of climate change, but the medium to long-term impacts. If we decide that adaptation is the only policy we should follow for the moment, it essentially guarantees adaptation for the medium term. If we decide to do nothing about our carbon emissions and allow them to follow a BAU-like scenario, then any attempt to mitigate in the future is presumably much more difficult and it essentially guarantees continued adaptation. Arguing that adaptation is unavoidable, and is therefore all we should do, seems remarkably simplistic and appears to ignore that mitigation today is not about the short-term, but about the medium- to long-term.

So, I don’t know if I’ve written this as clearly as I would have liked. Even though I have my own views about this, I’m certainly not arguing here for one over the other. What I am trying to suggest, though, is that even though science can’t tell us what to do, it can tell us what questions to ask. Of course, there are many other questions one could ask and I’m not suggesting that what I’m illustrating here is the be all and end all of what we should be asking. One question, however, I would like to know the answer to is : is there any evidence that our current civilisation can continue as we might like, in a world that is more than 3oC warmer than today?

[Correction : I said in the post that there is nothing we can do to avoid further warming. That even if we stopped all emissions, we’d continue to warm. This – it seems – is not quite correct. According to this post by Steve Easterbrook, if we stopped all emissions the carbon cycle would reduce atmospheric CO2 at a rate that would essentially fix surface temperatures at today’s level. So, stopping all emissions would prevent further warming but, I imagine, that most would agree that this is somewhat unlikely to suddenly happen.]

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248 Responses to Adaptation, mitigation, or both?

  1. Matt Ridley has an article that has been highlighted on the GWPF website. You can probably find it if you wish. In this article he says

    Sceptics say it is not happening fast enough to threaten more harm than the wasteful and regressive measures intended to combat it. So far they have been right. Over 30 years, global temperature has changed far more slowly than predicted in 95 per cent of the models, and has decelerated, not accelerated.

    If you consider Cowtan & Way, the 30-year trend is (1984 – 2014) is 0.192 ± 0.060oC per decade. I would suggest that this is not far more slowly than predicted. The deceleration presumably refers to the slowdown since the late 90s. The problem with this argument is that short term variations are not strong evidence for reduced future warming.

    So, if Matt Ridley’s trying to argue that we might not warm as much as we expect in the future, then I would argue that he hasn’t presented evidence to support that assertion.

  2. The ideal is to have adaptation and mitigation occurring concurrently. The reality is mitigation on a meaningful scale is contingent on multi-national agreements which seems to be increasingly out of reach. The dilemma with both adaptation and mitigation is” will they work and are they cost effective?” To “answer” your question the attitude is “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” Just like the climate system, the natural environments on this planet are dynamic–change is certain, but to what degree (no pun intended) and what the response(s) will be is very uncertain.

    As per your comment: Sea level rise is one of the main factors that need adequate adaptation measures, which have continued to rise despite ‘slow global temperature change.’

  3. I forgot to highlight that one of the motivations for this post was Christopher Wright’s recent post about Why business leading on climate change is a problem.

    Nature’s Pulchritrude, I would agree that we need both. What I find frustrating are the pragmatic arguments some seem to make. “It’s never worked before”, “It will require global agreements, and is therefore impossible”, “but China….”. It’s clearly not going to be easy. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try though, or at least discuss the possible options.

    I guess – as you may be trying to illustrate – the issue with “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” argument is that the inertia in the system, means that we can’t really do this.

  4. Rachel says:

    I’m glad you’ve posted this because I too have been a bit surprised by the idea that people arguing for action to combat climate change are preventing it from happening. What a strange thing to say. I read your comments at Christopher Wright’s blog and agreed. From where I’m sitting it looks to me like right-wing interest groups are the cause of inaction here. I liked what Christopher Wright said about conservatives railing against government intervention because it is at odds with their philosophy but eventually nature will force governments to take action and because they have delayed so long they will need to go into “full authoritarian mode” which is precisely what conservatives do not want. But had we started tackling this decades ago, then the interventions necessary would have been small. With each year of inaction, the regulations required become greater.

    I would also agree that the answer to the question in your post is both. We have no choice but to accept a certain amount of warming and so adaption is a necessity now but mitigation is also a necessity if we want to avoid making vast swathes of the planet inhabitable to humans. We need both but I would put the emphasis on mitigation right now.

  5. O Bothe says:

    ‘is there any evidence that our current civilisation can[not] continue as we might like, in a world that is more than 3C warmer than today?’
    [Sorry]

    The discussion m(itigation) vs a(daptation) isn’t new. There are those emphasizing the importance of a and those prioritising m. Both can give the impression to only argue for one component and to neglect the other. However I guess these impressions are not necessarily correct.

    If I understand some of the adaptation-people correctly then their main argument would be to adapt as much as possible and to focus on all anthropogenic climate influences until there is a reasonable chance for an effective multi-national perspective for CO2-mitigation. It’s not an ‘adaptation only’ scenario but rather one of ‘let’s do something’.

  6. H.E.Taylor says:

    My first thought on reading your titlke was “You left out the suffering.”
    -het
    PS.
    “We basically have three choices: mitigation, adaptation and suffering.
    We’re going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going
    to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required
    and the less suffering there will be.” -John Holdren, AAAS president

  7. danolner55347852 says:

    Two things recently: Mike Hulme saying “What matters is not whether the climate is changing (it is); nor whether human actions are to blame (they are, at the very least partly and, quite likely, largely)..”

    Then David Cameron recently saying: “whatever you think – even if you think that (climate change) is mumbo-jumbo – because these things are happening more often, it makes sense to do all you can to… prevent these floods affecting so many people and that is exactly what we are doing.”

    Which are both, to my eyes, implicitly saying: it doesn’t matter about putting more carbon into the atmosphere, we just need to deal with a changing climate. WRONG. Massively, dangerously wrong. You’re absolutely right to identify the fiendish difficulty of even framing the problem: how do we steer ourselves through a process of decarbonising while simultaneously dealing with the (highly uncertain) consequences we face?

    But what I’ve sensed happening (and could be wrong) is a little bit concern-troll-like: now now, we all agree the weather’s gone weird, but we should concentrate on that and let’s not worry about the carbon. That’s my sense, and I think that’s highly dangerous.

    It was heartening to see Kerry doing the opposite: talking about the US and China working together to reduce CO2 output. Exactly. Cameron’s in an awkward position: talking openly about carbon reduction will send his backbenchers off into a complete tizzie. But without keeping a laser focus on the need to decarbonise, anything else is beside the point.

    There are still so many difficult choices to make, I really can’t be doing with having false arguments that include silly statements like Hulme’s “it doesn’t matter whether humans are to blame…”

  8. Oliver,

    ‘is there any evidence that our current civilisation can[not] continue as we might like, in a world that is more than 3C warmer than today?’
    [Sorry]

    Yes, I’m well aware that that is another way to frame it. In fact, it seems to be the normal way, hence my decision to frame it differently. However, why should we answer the form you highlight, prior to doing anything relevant, rather than insisting on doing something relevant unless we can get a suitable answer to the alternative form of the question? If it is roughly correct that 4oC of warming (since pre-industrial times) takes us into a climate never before experienced by humans, why should we have to show it is likely to be damaging, rather than having to show that it won’t be damaging?

    If I understand some of the adaptation-people correctly then their main argument would be to adapt as much as possible and to focus on all anthropogenic climate influences until there is a reasonable chance for an effective multi-national perspective for CO2-mitigation. It’s not an ‘adaptation only’ scenario but rather one of ‘let’s do something’.

    If your understanding is correct, then that would be encouraging. I’m not completely convinced that it is though. Given Matt Ridley’s recent article, it very much seems to be “there is no real evidence that we should yet be worried about the future. Let’s wait and see”, which seems different to a “let’s focus on adaptation and wait for a reasonable chance for an effective multi-national approach”.

  9. pbjamm says:

    I have resigned myself to mitigation and am planning for a dryer climate here in Southern California. I just dont see the political will to enact real change, and by the time the will exists the damage will be done.

  10. Dan,

    But what I’ve sensed happening (and could be wrong) is a little bit concern-troll-like: now now, we all agree the weather’s gone weird, but we should concentrate on that and let’s not worry about the carbon. That’s my sense, and I think that’s highly dangerous.

    Yes, that’s been my sense. A bit of concern-troll mixed with condescension.

    pbjamm,

    I just dont see the political will to enact real change, and by the time the will exists the damage will be done.

    That’s kind of why I was trying to illustrate the inertia. I do wonder if those who seem to lack the will, recognise how much we’ve already locked-in and how much more we will lock-in if we choose to do nothing about our carbon emissions.

  11. BG says:

    Dan,

    We shall see if Kerry is willing ‘to put his money where his mouth is’ and not approve the KXL.

    ATTP,

    In order to fully frame the argument we need to clearly define what does 2, or 3, or 4 degrees really mean. I’ve had that question asked of me and cannot really give a good answer, and have not yet begun to try and do the research to try to at least qualitatively define. Perhaps topic for several more posts.

  12. BG,

    In order to fully frame the argument we need to clearly define what does 2, or 3, or 4 degrees really mean.

    I agree, that would certainly help. There still seems to be an issue of proof though. It does seem as though if one can’t definitively say something, then many assume that the opposite is a valid conclusion to draw. For example, we can’t say for certain that the floods were influenced by GW therefore they weren’t influence by GW. Similarly, it seems as though if we can’t show definitively that 2, 3, 4 degrees will be damaging, then we can assume that it won’t be (or we’re not sufficiently certain to risk doing anything). In a sense it’s interesting that haven’t followed the opposite approach. Don’t risk so much warming unless we’re fairly certain it won’t be damaging.

    Of course, I accept that the actual risk is a combination of the risks associated with the warming and the risks associated with the policies. A non-trivial situation, but it does seem interesting that many seem to have decided that because we can’t show that the future warming will probably be damaging, that we should avoid the risks associated with the policy options – for the moment at least.

  13. danolner55347852 says:

    “That’s kind of why I was trying to illustrate the inertia.”

    The Tyndall Centre had a jolly good go at providing a jolt, but all that may have done is flush out that – even agreeing on the physics – there’s a world of disagreement to be had. Compare to David Hone’s view of the conference (and a follow up post). Apols for self-link to an old tweet but it made me wonder if the climate science “is” equals a tiny boat in an impossibly stormy sea of “ought”…

  14. BBD says:

    In order to fully frame the argument we need to clearly define what does 2, or 3, or 4 degrees really mean.

    The answer from palaeontology and modern ecosystems science is: mass extinctions and the consequent collapse of food webs and the ecosystems dependent on them. Everybody says the same thing: the rate of warming will be far greater than the rate of natural adaption, so we are in for a rough ride.

  15. Alan N says:

    In my experience, most of those who are promoting adaptation-only policies, in response to the current UK floods for example, also argue that there’s no point in de-carbonising, because climate change is all natural variability, and nothing to do with human behaviour.

  16. Dan,
    Yes, I remember the Tyndall centre meeting. Seemed to the then be characterised as a meeting amongst extremists. Can’t really win, as far as I can tell.

    BBD,
    Your comment reminds me that there was an interesting post by Rich Pancost today.

    Alan,
    I think it’s got more nuanced. What I’m starting to see are people who say “we agree that global warming is happening, we agree that it is being driven by man, we believe, however, that climate sensitivity is low”. Possibly, a somewhat subtler form of what you’ve experienced.

  17. Great news for you wotty – Andrew Montford is on Newsnight in 5 minutes!

  18. Paul,
    I gather that. By my count, he’s been interviewed by the BBC about climate science – in the last 6 months or so – more often than any other single person. I’m assuming that’s because he’s got better credentials and more experience than any other single person in the country. There can’t really be any other reason, can there?

  19. BBD says:

    I’m assuming that’s because he’s got better credentials and more experience than any other single person in the country. There can’t really be any other reason, can there?

    Andrew Montford, our Hansen.

  20. In 1990 not much climate change had happened yet, the increase in the mean temperature was still well within the annual variability on a local scale. Thus at that time, it made sense to prioritize mitigation. It was already clear that we would also need a lot of adaptation, but on the short run the main thing was to start with mitigation, develop technologies, build a legal framework, create a network.

    By now mitigation and adaptation are both priorities. Especially, when it comes to infrastructure, which has a long planning time span.

    Another reason to focus on mitigation in politics is because that is the difficult part. Adaptation is uncontroversial and even if very expensive acceptable to almost all. The Netherlands has updated its Deltaworks laws to take climate change into account. All weather services (I know of) have climate service points where everyone can get information on how the climate will change locally and how to adapt to it. Sometimes I have the feeling half of climate research is climate impact research to learn what we need to do to adapt. Farmers that need to grow new wine stocks, need to think of irrigation, etc., civil engineers that want to know how much the 100-year return value of a river will change, insurers interested in storm risks, etc.

    I never heard someone argue a dyke should not be build because climate change does not exists. That only happens in the debate about mitigation. Spending money on the safety of your own community is fine. It becomes controversial if the solution includes collaboration with other groups and spending money on things that will be to the benefit of others, even if those others are poor or would do the same to help you.

    Maybe talking more about adaptation is smart. That could silence the nonsense of WUWT and Co about the reality of climate change. After that a more civil and constructive debate about mitigation may be possible.

  21. The Newsnight snippet was short and not very informative.

    To get back on topic, I think more people are realising that neither side is going to win the ongoing argument about the science ( tho there are still plenty of naive people who think they can) and also that drastic mitigation action is not going to happen after the failure of kyoto and copenhagen etc, and so adaptation is a more realistic and achievable option.

  22. BBD says:

    ATTP

    From your Rich Pancost link:

    So then, what was this much warmer world like? First of all, it was not an inhospitable planet – plants and animals thrived. This should not be a surprise; in fact, the Earth was much warmer even deeper into the past. The climate change we are inducing is a problem for humans and society, not our planet.

    Yup. Earth abides, and all that, but we are in for a rough ride as the Holocene ecosystem unravels under a nascent hyperthermal which may well go full bore in a few centuries if we play silly buggers for the next several decades.

  23. BBD says:

    Paul Matthews

    To get back on topic, I think more people are realising that neither side is going to win the ongoing argument about the science

    There’s no fundamental argument about “the science”. This is a misrepresentation that would require generalised revision of fundamental physics, physical climatology and an entirely new paradigm to explain paleoclimate behaviour.

  24. danolner55347852 says:

    Paul: “adaptation is a more realistic and achievable option”.

    It seems to me there’s nothing even slightly “realistic” about thinking we can effectively adapt to a business-as-usual (or close to) future. Let’s remember what the average temp increase means: run this video of current data and look at what’s happened to what used to be 3-sigma events. That’s from an average ~0.7-0.8 C increase. ATTP mentioned what’s already locked in even if carbon output ceased tomorrow. What extremes are locked in already?

    I find myself flipping between those who argue we *must* mitigate because the alternative is too awful to contemplate and others who point out that, actually, no – we may well not be capable of that level of organisation and we need to do everything we can to prepare for that fact. I’m not quite feeling ready to concede that point yet. But it is, unfortunately, zero-sum in one obvious way: both mitigation and adaptation are expensive and there are trade-offs.

    Victor’s points about the immediacy and self-interest of adaptation are very good.

  25. Steve Bloom says:

    People who oppose mitigation will also oppose sufficient adaptation since they deny things will get that bad (else they’s support mitigation of course).

    Re 3C, I had thought it was entirely clear that on a planet with substantial ice sheets such a state won’t be stable given the conditions under which we’re approaching it. So why postulate it as anything other than a transitory condition?

  26. “People who oppose mitigation will also oppose sufficient adaptation since they deny things will get that bad (else they’s support mitigation of course).”

    That presupposes that these people use reasoning to arrive at their opinion. I do not think there is much evidence for that, at least in the part of the internet I know.

  27. Steve Bloom says:

    I wasn’t suggesting the presence of “reasoning” beyond a perception of self-interest (“don’t raise my taxes” “I don’t care unless it affects me or immediate descendants”).

  28. Paul S says:

    I saw Michael Portillo last week suggesting that a consequence of the flooding was that those arguing for an adaptation approach had essentially won. Like most of his views on climate change he’s really twenty years out of date on this (perhaps understandable since that was when he last held any position of power and had any kind of real briefing). As others have pointed out we no longer have a choice about adaptation, the only question is how much exposure to future risk we choose to allow.

    [Slightly incidental, but another interesting thing he said was that it is a common meme amongst Conservative MPs to talk about the “arrogance of believing humans can alter the climate.” That’s the level of scientific literacy we’re dealing with.]

    Of course not all adaptationist policies are the same. We know that most “skeptics” talk about adaptation but it doesn’t take much surface scratching to discover what they generally mean is doing nothing, then reacting to whatever happens. Otherwise known as locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.

    Alternatively our understanding of the climate system can be utilised to inform pre-emptive adaptation policies. We can plan to make our towns, homes, infrastructure resilient to future climate change impacts before they hit. Of course we can’t predict everything so there always need to be an element of reactivity but there is reasonable scientific guidance in some areas.

    As Victor hints, some of the things which have come out haven’t been particularly logical. There seems to be far greater readiness, at least in words, to deal with a climate changing in accordance to that predicted by scientists than to accept that this climate change is man made.

  29. Joshua says:

    It’s easy to support “adaptation” in the abstract – as a rhetorical club with which to beat the devil’s spawn…i.e., “mitigationists.”

    The reality of adaptation would require federal dollars and centralized planning. In other words, reality would create some political problems for a very high % of those who play for Team Adaptation in Climateball.

    Much of the call for adaptation is paper-thin rhetoric, and is about little other than identifying THEIR TEAM and OUR TEAM. The false dichotomy of adaptation versus mitigation also functions well as tribalistic rhetoric.

    That’s not to say that I don’t think that there are legitimate questions to address w/r/t how to balance the relative costs and benefits of mitigation and adaptation. But the question is how to structure a reasonable stakeholder dialog (sorry Steve) so those discussions can take place.

    I will note that Dan Kahan does talk about how one particularly constructive context for dialog about climate change is in local communities that are discussing adaptation – the reason being, IMO, because in such a context people can focus on common interests rather than dig into their trenches in positional warfare.

  30. Steven Mosher says:

    “Nature’s Pulchritrude, I would agree that we need both. What I find frustrating are the pragmatic arguments some seem to make. “It’s never worked before”, “It will require global agreements, and is therefore impossible”, “but China….”. It’s clearly not going to be easy. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try though, or at least discuss the possible options.”

    1. The mitigation arguments that have dominated the discourse are in fact global agreements.
    folks have had decades to get the job done, If climate change is important then
    perhaps, just perhaps, one ought to question.
    A) whether it is doable
    B) whether the current crop of folks spearheading this solution are the right team for the job
    C) whether it would actually work especially given the experience with Kyoto
    2. The poster child for global agreements is an abysmal failure. As predicted the US off shored
    its GHGs as did others.

    The position against global treaties is not the strawman you lay out. They aren’t impossible, but rather our experience shows us that they are difficult, prone to unintended consequences, difficult to enforce. Moreover we have been trying or havent folks noticed. for decades. There comes a point when a rational soul will say “Maybe instead of just allowing for the possibility that there might be other approaches we ought to actually try something different. It’s not like the planet is a stake.

    3. But China. There is a pathway to China and for those of us working on it there is one obstruction. People who demand global treaties to the exclusion of any other solution

    We are already mitigating and the biggest obstacle to more success are the people who are fighting to keep trying their failed approached.

  31. Steven Mosher says:

    “The reality of adaptation would require federal dollars and centralized planning. ”

    wrong. perhaps you’re thinking tribally.

    Joshua if you cant find the money to buy this book which Judith and I have suggested,
    I might be able to pass the manuscript on to you

    http://www.amazon.com/Adaptive-Governance-Climate-Change-Brunner/dp/1878220977

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Climate_governance

  32. JasonB says:

    In simple terms, I don’t worry too much about arguing for adaptation because we’ll have no choice but to adapt. We don’t need to argue “for” it in that sense; it’ll happen anyway, to whatever extent is required by the circumstances we find ourselves in.

    The reason mitigation requires effort to argue for is that it requires people to make sacrifices now to help others (and possibly themselves) in the future. Even if the actual cost of mitigation is small, and the actual benefit in terms of avoided suffering and adaptation costs in the distant future is large, the latter will be heavily discounted in most people’s minds when compared to the former. Blame evolution for that.

    Rather than simplistic arguments about whether we should mitigate or adapt, what we should be doing is making our best effort to determine the optimal mix. We can’t be certain about the costs vs benefits, but politicians make these calls all the time — who insisted on detailed and accurate economic modelling before deciding how to respond to the GFC, for example? Was there an Intergovernmental Panel on Economic Change set up with thousands of the world’s best economists scouring the literature for seven years to suggest policies that might help? How much money did the world spend collectively on that compared to the amounts envisaged for mitigating climate change?

    The problem is that it’s difficult to get to the point where we’re having a rational discussion about strategies for dealing with the problem when people who deny there even is a problem are still given prominence in the debate.

    One tendency I’ve also seen that I think is dangerous is the “2C or bust” mentality. The idea is something like “Well, there’s no way we can realistically expect to maintain temperatures below 2C now, so we should give up trying and just focus on adaptation instead”.

    What it fails to realise is that there’s nothing magical about 2C. The overall “cost” of AGW rises continuously as a function of emissions, although there are no guarantee that there aren’t sudden increases at certain, currently unknown, points. The point is that even if we can’t stop at 2C, 2.1C is better than 2.2C, 2.2C is better than 2.3C, and so on. It’s like saying “I’m going to gain weight if I eat this cake, and I’m gonna eat this cake, so I may as well eat every cake I can find from now on and just adapt to being overweight”.

  33. dhogaza says:

    Anyone who uses the phrase “thinking tribally” is “thinking tribally” …

  34. Joshua says:

    Related interview with RPJr. and Trenberth.

  35. Joshua says:

    dhogaza –

    Anyone who uses the phrase “thinking tribally” is “thinking tribally” …

    I’m not clear what that means.

  36. Mosher,

    We are already mitigating and the biggest obstacle to more success are the people who are fighting to keep trying their failed approached.

    I would disagree that the biggest obstacle is those who are trying to do something. I think it’s those who are arguing against doing anything. However, when I said

    That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try though, or at least discuss the possible options,

    what I was meaning wasn’t miles away from what you’ve said.

  37. Tom Curtis says:

    Steven Mosher:

    “2. The poster child for global agreements is an abysmal failure. As predicted the US off shored its GHGs as did others.”

    Given that the US never ratified Kyoto, it clearly did not “off shore” its GHGs as a means of compliance with Kyoto; or indeed, as a means to reduce GHG emissions in any other way. Indeed, any effective “off shoring” must have been driven by economic considerations not related to global warming. That being the case for the US, makes it dubious that other purported “off shoring” was driven by Kyoto rather than the same economic factors that drove it in the US.

    As an example of the quality of Mosher’s analysis, this is very poor; and leaves little basis for confidence in aspects of his analysis.

  38. Tom Curtis says:

    Anders:

    “…what I was meaning wasn’t miles away from what you’ve said”

    Actually, I think it was.

  39. Tom,
    Possibly, but I was given Mosher the benefit of the doubt, given that he said

    They aren’t impossible, but rather our experience shows us that they are difficult, prone to unintended consequences, difficult to enforce.

    However, he did seem to then conclude that this meant mitigation wasn’t realistic, so maybe you’re right.

  40. Tom Curtis says:

    Turning to Mosher’s other analysis, given that he is questioning the need for a global treaty and the people spearheading the effort, you would think he would have also got around to questioning the content of the global treaty. Apparently no such luck.

    The big sticking point on a global treaty is, and has always been, that the Kyoto process locks in current relative advantages in per capita emissions. By envisioning a treaty in which nations which currently have a low per capita emissions reduce GHG emissions at the same rate as nations with high per capita GHG emissions, it places nations with low emissions in a situation in which their citizens must cut back on necessities so that the citizens of the west do not have to cut back on luxuries. It also places the global treaty as a major barrier to economic development in the poorer countries. Naturally, the leaders of the poorer nations have not accepted this, and never will. Neither would the leaders of the wealthy nations had the situations been reversed.

    What is actually required is a treaty enforcing reductions in notional per capita emissions. It must include provisions that:
    1) Set the populations of nations at a notional level based on current historical values so that we do not get emissions creep through population growth (hence notional per capita);
    2) Allow emissions trading between nations;
    3) Allow verification on publicly accessible data both by an independent body, with the information publicly accessible so the verification can be audited; and
    4) Include enforcement provisions with substantial teeth.

    (I know the last clause would face significant resistance given that the nations of the world currently agree that only “free trade” is a matter important enough to actually allow penalties for non-compliance.)

    Provisions (2) needs further comment. It is necessary to allow wealthier nations to slow emissions reductions to a rate that is economically feasible. However, it has the added bonus that it implicitly provides provision for the funding of poorer nations to mitigate, adapt, and grow economically, with no need to negotiate or find a means of compelling exact funding measures.

    We will know the people spearheading the efforts for a global emissions reduction treaty (actually the heads of government, who have already changed frequently over the years) are finally serious about the effort – or at least serious enough to take a moral approach to the problem rather than treating it as a means to cement current economic advantages on into the future.

  41. Paul,

    I think more people are realising that neither side is going to win the ongoing argument about the science ( tho there are still plenty of naive people who think they can).

    What do you really mean by this ? Okay, I think I know what you’re implying by the naive term, so I’m meaning the broader point. I’m well aware that there is still disagreement about the details, but broadly speaking there’s agreement. Do you dispute this, or are you just suggesting that we’re never going to reach agreement about this, so why bother trying?

    and also that drastic mitigation action is not going to happen after the failure of kyoto and copenhagen etc, and so adaptation is a more realistic and achievable option.

    I think some have argued that my characterisation of some adaptation argument is a strawman, but I think your comment here rather makes me point. Fine, there have been failures in the past, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider trying again. There may well be some who are preventing sensible dialogue by appearing to argue for mitigation only, but the argument you’ve just made seems to suffer from the same problem. Sensible dialogue doesn’t typically involve one side saying “I’ve thought about this, your idea’s never going to work, let’s talk about my plan”.

  42. O Bothe says:

    Anders:

    Re: some people. Yes, I wouldn’t include Ridley’s and other’s articles in this group. I thought of the older adaptation vs mitigation debates not the Times and Telegraph articles (and more?) published over the last weekend or so.

    Re: Can/Cannot

    I would say politics/society has to consider evidence on both versions. Furthermore, consequences of action and inaction have to be weighed.

    I think the EU-guidelines for the precautionary principle are interesting in this context and also the three preliminary conditions before it may be invoked.

  43. Oliver,
    Thanks for the clarification. Yes. I’m sure there are better examples of adaptation versus mitigation arguments than those published recently.

    I would say politics/society has to consider evidence on both versions. Furthermore, consequences of action and inaction have to be weighed.

    Yes, I agree. That would seem to be the obvious discussion to be having. Not convinced that it is really happening yet (or, at least, not in a particularly effective or obvious way if it is).

    Thanks for the link to the EU-guidelines. I had a quick glance. This final sentence seems interesting ( manufacturer or importer may be required to prove the absence of danger.) but I shall to read it more carefully when I get a chance.

  44. Hello there. Thanks for the article, couple of thoughts..

    1. I’ve probably missed something obvious, but who are you thinking of with: “those who’ve been campaigning for us to do something should stop doing this as it’s preventing us from doing something”?

    2. It’s not strictly speaking a straw man. In “Earth In The Balance” (p.240), Al Gore berates the assumption that we can “adapt to just about anything”, using this to argue that we should focus on mitigation.

    3. Personally, I think it’s hard to have a meaningful conversation about these issues unless one defines what one means by mitigation and adaptation. They cover a multitude of sins. Are there any specific policies you are thinking of?

  45. @ Rachel
    “From where I’m sitting it looks to me like right-wing interest groups are the cause of inaction here.” Are you thinking about the US here? Or the UK?

  46. “but broadly speaking there’s agreement.” What are you talking about?

    “there have been failures in the past, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider trying again.” That’s the naive, unrealistic, head-in-the-clouds view. Thousands of self-righteous hypocrites with an inflated view of their own significance will fly off to the next climate jamboree intent on ‘saving the planet’.

  47. toby52 says:

    Definitions from William Nordhaus’ Climaet Casino:

    “The term “adaptation” refers to adjustments that can avert or reduce the damaging impacts of climate change on human and other living systems. For example, farmers can change their crops and planting dates, and build irrigation systems. If heat waves become more frequent, then people can install air conditioning.”

    Nordhaus, William D. (2013-10-22). The Climate Casino (Kindle Locations 2216-2218). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

    “Mitigation involves reducing the concentrations of GHG emissions.”

    Nordhaus, William D. (2013-10-22). The Climate Casino (Kindle Locations 2320-2321). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

    Nordhaus argues that, while both adaptation and mitigation measures can be taken, adaptation is of limited usefulness on its own.

    “… adaptation is likely to be a necessary and useful part of the portfolio of actions to reduce the dangers from global warming. It is a complement, not a substitute, for mitigation.”

    Nordhaus, William D. (2013-10-22). The Climate Casino (Kindle Locations 2244-2245). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

  48. toby52 says:

    Nordhaus makes another useful point that adaptation can be national and local, but mitigation has to be global to be effective.

  49. Paul,

    That’s the naive, unrealistic, head-in-the-clouds view. Thousands of self-righteous hypocrites with an inflated view of their own significance will fly off to the next climate jamboree intent on ‘saving the planet’.

    I had contemplated – had the occasion arisen – apologising to you for referring to you as the most unpleasant, non-anonymous person I’d encountered. Given your recent comment, I don’t think I’ll bother. It may not be strictly true and it may well be that you’re much more pleasant in person than you appear online, but if you can’t be bothered even trying, I’m not sure why anyone else should either.

    Maybe, I should clarify though. I thought this would be obvious, but maybe not. I wasn’t implying making the same mistakes again. I was suggesting having sensible dialogue about the risks associated with climate change and the risks associated with the various options, as – for example – Oliver commented above. You seem strangely averse to such a discussion.

  50. verytallguy says:

    is there any evidence that our current civilisation can continue as we might like, in a world that is more than 3oC warmer than today?

    We could try looking at WGII of the IPCC for what the science says…

    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/figure-spm-2.html

    Above 3 degrees…

    “Substantial burden on health services”
    “Significant extinctions around the globe”
    “Widespread coral mortality”
    “Hundreds of millions of people subject to increased water stress”
    etc

    IMHO there is also a great danger of multiple positive feedbacks kicking in:
    – naturally, from the carbon cycle
    – anthropogenic, as the very adaptation measures required (pumping to keep waters at bay, air con, desalination etc etc) drive increases in fossil fuel use

  51. Warren,
    1. I was thinking of the recent Hulme article and Reiner Grundmann’s Die Klimzwiebel post. It may not be an entirely fair assessment of their argument, but doesn’t seem that far off. At best, neither “side” seems particularly good at encouraging dialogue. Even in the comments here there are people claiming that mitigation is a ridiculous idea and that adaptation is the only reasonable option.

    2. The reason I used strawman was maybe partly to have a bit of a dig but also because I’m not convinced that anyone credible is actually arguing for mitigation only. Maybe they’re not making it obvious, but there is no way (I think) that we can avoid an element of adaptation. Certainly, as you illustrate, there may be some making strong argument for focusing on mitigation, so I’m certainly not suggesting that only one “side” is making dialogue difficult, but even according to your quote it was “focus on” not “mitigation only”.

    3. No, nothing specific and I tend to disagree that one needs to focus on specifics. The point I was trying to get across in the post was that the inertia in the climate system would suggest that adaptation is unavoidable in the short-term, but that if we want to avoid some of the medium- to long-term impacts we need to consider acting now and not waiting. In a sense the adaptation we will be focusing on now is adapting to the consequences of our past emissions. Our current emissions will not significantly change our short-term climate, but will have impacts in the medium- to long-term. It’s my view that recognising this is an important part of the discussion about policies.

    So, if you want a definition – by adaptation I mean no attempt to reduce emissions, and by mitigation I mean attempts to reduce emissions. I should add that I would include other mechanisms for reducing atmospheric CO2 concentrations as mitigation, not adaptation.

  52. VTG,
    Thanks for the link. I certainly can’t find any positives on that table. So, unless someone can convince me that it’s wrong in some way or that we can continue largely unaffected by significant extinctions around the world, millions more people could experience coastal flooding each year, significant burden on health services, I shall continue to think that 3 degrees of warming is something we should try avoiding if we wish to maintain and expand what some might regard as a modern, civilised society. Quite how we do so, however, is clearly a non-trivial issue and one that I certainly don’t have an answer to. Avoiding discussing it, however, would seem rather counter-productive.

  53. Steven Mosher: “The position against global treaties is not the strawman you lay out. They aren’t impossible, but rather our experience shows us that they are difficult, prone to unintended consequences, difficult to enforce. Moreover we have been trying or havent folks noticed. for decades.”

    Also adaptation would require global treaties and collaboration. I would personally expect that adaptation is a lot more expensive as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We would need a treaty to organise how the rich people that caused the problem help the poor people that suffer to consequences.

  54. Tom Curtis says:

    Victor, the reason finding an effective global agreement on mitigation is difficult is that the rich people who benefit most from emissions know that they won’t have to pay for the adaptation of the poor without a global treaty, which can also be blocked.

  55. Paul S says:

    3. But China. There is a pathway to China and for those of us working on it there is one obstruction. People who demand global treaties to the exclusion of any other solution

    Does that description fit anybody at all? The pursuit of global treaties has emerged from a recognition, through analysis and through actual historical interaction between countries, that no individual country has an incentive to be the one to cut emissions due to competition with other countries. For example, see the common “skeptic” refrain that we shouldn’t make any effort to reduce emissions locally because they believe other parts of the world won’t follow suit.

    If you can describe a pathway which would cut emissions without any form of international agreement I’m sure those who currently ‘demand global treaties to the exclusion of any other solution’ would be all ears.

  56. Pingback: A flood of articles about adaptation | The IPCC Report

  57. Marlowe Johnson says:

    Adaptation occurs at the local and regional level. mitigation policies not so much. so there are very different political dynamics at play. eventually we’ll get to some form of ‘contraction and convergence’ on the mitigation side but likely not soon enough to prevent some very bad impacts.

    for those who think that the political economy of adaptation is somehow more palatable than a WTO-type system with enforceable border tax adjustments I ask the following: when was the last time that sending Amurrika’s hard earned tax dollars to a bunch of poor brown people in Bangladesh ever considered a political winner?.

  58. Marlowe,

    Adaptation occurs at the local and regional level.

    I’m sure that that is true. Does beg the question of what those without sufficient resources can do to adapt? Hope the rest of the world helps?

  59. Eli Rabett says:

    The problem with the false dichotomy between mitigation and adaptation is that it is false. Eli prefers the five fold way

    Adaptation dealing with the damage already done that cannot be undone
    Amelioration, eliminating harmful effects of our actions
    Conservation with needed and desired but not wasteful usage
    Substitution of green systems for destructive ones
    Mitigation reversing our thoughtless abuse

    But the path we are following today is a simple one

    Procrastination
    Tip of the ear on the last one to Horatio.

  60. Marlowe Johnson says:

    i would think that the chances of the rest of the world suddenly developing a conscience are about as likely as Mosher displaying tact and humility in his blognostications. collectively our priorities are very much out of step with the nature of the problems we face; global spending on advertising (largely to convince us to buy things we neither need nor want) for example, is about 2 orders of magnitude higher than foreign aid.

  61. Eli,
    Yes, I agree it is a false dichotomy which was something I was trying to suggest in this post but didn’t quite illustrate that as well as you have. I would agree that the path we are following can quite well be described by the single term you used, sadly.

  62. Eli Rabett says:

    is there any evidence that our current civilisation can continue as we might like, in a world that is more than 3oC warmer than today?

    Try the two charts here for the elevator scare.

  63. Eli, thanks – I think. That is rather scary. I was actually hoping someone who thinks considering mitigation is stupid and not even worth discussing, might present some evidence as to either why we won’t get 3 more degrees of warming this century, or why getting 3 more degrees might not be something to worry about.

  64. I came across this post by Alice Bell which may be relevant, given the topic of my post.

  65. mpcraig says:

    You guys are in dire need of some false balance on this site. (that’s humor by the way).

    What I’m surprised nobody has really addressed is that this issue should be approached from a risk management point of view. I happen to use that technique in my day job so it is an area I am familiar with.

    The problem I see it that there are so many unknowns or partially knowns that doing a comprehensive risk management assessment would be exceedingly difficult. And all of the polarization that occurs surrounding the science would surely be prominent during any such exercise.

    Regardless, risk management framework is an excellent process to assessing and managing solutions to threats.

  66. mpcraig,
    Yes, I agree, that is probably the right approach. I think Oliver Bothe’s comment was essentially saying the same, though.

    In a sense, my post was a simple version of what you’re saying. There are probably two things we can maybe agree on. Virtually nothing we do (apart from major geo-engineering which has it’s own risks) can prevent short-term climate change (next couple of decades say). Hence, in the short term one might expect a basic risk management process to conclude that to address short-term climate change, adaptation is what we need to consider.

    The complicated analysis would come when we consider the medium- to long-term impact of climate change, because to avoid some of those future impacts we need (again ignoring future geo-engineering) to start acting now. Hence the analysis of medium- to long-term risk has to take place now. The system has inertia and so saying “we’ll wait and see” virtually guarantees adaptation over mitigation.

    One reason I’m more than happy with the idea of a full risk analysis is because it seems very unlikely that any credible risk analysis would conclude that we should aim to adapt to a potential mass extinction.

    Also, something that also hasn’t discussed is the possibility of large rises in fossil fuel prices and the possibility of new technologies. Both of these could play a role but, again, it would seem silly to simply “wait and see” rather than actually addressing the potential risks and what we should do, given these risks.

  67. andrew adams says:

    One of the arguments often made by “skeptics”, especially when we have the temerity to suggest that a particular extreme event might just possibly have a connection to climate change, is that extreme weather events have always happened and nothing we are seeing at the moment is unprecedented or truly out of the ordinary.

    But these events are still causing massive amounts of economic damage and having devastating effects on people’s lives and livelihoods. Even less severe events which would be considered as more “routine” can still do a lot of damage. If adaptation is as relatively straight forward as the “skeptics” seem to suggest then we should have at least learned by now to adapt to the kind of extreme weather events we get at the moment, but we obviously haven’t. And if we aren’t adapted to extreme weather events we are seeing now how are we going to adapt to even more severe ones in the future?

    Can any tell me how we “adapt” to the effects of ocean acidification and other stresses on the oceans? Or the loss of productive agricultural land and fresh water sources? Or the collapse of fragile ecosystems and widescale extinctions? With large forced migrations?

    The potential impacts of climate change are incredibly wide ranging and diverse and touch on many different areas of human life. Those who say we can simply adapt to whatever outcomes we ultimately see are indulging some incredibly wishful thinking.

  68. Joshua says:

    If adaptation is as relatively straight forward as the “skeptics” seem to suggest then we should have at least learned by now to adapt to the kind of extreme weather events we get at the moment, but we obviously haven’t.

    This is a problem with much of what I see from the “skeptical” camp. “Adaptation” to extreme weather has been problematic throughout history. This is patently obvious.

    Unfortunately, much of what I see from “skeptics” seems to be based on some belief that the magical adaptation fairy will suddenly appear as soon as “realists” stop advocating for significant increase in the use of renewables. Along with the poverty and hunger alleviation magical fairies.

  69. Gingerbaker says:

    The best available evidence is that the cost of adaptation by 2100 will total $1204 trillion. The cost to cover the Mojave with enough solar PV panels to replace every molecule of carbon fuel the U.S. will need in year 2030 is about $10 trillion at today’s wholesale prices. $10 trillion is perhaps 7 years of current U.S. consumer spending on fossil fuels ($1,2 trillion per year in 2009?) That seems like a pretty attractive ROI.

    There are enough deserts conveniently located across the globe to allow the world to harvest enough sunlight to run our civilization forever.

    If we were not fighting for the lives of our grandchildren against the fossil fuel industry, this is an engineering problem that could be quickly and economically solved as a Federal project. This, to me, is the national discussion we need:

    Do we want to give the private sector another thirty years to waste doing essentially nothing, or do we want to solve the AGW problem in time to save the planet?

  70. Joshua says:

    Gingerbaker –

    Do you have some links for those #’s?

    BTW – you play a mean drum set.

  71. Burl Henry says:

    My first visit to your blog.

    It appears that “andthentheresphysics” quickly responds to some posts.

    Here is some food for thought: Perhaps you could comment

    It is a fact of nature that warming will naturally occur whenever pollution settles out of the air, as happens after a large volcanic eruption. The cause is increased insolation.

    Because of this fact, warming HAD to occur after implementation of the Clean Air Acts of 1970 and 1990 and other similar actions abroad. This is the warming that has mistakenly been attributed to CO2. Thus, there is no evidence that there has ever been any warming due to greenhouse gasses.

    The “pause” ensued when the cleansing actions were largely completed (and/or were being offset by the growing pollution in the East.

    Warming can be expected to resume when they clean up their air, but it will be far from catastrophic.

  72. I don’t try to engage you in serious discussion since there is no point, because
    (a) by your own admission your understanding of the issues is poor;
    (b) your communication skills are poor –
    for example you start with a quote without saying who it is you are quoting. When Warren politely asks the question, you say it’s Hulme and Grundmann, but that’s not what they are saying at all. Similarly when Warren asks for specifics of exactly what you are talking about, you (supposedly a “scientist”) don’t answer but give more vague waffle.

    I’ve written a blog post on some of the recent adaptation discussions. Please at least read the Lilico article.

  73. Rachel says:

    Warren,

    “Are you thinking about the US here? Or the UK?”

    I would say both and add Australia. Wouldn’t you? In Australia for example, I think Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch have had undue influence on the present government’s decision to “axe the tax”. I could be wrong of course. This is just my opinion.

  74. Rachel says:

    mpcraig,

    “What I’m surprised nobody has really addressed is that this issue should be approached from a risk management point of view. I happen to use that technique in my day job so it is an area I am familiar with.”

    I have wondered about this too and have wanted to write about it. A friend of mine is an oncologist and she uses a risk matrix to help make difficult decisions. I’m not exactly sure what hers looks like but we could easily adapt one to this problem. I have pilfered one from here.

    risk matrix

    If we take the column on the left to be the likelihood of extreme climate change, say 4°C by end of century and the consequences of this in each column horizontally. I personally would place the likelihood as almost certain under business as usual and the consequences as major to severe. And so I see it as imperative that we mitigate.

  75. Joshua says:

    Warren –

    1. I’ve probably missed something obvious, but who are you thinking of with: “those who’ve been campaigning for us to do something should stop doing this as it’s preventing us from doing something”?

    If you have read mosher’s comment in this thread, then you have read an argument with a thesis that is commonly found in the “skept-o-sphere.”

    We are already mitigating and the biggest obstacle to more success are the people who are fighting to keep trying their failed approached.

    Does that argument fit Anders’ description? If so, do you not agree that it is a commonly found argument?

    2. It’s not strictly speaking a straw man. In “Earth In The Balance” (p.240), Al Gore berates the assumption that we can “adapt to just about anything”, using this to argue that we should focus on mitigation.

    Is an argument as straw man if it is widely applied invalidly even though some examples of that argument can be found? Yes, there are examples of arguments like Gore’s. I have read arguments that any focus on adaptation is, essentially, a distraction from needed mitigation. But I have seen that often, people who are saying that mitigation is a valid concern are invalidly placed into a category of saying that adaptation is mutually exclusive with and only comes at the cost of mitigation.

  76. Paul,
    Do me a favour, if there’s no point then just go away. The quote was paraphrasing. Apologies if that wasn’t obvious. I would ask you to explain what they’re saying, but since you’re not engaging, you clearly won’t, and going on past experience you don’t actually answer any of the questions asked of you.

    A premise of my post was that many seem to be arguing that mitigation is pointless and all we should consider is adaptation. From what you’ve said, that’s precisely what you think, so at least I get something’s right. I also get the impression that that is largely what Grundmann and Hulme are implying too, but I’m happy to be convinced – by someone who can actually construct a coherent argument – that they aren’t.

    I also have no real issue with acknowledging what I don’t understand. Better than claiming I do when I don’t. Such a criticism is a bit rich from someone who doesn’t appear to understand the error bars on the, fairly basic, attribution figure.

    Warren’s welcome to ask for more. The reason I didn’t give specifics was because the point of my post wasn’t about policy specifics but about what the science tells us we should be asking.

    I may well read the Lilico article, but then again there’s so much to read and so little time and one has to be selective in what one reads. Sometimes that selection is based on who does the recommending.

  77. Burl Henry,

    Because of this fact, warming HAD to occur after implementation of the Clean Air Acts of 1970 and 1990 and other similar actions abroad. This is the warming that has mistakenly been attributed to CO2. Thus, there is no evidence that there has ever been any warming due to greenhouse gasses.

    Sorry, but this is just wrong. We understand the radiative forcings of greenhouse gases quite well. We also have satellite measurements of the outgoing spectrum that is consistent with this understanding. We have plenty of evidence for warming due to greenhouse gases. Also, we are (according to paleoclimatological estimates) as warm as – or warmer – than we’ve been for 1000 years and possible for the entire Holocene. For your suggestion to have merit we’d have had to have had dirty air for almost all of human existence. I don’t think that that makes any sense.

  78. Paul S says:

    Burl Henry,

    Well, this really belongs in the Aerosols thread but since you’re here…

    If temperature increases have been solely caused by reduction in particulate matter why is the global average temperature so much higher than the time prior to significant increases in such pollution?

    While the US and Western Europe introduced clean air acts through the 1950s to 1970s those didn’t apply to the rest of the world. Anthropogenic SO2 emissions (precursor to sulfate aerosol, the main particulate target of North Atlantic clean air legislation) have only declined by a relatively small amount globally since the mid-70s peak: about 15% at most. Emissions of other aerosol species and precursors, such as nitrates and carbonaceous forms, have increased over the same period.

  79. Burl Henry says:

    “Sorry, but this is just wrong”

    Surely you are not denying that warming occurs after pollution has settled out of the atmosphere? Look at the climatic response after, for example, the Mount Pinatubo eruption. This is the crux of my argument.

    “We have plenty of evidence for warming due to greenhouse gasses”

    Please educate me with one real-life example within, say, the past 50 years…

    “Paleoclimatological estimates” are just that, with major unknowns such as solar radiance, volcanic
    activity, and growing evidence that CO2 levels appear to increase after warming has occurred. They really have no relevance to the actual climatic behavior over the past decades, .

  80. BBD says:

    Burl Henry

    Paul S asks a necessary question:

    If temperature increases have been solely caused by reduction in particulate matter why is the global average temperature so much higher than the time prior to significant increases in such pollution?

    What do you think is the answer?

  81. Burl,

    Surely you are not denying that warming occurs after pollution has settled out of the atmosphere? Look at the climatic response after, for example, the Mount Pinatubo eruption. This is the crux of my argument.

    No, of course aerosols produce a radiative forcing. When I said “wrong” I was referring to the argument you were making that it’s not CO2 and that it’s all a consequence of the clean air acts.

    Please educate me with one real-life example within, say, the past 50 years…

    How about this?

    They really have no relevance to the actual climatic behavior over the past decades, .

    Maybe you’ll have to explain your argument again then. You seem to be suggesting that the warming is all because of reductions in aerosols. If so, then if we are warmer today than we’ve been for thousands of years, then presumably the aerosol forcing must have been presented for those thousands of years or else it would have been warmer in the past than current evidence suggests.

    Plus, see PaulS’s comment. Unless I’m mistaken PaulS’s research is actually related to aerosols so I think he knows what he’s talking about.

  82. BBD says:

    Burl Henry

    I think you will find this discussion of a recent study of the effects of aerosol forcing on C20th climate worth a look. Yes, aerosols are an important climate forcing. Yes, scientists are studying this. Yes aerosols appear to have influenced C20th climate behaviour. No, this doesn’t mean that radiative forcing from CO2 has suddenly vanished from the climate system.

  83. I’ve added a correction to the end of my post. I was rather simplistic in my claims that mitigation would not work in the short-term. It appears that completely stopping emissions would actually halt warming since GHG concentrations would drop at a rate that stabilised temperatures. Of course this is unrealistic and so some form of adaptation is still almost certainly unavoidable. It does mean, however, that even though mitigation is probably still aimed at the medium- to long-term, it’s not correct that it will have no short-term impact.

  84. Burl Henry says:

    Paul S.

    You ask “If temperature increases have been solely caused by reduction in particulate matter why is the average temperature so much higher than the time prior to significant increases in pollution”

    This has all happened before. During the years of the Great Depression, thousands of polluting factories and other activitiies around the world shut down, cleansing the air and causing temperatures to rise.

    Today’s somewhat elevated temperatures mirror those of the 1930’s, which certainly were not caused by greenhouse gasses, thus there is no surprise that they are higher now, since they both
    had the same origin. See: “The Race for the Title of Warmest Year on Record”, at Ask.com/weather

  85. Burl,

    Today’s somewhat elevated temperatures mirror those of the 1930′s, which certainly were not caused by greenhouse gasses

    I don’t this your statement here is correct. During the period I think you mean (about 1910 – 1940) solar insolation increased slightly as did atmospheric CO2 concentrations. If you determine the resulting combined change in radiative forcing, it’s quite similar to the change in radiative forcing we’ve seen in recent decades. Hence we can explain both the earlier warming and the recent warming as being a consequence of changes in external radiative forcings.

    I think it’s time for you to provide some actual evidence. If you’re correct, what has happened to the radiative forcing due to the increased GHGs?

  86. Gingerbaker says:

    Gingerbaker –

    Do you have some links for those #’s?

    BTW – you play a mean drum set.

    $1240 trillion in adaptation costs from:
    http://www.iied.org/pubs/pdfs/11501IIED.pdf

    area of solar PV panels needed to replace fossil fuels by 2030 from:

    Requires ~200 billion 2 meter panels, prices expected to be $.36 per watt in 2017, guessing half of that figure by 2030

  87. dana1981 says:

    +1 to Eli’s comments. I looked at some consequences of various degrees of warming here:

    At 3–4°C warming, widespread coral mortality will occur (at this point corals are basically toast), and 40–70% of global species are at risk as we continue on the path toward the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. Glacier retreats will threaten water supplies in Central Asia and South America. The possibility of significant releases of CO2 and methane from ocean hydrates and permafrost could amplify global warming even further beyond our control. Sea level rise of 1 meter or more would be expected by 2100, with the possibility of destabilization of the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets, which would cause much more sea level rise and flooding of coastal communities.

    3°C would be very, very dangerous.

  88. dana1981 says:

    Regarding Ridley’s comment:

    Over 30 years, global temperature has changed far more slowly than predicted in 95 per cent of the models, and has decelerated, not accelerated.

    That’s not accurate. The 30-year trend is below about 95% of model simulations, but not “far more slowly” in all. In some of those it’s ‘far more slowly’, in others it’s a teeny tiny bit more slowly. And the deceleration claim is a cherry pick, because that discrepancy (if you want to call it that) is entirely due to the past 10-15 years.

    As for the adapt/mitigate question, as Eli says you need to do both and more. There’s already more warming in the pipeline that we’ll have to adapt to, and we need to mitigate if we want to avoid extremely damaging climate change that will be difficult and very expensive to adapt to.

    Interestingly, there was just a paper published showing that taking steps to adapt to sea level rise will save something like tens or hundreds of trillions of dollars by 2100. Richard Tol was a co-author on that paper. Unfortunately I don’t think they looked at the money that would be saved by mitigation, just at early adaption.

  89. Dana,
    Judging by this post it seems that the 30 year multi-model mean trend is around 0.22oC per decade, while the Cowtan & Way 30-year trend seems to be around 0.192oC per decade. So, yes, arguing that it’s changed much more slowly would seem rather a stretch.

    Re your previous comment. It seems quite clear that there’s lots of evidence that 3oC will be harmful/damaging. Still waiting for someone who thinks mitigation is a complete waste of time and money to argue otherwise though.

  90. Comparing mitigation and adaptation costs is misleading, in my non-economist opinion. Mitigation costs are invested, while adaptation costs embody the broken window fallacy.

    Mitigation is like saving money for a child’s college fund. It’s invested in the future.

    Adaptation is like ignoring the need to invest in the future, instead dealing with an underemployed grown child who never has enough money to move out. The consequences are uncertain, of course, ranging from paying for their food to paying for damaged cars/houses that idle hands sometimes cause. These costs aren’t invested. They’re like fixing broken windows.

  91. Burl Henry says:

    “Andthentheresphysics”

    You say “Hence we can explain both the earlier warming and the recent warming as being a consequence of changes in external radiative forcings”

    But it is a “Law of Nature” that natural warming, due to greater insolation, will occur when aerosols are removed from the atmosphere, as in the 1930’s and in the 1970’s-1990’s. This FACT dictates that the warming in the cited times was strictly the result of reduced aerosols.

    A perfect example, I think, of Occam’s razor!

    “If you’re correct, what has happened to the radiative forcing due to the increased GHGs?

    A good question, since there really has been no warming over the past 16 years, or so–in spite of steadily increasing CO2 levels. Where is the radiative forcing?

    The “pause” as mentioned earlier, can be explained by the actions engendered by the Clean Air Acts, etc. being largely completed (and/or offset).

    .

  92. BBD says:

    And the grim possibility exists that we are locked in to >1C which will return us to Eemian temperatures and presumably to Eemian MSL in the fullness of time. There is evidence that SLR was stepped and abrupt which is suggestive of substantial and ongoing ice sheet collapse. The WAIS is the prime suspect. But hey, we’ll all be dead, so let’s open another bottle and toast the wisdom of Lindzen.

  93. BBD says:

    Burl

    This FACT dictates that the warming in the cited times was strictly the result of reduced aerosols.

    “Strictly”? Not until you have quantified the forcings. You cannot make this claim without some numbers.

  94. dana1981 says:

    It’s a little tricky because the Chichon eruption was in 1981 I believe, so that can potentially skew the observational trend upwards, depending on where you start. The trend is somewhere in the 0.18°C/decade range, while the multi-model mean is closer to 0.24°C/decade. So the observations are relatively low (beacuse of the last decade, and the models not capturing the unprecedented trade winds and deep ocean heat accumulation), but saying they’re all predicting much more warming than observed is just wrong. There’s a range with some being too high, a couple being too low, and most being a little too high.

  95. Paul S says:

    Burl Henry,

    Current global average temperatures are about 0.5C warmer than those in the 30s/40s and there is currently about three times as much anthropogenic SO2 emission globally as there was prior to the Great Depression.

    As I said, clean air legislation has been regional. Globally the amount of aerosol pollution has not substantially decreased, if at all, since the mid-70s.

  96. Rachel says:

    Burl Henry,

    “A good question, since there really has been no warming over the past 16 years, or so–in spite of steadily increasing CO2 levels.”

    A better question I think is why hasn’t the Earth cooled considerably over the last decade? From RealClimate (my emphasis):

    Of course, other factors could have also contributed to part of the recent slowdown in the globally averaged air temperature metric: increased aerosols, a solar minimum, and problems with missing data in the Arctic. Summing up all of the documented contributions to the hiatus, spanning ocean heat uptake, reduced radiation reaching Earth’s surface, and data gaps, climate scientists have probably accounted for the hiatus twice over. Of course each effect is not linearly additive, but even so, many experts are now asking why hasn’t the past decade been one of considerable cooling in global mean air-temperatures? Or put another way, why isn’t the model-observed gap even wider? One way to explain this is that the current generation of climate models may be too low in their climate sensitivity – an argument made recently by Sherwood et al in relation to unresolved cloud physics. A perhaps completely unexpected conclusion when analysts first noticed the model-observed divergence progressing over the past decade.

  97. Burl,

    A perfect example, I think, of Occam’s razor!

    Occam’s razor doesn’t work like that. You can’t actually use it to decide between two competing theories/ideas. It is a premise that basically says “don’t make you model more complicated than it needs to be”. Implicit in Occam’s razor is that you should include all known effects. You’re simply ignoring the radiative forcing from GHGs. That might be simpler, but it’s wrong. I’m certainly not ignoring aerosols, their effect is however, smaller than that of GHGs.

    In my previous incarnation, I proposed a law called “Wotts’s law” which said anyone invoking Occam’s razor in a scientific discussion, loses the discussion by default 🙂

  98. Skeptikal says:

    Rachel says:

    In Australia for example, I think Gina Rinehart and Rupert Murdoch have had undue influence on the present government’s decision to “axe the tax”. I could be wrong of course. This is just my opinion.

    Abbott made an election commitment to ‘axe the tax’ and the majority of people voted for him knowing his policy on the carbon tax. The reality is that it was never a popular tax here in Australia, regardless of what some people say.

  99. plg says:

    When it comes to the physical reality of the climate system, there has been discussions on “tipping points” (arctic ice, methane emissions, accelerating glaciers, et al), however there is also a socioeconomic/political tipping point as well: so far, we have a choice. We can decide on what to do and to some degree enforce it as a global community, but under BAU there will come a time when there is a meltdown of the global community, and the possibility of choice is taken away from us.

    When there are enough climate refugees, hungry people, disorganized or nonexistent governments, we as a species will have lost control over the situation. Already there are many millions of climate refugees, when this number becomes 5, 10, 20% of the world population, “we have a problem”. It is hard to argue with hungry and desperate people.

    I do not know if this is one, two or three decades, but unless we take control of the destruction of the environment fairly soon, we become passive observers to a downward spiral.

    Sadly, I have seen no reason for optimism despite many people doing wonderful efforts; it is perhaps too little, too late.

  100. Douglas Spence says:

    Anders,
    You will be familiar with “The Garnaut Report (2008)”, and “The Garnaut Review “(2011). They formed the economic and scientific background to the former Australian Government introducing the widely unpopular Green Energy legislation package in 2012, including a carbon tax morphing to an ETS in 2016.It looks like being fully unwound by July next.
    “The Garnaut Review at conclusion of Chapter 3” What’s a fair share ( for Australia), page 47 states-
    CONCLUSION
    “Against all the odds, there is an international agreement on mitigating climate change.The world is on its way towards substantially reducing emissions growth.”
    This was a reference to Professor Garnaut talking up the Cancun Agreements which ” consolidated and cemented the Copenhagen Accord” (page 36 of the Review).
    Now to the Scientific American, -” Global Effort to combat Climate Change may not end in Paris next year ” , Jan 14,2014, by Lisa Friedman and Climatewire.
    “. …. The US is leading the charge for a voluntary pact in which the countries declare targets that are then enforced with monitoring and reporting efforts”.
    As one commentator remarked there is no way that you can”enforce ” a voluntary” pact”.Voluntary emissions reductions have been tried domestically as a “policy”, and all it amounted to was lip service while emissions were unabated.
    Back to Professor Garnaut .In the Australian Financial Review , 21 November 2013, ” Climate Change strategy is in our best interest, he wrote- “The new international climate change strategy prioritises unilateral decisions and is one that Australia has a lot to gain from.”
    “….. This new approach to international co-operation on climate change places primary importance on each country contributing to the international effort through domestic policy decisions.Unlike in the old days of search for a comprehensive and legally binding international agreement , what we decide to do now is crucial to the success of the international effort.”
    …..The international community has decided that what matters is reducing actual emissions , whatever the cost and whatever the motive.It is immensely to Australia’s advantage that the UN has decided to calculate actual emissions for each country with reference to tradeable entitlements rather than emissions within a countries boundaries.”
    On 25 November, John Burgess of the ACT wrote a letter responding to Garnaut’s article-
    “I was struck by Ross Garnaut’s statement that Governments have now given up on a comprehensive and legally binding international agreement on climate change.Hopes are now pinned on ” concerted unilateral action” to bring down world emissions. This concerted unilateral action looks like a child of failure and points to diminished anxiety about climate change on the part of a good number of governments.”
    ….. “While letter columns in newspapers show there are many among us who still see global warming as the great moral challenge of our times , they would appear now to be in a minority.”
    My conclusion to all this is unpalatable to most contributors here, namely that on the global level it is unlikely that we can do anything significant about CO2 emissions and concentrations
    .The question of mitigation now no longer rests with the developed world which is responsible for less than half of the world’s emissions and rapidly declining. Emerging countries are increasing emissions rapidly and will continue to do so to get billions of their people out of poverty.In the foreseeable future ,only fossil fuels provide the bulk of the energy they need.
    See Scientific American -Jan 13, 2014. Vacliv Smil: ” The great hope for a quick and sweeping transition to renewable energy is wishful thinking”.
    That leaves adaption as the only game in town.

  101. Douglas,

    My conclusion to all this is unpalatable to most contributors here, namely that on the global level it is unlikely that we can do anything significant about CO2 emissions and concentrations

    I’m not sure it’s unpalatable, as you may well be right. It is quite possible that globally nothing significant will happen with respect to CO2 emissions.

    The question that I would quite like to know the answer to is what do those who seem resigned to this outcome think about the possibility of us heading for a mass extinction event if we have 3 degrees of warming in the next 100 years? That appears to be one of the possible outcomes from such a level of warming and such a level of warming is well within the possible range. So, when you present this pragmatic argument, are you knowingly suggesting that even though we risk major damage, we really can’t and shouldn’t bother doing anything about it, are you hoping that somehow technology will come to the rescue in the coming decades,…… It’s one thing to say something will be challenging and difficult and another to simply say, don’t bother trying.

  102. verytallguy says:

    “Wotts’s law” which said anyone invoking Occam’s razor in a scientific discussion, loses the discussion by default

    Tall’s 4th law of Thermodynamics:

    “the frequency of blog posters use of the other four laws to justify their position is inversely proportional to their understanding of those laws”

    This in fact, the general form. Tall’s special law of thermodynamics is that anyone mentioning the 2nd law in a blog post is talking bollocks. Present company excepted, obviously.

  103. > I don’t try to engage you in serious discussion […]

    I have yet to see Paul Matthews engage, let alone in a serious discussion.

  104. > Are you thinking about the US here? Or the UK?

    Why would a researcher from Nottingham UK ask such a rhetorical question instead of observing that New Left [1] also play contrarian games in the UK?

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Left

  105. > It’s not strictly speaking a straw man. In “Earth In The Balance” (p.240), Al Gore berates the assumption that we can “adapt to just about anything”, using this to argue that we should focus on mitigation.

    That we can’t adapt to everything does not entail we can’t adapt at least in part to something.

    Since we’re on the Internetz, courtesy of Al Gore, there straw men might never be that strict.

  106. > I think the EU-guidelines for the precautionary principle are interesting in this context and also the three preliminary conditions before it may be invoked.

    Here they are:

    identification of potentially adverse effects;
    evaluation of the scientific data available;
    the extent of scientific uncertainty.

    http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/consumers/consumer_safety/l32042_en.htm

    I’ve probably missed something obvious (h/t Warren), but how the hell are we supposed to interpret these as conditions?

  107. danolner55347852 says:

    Lovelock in the Guardian yesterday. Might not agree with everything/anything he’s saying, but I thought this was a rather wonderful summary of the basic adaptation/mitigation tension:

    “I get an awful lot of people coming to me saying you can’t say that, because it gives us nothing to do. I say on the contrary, it gives us an immense amount to do. Just not the kinds of things you want to do.”

    Oh, that’s amusing. It’s actually from 2008. I could correct myself but hey… here’s a thing I only saw yesterday, randomly, from six years ago that seems relevant!

  108. danolner55347852 says:

    I was thinking too, bloody hell – he’s writing *another* book and the man’s 94!

  109. I’ve read the Lilico piece that Paul recommended (at least I think it’s the one). As Chris Hope has pointed out, Lilico says

    Almost no policy that would have no impact within five years is ever a good idea, because of the ways the future is discounted.

    I wonder, does Paul agree with this? Seems rather short-sighted and seems completely disjointed from climate timescales which are typically thought to be decades, rather than years. One might imagine that if one wants to have policies related to potential changes in climate, the policy timescale would have to be comparable to the climate timescale, or else it would seem rather unlikely that it would be effective.

    This also seems like another argument in favour of adaptation and no mitigation (or, at least, how I would understand any reasonable mitigation policies to operate) – Warren, any comments? I don’t know if my initial claim of a strawman was reasonable or not, but it does seem as though the rhetoric, from some at least, is roughly speaking (paraphrasing of course) – “it’s time to talk about climate change, as long as everyone agrees that adaptation is the only sensible or realistic policy option”.

  110. That is standard economic thinking by Lilico. I hope WMC will not show up and complain about me being unfriendly to economists, but if the Vogons would offer to double the Gross National Product now in return for the right to destroy the Earth in 1000 years, most economists, who are never shy to give policy advice, would probably advice to take such a terrific deal.

  111. By the time things begin to be majorly impacted we will still be committed to much more warming, I fear that unless action is taken soon that many of the changes will be unadaptable.

    The world bank in their report “Turn down the heat why a four degrees C world must be avoided” concluded that:
    “…there is also no certainty that adaptation to a 4°C world is possible. A 4°C world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally. It is likely that the poor will suffer most and the global community could become more fractured, and unequal than today. The projected 4°C warming simply must not be allowed to occur”

    Similarly, an expert on climate adaption form the University of Exeter, Prof. Neil Adger has said that “Thinking through the implications of 4°C of warming shows that the impacts are so significant that the only real adaptation strategy is to avoid that at all cost because of the pain and suffering that is going to cost”

    And Prof. Kevin Anderson, former director of the Tyndall Centre for climate change research, has often said that “There is a widespread view that a 4°C future is incompatible with an organised global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of eco-systems & has a high probability of not being stable”

    Adaption isn’t enough, we must also find some way to begin mitigating now.

    Prof. Steven Schneider once said that ““The bottom line is that you’ve got to adapt to what won’t get mitigated… and mitigate what you can’t adapt to”

    Putting it more bluntly Gen. Anthony Zinni (Ret.), Former Commander in Chief
    U.S. Central Command has pointed out that:

    “We will pay to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions today, and we’ll take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives.”

    Many climate scientists I’ve met feel similarly, and when speaking frankly will exclaim (as Prof. WIll Steffan, Director ANU Climate Change Institute, did in public recently) that “There is a growing sense of panic in those who really understand what a 4°C world might be like”

    I think that’s why climate scientists have recently put so focus on the supposed techno-fix of geo-engineering.

  112. A recent econtalk hat an interesting discussion on the problem of the discount rate:

    $1000 a hundred years from now, discounted at 5%, is worth only about $6 today. On the other hand, if we discounted it at only 1% over the 100 years, then that $1000 is going to be worth $366 today. Still quite a bit less. But very different from $6. So it makes a huge difference what the discount rate is.

    There is no completely objective way to determine the discount rate. Someone who thinks that 5% is reasonable may thus come to the conclusion that we should better not do anything and claim that children will be so rich, that they can solve the adaptation problems easily. Someone who thinks that 1% is reasonable is more likely to advocate mitigation. A third person may feel that we should ignore economists and that as good conservatives the ethical choice is not to mess with the climate and the ecosystems we we depend on and which have a high intrinsic non-monetary value themselves.

  113. andrew adams says:

    Willard,

    Who would you say are the modern inheritors of the “New Left” mantle in the UK? Do you mean the “Sp!ked” crowd?

  114. Victor,
    Assuming a carbon tax is implemented, do you have any idea of how the chosen discount rate (i.e., what is used to set the level of the carbon tax today) could influence that actual discount rate (i.e., what it should been once we’re in the future and know how much $1000 in the future is worth today). Presumably there must be some kind of relationship. If we use a value that’s too high today, that could lead to climate change impacts that can damage our economy. If we use a value that’s too low today, that could mean we’re spending too much money today and hence inhibiting future growth. Or am I just very confused 🙂

  115. Joshua says:

    VV –

    There is no completely objective way to determine the discount rate.

    That is such a key element to the debate, and to evaluating whether/how much the “cost” of mitigation would in the end be beneficial or wasteful.

    Similarly, an issue that is incredibly complex as well as very much prone to “motivated reasoning,” is the impact of the negative and positive externalities related to fossil fuels and renewables, respectively. For all of the absolutely certainty I see w/r/t the “cost” of mitigation, I have yet to see much if any analyses that really do a good job of accounting for such non-climate change related factors as the geo-political/military costs of maintaining access to oil, opportunity costs in human capital of further empowering governments that fail to address the economic needs of much of their citizenry, costs of particulates in the atmosphere (i.e., negative externalities associated with fossil fuels) , or on the other side of the ledger negative externalities associated with renewables/positive externalities associated with fossil fuels.

    This is why I feel that much of the discussion that focuses on the product of economic projections and analyses looks like a cat chasing its tail. IMO, much more of the discussion should be focused on the process of how to discuss these issues and risk analysis in a context of uncertainty.

  116. JasonB says:

    ATTP,

    You may find this post useful.

  117. Economics is horribly complicated and I am not yet convinced you can do it in a scientific way when it comes to projections over such a long time span.

    The example with the military is a good example. One could assume you need it anyway for national defence (although with the USA spending as much as all other countries, one could argue that it is somewhat oversized for that). One could also assume that a large part of it is there to keep the oil flowing. Both reasonable assumptions.

    At a former university there was the discussion whether we should recycle coffee cups. A report was made that claimed it was bad for the environment. At that moment there was only one company far away that did the recycling. Thus transport costs outweighed the benefit of saving materials. One could also have used the assumption that our university was an avant garde and that soon there would be such recycling companies in every big city. Both reasonable assumption, but highly different results.

    I see no way to solve such problems and thus to come up with objective answers. That would then transfer such decisions from economics to politics. Maybe I am just a stupid economics ostrich, but I have not seen any serious response to such problem. The best response up to know was that naturally economics is aware of such problems. However, aware is not the same as taking it into account and showing some humility when giving policy advice.

    On the positive side, the “uncertainty” in the economic realm is so large that the climate ostriches should be able to use that as an argument and stop perverting science.

  118. > Who would you say are the modern inheritors of the “New Left” mantle in the UK? Do you mean the “Sp!ked” crowd?

    Warren may be better placed than me to answer that question, as he’s the one who rhetorically asked.

    I don’t think New Left should be reserved to the Spiked! crowd, who shares more affinities with UKIP than anything else, i.e. the usual reactionary libertarianism. We may even be allowed to include contemplative brokers who fancy some kind of narrative constructionism. To that effect, we could start with taking a look at the bibliography here:

    http://etheses.nottingham.ac.uk/3680/

    Dvora Yanow seems important to Warren. The ethnographic perspective is so important to look objective.

  119. Burl Henry says:

    BBD: (and others)

    Yesterday, I wrote: “This FACT dictates that the warming in the cited times was strictly the result of reduced aerosols”

    And you wrote: “Strictly? Not until you have quantified the forcings. You cannot make this claim without some numbers”

    A valid point.

    First, I would point out that it matters not what the aerosols are, just that there are fewer of them to weaken the sun’s rays.

    Consider the Mount Pinatubo eruption. According to the paper by Stephen Self, et al “The Atmospheric Impact of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo Eruption” , it injected about 17 Megatons of SO2 into the atmosphere (and probably other particulates as well).

    They also state that 0.5-0.6 deg C of cooling occurred in the northern hemisphere (perhaps 0.4 deg. C worldwide). Thus, the subsequent removal of approx. l7 Megatons of aerosols from the atmosphere resulted in a temperature rise, from the nadir, of about 0.5 deg C, due to increased insolation..

    According to EPA estimates (see “Air Quality Trends), due to the Clean Air Acts, between 1980 and 2000, annual emissions of SO2 dropped from 26 Megatons per year to 16 Megatons per year, a decrease of 10 Megatons per year. Over the 20 year period, perhaps 100 Megatons of SO2 were removed from the atmosphere.

    When one considers that other pollutants (particulates, NO2, etc.) were also removed, and that reductions in emission amounts were also being made abroad, the 17 Megaton “threshold” for a 0.5 deg C rise in global temperatures is exceeded by an amount sufficient to cover any uncertainites in the estimates–and to completely exclude any warming due to greenhouse gasses.

  120. Burl,
    Maybe you could provide another reference. The Stephen Self paper you mention seems to be in some kind of conference proceedings and isn’t accessible.

  121. Burl Henry, nice try. Let’s be generous and trust your numbers. The SO2 of Mount Pinatubo was injected in the stable and dry stratosphere and the industrial emissions are in the lower atmosphere. As a consequence the industrial emissions are washed out quickly (acid rain) and the volcanic SO2 has a much longer life time and thus much more influence on the radiative balance.

    However, we do not need numbers to complicate the matter. If you want to explain atmospheric warming due to declines in industrial emissions, you should allow for the same amount of cooling in periods the industrial emissions were increasing. Thus by definition, your industrial aerosols cannot have warmed the atmosphere over the period starting with the industrial revolution.

  122. Rachel says:

    Just thought I’d point out this post of Collin’s, Dredging doesn’t prevent floods, since this thread is partly about adaptation and I’ve seen in recent days some discussion about dredging.

  123. BBD says:

    Burl Henry

    First, Victor makes a valid correction to your claim. Second, Self et al. point out that the Pinatubo cooling was the result of an exceptional increase in stratospheric sulphate aerosols and was transient in its effects. Far from casting doubt on the models’ handling of all forcings including GHGs, Pinatubo provided an opportunity for some empirical validation:

    Effects on climate were an observed surface cooling in the Northern Hemisphere of up to 0.5 to 0.6°C, equivalent to a hemispheric-wide reduction in net radiation of 4 watts per square meter and a cooling of perhaps as large as -0.4°C over large parts of the Earth in 1992-93. Climate models appear to have predicted the cooling with a reasonable degree of accuracy.

    Nobody disputes negative aerosol forcing. All agree that it modulates (reduces) warming from GHG forcing. Nobody – including Self et al. argue that modern warming is simply the consequence of a reduced aerosol loading. To claim that is to go against and far beyond the scientific evidence.

  124. BBD says:

    Victor’s comment bears repeating:

    However, we do not need numbers to complicate the matter. If you want to explain atmospheric warming due to declines in industrial emissions, you should allow for the same amount of cooling in periods the industrial emissions were increasing. Thus by definition, your industrial aerosols cannot have warmed the atmosphere over the period starting with the industrial revolution.

    You aren’t just arguing a novel mechanism for modern warming, you are arguing for a recent change in the laws of physics.

  125. Pingback: Possible return to El Niño? | quakerattled

  126. Burl Henry says:

    Victor Venema:

    You were too kind to trust my numbers. A more realistic estimate of the amount of SO2 removed by the Clean ir Act would be roughly 0.5 Megatons per year, which would reach 10 Megatons per year at year 2000, for a total of 10 Megatons removed, not 100.

    However, the “target” of 17 Megatons is still attainable, considering that warming was also occurring, although at a slower pace, 1970-1979, that other aerosols were being removed, and that cleansing was also occurring abroad.

    I AM having a problem with your comments relative to the aerosols. It doesn’t matter how long they are in the atmosphere, or where. It’s just that they are there, dimming the sun’s rays. Industrial aerosols are constantly being renewed, regardless of being washed out of the air, until the polluting source is modified or taken off-line.

    Cooling due to increased industrial activity did occur in the early 1940’s, as a result of the increased WWII activity, ending the elevated temperatures of the 1930’s

    Finally, I have never claimed that industrial aerosols have caused any warming, as you state.

    I do appreciate everyone’s comments. I feel that my “theory” is correct, but I have an open mind.

  127. Burl Henry, your numbers are emissions, but what determines how much the aerosols reflect the sun is the concentration in the air.

    The life time of the volcanic aerosols in the stratosphere is in the order of one year, the life time of the industrial aerosols in the lower atmosphere is in the order of a few days. For the same emissions, the concentration will thus be around 100 times higher for the stratospheric aerosols.

    I had the impression that most people here thought your theory was that decreases in industrial aerosols can explain the warming seen in the global mean temperature since the industrial revolution and that that would be an alternative explanation for the warming due to greenhouse gasses. If you only wanted to express that aerosols are able to explain a small fraction of the natural variability around the temperature increase due to greenhouse gasses, you are naturally right. Consequently, aerosols are studied intensively and were also the topic of the last post at this blog.

  128. Burl Henry says:

    Andthentheresphysics”

    Google The Atmospheric Impact of the 1991 Mount Pinatubo Eruption. This paper is on-line.

  129. BBD says:

    Burl

    Ahem. Exceptional and transient.

  130. Burl Henry says:

    BBD:

    You write that “you aren’t just arguing for a novel mechanism for modern warming, you are arguing for a recent change in the laws of physics”

    ??? No, I am simply affirming the fact that if you take pollution out of the air, making it more transparent, there will be greater insolation. No new physics here..

    However, denying that this happens would be new physics.

  131. JasonB says:

    Burl: It appears that the issues that have been raised multiple times in this thread about your thesis appear to have gone completely over your head. I’ll try an analogy.

    Suppose there is a tap running into a bathtub. The water in the bathtub represents the total amount of aerosols in the air, while the water running out of the tap represents the total emissions of aerosols. The plug has also been removed so water is running out the bottom as well.

    Lowering of the water level in this case represents warming of the earth.

    Let’s assume that prior to the industrial age, the bathtub was empty (cf. there was no pollution), and during the industrial age, until the last few decades, the bathtub has progressively filled because water was running out of the tap faster than it was going down the plughole.

    Your thesis is that because the rate of flow into the tub has been reduced by turning the tap (cf. clean air acts), the water level drops (the earth warms) and that this warming can be explained entirely by the turning of the tap.

    The problem is that the emptying of the tub (warming caused by removing aerosols) can only ever get us back to where we were before we started filling the tub (i.e. before there was any pollution). Yet even before the tub has been emptied, we find ourselves considerably warmer than we were before.

    That’s the first point.

    Another is residence time. When you made this calculation:

    between 1980 and 2000, annual emissions of SO2 dropped from 26 Megatons per year to 16 Megatons per year, a decrease of 10 Megatons per year. Over the 20 year period, perhaps 100 Megatons of SO2 were removed from the atmosphere.

    you were effectively saying that if we turned the tap down by a certain amount, we can predict what the water level will be at a later point in time. But surely you can see that you need one more piece of information to do that — the rate at which the water is flowing down the plughole? This is what Vincent’s talking about when he says you’re confusing emissions (how fast the tap is flowing) with concentrations (how much water is in the tub, which depends on the difference between how fast the tap is flowing and how fast the water is going down the plughole).

    It has been mentioned several times that the residence time of aerosols is really short. Anthropogenic emissions rain out in the space of days. This means that the water level in the tub responds very quickly to changes in the rate of flow of the tap.

    The final point is that climate science knows about aerosols. They are one factor that is affecting the climate, and the clean air acts of the 1970s are thought to be at least partly responsible in the change in global temperature trends that occurred then. But what the clean air acts did was unmask the warming that had been occurring all along due to CO2 emissions but which had been counteracted by increasing pollution from WWII to that time. In other words, a big part of the reason why temperatures went down for a few decades from WWII was the increase in aerosols, but during that whole time the effect of CO2 was increasing. Once the aerosols were reduced, that warming effect of CO2 that had been accumulating was unmasked with the result that the rate of warming increased dramatically. Once we stop burning coal, even more of that warming effect will be unmasked. It’s a bit of a catch-22 that one of the things that is causing the warming is also temporarily providing a bit of a shield to that warming and that once we stop burning it, things will actually get worse for a while as the pollution rains out of the atmosphere.

  132. JasonB says:

    No, I am simply affirming the fact that if you take pollution out of the air, making it more transparent, there will be greater insolation. No new physics here..

    Re-read Victor’s comment, repeated by BBD, very carefully, and hopefully the point will sink in.

  133. Steve Bloom says:

    Anders, FYI at this point I’m on my way out of participating in the comment threads here. My loss, of course, but I truly have a hard time with these denier thread hijackers turgidly repeating arguments that weren’t even interesting 20 years ago. Look again at BH’s first comment above. I can understand allowing that and one round of refutations from you and whoever else wants to chime in, but more than that? I don’t see the benefit. What am I missing?

  134. Burl Henry says:

    Victor Venema:

    My numbers are EPA estimates of the tonnage of emissions NOT emitted into the air because of the Clean Air Acts. These “emissions” not being emitted resulted in cleaner, more transparent air and thus more surface warming

    I am not comparing volcanic aerosols to industrial aerosols. They were included only to show that removinng 17 Megatons of pollution from the atmosphere caused a temperature rise of approx. 0.5 deg. C.

    I have also shown that, to a close approximation, 17 Megatons of industrial aerosols have been removed from the atmosphere because of the Clean Air Acts, et al, and that accounts for the current 0.5 deg.C rise in global warming

    Thus, my argument IS that reductions in aerosols, and not greenhouse gasses, are the the cause of the “hockey stick” warming in the 1975-2000 time-frame. As i have pointed out, natural warming HAD to occur as a result of the Clean Air Act, and attributing the warming to greenhouse gasses is a monumenntal error.

  135. Burl Henry says:

    Jason B.

    Did not see your comments until just now. It’s late, and I don’t have time to digest it, but I would ask what caused the temperature increases in the 1930’s? Greenhouse gasses unmasked by the
    cleaner air?

  136. Douglas Spence says:

    Anders,
    In his evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee ,18 January 2005,HL Paper 12-II,p.23, Sir John Houghton ,former Chairman of WG I of the IPCC stated ,”when you put models together which are climate models added to impact models added to economic models, then you have to be very wary indeed of the answers you are getting.” In addition the IPCC itself described the process as” a cascade of uncertainty.”( IPCC ,TAR,2001, Technical Summary of the Working Group I Report,figure 28, p.23.)
    A warming of 3 degrees C over the next 100 years amounts to a warming of 0.03 C per year.In the quarter century from 1975 to 2000 we experienced a warming of ~ 0.02C a year, not a big difference in absolute terms.During those 25 years of gentle warming the World did pretty well .The UN HDI (Human Development Index) showed that all but three of the world’s 102 countries surveyed enjoyed an improvement in HDI .There was a near universal improvement in measures of hunger, infant mortality ,life expectancy ,education , economic development etc.
    In the middle of this, Maurice Strong at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992 said in words quoted by US Secretary of State John Kerry in Indonesia last week,” Every bit of evidence I’ve seen persuades me we are on a course leading to tragedy”.
    Well I’ve lived through more than two climate normals,and the last 30 plus years have all been under global warming. Every second of it.I’ve seen no convincing evidence of climatic tragedy, regionally or globally, which has not always been experienced by mankind.
    My point is, I do not share your concern that we face the possibility of a mass extinction event with a ~3 degrees C temperature rise, even were it to occur. I am much more sanguine.The IPCC’ s scenarios have this important feature in all of them,that over the present century,they all assume faster economic growth means that living standards in the developing world will catch up with those in the developed world.
    We have to stop wasting vast amounts of money in the vain belief we can save the planet.
    The earth’s climate is determined by a hugely complex system ,many aspects of which are poorly understood.Reliable prediction is impossible and speculation about “runaway global warming “and “tipping points “,and climate as ” a weapon of mass destruction ” (John Kerry TM) is absurd. Fortunately despite enormous media hype, opinion surveys suggest a majority of ordinary folk have instinctively sensed that this is correct.
    Given the uncertainties I have mentioned ,it makes sense to rely on national , local and individual adaption ,backed by government assistance where appropriate ,to address whatever the future climate ( natural or man-made) may bring.The UK floods provide a good example.

  137. Steve,
    Yes, I understand. I’m starting to lose patience myself at times, but I don’t want to exclude people who are at least being civil.

    Douglas,

    A warming of 3 degrees C over the next 100 years amounts to a warming of 0.03 C per year.In the quarter century from 1975 to 2000 we experienced a warming of ~ 0.02C a year, not a big difference in absolute terms.During those 25 years of gentle warming the World did pretty well .

    The warming from 1975-2000 didn’t take us significantly above anything we’ve experienced as a species. The future warming, if it occurs as expected, will. That’s the big difference.

    My point is, I do not share your concern that we face the possibility of a mass extinction event with a ~3 degrees C temperature rise, even were it to occur. I am much more sanguine.

    Good for you, but so far no one has provided any evidence to support what you’re suggesting. All the scientific evidence suggests that 3 degrees from today would be extremely damaging. I’m glad you’re not concerned, but it’s one thing for people to say “don’t worry, I’m sure it will be fine” and to actually show that there is a reasonable chance of this being true.

  138. Burl,
    Maybe look at this blog post, in particular at the last figure. Not only does it show that the radiative forcing from anthropogenic aerosols did not decrease as you seem to be suggesting, it also shows (as I think I mentioned above) that during the period 1910 – 1940 GHGs and natural influences provided about the same level of radiative forcing.

  139. andrew adams says:

    Burl,

    If aerosols have been the primary cause of warming/cooling periods during the last century or so then one would expect that the net effect since the industrial revolution to be cooling as there are substantial levels of man made aerosols in the atmosphere now which were not there before. One would expect global temperatures to be lower now than they were in pre-industrial times.

    But they are not, they are higher. Way higher.

  140. It is fine by me to publish the comment by Burl Henry, but if the long reply of JasonB is not even sufficient for him to understand his logical errors, the at least I give up and will no longer reply. Life is short and my life time is too precious.

  141. BBD says:

    ATTP

    I linked Ellie Highwood’s discussion of Wilcox et al. for Burl some way upthread. He ignored it, which was unfortunate. Perhaps now you too have pointed him in that direction he will read as suggested.

  142. Burl Henry says:

    BBD:

    You state “I linked Ellie Highwood’s discussion of Wilcox et al. for Burl some way upthread. He
    ignored it, which was unfortunate. Perhaps now you too have pointed him in that direction he will read as suggested”

    Actually, I have read it several times. I.can agree with the part of their concluding statement where they state “Thus in the global mean aerosols will move from having a cooling push to a warming push”. (This would be due to continuing efforts to reduce air pollution)

    However, they continue with the statement that “greenhouse gasses will also be pushing”

    As I have repeatedly stated (and shown), there is no evidence that warming due to greenhouse gasses actually exists. Their statement is simply not supported by the facts..

    Nothing there to refute my thesis.

    (As an aside, the gradual temperature rise up to the onset of the “hockey stick” can also be explained by fewer aerosols. Some examples would be the replacement of polluting power plants by atomic plants-(a lot of them)-, factory modernizations, and local efforts to clean up pollution sources)

    I did not see Jason B.’s long post until late last night, after all of my earlier posts.

    However, his comments about aerosols exhibit some misunderstanding.

    Yes, the residence times of some anthropogenic aerosols is short (as after a forest fire), but those emitted by autos, factories, and power plants, for example, are constantly being renewed so they can considered permanent sources–and they are far larger. These were the targets of the Clean Air Acts, and their emissions have been reduced.(with the unfortunate side effect of increased warming)

    He further makes the unusual statement that the removal of aerosols “unmasks” warming due to CO2 that had been accumulating. This warming due to the removal of aerosols is more simply explained by greater insolation due to cleaner air. .

    Again, nothing there to refute my thesis.

  143. Rachel says:

    Burl Henry,

    We seem to be going around in circles here and I’m starting to feel a bit trigger-happy with the delete key 🙂 So in one last attempt to find some agreement I present to you this image of global anthropogenic sulphur emissions for the last 150 years.

    Sulphur emissions
    Source: How much did aerosols contribute to mid-20th century cooling?

    Note how emissions have changed very little since about 1975 and yet we’ve seen about 0.55°C of warming since then. Can you explain this to me?

  144. JasonB says:

    There is nothing quite like watching someone who quite evidently fails to grasp some pretty fundamental concepts insisting that it’s everyone else who “exhibit some misunderstanding”. D-K would be proud.

    Burl, my “long post” was specifically designed to be simple to grasp because you hadn’t understood the importance of the points that various people had repeatedly made to you several times already. I can’t help but notice that you must have spent far longer typing your replies since admitting that you’ve noticed it than the time it should have taken you to read and understand it.

    At a certain point one wonders whether you really believe what you’re saying or you’re just taking the piss, enjoying watching people bend over backwards responding to nonsensical arguments.

    I suggest that before responding again, you actually go back and read all of the replies that have been made to you, especially those by Victor. If you still don’t understand what point they’re making, read them again. If it’s still not obvious, ask why they think those points refute your thesis rather than proudly proclaim once again that your thesis has not been refuted. Maybe some will be bothered explaining it in even simpler terms if you ask nicely.

  145. Burl Henry says:

    Jason B.

    YOU need to go back and carefully re-read my refutations of the points made by Victor and others, and you will see why I persist in my views. Their opposing points, I believe, have all been successfully countered.

    Let me propose a thought experiment (but one that is easily verifiable)

    Place two separated thermometers on the grass on a sunny day. With both of them reading the same temperature, cover one of them with a piece of white cardboard (an extreme example of air pollution). Its recorded temperatlure will naturally fall. Now remove the cardboard. It will soon
    record the same temperature as the other thermometer, strictly due to increased insolation. (No “unmasked” accumulated warming due to CO2).

    This is precisely what happens during climatic recovery after a large (easily noticiable) volcanic eruption. And removal of aerosols via the Clean Air Act, et al. Since this natural warming HAS to occur, I would challenge anyone to find a greenhouse gas component in that warming.

    A corollary.of the above is that the sun’s radiance will only raise surface temperatures so far, to roughly today’s somewhat elevated temperatures (which mirror those of the 1930’s). Thus the “pause”, the new norm.

    The good news is that further efforts at air cleansing are unlikely to raise temperatures much farther, and that there is no danger of runaway global warming.

    And then there is physics!

    What IS distressing is that hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent over the past 40 years– with more yet to come–in studying and attempting to mitigate greenhluse gas warming, for which there is no concrete evidence that it has ever existed, and with no discernable effect other than
    more warming.

  146. Burl,
    Sorry, but this is getting a bit tedious. Yes, if there were lots of aerosols it would indeed produce a cooling. However, we’ve produced two separate bits of evidence to show that your claim that the clean air act reduced the influence aerosols is not supported by the evidence. You will need to produce some actual evidence to support your claim in your next comment or I will simply moderate it.

    What IS distressing is that hundreds of billions of dollars have been spent over the past 40 years– with more yet to come–in studying and attempting to mitigate greenhluse gas warming, for which there is no concrete evidence that it has ever existed, and with no discernable effect other than
    more warming.

    Here’s what’s distressing. Typically when someone comes here and tries to argue that there is no evidence for GHG warming, the conversation typically ends with them complaining about how much has been spent and how much we will spent. Why is that? What’s that got to do with the scientific evidence? Could it be that you don’t like what the science is suggesting because of what it implies about what we need to spend?

    Also, I’m not convinced your numbers are correct. The cumulative budget for NASA is $851 billion. I doubt that the world has spent more than 10% of what’s been spent on NASA on climate science. The UK has a total research budget of a few billion a year, only a small fraction of which is spent on climate science.

  147. Burl Henry says:

    Rachel:

    You ask for an explanation of the 0.55 deg. C of warming. This was explained in a couple of my earlier posts to Victor V.

    According to the EPA, sufficient amounts of SO2 and other aerosols have been removed from the atmosphere to increase insolation to an extent that 0.55 deg. C of warming could occur.

  148. jsam says:

    Hmm. More energy is entering the earth’s atmosphere than leaving. What happens next?

    Mind you, at least Burl is consistent. Consistently wrong, but consistent.

    http://www.cfact.org/2013/11/09/cfact-provides-expert-testimony-at-epa-coal-hearing-from-coast-to-coat/#comment-1118702028

  149. Burl,

    According to the EPA, sufficient amounts of SO2 and other aerosols have been removed from the atmosphere to increase insolation to an extent that 0.55 deg. C of warming could occur.

    You need to now provide a link to this information. Why? Firstly, people have already provided evidence to show that the aerosol forcing has increased over the last century, not decreased as you are suggesting. Secondly, does the EPA mean that they’ve prevented the emission of this amount of aerosols, or actually removed this amount from the atmosphere. Thirdly, timescales matter. A big injection of aerosols has a very different impact to a slow injection of the same amount.

  150. BBD says:

    Burl

    As I have repeatedly stated (and shown), there is no evidence that warming due to greenhouse gasses actually exists. Their statement is simply not supported by the facts..

    Nothing there to refute my thesis.

    ??

    Here are forcing estimates 1850 – 2005 (lower panel; there is a transposition error in the caption).

    Here are some global average surface temperature reconstructions 1900 – present.

    Please look at these graphs until you understand what they show.

    It is no longer possible to avoid bluntness: you are completely wrong. You would do well to follow Jason B’s advice and have a serious re-think. Incidentally, denying that there is a greenhouse effect isn’t too clever.

  151. Burl Henry says:

    Andthentherewasphysics:

    The link that you requested:

    EPA.com
    In advanced search box, Type :”Air Quality Trends”
    Click on the line that comes up. Then see Table 3

    Their estimates are for the amount of emissions prevented by the Clean Air Act, which is the same as removing them from the atmosphere (since most are from regulated, constantly-emitting sources, like power plants)

    Regarding time scales, volcanic emissions appear as spikes, while the gradual implementation of
    The Clean Air Acts would result in the “hockey stick” curve.

  152. Burl,

    Their estimates are for the amount of emissions prevented by the Clean Air Act,

    That’s what I thought. However if you look at the figure in Rachel’s post and the link I gave you in an earlier comment, there is no evidence for a reduction in aerosols or aerosol forcing, which is what you would need if you wanted the clear air act to have produced warming. All it’s done is produce less cooling.

  153. Rachel says:

    Burl,

    The link you are looking for is here. Note that it refers to “National trends in sulfur dioxide levels” and not global trends.

    Here’s another graph of global trends which I’ve sourced from Estimating historical anthropogenic global sulfur emission patterns for the period 1850-1990

    global trends sulfur

    From the same paper:

    Since 1850, the global anthropogenic sulfur emission trend for 1850-1990 shows that there has been a general increase of sulfur emissions (Fig. 5). We estimate that emissions in 1850 (approximately 1.2 Mtonne) were about 1.7% of the current values (71.5 Mtonne). There was some leveling off, beginning in 1913, with a decline during World War I. The great depression (1930-1932) led to a marked decrease in global emissions with increases in 1933 through 1944, partly associated with World War II. The postwar years saw a continuous increase, with a drop in 1981-1983, resulting primarily from declining oil demand during the global recession. Fig. 5 compares emissions from North America, Europe, and Asia. While North American, and in some cases, European emissions have been leveling off, rapid increases are occurring in Asia.

    Given that SO2 has risen quite dramatically since 1850, why is it not substantially cooler now than then?

  154. BBD says:

    So there’s a Clean Air Act in China?

    You aren’t thinking straight, Burl, and you haven’t looked at the links I provided either. Look at the top panel. Look at the orange line. What does it show you?

  155. BBD says:

    Sorry Rachel; we crossed there.

  156. Paul S says:

    Seems like this discussion is going around in circles. If there were a communications scientist here I imagine the deficit model would be cowering in the corner bracing itself for a severe dressing down.

    As an attempt to move somewhere I want to ask Burl Henry what have you made of the evidence which has been presented? What have you understood it to mean in terms of your argument? Has it affected your view of what you believe to be true.

    To make that less wide-ranging I’ll focus on specifics. Firstly, what do you make of the evidence presented that industrial SO2 emissions have not substantially declined globally over the past 30 years? Do you accept that to be true? If not, why not?

  157. Burl Henry says:

    [Mod: This comment has been removed by the moderator to avoid repetition and to bring this circle to a close]

  158. Burl Henry says:

    Paul S.

    I have a reply to your questions, but it appears that this thread has been closed

  159. Burl Henry says:

    Paul S.

    Since you asked some good questions, I’ll attempt to answer them in hopes that you might see them even though this thread has been closed.

    In my model, I provided data (from the Mount Pinatubo eruption), which showed that removing 17 Megatons of SO2 from the atmosphere would raise average global temperatures by at least 0.4 deg C., due to increased insolation.

    I also cited EPA data showing that 10 Megatons of SO2 were removed from the atmosphere over the 1980-2000 period, and pointed out that pollutants were also being removed in 1970-1979, and abroad, so that the 17 Megaton “threshold” for a global average temperature increase of 0.5 deg. C. was easily reached, thus proving that all of the observed warming was due to fewer aerosols

    (Actually, the EPA reported that the tonnage of ALL polllutants removed 1980-2000 was 106 Megatons, far above the required “threshold” of 17 Megatons for an O.5 deg C rise., in the USA alone)

    I was hugely disappointed that the best that my critics could do was to repeatedly point me to papers or graphs that assumed that greenhouse warming (without any evidence thereof ) actually exists, then were upset when I rejected their “proofs” I was hoping for a more serious vetting of my thesis, to insure that I have not missed something. Other statements pointing to conflicting data needs to be reconciled to my FACTS, and others obviously did not fully understand exactly what I am saying.

    Regarding the SO2 data, the EPA clearly shows that large amounts of SO2 have been removed within the US, and, by inference, also worldwide. I can only speculate on the cause of the discrepancy. It may be that SO2 alone (like Nitrogen) does not act as a dimming aerosol until it has reacted in the lower atmosphere to produce H2SO4. This could explain the lack of cooling.
    from the reportedly high SO2 levels, which I assume do not distinguish between the two forms..

  160. Burl,
    I’m going to respond to this one last time.

    I also cited EPA data showing that 10 Megatons of SO2 were removed from the atmosphere over the 1980-2000 period, and pointed out that pollutants were also being removed in 1970-1979, and abroad, so that the 17 Megaton “threshold” for a global average temperature increase of 0.5 deg. C. was easily reached, thus proving that all of the observed warming was due to fewer aerosols

    Firstly, as you yourself acknowledge the clean air act prevented an extra 17 Megatons of aerosols from being emitted, it didn’t remove 17 Megatons. As many have illustrated, the global aerosol concentrations have not dropped since that time, therefore it can’t have produced any actual warming. It might have prevented additional cooling.

    Also, the reason Pinatubo produced cooling was because it effectively put 17 Megatons of SO2 into the atmosphere instantaneously. Aerosols have a short residence time, therefore 17 Megatons over 30 years has a completely different impact compared to an instantaneous injection of 17 Megatons.

  161. Paul S says:

    Burl Henry,

    the EPA clearly shows that large amounts of SO2 have been removed within the US, and, by inference, also worldwide.

    Why do you infer that reductions in the US would be echoed worldwide? US laws don’t apply anywhere else in the world.

    In any case you don’t need to infer. You can find the same information from all other countries as the EPA produce for the US and add up to a global figure. Various studies have performed such accountancy and time series for these global figures have been presented in this thread. Unanimously they show only a small reduction in global SO2 emissions since the mid-70s.

    Do you believe these figures for global SO2 emissions are wrong? If so, why?

  162. Burl Henry says:

    Andthentheresphysics:

    As I had pointed out earlier, The Clean Air Acts targeted major polluting sources such as power plants and factories, which constantly renew their pollution. It matters not whether the pollution settles out in one day, it there again the next day, so they are effectively constant sources.

    As such, annual emissions were reduced each year so that it got a bit warmer each year so that by year 2000 the atmospheric loading from these constantly renewing sources was 10 Megatons per year less, allowing more insolation. and a resultant 0.5 deg C temperature rise..

    So where have I gone wrong in my analysis?

  163. Burl,

    It matters not whether the pollution settles out in one day, it there again the next day, so they are effectively constant sources.

    Yes, but if it avoided a total of 17 Megatons over 30 years, that means that the amount – that it avoided – in the atmosphere at any one time is much less than 17 Megatons. Pinatubo released that amount at one time. That’s why it had such a big effect. Releasing the same amount as Pinatubo over a 30 year period – given that it settles out quickly – has a much smaller effect than it all being released at once.

  164. Burl Henry says:

    Paul S.

    Although other countries may not have Clean Air Acts, many have taken large steps to reduce pollution, much of which is undoubtedly SO2.

    To me, 17+ Megatons of SO2 removed does not seem like “only a small reduction”, given that I have shown that its removal was sufficient for roughly an 0.5 deg C temp. rise. .

    Could you provide me a link relative to global SO2 reductions?

  165. Burl Henry says:

    Andthentheresphysics.

    You misunderstand what I am saying. By the year 2000 the atmospheric loading of SO2 in the atmosphere is EQUIVALENT to 17 Megatons of SO2 having been removed from the atmosphere.

    This does not mean that the 17 Megatons of SO2 was actually being removed over a 30 year period, just that by year 2000 the aerosol loading was equivalent to that having happened.

  166. Rachel says:

    Burl,

    I have already provided a graph of global SO2 since preindustrial in this comment. The graph shows that global SO2 has risen dramatically since 1850 and has not changed much since 1970. My question in that comment, and now again is:

    Given that SO2 has risen quite dramatically since 1850, why is it not substantially cooler now than then?

    Now I don’t want us to continue with rinsing and repeating of the same stuff here so if you can provide a logical explanation for this, then I am happy to hear it, but if not, then let’s please respect the moderator and bring this circular discussion to a close.

  167. Paul S says:

    Burl Henry,

    Further to Rachel’s comment, her graph comes from Smith et al. 2011. That paper also contains this figure showing time series for the main emitting regions:

    You can see reductions in North America and Europe have been offset by increases elsewhere, China in particular.

  168. Paul S says:

    Perhaps I can’t post images. Here’s the link:

  169. Rachel says:

    Paul,
    That image is tiny. Is there a bigger version? I can embed it if you want.

  170. Paul S says:

    Ah, yes. Looks like I picked up the thumbnail rather than the full image. Anyway the version on skeptical science is slightly better quality:

  171. Burl Henry says:

    Rachel:

    I had addressed this earlier at the end of my longish post to Paul S. earlier today, saying that I really didn’t have an answer, but offered some speculation.

    However, looking at the graph provided, apart from China, there has been a huge reduction in the amount of anthroprogenic SO2, consistent with the Clean Air Act /EPA data time-frame.

    This graph is substantially different in the later years than the one that you had provided me earlier, which had me puzzled.

    What does this data look like from 2000 onwards? .

    I agree that the rising SO2 levels from China should be off-setting the gains over here, and that cooling should be occurring.

    What are your thoughts on this? Perhaps it can be puzzled out..

  172. Burl Henry says:

    Rachel:

    I forgot to suggest that the warmer temperatures today compared to 1850 may be solar-driven, as has happened to the climate before.

  173. Rachel says:

    Burl,

    What are your thoughts on this? Perhaps it can be puzzled out..

    My thoughts are that it’s CO2. It’s not the sun. See this graph from Skeptical Science.

    solar-temperature

  174. BBD says:

    Burl

    Okay, let’s put it together on one graph.

    GAT annual means are shown at the top (green). The four lower curves are coherently-scaled forcing estimates from NASA GISS. Well-mixed GHGs (blue, top) and reflective aerosols (dark blue, bottom) bracket solar (yellow) and the total net forcing (red). The abrupt negative excursions in total net forcing represent volcanic eruptions.

    You can see clearly that:

    – total net forcing is increasing

    – GHG forcing increase is nearly but not quite offset by negative forcing from reflective aerosols

    – this accounts for the rise in GAT over the last several decades

    – it’s not the sun

  175. Burl Henry says:

    Rachel:

    Thank you for the graph.

    On the surface, I would have to agree with you that it is CO2.

    However, since I have proven (to my mind, at least) that there was no greenhouse gas warming due to CO2, 1970-2000, there has to be another explanation.

    In my original post on Feb.18 (page 23 of 57), I had postulated that the “pause” was due to the cleaning actions of the Clean Air Act largely being completed, and/or being offset by the growing pollution in the East.

    The answer appears to be that it is being offset by that pollution

    Table 3 (EPA.gov, Air Quality Trends), clearly shows that cleansing has continued beyond year 2000, with an additional 10 Megatons of SO2 being removed by year 2012. With this quantity of aerosols removed from the atmosphere, further warming (on the order of 0.5 deg. C) should have occurred, but it has not.

    Further, examination of the graph of “Anthropogenic SO2 Emissions” that you had sent me shows that, at year 2000, the increase of SO2 emissions in East Asia closely matches the decrease in SO2 emissions from North America, Europe, and South East Asia/Australia, thus off-setting each other.

    Additional warming can therefore be expected once the East cleans up its air, but there would be no concern about runaway global warming.

  176. Burl Henry says:

    BBD:

    A very interesting graph (but for some reason I cannot print it out, just your text appears)

    I do not know what some of the curves represent, but to me it appears that GHG’s are merrily increasing and diverging from the total net forcing, which has plateaued at year 2000.

    Not what one would expect if they were responsible for any of the warming. Their rise appears to just be coincidental.

  177. BBD says:

    Burl

    However, since I have proven (to my mind, at least) that there was no greenhouse gas warming due to CO2, 1970-2000, there has to be another explanation.

    This is deeply flawed reasoning.

    I do not know what some of the curves represent

    Then re-read my comment.

    but to me it appears that GHG’s are merrily increasing and diverging from the total net forcing, which has plateaued at year 2000.

    The total net forcing is what it says it is – the net of forcings. There are other forcings which I omitted in that presentation for clarity. Whether by accident or by design, you have managed to introduce yet further confusion.

    Burl, I think we are about done here.

  178. Burl Henry says:

    You may be correct that my reasoning is deeply flawed, but I would appreciate some specifics as to where I have gone wrong, since my comments are based upon EPA facts and well know climatic responses to volcanic eruptions. Just saying that I am wrong doesn’t cut it. Educate me.

    Some of the curves are identified with abbreviations that I am not familiar with, which Is why I do not know what they are representing.

  179. BBD says:

    I would appreciate some specifics as to where I have gone wrong

    Read the thread. It’s all there. You just blank it every time. The problem lies squarely with you, so I suggest you go off and deal with it in good faith. Somewhere else.

  180. Burl,
    I’ll try one more time. Here’s some areas where I think you’re reasoning is wrong.

    Firstly, CO2 produces a radiative forcing. This is quite well understood. Hence if the atmospheric CO2 concentration increases, it should produced an increase in the radiative forcing. This means that the planet will gain more energy than it receives until the surface temperature rises so as to compensate for this increased forcing. Just because you can provide an alternative way for the surface temperatures to rise does not mean that CO2 is not acting to increase the surface temperatures. From the Figure that BBD produced, it’s quite clear that aerosols are producing quite a large negative forcing and, in fact, are reducing the total anthropogenic warming.

    Secondly, you keep claiming that the clean air act reduced atmospheric aerosol concentrations and did so sufficiently so as to produce a significant warming. The data, however, suggests that atmospheric aerosol concentrations have not reduced. Hence the clean air act may have prevented them from increasing further, but since they haven’t reduced, a reduction cannot have produced warming (since, globally, there’s been no reduction).

  181. dhogaza says:

    ATTP:

    “Firstly, CO2 produces a radiative forcing. This is quite well understood. Hence if the atmospheric CO2 concentration increases, it should produced an increase in the radiative forcing.”

    It *will*, not *should*. No reason to equivocate …

  182. dhogza,
    Indeed “will” not “should”. Equivocation is indeed something I have habit doing 🙂

  183. Burl Henry says:

    Exactly as I had expected. [Mod: snipped, disrespectful] I have my facts, and you have your “facts”….and never the twain shall meet…

  184. Burl,
    It’s not so much the facts, as the interpretation of the facts, that matter.

  185. BBD says:

    Burl

    [Mod: snipped from earlier comment]

    [Mod: this judgement is made about part of a comment that has been removed] Despite the time I (and many others) have taken over your inability to understand the basic facts.

    I have my facts, and you have your “facts”

    No, Burl, and this is the essence of the problem. You have no real idea what you are talking about and yet you have declared ownership of the facts and put the real facts in scare quotes. There is no further point to this conversation. You are incapable of understanding the topic and anyway haven’t the slightest desire to learn.

  186. Rachel says:

    Things seem to be getting a bit unfriendly here so perhaps I will just remind everyone to be respectful of other commenters, no matter how frustrated you feel.

    I just saw this comic which I thought was very funny:

    comic

  187. BBD says:

    Rachel

    It ends with World Socialism. Obviously.

    🙂

  188. Burl Henry says:

    Andthentheresphysics:

    This is getting tedious for both of us.

    Perhaps the issue needs to be approached in another way. A listing of my facts follows. Please identify the ones that you do not agree with, GIVING A REASON.

    1. Volcanic aerosols cause global cooling (Many examples)
    2. Global temperatures recover when the pollution has settled out of the air
    3. The reason is greater insolation because of the cleaner, more transparent air
    4. Mount Pinatubo injected 17 Megatons of SO2 into the atmospherer (Self, et al)
    5. Approx. 0.5 deg C of cooling resulted. (Self, et al)
    6. When the pollution settled out of the air, temperatures increased to prior levels (An 0.5 deg C. temp rise)
    7..1970-2000 the Clean Air Act and other efforts abroad removed 17 Megatons of SO2 from the air (EPA)
    8. Temperatures rose 0.5 deg C, as they HAD to because of the increased insolastion.
    9. Between 2000 and 2012, in the United States alone, 10 Megatons of SO2 were removed from the atmosphere. (EPA) (76 Megatons of total polllutants)(also EPA)
    10. Essentially no additional warming occurred
    11. The reduction in pollution in the West is being offset by a surprisingly similar increase in the East
    12. This is why satellite measurements show little change in pollution in the atmosphere.
    13. No evidence of any warming due to CO2 at any of the steps

    I look forward to my abundant errors being corrected., where possible.

    .

  189. Ian Forrester says:

    Burl Henry, your comments are correct up to #6. However, you cannot equate 17 megatons of SO2 emitted by a volcano and the 17 megatons from industrial activity. The volcanic SO2 is injected high up into the stratosphere where it not only lasts a lot longer but is also a much better reflector of solar radiation at that height. That is where your argument falls apart

    #13 is also wrong since CO2 warming is present in all of your “facts”, it does not just disappear because SO2 is injected into the atmosphere. If you actually look at the data BDD presented you will see that CO2 forcing is always much larger than the negative forcing caused by aerosols.

  190. Steve Bloom says:

    Hmm, have they all been corrected already, multiply so, in part by people with some expertise on the subject? Yes, they have. Do you demonstrate more than the shallowest grasp of the vast scientific literature on aerosols and their impacts? No, you don’t. Can you point to a single scientist, even the likes of Roy Spencer or Dick Lindzen, who thinks there’s anything to what you say? No, you can’t. So it’s just you, the new Galileo, although unlike Galileo you have no expertise to back up your pontification. Were it not for the fact that there are seemingly well-adjusted PhD physicists (for the most part rather elderly, but even so) who think they’ve overturned relativity, I’d have to conclude that your problem is more clinical than anything else.

    Just so there’s no misunderstanding, I’m not making fun of you, I’m pitying you.

  191. Ian Forrester says:

    Oops that should be BBD’s data.

  192. Steve Bloom says:

    Rachel, in the context of this blog, that’s not funny, it’s poignant.

  193. Rachel says:

    Steve, is it really so hard to be nice to other people? I know you think I’m unreasonably tough and on the wrong things, but there’s generally a welcoming atmosphere here where people can learn things and I like that. If we accuse people of having a shallow grasp of the literature (and no I haven’t moderated this but probably should have) it will elicit an emotional response that may start a food fight.

    I have a very rudimentary understanding of this topic and if someone told me I had a shallow grasp of it or that the problem lay with me and I should read it again, they might be correct, but I would still find it a bit off-putting. I would probably just leave and not come back. Maybe that’s the outcome you want, but I was starting to get the feeling that Burl wanted to find some common ground here. Although I’m not sure how to find it.

  194. Steve Bloom says:

    Rachel, his most recent comment exhibits the identical misunderstandings he started with way above. I don’t know where you could have gotten that feeling. After a while, mere persistence and politeness cease to be a sufficient basis for such.

    But I’m curious about something: Why were you happy to put an end to PT’s thread but not this one. Is it just the relative politeness? If so, where indeed does it end given that there are an awful lot of Burls out there just waiting to discover such a polite, tolerant venue?

  195. Thomas Lee Elifritz says:

    Rachel, when Burl uses the term ‘facts’ in the realm of science, and then insists that his ‘facts’ are more insightful than a working physicist’s ‘facts’; it demonstrates an ignorance of reality that so profound that it requires a harsh response. Roses are red, but Burl’s roses are totally wilted. There is no common ground with someone who continues to insist science is about ‘facts’;

    If you find that ‘offputting’, it’s entirely your problem. [Mod: ad hom]

  196. Rachel says:

    Steve,

    But I’m curious about something: Why were you happy to put an end to PT’s thread but not this one.

    I did try to bring this discussion to a close 4 days ago here but it got started again the following day.

    And then I decided to give Burl another chance based on this comment of his where he said:

    I agree that the rising SO2 levels from China should be off-setting the gains over here, and that cooling should be occurring.

    What are your thoughts on this? Perhaps it can be puzzled out..

    I felt as though he had changed his position slightly. Perhaps he has not but I am forever hopeful.

  197. Burl Henry says:

    Ian:Forester:
    You state:
    “Burl Henry, your comments are correct up to #6. However, you cannot equate 17 megatons of SO2 emitted by a volcano and the 17 megatons from industrial activity. The volcanic SO2 is injected high up into the stratosphere where it not only lasts a lot longer but is also a much better reflector of solar radiation at that height. That is where your argument falls apart”

    Yes, I believe that I can. Here I am talking about tonnages of aerosols blocking the sun’s rays, which, when they rain out, allow warming due to greater insolation–O,5 deg. C for Mt. Pinatubo

    The Clean Air Act also removed 17.megatons tons of aerosols , a partial amount each year until by year 2000 17 megatons tons of SO2 had been effectively removed, allowing insolation sufficient to raise temperatures 0.5 deg C

    For the above case, residence time is not a factor.

    Thus, I am correct to at least #7

  198. Burl,

    The Clean Air Act also removed 17.megatons tons of aerosols , a partial amount each year until by year 2000 17 megatons tons of SO2 had been effectively removed, allowing insolation sufficient to raise temperatures 0.5 deg C

    No, this is the part that is incorrect or irrelevant. Look at the various graphs that people have provided. Globally the concentration of aerosols is higher today than it was in the 1970s. Therefore, solar insolation has not increased because of a reduction in SO2. It hasn’t happened. Whatever may have happened if there had been no clean air act is irrelevant, given that – globally – the atmospheric aerosol concentration today is higher than it was in the past. Can you at least accept this. If not, then this discussion is closed.

  199. BBD says:

    Burl does not understand that the US is not the world. He does not grasp that a regional clean air policy does not control global sulphate emissions, which can still rise. He rejects all data that demonstrate this fact. Burl just knows that GHGs aren’t efficacious climate forcings and reduced sulphate aerosol loading (despite the data showing increase of same) is responsible for modern warming. And nobody can tell him otherwise because he owns his own facts. Resistance is useless…

  200. BBD says:

    Here I am talking about tonnages of aerosols blocking the sun’s rays, which, when they rain out, allow warming due to greater insolation–O,5 deg. C for Mt. Pinatubo

    This figure again, based on a single study for which I can find no other corroboration at all. Everyone else says a transient dip in GAT of ~0.2C over the course of a year.

    Here are three global average temperature reconstructions: NOAA, GISTEMP and HadCRUT4.

    Where is the 0.5C dip from Pinatubo?

  201. Steve Bloom says:

    I think the condensed version may clarify, Rachel:

    I agree that (,,,) cooling should be occurring.

    What are your thoughts on this? Perhaps it can be puzzled out.

    Perhaps indeed, at length.

  202. Marco says:

    Burl, allow me to help you grasp something. Even *if* you are right about the amounts of SO2 emission and about the drop in temperatures, you still cannot equate the numbers directly for one simple reason:
    The residence time of aerosols in the troposphere is much shorter than that in the stratosphere. MUCH shorter. Depending on what type of aerosols and how high in the atmosphere they are emitted there can be a difference of a factor 100 in residence time.

    You should therefore revise your calculation into a aerosol-burden per time unit.

  203. JasonB says:

    One last try…

    Burl:

    Place two separated thermometers on the grass on a sunny day. With both of them reading the same temperature, cover one of them with a piece of white cardboard (an extreme example of air pollution). Its recorded temperatlure will naturally fall. Now remove the cardboard. It will soon
    record the same temperature as the other thermometer, strictly due to increased insolation.

    Correct. Now, using your own analogy, let’s revisit two key points that people have been trying to explain.

    First: When the cardboard is removed, as you say, the formerly-covered thermometer will soon
    record the same temperature as the other thermometer
    . Not greater than the other thermometer, the same temperature as the other thermometer.

    This means that if we were to remove all of the aerosols from the atmosphere, the temperature should return to what it was before the aerosols were added — unless something else has changed.

    The problem for you — raised repeatedly by many people on this thread — is that the temperature now is much higher than what it was before the aerosols were added.

    You are trying to use the removal of the cardboard as an explanation for the increase in temperature of that thermometer while ignoring the fact that the thermometer has actually risen to a much higher temperature than the other thermometer.

    The reason is because something else has changed. It’s as if someone had placed a heater next to that thermometer. Removing the cardboard caused it to heat up more than the other thermometer, because now it’s being heated directly by the sun and the heater next to it.

    Second: We haven’t actually removed the cardboard! As has been repeatedly demonstrated, global aerosols have not dropped despite the Clean Air Acts in the US. Why? Because the US is not the world. Reductions in US pollution are being more than offset by increases in pollution elsewhere. The US reductions mean the total is less than it otherwise would have been, but that’s not the same as less than before — and the actual data show that it is not less than before.

    So now we have the situation where someone has placed a heater next to that thermometer, you have not removed the cardboard covering it, and you are trying to claim that the temperature is rising because of the removal of the cardboard (which is actually still in place!) and not because of the heater.

    Not especially convincing, I’m sure you’ll agree.

    To support your hypothesis, you need to do all three of the following:

    1. Demonstrate that global aerosol data is wrong and that the aerosols have actually been declining (i.e. the cardboard really has been removed).

    2. Demonstrate that historical temperature reconstructions are wrong and that the temperature now is merely returning to what it was before the industrial revolution started putting aerosols into the atmosphere despite all the evidence to the contrary (i.e. the temperature of the freshly-uncovered thermometer has not shot up well beyond the temperature of the other thermometer).

    3. Demonstrate that, somehow, increasing CO2 concentrations does not increase the forcing, despite all the physics and observational data that says it will (i.e. the radiator that someone has placed next to your thermometer is not actually having an effect at all).

    The first two require ignoring an awful lot of observational data, but that last one’s a real doozy, as it overturns a lot of physics as well.

  204. As Victor Venema has written sulfur dioxide from anthropogenic sources has a short life time. I add some numbers.

    According to this paper

    http://www.doas-bremen.de/paper/jgr_11_lee.pdf

    the life time of anthropogenic SO2 varies between 13 hours and 60 hours over the Eastern U.S. That means that less than 0.5% of the annual emissions is on the average in the atmosphere. The global annual SO2 emissions are about 55 Mton S (or 110 Mton SO2). That leads to less than 0.3 Mton S or 0.6 Mton SO2 as the average amount of SO2 in the atmosphere. Pinatubo releases about 18 Mton SO2, which is over 30 times more than the average SO2 in the atmosphere from anthropogenic sources. Roughly half of the Pinatubo release was removed in two weeks, but a significant fraction remained much longer in the stratosphere.

  205. Burl Henry says:

    BBD asks “where is the O.5 deg C dip from Pinatubo?”

    It is clearly shown on the combined graph which you provided on the 25th, in theTotal Net Forcing curve.

    Also see NASA’s Latest Global Tempertures graph, updated monthly–it is more clearly shown there.

    .

  206. Marco says:

    Burl, a small hint: “forcing” is not measured in degrees Celsius.

    And no, GISTEMP does not show a 0.5 degree Celsius dip either:

    It’s around 0.2 degrees.

  207. BBD says:

    Burl

    I am having trouble believing my eyes. Marco has said what needs to be said, but even I didn’t realise that you couldn’t understand the graphs you were being shown.

    Please take it from me that the 0.5C Pinatubo cooling is not supported by any global average temperature dataset or any other study that I could find. This is a clear illustration of the dangers in placing absolute reliance on a single study.

    Now, please – please – read Jason B’s last comment above.

  208. @BBD:
    I didn’t follow the discussion, but it seems as none of you has picked up the fact that the aerosol induced surface cooling depends on the height of the aerosol layer (particularly true for absorbing aerosols). Stratospheric aerosols have a different cooling rate than tropospheric aerosols. Comparing their mass therefore doesn’t make much sense. The Pinatubo effect is one thing, the anthropogenic aerosols effect is another. Btw, if you remove ENSO effects from the temperature time series, the Pinatubo effect is a tad more than -0.3K, well in agreement with CMIP5 models. Sorry if I missed something due to superficial reading 😉

  209. Karsten,
    Thanks, I don’t think anyone did make that point. It’s something I didn’t actually appreciate.

  210. Burl Henry says:

    Please take it from me that the 0.5C Pinatubo cooling is not supported by any global average temperature dataset or any other study that I could find. This is a clear illustration of the dangers in placing absolute reliance on a single study.

    BBD: You wrote the above, which is refuted in Self, et al, and by NASA data. Google ” Latest Global Temperatures”, and examine the graph in the first entry.

    My reliance is not bsedj upon a single study.!

  211. BBD says:

    Burl

    My reliance is not bsedj upon a single study.!

    Yes, it is.

    The graph you wave towards is UAH TLT (top of lower troposphere). It is not a surface temperature data set and TLT is much more sensitive to certain phenomena – eg ENSO and explosive volcanism – than surface T.

    Karsten (above) is a working climate scientist and aerosol expert, and if he says ~-0.3C transient cooling for Pinatubo, then I suggest that is the best figure we are going to get. I also suggest that we consider his other point (which has indeed been raised earlier) about the difference between stratospheric and tropospheric aerosol effects.

    So I repeat – no study other than Self et al. supports your -0.5C claim and it is not supported by any surface temperature data set.

    Now you need to go back and do as I asked earlier and read Jason B’s last comment above. You need to stop arguing and start taking in fresh information with an open mind.

  212. Burl,
    I’m going to appeal to authority here – not mine, but Karstens. As BBD points out, Karsten is a climate scientist who specialises in aerosols. If he think your views are in error, and everyone else here thinks your views are in error, I think we should just draw a halt to this. I certainly don’t think you’re going to convince anyone commenting here that your views have merit. You’ve had a chance to present them to others who might read this, and everyone else has said enough to allow you to consider the alternatives. There is a limit to how often we should go over the same ground.

  213. Ian Forrester says:

    The reason that BBD’s graph shows 0.2 C drop and Spencer’s (linked to by Burl Henry) shows 0.5 C is that BBD’s graph shows yearly average and Spencer’s shows monthly average.

  214. Burl Henry says:

    Pekka Pirila:

    I had explained up-stream that the Clean Air Acts targeted many major pollution sources which can actually be consedered to be constant sources, such as Power Plants, refineries, and large factories. If the pollution settles out today, it is there again tomorrow.

    Thus, the life-time of such anthropogenic aerosols, relative to sratosperic aerosols, is really much longer, since they never rain out, constantly being replaced…

  215. Burl,
    I’m asking nicely that we draw a close to this. I don’t think you’re going to convince anyone here that your views have merit and we are really starting to go around in circles, which just wastes everyone’s time.

  216. BBD says:

    Ian Forrester

    The reason that BBD’s graph shows 0.2 C drop and Spencer’s (linked to by Burl Henry) shows 0.5 C is that BBD’s graph shows yearly average and Spencer’s shows monthly average.

    Actually, the greater sensitivity of TLT to ENSO and explosive volcanism shows up even in like-for-like comparisons of yearly averages.

  217. As has been argued in this thread by many, the strength of the Pinatubo cooling is not directly linked to the cooling effect of anthropogenic sulfur dioxide releases, because it’s so much stronger (maximum amount 30 times larger than average anthropogenic SO2 level), and to a significant degree in the stratosphere as pointed out by Ian Forrester and Karsten.

    If we still wish to look at the cooling effect of Pinatubo, we notice that Self in 1999 and Hansen soon after the eruption in 1993 gave values like 0.5 C or 0.6 C, but later estimates have been smaller. In the Lean and Rind fit to the HadCRUT temperatures the effect is about 0.3 C. In Foster and Rahmstorf fit the effect is 0.3 C in GISS surface data and 0.5 C in RSS lower troposphere satellite based data. Looking at their residuals there might be a little signal that’s left out of those values, but that’s what their fit gives taking also El Chichón into account.

    There may be better ways for estimating the strength of the Pinatube cooling, but the fits I mention are at least very easy to understand.

  218. Burl Henry,

    Aerosols have their effect when they are in the atmosphere, when they are not they have no effect. The annual release has no effect in any other way as in maintaining the level that’s in the atmosphere. It’s true that a constant influence that goes on for years has a somewhat larger influence than an addition that lasts only for about two years, but 30 times more is really much more, and so is even the average amount of SO2 in the atmosphere over the first year after Pinatubo (I don’t have exact numbers for that, but based on some graphics I have seen it may be about 10 times larger).

    And once more: SO2 in the stratosphere has a very different effect from SO2 from anthropogenic releases that’s mostly in lower troposphere, because its life time is so short.

  219. Burl Henry says:

    BBD:

    I have no problem with Karsten’s estimate of 0.3 deg. C transient cooling (and subsequent 0.3 deg C temperature rise during recovery) for the Mount Pinatubo eruption. This is actually more in line with the approx. 0.25 deg C temperature rise that occurred between 1980 and 2000 when an equivalent tonnage of SO2 was finally removed from the atmosphere.

    There have been many comments made about the difference in behavior between stratosplheric and anthropogenic SO2, but they really have no revelance to my argument. All that I have said is that removal of an equivallent tonnage of SO2 from the atmosphere resulted in an equivalent temperature rise, due to greater insolation. in both cases.

    Can you now agree that my Step 6 is correct?

  220. dhogaza says:

    ATTP:

    Please make it stop. 🙂

  221. JasonB says:

    Burl:

    Have you demonstrated that the cardboard has, in fact, been removed? No. Aerosols are having a larger cooling impact now than they were in the 70s (i.e. more cardboard has been added on top) despite what the US has been able to achieve. This invalidates your argument.

    Have you demonstrated that the thermometer has not, in fact, shot up well beyond the temperature of the other thermometer? No. Temperatures now are much higher than they were before the industrial revolution. This invalidates your argument.

    Have you demonstrated that the heater next to the thermometer is not having an effect? No. CO2 really is a greenhouse gas and it really is having a warming effect, predicted by theory and confirmed by experiment. This invalidates your argument.

    The fact that you don’t understand the difference in behaviour between stratospheric and anthropogenic SO2 is really besides the point as you haven’t demonstrated even one of the three requirements that you would need to demonstrate to support your argument, let alone all three.

    Obsessing over trivialities while ignoring the enormous elephants in the room isn’t going to convince anybody that your argument has merit. Neither is the obvious fact that you were the one who introduced the analogy yet you seem unable to comprehend the implications when that analogy is updated to reflect reality.

    You have somehow found time to post four comments since my previous post, yet you apparently have not found the time to actually read it. This is not a write-only medium, you know.

  222. BBD says:

    ATTP

    You have somehow found time to post four comments since my previous post, yet you apparently have not found the time to actually read it.

    What Steve Bloom said. There needs to be a limit to this.

  223. BBD says:

    Burl

    This is actually more in line with the approx. 0.25 deg C temperature rise that occurred between 1980 and 2000 when an equivalent tonnage of SO2 was finally removed from the atmosphere.

    Go and look at the data on GLOBAL sulphate aerosol loading. Stop confusing the US with the world.

    Demonstrate some intellectual honesty. Enough is enough.

  224. Burl Henry says:

    Jason B.

    Sorry to have dropped out of the conversation. My wife is struggling with ovarian cancer, and we’ve had a spate of doctor’s visits. Along with everyithing else, have had no time no time to visit the blog.

  225. Burl Henry says:

    [Mod: I don’t want any more comments about aerosols please as this is off-topic and I think we are going around in circles. Thank you]

  226. Burl Henry says:

    [Mod: this comment has been removed by the moderator]

  227. JasonB says:

    Burl:

    My wife is struggling with ovarian cancer, and we’ve had a spate of doctor’s visits. Along with everyithing else, have had no time no time to visit the blog.

    My condolences to your wife, I hope she gets better.

    [Mod: Sorry Jason but I’ve had to remove the rest of your comment since you reference a previous comment which has been removed]

  228. JasonB says:

    [Mod: This comment has been removed by the moderator because it references an earlier one that has been removed. Sorry about this. I was a bit slow to respond and you beat me with your replies]

  229. JasonB says:

    Mod: understood, but bugger. 🙂 Should wait longer before posting.

  230. Burl Henry says:

    JasonB:

    I skipped your LONG posts because I knew that I would not have time to digest and respond to them at that time. I did read and respond to a few shorter posts, since they could be quickly answered. But a lot of others also remained unread.or not responded to because of time constraints..

    I believe that my forthcoming post will be worth the wait..

    Gotta go

  231. JasonB says:

    Burl:

    Thanks for confirming what was fairly clear already. It certainly looked like you weren’t reading a lot of what others were saying, although I thought it was just because you couldn’t understand it.

    It’s a shame you don’t value the time of other people as highly — you might have saved us all a lot of time if you actually bothered reading all the replies before deciding to add new comments to the mix.

  232. Rachel says:

    Burl,
    Think very carefully before making another comment on this thread. I don’t want anymore comments from you about aerosols unless you wish to make a different point altogether or to concede that recent warming is not due to cleaner air. We have heard your argument lots of times now and I want to put an end to the repetition. This is also off-topic for this thread. Thank you.

  233. Burl Henry says:

    Rachel:

    It seems to have escaped everyone’s attention that I have already proven that the “hockey stick” warming was strictly due to aerosol reductions, with not even a hint of any warming due to CO2

    Some, especially Paul S and JasonB, make the claim that removal of the aerosols simply “unmasked” warming due to CO2 which was already there.

    Thiis will be refuted, I believe, in my next post to JasonB, who has been insisting upon a reponse.

    I would also submit that this is definitely ” on topic”, since it bears directly upon the amount, or type, of mitigation needed, if any

  234. Marco says:

    Burl, your proof is all in your mind. People here have explained to you how your “proof” is a non-proof, but that will clearly never get through to you.

  235. BBD says:

    It seems to have escaped everyone’s attention that I have already proven that the “hockey stick” warming was strictly due to aerosol reductions, with not even a hint of any warming due to CO2

    You have “proven” nothing of the sort. Here are the GHG “hockey sticks” and associated radiative forcing increases missing from your analysis. Nota bene!

  236. Burl Henry says:

    BBD:

    You do have a lot of impressisve graphs at your fingertips, but I note that these all end at year 2000, when the “pause” abruptly began Why hasn’t the warming continued?

    You also need to explain away the inevitable warming that occurs when pollution is removed from the air. This “Law of Nature”, which is proven after every volcanic eruption, cannot be ignored

  237. Burl,
    Can we please just put a stop to this. We’re not getting anywhere constructive and I don’t imagine that any further discussion will be worth the likely frustrations.

  238. Burl Henry says:

    [Mod: I’m sorry, Burl but I don’t want anymore discussion of this topic on this thread]

  239. Burl Henry says:

    JasonB.

    On 2/26, you wrote: “The problem for you–raised repeatedly by people on this thread–is that the temperture now is much higher than what it was before the aerosols were added”

    It is higher because there has been a steady increase in solar irradiance (warming) since at least 1880–until about 1980. See the graph of “Temperture vs Solar Activity” provided by Rachel on 2/24.

  240. Marco says:

    No, Burl, that graph shows the peak to be in 1960. Please also note the scale: we’re talking about 0.5 W/m^2, much less than the additional greenhouse forcings over the same period.

  241. Burl,
    It increased by about 0.7 Wm-2 between 1880 and 1970. This is only about a (average over the globe) 0.2 Wm-2 increase in Solar insolation. That should be associated with a much smaller increase in surface temperature than has been observed. We’ve also seen a reduction in Solar insolation since 1970.

  242. Marco,
    Sorry, missed that you’d already responded 🙂

  243. BBD says:

    Coherently-scaled comparison of the relative size of C20th forcings: well-mixed greenhouse gasses vs solar.

  244. Burl Henry says:

    Marco:

    I was looking at the fainter yearly curves, where the 1960 and 1980 peaks are essentially identical. It did not appear to me that one could clearly be sure that the radiance was on a decresing slope until 1980.

    You are probably correct that the amount of radiance heating is small, but it is something.

    Marco, I believe that everyone agrees that the removal of aerosols will cause some warming, but I have never seen any of it subtracted from the amount of warming attributed to CO2, as needs to be done…

    Perhaps you, or someone else, could provide an estimate of the amount of this warming that needs to be subtracted. due to the Cleansing of the Clean Air Acts, et al..

  245. BBD says:

    It did not appear to me that one could clearly be sure that the radiance was on a decresing slope until 1980.

    TSI (cubic fit)

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