A possible “told you so” moment?

There is increasing evidence to suggest that we may see an extreme El Niño event later this year, which could make 2015 the hottest year on record. Given that surface warming has slowed and we continue to accrue energy, most of which is going into the oceans, this seems like something that has to happen at some stage in the not too distant future. The oceans do have a large heat capacity, but they can’t accrue most of the excess energy for ever and – if our emissions are increasing the energy imbalance – they can’t accrue an ever increasing fraction of the excess. At some point surface warming will have to accelerate and a sudden large El Niño event is certainly one way in which this could happen.

I looked through some of my older posts to see if I had discussed this is any detail previously. I came across a post about Judith Curry and the Ocean Heat Content, in which I essentially made this argument. Judith was suggesting that the sequestration of energy in the oceans might be fortuitous, and I was suggesting that that really didn’t make sense as it couldn’t continue indefinitely and surface warming would eventually have to catch up.

So, if we do have a big El Niño later this year which leads to 2015 being the hottest year on record, and the subsequent decade being the hottest decade on record, maybe I (and many others) could say “told you so”. You’d like to think that all the naysayers would at least acknowledge that they were wrong and that the surface warming slowdown was simply natural variability, and not some indicator of reduced climate sensitivity. Of course, what will likely happen is that they’ll respond with suggestions that this shows that Bob Tisdale’s ENSO model is correct, proving that they really don’t understand radiative physics.

At that stage one could then show them the Escalator which illustrates that surface warming is actually quite variable, but that there is still a long term warming trend. Of course there are still those who think that the escalator proves their point, so sometimes their lack of understanding of radiative physics is so poor that they don’t even realise how little they understand. Anyway, it will be an interesting year. A big El Niño later this year would be one of those clouds with a silver lining. It might put paid to all the confusion that the surface warming slowdown has caused, but would also indicate that the lower climate sensitivities are less likely to be correct. It might be good for things to be more certain but what that implies is not something we should be pleased about. I’ll finish with the escalator graphic, as that seems apt.

Escalator_2012_500

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178 Responses to A possible “told you so” moment?

  1. Rachel says:

    You’d like to think that all the naysayers would at least acknowledge that they were wrong and that the surface warming slowdown was simply natural variability

    That’s never going to happen. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still say “I told you so”.

  2. Indeed, but it would seem like a bit of a hollow victory 🙂

  3. johnrussell40 says:

    Like you, ATTP, I’m confident that in the very near future, events will overtake those in denial. Frankly I won’t bother to say, “we told you so”, because that’s pointless and counter-productive. At that point we’ll be able to stop wasting our time constantly regurgitating the basic science to the deluded, misguided and ignorant and at last start to get on with doing something practical about the problem. It’s a big problem and it’s going to need everyone’s total buy-in to solve. I look forward to those times when we can discuss the issues openly with people who will be receptive and keen to pull together. It will be a productive time which will engender that ‘war-time spirit’ that our parents and grandparents talked about. It will be tough but the human race will come out of it as better people than we went in. I am an optimist.

  4. johnrussell,
    Yes, I agree. It is disappointing that we aren’t working together to solve what may be the most complex and difficult problem we’ve faced. As I’ve mentioned already, one of the things I took from Mark Walport’s talk was that deciding on the best way to move forward (policy wise) is going to be much harder than doing the science. It’s of course made much harder because we aren’t working together. It’s also disappointing that people don’t see some of this as an opportunity. Developing new technologies has almost always lead to unexpected positive outcomes. Who knows what we can develop in the coming decades. If we don’t bother really trying, then we’ll never really know.

  5. Bwana_Mrefu says:

    No, what will happen is that whenever the El Niño year comes, it will provide the new base line for the old “No warming since the year 20XX” argument

  6. Bwana_Mrefu,
    Well, yes. That is what I think will almost certainly happen.

  7. Lars Karlsson says:

    You’d like to think that all the naysayers would at least acknowledge that they were wrong and that the surface warming slowdown was simply natural variability.

    That would be against the rules of Climateball(TM).

  8. Lars,
    I think you mean that not doing so is within the rules of ClimateballTM. It’s very hard for anything to be against the rules of ClimateballTM 🙂 .

  9. Lars Karlsson says:

    Adming you are wrong can hardly be allowed. At least it is against the spirit of the game, like intentionally scoring an own goal in soccer.

  10. johnrussell40 says:

    @Bwana_Mrefu

    Except next time it will be a much weaker argument, with lots to point to show that they’re wrong. I have to believe this because if I didn’t I’d have to give up hope. There will be a turning point in this grindingly frustrating ‘debate’. It’s my gut feeling that it will occur before 2020.

  11. verytallguy says:

    A possible “told you so” moment?

    Hmmmm. I’d be a little more circumspect personally. Perhaps waiting until the data is actually there…

    I have a shocking comparison to make – this reminds me a little of Barry Woods constantly going on about how a pause continuing for another 10 years would be. The answer to which is “yes, but we won’t know that for 10 years, lots of other scenarios are more likely and surface temperature only weakly constrains climate sensitivity anyway”

    And similar applies to a significant El Nino. If we do get record temperatures, this/next year, the answer is “yes, but we don’t know for sure, it’s only one year and surface temperature only weakly constrains climate sensitivity anyway”

    In the same way that the deniers constant hope for a killer fact to “falsify” global warming is doomed, likewise the hope from the consensus followers for a killer fact that will make deniers go away is equally in vain. Alas.

  12. VTG,

    Hmmmm. I’d be a little more circumspect personally. Perhaps waiting until the data is actually there…

    Yes, I agree. Hence the “possible” and the question mark. I realised that writing this post was probably a risk but I’d still bank on the basic physics being correct and hence – given our continued GHG emissions – that we will have to have some kind of correction to surface warming before the energy imbalance grows too large.

    likewise the hope from the consensus followers for a killer fact that will make deniers go away is equally in vain. Alas.

    Yes, probably true. Although, I do think that John has a point. The evidence will likely get stronger and stronger and those holding extreme positions will become more and more marginalised. Of course, that’s not going to stop the debate but, hopefully, it will drive it more and more towards discussions of what to do and we’ll start to see less and less of the “it’s not happening” or “it’s not going to be significant” type of claims.

  13. johnrussell40: “Frankly I won’t bother to say, `we told you so’, because that’s pointless and counter-productive. At that point we’ll be able to stop wasting our time constantly regurgitating the basic science to the deluded, misguided and ignorant and at last start to get on with doing something practical about the problem. It’s a big problem and it’s going to need everyone’s total buy-in to solve.”

    Yes, this. We do need to collectively develop a better immune response to the deniersphere, which will always be with us. But their voices will slowly be crowded out by the more important conversations that need to happen (and are happening).

    An example from Wired – an excellent article on coal and CCS, with a few things that characterise how I think the next decade will pan out. (1) The US and China are starting to take serious action; (2) those actions may well be contentious, but by moving towards “what should we do?”, those attempting to pretend that “we maybe shouldn’t do anything” will look increasingly ridiculous and isolated.

    Particularly in China: they’re just going to go ahead and solve their problems. Though as the Wired article highlights, there’s plenty of room for argument about the direction being taken (I’m EXTREMELY skeptical about CCS, blog entry here, but also sympathetic to the argument that goes “the coal will be burned, we have to solve this.”)

    And I’m dearly hoping the immune system metaphor really pans out. Our actual physical immune systems require exposure to pathogens to become stronger – hopefully it’s going to be the same for the climate gibberish that’s given everyone a bit of, er, climate action flu… metaphor breakdown…

  14. Rob Nicholls says:

    Sorry if this is off topic. I’m not a physicist and I don’t know much about ENSO or the PDO (I’ve read that ENSO is essentially unpredictable except over short time scales, but am not sure how this unpredictability relates to the PDO, or whether the PDO itself is in any way predictable). A while back I plotted 5- and 10-year moving averages of Mean El-Nino Index (MEI); I know the eyeball is a rubbish substitute for proper statistical analysis, but on the graph it looked like MEI was predominantly more negative (i.e. more towards La Nina conditions) in the 1960s and 1970s than it has been in the last decade or so. Since then (and this is probably just a reflection of my tendency to pessimism – I have no evidence to back it up) I’ve been worried about what would happen if ENSO goes into a predominantly more negative phase over the next decade or two; surface warming might continue to be quite slow and then the blatantly false, and already very tedious, “pause in warming” meme would continue to be prominent and this might delay the urgent action needed on GHG emissions still further.

    If a big El Nino comes along and leads to new record temperatures, dispels the nonsense about a “pause”, and wakes enough of the world up to the need for action then those consequences will be positive (I suspect some naysayers may never wake up). I don’t want to belittle the v serious negative effects of a big El Nino, e.g. floods, droughts, collapse of fisheries, famines etc, but I fear much worse long-term consequences if we don’t start cutting GHG emissions v soon.

    NOAA suggests a 50% chance of El Nino developing in summer or autumn this year (I suppose the next monthly update may give a higher chance, as things appear to be changing rapidly), but I don’t know how likely a really big El Nino is at this stage? http://mashable.com/2014/03/19/intense-el-nino-maybe/ seems to say we should watch and see what happens over the next few months.

  15. Rob,

    I know the eyeball is a rubbish substitute for proper statistical analysis, but on the graph it looked like MEI was predominantly more negative (i.e. more towards La Nina conditions) in the 1960s and 1970s than it has been in the last decade or so.

    This may be correct (I haven’t checked) but we’ve had more La Niña conditions in the 2000s then we had in the late 1980s and in the 1990s. For example, we know have La Niña years that are warmer than past El Niño years. You may have seen this, but there is quite a strong relationship between temperature anomaly and whether it’s an El Niño year, a La Niña year, or neutral.

    but I don’t know how likely a really big El Nino is at this stage? http://mashable.com/2014/03/19/intense-el-nino-maybe/ seems to say we should watch and see what happens over the next few months.

    Indeed, but I thought it might be fun to stir up some controversy with a somewhat predictive post. Of course, it seems that I can stir things up with virtually anything at the moment 🙂

  16. johnrussell40 says:

    @VTG.

    If the fake sceptics who make all the noise, change their tune and carry on after the ‘turning point’ moment described by ATTP, it won’t matter. All that matters is what the general population thinks. Once people in general have experienced enough unusual extreme weather events—like floods, heatwaves and drought—which they associate with global warming, the general mood will change. The main stream media and the politicians will then follow. Those-in-denial will just be left behind; an irrelevance.

  17. Paul S says:

    I don’t think there are many climate sensitivity estimates which depend significantly on the low rate of warming over the past decade. Nic Lewis’ reworking of Forest et al. only uses data up to 2001. Otto et al. find similar results for the 1990s, 1980s and 1970-2009. Even with the main 2000-2009 result the “hiatus” really only began in post-2005 and wasn’t particularly apparent until about 2009.

    There are some indications that internal variability may have damped warming over a longer period, since about 1980 – see the La Niña pattern in the Pacific Ocean for 1980-2005, and the stronger pattern up to present. This obviously would have some impact on sensitivity estimates (perhaps correctly so if Mann is right about a La Niña feedback).

  18. Rob Nicholls says:

    A question: How much would a big spike in temperature from a big El NIno in 2014/15 help to constrain credible estimates of climate sensitivity (CS)? (I suppose it would be interesting to see how the extra data would change Lewis et al 2013’s estimate. But surely that estimate already lacks credibility if, as ATTP has pointed out, the estimate fluctuates so wildly depending on the chosen end point of the data.)

    As much as it would be sad if we found out that CS is not near the lower end of the range, it would surely be best to know this as soon as possible, as then the best advice can be given to policymakers. (On the other hand, I would not be greatly reassured if it was found out now that CS was at the bottom of the IPCC’s plausible range, as this would still lead to several degrees of warming by 2100 under BAU. Also, the consequences of warming for species, ecosystems and agricultural systems seem v difficult to predict, so I don’t believe any level of warming can necessarily be considered “safe”).

  19. So, you are speculating that there might be an big El Nino later this year, and that if that happens 2015 might be the warmest year on record, and that if that happens, certain people might say certain things. Did you say somewhere you were a scientist?

    On the subject of people acknowledging they got things wrong, has the Met Office yet acknowledged that their prediction of 0.3C of warming from 2004-14 was wrong?

  20. Paul,
    No, I’m not the one speculating about a possible big El Niño later this year. Did you say somewhere that you’re interested in constructive discussions? No? Fair enough, you didn’t actually.

    Rob,
    In terms of energy budget constraints, a sudden increase in temperature could change the TCR estimate. It may not effect the ECS estimate as the sudden change in temperature should then reduce the system heat uptake rate (of course, these are typically averaged over a number of years, so it would depend on how the change influenced the average for the coming decade, for example). I think these energy budget estimates are interesting and I certainly don’t think they’re valueless, but they are sensitive to variability, inhomogeneities, uncertainties in aerosol forcing, etc. We should be careful, in my view, of giving them more credence than they deserve (as with everything, really).

    I agree that it would certainly be good if the climate sensitivity does turn out to be near the low end of the range but – as you say – that doesn’t imply that there would then be nothing to worry about.

  21. The deep ocean warms so slowly that it takes very long before that leads to anything observable on the surface, i.e. to something comparable to the variability in the surface temperatures.. Thus increase in OHC by itself is not a valid reason for expecting new record temperatures in near future. There are, however better reasons.

    Perhaps the strongest argument is simply that more CO2 means stronger forcing, and assuming an equal albedo either a larger imbalance or a warmer surface. The crucial assumption is equal albedo, which may mean either a constant albedo or a variable albedo that returns to the earlier value. The hiatus may be partly due to variability in the albedo.

    Another argument is that the hiatus has very likely been in part due to variability in the heat flux between two reservoirs, the first formed by the atmosphere and the surface including top mixed layer of the oceans and the second by the rest of the oceans. If this is real variability on a time scale of a few decades or less, we’ll soon see the other phase, where the flux from the second reservoir to the first one increases.

    Both of these arguments tell that the return to faster warming is not likely to be very far in the future, but neither of the arguments can tell more precisely, how far it is. I would expect that the turnaround starts to be visible in less than five years, perhaps much sooner. Judith Curry has argued that it would be a decade away or further, but I haven’t found her justifications for that view convincing at all. I don’t think that she has really taken into account the influence the background warming trend has on the timing of the turnaround. Her arguments might be better for the timing of the point where the rate of warming exceeds that of the background trend rather than the point where the warming is already significant, while a little slower than the background trend.

  22. johnrussell40 says: “I’m confident that in the very near future, events will overtake those in denial.”

    I am not. The evidence is already overwhelming and there will always be winters that are colder as the one people were used to the last decade. Why would those liking climate change suddenly act as if they accept reality, just when the fun starts.

    Wotts: “The oceans do have a large heat capacity, but they can’t accrue most of the excess energy for ever and – if our emissions are increasing the energy imbalance – they can’t accrue an ever increasing fraction of the excess. At some point surface warming will have to accelerate and a sudden large El Niño event is certainly one way in which this could happen.”

    Intuitively I would expect that the heat capacity of the oceans is the smaller problem, it is huge. The increasing energy imbalance would seem to be more important, not? This is your hobby, do you know of any quantification?

  23. uknowispeaksense says:

    My two predictions:

    1. If the El Nino develops, 2015 will be the hottest on record by a long way
    2. Deniers when confronted with those of us who accept the science saying “hottest year on record” will complain about cherrypicking…ironically (1998).

  24. Paul S,

    I don’t think there are many climate sensitivity estimates which depend significantly on the low rate of warming over the past decade.

    Indeed, I worded that poorly (I was going to change it and then thought I’d wait till someone pointed it out 🙂 ). I was really meaning that there are some who use the slowdown as evidence for lower climate sensitivity. You’re right that none of the estimates actually do this, so a sudden change would not necessarily change what proper estimates suggest (although I think it could influence energy budget TCR estimates as I said above) but it would remove the argument that climate sensitivity must be low because of the “hiatus” (which has really been made on blogs, rather than anywhere formal).

  25. Paul S,
    I should add though, that if it acts to bring the observed temperatures well inside the 95% confidence interval of the models, it will act to weaken the argument that the model estimates are significantly higher than what is likely.

  26. Victor,

    Intuitively I would expect that the heat capacity of the oceans is the smaller problem, it is huge. The increasing energy imbalance would seem to be more important, not? This is your hobby, do you know of any quantification?

    Yes, you may be right. I have wondered this. What energy imbalance could we sustain without seeing significant surface warming? I did play around with this a little with my two-box model and if one assumes that the surface warming will typically be associated with about 2.5% of the energy excess, then it seemed that the energy excess would only just exceed 1 Wm-2, but I don’t know if this is a valid argument or if there are arguments for whether or not we could sustain a much bigger energy excess for an extended period of time.

  27. jyyh says:

    ‘It could be the hottest year but it’s only natural’, ‘the natural multidecadal variation is a bit longer this time’¨, would be my choices, this might be a good chance to play the AGW denial bingo, though. Please do not to play that with deniers for they always win in that.

  28. Pekka,

    Thus increase in OHC by itself is not a valid reason for expecting new record temperatures in near future.

    Yes, I agree and I agree with your other arguments. This was largely why I included that we might not expect the oceans to continue accruing an ever increasing fraction of the energy imbalance if we continue to increase the net radiative forcing.

  29. Rob Nicholls says:

    “we’ve had more La Niña conditions in the 2000s then we had in the late 1980s and in the 1990s.”

    Yes – and this looks absolutely clear from plotting 5-year and 10-year moving averages of the MEI or from plotting the average MEI figures for distinct decades (plotting the average for each decade seems to be better than the moving averages as it avoids overlap, but I never thought of doing that before and so I’ve just done it now).

    (Even from the unaveraged MEI figures it seems pretty clear that the 2000s have been more towards La Nina than the 1980s and 90s). So it seems self-evident to me that ENSO has contributed to the decrease in the rate of surface warming in the last 15 years (even without all the papers by scientists saying that this is the case).

    “I thought it might be fun to stir up some controversy with a somewhat predictive post.”

    Absolutely -I really like this post and it made me think. I’ve been watching NOAA’s El Nino Watch avidly for some months to see what might happen, and I’d be very interested to see what effect a big El Nino / big record high temp would have on different elements of the blogosphere.

  30. Are there actually knowledgeable people that predict an upcoming large El Nino? Or is that just a twitter speculation bubble based upon one Kelvin Wave? The NOAA prediction for the beginning of the month was still only 50% likelihood of an El Nino.

  31. Victor,
    Good question. As I understand it, it’s probably still around 50%. This article suggests that some think it more likely, but they were criticised as ENSO forecasts before spring, apparently, can be unreliable. There’s also this article saying an El Niño in 2014 has an increased chance but says nothing about the strength.

    We’ll have to wait and see. Going back a bit to the physics, it would be interesting to know if there is any estimate for the biggest disparity between the energy excess and the surface warming rate. It would be interesting to know if anyone has estimated the largest energy excess that we can sustain without increasing surface warming. That would give some indication of how long the surface warming slowdown could persist.

  32. Yes, such a criterion would be good to have. That would also make a formal and stronger falsification criterion as requiring the temperature to go down to 19th century values and stay there a few years. Plus it would automatically take volcanoes into account.

  33. BBD says:

    I’m with those who sound notes of caution. First about whether 2014/15 will see an EN, let alone a record-breaker, and second as to whether our dear friends in the “sceptic” camp are capable of having their opinions modified by such an event if it should occur.

    Their capacity for self-delusion is the stuff of legend, after all.

  34. BBD,
    Indeed, I agree. We really don’t know if there will be a big El Niño this year and we certainly don’t know what effect it would have (where it to happen) on the views of those who regard themselves as skeptical. We can speculate though, as long as we provide suitable uncertainty estimates 🙂

  35. BBD says:

    Uncertainty? Only when it comes to the need to acknowledge that there’s a problem 😉

    As for effects, I expect an upsurge in Tisdalian rhetoric (stuff yer ‘conservation of energy’, mate) and a new start-point for the next decade of cherry-picked trends.

  36. Steve Bloom says:

    Let’s bear in mind what El Nino is, i.e. a big hump of warm water in the West Pacific being released “downhill” toward the east (and in the process spreading out on the surface, thus the big impact on GMST and, since such a large area is involved, on global weather patterns). La Ninas build that hump up, but that process can only go so far without a release. Right now the West Pacific is at record heat and sea level. If indeed the changing climate is making La Ninas more prevalent, that doesn’t mean El Ninos go way, it makes them less frequent and, key point, necessarily larger. If ENSO suddenly reverts to prior form, possibly we could see a series of relatively smaller El Ninos releasing the present heat build-up, but one way or the other it has to go, and soon. (h/t Kevin Trenberth for this reasoning)

    Extending this reasoning (just me now, so the usual caveats apply), given the nature of the warm pool and ENSO would it not be the case, assuming a relatively steady heat gain in the warm pool (and AIUI data seems to say this is the case), that any effect of ENSO on the GMST trend *must* be temporary?

    Now I’m wondering about the connection between all of this and the England et al. findings, which means I have yet more reading to do.

  37. Steve Bloom says:

    Oh yeah, specifically a big El Nino year will allow a high-confidence prediction of a cooler following year. Expect lots of that, and then crowing when it happens. They are Galileos, the lot of them.

    Re the NOAA prediction, given the long history of failed attempts at longer-range ENSO forecasting I would expect them to be conservative about this even if they’re on board with Trenberth’s reasoning.

  38. Paul S says:

    Regarding El Niño, one of the clearest predictors seems to be Pacific Equatorial upper ocean temperature anomaly. ATTP, you’ve linked to an article from 3 March and Victor has linked to the NCEP March monthly discussion of ENSO indicators (though your link didn’t work for me – might be a browser thing but I needed to add www on the front http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/analysis_monitoring/enso_disc_mar2014/ensodisc.pdf). Well, this was the picture for upper ocean temperature as at the time of publishing that monthly document and this is the picture as of the latest weekly update released on 24 March. Upper ocean temperatures have skyrocketed over the past few weeks and I’d be very surprised if the likelihood of El Niño isn’t higher in the next monthly edition.

  39. BBD says:

    Steve

    Now I’m wondering about the connection between all of this and the England et al. findings, which means I have yet more reading to do.

    I think the vertical mixing of warm surface waters described in England14 occurs mainly in the sub-tropical gyres (Ekman pumping), so ENSO and the West Pacific Warm Pool aren’t directly involved.

  40. Steve Bloom says:

    Right, BBD, and perhaps just a coincidence.

  41. Lynn says:

    I predict that the deniers will say “Of course its hotter this year, we’re in the midst of an El Niño you silly scientists”. And no amount of discussion will get them to admit that the El Niño is correlated in any way to global warming.

  42. It will most definitely be interesting to see what transpires from a science perspective. If the theories about the PDO and how a shift from the current phase could result in heat loss from the oceans, the “pause” in SST & Atmospheric temps will instead “play.” ENSO is believed to be a precursor to PDO in some instances. Hopefully there will be no told you so moment because the warming has stopped and won’t restart.

  43. dhogaza says:

    Previous post is a spambot (check the link)

  44. dhogaza,
    Seems that way, but quite a clever one. Thanks.

    [Mod : Rachel’s pointed out that Nature’s Pulchritude has posted sensible comments here before, so I’m not convinced it is a spambot. If it is, I’ve been well and truly conned. If not, I apologise.]

  45. Lynn,
    I suspect that that will indeed be one of the responses. Hence my comments in the post about a lack of understanding of basic radiative physics 🙂 .

  46. BBD says:

    Lynn

    Of course. Silly of me. As we know, there are different kinds of energy in some versions of physics espoused by creative climate thinkers. The energy released by an EN is a wholesome, natural, cyclical energy, specific to ENSO. So obviously not related to that “radiative imbalance” the boffins are always going on about.

    We’ll all be right in our speculation about what the “sceptics” will say: every permutation of avoidance, no matter how insane, will be explored as and when we get the next big EN.

  47. JCH says:

    After the 97-98 La Nina, OHC fell and the atmosphere, of course, ditched the record SAT into outer space. All gone.

    It was the back-to-back El Nino events starting in 2002 and 2004 that saw the SAT relocated to a permanent address on an upper floor.

  48. Marco says:

    JCH, are you perhaps mixing up El Ninos and La Ninas in your comment?

  49. Rob Nicholls says:

    I had one other question: How likely is it that the cooling effect from aerosol emissions (which I think has quite a bit of uncertainty, particularly in relation to recent rapid increases in aerosol emissions in China and other countries) would significantly dampen any temperature spike from a big El Nino? (I’d like to read more about that – any pointers would be very welcome). I’m concerned that such a scenario might lead to continuing erroneous talk of a “pause” (by those who refuse to consider the oceans or indeed to look properly at surface temperature trends) or at least further announcements by contrarians that “the models are still running too high,” even if the models turn out in the end to have got it just right. Maybe I’m being too pessimistic, and maybe it is already easy to predict how much of a spike a big El Nino would add to the recent temperature trend, assuming aerosol emissions don’t change much in the next year or two.

  50. OPatrick says:

    It might be interesting to try and pin down certain ‘sceptics’ on what they would say if there was a big El Nino next year and the surface temperature record was set by 0.1C or more, say. Then compare this to what they actually do say if it happens.

    I think someone above already asked this, but do we know what effect a big record-breaking temperature would have on Nic Lewis’s sensitivity calculation? Presumably the code is all there available and ready to roll, so is it not possible just to feed in projected temperatures and see what comes out, or is that too naïve?

  51. Steve Bloom says:

    It’s that first paragraph that’s too naive, Opatrick. 🙂 Re Lewis, AIUI yes.

    Rob, that would require a suitably large (very large for this purpose) spike in aerosols. A really big tropical eruption might be able to manage that, but I don’t think we could.

  52. Roger Jones says:

    All good, except the graph from Skeptical Science has it wrong. The climate works precisely in the way that the graph says it doesn’t. http://adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2011AGUFMGC43B0929J

  53. BBD says:

    Roger Jones

    Sounds like Swanson & Tsonis (2009).

    This sort of step change in GAT.

  54. BBD, maybe I’m misunderstanding what Roger is suggesting, but I don’t think he’s suggesting that the steps are natural. I think the suggestion is that the steps that are seen are what we’d expect even as a response to increases in external forcing. However, if so, that’s kind of how I’ve always interpreted the Skeptical Science graph, so am not sure why it’s wrong.

  55. BBD says:

    The ‘phase locking and regime shift’ hypothesis is discussed by Kyle Swanson at Realclimate.

  56. Rob,
    To follow on from what Steve has said, if there is no sudden change to the aerosol forcing, then I don’t think it will have much of an effect on the warming from an El Niño. If there are some inhomogeneities in the aerosol forcing, then maybe there could be some impact, but my guess is that it won’t have much impact. We still have something like a 0.5 Wm-2 energy imbalance and so the warming from an El Niño would have to be quite substantial if it were to increase the temperature to the point where we were losing more energy than we were gaining.

  57. BBD says:

    Crossed, as ever… 😉

    I don’t think S&T argue that the magnitude of temperature change is all natural, but rather that the mechanism which causes regime shifts is.

  58. BBD,
    Yes, I’ve just had a quick glance at the RC post. Seems reasonable and I have always wondered what would happen if – as I kind of mentioned in my response to Rob – what would happen if a large El Niño (for example) essentially removed the energy excess. I can see that producing some kind of shift. I guess I’m just not convinced that it’s one or the other. It seems plausible that we could have periods of slower, but steady, warming in which the energy imbalance grows, followed by some sudden shift when some natural cycle produces a sudden change in warming. In a sense, that’s what I had thought most of the explanations for the slowdown were converging on.

  59. OPatrick,

    I think someone above already asked this, but do we know what effect a big record-breaking temperature would have on Nic Lewis’s sensitivity calculation? Presumably the code is all there available and ready to roll, so is it not possible just to feed in projected temperatures and see what comes out, or is that too naïve?

    The Lewis (2013) method is actually a objective Bayesian analysis in which a large suite of model outputs (each of which has a climate sensitivity amongst other parameters) are compared with observational data. To do this with new data would require the models being run to the new date. He only considered periods up until 2001.

    Otto et al (2013) is, however, much easier and could indeed be redone quickly. However, typically, the values considered are averages for a decade (2001-2010 for example) relative to some earlier period (1850-1860 I think). So, a single large jump in temperature wouldn’t necessarily make much of a difference. If, however, temperature do remain significantly higher for the next decade, then we might expect to see some change. Having said that, the radiative forcing will also increase. It seems that the radiative forcing is increasing at around 0.3 Wm-2 per decade. A quick calc I’ve done suggests that if the average temperature for 2011 – 2020 is more than 0.15oC greater than the average for 2001-2010 we’d see an increase in the energy budget TCR estimate.

  60. BBD says:

    ATTP

    I guess I’m just not convinced that it’s one or the other.

    Nor am I. I posted up the S&T stuff as it seemed relevant. BTW S&T have come in for a certain amount of flack which I’m not sure they deserve by some who consider them to be downplaying the role of anthropogenic forcing.

  61. Steve Bloom says:

    Tsonis has rather enhanced the flak by flogging the “stadium wave” business. As BBD says, strictly speaking none of that stuff is an argument against AGW, but arguing for not seeing significant consequences over a time period many see as the only policy-relevant one makes it hard to see that.

  62. Steve,

    but arguing for not seeing significant consequences over a time period many see as the only policy-relevant one makes it hard to see that.

    Yes, this does seem rather standard in some circles. Of course, what’s odd about this is it’s possible that it will, given some start date, almost always be true. Hence, those who want to can always argue that there will be no significant changes over a policy relevant time interval.

  63. Steve Bloom says:

    Right, selection of the policy-relevant time frame has always seemed to me to be an exercise in opportunism. OTOH I’m no more thrilled about the discount rate approach to the problem, as the very worst consequences are probably far enough out to be considered ignorable. Even the relatively sane Stern screwed up on his calculation, and while he later admitted doing so did not (IIRC) conclude that it was the concept of discounting itself that needs discounting. What makes more sense to me, as advocated by Kevin Anderson and others, is that whatever scheme we use for making policy decisions in the short term, there are some consequences that simply must be prevented regardless of when they might occur.

  64. The basic idea of the stadium wave is that there would be real periodicity (not exact, but still a real repetitive succession of phases). That can be seen as a good excuse for a hiatus that might last still for several years without any contradiction with a persistent warming trend from increasing CO2. As we cannot be sure on the timing of next period of faster warming, having such an excuse might be a valuable asset.

    The other side of a strong periodic signal is that it might have contribute to the warming up to 2000 more than generally thought. That seems to be behind Judith Curry’s recent statements that she thinks that the most likely human contribution from 1950’s is less than 50% (again I don’t agree on all steps in her logic). Perhaps the price to be paid for a potentially valuable excuse is giving some credibility for such thinking.

    The state shifts of Swanssn and Tsonis are a little different as they might be part of a totally aperiodic chaotic system. As such they might represent more fundamental questions for the validity of climate models as tools for long term projections. If that kind of chaoticity is strong enough, many of the implied assumptions of using models may be questioned. That might extend to the point where defining climate sensitivity becomes problematic.

  65. BBD says:

    Steve

    Tsonis has rather enhanced the flak by flogging the “stadium wave” business.

    Yes, and in this case perhaps the criticism is more justifiable.

  66. Steve Bloom says:

    “That might extend to the point where defining climate sensitivity becomes problematic.”

    Were it not for the paleo record. I hate to be a broken record on this, but mid-Pliocene, mid-Pliocene, mid-Pliocene…

    Another issue with such work is expecting the the periodicity and its postulated underlying mechanism (which note *doesn’t exist* for the Tsonis idea and its derivatives) to not undergo major changes from continued warming. Good luck with that.

  67. Steve,
    Since you’ve mentioned it again, I’ve never been quite clear on the implications of the Pliocene. Is it simply that it was warmer than today and that it implies a high climate sensitivity?

  68. BBD says:

    ATTP

    Some paleoclimatologists think that the early-mid Pliocene (4.5 – 3Ma) might represent a roughly equilibrated warm climate state with boundary conditions generally similar to the present, including ~400ppm CO2.

    But I believe there are difficulties modelling the shift from present to MPTO conditions, perhaps because there is non-linearity not captured by the models.

  69. BBD,
    Thanks. Okay, that makes sense. I know Steve has mentioned the modelling problem before, but I’d never been entirely sure of the context. So, is the concern that the mid-Pliocene could imply climate sensitivity being on the high end?

  70. Steve Bloom says:

    Yes to both (for some value of high), and also because CO2 levels were about the same as now and the land/ocean configuration has changed little since, i.e. it’s about what we can expect if CO2 remains at current levels for perhaps a few centuries (maybe a bit longer for the ice sheets to get all the way to equilibrium).

    But of course CO2 isn’t going to be staying at anything like current levels and, perhaps more importantly, will be continuing to increase at a rate far higher than can occur naturally, so actually the mid-Pliocene is a highly conservative lower baseline for what we can expect. The way we’re going, something more along the lines of the PETM seems likely. I suppose worst case would be a P-T event repeat.

  71. Rob Nicholls says:

    ATTP and Steve Bloom, thanks for humouring my rather ill-thought out question, and pointing out that there would need to be a big sudden increase in aerosols to reduce the surface temperature spike from a big El Nino; that makes sense to me.

  72. Steve Bloom says:

    “But I believe there are difficulties modelling the shift from present to MPTO conditions, perhaps because there is non-linearity not captured by the models.”

    Yes, although “difficulties” is too generous a term. IIRC the main aspect of the failure is insufficient polar amplification, which has interesting albeit unfortunate implications relative to present trends. But the models can manage the equilibrium conditions.

  73. BBD says:

    The Ghost from El’gygytgyn.

  74. BBD says:

    ATTP

    So, is the concern that the mid-Pliocene could imply climate sensitivity being on the high end?

    We can be properly cautions and just say that this is more evidence that very low S is unlikely. Or how could things scale up from TCR to S_ff (ECS) to Earth system sensitivity?

  75. JCH says:

    JCH, are you perhaps mixing up El Ninos and La Ninas in your comment?

    I don’t think so. After the 97-98 El Nino, which resulted in a record warmest year, OHC took a pronounced dip. Trenberth has identified it on his OHC graph and has discussed it many times.

    Other than the two volcanos, it’s the only other post-1975 event where OHC nose dives.

    After that 97-98 El Nino ended there was a prolonged La Nina, which eventually caused a rapid increase in OHC. Subsequent El Nino events have caused record/near-record SAT anomalies, but no real dip in OHC. That appears to be one big reason for why the SAT for the first decade of the 21st century has stubbornly resisted dropping despite La Nina dominance and downward pressure from the bottoming of the PDO.

    People keep talking about a super El Nino. In political terms, which are not really relevant, I think fairly meek, back-to-back El Nino events will do a better job of ending the pause nonsense for good.

  76. Marco says:

    JCH, your comment started with “After the 97-98 La Nina”…

  77. Not sure what about my previous post made anyone deduce that it was by a “spambot” as it was constructive, on topic, and actually introduced a perspective that was not otherwise mentioned.

  78. Nature’s Pulchitrude,
    It was simply because the link went to a page that seemed to be selling something, it wasn’t because of the comment itself. Apologies.

  79. Jenny says:

    From my viewpoint, I think that if the world could stop felling virgin forest and fishing out the sea, and lived peacefully Vegan instead, we would mitigate a lot of climate change. “Livestock farming” is unsustainable, it causes greenhouse gas emissions. People are deluded that it is normal & safe to eat animals and their milk.

  80. uknowispeaksense says:

    Jenny

    “People are deluded that it is normal & safe to eat animals and their milk.”

    You forgot the caveat “in my unscientific and anthropologically unsound feelpinion”

  81. Rachel says:

    Jenny,
    You might be interested in a report released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2006 – Livestock’s long shadow which found that livestock contributed to 18% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the whole transport sector: cars, trucks, planes, ships and trains.

    I think it’s probably going a bit far to call people deluded though. Let’s not get into a debate over what is normal and safe to eat.

    UKISS,
    Be nice.

  82. uknowispeaksense says:

    Rachel, you know me. If it’s a completely unsubstantiated and pseudoscientific claim then I will have a say, especially if it’s couched in an obvious insult. I think in this circumstance my suggested caveat was entirely reasonable and nowhere near as insulting as the original comment, because unlike the original comment, it is true.

    I happen to agree that wholesale livestock production does produce a great deal of greenhouse gases but I have to wonder if the root cause is our evolution or our population or both? Is the answer one of going against evolution or something unthinkable? I think nature (nature nature or human nature) will inevitably introduce the unthinkable through disease and malnutrition or war and probably too late anyway. I do my bit by eating feral animals whenever possible as opposed to feedlot animals and unlike the vast majority of meateaters, I am not averse to going through the whole process of catching, killing and eating rather than plain mindless consumption.

  83. Jenny says:

    Thanks Rachel, yes I’m a lay-person. I am a peaceful Vegan, and I was trying to be concise. I used the word deluded correctly; people are being deliberately deceived by the food industry. It is in fact better environmentally to live Vegan. (But there is not much money to be made out of Veganism)
    I have also read about the China Study, the “grande prix of epidemiology” carried out by Prof T Colin Campbell; (Prof Emeritus in nutritional biochemistry) who found that a whole food plant based diet is the best human diet. I have followed the Tyndale Centre, Prof K Anderson & A. Bows Larkin and heard that Methane deteriorates faster than Co2, so my hope is, that if we stopped livestock farming, and ate the feed ourselves, there would be enough food for everyone, & we’d stop destroying the trees, soil, and stop polluting water with slurry. And we’d stopped the release of Methane produced by livestock.
    I’m aware that “Fracking”releases methane too.

  84. BBD says:

    Some atmospheric methane (CH4) is oxidised by solar shortwave radiation into CO2 and water.

  85. The China study to me is an attempt to delude the population. It studied the foods eaten and disease people had in China. The more Western, rich regions were eating more meat and had more Western disease. I did not catch one moment, it was trying to study which aspect of the Western life style is responsible and simply assumed it was meat. My guess is just as good as Campbell’s: movement and use of refined plant oils.

    And it studied the influence of one protein, casein, and acted as if that is the same as animal protein, while that consists of many proteins. That is about as stupid as giving people a diet with 50% sugar and afterwards claiming you should not eat any carbohydrates.

    If you want to be vegan on moral grounds, good for you, but please stick to the truth. In the beginning people changing to a vegan diet feel good. The animal products one needs are often dissolved in fat and are thus stored in the body and available for some time. You do not immediately notice they are missing. If you health fail later, please think again of your diet and do not assume that just because you notice an improvement in the beginning, your health problems cannot be due to your diet. That being said, some people seem to be very robust and seem to be able to sustain such a diet.

  86. Paul S says:

    JCH,

    The 1997/98 El Niño event itself is coincident with a small spike In ORAS4 OHC. The dip is coincident with the 99/00/01 La Niña period. I understand it’s Trenberth’s contention that the 99/00/01 La Niña period was essentially a consequence of the 97/98 El Niño, but why do we not see the same thing with the 1983 super El Niño? Or the very strong El Niño in 1987? I would generally bow to Trenberth’s expertise on matters of climate system internal variability but I’m not sure I’m clear on the finer points of what he’s saying. My simple reading of the ORAS4 OHC graph is that you tend to get a spike during strong El Niño events and a dip during strong La Niña events. The timing of such events doesn’t appear to have a clear determinative, or call-and-response, pattern.

  87. Paul S says:

    Generally there appear to be enough indicators to say that something unusual is happening in the Pacific right now. I noticed a hotspot in the sub-polar NE Pacific (area South of Alaska) and thought I’d check variability in that region. Annual anomalies since 1950 look like this. With the strong caveat that I have no explanatory physics or intuition to offer on what’s happening here, the anomalies in this region appear to reflect Pacific and global variability on sub-decadal and decadal timescales (mostly absent volcanic influence), contrasting with the strong inter-annual signals emphasised by Equatorial Pacific indicators (Nino3.4 etc.). You can see the trough in the early-to-mid 1970s, the peaks of the 1990s and 2002-2005, and then the trough from 2006-2012. It’s not a case of years being just generally colder either – monthly anomalies are noisier but retain the decadal variability signal. The interest for our present situation is that 8 out of 9 of the most recent monthly anomalies have been warmer than any since 2005. This suggests some kind of shift is occurring/has occurred.

    As an analogue to the present I would look to the 1970s. Corresponding to what JCH says, there was a strong El Niño spike in 1974 in this NE Pacific region, but that was followed by three cold years. It was only during a prolonged period of marginal El Niño in the late 70s/early 80s that global average temperatures increased abruptly, and that was coincident with a large shift in this NE Pacific region in 1977. So, if we take the past as a guide (which is a shaky foundation), does the abrupt warming in this region indicate a strong El Niño or perhaps a general return to an increased warming rate? I would suggest the latter because the 1974 El Niño spike is contemporary with the global temperature increase, rather than prefiguring it, whereas this shift has occurred without (yet) seeing much of an increase in GAT and technically following a generally mildly-negative ENSO period. I’m not sure following this line of thinking necessarily means there won’t be a strong El Niño, but it could be that a shift has occurred with longer-term consequences.

  88. George Bailley says:

    ATTP,
    Knowing how The World works – I suspect that we’ll see a decent sized equatorial volcanic eruption during the later part of the year – just sufficiently large that it will compromise the otherwise extreme “El Nino” related surface temperatures. Consequently there’ll be no clear-cut record and the denial-erati will blog on regardless.

    (this is a crude attempt at faking out The World – in the vain hope that if I predict it – it won’t happen)

  89. Jenny says:

    For your information
    http://www.vegankit.com/why

  90. Jenny says:

    Yes I have lived vegan for moral reasons for twenty years, and I am perfectly healthy so far.
    But my hope was that we could mitigate some climate change by living vegan.

  91. Steve Bloom says:

    Paul, doesn’t that area more or less line up with the recent persistent high pressure anomaly that’s been screwing up west coast weather?

  92. Jenny, I can understand your discomfort with eating meat very well. I was vegetarian for a decade and the conditions in normal farms are horrible. I only buy ecological meat myself and would welcome if these norms would become more strict.

    However, while I do not want to change the topic of this discussion to veganism, your link only states about the China Study:

    “The China Study: by T. Colin Campbell is arguably the most comprehensive study on nutrition ever done. Campbell provides compelling evidence linking animal products to disease, including cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, diabetes, etc.”

    These two sentences provide just claims without evidence and especially no arguments why my arguments mentioned above are wrong. Let’s not start with new arguments before the understand why we do not agree on the first.

  93. BBD says:

    Jenny

    I respect your moral position on veganism but I also agree with Victor. I also wouldn’t want to contribute to derailing the thread so perhaps this can await a more appropriate topic?

    Finally, you simply are on a hiding to nothing with enforced vegetarianism, let alone veganism. You can’t simply tell whole populations that they will no longer be allowed to consume meat. Decarbonising the electricity supply and personal transport are going to be challenging enough. Let’s try not to over-reach ourselves 😉

  94. johnrussell40 says:

    Yep, let’s not latch our personal favourite causes onto climate change and in doing so give people additional reasons for their denial.

  95. Paul S says:

    Steve Bloom,

    Could be, I hadn’t heard about that previously. My link to a GISS trend map didn’t work before so here it is for the most recent 12 months versus the previous 12 months.

    On the weekly ENSO update Central Equatorial Pacific upper ocean temperatures increased by a further couple of notches.

  96. Mikky says:

    So many articles in this war between Skeptics and Believers are just the shooting-down of false beliefs attributed to the other side.

    This skeptic does not see the global temperature as you depict it in the graph, though some do plot that kind of graph. The graph shows a particular time window, and we all know how windows can be selected to show almost anything. This skeptic thinks about the entire time window, within which we must all agree there have been periods of warming and periods of cooling. A few more data points, whichever way they go, will change nothing for most people.

    This war is probably like religious belief. When I became an atheist something flipped in my head, and I knew I’d never change my mind about it without compelling evidence.

  97. Rachel says:

    Jenny,

    But my hope was that we could mitigate some climate change by living vegan.

    As much as I’d love to see the whole world become vegan, it just isn’t going to happen. I do think we can make some real gains in this area though without the need for everyone to become a vegan. I actually disagree with BBD’s comment in this regard where he suggests that decarbonising the electricity and transport sector is going to be challenging enough without also having the impossible task of changing our diets. Changing our diets seems like the easiest option to me but it doesn’t have to be all or nothing in my view. Why can’t we wealthy Westerners simply eat less meat and more plants? I imagine a shift like this could potentially make a huge difference. This four-minute TED talk gives a good account of one man’s shift to weekday vegetarianism:

    But there are other options to. The FAO produced a report last year on Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security. A copy and paste on the benefits of eating insects from their report:

    Overall, entomophagy can be promoted for three reasons:
    • Health:
    — Insects are healthy, nutritious alternatives to mainstream staples such as chicken,
    pork, beef and even fish (from ocean catch).
    –Many insects are rich in protein and good fats and high in calcium, iron and zinc.
    — Insects already form a traditional part of many regional and national diets.
    • Environmental:
    — Insects promoted as food emit considerably fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) than
    most livestock (methane, for instance, is produced by only a few insect groups,
    such as termites and cockroaches).
    — Insect rearing is not necessarily a land-based activity and does not require
    landclearing to expand production. Feed is the major requirement for land.
    — The ammonia emissions associated with insect rearing are also far lower than
    those linked to conventional livestock, such as pigs.
    — Because they are cold-blooded, insects are very efficient at converting feed into
    protein (crickets, for example, need 12 times less feed than cattle, four times less
    feed than sheep, and half as much feed as pigs and broiler chickens to produce
    the same amount of protein).
    — Insects can be fed on organic waste streams.
    • Livelihoods (economic and social factors):
    — Insect harvesting/rearing is a low-tech, low-capital investment option that offers
    entry even to the poorest sections of society, such as women and the landless.
    –Minilivestock offer livelihood opportunities for both urban and rural people.
    — Insect rearing can be low-tech or very sophisticated, depending on the level
    of investment.

    I for one am willing to give insects a try provided they are suitably disguised and there are no visible legs or antennae.

    I also think that in the future we’re going to see laboratory grown meat. Bill Gates has a good presentation on this at The future of food.

    And finally, there’s also the man who eats roadkill.

  98. A real skeptic thinks about the entire time window, within which we must all agree there have been periods of warming and periods of cooling which show that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and we’re increasing it ten times faster than before the Great Dying.

    Rachel, thanks for your interesting comment. Because the CO2-induced rapid warming of the PETM led to sharply increased insect leaf damage, I think Ento’s vision of bringing edible insects to Western countries could dramatically improve our food security.

  99. BBD says:

    Rachel

    Perhaps a decrease in the rate of consumption of meat might be possible in developed economies if prices rose enough and the “benefits of less” message was tactfully but persistently kept playing. I can see that significant change might be rather slow in coming though, and my original point to Jenny (below) was that governmental enforcement of vegetarianism would be very unlikely to work. Perhaps I should have added “in developed democracies”. Whether the increasing consumption of meat in eg. China resulting from increasing personal wealth could be stemmed by diktat with politically survivable consequences isn’t something I’d care to speculate on.

    You can’t simply tell whole populations that they will no longer be allowed to consume meat.

  100. Rachel says:

    DumbSci,
    I seem to recall someone saying once that during periods of hothouse Earth in the past, insects were also much larger. I’m not sure whether there’s any truth to that though.

    BBD,
    Yes, I agree that you can’t tell people what they can and can’t eat because they just don’t like it. Price can play a role though and the “benefits of less” as you say. I also like how easy it is to stay slim as a vegan. I’ve been the same weight for more than a decade at least, except when I was pregnant of course.

  101. BBD says:

    Rachel

    I also like how easy it is to stay slim as a vegan. I’ve been the same weight for more than a decade at least, except when I was pregnant of course.

    The same is true of Mrs BBD, who is also slim, but neither vegetarian nor vegan. Nor does she diet or exercise. But both her parents are slim.

    I curse them all, daily. It’s not fair.

  102. Rachel says:

    BBD,
    I was just thinking that if you can’t appeal to someone’s wallet or to their concern for the environment then why not try appealing to their vanity? Of course some people are just lucky in the gene lottery. It’s certainly worth considering as a strategy though especially if someone might inadvertently find themselves naked on YouTube.

  103. Related to the vegan discussion:

    More Americans willing to try cannibalism than veganism, new study finds

    🙂

    Still, I see no problem with eating less meat and if the quality requirements for animal husbandry would improve and the animals would have a decent life, meat would become more expensive and people would eat it less, according to economists.

  104. Rachel says:

    I saw that article, Victor and it makes sense to me. If you’re prepared to eat Bamby then why not neighbour Larry as well? Personally, I’ve never understood why some people cry outrage at the thought of eating horses, cats and dogs, and yet they munch quite happily on pigs, cows and sheep. What’s the difference?

  105. uknowispeaksense says:

    I think I can go some way to answering at least part of the reason why dogs, cats and horses are not usually considered as food as opposed to the usual assortment of “farm animals”.

    The primary thing is social conditioning. I don’t really need to explain this part. In the Western world at least, kids grow up with pets that are treated like family members and/or are subjected to stories and songs that portray these animals in that way. it’s pretty straight forward. Go to Asian and southeast Asian countries where that sort of social conditioning isn’t present and you will find in many markets, cats, dogs and primates being sold as or for food.
    Personally, I have no problems eating horse, camel, deer, crocodile, kangaroo, emu, snakes, lizards, insects (mealworms and wicheta grubs). I haven’t tried dog or cat but then I haven’t had the opportunity to. I draw the line at primates and cetaceans. That is because of my social conditioning but everyone draws their line somewhere.
    So, do we try and socially engineer entire populations to not eat meat, or do we try and get smarter about how to allow people to still do what comes naturally with perhaps a greater appreciation of ethics, environmental considerations and perhaps a greater penchant for eating feral animals, which are a massive potential source of protein? I know which is probably easier and socially ethical. Personally I hope this amounts to something…. http://www.uq.edu.au/agriculture/reducing-methane-belching-cows-by-learning-from-kangaroos

  106. Rachel says:

    ukiss,

    I think what you’re saying is that it’s a cultural thing and yes, it absolutely is, I agree. So people don’t really have the right to condemn another culture for eating something like horse if they themselves eat pigs, don’t you think?

    Anyway, I just saw this: cooked tarantulas on a stick. They look revolting. I don’t think I could put them anywhere near my mouth.

  107. uknowispeaksense says:

    I think you just found me another line to draw. I’m pretty adventurous foodwise but ummmm…ewwwwwww.

  108. AnOilMan says:

    You know… smaller portions would also help. I like my steak, but I’m getting tired of being told I need to eat a 2 inch thick cross section of cow.

  109. Jenny says:

    Well, can I reassure people that we can thrive without eating other sentient beings.
    Humans are forcible causing livestock to be born for our use. We consume 56 billion animals & a trillion fish a year, and that number is set to double by 2050. The current situation is extraordinary historically (we have never eaten so many creatures before) and environmentally unsustainable.
    We need some benign dictatorship here?
    It is easy to live Vegan, by the way.

  110. Steve Bloom says:

    But sugar improves everything, Rachel! This one’s for you. 🙂

  111. Rachel says:

    Steve,
    It looks more appetising than the tarantulas but I think I’d go for the real worm sucker instead.

  112. uknowispeaksense says:

    Oh, yes please. Let me be the benign dictator. I promise to be benevolent.

    I’m just trying to recall if there has ever been a successful benevolent dictator. The only one that comes to mind is Tito who needed his military backing to suppress nationalism but as soon as he died, Yugoslavia fell apart and ended up worse off. So, unless you want to make me supreme benevolent ruler, I’ll settle for a bad democracy and hope that common sense will eventually prevail.

  113. uknowispeaksense says:

    Rachel, that’s just a mealworm on a stick. They are delicious without all the sugar.

  114. Rachel says:

    Let me be the benign dictator. I promise to be benevolent.

    Of course you would and this benevolence would extend to Sir Gina Minehard too?

  115. Jenny says:

    Veganism is a peaceful way of living.
    I believe climate change is underway, and we are going to have to adapt to it , or mitigate it.
    Democracy takes a long time, and time is running out; people are confused by conflicting reports, thanks to vested interests & lazy journalism.
    The Livestock industry uses powerful advertisments, & the food industry is super-sizing meals and drinks, it’s just big business. Nutrition experts tell people what they should & shouldn’t eat. They quote research, selectively. The Tobacco industry advises the food industry on marketing, and I believe the Tobacco industry sponsored research, but suppressed it when the results began to show that smoking is bad for your health.
    There is no scientic study that has proved that a Vegan diet is unhealthy. Vitamin B12 is the one thing vegans must make sure they get enough of; today it is not safe to drink unpurified water.

  116. uknowispeaksense says:

    Absolutely. As Sir Gina Minehard I’d make sure everyone was paid $2/day.

  117. OPatrick says:

    Jenny, I’m more than happy to advcate for a largely vegan diet for several reasons, climate change definitely being at the forefront of these. But I find it difficult to be absolutist about it. For example in our area (in most areas, I think) there are a large number of rabbits which don’t have many natural predators. They regularly get culled – and I can’t honestly say that this is worse from the rabbit population’s point of view than waiting for nature to take its course – and the carcasses often just thrown away. I cannot see how it would be better to waste these than to eat them, so would you consider eating meat in this situation? And don’t get me started on the squirrels and rats.

  118. BBD says:

    Jenny

    You cannot dictate to people what they eat. You are veering dangerously close to what can only really be called a totalitarian mindset, and you seem completely unaware of the tenor of your political thinking.

    Please stop and think this through in the round.

  119. Paul S says:

    uknowispeaksense,

    Monarchies were essentially dictatorships and popular historians do talk about good Kings/bad Kings. The problem for non-Monarchistic dictators is often perceived legitimacy, resulting in a need for violent crack-downs on dissent to retain power, which makes it difficult to bring off an air of benignity.

    BTW, I originally read your display name as UK now is peak sense, which I interpreted as having some kind of interesting satirical message related to discussions of peak oil etc.

  120. Jenny says:

    I have heard climate scientists raise the concept of “benign dictatorship”. They have been giving scientifically correct & cautious messages about climate change, and nothing has changed except the temperature keeps rising. They are beginning to think their caution is being misunderstood; and the public do not see the denialists being effectively challenged. Did anyone see prof Kevin Anderson on Newsnight recently?

  121. Many people (including myself) see hints towards benign dictatorship in this report

    http://www.wbgu.de/fileadmin/templates/dateien/veroeffentlichungen/hauptgutachten/jg2011/wbgu_jg2011_kurz_en.pdf

    I would be very worried, if I would think that those ideas may win, but I don’t believe that.

  122. Jenny says:

    OPatrick, That’s great!
    We are just a part of nature, the system named by lovelock “Gaeia”. But Human animals have upset the balance. We eradicated uk predators like wolves & bears long ago. We introduced grey squirrels to the uk, which overwhelmed the red squirrels. If we eased off the pressure, Gaeia might be able to recover?
    From my own experience I know it is easy to live Vegan. I will never eat another sentient being, anymore than I’d eat a human victim of disaster, because it is morally wrong to do so.
    Please go Vegan. If the demand dries up, livestock farming will just stop.
    I am really scared of the consequences of climate change.

  123. BBD says:

    Pekka

    I wondered how long it would be before the name Schellnhuber cropped up.

  124. johnrussell40 says:

    I benign dictatorship would be great. The problem is making sure the dictatorship choosen ends up benign once in power. It’s safer to stick with democracy.

    Jenny. If you’re scared about climate change—and I’ll say here and now here that for me the possibilities are truly frightening, although I’m probably too old to experience the worst of them—then we need to bring everyone on side. As I said up the thread, to be inclusive means being tolerant of everyone else’s viewpoint, for there are many people who are concerned about climate change who also feel strongly about eating meat. The problem at the moment is persuading everyone we have to do something about climate change. Once we’ve achieved that then we can move on to discussing solutions and arrive at collective decisions.

    So hold fire, don’t put the cart before the horse—you’ll just confuse the issue.

  125. AnOilMan says:

    Jenny: Under no circumstance would you ever convince me not to eat meat. However I do decry the ‘cross section of cow’ typically served up in restaurants.

    If there was a Carbon Tax (GHG Tax) then the cost of meat (cows fart… a lot) should go up, and thereby reduce consumption.

  126. Rachel says:

    OilMan,
    Good point about portion sizes. I completely agree.

    Jenny,
    I am very sympathetic to your cause but I don’t think it’s a good strategy and does not do the philosophy of veganism any good to tell people what they can and can’t eat. A more subtle approach is required. I don’t claim to know what exactly, but one of the reasons I call myself a “plant eater” rather than a vegan is because I don’t like the preachiness and somewhat militant nature of the vegan movement. We have to be tolerant of other people and their views if we are to be heard. I’m actually quite hopeful that in 100 years many more of us will be eating plants exclusively, not for philosophical reasons though, but because it’s more economical and acceptable to do so, as in the Bill Gates presentation I linked to above and here again – The future of food. There’s also a company developing eggs that don’t come from chickens: Hampton Creek.

  127. Jenny says:

    It’s in everyone’s interest to cooperate and listen to people with different view points. See “the blind men & the elephant” story. I’m glad that my contribution has been taken into consideration here. I have thrived as a vegan for 20 years, so from my experience I want to reassure people: it is easy to live Vegan,

  128. Rachel says:

    As for the idea of a benign dictatorship, which lets face it is just a joke, here’s who I’d be voting for: If I ruled the world. Sorry, UKISS.

  129. Jenny says:

    I don’t recall telling anyone what to do, I asked questions & offered reassurance about the peaceful vegan lifestyle, which I believe could help mitigate climate change.
    We can “choose” to eat other sentient beings, because our society allows this, but as far as morality is concerned, we do not have a choice.

  130. BBD says:

    Jenny

    I don’t recall telling anyone what to do

    Oh, there was a bat-squeak of authoritarianism in your language 😉 Apart from the remark about benign dictatorship (any examples, in all of human history, of a benign dictatorship?) there was this:

    Democracy takes a long time, and time is running out; people are confused by conflicting reports, thanks to vested interests & lazy journalism.

    Takes too long, eh? We need a better, faster way. Strong leadership, central planning, enforcement of public compliance, that sort of stuff. Yes, yes, okay, a dictatorship, but benign, mind you…

  131. Rachel says:

    Jenny,

    I just want to point out two things:

    I don’t recall telling anyone what to do…

    and

    …but as far as morality is concerned, we do not have a choice.

  132. uknowispeaksense says:

    Whose morality?

  133. BBD says:

    The one I tell you to have… Nicely, of course. This is benign, because I’m telling you it is, for your own good.

  134. uknowispeaksense says:

    exactly

  135. BBD says:

    Who gave you permission to speak?

    😉

  136. Jenny says:

    It is morally wrong to kill animals for pleasure (we don’t need to eat or use their bodies) because they are sentient beings who want to live their own lives & we know this is true. http://fcmconference.org/img/CambridgeDeclarationOnConsciousness.pdf

  137. We have many religions convinced on their superiority, and we have many sets of moral views, whose supporters are convinced that their set is superior. There are also people, who are not convinced on the superiority of any of those sets. I have noticed that I’m not the only one writing here, who belongs to this group.

  138. Jenny says:

    America lead the world on nutrition, good and bad nutrition.
    http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/01/16/2015-dietary-guidelines-committee/

  139. Rachel says:

    Jenny,

    I think Equality for animals offers a much better argument for your cause than the Cambridge Declaration. But I don’t think this blog is the right place for this sort of discussion so can stop this now, please? This blog is about climate science rather than ethics specifically.

  140. Adding to the above.

    As I’m discussing moral values, it’s clear that I consider my own values in some sense superior. Otherwise they were not my values. My values include, however, tolerance and the requirement to accept that people with differing values are not less moral.

    I try to make others accept that my values are good, but I don’t expect that all people would ever agree on more that a very limited set of core values.

  141. Jenny says:

    Rachel, thank you, I have failed to contribute to the discussion.
    I have been very restrained, because I am haunted by the unnecessary suffering of “livestock” and the felling of ancient forests, which is causing a significant amount of damage to the environment.

  142. Rachel,
    I do think that ethics, and differing views on ethics are at the hearth of the discussion that has taken place on this site, and that’s valuable content for this site.

  143. Rachel says:

    Jenny,
    No, you haven’t failed to contribute to the discussion at all. I just don’t think this is the right place for this. I understand how you feel and I know it’s hard when you feel that there’s injustice to be restrained but telling people that what they’re doing is immoral is not going to work. They’re not going to take it well! There’s a better way to do it.

  144. Rachel says:

    Pekka,
    Yes, ethics comes up in climate change quite a bit. What I meant was that the ethics of eating animals is not really relevant to climate change in terms of animal rights anyway. It’s relevant in terms of environmental harm.

  145. Rachel,
    A few comments on veganism may have been clarifying on the role on values in this discussion, but this is not the right place to continue further on that.

  146. Rachel says:

    Pekka,
    Good. I’m glad it has been useful. I am certainly not one to shy away from a debate about animal rights. I’ve had many such discussions on the web over the years but usually at an ethics or philosophy forum.

  147. uknowispeaksense says:

    I will not be responding to you here Jenny. Quite frankly I find your rampant inflexibility, uneducated feelpinions and delusions of moral superiority intellectually painful to read. I will likely be discussing on my blog the similarities between the loony right and the loony left in terms of their confirmation bias, scientific illiteracy and the Dunning Kruger effect. Feel free to come and comment there once I’ve posted and prove me correct.

  148. Jenny says:

    Thank you UKISS I’ve visited your blog, and am impressed and terrified by the articles there on the impending climate change disaster. As a lay person, I get the gist, and I can only choose to believe that it is all true. We have to make drastic changes don’t we? Cutting out livestock farming worldwide would help surely? Faint hope.

  149. BBD says:

    Only things that will work will be of use, Jenny. And a widespread slide into totalitarianism is about the only think I can think of that will make climate change even worse that it is already likely to be.

  150. Jenny says:

    Thanks BBD, I feel misunderstood. I contributed a viewpoint, for consideration, and some people have reacted emotionally rather than responded, thus wasting more time.

  151. BBD says:

    Jenny

    One of the best things about blog conversations like these is that we can learn how other people think about climate change and its implications and the strategies we might use to deal with it all.

    This should encourage us to examine our own beliefs critically, especially if we get a response we weren’t expecting, as seems to be the case here. I get the impression that the political ramifications of what you believe may have come as a surprise, but that doesn’t make what some commenters here have said any less true.

    One final thing. There is a widespread belief amongst “sceptics” that “the greens” and “environmentalists” are poised to implement a kind of eco-totalitarianism using climate change as an excuse. What you have written here does rather play to that unfortunate misconception, which is, in part, why I took issue with you.

  152. Jenny says:

    Thanks BBD
    Well I’ve hit a nerve then. I am ignorant of the eco-totalitarian plot you mention. It is obvious that land use for Livestock farming is contributing to the problem, but I have not much hope that people can understand this & change their habits in time. Especially when some scientists repel the idea of Veganism so strongly; but then scientists are ordinary humans too.

  153. BBD says:

    Anyone advocating what is essentially totalitarianism “hits a nerve” with me, Jenny. And apparently, I am not alone in this respect.

  154. Jenny,
    If you want some context (and maybe a sense of why I’ve refrained from getting involved in this discussion) you could read some of the comments on this post. Those from Richard Tol – and a few others – illustrate what BBD is suggesting.

  155. Jenny says:

    Thanks BDD
    If you mean “benign dictatorship” I heard this being discussed by climatologists, wondering why they could not get necessary information about climate change into the public arena.

  156. AnOilMan says:

    I still think there’s plenty of room for all of God’s creatures… right next to the mashed potatoes.

    (Sorry… joke… couldn’t resist.)

  157. Jenny says:

    Ah! …thanks.

  158. Rachel says:

    Jenny,

    If you mean “benign dictatorship” I heard this being discussed by climatologists…

    I have *never* heard this discussed by climatologists and you do them a disservice by saying this here.

  159. Jenny says:

    Dear Rachel and all of you, I am sorry I intruded on your space, I am not a Scientist. I will not disturb you further, I have stirred up a hornets nest, and can’t think straight right now.

  160. AnOilMan says:

    Rachel\Jenny,

    Attributing ‘dictatorship’ to scientists is part of the poo flinging from those who are ideologically opposed to believing in Climate Change. This is not, and never was true.

    It springs from the far right thinking that any sort of regulation to address climate change is some how communist or dictatorial in nature. i.e. telling people what to do. Any solution for Climate Change will be far far reaching in our economies and lives.

    I for one think that a Carbon Tax will sort things out. However, I would also be saddened if the Jeremy Clarkson’s of the world couldn’t drive their Bugatti Veyron gas guzzlers.

  161. Steve Bloom says:

    Possibly substitute “most people” for “loony right and the loony left,” ukiss, or maybe just add the “loony center.” IMO the key point to understand is that humans as a group don’t react well to conditions of increasing environmental stress and shrinking resources. You might especially consider the trend toward increasing economic inequality in the developed world.

  162. AnOilMan says:

    Let them eat cake.

  163. Steve Bloom says:

    Rachel, I think you took the opposite of Jenny’s meaning. It sounded to me like climate scientists wondering how it is people don’t get presented with the implications of climate science in a way likely to motivate a response. I’ve certainly heard *those* conversations. I would only question the use of “benign.” (The question of how so many people can conceive of our system as “benign” in any sense even while we rush headlong toward a climate precipice is interesting.)

  164. Steve Bloom says:

    In the meantime, AOM, what we’re getting in the U.S. is not a carbon tax but a Supreme Court eager to hold the coats of the likes of the Kochs while the latter buy the political system (see yesterday’s ruling eliminating caps on overall contributions).

    Re the fear of the right that they will be told what to do, it’s interesting to contrast the railing of their politicians against increasing regulation of the environmental impacts of coal mining and burning with the current spectacle of many of the same politicians stumbling over themselves to demand further regulation of the auto industry in order to prevent a comparative handful of injuries and deaths.

  165. BBD says:

    Jenny

    I have stirred up a hornets nest

    I wouldn’t go that far 🙂

    But Rachel does have a point. That said, so does Pekka Pirilä.

    I’m a very even-handed hornet 😉

  166. AnOilMan says:

    Steve… I’m in Canada. We are currently noted for the current Prime Minister’s dictatorial attitude and his censorship of scientists. (Scientists aren’t allowed out in public without minders, just like Saddam Hussein used to do to his scientists.) Just an FYI, but the current PM came from an amalgamation of the Reform Party, and Progressive Conservative party. He represented the loony far right (equivalent to tea party) before taking the reigns. He also used the same political adviser George Bush did, Frank Luntz.

    In the next election we are likely to vote for Justin Trudeau… we have no idea what his policies are, but he has great hair. We do know that he has promised that he will not introduce a carbon tax.

    I do worry about what all this bodes for the future.

    Its funny that you mention such a confusing muck up in policy priorities. ie. The US needs to develop oil to be energy independent, yet no one mentions that solar energy would make the US perpetually energy independent. As an engineer, I see this thinking leading in only one direction, the wholesale export of jobs and money to buy this technology from countries that are developing and honing their skills with them. (The last company I was at was selling large quantities of environmental equipment to China. This is technology used to clean up coal power plant emissions, and technology not developed by China.)

  167. Rachel says:

    Just saw this – The joys and ethics of insect eating

    Compared to traditional meat sources like cows, pigs, chickens and fish, edible insects can have comparable or higher amounts of essential proteins, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and other nutrients needed for healthy growing bodies. With iron, protein, magnesium, calcium and zinc some of the most widespread and debilitating vitamin deficiencies both abroad and here in America, edible insects provide a delicious solution to a very real problem. When compared to the same traditional livestock, insects can be farmed with much less land and water, lower feed costs, higher yields, faster growth cycles, lower greenhouse gas emissions like methane and ammonia, less waste and with a far lower risk for animal to human diseases like swine flu or avian flu.

    It’s part of an interview with the guy behind Little Herds.

  168. And then there’s reality.

    Tentatively, official BOM says that …. “it is now likely
    (estimated at a greater than 70% chance) that
    an El Niño will develop during the southern
    hemisphere winter. Although the El Niño–
    Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is currently neutral,
    surface and sub-surface ocean temperatures
    have warmed considerably in recent weeks,
    consistent with a state of rapid transition.”

    But if we look at the chart this has occurred several
    times in the recent past, with no El Nino developing.

    It is no more, or less likely that there will be an El Nino,
    or instead another La Nina year. If you see the historical
    graph of recent ENSO variations, you can observe that
    steep rises in the recent past have petered out to nothing
    previously. The truth is that we just don’t know where the
    ENSO will go next, and for how long.

  169. Sorry, you link to a post that says that there is now a 70% chance of an El Niño occuring and conclude that it is no more, or less likely that there will be an El Niñ, or instead a La Niña year”?

  170. Paul S says:

    ENSO Monitoring (Aus BOM),

    You’re looking at the wrong thing with that chart. It can only show whether SSTs are already in an El Niño state or have been in the past. The prediction is that this chart will show an El Niño state, according to standard definitions, in a few months time based on other Pacific climate factors.

    This chart shows why they’re predicting the manifestation of an El Niño in Pacific SSTs, and why 70% is looking a little conservative.

  171. Again Please ….
    “But if we look at the chart this has occurred several
    times in the recent past, with no El Nino developing.”

    My conclusion is that it is not predictable with any
    certainty at all, because this is a chaotic system,
    albeit with a vague sinusoidal moment, and the
    frequency is not constant.

    There may be “signs”, and we might also read
    the entrails of a chicken, and get a similarly
    accurate prediction. In any case ENSO phenomenon
    is a thing that we can only react to. There is no way
    to control or predict its actions, nor will there ever be.

  172. Can I ask why you claim to be from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology? Are you associated with them, or not?

  173. Pingback: On the coming El Nino | And Then There's Physics

  174. Reblogged this on …and Then There's Physics and commented:

    I guess there’s no point in writing a “possible told you so” post if you can’t then say “I told you so” when it actually comes about. I guess I was maybe out by a few months with respect to when the El Nino started, but still, I told you so.

  175. Andrew Dodds says:

    You were tempting fate, though. If Yellowstone had blown and ushered in a sudden new ice age, it would have looked silly. That does seem the last hope of the skeptics.

    Or it would if the few huddled bands of freezing cannibal survivors still had internet access.

  176. You were tempting fate, though. If Yellowstone had blown and ushered in a sudden new ice age, it would have looked silly.

    I suspect that if something that could have ushered in a sudden new ice age had happened, looking silly would have been the least of my worries (plus, I regularly look silly, so I am used to it 🙂 )

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