Our final century?

I came across a short TED talk by Martin Rees called Can we prevent the end of the World?. This lead me to another related talk by Martin Rees – which I’ve included below – called Is this our final century?. In case you don’t know, Martin Rees is the Astronomer Royal, a past president of the Royal Society, and he was the Master of Trinity College Cambridge.

I don’t actually know Martin Rees, but we did nod at each other in a toilet in Cambridge a few years ago, so I guess we’ve met (well, okay, that’s a bit of a stretch 🙂 ). I also attended a conference dinner in Trinity College at about the same time, and even though Martin Rees wasn’t involved in the meeting, he had apparently told the staff that they were not to complain about the fact that we were all unlikely to satisfy the dress code.

Although Martin Rees’s TED talks weren’t about climate change specifically, they were about some existential threats that we may face in the coming century. He seemed perfectly comfortable including greenhouse warming as being unprecedented and hence, I assume, a possible existential threat. He also argued that scientists should speak out, and that it was obvious that we should do what we can to minimise the risks associated with these existential threats. It all seemed obvious to me and yet it seems that this type of rhetoric is very difficult when it comes to climate change specifically.

Why? Well I think there are a vocal group of people who essentially apply a subtle (or not so subtle) form of blackmail. If you mention the possibility that the impact of climate change could be catastrophic, then you’re labelled an alarmist. Hence there’s a tendency to avoid this and, consequently, pointing out that surely we should do what we can to minimise the more extreme risks, can’t really be mentioned either. Also, we’re constantly told that scientists shouldn’t speak out, or else they’ll illustrate that they’re no longer being objective and therefore can’t be trusted.

I think this is all rather silly. It seems clear that there are potentially severe risks associated with climate change. It seems obvious that we should minimise the possibility of the more extreme scenarios. It also seems obvious that scientists should be free to speak out if their research indicates that we could face severe risks. What’s the point of paying scientists, and funding their research, if they aren’t free to speak out about the implications of what their research is suggesting?

I want to stress a couple of things, though. I’m not suggesting that climate change will be catastrophic, simply that the evidence suggests that this possibility exists. Ignoring this seems extremely short-sighted. Additionally, there may well be some existential threats that we wouldn’t choose to highlight – as there may be nothing we can do about them, and we may not know enough to have any real idea of how likely they are to occur in the next few centuries. This isn’t the case for climate change. We have complete control over climate change. It is us. Essentially, the only way that climate change could pose an existential threat is if we choose to do nothing about it. So, climate change isn’t by itself alarming. What’s alarming is the possibility that we’ll ignore the risks, do nothing, follow some kind of high emission pathway, and discover that climate sensitivity isn’t low.

Anyway, I really just found it interesting that a senior, high-profile scientist can give a TED talk about existential threats, how it’s obvious that we should avoid the high risk scenarios if possible, and also suggests that scientists should speak out, and noone seems to have made much of a fuss. Try doing this for climate change specifically and I think there’d be an outcry. Of course, even this post will probably produce cries of alarmist, alarmist because the title is Our last century? (ignoring the question mark and that it’s after one of Martin Rees’s talk titles) and because I’ve deigned to even mention the possibility of climate change being catastrophic. So, just to stress it again : I’m not suggesting that climate change is catastrophic, simply that there is a possible scenario under which it could be catastrophic. Furthermore, as William Connolley has pointed out before if you can’t imagine anything between “catastrophic” and “nothing to worry about” then you’re not thinking.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

217 Responses to Our final century?

  1. verytallguy says:

    What is the range of warning expected in 2100 under a high emissions scenario?

    What impacts are expected at the top and bottom of this range?

    Should we be alarmed?

  2. Perse says:

    What is up with people that you have to constantly defend yourself, ATTP? I wish we could just speak our minds these days…

  3. vtg,
    I would also stress that the range of warming expected in 2100 under a high emission scenario allows us to actually quantify the likelihood of exceeding some threshold. Someone on Twitter pointed out that a plane crash would be catastrophic and yet we assess the risk and fly. A quick search tells me that there are 18 million flights per year. The risk of being involved in a major incident on a flight is therefore tiny. The RCP8.5 pathway suggests that there is about a 1% chance of exceeding 5 degrees (relative to today) by 2100. Maybe some think that 5 degrees relative to today won’t carry severe impacts, but that seems remarkably unlikely. I don’t know what our risk threshold is but I would guess that it’s a good deal less than a 1 in 100 chance of a catastrophic outcome.

  4. Perse,
    That was kind of the point of the post.

  5. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    I think it’s much worse than that.
    If emissions continue to rise, leading to the RCP 8.5 scenario, then the global temperature is predicted to reach 5.6 °C above the pre-industrial level by 2100 and is still rising by0.45 °C per decade at the end of the century.

    I think the range is 3.5 -7.8, from memory.

    Alarmed yet?

  6. vtg,
    Yes, you could well be right. I was just eyeballing it from a figure. In my view, a 1% – or greater – chance of reaching those kind of temperatures by 2100 is indeed alarming.

  7. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    I may have got this wrong. I’ve had a chance to look at AR5 now and they give a 2.6 to 4.8 likely range. It’s not quite a like for like comparison (it’s current vs 2081-2100 mean rather than pre-industrial to 2100) but even so I think the met office number is higher. I don’t know why.

    Nitpicking aside, the point is that all these figures, even the lower bounds, are alarming. For scientists who understand this not to speak up would seem to the layman to be amazing, I think.

  8. vtg,

    For scientists who understand this not to speak up would seem to the layman to be amazing, I think.

    Yes, I also find it amazing. I don’t think a scientist should be obliged to, but I do think there should be a pushback against all this “scientists who speak out are advocating and damaging trust”. I think it’s nonsense. We’re much better hearing the views of experts than them being muffled in some apparent attempt to regain a trust that was probably never lost, and that will likely give a completely unbalanced view of our best understanding anyway.

  9. Vinny Burgoo says:

    You’ll get there in the end, young Wotts. After another year or two of reading up on this stuff you’ll finally realize that climate change is but one of many ‘existential threats’ and that policy-wise it has to scrabble for top ranking case by case – that, unlike Sir Martin Rees, Baron Rees of Ludlow, it doesn’t have an *automatic* place at the top table.

  10. jsam says:

    Get a grip. Vinny. Denial is so last century.

  11. Vinny,
    And maybe if you spend some time reading up no this stuff and thinking about it a little more, you’ll realise that it doesn’t have to have an *automatic* place at the bottom.

  12. fredmoolten says:

    People with limited vision might argue that if a catastrophic event is uncertain and perhaps quite unlikely, at least for centuries, we should ignore it unless the danger later proves much greater than appreciated. Individuals with more foresight understand that we must look beyond the short term and act with appropriate vigor against potentially dangerous threats.

    As an American, I am proud to say that the U.S. Congress has wisely and bravely adopted the long view. Even though a catastrophic asteroid impact is recognized as a highly improbable event – Impact Event, the Congress has shown all appropriate concern for our need to study and act to mitigate such a scenario – Threats from Space. Even more commendably, the Congress has set aside its usual partisan wrangling and endorsed this effort with bipartisan support despite the remoteness of the danger..

    Just sayin’

  13. OPatrick says:

    Thing is, the threat of an asteroid strike doesn’t mean that anyone needs to make any effort to change their behaviour. I’m not sure how far pride should stretch.

  14. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    I agree but would also go further.   In my view the fact that scientists don’t speak out more emotively leads to a dissonance between the content of the message and its delivery. 

    It’s like the announcement on a sinking ship being

     This vessel is taking on water and will founder very soon.  Continuing drinking in the bar will bring known benefits which you will lose by proceeding to to the muster point although this option reduces future mortality projections.  Please consider carefully the balance of  risks and benefits in making your decision as how best to respond

  15. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Wotts, only starting at the bottom. A slowly increasing, low-starting, revenue-neutral carbon tax is what we need.

  16. ATTP,
    Just going with your 1 in 100 chance of a catastrophic outcome (call it >5ºC) then this risk level should be more than enough justification to do everything possible to avoid following the RCP8.5 pathway.

    Yes, we take the 1 in a few million chance of the plane going down but we would not be boarding if one in every hundred planes went down. Currently we are solidly on RCP8.5, if not worse, so right now our “civilisation” is betting all of civilisation on the 1 in a 100 bet for one planet with one roll of the pathway dice we are choosing.

    As you say, the alarming thing is that we may not choose the safer dice despite all the science sounding the alarm. And of course we really don’t know whether 3ºC is “safe”, humanity has never been there. And the rate of change in mean temperature is unprecedented in human experience. Risk analysis means paying most attention to the extreme negative outcome because intolerable loss is just that: intolerable.

  17. OPatrick says:

    I’m sure you’ve all seen this, a chance to see how some climate scientists really feel, but worth looking again. This, from Kevin Walsh, captures the biggest concern for me:

    Above all, we wouldn’t have to worry about climate change being yet another source of conflict in an already tense world.

  18. Hans Erren says:

    A very warm welcome to our side. We told you so. There is no turning back now. You will carry the label “climate sceptic” with pride.

  19. BBD says:

    On a general note, it is clear that there has been a moderately successful effort to redefine the language (‘we are sceptics not Holocaust deniers’; ‘CAGW’ etc), to inject a constant stream of misinformation and fake controversy into the public discourse and to push the meme that scientists speaking out about the risks of CC are ‘alarmist’ and damage the allegedly already diminished public trust in climate science.

  20. fredmoolten says:

    OPatrick – “Thing is, the threat of an asteroid strike doesn’t mean that anyone needs to make any effort to change their behaviour. I’m not sure how far pride should stretch.“.

    Are you suggesting that Congress is vigorously acting to avert the asteroid threat but not the far greater climate change threat because addressing the former doesn’t threaten anyone’s interest while mitigating the latter conflicts with the profits of large parts of corporate America? My goodness – how cynical can you get?

  21. anoilman says:

    Global Warming isn’t a chance disaster. It is a certainty, and we are struggling to calculate the damages it will bring. From starvation to ecosystem collapse, its pretty serious. On the unquantifiable side, war is on the menu. (Almost all global military think tanks consider this a certainty.)

    I also think its laudable to be looking at serious chance disasters, while we deal with the ones we are creating now.

    I do worry the the various pseudo skeptics will cause tremendous damage with their “do nothing” drum beat.

  22. Michael 2 says:

    “Is this our last century?”

    Yes! 100 years from now it will be someone else’s last century.

  23. Michael 2 says:

    anoilman says: “war is on the menu.”

    You don’t even need a military think-tank for this. I suspect it doesn’t just happen. Someone wants it to happen but you cannot light wet grass on fire, it has to be primed, ready, dry. You need an enemy, a cause, a leader and millions of true believing followers. In World War 2 the Nazi’s demonized Jews, the Americans demonized Japanese. Propaganda exists to create the enemy, the cause and the followers. It isn’t difficult to see all of these things in many nations right now.

  24. OPatrick says:

    fredmoolten – “My goodness – how cynical can you get?”
    Ah, clearly not enough to recognise weary cynicism in others. Sorry!

  25. Steve Bloom says:

    Considering the shifting baselines/”new normal” problem, I rather like this approach. It and that new Australian site with the handwritten letters from climate scientists are proof that there are good new communication ideas out there. It’s all about personalizing things.

  26. anoilman says:

    Michael 2: What on earth are you blathering about?

    Global Warming’s impact on war is simple and easy to understand. Nations that run low on resources will become unstable. This is a distinct potential for war. You can’t ask another nation to ‘be reasonable’ when its population is facing starvation. Reasonable has a very different meaning to desperate people.

    In case you’re wondering Americans have been begging for more water from Canada for some time now. I’m sure a nice mega drought will do wonders for that. (This is the part of the adaptation plan where you move your farms to Canada, loose your jobs, and give Canada money for your food, or starve.)

    Hoovering up that water…
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/26/lake-mead-falling-in-sign-of-drought/13079009/

    How about that Arab Spring? It all happened when the US got too little rain, Canada got too much, and I think Russia caught fire. It was started by food riots.

  27. Steve,
    Yes, that it interesting.

    OPatrick,
    I had seen that. I also seem to remember another Australian-based thing recently, but can’t remember where. It seems that there are a number of US scientists speaking out. A number of Australians speaking out. Maybe I’m missing it, but the British climate scientists seem quite quiet. Natural reticence?

  28. jsam says:

    Michael 2 is correct on demonisation. Libertarians demonise climate scientists.

  29. verytallguy says:

    On the nitpicking of doom and my earlier errors. All numbers are for the RCP 8.5 “very high greenhouse gas emissions” scenario, characterised by the met office as “business as usual”

    AR5 WG1 gives a range of 2.6°C to 4.8°C for 2081-2100 relative to 1986- 2005
    AR5 WGIII gives a range of 2.8-7.8 C relative to preindustrial
    UK Met office central estimate of 5.6 is from the HadGEM2-ES model relative to preindustrial

    WGI is a “likely” range; I think the WGIII range is also “likely”, though it’s not altogether clear. IPCC say WGI and WGIII are consistent because of the difference in reference year (1986–2005 vs. 1850–1900 here), difference in reporting year (2081–2100 vs 2100 here), set‐up of simulation (CMIP5 concentration driven versus MAGICC emission‐driven here), and the wider set of scenarios

  30. verytallguy says:

    On the topic of the post.

    If we take preindustrial as the baseline, it seems that a temperature rise by 2100 of 5 degrees is not far off a 50% chance.

    Indeed, a 7.8C rise by 2100 looks like a 3:1 shot.

    That bears repeating. Global temperatures rising 7.8C by 2100 appears entirely credible, an utterly devastating scenario. Something to put the “C” into CAGW, and a number which probably justifies the “final century” strapline.

    As oilman said, “Global Warming isn’t a chance disaster. It is a certainty”

    Scientists *not* getting upset about these sorts of projections and *not* advocating action means the public won’t either.

  31. Andrew Dodds says:

    For me, what is worst about this is the simple statement:

    This Does Not Have To Happen.

    The technology to stop carbon emissions either exists or is within simple grasp. It’s simple, really. You build sufficient electrical capacity – Nuclear (U and Th Breeder), Wind, Solar – whatever is best locally – to always supply the grid with a surplus. You divert that surplus into fuel synthesis – Ammonia, Methanol and DME being simple targets.

    At the same time, you reduce your fuel requirements by going over as far as possible to electric cars, and electric-only houses, winding down the use of natural gas.

    You’ll still need a bit of CCS if you want to keep making Steel and Cement the traditional ways, but that’s more manageable than trying to CCS all coal..

    But that’s what you have to do. What does it cost? Assuming no economies of scale (or rather, R&D costs are offset by such economies), building the ~200GW of capacity would cost c. £500 billion. Fuel synthesis might add £50 billion (based on the cost of oil refineries); a £10k subsidy for 15 million EVs (+- fuel replacements) adds up to £150 billion. Add another £50billion for sundries (grid upgrades and the like).

    So.. £750 billion. Or, given a 25-year project, £30 billion a year.. for a project that would by definition employ a lot of people, stop all oil and gas imports and finish with low and stable energy prices indefinitely. Note, of course, that a fair chunk of the money would be spent anyway on new power stations, new home boilers and the like. And, of course, no hair shirts.

    (Regarding water, food and the like.. there is a simple maxim here: Given sufficient primary energy, CO2-free, pretty much any environmental issue can be fixed. Without that energy.. don’t ask)

    I think this is an interesting back-of-the envelope sketch, because it demonstrates that the problem is, in fact, fixable at easily tolerable cost with significant side benefits. And the reason we are not fixing it is because the companies that stand to lose – the oil and coal companies, especially – know this and really want to obscure it.

  32. cosmicomics says:

    I am appalled by this post, and I find it incomprehensible that a responsible scientist could write:

    “I’m not suggesting that climate change will be catastrophic, simply that the evidence suggests that this possibility exists.”

    Recently Skeptical Science had a post on melting glaciers. The conclusion was this:

    “Even if we manage to limit warming to 2°C, we have already locked in the eventual loss of the bulk of the planet’s glaciers.”
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/athabasca.html

    Recent papers on the West Antarctic glaciers have concluded that the decline is irreversible. A more recent paper on Greenland’s surface mass balance documented an accelerated rate of melting. In some major population areas melting glaciers will reduce access to water and limit food production.

    Low lying coastal regions and island states are increasingly at risk from sea level rise, as are river deltas. Acidification is already affecting certain organisms.

    Forests are being destroyed by insects whose numbers are no longer reduced by severe winters. Higher temperatures are enabling vectors to spread, endangering human and animal health. Precipitation patterns have already changed. The characteristics of certain kinds of extreme weather have already changed. And there are further, unstoppable changes in the pipeline.

    anoilman mentions the increased possibility of war. The foreword to the 2014 CNA report states:

    “The update serves as a bipartisan call to action. It makes a compelling case that climate change is no longer a future threat—it is taking place now. It observes that climate change serves as a catalyst of conflict in vulnerable parts of the world, and that projected changes in global migration patterns will make the challenges even more severe.”

    A word that’s used more and more often in association with climate change is irreversible. No matter what we do, climate change will be catastrophic, but we can influence how catastrophic it will be. I have nothing against using that word or calling climate change alarming, and as climate change is alarming I find nothing wrong with being called an alarmist. I do, though, find it very wrong to allow climate septics to define how words are perceived.

  33. cosmiccomics,

    I am appalled by this post, and I find it incomprehensible that a responsible scientist could write:

    “I’m not suggesting that climate change will be catastrophic, simply that the evidence suggests that this possibility exists.”

    You can be appalled if you wish, but then what you’re implying seems not much different to what I was trying to point out in the post, just applied from the other side. It seems that you’re suggesting that I’m not a responsible scientists unless I make it clear that it will be catastrophic. Others suggest that I’m not a responsible scientist if I do.

    My point is that we don’t yet know if it will definitely be catastrophic. Maybe we have passed a tipping point and there’s absolutely nothing we can do. I find that messaging too negative. It’s clear that we are causing the climate to change and, therefore, that we have the power to do something about this. Suggesting that it’s too late seems odd.

    I do, though, find it very wrong to allow climate septics to define how words are perceived.

    I would suggest that what you’ve done in your comment is not wildly different to what I was criticising “skeptics” for doing. Trying to control the dialogue by criticising the character of those who’s message they disagree with.

    If you think that I’m trying to minimise the risks associated with climate change you’d be wrong. Maybe consider that I really am a scientist and am unwilling to say anything with certainty unless I can back that up with evidence that can’t be refuted.

  34. > Maybe consider that I really am a scientist and am unwilling to say anything with certainty unless I can back that up with evidence that can’t be refuted.

    Of course it can be refuted, otherwise you’d be a logician. And even then.

    It might be more prudent to say that your views are based on the evidence you got. Interestingly, notice how Hans & Vinny tried to frame that as skepticism. This implies that everyone’s positions are based on evidence, except of course deniers and alarmists. In other words, the good old lukewarm gambit:

    http://judithcurry.com/2014/08/24/the-50-50-argument/#comment-621793

    Identity politics all the way down.

  35. Pblackmar says:

    We spend so much time and money arguing about causation and consequence yet so little about potential response options. One such option is plausible new energy technology. More efficient cheap energy with low or no carbon footprint renders the debate about global warming somewhat moot.

    Are there new technologies around the corner? Are there technologies that have already been designed only to be quashed by our government? by Corporations? by Individuals? There certainly are conspiracy theories suggesting such. I don’t know the answers to these questions but find myself becoming very interested.

    Are there reputable internet sites, papers or books addressing new energy?
    Thx

  36. verytallguy says: “I agree but would also go further. In my view the fact that scientists don’t speak out more emotively leads to a dissonance between the content of the message and its delivery.”

    Then why don’t you do this emotional delivery? Scientists are scientists because they are good at science. That is all. Other people that are more capable in communication can do the communication. Politicians, activists and every citizen can communicate how urgent they think the problem is.

    Scientists as community should make sure that the information is there in a language the communicators can understand and I would argue that no one can claim that there is not enough information available to communicate.

  37. Joshua says:

    ==> ” I do, though, find it very wrong to allow climate septics to define how words are perceived.”

    First, I disagree with you strongly w/r/t the mechanism of how “words are perceived,” but even if it is true, as you say, that “skeptics” could define how words are to be perceived – how do you propose preventing that from happening?

  38. A passionate defense may be what contrarians fear most:

    > Ed Begley, Jr. comes off as a truly inspired man. You can tell his words and his actions come from an honest set of emotions created by his personal beliefs and his own life experiences. Unlike certain other people I’ve transcribed, who seem to be rattling off facts and statements from memorized talking points, Ed pauses and reflects before his carefully-worded thoughts. His ideas ring of originality, and you truly get the impression that maybe he has never said, or even thought to say, the words coming out of his mouth until the moment they are spoken, like he is channeling them from a higher inspiration, and realizing those words himself as he is speaking them.

    http://thebenshi.com/?p=706

    Their choice word “alarmist” provides the tell.

  39. cosmicomics says:

    ATTP

    Please see:
    http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2014/09/how-the-ipcc-is-sharpening-its-language-on-climate-change/

    My point is that the evidence for unavoidable catastrophic climate change in the future already exists. This doesn’t mean not acting. It means taking whatever action we can as quickly as we can.

    The Carbon Brief post I linked to above has a section entitled “Climate alarmism or climate realism?” I think the argument is that the two are no longer distinguishable, and from this perspective protesting that one isn’t an alarmist no longer makes sense. Defending oneself against the term gives the deniers what they want: no cause for alarm.

    My statement,

    I find it incomprehensible that a responsible scientist could write:

    “I’m not suggesting that climate change will be catastrophic, simply that the evidence suggests that this possibility exists,”

    criticizes your remark. It doesn’t imply that you’re an irresponsible scientist. Had I wished to imply that, my formulation would have been very different.

    I recognize that you’re a scientist and that scientists place different demands on proof than laymen like myself. However, to the best of my very limited ability, I do try to back up my realism/alarmism with (what I understand to be) scientific evidence, and the outpour of alarming evidence in recent months seems to justify the view that the climate change we’re facing is catastrophic. I also note that an increasing number of scientists, who place the same demands on evidence that you do, are alarmed and are speaking out. What’s left then is whether we agree on what constitutes catastrophic climate change, and, in light of that, the difference between being cautious and being overly cautious.

  40. Andrew Dodds says:

    Pblackmar –

    As above. Nuclear reactors have been around for decades.. but R&D on them has slowed to a crawl for a very long time (which is why we don’t see various U and Th breeders in use). Wind and Solar are viable as well – problems of intermittentcy can be dealt with. The only real alternative on the map is Fusion; physics pretty much dictates that.

    Any stationary application of fossil fuels can easily be made electric powered.. and most transport can as well. Synthetic fuel production is just applied industrial chemistry.

    Interestingly, even if we invented a zero-pollution, dispatchable, near zero cost source of electricity tomorrow, we’d still need full electrification and synthetic fuels.

    But if you ask ‘Why do we not just do it.. ‘.. it’s a toxic combination of politics and economics. Economics as currently practices is extremely myopic; discounting means that nothing much exists outside a 20-year time horizon, and it’s adherents instinctively reject the idea of experts selecting a solution to a problem – problems can only be solved by the application of market forces. Politicians of all stripes seem more and more beholden to pressure groups who are either loudly denying that any problem exists or very fixated on their own patch (Biofuels being an example of a fixation..) – so they have no idea of a coherent energy policy.

    The combination means that governments end up with a mish-mash of subsidies, specialist taxes, tax breaks and the like, trying to drive behavior indirectly, with plenty of classic PR-style announcements (‘100,000 homes powered by this wind farm’ stuff). And the net result is that nothing much happens.

  41. cosmiccomic,

    My point is that the evidence for unavoidable catastrophic climate change in the future already exists. This doesn’t mean not acting. It means taking whatever action we can as quickly as we can.

    I kind of agree, but I’m not sure one can really make a statement that it’s unavoidable. The evidence is still not – I think – strong enough to suggest that there is nothing we can do nothing to avoid a catastrophe. Of course, we would need to define what we mean by catastrophe. There will be impacts that we can’t avoid. Whether they’re catastrophes, or not, is a bit of a judgement (I guess anything in which people suffer is a catastrophe of sorts).

    However, to the best of my very limited ability, I do try to back up my realism/alarmism with (what I understand to be) scientific evidence, and the outpour of alarming evidence in recent months seems to justify the view that the climate change we’re facing is catastrophic.

    Although some people think we should avoid alarmist rhetoric, I actually don’t object particularly. As an individual who regards this as a serious issue, I think you have every right to express these views and – to a certain extent – this post was making the case that we should discuss these possibilities more. We can’t consider the possibility of a catastrophic outcome if we don’t discuss this possibility.

    I also note that an increasing number of scientists, who place the same demands on evidence that you do, are alarmed and are speaking out.

    I agree and this is a good thing. Why do you think I’m writing this blog? Because I just happen to enjoy it? I wouldn’t be doing it if I didn’t think this was an important issue. My background just means that I will tend to avoid making statements that are stronger than I think the evidence supports.

    It’s almost as if you’ve interpreted my post as suggesting that we should be less concerned, when in fact my intent was to almost make the opposite argument. It’s clear that there is a significant chance (relative to the kinds of risks that we would normally accept) of climate change having severe and possibly catastrophic impact. Ignoring this possibility, and regarding anyone who suggests this as being alarmist, is essentially sticking our heads in the sand and hoping for the best.

  42. Willard,

    It might be more prudent to say that your views are based on the evidence you got.

    Yes, that may be a better way of expressing what I meant.

  43. verytallguy says:

    Victor,

    the tone of your reply suggests some frustration, I think born from my poor explanation.

    I was not trying to argue that scientists should necessarily lead the communication effort, or that all scientists communications should be emotional appeals. I was merely agreeing with Martin Rees that “scientists should speak out, and that it was obvious that we should do what we can to minimise the risks associated with these existential threats” and adding that “speaking out” probably involves speaking emotionally to have an impact.

    Pblackmar

    On renewable energy I like “Without Hot Air”, though it is rather UK specific. Energy storage and the transport sector are the two biggest challenges, I think.

    http://www.withouthotair.com/Contents.html

    I’d advise against going down your rabbit hole of conspiracy theories.

  44. Joshua says:

    ==> “I find it incomprehensible that a responsible scientist could write:…”

    I don’t find it in the least bit incomprehensible. Consider this:

    http://climatechangenationalforum.org/tail-risk-vs-alarmism/

    Do you think that Anders is saying anything different than Emanuel is saying in that article?

    I have to say, your arguments remind me of the arguments I see among “skeptics.”

  45. Victor,
    Just to be clear, my view is certainly not that scientists should feel obliged to speak out. My view – as you may have realised – is more an objection to those who try to demonise scientists who speak out, rather than a criticism of scientists who choose not to.

  46. Michael 2 says:

    “adding that ‘speaking out’ probably involves speaking emotionally to have an impact.”

    I am conflicted when I see emotion in a scientist. It does touch me but it simultaneously discredits the objectivity of that scientist.

  47. Michael 2 says:

    Pblackmar says: “We spend so much time and money arguing about causation and consequence”

    Group formation. Observe who says “we”. There’s your group. Solutions come later (maybe).

  48. Andrew Dodds says:

    vtg –

    Indeed – without the hot air also makes the point that stopping global warming (without making big lifecycle sacrifices) really dosen’t cost *that* much.

    (Some may point out that ceasing import dependence on places like Russia and Saudi Arabia might be worth doing for it’s own sake, but that would be just rubbing it in)

    cosmicomics –

    I think the ‘catastrophe’ vs ‘bad’ comes down to things like:

    – Will the WAIS take 50 years or 500 years (or 5000?) to collapse?
    – Will the permafrost break down in years or decades?
    – Will we (or at least the West) keep political stability together in the face of change or not?

    And so on; the speed makes the catastrophe, and we really don’t have a good handle on that, yet.

  49. Michael 2 says:

    willard (@nevaudit) says: “Ed Begley, Jr. comes off as a truly inspired man. …Ed pauses and reflects before his carefully-worded thoughts. His ideas ring of originality, and you truly get the impression that maybe he has never said, or even thought to say, the words coming out of his mouth until the moment they are spoken.”

    It bore repeating. If you want me to believe that you believe your own words, this is the way to do it. It doesn’t mean they are true, but it means you believe them, and based on your credibility on the topic it could be extremely persuasive.

    A close cousin is willingness to engage in (limited) challenge to that knowledge. What is true to day will still be true tomorrow and there’s no danger in engaging in debate, other than losing time, which itself is a thing to be carefully balanced with the utility of debate.

  50. M2,

    I am conflicted when I see emotion in a scientist. It does touch me but it simultaneously discredits the objectivity of that scientist.

    In a sense, you’re illustrating my point. As an individual you’re feel to believe that a scientist who expresses emotion loses objectivity. However, as far as I’m aware, there is no evidence to suggest that a scientist who is emotional about a subject has really lost objectivity. That’s simply your impression.

  51. M2,

    If you want me to believe that you believe your own words, this is the way to do it. It doesn’t mean they are true, but it means you believe them, and based on your credibility on the topic it could be extremely persuasive.

    Here’s my issue with this. You appear to be saying that if scientists could find a way to sound as though they can be trusted and that they’ve truly thought carefully about what they want to say, you’d trust them more. IMO, this is what politicians and marketing people do. I’m much more likely to trust someone who appears to be speaking completely honestly and genuinely, rather than someone who appears to have crafted what they want to say so as to appear credible.

  52. Michael 2 says:

    willard wrote “Of course it can be refuted, otherwise you’d be a logician. And even then.”

    I’d read this blog just to see your sharp wit in action! But of course there’s quite a bit more.

  53. verytallguy, then we agree. ATTP, I already thought we agreed.

    Naturally scientists have the right to speak out and do so in whatever way they feel fit.

    If there were somewhere a lone scientist that knew of a problem no one knew about or had a solution that no one else knew. That scientist has an obligation to speak. But in for climate change, that is not the case. Far from it.

    The problem is know and will have to be solved by all of us.

  54. verytallguy says:

    M2

    I am conflicted when I see emotion in a scientist. It does touch me but it simultaneously discredits the objectivity of that scientist.

    It’s a great Catch-22, isn’t it?

    Speak technically and you don’t connect with your audience
    Speak emotionally and you audience doesn’t trust your objectivity

    There’s another way to interpret this, of course – that there is an audience who will only listen to things they want to hear.

  55. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP: “I’m much more likely to trust someone who appears to be speaking completely honestly and genuinely, rather than someone who appears to have crafted what they want to say so as to appear credible.”

    I believe that is a restatement of the original statement quote by Willard. The key element seems to be lack of “crafted” commentary. A person doesn’t have to think about what he has said to whom if he is speaking from his knowledge.

    It isn’t completely reliable. My teenager has the art of persuasion perfected even when telling a whopper of a lie.

  56. Victor,

    ATTP, I already thought we agreed.

    I always agree with you. Just making sure you agree with me 🙂

  57. anoilman says:

    Anders, well said. As usual someone on the denial side saying something ‘truthy’ and not backed with facts. “However, as far as I’m aware, there is no evidence to suggest that a scientist who is emotional about a subject has really lost objectivity. That’s simply your impression.” Here’s James Hansen’s Ted Talk after he was arrested;

    JSAM: This bears repeating; Libertarian Ideology (like other religions) is the natural enemy of science;
    http://www.shapingtomorrowsworld.org/lewandowskyLib.html
    http://www.theguardian.com/science/blog/2014/aug/29/libertarian-ideology-natural-enemy-science

    The surprising math of Cities and Civilizations;

    Pblackmar: I think that globally we are looking for new technology. Right now, we really have solar, wind, and batteries. There is no reason we can’t switch right now, but it isn’t just more costly, its an upfront capital expenditure, and a bitter pill to swallow. The people most afraid of this disruptive shift, are your local utilities;
    http://grist.org/climate-energy/solar-panels-could-destroy-u-s-utilities-according-to-u-s-utilities/

  58. GregH says:

    In addition to pblackmar and AnOilMan’s points above, we consistently undervalue increases in energy efficiency as one of the changes needed to reduce GHG emissions. Amory Lovins used to use the example of nuclear plant construction in the US circa 1980: If you used the capital cost of the six plants under construction at the time to fund residential and industrial building re-insulation and purchase of more efficient heating, you could save the entire energy output of those plants AND create thousands of jobs in the process. Of course, big utilities were and are opposed to this kind of thinking. Likewise the happy menage-a-trois of the auto, oil and road-building industries.

    I think we have a blind spot about efficiency because it runs exactly counter to the fundamental belief that our economy must grow at 2 – 4% percent annually (ideally more) – as someone once called it, “the philosophy of the cancer cell”. Which leads to people saying things like, “oh well, you just want us to go back to the Stone Age” in discussions about slower growth and reducing CO2 outputs, because they can’t face the possibility of even a minimal reduction in consumption. Seriously, what would be wrong with using a bit less of everything and prolonging modern civilization a couple more centuries? It’s the headlong rush to disaster in the name of “strong financial growth!” that depresses me, when there are plenty of alternatives.

  59. Michael 2 says:

    GregH wrote “”we consistently undervalue increases in energy efficiency”

    We? Not me! The ultimate energy efficiency is a thing that can be calculated with precision and approaching it becomes difficult, consuming more energy to get that last percent than you recover in efficiency.

    “I think we have a blind spot about efficiency”

    I don’t have that blind spot. Maybe you were thinking of someone else.

    “fundamental belief that our economy must grow at 2 – 4% percent annually”

    The economy should track the population growth if you wish per-capita share of GDP to be unchanged.

  60. And I thought that improvements in efficiency are the main reason an economy growths.

  61. Victor,
    Yes, I was going to say the same. Surely that’s one of the few ways in which an economy can actually grow. Find a way to produce something more cheaply than in the past so that either more people have access to it, or the people who use it spend less money on it and can then spend what they’ve saved on something else.

  62. verytallguy says:

    Victor, ATTP,

    And I thought that improvements in efficiency are the main reason an economy growths…can then spend what they’ve saved on something else.

    Remember Jevons – the invention of the modern steam engine far more efficient than previous models did not reduce use of coal – in fact the exact opposite,

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

    I’m sure I’ve read that the current govt scheme to subsidise home insulation has not achieved the reductions in energy use expected because as homes become more efficient, people tend to turn up the heating rather than save money.

  63. vtg,
    It’s not obvious, though, that those examples mean that the improved efficiency didn’t drive some kind of economic growth.

  64. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    indeed they did drive economic growth – partly through increased consumption of the very commodities which the use of was more efficient.

    I’m not saying this is inevitable in all cases, just that increased efficiency per se does not necessarily reduce consumption – and there are many cases where the precise opposite has happened. Energy efficiency is not a magic bullet..

    I’ll see if I can find the home efficiency stuff for a recent example/

  65. vtg,
    Yes, I agree. I wasn’t suggesting that it did. I see your point. I guess my point (and I think Victor’s) is that there is no obvious reason why people should oppose improved efficiency. Even if it doesn’t reduce consumption, it’s unlikely to damage economic growth.

  66. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    I agree.

    More widely, energy efficiency in homes (and building standards in general) are a good example of market failure.

    If unregulated markets worked well, we shouldn’t need building standards at all. They don’t however work at all well where upfront investment is needed and the quality of that is not immediately obvious to the purchaser.

    So, to avoid cowboy builders, we insist on the inspection of foundations during construction.

    This is a great example of where the wonderful carbon tax which would solve all of our problems would not work. Building efficiency needs regulation. So does meeting CO2 targets in general – we need a mix of regulation and incentives.

  67. vtg,

    we need a mix of regulation and incentives.

    I agree. I think a carbon tax would be a good way to properly price the use of carbon, but I don’t think that – it alone – would necessarily be very effective at reducing CO2 emissions.

  68. cosmicomics says:

    Joshua

    This is part of Kerry’s conclusion:

    “Do we not have a professional obligation to talk about the whole probability distribution, given the tough consequences at the tail of the distribution? I think we do, in spite of the fact that we open ourselves to the accusation of alarmism and thereby risk reducing our credibility.”

    I agree with that, but my argument is not about tail risk. My argument is based on what we already have evidence for, and which in my opinion justifies calling climate change catastrophic.

    “The glaciers of the temperate and low latitude mountain ranges in the Rockies, the Andes, Alps, Pyrenees, Caucasus, Scandinavia, the African Rift, Indonesia and the Southern Alps are disappearing fast and will be mostly gone by 2100, no matter what we do with future emissions. Even the glaciers of the mighty mountains of South Central Asia, the so-called third pole, will be more than half gone in just a few generations.”
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/athabasca.html

    For those who depend on melting water from glaciers for their drinking water and agriculture, this development will be catastrophic. Do you agree, or do you believe that the hitherto unseen altruism of wealthy countries, which by that time will be increasingly burdened by their own climate catastrophes, will alleviate the problem?

    “Unprecedented climates will occur earliest in the tropics and among low-income countries, highlighting the vulnerability of global biodiversity and the limited governmental capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change.”
    The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v502/n7470/pdf/nature12540.pdf

    In other words, climate change has to be evaluated within specific ecological and social contexts. It will be catastrophic in many parts of the world before it’s catastrophic in developed countries.

    Here’s more on the unavoidable ecological consequences of climate change, unavoidable because they’re already happening:
    http://e360.yale.edu/feature/at_edge_of_peruvian_andes_tracking_impacts_of_warming/2570/
    http://environmentalforest.blogspot.dk/2013/06/ecological-consequences-of-global.html
    http://phys.org/news/2013-07-evolution-climate.html

    Then there’s the matter of extreme weather and global food supply, which disproportionately affects poor countries, and can and has led to domestic violence. Changing precipitation patterns will lead to more torrential rains and more severe droughts. Heat extremes will be more severe and more common.

    No pause in the increase of hot temperature extremes
    Sonia I. Seneviratne, Markus G. Donat, Brigitte Mueller and Lisa V. Alexander
    Observational data show a continued increase of hot extremes over land during the so-called global warming hiatus. This tendency is greater for the most extreme events and thus more relevant for impacts than changes in global mean temperature.
    http://thingsbreak.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/no-pause-in-the-increase-of-hot-temperature-extremes.pdf

    From the Australian report, Heatwaves: Hotter, Longer, More Often
    “1. Climate change is already increasing the intensity and frequency of heatwaves in Australia. Heatwaves are becoming hotter, lasting longer and occurring more often.
    › Over the period 1971–2008, both the duration and frequency of heatwaves increased, and the hottest days during heatwaves became even hotter.
    › Hot days have doubled in Australia in the last 50 years…
    2. Climate change is making heatwaves worse in terms of their impacts on people, property, communities and the environment. Heatwaves have widespread impacts, ranging from direct impacts on our health to damage to ecosystems, agriculture and infrastructure.” Key findings
    “As with the 2003 European heatwave, the 2010 summer in Russia matched climate projections for the latter half of the 21st century, based on a scenario of no emission reductions until mid-century (IPCC SRES A1B; Barriopedro et al. 2011). Rahmstorf and Coumou (2011) calculated with a likelihood of around 80% that the Russian 2010 heatwave would not have occurred without the influence of human-caused climate change.” p.16
    http://www.ehawa.org.au/documents/item/748

    Finally, you write:
    “I have to say, your arguments remind me of the arguments I see among
    ‘skeptics.’ ”
    Document your assertion.

  69. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Willard @ 12.17 pm, here’s a very early definition of ‘lukewarmer’ that might appeal to you. It’s from a 1910 or earlier edition of _The Postal Record_, the journal of the (US) National Association of Letter Carriers.

    ‘Luke-warmer, a man who joins and pays dues into an organization formed for the purpose of bettering his condition, and then does everything in his power to prevent it from accomplishing its purpose.’

    Source: GooBoo snippets. Context: A grumble about people who joined the mailperson’s union but didn’t really belong. ‘Personally they are good fellows, but from the standpoint of Branch membership, very poor. Now for a heart-to-heart talk with them: Do you ever stop to think why you are in the N. A. L. C.? You believe and know that it can accomplish much good. But suppose we were all like you. What could we accomplish if none of us ever attended…’ (Now read that again in the voice of Captain Mainwaring from _Dad’s Army_. Spooky, no? Was Mainwaring perhaps a left-leaning postal worker in America circa 1910?)

  70. cosmicomics says:

    Andrew Dodds

    Please see my reply to Joshua. I’m not referring to changes that will occur over centuries. I’m referring to changes that are occurring now, and that, in the absence of magic or divine intervention, will continue to get worse.

  71. cosmicomics,

    “Do we not have a professional obligation to talk about the whole probability distribution, given the tough consequences at the tail of the distribution? I think we do, in spite of the fact that we open ourselves to the accusation of alarmism and thereby risk reducing our credibility.”

    But that is what I was doing. Talking about the whole probability distribution means considering the whole range : it could be right in the middle, it could be better than we might expect, it could be worse. That’s precisely why I said what I said.

    I think you’re either mis-interpreting what I’m saying, or are trying to argue that I should be making stronger statements based on the available evidence. However, as far as I’m concerned, none of the links that you’ve provided really allow one to state that it will be catastrophic. They allow us to say – in my view – that if we choose to follow a high (or even medium) emission pathway, there is a good chance (relative to the level of risk that we’d normally accept) that the impacts could be catastrophic.

    I’m not entirely sure what you’re actually getting at. I don’t dispute any of the evidence you’ve presented. You appear to be suggesting that we should make stronger statements and I don’t see why such a discussion is particularly constructive. I think that is the point that Joshua is trying to make, but I’ll let him speak for himself.

  72. Michael 2 says:

    cosmicomics says: “I do, though, find it very wrong to allow climate septics to define how words are perceived.”

    I see, whereas you are perhaps comfortable re-defining ordinary and neutral words such as “denier”, “skeptic”, “libertarian” — the latter of which AnOilMan is claiming to be a religion.

    What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. I am happy to help reclaim some original meanings of words and in that manner hopefully reduce confusion.

    But it may be too late. One of my helpdesk duties, incredibly tedious, is explaining which way a “backslash” leans. You see, slash is / and backslash is \ but a generation of script kiddies grew up on MS-DOS calling \ a slash, which meant that / must be the backslash. The same ones call ; a dot-comma and my favorite telephone call was “why are my commas in the air?” I explained it is called an apostrophe.

    So there’s definitions of words which I can help define, but how they are perceived is really not in my power to change nor, fortunately, yours.

  73. Michael 2 says:

    Cosmiccomics says “allow climate septics to define how words are perceived.”

    Choosing a clever misspelling of the word changes how I perceive *you*.

  74. Joshua says:

    cosmicomics –

    ==> “Document your assertion.”

    I was referring to this:

    ==> I am appalled by this post

    and

    ==> “I find it incomprehensible that a responsible scientist could write:…”

    That seems to me like saying “I find it incomprehensible that someone would approach these issues differently than I,” as opposed to understanding that reasonable people can approach these issues in different ways. That is the kind of argumentation that I frequently find among “skeptics”

    But even more I was referring to this:

    ==> ” I do, though, find it very wrong to allow climate septics to define how words are perceived.”

    I have seen, essentially, that argument before from others and I have said to them as I have said to you; it seems like a poorly conceived argument. I already made it clear why I think it is a poor argument. You didn’t respond. and I’m not sure how we can go further with that discussion until you respond, but generally I think that argument reflects a kind of lack of skepticism that I frequently see in arguments from “skeptics.”

    As for the other aspect of your response.

    The Nature article is to an abstract, and I can’t evaluate the confidence intervals contained therein. I followed the 360-Yale link and saw that the article speaks to a range of possible impacts. I can’t evaluate the environmentalforest link because when it talks of estimates of extinctions it isn’t clear how those estimates are grounded in the various levels of estimated sensitivity.

    The phys.org link contains this quote: ““But if global temperatures are going to rise by about 4 degrees over the next hundred years as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, that is where you get a huge difference in rates. What that suggests overall is that simply evolving to match these conditions may not be an option for many species.” and I know that a projection of a change of 4 degrees over the next century is necessarily scientifically grounded in a range of probabilities.

    I don’t claim to have a certain understanding of the science, but my understanding is that catastrophic outcomes are properly viewed as a matter of risk assessment in the face of uncertainties w/r/t the rate and magnitude of projected climate change.

    Then there is another discussion as to whether being “alarmist” is likely to be constructive. (Personally, I find the “alarmist” label to be counterproductive because it is meant to be demeaning and dismissive and it is meant to conflate appropriate concern about the potential of significant impact on the climate from ACO2 with inappropriate certainty that ACO2 will lead to catastrophe – but that’s kind of beside the point.). I think that in the political realities of the polarized dialog about climate change, it isn’t likely to be productive. I don’t really know for sure, but I think there is evidence to support my position. I certainly don’t think that there is evidence to support what seems to be your certainty that being more “alarmist” will have a more productive impact than an approach that talks of risk in the face of uncertainty. When I see people making that kind of argument, that seems to me to be more certain than what is substantiated by the available evidence, I think of the kinds of arguments I so frequently see at “skeptical” websites.

  75. cosmicomics says: “The glaciers of the temperate and low latitude mountain ranges in the Rockies, the Andes, Alps, Pyrenees, Caucasus, Scandinavia, the African Rift, Indonesia and the Southern Alps are disappearing fast and will be mostly gone by 2100, no matter what we do with future emissions. Even the glaciers of the mighty mountains of South Central Asia, the so-called third pole, will be more than half gone in just a few generations.”

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/athabasca.html

    For those who depend on melting water from glaciers for their drinking water and agriculture, this development will be catastrophic. Do you agree, or do you believe that the hitherto unseen altruism of wealthy countries, which by that time will be increasingly burdened by their own climate catastrophes, will alleviate the problem?

    It is not my field, but I thought that at least for the Alps, the melting of the glaciers will not change the river levels much. The melt water comes from snow, not so much from glaciers.

    No pause in the increase of hot temperature extremes
    Sonia I. Seneviratne, Markus G. Donat, Brigitte Mueller and Lisa V. Alexander
    Observational data show a continued increase of hot extremes over land during the so-called global warming hiatus. This tendency is greater for the most extreme events and thus more relevant for impacts than changes in global mean temperature.

    http://thingsbreak.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/no-pause-in-the-increase-of-hot-temperature-extremes.pdf

    At the moment we know very little about the non-climatic changes in extreme temperatures. Such non-climatic changes can be quite severe, when it comes to the tails of the distribution, more severe as for the mean of the temperature distribution. Changes in extreme weather is the front of the research and will stay so for many more years, it is not the settled part.

  76. anoilman says:

    Victor Venema: Its always annoying when you experts show up. 🙂

    I think where there is consistent glacier melt, local regions have been eager to drink up that extra water. I’d be curious to know how that’s regulated. (If it crosses an international border it likely is.)

  77. Michael 2 says:

    verytallguy says “There’s another way to interpret this, of course – that there is an audience who will only listen to things they want to hear.”

    I believe that is true of all audiences. An audience is inherently self-selected and aligned to a topic.

    “Speak technically and you don’t connect with your audience”

    Unless of course the audience is technically literate and there for that purpose.

    “Speak emotionally and you audience doesn’t trust your objectivity”

    If you connect on emotions then they don’t care about your objectivity.

    But I speak of self-selected audiences and an appropriate speaker.

    The global audience is mixed. No matter what you say, some people will like it and some will not; but on average, the dislike tends to be stronger than the like. That’s because if they agree with you, they like you, but you have accomplished nothing since agreement already exists. If they don’t agree with you on some topic, they will not like you, and by then have no interest in discovering that perhaps they would agree on more than the topic that resulted in closing the door on further listening.

    The better approach to a global audience seems therefore to have more than one speaker. Each speaker will be heard only by that portion of the audience that is moved by his or her style, and discounted by the rest of the audience, but that’s okay and inescapable.

    The other speaker uses a different style and reaches the people that had already discounted the first speaker.

    For instance, the ridiculous advertisements about falling polar bears and burning kittens causes me to discount the scientific authority of their makers (Sierra Club, so far as I can tell) but does not besmirch the reputations of actual scientists (unless of course prominently featured in one of these “emo” pieces).

    Some passion seems appropriate but it could be interest or excitement in the *process*, not fear of climate catastrophe. For instance, core drilling might reveal something unexpected and thus inherently exciting. That’s good! Be excited, be passionate for *science* not for a 100 year prediction.

  78. Pure gold, Vinny. You win. Thank you.

  79. Michael 2 says:

    verytallguy suggested “http://www.withouthotair.com/Contents.html”

    Fabulous! Bookmarked. I’ve gotten through about 1/4 of it already. It is just what I have wanted — a quantified approach to energy and alternatives. The “5W’s” of energy creation and consumption.

    It’s a bit depressing actually. What I *feel* is that there is no adequate substitute for fossil fuel in the quantity needed for the population now existing and lifestyles now existing. Substantial change is inevitable but whether it is painful remains to be seen. Anticipating where the worst effects will be, and then arranging not to be there, will separate the prudent from the foolish.

  80. Andrew Dodds says:

    M2 –

    Read the whole book.

    One of the messages is that it *is* possible to run our industrial civilization without fossil fuels (although with nuclear power).

    The other is that for all the sound and fury, the amount we spend on energy alternatives is basically f-all (technical term). We spend far more on – to pick a random example – fighting wars in the middle east to protect oil supplies.

    And the problem with trying not to be in the wrong place.. if things do go very bad, then everyone else may get the same idea.

  81. verytallguy says:

    M2,

    I said,
    there is an audience who will only listen to things they want to hear.

    you said
    Be excited, be passionate for *science* not for a 100 year prediction

    Are you trying to prove my point?.

  82. cosmicomics says:

    ATTP

    To correct some misunderstandings. I realize that you spend time writing this blog because you’re concerned about the issue. Otherwise I wouldn’t (try to) read it. I agree that in writing this blog you are speaking out. Any other conclusion would be untenable. My point wasn’t about scientists speaking out because they’re concerned, but more specifically about scientists expressing their alarm. James Hansen and Michael Mann come to mind. I’m afraid I wasn’t sufficiently clear. Some of my statements were unjustified, and I apologize for that, but I do find you to be not just scientifically cautious, but overly cautious.

    “I think you’re either misinterpreting what I’m saying, or are trying to argue that I should be making stronger statements based on the available evidence.”

    I may have misinterpreted what you were saying, but my argument is that you/scientists “should be making stronger statements based on the available evidence.” Here are some additional links that I think support my case:

    Observational determination of albedo decrease caused by vanishing Arctic sea ice http://eisenman.ucsd.edu/publications/Pistone-Eisenman-Ramanathan-2014.pdf
    Elevation and elevation change of Greenland and Antarctica derived from CryoSat-2
    http://static2.egu.eu/media/filer_public/ac/f2/acf2d697-4a67-433b-bfd4-2a1f569cdb86/tc-2014-18.pdf

    (The James Hansen talk posted on this thread mentions a minimum sea level rise of one meter by the end of the century and the possibility of a rise of five. His talk was given before the more recent findings of accelerated melting. Even a one meter rise would have catastrophic – there it is again – consequences for millions of persons. I’d also mention that the IPCC’s projections of Arctic sea ice melt and sea level rise have been underestimates.)

    The projected timing of climate departure from recent variability
    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-5-JeCa2Z7hbkhMcEp4alpxSUE/edit?pli=1

    Regarding Kerry, I don’t disagree that that’s what you were doing. The difference, I think, is that where you see catastrophes as a tail risk, I see them as an unavoidable consequence of what has happened and what’s in the pipeline. The Mora paper that I’ve linked to notes that ocean acidity already is outside the bounds of normal variability. Shellfish off the American west coast are already suffering as a result.

    I will again underline that I speak as a layman, and not as someone who has any scientific credentials. Also, I’m not using catastrophe as synonymous with existential threat.

    One final point:

    I do, though, find it very wrong to allow climate septics to define how words are perceived.
    “I would suggest that what you’ve done in your comment is not wildly different to what I was criticising “skeptics” for doing. Trying to control the dialogue by criticising the character of those who’s message they disagree with.”

    Here I think you’re misinterpreting me. I am in no way “trying to control the dialogue by criticising the character of those who’s message they disagree with.”
    […of those whose message…] I’m simply saying that when septics use a term like CAGW, it shouldn’t deter those who see climate change as catastrophic from using the word. And that their use of the word alarmist shouldn’t disqualify that word or hinder the use of alarming to describe (aspects of) climate change. Having carefully reread your post, I don’t think we disagree on this. I regret that my language wasn’t more circumspect.

  83. cosmicomics says:

    Joshua

    I wasn’t able to find a link to the Mora paper yesterday. Luckily, I had it bookmarked and can give it to you now:

    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B-5-JeCa2Z7hbkhMcEp4alpxSUE/edit?pli=1
    http://www.pacificclimate.org/sites/default/files/publications/pcic_science_brief_N-Mora.pdf

    “If the paper’s conclusions are correct – and they are broadly consistent with the IPCC’s – a shift to new climate norms is going to happen at some point before the century’s out.”
    http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2013/10/apocalypse-norm-climate-departure-assessment- prompts-doomsday-media-coverage/

    Among other things, the paper states that ocean acidification already is outside recent variability. I believe the paper has been criticized for not giving a range of years. In this particular context I don’t think that’s important.

    Re. your caveat about 4°. I think focusing on that is a mistake. The temperature range in the tropics, the region richest in biodiversity, is much smaller than the range in latitudes with seasons. Ecosystems there will have greater difficulty adapting to temperature changes. Also, another paper by the same author underlines that some links within ecosystems are more vulnerable than others, and the collapse of these links could cause the system to collapse.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-10-global-interactions-species-dangerous-high.html

    Re. your documentation: Having carefully reread the post I’ve found that my first phrase was unwarranted. I understand your objection to the following phrase, but my intention was not to raise myself above others, but to object to a statement that I thought (and still think) underestimated the threats from climate change. Should I have worded the phrase differently, yes.

    Finally, this:

    “But even more I was referring to this:
    ==> ” I do, though, find it very wrong to allow climate septics to define how words are perceived.”
    I have seen, essentially, that argument before from others and I have said to them as I have said to you; it seems like a poorly conceived argument. I already made it clear why I think it is a poor argument. You didn’t respond. and I’m not sure how we can go further with that discussion until you respond, but generally I think that argument reflects a kind of lack of skepticism that I frequently see in arguments from “skeptics.”

    I have a bad excuse for not responding: I didn’t notice your reply until you made me aware that it existed. (I still haven’t had time to look at all comments on the thread.) I don’t understand what you mean when you write, “I disagree with you strongly w/r/t the mechanism of how “words are perceived.” Please elaborate.
    My point is that when septics use CAGW and alarmist as pejoritives, they are trying to prevent us from using them or related terms in our descriptions of the consequences of climate change. They are trying to limit us to words that don’t reflect the seriousness of the problem. We can’t prevent them from doing this, but we can refuse to accept their constraints. I’m sure you’re aware of Republican strategist Frank Luntz’s attempt to remove global warming from the vocabulary because he felt it sounded more threatening than climate change. This is the kind of thing I’m referring to, and I fail to see how arguing against that’s equivalent to arguing like a septic.

  84. Vinny Burgoo says:

    cosmicomics, ‘alarmist’ is and always has been a pejorative. New Shorter OED: ‘n. & a. (a) n. a person who raises alarm on slight grounds, a panic-monger; (b) adj. of or pertaining to alarmism or alarmists: L18.’ Alarmism: ‘n. alarmist behaviour or tendency M19.’

    You word you want is… Dunno. ‘Climactivist’?

  85. cosmicomics,

    Some of my statements were unjustified, and I apologize for that, but I do find you to be not just scientifically cautious, but overly cautious.

    Fair enough, but that’s still a judgement that I get to make.

  86. Victor Venema (@variabilityBlog) says:

    @verytallguy

    Another “frustrated” climate scientist: Are quiet climate scientists really our biggest problem?

    As a community, climate scientists should talk more and listen more. We should talk better and listen better. But the recent scapegoating of climate scientists as the chief problem in our collective response to climate change is Australia saddens me.

    In their editorial last weekend, The Age had the audacity to suggest that climate scientists have failed to muster “the pluck and public responsibility needed to get out there and ensure the broader community understands the facts.”

  87. Victor,
    I have a lot of sympathy with the view expressed in that blog (in fact it’s a blog I’ve come across before and I’ve always been impressed by what’s written there). I sometimes feel a little guilty that it may appear that I’m criticising climate scientists for not speaking out more, but that’s not really what I’m getting at. If they did, I’d be very supportive and I’m happy to criticise those who are critical when they do.

  88. Steve Bloom says:

    You’re prominently out in public on a fraught issue, however anonymously, and you think others don’t constantly judge you, Anders? Is there room on your planet for me?

    Oh, maybe you mean you don’t feel constrained by those judgements. That’s a little different. 🙂

  89. Steve,

    You’re prominently out in public on a fraught issue, however anonymously, and you think others don’t constantly judge you, Anders?

    Oh, no, I absolutely think people are judging me.

    Oh, maybe you mean you don’t feel constrained by those judgements. That’s a little different.

    I’d like to think that I’m not constrained by their judgements, but if I did, I think that would illustrate a lack of self-awareness. At best, I take the criticisms into account and see if they’re worth considering. At worst, I sometimes avoid saying things so as to avoid criticism.

    In all honesty, I do find this a topic fraught with these kind of issues. The physics is fine; communicating it in a way that is consistent with the science but doesn’t downplay the risks we face while avoiding being undermined by ClimateBallTM moves, is maybe one of the most difficult and frustrating things I’ve ever tried doing.

  90. cosmicomics says:

    Vinny Burgoo
    Thanks. I didn’t know that. I only recall seeing the word alarmist in connection with climate debates, so I figured it was a neologism along the lines of warmist. I should have checked.

  91. Steve Bloom says:

    I think the Age is quite correct at least as far as that quoted passage goes (taking “ensure” figuratively). More climate scientists and scientists in general should speak out. But that doesn’t let any other segment of society off the hook, and of course those most responsible are the ones refusing to listen to what the scientists have already said.

    It’s ironic that the defense of the larger non-speaking out scientific community is necessarily left to those who are already speaking out.

    Brian Cox has some relevant comments in today’s Grauniad. But is it really the case that there are scientists who fail to speak out because they feel compelled to an excess of precision in their statements? I’m sure there must be, but it sounds like more of an excuse than a reason.

  92. cosmicomics says:

    ATTP

    “…that’s still a judgement that I get to make.”

    Of course.

  93. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    And there is was thinking that Martin Rees is a fool. Now Noami Oreskes has predicted the demise of all puppies and kittens before she retires.

  94. Richard,
    And there was me thinking maybe you were about to make some kind of constructive comment …. okay, that’s not true, I wasn’t actually. Same ol’, same ol’. Actually in this case, I don’t understand what you’re getting at at all, so maybe it is constructive in some subtle way.

  95. Steve Bloom says:

    The semantic problem is that denier/denialist and alarmed/alarmist aren’t analogous. English being English, probably there’s a word somewhere for “one who is appropriately highly alarmed,” but if so I don’t know what it might be.

  96. Steve Bloom says:

    Noam Chomsky might have something enlightening to say about the lack of such a word (in common use, anyway). Those in power will want to discourage that sort of thing.

    The modern coinage of “Cassandra” is interesting to consider. It’s arguably applicable, but has an unfortunate implication.

  97. Steve Bloom says:

    The compound “alarm-raisers” would work perhaps, but it’s clumsy.

  98. Victor Venema (@variabilityBlog) says:

    And I am not the only “frustrated” scientist.

  99. I actually found the Brian Cox article a little confusing. I wasn’t entirely sure what he was suggesting. I’m not convinced that there is a message that won’t be misinterpreted given what the MSM seems willing to publish. The problem is certainly not climate scientists and we certainly shouldn’t be laying any blame at their feet.

    What I will say, though, is that I have a suspicion that in the coming decades this will happen anyway. All those who spread mis-information will be doing their utmost to claim that the problem was climate scientists not speaking clearly enough. That still doesn’t make it their fault, though.

  100. Steve Bloom says:

    The article sounds like off-the-cuff quotes rather than a carefully-composed statement, but while the first bit was confusing my take-away was that scientists should e.g. drop the “at 95% certainty” from “we’re confident at 95% certainty that humans are the cause of the current trend.” That seems like good advice.

  101. Yes, I think that was the basic idea. I’ve also just followed a rather heated exchange between Stephan Lewandowsky and Doug McNeall on Twitter in which Stephan was suggesting that climate scientist tend to specify the uncertainty first, rather than afterwards. I don’t know if this is true, but his point is that this make people feel as though we are less certain than maybe we are.

    The other issue with the attribution number is that it’s really 95-100% and the 95% interval is really that anthropogenic influences are responsible for between 80% and 130% of the warming. Hence it should really be 95-100% certain that we’ve contributed to more than 50% of the warming since 1950.

  102. Steve Bloom says:

    “The problem is certainly not climate scientists and we certainly shouldn’t be laying any blame at their feet.”

    IMO that’s entirely wrong. Climate change is a big problem for every segment of society, and each should be doing more. Those segments most aware of the problem have a greater responsibility, all the more so if, as is the case with scientists, they’re in a position to have a greater impact.

    But if we want to get into which segment is most responsible, obviously policy makers are first in line.

  103. Steve,

    But if we want to get into which segment is most responsible, obviously policy makers are first in line.

    Agreed, and they’re also the ones we’ve elected to make the decisions that are the best for our societies. They’re actually responsible for doing something about this if it is deemed necessary to do so (as I, obviously, think it is).

  104. anoilman says:

    Richard S.J. Tol: I predict we will never ever find your mythical 300 papers.

    That’s why I’m offering $1000 to you to produce them.

    But you still can’t find them, can you? And you know as well as I that you never ever ever will. That’s because they don’t exist. But it is nice to see you making stuff up just the same. Holding up the denier side of things as it were.

    Should we up the anti to $10,000? $100,000?

  105. Steve Bloom says:

    Notice how it seems to be easy in public discourse to blame climate scientists or even all scientists for something but relatively much harder to do that for the political/policy making class. The broad faults of the journalism profession also seem to be hard to bring into focus. Maybe there’s a greater expectation that scientists will be behave rationally and responsibly?

  106. Steve Bloom says:

    The other issue with the attribution number is that it’s really 95-100% and the 95% interval is really that anthropogenic influences are responsible for between 80% and 130% of the warming. Hence it should really be 95-100% certain that we’ve contributed to more than 50% of the warming since 1950.

    I suspect Cox would say that this is falling down the same rabbit hole. I would add the wrinkle that “since 1950” is a bit of a distraction since what we’re (“we” since as a climate activist I’m in the same boat with the scientists speaking out) trying to communicate most of all is the nature of the present trend (and of course its future trajectory). Plus technically, and as you know well this point gets made a lot (basically it’s what the “pause” business aims toward, overtly or covertly), we could be responsible for the bulk of the warming since 1950 and the current and likely future trend could still be downward. Let’s not provide these openings.

  107. anoilman says:

    Steve: What you say is harder than it sounds. There is general ignorance in the policy makers (education requirement: Nothing but a good smile), and Journalism (Education Requirement: Arts if that.) And you haven’t even gotten into vested interests, and their reach.

    Kevin Granadia as Desmogblog started calling up journalists and trying to clarify things with them in the early days of Global Warming denial.

    Perhaps active climate scientists could try doing that.

  108. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP says: “Stephan Lewandowsky …this make people feel as though we are less certain than maybe we are.”

    Lewandowsky knows how to reach a certain audience (my brother for instance). Simple messages with the salient part first. You lose attention in 10 words so starting with confidence interval you’ve already lost that particular audience.

    The other half of the formula is “we”. You imply membership in a group and to belong to this group this is the way you must think. Were you to actually define “we” as being a group of elite scientists (we’re smart and you are stupid), that’s quite a different thing and you’d have no audience.

    Lewandowsky is all about consensus. Scientist consensus, social consensus. Make your contrary thoughts “fringe” and disrespectable.

    It doesn’t work on me but I am minority. I can be ignored.

  109. M2,
    The “we” wasn’t really significant. I sometimes write comments quite quickly. If I were to define it, it would be those who actually work in climate science and are experts in the subject (and I guess I used “we” because they represent our best understanding). That doesn’t imply “smart” versus “stupid” in the same way that a doctor’s expert opinion doesn’t imply that everyone who isn’t a doctor isn’t very bright.

  110. Victor Venema (@variabilityBlog) says:

    “Perhaps active climate scientists could try doing that.”

    What do you think our day job is? Why do scientists have to do everything? There are just a few in this entire world and their job is to do science.

    “Those segments most aware of the problem have a greater responsibility, all the more so if, as is the case with scientists, they’re in a position to have a greater impact.”

    A scientist is not more aware. A climate scientists is working on improving a detail of a detail of a detail of the complete picture of climate change. You guys spending so much of your time on climate blogs are more aware than almost any climate scientist, who is just trying to understand the problem at hand a little bit better as those before him and otherwise also has a life.

    “Notice how it seems to be easy in public discourse to blame climate scientists or even all scientists for something but relatively much harder to do that for the political/policy making class. “

    Notice that you just did so yourself.

    A frustrated scientist

  111. anoilman says:

    Victor Venema: Sorry…. didn’t mean for anyone to act on what I said. It is a presumption that people like you have the time to analyze the discourse and hunt for the naughty parrots repeating misinformation. (Then you’ll get accused of not being objective, and vilified by trolls.)

    But then, all you do is sit in chairs and invent stuff all day… So you’ve got nothing but free time. 🙂

  112. I agree with Victor. I think that if we’re going to insist that people speak out, then what about all the other physicists? Brian Cox had an article in the Guardian, Michael Brown writes for the Conversation, I write this, I imagine there are some others I can’t think of right now. At it’s most basic level AGW is physics, so where are all the physicists? I don’t think they should be obliged to speak out, but if we’re going to expect climate scientists to speak out because they recognise the issues, then what about the rest?

    In my view, the basic issue is that we have high-profile people who undermine what climate scientists are saying and imply (or state) that there are real problems with climate science (trust, behaviour,….) and while that’s going on there’s little that can be done (other than trying out best to point out that these people are wrong).

  113. Steve Bloom says:

    Victor, just above that I wrote “But if we want to get into which segment is most responsible, obviously policy makers are first in line.” So no, I didn’t just do that.

    I have a pretty utilitarian view of all of this: People’s responsibility for speaking out is proportional to their ability to affect things.

    And yeah, it would make a big difference if lots of physicists spoke out. And chemists, biologists, etc., etc.

  114. Steve Bloom says:

    FWIW, I would put journalists, financiers and industrial managers behind politicians/policy makers but ahead of scientists in terms of responsibility.

  115. BBD says:

    Perhaps editors and proprietors might be more fairly blamed than the journalists themselves, although the worst offenders are without doubt culpable misrepresenters.

  116. anoilman says:

    I neglected to mention that the primary skills for scientists in general do not include communication. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but the ability to deal with the public is pretty secondary to understanding and applying science.

  117. verytallguy says:

    @Victor Venema

    Hell, I’m just going to apologise some more again. This may be a first and last on a climate blog, so enjoy it while you can 🙂

    Sorry. It wasn’t my intention to criticise climate scientists, merely to encourage the speaking out which Martin Rees desires.

    Also, a “thank you” for the honey bees & helium link which I really liked and identified with.

    But also to reflect that if your message is “FOR FUCKS SAKE STOP AND THINK WHAT YOU’RE DOING – WE REALLY ARE GOING TO FRY IF WE CARRY ON LIKE THIS”* (my paraphrase of the WG3 “likely” range of 2.8 – 7.8 by 2100) then it is necessary actually to convey this with that kind of urgency. Otherwise the significance of the message really is lost in its delivery.

    * Victor and other scientists listening who actually understand this – am I missing something here? ‘Cos when I see 7.8 degrees as a credible century outcome, that really is properly catastrophic, no?

  118. verytallguy says:

    BBD,

    It’s the proprietors, stupid

    match the denial outlet to the proprietor

    Beaverbrook
    Murdoch
    Barclays

    Fox
    Times
    Telegraph
    Mail

    etc ad nauseum

  119. vtg,

    am I missing something here? ‘Cos when I see 7.8 degrees as a credible century outcome, that really is properly catastrophic, no?

    I’ve wondered this same. Is there some temperature rise that would truly be catastrophic and that we virtually know to be catastrophic, or are the uncertainties such that we really can’t say that for any possible temperature rise this century? We have the 2 degree limit, but that is perceived as arbitrary by some (and too high by others) but is there some limit that we absolutely should avoid?

  120. Michael 2 says:

    Steve Bloom says: “Those in power will want to discourage that sort of thing.”

    A bit more of that conspiracist ideation? 😉

    But you are right for what it’s worth. Now, back to the program…

  121. Doug Bostrom says:

    Defining or putting some scope on the term “catastrophic” would be helpful.

    If you’re a government minister in charge of anything to do with long term planning and your remit is located in Bangladesh then climate change is a certain catastrophe of the first order. If 17% of Great Britain or the United States was certain to be submerged, would we be quibbling over whether or not we were facing a catastrophe? Here in the United States hurricane Sandy was called a catastrophic and few argued over employment of the term, yet Sandy was the merest scratch easily buffed out compared to what Bangladesh is facing.

    What we have here is failure of the imagination.

  122. Doug Bostrom says:

    Put another way, if we say that climate change is not going to be catastrophic then we’re drastically revising our consideration of history, and for that matter the English language.

    If we previously described such relatively minor events as Katrina or Sandy as “catastrophic” but we’re now prepared to accept that Bangladesh being 17% submerged is not a catastrophe then the word catastrophe or catastrophic are no longer operative at all.

    So, let’s begin downgrading our description of history. Begin with the many newspaper articles, academic papers etc. employing the word “catastrophic” to describe events less than what Bangladesh faces. Better get busy; there’s a lot of revision to be done.

  123. Michael 2 says:

    Doug Bostrom says “If 17% of the United States was certain to be submerged, would we be quibbling over whether or not we were facing a catastrophe?”

    No. We would be discussing where most of the retired Republicans live and maybe you can live without Florida.

    At any rate, assuming every human on earth agreed with you, what then? Do we wait for a possible catastrophe in a future so distant the nations you have named may not even exist; or self-destruct right now?

  124. verytallguy says:

    ATTP,

    on the scenarios we must avoid, I don’t think I’d frame it that way, as it suggests a fatalist outcome – we’re doomed anyway so why bother?

    Rather I’d say that *anything* we can do to reduce CO2 is positive. I think this is backed up by the science; as temperature rises, impacts rise even faster. So whilst 2C is worse than 1C, 6C is *much* worse than 5C.

  125. Doug Bostrom says:

    As an alternative to redescribing much of history, we could accept that entirely revising the scope of the word “catastrophe” and thus inflicting major incoherence on our cognition and cultural memory in order to protect or help the feelings or agendas of a few sensitives is not worth the bother.

  126. BBD says:

    VTG

    From that HoneybeesandHelium link Victor provided:

    If the mainstream media want scientists to speak louder, perhaps they should give us a taller platform. If the government wants scientists to be more relevant, perhaps they should stop methodically making us and our research irrelevant.

    And there we have it!

    We’re doomed.

  127. verytallguy says:

    And there we have it!

    We’re doomed

    But less doomed at 2 than 3 degrees rise!

  128. BBD says:

    VTG

    Yes, I’m sorry, I was being flippant. Given what Rignot et al. (2014)has to say (the link isn’t aimed at you; I know you know), I’ve an unpleasant feeling that even if we somehow stopped now, our descendants might reasonably argue that catastrophic climate change occurs somewhere in the run-up to 400ppm CO2.

  129. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Doug B, how long before 17% of Bangladesh ‘is certain to be submerged’? No need for great precision. Within a century or three will do.

  130. jsam says:

    “The country’s climate scientists and politicians have come to agree that by 2050, rising sea levels will inundate some 17 percent of the land and displace about 18 million people, Dr. Rahman said.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/29/world/asia/facing-rising-seas-bangladesh-confronts-the-consequences-of-climate-change.html?_r=0

  131. Vinny Burgoo says:

    jsam, thanks but I already found that one. I also found the same claim in a 1998 book by Paul Ehrlich and a 2005 speech by Rajendra Pachauri. But a proper source? Nope.

    Not saying it’s not out there.

  132. jsam says:

    Vinny. What’s your estimate? Show your sources and working out.

    You aren’t very good at admitting you’re wrong, are you?

  133. Vinny Burgoo says:

    jsam, I’ll find out, won’t I? If, that is, someone comes up with a reputable source saying 17% of Bangladesh is certain to be submerged by such-and-such a date because of AGW-driven sea-level rise.

  134. jsam says:

    What’s your estimate of global sea level rise based upon which RCP?

    http://fs.wa4.lucklaboratories.com/placemarks/files/225/golam_sarwar.pdf

  135. Vinny Burgoo says:

    jsam, you’re going at this from the wrong end. It’s not my job to guess at the sea-level rise necessary to drown 17% of Bangladesh or the timescale necessary to produce such a rise. (But OK, 2m local SLR in the delta – corresponding to <1m global – by 2100, relative to 2000.)

  136. jsam says:

    Vinny, you’re going at this from the wrong end. You have been provided references you don’t like. Provide better ones or accept the good ones on the table.

  137. Vinny Burgoo says:

    jsam, OK, I see now. The table on page 12. That looks like it uses the ultimate source for this claim: a doc produced by UNEP in 1989 Thanks for finding it.

    Luckily for one of us, it’s time for bed.

  138. BBD says:

    Vinny

    And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

  139. > a reputable source saying 17% of Bangladesh is certain to be

    … anything, that would be nice, if a bit surprising, for a reputable might no say things like that.

    Asking for certainty and deploring alarmism makes for a nice and comfy bed, not unlike the one Procrustes used to make.

  140. Shub says good night:

  141. Doug Bostrom says:

    Vinny, if you drown because you’re attached to a block of concrete on a tidal flat on a short rope or because you are drunk, fall off a dock and hit your head on a piling, will the difference of 6 hours of suffering more or less make your demise any less catastrophic, for you?

    Superficially it sounds as though you’re very hopeful and keen to be a retrospective editor of history. Perhaps you could begin your revisions by dismissing 20th century Thames flooding as being not catastrophic, thereby relegating the Thames Barrier to the status of alarmist folly.

    Fancy the British wasting their money on the Thames Barrier, when no catastrophe threatened. Tsk.

  142. Doug Bostrom says:

    It is at least a hopeful sign that Vinny is willing to concede that Bangladesh losing 17% of its surface area would be catastrophic. I base that concession on Vinny’s abortive quibble with the 17% statistic which seems unimportant if the loss of 5%, 10% or 17% of Bangladesh is not a catastrophe, for Bangladesh at least (and Pakistan, and… wherever the ripples from that sinking travel).

  143. anoilman says:

    Vinny: From jsam’s document;
    “1 m (high end estimate)”
    “17.5 % of land (25,000 km2). Patuakhali, Khulna and Barisal regions will be most affected”

    This assumes that we burn fossil fuels gang busters, and we see no changes what so ever in melt rates for ice, or discover more entertaining side effects of global warming. We are now witnessing more and more unforeseen negative side effects to global warming. (Like the sudden giving away of glaciers.)

    Did you see “Years Of Living Dangerously”? They interviewed a victim of sea level rise. He was driven off his coastal farm to a city… then things got worse for him, he also happened to have been badly maimed in the Rana Factory collapse. (On the plus side he was easy to track down, its not like he can run any more.)
    http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-bangladesh-factory-collapse-one-year-later/

    I’m not too squeamish about the harms befalling the third world. You know, when I grew up they had all those stories about starvation in Africa. I didn’t really care. But its one thing to see that on TV and its quite another to see it and be able to say, “I did that to them intentionally. I knew what I was doing, and I did it anyways. It was too inconvenient for me to care.”

  144. Doug Bostrom says:

    For some, looming catastrophe looks like this. Needs to be a little closer to home. 🙂

  145. OPatrick says:

    Sir Paul Nurse criticises those who distort scientific evidenceIt’s beginning to have the feel of a concerted* effort. I hope so.

    *and by concerted I mean people with common views coming together and taking action, not some sinister plot to distort scientific evidence and bring down those plucky people from the GWPF

  146. jsam says:

    17% loss of Bangladesh isn’t even a worst case scenario.

    “By mid-century, more than 3 million people stand to be directly affected by sea-level rise in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta.In a worst-case scenario, Bangladesh could lose nearly 25 percent of its 1989 land area by around 2100.”

    http://www.climatehotmap.org/global-warming-locations/ganges-brahmaputra-delta-bangladesh.html

  147. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @verytallguy
    doomed and doomeder

  148. verytallguy says:

    @Richard Tol

    I fear they may be, but I still hope you’ll show mercy and release them

    #freetheTol300

  149. Andrew Dodds says:

    @jsam:

    http://flood.firetree.net/

    Is a handy interactive map to see what SLR will do to any area.. Try a tour of Bangladesh to Korea with +13 meters (SLR currently locked-in on some timescale). Kolkata, Dhaka, Yangon, Bangkok, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Min City, Hanoi, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin, and a chunk of Tokyo. Still, adaptation..

    Is +13m unrealistic? No, it’s about half the expected final SLR from 400ppm.

    All the cities mentioned have been there for a very long time (>1000 years). They won’t be there in another 1000 years, not without some serious geoengineering.

    Another (fiction-target?) catastrophe – at about +15m, the black sea overtops into the Caspian (which is currently ~27m below sea level), potentially flooding a vast area in very short order. You could certainly imagine a dam being built to try and hold the waters back..

  150. Richard’s comment is quite interesting in that it (unintentionally I suspect, but maybe not) illustrates one of the points of this post. Anyone who appears alarmed about the risks associated with climate change is mocked by those who would rather underplay the significance. So, it’s really people like Richard who are most damaging our ability to actually talk about this topic because they attempt to delegitimise anyone who says anything that opposes the message they would like to present.

    Here’s a challenge for Richard. Are you able to construct a plausible argument for your preferred way forward that also explicitly acknowledges that a high emission pathway has a non-negligible chance of more than 5 degrees of warming, relative to pre-industrial times, by 2100? Or, does your argument require undermining aspects of climate science (models, for example) in order for it to appear plausible? To be honest, I’d even be quite impressed if you actually attempted to construct a plausible argument of any sort, as I don’t think I’ve actually seen you attempt that yet.

    [let’s say non-neglible is greater than 1%, but – ideally – lets not quibble over a fraction of a percent here or there.]

  151. Richard S.J. Tol says:

    @Wotts
    Yes. Read my work. We’ve been doing this for a few decades. The most recent papers are with In Chang Hwang.

  152. Richard,
    Funny, I thought you might do the “look at my work” suggestion. I guess I wasn’t being explicit, but I meant “construct an argument in a public forum, such as on a blog”. I have looked at some of your work. In my opinion, what you say in the peer-reviewed literature isn’t quite consistent with what you say publicly. Just my opinion, mind you.

  153. I gave the above because the PDF for Richard’s handwaved paper can’t be opened by Android:

    http://ideas.repec.org/p/sus/susewp/6513.html

    Since it’s on Sussex’ site, Richard might take a look.

  154. I had a quick look at one of Richard’s papers on this topic. The conclusion says :

    This paper has investigated the role of emissions control on reducing the tail-effect of the fat-tailed distribution of the climate sensitivity. The main results are that 1) the option for emissions control effectively prevents the tail-effect, and that 2) if the HARA utility function is used instead of the CRRA utility function, the tail-effect in the sense of Weitzman’s Dismal Theorem does not arise, and that 3) the role of emissions control in reducing the tail- effect is sensitive to the cost of emissions control.

    Maybe I misunderstand this, but it appears to be suggesting that we can reduce the tail-risk through effective emissions control. If so, that seems like a reasonable conclusion.

  155. AT,

    HARA and CRRA are presented in Hwang 2014. The first is a generalization of the former, and helps curb the enthusiasm of the tail. But have a look at Hwang 2014, starting with (1), as economists usually pull their fastest ones right at the beginning.

    Learning is everything.

  156. OK, I now could download HTH [on Linux Mint], the working paper. Here’s the deal:

    Seen from a different perspective, such impact of deep uncertainty implies that we can reap substantial benefits from reducing uncertainty – or learning. This is because learning is faster in the tail, thus thinning the tail of climate impacts. Hwang et al. (2013a) show this hypothesis with their passive learning model. In the current paper we investigate this hypothesis with an active learning model.

    http://www.sussex.ac.uk/economics/documents/wps-65-2013.pdf

    So if lack of knowledge is costy, all one has to do is to increase knowledge to reduce cost. And if you want to optimize that strategy, do this dynamically.

    The lukewarm gambit is getting formalized: well played, Richard!

  157. If you look at Equation 4 in Hwang (2014) then the temperature response to a change in forcing (i.e., T \propto \lambda F(t)) is instantaneous. Given the inertia in the climate system, this would seem to suggest that the learning requires knowing something that will only happen in the future (i.e., the correct form of the equation is C \frac{dT}{dt} = F(t) - \lambda T), or is ignoring warming in the pipeline. I wonder if Richard and collaborators have considered this apparent conundrum.

  158. But AT, time has been omitted for clarity’s sake.

    Also notice the cost in case of omniscience. I wonder how the price for omniscience compares with the standard mitigation scenarios’ cost. If it’s the same ballpark, I say it’s worth a shot: if we could put a foot on the moon, why shouldn’t we be able to develop an omniscient agent?

  159. Has time been omitted? I thought it hadn’t.

    T_{t+1} = \left( \frac{RF_{t+1}}{RF_o} \right)\lambda

    Plus, \lambda is regarded as the equilibrium climate sensitivity, which I think – pedantically speaking – it isn’t.

    I wonder how the price for omniscience compares with the standard mitigation scenarios’ cost. If it’s the same ballpark, I say it’s worth a shot: if we could put a foot on the moon, why shouldn’t we be able to develop an omniscient agent?

    Well, yes.

  160. Andrew Dodds says:

    @Richard

    There are some issues I have with the paper..

    The biggest is that critical information and observations (if we wish to tightly constrain future outcomes) are simply not obtainable.It would be great to have a 500-year thermometer record covering the planet, 100 years of satellite observations of sea ice, or, ideally, a suite of replica Earths and time machines, but these things are unobtainable and unsubstitutable at any price.

    Then there is the issue that eliminating the fat tail doesn’t really fix the problem. Indeed, by definition there is a finite chance that your huge swathe of research convincingly demonstrates, for instance, that there is no stable climate for the earth between 1.5K warmer than preindustrial, and (as an example) 4.5K warmer – meaning that once we break 1.5K we are committed to 4.5K. And by the time you’ve found it out you are already committed to it.

    The graphs showing a narrowing of probability distributions seem a bit weird.. we’re assuming we know what future observations are!

    Finally.. even if we assume that climate sensitivity is in the second quartile of the distribution, i.e. somewhere like 2-2.7K for doubling, then huge impacts as per my post above, such as the loss of the named cities are still very likely. Spending large amounts of time and effort on trying to prove or disprove fat-tail risks is not going to help with this.

  161. I had this line in mind, AT:

    The notation for time is dropped for convenience, unless otherwise confused.

    Time is of no essence when all you need is more knowledge later to minimize carbon taxation now.

    ***

    We should also consider the effect of a chaotic climate on this [learning] function. Perhaps David Young or Dan Hugues should have a word with Richard.

  162. Andrew Dodds says:

    @willard –

    Can’t happen, that would violate the Skeptic Exclusion Principle, which prevents any two contrarian ideas from conflicting with each other. (cf: ‘It’s not warming’ and ‘The warming is natural’)

  163. jsam says:

    More learning reduces costs. If I knew the day I was going to die (and from what) my retirement spreadsheet would be simpler. How long will it take to ascertain my longevity? Will I still be here then?

  164. Joshua says:

    Andrew –

    Can’t happen, that would violate the Skeptic Exclusion Principle, which prevents any two contrarian ideas from conflicting with each other. (cf: ‘It’s not warming’ and ‘The warming is natural’)

    It isn’t that two ideas can’t conflict, it’s just that various ideas are useful at different times. When you’re refuting the notion that climate change presents a risk, it is useful to say that it isn’t warming. But when you’re refuting the notion that “skeptics” say it isn’t warming, it’s more useful to say that the warming is natural.

  165. anoilman says:

    I think its pretty sad that Richard Tol has to personally rely on mythical evidence to hold his views. Alas, its a pretty common trait in the denial circles.

    In any case, since Richard Tol seems to be interested in low brow humor, he’ll be glad to hear that “Dumb and Dumber To” is coming out this year. At least there will be one man in the audience laughing because he just gets it.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2096672/

    #freetheTol300

  166. Joshua says:

    cosmicomics –

    I’m trying to find the time to respond to your September 3, 2014 at 1:23 pm comment.

    I definitely won’t have time right now to do the homework needed to review all your links. I did start writing a comment in response to the other points in your post, but moved the wrong way on my touchpad and lost about 10 minutes of writing and I don’t feel inclined to try to type it again now.

    For the most part, I don’t have much disagreement with what you wrote and I think that the disagreement was more with rhetorical issues than substantive ones. I don’t think that what you wrote in that more recent post is similar to the kinds of “skeptical” arguments I was speaking to – and I think there’s some confusion as to what I was referring to when I compared your arguments to those of “skeptics.” Bottom line is that I don’t have any problem, in the least, with discussing the ways that “skeptics” trivialize complex issues to serve a partisan agenda.

    Richard Tol’s contributions on this thread are a perfect example of what I’m talking about there – but nothing that “realists” do will prevent him from making such facile arguments. I’m quite sure that nothing that anyone says here or in the larger public debate will prevent him from doing so. He, and some other “skeptics” have made it quite clear that they will persist in making facile arguments – and those who are so inclined as to think his arguments valid will continue to do so. As an example they will continue to equate reasonable concern about the impact of ACO2 with “alarmism” – because to do so serves their partisan agenda; nothing you or I do will change that.

  167. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Willard, it wasn’t me that added certainty to Procrustes’ bed. Doug did that. I was objecting to that as much as to the curiously exact, timeframe-free percentage of submerged land.

  168. Doug Bostrom says:

    jsam: More learning reduces costs. If I knew the day I was going to die (and from what) my retirement spreadsheet would be simpler.

    Sure, retirement planning leaving behind a fat residual annuity is folly and alarmist! Just figure out when you’ll die and optimize according to that date. Very logical so long as you ignore the world of possibilities. What could possibly go wrong?

    While it’s an interesting exercise in careful consideration, applied to the real world Richard’s paper is just another contorted attempt to obtain comfort from tortured logic, same as trying to rewrite history with the term “catastrophe” eliminated from the narrative. There’s a weird kind of desperation at work here, when people are so eager to elastically rearrange their cognition to avoid unpacking ugly details.

    So thumbs up on Richard’s paper, stipulating it is safely contained in an academic journal. Just don’t go waving it around at politicians and policymakers keen on selling blindness.

  169. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Doug B, anoilman, jsam: More recent estimates of Bangladeshi land area that’ll be gobbled up by sea-level rise are much less alarming. In 2007, Susmita Dasgupta of the World Bank and her co-authors reckoned that even 5m of SLR would ‘impact’ (not sure what they meant by that: including storm surges as well as permanent inundation?) ~11% of Bangladeshi land; 1m would impact ~1.5%.

    I was surprised by how low these estimates were. Perhaps they ignored subsidence – or perhaps they included it but also included the compensatory sedimentation that has kept the delta alive all these thousand of years. Dunno. I have only skimmed it. PDF googleable. Title: ‘The Impact of Sea Level Rise on Developing Countries: A Comparative Analysis’.

    I can’t find anything more recent expressed in %/SLR terms.

  170. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Here’s a readable overview of Bangladesh’s problems and of misconceptions about them:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S221209631300003X

    He disses John Vidal, so many here probably won’t take it seriously. (So I won’t give you another excuse to dismiss it by revealing that the author is 89. D’oh!)


  171. Can’t happen, that would violate the Skeptic Exclusion Principle

    Talking about violating the Pauli Exclusion Principle, take a gander at the huge “And then there’s physics” mistake in Judith Curry’s new textbook on clouds:
    http://judithcurry.com/2014/09/04/thermodynamics-kinetics-and-microphysics-of-clouds/#comment-624613

    Sheldon or Leonard in particular would get a kick out of Curry’s misapplication of Bose-Einstein statistics to describe water particles. There are no bosons on that bus!

    The Uncertainty Principle Monster rears its ugly head and claims yet another victim.

  172. Michael 2 says:

    verytallguy commented “We’re doomed. But less doomed at 2 than 3 degrees rise!”

    An interesting concept. Less doomed. Slightly dead versus really, really dead.

  173. M2,

    An interesting concept. Less doomed. Slightly dead versus really, really dead.

    That’s one of the points Martin Rees was making. An event that wipes out an entire population is not 10% worse then one that wipes out 90% of the population.

  174. Doug Bostrom says:

    Vinny: In 2007, Susmita Dasgupta of the World Bank and her co-authors reckoned that even 5m of SLR would ‘impact’ (not sure what they meant by that: including storm surges as well as permanent inundation?) ~11% of Bangladeshi land; 1m would impact ~1.5%.

    So you’re prepared to say that flooding leading to construction of the Thames Barrier is indeed folly, because 11% inundation of Pakistan is not catastrophic?

    Here’s an exercise: what percentage of Great Britain was flooded in such a way as to supposedly justify the Thames Barrier, which is described as a means of avoiding catastrophic flooding?

  175. The message of Hwang et al papers is important.

    The message is not that a silver bullet has been found allowing us to sit back and wait, how learning alone solves the problem. The message is that spending on research is even more important and cost-efficient than without taking into account the results of this analysis.

    One of the main obstacles for effective climate policies is the severe lack of knowledge. More knowledge helps in many different ways. To list a few:

    1) With more knowledge more effective solutions for mitigation become available.
    2) When the additional knowledge tells that the future is even worse than thought previously, more knowledge is likely to add to the efforts of mitigation.
    3) When more knowledge tells that some particular approach to mitigation is not effective or cost-efficient in comparison to other approaches, it can be dropped and resources used to something more productive.
    4) It’s also possible that more knowledge tells that some high estimates of warming and damages are virtually certainly excluded. In this case reducing efforts of mitigation might be justified.

    The main point of Hwang is in my interpretation that lack of knowledge supports decisions that are highly precautionary. Such decisions may be far from optimal for development, if the tail risks turn out to be absent. One important part of the uncertainty is related to the very long lead time from the action to it’s ultimate consequences. Reducing this lead time allows for more accurately tuned decisions, which are almost certainly more cost-efficient.

  176. Pekka,
    Broadly, I agree. That was roughly how I interpreted it, although you’ve clearly read it in more detail than I have.

    The main point of Hwang is in my interpretation that lack of knowledge supports decisions that are highly precautionary. Such decisions may be far from optimal for development, if the tail risks turn out to be absent.

    Except that if we can’t increase our knowledge on a timescale that is relevant, then you still have the tail risk and have to make decisions based on the information you have. Once you know that you should have made a different decision in the past, it’s too late to do so.

  177. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Doug: ‘So you’re prepared to say that flooding leading to construction of the Thames Barrier is indeed folly, …’

    No.

    ‘… because 11% inundation of Pakistan is not catastrophic?’

    I didn’t say that, either. I said I was surprised that the estimates weren’t bigger.

    But come to think of it ‘catastrophe’ *isn’t* the right word. 11% over, what… Three centuries? Four? (A five metre rise, remember.) It’d be a problem, certainly, and the loss of land would be regrettable, but calling a process that slow a catastrophe is… Oh, I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. Call it what you want.

    (Over the same time-scale, much of Essex would be submerged by post-glacial rebound even if there were no AGW-driven sea-level rise. Even the people of Essex wouldn’t call that a catastrophe. They’d call it well out of order.)

  178. jsam says:

    Hugh Brammer is an outlier. There is a tail to the distribution too. The consensus is that Bangladesh has a problem with sea level rise.

    From Brammer’s conclusion “Future sea-level rise − and climate change…merely add urgency to the existing need for a national plan to implement relevant measures to safeguard, maintain and accelerate economic and social development in the country in pace with its growing population and its exposure to existing environmental hazards.”

    I, for one, wasn’t surprised to learn that Bangladesh may have more than one problem.

  179. ATTP,
    Speeding up research does not influence significantly the optimal initial policy, but it may influence later policy decisions much more.

    No decision made now will be binding for future decision makers. Present decisions affect the situation where the further decisions are made, but not directly their content.

    Dynamic programming is the mathematical approach suitable for analyzing decisions taking into account the freedom of choice of future decision makers. Hwang et al papers use this approach, which is also a positive sign.

  180. Pekka,

    Speeding up research does not influence significantly the optimal initial policy, but it may influence later policy decisions much more.

    Yes, that would seem true. It still amounts to making the best decision we can make knowing what we know now. Of course if we speed up research then what we know in the future will be – ideally – better than if we didn’t speed up research.

  181. anoilman says:

    Vinny, I read Hugh Brammer’s Paper… so if you want to accept it, you have to throw john Christy under the bus, since Hugh states satellites are wrong. Just saying…

    Sea Level Rise isn’t uniform. Hugh Brammer may be confused by this. (This is really something that the DumbSci can clarify since that is what he does for a living.)

    Another simple mistake here is that Sea Level Rise isn’t linear. Hugh only looks at a 10 year time frame which is reasonably short for straight line guess work estimate. For long term accuracy he’d need a curve, or the straight line number of 10mm/year. (Not 3mm as you and him so easily believed.) You can see where he went wrong here;
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/sea-level-rise-predictions.htm

    He’s also looking largely at historical data, and obviously is not looking at emissions scenarios or even ice melt, or even the tail end of the risk chart. The longer we wait, the higher the risk. Furthermore, his discussion of the last 60 years may not be that useful in that it was largely a period of much lower sea level rise (10cm total?). In that time frame and with that sea level rise deposition would easily eat into much of the harmful effects. That is the jist of his paper.

    Many adaptations are already in the works. As these will be needed even if we all stopped GHG emissions immediately today. One adaptation is developing saline tolerant Rice strains.

  182. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP: “An event that wipes out an entire population is not 10% worse then one that wipes out 90% of the population.”

    Just having a bit of fun with the sound bites. “Less doomed” is like “less pregnant”.

    To me, doom is “doom”, total annihiliation. http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/doom

    But if I recognize that doom can be similar to LD50 — the lethal dose of a poison that kills 50 percent of a population. Some people will be adversely affected, conceivably some people will find their lives enhanced.

    But that invokes individuality. YMMV on a grand scale.

  183. Doug Bostrom says:

    Vinny’s good with the “staked to a tidal flat” mode of demise; not really drowning, because it happens so slowly.

    What concentration of chaos as a result of dislocation will define Bangladesh as a catastrophe, Vinny? Throwing some numbers out (is there a way of referring to mortality without units?): if 1,000/year die as a general outcome of dislocation over fifty years or those dislocation-related deaths are 50,000 over one year, is one outcome catastrophic and the other not?

    By your estimate the Thames Barrier is folly because the annual financial cost and excess mortality avoided by protecting London and environs is so low. Same rule as you’re applying to Bangladesh, except in the case of Bangladesh the mortality if not cost is already arguably higher than what can be expected in London. No threat of catastrophe in either case, apparently, so any alarm or reaction in either case is unwarranted.

    Continue with the historical revision, by all means.

  184. Vinny Burgoo says:

    jsam, I remember that World Bank report because several online newspapers garbled it, most spectacularly The Times of India, which rendered this segment…

    ‘Monsoon: Significant increases in inter-annual and intra-seasonal variability of monsoon rainfall are to be expected. With global mean warming approaching 4°C, an increase in intra-seasonal variability in the Indian summer monsoon precipitation of approximately 10 percent is projected.’

    …as:

    ‘The World Bank report, released Wednesday, said significant increases in inter-annual and intra-seasonal variability of monsoon rainfall are to be expected, with global mean warming approaching 40 degrees celsius.’

    There ought to be an annual prize for that sort of journalism. (The ’40 degrees Celsius’ thing was repeated all over the place but usually in ways that otherwise made sense.)

    But anyway…

    I assume that you pointed to that press release because of this statement: ‘In Bangladesh, 40% of productive land is projected to be lost in the southern region of Bangladesh for a 65cm sea level rise by the 2080s.’ That might be a credible prediction* but it’s not directly comparable with the 17% or the 11% or the 1.5%.

    ===
    *Or it might not be. A very quick skim of the source, Yu et al, available at GooBoo (and in an updated form at geo.uzh.ch), suggests that the report’s ‘the southern region of Bangladesh’ is actually the Sundarbans, one of several southern regions and a special case because it has much less agricultural land than the others. But perhaps my automatic distrust of all scary claims coloured my skimming.

  185. Vinny Burgoo says:

    anoilman, I haven’t finished reading Brammer’s paper yet and haven’t got to the bits where he proposes his own estimates of sea-level rise.

  186. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Doug B, forget 1000 deaths a year. Let’s say 20,000 Bangladeshis die every year because of ‘a general outcome of dislocation’ due to this slow sea-level rise – nay, let’s make it 200,000! And let’s speed up the sea-level rise. Not 1m a century but 100m – oh, but that would mean we’d have to kill even more paper Bangladeshis. Let’s put a cap on this at 200 million Bangladeshis dying every year because of sea-level rise. Would that be a catastrophe? Yes it would. Sorry I ever doubted you.

    As for the Thames Barrier – what the hell are you on about?

  187. anoilman says:

    Doug Bostrom: A Luke Warmer perhaps? 🙂

    Its been my experience in dealing with denialati that they will not respond to reason and generally willfully ignore real solid measurable facts. They also just grab what ever supports their claim without actually understanding it. Many times its pretty obvious they didn’t even read it. Lastly, what you do get is voluminous responses filled with unimportant information.

    That’s ‘by the book behavior’ anyway. Its very consistent.

  188. jsam says:

    The Thames Barrier was used more often last winter than during the whole of the 1990s. Kept me dry. Some others along the Thames weren’t so lucky.

    http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2014/03/the-thames-barrier%E2%80%99s-extraordinary-year-prompts-government-to-reconsider-long-term-flood-plans/

    I’m enjoying Vinny’s flapping over Bangladesh. Your idea of catastrophic is intriguing. I’m somehow rather certain the Bangladeshis aren’t as sanguine about their problems as you. Funny that.

  189. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Sorry, Doug, I see that I didn’t read your comment properly. Straight answer:Yes.

  190. anoilman says:

    Vinny: Read the conclusions;

    “If sea-level is currently rising at 1.3 mm/year, that is by only 13 mm (= 0.5 inch) in 10 years. Even if the rate is 3 mm/year, that is by only 30 mm (=1.2 inches) in 10 years.”

    And compare with RCP 4.5;
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/sea-level-rise-predictions.htm

    Brammer’s numbers have nothing to do with what the year 2100 will look like. But I feel that his thoughts on diverting the rivers to ensure more fresh water coverage, and soil deposition during floods was useful.

    That is after all what he is an expert in…

  191. BBD says:

    Vinny

    Brammer (2013) says:

    Rates of sea-level rise may increase and demand more urgent attention later in the 21st century, but Bangladesh faces serious problems now that need urgent attention if the country is to sustain its ability to feed, support and safeguard the livelihoods of its population in the short and medium terms.

    It’s very difficult to see how the rate of SLR rise will not increase later this century in the absence of emissions policy. You seem to be arguing that we don’t need to bother, based on the essentially spurious argument that right now there are other problems in Bangladesh. I don’t find that logic at all persuasive. Bangladesh isn’t the world, SLR isn’t the only problem being stored up by unabated emissions, and if nothing is done now, whatever gains might possibly be made in Bangladesh and elsewhere will be eventually be overwhelmed and lost as MSL remorselessly rises on the centennial scale.

  192. Doug Bostrom says:

    Per Vinny, 200M deaths/yr=threshold number for catastrophe. Forget all about the Thames Barrier; rewrite WWII as “not a catastrophe” and all the excitement over that slightly-by-comparison-with-200M/yr as mere alarmist fiction. Recent Normandy remembrance just a a bunch of sops wallowing in emotionality, etc. In fact, I don’t think the entire human race has yet ever witnessed a catastrophe. Heck, we’re catastrophe-free. How comforting! 🙂

  193. anoilman says:

    Doug Bostrom: Well… actually we shouldn’t have fought in WWII.

    We could afford not to oppose the Germans, and then with the savings we would easily be able to take far far far larger losses the future when we finally decided to confront them. (That’s Richard Tol logic.)

  194. GregH says:

    Here’s an interesting article about the interaction of oil production and climate change:

    “Unfortunately, the real situation is that the laws of physics, rather than humans, are in charge.”

  195. Eli Rabett says:

    Tell Eli about sea water intrusion into Bangladeshi aquifers

    Then go jump in the newly salty lake

  196. anoilman says:

    GregH: I thought that article was pretty doom and gloom. (And I’m pretty gloomy.) Its also pretty unknowledgeable about geopolitics, specifically dealing with oil.

    Politically, nations that are opposed to West can’t cut us off. They’d go broke, and have millions of angry citizens beating them up. The oil will flow, especially between hated enemies.

    On the environmental side, I’m already seeing the impacts (job losses, financial losses) of the environmental movement. I’m more concerned about that. Keystone is struggling to get done, and the Northern Gateway is dead in the water. Companies can’t even sell their carbon assets in the tar sands, and projects are getting halted.
    http://www.desmog.ca/2013/05/27/Gun-shy-investors-abandon-tar-sands

    I expect to see a more gradual reduction in oil consumption. I think we’re further behind in getting rid of oil powered cars, than swapping out the (coal) power grid. (All electric is still short ranged, or too expensive.) The simple fact is that if prices get too high, then consumers will go elsewhere, but oil is still useful and some folks will be desperate enough to use it. I’m saying that more customers will step up to the plate.

    The biggest concern in my mind is that trillions of dollars are now invested in carbon. When we tax those, they money will pull out faster than you can say “Crash of ’08!”. I think there is way more financial risks than environmental, or supply and demand shifts.

    http://cdn.exxonmobil.com/~/media/Files/Other/2014/Report%20-%20Energy%20and%20Carbon%20-%20Managing%20the%20Risks.pdf

    Ahhh… Good to see Exxon scared shitless, and engineering its facilities to deal with extreme ‘tail’ weather events caused by climate change. Still think the rest of don’t need to worry?
    http://cdn.exxonmobil.com/~/media/Files/Other/2014/Report%20-%20Energy%20and%20Climate.pdf

  197. Andrew Dodds says:

    The WWII analogy is interesting..

    There’s the observation that Germany, despite being effectively under siege for years, fighting on multiple fronts and having its industry bombed, managed to keep going for 6 years. A combination of events far worse than those that are meant to trigger instant collapse now.

    Or the UK – large chunk of imports sunk, food rationing, bombs dropping, most national output going into weapons..

    Any by any sane estimate, dealing with carbon emissions (to zero in ~25 years) and mitigating climate change is a smaller challenge.

    In many ways, the current time is like the ‘Phoney War’ in Britain and France, 1939-40. Even whilst theoretically at war, we were still trying to maintain ‘normality’, still heavily concerned with economics, only making half-hearted attempts to fight.

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

    Quote: When Leopold Amery suggested to Kingsley Wood that the Black Forest be bombed with incendiaries to burn its ammunition dumps, Wood—the Secretary of State for Air—amazed the member of parliament by responding that the forest was “private property” and could not be bombed; neither could weapons factories, as the Germans might do the same.

    Which is the kind of logic we see employed nowadays. Lots of talk, odd bits of small scale action, an implicit ban on anything that might seriously rock the boat. In WWII, it took the fall of France to shake people out of their torpor and actually take the war seriously. You have to wonder what it will take to get people to take global warming seriously..

  198. Eli Rabett says:

    In WWII Germany pretty much had its own way for the first three years of the war, and it was the UK that was under siege.

    In any case humans are now in the interesting position of being a threat to life on the planet, and being able to percieve and handle both internal and external (asteroid impact) threats

  199. Andrew Dodds says:

    @Eli

    Well, Germany was cut off from a lot of the world even from the start of WWII – no shipping whatsoever. The British blockade of German ports was pretty much total from the get-go; people forget about this..

    But in any case – both countries managed huge feats of production in the face of drastic interference. Imaging the US being hit by a 9/11 every day for a year yet doubling industrial production..

    Humans can certainly perceive internal and external threats now, yes. Handle.. perhaps. Let’s wait a century before claiming that one..

  200. Vinny Burgoo says:

    BBD: ‘You seem to be arguing that we don’t need to bother, based on the essentially spurious argument that right now there are other problems in Bangladesh.’

    Nope. Just doing what I usually do (when not doing ‘But Hippies’): nitpicking alarmism, in this case Doug’s free-floating 17%. I then pointed to Brammer because I thought it’d be a useful counter to all simplistic ‘Bangladesh is sinking’ slogans and the simplistic numbers that accompany them, not just Doug’s but the World Bank ones I cited.

    ==
    I finished reading Brammer last night and he does downplay sea-level rise too much. From memory, he got his 1.3 mm/yr from a single station then tried to use it to cast doubt on global rates and on rates that’ll be applicable elsewhere on the delta coast, which (if I have remembered him right) is nuts, especially as he had spent so long insisting that the coast doesn’t have uniform characteristics.

    He also downplayed subsidence, which I had assumed was major all along the outer delta, but he’s probably more reliable on that, being a geologist.

    An informative read – and I’m amazed that someone that old can still think that clearly. I’m sure he can be forgiven a small lapse about something he’s not very interested in.

    ==
    Bonus physics question: Not only are eustatic sea levels rising slightly more slowly in the Bay of Bengal than elsewhere in the world but their rate of rise is increasing more slowly. Why? It has to do with gravity and the density of all the sediment flushed out of the delta. I can understand the answer about every third time I think about it, so simple language, please – and no equations.

  201. anoilman says:

    Andrew/Eli; An interesting factoid… at the end of both world wars, Germany was out of oil.

    The point of the WWII analogy is that burying our heads and thinking that a difficult problem will be easier to solve in the future is fraught with half truths and ignorance.

    The war itself was a cat and mouse game with technology, and Germans were in the lead. So the problem wasn’t even well understood, and it took years and and awful lot of lives just to figure that out.

    It would also assume that damage caused by the Germans was easily quantifiable. I’m not so sure that is true.

    The analogy assumes that we would be able to put Europe back the way it was. Its not like we did a great job of that, and of course the allies argued over the spoils.

    Public sentiment was strong then, but would it be so in the future?

    With Global Warming we have concerns about the technology required to solve it. (Global Warming – Oil and Gas is in the lead at causing damage.) We assume that the damage is quantifiable. (Umm… the tail risks are large and very very bad, for instance, sudden glacier melts which have started to happen.) Can Green House Gas emissions be reversed? (Yes, but there is not data at all that the global ecology will recover from the damage. We do know that some will be irreversible.)

    And how about public sentiment for Global Warming? Some days I feel like I’m listening to a propaganda machine, who’s guns are aimed squarely at climate scientists…
    http://www.desmogblog.com/who-donors-trust
    http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/06/25/millions-behind-bjorn-lomborg-copenhagen-consensus-center

    But at least Bjorn Lomborg is set for life, that’s a load off my mind.

  202. Michael 2 says:

    AnOilMan says “but oil is still useful and some folks will be desperate enough to use it.”

    Like you perhaps in your balmy Canadian winters? 🙂

  203. BBD says:

    Outriggers? Outboards?

  204. Ian Forrester says:

    It is interesting to note that the UK managed to stay ahead of the German technology, or at least manged to limit its effectiveness because of the strong relationship and trust Churchill had with a not too high on the totem pole scientist, Dr. R V Jones.

    Churchill made this comment , “Now I want to hear the truth”, at a high level Cabinet meeting held during the war to discuss the possibility of the use of rockets (V 2) against the UK. High powered scientists such as F. A. Lindemann thought that that was nonsense but R. V. Jones, who Churchill trusted because of earlier predictions, was adamant that aerial photographs showed the rockets at Peenemunde. Churchill made that remark after hearing Lindemann’s presentation and before Jones made his. Jones was active in Scientific Intelligence during the war.

    The quote can be found in “Most Secret War” by R.V. Jones (page 344).

    Too bad today’s politicians are not so interested in hearing and acting on the truth.

  205. anoilman says:

    Michael 2: Its not any different than anywhere else. Mostly the energy used is what is convenient and easily accessed. The province of Alberta doesn’t use Hydro (indeed, the first dam would flood the entire province), but it only charges $2.00 a ton or so for Coal. So with that kind of heavy heavy fossil fuel subsidy, guess what we use? The Tar Sands get a bad rep because we are burning coal to melt rock solid tar. (We could use solar and actually green it up.)

    Hawaii used to use coal, but then switched to oil, and now solar is being deployed just to save money.

    In any case, Geothermal works in Alberta, but its slightly different than the usual deployments you hear about. We need vertical pipes deep into the earth. In milder climates you can go with horizontal digs. Where you have water or water flow, you can just toss a pipe in that (that’s the cheapest).

    Geothermal can be used anywhere.
    http://energyblog.nationalgeographic.com/2013/09/17/10-myths-about-geothermal-heating-and-cooling/

    Typically Geothermal drives up your electricity consumption, but that can easily be handled with a few more solar panels.
    http://graceworks.ca/?p=1490

    In Alberta it doesn’t make much sense to switch to Geothermal because we currently burn coal to generate electricity. (But an all electric BMW i3 DOES have a lower carbon footprint than your average 4 seater gas powered car.)

  206. anoilman says:

    jsam: Every foot of sea level rise represents and exponential increase in energy transferred by waves. Or rather, if you had a structure being hit by 1 foot waves… no problem. 3-4 feet, is positively destructive.

    Your average tourist messes around in 1 foot waves, such as Waikiki. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waikiki

    If a tourist goes to a surf spot like Sunset Beach, they will be verbally abused by the life guards, and physically dragged away from the water if they won’t listen. This is because tourists will (and frequently do) die in that size of surf. http://www.yosurfer.com/surf_reports/nwp/united_states/hawaii_oahu/sunset_beach.htm

    To bring this together, consider that Hurricane Sandy was hitting 1 foot higher because of Global Warming’s component of sea level rise. Waves hitting one foot higher will cause a HUGE amount more damage. No Global Warming = less damage.

    In 2012 Hurricane Sandy damaged, 200,000 homes. In 2014 15,000 people are still displaced.
    http://online.wsj.com/articles/many-displaced-by-superstorm-sandy-still-wait-for-housing-help-1403060886

  207. Eli Rabett says:

    Lindeman was a physical chemist, asking him about rocketry is about like asking Freeman Dyson about climate change. Churchill was right not to.

    Germany being out of oil at the end of the war was a consequence of them losing much of the territory they had conquered in the first three years, so that is not so important

    Andrew, why do you remind me of the headline in the Times of London when there was heavy fog “Fog in the Channel. Continent cut off”

  208. Michael 2 says:

    AnOilMan sez: “To bring this together, consider that Hurricane Sandy was hitting 1 foot higher because of Global Warming’s component of sea level rise.”

    Really? Got proof? One foot higher than what, exactly? Maybe it just felt like being one foot higher for no particular reason. How does it compare to the Long Island Express hurricane of 1938?

    http://www.weather.gov/okx/1938HurricaneHome
    “Peak Wave Height: 50′ at Gloucester, MA”

    http://www.weather.gov/okx/HurricaneSandy
    Graphic shows 32 foot waves “set a new record”. No, it did not set a new record. 50 feet is a lot more than 32 feet. But it might be a new record for that particular buoy (it is; the record goes back only to 1975 for that buoy) and it might be a record for a certain Canadian that *wants* and *needs* Sandy to be All Powerful, Unprecedented and caused by global warming.

    Perhaps Canadian feet aren’t the same as American feet.

  209. Michael 2 says:

    AnOilMan sez: “Your average tourist messes around in 1 foot waves, such as Waikiki.”

    You sure know how to send me down memory lane. I played in waves up to about 3 feet. More than that and they start to become dangerous. The word “exponential” is frequently abused but in this case I can believe it is actually exponential in the mathematical sense.

    I’ve *seen* (and photographed) a 50 footer on the north shore of Oahu during a storm. Its power really is astonishing.

  210. Michael 2 says:

    Vinny Burgoo “Not only are eustatic sea levels rising slightly more slowly in the Bay of Bengal than elsewhere in the world but their rate of rise is increasing more slowly.”

    I’m no expert but I suspect at least a little of it may be rebound as the Himalayan mountains lose mass; but the tectonic forces are still at work plowing India under the Tibetan Plateau, or something like that. Maybe buckle up and raise everything, even Bangladesh.

  211. jsam says:

    Thank you for your idle speculations, M2.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s