## Maybe we really are screwed

I may regret writing this post, but here goes anyway. Although some probably disagree, and I don’t always succeed, I do try to maintain a sense of scientific credibility; include caveats, acknowledge uncertainty, recognise that we really can’t “know” anything, etc. It is, however, tempting sometimes to be a bit more forceful and definite, but I’m just a physicist. Although I think I understand the physical science associated with climate change quite well, there are many related aspects with which I only have a passing familiarity; ecology, chemistry and the carbon cycle, economics, policy making, sociology,….. I may not completely avoid discussing these other aspects, but I feel that if I do have a role to play, it’s in trying to explain the physical science as clearly as I can and in a manner consistent with best scientific practice. Others can work out how to influence society and policy makers, or what it is we should be considering doing.

The current bleaching event and this attribution study leads me to believe that my highly controversial predictions in 1999 were actually conservative

or this one about widespread loss of oxygen to become noticeable in 2030s, which says

A reduction in the amount of oxygen dissolved in the oceans due to climate change is already discernible in some parts of the world and should be evident across large regions of the oceans between 2030 and 2040

I think that maybe we really are screwed. Being measured, not over-reacting, sticking to the evidence, is all good and well, but is going to count for very little if – in 20 or 30 years time – we go “shit, why didn’t we do more? Why weren’t we more forceful and insistent?”. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we should necessarily change how we’re conducting ourselves; it’s clearly a very complex situation with many factors at play. However, that doesn’t alter that climate change is probably irreversible on human timescales and if what we do – or don’t do – turns out to be insufficient to avoid many of the negative impacts, we don’t get to go back and try again.

So, I do sometimes wonder what those who are engaged in this topic (scientists, social scientists, policy wonks, ….) will think if it becomes clear that we’ve done too little, too late. Maybe publicly they’ll say “we might not have done enough, but at least we didn’t step over the bounds of what was regarded as acceptable for people in our position”, but you’d imagine that they might be thinking about why they didn’t do more and didn’t try harder to convince people of the seriousness of this situation. Of course, I hope not; I hope that we either do enough (whatever that might be) or that the impacts are less severe than they might be.

I’ll end with an illustration of why even a physicist might have reason to be really concerned. It seems as though we have benefitted from a climate that has been reasonable stable over the last few thousand years. The reason it’s been reasonably stable is that the external changes have been small, and the response has been roughly linear. For example, you can write the Planck response as

$dF = 4 \epsilon \sigma T^3 dT,$

where $dF$ is the radiation response, and $dT$ is the change in temperature. As long as any external changes are small, the system can return to quasi-equilibrium through a small change in temperature.

Since starting to emit CO2 into the atmosphere, we’ve warmed by about 1oC and currently have a planetary energy imbalance of 0.6 – 0.8Wm-2. The Planck response is 3.2Wm-2K-1, so the net radiative perturbation is about 4 Wm-2. The total Greenhouse effect is about 120Wm-2, so we’ve perturbed it by a few percent. However, if we carry on as we are, we could produce a perturbation that is 10-20% of the total Greenhouse effect. This is no longer small, and a large perturbation of a non-linear system can produce big, and unexpected, changes.

I guess it’s possible that such changes might be beneficial, but given that we’ve benefitted from stability and are not as able to move as we once were, it seems much more likely that any such changes (were they to happen) would be very difficult to deal with; pushing a non-linear system hard and fast just seems like a bad idea. This is in addition to the expected changes (warming, intensification of the water cycle, increase in intensity and frequency of extreme events,….) that might be problematic by themselves.

I don’t really know what else to say or quite what my point is. I think we’re going to continue to be somewhat hamstrung by how we’re expected to conduct ourselves and by the constraints of the system in which we operate. I really hope that doesn’t mean that we end up looking back with regret at what we could have done, but didn’t.

Update: Elsewhere people are illustrating why I added the caveat at the beginning of the post. They also seem a little confused by my “radiative perturbation” point, and seem to think that it is wrong. An alternative way to think of it is that the Greenhouse Effect is about 33C. We’ve warmed by about 1C, which is then a few percent of the overall Greenhouse Effect. If we were to warm by 3C, it would be about 10%. More than 3C is then more than 10%, etc.

This entry was posted in Climate change, ClimateBall, Global warming, Greenhouse effect, Policy, Science, Severe Events and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

### 286 Responses to Maybe we really are screwed

1. John Hartz says:

ATTP: You are not alone in raising this issue.

2. John Mashey says:

Note that the evidence by now is pretty strong tgat the stability during the Holocene wasn’t natural, ie absent humans, CO2 would have been -240-250ppm pre Industrial Revolution, and slowly heading down, not 275-280ppm and heading up fast.

3. JM,
Interesting, is this Ruddiman’s work? I guess I am slightly confused by that as my understanding is that 270-280ppm is the atmospheric concentration – at the moment – where volcanic outgassing matches CO2 removal into the slow carbon sinks. It would be heading down, but very slowly – geological timescales.

4. John Hartz says:

ATTP: Your OP is a prefect segway to the following article.

Diagnosing global warming leaves us transfixed like rabbits in the headlights: the point now is to act, argue a clutch of new books

A new politics of climate change could save the world by Fred Pearce, New Scientist, Apr 27, 2016

5. Rachel M says:

Living in Aberdeen I’ve observed first-hard the slump in the oil industry with lots of job losses and a general economic downturn. What I find most amazing though is people will say, “It’s just a temporary slump and things will pick up again” or words to that effect. They’re even planning to a build a new harbour to, according to this article, “meet future demand for berthing space from the oil and gas sector”. I don’t understand how people can think the industry has a future or that we even want it to have a future? It’s like hearing an alcoholic who just got a new liver say he’ll be fine as soon as he gets out of hospital and can start drinking again.

6. BBD says:

ATTP

I guess I am slightly confused by that as my understanding is that 270-280ppm is the atmospheric concentration – at the moment – where volcanic outgassing matches CO2 removal into the slow carbon sinks. It would be heading down, but very slowly – geological timescales.

See Ruddiman, Kutzbach & Vavrus (2011) Can natural or anthropogenic explanations of late-Holocene CO2 and CH4 increases be falsified?

The comparison of Holocene CO2 and CH4 trends with previous interglacials is really interesting stuff, actually.

7. BBD says:

To the main topic: I tend to agree. There is no evidence that we can simply switch to a 100% renewables world and not much that even a partial phased decarbonisation can be achieved fast enough to avoid major climate impacts. And that would be if we were actually trying to do it in earnest, which of course, we are not.

8. BBD,
Thanks. I’ll have a look at that.

9. There are probably different levels of being “really screwed.” I’m assuming that we’re in for a nasty latter part of the 21st century based on what we’ve emitted so far. The challenge is whether we can avoid being “totally fkt.”

Perhaps it would help the general public understand the problem if the IPCC were to include this sort of nomenclature in the next report. 😉

10. Rob,
WGI – The Physical Science Basis.
WGII – Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability
WGIII – Mitigation of Climate Change
WGIV – Are we totally fkt, or just really screwed?

11. I believe that many people in society recognise there is a need to change, but feel powerless. I was helping with a stall in my local market on the topic of domestic energy etc., (how to monitor and reduce consumption, explore green energy, etc.). I spoke to many people who are already trying to changing, many others are too busy to stop and talk. I think we are facing a generational change, but do we have a generation worth of time to act? It concerns me that those most resistant to change are those older and more conservative (small ‘c’) who want to block their ears. I believe that in just a few decades, people will be astonished that ‘we’ drive a tonne of metal 2 miles belching fumes and CO2 to fetch a pint of milk, and think nothing of it. Change will come, but will it come fast enough?

12. WGV – All the brilliant stuff that people are working on to create a positive future (less fkt’ed at least)

13. kap55 says:

If you run a simple regression fit between GISS temp and lagged ln(CO2) — and here I’m lagging 8 years, but other numbers work too — you find a nicely linear fits with high correlations.
Until you get to 2016, when the data so far are a shocking 3.7 standard deviations above the regression line. (That’s a 1-in-10,000 year probability). Before this year, the previous record was 1944, which was 2.9 standard deviations above the line. The El Niño year of 1998 was 1.5 standard deviations above the line. The coldest deviation was 1909 at -2.1 standard deviations.

This year is simply outrageously warm, and I’ve got to think there’s some very non-linear feedback at work here. Albedo, perhaps? And it’s likely that 2016 will drop down a bit from what we’ve seen so far, but even so … wow. Just wow.

aTTP: “Are we totally fkt, or just really screwed?”

Totally, and it was consensual sex, too. In fact, we are still involved in the relationship.

I’ll stop now, before this metaphor gets into couples counseling.

15. Robin Curtis says:

Pump insulation into the atmosphere at an unprecedented rate – and the house warms up. And we acidify (or de alkalinise) and de-oxygenise the ocean – all at the same time – all at unprecedented rates-of-change. ….and you’re not quite sure what your point is ? Keep telling like it is.

16. kap55,
It’s difficult to make any judgements on the basis of a single year, but I think we’re about to have the third year in a row that becomes the warmest on record, and I think that hasn’t happened before.

Probably wise 🙂

Robin,
Indeed. We’re doing something pretty unprecedented and I am constantly amazed that the response to this seems to be to suggest that maybe it will be okay, or that nothing bad has happened yet, or that we should solve other problems first (ala Lomborg), or let’s not do anything that might risk our economies, etc. One thing that does seem to be happening is that there does seem to be more serious discussion about a carbon tax, which would be a step in the right direction if implemented. Whether it’s enough is another question.

17. John Hartz says:

Three key paragraphs from the Fred Pearce article that I cited above.

We may have the diagnosis, but we lack the prescription. We are transfixed, like rabbits in the headlights, knowing that we need to abandon carbon-based fuels, but without the politics to achieve it. And we face similar problems in other areas of global risk, too, he says – from escalating economic inequality to the epidemic of digital surveillance uncovered by Edward Snowden.

Faced with catastrophe, we can change. We have done it before, says Beck*. The Holocaust triggered the collective horror from which modern ideas developed about human rights and the legal notion of crimes against humanity. Now we need new norms to outlaw crimes against the planet.

The modern political world was forged from notions of nationhood, exemplified by declarations of independence. But nationhood is outdated in this era of global threats, says Beck. To herald the new era, he calls for a “Declaration of Interdependence”.

*German sociologist Ulrich Beck,

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23030711-000-can-climate-change-save-the-world/

18. it was consensual sex, too

Does not feel like it. I’d rather not have these mitigation skeptics in my bed room.

19. BBD says:

Amen to that, Victor.

20. John Mashey says:

ATTP
Yes, Ruddimna and co, these days quite a few more.

I’m not exactly sure what you mean by geologic time scale, but MIS loooks like the closest (if not perfect) analog (from BBD’s cite). Our interglacial is … totally different from anything in the past 800+ky, and part of that difference is good, since it kept temperatures in a very narrow range, but now the thermostat is jammed on high.

21. ATTP, I think you are onto something. 😉 Scheduling tweet on this post.

22. BBD says:

Veron et al. (2009) The coral reef crisis: The critical importance of <350 ppm CO2:

Temperature-induced mass coral bleaching causing mortality on a wide geographic scale started when atmospheric CO2 levels exceeded ~320 ppm. When CO2 levels reached ~340 ppm, sporadic but highly destructive mass bleaching occurred in most reefs world-wide, often associated with El Niño events. Recovery was dependent on the vulnerability of individual reef areas and on the reef’s previous history and resilience. At today’s level of ~387 ppm, allowing a lag-time of 10 years for sea temperatures to respond, most reefs world-wide are committed to an irreversible decline. Mass bleaching will in future become annual, departing from the 4 to 7 years return-time of El Niño events. Bleaching will be exacerbated by the effects of degraded water-quality and increased severe weather events. In addition, the progressive onset of ocean acidification will cause reduction of coral growth and retardation of the growth of high magnesium calcite-secreting coralline algae. If CO2 levels are allowed to reach 450 ppm (due to occur
by 2030–2040 at the current rates), reefs will be in rapid and terminal decline world-wide from multiple synergies arising from mass bleaching, ocean acidification, and other environmental impacts. Damage to shallow reef communities will become extensive with consequent reduction of biodiversity followed by extinctions. Reefs will cease to be large-scale nursery grounds for fish and will cease to have most of their current value to humanity. There will be knock-on effects to ecosystems associated with reefs, and to other pelagic and benthic ecosystems. Should CO2 levels reach 600 ppm reefs will be eroding geological structures with populations of surviving biota restricted to refuges. Domino effects will follow, affecting many other marine ecosystems. This is likely to have been the path of great mass extinctions of the past, adding to the case that anthropogenic CO2 emissions could trigger the Earth’s sixth mass extinction.

@ VV
The consent was given long ago, when we traded our virtue — an unpolluted atmosphere — for cheap energy.

24. Whither says:

‘If CO2 levels are allowed to reach 450 ppm (due to occur by 2030–2040 at the current rates),’

I think I will have time to see this happen. There is God powerful enough to reduce CO2 production in 25 years. So prepare to think about adaptation.

25. JM,
Geological was probably the wrong term. I was just meaning that I would expect it to drop slowly. Without us, however, we would probably have dropped into another glacial in some few thousand years.

26. BBD: “There is no evidence that we can simply switch to a 100% renewables world”

There is evidence from several sources. One of the most recent is Stanford Professor Mark Jacobson and UC Berkeley research scientists Mark Delucchi and their colleagues who have published an US state-by-state and worldwide nation-by-nation assessment in 2015 documenting how to achieve a 100% WWS (wind, water, solar) global economy. They provide percentages for each, number of turbines/solar panels, capital costs, LCOE, net jobs generated (after accounting for fossil/nuclear job losses), and calculate the currently non-monetized benefits of reduced air pollution and CO2 emissions. Estimated over 35 year period to achieve 100%, and 80% by 2030. Large savings due to shifting thermal combustion to higher efficiency electrification where possible, and use of excess wind and solar to produce hydrogen for non-electric needs (e.g., aircraft fuels, large trucks, boats, industrial processes). Spreadsheet provides transparency on all assumptions. One can quibble with the mix (Fraunhofer Institute, for example, emphasizes more biofuels rather than hydrogen). They are very onservative on end-use efficiency gains, which could be greater by several fold according efficiency experts like Skip Laitner’s work, as well as the work of Amory Lovins and his RMI colleagues. One can also quibble with the ability to ramp up all this production, installation, increase in employment competences, and other social barriers (e.g., fossil/nuclear industry increasing their current disinformation campaign on solar/wind to sew public confusion and inaction, and continuing the wholesale buy-out of the GOP party to do their political dirty business). But these are quibbles to be dealt with in the open, given the evidence of feasbility. Documents and spreadsheets available at http://web.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/Articles/I/WWS-50-USState-plans.html

27. anoilman says:

Rachel M: I see the same things here. Its weird. You see these office buildings going up, and you just know that its a really bad idea.

Oddly I was out for lunch and there was a local real estate investor talking rather loudly. It was pretty much anything you and I would think. (He was getting into cost of solar doing better and better, etc. Oil has a poor future, etc… ) He’s advising people to invest away from markets that would be adversely affected by an oil slump, and he thinks that what comes next will be permanent.

28. Canman says:

Patrick Michaels has convinced me that cutting CO2 is futile:

He has the implementation of Waxman-Markey yielding these results by 2050:

2.) Waxman-Markey (US only): 1.540 C

3.) Waxman-Markey (Kyoto Countries): 1.500 C

That is, cutting the per capita emissions to the level of 1867 brings a spread in the range of temperature increase from doing nothing to about a tenth of a degree! He has the whole reduction start in 1990 and says in a different video that his calculations are based on IPCC reports. If anyone can refute these results (perhaps by showing they are off by an order of magnitude) please do.

I would say that if AGW is going to be a problem, it is not going to be solved by cutting emissions, but by humanity getting wealthier, harnessing more energy and acquiring more control over the weather and climate.

29. John Mashey says:

ATTP:
There is a lot of imprecision in terms glacial and interglacial, as commonly used.
In the usual sawtooh curves, each cycle has a sharp climb to a sharp peak, which is clearly an interglacial, and then a much slower, jiggly descent to a low point, which is clearly an ice age with ice covering much of the UK.

The tops and bottoms of the curves are clear, but exactly where is the boundary between glacial and interglacial? Is that function of temperature, or of ice-coverage (because they aren’t quite the same)? Is a function of the first derivative of those?

For all, David Archer’s The Long Thaw is an easy-to-read book by a carbon-cycle expert, and regardless of where the exact “trigger level” is, it is going to be a very long time (10s of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of years) before CO2 and Milankovtich combine to start reglaciation. If there’s still a technic civilization, there will never be another (SF6 is a serious GHG).

30. JM,
True. I keep meaning to read The Long Thaw, which I shall endeavour to do.

Canman,
I don’t plan to listen to Michaels’s presentation, but unless we get net emissions to zero (or very close) we will continue to warm. Of course, we don’t know what climate sensitivity is, but the TCRE is is somewhere between 0.8 and 2.5C per GtC. We’ve warmed about a degree and emitted abotu 600GtC, so the low end seems unlikely. If we carry on as we are (>10GtC per year), we’d expect something close to 2C by about the 2060s, and if we keep going, then we keep warming. There are things we will have to adapt to, but others (heat stress, for example) that will proe difficult. The idea that we can continue to perturb our climate and simply assume that it will not only not impact economic growth, but that we can simply deal with anything we might face, seems utterly bizarre.

31. Wind is now the cheapest form of electricity generation, except in some tropical places where it’s solar. Wind costs are falling by 10% per annum. Solar by 15 to 20% Concentrated solar power costs have halved over 5 years. It’s brand new technology: salt is heated by an array of heliocentric mirrors past melting point to >1000F. This is then used to drive turbines at night. Battery costs are falling by 15% per annum.

Global electric cars sales are doubling every 18 months. They’re currently just 0.7% of world of total world car sales. But it’s an S-curve, as all new technologies are, and at current growth rates it will reach 5% of total car sales within 5 years and more than 50% within 10. Several European countries are contemplating banning all new petrol/diesel car and lorry sales by 2020 or soon after.

I’m not a physicist, but in finance. And here’s my take on it: http://volewica.blogspot.com.au/2016/02/yes-we-can.html

None of that means we can relax. There are powerful forces (e.g., the Koch brothers and their ilk) who want to slow the transition to green energy. And even if we defeat them, we may still be too late. If the Arctic and sub-Arctic methane clathrates melt …. But the collapse in renewable energy prices means that the big emitters (China, India, etc) will have powerful incentives to go green. China in particular (30% of global emissions) is aggressively moving towards a carbon-free economy. I alternate between hope and despair. Hope because the technology and economics are moving so fast, despair because collective mankind is so stupid.

http://cleantechnica.com/2016/04/15/why-energy-experts-are-still-shocked-by-the-rise-of-solar-the-fall-in-costs/

http://ieefa.org/tongue-river-arch-coal-northern-plains-resource-council/

http://volewica.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/india-and-renewables.html

32. Andrew J Dodds says:

Aom –

Why is it that people see solar power as displacing oil at any price?

Natural gas possibly – certainly reduced usage – but oil is mostly reserved for transport, and we are still a way off fixing that problem. The big story of recent years has been US shale causing a glut of oil, and a shift from coal to gas. The idea that renewables are having a big impact yet seems unsupported.

33. BBD says:

Michael P. Totten

There is evidence from several sources.

Jacobson and Delucci’s work is always interesting and probably points the way forward, but I wouldn’t call it evidence that it is possible to get to 100% renewables by ~2050. With physics implacably running the timer I’m not confident we can do what we need to do fast enough. The engineering challenge is daunting and the political inertia is frightening.

34. Blaz Bratovic says:

Michael P Totten: Quick reply only concerning Jacobson.

Main points: 1) He uses climate model and synthetic data for load.
( as to what and how is shifted )
3) ”required storage is equivalent to 5x annual output of 3 gorges dam”
4) Costs of the plan are not detailed.

Source: Research scientist on the topic.

Having said that, beyond 80% RE US 2050 NREL study, there is recent work done on the topic as well. While initial model explored limited tools available ( nuclear at 2012 levels as an assumption and also not valid any more ), further studies on the topic will include other technologies and test sensitivities to different carbont emission rates.

A nice overview by one of the authors is available here: https://theconversation.com/the-cheapest-way-to-scale-up-wind-and-solar-energy-high-tech-power-lines-53597

If one is interested in this topic, I believe existing work and upcoming work should be of great interest and importance.

Further, decarbonization is a global effort and challenges associated with rising demand cannot be understated or dismissed. Since I share the concern of the post I am commenting under, I sincerely hope the study in the following article considered RE path only – not clear from the article itself, abstract of the study ( though some inclinations this might be the case ) and also rather unclear how exactly they would they accomplish this, but let’s say they did – http://climatenewsnetwork.net/renewable-energy-demands-undoable/

Cannot comment upon ‘disinformation campaign’ remark, but in IPCC AR5 WGIII report nuclear does feature in economic equilibrium models, and, unfortunately, there is also increased reliance on negative emission technologies.

35. entropicman says:

It is not just global warming. There is a triple punch, a ropadope coming.

Given intensive agriculture we might feed 10 billion people. Unfortunately that requires massive fossil fuel burn for the machinery and the Haber process burning natural gas for making nitrogen fertiliser.

The second punch is resource depletion. Many of the materials required to run a high-tech civilisation are in limited supply. For example, electric cars need lithium batteries and the is not enough lithium available to electrify tractors, combines, lorries etc in anything like current vehicle numbers.

The third punch is climate change. Some land will be lost to desertification. Ocean acidification will reduce our marine food supply. Sea level rise will destroy a lot of agricultural land. Since we are a civilisation mostly based on coastal plains we will also lose a lot of infrastructure. For example, nuclear power stations are notoriously difficult to move to higher ground.

Overpopulation, resource depletion, climate change. The relative timing and impact of the three are open to discussion.

The Earth will continue to orbit the Sun.A. depleted biosphere will adapt. Homo sapiens will probably survive but our global civilisation may not survive the stress. My personal vision for 200 years hence is a Medeieval world of about 1 billion peasants and warlords, with perhaps occasional pockets of modern technology hanging on. Getting from here to there promises to be an unpleasant experience.

36. Canman says:

ATTP, if you don’t want to watch Michaels’ video (it’s only 3 and a half minutes), how about a quick assessment of his numbers? He only has cases for the US and Kyoto cutting %83. You want to go to zero! Can you give me an estimate of the results?

37. Robin Curtis says:

and how did you start this : ” I may regret writing this post , but…….” !! When you see the daily reports suggesting that the annual rate-of-increase of atmospheric CO2 concentration is STILL rising – then perhaps entropicman is getting close to the mark…….

38. Robin,
That beginning was motivated by a sense that I would be accused of catastrophism, alarmism, or arguing for a totalitarian regime. The latter has already happened elsewhere because of this post. I really shouldn’t care, though, so you do have a point.

39. John Hartz says:

Canman: Anyone who believes Patrick Michaels to be a credible source on climate scince cannot and will not be taken seriously by most of the people commenting on this thread.

40. John Hartz says:

ATTP: Was the glass on your desk half-full or half-empty when he keyed in this OP?

41. anoilman says:

Andrew J Dodds says:
“Aom –
Why is it that people see solar power as displacing oil at any price?”

On one hand, I tend to agree. Gasoline is pound for pound awesome. Case closed.

But they do pollute, and electrics are catching up .. last I heard, Tesla pre-sold over 500k of its entry model cars. All in, with coal where I live, electric cars (on coal) are better for the environment than gasoline.

In Canada the issues with electric cars are pretty glaring though, cold winters seriously reduce their effectiveness, and they have limited range (worse in winter).

To be fair, this is early days for electric cars, and hey, they aren’t bad.

42. Yvan Dutil says:

I must confess that I am starting to be scared. MY only hope for years has been that we will exhaust the fossil fuel before it is too late. Unfortunately, it is getting more and more obvious that for many thing it is too late. Hence, we may scrap the climate and exhaust the fossil fuel in this sequence!
Even Robert Scribbler (Mr. Doomporn himself) has trouble with the last Hansen paper, just to say.

This is getting ugly and much sooner than I expected.

43. anoilman says:

Yvan Dutil: Actually its worse… we’ll run out of fossil fuels, and trash the environment. So we’ll pay through the nose when we can least afford it.

44. John Hartz says:

Canman: If you want to know why Patrick Michaels has zero credibility among people who accept the body of scientifioc evidence about manmade climate change, read DeSmog’s extensive profile of him by going to: http://www.desmogblog.com/patrick-michaels

45. Canman,
Listen carefull to what he says “adopted by the US and the US only”. Of course, if only one country tries to reduce emissions, the impact will be relatively small. The US currently makes up 16% of global emissions. It will probably be smaller than this by 2050. So, sure, if you simply focus on what would happen if only one country tried to cut emissions, then you won’t have much global impact.

You want to go to zero!

I don’t want to go to zero. However, if we think global warming carries risks (and there is increasing evidence that it does) then if we think we should do something to avoid the potentially negative impacts from climate change, we eventually have to get net emissions to zero. We don’t have to do this. We can choose to carry on and just see what happens. We can hope that we’ll be able to adapt and deal with it. But it’s probably irreversible, so if we’re wrong, we won’t easily reverse what’s already happened.

Can you give me an estimate of the results?

Results of what?

46. Canman says:

John Hartz, whether or not Michaels is credible, he did provide some numbers which look pertinent to me. Do you think they are reasonable or out of the ball park?

47. Robin Curtis says:

My worry is that Paris has given folks a false sense of security – ie “that it’s all going to be alright now”. Signing the book at UN HQ isn’t going to do anything – we have to get motoring on carbon emission reduction, very fast, big-time.

48. anoilman says:

Canman, invariably your sources are very very bad and poorly thought out. Its not worth the effort to place any value in what you say, and by association, your sources.

Here’s the incredibly ignorant video you offered up against solar a while back;

Its as though you (and he) think no one knows what solar is and what its strengths AND weaknesses are, or even factor them in. (Everyone does, and its all factored in.)

Oh, and regarding the stupid straw man in your silly video… I’m waiting for the trees in my front yard to die before switching. I’ve got 50 foot 70 year old spruces out there, and one is getting sick. We’ve tried a lot of things to save it, but still its dying.

49. Canman,
I think his numbers are also wrong. TCRE is somewhere between 0.8 and 2.5C per GtC. We’ve already warmed by 1C after emitting about 600GtC, so the lower part of this range seems unlikely. So, if he is talking about a difference of 0.08C, he’s talking about emission reductions that result in a net reduction of about 40GtC. We’re emitting 10GtC per year globally.

50. John Hartz says:

BBD wrote:

The engineering challenge is daunting and the political inertia is frightening.

One of the most encouraging developments in the political (public) arena is the fact that the major religions of the world are coalescing around to need to mitigate climate change. This is extremely significant because religious leaders have the ability to mobilize their respective flocks. In addition, most religions transcend the artificial political boundaries (countries) that hamper the growth of a world-wide, international grassroots movement.

51. anoilman says:

Oh look.. big surprise… Patrick Michaels is a PR agent working for fossil fuel interests, and he believes its all a conspiracy;
http://www.desmogblog.com/patrick-michaels

Must be a Canman source…

52. Canman says:

ATTP: “Results of what?”

What is the estimated amount of temperature increase you are going to prevent (and by what date) if you drop emissions to near zero? Michaels provided a numerical estimate (about a tenth of a degree by 2050). And while he only provided it for Kyoto countries, the not included countries are almost surely planning to increase theirs.

53. John Hartz says:

Canman: Patrick Michaels speaketh with forked tongue.

54. anoilman says:

Canman… What are you arguing about? You don’t know anything about science or engineering.

55. Canman says:

Oilman, do you care to refute any specific point Ozzie makes about solar?

56. Canman says:

John Hartz, if Michaels made wrong estimates with a forked tongue, how about correcting them with a straight tongue?

57. anoilman says:

Canman: No. Its repeating well known facts in a slanderous way. Its really a sleazy slam job, nothing more.

His straw man is particularly sleazy. He claims people will destroy trees in an effort to be green. I’ve never heard anything more lame than that.

58. John Hartz says:

Canman:

Here’s the UTube backgrounder on the Patrick Michaels video you posted above.

Pat Michaels, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and senior research fellow for economic policy and development at George Mason University, discusses the flaws in the Waxman-Markey carbon dioxide cap-and-trade law that cleared the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009. Michaels offered these comments during a July 18, 2011, presentation to the John Locke Foundation’s Shaftesbury Society.

Whether or not the numbers used in the presentation are valid are not is irrelevant because the Waxman-Markey bill died in the U.S. Senate. In other words, Michaels entire presentation is an anachronism and is not worth much more than a bucket of warm spit today.

59. Canman says:

John Hartz, I think it’s relevant, because he made specific estimations of the effectiveness of cutting emissions and it looks futile to me. This does not mean all hope is gone. I think next generation nuclear needs to be developed so there is plenty of energy for adaption and mitigation.

60. Canman,

What is the estimated amount of temperature increase you are going to prevent (and by what date) if you drop emissions to near zero?

IMO, that questions the wrong way around. You need to know how much we would have emitted had we not got emissions to zero, which is something we can never really know. On average, warming depends linearly on emissions. The more we emit, the more we’ll warm. So, of we want to stabilise – on average – temperatures, we need to get net emissions to zero (or close to zero). How much we will have warmed before we do so will depend on how much we emit between now and whenever it is that we get emissions to zero. Your question is bit like asking how far you would have travelled if you didn’t stop your car.

Michaels provided a numerical estimate (about a tenth of a degree by 2050).

And if he is right, then he’s referring to emissions reductions of 40GtC by 2050, which isn’t very much (global emissions are just over 10GtC/year – so he’s assuming a reduction of 4 years of global emissions). It’s possible that our plans are not going to be very effective, but that still doesn’t change that stabilising temperatures – if we wish to do so – will require getting net emissions to zero. Presumably we will want to do so eventually, but the question is how much we emit between now and then, not really how much more we could have emitted had we not stopped.

61. guthrie says:

Pearce has a wobbly record on climate change, IIRC, so the key point is, who is this “We” he is writing about? Lots of us have known for years, changed some of our behaviours, lobbied politicians etc, yet somehow he blames everyone for the problem.

62. Canman says:

ATTP, how do you propose to get emissions to near zero, because I don’t think it can be done with solar, wind, fancy light bulbs or anything else that cuts emissions. I think we need lots of nuclear energy for adaption and mitigation.

63. Canman,
I’ve no real idea, but that doesn’t change that it is what is required if we think we should stabilise temperatures.

64. Robin,

My worry is that Paris has given folks a false sense of security – ie “that it’s all going to be alright now”. Signing the book at UN HQ isn’t going to do anything – we have to get motoring on carbon emission reduction, very fast, big-time.

I’m in two minds about Paris. On the one hand, it’s an impressive level of agreement and a very positive step. On the other hand – as you say – it could lead to a lot of self-congratulator back slapping, lots of impressive rhetoric, but little actual action.

65. Tom Curtis says:

Canman, it is difficult to say how Michael’s arrives at his figures as he does not say. Organizations that are open about their calculations give entirely different results, as for example here:

Despite Michaels’ obscurity, it appears that to get his figures:

1) Michael’s assumes emissions from third world sources, primarily China, will rise to almost match any reduction from the US and Kyoto nations despite the fact that China is already reducing its emissions intensity (emissions per GDP), and that on current commitments its emissions will peak in 10 years, and hence will not rise to replace US reductions.

2) Ignores the fact that if the US, or US plus Kyoto followed a Waxman-Markey trajectory, they would have rapidly developed and thereby reduced the cost of reducing emissions in the third world, whose emissions would therefore likely follow a similar trajectory.

3) Deliberately chooses an early target date when the temperature trajectory has minimally diverged. Had he chosen a 2100 target date, the temperature divergence would have been several degrees C.

66. Deliberately chooses an early target date when the temperature trajectory has minimally diverged. Had he chosen a 2100 target date, the temperature divergence would have been several degrees C.

Yes, this is a good point. There will clearly be some point when our emission reductions would have had little impact. Beyond that, however, there will be increasing impact.

67. John Hartz says:

Canman: Micahels 2011 presentation was pure unadulterated poppycok for the reasons cited by ATTP above.

68. John Hartz says:

…and by Tom Curtis.

69. Tom Curtis says:

Anders, if we expect people to accept the consensus of scientists on the science (essentially IPCC WG1) as they ought, we also ought to accept the consensus of scientists and economists working on impacts (essentially IPCC WG2). From that, unless you are an expert in the field who has made a comprehensive global assessment of impacts you should accept that actual impacts will be within uncertainty of current IPCC assessments. That means we (ie the human race) are not screwed yet. In fact, based on that assessment we will not be literally screwed unless we persist with close to BAU for 150 odd years.

Granted that there are outliers among scientific assessments of impacts, but there are outliers in both directions.

That does not mean the current trajectory will not place great strains on our civilization. It will, and it will be catastrophic in some locations (ie, not just sporadic increase in natural disasters, but a change in circumstance making the area effectively uninhabitable by large populations, or crashing economic capacity). But we have more than enough reserve capacity to handle that provided we do not let the strains result in a breakdown of the global economic and political system. In other words, if global warming with current attempts to mitigate continue into the future, what will screw us is selfishness, greed, insecurity and lack of trust precipitating near global warfare and/or crashing international trade. Not the climate itself.

70. Canman: Regarding Michaels and the hypothetical 83% iin US emissions by 2050; he says, “Nobody knows how to do this. It doesn’t matter. Nor does it have any effect on climate.”

Actually, for the most part we *do* know how to do this. It *does* matter and quite obviously it *does* have an effect on climate. Michaels himself quantifies his math on the effect. And as others above have pointed out, limiting change to a small fraction of the emitters will make that change less.

If you want the details, read IMPLICATIONS OF PROPOSED CO2 EMISSIONS LIMITATIONS, IPCC Technical Paper 4 (to use the numbers he was referencing). Section 7, beginning on page 29) has numerous graphs that show the various climate effects of emissions reductions for different climate sensitivities. These are just for a 2% reduction – you’ll have to imagine for yourself or work through the numbers to get a global 83% equivalent.

It’s quicker, shorter, and generally fairly accurate to just assume Michaels is lying by omission (at best) or pulling a con of some sort on the ignorant in a forum where he won’t be challenged.

71. Tom,

Anders, if we expect people to accept the consensus of scientists on the science (essentially IPCC WG1) as they ought, we also ought to accept the consensus of scientists and economists working on impacts (essentially IPCC WG2).

Yes, a fair point.

That means we (ie the human race) are not screwed yet. In fact, based on that assessment we will not be literally screwed unless we persist with close to BAU for 150 odd years.

Guess, it depends how you define “screwed” 🙂 I certainly didn’t mean “screwed” in the completely existential threat way.

In other words, if global warming with current attempts to mitigate continue into the future, what will screw us is selfishness, greed, insecurity and lack of trust precipitating near global warfare and/or crashing international trade. Not the climate itself.

Indeed, and this is probably more the context that I was thinking of. If large parts of the Great Barrier Reef could be dead in 20 years, and a widespread loss of oxygen in the oceans in 20 – 30 years, and ….. then these could have impacts that will precipitate all sorts of societal and economic instabilities.

72. Tom Curtis says:

Entropicman, from wikipedia:

“Although lithium is widely distributed on Earth, it does not naturally occur in elemental form due to its high reactivity. The total lithium content of seawater is very large and is estimated as 230 billion tonnes, where the element exists at a relatively constant concentration of 0.14 to 0.25 parts per million (ppm), or 25 micromolar; higher concentrations approaching 7 ppm are found near hydrothermal vents.

Estimates for the Earth’s crustal content range from 20 to 70 ppm by weight. In keeping with its name, lithium forms a minor part of igneous rocks, with the largest concentrations in granites. Granitic pegmatites also provide the greatest abundance of lithium-containing minerals, with spodumene and petalite being the most commercially viable sources. Another significant mineral of lithium is lepidolite. A newer source for lithium is hectorite clay, the only active development of which is through the Western Lithium Corporation in the United States. At 20 mg lithium per kg of Earth’s crust, lithium is the 25th most abundant element.”

Given that estimates of “peak lithium” are based on 14 million tonnes of currently commercial reserves, the 230 billion tonnes in the ocean (let alone the 434 thousand billion in the continental crusts) shows there is substantial capacity to greatly increase supply with increased price and/or improved technology of extraction. And that ignores the possibility of developing alternative, competitive storage measures not using lithium.

73. Tom Curtis says:

Anders, even global warfare and/or economic collapse does not threaten humans in an existential way (unless we have a full nuclear exchange). What it does threaten is our civilization. The probable worst case scenario from such a collapse is a regression to a preindustrial (or at worst, medieval) technological base, with a collapse of populations to the preindustrial levels sustainable by that technology. Humans will continue to live, dominate the planet, and after a century or so for stabilization, to thrive. Just not so successfully as we have over the last 100 odd years.

However, the biggest problem with saying things like “we really are screwed” unless you mean it in the worst way, is that people will all interpret it in their own way. Unless you detail actual level of impacts many will take it as an existential threat.

74. izen says:

@-Canman
“I think it’s relevant, because he made specific estimations of the effectiveness of cutting emissions and it looks futile to me. ”

Pat Micheals is correct that the scale of cutting emissions he is discussing are futile in making much difference to the amount of warming we may experience by 2050.
He does tend to use smaller estimates of how much global cumulative levels of CO2 might be reduced. As ATTP indicated the total reduction he is discussing is ~5% of global yearly totals. The combination of coal-to-gas, rising renewables and a economic recession achieved that level of reduction in the US.

P.M. also uses a rather low estimate of TCR or climate sensitivity.
If the climate sensitivity is near the upper bound of probabilities then the small temperature reductions Micheals calculates for the small emissions cuts would be doubled, worth twice as much as he claims. Although that would be dubious advantage, the rise would also be double.

Pat Micheals is roughly correct in his estimates, although many would dispute his choice of lower figures, but his conclusion that very small cuts to global cumulative emissions will make very small, and therefore futile reductions in temperature are accurate.
Perhaps the take-away message is
“small cuts are futile, big cuts are effective.”

75. entropicman says:

Tom Curtis

There is a considerable difference between “present” and economically extractable. There is also no garuantee that any possible lithium replacement would be easier to get. Think of the amount of gold in seawater, and that the cost of extracting it is still too high to be worthwhile.

76. Tom,

Anders, even global warfare and/or economic collapse does not threaten humans in an existential way (unless we have a full nuclear exchange).

Of course.

The probable worst case scenario from such a collapse is a regression to a preindustrial (or at worst, medieval) technological base, with a collapse of populations to the preindustrial levels sustainable by that technology.

A pretty dire worst case, IMO.

However, the biggest problem with saying things like “we really are screwed” unless you mean it in the worst way, is that people will all interpret it in their own way.

Yes, I’m sure they will.

Unless you detail actual level of impacts many will take it as an existential threat.

As I hope people would get from reading the post, I wasn’t trying to suggest some actual impacts that will lead to us being “screwed”. The post was really just about how I end up spending a lot time trying to write balanced, careful posts about climate science and related topics; trying to avoid saying anything too extreme. Maybe I don’t always succeed, but that’s the goal. Then I go and read about the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, or the loss of oxygen in the oceans, and I go “shit, maybe we are screwed”. It’s probably an over-reaction. I hope it is. It was just what I thought when I was looking through those articles. It was really just meant to highlight how it can be difficult to keep perspective when you get the impression that we are slowly (or maybe not that slowly) driving ourselves towards changes that we might find very difficult to address and that could have very severe negative impacts.

77. entropicman says:

Forgive my pessimism, but there is another problem. We have to get this right first time.

The Industrial Revolution used up all the easily accessible resources. The iron ore deposits were laid down more than 1 billion years ago. The coal seams were laid down 400 million years ago and the easy oil is almost as old. None are replaceable.

Anyone trying to repeat the Industrial Revolution will encounter Catch 22. Without the technology, they cannot reach the resources needed to build the technology.

We are the first world industrial civilisation. If we go down, we will also be the last.

78. Canman says:

1) First, reducing emissions intensity is not the same thing as reducing emissions. Second, current commitments that China’s emissions will peak in 10 years does mean that they will. Third, that they will hence not rise to replace US reductions does not mean they will not rise that much or that there will even be substantial US reductions.

2) That the US following a Waxman-Markey trajectory would have meant any kind of rapid development that would thereby reduce the cost of reducing emissions in the third world is just an assertion and not set in stone. It might make the US poorer and slow development. It might make fossil fuels cheaper world wide and cause an increase in their use by the third world.

3) You and ATTP have a good point there and I have also considered it, but that’s the data and results Michaels gave:

https://canmane.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/long-comment-at-climate-etc-on-whether-cutting-co2-is-enough/

79. Anders,

Some of the The Backboard denizens have weighed in, you’re just up to your usual tricks. Not that I would ever pick on the other Brandon, he’s also still carping about you not conforming to his definition of polite. If these are at all representative of your true fans, you may regret ever writing another post ever again. I for one suggest you tell them to suck it.

Or since they humorously see me as your lackey, I will be happy to tell them so. Which I just have by way of the above message. Feel free to disavow me; it may confuse them for just a moment until they realize it’s just another example of your perennial prevarication.

I vote for there being only one Working Group in AR6, the We Are Right and Proper Fkd Unless We Pull Our Heads Out Of Our Collective Arses Yesterday Group It’s a bit unwieldy, but gets the point across. Surely one of the IPCC/UNFCCC sloganeering artists will be able to #hashtag a snappy acronym. WGWAF69 or the like.

I shouldn’t need to add the /snark tag, but dealing with the hyper-literally-minded may have permanently damaged my brain, so there it is.

80. Canman says:

I would just like to say that I don’t think substantial cuts in emissions are feasible and this short video by Bjorn Lomborg illustrates why:

Whenever someone gives a figure for renewables, it usually includes hydro, which is limited (and usually built out) and biomass, which means burning stuff.

81. pendantry says:

However, if we carry on as we are, we could produce a perturbation that is 10-20% of the total Greenhouse effect. This is no longer small, and a large perturbation of a non-linear system can produce big, and unexpected, changes.

TL;DR — especially the comments. Sorry for my lack of stamina.

You appear to be coming to a conclusion arrived at by others (see for instance ‘The Manpollo Project‘, though the associated website, and fascinating forum, is no more).

You aren’t involved in policy making; the policy makers themselves have inadequate vision beyond their current term of office. Me; I’m just a phlyarologist. My suggestion for a possible way out of the mess, FWIW, is here.

82. anoilman says:

Oh Look! Another interesting one! Do you think Lomborg’s paycheck helps him invent stuff Canman? 🙂
https://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/lomborg-long-game/

You answers and thoughts on your blog are poor and badly thought out. I recommend picking up a basic book on economics. That would be a simple start point for you.

Have you considered using the free market to solve our problems? Carbon Tax Carbon Tax Carbon Tax. I can see why you left that one off your list of solutions. It might work.

83. pete nest says:

The largest wind turbines are 7.5 MW. Assuming a 25% efficiency you get around 15 GWh a year. So put in 1000 of them gives you 15 TWh a year of energy. Uk needs 400 TWh per year in total so 10000 turbines is 150 TWh so we need around 25000 of them. That’s a lot. USA need 4000 TWh a year so 250000 should do it.

Electricity is 20% of world energy so you can see the challenge.

84. entropicman,

Forgive my pessimism, but there is another problem. We have to get this right first time.

It’s forgiven, though I might quibble about the “first time”. Industrialized economies tend to operate on a continuum, with cycles of boom and bust as well as with “disruptive” technologies coming along. I don’t forsee the Green Revolution playing out much differently. It could certainly stand for some acceleration. In the past we’ve done that with protectionism in the form of tarriffs for emerging industries, and/or subsidies for strategic resource development and exploitation.

The Industrial Revolution used up all the easily accessible resources. The iron ore deposits were laid down more than 1 billion years ago. The coal seams were laid down 400 million years ago and the easy oil is almost as old. None are replaceable.

Many are also recyclable, which is expensive. Oil and coal are not, but as our friends across the aisle are fond of pointing out, there is still plenty of coal in the ground. You and I know it’s not in our best interests to use it to depletion for reasons not having anything to do with imminent scarcity. But I digress from my main point.

I think that as the planet approaches its carrying capacity for humanity (and it’s arguable we’ve already passed it), we “win” long term by boosting services. That may not happen, which is somewhat scary in the minds of analyists I know who think about such things for a living. If our past sins catch up to us, an we damage the ecosystem to the point that it can no longer even adequately sustain some future population, the population loss is all but sure to put a dent in Grrrrrowth.

What probably scares me the most is that the one-percenters will still find a way to get their margins. They’re already doing it, and arguably better than they ever have. But I can only have one nightmare at a time. “Solving” the issues of three to ten generations from now is quite beyond my limited capacity to even ponder ours and/or the next generation.

85. John Hartz says:

ATTP: When you post a new OP, I typically come across current news articles related to it. My upstream posts re Fred Pearce’s article is one such example. Here’s another:

This Is the Only Way to Fight Global Climate Change, Op-ed by Michael Shank & Carolyn Kissane, Fortune, Apr 30, 2016

Michael Shank, is an adjunct assistant professor of sustainable development at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs graduate program. Carolyn Kissane is the academic director of the NYU’s Center for Global Affairs.

86. ATTP: You’re obviously an optimist. I would have mentioned the unprecedented start to the melting season in the arctic. Though I think you did tweet about the Greenland melt data that caused scientists to think their data was bad. And I ran across this gem yesterday as well: Back from the dead: Russians revive pre-historic amoebae

Naturally occurring layers of permafrost often break off cliffs, river banks and sea coasts, and then melt. Thus, the microorganisms conserved inside the ice have a chance to be revived naturally.

If the heat doesn’t get us or the sea level rise or the dying reefs or the deoxygenated oceans maybe the sudden reanimation of microrganisms long thought dead will. Happy Mayday 🙂

http://forum.arctic-sea-ice.net/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=230.0;attach=28782;image

87. John Hartz says:

Yet another topical article…

To have any chance of preventing dangerous climate change, the world needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero or even negative by mid-century. Many experts suggest this means we need to completely phase out fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

Several studies have concluded that 100% renewable energy supply systems are technically and economically feasible. This informs the widespread view that fossil fuels can be more or less “swapped out” for renewables, without significant economic consequences.

We are strongly sympathetic to the need for a rapid global shift away from fossil fuels. But new modelling conducted independently and made publicly available by my colleague at the Understandascope, Josh Floyd, suggests that such a transition may face significant challenges.

[Note: There are a number of links embedded in the above three paragprhs of the original aricle. I simply did not have the time to embed them here.]

Phasing out fossil fuels for renewables may not be a straight forward swap by Anthony James, The Conversation US, May 1, 2016

88. Ethan Allen says:

So Oil Change International sez “G20 country governments are providing $452 billion a year in subsidies for the production of fossil fuels.” http://priceofoil.org/content/uploads/2015/11/Empty-promises_main-report.2015.pdf The IEA sez “The value of fossil-fuel subsidies worldwide totalled$493 billion in 2014.”
http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/resources/energysubsidies/fossilfuelsubsidydatabase/

The funny thing is that the USA isn’t in the IEA spreadsheet. I wonder why?

Oh, can’t forget the IMF sez $5.5 trillion per annum. I’d SWAG that adding up all those large, in isolation, numbers might double the total costs of fossil fuels, which have a total revenue stream or GDP somewhere’s between$5-10 trillion per annum.

$2 per gallon goes to$4 dollars per gallon, my total fuel costs go from $50 per annum to$100 per annum. Or I could buy an EV at say $30K-$50K-$100K. Seems like a reasonable carbon tax to me. 89. izen says: @-Canman “I would just like to say that I don’t think substantial cuts in emissions are feasible and this short video by Bjorn Lomborg illustrates why:” Lomberg may be right. As Science of Doom has shown the economics, and logistical limits of zero and low emission energy sources are not good. The financial cost and political disruption mitigation requires may not be feasible because of the opposition from the rich, who would resist a drop in their consumerist lifestyle, and from the poor who want to gain the benefits seen in the advanced nations from all that energy and material consumption. If that gain for the majority that do not share the progress made by wealthy is fuelled by coal as China has done then mitigation is very unlikely to be possible. There is plenty of coal so that is feasible. It is the reason for this post from our host I think. The science, or at least 97% of it, indicates there is a significant potential for really bad things. While there is dispute of about 1degC rise in Global Surface Temperatures for various cumulative CO2 emissions, that may ignore local and regional changes in temperature and rainfall that have much more damaging impacts than the simple headline GST average implies. Mounting evidence both of current ice dynamics and paleo data indicate that collapse of various ice-shelves and melt of the retained ice-cap could be a rapid event. Sea level rise of several feet can be happen in just a few decades. Then there is the ecological impact of these changes and ocean acidification. the demise of most of the Great Barrier Reef is a canary in the coal-mine. Coral fossils show they have been around for many millions of years. But the type and abundance of the fossils might be described as ‘punctuated equilibrium’. They show periods of stability with sudden mass extinction/collapse of species, with new evolution filling niches after whatever event had that impact. The ecological impacts are perhaps the most worrying. Our dependence on an agricultural ecology that is optimised for environmental stability risks mass starvation if change impacts production. Epidemic disease that can emerge as new pathogens and vectors develop migrate into new target populations can devastate human societies not only when the target is human (Zika?) but also if the target is a major animal or plant food source. Those sort of impacts are possible,they cannot be excluded under current understanding of the climate. They are a definite maybe. That is why with Lomberg’s analysis of why we may do nothing but BAU some people are coming to the conclusion that – “Maybe we really are screwed.” 90. mt says: ” if we expect people to accept the consensus of scientists on the science (essentially IPCC WG1) as they ought, we also ought to accept the consensus of scientists and economists working on impacts (essentially IPCC WG2).” ATTP says “fair point” I suggest it isn’t. I maintain that the epistemic status of WG I is far stronger than that of WG2 and WG3. The advice of economists should be, as an economist would say, strongly discounted. Most of economics has a validity on time scales short compared to the problem at hand, and mainstream academic economics has been consistently applying theories outside their regime of validity in the matter of global change. (I don’t think they even have a clue that models have regimes of applicability.) I think every discipline has to stand up for itself. Climate science is stretched pretty thin these days but we have to rise to this challenge. Resorting to accepting argument from authority allows carte blanche to pseudoscientific nonsense from economists. Strong words, yes. But didn’t you start this conversation with a call for frankness? 91. mt says: “segway”. Sigh. This is the way the world ends. It’s “segue” unless you’re selling those weird lawnmower-shaped motorcycles. Or at least it used to be. 92. Blaz Bratoviz, please read the original documents, because the hearsay you’re getting is heavily distorted. Figure S14 of the paper (supplemental information) shows a stable solution with zero hours of load shifting. Load shifting is accomplished in several ways. One is for the utility to sign up EV drivers to agree to charge between certain 8 hour periods in exchange for a lower charging rate. Costs are provided in extreme detail in the 50-state paper as well as in the grid integration paper. Quantity of required storage is relevant primarily with respect to cost, which is provided. I must say this entire discussion is pathetic, given my evidence sharing has been largely undiscussed subsequently, even though it has rigorous, robust figures and estimates from which discussions should be in pursuit, not willful ignorance combined with opinion unencumbered by facts. 93. pendantry says: @anoilman I assume your post after mine is a response to mine. – I know enough economics to understand that it’s economists who have brought us to this point. – There are problems that the ‘free’ (sic) market cannot solve (can you say “ozone problem”?) – Carbon tax has been tried; it doesn’t work (mainly because it gets corrupted). + One cannot solve a problem using the same thinking that created the problem. A completely different approach is required. None will be allowed; homo fatuus brutus is an assortment of ape descendants all so busy discussing what to name the unusually hot red-orangey-yellow glow in the corner (which, incidentally, appears to be eating the furniture) that none of them are likely to make a decision anytime soon as to whether they should throw some water on it. TL;DR? We are screwed. 94. Brandon, Yes, I noticed those comments on Lucia’s blog. That’s why I added the update. Won’t make much difference, I imagine. 95. MT, Tom was interpreting my post as “screwed” implying “existential threat” in which case I suspect he’s right about WG2 and WG3. On the other hand, something I did think about after responding to Tom is the difference between accepting evidence that suggests there are risks and accepting evidence that suggests we’re not screwed. I suspect that in addition to your point, WG2 and WG3 can’t really rule out major impacts soon, they can just indicate that they’re unlikely. Also, part of the motivation behind the post ws the sense (as highlighted by Ove Hoegh-Guldberg’s quote) that it just seems that some things that were regarded too extreme, are now maybe becoming conservative. If things that we think are unlikely this coming century, do happen, then the WG2 and WG3 assessments will not really – I think – have taken them into account. 96. Anders, I had missed your update before posting. The main points of contention over there are that radiative forcing != radiative pertubation, and that the Planck response doesn’t include feedbacks. So they’re coming up with you saying that ECS is ~1.2 K/2xCO2. Shocker. Summary given because I’m not sure if I’d answer those questions correctly, hoping you might be able to clear up my confusion. I *can* add 3.2 to 0.8 and get 4.0, and I grokked your other method of obtaining a percentage of the GHG effect, so that much at least works for me. 🙂 97. pendantry says: Ah, my bad… Tom was interpreting my post as “screwed” implying “existential threat” in which case… I fail to grok how “we are screwed” can be misinterpreted as something other than “existential threat”. Notwithstanding, it appears that it can be. Language is a tricky devil. My apologies; however, I would suggest that it’s probably best to avoid using such a term as the heading for an article, as it’s likely to draw all sorts of weird and crazy folk to expound upon their pet theories. I’ll get my hat. 98. Brandon, The main points of contention over there are that radiative forcing != radiative pertubation Yes, that’s why I said “radiative perturbation”. The 120W/m^2 for the Greenhouse is all radiative influences, those that might be regarded as forcings and those that might be regarded as feedbacks. If you want to do forcings only, then you would need to extract the CO2-only response to the Greenhouse effect. This is not that trivial to determine, but maybe it’s 30-40% of the total, which returns the same basic results. the Planck response doesn’t include feedbacks. So they’re coming up with you saying that ECS is ~1.2 K/2xCO2. Shocker. Well, yes, but what I aid was purely based on what’s actually happened. We’ve warmed by about 1C. That’s a Planck response of 3.2W/m^2. If we were then back in equilibrium, that would imply a radiative perturbation of also 3.2W/m^2 (forcings plus non-Planck response feedbacks). However, we still have a 0.6 – 0.8W/m^2 planetary energy imbalance, so are not yet in equilibrium, and hence the radiative perturbation (forcings plus non-Planck response feedbacks) is around 4W/m^2, or a few percent of the Greenhouse effect. I’m amazed that they’re making such a big deal of this. All I was getting at is that we’ve already perturbed the Greenhouse effect by a few percent. I think this is pretty self-evident, but if someone sensible can convince me otherwise, feel free. 99. pendantry, My apologies; however, I would suggest that it’s probably best to avoid using such a term as the heading for an article, as it’s likely to draw all sorts of weird and crazy folk to expound upon their pet theories. Indeed, but every now and again, I forget all the stuff I’ve learned over the last few years as to what one should, or should not, say. Sometimes, I just want to write what happened to cross my mind – it is just a blog, remember. I normally find that’s a bad idea, but I do it anyway. 🙂 100. Blaz Bratovic says: Michael P Totten: Appreciate your comment and your concern regarding environment and AGW mitigation, Unfortunately, time is limited and so am I in what I read. Having said that, the source of my information is research scientist on the topic, namely Christopher Clack, who is himself researcher on the topic of RE and RE integration: http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2016/012516-rapid-affordable-energy-transformation-possible.html As you can see, Mark Jacobson himself was the first to comment upon the study. In general, it is said that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, while papers which are supposed to inform policy decision making process ( it seem to me that’s how Jacobson envisions the role of his paper ) need to undergoe a different procedure than just publishing peer-review process. Working Group III, I believe, reviews literature published on the topic. I can only warmly recommend to use the opportunity and discuss the topic with a scientist who is a researcher in this area. Twitter, after all, can be used for more serious things than in general probably is. ( well, judging from trending trends… ). He has upcoming work on the topic, but this is a review of his current study and policy implications: http://www.theenergycollective.com/tom-plant/2373780/study-highlights-a-least-cost-energy-vision-for-the-u-s At the end of the day, I think we both share came concern for environment and AGW mitigation. 101. Nigel Harris says: Andrew J. Dodds says Why is it that people see solar power as displacing oil at any price? Yesterday was a beautiful sunny spring day here in south-east England. My car spent the afternoon plugged in, drawing power generated by my rooftop solar panels. That will cover my car use for the next few days. 102. Pete Best says: Re Nigel Harris 25 million cars in the UK, its hardly a matter of a few people plugging in a few electric vehicles to their solar grids on sunny days. There are so many technical and psychological ones to overcome. The UK would need about 25000 7.5 MW wind turbines to power all of the vehicles in the UK and all of the vans and HGVs don’t have the technology as yet, only cars and even then a lot of people wont like the range. So whilst petrol and diesel is cheap its hard to get people to consider expensive electric vehicles even with the recent announcement of the Tesla model 3 (25 to 25K is out of the question for millions of us. SO while people have the choice of a 100 year old mature technology and a new one that is limited in its availability, cost and usability we need to ramp up our venture on promoting this technology. Its a long road to get electric vehicles selling more than fossil fuels based ones It will and needs to happen but its wont be quick, 20-40 years I would suggest. 103. Nigel Harris says: It’s precisely a matter of a few people plugging in electric vehicles to their solar grids on sunny days. That’s where it has to start. The only way that the issue of how to power an economy, including 25 million EVs, from renewable sources will be solved is when there are already several million EVs and it’s becoming a problem. So if you think this is a problem that will need to be solved, and you haven’t done everything that you personally can reasonably do to reduce your personal use of fossil fuels, then you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution. Actions, not words, will solve the problem. 104. Robin Curtis says: mmm….this blog exploded ! Time for a few folk on here to take a look at “Sustainable Energy: without the hot air” by David Mackay – who very sadly passed away recently aged only 48. (www.withouthotair.com) A tragic loss to this debate – see the tributes running on Mark Lynas’ blog http://www.marklynas.org/2016/04/david-mackay-last-interview-tribute/#comment-357392 . Someone like ATTP who stuck to the physics and the maths……..with a great smile! 105. Robin, Agreed, it’s a very good book to read and a very tragic loss. 106. David Mackay’s book is free to download. 107. Like others, I find myself becoming increasingly frustrated by inaction and denial. Hard evidence continues to accumulate, we know in general terms what it means for society, yet so far we’ve done nothing of real substance to change our ways. My fear is that by the time the mass-denial that pervades society has turned to mass-realisation, we’ll have passed the point of no return. What to do? 108. Greg Robie says: Michael Pinder of the Moody Blues in the 1970 release, “How Is It (We Are Here)” labeled you [then] guys, now, guys and gals, scientist priests…& you were to save us. It was an insightful conflation of social memes. A musician, even a British one, can be forgiven for not understanding that science is set up to make pieces out of science…& turn scientists into priests of pieces (the priest part of the insight has not been an issue for professor scientists to embrace (& I’m thinking of the inane thread on standards not too long ago). Geeky pontification is professionally promulgated. That enslaving adage is: publish or perish. This blog post raises questions regarding a professional Catch 22. To excel in research science one has to know more and more about less and less until everything is known about nothing. This is a likely familiar joke that, in the face of the threats of abrupt climate change, captures more truth than the scientific community should be comfortable with having define career ‘success’. But greed-is-good, right? The secular Boomer public bought the priest thing, and never looked twice. Anything that transfers responsibility [for saving ourselves] to someone else we are for…& thanks to motivated reasoning, has to be right. Unfortunately, too many career research scientists are also Boomers. Conflate these factors and you’ve got irresponsible priesthood seeking personal peace by being perfect and published (& pleased to be left alone) in a particle of the problem. (Probability of this being true > 70%?) Anyway, systemically, professional generalists, as a statistical anomaly, are neither nurtured nor promoted. Piece priests piously take pot shots at those who try. Such fits well into the dualism of the Western mindset and what passes for news. Few are those with the social acumen to be a public generalist in matters of climate system modeling. To the degree this is true, the few who do so concerning abrupt climate change are rare birds. As prophets of doom, academia, ensconced in its ivory tower, all too often casts stones from the parapet upon the prophetic professor at the city’s gate. The etymology of prophet and professor reveal a former synonym-like relationship. Pinder’s conflation is less poetic license than a history lesson. If this comment has intrigued, please consider critiquing a ~3000 word featured essay on Paul Beckwith’s blog I authored. I’m a lay generalist while Paul try’s to be a scientific one. What’s missing from my outline of the challenges of understanding what the decoupling of anthropogenic CO2 emissions from atmospheric levels mean in terms if abrupt climate change? How likely is it that the current profession of scientists can become prophets of the whole and not just professors of its parts; be a priesthood? sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself > 109. Switching to electric cars as a solution to the problem of CO2 emissions might be seen as self-deception. Look at the embodied fossil energy in food production. http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/365/1554/2991 http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/136418/err94_1_.pdf A typical medium-sized tractor has a diesel tank containing 2500 kWh energy-equivalent when full, which it can get through in a day or less when working arable fields. Now work out the area of solar panels required to generate that much power. To save anyone the trouble, it’s the output of 100 x typical UK domestic rooftop installations on a sunny June day. Then there’s the problem of how you store that power in a tractor without doubling its weight. I’m not saying the problems are insurmountable; just that we have a hell of a lot to do and we haven’t even started to scratch the surface yet. 110. Pete Best says: Nigel Again, you wont resolve it your way. Sure its a great idea and sure it has merit but its not enough and not soon enough. However what you are doing is a good thing only its not enough of a thing. 111. Nigel Harris says: So, Pete, tell me what you are doing. 112. Okay, maybe we can keep this pleasant and not personal. I think Nigel powering his electric car via his solar panels is doing something. Kudos. Maybe, however, we can avoid criticising each other for what we are, or aren’t, doing and stick to discussing what we (collectively) could do. 113. Nigel Harris says: Johnrussel40 – Who is this “we” who has done nothing of real substance to change our ways? Perhaps you really mean “I”? My personal direct use of fossil fuels has dropped by around 50% in the past 3 years. I could certainly do more (I still have a job that requires me to fly) but if everyone did what I have done, it would be a significant start. More importantly it would send a message to others including industry and political leaders. 114. Nigel Harris says: ATTP – yes, you’re right. I read every post on your blog, but rarely comment. I do find it immensely frustrating that there is a recurring theme, particularly in comments, that “we” need to do more, faster. I agree entirely, but my frustration is that whenever commenters say “we” they seem to be using a strange definition of “we” that excludes themselves. The way “we” do something is that each of us, personally, does it, or we work together to do it. The enlightened types who comment on this blog should be out there showing others how to act, not whining that “we” aren’t acting fast enough. What most commenters seem to be saying is that governments need to act. But governments represent their people, and if their people can’t be bothered to do whatever little they can – buy one of the few PHEV or EVs that is available, stick a 3 kW solar array on their roof – why on earth should we expect governments to act for us? 115. @Nigel Harris By ‘we’ I mean society. It’s not personal. Like you, many are doing things to try and reduce personal emissions. I’ve perhaps done more than most. But I’m not critical of those who aren’t able to. We all have to earn our living within society and the problem is that a person acting alone can just make themselves uncompetitive or disadvantaged. We all need to act together as a society, to create a level playing field where zero emissions is a way of life. So to come back to EVs. As things are at the moment, if every car in a country was an EV, city air would be cleaner; but the global CO2 problem would still be there. 116. Nigel, I think that’s a very difficult question to answer. I suspect that what David Mackay says in the video that Robin highlights is part of the reason. There’s small things we can do and they will certainly help to send a message and may help to slowly shift society’s thinking. However, if that was all we did, the impact would be minimal. Ultimately this is a global problem that – if we want to reduce overall emissions significantly – will require a co-ordinated solution. Having said that I’m all for individuals doing what they can and have no problem you highlighting what you’ve done here. I think it’s a very positive thing. But I do think each to their own, which works both ways. We should – IMO – encourage those who do act to reduce their own emissions, but also recognise that doing so is sometimes hard given the societies in which we live. 117. Pete said… “Its a long road to get electric vehicles selling more than fossil fuels based ones It will and needs to happen but its wont be quick, 20-40 years I would suggest.” Personally, I think people are way underestimating how long this particular transition will take. If you take the average age of current automobiles and project out replacement rates, yes, you get 20-40 years. But that completely ignores a lot of critical factors. The whole point of the Giga Factory is to get to economies of scale that would drive prices down. I believe the factor is supposed to be something along the lines of 1/10. Already Tesla is projecting gross margins of 30%, where most car companies operate on about 12%. The$35k launch price I would expect will come down significantly and ultimately EV’s are going to be cheaper to buy and cheaper to operate. And safer, and have better technology.

The limitations of EV’s are, for all intents and purposes, gone. Range is equal to ICE vehicles. Performance is clearly there. Charging stations, for those who actually need them, are becoming widely distributed.

It deserves taking note that Tesla took 400k deposits for the Model 3 during a period when gas prices are low. There is pent up demand for a quality EV.

I’m inclined to believe, once this gets really rolling, the transition is going to happen pretty fast. I think there’s a good chance you’re not going to be able to give away an ICE vehicle in 20 years.

118. @ Nigel Harris

As David McKay liked saying (I paraphrase), “if we all do a bit, it adds up to ‘a bit’ “. Society needs to make huge shifts in the way it does things. I agree with you that we should all make an effort, and I think you’ll find—based on what people have revealed about their lives in past comments—most of those who read this blog, like you, do all they can. So your criticism, I would suggest, is not justified.

119. Eli Rabett says:

Gone the full Jason Box here have you

120. BBD says:

Nigel Harris

There are few if any better introductions to the scale and nature of the engineering challenge than the late Prof. MacKay’s book. I strongly urge you to buy a copy and read it closely.

The point is that while individual action is privately laudable, it alone is far from sufficient, and there is a real danger of complacency arising from an underappreciation of the size of the decarbonisation problem. And the timescale remaining in which it must be completed to avoid serious climate impacts.

There’s just too much handwaving and unquestioned assumptions clouding the public understanding at present. Only an informed, hard-nosed electorate can drive informed, pragmatic energy policy and by God we need some of that and we need it soon.

121. Gone the full Jason Box here have you

I did say “Maybe” 🙂

122. BBD says:

ATTP

I’m amazed that they’re [the contrarian claque] making such a big deal of this.

Really? Still? 🙂

It’s all they’ve got.

123. BBD,
I should probably stop saying “I’m amazed” because I probably no longer am. There’s another site on which Katherine Hayhoe is being called a “dishonest, hypocritical liar” because she blocks people despite saying that she’s trying to connect with the very people who most doubt her research. Pointing out that she didn’t actually say this has had little impact on their views so far. As far as I can tell, they’re upset because she claims to only block people who are jerks, but then seem to not realise that calling her a “dishonest, hypocritical, liar” probably makes her case for her.

124. Ethan Allen says:

Mark Jacobson, et. al.

Skip forward to about the 1:04:30 mark where the ‘panel’ answers some of the stupidest questions ever asked by the general public, it would appear that no one agrees on anything.

Using MacKay’s nominal number of 10 W/m^2 for W&S, I’ll get back to you on the buildout energy and footprint requirements for 100% RE in 2030 for the USA. I did this over at RR several months ago. It would appear that anyone can pull numbers out of their backside, as it were. I think that this time I’ll use Hansen’s exponential assumption. 🙂

125. Ethan Allen says:

RH,

“This graph shows the number of vehicles in the U.S. from 1990 through 2013. Some 256 million vehicles were registered here in 2013.”

I’m sort of guessing that 99+% are ICE’s.

“The fleet of plug-in electric vehicles in the United States is the largest in the world, with about 410,000 highway legal plug-in electric cars sold in the country since 2008 through December 2015, and representing about 33% of the global stock.”

256,000,000/40,000 = 6400X on a TBD timeframe even.

“Range is equal to ICE vehicles.”

I can go 600 miles on one tank of gas, 1996 I4.

I represent that half (or whatever fraction it is) of the USA that will never be able to afford a brand new vehicle of any kind.

126. BBD says:

Ethan Allen

I try to take the charitable view that J&D should be read as a very broad-brush feasibility study which finds the answer to be: ‘hypothetically – yes’. Unfortunately, a number of people misinterpret the study as an actual engineering proposal, which is most certainly ain’t. The gap between hypothetically feasible and built infrastructure is the one into which I fear the world will eventually fall.

127. BBD says:

ATTP

As far as I can tell, they’re upset because she claims to only block people who are jerks, but then seem to not realise that calling her a “dishonest, hypocritical, liar” probably makes her case for her.

Only climate contrarians could somehow reimagine Katherine Hayhoe as a ‘dishonest, hypocritical liar’. But once you’ve reinvented physics I suppose all further steps are relatively trivial.

128. Willard says:

FWIW, many contrarians blocked me over the tweeter. Blocked no one to date. Always thankful for all the concerns.

129. Phil says:

With regard to Nigel Harris’s contributions – One problem with the “take action yourself” approach is that it immediately narrows the field of actors to those that
(a) are aware of climate change
(b) understand that it is a pressing problem
and
(c) understand that action currently being taken is insufficient

So Nigel’s challenge is, in part, to increase the proportion of the populace who accept these in the face of evidence that people believe action on climate change is a luxury to be paid for when the economy is in good shape and that taking an active campaigning stance on such issue makes you appear “unattractive, boring and odd” to your fellow human beings.

Incidentally, you can, of course, do carbon footprint “self assessments” on-line, although they are undoubtedly crude and “broad brush”. I used this one for the last twelve months (which conveniently excludes my last flight 🙂 ) It gives me CO2e footprint of 5.3 tons – just over half the UK average, but more than double what they claim is the “worldwide target to combat climate change” of 2 tons.

My survey revealed that the best thing I could do would be to share my house with someone else. This has never worked in the past, presumably because I am “unattractive, boring and odd” … 🙂

130. John Hartz says:

Words of wisdom to keep in mind as we ponder what the future has in store for the human race…

The future ain’t what it used to be.– Yogi Berra

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2015/09/the-50-greatest-yogi-berra-quotes

131. John Hartz says:

Willard: Were you blocked over a specific tweet or because of your tweeting history?

132. Pete Best says:
133. @ Phil

If we’re comparing, then my carbon footprint came out at 5.97 tonnes CO2e. That was mainly because I run my ground source heat pump on electricity. As you say, the calculation is crude. For example it takes no account of the fact I buy my electricity from Ecotricity, who claim to be the greenest of all UK suppliers at 11gms CO2 per kWh [ https://www.ecotricity.co.uk/for-your-home/britain-s-greenest-energy ] Neither does it take into account that my solar array generates about 1,800kWh; some of which goes back into the grid. I recommend switching to Ecotricity as an easy way to drastically lower one’s footprint and vote with one’s feet for lower-carbon electricity at the same time. If enough people chose low-CO2e suppliers it could be highly disruptive to the market.

As to offsetting: I’m currently growing 40,000 young trees, which I planted on poor quality pasture land between 1998 and 2003, in order to establish 80 acres of new UK woodland. That represents more than 150 tonnes of CO2 sequestered each year. [ http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/6_planting_more_trees.pdf/$FILE/6_planting_more_trees.pdf ] However, while I guess I can shrug off the ‘hypocrite’ label, I still feel I’m not doing as much as I could. 134. Ethan Allan, In no particular order: Typical ICEV’s have range of about 280-300+ miles of city driving. That’s right where Tesla is hitting. And that’s vastly greater than the typical 35 miles of driving that most people do. Within 20 years there will be plenty of used EV’s on the market. Not everyone will buy new. Although, as battery manufacturing reaches greater economies of scale, prices of EV’s are likely to fall to a point a larger fraction of the population will be able to afford a new car. There are about 1.2B vehicles on the road globally. Total global manufacturing is about 100M vehicles per year. So, essentially, there is already the manufacturing capacity to turn over the entire global fleet in about 12 years. Ultimately the question will be, how quickly will (rather than “can”) other auto companies shift their product from ICEV’s to EV’s? When no other manufacturer is nipping at their heels, they have little incentive to make the transition. Now they have Tesla forcing their hands. I don’t think Musk is going to hold back. He’s an aggressive entrepreneur and I’m confident he will gladly take all the market share the other automakers cede to him. I stand by my estimation that this transition, once it gets a toe-hold, will happen far faster than anyone expects. 135. Not that I can see. 136. anoilman says: pendantry says: “May 2, 2016 at 7:15 am @anoilman I assume your post after mine is a response to mine.” I was responding to Canman… Carbon Taxes work. If they had no effect, no one would care about them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Columbia_carbon_tax http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/the-insidious-truth-about-bcs-carbon-tax-it-works/article19512237/ In this case, you’d tax bads, not goods. Every dollar we spend on fossil fuels today comes out of our pockets for the next 1000 ears. Not a good scenario. As the tax kicks in, easy low lying fruit get cleaned up in the economy. The stronger it gets the more incentive we have to not use it. I’m aware it has to pretty high to drive us off fossil fuels. 137. Robin Curtis says: This blog item has moved a long way from where ATTP started. Folk are getting a bit hung up on cars! While transport (including shipping and aviation) is an important CO2 emitter – the big emitters include power generation, heating and cooling (often overlooked), agriculture, deforestation to name a few. If you want to get into energy transition dynamics – try this for a recent article: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214629615300827 and if you want some inspirational, thought provoking, distraction – watch Solar Impulse 2 – currently crossing the US on zero fuel input http://www.solarimpulse.com/widget-energy. The art and science of the possible…… 138. OPatrick says: Rob Honeycutt: I stand by my estimation that this transition, once it gets a toe-hold, will happen far faster than anyone expects. I agree. I found myself baffled by a recent report from Bloomberg, which seemed to be describing a 35% of market share for electric vehicles by 2040 as some kind of positive projection. The thought of having 65% of vehicles sold by then still being fueled by petrol or diesel is, frankly, terrifying. 139. OPatrick says: Robin Curtis, I have to disagree, in one sense at least, that the Solar Impulse is inspiring in this context. What it mainly serves to demonstrate is that flight fueled by solar power is not a practical prospect any time soon. I actually find my Renault Zoe, which gets me to work and back every day and allows for the occasional longer journey without any problem at all and at a price comparable to an equivalent petrol or diesel car, far more inspiring. This is technology which is already mainstream. 140. John Hartz says: Here’s yet another major issue that should be taken into account when considering what the future holds in store for the human race. a href=https://www.revealnews.org/article/were-running-out-of-water-and-the-worlds-powers-are-very-worried/>We’re running out of water, and the world’s powers are very worried by Nathan Halverson, Reveal (The Center for Investigative Reporting), Apr 11, 2016 141. entropicman says: I would not get too excited about electric cars. Tom Curtis quotes the commercially extractable world reserve of lithium as 14 million tons. Rob Hunnycut quotes the total number of cars in the world as 1.2 billion. About 250 million of those are in the US. The Tesla sport car has a 540kg battery.A lower performance vehicle battery might use 250kg of lithium. There is therefore enough lithium to make 56 million batteries. That is enough to replace 20% of the ICE cars in the US with EVs. Worldwide that means one EV instead of 20 ICE cars.. If we want to feed 10 billion people, perhaps we should abandon cars altogether and reserve the lithium for electric tractors? This is why I get so pessimistic. Over and over I do the numbers and they don’t add up to a surviving civilisation. 142. Robin Curtis says: Point taken! I did offer it as a light distraction. Of more immediate interest in the transport sector might be: Airlander – http://www.hybridairvehicles.com and the Rasa hydrogen/EV car with an interesting manufacturing and ownership proposition -http://riversimple.com I really ought to ride off from ATTP’s patch on my very reliable E-bike – charged with my PV panels and/or Good Energy’s local renewable supply – and let everyone here get back to the more important topic of physics of CC – while I get on with dealing with the vast CO2 emissions from heat generation. 143. John Hartz says: Here’s yet another major issue that should be taken into account when considering what the future holds in store for the human race. We’re running out of water, and the world’s powers are very worried by Nathan Halverson, Reveal (The Center for Investigative Reporting), Apr 11, 2016 144. John Hartz says: entropicman: I wouldn’t get too excited about the human population ever reaching 10 billion people. Speaking metaphorically, the Four Horseman of the Apocolypse will prevent it from happening. . 145. entropicman… I believe Tom was saying 14 million tons is the current expected peak, but there is potentially a great deal more out there. He was also suggesting that doesn’t account for potential alternatives to lithium. 146. Magma says: The Tesla sport car has a 540kg battery. A lower performance vehicle battery might use 250kg of lithium. — entropicman The USGS estimated global reserves (currently known deposits that are economic or potentially economic at current prices and mining methods) of lithium in 2015 were 13,500,000 tonnes (calculated as Li metal). The well-proven law of supply and demand for many natural resources has long shown that reserves grow as demand rises. (Within limits, naturally, but then other elements of human ingenuity or adaptability come into play.) An 85 kWh Tesla battery pack contains about 7 kg of lithium (calculated as Li metal). Such battery packs are, or soon will be, fully recyclable for their Li and Co content. Other battery chemistries may well replace Li-ion batteries in the near future; it is an area of active and well-funded research. The global supply of lithium is not a bottleneck. 147. Andrew Dodds says: Nigel Harris – If I devoted my solar panels purely to powering an electric car, I would get something like 20-40 miles per day, depending on where you get the figures from. It would take an average of 4 days to ‘fill up’ from empty. That’s ignoring seasons and intermittentcy, of course. Not really a practical proposition. Having said that, I am seriously considering an electric car as a replacement for our second car when it comes up, they are already far better suited for short journey/local use. I suspect that this is the way that they will go mainstream, as well. 148. John Hartz says: Here’s another unfolding development with potentially signicant consequences on the supply of and demand for petroleum in the in the future. There will be pandemonium: The end of the old oil order has already begun by Michael Klare, Salon (TomDispatch), Apr 29, 2016 The tease-line (sub-headline) of Klare’s analysis: Failed negotiations in Doha are just a sign of things to come. Big Oil has collapsed and is unlikely to recover [ATTP: You are not alone in the use of hyperbole in headlines. :)] 149. Pat Hackett says: If you are right and we really are screwed who will people blame looking back? It is interesting to note that people think differently looking forward to solutions than when they are looking back to see the mistaken ways. There is a tendency to believe looking forward we can solve this issue with tweaking market forces. http://actiononclimatechange.blogspot.com/2016/04/who-will-we-blame.html 150. BBD says: If you are right and we really are screwed who will people blame looking back? They will revile us all, I suspect. And who could blame them? 151. I just did a similar calculation to Magma and got similar figures. I got 7.2kg of Li for a 90kWh battery system. http://electronics.stackexchange.com/questions/34501/how-much-lithium-in-lithium-polymer-batteries 152. These folks here came up with higher figures at 14.2kg for an 85kWh system. Still nothing close to 250kg. http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/04/26/the-tesla-gigafactories-are-coming-can-global-lith.aspx 153. John Hartz says: There’s always the possibility that human engenuity will find ways to solve a problem created by humans. The subject matter of the following article is a case in point… “The grand prize is figuring out how to make CO2 be recyclable, a renewable resource,” said Harry A. Atwater, a materials scientist at the California Institute of Technology and director of the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, which has laboratories at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory here and at Caltech. “That would be a millennial advance for society.” Researchers Aim to Put Carbon Dioxide Back to Work by Henry Fountain, New York Times, May 2, 2016 154. Raymond Lutz says: @Magma, “Most existing technologies will be limited by material availability, even considering recycling” [1] and what if another bottleneck is the energy required to build the batteries? It’s a trap! An energy trap! “Building 50TWh of batteries in 10 years with 2000GJt/MWh will use 2% of world total energy production” (ibidem). If I understand correctly, building a battery requires 1e3 times the energy it can store! [1] Perdu, F. (2016).OVERVIEW OF EXISTING AND INNOVATIVE BATTERIES, IMPACT OF THE STORAGE ON THE RENEWABLE ELECTRICITY LIFE CYCLE [pdf slides] retrieved from http://science-and-energy.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/FPerdu_Houches_final-1.pdf 155. BBD says: And: 156. Magma says: @ Rob Honeycutt: Recent versions of the 18650 cylindrical cell battery have a capacity of 12.6 Wh and weigh ~47 g. Assuming only the constituents directly involved in the electrochemical reaction of the highest energy density Li-ion chemistry in current commercial use (LiCoO2 + 3 C), lithium forms at most 5 wt.% of the cell. But this is without accounting for the mass of the electrolyte, anode and cathode substrates, non-stoichoimetric proportions, metallic conductors, battery shell, contacts, charging circuitry, etc. So cut that in half (a reasonable order of magnitude calculation), and assume about 1.2 +/- 0.2 g Li/cell, or somewhere around 8 +/- 1.5 kg of lithium in an 85 kWh battery pack consisting of 7104 18650 cells. I no longer have ready, low-cost access to a chemistry lab, or this would be a relatively easy thing to determine directly. 157. BBD says: Perhaps worrying about batteries is to put the cart before the horse. 158. The paper on ocean oxygen simply calculates when would the man-made decline in oxygen (signal) be distinguishable from natural variability (noise). It says nothing about the effects of this decline of oxygen. To use an analogy, man-made CO2 emissions drove concentrations above their natural variability sometime in the XIX century – but the effects of these emissions were otherwise negligible. There are other issues, e.g. the paper used RCP 8.5 for 2006-2100 even though it’s already obvious forcings will not be anywhere near that pathway, but the main point is the paper simply doesn’t assess whether this decline in oxygen is anything more than a curiosity. http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/staff/mclong/pubs/Long-Deutsch-etal-2016.pdf (The way the press has butchered this paper can provide many weeks of work for the folks at Climate Feedback.) Now, you didn’t say the decline in oxygen was a problem, or a catastrophe, but I see no other reason you would cite the paper in an article titled ‘Maybe we really are screwed’. As for the rest of the article: a) It would take centuries to drive human influence from its current level (about 3%) of GHE to 10%, let alone 20%. It’s not even clear if there is enough carbon to burn – it would require more than two doublings of CO2 from its current level. b) Almost nobody cares what happens centuries from now. This is just human nature. Even if you knew for certain that something was going to happen by 2300, people wouldn’t care. Every time I hear that countries really care that much about climate change, all the world has reached an agreement, bleh bleh, this chart comes to mind. Don’t listen to what politicians say – look at what they do. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CgfMXi7WIAEnfVN.jpg:large For the past 50 years, emissions of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion have grown 1 or 2% slower than GDP. If there is an effect from climate policies, it’s just noise in the signal of economic development and rising energy efficiency. (In fact there was a *slowdown* in the rise of CO2 efficiency after Kyoto – see how the red line flattens in 1998-2012). Specific countries might show rapid improvements, but what matters is the global level; surely the UK’s emissions will drop when all the steelworks have closed but that doesn’t mean the world is making less steel, or emitting less CO2 to make steel. The evidence about climate damages is too vague and weak to convince the world to change its ways. You can expect CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion to keep growing at 1 or 2% less than whatever the GDP growth rate is. 159. BBD says: The paper on ocean oxygen simply calculates when would the man-made decline in oxygen (signal) be distinguishable from natural variability (noise). It says nothing about the effects of this decline of oxygen. It’s a crimp on the efficiency of much of the ocean ecosystem, which is simultaneously challenged by warming waters and pH shift. Another brick in the wall, if you like. 160. John Hartz says: Alberto Zaragoza Comendador: The melting cyrosphere apparently did not get the memo about how weak the enahnced greenhouse effect caused by the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation really is. 161. Magma says: @ BBD: think of batteries as the horseshoes, maybe. @ Alberto Zaragoza Comendador: For someone less than two years out of a B.Com degree you’ve got quite the output of concern trolling here, not to mention at Climate Etc., Roy Spencer’s, and WUWT and various other denier blogs as well. Did you have a point to make to this particular readership? 162. “BBD says: May 2, 2016 at 9:40 pm Perhaps worrying about batteries is to put the cart before the horse.” +1 163. Michael 2 says: “As the tax kicks in, easy low lying fruit get cleaned up in the economy.” Light, heat, transportation… 164. Michael 2 says: “The way we do something is that each of us, personally, does it, or we work together to do it.” Yep. National Geographic had (and might still have) a carbon footprint calculator. According to it, my annual footprint is 1/4 that of the US average. My lifestyle is somewhat commensurate of course. But I don’t do that out of fear of global warming; I’m pedantic and INTP; I like efficiency. Efficiency is good. It means I can buy digital cameras rather than excessive light and heat. 165. T-rev says: ATTP: if it becomes clear that we’ve done too little We (partner and I) have pretty much done all we can and have for 7 years or so, we don’t want to be ‘fiddling while Rome burns’. Before that it was mostly couchtavism, which leads to depression, we’ve found action is a good antidote to that We have lowered our emisisons significantly, to about 3t per person annum (solar only, grow lots of our own food, reduced meat consumption, stay at home, no meat eating pets, I quit work, my parter uses the school bus to go to her part time job etc) We engage with friends and peers over reducing their emissions and eco footprint but have had zero luck so far, just lots of hand wringing 🙂 I had a vasectomy Only vote for politicians who take climate chnage seriously enough to go beyond rhetoric and propose drastic reductions policy, not vote for politicians we know won’t do anything substantive. That said, it does appear to be too late late but we have insured against that misery as best we can. We’ve done that by building as much resilience as we can in our off grid property and learning associated skills if it does happen more quickly than expected and we refuse to be party to the on going destruction of the biosphere. We live in interesting times, those proclaiming the loudest about the need to mitigate being some of the biggest emittiers on the planet, it;s like listening to a ‘wife beater’ about the need to reduce domestic violence, their credibility is severely lacking,actions matter,. 166. Magma says: @ BBD: think of batteries as the horseshoes, maybe. 167. anoilman says: Batteries are pretty critical, but even poor capacity would be a good start point. Frankly however, we’ve got 50 years of excellent back up batteries already there. They are called ‘coal fired plants’. I know I know… its not great to think of them that way, but its certainly the role they can fill as we adapt to intermittent renewables. 168. Robin Curtis says: I take my hat off to you and your partner for your commitment and real actions. And – well said. Unless we start pulling vast quantities of CO2 out of the air and oceans (without creating any more in the process) and returning it to whence it came – then as you (and the Chinese) say – “we live in interesting times”. 169. Marco says: “(In fact there was a *slowdown* in the rise of CO2 efficiency after Kyoto – see how the red line flattens in 1998-2012)” The Kyoto Protocol wasn’t ratified until 2002 (or 2004, depending on how you count), and attempts like an carbon trading systems were not in place before, IIRC, 2005. Political decisions of this magnitude take time to be implemented. 170. anoilman says: Marco, I think high oil prices were a big push to renewables. When Kyoto came around for ratification in Canada, oil was$35 a barrel, and the arguements then were that any carbon tax would be the end of the world. 🙂 (Laughable in the extreme in retrospect since oil hit $110 a barrel and civilization seemed to survive. Apparently the cost of living doesn’t affect its popularity.) For what its worth the industry is extremely hopeful that there will be a return to high oil prices. I’m very pessimistic. The global boom in oil was in fact a US oil boom. Shale wells went from 2 million a well with 4 year life spans at the beginning to near$8 million a well with 2 year life spans near the peak. US oil fields were already expected to go in decline before the market crash. US Oil was costing $35-70 a barrel to extract near the peak. Some companies (BP) were planning lay offs before the prices came down. This glut will last a while, but, I have big doubts that the US will rise again. Other countries may have booms as fracking tech spreads, but the reputation of fracking precedes it now, and its not good. 171. Anders, However, we still have a 0.6 – 0.8W/m^2 planetary energy imbalance, so are not yet in equilibrium, and hence the radiative perturbation (forcings plus non-Planck response feedbacks) is around 4W/m^2, or a few percent of the Greenhouse effect. This is beginning to sink in, but what is not immediately obvious to me from the maths is this: will the as-yet unrealized warming from the 0.6 – 0.8W/m^2 TOA imbalance go through the feedback multiplier on its way to equilibrium? If that’s the case, I think everything falls into place for me theoretically. I’m amazed that they’re making such a big deal of this. Everything is about making ECS as small as possible and I’ve long since grown tired of being amazed at the lengths some will go to do it. That does not stop me from being amazed. Irony is, it would be *great* if ECS really were substantially < 3 K/2xCO2 given all the foot-dragging still going on my side of the pond. 172. will the as-yet unrealized warming from the 0.6 – 0.8W/m^2 TOA imbalance go through the feedback multiplier on its way to equilibrium? Yes, if we were to fix atmospheric CO2 at todays level, we would have about 0.5C of uncommitted warming. 173. Alberto, Now, you didn’t say the decline in oxygen was a problem, or a catastrophe, but I see no other reason you would cite the paper in an article titled ‘Maybe we really are screwed’. I’m no expert at ecology, but it seems that loss of oxygen in the oceans being widespread by the 2030s – 2040s seems like a pretty bad thing. a) It would take centuries to drive human influence from its current level (about 3%) of GHE to 10%, let alone 20%. Rubbish. It might, but then again, it might not. However, if all we do is the INDCs, then we’d expect about 3.5oC of warming by 2100, which would be just about 10%. That also ignores that we can’t rule out higher levels of warming. 174. ATTP, My comment had to do with this part of the post, which references GHE in energy rather than temperature terms: ‘The Planck response is 3.2W/m2/K, so the net radiative perturbation is about 4 Wm/2. The total Greenhouse effect is about 120Wm/2, so we’ve perturbed it by a few percent. However, if we carry on as we are, we could produce a perturbation that is 10-20% of the total Greenhouse effect.’ GHG forcing is currently about 4w/m2, with about 1w/m2 offset by aerosol and land use. Getting to 10% of GHE (12w/m2) would require another two doublings of CO2, i.e. raising it to 1600ppm. Even with contribution from other GHGs this would take centuries. As for when we are likely to hit 10% of GHE in terms of temperature (3.3C), I have no idea. 175. Alberto, Getting to 10% of GHE (12w/m2) would require another two doublings of CO2, i.e. raising it to 1600ppm. Even with contribution from other GHGs this would take centuries. No. The 120W/m^2 is all the radiative influences in the atmosphere. You’re only considering the forcing component of our influence. You need to also consider the non-Planck feedbacks to do the comparison correctly. It should be pretty obvious. The Greenhouse Effect is 33C. Therefore 1C of extra warming is a few percent, 2C is about 6%, 3C is 9%, etc….. 176. Anders, Yes, if we were to fix atmospheric CO2 at todays level, we would have about 0.5C of uncommitted warming. Now we’re cooking with gas, I think this is where their confusion is. Here’s how I would solve for ECS, which is what they’re really trying to get at: 1) Number of doublings in CO2 from pre-industrial: 400/280 – 1 = 0.43 2) Warming from pre-industrial: 1 K 3) Uncommitted warming due to present radiative imbalance (inc. feedbacks): 0.5 K 4) Total warming at equilibrium if CO2 stabilized at 400: 1.5 K 5) ECS: 1.5 K / 0.43 2xCO2 = 3.5 K/2xCO2 A bit high, but in the ballpark of the canonical central estimate. QED. 177. Brandon, Indeed, this was just a ballpark figure. There are various uncertainties. I was really just trying to highlight that we’ve already perturbed the natural greenhouse effect by a few percent. 178. Sorry (3) should read: Committed warming (i.e. not realized) …. 179. Anders, yep I understand that we’re back-of-enveloping here, but the key piece they seem to be missing is that the radiative imbalance goes thru the feedback loop. Hence they get a lower ECS than they ought. They’re asking a different question than you are, what I’m seeing is everyone talking past each other. That’s all … I’ve sorted it for myself. Thanks for the help. 180. Brandon, Also, other Brandon got his signs muddled up and somehow concluded that my calculation assumed that feedbacks were zero. Now he’s complaining because I didn’t show where the Planck response comes from (apart from it essentially being in the post). I’ve now done that, so I’m waiting to see what he will complain about next. 181. Anders, I haven’t even been following his calcs. I will bet you a fiver he won’t cop to a mistake either. He contradicted himself in plain English not even talking about climate, but patent law, and said, “I don’t see a contradiction”. The man isn’t right. 182. … make that copyright law. Gah. Now I’ve gone and “lied” about him again. I’ll never hear the end of it. 183. Indeed, at best he will move on to something else. 184. Sam taylor says: We’re sentient bags of fluid, which live on a thin crust which floats atop a ball of molten metal and rock that whirls around a giant ball of superheated plasma which is constantly bombarding us with lethal radiation, which itself probably circles a supermassive black hole which sucks in and destroys all the matter it possibly can, all the while hoping we dodge even the tiniest of cosmic mishaps, which would end our fragile species in a moment. All of which is contained within a terrifying, mindless universe, remorselessly creeping towards an inevitable heat death, which if it was created by some higher power one could only assume they were either insane or deeply sadistic. When weren’t we screwed? 185. When weren’t we screwed? True. I guess the real point is to recognise when we can actually do something about it, and when we shouldn’t even bother thinking about it. 186. verytallguy says: I guess the real point is to recognise when we can actually do something about it, and when we shouldn’t even bother thinking about it. I think this speaks to the title of the piece, and I think it’s fundamentally flawed. Your premise is presented as a binary issue: either we’re screwed, or not. The reality is quite the opposite. The more we emit, the worse things will get. Indeed, probably much worse as impacts are likely non-linear. Whilst this is obviously bad, the corollary is actually encouraging: however little we manage to do, anything is worthwhile. 187. vtg, I think this speaks to the title of the piece, and I think it’s fundamentally flawed. Okay, I was being slightly flippant. I was just meaning that there are some things (a rogue black hole) that are so beyond our control that we shouldn’t even consider them, and others that we can do something about and therefore should. however little we manage to do, anything is worthwhile. Absolutely. I realise this post may have the wrong tone, but it was more to just highlight that it can be hard to try and maintain a serious, scientific demeanour when you see what appears to be quite serious events occurring as a consequence of what we’re doing to our planet and its ecosystems. Scientists are human too 🙂 188. BBD says: Magma @ BBD: think of batteries as the horseshoes, maybe. I prefer the original analogy, which was intended to remind people that you must first have a sufficiency of energy to charge the battery. A point somehow lost along down the EV rabbit hole. Did you watch the MacKay TED talk linked above? If not, I commend it to you. Facts and figures… 189. verytallguy says: ATTP, understood, and agreed. I do think there’s a real danger of fatalism; the problem is just too big to do anything about it, so let’s not bother and hope for the best. The “2C threshold” ideology speaks to this; it implies that once above 2C all hope is gone. A much more positive, and actually better supported by the science, message is that all all fossil fuel left in the ground will make a difference. Let’s get started. 190. Robin Curtis says: Couldn’t agree more. Hats off to the folk in Wales today at Ffyos-y-Fran. At least they are making a stand and hopefully a difference. Cannot believe that we are even contemplating a new / extended opencast coal mine in the UK. 191. Pat Hackett says: just a mathematical point. a 1.5K increase(including 0.5 in the pipeline) by an increase in concentration from 280ppm to 400ppm results in ECS of 2.9K/2xCO2. (logarithmic effect) 192. Pat, Good point, thanks. 193. John Hartz says: Echoing the concerns voiced by ATTP in his OP, Dahr Jamail begins his May 2 Truthout post with: Each month as I write these dispatches, I shake my head in disbelief at the rapidity at which anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is occurring. It’s as though each month I think, “It can’t possibly keep happening at this incredible pace.” But it does. As Climate Disruption Advances, UN Warns: “The Future Is Happening Now” by Dahr Jamail, Truthout, May 2, 2016 194. Robin Curtis says: Which is why I worry that folk think that Paris sorted everything out. The flurry of reports/data coming through this year on average and local temperatures, various intense weather events, Arctic Ice melt, the still rising (at an increasing rate) CO2 concentration, and reports re ocean acidification make me “shake my head in disbelief” as well….!! Perhaps I am selectively seeing the tough stuff. Someone point me at some negative feedback CO2/temperature news……please !! 195. You’re right about the GHE. Regarding what can be done, perhaps one clue on what not to do is provided by the EU. 18 years after Kyoto, 15 years into Energiewende and 10 years into the Emissions Trading System, it turns out emissions are rising. http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/7244707/8-03052016-BP-EN.pdf/88e97313-dab3-4024-a035-93b2ab471cd9 But looking at emissions alone can be misleading – CO2 intensity of GDP is a better measure. Well, EU growth last year was 2% so CO2 intensity declined 1.2%. http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-16-1613_en.htm This is both less than the global figure for last year and totally normal (perhaps even below average) compared with historical values. But of course in the 1960s there were no climate policies, and supposedly the rest of the world is not nearly as committed to ‘tackling climate change’ as Europe. It’s hard to imagine a bigger fail. Just to be clear, this is looking only at CO2 from fossil fuel combustion, which makes up the bulk of the ‘problem’ and which is more or less verifiable through statistics on fossil fuel use. CO2 from land use, CH4, and N2O are pretty much a guess, and in any case they will not have the same effect as an ‘equivalent’ [emission] of CO2 because they accumulate at different rates (this is clearly the case for methane – very little forcing in the last 15 years although it theoretically makes up 15% of ‘CO2-equivalent’ emissions). https://niskanencenter.org/blog/paris-yet-again-and-compliance-uncertainty/ No doubt bureaucrats’ insistence on lumping unverifiable stuff together with combustion aims to provide a fudge layer to claim the ‘targets’ have been ‘met’. 196. John Hartz says: Speaking of the role of methane in accelerating the greenhouse gas effect… A new study in Nature Climate Change, for instance, gets at why understanding the importance of methane can be such a difficult, confusing affair. In particular, it takes issue with some of the math that has often been used to compare the consequences of emitting methane with the impact of the chief, long-lived global warming gas, carbon dioxide. And it finds that really, we may not even know how important our methane emissions are in the first place until we also know how quickly we’re able to get carbon dioxide under control. “People are placing too much emphasis on methane,” says Raymond Pierrehumbert, a climate scientist at the University of Oxford and one of the paper’s authors. “And really, people should prove that we can actually get the CO2 emissions down first, before worrying about whether we are doing enough to get methane emissions down.” The study was led by Myles Allen, also of Oxford, with colleagues from several other UK universities as well as institutions in Norway and New Zealand. Why we’re still so incredibly confused about methane’s role in global warming by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, May 2, 2016 197. John Hartz says: ATTP: I recommend that you author a future OP on the issues raised by Chris Mooney in the articles I cited in my immediately prior comment. Although I consider Mooney to be one of the best climate science journalists in the world, some of the text in his article left me scratching my head. You have a knack of translating science-speak into plain English that non-climate science wonks like me can understand. 198. Joseph says: just a mathematical point. a 1.5K increase(including 0.5 in the pipeline) by an increase in concentration from 280ppm to 400ppm results in ECS of 2.9K/2xCO2. (logarithmic effect) So why does Nic Lewis get an ECS based on “observatonal” evidence so much lower than this figure? I am sorry if this is a bit off topic, but it is somewhat related to how bad it might get. 199. verytallguy says: Joseph, I think the main reason is that lewis, correctly, uses all forcings, not just Co2. Some are surprisingly large, from memory land use is about 1/3 of the total. There’s also the issue of how to extrapolate from current to equilibrium, which lewis does with a model rather than simply adding 0.5C. 200. Magma says: Before I go read Chris Mooney’s Washington Post article, I predict that there will be several mentions of “so much for the science is settled” in the comments coming from ‘skeptics’ who couldn’t give the formula for methane without looking it up first. 201. Magma says: At this point only 3 of 51 comments explicitly do so, though about a quarter are ‘skeptical’. 202. VTG, Thanks. You’re quite right. I’m just providing ballpark figures. If you do this more carefully you do end up getting numbers like those that Nic Lewis gets. 203. Pat Hackett wrote: just a mathematical point. a 1.5K increase(including 0.5 in the pipeline) by an increase in concentration from 280ppm to 400ppm results in ECS of 2.9K/2xCO2. (logarithmic effect) Anders responds: Good point, thanks. I reply: ok, I’m confused again. To review, my calculation was (1.0 K + 0.5 K) / (400/280 – 1) = 3.5 K/2xCO2. I’m hearing it should be: ECS = (1.0 K + 0.5 K) * ln(400/280) * ln(2) = 2.9 K/2xCO2 … which gives the “right” answer, but I guess I’m so maths-challenged that I don’t understand why. Halp. This I *do* get, so all may not be lost: ΔTs = 0.8 K/(W/m^2) * 5.35 W/m^2 * ln(2) = 2.97 K 204. Brandon, The change in forcing in going from 280ppm to 400ppm is $5.35 \ln (400/280) = 1.9 Wm^{-2}.$ If we fix atmospheric CO2 and reach equilibrium at 1.5C, then $ECS = \dfrac{3.7 \times 1.5}{1.9} = 2.9 C.$ However, as VTG, we should do this properly and use $ECS = \dfrac{3.7 \times 1}{1.9 - 0.7} = 3C.$ where 0.7 is the current system heat uptake rate. However, this is still a bit rough. The change in temperature is a bit too high, and the I should really use the change in system heat uptake rate (i.e., it wasn’t 0 in the mid-1800s), so let’s use 0.15 for the planetary energy imbalance at the begnning of the period, and 0.85 for the change in temperature. This gives $ECS = \dfrac{3.7 \times 0.85}{1.9 - 0.55} = 2.3C.$ So, we end up getting closer to Nic Lewis’s type of estimates if we’re a bit more careful and these are still a bit back-of-the-envelope and ignores uncertainties, etc, etc. 205. Anders, that was quick service, thanks. I will grind thru it and ping you if I have more questions. It’s well-known that I’m notationally-challenged, and hence sometimes maths are perfectly clear when explained “properly” to me … other times, forget it. It vexes me, it does. 206. Anders, ok, first three equations make sense. I understand in (4) the need to account for an existing energy imbalance in pre-industrial and think I follow how you’re doing it, but stumble over why this more Nic Lewis-style calculation comes up with such a low ECS. But conceptually you’ve given me enough Google search terms to hopefully be able to attack it independently from here. Thanks again, cheers. 207. Tom Curtis says: Joseph, as the LUC forcing is negative, a large LUC would result in a larger ECS, not a smaller one. As to Nic Lewis, his ECS estimate is approximately the same as reasonable, historical estimates of the TCR (as here) which is sufficient to demonstrate that it is not plausible. He does that by a variety of implausible and/or contradictory assumptions, not least of which is an unrealistically high estimate of the energy imbalance in his initial period. I think his method of just taking the difference between a few years at the start and finish is also a mistake. The effect is to cut out most of the empirical data from the “empirical” estimate. Using Kevin Cowtan’s best fit of the Meinhausen forcings (link above) yields a TCR of 1.65 C/doubling. Taking into account the energy imbalance, with that TCR yields an ECS of about 2.5 C/doubling. Unless you shape your methodology to achieve a lower result, it is difficult to get an empirical estimate much lower than that. It is also difficult to get much higher than that with data over the instrumental temperature record. The 95% confidence interval (which I have not calculated) is likely to range from around 1 to 8 C per doubling, and to have a right skew. 208. Brandon, The other thing to bear in mind is that Nic Lewis uses decadal averages for all the quantities, which also changes the values, and – IIRC – his choice of OHC data brings the system uptake rate today down somewhat. He uses a somewhat higher system uptake rate in the mid-1800s (0.15W/m^2, while Otto et al. used 0.08W/m^2). Overall, his numbers are plausible and justifiable, but I think you could find other datasets that would produce a slightly different result. 209. Magma, I just scanned the comments in the Mooney article myself. Here’s a good “sceptic” argument: Arthur Doucette 4:21 AM PDT The article states: “Governments are struggling to keep the global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial averages, and would prefer holding it to 1.5 degrees — which means eventually bringing carbon dioxide emissions to zero. ” This is absurd. We don’t have to get our CO2 emissions down to ZERO to halt the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere. The simple answer is that the biosphere absorbs about 1/2 of our current emissions each year, and can do so indefinitely with no problems, so the maximum reduction necessary is, if we wanted to keep the temps where they are now, is ~half of our current emissions. [sigh] I know equilibrium systems can be tough to figure out, but … really? We’re screwed. 210. Anders, Overall, his numbers are plausible and justifiable, but I think you could find other datasets that would produce a slightly different result. Understood. What’s annoying is that amongst lukewarmers, “plausible” means “the only possible option” when the answer conforms to what they want to believe. Uncertainty Monsters are for everyone else in that case. 211. Tom Curtis says: mt: ‘” if we expect people to accept the consensus of scientists on the science (essentially IPCC WG1) as they ought, we also ought to accept the consensus of scientists and economists working on impacts (essentially IPCC WG2).” ATTP says “fair point” I suggest it isn’t. I maintain that the epistemic status of WG I is far stronger than that of WG2 and WG3. The advice of economists should be, as an economist would say, strongly discounted. Most of economics has a validity on time scales short compared to the problem at hand, and mainstream academic economics has been consistently applying theories outside their regime of validity in the matter of global change. (I don’t think they even have a clue that models have regimes of applicability.)’ I agree that the epistemic status of WG2 and 3 is significantly less than that of WG1, but that is reflected in broader confidence intervals, and lower expressions of confidence (ie, expected robustness) in the results. It still does not change the fact that WG2 and 3 represent the consensus of the relevant disciplines, nor that for policy purposes we should accept their estimates as the best estimates going forward. The alternative to accepting WG2 and 3 is not that we accept estimates of physical scientists (still less the subset of climate scientists that expect extreme impacts in the short term). They simply do not have the relevant qualifications to estimate economic or social impacts. They are laity in that field. Ergo, if we reject WG2 and 3 as our best guide on impacts, the alternative is to conclude that there are no sufficiently informed estimates of impacts on which to base policy, ie, that for all we know AGW is as likely to lead to a golden age as to us being screwed. 212. Tom Curtis says: “So, we end up getting closer to Nic Lewis’s type of estimates if we’re a bit more careful and these are still a bit back-of-the-envelope and ignores uncertainties” Most importantly (and as Anders knows) given recent literature, it ignores the fact that not all forcings are distributed evenly across the globe and that changes in forcings in some regions have a larger impact on GMST than do changes in others due to differences in feedback responses. 213. Joshua says: ==> ….I predict that there will be several mentions of “so much for the science is settled” Ah yes. One of my favorite techniques in the climate wars. “Skeptics” claim that climate scientists say that the “science is settled” (despite a lack of examples) or distort the meaning intended when climate scientists say that some aspects of the AGW theory are not in question, and then turn around and say that hardly any “skeptics” question some aspects of AGW theory (something easily disproven by a cursory stroll around the “skept-o-sphere”0, and then turn around and say, “See, climate scientists are wrong when they say that the science is settled” after reading about an article written by climate scientist which shows how the science isn’t settled. It’s a work of art and a thing of beauty. It’s a kissin’ cousin to when “skeptics” claim that “pal-review” and “gate-keeping” prevent any articles that question any aspect of AGW theory from getting published, except those times when they read published articles that call into question some aspects of AGW theory, at which time they either ignore that they made such claims or claim that the authors of said article are very brave to risk ostracization from the community of climate scientists – ignoring that said authors are respected members of the community of climate scientists… (e.g., Bjorn Stevens). 214. Magma says: @ Tom Curtis: The alternative to accepting WG2 and 3 is not that we accept estimates of physical scientists (still less the subset of climate scientists that expect extreme impacts in the short term). They simply do not have the relevant qualifications to estimate economic or social impacts. They are laity in that field. I think this is a valid and valuable point to raise. In several areas I follow I’ve been underwhelmed by many economists and the quality of much of their work, but that is not to say that I would substitute my own opinions and analyses in their place; rather I try to carefully analyze obvious shortcomings and look to their dissenting colleagues. Climate scientists should be careful not to tread too heavily outside of the bounds of their own areas of expertise… we’ve all seen this happen with contrarian physicists and engineers and the results are hardly edifying. 215. Magma says: @ Brandon Gates: The Washington Post comment spaces attract a better class of global warming deniers. Some of them can even spell. 216. Eli Rabett says: We really are screwed Depends on your age. 217. Magma, Some of them can even spell. Does literate bullshit make better fertilizer? 218. Eli, unless the IPCC are being very very conservative, I’ll be dead before we’re properly screwed. When I say “we” I’m typically thinking about my nephews and their kids. I know you know this, I plead pedantry secondary to dealing with our nit-picky friends across the aisle. 219. Eli Rabett says: Brandon, read Stephen Gardiner’s “A Perfect Moral Storm” if you have not done so for why this is an ethical issue 220. John Hartz says: How manmade climate change could impact world water supplies is the focus of another Chris Mooney article posted today. As India, the world’s second-most populous country, reels from an intense drought, the World Bank has released a new report finding that perhaps the most severe impact of a changing climate could be the effect on water supplies. The most startling finding? The report suggests that by 2050, an inadequate supply of water could knock down economic growth in some parts of the world a figure as high as 6 percent of GDP, “sending them into sustained negative growth.” Regions facing this risk — which can at least partly be averted by better water management, the document notes — include not only much of Africa but also India, China and the Middle East. World Bank: The way climate change is really going to hurt us is through water by Chris Mooney, Energy & Environment, Washington Post, May 3, 2016 221. Eli, I did not know of the book, I found a chapter online. It’s detailed and well-argued. Also very consistent with my own moral stance on the ethics of AGW. I say that last b/c there appeared to be some question on that point … ? 222. Willard says: > I know equilibrium systems can be tough to figure out, but … really? Stocks and flows are harder than you’d think: Lung capacity is about 3 L according to Lung Volumes and Capacities. Exhaled air contains about 100 times the concentration of carbon dioxide that inhaled air does, or about 4% CO2 by volume via Carbon dioxide comparison between inhaled and exhaled air. So the amount of CO2 sequestered in the lungs of a billion people is 4 % of 3 billion liters or 120 million liters at roughly 1 atmosphere pressure. At 2 g / L (What is the density of carbon dioxide (CO2) at STP if 1 mole occupies 22.4 L?) we get the lungs of China holding 0.002 * 1.2e8 = 240,000 kg. The entire atmosphere has 5 x 10^18 kg total, of which 0.04% is CO2 so that amounts to 2 trillion kg. So the fraction of the earth’s CO2 in a billion lungs holding their breath is 240,0002,000,000,000,0o0 = about a tenth of a part per million. If they held it forever, they would be uncomfortable, but the effect on CO2 would be so tiny as to be hard to measure. As a global warming question this is sort of misguided, because CO2 breathed out balances carbohydrates eaten – there is no new net carbon injected into the system. That is, it seems to confuse fluxes and reservoirs, or as economists call it, stocks and flows. http://initforthegold.blogspot.com/2016/02/should-we-stop-breathing.html 223. Tom, It still does not change the fact that WG2 and 3 represent the consensus of the relevant disciplines, nor that for policy purposes we should accept their estimates as the best estimates going forward. I agree and if we are going to try and quantify thr impacts of climate change and the costs associated with addressing, then we should accept the consensus position represented by what is presented in WG2 and WG3. The complication, though, is that we still have to make judgements such as how do we address poverty at the same time as addressing climate change; what is the actual cost of – for example – losing the Great Barrier Reef. I think it is valid to have different moral positions with regards to the information in WG2 and WG3, while less valid to have different moral positions with respect to what is presented WG1 – which I hope I’ve explained properly. 224. verytallguy says: Tom, Using Kevin Cowtan’s best fit of the Meinhausen forcings (link above) yields a TCR of 1.65 C/doubling. Taking into account the energy imbalance, with that TCR yields an ECS of about 2.5 C/doubling. Unless you shape your methodology to achieve a lower result, it is difficult to get an empirical estimate much lower than that. Do you have a cite for that? AFAICT Lewis’ calculations are perfectly respectable and are in the literature, although they can doubtless be improved upon eg with your suggestions above. His attempts to justify his numbers as the one true estimate of sensitivity seem rather more questionable, and are not, at least as far as I know, published outside blogs or the propaganda of the GWPF. 225. It’s in this paper. The main differences – I think – is that they introduced a slight lag to account for the fact that it takes a few years for the mixed layer to warm, and they also did a Bayesian analysis based on the whole temperature record, not simply an energy balance approach where you only use an initial period and a final period. Nic Lewis dismissed it because they multiplied instead of dividing when correcting one of Loehle’s calculations. 226. verytallguy says: Thanks AT. it’s not at all clear to me why the numeric conclusions of that paper are so different to Lewis. I suspect it in the Bayesian stats? Or is it that Lewis implicitly assumes a linear change in forcings from beginning to end whereas this paper does a least squares fit along the way? Either way, I’m now out of my depth and will withdraw. Maybe Dikran could provide a simple explanation? 227. Or is it that Lewis implicitly assumes a linear change in forcings from beginning to end whereas this paper does a least squares fit along the way? I think it is partly the lag, that Lewis could also introduce and might make a reasonable difference. We’re increasing anthropogenic forcings at just over 0.03W/m^2/year, so a lag of 5 years means that you should reduce the forcing by just under 0.2W/m^2 and the TCR goes up about 10%. Also, by doing a fit to the whole temperature timeseries, you’re not forcing the start and end periods to match exactly, which is what Nic Lewis essentially does. 228. Blaz Bratovic says: ”Brandon, read Stephen Gardiner’s “A Perfect Moral Storm” if you have not done so for why this is an ethical issue” Heard of the book, probably will read in in the future. ( A bit afraid that presumably it is for a trained philosopher… ) Opted instead for Moellendorf’s ”The Moral Challenge of Dangerous Climate Change: Values, Poverty, and Policy” after reading the following review: https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/56642-the-moral-challenge-of-dangerous-climate-change-values-poverty-and-policy/ Found out that reading a review and reading a book are actually two different things. Intend to overcome that challenge in the future. 229. anoilman says: Record for cheapest solar… 3 cents per kwh was bid; http://ecowatch.com/2016/05/04/worlds-cheapest-solar/ 230. Robin Curtis says: Just got to find some long lasting batteries for about the same price / kWh – and then you are going somewhere….. http://electrek.co/2016/04/28/i-was-wrong-about-the-limits-of-solar-pv-is-becoming-dirt-cheap/ 231. anoilman says: Electric Water Heaters http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/the-water-heater-as-grid-battery-version-2.0 This is interesting in that we can level the grid’s load by tweaking water heaters. We can pre-charge a water heater so its hotter than normal when the grid isn’t that busy, then shut it off or reduce it at peak consumption. One of the things that folks don’t usually realize is just how over built the grid is. 30 to 40% of your grid is there for peaks… 1 week a year. We don’t see that in our bill, but its there. Look at your power bill, then think of what it would be like without that extra 30-40%. In any case.. the consumer side of the equation is one big part of what we need to look at. Do we need as much as we have? 232. BBD says: Numbers for those actually interested in reality as opposed to industry puff: MacKay (2015) Solar energy in the context of energy use, energy transportation and energy storage. 233. BBD says: AOM This is interesting in that we can level the grid’s load by tweaking water heaters. I remember when you showed me that article the first time. It was PR without *any* numbers then, too. Let’s not get carried away by industry blether. 234. anoilman says: BBD, they’ve run a test with 50,000 units… 235. Canman says: Oilman, your links on the world’s cheapest solar and electric water heaters are typical of the hype and obfuscation from wind and solar boosters. Check out this quote from the solar one: Saeed Al Tayer, DEWA’s managing director and chief executive, told The National that the solar facility has a planned capacity of 5,000 megawatts by 2030, which will provide power for 800,000 homes. This “planned capacity” is not going to be providing power for any homes at night! This is the only clue the article gives as to what that three cent price is actually for, which is almost certainly nameplate capacity. The electric hot water heater is a good use for excess electricity, but they just can’t stop there and have to call it a battery. It is not a battery! You can NOT extract any useful electricity from peoples hot water tanks. 236. BBD says: AOM It is nibbling round the edges of the problem. Please RTFL. Thanks. 237. bobcobbblog says: Bob here, sorry I’m late to the party. I can’t believe someone referenced a Dahr Jamal piece. Going to that guy for climate science information in context is like asking Judith Curry to get an accurate ECC. He’s the type of dude who would run around like his head was cut off instead of trying to put out a fire or call 911. Two points, among other that he got completely wrong. One is that he that he thinks it’s very possible that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free this summer or next. Sorry to burst his apocalyptic bubble, but that’s not going to happen. A record beating 2012 is possible, but not ice-free. The second is that he says most of the 93% of the Barrier Reef will die. Again, anyone who’s read the reports by Terry Hughes knows that’s not even remotely the case. Physics and Yvan Dutil, I think you’ll agree with me on the following point. Guys like Jamail exist to cause panic while not offering solutions and putting the studies he cites in context. 238. bob, I’ve never come across him before. Ice free this summer and most of the 93% dying is a bit bizarre. 239. > A bit afraid that presumably it is for a trained philosopher… There’s this article that may be less straining, by Lawrence Torcello: The relationship between knowledge, belief, and ethics is an inaugural theme in philosophy; more recently, under the title “ethics of belief” philosophers have worked to develop the appropriate methodology for studying the nexus of epistemology, ethics, and psychology. The title “ethics of belief” comes from a 19th-century paper written by British philosopher and mathematician W.K. Clifford. Clifford argues that we are morally responsible for our beliefs because (a) each belief that we form creates the cognitive circumstances for related beliefs to follow, and (b) we inevitably influence each other through those beliefs. This study argues that recent cognitive research supports Cliffordian insights regarding patterns of belief formation and social influence. From the confirmation offered by such research, it follows that informational accuracy holds serious ethical significance in public discourse. Although scientific and epistemological matters are not always thought to be linked to normative morality, this study builds on Clifford’s initial insights to show their linkage is fundamental to inquiry itself. In turn, Clifford’s ethical and epistemic outline can inform a framework grounded in “public reason” under which seemingly opposed science communication strategies (e.g., “information deficit” and “cultural cognition” models) are philosophically united. With public discourse on climate change as the key example, empirically informed and grounded strategies for science communication in the public sphere are considered. https://t.co/xmznyBTOYO I’ve asked Lawrence for a copy, and he kindly accepted to send me one. When he’ll be less busy, I’ll ask him a few questions about it. Could be interesting post. We’ll see. 240. Regarding an “ice-free” summer. The scientist most often quoted on this prediction is Dr. Wieslaw Maslowski of the Oceanography Department at the Naval Postgraduate School. Back in 2010 he said the arctic could be ice-free by 2016 +/- 3 years. But what often gets neglected is that Maslowski was talking about volume – not extent or area – and as Joe Romm explained: This projection is based on a combined model and data trendline focusing on ice volume. By “ice-free,” Maslowski tells me he means more than an 80% drop from the 1979-2000 summer volume baseline of ~200,00 km^3. Some sea ice above Greenland and Eastern Canada may survive into the 2020s (as the inset in his figure shows), but the Arctic as it has been for apparently a million years will be gone. At the end of the 2012 melt season volume had fallen by 76.3% from the 1979 – 2000 baseline. It is hardly unreasonable to expect the 80% mark to be broken this year given that 2016 volume is by most measures lower than 2012’s. 241. Willard, Stocks and flows are harder than you’d think … Nah, they’re easy. Just divide by half. Done. That was a brilliant riposte to the “if you really cared about AGW, you’d shut up about it and stop breathing” meme. Carbon neutrality is harder than you’d think. 242. Vinny Burgoo says: [Chill, please. -W] 243. John Hartz says: bobcobbblog has posted a scathing and unwarranted, in my opinion, criticism of both the article and the author of: As Climate Disruption Advances, UN Warns: ”The Future Is Happening Now” by Dahr Jamail, Truthout, May 2, 2015 As the person who posted the link to Jamail’s article, I have no regrets doing so. In the main, Jamail has created an annotated bibliography of sorts by referencing the many reports and papers about climate change impacts that have been recently published. I have not seen a comparable article published yet this year by anyone else and I spend a lot of time sifting and winnowing through articles on climate change. I post links to eight articles per day on the Skeptical Science Facebook page. I select what I consider to be the cream of the crop among the universe of arctiles that I come across each day.. Jamail’s perspective on climate change consequences and the “urgency of now” to take action is similar to that of Kevin Anderson and James Hansen. bobcobbblog wrote: One is that he (Jamail) that he thinks it’s very possible that the Arctic Ocean could be ice-free this summer or next. Sorry to burst his apocalyptic bubble, but that’s not going to happen. A record beating 2012 is possible, but not ice-free. What Jamail actually wrote: In the Arctic, for the second straight year, sea ice has reached a new wintertime low record. Given the record-breaking warm summer for that region, it is not out of the realm of possibility that we could see an ice-free period of Arctic sea ice either this or next summer. No matter how you slice it, “it is not out of the realm of possibility” does not equate to “very possible.” The botom-line: Jamail’s article is a good resource document in my opinion. 244. Bob says: He’s said the same thing about ice-free extent before, and Hansen and Andersen have never mentioned near-term extinction like Jamail did. He’s interviewed and huggedGuy Mcpherson’s nuts multiple times. In my humble opinion, he’s not a good source at all. Carbon Brief is much better. And Physics seems to agree with me on this point. 245. John Hartz says: More recent research on the protective power and hence the value of coral reefs around the globe is presented in: Coral Deaths Threaten Coasts With Erosion, Flooding by John Upton, Climate Central, May 4, 2016 246. anoilman says: Canman: I recommend you read what I said before countering what I didn’t say. It might save you a lot of time. The article states “At less than 3 cents per kWh, that’s 15 percent lower than the previous record-low bid of 3.5 cents per kWh from Italy’s Enel Green Power for a solar project in Mexico…” You should read the article before hammering at your keyboard; http://ecowatch.com/2016/05/04/worlds-cheapest-solar/ I guess Dubai will just have to get by with much lower power bills and a much lower carbon footprint. Dang, they’d be paying 3 times as much if they didn’t idle the coal plant during the day. Think of the savings! Water tanks are load levelers. I think I said that… Um.. no.. you can’t extract energy from them. You are right. Why would you state something so unrelated? I would also recommend that you familiarize yourself with the energy plan for your local area. You are spend nearly 1/3 of your electricity bill on 1 week a year. Go get a calculator and work it out buddy. A load leveler will allow you to shave those peaks down, and even remove power plants. As for solar at night… I know I’ve already told you this… I’ll say it again… batteries, perhaps you could look it up sometime. Or read the article posted just above mine; http://electrek.co/2016/04/28/i-was-wrong-about-the-limits-of-solar-pv-is-becoming-dirt-cheap/ FYI, Tesla Power Wall costs$0.32 per kwh retail all factors in. It wholesales at $0.12 per kwh. I have to agree that I’m not keen on the prices, but then, I’m paying$0.19 per kwh for coal right now, and hey, maybe I should level that load a little.

247. BBD says:

AOM

The article you link is misleading. It conflates cheap panel prices with cheap total PV cost but that ignores HVDC and (currently non-existent) storage technology. It’s the usual self-serving industry puff. It’s not a bad idea to remember that solar is just another part of the energy industry and no more trustworthy than the rest of it.

Nor does the article even begin to address the fundamentals. See MacKay (2015) above.

248. BBD says:

That should be ‘(non-existent utility-scale) storage technology’.

249. Andrew Dodds says:

aom –

Batteries are not much use against seasonality, which is a problem for most people using PV outside of the tropics. By all means, if you live somewhere with year-round sun, then a suitable solar array and powerwall should work well, especially if there is no grid connection. But that doesn’t apply to a lot of the world.

The problem with load levelling techniques is that they work OK on short time periods – i.e. <48 hours – but at some point the need for hot water and refrigeration becomes hard. This creates a worrying scenario where – in a situation where all renewable sources are generating at low levels for a few days – a huge amount of demand kicks in.

It has to be noted again that had we simply ramped up the 1980s program of building nuclear plants, coal would have been retired by now and we wouldn't be using natural gas for much electricity. We'd be focusing on electrifying homes and the really hard problem of fully replacing oil..

As far as the original title goes..

We know that global warming could be fixed; lock a bunch of scientists and engineers in a room for a couple of days and they'll come up with a variety of ways to power society without emitting CO2. At which point the politicians could choose their preferred solution and the economists give us some idea of how to most efficiently achieve it.

Except what's actually happened is that 'solutions' are being dreamed up by politicians (and NGOs) with scant regard for scientific and engineering reality, and imposed by an ad-hoc mash of subsidies. Economists are coming up with plans that specifically disregard any prior knowledge about how to fix the problem (cf. carbon tax), and scientists are holding their heads in their hands and saying 'We're all screwed..'.

250. Robin Curtis says:

Well said. Can hear David Mackay’s voice here. Which is why he set out to develop the tools for evaluating possible routes to major CO2 reductions – and challenged any and everyone to come up with possible scenarios. It’s difficult ! http://2050-calculator-tool.decc.gov.uk/#/home

251. Tom Curtis says:

Robin Curtis, based on that calculator, it was not difficult at all. The difficult task is not technical, but political.

252. BBD says:

Tom Curtis

What did your energy mix look like in the end?

253. BBD says:

Sorry, that looks a bit blunt on the page and wasn’t meant to be. I asked as you mentioned political difficulty and with David MacKay’s own observations on NIMBYism in mind.

254. The difficult task is not technical, but political.

Having read quite a bit of David Mackay’s book, this seemed to be his conclusion too. When he ran the numbers, he ended up with a result that suggested that we could get quite close using renewables. Admittedly, this was probably too high in the sense that even though he’d included efficiencies, we can’t, for example, put wind turbines everywhere, or surround the entire coast to produce a tidal station. However, he then reduced it by almost an order of magnitude for each source of the basis of societal objections, or some kind of political/economic reality. I suspect that this is true, but it does suggest that one of the biggest stumbling blocks will indeed be political/societal, and not technological.

255. BBD,
We went to the same page.

256. John Hartz says:

Bob wrote:

In my humble opinion, he’s (Jamail) not a good source at all. Carbon Brief is much better.
And Physics seems to agree with me on this point.

As I stated above, Jamail’s article is a good resource document because it overviews a broad spectrum of recently documented research and observations about the consequences of manmade climate change and provides links to source documents.

I totally agree with you that Carbon Brief is an excellent source of high quality information. That is why I continuously post links to their articles on the Skeptical Science Facebook page and is also why so many of their articles are reposted on the Skeptical Science website at my suggestion.

257. Just to be clear, I don’t know if I do agree. I haven’t really had a good chance to look into Jamail’s writings. However, I do have issues with people wh exaggerate, so if he is someone who promotes that we will be ice free soon, etc, then he may well not be a good source. I just don’t know and haven’t had a chance to check for myself.

258. John Hartz says:

ATTP: I am not defending Jamail’s body of work or his opinions about what the future has in store for us. Nontheless, the specific article I cited is a handy reference document for the reasons that I have articulated above. Read the article and judge for yourself.

259. JH,
Yes, I realise. I was just commenting that I haven’t really had a chance to have a good look myself.

260. Tom Curtis says:

BBD, I went very heavily on electrification, including of transport and improvement of efficiencies on the demand side. On the supply side, the bulk of the lifting is with offshore wind, supplemented by solar hot water generation, and wave and tidal power. I did not increase CCS, nuclear, onshore wind, or energy imports except for load balancing. I allowed industry to more than double in size. Overall costs are slightly less than the Mark Brinkley scenario, so among the more expensive scenarios listed but a reasonable over all cost (IMO). The scenario can be found here.

261. bobcobbblog says:

Here’s a history I’ve had with different climate scientists on their opinion of Dahr Jamail. Hint: It’s not positive 🙂
Ken Caldeira and Scott K. Johnson (hydrogeologist who writes for Ars Technica and runs Fractal Planet)
Michael Tobis
3: I can’t remember the link for this one, but polar oceanographer Mark Brandon shot down Jamail’s article about the methane clathrates in the Arctic. The so-called journalist used Paul Beckwith, who’s not even technically a scientist, to conclude that global temperatures would increase around 6C by 2050. Jamail’s also a noted doomer who believes in NTHE and sees Guy McPherson as an indisputable source of evidence.
To sum up, most of the studies he cites are solid, but his interpretation of them is basically that the sky’s falling and that nothing can be done. You’ll note he never discusses solutions or covers good news like global emissions stalling for the last two years.
John, with all due respect, I would steer clear of the man.

262. @ArgonneForest’s tweets are protected, Bob.

263. bobcobbblog says:

But can you see what the scientists said in the conversations? Suffice it to say I was talking about Jahmail.

264. John Hartz says:

I am not defending Jamail’s body of work or his opinions about what the future has in store for us.

265. bobcobbblog says:

Alright, John. Sorry, it’s just that guys like him really annoy me.

266. BBD says:

Tom C

That’s an interesting and reasonable plan. My only question concerns robustness to a sustained drop in offshore wind output – say four consecutive days down at ~20%. I’m probably missing something obvious, but I’m not sure what takes up the slack.

267. BBD says:

Sorry, should have said, post ~2030 going forward.

268. > But can you see what the scientists said in the conversations?

No, Bob – protected tweets are protected.

269. John Hartz says:

Bob: I have been aware of Jamail’s reputation for quite some time. Our discussion has been useful.

The summary of what’s happening to the Great Barrier Reef that is contained in Jamail’s article, As Climate Disruption Advances, UN Warns: “The Future Is Happening Now”, is indeed “over the top” and reflects poorly on how well he researched the topic. In the future, I will read his articles more closely before I post links to them.

Peace!

270. John Hartz says:

Willard: As I non-Tweeter, I was not aware that Tweets could be “protected.” How is this done in Tweeter world? Is it a common practice to do so?

271. JH,
You can select to protect your tweets so that only approved people can see them.

272. Tom Curtis says:

BBD, although there are no energy imports except for load balancing. I presume from that there can be energy imports for load balancing, meaning the low wind conditions would need to be coupled with low wind conditions across Europe, and low sun conditions in southern Europe to create a substantial problem. Even then, the plan incorporates approximately 15% oversupply giving substantial capability to meet shortfalls. On top of that, the plan includes 72 GWs of gas standby power, which represents approximately 30% of total instantaneous demand. The 15% oversupply together with the gas standby power should be sufficient to cover the shortfall in wind by itself at need.

273. bobcobbblog says:

Willard and John,
I protect my entries so less than well-intentioned people don’t look at them. If you put in a follow request, I will approve it so you can see the conversations. That said, I don’t have a problem with people stressing the risks and problems of climate change, but to say there’s nothing that can be done about it or that we’re all doomed is not true and unhelpful. That’s why I dislike people like Jahmail. I think he’s less concerned with climate change and more so with attracting readership with his doomerism. On the other hand, Kevin Anderson discusses solutions while campaigning for more stringent action. I respect him for that, even though I disagree with some of what he says

274. BBD says:

Thanks Tom. I see it as you do: very large-scale regional deployment, pan-European interconnectors required and a steaming mountain of politics to shift in order to get it done. On a tight schedule. Hence the gloom.

275. > I protect my entries so less than well-intentioned people don’t look at them.

Then don’t cite them, Bob. Find another source and report.

276. bobcobbblog says:

I can’t provide another source for personal correspondence. Like I said, put in a follow request and you can see them. After that, you can unfollow me. It’s a simple step.

277. > I can’t provide another source for personal correspondence.

Are you saying that your tweets reveal personal correspondence, Bob?

If I had a buck every time someone, somewhere on the Internet raised concerns about the helpfulness of an otter’s communications, I might be able finance the Drumpf’s campaign, which might need donors after all:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/04/politics/donald-trump-fundraising-general-election/

278. bobcobbblog says:

No, what I meant is that I talked to these scientists on my Twitter. It’s not as if there’s someplace else that took place. Besides, the overarching point is that Jamail’s not the best of sources, which JH has concurred.

279. > No, what I meant is that I talked to these scientists on my Twitter.

Then you should be able to find their own tweets.

280. Andrew Dodds says:

BBD, Tom –

The question is, does it pass the Europe Winter Blocking High test – 2 weeks (at least) of very cold conditions, little PV, very little solar heating and light winds. It may seem contrived but it happens. It’s one of those unfortunate problems that Europe is just not a big enough area to balance out wind.

The other problem with the scenario is that having reached this 80% reduction, it’s not clear how the final 20% is achieved.

At least with a nuclear-heavy solution the problems are those of engineering.

281. BBD says:

Andrew

The question is, does it pass the Europe Winter Blocking High test

You – I think – know I agree with you about this. Which is part of the reason why I have come to suspect that we are somewhat screwed.

282. bobcobbblog says:

I love how the people over at dailykos, particularly fish out of water, hype the Arctic sea ice being ice free this year and that clathrate explosions are likely. That’s the place where good science goes to die apparently

283. bobcobbblog says:

Not so sure about the Guardian. I have no problem with them. I do find it disconcerting that I’ve seen a few scientists reference Scribbler.

284. anoilman says:

BBD: I’m a tad miffed. You know full well that I agree with you. I do understand the difference between good sources and PR fluff. Sometimes the fluff is cheery.

Andrew Dodds: I frequently lecture people about seasonal variance for solar. I lump that lesson with the fact that a carbon reduced world is not a one size fits all solution. (Nukes in northern climates?)

Folks, You can’t solve problems by looking backwards, and saying it can’t be done. Because yes, you really are screwed if you do that. (Why do you think deniers talk like that? In fact denier koolaid is always a myopic recipe for failure.)

If you want to look forward, you have to look at more than just what we used to do (this is denier territory), or what we can likely do now (again, failure, just keeps tabs on it), but more at where we’re going and trying to figure out how to get there. You need vision, you need hope, and you need effort.

Since Bill Gates did his TED talk on Global Warming, we’ve seen many many things happen, namely the decreasing cost of renewables, and storage tech, and a hefty roll out of both.

Marten Luther King didn’t say, “I have a plan with Gantt Charts, and ISO goals!”

He said, “I have a dream!”

285. Vinny Burgoo says:

bobcobbblog, you’re right. The Guardian isn’t quite in the same category – although it was when Nafeez Ahmed had a blog there.

(I’d like to read more of what Scribbler and other AMEGites put out but the AMEG website is so badly designed that a page can take a minute or more to load.)

286. John Hartz says:

In a well-writtne and well-researched article, Nicola Jones* summarizes why prior forecsts of sea level rise are being revised upward because of the new research findings about the melting of polar ice.

The “Abstract” of Jones’ article:

Ninety-nine percent of the planet’s freshwater ice is locked up in the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. Now, a growing number of studies are raising the possibility that as those ice sheets melt, sea levels could rise by six feet this century, and far higher in the next, flooding many of the world’s populated coastal areas.

Abrupt Sea Level Rise Looms As Increasingly Realistic Threat by Nicola Jones, Yale Environment 360, May 5, 2016

*Nicola Jones is a freelance journalist based in Pemberton, British Columbia. With a background in chemistry and oceanography, she writes primarily about the physical sciences. She has written for Scientific American, Globe and Mail, New Scientist, and the journal Nature. Previously for Yale e360, she reported on whether pulling carbon from the air can make a difference on climate and the new breed of accountant that is, in essence, the overseer of the planet’s new rescue mission.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.