## Thinking like a planet

Adam Frank has a recent article called Climate change and the astrobiology of the anthropocene. The premise of the article is that we should think of climate change in terms of astrobiology and, in particular, the habitabilty of planets and the sustainability of civilisations that may evolve. Given that my own research interests are in exoplanets, and how planets form and evolve, I do find the it interesting to think of climate change in a broader context.

The article made some interesting points. Current exoplanet statistics suggests that it’s extremely unlikely that we are the only technologically advanced civilisation to have ever developed. The article also discusses work that considers how advanced civilisations may evolve and influence the planets on which they exist – in our case moving us from the Holocene to the Anthropocene, an entirely new geological epoch dominated by our activity. Using large amounts of energy for civilisation building has to influence the planetary habitat and the issue is if this can be sustained or ultimately leads to collapse.

However, I thought the framing at the end of the article was rather unfortunate. The article ends with

we are simply another thing the Earth has done in its long history. We’re an “expression of the planet,” as Kim Stanley Robinson puts it. It’s also quite possible that we are not the first civilization is cosmic history to go through something like this. From that perspective, climate change and the sustainability crises may best be seen as our “final exam” (as Raymond PierreHumbert calls it). Better yet, it’s our coming of age as a true planetary species.

We will either make it across to the other side with the maturity to “think like a planet” or the planet will just move on without us. That, I believe, is the real meaning of what’s happening to us now. It’s a perspective we can’t afford to miss.

I agree that we’re not a plague, that we should think about ourselves as an integral part of the planet, and that the planet will carry on with, or without, us. However, overall, the above makes it seem as though the whole process is simply natural and, hence, something that we cannot control. If we were simply observers watching the evolution of many different advanced civilisations, this might be a reasonable way in which to think of this, but we’re not; we are the civilisation that is fundamentally changing the planet on which we depend. We are not only aware of the implications of our actions, but can also make decisions about what we do and can actively try to influence the outcome; we can aim for sustainability rather than collapse.

I don’t know if the intent was to make it sound like a natural process over which we have no control (my impression is that it was not), but I think that that is one way in which this argument could be perceived. So, although I have some sympathy with the idea of thinking in terms of us being a planetary species, I do think that we should be careful of framing it in a way that makes it seem as though we’re just observers watching as our civilisation either collapses or attains sustainability.

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### 201 Responses to Thinking like a planet

1. pete best says:

we know we wont continue to burn all of the fossil fuels we have at our disposal but where will we get off is the key question. Every day there are thousands of blog posts citing this paper and that paper telling us that we have to start coming off the carbon curve asap in order to have a 50/50 chance of avoiding 2C (forget 1.5C). So what is the reality, after all does Paris 2015 hold merit, will all those countries and continents really switch to electric everything (even if it is possible) turn the corner considering lots of companies and countries are still drilling for coal, gas and oil even though they have to adhere to Paris 2015. So we have for two years now managed to stall carbon increases which is good news but reducing emissions still eludes us thus far.

we have at your disposal adequate technologies to go a long way to mitigate climate change but it looks like we will need all the wind turbines, nuclear, solar, csp, wave and tidal we can get and if we fail BECCS which I think it telling.

2. John Hartz says:

ATTP: Re the future of the human race, our ability to create AI (Artifical Intelligence) and replace ourselves with robots/androids needs to be considered as well. This whole can of worms is no longer the province of “Science Fiction.”

3. The plague is also an integral part of our planet.

4. Humanity can solve the problem. As an individual I do my best, but honestly I am mostly an observer and do not have that much more influence than an alien. Thus I do not read the cited paragraphs as suggesting that we cannot solve global warming.

I think we already solved the problem, we should do so faster, but the corporations and the mitigation sceptical movement will no longer be able to prevent the problem from being solved. They lost this time. This does not say that much about us as a species, however, because we got lucky that renewable power turned out to be so cheap. Had this not been the case and had the solution required a (temporary) more modest life style, we might have ended civilisation.

That is worrying because there will be many more tests in future and the same demographic will again try to make the problem as large as possible for everyone. Next time we might not be this lucky again.

5. The plague is also an integral part of our planet.

What are humans, if not natural, Victor? I’ve long been partial to the late, great philosopher George Carlin’s take:

I chose that particular link because of the editorial comment in the description:

George Carlin is spot-on in regards to the arrogance and self-importance that surrounds the myth about global warming (applies equally to climate change or what my grandparents called “weather”.)

Damn straight my concerns about AGW are self-important. I personally think that any code of ethics and morality not firmly grounded in self-interest lacks power to motivate, and this therefore perfectly useless.

6. George Carlin is as dead as David Hume. That infamous show is so 20th century. Did he ever appreciate the dimension of the Great Pacific Plastic Gyre? If I were God I would punish him with death bed visions of this mess plus 50 years purgatory under water watching the Great Barrier Reef die.

7. David B. Benson says:

I strongly recommend reading chapter 12 and the appendix of “The Logic of Chance” by Eugene Koonin for a solid argument for the contrary view that Terra is the only place with life in the entire universe.

8. angech says:

” We will either make it across to the other side with the maturity to “think like a planet” or the planet will just move on without us. That is the real meaning of what’s happening to us now.
I agree that we’re not a plague, that we should think about ourselves as an integral part of the planet, and that the planet will carry on with, or without, us. However, overall, the above makes it seem as though the whole process is simply natural and, hence, something that we cannot control.”
Not disagreeing with you ATTP, just discussing the ideas further.
If the planet moves on without us then we may not be integral after all.
The process being natural does not imply that we necessarily lack control.We may be actors rather than observers.
Two prongs would be blowing ourselves up with misapplied nuclear or developing Gaia with terraplanning. [our civilization either collapses or attains sustainability.]

Brandon “What are humans, if not natural”
Well, aliens perhaps?
Or computer constructs?
These are actually answers with a grammatically correct, but not intention correct construct, Willard.

ATTP on a scientific aside why should gas balls condense into planets? given that they are all where they are under the influence of gravity in the first place why don’t they just stay as a non changing gas ball?

9. Keith McClary says:

“We are not only aware of the implications of our actions, but can also make decisions about what we do and can actively try to influence the outcome; we can aim for sustainability rather than collapse.”
An “advanced civilisation” (by my definition) would succeed, not just “try” and “aim”.

10. angech,

Well, aliens perhaps?

Still natural.

Or computer constructs?

If it exists, it’s natural.

I’m being pedantic for effect. Think of it as a satire.

11. angech,

If the planet moves on without us then we may not be integral after all.

True, I more meant that we’re so influencing the planet that it’s reasonable to think in terms of the whole system, than as us and the planet being separate.

The process being natural does not imply that we necessarily lack control.We may be actors rather than observers.

Of course, and I suspect that this is what the author of the article was meaning. My concern with the framing is that it could be interpreted as a process over which we have no control.

Keith,

An “advanced civilisation” (by my definition) would succeed, not just “try” and “aim”.

Indeed.

12. Andrew Dodds says:

David B. Benson –

Read it. Rehashes a very naive probability argument. Not remotely convinced.

Generally –

If we look at life as just another entropy generation mechanism (and there does seem to be some law such that systems that generate entropy maximize their complexity over time), then humans would just be a natural product of this law, and our actions in reducing the chemical potential energy of the planet completely inevitable. The part of me that considers itself to have free will considers this obviously insane.. and the part that looks at the statistical properties of humanity would observe that it is yet to be falsified.

13. David B. Benson says:

Andrew Dodds — Do you understand enough molecular biology to actually understand the Koonin argument? The difficulty of obtaining even an RNA based “life form”, i.e, a metabolism with reproduction, appears to be beyond the abilities of those working on abiogenisis. There are reasons for that, which Koonin indicates, albeit turgidly.

For other arguments, see “Rare Earth” by Ward & Brownlee.

14. David B. Benson,

The difficulty of obtaining even an RNA based “life form”, i.e, a metabolism with reproduction, appears to be beyond the abilities of those working on abiogenisis. There are reasons for that, which Koonin indicates, albeit turgidly.

One would hope one of those arguments is that we’ve not been working on the problem for on the order of a billion years.

15. Andrew Dodds says:

David B. Benson –

Yes, I do. Biochemistry and Geology were my thing at Cambridge, if you are going to be like that.

To replace a gap in knowledge with ‘Must be random/impossible’ in an immature and evolving (sic.) field as Koonin does is not reasonable. Indeed, a hypothesis which explains a whole lot of observations as ‘it just happened that way by extreme freak chance’ is hardly satisfying. The obvious problem being that this extremely improbable event happened as soon as it was possible to happen on this planet.

‘Rare Earth’ presents a different view entirely, namely that simple life is common but complex life (worms and up) extremely rare – something which has the benefit of being true, on average through time, for the Earth, let alone any less well sited planets. This is a direct contradiction to the Koonin work which postulates abiogenesis as the ‘hard step’.

16. Andrew,
Maybe you can answer something that I’ve heard but never confirmed. My understanding is that all life on Earth has a single origin. Is this correct? If so, then it would seem that we don’t know if there were many starts to life, but only one form survived to populate the planet, or if it only actually happened once. If it’s the latter, then it would seem harder to make any claims about the likelihood of simple life elsewhere.

17. izen says:

Gaia is a philosophical metaphor.
Seeing human intelligent actions as just part of a greater whole is very Omega point, Tielhard de Chardin. I blame the Catholics…

Whether as actors or operators we have intervened in the basic geochemical process of the planet qualitatively. The Sulphur, Phosphate and Nitrogen cycles have been disrupted in ways that will be evident in the geological.

But altering the chemistry is just the first step.
Then there is the ecology. As we gain the ability, if not the wisdom, to act on the biological level there will be another ‘crisis’ as the ‘Natural’ genetic ecology is replace with our interventions.
With full abilities at the nuclear/quantum level intelligence hits the singularity, realises it can turn itself into immortal omniscience entities encoded into the substrate of space time and leave those further back on the road inventing the Fermi paradox and wondering what all the dark mass/negative energy is…

18. Andrew Dodds says:

aTTP –

The problem is, the moment life originates and gets to the point where it can spread, it should very quickly ‘cannibalize’ any sites that are pre-emergence, because they would have a high concentration of food molecules. So there is a good argument that the OOL can only happen once in a suitable environment.

The real experimental test is to look at those solar system bodies that have or have had water/hot rock contact at some point in their history. Not 100% conclusive even if found, since seeding within the solar system may have happened. Also, a prediction of the hydrothermal-vent OOL hypothesis is that microbial life that has different origins should be very similar at a biochemical level (this also complicates the question on Earth; what if Eubacteria and Archaebacteria actually represent different OOL events that followed the same chemical pathway? They would both end up with similar enzymes, metabolic pathways and even genetic codes..

But that aside, it would help, as would the detection of photosynthesis-influenced worlds by the planet-hunting people.

19. Andrew,

the moment life originates and gets to the point where it can spread, it should very quickly ‘cannibalize’ any sites that are pre-emergence, because they would have a high concentration of food molecules.

Okay, that makes sense, thanks.

I agree that finding evidence for life having been on other Solar system bodies would be at least an indicator that it is something that can occur quite easily if the conditions are suitable.

the detection of photosynthesis-influenced worlds by the planet-hunting people.

Probably still a little way away, but getting there slowly 🙂

20. izen says:

@-” My understanding is that all life on Earth has a single origin. Is this correct? ”

There may be grey areas of where cyclic complex chemistry becomes life. Is metabolism without inheritance alive?

My outdated and shallow take on this is that the existence of rare variants using a different genetic coding either indicates that genetic inheritance can emerge in more than one form.
Or that radical variation can arise after the single emergence of a unique originator.
I don’t know if any recent insights have shifted the balance of probabilities.

But it was the subsequent ability to sequester CO2 and release Oxygen that really enable life to impact the planetary geochemistry in ways that dwarf our recent efforts.

21. angech says:

…and Then There’s Physics says:
” Maybe you can answer something that I’ve heard but never confirmed. My understanding is that all life on Earth has a single origin. Is this correct?”
I thought silicon based life forms had been found in volcano vents but it seems on googling it is may have been a myth.
There is this,
“NASA has discovered a new life form, a bacteria called GFAJ-1 that is unlike anything currently living in planet Earth. It’s capable of using arsenic to build its DNA, RNA, proteins, and cell membranes”
But if it has all the other bits we have it is probably a variant not a different origin of life.
The Highlander theory of Andrew sounds very good [There can only be one].
Not very good if we ever met aliens though!

22. Dikran Marsupial says:

Angech, it is using arsenic as a substitute for phosphorus though (As is immediately below P in the table), rather than carbon. Very interesting finding though (NASA webpage here), but it appears that it may not actually be true. Perhaps this is another case where press releases on acceptance of a paper is not such a good idea and we really need to wait for the reaction of the research community (sadly by which time it is no longer “news”).

23. angech says:

agreed.Thanks. I was upset enough by the fact that the old silicon reports were not true so thanks for confirming this one not up to scratch as well.

24. Dikran Marsupial says:

When reading an old scientific press release/story, I often look up the study on Google Scholar and see who has cited it, quite frequently one of the more highly cited papers that have referenced it either replicate it or fail to replicate it. Sadly the press is less keen on the follow up papers, c.f. my comment paper refuting an incorrect argument about the body mass of dinosaurs that got a fair bit of media interest (unlike my comment).

Sometimes the study is hardly cited at all, which often (but not always) also tells a story.

25. Phil says:

Silicon is very unlikely to substitute for carbon in complex lifeforms. The stability of polymer Si compounds (the silicon equivalents of pentane, hexane, heptane etc. etc.) is much lower than that for carbon. This effectively precludes the formation of complex proteins etc. with silicon substituted for carbon.

26. A) Whatever the chances of Life happening somewhere in the universe are: for all practical purpose we have to assume we are the only one.
B) We are no longer just a plague or the flu which Earth can simply shake off. (We have done too much damage already. We might be a fatal cancer.)
C) The long and hard work of Mother Evolution should not be squandered.
D) The knowledge of Nature and Life we have gathered should not be squandered.

Thus:
The purpose of our life (in this very century) is to sustain Life on Earth.

So, while astrobiology is certainly worth studying it is irrelevant to the task ahead. (Outside the ivory tower it might even be a dangerous distraction.)

The task is fast cultural evolution. We need to get our heads out of the clouds and make contact with the ground. We need to “reinvent the human within the community of life systems” (Th. Berry). This is a challenge to philosophy (first intuited by Heidegger: “Why is the earth silent at this destruction?”) and to religion (not yet fully grasped by theists and Buddhists).

As Thomas Berry puts it:
“In an earlier period we have been profoundly concerned with divine-human relations. In more recent centuries we have been concerned with interhuman relations. Our future destiny rests even more decisively on our capacity for intimacy in our human-Earth relations.” (The Great Work, 1999, introduction)

27. Chris says:

izen

My outdated and shallow take on this is that the existence of rare variants using a different genetic coding either indicates that genetic inheritance can emerge in more than one form.
Or that radical variation can arise after the single emergence of a unique originator.

The differences are so small (the genetic codes are essentially identical in 62 or 63 of the 64 codons), that this is really only consistent with the idea that existing life has a single common ancestor. Of course that doesn’t mean that life only arose once on Earth; only that some common ancestor (or its progeny) has outcompeted any other competitor.

After all the genetic code is pretty random (apart from the “Wobble” elements) . Any physicochemically-defined specificity in relation to the amino acid coded by a particular codon (that would have to underlie any necessary common physiochem/structural features in different evolving lineages) is at the “back end” of tRNA molecules away from the codon-anticodon pairing.

So there’s no reason why in a Ser tRNA (for example) recognising a TCT, TCA, TCG, TCT codon a Ser molecule is attached to the 3′ end of the tRNA except that that’s how things evolved. We know this is the case since we can artificially “charge” tRNA molecules with non-standard amino acids to introduce these into proteins.

It’s likely that the very limited variation in the genetic code is the result of the acquisition of very limited variability over evolutionary time. Also there are constraints on possible variability of the code amongst organisms. For example, virus’s have to share the same genetic code as their host else they couldn’t reproduce themselves…

28. Chris says:

Andrew Dodds:

what if Eubacteria and Archaebacteria actually represent different OOL events that followed the same chemical pathway? They would both end up with similar enzymes, metabolic pathways and even genetic codes..

But there’s no reason why they should end up with the same genetic code unless there was some evolutionary process that somehow intermixed their protein synthesis machinery. The genetic code really is a “code” and has only a very limited physicochemical specificity apart from the complementary nature of the codon-anticodon. So there’s no reason why CTA should necessarily code for Leu (for example). There’s nothing in the triplet codon that necessitates a Leu. The only specificity is that there is a complementary anticodon in the tRNA molecule that carries the amino acid (Leu) to the ribosome. The particular amino acid attached to the 3′ end of the tRNA molecule bears no physicochemical necessity to that particular codon and just happens to be attached to that particular tRNA molecule because that’s how it evolved.

I’m not aware of any contrary evidence to that but I’m happy to be corrected…

29. Chris,

30. Chris says:

Andrew Dodds

Rare Earth’ presents a different view entirely, namely that simple life is common but complex life (worms and up) extremely rare – something which has the benefit of being true, on average through time, for the Earth, let alone any less well sited planets. This is a direct contradiction to the Koonin work which postulates abiogenesis as the ‘hard step’.

Abiogenesis is definitely the “hard step” from our current perspective since we really have very little idea of how this occurred.

On the other hand the evolution of complex organisms from simple ones is rather easier to understand since we have quite a few clues and stronger bits of evidence of how this happened (e.g. engulfment of one bacterium by another to generate a complex organism that eventually developed a mitochondrion, very strong evidence for full- or part-genome duplication events in evolutionary ancestors etc) and coming up with other scenarios for the generation of complexity can be done within the context of understanding from quite well-characterised examples .

That’ not to say that abiogenesis wasn’t “easy”. But we simply don’t have a convincing scenario for how this might have happened. So from our perspective it’s “hard”!

31. John Hartz says:

ATTP:

Suggest that you expand the title of your blog site to read:

And Then There’s Physics & Metaphysics

32. Dikran Marsupial says:

Perhaps “we are simply another thing the Earth has experienced in its long history.” might be better. The meaning of “natural” seems somewhat problematic, depending on context, especially where we are involved. In a sense we are natural; we are part of the Earth’s biome (if that is the right word), but then we aren’t “natural” in any context where we want to use words like “artificial” or “anthropogenic”. In some respects like the Chicxulub meteorite in that we are something that “happened” exogenously to the earth (despite the fact that meteorites are natural and we are not exactly exogenous). I’m fairly sure that whatever the point I was trying to make was, I probably haven’t. ;o)

33. Dikran,
I agree that we’re still natural, but the distinction – as I see it – is that we’re also conscious and have an understanding of the system in which we live. We don’t simply respond to external stimuli, but can make decisions based on an understanding of how our actions might influence the system in which we live on timescales that are longer than our own lives.

34. Chris says:

The argument about “natural” / “non-natural” can descend into a semantic mess. Simply, it depends how one chooses to define “natural”.

Dikran’s statement is quite a good one (“we are simply another thing the Earth has experienced in its long history.”) One could also say the same about the even more dramatic effects of evolving life on the composition of the atmosphere (and resulting effects on the surface temperature): i.e. the evolution of early oxygen-producing cyanobacteria near 3 billion ya which resulted in massive precipitation of dissolved iron, oxidation of atmospheric methane (so the theory goes) and the resulting “snowball Earth”. Poor old Earth orbiting a warming (if fainter) sun certainly didn’t expect that unpleasant insult any more than it might have anticipated our current perturbation of the composition of the atmosphere.

Whatever life that exists on Earth 10 million years from now may well look back and say (if they’re clever enough), “that massive CO2 spike 10 million years ago was amazing since it killed off most of the intelligent species that dominated the planet then and allowed us to evolve” (much as we look back at the Chicxulub event and consider how fortunate we are that the dinosaurs succumbed and allowed the little shrew-like mammals to thrive and evolve productively (for us)!

35. “Whatever life that exists on Earth 10 million years from now may well look back and say (if they’re clever enough), “that massive CO2 spike 10 million years ago was amazing since it killed off most of the intelligent species that dominated the planet then and allowed us to evolve”…”

Maybe that species in 10 million years time will think we’re not as intelligent as we think we are.

Sometimes, when the seeming collective failure of human beings to ‘act on climate’ gets me down, I comfort myself with the thought that maybe all that matters in the long term is that life itself will survive.

36. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky says:

David, have you read The Cosmic Evolution of Autobiogenesis yet? A small fraction of that essay and the results contained within were in direct response to your infatuation with Eugene Koonin. I even cited him. That problem is solved. Dark matter is close to being solved. So when you are waving your arm explaining physics and chemistry to laymen, remember that you are stirring up axions, and that arm waving has consequences.

37. angech says:

“Chris, virus’s have to share the same genetic code as their host else they couldn’t reproduce themselves…”
Bacteria swap parcels of genetic information hence antibiotic resistance spread
Some viruses [transcribes the RNA into DNA ] can incorporate into the host cell’s DNA. When the cell replicates, and eventually divides, it passes down the viral DNA portion to the replicated cells.
It may be that viruses are actually just part of ourselves with the original purpose of sharing information partly lost.

38. angech says:

Florifulgurator says:
“Whatever the chances of Life happening somewhere in the universe are: for all practical purpose we have to assume we are the only one”
That is a very definite position.

39. Imback says:

I didn’t read Frank’s framing climate change as something we cannot control. He said it’s our final exam we can’t afford to fail. That sounds like volition to me.

40. Imback,
I agree that a very careful reading could lead to that conclusions. What I was trying to get across, though, was that my issue was more with how the ending was framed. If this became a popular way of looking at this, I could easily see some using it to argue that it’s just a natural part of the evolution of an advanced civilisation on a planet and that there we can’t – or shouldn’t – actively do anything.

41. Dikran Marsupial says:

Chris wrote “The argument about “natural” / “non-natural” can descend into a semantic mess. Simply, it depends how one chooses to define “natural”.”

I’m glad someone could make my point coherently ;o) We need to view ourselves as both part of nature and exogenous to nature as both are useful ways of looking at it, but neither is really sufficient.

A number of times when I have discussing with “skeptics” whether the rise in atmospheric CO2 is natural or anthropogenic I have been faced with the “argument” that it is all natural because we are part of nature, which is exploiting the opportunity for a semantic mess in order to avoid the substantive point.

42. Andrew Dodds says:

Chris –

My definition of ‘Hard’ in this context is ‘How hard nature finds it’, as opposed to ‘How hard we find it’. For all the evidence we have (admittedly a small sample) Abiogenesis is geologically instant as soon as conditions allow (therefore ‘easy’) whereas getting macroscopic life from bacteria is ‘hard’, because it took much, much longer.

As far as the triplet mechanism goes.. yes the highly evolved version we have today has a lot of separation between codon and amino acid, but the ‘original’ system would presumably be much more tightly coupled – as in ‘This kind of triplet (Central U) means a hydrophobic amino acid, this type (Central A) means a hydrophillic one’ to give crude protein synthesis (although with a smaller set of amino acids, this kind of coding would be more accurate). The evolution of a better/abstracted transcription mechanism would be strongly selected for, because the chemical coupling between sequence and amino acid could never be very specific. I’m not wedded to this point, but also mindful that ‘By accident from a pool of equally likely candidates’ is not satisfying..

We’ll just have to wait for the samples to come back from Europa.

43. Imback says:

ATTP,
I’m a compatibilist in that I believe we have free will even though it materially came to us via natural evolution. But to some, compatibilism has the feel of a contradiction. This feeling has been exploited to do nothing, after all boys will be boys, well before AGW was the issue. I didn’t get a boys will be boys vibe from Frank’s article, but I accept that you did.

44. wonderful post. one planet’s plague is another planet’s… ? climax state?

45. Imback,
Again, it was more the framing of the ending that I found problematic, than what was said in the bulk of article. Ultimately, I don’t think I agree with his conclusion that this is a perspective we can’t afford to miss. It’s an interesting topic and there’s no harm in considering it, but I do think we should consider climate change on the basis of this being our home, what we’re doing to it, and what we could continue to do to it. Maybe there are some insights from thinking about other civilisations, but my guess is that our understanding of that is so vague at the moment, that those insights will probably have little actual relevance.

46. Chris says:

Yes, I agree with you Andrew that from Nature’s point of view abiogenesis does seem “easy” since it did happen quite “quickly” on the earlyish Earth.

The rest of it is quite difficult even to discuss since there are so many unknowns. I’m not particularly wedded to my point of view either – however I’m quite comfortable with the possibility that some processes that have become embedded in cellular processes of living organisms had some elements of randomness at the outset. I feel like I should be able to come up with some examples but none come to mind other than the one we’re discussing!

47. Fits wonderfully to this topic. Ecology and the national park Mars.

48. Wouldn’t there be an advantage to having a different genetic code? Would make it harder for viruses to hijack your cells. If yes, that would suggest that there is something beneficial about the current code used. (I guess that even in that scenario it would be pretty amazing if life had multiple origins which have melted together.)

49. Andrew Dodds says: “For all the evidence we have (admittedly a small sample) Abiogenesis is geologically instant as soon as conditions allow (therefore ‘easy’) whereas getting macroscopic life from bacteria is ‘hard’, because it took much, much longer.

Like in case of the climate signal, we only have one realisation. The time of both these jumps could be chance, especially for Abiogenesis.

50. izen says:

@-VV
“Wouldn’t there be an advantage to having a different genetic code? Would make it harder for viruses to hijack your cells. If yes, that would suggest that there is something beneficial about the current code used. ”

The code is probably optimal in its resilience to error. Such an optimisation is a feature of an evolutionary process.
The code also gets ‘locked in’ by the evolution of specific proteins, tRNA synthetases, that join the amino acid to the specific tRNA, it is not an arbitrary link. It may represent an optimised enzyme system.

All of these features are late developments, ribosomes and tRNA synthetases, are emergent features of an original system that MAY have been much less strictly constrained.

51. Andrew Dodds says:

VV –

Indeed. It looks a lot like complex life requires free oxygen to be available, which is why it took so long.

And it is possible that life did the equivalent of winning the lottery with the first ticket bought. It’s just not a very satisfying explanation

52. chris says:

And it is possible that life did the equivalent of winning the lottery with the first ticket bought. It’s just not a very satisfying explanation

That’s not required though Andrew. It may be (I would think it quite likely) that there were many abiogenesis events on the early Earth, but only one has left it’s trace – so the evidence for a commonality of life processes we see now (as in the near-constancy of the genetic code) indicates that extant life has a common ancestor – but that common ancestor might have “bought” the 1000th or 1,000,000th lottery ticket). And there may be random elements in the success of that ancestor (much in the same way that as far as evolution goes the Chicxulub asteroid/meteor was a random event). Stephen J. Gould wrote quite convincingly (IMHO) on the contingent nature of evolution, i.e. that things could have turned out very different for any number of reasons), and that feels right to me.

Incidentally, the discussion about the genetic code earlier got me revisiting what current thinking is on this. This review by E. V. Koonin and A. S. Novozhilov “Origin and evolution of the genetic code: The universal enigma” IUBMB Life 61, 99-111 (2009) [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19117371 ] suggests that everything is still very much up in the air. Here’s the first part of the abstract:

The genetic code is nearly universal, and the arrangement of the codons in the standard codon table is highly nonrandom. The three main concepts on the origin and evolution of the code are the stereochemical theory, according to which codon assignments are dictated by physicochemical affinity between amino acids and the cognate codons (anticodons); the coevolution theory, which posits that the code structure coevolved with amino acid biosynthesis pathways; and the error minimization theory under which selection to minimize the adverse effect of point mutations and translation errors was the principal factor of the code’s evolution. These theories are not mutually exclusive and are also compatible with the frozen accident hypothesis, that is, the notion that the standard code might have no special properties but was fixed simply because all extant life forms share a common ancestor, with subsequent changes to the code, mostly, precluded by the deleterious effect of codon reassignment.

53. Imback says:

ATTP,
I have probably read all of Adam Frank’s posts concerning climate change on the 13.7 blog. He is always trying out different framing arguments on this topic, some useful and some in my opinion not. In this case, he uses the perspective of looking at Earth from far off in space and time. As I said, I did not perceive from his post that this perspective absolves us as mere observers, but clearly interpretations vary. My motivation remains the same as yours that we are degrading our only home, and we have recognized that now, and we can and should stop that now.

54. izen, Andrew Dodds, chris, thanks for the informative answers. If only life was a little bit longer, there as so many beautiful things to study.

Andrew Dodds says: “And it is possible that life did the equivalent of winning the lottery with the first ticket bought. It’s just not a very satisfying explanation

It might not feel satisfactory, but with just one realisation there is no way to know this from the statistics alone. Especially because we might not have been there, had it not happened (so fast). We will need to understand what happened to be confident.

55. anoilman says:
56. angech says:

“The genetic code is nearly universal, and the arrangement of the codons in the standard codon table is highly nonrandom.”
On a variation of this and how the brain stores information and memory it seems to me impossible that it can do it as well as it does.
Just too much visual memory for one example to store, ie just looking out a train window.
Makes one wonder if there is a memory bank we all tap into.
How does the genetic code program so many different creatures and responses so well.

57. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky says:

“How does the genetic code program so many different creatures and responses so well.

Well if you would read the essay you would see that it’s because of a large electron transfer energy gap and stochastic energetics, which states that you can store information about the physical and chemical, thermoynamic and vibrational collectively excited environment into that environment, at little or no cost. It just takes energy to read, use and/or erase that information.

See for instance (just tonight) : https://arxiv.org/abs/1610.01829

I know, the math and physics is tough, but give it chance. Let it grow on you.

58. izen says:

@-angtech
“On a variation of this and how the brain stores information and memory it seems to me impossible that it can do it as well as it does.”

How well the brain stores information is open to debate. Perhaps you have set a low bar, or overestimated the extent and reliability of what is stored.

@-“Just too much visual memory for one example to store, ie just looking out a train window.”

We do not ‘see’ a full colour 4k image which is compressed without loss of detail and streamed to memory. We process a low resolution black and white image with a very small proportion in higher detail and colour. Most of the visual experience we have on looking out a train window is a product of our invention and imagination.
Based on previous experience we model what the full image ‘should’ look like and ‘see’ that.
What gets stored in memory is just enough to allow our imagination to reconstruct a full version. Eye tracking studies indicate we use a ‘salient feature’ system to constrain the amount of information we actually process or remember.

@-“How does the genetic code program so many different creatures and responses so well.”

By killing off the failures. Or the merely less efficient.

59. angech says:

Izen
“We do not ‘see’ a full colour 4k image which is compressed without loss of detail and streamed to memory. We process a low resolution black and white image with a very small proportion in higher detail and colour. Most of the visual experience we have on looking out a train window is a product of our invention and imagination”
So if I “imagine” a world of 4K colour. If I use a microscope and see more and more detail and store it this is only a feeble black and white view of the world?
No.
Use your imagination, based on a record of all the things you see and do, You do realize that if you can somehow imagine it in your brain then the detail must be real, not imaginary , I hope. There has to be a neuron, electron network that has produced that imagination.
Ditto for invention, In fact if we invent things we can see our brain would need even more space to store them.
Tghis snippet illustrates my point.
“Many people in Silicon Valley have become obsessed with the simulation hypothesis, the argument that what we experience as reality is in fact fabricated in a computer,” wrote Tad Friend in The New Yorker.
“Two tech billionaires have gone so far as to secretly engage scientists to work on breaking us out of the simulation.”
Now you and I might think it is rubbish, but it is a valid hypothesis and what I said about memory would fit in this type of scenario.

60. izen says:

@-“You do realize that if you can somehow imagine it in your brain then the detail must be real, not imaginary , I hope.”

That is Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God. Godel tried to prove it. It did not go well.

Korsakoff’s syndrome reveals just how tenuous our grip on reality may be.

61. izen says:

Planets have a memory. events are recorded into the geology. chemical changes in ice cores and fossils in rock encode many aspects of the history of the planet in fine detail.
Much is forgotten. Cycled through processes that dissipate the original information. Some ‘fossil’ DNA may survive in the genetic ecology, but optimisation over-writes possible past variety.

Oxygen, Chalk and coal are all records of the impact of life on the planet. leaving the trace of major changes in the surface ecology driven by life. We are imposing an equally dramatic layer on the planets’ memory. large shifts in previously stable chemical distributions, and hundreds of new active compounds previously unseen in the ‘natural’ range of chemical effects.
A billion years time the Earth may not remember exactly what happened, but there will be enough persistent geological evidence to show that something fast and radical occurred.

62. angech says:

God would be sort of people dependent, I think. It is hard to imagine how she/he could exist if we did not exist to think of her/him while she/he is thinking or not thinking of us. I was not thinking of Anselm’s existence or proof until you mentioned it.
Taleb mentions, in fooled by randomness, that not all evolution is optimal or useful though as you say enough time overwrites the non optimal.

63. Dikran Marsupial says:

angech wrote “You do realize that if you can somehow imagine it in your brain then the detail must be real, not imaginary ,”

Apparently unicorns are real, not imaginary.

We think we see uniformly in colour across our visual field because our brain does a lot of processing of the signals we receive from our eyes to make it look that way, but it isn’t actually true. A good example of this is your blind spot (the part of your retina where the optic nerve exits that with no rods or cones) which we are not generally aware of because our visual system interpolates over it.

64. Dikran Marsupial says:

BTW the illusion is nothing to do with your blind spot, it is just another that makes a point about what we think we see is not what we see.

65. Mike Coday says:

what the frog’s eye tells the frog’s brain: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerome_Lettvin
hint: the eye is not a ccd

66. That illusion is amazing. Would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes.

67. It is amazing.

68. Andrew J Dodds says:

Amazing is the bit where despite knowing all this, you get into a big metal box and drive faster than anything evolution can have prepared you for..

69. BBD says:

Quite. It is a perennial source of amazement to me that the daily carnage on the roads isn’t a magnitude or more worse.

70. Chris says:

The McGurk effect is worth a look too (in a recent BBC programme – here’s a snippet – hope it can be viewed outside the UK);

71. “That is Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God. Godel tried to prove it. It did not go well.”

The modal version is much better.

You’ve heard me mention plantinga before. Read him log ago

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=plantinga

and

https://www.amazon.com/God-Other-Minds-Justification-Paperbacks/dp/0801497353/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&qid=1475958701&sr=8-11&keywords=plantinga

The argument schematic here is a very good tool to have at your disposal.

In brief. Foundationalism is busted, and so we are left with warranted belief. When it comes
to the existence of other minds and god, we find that the same types of arguments made for the former can be made for the latter. Their warrent is at parity. hence if we are justified in believing in other minds then we are justified in belief in god.

You can use a SIMILAR technique with climate science deniers. They accept evidence of type “X” in this circumstance, and the circumstance in climate science is the same or better. Example:
Rud accepted the evidence from Hurricane models to go down and prepare his Florida place for the storm, despite the fact that the models are spagetti, how does he then reject the advise of climate models? Answer.. special epistemic pleadings.

Calvin College ( long ago). when I would come back from Northwestern for vacations
Plantinga would let me sit in his classes as a vistor.

Modal version

http://www.philosophyofreligion.info/theistic-proofs/the-ontological-argument/the-modal-ontological-argument/

72. “The McGurk effect is worth a look too (in a recent BBC programme – here’s a snippet – hope it can be viewed outside the UK);”

Its really pretty cool.

back in the late 90s early 2000s, I was working on web cameras and speech recognition packages and TTS

Turned out you could really boost your accuracy if you could see the persons lips.

73. blind spot

all vertabrates have it

Octopus has it right

74. BBD says:

Steven

In brief. Foundationalism is busted, and so we are left with warranted belief. When it comes
to the existence of other minds and god, we find that the same types of arguments made for the former can be made for the latter. Their warrent is at parity. hence if we are justified in believing in other minds then we are justified in belief in god.

There is warranted belief in the demonstrable, in the evidentially-supported. Neither apply to God, unless there’s something you’ve not shared with us, so there is no warranted belief in God and so no parity.

75. “There is warranted belief in the demonstrable, in the evidentially-supported. Neither apply to God, unless there’s something you’ve not shared with us, so there is no warranted belief in God and so no parity.”

1. You havent taken the time to understand what Warrant is.
2. You didnt read the book ( I recommended it specifically to Willard since he would
find it interesting )
3. You havent even followed the argument.. Do you know, or are you familiar with the “other minds” problem in philosophy?

4. When you get some expertise let us know, until then I’ll say that the consensus of philsophers is that his argument is better than yours, you denier you.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alvin_Plantinga

76. angech says:

Steven
“Turned out you could really boost your accuracy if you could see the persons lips.”
Baa.
In fact the accuracy could really fall.
So Unicorns are real, BBD.
I know what one looks like, I ‘Ve seen them in movies,pictures and plays. I. Know how to spell the word and with a lot of problem for my black and white visual brain, I could visually conceptualise one.
Unicorns do not exist is a paradox.
I doubt whether I will ever pat a Unicorn or God on the back but both will exist Time wise for as long as civilisations exist.
The fact that we are able to be tricked at all is another proof of just how complex the detail is out there, how much we take in every second and how impossible it is for a simple brain to take in record and recall such endless drivel without a backup memory somewhere bigger than the human brain.

77. BBD says:

So Unicorns are real, BBD.

Well, they are as real as the concept of God.

78. “Steven
“Turned out you could really boost your accuracy if you could see the persons lips.”
Baa.
In fact the accuracy could really fall.”

Err Not.
and not in my trials

software was open sourced a while ago..

here is some of the research on HMMs

note references to McGurk

At some point you will be able to lip read

79. Chris says:

…and even if you get the words correctly (e.g. in a conversation) there is always the question of how you (your brain) construct(s) meaning

e.g. see the excellent “The Conversation” (Coppolla dir; Gene Hackman)

80. Chris says:

“Unicorns do not exist is a paradox.”

No, not a paradox. That’s a semantic “pseudo-paradox” created by equating a concept (the idea of a unicorn) with a reality (real, existing unicorns). It’s straightforward that unicorns don’t exist as living beings, while at the same time the idea of these notional creatures exists. Nothing paradoxical about it.

answer: not necessarily; one can be a paramedic without having a medical degree.

81. angech says:

An interesting religious film clip Steve
Usual description of a skeptic as a non believer.
Which raises the risk of a non skeptic being purely a believer rather than a person using a rational or scientific mind.
I trust you put it up as a joke?
The difference in part is that a unicorn could quite easily exist somewhere in space and time with an unicorn genetic code as a carbon based life form.
God, however, cannot be constructed out of any of the materials in our or whatever universes exist in the past, present and future.
He cannot be a carbon based life form.
Which begs one religion’s description of us as being in his image.
A physical and metaphysical absurdity.
As I said, an Universe (God?) needs you to be in it.
When we die our universe dies.
An universe of course can hold a lot of paradoxical and disordered views which is best approached with a skeptical mind, not a fixed belief.

82. dikranmarsupial says:

angech. to paraphrase Niels Bohr, “stop telling God what to be”.

83. dikranmarsupial says:

angech wrote “I know what one looks like, I ‘Ve seen them in movies, …”

I hate to tell you this angech, but that wasn’t a unicorn, it was a horse with a horn stuck to its head. They do exist, sadly unicorn’s don’t.

84. dikranmarsupial says:

Steve if you want an example of design, the immune system is even better, it is cruftier than Windows. Email me (dikranmarsupial at gmail) if you are still having problems logging into SkS, we have an idea what the problem may be).

On speech recognition, another interesting finding is that IIRC computers are much better than humans at recognising nonsense words, which shows how much processing goes on between the signal our ears pick up and what we “hear”.

85. dikranmarsupial says:

angech wrote “Baa. In fact the accuracy could really fall.”

At least angech is consistent in dismissing mainstream opinion in science (this time audio-visual speech recognition). The old joke “Sorry, I can’t hear you, I’m not wearing glasses” actually has more than just an element of truth, what Steve wrote is very well known phenomenon in speech research.

I second Chris’ recommendation of “The Conversation”, excellent film.

86. dikran… mail sent

hey you ever do any perceptual hashing?

87. BBD says:

Steven

1. You havent taken the time to understand what Warrant is.

If the meaning differs from the standard definition, it would be useful if you explained it rather than being an arse.

Thank you.

If the meaning is the same as the standard meaning, then what I wrote requires specific critque, not more arse. Otherwise it stands and you have simply made a noise in the wings.

Thank you.

88. BBD says:

. When you get some expertise let us know, until then I’ll say that the consensus of philsophers is that his argument is better than yours, you denier you.

My impression is that Plantinga is not held in universally high regard by philosophers. Interesting that you endorse this stuff though. Would you be a professing Christian?

89. Last I looked Bilogy was not Philosophy .

Last I looked A consensus did not imply universality.

[snip shitty comment]

Last I looked my personal religious beliefs, have ZERO relevance to

1. your understanding of the word warrant ( no I will not do ALL your home work for you, especially since the link was intended for willard.
2. The status of of the parity argument.

but for the record, I was probably a professing christian between the ages of 12 and 18. After that a non decider. The issue became uninteresting ( see rority for an explanation) nevertheless
When you study philiosophy the point is not so much what you believe, but in my mind the point was learning various forms of argument. And Plantigina always had interesting and novel ways of looking at old issues. Also he follows in the tradition of Reid ( you prolly never heard of him )

Myers, as usual, totally misses Plantinga’s point, or rather concedes it without knowing it.
he read a 5 page version of a DIFFERENT ARGUMENT than the one I am talking about
and he plays a bunch of ad hom. Not a good idea.

There are good objections to his naturalism argument.. Myers could have reseacrhed 5 minutes and pretended that one of them was his

WRT to his stature. Always a funny argument

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicholas_Rescher_Prize_for_Systematic_Philosophy

Resources for you.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/ref-epis/

see this section

a. Rejecting Classical Foundationalism

and you will find the definition of warrant.

finally. I think his arguments are interesting. note the word interesting. That would mean I spent more 5 minutes reading a 5 page synopsis. and it would mean that I would not link to a biologist of no note to make a point and end up looking like a silly denier.

90. BBD says:

What I object to is your presentation of Plantinga as endorsed by a consensus:

When you get some expertise let us know, until then I’ll say that the consensus of philsophers is that his argument is better than yours, you denier you.

I can’t find compelling evidence for such a consensus.

91. BBD says:

You havent taken the time to understand what Warrant is.

I understand it to mean justifiable.

92. angech says:

The point being that if the sound Baa can be made with the lips moving in two different ways then lip reading technology does not have to work or be better as it is falsifiable.
Faa.
What forces would be required to make an omnipotent being?
I presume he came about as a process of godly evolution.
And the old chestnut, of course,
It is a pain being trapped in a body with a brain only the size of a planet.
Let alone a much smaller one.

Plantinga claims that, following John Calvin, we may have been created by God with a faculty called the sensus divinitatis. Any beliefs that result from this faculty will be in a position to be warranted. So long as the faculty was designed by God for the purpose of producing true beliefs about him then this faculty will meet the requirements described above and the resulting beliefs will be warranted.

So, if we assume there is a god and that he gave us a special faculty, then religious beliefs are warranted. That hardly seems interesting. Pretty much a tautology.

It also probably still doesn’t meet Plantinga’s own requirement for probability, since only one particular set of religious beliefs can be true and the odds of choosing that one set among many is pretty low..

94. izen says:

I found Plantinga irritating wh3en I first encountered him. After reading this essay that shreds his logic I find him ignorable.

http://www.quodlibet.net/articles/horner-logic.shtml
Impaled by the Two Horns of Logic: The Paradox of Omnipotence and Free Will

95. Dikran Marsupial says:

angech wrote “The point being that if the sound Baa can be made with the lips moving in two different ways then lip reading technology does not have to work or be better as it is falsifiable.”

O.K. so angech doesn’t understand the point of falsifiability either.

96. Dikran Marsupial says:

FWIW the modal argument fails on “The first premise is based on the idea that God is perfect, and that something is better if it has necessary existence than if it has merely contingent existence.” I don’t see why that is necessarily the case and saying that God has necessary existence needs strong justification as it is a fundamental part of what follows (at least to my non-expert eye). A lot depends on your view of perfection. Some might say that to be perfectly good you would need to have no trace of evil. Personally I would say that it is better to choose not to do evil, even though you could, than simply not to be capable of evil as the former shows deliberate intent to do good and the will to carry it out. So who is right? I don’t know. It certainly isn’t a given as far as I am concerned for perfection to require necessary existence.

97. Dikran Marsupial says:

angech wrote “The point being that if the sound Baa can be made with the lips moving in two different ways then lip reading technology does not have to work or be better as it is falsifiable.”

or that angech doesn’t understand the McGurk effect. There is only one way of moving the lips in producing the sound “Baa”. The point is that if we hear “Baa” but see the visual cues for “Faa”, we perceive “Faa” instead of “Baa”, but you can’t actually say “Baa” with the mouth shape for “Faa”. You need to edit the video/audio to do that.

98. Michael 2 says:

A common theme in science fiction during the “cold war” was whether a species survives its discovery of atomic energy. I imagine current science fiction probably sets the Doom Theme to current doom ideas. The difference with current doom ideas being that nuclear war is immediate and definitely within the power of human hands to bring to pass or to avoid.

99. Michael 2 says:

I appreciated reading about this philosopher Plantinga. What little Wikipedia says about him arouses my interest. His thinking seems rather similar to mine. Free will cannot exist without choice, and choice requires both positive and negative choices. Evil must exist. Good must exist. Also, in human beings must exist an awareness of both concepts; although it seems we vary considerably as to what exactly is good and what is evil.

I also see in these comments somewhat of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” thinking: Four legs good, two legs bad.

100. BBD,

>I understand [Warrant] to mean justifiable.

From Plantinga’s Wikipedia entry (emphasis added):

Plantinga discusses his view of Reformed epistemology and proper functionalism in a three-volume series. In the first book of the trilogy, Warrant: The Current Debate, Plantinga introduces, analyzes, and criticizes 20th-century developments in analytic epistemology, particularly the works of Chisholm, BonJour, Alston, Goldman, and others.[39] In the book, Plantinga argues specifically that the theories of what he calls “warrant”-what many others have called justification (Plantinga draws out a difference: justification is a property of a person holding a belief while warrant is a property of a belief)—put forth by these epistemologists have systematically failed to capture in full what is required for knowledge.[40]

In my somewhat cynical view, what this boils down to is that a warranted belief is one which cannot be falsified on the basis of its logic … or basically the argument that James Beilby makes in the final paragraph of that section: it shifts the burden of proof to sceptics, (lack of) evidence be damned.

I *suspect* Mosher sees applications to CO2-mitigation arguments having similar forms, and is having (more than a) bit of fun subbing arguments for the *possible* existence of climate change risks with arguments for the *possible* existence of God(s).

101. BBD says:

Brandon G

Life is too short for certain types of nonsense, don’t you think?

102. BBD,

Much too short. I’ve been trying to get some Very Serious People to understand that NOT knowing how short is the problem, not the answer.

Probably a waste of my time, but I keep at it.

103. angech says:

I’ve been trying to get some Very Serious People [They face no punishment, ridicule, or loss of status for incorrect predictions or mistaken opinions, as long as the predictions and opinions were mainstream when they were made] to understand that NOT knowing how short is the problem.
Keep going Brandon, I face the same problem the other way.
Buckets of people with brains and mathematics here but probability and its application seems to be a difficult area, particularly in relation to time of event occurrence.
For instance if I was to mistakenly opine [in your view] that the world will not warm more than 2 degrees C for a million years and I was right your idea of taking precautions would fly out the window.
Or to put it in your correct “short” terms.
If the sea level is to rise by a meter every 5 years we had better get cracking.
5 years too short??
Some people insist scientifically on 25 years [Hansen].
too short.
Are you a century man or a 3 hundred years man?
I would guess the latter but you would have to put up some strenuous arguments.
It has slowly come up a very long way since the last ice age.
Meanwhile the ocean takes tens of thousands of years to accumulate heat hence it is impossible for the atmosphere to overheat in the short term.
The temperature of the ocean only needs a slight change to produce sea level rise over a thousand years and is a lot quicker than degree changes in sea temp, without which one cannot have degree changes in atmospheric temp.
[With all the usual caveats obviously required here* I will list them as people bring them up]

104. Pingback: xxx coral | asoliduniverse

105. chris says:

Buckets of people with brains and mathematics here but probability and its application seems to be a difficult area, particularly in relation to time of event occurrence.

Hmmm…see below

For instance if I was to mistakenly opine [in your view] that the world will not warm more than 2 degrees C for a million years and I was right your idea of taking precautions would fly out the window.

That’s wrong and illogical together angech. It shows a deficiency in understanding probability and its application at two levels:

1. One obviously can’t address probabilities and actions by reference to assertions of future outcomes.
2. Application of probabilities (see e.g. bookmakers and insurers) is meaningless without an informed understanding of the issues to which the probabilities apply. It would be astonishingly ignorant to assert that the world won’t warm by more than 2 degrees in a million years when scientific evidence informs us that given unabated enhancement of the greenhouse effect, the world will with a very high degree of probability warm by more than 2 oC rather quickly (on the decadal-centennial timescale).

Meanwhile the ocean takes tens of thousands of years to accumulate heat hence it is impossible for the atmosphere to overheat in the short term.

Not so (Illogical – non-sequitur). It takes a very long time for the oceans to come to equilibrium with a change in forcing – however a large part of Earth surface response to enhanced forcing accrues rather quickly as we know from empirical evidence and theoretical understanding.

106. Angech: “For instance if I was to mistakenly opine [in your view] that the world will not warm more than 2 degrees C for a million years and I was right

If you opine that, that has no scientific value whatsoever, even if you were right. If you have evidence for that, that would be scientifically interesting whether it is right or wrong, because even when wrong we would learn something from your evidence (and possibly from showing it is wrong).

107. angech,

Meanwhile the ocean takes tens of thousands of years to accumulate heat hence it is impossible for the atmosphere to overheat in the short term.

It’s certainly true that it will take a long time for the entire ocean to respond to a change in forcing (as Chris has already pointed out). However, this doesn’t mean that one can assert that the atmosphere won’t “overheat” (whatever that might mean) in the short term. Essentially, the system will retain a small energy imbalance for a very long time (given that the deep ocean will continue to accrue energy) but the system will initially warm towards equilibrium (wrt fast feedbacks at least) relatively quickly.

108. Dikran Marsupial says:

anchech wrote “Buckets of people with brains and mathematics here but probability and its application seems to be a difficult area, particularly in relation to time of event occurrence.”

Angech, you really ought not to write things like that if you are going to write this in the very next line:

“For instance if I was to mistakenly opine [in your view] that the world will not warm more than 2 degrees C for a million years and I was right your idea of taking precautions would fly out the window.”

No, it wouldn’t, because at this stage we don’t know for certain what the outcome will be, so we use probabilistic reasoning to determine the best course of action. Lets say H1 is the probability that you are right (i.e. the world will not warm more than 2 degrees C for a substantial period [the million years seems like a straw man to me]) and H2 is the probability that we are right. Now the prior probability that you are right is pretty low, judging by mainstream scientific opinion, say p(H1) = 0.1, which means P(H2) = 0.9. We have two courses of action, course A – do nothing. In this case the loss if H1 is correct is zero (negligible consequences of climate change, nothing spent on mitigation); if H2 is correct, the consequences of climate change could be very severe, say \$100B although again, nothing is spent on mitigation. The other course of action B – mitigate, say we spend \$10B on mitigation. Say H1 is right, then our losses is the \$10B we spent on mitigation. If H2 is right, we spend \$10B on mitigation, but we reduce the effects of climate change to say \$10B. So we work out the expected loss under each course of action

Course A : p(H1) * \$0 + P(H2)*\$100B = \$90B

Course B : p(H1)*\$10B + P(H2)*\$30B = \$1B + \$27B = \$28B

The expected loss for course B is lower than that for course A, so the rational thing to to, given the available information, is to mitigate. Of course to do this properly we would have to include the probability distributions for the amount of warming and the losses etc, but I have sketched out the basic idea.

So even if you are right in hindsight, “[our] idea” doesn’t “fly out of the window”, it is the rational position at this stage for everybody who doesn’t own a time machine (and is able to apply probability).

The IPCC have done the analysis, you have waved your hands and insulted people and failed to properly apply probabilistic reasoning. I find the IPCC more convincing.

BTW, my research interests are in machine learning (i.e. computational statistics) and I frequently post answers on questions posed at the statistics stack exchange (the votes on which suggest I am not entirely without expertise in this area). I say this just to explain why I find your hubris so very amusing.

109. Dikran Marsupial says:

n.b. typo: should be ” but we reduce the effects of climate change to say \$20B”

110. izen says:

@-“Meanwhile the ocean takes tens of thousands of years to accumulate heat hence it is impossible for the atmosphere to overheat in the short term.”

This suggest there would be little difference between summer and winter temperatures.
The sea surface accumulates heat instantly, the time it takes for that to spread into the whole ocean is of rather less relevance than how much the extra accumulated thermal energy in the surface alters the climate where we live over human timescales.
As with seasonal changes.

111. angech says:

ATTP , thanks for leaving my comment in as the idea has merit even if in only being debunked. The concept of short term changes of consequence is what drives a lot of the concern re global warming.
I do not have the time needed to discuss this the way I would like to. Perhaps Brandon could elaborate on his time scale if he is interested in doing so. Dikran has put up a sensible argument, thanks, that I will try to argue against. Thanks for the time put in to do this.
Izen,
you do have a point with the sea surface to total ocean that is worth considering and mentioning.
How to counter or incorporate.
Different time frames is one aspect, made worse by the rotation of the earth in respect to the sun and the varying amount of heat at different latitudes
We all know a simplistic model of average heat in over 24 hours to average heat out is not doing the functional dynamics any favors though we have to treat it this way to describe the flows. [Caveat 1,2 and 3].
Hence the comment “The sea surface accumulates heat instantly, the time it takes for that to spread into the whole ocean ” is both technically and factually correct but not, I emphasize, a rebuttal to my premise.
So some of the sea, under the sun, accumulates a certain amount of heat instantly, but less at higher latitudes* and varying in intensity from when the sun comes up until it sets expresses half of what you are trying to say and some of the sea is losing heat instantly with the same caveats for the same time when night develops.
Some parts can be in total sunlight or total darkness for 24 hours when your rule would fully apply or fully fail.

My comment “the world will not warm more than 2 degrees C for a million years “I was not suggesting “little difference between summer and winter temperatures”, or day and night temperatures or pole and equator temperatures at all.
My comment was directed at the overall situation, not the diurnal spread of sea temperature or air temperature and for the whole globe annually, not day, night summer or winter [all the usual caveats required here.
I trust we are talking about different elements of the same problem
ATTP “It’s certainly true that it will take a long time for the entire ocean to respond to a change in forcing (as Chris has already pointed out)” sums up part of my argument.

112. Dikran Marsupial says:

Angech if you are going to argue against statistical decision theory, then you have your work cut out for you (this is a good place to start). A bit of humility would probably be a good idea, sometimes people have a better understanding of something than you do, and so setting out to show them wrong from the outset is not the best attitude.

113. angech says:

chris says: October 11, 2016 at 7:29 am
” Meanwhile the ocean takes tens of thousands of years to accumulate heat hence it is impossible for the atmosphere to overheat in the short term.”

. It takes a very long time for the oceans to come to equilibrium with a change in forcing – however a large part of Earth surface response to enhanced forcing accrues rather quickly as we know from empirical evidence and theoretical understanding.”

Yes, but how does this rebut the premise that the earths [overall] ocean and air temperatures are reasonably stable [life range for 2 billion years] and that the excess heat in the atmosphere must go into the oceans and the oceans have a hundred million or more times the heat capacitance of the atmosphere. The atmosphere can only absorb so much heat per day and transmit this into the sea so it could literally take a hundred million days for the air absorbing at an extra 1 degree a day to give that amount of excess heat into the ocean to heat it up 1 degree.
That gets me nearly 2/3 of the way to a million years at less than 2 degrees air and ocean temperature rise with no semantics on climate sensitivity.
The empirical evidence for a rather quick earth surface response is sadly lacking much as I agree with you that that [theoretically] is what should happen with CO2 rise. If we were seeing a 0.3 degree per 10 years atmospheric temperature rise I would be on the same plane as you and Dikran tomorrow.
A really rapid response should be there according to theory.
There would be no scientific skeptics left.

114. angech says:

chris says October 11, 2016 at 7:29 am
“That’s wrong and illogical together angech. It shows a deficiency in understanding probability and its application at two levels:
1. One obviously can’t address probabilities and actions by reference to assertions of future outcomes.”

Perhaps someone else here could address this comment.

115. angech says:

chris says:
2. Application of probabilities is meaningless without an informed understanding of the issues to which the probabilities apply.
Agree totally.

116. BBD says:

The empirical evidence for a rather quick earth surface response is sadly lacking

Don’t be silly.

117. Yes, but how does this rebut the premise that the earths [overall] ocean and air temperatures are reasonably stable [life range for 2 billion years] and that the excess heat in the atmosphere must go into the oceans and the oceans have a hundred million or more times the heat capacitance of the atmosphere.

They’ve been stable in the sense that we haven’t had a runaway, but they haven’t been stable in the sense that there hasn’t been changes a many degrees.

Here’s probably the key point. The system will always tend towards energy balance (as much coming in as going out). The energy comes in comes from the Sun. The amount going out is a combination of reflected energy (albedo) and energy radiated from the planet. The energy radiated from the planet is set by the temperature of the surface and the composition of the atmosphere. If we add more greenhouse gases (or radiatively active gases) then this will trap some of the outgoing energy and cause there to be an imbalance (more energy coming in than going out). The system will therefore accrue energy until the surface warms up sufficiently so as to retain energy balance.

So far we haven’t mentioned the oceans and – to a large extent – they don’t really play much role in setting the equilibrium temperature. However, they do have a large heat capacity and hence influence how long it will take to retain energy balance. However, as Chris has already said, the upper ocean equilibrates with the atmosphere quite quickly (years). The deep ocean warms primarily via diffusion from the upper ocean, and this is quite slow. Therefore even though it would take a long time to retain energy balance if they entire system is out of balance, it doesn’t mean that we will remain a long way from equilibrium for a very long time. Given that the deep ocean warms slowly we will actually get close to equilibrium quite quickly and then take a long time to finally equilibrate.

Of course, the above ignore slow feedbacks. So, in reality as we warm, we could trigger slow feedbacks which will produce more warming, but that doesn’t really change that the oceans don’t really play a role in setting the final equilibrium surface temperature.

118. The empirical evidence for a rather quick earth surface response is sadly lacking much as I agree with you that that [theoretically] is what should happen with CO2 rise.

I agree with BBD; this doesn’t appear true. Our realised warming (about 1C after an increase in atmospheric CO2 from 280ppm to 400ppm) is consistent with a TCR of somewhere between 1.5C and 2C. A sustained planetary energy imbalance of 0.5W/m^2 to 1W/m^2 is also consistent with a TCR to ECS ratio of around 0.7. Therefore, if we doubled atmospheric CO2, we would be about 70% of the way to equilibrium at the instant when CO2 has doubled, would continue to warm quite radidly initially, and then take a long time to finally reach full equilibrium (which we can never precisely attain in reality, but can tend towards). This is all consistent with what is expected.

119. angech says:

Dikran
Statistical Decision Theory and Bayesian Analysis (Springer Series in Statistics)
“Currently reading fooled by randomness” by Taleb
Thank you for your recommendation, in all seriousness, the more I learn the more there seems to be to know.
“say H1 is the probability that you are right (i.e. the world will not warm more than 2 degrees C for a substantial period and H2 is the probability that we are right. Now the prior probability that you are right is pretty low, judging by mainstream scientific opinion, say p(H1) = 0.1, which means P(H2) = 0.9”
.-
No that is setting your own boundaries, sort of like a dice with all sixes.
An appeal to authority without some specification is a cheap shot.
the premise that the earths [overall] ocean and air temperatures are reasonably stable [life range for 2 billion years]
the premise that the excess heat in the atmosphere must go into the oceans and the oceans have a hundred million or more times the heat capacitance of the atmosphere.
The earth’s paleontology temperature record, such as we have gleaned, would surely prove me right or wrong. Brandon??

I did mention caveats, Like volcanoes, asteroids, Yellowstone eruption, unexpected methane or CO2 releases.Nonetheless the earth’s temperature given “stable natural conditions is most likely to change on Milankovitch cycles and otherwise remain in a 4 degree range [2c lower or 2c higher] than what we currently are over millions of years.
p[H]1 say 0.3, sorry.
With due respect there are many other options than the black and white ones you present but I am happy to accept them as probability limits. It is not however a case of tossing heads or tails.
“say we spend \$10B on mitigation.”
Yes, per year?
For 50 years say
Course B 500 billion, Course A 90 Billion.
Hubris I suffer from, Clever statistics I do not suffer.
10 Billion is nothing over 50 years,
Over 1 year it is a considerable amount of money but worth it if it saved 62 billion over 50 years .
But it won’t Nothing x1 year is the same cost as nothing at 5 or 50 years.
But 10 billion a year is OK for 1 year , or 5 years, but over 50 years it is almost a 34th of the US national debt.
Take that amount of money out of circulation for 50 years and see the heartbreak and suffering in the lives of all ordinary people in the world

120. Andrew Dodds says:

angech –

You wouldn’t be taking that money out of circulation, by spending it on flood defence you’d be employing people and buying goods and services. Given the problem with insufficient demand and chronic underemployment in many western economies, this is pretty useful stuff. Better than having people sit around at home doing nothing.

Regarding the oceans, they have about 1000 times the heat capacity of the atmosphere. And the upper layers much less, obviously.

Paleo temperature ranges may be only a few degrees (say +- 5K from present.. but that encompasses both the late Cretaceous super-greenhouse, with sea levels 200-250m higher than today and the recent deep glaciations with several km of ice over New York.

Neither of these would be good for business.

121. JCH says:

and that the excess heat in the atmosphere must go into the oceans and the oceans have a hundred million or more times the heat capacitance of the atmosphere

The sun drills energy into the oceans every day. My understanding, I believe from a conversation with Pekka, is the atmosphere drills very little energy into the oceans… because the surface is usually warmer than the atmosphere. Sun to ocean; ocean to atmosphere; atmosphere to space… slowed by the GHE… the thermostat that has no software.

122. Dikran Marsupial says:

Angech “Currently reading fooled by randomness” by Taleb”

O.K. so over the course of 45 minutes between me recommending Berger’s excellent academic text book (cited > 8500 times) you read enough of it to see that it was refuted by a popular science book? You would do well to read Dennis Lindley’s scathing review of Taleb’s previous book to see that his view of statistics has a few “issues” to say the least.

““say H1 is the probability that you are right (i.e. the world will not warm more than 2 degrees C for a substantial period and H2 is the probability that we are right. Now the prior probability that you are right is pretty low, judging by mainstream scientific opinion, say p(H1) = 0.1, which means P(H2) = 0.9”
.-
No that is setting your own boundaries, sort of like a dice with all sixes.”

No it isn’t. Eliciting the opinions of experts is a perfectly reasonable way of determining prior probabilities. Are you really telling me that the world’s climatologists think the chance of a temperature rise > 2C (given that we have seen more than 1C already) is substantially more than 10%? Give me a break. 10% was if anything generous.

Sorry, you are just trolling again.

123. Dikran Marsupial says:

Besides, as I pointed out, the example was just to illustrate the basic principles, the IPCC et al. have already researched the kind of cost-benefit analysis, and they have produced reports giving the details. As I said, I find that rather more convincing than your arm waving.

124. BBD says:

the premise that the earths [overall] ocean and air temperatures are reasonably stable [life range for 2 billion years]

… is false.

>12C in the last 65Ma alone:

125. BBD says:

.Nonetheless the earth’s temperature given “stable natural conditions is most likely to change on Milankovitch cycles and otherwise remain in a 4 degree range [2c lower or 2c higher] than what we currently are over millions of years.

Just flat-out wrong. It’s all nonsense, angech. All of it.

126. angech,
The surface temperature of the Earth is really set by energy balance – how much we receive from the Sun, how much is reflected, and how much is radiated back into space. This – as I pointed out earlier – depends on our albedo and on the composition of the atmosphere. There’s nothing special about the Earth that ensures that we can’t warm up, or cool down; it really just depends on the energy balance. If we continue to add GHGs to the atmosphere, we will almost certainly continue to warm (absent major volcanic eruptions or an asteroid strike) and there’s no reason why the system should respond in some kind of way to prevent this from exceeding some threshold – it will largely depend on how much we emit. We can choose to do something to ensure that we don’t exceed some threshold, but the planet itself doesn’t have some kind of safety valve.

127. BBD says:

128. BBD says:

Yikes! I am small, it’s the pictures that got big. 🙂

129. Sorted, but not sure what happened. Seemed fine the first time I looked.

130. BBD says:

Probably just stray Russian hackers 🙂

131. Angech,

>The earth’s paleontology temperature record, such as we have gleaned, would surely prove me right or wrong.

Paleoclimate studies demonstrate that we have some physical understanding of what’s going on in those records. Here’s one example which you give:

>Nonetheless the earth’s temperature given “stable natural conditions is most likely to change on Milankovitch cycles and otherwise remain in a 4 degree range [2c lower or 2c higher] than what we currently are over millions of years.

The rate and magnitude of change in CO2 and methane since the Industrial Revolution looks to be exceptional over at least the past few million years. I think it hasty to appeal to probability without accounting for physical causality.

132. angech says:

JCH says: October 11, 2016 at 1:31 pm
“The sun drills energy into the oceans every day. My understanding, I believe from a conversation with Pekka, is the atmosphere drills very little energy into the oceans… because the surface is usually warmer than the atmosphere”

To be exact, that has always been the case, but when one tries that line, say at Lucia’s, one gets told correctly that a colder body can “warm” a warm body. A message most GHG effect people will agree with. The atmosphere does drill excess heat into the ocean over a very long time .
…and Then There’s Physics explained it October 11, 2016 at 7:54 am
“It’s certainly true that it will take a long time for the entire ocean to respond to a change in forcing (as Chris has already pointed out).”
This implies that instead of merely slowing the energy escape to space from the sea the atmosphere creates an incremental increase in the heat of the whole ocean.
Not just the top layers which react to sunlight and dark.

“‘Sun to ocean; ocean to atmosphere; atmosphere to space… slowed by the GHE… the thermostat that has no software.”
You are missing the backward IR radiation of the atmosphere to the ocean, an effect you are aware of. The time lag for changes can be be a hundred thousand years or longer.

133. angech says:

Dikran Marsupial says: October 11, 2016 at 2:17 pm
“. Eliciting the opinions of experts is a perfectly reasonable way of determining prior probabilities. Are you really telling me that the world’s climatologists think the chance of a temperature rise > 2C (given that we have seen more than 1C already) is substantially more than 10%? Give me a break. 10% was if anything generous.”

Sure. You are right in this assertion
You would also be right if you framed it more correctly.
“the chance of a temperature rise > 2C in the next 100 years [time parameter] due to CO2 increase [Reason parameter, not just natural variation], (given that we have seen more than 1C already) [in what,is 160 years a reasonable assumption] is substantially more than 10%?
As it stands, unspecified, it would be virtually 100%.
It would also need the qualification most in front of “the world’s climatologists”.
Judith Curry and Pielke J might disagree with you and might qualify as “some” climatologists.
Since the figure of Climatologists publishing more than 20 papers shows a 97+ % consensus 10% was indeed generous.

134. angech says:

…and Then There’s Physics says: October 11, 2016 at 3:16 pm
“If we continue to add GHGs to the atmosphere, we will almost certainly continue to warm” agreed
” there’s no reason why the system should respond in some kind of way to prevent this from exceeding some threshold – it will largely depend on how much we emit.”

Likely,
But there are some reasons to hope.
It is not just adding CO2 in a test tube atmosphere alone.
The test tube has a water layer and a slightly alkaline rock layer.
For instance if we were a test tube The system could respond with enough water vapor to coat the test tube and prevent [albedo] the heat reaching the CO2.
The amount of energy to the amount of CO2 might be limited as to how far the process can actually go [Logarithmic doubling of CO2 or saturation of all the available CO2 absorptive power I see put up as arguments].
Mind you we might be steamed by then.
The other limiting factors that we do know exist are binding of H2CO3 as carbonate in the seafloor and increased plant growth in the sea/land absorbing more of the load and human response in time to our energy and population crises.

135. angech,

The system could respond with enough water vapor to coat the test tube and prevent [albedo] the heat reaching the CO2.

I don’t know what this means.

The amount of energy to the amount of CO2 might be limited as to how far the process can actually go [Logarithmic doubling of CO2 or saturation of all the available CO2 absorptive power I see put up as arguments].

I think we understand the radiative properties of CO2 pretty well. Also, the saturation argument is flawed because adding CO2 actually changes the effective emission height in the atmosphere so it doesn’t even matter if the lines become fully saturated (see Venus, for example).

The other limiting factors that we do know exist are binding of H2CO3 as carbonate in the seafloor and increased plant growth in the sea/land absorbing more of the load and human response in time to our energy and population crises.

It’s pretty clear that the overall timescale over which our emissions will be drawn down is 10s of thousands of years (maybe even longer).

So, yes, we can hope, but that would require hoping that many things that we think we understand quite well, are wrong.

136. BBD says:

Angech

The amount of energy to the amount of CO2 might be limited as to how far the process can actually go [Logarithmic doubling of CO2 or saturation of all the available CO2 absorptive power I see put up as arguments].

[…]

The other limiting factors that we do know exist are binding of H2CO3 as carbonate in the seafloor and increased plant growth in the sea/land absorbing more of the load and human response in time to our energy and population crises.

You can see the towering hyperthermal of the PETM at ~55Ma. Here in close-up, you see the ~200ka recovery time from the large pulse of CO2 that caused the PETM hyperthermal event.

So:

1. Large pulse of GHG = hyperthermal event because the radiative physics stuff works exactly as advertised.

2. It takes ~200ka for the climate system to cool (for CO2 to be removed from the atmosphere by natural sinks).

The earth’s paleontology temperature record, such as we have gleaned, would surely prove me right or wrong.

Everything known about palaeoclimate behaviour is powerfully suggestive that you are wrong. See recent previous comments by me. Perhaps you won’t blank this one as well.

(Source)

137. BBD says:

138. angech says:

BBD says: October 11, 2016 at 2:35 pm
” the premise that the earths [overall] ocean and air temperatures are reasonably stable [life range for 2 billion years] is false. >12C in the last 65Ma alone.”

Good to know that we [life] can exist in a 14 C range, even if humans, presumably, would find the extremes a bit difficult.
Thanks for putting up the graphs to share.
A thousand Ma is a billion years so we are talking the last 65 million years.
Maths might suggest a 12C range in 65 million years is a 0.2C change in 1 million years on average.
But lets say it went up and down that much twice in that range?
an average 0.4 C degree change in a million years ?
Perhaps I am being generous because I cannot see even half a cycle in that time graph you show. and certainly many episodes of 1 million years with less than a 2 degree warming.
In fact it seems to cool most of the time.

139. angech says:

Andrew Dodds says: October 11, 2016 at 1:27 pm
“You wouldn’t be taking that money out of circulation, by spending it on flood defence you’d be employing people and buying goods and services.”
Seriously any form of reducing CO2 dependence by a carbon tax results in deprivation, to you and me.
You have to give up driving so much. You have to use less electricity.
It is no good saying I will just pay more, you have to reduce your lifestyle and your work effort.
Even more so for Australians, not your concern, but we live off the worlds dependence on coal. What point is there in having a CO2 tax when you export 100 times the amount of coal which benefits all Australian’s wallets and lifestyle. Try telling them to take a 10,000 dollar pay cut in their lifestyles.

140. BBD says:

Good to know that we [life] can exist in a 14 C range,

It’s not the absolute magnitude of change alone that drives extinctions. It is the rapidity of change. Modern, human-caused climate change is an order of magnitude faster than the natural variety (at least).

Perhaps I am being generous because I cannot see even half a cycle in that time graph you show. and certainly many episodes of 1 million years with less than a 2 degree warming.
In fact it seems to cool most of the time..

Cycles? Who said anything about cycles? What are you talking about cycles for? You argued for stability in palaeoclimate behaviour that I showed you does not exist. Please acknowledge this.

But yes, it does indeed cool from about ~50Ma to the present and the likely reason why is… CO2, because it is the only forcing that has changed enough to explain the generalised cooling trend during the Cenozoic. See eg. Hansen & Sato (2012):

The fact that CO2 is the dominant cause of long-term Cenozoic climate trends is obvious Earth’s energy budget. Redistribution of energy in the climate system via changes of atmosphere or ocean dynamics cannot cause such huge climate change. Instead a substantial global climate forcing is required. The climate forcing must be due to a change of energy coming into the planet or changes within the atmosphere or on the surface that alter the planet’s energy budget.

Solar luminosity is increasing on long time scales, as our sun is at an early stage of solar evolution, “burning” hydrogen, forming helium by nuclear fusion, slowly getting brighter. The sun’s brightness increased steadily through the Cenozoic, by about 0.4 percent according to solar physics models (Sackmann et al., 1993). Because Earth absorbs about 240 W/m2 of solar energy, the 0.4 percent increase is a forcing of about 1 W/m2. This small linear increase of forcing, by itself, would have caused a modest global warming through the Cenozoic Era.

Continent locations affect Earth’s energy balance, as ocean and continent albedos differ. However, most continents were near their present latitudes by the early Cenozoic (Blakey, 2008; Fig. S9 of Hansen et al., 2008). Cloud and atmosphere shielding limit the effect of surface albedo change (Hansen et al., 2005), so this surface climate forcing did not exceed about 1 W/m2.

In contrast, atmospheric CO2 during the Cenozoic changed from about 1000 ppm in the early Cenozoic (Beerling and Royer, 2011) to as small as 170 ppm during recent ice ages (Luthi et al., 2008). The resulting climate forcing, which can be computed accurately for this CO2 range using formulae in Table 1 of Hansen et al. (2000), exceeds 10 W/m2. CO2 was clearly the dominant climate forcing in the Cenozoic.

141. Dikran Marsupial says:

angech wrote “No that is setting your own boundaries, sort of like a dice with all sixes.””

I pointed out that it wasn’t and that the 10%/90% figures I gave were if anything generous and angech responds

“Sure. You are right in this assertion”

which is more or less an admission that the original objection was bullshit, as a moments reflection is all that was required to show that the 10% figure was indeed generous. Followed by

“You would also be right if you framed it more correctly.”

and engages in utter pedantry over wording in an attempt to save face and get me to rise to the bait. Sorry, I am not interested in indulging your trolling any further, you have been fed more than enough already.

142. angech,

Good to know that we [life] can exist in a 14 C range, even if humans, presumably, would find the extremes a bit difficult.

Humans have only been on the planet for about 200000 years. BBD’s graph goes back 65 million years, so clearly does not show that we can exist. Clearly life can exist, but if you think the climate change issue is simply about life on the planet, then you’re not really paying attention. Also, the wet bulb temperature rises by about 0.7C for every 1C of global warming. Wet bulb temperatures above about 35C are pretty impossible to survive without some form of technology. The highest we’ve had on the planet (as I understand it) is around 31-32C. So, 4 to 5C of warming means that parts of the planet may get wet bulb temperatures that are too high for mammals to survive without some form of technological help (or burrowing underground, I think). So, no, I don’t think that we can survive in a 14C range of global temperatures.

143. izen says:

@-angtech
“Thanks for putting up the graphs to share.
A thousand Ma is a billion years so we are talking the last 65 million years.
Maths might suggest a 12C range in 65 million years is a 0.2C change in 1 million years on average.”

One of the graphs that you are thanking BBD for shows the PETM with a 5deg C change in around 200,000 years. All the other long time series have a clear indication of ‘rapid’ 5deg C shifts at sub-million year timescales. Your gratitude may have been better expressed by reading the graphs a little more carefully.

@-“Seriously any form of reducing CO2 dependence by a carbon tax results in deprivation, to you and me.
You have to give up driving so much. You have to use less electricity.”

Personal transport and electricity usage are the aspects of life that are LEAST likely to be affected by a transition away from fossil fuels. With a little more development renewable sources and storage can take the role more cheaply. It is heavy industry and manufacturing that will be more difficult to wean from coal and LNG. But China for instance seems to be making the effort.

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/making-sense-of-china-s-drop-in-coal-use/
“The belief that China’s reduced coal consumption in 2014 was an anomalous blip has been turned on its head now that 2015 saw an even greater drop, of 3.7 percent, in coal consumption. ”

@-“Even more so for Australians, not your concern, but we live off the worlds dependence on coal.”

Not really, Luckily.
The mining sector earns around 10% of the Australian GDP and coal is less than half the mining sector. Mining exports earn half the export earnings, coal is a about a third of that, most of it is iron ore.
The recent doubling of the mining sector was largely driven by the expansion of China. The Australian mining export sector is dependent on the choices and demand from external actors and the absence of cheaper local competition or alternatives. At present world demand for coal is shrinking and prices are falling.

144. angech says:

izen says:
“One of the graphs that you are thanking BBD for shows the PETM with a 5 deg C change in around 200,000 years”
Yes, I noticed the spike on his two graphs
That is not one of the arguments that you should use.
It suggests one of those non climate related issues [A massive CO2 burst cause unspecified BBD] hence not part of the natural variation range of climate change.
BBD, Thank you again for the graphs.
And your views on the reasons for the spike and the cooling over the last 65MA.
You have proven my assertion wrong, the graphs do show the variations are more than the 2 C rise I asserted naturally over a million year period.
Thank you for that.

145. BBD says:

Yes, I noticed the spike on his two graphs
That is not one of the arguments that you should use.
It suggests one of those non climate related issues [A massive CO2 burst cause unspecified BBD] hence not part of the natural variation range of climate change.

The PETM was a naturally-forced hyperthermal forced by a natural transfer of carbon from sinks to atmosphere [mechanism irrelevant, angech]. Probably only about a doubling of atmospheric CO2 caused at least a 5C increase in global average surface temperature and it took ~200ka for the climate system to return to pre-PETM conditions. The same physics apply today as at the end of the Palaeocene, so if we rapidly double CO2, we can expect to see rapid and substantial temperature increase and a very slow return to preindustrial conditions.

* * *

At this point I’m with Dikran. You have no coherent argument. You respond to correction with risible evasions. You are manifestly not here to learn despite disingenuous protests to he contrary. You are wasting everybody’s time.

146. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:
147. angech says:

BBD says
“At this point I’m with Dikran”
Good to note there is some scope for change.
“The PETM was a naturally-forced hyperthermal forced by a natural transfer of carbon from sinks to atmosphere [mechanism irrelevant, angech].”
Totally?
Of course the mechanism is important.
“The lag of ~3,000 years between the onset of warming in New Jersey shelf waters and the carbon isotope excursion is consistent with the hypothesis that bottom water warming caused the injection of 13C-depleted carbon by triggering the dissociation of submarine methane hydrates but the cause of the early warming remains uncertain.”
Pangaea split apart due to massive volcanic eruptions.
One could imagine the extra heat from masses of hot lava might have caused heat rise before the CO2 rise.
In fact if the ocean bed ripped apart and all that cold water had a massive heat injection how long would it be before that heat was able to transfer to the surface and into space?
How much CO2 would be released from a warming Ocean ?
Is 2000 gigatons too much to expect from a 5c temperature rise?
How many gigatons of CO2 in the current CO2 level is actually allocated to the ocean warming that has taken place?
Is it ever mentioned in a list. Short answer, No.
.

148. angech says:

I had hoped to try to retire, whipped [angech says October 12, 2016 at 12:45 pm] BBD.
But in looking at the comments I found a little bit of schadenfreude [2 actually] to relieve my wounds.
One of course was that in arguing for [excessive] stability in the longterm global ocean and air temperatures a lot of commentators have taken the opposite view arguing for extremes of temperature change as being expected, almost normal.
BBD October 12, 2016 at 7:11 am Everything known about palaeoclimate behavior is powerfully suggestive that you are wrong.
BBD October 11, 2016 at 2:35 pm the premise that the earths [overall] ocean and air temperatures are reasonably stable >12C in the last 65Ma alone:
chris October 11, 2016 at 7:29 am.” a large part of Earth surface response to enhanced forcing accrues rather quickly”
BBD says: October 11, 2016 at 12:24 pm The empirical evidence for a rather quick earth surface response is sadly lacking Don’t be silly. look at the 2C rise in 800 ad [graph]
But we cannot be having mega spikes of CO2 all the time
and the planet temp has fallen 12C from 65MA [No super CO2 level] to now, cooling all the way with little temp spikes on the way.
What is the natural cause of a 12C drop from normal CO2 levels to low CO2 levels over 65MA and no, longterm adjustment just doesn’t fit the 8C drop to the current drop.
So anyone using the argument that rapid responses occur naturally rules out the possibility that our current temperature change is just a natural rapid fluctuation that we do not know the answer to.
Taleb has an answer for these Black Swan events, these skewed probability events and explains why we should expect them.

149. angech,

One of course was that in arguing for [excessive] stability in the longterm global ocean and air temperatures a lot of commentators have taken the opposite view arguing for extremes of temperature change as being expected, almost normal.

No, this isn’t really what people are saying. What’s being said is that there isn’t some kind of magical mechanism that stabilises temperature. What stabilises temperatures is the Planck response which works by the surface temperatures either getting higher, or lower, so that the outgoing flux matches the incoming flux. The amount by which the surface temperature changes depends on what has caused there to be an imbalance and the magnitude of that change. Hence, how much we will warm in the next century will largely depend on how much CO2 we emit. There’s no magical process that will suddenly kick in to stop it from exceeding some level of warming, other that the surface warming to increase the outgoing flux.

150. angech,

Of course the mechanism is important.

Depends what you mean. The outcome does not depend on whether or not the release of CO2 is natural or anthropogenic.

151. BBD says:

angech

Totally?
Of course the mechanism is important.

Yes, totally irrelevant. We are discussing the consequences, not the causes, of a large perturbation of the carbon cycle.

One could imagine the extra heat from masses of hot lava might have caused heat rise before the CO2 rise.

You can imagine many things, but you should stick to plausible geophysics. Volcanism may have driven substantial relases of CO2 but there is no evidence whatsoever that volcanic thermal emission had (or physically could have had) any measurable impact on the scale of the PETM. As usual, you are trying to minimalise the role of CO2 as a climate forcing.

But we cannot be having mega spikes of CO2 all the time

We are well along the process of creating one right now. And the physics is the same, so if we keep it up, there will be a hyperthermal. Hence the argument that we should cease, as fast as possible.

and the planet temp has fallen 12C from 65MA [No super CO2 level] to now,

What is the natural cause of a 12C drop from normal CO2 levels to low CO2 levels over 65MA

On geological timescales, the ratio between tectonic emission and drawdown by weathering. From the Pleistocene on, low CO2 appears to have triggered NH glaciation driving further cooling punctuated by orbitally-forced deglaciation.

So anyone using the argument that rapid responses occur naturally rules out the possibility that our current temperature change is just a natural rapid fluctuation that we do not know the answer to.

Rubbish. Where’s the natural physical mechanism responsible for the modern warming? Not found. And absent the magick invisible mystery forcing we are left with human CO2 emissions and a palaeoclimate history that clearly demonstrates that CO2 of any origin is a powerful climate forcing. Case closed. On to policy.

152. angech,
BBD is correct. We have a mechanism to explain our observed warming. It’s consistent with our understanding of past warming/cooling events. It’s consistent with our understanding of the physics associated with the system. We can’t find a physically plausible alternative. It would be remarkable, given all of this, that the warming that is coincident with our release of CO2 was somehow not associated with the increase in atmospheric CO2. Sometimes things are so implausible that we should essentially regard them as impossible.

153. Andrew Dodds says:

angech –

OK. You have a hypothesis that a flood basalt event will by itself cause a detectable amount of heating. Why don’t you actually do a tiny bit of research and calculation to see if this is true?

For instance:

NAIP Lava volume = 6.6 x 10^6 km3

= 6.6 x 10^18 liters

= 2×10^19kg

Lava from 1000K -> 300K @ 2000J /kg/K

= 1.4*10^6 J / kg

Total heat of cooling of lava = 2.8 x 10^25 J

Water thermal capacity = 4200 J/kg

Ocean volume = 1.35 x 10^21 l (or kg)

Raise ocean temperature by 1 degree = 5 x 10^24 J

Hence c. 5K ocean warming (2.8 * 10^25 / 5 * 10^14)

So, if we somehow dumped the entire North Atlantic Igneous Province into the ocean at once, we could raise ocean temperatures by 5K.

However, The eruptions took place over at least a million years, and many would have been on land. Meaning that any ocean warming effect would be negligible. It might helped if you applied this kind of back-of-the-envelope calculation to your hypotheses before ‘throwing them out there’.

154. Also, if we raised ocean temperatures by 5K without some kind of albedo/atmospheric composition change, then the outgoing flux would increase by 16W/m^2 and we would radiate away 2.6 x 10^{23} J/yr, so would lose this excess energy (5 x 10^{24}J) in about 20 years.

155. angech says:

“Also, if we raised ocean temperatures by 5K without some kind of albedo/atmospheric composition change,”
ATTP the premise was that a warming of 5K of the ocean would cause release of CO2 dissolved in the ocean plus water vapor, also a GHG.
You cannot argue that on the one hand such a large amount of CO2 and water vapor would have no effect and would dissipate in 20 years and then say if it came from volcanic outgassing or methane it would last for 200,000 years.
“BBD is correct. We have a mechanism to explain our observed warming. It’s consistent with our understanding of past warming/cooling events”
No it is an observation and the article quoted said that the CO2 rise came up to 3000 years after the warming started.
You have a mechanism, others have a different mechanism, the mechanism is important.

Andrew Dodds says: October 13, 2016 at 8:48 am
“You have a hypothesis that a flood basalt event will by itself cause a detectable amount of heating.” I’m sure others have had it before me.
“Activity of the NAIP 55 million years ago may have caused the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, where a large amount of carbon was released into the atmosphere and the Earth substantially warmed. One hypothesis is that the uplift caused by the NAIP hotspot caused methane clathrates to dissociate and dump 2000 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere”
Note wording one hypothesis not the hypothesis.
“Lava from 1000K -> 300K @ 2000J /kg/K”
No, setting your own parameters,and using funny temp measures K
Back of envelope Lava flows in large amounts can reach up to 1600C, which would be 1900 K approx Cooling to 0C or if you prefer approx 300K so try 1600C instead of 700C
= .3.2*10^6 J / kg
Yellowstone has a 4000 cubic Kilometer magma chamber and I am sure the NAIP Lava volume is a lot more than 6.6 x 10^6 km3. You seem to be referring to that part of it called the Thulean plateau
Total heat of cooling of lava = 5.6 x 10^25 J
Raise ocean temperature by 1 degree = 5 x 10^24 J
Hence 11C ocean warming (5.6 * 10^25 / 5 * 10^14) possible on your figures.
“The eruptions took place over at least a million years, and many would have been on land.”
” Little is known of the geodynamics of the opening of the North Atlantic between Greenland and Europe” the cause of the ‘North Atlantic mantle plume’ that would have created the NAIP.[13] Through both geochemical observations and reconstructions of paleogeography, it is speculated that the present day Iceland hotspot originated as a mantle plume on the Alpha Ridge (Arctic Ocean)
I’m sorry but this implies most of it happened under the sea.
And as others point out most of it happened in a 20,000 year period though many other smaller events occurred and continue to occur.

156. Dikran Marsupial says:

“Taleb has an answer for these Black Swan events, these skewed probability events and explains why we should expect them.”

IMHO this shows a danger of popular science books, which is that sometimes they wildly overstate the point they are trying to make, and those without the background to know that then go and apply the caveat/criticism to situations where it isn’t actually valid. Of course Angech is just trolling/bullshitting it doesn’t actually matter whether the criticism is valid in this instance, it keeps the discussion going either way.

157. angech,

ATTP the premise was that a warming of 5K of the ocean would cause release of CO2 dissolved in the ocean plus water vapor, also a GHG.

Okay, so the relationship between ocean temperature and CO2 release is about 20ppm per degree. So, this would increase atmospheric CO2 by about 100ppm. If the baseline is 280ppm, then the change in forcing is 5.35 ln(380/280) = 1.6W/m^2. The Planck response due to a warming of 5K would be 16 W/m^2. So, the CO2 alone would be unable to counteract much of that. Now, it could then be water vapour increase that does enough to do so, but that – incuding lapse rate feedback – is expected to be about 1.2W/m^2/K. So, a 5K temperature increase would produce a net change due to water vapour of about 6W/m^2. Add that to the CO2 and you’re still only at 7.6W/m^2; not enough to counteract the Planck response due to a warming of 5K. It could be something else, but then you’re essentially arguing for a large positive feedback response, which would imply a large climate sensitivity.

158. No it is an observation and the article quoted said that the CO2 rise came up to 3000 years after the warming started.

I didn’t see that, but if the CO2 release is triggered by some warming event, then clearly the warming started before the CO2 release. It does not mean that CO2 does not then, itself, warm.

You have a mechanism, others have a different mechanism, the mechanism is important.

Of course the mechanism is important, but you actually need one. Maybe it’s something else, is not a mechanism. Also, if you are promoting an alternative, you typically need to also illustrate why the other mechanism does not operate as it is expected to.

159. Dikran Marsupial says:

angech wrote “You cannot argue that on the one hand such a large amount of CO2 and water vapor ”

BTW the residence/adjustment time of water vapour in the atmosphere is a matter of days (which is why the IPCC reports make a distinction between condensing and long-lived GHGs). [Mod : redacted]

160. angech,
Dikran presents a key point. There is a difference between precipitable and non-precipitating GHGs. CO2 has a very long residence time, so any release of CO2 will lead to an atmospheric enhancement that will persist for a long time. Water vapour on the other hand, precipitates within days, so the water vapour concentration can only remain enhanced if something else is producing some kind of warming. By itself, it would simply precipitate and the system would cool back down.

161. BBD says:

angech

No it is an observation and the article quoted said that the CO2 rise came up to 3000 years after the warming started.

Stop diversion-tr0ling please. The mechanism for the PETM is clearly established as GHG forcing. Your unattributed quote-mining from Sluijs et al. (2007) manages to be both misleading *and* obsolete.

Alternatively, the [initial] warming was driven by an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations that did not significantly affect the d13C of the exogenic carbon pool and, hence, our d13C records. An enormous input of mantle-derived carbon is possible because evidence exists for massive volcanism close to the PETM30, and because such an injection (with a d13
Cof–5% to –7%) would have minimally affected the d13C of the ocean–atmosphere reservoir.

Obsolete because eg. Bowen et al. (2014):

The Earth’s climate abruptly warmed by 5–8 °C during the Palaeocene–Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), about 55.5 million years ago. This warming was associated with a massive addition of carbon to the ocean–atmosphere system, but estimates of the Earth system response to this perturbation are complicated by widely varying estimates of the duration of carbon release, which range from less than a year to tens of thousands of years. In addition the source of the carbon, and whether it was released as a single injection or in several pulses, remains the subject of debate. Here we present a new high-resolution carbon isotope record from terrestrial deposits in the Bighorn Basin (Wyoming, USA) spanning the PETM, and interpret the record using a carbon-cycle box model of the ocean–atmosphere–biosphere system. Our record shows that the beginning of the PETM is characterized by not one but two distinct carbon release events, separated by a recovery to background values. To reproduce this pattern, our model requires two discrete pulses of carbon released directly to the atmosphere, at average rates exceeding 0.9 Pg C yr−1, with the first pulse lasting fewer than 2,000 years. We thus conclude that the PETM involved one or more reservoirs capable of repeated, catastrophic carbon release, and that rates of carbon release during the PETM were more similar to those associated with modern anthropogenic emissions than previously suggested.

Beyond debate about the exact sources and sequences of carbon release, the mechanism does not matter.

This is about the fact that the same physics that produced the PETM will produce a modern hyperthermal if emissions continue unabated.

162. Dikran Marsupial says:

Water vapour mostly just acts as a positive feedback, amplifying warming or cooling from other factors influencing the climate. CO2 is a bit more complicated as it can also act as a positive feedback (as the carbon cycle responds to changes in temperature) but can also act as a forcing, the most obvious instance being from the use of fossil fuels, but also from things like the uplift of mountain ranges causing increased rates of chemical weathering of rocks, which reduces the level of CO2 in the atmosphere or from changes in the rate of volcanic activity.

Sincere apologies for my previous post requiring moderating (my previous resolution didn’t last long, did it?). Perhaps a better way to put it is that you have to walk before you can run, so you need to take time to understand the basics (e.g. residence/adjustment time of water vapour) before questioning the more advanced topics (cause for changes in CO2 over geological time). We all have to do our homework in this way, there are no short-cuts, I’m still working on mine.

163. verytallguy says:

AT

interested in a cite for the relationship between ocean temperature and CO2 release is about 20ppm per degree. [genuine question!]

Angech,

a suggestion that ordering your thoughts into structured paragraphs would not only help the understanding of someone reading them, but might also help you present a clearer position.

164. vtg,
I think Henry’s Law by itself gives around 10ppm/degree. However, if you consider the outgassing during the Milankovitch cycles you get around 100ppm increase in atmospheric CO2 for a change in temperature of about 5K, so around 20ppm/K, which – I think – is a combination of ocean outgassing and biosphere outgassing (changes to vegetation). I may have seen something more formal somewhere. If I can find it, I’ll post it.

165. BBD,
Benefit of the doubt 🙂

166. Dikran Marsupial says:

BTW you might think, reading Taleb, that statisticians only know about Gaussian distributions* and don’t know how to deal with extreme or unusual events (Black Swans), but this isn’t actually true. For example there is a branch of statistics, known as “Extreme Value Theory”, which is specifically concerned with statistical reasoning about extreme or unusual events. Of course you might draw different conclusions about Taleb’s thesis if you already knew about EVT than you would if you didn’t (or if you weren’t a statistician). Of course climatologists have known about EVT for years, indeed my introduction to EVT was from working on a project with climatologists and other statisticians.

* my definition of a statistician is “someone who knows what to assume is Gaussian”, this is only true to a first approximation, and is a rather more subtle skill that one might imagine!

167. vtg,
There’s this paper which discusses carbon cycle feedbacks and says

By the end of the 21st century, this additional CO2 varies between 20 ppm and 200 ppm for the two extreme models, the majority of the models lying between 50 and 100 ppm.

which, given a surface temperature change of 2 – 4K, would suggest a feedback of just over 20ppm/K.

168. verytallguy says:

Thanks AT. I think there may be issues with the direct application of Henry’s law due to the system not being in equilibrium and the buffering effects of seawater.

169. verytallguy says:

We crossed. Thanks for the link

170. vtg,

I think there may be issues with the direct application of Henry’s law due to the system not being in equilibrium and the buffering effects of seawater.

Quite possibly. However, the main point was that even if we think the carbon cycle feedback is quite strong, it still would be way below what would be needed to sustain warming due to something like a flood basalt event.

171. verytallguy says:

the main point was that even if we think the carbon cycle feedback is quite strong, it still would be way below what would be needed to sustain warming due to something like a flood basalt event.

I make no pretence to being on topic 😉 although TBH Angech’s posts are too muddled for me to bother trying to decipher what the main point is.

But if the point is claiming carbon cycle feedbacks are strongly positive then that’s a pretty much irrefutable argument for a very high ESS, Bad Things thereby, so Mitigate Now.

172. vtg,

But if the point is claiming carbon cycle feedbacks are strongly positive then that’s a pretty much irrefutable argument for a very high ESS, Bad Things thereby, so Mitigate Now.

Indeed. As you well know, there are plenty of examples of people arguing against the mainstream position who end up presenting an argument that – if correct – would suggest a high climate sensitivity.

173. angech says:

..and Then There’s Physics says:
“Dikran presents a key point. There is a difference between precipitable and non-precipitating GHGs. Water vapor precipitates within days, so the water vapor concentration can only remain enhanced if something else is producing some kind of warming. By itself, it would simply precipitate and the system would cool back down.”

Yes one is precipitable to non precipitable. They have different mechanisms.
The conclusion drawn from the difference is invalid.
The amount of water vapor in the air is precisely because of the amount of heat in the ocean. It not only precipitates out of the air it continually infuses into the air so the argument that it needs something else producing the warming is invalid.
If the ocean is 5C warmer it produces a lot more water vapor continuously than 5C colder. Yes it does precipitate out only to be continually replaced, that is the water cycle.
It is very misleading to claim that precipitation makes water vapor in the atmosphere a short term phenomenon of no consequence as Dikran is well aware when he said “you have to walk before you can run, so you need to take time to understand the basics (e.g. residence/adjustment time of water vapour) ”

“a surface temperature change of 2 – 4K, would suggest a feedback of just over 20ppm/K.”
Thank you and others for quantifying the amount of CO2 expected from a rise in sea temperature.
Volcanoes can also release large amounts of CO2 from their effect and indirect effect on hydrocarbon deposits and clathrates as BBD has said.

174. angech says:

BBD says:
.” Your unattributed quote-mining from Sluijs et al. (2007) manages to be both misleading *and* obsolete.”
Misleading because it stated that the CO2 rise came 3000 years to late?
Obsolete because eg. Bowen et al. (2014): published a counter view?
Look it was just a quote, from the WIKI link, that contradicts the mainstream view.
You can accept it or claim they got it wrong, I don’t mind.
But you should not dismiss it out of hand because it disagrees with your viewpoint.

175. angech,

The amount of water vapor in the air is precisely because of the amount of heat in the ocean.

No, it’s not. It depends on the temperature of the air.

It not only precipitates out of the air it continually infuses into the air so the argument that it needs something else producing the warming is invalid.

This is true, but that does not mean that a warmer ocean would – by itself – increase the relative humidity of the atmosphere.

If the ocean is 5C warmer it produces a lot more water vapor continuously than 5C colder. Yes it does precipitate out only to be continually replaced, that is the water cycle.

Again, this does not mean that it will increase the relative humidity, which is what you need if you wsnt to maintain a higher surface temperature. Increased evaporation can be balanced by increased precipitation without an increase in RH.

Volcanoes can also release large amounts of CO2 from their effect and indirect effect on hydrocarbon deposits and clathrates as BBD has said.

Indeed, but that is essentially BBD’s point. The impact of a pulse of CO2 injected into the atmosphere is the same whether it’s anthropogenic, or from another source.

176. BBD says:

angech

Misleading because it stated that the CO2 rise came 3000 years to late?

No. Will you please read my comments properly. Since this is the second time you’ve done this, I suspect that you are doing it on purpose. Sluijs07-b (*your* source), again:

Alternatively, the [initial] warming was driven by an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations that did not significantly affect the d13C of the exogenic carbon pool and, hence, our d13C records. An enormous input of mantle-derived carbon is possible because evidence exists for massive volcanism close to the PETM30, and because such an injection (with a d13C of –5% to –7%) would have minimally affected the d13C of the ocean–atmosphere reservoir.

Moving on to Sluijs & Brinkhuis (2008):

One prominent example of biotic change associated with the onset of the CIE is recorded along continental margins, where sediment sequences from all latitudes contain high abundances of dinoflagellate cysts belonging to the subtropical genus Apectodinium (Crouch et al., 2001; Sluijs et al., 2007-a). In part, this must be associated to the PETM warming. However, in stratigraphically expanded marginal marine sections from the New Jersey Shelf and the North Sea, as well as a section in New Zealand, the onset of the Apectodinium acme started some 5 kyr prior to the CIE (Sluijs et al., 2007-b) (Fig. 3). Additionally, the onset of the PETM SST warming at New Jersey appears to have led the CIE by several thousands of years (but lagged the onset of the Apectodinium acme) (Sluijs et al., 2007-b). This indicates that warm SST was not the only environmental control on Apectodinium abundances. Moreover, it suggests that the carbon burp that caused the CIE was a result of initial climate change and acted as a positive feedback. This scenario fits the model of CH4 release from submarine hydrates causing the CIE (Dickens et al., 1995). If this pre-CIE warming was global, it was likely induced by greenhouse forcing, suggesting that the PETM warming and ocean acidification were caused by at least two sources of carbon (Sluijs et al., 2007-b).

Once again, check for comprehension: iIf* the pre-CIE warming was global (not established in this study either) *then* it was likely GHG-forced.

(CIE = carbon isotope excursion).

But you should not dismiss it out of hand because it disagrees with your viewpoint.

That’s enough of that. I did not ‘dismiss’ Sluijs et al. I explained how current thinking has progressed. The person doing the dismissing here is you. Stop misrepresenting me.

177. In the interest of trying to achieve something, let’s stick with one thing. Angech is claiming that the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere depends on the temperature of the ocean. This is incorrect; it depends on the temperature of the atsmosphere itself. Let’s resolve this before moving on to something else, because it is a key part of angech’s claim.

178. BBD says:

angech is trying to argue that the PETM wasn’t GHG-forced. The stuff about magically self-sustaining WV is part of it; the stuff about magical warming preceding the CIE is part of it too. Both claims are confused / incorrect and both are cornerstones of his real contention, which is that CO2 is not an efficacious climate forcing.

179. BBD,
Well, yes, that’s why I thought it important to focus on that one the claim that ocean temperatures can enhance atmospheric water vapour.

180. angech says:

…and Then There’s Physics says:
angech, The amount of water vapor in the air is precisely because of the amount of heat in the ocean.” No, it’s not. It depends on the temperature of the air”

ATTP, the fact is the temperature of the air and the temperature of the ocean are inextricably linked. They do not operate in a vacuum.This is one of the keystone arguments that is used all the time.
Its not an I said, you said, state of affairs.

A 5 K hotter ocean must give rise to a 5K hotter atmosphere, they coexist together.
You can legally argue it depends only on the temperature of the atmosphere itself.
But this ignores the fact of what is heating the atmosphere.
One of the heat sources is the ocean itself
“JCH explains: October 11, 2016 at 1:31 pm
because the surface is usually warmer than the atmosphere. Sun to ocean; ocean to atmosphere;” paraphrase volcano to ocean ocean to atmosphere.
It also depends on what water is available, No ocean , little water Ocean a lot of water.
The statement it depends on the temperature of the air is inadequate.
Consider a steam filled volcanic caldera erupting, or a water spout pushing extra water vapor into the air.

181. angech says:

On a lighter note at the opposition.
“A comet strike may have triggered the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a rapid warming of the Earth caused by an accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide 56 million years ago”
Amazing how coincidence occurs.
BBD says: October 13, 2016 at 12:35 pm
The mechanism for the PETM is clearly established as GHG forcing.
BBD says: October 12, 2016 at 7:11 am
You can see the towering hyperthermal of the PETM at ~55Ma. Here in close-up, you see the ~200ka recovery time from the large pulse of CO2 that caused the PETM hyperthermal event
BBD says: October 12, 2016 at 1:00 pm
The PETM was a naturally-forced hyperthermal forced by a natural transfer of carbon from sinks to atmosphere [mechanism irrelevant, angech].
Mechanism now relevant BBD.
A comet strike is a totally different kettle of fish to a volcanic event triggering a large pulse of CO2.
You can explain how it caused the CO2 rise, the article assumes it. If it hit the ocean my comments on water warming releasing a CO2 spike are still relevant.
Funny that we have three completely unrelated causes, no certainty on this now, but two conveniently cause a CO2 spike [causative] and one a delayed spike [reactive].

182. BBD says:

angech

Nobody has *ever* argued that the world ocean was warmed up by 5C by volcanism during the PETM. Your first premise is a bust.

183. A 5 K hotter ocean must give rise to a 5K hotter atmosphere, they coexist together.

Okay, so your actual argument is that a hotter ocean with produce a hotter atmosphere that can then hold more water vapour. Fine.

Next step. The water vapour feedback is about 1.2W/m^2/K. Therefore a 5K warmer atmosphere would – on average – increase the water vapour such that there is a change in radiative feedback of about 6W/m^2. A 5K warmer surface, on the other hand, will produce an increase in outgoing flux of about 16W/m^2. Therefore, even with the enhanced water vapour, the outgoing flux would – on average – increase by 10W/m^2 which means we’d be losing about 2 x 10^{23} J/year and would cool back down again within a few years. As we cooled, the water vapour would precipitate and, hence, would not be able to maintain the higher temperature for an extended period of time. Do you agree, or not? Let’s stick with this one, before moving on to something else.

184. BBD says:

Comet strikes are now pretty much ruled out as PETM triggers. You can easily verify this yourself if you extend your reach beyond Wikipedia.

185. BBD says:

Mechanism now relevant BBD.
A comet strike is a totally different kettle of fish to a volcanic event triggering a large pulse of CO2.

“A comet strike may have triggered the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a rapid warming of the Earth caused by an accumulation of atmospheric carbon dioxide 56 million years ago”

The mechanism is still irrelevant to the effect – CO2 forced hyperthermals are CO2 forced hyperthermals regardless of the trigger mechanism.

Can we move on from this distraction now.

186. Dikran Marsupial says:

angech wrote “It is very misleading to claim that precipitation makes water vapor in the atmosphere a short term phenomenon of no consequence as Dikran is well aware when he said “you have to walk before you can run, so you need to take time to understand the basics (e.g. residence/adjustment time of water vapour) ”

I actually have done some homework on this one. I worked on a project on statistical downscaling of extreme precipitation (c.f. comments about Taleb earlier), which meant that I had to learn a bit about hydrology in order to be able to follow the advice I was given by the hydrologists. This means that I am aware of the Clausius Clapeyron relation, as are the IPCC:

“However, a well-established physical law (the Clausius-Clapeyron relation) determines that the water-holding capacity of the atmosphere increases by about 7% for every 1°C rise in temperature.”

which is why global warming is expected to result in an increase in the vigour of the hydrological cycle (i.e. more evaporation and more precipitation). It is a bit more complicated than this, but basically if the oceans heat up there will be more evaporation, but unless the atmosphere warms up as well, then there will be a corresponding increase in precipitation and so global humidity won’t change that much.

I don’t think anybody is saying that it is of no consequence, indeed I pointed out that water vapour applies positive feedback to temperature changes due to other forcings, so that is bit of a straw man.

187. It is a bit more complicated than this, but basically if the oceans heat up there will be more evaporation, but unless the atmosphere warms up as well, then there will be a corresponding increase in precipitation and so global humidity won’t change that much.

As I understand it, the 7%/K is what happens if the relative humidity remains constant, and this is what is expected. If RH remains constant, then as we warm, evaporation (and hence, precipitation) will also increase.

188. Dikran Marsupial says:

I was under the impression that the same thing is also seen in GCMs (without the constraint of constant RH), which suggests it is a reasonable assumption, but I could be mistaken (not worked on this for a long time).

189. Dikran,
Yes, I think that is correct. That RH remains approximately constant is an emergent properties of GCMs, not a constraint imposed upon them.

190. Dikran Marsupial says:

I really don’t understand why my last message triggered the moderation filter!

191. Nor do I 😉

192. Dikran Marsupial says:

Presumably it was too moderate and I should have been more confident of my understanding ;o)

193. chris says:

BBD, the possibility of a comet/meteor strike at the start of the PETM is raised in a paper in today’s Science but this is controversial still

“Impact ejecta at the Paleocene-Eocene boundary”
http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6309/225.abstract

The long (thousands of years) release of methane/CO2 during the PETM is more strongly attributed to tectonic activity involved with opening up of a plate boundary (what’s now the mid-Atlantic ridge) and long term activity during the PETM of the North Atlantic Igneous Province.

In any case the PETM is associated with massive sustained release of methane/CO2 (but occurring slowly in the context of the rate of current anthropogenic release by at least 10-fold)…

whether any putative extraterrestrial strike had some contribution or just happened to occur during the period near the onset of the PETM is up in the air I expect…

194. verytallguy says:

On humidity changing as temperature rises, Isaac Held has a compelling blogpost. Essentially, because of energy balance at the surface:

we expect small changes in RH near the surface as the climate warms.

https://www.gfdl.noaa.gov/blog_held/47-relative-humidity-over-the-oceans/

195. BBD says:

chris

Thanks for the link to Schaller et al. I couldn’t help but notice that the abstract says (my emphasis):

Distinct characteristics identify the spherules as microtektites and microkrystites, indicating that an extraterrestrial impact occurred during the carbon isotope excursion at the P-E boundary.

So not, presumably, a trigger event? Also, this wouldn’t be the first time Schaller and Wright were wrong about the PETM 🙂

196. chris says:

BBD, yes it would seem unlikely (a comet/meteor strike as a trigger for a process involving – most likely – plate tectonics). The PNAS letter you linked to is interesting – seems like Schaller and Wright are really pushing the cometary impact hypothesis. No problem with that of course and in any case it’s not relevant to the question of the underlying cause of PETM warming which isn’t particularly controversial (massive sustained release of carbon into atmosphere).

197. BBD says:

it’s not relevant to the question of the underlying cause of PETM warming which isn’t particularly controversial (massive sustained release of carbon into atmosphere).

Please be sure to mention this to angech 🙂

198. @Florifulgurator, @brandonrgates,

Yeah, but Carlin is dead right. Before being aware of climate change, I was aware of human hubris, per Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot and the writings of Loren Eiseley.

@ATTP, and back more directly to the subject, while people might have changed the planet’s climate and conditions over time, as have many of the much smaller biota at scale, the singular thing about this greenhouse gas forcing is its size and pace. Indeed, I think very few of our models of oceans and ice sheets consider what a geologically large impulse might imply for dynamics. It’s not a model of climate by any means, but I once illustrated what a trivariate coupled system might do using Shockwave Flash.

That’s not predictive, but it’s basic to nonlinear systems that, generally speaking, if they are hit with something big, quickly, the aftermath explores a good many more of their possible states than they did when they are in equilibrium.

199. By the way, the late and entertaining (*) biomechanics professor, Steven Vogel, wrote a book called Thinking Like a Mall which I have on my tall reading stack for the summer.

(*)

Why, then, sink? I’d like very tentatively to suggest that sinking might be a device to keep away from the air-water interface. We’re painfully aware that large organisms can’t ordinarily support themselves on an air-water interface (Vogel 1988a) — the Bond number, the ratio of the force of gravity to that of surface tensions is too high (or its inverse, the Jesus number, is too low). We’re less concerned with the boundary condition on the other side, that affecting small organisms and loosely defined by the Weber number. The latter, about which more in Chapter 17 (and defined by equation 17.6), is the ratio of inertial force to surface tension force; in its numerator is length and the square of velocity. Small, slow things can’t et enough $lU^{2}$ to get loose, and hte interface is a very special habitat for which ordinary plankton must be poorly adapted. So, as eloquently pointed out by D’Arcy Thompson (1942), it can snare as well as sustain: “A water-beetle finds the surface of a pond a matter of life and death, a perilous entanglement or an indispensable support.” Positive buoyancy may be perilous — better to sink slowly or to counteract sinking by swimming upward to just short of the interface. And (as is commonly noted), natural bodies of water aren’t still, so even continuous sinking needn’t mean steady and irreversible movement away from the surface.

(From page 347, Chapter 15, “Life at low Reynolds numbers”, Life in Moving Fluids: The Physical Biology of Flow, 1994.

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