## Avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate change

I haven’t really had much to say, hence the lack of posts. I still don’t, but I thought I would quickly highlight a recent paper by Xu and Ramanathan called Well below 2 °C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes. I haven’t really had a chance to read it as thoroughly as I should, but it’s open access (I think) so, if you’re interested, I’d encourage you to read it. It partly caught my eye because it uses terms like dangerous, catastrophic and even existential threat. Partly, these are their own definitions; > 1.5oC defined as dangerous, > 3oC defined as catastrophic, and > 5oC potentially being an existential threat. It also tries to take various uncertainties into account (such as carbon cycle feedbacks).

Credit: Xu and Ramanathan (2017)

I didn’t want to say too much, but did want to post the figure on the right. It shows the range of warming in the two different scenarios that they regard as not including climate policies (essentially RCP6 and RCP8.5) and a well-below 2C scenario (WB2C). This is what I wanted to highlight. Even the well-below 2C scenario has a roughly one-third chance of exceeding 2oC, and a non-negligible change of exceeding 3oC.

If you consider the table in this Carbon Brief article then a 66% chance of staying below 2oC would require emitting no more than another 1000GtCO2 (272GtC) from 2011. We’ve already emitted about 60GtC since 2011, so we have about 200 GtC left. In other words, another 20 years at current emissions would use up this carbon budget. Alternatively, we have to start reducing emissions pretty soon if we want to still have a 66% chance of keeping warming below 2oC. However, even if we do meet this carbon budget target, we would still have a one-third chance of exceeding 2oC and a few percent chance of exceeding 3oC.

I find this rather sobering and am not quite sure how to wrap this up. I don’t think we should focus on the possibility that everything could be much worse than we hope. However, I also don’t think we should ignore this either. What this means to me is that we should start taking this seriously, because ultimately we will need to get net emissions to zero and the sooner we start thinking of ways to do this, the less likely it will be that the outcome will be something that we would rather have avoided.

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### 71 Responses to Avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate change

1. Steven Mosher says:

“t partly caught my eye because it uses terms like dangerous, catastrophic and even existential threat. ”

I liked that too

2. I skimmed that same article yesterday and was going to toss it into the open thread at real climate, but will now just link to your post. I think that US global policies are wildly inconsistent when you look at the lengths and expense the state is willing to incur to limit military threats and then look at the state resistance to responding appropriately to the threat of climate change. It’s discouraging to be a US citizen.

3. To add to what @smallbluemike says; if any global business faced equivalent catastrophic and existential threats, the management would start putting in place changes to reduce and eliminate those threats within weeks—even if they had a significant impact on the bottom line. Why we, as a planet, sail blindly on with our heads in the sand is beyond my comprehension. There is really something mentally wrong with many of the key people in positions of power and influence.

Maybe the saying, ‘power corrupts…’, will be proved to be more appropriate than we ever realised.

4. -1=e^iπ says:

Arbitrarily defining things as ‘dangerous’, ‘catastrophic’ and ‘existential threat’? All without evidence? Is this science? Well, I guess if it fits a certain narrative then it’s allowed and passes peer review.

If they published the same paper and used categories ‘harmless’, ‘lukewarm’ and ‘mildly uncomfortable’ do you think it would get accepted?

Where is their scientific model that shows that at 5C you have an existential threat? Oh wait, it doesn’t exist?

… seems like we have significant political bias infiltrating science here.

5. -1,

Arbitrarily defining things as ‘dangerous’, ‘catastrophic’ and ‘existential threat’? All without evidence? Is this science?

Mainly, it’s just words and they did define the thresholds. I found it interesting that they chose those terms because of the response (yours, for example) that it would probably produce.

Where is their scientific model that shows that at 5C you have an existential threat? Oh wait, it doesn’t exist?

This isn’t really what they said, is it?

… seems like we have significant political bias infiltrating science here.

I would ask you to explain how this implies a significant political bias, but I’m not all that interested in the answer.

FWIW, I think there has to be a level that could reasonably be regarded as dangerous, one that could reasonably regarded as catastrophic, and one that could well potentially be an existential threat. I don’t, however, know if their definitions are reasonable, but I’d be very surprised if they were wrong by more than a factor of 2.

6. @-1,

The side effects of the +3C, +4C, and +5C mean global temperatures with spatial variability and the collateral implications of what these correspond to in terms of mean land global temperatures (see below) have been worked out in a broad body of scientific literature, most far removed from geophysics and meteorology. But even looking through the narrow lens of geophysics can lead to startles, particularly as various additional feedbacks begin. The implications in these far removed fields, not surprisingly, suggest a collective worsening and probability for quite a few nasty nonlinearities, when biological systems respond to opportunities not having been present for centuries to millennia or longer. And they can respond fast.

In fact, it’s amusing that some of the strongest evidence for climate change can be found in responses in migrational tracks of fish and other wildlife, and, while a proper Bayesian treatment should fold in these effects to an assessment of climate disruption, it generally isn’t, because typically no one rolls in changes in migratory patterns in a geophysics paper.

There have been studies of implications of these for people with outdoor exposure 24/7, economic implications for industries that require people to work outside (like construction),

I think the most serious aspect of >+2C regions is that we begin to collectively lose control of the problem. That is, if natural feedbacks start in, then in addition to needing to capture and remove our own burnt Buried Sunlight, we need to capture and remove Nature’s. I don’t know where the line is, but eventually the scale of the need to do that could exceed humanity’s productive capacity,. Some calculations put that already beyond reach. I’ve written about this at my blog if you care to look. Some calculations have the cost of dropping 200 ppm CO2 at tens of multiples of Gross World Product, based upon Institute of Physics numbers from 2010. Professor Klaus Lackner is more optimistic, and he knows something about how to do this, I don’t, so this could be wrong. Of course, a corollary of pursuing clear air capture of CO2 is that we need to effectively zero excess emissions first. It’s expensive enough that it would make no sense at all for people to invest in extraction if they were making it worse all the while.

And as far as the forward reference above goes, the rational is that if actual global mean temperatures are $+T$, that corresponds to a climate sensitivity which is the global mean sensitivity. Land sensitivity is always greater than global mean, because of ocean effects. Accordingly, a $+T$ global mean change means land is $+cT$, where $c > 1$, and $c$ is on the order of the ratio of the land sensitivity mean to the global one.

I was able to read the full Well below 2 °C: Mitigation strategies for avoiding dangerous to catastrophic climate changes article in the PNAS “Early Edition” online, without a login.

It’s not clear to me, however, that it’s peer-reviewed; under the author’s affiliations, there appears this line:

Edited by Susan Solomon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, and approved August 11, 2017 (received for review November 9, 2016)

Maybe I’m overlooking something. I’m gonna read it anyway 8^)!

As there are two authors, that should have been “under the authors’ affiliations”.

“The crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe.” -F. Zappa

9. It’s not clear to me, however, that it’s peer-reviewed

Not sure, but it does claim it was received for review, and it did take quite some time (November 2016 to August 2017).

aTTP:

Not sure, but it does claim it was received for review, and it did take quite some time (November 2016 to August 2017).

Hmm. On that basis, it wouldn’t be going out on a limb to say it was peer-reviewed.

-1:

Arbitrarily defining things as ‘dangerous’, ‘catastrophic’ and ‘existential threat’? All without evidence? Is this science? Well, I guess if it fits a certain narrative then it’s allowed and passes peer review.

-1, I’m guessing you didn’t click on the link to the article. It contains a lengthy Box on “Risk Categorization of Climate Change to Society”.

… seems like we have significant political bias infiltrating science here.

[Mod: redacted]

It is estimated a little under one billion people rely upon oceans for their primary protein. Continued emissions and warming, with 90% of the forcing going into oceans, is expected to curtail that by oceanic hypoxia and disruption of food chains due to ocean acidification. The latter will continue even if solar radiation management is implemented, and possibly moreso, depending upon the fate of sulphuric acid particles used to implement the radiation management.

[Mod: redacted]

Aw, I meant that in the nicest possible way 8^D!

But seriously, folks… -1’s unsupported assumptions baffle me. On occasion it (gender indeterminate) appears to grasp sophisticated scientific concepts facilely. How has it convinced itself that scientists who study climate are more prone to bias than other Earth scientists? If it doesn’t trust PNAS’s peer review process, why would it trust any published science at all?

WRT the linked article, I took a look at PNAS’s Information for Authors page and found this (bold in original):

PNAS authors, editors, and reviewers come from around the globe. Submissions are welcomed from all researchers. Authors do not need to have a connection to an NAS member to publish in PNAS…

All articles are evaluated solely on their scientific merit by peers—not by staff editors. Accepted papers must be of exceptional scientific importance and intelligible to a broad scientific audience.

Assuming they’re not lying outright, the flagship refereed venue of the US National Academy of Sciences can be assigned relatively high credibility, as in John Nielsen-Gammon’s hierarchy of reliability:

There are, perhaps, less than a thousand people worldwide who know enough about climate change’s impacts on tropical cyclones, extratropical transitions, wind speeds, rainfall rates, and sea level rise to qualify them to evaluate that statement. It’s not even clear that [J. N-G. is] one of them! The requisite level of climate literacy is enormous.

But there’s an important lesson here about how we decide which scientific statements to believe and which ones not to believe. Those of us who are trained scientists but who do not have enough personal literacy to independently evaluate a particular statement do not throw up our hands in despair. Instead, we evaluate the source and the context.

We scientists rely upon a hierarchy of reliability. We know that a talking head is less reliable than a press release. We know that a press release is less reliable than a paper. We know that an ordinary peer-reviewed paper is less reliable than a review article. And so on, all the way up to a National Academy report. If we’re equipped with knowledge of this hierarchy of reliability, we can generally do a good job navigating through an unfamiliar field, even if we have very little prior technical knowledge in that field.

That works for me. Your mileage may vary, however.

15. John Hartz says:

“Other people have used the word catastrophic, but I have resisted doing so until now,” said the study’s lead author, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a renowned climate scientist who helped influence Pope Francis to urge the world to fight global warming in 2015.

“I changed my mind because, over the past five years, I have gone back and reviewed data that we began collecting from satellites in the 1980s and data from aircraft and changes in the intensity of storms, and studies about the possible health affects of rapid global warming.

“There is a low probability that the change will be catastrophic. But you would not get on an airplane if you thought there was a 5 percent chance that it was going to crash.”

Scripps says climate change may represent “existential” threat to humanity by Gary Robbins, San Diego Union-Tribune, Sep 14, 2017

16. Steven Mosher says:

“Arbitrarily defining things as ‘dangerous’, ‘catastrophic’ and ‘existential threat’? All without evidence? Is this science? Well, I guess if it fits a certain narrative then it’s allowed and passes peer review.”

Its not arbitrary. is it science? not everything needs to be science. I would have been happier if they defined a “benign” range of both heating and cooling, as well as dangerous, catastrophic and existential in the other direction as well.

17. Jai Mitchell says:

This:

If you consider the table in this Carbon Brief article then a 66% chance of staying below 2oC would require emitting no more than another 1000GtCO2 (272GtC) from 2011. We’ve already emitted about 60GtC since 2011, so we have about 200 GtC left. In other words, another 20 years at current emissions would use up this carbon budget.

The Carbon Brief article used CMIP5 model runs that did not include any carbon feedbacks from warming soils. Crowther 2016 shows that upon reaching 2C of globally averaged warming the soils will release between 180 and 550 GtC within the next 50 years (and extrapolation shows much more over the next 30).

Clearly, we have already exceeded the GHG forcing levels to exceed 2C when one also considers that the currently cooling emissions of SO2 must cease if we are to stop emitting GHGs. We are in a climate emergency NOW and must act like it!

Its not arbitrary. is it science? not everything needs to be science.

Judging by the journal’s Information for Authors page, it has to be science to be published in PNAS.

19. Seriously, @Steve Mosher, do you really think it’s going to cool down from where it is all by itself?

20. Steven Mosher says:

“Judging by the journal’s Information for Authors page, it has to be science to be published in PNAS.”

The choice of the specific words and the Specific value does not have to be science.
Anymore than the length of an abstract has to be “science”

We could make that choice more sciencey if you like, but there would always be objections.

21. Steven Mosher says:

“Seriously, @Steve Mosher, do you really think it’s going to cool down from where it is all by itself?”

Doing a full spectrum doesnt imply ANY NOTION WHATSOEVER that you are destined to get there or that getting there is even Likely.

It’s just being complete.

Put another way. I would have liked to see this. I would not demand it. Would not stop publishing the paper for lack of it. I would have liked to see this.

22. There is also evidence from the Global Carbon Project (pointed out to me personally by Dr Glen Peters) that the rate of takeup of CO2 in soils and oceans is slowing. This is not a capacity or reservoir limit of any kind. It’s simply that the amount of CO2 being added to atmosphere is outpacing the channels feeding these sinks. Accordingly, one could expect rate of buildup in atmosphere to increase.

23. angech says:

“It partly caught my eye because it uses terms like dangerous, catastrophic and even existential threat.” ATTP
“I would have been happier if they defined a “benign” range of both heating and cooling, as well as dangerous, catastrophic and existential in the other direction as well.”
Mosher.

That is all I would want to see as well and I am sure ATTP does as well
Wanting a complete range of options is important.
Hyper asks “Seriously, @Steve Mosher, do you really think it’s going to cool down from where it is all by itself?”
No, Steven did not say that. He believes it will not cool down by itself in any reasonable time frame.
He was just asking or a little more science in the description despite him saying
“I liked that too” about the use of terms to indicate the fraught danger.

24. “I would have been happier if they defined a “benign” range of both heating and cooling, as well as dangerous, catastrophic and existential in the other direction as well.”

Assuming benign is the one below dangerous, isn’t it kind of obvious.

25. izen says:

If you have agricultural infrastructure and cities that have been developed and optimised for past and present conditions then it is extremely improbable that ANY change is even neutral in its effect, never mind benign.

Consider sea level rise. Are there any circumstances where rising sea level could be benign rather than dangerous or catastrophic to our existing coastal population ?

26. @angech, @Steven Mosher,

X & R cannot be read on its own. In the area of risk categorization, it presents itself as an extension of X & R references (45) and (47):

* Smith JB, et al. (2009) Assessing dangerous climate change through an update of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “reasons for concern”. PNAS USA 106:4133-4137.

* O’Neill BC, et al. (2017) IPCC reasons for concern regarding climate change risks. Nat Clim Chang 7:28–37.

with the latter being recent.

From X & R:

Assigning Climate Risks. Following the societal risk characterization as defined in Box 2, the projected warming trends in Fig. 1 for the two scenarios without climate policies fall under the following risk categories.

From X & R, Box 2:

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change coined the phrase “dangerous anthropogenic interference” (DAI) with the climate system. The DAI phrase spurred quite a bit of research on what climate change means for society and the ecosystem (45). Subsequently, in 2001, the IPCC (46) came up with the burning embers diagram, in which it categorized climate risks under five reasons for concern (RFCs) that ranged from risks to natural systems, risks of extreme weather events, distribution of impacts between regions of the world, aggregate impacts, and risks of large-scale discontinuities. In the burning embers diagram, risks under each RFC were ranked based on the warming magnitude. For what follows, we adopt the most recent version of DAI analysis (47). At 2 °C, risks for two RFCs were designated as high, while at 4 °C, all RFCs were ranked as a high-risk category, with two of them ranked as very high. The burning embers diagram does not extend beyond 5 °C.

We are proposing the following extension to the DAI risk categorization: warming greater than 1.5 °C as “dangerous”; warming greater than 3 °C as “catastrophic?”; and warming in excess of 5 °C as “unknown??,” with the understanding that changes of this magnitude, not experienced in the last 20+million years, pose existential threats to a majority of the population. The question mark denotes the subjective nature of our deduction and the fact that catastrophe can strike at even lower warming levels. The justifications for the proposed extension to risk categorization are given below.

ONeill, et al, includes the statement:

This Review summarizes the conceptual basis for the RFCs (Box 1) and offers an explanation of the reasoning behind associated risk judgments that is complementary to, but goes beyond, the treatment in the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report6 (AR5). We focus explicitly on the evidence base for transitions from one risk level to the next, incorporate post-AR5 literature in those discussions, and offer thoughts about limitations of the subjective judgments behind each RFC. We also improve the synthesis of RFC-related material across AR5, and in turn provide both a clearer connection to evidence from AR5 that supports the RFC judgments, as well as a comparison of the RFCs to similar approaches employing metrics other than global mean temperature change (GMT) for characterizing risk. Perhaps most importantly, we consider improvements in the framework, particularly emphasizing the dynamic nature of exposure and vulnerability, two key components of risk not sufficiently covered in the current approach.

ONeill, et al offers the scale: (i) Undetectable, (ii) Moderate, (iii) High, (iv) Very [H]igh.

Two points.

One, it seems to me your quibbling with V & R actually belongs as a quibble of ONeill, et al

Two, implicit in risk assessment work like this is that the only location on the “climate space surface” we know to be safe is where we were, that is, at pre-industrial. To me, this is simply prudence. We can’t possibly know all of the ramifications of stepping off that surface. Accordingly, I agree that the term “Undetectable” is better than “Benign”, say.

27. JeffH says:

I assume that -1 would also be reluctant to apply metaphors to describe loss of the word’s tropical forests. Thus, whereas anybody with a rational mind would believe that losing 75% or more of these biomes would indeed be an impending catastrophe, -1 would accuse them of being ‘unscientific’. But let’s be clear here. If global mean surface temperatures do pass the 1.5 C mark and continue upwards in the time frame envisaged, then this would have a profoundly serious effect on ecosystems across the biosphere. Biodiversity will be hammered, and along with that a range of critical ecosystem services that sustain the material economy.

Does this constitute a catastrophe? Methinks it does. It is high time that scientists approach AGW and global change scenarios bearing this in mind and do not therefore hesitate to describe the end results appropriately.

-1, you are dismissed.

28. izen says:

@-SM
“I would have been happier if they defined a “benign” range of both heating and cooling, as well as dangerous, catastrophic and existential in the other direction as well.”

All those papers on the health dangers of tobacco were clearly biased by a political agenda and narrative. None included estimates of the benign and beneficial effects of smoking.

29. It is high time that scientists approach AGW and global change scenarios bearing this in mind and do not therefore hesitate to describe the end results appropriately.

I also think that most scientists err on the side of being cautious. If we’re starting to see more and more using terms like “catastrophic” I think that’s telling us something about how serious they regard this issue.

30. Steven Mosher says:

“All those papers on the health dangers of tobacco were clearly biased by a political agenda and narrative. None included estimates of the benign and beneficial effects of smoking.”

what on earth are you talking about? the reason for doing both sides for the danger from temperature is that the harm is in fact two sided. there is no such thing as negative
cigarettes smoked.

do you deny that an earth 100C COOLER would not be an existential risk? what would be catastrophic cooling.. do our methods for assesing these things work on both sides of zero. simple fucking method question you bozo.

31. Steven,
I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at. Aren’t we considering the impacts of warming? I don’t really see what cooling has to do with this.

32. It seems we have a difficult enough time getting funding to support research into global warming – which we know is happening and likely to continue. Now we need to find funding for the effects of global *cooling* – which isn’t happening and is most unlikely to happen anytime in our near future? All those with unlimited time and resources please raise your hands.

33. BBD says:

Steven

I’m confused too. Why are you getting exercised about this? If you think there’s something wrong with the discussion of warming impacts in the paper, then let’s talk about that. The absence of analysis of the climate impacts of cooling isn’t some sort of methodological no-no. So, what’s up?

34. JCH says:

Because our fossil-fuel burning SUV heroes are staving off the next killer ice age.

35. izen says:

@-SM
“what on earth are you talking about? the reason for doing both sides for the danger from temperature is that the harm is in fact two sided. there is no such thing as negative
cigarettes smoked.”

The methodology of tobbaco research was to examine the dangers of what people were actualy doing. Not some hypothetical alternative.
Only bozo’s would expect research on the dangerous consequences of a human activity to include examination of what they are NOT doing and isn’t happening.

36. Michael Hauber says:

There are certainly issues around the designation of +3 as being catastrophic, which is a subjective choice, with the possibility of different people having significantly different interpretations of what is meant by ‘catastrophic’.

Of course -1’s attack on this as ‘not science’ is…not scientific, and is basically playing the ‘we can’t be 100% certain therefore we know nothing’ card and serves only to distract from the issues.

My first reaction on reading +3 as catastrophic was a little dismissive. I think we probably won’t like it and would wish we hadn’t, but life would go on and it wouldn’t be a catastrophe. But I read the paper and the definition. And the big issue is that while those of us privileged to live in comparative luxury of a 1st world country might hope to get by in a +3 world, there are billions of people in tropical conditions, primitive protection against extreme heat (no aircon) , and uncertainty in providing food on the table next week let alone 30 years from now. Seems quite likely that +3 will be rather catastrophic for these people.

37. izen says:

I think this research is trying to characterise the cummulative consequences and impacts of our current and continuing burning of FF.

the push-back seems to be an objection that all the adjectives they use are negative. There is little dispute they are accurate. But like people presented with bad news, they seem to be demanding that the messenger finds some fake positive news to mix in so that it is ‘fair and balanced’.

38. Killian says:

The degree of ignorance among responses is staggering. I mean that literally, not insultingly. But first things first. Please, please, please pay attention to the research indicating repetition of lies reinforces them *even if refuting them.* Please delete any degree of denial. We are well past the point where they deserve any further false equivalence.

3C isn’t catastrophic? People, everything we are seeing at 1.2C was supposed to be decades or centuries away. In 2007, Antarctica was not to have mass loss till 2100. Wait.. 2050. No… 2030. Ah… well… er… 30 years ago. Oops. Do you not understand the ice started melting when the forcing was equivalent to just passing 300ppm? Specifically, 1953, 315 ppm, but must allow for 30-year lag, so equivalent to 300ppm. Whatever… 300, 315 the difference is not meaningful.

Basically, we’re a hundred bleeping years ahead of schedule. What the heck are you doing quibbling over exact rectitude of authorship an debating climate trolls? I have been calling climate an existential threat for years. A decade? Long time. Doesn’t it scare you that 1.I got there before the science and 2. the science is now there? What are the implications? Let me give you a few:

System sensitivity is poorly constrained.

Every year the science shortens the time horizon and increases the risk analysis.

Food. The first systemwide hard bite is coming soon as food supplies get hit. Avg. temps are not the problem, extremes are. Heard anything on food production from all the floods and hurricanes and droughts? No? That silence may be legit, but I suspect it’s imposed to some degree. Regardless, how many years like this one with multiple areas of the globe beaten down do you think we can take before hunger hits hard?

The planet, thus we, have never been here before. So far as I can tell, there is virtually no hysteresis in the system at this point that isn’t, ironically, anthropogenic. This train isn’t stopping without blowing up the tracks.

So much more to say. Suffice to say 3C may end up being what you wish for just to get it all over with.

39. Complete consideration: Avoiding Benign to Beneficial Climate Change

40. TE,
I think that’s pretty easy and is pretty much on track (as far as I can tell).

41. @Michael Hauber,

The “burning embers” diagram (Figure 1 from O’Neill, et al, cited above) addresses “reasons for concern.” I don’t know if the figure will show up below

but, if it doesn’t it can also be seen here.

42. Willard says:

Avoid is ill-defined.

Benign is subjective.

Climate change is quite unclear.

Only GRRRROWTH is purely objective.

Let’s stick to GRRRROWTH, pretty please with sugar on it.

Thank you.

43. Willard says:

> I don’t know if the figure will show up below

For the nth time:

Paste it on a line.

The line needs to contain only the link.

The link needs to end with a normal image extention, e.g. “png,” “jpg,” etc.

WordPress will interpret it as an image.

For instance, if you put “http://pubclimate.ch.mm.st/burning_embers_2017-09-18_104940.png” on a single line, you get this:

44. Joshua says:

Willard –

Avoid is ill-defined.

Benign is subjective.

Climate change is quite unclear.

Only GRRRROWTH is purely objective.

Surely you would agree that beneficial is also purely objective ?

If you doubt that, just trip on over to the “skept-o-sphere.” You will see that objectively speaking, the definition of beneficial is: Anything that results from burning fossil fuels.

45. Willard says:

> Surely you would agree that beneficial is also purely objective ?

GRRRROWTH is the upper limit of beneficial.

The degree of ignorance among responses is staggering. I mean that literally, not insultingly. But first things first. Please, please, please pay attention to the research indicating repetition of lies reinforces them *even if refuting them.* Please delete any degree of denial. We are well past the point where they deserve any further false equivalence.

Oh goody, Killian’s here to insist that unless we all include the global corpus of intersubjectively-verified knowledge in every comment we make, he’s the only one that knows anything. Killian, so that aTTP too isn’t a page-scrolling waste of time, this is the only reply I’ll make directly to you.

I actually agree with most of your comments that I’ve been able to finish reading, here and on RC. You often write well, and you seem to know at least something about a range of scholarly disciplines. Speaking for myself however, I’m afraid it’s hard to get past your assertions, explicit or otherwise, that you’re the only one who does.

47. Hey Mal – kill file works very well on this blog. I use it and get to avoid a lot of comments that might otherwise annoy me.

[Playing the ref. – Willard]

48. jacksmith4tx says:

It’s all unfolding as ordained, yes most of us are doomed. Kahneman is the author of Thinking Fast and Slow.
https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22329820.200-understand-faulty-thinking-to-tackle-climate-change/
“DANIEL KAHNEMAN is not hopeful. “I am very sorry,” he told me, “but I am deeply pessimistic. I really see no path to success on climate change.”

Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel prize in economics for his research on the psychological biases that distort rational decision- making. One of these is “loss aversion”, which means that people are far more sensitive to losses than gains. He regards climate change as a perfect trigger: a distant problem that requires sacrifices now to avoid uncertain losses far in the future. This combination is exceptionally hard for us to accept, he told me.

Kahneman’s views are widely shared by cognitive psychologists. As Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University says: “A psychologist could barely dream up a better scenario for paralysis.”

People from other disciplines also seem to view climate change as a “perfect” problem. Nicholas Stern, author of the influential Stern Review on the economics of climate change, describes it as the “perfect market failure”. Philosopher Stephen Gardiner of the University of Washington in Seattle says it is a “perfect moral storm”. Everyone, it seems, shapes climate change in their own image.

Which points to the real problem: climate change is exceptionally amorphous. It provides us with no defining qualities that would give it a clear identity: no deadlines, no geographic location, no single cause or solution and, critically, no obvious enemy. Our brains scan it for the usual cues that we use to process and evaluate information about the world, but find none. And so we impose our own. This is a perilous situation, leaving climate change wide open to another of Kahneman’s biases – an “assimilation bias” that bends information to fit people’s existing values and prejudices.

Plan B: Create a climate A.I. system that will convince humanity that they will have to slash their environmental footprint by 75% in the next 2 generations (60-70yrs) or only the top few percent of really wealthy people will survive.
Plan C: Biosphere crashes but the top few percent of the really wealthy survive because they can afford the technology to avoid extinction.
Viewed from a species view point we will survive long enough to evolve to Homo-sapien 2.0 but the planet will be trashed for a few thousand years.

49. @jacksmith4tx,

This is one reason why I think that the answer is not going to lie in the public sphere but, instead, will be pursued by corporations for their own interest. More companies have to lose from climate impacts than gain from having cheap fossil fuel energy, or making money from the latter. I also think the governance by global committee approach that is necessary for a global solution, even one implementing a Carbon Tax, will be unwieldy at best.

Nevertheless, I think many things could be done to facilitate this. For example, right now, the degree to which companies are exposed to climate risks is deeply latent, so markets cannot evaluate such risks in what they think companies are worth. That clearly needs to be fixed. Some are trying to do that, e.g., Mark Carney, and
* https://www.sasb.org/

50. Willard says:

From AndyS’ last post:

It may seem a little odd to end this disclosure about my looming demise with a technical commentary on climate change. However, concern about what happens to the planet after my death—whenever that date might be—has been important to me over the past few years. Having the fatal moment moved forward doesn’t change anything.

For the past ten years, I’ve become obsessive about learning and writing about climate change. I’ve done my best to provide my own perspective as an ex-oilman and geoscientist. Most of my contributions are recorded on this blog. I’ve lately found it hard to apply the sustained effort to research and write in-depth pieces that add anything coherent and novel enough to be worth publishing. I would love, for example, to dig deeper into the means and benefits of mitigation technologies and the costs of inaction.

I have become reluctantly pessimistic about our ability to avoid dangerous global change. If the best mitigation efforts are made and we get lucky with climate sensitivity and carbon-cycle feedbacks, we might succeed in limiting surface warming to 2-3°C. If we are mitigation laggards and the response of the Earth System to the abrupt chemical changes we are delivering to the atmosphere turns out to be severe, the consequences could be dire. Even in the best imaginable case, we are in for some nasty, disruptive shocks, unfairly focussed on the poorest people: those who have done the least to cause the problem.

A recent paper by Mora et al. predicts that parts of Brazil, W Africa and SE Asia will experience, by 2100, “deadly” outdoor conditions of heat and humidity for humans for most of the year, even under a middling emissions scenario like RCP4.5.

The very worst cases—much more than 4° C of average surface warming—may have only low chances of happening. Nevertheless, such outcomes would force such drastic transformations in the world order that conventional economic cost-benefit analysis and discount-rate considerations would no longer apply. When it becomes a matter of survival—war, disease, disaster—money becomes no object. Rates of return on investment and enhancing economic growth take a back seat when the future of civilization itself is threatened. Admittedly, finite resources would still need to be optimally allocated: I wouldn’t argue for throwing the entire discipline of economics out of the window.

https://critical-angle.net/2017/08/28/exit-pursued-by-a-crab/

51. Willard says:

In other news, the Auditor takes a break from Ukraine, Syria, and HRC’s emails to play ClimateBall with What About questions over the Tweeter:

52. From AndyS’ last post:

Unfortunately, Andy Skuce passed away late last week.

53. jacksmith4tx says:

@hypergeometric
Thanks for the links. Did you check out the Project Drawdown site: http://www.drawdown.org/
My opinion is there are lots of good plans and strategies on how to adapt but changing the innate psychology of an entire species (humans) is near impossible. Luckily we are also predisposed to believe in gods so what we might try is a technology godhead (A.I.) to convince us to override the “loss aversion” and “assimilation bias” syndrome Kahneman identified in his research. Otherwise it’s Plan C by default.

54. Joshua says:

Damn. FWIW, I always found Andy to be one of the relatively few commenters whose contributions regularly elevated above the same old same old.

55. @jacksmith4tx,

Yes, I know Drawdown. I’m reading it, in fact, with the intent of writing a detailed review at my blog. That will take a while. I think, thus far, I’m most disappointed with the lack of technical backup for the claims made. The Drawdown team asserts these will be available “in late 2017″, but it is a little difficult to check proposals without it. So any review I write will need to await those.

I’m also a little concerned about the bait-and-switch in the title of the book and project. It suggests that the project is about removing CO2 from atmosphere, helped along by the book’s subtitle “The most comprehensive plan ever proposed to reverse global warming”, but reading finds Carbon Dioxide Removal put off to a section titled “Coming Attractions”. What the book actually means by “drawdown” is how we can zero emissions. That’s a bit of a cheat, for it won’t “reverse global warming”.

Faye Duchin wrote a review of it for Science. Chad Frischmann, Drawdown‘s research director, responded. It is interesting that Frischmann says in his reply to Duchin:

The image is meant only to be a graphical glimpse, and not to bear the scrutiny of scientific review … This book does not claim to be right about our assessment of the future. We set out only to map and model 80 existing technologies and practices with the cumulative potential to reach drawdown if vigorously adopted globally, and to communicate our findings in an accessible way … Market estimations and adoption trajectories were evaluated based on meta-analyses of existing prognostications, extrapolations from historical data, or scenario analyses depending on the availability of data. Regional data were collected and used whenever possible. A consistent model framework was iteratively developed by our team of modelers to calculate reasonable estimates of results based on hundreds of inputs … Our financial modeling can certainly be more sophisticated, additional interrelationships should be considered, and more regional data would improve the results. We are already scoping the next version of the models to incorporate more of this. However, the inputs and results have all been benchmarked with other, widely-respected assessments.

So, there you have it: Drawdown is based upon a financial metaanalysis, nothing more.

56. yes, this read on Drawdown is pretty discouraging and I bet it’s accurate coming from HG. Seems the tile ought to be Getting to Zero or Carbon Neutral or something more accurate. It all seems rather academic since we have so far been unable to even freeze the rate of increase, never mind getting to anything like a carbon neutral position. Gonna sell some books peddling a premise that is not actually addressed. If you miss the mark on the other side of increase/decrease you end up in DWW land with a lot of folks barking and nipping at your heels.

57. Thanks, @smallbluemike

A concern I have about “being optimistic” is that some of these give the impression, “Oh, nothing to worry about. We already know how to do that. Nothing to see here. Move along home.” I pursue these things in part because I’m moved by a theme based upon a paraphrase of something statistician Howard Wainer has written,

Perhaps, deep in his pragmatic and quantitative soul, he knew that the presidency was not his destiny, but I don’t think so. I believe that he succumbed to that most natural of human tendencies: the triumph of hope over evidence. We need not look at only America’s right wing to find examples of humanity’s frequent preference for magical thinking over empiricism; it is widespread.

Opposing “… that most natural of human tendencies: the triumph of hope over evidence” is the reason I write my blog.

58. angech says:

JCH says. “Because our fossil-fuel burning SUV heroes are staving off the next killer ice age.”

My better half wants to swap in her desiel polluting Golf for an SUV so we can do long distance trips across Australia more safely plus carry more people at times when needed. Or my little Yaris 18000 k in 5 years. And she is green to the core.
Makes me wonder how many well paid people here have SUV’s themselves or in their family yet push the notion of it is alright for me, I’m prepared to pay a carbon tax to exculpate my sins when They bring one in but meh I need it to take the kids to school.
In fact the very notion of carbon taxes is this, paying penance for doing what is wrong because one is rich enough to do so and ignoring the harm done to those poor enough to not be able to afford to do the right thing.

59. Steven Mosher says:

Exercised?

I made an observation. I would have liked to seen a category labelled benign. and danger in the opposite direction as well.

Is it a flaw? nope.

I would have liked. Guess what? I get to have preferences.

Now why?

If I am applying a methodology that is going to identify dangers as a function of temperature I’d just naturally extend it both ways. I just would.

The folks getting exercised are those who thought this was somehow a criticism.

60. Steven Mosher says:

“Steven,
I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at. Aren’t we considering the impacts of warming? I don’t really see what cooling has to do with this.”

Its purely just curiousity on my part. If I applied the same methodology for cooling what would I see
and then what would the benign zone be

you know that annoying skeptic question ‘whats the ideal temperature?”

Well there isnt an ideal, but there is a range in which the impact of changes are benign.

61. … [W]ho thought this was somehow a criticism.

Well, it certainly wasn’t a criticism of anything said here. It sounded like a criticism of X & R, suggesting because they didn’t include such a category, they had their minds preset for dire outcomes. (“Alarmists.”) I can’t speak for anyone else, but I pointed out they were just adding on to an existing body of literature, namely, O’Neill, et al and its references. O’Neill, et al provided those categories. As I noted, in the scale of change it was interesting they did not use the term “No Change” but instead used “Undetectable”. That did not cause any notice.

The burning embers chart

actually does show a negative temperature anomaly range on its ordinate, but the zero line there is 1986-2005. Note under RFC1, RFC2, RFC3 there are risks or changes noted at or below the zero line, such as coral reefs, mountain systems, Arctic systems, human health, and agriculture. That’s because, according to the evidence, there already are detrimental changes to these systems on the books, changes ascribed to warming from pre-industrial.

X & R are talking about the baseline of O’Neill et al going forward. That makes sense because temperature anomalies are not going to decrease, since climate impacts lag forcing, emissions have not decreased in either intensity or overall. (See project data for overall assessment.) There are concerns about CO2 uptake kinetics in natural Carbon sinks, e.g., for oceans. Accordingly, focusing upon a monotonically increasing regime in both temperatures and impacts makes sense.

That’s what was done. Sorry @Steven Mosher doesn’t approve. As I have noted, it really can’t be put on X & R, the subject of the present post.

62. Ragnaar says:

“Heard anything on food production from all the floods and hurricanes and droughts? No? That silence may be legit, but I suspect it’s imposed to some degree.”

Floods in the United States are limited in area. Rain can drown crops with standing water, but many fields are tiled, minimizing that. Farmers have already dealt with heavy downpours, heavy snow packs and drenching Summer rains.

Hurricanes might be limited to a fifty mile radius moving over 500 or so miles. Much of the United States grains are not vulnerable hurricanes.

Droughts are less well prepared for. But farmers have positioned themselves to align with historical rainfall. They don’t grow too many soybeans in Montana. Our Grain Belt catches the Gulf moisture. The more marginal lands in the Northwest of the Grain Belt are planted with crops that need less rainfall.

63. Steven Mosher says:
64. BBD says:

what an abudance of grace and class

Yes indeed.

65. Yes, Andy was quite exceptional. I’m still slightly shocked. I knew he wasn’t well, but I hadn’t expected the bad news quite this soon.

66. dikranmarsupial says:

SM absolutely. Andy was an all round good egg, and the world needs more people like him, rather than one fewer.

67. @angech,

Surely, if a Carbon Tax is regressive, that is another (big) thing to add to its list of shortcomings. The proper way of doing it is the fee-and-dividend version, but, from what I understand, at least in the U.S., the conservatives who like it prefer to use it to offset other taxes, which would land it in regressive territory. I know compromise is necessary to get things done, but that just might be enough to convince me not only to not support it, but actively work against it. To summarize shortcomings:
* It’s not steep enough in any version, nor will be over time, in order to produce the behavioral and purchasing changes needed, due to inelasticity effects. Will people stop buying water bottles made from petroleum-derived plastics? How about farmers stopping buying fertilizers derived from same?
* The lag between implementation and behavioral effect is long enough that it does not get us collectively to the 2050 time frame when emissions need to be zeroed.
* Whether in fee-and-dividend form or tax offset form, it pathologically incentivizes people to continue emitting in order to collect revenue.
* It could be regressive.

68. @JCH,

Because our fossil-fuel burning SUV heroes are staving off the next killer ice age.

Actually, given the atmospheric lifetime of fossil fuel carbon dioxide, I believe we had quite enough aloft to keep away the ice ages since even before the notion of an SUV existed, at least for a good long time.

69. Steven Mosher says:

He picked the poet Larkin too. to me that says something quite extraordinary about his taste and sensibility
and refinement as a human being.

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