The IPCC Special Report

I guess the big news at the moment, which is almost old news now, is the IPCC’s Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5oC. I’m not even all that sure what to say about it. It’s not presenting anything wildly surprising. It does make clear that if we limit warming to 1.5oC then the impacts will be less severe than if we only limit it to 2oC. It also discusses the impacts on ecosystems, which is something that I would like to understand better. Carbon Brief has an in-depth Q&A on the Special Report.

What I did like is that it stressed that our emissions to date have probably not yet committed us to 1.5oC of warming. I’ve written about our committed warming a number of times before and I do think it’s an important issue that is not all that well understood. It’s often claimed that we are committed to a further warming because the large heat capacity of the oceans means that we haven’t reached the equilibrium temperature for our current atmospheric CO2 concentration.

However, if (when) we get emissions to zero, the oceans will take up CO2 so that temperatures will roughly stabilise, and the relevant temperature is more the transient response to the atmospheric concentration when emissions cease, than the equilibrium response. There are some complications related to aerosols and short-lived greenhouse gases, which I discuss in this post and which is discussed in the IPCC’s Special Report, but this is roughly correct.

This is also the basis for the carbon budget approach; ultimately our overall warming depends largely on how much we emit. The new Special Report estimates the remaining carbon budget if we wish to limit warming to 1.5oC. It suggests a slightly larger remaining carbon budget than was suggested by the IPCC’s AR5 report. Zeke Hausfather has a really nice Carbon Brief article that discusses this.

This issue of the carbon budget is where the value of the IPCC Special Report becomes unclear. There is a range for the remaining carbon budget, but it’s about 420GtCO2 (i.e., this is roughly how much we can emit from now if we want a reasonable chance of limiting warming to 1.5oC). However, we’re currently emitting about 42GtCO2 per year. Hence, keeping warming below 1.5oC means that we can emit no more than about 10 years of current emissions. Even if you’re wildly optimistic, this seems highly unrealistic.

On the other hand, the remaining carbon budget if we want to limit warming to 2oC is not significantly greater. So, in some sense, what we would need to do now is not all that strongly dependent on our target (well, unless the target is to simply do nothing). We would need to start finding ways to reduce our emissions. My own view is that we can worry about how fast, once we’ve worked out how to start. My suspicion (which could be wrong) is that once we work out how to start reducing emissions, we might actually find it reasonably straight-forward to make substantial reductions. It may well be difficult to actually get it to zero, but we do have some time to work that out.

Okay, I will admit that the above is all a bit vague. I don’t have any specific ideas as to how we might actually start reducing our emissions. My view is becoming that we need a whole range of things. A price on carbon, investment in technology development, incentivising lower carbon lifestyles, etc. I still think that one of the big problems is that there are still many, in particular those in leadership roles, who do not really see the need to do anything. It’s hard to see how we can get started while many think there’s no reason to do so. I don’t have any good ideas as to how to engage such people and convince them that there are benefits to acting to reduce our emissions, but I do think it’s important to try and do so. More about that in another post, maybe.

Links:
In-depth Q&A: The IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change at 1.5C (Carbon Brief).
Why the IPCC 1.5C report expanded the carbon budget (Carbon Brief).
Posts on committed warming.

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149 Responses to The IPCC Special Report

  1. TTauriStellarBody says:

    I have something of a heretical thought:
    Part of the reason that there is so little public concern is that the warming from 0-0.8C above preindustrial has been largely, overwhelmingly, positive in its impacts.
    So far.
    The belt of the most developed economies has likely seen a significant drop in severe winters and an expansion of areas they can grow crops in. To look at the world today and compare it with the climate of the 1930s you would not say that it was worth changing the entire global energy infrastructure to prevent.
    Obviously however if we stopped CO2 at c. 410ppm we know we would neither stop the warming nor the effects. The steady retreat of summer sea ice would impact mid latitude weather systems, the warming of shallow basins like the Gulf of Mexico would likely see increased hurricane maximum strengths, continued loss of land fast glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets would see sea level increasing, perhaps even at an increased rate.

    Now the gap between 0-0.8C is hard to discern. The gap described by the IPCC between 1.5C and 2.0C is very significant.

    “Meta-analyses of the effects of drought, elevated CO2, and temperature conclude that at 2°C local warming
    and above, aggregate production of wheat, maize, and rice are expected to decrease in both temperate and
    tropical areas (Challinor et al., 2014). These production losses could be lowered if adaptation measures are
    taken (Challinor et al., 2014), such as developing varieties better adapted to changing climate conditions. ”
    http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_chapter4.pdf

    We move from a world where warming has perhaps increased crop productivity to a world where it begins to decline. Above 2C we are likely too see those declines accelerate.

    I do not think this has sunk in yet to most people. They have a vague “climate change bad” but they do not yet really have an experience of it being that bad.

  2. TTauri,
    I think there’s some truth to what you say. I will add, though, that there is an additional issue. Whenever something does happen (a strong Tropical Cyclone, for example) that has probably been influenced by anthropogenically-driven warming, there will be a narrative from some that we can’t say anything about how climate change influences individual events. I think this is wrong, but it is a narrative that many seem to accept. Hence, even when climate change has impacted them, they often (I suspect) accept narratives suggesting that we can’t know this (yet).

  3. Greg Robie says:

    Given the Report is parameterized around 50% and 66% probabilities, and a scaled carbon sucking tooth fairy, I don’t get how “there’s time”. It is also unclear to me how something that hasn’t started in a quarter of a century of pretending to care, will ramp up quickly as action … once started?

    This graphic is one I crafted relative to my pursuing the idea that libraries can host databases concerning local emissions. With a globalized economic meme, I’m advocating concurrently measuring investment and consumerism measured emissions with the geopolitical ones. Using global data, this map graphic attempts this, otherwise, colorfully confusing complexity (& feedback is welcome).

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCeDkezgoyyZAlN7nW1tlfeA

    life is for learning so all my failures must mean that I’m wicked smart

    >

  4. Steven Mosher says:

    “My own view is that we can worry about how fast, once we’ve worked out how to start. ”

    you have put my thoughts down more simply than I could have.

    Inertia is a problem until we get moving.

  5. kakatoa says:

    “Okay, I will admit that the above is all a bit vague. I don’t have any specific ideas as to how we might actually start reducing our emissions. My view is becoming that we need a whole range of things.”

    Letting folks know that ”The Jacobson Group claim is a fantasy” would be a good start in communicating what is and what is not possible.

    https://www.rtoinsider.com/global-warming-renewable-power-47368/

  6. My own view is that we can worry about how fast, once we’ve worked out how to start. My suspicion (which could be wrong) is that once we work out how to start reducing emissions, we might actually find it reasonably straight-forward to make substantial reductions.

    Well, it is a tautology that emissions have to peak before they can ultimately fall towards zero. But beyond that, I disagree with your first point – we do need to “worry” about how fast, and even more so the longer it takes us to “work out how to start”. On your second point, I would love (for selfish reasons and peace of mind) to understand the why and where of the source of your optimistic suspicion, because as I look at our progress and prospects on emissions reductions, I am not seeing it.

    On the first point, the longer we take to “work out how to start” has profoundly punishing consequences for “how fast we need to go”. They are not two separate considerations.

    And those steep reduction curves – even starting today – are without historical precedent, and only strain credulity more the longer we delay. So I disagree that we can realistically put off worrying about the pace until we relax and think about maybe getting started someday.

    I rather liked this framing by Bill McKibben post-Paris:

    “… Think about deciding that you’re going to run a marathon. Any healthy person can learn to do it as long as they set a very relaxed pace… The average finishing time for the Los Angeles marathon: five hours and 15 minutes.

    “But in the case of the climate talks, that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about going fast. Limiting the temperature increase to 1.5C would be like setting a new world record (which is two hours and two minutes); even managing to hold it to 2C would be like running a marathon way under three hours, something only 2% of marathoners ever accomplish. “Running a marathon is hard,” running writer Mark Remy has written. “Doing it in less than three hours is really hard. No, I mean hard. Like really freaking hard.”

    “What it requires is devoting yourself single-mindedly to the task. You don’t get to drink beer with dinner and run a three-hour marathon. You don’t get to skip training days. You go to bed early every night, because you’re bone-tired. You have to run even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.”

    And, of course, what we have done in the 3 years since Paris in terms of achieving our metaphorical marathon goal is the equivalent of sitting on the couch, eating Cheetos and thinking about starting a running program. Soon. Any day now. Hey, what’s on TV tonight?

    On the second point, in terms of meaningful progress – even in just theoretical, technically feasible terms, let alone in achieving absolute emissions reductions – the results in terms of many of the largest contributors of GHG’s has been abysmal. Steel, cement, deforestation, dietary changes, use of public transit or bicycles, curtailment of aviation or shipping emissions, agricultural emissions, many more examples… Actually pretty much sweet eff-all progress, objectively…

    Which brings us to the darlings of the “we’ve got this! Look at all our shiny new gear!”-crowd – renewable power and low-carbon personal automobiles. Even here, where we are subjected to an endless stream of “costs are coming down far faster than anyone expected!” and “another record year of growth!”-type stories, and yet in spite of the good news they don’t appear to be delivering any actual absolute emission reductions in these sectors. Thus far, anyway, they appear to only be providing low-carbon additionality rather than actually displacing emissions.

    So, I want to share the same optimistic “suspicion”, but as far as I can see, there is no real world support for it. So I am genuinely curious about from which well yours springs.

  7. kakatoa,

    Letting folks know that ”The Jacobson Group claim is a fantasy” would be a good start in communicating what is and what is not possible.

    I don’t know that this is necessarily true, so plan to let folks now this. However, my understanding is that there is general agreement that using renewables to reduce emissions by about 80% is probably feasible. It’s the final 10-20% that is regarded as very difficult, which is why I added the comment in the post about actually getting to zero may well be difficult.

  8. ‘I do not think this has sunk in yet to most people. They have a vague “climate change bad” but they do not yet really have an experience of it being that bad.’

    From what i see and hear from people working in their attempts at protecting their local ecologies…climate change is bad and obviously so.
    Apparently its effects here in Australia might be more obvious but in general people have little ecological awareness or perspective on how much ecosystems have changed and are changing/collapsing.

    People don’t seem to care about the environment. They don’t even see it. It actually makes me angry at people like David Attenborough that he has spent his life portraying to the world that all the wild things are there and easy to find doing cool stuff when mostly they are dying out at increasing rates and there habitats are degraded, altered or destroyed.

    ‘So, I want to share the same optimistic “suspicion”, but as far as I can see, there is no real world support for it. So I am genuinely curious about from which well yours springs.’

    Yes me too. I am not going to even tell you how much this post annoys me this time….

  9. i am usually Chris B btw

  10. ….and as a sidenote our local council biodiversity officer (employed for quite a number of years) tells me he believes our “local biodiversity is doomed”.

    Guess which generation he would be classified as….?

  11. By the way, since I am here, and part of my comment above touched on what we might or might not expect our economy to deliver in terms of technology advances in decarbonization, I thought I would make a quick note about Paul Romer’s economics Nobel this week.

    More putting a flag in the ground as caution/question than as a note… Anyway…

    Romer got his Nobel for “endogenous growth theory”. In some ways, prior to Romer’s work, why economies seemed to continuously grow was somewhat of a mystery. Economists knew that at small scales – say, at the level of the firm – output was subject to the law of diminishing returns. As you threw more and more labour or capital at a given production function, the marginal increase in output tended to fall. Yet, at larger scales, the opposite appeared to be the case – overall output seemed to grow faster than labour and capital inputs.

    Robert Solow won his economics Nobel (I think) for “exogenous growth theory” which attempted to explain the gap between theory (diminishing returns) and observation by positing a kind of “dark matter” analog called “the Solow residual” – we didn’t quite know what it actually was, or where it came from, but it *had* to be there, otherwise the models and observations didn’t make sense.

    Romer apparently “solved” the mystery by identifying technical progress and the accumulation and propagation of knowledge and innovation as the driver of productivity, and that this was an emergent result inherent in the modern economy. A few assumptions to fit the new theory to the unexplained gap, and, voila, mystery solved, and the economy can once again happily grow without bounds,

    But there are other candidates for explaining all or part of the “Solow residual”, most notably here, in my opinion, the concept of having a surplus of “exergy” or useful work with which to perform a specific production function. Again, with a few assumptions, you can make this resolve for the “Solow residual”. Further, there is no reason that it has to be an either/or choice between “exergy” and Romer’s endogenous technical progress. It could be both.

    What is somewhat disturbing is that pretty much until the industrial revolution and simultaneous introduction of excess exergy from fossil fuels, the overall economy did seem to be largely constrained by diminishing returns. But then the knowledge revolution began to to really kick into high gear as well, and it is not easy to disentangle all the factors.

    The disturbing bit is that orthodox, consensus economics has almost exclusively accepted/assumed that “exogenous growth theory” explains all of (otherwise unexplained) excess growth and progress. Which may be a real problem if we are asking it to solve our current problem, which will necessarily require us to use energy supplies that are inherently intermittent and diffuse and may deliver less readily accessible exergy than we have grown accustomed to/taken for granted in terms of expectations for future growth…

    (this is all just off the top of my head, but I think the broad outline is generally accurate)

  12. rust,

    But beyond that, I disagree with your first point – we do need to “worry” about how fast, and even more so the longer it takes us to “work out how to start”.

    Well, yes, but I was more pointing out that focusing on how fast when we haven’t really worked out how to start might just be the wrong way round. Get started and then see how to speed things up.

    On the first point, the longer we take to “work out how to start” has profoundly punishing consequences for “how fast we need to go”. They are not two separate considerations.

    Agreed, but we still need to start. I wasn’t suggesting that we take ages working out how to start, I was more suggesting that irrespective of our target, that for all reasonable ones the best time to start is now. If we can make a start we can then work out how to speed things up.

  13. Agree with many of the posters here. We needed to start yesterday or 25 years ago. We don’t have time. We have not started, accumulation in the atmosphere is still increasing at a rate above 2 ppm. All the talk is just that. I will believe we have started in earnest when the rate of increase on decadal rate drops below 2 ppm. We are out of time. We need to move fast. The CO2e we emit today is going to be with us for a long time and it’s going to cost a lot of money to remove and quality of life to live with. If you need to understand how global warming works, just watch every tropical depression that wanders over the really warm waters of the Gulf. That warm body of water is going to produce some really destructive hurricanes now. The tropical depressions that develop into hurricanes over the slightly warmed waters over the Atlantic are going to slam the east coast of the US and will get a lot of press, but the Atlantic hurricanes will not get supercharged like the ones that come across the Gulf. It’s a good time to buy up distressed properties in FL panhandle if you want to retire and think about how much time we have to address AGW.

  14. izen says:

    To steal a line (and probably misquote it) from a cartoon that shows an oilman in a refinery looking at environmental protesters…
    “These Greenies don’t understand the short-term impacts of their emission reduction policies…”

  15. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: As you might suspect, during the past week I have posted links to numerous articles about the IPCC’s Special Report and reactions to it on the Skeptical Science Facebook page.

    A complete listing with embedded links of the articles is available in the 2018 SkS Weekly Climate Change & Global Warming News Roundup #41 which I posted on the Skeptical Science website earlier today.

    As time permit, I will post pertinent excerpts from some of those articles on this thread.

  16. John Hartz says:

    In this week’s SkS Weekly News Roundup (cited in my prior comment), I highlighted the following article as the Editor’s Pick,

    >Mary Robinson on climate change: ‘Feeling “This is too big for me” is no use to anybody’

    The former president of Ireland has a new raison d’être: saving the planet. Yet, despite the dire warnings of this week’s IPCC report, she is surprisingly upbeat .

    by Rory Carroll, Saturday Interview, Guardian, Oct 12, 2018

  17. John Hartz says:

    An excerpt from the Saturday Interview with Mary Robinson article cited in my prior post.

    She has anticipated the IPCC report by writing a book-cum-manifesto, Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience and the Fight for a Sustainable Future, published this week. It tells stories of farmers and activists, mostly women, who tackle climate change in Africa, Asia and the Americas. They are examples of positive change that Robinson thinks can help turn the tide.

    “I don’t think as a human race that we can be so stupid that we can’t face an existential threat together and find a common humanity and solidarity to respond to it. Because we do have the capacity and the means to do it – if we have the political will.”

    Having the political will to do something about the catastrophe facing us, is a central theme expressed by many of the commenters quoted in the articles I have posted links to on the SkS Facebook page.

  18. John Hartz says:

    The OP references and links to Carbon Brief’s excellent article about the IPCC’s Special Report. There is a second Carbon Brief article that everyone will want to peruse as well:

    In-depth: Scientists discuss key findings of the IPCC’s special report on 1.5C by Staff, Carbon Brief, Oct 10, 2018

    The lead-in to the article:

    Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a special report on 1.5C.

    It summarised what the latest science says about the impacts of such a rise in the global temperature, as well what the literature says about the ways to avoid it. (For all the details, see Carbon Brief’s in-depth Q&A.)

    Here, Carbon Brief asks scientists from a range of disciplines to describe what they believe to be the report’s key findings.

  19. Clive Best says:

    I don’t see anything new about it either – except perhaps that estimates of the carbon budget to reach 2C has increased since AR5. However, public focus has already shifted onto Brexit, Saudi Arabia, and everyday politics. Life moves on because climate change is so very slow.

    There is not a hope in hell of reducing global emissions to zero within ~40 years. We can’t even stop poachers killing elephants! So even if the UN somehow could ban the burning coal, all it would do is simply create a black market in coal because it is so readily available everywhere. Eventually fossil fuels will become too expensive.

    The best we can do is to develop realistic energy solutions, probably mostly nuclear. 30 Hinkley sized power stations could provide enough energy to power UK transport, heating and industry.

    Climate scientists need to get of the fence and also work on solutions. Otherwise they could become irrelevant. You can only cry wolf so may times.

  20. Willard says:

    > You can only cry wolf so may times.

    Yet here you are, Clive.

  21. Clive,

    Climate scientists need to get of the fence and also work on solutions. Otherwise they could become irrelevant. You can only cry wolf so may times.

    It’s only “crying wolf” if it’s not actually highlighting a real risk. I think many climate scientists would be quite happy to become irrelevant. I don’t think the developing solutions is typically their area of expertise. There are plenty of others who could do so. The main issue – in my view – is getting people to recognise that this is indeed something to work on, rather than something to ignore.

  22. TTauriStellarBody says:

    “There is not a hope in hell of reducing global emissions to zero within ~40 years. ”

    We can get an idea of what the global energy infrastructure will look like in ten years time because of the lead times between planning, financing and deployment. But we have already started the road to zero carbon, the economics of new renewables vs new fossil fuels is rapidly running towards renewables.

    The above is levalised costs but in the coming decade those economics are likely to continue flowing in one direction.

    Zero carbon in 40 years? Perhaps, perhaps not. But the sheer critical mass of economic gravity is starting to shift direction. We are on the cusp of multiple technological revolutions. We have no plan that makes it credible we will hit limiting CO2 to 1.5C

    But it is very very bold to be predicting 40 years from now from here. Like trying to predict where computing power would take us in 2010 from 1970.

  23. Clive Best says:

    Except I read the whole report as one long continuous lobbying for renewable energy as if by some magic it will all make the world nice, egalitarian and happy.

    What new physics has come out of climate science in the last 10 years?

    We still can’t properly explain ice ages.

  24. izen says:

    @-clive best
    “We still can’t properly explain ice ages.”

    In what ways would a proper explanation differ from the present understanding of past ice ages and our ability to predict future glacial/interstadial transitions ?

  25. I look at plots like the Lazard LCOE graph above and see an abject failure. Costs (at least as narrowly defined by LCOE) have declined “faster than expected” for wind and solar, and penetration in the power sector remains abysmal. iirc, I think new investment in renewables fell in 2017, while investment in fossil-fuels (overall or just in power plants or both?) increased. As more intermittent/variable power is added, prices from the IESO’s are collapsing at peak supply, and the renewable operators are cannibalizing each other’s revenue in the race to zero when their capital is producing the most power.

    And, let us never forget, this is the “good news” part of our decarbonization efforts. Steel, cement, aviation, shipping, agriculture… worse…

  26. Clive Best says:

    @TTauriStellarBody

    Those prices are for installed capacity which is irrelevant. What matters is dispatched power and wind/solar need to add in the cost of hypothetical energy storage to be comparable to nuclear power.

    The Germans have quietly given up on Energiewende and in the last 5 years opened 19 new coal fired power stations and a new lignite mine ! All because the Greens don’t like Nuclear Power !

    Here is the performance of UK renewables through last winter peak demand.

  27. What new physics has come out of climate science in the last 10 years?

    This is actually a somewhat coherent point by Clive, surprisingly.

    I’ve thought about this some, and the main things I can think of are MISI and MICI (Marine Ice Sheet Instability and Marine Ice Cliff Instability). See Deconto and Pollard and others. (For what it’s worth, Ken Caldeira thinks the same, as I recall…)

  28. TTauriStellarBody says:

    “Except I read the whole report as one long continuous lobbying”
    I am yet to find a conspiracy theorist who can be changed by presenting information. Once you have bought into the conspiracy it explains everything.
    “What new physics has come out of climate science in the last 10 years?”
    New physics in an applied physics field? How many times a century do fields that are not explicitly about pushing the boundaries of physics produce “new physics”. Particle\quantum physics and occasionaly cosmology do. But even the most venerable fields like thermodynamics, astrophysics and fluid dynamics hardly produce a General Relativity every year.
    Your question reveals more about you than the subject of your scrutiny.

  29. Clive Best says:

    @izen

    There is no proper understanding of past ice ages. The deepest glaciations are those which occur at low eccentricity (Anglian, Devonian). The next one will be the deepest in 2.4 million years.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/nature06589

  30. Clive,
    That paper is 10 years old. We may not have some perfect understanding of the glacial cycles, but that’s probably not even possible. It doesn’t really some kind of challenge to our understanding of what will probably happen if we continue to dump CO2 into the atmosphere. If anything, it might suggest we should be more cautious, rather than less.

  31. Clive Best says:

    If we can’t understand astronomical solar forcing then I doubt whether can we can claim to understand anthropogenic CO2 forcing either. For the last 5 million years CO2 was simply one of several feedbacks to changes in primary solar forcing . The only other occasion where CO2 suddenly increased independently of climate was probably PETM which dumped twice the equivalent of burning all known reserves of fossil fuels. Temperatures rose about 5C.

  32. Clive,
    What are you actually suggesting? You seem to accept that CO2 is a radiatively active gas (greenhouse gas). You seem to accept that the TCR is somewhere in the region of 1.7K. Given this, it would seem reasonable that you accept that if we continue to emit CO2 into the atmosphere at a rate similar to today, then we will probably be committed to about 1.5K of warming within the next ~decade. What is the point you are trying to make?

  33. Clive Best says:

    Ken,

    Of course I accept all that. I know the physics of radiative transfer. We are in a hole and we are committed to at least 2C warming in the geological short term. Humanity faces a bunch of problems of which climate change is just one. Far worse things can happen than a 40cm rise in sea levels. An economic collapse, war, anarchy, pandemic flu .. etc.

    In the long term we are screwed either way, unless somehow we can learn to control the climate through CO2 and limit population.

  34. Clive,
    Hmmm, and some seem to regard me as an alarmist? Yes, things could end up being pretty bad. What I’m hoping is that we start taking things seriously enough that we potentially avoid that. I also think it’s possible to do that ways that also address other problems. Maybe I am too optimistic, but I think that’s better than simply giving up.

  35. John Hartz says:

    One of the more interesting discoveries I made this week is that US environmentalists do not have a very good voter participation rate compared to other groups. I heretofore thought the opposite to be true.

    The fact that environmentalists in the US have shied away from voting in the past is what precipitated the creation of the Environmental Voter Project. Check out the following articles for details.

  36. John Hartz says:

    Re my prior post about the Environmental Voter Project, here are the two articles I meant to include:

    The Environmental Voter Project is organizing people to vote on climate by Chavo Bart, Yale Climate Connections, Oct 9, 2018

    We need some fire’: climate change activists issue call to arms for voters by Oliver Milman, Environment, Guardian, Oct 12, 2018

  37. John Hartz says:

    From my perspective, if one is not active in the political processes of one’s county and locality, one is not serious about mitigating man-made climate change. We can gum stuff to death on comment threads like this, but doing so has little impact on moving the dial of public opinion in our respective countries. It’s time to walk the talk!

  38. izen says:

    @-clive best
    “If we can’t understand astronomical solar forcing then I doubt whether can we can claim to understand anthropogenic CO2 forcing either.”

    You posted a link to a 10 year old paper that shows that we DO understand solar forcing from orbital variations and how they trigger ice-age transitions. The only uncertainty (then) was in the amount/thickness of the ice-caps that form, not in how the solar forcing changes trigger the transitions.

    Perhaps you need to replace the phrasing; “if we can’t understand…” with “if I can’t understand…” ?
    Or is this a royal ‘we’…

  39. rustneversleeps says:

    What new physics has come out of climate science in the last 10 years?

    I’ve thought about this some, and the main things I can think of are MISI and MICI (Marine Ice Sheet Instability and Marine Ice Cliff Instability). See Deconto and Pollard and others. (For what it’s worth, Ken Caldeira thinks the same, as I recall…)

    Caldeira says there hasn’t been any breakthrough, see the NYT article from a couple months ago.

    Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change

    Epilogue
    Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, Calif., has a habit of asking new graduate students to name the largest fundamental breakthrough in climate physics since 1979. It’s a trick question. There has been no breakthrough. As with any mature scientific discipline, there is only refinement. The computer models grow more precise; the regional analyses sharpen; estimates solidify into observational data. Where there have been inaccuracies, they have tended to be in the direction of understatement. Caldeira and a colleague recently published a paper in Nature finding that the world is warming more quickly than most climate models predict. The toughest emissions reductions now being proposed, even by the most committed nations, will probably fail to achieve “any given global temperature stabilization target.”

    I disagree with Caldeira’s assessment. Pertaining to new physics there is one climate research area that shows breakthrough promise.

  40. Mr. Best, a very Trumpian name, provides “information” on the German energy system of Trumpian quality. Here are some real numbers (stolen from Reddit where the English Nuclear Bests each time make the same kind of Trump theatre when the German energy transition is mentioned).

    In 2002, when Germany decided to phase out nuclear, Germany produced 498.63 TWh electricity
    156.29 TWh electricity from nuclear
    140.54 TWh from lignite
    111.43 TWh from coal
    39.98 TWh from gas
    23.70 TWh from hydro
    15.79 TWh from wind
    4.08 TWh from biomass
    0.20 TWh from solar
    6.63 TWh were imported

    In 2017 Germany produced 546.90 TWh electricity
    72.16 TWh from nuclear (-84.13 TWh)
    133.98 TWh from lignite (-6.56 TWh)
    81.74 TWh from coal (-29.69 TWh)
    49.06 TWh from gas (+9.08 TWh)
    20.48 TWh from hydro (-3.21 TWh)
    103.65 TWh from wind (+87.86 TWh)
    47.45 TWh from biomass (+43.37 TWh)
    38.39 TWh from solar (+38.19 TWh)
    52.27 TWh were exported

    Sources:
    https://www.energy-charts.de/energy.htm?source=all-sources&period=annual&year=2002
    https://www.energy-charts.de/energy.htm?source=all-sources&period=annual&year=2017

    Mr. Best are you advocating nuclear power plants in Iran, North Korea and Congo? Global warming is a global problem. Your solutions will need to work globally.

  41. Ken Fabian says:

    Clive Best – “The Germans have quietly given up on Energiewende and in the last 5 years opened 19 new coal fired power stations and a new lignite mine ! All because the Greens don’t like Nuclear Power !”

    I’ve never bought into the idea that support for (or opposition to) nuclear is a measure of how seriously someone takes climate change. Support for fossil fuels however…

    Given such results in Germany, perhaps you underestimate the influence of the German coal industry – which appears to have gotten what they want – and you overestimate the role of The Greens in making that happen.

    A whole lot of influences made the circumstances where that could happen, starting with the lack of leadership on the climate problem from other parts of the German political spectrum. And perhaps the willingness to sacrifice nuclear by other elements within German politics is indicative of a higher level of apathy and even opposition to strong climate action by influential people than is apparent from outside. The trust that German Greens likely have, that renewables will make up the ground on emissions that were lost with phasing out nuclear may or may not be misplaced but that would not have happened if Not-Greens politics had provided clear leadership that made the climate issue their own, rather than gone along with it.

    Pushing for greater use of Renewables is reasonable when it is growing fast and reducing in costs and can be built even within nations where the politics around climate is deeply divided. Near term actions using them do look to be within easier reach than the kind of long term planning, commitment and government interventions that nuclear require. I think we should get moving any way we can (renewables and storage, because we can) and maybe the obstructionist agenda can be induced to implode and the larger body of support for nuclear, that can’t be mobilised from behind that obstructionist/denialist politicking, can be brought into play. As long as denial and delay are mainstream and that overlaps so strongly with support for nuclear, the ubiquity of purpose nuclear solutions require will not be there.

    Renewables can work for the near term objectives – but if anyone thinks they know how the last stages will be managed or how much they will cost, they are dreaming; to give up on what we can do now because of questions about their appropriateness for achieving an end-game no-one can foresee looks counterproductive.

  42. David B. Benson says:

    The comments appear to be restricted to the questions around generating electricity. But approximately equal amounts of carbon dioxide emissions are related to space heating and, hardest of all, transportation.

  43. Marco says:

    Clive: https://www.cleanenergywire.org/factsheets/coal-germany

    Just mentioning the plants that have come online and not pointing out the number (and capacity) that was closed is, to say it kindly, misleading, as it contradicts your conclusion.

  44. dikranmarsupial says:

    Clive Best wrote “For the last 5 million years CO2 was simply one of several feedbacks to changes in primary solar forcing ”

    If you accept that does have an effect on temperatures when CO2 rises in response to changes in temperature (to amplify those change in temperature), doesn’t that imply it will have broadly the same effect on temperature when we release it directly from the lithosphere. The CO2 doesn’t know whether it is feedback CO2 or forcing CO2. Isn’t the physics the same?

    I’m not surprised that our understanding of the ice ages isn’t as good as our knowledge of current climate. We only have limited (often proxy) records of ice age climate, and most of them are regional, rather than global.

  45. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” Far worse things can happen than a 40cm rise in sea levels. An economic collapse, war, anarchy, pandemic flu .. etc.”

    of course a 40cm rise in sea levels isn’t even the worst thing that *could* happen due to AGW, and I don’t think we could rule out AGW as at least a contributing factor to economic collapse war or anarchy. Not clear what the point was there. One thing I am sure about though is that the phsyics of climate is not dependent on the economic or political consequences of fossil fuel emissions.

  46. Steven Mosher says:

    clive we dont need to understand the past at all. in fact we knew everything we needed to know back in 1896. namely, we cannot emit c02 with impunity and the problem could be as bad as 5c per doubling.

    that knowledge is enough to get started. to get moving. How fast ? we will get this wrong because we dont know enough to optimize the solution. But we know enough to start, and to some extent already have. boneheaded greens making nuclear more difficult dont help. from a practical stand point i work on the waste problem. not trying to solve it all at once or do a carbon budget. just working where something can be done.
    that would be my suggestion to folks. fight intertia. dont worry about the final velocity, get moving and course correct later.
    fwiw.

  47. Dave_Geologist says:

    @Clive Best

    Clive Best doesn’t understand ice ages ≠ There is no proper understanding of past ice ages

    We don’t know everything ≠ We know nothing (see The Relativity of Wrong)

    We have several viable competing explanations for something but don’t know yet which is correct ≠ We have no explanation for something (BTW you cite a 10-year old paper which mentions the ANADRILL project which was just starting – have you investigated the results? Have you followed up on the last tens years’ work on the other topics? Have you read Colin Summerhayes’ excellent book on palaeoclimate? How do you know you’re not just arguing from personal ignorance?)

    You seem to be under the misapprehension that Milankovitch cycles are fundamental to all glaciations. They’re not even fundamental to the Quaternary one – the fundamental driver was a secular reduction in atmospheric CO2. Once it got low enough, glaciation became possible. The Milankovitch cycles control the timing of stadials and interstadials, amplified by CO2, albedo etc. feedbacks, and impact the threshold for glacial inception. But if CO2 had kept falling, we’d have had an Ice Age regardless. BTW your use of the obsolete “Anglian” terminology rather than the relevant MIS suggests that you are relying on out-of-date sources, whether scientific or of the “zombie meme” variety. Not a good idea when Science Marches On. Similarly in the Palaeozoic, falling CO2 combined with the Cool Young Sun induced conditions favourably to glaciation (quote below is from Summerhayes). The localised Devonian glaciations were puny compared to the following Carboniferous, but again, Milankovitch cycles (or their equivalent with a radically different continental configuration) paced stadials and interstadials. CO2 was the main control knob.

    The fall of atmospheric CO2 from high levels in the early Palaeozoic to low values in the Carboniferous paralleled the rise of land plants, which increased extraction of CO2 from the air by photosynthesis. Mosses and liverworts emerged in the Ordovician some 470 Ma ago and accelerated the chemical weathering of rock and soil, which drew CO2 out of the air. As CO2 fell, a brief ice age followed near the Ordovician–Silurian boundary about 440 Ma ago. The vascular land plants dominating today’s land vegetation evolved in the Devonian, about 400 Ma ago. They absorbed CO2 through their leaves, and their roots altered the chemistry of rocks and soils 10 times more effectively than did mosses and liverworts, making the substrate more susceptible to chemical weathering capable of extracting CO2 from the air.

    When conditions are almost favourable for glaciation, it can take a relatively small nudge to initiate one. Then albedo and ocean-CO2 feedbacks kick in to amplify it. Interestingly, the late-Ordovician one appears to have been triggered by two pulses of Large Igneous Province volcanic activity. But

    Remember that LOMEI-1 could have occurred during global warming and rising sea
    level, just as LOMEI-2 did (Ghienne et al., 2014). Inspecting in detail the data of Zou et al., we see a few more intense weathering points just at the base of LOMEI-1. A short-lived interglacial could have resulted in intense weathering and sea-level rise, as also shown in temperature and glacial volume proxies (Finnegan et al., 2011). If so, it may not be the glacial interval that drove the first of the big five mass extinctions, but rather short- lived increasing temperature and sea-level rise.

    ISTM that the consensus is tending towards LIP induced heating and cooling, through the interaction between aerosol cooling during particularly intense explosive volcanism, and warming from the longer-lived increase in the CO2 inventory from all eruptions. As you can tell from the publication dates, this is an area of ongoing research and if you want to be taken seriously, you need to put in the hard yards and stay up-to-date.

  48. Dave_Geologist says:

    If we can’t understand astronomical solar forcing then I doubt whether can we can claim to understand anthropogenic CO2 forcing either.

    Now you’re just being silly Clive. “We can’t predict the weather so we can’t predict the climate” territory. That stuff gets very old very quickly.

  49. Dave_Geologist says:

    Possibly someone has linked to it already, but RealClimate has a post on the topic (I see our host has commented there 🙂 but don’t see a link at the top.

    Rather in the mood of “don’t shuffle the deckchairs (quibble over when pre-industrial was), let’s avoid the iceberg (start doing something now)”, gavin has a good explanation for why the baseline was chosen. It’s just unfortunate that the term pre-industrial has come into use. It would be better just to say baseline. Especially as the post is closely followed by Ruddiman’s on postindustrial AGW. Just as it would have been better not to use “equilibrium” in ECS, since it omits a number of components which we know will have to play out before we reach equilibrium.

    The SR15 has defined 1.5ºC as the warming from the period 1850-1900. This is 2.7ºF and about 1/3rd of an ice age unit (the amount of warming from the depths of the last ice age 20,000 years ago to the mid-19th Century).

    This baseline is not really “pre-industrial”, and there have been some interesting discussions on what that phrase might be usefully defined as (Hawkins et al ,2017; Schurer et al, 2017), but this baseline is the easiest to adopt since estimates of climate impacts are being based on climate models from CMIP5 which effectively use that same baseline.

    It’s a pragmatic choice, and has been pointed out, whatever we choose as our baseline it will take a major effort, starting now, to hold at 2°C. If we’d been starting from scratch, we might have chosen a different baseline. But fiddling with it now is just a distraction.

    In a similar way arguing about the onset of the Anthropocene is a distraction. Palaeoclimatologists and radiocarbon workers have chosen 1950 as Present, with # of years BP = # of years before 1950 (because atmospheric nuclear testing screws up anything radiocarbon post-1950). Let’s just go with the flow.

  50. Dave_Geologist says:

    Clive, to expand on my brief comment, the analogy is between stadial/interstadial transitions and an Ice Age, multi-year or multi-decade cycles and long-term warming, and weather and climate. The first is a form of natural variability, incorporating cyclical, stochastic and chaotic elements, the second a long-term response to a secular forcing. It’s perfectly possible for the second to be better understood and more predictable than the first. Indeed, if you stop and think about if for a moment, you should realise that ‘s the most likely situation. Another analogy would be going on a diet with 500 fewer calories in than out. You can predict quite well how much weight you’d lose in a year, but not whether you’ll be heavier or lighter on day 53 than on day 52, or at 11am vs. 7pm (it will depend on when you had lunch and dinner).

    BTW another good reference to understand Ice Ages over time is Hoffman’s Fermor Lecture. Don’t be put off by the title, he gives good coverage of the history-of-science and the basics of Ice Ages before getting into Snowballs.

  51. Joshua says:

    boneheaded greens making nuclear more difficult dont help.

    What % of the cost of nuclear is attributable to bone-headed greens?

    Don’t forget to show your work.

  52. jacksmith4tx says:

    While we are chasing the CO2 ‘squirrel’ a bigger problem looms in the future.
    https://www.eurasiareview.com/13102018-oxygen-loss-our-worst-environmental-nightmare-unfolding-but-oped/
    “The trend of oxygen falling is about two to three times faster than what we predicted from the decrease of solubility associated with the ocean warming.”

    Did you get that?
    Even after applying the appropriate theories of gas and pressure physics we are removing oxygen up to three times faster than predicted!
    If we thought CO2 sequestration was a challenge I bet reversing the carbon/oxygen bond will harder. We need a breakthrough in electrolysis or something that can stabilize the oxygen levels in the oceans and atmosphere, and we should have started decades ago.

  53. 😦
    ….bone-headed economists….

  54. Declining oxygen in water is likely an issue.

    Declining oxygen in the atmosphere? No, not so much. Effectively not at all on timescales like “homo sapiens appear”… If all photosynthesis on the planet abruptly ceased tomorrow, atmospheric O2 would be fine for mammals for millenia. Not that any would survive, but not due to lack of oxygen…

    For what it is worth, Ralph Keeling – son of C. David Keeling of Keeling Curve fame – first measured declining atmospheric O2, which is a fingerprint that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is anthropogenic (i.e. due to combustion). Which is really a remarkable achievement because of the minuteness of the change. Point being that there is such an immense existing stock of atmospheric O2 that it is not not changing materially for a very long time…

  55. Clive Best says:

    @Dave_Geologist

    Of course I am referring to the “Pleistocene Ica Ages” or glacial cycles if you prefer from 2.4 Mya to the present. I haven’t read Colin Summerhayes’ book but I have read Michael Benders book.

    Milankovitch cycles are fundamental to the Pleistocene glacial cycles. They almost perfectly follow the 41k obliquity cycle until the Mid Pleistocene Transition (PTM) when they switch to a seemingly 100k cycle roughly in phase with eccentricity. CO2 just acts as a feedback in both directions.

    The Ice sheet hysteresis effect and sudden collapse is the main mystery.

    Why don’t you look at some of my posts on this.

    http://clivebest.com/blog/?p=8656

  56. @Paul Pukite

    This is way off topic, but when Ken Caldeira asked on Twitter (August 2, 2018) I didn’t take it as a trick question.

    I answered MISI and MICI, and Caldeira both liked, retweeted the answer. Ultimately he replied to his own question thus:

    I don’t see how anyone can really argue that the physics of MISI and MICI are something we understood in 1979. Hell, even 5-7 years ago…

  57. Dave_Geologist says:

    Was that a Poe jack? A link to an article claiming the oxygen level in the atmosphere has dropped by a third in thousands of years? What next? Leprechauns in Hyde Park? Bigfoot in the White House?

  58. Also, Ian Plimer cited in that article as a source for the imminent atmospheric O2 collapse catastrophe, but I was going to let that slide in favour of just guiding things back to physical reality…

  59. John Hartz says:

    Kevin Anderson’s blunt reaction to the IPCC Special Report…

    Response to the IPCC 1.5°C Special Report, Opinion by Kevin Anderson, Manchester News, Oct 8, 2018

    The concluding paragraph of Anderson’s op-ed:

    “The Paris Agreement notes how it will take a little longer for poorer countries to fully decarbonise, raising the bar still further for the UK, USA and other wealthy nations. Even for 2°C the maths points to such nations moving to zero-carbon energy by 2035-2040, with poorer nations following suit a decade later. For 1.5°C, such ‘real’ 2°C mitigation will need to be complemented with planetary scale negative emissions. Whilst the IPCC’s 1.5°C report rightly emphasises the urgent need to research these speculative technologies, it continues to run scared of the economic elephant dominating the room. Until the IPCC (and society more generally) are prepared to acknowledge the huge asymmetry in consumption and hence emissions, temperatures will continue to rise beyond 1.5 and 2°C – bequeathing future generations the climate chaos of 3°C, 4°C or even higher.”

  60. I probably should have linked this in my original comment…but I had forgotten I had it bookmarked.
    https://theconversation.com/ecosystems-across-australia-are-collapsing-under-climate-change-99367

    …so no….not making it up.

  61. Clive Best says:

    Kevin Andersen is the scientist I respect the most as he actually practices what he preaches! He always travels by train to conferences and meetings unless he can actually cycle there! He is great.

    All those delegates who flew to Inceon added more than 10,000 tons of CO2 to the atmosphere. The government officials of course also travelled business class.

  62. Clive,
    None of that has any real bearing on whether or not there are risks associated with continuing to dump CO2 into the atmosphere.

  63. Clive Best says:

    Ken,

    Of course there are risks, but a bunch of scientists continually bleating about the urgency for ‘action’ over the last 30 years has been counter-productive. Just like Oracles they need to step up and propose scientifically robust solutions.

  64. Clive,
    I realise we’ve had this discussion before, but there’s no obvious reason why those who recognise the risks, should also be the ones who propose the solutions. In this case, it’s not really their expertise.

  65. izen says:

    @-Clive Best
    “…they need to step up and propose scientifically robust solutions.”

    On previous occasions when Lead, CFCs, and SOx were found to be damaging, the robust scientific solution was to stop putting them into the atmosphere.

    But HOW that was done was by substitution with alternatives, international treaties, and financial cost/penalties for emissions and rules for reductions.
    Lead in petrol was replaced, CFCs were banned by global agreement, and Sulphur emissions capped with Reagan’s Clean Air Act.
    It required political action to achieve the goals indicated by the robust scientific findings.

    Why would the CO2 emissions issue be any different ?

  66. Willard says:

    > a bunch of scientists continually bleating about the urgency for ‘action’ over the last 30 years has been counter-productive.

    Thank you for your concerns, Clive. I have an alternative theory:

    https://contrarianmatrix.wordpress.com/

    See also:

    .https://twitter.com/nevaudit/lists/contrarian-matrix

    Interestingly, you feature in that list. And don’t forget the latest:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2018/10/14/the-gwpfs-annual-lecture/

  67. JCH says:

    Of course there are risks, but a bunch of scientists continually bleating about the urgency for ‘action’ over the last 30 years has been counter-productive.

    Just nonsense.

  68. Clive Best says:

    Big deal @willard !

  69. Clive Best says:

    You guys really don’t get it !

    Asking modern society to stop burning fossil fuels is like asking Neolithic people to give up farming.

  70. Clive,
    No, it’s not. The idea is to find other ways to generate energy (i.e., without also emitting CO2 into the atmosphere) not to get society to give up energy generation. If you think it’s simply not possible to generate energy without also emitting CO2 into the atmosphere, that’s your choice. Many people regard it as entirely possible.

  71. rustneversleeps said:

    “I don’t see how anyone can really argue that the physics of MISI and MICI are something we understood in 1979. Hell, even 5-7 years ago…”

    Thanks, I missed that reply from Caldeira. If we use his own criteria, it looks like these breakthroughs in climate physics can also be explained as Just-So observations.

    As TTauriStellarBody says:

    “New physics in an applied physics field? How many times a century do fields that are not explicitly about pushing the boundaries of physics produce “new physics”. “

    What would qualify as a breakthrough in theoretical physics would be an analytical solution to Navier-Stokes, and for applied physics, working out a topological formulation to a climate behavior. Such as this: https://arxiv.org/abs/1810.03328

  72. Willard says:

    Drive-by done, Paul.

    ***

    > Big deal @willard !

    Indeed, Clive:

  73. Clive Best says:

    “The idea is to find other ways to generate energy (i.e., without also emitting CO2 into the atmosphere) not to get society to give up energy generation.”

    Do you really think the problem is as simple as that? You also need to electrify transport and heating. For the UK that means generating capacity nearly doubles to 90GW.

    World trade shipping and Air travel also can’t be electrified directly but would either need synthetic fuel or fuel cells.

    Why don’t we read any of this in IPCC reports ?

  74. Clive,

    Do you really think the problem is as simple as that? You also need to electrify transport and heating. For the UK that means generating capacity nearly doubles to 90GW.

    I didn’t say it was simple, I said it’s not the same as asking “Neolithic people to give up agriculture”. The idea (however hard it might be) is to reduce, and eventually stop, emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. We could do this by using energy sources that don’t emit CO2 (hydro, geothermal, wind, solar, nuclear, tidal, wave,…) or we could find ways to capture and store the emissions.

  75. John Hartz says:

    Clive Best:

    Asking modern society to stop burning fossil fuels is like asking Neolithic people to give up farming.

    Not doing so is ecocide!

  76. Clive Best says:

    @willard

    You clearly don’t understand twitter. Retweets do not mean agreement !

    However, no matter how much you don’t agree with someone, it is wrong to try to destroy their career.

  77. Clive Best says:

    Not doing so is ecocide!

    That sounds like religion to me.

  78. Clive,
    Okay, I’ve got no idea what you’re getting at (well, even less so than normal).

  79. Willard says:

    Why would Clive get at anything for his rope-a-dope of talking points to succeed, AT?

    Think of it as a mini-Richie performance.

  80. Clive Best says:

    Ken,

    Why don’t you try posting an article on scenarios for future low carbon energy solutions to meet 2C target ?

  81. Clive,
    Because it is difficult, there are many options, and because I don’t feel as though I understand that well enough to comment in any depth.

  82. izen says:

    @-Clive Best
    “Asking modern society to stop burning fossil fuels is like asking Neolithic people to give up farming.”

    A closer analogy would be that it is like asking the Southern States to give up slavery.

  83. dpy6629 says:

    There are of course alternatives to agriculture, that was the hunter gatherer pre-agriculture culture. Unfortunately, they all produce dramatically less food per land area. Agriculture was essential to producing a sufficient food surplus to allow civilization to develop.

    The same can be said of fossil fuels vs. renewables. Clive’s analogy is not so easy to dismiss I fear.

  84. Willard says:

    > There are of course alternatives to agriculture […]

    There are of course alternatives in agriculture too, David, e.g.:

    I like analogies. Life is like an analogy.

  85. JCH says:

    For the vast majority of the years in which mankind has practiced widespread agriculture, nobody had a tractor.

  86. Ken Fabian says:

    I still see failures of political leadership as far more significant than failures of science communication – I’m not convinced climate scientists have let anyone down or could have communicated so much differently that political leaders and thinkers could not choose, as so many have, to refuse to listen.

    I suspect that had conservative politics taken the expert advice seriously early on they could have mobilised a lot of support for climate action using nuclear – and overcome the widespread but not deeply held distrust of nuclear by emphasising the world’s great and urgent need to reduce emissions. What I don’t accept is that without anti-nuclear activism or pro-renewables Environmentalism these same interests who chose denial and alarmist economic fear of a shift away from fossil fuels would have done anything except their rhetoric much differently.

    Opposing strong action on climate by (mostly) conservative right politics is not a push back reaction against rampant Environmentalism or anti-nuclear activism, it is a self interested pro-fossil fuels position that is threatened by widespread acceptance of the seriousness of the climate problem; Environmentalists have been major communicators of that same expert advice that others would prefer to reject – distorting it far less than opponents of action do, because the truth is alarming enough.

    It is not their opposition to nuclear that is the principle grievance commerce and industry and their mainstream political advocates have, it is their success at informing and persuading the public about the climate problem that is the bigger issue. If Greens have had excessive influence over the policy choices that led to the present, it is only by default, because of the lack of mainstream leadership developing and pushing through superior policy choices.

    Washing hands of responsibility and blaming others doesn’t absolve our politicians of anything – on the contrary, it is evidence of their own negligence and irresponsibility.

  87. John Hartz says:

    Clive Best: Either you don’t accept the scientific consensus that man-made climate change will significantly degrade the Earth’s biosphere, or you don’t give a tinker’s damn. Which is it?

    Before you answer, you best read this article:

    Half a Degree of Warming Could be the Difference Between Survival and Extinction for Many Species by Adam Markham, Union of Concerned Scientists, Oct 9, 2018

  88. Joshua says:


    Unfortunately, they all produce dramatically less food per land area. Agriculture was essential to producing a sufficient food surplus to allow civilization to develop.

    From a review:

    The conventional view that life grew gradually better once states and then empires (“civilization”) had begun to take shape is simply wrong. Archaeological evidence has shown that people lived longer and healthier lives as hunter-gatherers. Their diet was more varied, and they suffered fewer diseases. They grew taller and lived longer. They worked far less time to secure food, fuel, and other resources than farmers engaged in backbreaking work tilling wheat, barley, rice, millet, or other grain crops. (Why the emphasis on grain? Because only with predictable and measurable grain crops could elites collect taxes.)

    Early human communities were, as Scott asserts, “multispecies resettlement camps.” Both humans and animals clumped together in ever-larger numbers. Because of the crowding, epidemic disease became common among both people and animals. Infant mortality soared. Domesticated animals steadily became smaller than the wild species from which they originated. Humans, too, grew shorter and died earlier, partly from a diet almost exclusively limited to grain and partly from the effects of disease. “[V]irtually all the infectious diseases due to microorganisms specifically adapted to Homo sapiens came into existence only in the past ten thousand years, many of them perhaps only in the past five thousand. They were, in a strong sense, a ‘civilizational effect.’”

    “[A]n even-handed species history would give the state a far more modest role than it is normally accorded,” Scott notes. The earliest states were fragile, ephemeral constructs that frequently fell to the ravages of disease or marauding pastoralists. They were “minuscule affairs both demographically and geographically. They were a mere smudge on the map of the ancient world and not much more than a rounding error in a total global population estimated at roughly twenty-five million in the year 2,000 BCE . . . Even at the height of the Roman and early Han ‘superstates,’ the area of their effective control would have been stunningly modest.” Nonetheless, historians typically focus on states and empires (since written records make history possible, and writing came into use only in settled communities). But it was not until about 1,600 CE that established states encompassed most human populations—in other words, fewer than 500 years ago. For many thousands of years before then, hunter-gatherers and pastoralists greatly outnumbered the grain-growers who lived in cities.

  89. John Hartz says:

    Clive Best would like us to believe that the thousands of French demonstrators for action on man-made climate change were merely going to church…on a Saturday at that. The signs and banners carried by the demonstrators have nothing to do with religion though.

    Thousands march across France to demand climate action, France 24, Oct 14, 2018

    Much to the chagrin of Best and his ilk, people throughout the world are reacting to the IPCC’s Special Report in a responsible manner.

    Viva La France!

  90. Clive and DPY,
    This is just silly. Dumping CO2 into the atmosphere has the potential to produce severely negative impacts. Therefore, there are good reasons why we might want to think of finding ways to generate energy that does not emit CO2 into the atmosphere. This doesn’t even mean not using fossil fuels. It doesn’t mean that the only alternative is renewables. People regularly suggest that we should move on from discussing the science to discussing solutions, but it is difficult when those who seem to oppose doing anything strawman the arguments being made.

  91. verytallguy says:

    Clive,

    Why don’t we read any of this in IPCC reports ?

    The only options I can think of is that “we” either suffer from an inability to do internet searches or an inability to read, given there’s an entire chapter on the subject in AR5.

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=ipcc+ar5+wg3+%22air+travel%22

    Bizarre.

  92. verytallguy says:

    Equally bizarre:

    You guys really don’t get it !

    Asking modern society to stop burning fossil fuels is like asking Neolithic people to give up farming.

    Let’s note that fossil fuels are a finite resource. Society, modern or otherwise *will* become sustainable, by definition.

    The only choice we have is the path we choose to sustainability.

  93. verytallguy says:

    Perhaps a better analogy would be that asking modern society to stop burning fossil fuels is like asking neolithic people to give up hunting woolly mammoths.

  94. Clive Best says:

    John,

    Of course I accept the science. The question is how to transition off a dependency on fossil fuels, without destroying the quality of life they have brought about. For example sewage systems fail without pumps. The only technology which might work is nuclear power. How sustainable is wind energy and solar energy?

    Each wind turbine and each solar panel needs replacing every 20 years. The mining, steel production, rare earths, manufacturing, transport and installation at every step all currently rely on fossil fuels. To make them reliable you need to store excess energy when it is abundant , to cover periods without sun or wind. To power just Germany for one day would require the equivalent of 220 million Tesla power walls. This would cost $660 billion dollars at current prices, assuming there is enough cheap Lithium in the world. But then these batteries will also need replacing every 10 years with all the associated transport and installation costs.

    Alternatively Germany could build 20 nuclear stations and have 100% reliable energy for the next 60 years. The cost would be about $200 billion. Excess energy at night can recharge EVs, produce synthetic aviation fuel, methane, and hydrogen for fuel cells.

  95. VTG said:

    “Perhaps a better analogy would be that asking modern society to stop burning fossil fuels is like asking neolithic people to give up hunting woolly mammoths.”

    Near the end passenger pigeons were harvested by dynamite and sold for pet food at pennies per the pound.

    The Bakken is the new Klondike.

  96. Dave_Geologist says:

    @Clive Best

    Of course I am referring to the “Pleistocene Ica Ages” or glacial cycles if you prefer from 2.4 Mya to the present. I haven’t read Colin Summerhayes’ book but I have read Michael Benders book.

    Bender’s book is a decade old. There’s been a lot of more recent work. Many of the “puzzles” which exercised people 10-15 years ago have been resolved. And although reasonably readable, Summerhayes’ is a professional-level book, not a primer. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to engage at the professional-science level, not the popular-science level.

    Milankovitch cycles are fundamental to the Pleistocene glacial cycles.

    Of course they are. Once we’re in an Ice Age, they dominate and CO2 is a feedback. But they’re not what set up conditions for an Ice Age to start. That was the drastic, one-way decrease in atmospheric CO2 from the mid-Miocene. Without that, we wouldn’t have had an Ice Age in the first place. Now we’re in it, Milankovitch cycles are just natural variability.

    The Ice sheet hysteresis effect and sudden collapse is the main mystery.

    Sorry, that just reads like word salad. You’ll need to expand on the mystery. That hysteresis exists? Well, duh. That Ice sheets can collapse suddenly (on geological timescales)? Latent heat – once you’re above freezing point, stuff just keeps on melting. It takes time. Slow between tipping points like the unfreezing of cold, dry ice sheets and the onset of basal lubrication (Massive destabilization of an Arctic ice cap.). Nothing mysterious there.

    CO2 just acts as a feedback in both directions.

    During the Ice Age. Not before it. Or after it (i.e. today).

    Why don’t you look at some of my posts on this.

    First you’ll have to persuade me that your scientific understanding is on the level of the professionals whom I do read. Or even of my own intrinsic understanding as a geologist.

  97. Dave_Geologist says:

    OK I did look Clive. Ellis & Palmer: “We present here a simple and novel proposal for the modulation and rhythm of ice-ages and interglacials during the late Pleistocene
    IOW pacing the stadials and interstadials. Once we’re in an Ice Age. Like I said.

    During the LGM CO2 levels reached dangerously low levels of ~180 ppm causing arid desertification as temperate trees and savannah died off. The resulting dust storms then deposited huge amounts of dust onto the ice sheets increasing its albedo. … When all else fails GAIA ends ice ages

    GAIA? Seriously? Even Lovelock never claimed it as more than a hypothesis. Dangerously low? Are you invoking divine intervention? And If GAIA decided she’d had enough of Ice Ages, why today? Why not back in the Eemian, or an earlier cycle. And BTW the next glaciation has been cancelled. By us. Hadn’t you heard?

  98. John Hartz says:

    Clive Best:

    Alternatively Germany could build 20 nuclear stations and have 100% reliable energy for the next 60 years. The cost would be about $200 billion.

    Please cite a source for your cost estimate.

    Does it include the cost of the mining and transporting of uranium to Germany? Does it include the cost of processing of the uranium into fuel rods? Does it include the cost of safely storing for thousands of years the the spent uranium fuel rods generated by the 20 new nuclear power plants?

    In addition, how is Germany now storing the spent uranium fuel rods that have been generated by its existing and decommissioned nuclear power plants? How much will it cost to safely store this nuclear waste for thousands of years?

  99. Dave_Geologist says:

    Joshua, there’s a distinction between “life got better for individuals” and “farming supports a larger population per acre”. You can live shorter, harder lives and still leave more children to live their shorter, harder lives. You don’t have to live to seventy to have 12 children. Or even enjoy life in your thirties and forties. Indeed, making babies may have been one of their few sources of enjoyment.

    The Neolithic didn’t end because the farmers gave up agriculture or even that the stones ran out. It ended because better technologies came along (bronze, iron). The same can be true of the fossil-fuel age.

  100. John Hartz says:

    Until I read this excellent op-ed by Paul Gillespie, I was not aware that George Monbiot has recommended replacing “climate change” with “climate breakdown.” Perhaps this proposal should be addressed in a new OP? How problems are labeled/framed is a key issue in effectively communicating them to the public.

    Climate is not just changing – it is breaking down, Opinion by Paul Gillespie, Irish Times, Oct 13, 2018

    The lead paragraphs of Gillespie’s op-ed…

    Climate change or climate breakdown? Growth or wellbeing? Growth as development? Degrowth? Prosperity without growth? Climate capitalism or ecosocialism?

    It matters hugely how this week’s news from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is framed in public debate. The most authoritative scientists tell us that unless global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times, the world faces extreme weather events, food shortages, wildfires, dying coral reefs, droughts, floods and poverty for hundreds of millions.

    To avoid this outcome, the world economy needs a transformation of unprecedented speed and scale, involving far-reaching changes in society. We have only 12 years, they say, to achieve it by making huge strides towards eliminating greenhouse gases arising from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. The report underlines the qualitative difference between the 1.5- and 2-degree reductions previously seen as less stark. The case for radical action is reinforced by its finding that on present trends we are heading for more than a 3-degree increase by 2100 – catastrophic territory.

    Climate change is an anodyne and demobilising way to describe such urgent tasks and prospective disasters, according to the ecological writer and activist George Monbiot. That’s why he calls his online movement #climatebreakdown. He makes a powerful case for the more dramatic word, to get more people talking about it and media to take the threats much more seriously.

  101. Dave_Geologist says:

    The only technology which might work is nuclear power.
    I hear there are these things called batteries. Some company called Tesla makes them. I hear they make electric cars too. Not brilliantly so far, but the first bronze sickle or iron plough probably needed a bit of tweaking. And there’s a pumped-storage hydro scheme not far from where I live. That’s such an old technology that I visited it on a school trip. They told us it was the biggest underground hole in the UK or perhaps Europe, although I have a suspicion that the Clyde nuclear weapons depot has a bigger one, they’re just not telling us. (And there’s another candidate in the underground bunker-fuel storage tanks at the Scapa Flow naval base – they hollowed out an entire hill. I’ve visited that too but not inside. It had a gravity feed in case the pumps got knocked out, and a fort on top which looks to have taken one helluva pounding at some point.).

    And of course if you have a desert handy, you can build reflector-solar without PVs and use molten salt. to store the energy (at 1050°F, losing only 1°F per day).

    Not that I’m against nuclear per se, it just annoys me when it’s used as a greenie-face-punching tactic.

  102. Joshua says:

    Not that I’m against nuclear per se, it just annoys me when it’s used as a greenie-face-punching tactic.

    Using nuclear as a rhetorical weapon to fight ideological warfare will not increase the build up of nuclear energy.

    Particularly when done in the form of tr*lling comments sections of blogs.

    Why doesn’t Clive see that?

  103. verytallguy says:

    The Neolithic didn’t end because the farmers gave up agriculture or even that the stones ran out. It ended because better technologies came along (bronze, iron). The same can be true of the fossil-fuel age.

    This, I think, is profoundly wrong.

    Fossil fuels are both fantastically energy dense and have also been ridiculously cheap, and are highly convenient.

    Is there a better alternative for jet fuel? I think not. Is there a cheaper dispatchable generating source than a gas turbine? Nope.

    There is no better alternative in many applications that we are able to even conceptualise, let alone realise; the only reasons to move away are the finite nature of the resource and the undesired externality – frying the planet.

  104. Joshua says:

    Dave –

    “farming supports a larger population per acre”.

    My point was that simplistic arguments (by way of simplistic analogies) don’t shed much light.

    Let’s go back to David Young’s comment. I’ll add some bold for emphasis on the elements my comment was directed at – not precisely the element you referenced.


    Unfortunately, they all produce dramatically less food per land area. Agriculture was essential to producing a sufficient food surplus to allow civilization to develop.

    The use of “unfortunately” seems problematized by the excerpt I posted. As does the simplistic use of “allow,” suggesting a teleological monotonic causal mechanism of relationship between agriculture and “civilization.”

    The book I linked describes some evidence that the typical conceptualization is in need of some adjustment, in that regard.

    My larger point is that people should avoid using facile simplification of complicated dynamics to score cheap points to advance the ball in climateball, or advance an ideological agenda.

  105. Joshua says:

    Dave –

    I’ll add that I’m similarly bothered by simplistic (and IMO misleading) arguments that construct a causal relationship between fossil fuels and social progress – for the purpose of advancing an ideological agenda or scoring points in climateball.

    https://books.google.com/books/about/Development_as_Freedom.html?id=vbmK-ud8M9YC&printsec=frontcover&source=kp_read_button

  106. izen says:

    @-verytallguy
    “Fossil fuels are both fantastically energy dense and have also been ridiculously cheap, and are highly convenient.”

    Bit like slaves then.

    @-“Is there a better alternative for jet fuel? I think not. Is there a cheaper dispatchable generating source than a gas turbine? Nope.”

    These claims are true in context, or with certain unstated a prior assumptions.

    Gas turbines are a cheap generating source, if and only if there is a cheap and ready supply of gas to run it. If you dispatch it to a site with no available gas source like the middle of the pacific or the high Andes it is a useless bit of kit.
    There are reasons why they are not used to power deep space probes or Mars rovers.

    Jet fuel is obviously required for jet engines and they are the most powerful means of propelling an aircraft. But that requires the apparently unexamined assumption that jet powered aircraft are needed in the quantity and wide usage that society has developed in the last few decades.
    Again the default unquestioned position is that the present status quo which necessitates the scale of jet use we see at present is absolutely unavoidable and impossible to change.

    It is certainly necessary if there is no change in the demand for fast aircraft for tourists and military hardware. But it may be evidence of myopia or the inability to countenance radical change in the way society works which would negate those requirements.

    Despite deep and recent history, (flint to iron, slavery to steam and horses the cars) showing that such radical reorganising of the social structure is a common feature, not an impossible goal.

    Oil and Gas are finite resources, although as Trump points out, there is 250 years of ‘clean’ coal…

  107. verytallguy says:

    Izen,

    I agree with you.

    I would add, though, that steam is more powerful than slaves, iron more effective than flint, and cars faster than horses.

  108. izen says:

    @-verytallguy
    “I would add, though, that steam is more powerful than slaves, iron more effective than flint, and cars faster than horses.”

    I agree, we will not be going backward (unless there is total societal collapse). New tech is not just a better version of old tech it forces fundamental changes in what we do.

    But steam can’t think, iron rusts, and cars don’t reproduce.
    (grin)

  109. John Hartz says:

    The latest in a long string of new research findings re the rapid deterioration of the Earth’s biosphere as man-made climate change continues to take its toll. Damn depressing!

    ‘Hyperalarming’ study shows massive insect loss by Ben Guarino, Speaking of Science, Washington Post, Oct 15, 2018

    Th lead paragraphs of the article…

    Insects around the world are in a crisis, according to a small but growing number of long-term studies showing dramatic declines in invertebrate populations. A new report suggests that the problem is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.

    In 2014, an international team of biologists estimated that, in the past 35 years, the abundance of invertebrates such as beetles and bees had decreased by 45 percent. In places where long-term insect data are available, mainly in Europe, insect numbers are plummeting. A study last year showed a 76 percent decrease in flying insects in the past few decades in German nature preserves.

    The latest report, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that this startling loss of insect abundance extends to the Americas. The study’s authors implicate climate change in the loss of tropical invertebrates.

    “This study in PNAS is a real wake-up call — a clarion call — that the phenomenon could be much, much bigger, and across many more ecosystems,” said David Wagner, an expert in invertebrate conservation at the University of Connecticut who was not involved with this research. He added: “This is one of the most disturbing articles I have ever read.”

  110. Steven Mosher says:

    “In addition, how is Germany now storing the spent uranium fuel rods that have been generated by its existing and decommissioned nuclear power plants? How much will it cost to safely store this nuclear waste for thousands of years?”

    Storage? it will cost a lot less than you imagine.

    https://www.deepisolation.com/

    In the US for example, storage cost is a already pre paid and built into the price.

  111. John Hartz says:

    Steve Mosher:

    In the US for example, storage cost is a already pre paid and built into the price

    How much of that was spent on Yucca Mountain?

  112. John Hartz says:

    A rather sobering assessment of our fate…

    Capitalism’s Final Solution Is Nothing Less than Complete Ecological Collapse by Ed Simon*, History News Network, Oct 9, 2018

    An excerpt…

    Alterations to human behavior which might hasten the worst effects of climate change are technically possible, though the study’s authors doubt such change is politically feasible, as it would require direct action on the part of the industrial economies of the world, something with “no documented historic precedent.” Myles Allen of Oxford University explained that “we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime” if we’re to stave off an ecological apocalypse which we now understand isn’t centuries in the future, but rather mere decades, if not years.

    *Ed Simon is the Editor-at-Large for “The Marginalia Review of Books,” a channel of the “Los Angeles Review of Books.” A frequent contributor at several sites, his collection America and Other Fictions: On Radical Faith and Post Religion will be released by Zero Books in November of 2018. He can be followed at his website or on Twitter @WithEdSimon.

  113. verytallguy says:

    Izen,

    I agree, we will not be going backward (unless there is total societal collapse). New tech is not just a better version of old tech it forces fundamental changes in what we do.

    I’m not sure, I think there’s a large element of Panglossian thinking here. In some, perhaps even most applications low carbon new tech is NOT “better” than high carbon old tech, except in the externalities and lack of sustainability.

  114. Dave_Geologist says:

    @-verytallguy
    “Fossil fuels are both fantastically energy dense and have also been ridiculously cheap, and are highly convenient.”

    Yes, but my sweeping statement wasn’t meant to be sweeping 🙂 . We didn’t stop using stone when bronze and iron came along. I’m looking out now over my patio where I chose to lay natural stone paving rather than concrete slabs. (Not to save the CO2, but because they’re nicer – the stone was probably imported from India so may have a bigger carbon footprint 😦 .) Wire fencing hasn’t completely replaced dry-stane dykes in the countryside nearby. There will still be some areas where it is hard to replace fossil fuel. Someone said recently that the last 20% doesn’t have obvious options at present. Jet fuel is a difficult one. But fast electric trains could replace short-haul. Gas turbines can run on anything – what about biofuel? Cars and trucks are almost there – it just needs orders of magnitude more fast-charging points (120 miles is enough – accident stats show you shouldn’t drive more than two hours without a break anyway – I wasn’t allowed to on business). Container ships sailing 10,000 miles is another. I’ve seen some mention of hybrids with sails, but if we’re thinking outside the box, what about small nukes like those that power submarines and aircraft carriers?

  115. Clive Best says:

    @Dave_Geologist

    Michael Bender’s book was published in 2013.

    It is no good saying falling CO2 levels caused the Miocene cooling, you have to say why CO2 levels fell. Was it enhanced weathering on the rising tibetan plateau? Or did the increasing albedo reduce temperatures and CO2 reduction followed as a consequence (feedback again).

    GAIA is simply an analogy. Forests affect climate.

  116. Dave_Geologist says:

    Was it enhanced weathering on the rising tibetan plateau

    That’s certainly one of the prime contenders. Although probably the Himalayas are a bigger factor. The Plateau itself is a bit dry. The rock record tells us when they shot up and there’s a good match. Erosion too from an intensified monsoon (which has left its mark in the rock record and was most likely caused by the Plateau), which exposes more rock to weathering. And washed lots of terrestrial organic matter into deep-sea fans where it was sequestered. That’s why India’s giant Bengal High oilfields have waxy crude. Despite coming from marine source-rocks, the oil has a terrestrial kerogen signature. And uplift of the Andes. Also, there may have been a bit of a long-term secular decline from the Late Cretaceous, when there was a lot of volcanic CO2 injected due to vigorous mid-ocean ridge activity. And other stuff like circulation changes in the Southern Ocean and closure of Tethys which, yes, changed the albedo a bit as well as drawing down CO2. So multiple causes, which is why you need an AOGCM to untangle it.

    Your turn – what increased the albedo and where? Ice caps? Have you calculated the radiative forcing from the difference between Miocene and Pliocene ice and snow cover or between Eocene and Oligocene? Is it enough to cool the oceans enough to absorb that extra CO2? Published solubility-temperature curves are available. Have you calculated the ocean acidity change required to absorb the CO2 and looked at the fossil record to see whether it happened or not? Forests vs. grassland? Plenty of palaeo papers available, make some global maps and do the maths. Maybe someone’s done it already.

    Forests affect climate. Well, duh. Of course they do. As do ice-caps, paddy-fields, beef feedlots, smokestacks, exhaust pipes and jet engines. And lightning starts forest fires. As do humans.

    Sorry, I obviously got the date wrong for the Bender book (Amazon has it as 2013). Regardless, a popular-science book is not a stable platform from which to overturn professional climate science. And the first Amazon review, from a geologist, says “Interesting, but flawed”. Yes it’s only a review, but the comments ring true – some things not adequately explained for the layperson (a common difficulty when you’ve known something for so long it’s second nature), and he seems to have got things wrong when he steps outside his Quaternary comfort zone into meteorology and stratigraphy. For example, assuming the quote about oxygen anoxia only occurring during highstands is accurate, it’s patently untrue. Around the Ordovician glaciations, for example, it happened during high and low stands. There may have been a special reason for that (the continental shelves exposed during lowstands were barren, not forested or grassed as today), but that’s exactly the sort of thing you need to be aware of in palaeoclimate.

    Summerhayes‘ book is rather expensive (about £50), but full of detail and references, and he has the right breadth of experience to do a complete job (Antarctic, palaeoclimate, stratigraphy, geochemistry, industry, academic, manager of large climate research programs, UNESCO roles requiring him to communicate science to lay people, leader of the group which prepared the Geological Society of London’s climate position paper). I found very little to quibble with, and when things are uncertain or there are competing hypotheses, he’s quite open about it.

  117. Chubbs says:

    Clive – If CO2 is a strong positive feedback to rising temperature our climate situation is much more dire than outlined in the IPCC 1.5C report.

  118. Clive Best says:

    @Chubbs

    Luckily CO2 cannot be a feedback on itself ! CO2 is increasing ahead of temperature so about half of our emissions so far have been absorbed by the oceans. Eventually this may change though.

  119. Chubbs says:

    Clive – Sure it can. If CO2 increases whenever temperature increases then CO2 will amplify the impact of man-made CO2 emissions. In that case IPCC modeling, based on no CO2 feedback, is underestimating future warming. You whole logic train is faulty, the impact of CO2 on global temperature is the same no matter what the cause of the CO2 increase.

  120. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Luckily CO2 cannot be a feedback on itself !”

    I don’t think that is quite true. At current conditions, increasing atmospheric CO2 would increase the solubility of CO2 in the oceans due to the difference in concentrations, but the increased solubility would be offset by the decrease in solubility due to the temperature sensitivity of Henry’s law. So there is “CO2 feedback on itself”, but there are both positive and negative feedbacks and which wins out depends on conditions.

  121. Steven Mosher says:

    “what about small nukes like those that power submarines and aircraft carriers?”

    Saw really nice lead cooled concept at Seoul National University. twist on a Russian design ..

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/314729653_Experimental_studies_and_computational_benchmark_on_heavy_liquid_metal_natural_circulation_in_a_full_height-scale_test_loop_for_small_modular_reactors

  122. dikranmarsupial says:

    In other words, I think the carbon cycle would equilibriate at a point higher than would be the case if CO2 were not a GHG, which effectively means it does feedback on itself, thankfully limited by e.g. the S-B law.

  123. Marco says:

    “what about small nukes like those that power submarines and aircraft carriers?”

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/14/pirates-demand-ransom-for-oil-tanker-captured-off-coast-of-somalia

    Now imagine those pirates are actually terrorists and have no interest in any ransoms.

  124. Willard says:

    > Forests affect climate.

    Reforestation may be a Good Thing:

    The boss of Shell has said a huge tree-planting project the size of the Amazon rainforest would be needed to meet a tougher global warming target, as he argued more renewable energy alone would not be enough.

    Ben van Beurden said it would be a major challenge to limit temperature rises to 1.5C (equivalent to a rise of 2.7F), which a landmark report from the UN’s climate science panel has said will be necessary to avoid dangerous warming.

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/oct/09/shell-ben-van-beurden-mass-reforestation-un-climate-change-target

    Stopping tree cuts like there’s no tomorrow would help too, Easter Island people might suggest.

    Just an analogy.

  125. Dave_Geologist says:

    I’m all for reforestation Willard. And stooping deforestation of course goes without saying. Reforestation can sequester two petagrams of carbon in US topsoils in a century. Sounds impressive but trees grow so damn slowly.

    Our results indicate that reforestation increases topsoil C storage, and that reforesting lands, currently occupying >500,000 km2 in the United States, will sequester a cumulative 1.3–2.1 Pg C within a century (13–21 Tg C·y−1). Annually, these C gains constitute 10% of the US forest sector C sink and offset 1% of all US greenhouse gas emissions.

    We’ll need to pull all the levers. Per km2 of land committed, I suspect wind farms offer more in the short term. Although it’s not an either/or. I presume most reforestation would be of clear-cut hillsides, not profitable agricultural land, so probably not the sort of place you’d put a wind-farm.

  126. Willard says:

    > We’ll need to pull all the levers.

    Indeed, Dave, and that makes all our “we should do X instead of Y” a bit silly.

  127. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    We’ll need to pull all the levers.

    And stop deploying the future tense.


    …the main lesson to be learned from the collapses of the Maya, Anasazi, Easter Islanders, and those other past societies […] is that a society’s steep decline may begin only a decade or two after the society reaches its peak numbers, wealth, and power. […] The reason is simple: maximum population, wealth, resource consumption, and waste production mean maximum environmental impact, approaching the limit where impact outstrips resources.

    – Jared Diamond,
    “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive”, Penguin Books, 2011, p 509

  128. BBD says:

    Dave G

    Bender’s book is a decade old. There’s been a lot of more recent work. Many of the “puzzles” which exercised people 10-15 years ago have been resolved. And although reasonably readable, Summerhayes’ is a professional-level book, not a primer. If you want to be taken seriously, you need to engage at the professional-science level, not the popular-science level.

    To be fair, Bender’s book is 6 years old and is an undergraduate level textbook. I know it forms part of the Princeton Primers in Climate series, but that’s primers for university-level teaching. It’s really not popular science.

    Also, had CB bothered to read Bender properly, he would realise that it provides no support whatsoever for his contrarianism.

    Thanks for the Summerhayes recommendation. Looks good.

  129. John Hartz says:

    Willard:

    We’ll need to pull all the levers.

    Starting now!

  130. Dave_Geologist says:

    Thanks BBD. Having recently bought and read Summerhayes, I didn’t fancy shelling out for another. But I see it’s reasonably cheap so maybe I’ll have a go. Done, bought it. They’re still different. Summerhayes is based on his work chairing the Geol Soc committee, I suspect from his meeting notes and background reading, plus of course his own research experience. There’s a bit of a biog from him, then a history, then climatology in various topics, each from a historical perspective to the state-of-the-art. When I said professional-level I meant that it might be a bit more of a tough read than Bender. An undergrad textbook or a layman’s primer tend to give one view of the world for clarity, and skip over some of the harder details and avoid the controversies. Summerhayes lays out the arguments and observations, including the areas of uncertainty and disagreement. Without a degree of background knowledge, it would be easy to get lost there. Also, although the chapters are reasonably short (total work count just shy of 30k, including references etc.), it’s very densely referenced, dozens per chapter. To learn enough to challenge his narrative (assuming you’re foolish enough to so so, given that he’s a world expert himself and was chairing a panel of experts), you’d have to follow through on the references. I anticipate it being a great resource as a one-stop-shop guide to the literature up to the mid-2010s. The only annoying thing is that the references aren’t hyperlinked.

    It doesn’t surprise me that Clive has misunderstood Bender or has claimed it supports a position that it doesn’t. You’ll have seen my two or three attempts to make the distinction between cyclic and secular forcing fly straight over his head.

  131. John Hartz says:

    In the context of this ongoing discussion about the need move swiftly forward on the mitigation of man-made climate change this essay by Chris Turner* caught my eye…

    Clear and present danger: The urgency of a good climate policy, Opinion by Chris Turner, Globe & Mail, Oct 12, 2018

    An excerpt…

    Why is good climate policy so hard to love? The answer, like climate change itself, is multivalent and excruciatingly complex, and it has a lot to do with the scale and time frame of the problem and its solutions. No one’s climate policies can move fast enough to yield tangible everyday benefits before the next election. There will be no immediate reward for doing the job well, and rarely does an instant crisis emerge from doing it badly. And in any case, good climate policy satisfies no one completely and makes everyone at least a little uncomfortable. In the foreshortened terms of a bellowed Question Period exchange, the carbon price – any carbon price – is always so high that it will ruin the economy and so low that it will do nothing. Good climate policy is never an easy political win, and even the hard wins seem like losses from many angles. It’s a sinkhole for political capital, a kryptonite mine against the superheroic political will required to address climate change’s catastrophic scope.

    Still, good climate policy is the best we can manage right now – in Canada or anywhere else – and we’re in grave danger of squandering what we have in exchange for nothing at all. So it’s worth trying to understand how it fails to win much adulation.

    *Chris Turner’s books include The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need, The Leap: How to Survive and Thrive in the Sustainable Economy, and The Patch: The People, Pipelines, and Politics of the Oil Sands, which won this year’s National Business Book Award.

  132. Willard says:

    Blogs are an old invention:

  133. Dave said:

    “You’ll have seen my two or three attempts to make the distinction between cyclic and secular forcing fly straight over his head.”

    I think Clive understands this aspect pretty well.

    Not that anyone is immune to blind-spots in their thinking. For example, is it intuitively obvious that an applied forcing can counteract or nullify chaotic tendencies of a natural system response?

  134. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:


    Blogs are an old invention:

    Indeed. And Nicholas Copernicus was a foolish contrarian…

    From Martin Luther’s ‘Tablebook’ (Tischreden):

    There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must needs invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down. However, as Holy Scripture tells us, so did Joshua bid the sun to stand still and not the earth.

  135. John Hartz says:

    More collateral damage from “advanced civilizations” who worship at the altar of unbridled economic growth…

    Humans Are Exterminating Animal Species Faster Than Evolution Can Keep Up by Trevor Nace*, Science, Forbes, Oct 16, 2018

    The lead paragraphs of the article…

    Mammals will take millions of years to evolutionarily recover from the current extinction crisis. The sixth mass extinction, unlike the previous mass extinctions on Earth, is anthropogenic or human-caused.

    A team of biologists recently published their findings on the impact humans have on biodiversity and how long evolution will take to “replenish” the extinct lineages. The team found that if humans do not double down on mammal conservation, so many mammals will become extinct in the next 50 years that evolution will take 3 to 5 million years to recover the lost lineages.

    Geologists have documented five mass extinction events in the past 450 million years. The most recent extinction event was the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K–T) extinction approximately 66 million years ago. This extinction event was responsible for killing off non-avian dinosaurs.

    *I am a geologist passionate about sharing Earth’s intricacies with you. I received my PhD from Duke University where I studied the geology and climate of the Amazon. I am the founder of Science Trends, a leading source of science news and analysis on everything from climate change to cancer research. Let’s connect @trevornace

  136. Dave_Geologist says:

    Paul, “For example, is it intuitively obvious that an applied forcing can counteract or nullify chaotic tendencies of a natural system response?”. Dunno. I suspect “it depends”. For a narrow definition of “can”, yes, because you only need one example, any place, any time, anywhere in the universe. I can grab a moving double pendulum and hold it still for as long as my patience lasts. That’s a “can”, even if the answer is “can’t” 99.99999999999% of the time. OTOH it’s not intuitively obvious that conservation laws apply. Otherwise people wouldn’t dream up perpetual motion machines, or unbounded random walks in conserved systems. Nevertheless, conservation laws apply.

  137. Dave_Geologist says:

    Here’s the link to the paper John (paywalled). Mammal diversity will take millions of years to recover from the current biodiversity crisis

    They use a bit of a novel approach, phylogenetic diversity rather than species richness. PD takes into account how long each species has been extant. Haven’t read it in detail, but a caveat would be: have they allowed for the burst of evolution which follows mass extinctions, or assumed average late Neogene rates? Of course they focus on mammals, and many of those evolutionary explosions have involved the flowering of a new order rather than the resurgence of a nearly-extinguished order. Dinosaurs after mammal-like reptiles, mammals after dinosaurs. So the outcome for mammals may well be even worse. They won’t be able to re-occupy vacant niches by evolving at historic rates, because something else will have got there first.

    From a purely selfish, short-term human POV, a third measure, ecosystem function (or services) is appropriate. It doesn’t matter if a species of pine dies out, as long as another takes over. Or spruce and fir fill the gap and provide similar ecosystem services. OTOH past events like the PETM resulted in large-scale, rapid (on biome-establishment timescales) intra- and inter-continental floral migrations as well as extinctions. No doubt the squirrels just moved with the forests. In a world of nation-states and borders, it won’t be so simple for humans. The PETM time-scale was about 10,000 years, partly reflecting the slower warming than today, but also no doubt the time required to colonise new land. For example, it took thousands of years after the Ice Age ended to turn tundra into boreal forest, all at a pretty constant temperature.

  138. Dave_Geologist says:

    A caution for anyone wishing to follow up on the two palaeoclimate books discussed on this thread. At least those who prefer E-readers to dead trees. While Summerhayes is a proper Kindle book, but with an annoying lack of hyperlinks in the references (a bit disappointing in something so new), Bender comprises scanned page images and can’t be read on regular Kindles, only on tablets like the Fire, Android or iPad. Which of course also means no hyperlinks. Also disappointing in something so new. I guess that reflects the small market for technical books. There’s an overhead in making it properly digital, which would raise the price too high for niche products. I’ll settle for the inconvenience, vs. paying £100-plus text-book prices.

  139. Chubbs says:

    The IPCC-SR15 report contains a section comparing climate models and observations. To make a more apples to apples comparison an additional model output is provided CMIP5 SAT/SST blend – masked. This uses SST instead of air temperature over the ocean and is matched to observational coverage giving a better comparison to observational data sets. Below is are obs and model predictions for one of the periods listed in Table 1.1.

    Bottom-line – when a proper comparison is made the models are doing quite well at simulating temperature changes since 1850. I’ve just skimmed the report but I don’t see energy-balance methods mentioned. My guess is they will not be given much weight in the next IPCC report.

    Warming 1850-1900 to 2005-16
    0.89 GISS
    0.86 NOAA
    0.84 HADCRUT
    0.91 Cowtan/Way
    0.98 BEST
    0.82 JMA
    0.98 CMIP5 TAS
    0.86 CMIP5 SST Blended/Masked

  140. Chubbs says:

    Note that HADCRUT (with scaling) is also used to provide GISS and NOAA values for 1850-1900 since those series start in 1880

  141. kind of off-topic, but
    https://www.elon.edu/E-Net/Article/167006
    apparently Hurricane Michael has moved the needle with NC republicans and more now believe that climate change is real and is a problem. It is unfortunate, but I think first-hand, painful experience of global warming is the way that the republicans will slowly come to their senses. It is way late now to do anything about the longterm hurricane impacts on the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, but it is not too late to limit other impacts that are not yet baked-in with the warming that we have already produced.

  142. angech says:

    ATTP,
    Zeke has referenced this elsewhere
    “Based on estimates made in the IPCC’s fifth assessment report (AR5), there would be around 120 gigatonnes of CO2 (GtCO2) remaining from the beginning of 2018 – or around three years of current emissions – for a 66% chance of avoiding 1.5C warming. For a 50/50 chance of exceeding 1.5C, the remaining budget was a modestly larger 268GtCO2 – or around seven years of current emissions.

    The IPCC’s new SR15 significantly revises these numbers. It raises the budget for a 66% of avoiding 1.5C to 420GtCO2 – or 10 years of current emissions. Similarly, the budget for a 50/50 chance of exceeding 1.5C is increased to 580GtCO2 – 14 years of current emissions.”

    I find the shifting goalposts somewhat reprehensible for a so called settled science. But it does highlight that the calamity you foresee is both inevitable and unavoidable. How can we possibly turn off all the cars in the world, let alone the power stations in less than 3 or 14 years?
    Surely people here should be advocating what should be to them keeping it below 3.0c as this is in keeping with the reality being forecast?

  143. angech,

    I find the shifting goalposts somewhat reprehensible for a so called settled science.

    It’s not so settled that there are no uncertainties, and nothing about which we’re still not sure. Apart from “skeptics”, when most use “settled science” they’re referring to the basics, not the details.

    Also, the increase in carbon budget might seem large, but that’s only because the initial one was already very small (a few years at current emissions). In an absolute sense, the increase is not large at all. To keep below this budget, we’d still need to start reducing emissions very soon and get to zero within a few decades.

  144. Joshua says:

    angech –

    On the list of reprehensibles, I would place is your rhetorical game-playing with the term “settled science.”

  145. angech says:

    Joshua, I prefer ATTP’s approach, explanation rather than your approach to the questions of settled science. I did not pose a question, did I, hence the use of rhetorical perjoritavely is wrong.
    Interesting that you took it to heart and also that I did so with your reply. We might both be a bit more sensitive than we need to be.
    The range of variation was from 90 to 380% for the models in that article Zeke put up. Ask yourself if, in some areas at least, are we using unsettled science to promote settled science and how that can be fair.

  146. angech,
    The point is that “settled science” is more commonly a “skeptic” talking point than something regularly claimed by those who accept AGW.

  147. dikranmarsupial says:

    I was tempted to answer angech’s query about peat earlier in another recent discussion, but I didn’t because I can no longer accept that he is engaging in the discussion in good faith, and it was probably just an attempt to troll me into yet another interminable “discussion”

    angech’s snide rhetorical straw man attack reminds me just how right I was to ignore him: “I find the shifting goalposts somewhat reprehensible for a so called settled science. “ reminds me just how right I was to ignore him:

    The Gavin on unsettled science.

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