Societal tipping points

Noami Oreskes and Nicholas Stern have a New York Times Opinion piece called Climate Change will cost us even more than we think. Some are very critical, others are a little more circumspect. I, on the other hand, think that Oreskes & Stern are asking an interesting question; are we properly estimating the potential impacts of climate change? I will say, though, that I’m not convinced that they’re correct that the effects of climate change are appearing faster than scientists anticipated.

When we think of tipping points, we typically mean climatic ones. For example, we could lose the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, Greenland, we could see substantial permafrost release, or we could potentially lose some ecosystems, such as the coral reefs, or the Amazon rain forest. As far as I’ve seen, we tend to regard these type of events as then leading to potentially catastrophic societal outcomes. However, it’s not obvious that this should necessarily be the case. On the one hand, losing Greenland would commit us to about 7m of sea level rise, but it might end up being slow enough to deal with. On the other hand, could there be major societal impacts even if we don’t actually cross any of these climatic tipping points?

My understanding is that this an extremely difficult problem to address. Most economic/societal models are not self-consistently modelling the evolution of the system; they’re typically assuming that society will respond to a perturbation in a way that is consistent with how its done so in the past. As the Oreskes & Stern article highights

[Economists] approach climate damages as minor perturbations around an underlying path of economic growth

Hence, this type of analysis cannot even address the question of whether or not there might be societal tipping points; it assumes, by definition, that there aren’t any. It doesn’t preclude the possibility of the impacts being large, but this would be determined entirely by the underlying change to our climate being large, not by us crossing some threshold beyond which the societal response suddenly becomes much larger. In other words, these economic models cannot consider discontinuities in how society responds to a changing climate.

Hence, as I understand it, anyone who claims that economic modelling tells us that the damages from climate change will be small is wrong; this type of modelling cannot rule out some kind of societal tipping point. It can give us some idea of how the damage might scale with warming and it can tells us something about how various policy levers might influence our future pathway. I don’t think, though, that it can rule out that society might respond in ways that were not expected, especially given that what we’re likely to experience, in the coming decades, is probably going to be unprecedented.

So, I thought that the Oreskes & Stern article was highlighting something that maybe we should be considering a bit more; could climate change cost us even more than we think? We might conclude that our estimates are reasonable, but I do think it’s a question worth asking. I also think that we should bear in mind that even if we could respond to the changes in ways that minimised the damage, there’s no guarantee that we will actually do so.

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172 Responses to Societal tipping points

  1. There was a paper, that I can no longer find, suggesting that one issue in the future could be that climate change will increase the probability of us experiencing multiple, severe, climate-related events at the same time. Even though similar events may happen today, it’s unlikely that we’d have to deal with them together. In the future, we may well end up having to deal with multiple events at the same time, which will probably influence how well we cope with such events (if anyone remembers the paper, and can remind me, that would be appreciated).

  2. Joshua says:

    Independent of the NYTimes editorial, thus was such a work of beauty from RPJr. that it must be commented on:

    > The message of delegitimization is a simple one in all political contexts: This entire group cannot be trusted because of who they are. Trust us instead.

    And the very next paragraph starts with

    > Some climate advocates may see potential political advantage in trying to create a public perception of emergency and crisis.

    Unintentional irony is a sad yet funny and ugly yet beautiful thing.

  3. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    > Hence, as I understand it, anyone who claims that economic modelling tells us that the damages from climate change will be small is wrong; this type of modelling cannot rule out some kind of societal tipping point.

    Seems to me that could run in the other direction as well; in other words, society may mobilize to address the risks more quickly than some models assume. Just as ice sheets might collapse more quickly than modeled, so might technologies be developed that offset events that are modeled over decades or centuries.

    And who know, people may learn to better account for patterns of bias in how they think about low probability/high damage risk over long time horizons.

  4. Ben McMillan says:

    I’m just reposting my comment from earlier, but economic/social computer models are just not subject to the same kind of care and rigorous testing that climate models are. Clearly integrated assessment models have big error bars, but it isn’t even clear they are ‘fit for purpose’. As in, are they better than just surveying a random bunch of experts about likely outcomes?

    The issue is whether IAMs provide a useful prediction of the future: but they don’t even do a very good job of explaining the 20th century.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4978232/
    ‘the economic growth model used by a prominent BC-IAM had little predictive power over the 20th century’. Even for hindcasting these models are dubious.

    This is from 2016: the economic components of IAMs are described as ‘largely untested’!

    Many economists are only just waking up to the idea that it might be a good idea to empirically validate their models…

  5. Joshua,

    Seems to me that could run in the other direction as well; in other words, society may mobilize to address the risks more quickly than some models assume.

    Indeed, we also can’t rule out that society may act effectively to address the risks. I, for one, hope we do. Not sure this is quite equivalent, though. Are there people who claim that economic models tell us that we can’t do this?

  6. Ben,
    Thanks, I think I may have missed your earlier posting of that comment.

  7. “Are there people who claim that economic models tell us that we can’t do this?”
    There are climate science and economic models that say we already are. The IPCC still reports a range of ECS as low as 1.5 and the claim that nobody has invested in clean energy is wrong. Europe and the US are switching from coal to natural gas, China is switching to nuclear, everyone has at least some renewables growth, and electric cars are pretty much inevitable. Oreskes needs total catastrophe to sell a political POV, but nobody else does and her apocalyptic vision is increasingly outside of the mainstream of both science and global politics.

  8. Much as it pains me to defend something (anything) Oreskes has written (with Stern being discounted 🙂 for the moment), the increased use of coal very much threatens to overwhelm our faltering steps towards a greener fuel portfolio.

    jeffnsails850 can be (is) totally correct. It does not matter if China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia meet their growing energy needs with coal, as they are at present. Mass movement towards a modern lifestyle, coupled with natural increase of the population in non-OECD countries, points us to a smoggy future. It does not point towards RCP 8.5. It does make RCP 4.5 quite likely.

    Eminently qualified people are happy to guess what that may portend.

  9. Tom,

    Mass movement towards a modern lifestyle, coupled with natural increase of the population in non-OECD countries, points us to a smoggy future. It does not point towards RCP 8.5. It does make RCP 4.5 quite likely.

    In 2006, RCP4.5 had a remaining cumulative emission (mean of range) of 831 GtC. We’ve probably emitted about 130GtC since then, so we’re now looking at another 600GtC. Given that we’re currently emitting about 10GtC per year, if we do continue to increase our emissions, then it seems more than quite likely.

  10. ATTP, yes, but as it is based on an assumed ECS of 3.0, I find it distinctly possible that we have more room to play. Maybe not much, but hopefully enough.

  11. Tom,
    No, it’s not based on an assumed ECS of 3.0. It’s based on what we would need to emit to follow a concentration pathway that produces a change in forcing (by 2100) of 4.5 W/m^2.

  12. Steven Mosher says:

    societal tipping points run both ways. take away my bacon and watch what happens.

  13. Steven,

    societal tipping points run both ways. take away my bacon and watch what happens.

    Sure, but I don’t think that really changes the basic point (it may even reinforce it somewhat).

  14. You are not convinced that climate change is happening faster than anticipated?

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjUt7_jn7XlAhUO7J4KHY1mBF8QFjAAegQIBRAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.com%2Fnews%2Fscience-environment-49689018&usg=AOvVaw3PWR2fkyWgRC3RsCM2u4W9
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjUt7_jn7XlAhUO7J4KHY1mBF8QFjABegQIAxAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Finsideclimatenews.org%2Fnews%2F25092019%2Fipcc-cryosphere-ocean-report-climate-change-sea-level-rise-greenland-antarctica&usg=AOvVaw0nmTocYcvQGOhUmBuiIQ1w
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=4&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjUt7_jn7XlAhUO7J4KHY1mBF8QFjADegQIABAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fskepticalscience.com%2Fprint.php&usg=AOvVaw3Pdv7Zv7gmZ7_toZbWRGw0
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=6&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjUt7_jn7XlAhUO7J4KHY1mBF8QFjAFegQIBBAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.climatechangenews.com%2F2019%2F09%2F25%2Fdying-oceans-rising-faster-predicted-un-warns-stark-report%2F&usg=AOvVaw19mPVTtXNW9WWhtSmp7j_v
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=9&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjUt7_jn7XlAhUO7J4KHY1mBF8QFjAIegQIBhAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationalgeographic.com%2Fenvironment%2F2019%2F08%2Farctic-permafrost-is-thawing-it-could-speed-up-climate-change-feature%2F&usg=AOvVaw31HRhmqrP6S9DX3RAO99H_
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=10&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjUt7_jn7XlAhUO7J4KHY1mBF8QFjAJegQIBxAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fearther.gizmodo.com%2Feurope-is-warming-even-faster-than-climate-models-predi-1837669154&usg=AOvVaw3c41wTslT-0S9XEORNrkqG

    I think if you are not convinced, you are not paying attention. I googled for “slower than expected” and google returned the same faster results.

    What would it take to convince you that global warming is happening faster than scientists anticipated? I think you have to cherrypick your scientists to get that result. Maybe go with Wadhams and McPherson to avoid convincing?

    Check it with Kevin Anderson: https://skepticalscience.com/Anderson.html

    I think you are fooling yourself with your skepticism regarding the unanticipated speed of climate change. Is this something that you are simply not ready to face yet?

    Cheers,

    Mike

  15. small,
    I don’t think any of the changes are really outside the range of what was expected (Arctic sea ice may be an exception).

  16. Willard says:

    Mike,

    I will point at this:

    > I think you are fooling yourself

    And I will point at this:

    > Cheers

    That is all.

  17. “In 2006, RCP4.5 had a remaining cumulative emission (mean of range) of 831 GtC. We’ve probably emitted about 130GtC since then, so we’re now looking at another 600GtC.”

    How much is less interesting than where. The answer to that is “not in developed nations.” One country burns more coal than the rest of the world combined and it isn’t in Europe or the Americas. Without a technical solution to power that cleanly this is whistling past the graveyard.
    That one nation has already ignored Oreskes criticism of their chosen technical solution* and abandoned her chosen economic solutions.
    Oreskes is worse than wrong, she’s irrelevant to the discussion. The public faces of the climate crisis are a 16-year-old reciting Guardian editorials, a scientist with nothing interesting to say, and privileged white people nonsensically gluing themselves to electric public transit. Meanwhile the emissions happen thousands of miles away in lands where there isn’t a soul who would find anything useful in Oreskes’ writing.

    *( https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2019/07/29/the-false-promise-nuclear-power/kS8rzs8f7MAONgXL1fWOGK/story.html )

  18. jeff,
    What mostly matters is cumulative (total) emissions. The USA still leads this, Germany 4th, UK 5th.

  19. attp says “I don’t think any of the changes are really outside the range of what was expected (Arctic sea ice may be an exception).”

    Links please. Can you provide some data/evidence to support your thoughts on this?

    Cheers

    Mike

  20. Willard says:

    > Oreskes is worse than wrong, she’s irrelevant to the discussion.

    The discussion being “but China” and “but nukes” once again.

    Drive-by done.

  21. ATTP, sure past emissions matter in some very real sense, but current emissions and future emissions are the only ones you can actually do anything about. Unless you’re advocating for some method to remove carbon from the atmosphere.
    Yesterday is gone, you can’t impact climate change without doing something about where the emissions are happening today and tomorrow.

  22. BBD says:

    Those nations responsible for the largest share of historical emissions are obliged to curtail as fast as possible. This will include not importing huge quantities of goods from elsewhere, then blaming elsewhere for the emissions thus created.

  23. Greg Robie says:

    Lesson [quickly – no lie!] forgot! So [another] repost … with apologies:

    I saw a tweet of yours about this yesterday. I read the essay, and started composing a response to the request for questions. Here is the current draft.

    ATTP, perhaps this phrasing and use of examples will be easier to follow. And to any with edits/critiques/etc. a preemptive thanks! =)

    Draft:

    As a preface to my economic question, the closing paragraph (perhaps an editorial/[economic?] prerequisite of a happy ending) effectively dismissed the substance of an otherwise well written essay. Steve Keen’s well considered dismissive critique* of William Nordhaus’ economic assumptions relative to his [now, Noble-winning] 2°C limit generating modeling should give license to revisit this essay’s substance within the previous scientific 1°C constraint as the upper bounds regarding recovering the climate system from perturbations in the matter of anthropogenic fossil carbon emission forcings. (And we are at 1.2°C of warming.)

    * https://evonomics.com/steve-keen-nordhaus-climate-change-economics/

    Now my questions:

    —What known economic threats exist regarding the asserted “new, greener economic path for growth and development” that is ostensibly yet considered possible?

    —Where might the highest probability for economic unknown unknown threats lie?

    As background, and if it is helpful context regarding these questions and answering them, I like to consider that our economic choices can be simplistically summarized as follows: mega-international financial institutions assign roughly $300 trillion dollars to the value of global assets that are managed/leveraged to yield a $60 trillion global economy. This includes fundamentally discounting the value of damage done to the Halocene’s climate system and the loss of extracted and depleted resources. This, as economic activity, and again simplistically, is the affecting of a 20% R.O.I. (return on investment). Ongoing growth and ‘development’ is presumed – one way or another – to be sustainable.

    This expanding globalized economy also garners about 80% of its energy from fossil carbon. In doing so this economy is increasing greenhouse gas carbon emissions in the atmosphere in two significant ways: directly through combustion; indirectly through land use change. Revisiting my economic questions:

    —How fast do threats I’ve asked about need to unfold for the write down of leveraged debt on the valued and indebted assets to be sufficient to thaw the 2007 flash freeze of the collapse of the debt paradigm of the economic meme?

    —When does the “bullet train” of globalized capitalism thereby run out of functional steam/power/debt?

    —When did the economy overshoot the regenerative bio-capacity of this planet?

    Might these be examples of what has been written about in the NYT essay that could inform the answers to my questions:

    Inuit elders, who are skilled Arctic hunters, have observed a significant shift in where the sun sets for the polar day during their lifetime (~70 years). During a particular hunting season they are, over ten years ago, experiencing an extra hour of twilight suitable for hunting. Navigational stars used for effecting safe return travel from hunting in polar night are no longer where the “should” be. All three of these observations can be attributed to increased atmospheric refraction of the sun.

    An increased refraction of the sun and stars is required for the observed changes to be observable. The SOUSY VHF radar in Svalbard data documents both a melt season lift and a mid-winter lift in the Arctic tropopause. These lifts would provide additional refraction and explain the trend in the observations – IF!!! – the data set was long enough to be accepted as scientifically significant (at least 30 years). It is not. There is the less comprehensive data collected by radiosonde methods that is long enough – and has been applied to seasonal refraction challenges experienced in microwave communication in the lower troposphere that is linked to climate change in the Arctic. Or, that “IF!!!” is really only an “if” (i.e., an embedded example in these examples of the conservative bias of science that the essay points to).

    When quantified, the Inuit elders’ observations would yield parameters that would constrain an additional un-modeled seasonal and regional forcing of between 0 & 1.4% of additional solar insolation. Durning the Arctic twilight such would be in the upper troposphere (which by a convention born of mid-latitude bias, such is not modeled insolation, and not significant).

    However, the Industrial Revolution, which represents humanity’s combustion of fossil carbon at scale, introduced a new soot to the atmosphere, including the Arctic’s. Black carbon soot would function as tiny solar collectors in the melt season lift of the Arctic tropopause and transfer heat via conduction. Again, and by mid-latitude biased convention (and because of the limited computational power of the current generation of super-computers), conduction is not considered a significant heat transfer mechanism. Only convection has such scientific relevance and utility.

    A 1.4% additional forcing would have a doubling rate of about a half century. Using 1820 as the start of significant fossil carbon combustion by human societies, this un-modeled forcing only became visible during its current doubling. Except that such a quantity of “missing”-from-the-models heat would also go a long way toward explaining the otherwise “early*” loss of Arctic sea ice, permafrost, and land-based ice. My efforts to quantify this concerning sea ice suggest it is currently about two trillion joules a year.

    * as defined by conservative modeling.

    Another reasoned scientific convention is limiting the modeling out through 2100. However, this well reasoned convention tends to discount natural forcings of time spans greater than this century. As a consequence, and a positive feedback concerning the noted scientific reticence, studying and better understanding fast feedbacks become/became a focus. The recent IPCC report on 1.5°C contains an example. The 2014 Ricke/Caldria quantifying, with 90% certainty, of the length of time for the peak heat of any carbon emission to be realized in surface air temperatures has a medium value of 10 years. This is within a range of 6 – 30 years. The fat tail of this range is likely a feature of the fat tail in the climate sensitivity data that was used in the study. The above example is a likely reason for that fat tail.

    This next example expands on the two trillion joules mentioned above and involves the latent heat of ice.

    As the Arctic sea ice vanishes, and significantly faster than models predict (i.e., within this century – and, now, likely well before it’s half-century mark). The solar insolation that has been seasonally melting that ice is becoming available to warm something else. Arctic sea ice, once this heat’s permanent Holocene home keeps 5 sextillion joules (5 followed by 19 zeros) busy without adding much heat or changing the planet’s albedo much. This is about 1.6% of the planets total annual insolation. As it transitions toward no longer meeting the heat requirements of the latent heat of ice, this percentage will peak with an effective doubling time of about 44 years. The death spiral of the Arctic sea ice extent indicates that some of this heat is already warming something else and therefore constitutes a part of a positive feedback.

    Because the latent heat of ice entering the active warming cycle was initially calculated and modeled to be an issue in the next century, subsequent assumptions and conventions have effected an extreme example of the conservatism of the scientific process in matters as complex and multi-disciplined as the climate system.

    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

    >

  24. “The four RCPs are based on multi-gas emission scenarios which were selected from the published literature (Fujino et al. 2006; Smith and Wigley 2006; Clarke et al. 2007; Riahi et al. 2007; van Vuuren et al. 2007; Hijioka et al. 2008; Wise et al. 2009) and updated for release as RCPs (Masui et al. 2011; Riahi et al. 2011; Thomson et al. 2011; van Vuuren et al. 2011b). Because they were produced by four different Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs), there are some inconsistencies in the relationships between emissions and concentrations that could complicate the interpretation of the climatic consequences of the four different scenarios. Furthermore, although concentrations drive traditional coupled atmosphere-ocean climate models, CMIP5 also includes simulations by Earth System Models (ESMs) with a full representation of the carbon cycle. These ESMs are optionally driven by prescribed emissions of carbon dioxide. The CMIP5 exercise, therefore, requires a set of historical and future pathways for both concentrations and emissions (see Appendix 1), ideally produced by a single model. Starting from these standardised concentration datasets, forthcoming CMIP5 intercomparisons will allow our understanding of the relationship between emissions and concentrations to be re-defined.”

    “As concentrations are somewhat dependent on the future climate itself (due to climate feedbacks in the carbon and other gas cycles), we emulate median response characteristics of models assessed in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report using the reduced-complexity carbon cycle climate model MAGICC6. Projected ‘best-estimate’ global-mean surface temperature increases (using inter alia a climate sensitivity of 3°C) range from 1.5°C by 2100 for the lowest of the four RCPs, called both RCP3-PD and RCP2.6, to 4.5°C for the highest one, RCP8.5, relative to pre-industrial levels.”

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10584-011-0156-z

  25. izen says:

    The article is paywalled and have not bothered to find a free version, so the following general comments about the concept.

    The first approach is to look for historical examples.
    There are a number that relate to particular cultures or nations, fewer to global changes as the global interconnection of society is relatively recent.
    Most often within nations tipping points are marked by a revolutionary shift in political governance. The Russian revolution and the Fascist takeover in Germany being two large recent examples. The collapse of the British Empire and the post-war independence movements might be another.

    The abolition of slavery is one example of a deeply embedded societal system that had pockets of resistance (mainly from Quakers) for a period of time, but where the practice of slavery as a large scale economic component of society ‘tipped’ relatively quickly once the major players started meeting opposition from activist groups. The first British group was formed in 1787, enlarged and expanded in 1803 and the Slavery Abolition Act was passed in 1833. It took another 30 years and a civil war for the US to catch up.

    The industrial revolution followed a similar timetable. over less than 30 years the population shifted from predominately rural agricultural workers to a majority urban industrial workers. Again this was not a simultaneous global shift, but played out with a similar rapidity in different Nations.

    The most obvious global tipping points are financial. The sequence of economic collapses in 1887, 1929, and most recently 2007 have all tipped the global economic system into new structures and forms of finance and business.

    Climate change may just be one catalyst that drives a societal tipping point along with another significant financial collapse which responds to the egregious inefficiency of extreme inequality that has been growing.
    It seems to take about 30 years for a step change to progress from a small activist movement, to wide societal change.
    Perhaps this is related to the generational timescale.

  26. “This will include not importing huge quantities of goods from elsewhere, then blaming elsewhere for the emissions thus created.”

    You would ban imports? Or just ban complaining that the imports produce CO2?

    Offshoring manufacturing is a terrible climate policy, but it has been the global policy at least since the Kyoto Protocol spelled it out so clearly in ’97 that the US Senate unanimously voted against it for that reason.
    You’re still stuck with the need to focus on a functional alternative to fossil fuels if you care about carbon emissions.

  27. The NYT article and ATTP’s original post themselves might make for an interesting discussion thread.

    Anyone want to take a stab at (actually) that?

  28. mrkenfabian says:

    The potential for human mismanagement to make a manageable problem much worse is not hypothetical; surely the existing mire of conflicted politics around energy, emissions and climate is a standout real world example. I have long thought mismanagement is the multiplier for bad outcomes for people and their societies much worse – and will have more direct impact than direct climate and weather affects.

    The potential for societal and economic tipping points – for events that can balloon out of control – is there, although undoubtedly moderated by growing capabilities of governments to identify and crack down on dissent internally. The ever present temptation for hard pressed political leaders to draw on the unifying power of prejudices and hatreds, if only to divert and distract, won’t go away. Mainstream media’s capacity for influencing opinion is probably greater than ever before and will, by the nature of it’s business model tend to support existing power and wealth.

    On the other hand, more optimistically I think the potential for a societal tipping point for widespread climate concern making climate science denial and obstruction politically untenable is real – and I think we are closer to such a tipping point than ever before. Whilst the politics of obstruction will surely continue, through leading politicians and business leaders embracing hypocrisy – actions at direct odds with their rhetoric, papered over by compliant (ie amoral and self interested media) – I think the flow on from passing that tipping point will make even that kind of gaming of politics on the climate issue increasingly difficult.

    I would like to think that, despite several decades of societal checks and balances being out of balance with reluctance to apply them, that they can be responsive to a clear alignment of consistent expert advice and public opinion.

  29. Greg Robie says:

    @ rust – I think if you read the Keen critique of Nordhaus it is clear that once his 2°C was policy, science funding followed suit, and [enough] scientists willingly went along such that all the equivocating in the world will not alter the fact that the economics are wrong because the economic shock is greater than the system can cope with.

    FWIW, my father was part of an MIT study group for the military at the outset of the Cold War. The question that needed an answer was how many atomic bombs did the US need to defeat the Soviet Union. And this was before the USSR had the bomb. The study group concluded that the explosion of an atomic devise in five major cities would effect such chaos that a retaliatory response would not be possible. Right or wrong in its calculus, the point is that enough sufficient concurrent social disruption will paralyze a society. The unfolding klimakatastrophe of the Anthropocene has such in abundant sufficiency … and Nordhaus discounted this, policy makers followed suit.

    Of course it is going to cost more than what is imaginable. Just like it seems to be unimaginable to reduce global emissions. This is how motivated reasoning ‘works’.

    And FYI, the NYT is no longer taking questions. So I better have had fun writing for the sake of the challenge that such is for me. I am less than pleased with the complexity of what I ended up producing. But motivated reasoning does make it hard to follow something that won’t be imagined. And writing for such an imagination remains =)

    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

    >

  30. angech says:

    ATTP “ anyone who claims that economic modelling tells us that the damages from climate change will be small is wrong; this type of modelling cannot rule out some kind of societal tipping point. It can give us some idea of how the damage might scale with warming and it can tells us something about how various policy levers might influence our future pathway. I don’t think, though, that it can rule out that society might respond in ways that were not expected, especially given that what we’re likely to experience, in the coming decades, is probably going to be unprecedented.”

    Unprecedented is the word of the decade. Even, or especially, if nothing were to happen it would still be “unprecedented”.
    On the issue of societal tipping points it is very much Asimov. Modelling takes into account what we know and expect. Tipping points are unknowns. Like volcanos or meteorites, Ebola or a new religion. An interesting aside to imagine but not something that a model can deal with.

  31. Tom,
    Yes, if you want to associate an emission pathway to a concentration pathway, you do need to take the temperature change into account. However, it’s unlikely to change it all that much. Given how much more we would probably need to emit to follow an RCP4.5 concentration pathway, it seems more than simply quite likely.

  32. David B. Benson says:

    I’ll suggest that Zimbabwe has already tipped and that the Republic of South Africa is seriously tipping.

  33. Greg Robie says:

    @ angech re tipping points and a new religion, because of motivated reasoning, that “new” religion is here and is GREED-as-go[]d’s CapitalismFail.

    Repeating myself, motivated reasoning tends to be what feeds irrational thinking. It is a neurological adaptation that enabled the evolution of self-aware critters. And that process is a chicken or the egg thing – that really doesn’t matter much. Here we are, self-aware AND clueless. 😉

    In matters that invoke significantly elevated emotional response, motivated reasoning is accessed. The common secular critique of religion can be summarized as [exasperatingly?] pointing out the irrationality of a religious belief.

    Therefore I posit that since we cannot not be irrational (especially socially), that we cannot not be “religious”. Traditional religions have a lot to say about avarice, and none of it is good. But, GREED-is-go[]d. Therefore I argue that it is the loss of this “new” religion that we are in the midst of; a death of go[]d experience. It is effecting, as religions tend to do/rationalize, a new war. For all this war’s nuisanced complexity, this one is, at its core, a global generational civil war. The age thing predicts the odds on winner in advance, but as with all wars, everyone looses.

    To the degree this is plausibly our condition, the rational response would be to loose as gracefully as is imaginable. I imagine that the best way to do this is something that is learned in kindergarden: hold hands and cross the street together. Hat tip to Robert Fulghum.

    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

    >

  34. Chubbs says:

    It would be interesting to go back and look at some of the old IPCC documents. My impression is that the following are being impacted faster than anticipated 20-30 years ago: ice sheets, sea ice, permafrost, forests (fires and droughts), and coral reefs. Not surprising, since we don’t have the science experience for rapid climate change.

  35. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Tipping points are unknowns.”

    This is obviously not true. If the Greenland ice sheet were to melt, albedo feedback would make it unlikely to grow back. That is a tipping point. It isn’t unknown.

  36. izen says:

    Is the concept that is being invoked by ‘tipping points’ in this context something similar to what has also been described as the Seneca cliff?
    That is that when a complex system reaches the point of instability it will collapse very rapidly.
    The metaphor is related to the physical example of a landslide or avalanche. the slow accumulation of stresses produces small linear responses until a yield point where failure of the system is rapid and catastrophic.

  37. He/she is likely confusing tipping points with the concept of black swans or dragon-kings, which Taleb calls gray swans https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dragon_King_Theory

  38. The concept of the Seneca cliff is often discussed in the context of natural resource depletion modeling, and was coined by Ugo Bardi in that specific context. The idea is that whenever you see a resource usage profile that appears to be plateauing, that plateau is often caused by an increase in extraction rate, which is necessary to prevent a decline. But when the increase eventually loses effectiveness, due to the finite nature of any non-renewable natural resource, the resource usage will crash. The crash happens faster when the extraction rate accelerates. So it’s not so much an instability as a logical consequence of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object — something has to give eventually.

    There’s a very aggressive form of depletion that may often fall a Gompertz model which we describe in one of our book chapters and apply to phosphorus extraction, which is an ideal case study

  39. dikranmarsupial says:

    PP yes, “black swan” fits the bill rather better than “tipping point”

  40. Mal Adapted says:

    Jeffnsail50:

    That one nation has already ignored Oreskes criticism of their chosen technical solution* and abandoned her chosen economic solutions.
    Oreskes is worse than wrong, she’s irrelevant to the discussion. The public faces of the climate crisis are a 16-year-old reciting Guardian editorials, a scientist with nothing interesting to say, and privileged white people nonsensically gluing themselves to electric public transit. Meanwhile the emissions happen thousands of miles away in lands where there isn’t a soul who would find anything useful in Oreskes’ writing.

    This is glib nonsense, even for you. 1) You cite a duly-labeled Op-Ed as though it were fact. 2) Within wide bounds, every nation is free to choose its own economic and technical decarbonization solutions and ensure they work together. 3) Due to its ultimate economic and thus political drivers, the climate crisis absolutely needs charismatic faces. Ms. Thunberg more than meets the requirement: a child seeming to combine secular Joan of Arc with aspy Pippi Longstocking, who emerges from modern global culture to lead us; the more convincing for both her explicit methodological naturalism and her preter-naturally sophisticated grasp of climate science. She’s yet more credible for being apparently wired for candor:

    I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, OCD and selective mutism. That basically means I only speak when I think it’s necessary. Now is one of those moments.

    Frankly, “selective mutism” sounds like a good diagnosis to have. It’s too bad more of us aren’t so afflicted. I, for one, am grateful pig-tailed, non-neurotypical 16-yr-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden is compelled to speak.

    Moving on: 4) Privileged white people are, in any fair assessment, overwhelming responsible for the climate crisis, and bear proportional responsibility for addressing it. 5) We chose to power our economic development by transferring fossil carbon to the atmosphere. 6) If we choose to stop doing that, by obtaining power from alternative (including nuclear) sources instead, people thousands of miles away will benefit as much as we do. That choice must be made collectively, however, if ultimate tragedy is to be averted. 7) It’s therefore good that Oreskes’ economic writing is useful to at least some privileged white people, whether or not we’re ‘glued’ to any particular technical solution.

    Lastly, 8) I attest that Dr. Oreskes is far from irrelevant to the discussion. She is coauthor on a newly-published report by John Cook (founder of SkepticalScience) et al. titled “America Misled: How the fossil fuel industry deliberately misled Americans about climate change. It adds substantially to the public record, to which she’s already contributed, of the so-far effective disinformation campaign funded by fossil-fuel capitalists. One can hardly call their investment strategy a conspiracy, as so far it appears to have been legal as well as profitable; and in any case it’s scarcely a secret, being perhaps the best contemporaneously-documented ‘conspiracy’ in recent history.

  41. Mal Adapted says:

    Stepping up for all my minor typos, I know they can still be jarring. Beware of over-editing one’s comments 8^(.

  42. dikranmarsupial says:

    [No need to respond to JeffN’s baiting. -W]

  43. As a 16-year-old, I learned about resource depletion from a fishing magazine (cuz that’s what I did as a kid). This is part of what the editor said in his editorial:

    “You read about “oil from shale”, right? You heard about 1,000 billion barrels of oil out west? Don’t get excited, it’s going to stay there. Dr. Hubbert told the Senate Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs it wouldn’t work, three years ago this month.

    It really sounds simple. You “simply” dig up such enormous quantities of shale (1.88 million tons a day,) that it’s equal to digging a Panama Canal every week. You crush it fine and heat to 1,100 degrees in a retort to boil off the oil locked in the rock. Then you get rid of the rock. Only now it’s turned caustic and has increased in bulk by 20% to 33%. So you back-fill the leftovers, called tailings, into the hole you dug it out of. Since you still have a lot left over, you dump it into the empty scenic canyons of the west. To do this you need to grab off 89% of the undeveloped water of Colorado and Utah and half of Wyoming’s. Oh yes, and you turn the Colorado River system into alkaline salts which means you wreck the agriculture in Colorado, Arizona and southern California. What will this get you? 1-1/2 million barrels of oil a day out of the 17 million per day that the U.S. is using!”

    jeffnsails, Can you guess when this was written?

  44. BBD says:

    You would ban imports? Or just ban complaining that the imports produce CO2?

    I would ban false dichotomies and deliberate misinterpretations of what I wrote. If I were king for a day, of course.

    All I have is a voice
    To undo the folded lie,
    The romantic lie in the brain
    Of the sensual man-in-the-street
    And the lie of Authority
    Whose buildings grope the sky:
    There is no such thing as the State
    And no one exists alone;
    Hunger allows no choice
    To the citizen or the police;
    We must love one another or die.

    – Auden

  45. It appears Dr. Hubbart got the process, the environmental impact, and the forecast of production wrong.
    Fishing’s great out west. Probably better than it was when you or I were kids. Skiing too, lots of snow last winter in particular.

    What year was that?

  46. David B. Benson says:

    jeffnsail850 has it wrong about fishing here in the Pacific Northwest. Anadronous species continue to decline.

  47. Steven Mosher says:

    “Modelling takes into account what we know and expect. Tipping points are unknowns. Like volcanos or meteorites, Ebola or a new religion. An interesting aside to imagine but not something that a model can deal with.”

    err tipping points are irreversible state changes.

    For social “state changes” . I’m not sure folks
    have thought through the metaphor every well. but it sounds scary.

  48. izen says:

    Is there a ‘tipping point’ where the repetitive fires in California and the precautionary power blackouts intended to prevent them become so cumulatively inconvenient, economically damaging, and dangerous that it creates a social shift in the attitude towards the viability of habitation in the at risk areas ?

  49. angech says:

    Izen, we have major bushfires in Victoria Australia but the people who like to go bush value their independence and environmental beauty more than the risk of dying in a conflagration. They are also more immune to power shortages as they can have solar and generation power or gas bottles. They also hate cutting down trees.
    Main problem is overhead is so much cheaper than underground to connect and transfer power.

  50. izen says:

    @-WHUT
    I know you follow this issue and may already be aware of these developments.

    https://www.ft.com/content/187f8176-f4f4-11e9-b018-3ef8794b17c6
    Investors starve US shale drillers of capital
    Bankruptcies are mounting across the sector, underlining a squeeze on funding

    I am not sure if it can be classified as a societal tipping point, but it is certainly an economic one. Peak shale oil seems to have passed in mid-2018, or at least the previous growth in the sector is now on a downward trend. Further funding is about to drop below the debt burden for the whole sector and has already resulted in a big increase in bankruptcy for many smaller enterprises with consolidation that does not appear to be generating much enthusiasm or improvement in the sector.

    The Shale Oil business seems to be caught in the ‘return on investment’ trap. With oil prices low it can only offer a return by expanding to provide more product at less cost from economies of scale. But increased production pushing up supply depresses prices further with global demand low.

    If the US wants to pursue a policy of ‘energy independence’ in oil despite these negative economic factors, then the only option, short of a Nationalized oil institution, will be Public-Private investments where government money subsidises the shale oil extraction despite the negative financial return. With all the opportunities for gaming the system that provides.
    I expect we will see initial moves in this direction with special tax loopholes, and allowances to try and prop up the sector as time goes forward. A blatant effort to prevent a ‘tipping point’ where shale oil becomes a stranded asset because it is no longer profitable to extract.

  51. Ben McMillan says:

    Canberra in Australia lost 500 homes in 2003 to bushfire. I’m not sure it had a big long-term impact to people’s perceptions. Several people died, and there was lots of damage, most of which was insured. City continues to grow. People from Melbourne though have definitely become more wary of building out in the forest though: I think that they are factoring in a big fire once in their lifetime and especially with kids involved most wouldn’t build out there.

    But many Australians have sat on a beach watching a fire wondering whether they’ll have a house to go back to. Overall a very small proportion of properties burn down each year, but if you have to rebuild once per generation, it would definitely put most people off.

    These risks (and floods etc) are pretty strongly tied to climate change in the minds of most, but on the other hand there’s a lot of money to be made digging up coal, so there’s a lot of not wanting to know going on. The people who are most exposed out of towns are also the people most likely to be employed in industries that make the climate problem worse (eg cows+coal).

  52. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech acknowledges his error in the usual way…

  53. Jeffh says:

    As David said. Jeffnails is usually wrong in what he writes, but with respect to fisheries in the US northwest he is 180 degrees wrong. Salmon and steelhead abundance is at around 5% of historic highs reached only several decades ago. At the global level, of course, most fisheries are on the brink of collapse. Humans are literally vacuuming the green seas.

    Makes me wonder where people like Jeffnails scrape up their information. Personally I think many of them make it up as they go along. The fact is that biodiversity across most of the biosphere is in freefall. I have just finished writing a manuscript with a number of colleagues on measures needed to reverse collapsing insect populations. I honestly believe that we have passed tipping points for much of biodiversity. We are going to have to face the environmental and economic consequences very soon.

  54. Dave_Geologist says:

    one issue in the future could be that climate change will increase the probability of us experiencing multiple, severe, climate-related events at the same time

    Here’s one ATTP, for wheat in Europe: Adverse weather conditions for European wheat production will become more frequent with climate change. Single adverse events are projected from GCMs to double by 2060, but two adverse events in one growing season to more than double. Only three of 14 sites have three adverse events in one growing season today, and that with a return time of more than 125 years. By 2060 only three don’t get a triple whammy, with return times of 20-30 years for Spain and 75-250 years for the others.

    If you have a lot of pdfs and haven’t already installed Recoll, you might want to give it a try. It’s an open-source full-text searcher and indexer, available on Linux, Windows and Mac. The Linux version is available on all the major repositories, but you can add a ppa if you want the bleeding-edge version. It’s astonishingly fast, even with a large index (mine is pushing 10Gb, but I am running an i7 on an SSD), and there are plugins for all sorts: spreadsheets, ppts, images (Exif), email, compressed files, etc. AND (all terms), OR (any term) and Filename are available from a dropdown, “” searches for an exact string, and there’s Query language (Boolean) for complex searches. There seems to be a hierarchy in the order hits are returned, “” at the top, then two ANDs beat an OR etc. Not dissimilar to Google. You can open the file or an excerpt directly from the search results, and right-click reveals additional options. It’s a bit of a resource hog when first indexing, but then it just does incremental updates.

  55. Dave_Geologist says:

    Incidentally, as I’ve mentioned before wheat, and probably rice, are examples of crops where negative societal synergies would add to the multiple climate events (drought followed by flooding, for example) which are expected to become more common. If you look at the map in the paper I posted you’re probably thinking “I didn’t know the European epicentre of winter wheat production was in England”. That’s because the UK does very little international wheat trading. We’re about self-sufficient, but export surplus soft wheat and import some hard wheat we can’t grow because we’re too wet. Net imports or net exports vary year to year, but are usually 5-10% of the total at most. Most wheat production is like that: countries grow their own, and just use the global market to peak-shave and for speciality varieties. There are only a few big exporters like Russia or Canada. We saw what happened to supply and prices when Russia had a bad harvest and kept most for domestic consumption. What happens when Western Europe suffers a harvest failure? We’ll suddenly want to import an order of magnitude more than usual. The price will spike, and we’ll be able to afford it, but countries like Egypt, which imports more than half and where their daily bread is considered by the population to be a human right, will be priced out of the market.

  56. BBD says:

    Here’s one ATTP, for wheat in Europe: Adverse weather conditions for European wheat production will become more frequent with climate change. Single adverse events are projected from GCMs to double by 2060, but two adverse events in one growing season to more than double. Only three of 14 sites have three adverse events in one growing season today, and that with a return time of more than 125 years. By 2060 only three don’t get a triple whammy, with return times of 20-30 years for Spain and 75-250 years for the others.

    This is how it will probably play out – a general decrease in background food security and a ratcheting up of social tensions punctuated by increasingly severe food price shocks and acute shortages.

  57. Willard says:

    Are state changes scary when no media covers them? Asking for a Chilean friend:

  58. Apparently initiated by a subway fare increase, which is a regressive attack on an energy subsidy. Much like in France where energy costs are a significant load on the poor, any marginal increase impacts them the most.

  59. izen says:

    @-W
    “Are state changes scary when no media covers them? Asking for a Chilean friend:”

    The MSM have covered the social unrest in Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela, although you do have to dig down deep to the foreign news sections, often buried far below the latest sexual activities of the ‘famous for being famous’ celebrities.

    The revealing aspect is the very different framing of the unrest in these cases.
    In Venezuela the unrest is portrayed as a legitimate uprising against a ‘socialist’ government. The violence and deaths are almost always attributed to the ‘authoritarian’ crackdown of the government. When the issues behind the unrest are discussed it is framed as a valid response to government attempts at wealth redistribution against the interests of the ‘middle class’. The role of gross inequality, and the western powers role in stoking efforts to oppose the government policy to reduce this inequality is rarely mentioned.

    In Chile and Ecuador the role of extreme inequality as the driver of social unrest is again routinely omitted from the reporting. The public demonstrations which are invariably grass root responses are depicted as ‘riots’ chaos’ and insurrection against the legitimate government. The fact that it is the government that is authoritarian and is the originator of violence by deploying the police and army to suppress these protests gets omitted from the prevailing narrative.

    So the problem is not that there is NO media coverage. It is that the media coverage has an asymmetry in its depiction of which sides are the source of authoritarian violence. A glaring hole in its explanation, missing almost entirely the role of extreme inequality as the driving motivation.
    There is also the way in which those defending the inequality with authoritarian violence are always somehow depicted as the legitimate actors, and those responding to that inequality with social disruption as the people with the bad motives and source of violence.

  60. Willard says:

    > So the problem is not that there is NO media coverage. It is that the media coverage has an asymmetry in its depiction of which sides are the source of authoritarian violence.

    Sure, but try to turn this into a Zen koan.

  61. izen says:

    how about a haiku ?

    When people rebel
    The army shoots to defend
    inequality

  62. Francis says:

    The people of Paradise would love to comment on the synergy between 1 C warming in California and bad utility management practices. But since they all got burned out, they’ve got other things to do. And, from the LA times today, preventive electricity cuts are interfering with peoples’ abilIty to receive evacuation notices on their phones.

    Yes, our societal infrastructure is much more fragile than we think.

  63. Mal Adapted says:

    izen:

    Is there a ‘tipping point’ where the repetitive fires in California and the precautionary power blackouts intended to prevent them become so cumulatively inconvenient, economically damaging, and dangerous that it creates a social shift in the attitude towards the viability of habitation in the at risk areas ?

    Wildfire is an interesting challenge to lukewarmers who favor ‘adaptation’ to AGW over rapid decarbonization. Californians and wildfires is an excellent case, showing how complicated adaptation can be. I don’t have numbers, but one ‘tipping point’ just reached is PG&E’s bankruptcy in the face of crushing liability. The regulated nature of the utility industry internalizes risks for both producers and consumers of electricity, when producers adjust their rate structures to cover liability insurance. Apparently it still wasn’t financially sound for PG&E to reduce the risks by burying rural power lines, which would require more drastic rate increases.

    Instead, the company ‘adapted’ to climate change by pleading financial failure and shutting off the power, leaving rate payers in the cold and dark. While wildfire risk to rate payers is relatively egalitarian (mcmansions and manufactured homes appear to burn up about the same), the local risk of sudden, extended loss of electricity is less so: wealthier consumers can adapt to power outages more easily than poorer folks, because generators, batteries, roof-top solar etc. are expensive. OTOH, electricity producers and insurance providers alike tend to be run by high-income individuals, who are shielded from personal liability under laws governing incorporation. Yet for consumers, moving out of the high-risk zone may be costly, especially when their houses become uninsurable and unsalable while they’re still being payed for, perhaps years before it burns. At the same time, personal bankruptcy is an increasingly fraught option.

    Nonetheless, power-line ignition is only the most proximate cause of wildfire, and sudden unavailability of electricity just one of the ensuing economic tipping points. The relevant risks to life and property arise from more ultimate causes, including (in rough order of introduction): removal of fine ground-layer fuels by grazing; selective removal of fire-resistant old growth; inadequate non-commercial thinning; over-zealous fire suppression; heedless migration of middle-class property owners to the urban-wildland interface; and of course accelerated warming and drying due to AGW. One conclusion is that the insurance industry, which is multinational when reinsurance is included, has a critical role to play in both adaptation and mitigation. I’ve seen authoritative proposals for it to acknowledge its collective responsibility and step up. Meanwhile, insurers are pulling out of high-risk areas of California. Hmm.

  64. Willard says:

    To generalize your haiku, izen:

  65. izen says:

    @-W

    Came across a useful definition of conservatism/neoliberal capitalism/authoritarian power; (delete as applicable) at the Slacktivist blog.

    Law and Order always protects and allows the actions of the in-group, and binds and constrains the actions of the out-group.

    An obvious application is in ‘free market’ economies.
    Corporate management and contract law protects property and limited liability of owners, but binds and constrains collective bargaining and union action of workers.

  66. I think the obvious solution to CA wildfires is to sell or take insurance proceeds/buyout and move to a “safer” area. In that regard, the Salish Sea region is expected to population grow by leaps and bounds over the next 30 years: https://mynorthwest.com/883939/central-puget-sound-population/?

    So despite the fact that total fertility rate is not increasing for the US, I can expect to live in a region that is straining the ecosystem already with the human population, but will be continuing to become more population dense.

    Some folks (developers and builders, for sure) are not convinced that this population growth will be a problem. I am convinced it will be a problem and if I live long enough, I expect to watch the southern puget sound orca pod disappear.

    Some folks think they fishing and maritime environment have improved over the past 40 plus years.

    What can a person say?

    How about an extinction haiku, Izen?

    A warming climate
    So many things are now gone
    Extinction event

    Cheers,

    Mike

  67. Russell Seitz says:

    And Then There’s Physics : October 24, 2019 at 5:35 pm
    I don’t think any of the changes are really outside the range of what was expected (Arctic sea ice may be an exception).

    As global warming is not simultaneous, and the first regions to feel it may be far from centers of population. avatars of narrative continuity in the service of social change like Oreskes & Stern are naturally more interested in amplifying the political impact of the playbook that reflects their views and those of the progressive journals and organizations that endorse it–

    “Covering Climate Change: A New Playbook for a 1.5-Degree World,”

    https://www.coveringclimatenow.org

    than arresting the acceleration of Arctic albedo loss.

  68. Willard says:

    > Law and Order always protects and allows the actions of the in-group, and binds and constrains the actions of the out-group.

    Far from being irrelevant, I think it’s central to our predicament. The resistance toward social change comes from the economic establishment. Not hippies. On the contrary.

  69. “The resistance toward social change comes from the economic establishment. Not hippies.”

    More fun to punch hippies, plus they usually don’t punch back.

  70. izen says:

    @-smallblue
    “More fun to punch hippies, plus they usually don’t punch back.”

    Even better, there is no legal penalty. In fact if you are in uniform it is sanctioned.

    Apparently it is also quite fun if you get to grab the head end rather than the feet…

  71. Mal Adapted says:

    izen:

    Law and Order always protects and allows the actions of the in-group, and binds and constrains the actions of the out-group.

    Granted. Yet it also offers some protection to the weak, against not only the strong but each other. It’s not to be cast aside lightly. Speaking as an ex-wannabe hippie, I’m resistant to social change of the wrong kind. I haven’t been in a fistfight since the 8th grade. I marched, declaring “Hell no, I won’t go”, but went home at the first whiff of CS. And assuming the revolution gets won without me, what happens next? As the noted philosopher P. Townsend wrote in 1971, long before it was co-opted to sell television advertising:

    I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
    Take a bow for the new revolution
    Smile and grin at the change all around
    Pick up my guitar and play
    Just like yesterday
    And I’ll get on my knees and pray
    We don’t get fooled again
    Don’t get fooled again

    Another germane quote: A l’exemple de Saturne, la révolution dévore ses enfants. (Jacques Mallet du Pan). A word to the wise.

  72. David B. Benson says:

    How to Power the World?
    http://bravenewclimate.proboards.com/thread/697/power-world?page=3#post-6026

    So-called renewables don’t generate when the power is desired.

  73. Steven Mosher says:

    kinda cool that he says “how dare you”

  74. angech says:

    [But SkS. -W]

  75. Mal Adapted says:

    Erm, that’s “noted philosopher P. Towns[h]end“. One wishes to be clear on the details!

  76. izen says:

    @-Mal
    “that’s “noted philosopher P. Towns[h]end“. One wishes to be clear on the details!”

    Inspired by auto-destructive artist Gustav Metzger and the Situationists.

    I recognise the dangers of social tipping points. That revolution, like Saturn, eats its children is attested by history.
    But the the few that are powerful and the many that are weak is not a result of biological determinism, however much patriarchies and proponents of the ‘bell curve’ may claim.
    It is a result of social construction.
    The weak become powerful when they act collectively. The powerful become weak when they compete individual.
    Societies reach their worst state when the powerful act collectively to divide the weak into partisan factions.

  77. Willard says:

    Inspired by Hesiod’s theogony, classical symbology portrays Jupiter (Zeus) as the revolutionary, while Saturn (Cronus) is the reactionary. These roles are inherited from the episode between father and son. Cronus ate his own children to escape Gaia’s prophecy that he’d be bested by one of them. He failed and Zeus casted him in the Tartarus, where Uranus sent his youngest children. Cronus did the same, to Gaia’s dismay.

    Cronus was also revolutionary, but only when dealing with his own father, Uranus. I suppose readers know the details. Suffice to say that Freud invented little on that matter.

    That progressives win the archetype wars may explain why the Son of Lobster and other Freedom Fighters try to relitigate the point.

  78. Russell Seitz says:

    Izen:
    “Societies reach their worst state when the powerful act collectively to divide the weak into partisan factions.”

    The political neutrality of science must first exist in order to be respected, and scientific institutions reach a dismal ground state when partisan factions achieve the institutional power to act in the collective name of progress:

    The STS movement is itself socially constucted.

  79. izen says:

    It would appear that ATTP’s concern with social tipping points, and Willard’s mention of Chile are impressively prescient.

    It also fits neatly into the definition I quoted above about neoliberalism;
    Law and Order always protects and allows the actions of the in-group, and binds and constrains the actions of the out-group.

    https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2019/10/chile-protests-against-president-pinera-and-deep-inequality.html

    “Of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development nations, Chile ranks among the worst in economic inequality, and the government’s massive overreaction seems to have confirmed, for many watching, what they had long believed: that a government that had shown extraordinary leniency to corrupt white-collar criminals (and its own parties and functionaries) was prepared to legally decimate ordinary citizens for smaller, borderline meaningless infractions. …

    Chile, dubbed the “free-market laboratory” during the dictatorship (the Chicago Boys were an immense influence), has frequently served as a kind of bellwether for how other countries will fare in their own accelerating hypercapitalist experiments. Pinochet even made water a privately traded commodity. That has not gone especially well. The current president’s brother, José Piñera, redesigned the pension system, effectively privatizing it. …

    this is about more than income inequality… “It is also inequality before the law and the recurrent perception of injustice and abuse between those who live very near in physical terms, but are decades apart in terms of the guarantees they receive with respect to their basic civil and social rights as citizens.””

  80. izen says:

    Perhaps it is important to provide ‘balance’ in the reporting of the events and causes of the social unrest in Chile. The hypothesis that social tipping points are triggered by inequality, whether from political or climate factors is not unopposed.

    There is an article in the WSJ by Mary O’Grady, an editorial board member, and on the board of directors of the Liberty Fund. A well funded economic ‘think tank’ which promotes Libertarian ideas of the Ludwig von Mises flavour.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/chilean-capitalism-on-trial-11572208892

    It is pay-walled, so I have not had direct access, but did find a ‘reprint’ that appears to be a translation into, and then back out of Spanish ?
    Here are some excerpts…

    …this month in Chile, the place left-wing terrorists savaged Santiago and cities across the nation with violence. This occurred in a nation that, because the newspaper La Tercera reported on Oct. 5, has seen the poverty charge fall under 9%, down from 68% in 1990. Revenue inequality has additionally been coming down.

    Some 18 individuals died, most of them caught in fires through the looting. Mr. Piñera was compelled to declare a state of emergency and put the military on the road to guard property and life.

    However the laborious left has spent years planting socialism within the Chilean psyche through secondary faculties, universities, the media and politics. Even because the nation has grown richer than any of its neighbors by defending non-public property, competitors and the rule of regulation, Chileans marinate in anticapitalist propaganda.

    The violence has one other clarification. To chalk it as much as spontaneity requires the suspension of disbelief. As one intelligence official within the area advised me Friday: “It takes some huge cash to maneuver this variety of individuals and to have interaction them on this stage of violence.” The explosive units used, he stated, have been “way more subtle than Molotov cocktails.” International subversives are suspected of taking part in a key position, with Cuba and Venezuela on the high of the checklist. The São Paulo Discussion board, a bunch of hard-left socialists put collectively by Fidel Castro in 1990 after the autumn of the Berlin Wall, espouses this radicalism. The precise checklist of assailants, we don’t know. However Chile has been hit by a well-organized enemy out to carry down the democratic authorities. That’s one thing that ought to alarm all free societies within the area.

  81. Mal Adapted says:

    izen:

    But the the few that are powerful and the many that are weak is not a result of biological determinism, however much patriarchies and proponents of the ‘bell curve’ may claim.
    It is a result of social construction.

    Citation needed. Evolutionary biology reveals that all human behavior is the product of both genetically inherited and culturally transmitted information interacting during individual development. That is, the human mind is not a blank slate at birth. Furthermore, “nature vs. nurture” is a false dichotomy. Culture is in our nature, an adaptation not unique to Homo sapiens but most elaborated in us. I refer you to a definitive work of behavioral ecology in non-human primates: Franz de Waal’s Chimpanzee Politics.

    The weak become powerful when they act collectively. The powerful become weak when they compete individual.
    Societies reach their worst state when the powerful act collectively to divide the weak into partisan factions.

    Sure, but that doesn’t imply that a man is nothing but the ensemble of his social relations. We are left with the inescapable intraspecific competition for resources, governed by nature and nurture in synergy. Now what?

  82. Steven Mosher says:

    “Tipping point?”

    Not an irreversible state change.

    A tipping point would be a change from organized civilization to anarchy. but even then it’s reversible. That’s one reason I think its unhelpful to use the tipping point language of science, which is fairly precise, in the social realm.

  83. Mal Adapted says:

    Steven Mosher:

    I think its unhelpful to use the tipping point language of science, which is fairly precise, in the social realm.

    You have a point, but wouldn’t you call bankruptcy of California’s major electricity supplier a social state change? Granted, Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows for a return to business while sorting the liability mess.

  84. izen says:

    @-Mal
    “Citation needed. Evolutionary biology reveals that all human behavior is the product of both genetically inherited and culturally transmitted information interacting during individual development.”

    I would cite history and ethnology which shows a wide variety of social systems from matriarchy, polyandry, and the rejection of chattel slavery, hunter-gatherer – agriculture – industrial…
    Or try;-
    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/04/biological-determinism-science-innate-ability-capitalism

    Even in primates, the social system is not unalterable.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC387823/

    I agree that the nature-nurture dichotomy is false, like trying to determine whether the pedal crank cogs or the drive wheel cogs on a 20 speed bicycle are the dominant cause.

    @-“We are left with the inescapable intraspecific competition for resources, governed by nature and nurture in synergy.”

    Yes.
    But I would argue that the dominance of conscious intentionality in the human individual and the extreme variability of human social structures indicates we are far more adaptable and variable than even the most social of other primates.

  85. Steven Mosher says:

    “You have a point, but wouldn’t you call bankruptcy of California’s major electricity supplier a social state change? Granted, Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows for a return to business while sorting the liability mess.”

    not sure what it adds. It would be interesting to see what happened if the PG&E executives and
    management staff just quit. on the same day. Byebye. who knows why they stay.

  86. dikranmarsupial says:

    “A tipping point would be a change from organized civilization to anarchy. ”

    Says who? The French revolution was clearly a tipping point, from one form of organized civilization to another (admittedly not immediately or without an element of anarchy). It is also irreversible, can you see the French going back to a monarchy? I can’t.

  87. izen says:

    @-SM
    “It would be interesting to see what happened if the PG&E executives and
    management staff just quit. on the same day. Byebye. who knows why they stay.”

    Follow the money ?
    Amid Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s bankruptcy and wildfire safety woes, the utility’s incoming chief executive officer Bill Johnson will receive an annual base salary of $2.5 million

  88. Steven Mosher says:

    dk.

    says me.

    my suggestion is be careful when you borrow well defined terms from science. thats all. or pretty quickly any change becomes a tipping point.

  89. Steven Mosher says:

    izen. ya money, but 2.5 mill is a cheap price to be engineer on a train wreck. it will be a poop stain on his cv even if he doesnt violate parole again.

  90. dikranmarsupial says:

    “says me.”

    I disagree

    “my suggestion is be careful when you borrow well defined terms from science.”

    I agree

  91. Greg Robie says:

    “Hindsight is 20/20 [vision]” is not some writer exercising the craft, it is a social truism* [in North America]. And here is a simple way of thinking about the “Why” of this. The simplistic view of a social change cycle is: Status Quo — Collapse — Chaos — Innovation — [new] Status Quo, etc. The term “Chaos” is perceptual; a pejorative for what otherwise is a social good: learning; maturation. While I described the cycle as social, it is actually descriptive of the biological evolutionary cycle of which human societies have [briefly] been a part; possessed the sapience to observe and name this cycle … & the hubris to repeatedly fail to learn from it; to evolveNOT!

    * the concept of 20/20 or 6/6 vision is derived from the chart that Herman Snellen developed in 1862. What might have been the social truism regarding our tendency to not learn from experience before then? Whatever it is, I’m voting that the failure is all Pandora’s fault! 😉

    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

    >

  92. dikranmarsupial, the number of times that Macorn and his predecessors have been described as elected monarchs is like grains of sand on a beach. The French may indeed have returned to it under the cover of night and a constitution.

  93. dikranmarsupial says:

    “dikranmarsupial, the number of times that Macorn and his predecessors have been described as elected monarchs is like grains of sand on a beach. ”

    being described as something (by your detractors) and actually being that something are rather different. The electorate can decide not to elect Macron, that means he is rather different to most Monarchs.

  94. Willard says:

    > be careful when you borrow well defined terms from science

    Scientists borrowed it first. Not unlike the “race” thing.

  95. dikranmarsupial says:

    The earliest example the OED gives is from Scientific American (1957), but it is obviously a Social Scientific American article. The OED gives the defintion as:

    “tipping point n. the prevalence of a social phenomenon sufficient to set in motion a process of rapid change; the moment when such a change begins to occur.”

    … so it turns out I now disagree with Steven about that as well ;o)

  96. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    That progressives win the archetype wars may explain why the Son of Lobster and other Freedom Fighters try to relitigate the point.

    Heh, nice. You display the benefits of your classical education 8^).

  97. The Very Reverend Jebediah Hypotenuse says:

    Any American citizen currently expressing concerns about the return of a French (or any other) monarchy ought to perhaps ask themselves why the US right wing refuses to call out its own obviously criminal “mad King Donald”.

    If the quid-pro-quos with foreign entities, ubiquitous corruption, and refusal to cooperate in any way with a co-equal branch of the government aren’t enough, there’s always the extra-judicial executions.

    Just sayin’.

    War is a societal tipping point.
    As the Snowflake King gets ever more desperate to inflate his ego and his political base, you can bet on one. It’ll be someplace with lots of oil.

  98. Willard says:

  99. Mal Adapted says:

    Izen:

    But I would argue that the dominance of conscious intentionality in the human individual and the extreme variability of human social structures indicates we are far more adaptable and variable than even the most social of other primates.

    I absolutely agree. So far though, our behavior in all its variety has been selected by both biology and culture, to the extent it increases the competitive fitness of the individuals doing the behaving. That’s manifest in the human population explosion (figuratively speaking) of the past century, now slowing for complex reasons. Clearly, culture is the proximate evolutionary theater here, yet fitness is still counted by the number of one’s descendants, and there’s no guarantee your descendants will pay as much attention to common-pool resource management as you do. Unless you don’t have descendants, that is, in which case your fitness is zero (c’est moi).

    Adaptation may be socially as well as genetically constructed, but the concept of extended fitness isn’t tautological any more than descent with modification is. History and ethnography do show we are capable of cooperation with geographically and temporally remote conspecifics, who are mental abstractions of kin and/or randomly-related reciprocity partners. That doesn’t resolve just who cooperates with whom, or for what purpose. Those can be addressed from both cultural and biological perspectives. Do you think the sexual behavior of powerful men is wholly socially constructed? I presume you’re aware one of the most abundant extant Y chromosomes is thought to be Genghis Khan’s. Nature or nurture? Sorry, trick question.

    Dude, nobody’s talking about “determinism” here, that’s a straw man constructed from the false dichotomy. Human behavior is determined by multiple causes from ultimate to proximate, perhaps many as yet unsuspected, and with a stochastic component at multiple levels. Still, AGW fits the Tragedy of the Commons metaphor more closely than recent human population growth does. Now what? I guess my question to you is: what humans living or dead have the force of will, however acquired or transmitted, to steer global human culture away from global climate catastrophe? I’m predicting Greta Thunberg, mythic as she appears, can’t do it by herself.

  100. Mal Adapted says:

    Willard:

    > be careful when you borrow well defined terms from science

    Scientists borrowed it first. Not unlike the “race” thing.

    True, and science must build a specialized vocabulary, often re-defining words in common language for the needs of discussion. Social construction will be involved, but “Tragedy of the Commons”, for example, entered the terminology of economics without regard for Lloyd’s or Hardin’s political opinions. As a metaphor, it’s a close match to a class of empirical phenomena rooted in markets, a cultural development archaeologically attested to have originated history itself.

  101. izen says:

    @-Mal
    “I guess my question to you is: what humans living or dead have the force of will, however acquired or transmitted, to steer global human culture away from global climate catastrophe?”

    No humans have the force of will to steer global human culture away from global climate catastrophe.
    The agency that will either succeed or fail to steer global human culture, is global human culture.
    Greta is an emergent effect or symptom of that internal process rather than a cause. Although the recursive feedbacks of such figureheads is part of the process.

    Attempting to construct a narrative, or Just-So story about who can steer global human culture may be seductive, but is ultimately as accurate as inventing the Olympian Gods.

    The concept of a ‘Tipping Point’ is a metaphorical application of a real physical process. When an object can rest in a stable position, it tips when the centre of mass of that object travels past the fulcrum point. The force that imposes a turning moment on the object abruptly changes sign. Instead of acting to return the object to its current stable state it acts to rotate the object into a new position of stability.

  102. Steven Mosher says:

    oh please not with the first use fallacy.

    the science term of course can originate in other disciplines.

  103. ecoquant says:

    Two points.

    First, of possible great interest to the Collective, there is the second installment of a multipart symposium on climate disruption and its implications happening tomorrow, beginning with the live stream at 1600 ET today, Tuesday, 29th October 2019, from MIT. I listened to the first and it was very worthwhile, with Prof Susan Solomon’s keynote.

    Second, on “tipping points”: As I understand it, this originally described the behavior of a world line as it approached a bifurcation in a non-linear dynamical. But since at latest 2013 it has come to mean something else, even if the context remains what happens in the set of possible futures of a non-linear dynamical system for a deterministic trajectory which is accompanied by stochastic perturbations of the same system.

  104. ecoquant says:

    Alas, I neglected to paste in the link on the words “the first” above, so it is dead. I meant this link

  105. Willard says:

    > the science term of course can originate

    One day you’ll spell out the concept you have in mind. It’s supposed to be “well defined.” Research and report.

  106. izen says:

    @-SM
    “oh please not with the first use fallacy.”

    What do you mean by the first use fallacy ?

    Even the most arcane of abstract concepts are invariably rooted(!) in observed physical processes that are then employed as metaphor.
    If they stray too far from that actuality they become inchoate.

  107. dikranmarsupial says:

    “oh please not with the first use fallacy. ”

    errm, if you are saying we should be wary of borrowing science terms, it rather does matter whether the term had a prior usage outside science, especially if the “new” usage happens to be essentially the original one.

  108. David B. Benson says:

    Oh, the strawmanity!

  109. Steven Mosher says:

    “One day you’ll spell out the concept you have in mind. It’s supposed to be “well defined.” Research and report.”

    err I did. irreversible state change. .

    See below to what the fuck I am referring to

    https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/ar5_wgII_spm_en.pdf
    page 14.

    If you want the simple version Go to wikipedia

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

    1. Tipping point as irreversible state change
    “The IPCC AR5 defines a tipping point as an irreversible change in the climate system. It states that the precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger a tipping point remain uncertain, but that the risk associated with crossing multiple tipping points increases with rising temperature.[7] A more broad definition of tipping points is sometimes used as well, which includes abrupt but reversible tipping points.[8][9]”

    AND THEN

    “In the context of climate change, an “adaptation tipping point” has been defined as “the threshold value or specific boundary condition where ecological, technical, economic, spatial or socially acceptable limits are exceeded.”[15]”

    Which seems to me is an entirely DIFFERENT Concept.

    AND what I am saying is that you should probably take care in using a term which can mean

    A) irreversible state change
    B) Reversible state change
    C) Crossing a threshhold thats unacceptable.

    At least math type like Ken and DK should appreciate the difference and the care one should
    take. Other folks can run for the dictionary or ask for citatations to what is pretty well known.

  110. Willard says:

    > It states that the precise levels of climate change sufficient to trigger a tipping point remain uncertain

    So it’s an indefinite state. Which means we don’t have a clear-cut specification. For now it remains a mere abstracta, at least when applied to climate matters.

    Thanks for playing.

  111. Steven Mosher says:

    Err no.

    You can see there are three distinct concepts.
    1 state change that is irreversible.
    2. State change not is reverseable.
    3. Crossing a threshold.

    The modest suggestion is use care when employing a term like tipping point.

  112. Willard says:

    > You can see there are three distinct concepts.

    Not really. But that’s irrelevant to the fact that reversibility is not well defined in the climate lichuchur. It’s just an abstraction.

  113. dikranmarsupial says:

    of course it would be nice if scientists were careful in their use of language, for instance not using the word “hiatus” or “pause” to refer to a model-observation divergence (that doesn’t really exist AFAICS unless you subscribe to the “truth centered” interpretation of ensembles, which I don’t).

  114. Francis says:

    A proposed definition of societal tipping point: when the cost of responding to natural disasters on an annual basis exceeds the GDP growth for that year, such that people are actually poorer as time goes by.

    We may be swimming faster every year, but if the current is flowing faster than our increase in speed, then we will soon be going backwards no matter how hard we are trying.

  115. Willard says:

  116. Mal Adapted says:

    If ‘tipping point’ has too precise a definition, how about ‘inflection point”? Referring to a change of the slope of a trend.

  117. izen says:

    A societal tipping point is one in which the majority of factors that were up to that point opposing change switch ‘sign’ and become factors that accelerate the change.
    That derives from the physical form of which it is a metaphor.
    Whether that is reversible or not is another matter.

  118. Some tippig points are painfully apparent, as with microphone-loudspeaker feedback and the occupants of an echo chamber converging on the same vocabulary.

  119. David B. Benson says:

    Agricultural tipping point:
    https://m.phys.org/news/2019-10-human-boosted-global-soil-erosion.html

    Well tipped over by now.

  120. angech says:

    “Lacis et al. 2010
    Lacis, A.A, G.A. Schmidt, D. Rind, and R.A. Ruedy, 2010: Atmospheric CO2: Principal control knob governing Earth’s temperature. Science, 330, 356-359, doi:10.1126/science.1190653.”
    This paper must be a staple here.
    Well worth a re read.
    Wiki “the fact that Cloud cover values only vary by 0.03 from year to year, On average, about 52% of Earth is cloud-covered at any moment. ”
    In view of these two statements which basically say that the water vapor level in the atmosphere is as much of a constant just like CO2 [despite precipitation uptake keeps it constant], how can Lacis and Schmidt get away with calling water vapor a feedback and CO2 a forcing when both have an equal right to be called a forcing.
    Furthermore can anyone explain why Water vapor as a feedback contributes 75% i.e. 3 C to warming whereas CO2 as a forcing contributes 1C in this paper. The fact that water vapor is 75% of the GHG involved compared to 20% for CO2 and other GHG worries me greatly when you look at feedback to forcings calculations. Is this fair what Lacis et al are doing here?
    It feels wrong.
    Explanations somply of why I an looking at this wrongly rather than excoriations welcome.
    Seriously.

  121. angech,

    how can Lacis and Schmidt get away with calling water vapor a feedback and CO2 a forcing when both have an equal right to be called a forcing.

    It’s because water vapour precipitates quickly, while CO2 does not. Hence, the water vapour responds to the CO2-driven temperature change and is, consequently, a feedback not a forcing.

    Furthermore can anyone explain why Water vapor as a feedback contributes 75% i.e. 3 C to warming whereas CO2 as a forcing contributes 1C in this paper. The fact that water vapor is 75% of the GHG involved compared to 20% for CO2 and other GHG worries me greatly when you look at feedback to forcings calculations. Is this fair what Lacis et al are doing here?

    Yes, it’s completely fair. CO2 is the dominant non-precipitating greenhouse gas. Without it, the water vapour would precipitate out, the clouds would go away, and the system would cool back down. It is essentially the control knob, even though it doesn’t have the most dominant radiative impact in the greenhouse effect (and in the enhanced greenhouse effect).

  122. Joshua says:

    angech –

    > Explanations somply of why I an looking at this wrongly rather than excoriations welcome.

    I’ve added bold to help point you in the right direction:

    > how can Lacis and Schmidt get away with

    Heading off in bad faith leads you astray.

  123. Bob Loblaw says:

    Is there any chance that someone can make Angech realize that clouds are not water vapour. Clouds are formed at saturation, when water vapour condenses or sublimates to form water droplets or ice crystals. Clouds disappear when when water evaporates, ice sublimates, or water/ice falls out of the atmosphere (rain, snow virga, etc.)

    Increasing atmospheric humidity (water vapour) still needs a mechanism to force air to decrease in temperature before condensation can occur. (Traditional meteorology has this figured out as convective frontal, or orographic effects that cause moist air to rise and cool. You can also get advective fog..) Cloud amount is a balance between these mechanisms that form cloud, and the mechanisms that remove it (AKA “precipitation”). Increasing atmospheric humidity does not automagically imply increased cloud cover.

    …and the possible effects of changes in cloud cover (amount, type, location, altitude) have been on the radar of climatologists studying the effects of rising CO2 since at least the 1960s. Some people are so far behind they think they are in the lead.

  124. dikranmarsupial says:

    “In view of these two statements which basically say that the water vapor level in the atmosphere is as much of a constant just like CO2”

    (i) CO2 is not a constant – we have increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere quite considerably
    (ii) I suspect it is that relative humidity is constant, which means that as the atmosphere warms, it hold more water vapour (absolute humidity), which further enhances the greenhouse effect

    > how can Lacis and Schmidt get away with

    the hubris of climate skeptics seems to be pretty constant as well.

  125. dikranmarsupial says:

    “Explanations somply of why I an looking at this wrongly rather than excoriations welcome.
    Seriously.”

    If you don’t want to be excoriated, don’t start by casting aspersions about climate scientists.
    Seriously.

    This is especially true if you then demonstrate that you don’t understand even the most basic concepts (clouds-v-water vapour, relative humidity, the distinction between forcings and feedbacks etc), in which case some humility is in order.

  126. dikranmarsupial says:

    Some context from WUWT

    angech
    October 29, 2019 at 6:57 am

    Agree with the first part, Nick.
    However if a GHG also has a known albedo effect then that does have to be taken into consideration if you are specifying a climate sensitivity in an atmosphere containing such a gas. If clouds reduce the amount of incoming radiation and hence the amount of Infrared able to be developed then that does affect the temperature response of that atmosphere (as you are always fully aware).

    Your off the cuff comment about the Lacis modelling
    “ Lacis’ modelling of actual removal of non-condensing GHG. In fact, while most wv disappeared from the air due to cooling, clouds actually increased, and the post-GHG removal temperature actually dropped below 255 K”
    Actual article
    “The scope of the climate impact becomes apparent in just 10 years. During the first year alone, global mean surface temperature falls by 4.6°C. After 50 years, the global temperature stands at –21°C, a decrease of 34.8°C. Atmo- spheric water vapor is at ~10% of the control cli- mate value (22.6 to 2.2 mm). Global cloud cover increases from its 58% control value to more than 75%, and the global sea ice fraction goes from 4.6% to 46.7%, causing the planetary albedo of Earth to also increase from ~29% to 41.8%.”

    Contains a lot of Lacis mumbo jumbo and Stokes spin.
    Clouds are an accumulation of water vapor. The more water vapour the more clouds. Less water vapour , less clouds. He did not say clouds increased , he said cloud cover increased, a totally different thing.
    There were less clouds in the air in volume and mass but his computer model said more cloud cover.
    Perhaps one could spin a yarn that “because the atmosphere had also shrunk what few clouds there were able to form formed very closely to the surface of the sea and covered more of the earth”
    Grimace.
    Or charitably one could say don’t get Nic Lewis started on this or we will have to retract the 2010 paper as well.
    Uncharitably
    “ Global cloud cover increases from its 58% control value to more than 75%”
    That one line is impossible, and makes the whole paper invalid.

    [emphasis mine]

    “However if a GHG also has a known albedo effect”

    interesting …

  127. dikranmarsupial says:

    Even more context, which makes it clear that angech is not arguing in good faith:

    angech
    October 29, 2019 at 7:10 am

    Nick Stokes, I must commend you for mentioning this article.
    “Lacis et al. 2010
    Lacis, A.A, G.A. Schmidt, D. Rind, and R.A. Ruedy, 2010: Atmospheric CO2: Principal control knob governing Earth’s temperature. Science, 330, 356-359, doi:10.1126/science.1190653.”
    I am sure LM has read it and may wish to comment on it when he answers our comments.
    The biggest laugh in it is when Lacis and the congressman state that the 75% of the GHG in the atmosphere should be counted as feedbacks rather than forcings like CO2, methane and Ozone.
    Because water vapour can precipitate from the atmosphere!
    Despite the fact that it is being constantly fed back in at the same rate as it goes out ( more or less) .
    What a blatant misrepresentation.
    Then because 75% of the GHG are excluded as a forcing based on this rubbish statement.
    They go on to say that all of the forcing is only caused by the remaining 25% .
    Is this where the concept of the x3 feedbacks magically creeps in.
    And Lacis, you are a genius.

    No excoriation there, no sir!

  128. Willard says:

    OK. That ought to do it.

    In other news, critical theory may have reached a tipping point:

  129. More of a science tipping point, but methane releases from permafrost and clathrates have always been a source of some concern.

    First pictures and video of the largest methane fountain so far discovered in the Arctic Ocean
    By The Siberian Times reporter
    28 October 2019

    Subsea permafrost thaws faster than previously thought, Russian scientists say.

    https://siberiantimes.com/other/others/news/first-pictures-and-video-of-the-largest-methane-fountain-so-far-discovered-in-the-arctic-ocean/

    I don’t know if this will be convincing or persuasive to folks who resist acknowledging that climate change impacts are happening faster than scientists expected, but it is nonetheless true that such is the case.

    Cheers

    Mike

  130. ecoquant says:

    @angech,

    I can’t tie these back to Lacis, Schmidt without a re-read and no time for that now. Perhaps others ahead of me in the queue above have. But …

    (1) Relative humidity is assumed to be constant, and there’s little evidence it has varied. Given that, as temperature (or, for that matter, pressure) increase, the carrying capacity for water of a unit volume of air is higher. This is Clausius-Clapeyron.

    (2) The absorption bands for water occur through the infrared subspectrum, although there are no particularly strong ones, especially not in the vicinity of the outgoing Planck maximum as CO2 has. But because it takes up more spectral space, it is an important contributor and goes hand-in-hand with CO2. The thing is, though, that there are regions of atmosphere, both high and at the surface, where it is too cold for air to hold much water vapor at all, and there it’s only CO2 which provides an outgoing radiative barrier. In fact, one of the complicated contributions of the ice-free Arctic is that, unlike in the past, there are storms there now, when it used to be a frozen desert of sorts. So it now does have water vapor aloft. Someone will correct me, I’m sure, but I also recall that the continuum spectrum from water is stronger than that for CO2, having to do with the asymmetry of its molecule (I believe). The place to check on that is Grant Petty’s book (2nd edition, 2006), Mark Z Jacobson discusses this as well in his Section 9.4 of (the 2nd edition of) his Fundamentals of Atmospheric Modeling, 2005. I should note Jacobson, like Petty, opines that H2O is more important a GHG than CO2, a claim I think is at least distracting and perhaps dubious. Jacobson argues that H2O is responsible for some 90% of the +33C warming maintaining a non-iceball Earth. That may be technically true, but, clearly, H2O could not possibly have kicked that off.

    (3) Once upon a time, climate science did not understand clouds well, but at least as Professor Susan Solomon (of MIT) said a few weeks back, that’s changed now and, on balance, clouds are a net positive forcing, not a negative one.

    For the interested student (as I am), there are two things in this dive which are of interest.

    First, because absorption spectra of molecules like CO2 and H2O actually consist of a huge number of finite lines or spikes, doing the standard Riemann integral of the absorption outline overestimates the absorption compared with experimental measurements. This is because the spectrum is poorly described as a continuous function. I consider this a remarkable example of how the fine definitions from mathematical analysis really matter in a scientific phenomenon.

    Second, Jacobson’s book has a lot of valuable dark corners. For example, 20.4.1 contains a numerical solution for air-sea exchange of any reasonable gas with oceans.

  131. angech says:

    Thank you everyone for your helpful comments and insights.
    I am serious about this issue and consequently have overheated at times and deserve some of excoriation from Joshua and DM.
    I thank ATTP for his explanations but do not agree with his view that precipitation excludes a gas from being counted as a forcing. CO2 itself is precipitated from the air ( if one defines precipitation as removal). If we wish to stick to the “precise” definitions one could argue that Raindrops contain their lesser share of CO2.
    I feel I should, if allowed , answer and discuss some of the remarks as they do raise important points.

  132. angech,
    You need to understand the definitions. Forcings are external changes. When a volcanoe goes of, it produces a change in forcing. If the Sun gets brighter, it produces a change in forcing. If we dump CO2 into the atmosphere, this produces a change in forcings. The changes in forcing then produces changes in temperature. The responses to this change in temperature (water vapour, clouds, etc) are feedbacks. These are the definitions.

  133. angech says:

    Bob Loblaw says:
    “Is there any chance that someone can make Angech realize that clouds are not water vapour. “Clouds”
    Bob, this comment is the reason so many people get hot under the collar discussing science.
    Therefore thank you for making it.
    Could you explain why you chose to make it?
    What point you are trying to make?
    Are you nephologist pointing out a fine pedantic difference?
    Or are you trying to run someone’s views down.

    Let’s get this straight now and then we can discuss the finer points of your comment.

    I fully realise that some “Clouds are formed at saturation, when water vapour condenses or sublimates to form water droplets or ice crystals”.
    Please excuse any snark at the start only of the next comment.

  134. angech,
    The point is that in the context of feedbacks, water vapour and clouds are distinct.

  135. Angech as has been pointed out, a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour WITHOUT it precipitating out. The water vapour is a ghg so that causes some extra heating. This is a feedback because it is responding to the warmer atmosphere. Thathe is what defines a feedback.

  136. Angech it isn’t a pedantic difference. Water vapour feedback and cloud feedback are fundamentally different things.

  137. David B. Benson says:

    There was the Iceball Earth paleoclimate.

  138. angech says:

    …and Then There’s Physics says:
    “angech, The point is that in the context of feedbacks, water vapour and clouds are distinct.”
    ATTP
    This is the fundamental point of the discussion.
    A very important one.
    DM sums it up above.
    You are both very determined that their effects can and should only be classified as feedbacks. I strongly dispute this with some good reasons.
    dikranmarsupial is raising some good points
    “Angech it isn’t a pedantic difference. Water vapour feedback and cloud feedback are fundamentally different things.”
    I would like to go further but not upset DM or yourself too much. Please moderate or remove any intemperate remarks I am foolish enough to make

  139. angech says:

    dikranmarsupial says:
    “a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapour WITHOUT it precipitating out. The water vapour is a ghg so that causes some extra heating. This is a feedback because it is responding to the warmer atmosphere. That is what defines a feedback.”
    Wiki “the fact that Cloud cover values only vary by 0.03 from year to year, On average, about 52% of Earth is cloud-covered at any moment. ” it is constant*(ish).
    If we take cloud cover and water vapor as roughly anologous ( highly dependent on context) whatever atmosphere we are discussing has a certain amount of water vapor that is roughly constant. If we increase the temperature we increase not only the water vapor but the CO2 and methane etc. without it precipitating out either.
    Should this extra CO2 be counted as a feedback or a forcing?
    Fair question I think.
    Given that all the GHG precipitating and non precipitating have known concentrations and increase in amount with temperature all should be treated equally as feedbacks or forcings or as a combination of both equally.

  140. Bob Loblaw says:

    Angech:

    Why did I choose to make that comment? Because the postings that you make here clearly indicate that often don’t know what you are talking about, and you rarely take advantage of the kind souls that provide many detailed explanations. Your ability to learn is not being demonstrated.

    You may think that you understand the science, but you do not. What you lack in knowledge, you surely make up for in confidence.

    In your original comment, you said Wiki “the fact that Cloud cover values only vary by 0.03 from year to year, On average, about 52% of Earth is cloud-covered at any moment. ”
    In view of these two statements which basically say that the water vapor level in the atmosphere is as much of a constant…

    The statement you quoted says (or implies) absolutely nothing about how water vapour varies. The conclusion you draw (water vapour level is constant) is “not even wrong”. You’re not discussing science, you’re throwing out meaningless, erroneous statements and seem to be immune to corrections.

  141. angech,

    If we take cloud cover and water vapor as roughly anologous ( highly dependent on context) whatever atmosphere we are discussing has a certain amount of water vapor that is roughly constant. If we increase the temperature we increase not only the water vapor but the CO2 and methane etc. without it precipitating out either.
    Should this extra CO2 be counted as a feedback or a forcing?

    If something else is the driver of the initial warming and the increase in CO2 is a response to this, then this is technically a feedback, rather than a forcing. However, since CO2 is long-lived, you can still use this to estimate the relationship between increasing atmospheric CO2 and surface warming. However – again – if we are adding CO2 to the atmosphere, then this is a forcing, not a feedback.

  142. dikranmarsupial says:

    angech “If we take cloud cover and water vapor as roughly anologous ”

    Sure make an incorrect assumption with out providing any justification if it makes you happy, but I will reject it on the grounds that it is incorrect and provided without any justification.

    Clausius-Clapeyron means that a warmer atmosphere can contain more water vapour WITHOUT it condensing out (and forming clouds), so constant cloud fraction does not imply constant absolute humidity.

    Why ask for answers that you don’t listen to?

    ” Should this extra CO2 be counted as a feedback or a forcing?”

    CO2 can be both a forcing and a feedback, depending on what causes it to be in the atmosphere. If it has an exogenous source outside the carbon cycle (e.g. fossil fuel emissions) then it is a forcing. If it is there because of the carbon cycles response to the warming (e.g. the rise in CO2 at the end of a glaciation) then it is a feedback. That is what “feedback” means, it means responding to a change in a way that amplifies (or opposes) that change. The cause of the post-industrial rise in CO2 is essentially 100% anthropogenic, so it is all forcing.

    In the case of water vapour it is 100% the result of the warming atmosphere, so it is 100% feedback. It is very difficult for water vapour to act as a forcing as it just condenses out to form clouds. Anybody who has seen a steam locomotive ought to know this. A steam engine is an anthropogenic water vapour forcing that extends a couple of feet beyond the chimney. The white stuff coming out of the chimney is not steam (water vapour) it is condensed water droplets, which is not a GHG.

  143. JCH says:

    If all else remained constant, and we mined all of the fossil water out of the ground and distributed it on the surface, would it be a forcing?

  144. Just as a thought exercise, dikranmarsupial, you write, “CO2 can be both a forcing and a feedback, depending on what causes it to be in the atmosphere. If it has an exogenous source outside the carbon cycle (e.g. fossil fuel emissions) then it is a forcing. If it is there because of the carbon cycles response to the warming (e.g. the rise in CO2 at the end of a glaciation) then it is a feedback.”

    As the ocean warms it emits some of the CO2 it has contained from prior eras. Forcing or feedback? Significant or not in terms of climatic effects?

  145. Tom,

    As the ocean warms it emits some of the CO2 it has contained from prior eras. Forcing or feedback? Significant or not in terms of climatic effects?

    In the context of our emissions, warming somewhat reduces the ocean’s ability to take up some of our emissions.

  146. Joshua says:

    Tom –

    > As the ocean warms it emits some of the CO2 it has contained from prior eras…

    What caused the ocean to warm?

  147. dikranmarsupial says:

    Tom wrote: “As the ocean warms it emits some of the CO2 it has contained from prior eras. Forcing or feedback? Significant or not in terms of climatic effects?”

    That would be a feedback because it is a response to the warming. However that is only Half of Henry’s law. The other half says that the next flux is proportional to the difference in concentration in the water and the partial pressure in the atmosphere. We have increased the partial pressure of CO2 in the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and land use change emissions. So we have the temperature dependence tending to drive CO2 out of the atmosphere, but the difference in partial pressure tending to drive it in. Which dominates? Sadly the latter. The oceans are a net carbon sink. So there is no real CO2 feedback at the moment, it is instead just slightly reducing the oceans ability to oppose the rise due to anthropogenic emissions.

    Judging from the Vostok ice core, IIRC you get about 6-8ppm increase in CO2 per degree of warming, but only after the oceans have thermally equilibriated. We have seen a bit less than a degree of warming, and the oceans are not in thermal equilibrium, so we would not expect to have seen more than a handful of ppmv at this point. So even “all things being equal” it is pretty insignificant AFAICS.

  148. dikranmarsupial says:

    JCH my intuition would be that the greenhouse effect is mediated by radiative balance at the top of the atmosphere. Adding more ocean surface area might increase average humidity at the surface, but not necessarily higher in the troposphere. It would be a forcing, but I suspect a rather short term one?

  149. ecoquant says:

    @thomaswfuller2,

    From the calculations I have seen, the amount of CO2 which is released by their increasing temperatures is not significant at all. Oceans would need to be a lot warmer for that to happen. (Reference available upon request.) What is significant, as I understand, is that if negative emissions technology like direct air capture were deployed at scale, it would not suffice to draw down atmospheric CO2, but, because of Henry’s and such, CO2 in oceans and soils would eventually come out, too, to maintain equilibrium. So, essentially, negative emissions need to extract all the CO2 we’ve released, not just the 40% in atmosphere.

  150. ecoquant says:

    @Joshua,

    Is this a serious question, “What caused the oceans to warm?”

    If so, 90+% of the radiative forcing from our CO2 emissions goes into oceans. We’re lucky it does.

  151. Mal Adapted says:

    This NYTimes Op-Ed guy thinks it’s the end of California as we know it. He’s pretty convinced CA is going through irreversible societal change. He doesn’t say ‘tipping point’, but I wonder how he’d feel about reserving that phrase for science. It must be tempting to syndicated pundits, as an evocative metaphor for what will Americans can expect again and again as GMST rises. At least the ones who get past official denial.

  152. Mal Adapted says:

    Arggh! “what will Americans can expect”.

  153. Joshua says:

    Eco –

    It was a seriously rhetorical question.

  154. ecoquant says:

    @dikranmarsupial, @angech,

    It’s natural for there to be confusion about things like “forcings” and “feedbacks” because these are qualitative descriptions of processes in complicated systems. These occur not just in climate and atmosphere, but also in many ecosystems, even pretty simple ones.

    These are examples of coupled differential equations, where the response variable is warming, and, while rate of warming is linked to amount of CO2, amount of CO2 is also linked to warming. Same with H2O. I point this out because a favorite denier ploy is to look at a paleoclimate plot which shows temperature and CO2 concentration and claim that because CO2 lags temperature, it can’t be a cause of temperature increase. This is highly disingenuous and dis-educates the public.

  155. Willard says:

    > I point this out because a favorite denier ploy is to look at a paleoclimate plot which shows temperature and CO2 concentration and claim that because CO2 lags temperature, it can’t be a cause of temperature increase. This is highly disingenuous and dis-educates the public.

    I think this has more to do with the fact that climate has not one and only one forcing than the distinction between forcing and feedback. If CO2 was the only thing to consider, contrarians may have a point. Since CO2 is only the control knob, they don’t.

  156. JCH says:

    Mystery to me, but if all the fossil water were distribute don the surface, I’m guessing there would be no warming at all.

  157. angech says:

    ecoquant Willard “Same with H2O. I point this out because a favorite denier ploy is to look at a paleoclimate plot which shows temperature and CO2 concentration and claim that because CO2 lags temperature, it can’t be a cause of temperature increase. This is highly disingenuous and dis-educates the public”.
    Good point, I believe there is enough evidence for CO2 is a GHG.

  158. Mal Adapted says:

    angech:

    Good point, I believe there is enough evidence for CO2 is a GHG.

    Fascinating, Doc. What do you believe is the source of the 140 ppm of CO2 added to the atmosphere since 1700? How much of it do you suppose is anthropogenic? Can we nail you down on this?

  159. Bob Loblaw says:

    Angech, two days ago, said “Let’s get this straight now and then we can discuss the finer points of your comment:

    Based on previous history, I suppose I should not plain to wait for you to ever “discuss the finer points”, should I?

  160. Bob Loblaw says:

    On Oct 31, JCH said “If all else remained constant, and we mined all of the fossil water out of the ground and distributed it on the surface, would it be a forcing?”

    What kind of forcing did you have in mind?

    First, 70% of the surface is already water (oceans). It won’t get any wetter.

    Some land will get wetter. What effect will this have?

    Radiative effects will be very minor in terms of surface radiation. Added water vapour to the atmosphere acting as a GHG? Need to evaporate the water first.

    Effects on the surface energy balance? A shift away from thermal transfer to the atmosphere and towards evaporative transfer. This will tend to cool the surface (where it is wetter). May lead to overall cooler atmospheric temperatures near the surface, which may inhibit evaporation in other places.(The energy still makes it into the atmosphere, though – and shows up as heat when the water vapour condenses.) Changing spatial patterns of dry/hot surfaces vs. cool/wet surfaces may have effects on circulation patterns.

    Effects on hydroligical cycle? Water likes to run downhill. More streamflow. Will water stay in one place long enough to keep the surface wet? Enhanced evaporation (if global, not local) means more precipitation. Maybe local effects. Global? Not so sure.

    All-in-all, hard to tell just what kid of forcing it might cause, and how strong it would be.

    “If all else remained constant” is pretty hard to maintain. In its strictest form, nothing can be a forcing “If all else remained constant”.

  161. Bob Loblaw says:

    The italics in my comment above are an artifact of me using the block quote tag…

  162. JCH says:

    Can mining of fossil water cause warming in and of itself. Obviously in the real world water follows the path of least resistance. Suspend that and all else. Assume a large amount has been mined and now it is permanently on the surface. It, water, was 70% of the surface; say now it’s 80%. Warmer world? If there is more surface area, there would be more evaporation. But would there be a step up in warming? I suspect there would not be as temperature controls the amount of water vapor the atmosphere can hold, but I really don’t know, which means I can now accuse Gavin and Andy of being misrepresentation. 🙂

  163. angech says:

    Bob Loblaw says
    Angech, two days ago, said “Let’s get this straight now and then we can discuss the finer points of your comment: Based on previous history, I suppose I should not plain to wait for you to ever “discuss the finer points”, should I?
    Commenting is difficult between real life (and the wife).
    Glad we got the point of view sorted out honestly.
    Your finer points were pretty good I just wanted to point out cloud formation concepts had extra bits to them which I did somewhere so we are fine.

  164. -1=e^iπ says:

    The real societal tipping point is between freedom and authoritarianism. Hong Kong today might be a good example of a society on that tipping point. Hopefully the people of Hong Kong will get freedom.

  165. ecoquant says:

    @JCH,

    Assume a large amount has been mined and now it is permanently on the surface.

    Not even close. A bunch of water gets subducted at convergent zones, and it is hypothesized to be a major player in the chemistry of the aesthenosphere. That’s very old water, though, and, while I don’t have a reference, I bet there’s a way of distinguishing it isotopically by its Oxygen.

  166. dikranmarsupial says:

    Note angech has continued promulgating nonsense about this at WUWT, despite having had his errors pointed out to him here. Suggesting that the difference between water vapour and liquid water (i.e. clouds) in the atmosphere is just “semantics”.

  167. ecoquant says:

    @dikranmarsupual, @angech,,

    Then @angech is just being a character in a fictional drama and the proper response is to just ignore him.

    I had lurkers at my blog who appeared to be from the WUWT/CO2 Coalition crowd. I do my best to ferret them out and remove them from my following lists. As much as I might be for open discussion, repeats of bad information does not serve, and opposing it is a waste of time. It’s purpose is to confuse and delay.

  168. Mal Adapted says:

    -1:

    The real societal tipping point is between freedom and authoritarianism.

    One could hardly ask for a clearer expression of ideologically motivated cognition in a climate-science denier.

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