2021: A year in review

I have typically done a year in review post that I normally publish on 31 December. However, this time, I forgot (despite Willard reminding me) so here is one I’ve put together fairly quickly. Apologies for being a bit late. To save time, I’m going to do what Stoat normally does, which is to select the post from each month that had the most comments. I often try to add some brief thoughts and reflections, but I can’t quite bring myself to do so. The more I write, and think, about these various issues, the more confused I get.

In January‘s post I highlighted a new anti-Virus site that seemed to be trying to do something similar to what Skeptical Science has been doing. It doesn’t seem to have taken off, though.

February‘s most active post was one about agricultural emissions. It highlighted important differences between carbon dioxide (CO2), which is a stock pollutant, and methane (CH4), which is predominantly a flow pollutant. This is a difference that I still think is not that well understood.

March was quite quiet. The main post was about a Guardian article on Science in the time of COVID-19, in which the author both seemed surprised by the way in science actually works and by the way it is received in the public domain. The most surprising thing, in my view, is why they were surprised.

In April, the most active post was one by Willard, called Mind Your Units. It was a response to a typical sky-dragon complaint about climate scientists averaging over the entire surface of the Earth at once.

May saw a post about a suggestion that halting the vast release of methane is critical. Meeting some of targets will clearly require substantial reductions in both CO2 and methane emissions, but there still seems to be some confusion about the difference between long-lived GHGs (such as CO2) and short-lived GHGs (like methane).

In June I highlighted a paper I’d tried (unsuccessfully) to get published. It was some reflections on (corona) truth wars and was mostly a response to another paper suggesting that Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholars are perfectly equipped to help us understand the complex dynamics associated with the coronavirus pandemic. I was mostly suggesting that perfectly equipped was maybe a little strong.

July was very quiet, with only 2 posts, the most active of which was about scientists Speaking Out. I think it’s good when they do, but we shouldn’t expect it, or regard the problems we face as being a consequence of a failure to do so.

In August I highlighted my chat with Mallen Baker, who runs a youtube channel called Dangerously Reasonable.

September was also quite quiet (a bit of theme in 2021). The key post was one on the effect of permafrost on the zero emission commitment (ZEC). The answer is that it will probably be a small effect if we do follow an emission pathway that gives us a good chance of meeting some of our goals, such as the Paris goal of keeping warming to well below 2oC.

October saw another post about methane, specifically about the updated metric GWP*.

In November, the most popular post was one about a BBC podcast series called The Hack That Changed the World, which covered various aspects of the Climategate saga.

The most active post in December was the one about the recent paper that classified contrarian claims about climate change. However, I’ll add that another post that seemed to generate quite a lot of interest was one highlighting that some critics of this paper seem to think that maybe a little science denial is actually in order.

So, that’s a brief review of the blog in 2021. Thanks to all who comment and to Willard for continuing to help with moderation. I hope that those who don’t comment, but do read, get something positive from the posts. I also hope that everyone has a great 2022.

This entry was posted in Climate change, Personal, Philosophy for Bloggers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to 2021: A year in review

  1. Rob says:

    Thanks for keeping our grey matter active in 2021,
    I don’t have the skills or knowledge to meaningfully post replies that would contribute to discussions but really appreciate your efforts and updates.
    All the best for 2022.

  2. angech says:

    ATTP,
    I second Rob’s Thanks for keeping our grey matter active in 2021.

    Thanks to all who comment and to Willard for continuing to help with moderation.

    Willard’s efforts are always appreciated. He has kept my many and I am sure others foolish comments out of the way when needed.

    Many thanks to my usual nemesis, DM for the help and advice given recently which was needed.

    I do think that having more skeptics comment occasionally helps order the problems better.
    I think we need to understand why they stop commentating when they stop commentating and try to encourage their presence for the ideas that can be raised.

    Looking ahead to your next list of topics.
    Have a great New Year.

  3. russellseitz says:

    The most active post in December was the one about the recent paper that classified contrarian claims about climate change.

    For a tenth the cost of Nisbet’s 2,424 page Encyclopedia of Climate Communication ,
    you can brush up on contrarian climate conspiracy theories :

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2022/01/if-climate-change-isnt-conspiracy-why.html

  4. Susan Anderson says:

    @Russell, 700 pages and expensive? Amusing but …

  5. russellseitz says:

    What’s not to like about a handbook with back to back papers on:

    Psychoanalysis, critical theory and conspiracy theory

    Conspiracy theory as occult cosmology in anthropology?

  6. angech says:

    Needs stirring up.
    Always quiet in January.
    Is there a snowball instead of an elephant in the room?
    I noticed a comment by Juan Garcia that an increase in ice metrics was a rebound, not a recovery and to look out for the fall.
    While he is right what would qualify as a recovery?

  7. Willard says:

    Here would be a corrolary to Betteridge’s Law:

    https://www.afar.com/magazine/why-european-airlines-are-flying-empty-planes

    If a title asks a Why-question, the answer ought to be: because it’s silly.

  8. JCH says:

    “While he is right what would qualify as a recovery?”

    An actual recovery, In this case, also called an actual miracle.

  9. angech says:

    Good to see you out and about JCH.
    “While he is right what would qualify as a recovery?”
    “An actual recovery, In this case, also called an actual miracle.”

    Succinct.
    I would like to see another miracle in my lifetime.

    ATTP did reference changing baselines in one of his articles last year.
    I commented that it might lead to an average temperature below the new baseline for the year.
    While the year was lower it was nowhere near the bar.
    Another non miracle.

  10. angech,
    Changing baselines doesn’t change the relative positions of anomalies. So, it doesn’t matter if a change in a baseline leads to an average temperature below the new baseline.

  11. dikranmarsupial says:

    ” I noticed a comment by Juan Garcia that an increase in ice metrics was a rebound, not a recovery and to look out for the fall.”

    There is a *lot* of variability in Arctic sea ice extent from one year to the next, and there have been similar rebounds in the recent past. The increase in last year’s September minimum Arctic sea ice extent is nothing unusual.

    It wouldn’t surprise me to hear that skeptics are trying to infer a change “recovery” in the trend in sea ice from noise, they have been doing the same thing with GMST for decades. And they still are showing that they have no understanding of statistical significance. Note that commenters that point out the article is nonsense get a lot of down-votes and hostile responses (e.g. Bellman) and that the more scientific regulars (such as Willis), who should know better and be able to call out the nonsense, are conspicuous by their absence. This is why they tend not to try and discuss science outside their echo chambers.

  12. angech says:

    ATTP
    Changing baselines doesn’t change the relative positions of anomalies. So, it doesn’t matter if a change in a baseline leads to an average temperature below the new baseline.

    True.
    The average temp for the year was above the new baseline anyway as well.

    The ice has a long way to go to become relevant again.
    I think I will wait to see what the maximum is this year, 60 more days before making any more comments on it.
    I was surprised by the large increase in extent, large changes have been a feature of the last few years and they seem a bit extreme for the standard deviations usually used

  13. dikranmarsupial says:

    “I think I will wait to see what the maximum is this year, 60 more days before making any more comments on it.”

    Single year values are not very informative if you are talking about evidence for climate change. Look at the long term trends. Same as for GMST.

    “I was surprised by the large increase in extent”

    You shouldn’t be. There were larger increases in 1996 and 2013 – it was just natural variability then, there is no reason to think it is something other than natural variability now.

    “the last few years and they seem a bit extreme for the standard deviations usually used”

    Citation required. IIRC it was well within the uncertainty range of my model.

  14. Joshua says:

    Methinks there are few surprises in which short-term, large-scale changes angech finds “surprising.”

  15. dikranmarsupial says:

    Joshua indeed. It is generally safest to interpret statistics (including eyeballing data) in the way that is least surprising or provides the least support for your position. The old joke about “he uses statistics as a drunk uses a lamppost – more for support than illumination” is spot on – don’t be the “he” in the joke! ;o)

  16. Willard says:

    I wonder if that chart correlates with Climateball activity.

  17. I hope for 2022 that we might include more consideration of the folks who are more threatened by climate change than the commenters here. It’s very tempting to look around at all the electric cars moving around our highways and byways and feel like things are really changing… and there is some truth to that. But, the changes that are happening will offer no benefit to many residents of the planet. I think about my friends and acquaintance who struggle with homelessness and also with the residents of low lying ground in the developing world. I think it is pretty easy to make the argument that nothing less than drastic reductions in methane emissions with similar/simultaneous reductions in CO2 emissions will change the trajectory of the Thwaites glacier melt and the sea level rise that comes with that is devastating. The quickest fix to stabilize Thwaites would be slamming the brakes hard on methane emissions. In the long run, we need to slam the brakes on all the greenhouse gases, but Thwaites stabilization is best addressed through some of the shorter-lived greenhouse gases. I continue to believe we can do several things at once. If we can walk and chew gum, we can address emission reductions of more than one greenhouse gas at the same time. It’s going to be a hard year for me watching the fragile and flawed US democracy come apart. Feel free to remind me that I was wrong about that if the dems can hold on to control of Congress later this year. I would love to be wrong about that, but I expect the party of climate change denial will regain control of the Senate and/or House of Reps. That looks really awful from where I sit.

    News from the lowlands:
    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/audio/2022/jan/09/my-father-will-go-down-like-the-captain-of-the-titanic-life-on-the-pacifics-disappearing-islands

    Cheers
    Mike

  18. russellseitz says:

    I wonder if that chart correlates with Climateball activity.

    Could 2022 becomes the year of the ClimateBall matrix.
    Acclimatized disaster movie remakes seem to be runniong out of steam, but the success of The Squid & Hunger Games, and The Matrix Resurrection, bodes well for the media success of Willard’s narrative. Let us hope the screenwriter beat the gamers to the punch:

    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2022/01/play-climateball-not-man.html

  19. David B Benson says:

    smallbluemike — The hotter water destabilizing Thwaites Glacier was many decades in forming. It will take a similar interval to once again cool the Antarctic Ocean.

  20. Susan Anderson says:

    Re Thwaites / Antarctica – have a look:
    https://satellites.pro/#-74.260922,-103.315902,7
    Active discussion at Masters/Henson Eye on the Storm, which will get buried soon (very busy comment section). But this breakup will be covered elsewhere if you know where to look.

  21. izen says:

    The James Webb telescope is now mechanically up and running. Although it will be another few months before it is in position and able to take images.
    Yay!

  22. izen,
    Yes, it’s great that it’s gone so smoothly so far, and I’m looking forward to seeing what it can actually do once the commissioning is over.

  23. Chubbs says:

    Susan – That doesn’t look like a current photo, probably several years back. Conditions are much worse today on both the Thwaites and Pine Island Ice Shelves.

  24. Susan Anderson says:

    @Chubbs, thanks. I got caught by somebody’s tail waving the dog, my bad for not checking. I’m not seeing new stuff on Neven’s either. One of the mods at Masters/Henson YCC did look at Worldview and when I’ve had time to look again, I’ll post if I find there is info about any quite new breakups, but only after verifying date is recent.

  25. Mal Adapted says:

    The NYTimes had an excellent explanation of Antarctic ice dynamics last month: Rising From the Antarctic, a Climate Alarm, with animated graphics as one scrolls through it. The Thwaites problem is illustrated in detail. Highly recommended.

  26. If anyone has a link to the “rising from the antarctic” that is not behind a paywall, please share it.

  27. at DB Benson “The hotter water destabilizing Thwaites Glacier was many decades in forming. It will take a similar interval to once again cool the Antarctic Ocean.”

    I am not aware of any plan or consideration to cool the oceans. There is very little likelihood that we will stop increasing the ocean temps in our lifetimes. We live with warmed oceans that will continue to warm with catastrophic consequences. The question I raise is: how could we stop warming the oceans most quickly? Most efficiently? with best cost benefit analysis, etc?

    I think the point you raise about the long intervals on changing ocean temps is factual and correct. wrt to Thwaites, the question is how we might mitigate or slow the catastrophe of the collapse by reducing our collective heat input to the oceans.

    One more thought on Thwaites collapse and warming in general: it is often said, and repeated, that global warming will essentially stop when we reach net zero. If that is true, then we simply need to get to net zero and then see to what extent Thwaites stabilizes. But net zero is not the end all for our efforts (if/when we could achieve it). I think any future cooling of the planet that might happen will translate to cooler oceans temps on the long interval that you reference and would depend on changes beyond net zero where the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases start to drop.

    I have not read anything to date that suggests that the Thwaites collapse and slr from it are manageable if we reach net zero in 2050, or 2040, or any of the arbitrary dates that get floated for achieving a net zero status. I think the news from Thwaites is that we are out of time to prevent irreversible and highly disruptive sea level rise. I think we have still have time to slow the collapse and sea level rise. And slowing the collapse buys us time to move out of shoreline and low lyin elevations that are not going to be above sea level by the end of this century. Maybe I am wrong about some or all of that.

    Cheers

    Mike

  28. David B Benson says:

    smallbluemike —- As I understand it, we have no time to influence the collapse of the West Antarctic ice. Doomed to whatever rate the physics now demands.

  29. Ben McMillan says:

    “The Ministry for the Future” has some thought-provoking stuff about trying to arrest ice-collapse. That kind of geoengineering is primarily fictional at the moment, for better or worse.

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