Monday, February 22, 2010

Wow, I'm Good

I wrote the following 16 months ago, which is an eternity in the global warming debate.

It's scary how right I was. Scary.

Walt Bennett says:
8 October 2008 at 12:58 AM
Re: #91 inline


Thanks for asking, because I really want to answer that question, and since you are the one who asked it, perhaps some will pay attention to the answer who otherwise might not.

What is the point?

The point is that we are being lied to. You don’t lie. Let’s say in a perfect world everything you say is completely accurate.

Then your PR office issues a statement describing the implications of your work. Those are their words, not yours.

Then the press gets the release and writes a story based on it. “More Evidence Of AGW” is the likely headline, with the story selecting the quotes which best illustrate the point.

AGW has become a juggernaut. It has morphed from a theory into an industry. The lay public is worse off than ever, trying to discern what’s true from what’s possible from what’s wrong, as well as trying to unravel various motives.

I’ve said this before. When there are two vociferous and dedicated sides to an issue, it’s almost for certain that neither side is completely right or completely wrong.

And if ever there was an issue where “right” and “wrong” are subjective, this is it.

The reason I quoted the passage that I did was because it is so illustrative of the doubt which has crept into this process, and why that doubt is necessary.

550? 650? Dr. Hansen says that anything over 350 is armageddon. Rates are rising higher than the BAU scenario of AR4.

In other words, it looks as though mitigation is dead before it starts. You ask “so that means we should do nothing?”

No, it means we should be honest about the situation so we can allocate our resources the best way possible. We probably only get one chance to get this right.

If there is literally no way to avoid even the most generous tipping point, then adaptation must become a higher priority than it is today.

The point is that we must be honest and transparent and restrained. Why? Because when people believe they aren’t getting the straight story, they wonder why.

And then they don’t know what to believe. And if they don’t know what to believe, then they don’t know what to do.

Anyway, that’s the view from here. You most likely see it differently, but I thank you for sharing your forum with me, and for asking the question.

I am still a “warmer”. :-)

Walt Bennett says:
16 October 2008 at 8:36 AM
Re: #254


Speaking for myself, the “alternate hypothesis” is that there is something we don’t know which will turn out to be significant.

You say that the problem is not ” that the IPCC did not state the matter clearly” but “that without precise, technical language of statistics, you cannot state the problem precisely”.

I would say that the problem is trying to mix science and public policy. And when the stakes are stated to be as high as the stakes of AGW are stated to be, that only places more pressure on the science to coherently inform public policy, to do so in realtime, and to do so with a minimum of error.

Those requirements are in direct conflict with sound science.

The only way to be sure we don’t, in my simplistic terms, “miss something” is to wall off, as much as possible, scientific pursuit from the pressure being placed on the science community from public policy makers.

Since public policy causes human effects, you may have noticed that lots of people believe they have a stake in this issue, and have chimed in from all points on the ideological spectrum. This will never reverse, but will only intensify.

Soon there will be specific factions with dug-in positions; one example is the McIntyre gang, which has firmly and most likely irrevocably concluded that proxy studies are over-wrought with error and cannot reliably reach accurate conclusions regarding past temperatures.

I don’t have any particular wisdom to share regarding what to do about this, but I am at least trying to give the subject some air time, in the hope that one day one of you will take a step back and at least look at the concerns I am raising.

I am fine with public policy proceeding on the basis of the best knowledge we have today. I am simply concerned that more and more of our efforts and resources will be spent “confirming” this case in order to make the public policy changes easier to swallow. The potential recoil from this, is that we slack off of our efforts to understand climate in a more critical way, trying to break things, seeing what that looks like, and so forth.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

To MY Good Friend Bart

In response to my last several responses to him in the now-closed "2009" thread at RC, my good friend Barton Paul Levenson wrote these comments:

WB: Why are we all screwed? We can’t learn to adapt?

BPL: How do you adapt to a sudden drastic cut in the amount of available food?

Will some people survive the collapse? Sure. But our civilization won’t. I like civilization. I like electricity, warm houses, and indoor plumbing. I like computers and the internet. I like books. I like being able to buy food when I have the money to do so. I don’t want to lose any of those things. The consequences of doing so are not trivial.

WB: Of course there will be massive loss of life in the interim, not purely from climate but from the wars which will no doubt be necessary to prune the human herd enough to survive on the remaining resources.

BPL: What makes you think you’ll be among the survivors and not those who get pruned?

All I can say, Bart, is that I start from the standpoint that the political landscape is not going to change any time soon.

I move on from there to note that BAU proved to be a conservative estimate of then-future emissions, meaning we have prodded the system more than that.

I continue to observe that all the latest findings from the natural world are that acceleration is clearly detectable and, as we would certainly have expected, increasing.

In other words, Bart, I start from the standpoint that this is what's coming, so let's start talking about how we deal with that.

I will also point out, once again, that the changes ought to be slow enough to adapt to in the overall sense. I can't help that very poor people in very low regions are in very serious danger. You can't help it either. Some coastal storm is going to destroy a heavily populated region, and then again and then again.

You can't help it, neither can I, and there's no sense feeling bad about it.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My New Project

I am working on a book-length project, the purpose of which will be to examine, based on currently available evidence, whether or not AGW can now be stopped.

Among the things to be explored:

If man stopped emitting CO2 today, would atmospheric levels continue to rise? If so, for how long, and to what level?

How much energy is involved in the destruction of the ice sheets? How "kinetic" is the process; in other words, to what extent does it now provide its own energy? The theory here is that once the process is "kick-started" by external forces, it continues on its own.

How much warmer will the planet get based on the above and other factors? Once this level of temperature is reached, how much farther can it go? What would be the consequences of going from the first number to the second number?

My assertion is that AGW is now unstoppable. Today that is a rare view. The purpose of this project is to see how close to an answer we have today, and to determine what sort of research may be needed to answer these questions.

Important policy decisions can only be made well if the information is properly understood. I believe there is a disconnect between the information and the general understanding of that information.

This project will tackle the above as objectively as possible. I will be seeking volunteers to submit ideas and to perform reviews of each item in the project.

Feel free to volunteer for one or both roles.

Monday, February 15, 2010

From NYT

From The Distracting Debate Over Climate Certainty


I have gone through an interesting evolution in my awareness of AGW. First, I knew of Dr, Hansen's testimony and the general concept that more CO2 was going to eventually lead to a warmer planet, which could in some far off future affect sea levels. For all of the Clinton era, that's all the thought I gave it. Surely we would do something to head off significant change. We seemed to have a lot of time in which to do it. Even Dr. Hansen expressed no alarm to speak of.

Fast forward to 2006 and "An Inconvenient Truth". I came to realize that we were very late in the game and that the world was still really not paying attention. I had been vaguely aware of the IPCC reports, so I had at least an idea that we needed a treaty and we needed real reductions, and we needed them within a decade.

AIT brought home the reality that climate change is already underway. Lost permafrost stays lost. Lost glacier mass stays lost. Lost ice sheets stay lost. Dried up rivers stay dried up. And it all just keeps getting worse.

And then I discovered RealClimate.Org, a place where many of the scientists who are on the front lines of AGW come together to go into enormous detail about the latest issues and findings, and I found that this was a warm place, a place where knowledge was sought and shared. I also discovered that many commenters completely disbelieved and rejected any of the science that I was already comfortable with. I joined a Climate Skeptics group on Yahoo where many of those in this camp participate; today they wouldn't let me in, but back then it was easier. Many of those men and women are scientists who simply, flatly, reject the science of AGW. CO2 is not as strong a warming agent as scientists say; we are at or near saturation; stronger GHGs actually lead to surface cooling; there are many stronger variables in climate than the small increase in CO2; CO2 is a very small portion of the atmosphere; water is a stronger GHG and is far more plentiful.

Most of the above is defensibly true. What I tried to do in that group and in some others was to try to reconcile these skeptical arguments with what we are seeing in nature, and with the geological record. They were dug in, not at all interested in weakening their positions by examining anything that could cause doubt.

Then came "The Great Global Warming Swindle", a well produced position piece which was to serve as a bookend to "AIT". I, unlike many "believers", watched this entire show and was left with this question: "Why do they believe so strongly in hypotheses with so little supporting evidence, yet they flatly reject hypotheses with strong evidence"?

We got into a long period where everybody challenged everybody's funding. Parallel to this were vigorous efforts to debunk the hockey stick. The air got very thick in the denier camp. There were countless counter-theories in play.

And the clock kept ticking.

Over at RealClimate, the talk turned heavily toward resentment of the deniers, even while those same deniers came to RC to defend themselves. Posts would typically have hundreds of comments, most of which were hostile back and forth between camps.

I began to observe that nobody was listening to anybody anymore. If your opinion came from a certain perspective, it was either certainly wrong or certainly right, depending on the listener's perspective.

Even the hosts at RC, the scientists themselves, got caught up in it. Post after post accomplished nothing more than to attempt to rebut the latest denier paper or challenge. And 15 pages of comments.

None of it was worth a moment of our time. Nobody cared.

Finally, the rhetoric ramped up. "How can you still be uncertain? Loss of ice mass! Record temperatures! Rising sea levels! Hotter summers! More storms! More droughts!" Any and every recent event which fit the pattern of AGW was instantly stapled into the theory. I began to point out that AGW theory is much narrower: Rising CO2 will lead to rising temperature. A doubling of CO2 should, in the short term, lead to a temperature rise of 2*C, plus or minus a degree.

That's it. That's AGW theory. Add CO2, get warmer. Nothing about when we lose ice mass, nothing about changing patterns of storms, nothing about more or less livable land. All of the rest are hypotheses and observations, not theory. And when events overtake these observations: more ice in the Antarctic, stronger rebound in the Arctic, cooling temperatures in the northern Atlantic, we are left to ask: were these permanent changes or are they more variable?

There are unknowns, such as the sign of cloud feedback. We believe there are accelerators; are there brakes? We don't know. We simply keep insisting that we are running out of time, as if to say: We don't have time to ask these questions anymore. We just have to assume that the worst-case scenarios can happen and must be avoided, and we must therefore undergo radical, concussive change and we must begin right away.

I have seen good people, honest people, people who have very specific roles in this era, lose their senses over the state of debate. They, like many of us, have come to realize that we are going to stall our way into finding out how right or wrong these hypotheses are. We are not going to change our behavior as much or as rapidly as we were warned that we needed to. It won't even be close.

So, we'll find out.

But let's circle this all the way back around to Dr. Hansen, whose own evolution maps what's gone wrong with AGW advocacy.

In 1988 Dr. Hansen's position was "Let's slow this down and flatten it out. Let's keep CO2 below 500 ppm so we don't risk destabilizing ice sheets, which risk significant sea level rise." He considered this entirely plausible and did not sound too alarmed. In fact, he was criticized as it was for even presenting a "business as usual" scenario. His critics accused him of fanning the flames.

By the time of AIT, Dr. Hansen was becoming concerned. He was coming to believe that 450 ppm is the better target to avoid destabilization, and we were running out of time to get there.

Since then Dr. Hansen told us, two years ago, that we can only avoid catastrophe if we stopped burning coal immediately. We did no such thing.

He has also said that we need to get to 350 ppm in order to avoid destabilization. That would mean lowering atmospheric CO2.

Except that in 1988 Dr. Hansen told us that CO2 remains aloft "essentially forever", by which he meant hundreds of years.

So here I am today, a complete believer in AGW, a relative believer in many of the related hypotheses, and it's been more than a year since I saw any reason to remain in the discussion. I know where things are, I can see where they're going, and even Dr. Hansen continues to insist that "there's still time, but not much", even as his threshold keeps falling and even as we keep marching toward it.

Nobody is listening to anybody anymore. The obfuscators won, probably a couple of years ago. When will we admit it, and focus our energies where they really will be needed: planning to adapt. We need strong information about rates of change so we can determine what sort of resources to commit, and when.

The email dust-up and especially the IPCC foul-up both point to, as you point out Andy, the hardening of positions on all sides, but it does reveal the hubris and hysteria surrounding climate science in 2010. If they believe their own science, then they must strongly suspect that destabilization is a foregone conclusion and likely already underway.

I occasionally accuse people who believe they are saying important things of trying to have "yesterday's conversations."

I feel that way about climate science all the time, and I'm sad to say that even Dr. Hansen has fallen into the trap.

Well-meaning though people may be, they cease to be part of the solution if they will not honestly confront the problem.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

From RC

From “2009 temperatures by Jim Hansen”, Page 19:

Re: #895


The IPCC is so yesterday.

That’s the point you have yet to grasp.

Let me correct that: The science in IPCC is first rate. The solutions business side of IPCC and Copenhagen and so forth is a complete fraud.

[Response: The IPCC had/has nothing to do with Copenhagen. Policies may be ineffectual, or incoherent or produce the opposite of what is intended - but whatever it is you wish to convey, I suggest you use more appropriate language. - gavin]

Re: #896/897


I appreciate, greatly, your effort to see my comments in a true light, as free of preconceived bias as possible. Would it only be that others would see the benefit of that effort.

Eventually they will, but the majority of the gang in here serves as a proxy for the larger reality: They don’t want to know.

And because they don’t want to know, guess what? They remain human pinballs, caught between advocates arguing about the science and dug-in politicians and their proxies, who are viciously determined to defend their turf, even at the expense of lying through their teeth.

Acceleration is real, folks.

If we stopped emitting CO2 TODAY, (a) CO2 would continue to rise from natural sources, a process which is accelerating and (b) the chemistry between the atmosphere and the top layer of the world ocean will see to it that levels do not sink in any period of time which matters to this discussion.

Yes, Dr. Hansen may be able to envision an eventual stabilization at 350 ppm, but then he would have to address what the world will look like when that day comes, many many decades from now.

That world will be much more heavily influenced by its own momentum than by anything that man can do.

I know that Dr. Hansen knows that, but for whatever reason, he doesn’t mention it when discussing his reduction scenarios.

An honest statement in that regard would sound something like this:

“We can, through certain measures, reduce atmospheric CO2 over time. However, the planet will continue to warm for some period after that, and changes already underway will have to essentially complete before they can reverse, because of the enormous amounts of energy involved. Therefore, we will lose a lot of ice mass, we can’t say how much, and nations will need to address such consequences. It would benefit them to start soon.”

See how that shifts the focus?

Does that help explain why nobody’s saying it? That view currently fits no popular agenda. It does not fit the denier agenda – what, admit that the planet is warming?, nor does it fit the warmist agenda – what, admit that we can’t stop it?

And here we are.

Re: #859


I apologize for missing that comment.

Of course, you’re right. I was not as clear as I should have been.

See, I am focused on two things: 1) CO2 emissions and 2) acceleration.

See the years you mentioned? 2030, 2050? If I am correct that we are already past the point of no return, then those years are far, far too late.

See above. I assert that acceleration is already unstoppable. I am looking for the specific reference, but I read last night that the scientist for the IPY project to analyze the Greenland ice sheet has determined that it is already lost.

We have no idea about the time scales, of course, not today, and certainly a warmer planet will speed the acceleration, so we should do what we can to limit that warming. No argument.

When I say “the needle hasn’t moved” I mean in the area where it matters: A global agreement to reduce CO2 emissions.

Suppose I’m wrong about the point of no return. How wrong am I? Ten years at most?

Even you don’t predict that we will be reducing CO2 emissions in ten years.

Jim (Dr. Hansen) objects to me calling this a game, perhaps because he believes that it connotes something less than serious.

If Jim cares about understanding my position, then he will have read enough of my posts to know that I am far from frivolous in my views. Completely out of step? Yes, today. But guess what? I am getting much more traction here these days than I did a year ago with essentially the same observations.

Why? Well for one thing, Copnhagen came and went without a binding agreement (Good!) and for another, at least some among you are trying to stay rational and not just pick a leader to follow, no matter what they say.

My two biggest heroes are Gore and Hansen, and look what’s become of them: Gore supports a fraudulent bill, and Dr. Hansen runs from his own empirical conclusions.

Sometimes we have to show the leaders how to lead.

Re: #891


I see them as twins, joined at the hip, especially politically.

You cannot deny that IPCC has a political slant (leftward, obviously), as do the people who are trying to sell us on global treaties.

I really don’t know how we can separate them. Would there be climate policy groups without the IPCC findings?

And Gavin, I appreciate the couched language you use. See, I honestly pity you and others in the climate science world. I’m sure an anonymous poll would reveal a strong bias toward the opinion that we have passed the point of destabilization, throwing us into a wild new era of unknowns. I understand the enormous pressure you’re under to keep seeking “solution”. It’s far too political now, and that will only get worse.

Let me ask you a question: Have models been run to identify a destabilization point? Can the question even be framed as something that can be modeled?

If no/yes, would it make sense to see what we can learn there?

Re: #906


Perhaps you misunderstood my use of the word “acceleration”.

I was referring to the natural acceleration of a warming event. Dr. Hansen, for one, believes that we reach a point in a warming where the event must complete itself, in other words, little or no permanent ice.

I agree and I believe we are past that point.

Re: #912


Please avoid sweeping statements.

I’m quite happy to have any of my suggestions improved upon, which would at a minimum require the other person to present me with some information.

With regard to reservoirs, I don’t know why you consider it necessary to associate dams with reservoirs. As you surely know, there are many reservoirs which are not the result of dams.

I never meant to use the word dams at all. It was a complete mistake, an accident.

This is the third time I am saying this and I don’t like to waste everybody’s time doing that, so for the last time:

The U.S. of the future will have less snow but more rain, and snow/glacier-based rivers will run low or run dry. Wet and dry regions will likely also shift, and the wet regions will likely get far more rainfall than they could, today, capture and preserve. Thus, in order to survive in that new world, we need a comprehensive national water management strategy which at a minimum improves on how much rainwater can be captured and preserved but which should also include dumping as little waste water as possible into streams and back out to sea (better to recycle and preserve it) as well as an integrated network to get water from where it falls to where its needed, and to replenish low supplies from over-supplied stocks.

Now, can I make an easy million by betting that much that not you nor Hank nor anybody else can produce evidence that there is even a concerted effort to have that discussion, let alone actually taking steps in that direction?

Re: #907


Did you see my question?:

Have models been run to identify a destabilization point? Can the question even be framed as something that can be modeled?

Re: #905


Why are we all screwed?

We can’t learn to adapt?

What choice will we have?

Let me propose this: Some will survive, some won’t. What will be the factors which determine who is who?

I submit that one such factor will be how willing they were to face reality and make the wisest use of available information.

Re: #917


Doesn’t this:

make my point?

Lets you and I take a step back and see what we agree on.

We agree that energy efficiency slays more than one dragon, and that there is some low-hanging fruit.

We agree that there are some good ideas out there which unfortunately encounter a lot of resistance.

Now, some things I submit that we could agree on:

There is no national commitment to specific targets for energy effiency.

There is no coordinated national effort to plan for the eventual likely effects of persistent warming.

I won’t ask you to agree with me regarding what time it is; I’ve made my argument, I can provide supporting documentation, we all have to decide what the information means to us.

But my issue is this, sir: My “good idea” is to get us to a point where enough of us agree on what constitutes a “good idea” that we have a chance to get it done.

I see no point in continuing to attempt this on an international scale. It amounts to fiddling while Rome burns. Rome is going to burn anyway, so we have to learn to live with the consequences.

I do not dispute that you can find anecdotal evidence of good-faith efforts to accomplish some of these “green goals”. I would simply ask you to compare that with the ticking clock of AGW. I assume that you are at least as familiar with the science as I am, therefore you know about acceleration and some of what Hansen has said about it. You understand that CO2 will continue to rise, as will temperature, even after man stops adding to the atmospheric levels. You know it will be many decades, no matter how successful we are at reducing CO2 emissions, before AGW “turns around”, and I presume you know that the likelihood is that the even must complete before that can happen.

My hedge against all of that is to plan for the consequences.

Re: #922


You wrote: “It’s one reason to start as soon as possible.”

We would have to have a longer discussion about what that sentence implies.

To me it implies that we just haven’t tried hard enough to convince people, that somehow the effort is lacking.

But do you honestly believe that?

I don’t know how long you’ve been involved in the “AGW debate”. For me it’s not that long, 3+ years, but in just that time I’ve had an incredible arc in my reaction to denialist positions.

At first I thought they were just confused. That didn’t last long. I soon found out that they were dug in and that they had some prominent scientists on their side. Warmists were already quite busy attempting to undermine the validity of these scientists.

I’ll gloss over the back and forth; presumably you are quite familiar with it yourself.

Unfortunately, one inescapable conclusion I have reached at this point is that the denialist position is highly adaptable and probably undefeatable, for several reasons:

1. AGW takes a long, long time to kick into a gear that will stir a conscious response;

2. Annual variability means that we will, on a regular basis have unusual “cold” events, which will serve to undermine the message;

3. AGW science is of course a pursuit of knowledge which will never be complete; the denialist camp has become expert at turning this uncertainty and replacing of older information with new into spin which declares: “They just don’t know, and they’re asking us to bet the future on it.”

To that last point you would probably say: “It’s the uncertainty that makes it important to act as soon as possible.”

Which they bat down dismissively. There are more important short term problems to deal with, they say.

The point being: A large chunk of the public responds positively to those messages.

And keep in mind: A lot of people just don’t trust the government. I could give you solid reasons why Dr. Hansens’ favored approach, fee/rebate, could almost certainly never happen in the U.S. Short version: It would be seen by some as another massive government program. There is enough resistance to such things in American politics to, at minimum, stall it for the foreseeable future.

The denialist intent has been to stall. Stalling has always been the enemy of nipping this in the bud.

And that’s where we are, I think you’d have to agree.

By now you know why I stand where I do. I take it that you still disagree, and I have accepted the responsibility to develop my position more thoroughly.

When I have that done I will post it online and let you and others know where to find it.

I don’t want anybody to think that I am simply making wild accusations in order to be “different”.

Nothing could be less true. I had to be pried off of the AGW bandwagon, and it was the evidence that finally did it.

I owe it to the group to present that evidence, and I will, soon.

Re: #924


Certainly some of us are screwed. That’s inescapable. There will be disruption. It will mostly be slow, but specific events will lead to mass displacements.

By “slow” I mean: slow enough to adapt to.

But I absolutely do not believe that we are all screwed. I believe there will be survivors, and those people will be highly adaptable. Of course there will be massive loss of life in the interim, not purely from climate but from the wars which will no doubt be necessary to prune the human herd enough to survive on the remaining resources.

But then what will happen? The tundra of the north will prove habitable, opening up new land for development and cultivation. What is now white, then brown will eventually be green, and become a net CO2 sink. Man will be “reborn” after his near-death.

None of it avoidable. If it wasn’t climate change it would be overpopulation, or religious intolerance, or two nations mad enough to hurl nukes at each other.

Small, adept, adaptable beings survive extinction events. Large, high-maintenance, slow-to-adapt creatures perish.

Humans occupy both ends of that spectrum.

Now, we can get weepy and talk about the victims who did nothing wrong, did not leave a large carbon footprint but are left to pay the price.

And do you know why that is? Because they were weak. They lacked the power to form a constituency which could protect their interests.

That, sadly or not, is how life works.

So, framing the AGW debate in terms of “saving the innocent” is, to me, just one more lie. The “innocent” are “the powerless” and they are powerless for a reason.

Now, the next step would be to assert that it is our human duty to look after the powerless.

That’s a discussion worth having.

From RC

From “2009 temperatures by Jim Hansen”, Page 18:

Re: #851


I can say it simply and I have said it simply:

The game is over. We lost. What’s the new game?

Not a game, regardless of how you view or phrase it. And nobody's "lost" anything--Jim]

Re: #852


OK, how about this? We lost the war, and it’s because we never really fought it.

Now, what’s the next move?

And Jim: We are going past 450 ppm and you know it as well as you know your name.

[Response:"The difficulty with prediction is that it involves the future"--Niels Bohr.
"It ain't over 'till it's over"--Yogi Berra.

Re: #853


If you think China will allow a concerted economic policy to dictate to them how they grow their energy apparatus:

I strongly disagree, and I mean strongly.

And who has the political will for that?

And is the U.S. even committed to its own reductions? What has Obama promised, a 20% reduction in 2005 levels by 2020? Under any scenario we know of, will that accomplish anything useful?

I suspect you have more faith in things unseen than is warranted.

Re: #854

Bart! I appreciate the candor, I truly do.

With any luck we can start a trend.

And by the way I do not think it is impossible to solve AGW.

What I have said, most vehemently, is that the current solutions businessis a fraud, and that the people who meet for these climate summits are perpetuating a vicious lie, that a global agreement can be reached, can be implemented and can avoid calamitous warming. No, no and most definitely no.

Once we accept that plain reality, we can – at last – start looking for the much, much better ideas we will need to actually have a chance to solve it.

I loved your out-of-the-box brainstorming. We need so much more of it.

Re: #855


I appreciate that you are trying to come to grips with climate reality.

And I completely understand, I honestly do, why it is so difficult to accept my assertion that we will burn most of our oil (including shale and tar) and much of our coal.

On the other hand, you have to also understand inertia. I don’t know how old you are: I am 50. That affords a certain perspective that is generally unavailable to younger folks. You need to see a lot before you get a real sense of what is and isn’t likely to occur on mass scales.

And for sure there are many “older folk” (not that 50 is terribly old) who still do believe there will be a massive shift in human behavior before we burn through most of our oil and much of our coal.

They are simply and plainly wrong.

Just look at year-by-year numbers and you will see that they still go up and that the rate of growth is also still going up.

So, based on what logic would we assert that there will be a sudden reversal in that usage? Nothing that’s been tried til now has come close to accomplishing that.

We can and we should go right on investing in green technology, but the simple fact is that more people need more energy than these measures can, today, produce, so as energy needs increase, CO2 emissions, for the next couple of decades, will continue to increase.

Somewhere in there it will flatten. Ten years? Maybe. Nothing has happened as fast as we would like, so my hedge is that it’s more like 20. Now, we need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Trucks, jets, rockets, plastic…things that no alternative that we know of can replace their CO2 emissions. Getting green tech to the masses will be wickedly expensive. Most nations these days are running deficits. No significant tax policies have been passed in the U.S., for one, to encourage a private market shift.

Policy makers are either paralyzed or caught in a political system which grinds this issue to a halt.

That’s not subject to rapid change, either.

CFU, there is no avoiding the simple fact that we will emit enough CO2 to go past 450 ppm, and that also implies a massive dump of much more carbon into the world ocean, with its attendant knowns and unknowns and its ability to maintain the atmospheric equilibrium far into the future.

Just keep this simple process in mind:

a) Man at some point stops adding to atmospheric CO2 levels.
b) The world keeps warming.
c) A warming ocean gives up more of its CO2.

If we simply follow the science, we know, approximately, where we are and what we face.

Re: #856

Ray, this lazy man’s quickie from Wikipedia:

Optimistic estimations of peak production forecast the global decline will begin by 2020 or later…

So, we can easily maintain current rates of use and growth for the next decade. I expect that we will. And yes, as the level of available oil declines, refined oil will become more expensive. So at some point “market forces” will kick in. They always do.

It just won’t be in time.

And coal remains, for the U.S. and China, insanely cheap to produce compared to any alternative. That’s not changing real soon.

And as we warmers know, AGW did not cancel winter. It gets cold in our countries, and we will be burning coal to keep warm.

For a long, long time to come.

(We keep building new plants!)

ReL #857


I completely agree that most of what we’ve learned in the last four years paints an even scarier picture than what we thought was true.

Two observations:

1) It hasn’t made a bit of difference;

2) It does confirm that science is about uncertainty, which makes it harder to say “we know” and get away with it.

And I have to also underscore that many advocates of AGW are very quick to staple the latest observation or hypothesis to AGW theory, which is a sure way to get burned.

In a policy debate as sticky as this, overselling is a major crime.

Re: #861


That’s two inlines in a row. I’m excited! Can we have an actual debate on this sometime, somewhere? Give me a few weeks to get prepared?

We can state that the premise is: Atmospheric CO2 will surpass 450 ppm.

You can take the negative and I will take the positive.

I’m just an average guy. All I’ll bring with me are the actual observations of actual scientists and my own reading of human behavior, backed by statistics.

I am highly confident that I can make a strong case for the positive, using the words of people who I assume you hold in high regard, as do I.

[Response: I'm sure you can but why discuss it all when we're all doomed? Wouldn't it be easier and quicker just to kill ourselves, given that "we lost" and everything's hopeless and all...--Jim]

By the way:

I’m having trouble coming up with a “Jim” who contributes to this site.

If the “Jim” with whom I’m corresponding is Dr. Hansen, allow me to reveal that my knees have suddenly gone weak.

You are (if that’s who I’m speaking to) one of my all-time heroes.

And what I’d really like to ask you, as I’ve been posting here and elsewhere:

How do you reconcile your previous statements about the lifetime of atmospheric CO2 levels with your recent assertions that we can (a) avoid 40 ppm (in a real-world scenario) and (b) how we can preside over a decline to 350 ppm.

I would also suspect that you have little time for a “warmer versus warmer” debate, but one thing is true:

If we did have that debate, I would be relying heavily on your own words and observations.

And I know it would be mighty difficult to say “We’ve locked in enough momentum to destabilize the ice sheets, so now we need a new plan” after your many years advocating that we can and must avoid that.

Man, if that’s really you: I hope you would win that debate. I hope I’m wrong.

I just don’t think so, and my hyper-rational mind insists that I go with that.

Re: #866


I’m happy to defend myself from that assertion.

Feel free to name the time and place.

(You won’t find anything I’ve said to support the assertion that I am claiming anything like “everything’s hopeless.”)

[Response: Other than "it's over" and "we lost" and "we lost the war" and that international treaties will not help, and that we are lying to ourselves, and that our efforts are ineffective, and that we're making no progress, and that you have no confidence in various proposed plans of action--other than those you mean? You have an interesting concept of hope.--Jim]

Re: #867


There is nothing remotely rant-like about my comments, so please stop using ad-hom, inflammatory language.

And if you thin this is “not much traction” then you’ve missed previous exchanges of this kind. Trust me, this is MAMMOTH traction compared to past experiences.

Steve wrote: “What do you think the new game is?”

Steve, I’ve touched on that. Allow me to admit that for all my gusto, I try to be humble here and there as well.

You won’t see me rattling off a list of answers to that question. I have no confidence in any assertion that “This is what we must do now” or any such thing.

All I am advocating for, at this time, is honesty. Just admitting what the science is telling us, and what we can observe about human behavior (there is a history to that, as well as there being a history to climate change itself).

But some of the forward-looking suggestions I have made include:

1. Admitting that nations will act, and spend, in their own national interest.

2. Admitting that global treaties will not solve this problem.

3. Engaging in research to understand likely rates of change, especially to sea levels.

4. Engaging in robust policy discussions about how to spend the nation’s wealth in response to the above. What will be most important is to choose policies which have the potential to “grow the economy” while also addressing practical, likely scenarios over the next several decades.

None of the above can happen until we stop lying about where we are and the ineffectiveness of current efforts.


Re: #870


“You have a very unique concept of hope.”

Thanks. I take that as a sincere observation from which I do not shy away.

I’m happy to have that discussion as well.

I am doing what I can to position myself in favor of hope.

Re: #876


I agree that we need better medicine.

To do that we must start with a correct description of the problem.

Re: #878

There is actually a defensible answer to that, but that’s not what I was saying.

And before I elaborate on the rest of that post, please and this is my last request, keep your snark in your pocket. We can talk or you can flame, those are the choices.

Now: You said “go hog wild” by which I take it that you mean, go ahead, burn more and more carbon, go and have your fun while we incinerate the planet.

I paraphrase, with some color thrown in.

No, I advocate no such thing. I simply say to the people who are trying to tell us what to do: Please stop lying about our ability to avoid catastrophic sea level rise. Let us know the real facts so we can make intelligent policy choices.

I’ve been thinking about what some of those policy choices might be, and I have some, these are all on a national scale:

1. Commit to building many more dams to trap rainwater. The future planet will have less snow but more rain. Spread out over a continent, we should be able to trap enough water to flourish.

2. Create regulations for new building construction which mandate certain levels of energy efficiency. As a technology is demonstrated as cheap and effective, it becomes the minimum required standard for new construction.

3. Create regulations for efficiency levels for all appliances. Again: as a technology becomes cheap and effective, it becomes the minimum standard. We are close enough at this point to, for example, ban fluorescent light bulbs.

4. Encourage green growth, by which I mean trees and shrubbery, things which absorb a lot of heat and CO2, keeping the surrounding area cooler. As the planet warms, hot weather will get real hot, and shade will be important. We’re going to want mature trees, so we should start soon. I have no specific ideas for how to encourage this, but one example would be community planning boards insisting that new home developments and other parcels must preserve a certain amount of the trees present, or in cases where there are no trees, commit to planting a certain number.

5. Create policies which move people away from coastlines. Declare “no new or replacement construction” policies within certain distances from the shore line. If this is done correctly, migration can be smoother.

6. Of course, coastal cities are another story. A lot of study, planning, preparation and investment will be necessary to make sure that coastal cities can withstand sea level rise, which within 100 years could easily swamp them otherwise.

These ideas will help get the ball rolling on the subject of how nations might spend their climate change dollars.

Re: Item 1 above, my error. I meant “reservoirs”.

Mea culpa.

Item 3 above (having a good day, Walt?) I did of course mean, ban incandescent light bulbs.

Re: #889


Please direct me to the federal programs which are actively pursuing the above.

And if you do find them, then shame on them for burying these measures.

And by all means, Hank, feel free to contribute your own ideas.

Re: #890


By now you know I meant reservoirs.

Hanks seems to think we’re at full speed on all of these.

I’d like to see a vast network of interconnected clean, fresh water reservoirs and transfer systems which can send water from where it falls to where its needed, and can help overflow from one reservoir fill up another that’s falling low.

And no matter what anybody says, today as we speak most rainwater finds its way to the sea, as does most waste water.

We can do a lot more to be self-sufficient hydrologically by the time the rivers run dry.

Unless Hank wants to reveal the secret government program that’s already got that covered.

And we’ve banned incandescent bulbs?

ANOTHER thing I missed, evidently.

Re: #894


Of course I’m aware that we sporadically and disjointedly address each of these things.

My intent was to identify areas where a national commitment can help us prepare for the inevitable future of much higher sea levels, lower rivers, less snow, more rain and shifts in dry/wet regions.

There is no such national commitment today no matter what Hank says, and that is because there is no national commitment to even a “future world” mindset, other than a vague awareness that oil will one day run out.

I don’t know how a serious person can attempt to assert otherwise.