Harry and Andrew Adams are the climate commenters of the year

And don’t say it’s false balance just because there’s one from each side of the fence. I have a chart! With error bars! Marty was a close third. Kim was a sentimental favorite, but she doesn’t post long enough comments over at Judith’s.

Hello from Shanghai. I have no idea how come I can suddenly access this site or how long this will last. If I can, I will post something more germane in the coming days.

Open Thread, Test and Commenter of the Year nomination

Okay, folks. This is an open thread. It is also a test of email posting. If it works I will be able to continue posting from China. So let’s hope for the best.

Back a couple of years ago I bestowed Blogger of the Year awards. The first one went to Steve McIntyre and the second to Gavin Schmidt (he performed heroically at Real Climate right after Climategate).

I didn’t give the award to anyone last year, in part because I was busy but in part because it seems clear that climate change has been well enough explored that what we’re doing now is just re-reporting headlines and repeating our fixed opinions on the themes and minor subjects involved.

So let’s do something different. I am accepting nominations for Climate Commenter of the Year, from mid-2012 to mid-2013. Feel free to nominate yourself, but also consider other commenters on both sides of the issue.

Now if I can figure out how to post pictures, charts and files using email I will feel fully functional. Next post will come to you from another continent, if it comes at all. So have fun here and play nicely amongst yourselves.

The Long Goodbye

I have now said farewell to readers a bazillion times–from Examiner.com, from The Liberal Skeptic, from 3000 Quads and at least once from here. Here’s the appropriate reaction to this farewell:

I’m moving permanently to Shanghai and won’t have access to WordPress. I’ll still be able to comment via email, but my next post will be an open thread that will be my last post for a while–not forever, mind you, just until I take a business trip to someplace without a Great Firewall.

I wish I could leave on a note of brilliance or even vehemence. But honestly, the Climate Wars are at least on pause, if not over. In case you missed it, the climate lost. Lots of people are still beating this dead horse, but the alarmists cried wolf once too often and what James Hansen called ‘stalled temperatures’ busted them.

It’s a real pity. CO2 emissions continue to rise, and we won’t have this confluence of minimal solar activity, flipped AMO/PDO cycles and who knows what else going in the opposite direction of the secular trend forever. And it’s going to bite our children in the butt. My guess is still for 2075 when we actually are forced to take climate change seriously.

And I don’t blame the skeptics. In my mind there is a special place in hell reserved for the alarmist jerks who refused to do what was needed to seal the deal. In 1976 when temperatures started to climb, the environmental movement was the most respected on earth–more than religion, more than political movements–even more than Star Wars. And arrogance, complacence and misguided contempt for the rest of the world caused them to lose a fight that needed to be won. By trotting out third grade scare stories and boogeymen, by refusing to speak to people as adults, by treating opponents as criminals they led us to we are today.

Let’s call the roll: Michael Mann, shoddy workman, arrogant child, power hungry jerk. Go to hell. Peter Gleick, thief, liar and fool–you too. Stephan Lewandowsky, charlatan, pimp and village idiot–begone,wretch.

Nah,can’t go on. It’s too depressing. You all can finish the list for me.

I’ll toss up an open thread in a day or so and say a last good-bye. Lots of people I want to thank for their support and others I want to thank for their contribution to the climate blogosphere overall. Nominations for that category also welcome.

 

Awake

I’m back from Shanghai, back in San Francisco. I’m here to wind up my affairs in this country and move to China.

China, where I won’t be able to post on this weblog, although I can comment on it via email.

Shanghai actually looks like this–or it would, if there were ever a clear day…

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I’ve been quite busy, but have found time to wander around the climate blogosphere. Nothing has changed, it seems. At least no hearts or minds. Despite more evidence that climate sensitivity may be low, despite more evidence that we will have a large impact on our climate nonetheless, skeptics are still skeptics and alarmists are still alarmists.

My comment for now is this: We are in the middle of the third pause in global warming in the last century. In the other two, temperatures actually declined. That hasn’t happened during this pause yet.

This pause could easily last another decade. The other two lasted 22 and 25 years respectively. If it goes on, the climate models will have to be reworked. The arguments may turn decisively in the skeptics’ favor.

But it won’t mean that global warming was a fiction or that it’s finished. We may (thankfully) abandon coarse fictions like 20 foot sea level rise or the planetary takeover by mosquitoes–whose first target will obviously be polar bears. We may (thankfully) see the back of poseurs like Michael Mann, Stephan Lewandowsky and Peter Gleick.

But it won’t mean that global warming was a fiction, or that it is finished. The developing world will continue to increase its use of fossil fuels and we will continue to belch CO2 and other gases into our only atmosphere.

When it returns I hope we’re ready. Not just with abatement technologies and clever plans for adaptation. I hope we’re ready with better arguments and more open minds.

We could start here.

Back home for a bit

Hi anyone who’s still out there.

I’m back for a month. Anything anybody wants to talk about?

Long Open Thread and Bleg

Hi all. Well, I’m packed and ready to go.

This is an open thread that will be all I have to offer until the end of July. Feel free to comment here.

Where I’m going, I cannot access WordPress, so I won’t be able to post. However, I will have access to my email account and WordPress sends me your comments and gives me limited administrative capabilities via email.

So, although I will not be able to access 90% of the blogosphere, you can help me defeat censorship (well, not the kind practiced at Real Climate or Planet 3) by giving me news of the day in the comments section here. I will even be able to reply via email, so there’s the possibility of continuing the dialogue.

I would be deeply appreciative if every now and then you would let me know what’s going on and say hi.

Have fun and play nice–the person you disagree with does not consider himself or herself a villain–and probably with good reason. People commenting about climate change care about the environment, sustainable corporate and government practices and almost all of you want a better planet. That’s more important than the disagreements we have on how to get there.

Xie-xie. Zai jian. At least until the end of July.

Recapitulation of some Lukewarm beliefs, ideas and occasionally knowledge

I leave soon for three months and will not be able to post. I’ll put up an open thread right before I go, but I wanted to go back to the beginning of this blog and grab some of the basics of why Lukewarmers are Lukewarmers and why we are different from either the most skeptical of skeptics or the most concerned of the climate concerned.

(The short answer is that we believe global warming to be real and potentially quite serious, but that ‘when offered an over/under bet on 3C sensitivity, we’ll take the under’–Steve Mosher)

stuck_in_the_middle_with_you_by_mazzy12345-d3jdj7p

The theory of global warming is solid, staid and uncontroversial. All things considered, if we double the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, temperatures should increase by 1.1C over what they otherwise would have been.

The theory of atmospheric sensitivity is a different story. The political controversy that has raged since 1988 centers on the idea that our atmosphere is sensitive to changes and that changes produced by humanity–in particular our emissions of greenhouse gases–will cause more warming than just the 1.1C from the emissions themselves.

Everybody’s tired of the climate wars.

But not tired enough to quit fighting. This weblog is an attempt to differentiate some of us involved in the discussion from people at the extremes, those who hold either unwarrantedly skeptical views of what really is basic science or those who have let their imaginations run wild with apocalyptic visions of a future that the science does not predict.

We are Lukewarmers. We’re not organized. There is no motto, no creed, no manifesto. We don’t meet, we converse infrequently and we don’t have a secret handshake.

What we seem (so far) to have in common is an understanding that the basic underpinnings of climate science are understandable, well-grounded and not controversial, plus the growing realization that one of the key components of an extended theory of climate change has been pushed too far.

That component is the sensitivity of our atmosphere to a doubling of the concentrations of CO2. The activists who have tried to dominate the discussion of climate change for more than twenty years have insisted that this sensitivity is high, and will amplify the warming caused by CO2 by 3, 4 or even 10 times the 1C of warming provided by a doubling of CO2 alone.

Lukwarmers, for  a variety of reasons, think it’s lower.

We don’t know what sensitivity is. In fact, there is more than one type of sensitivity and more than one definition. That doesn’t help matters.

Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, highlighted recent work by Nic Lewis, who used observational data to postulate that a doubling of CO2 will lead to a warming of 1.6°-1.7°C (2.9°-3.1°F). Ridley’s piece was also published in the Wall Street Journal. The articles (and a vehement, if knee-jerk, response by Joe Romm, was discussed at Bishop Hill’s blog hereherehere and elsewhere.

My own contribution to the debate, published in my other weblog here, is based on decidedly lower math. I noted that during the recent (hotly debated) plateau in temperatures, humankind has managed to emit one third of all the greenhouse gases they have ever spit into the atmosphere–without any tangible effects on temperatures. Now, climate science allows for uneven steps in temperature change, and I am perfectly comfortable with that. The current warming period is certainly characterized as a sawtooth form imposed on a rising trend. It is conceivable that this is just another pause that will be followed by another period of temperature rises.

But this pause in the temperature rises has lasted longer than previous pauses. Since 1998 there has been little if any net rise in temperatures. Should this pause continue for just a few more years it will mathematically invalidate many of the climate models’ predictions.

And it almost beggars belief that the sheer quantity of emissions since 1998 can have so little effect–if sensitivity is high. On the other hand, if sensitivity is as low as Nic Lewis postulates (as have others before him), it would make more sense that a massive outgassing of CO2 in a short timeframe could still have a small effect.

What we’re left with is the realization that this period will be the proving ground for the various theories of sensitivity. Global emissions are hardly likely to go down–indeed, they will probably continue to increase, as developing countries continue to burn incredible quantities of coal in their race to provide modern lifestyles to their citizens. By the end of the decade humanity will have emitted one half of their historical total of greenhouse gases since 1998.

The results will be interesting. If the current temperature plateau holds, the climate activists will have to maintain that the lag between emission and response is so great that previous temperature rises were quite possible linked to other phenomena than human CO2–or else revise their sensitivity figures.

If, on the other hand, temperatures begin once again to rise quickly, many skeptics will have to acknowledge many uncomfortable conclusions of the climate scientists they have been fighting so bitterly.

In either case, this decade will provide something the debate has sorely needed for 25 years–answers.

I’ve said it often enough, but I’ll repeat what I think we should do while waiting for clarity regarding sensitivity and other unresolved issues with the science:

1. Tax CO2 at a starting rate of $12/ton and revisit the rate every 10 years, adjusting the rate to reflect changes in CO2 concentrations and a pre-agreed metric for climate change that has occurred in the interim.
2. Spend a global total of $100 billion for the transfer of technology to the developing world for the purpose of reducing the impact of development technologies, in hopes that they can leapfrog one or two generations of energy development.
3. Commit to spending over the course of this century on moving roads inland, removing permission for construction on threatened coasts and flood plains. The EPA found that this would cost about $400 billion for the United States about 20 years ago–adjust for inflation. But that’s a one-time cost.
4. Continue Steven Chu’s investment strategy for reducing costs in renewable energy, storage and transmission. Continue with ARPA-E at full funding. We may have another Solyndra–probably will, in fact. But we may also have another Tesla, which didn’t technically come from that program, but serves as an inspiration.
5. Encourage the U.S. EPA to regulate CO2 emissions from large emitters.
6. Accelerate permitting for new nuclear power plants to maintain nuclear power’s percentage of electricity at 20% in the U.S.
7. Uprate existing hydroelectric plants to take advantage of advances in turbine technology.
8. Mandate uptake of GPS within the air traffic control infrastructure and controlled and one-step descent on landing.
9. Homogenize permitting and regulation for installation of solar and wind power. Maintain current levels of subsidies and RPS.
10. Increase utilization of Combined Heat and Power facilities from its current 7% of primary energy production to the world average of 9% and then by steps in northern regions to benchmark levels found in Denmark, Holland and other northern European countries.
11. Support introduction of charging stations for electric vehicles.
12. Force existing coal power plants to meet best available technology standards or close.

Okay–last post for three months on Wednesday…

This is for Willard:


 

If You Only See Half The Debate, You’re In Church Listening To A Sermon

FireBrimstone

There is more or less a constant state of consternation  among the climate concerned on why their ideas about climate don’t spread like wildfire or take deeper root.

This is despite the fact that majorities in almost every country acknowledge human-caused climate change, with percentages fluctuating around a solid mean only when dramatic stories emerge.

I doubt if any of them will consider this seriously, but I firmly believe it is because their ideas, messaging, themes and marketing pillars never–never–pass through the hot fire of open debate.

Confronting the opposition sharpens the wit as well as the message, and this never happens with the climate concerned. They’ve listened too well to folk like Naomi Oreskes, who warned against the legitimizing power of debate to minority viewpoints and hence very rarely engage with skeptics or lukewarmers in public.

They resort to cheap gamesmanship online, mostly refusing to engage at contrarian venues and censoring the opposition at their own.

Too many climate-oriented websites end up just preaching to the converted, commiserating about their lack of resonance and blaming the opposition with whom they refuse to converse.

So, if you think that the case made for climate concern is muddy, weak and diffuse, it’s because the case has never really been through the trial by fire that produces a winning argument.

Once again this subject is being discussed, this time over at Planet 3. The discussion references recent conversations here at this blog. It’s a discussion in which I normally would enjoy participating. But because the administrators of the blog censor the opposition, they will not get to test their tropes with me.  But feel free to go over there, put your two cents’ worth in, hit submit and get the sign that your comment is in moderation. And then wait a day or so to see if it gets posted or not.

That’s the way to get both sides of an issue.

When did weird weather start?

I believe that the first I remember hearing about extreme weather caused or exacerbated by climate change was reading Kerry Emanuel’s paper in Nature titled, “Increasing destructiveness of tropical cyclones over the past 30 years“.

This post isn’t about that paper or any of the others that followed it. Many of the papers and stories have been responded to and as readers well know, my assessment (although I am not a scientist) is that extreme weather, which is to be expected about 5% of the time, has not increased at all, let alone been affected by the 0.8C of warming we’ve experienced in the last century. Bluntly put, I don’t think we are experiencing more storms, floods or droughts and I don’t think the storms, floods and droughts we are experiencing are any stronger than those of the past.

But this post is about that curious period between 1998 and 2005. Maybe even 1988 and 2005. With temperatures rising quickly to 1998 and staying at that level until 2005, why didn’t anybody notice the Xtreme Weather that is now everybody’s huge concern? Now, I know some tried to blame Katrina on global warming, but not anybody with an IQ in triple digits.

So, when did Xtreme Weather start and why didn’t we notice it until now?

late to the party

The Boy Who Cried Werewolf

Werewolf2

Because I spent a year of my life over at my companion blog 3000 Quads demonstrating that it is quite likely that we will be using six times as much energy in 2075 as we do today, I am very much prepared to believe that we can and probably will change the weather–in part from our increased CO2 emissions, in part from the changes in land use that accompany the growth and development of human population.

So if you tell me that some time after 2040 we will have to cope with changing patterns of rainfall, increased precipitation (about 5% worth) globally, droughty areas getting droughtier and rainy areas getting rainier, like the IPCC I will agree. This will most likely occur even if we don’t measure dramatic temperature changes, although I believe we will see notable rises in temperature after 2025.

But if you tell me that those changes are happening now, you are either crazy, ignorant or evil. Current climate and notable weather events are not the result of the 0.8C rise in temperatures experienced over the past century. That’s not my opinion. It is the opinion of the IPCC and the scientists who provide the results of their studies to them. It is the opinion of scientists who do not work for them.

Now there are some notable scientists who disagree with the IPCC and my own illustrious self, Kevin Trenberth and James Hansen among them. But they never dispute what mainstream science says–they just assert that global warming is influencing current weather. Bloggers like those at Planet 3 go along for the ride, and propagandists like Joe Romm re-trumpet their assertions. (Is that like re-tweeting, but way older?)

But as more and more people look around them and notice that current weather looks very much like past weather, claims regarding all potential impacts of global warming lose their force and credibility. And the number of people in the general public and in power turn away from concerns about the energy we use and where it comes from. The panic-mongers, agenda-pursuers and their sheep have lulled us to sleep.

As I’ve said many times, here and at 3000 Quads, this leaves us in the position of sleepwalking into the future. And I just want to repeat once more that sleepwalking along a path we share with wolves is not likely to end happily.

Take a lap

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On July 7, 2005 I was traveling by tube from my home in Kensington to my work in downtown London. Two trains ahead of ours, a bomb went off. Everybody got out of the trains, walked to a station and up the stairs to sunlight.

Fifty-two people were killed that day in four separate bombing attacks. And although London mourned their loss, they gave a collective two fingers to those who had perpetrated the attacks and went on about their business.

Although they stopped the Metro, people walked to work–not home. And at the end of the day they walked home. And the next day they walked to work.

I can’t do a marathon–too old. But I’m going for a jog for Beantown.

Sunday Evening Jog Through The Park

Taxes done. Check. Expenses done. Well, sort of. Finally unpacked. Check. Prep for next trip. Check. Version 1.0 of handmade CRM tool. Check.

Time for a Sunday evening jog through the blogosphere, then.

calm-sunday-evening-vahid-lancaster

As I have come back to the climate change blogosphere, it seems I have happened upon a week where everyone is busy drilling into their own niche. That’s a good thing–people are blogging on what has always interested/obsessed them and there is real feeling in what they are writing. Well, in most cases.

Judith Curry, Lioness of Georgia, has 4 posts up this week, but two are guest posts by Tony Brown and Nic Lewis and one is an open thread. Misters Brown and Lewis are interesting reads and the open thread is what it is, but Judith today wrote on efforts to actually show when correlation actually does mean causation, which could take on the aspect of the Holy Grail for many in environmental academia. Her post is inspired by a paper by George Sugihara of Scripps Institution of Oceanography which grabbed Judith’s fancy and would mine as well, if I had just a little more time. Given my availability and low energy level, I must be honest and say that Tony Brown’s guester was the only one I read thoroughly. And I liked it.

The Miserable Mustelid, William Connolley of Stoat, continues to rampage through the blogosphere, commenting wherever he’s permitted on the premises and usually leaving blog owners regretting their hospitable nature. At his own place of business this week, he manages to be right without being agreeable, railing against the ETS systems that are failing left and right and logically settling on a carbon tax as the only practical means of pricing the negative externalities of CO2. Of course, he stole the logic from Tim Worstall and still manages to set everyone’s teeth on edge. Sometimes being right isn’t enough. And Connolley can’t seem to get away from writing about Wikipedia, worrying at the old scab that his censorious days as an editor there must have left on his shoulder, looking scarily like a chip. Hey, William–you’re always welcome here.

Donna LaFramboise is quickly gaining traction due to her frequent posting–I don’t know where she finds the energy. As usual, she takes the hard but high road of afflicting the comfortable, highlighting hypocrisy and comparing green fantasies to hard truths on the ground.

Real Climate has turned to movie critiquing, which is probably less stressful than McBanging and McBitching. This week’s Thumbs Up goes to Thin Ice, “which tells the story of CO2 and climate from the standpoint of the climate scientists who are out there in the trenches trying to figure out what is going on.”  Feeling a bit suspicious, I clicked through to the opening segment–and it was really, really good. As a movie–I want to watch the rest of it.

Real Climate wasn’t as kind to Switch, another movie they recently reviewed. I haven’t had a chance to check the film out–but I’m glad they’re on the job and I assume it all means there are no fights going on over at their (heavily censored) website, as they must be wondering what to do with all that saved-up popcorn. Yep–head to the theater!

And in another case of symbolic sloth, Tim Lambert’s Deltoid shows the following activity: April 2013 Open Thread; March 2013 Open Thread; February 2013 Open Thread. I sincerely admire someone who, when he doesn’t have anything to say, doesn’t say it. Well done, Tim!

That’s all for this week–feel free to highlight other gems in the comments.

 

Sci-Jacked

I guess it’s safe to say that my life has a certain Forest-Gump-like quality to it, in the sense that I have been at the scene of important events without playing much of a major role in them. I’ve met famous people, worked on important projects, seen war and the end of war, etc.

I was working as associate producer for a video production company in the early 90s when we were approached by a young woman who wanted us to do a documentary. After a long period of intense psychoanalysis she had come to believe that long-repressed memories of ritual child abuse had resurfaced, were true and were horrible. Her recovered memories were detailed and intense. They contained narratives of horrific crimes committed by satanic child abusers.

Before we took the commission, my boss asked me to investigate. Certainly there were plenty of media stories about this type of incident–there had been accusations, trials and even one or two convictions. So I clipped newspaper articles and talked with a couple of reporters. One of them named an FBI agent who had been assigned to look at the broad phenomenon–he went from case to case, trying to build a picture of what was really going on. I got his details, called him and he volunteered to come out and meet with our team.

And what he said was as horrifying as the stories that the young woman had told. “I’ve investigated hundreds of these cases–done forensics at scenes where these children were supposedly held, ceremonial sites where other children were supposedly sacrificed. I’ve looked for blood, fingerprints, clothing, fibers. I’ve spent years on this. And I’ve never found one piece of evidence that any of this has occurred. I believe this is the largest case of mass hysteria this country has ever experienced. People who are deeply dissatisfied with elements of their lives look for some root cause to hold responsible–and being a victim of satanic child abuse that was so horrible that you repressed all memory of it relieves you of the responsibility for parts of your life you cannot accept.”

And it turned out he was right. There are worshippers of Satan. There are child abusers. They are not the same and what these people thought were repressed memories were dark fantasies.

Fast forward a bit. There have been a number of instances in the past twenty years where phenomenon have emerged that required a validated and logical explanation. Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy–a disease of cows that damaged brain activity, then physical control and led to death. Most prevalent in England, press reports speculated that hundreds of thousands of English folk would perish from it. And the press and the politicians claimed scientific support for this. It created a public furor that led to the massacre of millions of cows and a reorganization of the entire agricultural sector in the UK.

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As we all know, BSE was a terrible scourge for those afflicted, but it was about 157 people in total who actually suffered from it over a 20-year period. And it turned out that the politicians and the press hijacked the agenda away from more conservative scientists, used their own shoddy math to overrule scientific conclusions and come up with mystery projections of mass infection, deterioration and death.

And so it has been ever since. From the safety of vaccinations and genetically modified organisms to the menace of pesticides and fertilizers, Western Civilization has bounced from scare story to scare story, with each one first seized upon by politicians and the press, then pushed out at the general public as the results of scientific inquiry–and then revealed as hopelessly exaggerated or made up out of whole cloth. Power lines. Cellular telephones. DDT.

These all were new phenomenon that sometimes actually posed a threat to small numbers of people, but were clearly less dangerous than the heart disease, stroke and cancer that actually claim most of us at the end of the day. But their newness counted for more than the small number of victims affected and those who profit from a state of perpetual fear rode that horse as far as they could. Some of them were deft enough to change horses in mid-stream, moving from one alarm to another.

And so what of global warming? Is it in fact another new scare? It has elements of it, surely. There are politicians, preachers and pundits who have sounded the alarm without understanding the issue. There are many who have exaggerated the findings of sober scientists and a few scientists who have been less than sober themselves.

And these…villains… for want of a more incendiary term, these villains have adopted the tactics and strategies that were effective in promoting previous scares. Many resorted to hiding the defects of the science instead of promoting honest exploration. Where the scientists predicted modest sea level rise, the hysterics inflated it to drastic floods and where the scientists said that they couldn’t say what would happen at a regional level, hysterics in each region of the world said that theirs would be hardest hit.

But global warming isn’t like the other scares. First, because the globe actually warmed rapidly for a 25-year period. Not at an unprecedented rate, but at an unusual one. There was a real phenomenon. Second, because those who sought to ride the global warming horse to glory were opposed almost immediately, first by those with vested interests at stake, but later by a large number of very diverse people who reacted against the tone and the hyperbole and decided to check the numbers. So although the European Union and California put in stringent emission limits, the world as a whole did not. And although green energy received billions of dollars in subsidies, they proved additive in nature to the energy mix rather than substitutes for more proven fuels.

And now, decades later, we see that those most invested in climate alarmism have resorted to calling current weather the result of climate change, insulting the scientists who clearly say otherwise and anyone old enough to remember or read of similar events in the past. And the warming has stalled–no warming for 16 years, we’re told, during a period where humans have emitted one-third of all emissions in recorded history. And the line in the sand is drawn.

Without disputing the science behind the theory of global warming, without objecting to the temperature record or the declining ice in the Arctic, it is finally safe to say, as James Hansen did before resigning from NASA, that temperatures have stalled. Or as James Annan has said, speaking safely from Japan, that higher estimates of atmospheric sensitivity will probably be dropped from consideration. The Economist, after a decade of lining up with the most pessimistic of public affairs officers, has written clearly and accurately that climate change needs to be re-evaluated in softer terms. And one now can be a skeptic or a lukewarmer and laugh at those still shrilly hurling insults at those who don’t fall in line with their dogma.

There is apparently a time limit–a half life–for public scare stories. Eventually, like Wakefield’s lies about vaccines and autism or the phony claims about GMOs, things like the Hockey Stick Chart, Gleick’s theft and forgery of opposition documents and the bland overconsumption of energy by those championing its restriction undermine the scare stories and leave the public numb.

The job now is to preserve the scientific narrative that was obscured by the alarmists. The recent period of global warming was not imaginary. We are moving into a future that will see us emitting far more CO2 than we are now. Temperatures may have stalled–but they have not fallen, despite the movement of several phenomenon into phases that push temperatures lower. We’re not out of the woods yet.

But if we can keep the alarmists off the stage and out of the newspapers, perhaps a more realistic dialogue can address the real phenomenon instead of the nightmares.

Back Home to Talk About Upcoming Changes

Hello, readers. Finally made it back home and am certainly more lukewarm after transitioning from 100 degrees in Ho Chi Minh city to 65 here in San Francisco.

san-francisco

I think I should update you on some changes to my life that will impact my efforts on this blog.

Barring radical developments I will be taking up a permanent position located in Shanghai, China. And, although I’m greatly excited about this, it will of course have serious impacts on this labor of love here.

First, I cannot access WordPress from China. Sad, but true. I won’t be able to post from there. I won’t even be able to comment on other weblogs, which will at least please Michael Tobis, as he won’t have to agonize about censoring my comments on his weblog before heroically deciding to spare his readers from my nefarious and insurrectionist thoughts. Second, this position will require a bit more of my time than it should–I won’t have time to really research what I write and I don’t want to see a drop-off in quality–although folks like William Connelly might argue it wouldn’t be noticeable. And finally, I have been advised that lowering my public profile would be ‘a good thing’, for a variety of reasons…

So, after retiring from Examiner.com a couple of years ago, I think I will soon be retiring from this weblog (and the companion weblog at 3000 Quads) at the end of this month. I still have a few thoughts I want to express, so this isn’t the final post.

I am writing this now because I wanted to offer the possibility of transferring this blog to some interested person or a team. If someone (well, maybe not Stoat or Tobis) who has posted here frequently enough to have a track record would like to assume the glorious position, he or she might well be able to continue this and show the world how I could have done better.

If not, my final post will be an open thread that you are all invited to keep using ad infinitum. I will still be able to comment on this blog via a tunnel email connection, so I’ll at least be able to say hi. And before that happens I will be reposting the major Lukewarmer arguments so they’ll appear at the top of the thread.

It’s nice to be back in San Francisco–even if I’m a bit too jet-lagged to really appreciate it. But this is a move I have been preparing for for several years and I’m really jazzed about it.

So watch this space and I’ll keep you up to date–and like I said, I still have a few things I want to say.

Global Warmed

Despite a song that claimed it was a fact that there were 9 million bicycles in Beijing, there really aren’t. They’ve moved to cars and are probably already regretting it.

Ho-Chi-Minh-City-scene3

Greetings from Ho Chi Minh City, which had a different name the last time I visited. It’s been a while. They don’t have 9 million bicycles here, either. But it seems as though they have at least that many motorcycles. Moving seemingly at random. To cross the street just look down at your feet and trust their keen eyes and reflexes. It works just fine–most of the time.

It’s warm outside as I write this in an air conditioned room in a holdover French hotel. At 10:00 this morning it was 93 degrees Fahrenheit, or 34C, if you prefer. That’s 4C lower than the average temperature for April, so I suppose I should feel relieved.

There are 6.65 million people living here. As temperatures have warmed over the past 30 years, how has it affected the Vietnamese here in the city formerly known as Saigon?

Their life expectancy has increased from 42 to 79 years of age. Average income has climbed from $100 per person per year to $1,130 between 1986 and 2010. Poverty has decreased from 58% in 1993 to 29% in 2002.

Aside from the statistics, what anyone can see in a taxi ride from the airport to the hotel is people living a very normal, if very different life. Whatever problems they face, and they face a myriad, climate and climate change is not very high on the list. They look animated, healthy, vibrant and completely engaged in life.

Perhaps if temperatures once again start climbing after a 16-year break, our great-grandchildren might end up living like the Vietnamese. At the risk of once again uttering heretical statements, on a Saturday afternoon it looks to this observer as if it might end up an improvement.

The Triumph of Global Civilization–A Response to Oreskes and Conway

Science fiction–the best of science fiction–is neither science nor fiction. It is about how humans react to change. The writers of this genre that will live on through their words understood this very well. Isaac Asimov knew that Hari Seldon was more important than psycho-history, Orson Scott Card knew that Andrew Wiggin was more important than The Game.

Sadly, if almost inevitably, Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway make every mistake ever committed by bad science fiction writers in their recent piece “The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From The Future.” Polemics? Check. Ignoring the laws of physics? Check. Not researching the doom they foretell? Double check. It’s like reading a bad translation of Bakunin. Before and after their bad-luck curses on Western Civilization and its prospects (due in equal parts to the adoption of neo-liberal economics and the neglect of climate change) they chart their dreary course through the devastation of the planet with a rather smug, I-told-you-so air. Droughts! Heat waves! Dengue fever! Food riots in the U.S.! Martial law! And–our poor northern neighbors–a merger between the U.S. and Canada.

But that’s only the start. The return of the Black Death (apparently all our penicillin dried up). The Sagan Venusian Effect! (My computer is running low on exclamation points–undoubtedly another unwanted effect of climate change.)

It’s bad enough that they blame Hayek, who I always thought was a decent actress. They end with the worst possible nightmare–”a vigorous intellectual discussion” of whether we’re now grown up enough to be given back our democracy.

Let’s try another version.

“Looking back on the 21st Century, we are struck by one single phenomenon–a return to science, its norms and precepts, a move that accelerated global growth and put behind us the shibboleth of scientism, the corruption of science to serve propaganda.

Although numerous instances could be cited (GMOs, vaccine hysteria, etc.), the obvious standout is climate change. The political movement that grabbed the torch from unsuspecting scientists threatened to subsume research under its umbrella, take uncounted billions (which was real money in those days) from citizens in taxes and better causes in general, and condemn half the planet to live with the propagandists’ jackboots in their faces–forever.

Claiming to be the voice of the science, they ushered scientists and science off the stage so they could continue their apocalyptic tirades. Moving their adherents into posts of power they pronounced themselves first, the mainstream and then the only legitimate voices in the discussion.

They fortunately did not take into account the democratizing power of the internet (Remember the internet?). No matter how loud and profane the propagandists’ tirade became, people began to notice that people were not sickened by GMOs, that herd immunity was a valuable social good and that the climate refused to follow the dictates of the ever-angrier thugs.

The climate indeed warmed, and human emissions of greenhouse gases did indeed contribute. But the warming occurred at a lower rate than the propagandists’ heralded, and when they tried to cook the books the way they said humanity was cooking the planet, people noticed. When decades passed in the early part of the century without warming, despite impressive emissions of CO2, again, people noticed.

Real scientists had pointed out the dangers (more modest than the propagandists would permit consideration of) and when seas rose, ice melted and the patterns of rainfall changed, seawalls were built, crops were changed and people moved a bit inland. There were storms, drought and heatwaves. But these had been with us always and are still with us today. However they did not increase in size or severity–although they sometimes caused more financial losses in an increasingly wealthy world.

The Emperor wore no clothes and the propagandists were defeated. But more important than humanity’s victory in the case of hysterical claptrap about apocalyptic climate change, the propagandists unwittingly gave humanity a much greater gift.

For within their diatribes about human emissions of CO2 were thinly veiled attacks on neo-liberal economic traditions, the same traditions that had rescued hundreds of millions from poverty even while being attacked as pitiless and destructive. And when the propagandists were thoroughly discredited, it rescued the economic path that has brought us to a much better world today.

And so not only were the poor free to catch up with the rich, the scientists were freed from the prison of climate studies to return to the biotechnology that has given us longevity, the robotics that has given us leisure and the nanotechnology that has made our world a park.”

The enemy’s gate is down.

Paradise-Awaits-Part-2-of-3

Sea Level Rise

As you fly out of Manila airport, as I did yesterday (greetings from Singapore!), you are sure to be struck at the size of the metropolitan area. The metropolitan region covers 247 square miles and is home to 22 million people. The city proper has 1.65 million inhabitants and Wikipedia says it is the most densely populated city in the world.

What struck me is how flat it is. The average height above sea level appears to be about six inches (although that is surely an exaggeration brought on by a birds-eye view). In fact, other parts of the infallible internet inform me that the average height above sea level is 13 feet. But the conurbation begins at water’s edge and it doesn’t start rising until long after downtown has been passed.

When we fight about sea level rise in climate change conversations, most of the time we orient the discussion around its potential effects on developed cities–that’s where all the big money is invested and where the insurance coverage is most complete.

manila-flooding

But this city is vulnerable to sea level rise and changed precipitation in a way that rich world cities are not. Because many poor people live in Manila, it hasn’t developed the infrastructure capacity to give it resilience against either event. They have suffered from historical flooding without any help from climate change. A tropical storm as savagely targeted as Sandy in the U.S. could kill tens of thousands and leave millions homeless.

This is one place where the observed average sea level rise of 3 millimeters per year–something that seems laughably inconsequential for the developed world–is actually a real threat to human life.

So while I still feel that actors on the climate stage are exhibiting infantile or criminal behavior, this issue stays alive for me. And to connect it to recent events, I would much rather see Gleick, Lewandowsky, Mann and others of their kidney retire and take up knitting, I am sorry to see James Hansen retire from NASA. He is foregoing a role that gave him a bully pulpit in favor of a more personally satisfying, but far less effective role as an activist.

Any fool can get arrested. It takes a career to get to a position where you can influence public policy. Adopting the first at the expense of the latter is a sad turn of events for both science and politics.

The other half

Greetings from a different part of the world. I just left Shanghai after a few hectic days. Hectic, but at least there was no temptation to blog, as WordPress is one of many websites not available there. (WordPress I can understand. But YouTube? YouTube?)

shanghai-landscape

Well, anyhow. It’s a big city–about 26 million in the metro area, maybe 10 million in the city itself. I didn’t count…

I will tell you that I have never heard the word ‘opportunity’ so many times in a 3-day timespan. These people are after it. I gotta say it made Manhattan look a bit like Mayberry. Shanghai’s the real deal.

These people do not seem to care overmuch about carbon dioxide. They are actively concerned about carbon monoxide, and all the other pollutants that make the skies battleship grey by 10:00 a.m. And I must say it isn’t pleasant trying to brush my teeth with bottled water.

There are four wind turbines on the approach to Pudong Airport, and they were turning lazily as we flew in. There are some buildings with solar panels, too. Heck there are some big time solar manufacturers headquartered here.

But these people are too damn busy to worry about global warming. How nice… I envy them.

But I’m not one of them. Still worried. Still a Lukewarmer. Still infuriated with idiots and criminals like Lewandowsky and Gleick, still amazed that Morano and Monckton get a free pass from people who call themselves skeptics. Still thoroughly annoyed at inveterate doom-criers, still flabbergasted at people who think what we’re doing to our environment will have no consequences.

Now I’m in Catholic Manila, where the paper has a long editorial about the new Pope, wondering why he took off his nice new uniform in public.

They’re holding a photo contest here for best pictures of the effects of climate change. There are a lot of entries. While I’m skeptical that the photos actually will show climate change, here in the Philippines they have enough problems with the weather that they can be forgiven for ascribing the floods, typhoons, heat and humidity to something less capricious than just weather.

This probably isn’t as tightly focused as some of my other posts. Somehow I can’t get too concerned about that. Hope you’re all having fun back home.

Michael Tobis and Vampire Arguments

Blogging while waiting to board.

Three years ago there was a sudden flurry of interest in ice in the Antarctic.

Although climate theory and the IPCC agree that global warming should cause an increase in Antarctic ice, due to increased precipitation in an area that, while warming, is still very cold, apparently the idea that somewhere, anywhere, could actually be gaining ice was anathema to some. And so there was Steig, and the GRACE measurements, and all that.

Michael Tobis recently denied that I have found peer-reviewed support for about nine different issues that we have argued about over the years. He challenged me to show him again what I have showed him before. Recreate the argument and show the links that I provided in support.

Bear in mind that I am not claiming that a) I am 100% correct or b) that the existence of a paper somewhere proves that I am right. Just that my own assumptions do have some backing in the peer-reviewed literature.

September 6, 2010, Michael Tobis’ website Only In It For The Gold:

“A press release just yesterday (!) amounted to a major correction to GRACE estimates of mass flux. This is apparently a correction for isostatic rebound. It is good news because it means our worst fears that might be gleaned form the above graphs may need reconsideration.
Based on this principle, previous estimates for the Greenland ice cap calculated that the ice was melting at a rate of 230 gigatonnes a year (i.e. 230,000 billion kg). That would result in an average rise in global sea levels of around 0.75 mm a year. For West Antarctica, the estimate was 132 gigatonnes a year. However, it now turns out that these results were not properly corrected for glacial isostatic adjustment, the phenomenon that the Earth’s crust rebounds as a result of the melting of the massive ice caps from the last major Ice Age around 20,000 years ago. These movements of the Earth’s crust have to be incorporated in the calculations, since these vertical movements change the Earth’s mass distribution and therefore also have an influence on the gravitational field.
The corrected figures are reported in a multi-author paper in the Nature Geoscience by Wu et al. Quoth Wu:
According to our estimates, mass losses between 2002 and 2008 in Greenland, Alaska/Yukon and West Antarctica are 104±23, 101±23 and 64±32 Gt yr−1, respectively. Our estimates of glacial isostatic adjustment indicate a large geocentre velocity of −0.72±0.06 mm yr−1 in the polar direction. We conclude that a significant revision of the present estimates of glacial isostatic adjustments and land–ocean water exchange is required.”

This is actually picking up the story midstream, as Tobis had sounded much more worried in an earlier post. But I’m waiting for boarding call.

Here’s one source I found for my belief: “1992 to 2003, Curt Davis, MU professor of electrical and computer engineering, and his team of researchers observed 7.1 million kilometers of the ice sheet, using satellites to measure changes in elevation. They discovered that the ice sheet’s interior was gaining mass by about 45 billion tons per year, which was enough to slow sea level rise by .12 millimeters per year. The interior of the ice sheet is the only large terrestrial ice body that is likely gaining mass rather than losing it, Davis said.
“Many recent studies have focused on coastal ice sheet losses and their contributions to sea level rise,” Davis said. “This study suggests that the interior areas of the ice sheet also can play an important role. In particular, the East Antarctic ice sheet is the largest in the world and contains enough mass to raise sea level by more than 50 meters. Thus, only small changes in its interior can have a significant affect on sea level.”
The study, funded by NASA’s Cryospheric Processes Program and the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Glaciology Program, suggests that increased precipitation was the likely cause of the gain. This was based on comparisons with precipitation model predictions over the same period of time. The most recent U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reported that Antarctica would gain mass due to increased precipitation in a warming climate. However, the study made no direct link to global warming.
“We need more ice core measurements from East Antarctica to determine if this increased precipitation is a change from the past or part of natural variability,” said Joe McConnell of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev., who co-authored the study.
The researchers used satellite radar altimeters from the European Space Agency’s ERS-1 and ERS-2 satellites to make 347 million elevation-change measurements between June 1992 to May 2003.
The research team found there was a strong correlation between the predicted precipitation trends and measured elevation change over the 11-year period for the ice sheet, which indicated that East Antarctica’s interior was likely gaining mass due to the increased precipitation. The results, though, did not assess the overall contribution of the entire Antarctic ice sheet to sea level rise.”

This is how it was reported: “From the NY Times: “The eastern half of Antarctica is gaining weight, more than 45 billion tons a year, according to a new scientific study.

Data from satellites bouncing radar signals off the ground show that the surface of eastern Antarctica appears to be slowly growing higher, by about 1.8 centimeters a year, as snow and ice pile up.

The gain in eastern Antarctica snow partly offsets the rise in sea level caused by the melting of ice and snow in other parts of the world. The finding also matches expectations that the earth’s warming temperatures would increase the amount of moisture in the air and lead to greater snowfall over Antarctica.

”It’s been long predicted by climate models,” said Dr. Curt H. Davis, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Missouri and the lead author of a paper that was published on the Web site of the journal Science yesterday. ”This is the first observational evidence.”

The accumulation occurring across 2.75 million square miles of eastern Antarctica corresponds to a gain of 45 billion tons of water a year or, equivalently, the removal of the top 0.12 millimeter of the world’s oceans.”

Here’s another: “In the IPCC TAR Chapter 3 Executive Summary is this bullet point: “Over the period 1979 to 1996, the Antarctic (Cavalieri et al., 1997; Parkinson et al., 1999) shows a weak increase of 1.3 ± 0.2%/decade.”

And Tobis finally answers: That’s the Wingham result Fuller cites. (See Alley, Spencer and Anandakrishnan Ann. Glac. 46)

OK, there is one result that shows growing ice, which although it actually OVERLAPS the zero line, we need to take seriously because it SUPPORTS Fuller, as opposed to the GRACE data which don’t overlap the zero line but get close to it, which we are to ignore, because Fuller doesn’t like it.

Stipulate, then, that there is a study, somewhat on the early side, showing net growth of Antarctica. I would already have stipulated it, but Fuller has done us the kindness of identifying the study in question.”

This is what happens throughout the climate debate. Vampire arguments, the undead, even with a stake in their heart, are resuscitated for use at a later date. Both sides do it, but none more consistently than Michael Tobis.

Sorry to have inflicted a rant on you all. Posting will be light as I am traveling internationally for 2 weeks.

Another Sunday Stroll Through The Blogosphere

Saturday in the Park 2

When I’m really busy, as is the case at the moment, my reading of the climate blogs is almost perfunctory–I steal a glance at blogs when I’m in a taxi or on a plane, but I’m really just scanning for actual news or something that isn’t a bland repeat of old stories and arguments.

This week actually had stories of interest and I’m sorry I didn’t have time to delve more deeply. But in one sense, rationing my time brought something else new to me–the dawning realization that those strongly committed to a certain segment of the spectrum of opinions on climate change are so far apart and deeply entrenched that I don’t see any chance of reconciliation. The most I think we can hope for is that the argument drifts away from climate change and on to the next millenial threat.

The follow up paper by Stephan Lewandowsky was one of the most widely covered topics of the week, including my dismissal of it as actual science here. Skeptics joined me in denigrating its methodology, analysis and conclusions–Bishop Hill having posted several times on it, the final one (so far) being here, while Jo Nova posts on it here.

Defenders of the story have tellingly kept to the comments section. And their defense is not of the actual paper, but of the a priori opinions that drove Lewandowsky to write it.

Since I called Lewandowsky a charlatan in my earlier piece about his paper, I might as well go the whole hog and say that I think he is lying about one aspect of this whole sorry affair. I believe that his original paper, an incendiary string of insults based on a phony push polls that he falsely claimed were the opinions of skeptics, was in fact bait set out to garner responses for his second paper.

It is Earth Hour as I write this, and Earth Hour has received a lot of attention from the skeptics this year, as it has for the last few years. While environmentalists want to use it as a symbol of the world’s commitment to reducing energy consumption and the CO2 it brings, skeptics point out that energy is actually just as much a symbol of humanity’s ability to conquer the elements and bring light, heat and wealth to a species that cowered in caves.

No reason we can’t do both, of course, but as a Lukewarmer, let me offer a third reason to honor our ingenuity in producing energy and our concern for the consequences. Let’s make Earth Hour a commitment to the billion people on this planet unable to make this gesture, as they don’t have power to switch off for an  hour. Let’s tie a yellow ribbon around a light pole and start every newscast with ‘Day Number 100,000 of humanity held hostage, with one in seven of us unable to access the energy grid that leads to health and prosperity.’

 

Reversing Curie

The online journal Frontiers promises open access and peer review. They have recently published Stefan Lewandowsky’s paper ‘Recursive Fury: conspiracist ideation in the blogosphere in response to research on conspiracist ideation’.  So yes, access there is pretty open. Not so sure which peers reviewed this one, though.

In it, Lewandowsky describes the reactions of commenters to the publication of another paper, “NASA faked the moon landing|Therefore (Climate) Science is a Hoax: An Anatomy of the Motivated Rejection of Science”

This paper was based on an internet survey so bad that it beggars belief. Invitations were posted on the websites of climate activists and Lewandowsky and John Cook of Skeptical Science discussed the survey and nudged activists to go over there and phony up the results. They did.

Lewandowsky is a charlatan. His latest paper, co-authored by John Cook, is a flight of fantasy that ignores the fact that most of the comments that he labels ‘recursive fury’ were polite mentions of the fact that he Cooked the books in his survey–a survey he claims is published, but is not.

I play a minor role in this. As someone who has worked in the field of online research pretty much from the day online research started, I have participated in literally thousands of online surveys. I commented on Lewandowsky’s weblog posts concerning his survey, pointing out some of the (many) issues with what he had done and asking for a look at the questionnaire.

Lewandowsky deleted all of my comments. And his latest paper, which has a Data Supplement showing the ‘recursive fury’, which apparently means cherry picking a few of the comments he didn’t like, doesn’t mention my deleted comments for some reason.

In addition to biasing the sample, Lewandowsky presented different versions of the survey to respondents coming from different websites. His ‘conspiracists’ from the skeptic world were outnumbered by ‘conspiracists’ from the climate activist community. He has not published the data, despite promising to do so and claiming that he has.

He has clearly read the criticisms of his paper–indeed, he includes some of them in his data supplement. So there is no real reason to excuse him for what he has perpetrated on the scientific community in his latest effort.

Online Ed Fraud

He’s not doing either his field or science in general any favors. In fact he’s helping destroy a tradition and methodology that has advanced human progress immeasurably.

He doesn’t care.

Very Serious People

Unlike a fair number of my readers, I’m a liberal Democrat (and some day I’ll tell you all why! But not today…).

As a progressive liberal I enjoy reading the thoughts of bloggers like Andrew Sullivan (who actually is a liberal conservative), Paul Krugman, Kevin Drum and others. I’m fortunate enough to have ready access to conservative counterpoints, which I hope helps me avoid tunnel vision. Some of the best minds of the last century were conservative and I don’t want to forget that. Speaking as a partisan I must say I see no sign of conservatives doing that this century–but maybe they’re just off to a slow start. Every political movement has fallow periods where stagnant dogma and entrenched interests make it look moribund–it’s sure happened to Dems more than once.

One area where the liberal points of view disappoint me mightily is in discussion of climate change. Folk like Sullivan, Drum and Krugman parrot establishment talking points without showing any sign of ever having investigated the issue at all.

Krugman is especially disappointing as he understands statistics–he earned his Nobel (and if I can permit myself a partisan aside, he is IMO completely correct in his analysis of the current global economic situation and the path needed to correct current problems), and I cannot believe he has looked at the statistics used by the spokespersons he parrots.

Krugman, as well as Drum and Sullivan, have joined unwittingly the ranks of the Very Serious People on climate change. This is a bitter irony as they were among the first to note the existence of VSPs who blindly echoed the Bush administration’s basic talking points on terrorism and our foreign policy in Iraq. In that case, basic acceptance of the Bush/Cheney doctrine served as table stakes, a minimum requirement for participation in policy discussions, with predictably disastrous consequences.

Very Serious

All three of these bloggers, with whom I agree on so many subjects, use the same language and offer the same tired tropes for dealing with climate change. It is obvious that they learned about climate change at the knee of Al Gore, when they would have been better served by Andrew Revkin, and have continued getting their talking points from Michael Mann, Bill McKibben and Peter Gleick, rather than saner and more honest voices.

For the avoidance of doubt, let me be precise: Michael Mann is continuously in error in his analysis of the temperature record. Bill McKibben is not stable in his demeanor or policy advocacy. Peter ‘Gleick stole and forged (or knowingly published forged) documents from an organization he opposes. Reliance on their pronouncements will lead even intelligent and savvy people into a spiral of error that leads to foolish pronouncements such as Krugman’s latest misstatement condemning deniers to hell. 

When Very Serious People can be Very Seriously Wrong about a subject of global consequence, we have to begin to  analyze what the qualifications are for the position. They certainly reach the level of national significance through achievement (even if you disagree on their positions, you should note that they are skilled and intelligent).

But what happens afterwards? Why would Andrew Sullivan, Paul Krugman and Kevin Drum feel a need to comment on climate change? They don’t claim to be experts on the subject (and quite clearly are not). They don’t appear to have read enough of the current literature to even understand the state of play regarding the debate.

It very much appears that their opinion is pasted in from Joe Romm’s writings with no analysis or consideration. Which has led to the disastrous result of three of my favorite writers looking really stupid about an important issue.

So the next time they write about something important their credibility will be reduced. And that’s a tragedy from the point of view of a liberal Democrat–now all you Republicans can start snickering.

Will The Circle Be Unbroken, By And By Lord, By And By

ToolCoolToLiveTooSmartToDie-AlbumCover

I don’t want to get all meta and ironical and stuff, but am I the only one who finds it amusing that the same week a brand new and improved Hockey Stick chart gets inflicted on us all that we are also inundated with 200,000 Climategate emails?

Next thing you know some former vice president will get caught with his hands on a masseuse and a respected scientist will be busted for faking the strategy documents of some heartless lobbying group.

I’d paw through the emails myself but I already have 1,273 unread messages in my inbox.

And I’d get a bit snarky about Marcotte et al but why bother when McIntyre is probably going to unload on it any day now–unless he gets trapped inside those emails…

Let me know how it all turns out, okay? I’m going to bed.

Update: Oh. McIntyre has already begun unpacking Marcotte. I hope Marcotte is not as thin-skinned as Mann. (Will there ever be an actor in the climate wars whose name doesn’t begin with ‘M’? McIntyre, McKitrick, Mann, Mosher, Me, M. Tobis, Mansen, Momm…)

The Real Climate War

We have a lot of fun here rooting around in the blogosphere. We set up scenarios where the scientists and activists are fighting the other scientists and the skeptics. Politicians, funding, NGOs and the mass media are all presumed to play a part in a struggle that, for some, pits the past against the future and for others pits free markets against a pitiless and planned economy.

It’s all bunk, of course. But it lets either side write a caption for images like this:

Dinosaurs_vs_ Cowboys_by_Justin_Thompson

 

There is a titanic struggle for the future going on, of course–you just knew there had to be, right?

But it doesn’t involve any of the actors named above, at least not more than peripherally.

We are all in the middle of a fierce corporate fight between The Ghost of Energy Past and The Ghost of Energy Yet To Come.

This isn’t Hansen and Mann versus Lindzen and McIntyre. This is GE, Siemens and Vestas against Exxon, Chevron and Duke.

Starting after the Second World War, corporate interests have been lobbying legislators and paying distinguished people to promote their version of the future of energy. But it wasn’t the Koch Brothers or Patrick Michaels–it was Westinghouse and Dr. Edward Teller, going around laying the footwork for the growth of nuclear power. It was they who first brought the idea of global warming into the conversation, starting with Margaret Thatcher and her bright young acolyte now known as The Viscount Monckton.

We all know how the fossil fuel industry responded. And while we moan over the pennies both sides give to advocacy groups like The Heartland Institute or the Sierra Club, most of the money was spent on lobbying legislators and structuring legislation and tax codes.

All the stuff we are fighting about is just the foam at the top of the wave.

We can characterize this war in any way we like–old versus new, green versus brown, dirty versus clean. But in reality it’s just one group of corporations fighting another group over control of an industry–primary energy–that the world spent over $5 trillion on two years ago and is growing by 3% a year.

Neither side is clean–both are willing to do whatever it takes to win. But neither side can be blamed–both feel that their solution is vastly superior and better for their country and their countries’ economies. None of these people think they are villains.

What they are, are confident actors used to being on the world stage and influencing the world itself. From General Electric, started by Thomas Edison and partially financed by J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts to Standard Oil, the trust that was busted but made John D. Rockefeller the richest man in the world, this is a battle of titans playing for the world as stakes.

And we’ve got a ringside seat.

Another Sunday Stroll Through The Blogosphere

…and again, this will be another quick glance. My schedule is not my own to make these days.

saturdaypark

We start with Bishop Hill, who recently blogged on a debate held at the Oxford Union. Participants included skeptical scientist Richard Lindzen, as well as David Rose, Mark Lynas and Myles Allen. Bishop’s not-quite-objective view of the debate is that Lindzen more than held his own. Lindzen’s low-key style may have provided a needed contrast to the more frenetic pronouncements of others in the climate arena–I’m looking forward to reading the transcript or seeing the recordings, both to be released at a somewhat vague point in the future.

Watt’s Up With That links to some very long media pieces on an important subject–the other part of human contributions to climate change. These constitute a variety of human practices: Deforestation, dam (and reservoir) building, agricultural changes and urbanization. In this case, however, the subject is management of domestic animals.

Sadly, the material Anthony links to is too long for me to look at in this frantic period of my life–maybe on a plane this evening or at the airport if I get there early. But considering that much of the Middle East was severely affected by animal husbandry practices starting 5,000 years ago, I’m certainly willing to believe that managing sheep especially can have an impact on climate overall. I’m looking forward to diving in.

In addition to her first haiku of 2013, Lucia Liljegren at the Blackboard continues a battle that promises to be never-ending, that of keeping both sides honest in the discussion of models, temperature records and statistical treatment thereof.

Planet 3 has a number of pieces up this past week, few of which I agree with overall, all of which are actually quite interesting. My view of Planet 3 is similar to my view of Watts Up With That–there’s a lot there that frustrates me but an awful lot that interests me. And I’ll be the operators of both blogs are horrified by my comparing the two.

The big news this week, of course, was the unveiling of a new statue of a new Hockey Stick, this one using a wide variety of proxies that extend back through the 12,000 years since the end of the last Ice Age. It’s discussed everywhere, but I’ll link to Andrew Revkin’s account at Dot Earth to get you started. This is one that will be carefully looked at and both praise and criticism has issued forth, almost before it would be possible to carefully read and assess the work. Hmm. No change in the treatment of real news, then.

Well, here in San Francisco, the fog is breaking, it’s early morn, the taxi’s waiting outside my door…

It’ll be another difficult week for me in terms of posting, but I managed to get a couple up last week. I’ll try and do better.

Happy Sunday to all!

No-one understands him but his woman

We’ll never put this to bed completely, so why not do a post focused on the Hockey Stick Chart? It eventually gets dragged into any discussion of climate change that lasts over five minutes, so for those who are interested, let’s make this a compendium of remarks, assertions and civil discussions of the icon that turned a simmering debate into all-out war.

And then let’s keep it here.

Hockey_stick_chart_ipcc_large

  1. Was it wrong to publish this chart without specifically noting that the paleoclimatic data trended downwards at the end of the series?
  2. Should The Team have said more about the uncertainty of their findings?
  3. Should the AR3 Summary of Findings have had more specific language about the lack of certainty inherent in the data used to compile this figure?
  4. Was a real, significant Medieval Warming Period airbrushed out of existence?
  5. Were similar studies producing similar results in fact similarly flawed?
  6. Is tree ring data fit for purpose for establishing temperature records at that fine a level of detail?
  7. Was the version of PCA used by The Team selected post study in order to yield the shape they favored?
  8. Did The Team overstep the bounds of propriety in publicizing the implications of their work and agitating for suppression of dissenting views?
  9. Do Steve McIntyre’s criticisms overall have merit and should they be acknowledged in the world of climate science as substantive and valuable contributions to the record?
  10. Should different data sources be overlaid in a graphic presentation without specific explanation of the process and implications of the choices made?

There might even be one or two questions I’ve missed–feel free to jump in with more questions as well as your answers.

But remember–Even if all the answers prove to be negative for the actions of The Team, this really isn’t about human contributions to the Current Warming Period. This isn’t about the blade at the end of the Hockey Stick. The warming has in fact occurred, although we are uncertain as to the magnitude of human contributions.

We know what this particular controversy is truly concerned with–the well-publicized effort to convince politicians that the Current Warming Period is unprecedented over the last millenium.

It’s not about the Blade. Wesley Snipes wouldn’t stand a chance. It’s about…

shaft1

Can you dig it?

Cocoons and Comments

Although the lines in the sand were drawn long ago, it seems to me that in  the past couple of years–well, since Climategate, really–that the lines have become walls.

There used to be several places where those from both sides of the climate debate could meet and talk–or yell or snidely put down. But at least converse.

Bart Verheggen’s was one such place. But his blog is barely breathing–he’s put up what, 3 posts in a year? Keith Kloor’s Collide-a-Scape was another–but he went and got hired by Discovery and is Discovering that science is always political–ranging from vaccines to GMOs, with an occasional nod to climate change.

Now, every climate blog has (I think) one resident contrarian who will fight it out to the bitter end with the rest of the regulars. People like Nick Stokes over at Climate Audit. But a place where several of the  commenters from each side will show up in the same thread? Few and far between.

There’s still Lucia Liljegren over at the Blackboard. She gets commenters from both sides, even when she posts on sewing. Or haiku. But how can someone get mad at a fluid dynamics engineer who posts on sewing and haiku? More importantly, how many can claim to fill that ecological niche in the blogosphere?

Here, I’m happy to say Jim Bouldin and CB Dunkerson show up to fight the good fight for the conventional view of climate change, and I hope they keep coming back. But when I ran a blog at Examiner.com there were dozens of commenters from that side of the fence–the fence I’m busy sitting on. But since the climate consensus blogs refuse to acknowledge that this blog (or its companion, 3000 Quads) exists, the only mentions I get are from contrarian sites and naturally my audience leans in that direction–and I’m grateful you’re all here, don’t get me wrong. But other than Judith Curry, where are the vital, extended arguments in the comments section? Should the rest of us hang it up and go on vacation?

I just gotta say, posting from a hotel before I go to a conference reception, that we’ve all gotta get out and mingle a bit more. Or else the climate blogosphere will end up as sterile as, well, hotel rooms and conference receptions.

ennui-askerov-mid-1900s-azerbadjan

And believe me, we don’t want that.

The Big Dog Is Back

Once again, it’s time for a Sunday stroll through the climate blogosphere.

Well, of course it’s Saturday as I write  this, but I have to travel tomorrow so this if I miss any big Sunday headlines, you’ll have to wait until I get settled in.

Here’s the picture:

6a00d8341c570e53ef011570695146970b-800wi

And here’s what I see out there today:

The Big Dog is back. Steve McIntyre, after dealing with family issues, is back with–what else–a blistering critique of Michael Mann’s AGU presentation, where Mann argued that observations really do match well with models. Umm, yeah Mike–not.

I don’t know about other bloggers, but the minute McIntyre posted my traffic and comments went up. It’s like the whole community comes alive and starts to prowl, looking for some kind of close encounter. Long may you run, Mac.

The thoroughly detestable Eli Rabett actually has four good posts at the top of his blog, something I cannot ever remember seeing. Actually, I can never remember seeing much of anything I like there, but your mileage may vary.

Rabett actually has a decent (if too short) description of the second round of California’s Cap and Trade auction, shows a 40-minute clip of Jennifer Francis talking about Xtreme Weather (wrong on so many counts, but if you’re looking for their side of the story, there it is), a decent musical interlude (I did that once here and a couple of times on my other blog, but nobody ever clicked on the video–do climate enthusiasts just hate music?), and re-blogs a James Fallow article on China that is really quite good (although Revkin at Dot Earth links to a better article here). But don’t scroll down any further, thinking that Rabett continues in that vein. It’s back to the same old Rabett droppings after that. Still, maybe he’s changing direction. Hey, it could happen…

Anthony Watts is one of several bloggers to post on the revival of the 70s, meaning I’ll have to drag my bell bottoms out as we re-enact the Dildoic Era. People (including some famous scientists) were worried about global cooling back then, until it was discovered that the glitter balls in the discos were intercepting the radiation and sending it directly back into space. Even the Top of Atmosphere readings were getting nothing but Donna Summers.

Roger Pielke was busy stealing my thunder, writing an excellent article in the Breakthrough Institute about how much energy we’re going to be using in the future and how much more it is than we currently think. You can go read his blog post about the article, the article itself, or my masterly treatment of the topic in only 21 pages! Masterly, I tell you! Masterly!

Think Progress is getting so boring that I don’t think even the writers can stand to read it. TP’s strength was always their coverage of green technology news. So guess what they haven’t done in umpteen years? Yeah.

So that’s it for this week–sorry it’s a bit short, but I have to finish packing. Expect a lighter blog output from me for most of the week, but I’ll try and get something up now and then.

Enjoy your Sunday.

 

The Climate Justice League Vs. The Skepticals

Climate Justice League

Well, I didn’t realize there actually was a Climate Justice League until I started this post. They’re up in Oregon and they’re fighting to get bottled water off campus. More power to them–bottles are for beer.

When I thought up the title for this post I actually had something else in mind–something maybe like this:

Superhoeroes

And that’s because this post is about what I think happens inside the minds of far too many of us fighting the Climate Wars.

I actually found the real Skeptics as well. What I thought would look like this:

JusticeLeagueDark_article_story_main

In reality are the much milder looking…

the-skeptics

I’ve been following (and participating in) the climate debate since about 2008, mostly during breaks from writing long reports about the global markets for energy efficiency, solar power or renewable energy in general. I sit for too long in front of the computer and just flip over to see what’s in the blogs or the news. Eventually I started building in blog-reading time into the delivery schedules for my reports–too bad I don’t get paid by the hour.

As I got familiar with the cast of characters I began to imbue them with character traits that I thought they exhibited through their writing. I built up a mental picture of them, almost the way I build a mental picture of characters in a novel, trying hard not to pick a movie star in case it turns into a movie.

It’s absurd, I know–but I see evidence that I’m not the only one guilty of this. In fact, for some participants I often wonder if what they really need most in life is a X-Box and a free copy of Halo 4–something I’m sure would keep them more usefully occupied than the climate conversation.

cup-o-rage

And it’s funny to see both sides do exactly the same thing. There’s  a core group that think of St. James of Hansen…

20948_dr_james_hansen_puppet

as someone locked in an eternal struggle against capital E Evil, represented by no less a villain than…

Watts

…Anthony Watts.

And the same goes for the other side as well, with many who have beatified Steve McIntyre and reviled Al Gore.

And all of this has nothing to do with the science in and around climate change or the policies under consideration to deal with it. It has become personal–no, more than personal. It’s internal. We have invested the images we have built up with qualities that range from heroic to malevolent. The people behind those images are nothing at all like that.

I happen to know Anthony Watts. He doesn’t resemble either the hero captured in the comments found at his website or the villain he is portrayed as being on the sites of climate activists. He’s a nice human being. He doesn’t take money from big oil or anyone else for his work on climate change. He does make mistakes in some of his posts (or more frequently lets other posters make his mistakes for him). Once he is 3 dimensional, it is easy to see how absurd the caricatures of him are. Here’s the guy–no horns, no tail:

AnthonyWatts

I have no doubt the same is true for the entire ensemble cast of the Climate Wars–from Roy Spencer to Tim Lambert, from Michael Tobis to Steve McIntyre. I think they’re all human beings who think they have a point to make and are taking advantage of free access to blogging software to make it. (Although of course some of us–I mean them, them, dammit!–get just as involved in the soap opera.)

Sadly, I think for many the Climate Sims game is more entertaining and absorbing than anything climate science can offer. Sometimes I think it’s more the Climate Simpsons game.

SimpsonsDiscoverWindPower

Nobody wakes up in the morning and looks in the mirror and says, ‘What a great villain I will be today.’

We’re just on different sides of a political issue. That’s all.

There is a moral to the story–and it can be found, of course, at the conclusion of a film.

No, not an epic struggle between good and evil–no Viggo Mortenson and Christopher Lee–that’s the point.

Check out what the viewing audience did at the end of The Truman Show. That’s the end that awaits us all in the climate debates. Those who are in it for the human drama–will find another human drama.

Hasten the day.

Well, okay.  Actually, as I know some of you have been waiting for this the entire post, I should point out that there is not only a real Climate Justice League and a real group of Skeptics, there is a real live Climate Super Hero–Scott Mandia. Now that there are no more phone booths, I wonder where he changes?

caped_climate_crusader1

Roger that

Update: Just for clarity’s sake, I do not in any way think that Roger stole my idea or plagiarized my report. I honestly don’t, and I’ll put a ‘Willis Eschenbach’ style of memoir post explaining why. Roger emailed me assuring me that was the case and I believe him.

Over at the Breakthrough Institute, Roger Pielke has published an interesting article that basically replicates the work I’ve done over at my companion blog 3,000 Quads.

In arriving at his projected totals for future energy consumption, he uses the exact same methodology as I did in my report–picking a country that has ‘x’ level of energy consumption and calculating the result if the developing world reaches that level of prosperity. It’s sobering stuff.

I sent Roger the report a year ago in November of 2011 and a couple of weeks back he mentioned that he was working on something similar. He came up with similar answers, although he doesn’t use a timeline for achievement the way I did–I predicted 947 quads by 2030, roughly 2000 quads by 2050 and 3000 quads by 2075. (Not that I’m claiming the idea is my intellectual property–Dan Nocera has been writing in a similar vein for several years as well. But a hat tip would have been nice.)

Here’s his chart:

an_ambition_gap_in_global_energy_access_part_2

And here’s one of mine:table-10-various-projection-totals-china-india-indonesia-and-brazilGood to know great minds think alike.

Short Term Solutions For Long Term Problems

One of the difficulties with how we’ve managed climate change is that we’ve become obsessed with reaching a Grand Bargain, a complete solution.

Life doesn’t work  that way, usually, and there’s no real reason to think that climate change is any different.

The initial response to the newly discovered issue of global warming was to call for a global cap on emissions of CO2. The Kyoto Treaty was the consequent mechanism and it failed for want of a second. Cap and Trade at a national level failed to get passed in the U.S. and it was passed but failed to deliver in Europe.

As American budget makers are discovering, grand bargains are really tough. They are guaranteed to step on enough toes to make them difficult to enact and are even tougher in the implementation phase.

I heard once that suicide is a long term solution to a short term problem, something that makes sense to me. I think we should flip that and realize that things that generally work are short term solutions to long term problems.

Did you know that treating the symptoms, not the causes cures many diseases? It does–but it seems like a cop-out so we ignore it. It doesn’t ‘feel’ right.

This not ‘feeling’ right has caused principled opposition to many effective tactics to reduce emissions. Known as ‘no regrets’ policies, they don’t cure global warming–but they partially ameliorate it. Most energy efficiency projects, such as insulating houses and windows or installing ground source heat pumps, fall in this category. Small bore, tactical, worthy but not spectacular.

Others include efficiencies gained from modernizing air traffic control–letting planes fly closer to each other by putting iPhones with GPS in the hands of navigators, allowing staged descent to reduce wait times at landing, eliminating no fly zones that are leftovers of the Cold War. There are hundreds such.

Larger scale endeavors include things like Combined Heat and Power, something that currently supplies 9% of the world’s primary energy, but which never enters climate discussions. It’s really complex–you burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, just like everyone else does. But instead of wasting the 65% of the energy produced during the process, known by the technical term ‘heat,’ you pipe it where heat is needed.

2009_winter_article1_chp_process

Well, okay. Maybe it’s not that complex… Some northern countries get 40% of their energy that way and it reduces their emissions dramatically.

But we never talk about that in climate discussions because it isn’t pure–they are burning fossil fuels, damn them! The same is true for waste to energy plants, using heat from nuclear power plants, ad absurdium.

The need for a Grand Solution to climate change keeps legislators and lobbyists, bloggers and bloviators, con men and and cranks in business, muddying the waters and preventing effective action.

Those who have embraced the idea of a Grand Solution for climate change trivialize the contribution each human can make. This reduces the sense of accomplishment we can feel by conserving, changing fuels and participating at a community level. It also leaves the power and the glory to the Grand Solutionists. I somehow doubt that’s coincidental.

Fortunately, people have enough common sense to ignore them, and are busy installing solar panels on their roofs, solar water heaters throughout the world, buying more efficient cars and getting on with life in better insulated houses. At a minimum, they seem to understand something that the Grand Solutionists never will. Individual action may not change the climate–but it will change the politics, as those who answer to voters watch their individual actions and recognize they need to run in front of the parade so they can continue to pretend to lead it.

The same person who characterized suicide so succinctly also said one other thing that is quite appropriate for dealing with the issue of climate change–”You cannot do everything. You must do something.”

The Keystone Comedy

It seems inevitable, at least in recent decades, that when we discuss important issues in America we start off by focusing our attention, anger and mutual distrust on side issues.

So it is with the Keystone Pipeline, a projected line intended to take oil from Canada down to Houston. Because the oil is thicker than normal, the refineries down Houston way are the natural destination for it.

Environmentalists are not happy. They insist that the pipeline not be built. They are making this a litmus test for President Obama and anyone else who ever wants the affection of environmentalists through the end of time–or the next time a Republican gets elected president, whichever comes first.

Anybody sane enough to understand what’s good or bad for the environment, but not sufficiently up-to-date to grasp the hidden politics of all this would take about five minutes to come up with a common sense answer.

tar-sands

“Well, of course you should build a pipeline,” they would say. “It’s cheaper. Sending it by rail, or worse–by truck–would not be economical. And don’t you care about the environment? A pipeline has one-third the number of spills and accidents as rail transport, and don’t even get started on trucking. And sending it by pipe would emit less CO2–those trains are powered by fossil fuels and the cars weigh as much as the oil that goes in them. Get real!”

But of course the Keystone Pipeline is not the real issue and never was.

The real issue is whether the oil buried in the tar sands of Alberta should be used at all.

And the debate that nobody really wants to have is on the pros and cons of this issue. Both sides are afraid that losing that debate would be disastrous. I also think that both sides understand too well that winning the debate would be almost Pyrrhic in nature. (The winning side would face the same peril, but about different subjects. If the environmentalists win, if the economy breaks, they own it. If those in favor of using the oil win, if the environment breaks, they own it. Far better to discuss the merits and demerits of a pipeline.)

Those who are most concerned about climate change have a real interest in limiting our consumption of fossil fuel. Discoveries of large deposits of fossil fuels over the past two decades have exploded the myth of Peak Oil, removing one of the lines of attack they have used in arguing for a sheaf of environmentally sound policies regarding fuel use.

Oil Scarcity Myth

Oil consumption per year

The tar sand deposits in Alberta are one-third two-thirds (oops) the size of Saudi oil reserves, and putting them on the market would effectively remove all constraints (except price) from unlimited fuel consumption. When added to underwater oil deposits found off the coast of Brazil, unconventional oil and gas deposits almost everywhere and huge coal mines being dug in Mongolia, we are entering a new era of increased availability of fossil fuels.

Largest_Oil_Reserves_2011

Many are exuberant about the possibility, focusing on the economic development and increased employment this will lead to. Others are concerned that this will greatly increase human contributions of greenhouse gases, leading to a worse outcome for global temperature averages.

As economic times are tough all over these days, the people focused on the economic advantages of exploiting these resources are getting all the easy wins in the debate over the pipeline. But because the pipeline is not the real issue, these wins are tactical, not strategic, and leave their environmentalist opponents angrier and hungrier.

Let’s have a brief look at the real issue. Environmentalists argue (or would argue, if they had the courage to match their convictions) that the oil in Alberta should be left undeveloped.

I think there is a case to be made for that argument, although I’m not sure that case would convince. Sadly, I don’t think they’ve even tried to make that case–those few who have mentioned it merely make the assertion and then use the assertion as if it were proof.

Update: I should add that what I’m proposing is to pay the Canadians to leave the oil in the ground, something I haven’t seen proposed by anyone. This could be either in the form of pre-paid royalties or compensation in the same manner as offered to those in the developing world for not cutting down trees.

There are good reasons to consider leaving it in the ground:

  1. National security interests: The time will come when fossil fuels are exceedingly expensive to bring to market. If you think gasoline is expensive now, just wait. As petroleum gets more expensive, its availability will become more strategic, not only for transportation but for special products derived from petroleum. Having a large supply in ready reserve in the back yard of a good friend is not obviously stupid.
  2. Economic interests: Petroleum is only going to get progressively harder to find and more expensive to bring to market. The economic value of the tar sands deposits may actually increase more  while its in the ground. If it’s the ‘last man standing’–the last large reserve to be developed–it will command a scarcity premium. (Obviously, there is the risk that we will continue to find equally large reserves.)
  3. Environmental interests: In an era when natural gas is abundant and inexpensive, why not take advantage of it and wait on the tar sands? Natural gas emits half the CO2 as does petroleum for each joule obtained in energy. In this period of uncertainty about climate change, why take the risk when we can use a safer and cheaper fuel? Make large fleets of cars run on natural gas, export it where logical and take advantage of this resource.

Unfortunately, environmentalists seem to rely on purity of heart and the fervor left over from the 60s and 70s. I don’t know why they cannot admit that this is the real issue and use common-sense arguments. I only know that they don’t.

Fighting over a secondary issue because you don’t have the courage to take on the real issue has a long history in the United States. Not a glorious history, just a long one.

I cannot remember an occasion when such a strategy ever emerged victorious.

 

Trusting Solar and Compound Annual Interest

In my recent series of posts prognosticating the trajectory of climate change during this century, I basically project that we are still in for a lot of warming due to huge increases in energy consumption, but that we will be ‘rescued’ by the growth of energy delivered by renewable sources, primarily solar.

I have nothing against wind, biofuels or hydropower. I’m sure they will grow and make valuable contributions.

But I can see what is happening in solar and I can connect it to the growth of past transformative technologies. I have faith in its growth.

Faith is kind of a dirty word when talking science and technology, but really–we all take actions based on trust or belief rather than checking every fact and item, else we would never board a commercial airline or eat a Big Mac.

Installations were 29 GW in 2012. In 2007 installations were 5 GW. In 2002 they were less than 1 GW. The global total is now over 100 GW in capacity.

That’s an asterisk in global production, amounting to less than 0.4% of electricity generated.

Solar power has been growing by 30% annually for the past two decades. If it continued to grow at that rate we would have 41,754 Terawatts in capacity.

I think we’d run out of sand first. At any rate it would be more electricity than we would actually need, even with growing population and higher living standards. About ten times as much, even accepting my outlandish projection of a need for 3,000 quads by 2075.

Let’s assume that last year’s disappointing 5% growth is what will happen over the coming years. By 2035 we get 307 GW, by 2050 it grows to 639 GW and by 2075 it hits 2,162 GW. That’s a lot of clean energy, even at the slowest growth rate solar has experienced since it was invented. And by the end of the century it reaches 7,322 GW.

The ‘inside baseball story’ is worth mentioning briefly:

  • Last year is considered a disappointment for the solar industry. In 2012 it only grew by 5%. On the other hand, 30% of all the solar ever installed was installed last year–29 GW worth.
  • Installations faltered in Europe in general and Germany specifically, but picked up in China, which became the largest customer for solar, largely of their own products. As recently as 2011, China exported 95% of the solar modules they produced. Last year that dropped to 70%. Europe is still by far the largest market for solar power, double the size of Asia and five times as big as the Americas.
  • One-third of all the solar installed in the Americas is installed in California.
  • There is still more manufacturing capacity than is being used for production. Without adding any more plants we could install 40 GW a year.
  • Oh, yes–industry analysts predict a return to high growth in 2013–as much as 20%. Or more.

100803_isuppli_pv_growth

Lukewarming After 2100

This short series has tried to detail observed impacts of climate change to date and project the extent of anthropogenic contributions to warming through the end of the century. As we have seen, it appears that impacts to date have been modest. I discussed why I think the current static period in temperatures may last another decade, to be followed by 0.5C in temperature rises ending by mid-century. Another 25-year lull follows and then we get hit by a large and rapid rise of about 1.5C between 2075 and 2100.

I’m not a scientist and this scenario is nothing more than an inexpert model driven more by energy consumption and observation of temperature rises since 1880 than other factors. Take it with a full salt shaker–I do. I only present it as a plausible scenario.

I’ll finish the series by discussing our contributions to global warming and the climate’s reaction to those contributions after 2100. I have two major points to make:

  • Our contributions to all forcings–CO2 and equivalents, land use, deforestation, etc.–will start to decline in 2075
  • Although climate will continue to change, it will take the reins back and make such changes for its own good reasons after 2100

As the IPCC and other organizations have always noted, one of the primary drivers of CO2 emissions has always been human population growth. And human population is predicted variously to reach its peak at between 9.1 billion and 9.5 billion people sometime between 2050 and 2075. Population is then expected to decline slowly.

This will reduce many of the impacts human have on the environment overall and the climate specifically. We will no longer expect to see eye-popping growth in energy consumption, use of cement, deforestation, etc.

A number of what I call ’2 percent solutions’, which we have turned to over the past 25 years in our efforts to innovate our way out of global warming, will have had enough time to grow into their shoes by the end of the century.

Specifically, what I also nickname ‘Asterisk’ solutions which have been growing at a dramatic pace will continue to do so and will provide much of the energy we need without emitting CO2.

Global-solar-consumption-growth

In the chart above, the growth of delivered solar power looks dramatic, but it has yet to reach 1 quad a year–it’s small beer for a world that consumes about 530 quads annually, and which I predict will need 3,000 quads every blessed year starting in 2075.

But what the chart doesn’t show, as it starts in 2001, is that solar power has been growing at a dramatic rate since 1978 and that rate is not expected to slow down any time soon. Solar power will continue to become less expensive, more effective and accepted and it will spread.

Solar has consistently grown at a rate of about 37% annually since 1978–by consistent I mean that if you look at almost any five-year period during that time, growth has been roughly about that. But it grew from nothing and it still is an asterisk in energy figures–it delivered about 0.1 quads last year.

If we arbitrarily decide that growth in solar will slow down by 50% and watch it grow until 2075, solar alone will deliver 2,862 quads out of the 3,000 I have estimated we will need. That’s the magic of compound interest.

My picture of the future doesn’t include space tourism or Jetson personal skycars–although I wouldn’t object to either. It does include a fleet of vehicles powered by electricity (we’ll need better batteries, but they’ll come some time this century) charged by solar power throughout most of the world. Solar will also provide much of the electricity for home office and residential use. We’ll also have wind where appropriate and a growing number of nuclear power stations.

The world will continue to urbanize, with up to 80% of the population living in cities or their suburbs. This will reduce our impact on the remaining 95% of the land–deforestation will reverse, as it already has throughout the developed world, road-building will slow down, cement use will taper off–most of the things we are doing full-bore right now that generate emissions will be either stable or declining by 2075.

But it will take until the end of the century before our impacts show up in the statistics. There is a lag between emissions and their effects on the climate. The carbon sinks that absorb CO2 will eventually suck it all in, but they work at their own pace–a pace we really don’t understand very well–and it will take time to clear the air.

The world will be a lot richer and will be able to afford the changes I detail above. (That’s a precondition of all the estimates about global warming, by the way, not just mine. If we don’t get a lot richer, we won’t be emitting all this CO2 in the first place.) There will still be the poor among us (and I’ll bet it will still be a Bottom Billion, there to spur us on to continue to help), but most people in 2075 will be richer than Americans are today–from  Chile to Vietnam.

If that turns out to be misguided optimism, we in fact will solve our problem with CO2 earlier–simply by being too poor to emit the gas that helps raise temperatures.

We will have the money. We have the technology already. If solar falters, then wind, nuclear power and some invention between now and then will take up the slack.

Those who are heavily invested in gloomier forecasts will be quick to label me as a Cornucopian techno-optimist–and they may well be right. But as others have been quick to point out, well, so what? Techno-optimism has a much better record in predicting the future than Malthusian doom-criers, or even sober realists who try and temper our enthusiasm. We may get the details (jet cars, space tourism) wrong–but the broad sweep of history looks far more like our vision than that of Thomas Malthus.

What I’m essentially arguing here is that those most concerned with climate made a mistake in characterizing anthropogenic global warming as a planet-threatening crisis that had to be solved in our generation. I argue instead that it is a century-long struggle that requires our attention and resources throughout the century–but it is a struggle I am convinced we will win.

In my opinion that is the real definition of a Lukewarmer…

Lukewarming 2075-2100

Yesterday I sketched out a scenario for what I expect from global warming between now and 2075. It’s obviously hypothetical, but I think it plausible.

The post has attracted a number of commenters, some positive, some negative. However, nobody has noticed or put together the two sentences that should be blinking red and jumping off the page. Of course, I cleverly separated them. Let’s put them side by side here:

  1. I expect warming (from all human causes) to be 2C over the course of this century
  2. I forecast warming of 0.5C through 2075

It will be an interesting end to this century. Yes, I think anthropogenic warming from all sources could plausibly be about 1.5C in the last 25 years of the 21st Century.

The proximate cause of all that is a dramatic increase in energy consumption that will continue to surprise us throughout the next 87 years. I’ve been detailing all of that for more than a year on my companion blog 3000 Quads.

This is what happened in the United States as we developed:

history-of-energy-consumptionAnd this is what development and energy consumption look like for some developing countries by 2030:

table-10-various-projection-totals-china-india-indonesia-and-brazil

The world used about 523 quads in 2010. I believe that figure will grow to 3,000 quads every year by 2075 and will then stabilize at that level through the end of the century. I again used a ‘lower math’ approach to the calculations that brought me to that conclusion, again so nobody would accuse me of fiddling with the statistics.

I won’t repeat all of the work I did over there, although if you want to read the paper I wrote on it it is here. The calculations driving my projections are energy consumption per capita, population growth and growth in GDP per capita. I looked at a lot of numbers and I’m pretty satisfied that I came up with a reasonable answer.

I got some validation for my thinking this morning, reading a paper titled “Medium And Long-Term Scenarios For Global Growth And Imbalances.” On page 215 they quite simply state that by 2050 China will have achieved per capita income (not GDP growth) equal to that of the United States in 2011.

Now, China’s population is expected to have started the Development Decline by then and is variously predicted to drop from a high of 1.44 billion in 2030 to about 1.25 billion by 2050.

Americans used about 310 million btus per person per year in 2011. I think it safe to assume that Chinese people with the same income would be both pleased and able to do the same.

That would yield a total of 389 quads just from China alone. In 2050…

As it happens, I think China will persuade itself to go for a lower intensity lifestyle and the global total will be around 3,000 quads by 2075. But if I’m erring, I’m erring on the low side.

And I believe in my Lukewarm heart of hearts that right around 2075 our energy consumption and related emissions will actually begin to take the lead in forcing our climate–somewhat in the way activists are mistakenly describing current weather conditions.

This will have consequences.

The Next 60 Years of Lukewarming

Yesterday I looked briefly at the major impacts of anthropogenic global warming observed so far. The most notable impacts are changes in the climate in the Arctic region and modest sea level rise that nonetheless contributes to damages during severe storms on coastal areas.

Today I would like to advance a hypothetical scenario for climate between now and 2075. This isn’t science–I’m  not a scientist. But it isn’t science fiction, either. I’ve been following this for a while and have done the sums.

Global warming has proceeded very unevenly, with short bursts of warming followed by periods of stasis. The 0.8C of observed global average temperature rise since 1880 has actually occurred in two sharply defined periods–from 1910 through 1940 and from 1975 through 1998.

GAT 1880 2012

I will assume that this pattern will continue.

Global average temperatures have risen 0.8C since 1880, as I said. As a Lukewarmer, I believe atmospheric sensitivity is low, around 2C. I expect to see something close to 2C warming this century over what would otherwise be the case, but some part of that warming will come from other contributions from deforestation, black carbon and other human causes, mostly related to land use changes.

For the sake of this hypothetical exercise I will assume that the static period in temperatures that started in 1998 will continue for about 25 years–much the same as previous periods of stasis. I therefore assume that temperatures will begin rising again in about 10 years, or 2023. (By that time we’ll have all forgotten about it and Judith Curry and Michael Tobis will be laughing about all the blogfights over a drink in a bar in West Texas.)

By that time the world’s CO2 emissions will have increased from 31.6 billion tons of CO2 to 42.5 billion tons each year, an average growth rate of 3% that is probably too conservative. And eventually it will overcome the inertia that characterizes global average temperatures now.

It will be helped by the behavior of other  factors that influence climate–phenomena like the alphabet soup of ENSO, AMO and PDO ‘pseudocycles’, (events that can look cyclical from the outside but probably are not–they’re just periodic). Currently some of them are probably pushing temps down. Solar activity is low–although we really don’t know how much of an effect solar variation has, whatever effect it has right now is moving in a different direction than during the warming of 1975-1998. And at some point these phenomena will return to pushing temperatures up. And that’s where temperatures will go.

And I honestly think, in my Lukewarm heart of hearts, that temperatures will rise another 0.5C between 2025 and 2050 (give or take five years either way). And I think that then temperatures will pause again–maybe until 2075.

I think using history, combined with lower math analysis of credible numbers, is actually a useful guide to looking at the near term. (I actually think higher math often does a poorer job in forecasting, tempting as it is.)

I don’t actually know if temperatures will take the same path as that which I describe here. But I don’t think my scenario does violence towards history, what we know of the present and what we can confidently project about the near term future.

My big fear is what happens after 2075–by that time energy consumption will have climbed dramatically, possibly reaching six times the total energy the world used in 2010. Because we’re not planning for it, most of that consumption will be powered by coal.

And at that point my crystal ball goes black.

What Are The Measured Impacts Of Anthropogenic Climate Change To Date?

I really want to know the answer or answers to that question. I’d really like to see a list that scientists from both sides can agree on.

My impression from reading about global warming every day since 2008 is that there are few if any measurable impacts so far–with two notable exceptions.

Human contributions to global warming are generally thought to have commenced on an industrial scale during or shortly after World War II. However, temperatures chose just that time frame to have a 30-year lull that resembles nothing so much as the recent ‘stall’ in temperatures since 1998, noted by skeptics everywhere and James Hansen, if nobody else on the activist side.

Temperatures then rose rapidly between 1975 or so and 1998 or so, amounting to about 0.5C. What has that done to our planet?

The one thing most everyone agrees on is that the Arctic has been affected–temperature rises there were not 0.5C but closer to 2C. There isn’t as much ice as before 1975 and it melts more extensively in the summer. The IPCC also estimates that the duration of ice cover over rivers and lakes has decreased by two weeks over the course of the 20th Century in the mid and high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. They also note a lengthening of the growing season by four days on average.

But what else? There are hundreds–no, thousands of articles and papers on the subject but most are describing a possible future, not the present.

An ornithologist named Keith Butler of Oxford’s Department of Zoology catalogued some of the observed impacts in a paper published in 2003.

Butler writes, “Over the past century, the Earth has warmed by approximately 0.5 °C (von Storch & Navarra 1995, IPCC 1998). During the past 10 years, a variety of studies have shown that global climate change is affecting the world’s flora and fauna. The active growing season of plants has advanced by 8 days in northern latitudes (Myneni et al. 1997).”

There are other changes in species behavior. Butler continues, “Studies on birds have shown that diverse avian taxa are now nesting significantly earlier in both the United States and Europe (Kruk et al. 1996, Crick et al. 1997, Forchhammer et al. 1998, McCleery & Perrins 1998, Visser et al. 1998, Brown et al. 1999, Crick & Sparks 1999, Dunn & Winkler 1999). Surprisingly, however, a widespread change towards an earlier arrival date in migrant birds, although demonstrated on the European continent (e.g. Sokolov et al. 1998, Sparks et al. 1999, Sparks & Mason 2001, Tryjanowski et al. 2002), has not been demonstrated on the North American continent. Although a few studies have shown that individual species are altering the timing of their migration (Bildstein 1998, Inouye et al. 2000, Pulido et al. 2001), studies examining the arrival or departure dates of multiple species have shown that whereas some species are arriving significantly earlier, others are arriving significantly later (Mason 1995, Oglesby & Smith 1995, Bradley et al. 1999, Wilson et al. 2000, Zalakevicius & Zalakeviciute 2001).”

In the Discussion section of his paper Butler says that 28 of 103 species migrated earlier, and no species migrated later. But he didn’t write on whether this was good or bad for the species or those species with which they interacted.

The IPCC technical paper linked to above states categorically that ranges for plants and animals have shifted polewards and upwards. That plants flower and insects emerge earlier.

But has global warming had a positive or negative effect to date? Do we have an idea of how climate change has affected biodiversity?

The IPCC’s Technical Document describes studies of hundreds of species. They note a variety of changes. Again, most are simply that–changes. The IPCC doesn’t say whether the changes harm, have no effect or even help the species affected.

But in some cases they describe real problems. It probably comes as no surprise that some species of plants and animals are experiencing severe difficulties.

Reading the IPCC’s document it struck me that in almost every case of a species in trouble, they made it clear that climate change was a contributing factor, not the only one. And in no case did they specify climate change as the principal problem. Throughout you see sentences like,

  • “…shorter term variations in North Sea cod have been related to a combination of overfishing and warming over the past 10 years.”
  • …”(Coral) bleaching effects are also associated with pollution and disease…”
  • …”Along the Aleutian Islands, the fish population driven by climatic events and overfishing has changed, thus changing the behavior and population size of killer whales and sea otters…”

As I’ve noted before, climate change may be expected to serve as the unwelcome straw that broke the camel’s back for some unlucky species–but the principal threats mankind poses to biodiversity are and will remain for some time to come, habitat loss, hunting, introduction of alien species and pollution. (The four horseman best described by Matt Ridley, who’s still busy disagreeing with me over on another thread. Sigh.)

Of course the iconic example of the threat to biodiversity is the polar bear. However, anyone who has been following their trials and travails will have read that their population is increasing, not decreasing, mostly due to the halt on hunting put in some decades back.

So I would submit that global warming so far has not been more than an annoyance for the biome of this planet, especially in comparison with the rest of man’s follies.

What about sea level rise? It has been rising at between 1 and 3 millimeters per year for quite some time now. Has it had an effect so far?

From Wikipedia

From Wikipedia

Sea level appears to have risen about 8 inches since 1880. Have people moved? Have storm surges been more damaging? We saw with Sandy that timing is important–the storm hit at high tide and that didn’t help. But was it made even worse by the sea level rise due to global warming?

Scott Mandia certainly thinks so. He told Chris Mooney in an article for Mother Jones “I keep telling people the one lock you have here is sea level rise,” meteorologist Scott Mandia explained to me recently. “It’s the one thing that absolutely made the storm worse that you can’t wiggle out of.” That’s… an interesting choice of words. He must have expected a challenge. He won’t get one here.

…”First, according to sea level expert Ben Strauss of Climate Central, the sea level in the New York harbor today is 15 inches higher than it was in 1880. Now, to be sure, not all of that is due global warming—land has also been subsiding. Strauss estimates that climate change—which causes sea level rise both through the melting of land-based ice, and through thermal expansion of warm ocean water—is responsible for just over half, or eight inches, of the total.”

…”But as it turns out, eight inches matters a lot. First of all, using Climate Central’s Surging Seas tool, Mandia estimated that 6,000 more people were impacted for each additional inch of sea level rise. That means, basically, that they got wet when they wouldn’t have otherwise: one inch wetter for some, eight inches wetter for others, and everything in between.”

So an extra 50,000 people may have been affected by Sandy because of global warming. And that sounds about right to me. It would be impossible to guess how badly they were affected out of the millions of victims of the storm. But 50,000 is enough to make a difference.

I need to tie this up for the evening–may return to it later. I wanted in this piece to put a line in the sand saying this is what global warming has done to date. Looking at some of the high profile impacts that have been signaled as future problems, I think we can say the following:

  • The Arctic has been heavily impacted by global warming. Temperatures have risen about 2C, ice is thinner and less extensive and melts more dramatically each summer.
  • We have noted real changes due to warming in the timing of seasons and the response of plants and animals to it. We haven’t see much in the way of evidence that either plants or animals have been harmed so far.
  • Global warming so far amounts to an additional stressor to species already endangered by our other actions–hunting, introducing alien species, habitat loss and pollution, the sum total of which far outweighs the negative effects of climate change to date.
  • Sea level rise seems to have contributed to the destructive power of storms, increasing the areas affected. This is a real effect and should not be discounted or ignored.

I’d welcome additional comments on this. I spent two hours on this post and I know it is not enough for a subject of this magnitude. But it’s what I have to offer on a Monday evening.

Sunday Walk Around The Climate Park

I find it refreshing to take a tour around the weblogs I link to at the right of this page. Sadly, the only day I have enough time to do so in a relaxed manner is Sunday.

Ivan Vladimirov Walk In The Park

One of the reasons it’s relaxing is that so many bloggers have their own ‘schtick,’ issues they return to frequently and on which they have opinions so fixed that most regular readers could write their posts for them.

One of the reasons it’s refreshing is that some bloggers are always looking at a fresh side of the many-faceted climate issue and bringing new insights and data to the scrum.

I want to highlight the recent posts of Roger Pielke Jr., someone who raises the hackles of many in the climate activist community. They will say they don’t like him because he’s not a climate scientist (he’s a social scientist focused on policy responses to all sorts of resource issues). But in fact they can’t abide Roger because he brings inconvenient facts to discussions that activists seem to wish were dominated by emotion and prepared messaging. He, along with scientist Chris Landsea, have almost managed to turn the tide against the corporate multinational that environmentalists have learned to love, Munich Re.

Munich Re has for years published slanted statistics claiming that everything is getting worser and worserer and that everybody needs to load up on insurance products. And some activists sure do like that worser and worserer stuff.

Anyway, Roger has a series of excellent posts up on his weblog written in the past week or so. Faith-based Science Policy looks at the somewhat magical chain whereby funding of research is ‘guaranteed’ to produce social benefits. As someone who is a strong believer in research funded by the public sector (I like the Internet), it’s a refreshing challenge to my decades-old preconceptions.

Probably more to my taste is his post Science Is The Shortcut, which starts off critiquing recent work by Naomi Oreskes and Michael Oppenheimer (both of whom really need serious critiques, if not criticism), but quickly veers into an interesting look at the accuracy of climate science findings. (It now has been around long enough to start evaluating predictions–just where are those gazillion climate refugees hiding?)

Pielke has several other interesting posts up–and what I find most intriguing is that he is blogging more frequently than he normally does. I wonder what’s up with him?

If you want to understand a bit more about the relative positions of the different political approaches to climate change, it might be instructive to read not just the posts but the comments sections regarding the recent publication of Zeke Hausfather et al that helps clarify the effects of the Urban Heat Island on our understanding of temperature moves.

It is covered on the staunchly consensus website Real Climate here, on the Lukewarmer site The Blackboard here, and on skeptical website Watts Up With That here. If you’re feeling supremely ambitious you can even read the actual paper, available here.

What I find interesting is that in the past, political differences between the various discussants would often give the impression that they were discussing different documents entirely. When new papers came out on things like sea level rise, or impacts on the environment like the spread of malaria, it really was like there was a wall that had been erected between the two camps and that bloggers from one side would look for any strand of support for their side and the others would look for anything that could be used to attack it.

Perhaps because Hausfather has been a thorough gentleman in all his travels through the blogosphere, that doesn’t seem to be happening here.

Closer to home, this blog has hosted a discussion between Matt Ridley and myself on one of the posts evaluating the ten tests he wrote about in an essay on what he would need to support climate policies.

The post is here and the discussion starts in the comments section here.

Xtreme Weather Case Study: Pakistani Floods in 2010

In 2010 severe monsoon rains caused floods that covered a fifth of Pakistan.

The death toll was remarkably low–about the same as the U.S. experienced due to Katrina–but 13 million had to flee their homes and truth be told, work is continuing on repairing the damage.

pakistan-floods-2010-8-4-10-10-39

It caused a spate of commentary by climate activists linking the floods to global warming. Typical were Joe Romm’s comments of August 12, 2010“How hot is it?  So hot that even the status quo media is waking up to the fact that human emissions of greenhouse gases are changing the climate and causing  record-smashing extreme weather events, just  as scientist predicted decades ago.”

Romm was quickly joined by bloggers ranging from John Rennie to Open Mind’s Tamino. The key quote running around the blogosphere came from Kevin Trenberth: It is irresponsible not to mention climate change. … The environment in which all of these storms and the tornadoes are occurring has changed from human influences (global warming). … With global warming the low level air is warm and moister and there is more energy available to fuel all of these storms and increase the buoyancy of the air so that thunderstorms are strong. … On average the low level air is 1 deg F and 4 percent moister than in the 1970s.”

The case to be made is that climate change is predicted to not only increase precipitation in unlucky regions, but concentrate it. The additional rain or snow falls in the same number of storms. The IPCC has noted the several papers advancing this theory and there hasn’t been much in the way of dispute.

The problem is that this was predicted for far in the future, after the globe had seen 2C or more of global warming. This was ahead of schedule.

Were the scientists wrong in thinking it would take so long for this to occur? Or did the media jump the gun in blaming global warming?

The media had been primed for this–Russia had undergone a savage heat wave in and around Moscow and much of Texas was experiencing a severe drought. Climate change was already being discussed as, if not the direct cause, at least a major contributing factor.

In retrospect we can see that the major media weren’t inventing the story–respected scientists and government officials came forward to support the thesis. “Global warming is one reason” for the rare spate of weather extremes, said Friedrich-Wilhelm Gerstengarbe, a professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “We will always have climate extremes. But it looks like climate change is exacerbating the intensity of the extremes,” said Omar Baddour, chief of climate data management applications at WMO headquarters in Geneva. Then U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in an interview on Pakistan TV, said “there is a linkage” between the recent spate of deadly natural disasters and climate change… “We are changing the climate of the world.”

These folk were joined by Osama bin Laden on attributing the floods to climate change. But was it true?

The flood was unusual, but hardly unprecedented. A larger flood struck Pakistan in 1930 and one of equal strength in 1950 and another in 1961. The effects of the 2010 flood were severe–but that’s primarily because the population of Pakistan has grown rapidly, from 32.5 million at the time it gained independence in 1947 to 187 million today.

There were numerous more cautious statements being made by scientists–statements that were either ignored or patted on the head like a good boy and put in the corner while the search for red meat continued. Time wrote “Now it’s important to remember that major floods have been happening in this part of the world since well before humans began worrying about the impacts of global warming.”

And in September of 2010 an article by Madhav Kandehar was published in the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society’s journal. In it he wrote, “A rapid transition of the ENSO phase from El Niño to La Niña between spring and summer of 2010 appears to be the key element in triggering a vigorous monsoon of 2010 over the Indian subcontinent…….the 2010 Pakistan floods, although seemingly unprecedented, were well within natural variability of monsoonal climate over the Indian subcontinent.”

My takeaway from this is simple. Unusual weather events happen. They always have. If global warming continues unchecked we may reach a day when weather events of unusual scope and intensity become more frequent. But that day is in the future, not the present.

And we do favors to nobody when we allow scare talk to go unchecked. It doesn’t help the Pakistanis. It doesn’t help rational discussion of climate issues. It may bring a temporary surge in traffic to scaremongers. But most of them don’t even have ads on their sites so you can’t really even say it helps them.

So why do we continue to do it?

Defining Deviation Down–Xtreme Weather, part 2

Would we recognize Xtreme Weather if it walked up and greeted us? Is our weather special?

Kevin Trenberth is trying (and to a large extent succeeding) to convince the world that today’s weather is a product of climate change–that what we see around is the weather we have to a large extent created. In particular, extreme events are more frequent and more extreme because we have both warmed the planet and added moisture to the atmosphere.

Is this true? I intend to spend some time looking through published statistics and will produce the inevitable mind-numbing series of charts both supporting and opposing the premise.

But what really is the premise? Is a normal day today different from a normal day of 75 years ago? (I say 75 because the modern warming laid to greenhouse gases is variously said to have commenced around 1945.)

Is Trenberth saying that a storm with X energy today would have been a storm of X-y% 75 years ago? That if we have 16 hurricanes in the Atlantic this year we would have had 14 75 years ago?

Now Trenberth writes that “If the problem is generalized to look at the entire probability distribution function (pdf) of the climate variables, then the biggest changes percentagewise occur in the tails of the distribution, where they can easily exceed several hundred percent (Trenberth 2011b). Accordingly, a change in climate is most likely to be perceived by encountering new “weather” and breaking records: changes in the extremes. Changes in certain extremes, such as higher temperatures and increases in heavy rains and droughts are expected with climate change (IPCC 2007; Trenberth 2011a).

But to me he’s saying just that extremes are easier to notice–not that only extremes are expected.

I’d really like to know what it would take to either prove or disprove his thesis. Many people have already addressed his claims regarding weather extremes, and although I’m happy to bring them all into one place with whatever commentary I can provide, I’m not sure how much value that adds. Can someone please plausibly explain to me:

What changes should we expect to see in both normal and extreme weather from 0.8C of warming and an additional 4% of moisture in the atmosphere, which he cites as observed phenomena?

Otherwise we get garbage like a post on Joe Romm’s weblog saying that the U.S. faces a $188 billion price tag from Xtreme Weather from 2011 to 2012. (The trick is that all damages from extreme weather are laid at global warming’s doorstep–because we never had extreme weather before global warming, obviously.)

I’m willing to look at variation in the length of growing seasons, variations in migration of species, precipitation records, drought records by region and storm records where they exist. But what if we find nothing unusual?

When all storms are special–remembering Dash’s preternaturally wise observation above–none will be.

Xtreme Weather: The Dangerous Delusion

In a paper published in the journal Climatic Change in March of 2012, Kevin Trenberth ambitiously sets out to redefine science. The paper’s title is a clue–”Framing the Way to Relate Climate Extremes”. The paper’s subject is not to publish the results of a new experiment or years of analysis of data. The paper is essentially PR advice on how to convince the public that weather is now influenced by the climate change we have experienced.

Gustavo Adrián Salvini

Gustavo Adrián Salvini

The question he attempts to answer is one asked of scientists frequently: “Is it (a particular weather event) caused by climate change?” He saves his answer for the final sentence in the paper: “In reality the wrong question is being asked: the question is poorly posed and has no satisfactory answer. The answer is that all weather events are affected by climate change because the environment in which they occur is warmer and moister than it used to be.”

This paper is essentially a follow-on from published work in 2011 where he attempted to invert the null hypothesis regarding global warming, something that I will take up in another post. For now let me just say that it is every bit as ambitious in its attempt to redefine the norms of science as this one.

Since Trenberth’s publication, many in the media, including this section of the blogosphere, have taken his dictum to heart. People had been blaming climate change for bad weather as far back as Hurricane Katrina, but it has taken off in the past year in a big way.

This is a dramatic change from what science presented to us prior to 2012. Dramatic storms, floods and droughts were offered to us as previews of coming attractions by scientists–things that might become more common as global warming continued later in this century.

Indeed, in a sign that not everybody agrees with Trenberth, two weeks after his publication the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a special report titled ‘Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation.’

The language in the report is clear:

“There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change,” writes the IPCC in its new Special Report on Extremes (SREX) published today.

“The statement about the absence of trends in impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change holds for tropical and extratropical storms and tornados,” the authors conclude, adding for good measure that “absence of an attributable climate change signal in losses also holds for flood losses”.

However, on this topic the IPCC, normally considered the authoritative source on such issues, was ignored in favor of Dr. Trenberth’s scarier conclusions.

It is hard to know how one could either prove or disprove Trenberth’s assertion. That, of course, is why it redefines science. But there are questions that I don’t think Dr. Trenberth has been asked, or at least hasn’t answered.

Is current weather extreme by historical standards? Are droughts drier, floods wetter, storms stronger or more frequent? If so, when did this start? (James Hansen has tried to answer this question with a paper published in PNAS titled ‘Perception of Climate Change,’ (and I will address it in another post), but I don’t think Trenberth has.

Let’s look at hurricanes, for example. The National Hurricane Center published an NOAA Technical Memorandum titled “The Deadliest, Costliest and Most Intense United States Tropical Cyclones from 1851 to 2010“.

  • Only one of the deadliest storms (Katrina) happened after 2000 and only one after 1950 (Audrey in 1957)
  • On the other hand, all of the costliest hurricanes are very recent. Sadly, this is because they did not adjust for inflation or people moving in greater numbers to affected areas. Pielke and Landsea 1998 found no trends in normalized lossesa finding subsequently replicated by Katz 2002 . Recent analyses of longitudinal geophysical data find that there are no trends on hurricane frequency and intensity at U.S. landfall. Landsea 2005, 2007; Emanuel 2005 . (Update: On rereading the article I note that they did try and normalize costs in a later table. They found 3 hurricanes in the top 10 costliest since 1945)
  • Only two of the strongest ten hurricanes since 1850 occurred during the period when global warming is considered to have accelerated (Katrina and Andrew)

So–what does history tell us about global warming and hurricanes? I don’t know and I’ll bet you don’t either. Because there is literally no evidence that could either prove or disprove Trenberth’s assertion, there is no way of knowing.

I will be taking this up in a series of posts similar to what I just finished doing with Matt Ridley’s essay for the GWPF. But the point I want to make now is that, if Trenberth is wrong–if he’s advising scientists to tell people that any bad storm, drought or flood is caused in part or in whole by global warming–then he is giving a terrible hostage to fortune.

If your strategy for communicating urgency about climate change depends on the weather then you are vulnerable to the oldest trick in the book–when the weather is nice people don’t think about it. And if the worst phenomena occurring today are in fact previews of coming attractions, we will need more than seasonal support to address it.

  1. When did Xtreme Weather begin?
  2. How do we distinguish between events influenced by climate change and events that are not?
  3. What is the degree of change we see in individual events?
  4. What is the level of confidence in your calculations?

Lefty loosey, righty-tighty

Hi readers.

abk8088ss-marx-john

This weblog is attracting more viewers than I actually anticipated and I’m very pleased with what’s happening here.

I should have anticipated that some of the discussions would move rapidly from climate change to fundamental political orientations. As a Lukewarmer who has spent a lot of time and energy confronting what I believe are serious mistakes by those activists who are fighting hardest for extensive actions to combat climate change, my arguments seem to resonate strongly with skeptics who have been labeled and libeled as ‘deniers’, and many come from either the conservative or independent political side of the spectrum. But as I’m to the left of Groucho Marx it’s easy for conversations to switch from the climate to politics.

All are welcome here. But the focus of this weblog is climate change and the appropriate way to approach it as a societal issue.

I’m open to suggestions on how to keep this blog going the way I want it. We could have open threads or dedicated posts (like this one) on political issues, or maybe you have a better idea. I don’t want to shut off political discussion–I just don’t want it to drown out the climate discussion.

Your thoughts are welcome here.

The President’s Remarks About Energy and Climate Change

Those who haven’t seen my writing elsewhere may be surprised to learn that I’m a self-described proud, Liberal progressive Democrat who enthusiastically supports President Obama. Last night’s speech had a lot in it that I liked–and I’m well aware that many of my readers will disagree. But like I say, it takes all kinds…

Official_portrait_of_Barack_Obama

He spoke on energy and climate–and some of the things he said were to my liking, while others I disagree with. So let’s favorably Fisk that part of the State of the Union Address.

“Now is the time to reach a level of research and development not seen since the height of the Space Race. And today, no area holds more promise than our investments in American energy.”

Nope. Nanotechnology, biotechnology and robotics hold more promise than investments in American energy. I don’t care if all the solar panels in the world are made in China and/or Belgium. I care how much they cost, how much they’re subsidized and where they are put up. Same with wind turbines and biofuel. We’ve placed our bet on intellectual property–there’s not enough of it involved in renewable energy to power our economy.

“After years of talking about it, we are finally poised to control our own energy future. We produce more oil at home than we have in 15 years. We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas, and the amount of renewable energy we generate from sources like wind and solar – with tens of thousands of good, American jobs to show for it. We produce more natural gas than ever before – and nearly everyone’s energy bill is lower because of it. And over the last four years, our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet have actually fallen.”

All true and all a good thing. I join our President in congratulating America. So, where do we go from here?

“But for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. Yes, it’s true that no single event makes a trend. But the fact is, the 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15. Heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods – all are now more frequent and intense. We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science – and act before it’s too late.”

I agree we must do more to combat climate change. Not because we’re convinced it’s a planet buster, but because it makes good common dollars and cents to do so. However, it’s trivially true that 12 of the last 15 years were the hottest on record–but the record is short and temperatures have ‘stalled’, to use the term of James Hansen. And I think it’s just sad that the President is citing Xtreme Weather in defiance of the IPCC, which says there is no connection between them and climate change. That is the overwhelming judgment of science, Mr. President–and you’re ignoring it. You have a lot of company, however.

“The good news is, we can make meaningful progress on this issue while driving strong economic growth. I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

I’m sure the President will use executive authority via the EPA to continue the nudge from coal to natural gas, and what incentives he can muster to encourage renewables. He’s already been doing it for four years and there’s no real reason for him to stop. And I like a market-based solution as well. I prefer a carbon tax, but I also supported cap and trade until my party loaded it up with so much pork as to make it unrecognizable. Sigh.

Let me describe a carbon tax that would be effective: Start with a low fee–I suggest $12/ton. Make the carbon tax revenue neutral with the money raised used to lower Social Security taxes. We do want this to pass, right? Incorporate a review every decade with the power to raise, lower or rescind the tax based on objective measurements of our emissions and global temperatures.

Four years ago, other countries dominated the clean energy market and the jobs that came with it. We’ve begun to change that. Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America. So let’s generate even more. Solar energy gets cheaper by the year – so let’s drive costs down even further. As long as countries like China keep going all-in on clean energy, so must we.

Except for the last sentence, I largely agree. With the proviso that we locate renewables where they are appropriate, not convenient. As for us keeping up with the Joneses, that part of it is just a vanity contest. I don’t care where it’s manufactured. Heck, most of the jobs are in installation anyhow.

“In the meantime, the natural gas boom has led to cleaner power and greater energy independence. That’s why my Administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits. But I also want to work with this Congress to encourage the research and technology that helps natural gas burn even cleaner and protects our air and water.”

I want more specifics about understanding what’s in fracking chemicals and better plotting of potentially affected aquifers. I’m not sure we need to be rushing so fast for natural gas–especially when the market is glutted.

Indeed, much of our new-found energy is drawn from lands and waters that we, the public, own together. So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good. If a non-partisan coalition of CEOs and retired generals and admirals can get behind this idea, then so can we. Let’s take their advice and free our families and businesses from the painful spikes in gas prices we’ve put up with for far too long. I’m also issuing a new goal for America: let’s cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next twenty years. The states with the best ideas to create jobs and lower energy bills by constructing more efficient buildings will receive federal support to help make it happen.

What’s not to like about any of this? The only thing I don’t like in this last paragraph is we could and should have been doing it during the Eisenhower administration.

So–these are my top of mind reactions to a very effective speech from a President I support. I think this part of the speech had more that I disagreed with than any other section. I agreed with him about what he said on the economy, immigration, gun control and foreign affairs.

But nobody bats a thousand.

Placeholder Post on Carbon Tax

From Climate Progress I read that “Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) are expected to outline climate legislation on Thursday morning, which will include a tax on carbon emissions.”

“Under the legislation, a fee on carbon pollution emissions would fund historic investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. The proposal also would provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices.”

I agree with a carbon tax. However I strongly believe that it should be revenue neutral. Basically because it will not garner conservative support otherwise.

As the announcement does not indicate how high the proposed tax would be it’s hard to say more at this point. I hope to have more to say later.

I would just point out that revenue raising proposals in the United States pretty much have to get past a review committee of one:

Grover+Norquist+the+pledge+motivational+posters+taxes+republicans+Taxpayer+Protection+Pledge+grover+norquist+conservatives+

Forward Publication Schedule

Here on a Wednesday morning I am confronted by a variety of topics on which I would like to post:

My time is somewhat limited today so I have to (probably) choose. So–should I go after the news of national import (Obama’s speech and the carbon tax), even though many others will cover it and perhaps better than I?

Shall I write on the subject I have been covering most recently (Gleick)?

Should I go after a subject where I might have some relevant information (the Findus scandal with horsemeat is really a French and Romanian scandal exported to the UK, which may make comparisons with Xtreme Weather even more delicious)

Or the story that actually has relevance to discussion of climate change–Hausfather and friends’ publication of a paper that should (finally) answer Anthony Watts’ long-held questions about the quality of temperature measurements? (Update: Anthony Watts points out long-standing issues with station citing that the Hausfather et al paper don’t address here.)

Hmmm…..

Peter Gleick Provides an Example of Alarmed Activism

In his second post since returning from his time-out for poor behavior, Peter Gleick shows us all why he must be an expert on water issues by writing some ill-informed commentary on climate change, proving he’s not an expert on that.

Otis White

Picture by Otis White

His topic is the Keystone Pipeline, which he opposes on symbolic rather than concrete grounds: “The Keystone XL Pipeline, considered in isolation, is not a game changing or planet-threatening project“, he writes. “But. Here’s my problem: when do we finally just say ‘no more’”?

What drives him to this difficult dilemma is what he writes beforehand. At the beginning of his post he writes, “Here is the reality: the burning of fossil fuels is the leading contributor of gases that are already changing the planet’s delicate climate, and the climate will continue to change in an exponentially increasing and worsening way unless we reduce emissions.

And he is wrong in what he writes. And because he is wrong in what he writes he is compelled to advocate turning away from Canadian fossil fuel sources, not because it will make a difference to our fuel consumption or climate change, but because he thinks it necessary to make a symbolic protest–to draw a line in the tar sands.

The mistakes he made in what he wrote are echoed throughout the popular media coverage of climate change, so let’s look at them from a Lukewarmer perspective.

…”the burning of fossil fuels is the leading contributor of gases that are already changing the planet’s delicate climate…”

Burning fossil fuels is a major contributor of gases, true. But deforestation contributes a quarter of human CO2 and the production of cement another 5%. Fossil fuels are major, of course–but should not be considered in isolation. What we do regarding land use and land cover, our emissions of black carbon as both soot and aerosol–all of it must be taken together, something Gleick forgets.

The planet’s climate is hardly delicate. It can be moved, but at every measurement it seems clearer that it needs to be shoved, not just gently nudged. Our estimates of sensitivity are in the process of re-evaluation and the probable direction of any changes will be downards–in other words we may soon think the atmosphere is less delicate than before.

And the IPCC has been clear, as have other organizations–there is no link between weather occurrences and climate change to date. ““There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change.” (IPCC Report on Weather Extremes). All this talk of ‘the new normal’ and the default supposition that bad weather is due to climate change is not based on science–in my mind it is largely based on the failure of previous PR campaigns to push an NGO-led agenda for caps on emissions.

…”and the climate will continue to change in an exponentially increasing and worsening way unless we reduce emissions…”

This is absolute fantasy. Temperatures have climbed, true, but in a modest and linear fashion reaching a total warming of 0.8C over the past century (Wikipedia writes, “Since the early 20th century, Earth’s mean surface temperature has increased by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F), with about two-thirds of the increase occurring since 1980). The same is true for sea-level rise, with a linear, not exponential, rise in sea levels that has averaged between 2 and 3 millimeters annually (Wikipedia notes “From 1950 to 2009, measurements show an average annual rise in sea level of 1.7 ± 0.3 mm per year”). Last year sea levels dropped. The frequency of strong hurricanes and tornadoes has dropped.

Perhaps most significantly, temperature rises have stalled since 1998–and during that period humanity has emitted one-third of all the greenhouse gases that we have ever emitted throughout history. This argues against climate changing in any method other than linear–at least due to our actions.

If Peter Gleick actually believes these untruths, it is no wonder that he is terrified of the future and wants to convince us all to make a dramatic stand against the Keystone Pipeline.

But given how easy it is to find the actual facts of the matter that prove his fears unfounded, I have to wonder if it would be possible to convince him. His mind appears to be made up.

It would almost be uncharitable to speculate on the possibility that he already knows the truth and wishes to convince the world of something that is not the case.

But then, someone who stole documents from an organization he opposes and who either forged or knowingly published a forgery of their strategy may not be best-placed to plead for charity regarding his motives.

Mr. Gleick, the peer-reviewed science and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change state plainly that the fears you express are unfounded. Can you acknowledge that and rework your arguments accordingly?

Latest Attack on Lukewarmers

The weblog Skeptical Science has published its attack on we Lukewarmers here.

The website, despite its name, is dedicated to advancing the activist point of view on climate change and apparently they feel threatened by Lukewarmers as much as by skeptics. (I have often pointed out the similarity of climate activists to both medieval priests, who hated heretics and agnostics far more than non-believers and atheists, and the hard Left of the 20th Century, who considered Trotsky a worse enemy than Rockefeller–careful where you put that axe, now.)

As they have with most of the issues I’ve seen covered there, they manage to get things wrong, distort other things and slant their coverage rather abominably.

They single out Matt Ridley as a Lukewarmer and focus heavily on the essay that I just spent the past 10 posts critiquing. This is probably because they don’t want to cross real Lukewarmers such as Lucia Liljegren or Steve Mosher, either of whom could tie them up in knots without putting down their knitting needles (in Lucia’s case) or cellphone (ubiquitously present in Mosher’s hand).

They accuse Ridley of writing things he did not write and seem really miffed that “Ultimately the “lukewarmers” may be right, climate sensitivity may be on the lower end of the range of possible values, and maybe we will have sufficient time to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions enough to prevent catastrophic climate change. But if the “lukewarmers” are right, it will not be because the temperature record is wrong, or because global warming magically stopped 16 years ago, or because aliens are driving SUVs on Mars, or any of these long-debunked myths. If the “lukewarmers” like Ridley are right, it will be because we were very lucky…” Umm, okay… although I really think you should keep looking for those Land Rovers on Mars. You never know what you might find.

i-a42d0ff7c1af4b107b8acaae83d987e4-300px-NASA_Mars_Rover

Like so much of the stuff on their website, their criticism is so nebulous and ill-defined that there really isn’t very much to respond to. Please take a look and let me know if you agree.

Minor Editorial Notes

Hi all,

Now that we’re up to almost 20,000 page views (not bad for a couple of months), I’m considering a few changes and would like to ask for your input.

I’m thinking of unpinning the top post and letting it sink down to the date when it was posted. A lot of people have commented on the post and at the least I should give you fair warning. Opinions?

My current strap line is ‘Come and get it’ under the blog title. I am wondering if I should change it, and to what.

I’m not entirely satisfied with the arrangement of the right-hand menu bar. Suggestions? Also, does anyone have a weblog they would particularly like to see added to the blogroll here?

Other comments on appearance and usability would be welcome in this post.

Thanks for your support. I didn’t really expect to get off to such a flying start, and some of the cosmetic aspects of this publication probably reflect that.

Matt Ridley’s Tenth And Final Test For Climate Policy-Makers

Matthew Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist and newly appointed member of the UK House of Lords, has written an essay (found here: Ridley-Lukewarmer-Ten-Tests) which has 10 tests he says must be passed before he will consider current climate policy to be fit for purpose, or even sane.

His tenth and final test is this:

“Finally, you might make the argument that even a very small probability of a very large and dangerous change in the climate justifies drastic action. But I would reply that a very small probability of a very large and dangerous effect from the adoption of large-scale renewable energy, reduced economic growth through carbon taxes or geo-engineering also justifies extreme caution. Pascal’s wager cuts both ways.  At the moment, it seems highly likely that the cure is worse than disease. We are taking chemotherapy for a cold.”

My response to this is: Lord Ridley, I at least do not argue that a small probability of a large and dangerous change in the climate justifies drastic action.

Instead I argue that an easily foreseeable and preventable problem of medium scope will be stacked on top of the other challenges facing the planet, in large part because we refuse to take the ‘no regrets’ actions that would be beneficial to us even if the problem turned out not to exist.

Easily foreseeable? In 2075 there will be 9.1 billion people on the planet. Apart from the Bottom Billion, most will be striving to live a Western lifestyle and most will have the money to do so. The Western lifestyle is characterized by energy consumption–308 mbtus per person per year for Americans, 427 mbtus for Canadians, a more modest 250 mbtus for Germans. Pick your preferred trajectory and perform the multiplication.

If in 2075 we are in fact burning 3,000 quads annually, even at a very low sensitivity global warming due to human emissions of CO2 becomes a problem. Remember that we only consumed 523 quads worldwide in 2010.

We most likely won’t be blessed by ENSO neutral years and other cycles will be on the upswing by that time as well. A confluence of upward moving cycles could make one of the final decades of this century truly dramatic–even with low sensitivity and without overstepping the more modest predictions of potential warming that we Lukewarmers prefer to use.

Preventable? We could be safeguarding coast lines and flood plains now, using insurance as an incentive and vast armies of the unemployed in the U.S. as the workforce. How long will New York and New Jersey have to wait for a breakwater?

These are things we should be doing even in the complete absence of global warming.

We could be supporting energy efficiency and establishing benchmarks for buildings and factories–the amount of variation in energy efficiency in buildings with the highest LEEDS certification is huge. We’re not taking it seriously.

We will eventually wish to preserve remaining fossil fuels for specialty uses, with or without global warming. Energy efficiency saves money and gives us fuel to use for the future.

We could be supporting Rural Electrification Programs throughout the developing world, giving them solar power and saving them the huge cost of building a transmission grid.

Even without an iota of anthropogenic climate change, helping them cease to burn dung saves lives–giving them electricity brings them closer to us in all the right ways–avoiding the construction of a transmission grid preserves important parts of threatened ecosystems.

We could increase our investment in research on battery (5 x in 5 years is a good start) technology and storage.

We could write off failed projects like support for converting American corn into ethanol and help people eat and turn our attention to fourth generation biofuels–Get ADM off our backs and out of the fuel business.

There are a hundred things that we should do even if the planet is turning into an icebox. We could eliminate holdover no-fly zones established for World War II and the Cold War, saving millions of gallons of jet fuel. We could go to staged landing that reduces the millions of hours planes spend circling airports. We could mandate uprating of existing hydroelectric facilities. We could promote ground source heat pumps in northern lands instead of insisting that solar and wind will somehow work where in fact they will not.

We could actually start putting up nuclear power plants. France went nuclear over a period of 20 years, ending up with 85% of their power provided by nukes–and it happened to be the period of greatest prosperity the country has ever experienced.

What global warming threatens us with is not cancer and adaptation and mitigation efforts are not chemotherapy.

The more apt analogy is that we have been diagnosed as obese and are being asked to consider a sane regimen that avoids over-consumption, adopting a slightly different lifestyle that involves more exercise and healthier foods.

At_the_beach_-_male_abdominal_obesity

Being asked to put away the things of childhood–the endless procession of Big Macs and gallon-sized Slurpees–may not sound as romantic as fighting the Big C and heroically charting your own course.

But that’s what it comes down to.

Matt Ridley’s Ninth Test (Warning: Rant Follows)

Now, doggone it, Lord Ridley–your ninth test for the validation of policies to combat climate change stumbled upon an area in which I actually claim to know a bit of the current state of the art (See here, here and here).

So when you write:

“Indeed I will need persuading that dashing to renewables can cut
emissions rather than make them worse; this is by no means certain given
that the increased use of bioenergy, such as wood or corn ethanol,
driven by climate policies, is indeed making them worse.

Meanwhile shale gas use in the USA has led to a far greater cut in emissions than any other technology, yet it is opposed every step of the way by climate 
alarmists.”

I call foul. Fortunately, if this is a teachable moment I can actually persuade you that renewables can cut emissions. But first I need to correct some of what you write.

And it isn’t even a correction, which makes me even more frustrated with you. The increased use of bioenergy has been a policy mistake and, while it hasn’t increased emissions much if at all, it hasn’t helped. Our current best efforts in bioenergy have not been good enough and we should in all probability cease subsidizing ethanol in the U.S. and let Brazil use their sugar cane for it instead.

But bioenergy is the least of all renewables and focusing on it and biomass and wood is artful misleading by omission and I expect a helluva lot better from the author of The Rational Optimist. If you want to talk renewables you will have to bring your A game, not a few snide sentences accompanied by a chart.

Usually I have this fight with the most alarmed of activists who point at the paltry production of their favorite renewables and use it as an excuse to advocate either draconian caps on emissions or some well-hidden scheme to retard energy consumption in the developing world. I never thought I would see this argument coming from you–and you put it under the Lukewarming label?

You are arguing that we should throw out the baby because of lack of economic productivity.

In 2010 the world used 523 ‘quads’ (quadrillion btus-for explanations of the metrics see here for BTUs and here for quads).

Of those 523 quads, 52 were produced by renewable energy. Of those 52 renewable quads, 50 were produced by hydroelectric power. Renewable energy is new and is not more than an asterisk in global totals.

However, renewable energy is growing at the same rate and for the same reasons as computer processing power did starting 40 years ago–incremental improvements throughout the logistical supply chain from production to distribution to installation. The two current champions, solar and wind, are making giant strides.

Here’s a look at solar:

Emanuel Sachs MIT

And here’s a look at wind:

GlobalWindPowerCumulativeCapacity

Here’s a look at hydroelectric power:

hydropower-growth

Hydroelectric power is the workhorse and solar and wind are the up and coming sources of renewable power. (I wish we could have a sane discussion about nuclear power, cogenerated power and waste-to-energy, but not today.) We can leave aside for now the local solutions of geothermal, the not-yet-ready for primetime wave power and solar powered satellites.

These three will generate a significant portion of the world’s power. They will reduce emissions.

And it won’t show up in the tables because energy demand is growing so fast–something you surely know. It’s quite possible that power from renewables will double by 2050 and yet fall as a percentage of the total, simply because demand is growing so quickly.

But dismissing renewables because bioenergy hasn’t worked out is like saying man will never fly because of early failed experiments. You’re better than that, Lord Ridley. You need to show it.

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