On his trip to Iraq today, Vice President Dick Cheney asserted there has been “phenomenal” improvements in security, hours before a suicide bomber killed at least 40 people. Cheney also asserted that Iraq has been a “successful endeavor.” BarbinMD tallies today’s “success.”
Here is the draft of the long-awaited defense of why we need an ultimate target of 350 ppm for atmospheric carbon dioxide, by NASA’s James Hansen et al., “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?” [Yes, they know we're already at 385 ppm and rising 2 ppm a year.]
The paper does suffer from one inherent analytical weakness that makes it (a tad) less dire than it appears — and some people believe the core element of this analysis is wrong (see very end of post), although I don’t.
This paper is really just a continuation of Hansen’s earlier analysis arguing that the real-world or long-term climate sensitivity of the planet to doubled CO2 [550 ppm] is 6°C — twice the short-term or fast-feedback-only climate sensitivity used by the IPCC. [You might want to read this post first since it is a bit clearer on the difference between the two sensitivities.]
The key paleoclimate finding of the article:
We infer from the Cenozoic data that CO2 was the dominant Cenozoic forcing, that CO2 was only ~450 ppm when Antarctica glaciated, and that glaciation is reversible.
That is, if we stabilize at 450 ppm (or higher) we risk returning the planet to conditions when it was largely ice free, when sea levels were higher by 70 meters — more than 200 feet!
Three years ago, Hansen (and others) argued in Science that [due to fast feedbacks], we would warm another “0.6°C without further change of atmospheric composition” [i.e. with no more CO2 emissions]. Now he’s saying “Warming ‘in the pipeline’, most due to slow feedbacks, is now about 2°C.” So the paper concludes:
An initial 350 ppm CO2 target may be achievable by phasing out coal use except where CO2 is captured and adopting agricultural and forestry practices that sequester carbon. If the present overshoot of this target CO2 is not brief, there is a possibility of seeding irreversible catastrophic effects.
The inherent weakness of the paper from a policy perspective is that even if you accept their analysis (which many will not), the authors do not know how long we can overshoot 350, which is a function of not just the duration of the overshoot, but the magnitude (i.e. how high concentrations go). They note: “The time needed for slow feedbacks to ‘kick in’ is uncertain. Current models are inadequate and no paleoclimate analogue to the rapid human-made GHG increase exists.” We are truly running a first-of-a-kind experiment on the climate.
The authors write “paleoclimate and ongoing changes, and the ocean response time, suggest that it would be foolhardy to allow CO2 to stay in the dangerous zone for centuries.” Well, of course, but centuries is a long time. The authors argue:
Humanity’s task of moderating human-caused global climate change is urgent. Ocean and ice sheet inertias provide a buffer delaying full response by centuries, but there is a danger that human-made forcings could drive the climate system beyond tipping points such that change proceeds out of our control.
That, of course, is a central point of this blog.
On the other hand, the authors make clear that reducing concentrations is not easy even if we do not key cross carbon cycle feedback tipping points. Moreover, recent analysis suggests that “if emissions were eliminated entirely, radiative forcing from atmospheric CO2 would decrease at a rate closely matched by declining ocean heat uptake, with the result that while future warming commitment may be negligible, atmospheric temperatures may not decrease appreciably for at least 500 years.”
So I suspect the authors are right that 450 ppm is too high if maintained for even a few centuries. On the other hand, realistically, 350 ppm is simply not going to be seen again this century. The authors write:
This target [350 ppm] must be pursued on a timescale of decades, as paleoclimate and ongoing changes, and the ocean response time, suggest that it would be foolhardy to allow CO2 to stay in the dangerous zone for centuries.
The ill-defined difference between decades and centuries is key. What if we could keep the peak below 450 ppm, and start concentrations declining by 2100, which would almost certainly require near-zero if not net-negative global emissions, and then get back to near 350 ppm by, say 2150 and then even lower by 2200? Would that be good enough? As I argued in my book, I believe that with a World War II scale effort for the next few decades, we could stay below 450. My take away from this paper is that we would need to keep up that level of effort through 2100 — to get back below current levels.
The final point of the paper deserves reprinting:
President Bush’s Coalition of the Willing has dwindled since its original strength in 2003. Of 14 major partners in the Coalition, eight leaders were defeated in elections, two stepped down, two were term limited, and two remained in office. This week, Bush will be hosting one of his few remaining allies, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, to discuss “common efforts to advance freedom and security around the world.” Saakashvili’s trip will coincide with “the height of the war protests on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
This weekend, the Federal Reserve extended a $30 billion credit line to finance the takeover of near-bankrupt Bear Stearns by fellow Wall Street firm JPMorgan Chase.
During today’s news briefing, reporters questioned White House Press Secretary Dana Perino on the Fed’s actions, noting that the White House has repeatedly refused to extend similar assistance to homeowners facing foreclosure. Perino replied that help to homeowners — a “boost of liquidity” — would come “in the form of a stimulus package and a tax rebate.” Watch it:
The average rebate check will amount to about $600 for single people and $1,670 for middle income families. Compare this figure to the nationwide median mortgage payment, which stood at $1,566 in September. Or to the average increase in subprime mortgage payments in early 2007, which was $320 per month.
These checks obviously won’t help Americans stave off foreclosure — a frightening reality facing an increasing number of people. Foreclosure rates skyrocketed 60 percent last month from February 2007, and Americans own less equity in their homes than they have since World War II.
Incredibly, the White House argues with a straight face that the Bear Stearns bailout was a necessity, but that addressing the needs of millions of homeowners would be an “overcorrection,” as Bush put it on Friday. Just yesterday, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson defended the Wall Street bailout while insisting that “all” the proposals on the housing crisis he had seen “raise more problems and do more harm than they would do good.”
In a new op-ed, the Center for American Progress’s David Abromowitz decries the White House’s hypocritical, pro-business-at-all-costs approach:
[C]onsider that big oil company tax breaks are too integral to our energy plan, but relief for millions of drivers squeezed by rising gasoline prices would be bad economic policy. Or that eliminating the estate tax is promoted as tax fairness, but vetoing the expansion of health care to millions of children through the State Children’s Health Insurance Program as too expensive is prudent budgetary management. The list goes on and on.
There are many good reasons, of course, to act to avert a Bear Stearns bankruptcy when one considers the ultimate impact on millions of Americans and around the world of a Wall Street collapse. But the reasons are no less compelling when the devastation hits individual Americans directly—home by home, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood.
Transcript: Read more
Darcy Burner and a group of other congressional challengers have done the official release of their responsible plan to end the war in Iraq. I had the chance to read it before the official release, and it’s good. And good for them for seizing this issue by the horns in the context of their campaigns.
How is it that John McCain couldn’t be bothered to personally issue a statement on the financial markets situation and found himself letting Doug Holtz-Eakin do it for him? He does understand that if he’s elected president he needs to do all the parts of the president’s job and not just the “let’s start some more wars” stuff he happens to be most interested in, right?
With Elliot Spitzer out, what about the Senate’s number one hooker-lover, David Vitter? Well:
Anybody who looks at the two cases will see there is an enormous difference between the two of them. The people that are trying to draw comparisons to the two cases are people who’ve never agreed with me on important issues like immigration and other things.
It’s true that I don’t agree with Vitter about much, so maybe my opinion doesn’t count, but the difference isn’t at all clear to me.
A new CNN poll finds that 74 percent of the American public believes the U.S. economy is already in a recession, “up from 66 percent who felt that way in a similar survey last month.” Fifty-three percent say the recession “will last more than a year.”
John McCain summed up his own approach to health care in a Des Moines speech this way: “I offer a genuinely conservative vision for health care reform, which preserves the most essential value of American lives – freedom.”
That’s health care rhetoric that you could serve up with a slice of apple pie during a baseball game. But freedom for whom? When McCain talks about ‘freedom,’ he isn’t talking about regular families. He means health plans should be free of regulation. (Read Jeanne Lambrew’s piece on what “Conservative Health Reform” means.)
One of John McCain’s central ideas is to free insurance companies from state regulations that protect individual consumers, having said, “You should be able to buy your insurance from any willing provider – the state bureaucracies are no better than national ones.” The not-so-subtle implication is that the marketplace is all that is needed to keep health insurers in check.
McCain’s marketplace, though, would reduce costs for insurers at the expense of people. Two years ago, California’s then-Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi issued a scathing report on the conservative’s reform approach, explaining that insurers could avoid the health plan rules in some states mandating that specific benefits (such as cancer testing and preventive care for children) be offered and that specific providers (such as psychologists) be covered. State rules that help small businesses purchase insurance coverage would also be in jeopardy. Real insurance reform – like prohibiting insurance companies from refusing to cover people with health problems – wouldn’t stand a chance.
McCain’s plan comes at a time when the insurance industry shows that it needs more, not less, regulation. Just look at what insurers are doing with their freedom today.
– In California, the state is considering fines as high as $1.3 billion against PacifiCare for wrongly denying claims.
– In New York, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is moving against UnitedHealth and others for charging patients too much to see out-of-network doctors.
– California-based Health Net paid bonuses based in part on how successful employees were at canceling (in insurance-speak, it’s called a “rescission”) health policies it had sold to customers that incurred high medical bills.
There needs to be freedom in health care. But John McCain has it all wrong. He would create a race to the bottom as insurers aggressively market health plans from states with the weakest regulations. We should start with the freedom from fear that insurance companies will simply abandon the sick when their care gets too expensive.
In a Friday interview with the Stamford Advocate, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) — one of Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) foreign policy advisers — said he would attend the Republican National Convention this summer:
Friday, Lieberman said he will attend the Republican National Convention this summer, “if Senator McCain thinks it will be helpful to be there in some capacity.” [...]
“I am not going to attend the Democratic Convention for obvious reasons,” Lieberman said.
Lieberman, whose Democratic superdelegate status was stripped earlier this year, also added that he’d likely support Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) against his Democratic challenger. “I am going to wait and see, but let me just say Chris Shays is a great congressman,” Lieberman said.