Weekend Open Thread

A cyber-penny for your thoughts “¦ and links.

57 Responses to Weekend Open Thread

  1. Sunshine says:

    The antidote to apathy:

    Well worth your 7 minutes.

  2. Mossy says:

    As you may know, on Monday, April 18, 21 peaceful protesters were arrested inside the Department of the Interior Building in Washington, DC. Theses brave individuals marched there after the large DC Power Shift rally, asking to speak with Secretary Ken Salazar to call for for the end of mountaintop removal, tar sands pipelines, natural gas fracking, and deep oil drilling. This was just two days after President Obama told a group of students to push him on these issues.

    It behooves all of us climate cognoscenti to support these people. Please write a letter and/or call both Secretary Salazar and President Obama, expressing our deep concern about the lack of serious attention to the climate crisis, and supporting the actions of our brave fellow activists.

    Contact Information:
    President Obama: The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20500
    White House Comment Line Phone: 202-456-1111

    Secretary Salazar
    Department of the Interior
    1849 C Street, N.W.
    Washington DC 20240
    Phone: (202) 208-3100

    In addition, donations may be given for the arrestees’ defense here:

    Also, consider calling your local NPR, and asking them to cover this story, plus the story of Power Shift itself.

    We must all stand together and fight for climate justice!

  3. Peter M says:

    A massive tornado has ripped through the St. Louis MO airport.

  4. Mossy says:

    In addition to my comment,#2, above, tell Obama and your Congressmen that you also support the 9 students who disrupted the Republican’s 2012 budget debate by singing a revised “climate-aware” version of the Star Spangled Banner:

    “Oh why can’t you see
    It’s my life that’s at stake
    When you sell out our world
    You are stealing my future.
    Can you look in my eyes
    As you gamble our lives?
    When will you stop the lies
    So that we can survive?
    If you represent me
    Not the fossil fuel industry
    You must stop wasting time
    Chasing your dollar signs.
    Oh, say will you listen to
    Our generation?
    If you refuse to hear us now
    Then we have to shut you down.
    – sung to the tune of the Star Spangled Banner

    Video available here:

  5. Esop says:

    Extremely warm (for the month) temperatures in northern Europe. Records broken daily, but the press is rather silent. Deniers had a field day during the winter, but are now nowhere to be seen.

  6. Wrex says:

    A bit of fun regarding a new climate denial expert for the Koch express…

  7. Wes Rolley says:

    The solutions for climate change are ultimately political acts.

    On Earth Day, the Green Party urges the US to get serious about global warming, clean energy, and transition to a carbon-free, nuclear-free economy

  8. Daniel Bailey says:

    New post on the dangers from methane clathrates/hydrates melting, citing recent research, at Skeptical Science.

    The Yooper

  9. Jeff Huggins says:

    Two Items

    Watch this video clip of an interview of Joni Mitchell on the Andrew Marr Show (2007). It’s only 3:41, and the best parts are at the end:

    Also, and importantly, I’d suggest that people (including and especially leaders in the climate movements) read the short chapter, ‘We Are All Bystanders’, by Dacher Keltner and Jason Marsh, in the book ‘The Compassionate Instinct’, edited by Keltner, Marsh, and Jeremy Adam Smith. The entire book is great, but that particular chapter (and surrounding chapters) is about the science of bystanderism, to pick a word for today’s purposes. Dacher Keltner is a noted psychologist at U.C. Berkeley and a cofounder of the Greater Good Science Center.

    Be Well,


  10. Richard Brenne says:

    As I mentioned once earlier (without any response), I’ve been attending a series of talks by eminent hydrologists put on by the USGS, Oregon State and Portland State. The last was by Robert M. Hirsch, who was head of hydrology for the USGS for almost 20 years. He’s a careful scientist, great speaker and nice guy, as I found out when five of us went out to lunch after his talk.

    The problem is that there’s a huge disconnect between his view (and that of most of the others in the series, and in the field of hydrology generally) and that of atmospheric scientists, who project that as global warming increases, dry areas especially will see more severe droughts punctuated by more dramatic precipitation events, especially in wet areas.

    These hydrologists, including and perhaps especially Hirsch, don’t feel that the hydrological record of the 48 states so far reflects those dramatic precipitation events. In graph after graph including those of the biggest annual flood on a given river (typically above dams), they show that except for certain rivers, most have not shown a trend toward more severe floods.

    So why the disconnect?

    Here are my guesses, and I’d love to hear yours:

    1) The U.S. is only 2% of Earth’s area, and if the biggest (500 and 1000 year) floods were measured globally, more of a pattern toward these kinds of events would occur. (The problem with this is that no one is paid or motivated to look at this trend globally, and few can agree what was a 500 or 1000 year event in the distant past or even the present, so these would need to be educated guesses. Hydrologists don’t value and won’t make educated guesses – they want exact data that in this case is difficult if not impossible to exactly quantify, since deforestation, channelization of rivers, agriculture, infrastructure like cities and other factors influence flood size.)

    1A) The most direct relationship between warming and floods might come when record temperatures have led to record sea surface temperatures that have then contributed to record floods as in Pakistan and Queensland, Australia within the last year. This might be more common closer to the equator and in areas with more dramatic monsoonal moisture than the U.S. 48 states (the focus of the USGS) usually get.

    2) We’ve seen .8C temperature rise over the last century, with .6 of that coming since 1970. Given that the conservative IPCC projects a worst-case scenario of 6 degrees C by 2100, that would be 10 times what we’ve recently seen. Instead of 4 per cent additional water vapor in the atmosphere (equivalent to 1.5 Lake Superiors) and the energy equivalent to the output of 190,000 nuclear reactors added to the system, there could be 40 per cent additional water vapor (15 Lake Superiors) with the added energy output of 1,900,000 nuclear reactors. In other words, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

    3) The most dramatic precipitation events don’t always mean the most dramatic floods, since there are all the factors I mention above, as well as the fact that the biggest floods, especially of the biggest drainages, are often more a cumulative effect, often over many years. For instance the 1993 flood of the Mississippi came after a number of wet years had saturated soils, and then the heaviest rains came at the end of that period.

    4) Hydrologists are like meteorologists in that they’ve seen tremendous natural variability. It’s like someone studying the highest and lowest tides might not see sea level rise as clearly.

    5) Hydrology is a subset of geology and geologists contain the most deniers of any of the sciences, together with meteorology. While few direct or spoken conspiracies exist, most meteorologists make their living talking about weather on TV stations where car dealers and the like are primary advertisers, and without anyone saying anything, everyone still knows where their bread is buttered. Similarly, there is far more money in oil, gas and coal than probably all other forms of geology combined, so that money influences the culture of university geology departments and the culture of the discipline, furthering a natural tendency toward conservatism.

    6) When there is no data or insufficient data, the past that is known and thus the most conservative outlook is given.

    7) Often hydrologists are looking at averages of run-off, and in those cases years of drought and occasional extreme precipitation events could cancel each other out and make extremes look more average than they are.

    When I asked Hirsch if he thought the next century will look a lot like the last one in terms of floods, he said he thought it would.

    If you ask Jim Hansen and Kevin Trenberth if they think the next century will look like the last one in terms of floods (something I’m doing), I’m expecting they’ll say that as the century progresses we’ll see more and more events more dramatic than we’ve ever seen, more dramatic than we can imagine, as we’ve seen with heat records in 19 nations in 2010 with no cold records (hydrologists rightly say that climate models do much better with temperatures than precipitation), and 1000-year flood events in parts of Queensland (the average being 370 years), Nashville and I’m guessing Pakistan, as well as many other places (Anyone want to compile a list? Prokaryotes? Colorado Bob? Buehler?)

    I’d appreciate anyone’s take on this, because the disconnect between one group of experts and another does play with one’s head. . .

  11. Vic says:

    Another raIn-bomb hits Toowoomba.    

    “The festival was completely evacuated with fears the huge tent structures would collapse under the weight of the downpour.”

    “Children could be heard screaming as they were grabbed by their parents exiting the venue for higher ground.”

  12. Bob Lang says:

    I googled:

    “Lindsay Lohan” = 54.5 million hits

    “climate change” = 49.7 million hits

    “Pamela Anderson” = 18.3 million hits

    “peak oil” = 2.8 million hits

  13. 6thextinction says:

    mossy, et al:

    it’s way past time for contacting your congressman and cabinet members and president: if you want to support those youthful activists at powershift, watch this

    and decide how you can follow his advice. we have to stop complaining about obstructionists, deniers, do-nothings, and do-littles, and step up our own climate progress game. right here, right now; and report what you are doing–not thinking; not reading about; not wondering about; not wanting, wishing for, hoping for.

  14. Mossy says:

    6th extinction, I hope that your comments were meant to reinforce mine. I was at Power Shift. I helped pass out most of the green hats that the students wore, marched with them (as a volunteer marshall) and more.

    I’ve heard Tim DeChristopher speak at least three times, and admire his leadership. The individuals arrested both at Congress and the Dept. of the Interior were following his lead. I’m suggesting financial and written support for these activists; we must all stick together.

    Here’s a question: How many CP readers were there? How many have contributed there time and money directly to ACTION in the movement?

    As an aside, I’m not a student, but rather a 61 year old grandmother who traveled to DC at my own expense to support the actions.

    P.S. This isn’t meant as a statement of one-up-personship, but as encouragment for more caring people, who support the climate movement with their words, to put their money and their bodies where their keyboards are!

    In solidarity,

  15. Heidi says:

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks again for all your great work. I found a book about climate change written in laymen’s terms — “Dire Predictions”. I highly recommend it. The authors have taken very complicated, technical information and presented it in a way that is accessible to anyone with a 10th grade education. Hard to do….but they did it brilliantly.

    And I’d like to comment on the topic just adjacent to this on your email. Until recently, I worked in pharmaceutical marketing. I recognize great marketing when I see it. And I see it everywhere regarding climate change on the side of legacy energy. That’s why we’re losing the debate. Pro-science climate change needs a marketing team working for them too. They need a disciplined message — 4 points that are hit over and over. Think magazine ads, billboards, facebook and other social media. Include internet advertising and lobbyists in Washington. Take a page out of Obama’s campaign and organize an on-line effort as well. Otherwise nothing will happen to change our current energy-consumption behavior. As important and your and other peoples’ work is, if there isn’t a grassroots marketing campaign to get the word out, this is a lost cause. So how about it? So do you know any wealthy humanitarians around who’d pony up the dough? You know, put their money where their mouth is? Then hire the best marketing team you can find and let them get to work. It’s necessary.

  16. Anna Haynes says:

    link for JeffH#9 – “We are all bystanders”
    – …”Charles Garfield, a clinical professor of psychology at the UCSF School of Medicine…is writing a book about the psychological differences between bystanders and people who display “moral courage.”…”

  17. Anna Haynes says:

    Hey, all, a question – it looks like the “Koch strategy group” list of attendees didn’t funders Scaife(Pittsburgh PA) or Seid(Chicago Heartland funder), or anyone representing them; or did it, that I didn’t notice?

    Would this be because they’re not among the strategizers, & if so, why would this be?

  18. Anna Haynes says:

    s/didn’t/didn’t include/

  19. David K says:

    I just discovered this website which offers access to the various GCMs used in the last IPCC report. It is very user-friendly. You can change the emissions scenarios from high to low and you can pick and choose which GCM to use, or various ensembles of GCMs. Pretty cool (or rather, hot.) Check it out:

  20. Colorado Bob says:

    Longtime Minnesota TV reporter digs into global climate change

    “For those of you who are confused on this issue,” he said, “you’re forgiven. It’s my fault.”

    But, he said, climate change is not a pro or con issue; it’s a scientific fact. And journalists who work to “balance” a story present an inaccurate picture when they give equal weight to sources promulgating inaccurate facts.

    “If I report a story on abuse of children, I don’t go out and interview an abuser on the up-side of child abuse,” he said as an example of how an effort to balance can go too far.

  21. Colorado Bob says:

    Softball-sized hail also pelted three towns in Missouri–Hermann, Big Spring, and Warrenton–during last night’s severe weather outbreak.

  22. Undergrad says:

    @ Mossy and other Power Shifters

    I am jealous that you were able to attend Power Shift 2011. Unfortunately, living in Indiana and having finals coming up during this time did not make Power Shift a possibility (also, I drove to DC for the Rally to Restore Sanity last semester and none of my friends would have made this second journey with me). I couldn’t believe that the event had 10,000 people, I was expecting so much more. I told all my friends who study in DC to participate and I thought with all the young people the event would be massive. I am hoping for next year’s Power Shift to be bigger and better and that I will actually be able to attend. Until then, trying to find an aggressive way to fight against the climate crisis (human greed crisis?, human ignorance crisis?).

    @10: I read your comment, excellent points but I can’t help with finding any data.

  23. mark says:

    unbelievably awesome!

    Thanks Don Shelby… I grew up listening to you on WCCO

  24. catman306 says:

    NPR fails to mention the possiblilty of climate change being a factor in the past week’s tornado outbreak.
    “The tornados that struck St. Louis this week are the latest in a record-breaking number of twisters that have swept across the country this month. That’s in addition to historic droughts and fires in Texas, record low temperatures in Seattle, and snow and flooding in the Midwest. What’s going on with the weather? Linda Wertheimer puts the question to John Christy, director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.”

    And he’s also the Alabama State Climatologist.

    The Audio for this story will be available after 7:00 p,m, ET

  25. scas says:

    Following on the “human civilization on the precipice” theme.

    More appropriately, “human civilization on the precipice of runaway climate change”. We only have to turn our eyes to Africa and see that heatwaves and droughts are already killing people.

    How good are methane monitoring capabilities, ground and atmospheric, and if non-abrupt emissions were to occur, would we even be able to detect it?

    I can imagine 5 years from now, emission reductions have failed, peak oil is recognized, China, India, and third-worlders are burning yet more coal to power their cars and air conditioners, cutting more forests for farmlands – and the positive feedbacks for runaway climate change are in full action. I foresee most people on this forum changing their minds on geoengineering in the near future, seeing it as necessary in addition to emission reductions.

  26. Ed Hummel says:

    To Richard #16, concerning your comments about geologists and meteorologists tending to be deniers of global climate change, especially if it’s human caused, I can’t speak about geologists with anything more than speculation about their motives and thinking. However, my experience with fellow meteorologists has led me to conclude that the average weather forecaster, whether in the broadcast media, or working in a government or private office, and who has only a BS, just doesn’t have the background to understand how the total climate system really works.

    I received my basic meterology training at the Naval Postgraduate School as a newly commissioned Ensign with a BS in Chemistry from UMass in the late 60s. I wanted to stay in meteorology when I got off active duty so got my MS in meteorology from Rutgers in the mid 70s. I didn’t realized it at the time, but most meteorology programs didn’t really stress courses in climate until one reached the graduate school level (hopefully it’s changed since then!!). I also happened to have Dr. Mark Shulman as my principal professor and thesis advisor and he was a student of Reid Bryson at Wisconsin who was one of the most important climate scientists of that era. Even though Bryson’s balliwick was global cooling brought about by an excess of aerosols and particulates from industrial pollution, and that thinking sort of got passed down through Shulman, I still received a very good basic education in climate science as it was understood at that time. The problem of greenhouse gases was already understood then as readers of this blog already know, but the understanding I got was that there was still some disagreement over whether aerosols or greenhouse gases would be the predominant pullution forcing the global temperature one way or the other. Obviously, the research accelerated through the late 70s and through the 80s (mainly from ice cores, ocean sediment cores, planetary atmospheric studies) reaching a climax with Jim Hansen’s famous Senate testimony in 1988. By then, as Joe has pointed out many times, the verdict was definitely in that CO2 and greenhouse gases in general were winning, and the aerosols had been perversely slowing the warming and keeping it from being even worse than it could have been at that point(global dimming).

    While working as a forecaster for a private consulting firm until the early 80s, I tried to keep up with the research in all areas of atmospheric science as best as I could and quickly understood what was happening to the climate based on my knowledge gained while at Rutgers; my thesis topic actually had to do with climate since it was an investigation into the potential forest growth in Iceland based on the past and present climate regimes. Because of my background, including research in the climate system, I was becoming as alarmed as anyone actually working in climate science and I assumed that most meteorologists would also quickly understand what was happening and become just as concerned as I was. But the opposite actually happened as I kept bumping into a lot of skepticism among my forecasting colleagues. I couldn’t understand why that would be until I read some studies done by the American Meteorological Society over the last few years that found the same thing. It turns out that a large number of TV meteorologists with only a BS in meteorology are skeptical of anthropogenic climate change and that a lot of them describe themselves as politically conservative and disciples of free market capitalism, especially if they work in “red state” markets, but certainly not restricted to those areas.

    I had an encounter with a guy I worked with back in the late 70s before our paths diverged. He’s turned into a well known denier with his own blog of misinformation that parrots Lindzen and Spencer and quotes from their well debunked papers. In my encounter with him, he spent most of his arguments on the wonders of the free market and its ability to feed the world and give everyone the chance for a comfortable lifestyle, and very little about the actual physics of the atmosphere. Anything that had to do with well established physics, such as the ability of CO2 to trap escaping terrestial radiation, but which also indicted human actions as being progressively dangerous, were dismissed as not proven or even disproven (by Lindzen and Spencer of course). It was truely an exercise in futility and he even tried to paint a picture of my motives as being blinded to the needs of humanity and the power of the unfettered capitalist system for nothing but good. He even said I shouldn’t listen to people like Al Gore, Laurie David, Barbra Streisand, Paul Krugman, and of course, Joe Romm. But he never really talked about the established science, just mainly the denier theology of free markets and the evils of big government. And he isn’t the only one, just the most obvious of my acquaintances. So it is strictly an ideological and political issue as far as deniers are concerned, no matter what their scientific background. He was no different that the Kochs, Inhofe, and now even Pawlenty and Gingrich. I would assume that the geologists have a similar problem. Such things really prove the fact of “an inconvenient truth”! I don’t know if that helps in your quest for answers, but those are some of my experiences.

  27. Tom Staley says:

    About a year ago the Bangor Daily News published a sort of Believe It or Not by Professor Dick Hill (retired, of the U. of Maine). I asked him his source, and he said he thought it was an article in The Economist.
    Below is the text of his Bangor daily news note. I find that it provides a very evocative image that gives a vivid “feel” for the sizes of the quantities involved; it is rhetorically very effective. What I’m asking for is some further parsing and sourcing of this statement by anyone competent. Is it is roughly true? Is there is a better way of stating the relationship of these quantities, modern yearly consumption and ancient years of production. Here’s the text of the note:

    “About a half-billion years ago the earth was
    accumulating the plant material that we now use
    as fossil fuels. Satellites now inventory the
    total terrestrial plant life. We consume, every
    year, fossilized phytomass equivaltent to 100
    times the total current terrestrial plant life.”

  28. Michael T says:

    Mark Hertsgaard and James Hansen: Adapting to Climate Change Now

    “At the Open Society Institute in New York City on Thursda, April 14, Hertsgaard joined renowned NASA climatologist Dr. James Hansen for a conversation on how we can best adapt to and confront climate change. One of the biggest hurdles to effectively dealing with our warming planet, the two agree, is the anti-science blockade the American right has set up against any and all carbon reducing policies.”

  29. Leif says:

    Tom Staley @ 27: Along the same vain and un-sourced as well, I recall hearing that it took a million years to accumulate the energy that humanity currently consumes each year. Any conformation out there?

  30. Leif says:

    Scas @ 25: I cannot change my mind on geo-engineering unless the solution confronts the problem of Ocean Acidification as well. In which case the geo-engineering solution is exactly the one I currently endorse. Backing down the CO2 levels. Nothing else gives humanity a chance in hell. IMO…

  31. Mossy says:

    # 22 Undergrad, were I still in school (at Ohio State), I believe that I would have also had reservations about skipping out to travel to DC, considering the monetary issues of both the travel and the missed classes. I understand where you’re coming from!

    FYI, Power Shift seems to be an every-other-year event. However, as expressed by Tim DeChristopher, we really shouldn’t be holding another talking/meeting seminar in 2013, but rather be out in the streets continuously, to preserve our future.

    By the way, I really wish that the conference organizers would make it more intergenerational, with many, many more people of my generation joining the young, to cooperate in preserving our future.

  32. William P says:

    Speaking of “Ocean Acidification” and related subject, we have spent over two years here in the southern Caribbean living about six months a year on your sailboat, moving from island to island around the Netherlands Antilles ABC islands and off shore islands of Venezuela.

    In a report from the front, we see a lot of algae growth in shallow seas here. It is various types of algae. Some adheres to the white sand bottoms and is green or dark brown in color.

    There is another variety that is a floating mossy plant-like growth. There is now a lot of this in the Venezuelan Aves Islands. We have seen it increase over the relatively short time we’ve been sailing these waters. We have also noted it creeping into the previously pristine waters of Bonaire, one of the ABC islands.

    This and other mossy growth attaches itself to hard and soft coral and kills it. They is a LOT of dead and dying coral. But on the bright side there still is coral and a fair amount of colorful fish life. Water clarity has diminished over the time we’ve been here by perhaps fifteen percent.

    We don’t detect any government awareness or actions here to fight what is happening to their waters.

  33. Mike MacCracken says:

    To Richard Brenne at message number 10: During the first US National Assessment (1997-2000), there emerged quite a disagreement between NOAA (particularly Pavel Groisman) and USGS (Bob Hirsch et al) hydrologists about the general question that you heard come up in the discussion. In coordinating that effort and then in being author of the chapter on impacts in the US Climat eAction Report 2002 (for which all agencies had to agree on every word), I did some delving into the reasons for the difference, and there were (and maybe still are) a couple–and these are my recollections, hopefully about right:

    1. In looking for trends in extremes, the way that USGS hydrologists did this (and they said this was the way it was done in the community) was to calculate the distribution of rain intensities (or runoffs, etc) for each year and then, for example, calculate the 90% value (so most intense, driest, whatever) for each year and then look for trends. Given the year to variability, the noise tends to be high and so it is difficult to get a trend. On the other hand, what NOAA was doing (based on the tradition of climate scientists to consider the climatic baseline to be 30 years long) was to take the 30 year distribution of precipitation, runoff, etc. and then establish that as the baseline–so get the 10 and 90% levels, etc. and then go to the record and see how the trend in values for a particular year compared to the baselines, and they found trends (the noise level was lower).

    2. The second issue is what to be looking for. As I understand it, USGS would look at precipitation for a rivershed and then look at the flows after that event to see if floods were occurring, etc. and they did not find a correlation looking at all (essentially unperturbed) river basins and indicated that this should not be surprising as, for example, heavy summer rains might fall when river levels are low so one does not then reach flood stage, etc. NOAA (meaning Groisman–but check his history of papers on this) thought it essential to be dividing the basins up and accounting separately for cases when snow fell and built up–so the time connection was delayed. This type of case would not register as a connection in the USGS type of analysis.

    I am not/was not an expert in this field and so can’t really make authoritative judgments, although what NOAA was doing seems more sensible even if it was apparently different than what was reported to be how hydrologists traditionally (so maybe assuming the climate was stable) did the calculations. So, in the 2000 assessment report, you will see a connection as the advisory panel included the NOAA analysis and the USGS (or any agency) did not have power to overrule the advisory committee. On the other hand, the US Climate Action Report does not include the result that heavier rains were causing more flooding as on all agencies had to agree on that report, and all I could do to help the report move forward was take that finding out and hope the two agencies would, over time, work this all out. Apparently, this has not yet happened to everyone’s satisfaction.

    Mike MacCracken

  34. Lewis C says:

    Scas at 25. –

    It seems to me you’re right in your expectation, but perhaps for other reasons than the scenario you describe.

    At present, many contributors here seem to find the thought of albedo restoration objectionable for a spread of reasons, including its use as an excuse for continued pollution, its risk of negative outcomes, its unreliability, etc. Yet at bottom these are risks to be avoided while meeting an imperative need, and it is the failure to acknowledge that need that elevates the concern over improper use of albedo restoration into its wholesale rejection.

    Your scenario posits the need being recognized against the background of a failure to control global emissions, rising coal-usage and forest destruction, etc. I’d suggest that those who are willing to consider the current state of the interactive feedbacks, that will be accelerated both by eachother, by the ‘pipeline warming’, and by the closure of the sulphate parasol when GHG output-contraction gets under way, will see that there is no serious prospect of controlling the feedbacks’ ruinous future interaction without employing albedo restoration.

    Perhaps the key item that needs more recognition is that present warming, that already has several major feedbacks accelerating, is the timelagged outcome of about 335ppmv of CO2 in ~1975. Even with a radical global GHG contraction curve of 100% by 2045, we’d still add perhaps another 30ppmv – plus whatever the feedbacks contribute – to reach >420ppmv by ~2031.

    We could and of course should agree geo-engineering in the form of carbon recovery as part of a climate treaty, but while the Afforestation-for-Biochar route would at best just be getting up to scale by 2031, the BECCS or the mineral-reaction routes would do very well to sequester even 2ppmv/yr by then, as that represents new infrastructure, and funding, to process, transport and deposit about 4,200 million tonnes of carbon per year, being 15,400 million tonnes /yr as CO2, or perhaps still more as one of the inert carbon compounds.
    (For context on these amounts, the world’s entire crude oil infrastructure handles less than 3,800 million tonnes /yr).

    With the permafrost tundra methane feedback alone now credibly forecast to release 1.5Gt/yr by 2030, it seems pretty obvious that we cannot hope to deploy carbon recovery technologies fast enough to decelerate the feedbacks.

    Therefore, while we are currently committed to seeing what the warming off 390 ppmv of CO2 does to the feedbacks after its timelag out to about 2046, under the best-case scenario above, by 2031 we would likely be committed to seeing what the warming off at least 420ppmv of CO2 does to them after its timelag out to about 2066.

    Since neither radical emissions mitigation nor carbon recovery, nor their combination, will be sufficient to control the feedbacks’ interaction, albedo restoration becomes the necessary, if unwelcome, complement to achieve that imperative goal.

    My reasons for banging on about this are not mere fixation:
    first there is the fact that the sooner the need is recognized as an essential part of global campaigning, the better the chance of ensuring that geo-engineering is applied for the right reasons, under competent oversight, using appropriate technologies, to fulfill specific mandates, as soon as possible;
    and second is the fact that dissemination of the reality and threat of feedbacks will provide a powerful new motivation for concerted action on climate overall, most particularly among those who already acknowledge the climate threat but have yet to get active.



  35. Mike MacCracken says:

    Joe, on your question about mistakes made in the effort to get climate legislation done, I’d like to suggest one. The chief argument for a cap and trade system is that is allows the entity holding the permit (or whatever one wants to call it) to choose among a range of possible ways of addressing the challenge of reducing emissions, expecting it will choose the most economically efficient one and thus keeping the cost at its lowest. An often missed requirement, at least in my listening to what I have seen going on, is that it thus matters what entity (or type of entity) on has holding the permit. In my view, one would expect, given the concept, that the type of entity that should be required to hold the permit is the one with the most options for addressing the problem.

    For the utility sector, there was some discussion on this and, as I understand it, the entity was the one that acquires the power for a region (sort of the distributor) as this entity could choose among types of power (coal-fired versus renewables, etc.), could set up pricing to consumers to adjust their habits, could offer home and industry efficiency programs, and on and on. And many of the utilities were ready and willing to move forward on this (and had been since roughly 2000 when Gore was expected to come in and start this up), the problem being the permit distribution system (given we are expecting the entity to make a big transition happen, why taking money from them by charging for permits instead of letting them have the money to make the transition has never been clear to me). In any case, the bil was close enough to right that on utilities something might have worked out.

    Fro the transportation sector, I think there was a real problem. As I understand it, the entity that was to hold the permits were the oil producers (so the big refiners). Now, what are their options other than to raise the price, making this virtually exactly like a transportation tax. Well, yes, they could have shunned oil from the Canadian tar sands and could have perhaps blended in more ethanol and hoped for a green fuel process, but it seems to me their options were very limited. One would get good accounting, but very limited options. I am not sure you ever saw the proposal I offered, which was to have the manufacturers of the petroleum combustion devices have to hold the permits. Pew had a sort of version of this that applied to new vehicles only (so this is equivalent to having higher CAFE standards). My proposal (that I did at least submit to the Dingell-Boucher request for ideas and mention to some reps of the Automobile Manufacturers Association, env groups, etc.) was that the makers of the combustion devices had to hold permits for all the petroleum used by all the device they ever made that were still in use (and this could be in the US or over some larger domain including Mexico, Canada, etc.). And I would give them the permits for the current level and then depreciate their value at 2-3% per year, so they would have to figure out how to cover their share of the total petroleum usage for the next year with a smaller value of the permits or buy up the needed amount (or even borrow from their future permit value–note Kyoto allowed for that with a slight penalty–like an interest payment). Now, one challenge is figuring out the numbers–I maintain that there is enough information around that if I put the representatives from the 20 or so companies whose devices are responsible for use of 95+% of the petroleum, they would figure it out–on the one hand, they have the incentive to claim a lot to get a lot of permits; on the other, with everyone doing this, they would find a way, or if they didn’t, EPA could/would. The next issue is to look at their options, and there are a lot, in my view: they could (and in many cases with financial agreements with partners) up MPG of new vehicles, make a fast transition to hybrids, , go electric (and so utilities have to hold the permits), use advertising to promote high mileage cars, buy up clunkers, switch long-distance truck freight to trains and barges, encourage tune-ups and good tire pressure, switchover rental fleets, buy up or encourage trade in of low mileage clunkers (making them more valuable, so a progressive rather than regressive one like a gas tax), encourage mass transit, support congestion taxes, encourage special small urban vehicles, make vehicles that would run on higher fractions of biofuels, and lots and lots more ideas. This approach would really have government do what government should–namely set an upper bound on emissions that is declining, and put in place a system that would enable industry as much flexibility as possible to find ways to meet the standard (that is how the SO2 system worked, and industry brought in low sulfur fuels by rail, etc.). So, I think a key mistake was in setting up who would hold the permits for the transportation sector, and that goes back to the early McCain-Lieberman bill and other early thinking on this issue.

    And one more thing, it seems to me that there was not a creative response to the argument about should we have cap and trade or tax and feebate. In my view, we need both–we need cap and trade as the incentive system for the industry side so that cost effective choices can be made, and we need tax and feebate to give incentives on the consumer side. Basically, it is hard for industry to sell products to consumers who don’t have incentives, and it is hard for consumers to find products if industry does not have incentives and a cap to encourage their actions. And if permits are given out and then discounted over time and all or most of the money from the tax is rebated (maybe keep some for enhancing research), then it would seem all should be incentivized to make the change and we might really get some action.

    I have asked a few economists about all of this, and many seem to have the view that it does not matter where one imposes the cost and has the permit held–that the market will work it all out. Well, maybe over time (although the existing inefficiencies don’t seem a good argument in their favor). As for me, my sense (and I am a physical scientist and not an economist) is that, as noted earlier, one wants the incentives right where the choices and options are maximized, and wants all parties to this to be incentivized, so, while I admit my suggestion that we want both cap and trade and tax and feebate got really skeptical looks, it seems to me that is what the President should have been pushing and using the bully pulpit on.

    Best, Mike MacCracken

  36. scas says:

    Regarding acidified oceans and geoengineering

    Consider our present carbon load is 390 ppm, or 820 Gt.

    The soils and forests hold another 600 ppm. Let it get too hot, they burn and the soil erodes. The permafrosts and hydrates have another 2000+ Gt. Let them thaw, that acidifies the oceans further.

    Humans put out 9 Gt C a year. Eventually, that won’t seem like much.

    We accept the luxury of our present parasol and delayed warming. What options do we give the people born today?

  37. John Ward says:

    It is most disturbing to me, after trying to learn as much as possible for the last four years about climate change and trying to see a way to head off the worst consequences of it, that I have only now come across a book, published three years ago, that lays out an effective plan for getting started on doing something effective about it. The book is Carbonomics: How to Fix the Climate and Charge it to OPEC, by Steven Stoft. His premise is that the most effective, the only really effective, action to reduce the world’s use of carbon fuels and simultaneously lower the price of fuel, was the Arab oil embargo (as we used less gasoline because the price was so high, the price came down). His conclusion is that the best way now to reduce carbon energy use, while keeping revenue here rather than shipping it to OPEC, is to institute a carbon tax. But to make it attractive, he proposes to return all of the revenue to each person in the US–an “untax”. That would encourage buyers to use less gasoline and keep the profits, but would not prevent anyone who was not concerned with cost to buy as much gasoline as he or she wanted. Everyone would receive an equal amount back, but only using less carbon would you end up with a profit. The details are somewhat different than British Columbia’s plan, but the fact that it works there and would clearly work better with all nations cooperating, shows that it deserves a close look. Conservatives should like the idea because it uses market forces rather than regulations or subsidies.

    Stoft’s program is carefully thought out and I believe would have a better chance of being accepted than cap-and-trade, but no-one seems to be listening. Why? The plan is more attractive and would appear to have a better chance of being accepted internationally than other options. It’s simpler, does not require complex bargaining, and is harder to cheat at than cap-and-trade. The international plan has a few differences and added features. It allows nations to use any means of taxing carbon that they want to. One might suppose carbon-based companies and countries that sell carbon-based fuel would oppose it, but our Senate also killed cap-and-trade after the House watered it down so much it would have had little effect anyway. Despite high praise from people who should know, and being proposed earlier by James Hansen, those who are in charge of formulating a plan for the US and putting it in place seem totally to ignore it (the way they ignored single payer health insurance). Perhaps, again, they think it would be politically unpopular, but it appears to be much more advantageous to the consumer than cap-and-trade much simpler to set up and run, and potentially freer from the influence of lobbyists and special interests. And the one place where a similar program had been adapted (by a right-of-center government), British Columbia, has survived for three years, despite Stoft’s belief that for it to be fully effective we must first get a world agreement in place.

    More surprising–and disappointing–is that I find nothing said about it on any of the climate blogs that I read. Running a search for Steven Stoft on a dozen blogs turned up only a 2008 page of his website Zfacts, but no mention of the book (he did have a Carbonomics blog on this site in 2009, but it’s gone in the current site). Maybe blog readers don’t read books because they believe they become dated too soon. But three years after it was published, Stoft’s ideas cry out to be implemented. They are every bit as fresh and important as when he wrote them.

    I have only two quibbles with the book: first, after reading and thinking about this for four years, evidence is accumulating that climate change will be more dangerous and require stronger measures than Stoft’s plan proposes. But since far too many of our representatives are owned and paid by carbon-based fuel powers and are attempting to undo what little we have achieved, Stoft’s plan will at least give us a fighting chance of moving forward instead of backward. And the fact that it will work long-term to mitigate global warming while offering the short-term benefit of returning money to the public instead of shipping it abroad is a strong point in its favor. But it’s also my second reservation: by making oil from oil wells the primary focus of the plan, much dirtier energy sources are downplayed: coal, shale oil, oil sands, and, now we discover, shale gas. Once the proposed pipeline is constructed to send oil sands to the US from Canada, it will be hard to shut it down. On the other hand, as I said, I don’t see anyone offering a better plan, and this one needs to be much better known.

    There’s more about the book on, where you can order the book with author’s discount (it’s only ten bucks at Amazon anyway)–or you can download it and read it for free by clicking the Google button (but then you can’t underline the important stuff).

    I know the politics of the moment make any attempt to done something effective about climate change an uphill struggle, but with this plan I believe we have a real shot. After reading it I don’t understand wy we’re still talking about cap-and-trade.

  38. Steve Bloom says:

    Re #10: Where’s their analysis, Richard? There’s lots of research backing up the other view, this recent paper e.g.

  39. Colorado Bob says:

    The President of Columbia on the 19th –

    Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said that the “unprecedented” rainy season has surpassed the state’s response capacity, as the Colombian Red Cross announced that the 2011 death toll has reached 85 people.

    As the rainy season causes widespread devastation across the country, Santos has admitted to the incapability of the nation’s response infrastructure to sufficiently deal with all the problems.

    “The situation is very dramatic and what is happening is to some extent beyond the capability of the state,” he said, “the mountains of Colombia are liquefying and we are seeing landslides everywhere,” Santos said in Manizales where a landslide dragged a bus off the road, killing 18 people.

    Colombia rainy season death toll raised to 93

  40. Steve Bloom says:

    Also, Richard, floods are a poor proxy for precipitation since basin characteristics change over a period of time.

    See also this overview paper from a few years ago. Note that for the U.S., only about a third of the country showed a statistically significant increase in heavy precipitation events.

  41. PAUL DONOHUE says:

    I was wondering why there are no off shore nuclear plants? I would think they would be safer and could use deep water for cooling.

  42. Bill Ruddiman says:

    Many geologists employed by energy-extraction industries are skeptical about anthropogenic global warming, but look up the 2010 position statement on climate change by the Geological Society of America (>20,000 members). Hardly a skeptic’s document!

  43. Sailesh Rao says:

    Dr. Helen Caldicott on how we’ve already unleashed the forces of Doom…

  44. English Mark says:

    A very hot Easter in the UK, and a very dry spring so far

    Interested to hear of the arrest of peaceful demonstrators in the US in the UK we have had mass arrests and trial of some peaceful climate demonstrators which is now causing the authorities extreme embarassment due to the police spending much time and gold infiltrating and taking part in the action

    And the courts have ruled repressive police action against climate protestors illegal

  45. idunno says:

    Hi Joe,

    Might I suggest that Daniel Bailey’s excellent piece on Skeptical Science referred to by himself @8 on this thread is well worthy of a repost on the main body of your site?

  46. Tom Mazanec says:

    My guess is that we will get off carbon fuels only by depletion. Peak oil, peak gas and peak coal are expected to arrive in the near future, after which carbon emmisions will taper off as fossil fuels are exhausted.

  47. Lewis C says:

    Tom at 46.

    You might want to have a look at the volumes of innacessible coal (for in-situ gassification) and of methyl clathrates, and of tundra peat, that are already known and are being researched for exploitation.

    Continuing our dependency on fossil fuels is generating interactive warming feedback loops whose potential for climate destabilization is orders of magnitude greater than we can achieve by the direct combustion of fuels and release of GHGs.

    No change equals no chance of a habitable planet.



  48. Colorado Bob says:

    Lend To Carbon-Cutting Entrepreneurs With Kiva’s New Green Loan Program

    One of the 60 entrepreneurs that debuted in the Green Loans section today is Andrew Kipsang, a Kenyan businessman who leases Solio solar chargers to members of his rural community. He has been nicknamed “Bwana Stima,” or Mr. Electricity. Another is Maylen Parisan, a Filipina food vendor who wants a solar lantern to cut fuel costs and extend her working hours.

  49. 6thextinction says:

    mossy @2, undergrad @22

    kudos to you, mossy, for the info which i just used to send powershift $100 for peaceful uprising and the west va. fund. i also (just for you) did contact salazar and obama re their legacies vs the legacies peaceful uprising will have in combatting climate change. you made both those actions very easy. you have my admiration and gratitude.

    undergrad, bill mckibben has always pressed for local actions against global warming, ever since 2007 when he created “step it up, congress” which later went internat’l with the name. on 9/24 there will be local actions in your state, culminating at the state capitols. go to and sign up to do one. actions have always included all ages, and will again this year. i’ve organized events for them since ’07, and never had such an easy job, with surprising success each time. any enviro activist will tell you that while 7 of 10 people will state enviro concern, getting many physically involved in actions is hard, hard work. but does the recruiting for you, and will get young people out. some of the novices at last fall’s 10/10/10 workday went on to create their own group this spring for sept 24th! utterly amazing, and with practically no media support.

    so climate progressives, log on to and sign on! today! (and then go to mossy’s post #2 and do everything she asks of you! hurry! it’s getting late! )

  50. paulm says:

    How will we react to the great disruption/extinction? Here is an interesting take from the Chernobyl incident…

  51. David B. Benson says:

    PAUL DONOHUE @41 — A off-shore NPP is surely too expensive and also probably considered to be too dangerous.

  52. paulm says:

    Seeding delayed for flooded prairie farmers
    Alfred Sattler, who has been farming near Regina since the 1940s, said he’s never seen a spring as wet as this spring.

    Tending his cattle for now, he’s still optimistic things can turn around crop-wise.

    “You just hope and pray that the weather changes. That it gets better. Sooner or later it has to get better,” he said.

    But if conditions don’t improve soon then Sattler, 70, said he may not put any seed in the ground for the first time in his life.

  53. Mond from Oz says:

    I know this is off topic, but does anyone have a reference to a paper by ?? James Hansen that appeared recently in a psychology/behavioral science journal?.

  54. English Mark says:

    Lester Brown has an article in the Guardian about water depletion in the Middle East even before the worst of climate change hits that area

  55. PAUL DONOHUE says:

    Nuclear Power for better or worse is not going away. It would be perfect if it were safe. One of the major costs is the liability. No insurance companies will assume the risk. So, governents underwrite the risks at the cost of the taxpayer.
    I think that off shore would circumvent these risks and lower the cost.

  56. riverat says:

    I posted a comment (#41) on Saturday and it still says “Your comment is awaiting moderation“. What gives?