Arctic Warning: As The System Changes, We Must Adjust Our Science

IPCC 2007 projections for Arctic sea-ice 2080-2100 (right image)

by David Spratt, via Climate Code Red

The Arctic sea-ice big melt of 2012 “has taken us by surprise and we must adjust our understanding of the system and we must adjust our science and we must adjust our feelings for the nature around us”, according to Kim Holmen, Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) international director.

From Svalbard (halfway between mainland Norway and Greenland), the BBC’s David Shukman reported on 7 September that Holmen had described the current melt rate “a greater change than we could even imagine 20 years ago, even 10 years ago”.

As detailed last week, the thin crust of sea-ice which floats on the north polar sea is now only half of the average minimum summer extent of the 1980, and just one-quarter of the volume twenty years ago.

Yet the IPCC 2007 report suggested sea-ice would last all, if not most, of this century: “in some projections using SRES scenarios, Arctic late-summer sea ice disappears almost entirely by the latter part of the 21st century”. One modelling image in the IPCC report (below)shows sea-ice still existent in period 2080-2100. This has proven to be dramatically conservative.

“As a scientist, I know that this is unprecedented in at least as much as 1,500 years. It is truly amazing – it is a huge dramatic change in the system”, says the NPI’s Dr Edmond Hansen. It is “not some short-lived phenomenon – this is an ongoing trend. You lose more and more ice and it is accelerating – you can just look at the graphs, the observations, and you can see what’s happening.”

And the trend is clear. Cambridge Professor and Arctic expert Peter Wadhams predicts Arctic summer sea ice “all gone by 2015”, except perhaps for a small multi-year remnant. Other Arctic specialists are now saying we will see an ice-free Arctic in summer within a decade or so.

Clearly the  IPPC 2007 report is no longer scientifically adequate on the Arctic – and much else – and Holmen’s call to “adjust our understanding of the system and… adjust our science” is timely. The nub of the problem is that climate policy-making in Australia, and internationally, is stuck in the IPCC 2007 frame and is thereby disconnected from what is occurring on the ground, in the seas and at the poles. For that reason it can only fail.

The IPCC 2007 report dramatically underestimated sea-level rises to 2100, as being in the range of 0.18–0.59 metre this century, “excluding future rapid dynamical changes in ice flow”. Because ice sheet melting and carbon-cycle feedbacks such as permafrost are non-linear or difficult to model, the IPCC report projections “do not include uncertainties in climate-carbon cycle feedbacks nor the full effects of changes in ice sheet flow, therefore the upper values of the ranges are not to be considered upper bounds for sea level rise.” The use of paleo-climate (climate history) data as a guide to future sea levels, as advocated by researchers such as James Hansen of NASA, was excluded.

Four of six emissions IPCC scenarios found the “best estimate” of warming to 2100 to be at or below 2.8°C, whilst the trigger for substantial Greenland ice mass loss was put at at 2.7°C with a range of 1.9-4.6°C, “if global average warming were sustained for millennia” (my emphasis).

Put this IPCC 2007 picture together, and the science frame we get is:

  • Arctic sea-ice unlikely to be lost until the end of the century, or later.
  • No clear evidence as to whether polar ice sheet melting would accelerate, and in any case the trigger point for Greenland was close to 3°C (implicitly perhaps a century away).
  • Hence low estimates given for sea-level rises, based on a linear pattern of polar melt.  Dynamic and accelerating melting was noted as a possibility but not quantified, effectively rendering it as a footnote.
  • The language of “tipping points” was not deployed, and the strong implicit message – for the Arctic, Greenland and sea-levels – was that tipping points were not likely in next few decades, and some would play out on millennia time scales.
  • With the world aspiring to hold warming to 2°C, there is time enough to stop really bad things happening.
  • So even for the developed, high-polluting (Annex 1) countries, warming could be held to 2°C so long as they reduced emissions by 80 per cent by 2050; for other countries the target was as vague as “substantial deviation from baseline”. Still polluting in 2050 was OK, because the very bad things weren’t going to happen till well after that.

Contrast this to what we now know and observe, and “adjust our science” – as Holmen put it –  to a post-IPCC-2007 science frame:

  • Climate changes and impacts happening more quickly and at lower temperatures than expected, such as Arctic sea-ice which is in a “death spiral” and likely to be gone in summer within a few years.
  • The tipping point for Greenland has been revised down to 1.6ºC (uncertainty range of 0.8-3.2ºC) above pre-industrial, just as regional temperatures are increasing up to four times faster than the global average, and the increased heat trapped in the Arctic by the loss of reflective sea-ice ensures an acceleration in Greenland melt rate.
  • Significant tipping points have been already crossed and others are imminent, with particular concern for coral reef systems and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, to name but two.
  • The revision of sea-level rise of up to 2 metres by 2100; but the Australian government is stuck on 1.1 metre and state governments are back-pedalling on an 0.8 metre standard because of effect on some coastal property values. IMHO even 2 metres is too conservative, for the reasons articulated by James Hansen.
  • Establishment of “safe boundaries” approach to the planetary system at less than 350 parts per million (ppm) atmospheric carbon dioxide, compared to today’s level which is nudging 400 ppm.
  • Advocacy of the 350 target, but even this is too high since 350 ppm at equilibrium is warming of 1°C, and we can now observe at just 0.8°C warming that significant tipping points have been crossed or are at hand.
  • Carbon cycle feedbacks now being unleashed. In a paper just published, Vonk et al show activation of old carbon by erosion of coastal and sub-sea permafrost in Arctic Siberia is ten times larger than previously estimated. Another research paper published last Sunday by MacDougall et al. shows a “significant contribution to climate warming from the permafrost carbon feedback”. Co-author Andrew Weaver explains in the Huffington Post:

“Instrumental records have clearly revealed that the world is about 0.8°C warmer than it was during pre-industrial times. Numerous studies have also indicated that as a consequence of existing levels of greenhouse gases, we have a commitment to an additional future global warming of between 0.6 and 0.7°C. Our analysis points out that the permafrost carbon feedback adds to this another 0.4 to 0.8°C warming. Taken together, the planet is committed to between 1.8 and 2.3°C of future global warming — even if emissions reductions programs start to get implemented.’

  • The application of carbon budget approach developed by Potsdam Institute shows that even for a 2°C target a delay in reaching peak emissions till 2020 then requires a  maximum emissions reduction rate of nine per cent per year.
  • But establishment of the 350 benchmark shows a need for emission levels to fall of a cliff and establishes need for large-scale drawdown of atmospheric carbon.

Are some in our science community concerned that educating politicians and the public about this post-IPCC-2007 frame is politically counter-productive because it paints the current climate legislation as puny and largely irrelevant to the urgency of the problem at hand? A forthcoming Climate Commission statement on the latest Arctic developments is expected to present the full range of peer-reviewed research and expert elicitations. It is hoped that the wider implications for policy-makers of an ice-free Arctic in a decade will be explored.

This is essential because there is no indication that either of the major parties have a clue about this post-IPCC science frame. Nor are there many signs of the major environment and climate advocacy groups incorporating this understanding into their public communications.  Most of their campaigning is stuck in the IPCC 2007 frame.
Is this another form of climate science denial? Not the denial of the Murdoch press and the Moncktons and Plimers, but the denial of those who for the sake of political convenience live in a bubble of outmoded policy frames that have been superseded by the pace of events in the real, physical world.

David Spratt is a climate activist and author who covers climate science, politics, and clean energy issues. This piece was originally published at Climate Code Red and was reprinted with permission.

48 Responses to Arctic Warning: As The System Changes, We Must Adjust Our Science

  1. Mike Roddy says:

    Thank you, David. IPCC has outlived its usefulness, for many reasons, mainly the long review process and the ability of members (such as Saudi Arabia) to intimidate scientists. The fact that something this important was operated by part time volunteers is also inexcusable.

    IPCC needs to be replaced by a group of scientists who are funded, working in real time and speeding up the peer review process.
    A joint and nimble effort comprised of a few national Academy nominated experts is called for. Not every country has to be represented, or it will lead to some of the same problems we had before. Let oil countries’ scientists go ahead and scream- it’s time to move on.

    The future map of Arctic ice makes sense, but the northward march of the Boreal is speculative. Diverse and healthy forests need more than the right growing conditions. It takes time to build up species interrelationships. These are likely to be disturbed by the pace of change and possible human disturbances.

  2. Spike says:

    I haven’t been able to find Andrew Weaver’s paper on the permamelt and gather it’s behind the Nature paywall in any event, but the press are reporting that “Permafrost soils in Canada’s Arctic are melting at a rate that will significantly speed up global warming, according to new research from the University of Victoria.

    The study, published this week in Nature Geoscience, predicts that the thawing permafrost will release between 68 billion and 508 billion tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere by the year 2100.”

    This is between 35% and 267% of the amount of carbon we have in our budget to have a 75% chance of avoiding 2 degrees of warming according to the Trillionth Tonne website

    The policy response seems more and more inadequate with each day’s news.

  3. Chris says:

    I think the position of the ice in the 2100 frame is a bit odd. It shows the ice around the north pole, but if you look at how the ice has recently been melting in terms of thickness and area, it seems likely the last holdhout of ice will be near the northern Greenland coast.

  4. Paul Klinkman says:

    Yes. Prevailing winds should tend to push the last remaining pancake ice toward Canada/Greenland.

    Do they have PFDs for elves? Hmm.. Maybe it’s better that they leave the drawing as it is. It will save us some tough questions from an inquiring audience. “They drowned Santa Claus!!”

  5. john c. wilson says:

    There are so many numbers and so many records it’s hard to keep up. I think the author has understated his case. Latest PIOMAS volume from September 3, 2012 is 3407 cubic kilometers of ice remaining in the Arctic. Contrasted with the 16,855 of 1979 that is just about 20%. Volume is still going down this melt season so it will be less than 20%. Historical volumes from before the satellite data era that began in 1979 were higher.

  6. Paul Magnus says:

    Every thing about GW has tended to be conservative.
    Take the statement above

    “One modelling image in the IPCC report (below)shows sea-ice still existent in period 2080-2100. This has proven to be dramatically conservative. ”

    (What they really mean is it’s wrong.)

    Don’t know why they gave lovelock such a hard time.

    Every thing about GW has tended to be conservative, what does this mean for our future?

  7. Jack Burton says:

    Quite correct Mike. It is past time that a working group of scientists free from political pressure and operating in an emergency capacity is in order. Their goal should be to gather the best science man can produce and to seek the most important data from it. They must be allowed to get this data out to the public and governments free from the pressure that being connected to ANY political body entails.
    We need to know what is coming our way. This rapid sea ice melt and the rapid melt in Greenland were not supposed to be seen for many decades.
    We also know that green house gas emissions are spiking on the growth of China, India and others. This rapid raise was not foreseen.
    The real crisis now is what feed back loops are taking place and what does this imply. All that water up north is sucking up solar radiation and keeping it on earth, whereas only a decade ago much of it was radiated back to space. We are running out of time.

  8. Byron Smith says:

    “climate policy-making in Australia, and internationally, is stuck in the IPCC 2007 frame”
    Yes, though this is not to say that either Australian or international planning is based on the numbers from the 2007 report, merely that it marks the outer limits of what is able to be thought and said in polite company. That is, the IPCC are seen as “one extreme” of a “debate” in which the alternative is represented by deniers/delayers/dissenters. In reality, the 2007 IPCC is indeed one extreme of a debate about possible climate impacts, but as this article argues, this is now the optimistic end of the debate (i.e. mere disaster rather than catastrophe, not that the AR4 is cheerful reading…).

    As for committed warming, the situation is (as I understand it) even worse than is presented in this article as no mention is made of global dimming from aerosols produced by coal and biomas combustion that are suppressing warming by something like another 0.5-1.0ºC. We cannot continue this very temporary shield without continuing to worsen the problem (along with associated health costs in the trillions annually), so we have to imagine a future without it, which means facing even higher temps.

  9. ColoradoBob says:

    Here’s a video of :
    Warming sign in the Arctic: Starving female polar bear challenges male for food:

    Wildlife biologist Ian Bullock is a seasoned visitor to the Arctic, but even he was surprised by what he saw last month: a thin female polar bear, shadowed by her cub, trying to challenge a much bigger, stronger male for food. It wasn’t much of a challenge, but it showed just how desperate she was, Bullock told NBC News on returning from his 10th straight summer cruise to the Arctic.

    Notice the skin and bones of the male bear, you can see his spine, as he defends his kill.

    Another place in the Arctic this season –

    Doug Allan, who helped make the BBC’s stunning Frozen Planet,

    “For the first time, I was seeing polar bear carcasses on the ice.

    “They’d died from starvation, something unheard of when I first started out.

    “But the melt means less ice and fewer hunting grounds for these magnificent creatures.

  10. Gillian King says:

    Yes, David’s point about denial for the sake of political convenience rings true. Greens politician Christine Milne who was on the committee that negotiated Australia’s carbon price of $23/tonne said it was modelled on the basis of 550ppm CO2 because the majority on the committee thought that the price for 450ppm would not get support, nevermind a price based on 350ppm.

    Even so, the leader of Australia’s Opposition party has made a blood promise to abandon the miserably low $23/tonne if/when they get into power.

    Oh for the resolve of Stockholm which is charging ahead with decarbonisation. Details here –

  11. Paul Magnus says:

    So the warming Arctic is changing that river in the air, the jet stream. Well it will be also affecting that stream in the Atlantic ocean, the Gulf Stream. Interesting times.

  12. Paul Magnus says:

    Climate Portals shared a link.

    Ocean Salinity Changes Spur NASA Expedition
    By Wynne Parry, LiveScience Senior Writer: Over the past 50 years, the salty parts of the oceans have become saltier and the fresh regions have become fresher, and the degree of change is greater than scientists can explain.

  13. Jeff Poole says:

    Thanks for that roundup – quite frightening. Not because it’s new information but because there’s something huge that is going unexpressed. Too scary even for us rabid doomsayers (great nick BTW) in the Green movement.

    In a fine dramatic flourish, that could only happen in real life because in fiction it would be ‘unbelievable’, the IPCC 2007 report was released just after the first major collapse of the Northern Ice Cap.

    Anyone who had eyes to see, could have seen that the IPCC report was just too timid to describe the realities we were experiencing even then.

    It struck me at the time that it wasn’t the corporate and media liars or their political playthings who were in denial, they were just playing their usual myopic game – it was the Environment movement.

    The Australian Conservation Foundation was still talking about ‘early action to combat climate change’ until recently.

    WTF? Early action would have been fifteen or twenty years ago! Not three years after the Ice Cap collapsed by 40%…

    Right now there’s a lot of speculation about the effect on Northern Hemisphere weather – quite right too. But quite frankly we’re repeating the IPCC and ACF mistakes.

    We’re still talking about 2 degrees – or 350 ppm – as the limit of ‘safer climate change’ when the Ice Cap is vanishing at less than 1 degree with around the same locked in.

    Instead of wondering when we’ll lose the Ice Cap – face it, it’s gone, it just hasn’t stopped breathing yet – the Green movement and the science community needs to get working on something much more important.

    How the hell are we going to feed a planet of 7-9 million when the most productive areas of the planet no longer have the same four seasons that they’ve had since we invented agriculture 10,000 years ago?

    The paid denialism of the Moncktons, Romneys, Watts and Carters of this world is far less dangerous now than the deep denial in the Green movement.

    Permaculture is not going to save Northern Hemisphere farming.

    Politics won’t.

    Deep Green Resistance won’t – in fact that’s worse than the Kochs.

    If we are to avoid famine of way past biblical proportions we need a crash research program to build resilience into staple crops – and a fast method of globally switching to reserve staples – when the industrial corn, soy, wheat and rice crops fail, simultaneously, within the next decade.

    Denial kills.

    And if we don’t deal with the task in front of us now – food in a new and unpredictable climate – it will kill billions.

  14. David Spratt says:

    Yes, the aerosol dilemma is one of those stories polite people don’t wish to talk about. But I am not one of them, and wrote about “Faustian bargain revisited: study finds zeroed emissions will add 0.25-0.5C of warming as aerosol cooling is lost” here:
    NASA climate science chief James Hansen’s description of the aerosol dilemma as a “Faustian bargain” was dramatically illustrated in a paper by Damon Matthews and Kirsten Zickfeld in Nature on 4 March 2012. They found that:
    “that the magnitude of the peak temperature response to zero future emissions depends strongly on the uncertain strength of present-day aerosol forcing. Contingent on the climate and carbon-cycle sensitivities of the model used here, we show that the range of aerosol forcing that produces historical warming that is consistent with observed data, results in a warming of between 0.25 and 0.5C over the decade immediately following zeroed emissions.”
    But it seems likely, following Hansen, that the aerosol magnitude is higher rather than lower, and the effect will be closer to the upper bound of 0.5C.

  15. Merrelyn Emery says:

    They gave Lovelock a hard time because he is a systems scientist and they are anathema to the reductionists, especially when they are right, ME

  16. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Another reason for the IPCC’s failure is their adherence to linear reductionist science. All climate scientists need urgent retraining in systems, ME

  17. Mike Roddy says:

    Frozen Planet dogged it on climate change, but their filming of polar bears was jaw dropping. They were shown stalking and eating beluga whales and walruses, much bigger creatures than they are. What a tragedy it will be when they are gone.

  18. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes, understated – Earth is a system and undergoing accelerating phase change, the Arctic is only one part, ME

  19. Artful Dodger says:

    “the IPCC has outlived its usefulness”.

    Depends on what you think the IPCC was useful for. If you think it was used by fossil carbon conglomerates, their bought ‘n’ paid-for political puppets, and media-enablers, then no, the IPCC is still quite useful.

    Any shred of uncertainty is amplified. Anything not proven is falsified. Any doubt is cause for pause in changing course.

    In this environment, no wonder the IPCC is so useful. IPCC will blunder forward for a long, long time, as we continue to talk while avoiding effective change.

  20. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Nature cares naught for what we say.
    Nature cares naught for what the politicians say.
    Nature cares naught for what the scientists say.

    Nature is as nature does. It follows its own rules, rules we try to understand. If we do not understand, nature cares naught.

    Why fit an exponential curve to the extent data? Because that is what is happening. But there is no known mechanism I hear you say.

    Now it is true that I do not know the mechanism, but that does not stop it happening. And an exponential decline of sea ice is happening.

    Our understanding is off. Nature will not bend to our understanding.


  21. Adam Sacks says:

    FWIW, I wrote about Green denialism on Grist in 2009: We Have Met the Deniers and They Are Us.

    I think we generally like our comfortable, familiar lives, and don’t want the perks to go away. Of course, people generally feel that way about their own cultures – and, like on Easter Island, the attitude is often terminal.

  22. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Rabid, start with the simple mechanism that GHGs absorb infrared and have a look at the equations in catastrophe theory (Wikipedia) for the possibilities that ensue as more and more variables are impacted, ME

  23. Paul Magnus says:

    “How the hell are we going to feed a planet of 7-9 million”… we can’t! That’s the reality. Good luck to u and ur family.

  24. Mark E says:

    What we say and do is a PART of nature.

    Rabbits and deer freed from predators don’t self-limit their numbers or consumption. Both just grow until the population crashes. How are we different?

  25. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    Saying the summer sea ice will last until 2030 will not make it happen.

    Otherwise I agree, collectively we are showing the intelligence of pond scum expand until collapse is inevitable.

  26. Philip Sutton says:

    David Spratt’s piece is critically important. The current and rapidly emerging state of the world cannot be expressed through the frame of the current approach to IPPC science.

    Why did we get trapped for so long in this seriously understated science mode? Controlling pressure from vested interests is one explanation. Fear of being dismissed as ‘irrelevant’ is another. But I suspect a major influence is that the science was originally done through a paradigm of trying to convince the world that we face a very serious problem that could not be dismissed – so understatement helped with credibility.

    But once the problem is accepted by enough people, we need to switch into a solution -orientated mode.

    When framing solutions we need to apply a safety model. The safety model used in engineering of buildings, vehicles and machinery and in the design of pharmaceuticals or the processing of food or the management of chemicals requires that system experts work out the a zone of safe conditions and determine the uncertainties in the behaviour of the system and a rational limit on the risk of failure.

    My recollection is that NASA applied the following rules-of-thumb to the risks associated with the Apollo moon missions:

    1 in 100 risk that the mission had to be aborted
    1 in 1000 risk that astronauts would be killed
    1 in 1,000,000 that the Saturn rocket or return vehicle would plunge into a city.

    When I was studying veterinary science in the 1970s I recall that the rule of thumb for dose rates for veterinary pharmaceutical was one hundredth of the LD50 (the dosage level that would kill 50% of a test population of animals).

    When Jim Hansen came up with his upper limit on carbon dioxide in the air, his team calculated what they thought the threshold would be for losing all the ice in Antarctica and what the error bars were on this estimate. They calculated that the tipping point was about 450 ppm CO2 plus or minus 100 ppm. So for safety’s sake they went for 350 ppm as the CO2 upper limit (ie. 450 minus 100 ppm) to come up with a threshold with a vanishingly small chance of losing all the ice on the planet.

    These safety models I’ve just quoted are all premised on the idea of staying away from conditions that are considered unsafe or dangerous.

    But there is an even better analogy for framing the science around climate change, and that is the control system methodology used in the design of air conditioners. Air conditioning designers find out the range of conditions that are considered to be comfortable (ie. benign, life enhancing) and then the air conditioning system is designed to both avoid moving out of the comfort zone and for returning the system to the comfort zone should the boundaries of the comfort zone be breached.

    In other words the air conditioner designers create a homeostatic control system that is like the control systems in living organisms that control temperature, blood composition etc.

    What would it look like if we adopted a homeostatic approach to the climate of the world?

    We would first identify the comfort zone. That would likely be a little less than half a degree C, plus or minus, from the Holocene average temperature (the period that provided viable conditions for the planet’s 10 or 20 million species and that enabled the emergence of human civilisation.

    How would we need to act to stay within that safety range? We would need to use technologies that did not systematically add to greenhouse gas emissions. That means we need net zero emissions technology when assessed globally.

    If by chance (!) we found ourselves outside the safe climate range, we would trigger a climate management program to get us back within those conditions as soon as possible with the least loss and damage to species and people. To achieve this we would need to take all the excess CO2 out of the air.

    If the time required to get the atmospheric composition back to the level required to maintain a safe/comfortable temperature was so long that critical earth system tipping points could be triggered or serious damage could be done to species or people, then, provided it was not likely to cause worse environmental impacts it might be sensible to temporarily apply sunlight attenuation techniques to keep the temperature within the safe zone while the natural mechanism of global temperature homeostasis were restored.

    The world currently has the resources necessary to restore a safe climate. So all the climate horror scenarios could still be avoided.

    What we need is to succeed in mobilising the necessary resources for effective action. Easier said than done of course. And the world community is not getting very far even with an inadequate approach to climate. So how to crack through the barriers?

    Given that the earth is too hot already and that it needs to be cooled fast, what needs to be done (a zero emissions economy with drawdown) is on a vast scale at huge speed.

    I would venture to say that change of this scale and speed cannot be negotiated through an all-in global process. This inevitably leads to mediocre results because of the need for compromise.

    My guess is that we will be able to move much faster if we aim to get a “safe climate economy” process adopted at full strength in one or two populations with a population scale of between 5 to 20 million. (I stole this size idea from Kenichi Ohmae, ex-McKinsey’s in Japan).

    People are looking for demonstrated leadership so that they have reason to be hopeful. And with a change of the scale, speed and complexity that is needed, it has to be worked on ‘all together’ so that all the interconnected changes can be developed in a supportive environment. And we will need pressure around the world to take on some version of this “safe climate economy” model in every area. We need unilateral action to get experience and working models and then massive emulation (with appropriate local customising) – building up a coalition of the willing (in the nicest sense!).

    How to get started? I think everyone who is committed to the safe climate economy goal to be achieved at emergency speed needs to join together across the world to sketch out the model and to work together to find the first populations that can take on the changes in practice.

    I’d love to know who else would be prepared to give this a try.

  27. Mark E says:

    And I’d like to know how many commentators on global warming blogs like this are still easting factory farmed, grain-fed animal products, and have not obtained an energy audit on their home.

  28. The heat we are seeing doing work on the sea ice now. What will happen to it once it has finished with the sea ice? It’s not just going to sit there in the ocean for decades and centuries. It’s going to go right to work on Greenland. And we can see that happening now.

  29. john c. wilson says:

    Yes the heat will impact Greenland. First it will warm the waters of the Arctic. If you consider that spring ice is over 2 meters thick and that it takes 80 calories to break the heat of fusion of one gram of water and that the same heat would bring that gram of water to 80C, well, the Arctic could get quite warm. We have no way of knowing what sort of currents or stratification the Arctic will have once ice-free, only that they will be very very different. The first problem will not be Greenland, it will be a planet with entirely new weather systems.

  30. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    I can’t even imagine the higher order non-linear coefficients, the sized of the vectors and the matrices. I would guess numerical methods are used to calculate each incremental step, and I would assume the climate is continuous in incremental time slices the models must work in. I just re-watched BBC-Earth’s three-part series on global warming from 2009 (?). In one episode we are told that it wasn’t until the 1970’s that computers were finally able to calculate one second’s worth of prediction per second of computer time.

  31. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Have a look at catastrophe theory equations (Wikipedia) and start with the mechanism that GHGs absorb energy and are increasing. See what happens when more variables are implicated, ME

  32. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The IPCC process has been corrupted in almost the exactly opposite manner to that which the rabid Right claims, ie it has consistently underestimated the risks, rather than overstating them. Don’t blame Saudi Arabia alone, as they are long-term allies and stalking-horses for the good old US of A. Australia has also played a nasty, destabilising, role, first under the execrable Howard regime, and then under the so-called ‘Labour’ regimes of Rudd and Gillard. We are, in fact, stuffed, and that is plain to those with the stomach to accept what the eyes can see. The denialist genocidists have won, there really being no way back now from several degrees Celsius of warming, and the consequent massive destabilisation, famines and wars of survival.

  33. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    2100, eh? So they are talking of the last winter sea ice, are they? By 2100 summer sea ice will be a memory for those of advanced years.

  34. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    How did Svante Arrhenius do it?

  35. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    What do we do with those who, in their fanaticism, viciousness and rank imbecility, have driven us to disaster? Forgive them?

  36. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘…the degree of change is greater than the scientists can explain’…a suitable epitaph.

  37. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Can I get 3 into moderation in a row? See Wikipedia (catastrophe theory) for equations for a simple mechanism such as GHGs absorbing energy and increasing, ME

  38. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yep, 3 in a row. I must have a big R (for random) on my forehead, ME

  39. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Planet-sized granularity.

  40. Phil says:

    This idea of ‘going it alone’ with complex system change and then sparking fast whole system emulation (with customisation) is what happened with the industrial revolution. The UK took a longish time (from about 1750 to about 1830) to invent industrialisation 101. Belgium was the first European tiger economy to copy industrialisation 101, starting in about 1830 and taking about 20 years. Japan copied industrialisation 201 in the late 1800s taking just a couple of decades. Then post World War 2, South Korea and Taiwan copied industrialisation 301 – completing the transformation in about 2 decades. World War 2 showed that industrial transformations could occur even faster under extreme motivation.

    What we have to work out is how to massively speed up the creation of the first few whole system change transformations to provide models for emulation – so communities can see how to create safe climate restoring economies (zero emissions plus massive draw down).

    Who’s up for working on that?

  41. Mulga,

    You may well be right, but don’t give up quite yet. There could still be some (positive) surprises in order.

  42. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Philip, I pray that you are correct. Inside my head I cannot assimilate the facts that my understanding tell me-that we have stuffed ourselves properly, in my lifetime. I’m in denial on a subconscious level. I live in bewildered hope. Hope, most of all, that somehow we will wake up globally, and I can spend the rest of my life actively working with others to remediate and repair the damage, and ensure survival. It will, of course, be the work of generations. And hope that the current global dispensation, where the worst people have the most power, is entirely overthrown.

  43. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Is it like the blue between ‘splitters’ and ‘clumpers’ in botanical taxonomy?

  44. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The Frozen Planet cinematographers, producers, editors etc did their usual magnificent job, then the BBC’s Rightwing managerial hierarchy, creatures promoted under Thatcherism, Blairism and Cameronian ideological control, did their usual execrable work.

  45. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Like the criminal Baudelaire mentions, who appeared in court, with ‘No Luck’ tattooed on his forehead.

  46. Merrelyn Emery says:

    My academic romance with botany lasted only 3 weeks but it sounds a bit like analysis and synthesis, ME

  47. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yeah, when I graduate from death row, they’ll be out of my favourite meal, ME

  48. Gillian King says:

    Mulga, maybe ‘forgiveness’ isn’t the central issue. Forgiveness is a path to personal freedom and a meaningful future. It is a personal act that does not depend on apologies, contrition, punishment or justice. Ultimately forgiveness is the only thing that will redeem the past and give us the energy to move forward. The alternative is revenge which only leads to continuing cycles of hate.

    Radical forgiveness does not imply approval, or forgetting, and does not mean that you give perpetrators permission to keep transgressing.

    Truth, reconciliation and forgiveness can stand side by side with resistance and curtailment. For example, a rape victim can move forward in their own life when they do the work of radical forgiveness. At the same time, they can also work to see that the rapist is brought to justice and that conditions do not encourage other rapists.

    For myself, I’d like to see legal protection from ‘ecocide’. I’d like the justice system to deter this activity. And while I find myself raging at times at the greed and blindness of the destroyers, I’d like to free myself from this and acknowledge that they are blind, deaf and dumb – they know not what they do.

    It’s a big ask, but “don’t think little of me, you might get it.”