IPCC’s Planned Obsolescence: Fifth Assessment Report Will Ignore Crucial Permafrost Carbon Feedback!


A key reason the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change keeps issuing instantly irrelevant reports is that it keeps ignoring the latest climate science. We have known for years that perhaps the single most important carbon-cycle feedback is the melting of the permafrost.

Yet a must-read new United Nations Environment Programme report, “Policy Implications of Warming Permafrost” reports this jaw-dropping news:

The effect of the permafrost carbon feedback on climate has not been included in the IPCC Assessment Reports. None of the climate projections in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report include the permafrost carbon feedback (IPCC 2007). Participating modeling teams have completed their climate projections in support of the Fifth Assessment Report, but these projections do not include the permafrost carbon feedback. Consequently, the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, due for release in stages between September 2013 and October 2014, will not include the potential effects of the permafrost carbon feedback on global climate.

Here’s why that is head-exploding.

Carbon emission (in billions of tons of carbon a year) from thawing permafrost [from Schaefer et al, 2011]

Back in 2005, before the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment, a major study (subs. req’d) led by NCAR climate researcher David Lawrence, found that virtually the entire top 11 feet of permafrost around the globe could disappear by the end of this century. Using the first “fully interactive climate system model” applied to study permafrost, the researchers found that if we tried to stabilize CO2 concentrations in the air at 550 ppm, permafrost would plummet from over 4 million square miles today to 1.5 million.

That matters because the permafrost permamelt contains a staggering “1.5 trillion tons of frozen carbon, about twice as much carbon as contained in the atmosphere, much of which would be released as methane.  Methane is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 to 100 times as potent over 20 years!

A 2008 study by leading tundra experts, “Accelerated Arctic land warming and permafrost degradation during rapid sea ice loss,” concluded:

We find that simulated western Arctic land warming trends during rapid sea ice loss are 3.5 times greater than secular 21st century climate-change trends. The accelerated warming signal penetrates up to 1500 km inland….

Considering that 2012 saw a new record low in Arctic sea ice cover — and that Arctic ice loss is occurring many decades faster than climate models had projected —  you would think that climate scientists would want to incorporate this accelerated warming and the related tundra melt in their models.

The literature, of course, has continued to refine estimates of permafrost loss from various emissions scenarios. The graph above comes from a study published in February 2011, “Amount and timing of permafrost carbon release in response to climate warming,” which concluded soberly:

The thaw and release of carbon currently frozen in permafrost will increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations and amplify surface warming to initiate a positive permafrost carbon feedback (PCF) on climate…. [Our] estimate may be low because it does not account for amplified surface warming due to the PCF itself….

We predict that the PCF will change the arctic from a carbon sink to a source after the mid-2020s and is strong enough to cancel 42-88% of the total global land sink. The thaw and decay of permafrost carbon is irreversible and accounting for the PCF will require larger reductions in fossil fuel emissions to reach a target atmospheric CO2 concentration.

Then last December we had the “Nature Bombshell: Climate Experts Warn Thawing Permafrost Could Cause 2.5 Times the Warming of Deforestation!

And just this October, we had yet another study, which found “Carbon Feedback From Thawing Permafrost Will Likely Add 0.4°F – 1.5°F To Total Global Warming By 2100.”

Finally, we have the excellent new UNEP report.

It is absurd that IPCC models would continue to ignore this most crucial of carbon cycle feedbacks. As I asked nearly 3 years ago, “The IPCC lowballs likely impacts with its instantly out-of-date reports and is clearly clueless on messaging — should it be booted or just rebooted?

86 Responses to IPCC’s Planned Obsolescence: Fifth Assessment Report Will Ignore Crucial Permafrost Carbon Feedback!

  1. Joan Russow says:

    The credible current emerging science has indicated that the global climate crisis is much more urgent than was conveyed in the 2007 IPCC Report that was based on data from the years 2004 and 2005. At COP15, There were important press Conferences on significant emerging data from international scientific bodies and institutions. The emerging science indicated that the global climate crisis was much more urgent than what was conveyed in the 2007 IPCC Report that was based on data from the years 2004 and 2005. In addition, it appears that the 2007 IPCC Report worked within projections of a 90 percent confidence level which comes close to requiring full scientific certainty; this practice was in violation of the precautionary principle. If the IPCC had explicitly considered the risks of higher temperatures, threat outside the boundary of a 90 percent confidence level dynamical melting of the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets, and non-linear responses to drivers of climate change would have enabled States to have far more clarity in regards to the dire urgency of the climate crisis emergency. At a COP15 press conference, a scientist on the panel stated that at a 2 degree rise above pre-industrial levels , the poor, the disenfranchised and the vulnerable would not survive, and at a1.5 degrees rise, they might survive. Reports from the WMO indicated that the temperature was rising faster,and that climate-related incidents were more intense and more wide-spread than previously estimated, and that drought was advancing more extensively than previously anticipated. . At COP15,as well, at press conferences reports were released (i) from the UN High Commission on Refugees; their report indicated that climate-change related refugees had increased. And (ii) from the WHO that reported on the failure in the negotiations to consider the health impacts of climate change as well as the health benefits and savings from seriously reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
    It appears that at COP18, the emerging science will still be discounted.

  2. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It has been apparent for years that the IPCC, like every other UN related body, has been totally compromised and rendered worse than useless by political meddling. I can guess, with a high degree of accuracy, just who is behind this neutering, but where is the investigative journalism to expose the process by which it occurs and the culprits responsible. In a world dominated by the Right, the prospects of basic, honest, fair dealing reduce to zero, even when it involves science and the gravest threat in human history. Just who decides that a report that will continue to be the ‘last word’ (ironically) on this subject until late in this decade, is ignoring science available right now? And, yet, the denialist sludge will still leap and screech that the IPCC is all part of the hideous ‘warmist conspiracy’.

  3. John Lemons says:

    I do not understand how consideration of carbon permafrost feedback can or should be ignored. However, (perhaps someone with knowledge about the topic can answer here) the IPCC is bound by its bylaws to “reduce speculation” whenever possible (such as IPCC chose to do with dynamical melting of ice sheets in AR4). Is it possible figures for carbon permafrost feedback are not robust enough and therefore too speculative under IPCC guidelines? (Again, I don’t understand why this should be the case but perhaps someone with more knowledge of the situation might comment.)

    Dr. John Lemons
    Professor Emeritus of Biology and Environmental Science
    Department of Environmental Studies
    University of New England
    Biddeford, ME 04005

  4. Greatgrandma Kat says:

    As we continue to under estimate the impacts that are hurtling toward us like a runaway train, we are also mixing the message. People really need to understand this a doom and gloom message for a very good reason.The pace of life now is such that what happened 5 minutes ago is old news and future, even near future events are not considered until they happen. Events flash by at the speed of light and it’s on to the next 5 minutes. We have created the seeds of our own destruction I’m afraid. It is sad and oh so scarey but life after a fashion go’s on along with the fight to wake up the world to the dangers we are facing. All we can do is our best.

  5. Tom says:

    How can we change this decision? We have months before publication – the October 2014 release could surely contain an addendum: “Permafrost – a single feedback that doubles the effect of AGW”. – That is two years from now – plenty of time for more papers; to push the levers of bureaucracy; convince the powers that be. This strikes me as more-important-than-usual omission.

  6. Ken Barrows says:

    Ten or 15 years from now, we can have a good laugh at IPCC past predictions . If you want to laugh at an official prediction now, look at CBO (Congressional Budget Office) predictions from 2000 or so.

  7. Aaron Lewis says:

    AR5 will also ignore ice dynamics with respect to sea level rise.

    ANYBODY that talks about global climate change without addressing carbon feedbacks and ice dynamics is not providing information that is useful for risk management, engineering, and public policy. That is fine if one is teaching 5th grade science, it is not acceptable if policy makers are looking to those documents for decision support on public safety issues.

    Usually science makes a mistake and corrects itself. And peer review prevents many mistakes. However, climate science has underestimated climate change, and its effects and impacts over and over. Those underestimates are fundamental errors. Climate science is surprised each time AGW moves faster than the models said it would, but, climate science does not learn from its mistakes.

    I am not pointing fingers. I do not care how it got so wrong. I just want risk managers and policy makes to have good decision support information.

  8. Mike Roddy says:

    IPCC was always doomed because every country in the world has review power, including Saudi Arabia. We are not privy to how this translates to the final reports, but blowing off permafrost melt gives us a pretty good clue. IPCC is not reformable, due to its founding statutes, not to mention the absurdly long lag times.

    A new organization is called for, possibly a small group composed of top scientists from the National Academies of a half dozen countries, with a few dozen scientists charged with authoring the reports. It would be spared absurdities such as Roger Pielke Jr. being an “expert reviewer”, along with industry compromised forestry reports etc. Such a report would reflect what is actually going on in the literature, and should be issued biannually, with an “urgent” message attached for world leaders.

  9. Nichol says:

    Would it be possible to manage the water to keep it all from draining and drying out. Could that stop or slow down the processes in which the carbon oxidises? But that would result in gigantic marshy forest or peat bogs..?

  10. Underestimating adverse impacts is not ‘conservative’ in an engineering or public safety sense.

    There is little point in including error bars or confidence levels when known major components or processes are excluded.

  11. I like Mike Roddy’s suggestion. I hope that the climate scientists of the world will adopt it. It’s sad that the IPCC has proved so damaging, despite the good intentions of many of its participants. A committee composed of authentic climate scientists from all regions of the world, as Mike Roddy suggests, is likely to prove more effective and more useful than the IPCC, so long as it’s clear from the start that the reports of that committee will not be censored by any government anywhere.

  12. PeterW says:

    Well perhaps the answer is to get the word out the fix is in. We have less than a year to discredit the conservatism of this report. Perhaps taking aim at the IPCC instead of the deniers will shift the goal posts to a more rational understanding of climate science?

  13. Superman1 says:

    The omission is not by accident. They do not want to admit to the catastrophe that lies ahead. Here is my take.

    The basic terminology will be similar (but not identical) to that of Kevin Anderson. A 1 C temperature increase is the entre to Dangerous, and by 2 C, we have reached Very Dangerous. Beyond 2 C, we start to enter the territory of the Extremely Dangerous. As we go up the ladder, events that today (or more accurately yesterday) are considered ‘extreme’ increase in frequency and magnitude. Once-in-a-century storms occur more often with greater power. Once-in-a-decade heat waves occur more often with higher temperatures. Additionally, as we go up the temperature ladder, the likelihood of triggering known, or perhaps yet unknown, positive feedback events increases, threatening some degree of ‘runaway’ or self-sustaining temperature increase.

    There are at least three characteristics that can be used to describe the impact of ‘extreme’ events. There is a cost in life, an economic cost, and, for the near-future at least, an additional expenditure of fossil fuels needed to assist in rescue and reconstruction. Ironically, the latter can be viewed as a positive feedback mechanism exacerbating climate change. All these costs increase with increasing temperature.

    One way of understanding the importance of future targets is to examine a best-case condition. If the best-case is problematical, reality will be far worse. The ‘best-case’ we can envision now, in the absence of geo-engineering, is to discontinue fossil fuel use immediately. Based on different estimates I have seen of the temperature consequences of this case (given that the ‘climate warming commitment’ and ‘aerosol forcing’ have to play themselves out), and given that some recent papers have allowed that the ‘climate sensitivity’ may in fact be larger than the 3 C per CO2 doubling normally assumed, the temperature trajectory continues to rise for a few decades to a peak of about 2 C, then starts to decline. Kevin Anderson uses model-based numbers (which were not calculated incorporating positive feedback mechanisms), to arrive at scenarios where 2 C might be achievable with drastic CO2 emission reductions, especially by the advanced nations.

    The message that I infer from all these published and unpublished computations is we have essentially committed ourselves to 2 C from our past fossil fuel expenditures, and any further CO2 emissions will push us in the direction of Extremely Dangerous conditions. I want to emphasize this latter point. Any further CO2 emissions, whether based on use of fossil fuels for luxury expenditures, continuation of everyday living basic necessities, critical life-saving purposes, or transitions to a self-sustaining energy economy, will drive us in the direction of Extremely Dangerous.

    This is the fallout for not heeding the danger signals presented by Hansen and others three decades ago. At that time, we could have made the transition to a self-sustaining energy economy with the assistance of fossil fuel expenditures, and not placed ourselves in an extreme danger zone. Now, depending on the fossil energy expenditures required to effect a transition to self-sustainability (which would involve not only a conversion to sustainable energy sources and their associated infrastructures but would probably involve a relocation and restructuring of infrastructure to reduce unnecessary energy expenditures), we might end up in the position of ‘having to destroy the village to save it’ applied to the biosphere.

    What the optimal strategy will be for avoiding entry into the Extremely Dangerous zone is unknown at present but, depending on the actual numbers calculated, could involve eliminating all fossil energy expenditures for decades until the temperature curve peaks and starts to bend downward, and then judiciously re-introducing fossil energy for the purpose of completing the conversion to self-sustainability. As more energy infrastructure is converted to self-sustaining, it can itself be used for the transition process, and correspondingly less fossil fuel would be required. But, there could conceivably be a multi-decadal ‘lull’ period where the only energy use would be from the self-sustaining sources we have completed already. Obviously, the only energy expenditures would be for the most critical purposes.

    This is a rather grim scenario, but the alternative is a far more grim scenario. And, the longer we delay the institution of this scenario, the more grim it and the alternate become. To institute this scenario on a global scale, rather authoritarian measures would be required. I don’t see any way a global democratic process would lead to the institution of such a scenario in the short time frame required. It is far more than the effective ‘planned austerity’ recommended by Anderson and others. Unfortunately, the reality of the level of restrictive measures required I have outlined above has been missing from the global discourse because of the absence of specific Strategic Plans and Roadmaps. All the recommendations for avoiding climate change I have seen don’t really take into account the fossil energy cost of the conversion process. The atmosphere doesn’t care about energy mixes, or the use of fossil energy for life-critical purposes. All the atmosphere is telling us, in the only language it knows, is that it wants no more CO2 emissions from any source for any reason. We ignore this message at our own peril.

  14. Andy S says:

    That is very disappointing news. In addition to the better known Arctic feedbacks, there is emerging evidence that there may be an additional one: the release of fossil methane resulting from a collapsing cryosphere.

  15. A.J. says:

    I wonder if the IPCC would issue the standard line that there isn’t enough reviewed science to make an assessment at this point. But if I recall correctly, a big flag was raised in this area that called for much more research years ago. So either things have been too slow going or the IPCC is getting lax in presenting an initial rundown of newer findings with big implications. If they’re not going to keep the public and policymakers apprised on more recent science (which must factor into the determination of risk) as well as the more established material, who is?

  16. wili says:

    Yes, it is quite clear that IPCC has been a vehicle for delay rather than a means to wake the world up to the crisis that is now crashing down around our heads. It is indeed time to ‘boot it’ and come up with another authoritative body that can sound the proper level of alarm with the latest, best science.

  17. wili says:

    In case some has missed it, this is the Kevin Anderson video Sup1 is talking about (though he should correct me if I’m wrong):

    David Roberts has a shorter video that covers some of the same material in a somewhat more engaging way:

    Both are well worth a watch, if you care about the future of the planet.

  18. Superman1 says:

    I suspect the IPCC Reports from Day 1 were designed to sooth the public, in order to prevent potential chaos and destabilization of governments. These ‘omissions’ are no accident, in my opinion. Suppose the IPCC Report were to include all the known science, especially with respect to the myriad observed feedbacks. What would be the public reaction to the facts? This is really a serious problem, and has received little attention on these blogs. The assumption here has been that if we could get around the roadblocks erected by the mainstream media, the deniers, and those who sponsor the media and deniers, we could then make strong inroads on this problem. I see at least two major problems with that assumption.

    First, the foundational problem from my perspective is the effective ‘addiction’ of the average energy consumer to the high energy intensity lifestyle enabled by the availability of copious cheap fossil fuel. I don’t believe presentation of facts would be adequate to change behavior when severe addiction is present. In other words, ‘we’ are the foundational problem; we are the ‘addicts’. The oil, coal, and gas companies are the ‘pushers’. They exploit and promote our ‘addictions’ for all they’re worth, but these companies are not the primary problem; I view them like the drug ‘cartels’.

    Second, suppose these roadblocks to dissemination were removed, and the harsh facts and their dire consequences were presented to the public. I’m talking about narratives like Kevin Anderson’s paper, Lewis Cleverdon’s and Aaron Lewis’ posts, and others along the lines of my post above. Suppose these ‘facts’ and their larger context were presented enough times that their significance began to ‘take hold’ with the audience. If you think about what these facts comport, at least as of today, they resemble in many ways a devastating medical prognosis after a physical examination. How do, and would, large numbers of people react under such conditions?

    I’ve seen three types of reactions after (unexpected) devastating medical prognoses. A small fraction will essentially give up, not be serious about treatment, and let nature take its course. Another small fraction will put every ounce of remaining energy in the effort to prolong life, and will try whatever radical alternatives offer promise. Most of the people eventually accept the reality, go through the recommended treatment, and bear the consequences.

    What would happen in the extreme case of, say, 200M adults in the USA understanding what the future offered on our present course, or even if we took some of the harsh actions I listed in previous post? Would they go along with business as usual? Would they take revenge against those who blockaded the truth from appearing for many decades? Would we experience widespread chaos?

    How are the readers of this thread affected by their understanding of what the climate future has to offer, as seen from today’s perspective? How are they affected by the knowledge that their children will have to bear the brunt of this unfolding disaster, and their grandchildren even a larger burden, in all probability?

  19. Superman1 says:

    As the main article states, neglect of positive feedbacks in the upcoming IPCC Report is the science equivalent of criminal neglect. Unfortunately, when consensus is required from 120+ countries, including those whose fossil exports are their main source of revenue, all that can be expected is Pablum. When one examines the physics and fluid mechanics of the recent massive Arctic ice melt, the role of positive feedbacks becomes very clear. The ideal environmental conditions for massive ice melt were not present as they were in 2007, yet the melting went much further. Once a reasonable amount of open water became present, a number of different feedback mechanisms were triggered and operated synergistically to take command of the melting process. The only thing that prevented a complete record melt was the ‘quenching’ of the feedback mechanisms by the usual solar input decline.

    I believe this process is a template for what is starting to occur in the broader climate including, but well beyond, the Arctic, and will result in substantially enhanced acceleration of the climate change process. The climate modeling community needs to adapt to this strongly nonlinear reality. The climate modelers were years behind the aerospace community in incorporating the use of adaptive grids in their models, and they are years behind the combustion and related communities in incorporating the coupled effects of highly nonlinear dynamical systems.

    I am starting to agree more and more with Peter Wadhams and the AMEG group on the need for geo-engineering sooner rather than later, despite my misgivings about the uncertainty of what could happen given the limitations of today’s climate modeling capabilities. While Wadhams’ focus is primarily on the Arctic, the self-sustaining mechanisms that are starting to increase throughout the climate impacting system need to be quenched at the earliest stages. The switch to renewables and reforestation, while necessary for mitigating additional damage, will not be sufficient to ‘quench’ the self-sustaining mechanisms.

  20. Frunobulax says:

    Is there anything in on how all that added oceanic weight from the meltwater pulse is affecting tectonics at the equator?

    Just curious.

  21. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    I see no evidence to discount the more cynical replies here. So much hard work by so many people turned into mush.

    While we continue to deliberately underestimate the consequences, there is no hope of getting ready for what is inevitable.

    We doom ourselves to be saying “if only”. If only we had acted sooner and avoided the worst. If only we had got ready. Sticking our heads in the sand is not an effective adaption strategy.

  22. John McCormick says:

    Again, where are the Big Green to stand with us and provide leadership?

    They are nowhere to be seen…not on this blog and not in any position to influence and demand IPCC accept the reality of the climate chaos we face.

    Silent? Oh no, they are all in Doha doing their required and obligatory observance of the next #18.

    Where is Dr. Pachuri demanding the IPCC await publication of Report 5 until positive feed backs are ready for prime time? Where is Nobel winner Al Gore shouting his outrage from the bell tower?

    Folks, we are on a sinking ship and our captain and crew are paddling to their next mortgage payment and retirement plan.

    There is no leadership. There is no plan.

    We are the little voices ready to do all we can while calling, in the darkness, for someone to step up and take command. Some damned leadership.

    The sixth extinction is being orchestrated by the UN and in Doha.

    Pathological lemmings; all 7 billion of us.

  23. catman306 says:

    Here’s some geo-engineering that we might be able to all agree on:

    Fly tankers and fire planes over areas of the permafrost where the surface temperature is below freezing but there is no snow. Equip the planes with snow making equipment.

    Even a very light dusting of snow will increase the albedo and prevent any further melting by solar radiation. Satellite observations can instruct the pilots where to fly.

    We have to DO something, don’t we?

  24. Hansen has been right all along.

    The only reliable “model” is the earth itself. And both past history and present events show that the actual earth climate is far more reactive to CO2 than any computer models show.

    * sea ice melt
    * greenland and antarctic ice cap melt
    * missing NH spring snowpack
    * melting permafrost
    * worldwide forest die off
    * increased wildfires
    * ocean acidification hot spots
    * methane hydrates?
    * increasing extreme heat events
    * increasing deluges

    For IPCC it seems many of these are coming “faster than expected” and “more damaging than expected.” But Hansen has been warning the earth did this in the past and so we should expect this kind of behaviour.

  25. John McCormick says:

    Dr. Lemon, my earlier post was a diatribe waged at the big green and the UN for permitting this omission of feed backs and particularly tundra and permafrost.

    Now, I want to know when this decision was arrived upon by IPCC; was it a matter only for UN; did US have any say? The most threatening next event of our global warming world is the massive and rapid release of trapped carbon and methane as clathrates go liquid and to gas along with uncovered CO2 being released from vegetation beneath the Arctic’s coast.

    This is too serious a part of the current AGW debate to put off for another…what…four or five years if at all> No guarantees on the longevity of the IPCC effort.

    People, get hold of ourselves. Get hold of the wheel of our children’s future. Then someone,get VP Al Gore on the phone and demand he be outraged to learn we will have to wait for Report SIX to learn about the “””Certainty””” of an explosion of climate feed backs.

    We have many carefully documented observations of the changing landscape around the Arctic coast line of Siberia and Alaska, Canadian coastline…melting soil structure, massive collapse of land mass, lakes, methane columns. Mention of these is not speculation. It is reporting preliminary findings as are permitted in the journals of science where the conclusion usually mentions ‘more research is needed’.

    Dr.Lemons, start a challenge to UN IPCC that averting discussion about feed backs is not going to be tolerated and the science community will condemn the decision to avoid it.

  26. John McCormick says:

    Superman, I agree with you. An IPCC Report 5, without mention of ice dynamics and positive feed backs is a fraud and waste of money but not a total waste, Reports 1 through 4 sequestered a measurable amount of carbon in their pages. More than I can say for me.

  27. John McCormick says:

    Don McLean put your comment to music”American Pie”.

  28. John McCormick says:

    Catman.. not your best work. You’ve done better.

  29. Mark E says:

    I know a researcher involved in this…. they say that the parts that drain, if given a little moisture and warming to mid-upper 30s(F) will rot very fast. The parts that stay bog will go (with a fair bit of methane) but not as fast.

  30. Mark E says:

    Instead of bashing IPCC……

    They just synthesize the research that others have already published, right? For CMIP5 here is the timetable

    I do not really know what I am talking about, but it sort of looks like outlines for the models were about set when the first of Joe’s permafrost cites was published.

    Whatever the reality, IPCC is certainly able to include in AR5 an admonishment to policymakers that they must not assume the science only advances every seven years; IPCC should write into AR5 that its findings are incomplete and should be modified in a year or two by _(something)_ when the permafrost feedback is finally added to enough of the GCMs. That way AR5 can still embrace those results in advance of 2020/2021 even if they have not been published in the papers already in the IPCC pipeline.

    MEANWHILE…. the rest of us should rail against the most fatal of all denialist tactics:

  31. Mark E says:

    Someone, (SkepSci are you there?), should make a GIF of this curve, showing its progression to the right over time, and how the “wavelength” to the right of IPCC gets longer for seven years as the science advances, then resets, and then gets longer for another seven years as the science advances.

    I would volunteer, but know nothing of graphics

  32. Mark E says:

    Meant to indent this under my prior comment so it would point to the curve…. but here it is again for clarity

  33. Jack Burton says:

    Lots of good comments here. I am not surprised at all by the conservative nature of the IPCC report. Of course we know major fossil fuel producing nations have a say in how the report comes out as a finished product. So we can expect a watered down report aimed at keeping panic to a minimum and seeking to maintain a business as usual model going forward.
    I agree totally about Hanson. “The Model” we MUST pay our attention to is the actual earth. How many signals is it sending, just as Hanson says, the earth is FAR more reactive to CO2 forcing than we want to admit. Earth is screaming at us right now that it is being forced over the cliff of no return by the constant and increasing rate of CO2 forcing. I gather we are at a CO2 level not seen for 15 million years, last spring we reached a 400PPM for a short time.
    Hanson can see clearly that the only reliable model is earth itself. Earth is reacting way faster than the models predicted, so imagine what is coming as the positive feed backs are now setting in in earnest. Is it a surprise that we saw the huge arctic meltdown this year? No! Melting permafrost? Why so surprised? Alaska and Siberian residents have been reporting for over a decade that roads, rail roads and buildings are collapsing as the melting permafrost collapses. I remember pictures of this taken in Siberian towns over 15 years ago!!! Alaska has been seeing some of this for a decade or more!
    No, the IPCC is useless, they are more in the coverup and delay business than anything else. We are now entering the first stage of run away climate, the feed backs are about to seal our fate. The arctic sea ice melt is a giant positive feed back and that will pressure the permafrost as the sea present warmer winds to the coast lines.
    Doom and Gloom? How else can you view this now? Yet the deniers are now is full attack mode. They are out in force and I predict, but can not prove, that they will become violent in short order. Global warming is crashing their dream world, tea party folks and the really extreme right will not accept the coming climate crisis. God knows who they will blame and how violent they will react.

  34. catman306 says:

    I believe that there’s a man in South America who is painting the mountain tops white to simulate the ice that was there a generation ago but now is gone.

    Adding some small dusting of snow to the areas where the temperature is below freezing but have received no natural snow seems, at first glance, doable to me.

    Like reducing a personal carbon footprint, it can only help cool the planet.

  35. Addicted says:

    Wouldn’t that just melt away within a ridiculously short period of time? I mean, if the temperature is too high for the permafrost, how does a light dusting of snow help?

    And also, lowered albedo is only one of the many positive feedbacks.

  36. Addicted says:

    So is there any evidence that the man’s efforts are having any effect? It’s not good enough to do something just to do something. We have to do something which actually makes a difference.

  37. David Moore says:

    No how bad the prognosis, the treatment is the same. Carbon tax, cut carbon use, develop carbon reserve parks (deep Gulf, Tar Sands, Powder River coal, etc.)Challenge Obama negligence. Boycott China till they decrease new coal burning, plant forests and farms farther towards the polls. Expect many or most human centers to die out but help them as best you can. “From each according to his ability and to each according to his needs.”

  38. Greatgrandma Kat says:

    Go back to comments on past posts andyou will find the answer to last question. Almost all posts will tell that we understand where we are on this issue and how far would have to go to correct the current world situation in order to deal with GW/CC. Also that not only our children and grandchilden will have to deal with this but we will as well because the impacts will be much worse in just a few years and our civilization is a lot more fragil than it seems.

  39. jyyh says:

    As for the arctic amplification, it’s become (to me) almost certain the models have left some things out of the equations as they have been too slow and too mild in thier results.. Now as it’s -18°c (OF for you SI-impaired) here it’s hard to grasp but this sort of record was also made this year:
    My guess them teh ‘emmissions scenarios’ haven’t been too detailed, like it might be that Mongolia has been set to produce as much GHGs as Germany and France put together (about the same size and latitude.) Not sure about this, but there could be other reasons for their poor performance on the timing of the Arctic melt.

  40. Mark E says:

    In the paragraph right before the one Joe quoted (pg 18) it says “Warmer conditions could promote peat accumulation, as seen
    after the end of the last ice age, but it is not clear if this would remove enough CO2 from the atmosphere to compensate for CO2 released from thawing permafrost.”

    Of course, we all hope it will. But it sure sounds like there have not yet been enough taxpayer dollars given to the field nerds to get data to feed the modelers. So stay tuned, and demand we fund that research!

  41. While peat accumulation is possible, it’s also possible that warmer temperatures will lead to drying out of some peat bogs, which will make peat fires more likely, and those are hard to put out. I wouldn’t count on this feedback to mitigate the effects on tundra described in the article.

  42. Solar Jim says:

    If we are all part of some Doctor Strangeheat movie, may I leave the theater. When is the stop at the next habitable planet please? Oh yes, light years.

    Isn’t it terrible about all that carbonic acid and how they eventually suffocated from lack of oxygen when the producers died.

    “Impacts were worse than previously thought ad infinitum” (see tombstone, but you should see all of their reports)

  43. The best and most up to date compact summary of the state of the science is not the IPCC but the Copenhagen Diagnosis ( not to be confused with the Copenhagen Consensus, which is the nonsense perpetrated by Bjorn Lomborg and his ilk. The report talks briefly about the possibility and potential magnitude of amplifying feedbacks like the tundra, with references, but of course it doesn’t have the 2012 references, as it was published in 2011.

  44. This article also implies the need for bilateral and multilateral agreements among the key players instead of the cumbersome IPCC negotiations involving all countries in the world. The US, China, India, and a few other countries could together set the world on the right path, but this won’t happen as quickly if we rely on the UN process, which I think has proven itself inadequate to the task. It worked fine for the ozone layer, but climate requires a different model, and it’s time for everyone to acknowledge that.

  45. Wonhyo says:

    Let’s parse a few key points in the article, with context from background knowledge that should be common among those who have been following climate change….

    We predict that the PCF will change the arctic from a carbon sink to a source after the mid-2020s…

    80% of the effects of climate change at any given time are caused by cumulative emissions up to a point in time 30 years prior. Even if we zero out GHG emissions today, the effects (e.g. warming) will largely continue for 30 years before significantly slowing. That being the case, it is unlikely we will be able to stop the PCF in time to prevent the conversion of the Arctic from sink to source. We can slow the PCF by reducing emissions (and we should!) but even if we zero out emissions, it will probably not be possible to stop the PCF altogether in any relevant time frame.

    …and is strong enough to cancel 42-88% of the total global land sink. The thaw and decay of permafrost carbon is irreversible…

    What else is irreversible? Assume we zero out all industrial CO2 (and methane — from fracking) emissions tomorrow. What effect will that have, in what time frame? We know that CO2 concentration is rising at a 2 ppm/year. We know that about half of total CO2 emissions is absorbed by land and ocean sinks, which are becoming less effective. We can deduce that we emit the equivalent of 4 ppm/year — 2 ppm gets absorbed by land/ocean sinks and 2 ppm is the observed increase in the atmospheric concentration. Assuming we zero out emissions but the ocean/land sinks continue at their current rates (doubly unrealistic) it will take 45 years to get the atmospheric concentration down to the pre-industrial maximum of 300 ppm.

    Unless there is a critical flaw in the reasoning above, it is dishonest to talk about “stopping” or “preventing” catastrophic climate change. At best, we can slow it down, which is a still a worthy (and moral) goal.

    …and accounting for the PCF will require larger reductions in fossil fuel emissions to reach a target atmospheric CO2 concentration.

    As demonstrated above, this is a false hope. It seems to me that scientists, policymakers, environmentalists, and the general public have been naively optimistic all along (to different degrees, of course). At first nobody took climate change seriously because it was perceived to be so far in the future. Then, everybody put a naively optimistic bias on it, probably to avoid “doom and gloom” talk.

    Now, we seem to have enough evidence to conclude that it is too late to prevent catastrophic climate change. Why do we still talk as if that’s not the case? Isn’t it better to acknowledge the reality, then do the best from there?

    The situation is like a person who discovered a tumor years ago, then just watched it grow, denying that it could be cancer. Then the person watches the tumor spread to other organs, but postpones treatment, thinking it can be treated later. Now the cancer has metastasized to multiple locations and the person is feeling ill.

    I fear that denial at this level will result in naively optimistic, but desperate, last-ditch treatments that make the situation worse. In the case of climate, gas fracking (which releases methane) and geoengineering are likely to worsen and accelerate the disaster. This is like a late-terminal cancer patient taking massive chemotherapy and radiation treatment that the body is too week to handle, thus increasing suffering and accelerating death.

    If for no other reason than to stave off geoengineering and other counterproductive reactions (that will increase suffering and accelerate climate change), environmentalists need to be honest with themselves first. At this point, what good is it to advocate from a position of naive optimism?

    I say acknowledge the full reality.

  46. Spike says:

    Some of the IPCC authors are still very relaxed about the situation and do not accept the seriousness that Hansen and others state is the case. Here is something a UK contributing author to IPCC posted on a “skeptic” website that I saw quoted in the UK press this week. The author was lauded as “a voice of moderation” by the poster and the website, unsurprisingly.

    We are back to Hansen’s “scientific reticence” problem, and it would be interesting to see if such views were more likely to lead to preferment in promotion and other favours from government.

    “Most climate scientists do not subscribe to the 2 degrees “Dangerous Climate Change” meme (I know I don’t). “Dangerous” is a value judgement, and the relationship between any particular level of global mean temperature rise and impacts on society are fraught with uncertainties, including the nature of regional climate responses and the vulnerability/resilience of society. The most solid evidence for something with serious global implications that might happen at 2 degrees is the possible passing of a key threshold for the Greenland ice sheet, but even then that’s the lower limit and also would probably take centuries to take full effect. Other impacts like drought and crop failures are massively uncertain, and while severe negative impacts may occur in some regions, positive impacts may occur in others. While the major negative impacts can’t be ruled out, their certainty is wildly over-stated.

    While really bad things may happen at 2 degrees, they may very well not happen either – especially in the short term (there may be a commitment to longer-term consequences such as ongoing sea level rise that future generations have to deal with, but imminent catastrophe affecting the current generation is far less certain than people make out. We just don’t know.

    The thing that worries me about the talking-up of doom at 2 degrees is that this could lead to some very bad and expensive decisions in terms of adaptation. It probably is correct that we have about 5 years to achieve a peak and decline of global emissions that give a reasonable probability of staying below 2 degrees, but what happens in 10 years’ time when emissions are still rising and we are probably on course for 2 degrees? If the doom scenario is right then it would make sense to prepare to adapt to the massive impacts expected within a few decades, and hence we’d have to start spending billions on new flood defences, water infrastructure and storm shelters, and it would probably also make sense for conservationists to give up on areas of biodiversity that are apparently “committed to extinction” – however all these things do not make sense if the probability of the major impacts is actually quite small.

    So while I do agree that climate change is a serious issue and it makes sense to try to avoid committing the planet to long-term changes, creating a sense of urgency by over-stating imminent catastrophe at 2 degrees could paint us into a corner when 2 degrees does become inevitable.

    I prefer to distinguish between “climate scientists” (who are mainly atmospheric physicists) and “climate change scientists” who seem to be just about anyone in science or social science that has decided to see what climate change means for their own particular field of expertise. While many of these folks do have a good grasp of climate science (atmospheric physics) and the uncertainties in attribution of past events and future projections, many sadly do not. “Climate change science” is unfortunately a rather disconnected set of disciplines with some not understanding the others – see the inconsistencies between WG1 and WG2 in IPCC AR4 for example. We are working hard to overcome these barriers but there is a long way to go.”

  47. prokaryotes says:

    Melting and erosion of permafrost along Siberia’s vast Arctic coastline is releasing huge amounts of CO2, about ten times more than previously estimated, to the atmosphere.

  48. Superman1 says:

    This is like solving an equation while eliminating the dominant term. Anyone who did this in the real world would be looking for another job shortly.

  49. Superman1 says:

    What is?

  50. Superman1 says:


    I’m not sure that model depicting us as lemmings is accurate. We demanded larger and more powerful cars. We demanded larger McMansions with larger property. We demanded large comfortable airplanes to take us on vacation to Europe and Asia. We became addicted to the high energy intensive lifestyle that required cheap fossil fuel.

    Now, we are demanding that our political leaders turn the ship around 180 degrees to save us, when they know it would be political suicide to implement or even suggest the radical sacrifices necessary to reduce CO2 emissions. We are both the problem and the solution, and, unfortunately, most of ‘we’ are not ready to be part of the solution.

  51. Superman1 says:

    I agree with your thesis; it parallels the argument I made in #13. There are really two major roadblocks: technical/scientific and socio-political. To have any chance of solving the technical problem, we would effectively have to end CO2 emissions today, which means no fossil fuel use for at least a couple of decades. Any fossil fuel use, even for the necessary purpose of converting to renewables, would drive us into what Anderson calls the Extremely Dangerous regime. We might have to delay any fossil fuel use until we are on the other side of the temperature peak, and then use fossil fuels very judiciously for completing the conversion to renewables. I also agree with you that, realistically, we probably can’t solve the problem even if we ended fossil fuel use today. We are committed to about 2 C from what we have put in the atmosphere already, and it is hard to imagine positive feedback mechanisms, which we see in process already, not playing a significant role in escalating the temperature further.

    Like it or not, geo-engineering appears to be our only chance. It is extremely high risk; if our models are insufficient to model the climate without geo-engineering, adding this large-scale man-made modification will not make the problem any easier. It’s the ultimate Hail Mary pass!

    That brings us to the socio-political problem. How many people would be willing to make the sacrifices required above? Given what is being done today, I would estimate close to zero. But, just as there is a community of people who profit from our unlimited use of fossil fuels, there is also a community who benefit from our naive belief that the climate catastrophe can be avoided. Neither will do what your last sentence requests: ‘acknowledge the full reality’.

  52. BillD says:

    The notion that the tundra-melting feedbacks are too speculative is a complete red herring. If there is considerable uncertainty in this feedback, this means that the modeling results, some run with and some without, will give a much broader range of results. Uncertainty in the input leads to greater uncertainty in the output/results. We should also see uncertainty from projected fossil fuel emissions. When, if ever, will the world respond to this urgent problem?

  53. John McCormick says:

    Jonathan, Thank you!!

    I have been urging the bilateral approach: US with China, then include India but to what avail. We little people have no clout with the White House but that is where it will have to begin.

    Surely, John Podesta has some clout with the President and I’d include President Clinton and a few other national figureheads who have already accepted the science. What is it going to take for us to persuade the broad shoulders to get on the President’s schedule to discuss opening this diplomacy door and close the UN’s duplicity door.

    It bypasses the brain dead House leadership and goes directly to the decision makers of the three nations.

  54. John McCormick says:

    Pro, you’ve done it again. How did I get along without you those many years? Thanks for the link.

    I’m now a fishoutofwater fan, big time. He’s in Joe’s league.

  55. Joan Savage says:

    For a rather unpleasant perspective, other global risks, such as infectious pandemic, nuclear war, and world-wide famine, also tend to be vaguely-stated in official publications.

    The recent CP re-publication of Jeremy Grantham’s op-ed in Nature includes a quote that serves well here:

    Overstatement may generally be dangerous in science (it certainly is for careers) but for climate change, uniquely, understatement is even riskier and therefore, arguably, unethical.
    – Jeremy Grantham, 2012

  56. Superman1 says:

    “The day the music died”, which supposedly reflected the plane crash of Richie Valens, Buddy Holly, and The Big Bopper.

  57. Superman1 says:

    “No, the IPCC is useless, they are more in the coverup and delay business than anything else.”

    Given that they reflect countries like the USA and UK, whose leaders don’t even mention climate change in their national debates, and countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose main export is fossil fuel, what else would you expect? What else could you expect?

  58. Superman1 says:

    Look at the contrast between proposals and actions. The nations of the Earth are rushing pell-mell to discover and exploit all the remaining fossil fuel resources on this planet. Shell Oil couldn’t wait to start drilling in the Arctic as soon as sufficient ice melted. Canada can’t wait to open up the Tar Sands. The UK can’t wait to expand fracking of the country-side.

    Yet, what are the proposals we see to counter climate change? As the observations of the climate deterioration become more dire, the proposals become more extreme. Kevin Anderson proposes ‘planned austerity’ or ‘planned recession’, which I would call ‘planned depression’. Some proposers, including myself, call for immediate cessation of all fossil fuel use, if we are to have any hope of avoiding 2 C temperature increase (no feedbacks included).

    This is a surreal world. If we were reducing CO2 emissions at, say, 6% per year, and Anderson requires 10% per year to meet the target, then I would say the proposals have some semblance of reality. But, in a world where all the stops have been pulled out to exploit every ounce of remaining fossil fuels, discussing CO2 emissions reductions of 10% per year or greater borders on sheer lunacy or delusion or fantasy, or all three combined.

  59. fj says:

    The NYC Panel on Climate Change has many of the same scientists as IPCCC considers a rapid ice melt scenario.

  60. Carol says:

    Yes . . what is?
    It will take much more than “Language Intelligence” to solve this problem—no offense to Joe’s book. Abraham Lincoln was an excellent communicator . . but . . bottom line the way he got things done as brilliantly demonstrated in the recent movie was through:
    bribery, blackmail, coercion, sheer force.
    It wasn’t because he quoted Shakespeare.
    Fighting climate change will require much more than skillful rhetoric and powers of persuasion.
    This crisis is multi-faceted; psychological, sociological and anthropological.
    The leader who stands out today and one we should be joining forces with is Bill McKibben. In addition to formulating and implementing an ACTION plan he is a brilliant, inspirational speaker.

  61. Wes says:

    Ten to fifteen years from now we’ll be living in a situation that is very unlikely to be laughable. There is nothing even remotely laughable about the IPCC’s craven timidity.

  62. john atcheson says:

    Isotopic analysis of carbon from the PETM indicates that clathrates have melted in the past from warming comparable — but much slower — than what we’re experiencing today … so we have empirical data in addition to the modeling and sampling. This may not make arctic releases from perma-frost and clathrates a rock solid certainty, but it is certainly not “speculative.”

    But the IPCC has always been about assuring that the science is slow-walked, so this latest outrage should not be a surprise.

    I agree with John Savage — one of the most important quotes of 2012 was certainly Granthom’s.

    It also goes a long way toward explaining why scientists have been a major part of the problem. They will get activist en-masse only when there is no uncertainty. Of course, by then it will be too late.

  63. David Goldstein says:

    It all may amount to futile gesture at this point, but…for a few years now, some of us have been posting on climate blogs and watching as the world simply goes even more quickly in the wrong direction. Has the time come to ‘put down our pens’? The scientists have done their good work. The politicians have NOT. The only possible bridge that I foresee (aside from scrambling responses to undeniable shock and catastrophe down the road) is this: For a critical mass of the people to bring pressure to bare- which means, essentially, getting out in the streets and, most likely, perform non-violent civil disobedience a la Vietnam war/civil rights. (along with financial pressure a la divestment campaigns) Here’s my question: If this is so, are you (the reader) willing to do this? Are you willing to ‘put your body’ on the line? Are you? To do so would be to ‘speak’ powerfully to your children and their children “I am doing what I can, though it may not suffice”. Lastly, I am not entirely naive- of course, this would have to occur as part of a sustained and well orchestrated campaign to have any chance of success. But- it IS coming to this. is calling a rally/protest/civil disobedience in Washington Feb 18th. Would you come…put your pen down…and, as well, lay your body down?

  64. Mark E says:

    Of course. My point was that this very report explicitly states at least one of the big unknown that would require some quantification before the process can be modeled. Moral: better late than never to get more dollars to the researchers.

  65. Mark E says:

    I have said since the 80s that the US GOP are lemmings galloping for the cliff, and the DEMs are lemmings headed that way at a brisk walk.

    The main reason I have little hope is because all solutions being discussed are predicated on economic growth, and doing that forever is impossible, and so all solutions being discussed are at best stopgaps to buy us more time to deal with our growth addiction.


  66. Carol says:

    I agree David —-well said! (and I am going to Washington)
    Shamus Cooke, in his article— “Why UN Climate Agreements Fail” says:
    “Ultimately, climate activists must come face to face with political and corporate power. Corporate-owned governments are the ones with the power to adequately address the climate change issue, and they will not be swayed by good science or even a flooded planet.
    Those in power only respond to power, and the only power capable of displacing corporate power is when people unite and act collectively, as was done in Egypt, Tunisia, and is still developing throughout Europe. “

  67. perceptiventity says:

    Very true , thank you for the clarity

  68. Marion Delgado says:


    To a degree this is just the IPCC performing its function. Just as the IPCC didn’t mention the breakup of the Greenland or Antarctic ice packs, it doesn’t deal with the clathrates and it doesn’t deal with the melting permafrost methane feedback. This is why those of us involved with climate and, in my case, permafrost, found the denialists’ claim that the IPCC could possibly have been overstating the problem so crazy. This very issue was part of a permafrost conference I attended in the early 1990s in Alaska, for instance.

    I think it’s time and past time we pointed out the areas of consensus the IPCC reports on and what it avoids, within which boundaries the IPCC is at worst a little persistently conservative.

  69. Sasparilla says:

    catman, you can probably get more bang for your buck by going after black roofs and black parking lots (getting them painted white or something like that) and the effects stay around a long time – but that isn’t going to solve or even slow down anything cause we couldn’t do it on a big enough scale.

    The problem with small amounts of snow/ice is sublimation (ice literally evaporates directly from ice to gas over time – put an ice cube in the freezer and watch it disappear over time or a cup of snow outside in the winter when its always below freezing) not to mention the difficulty of doing something big enough to actually have a measurable effect.

    For this problem, unfortunately we need action at the top level of all the biggest economies in the world and it’ll still be really ugly (stop all CO2 emissions and things will still keep warming up for 30 years or so because of the lag) so the Arctic ice is gone and presumably most of the permafrost will melt out as well (and probably the clathrates as well from warming ocean temps in the far north).

    Crazy geo-engineering schemes (a lot crazier than just painting roofs, parking lots and streets) will probably be what we turn to when the forces to take action finally overcome the corporate forces of do nothing (if that eventuality actually occurs) that control our economies and world – cause it’ll be beyond too late to just slow down and eliminate emissions and fix things by then (and actually seems beyond too late for that now).

  70. David Goldstein says:

    Good to know you’ll be there Carol. With myself, my Mother and another man that posted he will be there (I am starting to post this comment all over) that makes 4! If you get 5 more people to go, I will as well!

  71. Sasparilla says:

    Well, knew this was coming from previous articles by Joe on this site, but its sad to see it actually acknowledged.

    When the IPCC finally includes it in their reports they’ll be able to include direct measurements of melting permafrost methane and CO2 emissions (not just forecasts) and their increases year over year from the arctic – very sad state of affairs.

    Amazing to think the person who became the Presidential candidate for the GOP in 2008 directly authored climate change action legislation for the Senate back in 2008 (I believe) back when good numbers in that party at the federal level weren’t against considering such action – seems another lifetime ago compare to the situation we have today (where not a GOP member would vote for climate action under a stated threat of primary competition for anyone that does – much like Grover N’s anti tax lever) and of course the Dems have figured out they can just act like the issue doesn’t exist and get paid from those same interests.

    Well, Joe this just makes your site doubly important as a place that gets the message out on a topic that is apparently too ugly for the IPCC to look at (wonder if it’ll even make it in the next one?).

  72. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The USA controls the UN, ensuring that compliant hacks infest the upper ranks of all organs. The IPCC was, undoubtedly, sabotaged from the start, but its complicity is now becoming untenable. If the methane feedback blows out within months of being ignored, the IPCC’s credibility will be shot, for good. It won’t help humanity much, but is truly symptomatic of the global epidemic of bad faith and dereliction of responsibility to the truth and to humanity that characterises nearly every global institution. Not very far behind the curtain these groups serve the ruling elite, not mankind.

  73. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Big Green’ sold out totally and comprehensively years and years ago.

  74. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Must disagree. Even if almost totally ineffective, it is still a noble, Quixotic, effort. And seven billion such would be very effective. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

  75. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Most fatal’ seems a tad redundant.

  76. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    ‘Boycott China’ is, in my opinion, another agenda masquerading as climate destabilisation action. China is the global manufacturing powerhouse that is driving down solar cost, for one example. If you start an economic war by boycotting China, they won’t just sit there and take it, and that will be the final coup de grace for mankind.

  77. Solar Jim says:

    Your phrase “corporate-owned governments” tiptoes around the use of a single word, “fascism.” Our greatest social threat might be stated as “globalized corporatism,” especially of the “american” kind where “banks” are actually speculators and their government operatives.

    Guess where the half trillion dollars for “fossil exploration and development” are coming from. That is the identical amount of global public subsidies from national treasuries.

  78. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The ‘uncertainty’ lies in whether the methane feedback will be cataclysmic, catastrophic or apocalyptic, and in whether it hits home now, soon, or in a few years. This insanity will soon quickly and abruptly evaporate, and the Big Denialists had better have bolt-holes ready, and cosmetic surgery arranged.

  79. Hmm. Peat accumulation vs. methane release. A clearly unscientific hunch tells me that the speed of methane release would result in forcings that would clearly outstrip the ability of peat to resorb carbon — the whole region is in danger of becoming a carbon source, not a sink.

    I don’t know if the IPCC process has been corrupted by the U.S. alone, global elite of one sort or another (think Russians and assorted oil states) or it’s just needlessly conservative. As the Report of Record, it would seem easy enough for the ARs to include known knowns and known unknowns, separating but not obscuring the later.

    In any case, we clearly need a new point of reference, as both past and, now, future IPCC reports appear to be hopelessly conservative.

  80. There are lots of problems with geoengineering, of course. But in any case the Arctic Council countries, especially the Russians, won’t permit it. The LOVE the idea of an ice-free Arctic Ocean. Russia finally gets it’s “warm water port,” and all those ocean floor minerals to boot.

    Of course thawing the Arctic is suicide for Russia. The country’s land mass is half permafrost, and when that starts to melt there will be nothing but hell for thousands of miles. But self-destructive greed has seldom stopped ruling classes such as Russia’s oilagarchy from blundering forward. Unfortunately, they will take the rest of us with them this time.

  81. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Joan – I wonder if we may agree that the IPCC is not simply a channel by which govt.s are empowered to censor the science reaching both the UNFCCC and the public – via the media misrepresenting its findings as the scientific consensus ?

    I’d suggest that it is also the global sink for most scientists’ concerns, apart from invidual efforts like Hansen, Mann, Anderson and a few others who endure massive attack, for where else than the IPCC can they hope to get their views heard ?

    Given that the global negotiations must, by mandate, limit their considerations to the info supplied by IPCC, and that body has yet to even hint at an apology for its grossly misleading prognoses over two decades – such as projecting the loss of arctic ice cover in the wrong century,
    and given that it promotes as the consensus works that persist with basing patently failed models not on what observations state is the present condition but on what it would be if the models had proven correct,
    it is hard to see any reason for the IPCC to retain scientists’ credibility – other than the lack of a credible alternative forum for a global climate science assessment.

    For the IPCC to have excluded all of the peer-reviewed findings of the acceleration of six out of seven mega-feedbacks from all Assessment Reports to date is patently worse than incompetent. To now refuse to include them in AR5, with the acceleration of Albedo Loss, Permafrost Melt, Forest Combustion and Soils Desiccation becoming patently obvious, is not only highly discreditable – it indicates a high degree of institutional corruption-by-mandate. It is, after all, the Inter-Governmental Panel on climate change, not an Independent Scientific Authority on climate destabilization.

    From this perspective it seems urgently necessary to initiate an independent global climate science entity, comprising scientists of standing in their fields,
    under a title on the lines of: “Independent Climate Science Authority”
    with a remit of providing assessments annually of:
    – a current overview of climate dynamics and the prognoses for their development;
    – a critique of the shortcomings of the most recent output by the IPCC, particularly contrasting it with its submitted papers and with more recent publications;
    – a review of the current parameters for a commensurate global policy of mitigation and of the requisite techniques thereof.

    What I cannot tell is just what fraction of climate scientists would welcome the launch of an independent climate science authority. It would not of course in any way preclude scientists contributing to IPCC as well as ICSA – the resulting contrasts in output would be highly informative to policy-makers and to the public alike. But equally I’d doubt that prevaricators with scientific credentials would find they attracted consensus support for their participation.

    So how do we go about taking soundings among scientists and, if they are positive, encouraging the launch of such an organization ?



  82. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Aaron – I’d agree that the failure to provide accurate current intelligence to a global society under existential threat is, to say the least, regrettable.

    While the IPCC’s mandate evidently incapacitates its supposed function of accurately informing the nations negotiating at the UNFCCC – to the extent that UNEP now puts up a report directly to the UN and UNFCCC at Doha emphasizing IPCC shortcomings on permafrost,
    that incapacity is plainly mirrored at lower echelons of scientific research.

    In particular, the latest and best report on the permafrost prognosis provided a ‘coupled model’ in which the CO2 output was calculated into the warming driving the melting – which seems a basic though unprecedented step.

    Yet like all previous models that supposedly coupled model failed to account the fraction of permafrost carbon emitted as methane,
    and it failed to include the additional melting due to the migration of rainfall northward during this century,
    and it failed to include the direct and indirect warming effects of four observed interactive mega-feedbacks, including albedo loss, microbial peat-bog decay, soil desication and forest combustion,
    and it also failed to include the warming effect from methyl clathrates’ probable collapse.

    In terms of optimism bias likely to be generated in the reader, that latest report seems outrageous – yet it is published in a presigious journal and welcomed with solemn concern.

    Kevin Anderson recently voiced these concerns in his public lecture in Bristol (the video is worth finding if you’ve not seen it) but he didn’t go as far as proposing a solution to such poverty of intellectual ambition.

    So I’m wondering to what extent a new organization to remedy the IPCC shortcomings (that I outlined in reply to comment#1 above) could also be helpful in focussing researchers’ attention on the real-world effect of their efforts.



  83. I have yet to see a mention of carbon sequestration in this thread. It is feasible to pull existing carbon out of the air, and it can be done in scalable, affordable, multi-beneficial ways with biosequestration for biochar and biofuels.

    A radical reduction of carbon emissions and a radical program of biosequestration could give us a fighting chance. I’m not saying it will happen, given the geopolitics of the situation, but there is no technical reason why it can’t.

  84. Well, I must say this “scientist” is apparently incapable of observing his surroundings.

    I do agree with him on one thing:
    “While really bad things may happen at 2 degrees, they may very well not happen either –”

    That is because they are already happening at less than one degree. How many midwest droughts will it take to convince him that it’s dry in the midwest?

  85. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    Well said, Mulga.

    When America has recovered 2/3rds of its historic emissions so as to equal those of China, it will then at least be no worse a climate culprit.

    Until then, proposing sanctions against other countries is simply increasing the likelihood of sactions being applied against the USA for its intransigence under its ongoing bipartisan climate policy of a Brinkmanship of Inaction.



  86. Mark E says:

    A friend of mine doing some of this research says a big question for fate of submerged thawed permafrost is the availability of nitrogen – potentially a real limit on microbe action. If so, that would slow carbon release and encourage peat formation. Stay tuned.