North pole ice to disappear this year?

By Phil Plait | June 27, 2008 11:09 pm

I don’t know what to make of this report. We’ve had so much shrieking about global warming that I am actually a bit gun shy when someone predicts dire consequences.

But The Independent is claiming that the northern ice cap on the Earth — this planet, our planet — is receding so quickly right now due to excess warmth that it might completely disappear by this September. That’s this year, not 2050.

This has never been seen before. Ever. In human history.

“From the viewpoint of science, the North Pole is just another point on the globe, but symbolically it is hugely important. There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water,” said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado.

I don’t know Serreze, but the NSIDC is a reputable research lab. Serreze seems reputable, too.

Mind you, this may not happen. But what concerns me very greatly is that scientists are even contemplating that it might. This, on the heels of the northwest passage being open last year for the first time ever.

Maybe this is just some cycle we’re going through. Maybe it’ll reverse itself. Maybe.

But we’ve been reading these signs for a long time. If the north pole actually becomes ice-free for the first time in thousands of years, now, maybe then people like Senator Inhofe can admit they’re wrong, and get off their butts and do something?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Politics, Science
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Comments (98)

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  1. Cameron

    As awful as it would be to see the north pole watery and wet, it would be a good slap in the face for people who refuse to believe all of the evidence for global warming. Yikes.

  2. and then there was Tom DeLay, who stated in an interview with Chris Matthews that “It is arrogance to suggest that man can affect climate change. There’s no science that supports such a notion.” And that was just this year.

    They’ll ignore it all the way until the it really gets bad, and then claim that flooding in San Fransisco is God’s punishment for all the gays…

  3. Reed

    Realclimate has some interesting commentary on this. Short version: there’s a bit of a media frenzy over this particular story.

  4. anon

    Read the article again, the northern ice cap is not going to “completely disappear”, only the north pole is predicted to be ice free.

  5. This prediction seems a little bizarre to me. My spidey sense is tingled by another example of a scientist making dramatic claims about global warming in the past, but I can’t remember where so it’s just a tingle. We’ll see for sure in september, though, science is nice that way.

    Also, that bit about the Northwest passage being open for the first time ever last year seems to be incorrect: Roald Amundsen is supposed to have sailed it east-to-west in 1906, a US coast guard vessel sailed through it in 1957, and many other ships sailed through it in the seventies and eighties.

    This blog does some debunking on that claim: http://tinyurl.com/48n39d

    Of course, it can’t be used commercially unless there’s some more melting, but that’s very different from ‘ever’.

  6. Reed

    The fact that some people got through before doesn’t negate the very stunning collapse of arctic ice that has happened in the last few years.

  7. Ryan

    And if it does? We know that barely was once grown, by humans, in GREENland. Presumably that’s before the glacier formed and the vikings moved south. Even if the warming of the planet over the past 50 years is caused by human intervention, so what? It’s been this hot before, it will be again. A system as big as a planet tends to have self correcting mechanisms. Regardless, I’d rather live through a warm period, with increased growth seasons, than another ice age.

  8. Quiet Desperation

    Meanwhile, Antarctica is getting thicker ice.

    Hmmm.

    That can only mean one rational thing.

    THE ICE IS MIGRATING!!!!!!!!!! HOLY (BLEEP)!!!!! :-)

    This, on the heels of the northwest passage being open last year for the first time ever.

    Err… First full transit of the NW Passage was in 1903 by Roald Amundsen.

  9. malachi

    Looks not nearly as dramatic when reported on by the BBC ten days ago.

  10. N

    The fact that some people got through before doesn’t negate the very stunning collapse of arctic ice that has happened in the last few years.

    No, but it does debunk the claim (by someone who should know better) that it has never been open before, which was the point. *You* turned it into a strawman. Typical.

  11. Chip

    Unless you happen to live near their habitat, next time you visit the zoo, take a good look at the polar bear. Though born on land, they have evolved to hunt and survive on ice.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_bear

  12. Quiet Desperation

    Another thought: are there any records of polar or near polar ice levels during the Medieval Warm Period? Maybe the from Vikings?

    BTW, it looks fine at the moment.

    http://psc.apl.washington.edu/northpole/index.html

    NORTH POLE WEBCAMS! Ain’t the intertoobs grand? :-)

    I’ve also done some web searching to track the epidemiology of this story. It seemed to start with National Geographic, then went to the Independent, and then Drudge Report where it got blown all out of proportion thank in part, to overeager bloggers. *cough* ;-)

  13. Quiet Desperation

    Santa’s Workshop. DOOMED! :-D

  14. AJWM

    It’ll be back.

    The North Pole may well be ice free by September — it’s sea ice that will have had all summer — and a few months of 24-hours a day sunlight — to melt. Late September marks the shift from 24 hour daylight to 24 hour dark (come on, basic astronomy, and yes there’s some twilight in there), it’ll freeze again.

    That it’s “never been seen before in human history” is a bit of a spin. Through most of human history nobody has been anywhere near the pole — even if it were ice free for a few weeks it’s still hard to get to. Note the “never been seen”, not “has never occurred” — for all we know it could have been ice free every summer from 3000 BCE to 1000 CE, and it would still have “never been seen”. (Unlikely, though, I’ll admit.)

    Is Earth getting warmer? Very likely; it does that from time to time. By the way, what’s the sunspot count lately?

  15. AJWM

    BTW, I’m all for an ice-free Artic Ocean, think how much it will reduce shipping costs between Europe and the Pacific coasts. The potential drawback, though, is with all that water surface area to increase evaporation, there’ll be some wicked snow storms come winter across the continental landmasses (think Buffalo’s lake effect blizzards only more so).

    Who knows, it might even trigger another glaciation. ;-)

  16. Kullat Nunu

    Greenland wasn’t much (or at all) warmer when the Vikings moved there.

    The article is correct in that the NW Passage has never seen to be completely open. The ships that were successful either had to wait ice to move or go through it.

    Although ice-free North Pole isn’t a big deal, as it does happen once a while–after all it’s sea–no ice AT ALL between it and the shore IS. Lack of ice leads to a loopback effect, and that has a huge effect on the climate.

  17. me

    I live in Canada.
    Yeah Global Warming! Bring the heat!
    :)

  18. Kullat Nunu

    BTW, it looks fine at the moment.

    Arctic sea ice minimum is still months away. And according to the site the cameras are @ 84.919°N, 0.536°W, nowhere near the pole (they keep moving you know).

    I live in Canada.
    Yeah Global Warming! Bring the heat!

    I live in the northern Europe which means our climate is not the friendliest. I truly hate our long, cold winters (darkness is not that bad for obvious reasons ;) ). However, the climate here is far more hospitable than it would be if there were no Gulf Stream. Arctic ice melting increases Greenlandic ice sheet loss, which in turn can disturb the delicate stream conveyor system. That would paradoxically lead to much colder climate here. So, even though we’re supposed to be big winners in global warming, the benefits may turn out to be short-lived.

  19. quasidog

    I don’t buy it.

  20. Even if the warming of the planet over the past 50 years is caused by human intervention, so what? It’s been this hot before, it will be again. A system as big as a planet tends to have self correcting mechanisms.

    We didn’t have six and a half billion people to keep alive the last time it was this hot.

    Regardless, I’d rather live through a warm period, with increased growth seasons, than another ice age.

    It’s not at all clear that global warming will lead to “increased growth seasons”, and in the short term it’s going to lead to massive crop failures as currently arable land becomes unproductive, regardless of whether or not more land elsewhere becomes more fertile in the long run.
    A hot period may be better than an ice age, but either one is less appealing than maintaining the current climate, particularly if change comes as fast as it has been for the past few decades.

  21. Ragutis

    Yeah, the North Pole being ice free is different from the arctic being ice free. However, I have read that arctic melting is already well ahead of last year’s pace which resulted in record shrinkage. Also, without some cold low melt years for the ice to thicken and harden, each year that there’s significant melt means the next warm season will see ice loss occur at a quicker rate and to greater extent. Still, it appears that an ice-free arctic is at least a few years away (not that that’s exactly great news.)

    On a related note, Bill Moyers this week had a feature on Barbara Boxer and her attempts to get some decent environmental legislation passed. Bill’s essay on Iraq and oil was good too. Looks like you can watch it all on the show’s site. Oh, and I might not ever eat chicken again…

  22. Grand Lunar

    If some of the responses to this entry are any indication Phil, this event may not convince the important people to do anything.

    Regardless of what this even signifies, one thing is clear; humanity must take action NOW.

    An article in the May 2008 issue of “Discover” gives some good advice on what ought to be done.

  23. Sailor

    Well the real climnate guys think it is possible;
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2008/06/north-pole-notes/#more-576

    and you can keep a eye on it yourself.
    http://psc.apl.washington.edu/northpole/index.html

    If the world wants to deal with this, we can, though we are far from making hat decision yet. It would have to be through governmental action and as far as I can see only one way would be effective: carbon rationing. All products have to carbon rated and Everyone gets rations according to how much carbon we can afford to put in the air, and when they run out, they have to buy some rations from someone that has surplus (probably in the third world). Might do a lot towards equalizing the world. But some anti population growth element would have to be worked in.

  24. Dunc

    Quiet Desperation:
    Meanwhile, Antarctica is getting thicker ice.

    Ummm, not exactly. In some parts of Antarctica the ice is thickening (which is exactly what you’d expect in a warming scenario, as the middle of Antarctica is still way below freezing, but you’ve got increased precipitation) while in other parts of Antarctica the ice is thinning, receding, moving more rapidly and in some cases disappearing altogether. The Antarctic ice sheet is actually being affected by global warming much more quickly than anticipated. In fact, the net ice mass loss from Antarctica in 2006 was 196 (plus or minus 92) gigatonnes a year:

    Ice loss in Antarctica increased by 75 percent in the last 10 years due to a speed-up in the flow of its glaciers and is now nearly as great as that observed in Greenland, according to a new, comprehensive study by NASA and university scientists.

  25. Edward

    Dr, Phil
    You sound panic stricken.
    What can one senator do? What can the whole U.S. Congress do?

  26. KC

    For what it’s worth, I know a retired Arctic surveyor who’s a bit skeptical of some of these claims, as he has memories of ice-free areas in the summer that were frozen solid in the winter. He also has pointed out that this past winter saw a return of sea ice, a situation that oddly enough was under reported and hedged with qualifiers that sounds suspiciously like the I-don’t-want-to-endanger-my-funding sort.

    The claim that “for the first time in human history” isn’t impressive when you realize recorded human history is hardly a blip in the geologic record. Heck, it’s hardly a blip where humans are concerned. Aside from cave drawings, written human history didn’t even exist until about 6,000 years ago. It’s also a claim that’s very hard to verify scientifically.

    If you want to keep tabs on the ice, here’s a handy link:

    http://arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/arctic.4.jpg?

  27. @AJWM
    By the way, whatâ??s the sunspot count lately?

    That number is a number that’s important to me as an amateur radio operator.

    The sunspot number has been below 13 almost every day since last autumn. In fact, it’s usually been 0. The sun has a blemish-free face, with without any expensive beauty creams!

    The current sunspot count is 0, and has been for some time.

    http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/sunspots/

  28. KC

    By the way, BA:

    You say “do something.” Okay: Do what?

    There’s a interesting plan for both removing CO2 from the air *and* helping increase ocean fishing by spreading iron compounds into the sea. Currently there’s environmental groups keen to stop it.

    We can significantly reduce CO2 from power generation by vigorously moving to nuclear power. Environmental groups are keen to prevent this.

    There’s a few areas where wind power makes economic sense (produces enough electricity to pay for the costs of building and maintaining generators). There’s also places where solar power makes sense as well. However, to get the power to where it’s needed, you have to build transmission lines. Environmental groups don’t like that one bit.

    Hydroelectric doesn’t produce CO2. Environmentalists don’t like it because it affects wetlands and fish migration patterns.

    As to this the following:

    The U.S. continues to grow in population. In order to prevent the growth of electric demand, either the U.S. population remains static or reduce the per capita use of electricity at the same rate as our population growth. The latter isn’t going to happen, not unless we go through an economic downturn that makes the Great Depression look like a cake walk.

    So, what do you want done?

    And keep in mind one little thing: China has surpassed the U.S. as the nation with the highest CO2 production. What we do here isn’t going to do diddly squat in China, except maybe up their industrial output as they produce “Green” equipment for us to buy.

  29. Michelle

    PFft. This sounds WAY alarmist to me.

  30. Edward,

    what can Congress do? Well, where do I start?
    Ratify the Kyoto protocol, impose CO2 restrictions/emmission rights, implement an efficiency frontrunner rule (like in California or Japan, where e.g. all new refrigerators have to meet the standard set by the best a few years ago), fund renewable energy, raise gas taxes (we pay ~1.50€/L, according to Google that’s US$ 8.95/Gallon, and it doesn’t kill us) which encourages efficient cars, and so on.

    KC (and others),

    “for the first time in human history” is indeed significant. I have no doubt the planet will be able to cope with a lot of climate change – even if we tried really hard humans couldn’t kill life on earth. The important question is: can we cope? If the Greenland & antarctic ice melt, sealevels will rise by several meters. Then you can kiss goodbye all the (now) coastal areas around the world – and billions of people will be on the run. Deserts will spread. Storm rates&violence will increase. More People on the run. If the Gulf stream breaks down Europe is no longer going to be a nice place to live, for the most part.

    Nature’s gonna be ok. We’re not.

    Two planets meet. “So, how d’you do?” “Oh, not so well, I’ve got humans…” “So did I. Don’t worry, it’ll pass.”

  31. Richard Steckis

    Until June the arctic ice extent was on track to be lower than the 2007 minimum. Throughout June however, there has been a recovery of ice in the Arctic. I would bet that the 2008 minimum is not going to beat the 2007 minimum. It will not recover to the long term average this year. Who knows… Next year??

    Visit: http://www.nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/

  32. Just natural cycle I think. Nothing to get all worked up about.

  33. Edd

    Human history began in 1978 it seems
    http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMYTC13J6F_index_0.html

    Not that it isn’t worrying.

  34. Congress isn’t gonna care until the Lincoln Memorial needs to wear waders. Then this will actually be impacting them at home.
    Congress didn’t acknowledge the Dust Bowl until a dust storm in Oklahoma and Kansas kicked up enough dirt to block out the sun in DC.

    When you hear someone say it’s too cold to snow what they’re really saying is that it’s too cold for evaporation. Deep in the Antarctic it rarely snows. But as the temperatures climb and the edges crumble evaporation in the area is increasing and precipitation further inland is too. So, yeah, where there’s more snow the ice is getting thicker but the volume of the Antarctic ice as a whole is smaller.

    People have navigated the Northwest Passage in the past. But they had to do it with an ice breaker. The ice breaker is no longer needed. There are two cruises available for you to take a trip through the passage. One is on a retired Russian ice breaker and the other is on a regular cruise ship. If I hadn’t blown my bank account on a deck and my vacation time trying to see one of the last shuttle flights I’d have booked a cruise.

    Am I reading the picture on The Independent’s site correctly? The North Pole itself was free of ice last summer? You’d think that some environmental group or liberal politician would be up there for a photo op.

    Other studies are showing that all the damage was done before Reagan ever took office. That what’s happening now is just a cycle of loss of solar reflectivity leading to more melting. All we can do now is behave in such a way to minimize how long the ice caps will be gone.
    But, if that study is right then I might consider buying a car and turning the AC back on.

  35. And this natural cycle you guys keep going on about runs the course of millenia, not decades.

  36. Dom

    Sounds good for shipping.

  37. amphiox

    “I live in Canada.
    Yeah Global Warming! Bring the heat!”

    I presume from the emoticon that this is a joke. The argument would be true if Canada had no political, financial or social ties to anywhere else in the world, relied on no imports of any kind, if her citizens had no friends, family, or emotional bonds of any sort with any one or thing anywhere else in the world, and if it were possible to build an imprenetrable plexiglass dome over the country, up from the mantle/crust interface and including the seabed/continental shelf that would stop 100% of all migration, by all land, air, sea, and underground borrowing routes, of all people, animals, plants, and microbes.

    There is one thing we can do that is guaranteed to fix the problem. Nothing. We wait it out and trust in our human ingenuity to pull us through. We survived the last ice age, after all. Chances are good that someone, somewhere, would make it, and the earth will recover on its own.

    We can pray (and we all know how effective that coping strategy is) that the death toll stays under 1 billion.

    Consider this when thinking about economic arguments against action.

  38. Andrés

    and then there was Tom DeLay, who stated in an interview with Chris Matthews that “It is arrogance to suggest that man can affect climate change. There’s no science that supports such a notion.”

    I call that the Cyanobacteria Argument

  39. Kennedy

    How many rash predictions have come down the line in the last decade or two? Things like “Global Cooling” (the new ice age) and the ozone hole crisis don’t get much “air-time” these days. This is one area of science (climate predictions) that starts to look more and more like a special “Montel Williams” with Sylvia Browne. I mentioned in another post that I have worked in television for over 20 years. Global Warming is seen as a cash-cow for western news outlets. We all know that disasters sell newspapers, attract viewers/listeners and up the price of advertising time on TV. “If it bleeds, it leads” goes the old saying, but replace “bleeds” with “melts” and you get the new 21st Century modification. You will have a hard time finding anything positive in the western press about Global Warming (or the newer modified ambiguous phrase “Climate Change”). It’s not that there isn’t good news out there to report on this issue. It’s because western media loves a good “crisis”. Throw a “crisis” into an American election year (or on top of an unpopular American President) and you’ve got pure media gold.

    KC and some other have it right. There are solutions to this “crisis” that do not involve bankrupting western society, but they get blocked and will continue to get blocked for the foreseeable future.

    And one last thing Phil. You said…”If the north pole actually becomes ice-free for the first time in thousands of years, now, maybe then people like Senator Inhofe can admit they’re wrong, and get off their butts and do something?”
    And if more doomsday predictions fail to materialize, will James Hansen and Al Gore admit they were wrong or even admit they exaggerated just a tiny little bit? Not likely because if they are wrong, by the time it becomes obvious, there will be a new “crisis” to panic the population with.

  40. Umm. Am I missing something?

  41. jasonB

    Meanwhile on the other side of the solar system we’re told that Jupiter is getting another spot due to….. the planet is heating up. Now color me silly, but isn’t that a bit far for my carbon footprint to get to?

    Now Phil I know you don’t like Republicans but why just single out Inhofe? How about the saintly Hillary and Obama heading up to New Hampshire just to hug one another? How about the planes full of press following them just to get the photo? Al Gore using even more energy this year for his house?

    How about Phil himself? You fly around the country/world to do this related to your job and for fun. I read on this blog is how envious many people are that they can’t be there with you and then in other blogs they decry our use of fossil fuels. Don’t get me wrong Phil, I’m envious too, but you are doing what you deem important to your livelyhood and your entertainment. Do you want someone else to determine that for you? Maybe James Hanson? Wow he’s not to radical is he? Jail people for disagreeing with him?

    This is a constant source of interest to me why anyone has faith that this or any other government that has shown over and over that it can’t produce the results that it promises over and over to deliver, would want to believe that this same government now has the smarts to tell millions of businesses and even more people how to best live their lives in order to save the planet!

    All this against the back ground of no warming for the last ten years and even cooling this year. And let’s be clear, no one predicted that. Maybe there are things we just don’t have all the answers for just yet and maybe we shouldn’t throw our whole way of life out the window just to find out in a couple of years “OOPS, we were wrong.” followed by “Well you don’t need those cars anyway, you’ve been doing fine without them.” Meanwhile do any of you think AL Gore will really be curtailing his travel?

    Cheap energy and cheap transportation equals freedom. I’m not ready to give up my freedom just yet.

    Climbing down off soapbox now.

  42. hale_bopp

    We also had the arctic oscillation shift last winter (a cousin to el Nino) that produced winds pushing the thickest of the ice toward Greenland. That left thinner ice at the north pole this summer and increases the odds of an ice free pole.

    So although human factors are definitely a cause, we have a natural cycle helping out as well.

  43. Harold McTestes

    Quoting the late, great George Carlin:

    “The earth could shake us off like a bad set of fleas”

    We’re reaping what we sew. I live in tornado alley, and I the increase in severe weather that we’ve had lately is a serious wake up call. It’s just Mother Nature keeping us in check. I don’t like seeing people and animals killed or injured, but as far as the property damage goes I could give a shiite less. Nothing like a small town or city getting wiped off the map to remind us who is really in charge.

  44. KC

    Kennedy:

    What I’m tired of is a vague idea that we’ve got to do something, and then baulk when someone actually tries to. Saying we need to toady to the Kyoto accords doesn’t address *how* to do it. To be blunt, nuclear power offers the quickest way to do it, but there’s incredible opposition from Greens. They think the US can go to wind power, ignorant of the fact that like hydroelectric it’s not economically feasible everywhere (there’s maps available from the Department of Energy, if I recall correctly, showing the best areas for wind power). Ditto solar, if I recall correctly. And both wind and solar has the drawback that there’s not an efficient way to store generated power. So far, the only practical way involves using it to pump water to a reservoir and then letting the water turn generators and that isn’t very efficient.

    If reduction of CO2 is that important, then we need to move to non-CO2 producing methods of generating electricity. Period. There’s no two ways around it. Just saying we need to cut CO2, changing out a few incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents, and holding hands while we sing “Kumbaya” isn’t going to cut it. When the Greens say we need to cut CO2 and then move to block every single method of doing so, then I can only conclude they don’t have a solid grasp of the situation, or are just being hypocrites.

    That may be harsh. But if the Greens came out and said that CO2 was a problem that trumped “ecological” problems from running transmission lines and building non-CO2 generation, then I’d be impressed instead of irked.

  45. The Ozone Hole doesn’t get much press anymore because steps were taken. CFCs have been virtually (not completely) eliminated. Depending on which report you read it’s either getting better or it’s not. Now it just takes time for the solar radiation to crack enough 02 so it can reform into O3.

    Global Cooling was an issue when our cars and coal plants didn’t burn as cleanly. Ditto with acid rain. They’re still a concern but not as much since we took steps to fix the problem.

    While the average global temperature hasn’t been climbing in the last 10 years that’s still a Fox viewer statement for a variety of reasons. It has climbed decade by decade. And the poles have been warming year by year.

    Yes, the media loves a good crisis. That’s why you don’t listen to them. You look at the actual data. You try to find out what the scientist says, not the talking heads. The scientists are all saying “we were wrong. This is moving faster than we ever expected.”

  46. I grew up in the 60s and 70s in the US. I remember a time when it became very popular to stop using aerosol sprays. There was publicity everywhere about the damage to the ozone layer. They even came out with a pump bottle for deodorant. The hippies and green-leaning folks really went in for this, as did many others I suppose. Then I read, I don’t remember where, that every launch from Cape Canaveral, as it was called then, did more damage than 10s of thousands of little spray cans. I think I began to get cynical then. It’s only gotten worse.

    What do you all think of that?

  47. defectiverobot

    Ibid,

    Good point. I had that same thought when Michael Crichton (not exactly a paragon if scientific reasoning, I know, but still…) climbed into bed with the deniers for his last book State of Fear. One of the marketing points for the book was an article he wrote for Parade magazine (not exactly a paragon if scientific reasoning, I know, but still…) in which he listed great “scientific doom prophecies that never came to pass.” [My quotes] Not a single drop of ink was used to indicate in any way that maybe–just maybe–the reasons doom was staved off was because we saw the problems and took steps to correct them. That’s bad reasoning and 1-dimensional thinking. But it sells books…

  48. KC

    The jury is still out, which isn’t very surprising since we don’t have a precise baseline over any length of time. It turns out that such simple things as taking the temperature of sea water is complicated by the type of bucket and evaporative cooling (some navies used canvas buckets for a time). When retreating ice reveals Viking settlements, the obvious conclusion is that the ice wasn’t there when the Vikings were. The evidence is about as clear as Mississippi River water, and while the Anthropomorphic Global Warming advocates may be right, there’s no ironclad evidence that they are.

    Either way, I have two suggestions:

    1. Anyone who is convinced human generated CO2 is a crises issue should support practical efforts to reduce it as quickly as possible. None of this reduce CO2 by X amount and then not supporting ways to do it.

    2. Chose non-permanent solutions. Why? In case we’re in a natural cycle rather than a human caused one. The idea of dumping compounds in orbit or the upper atmosphere falls into the category, because they’re not easily removed.

  49. I call dibs on first to water-ski the North Pole.

  50. CLM

    The real problem is there are too many people using too many resources. Every level of society is having an impact, the poor, the middle class, and the rich. I saw this fascinating video that explains exponential growth. It is is called ‘Are Humans Smarter Than Yeast?’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM1x4RljmnE

    By the time humans notice a problem very little time is left for us to resolve it. It’s why global warming ‘skeptics’ (aka contrarians and deniers) are flabbergasted at those of us who are calling for urgent action. Our problems will solve themselves without our intervention. Sadly, those solutions don’t involve us being around anymore.

    For those of you who would like to see Inhofe gone, please help us elect Andrew Rice for US Senate. http://www.andrewforoklahoma.com/ You can also follow him on twitter http://twitter.com/andrewrice.

  51. jasonB

    CLM wrote “The real problem is there are too many people using too many resources”

    I invite you and others who feel this way to first turn off your computers, disconnect from the power grid, sell your car and basically live like cave men (Sorry, the domicile challenged) and never procreate.

    Will you be deciding who uses to many resources?

    You give no credit to the fact that over time man has learned to overcome all sorts of hurdles with available resources and brain power. Are cars more efficient? Computers? Just about every type of manufacturing?

    Give people an incentive (ie. let them keep the profits and not call them evil for doing so) and they’ll build it cheaper and more efficient. Less resources consumed and a higher standard of living. If you consider material wealth all important. I don’t, but I do like the ability to provided for my family. My business (which provides income for several people) won’t just run on good intentions.

    Hey KC

    I notice no one has tried to argue your point that the environmentalists block every type of low/no carbon power. I find this to be solid evidence that it’s more about curtailing peoples behavior rather than solving “man made global warming”.

  52. Ragutis

    Holy heads in the sand, Batman!

    Out of curiosity, just what would it take to convince you doubters that global climate change is happening and that human activity is a significant factor? It seems that no amount of evidence will satisfy you or be cause enough to re-evaluate your position. Probably at least a few of you will take this as a compliment vs. the criticism it’s intended to be, but some of you are acting like creationists. You can nitpick this bit of evidence or that bit, but even without those grains of sand, the dune remains.

  53. I think everyone should take a look at the “debate” that went on for years between Julian Simon, and Paul Ehrlich. Sadly, Simon passed on a few years ago. Ehrlich for years predicted a variety of global shortages and environmental catastrophes that never came to pass. For some reason, he is still held in high regard in environmental circles.

  54. Here’s how I’ve cut my CO2

    I got rid of my car,
    I don’t run the AC,
    I use public transit and a Segway,
    I had a vasectomy,
    I switched to all compact flourescent bulbs and LEDs,
    I have motion sensitive switches in most rooms,
    I have a digital thermostat for the furnace,
    My TV, video players, and game machines are all on one strip that I turn off when they’re not in use.
    Half an hour ago workmen finished building a second story deck from composite materials. On this deck I’ll have my clothes line and a hammock for sleeping on those extra hot summer nights.
    A year ago they replaced my roof and painted it silver to reflect sunlight back into space instead of catching it and heating the city.

    As far as blocking alternatives you’re partially right. To get nuclear power where we need it we need to build 2-3 plants per month for something like 20 years. We don’t have a place for the waste we have now. So I can understand trying to block that.
    The people blocking wind turbines aren’t usually the environmentalists. Sure, there’s some who worry about birds flying into them. Mostly it’s from people who don’t want their view disturbed. I think the sight of a wind farm is a beautiful thing, but apparently not everyone agrees.

    Mostly we need to drop a couple billion people from the planet.

  55. The Indy is good because it has a environmental campaign agenda thingey, and bad because it’s prone to absurd, almost tabloid exaggerations. This is the reason why I stopped reading it.

  56. Sailor

    “Ehrlich for years predicted a variety of global shortages and environmental catastrophes that never came to pass.”

    I guess that is why all the papers were reporting about food riots recently.

  57. jasonB

    Quote from Ibid, “Mostly we need to drop a couple billion people from the planet.”

    Ja mein Fuhrer. Perhaps we should begin building the ovens for your plan. Not very low CO2 but hey were getting around to solving the problem. Maybe use them for fertilizer?

    Yes I like wind farms also, but as has been stated; they don’t work every where. The Kennedys were the ones who stopped one off of Matha’s Vineyard.

  58. Tyler Durden

    ^^ Dropping 2 billion people doesn’t mean KILLING 2 billion people. It means having the common sense not to have 20 children who’ll live in poverty their entire lives as a result, never be able to afford an education, and ultimately will be exploited for cheap labor at a fraction of what they should be making.

    Then they’ll have 20 children as well because they think that’s normal, and…

    We wake up in 2020 with 14 billion people on the planet, 7 billion of which are malnourished and will die with any minor crop failure.

    If you missed it above I highly recommend the ‘Are Humans Smarter Than Yeast?’ video someone else posted before. Exponential population growth can’t continue forever, sooner or later an excess of population will choke all resources out.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hM1×4RljmnE

  59. Adela

    Unfortunately there are plenty of folks including national leaders that see profit in an ice free arctic. So to them it’s not a bad thing.

  60. amphiox

    “drop a couple billion people from the planet.”

    Space colonization is the only long term answer if we want continuuous growth. Even then the laws of physics will eventually draw a limit.

    This planet’s resources are finite. We can stretch them further with ingenuity and efficiency (and I certainly hope we continue to do so) but in the end there are only so many people doing so many things that earth can support. And let’s not forget we are sharing these resources with the rest of the biosphere.

    The dilemma is not new, only the scale. Humans have faced this problem since the beginning of our species (perhaps even before.) There are only three options: 1. control consumption 2. expand outwards 3. go extinct.

  61. Tyler Durden

    “Space colonization is the only long term answer if we want continuuous growth. Even then the laws of physics will eventually draw a limit.”

    Not sure I’d agree with that. I don’t care how cheap it gets to send mass into orbit, there’s still a limit on how big we can build the ships and how much we can spend to build ships. The maximum amount we can ship off Earth doesn’t even begin to dent the daily birth rate.

    Colonizing another world is the only way we can ensure that the human race survives, however, so as soon as we find a habitable world it should be done immediately, even if it means sending a generational ship.

  62. Leigh

    I find myself once again agreeing with KC by about 50%. I absolutely agree that it is time to have another serious look at nuclear fuel options. There has been huge advancements made in that technology. We do have to make very careful choices in which technologies will be the safest. I live in an area of the world that has had cheap hydro power ever since electricity became available. Hence we waist it. The problem is that the glaciers that feed the resevoirs are retreating at an ever increasing pace. Within my lifetime some have disappeared. These glaciers are also the resevoir for irrigatiion and drinking water. It might be worth while to hear from some German commentators regarding solar power. I understand that some interesting programs introduced by their government regarding selling back power to the grid has had huge impacts on reducing the carbon impact of power production. Also regarding the northwest passage, most historical navigations of the passage took 2 or more years to complete as the passage was never open long enough or all the way on any given summer. The arctic ice cap has also changed in quality. The ice that forms every winter is not as hardy as the ice that has been around for decades. It has something to do with the crystals. As to the Vikings farming Greenland during a warming trend, they never ventured very far from the coast as Greenland’s coast was all that was ice free. When the mini ice age of the dark ages struck their settlements dissapeared. I think the most alarming aspect of global warming is not that it is happening, but the rate that it is happening. The last time a living organism had this much impact on the climate was when Chlorophyl emerged. Even then it took millions of years to oxydize the atmosphere. If anyone thinks we shouldn’t take global warming seriously, just imagine the oceans 6 meters deaper. I live in a coastal city and the cost of rebuilding the infrostructure to accomidate this is mind boggling. Sorry KC, I just meant to give some support on your idea and ended up writing a book. One final thought though, does the whole debate come down to a balance between risk assessment and our moral obligation to generations unborn. Do we want to be known as the generation that could have made a difference and didn’t?

  63. KC

    Ibid, having stated he’s had a vasectomy, has essentially made that decision in the long wrong.

    Here’s a itty bitty problem with CLM’s “too many people for resources” and Ibid’s “need to drop 2 billion people.” The top ten CO2 producers per capita are Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Luxembourg, Trinidad and Tobago, Brunei, Bahrain, Netherlands Antilles, Aruba, and the United States of America. The top ten nations by population density are Macau, Monaco, Singapore, Hong Kong, Gibraltar, Vatican City, Bahrain, Malta, Bermuda, and the Maldives. Only Bahrain makes it on both lists. If this were due to population, the two could overlap perfectly.

    Ibid, about nuclear waste:

    You claim that people are against nuclear power because there’s no where to put the waste. This is because environmentalists have done their utmost to make sure we have no place to put it. They’ve fought Yucca Mountain for *decades* now. And your objection is a case in point. If CO2 is as big as problem as the Greens claim, if, as Al Gore likes to say, the Earth hangs in the balance, then nuclear waste is the lesser of the evils. We can convert it to glass, dump it into a subduction trench, put it in the Yucca Mountain facility, and that’s just off the top of my head. Surely, if the fate of the planet is riding on this, we should adopt non-CO2 producing nuclear power as a stop-gap until nuclear fusion comes on line, or until we can build orbiting solar power station.

    Yet most Greens remain staunchly against nuclear power. Odd thing, that.

  64. KC

    Make that the long run, not long wrong. Sorry. :-(

  65. @Sailor

    The recent food riots were NOT a consequence of GLOBAL FOOD SHORTAGES, which is what Ehrlich was foretelling.

    In a 1970 interview Ehrlich declared “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” Ehrlich layed out more of his alarmist scenario for an Earth Day issue of The Progressive, assuring readers that between 1980 and 1989, some 4 billion people, including 65 million Americans, would perish in the “Great Die-Off.” There’s a lot more that this guy has spouted off, enough that should have discredited him long ago, but like some kind of eco-zombie, he keeps coming back.

    Ehrlich was wrong. Period.

  66. Ragutis

    Um, KC, there are plenty of legitimate concerns about nuclear power. Storage of waste being probably the main one. There are real concerns about the safety of Yucca Mountain, not to mention the transport of waste to YM from around the nation. Another major concern is that current methods of uranium extraction are not all too green. And again, we’re talking a finite resource. There’s also the issue of it taking as much as 20 years to get a plant online and generating. In that amount of time we could get a lot of the alternatives up and running. (Look at Germany’s success with solar.) Nuclear energy will most likely have to be part of the solution, and just about anyone concerned about global warming and CO2 emissions will agree. But it needs to be done correctly and safely from the beginning. Not thinking in the long term is what got us into this mess in the first place.

    Anyway, despite the feasibility of nuclear if we find satisfactory disposal and extraction solutions, our focus should really be on those sources that are cleanest, greenest, safest, and most sustainable. These are going to be solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal. Nuclear might be a big aid for a generation or two as we transition to renewable sources globally, but shouldn’t be something we plan to rely on for the long term. I’m also hesitant to hand over control of our energy from one group of wolves to another.

  67. Interesting comments, as usual.

    I singled out Inhofe because he has been categorically stating that global warming is a hoax. So what can one man/Senator do? Stop lying about it.

    I do travel by airplane sometimes. However, I very rarely use my car because I work from home (and I ride my bike more often than not to the store and the gym). I don’t know what my carbon footprint is, or even if the notion makes sense. But I do know that some people need to travel for their livelihood, and I’m one of them.

    Other planets are having cooling and warming, but it’s not Sun related. I have a blog post demolishing that nonsense.

  68. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Much as I would like to have readily available public estimators of global warming, I think this post and the rest of the media frenzy is promoting an anthropocentric view over facts. The North pole is an irrelevant geographical point.

    The polar bear, however, isn’t an irrelevant biological species. Bears are among the youngest and most majestic of mammals, and polar bears and their characteristics doubly so. This will spell trouble for them (and other species) soon enough, and that is the latest time to react, forcefully.

    That it’s “never been seen before in human history” is a bit of a spin.

    You are forgetting that ice can be both modeled and dated. Chemically, isotopically and biologically so, in the absence of layer markers. (Which I believe is how glacier ice is dated anyway.)

    AFAIU this is or can be predicted from models, but undoubtedly it also is, or can be, backed up by direct observational data. “Where you there?” is an antiscientific argument that doesn’t hold up to empirical scrutiny. I’m afraid the only ones doing spinning here is AGW denialists.

    Even if the warming of the planet over the past 50 years is caused by human intervention, so what? It’s been this hot before, it will be again. A system as big as a planet tends to have self correcting mechanisms.

    We are observably living in what promises to be the rapidest mass extinction in Earth history. It is estimated that the climate temperature raise by 3 Kelvin will augur at least 25 % species extinction, by habitat change, fragmentation and loss.

    It is doubtful that other mass extinctions have been triggered by rapid climate changes, and they have certainly not been helped along by one species outcompeting all the others for habitats. AFAIU recovery times from mass extinctions is counted in several 10’s to 100’s of millions of years.

    Do you really want to risk biosphere survival, directly during a massive instead of slight extinction event, and later during the wait until recovery of diversity, just because it is shortterm profitable for one species to wreck resources and biosphere?

    And why do you want to unnecessarily decrease the resources available for our ancestors? My hope for the social project is to make progress, not retreat to prehistorical levels.

    [To be perfectly fair, Earth has survived several extinction events, so I’m not particularly worried on that account. Though it is amusing that the anti-scientists, who bitch about that an upper limit of 10^-30 probability of risk for LHC being harmful, don’t bitch about the upper limit of ~ 10^-1 probability of risk for mass extinctions being harmful (the exact number dependent on how many mass extinctions you count).

    For me it just seem like such an unnecessary cost, I rather want to see ample returns on our biological capital.]

  69. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    The polar bear, however, isn’t an irrelevant biological species.

    Did I forget to mention it is the top predator in its habitat, and so also immensely important as a key species?

    I did, didn’t I. (*Slap*s cheek.)

  70. mena

    Well, so much for Canada’s national igloo.
    (Yep, just read the trip to Canada thread…)

  71. amphiox

    Tim Durden, you may be right. It’s a question of future engineering and technology. I was thinking LONG, long term when I wrote that comment, but perhaps, if we are lucky, we may get an answer to that question within our lifetimes. (Probably not, though)

    Personally, I also do not understand the reflexive antipathy towards fission power. As long as the waste is solid, no matter how dangerous it is, it is far preferable to a gaseous pollutant like CO2. In the very worst case scenario we sacrifice some portion of the earth’s surface area and consign it to become an uninhabitable radioactive wasteland for several tens of millions of years. As bad as this sounds it is still far preferable to the worst case scenario of the alternative, which is Permain Mass Extinction.

    One caveat though is that fission is a non-renewable energy source, the fuel for which we only have several decades more of (maybe less if we massively increase its consumption), so if in the meantime we do not succeed in transfering over to renewables, or if fusion does not come on-line, we’re mondo hosed.

  72. amphiox

    I’ve also wondered about the long-term sustainability of the so-called renewal energy sources also. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think things like solar or wind can be considered as “free.”

    Those energy sources are being used by natural processes. If we converted all our energy to wind and solar, for example, and continued to increase our consumption, how long would it take before our use began to affect the energy flows involving these other systems? How much wind energy can we extract before local and then large scale weather patterns begin to be changed? How much solar can we harvest before we start competing directly with plants and driving them to extinction (as in more than we are already doing at present)? I don’t know if geothermal and tidal would have similar problems of scale.

    Fusion would get around this problem, since basically we’d be getting ourselves a second sun. But if we’re talking about continued unlimited exponential growth, even that will run out of fuel. There is only so much deuterium on the earth. Even if we one day managed to fuse pure hydrogen, there’s a limit to hydrogen too. Will we electrolyze the entire ocean for the H? Then go on to helium, carbon? What will we do when we’ve turned it all to iron?

    In the end it still boils down to either limiting consumption or expanding off the earth, and if Tim is right, then option 2 won’t work either.

  73. David Vanderschel

    When I saw that article, I was inclined to take it as the typical sort of global-warming scare-mongering that the media seem eager to pick up on. I recall many years ago seeing reports of U.S. nuclear submarines surfacing near the north pole in late summer. Apparently the ice always gets thin then and you can expect to find holes where it is possible to surface. So a bigger hole this year would not actually be all that ‘big’ a departure from what has been normal.

    I figured someone else would point out the fact about submarines regularly surfacing there, but no one else has. I did a little searching. The most recent such (announced) surfacing apparently occurred 4 years ago:
    http://www.athropolis.com/news/submarines.htm
    http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/n87/usw/issue_23/north.htm
    The second article has the following caption on the first photo: “While USS Honolulu (SSN-718) is the 24th Los Angeles-class submarine to surface at the North Pole, she is the first of the first-flight 688 to perform operations Arctic.” 24th! (of its class) And this event actually happened in April, when you would have expected it to be even less likely.

  74. eric

    Hey BA!!! Looky down here, hope nobody misses this!

    Just a few years ago there was a polynya at the North Pole. Those are caused by the water currents under the ice and are poorly understood. But my point is that there are already pictures of an ice-free North Pole, taken from cruise ships (there’s even a shot of some dude swimming there in an environmental protest!). So you’re shocked reaction is a little late, the main significance of this is that the perennial ice limit has finally reached the neighborhood of the Pole.

  75. Leigh

    As to KC’s idea on nuclear energy, I will have to go digging in my old Scientific Americas as I remember an article a while back about reactors that converted todays high grade waste into waste with a much shorter half life. I believe the waste’s half life ended up being centuries instead of millions of years. It said the technology is available today. I’ll go looking for it later.

  76. Ragutis

    amphioxon 28 Jun 2008 at 6:06 pm

    I’ve also wondered about the long-term sustainability of the so-called renewal energy sources also. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think things like solar or wind can be considered as “free.”

    Those energy sources are being used by natural processes. If we converted all our energy to wind and solar, for example, and continued to increase our consumption, how long would it take before our use began to affect the energy flows involving these other systems? How much wind energy can we extract before local and then large scale weather patterns begin to be changed? How much solar can we harvest before we start competing directly with plants and driving them to extinction (as in more than we are already doing at present)? I don’t know if geothermal and tidal would have similar problems of scale.

    *Disclaimer* I am not an engineer

    Those are good questions, but I don’t think there’s as much to worry about as you think. Weather systems/wind patterns are on a scale where I just don’t see wind farms being a significant interruption. I think their potential to harm migratory birds is more of an issue to be worked around. As for solar, I don’t see the impact. Sure, plants won’t grow well in the shade of collectors, but unless we cover sensitive ecosystems with solar panels, I think the impact will be minimal. The plants will grow where they get light and food, while nutrient deficient land could be put to good use. Also, utilizing roof space, whether suburban homes or urban apartment or business blocks would keep the need for acres wide solar arrays down. Actually, I was mulling the possibility of floating solar collector stations the other day. Cover some barges in solar panels and park them in groups just out of sight of shore with cables running back to land. They should stand up to most weather and in the event of severe events like a hurricane could be towed to port or sunk and then re-floated after the event. An added benefit would be providing shelter for baitfish and attracting pelagic species. Sort of inverted artificial reefs. I’m in Florida and much of our land is very sensitive (not to mention expensive), but we’ve got all this water around that could be put to use. As for tidal, it’ll depend on the type. Those offshore bouys that generate electricity from wave motion wouldn’t have any negative impact I can think of and would act as fish aggregators like I mentioned above. If arranged in large enough groups, they may even absorb enough wave energy to protect portions of coast from heavy waves and erosion. Tide “turbines” might impact water flow to some extent, but any filter feeders or species that miss the fraction of flow that would be absorbed would migrate to the outside of the generators. A bigger problem would probably be keeping various critters from inhabiting/anchoring themselves to the machinery and affecting performance.

    Obviously situating any of these types of energy generators/collectors would be dependent on local conditions and negative environmental impact should certainly be a consideration and kept to a minimum. These things definitely need to be examined and weighed, just that in my unprofessional opinion, I don’t think they’ll have sizable negative impacts.

  77. Ragutis

    Sorry for the double post, but I wanted to add this link as an example of the kind of thinking about solutions that we’re going to need:

    http://www.verticalfarm.com/

  78. amphiox

    Ragutis: I like your idea of using urban roof space for solar panels. In fact why stop there? We should consider converting all urban structural surfaces to some form of solar energy collection: walls, windows, roof tiles, etc. I think it would even make a nice aesthetic statement, as solar panels, with their tendency to shine and glitter in the sunlight, could be made quite appealing to look at, at very least not much different from all-glass covered sky scrapers. Right now our cities are like big concrete deserts, inhospital to almost everything except for humans and our parasites, and all the solar, wind, etc energy falling on or passing through them does nothing but make us uncomfortable and tempt us to use more AC.

    In the long run it would be cool if we could develop the technology to make every possible urban surface an energy collector, including roads, sidewalks, the cars themselves, and even clothing items like parasols and hats. Obviously solar collectors would have to become much more durable, reliable and affordable first. (And the stuff we put on roads and sidewalks would still have to, as a first function, work as road and sidewalk surfaces)

    Another caveat that occurred to me (maybe I’m just too paranoid about these things) is that any solar energy we absorb for our own use, if collected in areas with high albedo (where the sunlight if not for human intervention would have been reflected back into space) would, eventually, be converted to heat waste and released back into the environment, so even a 100% solar powered world might still have problems with global warming.

  79. Leonardo

    jasonB: “Meanwhile on the other side of the solar system we’re told that Jupiter is getting another spot due to….. the planet is heating up. Now color me silly, but isn’t that a bit far for my carbon footprint to get to?”

    This is what drives me crazy about global warming skeptics. They grab on to headlines like “Climate change occurring on Jupiter” and use it as proof that climate change is a crock. Yet they don’t bother to read past the headlines to see that it has nothing to do with Jupiter ‘heating up’.

    Here’s the REAL story….
    The great red spot is decreasing in intensity. It is predicted that this is going to prevent heat from distributing from the equator to the polar regions of the planet. This is going to cause the equator to get hotter and the poles to get colder…hence ‘climate change’. But on average, Jupiter isn’t getting hotter.

    From what I’ve seen, most arguments I’ve seen from skeptics are easily refuted.

    Don’t get me wrong….it HAS been hotter in the past. It was hotter 6000-9000 years ago during the Younger Dryas period. However, during that time period, places like the Bahamas where under water. So unless you don’t care if the Bahamas are going to be under water again, then you should care about global warming. Life is not going to be extinguished on this planet, but it’s going to make things uncomfortable for humans nonetheless.

  80. Leo

    This isn’t the first time the exact North Pole has been ice free. That happened, most recently, last summer, as is evident from the map in the article. The single year coverage is the area that was ice free last year and covered over again this year.

    The issue is whether the whole Arctic ocean will be ice free in summer. It’s expected to be ice free within a decade, even if it doesn’t happen this year. There are some good maps around the internet showing how the Arctic ice has disappeared since the early 80s. It used to be that even in Summer the majority of the Arctic ocean was covered in ice and most of that ice was 5 or more years old. Now there’s much less ice in summer, with less than half of that 5 or more years old.

  81. Don Healy

    RE: Leigh:

    Summary of Article in December 2005, Scientific American

    Smarter Use of Nuclear Waste

    By: William H. Hannum, Gerald E. Marsh and George S. Stanford

    A List of Bullet Points:

    Current Reactors:

    • Current nuclear plants are thermal reactors driven by neutrons of relatively low speed.
    • Only 5% of the potential energy of the fuel is utilized; 95% is not useable under this technology and results in nuclear waste.
    • The half-life of the resulting spent fuel is ten thousand years or more.
    • The cooling systems run at very high pressure, increasing potential for ruptures and rapid loss of coolant, with potential for meltdown.
    • Storage of the nuclear waste is a major problem both practically and politically.
    • Supply of uranium is limited, and could be exhausted in a few hundred years or less.

    Advanced Fast-Neutron Reactor Technology:

    • Existing nuclear waste can be used as fuel.
    • Nuclear waste for this technology is slightly over 1% of original volume.
    • The half-life of spent fuel is reduced to 300 years.
    • Coolant operates at atmospheric pressure, with greatly reduced potential for accidental release.
    • Virtually any nuclear fuel, from nuclear plant waste to weapons grade plutonium can be used in the process: A true “swords to plow shares” proposition.
    • Using existing nuclear waste stores as fuel and well as uranium ore, we have sufficient fuel to meet our energy needs indefinitely.

    To quote the authors’ comments in the last paragraph of the article, “For the foreseeable future, the hard truth is this: Only nuclear power can satisfy humanity’s long-term energy needs while preserving the environment.”

    Enjoy…

  82. Quiet Desperation

    Ummm, not exactly. In some parts of Antarctica the ice is thickening

    Which I only said to make a silly joke. Do try to keep up, or at least read *all* of a post before responding.

    Here’s how I’ve cut my CO2

    All of which was negated by China in 0.3 seconds. ;-) Oh well. You tried.

    Ratify the Kyoto protocol,

    Which will accomplish nothing as it does not apply to China, India, Brazil, Mexico and other countries who are the up and coming CO2 emitters. It also ignores methane, sulfate aerosols and all sorts of stuff. Seriously, kids, let Kyoto go. It’s dead. Even many who concocted it admit that.

    You solve this problem with healthy economies driving research and development. Anything else is ideological nonsense unbecoming of a skeptic. Science and technology are the keys, not giving the politicians more power. Gawds, you people and your government-love. What is *UP* with that? Read a fraking hsitory book!

    You claim that people are against nuclear power because there’s no where to put the waste.

    People are against nuclear power because most of what they know about it comes from The Simpsons.

    Seriously, with the new generation of breeder reactors and things like pebble bed designs, the waste problem is minimized. It was always more of a political problem (the banning of recycling fuel) anyway thanks to that self-righteous, sanctimonious buttclown Jimmy Carter.

    Contrary to popular belief, I don’t think things like solar or wind can be considered as “free.”

    People never think about that side of the equation. It easier to chant the same old slogans and matras. “Kyotowindsolar! There! Fixed! What are you all waiting for!!!!!!!!”

    Don’t get me wrong. I advocate all sorts of research and development as stated above, but there’s quite a way to go on many of these fronts.

    I’ve been watching these guys.

    http://www.nanosolar.com/

    I’m considering contacting them to see if they plan a residential test case any time soon, and volunteer.

  83. KC

    Ragutis:

    I’m a bit of a jaded pragmaticist. Every one of the energy sources you mentioned as “greener” has been touted since the 1970s. All face the same problem as hydroelectric, plus the additional problem of inefficiency and lack of energy storage. They work in some instances, and where they do I say build them.

    They won’t take care of all our energy needs. Not right now. Not in the foreseeable futures.

    Here’s the brass tacks. Either CO2 is a live-threatening problem or it isn’t. If it is, we need to do something right now until a better source of non-CO2 generating energy comes along. The best candidate, like it or not, is nuclear.

    If, however, CO2 *isn’t* a problem, then we can afford to be picky about what we use to replace coal and natural gas fired plants, and wait umpteen years while we develop efficient “green” sources.

    It’s your call.

  84. John Steele Gordon

    The North Pole is a spot. It is not the same as the Arctic Ocean. It has onbly been in very recent years that wer have been able to monitor the ice cover there. I wonder what it was like in the medieval warm period. Last summer there were alarming reports that the arctic ice cap was smaller than it had ever been. But after one of the coldest winters in years in the Arctic in 2007-2008, it had grown two million square kilometers more extensive than the average for the last three years (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1971727/posts).

    And while the Arctic sea ice was shrinking last summer and getting huge publicity, the antarctic sea ice was growing in the austral winter to dimensions unseen before and, of course, getting practically no publicity. (http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0110/p14s01-sten.html)

    I have yet to see any scientific evidence, as opposed to anecdotal evidence, that global warming is real in the long term or, equally important, principally caused by human agency. Most of its most ardent advocates simply assume that it is human agency that is causing global warming, a very convenient assumption for them.

    Why? Because the most ardent advocates of the idea that global warming is a crisis that needs immediate attention are those who would gain political power from acting on their assumptions: politicians like Al Gore and “activists” like Laurie David.

    I’ll be more impressed when these two stop the do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do routine. Al Gore is burning 17,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a month at his home in Nashville, (http://www.tennesseepolicy.org/main/article.php?article_id=764), while the average American house uses 11,000 kilowatt hours a year.

    Laurie David flies around the country lecturing people on using less energy and keeping carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. How does she travel? By private jet, of course, producing a bigger carbon footprint in a day than most Americans do in a year.

    Liberals

  85. AJWM

    @Torbjörn Larsson, OM said: You are forgetting that ice can be both modeled and dated. Chemically, isotopically and biologically so, in the absence of layer markers. (Which I believe is how glacier ice is dated anyway.)

    And you’re forgetting that the ice in question — that at the North Pole (or not) — is sea ice to which none of those analyses apply. Sea ice comes and goes — both by freezing/melting and by being pushed from one place to another by winds and currents. Chemical and isotopic analysis of, say, Greenland glacier ice won’t tell you a damn thing about whether the Pole was ice free or not. (Thicker annual layers might be said to imply less sea ice (more evaporation increased precipitation), but that neither tells you if the Pole itself was ice free or even if the increased precipitiation came from water that evaporated elsewhere.)

  86. Robert

    Optimus:

    Did you read the comments fomr other people who have swum at the NP in the past?

    I’ll quote them here:

    >I was on a German ice breaker (Polarstern) in 1991 on a scientific expedition to study the Arctic. Ourselves and the Swedish ice breaker Oden made it to the geographic north pole on Sept. 6th, 1991. These were the first non-nuclear vessels to arrive at the north pole. Of course we swam…in nothing but bathing suits! There were at least nine of us that swam. We have videos to prove it. The constantly shifting ice ensures open leads and the ice breakers were able to keep one side of the vessel free of ice. I also moon-walked (being a teen from the 70’s), and we played soccer, played musical instruments and rode mountain bikes.

    David, Halifax, NS, Canada

    He’s not the first person to swim at the North Pole. First to swim a kilometer, sure, but hundreds have taken the iciest dip on earth (including myself at the age of 14, the youngest person to ever do so).

    Peter Meijer, Grand Rapids, MI,

  87. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    And you’re forgetting that the ice in question — that at the North Pole (or not) — is sea ice to which none of those analyses apply. Sea ice comes and goes — both by freezing/melting and by being pushed from one place to another by winds and currents.

    No, I didn’t. The article itself points out that there are parts that are not open any time of the year (and there are ice floats et cetera). I didn’t say it was possible to model the open areas, I pointed out that it is possible to model the continually closed.

  88. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    @ Tyler Durden:

    Exponential population growth can’t continue forever, sooner or later an excess of population will choke all resources out.

    But we have passed that stage. Projected population isn’t anything like what you quote, and we may even look at a much needed shrinkage beyond 2050. Best projection would be a leveling off at ~ 3 billion, which is sustainable. (Current population is also sustainable, but it is difficult to maintain living standards, other species habitat, et cetera, in the long run.)

    @ amphiox:

    Space colonization is the only long term answer if we want continuuous growth.

    That doesn’t solve Earth’s problems though. We can’t export people as fast as they can procreate.

    One caveat though is that fission is a non-renewable energy source,

    I prefer to say mineral fuel, which isn’t quite the same thing.

    For example, they have just recently located non-biologically produced oil from oceanic hot vents. (At a guess, to an abysmal low production rate considering global needs.)

    Likewise, you could mine fissionable material on the Moon et cetera. Probably easier than here as the Moon crust is so much thinner.

    There is only so much deuterium on the earth. Even if we one day managed to fuse pure hydrogen, there’s a limit to hydrogen too.

    IIRC the deuterium alone will suffice for 5*10^3 years or more. The ocean is truly vast.

    But again, there is extraterrestrial sources in the far future. The Earth looses and gains molecules by the solar wind and meteors, but I believe the later see to it that we have a net mass gain over time. Dunno if it is hydrogen though. For that we could mine the moon, that has received much solar deuterium over the years.

    Of course it is probably cheaper and less wasteful to use extraneous solar power at that time. The basic technology (solar panels and microwave relays) exists already.

    But overall it is much more realistic to try to solve todays problem than speculate in future generations. Fusion is beyond 2050 commercially, if nations invest heavily in it. We need to expand now. IIRC we can’t expand fission fast enough either, so what we can hope for is conversion of current coal technology to something more or less carbon recyclable.

  89. Geophysicist

    Sorry BA,

    But even IF, and that is a very big IF the North pole becomes freed of ice, then there are a few questions that still need to be answered, that so far the data is insufficient to conclude from

    1) Is the warming anthropogenic or natural?, if a combination, to what degree?

    2)Is a warming planet of net economic detriment? History would suggest not for a start, secondly I like using electricity, and I think that those in developing countries should share my standard of living and not vice versa.

    3)If it is our fault, and it is a bad thing, can we actually do anything about it? It is hubris to assume that we are that powerful. This is a big planet, and we are a little species. Our self importance is laughable. To the argument of let’s throw money at it just in case. Tell that to the millions of humans sharing this world who are right now dying of hunger and disease that they will be better off by us spending money instead on a problem with so many uncertainties.

  90. Tyler Durden

    For those saying that global warming will be a * good thing * – consider:

    The mediveal warming period was great – for Europe.

    But the world is not one uniform climate, there are many (desert, semi-arid, tropical, semi-tropical, tundra) climates in different places. Some places will thrive with higher crop yields, others will starve to death from drought.

    And to the poster above, consider:

    Did the bacteria 2.5 billion years ago consider themselves important enough to change Earth’s climate? Obviously not, but regardless the fact remains that we’re breathing oxygen now NOT CO2 because of those bacteria.

  91. Yucca Mountain storage gets fought because it’s far from the best place to store nuclear waste. Back when it was undergoing debate in the Congress and the media there was an earthquake there.
    Yucca keeps getting put back up for consideration because it has the weakest political lobby relative to the more secure places.

    In the last 5-10 years the environmentalists have taken a very nuclear friendly attitude because of the low CO2 emissions. Only the waste issue continues to be a problem

    Leigh, you’re thinking of a fast breeder reactor. If we could run one safely they’d be great for recycling spent fuel. However, they run hot enough and fast enough that the risk of disaster becomes a virtual guarantee. Alas, test reactors to try to improve the technology do keep getting shut down by protesters.

    The bird deaths due to wind farms are minor compared to bird deaths due to hitting cars, electric wires, or nesting in radio towers.

    I am not at all happy with the Kennedy’s for blocking the wind farm in their neighborhood. Bad Teddy! Bad!

    The fact that it takes 1.5 billion Chinese to produce more CO2 than 300 million Americans tells me that efforts made here do not accomplish nothing.

    Kyoto died because we wasted 8 years doing nothing. We can’t meet the time line it set up anymore.

    Yes, the North Pole grew a great deal last winter. This is to be expected. As it melts and makes the surrounding ocean less salty a greater area will freeze. The new freeze will quickly vanish each summer and more of the old, core ice will melt.
    If enough fresh water gets dumped in the North Atlantic it’s thought that the warm, salty currents coming up America’s east coast will sink under the lighter cold water and prevent England and much of northern Europe from getting the warm water they need.

  92. malachi

    Quoth the Phil: I don’t know what to make of this report.

    Well, after multiple sources weighed in, do you now know what to make of it? Shouldn’t you publish a revision? Or are well-read blogs to be written and then forgotten?

  93. “Yes, the North Pole grew a great deal last winter. This is to be expected. As it melts and makes the surrounding ocean less salty a greater area will freeze. The new freeze will quickly vanish each summer and more of the old, core ice will melt.
    If enough fresh water gets dumped in the North Atlantic it’s thought that the warm, salty currents coming up America’s east coast will sink under the lighter cold water and prevent England and much of northern Europe from getting the warm water they need.”

    Really? As a meteorologist, you sound ignorant on this issue. As if one year for the north pole is bad, then every other summer following that bad year is going to result in sea ice lose.. is that what your saying? Ah… if only things were that simple! You know, you should look at the data. As of today (July 1st), that “new”, “thin” ice that you idiots keep saying is going to melt, is not. For the first time in recent memory, the ice near the russian coast is not melting. That is where the ice has been fastest to melt in recent years. Changed in PDO/AO cycle are the cause. Now that we have switched into negative phases of these cycles, you wont see that sea ice melt as fast as you did in recent years during the positives phases.

    Next!

  94. thetrystero

    Lest anymore of this dramatic nonsense gets read in to the article, I suggest people here actually read the original Telegraph article before commenting.

    We’re talking about one point here: 90 degrees North, not the entire ice cap.

    This is an entirely reasonable scientific claim given that the only ice cover across that particular point is less than a year old based on satellite data

    Phil: this may or may not have been intentional, but I suggest that you exercise more caution in your posts in future. The dramatic effect comes across quite clearly, and at first blush only serves to further support the claims of some politicians/conspiracy theorists that global warming is just the imagination of a bunch of crackpot scientists.

  95. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Seems my previous comment didn’t make the transition.

    @ Geophysicist:

    It is hubris to assume that we are that powerful.

    The facts says AGW happens; we are observably so powerful.

  96. StevoR

    amphiox said wa-saay back on June 28th, 2008 at 5:56 pm :

    “… Personally, I also do not understand the reflexive antipathy towards fission power. As long as the waste is solid, no matter how dangerous it is, it is far preferable to a gaseous pollutant like CO2. In the very worst case scenario we sacrifice some portion of the earth’s surface area and consign it to become an uninhabitable radioactive wasteland for several tens of millions of years. As bad as this sounds it is still far preferable to the worst case scenario ..”

    Okay. So you’re volunteering your home & Your surrounding land to be sacrificed then?

    If not where? How much of Earth do we render toxic essentially forever and how sure can we be that it won’t spread …? Radioactive dust & groundwaterbeing just two possible mechanisms for the spread of such pollution. :-(

    Oh & with all the terrorism hysteria I’m amazed no-one mentioned the threta of terrorists using nuclear watse or the increased amountof radioacticve stuff to make bombs … Perhaps a good sign – have you already forgetten the bogeyman that was Osama bin Laden? Then again, given a rational appraisal it does seem likley the whole 9-11 (Ninth of November? Huh? Go figure!) thing was a bit of an inside job shall we say? ;-)
    ——

    BTW. Nutcase terrorists destroying two skyscrapers and under 3,000 lives does NOT justify the US regime’s destroying two nations and killing HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of innocent people!
    —–

    A-n-y-w-a-y Anthropogenic Global warming is reality. Period. We are already all going to suffer severely because of it. I just hope Bush, Cheney & Co are put on trial some day for ‘Crimes against the future’ – they’re certainly guilty of them. :-(

    Oh how I wish the US would just wake up & seriously think about what its doing and how stupid its been. But I’d say its all getting too late for that .. :-(

  97. gerry danby

    Gezza – Aussie Surfer
    The media is reporting that with global warming the oceans will rise 12 meters over the next two decades. Could someone explain how this is possible as the oceans make up 71% of the earth’s surface. This means 71% of the earyh’s surface will expand by 12 meters. How much melted ice would be required for that to take place? How much combined ice mass is there in the North and South poles? You cannot calculate pack ice or ice floating in the ocean as this will not add to the oceans depth if melted!

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