Why Climate Uncertainty is Cause for Concern

By Keith Kloor | October 11, 2011 12:09 pm

At Forbes, William Pentland explores the “fat tail” of climate change and concludes:

Uncertainty is intrinsic to complex systems like Earth’s climate, but in the context of catastrophic climate change, this uncertainty is so severe that it is difficult to draw basic conclusions about how fat the fat tail is. According to [Harvard University's Martin] Weitzman, it “is difficult to infer (or even to model accurately) the probabilities of events far outside the usual range of experience.”

Indeed, “[r]ather than justifying a lack of response to climate change, the emphasis on uncertainty enlarges the risk and reinforces the responsibility for pursuing successful long-term mitigation policy,” according to a 2010 analysis by researchers at Sandia National Laboratory.

All things considered, alarmism seems like common sense to me.

If the argument were made strictly along these lines, instead of in the hyperbolic terms that we are accustomed to, would self-described “lukewarmers” be more inclined to buy into it?

CATEGORIZED UNDER: climate change, climate science
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  • Dean

    I think it’s important to point out that the so-called “fat tail” is not the most likely scenarios as described by the IPCC. That is the center of the bell curve. The fat tail here is the plausible worst case scenario. We don’t design buildings in earthquake country for 5.5 quakes, we design them for stronger ones. In Japan, they designed the reactor for too small a tsunami (even though tsunamis the size of the one that hit do so every century). They didn’t plan for the fat tail, they designed for nearer the peak of the curve.

    I read recently that scientists whose work involves these worst case scenarios are intimidated from talking about them publicly because deniers accuse them of alarmism.

    As to lukewarmers, they strike me as people who want to find some kind of balance politically – acknowledge the underlying science without acknowledging the impacts that come from that science – because people don’t like to hear scary stories in real life. If the science doesn’t match what they deem to be the political center, they they don’t want to go there. There is nothing new about the argument above – people have been talking about uncertain AGW risks for a long time.

  • Jarmo

    #1 Dean,

    I read recently that scientists whose work involves these worst case scenarios are intimidated from talking about them publicly because deniers accuse them of alarmism.

    Funny, I read some studies which were quoted in IPCC AR4 WG2 and my take was that only the worst case scenarios were picked from those studies. The main points, which were not alarmist, were not quoted. The worst case scenarios were quoted in some MSM but not the positive stuff.
     

  • kdk33

    #1 this is a false equivalence. 

    Regarding tsunamies and earthquakes, there is historical data from which the distribution can be defined – to include the tail.  How far out the tail to set the design point is an engineering judgement call.

    In climate science, the fat tail is an appeal to ignorance.  The less we know the longer and fatter the “tail”, so the more we should worry.  It’s kinda non-sensicle, to me anyway.

  • Dean

    @2

    First, I referred to in public, but anyway, you would have to be more specific – what sections quoted only alarmist aspects (though I don’[t have the time to start digging into the reports now – maybe somebody else would).

    @3

    This is the whole issue here. ‘The less we know the longer and fatter the “tail”, so the more we should worry’ is the entire question. If uncertainly is greater, should we worry more or less? Ignorance and uncertainty are not the same thing.

  • Keith Kloor

    @3,
    I disagree–about the fat tail being an appeal to ignorance.

    Those who agree that the greenhouse effect is real and that humans are contributing to it (to what degree/severity is a separate issue) shouldn’t have any problem considering worst-case scenarios.

    That also brings the debate back to the related issues of risk and values, which is where I think it could be more constructive, as opposed to “your momma” followed by the retort, “no, your momma…” 

  • Tom Scharf

    Precautionary principle. Yawn.

    Let’s rebuild all roads so bidirectional traffic is removed and fatal head on collisions will be eliminated. Who could possibly be against that?…in principle? Oh…the cost…only a couple percent of GDP. Just think of the children!

    Let’s throw in an anti-asteroid system as well.

    Governing is about allocation of scarce resources, not deciding if a cause is “worthy” given infinite resources.

    Make it fiscally responsible and you will get more support. Clever propaganda is a waste of effort. Life is full of uncertainties and AGW hasn’t come anywhere close to meeting the threshold of proof necessary to justify the economic outlay for many of their policy actions. Simply saying a threat exists, even if it is true, is not nearly enough. I’m not buying the infinite damage x improbable risk = must act now meme.

  • Jarmo

    #4
     @2

    First, I referred to in public, but anyway, you would have to be more specific ““ what sections quoted only alarmist aspects (though I don’[t have the time to start digging into the reports now ““ maybe somebody else would).

    Well, for one studies you don’t need to. I pointed this out to Andrew Montford and he made a posting of it:

    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2011/10/9/climate-change-committee-3.html

    In IPCC WG2 9.4.4. they chose to mention that wheat production will likely end in Africa by2080. They neglected to mention that it only applies to rain-fed wheat (in North Africa, 60% of fields are irrigated). They did not mention that food production in Africa is to grow fivefold, even in the worst case scenario (12 billion people and slow economic growth)
     

  • harrywr2

    Without probabilities it is impossible to calculate the balance between mitigation and re-mediation.
    The precautionary principal ends up being the only argument.
    The Las Vegas visitors and convention Bureau reports 36 million visitors a year. The only way to insure one does not lose their money in a Casino is to avoid going to a Casino.
    In the US 21 million individuals own stocks. The only way to insure one doesn’t lose money in the stock market is to not put your money in the stock market to begin with.
    US Airlines carry 600 million passengers a year(some are multiples) despite the fact that airplane crashes occur.
    ‘Risk Aversion’ doesn’t appear to be a universal character trait.
    Polling already tells us that the maximum amount the US population is willing to pay for an ‘insurance policy’ against ‘climate change’ is $10/month per household.



     

  • Sashka

    @ KK (post)

    I’m not exactly a lukewarmer (rather agnostic) but the answer is still “no”.

    @ Dean (1)

    There is no bell curve.

    @ kdk/KK

    “Uncertainty is not the same as ignorance” becomes a popular meme among people who dislike to be called alarmists. Generally it is correct but in application to climate it is false. Climate uncertainty is the same as ignorance because, for all we know, the climate could be deterministic. We just don’t know how to do the calculation. Thus there may be no probability distribution at all, just ignorance. The other possibility is that the climate is chaotic. In this case I’m not even sure that the question about climate sensitivity is well posed. Probably not.

    @ Tom (6)

    +1

  • kdk33

    I disagree”“about the fat tail being an appeal to ignorance

    Actually, I find it a rather perfect appeal to ignorance:  we don’t know that the tail is thin and short, therefore we must consider it long and fat.

    Ignorance and uncertainty are not the same thing.

    Exacatly.  Earthquakes and Tsunamies are uncertain; the climate science “fat tail” isn’t.

  • Keith Kloor

    Tom (6)

    You’re making the case for why this should be discussed in a larger risk framework.

    Society makes decisions all the time about perceived risks. Not everybody agrees that the measures and expenditures match the given risk. For example, we have a new bureaucratic institution (Homeland Security) that was created out of the fear generated by 9/11 and have radically altered the nature of airline and airport security based on the occasional underwear or shoe bomber.  

    Precautionary principle. Yawn? 

  • Sashka

    @ KK (10)

    We know for a fact already that shoe bombers and asshole bombers exist. There is no uncertainty there. I don’t see any analogy to climate.

  • Dean

    Sashka’s response is the true appeal to ignorance. After nearly 200 years of the study of climate and the greenhouse process, we know so little – we are so ignorant – that we can’t come to any conclusions at all. So better to do nothing.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @12
    so billions of dollars to **possibly** stop a few dozen/hundred/thousand? bad/mean/crazy people is justified, but no amount on climate mitigation policies is justified because we don’t know anything useful about the climate and how our current emissions path is likely to change it?

    methinks J.S. Mill would be wagging his finger at you right about now…

  • Keith Kloor

    There are some that see the security measures taken (redundant Homeland security agency) and the the money spent on airline security as out of proportion to the actual risk.

    As for the analogy: Scientists can tell us what the earth looked like when CO2 levels were at certain points in time. I think it’s reasonable to debate whether current projected levels of CO2 will approach some of these historic levels that are often mentioned. And I also think it’s reasonable to debate whether that is a risk we think is worth taking.

    Yes, we know that shoe bombers are out there. We also know what the climate looked like at 1000 ppm.

  • James Evans

    If we had even more uncertainty, would the argument for immediate action be stronger?

  • Sashka

    @ Dean (13)

    Ask yourself a simple question: how much did we narrow the uncertainty since Charney? Let me know what you came up with.

    @ Marlowe (14)

    Thanks for trying to put words in my mouth, very nice. Except I didn’t say nor implied any of that.

    @ KK (15)

    I don’t think the expenditures are necessarily out of proportion. This is because a few more blown-up planes could kill airline industry and cause economic damages way beyond all the we spend on security. That said, some would argue that they don’t take the most effective approach. The point remains that that analogy to climate is nonexistent.

    @ 16

    No.

  • Eric Adler

    There are a number of things to consider regarding the probability  of outcomes worse than that assoicated with the nominal IPCC projection of 3C increase in global average temperature.
    There are a number of existing  mechanisms which are known to make matters worse, but are not yet included in the models used to make the projections.
    http://climateplace.org/file/Summary.html

  • http://initforthegold.blogspot.com Michael Tobis

    The estimate of damage from the median scenario is much lower than the risk-weighted mean of damage. The fatter the tail, the worse. Uncertainty is not your friend. But even if you stipulate tail fatness, the median scenario is the wrong place to put your attention. You don’t buy fire insurance for the median fire, which after all is no fire at all, for instance.

    I have been saying this consistently for a long time. I said it publicly before Weitzmann did, back in the day when saying something on the internet did not count as actually saying it.

    Eli was kind enough to dig up an early version here

    I thought it obvious enough not to be worthy of publication. This illustrates that I am both clever and a fool. But I still think it’s obvious. 

    If Sashka doesn’t see it, he disappoints me severely.

  • Sashka

    Comparison with fire insurance is another popular meme among people who dislike to be called alarmists. The key difference is that fixed (and typically small)  amount of fire insurance premium completely takes care of the risk that is well quantifiable from available data. None of these is applicable to climate therefore the analogy is completely misleading. Michael Tobis disappoints me severely if he doesn’t see that.

    I agree that uncertainty is not a good thing for us. In practical terms, however, it means nothing before uncertainty and economic risk needs to be weighted against the expenses of mitigation and adaptation before one can decide on the course of action. Even before that, do we agree that the source of uncertainty is ignorance?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Luwarmers are more interested in naming names than answering this simple question.

    Almost a green line test, really.

  • Jack Hughes

    Keith,

    this is theme #4 (“uncertainty creates urgency”). It’s going nowhere.

    Are there some genuinely new themes to try ? None of the old ones are working (#1 “think of the children”, #2 “deniers are bad people”, #3 “need new words for the old message”  and the latest #5 “anti-science” )

  • kdk33

    For some reason, I am pondering asteriod strikes.

  • James Evans

    @18

    Would it be fair to say that things are worse than we thought?

    @19
    “This illustrates that I am both clever and a fool.”
    If I remember right , I once read a piece that you wrote on why we always only have ten years to save the planet. While that indicated that you are probably brilliant at Twister (if only in a virtual sense), when it comes to your above statement I’m going to call the glass half empty.

    @21
    What is the simple question?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    @24

    The question is the one at the end Keith’s post.  

    If that question is hard to find, we can cross out “simple”.

  • Sashka

    @ willard

    I answered the question in (9). I hope it was simple enough to notice. Let me know if you have any other questions.

  • James Evans

    @25

    OK, it’s a fair cop. I want to add a smiley, but feel that it would be frowned upon here.

    My answer would be “no, obviously not.” I think the argument is facile. If people who demanded immediate action really believed that uncertainty made their case stronger, then currently, both sides of the argument would be bigging-up the uncertainties. That’s not happening. We’re not locked in a bidding war of ignorance.

  • harrywr2

    Marlowe Johnson Says: 

    <i>so billions of dollars to **possibly** stop a few dozen/hundred/thousand? bad/mean/crazy people is justified, but no amount on climate mitigation policies is justified because we don’t know anything useful about the</i>
    There is no evidence that anyone in the luke warm community would say ‘no amount’ for climate mitigation. I think you would find some within even the ‘skeptic’ community to concede ‘some amount’.

    Michael Tobis Says:
    <i> You don’t buy fire insurance for the median fire, which after all is no fire at all, for instance.</i>
    Homeowners insurance covers far more then just fire. If it only covered fire I certainly wouldn’t buy it. The most common homeowner’s policy claim is water damage cause by plumbing or roof malfunctions.


     

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Sashka,

    You’re not the spokepersons of the lukewarmers.  You’re not the lukewarmers busy naming names elsewhere.  But thanks for playing.

    James Evans,  

    Both sides should be bidding up the uncertainty.  Both sides should be agreeing that we should try to find something else than dumping CO2 in the atmosphere.  Both sides are caught into a strange game, where the only losing move is not to play:

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/5986919630

    Looks a lot more like Illuminati than Chess, by the way.

     

  • Gene

    Imminence rather than uncertainty would be my deciding factor on the urgency of the response, so my answer to Keith’s question would be no.

    That being said, that doesn’t mean I would advocate doing nothing.  Dual-benefit, no-regrets policies (efficiency, conservation, nuclear, gas, even white roofs) would be my preference.  Doubling down on wind, solar, taxes or trading schemes, however, is a non-starter in my opinion. 

  • Sashka

    @ willard

    “should try” is not a well-defined prescription. Within the reason (which is also not well-defined) most people would not object, I’m sure.

  • kdk33

    Both sides should be bidding up the uncertainty.  

    In which case the answer to James#16 is “yes”. 

    This is indeed a strange game of irrational fear.  One can speculate on all kinds of unlikley terribleness that can’t be proven impossible.  The “fat tail” is but one.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    @31

    Ask James what he means by should, then.  Ask him what he means by “is” too.

    @32

    I’m not sure the answer to James’ #16 is yes, but I’m sure what
    Weizman’s answer is, and I believe it is yes.  

    At this point of the conversation, lukewarmers sometimes appeal to the Pascal’s wager caricature. 

  • http://initforthegold.blogspot.com Michael Tobis

    This thread is a goldmine for illogical rhetorical distraction techniques already. It could keep Willard busy for weeks.

    I’ve said my piece.

    The concept Keith raises is nothing new; I have been an early and consistent advocate of it, as have many within the climate community.

    People objecting here seem to be scrambling levels of abstraction with wild abandon. I would diagnose that they are panicked by the idea that uncertainty counts against inaction. I take this as clear evidence that they are not thinking, they are rationalizing. Find the right spot and the rationalizations sound incredibly hollow.

    “Homeowners insurance covers far more then just fire. If it only covered fire I certainly wouldn’t buy it.”

    Yeah, definitely, that’s relevant. 

    I’ve haven’t a better illustration of the need for tight moderation than this thread since sci.environment crashed and burned.

  • Sashka

    I don’t know why I need to ask James any questions. You are the one who made an ostensibly reasonable yet meaningless statement so I have responded to you.

  • Dean

    @20 Sashka

    Again – the issue is uncertainty. Is the fact that the risk from AGW (as well as the cost of doing something) is less well defined than fire mean that we worry less? Or do less? Apparently you think so, or you wouldn’t keep repeating this. Nor does the issue change if the motivation for paying for homeowners insurance is something other than fire.

    Also – we pay for homeowners insurance despite many of us never needing any of it. We are far more likely to incur _some_ cost from AGW than we are covered losses to our home.

  • jeffn

    Other than the fact that there is no uncertainty about the existence of terrorists, I kinda like the analogy between homeland security and climate.
    You might have noticed that, despite all the handwaving, those “billions of dollars” spent on security are actually sent to programs that work- ie making it harder to get bombs and knives on planes and investigating terrorists. Real plots have been foiled. Check today’s news wire if you doubt this.
    Now to make the analogy to climate policy work, your security apparatus would have had to spend the money on anything but security- maybe a series of studies showing the “fear” is Republican construct or a resolution condemning terrorism in the harshest words that can be mustered by those who don’t believe it exists.
    By the way, there isn’t a “fat tail” larger than eternal damnation, nor one with a greater “uncertainty.” I guess that’s why all the warmers are writing in from the pews today, right? But which church, mosque, synagogue, temple?   

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    @35

    By the same token, Sashka might not understand what James Evans is talking in #27.  Lots of undefined terms there.  Since my comment was in response to this #27, I would like James to go first.

  • kdk33

    @MT 34

    It seems to me you are scrambling uncertainty and ignorance with wild abandon.

    But you are correct:  if you wish to seriously discuss this particular rationale, you will need much moderation

  • Sashka

    @ Dean,

    The issue is not only uncertainty but also possible size of the damage. In case of fire (if you insist on using such a lame analogy) most of us stand to lose much or all of their savings. Thus the size (not the probability) of risk is unacceptable. That’s why most people would insurance even if the mortgage holder didn’t require it.

    The reason why we should do less about climate (for now) than about fire is not just that we know nothing about probabilities. Other reasons include a very distinct possibility that we will find a cost-effective solution before things go really bad (if they ever do) or that we learn how to adapt to living in a somewhat warmer climate without much sacrifice. Thus the size of the risk is, in view of many people, not unbearable.

    As for worrying, I don’t mind. Let’s worry. As long as we don’t do anything stupid, I’m fine.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    At 16:15, I wrote:

    > At this point of the conversation, lukewarmers sometimes appeal to the Pascal’s wager caricature. 

    At 17:04, jeffn wrote:

    >  By the way, there isn’t a “fat tail” larger than eternal damnation, nor one with a greater “uncertainty.” 

  • Sashka

    @ MT (34)

    uncertainty counts against inaction

    It does, it does. You still need to quantify it. You won’t get away with hand-waiving.

  • harrywr2

    @36 Dean,
    <i>we pay for homeowners insurance despite many of us never needing any of it.We are far more likely to incur _some_ cost from AGW than we are covered losses to our home. </i>
    Here are the statistics for claims on homeowners insurance.
    http://www.iii.org/facts_statistics/homeowners-and-renters-insurance.html
    The claim frequency is 5.73 claims/100 house years with an average cost per claim of $7,800.  Apparently 1 in 17 of us occur losses related to our homes every year.  So on average the losses related to  our homeowners policies are about $450/year.
    Where is the ‘remotely believable’ study that AGW will on average cost me personally more then $450/year? (I’m old and have no grandchildren to care about)





     

  • http://initforthegold.blogspot.com Michael Tobis

    #42, You undisappoint me a bit. Perhaps we can converse after all.

    But decisions must be made under uncertainty. We have to estimate the risks of every tactic and every strategy. We can no more these decisions to pure algorithmics than any other.
     

    I’m not arguing against careful thought.

    But if the car is veering off the road to one side, one begins by steering the other way, not by calibrating exactly how much to do so.  

    And of course, turning the wheel too quickly may indeed have the opposite of the desired effect (a case where the analogy actually does stretch quite nicely). But I am not advocating turning the wheel too quickly. I am advocating turning the wheel as quickly as is possible without losing traction.

    Unfortunately the car has just rolled over an armadillo (with “bank excess and overbuilding” written on its spine) so that complicates matters in the immediate term considerably. (analogy stretched to the breaking point here) So the first necessity is regaining traction; this may delay the onset of the course correction. But that we cannot safely continue in the present direction is quite established.
     

    And yes, of course that is all handwaving.  

    Before we proceed any further we have to agree on what our objectives are and what the road is and much else. It is not a small task, suitable for a comment box on a blog. I’m not opposed to taking this on if we can come to enough agreement to begin. 

    I would start here. Do you stipulate that there is a) some rate of climate change and/or b) extent of climate change that is best assigned a cost in excess of the net present value of the economic system? Consider, e.g., a 100C increase or decrease in temperature. I am not suggesting that such a change is possible as a result of human intervention. I merely ask you to stipulate that SOME amount of climate change is simply not acceptable.

    Presuming that you will do so, how do we place a bound on HOW MUCH climate change is acceptable? 

  • http://initforthegold.blogspot.com Michael Tobis

    Now I’m in trouble but what the heck, I’ll say it anyway.

    Scrambling ignorance and uncertainty (i.e., the Bayesian model of probability) is the only way to think substantively about decisions under incomplete knowledge. All other approaches are hopelessly fraught with paradox and confusion. Essentially the non-Bayesian approach under incomplete knowledge generally can be used to refute any course of action whatsoever including standing pat.

    The only alternative to a) Bayesian reasoning and b) self-contradictory reasoning is c) guessing. Arguably c) is nature’s crude attempt to do a), but since Sasha is opposed to handwaving we are limited to a and b, and b doesn’t actually work except in very limited cases.

    Of course, the experimental method is set up to be conclusive in the frequentist frame. This is prudent when you can get enough information for a frequentist result.

    But sometimes you can’t and due to circumstances you still have to decide. A Bayesian approach always yields a best decision given available information.

     

  • BBD

    As a former self-described lukewarmer, I will add that one needs to question one’s assumptions. I have tried hard to find a coherent justification for a low climate sensitivity and failed. I wanted one very much, and this has been painful.
    For example, Hansen and Sato (2011) is persuasive. So Michael Tobis is probably correct.
    And I’ve been wrong for quite a long time. I mention this for novelty value. The blogosphere is not burdened with mea culpas.


    Hansen & Sato (2011) Paleoclimate implications for Human-Made Climate Change:
    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110118_MilankovicPaper.pdf

  • Ian

    #34 said:

    This thread is a goldmine for illogical rhetorical distraction techniques already. It could keep Willard busy for weeks.
    I’ve said my piece. 

    I’ve witnessed this multiple times at various blogs. Someone makes a supposedly definitive announcement that they are leaving the discussion yet as soon as another poster makes comment they disagree with they jump right back in again. You’ve said your piece, your conversion rate is nil, so stop cluttering the thread. gawd, I’m grumpy this morn…   

  • http://initforthegold.blogspot.com Michael Tobis

    #47 Fair enough. I’ll throw in a modest mea culpa of my own.
     

  • BBD

    Ian

    Do you think that climate sensitivity is low? If so, why?

  • harrywr2

    Michael Tobis Says:
    October 11th, 2011 at 6:19 pm
    <i> But I am not advocating turning the wheel too quickly. I am advocating turning the wheel as quickly as is possible without losing traction.</i>
    Here you go…the aging of existing US electric generating capacity.
    http://www.eia.gov/energy_in_brief/age_of_elec_gen.cfm
    If you tailor your plan to ‘normal retirement age’ for the existing plants then you don’t risk losing traction do you. They will have to be replaced with something.
    Maybe you would conclude that the ‘big’ retirement period begins around 2020 and you would tailor your plan to have ‘cost effective clean energy’ options on the table by 2020 so that there wouldn’t even be a fight over cost.
    Maybe find $67 million in the Federal Budget to get ‘Small Modular Reactors’ licensed so that there was something to replace the 988 ‘Small Coal Fired Plants’ in the US besides natural gas.

     

  • Tom Fuller

    Preparing for the consequences of global warming is a project that will take decades and cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

    Whether we accept a fat tail of disastrous consequences or dismiss them as idle fantasies, the first steps towards preparation are exactly the same.

    The right things to do are obvious no matter what the extent of global warming–even if it is inconsequential.

    Stop incentivizing building in areas threatened by current conditions.
    Shore up sea defenses and reroute roads that suffer from current climate.

    etc. 

  • David in Cal

    If you think there’s a 1% chance of disaster, should you do 1% of twhat it would take to avert disaster?  Of course not.  

    If the most worrisome climate models are correct, then the various proposed plans are far to puny, especially with the non-cooperation of China and India.  We don’t have enough certainty to take truly appropriate actions, if the pessimists are right.  So, let’s continue the research to achieve greater certainty, take actions that we know won’t work.

  • http://initforthegold.blogspot.com Michael Tobis

    Amazingly, after a very weak start to this thread, people are making some sort of sense.

    harrywr2, I do not think anybody advocates taking electric plants offline that are not obsolescent. So if we have any disagreement, it would appear to be on whether to bring new fossil fuels online in the next nine years. I think it may be worth spending quite a bit extra to avoid that, because zero is the goal, and new fossil fuel infrastructure delays the path to zero.

    Tom, I don’t think anybody really disagrees with those prescriptions either.

    Amazing. What else can we agree about?

    Tar sands, anyone?
     

  • Tom Fuller

    Dr. Tobis you will no doubt have observed that whe you are not either wailing or pontificating you actually agree with most of what I and other lukewarmers say. Fancy that.

  • http://rabett.blogspot.com Eli Rabett

    The amusing thing about this post is the ignorance (and yes, that is used with forethought and reason) of Keith for what the debate was ten and twenty years ago and the arrogance to think that he has found something new.  <a href=”http://rabett.blogspot.com/2009/01/wisdom-from-usenet-usenet-has-extremely.html”>Eli dug out a USENET post by MT</a> that put it pretty plainly
    ———————-
    <p>2) As everyone is constantly pointing out, current understanding of climate as embodied in dynamic climate models is relatively crude. The result is indeed that the models are unreliable. However, contrary to what I have seen anywhere in the popular press, this means that the models are biased to produce results similar to contemporary climate using contemporary boundary conditions. They therefore tend to be undersensitive to perturbations. Again, this implies that the median modeling result may be an underestimate.
    <p>Another problem is that the real world has more degrees of freedom than any model, so modes not accounted for in models may be excited in reality. Again this causes model projections to be conservative regarding change estimates.</p>
    <p>5) There is no plausible argument that any particular climate change will have a beneficial impact comparable to the worst plausible case negative impact.</p>
    <p>6) The risk-weighted cost of unrestrained anthropogenic perturbation must therefore be dominated by the fact that the plausible worst cases have more cost than the plausible best cases have benefit.</p>
    <p>7) I believe that resources should be dedicated not only to best models of current climate but to explorations of plausible worst case scenarios, precisely because these dominate the risk-weighted cost. This is the main way in which science can directly relate to the rational mitigation response strategy, if there’s a sensible way to do it. I have heard of no efforts in this direction. Climate science as currently performed can provide much more of use to adaptation strategies, which are local, than to mitigation strategies, which are global.</p>

  • Tom Scharf

    Everyone agrees taking action that is free is OK.

    (Most) everyone agrees taking exorbitantly expensive action that has a large effect on the economy is not OK.

    So this discussion is pointless until someone actually suggests an actual action to take, and then the costs and benefits can be analyzed.  There seems to be very strange logic fallacy among some that if we can get everyone to agree that action is necessary, we have also gotten implicit permission that ANY action is OK, regardless of cost.  You seem to be requesting a blank check.

    There are many who want to over-ride the will of the people and subject great sacrifice upon them, for their own good.  That is simply not going to work here, NEVER. EVER.

    It is not going to be won/lost on simplistic bumper sticker logic.  It is much more like getting a VC to invest in your company.  You must make me willingly part with my hard earned money.  

    Convince me immediate action is necessary.  Convince me we simply can’t wait and see what happens.  Convince me the negative and positive benefits don’t equal out.  Convince me your models are correct and reliable.  Convince me your suggested actions are fiscally responsible.  Convince me that you are able to view the data without bias.  Show me how to test your theory in a way that is falsifiable.  Convince me it will cost me more later then it will now.

    And more than anything else, convince me I can trust you.

    Then you can have my money.
     

  • Sashka

    @ 44-45

    When people who don’t like to be called alarmists invoke analogies like “car steering off the road” they imply an imminent crash. We don’t know that the climate will crash, nor do we have a reasonable definition of what it means.

    Do you stipulate that there is a) some rate of climate change and/or b) extent of climate change that is best assigned a cost in excess of the net present value of the economic system?

    Sorry but I don’t understand these questions. But I do agree that SOME amount of climate change is not acceptable.

    Presuming that you will do so, how do we place a bound on HOW MUCH climate change is acceptable?

    I don’t understand this one either. Do you mean the temp is deterministically growing X degrees per year and we know for a fact that it will continue for N years  (do we know what happens after that, too?) or forever? Given that you want an upper bound on X? If it’s forever than the answer is zero but this is probably not what you had in mind.

    I’m not opposed to hand-waiving as a way of arguing about physics and math. But when it comes to making tough decisions I don’t think this the right tool.

    Speaking of Bayesian approach: we have a previously unanticipated fact that for the last 12 years the temps remained essentially flat. How does your side account for that relatively new information in your estimates?

    I’ll take the opportunity to voice my agreement with Tom Fuller (51, 53).

  • http://initforthegold.blogspot.com Michael Tobis

    You’d best make that 13 years. You don’t want to lose that outlier at the beginning of the record, do you?

     

  • Ian

    BBD Says:
    October 11th, 2011 at 7:16 pm
    Ian

    Do you think that climate sensitivity is low? If so, why?

    A little confused as to how this is relates to my comment. I wasn’t making a jab at Michael Tobis’s beliefs, only that some people are determined to get in the last word regardless of their particular climactic stripe. Not sure if it’s a need to vent or they honestly believe that multiple postings will, over time, convert the apostates.

  • BBD

    Ian

    If climate sensitivity is low, we can be lukewarmers. If CS is high we cannot.

    Hence the relevance to the thread.

    So, if you are a lukewarmer, upon what do you base your position? I ask because despite considerable effort and reading, I cannot find a coherent scientific argument for a CS lower than the median estimate of +3C for a doubling of pre-industrial levels of CO2.

  • kdk33

    So, BBD,.

    Why don’t you lay out the coherent scientific argument that climate sensitivity is +3 or better.  Not too detailed, just break in into CO2 only + H2O feedback (on MALR and radiative properties) + other feedback (albedo, clouds, that kinda thing).  Just enough so I can understand your coherent scientific argument.

  • kdk33

    @MT 34

    When you say Beyesian, do you spaek of the subjective or objective model.

    If subjective, how does your bayesian analysis differ from your opinion?

    If objective – can we think in terms of a Monte-Carlo simulation here, as I know little of Bayesians – can you tell me what you consider the important parameters, and however do you assign them distributions?

    I’m genuinely curious.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Ian,

    You say:

    > I wasn’t making a jab at Michael Tobis’s beliefs [...]

    Here’s some part of that jab:

    > You’ve said your piece, your conversion rate is nil, so stop cluttering the thread.

    I’m not sure how I can reconcile these two.  In particular, that “cluttering” remark seems to imply that MT’s beliefs are quite irrelevant to you.

    While I do wonder who’s conversation rate is not nil in our daily reanactment of lobster chess, I do seem to feel there was some kind of conversation going on.

    That being said, I do appreciate your pointing out of MT’s false closure.  He certainly has better things to do.

    But then, but then.  It won’t be long until some commenter interpret that radio silence in an unflattering way.  

    Lobster chess: the only losing move is not to play.

  • Dean_1230

    A bit off-topic from the Risk/Loss discussion, but relevant to the precautionary principle issue:
    How many here use the precautionary principle to anchor their belief in God?  How many here that want to push for using it on climate change refuse to use it for their eternal soul?
    “If you gain, you gain all. If you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then, without hesitation, that He exists.” – Blaise Pascal
    If you refuse to use it in the case of religion, why do you now want to use it in the case of AGW?
     

  • jeffn

    Dean, I brought up the Pascal wager earlier and Willard had kittens over it. Try to remember, the precautionary principle is debate winner in the cocoon precisely because it applies only to their cause and is an argument only for the “solutions” that fit their political perspective.
    All examples of the precautionary principle are stupid appeals to ignorance, except the one they want to make.
    The fat tail is a serious problem- not serious enough to advocate for action that challenges their preconceptions about nuclear power or use natural gas, naturally – but serious enough to use against Rick Perry. And what else is there, really?

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @60
    Nice to see you back at CaS.  If our previous discussions here have helped you in some small way on the road to Damascus, then putting up with the Sashka’s and kdk’s over the years is a worthwhile price to pay ;-)

    @50
    MT rightly points out that the crucial issue is not what to do with existing infrastructure that relies on fossil fuel, but rather how to assess the cost/benefits of new infrastructure that will essentially ‘lock-in’ emissions well beyond 2050 in most cases (the useful life of a coal plant is 40+ years after all). 

    Put another way, you need to consider the significant capital destruction costs that would arise from scrapping useful plants if the decision is made to curtail emissions more quickly in the future  and compare these costs to higher upfront costs for lower carbon alternatives (e.g. NG, renewables, nuclear, etc).

    Incidentally, trillionthtonne.org has a nice clock akin the nuclear doomsday clock that helps to frame the time constraints of the problem… 

  • Sashka

    @ MT

    Do you want to talk about Bayesian approach or to bicker about selection of the beginning point in the time series?
    By and large it doesn’t matter whether you begin in 1998 or a year later/earlier. What happened after 1998 wasn’t predicted by anyone thus it’s a new information that should have modified your perceptions of probability distribution.
    Did it?

  • kdk33

    Marlowe,

    I luv u 2 :-)

  • http://planet3.org Michael Tobis

    If I felt that “global warming” were the problem rather than merely a diagnistic, I would be terribly obsessed by GMST. But even so, I would take little solace in the actual observations.
    http://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/graphs/Fig.A2.gif
    I stipulate that 1998 is unusual.
    What is it about the rest of the trajectory that you think makes the recent period unusual? The posterior based on the evidence of a decade on this scalar is not going to be very different from the prior because a decade is noisy on this measure. But it isn’t clear to me that there is anything there that is even slightly unexpected.
    There is little prospect of weather-like prediction of the climate system. We are obviously changing the forcing of the system which obviously changes its response. How this works out in the short run is hard to predict – ocean responses are delicately balanced because that is the nature of fluids. What is a small energetic shift in driving ocean flows may be perceived as a huge climatic oscillation (as we can assert here in Texas this year, unfortunately). And this will dominate the year-over-year variation. But to find in the record some reassurance that we are NOT changing the forcing?
    I wish I could join you in this but I don’t see how.

     

  • BBD

    kdk33 @ 61

    I linked to Hansen & Sato (2011) (#46) as an excellent example of an empirical calculation of CS.

    Trying to précis the argument here is pointless, but I urge you to read the original.

    Hansen & Sato (2011) Paleoclimate implications for Human-Made Climate Change:

    http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2011/20110118_MilankovicPaper.pdf

    Here’s a thought experiment: if climate sensitivity is low, how does a slight change in insolation arising from the ~100ky Milankovitch cycle terminate a glacial?

    A very small push cannot not result in a very large change if CS is low. But we know that this happens.

    Marlowe Johnson @ 66

    I’m surprised you remember me. It’s nice to be welcomed back into the fold though ;-)

    You did provide a useful link to a discussion of the problems with belief in a low CS, but to my shame I cannot recall where it was. I read it though, and yes, you did your bit in forcing me to confront my errors. And I am grateful for it, although I wasn’t at the time.

    I have had no such change of heart when it comes to the over-hyping of renewables. Coincidentally, I’m firmly with Hansen on this too. Perhaps we’ll be able to revisit the topic in future. I seem to remember our previous conversation degenerated into something close to reasonable and constructive dialogue.

  • Sashka

    Well, you will recall that Hansen famously bet in (approximately) 1988 that one of the next three years would be the hottest ever. He was right and this started the hysteria in a big way. Between then and 1998 the record was broken a few more times but no more. You really don’t think that 2000s are different from the 90s?

  • BBD

    Apologies – nonsense

    A very small push cannot not result in a very large change if CS is low. But we know that this happens.

  • BBD

    Sod it. The strikethrough function does not seem to work. With typo removed:

    A very small push cannot result in a very large change if CS is low. But we know that this happens.

  • kdk33

    BBD,

    I wanted to know YOUR rationale.  I was genuinely curious.  I didn’t ask about Hansen , or anyone not BBD. 

    Thanks anyway. 

  • Keith Kloor

    @74

    You must not be that genuinely curious.

    So when you offer a reference and a link that you think backs up something you claim, we should ignore it henceforth?  

     

  • BBD

    Sashka @ 71

    To be honest, I’m not sure I understand your comment. Also, it’s OT and I’m not a regular here so I don’t want to push it. However:



    You really don’t think that 2000s are different from the 90s?

    Big step change with the 1998 El Nino, and it has stayed warmer since. The last decade is very clearly warmer than the 1990s.

    HADCRUT, GISTEMP, UAH, RSS 1979 – present; common 1981 – 2010 baseline; annual means:

    http://woodfortrees.org/plot/hadcrut3vgl/from:1979/offset:-0.26/mean:12/plot/gistemp/from:1979/offset:-0.35/mean:12/plot/uah/mean:12/plot/rss/offset:-0.1/mean:12

  • Tom Scharf

    Coherent argument CS < 3C.

    Compare actual temperature record to GSM models with 3C forcing. Actual temperatures less than model.

    Next problem? 

     

  • BBD

    kdk33

    Address the thought experiment please.

    How does a slight change in RF from Milankovitch forcing terminate a glacial if CS is low?

  • BBD

    Tom Scharf

    Only because GAT has trended flat over the last decade. Weak example, proves nothing except that natural variability can still give the emerging signal from CO2 a run for its money. Give it time.

    You can have a crack at the thought experiment too. The more the merrier.

  • kdk33

    @75,

    That depends.  I asked BBD for HIS/HER rationale.  He/she offerred a link (I did say thank you), but also this:  Trying to précis the argument here is pointless.

    If BBD thinks climate sensitivity is high because that’s what Hansen says, or the link captures his rationale, then he/she should say so.  Perhaps that is what BBD actually means.  In that case, I would consider the link in a different light.

    On the whole, I read the answsr as non-responsive.

  • kdk33

    BBD,

    I take it  then that what we know about Milankovich cycles supplies the evidence from which you deduce  that climate sensitivity is high.

    Is this correct?

  • BBD

    kdk33

    I’m a he.

    I agree with the reasoning in H&S11.

    I did not wish to appear evasive. H&S is a long paper, and attempting to précis it would detract from its argument and probably sow confusion. There’s a lot of that about, and I do not want to be responsible for any more.

    Your response to the question of low CS and Milankovitch would be welcome.

  • BBD

    kdk33

    Yes. Now please explain how a very slight change in insolation can terminate a glacial if CS is low.

  • harrywr2

    Marlowe Johnson Says:
    October 12th, 2011 at 9:29 am
    <i> you need to consider the significant capital destruction costs that would arise from scrapping useful plants if the decision is made to curtail emissions more quickly in the future  and compare these costs to higher upfront costs for lower carbon alternative</i>
    I’m aware of that.
    We have 988 small coal fired plants that are ‘on their last legs’. There is currently no suitable ‘zero’ carbon replacement technology on the market to replace them.
    The EPA already has all the legal authority it needs to either require closure or installation of scrubbers.
    Forcing a decision on those 988 plants today will result in either SO2/NOx scrubbers being installed or purchase of a natural gas plant.
    Natural gas is fine if your ‘end state’ goal is a 20% reduction in emissions.
    Then we will have an additional 988 small gas fired plants that won’t be replaced until at least 2050 in addition to the 5,470 natural gas plants we already have.
    So great..the way things are panning out we could reduce or 1,349 coal fired plants to 361 just by closing the smallest and dirtiest ones under existing EPA legal authority.
    Happy dance time…we will make our ’20%’ reduction target.
    Then we will have a 6,000+ unit natural gas problem to resolve to get to an 80% reduction. The owners of those 5,470+ natural gas units are going to have a lot more friends in congress then the owners of coal fired plants ever did especially when they are joined by the owners of the small coal fired plants that were forced to switch to natural gas.

  • kdk33

    BBD,

    Thank you for the clarification.  I will read HS11; afterwards, I will answer your question.

    Off the top of my head:  I need to work through how the analogy between changes in solar insolation and changes in optical density works.  Then work out your definition of very slight…

    As I said, I was genuinely curious.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Harry you’re arguing with yourself.  We’re in fierce agreement.  What you’ve shown is that natural gas is not a viable solution climate mitigation strategy **by itself** and that other carbon free sources of power must be brought online to avoid 2C+…It’s the nat gas industry folks and their climate campaigners you should be talking to, not me.

     

  • Sashka

    @ BBD (76)

    It did NOT stay warmer than 1998 which remains the warmest year on record. It is true that 2000s are warmer than 90s. The difference is that in the 90-s the temps grew while in 2000s they didn’t. I hope it’s clear now.

  • BBD

    kdk33

    I’m glad you will take a look at H&S11. You sound fairly sceptical, so presumably will welcome the empirical (as opposed to modelled) approach to the problem.

    WRT the thought experiment:

    There’s no need to get involved in specifics like optical density. We know the glacial terminations happened. We know they are paced by the ~100ky Milankovitch cycle. We know that the orbital eccentricity is slight. We know that the change in DSW is slight.

    We know that the result is a complete change in climate state: a glacial termination.

    We can infer something about climate sensitivity from this. It is obvious what that is.

  • BBD

    Sashka

    You say:

    It did NOT stay warmer than 1998 which remains the warmest year on record. It is true that 2000s are warmer than 90s. The difference is that in the 90-s the temps grew while in 2000s they didn’t.

    This is not convincing. The 1998 El Nino was a huge event (and I wonder where all that energy came from?). Of course the decade that followed was cooler than the peak. It was also significantly warmer than the 1990s. The currently flat trend for GAT and TLT is being over-interpreted by sceptics. Who will look foolish when a warming trend once again emerges over the next few years.

    One other thing. You say:

    Compare actual temperature record to GSM models with 3C forcing. Actual temperatures less than model.


    CS is an emergent value from model runs. It is not an input. Models are not ‘forced’ with a 3C value for CS.


    It’s interesting that empirical studies like H&S11 find a value for (interglacial) CS very close to the multi-model mean referenced in AR4.

    Finally, I asked you to consider the conundrum of glacial terminations and low CS. I am interested in your response to that.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @88
    I think you’ll find that ‘skeptics’ like Sashka are loath to discuss the implications of deep paleo evidence on climate sensitivity constraints for reasons which will soon become obvious…

    On a separate note (but related to the risk/uncertainty theme in this post) I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on Jacobson and Delucchi’s paper here which contends that the world could reach 100% renewables by 2050 at little to no cost relative to fossil BAU buildout. 

    “The obstacles to realizing this transformation of the energy
    sector are primarily social and political, not technological. As
    discussed herein, a combination of feed-in tariffs, other incentives,
    and an intelligently expanded and re-organized transmission
    system may be necessary but not sufficient to enough ensure rapid
    deployment of WWS technologies. With sensible broad-based
    policies and social changes, it may be possible to convert 25% of
    the current energy system to WWS in 10″“15 years and 85% in
    20″“30 years, and 100% by 2050. Absent that clear direction, the
    conversion will take longer.”

    It seems to me that the choice is pretty clear.  On the one hand you have the risk that an accelerated transition to non-fossil sources of power could end up costing more than the avoided damages (either because sensitivity is low, or because others refuse to cooperate).

    On the other hand, you have the risk that climate sensitivity (and the ensuing damages) are significantly larger than the cost of decarbonization. This is the basic argument that Stern makes. Given the choice between these two risks, I know which one I’d choose.  

    Now I think that a credible argument can be made that in the absence of full cooperation from other parties (i.e. BRIC countries), making these sorts of sacrifices is foolhardy.  However, stuck as we may be on the horns of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, I’d still contend that the moral and rational choice would be to do whatever is necessary to avoid the non-trivial risk of climate catastrophe for our descendants.  Otherwise, we’re no better than lemmings…

  • Marlowe Johnson

    sorry, the link didn’t appear.  The Jacobsen paper is here.

  • Sashka

    @ BBD (89)

    This is not convincing.

    I’m sorry: what do you think I was trying to convince you of and failed? All I was saying was that  in the 90-s the temps grew while in 2000s they didn’t (which was completely unexpected) and you already agreed.

    The rest of the conversation you’re having with someone else. I didn’t write any of that.

  • Sashka

    @ 88

    The reasons are well-known. There are no implications to speak of. But by all means, make your point and we’ll discuss.

  • Sashka

    Sorry, my (93) was in response to (90), not (88).

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Sashka I realized long ago that banging my head on my desk is more productive than engaging you in conversation…

  • Sashka

    As long as we are clear on who of us two doesn’t want to engage it’s fine. Trust me, I’m not looking forward to talking to you about anything but I’m willing to pay my dues to the club and to the host. Please continue banging your head on the desk. Given your condition it probably won’t harm you a lot.
     

  • kdk33

    The non-trivial risk of climate catastrophe for our descendants.

    Of course, this has to be weighed against the non-trivial risk that we blow up our economies and the BRIC’s do not and there is no catastrophe, and where that might leave our descendants.

  • Tom Gray

    I am currently reading “Too Big To Fail” by Andrew Rass Sorkin. It is about the collapse of the finance bubbble in 2008 that almost took the entire world economy with it.

    The book is about all the very smart people who developed the new financial theories that generated great wealth for them. This was supposed to end the business cyle and generate continuing prosperity. We all know how that turned out. Lots of people have had their lives destroyed.

    Now we have proposals from very smart people to revamp the economy to create sustainabillty and prosperity. We are supposed to believe that the uncertainty in climate science  makes acceptance of these new theories from very smart people even more necessary.

    The musicans may change but the music remains the same. Why does being very smart make someone feel that they are always correct?

  • Nullius in Verba

    #88,
    “We know the glacial terminations happened. We know they are paced by the ~100ky Milankovitch cycle. We know that the orbital eccentricity is slight. We know that the change in DSW is slight.
    We know that the result is a complete change in climate state: a glacial termination.
    We can infer something about climate sensitivity from this. It is obvious what that is.”

    There’s a step missing. How do you know the change was the result of the total amount of insolation, as opposed to some other property like the spatial distribution, the relative lengths/intensities of the seasons, the variance, etc.?

  • Tom Gray

    Judith Curry is currently discussing the

    A + B = C

    model of climate politics.

    A (the science) + B (communication) = C (economic policy)

    Isn’t the point of this posting that

    (Maybe A ) + B = C

    makes the case even more convincing. Sounds odd to me. I suppose that it makes B more convincing

    A + B = C has not worked so why will (Maybe A) + B = C work?

  • BBD

    Marlowe Johnson @ 90

    I can think of few less convincing studies than J&D (2010). Perhaps Diesendorf (2010) on renewable baseload?

    Barry Brook over at BNC provides an unsparing critique here:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/11/03/wws-2030-critique/

    This captures the general tone:

    “They [J&D] make a token attempt to price in storage (e.g., compressed air for solar PV, hot salts for CSP). But tellingly, they never say HOW MUCH storage they are costing in this analysis (see table 6 of tech paper), nor how much extra peak generating capacity these energy stores will require in order to be recharged, especially on low yield days (cloudy, calm, etc). Yet, this is an absolutely critical consideration for large-scale intermittent technologies, as Peter Lang has clearly demonstrated here. Without factoring in these sort of fundamental “˜details’ “” and in the absence of crunching any actual numbers in regards to the total amount of storage/backup/overbuild  required to make WWS 24/365 “” the whole economic and logistical foundation of the grand WWS scheme crumbles to dust. It sum, the WWS 100% renewables by 2030 vision is nothing more than an illusory fantasy. It is not a feasible, real-world energy plan.”

     

  • Sashka

    @ 88

    A good theory explains all observed facts not just some of the facts. If you think you understand Milankovitch please explain why glacial cycle kicked in only a few million years ago. Eccentricity, precession and nutation cycles were always there but not the glaciation. In case you didn’t know the best paleo minds tried to crack this problem for decades but failed. Something very major happened at the outset of the glacial cycle but we don’t know what it was. It is more than a bit amusing that people are trying to pull conclusions on the CO2 sensitivity being fully aware that that the theory is incomplete at best.

  • BBD

    nullius in verba

    There’s a step missing. How do you know the change was the result of the total amount of insolation, as opposed to some other property like the spatial distribution, the relative lengths/intensities of the seasons, the variance, etc.?


    It doesn’t matter. Unless you can point to a very large energy flux into the climate system (what, from where?) we are left with the same problem: a very small push produced a very large change.


    That is incompatible with a low CS. This is, or should be, obvious.

  • BBD

    Sashka

    If you think you understand Milankovitch please explain why glacial cycle kicked in only a few million years ago. Eccentricity, precession and nutation cycles were always there but not the glaciation. In case you didn’t know the best paleo minds tried to crack this problem for decades but failed.

    It seems as though the cooling throughout the Cenozoic (well, from the peak at 50ma) reached a point at which an Arctic ice cap formed in the geologically fairly recent past. Once you’ve got a permanent NH ice sheet, you’ve got ice-albedo feedback as the amplification mechanism by which small orbital forcings can have huge climate impacts. But first, you have to get the ice sheet to begin to melt…

    If you take a look at the Hansen & Sato paper I linked above, you will be able to get much more detail on the cause of Cenozoic cooling (CO2 fell from ca 1000ppmv to glacial lows of ca 170ppmv, but of course it couldn’t possibly be CO2, could it?).
    May I suggest that you read H&S before making any further comments on this topic? It would be very helpful if you appreciated why I say what I do. This would reduce the verbiage, and other commenters (who may be familiar with this argument) will suffer less disruption. 

  • Tom Fuller

    Is it reasonable to postulate that it might be easier to change states from a glacial state to what we consider normal than to move from a normal state to (either) extreme?

    Honest question, don’t have an answer or an opinion. 

  • Nullius in Verba

    “A + B = C has not worked so why will (Maybe A) + B = C work?”

    Because lukewarmers know that it is a choice between “(Small maybe A) + B = C” and “(Big maybe A) + B = C”. If you say “A + B = C, the science is settled” then they know you’re not telling the truth. If you say “(Small maybe A) + B = C” and more importantly, show how you calculated the uncertainty to be small, they might consider it.

    But Keith’s question distinguishes uncertainty about the probability, and uncertainty about the impact. The argument is that extra uncertainty about the size of the impact can raise the expected cost (probability times impact). This is, as someone noted above, a Pascal’s Wager argument.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    what do you mean by ‘easier’ Tom? Do you mean less energy required, or perhaps that there are negative feedbacks that only operate in ice-free conditions. One wonders if you’re channeling your inner Lovelock :)

     

  • BBD

    Marlowe Johnson

    Now I think that a credible argument can be made that in the absence of full cooperation from other parties (i.e. BRIC countries), making these sorts of sacrifices is foolhardy.  However, stuck as we may be on the horns of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, I’d still contend that the moral and rational choice would be to do whatever is necessary to avoid the non-trivial risk of climate catastrophe for our descendants.  Otherwise, we’re no better than lemmings”¦


    Of course I appreciate the horrible dilemma as you describe it. My view is and remains that coal must be displaced from baseload by nuclear. It is to be hoped that success with Gen IV will provide a solution to the mess created by everything up to Gen III+.


    But we have to do something that we know will work. And we have to do it now. Renewables are a massive gamble, recklessly promoted by the industrial interests behind their production and in good faith by those who desperately want to believe that nuclear is not the only rational choice for displacing coal from baseload generation.


    Renewables may yet play some kind of role, but I simply cannot see how they can be built (and funded) at a fast enough rate, how the massive geographic footprint will be accommodated, or how regional-scale integration with any realistic grid model will ever work reliably.


    There are just so many problems. But please believe me when I say that I am uncomfortable with the prospect of a huge build-out of nuclear capacity. But I cannot see how renewables will be fast enough or stable enough or indeed, just enough in terms of capacity to be anything more than a minor player in the energy mix, even by century’s end.


    I’ve said it before and will say it again: they are an environmental (and political) pipe dream, not the potential solution to clean energy at a global scale.


    God knows, I wish they were just as much as I wish CS was >1C.

  • Tom Fuller

    107, which Lovelock? James or Holly?

    I do know that in solid state electronics it can take differing amounts of energy to go from A to B than from B to A. I don’t know if that’s even remotely applicable to climate, so I thought I’d ask.

  • Sashka

    BBD,

    @ 103

    No. Actually, you need to show that the glacial cycle is entirely due to Milankovitch. For all we know, there could be other processes in mind. E.g. those that started the glacial cycle in the first place. In addition, nobody ever proved that CS is a universal constant. It could be one number at peak glacial and something else at the warm stage.

    @ 104

    I’ve read dozens of papers when I had more time. Being very busy, I don’t think it’s worth my time to read another one unless there is a strong indication that substantial new findings are reported (there isn’t). Care to express HS findings in your own words?

    I hope you understand (or at least you should before you start commenting) the difference between hand-waving arguments preceded by “it seems” and a theory. People tried to express similar and other ideas in mathematical terms and were unable to model glacial cycle. Fact remains: there is no theory.

    @ TF

    You’re right: last time it took a lot longer to get from peak interglacial to peak glacial than thaw back to normal. I’m not sure whether this is a general feature of all glacial cycles.

  • BBD

    Tom Fuller

    Is it reasonable to postulate that it might be easier to change states from a glacial state to what we consider normal than to move from a normal state to (either) extreme?


    Glacial terminations are abrupt because ice-albedo feedback is dominant in glacial climate states and has a very strong amplification effect. The slow descent from an interglacial begins once peak Milankovitch forcing is passed and after a time-lagged ocean response, eg Holocene Thermal Maximum. It only gathers speed at the end, when ice-albedo feedback again begins to dominate and drives the climate system into a glacial with increasing rapidity as the NH ice sheet grows.


    So it’s not easier, as such, just different.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “It doesn’t matter. Unless you can point to a very large energy flux into the climate system (what, from where?) we are left with the same problem: a very small push produced a very large change.”
    What I’m saying is that it might depend what sort of push. The push might not change energy flux much, but it might change the variance (or something else) quite a lot. If I want to spin a wheel, I push on one side and pull on the other. The net force I apply to the wheel is zero, the push and pull are in opposite directions and cancel out, but still it turns faster. If you assume that things only move because of net forces rather than any more subtle distinctions, it becomes a mystery how such a small net force applied to a wheel can result in such a large change to its motion.
    Ice accumulation does not necessarily depend on the global average, it may depend more on what happens in the narrow region along the boundary of the ice, and it may depend on how much of the time it spends below freezing. Ten plus or minus five is a different affair, ice-wise, to ten plus or minus fifteen. It depends on how fast heat is transported from equator to poles. A weakening of the horizontal distribution of heat could result in warmer tropics and colder poles, without changing the total insolation very much. It’s not that the input is small, it’s that it’s a different type of input.
    Climate is complex, and consists of more than just the temperature. There are all sorts of possibilities.
    I’m not saying it is. I’m saying it’s a step in the argument that needs to be filled in.

  • BBD

    Sashka

    This won’t do:
    No. Actually, you need to show that the glacial cycle is entirely due to Milankovitch. For all we know, there could be other processes in mind.

    I hope you understand (or at least you should before you start commenting) the difference between hand-waving arguments preceded by “it seems” and a theory.

    I have already explained that H&S is too long to précis in a comment here. If you won’t even look at a paper, then I see little hope for this discussion going forward.

    What you  need to do is show evidence for a large energetic flux into the climate system sufficient to terminate a glacial and consistent with a low climate sensitivity.


    I have a sense that you are missing the point here.

  • BBD

    NIV

    See response to Sashka.

    Let’s try and keep the focus. Very small push = very large change is not compatible with a low climate sensitivity. And all the waffling and obfuscation in the world makes no difference to this fact.

     

  • kdk33

    It only gathers speed at the end, when ice-albedo feedback again begins to dominate and drives the climate system into a glacial with increasing rapidity as the NH ice sheet grows.

    So, why does it stop?

  • BBD

    Sashka

    I’ve read dozens of papers when I had more time. Being very busy, I don’t think it’s worth my time to read another one unless there is a strong indication that substantial new findings are reported (there isn’t).

    I’m very busy. Very busy indeed sometimes. But I will find or make time to keep up with the necessary reading. If you do not do this, you will make mistakes (as I have done in the past) and you will eventually come to regret not having done the work. I say this absolutely straight. It is friendly and genuine advice. I think Marlowe Johnson will back me on this ;-)

  • BBD

    Sashka

    Let’s first continue the discussion of why and how a tiny forcing can terminate a glacial if CS is low. You have yet to give me any kind of an answer to this question and I’m beginning to wonder where you stand.

  • BBD

    Oh dear. I’m not having a very good run today:

    God knows, I wish they were just as much as I wish CS was less than 1C. 


    Apologies all.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Was just about to correct you on the > < BBD….

    Thanks for the link to Barry Brooks site.  very interesting site.   the response in the comment thread from Jacobsen was also worth noting….

    As I’ve said before I’m somewhat more agnostic on trying to come to terms with the trade-offs between nuclear and renewables.  And they are legion — costs, proliferation risks, insurance liability caps, waste storage, grid requirements, speed of deployment, local justice issues, etc.  i could go on.  the one thing i’ll say, is that as a resident of Ontario, I’m not entirely sold on nuclear being a terribly cost-effective solution.  Here we still get this wonderful line item on our monthly utility bills called ‘debt retirement’ charge.  Ask your relatives about it :)

    I’ll close by saying that I agree with Barry and Harry2wr in that I’m for whatever low carbon solution works (pragmatic) and cognizant that what works in one location may not in another (Harry’s point about selling iceboxes to Eskimos is well taken if slightly politically incorrect :shock:

  • Nullius in Verba

    #114,
    You’re still saying it’s a very small push. How do you show that it’s not a very large push, but of a type that does not result in a major change in forcing?

  • Sashka

    I don’t know why I should read the paper if you can’t explain what you found there.

    Once again, your request to point to an energy flux based on the preconception that the glacial-interglacial transition is forced by the combination of orbital forcing and CO2 feedback. Anyone who disagrees allegedly must point to another energy flux. Answer: the premise of the argument is false because the theory doesn’t explain the onset of glacial cycles. In fact it’s not like we have a good model quantitatively explaining the end of the last glacial either. It’s another hand-waiving exercise. There may be other processes in play. Just because noone knows what they are means that it is suddenly my job to find one.

  • BBD

    Marlowe Johnson

    I’m with you on pragmatic low carbon solutions. We argue for the same thing, for the same reasons. So we should not fight, nor do I wish to.

    Here in the UK, energy bills have risen dramatically in recent years and a component of that rise is the cost of the subsidy for renewables.

    Unfortunately, we are not reaping the hoped-for energy rewards, and there seems little prospect of that happening. Nevertheless, the cost to the consumer rises inexorably, with predictable negative impacts on those with least money. This is wrong, and yet ignored by politicians locked in to the previous (New Labour) government’s decision to ‘pick winners’ and commit mid-term UK energy policy to a rapid enlargement of the wind resource.

    Opportunity cost rears its head. Could the money already spent have been better spent on increasing UK nuclear baseload capacity? My view is unequivocally, yes.

    I have no interest, direct or indirect, in any aspect of the nuclear industry. I would like to be clear about this.  

  • http://rustneversleeps.wordpress.com rustneversleeps

    @ Tom,

    re: “it can take differing amounts of energy to go from A to B than from B to A. I don’t know if that’s even remotely applicable to climate, so I thought I’d ask.”

    See linked schematic* from Myles Allen, discussing an implication of Hansen’s paleo work.

    The green dot is roughly where we started the industrial revolution, and as we increase CO2, we increase transient temperature in response along the lower curve. But at some point you trigger the melting of the ice caps, and that loss of albedo increases the effective radiative forcing further, and the temperature response can flip to the upper “no ice caps” curve.

    So, say at some CO2 level between 460 and 510 ppm, we trigger that flip and (eventually) melt the ice caps. But look what happens now when you start reducing CO2 from a state along that top “no ice cap” curve. Even if you start reducing the CO2 back to 400, 350, 300 ppm, the temperature is too high to reform the ice caps, but the albedo effect is effectively “lost”.

    So, it’s not necessarily about more energy, it is about the initial state of the system when the CO2 radiative forcing is applied (in this latter case negative, as CO2 is removed…).

    It’s the type of system dynamic that makes the simple visualization* in Lenton’s tipping elements paper germane… It can become much more difficult to return to the prior state… And it is one of those “uncertainties” that means we really shouldn’t mess with going there…

    * Can’t seem to make the link function work, so here are the urls:
    allen: http://rustneversleeps.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/allen-on-hansen.png
    * lenton http://www.earthgauge.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Picture2-300×205.jpg “Wells represent potential metastable states. The shallowing of the right well (dark to light blue) represents environmental changes favoring the left well as the attractive state.
    Image: Lenton, TM et al. “Tipping elements in the Earth’s climate system.” PNAS 105 (2008): 1786-1793.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > This is, as someone noted above, a Pascal’s Wager argument.

    Claiming so does not suffice.  Neither does armwaving. 

  • BBD

    Sashka, please see 117.

    I’ve explained that H&S uses various aspects of the paleoclimate record to make empirical estimates of CS. Declining CO2 levels 50Ma to the near-present are correlated with temperature. Glacial and inter-glacial climate sensitivity are explored, and empirical estimates proposed for each. The methodology and conclusions are too lengthy to be squeezed into a blog comment without compression loss. If you aren’t prepared to read the paper, then stop going on about it. The ball is in your court. Stop pretending otherwise. It’s boring.

    NIV @120

    Well, there’s absolutely no evidence for anything else besides Milankovitch. Unless you have some? If not, let’s do the boring science thing and work with what we actually have.

  • Sashka

    @ 117

    Whatever the CS is (and once again: CS at the peak of glacial is not necessarily what it is now) the onset of the transition from glacial to interglacial is exactly the same. Until a meaningful CO2 feedback kicks in (that’s on the time scale of thousand years) the warming needs to sustain itself on its own. That means either that the orbital forcing is large enough or that there is another positive feedback that is available right away (the only known candidate is albedo). If the positive feedback is large enough then I CS can be low – here’s your energy flux. Or the orbital forcing is not small and you need to reconsider your line of argument.

  • http://rustneversleeps.wordpress.com rustneversleeps

    rewording a phrase in my post (awaiting moderation)…

    Should read: “the temperature is too high to reform the ice caps, with the albedo effect essentially “lost”.”

  • BBD

    Marlowe Johnson

    Was just about to correct you on the > < BBD”¦.


    Yes, I had a feeling you might be ;-)


    The wretched things should be positioned at either side of the keyboard as insurance against idiots like me. Imagine if I were writing something important ;-)

  • Sashka

    If you list all the assumptions that they make in their analysis I will either tell why I’m not comfortable with the conclusions right away or read the paper. Deal?

  • BBD

    Sashka

    If the positive feedback is large enough then I CS can be low ““ here’s your energy flux. Or the orbital forcing is not small and you need to reconsider your line of argument.


    Feedbacks are a response to the energy flux, not the thing itself. I sense confusion here.

    With a low CS, how do we get the NH ice sheet to start melting in the first place? A low CS means that the climate system can lose energy efficiently to space. If it can do this, how does a small forcing have any effect at all?

  • BBD

    Or the orbital forcing is not small and you need to reconsider your line of argument.

    From H&S11:

    “The varying orbital parameters are (1) tilt of Earth’s spin axis relative to the orbital plane, (2) eccentricity of Earth’s orbit, (3) day of year when Earth is closest to the sun, also describable as precession of the equinoxes (Berger, 1978). These three orbital parameters vary slowly, the dominant time scales being close to 40,000, 100,000 and 20,000 years, respectively.
     

    Hays et al. (1976) confirmed that climate oscillations occur at the frequencies of the periodic orbital perturbations. Wunsch (2003) showed that the dominant orbital frequencies account for only a fraction of total long-term climate variability. That result is not surprising given the small magnitude of the orbital forcing. The orbital forcing, computed as the global-mean annual-mean perturbation of absorbed solar radiation with fixed climate, is less than ±0.25 W/m2 (Fig. S3 of Hansen et al., 2008). Climate variability at other frequencies in the observational data is expected, because orbital changes are more complex than three discrete time scales and because the dating of observed climate variations is imprecise. But it is clear that a large global climate response to the weak orbital forcing does exist (Roe, 2006), demonstrating that climate is very sensitive on millennial time scales and implying that large amplifying feedbacks exist on such time scales. Thus large climate change should also be expected in response to other weak forcings and climate noise (chaos).
     

    A satisfactory quantitative interpretation of how each orbital parameter alters climate has not yet been achieved. Milankovitch argued that the magnitude of summer insolation at high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere was the key factor determining when glaciation and deglaciation occurred. Huybers (2006) points out that insolation integrated over the summer is affected only by axial tilt. Hansen et al. (2007a) argue that late spring (mid-May) insolation is the key, because early ‘flip’ of ice sheet albedo to a dark wet condition produces a long summer melt season; they buttress this argument with data for the timing of the last two deglaciations (Termination I 13-14,000 years ago and Termination II about 130,000 years ago)”.

    And so on. You have to read the paper before we can discuss it further. Otherwise it’s just me posting walls of text to you, and you saying, yeah, but…

    Life’s too short, and as I said earlier, it’s unfair to others here.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #124,
    I haven’t suggested that it wasn’t Milankovitch. I was suggesting that Milankovitch cycles could have an effect by another mechanism besides changes in overall forcing. You haven’t said how you know that they don’t – that only forcing and overall energy flux can possibly have any effect on climate.

  • BBD

    NIV @ 124

    I was suggesting that Milankovitch cycles could have an effect by another mechanism besides changes in overall forcing.

    How does Milankovitch (eccentricity, obliquity, precession) have any effect on climate other than through changing RF? Yes, Milankovitch suggests that changes in the timing and the region of maximum and minimum insolation are important. But it doesn’t make any difference. It’s still RF.

    You haven’t said how you know that they don’t ““ that only forcing and overall energy flux can possibly have any effect on climate.


    Well I’ve tried to explain that there’s no evidence for anything else (Milankovitch, non-Milankovitch). You want an alternative – put one on the table.


    Otherwise we are back to the essential question: how does a small forcing terminate a glacial if climate sensitivity is low?

    Something you have not yet addressed. Can you talk about this specifically now?



  • Sashka

    @ 129

    If there is a confusion it’s not on my part. Of course feedback is a response, by definition. It doesn’t mean that there’s no additional energy flux.

    The ice cap begins to melt with low CS exactly as with high CS, a I explained above in 125.

    A low CS means that the climate system can lose energy efficiently to space.

    Low CS means just that. It may or may not be related to efficiency of energy losses to space. All depends on the feedbacks.

  • Sashka

    A low CS means that the climate system can lose energy efficiently to space.

    was a quote from 129.
     

  • Sashka

    @ 130

    Yeah but in nonlinear systems the response need not be on the same frequency as forcing.

    “A satisfactory quantitative interpretation of how each orbital parameter alters climate has not yet been achieved.”

    No kidding, uh?

    The question is what are the assumption underlying the conclusion about CS being not low. If you didn’t understand what they are then I agree it is unfair to ask that.

  • Sashka

    @ 132

    “Well I’ve tried to explain that there’s no evidence for anything else (Milankovitch, non-Milankovitch).”

    Yes there is. If it were just Milankovitch then glacial cycle would have existed forever. Since we cannot adequately explain the onset it follows that there is something else that we don’t understand. None of us here is obliged to explain what it is.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “How does Milankovitch (eccentricity, obliquity, precession) have any effect on climate other than through changing RF?”
    By changing the spatial or temporal distribution of the RF.

    How does pushing on one side and pulling on the other cause an object to spin, when the net force being applied is zero? How can a zero input cause such a large effect? Because it’s not about the total, but about the way it is distributed. Orbital changes primarily affect the distribution of sunlight, rather than the total amount of it. It makes more sense to expect the distribution to be what matters. Calculating the total energy flux and saying it scarcely changes is no more apposite than calculating the net force on a spinning object and saying it is zero, if it isn’t the net energy flux that is causing the effect.

  • BBD

    Sashka


    Low CS means just that. It may or may not be related to efficiency of energy losses to space. All depends on the feedbacks.

    This is puzzling. If energy is not lost to space efficiently, CS is high. If energy is lost to space efficiently, CS is low. Feedbacks are of course crucial.

    If CS is low, paleoclimate change doesn’t make sense because small forcings could not initiate large climate shifts. Nothing much would happen – how could it?

  • BBD

    NIV

    If CS is low, paleoclimate change doesn’t make sense because small forcings could not initiate large climate shifts. Nothing much would happen ““ how could it?

  • kdk33

    Fascinating discussion.

    BBD, I think NiV’s point is that milankovich cycles cause changes in the temporal/spatial distribution of the forcing.  If the atmosphere is well mixed, then the CO2 forcing will be more uniform.

    Perhaps it is the change in distribution, not absolute amount the causes climate shifts.  If this is the case, then the 0.25 w/m2 forcing may be more-or-less irrelevant, hence CS not so important.

    I’ve not read the paper yet.  If this keeps up I won’t have to. :-)

  • Sashka

    @ 138

    For example there could be low CS + high albedo feedback or high CS + low albedo feedback. But since you agree that the feedbacks are crucial, what do we really know (as opposed to guess) about them?

    @ 139

    By way of positive feedbacks that do not involve CO2.

  • BBD

    Sashka
    For example there could be low CS + high albedo feedback or high CS + low albedo feedback. But since you agree that the feedbacks are crucial, what do we really know (as opposed to guess) about them?

    Do you not see that feedbacks are vital to determining CS? Glacial climate states are dominated by ice-albedo feedback and exhibit a high climate sensitivity. To say that there could be a low CS and a high albedo feedback is nonsense.

    I think this is drawing to a close.


    @ 139
    By way of positive feedbacks that do not involve CO2.


    And this is why. Trying to remove CO2 from the current understanding of the climate system is misguided. This may not be what you want, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #139,
    You’re getting too fixated on a single property of the distribution of radiation – the forcing. There are lots of others. Just because the change in forcing caused by a Milankovitch cycle is small doesn’t mean changes in all the other properties are small. They’re not.

  • BBD

    NIV

    You’re getting too fixated on a single property of the distribution of radiation ““ the forcing. There are lots of others.


    I’m sorry, you’ve lost me.


    Energy enters the climate system as DSW. It leaves by reflection or as OLR. What’s ‘distribution’ got to do with the accumulation in or loss of energy from the climate system (aka climate sensitivity)?

  • Sashka

    @ 142

    “Do you not see that feedbacks are vital to determining CS?”

    I do. Do you not see that we don’t really know everything there is to know about feedbacks? And therefore cannot possibly impute CS with any accuracy?

    “Glacial climate states are dominated by ice-albedo feedback and exhibit a high climate sensitivity.”

    Surely you can prove it? BTW, I didn’t mean to suggest that  low CS + high albedo feedback is what really had happened. That was in response to your (so far unsubstantiated) energy efficiency argument as a theoretical possibility.

    “Trying to remove CO2 from the current understanding of the climate system is misguided. This may not be what you want, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.”

    I’m not trying to remove CO2. All I’m saying that current attempts to quantify CS based on paleo data are probably based on unjustifiable assumptions. Despite the whole day of efforts I didn’t get you tell me what they all are but I got enough to chew on.

  • kdk33

    If glacial feedback is dominated by ice albedo.

    If the distribution (not total) of solar insolation causes ice to advance retreat.

    Then the sensitiviy to milankovitch cycles could be very different than from CO2.

    Because CO2, in well mixed atmosphere, will yield a more uniform change.

    (but, I still have to sort through the insolation, optical density analogy, distribution aside)

  • Sashka

    @ 144

    You think it makes no difference whether the tropics get all the solar while the poles get nothing or the incoming flux is uniformly distributed? Certainly, neither is possible but considering such limiting cases will help you understand why distribution is important.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #144,
    Take for example the equator-pole difference. We add 10 W/m^2 at the pole, and remove 10 W/m^2 at the equator. The net effect on the forcing is zero. We’ve added exactly as much as we’ve removed. But the equator-pole difference has increased by 20 W/m^2, which is not trivial. (I’m making the numbers up, just to make the point.)

    The equator-pole difference drives the great convection cycles – in the air and in the oceans, that carry heat from the tropics to the poles. A reduction in equator-pole difference – meaning a more uniform supply of the same amount of heat – will greatly suppress convection and horizontal heat flow. If the effect is non-linear, the result could be an intensification of the equator-pole climate differences – the equator gets hotter, the poles get colder. The colder poles then start building up snow cover, and as the snow line moves beyond the Arctic/Antarctic circles, the ice albedo effect gets stronger, because the ice is in sunlight for more of the time, and the length of the ice boundary increases dramatically.

    Conversely, an increase in equator-pole difference starts up the great convection cycles again, and warm air/water from the equator once again flows north and south to melt the ice.

    And all of this without any change in total energy flux.

    I’m not saying this is how it works – so far as I know, nobody knows for sure how it works. I’m just saying that there’s a gap in the argument where you go from saying the change in forcing is small to saying that the sensitivity to forcing must therefore be large, which only works if the forcing alone causes the change. You haven’t shown that it does, and given that it’s so small, one must suspect that it doesn’t. It’s as likely to be something else.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Sorry, should have said “decreased by 20 W/m^2″ in the first paragraph.

  • BBD

    Sashka

    Despite the whole day of efforts I didn’t get you tell me what they all are but I got enough to chew on.

    I suggest you read H&S11 and have a think about what it says. It’s a pain, I know, but sometimes you have to read things in order to criticise them. I was sceptical about Hansen’s position on paleoclimate until I read what he (and co-authors) were actually saying. This took a while, as there were other studies to read (he’s a hard-working chap). I can do this for myself, but I cannot do it for you.

    kdk33 @ 146

    Insensitive climates do not respond to changes in RF, irrespective of the source or distribution or whatever.

    This climate system is highly variable, so it is not insensitive. Small changes in RF can and do terminate glacials. Once again – how, if CS is low?

    CO2 modulates RF, so it plays a role in climate behaviour. It cannot be avoided.

  • kdk33

    BBD,

    I’ll read the paper (get it from the source). 

    Seems like Shashka and NiV have a decent argument regarding distribution. 

    Very intersting conversation.

  • http://planet3.org Michael Tobis

    “If it were just Milankovitch then glacial cycle would have existed forever. Since we cannot adequately explain the onset it follows that there is something else that we don’t understand. None of us here is obliged to explain what it is.”

    I don’t think we understand the glacial cycle very well yet, but in fact we DO know what started it. Until ~2Ma ago the earth was ice free; the last tens of millions of years featuring a gradual decline in CO2. Once the earth was cold enough to support ice sheets the cycle began.
     

  • kdk33

    oops Sashka.  Apologies.

  • BBD

    MT

    I don’t think we understand the glacial cycle very well yet, but in fact we DO know what started it.

    Exactly as H&S11 explains (as I know you know), but how to get it across?
     

  • http://planet3.org Michael Tobis

    BBD, come sign up at planet3.org ; that’s the type of question that engages us. Tell me I sent you. :-)

  • Keith Kloor

    Great dialogue. And fast-moving, too, so please check out this Rust Never Sleeps comment, which I was only able to get out of moderation now. (Sorry, Rust–mtgs and teaching had me offline for hours.)

  • Sashka

    @ 153

    In what sense do you use the word “know”? Is there a mathematical model that explains everything we think we know? Or is it a set of plausible hand-waving motions? If it’s the former can I have a reference to a relevant paper? That’s something that I’d find time to read.

    In most general terms, “philosophically” if you will, I don’t see how we could “know” about the onset without understanding the cycle.

  • Ian

    willard Says:
    October 12th, 2011 at 8:35 am
    Ian,

    You say:

    > I wasn’t making a jab at Michael Tobis’s beliefs [...]

    Here’s some part of that jab:

    > You’ve said your piece, your conversion rate is nil, so stop cluttering the thread.

    Arghhh, the drawbacks of impersonal electronic communication. I’m sure if you BBD and I sat across a table at the Queens Arms hotel we could clear this up in 2 seconds flat! (MT seemed to get my point just as quickly) A poster’s beliefs are not relevant to my comment. I would have conveyed the same message it they had totally opposing beliefs to MT and also mentioned that they were going to sign off. My simple point was, when you indicate you are going to leave the conversation you are implying that you have nothing left to contribute. If someone then challenges your views, take a few calming deep breaths and move onto RC, WUWT, Lucia’s or whichever other blog strikes your fancy. And on that note,

    I’ll sign off :-)  

  • Sashka

    BTW, could you remind me why the Earth was cooling and losing CO2 for so long before the onset of glacial cycle? Wasn’t it the positive feedback, in theory? It’s positive both ways – up in down. Then what determines the direction? Last couple of million years it is supposedly Milankovitch that gives the initial push and then maintains it for a while. But what was it before?

  • rustneversleeps

    Sashka,

    Have you even cracked a recent, decent intro paleoclimate text?

    Be still my beating heart!

    or David Archer’s “The Long Thaw” would do nicely.

    It’s pathetically tiresome, all your tedious unsubstantiated yabbuts,, yabbuts…

  • steven mosher

    BBD Says:
    October 12th, 2011 at 3:51 am
    Ian

    If climate sensitivity is low, we can be lukewarmers. If CS is high we cannot.

    Hence the relevance to the thread.

    So, if you are a lukewarmer, upon what do you base your position? I ask because despite considerable effort and reading, I cannot find a coherent scientific argument for a CS lower than the median estimate of +3C for a doubling of pre-industrial levels of CO2.

    ####

     do more reading. The lukewarmer position  is that given an over/under bet at the mean IPCC figure of 3.2C  we will take the under bet. 

    Simply, the models range from 2.1 to 4.4  with a mean of ~3.2C  The current status of observations indicates that this mean is too high. That is, model predictions are above the observed warming.
    mean model sensitivity is about 3-3.2, the mean of the ensemble is running too warm, so if we have to bet, we bet the true sensitivity is below 3C. That’s it. You can find plenty of cites for studies ( in AR4) that have PDFs which indicate the under bet is the best bet.  In fact, a lot of us like GISS  ModelE !  it has a sensitivity of 2.7.  yes modelE is a lukewarmer! So if you have a problem with lukewarmers, you got a problem with ModelE.

    Or,  if you like baysian work… This is some interesting work

    http://www.newton.ac.uk/programmes/CLP/seminars/120812001.html


    Next. 

  • BBD

    Ian and others

    My apologies. All of a sudden last night it was 1:00am and I made a rapid exit – without signalling.

  • kdk33

    @161

    What is your problem?! 

    It was an interesting conversation.  KK is kind enough to parole your screed.  Out comes Hyde.

    Take Ian’s advice.

    I would like to hear an answer to #160.

  • BBD

    steven mosher

     do more reading. The lukewarmer position  is that given an over/under bet at the mean IPCC figure of 3.2C  we will take the under bet.


    In my reading, I came across the Hansen & Sato paper I linked to upthread which provides several empirical approaches to estimating CS from paleoclimate behaviour.


    H&S come up with a value of 3C.


    Now I don’t think it really matters if it turns out to be 2.5C – if CO2 rises as many think it will to above 550ppm, then GAT will rise by over 2C – let’s not bother arguing about how much over.


    Do you argue that this is not a problem? Or do you confine yourself to saying: CS is probably slightly below 3C per doubling of pre-industrial CO2? (I am looking at p182 of your and TF’s book; perhaps your views have changed?).


    If not, then I do not share your confidence that, for example, a >2C warming will have no effect on the WAIS. Or that CH4 from warming NH tundra will not be a problem. Etc.


    This is how we determine whether there is ‘a problem with lukewarmers’.

  • Sashka

    @ rust

    I’m sure that you’ll be happy to know that I took paleo climate classes at a grad school level.

    If you have any objections to what I say in substance I’ll be happy to discuss. Otherwise feel free to scroll down past my comments and shut up.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @166
    “I took paleo climate classes at a grad school level” :shock:

    You’re such a kidder Sashka.  I’ll leave it to readers judge whether any of your comments at CaS support such a claim…

  • Keith Kloor

    @161

    You can say to someone that you disagree with them without the snark. 

    @ 167

    Similarly, consider how your comment might be received had you just written “I’ll leave it to others…”

     

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    Ian,

    Saying what needs to be said suffices.  And when we someone says he’s leaving a conversation, he’s commited to close it, ceteris paribus.  I believe we agree about that. 

    Disregarding external contingencies, when someone leaves a conversation, most of the times it’s because he sees no point pursuing it.  That is, his expectancy that his own contributions will be heard reaches nil, not that he could not contribute anything to the conversation.  This is perhaps where we disagree.

    I’ll leave it at that.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Fair enough Keith. 

  • Sashka

    @ 165

    I’d say that 2C is a small problem at most and 3C is a small to medium problem.

    WRT CH4, it may not be such a big problem due to its short life span.

    @ 166

    Yes, please. Leave it to them, Marlowe.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @171
     “I’d say that 2C is a small problem at most and 3C is a small to medium problem.”

    Any evidence to support that belief or is it just a WAG?

    “WRT CH4, it may not be such a big problem due to its short life span.”

    You do realize, of course, that atmospheric methane oxides into CO2, and that ‘atmospheric lifetime’ isn’t the most appropriate metric to use when assessing the impacts of anthropogenic emissions…
     

  • kdk33

    Some interesting calcs:

    I undertand the forcing from a doubling of CO2 to be ~4 w/m2.  From BBD, I understand the Milankovitch forcings to be ~0.25 w/m2.  I understand atmospheric CO2 to be about 390 ppm, up from about 290 ppm (pre-industrial).

    So, the increase in CO2, as of today, is good for about 1.7 w/m2, or 7X the forcing required to end or begin glaciation.  Conversely, the increase in CO2 to yeild a 0.25 w/m2 increase in forcing is about 12ppm (290 ppm initial condition).  CO2 varies during the year by about 8 ppm.

    So seems reasonabale to question if 0.25 w/m2 is really the cause of glaciation cycles. 

    If you decide that it is, then it seems like we’re already screwed!

    I probably misunderstood something.

  • Sashka

    @ 172

    Evidence: we have already observed about 0.8C warming and there are few discernible problems if any. So I’m just extrapolating from there.

    The problem with CH4 is its high heat-trapping potency. If it just oxidizes into CO2 then we’d just get a somewhat higher CO2 concentration which (given the log scale of impact) won’t change significantly. Thus the real issue is only the change in the equilibrium level of CH4 and that may not be a lot.

  • Sashka

    @ 173

    In theory, the 0.25 w/m2 is not what took us out of ice age by itself. CO2 feedback did. Once it kicked in the ice sheet was doomed. These days we don’t need to wait until some mysterious force amplifies initial weak (on average) forcing and brings the fearsome CO2 feedback to life. We supply our own CO2.

    So yeah, assuming away feedbacks and ignoring that CS is not really a constant we are already screwed in the long run.

  • Tom C

    @158 Sashka

    Great comment.  So many people working in this field confuse getting a paper published with proving something.  The former usually involves a lot of hand waving; the latter demands well supported calculations with quantities known to a high degree of accuracy.

    My favorite example is the claim the aerosols were responsible for the mid-century cooling.  This might be true, or it might not be true.  But there is no way of knowing for sure since the extent, composition, and geographic distribution of aerosol emissions are unknown.  These uncertainties added to the already large uncertainty around the effect of aerosols.  You can’t prove the claim becuase you can’t calculate it. 

  • kdk33

    Sashka,

    Thanks for the reply.  Very interesting. 

    I don’t quite understand what you mean by “assuming away feedbacks”.  

    If CO2 feedback the amplifies the (small) increase in solar insolation, won’t CO2 feedback also amplify an intial (even bigger) CO2 induced forcing?

    Eventually leading to ice/albedo changes and a temperature runaway.

  • Sashka

    One question is whether CO2 was the only feedback. If there was something else then it’s hard separate the contributions. If there wasn’t then we’ll have to believe that small orbital forcing accumulated over a long time kicked CO2 in. Or the distribution was more important as discussed above. Either is possible but neither is a good model at this stage. Thus for quantifying CS (in the icy state) one has to assume other feedbacks away.

    Going forward, we may (or may not) find some negative feedbacks. Lindzen published on that and even RayPierre did, too. Point is, we are pushing into an unknown territory. We don’t really know what’s going to happen. Unlikely as it is, the conveyor belt could stop at some point and then all bets are off. So the conclusion of doom is conditional on many assumptions.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    sashka,

    as our resident solipsist, perhaps you should consider moving from the seemingly boundless uncertainty and ignorance that plagues climate science and instead focus on the problem of other minds…

  • Sashka

    Thank you for your invaluable advice, marlowe. I am currently considering helping you to pull you head out of your ass.

  • kdk33

    pathetic

  • EdG

    “All things considered, alarmism seems like common sense to me,” said Chicken Little.

  • Sashka

    Now marlowe, compare this recent exchange with the conversaion that we had yesterday  while enjoying your much welcome silence for a few hours. I’ll let others make their own conclusions. Perhaps you can make yours.

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  • steven mosher

    wrt BBD


    “In my reading, I came across the Hansen & Sato paper I linked to upthread which provides several empirical approaches to estimating CS from paleoclimate behaviour.”

     There are three lines of “evidence”  H&S  looking at the LGM
    ( 3C +- loads)  empirical studies of real observations, relaxation responses to volcanic  forcing, studies that look at the temperature record ( Schwartz  1.9C) you can view them all in Knutti  I believe. The third “line” is the models, which really don’t count much as an independent line of evidence. The simple fact is the accepted Climate science has a wide range of figures.  I think it is rational and warranted belief to say that chances are the figure falls below 3C. What will make me change my mind?
     1. Using a state of the art TSI forcing history ( Svalgaard) as opposed the the flawed one used  in Ar4
    2. Getting a better handle on aerosols
    3. Seeing the  observations fall WITHIN the error bounds of the
      climate models when they are driven by reasonable ( see above) inputs.
    4. Better data on the missing heat.


    “Now I don’t think it really matters if it turns out to be 2.5C ““ if CO2 rises as many think it will to above 550ppm, then GAT will rise by over 2C ““ let’s not bother arguing about how much over.”

    At one point Tom Fuller suggested a 2.5C club.  What he suggested was that we stipulate that 2.5C should be used for planning. I have no problem stipulating that 3C be used for planning. That is not a science question or rather not a purely scientific question. I design a wing to withstand 9Gs plus a 50% design factor.  Of course we would do a sensitivity analysis on the importance of this. But just to be clear lukewarmerism is SILENT on policy It’s about one thing. Since policy does not flow logically from science, since it does not flow inductively, since values are always a part of that chain of reasoning, I argue that lukewarmism has no policy output.
    “Do you argue that this is not a problem? Or do you confine yourself to saying: CS is probably slightly below 3C per doubling of pre-industrial CO2? (I am looking at p182 of your and TF’s book; perhaps your views have changed?).”

    Tom has asked me repeatedly to work on a policy book with him and what policies flow out of lukewarmism. I’ve resisted those efforts, but he did write a few things that I can agree with and it has more to do with principles than with positions
    If I had to define the intersection of my beliefs and Tom’s ( we do differ ) when it comes to policy ( and a bit on the actual warming we can expect )  I would say this.

    1. our attention should be local and regional
    2. Do no harm to the poor.
    3. Focus on no regrets actions first
    4. Take actions to increase our ability to adapt to change.
     


     
     

  • Tom Fuller

    I might add some things in a perfect world, but I would happily sign on to what Mosher writes in 184. But I mean, who wouldn’t? In 2011, I mean. 

  • Sashka

    If you agree that high alarmism is not silent on policy then you should agree that lukewarmerism (as a counter-weight to alarmism) is not silent either. It’s true that policy doesn’t flow directly from science but it is also not orthogonal to it. At least it shouldn’t be.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    “2. Do no harm to the poor”  

    I had no idea you were a socialist Steve…

  • Tom Fuller

    I’m the socialist. I preach about the poor. Steve’s a libertarian. He actually does stuff for the poor.

  • kdk33

    Tom,
    Come away from the dark side.

  • Tom Fuller

    Sorry, kdk33, I can’t hear you–my fellow protestors on Wall St. are drowning out your voice of reason…

  • kdk33

    I heard there was going to be an alliance between the Tea Party and OWS.

    Why, just the other day I head the OWS crowd complaining about government bailouits, corrupt politicians, and wasted tax dollars.  If you’re hangin’ with those guys, your on the road to recovery.

    Remember, the first step is admitting you have a problem. 

  • BBD

    Steven Mosher @ 184

    This all seems reasonable, but does it make much difference if CS is closer to 2C than 3C? You prefer not to discuss policies, but even if we did, would they differ? Your final list is suggestive, but not enlightening.

    I mentioned the WAIS and CH4 from tundra earlier. We give GAT a good 2C nudge and…

    We give it a walloping 3C nudge and…

    Is it worth arguing about the difference? If not, why argue about the science instead of policy?

  • Steve E

    Marlowe Johnson @188

    “I had no idea you were a socialist Steve”¦”

    You don’t have to be a socialist to believe “Do no harm to the poor” 

    In fact, I think you might find, the right truly cares more about the real poor than the left…enough that they either make large monetary donations or donations of volunteer time…or both.

    I think this sort of echoes what Tom Fuller says @189.

    But, of course, I’m Canadian where our right wing is left of american democrats, despite what our national media tries to portray. ;-)  

  • Steve E

    BBD Says:
    October 13th, 2011 at 6:56 pm @193

    “Is it worth arguing about the difference? If not, why argue about the science instead of policy?”
    While I believe that you and I may differ on policy, I think we totally agree on this issue. The science is used as an avoidance to discuss policy. [From a science perspective] Deniers say there’s no problem; Lukewarmists say there’s a problem but I’m not convinced; Concerned? say there’s a problem let’s make sure we do the right thing; Alarmists say the sky is falling let’s give it all we have.

    I realize that this is overly simplistic…but in answer to your question…pick one, science or policy and be explicit in your argument. Tenths of a degree or, in this discussion, halves of degree are meaningless from a “science” perspective. Isn’t the real question do we mitigate or do we adapt…and how do we raise the money to do either?

    I’m sorry if this appears late, but I don’t comment often enough to avoid moderation on this site. 

  • Steve E

    kdk33 Says:
    October 13th, 2011 at 6:50 pm
    “I heard there was going to be an alliance between the Tea Party and OWS”

    As whacked as that may sound, there is some common ground between these groups. It may be awfully narrow but there is some common ground. In the end, are we looking for common ground in these arguments? We certainly have enough to keep us split apart! ;-)  

  • http://veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

     Marlowe Johnson Says:
    October 13th, 2011 at 4:13 pm
    “2. Do no harm to the poor”
    I had no idea you were a socialist Steve”¦

    ####
      You know marlowe, I live in leftist San francisco. The other day as I sat there on the street corner ( 3rd and Harrison)  with a homeless vet waiting for the cab to come, the cab I would use to take him to the   VA hospital in town,  a steady stream of environmentally concerned leftists walked by on their way to their jobs in social media companies. They had the right slogans on their T shirts and bumper stickers, but they looked at my new found friend with disgust. Maybe cause he smelled like shit and oozed pus from his eyes. Maybe because of the   medical bracelets still wrapped around his left arm. So, if I were a socialist I would expect the government to come along and care for him. But, I’m not.
    If you would like to help you can donate by clicking on the link above. As a board member of that charity I will gladly match anything you contribute.

  • http://veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

     Tom,

       You wanna go to church on sunday?

        http://www.glide.org/

       your brand of politics and my kinda music.  If you’ve never heard Martin sing, he’s featured below. Haha, we will get your rhythmless ass up and dancing. lemme know

    <iframe src=”http://player.vimeo.com/video/16610596?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=ff9933″ width=”286″ height=”161″ frameborder=”0″ webkitAllowFullScreen allowFullScreen></iframe> 

  • http://veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

    This all seems reasonable, but does it make much difference if CS is closer to 2C than 3C? You prefer not to discuss policies, but even if we did, would they differ? Your final list is suggestive, but not enlightening.
    #####################

    It might be instructive to look at the differences between 2C of warming and 3, or 1 ,2 3, 4 5 and 6. Provided the forecast had good regional resolution. Of course the list is suggestive.  
    “I mentioned the WAIS and CH4 from tundra earlier. We give GAT a good 2C nudge and”¦ We give it a walloping 3C nudge and”¦”

    and.. people living a century from now might have a harder time than we expect and Monkeys might also fly out of my butt or not. I’m not particularly convinced by any of the scenarios you discuss . but go ahead and cite the papers and I will go ask the authors for their code and data and get back to you when I finish looking at it.

     “Is it worth arguing about the difference? If not, why argue about the science instead of policy?”

    I wont’t know if its worth arguing about the difference until I’ve tried it. Funny how that works. Why argue about the science and not the politics? several reasons. It’s more fun. I enjoy it more. Policy is boring.  science arguments have the possibility of closure, that is I can be proven wrong, there is only so much time in the day and I get to choose what I discuss.  

    why should I talk about policy? 

  • http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/ Bart Verheggen

    I wholeheartedly agreed with Tom’s league of 2.5. And as some have pointed out, for current policy choices it doesn’t matter whether climate sensitivity (CS)  is 2, 3, 4 or 5 degrees/doubling of CO2. Because we aren’t doing anything meaingful to reduce emissions at the moment. For all reasonable values of CS (say, between 1.5 and 6), the prudent thing to do, imho, is to start reducing emissions. One’s favoured policy direction is not dependent on CS (within those bounds). 

    Herman Daly makes a similar argument: “if you jump out of an airplane you need a crude parachute more than an accurate altimeter”

    As for the role of uncertainty: If there is a plausible risk, more uncertainty makes the case for action stronger. In a snowstorm it’s prudent to reduce speed. The need for action is further increased by the large inertia’s in the system: The carbon cycle responds only very slowly to changes in emissions, and the climate system responds only very slowly to changes in concentrations. That means we have to act with foresight, if we want to prevent the worst consequences. Waiting for more certainty, or waiting untill the consequences hit us in the face, comes with considerable risk, because at that point even worse consequences will be locked in (due to the system’s inertia). That is another important point that is often overlooked when deliberating the cases for or against preventive action.

  • kdk33

    As for the role of uncertainty: If there is a plausible risk, more uncertainty makes the case for action stronger.

    Are we talking about uncertainty or ignorance.
    Define plausible?  Truth is, nobody knows if 6C warming is a .0001%, .01% or 1% probability event.  Once you invoke “the less we know the worse it is”, you grant yourself a license to, quite literally, make stuff up.

    Remember, the cure (decarbonization) might also have a long tail.  Here’s one:  we (the developed world) undertake aggresive decarbonization, BRIC’s don’t, our economies blow up, tensions rise, the undeveloped world slowly dies and nobody cares, eventually war, we have no convenstional force (spent it all on decarbonization), we start launching missles from underground silos in the Dakotas – it’s our only choice.

    The PDF has 2-tails, of course.  It’s a hungry world.  Perhaps 2.5C is exactly what we need to feed the soon to be 9.0 billion – Canada and Siberia become the breadbaskets of a new peaceful, prosperous, world.  (Hey more rain falling during longer growing season and expanded crops ranges with free fertilizer).

    No, I’m perfectly willing to wait and see.  Because I care about the poor.

  • kdk33

    MT#153:  I don’t think we understand the glacial cycle very well yet, but in fact we DO know what started it. Until ~2Ma ago the earth was ice free; the last tens of millions of years featuring a gradual decline in CO2.

    So the (geologically) recent glacial cycles are initiated by some “shove” (milankovitch?), and CO2 reinforces this via positive feedback, but the glacial cycles were initiated because CO2 began to spontaneously decline.

    Do I understand that correctly?

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    >  Once you invoke “the less we know the worse it is”, you grant yourself a license to, quite literally, make stuff up.

    Are we talking about uncertainty or ignorance indeed. A quote showing “the less we know the worse it is” would be appreciated.
    Strawmen are, quite litteraly, made up of stuff.  

    Strawmen are very poor too: everybody should care about them.

  • Tom Fuller

    Considering that a certain song from a man of straw could easily serve as theme for some here, your concern is understandable.

  • jeffn

    “if you jump out of an airplane you need a crude parachute more than an accurate altimeter”
    I’ve been on a lot of airplanes. None of them had parachutes, all of them had accurate altimeters. That’s because we spent more time designing airplanes than arguing about what kind of parachute the precautionary principle calls for.
    But, feel free to introduce legislation and an international treaty to require crude parachutes on all airliners. Only deniers of airplane crashes would dare oppose it.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    > I’ve been on a lot of airplanes. None of them had parachutes, all of them had accurate altimeters.

    I hope you were not jumping off these airplanes, which was the topic of Herman Daly’s quote.  

    Besides, how did you know their altimeters were accurate?

  • harrywr2

    #200

    As for the role of uncertainty: If there is a plausible risk, more uncertainty makes the case for action stronger.
    We don’t care about risk, we care about loss. Incurring a ‘certain’ present loss because we are uncertain whether we will incur a future loss doesn’t logically evaluate.

  • http://rustneversleeps.wordpress.com rustneversleeps

    @ 207, harrycoalbot… “We don’t care about risk, we care about loss. Incurring a “˜certain’ present loss because we are uncertain whether we will incur a future loss doesn’t logically evaluate.”

    Omg! Someone tell the insurance industry and it’s customers! Who knew?

    @ kdk33, 202… “the glacial cycles were initiated because CO2 began to spontaneously decline… Do I understand that correctly?”

    Nope. You don’t. There are different mechanisms in the carbon cycle, some positive feedbacks, some negative feedbacks, some fast-acting, some acting over millions of years. The CO2 decline over the millions of years prior to the current period of ice age cycling was primarily due to rock weathering scrubbing CO2 out of the atmosphere. And part of that was likely influenced by the collision of the Indian subcontinent with Asia and the resultant uplift of the Himalayas during this period.

    Again, this stuff is covered in basic texts. Or even popular books – Hansen covers it in his book, Archer does in “The Long Thaw”, etc., etc. I would suggest reading one and toning done the “gotcha” attitude until you have.

  • Eric Adler

    KDK33 @ 200,
    Your understanding is not correct. The Milankovitch cycles are responsible for a inducing the heating and the cooling as a result of the precession of the orbit, and the wobble of the earths axial tilt.  The feedback due to albedo and GHG emission and absorption aids both the heating and cooling part of the cycles. The graph of summer solstice insolation shows this.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:InsolationSummerSolstice65N.png

  • Eric Adler

    In my last post, I should have referred to 202.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @197
    I’ll admit that my personal prejudice about libertarians is that they don’t actually care about the poor and/or only pay lip service.  Your anecdote is a good reminder that generalizations are often misleading.

    Initially I was going to say that this really isn’t the thread to get into discussions about how different philosophies address the issue of poverty and social injustice.  However, on second thought, I don’t think you can really avoid it if you’re going to have a meaningful discussion of risk, uncertainty, and climate change.

    Personally, I think that the most compelling framework for thinking about ‘ethics in the greenhouse’ is John Rawls framework of justice that stems from the ‘veil of ignorance’… 

  • Sashka

    @ 200

    Just stating that “uncertainty makes the case for action stronger” achieves nothing. Calculate the probabilities and expected economic benefits and we can have a rational conversation.

    Your favorite snowstorm analogy is so irrelevant that it hurts you more than it annoys me.

    “we have to act with foresight”

    I don’t see much evidence that we have sufficient foresight to act upon.

  • kdk33

    RNS:  I would suggest reading one and toning done the “gotcha” attitude until you have.

    I asked a question - answer it, or not.  It’s not personal – although you seem to want it to be so.  (See #161 for the kind of thing we can do without).  Your explanation  – rock weathering – is at least intersting.
    —————————————————————————————–

    Willard:  A quote showing “the less we know the worse it is”

    OK:  “more uncertainty makes the case for action stronger”
    ——————————————————————————————

    Eric, yes, that is what is said, and that is how I understand the argument about glacial cycles.  Thank you.

  • Eric Adler

    KDK33 @ 97,
    Your assessment of the risk of blowing up our economy by developing renewable energy sources seems overly pessimistic. The world’s economy is already blown up by the housing bubble in the US and elsewhere.  In addition, there is no new economic engine to pull the US or other countries out of the ditch.  College graduates, and people in construction can’t find jobs these days. an effort to develop renewable energy sources would employ lots of people in a very useful way. China and Germany are betting on this.  Rather than destroying the economy it is going to help them.
     

  • Sashka

    You are entitled for your subjective opinions, Eric. And so is everyone else. Unfortunately, this is not help to agree about anything.

  • kdk33

    RNS,

    Since you are in the answering business today.  Perhaps you can help me with another.  I’m curious to know where earths carbon resides.  I’m thinking it bins as follows:

    1) rocks and dirt
    2) plants and animals
    3) dissolved in the ocean
    4) as gas in the atmosphere
    5) geological (fossil fuels, under the crust, that kinda thing – probably a grey area with @1).

    Maybe you can link me to a simple summary.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    @216
    Why bother RNS when you can use google

  • jeffn

    Willard 206, nobody goes skydiving without a parachute, he was talking about what you need if you have to jump from a plane. My response is that you need someone to focus on how to fly the plane safely rather than argue about how to try to abandon it at 35,000 feet. The latter is so “costly” that airliners don’t have parachutes on board regardless of the certainty that one will crash from time to time.
    The precautionary principle, therefore, tells us an accurate altimeter is more important than a crude parachute on airplanes. It does not tell us to jump.
     

  • Sashka

    @ 217
    Also in oceanic sediments as CaCO3. You might be interested in googling “biological pump”. Fascinating stuff. Basically little oceanic creatures grab dissolve carbon from sea water, combine it with Ca and sink it to the ocean floor when they die.
     

  • Sashka

    It’s 216, @ kdk, sorry.

  • http://rustneversleeps.wordpress.com rustneversleeps

    @ kdk33,

    It’s somewhat arbitrary as to how you define the reservoirs. Your list is not a bad one. More typical is the delineation in the wiki entry for carbon cycle.

    If you are really interested in good primers, either Tyler Volk’s “CO2 rising” (2008) or David Archer’s “The Global Carbon Cycle” (2010) do an excellent job. Both are written for a lay audience, but they do both go to a good technical depth. And, although the book summaries for both do emphasize the climate effects, they are both primarily about the global biogeochemical carbon cycle – its stocks and flows and transformations - on its own right, with the climate effects a relatively small part of the overall texts. (And it is legitimate to discuss this. Just consider the Keeling curve. It’s hard to discuss the carbon cycle without acknowledging the fact that we are perturbing it and what the potential effects of this might be.)

    I would link to the books, but I would be held up in moderation. They are both excellent.

    By the way, early in Volk’s book he runs a thought experiment. Consider the carbon atoms in your single next exhalation. He makes the case that by the next year, dozens of those very atoms will be incorporated in the cellulose and other molecules in every leaf on every plant in the world. And more of those exhaled atoms in the atmosphere, ocean, etc., etc. Astonishing but true. He is masterful at using simple examples to get you to think about the flows…   

  • Sashka

    I would skip over Volk (didn’t read this book but for other reasons that I won’t discuss here) but Archer is very good indeed.

  • Keith Kloor

    Folks, most people are not held up in moderation long when providing links. Once in a while, when I am traveling or offline due to mts or other obligations, there can be a delay. But that is the exception to the rule. 

  • Tom Fuller

    Hiya Keith

    Actually, every time I have submitted a comment that had two or more links, it has gone directly to moderation. I cannot remember an exception.  

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    jeffn,

    The parachute is supposed to be relevant to make sense of the analogy.  For smaller planes, you can bet there are parachutes:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6749412/ns/technology_and_science-tech_and_gadgets/t/parachute-system-can-save-small-planes 

    A quote about money:

    > The emergency parachutes aren’t flawless.  Two families in Syracuse, N.Y., are suing Cirrus, Ballistic Recovery Systems and others for a combined $67.5 million over a fatal crash in April 2002.  The case is pending in federal court.

    I’ll return to your two sentences involving the precautionary principle later.  I have to verify if you’re really arguing that if we had less problems we’d have less problems.

    Meanwhile, you have not answered my last question:

    How do you know that the airplanes you climbed aboard had **accurate** altimeters? 

    I emphasize the **accurate** here.  The point was that improving measurement accuracy does not necessarily count as a safety measure. 

  • Keith Kloor

    Tom,

    You misunderstand (or I wasn’t clear enough). As most everyone knows by now, all posts will two or more links automatically go into moderation. This is to help me beat back the spam.

    But what I was saying is that I almost always approve these posts in moderation in a timely fashion.  But you know..if I’m out playing in the park with the kids, I try (and often fail) to resist the urge to check my email (where I get notices about pending comments). If I’m teaching, in mtgs, blah, blah, same deal, I’m offline.

    But on the whole, nearly all comments in moderation get approved within the hour. The only time this is not the case is when I’m sleeping (for those of you not aware-this occurs at night EST in the states).

  • Sashka

    Can’t you just pre-approve some users once and for all?

  • Keith Kloor

    Saska, perhaps you misunderstand as well.

    Nearly all people who comment on this blog have been pre-approved. In other words, your comments appear two seconds after you hit the “submit” button.

    The comments that go to automatic moderation are those that contain two or more links. (Sometimes, it’s just one, which I can’t figure out). I do this for spam control, and for that reason only.

    Again, I’d wager that for most of you, this has not been a problem.
     

  • kdk33

    @Marlowe #217

    See #219, 221, 222.

    BTW, thank you!

  • BBD

    Steven Mosher @ 199

    It might be instructive to look at the differences between 2C of warming and 3, or 1 ,2 3, 4 5 and 6.

    I have. Please try not to assume that I don’t read. I extend the same courtesy to you.

    I’m not particularly convinced by any of the scenarios you discuss .

    Then you are getting left behind in the discussion, and perhaps flippant dismissal is unwise.

    Why argue about the science and not the politics? several reasons. It’s more fun. I enjoy it more. Policy is boring.

    Bart Verheggen @ 200 beats me to it. You can respond to either of us. As I said before: it’s bad or very bad. Why bother arguing about the science continually, as you do? Some may interpret this as simply mischief-making, or worse.

  • EdG

    As someone who has been sent into permanent moderation purgatory for apparently making blunt over-the-top statements – “acidic” as Keith recently called them – I would just like to say that despite that status, and my obvious disdain for the whole AGW project, almost all of my comments do make it through.

    So I cannot complain. It is not like RealClimate or SkepticalScience where the Orwellian operators delete anything they don’t like or even worse – like the latter – revise commentary. And bottom line for me, any site that does ‘echo chamber’ editing is simply BORING (not to mention dishonest and not credible).  

    I find this site very interesting because of the divergent views. I found it even more interesting a few years back when I first found it because it wasn’t so AGW-politics oriented and had more variety. Maybe that will change. Change is the only constant. 

  • Sashka

    Keith,
    I understand. I meant pre-approve in such a way that the number of links won’t matter anymore.
    I certainly didn’t have much problems with the system but I also tend not to post links, so may not be very representative.

  • harrywr2

    willard
    The parachute is supposed to be relevant to make sense of the analogy.  For smaller planes, you can bet there are parachutes:
    Absent a control surface failure…I.E. Wing falling off, jumping out of an airplane with a parachute doesn’t increase safety. 
    I’ve personally done the ‘engine failure’ crash landing in a small airplane. Riding the plane in and inducing a controlled stall 10-20 feet off the ground in order to bleed off forward motion worked just fine.
    I didn’t carry a parachute and the only people I knew who carried parachutes were skydivers. If I had used a parachute when my engine failed I would have almost certainly ended up in the trees.
    The point being that the control surfaces of the airplane and the structural strength of the airplane provide more safety then a parachute. The only reason to carry a parachute is if you believe a sudden, catastrophic structural failure is probable. I.E. A military aircraft being shot at.




  • Eric Adler

    sashka,
    @ 215,
    You have no right to dismiss the argument I made, that development of green energy sources ,would help the economy, rather than wreck it, simply by calling it an opinion.  You are trying to get off too easy by doing that, without countering the reasons I gave.
    The fact is that the economy of the US and other countries needs some economic sector to generate jobs lost by housing and finance. This is not a matter of opinion, it is agreed upon by many economists.
    We have a surplus of cash for investment. The low interest rates for savings, and government bonds are a fact which cannot be denied. In addition the high rates of unemployment in the construction sector, and the high rates of unemployment among recent college graduates show that there is a surplus of workers. All of these are facts.
    At this point it seems that sustainable energy is a good candidate for an economic sector to employ idle resources, and could help to lead the economy out of recession. This wouldn’t wreck the economy, it would help it. It is another thing, if we didn’t have the idle resources that we do at this point.

     

  • Marlowe Johnson

    “Why bother arguing about the science continually, as you do? Some may interpret this as simply mischief-making, or worse.”

    Indeed.

    Following up on #211, interested readers/closet libertarians interested in policy may want to check out Tokyo Tom’s post here, wherein he provides a pretty good clearinghouse to libertarian thoughts on the climate change policy.

  • Sashka

    @ Eric (234)

    You make no substantive argument or analysis so it remains an opinion, nothing more.

    “an effort to develop renewable energy sources would employ lots of people in a very useful way” is just a euphemism for spending. There is indeed an opinion that government should spend more during hard times but it’s not universally shared and it’s not clear why spending on renewable energy would help economy any more than any other spending. In fact, the gov-t already spent trillions trying to pull the country out of recession and the results are clearly miserable. The spenders, of course, say that it only means that we didn’t spend enough. But it’s not terribly convincing.

    “We have a surplus of cash for investment.”

    I can’t imagine what you could possibly be talking about. Perhaps you live in China?

    “At this point it seems that sustainable energy is a good candidate for an economic sector to employ idle resources”

    Exactly: seems. That’s all there is to your “argument”. BTW, what exactly will the unemployed construction workers and recent liberal arts graduates do in the renewable energy industry?

  • jeffn

    willard: I know the altimeters are accurate because it is one reason planes don’t fly into mountains very often. It is also one – just one- element of landing systems at airports.
    I’ve no doubt that some are less accurate than others and they are a tool, not the be-all-end all. I flew airplanes- I can guess where you’re going with this. I would rather have a good altimeter, flaws and all, in a Cessna or an airliner than a parachute. Period.
    Since we’re asking each other questions- You’re on a 757 traveling at 600 miles per hour at 33,000 feet and the plane develops a problem- which is your preference? A. the airline focuses on redundancy, training and engineering with the goal of having the aircraft continue to fly safely or B. The airline R&D’s a variety of parachutes with the goal of initiating a catastrophic bailout at altitude as a precaution in case the problem worsens.

  • hunter

    the so-called fat tail is a fabrication in the first place.
    The AGW community is getting desperate- the EPA scam is busted, and AGW in Australia has transparently imposed an anti-democratic policy on its people by way of lies, misrepresentation and flat out censoring of the opposition.
    Face it: Not one policy or treaty or mitigation plan pushed by the AGW community has ever worked or ever will work to reduce CO2 or the risks of extreme weather events.
    The real fat tail is that there is no useful predictive power in the GCM’s touted by the AGW community: Whatever actions are done are loser actions as a result of the real uncertainty of this social mania.

  • kdk33

    Legislating a shift from low cost to high cost energy will not help the economy – by definition it will destroy wealth.  The only rationale for green energy is the CO2 externality argument.  Otherwise, the market will choose the cheapest energy.

    Yes, green energy employs people.  But so does digging holes on Monday and filling holes on Tuesday (not original to me, of course).

    One would think that the failure of central planning would be a lesson not soon forgotten.  No one of us, is as smart as all of us.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    harrywr2,

    Indeed, there are many circumstances where a parachute won’t save you, and there are many more ways to save your life than jumping off the plane with a parachute. Yet using a parachute sometimes makes sense, as you conceded.  Only this possibility is needed to understand the point of the thought experiment.  We could adjust it until this is made clear, or we could simply try to pump our intuition with it as it is.

    The latter seems more charitable to me.  Not only that, this is the only way to play the game.  Countering with “but there ain’t parachutes in planes” or “learning to crash land is safer than jumping” are ways not to play the game the analogy created.  At beast, it transposes the analogy into another game.  

    To see that clearly, compare learning to crash land with improving an altimeter’s accuracy to it’s 10th decimal point.  Unless you can claim that improving measurement accuracy can count as a safety measure, you have no case against what Herman Daly is saying by way of an image.

    I do appreciate when these technical and historical details are provided.  They create a more convivial atmosphere and shows from where are coming the commenters.

    That being said, since I’m adressing you, I have a clarification to ask.  You said in 207 above:

    >  We don’t care about risk, we care about loss. Incurring a “˜certain’ present loss because we are uncertain whether we will incur a future loss doesn’t logically evaluate.

    I’m not sure which logic you have in mind, but there are many formalisms to take care of this kind of reasoning.   And there are many realistic setups besides insurance. For instance, one can pay transaction fees to move out of a market.

    In fact, if you were right, the next months might prove very tough for rational investors. 

  • http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/ Bart Verheggen

    To those who advocate a wait and see approach I would ask if they would do the same when faced with an (inherently uncertain) diagnosis of a serious medical problem.

  • Keith Kloor

    Bart,

    I know what you mean by your analogy but let me give you two types of people it wouldn’t work with:

    1) those who continue with certain lifestyle habits (say, smoking, to name the obvious one) and,

    2) Those who ignore medical conditions and warning signs out of fear and/or denial. 

  • kdk33

    Bart,

    Inherently uncertain medical diagnosis  ????

    Could you give an example. 

    If my doctor told me I might have cancer, but then again I might not, and he couldn’t give odds either way, and the procedure he recommended benefited him financially, I would probably not do anything — except get another doctor.

    You are describing, AFAICT, something completely different than what KK seems to think you mean. 

  • Sashka

    @ 241
    This is the analogy that I was suggesting some time ago, specifically talking about gangrene. Perhaps this is why I like it lot more than snowstorm :)
    The answer is … it depends. For example, I would react differently to a possible cancer than to a risk of a heart attack. Everyone is different, the judgements are subjective and one size does not fit all.

  • harrywr2

    illard Says:
    October 14th, 2011 at 3:53 pm
    <i>To see that clearly, compare learning to crash land with improving an altimeter’s accuracy to it’s 10th decimal point</i>
    A landing in zero visibility conditions, a frequent and quantifiable event in aviation without an accurate altimeter is a ‘crash landing’.
    Here’s a not too long ago accident -
    http://www.boeing.com/commercial/aeromagazine/aero_08/erroneous_textonly.html
    <i>In October 1996, a Boeing 757 crashed into the Pacific Ocean about 30 mi off the coast of Lima, Peru….At impact into the Pacific Ocean, the captain’s flight instruments were reading approximately 9,500 ft,</i>
    I don’t know if there is a value to having an altimeter accurate to 10 decimal places. It would be nice if the altimeters were accurate to a  meter.
    The analogy depends on the premise that current  altimeters are ‘accurate’ and ‘reliable’.

    <i>but there are many formalisms to take care of this kind of reasoning.</i>
    For the entire last decade the US EIA annual projections of future coal prices and a shift from eastern to western coal have been wrong. They didn’t even get the sign right. They missed a simple fact.. coal transport prices were rising.
    In 2011 they finally woke up…maybe it was the fact that I wrote my congressman and pointed out the error or maybe it was they figured it out on their own. In any case US EIA for the first time in 10 years projected an increase in average coal prices and also projected that no new US coal plants would come on line after 2015.
    In light of the fact that we are incapable of projecting energy prices how can we project anything that is dependent on energy prices?
    What magical decision support tool can help us make decisions for the future when we don’t even know the correct sign of the most important  trends?
    NuScale power(Small nuclear plant designer) was teetering on bankrupcy a week ago. This week they are owned by one of the largest construction firms in the US.
    A week ago I would have said NuScale isn’t going to make it. This week I think they will ‘make it big’.
    Everybody is blathering on about how natural gas prices will stay cheap forever except a ConocoPhillips analyst.
    http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/NaturalGas/65767
    Bjorn Lomborg uses the best example.
    We could certainly calculate the costs and benefits of adding warning beacons to all the worlds icebergs to avoid a repeat of the Titanic event. What we could not know is that we would stop using ships as a means of transporting large numbers of people.







     

  • Sashka

    Platts: The page you requested cannot be found. The page you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable.

  • BBD

    Bart Verheggen @ 241

    Medical analogies are interesting. If a physician tells you that the biopsy is worrying, you are engaged because it is your neck on the line.

    The clear message from lots of scientists that all our necks are on the line is as nothing compared to a worried oncologist.

    Silly, but predictable.

    How do we engage ordinary, universal self-interest?

  • BBD

    harrywr2 @ 245

    Interesting, as ever.

    This link does not seem to work.

    http://www.platts.com/RSSFeedDetailedNews/RSSFeed/NaturalGas/65767

  • Sashka

    @ kdk
    Imagine that you are on an uninhabited island after ship wreck. The doctor says that you may have a gangrene and he is not certain how far it went: just pinkie or maybe a wrist or possibly even above the elbow. The possible decisions are to cut (where and when?) or not to cut.

    @ BBD
    There is no clear message like that. Certainly there are people who feel that way (they are often called alarmists) but in your formulation this is probably a minority opinion even among those who accept other tenets of AGW.

  • BBD

    BV

    To be clear, this was a general remark, rather than a question directed at you:

    How do we engage ordinary, universal self-interest?

  • Eric Adler

    KDK33,
    @239
    Infra structure spending  by governments has boosted the economy. It is different from Communism, to which you allude in which every detail of the economy is centrally planned.
    In fact, the building of railroads, highways, and rural electrification was very successful in boosting the economy of the US, and was financed and promoted by government.
    The externality argument is a valid one.
    Sashka @236
    In fact the evidence shows that the stimulus stopped the loss of jobs and was a positive factor in preventing a bigger drop in GDP than we have sustained. The CBO, Moody’s and other analysts agree. In fact the stimulus was too small to fill the hole in GDP resulting from the housing bust.  Most analysts agree that we need another round to reduce unemployment as Federal support to the states and local government ends, and they begin to lay off teachers and other government workers to balance their budgets.
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-25/obama-s-economic-stimulus-program-created-up-to-3-3-million-jobs-cbo-says.html
     

  • http://veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

    bart:

    ‘For all reasonable values of CS (say, between 1.5 and 6), the prudent thing to do, imho, is to start reducing emissions. One’s favoured policy direction is not dependent on CS (within those bounds). ”

    Actually it depends upon the economic status of your country and yur prospects for growth. The most recent study I looked at argued that for developing countries the best path forward was mitigation and for well developed countries the best path forward was a mixture of adaptation and mitigation. The optimum strategy devised hadnt been subjected to as nash equillibrium so, I’d not say that was a closed issue. But what you see as clear evidence to stop emissions, I see otherwise. I suppose at some point modelling of emissions and modelling of regional impacts will be refined enough that a strategy could be computed. 

    As for airplanes and parachutes,  it actually depends on a lot of things. metaphors almost never work with me.
     

  • Nullius in Verba

    #241,
    Do you mean the old one about if a doctor told you that you had cancer, although there were no symptoms yet, would you believe him? Or dismiss his expertise because you didn’t like the answer?

    I have to say, my reaction would be the same. I’d want to know what the evidence was. When they say they are uncertain (or certain) about something, on what basis and to what extent. I’d want to know what the prospects were for treatment, or if these are essentially unknown I’d want to be aware of that. What are the statistics on their diagnostic accuracy? On their patient survival rate?
    I would want the best available information on risks and options necessary to make a decision, and I’d want to be assured that the quality of the work was commeasurate with such a serious matter.

    I’d be less than impressed if the doctor was unable or unwilling to provide it. Or if serious errors had got past them, and they evinced a casual attitude to them saying that the “errors didn’t matter”. I’d be dubious if it turned out they were working with corrupted data and badly calibrated instruments, and using unproven adjustments to “fix” the data. I’d be worried if somebody claimed to be working on a cure for cancer, but started playing games to do with IPR and hiding data supposedly so they could publish more papers and similar academic politics when people’s lives were supposedly at stake. If it became apparent that the work hadn’t been properly checked.

    Medical research is done with far more care and oversight than climate science, because lives are at stake and medical negligence is big business, and even then is still rife with scientific malfeasance.
    Yes, I’d listen carefully to a doctor telling me I had such an illness, but I wouldn’t trust them simply because they were a doctor.

  • Sashka

    @ 250
    You have. I find it my self-interest to resist drastic cuts in CO2 until I’m convinced otherwise, and so are many others.

    @ 251
    Re: Moody’s – please supply the link.
    “stimulus package may have created or saved as many as 3.3 million jobs last quarter and lowered the unemployment rate by as much as 1.8 percentage points, the Congressional Budget Office said.”
    You see, may. Or may not.
    Now, the stimulus cost about 800B. Even if it did helped create 3.3 million job, each one cost us about $250,000. It’s a bit too much, don’t you think?

    “In fact the stimulus was too small to fill the hole in GDP resulting from the housing bust.”

    That’s exactly what I expected from you, as indicated in 236.

  • http://veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

    BBD

     ” As I said before: it’s bad or very bad. Why bother arguing about the science continually, as you do? Some may interpret this as simply mischief-making, or worse. ”

    you can mis interpret it any way you like. Why bother arguing about the science?  you mean to ask why do I bother to go on WUWT and explain that AGW is good science? Is that the argument you have an issue with? Do you have an issue with me trying to explain to people that C02 will warm the planet? is that the argument you have an issue with? do you have an issue with me arguing for data transparency and open science? Do you have an issue with me saying that I think sensitivity is more likely less than 3C than great than 3C? Well, go complain to the people who publish papers arguing those results. I choose to talk about what interests me. I choose to stay close to areas where I have at least covered the material all the way to the source data. If you want to play a game of motive hunting go right ahead. Look I’ve been called evil because I suggested that our obligations to future generations were less important than our obligations to the poor living today. And you want to invite me to a conversation with you? get a clue. If I choose to talk about policy it will not be with people like you or bart who think that curiousity about the science somehow  cashes out into evil intentions. I certainly wont talk about policy with people who think my concern for the less fortunate alive today is somehow evil. So, explain to me why I should want to talk about policy with people who think they can read my mind, plumb my soul and have already decided I am evil. Scuse me, I’ve got better things to do.

  • BBD

    Steven Mosher

    Look I’ve been called evil because I suggested that our obligations to future generations were less important than our obligations to the poor living today.

    What’s the difference? Either you care about people, or not. I do not doubt your sincerity, but this is confused. Or at least, confusing.

    I’m still not clear what you think you are doing.

  • BBD

    Yes, another BBD effup. To be clear:

    Steven Mosher

    You say:
    Look I’ve been called evil because I suggested that our obligations to future generations were less important than our obligations to the poor living today.


    What’s the difference? Either you care about people, or not. I do not doubt your sincerity, but this is confused. Or at least, confusing.

    I’m still not clear what you think you are doing.

  • BBD

    SM

    Do you have an issue with me saying that I think sensitivity is more likely less than 3C than great than 3C?


    I’m still not sure. But I think so. It hinges on misrepresentation of the likely consequences.

  • BBD

    Off to bed now.

  • Eric Adler

    KK @15
    “Yes, we know that shoe bombers are out there. We also know what the climate looked like at 1000 ppm.”
    That may be true, but the consequences of the rapid change in GHG concentration, which could be 100 times more rapid than the most rapid natural changes in the history of the earth are not understood.
    http://www.economics.harvard.edu/faculty/weitzman/files/REEP2011%2Bfat-tail.pdf
    It has been 10′s of millions of years since the CO2 level has  been that high, the end of the cretacious period, and the average global temperature was 25C versus today’s 15C:
    http://geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html
    That is frighteningly high.

  • kdk33

    Eric@251

    I agree with you.  Some jobs require government – roads, rr tracks, transmision slines.  Hard to imagine those projects without some appeal to eminent domain.  And some infrastructure projects do create wealth – the interstate system.  OTOH, some infrastructure projects do not -  see eg. Rick Perry + crony capitalism + NAFTA super-highway.

    But I see green energy very differently.  To stick with the analogy, green energy is paying for a 4-lane highway, then paying as much again for another crew to Bulldoze 2-lanes back to dirt.  Why would I want government to spend my tax money destroying wealth.

    Only the CO2 externality could justify green energy - ISTM - and it’s about that that we argue.  I, of course, am not convinced -being a denier and all.

  • http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com willard

    harrywr2,

    I like your analysis, which shows that Herman Daly might very be underestimating the importance of altimeters and overestimating the importance of parachutes.  Reading back the interesting Boeing resource you provide, I found that this paragraph laid down the safety problem in a neat way:

    > Flight deck automation and flight control technology, coupled with excellent systems reliability and redundancy, allow flight crews to easily control their airplanes from takeoff to touchdown regardless of outside visibility. However, if an anomaly occurs, the complex systems that automate, control, and display information in modern flight decks can produce erroneous or insufficient information. When faced with the resulting uncertainties, flight crews must determine what information is reliable and what information should not be used in order to make the proper decisions.

    From the first sentence, we can see the importance of reliability in our safety problem.  Redundancy, say by having two different devices for altimetry, is also important.  Yet a measuring device that malfunctions does not provide information that is inaccurate, but **erroneous**.

    Perhaps we could say that error entails inaccuracy, except perhaps for stopped clocks that are very accurate twice a day.  But we certainly can’t say that inaccuracy entails error.  Any measuring device has bounds of precision.

    Here is how the authors of the article diagnoze the weakest link in the chain of events leading to safety issues:

    > Unfortunately, safety data show that not all flight crews have satisfactorily handled situations caused by erroneous flight instrument information. [...] Investigations of these events indicate that, with proper preparation, the flight crews involved in these events probably could have prevented them.

    That lack of preparation is identified as the main source of the problem was to be foreseen.  Bad apples are way more expandable than admitting that their overall business can be expected to kill many.  Be that as it may, they certainly don’t identify inaccuracy as the cause of the safety problem.

    This is not unlike what the analogy presumes:

    > The analogy depends on the premise that current altimeters are “˜accurate’ and “˜reliable’.

    Aircraft carriers are clearly supposing that their measuring devices are reliable enough to fly safely, and that there are ways to tell when a measuring device stopped giving reliable information.  Are you suggesting we should not?

    ***

    I’ll return another time to the other question.  I’ll close for now with this paper that shows researchers trying to develop altimeters that with 5-cm precision by 2002:

    http://www.cosmic.ucar.edu/related_papers/2002_lowe_grl.pdf

    This was not for meant aircraft business, but to show that other people agree with you that

    > It would be nice if the altimeters were accurate to a meter.

  • http://ourchangingclimate.wordpress.com/ Bart Verheggen

    Steven Mosher,

    I’m wondering where you got this idea from:

    “(…) people like you or bart who think that curiousity about the science somehow  cashes out into evil intentions.”

    I certainly don’t think that curiosity about the science is evil nor have I called you evil. Not sure what you mean, but it sounds like a made-up accusation to me.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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