The Durban Climate Deal and Cognitive Dissonance

By Keith Kloor | December 13, 2011 2:45 pm

There’s something remarkable happening this week in the climatesphere. People who routinely thunder that we are on the verge of climate doom have mostly shrugged at the lackluster outcome of the recent climate summit in South Africa. I’m wondering if they’ve self-medicated themselves with sedatives. Consider that, last week Grist’s David Roberts wrote (his emphasis):

If there is to be any hope of avoiding civilization-threatening climate disruption, the U.S. and other nations must act immediately and aggressively on an unprecedented scale. That means moving to emergency footing. War footing.

Yesterday, a more muted Roberts was waxing on about the importance of “symbolism” while chiding greens for holding to the “illusion that an international treaty could compel national decision makers to cut emissions faster their their domestic populations are willing.”  So I’m curious to hear what mechanism he believes will compel the world to get on that “war footing.” Because I’m kinda thinking that “a plan about a plan,” with “holes big enough to drive a hummer through,” as Andy Revkin notes, and which, whatever it ends up being, doesn’t go into effect until 2020, is not anything to pin one’s hopes on.

Then there is Mr. Hell and High Water. Nobody consistently shouts louder from the climate doom mountaintop than Joe Romm. And nobody else relentlessly berates the media for failing to shout with him from the mountaintop. Like Roberts, Romm often argues that the urgency of global warming is at hand, and that continued dawdling will ensure climate catastrophe on a wide scale. Yet, seemingly determined to make lemonade out of lemons, Romm hailed the Durban agreement as a

a pretty big success, committing the entire world “” not just rich countries “” to develop a roadmap for reductions.

True, he also said that

from the perspective of what is needed to avert catastrophic climate change, the agreement was, sadly, lacking.

Which makes me wonder, according to the brutal logic of climate change, how Romm will define “success” going forward.

For as Fred Pearce observes in the New Scientist, the Durban deal

is a post-dated check. It won’t do anything to help the climate in the next decade ““ a decade that scientists say is critical to arresting global warming and turning the world’s energy infrastructure towards low-carbon sources.

So I’m still struggling to reconcile the feverish rhetoric and dire warnings with the cold reality of climate diplomacy. Stripped to its essence, what has the Durban agreement truly yielded? Eugene Robinson, in his Washinton Post column, pretty much nails it:

Durban’s real accomplishment was to keep the slow, torturous process of climate negotiations alive “” with the biggest carbon emitters now involved. This buys time for real solutions to emerge.

I think he’s right about the first part, that the process is still alive, but more like a death row candidate buying time with legal appeals. Exactly how much time climate negotiators can buy for the climate is anyone’s guess, except those who laud the results of the process while saying time has already run out.

  • Jarmo

    Durban, meet real world:

    China’s coal consumption rises 10.3 pct in first three quarters
    http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-10/23/c_131207356.htm
     
      

  • Anteros

    I think your investigation into this is apt but I’m quite baffled by most of the reactions including Romm’s and Eugene Robinson’s. If the real achievement was to “keep the slow tortuous process alive” what happened to ambition? It is staggeringly defeatist – unless, of course, I missed the rumours that the whole venture was on the verge of being abandoned. It wasn’t, was it?

    If anybody thinks that the ‘big’ (and growing) emitters have actually signed up to anything other than a lot of talking I fear they slightly misunderstand international diplomacy. If you believe emissions must peak in the very near future, Durban surely is a complete disaster.

    Joe Romm sounds strangely naive to claim there is something particularly meaningful about the entire world ‘committing’ to develop a roadmap. A roadmap? A roadmap in politics is a concept that gets used by politicians who are really rather keen to do absolutely nothing. It reminds me of the optimism of 1992 – how justified was that? I think it might be an appropriate time to start laying bets on the date Co2 emissions reach double the 1990 levels.

  • Tom Scharf

    It is unclear to me exactly how keeping the hopes up for the third world that their is a big pot of gold at the end of climate reparations rainbow is called progress.

    I find it beyond wishful thinking that wealthy countries are going to cave into some sort of climate guilt syndrome and simply throw money away.  Good luck getting that through the US congress.  

    This thing has dissolved into a self perpetuating fraud.  Does anyone who goes to these things really believe in it?  Shouldn’t somebody bring along some right wing people to at least burst out laughing when some of this crazy stuff is proposed (e.g. divert all war income to climate change and simply not have wars anyomre…?.?.?.).

    I feel sorry for the true believers in this process.
     

  • Anteros

    Tom Scharf -

    “I feel sorry for the true believers in this process.”


    Me too. I think maybe I’m tearing my hair out on their behalf..

  • Jack Hughes

    Gaia moves in mysterious ways …

  • huxley

    The climate change movement is hitting bottom in realizing that their agenda is dead in the water and unlikely to be revived soon.

    It’s going to take the faithful some time to process this political reality.

  • grypo

    Another decade of BAU is bad enough, but the idea that anything agreed to there is still valid in a decade is an even more ridiculous pill to swallow.  I can’t even tell if the Green Fund is binding, and that’s all I thought would happen there!

  • Keith Kloor

    Here is Thomas Homer-Dixon several days ago:
    “The whole climate-change negotiation process and the larger political discourse surrounding this horrible problem is a drawn-out and elaborate exercise in lying ““ to each other, to ourselves, and especially to our children.” 

  • huxley

    …a drawn-out and elaborate exercise in lying….

    It’s called denial, as in the first stage of grief.

  • EdG

    #8 Keith

    Yes, Homer-Dixon. The comments there say more than he does.

    But in the pursuit of balance and the quest for the middle, here’s another opinion piece from that same paper today, from the opposite end of the spectrum, with more comments worth reading.

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/margaret-wente/climate-theatre-of-the-absurd/article2268504/comments/  

    I noticed in those comments that somebody mentioned a CBC online poll which shows about a two-thirds majority supporting Canada’s withdrawal from Kyoto. Since the CBC is Canada’s BBC, that is very revealing – for what online polls are worth.

    It is, of course, a total spinfest out there right now. None of it really matters other than for entertainment value.

    As to this ongoing process, I have a roadmap of New York City but have no plans, need, or desire to go there no matter how they color it. But it did provide jobs for the mappers.

  • OPatrick

    Keith, I don’t think it’s difficult to understand the position of those who have said positive things about the outcome in Durban. As you note, every commenter without exception has made it clear that this is not even remotely close to being good enough. But what some people are optimistic about is the shift towards the sort of thinking and processes that may make a difference.

    At present there is little doubt that the political will is not there to achieve what we need to, but I believe international opinion has the potential to shift more rapidly than many expect. If these shifts in pulic opinion do occur over the next few years then having this process of establishing legal frameworks already underway will mean that the international response can happen that much more quickly.

    This isn’t much to be optimistic about, but optimism is relative. 

  • Keith Kloor

    Here’s another one of those head-scratching headlines in line with my post: “The verdict on Durban–a major step forward, but not for ten years.” (From a Mark Lynas post.) 

    OPatrick (11)

    On the contrary, I think some commenters are either not not being honest with themselves or their readers. They are certainly not being intellectually consistent. 

  • OPatrick

    Really Keith? Which commenters specifically do you not think are being honest or intellectually consistent? (I’ll take Romm as a given from you.)

  • http://veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

    Someday our grandchildren will hold Romm and others responsible for failing to get on with the practical business of no regrets adaptations and no regrets mitigations. Instead they continue to chase a gloabla treaty that will never happen or if it happens will happen to late to do anything worth while. How much longer will we allow these folks to take the risky path of believing that a global accord will be secured?

    Its clear to me that the precautionary principle argues that adaptation  must begin now. We cannot risk everything on an mitigation agreement that may never come to fruition. 

  • Keith Kloor

    @13

    I think a whole bunch of people (who know better) are talking out of both sides of their mouth. For those who take their lead from what climate science says, I just don’t see how anyone can rationalize this deal.

    Here’s more from that post by Pearce I referenced: 

    “However successful the deal felt early on Sunday, the brutal truth for climate negotiators is this: since 2007, when a “road map” to halt warming at 2 °C was agreed in Bali, Indonesia, they have spent four years on talks that have come to nothing. The plan for a deal to come into force when the Kyoto protocol expires in December 2012 sank without trace. The Durban agreement is essentially a pact to start again, with some added text about the legal nature of the future deal.” 

    Pearce closes with this:

    “I can’t see anything in these negotiations that will prevent warming beyond 2 °C,” said UNEP director Achim Steiner as he left Durban hours before the conference’s conclusion. “To do that will require the world’s carbon dioxide emissions to peak by 2020.” Instead, we now have an agreement to agree on emissions cuts to begin in 2020, preceded by a voluntary period where nations do what they will. Whatever the diplomatic triumph, that is the bottom line for the planet. 

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @14 steve mosher:

    What “no regrets” adaptation and mitigation measures are being opposed by “Romm and others”?

  • OPatrick

    Keith

    “I just don’t see how anyone can rationalize this deal.”

    But you can see it, because it’s being done in every post you are citing. I don’t understand your sticking point with it – this deal isn’t good enough but it makes action that is good enough more likely in the future. That’s why people are bing positive about it. 

  • Keith Kloor

    @17

    Are just being argumentative for argumentative sake? Of course I can see it. I’m pointing out that such rationalization of the deal is at odds with the rhetoric and the dire warnings. Maybe you’re having a cognitive dissonance problem, too?

    What future are you talking about, the one post 2020? 

  • OPatrick

    Hopefully one before 2020.

    The positives are very little to do with the agreement that was made, more to do with shifts in approach, the willingness of participants to come to some form of agreement and make some compromises.

    From Lynas, for example:

    “The fact that this made it into the outcome is a massive concession by the BASIC group, and by China and India in particular. In essence this reverses the Chinese “˜no’ from Copenhagen, and cements the flexibility China signalled to the press as the high-level negotiations got underway in Durban.”   

  • Alexander Harvey

    steven mosher #14:

    I believe that the required adaptation to get us to 2050 in terms of the projected rise in global temperatures and sea level does not seem to differ much between any of the unmitigated scenarios nor from the proposed 2ºC stabilisation, beyond that things diverge.

    In that case the essential adapatation for the next ~40years will not be much affected by any treaties, and could be planned and commenced as required. Obviously there are strategic decisions regarding what to do about shoreline developments that have a lifetime beyond 2050 and that is dependant on future emissions and would vary accordingly. FWIW my confidence in projections beyond 2050 is actually quite small which makes adaptation with regard to such distant events seem very hit or miss.

    Is the current indecision truly a barrier to the commencement of planned adaptation? If it is, perhaps it is a psychological one.
    Alex

  • hunter

    Keith, it is the zombie phase of AGW. Dead but still moving, and very dangerous. Some of the AGW ideas still might become reality and zombie believers may persuade some governments to waste more money and hurt more people in the name of CO2.
    The (vast) over use of fear mongering by AGW promoters and con-artists is finally wearing nearly everyone out.

     

  • hunter

    The reality is the UNFCCC is threatening Canada for exercising its sovereignty and choosing to walk away from what was a voluntary treaty and its completely failed agenda.
    That is the real nail in the coffin. That sort of bureaucratic over reach is what will finally trigger the iron law Pielke talks about and give nations an excuse to unwind the UNFCCC: its been fun, guys, but now you have gone and started meddling. It was cute to hear Suzuki, Hansen, Gore and even Romm boom and thunder on and on about their CO2 obsessions. But now you are talking mandatory?
    AGW is a zombie: a living dead monstrosity.

  • hunter

    steven,
    Adaptation has been going on for thousands of years. We do not need a corrupt ridiculous part of the UN controlling that process.
     

  • NewYorkJ

    Lynas (as OPatrick notes in #19) has this one mostly right, and his post is worth a full read.  Success in one sense is relative to expectations.  We’ve been hearing for months (often from denier types) that Durban is DOA, so it’s not hard to surpass those expectations.  Getting China and India on board is key, albeit at a much weakened and delayed overall commitment.  Not even the most aggressive mitigation scenarios I’ve seen projects either country doing anything but growing GHG emissions over this decade (some cases significantly more slowly than others offset from BAU), before eventual declines, so the agreement isn’t out of line with that. 

    Largely independent of this are the new and continued “grass roots” efforts by individual nations (Australia and throughout Europe and South America), U.S. states, and Canadian provinces, that will carry forward regardless of the lowest common denominator international agreements.  There’s this tendency by media and others to portray the international discussions as sort of a “if it doesn’t happen sufficienty here it happens nowhere” make-or-break situation.  If we’re to use Roberts’ war analogies, you could say it’s a war on many fronts involving many different groups.

  • huxley

    There’s this tendency by media and others to portray the international discussions as sort of a “if it doesn’t happen sufficienty here it happens nowhere” make-or-break situation.

    NewYorkJ @24: Of course, AGW alarmists never burden people with “if we don’t reduce to carbon emissions to X or carbon levels to Y” make-or-break situations...

  • hunter

    NewYorkJ,
    You don’t get it: There are no mitigation efforts anywhere by anyone that will impact either CO2 or the climate. Calling the government cramdown of corrupt flawed and unworkable AGW policies “grassroots” is an Orwellian exercise on your part.
    The war is by AGW believers on human progress. To the extent that AGW believers get people to waste money and effort on their demands, their war is ‘successful’.

     

  • jeffn

    Durban was very successful for the (large) part of the AGW movement that never has cared about GHG emissions. They reestablished “commitments” for the US and Europe to shovel money out the door. Some might even meet a few percent of those promises.
    Germany adopts a comprehensive energy plan to shift from nukes to fossil fuels. Durban is another successful money grub- without any media attention to what certainly would be called the US “failure to lead” if a Republican were in office.
    And they reiterated that India and China are exempt from any real action on emissions (other than to increase them).
    Yes, this has been a great year for the AGW movement.

  • Sashka

    @ mosher (13)

    “Someday our grandchildren will hold Romm and others responsible for failing to get on with the practical business of no regrets adaptations and no regrets mitigations.”

    That’s a strange statement coming from a lukewarmer. If you truly believe that the CS is somewhere around 2-2.5 C then why do we need drastic measures?

  • Eric Adler

    Steve Mosher @14,
    I don’t understand why you are berating Romm for “failing to get on with the practical business of no regrets adaptations and no regrets mitigations.”  If you actually read Romm’s blog with any frequency you couldn’t miss his motto regarding what to do about GHG emissions. His proposal for clean energy is “Deploy, Deploy, Deploy, R&D, Deploy, Deploy, Deploy ..” He says clean energy solutions are available now ,  cost effective , and will decrease in price in the future as lessons are learned as we deploy them. You can find a statement like this and an article to support it on his blog any day that you look.
    He does not counsel waiting for a treaty, as you claim.
    He does not believe that adaptation is a viable substitute for mitigation, but that is another issue.
     

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @29 Eric Adler:
    I don’t understand why you are berating Romm

    It is a bit curious, isn’t it?

  • Keith Kloor

    @30 

    There are lots of things that Romm writes I find a bit curious. But even more curious, to me, is that people who know better don’t call him on it. I’ve pretty much chalked it up to tribalism, and them not wanting to be perceived as or accused of aiding the “other side.”

  • kdk33

    Eric,

    You almost have it…  Romm’s strategy is $ub$idize, $ub$idize, $ub$idize.

    Sadly, we seem to have run out of $$$.  Perhaps BHO’s buddys will give some back.

  • harrywr2

    that the process is still alive, but more like a death row candidate buying time with legal appeals
    We’ve had the discussion before.
    Currently China has 300 nuclear regulators, with 25 plants under construction. Compare that to the 4,000 employees of the US NRC.
    It will be 2020 before either India or China will have the regulatory infrastructure be in a position to ‘safely’ build nuclear reactors at a pace fast enough to meet growing energy demand. It just takes time to create a ‘large, highly technical, professional staff’.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @31 Keith Kloor:
    There are lots of things that Romm writes I find a bit curious. But even more curious, to me, is that people who know better don’t call him on it.

    Romm emphasizes one side of the science and policy. He is undeniably partisan. I fully acknowledge that. I’m not sure what more you want from people like me.

    When people say absolutely ridiculous things like Mosher has here, or when people ignore Romm’s proposal to increase nukes by 700GW and insinuate that he is part of some anti-nuke movement, I find it a bit puzzling. Romm’s flaws are what they are. Why the constant need to make crap up about him or equate him with people who are undeniably anti-science?

  • Keith Kloor

    @34 What makes you think I’m talking to you? You’re an anonymous commenter. You have little to none standing in the public sphere. 

    Yet you do have a way of reinforcing my tribalism point. Also, are you referring to me RE: the “constant need to make crap up about him?” If so, please do point to a few concrete examples. You sound very Romm-like when you talk like that. 

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @35 Keith Kloor:
    What makes you think I’m talking to you? You’re an anonymous commenter. You have little to none standing in the public sphere.

    Keith, as cute as you might think it is continuously hard on the fact that I blog and comment under a pseudonym and thus somehow matter less than others who make fools of themselves under their ostensibly real names, you’re taking it a little far, don’t you think?

    What “makes me think you’re talking to me” is the fact that you commented directly after me, included in your post a reference to my comments, etc.

    Not much of a mystery there, is it?

    Also, are you referring to me RE: the “constant need to make crap up about him?” If so, please do point to a few concrete examples.

    The concrete example in question is Mosher’s ridiculous assertion that Romm does not support “no regrets” mitigation and adaptation efforts. I assume that even you can agree this is absurd?

    I will stop just short of accusing you explicitly of “making crap up” about Romm. I find your equivalences that you attempt to draw between him and some other people to be fallacious, and I think it’s incredibly misleading to insinuate that someone is anti-nuclear in the context of combating climate change when they’ve called multiple times for doing “all of the above” including expanding nukes. None of this is stuff that I haven’t already said to you.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    Should have read “as cute as you might think it is to continuously harp on”
    That will teach me not to proofread.

  • Alexander Harvey

    Sashka #28 raises a significant point:

    “If you truly believe that the CS is somewhere around 2-2.5 C then why do we need drastic measures?”

    I will do what I can to answer this.

    The basis I put forward relies on certain assumptions and implied goals, importantly:

    1) we seek to limit global warming to at a certain temperature, 2ºC above pre-industrial is the commonly assumed goal

    2) for various reasons we will move towards clean combustion.

    Clean combustion would remove the polutants that enhance warming such as black carbon and brown clouds, and the aerosols that tend to promote cooling, thereby leaving us with the essential GHE due to the radiative properties og the GHGs to cope with.

    The combination of an estimate of the climate sensitivity (CS) with the temperature goal gives as a ceiling for the GHE forcing given a clean air policy.

    The business as usual process tends to increase the GHE forcing by an amount that has been more or less constant for the 30yrs (it has actually slowed slightly as a result of the Montreal Protocol).

    Given a choice of CS and the current GHE forcing and its BAU rate of increase one can calculate that date that the forcing cieling is reached. Stabilisation at that level requires that GHG emissions be limited to the natural environental uptake rate (unless we start extracting them from the atmosphere). With respect to carbon dioxide that rate is a good deal smaller than the emission rate, for convenience it is around one half (plus or minus around 10% I believe), So stabilisation when required would mean significant action on emissions (I think this might be considered drastic).

    So given the above we can relate CS to a date after which significant action on emissions is required.

    I have performed a somewhat crude calculation to give the following.

    For a CS = 2.25ºC (a the middle of the suggested range) the date comes out as …

    2014 just three years hence.

    That may seem puzzling and if so I think that people have not really explained what is required to achieve the 2ºC goal.

    A commonly assumed value for CS is 3ºC. If that were true we would have passed the forcing ceiling around the turn of the century and we are alresy talking about reducing the GHE from current levels not stabilising it at some future level.

    The bottom IPCC figure is 2ºC for which I get a stabilisation date of 2026. Given that suddenly reducing CO2 emissions is undesirable we would have 15 years to get our act together starting now or just 6 years starting in 2020, a date that seems to have emerged from COP17.

    Now my figures are just that, my figures, but I haven’t seen this issue qunatified in this way elsewhere, I guess similar has been done but I haven’t seen it.

    From this I feel that CS values in the range 2.0ºC to 2.5ºC do not leave me with any room for complacency. I should like to see a better and more authorative analysis than mine put squarely into the public domain, for I feel that the known uncertainty in CS could otherwise lead to insufficiently informed judgements when assuming low end IPCC values for CS.

    Alex

  • Keith Kloor

    TB,

    Let me be clear about something: I don’t think it’s cute; I think it’s cowardly. 

  • Sashka

    I don’t see any need to make up crap about Romm. He supplies the substance himself, in quantity.

  • Marlowe Johnson

    Keith your antipathy towards TB is very puzzling. You of all people –as a journalist–should respect a commentor’s desire for anonymity. IMHO TB’s contributions are always cogent and on topic. If he engaged in the kind of personal vilification that a certain someone (who thankfully has been seen in these parts for a while) did, then your attitude might make sense. I don’t understand what you find so threatening about TB.  It reminds me of RPJr’s unhinged reactions towards Michael Tobis…

    What gives?

    Back to the topic at hand.  For those familiar with the international dynamics at play in climate negotiations, it has been clear for many, many years that the COP process was more about political theater for domestic consumption than about meaningful coordination at the international level.  Sad but true.  

    OTOH, one shouldn’t confuse public statements for official policy. IOW what the Chinese say publicly in Durban may not necessarily reflect what they’re willing to do when they’re talking to folks from the State Department behind closed doors…

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @40 Sashka:
    I don’t see any need to make up crap about Romm. He supplies the substance himself, in quantity.

    And that’s the thing, ins’t it. If Romm really is as bad as though who attack him like to claim, then there’s no need for them to attack him for things he doesn’t do. His actual behavior, if it is as bad as they say, should be more than sufficient.

    And yet…

    @ 39 Keith Kloor:
    I think it’s cowardly.

    Sigh. When you can’t play the ball, play the man…

    @41 Marlowe Johnson:
    Keith your antipathy towards TB is very puzzling.

    You and me both. I have no idea what set it off, but there was a remarkable change around the end of October of this year.

  • Keith Kloor

    @41

    I happen to think TB and NiV are two sides of the same coin. (How do you like that for equivalency?)

    Both are smart and often leave interesting comments in unobjectionable language. And both are often just as disingenuous. I’ve seen enough of their comments to recognize that characteristic.

    I’d also take them more seriously if they used their real names, or if I at least knew who they were. Again, this is not to say that I don’t understand why people choose to stay anonymous. It just is what it is.

    I should also add that I respect both for their intellect. It would be fun to see them face off against each other in a courtroom, as opposing lawyers. 

  • Marlowe Johnson

    If that’s the case Keith, then I’d suggest that your journalist’s instinct/tendency to see everything in a binary fashion hinders your judgement and understanding of the dialogue.

    But as you say it is what is. 

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @43 Keith Kloor:
    I happen to think TB and NiV are two sides of the same coin. (How do you like that for equivalency?)

    That may be one of the funniest things I’ve read in quite some time!

    And both are often just as disingenuous.

    Keith, the only time you’ve ever made this claim against me, other people besides myself pointed out that it didn’t make any sense in the context of the discussion. Two people not understanding each other isn’t a sufficient basis to claim that one is being disingenuous. I emailed you and tried to work out whatever the misunderstanding was. Your excuse for not doing so was that I used a pseudonym.

    So you don’t respond to my arguments on their substance because I use a pseudonym (true) and am allegedly disingenuous (I disagree completely). And you’re using the former as the justification for not even attempting to resolve my contesting of the latter. Which is a bit convenient.

  • Keith Kloor

    Marlowe,

    I understand the dialogue all too well. As a journalist, I’ve also built a pretty good antenna for partisan agenda masquerading as truth-seeking (see post on David Whitehouse, for example). In the comments, it manifests itself in other ways, such as by what people take issue with, what they respond to, or how they rationalize the unseemly behavior/tactics of their side but are offended by the same behavior when it’s on the other side.

    That’s why I think the biggest problem with the dialogue is tribalism.

     

  • Keith Kloor

    TB,

    Another fine example of your talent for conflation. I said I respect your intellect, and that you often leave interesting comments. But that you’re also frequently disingenuous. (You act like I’ve only pointed this out to you once, but you’re wrong.) And that I don’t take you as seriously as I might because you’re anonymous. That’s different from not responding to your arguments, which I have plenty of times. 

    I also engage enough in this space with anonymous people, such as yourself. So I’m not about to have a private conversation with someone hiding behind a pseudonym. You don’t like that. Too bad.

    If somebody contacts me about a story I’m working on and he wants to talk to me and remain anonymous, I respect that. But I have to meet that person, take the measure of him, check his bonafides, etc, etc. That’s how I operate.

    So I’m not about to have an offline debate with someone who writes under a pseudonym and takes issue with how he’s characterized under that pseudonym. I find that ridiculous.

  • Sashka

    @ Alex (38)

    Thanks for the effort! Unfortunately without seeing your calculations I cannot comment on correctness of your results.

    If I understood you correctly that, assuming CS=2.25C, if we stabilize GHE at (projected) 2014 level then the equilibrium will be 2C warming. If CS=3C then we’ll get more than 2C warming in the end.

    Since I cannot challenge your calculations at the moment I’ll focus on assumptions.

    I do know that a lot of people want to limit warming by 2C but I don’t know why this has become a magic number. Personally I have no faith in 2C. Moreover I’m not particularly interested in the global mean. I’m much more interested in the regional distribution. Many places would become much more hospitable if it were 2C warmer. I, for one, grew up at 60-th latitude and let me assure you it was not fun climate-wise. If it so happens that the tropics don’t warm by much, mid-latitudes warm moderately, and sub-polar warms by a lot (as seems to be the case) then I’d call warming a net positive – for now.

    I agree that eventually there will be a cost to pay, primarily due to rising sea level but I’m not convince which of the economic choices is preferable. I tend to lean to adaptation because building a gigantic Dutch-style dams (someone told me before that it’s not the right word so forgive me, English is not my native, but you’ll know what I mean) will be a job creator and an economic boost in many poor countries while mitigation will have a negative impact, mostly in the developed countries.

    Second, it’s total amount of emissions that matters. We don’t really need to do stabilize in any given year if we have a good plan of developing carbon-free energy. That’d be renewables and especially nukes. The latter will take a long time to build up but once it’s done we’ll be able to compensate for over-emissions of previous years.

    Third, you completely ignore Geo-engineering. For example, according to Caldeira, spreading a minor amount of SO2 (?) in the stratosphere would control the warming nicely. This is an example of a non-drastic solution even if you perceive the problem as potentially catastrophic.

    Bottom line is that while complacency may not be the right attitude I see no need to jump to drastic mitigation measures.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @47 Keith Kloor:
    “You act like I’ve only pointed this out to you once, but you’re wrong.”

    I am happy to be shown to be wrong about that. When else did this ostensibly happen?

    “And that I don’t take you as seriously as I might because you’re anonymous. That’s different from not responding to your arguments, which I have plenty of times. 

    I also engage enough in this space with anonymous people, such as yourself.”

    You just used my pseudonimity in this very thread to avoid the substance of a comment of mine. Come on.

  • Keith Kloor

    There was no substance for me to engage with. Tough to imagine, I know. But that was my judgment.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @50 Keith Kloor:
    “There was no substance for me to engage with. Tough to imagine, I know. But that was my judgment.”

    Do you agree or disagree that Mosher’s claim is ridiculous?

    Do you agree or disagree that it’s misleading to insinuate that someone is anti-nuke in the context of combatting cluimate change when he or she has called for massively increasing nukes?

    Do you agree or disagree that if someone is wrong then he or she should be criticized for positions he or she actually espouses rather than positions that he or she not only does not hold but are diametrically opposed to the ones he or she does?

  • huxley

    I do know that a lot of people want to limit warming by 2C but I don’t know why this has become a magic number.

    Sashka @48: According to Stewart Brand in Whole Earth Discipline:

    [Mark Lynas's "Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet] is a cure for an incrementalist approach to climate change. You don’t think “We can handle a 2-degree rise” after you learn what that will mean.

    I’ve browsed the Two Degrees chapter via excerpts in Google Books. Lynas foresees water shortages in China and India, large hits on biodiversity, and food shortages in the Third World. However, after two degrees:

    With assiduous planning and adaptation, the world need not tip into serious food deficit. However, if the temperature rises past two degrees, preventing mass starvation Nvi I be increasingly difficult, as future chapters will show. First millions, then billions of people will face an increasingly tough battle to survive as rising temperatures make growing sufficient food an ever more difficult task.

  • Alexander Harvey

    Sashka #48:

    I understand the considerations regarding the assumed goals so I separated them in order to let the rest stand on its own merit.

    For a view I have taken on geo-engineering see:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/2011/12/02/the-climate-middle-ground/#comment-90266

    where amongst oterh things I write:

    “I should wish to support a simple reduction of emissions but I find I must support managing emissions. A critical distinction is that I find myself bringing the question of geo-engineering to the table. Not because it is a good idea, or even the bad idea whose time has come, but as the de facto state of affairs.
    Perhaps I could be persuaded otherwise, but as best as I can judge from the science as stated by the IPCC ARx WGI, mankind cannot simply reduce emissions and meet the goals.”

    The posting is largely personal opinion regarding options.

    However also in that posting is some more detail giving the information sources for the forcings and some indication of the calculation.

    Elsewhere in that thread it seems that I consider the “sulphate question” e.g. that high values for CS lead to having either a high end aerosol cooling effect or high end oceanic thermal uptake rates and I show puzzle and regret that we have not been able to nail this effect.

    I hope that thread helps.

    Re: Holland,

    in English it is sometimes known as the Dutch polder system, polders being the enclosed areas and the walls being dikes.

    Alex

  • Anteros

    For everyone discussing just how terrible 2 degrees of warming will be, can you calculate the terribleness of the last 6 degrees of warming?

    We know for sure that life has thrived throughout the last million years of rising and falling temperatures. Do you not think that humanity has a considerable amount of ‘adaptability’? Or is everybody of the future going to be hit with a great big ‘idiot-stick’?

    Huxley – I’d say Lynas’s comments about <i>mass starvation</i> are perfect examples of worthless, unsupportable fear-mongering. They have no basis in reason, fact or evidence.

  • Sashka

    @ 52

    There is a simple and relatively cheap solution to future shortages and starvations. It’s called condom. We (the developed countries) need to distribute free condoms in the fastest growing poor countries. Far better than fighting emissions.

  • huxley

    Huxley ““ I’d say Lynas’s comments about <i>mass starvation</i> are perfect examples of worthless, unsupportable fear-mongering. They have no basis in reason, fact or evidence.

    Anteros: I suspect Lynas’s predictions will fail like the eco-alarmism of the past. But I haven’t read the book and Lynas’s arguments, so I simply quoted him to indicate where one might look for justification of the 2C limit.

  • Nullius in Verba

    Regarding 2 C and how it was calculated, Phil Jones had a theory in email 3363.txt. :-)

    But see here:
    http://www.iddri.org/Publications/Collections/Idees-pour-le-debat/WP%201911_BC%20PAR%20EG_2%20degrees.pdf

  • huxley

    NIV: Thanks for the links. I browsed through the second and found it a classic example of muddled, overblown committee writing:

    While it is certainly imprecise, vague covers several meanings, the “˜2°C increase in global temperature’ still remains a way of describing climate change and bringing it down to a scale that is humanly and politically comprehensible.  The different interpretations that can be given to it results in it becoming associated with different constraints, but in any event “˜not more than 2°C in 2050 “˜ estimates a level of ambition.  Combining flexibility and stability, the 2°C thus have all the characteristics of a boundary object that serves as interface between the issues raised by climate change, between scientific and political discourse and between the Parties to negotiations.  It is because it is only partly malleable that their share of ambiguity has been able to translate into a resource.

  • NewYorkJ

    KK: I happen to think TB and NiV are two sides of the same coin. (How do you like that for equivalency?

    More notably, that’s indicative of laziness, sort of like throwing Romm and Watts into the same binary KK world, without really attempting to analyze substance.  Very tribalistic view too.  Now as far as calling someone a “coward” for preferring anonymity, I note Watts does the same thing when someone upsets him.  Therefore, KK and Watts are on the same coin.  See how easy that is?

    hunter: NewYorkJ @24: Of course, AGW alarmists never burden people with “if we don’t reduce to carbon emissions to X or carbon levels to Y” make-or-break situations…

    To be clear, by “others”, I was referring to some environmentalists who propose hard targets.  While that might overlap with your definition of “AGW alarmists”, keep in mind that other than say James Lovelock, there aren’t too many genuine “alarmists” on the climate concerned side.  Those who preach that the economy will collapse if we reduce emissions are a dime a dozen, and something your sources bombard you with regularly.

    Your claim that efforts to reduce emissions have had or will have no effect on CO2 is another form of denial.

  • NewYorkJ

    Correction: the quote above I attributed to “hunter” is actually from “huxley” (#25).  The last sentence is in response to hunter’s (#26) claim.

  • Eric Adler

    KK,
    In your diatribe against TB and Romm, you have neglected to state whether you think Mosher’s criticism of Joe Romm @ 14 was based on facts or off base. @31, you appear to support Mosher’s ridiculous contention @14, that Romm is using the quest for a climate agreement as a pretext to delay action on mitigation or adaptation.
    Am I reading this wrong?

  • Keith Kloor

    Eric, 

    You want real diatribes, you know where to find them–apparently to your liking.

    It also appears to me that you mischaracterize what Mosher is saying in his comment.

    Let me put my thoughts this way: I think some people with big bullhorns would rather be proved right, more than anything. That includes an unwillingness to consider a different approach to a very complex problem.

  • hunter

    Here is cognitive dissonance for you:
    http://noconsensus.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/crackdown-shooting-in-the-dark/
    tallbloke got raided and computers of his were seized today, and the US DoJ was involved.
     

  • huxley

    @63: Stage 2 of Grief — Anger!

  • hunter

    @64:
    You desperately wish it were so.
     

  • huxley

    @65: Why not?

    It looks to me like the orthodox are in full Wile E. Coyote mode — realizing that they’ve gone off a cliff and are beginning to fall.

    Unless the climate gets really nasty, I don’t see how the orthodox get traction back. What they have done hasn’t worked and they don’t seem to have any new ideas.

  • hunter

    huxley,
    Sorry- I misunderstood you.
    I am annoyed the believers are going to take this as far as they seem to be going.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @62  Keith Kloor:
    Let me put my thoughts this way: I think some people with big bullhorns would rather be proved right, more than anything.

    Like, oh, I don’t know, going so far as to accuse people of holding positions basically diametrically opposite of what they actually espouse?

    That includes an unwillingness to consider a different approach to a very complex problem.

    Yes or no, Keith: Does Romm support “no regrets” options like, say, energy efficiency, irrespective of the outcome of a global treaty?

    This is a pretty easy question to answer. The facts are there for anyone to read.

    What’s with the failure to call out Mosher for the obviously false attacks?

    What’s with your insinuations that Romm would rather see climate catastrophe than a workable solution that didn’t fit his preferences? That’s a hell of a claim! Why don’t you just say it outright instead of pussyfooting around it.

    Just call a spade a spade.

    Wouldn’t want anyone to think you’re… what was the word you like? Oh, yeah, “cowardly”.

  • http://www.veteransfreedomfarm.org steven mosher

    #28
    who said drastic.
    adaptation is a local issue. it need not be drastic. but waiting for a global agreement that will never come is the height of folly

  • Anteros

    @68

    I wonder what you mean by ‘adaptation’ because it sounds like you mean something other than what is going on at the moment. Who is not doing something that they could be doing – for the purposes of adapting to a definite future change?

    It seems to me farmers are already ‘adapting’ in that farming is changing 100 times faster than climate is. Possible increases or decreases in precipitation are being catered for already in the thousands of crop trials coming to fruition every year. Coastal building already takes into account all likly [and unlikely] scenarios of sea level rise in twice the life expectancy of new developments. The publicity given to AGW panic scenarios mean that every planning decision takes into account possible increases or decreases in raininess, windiness and temperature.

    What worries me about the ‘We have to start adapting’ meme is that it will just be ill-judged semi-mitigation efforts like feeding corn ethanol to cars. Bogus top-down schemes that simply don’t work [or don't work well enough to make sense].

    Perhaps my thought on this is best exemplified by David Attenboroughs take in the last of his ‘Frozen Planet’ series, where he observes that in the Arctic, all the animals are already adapting, but he wonders “if we can too?” This is ridiculous – he’s lost any sense that adaptation in the way we go about our existences is changing at a phenomenal rate – think of your city a hundred years ago. And that adaptation was to ‘nothing’ Nobody had to ‘do any overtime’ to build all the cities of the world – and they are being built again and re-built as we speak. Think of the changes is dwellings in a hundred years, and how ridiculously irrelevant a 2 degree temperature rise will be on similar dwellings three generations (of building) from now. Adaptation just happens.


    I did quite a lot of work in the courier industry in London. I got into it shortly after the business came into being and got out just before it evaporated. A whole way of life [for motorcyclists] came and went in 15 years. Nobody had to do any special adapting!

    I don’t care how ‘unprecedented’ people say global warming is – human adaptation is faster more flexible, more subtle and inventive. Of course that might not be true of ‘planned’ adaptation i.e. adapting to things that have been ‘projected’ to happen. Oh no, that’s when human beings show their hubris and overconfidence and dogmatic certainties.

    Maybe I misunderstand you – by adaptation do you mean trying to do stuff, as opposed to, just, adapting?
     

  • Sashka

    @ 68

    I thought you wanted to “get on with the practical business of no regrets adaptations and no regrets mitigations“. I interpreted “no regrets” as drastic. Did I misunderstand? What did you mean then?

  • Nullius in Verba

    #70,
    “No regrets” means the sort of things that are a good idea to do even if there’s nothing happening. Improving efficiency, resilience, adaptability, that sort of thing. Where you would have no regrets about having done it whatever happens.

    Of course, as Anteros says in #69, we’re already doing that. That’s ‘business as usual’. But it won’t satisfy those calling for action firstly because their demands require ‘many regrets’ mitigations, and secondly because it was never really about responding to climate change in the first place. I discussed that at greater length over at the Yale forum. It’s about ‘common but differentiated’ obligations – from the West according to their means to all the rest according to their needs – with international courts to administer ‘climate justice’, and centralised control over economic activity. The climate is irrelevant.

    But of course they can’t say that, so they can’t so easily criticise Mosher’s suggestion that they abandon the international treaty approach as not working.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @62  Keith Kloor:
    Let me put my thoughts this way: I think some people with big bullhorns would rather be proved right, more than anything.

    Like, oh, I don’t know, going so far as to accuse people of holding positions basically diametrically opposite of what they actually espouse?

    That includes an unwillingness to consider a different approach to a very complex problem.

    Yes or no, Keith: Does Romm support “no regrets” options like, say, energy efficiency, irrespective of the outcome of a global treaty?

    This is a pretty easy question to answer. The facts are there for anyone to read.

    What’s with the failure to call out Mosher for the obviously false attacks?

    What’s with your insinuations that Romm would rather see climate catastrophe than a workable solution that didn’t fit his preferences? That’s a hell of a claim! Why don’t you just say it outright instead of p–syfooting around it.

    Just call a spade a spade.

    Wouldn’t want anyone to think you’re”¦ what was the word you like? Oh, yeah, “cowardly”.

  • http://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/ thingsbreak

    @69 steven mosher:

    Hi, Steven. Welcome back. Care to answer my question @16?

    Thanks!

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

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, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »