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11/04/2012

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Jack Leonard

Well Dave I found your post "useful" but not "hopeful" I don't understand all the ramifications of your position on warming but I believe you are saying that a crash in world economic activity will put a stop to "out of control" burning of fossil fuels greatly lessening the pressure on our biosphere of increased carbon. Of course one way or the other there is a great price to be paid.
regards
Jack Leonard

Alexander Ač

Hello Dave, what a co-incidence! I used the same graph of IEA in my today's blog post!

http://ac.blog.sme.sk/c/312365/Klimaticka-zmena-je-jednoducha-na-riesenie-ale-zostava-4-5-rokov.html

So this is instead of the celebration of my birthday :-)

Cheers,

Alex

Don Levit

Dave:
Part of the exhaustion you may be experiencing is the effort you make to differentiate yourself from the bulk of human insanity.
Because you are so adept at seeing our human foibles, that means you have the same weaknesses yourself.
In short, you REALLY are not much different than the rest of us.
Let me personalize this a bit.
Whenever I get really, really mad at other people, it generally is because I have the same "quirk" myself, and work so very hard not to admit that it is true.
While you may feel like an alien, an outcast, as if your citizenship rests in another world, your services are desperately needed here.
Keep up the fight, and keep us on the right, sustainable track. Don Levit

Gerrit Botha

Excellent analysis as usual Dave. Thanks for your good work.

Johnvon23

Great article Dave, you are one of the most rational voices on these topics as always.

Sam

Dave,

The problem is that it is no longer about us (humans). We pushed the world so hard that the warming has already seriously melted the arctic ice and more importantly the arctic tundra. The 1,466 gigatons of carbon it contains is now releasing methane and CO2 at ever increasing prodigious rates. Add to that the warming of the arctic ocean and mixing of the ocean, and the methane clathrates across broad areas of the continental arctic shelves have begun to break releasing huge quantities of methane.

Our warming additions are delayed in impacts and will continue to cause about the same rise as we have already seen added onto the current conditions even were we to stop all emissions instantly and permanently. Even more than this, our particulate and sulfate emissions from burning fuels acts as a short term cooling factor that masks the impact of the CO2 we have already emitted. Even without the arctic additions, we will continue to see temperature rises of at least another degree C just from current and previous emissions.

Add to that the cooling effect of the current solar minima (Jose minima) and the vast ability of the oceans to temper our additions and you get some idea of how big our impacts have already been.

As the tundra collapses and the carbon stores are released, our impacts become secondary. We appear to have crossed a transition boundary and we appear now headed to a climate something like the climate that existed in the eocene or the paleocene. That is a world unlike anything humans have ever known.

We can perhaps adjust the trajectory, but the destination now appears to be unavoidable. We drove off the cliff with Thelma and Louise, our feet planted firmly on the gas, yelling at the top of our lungs with the wind in our hair. Next stop .... .... well you get the idea. The end of the road is going to be 'bumpy', somewhat like crashing into a granite mountain in a fighter jet at mach 3.

There are things we can do to try to transition to a world that still contains humans. It wouldn't be easy though. And that is only possible with a broad worldwide consenus and effort. We don't have that. So our course is fixed. Enjoy the ride.

The longer we delay the greater the chance that humans will be among the myriad of species that don't survive this evolutionary transition.

There is no need to feel any particular guilt though, as it appears that we crossed the transition back in the 1970s, and that the only way to avoid having done so was a massive program of change back then. No one understood that then. The most farseeing people saw then that a problem was coming. Our knowledge of the earth was too limited to allow us to see how serious the problem was. And so we blindly headed off the cliff.

Ken Barrows

Dave, I appreciate the blog. You get people to listen to you on this blog; I cannot even get my wife to listen!

Gail

At the risk of incurring your not-inconsiderable wrath Dave, I have to disagree with part of the premise in this post. I don't disagree that the collapse of the economy and with it perhaps industrial civilization will prevent humans from extracting all the fossil fuels leading to 6C. What will happen is that every last tree will be burnt, which will have two effects, one create even more heat-trapping gases and two destroy a major sink for CO2 - the other being the ocean which, as you've discussed many times, is also acidifying causing phytoplankton, the other major sink, to die off.

Concurrent with that, earth's ecosystems are collapsing. Aside from what I have seen for myself - dying forests and bleaching corals - I am convinced we have already reached the planetary tipping point warned about in the paper referred to in this article: http://www.dnaindia.com/scitech/report_study-earths-ecosystems-heading-for-irreversible-collapse_1699233

Also as Sam described succinctly, I agree it's pretty clear that we would have had to severely emissions in the '70's to avert the amplifying feedbacks that are already in place and unstoppable - although I think it's not quite accurate to say "...our knowledge of the earth was too limited to allow us to see..." at that time, since quite a few people (I can't claim to be among them) DID actually very clearly see "...how serious the problem was..." which should be defined not merely as climate change but of overpopulation and overconsumption and pollution, such as the Club of Rome, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Reg Morrison and various ecologists who were roundly denounced and/or co-opted at the time and ever since. Heck, think of Malthus! And that is all without even mentioning the little problem of nuclear weapons and spent fuel lying around.

So for different reasons than the IEA and JRomm, I think we are headed for 6C or, as Dave Roberts suggests, maybe 12C, why not?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=pznsPkJy2x8

Of course even Mr. Roberts, who flew to Hawaii with the family for a vacation this summer, ends with the implausibly hopey admonition that we have "only" 5 to 10 years left before we must drastically reduce emissions in order to avoid 2C+ (climate alarmists ALWAYS say there's still time, but just barely) and finishes with a flourish, by urging us all to "...turn the impossible into the possible" - an oxymoron, which by definition, can't be done!

But please don't despair with your readers, and soldier on with your brutal deconstruction of our measly, pathetic, predictably stupid humanity...we need your clarity because you are not the only one who feels like a stranger on this planet (although you may be the only one in Pittsburgh).

Mike Roberts

As far as I can tell, you're absolutely right that 6°C is certainly not possible from human emissions alone, given the history of emissions and economic growth. However, as I understand it, feedbacks (or maybe all feedbacks) have not been included in the models as not enough is known to do that, though there seem to be plenty of climate scientists who think that the overall effect of feedbacks will be positive. If that's right, then 6°C, or more, may well be likely by the end of the century and, essentially, it will be primarily caused by human emissions (and other actions like deforestation).

Up to now, we've used the low hanging fruit of fossil fuels. They've been high quality (in terms of energy density) and easy to extract. From now on, more and more of that fuel will be lower quality and more difficult to extract; we might even shift more to dirtier fossil fuels. If (and I guess it's a big "if") the finances can be found to extract those lower quality fuels, then we may find emissions rising even if GDP stalls or declines. I'm not really sure about this though it seems that there is a possibility of increasing emissions and falling GDP. But I couldn't agree more that lower emissions is not possible in the context of economic growth.

Looking at a directly human induced 6°C rise, though. Given the global insanity of civilised people believing in infinite growth, it seems fair to point out that, in that fantasy world, 6°C by the end of the century is what people would get (with lots more rise locked in). One might ask why people would be happy with that prospect (even though it isn't based on reality) and I suppose the answer is that they wouldn't be. If that's true, it can only be that humans simply can't take in this sort of news; they have no part of their brains that can assimilate that kind of information (the information being that if economic growth were to continue until the latter part of the century, 6°C rise is what we'd get by the end of the century). Consequently, it is probably a waste of time trying to communicate the absurdity of their insanity, though a few do wake up from time to time.

A last note on 2°C. I only recently learned that that target was a political target, perhaps informed by the science, at the time it was adopted. As Dave Roberts mentioned, in the link given by Gail (and also climate scientist Kevin Anderson of the UK's Tyndall Centre), the science has moved on since then and about 1.5°C should be the new figure. That is almost certainly locked in now, never mind 2017.

Clyde

Don, I don't think there is a sustainable path that our species can follow. This is not because there isn't one, it's just that we are unable to follow it.
It's simply not in our nature.
We will live and burn out in the blink of an eye like a plague of locust.

Oliver

In recorded history, it's always been uncommon for messengers alerting others about what's coming to be received with open arms. On the contrary, the usual pathetic response is to shoot the messenger, rather than deal with the issue at hand. This is all part of the innate irrationality of the irrationally named Homo sapiens, as you so eloquently remind us of daily.

On this basis Dave, you are bound to be ignored by vested interests (including their lackeys such as the news media circus and ignoramus book publishers), and it's equally likely that others "hearing" your message will attempt to contradict you or try to slant what you say into something that makes them feel better emotionally - which is normally connected with a person's desperate desire to find a reason for living.

None of this diminishes the value of your postings, which you have made into an art form. In a way, this blog is your own Rhapsody in Blue, and its value can't be measured in sham dollar bills or even false-god gold.

I guess what I'm really saying is that the illumination you shed on reality is priceless, and whether you have an audience of one or one billion, the ripple-effect of your expressed thinking is immeasurable, even if it seems frustratingly invisible.

rjs

whether we hit 6C or not isnt so much what humans do over the next century anymore...a lot depends on whether the arctic seabed & tundra methane releases generate a runaway feedback mechanism or not...methane is 25 times as potent a heat-trapping gas as CO2 over a 100 year time horizon, but 72 times as potent over 20 years; so it may happen rapidly without us lifting a finger...

Gail

from Richard Burton's diary (E being, of course, Elizabeth):

E. was astonishingly drunk even as I got to lunch. I don't recollect her before ever being incoherent from drink. I expect it from the drugs she's forced to take but not from the booze. Christ, I hope she's all right. It would be frightful to live the rest of our lives in an alcoholic haze, seeing the world through fumes of spirits and cigarette smoke, never quite sure what you did or said the day before; or what you read whether wise or foolish, tardy or too soon.

Good. I'm going to have a whiskey and soda right now. There are few pleasures to match tipsiness in this murderous world. Especially if, like me, you believe in your bones that it - the world as we know it - is not going to last much longer.

Dave Cohen

And by the way, Oliver --

Thank you. However, I seriously doubt there is anything "unmeasurable" going on.

-- Dave

Makati1

And this all assumes that we do not trigger a massive release from natural sources like permafrost, or the CO2 frozen in layers under the oceans. Then all bets are off and we will likely join the dinosaurs.

P.S

Don't forget the impact of aerosols, which are currently mitigating the effects of increased CO2. If we burn less CO2, there will be less global dimming to offset the warming in the pipeline.

Martin

Here is a "Nature Video" with Robert Laughlin blowing his top over the obtuse blankness of humanity:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPbYtMS_4UY

Also, I am hoping for a battle royale that was promised with DOTE's Dave Cohen taking on A. Morris Berman and B. Max Keiser.

"Wild Bill" was ko'd in a couple of of rounds, but there are many, many more pretenders to the throne, Robert Laughlin being the Tyson among the bunch.
We fans need our entertainment!

James

At the risk of sounding pedantic, I don't think rational means what you think it means. Conventional rationality is a process of decision making based on necessity (shaped by perception, belief, etc.). It is based on consistency, not logic or correctness. It is a conformity of belief or action with reasons for such.

Humans are rational, but often illogical and shortsighted. You state "Humans are built for faith and belief, not reason." When humans act based on faith, that is rational. There is a clear motive and driving reason, illogical and ignorant as it may be. What you are arguing is actually that humans act from flawed rationales. If you were arguing that human beings were truly irrational, you would be arguing that they acted without any reason or drive and, essentially, were random.

Rationality is used to attempt to understand human behavior (both at the individual and systemic level) not necessarily to justify it. Indeed, your posts show an inherent evaluation and critique of human rationality. I believe this has even lead you to develop a theoretical model, even if you do not label it so formally. Homo Stupidus. :-)

ralph m

At least a couple of posts beat me to it on the point about positive feedback effects already being unleashed that will dump more carbon in the atmosphere; but the other problem I have with using economic output as the determinant of greenhouse gas levels and temperature increases is that, as time goes on, we are burning dirtier and more carbon intensive sources of petroleum. Has anyone tried to figure out whether this scraping of the bottom of the barrel will offset the effects of economic decline on carbon emissions?

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