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On 2°C Or Not 2°C: Why We Must Not Ditch Scientific Reality In Climate Policy

Schellnhuber, who had as much to do with getting the EU to accept 2 degrees C as a target as anyone, was saying prior to Copenhagen that unless civilization got serious at that point, it would be impossible to limit global warming to 2 degrees.  He at least is not pretending he didn't know what he was talking about then. 

He is saying now (eg at the recent Berlin Climate Engineering conference, starting at minute 2:45 into this video) that the best that can be done is 2.6  degrees. 

Why pretend otherwise? 

Few at that Berlin conference were as optimistic as him.  Most were there because they are interested in what emergency measures can be developed in time to present as options to civilization when it finally wakes up to the fact it faces an existential threat. 

As for the Nature article, why does it matter what gibberish a political scientist and a retired distinguished astrophysicist have to say, when it comes to assessing how serious climate change is?  It is easy in the US to find arrogant people ignorant enough to believe they know more than the scientists who have distinguished themselves as they spent their entire working lives studying climate. 

What is disturbing is that the editors of Nature thought the article worth publishing. 

 

 

October 3, 2014    View Comment    

On The Triumph of Climate Pragmatism

Where is the triumph?   Have you succeeded in reducing the concentration of a greenhouse gas in the atmosphere?  Has the planetary system returned to energy balance? 

Have you drunk too much of your own bathwater? 

May 29, 2014    View Comment    

On 2C in our Rear-View Mirror, Geoengineering Dead Ahead

Ken Caldeira is a leading researcher studying geoengineering.  Eg:  he coined the term SRM, i.e. "solar radiation management". 

Some years ago he attended a talk given by an advocate of what has become known as SRM and he stood up and denounced the guy giving the talk, saying this is impossible.  He then went back to his lab and ran some simluations and discovered that it probably is possible to return Earth's temperature to the preindustrial even with the extra CO2 civilization is liable to put in over the next decades fairly cheaply. 

He's done a lot of research in to the topic by now.  He doesn't advocate SRM, except as an emergency treatment similar to giving morphine to a cancer patient.  His idea of when civilization should start employing SRM is after it has stopped building new things that use the atmosphere for a waste dump. 

He's put a certain amount of effort into coming up with an explanation of what he knows suitable for the general public.  An example of how he explained things a few days ago in an interview is available here

April 26, 2014    View Comment    

On New Jersey Must Consider Climate Change Risks in Recovery Programs

When asked, post Sandy, about whether there was any connection between climate change and that storm Christie said this:  "... this is just, listen, this is a distraction. I’ve got a place to rebuild here and people want to talk to me about esoteric theories.”  (NBC story here

And according to this story from Inside climate news, "That philosophy has permeated New Jersey's post-Sandy recovery effort".  They just rebuilt as fast as they could, ignoring recent discoveries of accelerating sea level rise and the likelihood of increased extreme events.  "As a result, the state spent billions of federal aid dollars to rebuild boardwalks, businesses and houses almost exactly as they stood pre-storm". 

"The coastal protection measures New Jersey has proposed, such as dune systems or flood gates, will defend communities only at current sea levels—not the 3.5 feet of sea level rise that New Jersey is expected to see by 2100. The state has partnered with six New Jersey universities to study how communities were flooded by Sandy, but that research will not consider how those communities, or others, may be affected under future climate scenarios."

But things can change, right?  They already have.  New Jersey was once a leader on climate issues, until Chris Christie took office at the beginning of 2010. 

"Almost immediately, Christie closed the Office of Climate Change and Energy in the state's DEP. He also cut off funding for the Global Warming Response Act, effectively rendering it a stagnant law, said Mauriello, who was replaced as NJDEP commissioner when Christie took office.

In 2011, Christie pulled the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, claiming the program wasn't helping New Jersey cut its emissions. "RGGI does nothing more than tax electricity, tax our citizens, tax our businesses, with no discernible or measureable impact upon our environment," the governor said at the time."

 

 

March 10, 2014    View Comment    

On Why We Shouldn't Throw Out Flood Insurance Reform

The deficit FEMA has was caused by two East coast storms, Sandy and Katrina.  Take away those two events and the flood insurance program was basically solvent. 

It is no wonder that the solution that you support, getting citizens in the rest of the US to pay, and your rationale, its their fault for living dangerously, is rejected by increasing numbers of voters as they realize what the changes in Biggert-Waters mean.  It isn't just the rates on the what FEMA maps deem as the high risk and supposedly subsidized areas that are going up.  The cost of flood insurance generally was skyrocketing before Biggert-Waters, and now the rate of acceleration in its cost will increase again. 

 

When Chris Christie was asked what about climate change and the acceleration in sea level rise that has already been measured, which compounds the risk by not only making the next Sandy more likely and more damaging, he said he was too busy managing the rebuilding effort to worry about an "esoteric theory" like that. 

When Katrina hit New Orleans it was Category 3.  The levees were supposed to hold.  They failed not because flood premiums on FEMA policies were too low, but because those responsible for designing and maintaining the levees didn't do their job. 

The issue, who is going to pay for the damages caused by extreme weather events, is a lot larger than what you are talking about. 

When North Carolina legislated against sea level rise, many people thought they were just insane.  But what they were doing is attempting to keep on building where they know the risk is increasing because reforms such as what you advocate ensure that the US taxpayer and the citizens who pay for flood insurance in the rest of the US will continue to subsidize their "economy".  

What about the Stafford Act?  How can it possibly still make sense to flood disaster areas with federal funds mandated to rebuild what was there no matter whether the risk has increased?  

Have you looked at the California study that added up the cost of a lesser event than the one that bankrupted the state in 1861-2 and found that it was comparable to what they think the next big earthquake will cost them?  The entire Central Valley was turned into a lake.  What of climate models that spit out predictions of worse in the future on an accelerated cycle?  Who is going to pay for that?

Got to go. 

  

 

 

March 10, 2014    View Comment    

On Radiation: The Facts

The NAS latest BEIR report has a list of references that runs to what looks like over 1000 peer reviewed papers, including some written by scientists who dispute LNT.  Its a bit difficult to believe the committee didn't examine what evidence there is. 

If people who aren't expert listen to you, it seems that they would have to accept that the NAS can't assess a scientific issue.  If the NAS can't assess a scientific issue, who can?  You?  A minority of scientists who study radiation?  

What does it say about the evidence that civilization should do something about climate change that the NAS, these morons who can't grasp the most basic thing about radiation, have in the case of climate agreed with you?  Or are you one of these pro-nuclear types who believe there is nothing to the case that civilization has a climate problem who cynically use climate to argue for more nukes?

My reading of BEIR VII was that because we live in a sea of background radiation it has been impossible so far to give the definitive answer you say you can come up with. 

 

 

March 4, 2014    View Comment    

On Radiation: The Facts

If the National Academy is wrong to adopt LNT as a "model" to guide us as we decide what to do about radiation exposure in humans, and we should therefore regard them as not capable of assessing what the current state of knowledge is in the study of radiation, why should anyone take them seriously on any other subject, for instance, climate change? 

How can the NAS be so wrong, decade after decade, report after report, about how dangerous radiation is, yet be right when they say civilization needs to decarbonize as rapidly as possible to avoid facing the most dangerous consequences of climate change? 

 

 

March 4, 2014    View Comment    

On Can Geoengineering Save the Planet?

Paul Crutzen's paper on geoengineering is said to have brought this entire debate out of the shadows. 

Basically, his point was that given a civilization blithely ignoring the warnings of climate scientists it was time to more openly and actively pursue options for planetary system palliative care.  He emphasized repeatedly that what is required are sufficient greenhouse gas emission reductions, however, he shared his view that such reductions appear at the moment to be "a pious wish". 

He said that the developing world was eventually going to clean up some of what was coming out of its smokestacks, as the developed world has already done, and we'd better think about how to replace the effect of what is going to be taken out, because that smoke, i.e. aerosols, is masking the full effect of the GHG already in the atmosphere.

"Geoengineering" discussion bogs down as opponents of doing the slightest thing to so much as research techniques seem to ignore the collosal scale of what civilization ignorantly and tragically does every day. 

The proposals are simply to deal with reality as it is, and to prepare for what many fear will come next.  . 

January 24, 2014    View Comment    

On CO2 Emissions Budget Framing Is A Recipe For Delaying Concrete Action

Those promoting this "allowable CO2 emissions budget" concept believe it clarifies the issue for politicians and the public. The approach came about in part because all previous efforts to get through to civilization have failed. The most common calls for civilization to take action have involved emission reductions by set dates, for instance the G8 +5 Science Academies  Joint Statement which said civilization needed to achieve "approximately 50% reduction in global emissions from 1990 levels by 2050" to address what the leading figures in science in the entire developed world called a "crucial challenge for the future of humanity".   The failure of calls like this to convince civilization to act decisively, I say, has more to do with collective denial on the part of civilization as opposed to any fault in the way the message was phrased.   Critics of calls like the G8 +5 Joint Statement say the urgency of immediate action could be conveyed in a better way.  They feel that prescribing a percentage reduction by a certain date allows todays politicians and the public to feel they can put things off and get away with it.  2050 is far away, and if nothing is done this year, why in 2015 we could always aim for 50% reduction by 2050 and make it.  Why, we're so good at things once we become unified about needing to do it we could probably put things off untiol 2048, or maybe even December 30 2049.  What sticks in the mind is we've got to achieve 50% reduction by 2050.    On the other hand, an "allowable" emission budget involves explaining that to have any kind of chance of staying below an adopted target temperature, i.e. the widely accepted 2 degrees C global, there is only so much more CO2 that can be emitted.  Emissions today must be subtracted from emissions allowable tomorrow.  If action is put off for just a few years, very rapidly no further emissions are possible on any time frame because the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has built up too much.  Schellnhuber, chief scientific advisor on climate change to Chancellor Merkel of Germany, gave a good explanation of the idea in his keynote and the closing remarks at the 4 degrees conference in Australia. He explained that contrary to popular belief and what many otherwise well informed people say, the 2 degree C target many scientists advocate has nothing to do with what scientists think is "safe".  "It's a compromise", he explained. There will be no coral reefs.  Sea level will rise and keep on rising for centuries.  Many changes are cast in stone at 2 degrees that humanity will regret.   What Schellnhuber said was good about the 2 degrees line is that it is a limit, beyond which, he said, the science is that the chances of large scale irreversible discontinuities in the planetary system are too likely to be set off.  He explained calmly that heating the planet beyond 2 degrees risked a very large reduction in Earth's ability to support civilization.  He wasn't pretending the 2 target was safe, and he wasn't saying the oft repeated method of explaining how this might be achieved under the allowable total emission concept, i.e. limiting human emissions of CO2 to 1 trillion tonnes, was what a wise person would choose.   He asked the audience if many of them play Russian Roulette at home.  Why not, he asked, your odds are better than this allowable emission budget of 1 trillion tonnes has of limiting planetary temperature rise to 2 degrees.   Nevertheless, Schellhuber was and is a staunch advocate of adopting the carbon budget approach and of attempting to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees.  He thinks setting a limit is far better than just burning all fossil fuels economic forces can cause to be produced. Romm and Caldeira can say whatever they want about how dangerous it is for anyone as sincerely concerned about climate change and what to do about it such as the scientists involved with the IPCC who are advocating explaining things using the carbon budget approach, but the fact is the entire load of published Caldeira and Romm work has not resulted stopping the acceleration of civilization's emissions.  Probably those advocating speaking in terms of an allowable carbon budget will find their work suffers the same fate.   Nothing anyone has said or done seems to have made any difference at all.  It is a fact that looked at globally, civilization is recarbonizing its energy system while expanding the rate at which it emits greenhouse gases as even the chance worse than the odds in Russian Roulette of limiting global warming to 2 degrees fades away.    
October 4, 2013    View Comment    

On European Fuel Regulations and Canadian Hypocrisy: My Trip to Europe with Jim Hansen

In his book, Sustainable Fossil Fuels, Dr. Jaccard argued that it was not necessary for civilization to find alternatives to the fossil fuels.  He argued that carbon capture technology could be applied to the still tremendously large remaining fossil fuel resource to provide sustainable power to an expanding civilization for centuries, without disrupting the climate system unduly.  

Clarify things for us Dr Jaccard - are you saying you've realized civlization can't emit as much CO2 as you once thought, that you've understood that 90% carbon capture isn't going to be good enough, given how late the hour is and how large the fossil fuel resource is, if deployed by a steadily expanding civilization, to limit climate change to less than 2 degrees Celsius?  

I can't quite make out what your position is after reading this article about your trip to the EU with Dr. Hansen.  

The concept of unburnable fossil fuels contradicts the concept of sustainable fossil fuels.  

September 24, 2013    View Comment    

On Methane Leakage Not a Deal Breaker for Natural Gas

"...some of my colleagues have actually driven around some of these shale gas plays and they have found that lo and behold, emissions are much higher than industry reports, and higher than the EPA reports.  Well that's not a mystery since the EPA is relying on industry estimates, a lot of the times."

That's what NOAA's Lori Bruhwiler reported to the recent AGU Chapman conference on Communicating Climate Science at minute 10:50 in this video the AGU made of her talk.  There seems to be a will to believe that the discovery of abundant shale gas is reducing the climate impact of the US energy system compared to if there was no shale gas, no matter how much of it actually is leaking, and no matter that this cheap gas killed the renaissance of an industry that really can produce abundant lower climate impact energy, i.e. US nuclear.  

If the methane is still leaking, the US has not achieved any reduction in the climate impact of its energy system by starting this switch to natural gas from coal.  And there is little doubt, for those who want to take a look, that the methane is still leaking.  

Methane is what the fossil fuel industry sells.  Why is leakage still an issue?   Natural gas advocates talk as if what is theoretically possible, i.e. creating an infrastructure to use and consume all this gas without leaking enough to the atmosphere that the anticipated climate benefits are nullified, has already happened.  

The Government Accountability Office reported that the industry could make money by controlling many of these leaks, years ago and fairly recently, and yet GAO's most recent report found that the leakage continues.  When I studied the situation at the time GAO published, what was apparent was that US fossil fuel companies don't believe it is necessary to do anything to contribute to solving a problem they don't believe exists, i.e. climate, so their CEOs direct fresh capital expenditure to exploring for more fossil fuel rather than to minimize methane leakage because the R.O.I. is higher.  

This industry thinks all it has to do is tell us, again and again, in their TV ads how great gas is for us than to be seen to be making an effort which they could do by making profitable investments controlling their leaks.  

For reference - a bit more on what NOAA's Bruhwiler said at the recent AGU conference.  She introduced herself at the recent AGU conference by saying this:  

"I'm from the NOAA Earth system research laboratory... global monitoring division.  We're the people who, along with our global collaborators, brought you the "400 ppm CO2" [were the source for the widely reported news story] recently.  However today... I want to focus on methane....

[ moving along to minute 10:20 ]  "...another issue I want to talk about: what the frack is going on with fugitive emissions from fossil fuel production?  [ commenting that the news is full of reports that leakage is low ] The EPA... has recently revised their estimates of emissions of methane from fossil fuel exploration and they decreased it...  

[ However, at 10:50 ] some of my colleagues have actually driven around some of these shale gas plays and they have found that lo and behold, emissions are much higher than industry reports, and higher than the EPA reports.  Well that's not a mystery since the EPA is relying on industry estimates, a lot of the times.  [technical discussion]  the network data in the assimilation product also suggests that something is going on.  If you look at... North America fossil fuel emissions [ measurements of methane in the air over fossil fuel production regions ] and furthermore you look in the winter when the biogenic sources are small... [blah blah blah]  ...this suggests that fossil fuel emissions from temperate North America are actually much larger, [more techspeak] and if you go and look to see what sites are producing this kind of difference you can see that for example this site Southern Great Plains in Oklahoma as time goes on it becomes progressively harder to fit our first guess to what the emissions are.... [concludes] this is support for the idea that emissions from the current oil and gas boom are probably underreported.  

And an interesting question is, what happens when this technology spreads throughout the world? I've seen some economic analyses that suggest that there's not enough of this shale gas to really make a dent in our long term fossil fuel cumulative emissions, however, I think it remains to be seen whether that ends up to be true.  Just recently there were reports that Poland was going to start using hydrofracking.  I think emissions all over the world are going to start increasing in this kind of a manner.  [i.e. initial enthusiastic denial that so much is leaking until scientists catch up with published peer reviewed studies showing the actual measurements]. 

July 31, 2013    View Comment    

On A Crisis of Leadership? Rebuilding Trust in the Energy Industry [VIDEO]

The energy industry is finished as far as trust goes until they come clean about their activities in the last few decades which were aimed at making sure civilization would not and could not accept or do the slightest thing about one of the gravest threats it faces, i.e. the accumulation of the waste product of burning fossil fuels, CO2, in the atmosphere.  

There would have to be something like South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was set up to help deal with what happened in South Africa under apartheid.  

What the energy industry has done in the last few decades is far worse than the mere racist repression of tens of millions of blacks as was done by white South Africans - the entire planet has been damaged and some of our best scientists say, the ability of Earth to support life at all is in jeopardy.  

The campaign to discredit climate science, climate scientists, the leadership of the global scientific community and anyone who has tried to bring the facts about this situation to the attention of the public or political leaders which has been conducted by the energy industry is still going on.  

What you are talking about now, prior to the energy industry coming clean about what it has been doing and pitching in wholeheartedly to help civilization face its need to eliminate CO2 emissions, would be something like, before slavery was declared ended in the US, if whites in the South started talking about how they could establish a relationship of trust with their black slaves while keeping them as slaves.  

Its preposterous.  

June 8, 2013    View Comment