Saturday, November 12, 2016

James Comey may have singlehandedly destroyed modern civilization

100 years from now when our grandchildren survey the wreckage, they may look back on October 28, 2016 as the darkest day in the history of human civilization.  When the children of the future contemplate going back in time it will not be Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin that they fantasize about killing to save the world, it will be James Comey, because there is now good evidence that his October surprise swung the election in favor of Donald Trump.  And unless we somehow manage to persuade a man who has never in his life seen reason, who believes that making money is the only virtue, who is about to appoint a young-earth creationist as secretary of education and a climate-change denialist to head the EPA -- unless we somehow manage to persuade this person that climate change is real, then future generations are going to learn it the hard way.

I know that there are climate skeptics among my readers.  A few of you even seem to have come to your views in good faith (as opposed to those who just bury their heads in the sand because they can't stand to face reality) and with a fair amount of thought and research.  It has been on my to-do list for a long time to do a deep dive into this issue to find out whether skepticism is warranted.  But in the meantime here are a few facts that, it seems to me, no sane person can deny:

1.  The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is rising dramatically.  We're over 400PPM now, up from pre-industrial levels well below 300.

2.  CO2 is a greenhouse gas.  If we put enough of it in the atmosphere, we will heat the planet to the point where civilization can no longer be sustained.  The only question is how much is enough.

3.  These processes play themselves out over very long periods of time: decades to centuries.  By the time it becomes evident that we've crossed the Rubicon it will most likely be too late to do anything about it.

4.  The planet is warming.  The 15 hottest years on record have all been in the last 20 years.  The last time we had a coldest year on record was 1909.

5.  The vast majority of the people who study this stuff say that the most likely explanation (indeed, the only plausible explanation) is that the planet is warming because of the CO2 we're adding to the atmosphere.

Now, maybe all of those people are wrong.  Maybe the denialists are right and the warming trend is just a natural phenomenon.  Maybe civilization is more resilient than we think and it can survive more than 2 degree rise in temperature.  Maybe we can relocate all of our coastal cities, or come up with some technological solution that will prevent disaster.  But here's the question we really need to ask ourselves: is this an experiment we really want to do?  Because what if the scientists are right.  Is that really something you want to find out the hard way?  Do you really want to put your children and grandchildren through that?

88 comments:

Don Geddis said...

Climate change is a very, very hard problem. The blame is diffuse (everywhere, all over the planet). The harm is very slow moving (centuries). And there is actually no obvious solution. (Even if there were a solution, there is no central authority to impose it, and a huge free rider problem.) Sure, we can "work on it". Or take small eco steps that make us feel like we're morally good people. That doesn't actually solve the problem.

2 degree rise is easily survivable by civilization. Perhaps very expensive. But so would be any conceivable attempt to change the modern world such that CO2 ppm returns to <300. That also would dramatically reduce wealth (and increase human suffering). It's not at all clear that such action would be better for humanity, than the alternative of becoming much wealthier, and then using some of that wealth to deal with the changes needed in a hotter world.

No, the real danger is that climate models are highly uncertain. Temperature rise might not stop with 2 degrees. What if the earth finds a new set point, maybe 10 or 20 degrees hotter? Mars used to have liquid water. Earth could turn into something closer to Venus -- and then humanity probably couldn't survive.

The odds are very, very low. It's extremely difficult to take any global coordinated action, for tiny odds of a tremendous civilization extinction event. Just doing eco theater, of "showing we care", isn't a solution.

Ron said...

> Climate change is a very, very hard problem.

Indeed. But we absolutely will not solve it by pretending it isn't a problem.

> But so would be any conceivable attempt to change the modern world such that CO2 ppm returns to <300.

Who said anything about getting back to <300? In between getting back to <300 and turning the planet into a clone of Venus is a very broad range of possibilities. All I'm saying is that we are more likely to move the needle towards the desirable end of the spectrum if we at least acknowledge that the problem exists and think about ways to mitigate it than if we stick out fingers in our ears and continue to party like it's 1999.

Don Geddis said...

Ron said: "move the needle towards the desirable end of the spectrum"

What you say sounds reasonable, but (after looking at the details) I'm not quite so convinced that it actually is. Recent human civilization has already released a tremendous amount of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. Any conceivable civilization at this sort of level (with our current technology) will continue to do so. Even if you cut greenhouse admissions in half -- which is so infeasible as to be a joke -- that still causes an increase in atmospheric greenhouse gasses. So what is the actual proposal, beyond "take a small step in that direction, so we can feel morally good that we tried"?

"think about ways to mitigate it"

That is a totally different story, but one rarely articulated by those most concerned about climate change. The most likely successful interventions involve continuing to have human civilization add to greenhouse pollution, but then use human wealth to relocate cities and farmland, and also attempt technological mitigation to prevent excess warming despite elevated greenhouse gasses. C.f.: David Friedman, or SuperFreakonomics.

Unfortunately, most of those concerned about climate change treat it as a moral issue, rather than as an economic and technological one. Which, unfortunately, leads to non-effective "feel good" theater, rather than effective solutions.

Don Geddis said...

Another way to put it: if Venus is a feasible possibility, then we ought to immediately stop raising cattle (methane is far more dangerous than CO2, so no more beef). And maybe immediately have a global war and slaughter 50-90% of humanity. That would be tragic ... but less so than the extinction of all life on earth. Do you really want to solve the real problem, or not?

If instead you're worried about a couple of degree rise (and then temperature stability), then there will be lots of economic damage in a century (ocean acidification, loss of coastal habitations, farmland relocation, etc.). But humans are wealthy, and a century is a long time. Slow investments can counter the slow losses due to climate change. Meanwhile, actually changing the economy today, in order to eliminate or remove the greenhouse warming, is such a radical change to the economy that the world a century from now would be much, much poorer. It is not at all clear which alternative is the better choice.

Unfortunately, we don't have good enough models of earth weather, in order to confidently distinguish a 2 degree rise from a future Venus condition.

So it's very hard to tell what the costs are from not acting. And it's also very hard to globally coordinate to act sufficiently to make a difference. These two problems are not solved just by trying to make people feel guilty about how bad they are.

Ron said...

> we ought to immediately stop raising cattle

Or at least start to gradually phase it out.

> immediately have a global war and slaughter 50-90% of humanity

I'm all for reducing the population, but war is a particularly unpleasant (to say nothing of expensive) way of doing it.

> in order to eliminate or remove the greenhouse warming

Who said anything about eliminate or remove? This problem is a continuum, not a dichotomy.

> Unfortunately, we don't have good enough models of earth weather, in order to confidently distinguish a 2 degree rise from a future Venus condition.

And your conclusion is that therefore we should do nothing?

> These two problems are not solved just by trying to make people feel guilty about how bad they are.

Why not? Fashion has a huge influence on human behavior. Smoking has been dramatically reduced simply because it has become less fashionable than it used to be. It is possible that if you educate people about the long-term negative consequences of, say, eating beef, that they will eat less of it, and that the net result of that is that the world will be a slightly better place. Lather, rinse repeat, and the world could be a much better place.

Don Geddis said...

I suppose that it seems to me that the gap between "less fashionable / slightly better place", and "much better place" -- for climate change -- is enormous. Making people feel good about how they are "helping" is rearranging deck chairs on the titanic. (Assuming there's an iceberg out there at all, of course.) It's a "solution" that is so inadequate to the scope of the problem, that it's actually distracting rather than helpful. It's pure politics ("are you with our team, or against our team?" -- Greens vs. Blues), not actually problem-solving at all.

Ron said...

> Making people feel good about how they are "helping" is rearranging deck chairs on the titanic.

It sounds to me like you are saying: the solutions being proposed by people who want to mitigate climate change are not radical enough to actually solve the problem. Therefore, the correct response is to do nothing. Am I getting that right? Do you not see how absurd that is?

> Assuming there's an iceberg out there at all, of course.

Are you seriously doubting this? Which part of the 5-point argument in the OP do you dispute?

coby said...

Hi Ron,

To get a reasonably good overview of the stable of climate sceptic arguments and why they are wrong, you could do worse than this resource. I tried to be fair-minded as much as possible and have linked to reputable sources of scientific data as much as possible. It has been endorsed by the experts in the field at RealClimate.org (points to an old location). It is old now but the arguments have not changed and if you doubt that a particular broken link does not support my point I'm happy to find the updated resource.

Don's approach to the issue is not unfamiliar and I think one telling contradiction he should resolve for us is how he reconciles these two statements:
"2 degree rise is easily survivable by civilization"
and
"the real danger is that climate models are highly uncertain"

How can he be so confident in his first statement given the second? I happen to agree with the second (with qualifications), but when gambling with the only habitable planet we have, I don't find uncertainty to be a reassurance.

I do also agree that 2oC is (probably) survivable by civilisation, but I don't think it will be easy by any means. I also think we should aspire to thrive, not merely survive. Are you happy to survive radiation and chemo therapy that finally kills your lung cancer when you could have instead just quit smoking? The repercussions of a 2oC global temperature rise are extremely likely to be enormous. Economists are rather notorious for ignoring ecosystem services, and the ecosystem disruptions we are already seeing develop are truly sobering. It is foolish to act like a few more air conditioners in the hotter places will solve the problem.

I find in general that people who are so unquestioningly confident about humanity's ability to get through whatever climate change might throw at us because of our ingenuity and adaptability are also strangely and extremely pessimistic about our ability to power a car with anything but gasoline. Seriously, what's up with that?

Also, the repercussions are most definitely not centuries away. Many are showing already. you could only plausibly say that about sea level rise and even that is highly uncertain as we can not rule out multi-metre rises by the end of this century. The uncertainties around ice sheet response are huge.

Just to end on a more positive note about Venus, the pretty strong consensus is that physics and our planet's particulars rule out that extreme under even the most drastic CO2 pulse scenarios.

Don Geddis said...

Ron: "the correct response is to do nothing"

Why do you say things like this? Can you find any quote of mine, where I recommend doing nothing? And it's even worse than you misquoting me. Because I even explicitly warned you that this is a topic where people have a danger of dividing into political teams (green vs. blue) where they ignore truth and only care about loyalty -- and then you go right ahead and do that very thing anyway. Despite my meta-warning.

You are completely wrong. I already had a whole paragraph (above) about "ways to mitigate", which is hugely different than "do nothing". (Including, just for example: relocation, coastal seawalls, injecting sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, eliminating (red) meat from human diets, and radically downsizing the human population.)

You're guilty of blatant tribalism, Ron. You seem to imagine only two groups: either someone agrees with you completely, or they must necessarily hold all the views of your hated enemy. You don't seem to conceive that someone could share your belief that humans are causing warming, share your concerned about the danger to the Earth, yet still think your ideas for helpful "action" are stupid nonetheless. As Dennett said, "There's nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view I hold dear."

Ron: "Which part of the 5-point argument in the OP do you dispute?"

None at all. I agree with all 5. "Iceberg" here refers to Earth becoming Venus. The elimination of human civilization. That is bad enough, that immediate war and the slaughter of 90% of humanity would be justified, to avoid the extinction of all life.

If, instead, we're talking about the mean global temperature going up 2-4 degrees, then it's a totally different situation. Then every choice needs a cost/benefit analysis. And there's a lot of uncertainty. It is not at all clear that "radically reduce carbon emissions today" is the correct cost/benefit choice. There's a plausible argument that "make human civilization much richer, and then use some of that wealth to mitigate the harms from the temperature rise" is an alternative solution. There's a major cost either way. It isn't a choice to "not pay a cost", and it's silly to pretend that there are any costless solutions. There will be major pain no matter what solution is adopted. I'm frustrated that climate change advocates treat this as a moral issue with an obvious solution, instead of as an economic issue requiring cost/benefit analysis.

Don Geddis said...

Coby: "How can he be so confident in his first statement given the second? ... I don't find uncertainty to be a reassurance."

I didn't mean to suggest reassurance. I'm very worried about the uncertainty of climate change predictions. I think the effect of a 2-4 degree mean temperature rise seems reasonably easy to predict, if that's all that happens, and the temperatures stabilize there. I think it's then a "mere" economic problem, of the cost/benefit of various possible actions.

My concern is that sometimes people suggest scenarios that are much, much worse. Some runaway effect, 10-20 degree rise, Venus. Even you say: "Venus, the pretty strong consensus is that physics and our planet's particulars rule out that extreme under even the most drastic CO2 pulse scenarios." That is the part that I find reassuring. Not the uncertainty, but the fact that motivated people like you don't think that human extinction is a feasible possibility.

So we're left with this: "I do also agree that 2oC is (probably) survivable by civilisation, but I don't think it will be easy by any means." You and I agree. I never said anything was easy or costless. What I claim is that actually stopping the 2 degree rise at this point, is so costly for today's human civilization, that it must necessarily be compared with using that wealth to mitigate the consequences of the rise, rather than betting all on preventing the rise.

After all, in your excellent set of links, even you say "the temperature several decades from now is to a large extent already determined by the current energy imbalance due to the extra CO2 already in the atmosphere right now, so short of a complete cessation of emissions today, there is no foreseeable way to avoid the bulk of the warming that is "in the pipeline"."

That's the critical point that is so rarely made explicit by climate change advocates: none of the actions you are talking about, has a chance in hell of preventing the 2-4 degree rise in average temperatures. That rise will happen, even with all of your proposed cuts in emissions. And yet where is all the effort that should be spent on how human civilization is going to adapt to the new, warmer, world? Why do you all mislead the public so much, to pretend that if only we act now, and quickly, and with radical intervention, that we can somehow prevent this coming warming disaster? You're all tremendously overselling the effectiveness of your proposed interventions.

Ron said...

> > Ron: "the correct response is to do nothing"

> Why do you say things like this?

Because you wrote:

"It's not at all clear that such action would be better for humanity, than the alternative of becoming much wealthier, and then using some of that wealth to deal with the changes needed in a hotter world."

That sounds to me like: we should not do anything now because the costs of acting now outweigh the benefits. Instead, we should wait until climate change actually causes problems and deal with those as they happen.

So I suppose I should have added a qualifier: the correct response (on my reading if what you wrote) is to do nothing *now*.

Some of what you have written subsequently seems to support this reading:

"none of the actions you are talking about, has a chance in hell of preventing the 2-4 degree rise in average temperatures. That rise will happen, even with all of your proposed cuts in emissions."

i.e. there's no point in trying to reduce CO2 emissions because it won't do any good anyway.

"It is not at all clear that "radically reduce carbon emissions today" is the correct cost/benefit choice. There's a plausible argument that "make human civilization much richer, and then use some of that wealth to mitigate the harms from the temperature rise" is an alternative solution."

But it's hard to tell whether you are actually advancing this argument, or simply raising it as a straw man, so let me just as you: is that your position?

> "Iceberg" here refers to Earth becoming Venus. The elimination of human civilization.

Those two are not even remotely the same. The surface temperature of Venus is 450C, hot enough to melt lead, hot enough to extinguish all life, including microbes and extremophiles. Civilization will be eliminated *long* before that happens. Civilization probably can't survive +8-10 degrees C, and there is little doubt that we'll get there if we continue on the current trajectory. The only thing reasonable people might disagree about is *when*.

But we're both taking our eye off the ball here, because my original point was that with Trump in the White House we will neither try to reduce CO2 now, nor try to make plans for how to deploy our wealth to mitigate the consequences later. Instead, our official position as a country, at least for the next four precious years, is going to be that there is no problem, that climate change is a hoax, and hence there is no need to do anything, now or later, not even any planning or research. *That* is certainly not going to help, and in the fulness of time it may well turn out that, in retrospect, there might have been something we could have done if we had not lost those four years.

coby said...

"I think the effect of a 2-4 degree mean temperature rise seems reasonably easy to predict, if that's all that happens, and the temperatures stabilize there."

I guess the first misconception I must address here has to do with just how significant is a 2-4oC temperature rise. It is anti-intuitive that such a small difference could have any impact, after all you might not even notice that small a difference while working in your back yard. I assume that is the instigator of your "if that's all that happens" phrase.

The best answer to that I think is just to point out the fact that the difference between the global average surface temperature before we started warming and the global average temperature during the deepest part of the last ice age (think km thick ice sheets as far south as New York), that difference is a mere 5oC or so. Let that sink in. So, what will it be like at 5oC warmer? It is very hard to take seriously the idea that it won't be a big deal. You don't even need the climate model output to worry about that, and the climate model output is sobering.

4oC is 80% of that. It is a huge deal. 2oC will be a huge deal. And I don't think by any means is it easy to predict, at least not in the details that matter to people trying to grow food or stay hydrated, what all the ramifications will be.

"My concern is that sometimes people suggest scenarios that are much, much worse. Some runaway effect, 10-20 degree rise, Venus. Even you say: "Venus, the pretty strong consensus is that physics and our planet's particulars rule out that extreme under even the most drastic CO2 pulse scenarios." That is the part that I find reassuring. Not the uncertainty, but the fact that motivated people like you don't think that human extinction is a feasible possibility."

Yes, there are people who exaggerate knowingly or otherwise, wish they wouldn't.

As Ron pointed out, though, extinction of humanity happens long before the lead melts. I'd say if we want to categorize the impacts by severity we have Venus heat (bye bye life), oceans boiled heat (maybe some bacteria survives deep in the crust), 8oC + warming (99% extinction event, possibly people too), 5-10oC warming (collapse of civilization in any currently recognizable form), 3-7oC (global stresses, famines, wars, major reduction in human population), 1.5-3.5oC (95% extinction event, people and global structures survive through famines, wars, droughts) and 1-2oC many costly disruptions.

(Never tried laying it out like that before, interesting how it came out).

Personally, I think anything worse than the costly disruptions is worth major efforts to avoid.

Now, I happen agree that we don't have chance in hell of stopping warming before 2oC even before Trump won this election, but we could stop from hitting 4. And 2oC is no magic line that either we hit or we don't and if we can't avoid it then why try. Every extra fraction of a degree represents greater and greater harm. 2oC was chosen just so people could have something to negotiate about and target and the only reason to talk about it is because "do as much as possible as soon as possible" is unfortunately not specific enough for politics.

As for "overselling the effectiveness of your proposed interventions" I sometimes agree. The problem is always in the difference between what is physically possible, what is technically possible, what is practically possible and what is politically possible. Physical and technical are in the bag in my opinion, practically possible is just about in reach, but sadly politically possible may have just gone down the toilet.

Don Geddis said...

Ron: "That sounds to me like: we should not do anything now because the costs of acting now outweigh the benefits."

I said "it's not at all clear", and that's what I meant. I'm looking for a cost/benefit analysis, on any specific proposal. "If we do X, the costs will be Y and the benefit will be Z, and Y is less than Z". You, instead, are advocating for action without doing analysis of the net benefits of action. You're making a moral argument, not an economic one, and I think that's poor decision-making.

"do nothing *now*."

No. For example, I suggested active cooling now, by seeding the stratosphere. This doesn't match your moral intuition that humans are being evil to our planet and must be stopped. But it's a serious possibility, that isn't being given enough attention by those who care about climate change.

"is that your position?"

I don't know enough to advocate any specific position. I'm disappointed in climate change advocates, who seem to think it isn't necessary to justify the benefit of their proposed interventions. In any case: not a strawman; instead, a serious option.

"+8-10 degrees C, and there is little doubt that we'll get there"

That's actually not my understanding. There seems high confidence that we'll get +2 no matter what. Seems good likelihood that we might get to +4. I think things become very very unsure after that. I haven't heard strong predictions of +8-10, regardless of future human choices. I may be wrong, but that would be new information for me.

"Trump ... climate change is a hoax"

I also think you're wrong to be confident about predicting Trump's future actions. He said a lot of things during the campaign, but his history shows that these are not good guides to his future behavior. I'm not going to claim that he will do good things I climate change. I just don't think we can really know what he might do.

Don Geddis said...

Coby: " I assume that is the instigator of your "if that's all that happens" phrase."

No. I already said "I never said anything was easy or costless." I'm not at all claiming that 2-4 degrees wouldn't matter. Mitigating that change would be enormously costly. What I'm saying is: (1) humans are wealthy enough that they could adapt, so it is false that 2-4 degrees means the end of human civilization; and (2) changing current civilization in order to avoid 2-4 degrees altogether, is also enormously costly. There are two bad choices here, not an obvious "good" choice vs. "evil" choice.

"deepest part of the last ice age"

I agree. But modern human civilization could survive another ice age. And warming is probably better for humans than cooling. Lots more human life in the tropics than at the poles.

"It is very hard to take seriously the idea that it won't be a big deal."

Again, who (here) is saying that it won't be a big deal? I'm frustrated you (and Ron) trying to label me as some kind of climate denier, rather than dealing with the actual objections that I'm raising.

"5-10oC warming ... 3-7oC ... 1.5-3.5oC (95% extinction event"

These are the cases that I think are the most interesting. I'm not yet convinced that 5-10 means the end of civilization, but perhaps you are right. 4-5, I also don't agree with a major reduction in human population. (Famines & wars probably depend on how rapid the change occurs. Rapid change is hard, but slower change can be accommodated more easily.)

I'm most surprised with your claim that 2-3 degree rise is a 95% extinction event. That's not at all what I thought I understood about the implications of climate change. Do you have more information about that scenario? Can you justify your 95% claim?

"Personally, I think anything worse than the costly disruptions is worth major efforts to avoid."

Oh, me too! We agree! The problem is, every option is extremely costly. There isn't any obvious good solution here (as far as I can tell).

"do as much as possible as soon as possible"

But that's also actually a bad policy. Doing "more" has significant costs too. All I've been asking, is for you to try to quantify the costs and the benefits. How much should we pay today, for what level of future benefits tomorrow? Your phrase here is a moral phrase, not an economic phrase, and, as such, it is a horrible guide to policy.

"Physical and technical are in the bag in my opinion"

OK, I make you King of the Earth. You're an absolute dictator. Forget about political obstacles. Now, tell me: what is the specific policy action you recommend? What are the costs of the policy you want to implement today, and what will be the benefits?

I haven't even heard of a realistic plan that matters. All people talk about are ways to make themselves feel better, because they "tried" to "help". So they relieve their personal guilt.

You're King. Do whatever you want. What's your solution?

Publius said...


George Carlin on Global Warming

Ron said...

> I said "it's not at all clear", and that's what I meant. I'm looking for a cost/benefit analysis, on any specific proposal.

Well, my proposal is that we start by acknowledging that it is a real problem and not a hoax, that it is a potentially serious problem, quite possibly (in fact probably) an existential threat to civilization. The cost of doing that is essentially zero, and the benefit is that it might spur us to action that might mitigate or perhaps even solve the problem. Humans can be very resourceful when we put our minds to it. But we have to put our minds to it.

> No. For example, I suggested active cooling now, by seeding the stratosphere.

My first reaction to this was, "What? I don't recall that." And indeed the words "active" "cooling" "seeding" appear for the first time in this thread in that sentence.

The word "stratosphere" appears once before, in this sentence:

"I already had a whole paragraph (above) about "ways to mitigate", which is hugely different than "do nothing". (Including, just for example: relocation, coastal seawalls, injecting sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, eliminating (red) meat from human diets, and radically downsizing the human population.)"

I could not find the "whole paragraph" to which you refer. Was it this?

"Another way to put it: if Venus is a feasible possibility, then we ought to immediately stop raising cattle (methane is far more dangerous than CO2, so no more beef). And maybe immediately have a global war and slaughter 50-90% of humanity. That would be tragic ... but less so than the extinction of all life on earth. Do you really want to solve the real problem, or not?"

That's the closest thing I could find, and it does not talk about doing anything with the stratosphere. Also, it is hard to take you seriously when you talk about starting a war to reduce the population. That is just a stupid idea.

BTW, just to be clear, the reason it's a stupid idea is not that reducing the population is a bad idea. It isn't. Reducing the population is a very good idea. In fact, I believe it's the *only* way to solve the problem in the long run. But using *war* as a mechanism it beyond stupid -- and you surely know this: it's expensive, it causes a tremendous amount of collateral damage to infrastructure, and worst of all, it doesn't actually work.

> I don't know enough to advocate any specific position.

And yet you just insisted that you did. Or are you distinguishing between "advocating" and "suggesting"?

> I think things become very very unsure after that.

The details and exact timing of how things will unfold may be unclear, but on what possible basis could you doubt that warming will continue in the absence of some kind of intervention? The mechanics of this problem are not complicated: CO2 is a greenhouse gas. The more of it there is in the atmosphere, the more solar radiation is trapped, and the hotter it gets. It will stop before we get to +100C because civilization will have been destroyed long before then (probably before +10C) and *that* will stop the emission of CO2 if nothing else does. But that does not sound to me like a good reason to be complacent.

> Again, who (here) is saying that it won't be a big deal?

You seem to me to be less alarmed than you should be that a climate-change denier has been elected president of the United States, that he is about to appoint another climate-change denier to be the had of the EPA, and that he is going to undo what little progress has been made on the issue by withdrawing from the Paris accords. You are also raising straw-man arguments about eco-theatre and "just showing we care." No one here has said anything of the sort.

Don Geddis said...

I don't think climate change is "probably" an existential threat to civilization. But "possibly", yes. As for the rest of that paragraph, aren't we (you and I) past that by now? My very first comment on this post agreed with the danger of climate change. I was already moving on to the next question: what should we do about it?

Maybe you still want to talk about the "hoax" stuff. But that isn't a conversation to have with me.

"Whole paragraph": yes, that was a specific list of possible options. And also in an even earlier comment, I said "attempt technological mitigation to prevent excess warming despite elevated greenhouse gasses" and gave you links to both David Friedman and SuperFreakonomics, which discuss these ideas (technological mitigation) in more detail. You seem to have ignored that sentence, and presumably not bothered to follow those links. (Especially since you subsequently accused me of recommending "doing nothing".)

"And yet you just insisted that you did." I'm making suggestions of options that are worthy of further study. But -- just like I'm asking for you -- I wouldn't actually advocate for any of these options, before having a cost/benefit analysis of each. Which I don't yet have.

"on what possible basis could you doubt that warming will continue in the absence of some kind of intervention" I think the strong evidence is that warming is going to continue, whether there is intervention or not. That's why I so dislike the actions you are advocating: because they don't actually solve the warming problem.

"You are also raising straw-man arguments about eco-theatre and "just showing we care." No one here has said anything of the sort." I disagree. I mean my criticism. I think you are yelling at people who aren't supporting your plan, but your plan isn't actually effective. The difference between the US following the Paris (or Kyoto) accords, or not, has only a tiny tiny impact on the expected future temperature of the earth. I think you are indeed yelling at people for moral / team reasons, because they aren't enough showing that they care.

But you don't actually have a plan that can solve the problem. This is why I'm not so concerned about Trump's opinion on climate change. It's clearly not the case that there is some critical decision here, and if only Trump would make it the right way, the earth would be saved, but instead it is going to be doomed. There is (as far as I can see) essentially nothing that any US President might do in the next 4 years, which might make a significant impact on this problem. So it's hard for me to get too worked about what Trump might or might not do.

Ron said...

We may just have to agree to disagree about this. I don't see any reason to believe that the unchecked emission of CO2 will not result in the destruction of civilization; it's a question of when, not if. And the sooner we start to take that seriously the easier and less painful it will be to do whatever we can to address the problem, even if "whatever we can" turns out not to be very much. Whatever the situation, there is nothing to be gained by pretending the problem does not exist and hence doing nothing, and that seems to be the direction we're heading.

> That's why I so dislike the actions you are advocating: because they don't actually solve the warming problem.

What actions are those exactly? AFAICT the only action I have advocated is taking the problem seriously. Accepting that there is in fact a problem seems to me to be a pre-requisite to finding a solution.

Ron said...

Heh, this is timely:

http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/11/e1501923.full

Nonlinear climate sensitivity and its implications for future greenhouse warming

Abstract

Global mean surface temperatures are rising in response to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. The magnitude of this warming at equilibrium for a given radiative forcing—referred to as specific equilibrium climate sensitivity (S)—is still subject to uncertainties. We estimate global mean temperature variations and S using a 784,000-year-long field reconstruction of sea surface temperatures and a transient paleoclimate model simulation. Our results reveal that S is strongly dependent on the climate background state, with significantly larger values attained during warm phases. Using the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 for future greenhouse radiative forcing, we find that the range of paleo-based estimates of Earth’s future warming by 2100 CE overlaps with the upper range of climate simulations conducted as part of the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5). Furthermore, we find that within the 21st century, global mean temperatures will very likely exceed maximum levels reconstructed for the last 784,000 years. On the basis of temperature data from eight glacial cycles, our results provide an independent validation of the magnitude of current CMIP5 warming projections.

Don Geddis said...

"there is nothing to be gained by pretending the problem does not exist ... the only action I have advocated is taking the problem seriously. Accepting that there is in fact a problem"

Yeah, I don't have anything to add on the "not a hoax" topic.

I was addressing the final paragraph in your original post, when you start to explore next steps. I think you've put a lot less thought into that final paragraph, than into the "not a hoax" part of your post.

(As an example, I think it is ridiculous to believe that a 2 degree rise in average global temperature implies anything like the end of human civilization. That's the kind of fear-mongering that gives climate advocates a bad name.)

coby said...

Don, I'm sorry but comments like "modern human civilization could survive another ice age" make it very hard to believe you are engaging in any kind of serious or sincere way. For one, why do you constantly imply that surety of survival is all you need to be happy with a potential climate change scenario? You are very anxious about the potential price tag of mitigation efforts but completely unconcerned with the costs of adaptation as long as we survive.

"Can you justify your 95% claim?"

This is a very subjective assessment I don't mind confessing. However, there really is a lot of empirical evidence to support it, mostly in geologic history. Rapid climate change (rapid in the geologic sense) is the prime suspect or significant co-conspirator in most if not all past extinction events.

If pressed, I will also admit that many other environmental disruptions would be contributors to that outcome, not just climate change. Indeed, all evidence suggests a very extreme if not the most extreme ever extinction event is underway right now before climate change impacts are dominant.

(see this and this for example.)

"Your phrase here is a moral phrase, not an economic phrase, and, as such, it is a horrible guide to policy."

I beg to differ. Emphatically, actually. As far as I'm concerned, the only reason economic factors should be considered at all are because of their impact on the health and welfare of humanity. Economic choices are very clearly surrogates for moral choices. Maybe you meant something different, but I challenge you to give me any compelling reason to be concerned about economics that does not involve ultimately trying to improve health and welfare. And if it is not a moral choice to try to improve health and welfare, then what is the basis of that desire?

I will get back to your "king of the world" challenge, but I wanted to mention one aside relating to a response you made to Ron. Trying to cool the globe via stratospheric manipulations is full of challenges and not just technical, but political/moral as well. How do we agree on global programs like that? But the deal breaker is ocean acidification. You will find (educated) people who find that as worrisome a problem as climate change and paving the way for unrestricted CO2 emissions will do severe harm to ocean life and thus the entire food web. Currently one third to half of all anthropogenic CO2 emissions find there way into the oceans in the form of carbonic acid. It also puts us all in a very precarious situation whereby we must apply more and more solution to an ever growing problem and lord help the planet if one day we can no longer hold back all that pent-up greenhouse effect.

That said, it may prove necessary though it will always be insufficient.

coby said...

"You're King. Do whatever you want. What's your solution?"

First off, ice cream desserts for everyone!

Second, I have to acknowledge that my primary focus has always been understanding the problem and defending the climate science. I always refused upfront to discuss possible solutions with people denying it was a serious problem, I mean what's the point? It was almost always a rhetorical device "what are ya gonna do about it, anyway??" and an attempt to change the subject. So I can't claim to be as well researched in this area.

But since you asked: subject to the advice of the best and brightest in the relevant fields, I am inclined towards the following:

1. stop exploration and development of currently untapped fossil fuel resources immediately. Reality also demands that much or the currently declared reserves already in production must not burn. This is a tougher problem in that there will be losers.
2. a revenue neutral carbon tax that would ramp up until the true cost to humanity of carbon emissions was priced into all fossil fuel energy sources. All revenue returned to the people on a per capita basis. This taps into the very real power of the market and profit motives.
3. Reduce to $0 all subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and invest heavily in sustainable energy sources. I don't see why this would not be a great economic stimulus either.

Yes, many devils in many details, but those are the broad strokes.

Luke said...

Hey, where's that post on the science denialism of Democrats re: nuclear power? The recent article UNICEF: Air pollution kills 600,000 children yearly reminded me of the issue. For reference: 2001–2016 polls of Democrats and Republicans on nuclear power. I'd be willing to wager that the net negative effect on human health by nuclear power, given a few meltdowns here and there, would have been fantastically less if nuclear power had been more available and cheaper to India and China. After all, both countries burn a huge amount of coal for power, and both have absolutely terrible pollution problems. I'd love an estimate of how much Democrats contributed to global warming via this brand of science denialism.

Don Geddis said...

coby: "in any kind of serious or sincere way" I am completely serious that a new ice age would not cause the end of human civilization. We have far too much technology (and there is still the equatorial regions) for an ice age to end all of humanity. I think this topic is a distraction, but if you really want to debate it, let's go for it. Please justify your claim that an ice age necessarily causes human extinction. (Or even the end of civilization.)

"why do you constantly imply that surety of survival is all you need" I never meant to imply that at all. I'm not sure what I might have said that could give you such a misreading of my position.

"completely unconcerned with the costs of adaptation" How can you possibly read this into anything that I said? Multiple times, I've explicitly demanded a cost/benefit analysis for any policy. That (obviously) includes adaptation to a hotter world as well. (See my link to David Friedman, for a crude example of the first steps of such analysis.)

"Economic choices are very clearly surrogates for moral choices." I think you're missing my point. An economic analysis recommendation says, "do policy X, because the benefits outweigh the costs". A "moral" recommendation says, "do policy X, regardless of benefits, and regardless of costs, because not-X is evil". Following naive morals, instead of detailed economic analysis, leads to policy actions which are actually net harmful. Your efforts are making the world worse. (Mostly because "not-X is pure evil", is almost always literally false.)

"the true cost to humanity of carbon emissions" Sounds great. I'm with you. Except: can you tell me what the actual "true cost to humanity" of carbon emissions, is? I want to advocate for your policy. What is the dollar amount of the suggested tax?

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

Publius said...

By the way...

blogger.com is having an error. If you "preview" a post before publishing, you get a "Bad Request, Error 400" page. The webpage is https://www.blogger.com/comment.do .

If, however, you publish without previewing it first, it works.

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

Publius said...

By the way...

blogger.com is having an error. If you "preview" a post before publishing, you get a "Bad Request, Error 400" page. The webpage is https://www.blogger.com/comment.do .

If, however, you publish without previewing it first, it works - sometimes.

Publius said...

By the way...

blogger.com is having an error. If you "preview" a post before publishing, you get a "Bad Request, Error 400" page. The webpage is https://www.blogger.com/comment.do .

If, however, you publish without previewing it first, it works -- sometimes. Maybe.

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

Ron said...

@Don:

> I am completely serious that a new ice age would not cause the end of human civilization. We have far too much technology (and there is still the equatorial regions) for an ice age to end all of humanity.

Ending civilization and ending humanity are not the same thing. Can we all please stop with the straw-man arguments?

At 2 degrees, civilization can probably survive, but the transition will be painful and expensive.

At 5 degrees, civilization's prospects are dicey. Nature may or may not do us in at that point, but the economic stresses are likely to lead to social upheaval and even nuclear war.

At 10 degrees civilization is probably done for. At that temperature we are looking at the loss of every coastal city on the planet: Los Angeles, New York, Miami, London, Shanghai... all gone. Homo sapiens will probably not go extinct (though many other species surely will), but we'll be back in the stone age. Personally, I don't consider that a good outcome.

We are already at 1 degree. Current projections have us at 4 degrees by the end of this century if we do nothing and current trends continue.

> I was addressing the final paragraph in your original post, when you start to explore next steps. I think you've put a lot less thought into that final paragraph, than into the "not a hoax" part of your post.

I still have no idea what you actually find objectionable about that last paragraph. I haven't made any policy recommendations beyond suggesting that we take the problem seriously and not pretend it doesn't exist. I am completely nonplussed that you find that objectionable in any way.

@Luke:

> Hey, where's that post on the science denialism of Democrats re: nuclear power?

I think I've sunk too deeply into existential despair to write that any time soon. But just for the record: yes, it is a complete no-brainer that we need to be developing safe nuclear power (and no, that is not an oxymoron) as part of an overall strategy to reduce carbon emissions. For self-styled "environmentalists" to oppose nuclear power is every bit as hypocritical as self-styled "pro-lifers" supporting gun rights and the death penalty.

Luke said...

@Ron:

> I think I've sunk too deeply into existential despair to write that any time soon.

Bummer! Well, I'm available to hang out. I like bowling and other things. :-) I even randomly met a devout Muslim who is up for meeting with you (I know, a little late for Dialogos), all because the obnoxiously-worded propositions on the CA ballot got me talking to someone else at the coffee shop table who I knew beforehand.

In case it helps, I had an interesting discussion with a sociologist working to help scientists do better science, who has also experienced quite a lot of life and thought deeply about it. He doesn't think the situation is all that much worse, largely because of how bad it was already. That is, even if Hillary had won, we'd be in a very bad state. He thinks there are concrete things to be done (e.g. understand how complex institutions are and how to actually change them, vs. make bull-headed attempts which make one despair after they predictably fail). He might be willing to meet up with you as well. He's always interested in people more interested in understanding reality as it is, than they are in holding on to their pretty little ideas† about it. There are far too few such people out there.

† Oh the irony that I, a Christian who even wants to call himself 'evangelical', would say such a thing.

Don Geddis said...

Ron: "Ending civilization and ending humanity are not the same thing." I didn't realize you thought this particular distinction was especially important. I didn't intentionally create a straw-man. I was sort of grouping "the end of modern technology, while a few isolated stone-age tribes of humans survive", in much the same bucket as "all humans die". If you think it's important to distinguish them, sure, ok.

So let me clarify: I do not believe that an ice age (about -4 degrees, according to XKCD's awesome timeline) would end modern human civilization. Similarly, I don't believe +4 degrees would end modern human civilization. Very expensive, horrific loss of life, likely wars: yes. But afterwards, is there no longer metalworking? Agriculture? Electronics? National government? Militaries? I don't believe that claim.

"At 5 degrees, civilization's prospects are dicey." I disagree, but am open to being convinced. But you would actually need to get into specific details then. (How exactly does the end of civilization happen?)

"At 10 degrees civilization is probably done for. ... back in the stone age." Still disagree, sorry. With a century to adapt? Existing coastal cities, a century from now, are not required to keep modern civilization. It's a HUGE, huge, problem for the world, and for humanity. But it isn't an existential problem (or even an end-of-civilization problem). (At least, as far as I can tell.)

"I still have no idea what you actually find objectionable about that last paragraph. I haven't made any policy recommendations"

OK, here's what I read in the final paragraph: "Maybe the denialists are right and the warming trend is just a natural phenomenon." OK, I'm with you: human caused, not natural. "Maybe civilization is more resilient than we think and it can survive more than 2 degree rise in temperature." Wait a minute! Where in the world do you get that "we think" 2 degrees will end civilization? Implying that thinking anything else is mere wishful thinking? Let's see you back up that claim, before suggesting that the only alternatives are either denial ("just natural") or else 2-degrees = civilization's end. You've skipped a WHOLE lot of steps here. "is this an experiment we really want to do?" This now implies that either we agree with you (and then you seem to be promising that we will avoid the experiment), or else we're a "denier", stupidly choosing to run a +2 degree experiment. But the truth is that the +2 degrees is ALREADY going to happen. Moreover, you have no plan for preventing it. There is no alternative to not running the experiment. You're suggesting that if only we could be convinced that it is "not a hoax", then we could avoid playing these dangerous games with the climate.

That is giving yourself far, far too much credit. The problem is much worse than that. Merely convincing people that it isn't a hoax, is only one tiny step for human civilization to survive the future climate. It actually may not even be the most important step. You only seem to be trying to get people to feel good about what "team" they affiliate with. You don't have an actual policy plan that anybody could implement, even if they were to agree. It's not fair of you to suggest that it is the fault of deniers that climate change is happening. It's a much, much harder problem, than merely that a few folks are mistaken about some science. Even if you fixed the denier problem, you still really don't have a plan for dealing with climate change.

Ron said...

@Don:

> I didn't realize you thought this particular distinction was especially important.

What gave you that impression? Losing civilization is bad, but losing all of humanity is clearly worse. If we lose civilization but retain humanity then there's a chance we can rebuild civilization from the ashes. If we lose humanity you have to evolve a whole new intelligent species before you can rebuild civilization. Isn't that obvious? How could you possibly believe anything different, or think that I believe anything different?

> "At 5 degrees, civilization's prospects are dicey." I disagree, but am open to being convinced.

I probably should have been more precise: when I say "civilization" -- which is the thing that I think is most worth preserving -- what I mean is modern technological civilization. My perfect world is one where the population is stable, everyone's basic material wants are met (i.e. no one is homeless or hungry), war is rare, and people are free to think, read, write, and otherwise create and spread memes. So, for example, losing the internet would be a huge blow, even if the rest of civilization remained intact. Yes, Rome was a civilization, but going back to those circumstances is not a good outcome in my book.

My biggest concern at 5 degrees is not the direct damage caused by the temperature increase, but rather the resulting political instability leading to an increased risk of all-out nuclear war. We are closer to that hairy edge than we would like to believe.

I think that a world that closely resembles my ideal is within our grasp, and it would suck to lose it because of one megalomaniacal idiot.

> "Maybe civilization is more resilient than we think and it can survive more than 2 degree rise in temperature." Wait a minute! Where in the world do you get that "we think" 2 degrees will end civilization?

The operative words there are *MORE THAN*. Everyone agrees we can survive 2 degrees (though not without pain). What happens after that is anyone's guess. Can modern technological civilization (MTC) survive 3 degrees? Maybe. 5? A slightly smaller maybe. 10? Who knows. But there is clearly *some* number <<100 at which the odds of MTC surviving are indistinguishable from zero.

There is no way to know for sure what the critical number is without destroying civilization and hence entirely defeating the purpose. Hence, this is one piece of ignorance we should strive for. Not knowing for sure what it takes to destroy MTC is a good thing. We should aim to stop well short of the critical number, and celebrate the fact that we don't know its precise value.

Luke said...

What about putting a colony on the moon which can export culture and technology back to the earth?

Ron said...

@Luke: the environment on the moon is vastly harsher than the earth would be even under a worst-case scenario of runaway greenhouse effects plus all-out nuclear war. Even under that worst case scenario, (parts of) the earth would still be survivable without a space suit. There is nothing you can do on the moon (in terms of preserving civilization) that you can't do here on earth.

Tony said...

Due to a 4,096 character limit, I have to split this…
1/3

Preamble:
I fully understand you are worried about what we do to our planet, and that you think everybody opposing this is greedy stupid selfish anti-humanist who deserves to be shot without hesitation. As a matter of fact, I once had a similar view of the world (and I still hate republicans/conservatives/neoliberals/capitalists/right-wing/whatever assholes who know nothing about anything and simply oppose the climate consensus out of their personal believes). Rest assured, if I'd still believed that we are ruining our planet's (literal) climate, then I would be rightfully fighting on your side of the barricade. However…


So, here is my short answer:
1. This alone is irrelevant – what is relevant is how much increase in temperature this increase in CO2 will cause. (This is called climate sensitivity, AFAIK)

2. Again, what matter is the climate sensitivity, not some diffuse fear about the end of the world.

3. That is not my impression when reading the climate consensus. (Or at least, it is more like a double-think where these processes spell both immediate and long-term doom – probably because of the disconnect between predicated and observed effect, scientists start to believe in some "temperature increase hidden in the oceans" or somesuch concept which supposedly spells long term doom, to reconcile climate models with observed temperatures…).

4. There were always times were the planet warmed (or cooled). We have a rather short instrumental record (which has its own plethora of problems), so we are bound to find a change in temperature with the current time being hotter (or cooler) than the beginning of our temperature record, simply by starting to measure the temperature. Climate is not a somewhat stochastic process and has its random walks.

5. The vast majority of people studying geology believed continental plates do not move – and that was not so long ago.


Bottom line: So what? None of your 5 points are relevant to the discussion.

Tony said...

2/3

And, here is my long answers:
(Short prelude: All numbers and facts are AFAIK. While I sprinkle some AFAIKs here and there in the text, this entire text is only to the best of my knowledge, which could be massively wrong, and every sentence should carry a AFAIK before it. So feel free to do your own research, and trust whoever you want.* All numbers and facts warrant a scrutiny that neither of us can muster – but hey, let's talk about it anyway.)

Climate sensitivity is the increase in degC per doubling of CO2. AFAIK the IPCC give a range for the climate sensitivity from 1.5 to 4.5 degC. If we accept the industrial increase as a doubling from initial 200 ppm CO2 to current 400 ppm CO2, we should see a corresponding increase in temperature.

To put this in perspective:
4.5 degC increase => OMG WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!!!1!!!ELEVEN!!!
1.5 degC increase => Yeah, so what?

The 4.5 degC inc is a fluke of some climate models, and AFAIK no respectable mainstream climate scientist thinks this is anywhere near reality. All the recent studies seem to cluster around or below 1.5 degC.

A sidenote, to put the CO2 increase in perspective:
AFAIK, a doubling from 400 to 800 ppm CO2 with the known and (most optimistically) theoretical retrievable carbohydrate deposits is not possible. We'd have to dismantle our crust or import carbohydrates from other planets to increase CO2 significantly beyond 800 ppm, with the next doubling to 1600 ppm being holly and fully unrealistic.

So anyway, the REAL QUESTION (™) is then this:
What is the actual climate sensitivity?
And why the heck is there such a uncertainty anyway?

The short answer: H2O

Water vapor is a hugely potent climate gas. Much much more portent than CO2. Even much more potent than methane. So it is simple, right? CO2 raises temperature, which in turn leads to more evaporation, which in turn takes our planet to hell in a basket. But here is the thing, water vapor has also the effect of forming clouds, which LOWER temperatures.

So here is my personal impression of climate reality:

- Climate sensitivity is somewhere around 1 degC (give or take).

- CO2 emission have some effect on temperatures (I'd say half of the temperature increase in the industrial age is human-made, half is natural variation)

- Temperature increase will be highest for nighttime temperatures, in the arctic regions, and possibly in winter time. Evaporation and precipitation may increase, CO2 is somewhat higher, temperatures are somewhat higher. I'm shaking in my boots, and so is the entire eco system.


* I personally trust Steve McIntyre and Willis Eschenbach by four to five magnitudes more than Michael E. Mann or Phil Jones – but then again, do your own research.

Tony said...

3/3

PS:
Despite all the alarmist howling, "extreme weather events" have not increased, the global number of areas stricken with drought or flooding are not increasing, the number of hurricanes, tornadoes or somesuch events is not increasing, the ocean warming is below the measurement precision, the rate of the rise of the oceans has not increased (a whopping 3 mm / year well over the last century, give or take), the antarctic ice cap is going nowhere in the next 10,000 years, the greenland ice is going nowhere in the next 10,000 years, the arctic ocean ice may or may not vanish in summer (as it has done in past ages), the ice bears are doing fine and will continue to do fine (as they have done in the past ages with summers without polar ice), glaciers may or may not continue to retreat and vanish (as they have done since a time well before the industrial revolution), there is no measurable increase in "bad things happening due to climate", there is no "new normal". Forgive me, but I lost interest in discussing these topics when all I hear is "BUT THE EARTH IS MELTING!!!ONE!!!11!!!!"

Ron said...

@Tony:

> Despite all the alarmist howling, "extreme weather events" have not increased

Not true.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/apr/27/extreme-weather-already-on-increase-due-to-climate-change-study-finds

Don Geddis said...

@Ron: "political instability leading to an increased risk of all-out nuclear war" Ah. That is indeed an interesting variation. I'll admit, I was considering scenarios of cooperating, intelligent, technological, first-world humans, and trying to figure out whether they could modify civilization to survive a significantly warmer world. If you think the climate stresses could result in nuclear war, that's certainly a different -- and more difficult -- scenario. In that case, the climate doesn't directly kill civilization; it's "only" an indirect trigger. Your idea is plausible, but much harder to judge. I'm not sure how to put numbers on that risk. (Which doesn't mean it should be dismissed, of course.)

"We should aim to stop well short of the critical number, and celebrate the fact that we don't know its precise value." Agreed! Actually, I don't especially object to this last comment (the whole thing) at all. For me, I got a very different impression from what you just wrote here, than from what you wrote in the original post. Presumably, you think you were saying essentially the same things. FWIW, they didn't read the same at all, to me.

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

(this has either been published 5 times, or not at all...)

Publius said...

Extreme Weather

@Tony:
> Despite all the alarmist howling, "extreme weather events" have not increased

@Ron:
Not true.

Extreme Weather Already On INcrease Due to Climate Change Study Finds


The news article Ron references is reporting on this letter, published in Nature Climate Change:

Anthropogenic contribution to global occurrance of heavy-precipitation and high-temperature extremes by E.M. Fisher and R. Knutti (27 April 2015)

This letter reports on results from running their computer model, not actual observations.

Let's look at some data trends:

Precipitation in the Contiguous 48 States, 1901 - 2015

U.S. Hurrican Landfalls: Last 10 years (2016-2015)
Note: none in Florida

Global Tropical Storm and Hurrican Frequency

Record Daily High and Low Temperatures in the Contiguous 48 States, 1950-2009
Hey, wait a minute, we have data before 1950:
Distribution of US State Temperature Records 1890 - 2012



Publius said...

Extreme Weather

@Tony:
> Despite all the alarmist howling, "extreme weather events" have not increased

@Ron:
Not true.

Extreme Weather Already On INcrease Due to Climate Change Study Finds


The news article Ron references is reporting on this letter, published in Nature Climate Change:

Anthropogenic contribution to global occurrance of heavy-precipitation and high-temperature extremes by E.M. Fisher and R. Knutti (27 April 2015)

This letter reports on results from running their computer model, not actual observations.

Let's look at some data trends:

Precipitation in the Contiguous 48 States, 1901 - 2015

U.S. Hurrican Landfalls: Last 10 years (2016-2015)
Note: none in Florida

Global Tropical Storm and Hurrican Frequency

Record Daily High and Low Temperatures in the Contiguous 48 States, 1950-2009
Hey, wait a minute, we have data before 1950:
Distribution of US State Temperature Records 1890 - 2012



Luke said...

@Ron:

> the environment on the moon is vastly harsher than the earth would be even under a worst-case scenario of runaway greenhouse effects plus all-out nuclear war. Even under that worst case scenario, (parts of) the earth would still be survivable without a space suit. There is nothing you can do on the moon (in terms of preserving civilization) that you can't do here on earth.

But there is something you can do on the moon: be isolated from political chaos and nuclear war. You're worried about getting sent back to the Stone Age, right? Furthermore, the conditions for maintaining life on the moon would require much greater virtue on the part of its citizens. Smaller mistakes would be more costly, and many of the consequences from mistakes would occur within the lifetime of those who made the mistakes, leading to better error-correction. Even interpersonal problems would have a much higher cost, requiring better adherence to empirical facts about how to get along well with each other.

On earth, it is very hard to inculcate a sense of "we're in this together". The earth is huge and we're just too used to exploiting each other. The amount of distrust is ridiculously high. These problems would be much smaller with one or a few moon colonies. Actually, another benefit of a moon colony is that you'd have no proletariat—everyone would have to have significant expertise. Well, unless your vision is closer to that of The Expanse.

Don Geddis said...

@Luke: The earth's a big place. Surely there are a few isolated Pacific islands (esp in the Southern Ocean, where MH370 went down) that are so far from normal civilization, that they would be effectively walled off from the collapse of the modern world. And yet the natural environment would remain tremendously more hospitable than the moon. Heck, build a fortress at the South Pole. It's tough for modern humans to even make it there. Yet you have oxygen and water and gravity, and it's much cheaper to get there than to the moon. What does the moon offer that is better than the South Pole?

Mostly what you seem to talk about is that "mistakes would be more costly". Which is a negative. You try to turn that drawback somehow into an advantage, that because mistakes are more costly, somehow the humans involved would rise above their typical tribal loyalty infighting, and act as more evolved moral creatures. But I don't think you have much historical evidence that the desperate need for cooperation actually causes more cooperation. It could just as easily cause more total failures, instead. The closest I can imagine is running deep ocean ships, e.g. Columbus or Magellan or James Cook. Where you basically succeed for a relatively short time, by running a military dictatorship. But I don't know that that's a long-term sustainable model for successful national governance.

Luke said...

@Don:

> What does the moon offer that is better than the South Pole?

It's harder to nuke it and radioactive fallout from a war on earth wouldn't affect it. We could also start it well before civilization is close to collapse. I don't know if an Antarctic colony would be as feasible, although we probably would want to practice for a moon colony, as NASA is already doing for Mars.

> But I don't think you have much historical evidence that the desperate need for cooperation actually causes more cooperation.

If humans can't finally learn that lesson, how will they avoid going extinct or suffering some other terrible fate? Our benefit over those in history is that we have access to that history. Maybe we can finally learn from it. Maybe. The threat of disastrous climate change is pushing an issue we've been punting on for quite some time.

> Where you basically succeed for a relatively short time, by running a military dictatorship. But I don't know that that's a long-term sustainable model for successful national governance.

Yeah I doubt that is a long-term sustainable model.

Ron said...

@Luke:

You are vastly overestimating the radiation danger from nuclear war, and vastly underestimating the difficulty of living in space. In the 1950s there were dozens of above-ground nuclear tests and people barely noticed. The reason all-out nuclear war is bad is not because of the fallout (that's certainly not a good thing, but it's not what causes the real problems), it's because it will destroy nearly all of the urban infrastructure. So: no factories. No refineries. No electric grid. And no way to rebuild them. If you nuke *one* city that's not so bad because you can use the remaining technological infrastructure to rebuild it. If you nuke them all at once you're fucked.

The moon is like the earth after a calamity much worse than the worst possible nuclear war. Even after all-out nuclear war there would still be life on earth, liquid water, an atmosphere to shield you from cosmic rays. The moon has none of those things. You are vastly worse off on the moon than on earth. The only reason we can even *contemplate* building a settlement on the moon is because we have a technological infrastructure here on earth to support it. A self-sufficient lunar settlement is way beyond our current capabilities. We can barely keep the ISS flying.

Ron said...

@Publius:

> blogger.com is having an error

I see you trying to post comments that aren't appearing. FWIW, it's not me. I do have the power to delete comments, but I use it only on extremely rare occasions, mainly to get rid of spam. I don't know why your comments are not showing up. But you seem to be the only one having problems. Maybe try a different browser?

Luke said...

@Ron:

A quick look at estimated radioactive fallout from a nuclear war confirms your claim. But how are you going to guarantee that the Antarctica Human Refuge doesn't get nuked in an all-out nuclear war? How would it remain free from MAD strategy?

I hear you on moon colonization being quite hard, especially an autonomous colony. But if humans had sufficient motivation and resources to research in that direction, I'm not sure it'd take more than 20–50 years to do it, especially if we worked on better communication of scientific knowledge, better tools for conducting research, and inculcation of better interpersonal virtues in scientists. (I could regale you with outrageous inefficiencies in each of these categories which plague science today.) And hey, if the earth ends up not nuking or flooding itself into the Stone Age, the colony wouldn't be a waste.

Do I just have more faith in the potential capabilities of humans than you?

P.S. You say "We can barely keep the ISS flying."; are you referring to something other than WP: International Space Station maintenance?

Ron said...

> how are you going to guarantee that the Antarctica Human Refuge doesn't get nuked in an all-out nuclear war?

The same way you are going to guarantee that the moon base doesn't get nuked.

> I hear you on moon colonization being quite hard, especially an autonomous colony. But if humans had sufficient motivation and resources to research in that direction, I'm not sure it'd take more than 20–50 years to do it

You should read this:

http://blog.rongarret.info/2016/06/the-biggest-obstacle-to-martian.html

It was written about Mars, but it applies equally well to a moon colony, particularly a post-armageddon moon colony.

> Do I just have more faith in the potential capabilities of humans than you?

You have more faith than I do, full stop.

Publius said...

Edge

@Ron
Maybe try a different browser?

Yeah, I was getting suspicious of Chrome, as I have/had about 100 windows open. I finally got an error that the garbage collector for javascript was out of memory.

This message is a test with Edge.

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

Publius said...

Extreme Weather

@Tony:
> Despite all the alarmist howling, "extreme weather events" have not increased

@Ron:
Not true.

Extreme Weather Already On INcrease Due to Climate Change Study Finds


The news article Ron references is reporting on this letter, published in Nature Climate Change:
Anthropogenic contribution to global occurrance of heavy-precipitation and high-temperature extremes by E.M. Fisher and R. Knutti (27 April 2015)

This letter reports on results from running their computer model, not actual observations.

Let's look at some data trends:

Precipitation in the Contiguous 48 States, 1901 - 2015

U.S. Hurrican Landfalls: Last 10 years (2016-2015)
Note: none in Florida

Global Tropical Storm and Hurrican Frequency

Record Daily High and Low Temperatures in the Contiguous 48 States, 1950-2009
Hey, wait a minute, we have data before 1950:
Distribution of US State Temperature Records 1890 - 2012

Publius said...

dull Edge

Hmm. Same thing from Edge.
A reboot is in my future.

Luke said...

@Ron:

> The same way you are going to guarantee that the moon base doesn't get nuked.

It'd be a lot harder to nuke a moon base than the Antarctica Human Refuge. And I wouldn't be surprised if the moon base requires defenses for meteorites which could also be used on incoming missiles, e.g. some sort of laser shield, which doesn't have to deal with atmospheric dissipation.

> You should read this

I think it'd be ethical if the survival of civilization were at stake. If something like the political and social chaos you describe actually happens, we'll have to radically revise our expectations of 'human autonomy' for quite some time. The one who misuses his autonomy will have it greatly abridged in the future; this applies to individuals and civilizations.

> > Do I just have more faith in the potential capabilities of humans than you?

> You have more faith than I do, full stop.

Yeah, but the kind I just mentioned is much more directly testable than other aspects I've mentioned. I believe that God has unlimited amounts of power ready to hand to humans, if only they would use it responsibily, instead of e.g. to increase their ability to dominate their fellow humans. Surely a demonstrated ability to tap into bits and pieces of that power constitutes evidence? I get that if there are only bits and pieces, it'll look like pure human agency.

I don't know if you know much about Francis Bacon and his role in spurring the scientific revolution, but one of his claims was that humans were imprisoned by four idols. He deeply believed that humans were held captive by a set of false understandings of reality and false human practices. He got some major things right, and had the vision to see enormous benefits from ceasing worship of those idols.

Now, I'm no Francis Bacon. But what if we need a new purge of idols? What kind of thinking is required to even see that possibility, given that Bacon himself had to do a lot of extrapolation past his own lifetime to properly estimate the magnitude of the enslaving effect of the idols? To think with too much confidence that we don't need a new purge, could imprison us in a false way of living in reality—a prison which cannot be tasted, touched, felt, seen, or heard. Or do you think Angry Birds 6 is just what we need?

Ron said...

> It'd be a lot harder to nuke a moon base than the Antarctica Human Refuge

So what? It's a lot harder for the U.S. to nuke Moscow than Boise, but if I were a Muscovite I would not take a lot of comfort in that. If we have the technology to build a colony on the moon then we easily have the technology to send a nuke to the moon.

> defenses for meteorites

That is a whole nuther rabbit hole. If you want to go down it, start here:

https://b612foundation.org

The TL;DR is that asteroid defense is possible, but really hard. Certainly the least of your worries on the moon.

> I think it'd be ethical if the survival of civilization were at stake

By the time it becomes evident to everyone that civilization is in peril, it will be much too late. That is the root of the problem here.

> if only they would use it responsibly

Who gets to decide what "responsible use" is? You? Me? Donald Trump? The man on the corner telling me that I'm going to burn in hell because I have not accepted Jesus as my lord and savior? Or perhaps Jeff Sessions, who is about to become attorney general, who thinks that the root of all our problems is that we have turned our back on God by allowing gays to marry, and can cite the relevant passages from Leviticus to prove it?

> what if we need a new purge of idols?

I think we are about to find out. There is a significant faction in the Republican party that wants to turn the U.S. into a Christian theocracy, and as of inauguration day there will be very little standing in their way.

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

Publius said...

Extreme Weather

@Tony:
> Despite all the alarmist howling, "extreme weather events" have not increased

@Ron:
Not true.

Extreme Weather Already On INcrease Due to Climate Change Study Finds


The news article Ron references is reporting on this letter, published in Nature Climate Change:
Anthropogenic contribution to global occurrance of heavy-precipitation and high-temperature extremes by E.M. Fisher and R. Knutti (27 April 2015)

This letter reports on results from running their computer model, not actual observations.

Let's look at some data trends:

Precipitation in the Contiguous 48 States, 1901 - 2015

U.S. Hurrican Landfalls: Last 10 years (2016-2015)
Note: none in Florida

Global Tropical Storm and Hurrican Frequency

Record Daily High and Low Temperatures in the Contiguous 48 States, 1950-2009
Hey, wait a minute, we have data before 1950:
Distribution of US State Temperature Records 1890 - 2012

Luke said...

@Ron:

> > defenses for meteorites

> That is a whole nuther rabbit hole. If you want to go down it, start here

Atmospheric dispersion makes defending earth with lasers a much harder problem than it would be on the moon.

> The TL;DR is that asteroid defense is possible, but really hard. Certainly the least of your worries on the moon.

Are you saying 1–100cm asteroids would not be a significant problem for a moon colony?

> By the time it becomes evident to everyone that civilization is in peril, it will be much too late. That is the root of the problem here.

It doesn't need to become "evident to everyone" in order to start on a moon colony. And the kind of technology required for a moon colony would surely benefit the earth as well, as tech from the space program benefited humanity.

> Who gets to decide what "responsible use" is?

I think the bare minimum of "doing enough to ensure the survival of civilization" would suffice for the current conversation. There are plenty of ├╝ber-rich folks who aren't religious nutjobs.

> > what if we need a new purge of idols?

> I think we are about to find out. There is a significant faction in the Republican party that wants to turn the U.S. into a Christian theocracy, and as of inauguration day there will be very little standing in their way.

Are Christians the only ones with major idol problems? (It's fun to watch how many people during this election season saw no appreciable error in themselves. That's the definition of self-righteousness. One way to construe the history of Israel in the OT is that once the population hits that stage, they're a lost cause and have to be carried off into captivity, with the expectation that a [probably small] remnant will have come to its senses in ≈ 70 years. But we aren't quite at that stage; Jeremiah 5 requires just one person who doesn't have his/her head up his/her butt.)

Publius said...

posting

Did the clear cache/cookies, re-booted, a few other things ...
When I post, it now will
1) increment the post counter
2) the post will come through the rss feed
3) it will not appear on the website

Web searching for it, one finds many others with the same problem - not a lot of solutions, or understanding of it, though. Definitely thought to be a client-side problem.

One additional possibility is that blogger.com doesn't like certain characters in links. None of the links have anything I would consider unusual. Let's try the most vanilla link:

The news article Ron references is reporting on this letter, published in Nature Climate Change:
Anthropogenic contribution to global occurrance of heavy-precipitation and high-temperature extremes by E.M. Fisher and R. Knutti (27 April 2015)

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

note: mostly url shortened version

Publius said...

CONTROL vs. KAOS

References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim? by J. Hansen et al. (2008)

p. 15: Climate has great variability, much of which is unforced and unpredictable [2, 90].. . . The atmosphere and ocean exhibit coupled nonlinear chaotic variability that cascades to all
time scales [91].


Let's look up references [90] and [91]

[90]Palmer TN. Nonlinear dynamics and climate change: Rossby’s legacy. Bull Amer Meteorol Soc 1998; 79: 1411-1423.

[91]Hasselmann K. Ocean circulation and climate change. Tellus B 2002; 43: 82-103.

The Hasselmann paper is not as interesting as the Palmer paper. The Palmer paper summarizes some of the work of Carl-Gustaf Rossby, of Rossby Waves and Rossby radius of deformation fame.

note: more url shortened version

Publius said...

posting hypothesis

blogger.com does not like URLs with "-" in them.

Publius said...

Extreme Weather


@Tony:
> Despite all the alarmist howling, "extreme weather events" have not increased

@Ron:
Not true.

Extreme Weather Already On Increase Due to Climate Change Study Finds


The news article Ron references is reporting on this letter, published in Nature Climate Change:
Anthropogenic contribution to global occurrance of heavy-precipitation and high-temperature extremes by E.M. Fisher and R. Knutti (27 April 2015)

This letter reports on results from running their computer model, not actual observations.

Let's look at some data trends:

Precipitation in the Contiguous 48 States, 1901 - 2015

U.S. Hurrican Landfalls: Last 10 years (2016-2015)
Note: none in Florida

Global Tropical Storm and Hurrican Frequency

Record Daily High and Low Temperatures in the Contiguous 48 States, 1950-2009
Hey, wait a minute, we have data before 1950:
Distribution of US State Temperature Records 1890 - 2012




Ron said...

> Are you saying 1–100cm asteroids would not be a significant problem for a moon colony?

Good point. OK, I'll concede the point: it's possible that a moon colony could preserve civilization even in the face of nuclear armageddon. But I'll still give you long odds against.

> Are Christians the only ones with major idol problems?

No, of course not. But in the current political climate (pun intended) theirs are the ones that matter.

Ron said...

@Publius:

> References to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere can be found in this paper:

And so can this:

"Paleoclimate data show that climate sensitivity is ~3°C for doubled CO2, including only fast feedback processes. Equilibrium sensitivity, including slower surface albedo feedbacks, is ~6°C for doubled CO2 for the range of climate states between glacial conditions and ice-free Antarctica. Decreasing CO2 was the main cause of a cooling trend that began 50 million years ago, the planet being nearly ice-free until CO2 fell to 450 ± 100 ppm; barring prompt policy changes, that critical level will be passed, in the opposite direction, within decades. If humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm, but likely less than that."

Luke said...

@Ron:

> But I'll still give you long odds against.

Sure. But long odds such as this seem to have a way of motivating people, of giving them a kind of psychic energy which can lead to fantastic discoveries and achievements. One of the biggest lacunae I find in many people's modeling of humans and humans in society is gauging the intensity (or lack thereof) of motivation. One way God could design reality to undermine evil systems of organizing society is to deprive humans of sufficient motivation to maintain the status quo. :-D

> > Are Christians the only ones with major idol problems?

> No, of course not. But in the current political climate (pun intended) theirs are the ones that matter.

Heh.

That doesn't seem necessarily true at all. Surely the current situation is the result of plenty of phenomena with time scales of decades instead of just a few years, months, or days. Surely the rise of a someone who looks quite like a fascist was predictable. Indeed, Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky predicted such an event, if we didn't take our heads out of our butts. Contrary to many on the Left, Hedges did not see Brexit as surprising in the slightest. That's because he knows of how many have been disenfranchised by current politics and economics (including but not limited to globalization). If you want hard, empirical evidence, check out Robert D. Putnam's Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis. He charts the decline in social mobility in America, especially in areas which voted for Trump.

If you want a really long-term metric, check out the decline in Americans trusting each other in the US, from 56% in 1968 → 33% in 2014. Or see the 2015-06-05 WaPo article Why U.S. elections are all about voting against something. (I'm sure you could find something equivalent in a news source which leans just the way you like it.) There's scholarship on this: Eric. M. Uslaner's The Decline of Comity in Congress. The Russell Sage Foundation commissioned a study on trust, given that many take it to be critical to a healthy democracy (or constitutional republic for the pedants). Some think that the decline in trust isn't a big deal—e.g. Cooperation Without Trust?. Surely these are empirical facts which can be explored, which would be worth exploring if we wish to improve the status quo? Trying to change reality before first understanding it well enough is not a recipe for success.

Publius said...

Tsk, Tsk

Using old journal data! That Hansen paper is from 2008.

The estimate for climate sensitivity (ECS) has been continuously decreasing over the years.

The latest estimate would be 1.64 K, with a 17-83% confidence range form 1.25 - 2.45 K, and a 5%-95% confidence range of 1.05 - 4.05 K.

Publius said...

Extreme Weather


@Tony:
> Despite all the alarmist howling, "extreme weather events" have not increased

@Ron:
Not true.

Extreme Weather Already On Increase Due to Climate Change Study Finds


The news article Ron references is reporting on this letter, published in Nature Climate Change:
Anthropogenic contribution to global occurrance of heavy-precipitation and high-temperature extremes by E.M. Fisher and R. Knutti (27 April 2015)

This letter reports on results from running their computer model, not actual observations.

Let's look at some data trends:

Precipitation in the Contiguous 48 States, 1901 - 2015

U.S. Hurrican Landfalls: Last 10 years (2016-2015)
Note: none in Florida

Global Tropical Storm and Hurrican Frequency

Record Daily High and Low Temperatures in the Contiguous 48 States, 1950-2009
Hey, wait a minute, we have data before 1950:
Distribution of US State Temperature Records 1890 - 2012




Ron said...

> Using old journal data!

Pot. Kettle. You were the one who originally cited that paper, not me.

Publius said...

Bzzt! Error! Error!

My citation of the Hansen paper was to provide citations to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere, which was discovered ~75 years ago. "Atmosphere chaotic? = YES" goes into the ontology as "known fact."

Whereas "climate sensitivity" is a quantity still under active research.

Publius said...

Another Offense to Statistics

@Ron:
Heh, this is timely:

Nonlinear climate sensitivity and its implications for future greenhouse warming

This report is yet another offense against statistics. As the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) Science Assessment Panel concluded (see p. 5), "We cannot help remarking that it is very surprising that research in an area that
depends so heavily on statistical methods has not been carried out in close
collaboration with professional statisticians.


The usual offense is undercalling the variation.

Here, just for you, I have annotated two figures from the above Nonlinear climate sensitivity... report, drawing it more realistic confidence intervals.

Fig. 2B Global Temperature Anomoly past 750,000 years

Fig. 3 - Sensitivity of global mean SAT anomalies to radiative forcing anomalies

Ron said...

> "climate sensitivity" is a quantity still under active research

Well, yeah, but so what? We are careening towards a cliff. There is uncertainty about exactly where the cliff is, but no reasonable person can doubt that the cliff is *there*. And as the evidence accumulates, it all indicates that it's a lot closer than anyone at first thought: decades, not centuries.

As I pointed out earlier, the only way to know *for sure* where this particular cliff is is to actually go over it.

Ron said...

@Publius:

> As the University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) Science Assessment Panel concluded (see p. 5)

You left out this important passage at the end of that report:

"it is important to be clear that the neither the panel report nor the press briefing intended to imply that any research group in the field of climate change had been deliberately misleading in any of their analyses or intentionally exaggerated their findings"

So I really don't understand the point you're trying to make (if indeed you are trying to make a point and not just trolling).

coby said...

coby: "why do you constantly imply that surety of survival is all you need"
DG: I never meant to imply that at all. I'm not sure what I might have said that could give you such a misreading of my position.


Well, you suggested 4oC warming was not so alarming we should take any expensive actions to avoid. So I illustrated the enormity of a 4oC change in global temperature by reporting to you that only 5oC separates the climate humans have grown up in from the deepest part of the last ice age. You responded by claiming we could survive that, no concern was expressed about the cost of that. You have also a couple of times indicated you thought it was very good news that Earth climate can not become like Venus. It doesn't seem unreasonable to infer you are concerned mostly, if not solely with survival.

Nevermind, I'll take you at your word you'd like to do more than survive.

coby: "Economic choices are very clearly surrogates for moral choices."
DG: I think you're missing my point. An economic analysis recommendation says, "do policy X, because the benefits outweigh the costs".


The morality of your choice is buried in your definition of benefits. An amoral economic policy recommendation would be exclusively based only on things like GDP growth, or government cash flow projections with no consideration to the effects on people's lives. The only reason we actually do tend to accept policy recommendations based on GDP etc is because it is implicitly understood that GDP growth is a proxy for general well being. I don't personally accept that on its face, but that is irrelevant to my above statement you responded to: economic policy choices are moral choices.

"the true cost to humanity of carbon emissions" Sounds great. I'm with you. Except: can you tell me what the actual "true cost to humanity" of carbon emissions, is? I want to advocate for your policy. What is the dollar amount of the suggested tax?

If you are interested, detailed and careful research has been done and I am sure you could do as well as I could to google up some reputable resources. It is not straightforward but doable (pricing impacts of carbon pollution). But at the risk of being a bit unfair in that I am not answering you directly first, how about I turn that around on you and get you to tell me what you think is the cost of adapting to an ice age? The details are surely as numerous and complicated as pricing carbon in a moderate climate change scenario, but I think a few big picture items quickly put the lie to claims that adaption to severe climate change is cheaper than switching to non-fossil energy sources. eg loss of all infrastructure and real estate in high latitude areas. Remember, New York would be a polar climate.

This is really the crux of the climate change response debate, the costs increase exponentially as the magnitude of the change increases. Once you are talking about agriculture being no longer viable where there is fertile soil, populations no longer having sufficient water sources, major infrastructure being no longer suitable to its local environment, and other such calamities, then the costs are enormous. They are enormous even with unrealistic assumptions about how we might all cooperate globally and how wise and competent governments will be. The reality of adaption will be chaotic and messy and frankly horrifying in human costs.

coby said...

Publius, I looked at your annotations here (Fig. 2B Global Temperature Anomoly past 750,000 years) and note that inside your "realistic" confidence intervals is a deep ice age at a global temperature anomaly of +2oC and a climate like today's at a temperature anomaly of -6oC.

So, I'll assume you are just having a laugh.

Don Geddis said...

[1/2]

coby: "4oC warming was not so alarming we should take any expensive actions to avoid"

Not at all. I'm saying that it is (very!) expensive, both to attempt to prevent that warming, and also for civilization to accommodate it, once it happens. There is tremendous uncertainty with both estimates, but they roughly seem to be similar orders of cost. Conclusion: you should only take "expensive actions to avoid", if that path is cheaper than taking "expensive actions to accommodate".

"You responded by claiming we could survive that, no concern was expressed about the cost of that."

Because I'm trying to be realistic about the costs. Fear-mongering that another ice age would "cause the extinction of the human race" isn't helpful. That false claim can be used to justify imposing extreme costs today, in order to avoid such extinction. But if an ice age is "merely" very very expensive, then it doesn't justify very very very very expensive current day costs.

"very good news that Earth climate can not become like Venus"

Because "Venus" has been reported as a low-probability but possible long-term outcome. Once you open the door to total extinction of earth life, then otherwise morally abhorrent behavior (like the immediate extermination of 90% of humanity) actually becomes justified. But if Venus is not a possibility, then we're in the much safer realm of just comparing the dollar cost amount of possible alternative policies.

"I don't personally accept that on its face."

I never said anything about only using GDP. My criticism of the climate advocates, is that they rarely try to add up costs and benefit in any way at all. They just stop at "we must do everything we can", without considering how expensive the current intervention would be, and what you would actually gain with that intervention.

"detailed and careful research has been done"

I think there is tremendous uncertainty about the incremental harm from each additional unit of carbon, and thus the long-term cost to humanity is extremely difficult to judge.

Don Geddis said...

[2/2]


"the cost of adapting to an ice age"

Is this really the question you want to ask? Aren't you really more interested in the cost to adapting to +4deg warmer? (I believe warmer is cheaper than colder, FWIW.) Anyway, part of the answer depends on how quickly the climate change happens. Buildings typically only last a few decades. The cost of relocating farmland from California to Canada (if the earth warms) is close to zero, if you have 500 years. Ice ages are harder, and it depends what the new rainfall patterns look like. The African Sahara may become the new "breadbasket of the world". My rough, uninformed guess: the cost of adapting to an ice age may be about 1/2 the (current) world's wealth; adapting to +4 warmer in a century may be 10-25% tax on wealth. (But it's important to keep in mind that, left unchecked, the world will be much wealthier in the future. And with time discounted money, the cost of action today is far more expensive than action in the far future. So you better be really, really sure that you're getting huge future payoff, in order to take expensive action today.)

"put the lie to claims that adaption to severe climate change is cheaper than switching to non-fossil energy sources"

I don't believe you. I would love to see this cost/benefit calculation. Show me the energy policy that will result in avoiding +4 warming (or even +2 warming!). Show me the current cost of that policy.

I don't believe you can avoid climate warming, without making the current (and future!) world far, far poorer. (And if you're just going to "take a small step", then the benefit is also equally small.)

"the costs increase exponentially as the magnitude of the change increases"

Sure. As do the costs of avoiding that change. Every alternative is expensive. That's why the problem is so difficult.

"Once you are talking about..."

Those are only in their current locations. Once you start talking about a much wealthier world, and you have centur(ies) to adapt, you can move humanity. Climate warming doesn't (seem) to be suggesting tha the earth overall becomes less habitable. "Just" that the best conditions for humans move to new locations.

Publius said...

Average Temperature


@Ron
You left out this important passage at the end of that report:

"it is important to be clear that the neither the panel report nor the press briefing intended to imply that any research group in the field of climate change had been deliberately misleading in any of their analyses or intentionally exaggerated their findings"


Sure, when you have a bunch of your buddies on the review committee, you come out squeaky-clean. Nothing to see here, keep using Mike's Nature trick to hide the decline.

But I wasn't commenting on their ethics.


So I really don't understand the point you're trying to make (if indeed you are trying to make a point and not just trolling).

For a "field" that depends so much on statistics, they're really bad at statistics.

Consider, how do they calculate global average temperature?

Set aside for the moment that they are making use of data that was collected for entirely different purposes, and was never indended for climate estimation.

Anhow, to see how global temperature is computed, you can look at the paper on how the CRUTEM4 dataset was put together:
The CRUTEM4 land-surface air temperature data set: construction, previous versions and dissemination via Google Earth, by TJ Osborn and PD Jones.

To understand that paper, you'll need to reference two others:
Quantifying uncertainties in global and regional temperaturechange using an ensemble of observational estimates:The HadCRUT4 data set, by CP Morice, et. al.

Estimating Sampling Errors in Large-Scale Temperature Averages, by PD Jones, TJ Osborn, and KR Briffa.

It's also possible you may need to refer back to the prior HadCRUT3 paper:
Uncertainty estimates in regional and global observedtemperature changes: A new data set from 1850, by P Brohan, et. al.

Now a simple quiz:
1. Why is the cos() function used in calculation of the hemispheric (NH and SH) means?
2. Why is the global mean a weighted average of the NH and SH means?

Finally, a chart of global mean tempeature over Land & Ocean with error bars.

Ron said...

> For a "field" that depends so much on statistics, they're really bad at statistics.

Are you a statistician? Are you making this assessment that "they're really bad at statistics" based on your own personal expertise or are you just taking someone else's word for it?

> Now a simple quiz:

Sorry, I'm not going to play this game. if you have a position, tell us what it is.

> Finally, a chart of global mean tempeature over Land & Ocean with error bars.

Again I find myself completely nonplussed. I look at this chart and I see global temperatures inexorably rising, even taking the error bars into account. One could perhaps quibble over how fast they are rising, but *that* they are rising seems beyond dispute. What do you see?

Publius said...

Why yes...

>Are you a statistician? Are you making this assessment that "they're really bad at statistics" based on your own personal expertise or are you just taking someone else's word for it?

Why yes, I am a statistician. I read critical critiques of their analysis methods written by other statisticians. Highly entertaining, with them using time-series that are time-reversed or upside down. Plus they're still using the strip-bark bristlecone pine time series, which, in 2006, the National Academy of Science said shouldn't be used for temperature reconstruction (page 52).

>> Now a simple quiz:

>Sorry, I'm not going to play this game. if you have a position, tell us what it is.

No position, per se, just that when climatologists report "global mean temperature," they are not simply summing up the data from all stations, then dividing by the number of stations.

Quiz answers:
1. The temperature data is transformed onto a grid, where each cell has the same angular dimensions. However, the area of these patches decreases as you move towards the poles. They state that cos(latitude) is proportional to the area (I haven't checked the math on this myself, but it I would expect they are correct).

2. The Northern Hemisphere (NH) has more land area than the Southern Hemisphere (SH). The NH therefore gets a weight of 2/3 and the SH a weight of 1/3.

>Again I find myself completely nonplussed. I look at this chart and I see global temperatures inexorably rising, even taking the error bars into account. One could perhaps quibble over how fast they are rising, but *that* they are rising seems beyond dispute. What do you see?

I see a flat trend from 1945 - 1970, followed by a linearly increasing trend from 1970 - 2000, then a flat trend since 2000. An increase of 0.6 K, or about a 0.2% increase.

How are those climate models doing?

Then there is this view.

Ron said...

> I see a flat trend from 1945 - 1970, followed by a linearly increasing trend from 1970 - 2000, then a flat trend since 2000.

OK, but do you not see that the "flat trend" since 2000 has settled at higher temperatures than at any time in history? Do you not see that the flat period between 1945 and 1970 was preceded by another warming period? So in the past 100 years we go back and forth between flat and warming, but no cooling.

You claim to be a statistician. Do I really need to explain to you how alternating periods of flat and warming can be explained by a continual warming trend overlaid with some random variation?

> An increase of 0.6 K, or about a 0.2% increase.

0.6K since 1970. 1K since 1910. 60 years to go up 0.4K, 40 years to go up 0.6K. The rate of increase has doubled in the last century.

The percentage looks small on an absolute scale, but small changes in global temperature result in *radical* changes in climate. A difference of +6C ended the last ice age. We're 15% of the way there and accelerating. And it's not like we can just slam on the brakes tomorrow.

coby said...

"then a flat trend since 2000."

Can you please show your work? That talking point was always bogus as an analysis of climate trends. Climate is generally defined as a 30 year average. To remove a statistically significant trend requires cherry picking starting and end years and using an unjustifiably short time period.

"An increase of 0.6 K, or about a 0.2% increase."

I guess you are comparing .6 to the temperature above absolute 0, right? That's funny. If I told you your child's body temperature relative to absolute 0 had only increased by 1% would you care? Why or why not?

coby said...

"then a flat trend since 2000."

I also wanted to specifically ask if you are including the most recent three record breaking years, 2014, 2015 and 2016, in your calculations of no trend since 2000. You really would have to be an expert at statistics to make the effect of those disappear.