Why global warming is real and we’re causing it

Today’s New York Times Op-Ed section has a must-read piece by an erstwhile climate-change skeptic who has been converted, Richard Muller, a professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley.  His piece, “The conversion of a climate-change skeptic,” is a must read (it’s short), and links to five technical papers on the phenomenon by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project. According to Muller, the data are nearly incontrovertible: global warming is real, and we’re the cause.  He is properly cautious, but the case is strong. It’s a good, well-written piece that carefully explains the science behind the conclusions.

Muller first explains his conclusion:

My total turnaround, in such a short time, is the result of careful and objective analysis by the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project, which I founded with my daughter Elizabeth. Our results show that the average temperature of the earth’s land has risen by two and a half degrees Fahrenheit over the past 250 years, including an increase of one and a half degrees over the most recent 50 years. Moreover, it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.

And then he shows how it withstands common criticisms:

Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions.

What is the basis of his conclusion? Note how he leaves room for other explanations, as unlikely as they may be:

What has caused the gradual but systematic rise of two and a half degrees? We tried fitting the shape to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials), to solar activity and even to rising functions like world population. By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice. . .

How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.

He then warns us not to go whole hog:

It’s a scientist’s duty to be properly skeptical. I still find that much, if not most, of what is attributed to climate change is speculative, exaggerated or just plain wrong. I’ve analyzed some of the most alarmist claims, and my skepticism about them hasn’t changed.

Hurricane Katrina cannot be attributed to global warming. The number of hurricanes hitting the United States has been going down, not up; likewise for intense tornadoes. Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice, and the Himalayan glaciers aren’t going to melt by 2035. And it’s possible that we are currently no warmer than we were a thousand years ago, during the “Medieval Warm Period” or “Medieval Optimum,” an interval of warm conditions known from historical records and indirect evidence like tree rings. And the recent warm spell in the United States happens to be more than offset by cooling elsewhere in the world, so its link to “global” warming is weaker than tenuous.

Read the papers (link above); he notes that four of them have already been peer-reviewed. They conclude that global temperature over land will increase by 1.5 degrees overthe next five decades, or even two decades if China keeps growing and using coal.

We must do something about this. But we won’t.  Such is the tragedy of the commons.

186 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Sadly, I agree. Garrett Hardin was right.

    • MKray
      Posted July 31, 2012 at 2:35 am | Permalink

      The basic profound idea of the `tragedy of the commons’ applies very generally. It is, inter alia, a conclusive argument against uncontrolled capitalism. Note the `uncontrolled’. Unfortunately, any mention of control brings forth wrath which is
      as absurd as claiming that advocating referees or umpires makes you anti-sport.
      The job now is to devise rules of the game, and the refereeing system, that will allow
      human survival.

  2. Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    1) even if temperature facts are correct, the current rise is not inconsistent with normal interglacial sine curves;

    2) the matching to co2 is correlation only. this is admitted by the group;

    3) we only have accurate CO2 records for about 50 years, proxy prior to that problematic;

    4) his demur, buried at the bottom, is stronger than his declaration, yet will get no press.

    5) BEST conclusion significantly criticized by team member Judith Curry and diminished by others cited — to its credit — by the New York Times.

    One story that never seems to get press is that many climate scientists now admit that CO2 and other gasses are not the primary contributor to whatever contributions humans are making to the rising temperatures; it is landform transformation, deforestation, etc. THAT is what we should focus on.

    • Somite
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      At the outset, your first point is incorrect. The interglacial curves are in the time frame of hundreds or thousands of years and do not change at the rate currently observed:

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

        You ignore the divergence problem. It is cited right along with that chart, just change the tab at the top to “discussion.”

        When one carries forward the proxy reconstruction represented by the spaghetti, you DO see a contemporary temperature rise. However, it does not require a forklift to plot the current end point.

        • Somite
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:36 am | Permalink

          The “divergence problem” is not a problem and is an explained issue with Briffa’s source of proxies. Many, many other sources of data agree with the hockey stick:

          http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2009/09/hey-ya-mal/

          • Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:34 am | Permalink

            You are certainly aware that posting the ClimateScience page is easily countered by posting Mcintyre’s massive counter attack. The difference is this: ClimateScience, on that page, looks terrified because of: 1) the dripping sarcasm and needless huffery; 2) the smarmy dissing of McIntyre who is no small potatoes.

            I withhold the links. This is not the place to fight that war.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      It only took two comments for one to show up.

    • Dominic
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

      Who are these ‘many’ scientists? The trouble with your attitude is that by the time you have all the evidence that will satisfy you, it will be too late to do anything about it. I think you are way off where the climate scientists are in terms of consensus opinion.

      The next US president should be Michael Mann.

    • Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

      I realize this might go against your Randite “I’ve got mine so fuck you” philosophy, but the facts of anthropogenic global climate change are as firmly established as almost anything you’ll find in science. It’s not quite up there with the Theory of Evolution by Random Mutation and Natural Selection or Continental Drift or even the Big Bang, but it’s on much firmer footing than the Higgs and virtually anything to come out of medicine in the past couple decades.

      In short, your quibbles against climate change are as baseless, incorrect, and specious as those of Creationists insisting that the fossil record doesn’t have any evidence of speciation because Lucy was an artist’s rendering of a pig tooth.

      Chers,

      b&

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        Sorry your spewing got in the way of actually addressing my points. Cheers.

        • Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          Sorry, but your own spewing is no more worthy of respect than Ken Ham’s idiocies on the subject of evolution.

          Come back when you’ve stopped mouthing nonsense on the level of “Behemoth was a dinosaur!” and we’ll talk.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Posted July 31, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

            sorry, you are ahead of me 1 personal attack to none.

            Also, whatever you wrote there about dinosuars was incomprehensible. No clue.

      • Gary W
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        but the facts of anthropogenic global climate change are as firmly established as almost anything you’ll find in science.

        I think this statement is an absurd exaggeration. The conclusion that global climate change is real and is primarily caused by human activity seems to have been established to a very high degree of confidence, but much of climate science is still highly provisional and tentative. In particular, the science underlying projections of the magnitude and timescale of future warming, and the physical effects of that warming on the environment, is most definitely nothing like “as firmly established as almost anything you’ll find in science.”

        • Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          I’m confused.

          You think it’s an absurd exaggeration that the facts of anthropogenic climate change are firmly established, yet the conclusion that climate change is real and primarily caused by human activity has been established to a high degree of confidence?

          Did you forget a negation somewhere in there?

          b&

          • Gary W
            Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

            Yes, you’re confused, but I don’t know why. What’s in doubt is not the finding that anthropogenic climate change is real, but the many other findings that underlie projections of future change, and the effects of that change on the environment. The proper policy response to climate change depends crucially on how much warming there will be, the rate at which the warming will occur, and the effects of the warming. And we don’t have answers to those questions that even come close to the status of “facts.”

            • Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

              Then you might want to take a basic refresher on introductory thermodynamics.

              To better than a first-order approximation, all one needs to know to figure out what’s happening and what’s going to happen to the climate is the CO2 content in the atmosphere and the insulating properties of CO2.

              This isn’t a Mars expedition where we need to put a garbage can on a bulls-eye millions of miles away moving at tens of thousands of miles an hour relative to us. Even a rough approximation based only on CO2 levels is more than enough to figure out what’s going to happen at plenty of detail for policy decisions.

              You’re fretting that your tape measure isn’t calibrated to micrometers, all while you’re trying to measure the width of the river we’ve got to ford so we can start building a rope bridge.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

                To better than a first-order approximation, all one needs to know to figure out what’s happening and what’s going to happen to the climate is the CO2 content in the atmosphere and the insulating properties of CO2.

                I’m not sure what you mean by “first-order approximation,” but there is no clear accepted value for CO2 climate sensitivity (the amount of warming produced by a given increase in atmospheric CO2 concentration). There is an estimated range of values. Where in that estimated range the actual value lies has enormous implications for future warming and its effects. Even if we did know precisely how much warming will occur, and how fast, we still wouldn’t know its effects. For example, scientists have no clear understanding of how much and how fast sea level will rise for a given amount of warming. And even if we knew that, it still wouldn’t tell us how our policy response should balance mitigation (reducing the amount of rise) and adaptation (minimizing the adverse effects of the rise). These are enormously complex social and economic issues that rest in part on scientific questions to which we have no clear answers.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

                So, do tell: what do you think is an appropriate policy direction for society to take?

                Drill baby, drill?

                And what sorts of economic catastrophes do you envision from increased efficiency, reduced pollution, and greater capital investment in a sustainable future?

                Or do you think we should wait a few more decades for some more studies to be completed and hope that the problem goes away in the mean time?

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

                So, do tell: what do you think is an appropriate policy direction for society to take?

                I tend to favor a technology-focused approach. Much bigger investments in cleaner energy technology, to accelerate its competitiveness in the marketplace. Much bigger investments in energy efficiency technology. Much bigger investments in geoengineering technology, in case extreme warming projections are realized. There also seems to be a significant amount we can realistically do without any new technology, like substituting natural gas for coal for electricity generation.

                A regulatory-focused approach, requiring enforceable global agreements for large-scale, near-term reductions in GHG emissions, seems to me not just extremely dubious on the merits but a political fantasy too.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

                Then we’re in broad agreement on what to do, though we’d differ a bit on some important details. Weaning ourselves off coal by burning methane instead makes about as much sense as an alcoholic kicking the vodka habit by switching to beer.

                Have another look at that Wikipedia article I linked to elsewhere that lists the costs associated with constructing different types of generation facilities. Solar is all capital, not that much more capital than clean coal with sequestration, and unlimited free energy (aka “pure profit”) after you’ve invested your capital.

                Budget yourself $250M to spend on a new power plant, including fuel for the next 30 years (and fuel costs ten times current rates in 30 years with standard inflation), and figure out which of those options you can a) even afford to operate and then b) earns you the most profit.

                b&

              • truthspeaker
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

                How will you encourage a technology-based approach without regulation?

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

                By allocating additional funds for technology R&D from the federal budget.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

                And what magic technology sauce are you proposing to counteract the laws of physics that an increase in R&D budgets will be able to discover?

                Aside from depletion of hydrocarbons to mine and burn, our big problem is too much CO2 in the atmosphere.

                As I’ve already pointed out, removing CO2 from the atmosphere will take more energy than it took to put it in there in the first place. That’s thermodynamics 101.

                Anything else will just be more pollution of one form or another. It can’t be anything but.

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

                And what magic technology sauce are you proposing to counteract the laws of physics that an increase in R&D budgets will be able to discover?

                Your comments are becoming increasingly ridiculous. There is no reason to believe that the development of more cost-effective forms of cleaner energy technology will require “magic” or violation of the laws of physics.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

                So, if you think no magic is involved, then you must know of some way of removing CO2 from the atmosphere that doesn’t require more energy than it took to put there in the first place.

                I’d really like to know what that is. So would the Nobel Committee.

                The Patent Office, of course, won’t even give you the time of day….

                Or, perhaps you think we can reduce the effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by some means other than reducing the levels of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere? And this magic would be…what, exactly? Giant refrigerators with the doors left open?

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Permalink

                So, if you think no magic is involved, then you must know of some way of removing CO2 from the atmosphere that doesn’t require more energy than it took to put there in the first place.

                No, I don’t have to know that. I didn’t say anything about removing CO2 from the atmosphere. You keep responding to claims I didn’t make.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

                Reading comprehension much?

                As I clearly wrote, if you’re not suggesting we remove the source of the problem, then the only other option is to counteract the problem.

                Go that route if you like. Fine by me.

                All it does is make you even more of a zero-point-energy moon-hoax Creationist lunatic nutjob disconnected from reality than you’ve already made yourself out to be.

                Unless, of course, you’d care to explain exactly what sort of magic you have in mind that’ll reduce the effects of global warming without changing CO2 levels? Or is this just more foot-stomping on your part, like whenever I do math for you?

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

                Ben Goren,

                You are completely confused. I wrote that I favor a technology-based policy response to climate change, meaning more investment in cleaner energy R&D and energy efficiency technology. truthspeaker asked me how to encourage a technology-based approach without regulation. I replied that I favor increasing federal spending on technology R&D.

                There was absolutely nothing in this series of comments about removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Where you got that from I have no idea. I think you seriously need to take a break. Your responses are just becoming nonsensical.

        • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

          If you use that idea in medicine, your patient is often diagnosed as what we call “deceased”.

          First, both testing and attribution, now even to regional and seasonal levels in cases, is at a 2 sigma level, 90 %. This is better diagnostics than medicine @ ~ 80 %. I expect the IPCC 2014 will have ~ 50 % chance to achieve 3 sigma, which is physics testing of theory.

          As for remedy, medicine is @ ~ 60 % treatment response, palliative as well as curing. We can hope to do better.

          But the clincher is that all the things we will do has positive social effects, increasing energy efficiency will lower energy cost and decreasing pollution will lower health and environment cost regardless of GW benefits. So we err on the good side.

      • gruebait
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        Wait, are you claiming it’s _not_ because of the decline in pirates? But I’ve seen the graph!

      • RF
        Posted August 1, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

        So, does the whole civility thing not apply to Ben Goren? I’m unclear on why JAC went to the trouble of writing that post up if he’s just going to ignore people like Ben.

    • Dan
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      John, looks like someone needs to go to skepticalscience.com and read up on the science. Regarding point 2: that’s exactly what the tobacco industry said about smoking and lung cancer. Sometimes correlation is strong enough, especially when mixed with the basic science research, to establish causation to a high degree of probability.

      As for your 3rd point, atmospheric levels of CO2 can be measured in ice core samples, which go back for thousands of year, not just 50 as you falsely claimed.

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        1) shocked that you accept correlation as proof of causation. That is very sad in a blog championing science.

        2) the records on Mauna Loa for 50 years are precise instrumental measurements. Why are there not thousands of stations measuring CO2 today, and for the last 150 years? It is not trivial process, as is tracking air temperature. The tracking prior to that is proxy, from ice cores as you pointed out. You can’t simply “stick them together at the end with duct tape” and assume it is a perfect, seamless equivalency of accuracy. That is the divergence problem.

        • Somite
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          You do understand that showing correlation is required among other data, to prove there is causation, right? Repeating that old mantra just shows you are parroting without understanding.

    • Occam
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      First, there were folks like Dennis Avery, who maintained that there was no correlation between temperature rise and CO2 concentration. With exquisite timing, given R.A. Muller’s spectacular volte-face, Avery can now be labelled dead.

      Now, apparently, it’s “only” correlation (John Donohue’s point nr. 2). Worse,”we have accurate CO2 records for about 50 years, proxy prior to that problematic” (John Donohue’s point nr. 3).

      So the interglacial sine curves are based on — what, exactly?
      The proxies are good enough for temperature reconstruction, not good enough for the reconstruction of atmospheric gas concentrations? The proxies are good enough evidence for Dansgaard-Oeschger cyclicity, but not good enough to warn us about abrupt climate changes?

      The counter-evidence, please. R.A. Muller couldn’t find any.

      I’ve mentioned him before, but never by name: the humble physics prof who took time to impart the foundations of physics even to us “cattle”, non-physicist minors: Hans Oeschger (yes, the Oeschger of Dansgaard-Oeschger; the Oeschger after whom the medal recently awarded to Michael Mann is named). He was already used to countering such unsubstantiated objections with data and models in the late seventies, when I first met him. What changed in time, I think, was the negationist venom and the bad faith associated with big-money-fueled organisations like Heartland. Oeschger’s “Jaworowski letter” of 1995 to Environmental Science and Pollution Research bears quoting:

      http://www.someareboojums.org/blog/?p=12

      I think Oeschger’s concluding remark still holds.

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        Occam I can only post briefly, will be afk for 24 hours…

        a) I should have said “the equivalency in calibration” between the measured and proxy is problematic. See other post here.

        b) I have not looked at the correlation in this BEST report.

        c) Your “big money” rant? The big money and fame is in government funding.

        d) Even if one holds the fuzziness of both the temp and co2 reconstruction as equal or near equal, you cannot maintain you know for a fact that the current warming is faster than other warm ups; that would require trust in the calibration between proxy and measured for both. The historical reporting of the rapidity of the end of the little ice age is very dramatic.

    • Persto
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      2) I surmise this was his intention. He was avoiding the large computer programs that “are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters.” I agree that conclusions cannot be drawn on the basis of correlation alone. A model is necessary to connect the data sets. However, the only models capable of discovering the underlying mechanisms and statistical patterns that connect the data sets were the very models he wanted to avoid. Muller’s real conclusion was “an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does” and CO2 is more compatible than any alternative explanation at the moment, which is why he remains skeptical.

      Does correlation imply causation? No it does not but it becomes more difficult to hypothesize, model, test with such a prodigious amount of data.

      3)Yes, it is problematic, but the ice core record of greenhouse gases provides the most direct evidence for past atmospheric change.

      “many climate scientists now admit that CO2 and other gasses are not the primary contributor to whatever contributions humans are making to the rising temperatures”

      CO2 is not the sole contributor, but it is the primary contributor.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      This is a science blog, so I think it is sufficient to note that AGW is the accepted climate theory in climate science.

      I think it has been very clearly stated that while CO2 is the main anthropogenic factor there is a slew of other factors that can add up to something else, and in that sense it isn’t “primary”.

      These other factors are both positive (methane) and negative (aerosols) forcings however, so CO2 is both a good proxy and the dominant problem. See IPCC 2007 or the earlier Hansen.

      But note also “In contrast, the total direct aerosol, cloud albedo and surface albedo effects that contribute negative forcings are less well understood and have larger uncertainties.” We can’t rely on the negative forcings diminishing the greenhouse!

    • raven
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      One story that never seems to get press is that many climate scientists now admit that CO2 and other gasses are not the primary contributor to whatever contributions humans are making to the rising temperatures;

      That is because this statement is a lie.

      2) the matching to co2 is correlation only. this is admitted by the group.

      Another lie. CO2 is a greenhouse gas. This is simple physics known way over a century ago.

      Moving the goal posts here. The earth is warming rapidly but humans using fossil fuels aren’t the cause.

      • Posted July 31, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        nnnnnnnnnnnnnnno………………..

        By the “group” I meant the members of the BEST group. It is there in the clear. They acknowledge that what they are showing in this specific project/paper is only correlation.

  3. Somite
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    One point to note is that his paragraph expressing his opinion about diverse issues like glaciers and polar bears were not examined by BEST. They are just his opinion and not to be given more importance than the researchers actively working and publishing in those fields.

    • chascpeterson
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      yes, I was about to ask how exactly he thought he knew that “[p]olar bears aren’t dying from receding ice”.

  4. sgo
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    There’s actually two studies that came out; the other one is by climate-skeptic (…) Anthony Watts. There’s an interesting take on both at the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang section (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/capital-weather-gang/post/so-called-blockbuster-climate-change-studies-prove-little/2012/07/30/gJQAZZNMKX_blog.html#pagebreak). The point they make there is that both studies decided to go to press before peer-review, which could prove a tactical mistake. Muller’s confirms the current scientific findings, but it should still be vetted. Watts’ piece is yet another attack on methods, even though these have been checked and found sound in the peer-reviewed literature.

    It’ll be interesting to see what RealClimate.org has to say about these two studies.

    • Gary W
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      Watts’ piece is yet another attack on methods, even though these have been checked and found sound in the peer-reviewed literature.

      Perhaps Watts’ team has found a genuine methodological error that was not previously recognized. I don’t know how likely that is, but simply saying “the methods have been reviewed by others and found to be sound” is not a very persuasive rebuttal. In my profession, software engineering, design and coding errors are frequently missed in formal reviews. I think we need a response that addresses the specific error(s) Watts claims to have found.

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        Watts hasn’t found any genuine methodological errors. He’s been thoroughly debunked.

        Peter Sinclair has excellent lay-level take-downs of Watts along with all the rest of the “Drill, baby, drill!” crowd. Start there, and then follow through with the peer-reviewed studies he generally cites from.

        Cheers,

        b&

      • Gary W
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        Watts hasn’t found any genuine methodological errors. He’s been thoroughly debunked.

        Considering that the paper in question was released just yesterday, this claim seems rather implausible. Where may I find this “thorough debunking” of the errors Watts et al describe in the paper?

        • Somite
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

          Are you saying all studies must be doubted because Watts might point out errors? WTF?

          • Gary W
            Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

            No, I didn’t say that and I didn’t mean that. I meant what I wrote.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

          All his previous claims have been debunked. Are you saying we should examine his most recent paper as if it were a good-faith attempt at proper science, because he might have suddenly changed his approach?

          • Gary W
            Posted July 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

            Are you saying we should examine his most recent paper as if it were a good-faith attempt at proper science, because he might have suddenly changed his approach?

            I’m saying you should examine his most recent paper because it appears to raise serious scientific concerns about the reliability of temperature measurements.

            And since you don’t appear to have even glanced at the paper you’re dismissing out of hand, I should also point out that the paper lists several authors in addition to Watts himself, including John Christy, who is a climate scientist at the University of Alabama.

            • Posted July 30, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

              Watts has cried, “Wolf!” far too many times for me personally to waste any more time on anything new he spews, even if one of his co-spewers (that’d be you) is presenting the new spew as supported by a university climate scientist.

              That goes treble since most of the so-called university climate scientists Watts and his shills have claimed in the past to support their lunatic fringe nutjob fantasies have either not been climate scientists, are having their positions misrepresented and distorted, or are one of the vanishingly small minority of climate scientists who agree with all the facts of AGW but don’t think that that means there’s any benefit to not pouring gasoline on the fire as fast as we have been so far.

              And, no, I can’t be arsed to figure out which category John Christy is in, especially since it doesn’t matter at all.

              Cheers,

              b&

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

        You do realise that the effect of any methodological errors is for Watts to demonstrate? The BEST data and models are freely available, I believe. Watts can take them, play with them and publish his results any time he likes. He is the one who needs to address the specific errors, he can’t demand that someone else do his bidding. Especially when BEST just shot down all of his “good” arguments.

    • raven
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

      Watts is a fraud funded by the Heartland Institute.

      The Heartland Institute is a lie for money group.

      Their first big success was spending decades denying that smoking tobacco caused lung cancer.

      Their last success was the billboard with Ted Kaczyinkski’s picture with him being an acceptor of global warming.

      Even a lot of their sponsors, the usual suspects, fossil fuel companies and far right Gibbertarians have pulled their funding. I don’t see why though. It’s just standard Joseph Goebbels tactics. Lie big and lie often.

  5. Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    We must do something about this. But we won’t. Such is the tragedy of the commons.

    I am cautiously less pessimistic than I have been on this matter.

    Utility-scale solar is already competitive with other forms of electricity generation, though not quite as cheap yet as coal. However, solar power is free once the panels are in place; the initial expense is all in upfront capital. All the other power generation methods have significant operating costs, from the mining and delivery of the fuel to the maintenance of the turbines to the disposal of waste. Once you’ve paid for the project, it’s pure profit for the next several decades at least.

    We are in the midst of peak oil. Production has clearly plateaued, and I expect production to remain flat for the next few years. After that, we can expect a 2% annual decrease in production. That might not sound too awful, but just look at what the lack of growth has done already in the form of the Great Recession.

    The fact that we’re in the middle of the peak means it’s easy to extrapolate the future. In a decade, we’ll be producing and consuming as much oil as we did at the turn of the millennium; not a noticeable drop, except for what it’ll do to the economy. But, by the middle of the century, we’ll be back to where we were in the 70s, and that much contraction in so short a period of time will be excruciating. And that’ll still only be the start: by the end of the century, we’ll be back to levels of production and consumption not seen since the introduction of the Model T Ford.

    The real question will be how quickly we build up our solar infrastructure. And we don’t need to do all that much; just covering every suburban carport with solar panels would pretty much take care of all non-industrial electricity needs, and covering every suburban roof would take care of all our power needs, transportation included, and turn the US into a net exporter of energy. And that’s just suburbia — never mind all the rooftops of all the strip malls, industrial plants, parking lots, and everything else.

    There’ll be a more immediate concern, though, which is that both our transportation and food industries are powerfully tied not just to energy, but to petroleum. We’re likely to find ourselves in a situation where we’ve got enough energy available to do stuff, but it’s not in a form that can be poured into a gas tank or be spread as fertilizer on crops. Electric vehicles are the answer, but batteries still have a long ways to go…and they’re not likely to get cheap enough to use as gasoline / diesel replacements until we’re well into the petroleum decline.

    I think we can reasonably expect significant crop failures in the coming decades, enough to cause at least Depression-era levels of hunger in America (and worse outside the developed world), and the sorts of upheaval you’d expect to go along with that.

    If we’re lucky, battery technology will have matured enough by then and solar power generation will have been widely enough deployed to blunt the worst of the problems, and we’ll be inspired to make the sorts of sacrifices we did in WWII to complete the transition to a solar economy. Because, if we do, then what lies at the end of that path is an energy-rich society of such glory as it’s incomprehensible to us today.

    But the road from here to there is as treacherous a road as humanity has ever been on. I think we’ll navigate it successfully, but certainly not without a lot of pain and suffering along the way.

    One thing’s for certain, though. In a century, two at the most, our carbon emissions will be at least down to the levels of the Industrial Revolution, if not well before. There’s just not enough carbon left in the ground to burn up at a rate sufficient to cause long-term concern. Either we’ll be a solar-powered society a century from now, or we’ll be back to the Iron Age (if we’re lucky). There’s not much room for middle ground.

    Cheers,

    b&

    P.S. Nuclear, yes. I know. Can’t hold a candle to solar on any scale. It has its uses, yes, but that doesn’t extend to societal-scale energy production. b&

    • Somite
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      And we should do anything we can to personally reduce our GHG emissions. No need to leave it all to corporate plans:

      /large

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

        Agreed on the personal front. The south half of my roof is mostly covered in solar panels, and I’m generating about half again as much electricity as I’m using. More than enough to power an electric car that I’ll someday have, and almost enough to offset the CO2 emissions from what few miles I put on my ’68 VW Camper.

        And, oh-by-the-way, the money I put into the solar system is paying off at the equivalent of about a 10% annual rate of return. All y’all out there with investment accounts and no solar panels are burning cash with no profit. Hell, get a 5% bank loan to pay for the panels and you’ll still make a 5% profit for the term of the loan, and then 10% once the loan is paid off.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Tumara Baap
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

          I’m conservatively getting an 11% return on my solar panel installation. But even this is a misleading way to calculate returns. Why? When you renovate, the value of your home goes up. It goes up by 40 to 50% of the cost of your project when you put in a swimming pool. Or 20 to 30% when you modernize your kitchen. According to a Berkley Labs study, the value of your home may go up by about 100% of cost of project with a solar install. If you guys have a bit of money sitting around, a solar install is a no brainer from a purely investment standpoint. That said, before going solar get a Building Performance Institute certified energy audit and spend the couple of grand in basic efficiency to get the most mileage out of your solar panels. Hands down my most profoundly satisfying home project ever!

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        I’m glad you noted that the plateau is flat as expected from a market commodity – I hate the term “peak oil” which originates from a simple but flawed model of oil fields (most oil fields peak even sharper but have a long fat tail), and is often conflated with “insufficient oil from today”.

    • Dominic
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      You are forgetting oil shales though. They will last a lot longer & mean even more carbon emissions. I do not share your positive views – just look at this –

      http://www.rtcc.org/policy/brazil-china-and-india-become-first-countries-to-break-rio20-pledges-with-hfc-ban-block/

      It never ends. Those who care don’t matter & those who matter don’t care.

      • Occam
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

        Woody Allen, My Speech to the Graduates, NYT, Aug. 10, 1979.

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

        Oil shales are fucking expensive to extract and refine. We’re not going to burn much of them — we won’t be able to afford to. By the time we’ll wish we could use them, the economy will have been thrown into chaos from the price of oil, and nobody will have any money left to pay for oil shale gasoline at $10 / gallon because they won’t be able to afford to buy food that has to be trucked in by $15 / gallon oil shale diesel.

        Contrary to what Big Oil Pollyannas would have you believe, the problem with Peak Oil isn’t that we’re going to run out of oil, or that there aren’t any other alternatives, many of which are plentiful.

        The problem is that we’re running out of cheap oil.

        No, scratch that — we’ve long since run out of cheap oil. We’ve run so far out of cheap oil that Deepwater Horizon, a relatively modest rig in the scheme of things, had a wellhead as far below the surface of the ocean as the Colorado River is below the rim of the Grand Canyon…and the well itself went as far below the seafloor before it hit oil as an intercontinental airliner cruises above sea level.

        The days of having to be careful of where you used a pickaxe in Texas less you set off a gusher are looooooooong since gone. We ain’t never going to see cheap oil ever again — at least, not until solar installations are so plentiful and cheap that we can easily synthesize oil from atmospheric CO2. And, of course, by that time, the only use for oil will be in museum piece automobile antiques and the like.

        Cheers,

        b&

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Oh. Solar (and wind?). Terribly wasteful with resources I hear from local energy analysts, nuclear, oil, gas, coal will be the majority of energy in the future.

      That doesn’t mean that energy efficiency and greenhouse gas diversion can’t make a sufficient difference vs AGW I hear – if we want to.

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        You should find new energy analysts.

        Energy payback for PV today is already on the order of two to three years. With a 20-30 rated lifetime, after which the panels still generate 80% of original rated capacity, PV easily bests the 10:1 EROEI of light sweet crude, and absolutely demolishes everything else. And it’s improving at a dramatic exponential rate…while extraction costs for fossil fuels are also increasing, both in terms of energy and money, also at an exponential rate.

        And wind? It’s just a turbine. A low-speed turbine, at that. If wind is wasteful with resources, then every other power plant is far worse — compare a low-speed low-temperature wind turbine with those at the heart of any steam-driven generating station, from nuclear to coal to natural gas. No competition.

        Wind is just very diluted solar power, though. It has its uses, but they’re all ultimately niche uses, mainly for off-grid remote locations that get plenty of wind but unreliable insolation. Places above the Arctic Circle would be at the top of the list.

        Hydro is also solar power, diluted even further. And we’ve already dammed up all the rivers worth damming. It’s great where we have it, and it might prove useful for storage in some of those locations, but don’t look for any significant growth in that sector.

        Cheers,

        b&

      • raven
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

        Oh. Solar (and wind?). Terribly wasteful with resources I hear from local energy analysts,

        Well, there is your problem.

        “Local energy analysts”.

        With solar, it depends a huge amount where you are. IIRC, Ben is in Southern Arizona. The sun there is nothing like what is ever seen in the far north. I’ve seen it 115 degrees in the Utah desert 400 miles north of Phoenix. The Swedish guy with us, literally went into shock, heat exhaustion. He’s never even imagined heat and sun like that.

        Same with wind. We put up wind turbines by the dozens because they have a good payback. I have no idea how many are within a day’s drive of me, probably in the thousands. And the new ones are gigantic.

        • Posted July 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

          Central Arizona, actually — Tempe, to be more precise. This summer has been on the mild and wet side, but we still had plenty of 115° F (46° C) days, and could still have more before we’re done.

          But…the thing that most people don’t realize is that there isn’t a single spot in the entire continental US that’s bad for solar — though, of course, some places are better than others. The best, in Death Valley, is only twice as good as the worst, in Olympia, Washington. Solar still makes sense in Olympia, though the payback times on the investment will likely stretch out past a decade. Still, you’ll earn significantly more on your solar investment in Olympia than the banks will charge you for your mortgage — and most of the rest of the States are a lot better than Olympia.

          Parts of Sweden might be too far north for solar to generate much during the winter, but you just have to look to Germany to know that Europe is every bit as awesome a place for solar as is the States.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Gary W
            Posted July 31, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

            Yes, 3% of Germany’s total electricity production, after 12 years of massive subsidies and incentives, is truly awesome. That’s really going to put a dent in global GHG emissions.

            • Posted July 31, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

              <sigh />

              You really are a dyed-in-the-wool Big Oil shill, aren’t you? I sure hope the Koch Brothers are paying you handsomely.

              If you had bothered to actually read the Wikipedia article where you got that 3% number you keep flogging, you’d see that said 3% represents 18 TWh of annual production in 2011. That’s about the equivalent of the Palo Verde nuclear power plant — Palo Verde being a multiple-reactor plant and the largest in the Western Hemisphere.

              In 2004, Germany produced all of 500 GWh in solar power — almost nothing. So, in effect, Germany built the equivalent of a nuclear power plant bigger than any in China or Russia, and they did it in seven years, and they did it with solar.

              But wait! There’s more!

              Germany is regularly having periods when solar is providing a quarter or more of the entire country’s electricity, and even up to a half of their electricity. Do you have any idea how much money that saves in fossil fuel plants that can be spun down?

              And even that’s just the tip of the iceberg. They doubled their production in 2009. there aren’t any other power sectors doubling capacity in a single year. And then they almost doubled it again in 2010.

              Now, here’s a question for you: how many more doublings do they need to reach 10% of their total capacity?

              Let’s suggest that the installation pace instantly slows down a bit from the current 100% annual growth to a mere 10%. How long before Germany is a net exporter of electricity?

              Oh, wait. That’s right. You’re innumerate, so I’ll do the math for you.

              10% annual growth means a doubling every seven years. That 3% figure was for 2011, and I think it quite reasonable to suggest they’ll be at 5% by the end of 2012, and we’ll use that as the starting point for Germany throwing a bucket of ice water on their solar rollout, when they slam the brakes and hold growth to only 10%.

              In 2019, they’re at 20%. In 2026, they’re at 40%. In 2033, they’re at 80%. In 2040, they’re at 160%.

              Now, will you kindly stop blathering about your totally-disconnected-from-reality “Boo-hoo! Germany only produces 3% of their electricity!” nonsense?

              Jesus Christ. Why is it that it’s the most ignorant who’re always the most obnoxious, and the ones most terrified of the truth?

              b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

                3% represents 18 TWh of annual production in 2011.

                The absolute value is irrelevant. It’s still only 3% of Germany’s total electricity production, after 12 years of intensive promotion. And a negligible fraction of Germany’s total energy production. That’s why it has only a negligible effect on GHG emissions.

                Furthermore, this negligible effect has come at a huge cost to German consumers and taxpayers. It has taken massive public subsidies for solar power to acquire even this minuscule share of Germany’s energy market. The German government is now drastically reducing those subsidies because it can’t afford them any more. And even with the massive subsidies for solar, German consumers still pay twice as much per kWh for electricity as Americans. And in addition to those problems, there is the problem of diminishing returns. The most cost-effective solar locations are generally used first, so expansion produces diminishing returns per unit of investment. And for solar to provide a substantial share of total electricity, it will be have to be stored or backed up with on-demand alternative energy supplies, which would create a further dramatic increase in its cost and make it even less competitive with conventional energy sources than it already is.

                Absent a major technological breakthrough that massively reduces its cost, there is simply no serious economic basis for the idea that solar power could have a significant impact on GHG emissions or climate change in the foreseeable future. Your endless misinformed propagandizing and ludicrous predictions (e.g., a doubling of solar capacity every 6 years) simply ignores the crucial economic facts.

              • Posted July 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

                Yes, Gary. You’re absolutely right. You’ve been right all along. In fact, you even missed the point that German solar power is generated by torturing kittens.

                Idle curiosity: just how did you manage to get so far disconnected from reality?

                I mean, you do know, don’t you, that solar power in Germany has so crippled their economy that the rest of Europe is going to have to bail them out, don’t you? And that it’s so destabilized their grid that they’re having to import excess power from the rest of Europe?

                Oh. Wait.

                My bad.

                It’s the other way ’round, isn’t it? On both counts.

                Oh, well. Sorry.

                I mean, seriously. Just who do you think you’re deceiving with such painfully transparent shilling? Hell, we should just hook you up to a generator — the spinning you’re doing here would be enough to power half of Manhattan alone.

                b&

  6. Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    “Donora 1948″ is my usual retort to those who think anthropogenic culpability is too implausible.

  7. Dominic
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    The Himalayan glacier example is not a good one. Admittedly its inclusion in the last IPCC report was an error, & I have no idea if 2035 is realistic as a figure, but the evidence is there that the galciers ARE melting –

    http://tinyurl.com/ckvtqyq

  8. Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    For necessary background on Muller’s web postings, see Andy Revkin’s long post at the NYT Dot Earth blog. Of the many links in Revkin’s piece, I found William Connolley’s post at Stoat, and this piece at Climate etc., which includes comments from Muller’s current and erstwhile collaborators, most interesting. The takeaway is that Muller has made some contributions to expanding available data, that these data confirm earlier work, that his analyses (as opposed to data acquisition) are statistically unsophisticated, and that he is a publicity seeker. As a non-climatologist, I would note that his posted papers have not been published. He’s submitted at least 4 of them, and received referees’ comments, but we have no idea what the reviewers said. If the manuscripts had been deemed acceptable for publication, I’m sure he would have told us that. So some of the work has been peer reviewed, but not in the usual sense of having been peer reviewed and accepted. For all we know, the reviewers could have recommended rejection.

    I don’t think it’s quite right to say two studies have appeared. Anthony Watts appears to be a cranky TV weatherman with a blog, not a climate scientist. Which is not to say that cranky TV weathermen can’t be right, just that the standard denialist arguments have been refuted ad nauseam, and I’m not sure why this one should get extra attention.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      I read that earlier, and my initial reaction was to think that Jerry has been had by a posturer.

      The climate modeller Connolley:

      “Muller is still rubbish”.

      Revkin:

      “It’s particularly notable that one collaborator on the first batch of papers, Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology, declined to be included as an author on the new one. I learned this when I sent her this question by e-mail:

      Do you share Rich’s extremely high confidence on attribution of recent warming to humans…?

      Here’s Curry’s reply:

      I was invited to be a coauthor on the new paper. I declined. I gave them my review of the paper, which was highly critical. I don’t think this new paper adds anything to our understanding of attribution of the warming….

      I really like the data set itself. It is when they do science with it that they get into trouble.”

      A later Curry note:

      “There is broad agreement that greenhouse gas emissions have contributed to the warming in the latter half of the 20th century; the big question is how much of this warming can we attribute to greenhouse gas emissions. I don’t think this question can be answered by the simple curve fitting used in this paper, and I don’t see that their paper adds anything to our understanding of the causes of the recent warming.”

      • logicophilosophicus
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

        Majorly good point. I think JCurry is often th voice of sanity on this issue.

        • Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

          A majorly good point?

          So where did the expected kcals from CO2 mysteriously vanish to?

          Klaatu?

          • logicophilosophicus
            Posted July 31, 2012 at 3:30 am | Permalink

            That’s right. Space – maybe (if feedback is negative). In any case, it’s the extra “kcals” from modelled but undemonstrated additional positive feedback that matter. Take a look at the emissions curve and the temp curve for the last 10 years and you’ll see that there is a problem with the models (look at IPPC modelled temp projections for the decade).

    • Mark
      Posted July 31, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Regarding the papers generated by the BEST project, the website clearly states that all five papers have been submitted to the Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres.

      I know in some fields that it can take years between circulating a draft paper and having it published in a journal.

      The real issue, though, is that the primary audience for BEST research is not, as far as I can tell, experts in the field of climate science. The reason is simple: these papers merely confirm what the experts have been saying for decades and do not provide any new conclusions. The audience is people who are not experts but who are alarmed by tales of allegedly shoddy temperature reconstructions or lax scientific standards and want credible outsiders like Muller to audit this body of work.

      Muller is doing a public service but most of that service is accomplished by publishing the papers on the internet and making all the code and data available for people to understand the issues. Getting published in a journal is just a gold star.

      • Gary W
        Posted July 31, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

        The reason is simple: these papers merely confirm what the experts have been saying for decades and do not provide any new conclusions.

        The expert scientific consensus on climate change is represented by the IPCC. The IPCC does NOT support Muller’s claim that “it appears likely that essentially all of [the increase in average global temperature] results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.” The IPCC doesn’t support this claim now and it has never supported it.

        As has been noted by other commenters here, Muller’s work has been strongly criticized by climate scientists. William Connolley described it as “rubbish.” Judith Curry’s review of Muller’s new paper was “highly critical” and she refused to be listed as a coauthor. The Realclimate team described Muller as being “far more focused on raising his profile than enlightening the public about the state of the science.”

        So how you have concluded that “these papers merely confirm what the experts have been saying for decades” I have no idea.

  9. Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Of course the number of hurricanes is down. So are tornadoes this year because of the drought. But category hurricanes 4 and 5 are INCREASING. Duh.

    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/309/5742/1844.full

    President Obama suspended a polar bear scientist for no good reason at all. One study I read asked residents where they’ve seen polar bears and only used those areas as transects.

    Journalists should be arrested when they present “controversey”. We’re all going to croak because of American ignorance.

    Oh well, enjoy the storms, everyone!

  10. logicophilosophicus
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    The paper you cite also states:

    “There is evidence of a minimum of intense cyclones occurring in the 1970s… which could indicate that our observed trend toward more intense cyclones is a reflection of a long-period oscillation. However, the sustained increase over a period of 30 years in the proportion of category 4 and 5 hurricanes indicates that the related oscillation would have to be on a period substantially longer than that observed in previous studies.”

    Not quite “Duh”.

    • Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      What are you talking about? Their findings are perfectly consistent with other studies; all good research states the limitations of a study. You do understand that, don’t you?

      • logicophilosophicus
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        Starting at or near a minimum would create a false trend.

        • Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

          You read the bit after “however” didn’t you? The bit where they argue that a false trend is inconsistent with the data provided by other studies.

          • logicophilosophicus
            Posted July 31, 2012 at 3:23 am | Permalink

            Of course I read it. The bit where they note that if there is a cyclic component then the cycle must be significantly longer than 30 years. (If you take the temp max of c1940 and the high temp c2000 you see a potential 60-year pattern. I leave it to you to see whether temps peaked around 1880. There are also major ocean cycles with periods of similar magnitude.)

            A tip on logical argument: rhetorical questions should be unanswerable rather than self-refuting.

            • Posted August 1, 2012 at 1:22 am | Permalink

              Yeah, the bit where the say that the cycle must be longer than 30 years, but this has never been observed before. As in, there is no observed 60 year cycle.

              Just eyeballing the graphs, which is no substitute for statistical analysis, I see nothing to suggest a 60 year cycle. Especially as the data start in 1970 and end in 2004 a period of 30 years… Perhaps you are not referring to the cited paper though? If so, perhaps you could cite the research you are referring to?

  11. pjmad
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Well, I’m glad that, when we’ve got doubts about the considered opinion of virtually every expert on a subject, we can just waste a couple years and a few million dollars doing redundant research. I eagerly await Dr. Muller’s independent recheck of the germ theory of disease lest we over-hastily implement antibiotic therapies.

    For years now there hasn’t been any good reason to believe that anthropogenic climate-change isn’t happening and still less excuse to block action on greenhouse gasses.

    If he’s so worried about the economic impact of cleaning up our act, he should recheck the accuracy of those predictions: http://grist.org/renewable-energy/experts-in-2000-lowballed-the-crap-out-of-renewable-energy-growth/

    • Gary W
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

      For years now there hasn’t been any good reason to believe that anthropogenic climate-change isn’t happening and still less excuse to block action on greenhouse gasses.

      Block what action? There is a huge variety of possible actions we could take in response to anthropogenic climate change. You talk as if the only relevant question is whether climate change is real. But that is only the beginning of the debate. Given that it’s real, the question of what our policy response should be is a whole other can of worms. And it is ultimately a political question, not a scientific one. I am very skeptical of the claim that a policy of massive, near-term reductions in CO2 emissions would have greater benefits than costs.

      • Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        The action we need to take to solve our current energy and pollution crises is exactly the same action any business manager with even half a clue should already be rushing to do: cut waste (aka pollution); increase efficiency (do more with less); and invest wisely (with solar that has the best year-over-year returns of anything on the market).

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Gary W
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          As has been mentioned before, your evaluation of the near-term potential of solar power is wildly optimistic. If solar were truly competitive at large scale with fossil fuels, we’d already be using it much more than we are. Even Germany, which has done more to subsidize and promote solar than any other country in the world, gets only about 3% of its electricity from solar.

          • Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

            You do realize that solar is in its infancy, no? Complaining that the baby hasn’t finished running her first marathon yet is crazy.

            Have a look at this Wikipedia page:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_cost_of_electricity_generated_by_different_sources

            …and, in particular, that first chart from DOE figures.

            You’ll note that, yes, Solar PV has a high capital investment required, half again to twice as much as the competition.

            But its operating costs are basically nonexistent, half that of the nearest competitor (wind), and an order of magnitude less than any of the non-renewable sources. Even nuclear, the Libertarian’s white horse of power generation, costs three times as much to operate as solar PV (and I seriously question those figures, since solar PV has no turbines, no superheated steam, no radioactive fuel and waste, and doesn’t need nuclear engineers to staff).

            Another way to look at it: $150 million gets you your megawatt-sized PV plant, after which you’ve got minimal maintenance expenses and no fuel costs. Or, it gets you an advanced coal plant with carbon sequestration plus three years of fuel…and then, assuming coal prices remain the same, you have to spend that $150 million again every four years just to keep running it, on top of maintenance expenses half again (probably more) than with solar PV.

            I don’t know about you, but, if I were on any sort of power generation board, I’d fire anybody who came to me saying we should go with clean coal rather than PV. Fire them on the spot.

            Now, consider that PV production and installation prices are plummeting while all the others are only getting more expensive….

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Gary W
              Posted July 30, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

              You do realize that solar is in its infancy, no? Complaining that the baby hasn’t finished running her first marathon yet is crazy.

              I’m not doing that. My complaint is that you’re claiming that the baby (i.e. solar energy) is ready to run in the marathon and compete with the adult runners (i.e. fossil fuels). It isn’t. Maybe in 20 or 30 years it will be.

              Again, if solar were competitive in the energy marketplace at large scale, we’d already be using much more of it. It isn’t competitive. Not only are photovoltaic cells and associated infrastructure still too expensive, but it simply isn’t scalable yet. Unlike fossil fuel, nuclear and hydro, solar power cannot be generated on demand. That means solar power either has to be stored, or backed up with an on-demand alternative source. There is no large-scale, cost-effective solution to the storage problem. And backing up solar power massively increases capital costs. The problem applies to wind power.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

                What, you think I’m suggesting we need to immediately scrap all our power plants and replace them with photovoltaic?

                Not hardly.

                All I’m saying is that new construction should be entirely solar (and, when you look at the numbers, you realize that it mostly will be and entirely would be were it not for the taxpayer subsidies that the other industries get).

                Even at an all-out pace, it’ll be a loooooooong time before solar starts to eat into baseload generation. And, if we do this right, by then we’ll have, though simple attrition, a substantial fleet of electric vehicles (including hybrids), and the batteries in that fleet will have just about enough surplus capacity to start to take over the baseload portion. And, in a couple-few decades when that happens, then we can start to worry if we need to add storage capacity faster than the vehicle fleet already does.

                You seem to be forgetting when is the best time to plant a tree. Of course, the best time is 20 years ago. That leads us to the second-best time: today.

                Why you think we should wait another 20 years or more before planting any trees is utterly beyond me. What, you think that we’ll be able to afford to switch to solar when oil is $500 a barrel because we’re sucking it out of the Alberta sand?

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

                All I’m saying is that new construction should be entirely solar

                And your proposal will most likely continue to be ignored as long as it doesn’t make economic sense. The estimates that you yourself just cited put the cost of electricity generated by new solar PV plants at more than twice the cost from new natural gas plants. And the cost from new solar thermal plants at more than three times the cost from new natural gas plants. Until solar becomes dramatically more cost-competitive, it’s almost certainly going to remain a niche market.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

                You don’t know how to read that chart.

                First, we’ll ignore the transmission investment figures, since they’re negligible and there’s no significant differences across the board.

                Next, we’ll round to two significant figures, more than representing any possible precision in the underlying figures.

                We’ll also lump the non-fuel operating costs in with the fuel costs. This is significantly to solar’s detriment, but it simplifies the math.

                Last, we’ll assume that we’ve got $250M to invest in a 1 MW plant, and see how far that $250M gets us.

                Coal with sequestration costs $93M up front, and $46M / year to operate. $250M – $93M = $157M for coal to burn. Divide by $46M, and you get three years of fuel.

                Natural gas with sequestration costs $35M in capital, and $57M / year to operate. That lower capital looks good, but, with the higher cost of fuel, you don’t even get a total of four years of fuel with your $250M investment.

                Solar costs $145M in capital. Holy fuck! That’s over four times as much as natural gas! No way can we afford that!

                …except that that $145M buys you a lifetime of fuel, too. You’re sill left with $105M in the bank after you’ve finished building your plant, and you’ve only got to pay $8M / year in operating expenses. Your $250M now lasts you thirteen years, whereas the coal and natural gas both burned through it in a mere three years. So, for the past decade, you’ve been raking in pure profit while the coal people have had to spend almost twice as much as our initial $250m just to stoke the boiler…and the natural gas folks have spend half again as much as the coal people.

                Now do you understand why solar is, in reality, already far and away the cheapest means we have to generate electricity?

                Oh — and, by the way, your production costs are not only inflation-proof, but energy-inflation-proof. If something happens to the natural gas or coal supplies or if there’s new legislation requiring even stricter standards and you’re operating one of those plants, you pay and pass the costs on to your customers. If you’re running a solar plant, you don’t pay and, thanks to market economies, you still get to pass the higher cost (that you don’t pay) on to your customers.

                And also, incidentally, your solar plant is generating peak power, worth even more than baseload. Yes, eventually we’ll have to deal with a way to provide overnight baseload from solar, but not for a loooooooooooong time — and that certainly won’t be the concern of anybody building new power plants right now.

                Of course, solar is only cheap if you’re looking at profits over a timespan of more than two or three years. If all you care about is the next quarterly earnings statement…well, then, you’re well and truly fucked.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

                You don’t know how to read that chart.

                I think you’re the one who doesn’t know how to read it. From your citation:

                Total System Levelized Cost, 2010 USD/MWh:

                Natural Gas, Conventional Combined Cycle: 68.6

                Solar PV: 156.9

                Solar Thermal: 251.0

                Total System Levelized Cost is defined as “the dollar cost per megawatt-hour that must be charged over time in order to pay for the total cost.”

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

                Did you read the description of where that total cost comes from? Because they state outright that it includes certain factors, excludes others, and in general has no bearing on reality whatsoever.

                In particular, it assumes that your capital investment will cost you 6.8% annual interest, and it ignores inflation in fuel costs. As I wrote, it has no bearing on reality and exists solely so shills for the coal and natural gas industry can get people like you to make the false claims you just did.

                If you disagree with me, then you’re more than welcome to start with the same raw figures and come up with your own costs.

                Here, I’ll have another go at it. Let’s assume the entire upfront capital costs are financed at 5% (and you’ve got to be grossly incompetent to wind up paying that sort of interest on hundreds of millions of dollars today) for the entire 30 years, and we’ll assume no inflation.

                Solar PV will cost $650M in capital+service, and $230M in operating costs, for $800M over the 30 years.

                Natural gas with sequestration will cost $160M in capital+service, and $1.7B in operating costs, for a grand total just shy of $2B.

                Still think natural gas is cheap? At well over twice the cost over 30 years? 30 years in which solar hasn’t had to pay a dime for fuel, and hasn’t seen a single price increase in fuel?

                But we both know where this is going. Just like last time, you’re going to complain that my numbers are unrealistic, but you’re neither going to suggest more realistic numbers nor will you perform any calculations of your own.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

                In particular, it assumes that your capital investment will cost you 6.8% annual interest, and it ignores inflation in fuel costs.

                It doesn’t say any such thing. You’re now making up facts out of thin air.

                I also find it bizarre in the extreme that you cite estimates that you now claim to believe “have no bearing on reality” but that you also think somehow support your position.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

                Gary, the fact that you can’t follow a link on Wikipedia to the original source of the information to confirm that 6.8% figure confirms that you’re not qualified to participate in this discussion.

                So does the fact that you can’t fathom how somebody can place provisional trust in the facts presented by a study but disagree with the analysis of said facts.

                Sorry. My SIWOTI is assuaged. Good night. Enjoy your delusions.

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

                Gary, the fact that you can’t follow a link

                I did follow the link. It doesn’t mention your 6.8% figure. And you haven’t explained why that number should be considered a problem anyway. Nor does the link support your claim that the estimates “ignore inflation in fuel costs.”

                But then again, since you have now managed to talk yourself into the claim that your position is supported by a set of estimates that you believe to have “no bearing on reality,” I suppose we shouldn’t expect anything you write on this subject to make any sense.

        • pjmad
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

          Read the linked article, specifically the part about industry always predicting a level-10 economic apocalypse, the EPA countering with level-5 and the result usually being level-0. Here’s further clarification: http://grist.org/article/2009-06-26-overestimate-costs-climate/

          The point is that those macroeconomic models are probably far worse than our climate models.

          You’re “skeptical” of the benefits of near-term reductions vs. the cost but you have no information on the costs (which the article points out are invariably massively overstated) and would have to be understating the threat and scope of climate change to low-ball the benefits.

          But that’s the game. The existence of climate change is a very relevant question if only because resistance to action often takes the form of denialism, of the existence as well as the consequences of anthropogenic global warming. You deny the consequences because it would be ridiculous to take things further in this forum but there’s a reason a large segment of the populous doesn’t believe in climate change and it’s not because they’ve thought about it independently.

          • pjmad
            Posted July 30, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

            This was meant to be a response to Gary W’s initial response btw, not sure why it looks like I’m responding to Ben Goren.

          • Gary W
            Posted July 30, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

            I don’t believe, and have not suggested, that we should uncritically accept “industry” claims about the cost of regulation. Obviously, commercial companies have an economic incentive to exaggerate the costs of regulation to their business. But there doesn’t seem to be any clear agreement among ACADEMIC economists, let alone a consensus, that the benefits of a policy of massive and near-term reduction in GHG emissions would exceed the costs. There is also the question of the distribution of costs and benefits. The costs of a policy that dramatically increases the price of energy may fall disproportionately on people in the developing world, who have only recently begun to emerge from desperate poverty thanks to globalization and international trade. So yes, I’m very skeptical about the merits of such a policy, on both aggregate cost-benefit grounds and social justice grounds.

            • pjmad
              Posted July 30, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

              Ahem, ACADEMIC(!!!!) economists

              http://www.aeaweb.org/articles.php?doi=10.1257/aer.101.5.1649

              Just using measurable effects of air-pollution, oil and coal-fired power generation is a net drain on the economy.

              It’s wonderfully easy to defend a broken status quo. Inertia’s on your side and there will never be a shortage of doubt and ignorance.

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

                I’m not sure how you think a paper that simply presents estimates of certain air pollution costs supports whatever policy you favor regarding climate change. Yes, air pollution is a cost of burning fossil fuels. There are also benefits from burning fossil fuels. To rationally support a policy of massively reducing GHG emissions (if that is indeed the policy you favor), you need an analysis that examines both the benefits and costs of that policy in comparison to other possible policy responses (including business-as-usual). Simply pointing out that burning fossil fuels has certain costs — as if that is seriously disputed — doesn’t get you anywhere.

              • pjmad
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

                Gary, did you intentionally misread the abstract?

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

                No. Did you? Given your question, I suspect you’re not aware of the meaning of the term “value added” in economic literature, and have falsely assumed it’s synonymous with total economic benefit.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        The IPCC summaries doesn’t agree, and that is why nations meet in climate summits. If the science was undecided, there wouldn’t be an unanimous effort.

        As it turns out, you don’t need to go to them any longer. The increased climate extremes damage cost in US already exceed the cost of reductions. The statistics was published this spring, you can google it.

        • Posted July 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

          Thank you. It’s about time someone pointed that out.

        • logicophilosophicus
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

          If all the extreme weather damage was caused solely by anthropogenic carbon dioxide that would be an important statistic; but of course there’s always been extreme weather damage, and population growth plus waterfront building plus floodplain building plus… means that simple extrapolation takes the “damage cost” through the ceiling. Badly maintained levees didn’t help, either.

          • Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

            So you don’t think climate change is going to increase this damage in a significant way? You think this won’t create catastrophic damage to the economy and people’s safety?

            • logicophilosophicus
              Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

              “So”? Illogical. I think that most of the extrememe weather costs are accounted for without climate change. The cost of “mitigation” would be far more than the effect.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

                You’re not serious, are you? See the U.N.’s report on the economic value of corals, mangroves and sea grass. This is only one example.

                From the document:

                “In 2004, the estimated economic costs to Australia from a degraded Great Barrier Reef as a result of global warming ranged from $2.5 billion ing $254 to $1,780 per visitor (prices and costs deflated to 1997 USD) (Andersson, 2007).”

                Google this: Economic Values of Coral Reefs, Mangroves, and Seagrasses

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

                Your Great Barrier Reef example helps to illustrate the difficulty of evaluating the proper policy response to climate change. The high and low ends of the damage cost estimate range you quote differ by a factor of 7. A mitigation policy that makes economic sense if the actual damage cost is at the high end of the estimated range might not make sense if it is at the low end.

              • logicophilosophicus
                Posted July 31, 2012 at 3:56 am | Permalink

                @Amelie

                Given the accepted effective residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere, even if we could switch off Chinese and Indian (who’s next – Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, resurgent Russia and Ukraine…) industrial expansion, any supposed damage will be irreversible in the medium term.

                However, the UN “costs” are very strange in economic terms. Costs are generally what people spend money on, not what they reduce spending on. Most GBR tourism is Australian. I think they’ll still be spending their money in the Australian economy (personally I think they’ll still be visiting the Reef).

                There are many foreign tourists. If I went to the Reef, I would generate three or four tonnes carbon equivalent – my current lifestyle clocks up maybe 4 tonnes a year.

                And what about those turbines? This is a UK study

                showing improved tourist income in the Scottish Highlands. Check out how many references there aren’t to “turbine” or “wind farm”.

                The whole business of assigning costs to environmental impacts is fraught with “pervasive… uncertainties” as the Scottish report concludes, and also pervasive confirmation bias.

                I’m serious.

        • Gary W
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

          The IPCC summaries doesn’t agree,

          I’m not sure what you’re claiming the IPCC doesn’t agree with. The IPCC certainly isn’t in the business of making policy. It merely advises policymakers. And it isn’t in the business of predicting the future either. That’s why its reports contain a series of scenarios for future warming that rest on different assumptions about future rates of economic growth, population growth, technological advances, etc., and possible effects of that warming on the environment.

          As it turns out, you don’t need to go to them any longer. The increased climate extremes damage cost in US already exceed the cost of reductions. The statistics was published this spring, you can google it.

          It’s not my job to look for evidence for your assertions. Where may I find this work that has supposedly established that “the increased climate extremes damage cost in US already exceed the cost of reductions?”

          • Posted July 30, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

            Gary W. do you mean mitigation policy like building a barrier wall to protect the island? Or mitigation to protect the planet from climate change?

            The former is a band aid, as is any silly “adjusting” to climate change. Stopping global warming itself is more worth it than words can describe. That should be blindingly obvious by now.

            • Gary W
              Posted July 30, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

              Gary W. do you mean mitigation policy like building a barrier wall to protect the island?

              No, that would be adaptation, not mitigation.

              Or mitigation to protect the planet from climate change? The former is a band aid, as is any silly “adjusting” to climate change.

              I’m sorry if you think adaptation is “silly.” I doubt this kind of empty rhetoric is going to get you very far. Our policy response to global warming will almost certainly involve a great deal of adaptation.

              Stopping global warming itself is more worth it than words can describe. That should be blindingly obvious by now.

              It’s very unlikely that we’re going to “stop” global warming in the foreseeable future. Even if atmospheric CO2 concentration stopped rising tomorrow, warming would continue for some period into the future from the delayed effect of the current CO2 level. I see no serious basis for your claim that “stopping global warming itself is more worth it than words can describe.” Readers of this blog should be particularly aware of the importance of evidence and rational argument, as opposed to rhetoric and wishful thinking.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

                Gary, I had assumed you understood that we’re discussing this topic in extreme (if you will) generalities. Not strict science. Because I also assume you and I agree:

                1. Anthropogenic climate change and global warming are theories with plenty of evidence.

                2. We cannot predict with precision exactly where it will strike and what it will affect.

                Therefore, generally speaking; of course we must use some adaptive measures. However, Americans consider it painful to look more than 2 years ahead. Which is killing us.

                It’s smarter to spend $10 billion reducing GHG than it would be to spend the same amount building tornado-proof office buildings (which would create more emissions).

                It’s smarter to spend $10 billion protecting rainforest than it is to kickstart geoengineering. See where I’m going with this?

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

                See where I’m going with this?

                Yes, you’re just repeating the same kind of unsubstantiated assertions that you’ve already made.

                If you want people to accept that it would be better to spend a given amount of money on reducing GHG than on a particular kind of adaptation, then you need to make serious case for that proposition with evidence and rational argument instead of expecting them to accept it on faith.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

                Gary – I was referring to A. Are you willing to read and comment on studies if I post them for you and B. Why should I believe you if you don’t post a single study?

          • Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

            Wow, Gary. Ditto to you. Don’t you feel like a hypocrite saying that when you’ve posted fewer links than I have?

            I’d just love to see you build a case that geoengineering would mitigate climate change better than reducing GHG emissions. Right now geoengineering is looking like more of a horror show than what we have now.

            You go first. Or I’ll be glad to post studies if you promise to read AND comment on the results and methods. Otherwise I won’t waste my time.

            • Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

              Wait. I missed that.

              Geoengineering? Really? Seriously?

              Gary, it’s taken burning up half the planet’s total petroleum deposits and a third (?) or so of its coal deposits over the course of a century and a half merely to effect the small-but-devastating changes we see today, and you seriously think that we can afford to engage in geoengineering on an even bigger scale in time to save us from our current train wreck?

              You need some better envelopes to scribble on the back of, because the ones you’re using now are giving you some seriously bad results.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

                Damned straight.

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

                Gary, it’s taken burning up half the planet’s total petroleum deposits and a third (?) or so of its coal deposits over the course of a century and a half merely to effect the small-but-devastating changes we see today,

                What “devastating” changes? The world is richer today than it has ever been. Virtually all indicators of human welfare are improving.

                and you seriously think that we can afford to engage in geoengineering on an even bigger scale in time to save us from our current train wreck?

                I’m not sure what “engage in geoengineering” is supposed to mean. I’m advocating much greater investment in geoengineering R&D, not deployment of an actual geoengineering system.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

                The world is richer today than it has ever been.

                Eh, no.

                The Western world is richer today than ever before, but there are far more people living in poverty today than at any other time in human history. Mostly because there are more people alive today than ever before and the population is growing faster — much faster — amongst the poor than the rich.

                And if you’re not aware of the crop failures and the devastation they’re causing and about to cause, let alone the coastal flooding that’s already starting to wash away rich homes as well as those of the poor in places like Bangladesh…and that this is, quite literally, just the tip of the iceberg….

                We’re not going to geoengineer ourselves out of this one. Basic physics is all you need to know that. The basic problem is too much CO2 in the atmosphere, and the solution is to remove it from the atmosphere. And, thanks to the laws of thermodynamics, we know that that’ll take more energy to do than it took to put it in there in the first place. Even if we wanted to, even if we used up all the remaining fossil fuels, for nothing else, that wouldn’t be enough to remove the CO2 from the atmosphere.

                Then there’re all the nutjob schemes, like creating nuclear-winter-style particulate pollution, or using gigatons of iron to create massive algae blooms in the oceans. Forget them all — even a first-order approximation is enough to know that they’re as much the products of lunatics and sociopaths as all the zero-point energy scams.

                b&

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

                Ben – right on. The algae blooms and even the pseudo-quaint “just paint your rooftops white” schemes in some studies have been shown to *increase global warming!

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

                Ben Goren,

                You’re just wrong about the improvement in human welfare. Here’s a summary from the UNDP 2010 Human Development Report:

                The past 20 years have seen substantial progress in many aspects of human development. Most people today are healthier, live longer, are more educated and have more access to goods and services. Even in countries facing adverse economic conditions, people’s health and education have greatly improved. And there has been progress not only in improving health and education and raising income, but also in expanding people’s power to select leaders, influence public decisions and share knowledge.

                This has been possible only because of industrialization and economic growth powered by fossil fuels, which has dramatically raised the standard of living in numerous developing countries. China and India are the most obvious examples.

            • Gary W
              Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

              Don’t you feel like a hypocrite saying that when you’ve posted fewer links than I have? I’d just love to see you build a case that geoengineering would mitigate climate change better than reducing GHG emissions.

              Geoengineering is a kind of insurance policy against the possibility of extreme warming. Even a dramatic increase in geoengineering R&D would still be vastly cheaper and vastly more politically feasible than a dramatic, near-term reduction in GHG emissions. The latter policy would require an enforceable global agreement that has consistently failed to appear and that is very unlikely to appear as long as so much of the world’s population is so poor.

              As for your “links,” the one link you have posted, to an article about cyclones, doesn’t support any of your claims about the value of reducing CO2 emissions.

              • Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

                You didn’t answer my questions.

              • Gary W
                Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

                Yes I did. I’m not sure what part of the first paragraph above you don’t understand.

    • raven
      Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

      We aren’t going to do anything. That is crystal clear.

      1. Even the climaate scientists don’t talk about this much anymore. Most of them just hope they don’t get fired. One group has received so many death threats, they have been moved to a secure and undisclosed location.

      2. The latest of who knows how many UN conferences over the last few decades just ended. Their latest plan for climate change ended up being…nothing. They’ve been having these meetings for decades now and nothing ever gets decided. This is a world problem, it needs a world solution.

      3. The US fed said a few years ago that we had 4 years ago to come up with a solution because we are running out of time. There isn’t going to be any.

      If you look at what has to be done, it isn’t going to happen. A C02 sequestering power plant has a lead time of 18 years. Virtually none are planned. A common coal burning plant has a lifespan of 60 years.

      Same thing with transportation power for vehicles. The momentum of our civilization is such that it would take a major world effort which isn’t even on the horizon.

      To give you an idea of what we are actually doing. The last major activity to modify the climate was development of powerful fracking methods. Which have vastly increased the supplies of….FOSSIL FUELS!!!

      • Gary W
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Permalink

        If you look at what has to be done, it isn’t going to happen.

        What “has to be done?” How do you know it “has to be done?” “Has to be done” in order for what? Claims like this are so vacuous and speculative they’re just worthless.

        • raven
          Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:52 pm | Permalink

          What “has to be done?” How do you know it “has to be done?” “Has to be done” in order for what?

          Do you even know what the subject of this thread is? This is Jerry Coyne’s notblog on wordpress called, WEIT.

          It’s about AGW and it’s cause, rising C02 levels due to burning fossil fuels.

          Keep this in mind. Read the second sentence until you understand it and look up the word “subject” in the dictionary and read that until you know what the word subject means.

          Now I’ll type really slow so pay attention.

          The only way to slow or halt C02 rises in the atmosphere and slow or halt AGW is…to stop burning fossil fuels which produce C02.

          It’s all so simple even a third grader would get it. If you are still confused, wait until you grow up and start the third grade.

        • Gary W
          Posted July 31, 2012 at 12:17 am | Permalink

          You didn’t answer the questions. What “has to be done?” How do you know it “has to be done?” “Has to be done” for what?

          The only way to slow or halt C02 rises in the atmosphere and slow or halt AGW is…to stop burning fossil fuels which produce C02.

          So is this the thing you’re claiming “has to be done?” Slowing or halting rises in CO2 concentration and AGW? How do you know it “has to be done?” Why does it “have to be done?”

          And your claim that the only way to achieve this goal is to “to stop burning fossil fuels which produce C02″ is wrong anyway. There are clearly several other possibilities. We could burn less fossil fuels. We could burn different fossil fuels (e.g., natural gas instead of coal). We could capture and store the carbon produced from burning fossil fuels at the source. We could remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

          Try thinking harder about your assumptions.

          • raven
            Posted July 31, 2012 at 12:25 am | Permalink

            You didn’t answer the questions. What “has to be done?” How do you know it “has to be done?” “Has to be done” for what?

            Yeah, I did.

            You are too dumb to even read the answer.

            I got it. You are a AGW denier and an internet troll. Too bad. If you were 6 years old, you would grow up. Trolls, Meh, no hope, they will always be shorted legged, warty green skinned morons.

            • Gary W
              Posted July 31, 2012 at 12:33 am | Permalink

              Yeah, I did.

              No, you didn’t answer the questions. And the claim you made is false, as I explained.

  12. Posted July 30, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    The human brain cannot be stopped from procreating and consuming – and driving apparently.

    Fortunately, we’ll all be dead.

  13. Posted July 30, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    As was already mentioned, the economic costs of “oppressive” reguations doesn’t even begin to take into consideration what happens when we don’t regulate.

    All economic models completely leave out ecosystem services. You think it’s hard to live with a tax? Legalities? How much do you think it’s going to cost us when there’s a severe water shortage? Does anyone remember what happened to the Maldives?

    Trust me, the storms don’t know whether you’re a denier or you follow the science. Good luck everyone. Too bad we couldn’t stand the inconvenience of doing the right thing.

  14. MadScientist
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    “Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results…”

    Nor would I expect it to. After water and carbon dioxide, all other trace gases combined don’t add much at all. Methane in the atmosphere is converted to CO2 and a molecule will remain on average ~11 years in the atmosphere. CO2 on the other hand hangs around for many decades; you’ll see estimates ranging from 30-100 years (don’t ask why). Anyway, the net result is that CO2 hangs around while CH4 is destroyed quickly; the concentration of CH4 creeps up so slowly that it’s not a major concern as far as global warming is concerned. So don’t worry that the hamburger you’re eating was once belching CH4 and warming the globe; CO2 is the problem, not CH4.

  15. Bob Carlson
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    We must do something about this. But we won’t.

    It has seemed to me that the only thing that can really be done that could have any hope of being effective is limitation of population growth. With most economists and politicians believing that growth is required for economies to be healthy, there is the possibility that serious political support for family planning may not come before it is too late.

  16. corio37
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

    Muller has previously been quoted as saying “I have never been a sceptic”. His co-author, Judith Curry, withdrew her name from his paper in disagreement with the inferences he was drawing from his findings. His paper has not yet been accepted for publication, and the reasons why are set out by one of his reviewers at Watts Up With That. In short, there is no reason to regard this as anything but grandstanding by a clever self-publicist.

    Look, when even Michael Mann disagrees with your conclusions, then you really DO have problems.

    • Posted July 30, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      “In short, there is no reason to regard this as anything but grandstanding by a clever self-publicist.”

      Yeah, because that means you don’t have to deal with any of the data and evidence and stuff, doesn’t it? And then you can keep on dismissing it with ad hominems after it gets published too.

      You do realise that they release their draft papers prior to publication in an effort to be more transparent? Not as an exercise in grandstanding. Indeed, they have been saying that they would do that right from the start.

      • raven
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

        “In short, there is no reason to regard this as anything but grandstanding by a clever self-publicist.”

        Actually there is. The statement above is just dumb and wrong.

        There are thousands of climate scientists. 97% of them accept AGM. They aren’t all clever self publicists. In fact, the vast majority are unknowns and with all the death threats by crackpots, are glad of it.

        Muller comes across as a bit egocentric. But that doesn’t have anything to do with the correctness or not of his science. One of my old colleagues was a smart sociopath and a drunk. He also did good science when he managed to stay sober for a few weeks.

        • corio37
          Posted July 31, 2012 at 2:06 am | Permalink

          It’s time the tired old ‘97%’ meme was dead and buried. I’m not even going to bother pointing you to where you can find out just how wrong it is. If you’re remotely interested you can find it easily enough.

          As for Muller:

          1. He’s on record as saying “I was never a sceptic”.

          2. His co-author, Judith Curry, took her name off his paper because she didn’t agree with the inferences he was drawing from the data.

          3. His paper was submitted for publication and rejected by peer reviewers — twice — for major flaws.

          4. His partner Elizabeth Muller lied about the reasons for rejection in public, leading the reviewer to post those reasons on the Web.

          The good ship AGW is going down with all hands, but Muller’s handing out anchors, not lifebelts.

          • Posted August 1, 2012 at 2:31 am | Permalink

            1. So what? That’s completely irrelevant.

            2. So what? How many other authors were happy with the interpretation? 9 by my count.

            3. Peer reviewer, there was only one that we know recommended rejection. Ross McKitrick. But, the journal does the actual rejecting. And they only did that once.

            We also have no idea what the other reviewer(s) recommended. They may have had dissenting opinions. That the journal did not immediately reject it after the first review suggests that they did. The journal has asked for resubmission, which means they’re going to ask more reviewers to look at it.

            And, usually, authors respond to reviewers comments indicating why they did not make the recommended changes. They may have had good reasons for not revising the paper as McKitrick suggested. We don’t know what those reasons might have been.

            4. So what? And that’s not the reason that McKitrick says that he released the review for. I also couldn’t find what she lied about in a quick search. And it seems that she isn’t an author on the paper in question.

  17. corio37
    Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    “We must do something about this. But we won’t.”

    Jerry, nobody is stopping you doing as much about it as you want. All that we ask is that you don’t try to do it with other people’s money.

    • Posted July 30, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, but that’s the price you pay to be part of society.

      I don’t want a quarter of my taxes to be spent on killing brown people and another quarter spent bailing out banks too big to fail, but you don’t hear me bitching about “other people’s money” the way the Libertarians do.

      By the way, when was the last time you drove your car? You do know that some of my money went to pay for the roads you drove it on and for the safety testing and for the GPS system that kept you from getting lost?

      Believe me. You’d be dead so many times over if it weren’t for other people spending their money on keeping you alive that it’s not even funny.

      The “don’t make me pay taxes for things I don’t like” childishness of the Libertarians is nothing less than a plea to be delivered into Somalian-style feudalism — and it gets bleated loudest by the ignorant sheep who’ll be the first to get ground under the boots of the overlords, to boot. Not only is it antisocial in the extreme, it’s the absolute worst thing possible for your own personal selfish self-interests.

      I bet you want to keep the government out of your Medicare, too.

      b&

    • Posted July 30, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      Corio37 Then don’t ruin my air with your pollution.

      • gbjames
        Posted July 30, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        +1

      • Tim
        Posted July 31, 2012 at 9:09 am | Permalink

        Exactly. Not even Milton Frickin’ Friedman believed that property rights extended to having the right to throw your trash on your neighbor’s lawn.

    • jeannette
      Posted July 31, 2012 at 5:40 am | Permalink

      “All that we ask is that you don’t try to do it with other people’s money.”

      I’m curious, seriously. Who is included in “We?” Who elected you to represent everyone on this issue? Please just speak for yourself.

  18. Posted July 30, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    Call me a cynic. But if you were a climate “skeptic” anytime during the last 15 to 20 years, you were either already bought or had surrendered thinking faculties over to an Ayn Rand worshipping think tank. What really made Richard Muller come over? Why forfeit a lucrative future at CATO or one of the other Koch lubricated whore houses? The conservative establishment does not value independent thinkers. The career trajectory of Bruce Bartlett (econ adviser in Reagan administration) who soured on Dubya and the modern GOP is a case in point.

    • Tim
      Posted July 31, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      Your cynicism is entirely justified. I think Jerry has given Richard Muller way too much credit. What does Muller have on tap for next year? Is he going to write an editorial confirming that high-temperature superconductivity is indeed a reality after publically shooting his mouth off about how his precessors had done shoddy and dubious work? (And without ever once giving credit to Bednorz and Muller or Paul Chu or thousand of others who beat him to the punch?)

      It is all well and good that Muller has ‘fessed up to his stupid climate denialism – all without admitting what an ass he was before he did his study. However, just to burnish his reputation as an arrogant jackass, he confidently announces, “Polar bears aren’t dying from receding ice…”. Either he thinks the ice isn’t receding, or he is confident that a huge change in polar bear’s habitat couldn’t possibly threaten their survival. Yes indeed, Muller shows he is still willing to make sweeping pronouncements concerning things he knows very little about – he is still a jackass.

      • Tim
        Posted July 31, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        make that “predecessors”, not “precessors” – sigh

  19. Posted July 31, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    I heard in interesting statement in a BBC interview (I won’t mention the name of the speaker, it is not important):

    “After World War 2, the population of the world was 2 Billion and the population of Europe was 500 million. Now, the population of the world is headed to 7 Billion…but the population of Europe is still 500 million.

    Japan is now faced with population attrition. The US non-immigration growth rate is quite low; it’s a good thing we have strong immigration. Canada and Australia are not exactly bursting at the seams.

    Some in the posts above, and I daresay a majority of humans on the planet, believe that there is no non-coercive way to stop the population explosion, as long as you don’t yank in “world wide famine with billions dying.” Yet…..why is the population growth in the developed capitalist West self-moderating?

    Here is my actual position. We are in the middle of a stupendously powerful Ice Age that has dominated earth for (depending on how you date the start) between 3 and 10 million years. The forces in the Galaxy, sun/solar system, continental realignment that drive this juggernaut, the fourth or fifth one to briefly interrupt tropical planet earth, are not FULLY trumped by the unsequestration of the amount of carbon we have burned in the last century. Two of the substantiated Ice Ages, including (possibly) a snowball earth, occurred before the carbon was laid down. The third one occurred when CO2 concentrations were triple, quadruple what they are now. We have a giant land mass at the South Pole that is going to take rather long to drift out of position. The ice sheet on it is the major damper that prevents the return of the normal 22 degrees C hot earth.

    Look, even Al Gore pushed his belief about the contribution of CO2 down to 40%. When I suggested, echoing many thinkers, that we attend to deforestation and other land-use contributors to warming, the noise was rather raucous. The landmass changes are due to over population.

    I suggest that scientists put their energy into discovering energy that — with all factors factored — is cheaper than fossil fuels. Additionally, the fight against religious belief and irrationality is critical. Both the toxic pie in the sky of an afterlife and the admonition that God wants people to have a lot of children, and the attendant superstition that self-chosen “pursuit of happiness” and worldly gain are sinful…these are far more devastating to the world than the possible delay of the next glaciation because we are changing the earth.

    • Tim
      Posted July 31, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      Whenever you see Al Gore come up in these matters, you can be sure the person who introduces him into the “debate” has probably never published a single scientific paper and has certainly never done any climate science. So much silly stuff here – stuff you’ve been spouting for so long – that it is a complete waste of time refuting it. You’re hopeless.

  20. Posted August 1, 2012 at 3:53 am | Permalink

    Logically, that means no publishing climate scientist would dare mention Gore, since he is an embarrassment and they wish he had never opened his trap, made that movie and won the Nobel Prize.

    Agreed.

    • Tim
      Posted August 1, 2012 at 9:13 am | Permalink

      Al Gore is boogeyman that fellows like you like to trot out because you prefer to joust with straw men than contend with the evidence or the scientist who’ve discovered and measured it. Had Al Gore never made a movie or “opened his trap” your “actual position” vis-à-vis the evidence would be just as silly.

    • Somite
      Posted August 1, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      I’ll never understand Al Gore derangement syndrome. For sufferers it becomes a logical argument that if Al Gore says something it must be false.

      Al Gore made a documentary to show the scientific consensus of climate change. None of the conclusions are his own.

  21. Posted August 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    That does not change what I said regarding your statement that no publishing climate scientist would touch Al Gore.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 1, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

      If publishing climate scientists are unhappy with Al Gore it is not because they disagree with his message. They may not be happy that his movie helped politicize the subject and encouraged right-wingnuts to rise up against a phantom conspiracy.

      • Posted August 1, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        with his message or his facts?

        • gbjames
          Posted August 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

          That question is unintelligible.

    • Tim
      Posted August 1, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Your hatred of Al Gore is irrelevant as to the evidence for climate change that you are ignoring. Your introduction of Al Gore into the discussion is symptomatic of the weakness of your “actual position”, but is the position itself that is dumb. Go ahead, put Al Gore on your dart board, burn him in effigy, do whatever provides a fix for your deranged psyche – knock yourself out.

      • Posted August 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        I mentioned Gore in passing in one sentence. You escalated. Meanwhile you stated it was a complete waste of time to refute what I said. Fine.

        Therefore you have nothing to say. Please refer to the rules posted by our host: have something to say.

  22. Somite
    Posted August 1, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Deniers: this is what you look like when trying to refute climate change with your “facts” and “knowledge”.

    http://xkcd.com/675/

  23. Posted August 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    I’ve decided to not respond to any further Al Gore posts. I mentioned him in passing as one small point of my position post. Gore is too simple to smash on facts, and the stakes in the real game, how to get the world population to self-modify and how to find cheaper energy sources that I don’t want to waste any more time on him.

    • Posted August 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      That you think that all we need to do is “find cheaper energy sources” to solve our problems profoundly demonstrates just how deep your head has gotten shoved up the rabbit-hole.

      If there were cheaper energy sources to be had, somebody would have made a financial killing exploiting them.

      Really, you position is exactly the same as the zero-point energy nutjobs. If you’ve got a perpetual motion machine, all you have to do is build one and start selling power. Hell, start small and run an EV charging station with a nominal cost if you’re worried about “them” getting to you. Build that business until you’ve built a perpetual motion machine big enough to be a power substation, and then tie that into the grid and make bank. Keep scaling it up with all the free money you’re making from your free energy.

      And that’s just the simple version. If you had any clue, you’d know that free unlimited energy lets you do all sorts of insanely profitable things, and nobody has to know that you’re using zero-point energy to do it.

      …and you wonder why we’re all laughing our asses off at you….

      b&

  24. Gary W
    Posted August 1, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    The basic problem with Al Gore is that he fuels climate change alarmism by exaggerating the risks. He presents high-end estimates of warming or costs of warming as if they were mid-range estimates. He omits or compresses timescales to create the impression that the problem is more urgent than the science actually suggests. And he makes a number of factual claims that are simply not supported by the science at all. An Inconvenient Truth is not an impartial presentation of climate science. It’s a propaganda piece.

    • Posted August 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      …says the innumerate Big Oil shill who can’t click through a Wikipedia reference….

      b&

      • Gary W
        Posted August 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

        The link doesn’t mention your 6.8% figure. And you haven’t explained why that number should be considered a problem anyway. Nor does the link support your claim that the estimates “ignore inflation in fuel costs.”

        But then again, since you have now managed to talk yourself into the claim that your position is supported by a set of estimates that you believe to have “no bearing on reality,” I suppose we shouldn’t expect anything you write on this subject to make any sense.

  25. Gary W
    Posted August 1, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    That is not the link referenced in the table you cited. You still haven’t explained why the number should be considered a problem anyway. And neither the link referenced in the table you cited nor the link you just posted supports your claim that the estimates “ignore inflation in fuel costs.”

    Again, the document you yourself cited contradicts your claim that solar power is cost-competitive with fossil fuels.

    • Posted August 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      “Levelized costs [...] shown in the tables below do not incorporate any such incentives.”[8]

      Footnote 8 on that page is that EIA page. Which is also the source for the table itself (the Wikipedia page is a copy / paste of the same table on said page). Which you would have known had you clicked on the link.

      Sorry, Gary. You really should have learned the first rule of holes.

      And really? You haven’t the foggiest clue why assuming 6.8% for capital costs might be a problem?

      Sorry. I really, truly, honestly can’t tell if you’re this stupid or if you’re just trolling. It doesn’t matter, because trolling that hard is even more stupid than just being that stupid.

      Again. Please go troll someplace else. You’re not just pissing on the carpet, you’re shitting on it, too.

      b&

      • Gary W
        Posted August 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

        Footnote 8 on that page is that EIA page.

        Footnote 8 is referenced three paragraphs ahead of the table you cited. The footnote referenced in the table is footnote 9.

        You haven’t the foggiest clue why assuming 6.8% for capital costs might be a problem?

        I’m asking you why you think it should be considered a problem. This is the third time I’ve asked. Do you have an answer or don’t you?

        Also for the third time: neither footnote 8 nor footnote 9 supports your claim that the estimates “ignore inflation in fuel costs.” Where does this claim come from? Or did you just make it up out of thin air, like most of the other facts and figures you present in your ludicrous predictions and thought experiments?

        • Posted August 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

          Sorry, Gary.

          I’ve spoon-fed you a Wikipedia article and you’re still bragging about how it’s just one giant whoosh to you, even the bits I spoon-fed.

          I don’t have time for this bullshit.

          Come back when you’ve finally graduated from the fifth grade. Until then, your mommy seriously needs to cut back on your computer time.

          b&

  26. Posted August 1, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    In case anybody’s still reading this thread, the Department of Energy has just released a new study that shows that the US potentially has enough capacity with today’s off-the-shelf solar technology to more than power the entire planet many many times over with solar.

    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/51946.pdf

    Indeed, if I’m reading the charts right, they’ve identified enough urban utility-scale solar generation potential in Arizona alone to power the planet — and Arizona isn’t even the state with the best generation capacity.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Posted August 1, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      Wait — I misread that title.

      Arizona has enough urban utility-scale potential for the planet (120 PWh / year). Rural gets into the dozen exawatt-hour range.

      So, all we’d have to do is put solar panels on all the rooftops and over all the parking lots in Arizona, and run an extension cord to the rest of the planet, and the problem is solved. No need to even cover up any of the wildlife preserves.

      Cheers,

      b&

    • Gary W
      Posted August 1, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

      From the Executive Summary:

      The estimates do not consider (in most cases) economic or market constraints, and therefore do not represent a level of renewable generation that might actually be deployed.


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