Sunday, May 17, 2015

Doom and gloom or realism?

Humanity is in trouble with climate change.  A recent article in Vox by David Roberts came to that conclusion.  It begins with
"There has always been an odd tenor to discussions among climate scientists, policy wonks, and politicians, a passive-aggressive quality, and I think it can be traced to the fact that everyone involved has to dance around the obvious truth, at risk of losing their status and influence.
The obvious truth about global warming is this: barring miracles, humanity is in for some awful shit."
 The basis for that conclusion?  Total carbon emissions to date, which are closely following the RCP 8.5 curve from the IPCC.

That black curve is emissions to date.  We as a civilization are on track to take carbon dioxide levels to around 1000 ppm by 2100 AD.  The 12-month moving average of atmospheric CO2 levels shows that we're already at 398.83 and still accelerating upward.

That locks us into at least 1.53ºC of total warming as of now, assuming that the current situation wherein other anthropogenic effects (methane, aerosols, etc) continue to largely cancel each other out as has been the case for the last several decades.  At the current rate of increase, we'll blow past 444 ppmv in 2034, just 19 years from now, and be locked into at least 2ºC of warming.

The main reason Roberts is so pessimistic is that all the scenarios in which we avoided the worst of climate change assume that civilization will suddenly switch to wind power, solar energy, and other forms of energy and deploy technologies—especially carbon capture—to deal with the carbon dioxide that is already in the atmosphere.  The models also assume that humans will end the use of fossil fuels just as quickly.  Beyond those possibly overoptimistic assumptions, the sheer rate at which emissions would have to decline at this point to avoid blowing past 2ºC of total warming is  4 to 6% per year, far beyond any rate ever achieved before.  In other words, it won't be easy but, as Joe Romm wrote, it will be much cheaper and easier than trying to live in a 4ºC world.

While I share Roberts' concern and some of his pessimism, we haven't hit the point of no return yet.  I'm still hopeful that humanity can turn itself around before reaching the 444 ppmv level.  It may be hope without reason but as long as we haven't hit 444 ppmv, there's still a reason to agitate for changes in governmental policy to keep us below that level.  And yes, to the dismay of many American conservatives, it's going to take governmental action along the lines of WWII to pull this off.  We've dilly-dallied too long and allowed too much carbon dioxide to build up for individual actions to suffice.  Sorry.

Of course, as Winston Churchill quipped, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else."  Another way to look at it: Americans won't take climate change seriously until it affects them personally.  Here's hoping that America—and by extension the world—gets its wake-up call(s) in time.

So, what's your take on our chances?


  1. With other GHG's in the atmosphere (methan and so on), aren't we already at around 470 ppm?

  2. sorry... Methane ...

  3. You missed this bit. ;)

    "...the current situation wherein other anthropogenic effects (methane, aerosols, etc) continue to largely cancel each other out..."

    IOW, methane is currently not a big worry. CO2 is the main issue.

    My take on our chances? Based on what has been happening for decades, and how people are behaving now, my guess is that what will happen is that people will continue to faff around until things get to the point where KFC can fry their chickens just by sticking them out the window for a bit. At this point everyone will start running around in circles like chickens of the headless variety, and demand that somebody do something.

    Once enough people are running around in circles, action of some sort will be taken. Eventually you'll end up with a world that is badly degraded by current standards, but still capable of supporting human life to some extent. Whether it will still have room for significant quantities of other life (apart from bacteria, archaea and arthropods) is another matter.

  4. You seriously think we're in deep $%^# when temps rise 1.5C? You do know that doubling of CO2 is only good for 1C, right? You do know that the past two decades have effectively disproven the highly sensitive positive feedback to global temps, right? Then, if your a serious scientist, why do keep buying the #$%^ produced by global warming alarmists? Seriously!

  5. Error: should read global CO2 output instead of global temps

  6. Scott, you are seriously deluded. Let's take your BS apart one bit at a time.

    First, there are positive feedbacks that amplify the warming from CO2. Ever hear of water vapor? Not only does the physical law known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation mandate that the amount of water vapor will increase as atmospheric temperatures rise, such an increase has already been measured (i.e. Held and Soden 2000:; Santer et al. 2007: While CO2 by itself may only cause 1ºC, the positive feedbacks to that temperature rise due to CO2 causes the total temperature rise to be 3ºC.

    [You do know that the past two decades have effectively disproven the highly sensitive positive feedback to global temps,]

    The past two decades. Ah, yes, the so-called "hiatus." Gotcha. I've already dealt with that bit of deluded denier BS here:

    Happy reading.

    [Then, if your a serious scientist, why do keep buying the #$%^ produced by global warming alarmists?]

    I'd stuff it if I were you. You've shown your abject ignorance about trend analysis already since you've bought the nonexistent "hiatus" hook-line-and-sinker. Try demonstrating some actual knowledge and critical thought rather than uncritically buying the bull produced by Steven Goddard and Tony Watts if you want me to take you seriously.

  7. Yes, the Clausius-Clapeyron formula I learned in my 100 level physics and chemistry in college. The August-Roche-Magnus formula is better for determining atmospheric water vapor responses. And your point is? My question is, do you really think we live in a closed system? The multitude of variables, including magnetic solar influence, PDO, ENSO, and other oscillation phenomena, clouds, cosmic radiation, aerosols, albedo, volcanic activity, boundary heat loss, Milankovich cycles, just new name a few, will not change the expected outcome? And where in the equation does atmospheric levels of CO2 taken into consideration? We all know you can't boil water with pumping CO2 into your stove-top, so maybe you can enlighten me on the power of CO2 beyond deflecting infrared radiation. You readily admit that doubling of CO2 is only good for 1 degree which is essentially meaningless. Also how confident you are we're all going to fry given the intricate variables of our wonderful green planet? Lets say you're right and the pause never existed. Let's look at secondary outcomes to support that conclusion: Hurricanes? Below average. Sea level rise? Absolutely no 20th century spike as we come out of the LIA. Show me the spike. Global sea ice? NO change. Droughts? No significant change from 100 year ago. Looks like there's no outside confirmation that anything is accelerating.

    Perhaps you can tell me since I'm taken "hook, line, and sinker" Why RSS and UAH both correlated fairly well with NOAA, GIS-TEMP , and Had-cru for years until NOAA magically eliminated the pause. Hmmmm. Follow the five year trends on Had-cru. Look at both RSS and UAH. Did everyone else mess up, or just NOAA?

    Look at each IPCC emissions "scenarios" from 1997 until now. Each update they lower their sensitivity to CO2, yet scream about how we're all going to die. Are we all going to die at 1.5C (if that)? Hardly.

    Look, I have no skin in this game. I happen to be a medical doctor with a hobby in climate change. Medicine requires exquisite vigilance and humility, because my patients' lives are on the line. I've been studying climate change for eight years and am utterly flabbergasted at the rampant groupthink and severe cognitive bias that occurs in the field. You can call me ignorant all you want, but that doesn't change the fact that the climate field is hopelessly flawed scientifically. They lack the ability to falsify the theory despite it being falsified years ago. IPCC is increasingly being questioned by more and more professionals, non government scientists, engineers, statisticians,etc. Yes, I do read realclimate, and the joke that is skeptical science. I also read Judith Curry, Mcyntire, and Spencer. Maybe you should too.

  8. Better yet, let's have a public debate in front of a live audience of the general public. That way you can show everyone how completely dishonest, ignorant, clown I am, and that ithe only reason I do this is because I'm being funded by big oil. LOL! Please, don't let me throw a wrench into your tiny, narrow window.

    OH, that's right, you guys don't "debate" anymore. Well, let me know if you change your mind.