Wild IPCC excitement!

Well yes indeed, someone has leaked bits of the upcoming IPCC AR4 report to the BBC. The only odd thing is that its taken this long. The draft has “do not cite or quote” written on it, of course, but so many people have access to it that its hard to believe the media don’t. Chris Mooney has noticed the BBC; but the Grauniad had much the same a day earlier. RP predictably enough uses this as a peg to hang his favoured IPCC-is-politicised hat on; but this is nonsense: there is no evidence at all to connect this to anyone IPCC-ish.

The Grauniad leads with The Earth’s temperature could rise under the impact of global warming to levels far higher than previously predicted, according to the United Nations’ team of climate experts. This is probably nonsense, and a bad paraphrase of something that might actually be in the report scientists are now unable to place a reliable upper limit on how quickly the atmosphere will warm as carbon dioxide levels increase (if I sound unsure here its because I have an early draft, but I’m guessing this is from a later one; and it may well be an attempt at the SPM. Who knows, this is all fluff…).

What I would like to draw your attention to is lower down in the Grauniad, because its less exciting: James Annan, a British climate scientist who works on the Japanese Earth simulator supercomputer in Yokohama, says the risks of extreme climate sensitivity and catastrophic consequences have been overstated. He is about to publish a study showing that the chance of climate sensitivity exceeding 4.5C is less than 5%. In fact James’s study is more interesting than that, see the 2006 in press GRL paper for details. I’m allowed to say that now cos his press conf is finished :-)

The Beeb take is somewhat different: The global scientific body on climate change will report soon that only greenhouse gas emissions can explain freak weather patterns (ie, this is *attribution* not rate-of-change, for those of you who haven’t been following…). I’m sort-of assuming that all this freak weather hype includes the boring but far more statistically do-able temperature increase. If true, this is a distinct strengthening over the TAR, wot said only “In the light of new evidence and taking into account the remaining uncertainties, most of the observed warming over the last 50 years is likely7 to have been due to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. (7 is a footnote ref to the technical meaning of likely in this context: 66-90%) (again, RP’s post is bizarre, since he purports to believe the new language isn’t stronger than the TAR; however, I don’t trust the Beeb to have paraphrased correctly).

Of course, even UK efforts to reduce CO2 are still a mess: read the end of the Beeb: [Blair] … would strive to meet his unilateral target of cutting Britain’s CO2 emissions by 20% by 2010…. Central figures in the review process are now admitting that the 20% target will be virtually impossible to hit, and are looking for a “respectable” near miss.


  1. #1 Christopher M

    “scientists are now unable to place a reliable upper limit on how quickly the atmosphere will warm as carbon dioxide levels increase”

    Wow. Just wow. Why is this prediction so different from that of James Annan, who thinks the odds are so low that the temperature could rise more than 4.5 degrees C?

    [You have to read James's paper for the details, though hopefully he'll blog about it soon, but in essence he is fairly convinced that the climate sensitivity is not much different from 3oC. His estimates are gaussian about this, so exceeding 4.5 becomes I think only 5% chance, and very much higher he regards as totally implausible... see 10C? Not likely! for example]

  2. #2 Steve Bloom

    There’s not a contradiction in a strict sense (although of course we would have to see the IPCC text to know for sure). Think of it is a bell curve — events far off to the sides become increasingly unlikely, but can’t be entirely excluded. Even if we can say that there is only a 5% chance of exceeding 4.5C with doubled CO2 (more complicated than that as William notes), that doesn’t mean we should ignore such an outcome. Most of us consider risks an order of magnitude or more smaller than that to be grounds to buy insurance.

  3. #3 Julia Hargreaves

    you mean…

    James’s and jules’s study/paper/pressconference/wotevva…



    [I'm a bit surprised James hasn't blogged your press conf yet. I hope he isn't too modest :-) - W]

  4. #4 Julia Hargreaves

    P.S. Mine’s a …. a …. well – a bier please.



    [I'll buy you dinner if you like! - W]

  5. #5 crandles

    >though hopefully he’ll blog about it soon

    Are you seriously trying to claim that his blogs on How to measure the height of a building with a barometer are not about it?

    [Well, those were the preparation, but... see next post -W]

  6. #6 Eli Rabett

    Actually, I am surprised that much more has not leaked out. I remember huge chunks of TAR WGI drafts being posted in obscure places where you could go read/download them

    [Yes indeed. I saw the first drafts; we may now be onto the second drafts, and/or the SPM stuff, which is probably more sekret - W]

  7. #7 Luke Lea

    “may” not be able to “establish” an upper limit. To the casual reader it sounds like something dire, but rigorously interpreted it means nothing, nada, zip. In the first place “may” is a weasel word; it also implies “may not.”

    But the real killer is what it means to say “unable to establish and upper limit. It doesn’t mean the sky’s the limit, it means they cannot pinpoint the limit, wherever it may happen to lie, with any precision. It might help to recognize that we can certainly establish an upper bound on global warming (e.g., under no circumstances will anthropogenic global warming exceed a billion degrees centigrade. But the problem is to establish a least upper bound, which could as easily turn out to be a lot lower than anybody expected than a lot higher.

    This is typical sloppy journalese misleadingly packaged as dire warning –it sells newspapers but it is even more meretricious than tabloid trash. At least when the headline says, “World War II Bomber Found on Moon,” you know to laugh.

  8. #8 Paul

    Environmental Hypocricy.

    I don’t get it. We’ve heard for years about the perils of global warming and speculated as to the possible anthropogenic causes. The IPCC is adopted, amid controversy, and recommended limits are presented. If there are in fact anthropogenic causes to global warming, then logic and common sense would put municipal solid waste square within the crosshairs.

    Alluva sudden, Bam!, I come across a newfangled MSW processing technology that exceeds all IPCC limits (making it the only Kyoto-compliant MSW technology I’ve seen yet), size reduces garbage by 85% and produces ‘recyclate raw materials’ from 95% of the waste stream which allows for optimization over time in changing markets.

    I think, Great idea!, and start lobbying for it’s implementation in my sprawling community currently surrounded by overflowing landfills and a long since polluted water supply. I contact five local and three national environmental groups as I seek to garner support in anticipation of an apathetic city hall. “Industry has apparently responded to the challenge!”, I begin. “An eminently affordable alternative for MSW processing is available, it exceeds IPCC limits and increases recycling rates to 95%… let’s work together to put pressure on the municipality to get it over here!” (“IT” is a UK invention and I am in the US).

    Ah, little did I realize that taking measured steps to clean up the environmental problems of today with a technological solution was not a welcome addition to the progressive agenda. “The 2nd law of thermodynamics”, they explained, “guarantees that the only solution is clean manufacturing, and even tacit support of a clean technological for MSW processing– IPCC limit and all– compromises the long term objectives of changing manufacturing practices to exclude harmful inputs.” It was further explained that the responsibility for size reduction of waste, recycling and conservation of resources is the responsibility of the citizenry– and any technological/scientific innovation that places the responsibility on industry defeats the purpose of progressive environmentalism.

    So what is it? Morale Manufacturing versus taking action today? I don’t get it. What the hell good are IPCC limits when the environmentalists who helped influence their creation in the first place refuse to support their practical application? Am I crazy or is this environmental hypocricy?

    I don’t get it.

  9. #9 Tarkio Benevides

    Interesting commentary by Paul. I agree with his frustration, been there done that myself. There’s one thing he didn’t hit on. Even if manufacturing processes are changed, and the inputs are clean, we’re still going to have trash! Gee, now there’s a thought to ponder. Figure the odds that we’ll be able to get rid of it. The odds are somewhere in between slim and none.

    Back on his point. Its really frustrating that I’ve been running into the same issues and didn’t understand why the “other” environmentalists that have the same goals (or so I thought) wouldn’t jump on a solution to remediate MSW. The ones I am writing about are the ones in big fat national organizations with fat, cushy positions, that don’t move ahead on something that works because it doesn’t “fit” into their strategy? Get real! We are facing a terrible situation with trash and landfills and people are too ignorant to make a decision to remediate MSW with technology. Maybe his comments hit the nail on the head and the people that promlugate the 2nd law of thermodynamics and all of the other “progressive” stance on environmentalism (aka: socialists) are just like the wankers in DC and city hall that they are railing against. Begs me to ask why there’s not been a cry from the rest of the “progressive environmentalists” against his viewpoint?

    They aren’t willing to tell the people that are sorting trash, reusing containers and planting in our own compost, what they are really up to. Isn’t it about time we faced the situation down and found a solution TOGETHER? When we embrace a technology solution to remediate a technology created problem we’re improving our credibility. We don’t really want a castastrophic event to make the point, do we? (rhetorical)

    Truth be told, trash sucks for everyone, not just industry…remember. You can’t get rid of it completely! MSW is going to be there for as long as there are people, regardless of the industrial processes. If you don’t believe me, look at the third world and tell me that I am wrong.

    When someone takes the time to find a solution are we really going to act like Sara Stout and pretend a solution doesn’t exist? Perhaps it is because the “experts” will have to find something else to whine about.

    Let’s not even take the time to discuss leachates, VOC’s, MTBE in our drinking water, keep thinking of all the stupid ideas we’ve been forced to put in place. They are in the ground, waiting for future generations like a landmine. BANG! City of San Jose closes wells because of MTBE.

    Working together would be too much like finding a way to remeidate something in our own lifetime. Now there’s a thought…. if we solved the problem with MSW and worked to find a way to make industry clean up its manufacturing processes at the same time, maybe we could actually make progress, together…imagine the possibilities.

    The clock is ticking folks. Sadly, its got our children’s name on it.


  10. It is brilliant to read the thoughts and concerns of responsible citizens such as Paul and Tarkio. I am confident that they represent the silent majority who have been forced by the so called “environmentalists” to pay higher land taxes to their communities for a green solution to garbage! We must work as a team and not be selfishly leaving it to the other guy to ALL push for a sustainable solution to garbage which grows at the annual rate of 3.5% and inevitably will consume thousands of acres of valuable land which will be lost forever.

    The motions of these so called environmentalists are nothing other than lip service ? both ingenuous and ineffective. New York’s blue box system costs $56.6 million to collect 350,000 of segregated “recyclables” – it cost $155 a ton and then a further $98 to ship the unwanted recyclables to Philadelphia to landfill or burn! No wonder the Mayor Bloomberg abandoned the hypocrisy.

    California produces 60 million tons of garbage. They landfill 3 million tons of plastics (expensively recovered through a beverage container return program!), 1 million tons of aluminum, 3 million tons of steel (am I not right that there is a global steel shortage) and 38 million tons of organic material of which 10 million tons are paper. Groundwater is damaged – air quality from methane generated from landfills represents 18% of the state’s greenhouse gases – methane is 23 times more aggressive than the much talked about carbon dioxide – and garbage is shipped out of state – talk of the millions of garbage truck miles, highway congestion, use of fossil fuels and a heap of other issues!. That all stacks up to an environmental disaster and not a compliant solution which Paul refers to in his article.

    The RCR STAG steam autoclave system deals with non source segregated garbage. No blue box, no kerbside segregated collection which costs anywhere between $140 and $180 per ton and then another $35 to landfill that which cannot be sold!. With 60 million tons of garbage in California we see around $8.5 billion in segregated collection costs as against $35 for one big bag which would be $2.1 billion – no less than $6.5 billion of tax payers money wasted on an exercise in futility! Stop that and you go a long way to balancing the state budget.

    Take the 1 million tons of aluminum worth another $1 billion; the 3 million tons of plastics worth another $2.5 billion and the 3 million tons of steel worth another half a billion it adds up to a mighty $3 billion landfilled valuable resources which could easily be reused and add it to the waste segregated collection and you have close to $10 billion of cash or savings for California – where are you Arnie? You were the Terminator ? live up to the label and terminate this travesty NOW.

    Get the cash from the trash and save the state and do what we all want you to do ? this is not Washington political speak this is sustainable environmental speak. Save the planet today and create jobs, a huge factory for making the equipment, export opportunities and what is more, the 38 million tons of organic material would be converted to a biomass fibre that is classified as renewable and biodegradable which means what? If converted to synthesis gas or methane it can produce green or renewable electricity.

    Washington has offered a 1.7 cents per kilowatt hour tax break for ten years from 2007 to 2017 worth a mighty $600 million a year for the 3,000,000 kilowatt hours that this can generate – just 18% of California?s renewable energy target that could be achieved in two years! Come on Arnie – bite the bullet – get the cash from the trash and leave the teachers, nurses, hospitals and unions alone – you are sitting on a gold mine and can convert it to cash and achieve what you said you would achieve when you got elected ? balance the budget and improve the quality of life and bring in jobs for the people who elected you.

    By the way, the technology is used elsewhere in the world ? it is sold to municipalities and countries ? and what is more it is not trying to exploit and make big profits like the big independent garbage companies ? it shares on a 50:50 basis the profits with the municipality which means that we the tax payer can never be over charged and the profits from our garbage can be recovered, reused and converted back into real value and the cash profits can offset the collection and treatment costs and furthermore, over time remediate the actual landfills of old. Who says there is not a decent deal out there for the environment ? proven and tested technology with an attractive financial incentive the municipality. So good is the technology and business model concept that banks want a piece of the action and will finance the process and thus it will not cost the municipality or community a dollar of capital spend to achieve a sustainable solution! Look on http://www.rcrinternational.com or http://www.rcrusa.com ? its all there for others to read.

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  12. #12 Tarkio

    Agree with Dr Haden-Taylor’s analysis. Are the concepts outlined on this blog actually make too much sense to understand. Think about the facts and our existing dilema in MSW. Again, even if we CAN pursuade industry to change their inputs to a non-toxic basis we’ll continue to have 300,000,000 people generating waste each year. Waste that’s landfilled along with the other components of MSW.

    In his state of the union address, the President said that America is dependent on foreign oil. There’s no disputing that now is there? Really what a novel concept. America is too dependent on foreign oil? Gee we don’t know that do we? Since we figured that out over 30 years ago with the oil embargo, long lines at the gas stations, some don’t remember, but being the dinosaur I am, I do. It was terrible.

    Still, we continue to turn a blind eye to turmoil in the oil producing countries and we let it affect us. Do we actually believe that big corporations are going to step up and offer a solution to the oil dependency when they are making money hand over fist at our expense? Gee, as I recall today the numbers came out and Exxon just passed Wal-Mart as the number one corporation. Now that’s hard to figure out isn’t it? They make money on oil. The price of oil is up at record levels. We use oil and oil products in our society. Hard to figure this one out isn’t it?

    There actually is a technology solution to address these and many other issues. Look at the web sites Dr Haden-Taylor referenced (www.rcrinternational.com and http://www.rcrusa.com). After you look at the facts like I have its hard to dispute the guarantee. RCRUSA says that they have funding available to put in plants to address the MSW stream at 95-98% levels.

    Let’s take a look at some rudimentary information. If it took 150 barrels of oil to produce a ton of plastic and nationally we landfilled 3000 tons of plastic (a conservative estimate), that would equate to 450,000 barrels of oil. So we understand this that’s only for 3000 tons of plastic. Unfortunately, we landfill significantly more plastic each year than that. Illinois residents and businesses recycled 5 pounds of plastic bottles per person in 2000; but 20 pounds per person of plastic bottles were landfilled. Illinois’ population in 2000 was 12,419,293 people. Let’s do the math…20 pounds per person x 12,419,293 people equals 124,900 tons of plastic. Now the hard part. In Illinois alone that means that the taxpayers and working class people paid to have the oil pumped out of the ground someplace else, then it was transported halfway across the world by tanker, pumped out to a holding tank, moved into a pipe line, transfered again to a manufacturing facility, turned into plastic materials, shipped to a container site, filled with something, transported to a warehouse, shipped to a store, sold to the people of Illinois where the equivalent of 18,735,000 barrels of oil were put in the ground. That’s JUST one year and one state! Don’t even get me started on California, Michigan, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Utah, Nevada,,,,ad nauseum.

    What we’re talking about is not something that violates the “space time continuum”. Nationally we landfill enough plastic to stave off a major oil dilema but we don’t because our processes and the hand picking, sorting and all of the stupid “scams” we participate in are failing, miserably. Simple technology to a basic requirement is what we are failing to see. To think that we actually have the opportunity to use technology to restore the balance and stop waiting for something better to come along.

    HEY! The technology exists all we have to do is take advantage of it. So what’s the catch? Do we actually think that waste management companies that gouge our municipalities will ever change their business model or change the way they do business? HAH!!!! Figure the odds somewhere between slim and none that, that’s ever going to happen. They are fat and happy and everyone of us is paying for their great technology solution. What a hoot!

    When we look at landfills, what we’re doing is what the Romans did over 3000 years ago! This is so insane, so ludicrious that it makes you want to run your head into the wall when you consider the situation. Is there something here that we’re all missing or is there another area that should be addressed? Maybe the solution is so easy to implement that nobody ever took it serious….In the distance we hear hoofbeats, why are we thinking about mythical characters when we actually see horses?

    Its elementary, we’re being duped and we are too complacent to do anything to change the situation. Or are we?

  13. #13 Mary Box

    You can’t be 31457 serious?!?

  14. #14 Tarkio

    Of course I am. We’re hiding our heads in the sand pretending that everything is ok.