When will they learn?

Is it a Pearl Harbor if it has to happen twice? says Nature, discussing a list of stuff that Joe Romm thinks might lead to the second-world-war scale of effort against climate change.

#1 is Arctic goes ice free before 2020. I have bets out on this. It would be a big, visible global shock. One of his bettee’s is me, so it will come as no surprise to you all that I think this is unlikely. Would I get wildly excited if it did become ice free? The odds on the bet are 1-1, so neither side is sticking its neck out and saying this definitely will/won’t happen.

#2 is Rapid warming over next decade, as recent Nature and Science article suggests is quite possible – well, it will rather depend on what you mean by “rapid” I suppose. 0.4 oC/decade might wake people up. A bit. OTOH the models say it won’t happen.

#3 is Continued (unexpected) surge in methane – maybe. Methane will have to surge an awful lot to get back onto an exponential growth path, though – its been near-flat this past decade.

#4 is A megadrought hitting the SW comparable to what has hit southern Australia. Maybe. I don’t know much about drought. Large scale crop failures would get noticed, true.

#5 The one that wound me up: More superstorms, like Katrina. [[Hurricane Katrina]] wasn’t a superstorm. It was a cat-5 at one point, but only cat-3 at landfall. Nothing exceptional, except its track. All nature can manage on this is a weaselly Leaving aside the question of whether it was a superstorm – clearly disagreement would be too controversial. Good grief, if you can’t get this right, what hope is there?

#6: A heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003 one. Well, it got hot for a bit, then stopped. Another one won’t be any more exciting.

#7 Something unpredicted but clearly linked to climate, like the bark beetle devastation. Something terrible but unknown… ah yes.

#8 Accelerated mass loss in Greenland and/or Antarctica, perhaps with another huge ice shelf breaking off, but in any case coupled with another measurable rise in the rate of sea level rise. Not at all sure thats right. The satellite record shows faster rate than the tide gauges, but not by a lot, and I’m not sure whether its believed to be real.

#9 The Fifth Assessment Report (2012-2013) really spelling out what we face with no punches pulled. – won’t happen.

Would any of those lead to a WWII-style all-societies-resources concentrated on GW? Probably not, and anyway what you need to combat GW is mostly society using less resources, which we don’t seem to be very good at. Make love for virginity, Make war for peace, and so on.

Comments

  1. #1 Magnus Westerstrand
    2008/11/27

    A green christmas…

    Other than that I think another IPCC report is important if it could bring in India and China… get there researchers on the table pushing their countries to join along… they are badly needed.

    And getting ppl to understand the numbers… e.g. ref: Are the economic costs of stabilising the atmosphere prohibitive?

  2. #2 llewelly
    2008/11/27

    #5 The one that wound me up: More superstorms, like Katrina. [[Hurricane Katrina]] wasn’t a superstorm. It was a cat-5 at one point, but only cat-3 at landfall. Nothing exceptional, except its track.

    Katrina at landfall was much larger than a typical Atlantic tropical cyclone. Only a few Atlantic tropical cyclones have reached the size (whether determined by radius of tropical cyclone strength wind (230 miles) or radius of hurricane strength wind (125 miles)) Katrina had at landfall. (However Katrina-sized tropical cyclones are only moderately unusual in the West Pacific, which has much more favorable conditions.)

    (Furthermore – Katrina’s track was not unusual at all.)

    [??? K's track was unique. No other hurricane has passed over New Orleans -W]

  3. #3 llewelly
    2008/11/27

    I should add that Katrina set a record for peak storm surge in the Atlantic (27.8 feet), and that storm surge exceeding 10 feet extended as far east as Mobile Bay, Alabama – about 80 miles from the eye. This too is highly unusual.

  4. #4 D. C. Sessions
    2008/11/27

    You’re looking at producing a sense of urgency? Well, how far out is the planning horizon?

    Will it pay off in the next fiscal quarter?

  5. #5 Jeremy
    2008/11/27

    I’m unsure I understand your commentary. Are you commenting on the likelihood of the events to happen or the likelihood of them to create an adequate response to climate change if they do occur?

    [A perceptive comment. A mixture of the two, but mostly the likelihood of them shaking anyone up a lot -W]

  6. #6 Thomas
    2008/11/28

    Magnus, the Indian prime minster has made a commitment that India should keep its per capita emissions lower than the average for the industrialized countries. It’s an easy promise to make, of course, but at the same time it shows the hypocrisy of making demands on India.

  7. #7 Magnus W
    2008/11/28

    Yes I know but we need them in a cap and trade system IMHO how that will look in detail will be tougher to figure out.

    SEI has some interesting thoughts: http://www.sei.se/index.php?page=newsitem&item=5749

  8. #8 Dunc
    2008/11/28

    Meh. Most of these could be written off as weather. A really big methane spike might do the job, but then it’s a bit late, isn’t it?

    There is never going to be a WWII-type effort against climate change. We’re just not wired to respond with that degree of urgency to anything slower-moving than a Panzer division. I could perhaps see a WWII-type effort to deal with some of the effects of climate change, if they get severe enough, but not the root problem itself.

    There is also the minor point that the last time we made a WWII-type effort, it completely bankrupted most of the nations involved. Given that we currently seem to be teetering on the edge of bankruptcy anyway, I’m not sure we could afford it even if we wanted to.

    [I agree re urgency. But notice also that most of the problems of GW stem from us *doing* things. To stop GW we don't need to *do* more things, we need to do *less* things. And we're very bad at that indeed -W]

  9. #9 Adam
    2008/11/28

    “or the likelihood of them to create an adequate response”

    Ah, but what is an adequate response?

    [That would depend on how serious you thought the problem was, no? Stern, if I recall correctly, thought a few % of GDP would do, which is hardly a WWII style effort -W]

  10. #10 Magnus W
    2008/11/28

    W-
    Check this paper out… Are the economic costs of stabilising the atmosphere prohibitive?
    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/els/09218009/2002/00000042/00000001/art00042

    And I don’t agree on that we have to do less… we have to do other things, the day won’t be shorter… however it’s mostly framing.

    [There is widespread agreement amongst the more pessimistic macro economic studies that stringent carbon controls are compatible with a significant increase in global and regional economic welfare. Even if the cost of CO2 abatement rises to 5% of global income per year by the end of this century, this reduction is minor compared with the tenfold increase in global income that is expected. Since income is assumed to grow by a couple of percent per year, the trillion USD cost could also be expressed as a few years delay in achieving an order of magnitude higher income levels. Yes indeed, all true as far as it goes. But I'm not sure the costs really are ~5%, or can be meaningfully calculated that way. What is the "cost" of burning less coal? -W]

  11. #11 Adam
    2008/11/28

    “[That would depend on how serious you thought the problem was, no? Stern, if I recall correctly, thought a few % of GDP would do, which is hardly a WWII style effort -W]”

    And how serious *do* you think the problem is?

    [I've tended to avoid giving an opinion on that, on the grounds that I know the WGI stuff - which is about what might happen - but not the WGII,III stuff, which is about how serious it might be. But you'll notice I've been getting more cynical about it. Certainly, the contortions Stern went through to try to find trouble was unedifying. And if you look at Romms list, again, its unimpressive. But who knows what ecology would do to us? My position is that what we're doing may be dangerous; and that we'd all be happier if we slowed down anyway -W]

    TBH I’m not interested in effort in terms of % of GDP, but more in CO2e, or if you like, equilibrium temp. If that’s what we *need* to hit, then it doesn’t really matter how much money it costs. However, if there’s no target that *needs* to be reached, then it doesn’t matter what it costs either as we’ll never aim for one that isn’t absolutely necessary.

    [Oh, I see. Well I don't believe Hansens target 350, as explained before. Without understanding the ecological effects (assuming for a moment we understand the CO2-climate effects), I can't see how you can set a limit. People seize on 2 oC, or 0.2 oC/decade, but these are (nearly) arbitrary -W]

  12. #12 Mike
    2008/11/28


    #6: A heatwave as bad as Europe’s 2003 one. Well, it got hot for a bit, then stopped. Another one won’t be any more exciting.

    Yes, because old people are boring, so dying of heat-related causes in their thousands in rich, Western democracies is just another tedious thing old people do.

    Dropping the sarcasm, over ten thousand died in France alone. It was a scandal there. We didn’t make that much of it in England (although statistics later show that it correlated with an extra 2000+ deaths), but that doesn’t mean it was trivial. But then admittedly I guess old people in hospital doesn’t make as good viewing on the news as hurricane hit cities.

  13. #13 James Annan
    2008/11/28

    One entirely predictable outcome is that if we do have such a hot summer again in the near future, the number of excess deaths will be markedly lower, because people will have adapted (you read it here first). Perhaps not the compelling outcome that some would be looking for. Note there are about 30,000 excess deaths in the UK every single winter, massively more than in that summer outlier, even though winters have been generally getting less severe. Absurd claims about climate-related deaths due to global warming in temperate climes really are barking up the wrong tree.

  14. #14 Andrew Dodds
    2008/11/28

    As far as I can tell, the main End-Of-Civilisation dangers – that can’t realistically be engineered around – would be a rapid sea level rise of 2-3m in a decade triggered by the disintergration of the GIS/WAIS, or a Methane-feedback loop precipitated by our moving the climate to somewhere it hans’t been since the start of the glacial/interglacial cycle.

    I don’t think either are high-probability events for the short term.

    Heatwaves, freshwater shortages, moving of ecological zones – these can be engineered around (given sufficient energy). Losing a large number of major cities at once – or a couple of years agricultural production – cannot be engineered around.

    As far as abatement goes – it is absolutely clear that there are not enough carbon based fuels to give the world western european levels of consumption (never mind North American) for more than a decade or so. Even the most cornucopian estimates don’t come close. So we are going to transform to a nuclear/renewable/synthetic fuel economy at some point in the next 50 or so years anyway; doing this before the market forces it via huge price spikes and spot shortages is probably cheaper.

  15. #15 Magnus W
    2008/11/28

    Indeed it is a very difficult equation… what is a life in Africa or extinction of specie worth? The costs for implementation might be easier to calculate?
    http://www.iea.org/Textbase/press/pressdetail.asp?PRESS_REL_ID=275

    IEA: The scale of the challenge in limiting greenhouse gas concentration to 450 ppm of CO2-eq, which would involve a temperature rise of about 2°C, is much greater. World energy-related CO2 emissions would need to drop sharply from 2020 onwards, reaching less than 26 Gt in 2030. “We would need concerted action from all major emitters. Our analysis shows that OECD countries alone cannot put the world onto a 450-ppm trajectory, even if they were to reduce their emissions to zero”, Mr. Tanaka warned. Achieving such an outcome would require even faster growth in the use of low-carbon energy – to account for 36% of global primary energy mix by 2030. In this case, global energy investment needs are $9.3 trillion (0.6% of annual world GDP) higher; fuel savings total $5.8 trillion.

    Much more is spent on other questionable things…

  16. #16 Dunc
    2008/11/28

    Heatwaves, freshwater shortages, moving of ecological zones – these can be engineered around (given sufficient energy).

    For a human perspective, yes. But what those do to ecosystems which are already degraded, islandized, and highly stressed is a rather different matter. As William alludes in his remarks on Adam’s comment above, it’s not so much the direct climatic effects we should be worrying about as the indirect ecological effects. Lose too many bees and we’re all screwed anyway.

  17. #17 Adam
    2008/11/28

    Thanks William for your answer above. I keep meaning to read WGII & WGIII but haven’t yet. Maybe I should, or maybe, if the worst we can get is it “may be dangerous”, maybe not.

  18. #18 Gareth
    2008/11/28

    The point, I think, is that rapid climate change is already happening, but we have not yet woken up to its effects. You can see ecosystem changes already (phenology), so the birds and the bees have, but it’s going to take something really noticeable to make us pay attention. Like William, I’m not greatly persuaded by Joe’s list – except perhaps the methane spike, which is looking more likely (couple of papers at the fall AGU will be interesting). But methane, like a WAIS collapse, are real “Oh Sh**” moments because they show that things are already way beyond the point of no return. Mitigation will take a back seat to adaptation as reality bites.

    The one thing not on Joe’s list that concerns me is also already happening, but hasn’t really hit home yet. That’s the atmospheric (general circulation) response to ice loss in the Arctic. That has the potential to completely re-order the NH circulation in ways its difficult to foresee. A couple of papers this year have indicated that that sort of change can happen in a single year, albeit in the “cold” direction. A change in the pattern of weather system movement could bring huge regional changes very quickly, and that could make people sit and pay attention.

    How’s winter shaping up in Sweden, Magnus?

  19. #19 Hank Roberts
    2008/11/28

    Perhaps the way it works with ideas is, as with academia, one simply waits for those captured by the old ideas to die off before new ones can become widespread.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024083644.htm

    —-excerpt—–

    Dr Mayhew says: “Our results provide the first clear evidence that global climate may explain substantial variation in the fossil record in a simple and consistent manner. If our results hold for current warming — the magnitude of which is comparable with the long-term fluctuations in Earth climate — they suggest that extinctions will increase.”

    Of the five mass extinction events¹, four — including the one that eliminated the dinosaurs 65 million years ago — are associated with greenhouse phases. The largest mass extinction event of all, the end-Permian, occurred during one of the warmest ever climatic phases and saw the estimated extinction of 95 per cent of animal and plant species.

    “The long-term association has not been seen before, as previous studies have largely been confined to relatively short geological periods, limited geographical extents and few groups of organisms,” says Professor Benton. “But the evidence is striking.”
    ——end excerpt—–

    This I think fits Peter Ward’s explanation for the black beds in strata associated with those events — a rearrangement of the ocean circulation, and surface water no longer goes up to the polar regions and collects a lot of oxygen before it sinks; instead it begins to sink in the middle latitudes, with warmer and much less oxygenated water — leading to anoxic deep water and then anoxic water full of sulfur compounds rising eventually to the atmosphere. Then you get a layer of black anoxic mud laid down in the strata, the “green sky” episodes he describes in the book by that name.

  20. #20 crandles
    2008/11/28

    >”[I’ve tended to avoid giving an opinion on that, on the grounds that I know the WGI stuff – which is about what might happen – but not the WGII,III stuff, which is about how serious it might be. But you’ll notice I’ve been getting more cynical about it. Certainly, the contortions Stern went through to try to find trouble was unedifying.”

    Well that sounds reasonable and you blog so we can get an idea of your opinions. The media tends to hype things up so how are the public supposed to get an idea of what most scientists think? Does the pressure on politicians just come from people who have bought into the media hype?
    Do the majority descend into
    http://xkcd.com/164/

  21. #21 Nicolas Nierenberg
    2008/11/28

    So here it is my first foray into a general issue on climate change.

    According to Thomas.

    “It’s an easy promise to make, of course, but at the same time it shows the hypocrisy of making demands on India.”

    You are correct that it is an easy, and I would argue meaningless promise to make. There is no way that India, or China, could reach developed levels of CO2 output per capita in the relevant time periods unless it is achieved by the developed countries making massive cuts in their output. In this case India/China won’t really have done anything.

    The hypocrisy argument just doesn’t matter. If India and China don’t have some type of significant limit in the short term, then the developed countries will simply export their production of CO2 to the developing countries. It is simple math to see that even if the developed countries exported half of their CO2 output to the developing countries and therefore felt very good about themselves, that the developing countries won’t be anywhere near reaching the developed per capita level. But we won’t have gotten anywhere.

    What might work would be to “sell” them clean energy at the same price that their then current energy would cost. I believe that this would still require energy limits on the developing countries, otherwise the effect would be that all energy intensive endeavors would be moved to the developing countries.

  22. #22 llewelly
    2008/11/28

    [??? K's track was unique. No other hurricane has passed over New Orleans -W]

    Nonsense.
    New Orleans Hurricane of 1915
    Hurricane Betsy
    There have been others as well.

    See also typical Atlantic hurricane tracks. Scroll down to Aughust and see that Katrina’s track is fully with in the ‘likely’ region and near (or even inside) the ‘more likely’ region for much of its length. Not unusual at all.

    [Of course its in the likely reason. Are you deliberately missing the point. Its track was nothing exceptional - except it happened to pass over NO. Betsy didn't hit NO. Its not clear from the wiki article but I doubt the 1915 storm came as close as K.

    But just to make it quite clear to those having trouble with the bleedin' obvious: K's track and strength was well within the usual limits. The only thing unusual about it was that it happened to pass over NO -W]
    -W]

  23. #23 llewelly
    2008/11/28

    Well it looks like my comment is trapped in moderation. Apparently I linked to too many hurricanes that passed over New Orleans.

  24. #24 llewelly
    2008/11/28

    Here are a few more hurricanes that directly affected New Orleans:
    New Orleans hurricane of 1779
    1901 Hurricane 4
    ahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_Fort_Lauderdale_Hurricane
    ahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Atlantic_hurricane_season#Hurricane_Five

    The last two links are mangled to (hopefully) avoid triggering moderation. Remove the ‘a’ at the beginning.

  25. #25 Eli Rabett
    2008/11/29

    What is worst, is the attitude that unless the problem is completely solved there is no point in doing anything. Of course, what then happens is that nothing is done, things get worse and then it is too late to do anything. Just another version of why mitigate when you can adapt, except there are points you cannot adapt beyond, and then it is too late to mitigate.

    Probably the end is a collapse of agriculture under climate stress and the absence of some crucial natural systems killed off by prior enviornmental stresses. Eli’s estimate is that you would only need a decline of ~25% or so in food production in one year for that to happen. There are no significant food stocks to carry us through. At that point so many die that it might as well have been all die, and quite a few more will finish each other off fighting for the remaining food.

    [A sudden severe drop in food production by 25% could happen with a bad drought, and as you say stocks are thin. But how serious would it really be? You, I and everyone we know easily eats more than 25% excess food (thats not true of some folks in the third world, of course). We eat very inefficiently at that - excess meat and dairy. The West could live on 50% less food, and be fitter and better off for it -W]

  26. #26 Gareth
    2008/11/29

    At that point so many die that it might as well have been all die, and quite a few more will finish each other off fighting for the remaining food.

    Allow me to be the first:

    Alarmist!

  27. #27 Magnus W
    2008/11/29

    Gareth
    This year behaves good so far, already got snow. The two years before that we almost got green Christmases and last year we had rain in January which is the first time I can remember. We already have had a boss from the municipality blaming the heavy early snow on the climate changes… (which is just dead wrong) because they reacted a bit slow and snow shovelling got criticised.

    About the crops… IMHO could be solvable partly by using water much better, really old watering systems are used. However we have a professor at the university from Iraq (not sure abut why he came to Sweden), he had a really interesting lecture abut how the system in many of these countries work. Not mainly knowledge lacking… corruption and bad planning (and war) is a big problem so when on top of that the weather patterns change = BIG problems… Hope that didn’t sound racist… I really do think there will be big problems in the developing countries when weather patterns change… not only when the sea level increases.

  28. #28 llewelly
    2008/11/29

    Tnank you William for rescuing my comment from the moderation queue.

    Its track was nothing exceptional – except it happened to pass over NO. Betsy didn’t hit NO. Its not clear from the wiki article but I doubt the 1915 storm came as close as K.

    What do you mean ‘Betsy didn’t hit NO’? From the wiki article I linked:

    Hurricane Betsy slammed into New Orleans on the evening of September 9, 1965. 110 mph winds and power failures were reported in New Orleans.[4] The eye of the storm passed to the southwest of New Orleans on a northwesterly track. The northern and western eyewalls covered Southeast Louisiana and the New Orleans area from about 8 pm until 4 am the next morning.

    But look at the wiki article for Katrina:

    As the eye of Hurricane Katrina swept to the northeast, it subjected the city to hurricane conditions for hours. Although power failures prevented accurate measurement of wind speeds in New Orleans, there were a few measurements of hurricane-force winds. From this the NHC concluded that it is likely that much of the city experienced sustained winds of Category 1 or Category 2 strength.

    By any reasonable estimation, if Katrina ‘passed over New Orleans’, so did Betsy.

    As for the 1915 storm, New Orleans is at: 29.96 N 90.7 W
    Closests two points on the track of the 1915 storm are:

    September 29 18 UTC 29.0N 90.3W 340 deg 12 mph 20 kph 125 mph 205 kph 944 mb Major Hurricane – Category 3
    September 30 0 UTC 30.1N 90.2W 5 deg 12 mph 20 kph 80 mph 130 kph 949 mb Hurricane – Category 1

    (from ahttp://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/easy_1915-30.htm#1915_6 )

    Now for Katrina we have:

    August 29 12 UTC 29.5N 89.6W 0 deg 13 mph 22 kph 125 mph 205 kph 923 mb Major Hurricane – Category 3
    August 29 18 UTC 31.1N 89.6W 0 deg 18 mph 29 kph 90 mph 150 kph 948 mb Hurricane – Category 1

    (from ahttp://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/easy_2001-10.htm#2005_11 )

    So the 1915 storm came closer than Katrina.

    Betsy, by the way:

    September 10 0 UTC 28.3N 89.2W 315 deg 14 mph 24 kph 155 mph 250 kph 941 mb Major Hurricane – Category 4
    September 10 6 UTC 29.6N 90.7W 315 deg 20 mph 33 kph 105 mph 165 kph 948 mb Hurricane – Category 2
    September 10 12 UTC 30.8N 91.8W 320 deg 17 mph 27 kph 75 mph 120 kph 965 mb Hurricane – Category 1

    (from ahttp://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/easy_1961-70.htm#1965_3 )

    So Betsy came closer than Katrina as well.

    (If you’ve looked at the other comment I tried to post that listed 4 more hurricanes affecting New Orleans, the 1901 hurricane #4 did not come as close as Katrina. The 1947 Fort Lauderdale came almost as close. The 1948 Hurricane #5 came closer than Katrina. )

  29. #29 llewelly
    2008/11/29

    Thank you William for rescuing my comment from the moderation queue.

    Its track was nothing exceptional – except it happened to pass over NO. Betsy didn’t hit NO. Its not clear from the wiki article but I doubt the 1915 storm came as close as K.

    What do you mean ‘Betsy didn’t hit NO’? From the wiki article I linked:

    Hurricane Betsy slammed into New Orleans on the evening of September 9, 1965. 110 mph winds and power failures were reported in New Orleans.[4] The eye of the storm passed to the southwest of New Orleans on a northwesterly track. The northern and western eyewalls covered Southeast Louisiana and the New Orleans area from about 8 pm until 4 am the next morning.

    But look at the wiki article for Katrina:

    As the eye of Hurricane Katrina swept to the northeast, it subjected the city to hurricane conditions for hours. Although power failures prevented accurate measurement of wind speeds in New Orleans, there were a few measurements of hurricane-force winds. From this the NHC concluded that it is likely that much of the city experienced sustained winds of Category 1 or Category 2 strength.

    By any reasonable estimation, if Katrina ‘passed over New Orleans’, so did Betsy.

    As for the 1915 storm, New Orleans is at: 29.96 N 90.7 W
    Closests two points on the track of the 1915 storm are:

    September 29 18 UTC 29.0N 90.3W 340 deg 12 mph 20 kph 125 mph 205 kph 944 mb Major Hurricane – Category 3
    September 30 0 UTC 30.1N 90.2W 5 deg 12 mph 20 kph 80 mph 130 kph 949 mb Hurricane – Category 1

    (from foo://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/easy_1915-30.htm#1915_6 )

    Now for Katrina we have:

    August 29 12 UTC 29.5N 89.6W 0 deg 13 mph 22 kph 125 mph 205 kph 923 mb Major Hurricane – Category 3
    August 29 18 UTC 31.1N 89.6W 0 deg 18 mph 29 kph 90 mph 150 kph 948 mb Hurricane – Category 1

    (from foo://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/easy_2001-10.htm#2005_11 )

    So the 1915 storm came closer than Katrina.

    Betsy, by the way:

    September 10 0 UTC 28.3N 89.2W 315 deg 14 mph 24 kph 155 mph 250 kph 941 mb Major Hurricane – Category 4
    September 10 6 UTC 29.6N 90.7W 315 deg 20 mph 33 kph 105 mph 165 kph 948 mb Hurricane – Category 2
    September 10 12 UTC 30.8N 91.8W 320 deg 17 mph 27 kph 75 mph 120 kph 965 mb Hurricane – Category 1

    (from foo://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/easy_1961-70.htm#1965_3 )

    So Betsy came closer than Katrina as well.

    (If you’ve looked at the other comment I tried to post that listed 4 more hurricanes affecting New Orleans, the 1901 hurricane #4 did not come as close as Katrina. The 1947 Fort Lauderdale came almost as close. The 1948 Hurricane #5 came closer than Katrina. )

  30. #30 llewelly
    2008/11/29

    Thank you William for rescuing my comment from the moderation queue.

    Its track was nothing exceptional – except it happened to pass over NO. Betsy didn’t hit NO. Its not clear from the wiki article but I doubt the 1915 storm came as close as K.

    What do you mean ‘Betsy didn’t hit NO’? From the wiki article I linked:

    Hurricane Betsy slammed into New Orleans on the evening of September 9, 1965. 110 mph winds and power failures were reported in New Orleans.[4] The eye of the storm passed to the southwest of New Orleans on a northwesterly track. The northern and western eyewalls covered Southeast Louisiana and the New Orleans area from about 8 pm until 4 am the next morning.

    But look at the wiki article for Katrina:

    As the eye of Hurricane Katrina swept to the northeast, it subjected the city to hurricane conditions for hours. Although power failures prevented accurate measurement of wind speeds in New Orleans, there were a few measurements of hurricane-force winds. From this the NHC concluded that it is likely that much of the city experienced sustained winds of Category 1 or Category 2 strength.

    By any reasonable estimation, if Katrina ‘passed over New Orleans’, so did Betsy.

    As for the 1915 storm, New Orleans is at: 29.96 N 90.7 W
    Closests two points on the track of the 1915 storm are:

    September 29 18 UTC 29.0N 90.3W 340 deg 12 mph 20 kph 125 mph 205 kph 944 mb Major Hurricane – Category 3
    September 30 0 UTC 30.1N 90.2W 5 deg 12 mph 20 kph 80 mph 130 kph 949 mb Hurricane – Category 1

    (from http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/easy_1915-30.htm#1915_6 )

    Now for Katrina we have:

    August 29 12 UTC 29.5N 89.6W 0 deg 13 mph 22 kph 125 mph 205 kph 923 mb Major Hurricane – Category 3
    August 29 18 UTC 31.1N 89.6W 0 deg 18 mph 29 kph 90 mph 150 kph 948 mb Hurricane – Category 1

    (from http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/easy_2001-10.htm#2005_11 )

    So the 1915 storm came closer than Katrina.

    Betsy, by the way:

    September 10 0 UTC 28.3N 89.2W 315 deg 14 mph 24 kph 155 mph 250 kph 941 mb Major Hurricane – Category 4
    September 10 6 UTC 29.6N 90.7W 315 deg 20 mph 33 kph 105 mph 165 kph 948 mb Hurricane – Category 2
    September 10 12 UTC 30.8N 91.8W 320 deg 17 mph 27 kph 75 mph 120 kph 965 mb Hurricane – Category 1

    (from http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/hrd/hurdat/easy_1961-70.htm#1965_3 )

    So Betsy came closer than Katrina as well.

    (If you’ve looked at the other comment I tried to post that listed 4 more hurricanes affecting New Orleans, the 1901 hurricane #4 did not come as close as Katrina. The 1947 Fort Lauderdale came almost as close. The 1948 Hurricane #5 came closer than Katrina. )

  31. #31 Eli Rabett
    2008/11/29

    Most people don’t live where people eat 25% more than they need. While a bad drought could be an issue, Eli is more worried about things like collapses of pollinators, etc. coupled with bad droughts, etc. It ain’t gonna be one thing alone but a combo

    [A combo? Yes, I think that a plausible scenario. Total overeating / undernourishment. I admit I don't know. Go on, a project for you: assuming efficient food distribution were possible, what fraction of recommended total calories or nutrients does (total food consumption)/(population) represent? -W]

  32. #32 Nicolas Nierenberg
    2008/11/30

    Mr. Rabett,

    In case your comment that “unless the problem is completely solved there is no point in doing anything” was directed at my post I don’t think it is reasonable. My point is that if we don’t gain agreement from India and China then I believe that the effect of CO2 caps will largely be to export CO2 production to these countries over the medium term. So I am arguing that this would be doing nothing.

    I would allow that this probably doesn’t apply to things that are consumer oriented like more efficient automobiles since consumers are unlikely to move from developed countries to less developed countries in order to save on transportation. Although if you began producing these new things in India and China you might wind up largely substituting the savings in those areas as well.

    If you weren’t referring at least partly to my comment then never mind :-)

  33. #33 Eli Rabett
    2008/11/30

    NN: No, it was not. In any case to the extent that CO2 production is exported (it already is substantially) there is always Eli Rabett’s Simple Plan to Save the World

    WC: Been there, done that, see Soylent Green

    [? -W]

  34. #34 Nicolas Nierenberg
    2008/12/01

    ER: (See I can get the hang of this)

    Nice idea theoretically. Of course there would be no way to measure the CO2 content of a product coming from a non-cooperative country. More importantly I think that in the event of non-cooperation this would be viewed as a tariff. If you would like to see the effect of countries raising tariffs unilaterally check “Great Depression” in Wikipedia.

    Unfortunately I believe that to achieve the types of limits on CO2 that would actually make a difference we must have agreement among virtually all significant emitters on a comprehensive system. No easy road.

  35. #35 Andrew Dodds
    2008/12/02

    Dunc –

    Luckily, Bees don’t do a lot for things like Wheat, potatoes and a fair few other things.. and they are not the only pollinators.

    As a techno-optomist, I’d suggest that long term we should look to produce most of our food in factories; i.e vat grown meat (and basic veg/carbs). This would at a stroke remove most of our environmental impacts.

    And this all IS from a human perspective. Given 10 million years or so without humans, there is (almost) no amount of damage that humans could do that would appear as nothing more than a blip on a geological horizion.

  36. #36 Hank Roberts
    2008/12/10

    http://www.arctic-change2008.com/

    More people to bet on an ice-free summer Arctic, collected here for your convenience and possible profit.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.