Cassandras of Climate?

So says Krugman. He means, of course, that the scientists are predicting disaster but no-one is listening. Or rather, that people listen but then find doing anything too inconvenient. Since this happened over fishing I find it not at all odd. But Krugman’s basic premise – the sense that we’re hurtling toward catastrophe but nobody wants to hear about it or do anything to avert it. And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole – is twaddle. This *is* obvious hyperbole. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years. – no, I don’t think so. You could argue that things haven’t got any better, and there are a few areas where things look worse – the glacial contribution to future SLR may be higher than expected for example. But “much much worse”? I don’t think so. “About that same” would be closer, were you to look at, say, projected temperature changes. And thanks to sterling work from the likes of James and Julia we now know that the “long tail” of very high climate sensitivity is unlikely. So that is good, isn’t it?

What’s driving this new pessimism? Partly it’s the fact that some predicted changes, like a decline in Arctic Sea ice, are happening much faster than expected. – oops, K is rather badly out of date. You could say that in late 2007. In late 2008 it was distinctly iffy, and now it is iffier still (yes I need to wrap up the sea ice for the year. I will, I will. Maybe K would like to take on the bet for next years extent?

I don’t think the tundra feedback is as exciting as he thinks, but it isn’t really my thing. Nor is the South West drying, but I think Science may be over-egging it a bit (I find If these models are correct, the levels of aridity of the recent multiyear drought or the Dust Bowl and the 1950s droughts will become the new climatology of the American Southwest within a time frame of years to decades baffling – there is no sign of a sudden change in the results presented, just a long slow drying).

So K is puzzled: In a rational world, then, the looming climate disaster would be our dominant political and policy concern. It could be that we don’t live in a rational world (evidence: cars kill far more people than terrorists but we aren’t about to declare an undying war on cars). But another possibility is that the evidence for a looming disaster is weaker than K thinks.

Comments

  1. #1 David B. Benson
    2009/09/29

    Start a war on cars!

  2. #2 Hank Roberts
    2009/09/29

    > catastrophe

    Perhaps he’s using the word correctly, not “something awful we didn’t see coming” but a rapid change that can’t be reversed?

    [Rapid is questionable at best. Irreversible depends on what point we get to -W]

  3. #3 Magnus W
    2009/09/30

    1. It depends on where you live.
    2. I guess the temp thing also could be discussed?

    http://www.bentham-open.org/pages/content.php?TOASCJ/2008/00000002/00000001/217TOASCJ.SGM

    [This is Hansens "cl sens is 6 oC" which I've done before -W]

    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2009/roulette-0519.html

    [Curious. First time I've seen that. It certainly didn't make a splash at the time. Why is everyone ignoring it, do you think? -W]

    [Update: you point out that JA has done this, and indeed I did have a vague memory of this. It is at: http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2009/03/that-mit-report-in-full.html So, the MIT stuff fooled me: I thought from the "The most comprehensive modeling yet" that this was a proper GCM. I see now it wasn't. I suppose it is the sort of think that K might like. But JA ripped it to shreds - why did you bring it up? -W]

    [uupdate: and I notice that Romm fell for it: http://climateprogress.org/2009/02/23/mit-doubles-global-warming-projections/ -W]

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article5371682.ece

    [Std case of a bad headline picking out the worst-case scenario out of a whole bunch of runs and ignoring the most probbale outcomes -W]

    3. It depends on if you read blogs or newspapers? And in what country you do so? Ok, that is not science but it is where the people who pressure the politicians get their info about it.

    [If you get your climate science from newspapers you are doomed to hopeless muddle. From blogs you can find the truth, if you read the right ones :-) -W]

  4. #4 Simon D
    2009/09/30

    And as you show here, overstating things on climate opens the door to criticism!

  5. #5 Alexander Ač
    2009/09/30

    Did anybody tell Krugman about peak oil? :-) (that is probably bigger and more immediate problem than climate change)

  6. #6 Janne Sinkkonen
    2009/09/30

    It’s also possible that both are true: (1) the world is irrational (big surprise?), and we won’t do enough on the long run, (2) Krugman is overstating.

  7. #7 Magnus W
    2009/09/30

    I saw that Annan had a go at the mit one, however my point is that from just reading the sources you get the impression that picture are worse now.

    [DId he? I had a vague memory of that but couldn't find it. My assumption was that from K you expect something rather better than just regurgitating the newspapers. He is a big boy. He can (if he wants to) talk to the people that know. He has no excuse for ignorance -W]

  8. #8 Alexander Ač
    2009/09/30

    Big boy?

    Then he should understand that economic wealth is tightly related to ecological damage (indded, it is based on it!) and that we need to change the way current economy works (growth or collapse, not sustainability).

    So yes, he should tell Obama that we should not talk about “economic recovery”, the less about “susbainable growth” – it is the same stupidity as “green bussiness”…

    [As to what he should say about economics, I have rather less opinion, since it is clear he is recognised as an expert in that area -W]

  9. #9 Magnus W
    2009/09/30

    http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2009/03/that-mit-report-in-full.html

    Well if he did talk to… lets say Hansen, what would the picture be then?

    [Yeeees. I would hope he would talk to someone more measured -W]

  10. #10 Nosmo
    2009/09/30

    I read the column and did really wonder what he was talking about.

    As someone who is making a moderate attempt to stay informed, my take is that the prognoses for the planet has gotten more certain. Both extremes have gotten less likely with the mid range problems more likely, however there is still large uncertainty about feedbacks from CO2 release from thawing tundra (and from the ocean?) and about greater then expected SLR.

    Would you agree with that interpretation.

    [I think that is quite fair. Despite extensive exploration, no-one has found a very convincing "disaster" scenario or a very convincing "no problem" scenario. We're still stuck in the middle way: bad things will likely happen, but slowly -W]

  11. #11 lgcarey
    2009/09/30

    So, if Mr. Krugman would have done the due diligence you suggest, just whom should he have phoned up to have gotten the straight scoop on how climate science has (or hasn’t) changed since 2007 (i.e., in the last couple of years)?

    [Lots of people. Me, of course :-) though someone more involved might be better. The folk at RC are one obvious choice -W]

  12. #12 Adam
    2009/09/30

    “So, if Mr. Krugman would have done the due diligence you suggest, just whom should he have phoned up to have gotten the straight scoop on how climate science has (or hasn’t) changed since 2007 (i.e., in the last couple of years)?”

    And what should he have said?

  13. #13 Steve Bloom
    2009/09/30

    One can still say “faster than expected” for sea ice since the range of projections (for ice-free summer conditions) is for much sooner than was the case five years ago.

    [I'm dubious about this, unless you're interpreting "range" rather liberally -W]

    Re the southwest U.S., it’s not a sudden change in results or trends but even so it’s still a catastrophe in the making. Of course we need to define what we mean by catastrophe, which hardly anyone does before discussing it. In this case I mean that it’s an environmental catastrophe (which I can define further) and perhaps an economic one, although not much of a human catastrophe since the impact is on a rich society.

    But I think the main thing going on with Krugman is that the catastrophic scenario stuff didn’t sink in with him until the last few years. The same is true for a lot of people.

    [Dunno. Maybe he is reasonning that the economists failed to see trouble coming and therefore... but that is flawed logic -W]

    That said, there are some projections that have gotten “much, much worse” and that describe near-term consequences, thinking in particular of what’s happening in western China and the Tibetan plateau region. It’s looking more and more like the really bad stuff will relate to changes in precipitation and soil moisture, and looking back to what I thought five years ago that’s a big change for me at least. Add to that ocean acidification, which I think hadn’t even been heard about five years ago.

    [Ocean acidification isn't new. I don't understand what you mean by W China: you seem to be flipping tenses between present and future -W]

    Things like abrupt Arctic sea ice decline and even a major uptick in permafrost methane release IMHO often get classed as catastrophes, but in terms of near-term impacts I don’t think they qualify. I think a lot of enviros and even scientists make the mistake of thinking that a picture of an ice-free Arctic will somehow galvanize society into action, and in the absence of immediate follow-on impacts at lower latitudes (none are expected AFAIK) I think they’re wrong.

    Of course Krugman doesn’t need to talk to Hansen directly. One of the latter’s dozens of minions or even more numerous acolytes will do nicely. :)

  14. #14 Gareth
    2009/09/30

    a picture of an ice-free Arctic will somehow galvanize society into action, and in the absence of immediate follow-on impacts at lower latitudes (none are expected AFAIK)

    Er, no follow-on impacts? There will be significant changes in NH climate resulting from loss of Arctic summer ice. See chapter 1 of the WWF’s overview (PDF). In fact the potential for significant changes in NH regional climates caused by the altered energy budget is perhaps the single biggest risk of abrupt change in the short term (IMHO, of course!). We just don’t what they might be at the moment because more work is needed…

  15. #15 Steve Bloom
    2009/09/30

    Sorry, I should have been more clear that I mean direct impacts of the sort one doesn’t need a model to link. Add to that the fact that such responses are both lagged and uneven, and it’s hard to be sanguine about people picking up on the connection. I say that even though the relationship between a drying climate in the U.S. southwest (where I live) and the declining Arctic sea ice is already established and has gotten reasonable media play here.

  16. #16 doug l
    2009/09/30

    As he is an economist I was surprised as his sense of certainty in models that are at least if not more complex than the ones he and his collegues use…and based on how marvelously they were interpreted over the last few years there are reasons to suspect his credulity, nobel or not.

  17. #17 Eli Rabett
    2009/09/30

    As Eli is won’t to say, when all about you are running and screaming, and you are calm and quiet, maybe there is something you don’t know?

    For example, the somewhat recent discussion of the Sierra snow pack shows that hydrology is not the Stoat’s strong suit.

    [Won't or wont :-? It makes a difference. But no: all about me are not running around screaming. This isn't a quick substitute for argument -W]

  18. #18 Janne Sinkkonen
    2009/10/01

    As he is an economist I was surprised as his sense of certainty in models that are at least if not more complex than the ones he and his collegues use.

    No, read this: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/06/magazine/06Economic-t.html?_r=1

    As Steve Bloom says, a plausible reason for Krugman’s climate catastrophism is that he has himself become aware of the scale of the problem only recently.

  19. #19 Alexander Ač
    2009/10/01

    Hi William,

    is 2 meters unstoppable SLR something which is *not really new*? :-)

    obvious stuff – S Ramstorf etc…Reuters:

    http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE58S4L420090930?feedType=RSS&feedName=environmentNews

    best,

  20. #20 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/01

    William, you’re looking at symptoms.

    “If you don’t change your direction, you’ll end up getting to where you’re headed” as a doctor friend of mine likes to say.

    Biologists have been pointing out the underlying problem for a very long time: overshooting carrying capacity.

    Changes in CO2 in the air and water, or warming, or sea level, take a while to show up. You can still argue that those changes may not be either rapid or irreversible. But what’s the current rate of change, and what could stop them?

    It’s been rapid. It’s already irreversible on any meaningful time scale short of geological.

    The secondary effects were predictable — but not yet provable if you don’t look at the pattern of previous great extinctions. We’re in one now. It looks normal from inside.

    http://www.thesocialcontract.com/pdf/eleven-four/xi-4-233.pdf.
    Summer 2001

    Reactions to Unwelcome Knowledge
    by William R. Catton Jr.

    “… Earlier ecological warnings had tended to focus on or became identified with one particular limit to growth. For Osborn (1953) the problem was depletion of natural resources. For Carson (1962) it was pollution by careless or excessive use of chemicals. For Ehrlich (1968) it was population growth. Polemics of that sort were vulnerable to counter arguments exaggerating human adaptability and claiming problems could always be solved by “finding” new resources. By identifying a range of important interactive connections among a number of basic variables, the World3 computer model sought to reveal the cumulative effects of these on-going interactions. Runs of the model seemed to show that a “strategy of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul would not work much longer” (Ophuls and Boyan 1992, p. 41).”

    “… Populations of many non-human species have undergone the experience of resource bankruptcy after irrupting — increasing exponentially when they escaped from previously constraining circumstances. But we humans have supposed no such fate could befall us because we are thought to be fundamentally unlike other animals. We have misconstrued our “superiority” over the rest of the animal kingdom. We have actually been experiencing a double irruption, and it confronts us with an intensified version of the plight of animal species that have overshot carrying capacity. The double irruption consists of the fact that, as I have written elsewhere (Catton 1980), Homo sapiens as a biological type had
    been increasing more or less exponentially for ten thousand years (since the onset of agriculture — basically, the start of human manipulation of ecosystems), and especially for the last four hundred years (since the Western Hemisphere became accessible for European expansion into a “New World”). In addition, our resource-consuming tools had been irrupting for the last two hundred years (since the Industrial Revolution, i.e., human reliance on fossil energy). …”

    —–
    “… For any use of any environment by any population, there is a volume and intensity of use that can be exceed only by degrading that environment’s future suitability for that use. Carrying capacity, the word for maximal sustainable use level, can be exceeded–but only temporarily. Ecologically, Malthus’s main error was supposing that it was not possible for a population to increase beyond the level of available sustenance. It can and does happen, but always the overshoot will be temporary.”

    THE WORLD’S MOST POLYMORPHIC SPECIES: Carrying capacity transgressed two ways, by William Catton (June 1987).

    —–

    Focusing on temperature of the planet is like focusing on temperature of a patient with an infection — it’s a useful indication of the problem, but it’s not the problem.

    My impression is that Krugman’s talking about this awareness — the economics assuming unlimited growth has crashed. They have a pause in which to consider ecology. The climate crisis is one symptom of the ecological overshoot.

  21. #21 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/01

    > [Ocean acidification isn't new ....

    For some values of 'new' -- but I can't find much about it prior to the current millenium. I think it's another surprising rate of change of rate of change. From some Congressional hearing I clipped, I think someone from Woods Hole speaking:

    "... The first meeting of 60 experts in the field was held in 2005 ... (Kleypas et al., 2006). Building on that report, the U.S. Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry (OCB) Program (http://us-ocb.org/), supported NSF, NASA, and NOAA, hosted a planning workshop for 90 U.S. and international ocean scientists in La Jolla, CA in the Fall of 2007....

    [Perhaps you are right. Now that I look, various sources from the 1980's and 1990's don't mention it. Someone who knows should write a history. "005 is clearly far too late though, e.g. http://ioc3.unesco.org/oanet/Symposium2004/Symp2004Docs/AbstractBook.pdf. In fact, how about: http://news.google.co.uk/archivesearch?um=1&cf=all&ned=uk&hl=en&q=ocean+acidification&cf=all&scoring=n -W]

  22. #22 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/01

    Aside — speaking of fish — I heard briefly on the radio that in Samoa, Chicken of the Sea had just shut down their tuna processing plant a day or so before the earthquake, laying off their employees. Not enough fish in the sea.

  23. #23 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/01

    William, I thought the same thing about the Google News timeline and had looked through it, but it’s fooling us (and itself). Try clicking on the actual decade range in the chart and then looking at the stories making up the total. Most of them have no mention of the search string, or else they’re listing some sidebar on a page that has both an old irrelevant story and a “what’s new” listing for current news — and attributing everything to the earlier date.

    I looked rather hard through the decades thinking Google couldn’t really be so wrong, but I think their display is misleading at least for this search.

    [You're right: google is wrong. Interesting -W]

  24. #24 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/01

    Lose the trailing period for that link to the 2004 symposium to work. I looked quickly through that and didn’t find a reference on the concern about the change earlier than this letter and the associated articles in Nature (2000):
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v407/n6802/full/407364a0.html#B4

    The earlier cites are relevant material — science is full of useful reference material when you go looking — but I did not find earlier papers focusing on a general concern for ocean pH, though I agree it can’t have popped up in Nature without some earlier work somewhere.

    But hey, nine years ago, okay, that’s old stuff (grin). Some significant percentage of the people alive were born since then.

  25. #25 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/01

    Okay, 1999:

    “… climate scientists Ken Caldeira and Michael Wickett, who coined the term “ocean acidification.” Caldeira is a climate modeller. In 1999 he did some work for the Department of Energy who wanted to know what the environmental consequences would be of capturing CO2 from smokestacks and injecting it deep into the sea. Caldeira discusses how altering the pH of ocean water would affect the way ocean organisms form their shells. Caldeira found that, under present circumstances, the oceans would become undersaturated with aragonite-the form of calcium carbonate produced by pterapods and corals-by the year 2300. …”

    http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/11/20/061120fa_fact_kolbert

  26. #26 P. Lewis
    2009/10/02

    I recall reading about ocean acidification in at least the mid 1990s, mainly in relation to coral reefs. There is this from the Conclusions of the 1994 book Global Change and Coral Reefs: Impacts on Reefs, Economies and Human Cultures from the ICUN (which I think pre-dates my first acquaintance with the issue):

    Increased atmospheric CO2 concentrations will result in more dissolved CO2 and higher acidity in surface waters, which may lower calcium carbonate deposition rates and will fertilize algae and enhance their competition with corals, further reinforcing the effects of overfishing and nutrient pollution.

  27. #27 Brian Schmidt
    2009/10/02

    The fact that I can’t ride my personal terrorist to the movies provides one reason for a war on terrorists instead of cars.

    Also, we’re outnumbered by cars here in California, so declaring war on them could easily backfire.

    (At a later time I might switch to making a useful contribution to this comment thread.)

  28. #28 Eli Rabett
    2009/10/02

    Eli would be surprised if Revelle and/or Suess had not figured out ocean acidification as a result of increasing CO2 quite early.

  29. #29 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/02

    The real message here, stepping back, is that Krugman, who can imagine government intervention, is already pointing out that the freshwater economists (Chicago), who have dominated the economic conversation in the US for 40 years or so, have gone bankrupt. And Krugman is also pointing out what he says above, that the news is just reaching him and his community, and that what they heard a few years ago was a lot less scary.

    Now put those together. The Chicago economists have pointedly said they simply never taught alternatives to their pure free market notion. They wouldn’t have mentioned anything that couldn’t be solved by the free market by definition.

    Message is — from ‘this side’ William is right, what’s been produced from the science side is increasingly detailed, the long tail of scary has been cut off, and so on.

    But the message is — from Krugman — that what was getting through to them, through the smoke and mirror, was much less scary than what they’re hearing now.

    They may now be hearing approximately accurate information — what do you think?

    Message is — the message hasn’t been getting through to the people who really control the USA, at least, and their free-market-uber-alles allies worldwide.

    [Weeeellll... maybe they are starting to see the real message, or are at last capable of reading IPCC. But I still don't understand K's reaction. Quite what we decide to do about GW is still very much up for grabs; expecting people with very substantial interests in the status quo to leap into the dark isn't realistic. That is why I'd like a ramping carbon tax -W]

  30. #30 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/02

    http://members.autobahn.mb.ca/~het/enviro/gwnews.html#AWOGN20090927_Top14

    I”ll shut up now. Nobody’s listening to this stuff anyway.

  31. #31 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/02
  32. #32 P. Lewis
    2009/10/03

    Eli says:

    Eli would be surprised if Revelle and/or Suess had not figured out ocean acidification as a result of increasing CO2 quite early.

    I wouldn’t disagree with that at all. It was obviously well known chemistry when it (my ref above) was written, though it was about this time that the public conscience was being stirred.

    I’d point readers to Peart’s The Discovery of Global Warming about Revelle’s discovery and Bolin and Eriksson’s later work on the matter.

    [Weart. But I looked and cannot see any mention of ocean acidification there -W]

  33. #33 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/03

    Ya know, someone should go interview Krugman. Find out what he knew, when, and what he’s finding out, and why.

    Stuff is showing up that even amateur readers in the area like me recognize as old stuff, but that could well be new and surprising — and scary — even to someone like Krugman.

    (And remember, the politicians still don’t consider Krugman a mainstream advisor, he’s off on some fring they don’t want to think about!)

    Stuff like this _seems_ new to people, I bet:

    http://www.unep.org/compendium2009/

    Something like this “simple model” is, according to Nature
    http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2009/10/a_simple_climate_model_to_the.html

    being used widely by Copenhagen delegates; climate as video game. What do you think?

    http://forio.com/simulation/climate-development/

    —-
    I noted long ago that when the denial starts to break down, the next step in denial will be to blame the scientists because they weren’t convincing enough early enough, the “you should’ve _made_ me listen, it’ s still your fault” step.

    [Oh yes.

    K is dangerous, in a way, because people will listen to him. But (at least from what he has written so far) I don't think he really knows the subject. At the moment people are happy to quote him because he is saying what they want, but tomorrow he may say something wacky (well alright, I think he has already, but you know what I mean).

    The "simple model" thing is fun, but I don't suppose the people using it know what they are doing with it. Looks something like "if you let me pretend to be doing some of the work I'll get "buy-in" and be more convinced" -W]

  34. #34 Steve Bloom
    2009/10/03

    That someone like Krugman can’t easily come up to speed such that he can get the details right in a column like this is indeed a problem, but it’s unfair to describe it as a problem with him in particular. I think it’s more a problem with science itself, which wasn’t designed to deal with problems of this nature. Scientists seem to prefer risk-based assessments, which are inherently difficult to communicate.

    One doesn’t need to believe in the “long tail” or in Hansen’s ice sheet melt scenario to speak in terms of catastrophe (although a constant hobbyhorse of mine is that the term shouldn’t be used without some indication of what is meant by it). JA e.g. seems to think that there’s more than enough catastrophe to be found in mid-range sensitivity.

  35. #35 David B. Benson
    2009/10/03

    “Too many cooks spoil the broth.”

    That’s my reaction to all parts of IPCC AR4. Terribly turgid prose, filled with jargon used, the way it is there,k only by climatologists.

    Sorry, but don’t expect Nobelist Memorialist Krugman to read it with any comprehension. Weart, hopefully with some comprehensiion.

  36. #36 Steve Blooms
    2009/10/03

    Re William’s responses to my #13:

    One can still say “faster than expected” for sea ice since the range of projections (for ice-free summer conditions) is for much sooner than was the case five years ago.

    [I'm dubious about this, unless you're interpreting "range" rather liberally -W]

    {Five years IIRC there weren’t any projections for much sooner than 2050. That’s changed a lot, although I think
    some are still sticking with @ 2100.}

    Re the southwest U.S., it’s not a sudden change in results or trends but even so it’s still a catastrophe in the making. Of course we need to define what we mean by catastrophe, which hardly anyone does before discussing it. In this case I mean that it’s an environmental catastrophe (which I can define further) and perhaps an economic one, although not much of a human catastrophe since the impact is on a rich society.

    But I think the main thing going on with Krugman is that the catastrophic scenario stuff didn’t sink in with him until the last few years. The same is true for a lot of people.

    [Dunno. Maybe he is reasonning that the economists failed to see trouble coming and therefore... but that is flawed logic -W]

    {Maybe it’s something as simple as having seen AIT or getting a briefing from one of his Princeton colleagues (e.g. Oppenheimer or Socolow), but it could just be that he was influenced by the general ramp-up in media coverage. I think the tone of the science also underwent something of a step change, although I can’t point to anything proving that (other than the obvious example of the AR4).}

    That said, there are some projections that have gotten “much, much worse” and that describe near-term consequences, thinking in particular of what’s happening in western China and the Tibetan plateau region. It’s looking more and more like the really bad stuff will relate to changes in precipitation and soil moisture, and looking back to what I thought five years ago that’s a big change for me at least. Add to that ocean acidification, which I think hadn’t even been heard about five years ago.

    [Ocean acidification isn't new. I don't understand what you mean by W China: you seem to be flipping tenses between present and future -W]

    {I think we’ve established that the science on ocean acidification is pretty new, as in about ten years old, although I should have said that a focus on it as a prospective catastrophe within the next century wasn’t raised until about five years ago.

    The Chinese tense flipping is because there’ve been a lot more results on both current impacts and future projections. That whole region is a huge worry since IMHO much of the potential for near-future catastrophe is to be found not in the physical climate changes and the biological responses to them, but in the further social responses. We really need the behavior of the monsoon(s) to not undergo big changes.}

    Things like abrupt Arctic sea ice decline and even a major uptick in permafrost methane release IMHO often get classed as catastrophes, but in terms of near-term impacts I don’t think they qualify. I think a lot of enviros and even scientists make the mistake of thinking that a picture of an ice-free Arctic will somehow galvanize society into action, and in the absence of immediate follow-on impacts at lower latitudes (none are expected AFAIK) I think they’re wrong.

    Of course Krugman doesn’t need to talk to Hansen directly. One of the latter’s dozens of minions or even more numerous acolytes will do nicely. :)

  37. #37 Steve Bloom
    2009/10/03

    David, the SPMs were written with people like Krugman in mind, and IMHO they’re actually a reasonably punchy read.

  38. #38 P. Lewis
    2009/10/03

    [Weart. But I looked and cannot see any mention of ocean acidification there -W]

    First, the acidity issue is implicit (to me) in the use of the term “buffering” in the Peart ref.

    Second, in case I may have been misunderstood, I wasn’t implying that Revelle and Suess and Bolin and Eriksson had nailed change in CO2-induced pH change affecting corals and other marine organisms. I was agreeing with Eli that Revelle and Suess were probably aware and particularly that Bolin and Eriksson were actually aware of the effect of CO2 on ocean pH from a purely sea water chemistry point of view:

    And then we see that any change in the PCO2 will also change the CH+

    [where CH+ is the hydrogen ion concentration]

    … Of the part [excess CO2] that goes into the sea, 87 percent has taken part in the reaction … The rest has been used to lower the pH of sea water by the reaction…

    Given that they were projecting atmospheric levels of CO2 that weren’t far removed from actuality, they must surely have had an inkling at that time about the long-term effect on ocean pH. But when it dawned on the scientific community that CO2-induced pH change was likely to be an issue in terms of ocean acidification’s effect on marine organisms I don’t know.

    As I indicated above, I first became aware of it in relation to corals in the mid 1990s, and given that particular reference I gave, it seems the effect was likely to have been reasonably established in the scientific psyche by that time I’d have thought (3 or 4 years? at least, possibly longer — I haven’t checked further).

  39. #39 Steve Bloom
    2009/10/03

    Hank: “(And remember, the politicians still don’t consider Krugman a mainstream advisor, he’s off on some fring they don’t want to think about!)”

    I for one could only hope to be considered so far out on the fringe that I get invited to confidential private dinners at the White House. :)

    So yeah, more fringe than Larry Summers, but not so fringe as to not have considerable influence.

  40. #40 Steve Bloom
    2009/10/03

    P. Lewis, it’s also important to know something about mixing and buffering rates, and I suspect that for B and E at least that was still pretty much a mystery.

  41. #41 Deep Climate
    2009/10/03

    A paragraph on ocean acidification made it into TAR WG1 SPM. I don’t think it was in SAR SPM, though. So 1999 sounds about right.

    OT, but I’m surprised that our host hasn’t weighed in to take RP jr’s side in the McIntyre/Briffa kerfuffle. Maybe he’s waiting for Joe Romm to get in on this …

    [You mean this stuff http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/10/hockey-stick-gets-personal-lies-from.html ? No, I'm not going to take RP's side in that -W]

  42. #42 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/03

    > The “simple model” thing is fun, but I don’t suppose the
    > people using it know what they are doing with it…. -W]

    I hope you’ll have a look at the people using it, because if Nature’s climate blog is correct, _something_ along these lines is going to be the common standard tool for the upcoming December meeting of nations. Again according to Nature’s climate blog, that “simple model” is giving results that are consistent (enough) with the IPCC’s description of what’s happening.

    I don’t mean just the web page thing, that’s apparently an online toy demonstration — these are the same people who did the MIT “Bathtub” model, and are clearly aiming for utterly simple-enough-for-a-policy-analyst pictures that move and maybe even talk to explain the science.

    Someone should test this stuff. If y’all who are knowledgeable about the climatology say it’s crap, then what’s the point of anyone trying to make global agreements?

    And it’s apparently the tool being handed around. There’s a long list of groups supporting it.

    Perhaps none of them blog?

    [I don't suppose it is crap. It is presumably a simplish fit to the GCM data and is effectively interpolating. So I'd expect it to be consistent with the IPCC results -W]

  43. #43 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/03

    —————

    PS, quoting the Nature blog (which refers to an article about this model in the current issue of Nature):

    “… the results from this particular model are just a tiny part of the larger compendium ….

    We decided to take a look at the model itself, and the result came out in this week’s issue of Nature. It turns out that this tool, which we first encountered at a global warming war game last year, has gone viral in the admittedly small world of international climate negotiators….”

    ————
    Is Nature right? I haven’t seen the issue yet.

    I think though, from a few minutes with the online model of the model linked above, that this would terrify any economist who tries to make those charts on the right come out reasonably by fiddling with the sliders on the left.

    I imagine the real laptop-grade model the real participants are using is more complex. I hope so. But I’d bet it includes “beggar thy neighbor” options — what if everyone else does the work and we ride free. Hell, maybe it includes varieties of economic warfare, if not actual war. THAT would be a realistic model of how nations behave.

    Saleable, too, if you made a first person shooter out of it.

    http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE59224920091003

    COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Saturday negotiators had just 10 days left to secure a global climate deal and governments must not be hindered by domestic troubles.

    The United Nations hopes to bring 190 governments together in early December in Copenhagen to finalize a deal on greenhouse gas emissions to replace provisions of the Kyoto Protocol expiring in 2012.

    “There are just 10 negotiating days left until we come to Copenhagen,” Ban said, referring apparently to the remaining days of September 28 to October 9 climate talks under way in Bangkok and to a November 2-6 meeting in Barcelona.

    “In 10 days we need to decide what needs to be done for our future,” he said …. “We are not there yet. There is still a lot to be done and not much time left,” …

    Ban said a proposal to hold extra talks in November on financing for a climate deal was still under consideration.

  44. #44 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/03

    Nature cite, for anyone with a subscription.
    Off to the library for me, on Monday …

    http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090929/full/461581a.html

    This article is part of Nature’s premium content.
    doi:10.1038/461581a
    News
    Instant climate model gears up

    Simulation tool gives rapid feedback on implications of policy changes. Jeff Tollefson

    A climate simulator that started life in a doctoral dissertation is being adopted by negotiators to assess their national greenhouse-gas commitments ahead of December’s climate summit in Copenhagen….

    —–

    And, per this topic, I’d guess something akin to this simple model is probably finally conveying — in away that’s convincing and scary — what the climatologists have been trying to explain for a very long time (and what the septics and general press and pollyanimalists have been denying …)

  45. #45 thingsbreak
    2009/10/04

    @HR:
    Off to the library for me, on Monday …

    Here you go, Hank. Looks like an even more simplified version is available to fool around with at ClimateInteractive.org.

  46. #46 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/04

    Ok, so Nature’s article is a blurb, not a journal article. Presumably this is validated and that’s published somewhere.

    “An independent team led by climatologist Robert Watson of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK, reviewed the model and recommended in March that the United Nations consider adopting it as a formal tool …. modellers with the C-ROADS team are attending UN climate meetings to help negotiators assess policy proposals. C-ROADS … generally performs in line with average IPCC modelling results, says John Sterman, an MIT management professor who works on the project.
    … “It’s not that the other models are flawed,” Sterman says. “They are opaque to the policy-makers.”
    ———–

    On the one hand, I think it’s good news that the blogosphere has been left in the dust — the septic crowd has dragged most climate blogging down, as “debate” has been so popular with the crap artists and those willing to refute them that most of the time and screen space has been given over to endless repetitions of long-refuted nonsense.

    On the other hand, for those of us actually interested in what’s really going on in climate science — damn, we’re left looking backwards at the old stuff and nonsense for the most part.

    I’ve looked for more on the Stearman/MIT stuff for several years, since the ‘bathtub model’ — and not found it in form for the interested amateur like me. Same for this new model from Stearman/MIT/Ventana.

    Anyone know anyone in East Anglia who can ask a librarian there if any of this is documented somewhere, or if the model is available for the little people to look at?

    Because if it’s not, and folks like William blow it off, and the auditors get to take it apart later, it’s set up to fail.

  47. #47 Steve Bloom
    2009/10/04

    Hank, I think the majority of climate blogging remains focused on the science rather than on answering/refuting crap. As for not hearing about the toy model earlier, remember that there’s not much of an overlap between the climate blogosphere and the (nearly all non-scientists) involved in the negotiations. Someone like Joe Romm may well have heard about it but decided it wasn’t topical for his blog. Also, the description in Nature isn’t excactly an objective quantitative measure of how popular the model is among the negotiators; perhaps they overstated things. Finally, as it is just a toy model, as long as it gets the general picture right there’s not much to “audit.”

  48. #48 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/04

    > just a toy model

    Have you actually seen the model? The laptop version, the real model that’s being used, not the simple toy at the web page?

    That’s why I’m asking; you and William have both dismissed it; I’m looking for something from someone who has seen it and perhaps used it. The fellow at East Anglia apparently did.
    But nobody who’s blogging to the general public readership??

    [I wouldn’t like to say I’ve dismissed the model – as I’ve said, I assume it is essenitally an interpolator. What I’ve dismissed is the mindset that says “oh look, I’ve got my own model that I can run, I’m in control, *now* I believe…” -W

  49. #49 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/05

    er, nevermind; I missed William’s inline reply above:

    >[I don't suppose it is crap. It is presumably a simplish fit >to the GCM data and is effectively interpolating. So I'd >expect it to be consistent with the IPCC results -W]

    Simplish. I like that in a model.

  50. #50 Steve Bloom
    2009/10/05

    Simplish is all I meant by “toy model.” It couldn’t be more than that if meant to run on a laptop.

    Why not email Sterman and ask for a copy of the real thing?

  51. #51 Alastair
    2009/10/05

    Krugman is quite right to say that “we’re hurtling toward catastrophe”
    This conference
    in Oxford came to the same conclusion too!

    Moreover, you, yourself, are a good example of someone who does not “want to hear about it or do anything to avert it.”

    “And here’s the thing: I’m not engaging in hyperbole. The prognosis for the planet has gotten much, much worse in just the last few years.” No one was talking about 4C in fifty years, or the sea ice gone by 2013, a mere five years ago. Let’s face it – James Annan was predicting nothing more than 2C only last year.

    Over the last two years the spread of wild fires has increased globally along has increase in typhon activity in the north west pacific.

    Admittedly the Arctic ice melt appears to have reversed, but this may be due to the extended solar minimum. We may have been gien a reprieve by Mother Nature, but I fear it will just be used by the sceptics to justify their policy of buisness as usual.

    Where Krugman is wrong is to claim that averting the catastrophe will not hurt the economy. 90% of the power used in the developed world emanates from burning fossil fuels. You cant ban fossil fuels in the same way as we banned CFCs. If we did there would be a catastrophe. If we don’t there will be a catastrophe.

    Cheers, Alastair.

  52. #52 Deep Climate
    2009/10/05

    #41
    OK, maybe that was going for a cheap laugh on my part. But it’s hard to take RP jr seriously on any topic when he says stuff like:

    And so long as Steve is delivering detailed, systematic and devastating substantive arguments — and yes this post is all three — he will continue to have a following and earn respect (however begrudging).

    http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2009/10/better-come-prepared.html

    End OT.

    [Roger is often somewhat weak on the science - witness the absurd trends stuff he fell into. I don' think in this case he has a clue what is going on. To be fair, neither do most people, but then most people have the sense not to blog about it.

    Incidentally, using one measure of fame - has it managed to force its way onto wiki - this stuff has been a total failure -W]

  53. #53 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/05

    > Why not email Sterman and ask for a
    > copy of the real thing?

    I’m hoping someone will. I’m not competent to evaluate something like that, and figure someone must have it who can do so or has.

    It’s starting to show up in news articles, so maybe I was just prematurely inquisitive.

  54. #54 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/05

    Here’s their FAQ links, including a technical summary, evaluations, names of the evaluators
    http://www.climateinteractive.org/simulations/C-ROADS/overview

    There’s an open thread for questions and requests.

  55. #55 Steve Bloom
    2009/10/06

    William, re wiki, do you mean that McI hasn’t been able to get it into his bio? If so the reach of the mailed fist is far greater than I imagined! :) As of just now, BTW, Google News shows the whole “controversy” as nearly a big zero outside of the denialosphere, with the exceptions of the NYT and WaPo blog posts.

    [No, I don't see any evidence of McI editing wiki. I mean that the usual dittoheads haven't put this in any articles, and even the talk pge discussion is muted. This is mostly because they don't know what they are talking about -W]

    What’s interesting (and IMHO not very excusable) about Revkin and Freedman is that they both lost track of the roots of the importance of the HS debate in the question of the degree of solar variability and its influence on climate. At the time of MBH 98 and until maybe five years ago, it was still thought plausible that the sun could have been largely responsible for late-Holocene temperature excursions (like the MWP and LIA), an idea that has now been put to bed by the solar physicists using methods independent of paleodendrochronology. The utility of this debate for septics has thus shrunk considerably, so as much as possible McI and others have tried to transform it to a debate about the credibility of science rather than one with an outcome that can have much scientific meaning. R and F need to stop enabling them.

    Hank, IMHO you’d be very good as an evaluator. This toy model is an outreach and education tool, not a science exercise. OTOH you know a lot more about the science than does the immediate target audience, so perhaps you’re over-qualified. Thanks for the link, BTW.

  56. #57 dhogaza
    2009/10/07

    Regarding C-ROADS … I’ve skimmed the technical summary …

    I don’t suppose it is crap. It is presumably a simplish fit to the GCM data and is effectively interpolating. So I’d expect it to be consistent with the IPCC results

    Well, given that consistency with IPCC emissions scenarios and GCMs is a specific goal of the modeling effort, one would hope so.

    It’s not a climate model per se.

    So Stoat’s observation quoted above appears to be correct.

    Actually, it does exactly what the denialsphere claims GCMs do: things like the range of climate sensitivity to doubling of CO2 are inputs, not model results.

    For instance:

    The model
    also allows Monte-Carlo simulations to generate the probability distributions of outcomes over important uncertainties
    such as climate sensitivity, carbon uptake, and sea level rise.

    So the idea is simply “assuming the range of sensitivity, temperature-driven sea level rise, etc etc generated by GCMs for the IPCC are reasonable, what happens under various emissions scenarios?”

    Have you actually seen the model? The laptop version, the real model that’s being used, not the simple toy at the web page?

    The major difference seems to be that the online version has three “regions”, while the laptop version can be set up to explore results with a more realistic number of regions.

    But I’d bet it includes “beggar thy neighbor” options — what if everyone else does the work and we ride free. Hell, maybe it includes varieties of economic warfare, if not actual war. THAT would be a realistic model of how nations behave.

    Well, in a sense, this is EXACTLY what the model is meant to be used for. To help policy makers understand the implications of various actions *assuming* that climate sensitivity lies in the 2.5C-4C range or whatever the latest best-science figure is (and other things like carbon uptake and sea level rise).

    It’s not meant to have any bearing at all on questions like “are current estimates of climate sensitivity to increased atmospheric CO2″, or any other question having to do with the science itself.

    On the other hand, I think this statement by Stoat is a bit unfair:

    I wouldn’t like to say I’ve dismissed the model – as I’ve said, I assume it is essenitally an interpolator. What I’ve dismissed is the mindset that says “oh look, I’ve got my own model that I can run, I’m in control, *now* I believe…”

    That’s not the purpose. It’s more like “I trust the science, but what happens if we hold emissions at the 2010 level until 2050 and then linearly decrease them to 50% of that level by 2100?”. And “if we (china) do it alone” or “if the industrial nations do it lockstep” etc etc.

    Policy implications based on the assumption that the IPCC summary for policy makers is roughly correct.

    It’s certainly not going to convert anyone.

    Hank, since you asked for documentation on details, this is a 77-page technical reference guide to the model.

  57. #58 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/07

    See also:

    http://environmentalresearchweb.org/cws/article/opinion/35820

    Sep 17, 2008
    The IPCC report: what the lead authors really think

    (with references I haven’t followed up, including promise of a full paper in 2009)

    —-
    “In this article I report what these eminent folks said – every bullet point comprises a reply submitted by an IPCC respondent in mid-2007 and the only editing has been to improve the English, clarify or spell out acronyms. …”

    • Construct the Fifth Assessment Report on the Synthesis model, rather than the three separate disciplines in the Working Group model – it has had its run in my view – incredibly valuable but becoming a bit repetitive and may have little original to say other than “we told you so last time and mean it even more now!”. This way people with very different understandings of science and policy problems and with very different world views would have time to work together to fashion real progress….


    … Finally there is a cry from the heart – remember these quotes all come from IPCC lead authors, the guys at the coal face if we still dare cut coal – which says, “there are too many committees and working groups and way too much time spent talking!”

    Did the final workshop outputs genuinely deliver these messages as clearly as they are stated here? Did we say “the IPCC was designed 20 years ago … we absolutely need a complete re-think” and “we need more time to learn from each other how to do integrative research to answer key questions”? My personal view is that we did not. Perhaps due to the natural desire to tone down criticism in written documents and perhaps because some of us wonder what else can be said – e.g. WGI is “becoming a bit repetitive and may have little original to say other than ‘we told you so last time and mean it even more now!’” Also there is real reluctance to state too baldly the magnitude of the challenges to be overcome before climate change research can deliver relevant results.

    In some places there is an (unhealthy?) fear of mis- (or out of context) quoting by global warming “deniers”. We are hesitant to stress comments such as “the Fourth Assessment Report missed doing this owing essentially to the timelines that were arranged.” Another interesting example of this fear is that the original suggestion was to entitle the Sydney workshop, “What did the IPCC get wrong?” This proposal was quickly squashed in the corridors of the World Meteorological Organisation lest the anti-greenhouse lobby picked it up and repeated it as criticism of the IPCC.

    Climate change research entered a new and different regime with the publication of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report. There is no longer any question about “whether” human activities are changing the climate; instead research must tackle the urgent questions of: “how fast?”; “with what impacts?’; and “what responses are needed?” …

    [Some interesting stuff there. I would pull out:

    * The rush to emphasize regional climate does not have a scientifically sound basis.
    * Prioritize the models so that weaker ones do not confuse/dilute the signals.

    As things I've said before.

    As to the quotes you've selected. Well, be careful what you wish for. "There is no longer any question about "whether" human activities are changing the climate" would put a whole lot of people out of a job if believed and taken seriously :-). As to the cries of frustration: tough. IPCC needs to keep reporting the science, accurately and dispassionately. It isn't there to lobby.

    -W]

  58. #59 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/07

    Oh, “last time” — that’s this:
    http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/viewtext/7768990?op=t&n=386

    Cogley is one of the contributing authors.

  59. #60 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/08

    > [Some interesting stuff there. I would pull out:
    >> * The rush to emphasize regional climate does not
    >> have a scientifically sound basis.
    >> * Prioritize the models so that weaker ones
    >> do not confuse/dilute the signals.
    >
    > As things I’ve said before.

    Indeed. I wouldn’t bother you with the snippets except that they do seem along the line of things you’ve been saying

    > As to the quotes you’ve selected. Well, be careful
    > what you wish for.

    wish? WISH?
    ______________________________
    People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.
    (Ray Bradbury, from “Beyond 1984: The People Machines”)

  60. #61 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/12

    Maybe _this _ is the bee in Krugman’s bonnet?

    http://scienceblogs.com/corpuscallosum/2009/10/the_current_data_is_bad_the_nu.php

    “This is a bad sign. Specifically, it is an instance of the mainstream media starting to hint at the truth. I take this as a sign that things are getting worse, as the effort to keep up the pretense is no longer even remotely credible.”

    No, it’s not about climate.
    Not yet.

  61. #63 Hank Roberts
    2009/10/18

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8313672.stm

    Anybody you know?

    [Not personally :-) "In Britain we face the prospect of more frequent droughts and a rising wave of floods," indeed. Broon is probably going to lose the next election, and has had years to do something about GW is he wanted to. And we have so many "last chance" summits that no-one really pays attention to that rhetoric any more -W]

  62. #64 Magnus W
    2009/10/20

    I brought it up because I wanted to show that it is easy to get the impression that he got… btw… uuupdates are hard to find… and ripped to shreds? In there publication don’t MIT mention the thing James talked about?

  63. #65 Magnus W
    2009/10/20

    http://ams.allenpress.com/perlserv/?request=get-abstract&doi=10.1175%2F2009JCLI2863.1&ct=1

    To me it seams as James don’t know the impacts of his comments? Any more news on this?

    [Not sure what you mean. JA wrote http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2009/03/that-mit-report-in-full.html -W]

  64. #66 Marco
    2009/10/20

    @Magnus W:
    While I most surely do not want to feed the conspiracy nutters, I wonder whether the MIT people are putting these kinds of papers also up near the room of a certain unnamed Alfred P. Sloan professor…

  65. #67 Magnus W
    2009/10/21

    I don’t know… seams to be leaving a door open… just… “I do not know for sure how much these flaws influence the final result, but I do know they are a worrying enough that I don’t trust the results.”

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